Secrets of the Alchemist by Open Design

This product is 12 pages long. It starts off with a cover and ToC. (2 pages)

Next it jumps into introduction and examining of the Alchemist class. (2 pages)

After that it gets to 30 new feats for the Alchemist class. Many of them can be used by other classes. The complete list with a few examples of what they do. (4 ½ pages)

Accurate Assessment
Advanced Alchemy
Bottoms Up – drink potion as a move action.
Craft Anywhere
Create Wondrous Creature
Extra Extract – get a extra extract
Fast Item Creation
Fire in the Hole
Frugal Crafting
Hardy Brawler
Improved Sleight of Hand
Learn Command
Lighten Weapon
Lighten Weapon, Improved
Mind over Body
Minor Damage Reduction
Modify Mutagen – change the penalty you take from a mutagen.
Opportunity Shot
Organized Inventory
Pack Mule – allows you to carry more.
Practice Makes Perfect
Primeval Fury
Reliable Bombs
Sidestep Charge
Suicide Bomber – set off all your bombs at once at close range.
Sundering Bomb
Throw and Charge
Weapon Juggle

The final section is on character builds. They are basically advice on how to make builds that focus on certain area's of the class. (2 ½ pages)
Carpet Bomber - focuses on bombs.
Might Mutagen - focuses on mutagens.
Mad Scientist – support role.

It ends with a OGL. (1 page)

Closing Thoughts. This book really takes a look at the alchemist class, gives advice on builds and how to play it. Then offers a slew of new feats that would help the class do it's roll even better. There is no art in the book other than the cover. Most of the feats are well done and either interesting or useful or typically both. Likely Suicide Bomber is the worst feat and I like it. Your character typically kills themselves using the feat but likely kills everything around them. I don't see many taking the feat but I thought it fit the class well regardless. So whats my rating? Well it depends, for those looking for advice how to play the Alchemist it is a 5 star I say. You get advice and new toys. For those wanting more for their alchemist I give it a 4 star. For those not interested in Alchemist I still say it is a 3 star as many of the feats could be used by other characters. The one big knock on this product is the pages look a bit like parchment. Which will neat looking would be brutal on a printer. I feel they really need to offer a print friendly version of this as well when you buy it.

Endzeitgeist's Start a Campaign for free III

It's been a nice ride, we have a backdrop location, an adventure to kick off the campaign and now, what do we need? Bingo, additional Stuff! Feats, monsters, options and items and that is, what I'll provide!


First of all, there is a nice magazine called "The Rite Review" put out by Rite Publishing that has some interesting content you might want to scavenge. D_M has written an extensive review of the first issue, which you can check out (and download) here.

My review of the second issue:

This pdf consists of 65 pages.

1 page Front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page OGL, 1 page table of contents and 16 pages of ads, leaving 45 pages of content.


There is one page of editorial, which was a nice read about being a 3pp and the chance to influence "mainstream" PFRPG.


Then you get 2 pages of new magic items, including nice fluff and bardic lore/Knowledge (Arcane) checks. The first is an instrument that can be used very swiftly, the second a gem to help with bardic lore and the third is an amulet helping you with your domain. The highlight here, is the prose, though. Captivating and concise.


After that we get a 7-page interview of 50 questions with Robert N. Emerson, mostly on the "Litorians"-book by Rite.


Following up, we get a gorgeous full-page illustration of the "Pasha of swirling Ashes" by Jason Rainville (taken from the Coliseum Morpheuon patronage project by Clinton Boomer) as well as his 1-page statblock. Got curious? Check it out! I haven't regretted being a patron for CM for one second!


Following up, you get the statblock of Venn "The Vulture" as well as a sneak-peak at the poison upgrades and feats from Rite's "Evocative City Sites: Rogue's Gallery Tavern", a highly recommended location that costs a measly $1.99. 

I've written a review, so, if you're interested, go check it out.


After that, it's crunch-time: 7 new magical weapon properties is a preview for the Rite-book containing 101 of them. They are clever and neat.

Then comes the crown-jewel of the issue, at least for me: The 3 pages strong "Army of Darkness"-article helps the fledgling, world-conquering necromancer with new feats, a new rule for spontaneous undead creation, a new undead archer and 2 deadly and cool new arrows that put the fear of undead back into the hearts of those sun-worshiping radicals. 


"Ghouls stalk the Night" is a cool 3 pages sidetrek with nice fluff that, thanks to 3 different statblocks can be used for different levels. And I can't see any group guessing what the creature is. Creative idea, for sure.


