EZG reviews the Book of Drakes

Hey everybody!

As the dust in my private life once again begins to settle, I thought I'd entertain you fine people out there with a review to a quite recent addition to the Open Design canon (that is on special sale at Paizo right now!):

The Book of Drakes

This full-color pdf is 62 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page (almost) logo-less front cover, 1 page editorial & ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 54 pages for the drakes. So...what are drakes?

Well, drakes are lesser draconic creatures and, as the introduction by Adam Daigle and Mike Welham discusses, there is a certain necessity for these critters that has as of yet been neglected. But wait, let me elaborate on the thesis: I am an adherent of the mindset that dragons should be the most iconic of antagonists and monsters and subsequently I hate the tendency that was prevalent in 3.5 for some time to make anything half-draconic and spam dragons without any context into a given adventure. However, I still sometimes am drawn into said adventures, probably thanks to said iconic quality and the fact that I can't escape the pull and the temptation to include them once in a while. Oh, there'S another dimension: I don't like too young dragons: They are not large enough to evoke the awe I feel is an integral part of a dragon-encounter and more often than not, are easily killed by the PCs, which again undermines what I consider a good dragon encounter. That's where drakes come in - have your cake and eat it, so to speak: Drakes are related to dragons, but are not true dragons, thus offering a nice way to use draconic themes without detracting from the iconic qualities of true dragon encounters.

After a page of introduction to the topic at hand, we get the first section of the book, an ecology of drakes prefaced by a short, yet aptly-written fluff-text, which is interspread throughout the whole discussion of the drakes, greatly enhancing your reading enjoyment. Three classes of drakes are introduced: Esoteric, Material and Geographic drakes. After a short discussion on these types, all of the different drakes and their roles in the Midgard-setting. The ecology also features 30 sample drake pieces of treasure as well as 10 short write-ups of sample drakes, each an adventure hook in its own right.

Chapter 2 focuses on the interaction between players and drakes, respectively the part going beyond encountering and potentially killing them. With a rich and rather interesting mentality as companions, we also get 10 new feats related to drakes, some of which enhance their combat capabilities, some rather exciting and one feat being the basis to get a drake as a semi-permanent companion that has to be appeased with items. Inquisitors don't like drakes though, and from the table I gather there's a reciprocity there - malice and whimsy don't mix well with harsh judgments.

I had a problem with one feat: "Tooth and Claw Form" has very low requirements and enables the user to either deal piercing, slashing or bludgeoning damage with his unarmed attacks. Depending on the focus of your campaign, this feat could potentially impede the character's necessity to plan/bring the right weapons to a fight. In addition to the new feats, we of course get new alternate class features for all the classes (including APG, but not the Magus from UM): Alchemists get a cool draconic mutagen, barbarians get a rage-focused breath weapon, bards get a calming performance based on euphoria, the cavaliers get a new anti-tyrant/rather chaotic order, Clerics can take the Drake Subdomain, Druids become Drakeshape druids, fighters get 2 alternate abilities to better combat dragons and drakes, Inquisitors can get a new anti-dragon judgment, monks can get a better focus on their stun, oracles can be cursed with claws or scales, Paladins get the very iconic "Dragon Challenger"-archetype, Rangers can replace favored terrain, with favored nemesis, specializing on being even better to kill a subset of his foes. Rogues get two new rogue talents and in contrast to the other abilities, I've got problems with one: While one cool one lets the rogue use sneak against blindsense, the other is simply overpowered:

Crush Windpipe lets a rogue force an enemy to make a fort-save when sneaked AGAINST THE DAMAGE OF THE SNEAK ATTACK. If the save fails, the creature CAN NO LONGER USE ITS BREATH WEAPON OR VOCALIZE UNTIL HEALED ! This is broken beyond repair. Wow. This talent screams "Abuse the hell out of me!", practically making ANY caster with verbal components easy prey for rogues and, to add insult to injury, fails to mention how it works on foes with breath-weapon and no windpipes and potentially deprives dragons of their most iconic breath weapon. This talent screams power-creep and I don't get how it could stand among the other, balanced and cool class features. Ähem. *Endzeitgeist calms down from a fit of nerd rage* The sorceror gets the nice new drake bloodline. Summoners can exchange half of their bond sense ability rounds for a bonus feat. Witches get an excellent new hex to temporarily take away flight via a new hex and expand upon their blight with a major hex. Wizards get a new draconic focused arcane school.

