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Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
by Jack S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/18/2019 22:10:24

excellent guide for running quick one shots for a DM new to 5the edition



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
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Creature Codex for 5th Edition
by Tony L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/03/2019 19:08:39

We are REALLY loving this book.

My feel is the monsters are more gruesome/creepy than the ones in WOTC stuff...which is great.

Also, I find this book is great for my bosses as I have plenty of minions in WOTC stuff, but this giuves me THAT monster.

Oh, and Baba Yaga!

Great stuff!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Creature Codex for 5th Edition
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Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
by Cody B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/03/2018 17:21:08

This book made me a fan of Kobald Press and I've been following them ever since! I honestly prefer this book over the MM. The breadth of content, both low and high level, is amazing. The art is top-notch.

I particularly love how they have given stats for the fey lords and ladies, deamon princes and other high level individual entities. I cannot recommend this product enough. Love, love, love it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
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Eldritch Lairs for 5th Edition
by Ryan S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/05/2018 21:49:41

Good collection of lair based encounters. Fun, thought out, and great finished product as always from Kobold Press. Definitely worth having in your folder of quick encounters, or reading through for inspiration.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eldritch Lairs for 5th Edition
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Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2018 21:47:15

Prepared! is a book of 12 encounters with a detailed backstory that are easy to fit into most campaigns or even easier to run as one-shot adventures. The encounters in this book cover from about 1st to 15th level. Though, it should be noted that they aren't long adventures, they're encounters that can fill up a game session of a few hours in length. This book is the perfect place to find a quick one-shot when you need to run a game in a pinch, such as when some of your players can't make it to your regular game, and you can't run the adventure you had planned, or if you need a quick adventure to run with your buddies next weekend. In those situations, you'll be able to find something here that's nice and easy to run for most player levels.

As for the adventures found in this book, there are some really creative and memorable encounters. Some of the adventures include a raid on a goblin 'fortress', a crawl through a mine that is actually the fossilized remains of a long-dead monster, a tomb that contains some clever traps and challenges, and an investiation into a secret tomb beneath a feast hall. These encounters all have interesting hooks that are easy to incorporate into a long-running game, and each provides questions that you, as the DM, can incorporate into future adventures that you write yourself if you chose to do so. As well, the authors also make it easy for DMs to prepare with a short list of the elements that make up each adventure alongside some really nice artwork and maps that set the scene. This really helps speed up preparation if you haven't read the adventure and you need to get caught up quickly. The only problem you may run into is that some adventures use monsters from Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts. This is a great book that we'll save for another review, but most adventures only require you to have your Monster Manual handy, and you can take a few mintues to swap out for monsters in the Monster Manual if need be.

Overall, this book is a huge help to dungeon masters who need to run an adventure right now, but don't have time to prep. Most players will find these adventures to be interesting, challenging, and engaging. This book is extremely useful for a quick one-shot, maybe after hours in the hotel lobby at a gaming convention or at a weekend retreat. Given the quality of the encounters, and fact that it offers adventures for many levels, it's a must-have for regular DMs.

Check out the whole review and other titles at Geeksagogo.com!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Prepared! One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
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Zobeck City Map
by Rainer G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/12/2018 05:20:02

OK, folks are complaining about the product being broken up into four images...but it's not too hard to extract a single jpg or png file from it (but, yes that should have been included).

Once downloaded,in Adobe Reader, just click on the map (crosshair cursor) . Ctrl-C to copy the image (you get the whole map, not just a corner)! Paste it into any painting program (paint.net is good and it's free). And Save it to JPG or PNG format!

The image is 2475x1800 in size. A higher resolution would be nice as the location description fonts are a bit chunky, but they are legible. They should also provide a version with no numbered locations overlaying the buildings, and a B&W players printable version.

BUT WAIT...

Currently the "Zobeck Gazetteer" is discounted to $4.99 and has same map at modestly lower quality.

If your really tight on funds the free preview also has the map! Use the technique above to extract it (the preview's "Sample file" overlay text won't appear). It's vertically compressed in the preview by half. First Rotate it 90° clockwise to a normal viewing orientation. it’s size is now 1728(width)x2376(height). You can then use Image Resize to expand from a width of 1728 to 3456. This gives you get a surprisingly usable image, text is legible, etc. Perhaps use Effects, Photo, Sharpen at say 4% to enhance it a tad.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Zobeck City Map
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Midgard Worldbook for 5th Edition and PFRPG
by Bruce A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/25/2018 00:07:22

The Midgard Worldbook for 5th Edition and Pathfinder is a huge and complex campaign setting for D&D 5e and Pathfinder. The majority of the book is presented without reference to specific rules, and any necessary rules for either system are presented in short appendices at the back of the book. Its’ 461 pages contains one chapter detailing the history and background of the world, ten chapters exploring the nations and people of Midgard, one chapter detailing the deities of the world, and the two afore mentioned appendices. Unfortunately the book lacks an index, which would have been useful in a tome of this size. To run a full campaign in the Midgard setting, one of the companion books, The Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition, or the Midgard Player’s Guide for PFRPG is required. These books detail the racial and class options specific to Midgard, as well as spells and new magic rules. The Tome of Beasts is also an indispensable resource for 5th Edition Midgard specific creatures.

The world of Midgard is vast, and it is both familiar and fantastical at the same time. Many of the nations and cultures are based strongly on corresponding historical cultures and regions of Earth. There are also some areas that are entirely fantastical. The world of Midgard goes far beyond the Western Medieval culture prevalent in so many fantasy RPG settings. Midgard is based most heavily on Eastern European and Middle Eastern culture, but includes so much more, from Northern barbarians to ancient Egyptian god kings. It also offers several wildly fantastical lands that have no corresponding culture in real world history.

The jewel in the crown, for me, is the chapter on Midgard's pantheon. It presents us with gods that are both mysterious and immanent. The nature and identity of the gods is inscrutable as gods take on masks of other gods, some benign, some malevolent, yet possibly both at the same time.

The art in the book is very evocative, and does a great job of presenting the imagery that the text hints at. I found a few typos throughout the book, but nothing too distracting. For those familiar with the original Midgard Campaign Setting, this book advances the plot line of the world by about 10 years.

For a more in depth review and overview of the setting, see my blog post here



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Worldbook for 5th Edition and PFRPG
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Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
by Steve D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2018 03:54:38

Absolutely fantastic. If you're handy with Photoshop or similar and want to make 2D paper minis of the new cdreatures, the artwork in the PDF is generally easy to separate out. Just the thing to give the seen-it-all veteran player a genuine WTF moment or 400!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
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Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
by Paul L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/18/2018 17:36:33

This is exceptional... For a PDF version, the artwork does not suffer, and of course the creatures are great. I use Roll20 and I am able to build my own bestiary in that program by simply copying and pasting, which my players are not happy about because none of them HAVE this book, so no one knows what I am throwing that them. Glass Gator? HA! You don't know. I look forward to using this with glee. Great price great content. Thank you to the creators and Thanks to Dungeon Master's guild.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Prepared 2: A Dozen One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/12/2018 08:45:18

Some of the 12 adventures are more "scenarios" than they are short adventures that take approx 2 hrs to complete (which is what I was expecting). The underlying ideas are reasonably creative/interesting. 4 stars for content.