After that, we get a short, 1-page introduction to Questhaven that doubles as a preview for what to expect of the City of Spells series. Cool! we get more on Questhaven with the 1-page article "Rise of a Merchant Prince", plus the useful "Stone of silent alarm".

"Changing Fashions" deals with fashions in a high-fantasy town and the issues and is a nice supplement to the "Evocative City Sites - Intimate Shape Festhall".


The Aku-Boma is a new, intelligent plant monster of the creepiest sort. Spellcasters trying to bypass it will have a lot of fun... Hehehe.


Then there is "Jolunga", a suped-up, earth-infused, advanced bulette. Cute Critter, 2 pages.


The final new monster (again 2 pages) is the "Asanbosam", a predator-like aberration that can put the fear of the woods back into your PCs.


After that, we get 1 page of advice on using "Evocative City Sites", to be precise, "Kavit M. Tor's Emporium of Collectible Curiosities", followed by a page of 5 new first level spells from the upcoming "101 1st level spells" book, due on June 1st.


Then one can read a 2-page interview with Hugo Solis.

After that, we get the review section: 

"Liber Vampyr: Secrets of the Blood" (2 pages), "Ashton Sperry's Paper Minis: Litorians" (1 page),

"Incantations from the Other Side: Spirit Magic" (2 pages),

"Darkness without Form: Secrets of the Mimic" (1 page),

"Adventuring Classes: A Fistful of Denarii" (2 pages) all written by Shane O' Conner,

"Heroes of the Jade Oath" (2 pages) by Dark Mistress,

"Kavit M. Tor's Emporium of Collectible Curiosities" (1 page) by Mairkurion {tm}

and Rituals of Choice 1: A Witch's Choice (1 page) by Megan Robertson.

 All the reviews had in common that they were actually helpful and informative and were about interesting products one may have missed.


5 Rudii, come on! You get all that for FREE.

All right, ol’ Endzeitgeist has even more stuff for you:

Do you need some additional feats or just some buff for your bards? Here you can download one fine file by Spes Magna Games for free, to be precise: "Latina Facta & Versatile Performance Redux".


This pdf is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial and 2 pages OGL. That leaves us with 6 pages of content.


Latina Facta (2.5 pages): 15 feats that are based on famous Latin sentences. Most of them are quite cool and seem to be well-balanced.


One particular, though, at least to me, screams unbalanced: "Aequam Memento Rebus in Arduis Servare Mentem" – the feat lets you add your wis-modifier to any skill-check with a DC of 25 and higher. While unproblematic on lower levels, it means that mid-to high level characters will add a huge bonus on ALL skill-checks. No way, this will never be used in my campaign.


There are also cool feats like "Age. Fac Ut Gaudeam!" (Go ahead, make my day!) that force a via Intimidate demoralized foe to delay for 10 points on his next initiative.


My personal favorite, though, is "Cogi Qui Potest Nescit Mori", which enables you to resist acts while under an enchantment for a slight subdual damage.


The second part of the file consists of new Arts and Associated Arts for the Bard-class and are simply cool. 

Ever wanted your Bard to dance over a spider's web? Or wanted your bard to call "Cut!" on an enemy and truly stupefy him? There you go. 3 and a half page of the pdf are devoted to making your bard more awesome, versatile and cool. For a class that rarely sees such cool concepts, this file is pure gold.

The editing, wording and formatting are high-quality, however, don’t expect too much artwork-wise. While there is some b/w-art, it's minimalistic and probably public domain.


"But wait a second," you're saying, "Endzeitgeist, this one DOES cost $0.99!" Well, yes and no. Spes Magna Games has been so kind as to provide the file for free on their own page. You can get it here.

While the feats were nice, I would have loved to see more versatile performances – they are plain awesome. Due to the one feat I didn't like, I'd give it 4.5 Rudii, but for FREE, I’ll round it up to 5. Bard-lovers, go get this one – you won't regret it.

Ok, so you’ve got some extra feat, stuff for bards, monsters etc. – what is missing?

Yep, you’re of course right: Magic items, preferably some low-level ones. (It’s “Start a Campaign for free”, after all!)

Yeah, I’ve found a nice little book by Necromancers of the Northwest for you:

Into the Armory

This pdf is 59 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages Necromancers of the Northwest-logo and ad,  1 page back cover, 1 page OGL and 1 page table of contents.

