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Covenant Magic: Further Covenants
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/22/2015 03:38:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second expansion to Purple Duck Games' great system of covenant magic clocks in at 17 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



We begin this pdf with a handy page of FAQ regarding some of the more peculiar questions of covenant magic that did not arise from issues, mind you, but rather from the system's admitted complexity. With a concise definition of occult spirits, the pdf does provide a nice list.



I do assume familiarity with covenant magic for this review, so in case you need an explanation of the concepts, I'll refer to my reviews of the original covenant magic pdf and its expansion.



We begin with a total of 6 new influences for mediums to choose from, with Dark Hedonism constituting the first and providing future-proof support for the Monsters of Porphyra II patreon project, though remaining perfectly functional without that - the focus here, obviously, lies on trickery and enchantment. The more benevolent Elysian Blessings influence provides a surprisingly diverse array of trance SPs that center around the theme of freedom, with covenants allowing for resilience and a focus on themes identified for azata.



Faith Slayers can be considered not only atheists - they are the true foes of the divine, engaging in pretty despicable acts with a theme of self-buffing and a latent Übermensch-style ideology suffusing the spell-like ability and covenant choices. I do consider this one slightly problematic in that it is codified straight as evil, with the capstone making this abundantly clear - while I realize that fanaticism never creates a helpful breeding ground, I have seen my fair share of religiously motivated hypocrisy and issues in real life - when taking this up to the n-th degree, one can easily construct cases in which direct and violent opposition towards deities in a magical setting does not need to be evil - imho, we have a lost chance for a shades of gray duality here, instead opting towards the general concepts espoused by the asura.



The Kyton Enlightenment on the other hand is more versatile than the oftentimes reductive depiction of kytons in mainstream PFRPG. Why? Because BDSM in most mainstream media, including PFRPG is codified as evil, as something to revile, as something inherently sinister - and I *get* why. That being said, I have always considered this to be a pretty much massive flaw, an undue reduction of a variety of compelling concepts - the self-flogging martyr achieving spiritual ecstasy through pain, the yogi - one can field ample examples wherein the concept of enlightenment through pain need not be connoted with evil and thankfully, the kyton enlightenment influence, while retaining the somewhat sinister theme of kytons is not coded as evil - nice!



Guardians of the fallen can elect to choose the new Sacred Duty enlightenment, associated thematically with psychopomps and thus can be pictured as slayers of undead, with a hex-like cap on the otherwise extremely powerful harm-only heal Spell-like ability. But all of these pale in awesomeness when compared to the qlippothic redeemer: Know how most qlippoths try to end all life yaddayaddayadda? Well, these guys are more constructive! The souls of chaotic evil beings flood the abyss and generate demons, right? So how can the qlippoths stem the tide, hope to regain their supremacy? Well, what about converting those pesky psychos and leading them on a path of redemption? I.e. doing the right thing for the most wrong reason possible? This enlightenment is GLORIOUS -related to an evil outsider race, it is predisposed to work well for good and neutral characters, mirroring in SP and trance covenant selection a theme of redemption and kindness. The roleplaying potential of these guys is VAST and the great full color artwork of one of them is ncie to see as well.



The Technophobe archetype is great for everyone using the Technology Guide, poaching in remove radioactivity and similar tricks - essentially, these guys can be considered the anti-technology mediums - solid!



We also get a diverse array of new covenants, ranging from least to superior - from magical khopeshs to strikes that temporarily neuter the ability to cast divine magic (with a hex-like 1/ 24 hours-balancing caveat), grant yourself regeneration (with means to offset it) or a stun-inducing gaze attack that also helps you take down those pesky demons. All in all, the respective places in which they're gained make sense, with superior covenants providing massive benefits, with least covenants provide nice imagery and solid low level options.



The pdf also provides statblocks - a medium 4/ranger 1, an animist druid, a tiefling, dwarf and green hag medium, even a tengu and a high-level CR 17 foe. The pdf closes with 3 minor pieces of errata for its predecessor file - which imho should have been updated in that file instead of featured in this pdf.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant issues. layout adheres to PDG's printer-friendly 2-column standard with a nice page of full-color artwork featured as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Julian Neale is one of the designers that deserves more attention than he gets - his designs tend to be not too flashy, that is true. But they have a very humble elegance in many instances and this is no different. Oh well, wait, it is - actually, here, Julian has went all out - the concepts as presented herein began pretty solid, if unremarkable and then, BAM, the qlippothic redeemer. This influence alone is worth the asking price for the vast myriad of narratives one can weave from the theme - I can literally sketch a whole campaign based on the concept introduced herein. Yes, this is awesome. The solid technology-related archetype is a nice bonus and the covenants provided are diverse as well. While I am not a fan of all design-decisions herein, with especially the amount of apotheosis-capstones boring me at this point, this does boil down to personal preference more than any true and valid gripe I could field against this pdf. In the end, this is an inspired expansion and well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Covenant Magic: Further Covenants
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Steel and Fury (DCC)
by Edward K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/15/2015 12:24:47
Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Steel and Fury: Combat Maneuvers of the Mighty

Product- Steel and Fury: Combat Maneuvers of the Mighty
System- Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
Producer- Purple Duck games
Price- $7 here http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/147952/Steel-and-Fury-DC-
C
TL; DR-A must have for the Dwarf or Fighter at the crawl! 97%

Basics-Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war! Steel and Fury is a Fighter and Dwarf supplement for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. This book focuses on the Mighty Deeds of Arms for both of those classes by adding several new deeds that are specific for the type of weapon you are using as well as expanding the deeds by adding mighty criticals and mighty fumbles.

