EZG reviews Plots & Ploys: A Skill and Feat Collection


Hej everybody!

Once in a while, I stumble across a humble publication that doesn't get the attention it deserves. This is one of these books.

Plots & Ploys: A Skill and Feat Collection

This pdf is 17 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1/2 a page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 14 1/2 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This collection offers us first of all new skill uses: You may now use the bluff-skill to fast-talk yourself out of combat, feign injuries or deliver quick secret messages. You may also intimidate foes at massive penalties in a couple of rounds or even as a full round action. Perception-rules to use the skill to listen underwater, soil or pinpoint sounds also serve to enhance the skill - especially useful when using the revised Stealth-rules from Drop Dead Studios' Rogue Glory-supplement. Via Sense Motive, you can quickly scan for enchantments or analyze your foes, though the latter hits one of my pet-peeves and does not provide abstract information, but rather precise BAB, feats etc. - and metagamey information like that is banned in my game. Via Sleight of Hand, you may now conceal held items or steal items usually too large to steal or secretly store items. In a nice display of awareness, none of these skill-uses overlap with the ones provided in Rite Publishing's by now legendary "101 New Skill Uses".

After this section, we're off to the feat part of the pdf, prefaced by a massive 2 1/2 pages of feat-table. The feats are actually rather interesting in the things the endeavor to do: Using a rudimentary kind of echo-location by clicking with the tongue (behavior btw. exhibited by some blind people irl) allows you rudimentarily determine your surroundings even when you otherwise can't due to e.g. darkness. Active Avoidance is also an interesting option that requires Dex and Int 15 as well as dodge and combat expertise and allows you to, as an immediate action, double the AC-bonus versus the next attack of the opponent. An interesting design, especially for dueling characters.
In fact, many of the feats herein offer similarly tactically-themed options to e.g. goad foes into attacking their allies and belittling foes can grant bonuses as long as you and your allies don't get hit. Using sleight of hand instead of the steal combat-maneuver is also covered, though I've seen better uses of that particular concept n other publications. Teamwork, via aiding one another, evading friendly fire and several social feats that e.g. allow you to place suggestions (thankfully with scaling DCs) and even a feat to offer redemption to enemies (which is a streamlined, updated take on the one from the notorious Book of Exalted Deeds).


Beyond that, the feats in this book can be roughly categorized into different quarters: Some expand the new skill uses introduced in here, some enhance teamwork between members of the party (allowing e.g. the PCs to talk one another through e.g. skill checks), some help with the defensive side of things, some enhance social skill-uses in combat- situations and some capitalize on high Int as well as sense motive to display tactical fighters in battle who can benefit from their genius, much like e.g. characters in battle-of-wills-type scenarios à la Death Note. While especially the latter is an interesting concept, at least in my game, I will disconnect the benefits from gaining metagamey information and had hoped the pdf had done the same. Oh well. There also are some minor filler feats that allow access to low-level domain or bloodline abilities for those not so endowed.
The pdf also offers a selection of new item-tricks for cloaks as well as a cohesive example on how the material in this pdf can make fights more dynamic and less about bashing brains in.


Editing and formatting are good, though not top-notch - I noticed a couple of rough patches here and there like missing blank lines between feats, minor glitches etc., though nothing glaring. Layout adheres to PDG's 2-column no-frills standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked.

David Nicholas Ross' Plots and Ploys was a kind of frustrating pdf for me to review: On the one hand, these skill-uses and feats are compelling and serve their purpose - they should help to get groups out of kill-em-all-ruts and add an interesting dimension to combats heretofore untapped. On the other hand, this collection uses metagamey information (something I abhor) and some of the feats could be taken to ridiculous places - some of them could have really used a caveat that they don't work on specific types of creatures. That being said, as a DM I'd be wary of introducing this pdf as a whole without some very close scrutiny for respective groups - while the feats per se are not broken, depending on the group they're introduced to, they may prove to be unhinging and change your gaming experience. Seeing how this is the goal of the pdf, though, I won't hold that versus the pdf.
That being said, I also feel that this pdf is slightly below what it could actually have been - with minor revision and slightly more polish, this pdf could have been even better. As provided, I can see it being useful, though not necessarily great for all types of campaigns. This would bring me to a review of 4.5 stars, but the editing glitches and filler material here and there make me settle for a final verdict of 4 stars instead.

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Journeys to the West


Hej everybody!

Disclaimer: I'm a contributing author to Christina Stiles' current kickstarter "Bite Me! The Gaming Guide to Lycanthropes" and was a patron of this project, though not a contributing one. If you haven't checked out her kickstarter, I urge you to do so. My verdict of this book was not in any way influenced by me contributing to "Bite Me!".

Journeys to the West

 This supplement/adventure anthology is 139 pages long, 1 page front cover,  1 page editorial, 1 page introduction/kickstarter-backer-list,  1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving us 132 pages of content, so let's take a look!

This being a combined campaign supplement and adventure anthology, we delve first into a kind of hub for the explorations the PCs are sure to embark upon when utilizing the content from these pages: Barsella, the City at the end of the world in the Midgard setting is the last true fleck of civilization before the Western Ocean and as such an interesting place indeed - a combination of colonial outpost, trading town and frontier-city, Barsella's write-up includes potential for adventure galore - whether it's via the plethora of options available for explorations into the unknown or within the town - after all, Nethus, the chained god of the sea is still very much present in this place, as are the seafaring minotaurs and other thoroughly interesting components like gambling dens and brothels with interesting entertainers awaiting. And in the bedrock of the town, the tides have carved out the infamous wash, a set of smuggling tunnels and undercity that provides for an opportunity to crawl and explore other illicit affairs PCs may seek to undertake. An iconic interesting city-panorama, but not the focus of this product - for the true ambition of this supplement is to capture the spirit of frontiers, of trailblazing and wonder at strange locales in the spirit of mankind's epics like the Iliad or the Gilgamesh-myth.

As such, the following chapters detail new islands to be found and the very first one already blows me out of the water (pardon the pun): The Island of the Morphoi is weird in uncountable ways. Fully mapped in b/w (like all islands in here), this place is the base of Mnemosyne, wife of the lost god of the seas - She also happens to be the goddess of time, history and memory who suffers from an inscrutable memory-loss that drives to obsessive brinks of madness, her weird morphoi-servants and twisted lamia scouring the world for knowledge to finally fill the void ripped into her otherwise omniscient and perfect recollections.  The island is also plagued by temporal rifts, unstable areas of temporal flux (including massive tables to determine weird effects on the fly) and provides 3 domains and 2 subdomains as well as potential for adventures galore.

Meshong-Lir and its atoll of savage islands also makes for a truly intriguing setting that transcends traditional backdrops - the prison/remains of a Great Old One from the Far Beyond, these islands are now haunted by Heralds of Darkness and the ghosts of Elysian Titans. Worse, the arcane bonds that hold the creature enslaved  are tied to thresholds and doors and every foray into the depths of Meshong-Lir brings the dread entity closer to freedom - if the intrepid explorers manage to survive the maddening taint of the forbidden knowledge engraved in the reality-warped ruins of an empire long since passed, they may yet gain knowledge both twisted and powerful - at least if they manage to surpass the other alienists, mad cultists and things-that-should-not-be. Have I mentioned that in order to live to tell the tale, the PCs also have to brave the fact that the island rises from the waves (including tsunamis) and sinks back below the waves: And yes, rules for all of that are included in the write-up.

