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Tavern Encounters: 20 NPCs & Story Seeds
by Samuel A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2024 13:27:09
  • A very good resource for game masters.
  • A wealth of information in two pages.
  • Good source for NPC and tavern names.
  • Well worth the download.


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Encounters: 20 NPCs & Story Seeds
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Bloodlines & Black Magic - The Witch
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2022 17:17:09

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2022/09/100-days-of-halloween-bloodlines-black.html

Back to a little bit of Pathfinder tonight, though with a modern twist.

Bloodlines & Black Magic - The Witch

PDF. 21 pages. Black & White art.

This is a supplement for the Bloodlines & Black Magic RPG. A dark modern RPG based around Pathfinder. This one presents a witch class.

It is largely the Pathfinder witch class with 5 levels. There are some new hexes presented here so that is nice.

The art is really nice. Black & white, but fits the mood and tenor of the game, so it works here. Color would be a distraction.

It could work with Pathfinder proper or even with D20 Modern 3rd edition as a Prestige or Advanced class. Personally, that is what I would like to try with it.

I'll have to check out the full Bloodlines & Black Magic RPG.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic - The Witch
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Bloodlines & Black Magic: The Arcana
by Zachary B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2022 02:49:23

The artwork is beautiful and the quality is really high. These really elevate the play experience and bring the Arcana to life whether you play around the table or even virtually.

Disclaimer: I helped work on writing the core Bloodlines & Black Magic rulebook, but did not work on these cards and don't profit from their sale. I just love playing with them.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: The Arcana
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The World of Alessia Campaign Primer
by Ubaydullah I. I. A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/06/2022 07:01:09

The World of Alessia, by Jera Mannninena and Jaye Sonia; Published by Storm Bunny Studios.

IsisThis next to Eberron is one of the most creative uses of the D&D system that I've seen. It is both a good idea and product.

The "World of Alessia" is a gonzo science fantasy set on and around a habitable gas giant of the same name.

It is a setting that someone who grew up in the 90s would have built.

If you like at least 3 of the following...

  • 90s jrpgs in general.

  • Final Fantasy specifically.

  • 90s Fantasy anime/manga.

  • Battle Chasers.

  • Pixar's Aesthetic.

  • Kung Fu Panda.

  • Star Trek; This will be explained later.

You'll love this setting.

Alessia is a setting where the good people have essentially won. On this planet the many native races and those that arrived from elsewhere. Have chosen openness and cooperation over xenophobia and conflict.conflict.In that regard Alessia is very much a fantasy Star Trek.

The PC's are assumed to be either adventuress citizens or agents of the benevolent "Empire of Xian".

Beyond the ever present "human evil", there are two major threats...

The mutant spawn born of the corpse of an Eldritch Dragon-God, that was slain by the first Emperor.

The Alien armada held at bay by the natural and artificial orbital defenses, that want to conquer the planet and recapture their escaped slaves.

I have two points of contention...

D&Dism:To me the classic D&D fantasy tropes feel completely unnecessary and tacked. Alessia already having it's own races,cosmology, and magic ; did not need D&D's.

Utopianism: I've gotten increasingly cynical about human nature with age.While I love Star Trek, I cannot believe the promise of the Federation outside of the setting. The fact that so many different races/species chose cooperation of their own accord. Is something I find too good to be true.

I look forward to seeing more of what will be done with...

The "World of Alessia".



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The World of Alessia Campaign Primer
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The World of Alessia Campaign Primer
by Michael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/30/2020 13:42:11

The World of Alessia is a 5e compatible setting and TTRPG product like no other on the market. I know that's a bold statement and it's made with utmost confidence! Alessia is completely unique in its nature, theme, and presentation. Jere's amazing vision of an inclusive world where magic and technology are seamlessly blended together is brought to life by Jaye's words, delivered in the strong Storm Bunny voice & style.

The World of Alessia provides players & game masters with 27 species to play and explore. The planet itself is a massive Gas Giant with over 7,000 years of history to work out many of the issues that still plague our modern society. Instead of baked-in hate and animosities between groups, Alessia provides mechanics for Species Synergies.

The Art, Direction, and Lay-Out of this book are outstanding! The images are bold, colorful, and beautiful! Fans of anime and lovers of sci-fi will be strongly drawn to the visual appeal and potential to create in Alessia. This book is a fantastic resource for world and adventure building in a fantastic, futuristic environment perfect for telling these stories!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Bloodlines & Black Magic: The Crescent City
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/25/2020 11:58:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/introduction, 1 page back cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 48 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

These pages include a 3d10 Oddity gained table, as well as a tracking sheet – I found both to be helpful when using this book.

This book was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters.

Important note: While intended for use with Bloodlines & Black Magic (BL&BM), the supplement’s content imho retains much of its utility when employed in conjunction with other games, such as Esoteric Enterprises or Pelgrane Press’ GUMSHOE-based games like Esoterrorists or Fear Itself. If you’re into modern horror/dark fantasy, you may wish to keep reading even if you don’t play BL&BM.

This book is divided in two halves – the first is a depiction of the Crescent City, New Orleans, NOLA – the second would be an adventure, the eponymous “The Book of Faiyum”; the latter is intended for 3-5 characters of 1st to 2nd level. The module features read-aloud text, suggestions for the proper soundtrack to set the scene (nice!) and features b/w-cartography. Somewhat to my chagrin, the cartography for the module is not provided in a player-friendly manner – the maps are labeled…partially. You see, the one map where I’d have really thrown a fit over labels, the one that really works best for handouts…is presented in a player-friendly manner. Yeah, this gets a tentative pass in that department.