That leaves 52 pages of content for this file. Let's dive in:

The pdf kicks off with an introduction on two concepts, i.e. Quasi-magical items (magical items that cost less than 2500 gp and may very well have no aura) and siege weaponry. Quasi-magical weapons have one supremely cool feature, which I've been using for years in my game: To construct them, you need ingredients, which are also listed. I'd love to see that more often.

Chapter 1 details armors (11 pages):

We get two new mundane armors, one medium and one heavy. We also get 3 new quasi-magical armors: One woven from clouds (think good-looking PCs and strong winds), exploding armors (essentially suicide bomber armors that deal a whopping 20d6 damage – might not be appropriate for every group and should be used with care by both PCs and NPCs…) and swarmnest armor, which transports a swarm but unfortunately lacks hard rules for the swarm – I guess that it does behave like the creatures from the bestiary and not the spell, but I'm not 100% sure.

Then, we're off to steam-punk-county with three so-called Golem-armors, which essentially are mechas your PCs can pilot. 2 One-man armors and one that can be piloted by up to 5 PCs. I like the concept and they don't seem to be that powerful. Might be a nice addition for some campaigns.

We get 11 new armor properties, which are interesting, but one of them, "Modular" should be flat-out disallowed. It makes it possible for PCs to change the particular enchantments for a armor every day.  Flat-out OP.

After that, we get 7 specific magic armors. Notable examples would be "Iron Body", which makes you strong but stupid for 24 hours, a rust-monster hide and a powerful armor for paladins that punishes not adhering to a VERY strict moral code. The "Rust Monster Hide" seems a little OP for low-magic/rare-magic campaigns to me, but works well in other settings.

Chapter 2 has new shields for you (4 pages):

We get two cool new quasi-magical items and 3 new shield special abilities, one of which (Insignia shield), unfortunately fails to mention how long the summoned creature stays. The next 6 new specific shields are quite useful, balanced and cool, especially the Planar Gateway Shield: One second, it's a shield, the net second it's your gate to another plane.

Chapter 3: Weapons (11 pages):

We get 10 new mundane weapons, all of which I liked.

7 new, quasi-magical items are included in the mix, ranging from a grappling shot over net grenades up to a whip blade. We also get 19 new specific magical weapons. I liked the ideas within, especially the "Lightning Trident", (which should be modified to always include the wielder, though), but "Nocturne’s Fang" does not specify which potion corresponds to what kind of blood and the “Scythe of the Wretched” is op beyond belief: Once per day on a crit you are practically guaranteed to kill your enemy. If you're lucky, this could kill just about anything. 

Chapter 4 deals with new equipment (10 pages):

We get the concept of randomized potions and 4 new rings, my favorite being the “Ring of useful things” – complete with a 10ft-pole) and my least favorite being the mood ring. A suggested DC of 15 to change what a character feels? Yeah, right. We also get a new rod and the concept of the randomized wand. 16 wondrous items are up next. Some of them are really cool, e.g. the “Lens of the Sun” or the “Gem of Vision”. The rest is rather standard-fare.

Chapter 5 deals with miscellaneous items (9 pages):

The 6 new alchemical items presented are extremely cool and useful. You'll like these. We are then introduced to 3 new so called “Living Items” – alchemically treated living organisms that range from a flower that makes you breathe water for 3 minutes and swarms-in-a-bottle, i.e. magebane and necrotic wasps. Good ideas there. 5 new poisons are also within these pages, from rather mundane choking/sleeping powders to the far-out polymorph poison.


We also get 7 new special materials to craft items from, favorite among which is the so-called Talectini, a symbiotic, living armor. My least favorite of the materials is Soul Steel, which is a little bit OP in my opinion.

The last chapter deals with siege weapons (6 pages):

We get short and concise rules for using siege weapons, including stats for 4 siege weapons. The chapter also has 4 special weapon abilities, 5 magical ammunitions and closes with 4 specific siege weapons.

 The fonts used in this pdf are clear and concise. There are some minor editing glitches and the pdf features a brownish background, which is not perfectly printer-friendly. The fluff-texts for the chapters and comments of the vendor of those items are quite nice and, while not brilliant, they are entertaining. Art-wise, you get a picture at the beginning of each chapter, but don’t expect too much.