Mechanics or Crunch-Hands down a home run. Every mighty deed gets its own page with descriptions of what happening. Also, the addition of mighty criticals and fumbles really adds to the dice rolling crunch of this system. And, the book has an amazing resource- an end of the book table showing which weapons can do which deed (MORE BOOKS SHOULD DO THIS!). As the cherry on the sundae, even the old deeds get a revisit by adding the critical and fumble rules to them as well. This is well done and slick. 5/5

Theme or Fluff- Again, another home run. Every deed has a ton of story to it. Not only does each deed have a description, but also the deed has a quote from an appendix N fantasy story. That right there is awesome. Also awesome is the art. I honestly didn’t expect much art from a small publisher, but it’s here and well done. You will feel every crunch from this one as Steel and Furry builds on to a solid foundation of carnage. 5/5

Execution-We’ve had two home runs, so it’s time for a foul. I love the book. It’s got great spacing, great writing, text, tables, and great art. What I don’t like is the price tag. This book is $7 bucks for about 60 pages. That’s a bit much as much of this book is pages with tables. $7 isn’t enough to keep me away, but I think this should be around $4 to $5 to keep up with other publishers’ prices. 4.5/5

Summary-This is a great book and addition to the DCC rpg. Purple Duck Games really made a top notch product by supplying quite frankly a ton of new content to the system. Every weapon get some love. At the back is an amazing chart detailing what each weapon can do with the new and old mighty deeds. Even old deeds get new additions with mighty criticals and mighty fumbles. The story this book tells is great proving that a straight crunch book can bring some story and panache to the table. I think the book is a bit over priced. But, if you can stomach the price, this is a necessary book for any fighter and dwarf that hits the table. 97%

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Steel and Fury (DCC)
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Protean Lords of Porphyra (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/14/2015 07:58:18
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with a solid 20.5 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?



So, a captivating introductory prose not only establishes the content herein, it also ties it together with the pantheon established for elemental lords in that respective file, though it does not require that pdf to fully enjoy - and after that, we are introduced to a big missing link in pathfinder lore.



Let me elaborate: If you've come from a tradition of previous editions, your first impulse at seeing the chaotic neutral proteans would probably have been to bemoan the absence of slaadi due to closed content. Now, as it turns out, proteans actually are pretty much awesome and feel very distinct from their predecessors -however, unlike e.g. archdevils or demon lords, they had not really been touched upon. In fact, apart from AAW Games' "Serpents of Fickle Fortune", I couldn't name a module focused on them or devoted supplement to extend the lore of their lords. This pdf changes just that by none other than Todd Stewart delivering a whole pantheon of protean lords, the slithering symphony.



The lords/ladies of the slithering symphony ultimately are, of course, chaotic neutral, but the array of diverse concepts and dualities within the respective proteans ranging from those devoted to rebirth and fertility to lords of entropy - and anything in between. The respective entries not only provide an internal consistence that makes the protean lords believable in their chaotic nature, they also sport an intriguing array of religion-traits, two per lord/lady and information on the respective spell preparation rituals can also be found. With a diverse array of favored weapons and creatures and unique symbols for the respective deities, this section, at least for me, left nothing to be desired - this pantheon is absolutely awesome - each of the different entries depicts an often intriguing aspect of certain aspects worthy of divine association - what about a protean whose moniker is literally the "Ghost in the Machine," representing, among other things, the chaotic undercurrents in even the lawful disciplines - sudden inspirations, weird effects...this should be seen as an example: What these lords/ladies essentially accomplish is to somewhat dilute the tired and bland good/evil-dichotomy, enriching concepts usually tied to certain deities with a subversive angle - awesome.



The pdf also sports 3 new subdomains, the most interesting of which allows you to execute wild surges, which hearken back to the hazarders and chaos mages of previous editions, allowing for the gambling with spell levels -temporary increases and decreases at the roll of the dice make this ability a sufficiently chaotic and nice domain ability.



So far, this pdf's core provides a glorious array of concepts I very much consider worthwhile - alas, this pretty much ends with the magic items presented within these pages. While I very much enjoy the concepts, their pricing and powers are off in various ways - flat-out +5 bonuses to ALL Charisma-based checks (remember, this includes feinting and demoralize and stacks due to a lack of bonus types) feels nasty for 18 K - and I don't get the lackluster addition of 1/day chaos hammer as an SP added to the item. While I have no issue with the concept behind being able to ignore SR, DR and energy resistance, I do think there ought to be some scaling instead here - especially since item-activation of a standard action and carrying over the benefits to the next round only needlessly complicates the functionality of this item. Cloaks of the Imentesh allow, beyond their benefits, the assumption of an imentesh form "upon the form of an imentesh protean for up to 13 minutes, gaining a 30 ft. fly speed (perfect), and an imentesh protean’s tail attack and constrict ability." So, can the form be used in increments? Why does it deviate from the standard of how polymorph effects work? Now don't get me wrong, this latter one is not one I object to on the basis of being OP, but rather one that imho could have solved its rules in a more concise manner - does one become large? Senses? Fast healing? Is the tail attack of the base creature used at that HD or at the unmodified one of the user? Primary or secondary? I assume the default for tail slaps, but I'm not sure.



Now I'm not going to dissect every one of the magic items, mainly because I do not want you to get the wrong impression - we are essentially talking about the supplemental content here and the validity of the pantheon itself is not hampered by these glitches....and, honestly, some of the items are pretty cool from a narrative perspective - what about an extremely powerful mug that may see you barf gemstones? No, I did NOT make that one up. Creativity and the theme of chaos work pretty well in some of these items, whereas in others, well, they do so in a somewhat lessened manner. Over all, I'm not a big fan of these items and urge DMs to contemplate carefully their inclusion in a given campaign.



As a nice note, the great Illuminatus class by PDG gets a well-deserved shout-out in the spell-section, which imho provides some interesting options - for example, what about a spell that adds a confusion effect to the next spell you cast? The concept is awesome, but much to my chagrin, it has no duration, allowing you to "hold the charge" infinitely until you cast your next spell. While this can be rectified rather easily, it feels somewhat contrary to the chaotic theme of the spell, allowing for easy storage of the charge. That also remains my main concern regarding the thematics of some of the spells here, though admittedly, conjuring voidworm swarms is damn cool - over all, I would have loved to see the notion of the chaotic be reflected more in the respective spells: What if e.g. holding the confusion-inducing befuddling infusion worked only for a random amount of rounds? That being said, i do very much enjoy the interaction with the warpwave-rules of the proteans.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level, while on a rules-level, there are some minor issues here and there, though nothing grievous. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience as well as with awesome full-color icons for the deities.



Todd Stewart delivers an awesome and iconic pantheon I very much enjoyed, manages to add to the lore of these beings in an admirable manner - and one that we all benefit from. Unlike many publishers, Purple Duck Games rendered these guys open content, so yes, any publisher may properly utilize them in all their glory - a practice I feel I should have mentioned much earlier in my reviews. At the same time, I do consider some of the spells as falling short of their potential (which does not make them bad, mind you!) and the magic items, are pretty short of what I'd consider awesome or particularly imaginative - though, again, some inspired ideas are in here as well. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - I drew quite a bunch cool ideas from this pdf and while it's not perfect, it's definitely worth its fair asking price.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Protean Lords of Porphyra (PFRPG)
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Monsters of Porphyra
by Anders B. K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/10/2015 05:28:40
This bestiary is awesome! Brilliant, innovative and evocative monsters, very good layout, and excellent full-color illustrations. I can totally recommend it! (both the pdf and the hard copy are excellent)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of Porphyra
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Spell Components (Core)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2015 02:32:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of Purple Duck Games' inexpensive Storeroom-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, providing 16 pages of content, so let's take a look!



