EZG reviews Monsters Unleashed and Mor Aldenn critters

Hey everybody, one can never have enough monsters and thus, today I'm going to take a look at Purple Duck Games'

Monsters Unleashed V.2.0

This pdf is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 1/3 pages of SRD and 1 page featuring tokens of the critters, leaving 9 2/3 pages of content for the new beasties, so how are these beasties going to plague our PCs?

One classic aberration makes its triumphant and disturbing return in the CR 13 Corpse Orgy, a dread creature that can emit painful shrieks and absorb bodies. Hell yeah! The beast also comes with its own lore section, as all the other critters herein.

Next up are the Clay Warriors, Archers and Cavalrymen (CR 3, 3 and 5, respectively), construct guardians based on the fabled terracotta army of Xi'an. Surprisingly, each type comes with at least one, sometimes more abilities that sets them apart from brethren and other beasts - neat! Even better, they come with construction notes.

Tired of PCs being no longer afraid of wolves? Has the shield-time begun in your campaign? Excellent, then unleash the CR 22 Fenris Wolf upon your unwitting players and make them tremble (and perish) while you cackle with glee. Oh yeah, you don't have to blast your mythology asunder or usher in Ragnarok for your campaign to feature the Fenris Wolf (though it helps) - a nice sample idea is given that involves a chained clone.

Unfortunately, the entangling, str- leeching burial-mound guarding CR 8 knollmen don't live up to the standard set until now, providing no unique signature ability and feeling like just another burial mound undead. Next. Or at least, that's what I thought. Thankfully, the guys from Purple Duck seem to have thought the same and provided 3 alternate signature abilities as well as a truly cool take: Why not take the myth of the fisher king and twist it to an undead ruler seeking to reclaim his kingdom? The result is an additional CR 14 statblock, a fiendish gorilla companion, a antipaladin feat, a new spell to force allies to kill each other (quite powerful, but great for specific NPCs) and a satisfied Endzeitgeist.

I consider plant monsters to be creepy. I don't know why, I just always did. The camouflaged Quick Grass, a slick CR 4 predator makes a nice addition to said roster.


Editing and formatting are ok - I did notice some letters that were bold when they shouldn't have been, but other errors seem to be absent from the pdf. Layout adheres to the 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks by Michael Scotta are neat and not something I'd expected to see for this low price. The pdf is extensively bookmarked. This installment of Monsters Unleashed is vastly superior to its predecessor, providing cooler critters, signature abilities for all of them, and even variants. Combine that with the very low and fair price and you get a hearty recommendation and a final verdict of 4.5 Rudii due to the editing glitches.

Headless Hydra Games also have a neat monster manual for you:

Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium

This pdf is 35 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving 31.5 pages of content, so let's check it this monster manual, shall we?

Monster manuals have come a long way since the 3.X-days of old - today not only the stat-blocks are easier to read, but most new monsters also come with signature abilities that make them unique and stand out. Subsequently, the standard and expectations we have for more monsters are perhaps higher than they once were. Seeing that Headless Hydra Games' offerings have been hit and miss for me, I was quite curious to see which kind of creatures we get. Their Mor Aldenn campaign world, though it comes with interesting premises, has not yet been detailed to an extent that makes it easy for me to determine what to expect from it apart from a certain old world flair. Each of the creatures in this particular bestiary comes with a short paragraph of read-aloud text to introduce them to your players - nice to have. That being said, what kind of creatures are we introduced to in this bestiary?

The very first creature already offers a glimpse of the weirdness to be expected from this bestiary - the CR 11 Arachnus is a dread amalgam of spider and giant, multi-armed and legged and both poisonous and expert giant slayers. The brutish mutants make for interesting foes thanks to e.g. their climb speed, which offers them a mobility seldom seen for creatures of their size. I only have the minor gripe that a many-legged, a large arachnid creature should probably get stability as an extraordinary quality.

The second creature we're introduced to is a variation of the wight, the CR 6 Black Glass Wight - undead suffused by veins of fragile, reappearing black ice, these creatures are only created via the most vile of efforts and come with breathweapons, additional melee damage and an aura of terror. They come with a CR+3 template to create your own black glass undead, which is greatly appreciated by yours truly - there is something iconic and cool about these scions of depravity and death. However, the writing of this particular entry does not wholly go hand in hand with the excellent premise - some of the wordings could have been a bit more clear. Don't get me wrong, it's still good, though not stellar.

Shock troops for the Night Hag's forces, the Blacktalon Lizardfolk (CR 4) is a subrace of Lizardfolk that is not only evil and stronger, but also heals faster. Nevertheless, I consider them to be LAME. It's like in Diablo - color the enemy different, make them tougher - viola. While they do have pounce and rend, making for new tactics, I think they would have benefited from a full-blown write-up in the style of Raging Swan's TRIBE-series or their own pdf: An origin myth, tribal tactics etc. go a long way to endearing humanoids and making them unique. That is especially true for variants of existing creatures.

The next creature, though, more than makes up for the Lizardfolk: The Marsh Dragon comes with several age categories (as is the tradition with dragons) and 3 sample statblocks for the young (CR 8), adult (CR 12) and ancient (CR 17) age category, respectively. But wait, you say. Do we need another dragon? No, not really, but this one is no mere dragon: Grab a seat, the marsh dragon is a strange hybrid of dragon and plant, breathing cones of razor sharp growing spores that rapidly grown into entombing vines which attract deadly insects in droves. And they have facial tentacles and a mastery over shamblers (into which wyrms can transform you with a mere gaze!) - this dragon is simply creepy as hell, disturbing, has some lovecraftian undertones and a plethora of cool signature abilities - what's not to like?