Unfortunately, the PDF is wonky, it hangs up a lot (hourglass) and I sometimes have to wait 30+ seconds for it to "catch up" in order to continue scrolling through the document. I also own a pdf of the Book of Lairs from Kobold, which does not present similar problems when scrolling through the document. Perhaps offering a "print friendly" version for download with artwork that is not as high quality would solve this problem(?). 2 stars for technical implementation.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Prepared 2: A Dozen One Shot Adventures for 5th Edition
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Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition
by Nathan T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/09/2018 23:59:56

I've read through most of this product and for the most part I like what I see.   I don't intend to run a game in this setting but there is plenty of material here worth using: weapon maneuver options, ley lines, new conjuration spells. many of the class options are very specific and only make sense in he contex of the Midgard setting. the cleric domains just didn't cut it for me. I might not allow ssomethings as player options,   but as DM I'm totally going to build npcs with them. new races are good although in my opinion trollkin need a tweak. overall great effort by kobold press.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition
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Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/08/2018 05:23:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive hardcover clocks in at 211 pages, 207 if you don’t count editorial, ToC, etc. – 216 pages minus the usual aforementioned components, if you count by pdf pages and include the covers.

This review is based on the hardcover print version of the book, which I received in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. The book was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons and due to receiving the print copy of this book. I have also had the chance to take a look at the pdf to ascertain electronic functionality, but have mainly based my review on the print version of this book.

Now, first things first – this book is very much the big Midgardian crunch-book, i.e. it focuses on providing new mechanics for your 5e-game. The book does not consist wholly of new material, though: Instead, it also collates and refines material taken from the Deep Magic-series, as well as from e.g. Beyond Damage Dice, and the racial supplements, which were released to much acclaim for 5e, such as Midgard Heroes. That being said, the compilation aspect is very much secondary to the huge amount of new material featured herein.

As far as Deep Magic is concerned, the book does only include the player-facing installments of the series, which is, considering the rather problematic Doom & Blood-installment, a boon. At the same time, this means that you won’t find the excellent Void Magic-installment within these pages.

Now, this being a book that contains a huge amount of class options, new races, etc., I cannot simply provide you a breakdown of each and every feat, spell, archetype, etc. – if I did go for the level of detail I provided in e.g. my reviews of the Deep Magic-series, the review would be bloated beyond any usefulness and eat more hours of my time than I can devote to a single book. That means that I am going to paint in slightly broader strokes than usual.

It should also be noted that this is NOT a player’s gazetteer or the like – while the introduction mentions a couple of Migardian regions and themes, the book focuses primarily on rules components and does not offer regional explorations or the like, edited and freed of spoilers for player-use. This is a rules-book, not a setting book – though the setting-specific components do bleed into this book here and there, it is about as setting agnostic as you can be without compromising the flavor.

All right, got that? Perfect!

So, after the aforementioned quick introduction, we begin this massive tome with the racial chapter. Presentation-wise, this is oriented along the baselines established in 5e’s PHB, i.e. we get notes on nomenclature and the like, advice for the playing the race and the respective mindset, etc. This chapter also contains notes on subraces that correspond to certain ethnicities in the Midgard setting – for example, river elves, canton dwarves, etc. are mentioned. The racial chapter features a couple of favorites introduced before: The centaur, gearforged, dhampir, gnoll, kobold, minotaur, ravenfolk, shadow fey and trollkin make a return here, representing pretty much a best-of of the race-centric 5e-supplements released by Kobold Press so far. Beyond these, the chapter includes two previously unreleased races, the first of whom would be the bearfolk, who increase Str by 2 and have a 1d6 + Str-mod bite attack that causes piercing damage. They get 13 + Dex-mod natural AC and are treated as +1 size to determine carrying capacity. Bearfolk have proficiency in Athletics and Perception. The grizzlehide subrace gets +1 Constitution and may Constitution modifier times per long rest interval attempt an unarmed strike as a bonus action when making an attack, adding grappling. They are also resistant to cold damage. Purifiers increase Wisdom by 1, get 1 druid cantrip, using Wisdom as spellcasting ability, and once per rest interval, they can roll +1d4 and add it to a save governed by a mental attribute.

The second race would be the ratfolk, who increase Dexterity by +2 and Intelligence by 1, but also decrease Strength by 2. They are Small, with a walking speed of 25 ft, and have a swimming speed of 10 ft. Ratfolk get darkvision and may move through a hostile creature’s space as long as it’s Medium or larger. Ratfolk get advantage on attack rolls if an ally is within 5 ft. of the creature and not incapacitated. They get advantage on Handle Animal to influence rodents. All races come with notes on life expectancy, as well as height etc.

No complaints regarding the races-chapter – well-presented material here. The second, massive chapter deals with new options for martial and roguish characters, offering options for non-spellcasting classes. Now, even a cursory glance will show you one thing here: The material is not evenly spread, not by a long shot. We get one primal path, two bardic colleges, 6 martial archetypes for the fighter, two paladin oaths, two ranger archetypes and 3 archetypes for the rogue. So yeah, the barbarian gets the short end of the stick here, particularly since the one primal path is neither complex, nor particularly interesting. Advantage on Wisdom saves, once per rest interval calm emotions, a bit psychic bonus damage while raging and freedom of movement while raging will probably not really sell many players. The first bardic college, the college of entropy, has been taken from Deep Magic: Chaos Magic, while the Greenleaf college nets a slightly expanded spell list that nets users of inspiration dice temporary hit points, provides land’s stride and the option to remove diseases and detrimental conditions from a brief list – basically a slightly druid-y bard.

Now, as far as fighters are concerned, the clanking mercenary gets the option to temporarily improve armor or weaponry, with higher levels providing construct-themed benefits, like advantage on saves vs. frightened and charmed, reducing exhaustion gained by 1, thankfully usable only once per rest interval and the 18th level option to spend HD as a bonus action to negate some negative conditions. The elite of the Mharoti empire, the edjet, is a specialist of using both shield and versatile weapons, with higher levels providing the option to shoe multiple targets, quicker healing during short rests, once per long rest interval, and at high levels, a cool, defensive trick to help allies and improve your own AC when wielding a shield, all reaction-based. I liked this one, though personally, I would have made the defensive trick available sooner and instead have it scale. Morgau and Doresh’s ghost knights are pretty straightforward, in that they receive a find steed-based creepy horse that upgrades to undead at 7th level. It would have been nice to get stats for the undead steed. Frightening charges, necrotic bonus damage, requiring no more food or drinks and immunity to being frightened are unlocked. The 18th level ability lets you turn insubstantial, which is pretty neat. The second riding-themed option would be Zobeck’s griffon knights, gaining a griffon mount that scales with your level, which is an extremely potent option at low levels, compared to other pets, particularly since 3rd level provides 1/day (weird – why not once per long rest interval?) feather fall, which mitigates the primary danger of falling to your death. Higher levels yield aerial maneuvers, which increase damage (this scales) and total at 3, +1 gained at 10th level. This one is really strong, and frankly, I’d have preferred more versatility regarding maneuvers. The shieldbearer is a shield specialist, the sword-dancer, surprise, a somewhat dexterous light or no armor specialist. I found both to be pretty enjoyable.