Every roleplaying game, ultimately, is a game of abstractions, of rules and individual interpretation - that's why no movie will ever amount to the awesomeness of the one stunt that character pulled off...and why discrepancies between a GM's description and a player's perception thereof prove to be such a source of frustration when they happen.



If your game is like mine, there is a certain level of simulation - and I believe that spellcasting would be considered much more balanced, if one tracked how much uses of this bat guano stuff the wizard has. The one issue here would be that, ultimately, there is the component pouch - and we have no idea what's inside. While this abstraction helps render the game more fluid, it does prove to be a problem once you start asking whether obscure component for ritual xyz is part of one's pouch, a problem, which to a similar extent can be applied to kits.



This pdf can be considered the ridiculously inexpensive solution to this issue - in handy tables, all foci and material components of spells from the CORE-book are tracked in easily navigated tables. Better yet, the pdf provides a sensible suggestion of how much such a pouch can hold and what (probably) is contained in such a pouch - and yes, the contents come with a nice 1-page full-color rendition by Rick Hershey.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no issues. Layout adheres to a 1-column printer-friendly standard and the pdf comes with full nested bookmarks for easy navigation. This can be easily printed out in digest-format, btw., making it a nice booklet to carry along.

This pdf, compiled and presented by Mark Gedak, essentially can be considered a godsend in my book. This is a humble, utterly awesome little pdf that may not be crucial for any group, but it adds a sense of realism to the game I adore. It takes a wibbly-wobbly, ill-defined, esoteric component of the rules and provides one-glance-done coverage. I love this pdf. For the low price, this is just awesome and I hope to see all other big books covered as well - this is extremely useful and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Spell Components (Core)
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Magic Pants!
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/30/2015 04:09:42
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let's take a look!



This statement by grandmaster crunch Owen K.C. Stephens could have come from a review of yours truly as well: "Know your item slots. Don't just invent them. Best to avoid magic pants.", to briefly paraphrase the comment that spawned this supplement - so yes, here, we tread in the glorious tradition of the Baldur's Gate-saga's easter-egg and get magical pants, though admittedly more balanced ones than the ridiculously OP item we got via the pantalon-transmuter.



So, this pdf introduces the leg-slot, where one may wear leggings, kilts, skirts, stockings and the like - a decision I actually like because I NEVER understood the lack of battle-kilts, stockings of seduction and similar items in the presence of belts, amulets etc. That being said, this does not mean that the items themselves universally lack a certain winking, unobtrusive sense of humor: Take the Clam Diggers of Harvest - they allow you to be considered proficient with monk's shovels (and treat all shovels as such), confer a +2 bonus to atk and damage versus crab and clam-vermin and let you treat shallow water and mud flats as normal terrain instead of as difficult terrain. This is at once hilarious to me and makes sense - in a world where giant crabs and deadly clams exist, why wouldn't there be specialized magical equipment to deal with them?



On the high-level David Bowie-fanboy side of things, the legendary Codpiece of the Goblin King increases your illusion and enchantment DCs by +2 while also increasing your sorceror level by no less than +5 for the purpose of determining which bloodline powers they possess. Here, I do think the item overshoots its target; unlocking new bloodline powers 5 levels early (in the face of no caveat that abilities are not gained early) seems excessive. That being said, this can be nerfed easily. And it's the codpiece of the goblin king - dance, baby, dance!



Also pretty interesting - Grown-up Pants - +4 to saves versus fear effects and 1/day swift action enlarge person for 8 minutes. Pretty hilarious! The very costly and powerful Happy Pants increase any beneficial morale bonuses by +1, while also providing immunity to spells of the emotion and mind-affecting descriptors. On the low-level end, 3/day message and +4 to Heal checks as well as no requirement for a healer's kit are interesting options. It should be noted, that not all of these items imho are well-priced - the Jodhpurs of the Mounted Guard provide no less than +5 to Ride checks AND the Mounted Combat and Spirited Charge-feats AND makes all mounts be treated as combat-trained- for a paltry 7500 GP. There are also some glitches to be found herein - the Kilt of the Tyrant, for example, has only a CL of 5th, which, for an item that costs 59000 GP - while I get this rationale for the spell-like ability it confers and seeing how the headband of alluring charisma has a CL of 8th.



Fans of magical girl anime may enjoy the new magical miniskirt, whereas fans of classic comedy will almost certainly get a chuckle out of parachute pants. Skald's kilts provide btw. benefits for the ACG-class, so yes, there is some support for that one herein as well - and yes, swashbucklers et al. also get there. I also very much got a smile out of magical traveling pants that lose their enchantment if not passed to new wearers regularly...



More fun still - what about cursed pants that compel you to brag about your own awesomeness? Pants that conjure forth swarms of ants...inside? Pants that set themselves ablaze whenever the wearer utters a lie? Yeah, fun!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect - I noticed a couple of minor issues, though nothing too jarring. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column standard, which means you can print this one out in digest-format. The pdf provides one original piece of full-color artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Mark Gedak, Perry Fehr, Sean O'Connor and Jacob Trier have crafted some pretty awesome and fun material - the pants herein are ridiculous and often, downright fun. And no, I do not expect magical pants, an item-class that adds a new slot (resulting in more stacking options etc.) to be perfectly balanced. Alas, in some cases, there obviously are some issues herein, with CLs not lining 100% perfect up and power-levels of some pants being quite frankly beyond what I'm comfortable with. If you utilize some caution and nerfing, this *WILL* be a very inexpensive, exceedingly fun product, but without it, it does sport some rough patches in balance and minor hiccups in rules-syntax/semantics. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Magic Pants!
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Purple Mountain II: Ruins of the Dwarven Delve
by Martin S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/15/2015 09:35:50
The second level of the Purple Mountain mega-dungeon looks quite nice and fun to play. It has challenging encounters and I like that not everything is out to kill characters, unless they make them angry :-) There is a good use of the environment during fights and I like the diversity of the opponents. What I really enjoy however are the notes left by the designer. Having a table with a list of all the encounters, locations, and experience points, as well as quests that can be accomplished is something I would like to see more often in an adventure. There is also a list of treasures with their value and where they can be found. It helps a lot to plan on game! The module itself is well-designed and will most likely be very challenging.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Mountain II: Ruins of the Dwarven Delve
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: Nature Warden
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/15/2015 04:18:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, e.g. the PA: Assassin from the first subscription was pretty much a godsend for my party. But can this one stand up to or surpass its first series?