There are also write-ups of so-called lesser islands, which, while slightly less detailed, are also lengthy - starting at Aroa, which is the home-base of the Rimegaurd that seek to rediscover the lost technology of the crab-like K'karoan and atolls, some with spatial rifts, also feature in this section, also the crab-like humanoid K'kin. The Burning Shores with its magmins and azers and archmage's sanctum is also interesting in that it features hazards beyond regular fiery hazards - also including deadly gasses impacting local environment. The Leviathan, a living island inhabited by mongrelman, gliding through the waves (And featured in the module "To the Edge of the World") is littered with eldritch remnants ready for the picking and intriguing locales/rules to enable PCs the diving leviathan.

Terminus island is interesting especially in the context of Midgard, for the world is flat and this ancient place, with its gigantic guardians and legendary fruit is located indeed at the very edge of the flat world. Finally, there's Karn'lothra, where the last remnant of a proud race now lords as an undead empress over her realm. It is also here that a vampire philosopher has blended mind-boggling philosopher that essentially made reality reject him, rendering him quite literally beyond the grasp of even the gods.

The book also features a bestiary, where intelligent Coral Oozes (CR 6), Dragon Eels (CR 13), Lamia Mnemosynian Matriarchs (CR 12) as well as  3 Morphoi-variants, the disturbing Obanje (CR 5), Sons of Talos (CR 11 ancient siege-style golems) and CR 6 Totem-Pole Golems. The Prismwings, magical birds, are also nice, though their entry lacks the CR-value.
We also get 4 new magical items, from the modular boon-necklaces of the seas, to a cephalopod's staff, an enchanted mokomokai (a shrunken head) and one of the tears of Mnemosyne.

After that, we're off to the new modules featured herein and hence, from here on out, the SPOILERS reign. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! Adventure number 1, "Awash in the Wash" is an uncommon module for low level characters, as it starts the adventuring career of the PCs with an unpleasant surprise for the PCs: They wake up after having been drugged/press-ganged/etc. - in the notorious Wash, Barsella's undercity. The PCs are the latest contestants in the infamous maze of the minotaurs of the city - and a famous geomancer is betting on their unlikely survival - why unlikely? Well, first of all, the maze is studded with traps and spectator-interference (also great for the DM to help/hinder PCs if required) is a constant addition to the place's challenge: The aim is to collect 8 special rings and place them upon a specific statue - while avoiding an insane fiendish minotaur stalking the corridors, hunting for the PCs as well as the complex traps/obstacles littering the maze's regular rooms. Thankfully, the minotaur (who is far beyond PC capabilities to beat) is slow and can be outrun - but not for ever...
Maze residents and multiple rooms with deadly traps  make the challenge of the place more pronounced, though I do have some minor gripes with an otherwise great module: The fully detailed maps come without a player-friendly, key-less version and the text refers multiple times to letters and e.g. squares with traps that are not featured on the respective maps. This is one issue. The other one being how running the maze is handled: Essentially, the curving sections and make-up of the place make using traditional mapping hard for the PCs to do, suggesting instead handwaving all in favor of perception/survival-skill-checks - which is fine, though the insinuation that old-school handling of maze-running would bore most groups rubs me the wrong way - especially with a sub-maze of the maze that HAS to be mapped to properly run through is taken into account. A slightly more streamlined set of navigation-rules and help with keeping up dramatic tension with the minotaur-chaser as well as resolving aforementioned map-issues would have been imho nice and made a good module an excellent one.


The second adventure contained (by Dawson Kriska) in this anthology features an unpleasant assault on the docks of Barsella by a strike-force of Sahuagin - unfortunately being infected by a strange curse/disease named skinny-bones, one that defies curing.  With the plague endangering Barsella (and quite possibly the PCs, since they've probably been infected in the combat), they have to cooperate with a famous captain and his druidic wife (see Pirates of the Western Ocean) and break through the naval blockade. Seeking the counsel of the archmage Allister Dorn, they arrive at his tower on the burning shores, where unfortunately the archmage is nowhere to be found. Having anticipated the PC's dire need, he has prepared a collection of documents and diagrams that allows for the research of the disease - handling Deus-Ex-Machina-style just about all pieces of information out to the PCs via rather simple arrays of skill-checks, revealing the originator of the plague as an unfettered eidolon incited by aforementioned vampire philosopher. Stepping from the arch-mage's study, the PCs find themselves stranded on the  island of Malkay, where all the lost sooner or later wind up and where the eidolon masquerades as a type of savior/angel. The creature runs from the PCs, thinking them trapped on the desolate island, though they are promptly rescued by their NPC-allies - the journal harrow left behind leading them promptly towards Karn'lothra, the island of undead again where they get a chance to stop the mad eidolon's plans and gather the ingredients to end the plague. All in all, a solid adventure, though I really didn't like how the module treats the arch-mage-in-absentia and his notes as a kind of Captain Exposition - alternate means for the PCs to unravel the mystery of the disease would have been nice and feel more organic - as written, the dramaturgy is somewhat askew and suffers from the "Elminster-helps"-syndrome, i.e. the high-level-NPC helps, but can't be bothered to do the job her/himself. It's this that made me turn my back on the Forgotten Realms and I sincerely hope that future Kobold Press-adventures will refrain from creating too many of these plot-device NPCs - Midgard as a setting doesn't need them to work.

 Brian W. Suskind provides with a murder mystery in the most traditional way - the PCs are hired by Lord Arvid Olhouser through his aide Delgrade Agador to guard the expedition of his household to the fabled Leviathan-island. Unfortunately, soon after the arrival, the beast dives and thus, the PCs will have to make a frantic sprint to the fabled bubble-tower that contains air and allows people to survive the dives of the living island. Squeezing through the shutting Iris-doors, a group of precious few survivors is stranded in an isolated, claustrophobic locale - the classic set-up for a murder mystery. And said murder doesn't happen too late - Lord Arvid Olhouser is murdered and the people locked in have motives galore: His wife, Lady Olhouser considers him a bumbling idiot and has an affair with his aide Delgrade. His spoilt son Hagen is a thoroughly unpleasant, cruel racist. Bertram Bodkin and his recently betrothed wife Alyce suffer from Bertram's gambling addiction and accumulated debt which the lord declined to help with. Professor Myra Dolynn once had an affair with the lord, local veteran Lucas Cabral has an attachment to the unpleasant local mongrelman populace and Fynn, the 12-year old son of one of the Olhouser's ship's fist mates just had to see his father perish in the dive of the Leviathan. The mongrelmen hiding in the fleshy tunnels of the leviathan are essentially set up as culprits and teh PC's short excursion proves an exercise in the slaughter of innocent creatures - unless Lucas Cabral stops them in time. Worse for the PCs - after initial investigations, the deceased rises as a wight accusing them as killers, undermining their believability. Worse,  Hakon, the scion of the house is the second victim and lady Margrat is next on the killer's list - who actually acts smart, utilizing dust of illusions to throw the PCs off their guard and sow discord. The cast of dramatis personae allows for a vast array of motivations and the situation is actually more complex than one would believe: Alyce is actually quite a powerful sorceress and bastard-daughter of the late Lord Olhouser, but not the culprit for his murder: Lady Margrat and Hagen killed the lord and Alyce, bereft of her revenge, seeks to end them for it. At the climax of the investigation, she sabotages the tower's mechanics and has the tower flood while the leviathan surfaces, making for a truly memorable climax. All in all a great murder mystery with multiple tables that makes running the complex motivations more easy for the DM. A minor gripe would be that one read-aloud-text mentions "The NPCs", a slip in narrative level DMs should be aware of.