Summoners are kind of the winners on the class-sides, as they get a fully stated 20-level alternate base-class, the so-called dragon tamer focusing on summoning and modifying drakes and working with them. There is also a new PrC, the Master of Drake Forms (d8, 2+Int skills, medium fort and ref-saves, moderate BAB) focuses on shape-changing, draconic abilities up to an apotheosis. While shape-changing is required to qualify, no spell-progression is offered by the class, which makes it an interesting pick: I'd be screaming "unbalanced" from the top of my lungs otherwise, but breath weapons, resistances and natural weapons make for nice replacements of the lost spells: Nice job! Additionally, if you want to play a drake PC, full racial modifiers and information on how to use them for both Pseudodragons and candle drakes are given. Next, we're into the obligatory spell-section: 16 new drake-centric spells are provided, from the self-explanatory drake form-spells to veiling companions and mislead presences. There are two spells in particular, though, don't don't fit well with me: One spell "Greater to lesser" transforms a dragon of 15+ HD to 1/3 of its HD, with all the accompanying ramifications. It's also permanent. Wait, what? Yes, there are plenty of tales that feature similar themes, but a) I never liked them and b) this is one fort-save deciding between a climatic encounter of epic proportions and a completely whipped minor draconic being. Did we really need to potentially pussyfy dragons? And while I like the fact that having a piece of the dragon's hatching-shell can provide a -8 penalty to said save, I don't think we need it here. If this was a temporary effect, I could possibly look over it. As written, I'll never, ever use it. I also hated the spell "Protection from lesser dragons", which is essentially a protection from evil-spell against all things draconic. Quite frankly, I think this particular spell wastes space that could have been put to better use and don't really get why dragons should have their own protection spell. Isn't evil/good/chaos/law enough already? "Wingspan", on the other hand is visually cool and increases, you guessed it, the creature's wingspan, thus improving its flight capabilities.

We also get 7 new magic items, 4 weapons to increase the damage potential of the natural weapons of drakes and 3 new pieces of adventuring gear to carry around and/or capture drakes. The companion replica can force companions temporarily into the replica, making for potentially interesting roleplaying opportunities between the free-spirited companions and their masters. Dimming Paste also makes for a cool item: It impedes blindsense and blindsight. I had no problem with any of the items.

The third chapter is the meat gamemasters have been clamoring for - we get 20 new drakes ranging from CR 1 to CR 14. From the drunken-revelry inducing mischievous alehouse drakes (that had me chuckle and which focus one of the cutest artworks ever), the malevolent ash darkes, the benevolent candle drakes, the dwarf-stalking rather hunter-themed crag drake and the mist drake to the others - we get a lot of cool ideas. Want to know more? Well, there are the rather impish, breath-weapon using crimson drake, the deadly stalker of the depths called deep drake or the ephemeral dream drakes. Steam and Gear drakes are also provided for the steam-punk/clockwork-aficionados out there to the lycanthrope-allied moon drakes and their strange powers over lycanthropes to the drake-incarnations of law, the pact drakes and their negotiation skills, we are in for cool creatures. But what about the paper drake? Paper drake? Yep, you read it right - drakes that can fold themselves and look like living, drake-formed origami. AWESOME! Ok, that's enough to give you an impression, if you want to know more, you'll have to get the file. Have I mentioned that guidelines to create more drakes are also provided to the beleaguered DM over 10 pages? The set comes with 4 sets of base-stats, as well as a very comprehensive and cool point buy system in accordance with the universal monster rules. There's also a nice list of cosmetic features to add to your very own drake and a fully stated-out example of a drake created with these rules.


Editing is top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Formatting suffers from some VERY minor text-alignment issues, but the content does not suffer, so I'll let this one pass. The full-color pdf is also extensively bookmarked. Let me comment on the layout: It adheres to the two-column standard and is beautiful, elegant and just a pleasure to the eyes. Speaking of which: Both cover artist Kieran Yanner and interior artist Hugo "Butterfrog" Solis went out of their respective ways to create some of the best, iconic artworks I've seen in quite a while: Each drake gets an iconic, cool artwork and the ones that are spread throughout the book all adhere to the highest quality. Some of the drakes might elicit a squee from the female (or even male) demographic out there - my non-gamer lady got all gooey-eyed over the alehouse drake. Even better, the drakes all have their unique, cool abilities that make you actually want to use them - signature abilities rock. The alternate Drake Tamer-class is awesome and most of the alternate class features rock, as do the "Create-your-own-drake"-rules. Where the book does not adhere to its otherwise almost stunningly high quality is in the one broken rogue talent and the, at least in my opinion, rather not too special new feats and spells, that left me rather cold, especially when compared to the other crunch. So, what's my final verdict, then? While my review might be considered harsh in spaces, it's mainly because the rest of this product is STELLAR - were it not for the gripes I mentioned, I'd gladly give this one my seal of approval. I'd rate it 4.5, but it's quite frankly too good to be thus downgraded, resulting in a final verdict of 5 Rudii, in spite of the bits I abhorred. If you're only remotely interested in things draconic and willing to ignore some rather problematic component parts, you have to own this. (Plus: the sale offers the pdf for 5 bucks -come on!)

Next time, we'll look at a rather dark one...

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Northlands

Hey everybody!

As a kind of birthday present I make for myself and to celebrate my 250th review on Paizo, today I'm going to review an awesome book I had the pleasure of contributing some bits. Thus, today I'm going to take a look at Northlands and its web-enhancement instead of my planned sojourn, but rest assured that I will return to my schedule after a nice detour this week.

Without further ado:

Midgard: Northlands

This pdf is 114 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC , 1 page patron list, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving a whopping 109 pages for the Northlands, so let's check it out!

Disclaimer: I was a patron for this project and contributed my fair share of material to the book. Additionally, I'm working with Scandinavian literature and culture as one of my day-jobs, probably not making me the most unbiased of potential reviewers in this instance, but I'll try to remain as critical, nitpicky and obnoxious as in my other reviews.