The book provides statblocks for 3 CR 2 creatures – the Drowned One will be an old acquaintance for fans of BL&BM (Bloodlines & Black Magic), while the American alligator and Louisiana black bear are new critters – and yes, they are new, not simple paste-jobs. Kudos! The latter come with rebuild rules and notes on their value within the context of BL&BM’s occult underground, i.e. regarding the magical currency dosh.  The book also provides a madman, but I’ll cover that fellow in the SPOILER-section.

Okay, that out of the way, we begin with essentially THE gazetteer for New Orleans in a dark contemporary fantasy/horror game. Now only is the publisher a former transplant of New Orleans, the author of this section George “Loki” Williams is essentially a walking encyclopedia regarding the his home, so let’s see how this section fares.

We begin with a general overview of the demographics and then quickly start off with urban legends, ranging from the famous LaLaurie House to the Dueling Oak and ones that are less famous, but no less interesting – for example the notes on the LeBranche curse (unfortunately, misspelled a few times as “LaBranche”…which also brings me to e.g. a plural mistake in the section – editing could have been tighter…) or the delightfully mysterious and grisly fate of the St. Charles Writer’s Club.

But, you know, this is not all – you see, one of the appeals of Bloodlines & Black Magic that let me see past some of its flaws and rough patches was always how it blends history with its very own brand of mythweaving, and this is where the supplement takes the reins to paint a picture that is at once familiar and strange – with a quote by good ole’ Lafcadio Hearn (mostly known for his translations of Japanese Kwaidan) contrasted by New Orleans as established Passage Sur, a kind of neutral ground comprising there parishes – and yes, this book is genuinely educational regarding the different ethnicities to be found in the city, its timeline blending in captivating prose the illustrious history of this city with the supernatural. Before you ask – yes, violating the sacred compact of neutrality has severe repercussions, with the pactbreaker’s mark being a pretty nasty curse. Minor nitpick: A spell-reference has not been properly italicized in its write-up.

And if you’ve ever walked the streets of New Orleans, it should come as no surprise to you that the veil indeed is thin here, the occult barely occulted by the haze of drink and the highly eclectic blend of eccentricities. From leitmotifs pertaining corruption and reputation, but also of the sheer heat, the musical tapestry and festivals – the book manages to capture much of the city’s essence here, with notes on the impact of high water tables and local construction techniques adding a sense of plausibility.

The book then proceeds to take us all on a quick tour of the city’s neighborhoods – of course, these include the Vieux Carre, but the Low Garden District and Fauburg Treme are similarly covered. After this brief overview, we proceed towards locations: I’d, for example, make sure to visit the Azure Gem, a classic goth and punk scene bar, and if you’re into something macabre, you might also want to visit the corpse of Jazzland, what remained of this amusement park after Katrina wrecked it – suffice to say, in BL&BM’s magical iteration of NOLA, this is even less of a place you’d want to go unarmed…Of course, the popularized and famous cemeteries and the Muses Street are also rather exciting locales.

The supplement proceeds to cover briefly a variety of local NPCs, who are presented with rough ideas of their power-levels and suitable classes, but no full stats, before we essentially get the local color section – from brass bands to tour groups to scam artists, common sights and sounds are listed. New Orleans Native is a new feat – which, beyond its normal benefit, also acts as a neat way to introduce the new skill unlocks, which include locating celebrities, or using Linguistics to identify tags, lineage symbols, etc. This section also provides the commune with city spell. 6 additional feats are provided, which include being Bayou Born (+2 to Handle Animal, Survival and Knowledge (geography) in marshes, swamps, etc., double that bonus while within 7 miles of the Passage Sur. The feats are per se solid and cover cool concepts, even if their actual benefits aren’t that exciting.

More interesting: We get a variety bishop chess piece implement, Paul Morphy’s Bishop, which offers its unique focus power. Oh, and cursed dice….that actually also are an implement, which requires a “DC 22 check to master” – okay, what check? I like the idea of a cursed variant implement very much, but having the dice note implement school, if applicable, etc. would have been nice. I like this so much thematically, but this could have used some polish.

On the plus-side, we get an array of haunts and spirits – a pretty massive curated list of appropriate creatures (ordered by CR and noting bestiaries!), and a whole array of grisly haunts. I LOVE the haunts – they are cool, flavorful and well-presented. As an aside: One of them has a suicide theme, and the book has a clearly-visible box that provides a help-line and encouraging words for the depressed. Having lost too many people to suicide myself, I definitely applaud the inclusion of this boxed text.

Okay, and from here on, we move towards the aforementioned adventure. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

The module by Tim Hitchcock kicks off when cell phones across the city project a blank text – that requires Pierce the Veil to realize that it’s not blank after all: “Find Faiyum, Contact Eratosthenes.” Yep, the man of Cyrene, the polymath – the ghost librarian needs a favor, namely the retrieval of a stolen tome, the trail of which, bingo, leads straight to NOLA, namely Madame Estelle Verdereau. The flight may seem uneventful, but establishes a woman named Sophia – the roleplaying with her is flirtatious enough, but things aren’t exactly as innocent as it seems, she is working for one El Santiago – the aforementioned tracking sheet provided for the handout allows the GM to keep her actions in mind.