The next module, by Ted Reed, is hands down imho the best in the whole anthology, ranking as a pinnacle of awesomeness that lives up to the best of Open Design/Kobold Press modules out there: The basic plot is the following: The PCs are in the savage islands and have their ship sunk by the rise of Meshong-Lir, after rescuing a dashing old salt rake. Surviving the tsunami wave will be hard - to be captured/separated and beset by the dread pygmies and totem pole golems, the PCs will have to steal rafts to reach Meschong-Lir, for a legendary treasure awaits - the fabled ship Last Vagabond was dragged down by a statue jutting from the dread island and now could be claimed - for it requires a living being to serve as captain, though it is manned by a crew of ghosts. Unbeknownst to the PCs, their new ally is actually a servant of the trapped Great Old One of Meshong-Lir who is partly responsible for the ship's current predicament. The PCs will have to scale the mile-high cliffs, negotiate with the ghost of a titan and impress the ghostly crew enough to become captains and owners of the legendary vessel as well as unmask the wolf in sheep's clothing (no, not the monster) in their midst. And, they of course will have to drive the ship out of the maelstrom of the sinking Meshong-Lir! (and yes, it uses the vehicle-rules from UC -AMEN!) This module is so great it had me salivate, its locales standing out and its execution, especially how the captain is portrayed ranking among the finest I've seen in this type of scenario, the climax being sufficiently epic as well. Two thumbs up for this extremely well-crafted module that works even better thanks to the trouble-shooting interjected here and there.

The final module of the anthology centers on a character that is somewhat of a local landmark in Barsella, the Brine Pauper.  The PCs are hired by Barsellan nobility to investigate the fate of the village of Kammae's Landing, more commonly known as Hell's Hole. On their ship is the weird, semi-coherent oracle and if the PCs manage to deal with the difficult anchoring, exploring the haunted remains of the coastal town should prove interesting indeed - for the brine pauper deposited a tear of mnemosyne somewhere in the haunted island, one that might contain vital memories. Unfortunately for the PCs, the Brine Pauper was not here alone - the last survivor of his group, they battled a witch that also perished and now roams the island as a witchfire on the hunt for the madman. Worse, the undead has taken control of a coven of hags and their allies and a disgruntled sea hag may prove to be a vital warning or deadly detriment. Guarded by dread Kech summoners and deep inside the island lies an ancient Ankeshelian prison that contains a dreaded nightwave of Nethus and the seal if breaking - only in the pauper's memories lies the key to finding the hidden vril lock to reseal the dark terror, but only if teh PCs can get it before the witchfire. Reaching the nightwave's prison, the PCs will have to face a fraction of its power and solve an easy, nevertheless interesting riddle to escape. On their way home, though, a powerful Mnemosynian Lamia Matriarch tries to take their memories, which might bode disaster for the future...


Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect: I noticed e.g. flavor-texts with "NPCs" being mentioned and the first module's maps lacking some information from the text is also unpleasant. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard and is beautiful indeed - in the pdf in full-color, in the print in b/w. Artworks is a mix of full-color and b/w and ranges from good to serviceable. The cartography of the islands is completely in b/ and beautiful indeed - but I have one mayor gripe: Why don't we get player-friendly maps? Seriously, a project of this size/scope should have key-less maps of its locales. What good is the STELLAR map of the cliff-side of Meshong-Lir to me when I can't show it to my players since one of the ledges spells out what kind of creature is waiting there and how to get on the ship? Or another island, that features the name of the threats to be found as well as the location of a certain prison? I can live with Barsella's map being keyed (though I'd prefer a key-less version there as well to hand out to my players), but in adventures, it's a no-go for me by now. The maps of the modules are great, but I can't use them. The pdf is extensively bookmarked for your convenience.

"Journey to the West" is the latest in a series of sourcebooks/anthologies by Open Design/Kobold press and lead designer Christina Stiles has succeeded with accolades in her endeavor of bringing us a supplement that brings the weird, the thrill of exploring, back to the game, with islands both wondrous and terrifying. The campaign-setting information, the island-write-ups, they provide information galore to run whole campaigns, clocking in as some of the most legendary locales I've seen in a supplement in quite a while, breathing their owns myths. I also applaud the decision to not contribute overtly to the feat/trait/spell-bloat and, unlike the otherwise excellent "Streets of Zobeck", focusing on the topic at hand. Mind you, my criticism is at the highest level, but still: The adventures in this module left me partially disappointed at the very highest level of quality possible. They still stand out and are great experiences, but with the notable exception of Ted Reed's contribution, they all suffer here and there from minor issues that keep them from rising to the insane brilliance of e.g. the offerings in "Tales of the Old Margreve": The labyrinth-module suffers from its maps and slightly incongruent take on navigating the maze, the plague -adventure from the captain-exposition-flaw, the murder-mystery from e.g. mentioning a magical aura, but not the nature of it and the final one from feeling cut down - the desolate village would have made for a great place to build up tension via a continuing assault of haunts and instead makes the exploration a rather short stop in the module, with the same holding true for the prison. At first, this didn't stand out to me that much, but Ted Reed's module, with its perfect pacing and detail, its extremely iconic challenges and its vivid primary antagonist makes these minor flaws that wouldn't stand out in other publications much more than they should. Though this module's map suffers most in all the modules of this book from not coming with a player-friendly version.

I get that page-count is an issue, but honestly - I wish this book had been split (even further) - one book for all the setting-information and one for the expanded adventures, to allow them slightly more page-count to shine. As written, they are still great modules, but ones with minor blemishes.
But is that enough to rate this book down? I've been wrestling with myself for quite some time and have to conclude: Yes. Yes, it is. By now, player-friendly maps are a staple in most publications and at least for me, not getting any, especially if the cartography is this good, is kind of a big deal.
Don't get me wrong - I still maintain this is a great book that belongs into the library of any Pathfinder-DM, but I still can't give it my full 5 stars + seal of approval, instead opting for a final verdict of 4.5 stars plus seal of approval, rounded won to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Cerulean Seas: Indigo Ice

Hey everybody!

Today, we'll dive back beneath the waves of the Cerulean Seas and take a look at arctic underwater adventuring with

Cerulean Seas: Indigo Ice

The second expansion-supplement for Alluria Publishing's critically acclaimed, stellar underseas-campaign-setting Cerulean Seas is 114 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/Kickstarter-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page list of KS-contributors, 1 page back cover, leaving us with107 pages of content, so let's check this out!