This time around, we take a look at the Nature Warden, who gets d10, full BAB-progression, good fort- and ref-saves, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple and martial weapons and light and medium armor as well as shields. They do have a prohibition against wearing metal armor and non-wooden shields. At 4th level, they receive Wis-based prepared divine spellcasting drawn from the druid or ranger lists. On the nitpicky side, I would have enjoyed a note here that specifies whether a nature warden uses the higher or lower spell-level if a spell is e.g. spell level druid 2/ranger 1 - I'm aware of the convention using the lower, but since there are exceptions, I still would have appreciated a note here.



Nature Wardens, as based on the ranger-chassis, obviously receive full favored enemy progression. 3rd level and every 5 levels thereafter receives favored terrain choices. The nature warden receives an animal companion that shares these two from the get-go and at the full potency of the druid, as opposed to the ranger's hunter' bond class feature. At 3rd level, the favored terrain bonus is added to AC as an insight bonus.



Natural empathy is also among the class features the nature warden begins play with. 2nd level nature wardens receive at will speak with animals while in favored terrain, 1/day outside it - here, the rules could have been slightly more elegant, seeing hw favored terrain is only gained at 3rd level, rendering the ability limited to 1/day at 2nd level - but this is a pretty much irrelevant design aesthetic complaint. Speak with Plants is gained at 15th level with a similar mechanic based on terrain. On the plus-side, wild stride, a non-plant-based woodland stride in favored terrain provides a nice option and at 7th level, aptly put into the class's progression.



The animal companion treats attacks as silver at 6th level, a benefit that also extends to all creatures summoned via summon nature's ally-spells. The cold-iron-based variant, Ironpaw, is relegated to 18th level, which is pretty far down the line. Survivalist, which allows for the examination of tools to treat them as masterwork, comes at 9th level alongside evasion. Almost classically by now, we get quarry at 11th level and camouflage at 12th. In an interesting decision, both guarded lands and woodforging come at the same level, 14th to be precise.



The higher levels provide improved evasion, hide in plain sight, improved quarry and companion soul as a capstone.



The class comes with favored class options for the core-races, most of which focus on the animal companion. The pdf also sports sample builds at 1st, 5th, 10th and 15th level - here, a cool layout decision has been implemented -arrows conveniently show when a new statblock begins - relevant, since the sample stats come with animal companions. It should also be mentioned that the pdf's sample NPC comes with excessive prose, which does feature some nice turns of phrases that had me chuckle - "pure-bred half-orc"? Yeah, kind of funny!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and has seen some streamlining - from font use to markers, the layout has been improved, so kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover.



Carl Cramér's nature warden can be pretty much considered to be a variant ranger with a focus on the animal as opposed to combat style - more of an animal handler, essentially. Now I consider the base PrC on which this is based pretty much rubbish - the abilities are all over the place and are gained at points where their usefulness is limited and/or gone. The good news, then, would be that this WPA does some things right in the dispersal of abilities over the levels. Now full BAB + full companion means that, at 1st level, nature wardens with their companions will be pretty damn strong, but this levels out at later stages in game - when the class, at least in my opinion, could have used one thing more than anything other - new abilities.



Yes, I am aware that this is not the design-goal of this series, but hear me out: The nature warden as a PrC lacks a distinct identity beyond the terrain-options. The closest it arguably gets to it would be with the DR/silver and cold iron tricks. Now, much like the PrC, the PA oddly seems to value the latter as much more valuable, when both are considered equal for purposes of objective value in monster design. The high-level abilities of the nature warden feel like they come a bit late to the party, when earlier gains would have put player agenda higher on the table. If this PA is an example of one thing, then that would be that this PrC is in desperate need of more unique tricks. Conversely, first level feels a bit cluttered, with lowest levels being where the nature warden shines most - not to the point of being broken, mind you, but still - the nagging feeling never left me that this PA could have easily reached apex-levels, had it dared to add more unique options for the class presented - move the mid/high-level utility tricks down, slightly stretch the numerical escalation and sprinkle in more signature abilities et voilà - excellence.



As crafted, the PA remains solid, true, but also, at least to me, somewhat underwhelming. Still, as a reviewer, I have to take the design-intent into account - which remains the only reason I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: Nature Warden
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Drow of Porphyra - Karza, Children of the Loomqueen
by Jason H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/14/2015 22:54:48
Everyone who has even a passing familiarity with Fantasy Roleplaying has heard of the Drow. They are the stuff of Roleplaying nightmares for many a Gamer who thinks to delve in to the caverns underneath the surface of whatever realm they inhabit and have been for decades. As with all things, familiarity breeds contempt and the 'stock' Drow suffer from this more than many Races. At least they used to, until the Drow of Porphyra came along.

Within this compact Supplement from Purple Duck Games you will find both a familiar and, at the same time, fresh take on the Drow. From their compelling 'Origin' story which brought them to the caverns of the Porphyra Setting on down to their fascinating allegiances to both their Deity AND the creatures which inhabit their underground realm. In particular this Supplement does a wonderful job of firing the imagination without over burdening a GM with needless minutiae allowing for a great deal of creative thinking from the Players and the GM.

Points of specific note are the Poison Crafting System and the Alternate Racial Characteristics which give these Drow a whole new level of flair. If you've ever wanted a more subtle and involved means of Crafting Poisons for your game then these Rules should appeal to you in particular. Racial changes can be both subtle and obvious as the Player wishes but serve a dual purpose in helping to make the usual Drow House affiliation a bit more unique and engaging for all.

In short, if you want to breathe some new life in to your Drow then you should definitely consider Drow of Porphyra for addition to your Gaming Library.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Drow of Porphyra - Karza, Children of the Loomqueen
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Assassins of Porphyra
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/11/2015 02:38:57
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3/4 of a page SRD, leaving us with 12 1/4 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We begin this supplement with something I did not expect to see in here: A surprisingly well-crafted array of small introductions to assassin-traditions -from the Clockwork Society to the Rajuki Sancers and the Fire Splinters, the traditions provided deliver a captivating glimpse at the unique societies of Porphyra and should provide inspiration enough for a capable DM to further develop these tidbits into full-blown societies.