The pdf suffers from some problems of "First Pdfs", i.e. some glitches have slipped past and some rules could be clearer. Some of the items seemed a bit OP for my rather conservative tastes when it comes to PC-strength. However, both the siege weapons and especially the quasi-magical items are very cool: I think that suggested ingredients should be provided in the craft-stat-block of any magical item – it only enhances enjoyment and makes fighting enemies even cooler, as your PCs try to scavenge monster-parts and then enhance their boastful stories of their exploits when drinking in the tavern. 

While this pdf may be far from perfect, it is a valiant effort and contains some rather far-out and/or excellent/useful ideas.

Plus: This pdf is FREE, you can get it e.g. here.

Normally, I'd rate this lower, depending on the price somewhere around 2.5 - 3.5 Rudii, but for free, I'll give it 4 Rudii – there are some issues that would irk me, had I paid for it. But for free, it's a nice addition to your collection.

That's it for now, I hope you'll enjoy the books and the experiment "Start a Campaign for free". If I stumble over more interesting free stuff, I'll be sure to let you know!

Next time, I'm going to review a couple of race books by Rite Publishing.

I hope my ramblings proved to be useful to you all, until next time,

Endzeitgeist out.


The Secrets of Divine Channeling by Rite Publishing

This product is 36 pages long. It starts off with cover, credits, and intro. (3 pages) I will admit I was a bit surprised to not see a ToC.

Chapter 1 – Classes (4 pages)
It starts talking about applying things to the cleric and then gets to the new class in the book.
The Divine Channeler – D8, 4 skill, Medium BaB, 2 good saves, simple weapons, light armor.
Class Abilities
Extra Channeling
Domain – The get more domains as they get higher level.
Critical Channeling – When scoring a crit with their gods weapon it does extra energy damage.
Energy Mastery – Immune to any channeling effects and can exclude anyone from their channeling effects.
They also gain several feats.

Chapter 2 – Feats (2 pages)
There is 8 new feats in this section.
Channel Blast – Release as a cone instead of burst if you wish.
Combat Domain Channeling – Uses the new domain channeling rules.
Double Channeling – Channel twice in a single round.
Enlarge Channeling – Use more channelings to extend the radius.
Improved Turn Undead – Just like it sounds.
Major Domain Channeling – Use the new domain channeling rules.
Maximized Channeling – Use 2 channeling to make one do maximum effects.
Heart of Faith – No need of a holy symbol or divine focus.

Chapter 3 – Domain Channeling (24 pages)
There is four new things tied to domains. It covers all the domains.
Sensorial Imagery – Effects who the channeling looks.
Minor Channeling Effect -
Combat Domain Channeling -
Major Channeling Effect – Each has two effects.

A Example of one of the domains.
Charm Domain
Sensorial Imagery – Pink and gold with a scent of flowers.
Minor Channeling Effect – One target you giant a bonus on bluff and diplomacy skill check.
Combat Domain Channeling – Can use it, to cause a daze effect. Will save.
Major Channeling Effect – Attitude Adjustment (Moves the attitude of all those in the area by one. Hostile becomes unfriendly. Get Will save.) Bother and Bewilder – All in area have will saves lowered. Fort Save.

It finishes with OGL, 1 page ad and back cover. (3 pages)

Closing Thoughts. The production values are top notch as to be expected from Rite Publishing. The art is fair to very good. The new class is interesting and designed to really take advantage of the new domain mechanics but otherwise just ok. The new feats are well done. Where the book truly shines is with the new aspects of domains, while I didn't always agree with every choice made for each domain. As far as effects, looks, powers etc. They was for the most part very well done and will really help make clerics stand apart even more from each other based on their god and domains. I loved this section and recommend the book on that alone. Granted it is the bulk of the book. I do have one disappointment though, the new sub domains are not covered. I really hope with the APG out that Rite Publishing comes out with a follow up book covering the sub domains presented in that book. That is really the only negative I can say about the book. So I am giving it a 5 star, which for a divine book is a first for me.


Start a campaign for free Interlude - Not quite free, but very cheap

Hi everybody, it’s Endzeitgeist again and I actually have three products for you that, while very cheap, are not free. Sorry, free stuff coming up next time, I promise. 

While writing my reviews for “Start a Campaign for free III”, I stumbled over the following files and felt that they would best be utilized when implemented at the beginning of a campaign. Thus, while not free, they might interest some of you people who want to start a new campaign. 

All three products, while not free, are extremely cheap and cost less than a bus fare, so enjoy the 3 reviews on Spes Magna Games products! 

