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Efreeti

Anthony Adam's page

Goblin Squad Member. RPG Superstar 6 Season Marathon Voter, 7 Season Marathon Voter, 8 Season Marathon Voter, 9 Season Dedicated Voter. Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 2,907 posts (3,280 including aliases). 3 reviews. No lists. 4 wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 4 aliases.



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Time for TemplateFu to Review!

*****

Time for another in depth review methinks. I tend to blow the review box limit as I do review in depth each article, so expect this review to overflow to the comments.

The review is posted as I work through the issue, so you may have to come back every few days to catch the next posting.

One thing I did notice straight away is a lot of new talent in this issue, lots of new names and contributors. I wondered if this is because a lot of the prior contributors are now working as formal freelancers – which is a great tribute to a community magazine that is successfully opening the doors to writing and art provision for so many. Well done Wayfinder!

To reviewing I guess… off we go then...

Cover
The cover art leaves no doubt to the theme of this issue, welcome to the River Kingdoms where river banditry and piracy run rampant. The background image is totally on theme and made me wonder if Wayfinder should adopt the old dragon/dungeon provision of the cover image inside the magazine as a full page art without all of the offending overlays and texts. This image is one I would have liked like that. The iconic character pose could be a river warden or a bandit and is very much depicted in the now standard Paizo cover themes.
Art: 9/10

Forward
Neil Spicer, Superstar Champion, and Designer, Developer, and Contributor to many products for both Paizo and Legendary Games provides us an insight into the content ahead. He shows a great love for, and knowledge of the River Kingdoms. The forward forms an excellent breakdown of the issue content, so much so that writing this review will be aided greatly. The artwork, a goblin taking a bath with bath time toys is amusing and sets a nice light tone for the introduction to the issue.
Article: 9/10, Art: 8/10

Of Magic and Mettle: Archetypes of the River Kingdoms
Our first article of the issue introduces a selection of archetypes to us...

Of Magic and Mettle: Seelie Proctor (Arcanist Archetype)
From the name, I deduce that it is likely fey related.

The term Seelie means happy, lucky or blessed when referring to fairies, the opposite, Unseelie, refers to vengeful, spiteful, misfortunate or unholy fairies.

The term Proctor refers to an officer or invigilator at universities and institutions of higher learning. So… I expect a happy professor who leads fairy-dom . Did I get it? Kind of, it had more to do with protection than leadership so the name for me is a little off base but not wildly so.

One kind of neat and unusual aspect that caught my eye as a GM and as a player is replacing the spellbook with a familiar. This left unanswered important questions though - if the familiar dies, have you lost all the spells it stored? And if the familiar replaces your spellbook, is the intent that you cannot use a spellbook at all?

The archetype also suffers from a common problem in archetype design - it is replacing abilities that make an arcanist an arcanist, effectively losing arcane exploits in the trade off.

This archetype has no representative art piece.
Archetype: 7/10, Art: n/a

Of Magic and Mettle: Sellen River Pilot (Ranger Archetype)
Well, the name is pretty clear on this one and we all know what to expect. I probably wouldn’t have included the Sellen as part of the name as that is indicative of an implied restriction - river pilots could be found on any river, and so for wider appeal, I would not name a river in the archetype name.

The archetype trade off makes sense, in the most part, removing dungeoneering related skills and replacing them with riverside and boatmanship skills. I didn't like replacing wild empathy though - for me, this is one of the ranger defining skills and is useful even in river environments.

This archetype is represented by a monochrome art of a female river pilot. (Aside: I didn't understand why the bird in the picture is shouting "Corn!" in "common"). I didn’t like the monotone shade filling the line art and would have preferred plain white and black line art to allow me to color it with my pencils myself.
Archetype: 8/10, Art: 7/10

Of Magic and Mettle: Troll Hunter (Slayer Archetype)
Again, a simple but effective archetype name – we all know what to expect here.

This archetype also suffers slightly from the feeling that those things that make a slayer a slayer are being lost. It didn’t “feel right” that the slayer received a reduction on their sneak attack die pool, or that they lose their ability to stalk prey. This concerned me a little more when one of the higher powers was based on sneak attack die, the pool of which was reduced by an earlier power.

This archetype has no representative art piece.
Archetype: 7/10, Art: n/a

Of the three archetypes, the river pilot was by far the most versatile and interesting archetype of the bunch, but each is eminently suitable for River Kingdoms play.
Article: 8/10, Art: 7/10

Pick Your Poison: Race-Specific Poisons from Daggermark
A nice short article providing seven new poisons that can be used in your campaigns, each with a very distinct River Kingdoms flavor.