The Assassin as crafted here must be non-good, receives a good ref-save and 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, proficiency with crossbows, blowguns, daggers, darts, rapiers, short bows, saps, short swords and shields and receive a massive 8+ Int skills per level. They also receive sneak attack, progressing up to +10d6. Second level nets poison use and 3rd and every 3 levels thereafter increase the bonus thus granted by +1, up to a maximum of +6. Poison mastery is gained at 16th level.



Now very interesting would be quiet death - if an assassin kills a creature during the surprise round, he can make a Stealth check versus all relevant, present Perception-checks to prevent the other targets from noticing the kill. This ability, gained SOON, is pretty much one of the components that have been missing from the assassin-concept all along. Kudos! Death attack is gained at 4th level, with 12th level reducing the study-time down to 1 round, and 4th level also provides uncanny dodge, which thankfully scales with the ability gained from other classes; at 8th level, the improved version of the latter is gained.



8th level nets a pretty interesting option, namely lingering death, which does not prevent resurrection or the like - nope, it works and then kills the creature again - sans save. Yes, this is gleefully sadistic and yes, the ability has a means of being avoided. The class also receives a dual capstone - for once, souls slain must succeed a will-save to return; otherwise, a planar quest is required. Secondly, all sneak attacks become death attacks. Now, as you may have noticed, this chassis is pretty much a more streamlined version of the Prestige Archetype for the assassin - yes, you would be right, however, I have purposefully omitted the defining characteristic of this whole class: Assassin Secrets.



Essentially, these can be likened to a kind of bloodline-like tradition of killing styles. Each secret is associated with a modified list of class skills and provides a linear progression of thematically-fitting tricks, with arcane and divine spellcasting (magus/inqui-lists) of up to 4th level being the exception to this rule, as spellcasting's high flexibility obviously did not require more power in this regard. Assassin secrets are pretty much exactly what I wanted - a modular way to easily customize an assassin that puts player-agenda high on the priority list. Oh, and know what? They're pretty much awesome. Death Slayers? Can use death attacks and poisons versus undead, get ghost touch and can bypass DR and even immunities...oh, and the class can copy means of escape. Damn cool! Now you're probably familiar with the origin of the assassin-word, which may derive from Arabic Hashshashin - may? Yup, for, as any cultural scientist worth half his salt would tell you, the implied literal meaning of "hashish-consumers" may have been something ultimately brought about by a serious misunderstanding in translation - still, the imagery of Hassan-I-Sabbah's iconic order has become a staple in our collective consciousness and as such, the inclusion of assassins who not only use a drug, but derive some powerful means of coercion via its application. Yes, this can be considered the enchantment-style assassin.



Would you prefer something more far-out? What about the dusk assassins, trained in the shadow of Morah'Silvanath, looking to finally take down the great tree and reclaim their holdings? What's odd about them? They acquire a symbiotic fungus (!!) and can breathe spores. Oh, and they can eat poison to make the spores poisonous. This is awesome imagery right here and had me grinning from ear to ear. Prefer psychos who make a spectacle out of killing? Covered. Elemental assassins? Covered. Glass (!!!)-using assassins? Yup, in here. Soul-binding, anti-resurrection assassin (akin to the vanilla PA: Assassin)? Yup, here. Shadow-stepping master of stealth, including shadow pool and silent images - covered. Prefer rogue talents for a more diverse skill-set? Possible. Two feats allow you to make glass as durable as the materials it mimics (which is a damn cool flavor-feat) and to wilder among other secrets - HOWEVER, not in spellcasting. This feat in itself is a beauty in its perfect alignment of prereq skills and level-relevant secret gained - very elegant and smooth scaling.



The pdf comes with favored class options for the core-races - but does not stop here. We also receive new skill-uses, some of which have been a staple in my game for years: Salvaging poison from creatures via concise and well-written rules? Yes. Crafting glass-weapons? Nice. Using Heal to torture? Nasty - and makes sense. Finally, hiding spellcasting via Sleight of Hand is an interesting option, with concise mechanics, yes, but I have ran with a similar solution for quite a while and since skills scale pretty easily, I think the DC is too low; personally, I have added a concentration-check to stealthy spellcasting. I'm torn on this one - it may work perfectly for you, or it may end up utterly OP when combined with invisibility et al. - so be aware of this option's significant impact on your campaign.



The pdf closes with a level 1 sample character, whose statblock is missing the class + level-line.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are very good - I noticed nothing beyond the nitpick level on both formal and rules-language levels. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Okay, let me ramble a bit: My last main-campaign spanned 7 years and utilized no less than 3 base classes and 5 different PrCs to depict different assassin-traditions. Against a backdrop of conflict between the two dominant religions of the setting, I wove a tapestry of shadow wars. I am pretty much familiar with a significant array of assassin-class builds and takes on the concept. If I had Carl Cramér's Porphyran Assassin back then, things would have been so much simpler: Just add more traditions and there you go! Highly modular, with ample options for customization, a solid framework and player-agenda high on the priority-list, this pdf constitutes the single best take on the concept I've read so far and will replace all those options in my home-game.

This is the best "...of Porphyra"-class book released so far and the, hands down, best design Carl Cramér has pulled off so far. This inexpensive pdf is simply fun and delivers ample awesomeness for a more than fair price and makes me hope for more chances for the author to tinker with concepts beyond prestige archetype-complexity. I absolutely adore this pdf and its iconic imagery - whether you want the odd, the fantastical or the gritty low-fantasy iteration of the assassin, this delivers. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval - absolutely awesome and at the low price-point, a must-buy-category-pdf!

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Assassins of Porphyra
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Puppets of Porphyra [PFRPG]
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/03/2015 02:46:51
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 10 pages of content, so let's take a look!



No, I'm not stumped that I'm reviewing a supplement on puppets. I've reviewed a base-class of this theme in the past. So let's take a look at the beginning - the pdf starts with a definition of puppetry as a sub-category of Perform, which fittingly also covers using the shadow puppeteer wayang bard archetype and the interaction with this one's class abilities.



