4.17.2015

Dance Macabre

Dance Macabre





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have I mentioned, that her statements (or the alchemist's investigation) can lead them to essentially the same goals, namely the sewers, where the whispers of the dead abound and a worm-that-walks, the gaoler of Enya, provide further evidence of the horrible things to come: And it is at the very latest here that the pieces will *click* together - Tzitzimitl, an exceedingly powerful oracle (level 10) who has gleaned the circumstances of his death, but not the particulars, has entered an unholy alliance with a powerful wraith named Yetaxa - with combined efforts, they have not only engineered all those nasty anti-adventurer traps the PCs had to face; they have also introduced a truly decadent festival to the town, wherein the living dance with the wraiths under the control of Yetaxa - at the low price of just one innocent to be wraithified per festival - and who cares about strangers? Hence, the first of the daughters, alas has already been transformed by Yetaxa in the general rehearsal of the last festival  -for today, shall be different. Wraiths cannot endure the sunlight, but a total eclipse renders a festival today possible - and also the only way in which Tzitzimitl's prophecy of his own doom could come to pass - hence, he has engineered this rather elaborate plot to prevent just that.
Alas, the festival, detailed with a concise timeline and hearkening to a carnival, through a glass darkly, proceeds - and provides the PCs with an option to save Enya - provided they have been smart enough to provide her with an amulet they can acquire, which renders her impervious to Yetaxa's cruel attempts of transferring her to undeath - so, in a finale both decadent and epic, the PCs will have to destroy Yetaxa in the catacombs - success frees the wraith and spawn from his control, resulting in a massacre and the prophesized death of Yetaxa, while also putting the PCs in dire peril, as they are shepherded into a dead end by now free, vast amounts of undead - only to be saved alongside Enya by the rays of the sun emerging from beyond the eclipse - and yes, if played right, this *is* one hell of a finale that also sees a town made uninhabitable by the undead - as well as killing the powerful Tzitzimitl and setting him up for potential sequels as a new undead threat to face!

Conclusion:

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

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

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

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

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

Do NOT let this one slip by!

You can get this awesome module for just 4 bucks here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com's shop!

Endzeitgeist out.

4.03.2015

Faerie Tales from Unlit Shores - Creeping Beauties of the Wood

Faerie Tales from Unlit Shores - Creeping Beauties of the Wood (DCC)





This module clocks in at 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 47 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

This being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Not only for this module, but also for its direct predecessor, the ennie-nominated, superb Prince Charming, Reanimator. Potential players of either one should definitely jump to the conclusion. Really. You don't want this spoiled.
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Still here? All right! So, after being press-ganged into an adventuring-life by a non-too-friendly Prince Charming, the PCs were witness to the psycho reanimating a girl, only to have his still living head being removed by said undead bride, who subsequently escaped into the dreaded Grimmswood. Unfortunately for the PCs, the baron is no less charming than his heir apparent - the solution to his dilemma is obvious - those pesky commoners better get moving and bring back some stability to the dread wood. Being not as totally an utter prick as his eccentric son, though, the baron does promise a chest of gold as well as the hand of his daughter in marriage. Things become more complicated even - the PC's bumbling interference has ended the faerie curse on the "ghost" of Doctor Chapman - who in fact in direct conflict with the Desert Faerie. This shadow war behind the scenes is further complicated by the interference of the Yellow Dwarf - who are what do these entities want? Only time (and more modules in this series) will tell!

Doctor Chapman manifests himself in the dreams of one PC, providing further assistance - he assures them that prince Hubert Charming's now-undead brides still roam the forest and that they have been entwined with a dread faerie's curse  -all have to be defeated/saved - so it's up to the PCs to venture into the hex-mapped, color-mapped Grimmswood to track down Cinder Ella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, preferably while not falling to their brides and grooms. Each of these minions have specific, unique abilities reflecting the theme of the respective original faerie tales through a mirror exceedingly and joyfully darkly.

Now the exploration of the Grimmswood is interesting in that haunting rhymes may provide much needed warnings for PCs - the detailed random encounters include stalking/animated apple trees, the Big Bad Wolf (including windstorm-strength breath), cowardly lions, talking owls, jabberwocks, strangling vines - the table alone is more inspired than a few comparable whole modules I've read! Elven players can receive their due mithral equipment in an organic, cool way on the sacred anvil of the forest. A goblin knight seeking a duel has increased prowess the more PCs enter the fray, rewarding honorable conduct in a rather interested scaling mechanism. The PCs may also find a severed head and incur either his wrath or boon while resting in a dilapidated ruin of an inn. Let's hope the head is treated kindly, for he has an interesting clue to offer to the PCs (and his curse is dire!).