I did wonder about the durations on some of the poisons, because when you multiply the maximum duration with the effect, some of the poisons become real PC killers. As an example, 1 d4 has an average of 2.5 statistically. So six rounds means an average impact against the affected statistic of 15!

So you only have die rolls slightly above average and target Constitution to have a real PC munching poison. Also consider affects that are deadly in the normal game tend to have daily saves rather than per round to allow an affected PC a chance to seek help as they grow weaker and weaker.

The poisons are all very flavorful, but I strongly encourage each GM to review the duration and save DC of each in relation to the power level of their game.

The artwork is that of an inanely grinning goblin – I think it has sampled one or more of these poisons.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

Weal or Woe: River Kingdom Gods
My initial impression from the title was to expect some minor deity ying-yang at war sort of action. This wasn’t exactly what I got, but what I did get, I really liked.

The weal NPC, a worshipper of Hanspur, provides a varied roleplay encounter for the PCs perhaps even a romantic interest should one of the PCs convince the spirit of her half-orc husband that they are worthy of her.

The artwork supporting this NPC is quite simply stunning – I love artwork that implies grace and a lot of movement, swirling capes, and swashbuckling overtones and this does that in spades.

The woe NPC, a kineticist ratfolk, was also intriguing with a plot hook of fighting natural disasters rather than the NPC themselves. Should the PCs end up in combat against this ratfolk, the clever selection of powers and abilities should catch them by surprise indeed.

A found the artwork for this NPC amusing, reminding me of when my hamster would tell me off – sad I know, but it is just “cross hamster” through and through. I think it’s the facial expression that does it – I love it.
Article: 9/10, Art: 9/10

Gods of the River Kingdoms: Obediences to Gyronna and Hanspur
This article should definitely be partnered by GMs with the weal and woe just reviewed. This article fleshes out the lesser deities Gyronna and Hanspur, specific River Kingdom deities. It provides evangelist, exalted and sentinel boons for followers and how they should demonstrate their obedience to each diety. The Hanspur obedience is one of those grey areas of role-playing games where you often have to detail uncomfortable subject matter in order to remain true to good vs evil.

The accompanying artwork is dark, moody and disturbing, showing the act of obedience for Hanspur, the act of drowning a living being. This made me a little uncomfortable knowing that Wayfinder does get into the hands of the younger audience. I think I find it worrysome as it is not an act against the forces of evil but is an inherently premeditated act of evil itself.

I think on reflection I would have preferred the art to have been weal based rather than drawing attention to this less comfortable aspect of the content. But that’s just me. The art itself is well done and makes excellent use of lighting to promote the right mood.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10 – This does not include my personal reaction, that would be unfair.

The Peerless Karel Horvoska
As a GM of some many years standing, I have often wondered about how gods of beer should be portrayed, and I have probably committed about every trope and meme out there in the process. For this reason, I was absolutely delighted and surprised by how cleverly Cayden Cailean, the Drunken Hero, was interwoven into the devious plans of a desperate hero to reclaim a lost love from a rival who had stolen that love away through unfair and foul means.

I won’t spoil the plot any more than that other than to say the ending was satisfying and the whole was well written and superbly paced. This is going to be my very first 10/10 for a short story. Well done Benjamin – write more please.

The artwork, oh my gosh, Cayden’s rendering immediately made me think of Porthos and the Three Musketeers and the hero of the story might just as well be D’Artagnan albeit with an almost Eastern flavor to his dress. I am so putting this onto my printer, enlarging it and coloring this one in. It is truly detailed and delightful. Yes, it has happened, both article and art scoring maximum points together!
Article: 10/10, Art: 10/10

River Kingdoms: Fauna and Flora
This next article looks at typical vegetation and small animal life found in the River Kingdoms. I particularly liked the Parsuria Vine and the role play and devious uses it promotes. For the small creatures, I think my favorite is the small bird called a Psylokeet. This was also chosen for the accompanying art, but the art has is dominated by a female human and not the bird itself. I would have preferred a more detailed close up of the bird, maybe perched on a hand (so that scale can still be determined), but no more distraction from the focus of the piece than that.
Article: 9/10, Art: 7/10

Chosen Sovereign: A Paladin Archetype
Now we have a paladin archetype. It is nice to see the ideal of a paladin being stretched from the atypical lawful good into the realms of a holy warrior supreme of any alignment following the tenets and decrees of their chosen deity. The general theme of this archetype is very much enthralling those nearby into their beliefs, and at higher levels are extremely good enforcements of a right to rule. This archetype screams to be used by the GM for those leading a local community. The artwork is almost stained glass window in feeling, but something felt a little off. I eventually realized that it was the almost suspicious sideways glance that feels at odds with the kneeling pose of obedience or submission.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

Bonesteel Brine and Unguent
Next up are a couple of items, one wondrous and one alchemical. Let is start with the alchemical one, the bonesteel brine. It is an alchemical substance that when applied to a weapon or suit of armor, imbues that item with greater resilience than it would normally have. My only real issue with this item is describing it as a liquid – liquids are runny and so it conjures the wrong image of a salve to be applied to a weapon or armor. Maybe it should have been referred to as viscous oil or even as a salve. The wondrous item, bonesteel unguent, offers the same benefits as the alchemical item, it just allows it to be created by arcane means rather than alchemy.