The introduction makes one thing clear: You have not read a book like this before. Ever. This sourcebook is about the arctic clime, yes, but not on humano-centric cultures, though it lends somewhat from Icelandic, Norse, Inuit etc. traditions), but on recent realizations of how much the world beneath the waves shapes the polar regions. Combine that with the fact that in Cerulean Seas, there is not much dry land and we have an interesting base assumption. More interesting yet, at least imho, would be the fact that logical assumptions have been taken: In order for any culture to thrive in a land of few resources and extremes, the resulting culture developing from it would require a sense of progressive-mindedness and war-like aspirations. Against this backdrop merging progress and tradition, arcane and technological and the struggle for survival, we are introduced to this book's  core concepts.

A special mention deserve here the artworks - the "City that never thaws" and most of the other artworks herein follow a cohesive, extremely high quality style that is not only consistent in itself, but also with the high quality artworks Alluria Publishing has featured in their other Cerulean Seas-products. In fact, some of them may even surpass them due to feeling more iconic, but more on that later in the conclusion. The pdfs begins with environmental undersea environments, glaciers and slush swamps as well as hazards for the respective areas, which include e.g. acidic slushes, catabatic winds, wind chills and cohesive rules for breaking through ice. All in all, a cool chapter that is useful for any cold climate, not just those in the Cerulean Seas-setting.

The second chapter is all about races and kicks off with a revisit to the classic races of the Cerulean Seas setting as well as Waves of Thought before including new races - which, of course, all come with the trademark pieces of information on buoyancy, types etc. The first new race would be the Aglooik, small feykith (only two and a half page) and they get +2 to Dex, Int, -2 to Con, 30 ft. speed, get +1 to ref saves versus electricity, steam and acid, +2 to Knowledge (engineering), Profession (engineering), Craft or disable device as well as proficiency with any aglootech-weapon, but more on that later. The second new race would be the arctic, cold, charming and professional Crystolix, who get +2 Int and Cha, -2 Str, must take skill focus (diplomacy), +2 to appraisal, cold resistance 10 as well as +2 to saves against spells and effects that would result in negative conditions. Interesting race that can be played as creepily friendly. The transparent Ice Elves get +2 to Dex and Wis, immunity to cold and fire vulnerability, +1 to AC when touching water and at a depth of 300 ft. or less as well as a spell-like ability to use ice water-jet and +1 DC to saving throws against cold spells they can cast.

The Talilajuk Ningen are special fishfolk: Based on Belugawhales, they can breathe air and get +4 Str, -2 Str, are fast, must take Skill Focus (Stealth) as their merfolk-bonus-feat and gain blindsense while in water. The coolest new race, perhaps would be the Squawk - mechanically, these beings get +2 to Str and Con, -2 to Int, are small at a fast movement rate of 30 ft., get +1 dodge bonus to AC and CMD, +2 to saves versus poisons, spells and spell-like abilities and always count as wearing cold weather outfits and proficiency with skiths. What are they? They are a race of deadly  warriors living in a martial society of penguin-like humanoids. And yes, the artworks actually manage to make that work - squawks are bad@ss! The Thanor are a race of walrus-like humanoids who get +4 to Con + 2 to Str, -2 to Dex, -2 to Wis, are large and have lungs, +1 natural AC, only a speed of 30 ft.,  always count as wearing cold weather outfits and natural attacks with their tusks.

Pinniparian and Seafolk-crossbreeds are also covered and the vital statistics like age, height and weight tables are part of the deal as well. In chapter 3, the roles of the different classes (including psionic ones) in the cold waters of Isinblare are covered. The chapter also features new classes, the first one being the Angakkuq base-class, who get 3/4 BAB-progression, d8, 4+Int skills per level, proficiency with light and medium armor, prepared divine spellcasting of up to 6th level via Cha as key attribute and get the option to create a Tupilaq: Somewhat similar to eidolons, these creatures are created from either flora, fauna or frost and can share spells with their masters and be  enhanced etc, learn tricks à la animal companions etc. -  a great alternative to the druid base-class with its fetishistic creature.

The chapter also includes new PrCs: The Conulair is singular among PrCs in that is requires a cool oath as well as is based on an interesting concept - mechanically, the class gets d10, 2+Int skills, full BAB, medium fort-saves and several cold-adaption powers. The cool thing about the PRC, though, is that entry actually bonds the applicant with a semi-conscious symbiote that grants the creature the respective powers and allows them not only to create deadly rimefire powers and may also choose frostboons. An excellent, iconic PrC! The second class is just as awesome and is imho the best rules-take I've seen on the concept: The Cyrokineticist, a psionic class who gets d8, 2+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, medium fort-and ref-saves as well as a variety of abilities that include rimefire weaponry, flash-freezing etc. - analogue to the pyrokinetist a warrior-style class. Nice to see some psionic support beyond the Waves of Thought supplement. There is also the Cryomancer-PrC (d6, 2+Int skills, 9/10th spell-casting progression, 1/2 BAB-progression,  medium will-saves),a nm arcane specialist of cold-based magic.

In chapter 4, we are introduced to the art of Frostcraft, but what is that? Well, first of all it's about arctic materials, bartering and how economies work in the polar context, including compressed air, ice rubber etc., which make a whole new class of item possible: So-called Aglootech. Unsurprisingly pioneered by said race, the class of items includes new weapons (by the way, all of which are rendered in gorgeous full color) that use this fizzling to create rifles, pistols etc. that propel nail-like projectiles through the waves, pneumatic blades and spears can be found in this chapter alongside the skitch-battle-scythes of the Squawk, ice blades. Also rather extremely cool regarding artworks: How exactly such rifles work is shown in a neat schematic that also provides enlarged and named components for the respective weapons. When harpoon-like rifles are possible, it should come as no surprise that there also are massive harpoon-cannons based on this technology to be found.
RPGNow.com We also get a table for the 24 new feats herein, some of which allow angakkuqs to enhance their tupilaqs, grant squawks natural attacks and improved combat prowess with their signature skith, expand ningen blindsight, allow ice-elves to coat weapons in damaging ice and even pierce cold resistance with your cold resistance. The new class also gets an extensive spell-list and we also get an aquatic magus spell-list, which is neat to have indeed. I applaud one decision by Alluria: Instead of contributing to spell-bloat, we get 10 spells that adhere to the maxim of class instead of mass. From a spell that allows you to partially take on aquatic animal characteristics, one to encapsulate foes in ice or one to use the new entombed quality. Of course, you may also create a rancid murk that carries a plethora of debilitating diseases and unleash it into the waves.
The arctic "lands" of Isinblare are also rich in a material called Ancient Crystal, which can provide an array of interesting qualities to benefit from or be hindered by.  3 new magical items, also with gorgeous, perhaps even above-paizo-level artworks, complete the package of the chapter.