In Cinder Ella's cottage, her wicked stepsisters, terribly executed back in the day, still roam the place, their wounds seeping still after all those years. Her mother is no-where to be found, but a blackened skeleton that may bless them, the fire-infused undead and the grimorie of the curiously absent wicked stepmother, made from the skin of infants, speak a rather obvious language - poor Cinder Ella did not have a jolly good time...even though the PCs still have to defeat the now undead bride - hopefully without her fire-control and own volatile nature setting the whole house ablaze!

A cenotaph devoted to forces both disgusting and malignant is hiding within the forest as well. Christina Rosetti's poem (reproduced here), "The Goblin Market" also serves as a complex and iconic encounter - including the options to learn new spells by having body parts grafted to you, paying with reflections and dreams...and the option to be, alas, deceived. Wax servants, goblins whispering in your ear, vials from the fountain of youth, wondrous companions, eyes in jars - delightful and breathing what fey ought to be all about - this section alone would make for a superb source-book and a massive table makes running the place even easier/more versatile. Snow White is awaiting teh PCs in the confines of the mine of her erstwhile allies - and the vampiric, cold-themed bride and her hobyah-servants make for deadly adversaries. Oh well, if push comes to shove and the PCs have kept their eyes peeled, the reanimator serum they may have found could well save them...or inadvertently create an undead horror...but hey, no risk, no gain, right? Right?

After defeating the second of these brides, the good doctor will urge the PCs onwards to Sleeping beauty, the final challenge that awaits. But she may very well know all - for there is a hidden war going on between the talking owls and talking crows of the forest and one side is spying for the beauty... That being said, the PCs may still run afoul of the psychotic tin man-analogue, an unpleasant artifact marked by X (NOTHING good's ever marked by Xs...) or the dread undead guardian of the crossroads before they find the caverns that hide both Sleeping beauty and what remains of prince Hubert - i.e. his reanimated head...and an array of severed, spellcasting hands. Ending his undying existence in the otherwise gorgeous caverns (including crystalline flowers...), the PCs now "only" have to tackle Sleeping Beauty. Alas, she has grafted her parent's heads and limbs to her bodyy, rendering her a deadly shredder of just about anyone, provided the PCs were not smart enough to deal with the other two brides before that...

Doctor Chapman as a patron is covered and so is Hizzgard, a dread demonic patron for all things creeping and crawling - who also comes with options to revive the dead via worms and an alchemy of essential salts. Finally, an appendix for quick and easy faerie animal generation is provided.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to PDG's printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with cool pieces of original b7w-art. Additionally, full color cartography, also provided as DM and player-version high-res jpgs help running this module. The pdf, alas, has no bookmarks, but I'd suggest to print this out anyways - it belongs to the shelf containing the good modules.

Okay, I'll say it outright - at this point, Daniel J. Bishop is pretty much one of the few adventure-writers I'd buy blind. I adore his absolutely, mind-bogglingly compelling prose, the depths of his imagination and the sheer wonder each and every supplement of his exudes. The first FT-series module was great - this is one step beyond. Fairy Tales, reimagined through a glass most darkly, but at the same time, suffused with an underlying sense of wonder and yes, humor even, this module is quite frankly absolutely superb in every way. How good is this? Well, you know how many good modules for PFRPG exist? I have more of them than I can ever conceivably play, but still - I sit down for these modules and convert them. And I never, ever regret the work. Now don't get me wrong, I did play this one with its intended DCC-rules, but the thing is - no matter what your system of choice is, this module is worth every single second spend converting it. Whether 0e, 13th Age, D&D 4th or 5th edition - believe me when I'm saying that you NEED this beast, that you want to invest the time to play this in your system of choice. Its ideas, its glorious creativity both are that pronounced. This is one of the most compelling, dark faerie tales I've ever read, no matter the medium. Quite a lot of novels and short stories in the faery tale/mythpunk/whatever genres can't stand up to the level of imagination herein. I guarantee that, with a modicum of system-savvy knowledge of DCC, even as only an idea-mine, this still is worth its price ten-fold. Get this masterpiece!

My final verdict will clock in at an unsurprising 5 stars + seal of approval.

You can get ths superb module here on OBS and here on d20pfsrd.com's shop!

Endzeitgeist out.




3.16.2015

Age of Electrotech

Age of Electrotech





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can get this super tome here on OBS!

Or, you can get it for a discounted price as an add-on for the Pact Magic Kickstarter currently running!

Endzeitgeist out.