Next up is an entry of the Gaiants (with a sample CR 2 druid statblock), large humanoids somewhere between a treant and a fey, which are also a playable race in the Mor Aldenn setting. Seeing that they have their own pdf, I'll get on to the next creature, the CR 5 Bog Giants: Reclusive marsh dwellers, they are a rather timid and gentle subrace of giants but failed to catch my interest due to a lack of unique fighting techniques and signature abilities.

The Gold Cap Myconids (CR 4) can't complain about a lack of signature abilities - even stranger than their regular cousins, these intelligent mushroom-creatures. Their spores can access the memories of those near them, draining intelligence and making them alien sages of the underdark - now that's cool!

The CR 11 Hag Spider (which you can see on the cover), predators created by the Night Hag from hags and phase spiders can ambush from the ether, spin webs from there and ensnare their victims in dread nightmares. Iconic-looking, cool plot-foes, these creatures are deadly and smart foes which make for some cool adventure ideas.

Next up is another definite winner, the Leypinner-fey (CR 10) - seeing that ley-lines seem to feature prominently in the Mor Aldenn-setting, these creatures are more than interesting - being able to entwine both multiple spells in their unique casting and weaving the fates of foes and friends, these powerful entities are also dependant on ley-lines, coming with several in-built ideas that will enable any DM to use them as allies, foes, or both - mechanically smart, full of fluff, these creatures are a prime example of excellent writing and design.

The Mahr (CR 5)-fey are on the rather dark side of fey - bugbear-like, fear-feeding kidnappers, they make for a nice take on the boogeyman-trope. their weakness to honest laughter also makes for a nice signature weakness to reward smart adventurers.

I've already commented on the CR 10 Manifest Child of the Ether in my review of the "Eldritch Spell Compendium", so I'll just mention that the creature is cool and reprinted here.

The swamps have more dangers in store for your PCs, though: The CR 1 Marshlings, an intelligent, rot-inducing plants and the Mirejack (CR 6), a small, corruption and decay-spreading fey composed of rock, mud and tangled branches just wait around the next bog.

If your players ever get truly swamped (*pays 2 bucks into the bad pun box*), the intelligent, huge Mythravens (CR 7) make for cool allies/rescuers - wise birds with 4 precious, magical gemstones in their beaks, they make for interesting allies as well as dangerous game for less scrupulous parties hired by wizards to harvest the gems.

The CR 10 Plaguecrawlers are more deadly, huge, disease-spraying variations of carrion crawlers - the vermin is so twisted, even its blood is a carrier of diseases.

Portunes (CR 2), a take on the wee-folk of Germanic and Scandinavian mythology, these little fey are sought-after servants for mages (especially relevant in places like Mor Aldenn, where mage-schools are so prevalent) and come with a new magic item-template, the wondrous trinket, which might make for a mischievous gift if the PCs don't honor their Portrune or break the traditional taboos. It's fluff like that which makes an otherwise unremarkable statblock come to life - nice!

The CR 1/3 Puppet Imps (amalgams of sticks and pebbles) already known from the stories included in the expanded player's guide, these itching wounds inflicting foes are neat low-level enemies.

The Spell Pikes, CR 4 pikes with variants for each school, make for an interesting concept - the excess magical energy mutated these fish and gave them some interesting abilities, which might make the creatures not only a bane for fishers, but also for some interesting plot ideas. This is the only critter in the book that lacks its own artwork.

The CR 8 Stiltskin is reprinted from the Moon Folly-pdf and in the end, we get 2 interesting animal-like creatures: The Tuskbeast (CR 3) is a blind boar with bone-spikes on the back and the CR 6 Veraxar is a tiger-like, intelligent being with some supernatural spell-like abilities and Elven affinities.


The b/w-artwork throughout this book is GORGEOUS and can hold its place with the best of 3pp-publications out there. Formatting is clear and the statblocks and abilities are easy to read. Layout adheres to a two-column standard and is quite printer-friendly. I would have loved to see bookmarks, though - at this length, they really help navigating the file. It should also be noted, that at ~50 MBs, this pdf is rather large, something to keep in mind when working with e-readers. Monster manuals are always welcome at my table, but right now, I'm a jaded guy - I've read so many of them that it has become hard to impress me with just about any creature out there.

That's why I'm happy to report that the Mor Aldenn Creature Compendium is BRIMMING with cool ideas, iconic creatures and smart signature abilities. To the point, in fact, where I consider only 3 of the creatures herein rather bland - that makes for a LOT of cool foes. In an ideal world, I'd happily give this pdf 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval. However, there are unfortunately some blemishes marring what would otherwise be a stellar product: While the reprints of some of the monsters are nice to have, they take up space that could have been used for original critters. The argument of having all collected in one book does not apply, as the death raven from the Eldritch Spell Compendium is missing. More importantly, though, this pdf could really have used another pass at editing - there are a lot of glitches, from punctuation errors, wordings that could have been clearer and forced me to reread a sentence to other minor glitches, that, while not impeding the overall usability of the book, make some of the entries harder to read than others. Seeing the amount of authors who contributed, this inconsistent quality is not surprising, but it unfortunately does tarnish what otherwise would by a stellar example of design and writing. No bookmarks, a lot of errors and some reprinted material would usually result in a final verdict of 3 Rudii. I LOVE these creatures, though - they are mostly smart designed , iconic and cool and the price for this pdf is very low. Thus, I'll settle for a final verdict of 3.5 Rudii, and I'd even round that up to 4. If you don't care about the editing glitches and missing bookmarks, GO GET THIS. For you, this pdf is a five Rudii purchase.