Chapter 5 is where the setting-specific pieces of information for the region of Isinblare in the context of the Cerulean Seas-setting can be found. (And yes, that means until now, the book was all about material just about any campaign could use). In tradition with the Cerulean Seas-setting, we get what amounts to essentially short racial histories of the respective races, each of which comes with a fluff-only write-up of a famous personality of the respective race. Beyond the main playable races, though, we also get pieces of information on the civilization of races from the bestiary. Languages and their speakers are part of what is provided, as are 6 deities and write-ups of the nations and big cities to be found in the realms of indigo ice, though the latter lack city statblocks. The maps provided do their job, though they admittedly fall far behind the quality of the artworks and feel slightly out of place.

In tradition with other Alluria Publishing-releases, the final chapter provides us with a bestiary-section, which includes fiskheim akhluts, domesticated huge versions of the regular akhluts, aquatic bears, the fish-humanoid Brothers of Frost , a new song dragon, the riding penguins called Kairaku, two new types of ningen, a wicked fey of frozen glaciers, seal variants (both mundane and partially represented as the sunhunter as a deadly glacier-predator and more: Take e.g.  living ice-float constructs, ice-breaker whales, AWESOME-looking ice leviathans, ice kraken, orcoths and tizheruks and even ice liches. Alluria books are usually beautiful. These monster-illustrations, though, transcend even some of the offerings I've seen by WotC and paizo - mind-boggling and awesome. Also, each of the creatures gets some kind of interesting (sometimes even multiple) signature abilities. Arctic/Aquatic mounts and war-beasts are also covered, with e.g. animal companion stats.

Beyond even this content, we get an index of aquatic polar monsters by CR(including up to Bestiary 3, Creepy Creatures and all Cerulean Sea-books), pronunciation guidelines, a table that lists all tables, an art-index, 8 card-stock minis and a small poem on the last page.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches - quite a feat at this length. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and its layout adheres to Cerulean Seas' two-column full-color standard and is, still, among the most dazzling out there. The artworks deserve special mentioning: Where Waves of Thought and even Cerulean Seas had an odd one out here and there, Indigo Ice goes above and beyond: These artworks are so beautiful, I honestly can't recall having EVER seen such a beautiful book by any 3pp - this ranks, presentation-wise, among the very best and in fact, at least imho, surpasses even multiple paizo-books.  The supplement unfortunately comes sans printer-friendly version and if you can, I suggest you get the full-color print. If the print is half as beautiful as the pdf, you'll still have a drop-dead gorgeous book.

When I read the premise of the book, I was honestly doubting whether this would interest me: Cerulean Seas is a peculiar set of rules/setting and combining them with the frozen north seemed problematic to me at best: Especially with Kobold Press' Northlands already doing a great of Norse-themed fantasy, albeit above the waves. Indigo Ice thankfully takes a different approach: Blending Norse themes with a large dose of Inuit-myth (something seen all too rarely) the setting is something different altogether from the sum of its component parts: Flavor-wise, the vibe that best describes the indigo Ice is imho a pulpy underlying theme of a harsh land of harsh people coated with more than a fair share of original ideas (Spartan penguins actually are much more badass than you'd think!) and mixed up with technology that creates a combination of themes both in line with traditionalist mythologies and a sense of ancientness as well as with the throes of progress and a feeling of being on the dawning of a new age. 

The weapons with their details (and especially the extremely detailed schematic that depicts it) make what would otherwise be a ridiculous concept feel believable. In fact, that's pretty much the crowning achievement of Indigo Ice: Many concepts may sound ridiculous when paraphrased in a review such as this, but the unity of stellar artwork, superb rules and excellent writing combine to make them work: To the extent where even usually gun-less campaigns can probably use these weapons sans breaking the suspension of disbelief. Now the fact that neither class, nor feats or any other component of the pdf can be considered broken or unbalanced further serves to boost the overall impression of excellence that withstands even closer scrutiny.


Beyond the usefulness of the book as a whole, I feel obliged to mention that the races, items and ideas herein can enrich campaigns in any northern setting, not necessarily only ones beneath the waves: If your PCs only plan sojourns into the frozen depths, then this pdf will still provide extremely fine critters, feats and intriguing civilizations for you to scavenge and add.
To cut a long ramble that gushes about artworks, monsters and weapons, the potential usability for underwater-steampunk-adventures (if you emphasize Aglootech further) and the quality of the writing short: This book is a truly excellent addition to Alluria's oeuvre and its quality stand up to the highest standards you could demand, the one shortcoming being the maps in the campaign setting-section and the lack of city statblocks, but which in no way would justify rating this superb, surprisingly consistent book down: My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Way of the Wicked V - The Devil, My Only Master


Hej everybody!

Time to be evil again!

Way of the Wicked V - The Devil, My Only Master

The fifth installment of Fire Mountain Games' critically acclaimed evil adventure path is 100 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of maps of Talingarde (as in each WotW-book) and 1 page back cover, leaving us with a total of 92 pages of content, so let's check this out!

This is a review of the module, so potential players should jump to the conclusion to avoid the vast array of SPOILERS that follow.

All right, still here?

If the module's name has not been ample clue for you, this is the turning point of the campaign: For 4 modules, the villains have been the pawns of Cardinal Adrastus Thorn in his conspiracy to bring down Taligarde. The lich's paranoia has made him turn against the PCs and he will pay, for Asmodeus does not tolerate weakness like the undead's sparing of a paladin. In order to become second to none but the devil, though, the PCs first have to survive and not be suckered in by Thorn's "invitation" to his stronghold: Forewarned, the PCs first act in this module is the necessity to say "no" to Tiadora and her devilish erinyes - something that will result in a rather deadly combat. The first part of the adventure is rather modular and has the PCs plan their usurpation of Thorn's throne while trying to survive his  endeavors in ending them. In order to gain Asmodeus favor, they will have to tie up lose ends: If Brigit of the Brijidine still is alive, they will have to eliminate her for Dessiter the contract devil.

Upon completion of this rather deadly task (Brigit's home is no laughing stock), they may have an audience with Naburus, a pit devil and lord of hell! Said devil may use a clever loop-hole in the contract that binds them to Thorn to extract them from his influence as well as potentially making one of them high-priest of Asmodeus! In the meanwhile, Thorn seeks to eliminate them by sending his hamatulan host for them and there are further loose ends that seek to be tied up: Depending on their actions in book 2, the PCs will have to contend and survive Vetra-Kali-Eats-the-Eyes and his retinue and finally get a grand chance:

Their nemesis Richard Thomasson, the paladin that single-handedly almost made their plans fail, the fool that melted Thorns heart out of sentimentality for a love now lost, walks the island of Chargammon. In order to please the lord of the 9th, the PCs must prove themselves, find the paladin, defeat his massive retinue and once and for all put a stop to his meddling. Better yet, for true masters of the dark - the PCs may actually drag the shining knight down, causing him to fall and swear allegiance to Asmodeus!