Anyhow, once arrived in New Orleans, the PCs will have to deal with the rather uncooperative butler of Mme Estelle, only to find the woman slain and transformed into a poltergeist; with some proper detective work, more information on the eponymous book may be unearthed, before the trail branches off either towards Algier’s Point and a warehouse owned by “El Santiago”, the club Alexandria, that El Santiago likes to visit – obviously a boat, or a place in the country. The fellow is btw. not to be trifled with – provided his goons haven’t made that abundantly clear already. The man is working for the Archons – but he might well seem to be the lesser of two evils, considering that suspect/interested party number two, one Mr. Onnos, a pseudo-pharaoh and protector of remote St. Armand (hexploration map, player-friendly, included), is a werecrocodile. So he’s evil. Right? Well…actually, Onnos has pretty much a legitimate claim to the book; El Santiago is clearly the worse person, so stealing the book back from his warehouse…might be a solid call. Then again, you know…ahem…were-crocodile. Onnos is not to be trifled with. As a whole, the investigation here is open-ended, accounting for different sequences in which the locations might be visited.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed quite a few hiccups in formal criteria, and some pertaining to rules. In these disciplines, the book needed more fine-tuning. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, with a single red line through from top to bottom; the line has a breadth of one pixel, and is confirmed as intentional. Personally, it irritates me to no end. The artworks used are nice b/w-pieces, and the cartography in b/w is also pretty nifty, though I’d have loved to see a map of NOLA “occultified” included. Player-friendly maps for the encounter areas beyond the hexploration part of the module would also have been nice.

This book by George “Loki” Williams, Jaye Sonia and Tim Hitchcock oozes passion project in all the right ways; it is a brief city guide that misses nary a paragraph without providing some sort of interesting information that you can use in play.

Let me make that abundantly clear – what is here, to me, oscillates between “I love it” and “nice.” This is a compelling book.

And yet, it is also a flawed book.

The module is probably even better than Tim Hitchcock’s “The 58th Seal” and delivers a surprisingly compelling and modular investigation that falls more on the “occult politics” than on the “horror”-angle f the game/setting; I just wished that a) the information design/structure was a bit smoother and required a tad bit less close reading, and b) that the whole “here’s an agent”-angle had been developed slightly more; you know, with more encounters in the city, chances to meet, etc.; the individual in question even gets a handy tracking sheet, so having more impact there? Would have been awesome. That being said, I like the set-up of antagonists, and while it’s not exactly a scary adventure, it captures the spirit of the city.

…as much as I like the module, though….I’d have preferred to get more content on the city itself. The genuinely interesting and inspiring notes on the city cover 20 pages of the supplement, and I feel like it barely scratches the surface of all the things you can do with NOLA in a BL&BM game, of what makes it tick. From the culture and history to the surrounding landscape…heck, music alone could probably provide a whole chapter worth of ideas and hooks.

In an ideal world, there’d be a book of this total length or more on NOLA, and a companion module with slightly more pages.  Jamming both into one book wasn’t a good call as far as I’m concerned.

As presented, this supplement feels like a first glimpse – and the authors acknowledge as much, mentioning in the introduction that one should consult the bibliography at the back.

Guess what’s been cut? Bingo. The bibliography. :(

As a reviewer, and as a person who genuinely loves what he’s seen of NOLA, this leaves me in a weird spot. On one hand, I very much want to love this book, and love a lot of what’s here. On the other hand, the issue of Storm Bunny Studios’ editing sometimes being not as tight? On full display. On the one hand, the authors’ expert writing made me feel like I was back in a weird, changed NOLA…and on the other hand, I was almost annoyed when I realized that the gazetteer-section had already ended, that I had arrived at the module. My mind’s questions rang loudly – “But what about…??”

In a way, the same holds true for master Hitchcock’s module to a less pronounced degree– it is a cool one and plays well, but it is a scenario that feels like it’s missing a few pages to reach peak awesomeness. Both components of the book have their charms and downsides.

It took me quite a while to enunciate, but ultimately, I love what this begins to do both regarding the sourcebook and the module parts; I only like what it actually does with them.

In many ways, this is a book that’s easy to love if lore and concepts are your focus; if you’re primarily into the rules aspect, you’ll probably be less enamored with it, particularly if you’re picky regarding typos and player-facing rules; I can see this range from anything between 2 to 4 stars for an individual, depending on your focus, your preferences, etc.. For me, the range here gravitates to the upper end - I like what's here too much.

In the end, my final verdict can’t exceed 4 stars; anything more would be plain wrong to me, and anything less would be a disservice to how cool the book is.

If anything, I sincerely hope that Storm Bunny Studios gets the funds to continue BL&BM for a long time, and to improve and perhaps even expand upon this book at one point. I’m not done with NOLA, and I have a feeling that neither are the authors.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: The Crescent City
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Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
by C M W B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2020 16:10:28

The first Mists of Akuma adventure I've had the pleasure of running with my party, Scourge of Robai Shita Temple has a little something for everybody. There's plenty of opportunities to roleplay in the village, as well as investigation to be done and some suitably brutal combats.

I especially like the way in which player choice can impact on the overall outcome of the adventure, with room for both diplomacy or blunt force negotiation. There's a lot of really intriguing elements of the setting introduced here, be they the ravages of the Mists, the bizarre supernatural creatures that exist in East Asian mythology, and the fact that the ultimate enemies are often more human than the players might first realize.