This duplication felt too much on the same page, and I think personally, I would have had just the one item, preferring the magical item name and the use of unguent rather than liquid. The magical item could have allowed an alchemist to create it without needing to be an arcane caster simply by specifying this in the construction section.

I also felt a bit let down by the art here, it shows a dagger freshly coated in the unguent but I feel an opportunity was lost to show something more intricate (maybe a crystal dagger, or one that is of ornamental nature) being enhanced for combat use.
Article: 7/10, Art: 6/10

Woodsy’s River Kingdoms Anthems
Next we have some poetry and songs for your bard to perform. I personally don’t know the songs quoted as the inspirations here but really appreciate their mention – this allows me to look them up and maybe listen to a rendition or two on youtube and similar. I also think poems and songs written to the meter of existing real world songs is a great aid to the imagination for both the GM and the players, a very wise move.

The second one, The Land That Sings To Me, is the most amusing and most entertaining of the songs. How often do you encounter a poem using the word miscreant?! The artwork is a very pleasant tavern scene, showing a bard taking applause from his gracious audience after performing these songs. The bard is standing in some sort of light beam, almost spot light like, I am guessing from a skylight in the ceiling based on the light’s angle, which would make this tavern quite unusual indeed.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

Golarion Gazetteer: Everbloom Monastery
Now we have a nice article about a monastery and the village that grew around it, the Everbloom Monastery of the title. This is a great example of expanding on a mention in a Paizo product, taking that hook into greater detail. For those interested, the monastery is mentioned in Guide to the River Kingdoms as the hiding place for the rulers of the associated realm – which is expanded upon again in this article but the queen is missing from the notable inhabitants section!

My only issue with the general placement is that it shows the monastery is built on a rise above the approaching road providing it with good defense, however the village is not behind the monastery and protected by it, it is on the lower ground at road level. I personally would move the village, or at least the noble / important houses, to the rear of the monastery benefitting from its protection. I would have lower ground set aside for farming. But that’s just me.

Speaking of the map, it is beautifully drawn and clearly labelled. The monastery is as large as the village if not slightly larger, so in both art and article, it is definitely represented as a major pilgrimage site for the area.
Article: 9/10, Art: 9/10

Scaling Magic Items in the River Kingdoms
Now we have some magical items with a difference, items that scale in power with their owners, utilizing the rules from Pathfinder Unchained. The four items are quite diverse, but I think my favorite, purely for visuals, is the Mivon Eelskin. I just love the idea of a slinky shimmering armor molding to the wearer’s movements – for me this is a really strong visual, and instead of large bulky scales, we have the wonderfully minute scales of the eel.

For accompanying art, we have two pieces representing two of the four items. The first is a very nicely rendered dagger with a substantial blade. The second one representing the magical artists palette, with a riot of color representing the paints upon its surface.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

Hmmm, 15,339 characters (2,682 words), no room for the next review item without breaking it across posts, so the remaining review items will be found in the comments. As promised, this link takes you to the first post that continues this review in the comments tab.


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Template Fu Reviews Wayfinder #1

*****

Wayfinder 1 is like a step back in time and a preview of the great things to come in later issues. I am going to try and review each article and artwork separately in just a few lines, and assign an individual and overall score for the content.

I will attempt to score the articles and art as I would have had I reviewed at time of release and not let the maturation of this production over the years to have any negative effect on my reviewing of the early issues.

The first review I did ran over into the comments sections, I fully expect this to do the same. I am pretty thorough which means I write a lot of words - more than these review boxes allow! ;)

Off we go then...