Next up would be the new 10-level puppeteer PrC. Said class receives 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, 6+Int skills per level and 1/2 ref-and will-save progression as well as 7/10 spellcasting-progression. The PrC does not receive any proficiencies, but it does add its level to the duration of any enchantment spells cast - which is interesting, seeing how long some enchantments last in the first place; we're talking about hours and days. So, where things become interesting would be with the modification of summon monster - the spell conjures forth an elemental spirit to animate a previously constructed puppet. Now if animated objects seem tougher than regular summons, that would be true -and is balanced via costs to create the bodies to be inhabited by the spirits.



The PrC thus can be considered an enchantment/minion-specialist who also receives craft construct and a powerful capstone that allows his puppets to defeat even fearsome foes, bypassing DR and increasing the threat-range. Next up would be the new magic items - and oh boy, are they delightfully bonkers!



While the first one is pretty conservative, being a beguiling gift spell-in-a-can, it also provides for a discount when shopping. Now concept-wise, the puppets are a DELIGHT. I mean it - they are awesome - from synergy with bardic performances to thoroughly unique abilities, these puppets can be considered inspired in all the right ways - I've been smiling like the Cheshire cat while reading these. Then, I began analyzing and the sighing began. What do I mean by this? Take the "Giant's Fearsome Duo:" When donning these odd puppets (What action? One for each of the two puppets?) 1/day, the user is affected by enlarge person. Furthermore, the following happens: "The mawgriff-head becomes a fearsome beast’s head attached to the user’s arm, gaining reach and allowing a bite attack with a +7 attack bonus, doing 1d8+5 damage, attacking once per round. Out of combat, the mawgriff-head grants the user the scent ability, used with a +9 Perception score."



So, does the head replace the arm? If so, does the attack count as primary or secondary? What happens to objects held in the hand affected? If not, is it autonomous? If so, can the user deliver touch spells via the mawgriff head and respective class abilities? Is the +7 attack bonus autonomous from the user? Can the user determine which target the head attacks? If the head grants the scent ability, why does it have a fixed Perception check listed? The user would modify usually his/her/its own Perception skill by adding scent... Now to give you an inkling of my pain here, remember that this is HALF of the magic item. And yes, there are more solid examples herein, but I just sat in front of my screen with a frowny face and thought "Why?" I honestly don't get how such awesome visuals and concepts can be hampered by such a lackluster execution. And yes, mentions of bardic "distraction checks" - which do not exist, btw., can also be found.



The bard can make performance checks to use the Distraction ability, but there is no such thing as a distraction check. At the same time, capability is not the issue - we have e.g. means of using Punch and Judy dolls to use rounds of bardic performance to deliver attacks at close range versus targets as though they were flat-footed - talk about imaginative crunch and cool imagery! Cursed puppets that try to murder their owners are also interesting, though I do not get how they can automatically deal damage when they obviously ought to attack the wielder. We also receive a new artifact and 4 cool construction point-options for animated objects alongside 3 flaws for further customization options. Manipulating unconscious, paralyzed or sleeping humanoids or creating an unhittable vermin make for rather cool (and potentially hilariously annoying!) spells. We also receive 4 sample puppets (including variants!) as well as a sample character utilizing the PrC.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay- in some instances, I do think that the minor glitches can render the rules syntax more opaque than it ought to be. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf sports some gorgeous full-color artworks - kudos!



Author Perry Fehr has a distinct style I absolutely ADORE - his prose and ideas are ridiculously awesome and fun and this pdf, being bonkers, allows him to perfectly use his talents to the full extent. I love this pdf, I really, really do - why? Because its crunch-decisions are brave and innovative - there is no single item I'd consider boring - even when the puppets provide a spell-in-a-can, they also have additional, unique benefits, often of a refreshingly unique, glorious bent.



So, as a person, I did adore this pdf, I really loved it.



As a reviewer, though, I ought to rip this a new one. As much as I want to rate this 5 stars + seal of approval, the rules-language just does not allow for it. While the builds, PrC etc. are pretty solid, there are so many, let's call them by their name, blunders. This pdf at once showcases that proper rules-language is not beyond the capacities of the author and how superb ideas can be tarnished by an execution that simply is not as concise, as good as it should be.



Now personally, I can easily salvage everything herein and my game is better off for this - as mentioned, I adore just about everything herein. At the same time, I can see this making issues galore for less rules-savvy groups and loathe the at times sloppy execution of concepts that deserve refinement. If you are willing to work with this pdf, then GET it - it is a delightfully bonkers, high-concept book. For you, this very much may be a 5 star + seal of approval file. If you, however, expect water-tight rules-language or shirk away from refining rules to make content work, then steer clear of this. My final verdict, as much as I hate to do it, will clock in at 3 stars since I have to take the issues into account.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Puppets of Porphyra [PFRPG]
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: Mammoth Lords
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/20/2015 04:02:18
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD, leaving us with a massive 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, e.g. the PA: Assassin from the first subscription was pretty much a godsend for my party. But can this one stand up to or surpass its first series?



So this time around we get double the dose of Prestige Archetypes, so let's take a look! Both mammoth lord and mammoth rider feature d10 as HD, full BAB-progression and good fort-saves. However, the differences still become readily apparent from the get-go: The mammoth lord uses the cavalier as chassis, the mammoth rider instead utilizes the ranger, which results in 4+Int skills per level and 6+Int skills per level, with the latter obviously also receiving good ref-saves. They also sport the same proficiencies with simple and martial weapons, light and medium armor and shields minus tower shields. As a minor nitpick that will not influence the final verdict - somewhat of a pity to see no support/upgrade of the primitive weapon group.



But let's start with the mammoth lord: At 1st and 6th level, we may choose from a short list of survival-themed bonus feats and obviously, 1st level challenge (usable +1/day every 3 levels). The steed, the signature creature of the PrC, gets full proper synergy with other classes and as a plus, it does cover a slightly enhanced list, also sporting the mawgriff among the eligible mounts. On the nitpicky side, the ability as such does not specify explicitly that this class feature functions as animal companion, though, admittedly, the pdf makes the intent as abundantly clear as possible without explicitly stating.