There is also a lot of flexibility in how you run the final dungeon, as it has been left intentionally open to the DM as to how much combat they'd like to include. While a little extra flavour in the form of traps or puzzles might have been nice, there's nothing to stop you from adding these yourself.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Scourge of Robai Shita Temple
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Mists of Akuma: Eastern Fantasy Noir Steampunk for 5E
by C M W B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2020 16:07:52

I'm a huge fan of the Mists of Akuma concept, having purchased every single product in the line thus far. The overall aesthetic and setting are absolutely fantastic.

While the book itself can sometimes feel a little cluttered, especially when it comes to the new class options, there's no faulting the level of hard work that has gone into it or the originality of the setting. My players have loved exploring the setting, fleeing the Mists, dealing with both monstrous enemies and conniving humans, and coming to grips with a vast shift from the more generic fantasy setting to which they have become accustomed.

It's hands down one of my favourite purchases from the site and I've been getting a hell of a lot of play out of it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mists of Akuma: Eastern Fantasy Noir Steampunk for 5E
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Bloodlines & Black Magic - Episode 3: The 58th Seal
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/02/2020 08:37:22

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third episode for Bloodlines & Black Magic clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 25 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

The adventure is intended for 3-5 2nd level characters, and is set in NYC; as we’ve come to expect so far from BL & BM, the module features read-aloud text, and also, where appropriate, degrees of success and failure in skill checks etc., making for a rewarding design paradigm. Important dialogues and skill results have text phrased for you, making the running of the module smoother for GMs not as experienced in paraphrasing text spontaneously. As a nice angle, there is a potential connection to Episode 1: The Unloved Ones as one of the optional plot hooks. The module does have support for tables using the Tarot, and additionally, we have, as before, suggestions for songs to be played in the background to enhance the scene. Love that!

All right, as always, this is an adventure review, and as such, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! The phone rings, and tells you to turn on the TV – you see a report on the death of Dutch financier Martin Schuyler, who seems to have burned to death in his 58th floor office. Mysterious enough? Heck yeah! The module proper begins with arriving in NYC, which also includes a meeting the locals table that lists organizations/beings you can meet/gain as connections, or simply interact with. The first scene has the PCs interview Schuyler’s employees, taking a closer look at the outer office as well as the respective people: Secretary, economists, etc. – this scene also has a means to introduce the amazing Lords in Glass’s Shadows, should you choose to do so.

The investigation will yields some rather strange clues – including the fact that there have been other, similar fires before, all across the globe. By the way: Soundtrack for investigating the inner office: (Don’t Fear) The Reaper by Blue Öyster Cult. Awesome. This fits perfectly – it’s a per se grim scene, and the macabre lyrics and upbeat song add a surprisingly Twin Peaks-esque touch to everything. The book also retains the in-game logic: With the appropriate lifepath, you can e.g. realize that the fire-extinguisher was tampered with. It’s a small thing, but whenever a module does not explain such things with “Magic did it”, I smile a bit. :)

Indeed, guess what: From all the stuff listed here, the PLAYERS can deduce the password to Schuyler’s blackberry. Yes, the thing can be brute-forced as well – but how this sets up the password puzzle? Pure awesome. It makes sense and makes you feel like a detective. Unbeknown to the PCs, the fully mapped place will soon be assaulted by skulks! So combat is looming as well, meaning there won’t be time to get lost in details. Regarding the map featured here: It’s b/w, pretty detailed, and player-friendly! You can just print it and hand it to your players.

Either way, at the conclusion of this scene, it should be clear that Schuyler’s death was no accident, but rather the result of his involvement with a globally-operating occult organization….and only two members remain. That being said, the module does btw. account for seeking out Schuyler’s corpse! A constant, looming threat is also presented in a rather neat manner here, and allows the GM to spice things up, if required.

But back to the matter at hand: The two survivors are Moira Scot, and Rishi-Akarsh Durvasa, the latter having gone underground – so warning Moira might be wise…and here, we have another cool way to highlight the module’s strength: The villain has not one, but two plans to eliminate here – and they need not be foiled….either way, it’s time to get the hell out and board a flight towards India!

The PCs ultimately have to find the village where Rishi has gone into hiding here, and once they get there…well. India may be rich in magic, but Mayong? It’s steeped in necromancy! Thus, the PCs will have to best Pranav of the Children of Kali-Ma in psychic duel – and in a cool twist, the Kali-Ma worshipers are actually not the enemies of the PCs! The village is hiding Rishi, who proceeds to fill them in on what has gone before: The son of one Helmut Agrippa (yep, that family!) seems to believe that he has found an invocation by deciphering the 58th seal, allowing him to bind and control a daemon. Helmut died soon thereafter. Put 1 and 1 together…ouch. The Esoteric Order of the Sacred Seal has a pact with a daemon called Amy, an entity that has a truce of sorts with the order…and once the last member of the order is killed, the contract is voided. Amy is freed.