Cover
The cover art is Osirion inspired, and might lead you to think the issue is Osirion themed, however looking at the index quickly shows a great diversity of content. I liked the cover.
Art: 7/10

Forward
The forward, by James Jacobs, actually made me realise just how like all of us these lucky Paizo staff are. I haven't met James in person (at time of writing), but I can fully empathise with his inner geek that shines through. The accompanying monotone art is quite evocative, very mystic and mysterious.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

Regional Traits of Osirion
The first full article provides 23 regional traits for PCs of Osirion descent. There is a great diversity of traits here, all providing some really interesting benefits coupled with great flavor and role play opportunity. The artwork, a black and white line art with intricate detailing is just begging to be colored in. It lends an appropriate Osirion feel supporting the article flavor very well.
Article: 9/10, Art: 8/10

The Road to Varno, Chapter 1
The first story article takes us to Ustalav, depicting a dark journey through gothic wooded lands. It gave me some great ideas to add flavor and suspense to in game travel. A well crafted and executed story. The accompanying artwork depicts the camp-fire scene and assists greatly in mentally picturing the main characters of the story.
Article: 8/10, Art: 7/10

Ask a Shoanti
The first reference to these sidebars that are dispersed throughout the magazine occurs on the second page of The Road to Varno. They provide a comedic turn on the "Agony Aunt" question and answers found in newspapers and magazines. I chuckled many times enjoying immensely these snippets of controlled madness. I decided to score these as a whole rather than individually.
Article: 9/10

Dangers of Darkmoon Vale
Next up, a collection of small drop-in encounters set in Darkmoon vale. The first introduces the party to malevolent pixies and offers some hectic fun, the second is darker and more sinister offering a CR 2 encounter that had interesting possibilities for role play, and the last encounter set in a carnival market highlights the diversity of these encounters. As a time pressed GM, I love quick drop in scenes like these, especially those set in villages and towns. Encounters in order of presentation scored 9/10, 8/10, 9/10 respectively. For my personal taste, the accompanying artwork didn't quite "gel" with the encounters.
Article: 9/10, Art: 7/10

Excerpts from the Journal of Zertus Hargon
Next up is a story vignette presented in a series of journal entries very reminiscent of the journal entries found in the Adventure Path products. It presents a quite dark tale that leads into a very detailed NPC write up and Stat block for the main protagonist. The artwork clearly portrays the anguish of the lead character and the grey scale shading presentation makes it that much more gritty and in theme with the dark tale.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

Dawnflower Dervish of Sarenrae
The next article presents us with a prestige class, a nice spin on the dervish theme coupling it with a worshipper of Sarenare. I particularly liked how the fighting style of the dervish was built as a set of "dance" abilities. The artwork portrays the whirling dervish feel and is another clean black and white image that is begging me to bring out the crayons.
Article: 9/10, Art: 9/10

Life in Korvosa
Next up is a quite moody piece, a short vignette of life in Old Korvosa, accompanied by two pieces of art, the first a scene of the beginning of the story, setting the mood nicely, the second being a nice character sketch of one of the main characters. What is very nice about this story is that the characters it introduces continue their adventures within pathfinder chronicler. This story appealed to my love of gothic and moody and the art supported it very well.
Article: 9/10, Art: 9/10

Claw of Abendego
I loved this article – one of the most original ways of introducing a new creature I have ever seen in print, fully deserving of a maximum score. It begins with a cooking recipe - one of the ingredients of which leads you to a very nice aquatic crustacean. The accompanying art lends a comical twist via the use of a goblin chef which somehow meshed well with the light hearted approach to the creature’s introduction.
Article: 10/10, Art: 8/10

Chronicles of Xain Marrick
I love articles that mimic the journal style found in the adventure paths – they immediately feel like pathfinder material right off the bat. This article provides just such a journal and there’s a dragon. Ticks all my boxes. The art is more cartoon than pseudo real, but it did make me wonder if this artist could do a whole fantasy comic page in a similar vein to this piece.
Article: 9/10, Art: 8/10

A Lost Pathfinder’s Journal: From Talithia’s Tomb
It’s almost like the issue knew that I love journal styled articles. This one has a nice Golarion themed children’s verse as set up for the main journal entry itself. Both pieces of accompanying art could be printed and stuck to blank item type cards for use as “show then tell” for your players. As with all good journals, you are left wanting more, wondering what happens next – this article is a great example of a well-paced journal entry.
Article: 9/10, Art: 9/10

Pathfinders of Qadira – Suri’s Chapbook
Oh my, I’m being spoilt – another journal styled submission this time in one of my favorite areas, Qadira – I love me some Arabian Nights. Again, a nicely paced article over three separate journal style entries that evoke the Qadiran theme very well. The artwork representative of typical Qadiran meal fare really supports the theme and flavor (sic) of the article.
Article: 9/10, Art: 9/10

Like Lightning
And a fourth journal styled article in succession – we have to remember this is the very first issue, so should not let such repetition distract from the quality of the article – and if you download subsequent issues, you see less and less of this repetition in article arrangement – do not let this put you off from the rest of the issues.
The article presents the story from the view point of the main protagonist, in a diary voice style. It also introduces us to a new wondrous item, fully statted out – so that’s another bonus. The art is of the protagnist recording her thoughts and actions, in colour and reeking of pathfinder style – well done.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