Mammoth lords also receive wild empathy and may use it to demoralize animals and magical beasts. Mammoth lords add Str-mod to said checks and also add this to the DC required to intimidate them. I do btw. enjoy the decision to move the "Mistrust of Magic" ability down to 3rd level. Expert trainer is gained at 4th level and combined might, what amounts to the PRC's signature combat trick, has been moved down to 5th level. 8th level sees the size-increase of the steed to huge size, which, on a nitpicky side, should mention that it's Huge (long), not Huge (tall) - but then again, this is me being OCD about this kind of stuff and the text does specify without chance of being mistaken reach et al., the intent is clear, though I still would have liked the direct specification, especially since higher levels sport a further reach-upgrade. Higher levels provide fast mount/dismount-options and the pulverizing assault ability thankfully remains in the higher levels. The capstone of the PrC also features as the PA-capstone and scaling over the levels is pretty organically dispersed - here, this is definitely what should be considered the most impressive component regarding balancing.



The Mammoth Rider, as the ranger-based build, gets full favored enemy progression and begins play with track and the demoralize-upgraded aforementioned wild empathy. Unsurprisingly, 2nd level and every 4 thereafter see combat style progression, including e.g. finesse and natural weapons styles and the survivor-themed bonus feat-list has been moved to 3rd and 7th level. Mount-size-increase to huge is also at 8th level here and at the same level, we get swift tracking. On level later, mistrust of magic is gained and colossus hunter, an ability the mammoth lord does not get, is gained, increasing its potency at 16th level - combined with favored enemy, that can net some solid bonuses! Now while 11th level nets quarry, combined might is relegated to 17th level for the mammoth rider, with the high-level abilities having a similar dispersal as the mammoth lord's.



The favored class options provided for base races and Ith'n Ya'roo are solid in both instances - where those of the mammoth lord focus on steed improvement, the mammoth rider's FCO focus well on the more skill monkey-ish style of the class. We get sample NPC-builds for both classes at level 1, 5, 10 and 15 and the mammoth lord gets a new magical lance. As a cool courtesy, we thankfully also receive full stats for the respective mounts.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover. On the formal level, I know this is probably going to elicit some groans, but I noticed that the text does once switch between declaring the characters as male and female, using "She" and "his" in the same sentence, when the pdf otherwise remains concise regarding the convention of using the iconic's gender and sticking to it. No, this is not a bad glitch.



Carl Cramér is slowly but surely hitting his stride - the base mammoth lord PrC is abyssmal in my opinion - cool in concept, but unfocused and bland in its execution. These two WPA, in contrast, not only provide a tighter focus for each build, they also put player agenda and choices much higher on the list than the base PrC did. And yes, I really, really like this installment for it. The cavalier-based build in particular is JUST what the doctor ordered when you want a way to mechanically represent the huge-creature-rider that smashes with high velocity through the ranks of his foes. - combined strength, cavalier charges and challenge combine to deliver truly devastating offensive capacities. What's also pretty impressive about these two WPAs would be the fact that they play rather radically different - which is interesting, considering how much overlap between them exists.

So yes, this is one of the good installments in the series - one bordering on the great even - but at the same time, I sincerely wished there were none of minor ambiguities, which, while not rendering the rules opaque, still exist. If you need an analogue, imagine you were a teacher and read this as a great assignment with a bunch of minor punctuation glitches and the like (no, in this way the pdf is pretty fine!) - though you love it and consider it a task well done, you can't rate is as highly as you'd want to. This is how I feel here - I enjoy this installment and it's only the accumulation of minor hiccups that slightly tarnish this - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: Mammoth Lords
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Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Low Templar
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/19/2015 10:31:29
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf of the Warrior Prestige Archetype-series clocks in at 9 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/introduction (explaining the base concept of the series), 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!



What are Prestige Archetypes? Well, I reviewed the whole first series, so here's the tl;dr-version: They are prestige classes blended with one (or more) base-class(es) to result in a new, 20-level-class - much like you had modified the base class with an archetype. Get it? Yeah, not a hard concept to grasp, is it? Now personally, I use Prestige Classes with an emphasis on the PRESTIGE-component, archetypes more like a career path, but this differs wildly from how PrCs are handled in most cases. Hence, e.g. the PA: Assassin from the first subscription was pretty much a godsend for my party. But can this one stand up to or surpass its first series?



The Low Templar receives full BAB-progression, d10, good fort- and ref-saves, 4+Int skills per level (with an extensive class skill-list) and proficiency with simple and martial weapons and all armors and shields, including tower shields. The low templar receives a limited selection of favored enemies and adds further choices at 5th level and every 5 levels thereafter.



At 2nd level and every 4 levels thereafter, the low templar receives sneak attack progression and 3rd and 8th level see armor training (medium) and (heavy), respectively. Also at 8th level, we get swift tracker, while 9th nets evasion. 4th level nets hunter’s bond (with the favored enemy granting or animal companion at character level-3 as choices) and the flag of convenience ability not only nets bonuses to illicit skills (disguise etc.), but also offsets leadership penalties for certain problematic behaviors. 7th level low templars may forego sneak attack or critical bonus damage to roll on a d6-table to inflict save-less temporary negative conditions, with duration being enhanced by higher crit multipliers. At 10th level, low templars choose light or darkness and may ignore partially the components of the respective chosen alignments. Better withdrawing, using Stealth in areas with limited cover, quarry, following killing blows with attacks as a swift action…interesting.



Improved evasion, attacks on retreats and better saves versus charms and compulsions for allies as well as improved quarry can be found among the high-level abilities of the low templar. At 19th level, the low templar receives a planar cohort and may mask the second component of his alignment. The capstone is the nice instakill/insta-subdue-shot the lantern bearer also had.



We also receive solid FCOs for the core-races and a sample NPC at levels 1, 5, 10 and 15. Since in Porphyra, races are balanced slightly differently, we also receive two bonus (racial) traits for humans – solid.



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' printer-friendly two-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked and sans art apart from the cover.



Carl Cramér's Low Templar is a pretty smooth example of what this series should be all about – the Low Templar PrC feels unfocused and all over the place and while this partially extends to this class, it feels so much more concise, so much more WHOLE than its base PrC. The Low Templar feels like pretty much the conflicted, pragmatic veteran between light and darkness it wants to be. The breadth of abilities helps the survivor-aspect of the class, while still providing a bunch of cool narrative-centric options. There is, quite honestly, nothing I could complain about with these guys, at least nothing that would be fair to the design-intent of the product line. Whether as disenfranchised crusader or as pragmatic, rogue knight – the low templar as presented herein makes sense and is fun – and it will be used in my campaign. Nothing to complain, a highlight of the series – humble, cool and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warrior Prestige Archetype: The Low Templar
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Purple Duck Storeroom: Animated Skulls
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/15/2015 17:54:16
Purple Duck Storeroom: Animated Skulls provides a variety of useful and interesting options for those GM’s that wish to incorporate animated skulls in their campaign. It is well worth taking a look at if you would like to amuse or annoy your players with an animated skull (or two or a dozen).