Yep, guess who’s the dumb dupe of a very powerful daemonic force? Pieter, the young “master” occultist! (This is a great angle – think about it: How often is not malignant intent, but sheer incompetence, the source of suffering? That paired with hubris? Great villain set-up!) All of this known, the PCs will have to return to NYC, and confront Pieter – preferably without being slaughtered by Amy! And yes, in the aftermath, clever PCs can become scandalously rich – but only in mundane funds…

The pdf also features a write-up of the The 58th Seal as a cult, a handout-style depiction of Schuyler (cool!) that you can give your players, and explanation of Pieter’s psychology, how to handle money, and 5 suggested sample oddities.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no serious snafus on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, with neat original b/w-pieces used throughout. The presence of a handout and a map that’s player-friendly is a big plus for me. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Tim Hitchock, with development by Jaye Sonia and additional design by Clinton Boomer, delivers something rather impressive here – in just a few pages, he weaves a compelling and genuinely interesting mystery. While not as straight-forward in its horror angle as the previous episodes, I think that the module is better off for it in this instance, because it thoroughly embraces the mystery/investigation-angle! The scenes are clever and make you feel like you’re, you know, investigating the occult; they reward player-skill over just rolling well, and I really like the villain motivation, the plans, the multiple routes they have to success…in short, this delivers in amazing ways, particularly considering its brevity! This is well-rounded, knows its scope, and just executes! My final verdict will be 5 stars.

(As a final aside: If you’re willing to do some tweaking, statblock-crunching, and working on the plot this imho begs to be fused with the Esoterrorist scenario “For the Love of Money” – FtLoM suffers in the beginning and at some transitional places, and using this module as a guideline there is a neat way to fix this; plus, with that combination, you could expand this to mega-module lengths. Just sayin’…)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic - Episode 3: The 58th Seal
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Bloodlines & Black Magic - Episode 2: The House of Hollows
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/28/2020 10:52:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second adventure for Bloodlines & Black magic clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 28 pages of content;

The module comes with an additional bonus pdf, which contains 1st-level pregen stats, with special abilities and the like all fully included. This pregen-file is presented in a landscape standard, and includes b/w-artworks for the characters. Each character spans 2 pages, so if you print them, you can have a handout-character on a single sheet of paper, which is indubitably useful for e.g. convention games, one-shots, etc. The characters have properly spelled out connections, arcana and oddities noted, and feature a fey-blooded mesmerist, a spirit-blooded slayer, a seraphic-blooded brawler, a dragon-blooded spiritualist (including stats for the phantom Mr. Hunter), a jinn-blooded psychic, and s spirit-blooded investigator. These pregens are also included in the module itself, and the module has a handy sheet that lists all connections, secrets, etc. ready – I strongly suggest printing that page and having it on you when running the module, as it also spells out which lore the characters know is correct, and which is deliberate misinformation..

These pregens have built-in reasons to investigate the eponymous House of Hollows, but if you need other reasons, a handy table lists objectives by organization, as well as three more distinct hooks. A unique angle, and a good reason to play the pregens, would btw. be that the module has a mechanic that rewards the PCs with a variety of benefits if they come clean regarding a secret they have; if you’re not using the pregens, I strongly suggest that the players come up with an analogue web of intrigue/secrets for their own characters, as the module does benefit from the dramatic tension generated thus. The module includes no less than 5 boons that the PCs can attain, as well as 4 suggested oddities. I have no complaints regarding them per se, but should note that one of them is predicated on using encounter cards – which is odd, since I can’t recall BL&BM suggesting their use.

Speaking of odd things: The pdf has a single red line in the background running down on either the left or right side on each page; this line runs behind some, but not all visual elements (for example, only through the non-white entries of tables) and honestly irritated me. At first, I thought it was a subtle cue, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a layout glitch that should be rectified.

But let us proceed to the eponymous House of Hollows, maybe you’ve heard of it…but shush, if you’re a player, then the following is not for your eyes. Jump ahead to the conclusion to avoid the SPOILERS that will follow now, all right?

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! The House of Hollows can appear, and it is a place of the lost – lost people for many pregens, for others, it may be lost things. The house is travelling, for some 70-odd years it has done that…and when it appears, it stays for 7 days, always a bit odd, always a bit different…but usually on the perimeter of a settlement, in disquieting black and purple. It is an odd house, taking a cue from House of Leaves in that its dimensions can’t be measured accurately. The house sickens all those that can’t Pierce the Veil, spooking off the non-initiated, and it can become invisible. Theoretically, the players can try to burn it (other means of damaging it being not exactly promising), but doing so will doom all inside, so there’s a good reason not to do it. Interacting with the House of Hollows may yield one of 4 types of token: There are element tokens, exit tokens, life tokens and grave tokens. Life tokens can heal; Grave tokens require that you enter e-mail addresses into the computers in the house – when used against other PCs, this’ll net a penalty for them, a bonus for the one who entered them. Exit tokens, obviously, are there to exit in the end…

I really liked a premise of the module: The House enforces an esoteric law above all else: The law of 7 Possessions. You may not enter the house with more than those. The house has additional rules, and those that break these risk the ire of the structure – and the retribution in the guise of its Hollow Ones. These include not losing your tickets (issued upon entering with the 7 possessions), no stealing, a prohibition to harm other visitors, and, well, obviously no open flames or harm to the physical structure.