The Old Lady of the River
And a fifth journal styled article presenting the thought processes of a typical pathfinder - the internal construction is of the investigation and piecing together pieces of information. The old lady of the river is well represented by the art, a quite spooky piece that supports the article extremely well – one of my favorite pieces of art this issue.
Article: 8/10, Art: 9/10

The Real Bir Gatland
Next up is a more traditional short story about a very unusual character. I didn’t feel so much the pathfinder vibe, the presentation and the accompanying art arising from the article lending a cthulhu feel. That said, the line art is a very fine line art that is intricate, fun, evocative and begging to be colored in! I myself probably wont color it in for fear of ruining it – it’s that good.
Article: 7/10, Art: 9/10

Dear Diary
I liked the presentation of this Chelaxian themed submission, executed in the manner of talking to your diary as you write. The main creature played to my personal fears, I don’t like buzzing flyers in fear of wasps, hornets and bees and there is one mother of a bee as represented by the accompanying art.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

Black Sails
Next up is a nice short vignette regarding the ships of Leng and their Black Sails – slavery is touched upon from the eyes of a slave. The artwork accompanies the article well, and the cartoon at the bottom of the second page is something that could be right out of the Grimtooths traps books.
Article: 8/10, Art: 7/10

The Pharaoh’s Treasure
Another nice vignette, again following a Pathfinder journal / report style, comprising the details of the acquisition of an article of antiquitynavigating false chambers, illustrating tomb delving in some detail. The artwork struck me as Mummy film inspired, depicting a sarcophagus whose lid represents the entombed in a very Tutankhamun representation, before which a swarm of beetles rushes towards the viewer.
Article: 8/10, Art: 9/10

The Greenhorns
Another pathfinder journal, written from multiple pathfinder viewpoints. The first in a pompus noble borne voice which, while fun at first quickly became tiring, but that may just be me– it is certainly food for thought for Talador / knight errant based play. The next journal entries are written by a minotaur struggling against “monster prejudice”. The third view point is from a quite vengeful and protective sorceress. I did find this article confusing because the journals weren’t merged into a single chronological order. White on black character portrait style art pieces accompany this article, representing each pathfinder reporting.
Article: 7/10, Art: 8/10

Poems of the Vale
Next up we have a collection of poems and songs of various lengths – a really great page to keep behind the GM screen and use when the local bards peddle their wares. No art accompanied these poems, which is a bit of a shame – I would have loved to see some art based on the Faerie Army poem.
Article: 7/10, Art: n/a

The Last Wish
A short and unusual story that I found very intriguing, and useful as a GM – evil grin. I won’t say anymore as it would spoil the plot so easily, but is a well recommended read for when you have 5 minutes to spare. I really loved the initial color art atop the start of the page, have a pseudo real/Disney cross style of presentation. I just loved it.
Article: 8/10, Art: 9/10

Family Ties
Next up, some Tian Empire flavour, the first section detailing how a raid to retrieve a magical urn goes awry… leading into a new bloodline - Ancestral. My gut feel is that the link between the powers of the bloodline and your PC ancestry is tenuous, maybe it should have been linked through the powers to your parents, then your grandparents, each successive power drawing from a deeper link to your heritage. That’s just a personal feeling though: for an ancestral bloodline, I wanted more ancestry. Nice clean art, supports the story and the bloodline, the urn art particularly firing the imagination.
Article: 7/10, Art: 8/10

Necro-Lord of Urgathoa
A very flavorful prestige class is next, suitable for clerics and necromancers to employ, and the prestige class also lends itself as a nice template to be added to undead to throw at unsuspecting players. The abilities tied in well with the Urgathoan theme. The banner art is quite stunning, another of my favorite pieces this issue.
Article: 9/10, Art: 10/10

Tools of the Trade: Hunters of the Dead
A very well themed collection of traits and feats are found here, all for those who want to specialise in the hunting of the undead. They are not restricted by race or class and so are viable options for all, some fitting very well in more recent occult and horror inspired products. A nice lead in art of a hunter at the foot of a cloaked statue evokes the feeling of a hunter praying for success in an upcoming hunt.
Article: 9/10, Art: 8/10

The Wretched of Ustalav
Next we have a nice moody themed offering that evokes Ustalav through and through. It begins with a journal entry that leads to a new disease (although I myself see it more as a curse, but to each their own). Then the fun part, adding a new template (wretched) to creatures. There are some creatures, that adding this template too, would make for very interesting and deadly encounters for your PCs. The artwork that accompanies the article evokes wretchedness very well and so supports the article nicely.
Article: 9/10, Art: 8/10