All right, that's it for now. As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG's Lost Gems #1: The Spider God's Bride

Hej everybody,

today I've got a special treat for you: A 3.5-compatible sourcebook most of you won't know even exists, but which I consider one of the fine hidden gems out there:

The Spider God's Bride & Other Tales of Sword & Sorcery

This adventure-anthology for 3.X is 200 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page appendix for references and bibliography, 1 useful page-appendix with 80 items miscellanea, 2 pages of SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 193 pages for the adventure anthology. It should be noted that a whopping 42 pages of maps can be downloaded in a separate zip and don't feature in the page-count of the book. The maps range from hand-drawn to PC-generated and are useful, but not too beautiful - they serve their purpose and there are many, which is nice. I'll mention the amount of maps for each adventure separately. We also get an extra map of the World of Xoth.

The first thing you'll notice is the fitting b/w-artworks, which, while stock, serves to underline the atmosphere of the world. Layout is nice and easy-to-read two-column format and features a graphic border. Editing is surprisingly well done, I only noticed 3 glitches in the whole big book - quite a feat for Morten Braten. Who is that? Well, Morten is the author of one of my most favorite Necromancer Games-books from the 3.X days of old, Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia (AK:M for future reference), to be precise. This book introduces the World of Xoth, a savage world inspired by Clark Aston Smith, Robert E.Howard and their iconic creations, spiced up with a bit of gothic horror à la Lovecraft - we're in for Conanesque, savage, bronze-era action where wit and raw strength are matched by bearded, drug-addled and perverse sorcerors. A word to the warning - While the book is not explicit in its mentions of depraved sexuality (and personally I wasn't offended), I gather that morals in e.g. the USA might be different, thus the content is intended for mature players and readers, which is also acknowledged in a side-box on the very first page.

Before we jump into the action of the adventures, we are introduced to some basic assumptions of this mini-campaign as well as optional rules you might (or should) use in conjunction with these adventures: First of all, there are no true alignments: There is just "normal" and "cosmic evil" - that's it. We're in for shades of grey. Next up: Monsters are rare and trigger fear checks, i.e. get frightful presence. Magic is rare and mysterious, combat is deadly (with massive damage and death effect rules), an optional rule for armor damage reduction and a rule for faster natural healing of wounds. Next up are the characters that are suitable for the world - of the core-classes, only barbarians, rogues and fighters are allowed. The ranger is more or less replaced via the new nomad class and due to there being no gods or divine magic, all spellcasting prowess falls to the NEW sorceror-class, a caster that reflects the traditional image of the spellcasters from the Hyborian Age better than the regular core-class. If "Sorceror" is mentioned in this review, it refers to this new class and its restrictive but very flavorful spell-list of non-flashy, mysterious magic. Wait. No divine magic? Yep, that's why natural healing is faster than usual. Wounds HURT and combat should be carefully picked, as will be shown in the adventures. If you act dumb and fool heartedly jump into every battle , prepare to die. A lot.

With the genre being human-centric and having no place for halflings, elves and the like, we also get a huge array of different kinds of humans who get varying racial traits and abilities depending on their stock - we get a huge array of 23 of these nationalities. Furthermore, we get 26 feats centered on the new sorceror and the nationalities. I liked the feats and their story-centric approach to organizations and the secrets of magic. In the next chapter we delve into sorcery, how to restrict spell-lists, the effects of maddening taint sorcery has on its practitioners as well as several new spells. 23 cults and demons with their specific available spells are provided for your convenience and we also get new drugs, weapons and alchemical equipment.

This concludes the 41-page campaign-section of the book and kicks off the adventure section of the book - next up is the first of the adventures, thus from here on SPOILERS ABOUND!!!


Still here? All right, so let's check the first adventure out:

The Necromancer's Knife

comes with 3 maps, one of the city, a hand-drawn map of a charnel house and a rather confusing map of catacombs. The basic premise of the adventures is that the PCs come into possession of a dagger that is inhabited by the spirit of a restless necromancer bent on revenge against one of his former pupils. One of the PCs (or a guard captain) is possessed by the spirit and from there on, the PCs are in for a race against time to infiltrate the catacombs of the city via the charnel house of the cities' cult of skull-masked, depraved priests to the necromancer's final resting place where they'll hopefully either destroy the spirit and the necromancer's knowledge (his spellbooks are kind of his phylactery) or reach an uneasy truce with him, making the PCs his chosen tools of vengeance. The infiltration is actually very well-made, but the possession-angle might cause problems, depending on your group. Other than that: Nice, sandboxy infiltration.

The Spider God's Bride

comes with 4 maps, one city map, 2 maps of a mansion and one player-friendly map of said mansion. This adventure begins with the PCs being hired as caravan guards by a fugitive priests in disguise as well as his retainer and their slave-girl, who turns out to be a temple-"virgin" devoted to the perverse Spider-God. Thus, the adventure starts with a wilderness trek through the Kharjah Pass and the al-Khazi desert, spiced up via both a two-page table of random encounters and a deadly nomad tribe. After enduring the harsh and deadly climate of the al-Khazi, the PCs reach the city of Zul-Bazzir, where they continue to serve as bodyguards for the priest and his allies after moving into an Eastern-style mansion that will be attacked by deadly assassins - during said attack the priest will be betrayed by his servant and the girl, who will give birth to the abominable spawn of the spider-god. In the end, it's up to the PCs to stop the temple-maid, her lover and the dreadful abomination she has brought into the world. The spawn is a new creature presented n the appendix.

