today I've got something short and sweet, Super Genius Games' stellar second Anachronistic Adventurers-pdf and RiP's excellent 101 Hazards and Disasters, so let's check them out!
This pdf is 23 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 21 1/3 pages of content for the second class in SGG's Anachronistic Adventurers-line, so let's check this out!
The Investigator is a new base-class for men of our world stranded in a medieval fantasy setting. It gets 3/4 BAB, d8, 7+Int skills per level and a good fort-save. Apart from these basics, though, the class gets access to so-called investigator talents and an archetype at first level, i.e. a sub-section of the class that offers some abilities and makes sure that the base-class is more like a conglomerate of classes.
The investigators can choose from a vast selection of 31 different investigator talents that range from rather mundane "Get proficiency in weapon-class" and use INT instead of stat X to truly awesome ideas - Essentially granting the investigator the ability to track enemies, analyze crime scenes to deduce clues about the killer etc. - all while keeping the Dm in control and providing simply STELLAR ways for both player and DM to cooperate to keep an adventure from running into a dead-end.
Now, if you want to go full-blown Sherlock Holmes on your foes, the Great Detective archetype (with 6 special talents) is just what you've been looking for, as it provides smooth ways for investigative leaps of brilliant deduction. Need a Watson for your Holmes? The medical examiner (with 7 exclusive talents) is the stellar healer or the insane doctor - Even better, the class lends itself in excellent ways to campaigns without divine healing. Awesome! The final archetype gets no exclusive talents, but comes with awesome rules - the inventor can create items that go beyond what would usually be possible in a given time-period. The complex and yet easy to understand rules for inventions balance them with costs etc. and make for an excellent example of SGG's mastery of rules.
Due to the problems often encountered when running investigations in e.g. PFRPG or CoC (Trail of Cthulhu does it great!), the pdf also covers a LOT of useful advice for running investigations and...provides research rules! GOOD research rules. Essentially, Knowledge checks correspond to a complexity DC and a depth. The complexity check is lower than the knowledge check and for every point by which you surpass the complexity DC, you detract the same amount from the depth. Once the depth-score is gone, you get your results as if you had found the answer via other ways. I really love the way in which these simple, yet concise and versatile rules enable you to create suspenseful scenarios in which the PCs are browsing tomes! We also get sample statblocks for 5 different libraries, rules for advanced forensic kits and a short discussion of different progress levels.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the 3-column standard by SGG and the b/w-artworks are neat. The pdf comes with no bookmarks, which is a minor downer. That's it. All the criticism I can muster of this pdf - basically, the pdf has been made for me, featuring great rules for bringing investigators to your PFRPG-game and adding detective-elements to your story. The class is excellent and surpasses even the enforcer and if you add to that the stellar investigation-rules, you get... my very favorite SGG-class. Yep. I prefer this one over the Time Thief. This class might be my personal benchmark for the ultimate fusion of hard crunch and fluff-based abilities, marrying concise rules with genius ideas and cool research-rules. I'm a Cthulhu-fanboy and have run a lot of CoC and ToC-modules and this pdf makes some of the ideas that make these scenarios more versatile/different from dungeon-crawling work in PFRPG and open thus a whole world of scenarios to scavenge ideas and convert modules from. Class: A+. Additional rules: A+. Customizable Anachronistic Archetypes: A+: Final verdict: 5 Rudii, Endzeitgeist seal of approval - Both SGG and RiP have opened 2012 with stellar pdfs that have a very good chance of ending up on my top-10-2012-list. If the idea of an investigator even remotely intrigues you, check this out - Owen K.C. Stephens has surpassed his usual excellent quality in this one!
This pdf is 43 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisement, leaving 38 pages of content for the new complications to any Pc's life.