Of course, in order to defeat a lich, the PCs will have to get a hold of his phylactery and he has hidden it well - in the cave of dread Nythoggr, a cairn linnorm and foe that surpasses even the power of great Chargammon! Worse, the caves of the cairn linnorm is also home of mad undead spirits like banshees and Ice Elf Dread Wraiths, making the infiltration/crawl a deadly challenge indeed. better yet, the options to infiltrate/use other means of acquiring the phylactery, including smart usage of the potentially existing draconic cohort are all taken into account: After all, who wants to incur the deadly death curse of the linnorm? If they do walk the path of brute force instead of cleverness and ingenuity, the PCs thankfully can escape the very deadly curse via a nearby artifact, but only if they are smart and know how and where to look...

When the next devilish assassin manages to wiggle out of Thorn's command upon him realizing they have his phylactery and instead proposes serving the PCs instead, it should be clear that Thorn's days are few.  Only one thing remains for the future masters of Talingarde to do - teleport to the Agathium and stomp out their former mentor.  Barricaded in the vast fortress depicted on the cover (which would imho make for a kick-ass metal cd-cover), the lich's paranoia grows, ever increasing. Guarded by armies of rejuvenating undead, the trek to the place could have been awesome, but honestly, it is here the module has its weakest spot: The unforgiving arctic wilderness sounds so awesome, why not have the PCs experience it and slug through Thorn's defenses? Magical Aurora Borealis, the artifact-engine, whatever - there are many good reasons for not opting for the teleport-option. Oh well.


The exploration of the Agathium is exciting - between Thorn playing tricks and using psychological warfare, his defenders are nothing to be scoffed at: From a Frost-Giant jarl (whose bride may become an ally of the villains) to Thorn's own hermit necromancer/crafter (who, again, may become an ally), the challenges awaiting the PCs are numerous - but so are the rewards: The PCs can e.g. make sacrifices to Asmodeus' most unholy altar (detailed with a drop-dead-gorgeous artwork), take control of the arcane engine that facilitates crafting and undead creation via negative energy and, of course, loot Thorn's treasury, which among other things includes Tiadora's true name, making her another potential servant. Speaking of servants: The traitor-general of Talingarde currently also languishes in the Agathium - a nice and convenient way for the PCs to mop up his particular loose end and put a stop to this pompous fop's meddling.

However, not all have turned against Thorn: His fortress is still secured by his own considerable magical might, units of grave knights and a particular nasty surprise: Apart from his fanatically loyal antipaladin champion Wolfram, he also has secured the aid or not one, but two undead dragons to annihilate the PCs - OUCH!

If the PCs manage to brave his false throne room ( a deadly trap indeed) and all his guardians, they will finally come to blows with their erstwhile master and, if they emerge triumphant, be graced with a rain of blood as well as the favor of Asmodeus himself, their only master!

After extensive troubleshooting, we are introduced to the second supplemental article for players who want to become undead: Vampires manage their transformation and the gradual power-gain (alongside vampiric weaknesses) via a progression of 5 feats, an apt payoff. Liches in contrast need only take one feat, but still have to pass the otherwise rather steep requirements for lichdom.
There also are 13 new feats for undead (including swarm-form, enhanced vampiric powers, a tad bit of resistance to sunlight etc.), 6 new magic items especially suitable for undead, 6 new spells (mostly designed to help them fit in with mortals, trap coffins etc.).

The final section of the book, guest-authored by Jason Bulmahn, introduces us to new archetypes: Monks may, as Hands of Tyranny, issue unholy commands (as per the spell) via their unarmed attacks, are particularly adept liars and may evoke crippling pain via a mere touch. Lords o Darkness are Asmodean paladins that gain enchanting options as cruelties and finally, inquisitors may opt to become Torture Masters, experts of extracting information from the helpless. The final new archetype, unfortunately, is the only one I'd truly consider good: The Unholy Barrister (cleric) has a special channeling: He can spend two channel attempts to heal all evil creatures with his negative energy, but only if they swear loyalty to Asmodeus. Now if that won't lead to some badass moments at the table... Furthermore, with so-called soulbound contracts, he may impart his spells to others, granting the class a second complex and extremely cool signature ability.

The final 2 pages are taken up by 9 new feats, which allow you to channel life-force of coup-de-grace'd foes, enhance your unholy spells, ignore pain, come out trumps in negotiations (e.g. planar ally) and also pacts: Pacts make it very hard for you to return from death, since your soul is sworn to hell, but on the basis of the first feat, we get ones that e.g. enhance your sneaking, your divine or arcane power etc.

The pdf also comes with an extra-pdf of key-and numberless maps and handouts that is 6 pages long and covers all locations visited in this module.


Editing and formatting are very good, though, as the last two installments of WotW, not perfect - I noticed a couple of switched letters and similar typos, though less than in Book III and IV. Layout adheres to the stellar 2-column standard used in previous WotW-installments and is up to the highest demands. The artworks by Michael CLarke are, just like the original cartography, up to the highest standard as well. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, though honestly I would have preferred more bookmarks, especially in the first section of the module, which is very much modular. The pdf comes with aforementioned extra pdf of player maps and handouts as well as a more printer-friendly version.

Author Gary McBride does not disappoint in the fifth installment of WotW - the pay-off, should the PCs manage to brave the vast dangers, is rather satisfying and the change of pace regarding enemy-types as well as the amount of support/trouble-shooting for the DM remains commendable. While not as jarring as the climax of book 4 (about which I complained to no end), book 5 also has a minor weak spot: The fact that there is potential for an epic wilderness-section (something so far completely missing from the whole AP, mind you!) in an undead-infested northern clime. This idea is so cool, the defenses and narrative one could have crafted from the PCs slowly but surely clawing their ways towards the antagonist through his lands could have made for an epicness beyond belief. Instead, the teleport-in-angle, while more common, imho also remains the blander way.

That out of the way, the narrative is otherwise solid, the challenges worthy of the villain's level by now and the potential for the DM to play some nasty tricks with evil creatures is there, making this a tad bit better than book 4.

However, where I ceased to be amazed was with the supplemental information: I never liked the first article on undead PCs and the rules for vampire and lich PCs in my opinion, while working, fall a bit flat: Libris Vampyr by Necromancers from The Northwest did it via a PrC that required an extremely cool ritual every level, driving home not only the gravitas of the transformation, but also its symbology, something absent from this particular tackling of the subject. The new archetypes, with one exception, also left me rather cold, as did the pact feats which imho could use a slight power boost - after all, usually feats have no associated drawbacks and these do.

I wouldn't complain about these, were it not for the distinct impression that their page-count would have been served better by an expansion of the module. That out of the way, let it be known that my complaining is still on the highest level and this is, once again, an excellent adventure. Though not a perfect one. My final verdict will hence remain at 4.5 stars, + seal of approval, but rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Rogue Glory


Hej everyone!

Recently, I spent a LOT of time contemplating why rogues are less popular in my group than e.g. rangers and stumbled into making a mechanical analysis of the class. The results were quite enlightening and explained well why there's a vast thread on the Paizo-boards on how they are underpowered.

Fast-forward. newcomer Drop Dead Studios recently impressed me with the best take of a crafting-centric-class I've seen for any iteration of d20 so far as their freshman offering (The Artisan, if you don't know) and after that, they went on to release a book originally funded via kickstarter to "fix" the rogue. Do they succeed at this endeavor? Let's take a look!