Furthermore interesting here: The house is perceived at the start of the module, and the first task will be to talk the NPCs gathered here out of trying to get inside/waiting, etc. Not all of these individuals will leave, but the fact that the sudden appearance of the house is not simply glossed over? Like it! Even better: This is an early chance for the PCs to earn exist tokens. Speaking of which: Each encounter area also comes with a map of the room depicted; while no map of the entire house per se is provided, the room-by-room map approach worked well for me in this instance, though I would have loved to get handout-style player-friendly one-page versions of the respective areas. The first of these put a broad smile on my face, as it’s a puzzle steeped in the esoteric lore so crucial to BL&BM, focusing on elemental pillars – and a dark art item (like the Ring of Fenris, or the Amber Amulet of Atu) may be acquired, which is a grand boon during the adventure, but a bane in the final encounter. Or so the module states. De facto, none of these items had any bearing whatsoever on the final encounter regarding additional difficulties. This room btw. also houses a secret room, a cage – here, the PCs can observe some foes to come…nice and creepy foreshadowing

After this brainy encounter, the module switches it up – in the next room, the PCs will witness a man in bondage mask, Mr. Sledge, use a sledgehammer to kill a NPC: The room is well lit, but the light flickers off – 3 rounds later, it turns on, shows Mr. Sledge, and has him kill another NPC! This will induce panic. If the NPCs run out, well, then it’s time for the PCs to meet the blunt edge of his weapon. Escaping through the windows here may btw. help two of the pregens save their daughter in an optional encounter…

Beyond that, we have a feast laced with poison, as well as a rather creepy library that plays some seriously neat mind-games if handled properly by the GM. Speaking of which: The final encounter has the House focus its powers into the Great Mr. Sledge (new stats), which allows the PCs to finally use Pierce the Veil on the house – and this final combat is brutal. It very much is a horror encounter, with a CR 5 monstrosity that is probably pretty far above the PC’s league…but whether they escape will be up to their wits…and potentially, their willingness to screw over their allies…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are per se good on a formal and rules-language level, expecting aforementioned inconsistencies. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with neat b/w-artworks. The pregens are a nice touch, and I liked the functional b/w-maps, but less so the lack of player-friendly versions. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Gosh darn it. Jaye Sonia and Clinton Boomer have written an adventure that per se is right up my alley. The House of Leaves-ish surreal house angle is great, and the atmosphere evoked is awesome. I liked all of the relatively linear encounters here, as they all contribute something meaningful and surreal, horrifying – this module genuinely managed to give me goosebumps, and its mechanics are suitably relentless and brutal enough to drive home the whole horror aspect, and that the PCs can’t always slay their way to the goal. This has all the markings of an excellent adventure.

However. The red-line glitch bothered me on an aesthetic level, but it’s not a big deal. What is a big deal, though, is that this has all the tell-tale signs of a much larger module cut down to its barest minimum.

We have optional encounters that are pretty much tailor-made to hint at more, and yet they stand alone, their hints petering out; we have, for example, the cellar angle that goes nowhere. This clearly was supposed to have been a whole mansion with more complex mechanics. After all, why introduce not 1, not 2, but 4 (!!) types of token to track, when ultimately one would have sufficed for everything this module offers? Why introduce the dark arts items with their SPs, when they aren’t really relevant to solving the module, and when the announced complications don’t happen?

As a player, you won’t necessarily notice those – but as a GM, they make running the adventure much tougher (and somewhat more confusing) than it should be at this length – this is, when you boil it down, a great, straightforward romp that blusters and professes to have a depth to it that, or so I believe, was left on the cutting floor, or simply not realized due to a lack of budget. And that’s a pity, for all the hallmarks of an outstanding adventure with a ton of narrative depth and twists and diverging plots are here, but all of that is ultimately reduced to smoke and mirrors.

Ironically, like the house it depicts, the module does not like being closely looked at – for then, one cannot help but see its flaws. Then again, perhaps that’s almost an ARG version of BL&BM – don’t try to Pierce the Veil on this, and you’ll probably enjoy it. If you do, you’ll feel like BL&BM characters – you wished you hadn’t, but can’t unsee what you saw. My final verdict can’t exceed 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic - Episode 2: The House of Hollows
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Bloodlines & Black Magic - Episode 2: The House of Hollows
by Michael P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/28/2020 04:57:22

while from the writing, formatting, layout and the pregens the adventure would be most likely a 4/5, there are quite a few of letdowns in the encounter, story and logic part, that make it to me as DM very irritating. From the linearity, the overabundance of combat, set pieces and the random tokens of various kinds, unresolved logic&plot strands and literary 42 actually quite well worked out, never reappearing after their one scene.

I do believe as player it might be less an issue, as most will be hidden from you or smoothed out by the DM, but it does my head in. Especially since there is a great promise in the setup.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Bloodlines & Black Magic - Episode 1: The Unloved Ones
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2020 05:12:21

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first adventure for Bloodlines & Black Magic clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Structurally, this module is intended for 3-5 1st to 2nd level characters, and obviously is intended as an introductory adventure for the setting/system. On a mechanic level, I liked seeing that we have degrees or success/failure represented in the adventure; beyond the usual read-aloud text for some scenes, we have more detailed guidelines for conversations – with suggested answers spelled out, so if you’re not that good at spontaneously coming up with that sort of thing, this has you covered.

A thing I appreciated particularly was that the module comes with suggested media for each scene to set the theme/stage; while I am not a fan of all suggestions (though I do like several!), the media suggestion helps you even if you don’t like a suggested song – in such an instance, you have a good idea at least regarding an alternative. Additionally, due to BL&BM’s setting, using well-known music won’t break immersion. Heck, it could be blaring from the radio, right? Two thumbs up!

Bloodlines & Black Magic is a contemporary horror setting/game, so this involves dark themes – in this instance, briefly touching upon suicide. The module begins right with a warning, and the number for the prevention lifeline in the US. Having lost more people in my life to suicide than to old age or any other cause, I wholeheartedly applaud this inclusion.