Now that that's out of the way, let's check it out!

Northlands is a sourcebook for the North, to state the obvious, but from the very beginning you'll realize that it goes above and beyond what you'd expect of e.g. an environment-book like e.g. 3.5's "Frostburn", which will serve as my point of reference for this review. You have to know that, while I did like Frostburn and consider it to be one of the finest publications for 3.5, I was also sorely disappointed by its lack of true understanding about what makes the North compelling as both a cultural backdrop and a setting and this is where Northlands gets it right: It starts off with not only an introduction to the climate, but more importantly, how both religion & harsh climate have shaped the social order and mindset of the people of the North: Shaped by relentless, deadly yet beautiful environments, a hard and gritty breed of men (and women) emerged from the climate, depending on strength of both sword-arm and wits and defined alignment-wise by what is considered honorable and what isn't. We're not talking chivalry in the north, though, as honorable is a relative term and reputation is a precious good not to be tarnished by excessive displays of mercy - being "good" or "evil" is much more relative in these regions. The semi-democratic social order and the differences from feudal, traditional fantasy settings is also extensively and comprehensively covered, providing for a concise and aptly-written introduction to culture and land for just about anyone - for scholars, it offers the basics to add fantasy elements to what they already know, for novices it provides a compelling read that conveys the necessary mindset to plunge into the north and get the most out of this book.

After these explanations on feuds, hospitality, tafl games and social drinking rules, the pantheon of the north and their implementation in the setting of Midgard, we are introduced to the continent of Thule and with it, one of the very best gazetteer-section I have read in all my years of roleplaying - from human-centric jarldoms and their feuds, the conflict-laden history of reaver-dwarves and men, the animal kingdoms of bear and wolf and the cthulhoid-threatened/pulpy lost lands of Hyperborea, we get insane amounts of seeds capable of sparking of whole campaigns and a stunning map of the continent.

All right, you say, but what about the crunch? Well, 4 human ethnicities are provided as well as a set of alternative racial traits for Reaver-dwarves. Hyperborean Day-and Nightborn (influenced by the strange energies of the Hyperborean aurora borealis) and Trollkin are presented as new races that serve their niches and have a definite reason for existence and go beyond the "X with arctic abilities"-races I've come to despise in 3.X. There are also new class features: Barbarians get 10 new rage powers and 2 alternate class features, ranging from sheathing hands in boreal cold to becoming so bear-chested that one counts as a size-category bigger. Bards get a whole alternate class variant with so-called Dróttkvætts (lordly verses) and a focus on fortitude rather than agility. I won't comment on this one, as I was the one who designed it. Clerics get 2 new domains and there is even a monk-variant, the Glima Master, who focuses on rather worldly pleasures, serving as a nice counter-point to all the ascetic monk types out there. Oracles get some love in the form of a new mystery (fate) and 11 associated revelations that make you an arbiter or fickle fate and the norn's destiny-weaving, serving greatly to enhance the theme of stoicism in the face of fate. Sorcerors get the new giant and hyperborean bloodlines and 10 new familiars, which should also interest teh witches, who get two new patrons. We also get expanded information on skills as well as a plethora of new feats, among which there are some awesome achievement feats - which are hard to do, at least in my opinion. They have to be hard to get, but not too hard and their benefits have to reflect that and if that's not enough, we get a huge amount of cool traits to customize characters from the very start.

As economy in the north is based on gifts and favors rather than monetary rewards and both sample rewards, new equipment and alchemical items are provided - Remorhaz fat and honey that makes the consumer easy to track being examples as well as prismatic steel and berserker iron as materials

Of course, magic is also expanded upon and in a very interesting way: Rune magic grants bonuses for both knowing them, mastering them and scale in benefits with gained levels. Additionally, we get 4 new incantations, a LOT of new spells and magic items. Let me talk a bit about the magic items. You probably know that I'm not that into boring magic items or magic items as commodities. What can I say? I love the section. It's glorious, the items rock and are EXTREMELY iconic - what about snopw shoes that can make snow powdery and ice crash, for example? Or a kind of large ski that unerringly can lead you toward your destination, over both water and ice? Returning, yet jealous arrows that despise each other and are each other's bane? Or the incarnation of legendary, doom-bringing Tyrfang? I was drooling over this section and look forward to inflicting these upon my players!

The next chapter provides all the environmental hazards, haunts, rules for coastal, ski and ship chases, rules for altitude, boreal chill, midnight sun and boreal dark, frots bite and so called fate afflictions, a mechanic loosely tied to hero points, serving to further underline the feeling of preordained destinies and entwined fates woven by the norns. Sounds boring? Well, they're not! There are, for example, rules to escape the legendary maelstrom!