The paladin oaths would be the oath of radiance, who has a radiance/light-theme versus undead and creatures from the shadow plane. This is relevant due to for example shadow fey hailing from there. A solid one, though one that made me wish it tied in with the cool angelic seal-engine. The second oath would be the oath of thunder, who focuses on somewhat Thor/Perun-like visuals, with the option to fire lightning bolts via Channel Divinity and a focus on crushing fiends and aberrations. Tenets are provided for both oaths. The vampire slayer ranger does what it says on the tin, providing anti-undead alternatives to those usually gained. Not the biggest fan of such nemesis designs, and 11th level nets +6d6 (RAW untyped) damage when making a melee attack versus a favored enemy. Zobecker scouts are more interesting, gaining the ability to be aware of select items, an expanded spell list and the option to create interesting alchemical devices. I wish we got more selections there, but this one, theme-wise, is one of my favorites in the chapter. The rogue duelist is really interesting; The archetype gets a point-based resource, prowess, which may be used to activate a variety of techniques, which manage to depict an interesting, rather well-balanced array of classic duelist tricks. One of my favorite takes on the concept. The rogue fixer focuses on commerce, securing items, etc. and is probably more suitable for NPCs than for PCs, at least unless you’re running a really gritty campaign. The whisper archetype, reproduced from Deep Magic: Shadow, but alas, sans tweaking the, admittedly minor complaints I had there.

Then, we are introduced to weapon options first introduced in Beyond Damage Dice, which I still maintain, are an awesome idea. Special abilities, depending on weapons employed? Heck yes. The base save DC is 8 + proficiency modifier + Strength or Dexterity modifier. Now, I think heavy weapons should be restricted to using Strength, but that is an aesthetic complaint. Now, Beyond Damage Dice, while a good idea, was less impressive, to say the least, in its execution. Needlessly swingy all-or-nothing parries (even though a perfectly serviceable parry-mechanic exists in 5e!) and a general uneven power-curve that makes some weapons better than others did detract from the per se genius idea. Javelins get, for example, an ability that only kicks in at maximum range, making it hyper-circumstantial…and no, it’s not potent. Spears are still non-existent in the engine, focusing only on polearms. This section represents a HUGE missed opportunity to clean up, expand and refine the subsystem. Alas, no such luck. Disappointing.

The next chapter deals with divine casters – we get a brief overview of Midgardian deities and a whopping 17 (!!) domains, rules to create a pantheist priest who circles patron deities…and has no drawback for the improved flexibility…and a whopping 1 druid circle. One. This would be the circle of the stones, who receives a spirit guide familiar, bonus spells with a theme of illusion and divination, the option to enhance your spells via a brief bonus action spirit dance, a lifeline of the “prevents death” type, usable once per long-rest interval and at 14th level, a potent spirit form. I like this one. But seriously. One paltry circle versus a metric ton of domains? Why? Anyways, the domains provided would be Apocalypse, Beer (Heck yeah, spirituality I can get behind!), Cat, Clockwork, Darkness, Dragon, Hunger, Hunting, Justice, Labyrinth, Moon, Mountain, Ocean, Prophecy, Speed, Travel and Void. The latter would probably have made for a cool tie-in with the void magic engine that is absent from the book, but that as a purely aesthetic observation. The domains are pretty straight-forward in their benefits. I am not the biggest fan of +10 to a Dexterity ability or skill check via the Cat domain’s channel divinity, and I’m concerned about the Travel domain’s easy, channel divinity-powered exhaustion level remover at 2nd level.

The next chapter deals with new options for arcane casters, encompassing two sorcerous origins (here called “sorcerous bloodline”), 3 warlock pacts, and 11 wizard schools. The Shadow bloodline is reprinted from Deep Magic: Shadow Magic. The other origin would be the mazeborn, which represents minotaur blood and thus doubles proficiency bonus to Charisma checks with them, if it does apply to the check. The base ability nets you the ability to bonus action cast a spell that requires a melee attack in conjunction with Dash – sans limits. 6th levels nets horns and the option to cast enlarge via 1 sorcery point. 14th adds + Cha-mod damage to spells that cause psychic damage, and one creature damaged by such a spell may also be affected by confusion for 2 sorcery points. The 18th level ability allows you to spend 3 sorcery points to create phantasmal labyrinth distortions, which can prevent reactions, imposes disadvantage on attacks against you, and requires concentration to maintain as a balancing factor. The warlock pacts include the genie lord from Deep Magic: Elemental Magic, the Great Machine from Deep Magic: Clockwork Magic and the Light Eater from Deep Magic: Shadow Magic. While these pacts are per se tightly presented, the few minor rough patches have not been addressed…and if you’re a fan of the Deep Magic-series, you get exactly 0 new content here.

Now, fans of the wizard will smirk at that, but we meet several old acquaintances here as well: The Angelic Scribe, the Clockwork, Dragon Masks, Elementalism, Elven High Magic, Entropy (chaos magic), Illumination and Ring Warden would be previously released options. Here, we have something I enjoyed seeing – the chaos magic, for example, has been streamlined and made a tad bit more precise, making it now one of the most compelling aspects of the book, at least as far as I’m concerned. Elven High Magic could still be slightly more precise in its details, but remains a favorite of mine as a person. Dragon masks, angelic glyphs, etc. are still frickin’ amazing. Now, what about the new stuff? Well, for one, we have the doom croaker, obviously a ravenfolk-inspired one, which halves time and gold for adding divination spells to the spellbook at 2nd level. The tradition is basically a slightly Norse-flavored divination specialist, flavor-wise aligned with the ravenfolk. In case you were wondering: No, strangely, it does not interact with the rune magic system. Speaking of which: Yes, it makes a return. No, Raido STILL has no rune mastery power. Urgh. On the plus-side, the appendix once more contains the stats for the Vaettir and tupilak golems, elk horn rod and nothing pole and the golem now gets proper flavor-text and formatting. The neat hypothermia and snow blindness rules from that installment can similarly be found in the appendix at the end of the book, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The phenomenal ley line engine for 5e is similarly included here and represented by the geomancer and in the general spellcasting section. This leaves us with the rather brief necrophagy tradition, which is obviously cannibal/dead-eating themed and as such aligned with the darakhul. This one is a necromancy specialist who gets an undead familiar (tweaks noted) and who can eat the dead to fortify himself. Kudos for the ability being kitten-test-proof, i.e. you can’t cheese it by eating a bag of kittens. Per se solid. The feat chapter focuses on the supplemental feats for the respective arcane traditions.