The Jewel of Khadim Bey

This adventure is introduced by the PCs hearing about the theft of the legendary jewel of Khadim Bey and the subsequent plea of one of the thieves of the jewel - The woman scorned sets the PCs on a quest to kill her partner, who has supposedly left her to be caught by the guards. Supposedly? Yep, as the woman is in fact an instigator who wishes to make the PCs kill an agent of the local ruler - whether they kill him or look through her treachery, they will have to hold the abandoned temple where they encounter him against a whole cult of cannibalistic nomads. After that, the trail leads to Abu Khafi's notorious house or trail the perpetrator to Melik Khan, a corrupt, silver lotus addicted general whose house the PCs will have to infiltrate to prove his involvement in the conspiracy and clear both their names and bring the spy to justice...or ally with her. The plot allows for all kinds of interesting developments. The adventure also features 3 maps.

The Eidolon of the Ape

This adventure is a very straight-forward infiltration (brute force is not an option) of a temple devoted to a dread simian god. Deadly, hard, cool. Simple, yes, but also a quite remarkable adventure.

The Crypt Thing of Khorsul

The PCs are recruited by one of two feuding mountain lords to steal an amulet from his enemy, who dabbles in black magic, and kidnap the "son" of his enemy. As often, though, not all is as it seems and the true sorceror is the lord who hired the PCs, the "son" a traitor to his sorcerous master. After infiltrating the castle of one lord, they might learn the truth about the dark witchcraft (or not) and venture out to a mountain cavern to clear out the immortal creature the other lord has created, hopefully ending the sorcerous threat their once-employer poses for the whole region, either at said location or via infiltration of the lord's own mansion.

The Vault of Yigthrahotep

The PCs find a clay tablet and are subsequently approached by a group of merchants, who tell the PCs about a gold mine to which an item they possess as well as the clay tablet and a third glyph point. The merchants and PCs join forces and traverse the deadly Katanga desert, braving its terrible sandstorms, slavers and finally reach Katanga, where they'll somehow have to gain entrance to a temple, find the hidden glyph and then brave the deadly jungle towards the purple spires that conceal the gold mine - near which, unfortunately, lairs a tribe of in-bred locals led by an incestuous, grossly obese witch queen. After hopefully escaping the predations of said fiends, the PCs finally can venture to the lost mines and brave the monkey-men that have claimed the place as territory to finally reach the vault of Yigthrahotep, where the merchants will reveal themselves to be shapechanging snake-men bent on freeing their mighty kin from hibernation - the PCs will have to deal with their treachery and the dread creature they unwittingly unleashed upon the world. The adventure features 6 maps and is among the coolest, darkest and most disturbing ones among the adventures presented herein.

The Swords of Zimballah

The PCs venture towards the savannah-city of Zimballah to prevent the balance of power in the region from shifting, as a rogue priest of the living flame has agreed to reveal the secret of crafting iron weapons to the local ruler. Via a safehouse, various factions and the battle of both wits and blades with agents, the PCs will have to infiltrate the royal palace of Azimba and either kill the rogue priest or even get him out alive. The fact that he is quite comfortable and can conjure elemental creatures to his aid does not facilitate the task - the opportunity to stage a slave rebellion, however, does. The adventure comes with 4 maps.

The Slaves of the Moon

This adventure is set in the cursed city of Kumara, located in a desolate, mist-bound valley that prevents the PCs from once again leaving the area. The isolated two-class society there is lorded over by a ruling class of were-leopards. The royal palace, once again, can be infiltrated by the PCs and provides some challenging defenses. The fact that there is dissent between were-creatures wanting to end the curse and ones who revel in their bestial natures Caught in the act and barely suppressing their nature, the aristocracy bids the PCs to destroy the remains of the sorceror who cursed the town, prompting them on a delve into his crypt and a battle against his dread remains. Moreover, via this the PCs might uncover a way to end the curse once and for all by killing a legendary creature and potentially toppling the social order in the cities' political microcosm. The adventure comes with 5 maps.

The Daughters of Rhama

Stumbling over an encoded message, the PCs are led to the city of Yaatana, a cult devoted to a supposed orgiastic moon goddess, which they may infiltrate to put an end to the dark creature devoted to filth and sickness behind the supposedly harmless cult. The adventure comes with 2 maps and a handout for players. This was my least favorite adventure, because it was rather on the short side and does not feature that much documentation.

The Call from the Abyss

Being the longest adventure of the series, I had high expectations for this one: The PCs come into possession of a strange (and VERY creepy) magical conch-shell that sets them on course for a mythical island. From the city of Ghazor, the PCs have to meet up with a spy in a rather hostile tavern to enter the half-submerged royal tombs in Ghazor - after killing the dread creature there, the PCs finally can obtain the map describing the path to the legendary island of Namthu. After recruiting the service of a vessel, the PCs will hopefully root out the hidden priest of a dark god hidden among the crew-members and make their way to Namthu, where bloated dead rising from the deeps, flesh-eating birds and worse will greet them. Worse, the priest might instigate an attack against them and the temple they will want to explore is not only infested by the rotten undead and similar terrors from the deep, but also floods with the tides, imposing a time limit on explorations. To add insult to injury, the PCs will have to clear partially collapsed passages and scale the Eyrie of the flesh-eating bird-creatures to disable a force-field blocking their passage in the temple (and yes, they get sufficient hints to do that). Once they have cleared the force-field, though, they will have to battle the dread cephalopodan sea-god to claim the accursed treasure of Namthu or live with the knowledge of having unleashed an elder evil once again to roam the high seas, thus providing a sufficiently epic and cool final adventure. This adventure comes with 8 maps.

After that, we get the appendices, with three new templates (Bloated One for the servants of said sea creature) and Corpulent (for grossly obese enemies) and Rhama's Blessed (translates to disgusting and stinking) as well as two new creatures, the devil birds of Azimba and the Spawn of the Spider God from the second adventure.