The final chapter of the book is the bestiary, detailing an avatar of Boreas, the master of the northwind, whose living glaciers slowly seek to bring the fimbul winter, a song of fire and ice-style, to the world. The Jotun, most powerful and ancient foes of the gods are given stats and some truly disturbing creatures are also found: The Krake-spawn (somewhat cthulhoid creatures) and the Nightgarm, the champions of wolves and worgs, who can give birth to falsemen-duplicates of people they devoured. The unearthly Liosalfar, a kind of creature that feeds on the mystic rays of the northern lights, Valkyries and the Son of Fenris - each and every monster in this section is a winner, has unique abilities and some kind of angle/ability I haven't yet read in any other sourcebook - top-notch material and each critter gets its own, cool artwork to boot!


Layout adheres to the two-column standard and is clear and simple/easy to print out. The artworks, while a bit sparse for my tastes, are top quality. Formatting is top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Editing could have been better, though - I noticed more than 10 glitches over the 114 pages. That being said, artwork is rather sparse and while the pdf is more printer-friendly than Sunken Empires, the book is not as beautiful as SE. It's longer though, and while I would have loved to see it full color, I recognize the limitations of the format. These are the only two points of criticism I can muster - in all other respects, this book is VASTLY superior to Frostburn and thankfully gets the topic right - I am passionate about Scandinavian mythology and mindset, subsequently being rather picky about "my" north. I hate books that add [environmental descriptor] to nations and cultures and leave it at that and this book does the entire opposite: It does more than an awesome job of providing a backdrop that is not only easy to scavenge from, but rather should be considered THE resource for just about any adventure/campaign set in the north. Even better, for those of you out there who are interested in the topics, the book contains some nice insiders and new takes on classic tropes - if you'll excuse me now, I'm off to Holmgard and beyond. I forgot my rating? Well, due to the editing glitches and the rather plain and boring layout, I'd settle for 4.5 Rudii, but this is too much up my alley, too great a book, so I'll settle for 5 Rudii. Detract a star if you're very nitpicky about layout and editing and if you care to, drop me a line how you liked e.g. the introductions to the chapters and the skald.

Next up: The web-enhancement

Further North

This pdf is 9 pages long, 1 page SRD, 8 pages of content.

The pdf kicks off by providing sketches for 10 guests at a feast to spice up your meadhall-encounters, each with the potential to act as a nice adventure-hook. Next up are some awesome ideas for disputes the player characters might settle at the Þing. We also 9 reskinned spells to make your magic more appropriate. On the magical item section, we get a cool artifact that continuously produces gold rings and 7 magical items including two magical banners as well as e.g. magical mead. I especially loved the later. A quite variable array of reskinned monsters is also provided, along the Frostveil (which is a cool flying algae),the lindwurm and the sea wolf.


Layout adheres to the two-column standard, editing and formatting are top-notch and the price is very low - while the content absolutely rocks. The material contained herein serves as a great addition and expansion of the excellent material from the Northlands sourcebook and for the low price, there is literally no reason not to pick this up in addition to Northlands. My final verdict is 5 Rudii for the awesome amount and quality of content crammed into these pages.

All right, that's it for now! Expect to see more Open Design reviews soon, especially a certain book with nice, scaly menaces...

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG revisits The Skullcrackers and checks out Finwicket's Fey

Hey everybody!

Once upon a time, I wrote uninformative, lame, one-sentence reviews for some products I considered worth getting. Today, we're going to remedy the rather humiliating shortcoming to inform you about one of my personal favorite adventures to kick off a campaign, 0onegames

Road to Revolution I - The Skullcrackers

This pdf is 43 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of advertisements, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 35 pages of adventure, so let's check it out!

Layout adheres to the clear and concise 0one-games-two-column-standard, the pdf is extensively bookmarked and comes with free color-versions of the handouts (and broadsides that are put up throughout the city) in a separate pdf and also has its own conversion notes to make the adventure compatible with PFRPG. Editing is good - I only noticed one glitch.

This being an adventure review, SPOILERS will continue to abound, so potential players please jump to the conclusion and stop reading NOW.


Still here?

All right! The PCs stumble across the body of Malkan Abberbaugh, who was supposedly murdered by wild animals in a park - not everything is as it seems, though, and the PCs will hit a brick wall of bureaucratic red tape by the army, who wants to keep the death under wraps. After having the corpse taken away, the PCs can track it to Grang's Crematorium, where they'll be met with a rather uncooperative fellow. Why? Well, turns out ol' Grang has turned to cannibalism and enjoys his meals with a gourmet ghoul. Yep, you heard it. Cool, isn't it? We get a map for the crematorium and once the PCs have infiltrated the place and analyze the corpse, they'll notice that both druids and their animals definitely are innocent of the murder and will continue to army ward, where Marcus Galwatty, a sergeant tries to block them and intimidate them to keep away from the investigation.

A full blown bar brawl can also see the PCs accused of murder and arrested and after asking around town in this free play-style sandboxy setting, the PCs will have encountered the legendary alchemist Mafurin and his coat-with-tails-wearing Troll Werewolf-bodyguard Hulg. Via the street urchin Eddie Gin or some other means, the PCs will meet a guy called Grosh One-Ear, who claims that a member of the Dragon Claws-gang has murdered Abberbaugh. A member of said gang will contact the PCs and claim that rogue members are responsible. After a short mini-crawl in the sewers (with its own map), the PCs will again be contacted by the Dragon Claw, who points them towards to true culprits, a subsection of the army called Skullcrackers that dominate illegal fight clubs in the residential ward. In this climate of racial tensions, they will venture into smuggler's tunnels to find a lost piece of jewelry for a member of a crossroads club serving a shrine spirit. Should they survive their trek into the subterranean tunnels, tehy'll have their final clue, the identity of the killer. In a cinematic and highly unusual finale, the PCs go to the fight club and take out the deadly dwarven wererat rogue and his henchmen while bets are flung on the outcome and the crowd is cheering - in any way, a cool and rather uncommon finale.