Now, the next section is one of my favorites in the whole book: We get 20 fully realized backgrounds, with two variants added on top. The backgrounds come with all rules-relevant material, as well as the personality traits, ideals, flaws, and bond-tables we expect, and they are actually INTERESTING. The titles say it all: Amazons of Perunalia, Arbonesse Exiles, Benmean Scholars, Blood Sisters (you know you want to play an evil nun!), Dancing Bear Guides, Dhampirs of Morgau, Exiles of the Black City, Ghost knights, Gnoll Caravan Raiders, Haunted Villagers, Krakovan Rebels, Mharoti Emmisaries, Miners, Mountain’s Witnesses, Mystics of Baba Yaga, Neimhein Gnomes, Northlands Reavers, Nurian Theurges, Seers and Prophets – the backgrounds provide some seriously awesome flavor, ooze the great Midgardian lore in many cases…and still offer some options that are applicable sans any reskinning. With the exception of Seer, Prophet and the 2 variant backgrounds (previously released in Unlikely Heroes), all of these, at least to my knowledge, are new – and they’re not reskins either: The gnoll caravan raider, for example, is different from the generic raider background previously introduced. A ton of flavorful, fun new material in this chapter. Huge kudos!

Now, obviously, with such a focus on magic, the final “big” chapter (I already touched upon the appendix) contains a ton of spells. The chapter begins with a spell list by character class, with the spells organized within by spell level. Huge plus here: The respective spell-lists, and the individual spells in the alphabetical presentation that follows the lists, sport tags that denote the magical tradition to which they belong. This is CRUCIAL in navigating this book, at least in my opinion. You see, it allows the GM to allow, for example, character x access to clockwork magic, while his buddy gets ring labyrinth magic. This is very, very important. However, at the same time, the organization of this chapter makes it ultimately slightly less comfortable to use than it probably should be – you see, this adheres to 5e’s, pardon my French, idiotic idea that it’d be smart to no longer note in a spell’s block what kind of classes can cast it. It’s one of the most inconvenient formatting decisions of 5e and one I intensely dislike – I also find it odd, since some Deep Magic-installments did note the classes for each spell in an improvement regarding that component. Oh well. That being said, since the book does adhere to the formatting convention established by the PHB, I will not penalize it for this decision. At the same time, the lack of an index does constitute a comfort detriment of sorts as far as I’m concerned.

Anyways, let us take a look at the spells shall we? The chapter encompasses, sans the aforementioned spell lists, a total of 55 pages of spells. Here, I can complement the Kobold crew: Previously not codified reactions now specify their precise conditions; verbiage that erroneously refer to “charm and fear effects” and the like was cleaned up, so the rules are definitely more precise than in their debut. There are still nitpicks to be found here and there, though – while in the context of walking wall, it’s evident that we’re talking about melee attacks, the text per se does not say so. Chaotic vitality refers to caster level, a concept that does not exist in 5e – on the plus-side, though, it now has its potential haste effect properly codified. To me, that is more important, since the CL-snafu, frankly, can be handled by a half-way competent GM…and it’s the only instance of this reference in the whole book.

Much to my pleasant surprise, some of the spells that previously were too potent have been adjusted to present more sensible effects. Shadow trove, for example, can no longer be used to get rid of artifacts, spilling its contents on the floor instead of vanishing them. Slither, the second level spell that turns you into a shadow not still nets you a potent defense and RP-options, but does so without being broken. Starfall has similarly been balanced in a better way to account for its increased flexibility when compared to other spells. Now, the book contains, spell-wise, three Deep Magic-traditions previously not codified as such: Labyrinth, Rothenian and hieroglyphs. The latter sports, for example, a potent 8th-level combined true seeing and detect magic that automatically identifies each spell witnessed, as well as the much-beloved beguiling gift, translated to 5e to the rejoicing of tricksters everywhere. Bless the dead prevents rising from death as an undead – and must be cast when touching the corpse. Boreas’ breath freezes water. Broken charge lets labyrinth specialists divert the path of an incoming adversary and inflicts minor psychic damage. Its low range and reaction (properly codified) casting time keep it in check. Confused senses, revelations via moonlight, calling forth scarab swarms, cursing targets to not be sated by food… there are some nice ones here.

On a purely formal observation, desiccating breath’s average damage value is not required for spells. This spell also refers to animals, which is not correct terminology in 5e – the creature type is “beast”. I am also not the biggest fan of e.g. eidetic memory, which, instead of giving you something unique to derive from its benefits, translates to a somewhat lame and slightly Pathfinder-y +10 to Intelligence checks. On the plus-side, an encrypt/decrypt cantrip makes sense, though more potent versions would be the first that I’d research... Exsanguinate’s damage at 5th level may be somewhat pitiful, but it reduces maximum hit points until a long rest has been completed and may incapacitate targets, which is rather potent. On another note, RAW, it causes bludgeoning damage, which is a slightly odd choice, considering that the blood drain of vampires, for example, is based on necrotic damage. It also can, RAW, affect creatures sans blood, which is even odder to me. Anyways, that is a more or less aesthetic complaint. Assuming a potent form of the gods (avatar stats included) is a neat idea. On the plus-side, having a target dragged away, potentially to death, by spectral ponies? Heck yeah! All in all, this chapter represents a pleasant surprise. The book has refined and steamlined a lot here, and the fact that it has retained the structure of the spell traditions means that A GM can pretty easily allow players access to the material that’s considered to be appropriate for the character.

The appendix, beyond the material already mentioned, includes notes of clockwork scarabs, special features for various breeds of Midgardian horses, notes on kobold mounts, and the ring servant also makes a return here. We also get snow cat stats and rules for alchemist’s smoke and clockwork caltrops.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are, as a whole, very good. It is evident that care has gone into dealing with quite a few hiccups in previous iterations of material compiled within, both formally and rules-language wise. Layout, as always with kobold Press’ books, is gorgeous and adheres to a two-column full-color standard. The book contains a lot of gorgeous artwork, though fans of Kobold Press will be familiar with quite a few of the pieces. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The hardcover is a beautiful book with thick, matte pages and glossy front and back cover. Its binding is solid as well – so the recommended version of this book, without a doubt, would be print.

Designers Dan Dillon, Greg Marks, Chris Harris, Richard Green and Shawn Merwin, with additional design by Jon Sawatsky, Michael Ohl, Rich Howard, Scott Carter and Wolfgang Baur, have created the best crunch book Kobold Press has released so far. Kobold Press’ strength traditionally did lie more in the phenomenal lore woven, in the adventures and the popular Midgard setting’s amazing flavor. While this book retains some Midgard flavor, it also represents a strong focus on the mechanical aspects of the game, creating basically a second Player’s Handbook in scope and ambition.

This book is a tough nut to rate, for it is at once a compilation, yet still offers a lot of new material. This material, while not always as refined or as mechanically interesting (you won’t see much that can hold a candle to dragon magic, for example), contains some true gems that I thoroughly enjoyed. If you haven’t yet checked out Kobold Press’ 5e-offerings, then this is an absolute no-brainer: There are phenomenal pdfs compiled herein, and quite a few of the options have been improved, redesigned and streamlined. This is definitely better than the constituent pdfs.