 The first product hits a pet peeve of mine, namely that in regular PFRPG- (or 3.5. for that matter) gaming, you practically can’t have a PC who is also e.g. a blacksmith or similar craftsmen due to the IMMENSE commitment of time serious crafting takes.

There you go, for $0.99, you can have an alternative that, at least for me, makes more sense. That being said, here is

Making Craft work

This pdf is 8 pages long, 1 page OGL, 1 front cover and 1 page editorial.

That leaves 5 pages for simple, concise and player-friendly craft rules.

The pdf kicks off with a short and humorous demonstration on why the craft skill, as written, does not work.

After that, we get the new craft rules. They are simple, elegant and actually make it very, very easy for players to determine how long it will take for a given craft. Special materials, masterwork tools or lack thereof, complex materials and faster crafting due to exceptional skill are all taken into account.

While the rules are by now way taking a simulationalist’s approach to crafting, it enables PCs to craft and still go adventuring and, best of all, are easily scalable and can easily be modified.

Editing and formatting is top-notch, however, if you’re looking for awesome artwork, you won’t find any here.


The pdf accomplishes what it sets out do – elegant, concise and simply a good system that should become standard and replace the current craft rules.  For the price of $0.99, even the lack of quality artwork can’t detract from the appeal of the book. 5 Rudii.

I’m also a sucker for action points/hero points and similar systems and here we have another $1.50 product, that encourages your players to roleplay and provides good guidelines to award action points.

Rewarding Roleplaying: 

This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page OGL, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial. That leaves 8 pages of content.

 Rewarding Roleplaying is a nifty little pdf that introduces an alternative system to reward your players for role-playing via what is called fides, naturae and metae.

Acting according to any of the three may earn the players action points, which are also explained in detail: How they can be used in different contexts, how many to award and so on.

As a nice little bonus, we also get rules for the DM to create Elite Creatures and Solo Creatures with quick on the fly rules that I’ve been using myself. It’s nice to see that some people out there like the author obviously had the same idea as yours truly.

The artwork is sparse and open content, as far as I can tell. The writing is precise and concise and shows a subtle kind of humor I enjoy.  The editing and formatting are good, although I found a “with” too much in the text.


Due to the nifty ideas contained within as well as the very low price, I can recommend this one to just about any GM who has not yet read/implemented a hero or action-point system. If you seek to refine your own system, check it out. If heeded, the advice within these pages will surely change roleplaying behavior of your players for the better. For the price of $1.50, it’s a 5-rudii file.


Finally, I know that out there, there are many people who enjoy themselves a good swashbuckling action. Do you have a large group and dislike all players sitting around, waiting for one player or your monsters to finish their turn? I’ve found another product that might interest you, albeit one that costs $3.00. Here we go with a nice little alternative rules selection.  

Fencing & Firearms

This pdf is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page table of contents and 1 page OGL.

That leaves 26 pages of crunch to kick your game into swashbuckling mode. At least that’s the premise.

The pdf kicks off with two big changes that make sure that you realize the file is not kidding:

Big Change #1: In the modification proposed, there are no attacks of opportunity.

Big Change #2: Players get to roll more dice. Monsters have a fixed attack score and players roll defense rolls against the DC of the monsters attack score. It’s essentially like turning AC and attack upside down for the monsters attacking the PCs: Attack is now static and PCs get to roll a defense. That means less dice-rolling for the DM, but also, at least for me: Less fun for me.

After reading these two changes, you realize: While the new attack score can be calculated on the fly and is hardly complex, this system is more than an additional feat-tree or maneuver. 

Saving throws and spell resistances work the same upside-down way in this system: You e.g. roll the dice when casting a spell vs. a set fort/ref/will-score.

The pdf continues to innovate by presenting quick rules for expanded skill usages with “Calculated risk” (-5 on one check to get +5 on another), “Fast Task” (Get the job done quicker) or “Simultaneous Task” (Get more things done at once).

Furthermore, a system is presented that enables you to accept a penalty to BAB and gain a set bonus on either attack rolls, damage rolls or AC. This usage is available to ANY character and replaces Combat Expertise, Power Attack and Deadly Aim feats.

After that, we get a selection of 4 universal feats, centering on aiding fellows, a replacement for cleave and a feat to fight with anything.

Other feats presented are 12 feats, including a better take on 2-weapon fighting.

There are also new rules on Damage Conversion & Armor: Armor-wearing characters get a DR against non-lethal damage and if an armor-wearing character is struck by lethal damage, he converts armor-bonus points of damage into non-lethal damage. This idea struck me as simple, elegant and awesome. Easy to implement, to adapt to spells and the like. Glorious.