This investigation is very interesting in the fact that it's not strictly linear and has several tools for the GM to keep it going in both the NPCs and the encounters. The adventure is fast-paced and has some cool, iconic backdrops and immediately sets a tone of mistrust and paranoia that will continue to spiral out of control during the course of the campaign arc. The NPCs and critters are sufficiently unique and cool and the adventure is uncommon enough to provide something different and thankfully humanoid-centric for the PCs to enjoy. The only weak point of the story is that the PCs should have a serious stake in the murder to not be disheartened by the red tape that is flung at them. My players would love that, but Some players might be annoyed. Diligence triumphs in the end, though, and the DM can always throw the PCs a bone with the plethora of NPCs integrated into the plot.

My final verdict will be 5 Rudii, a great adventure to kick off the road to revolution. Personally, I prefer "A Pound of Flesh", but you could always play that one after the Skullcrackers. :)

It should also be noted that there is a conversion file for PFRPG available for your convenience.

I've also got a little bonus for you:

Finwicket's Bestiary: Along the Faerie Path

This pdf is 22 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving 18 pages of content - for the low price a nice deal!

After one page of aptly-written IC-introduction to the realms of fairy we are introduced to a general 5-page overview of Faerie and what its lords and dominions are about: Basically, the realm of the fey is a demi-plane-like conglomeration of parallel mini-planes that exist and partially overlap the prime material plane, resulting in paths that might teleport you to Faerie.

The next section of the book contains the fey and they are presented in an interesting format: We get one page IC-text, 1 page stat-block and rules and 1 page artwork.

The first fey you'll get is the faerie seer, a rather uncommon choice for a fey creature: At least I personally associate seers more with divine/oracleish/Norn-like figures. Befitting of its role, a faerie seer has a plethora of divination spell-like abilities and a cool aura: Being able to see the strands of time, any attack against the seers has to be rolled twice, the worse result counting. Thus, the creature has the unique ability I expect from a given monster book. Nice.

Next up is the Harvest Haunt, a tiny fey that can blight via an negative-energy instilled touch (sans being evil, mind you!) and surround themselves via a complacency aura that might prove disastrous for farmers. This tiny critter really intrigued me, as its potential for creating/threatening some truly disturbing famine winters and potential adventure twists.

The third offering we get is the spindler, a fey clothing merchants that is obsessed with his enchanted fabrics (coming with several sample clothings), who might well try to force his clothes upon his unwitting customers. While a cool comic relief creature or ok low-level adversary, this one felt rather goofy and does not offer much resistance or combat capabilities. If it had more, it might have made for a cool final low-level foe of an adventure circling around strange behaviors.

The final creature we get is the thin man, a fey that has lost one of his dimensions to the "nowhere" (detailed in the first section of the pdf) and subsequently can make for a very deadly assassin: After all, turning to the side, it practically becomes unperceivable and its blades can hit you and easily cut you to ribbons. Deadly, cool and vicious, the thin men mechanically do what one of my recurring villains in my homebrew does and offer for compelling killers, reaching the quality of the now legendary "Van RIchten's Guide to the Shadow Fey".


Formatting is top-notch and layout adheres to the two-column standard. However, you should know that, while the book and the artwork is b/w, the layout contains blue elements and one of the artworks is full color, to be precise, the one that visualizes the relationship between material and fey realm. Editing is also top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. The critters per se are high quality and can be defined as weird with a capital "w" - which is fine and just what I like and expect from fey. However, I didn't care too much for the first section detailing the fey realms, as ZSP's "Along the twisted Path: Prelude" is simply the superior file with regards to being an introduction to the fey realms. I have one bone to pick with this book, though: The artworks. While the regular artworks are nice, the fey artworks all take up a whole page. This would be great if the artworks rocked. To be blunt, they don't. I know that art is expensive, but some of the pictures (especially the thin man and the harvest haunt) made me CRINGE. I honestly think the pdf would have been better off without them and the other two critter-artworks felt uninspired and not particularly fey. Less would have, at least in my opinion, been more here and would have made it easier to print out the book. The pdf is bookmarked, which is nice. What's my final verdict, then? The production values are high and the creatures original, but 4 fey are not too much and there is some fierce and excellent competition out there regarding fey. However, all of the fey get some individual abilities and the thin men are supremely creepy. My final verdict will be 3.5 Rudii due to the cringeworthy artwork.

All right, that's it for now! Next time, I'm either going horror or back to some city, albeit a rather ruined one. As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews NeoExodus

Hi everybody,

as some of you know, I've been reviewing a lot of NeoExodus-pdfs and while I was initially not too excited about some of them, the last couple of months have seen some truly excellent releases worthy of your time and purses and thus, today I'm going to take a look at both the free campaign setting (which, gathered, is rather a very interesting history of the setting than a full-blown CS) and the latest installment of the Enemies of NeoExodus-line. I hope you'll enjoy the reviews!