At the same time, I confess to having expected slightly more. The fact that e.g. Beyond Damage Dice’s brilliant ideas haven’t been expanded and balanced struck me as odd. Another weakness of the book pertains the distribution of class options. If you’re a barbarian player or have a druid, you’ll be rather underwhelmed, while your cleric and wizard buddies drown in new options. I don’t expect books to offer something for every class, mind you, but the distribution of material herein is uneven to the point where it is somewhat jarring. My final gripe here is with the lack of an index.

That being said, all of these gripes, when looked at in the context of the whole book, with its inspiring backgrounds and flavorful ideas, do pale to an extent. The question remains, whether to get this or not. The response is somewhat tricky.

Fans of Kobold Press who already own the constituent pdfs may well consider the added refinement this offers worth it, may adore having the material collected and in a handy print tome.

On the other hand, if you’re such a fan and expected more rules-components that reach the level of brilliance of some of the more complex and mechanically innovative Deep Magic installments, then you may be disappointed at a high level by the majority of new content being solid, but also pretty conservative in its design-aesthetics.

If you’re new to Midgard and Kobold Press’ 5e-offerings in general, then get this – chances are that you’ll love it! Similarly, if you’re like me and vastly prefer proper print, then this is a no-brainer.

This book, let me make that ABUNDANTLY clear, is a very good, fun and densely packed book of cool stuff.

At the same time, it also, at least to a degree, could have been a tome for the ages. While some of the new martial options are amazing, while the improvements are significant, the book could have been a defining milestone. With evenly distributed material and more stuff for the poor barbarians, sorcerers, warlocks and druids. With a streamlining and expansion of, for example, the weapon options from beyond damage dice….you get the idea. This could have been THE defining crunch-handbook, an unofficial PHB 2…and it still can be seen as such. However, it also represents a book that, while compelling, interesting and well-wrought, feels like it doesn’t 100% reach the heights that it could have.

Ultimately, I have to take all those perspectives into account, and thus, I arrive at a final verdict of 4.5 stars. Whether you round up or down, ultimately depends on what you’re looking for in this book. Personally, I consider this to be closer to 5 stars, and as such, this is what my official verdict will be.

If you’re looking for some seriously huge tome of crunch for your 5e-game, then look no further than this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Heroes Handbook for 5th Edition
by Charles K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/07/2018 16:06:59

An amazing compilation and expansion onto the Midgard Setting for 5E. Elements from the Deep Magic's series, Beyond Damage Dice, Unlikely Hero', Midgard Hero's, and much much more, that comes together and helps create an epic world with enough options to satisfy the most ravenous of D&D Consumers.

A must have for anyone interested in the Midgard Setting and a GREAT resource for DM's and Players of all calibers.

6 Stars out of 5!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults & Secret Societies for 5th Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2018 11:08:35

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The 5e-version of this massive tome clocks in at 178 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 171 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

First things first: This book references, in some instances, the phenomenal Tome of Beasts. If you don’t have that book, I’d suggest getting it right now. The book also references three installments of the Deep Magic-series: Rune Magic (worth getting), Void Magic (excellent) and Blood & Doom (skip that one). While the book remains functional as a whole sans these other files, the experience is enhanced with them.

Okay, so I’ll actually start the review of this book by covering the final chapter first – in it, we discuss the concept of antipaladins in the context of 5e, represented by two antipaladin oaths. It should be noted that the tweak of the base class chassis as presented in the problematic Deep Magic: Blood and Doom, has not been reproduced herein. The first of the oaths presented here would be the Oath of the Crawling Beyond, which makes copious use of the spells introduced in the excellent Deep Magic: Void Magic file. The channel divinity option of this oath allows you to channel the cold starlight of the void. This only has a range f 10 ft., but on a failed Con-save, the target can’t talk for 1 minute, with saves on subsequent rounds allowing for saves to shake this off. Problematic: While creatures affected can negate this one, they can’t negate the secondary effect, which nets disadvantage on both Dexterity-based and concentration checks until the target completes a long rest. Pretty sure that should be negated on a successful save. The second channel divinity-based option gained here is the void-spun syllable, which forces all creatures within 30 feet to complete your void-syllable into a word, causing your Charisma modifier times d6 psychic damage and stunning the targets until the end of their turn. The verbiage here is slightly odd, as it almost looks like the targets need to complete the syllable on their turn. Upon reaching 5th level, the character gains the Marked feature, which grows tentacles somewhere that increase passive Perception by 2 and provide advantage on Perception checks. 7th level adds blinding to the already strong cold starlight – does it affect those that make the save? No idea. 13th level increases the range to 20 ft. and nets you 10 temporary hit points per target affected, up to a maximum of 20. 15th level nets a damage-increase for void-spun syllables and nets you domination over the targets, with concentration to maintain. The capstone nets you the option to use your action to transform into a horrid beast once per long rest interval, with +2 AC and a size increase, as well as advantage on all attack rolls and successful attacks being treated as critical hits. Creatures witnessing the transformation must save of fall unconscious.

The second oath presented would be the infernal oath, which also introduces two channel divinity options at 3rd level. The first would be the abyssal fires, which inflicts Charisma modifier times 1d8 fire damage to up to 3 creatures – odd: No sight-caveat here. Anyways, creatures that take damage (if they fail their Dex-save) are also charmed for 1 minute, with saves on the end of subsequent turns to shake it off. This also nets you a bonus to atk, ability- and skill-checks and saves equal to the number of creatures charmed with this ability. I am pretty sure that this should have an anti-nova-caveat: RAW, using this feature multiple times could be read as the bonus stacking. The second channel divinity option would be Sow Doubt, which targets 1 creature that can hear you. The target must succeed a Wisdom-save or be unable to take actions or abilities or spell to aid allies for Charisma modifier rounds. Okay, does that include effects that are already in place and require concentration to maintain? Upon reaching 5th level, the character becomes immune to fire damage and gains half the damage you would take as temporary hitpoints, up to a maximum of 10. This would be an infinite temporary hit point shield. Or so the ability would work in theory. The following sentence is right after stating immunity to fire damage: “Additionally, you gain temporary hit points equal to half the amount of fire damage dealt to you, up to a maximum of 10 hit points.” You’re immune. You don’t take fire damage. Thus, you don’t get temporary hit points. Ever. There’s a very important word missing here, namely “would.” 7th level upgrades abyssal fires to target up to 7 targets. At 15th level, sow doubt can apply to up to three creatures. Additionally, half of any damage inflicted to you is divided equally to the affected creatures as fire damage, which can be brutal. The capstone lets you use your action to conjure a 50-ft. column of green fire around you. The pushes targets up to 20 ft. away and deafens them on a failed save. Creatures within 5 ft. of you also take Charisma modifier times 1d10 fire damage on a failed save. You can also have the column topple over sans action, generating a 20-ft.-radius of 4d10 (average damage value included, oddly) fire damage and be grappled by the remains of the fire pillar until the end of the next turn. The chapter also contains 3 new spells, two of which are first level spells: Delay passing temporarily holds a recently slain target’s spirit back for interrogation. Feed the worms targets a creature dropped to 0 hp, which, on a failed Con-save, is instantly consumed and transformed into a swarm of insects. The third spell is the 4th-level wield soul, which is rather potent, as it allows you to tap into a dead creature’s spells or innate spellcasting abilities, choosing one, which you may then cast once as a bonus action. This should have a caveat regarding maximum spell-levels.