I already commented on the formal criteria, so I'll just get right to it: This one is hard to rate - on the one hand, we get A LOT of adventure (in fact enough for half a campaign or even a year or two of play time) for a meager 10 bucks and a lot of cartography. On the other hand, the cartography ranges from nice city maps to hand-drawn ones that seem not too professional. What is professional, though, is the editing - I only noticed 3 minor glitches in 200 pages - that's top quality! In the end, I guess it comes down whether to if you like the swords & sorcery genre or not - if you're willing to delve into the world of Xoth and accept its premises, your PCs will have a very challenging, fun time. If they're smart, that is - many adventures are VERY sandboxy in style and challenging. Infiltrations are hard and if your players first approach is always "Bash its head in", they might be in for a rude awakening in some of the adventures. If you and your players tend towards rather sneaky and smart play-styles, though and if you are an experienced DM (novices will be hard-pressed by the amount of potential ways stories might develop), this book will provide entertainment galore. The only word of warning I have to utter is that your players have to be comfortable with trusting (at least for a time) NPCs and settling up temporary alliances with them, as some adventures hinge on cooperation. What's my final verdict, then? Well, for me as a huge fan of the S&S-genre, I loved this anthology. It provides a lot of material and some of the adventures genuinely provide a sense of antique dread and iconic locations that I loved from the stories I used to read all the time. However, as a reviewer, I have to acknowledge that some of the adventures don't hold up to e.g. the brilliant "Call from the Abyss" or "The Vault of Yigthrahotep". My final verdict will thus take the VERY low price into account as well as the had-drawn pieces of cartography that might impede the fun for some DMs. My final verdict will be 4 Rudii. Detract a Rudi if you're very picky about beautiful maps and original artwork, but add a Rudi if you're a fan of the Swords & Sorcery genre - Fans of Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia, Conan etc. practically have to pick up this gem.

You can pick up The Spider God's Bride by clicking on the title - it redirects you to Morten's homepage.

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews Debatable Actions & Trade Caravans

Hej everybody,

today I'm going to take a look at two rather humble little sourcebooks LPJr Design has released for PFRPG recently.

First, I'd like to take a look at a social combat system for debates,

Debatable Actions

This pdf is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, leaving 21 pages of content for the new debate rules presented herein.

Debate rules? Yep. I know you're thinking: Do we really need them? Essentially, I tend to agree and rather enjoy soft rules, i.e. roleplaying the argument. However, there ARE instances, where conflicting opinions of players and foes make for encounters where consensus is not an option and two great speakers vie for an audience - be it a city's council, a state's senate, a trial with a jury - there are instances where you need something crunchy to determine how well the PCs fare against another argumentation. While I would not substitute (as the file recommends) die-rolls for RP, I'd have the players rp their strategy and then add die-rolls, but that's just me.

How does this system work, then, and does it manage to capture the excitement of a heated debate that could determine the course of nations?

Essentially, the system used takes the mechanics of combat and applies them to debates via some simple steps: Debates are broken up into rounds and said rounds consist of 1 action, which may be divided into 2 half-actions. Initiative is rolled as usual (though personally, I'd house-rule Int instead of Dex as the modifier - after all, physical flexibility is not that important in a debate...) and "social combat" is resolved. All participants have debate-points, which essentially are a combination of Con and Cha-modifiers. A Character with Con 14 and Cha 18 would hence have 6 Debate Points, which correspond to HP. Debate Defense corresponds to armor class and is determined by adding 10 to the average of the character's social skills (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate and Perform (oratory)), making sure that social skill-focused characters are tough nuts to crack.

Each skill has several assigned debate attack maneuvers and can add their modifiers to their skill-checks when attempting to attack the foe. The recipient of such a verbal attack then has to will-save vs. the attacker's skill-modifier plus any maneuver damage bonus. If successful, he takes no damage, but should he fail, he takes one debate point of damage. Should the recipient of such an attack fail his will-save by more than 10, he loses 2 points instead of one. Critical hits are also covered, as are limited debates like a trial.

35 maneuvers are presented herein and many of them offer additional risks and rewards in a given discussion/debate, making for a wide variety of potential strategies to deplete the foes debate points and shore up/temporarily gain your own. Given the relative scarcity of debate points when compared to HP, strategy is king here and even the most stubborn of bards will be hard-pressed to stand their own vs. people with the barrister-feat, which opens up a whole plethora of otherwise unavailable maneuvers. It should be noted, though, that as written nothing keeps your PCs from using inappropriate maneuvers, but as rules for all eventualities are impossible to conceive, this responsibility upon the DM's shoulders can easily be born.

Next, we get new uses for both the appraise and diplomacy skills as well as 22 new feats that deal with trials, debates and even escape plans and cover information networks etc. While several of the feats provide social skill bonuses in certain situations, others deal with cool ideas like said information networks or the ability, to assess a room of people via conversation and focus on e.g. internal disputes or agendas or the ability to weasel, politician-style, into a position the audience agrees with.

Following up is the obligatory magic and magic items section of the book: 17 new spells that enable you to force subjects to write confessions, place cryptic, invisible marks to convey hidden messages, forget specific facts, conjure huge images from bonfires to programmed instructions, the subtlety and elegance of most of these spells might make for very compelling strategies and intrigues, indeed. One of the spells, though, is definitely going to my banned-list: Absorb Knowledge lets you absorb knowledge from books etc. and keep it indefinitely in your brain. While you can only absorb 10 pages per caster level, this spell makes it far too easy to learn information and, in spite of some restrictions with regards to magic writing, poses some potentially huge consequences for how wizards e.g. study. Apart from this one spell, though, I liked all of them, as most of them are what I like to call "smart" spells, i.e. spells that are not used to bash one's head in, but rather could be used to spread rumors, tarnish reputations or use magic in creative ways.