World of NeoExodus

This pdf is 32 pages, 1 page front cover and 6 pages of advertisements, leaving 25 pages for the campaign setting of NeoExodus, so let's give it a closer look, shall we?

The world of NeoExodus is distinct not only in its non-standard races, but also in its basic premise of thinking what a logical conclusion to a highly magical world would be. Thus, it is set in an age, where huge empires, after years of full-blown magical world war, have been more or less coerced by necessity into a kind of unstable alliance that on the one hand defines the world and on the other is fragile at best. That itself would not be too special, but the way in which the story of the world is presented is quite interesting - although we get a coherent telling of the genesis of the world and its empires like the Dominion, the Caneus Empire, the Arman Protectorate and the Reis Confederacy and their strife and struggles, I never had the feeling that one of the large empires that now make up the Imperial Alliance would be boring or interchangeable. Even better, the whole story of the campaign world up until now is handed to the reader in such a captivating and concisely written fashion that you actually WANT to read the whole history of the setting. This level of captivating writing only in the rarest of instances can be found in the history-section of a given RPG-setting and the amount of detail, legends and yarn you can spin from these accounts alone are probably enough to make your head spin.

It's now not even 100 years (91 to be precise) after the Unification of Empires under the banner of the Alliance and the old grudges and scars still are deeply ingrained in the people, even without magical terrorists like the Folding Circle or the various secret societies' meddling. NeoExodus manages to carve a very unique niche in the fantasy genre and feels like both fantasy and steam/cyberpunk in its treatment of politics, conspiracies, false information and the relativity of morality - even the official religion can be considered quite ambiguous and is open to both roles: Villains and Heroes. This shades-of-grey ambiguity is contrasted against clearly evil and good beings and thus serves as a most interesting climate to roleplay the changes of one's' character.


We get some nice full-color artwork and even a map of the world of NeoExodus, editing is actually quite good, I only noticed one Upper-case glitch and layout adheres to the beautiful LPJr Design standard. What impressed me most about this file was the writing, though, as I really didn't want to put my printed out copy away prior to finishing it. If you do expect crunch, though, this is the wrong place to look for - you get the extremely well-written background fluff of the setting, but no hard rules. However: This is FREE and I've rarely seen such a good teaser for any given setting out there. Given that you don't lose anything if you happen to not like the premise of the setting, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to just about anyone as a great history of the world. If there ever is a full-blown campaign-setting book, I hope they'll expand into more information on lands, cities, architecture etc., but for what it wants to be, this pdf works awesome. my final verdict will thus be 5 Rudii - a great free product!

Enemies of NeoExodus: The First Ones

This pdf is 49 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page combat & initiative tracker, 2 pages char-sheet, 2 pages mini-sheets for monsters, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving 41 pages of content for the mythic bane of NeoExodus, so let's check them out.

The book starts out with the sentence "Everything here is a lie" - and rightfully so, for the first ones are the enigmas, the boogeyman, the dark specters from NeoExodus' Past, always ready to reclaim their once established choke-hold over the races of this world and subsequently have their machinations span over several minions, plots and...well. That could be a lie, too. In fact, this review could offer nothing but false information to lure unwitting DMs into the clutches of the First Ones' machinations. Confused/disquieted yet?

The writing is quite clever in that is does not portray these mysterious races as the ultimate truth of the first one, but rather as a fleshed out (and at least partially) real possibility, so, who are the first ones? First, we get 5.5 pages of general history of the first ones, their alliance (called "the Combine"), as well as their legendary subterranean refuge, Kayen'Te. There is also a rough sketch of Kayen'Te provided. After that, we're introduced to the first of the races that make up the first ones, the Aneishi.

The Aneishi are spider-like, highly intelligent and almost emotionless compassionate schemers and their history of the first ones' defeat and exile in Kayen'Te reflects that. "Their version"? Yep, turns out that each race, somewhat similar to our own history has its own narrative of the exile, what happened and negotiates this "truth" with both themselves and other "historical" narratives of their exile. VERY COOL. The typical Aneishi is granted a CR 7 statblock. Next are the Exodites, one of which you can see on the cover of the book. Exodites? Yep, they actually don't have anything to do with drow and are extremely obsessive, lawful being that devote their time single-mindedly t o a vocation or task and thus often excel at their given fields in tremendous ways. A CR 7 standard Exodite is given and DMs also get racial modifiers to make their own Exodite characters. Next up are the Khaynites, extremely decadent, vile somewhat human-resembling, elitist aberrations that can cross-breed with just about anything and have a sadistic, mad streak. Their sample statblock sets them at CR 8 as either oracles or sorcerors with quite deadly arrays of spells. I love them. Next are the Kobura/Sobeka, actually 2 kinds of reptilian creatures, one snake-like (Kobura, sample stat CR 5, get racial abilities for DM to make characters) and one crocodile-like (Sobeka, CR 8).