Okay, this concludes the antipaladin appendix of sorts, so let’s dive into the respective cults, shall we? Now, organization-wise, each of the cults comes with detailed write-up of its basics regarding organization and goals and the respective leaders are depicted as fully realized NPCs, often with gorgeous artworks. Beyond the named NPC movers and shakers, each of the cult-write ups also features stats for rank and file members of the cult, monsters, if applicable, as well as supplemental material, which depends on the respective cult, but generally represents crunchy bits. Now, as these rules-relevant supplemental materials are clearly intended for use by the antagonists of the PCs, I will judge them as such. Now, if I were to just list each individual statblock herein, we’d bloat this review beyond any immediate usefulness, so I’m taking the broad view here. It should also be mentioned that each of the cults comes with a suggested campaign/adventure-sequence outline of sorts, allowing you to plan the involvement of the cult as appropriate to the level of your party. These outlines deserve special mention, as they’re often rather creative and interesting – and they make the GM’s job easier, so kudos there. It should be noted, though, that these are OUTLINES, not fully realized encounters or campaign plots – they are a suggested skeleton of a plot that you can weave into your game.

It should be noted that the presentation of the cults does not come with backgrounds or the like, as the cults are intended as antagonistic organizations and not as cults for the PCs to join. Fans of Midgard will appreciate the tie-ins of lore for the respective cult entries to the lore of the evocative setting, and, indeed, while the cults can be used in pretty much every setting, they benefit greatly from the tie-ins with Kobold Press’ cult fantasy setting. That being said, some of the cults with deeper ties to Midgard instead come with notes to use them in other settings, which will be appreciated by quite a few readers.

All right, got that? As the following pertains some SPOILERS regarding the nature of the cults in question and their themes and arsenals, I strongly suggest that players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! The first cult would be a classic of sorts for many gamers – the Black Goat’s Flock is classic Cthulhiana, depicting a cult of good ole’ Shub-Niggurath, as seen through the lens of Midgard’s brand of dark fantasy: the cult attempts to reassemble the Veridian Codex, an attempt codified, rules-wise, the fully statted spellbook of one of the movers and shakers of the cult. The cult comes with 3 spells, the first of which would be the curse of formless shape (6th level, druid, wizard), which makes you amorphous and socially not acceptable, nets resistance to slashing and piercing damage and prevents holding items etc.; Morphic flux is a high-level (7th) buff that fortifies against crits etc., grants resistance to piercing and slashing and nets you a bonus action additional unarmed attack, the physical damage type of which you may freely choose. Selfish wish (9th level, sorc and wiz)is basically an evil wish variant that is twisted – something that many a campaign does with regular wishes, but oh well. The cult also gets three decent, if unspectacular items – a defensive cloak and a gore-attack granting mask that also sports a 1/day confusion gaze with a range of 30 ft. The third item would be the maddening Valcrist folio, which nets access to the mind-bending options of Deep Magic: Void Magic, one of my favorites from that series. The spells referenced are NOT reproduced herein. The new monster would be the challenge 9 flame-scourged scion, basically a fire-scorched dark young. The most interesting component here would be two of the three leaders, an androgynous fey from beyond the stars and a super-potent goblin cleric. The third is the man that lent his name to the aforementioned folio.

The next cult would be the first of an array of cults that depict a heresy of an established religion, which may require a bit more fiddling when using non-Midgardian campaigns; here we learn about a heresy of the god Baal-Hotep, deity of dragons and fire. The burning rune cult is led by one Ust-Ziyad, a potent challenge 10 Wisdom-based caster that makes use of the rules presented in Deep Magic: Rune Magic, i.e., he makes use of Midgard’s rune magic. We also get stats for a named phlogiston faerie. The most interesting components here would be the Altar Flame Golem at challenge 10, the new brenna-Þurfa rune and the ability to create timed scorch-bombs, which allows the GM to create some nasty death traps and evoke, through a fantasy lens, some modern anxieties pertaining our own safety in an age of globalized threats and urban guerilla warfare. Minor complaint: The rune bombs in 5e are pretty tame, as they require attunement by a master of the kaunen-rune, limiting how many of them you can potentially place. Personally, I think this makes the cult more tame than it should be and is a pretty crippling downside to it. Pathfinder executed that one better.

While we’re on the topic of heresies, let’s talk about the other cults that can be roughly summarized under this moniker. The first of these would be the Night Cauldron of Chernobog, which, when summed up, can be thought of as radical adherents to darkness, with the ultimate goal of bringing the eternal night. With winter hags and a potent alchemist at the top of their food chain, their methodology does differ significantly from e.g. the burning rune – something that also holds true for the third heresy in the book, but I’m getting ahead of myself. The rank and file members also deserve special mention here, making interesting use of derro, dark folk, etc. As far as supplemental material is concerned, we get a poison that causes both blindness and hamper rests and one that not only poisons for 8 hours, it also seeps away Strength. The spells make use of the Tome of Beasts, spawning a shadow beast from a slain target (6th level, cleric, sorc, wiz) and there is a 9th-level ritual for sorc and wiz that can yield permanent boons…but also result in e.g. vulnerability, if not performed properly.

The new items include a darkness-causing lamp (Seen those before. Often.) and the bituminous orb, which fortifies against necrotic damage and yields advantage on saves vs. radiant damage. The orb can also fire blinding and grappling rays that can be used to hold targets and crush them. Interesting translation of the item that I rather enjoyed.

The third heresy of sorts would be one that should be familiar to fans of Midgard in PFRPG – Selket’s Sting is introduced, for the first time to 5e here. Now, the thing that sets this heresy apart from the previous ones would be pretty obvious – the cult is presented in a manner, where the PCs may actually be servants of the cult. It adheres to a quasi-Egyptian leitmotif and represents basically a religious secret police that executes those that violate Selket’s divine mandate. Now, I have already covered this cult in my review of the Demon Cults-series installment for PFRPG, originally released as stand-alone pdfs to supplement the massive Southlands book. Since there previously was no 5e-iteration, here is what this one is about:

These fanatics include a challenge 8 dwarven master of explosives (whose bombs, oddly, cause force damage) and we get a gynosphinx, including several sample riddles. Downside: Sans Tome of Beasts, you won’t have stats for her – it would have been nice to see the standard gynosphinx stats modified for her. The daughter of Selkhet is a potent challenge 11 chosen of the god, including a giant scorpion mount/companion. Supplemental material-wise, we get a bracer that can help poison weapons and there is a spell to call forth a manabane swarm (stats not included). Oh, and the spell fails to specify for which classes it should be made available. A lost chance would be that, in PFRPG, the “serve the cult”-angle was further developed – in 5e, a background would be appropriate here. (As an aside, a general ex-cultist background would have suited the book rather well.)