Okay, you know the drill: This is an adventure review, and as such, the following discussion will feature SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, only GMs around? Great! So, the module begins with each PC receiving a manila envelope that includes an address as well as a USB-drive; the invitation is dated 10 days from now, at exactly 7 PM, so there is some time for proper research – and here, the book makes great use of aforementioned setting/media-angle: The stick contains only a single file, an mp3 – to be more precise, Nivana’s “Come as you are.” The module accounts for various means of doing proper legwork with sample skill DCs and information noted, including using Pierce the Veil on the envelope. The letter was sent from Halifax, NH, and begins with a foreboding encounter – en route, a deer runs into the streets: Depending on whether the PCs notice it or not, the Drive check to avoid a collision will be influenced…and the module differentiates between different degrees of failure. Even if the deer is hit, quick-acting PCs can btw. calm and heal the animal, should they try to.

If they have an accident, they’ll have a chance to interact with the local police, and troubleshooting for seriously injured PCs and the like is provided. Nice! Arriving at Halifax, they’ll notice that the place is booked, with only the Old Country Inn having vacancies. While exploring Halifax, the PCs will have to contend with a surprisingly sudden storm, as well as with a now homeless person suffering from a PTSD-trigger, attacking the PCs. (As an aside, the module once more points out real life issues and help lines here – kudos! As a second aside: The monthly income noted of the fellow is higher than quite a few bad months I had. Not sure how I feel about that.) That being said, this is a good palce to note that the PCs are not exactly supposed to kill the man – they are not murder hobos, and if they do kill him in self-defense, they’ll face a serious charge. While they are let go on bail so the module can continue, BL&BM is not a kill-everything-game.

The invitation, by the way, was issued by one Jonathan Thatcher, who owns a quite sizeable two-storey mansion here – and yes, the PCs can investigate and trespass; he doesn’t mind, though even if they bypass the excellent mundane defenses, the PCs may end up facing some minor goetic spirits that could deafen them. The mansion itself seems to be warded against celestial incursions, imposing a penalty on seraphic bloodline characters, and the meeting with Mr. Thatcher may well be pretty tense (once more, troubleshooting provided), and essentially, the gentleman wants the PCs to locate a wedding band belonging to one Sarah Theraeux, who went missing with her husband in the 1920s. The man is obviously familiar with the veil, and can serve to fill in the questions the PCs (and players) might have. The ring, just fyi, can be dangerous – though Thatcher does not state why.

After this meeting and job offer, the PCs can do some research in Halifax; the research will point them towards Bailey House (curiosity turned local historical site), the home of Sarah Theraeux, née Bailey. Sarah’s father seems to have been a war casualty, while her mother ostensibly committed suicide in the house – creepy enough…but as the clues come together, the PCs will soon be led towards Adam’s Pond, where the vanished couple were last seen. The area with its cabins is btw. mapped in an impressive and PLAYER-FRIENDLY manner – kudos! The nasty psychic imprints here also manage to render a swarm of potter wasps aggressive, which make for the first truly serious combat encounter here – but which also will result in the other inhabitants of the cabins vacating the premises, so the PCs can sleuth around in peace. Clever PCs can find some treasure here, but the main goal is the well that became the grave of the couple, murdered by a man maddened and possessed. If the PCs find the key for the chains used to bind the couple, they’ll have found Sarah – who is now an undead draugr! Besting her will secure the ring, but careful PCs should wait – for draugr number 2, her husband…for he’ll come as well, and obviously be a threat to civilians if not dispatched properly…

Either way, the PCs have taken a first firm step beyond the veil, and may have a magic item or a powerful patron to show for it…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a pretty neat 2-column b/w-standard with a surprising amount of nice b/w original artworks. Furthermore, the module comes with a really nice, player-friendly b/w-map of the adventure site; while a map of the town would have been nice, it’s not really required. The module comes fully bookmarked.

Jaye Sonia, with additional work by Brian Suskind, delivers a neat introductory adventure. The module sets up the scenes rather well, builds slowly tension, and then culminates in a cool finale. All in all, this is a successful first adventure for Bloodlines & Black Magic. Personally, I’d have enjoyed a bit more in the eerie foreshadowing department – don’t get me wrong, the module does this rather well, but it also spends a lot of time setting up the scenes and meeting with the benefactor. As a first “episode” that sets the scenes and introduces the players to the exciting setting, this definitely works, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars: A good introductory adventure to get into the game!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic - Episode 1: The Unloved Ones
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Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors (Issue 3)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/23/2019 13:21:39

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the little ‘zine devoted to supplemental material for the amazing Bloodlines & Black Magic setting/campaign-hack/system-tweak clocks in at 21 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

While the header and tags also designate this as 5e on my homepage, it should be noted that the 5e-material is just one character, and that this character has not been built with standard 5e-NPC-rules and acts as a kind of preview for the 5e-version of Bloodlines & Black Magic.

All righty, so, we begin this supplement with a new creature penned by Tim Hitchcok – the amaymonite, which clocks in at CR 5 (respectable, considering that BL&BM caps at level 7…) and comes with notes of dosh that may be collected, threshold DC, etc. – avatars of Prince Amaymon the Devourer, these beings are fearsome in melee, courtesy of their astral poison and the ability to bind the souls of those reduced below 0 hit points. They come with two options for the witch-class’s version for Bloodlines & Black Magic to make a pact with the entity – oh, and the critter comes with a cool artwork.

