[Review]Weekly Wonders-Drunkard’s Grimoire

Weekly Wonders – Drunkard’s Grimoire by Necromancers of the Northwest is a collection of 12 alcohol-based spells presented in the artistic style typical for those product (nice tome-like cover, a few black and white illustration inside the book.) As stated in the introduction, those should serve to extend that theme on spell-casters and is partly inspired by the Cult of Dionysos, while so far, mainly Monks and Barbarians had alcohol-themed archetypes. Also in the introduction is printed a list of official alcohol-based content. It seems not to be complete (a short Google search pointed me at the official combat trait „Accelerated Drinker“), but I still give bonus points for including that, because it is also stated that the part of the spells work in conjunction with those class features and archetypes, so to have this ready as a reference may come in handy. There’s also a hint at another Weekly Wonders Issue (Drunken Feats), that also might work with those spells, but as I don’t have that product (yet), I can’t say if that’s the case.

With two exceptions, the spells are cast at either a living creature or at a drink that has then to be imbibed for the spell’s effect to take place. In those cases, the drink in question can be drunk as part of the spell casting, so the casting time is unaffected by that (same goes for alchemists that might use such a spell). To give an impression, a short description of some of the spells follows:

Beer Goggles: impairs the sight of the drinker, who gains save bonus against gaze attacks, but also becomes more susceptible to diplomacy checks and charm effects.

Blackout: impairs the target’s ability to form memories, so they can’t remember what happened after.

Deadly Tankards: makes tankards into weapons. Also, you won’t spill the content while using them this way.

Valorous Whiskey: Drinker gains cold resistance and a morale bonus on attack rolls saves and some checks.

In the end, if I had one thing to criticize, then that some of the spells would require the GM to work with the player spell-caster (because there’s no use casting a spell on some drinks if the NPCs simply won’t drink them), which might be a con for players who don’t like such dependencies. On the other hand, as the GM, I immediately had some ideas how to use some spells even to introduce the players into a new adventure, so at least to me, they have a positive inspiration factor. And that you can use some of them as buff spells with (rum) flavor is something I really like very much. Mechanically, the levels of the respective spells seem right to me, and I wouldn’t have any problem if one of my players would want to use some of them. So if you like the theme of this product, I think it’s well worth it’s price and grant it full five stars.

[Review]Weekly Wonders – Villainous Archetypes Vol. II

WW-VA IIVillainous Archetypes: Vol. II is the latest entry in Necromancers of the Northwest’s Weekly Wonders series. As you may guess from the title, it’s about archetypes usable for evil characters, but is equally usable for GMs to create evil NPCs. It’s an 8-page PDF with 4 pages of actual content (the rest is front and back cover, credits and license stuff) which contains 5 archetypes.

The first one being the Brutal Oppressor, a barbarian archetype. With this one, you get to Swap Trap sense against Bully, which gives you a real nice use out of your Intimidate class skill. Which you can further improve with the Gory Display rage power which gives you an additional bonus on Intimidate with each successful critical hit. The other rage powers presented are Grab by the throat, which is more useful for the grappling barbarian, and Stay Down, which gives you an increasing damage bonus against prone opponents. And then there’s Bloodlust, a class ability replacing Tireless Rage, which potentially increases the number of rounds the barbarian can rage per day.

The second is the Elemental Defiler, a nice nod to the Dark Sun defiler of old and an archetype for the Kineticist. This archetype replaces Internal Buffer by Drain Energy, ability that basically does the same but is a bit more versatile, because you can use it, when you need it, and that you don’t need to accept burn to fill your buffer. On the other hand, you must use the won energy directly in the same round and the action provokes AoOs. And at Level 19, Drain Creature replaces Metakinetic Master and allows you to ignore burn according to the points of Constitution damage your opponent suffers.

The Extortioner is an Investigator archetype prone to blackmail his victims with the secrets he finds out. The Extortioner gets the Secret Finder class ability which improves and expands his trapfinding skill while losing his 3rd level investigator talent. Guilt Sense us a quite intriguing class ability which replaces boring trap sense. At the start, the extortioner gets a bonus on Sense Motive checks. At higher levels he also can cast detect thoughts as a spell-like ability, and even later on, he can force his victims to spill out secrets they are ashamed about. At fourth level, the extortioner replaces his swift alchemy class ability with Lingering Threat which improves upon the use of his Intimitade skill.

It seems as if the designers of this archetype felt it being a bit too strong, though, so they added Stunted Inspiration, which subtracts 1 point of Inspiration from the Extortioners inspiration pool. Seems more of a cosmetic change because in standard games, he might not really need all those inspiration points anyway.

The next one is the Villainous Bloodline for the sorcerer. Without going too much in detail, I generally like the conceptual idea, though the mechanics make it too easy to use it with actually good aligned characters. Ok, to inflict damage while simultaneously healing yourself (as the first level bloodline power Draining Touch allows) may not sound very goodish. And to paralyze your opponents and use them for protection (Hostage Taker at level 15) may also not be a sign for a true hero (though the problem is with the protection part and you don’t need to do this). On the other hand, neither Getaway (which allows you to escape via dimension door from narrow situations) nor the capstone ability Master of Deception are particularly evil in design and might come in handy for good-aligned characters as well.

And then there’s Villaneous Defenses, which might be much more powerful when used by good-aligned characters than by true villains. Reason being that you get DR/good, which might not be as efficient for a villain against a heroic group of adventurers, but can really help the Hero when fighting evil opponents.

This all said: you surely can use this with evil characters (especially when used in adventures where the opponents might even more evil), so it doesn’t actually goes against the designers‘ promise.

Last but not least, we have the Eldritch Slavemaster. This Summoner archetype forces his Eidolon(s) into his service rather than building a link to them. Which may have consequences in case he loses control over the summoned eidolon according to Conjurer’s Leash the replacement of 1st level’s Life Link. As this ability also comes with some restrictions regarding the distance allowed between summoner and eidolon, the designers added Slavedriver, an ability that let’s the eidolon cause more damage with successful hits, but also causes damage to the eidolon itself. At 4th level Shield Ally is replaced by Slave Shield. This ability lets the summoner decrease any hit point damage he suffers, but causes the eidolon to suffer twice the damage that its‘ slavemaster avoids. At 12th Level, Greater Slave Shield decreases the damage the Eidolon suffers this way. At 14th level, Drain Summoned Monster (self-explaining) replaces Life Bond and at 16th level, Explosive Summons replaces Merge Forms and allows the Summoner to use his summoned monsters as living bombs. And at level 20, Slave Army replaces Twin Eidolon and allows the slavemaster tohave summoned monsters and eidolon simultaneously, He can even have more than one summon monster or Gate spell active.

Summary: From 4 out of 5, the only archetype I would consider to be outright evil is the Eldritch Slavemaster. The other 4 can be surely used by evil, but also by non-evil characters. I mention this because I’m on of those GMs who normally not allows evil characters at his table but would probably allow those archetypes when set into the fitting context. But that’s not the important part. The important part is that you can create great evil PCs with them, and you can also use them to create interesting NPCs for your PCs to oppose. So the product does what it says, and it is doing it (in my opinion) without arising balance issues. I also didn’t stumble about glaring editorial issues. Meaning that I didn’t find anything which lets me substract points from the end note (maybe a half star for my issues with the Villainous bloodline sorcerer, but that I’d be inclined to round up).

So, 5 stars out of 5 it is.