Rogue Glory

This pdf is 63 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page kickstarter thanks, leaving us with 58 pages of content, so let’s check this out! (There is also a portrait-layout version that is the base for the print version and clocks in at 115 pages, more on that in the conclusion.)

Interspersed with an interesting, well-written narrative, we are introduced to the topic of this book, namely making the rogue more unique: With trapfinding being nerfed over the editions, archetypes like detectives, urban rangers and the (overdue) power-gain of the bard, it’s high time that someone devoted a book to providing the often-neglected rogue some new tools to set them apart from other classes and that is exactly what this book is about. Much like class-specific other supplements throughout the edition, we are introduced to the matter at hand via some general observations about what constitutes a rogue (profession vs. personality type), rogues in different general setting like cities, wilderness etc., alignment, backgrounds and reasons to “go rogue” grouped by social status as well as the most common motivations.

After that, we delve into the new content, which begins with new additional abilities that serve to make the rogue stand out more: Rogues built with this book get proficiency with stealthy weapons like sword-canes, blade boots and switchblade knives. The rogue now also gets access to a class feature called guile pool, which grants you ½ class level + cha-mod points that can be spent as part of a skill check to grant +2 to the skill, +4 at 10th level. Guile points may also be spent as swift actions to get a +1 circumstance bonus to atk, +1 per 4 levels to a maximum of +5. Also, as long as they have at least one point in their pool, they are treated as if under the effect of the improved feint feat. Starting at 3rd level, the rogue may now also declare any attack s/he makes that deals sneak attack damage in a surprise round an ambush: This attack gains a bonus to damage equal to her/his level as well as requiring a save on behalf of the victim to avoid being temporarily sickened. On higher levels, the negative conditions get uglier. This set of abilities is added to all rogues. When the pdf wants to make a distinction between this and the standard rogue, the rogue with the new abilities is called Glory Rogue.

This basic new suite of powers out of the way, we delve into archetypes, starting with the chemist. Chemists get slightly diminished sneak progression, but compensate this by gaining increased throwing capacity. It the name of the archetype has not been ample clue: Chemists gain access to a limited array of alchemist’s bombs and may even add sneak attack to their thrown weapons. They also may smuggle bombs on foes via sleight of hand or the steal combat maneuver. Finally, they may select from a limited array of discoveries. Nice archetype that should answer the prayers of the splash-weapon-throw-plus-sneak-crowd without being unbalancing. Much less complex, the Dungeon Runner deals d8 sneak attack versus undead and constructs, + level damage versus oozes, but all other foes only get sneaked for d4 instead of the usual d6. They also replace either ambush (or 2 skill points) with gaining the blind-fight feat-tree as bonus feats. Fences also get 2 skill points less than regular rogues and gain quick black market connections as well as very soon access to an organization to do your bidding, information gatherings etc. – these people can be developed and, while not adventurers, they are gold in any urban environment/to do tasks that do not require a group of adventurers. Have I mentioned that you gain money from your underlings (though they require you to pay them for jobs) since you fence their goods? 

Nice archetype, though personally, I would have loved for a more complex fencing/guild-running system or e.g. an adaptation of WotW’s evilorganization rules, the Great City’s tong-rules or something akin to that. After that, we get the imperial flanker, who represents more closely the concept of lightly armored skirmishers in military. They get access to the cavalier’s Tactician-quality and stack their levels with respective levels in the cavalier-class. The write-up also refers to the Tactician-class, I assume either a glitch or a pointer towards Dreamscarred Press’ tactician-class, but honestly, I’m not sure which is correct. The archetype gets 2 skill points less and instead of trap-related abilities gains access to martial training, medium armors and even the option to still use evasion when in medium armor. Mageslayers are also interesting: Gaining at 4th level already the Magebane attack advanced rogue talent as well as imposing half their level as a penalty to defensive casting, this archetype is the nightmare of casters and a gleefully satisfying experience to spring on those spellslingers. Medics will probably see much use in low-magic settings: These rogues may treat lethal wounds faster and increase the efficiency of the usually rather underpowered heal-skill. They may even get rid of negative levels and in combat gain an interesting alternative to sneak attack: Surgical precision grants +1 to atk at every odd level for a max of +10 at 19th level instead of the bonus damage sneak attack usually offers. Finally, medics may create salves that grant temporary hp. 

The Pet Trainer sacrifices 2 skill points for an animal companion and teach them the grab-trick, but at the expense of the guile pool or trapsense/trapfinding. Stalkers are a relatively straight ranger/rogue blending, getting access to favored terrain, trap training and advanced trap training as bonus rogue talents at the expense of 2 skill points. Street Magicians are interesting in that they get a VERY limited access to sme wiz/sorc-spells they can cast as spell-like abilities. As rogue talents, these guys can also get familiars, bonded objects etc. and as an advanced rogue talent, there's a nice blend of the new ambush-rule combined with spellcasting – nice way to represent street-smart dabblers in the arcane. 

The Street Urchin gets skill bonuses to represent street smarts as well as an ability that hits a pet-peeve of mine: They may, with a glance, size up a target, learning class, level and ability modifiers. This kind of metagame-information is strictly banned in my home game and something that always breaks immersion for me. Additionally, the ability fails to specify whether the ability shows their modified (by magic items, diseases, afflictions, curses…) ability modifiers or their unmodified ones. They also thus are very focused on the target, gaining bonuses versus them at the expense of penalties versus targets not their mark. I get what the ability wants to do and it works, but personally, I would have wished for a more abstract form of information to be thusly uncovered.
Now true professionals may choose at first level to either be even better with skills, get more proficiencies and count as ½ level fighter to qualify for feats or limited spells. They also replace sneak attack with bonus feats, ambush with more skill points and an interesting capstone.
Urban Ninjas represent the only archetype that requires the optional guile pool-class feature, gaining both guile pool and ki pool as well as access to both rogue talents and ninja tricks. Finally, Weapon’s Experts don’t gain sneak attack and trapfinding, but instead get weapon training and the option to count as fighters as well as again, the option to use evasion in medium armor. What I’ve failed to mention so far in this array of archetypes is that each and every one of them comes with an aptly-written, nice fluffy mini-story instead of being just dry crunch. Nice!

Of course, this book not only features new archetypes, but also new rogue talents and advanced rogue talents. On the side of the former, we get the power to run and even charge at -10 while using stealth, the option to deal ambush damage via grapple as lethal or non-lethal (great for TRUE professionals and campaigns like mine, where killing ANY humanoid is usually not considered as “good”), armor and maneuver mastery (the latter granting a massive bonus to the chosen maneuver), flank nearby foes with ranged weapons, feint with ranged weapons, become extremely adept at using ropes, wilder in the bard’s and alchemist’s territories, roll an attack twice as a standard action and the expense of 1 guile pool point (great when alone on reconnaissance and needing to make that hit count), spend guile to treat foes in melee combat as flat-footed, bluff lie-detecting spells, run up walls Prince-of-Persia-style and so much more. On the side of advanced talents, rogues may choose swift poison application, increased prowess with wands and scrolls, quietly dispatch foes (VERY useful!), feint all foes she threats, treat all 1s, 2s and 3s as 4s when sneak attacking, deal con damage, hamper spellcasting, slow foes and gain access to mutagens, improved familiars etc.