Full-Round Attacks also get a revamp: You essentially only get a second attack that is treated like e.g. a flurry of blows, i.e. at a -2/-2 penalty. At Bab+11, this penalty is reduced. A great solution for all the people bored of rolling the “bad attacks” on higher levels.

Casting a Spell gets a similar revamp, as does taking 5-foot steps, i.e. at 16th level, you can take up to 4(!!!) 5-foot steps per round, greatly increasing mobility.

Injury, Death, magical healing of non-lethal and lethal damage, stable recovery and rest all get revamps, too.

After that, we delve into special attacks like charge, channel energy (including changes to spells and the glory and sun domains), combat maneuvers (including dreaded grapple) and the broken condition of items. That’s A LOT of covered ground.

After that, we get to the second, significantly smaller portion (~5 pages) of the pdf, the one on firearms.

This part of the pdf is less experimental and much easier to drop into a given campaign. We get 12 firearms, complete with stats, 6 accessories for firearms, Craft (Alchemy)-DCs to make gunpowder, set fuses, place explosives and the like, DCs for Craft (Munitions) and 3 grenades as well as the rules for them and alchemical gunpowder.

That wording, formatting and editing for this product, as I’ve come to expect from Spes Magna products, is concise and clear, artwork is minimalistic to non-existent and the bang-for-buck-ratio is very high.


I have to admit: On my first read-through, I was disappointed. Why? Because I expected some kind of feat-tree or fencing mechanic like e.g. in Nobis: Simple to implement in an ongoing campaign, a rather easy drop-in. When the radical changes and re-imagininations, that, granted, leave the core-mechanic unchanged, reared their head, I was a bit shocked. Especially due to big change #2, which I’d personally dislike, as I am one of the DMs that relishes criting his PCs. 

I thought “Oh my, you’re not going to like this.” I was wrong. While all the pieces make up for a concise, faster gaming experience (which I’d especially recommend for larger groups of say 8 players…), the individual pieces can be taken out of the system on a whim. As a passionate rare-but-powerful-magic-worlds DM, I’ll be sure to use several of the rules, to be precise: The new full attack-mechanic (always hated the -10/-15 attacks), the new 2-Weapon-Fighting feat-tree, and the new healing and the armor-grants-limited-DR-rules. That’s A LOT. The second part on firearms is rather easy to drop into any given campaign, but not as cool as some of the crunchy ideas from the first part. I am hard-pressed to rate this. If you’re looking for drag-and-drop-fencing rules for an existing campaign, Sinister Adventures’ Art of the Duel might be a better buy for you. If you’re looking for variations on rules, ideas to speed up your game or want to start a campaign in the mood of Errol Flynn movies, this pdf will be like a gold-mine.

That’s why I will give two scores: The first one will be for people who have an ongoing campaign that is running well, who are content with the way the rules work: For you, this is a 3-Rudii file.

For people, who are looking for something different, for something imaginative and a new system, for people who plan to start a new campaign and for DMs who are annoyed by rolling all those monster-dice, this pdf is electronic gold and 5 Rudii.

My final verdict lies between the two, as I enjoyed the pdf and the price is EXTREMELY cheap for the content: 4.5 Rudii.

And that's it from yours truly for now, I'll now be back to digging out stuff that is free. See you soon on "Start a campaign for free Part III"!

Endzeitgeist out.


Endzeitgeist reviews Slumbering Tsar - The Desolation

This is it.

This is the place where it all started.  Here, Lou posted about the unpublished Magnum Opus by Greg A. Vaughan and here the whole development that led to Frog God Games being founded. If you had asked me a year ago whether Slumbering Tsar would ever be released, I would have shaken my head, made a sad face and continued. And yet, here it is. The epic struggle against Orcus and his temple-city. And I'm here, on Rpgaggression, where it all began, to review it. It's a glorious feeling and I'm really grateful for Lou to offer me this opportunity.

Now, that I have this off my chest, let's dwell into the compiled reviews of the first 3 installments of Slumbering Tsar, which make up the first major part of ST, detailing the dread wastelands around the accursed city.

The Edge of Oblivion:

This pdf consists of 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page credits, 1 page OGL.

 That leaves us with 30 pages of adventure.

 First, we get a 5 pages Introduction to Slumbering Tsar, its epic background story as well as several, extensive hooks to draw your PCs into the adventure. 