Before I go on to review this pdf, I want to tell you a little story - In my current campaign (which has been going for 8 years now), one of my characters had found a pot of clay in an abandoned storage room and had no idea what was inside. Said character carried around the pot for 2 years IRL, vowing that the last thing he'd do would be to unleash the pot. When his final reckoning dawned (against one of Mishka's Wolfspidergenerals), he threw the pot and my group erupted in laughter. Why? Well, turns out the pote contained a ultra-virulent strain of green slime. Suffice to say, the character died, but the green-slime pot will forever be a part of our annals. Another iconic story had my PCsuse brown mold to create a kind of magical freezer and transport spoiling goods, thus sabotaging the trade empire of a major organization that sought to kill them and made some decadent noble allies in the process.
What I'm trying to illustrate here is, that similar to e.g. haunts, hazards are not necessarily simple challenges to overcome, but actually plants, mold, crystals and the like do A LOT of mostly unrecognized work to make a campaign setting feel different from our world, feel organic, strange and magical. And yet, there is a sad lack of supplements to expand these little factors and make them feature in your campaign. At the top of my hand, I could mention "Two Dozen Plants" and similar files by LPJr Design, but that's about it. In this vacuum, Rite Publishing's mastermind Steven D. Russell throws 101 Hazards and Disasters. A quick read immediately shows us some very smart design decisions: Almost each of the hazards herein comes in multiple iterations, i.e. versions for different CRs. Even better, many of the hazards have a "done the wrong thing"-consequence - similar to growing brown mold subjected to fire, several (though by far not all) of the hazards have similar ways for the uninitiated to make them worse. We do get a plethora of slimes, btw. - for example one that will superheat and destroy equipment and melt full plates on their owners. There are vast amounts of extremely cool plants, for example ones producing rapture-like trances or even ghost plants that rip the soul from those passing their glades.
Of course, the pdf not only includes plants, but we also get locations tainted by the seven deadly sins, divine catastrophes and crystals. I see you yawning at crystals, but hear me out - there is one that actually amplifies sound to devastating levels when subjected to it. And there are crystals that may age you to venerable - which, as a nice nod, e.g. Time Thieves and Time Wardens can counter via spending time motes. It's little additional details like this that not only showcase great collaboration between 3pps, but make the respective supplements get more value. Have I mentioned carbon-monoxide bubbles rising from lakes to suffocate life? And then there is a new way to approach madness if you don't want to include a full-blown new system - essentially, the idea is that madness works much like other afflictions, but is rather hard to get rid of. Neat!
This is not where the pdf has its sole focus, though: There also are rather big disasters/problems that contain more complications and could be considered encounters or even location templates in and of themselves: Burning buildings (including smoke, heat, fire walls etc. and even alchemical explosions), conveyor-belts of doom (with rock crushers, steam, etc.) and e.g. meteoroid-impacts are covered, the latter of which some of you might know from 3.5's excellent "When the Sky falls"-event book by Bruce R. Cordell, one of my 3.5-all time favorite books. Have I mentioned rules for standing, fighting (and falling off) carriages, howler- or dire cheetah-drawn carriages and even trains?
Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed two minor glitches, none of which impeded my ability to understand the content. Layout adheres to a 2-column, full-color standard. The pdf comes with full bookmarks.
Don't be fooled by the rather bland front cover - this pdf is the best start into the new year a reviewer like yours truly could ask for - this installment of the 101-series is on par, perhaps even superior in quality and usability with 101 New Skill Uses! The new hazards are awesome, imaginative and cleverly designed that I was smiling to myself almost all the time. From iconic plants and small hazards to the stellar, complex disasters and environmental complications like the aforementioned battle of a carriage/train-roof or burning buildings make this pdf an instant-classic that should be a part of ANY PFRPG-GM's library.
If you're a player and look for a present for your GM, BUY THIS. If you're a GM looking to recapture the magic of encountering your first green slime, brown mold etc. - BUY THIS.
Seriously, this is one excellent, stellar pdf that is a hot candidate for my "Top 2012-list", even now! All the potential ideas included herein make a campaign more detailed, challenging and organic. We need more of the ilk and I hope we'll get another 101 Hazards and Disasters soon. My final verdict? 5 Rudii, Endzeitgeist seal of approval.
Why are you still reading this, buy this! ;)
Thank you very much for reading my ramblings and see you soon!