So what are the doomspeakers? Are they the homeless persons with the "The end is nigh"-shields? Nope, and neither are they doom metal enthusiasts - in this context, the doomspeakers are the antipaladin champions that have drank deeply from the well of profanity that is the Book of Nine Dooms, chaotic demon-worshippers, one and all. If you're tired by moral conundrums, these guys fit the bill - it doesn't get more evil. These are guys that do not even try to seem morally ambiguous - we have capital E level, vile demon worshippers here and their methods and ideology reflect that. Now, unlike the first installment, we receive a bunch of statblocks, not one - from Narn, a straight challenge 10 evil (anti-)paladin dude (also known for crucifying captured enemies and minions) to a savage challenge 7 gnoll (anti-)paladin, the first two builds are nasty pieces. A somewhat tragic tiefling caster (challenge 9) is a more diverse character - severely mutilated by ignorant townsfolk, her descent into utter darkness was traumatic indeed. A challenge 8 gnoll veteran and an evil bardic type (challenge 6) complement this section. The new magic items here include a bone whip that may temporarily reduce maximum hp 1/day. Primal dooms are basically fiends in a bauble – not a big fan there. The section includes a new spell, the 5th level doom of ancient decreptitude, which is frickin’ OP: 2 levels of exhaustion upon casting, then 1 on subsequent rounds. Considering how fast exhaustion can kill you in 5e, this won’t fly, not even as an enemy-only spell. Sure, it’s a doom-spell and as such affects the caster as well, but yeah. Not a fan. The spell does not specify which classes should be able to cast it.

Next up would be the Emerald Order, a cabal of wizards that serve Thoth-Hermes and deciphered the secrets within the Emerald Tablets, the members have managed to attain increased magical prowess - alas, as per the truism, power corrupts and the Emerald Order, in the time-honored tradition of secret societies, is exerting significant influence of the bodies politic in the realms wherein they have established themselves. Guided in that endeavor are they by their fully statted leader Dromdal-Re, who is one badass challenge 13 caster. The section includes the emerald shard ioun stone that can absorb 5 damage from all incoming attacks, burning out at 120 points. The cult also sports the rules for the potent artifact Emerald Tablets of Thoth-Hermes, which are presented in a rather cool manner. The chapter also provides the stats for the challenge 12 smaragdine golems. In PFRPG, this cult came with a prestige class, and personally, I think that an arcane tradition to reflect the specific tradition would have been nice to see.

The Hand of Nakresh is named for forty-fingered simian demon-god of thieves, with his lower left hand reserved for his most daring of thefts - it is this hand that gives this cult its name. The leadership of the cult is firmly in the hands of the Five Exalted, which receive full-blown statblocks herein - a kobold bomber (challenge 11), a gnoll warrior with a hyenado companion (challenge 8), a derro arcanist (challenge 12), an albino tengu cleric-like caster (challenge 9) and a roach-like (challenge 10) killer make up this illustrious party, which could pretty much be run as an opposing adventurer party, a rival group, should you choose to. There is a new spell herein, a 4th-level variant of mirror image, wherein the duplicates run in random directions if you move - I do like the concept and the spell is functional, but I would have liked to see interaction with damaging terrain - do the images running over such terrain ignore it? I assume so, but this conversely makes finding the true culprit easier. The spell also allows for the changing of positions once per casting. The magic items included feature a monkey’s paw that can provide charge-based rerolls at +10 (feels a bit odd in 5e) and a clockwork siege crab-vehicle, which is pretty damn cool.

The Servants of the White Ape would be a cult that breathes the spirit of sword and sorcery: A disenfranchised aristocrat had to escape into the jungles and stumbled upon a hidden, ruined city, Josef Kranz would have not dreamed that the carnivorous white apes haunting the ruins would one day bow to him - and bow they do, for he is the summoner that commands the Great White Ape, what in PFRPG was his eidolon. In 5e, we get a relatively smooth transition of the entity being akin to their tribal deity. Over years of study and careful planning, the mad master, now known as the New Father, has commanded the white apes in combat, subjugating all that dare oppose him and his simian slaves. Kranz and his powerful avatar of the White Ape receive statblocks (though annoyingly, you have to puzzle together the stats of the standard giant ape and that of the avatar). His simian warriors also receive stats, but that's not all - the awakened apes spread a dreaded condition, the spellscourge, which not only renders those infected into primal, degenerate and evil undead savages, but also allows them to devour magic. Yes, this pretty much could have been drawn from the pen of Rider Haggard or similar authors. The father’s staff wielded by Kranz, makes for a potent staff and we get magic item stats for white ape hide, which is potent armor that has several abilities that can be activated sans action.

There are quite a few new cults beyond these, which had so far not been released for another system: There are those, for example the Chosen of the Demon Bat, who represent, at least at first glance, the servants of Camazotz.

Led by a derro variant vampire (you’ll have to puzzle together the stats here with the MM) with explosive concoctions and a darkness-themed, with a fungus-armored giant, the cult’s elite is interesting and we even get a unique challenge 16 demon bat, Vespertilo – once a high-ranking servant of Camazotz, the mighty demon has been exiled to the material plane and an unholy alliance with the mi-go! This makes the overall feeling of the cult rather distinct. The mi-go stats are in the Tome of Beasts. The cult gets a new feat, Paincaster, which nets advantage on concentration-related Constitution checks, immunity to charmed and frightened conditions while maintaining concentration and, and when a creature ends your concentration, it suffers from disadvantage to saves versus your spells on your next turn. We also get a new hazard with fungal pods and a variant form of strange spellbook with the ebon shards, which require attunement. The cult also gets a thematically-fitting staff as well as magical lenses and there is a new swarm, a poison that renders you unconscious and a spell that calls forth bats or birds to act as spies. Two vehicles are included, the fungal flyer, which is a horribly mutated, fungified dire bat, and the skittering skiff,w hich may once have been a carrion crawler. I liked this bait and switch approach to a cult that starts as straightforward and adds a complicating twist.

The Creed of All Flesh is tied to the concept of the intelligent darakhul ghouls in Midgard and their subterranean empire…and those mortals that crave the flesh of their brethren. Considering how cool the notion of darakhul is in the first place, it should come as no surprise that I consider the darakhul-themed cult as depicted here to be rather interesting. The leadership of the cult clocks in at challenge 10, 13 and 5, respectively, and the respective features of the NPCs are smart. The execution of the respective campaign-sketch is also pretty damn creepy, so yeah, theme-wise, a resounding success as far as cannibal cults are concerned. With magical broths and jerky, a mace-like rod that can attempt to bite creatures and heal the wielder and a nasty tome, these are nice. I am particularly partial to the lavishly-illustrated ghoulsteed mount-undead. One of my favorites herein.