Purple Duck Storeroom: Animated Skulls is a short work on animated skulls (naturally) for use in the Pathfinder game. Light on art but packed full of useful random tables to quickly generate, or just inspire ideas, for animated skulls in your campaign.

It is a very modular work with random tables to provide how an animated skull was created, how it is encounter, appearance, abilities and more. Several basic “skull types” are provided to be used and modified but the other tables and one completely generated (and statted out) skull is provided as an example. All very useful and filled with solid inspirations for a GM.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Duck Storeroom: Animated Skulls
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Encounter Pages III [PFRPG]
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/15/2015 10:01:34
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Encounter Pages-series has somehow fallen through the virtual cracks of my HD - so let's finally get this review started! The pdf clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC (including CRs for the encounters), 2 pages fo SRD, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let's take a look!



We've all been there - we haven't had time to prepare a module; the shopping trip has become a grind; a wilderness trek has become boring. We know the feeling, when the general mood at the table tilts away from "this is awesome" to "tired/bored" - the easiest way to reassert focus, most of the time, is just sprinkling an encounter in. So this is what this supplement provides.



The encounters themselves do sport a rather interesting set-up - beyond their title, they sport the total EL and XP gained, the environment in which they take place and then go on to describe the general situation, the hook of the encounter, if you will. Beyond the basic hook, each of the encounters sport one or more complications - take e.g. an assault by debt collectors: Complication-wise, the encounter can be modified to sport unresponsive watchmen, downright corrupt ones and even smart lookouts - so yeah, there is some variety herein. The encounters themselves sport, obviously, the statblocks required to run them.



The complications either tend towards complexity or in some cases, represent escalations of how an encounter can be made more challenging. I generally do like these complications, but their execution is not always as refined as I would have liked some plug-and-play-encounters to be - while, for example, the former example of the debt collectors sports functional complications, the ones required for another encounter do require some work. I would have liked the pdf to do for the DM - as far as I've understood the premise, these encounters are intended pretty much as plug-n-play and any work a DM has to do diminishes from the chance of the encounter being used.



In a mine that has broken into the labyrinth of a minotaur, the PCs ought to clear out the dangerous foe. For one, we do not get DCs for Survival regarding the labyrinth, which is somewhat of a missed chance. The complications suggest introducing low CR-traps, but do not specify sample traps -a few lines with a unique one would have been nice here. Now no DM should be pressed hard to just select traps, granted, but still - having them available at one glance would have been nice. A similar point can be brought up regarding another complication, which suggests adding the half-fiend template to the minotaur. Now, once again, I can easily add the half-fiend template to a creature without even consulting the books; at this point, I've done it so often, reverse-engineered so many statblocks with it, that it has become literally no bother for me. At the same time, though, I think at least a micro-statblock with the relevant stats modified would have made the encounter more plug-n-playable, especially since e.g. pyromaniacs based on street thugs do just that. Perhaps provide one or two unique pieces of equipment along the way?



The encounters themselves, by necessity as non-specific as they are, do also sport treasures and suggested rewards that tie in nicely with the overall theme of each encounter - for yes, I think one can speak of themes here: Most encounters tell a short story that can be unearthed by clever PCs. When e.g. an undead flame spirit erupts from a source fire, the PCs can find a cursed staff of fire which proved to be the doom of said wanna-be-thief turned flaming monstrosity. Now handing in the cursed staff to its rightful owner not only yields a better reward, it can also be used to launch new adventures.

When the supplement provides such micro-choices in spite of the obvious limit in which it operates, I very much enjoy it, as it shows the promise of author Derek Blakely. Now while not every encounter reaches this level of coolness, there are stand-out ones herein - take Sardock the paladin, essentially shell-shocked veteran of too many bouts with the darkness, who has developed a Hydeian personality that is an antipaladin: The poor guy has had his magical therapy botched and now, it's up to the PCs to take down the antipaladin - alive, so the righteous man locked within his own body can be saved. I adore plots like that. Ambushes by demonic bar wenches, doppelgängers - yeah, there are some great concepts here as far as encounter-premises go. The statblock builds also sport some interesting choices, like e.g. a babau-possessed aasimar or a death knight that needs to be bested in 1-on-1 combat - at least if your DM is as sadistic as me and uses the complication. ;).



My favorite critter herein, though, would be a unique wood giant who can polymorph those touched into trees -one with faces that can still talk or cast verbal spells, but yeah. That guy is awesome and I really wished we got a whole module from this premise!



Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, I didn't notice any grievous glitches. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games' two-column standard and the pdf sports some neat pieces of full-color art. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.



Derek Blakely knows how to portray some cool set-ups in these encounters and the builds are also pretty solid. I did enjoy this supplement for the small stories told and the diversity of the challenges provided and hope to see more from Derek in the future - the talent is there! In fact, quite a few encounters herein do feel rather inspired - unique, even. At the same time, however, I do feel that this pdf is hampered by the format imposed on it:

The encounters, for one, feel sometimes like they could have used a page or more per encounter to shine - for example, to get back to the first example: The observing thug as a complication, who may report back and get the PCs into trouble - no Stealth DC, no Perception DC to spot. Some encounters could have used sample DCs for non-violent solutions/trains of thought.



And then here's the elephant in the room - the encounters sport no terrain peculiarities; no blazing storms, no obstacles, no ravines etc. A couple of years ago, that probably wouldn't even have caught my attention, but since Raging Swan Press's encounters tend to sport just that level of detail, a level of detail that makes them more memorable in set-up and rules-repercussions, I couldn't help but feel like this pdf did not realize the full potential that's here. A good encounter is equally set-up, participants, complications and backdrop and the backdrop component herein is sketchy - by design, yes, but to an extent where it becomes noticeable. The stories of the encounters and how they are crafted can be considered worthwhile indeed. That component ranged from awesome to ok, but the "miscellaneous component" of encounters falls a bit flat - it's like getting a great dish with some of your favorite spices, but realizing salt and pepper is missing. Mind you, this is not a bad encounter-collection - it is inexpensive and sports some rather cool ideas...but it also falls flat of what it could have easily been. My final verdict, hence, will "only" clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Encounter Pages III [PFRPG]
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