Absalom Character Traits
Absalom tied character traits, split into religious and regional collections are the meat of this article. My favorite religious trait has to be Hero of the Hall as it offers a rare benefit not often found in the main rules. For regional traits, my favorite is the Dancer of Kortus, also the chosen by the artist it seems. The accompanying dancer art is quite stunning and full of detail.
Article: 9/10, Art: 9/10

The Great Maw of Rovagug
A short story, with a Geb / Nex flavor involving great relics, flying machines and the men that fly them now greets the avid reader. The style lent itself to a notes or letter for a Pathfinder journal, a personal musing if you will, leading one to wonder if the writer got home safe or not to file that report. The artwork is definitely drawn from and supporting of the story.
Article: 8/10, Art: 8/10

OK, reaching the character / word limit now, so the remaining items to be reviewed will be posted to the comments along with the closing summary for the issue as a whole.

The remaining reviews to be found there are for The Sweetest Fruit, Gro’kosh, Shadows of the First World, The Blood-Slicked Mantle, The Mwangi Expanse – Senghor, From the Rookery, The Gallery Below, Too Small to Notice

The completion of this review is now found here. Enjoy.


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TemplateFu on Wayfinder 14

*****

Ok, this is my first review ever on an actual product rather than on RPG Superstar entries, so it may be a bit bumpy / long winded! >.< I have no official tie to Paizo in any way, so these thoughts and opinions are my own. These opinions are about the content itself and not any author or artist, so please take them constructively as no intent to inflame or otherwise upset is intended.

I admit right from the outset that I have a contribution of my own in this issue. I shall not review my article, leaving it to all of you to read and hopefully enjoy. ;)

So let's get the show on the road... We have a monster theme issue.

In the forward by Adam Daigle, we get a complete summary of this issues contents and diversity including yet another insight into the man's strange Flumph fetish! (Aside : In the UK, there is a confectionery called Flumph - a large pink marshmallow like sweet that really gums up your teeth and is oh so sickly sugary).

We then hit our first article - Crones and Covens, a collection of feats, hexes and weapon special abilities aimed squarely at covens and witchcraft. The teamwork feats are both powerful but one of the requirements was that every member of the coven have taken them, so this means when new members join, the coven might lose access to the teamwork feat if the new member hasn't taken it yet. The Dark Maiden archetype was flavorful and interesting as was the variant coven's, offering a choice of surprises to spring on your players.

That said, some very interesting twists on covens and witchcraft that will certainly spice up your encounters. The artwork for the first article is quite awesome and definitely has a Paizo feel to it.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 9/10

Next we have another rules crunch article, Monstrous Harvest - an interesting spin on making the bodies of the monsters slain into ingredients for unsavoury recipes (poisons). The extractions are based on categories or types of creature rather than being per specific creature, but there is enough here in this article to guide GMs into special cases should they so desire. The artwork is quite dark and moody and complements the theme of the article well. Quite a short article leaving me wanting more on this one.

Template Fu scores this article 7/10, and the artwork 8/10

Next is the first of the flavor/story submissions - Awakening. A creepy, gothic like look at life from the perspective of an undead. A sad story that I found very compelling as it appeals to my love of dark and sinister. The artwork is extremely evocative, one of my favourite pieces of the issue.

Template Fu scores this article 9/10, and the artwork 10/10

Then we have a Weal and Woe article - Blood and Sport. This is based around Katapesh and ties heavily with the games in the Grand Coliseum. The first protagonist being a minotaur Brawler, complete with evocative art. Turning to the Woe, we find a female minotaur Oracle - the artwork here definitely gave me an old world gypsy feeling. Both protagonists are well detailed with some interesting abilities and caveats that should make for a very interesting encounter or two for your players.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 9/10

Next a mini gazetteer article - Sacred Sacrificial Sites of Inner Sea Monsters. The first thing to hit me was the article name, a tad long for me. The sites cover a wide area though, allowing GMs to find at least one of use in most campaigns, we have a darklands site, a river kingdoms one, and a third in Ustalav. Each different and quite gothic and dark in theme, offering a good diversity for those little side treks and tangents the players often run off and find. The artwork is also especially moody and esoteric. I would have loved to have more than three sites to choose from but the article should inspire sufficiently.

Template Fu scores this article 7/10, and the artwork 10/10

Next another crunch article - Monstrous Sorcery. An article on sorcerer bloodlines and variations that help alleviate the problems of certain player types and races not benefiting fully from a bloodline. A very useful article that most sorcerors will devour with interest. The artwork I found to be interesting, but fell short a little compared with the early artwork encountered.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 7/10

And the crunch keeps coming as we move onto Monstrous Simple Class Templates. This article providing three nice simple templates you can add to a creature to give it Alchemist, Anti Paladin and Witch flavour and abilities without needing to spend class levels to do so. Although this article is based upon material in the Monster Codex, there is enough in the article that it is useable without having to own the source product - well done indeed. I found the artwork to be serviceable for the article but is more comic style than previous offerings - not really my cup of tea.