Speaking of the living dead: As you all probably know by now, the Red Goddess Marena would be one of my favorite deities in Midgard; in the vampire-rules principalities of Morgau and Doresh, her worship is open and serves to justify the vampiric rulers; in essence, they are a sort of anti-Catholic-church, one based on a doctrine of tainted life and suffering as a promise for an elevated existence beyond the shroud of death, though here, it is not in some afterlife, but as a reborn vampire. Combine that with elitism and the notion that the deity has elevated the worthy and we arrive at a nice blend of the, by today’s standards, somewhat disquieting concept of divine providence for rulers and vampiric themes, which have resonated through class discourse throughout the ages. Marena also has covert agents, the blood sisters, who act beyond the confines of the vampire-ruled home-bases of the cult. (As an aside: Evil blood-magic nuns are just badass…and this provides the stats of Sister Alkava, probably known from her own little adventure. We also get a variant vampire whose stats you have to puzzle together once more, the stats for the church’s Grand Inquisitor…and yes, before you ask: Marena is also a goddess of lust. Her servants thus control brothels…The cult also includes two new blood magic spells to add to the arsenal presented by the Deep Magic-series, the sanguine spear, a spear of frozen blood drawn from the dead, and the stigmata of the red goddess, which causes the caster to take damage, but also buffs – the lack of concentration required here makes the spell mechanically interesting. The incantation bloodline strike is amazing…and much to my chagrin, completely absent from the 5e-version, which is puzzling, as it represented perhaps the coolest signature move of the cult. A dagger to exsanguinate and a magic scourge complement the supplemental section. The dagger in 5e regains charges on crits, which may be spent for bonus damage or to heal. Unfortunately, the latter lacks limitations. So while you’ll be going through a ton of rats and kittens to heal yourself with it, you can – a simple type or daily limit caveat would have made this work properly. The monsters associated with the cult include the blood hound and a variant blood zombie.

Whereas the blood sisters are basically an organized orthodoxy that is, theme-wise, in line with organized religions, the sanguine path, the second blood-themed cult within, takes a wholly different route: While the connotations of sexuality and hedonism as well as blood consumption remain, that is mostly due to our cultural associations with blood and sexuality, which are inextricably linked. Anyways, the cult is focused more on a theme of hedonism and oracular power, with sacred prostitutes generating a mythological resonance with e.g. the cult of Ishtar, though such associations, ultimately, should not be taken as an indication that the cult is benevolent. It’s not. Leaders that contain vampires, red hags and blood hags should make that clear. All of the leaders require that you piece together their stats, modifying the base creatures from MM and Tome of Beasts. The bloodwhisper cauldron has been demoted to very rare item that provides some healing, foresight and miasma, but loses the wish ability from the PFRPG-version, making it a less compelling cornerstone item for the cult, and decreasing the incentives to join it. Blood strike allows for the transfer of a spell or affliction to another member of the bloodline – which is cool. Once more, no suggested class provided for the ritual. The creature-section include the Blood-bound template, which grants power, but at the price of withdrawal from the elixir that bestows these powers…

The final cult within this tome would be the weavers of truth, which may be the last cult herein, but certainly not the least: The cult is devoted to Pazuzu and basically acts as a magical think-tank of firebrands and misinformation, with deception-focused seductresses, charlatans and the batlike echo demons (challenge 6) making them a formidable cabal of adversaries that probably will need to be fought less with blades and more with roleplaying. This is in particular represented by the absolutely glorious Incantation of Lies Made Truth, which THANKFULLY has been reproduced as a proper 5e-ritual. It can make for an absolutely mind-boggling twist as, it can turn whole organizations, kingdoms or cities around, rewriting what is considered to be truth. I also absolutely adore the carriage of whispers, a hybrid magic item/vehicle that allows a passenger to influence those it passes – which can make for an amazing showdown, in which the PCs turn from celebrated heroes to outcasts, as a whole city suddenly becomes ever more hostile, but this has VAST potential in my book. This cult is by far the most inspired in the book and I am glad to report that its transition to 5e has been executed rather well.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are generally good, though somewhat inconsistent regarding the formatting of creature features. On a rules-level, there are a few questionable components herein, but as a whole, the book can be considered to be solid in that aspect. Layout adheres to Kobold Press’ gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The pdf contains a ton of really amazing full-color artworks, though fans of Kobold Press may be familiar with some, but by far not all of the pieces. I cannot comment on the physical version of the book, since I do not own it.

Jeff Lee, with additional design by Jon Swatskyand Mike Welham, delivers one massive book of interesting cults. While I do not consider all of the cults herein winners, particularly the doomspeakers and the Shub-Niggurath cult being somewhat less interesting than they should be, I found myself enjoying this book overall. In particular the Red Sisters and the Weavers of Truth make for some truly evocative and formidable adversaries, with the unique blend of the chosen of the demon bat coming in close behind them.

The 5e-version probably has the better bang for buck ratio for you, as the conversions of the respective cults had not been previously released. The cults per se manage to, in more than one case, become rather inspiring, and considering how stat-starved 5e is regarding interesting NPC-statblocks, the pdf may be worth getting for that alone. That being said, I also consider the 5e version to be needlessly inconvenient in quite a few instances. Now, I do not object to variant NPCs per se and I adore templates and think that 5e would benefit from more of them. At the same time, I am somewhat puzzled that quite a few statblocks require that you piece together an NPC’s stat from Monster Manual/Tome of Beasts, when page-count per couldn’t have been the big issue – the 5e-book is briefer than the PFRPG-version. This requires, in short, more prep-time for the GM than what I’d consider to be necessary. All 4 leaders of the Sanguine Path, for example, need to be pieced together thus.

This inconvenience left me with a strange ambivalence regarding the book. On one hand, some of the 5e-conversions are truly inspired; a certain summoner and his white ape come to mind. At the same time, this book feels very much like a conversion in some segments. When we get no background for Selket’s Sting, when the emerald order doesn’t get its own casting tradition…and in the less impressive antipaladin chapter, which, while okay, did not exactly wow me. The supplemental material stood out most when it focused on the story, rather than combat utility or other mechanical aspects.

However, the book, as a whole, makes for a compelling reading experience, with a ton of truly cool storylines to scavenge and modify and something for pretty much all tastes inside. While not perfect, my final verdict will acknowledge the book’s intended focus and cool ideas and thus clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon Cults & Secret Societies for 5th Edition
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Southlands Campaign Setting
by Carl C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/04/2018 16:22:50

Southlands is massive. It's "face" is made out of two well-known tropes, both in a unique "Midgard" version - Arabian Nights and Pharaonic Egypt. These are the places an explorer from the north are likely to encounter first, and they are reasonably familiar to most gamers - except that these takes are special, not just the standard rehashed. Further south are even more exotic places, likely less well known to most gamers - jungle and desert lands. Each country is detailed as a homeland, there are rules for Traits and sometimes whole races typical to the origin. The feel of these places is more sword-and-sorcery than medieval romance. Few places are good or bad, it is very much a patchwork of greys.

On one hand, this is the GM's secret world book detailing new and exotic places. On the other hand, it is the player's handbook for a new continent, with loads and loads of new character opportunities. And perhaps this is the problem with the book; it doesn't quite know who it is for.

This review is based on the PDF from the kickstarter; I've not seen the physical book yer, but it looks like it will be gorgeous. Layout is open with the right amount of space, art is gorgeous, and the maps look wonderful. It feels like the PDF format doesn't quite do them justice.

Edit: I now have the physical book and... the PDF was actually more impressive. In the PDF I can zoom in on the art and maps to see detail that gets lost in the print version. Still, the print book is gorgeous, and a good piece to casually put on your table to impress guests with - even non-gamer friends.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting
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