Right now, we have 4 different histories of the First Ones and their exile, serving to further the theme of ambiguity and canon-yet-not-canon the book tries to convey - uncertainty and a lot of hooks, with the truth probably being somewhere beyond all the official versions. On the crunch-side, we get 25 new feats or the First Ones, all right up the racial/monstrous feat alley and have distinct, evil/corrupt touches -Khaynites can e.g. take "Masochistic Ecstasy", which nets them bonuses when they are hit hard in battle. While the feats are definitely nothing for players, they serve to enhance the alien, dark feeling of the First Ones. After a brief discussion on their relationships with other races, outsiders etc., we get 2 new exotic weapons for Exodites, a special saddle for Kobura, 4 new poisons and an amulet that lets Scythians enhance their natural bone-spur attacks. Scythians? Yep, they are also in this book and while the rank and file foot soldiers of the First Ones have their own book, they are included in the last section of the book, in which we get to know their servants:

From awakened black puddings (CR 7), to fungal rust monsters (CR 4, includes the fungal template), the Koleos (Beats-of-Burden Human-beetle crossbreeds by the Khaynites), the Scythians, the Taliki (quite deadly goat/chicken-hybrid flying steeds) and the Locari. Oh the Locari. let me tell you about them: The Khaynites have engineered these creatures from a hybrid of insect and reptile and created something truly terrifying - a swarm of highly specialized, individualized killers that breed fast, true and are somewhat reminiscent in both skills and artwork of Giger's Alien or Warhammer 40K's Tyranids. The newest, prime achievement of Khaynite fleshcrafting, Locari are deadly and range in CR from the lowly CR 2-drone over CR 3,4,5,6,9 and CR 6 swarms till 15, which is the queen. Oh yeah, and then there are the living siege-weapon behemoths, clocking in at devastating CR 20 and 22, respectively. Have I mentioned that 21 hive niches are given, I.e. special mutations for specific tasks Locari can choose from? Or that any divination aimed at them is unreliable at best? I LOVE these creatures and hope to see more of them - much more. Their potential and coolness, both in design and implementation, just rock. Oh yeah, and they are their own subtype of the first one subtype.


Layout is beautiful full-color and adheres to the two-column standard, as I've come to expect from books by LPJr Design. The artwork is stunning with 3 minor gripes: The Taliki-artwork falls short of the Paizo-level-quality of the others (it's still a nice picture), the Keleos don't get their own piece of artwork and the sketch of Kayen'Te is a rather pixilated and simplistic b/w-drawing that feels oddly out of place in the otherwise STUNNINGLY beautiful book. A good sketch, possibly by one of the cartographer's guild or other talented folks would have helped there. However: Me nitpicking at the art is nitpicking at the highest level - just take a look at the cover's Exodite and you can glimpse at the quality all other pieces of artwork in the book have. I especially loved the twisted Khaynite-picture and the Locari - nice work there! Editing, while not perfect, is good and only sports some punctuation errors. I noticed no formatting glitches. The pdf is extensively bookmarked, which is nice for a file of this size - however, at least in my version (and I tried re-dling), they don't work.

When I first saw this book, I thought "Oh no, they'll take away the mystery of the First Ones". Thankfully, I was wrong, as the "nothing is true"-angle of the First Ones and the writing in this book makes it possible to consider this _a_ canonical source for First One lore, but not _THE_ truth, still leaving the enigma and potential for DM creativity. That being said, I consider the angle the book takes, smart. However, after reading the book, I somehow felt that it lacked the je-ne-sai-quoi to make the book truly exceptional - after some careful consideration, I managed to put my finger on it: The crunch of the First One races, namely the Aneishi and the Khaynites - While I especially love the Khaynites as a take on the trope of decadent flesh-crafters, they lack e.g. a non-cater-version or a racial progression and the same unfortunately holds true for the Aneishi, making them less versatile as races than they could have been. Especially in contrast to e.g. the Locari.

That being said, the book manages to evoke one sentence in my mind "Through a mirror, darkly" - the First Ones, as depicted, are a dark reflection of the intrigues and backstabbing in the Imperial Alliance and their Combine serves as both a dreadful reminder of the slippery slope on which the politicians and conspiracies might yet lead the world. The execution is smart, the twisting of the classic subterranean races is expertly done and even the twisted tropes, just as this "dark reflection"-theme further serve to enhance the uneasy, nagging feeling, that the First Ones want you as the DM to believe the content of this pdf. Being a clever and cool book, that somewhat could have been even better, I'll settle for a final score of 4 Rudii - if you're looking for some nice twists of classic arachnid, drow-like, reptilian or fleshcrafting creatures, you might enjoy this book, even if you don't use NeoExodus. For fans of the setting, this book is obligatory anyway.

All right, that's it for now! Next time, I'll have a revisit and a bonus for you,

thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Villains II and the new FoTS

Hey everybody!

Today, I'm going to take a closer look at Raging Swan Press's

Villains II

Villains II is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC (once again with a nice rhyme - I really like them!), 1 page advice to reading stat-blocks for novice DMs, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 21 pages of content, so let's check it out!

What defines a villain besides being an enemy to the PCs? Well, for example the fact that they usually have minions and thus, the pdf introduces minions for the villains herein.