Surprisingly, the items keep up this excellent quality: From gems used to record words, clockwork-bird alarm-constructs and the literal fly on the wall, which is essentially a magical miniature espionage-drone, to courier's pouches and invisible blades to pens that only write for owners and gold coins that can only be seen by loyal servants of a given ruler, these items provide for very cool twists on espionage/infiltration/courtly intrigue settings.

The pdf also comes with a 42-page pdf, 2 pages front cover, 4 pages SRD & credits, providing spell-deck-style cards for all the debate maneuvers - nice bonus!


Editing and formatting are ok, I did notice some minor formatting glitches like bold words that should just be printed regularly, missing "Prerequisite: None"-lines and minor editing glitches like a superfluous "that". Layout adheres to a simple 2-column standard and artwork is public domain. All in all, I was positively surprised by this pdf - the rules are smart, easy to implement (the only part being a bit of a hassle is averaging the skill-modifiers) and provide for exciting, interesting and tactic-driven debates. The spells and magic items, while not directly tied to the new rules, are also very neat and offer some truly imaginative, cool items and spells that would e.g. in "A Song of Ice & Fire"-style environments see a LOT of use. Even in other settings, any group with emphasis on roleplaying would definitely find something to scavenge, even when they don't use the debate system. I do have some minor gripes: The minor formal glitches are not enough to truly detract from the overall quality, but I do think the pdf fell a bit short of its potential: There is only one feat (Barrister) that opens up new combat maneuvers, ignoring the potential there - a general, a disreputable sleazeball, a politician, a jester; a diplomat; there are many cool types of great speakers who would make for neat maneuver-trees. As written the barrister-feat makes the maneuvers a two-class hierarchy that has the barrister in the clear advantage over e.g. politicians sans the feat. Barrister vs. politician or war-hero would have been awesome and I'd love to see the rules expanded. Some of the feats that could have been used for that are rather filler and only provide minor skill-bonuses, offering not a lot of incentives to take them. If said additional career-paths would have been used instead of providing some filler and if the glitches were not there, I'd immediately say that this is a contender for my top 10 of 2011-list, but due to these minor blemishes, the pdf remains a good file instead of an excellent one. My final verdict for the pdf will be 4 Rudii.

There is also a nice addition to the Jade Regent AP's Caravan rules:

Trade Routes - Expanded Caravan Sourcebook

This pdf is 17 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, half a page advertisement, leaving 14 1/2 pages of content, so let's check out this expansion of Jade Regent's caravan rules.

If you're like me and only today got the first installment of Paizo's new AP, this pdf will be cutting edge and significantly expand the available material for your caravans, but what exactly do we get?

First, we get 13 new types of wagons and draft animals that range from wagons that add a bonus to resolve for crossing rivers to bordello wagons, snake-oil herbalists (with d8-mini-table ranging from healing several points of damage to being temporarily blinded/deafened) to mobile stages, nursery wagons, passenger carriages and reliquaries. On the draft animal side, we get the speedy, yet very hungry mule teams, the expensive steam-engine if you want some steam-punkish elements in your caravan and even skeletal horse teams that don't eat and can't carry riders.

Of course, that's not where the new material ends - caravans also can buy from a selection of 13 new equipment pieces that range from cargo balloons and sledges, driver's compasses, land sails and letters of passages, a special kind of allowance to trade poisons, drugs, etc, repeating crossbow turrets and even a super heavy ballista.

Of course, no general crunch-book would be complete without new feats and 19 new feats for caravans are provided - From cargo unit-expansion to better unrest resolution to more useful beasts (either fighting or offering friendly animal attractions), to desert nomad-caravans, finding a oasis whenever you need one to essential powers to slave traders and slave caravans for the morally corrupt, there are a lot of cool ideas. The slave trade in particular could make for a great way to jumpstart a campaign and introduce the caravan mechanics- have the PCs start as slaves, work and then take control of the caravan and lead it to freedom - very iconic and cool. And hey, thankfully feats to let you ride the sides of wagons and dig latrines to minimize danger by disease are also included.

Next up is a rather informative piece of writing dealing with real-world logistics of running a caravan, offering some neat ideas like royal roads and the concepts of dry camps. Special mention should go to the 9 sample plot hooks: One of them e.g. has the idea of sheltering and escorting a fugitive dragon from his pursuers...

That's a lot of new material, but we'll also need some threats for the expanded caravan, now, don't we? 21 new threats to the caravan are presented over the next couple of pages. The dangers range from marauding teams of humanoids to hunting dragons, an encounter with a dim-witted giant's herd, bad winds that carry gluttony with them or seek to whisk the caravan to the astral plane to bad road conditions, tengu tinkerers and kobold cave-ins - enough to keep your caravan busy!

Finally, there are 5 sample caravans to drop into your campaign, though all are somewhat small suitable for low-level caravans and ready to expand - from the perfume guild's candor and pleasures to the royal mail, players are sure to find a caravan to join on these pages.


Editing and formatting were top-notch, I didn't notice any explicit glitches. Layout adheres to the two-column standard, is easily readable, and while it comes with red boxes, still belongs to the very printer-friendly category. The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a bit of a pity, as it would have improved the user-friendliness, but at this length I won't detract a star for this omission. Artwork is stock and fitting. The rules are concisely-presented and written and you get exactly what you signed up for - easy rules-options and more material for your caravans. While some of the options are exactly what you'd expect and closes some omissions from the original rules, several of the options are both cool and imaginative. The hooks and sample campaigns are nice bonuses and add even further dimensions to the book. I also like that the pdf is mature about handling themes like bordellos and slavery and includes them for their narrative potential. All in all, apart from the lack of bookmarks, I have nothing negative to say and like several of the new options presented herein and the very fair and low price serves to counteract this minor blemish. Thus, my final verdict will be 5 Rudii.