Template Fu scores this article 9/10, and the artwork 7/10

Then the GM within me grinned with that evil smile on encountering Hunger Upon Darkest Wings. This article takes the humble harpy and beefs them up with divine feats and pure player scaring joy. I so want that art as a harpy miniature! The article finished with a section for the Wendigo, which kind of disappointed me, I was loving the harpy goodness too much I guess. But that's just personal taste, and the wendigo section is very good too. But, man, that harpy art really grabbed.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 9/10

Now a break from crunch and another short fiction, The Blue Lantern Spirit. I loved the Tian Xia feel of this offering, and it definitely feels right with familial spirits, oriental shrines, the mysticism vibe was just spot on. The artwork was also moody and evocative, picking up on one of the main scenes from teh story very well and really reinforcing the other worldliness of the offering. Loved it.

Template Fu scores this article 9/10, and the artwork 9/10

Next we have a song/poem - Grandmother's Pact: A song of the Winter Wolves. Again, for me, an overly long title, that could have been more impactful without the second half. The 3-3-4 repeating meter of the song was maintained throughout and the words leaving me the feeling that a campaign/adventure could be written that followed the song thread. The artwork evoking the cold of winter and the ferocity of the winter wolf quite well, a good accompaniment to the song.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 8/10

The next article is mine, A Creature's Essence... moving along...

The artwork that was assigned my article is evocative of cooking up a creature - the theme of the article itself. Full of pastel hues, it grows on me every time I look at it.

Template Fu wants to score the article 10/10 ( >.<, :D, ;) ), but does score the artwork 8/10

Ok, next up is A Matter of Class - lots of crunch bonuses for monsters by type AND class. Yes, giving your creatures a class now allows the creature the option of class specific bonuses - these really add a neat twist to classed creatures that your players simply wont be expecting. Solid article with lots of options. The artwork felt to me almost Warcraft MMO style inspired and would make quite a nice desktop background.

Template Fu scores this article 9/10, and the artwork 8/10

Our setting of choice gets some extra loving next, in the Golarion Gazetteer : Sverenagati article. This gives us in insight into a ruined city left behind by serpent folk in northern Avistan. The article is a very detailed overview providing the reader with plenty of plot hooks, ideas and setting flavor with which to weave their stories and campaigns. Another favorite piece of artwork for me accompanies this one, one I intend to use as a play aid for a high priestess atop a ziggurat in one my campaigns.

Template Fu scores this article 9/10, and the artwork 10/10

Next a new class spawned of the deserts of Garund, the Maftet. It was at this point I realize that this issue, being themed on creatures has allowed the maximum diversity of setting - this is a truly setting trotting issue full of marvels and wonder.

Back to the new race, the Maftet, we have a fully detailed new race, full ecology and ethos, the necessary crunch for the base race, class options, a racial archetype and racial feats. I hope there is a sample fully fleshed out PC later in the issue as that was the only thing I felt was missing. Those word limits can be a harsh mistress. The artwork was really evocative a cross between a harpy/erinyes/lion humanoid with wings. A nice tie in to the article.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 9/10

Back to the new race, the Maftet, we have a fully detailed new race, full ecology and ethos, the necessary crunch for the base race, class options, a racial archetype and racial feats. I hope there is a sample fully fleshed out PC later in the issue as that was the only thing I felt was missing. Those word limits can be a harsh mistress. The artwork was really evocative a cross between a harpy/erinyes/lion humanoid with wings. A nice tie in to the article.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 9/10

Next, in Bounty of the Bog, an oft overlooked creature, the Boggard provides the inspiration to Boggard themed traps, trickery and magical items. A treasure trove of new shiny for your players to enjoy. My favorite item is the Bloodtooth, but I think the bonus might be a little high, I will likely use it reducing the max strength bonus to half the quoted.A nice art rendition of the creature central to the articles theme rounds out a nice of fun.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 8/10

And the Adventure Card Game lovers get some love in the next article - The cards depicted are two henchmen from the Skull and Shackles Adventure Card game. There is also an additional scenario - but not a scenario card! The artwork is as found in the official card games and expansions so I don't think I should give a score for those.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10.

Another vignette follows, I'll tell my Ma - a very string moral story that shows how bullied eventually get their comeuppance and deservedly so. I really liked the pacing of this story too, it worked very well. The artwork, for me, having a slightly oriental feel to it tugged at the heartstrings a little - very well themed with the story itself.