Where there are new talents, there also are, unsurprisingly, new feats are also in here -  a total of 16 of them, to be precise. They allow rogues to use non-magical ventriloquism (Much more useful than you’d think, especially with another feat that allows you to non-magically alter your voice!), master weapons like bladed boots and climbing claws, dabble in fortune-telling (and have it actually work sometimes). On the coolest side, though, would be the feats that allow a rogue to disable ongoing magical effects and items with their disable device-checks as if the result of their skill was dispel magic. These feats are genuinely brilliant and EXTREMELY useful at all levels. The greater version of the feat even allows you to work a trap into an existing magic and even disable curses. Very, very cool and should ensure that at low levels, when dispel magic is a rare or non-existing commodity, groups the rogue will shine and continue to do so at higher levels – after all, disable device is not a resource that depletes…

We also get 6 new traits before we check out further alternate rules: The first is a nod to Rite Publishing’s excellent “Secrets of the Tactical Archetypes II” and says so directly in the text – nice to see the nod. I’ve already covered “opportunities aplenty” in my review of that book, though. What really rocks, though, is that the Drop Dead Studios-team has taken Paizo’s proposed and then discontinued stealth-rewrite and expanded it with abduction, perception, bluffing, creating diversions etc. as well as updates for blindsight, blindsense etc. These variant rules look on paper VERY concise and cool and in fact, better than the regular stealth rules. If you need an idea of how the rules work: There are different conditions: Observed, located, detected and undetected. Observed means the creature knows exactly where you are or can see you. Located means a creature can't see you, but knows where you are. Detected means that a creature knows that something is going on. Additionally, you may be hidden, as per a new condition, thus influencing the former concepts. As a system and presentation-wise logical, easy to grasp and concisely presented.
I can’t yet comment on how they work in-game, but I will do some extensive playtesting and definitely try them – the system remedies the problem of stealth vs. special sights being completely useless, though admitedly requiring more skill and planning at low levels as well as the DM using Perception by the book, i.e. with distance penalties etc.. For me, though, it works and I'll use the system in my next campaign, due to start next month. Kudos!

Another innovation of the book would be Delnor Crystals, special crystals detecting magical pulses from magical traps. These crystals require rogues to use them via trapfinding and make it possible for trapsmith rogues to manipulate magical traps – not only disable them. Ranger traps are cool – but oh so limited in by who they can be used. Rogue Glory’s solution is interesting: Attach them to Craft (traps) and make them available for anyone, with a trapper ranger archetype being thus changed. We also get 7 new ranger traps, multiple environmental traps and respective DC-tables, triggers and construction rules, taking existing feats like Cunning Trigger and Quick Trapsmith into account as well. Nice and neat to add some versatility to not just the rogue class. Sleight of Hand gets variant rules for placing objects instead of taking them away and the repercussions of using the revised stealth rules herein on the application of e.g. feigning death etc. are covered.

Beyond these, we are also introduced to a rather intriguing array of new equipment: These tools of the trade include hilt-daggers, climbing claws, 10-foot poles with hooks, collapsible bows (sniper hitman, baby!), needle launchers (deliver those toxins), hollow books, lead lining enhancements to other compartments, parachutes, 13 new traps (and an alchemical trigger to spring them) and, of course, magic items: These are no less useful than their mundane counterparts and include magically rigged dice, daggers for assassins, pellets that let you vanish (à la batman and x ninjas in fiction) and rings that grant the massive social bonuses of the glibness spell. Beyond these, we also find new artifacts and interesting ones indeed are there: Take Saphire, the most famous thief ever and his/her legacy: These are essentially concepts, not items that can be taken, given, lost etc. and grant fractions of this mythological beings vast power. Cool as an idea to pass on to PCs (or NPCs), with all resulting hijinxs – or perhaps the PCs want one, but how to steal an intangible thing? There is also a two-faced coin that can alternately grant 20 as bonus or penalty and which would make for a truly interesting item in the hands of a two-face-like foil. Beyond these, we get an assassin’s blood-filled cup and a powerful dagger as well.

Now that all crunchy components are covered, we are in for a section that should intrigue especially, but not only, novice DMs and players, for the following chapter discusses how communication between DM and players is important so that they create the right type of rogue: Social rogues are no fun if there’s nothing for them to do, sneaky ones that can’t infiltrate due to playing in a war-campaign face the same problem. The advice given is sound, especially when it comes to traps, trap-description and reason to implement them in the game – and how to properly use them. Though I’d like to add one piece of advice: Consciously, as a DM, deviate from the detect-disable-done-formula: Make traps, at least once in a while, complex and, when sprung, give the whole party something to do to escape imminent death. This makes it all the more rewarding when a rogue manages to be levitated across the room, while the barbarian and fighter hold doors open that would slam shut so their friend can disable the deadly death trap from the other side of the room. Suggestions for encounter- and gold-based XP are provided as well before we delve into the final chapter:

 We get 5 sample thievish organizations, all of which come with fully statted sample NPCs, prestige benefits and range from apocalyptic cults to a counter-thieves guild that steals back what was taken and acts as a kind of elite security force. The book concludes its survey of rogues with 5 seeds for whole campaigns and arcs as well as a table of 20 short adventure hooks for you to develop.



Editing and formatting are very good, though not perfect: I noticed two glitches in particular, on page 11 and 30 respectively, of false words. Generally, though, the book is surprisingly glitch-free apart from aforementioned hick-up. Layout of the electronic version adheres to a 3-column landscape format with full-color borders and original artworks that are ok, though ranging from nice to a bit wonky. Layout is also the weakest spot of the pdf – here and there, there are disjointed underlinings in the text and e.g. spell-names are not in italics. Beyond that, the pdf is hyperlinked to d20pfsrd.com, with the latest update getting rid of an at first problematic usage of the hyperlinks. The pdf also comes with extensive nested bookmarks in both versions.
It should be noted, that the print-version and the pdf based on that version is something completely different: It is 115 total pages long (minus cover and the like), adheres to a 2-column standard with an artwork-border and looks VERY tidy. 

Rogue Glory is an interesting book in that it takes a class that is deemed by now one of the weakest and adds some oomph to it: Additional, easy to use rules, nice options, interesting archetypes, a stealth-system that, while hard on low-levels, especially at mid-to-high levels works much better and all those nice tools and ideas conspire to make this a truly impressive little book that shows awareness of other 3pps, rules-discussions etc. and overall manages to succeed at its task of making the rogue a more unique character class that can compete with its fellows. Full of great ideas, solid crunch and options galore, Drop Dead Studios has created a second book that is on par with their crunch-mastery as displayed in “The Artisan” and shows that the former was no exception – their standard remains high. Thus, I whole-heartedly recommend the print version/print-version-based-pdf (since at least at my table, this book will see a LOT of use) with a final verdict of 5 stars plus endzeitgeist seal of approval - with the now revised version of the electronic version, without any regrets. 

Endzeitgeist out.