All right, that's it for now, next time I'll have some special review of a rather unknown pdf.

As always, thanks for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.


EZG reviews a lot magic items

Hej everybody,

today I'm taking a little excursion from the rather extensive adventure reviews I posted here in the last couple of weeks and present to you some of the finest, most useful pdfs dealing with magic items from the last couple of months, so gather up your GP and take a look at these nifty tools!

I'm going to kick off with Rite Publishing's

#30 Not so Mundane Items

This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisements and 1 page of SRD, leaving 6 pages of content for the 30 items - but are they really something special?

The pdf wastes neither time nor space and immediately presents you with its first item, the banjo of the raconteur, which not only could work as a bardic instrument to recall odd pieces of knowledge (granting a bonus to the skill), but could just as easily be played by another character to accompany and support the bard - if he can beat the low DC to use the ability, that is.

Useful items, like a bottomless inkwell or a bowl of poison detection stand side by side with e.g. a favorite of mine that will conquer the hearts of my players - burning caltrops that explode when stepped upon. Cheap enough to never leave home without a bag of them! Blankets that enable you to sleep comfortably in armor, a case that can contain 100 scrolls - adventuring just got a whole lot more comfortable. If you want to wash the taint of the grave away, there's a green, flowery-smelling soap that gets rid of negative levels for you.

Some of the items are simply iconic, like the crowbar of demolition and some make for captivating plot elements, like the thief's broom that sweeps evidence away (though I'd limit it to making tracking impossible, but that's just my preference) and the supremely useful torch of detection that detects secret doors while its limited fuel flickers away. My favorite, though, would be the immovable block and tackle that can defy gravity and hold up to 10000 pounds - pure awesome and guaranteed to make for interesting plans and problem solutions by the players. I only had a gripe with two of the items, first being the flask of healing, which can transform water into a potion of cure light wounds up to 5 times per day. While not unbalancing per se, I don't like this item replacing a steady drain on PC resources by providing 5d8+15 points of healing per day for a price of only 6500 GP. While adequately calculated, I think the craft rules fall short here. Not the designer's problem, though, and subsequently no reason to detract from the final score. The last item I personally didn't like (but that is still a valid idea), is a compass that shows the next exit out of an enclosed space like a dungeon or a maze. I generally dislike items that provide shortcuts though trials and this one fits the bill - again, though, a personal preference.

The pdf closes with a table of the prices of the items, showing that they range from humble 150 GP to 197500 GP. All items come with auras, caster-levels, weight, slot, prices and the necessary information to craft them yourself.



Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice even a single glitch. Layout adheres to the classic two-column b/w-RiP-standard and the artwork is unassuming, yet fitting stock-art. The pdf is bookmarked, which is nice to have, even at this length & price point. I have to say that I'm probably not the easiest audience for any given file, but especially for magical items. This is due to a plethora of factors, first being that I abhor magic item inflation, the commoditization of magic and the general tendency to make magic items feel rather mundane. The title of this pdf thus hit a spot with me and I was both intrigued and doubtful whether author David Mallon could pull off a pdf like that. Turns out he can - many of the items herein could find their way even into the most low-magic of low-magic campaigns, either as modified alchemical items or ones that have this ephemeral quality of subtle magic suitable for such settings. That is not necessarily how they're presented, but the option to do so is a surefire sign of versatile ideas. Even better, though, is that the wondrous items herein are truly wondrous, i.e. they don't feel like bland duplicates of spells or effects, they don't feel like "just another tool", but rather like precious magical trinkets the heroes of our childhood's fairytales might have had with them on their quests and ultimately used in creative and intelligent ways to prevail. That's how magic is done rite. While there is a set of lockpicks that is bland (bonus to disable device - surprised?) and I personally didn't like two items, that still leaves the vast majority of the pdf for cool items brimming with imagination. We need more books like this. My final verdict will be 5 Rudii.

All right, that were some rather far-off items, but what if you want some scaling ones? Purple Duck Games has just what you're looking for:

Legendary Items

This pdf is 28 pages long, 1 page front cover/editorial/ToC, 7 1/2 pages of SRD, leaving 19 1/2 pages of content for the magical items, so let's check them out!

I really like the basic idea of the "Legendary..."-series, as weapons and items that scale with levels combat the tendency of magic item inflation and rather support PCs keeping their tools and unlocking new powers. Legendary items require set conditions to attune them to owners and come with additional minor rules. The first brooch, an espionage-tool used by elves and drow, comes for example with a CR 6 new creature, the witchwyrd. The items all come with 5 levels of power that are progressively unlocked in contrast to the 10 levels of powers featured in earlier installments of the "Legendary..."-series.

The range of new items is quite interesting: For example, there's a spellbook that enables the owner to prepare spells even when separated from the wizard. From a carpet to travel the worlds, a harp to raise the dead, a magical hat, a discordant horn (with 3 new spells as well as the song domain), a phase-spider turned living cloak (again, with a new spell), a soldier's bag of holding, to sublime boots (again, with a new spell), we get a neat variety of new items. There also is a stone that works as a combined ioun stone to a deadly pair of goggles that help by providing the deadly accuracy of raptors and come with a second progression and even the wings of an ascended devil who found redemption - the items presented herein offer some interesting new abilities and come with interesting background stories.