Template Fu scores this article 9/10, and the artwork 9/10

Next we have a hunter archetype with a selection of some very special companions in Fighting Alongside Fang, Claw, Tusk, and Wing. I can see my players falling over themselves to create a pc based on this article just to have that Chimera companion! The goat head of the chimera artwork looked slightly odd, almost floating beside the creature than being attached to it. But, it is still a nice piece, the leonine body very well drawn and powerful looking.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, and the artwork 7/10

And a side trek adventure is next, Strength of the Nightsoil. It doesn't suggest in the opening sections the player level required (I would say 1-3 is a good bet) but does indicate that it could be a prequel to a Pathfinder Society adventure from Season 4 - 4-01 to be precise. It's a nice sewer based adventure and can easily be adapted for most cities / locations with sewers and so I would expect this to be used by a lot of hard pressed GMs - as there is a theme of slime and molds, make sure your players have access to the means to deal with these types of threat. The map/artwork is very clear - personally I wouldn't have had the A1 thru A4 labels quite so large (A3 filling its room!) so as to avoid obscuring any of the carefully drawn details in the rooms. The artwork scene made me chuckle, a little too cartoony for my personal tastes but amusing non the less.

Template Fu scores this side trek 8/10, the map 8/10 and the artwork 8/10
So, we continue with the Pregen Goblins article. A premade party of goblins eminently suitable for the Strength of the Nightsoil adventure just reviewed. We are given goblin versions of Warpriest, Investigator, Sorceror and Bloodrager. A good mix of party skills. Each goblin is well statted, including hints into each golblins character and mind set. The artwork is a bit of a mixed bag, however all four goblins are depicted. The first goblin, the warpriest, has a Golarion goblin style and feel to it, but the puce green put me off, it didn't feel goblin green enough if that makes sense. The next one is more cartoon in style but fitting to the Investigator. The next one, the Sorceror, is an extremely good rendition of nasty caster goblin-ness. Loved that one. The last, the bloodrager is both cartoony and a bit too "Grimtooth" for me. Check out Grimtooths traps products and you will see what I mean.

Template Fu scores this article 9/10, the goblin art as follows - warpriest 8/10, investigator 7/10, sorceror 9/10 and the bloodrager 6/10 (sorry, it just didn't feel Golarion goblin at all).

Next we have a weal of woe article, Spider and the Fly, offering GM's too fully fleshed out traders able to be dropped into any major city with little fuss or bother. What I found interesting here was that weal or woe is at odds with the issue theme of monsters in a way - it is difficult to produce a "weal" monster! The author has performed well in the instance and there is a definite weal v woe feel to both traders. The woe trader is delightfully wicked and full of intrigue and subterfuge. The artwork for the first trader was really nicely done - it so easily could have trodden on the spider trope of dark elves/drow but avoided this pitfall. The second artwork for the woe trader, well, it certainly exudes slimy toady machination well. Definitely not a nice guy.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, the artwork 8/10 for both pieces.

Then we have a very amusing tale from the point of view of the monster again in Happy Tails and Candy Shells. I don't want to spoil it by revealing too much, other than to say I chuckled immensely and often times thought of my dappy dog chasing himself around the garden - it has definite mental doggy inspiration in here and isn't canine at all. A very light hearted and fun read, so far my favourite story of the issue. The artwork is a big reveal, but fortunately placed on the second page, so if you are reading via pdf, only use single page view so as not to spoil the reveal found in the first half of this tale.

Template Fu scores this article 9/10, the artwork 8/10.

Next up, Monstrous Masterpieces. An article providing bardic love with special bardic performances, their effects and benefits, each with a decidedly monstrous and wicked flavour. I loved the perversion of the classic gypsy dancing in firelight imagery, it made me chuckle when I saw it - a little cartoony for my tastes in general but a breath of fresh air in imagery. Well done.

Template Fu scores this article 8/10, the artwork 9/10.

Next we have a mixed bag of crunch in Monstrous Bodies and Warped Minds. Overall, this article disappointed and I think it was becuase it tried to cover too much in a limited word count. We have feats, discoveries, hexes and talents. I feel it should have been split into two articles possibly - especially as the title hints at plural hexes but there is only one hex in the hex section. What is here is very good, but I feel a more focused article would not have left me with the "wanting more because there wasn't enough" feeling. The artwork is really good and appealed to my favourite type of art. I really like dragonkin monsters and this art just felt spot on for the article subject matter, plus dragonkin art is one of my weak spots.

Template Fu scores this article 6/10 (sorry, it's just how I felt), the artwork 9/10.

There is still a lot of content to review and I have run out of allowed characters on this page. The rest of the review is in the commentary thread, starting here (sorry for the inconvenience and the wordiness/length of review!)



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