So, what kind of minions do we get? We get Gargoyle scouts (CR 11, ranger 7), 2 stat-blocks for Ghast hordelings (CR 7 and CR 9, fighter 2/rogue 3 and fighter 4/rogue 3) and three unique minions. These unique minions get the full-blown Raging Swan Press-NPC-treatment, i.e. they get background information, mannerisms, distinguishing features and hooks - impressive. Even more impressive, though, is that the minions have enough character to be villains of their own right. From an Invisible stalker rogue over a Quasit bard to an Ogre-mage fighter, the minions rock.

After 1 page chapter heading, we are introduced to the villains, the first being an elf wizard turned necromancer and vampire during his career- including the lost divination spells in the block. Next up is an extremely cool Incubus fighter who might very well be the center of a whole campaign. Next up is a sorceror lich who can tap into his draconic lineage to grown wings and use draconic breath weapons, but feels compelled to act on draconic greed and delusions of supremacy. Next up is a rather disturbing werewolf druid (in normal and hybrid form stats) that has succumbed to his bestial nature to the extent that he mates with his animal companion (who also gets stats) as well as 5 members of his demented circle of fanatics. On another note, we get a deadly Minotaur barbarian come pirate who lives only for the moment and has succumbed to alcoholism and his destructive bouts of anger. The final villain is a rather sad/tragic, a sorceror/dragon disciple who has been lynched and mummified alive by an angry mob now seeks for vengeance and has a nice potential tie-in with "Fellowship of the Blackened Oak".


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice an mistakes. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly, simple and elegant 2-column standard set by RSP and the b/w-artworks were ok for the price. On the formal side, there is nothing to complain about, so what about the characters themselves? My main point of criticism towards the first villains-book was that some of the villains lacked unique characteristics. This book remedies that, and brilliantly does so - the villains get unique abilities, captivating backgrounds and always FEEL like characters - i.e. their reasons for their descent into evil is logical and concisely written - To the extent that each villain made me spontaneously come up with several plot ideas for adventures while still being easy to drop into any given campaign. Quite a feat, I might add!

With my lack of criticism, the flawless writing and the cool characters herein, I practically have to settle for 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval. This pdf is worth each and every cent and continues RSP's trend of awesome, almost perfect, high-quality supplements. Well done!

Next up s another high-quality series, i.e. RiP's new

Faces of the tarnished Souk - Arhanoht, the Iron Gavel

This installment of the Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisements, leaving 11 pages for the 3 incarnations of Arhanoht, so let's check them out!

In the tradition of the FoTS-series, this one kicks off with an aptly-written one page of character introduction, information on dream-burning (though this one is dream-barren), a lore-section as well as a how-to-use sidebox for the DM.

As per my format for these reviews, I'm going to work from back to front: There are a lot of templates in this book: The "Broken creature"-template that makes constructs "broken" and thus weaker (immensely useful in my opinion), the exemplar template that makes a creature one paragon of its kind with better and more pronounced attributes, the suzerain template, which makes you a natural born leader and the time-seer template (which is probably the coolest), which lets a creature perceive the future and act according to this constant barrage of possibilities via a wisdom check - otherwise it gets impeded by the conflicting images it constantly perceives. The pdf also does something I've longed for quite some time, introducing a lesser version of the Kolyarut-inevitables that clocks in at CR 6, making it easier to give them class-levels.

Next up is the low-level incarnation of Arhanoht and what can I say - He's a Kolyarut-inquisitor using a meteor-hammer (a chain with a huge ball, gets its own stats) that doubles as a censer. Matt Banach and Justin Sluder have officially infiltrated my mind - in my home-brew campaign there's a legendary inquisitor with exactly that weapon, including passing dispassionate judgment! The low-level incarnation has no class-levels and thrice the broken template and has not yet the time seer template, while the mid-level incarnation gets monk and inquisitor levels. In the most powerful incarnations, he is the leader of the Iron Gavel, a group of powerful individuals serving Arhanoht and passing judgment in the Souk. He gets 2 traits, Dream-barren and Killer and 2 new bracers are introduced that keep their wearers alive. His deadly meteor-hammer gets its powerful stats and 3 feats are provided to expand judgments, extra banes and cohorts. The true star, though, is the awesome, deadly high-level CR 21-incarnation of Arhanoth: Using 3 templates, cool items and finally providing for a cool high-level inquisitor/monk, he ranks among the most deadly and relentless combatants I've seen in quite some time.


Layout adheres to the classic B/w-RiP -two-column standard. Formatting is top-notch and I only noticed one very minor editing glitch, a superfluous asterisk in the time seer template. The piece of artwork for Arhanoht is awesome and the NPC per se is awesome - hell, I practically admit to having just about this character in my home-campaign, thus, of course, I love him. If his signature litany would be In Strict Confidence's "Engelsstaub"-song as a theme, I'd be sure that Matt and Justin have somehow infiltrated my table - With the lack of any significant glitches, the cool ideas and the beautiful stat-blocks, I'll settle for a final verdict of 5 stars, continuing the excellent track-record of the FoTS-series.

All right, that's it for now.

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.