Editing is ok - I noticed some minor editing glitches. Formatting is top-notch. Layout adheres to the classic two-column standard and the b/w-artwork is ok for the low price. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks. In contrast to the other "Legendary..."-pdfs, we only get 5 abilities per item, which is kind of a pity. Additionally, while I did like the items, none of them really blew me away - while cool, none featured an idea that is breathtakingly unique. I'd usually rate this pdf 3.5 Rudii, rounded down to 3, but due to the very low and fair price, I will round up instead for a final verdict of 4 Rudii.

We all know that sometimes, as DMs, the dreaded question arises: The PCs have scored a lot of loot and want to spend it. Raging Swan Press provides us with an interesting pdf full of tables that the DM can use to provide items for the players to buy.

So, what's for sale anyway?

This pdf is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 blank page inside the front cover, 2 pages editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisements, 1 page back cover, leaving 19 pages of content, so let's check this pdf out!

How many times have you as a DM despaired at a sudden return of the PCs to civilization to restock? How annoying is it to have to ad-hoc cobble together lists of magic items for the PCs to buy? For DMs like yours truly, who seek to evoke a concise and coherent world, creating tables upon damn effin' tables of items to buy in each individual fleck has been a painful, annoying bane.

This is where this pdf comes in - we get tables for settlements of all sizes, appropriate for the respective sizes. A lot of tables. They respective entries are ordered by item categories and in the beginning of the pdf, you get 2 pages of d%-tables to randomly determine which of them to use for your settlement.

We get 41 lists for thorps, 35 for hamlets, 21 for villages, 16 for small towns, 13 for large towns, 10 for small cities, 10 for large cities and 11 to illustrate what can be found in a metropolis. 2 pages of lists are provided for each settlement size and none of the items felt really out of place in their settlements.


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly b/w-two-column-standard by RSP, artworks are b/w-stock and ok. The pdf is extensively bookmarked and comes with an additional screen-version, optimized for use e-readers.

*sigh* This is one of these pdfs that are hard to review: Essentially, you take up your books and scan through lists, comparing list-prices in the pdf with the book, looking for any inappropriate item. Thankfully, this pdf does not have any, but nevertheless, you don't want to know how long it took me to double-check.

Back to the conclusion: This pdf is one of these immensely useful little tools that make any DM's life significantly easier, providing needed crunch and content that you just don't want to put together yourself. Even better, the stories how the items got to the respective places are great occasions to drop in your own story, making your campaign feel more organic and coherent.

If I had to nitpick anything, then I'd complain about the fact that I would have loved to see descriptions for at least some of the items - how they look different from the standard, lore-sections, the like. As this is clearly not the intended design goal of this pdf, it would be unfair to hold the lack of unique item descriptions against it, though. Me being at a loss to say anything detrimental to the pdfs quality, I'll settle for a final verdict of 5 Rudii - well done!

And then, there are these little pdf that provide concepts that are so cool, so nifty that they spawn whole new campaign ideas - if you buy just one book on staves, buy Super Genius Games'

Krazy Kragnar's Magic Staff Emporium

This pdf is 12 pages long, 2/3 of a page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, leaving 10 1/3 of a page for Kragnar's latest enterprise, this time dealing with staves. So, what does the goblin have for us this time?

Staves, an arcanist's ballista, are widely considered to be among the most boring items possible in PFRPG and while NNW have found some ways to make them more exciting, I was rather sceptical whether the latest installment of Kragnar could make them interesting again.

First of all, we get some nice back-story around Kragnar's latest exploits prior to having new concepts explained: To give staves more flexibility, three levels of staves are presented: lesser, standard and greater, each with progressively more power. All the staves in this book come in these 3 versions and you can actually upgrade the staves to the next level - the upgrade costs being fully compatible with the craft-mechanics. Nice! Some staves herein also come with possibilities to recharge them at double rate, i.e. with sets of instructions that make recharging a) more engaging and b) a cool, viable option.

A new feat capitalizes on these properties, enabling you to create lesser staves starting level 8. ven better, the concept of Tige Vierge is introduced - blank staves, whose final enchantment has not yet been determined. The rules to craft them are simple, but the possibilities are endless - in a world with magical units in the army, cults etc., a highjacked delivery of tige vierges makes for a great adventure hook. And what if the PCs try to sabotage a delivery of blanks to an evil empire's outpost? AWESOME! Essentially, they have the potential to become arcane weapons of mass destruction without having the PC's opposition use them against them. I love simple solutions that make otherwise impossible scenarios work. So far, the concepts presented are rather awesome, but can the 10 staves (each with all three versions) hold up to the high quality?

Mechnically, I don't have anything to complain about; Evocative descriptions, full construction notes, recharging information and neat ideas (like the Staff of 4 Winds or the Staff of the white Necromancer), there just isn't anything to complain about with regards to these staves - most even come with additional minor benefits in addition to their charge-dependant abilities. Especially due to a neat piece of additional service: Each and every staff herein gets its own piece of surprisingly gorgeous artwork from author/illustrator Marc Radle -it's just great to show them off to your PCs and something I frankly didn't expect at this price point. Very cool!


Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice a single glitch. The pdf adheres to the 3-column SGG-standard and no bookmarks are provided. The extensive pieces of artwork provided serve to further enhance your experience of this pdf, adding visual pleasure to the innovative, cool ideas. The scaling staves and especially the tige vierges are just strokes of genius that had me facepalm for not coming up with the idea myself - elegant, simple, cool and full of story-telling and mechanic potential. For the low price, you get a top quality, stellar product that shines even among the excellent pdfs by SGG - innovation, nothing to complain about, added storytelling potential - my final verdict is 5 Rudii and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval - this pdf ranks among the best in SGG's excellent catalogue.

All right, that's it for now! Next time I'll have some other neat new reviews for you!

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.