 Chapter 1: The Camp gives us the main meat of this installment of Slumbering Tsar, the so-called Camp at the edge of the wasteland called Desolation. This camp is far beyond your average town or frontier settlement, expertly evoking a unique flavor reminiscent of a combination of old-school Necromancer Games-feeling and a touch of end-time melancholy à la "The Dark Tower"-saga by Stephen King. The chapter also includes stats for the inhabitants, 4 spells converted from Sword & Sorcery's Relics and Rituals and takes up 14 pages.

 Chapter 2: Events in the camp is 6 pages long and describes events to spring on your players. They are very cool, and, keeping the promise in the introduction, quite lethal. I won't spoil the fun, though an entity called "Midnight peddler" should be mentioned...

 Chapter 3: A Desolation Primer is 2 pages long and helps DMs portraying the Desolation. 

 After that, we get 3 pages of beautiful maps.

The prose is captivating and the editing is very good: No awkward phrases, no typos. The S/W-artwork is among the most beautiful I've ever seen in a 3pp's book and is on par with the heyday of NG. You get the stats for the creatures and NSCs where they are most likely to appear, which helps immensely.

For a measly $2.00, you get an awesome, big pdf, containing one of the most imaginative small towns I've read for quite some time. Even if you don't plan to check out the whole saga, at least give this installment a try. You'll be very hard-pressed to find a better bang-for-buck ratio or quality out there.

The Ghosts of Victory:

The second installment of the epic Slumbering Tsar Saga, The Ghosts of Victory is 75 pages long.


One page is taken up by credits, 1 by the front cover, 2 by the OGL.

 That leaves us with 71 pages of gaming goodness, prefaced by a one page introduction to the eastern part of the wasteland that is the dreaded Desolation.


The pdf starts with Chapter 4: Ashen Waste, depicting one of the major areas of the wasteland. The Ashen Waste is an inhospitable land with its very own environmental dangers (e.g. acid rain or storms made of pulverized, choking bones), extensive notes on random encounters in the waste as well as 3 planned battle encounters, 2 mini-dungeons, 1 safe spot to rest (guarded by a hostile, rejuvenating guardian, though; nothing is simple in Desolation!), 1 oasis (with several sub-locations) and an encounter with a creature that is a fitting and creepy (unofficial) bossmonster for the area. 

 The chapter is 27 pages long and includes a new bloodline for sorcerers. The overall atmosphere of the whole area is focused on hopelessness and a constant feeling of trespassing on a battlefield that once has seen countless feet tread upon the shattered remains of both friends and foes. Awesome and incredibly concisely written, this chapter could serve as an autonomous desert/wasteland in itself.

 Chapter 5 details the Chaos Rift, the second huge area of the Desolation. The chapter begins with its very own extensive discussion on random encounters in the Chaos Rift, showing already a difference in tone and setting. In stark contrast to the Ashen Waste, the general mood in the Chaos Rift is rather one of Chaos, Destruction and planar evil of a magnitude that only high-profile villains like Orcus could have inflicted on the mortal plane. The Chaos Rift is, as the name suggests, a terrible series of canyons or rather wounds, ripped into the very foundation of the earth in the war against Tsar. 


After being lowered down into the canyons by Rock Troll brothers (or other means), the PCs are confronted, again, with unique environmental dangers and new challenges. Apart from the planned encounter with the brothers and 2 encounters containing environmental damages, this chapter contains 3 combat encounters (one of them may actually send foolhardy PCs to an untimely death in Orcus' realm in the Abyss!), 2 outdoor encounters (with a series of sub-locations) and 2 mini-dungeons. For fans of The Grey Citadel and The Eamonvale Incursion, this chapter offers a nice tie-in. 

(It should be noted, that one versed in the modules of Necromancer games will find numerous tie-ins with the other modules, that, while not necessary, are nice eastereggs.)

The chapter also contains the slime-zombie template and is 25 pages long.

 ST: Desolation 2 concludes with several appendices: 

-4 pages Monster Appendix (Spitting Gargoyle, Ossuary Golem, Screamer (not the fungus!), Shadow Dire Bear)

-1 page with a new magic item (Chain of Beguiling)

-4 pages prestige class appendix (An update of the Justicar of Muir-PrC for PFRPG, vastly superior in design to its 3.0.-incarnation, with its own codex, fluff and abilities – nice.)