Justin Sluder and Jaye Sonia provide the second article – “DJ Yarrick” – or is it “Yannick”? The pdf can’t seem to decide which the correct name is. The fellow is a fey-blooded expert and comes with full stats, though I did notice a few rough spots here.

Clinton Boomer and Justin Sluder than provide a CR 12 (!!) encounter – the curator rose, which presents a truly dangerous art-gallery, including an intricate (and DEADLY) statblock and even some sample conversation tidbits to guide the GM. I really liked this one, and while the build does not include threshold or dosh information, the nature of the build and its themes make me chalk this up as intentional, and not as an oversight.

After this, Clinton Boomer and Jaye Sonia provide brief summaries of the people that came before humanity within the context of Bloodlines & Black Magic – from asura to the hollow ones and pack to the serpentfolk, some nice ideas are provided.

The final article is super helpful – it is penned by Ben McFarland, Jaye Sonia and Justin Sluder, and pertains to the Lords in Glass’s Shadow, and on how to use them. Three fully statted individuals are provided alongside b/w-artworks. One of these NPCs also comes with 5e-stats, though it does seem to heavily use custom rules of the upcoming 5e-version of Bloodlines & Black Magic. As presented, the values of the NPC deviate from what they should be per 5e’s default rules, but without the full 5e-version, I can’t well comment on whether the statblock is correct within the context of Bloodlines & Black Magic’s 5e-iteration. I couldn’t help but feel that 5e-stats for all three NPCs in this article would have been appreciated.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay, given the very low asking price, though I seriously wished Storm Bunny Studios had more of a budget for these; a nitpicky editor could have polished the pdf of its typos (doubled plusses, etc.) and minor snafus. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with several awesome b/w-artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience.

I like what Tim Hitchcock, Jaye Sonia, Ben McFarland, Clinton Boomer and Justin Sluder created here – they all rank among the designers I consider myself to be a fan of, so no surprise there. While the hiccups among the formal criteria prevent this from getting highest marks, considering the low price and cool content, my final verdict will still clock in at 4 stars – if you like BL & BM, you will want to get this.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors (Issue 3)
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Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors (Issue 2)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2019 12:40:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second if these small expansion-pdfs for Bloodlines & Black magic clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1.5 pages of SRD, leaving us with 9.5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this installment with a general, and a detailed location, both penned by none other than Brian Suskind – and the first of them is…Vegas, baby! Ruled by Satrine, Vegas is actually considered to be neutral grounds, we learn about The Concierge, who manages the steady flow of supernatural tourists, an ancient man with powers hailing from the Uto-Aztecan people, and we also learn about sites such as the Church of the Holy Coin, and learn about urban “legebd”[sic!]s, that, typo notwithstanding, should provide cool angles. Want it more detailed? Well, location number 2, the Exchange, the arcane market/underground, where Old Wotan may be found, among others – if you’re itching for an American Gods-storyline, there you go. Of course, the Shae, the porcelain-masked enforcers also should make for an interesting angle. Did I mention the eye thieves? Really cool locales, though both left me wanting more.

The next section, penned by Blaine Bass, is something different altogether – we get staggered advancement rules for Bloodlines & Black magic. It represents a more gradual level-up process than regular gaming in O7 – it basically provides a 25-level system, wherein each episode number corresponds to a level; the massive table denotes whether you get universal abilities, class features, skill ranks, etc. – it basically stretches the advancement process and doles out a consistent stream of improvements over the levels. The system per se is solid, but not exactly something I like – I’m more the Dark Souls-school of person – advancement only means something to me and my players when it’s earned by pain and hardship, and consistent rewards, such as in looter shooters and the like, do nothing for me. Similarly, the consistent stream of level-up options presented here doesn’t do anything for me – but that doesn’t make it bad! Perhaps it’s exactly what you and your players wanted, so while it may not be for me, it may be a godsend for you and your group.

Jaye Sonia further explains the nature of the Invisible World, touching upon things such as the City of the Dreaming Dead, and particularly, explains the decision regarding the cognitive dissonance of oddities and threshold mechanics versus the more commonly seen insanity mechanics. The article explains pierce the Veil in more detail, and while it did not provide new realizations for me, it was great to see that my assumptions regarding design decisions behind this mechanic had proven to be true.

Finally, Tim Hitchcock and Jaye Sonia present us with…Mr No Face – when these fellows take damage, they are clad in an unearthly and potentially infectious glow. They can also emit bursts that destroy electric devices. As a nitpick: The SP in the statblock erroneously calls faerie fire “faery fire” instead, and the statblock has a few hiccups. None that would prevent you from using it, but if you’re a stickler for mechanical perfection, it’s something that might irk you. The b/w-artwork presented is pretty cool, though, and they are properly creepy.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are okay – I noticed a few more typos than I like to see, and some do slightly influence rules-integrity. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf comes with nice b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Brian Suskind, Blaine Bass, Tim Hitchcock and Jaye Sonia provide a nice, inexpensive little expansion for Bloodlines & Black Magic. The ‘zine is nice to have and provides quite a few inspiring tidbits. All in all, I consider this to be a pretty nice offering, closer to being good than to being okay, which is why I will round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodlines & Black Magic: Whispers & Rumors (Issue 2)
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The Mists of Akuma - Primer
by Gerhardt V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/07/2019 13:57:37

I found 'The Mists of Akum" to be exciting to read. My group in the end didn't want to move over to using Pathfinder. If you are Pathfinder player the is a great adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Mists of Akuma - Primer
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