-9 pages of Maps (1 page Ashen Waste, 1 page Chaos Rift, 1 page Tomb of the Sleeping Knight, 1 page Garden of the Reclaimers, 1 page Tark's Mound, 1 page Old Death's Hollow, 1 page Spitter's Canyon, 1 page Wolf pack / Bartileus' Lair, 1 page Sepulcher of the last Justicar)

ST: Desolation 2 contains enough ideas to make each component of the Desolation its own wasteland. In a way, they are unique enough to work alone, although they, of course, work even better when used as intended. Building upon the awesome mood created in the first installment, the Desolation thickens the already awesome mood.

To quote James Jacobs from the foreword of Paizo's Spires of Xin-Shalast: "The thing about Greg's adventures that has always impressed me the most is his knack for catching the excitement of discovering something new. Each of his Dungeon adventures was set in an exotic but nevertheless iconic location; be it under pyramids on the Isle of Dread, on haunted islands, in cliff dwellings on the edge of a canyon, inside of a primeval lost valley, in a lost temple dedicated to gods from the far side of the world, or even in the Abyssal kingdom of the Prince of Demons."

Once again, this is true in his imagining of a deadly wasteland somewhere between ancient battlefield, demonic, blasted landscape and endtimes-atmosphere. 

The Western Front:

ST: Desolation 3 – The western Front is a 48-pages pdf;  One page editorial, one page front cover, one page OGL – that leaves 45 pages of content in this installment of the Slumbering Tsar saga.


The module kicks off with one page of flavor text and a nice b/w artwork and then delves into the first area featured in this incarnation of ST, The Boiling Lands.

The chapter on the boiling lands is 15 pages long. Once again, we get planned encounters as well as a random encounter table and have an iconic wasteland. The boiling lands are riddled with geysers, mud and pestilence and poison are key factors among the hazards the PCs will face here. Don’t forget to bring your cleric! To give you an idea what to expect: A muddy battlefield defined by water- elemental warfare, disease and a general feeling of wading though plague-ridden swampy lands seeking to devour you and a prevalent decay that seeks to claim the PCs and make them part of the ever-present muck. Two sub-locations are provided (along with their respective maps in the  appendix), The Last Outpost and the Geyser Cluster.

The next chapter details The Dead Fields, is 14 pages long and another no-man’s land with a distinctive flavor.  The coolest place of the Dead fields is a Dwarven outpost that will be defended by the players against sheer countless waves of undead. Awesome! As a nice bonus, PCs may also befriend a dire wolf. A “Firebase of the damned” also promises some fun for your PCs.

The Crossroads and Tsar chapter is 5 pages long and features a gateway monster the PCs have to defeat to finally enter Tsar.

The Monster appendix features 2 new monsters, the Battlehulk and the (Poisonous) Mudmen. Both are interesting and cool.

The appendix featuring new magic items features both the “Reverse Gravity Mine” and a mighty hammer with an interesting drawback. The hammer even gets its own artwork.

As previously mentioned, we also get 6 pages of maps, 1 for the regions and two for the subregions each. My only gripe with them is, that I can’t show them to my players due to the legend features. I’d love to see some player-friendly maps sometime or in the final book.

Conclusion:  The final installment of the Desolation chapter features once again some iconic wastelands and will surely challenge you in the unique Vaughan-style, i.e., this one is DEADLY but extremely fun. My personal favorite was defending against the waves of undead – I can see players loving this. Unlike previous installments, though, this one is plagued by several editing and formatting glitches. I found the following:

There are relic s on page 14 as well as page 19. On page 26, there is line that strikes through the flavor text, page 27 and 31 have a formatting glitch about the number of wights that are encountered and the brackets are placed wrong. Finally, page 34 has two more relics.

Don’t let that detract from your enjoyment, though: You still get quality, awesome locations and challenging encounters for your PCs.

This is it. After surviving the third part of the desolation, the PCs will have to brave the dangers of the temple city of Orcus!


The prose of all the chapters is excellent, there is beautiful b/w-artwork and both the monsters and scenarios are unique, cool and make my sadistic DM-heart cackle with glee. I heartily recommend the saga to just about anyone, be it old-school gamer or just people who love iconic locations and a true challenge for the PCs.

Overall, I rate the first 3 installments of ST that make up the Desolation 4.5. Rudii, due to the minor glitches in The Western Front. Don't let that detract from your enjoyment though: ST offers  bang for buck and is an awesome experience, both to read and run.

Thanks for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out...for now. I'll be sure to review the other parts of ST, too.