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This book is 188 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page KS-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with182 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
Full Disclosure: This review is mostly based on the Hardcover of the book, which I got for backing the Kickstarter. With just a minimum delay and communication throughout the process, I might add. I was in no way affiliated with the production of this book.
That out of the way... Before you click on another page due to the book's price: WAIT. Just a second, okay? Please read on, I guarantee you won't regret it. This book is filled to the brim with crunch and in order to avoid bloating this review unduly, I promise I'll try to be as brief as possible, given the matter at hand. Let me ask you a question to begin:
Have you ever wanted to run an aerial chase, dogfights on dragons, with manticores, chimera and giant eagles crashing into one another, while their riders duke it out in free fall as their mounts try to rip each other asunder? Have you ever wanted to blast after a dragon-riding villain and perhaps even ride your own dragon to face the tyrant as your army and the forces of darkness clash below you? Have you ever wanted to jump from the highest window of the sapphire tower, jewel of Hashk-Kanep in hand, only to land on the back of your trusty Pegasus, while the sultan's enraged men cover the sky with hundreds, nay, thousands of arrows and bolts? If you have ever wanted to do something like that, then by all means, read on.
Do you know what all of these scenarios have in common? They don't work properly in PFRPG.
But more on that in a very short bit - after all, this book is about helped, personal flight - from the means to achieve it, broken down by class and taking various archetypes into account, this pdf leaves, from the very first page, no doubt on how serious it handles the topic: If you have ever had a flying PC or taken any amount of time to concoct a story-line featuring the lofty skies, you'll realize one thing as soon as you take a look at PFRPG's flight-rules. They're there. Somewhere.
This pdf organizes them in a way that actually make them USABLE. Don't believe me that the basic rules are just not that well-organized? What about encumbrance for flying creatures that are quadrupeds? Why is this relevant? Flying mounts can't fly in medium or heavy barding - which doubles as counting as medium/heavy-load equivalent. Which means only light load, otherwise no dice for your flying mount to carry you aloft. I just wished I had this book prior to having to pierce this together from sentences throughout the core rule book. Now different playstyles have different preferences and hence, just about EVERY set of rules has three options - a simulation-style approach, a hybrid approach and a cinematic approach that is more focused on what's cool. Tables of mount sizes and rider sizes in comparison to show how many passengers they can carry, negotiation with intelligent mounts -all of that is concisely broken down and explained in a clarity that would have spared me about 2 weeks of frustration, book-switching and browsing through boards. Yeah, go figure.
We get three classes in here - the magical beast rider (a cavalier archetype),who can teach his/her mount arcane talents and choose from selections as exotic as the winged cat & dog Bixie and Hainu to Griffons and Spider-Eaters. The airshaping sky pilgrim alternate monk, in the meanwhile, feels like an expertly-executed nod towards "The Last Airbender", gaining the option to shape winds, fly etc. and, in fact, working much better than the rather lame monk base-class. (Hint for Owen K.C. Stephens should he read this - I'd love to see this made "talented"...). Now speaking of former Super Genius, now Rogue Genius Games - their Dragon Rider base-class is powerful, but many people don't particularly like the amount of actions they eat. For those of you looking for an alternate take, herein is the Wyrm Rider, an alternate cavalier that rides on a domesticated, less dangerous species of dragon, which, while not as powerful as a regular dragon, also doesn't eat your actions for a different playing experience.
This book being about flying companions, we get concise lists of animal companions that can fly, with entries on being ground-suitable, aerial trip CMDs, options to carry things (and people), full companion stats etc. - there is a LOT of work in these tables and they cover regular dragon cohorts gained via leadership and also faithful companions: The latter are rather ingenious options for characters in aerial-heavy campaigns that want a flying mount, but don't have the suitable class - faithful companions can be rescued, raised etc. and, while not as efficient as animal companions, make for awesome pets. The rules here are once again an example for concise, easy to grasp material.
New race-wise, we get the Half-Fey - which comes with 6 variants that feature an ARG race-point break-down for each and range from their point values from 1 at 10 points to 4 11-point builds to 1 20 point-build for higher fantasy campaigns. Aforementioned Bixie and Hainu also get full statblocks/bestiary-style entries, as do so-called lesser chimera, which essentially are flying animals that have a rather simple template added. oh, and we get a one-page easy-to-grasp overview over flying constructs with a streamlined single look, you have all information handy on one page.
At this place in time while writing this review, I was honestly feeling like I was failing - why? Because I just can't mention everything this book does, the level of detail it provides - take weapons - not only do we get new ones, this book also deals with the question what happens when flight is common in a setting: The importance of ranged combat and the proficiency thus required, a whole page of bardings, signaling kites, slow-burning smokesticks, aeronautic balloons - and all of these even before brooms of flying or even Thunnorad, Thor's chariot (WITH properly spelled names for the two rams - the scholar of Scandinavian literature rejoices!) or flying Vardos enter the fray with concisely-worded and at the same time iconic rules. Oh each, OF COURSE, also are all collated in tables with appropriate NPC levels / PC levels to have them, gp value etc. - If only the regular rules were that well organized!
Now if you've been following my reviews, you'll know that I consider vehicles to be underdeveloped and this book also has some ideas here - first of all, it proposes a less insane driving-DC (which I've house-ruled ages ago); secondly, from balloons to alchemical skiffs and air barges to batman-style kite-gliders, we get some cool additional vehicles. Yay! Suffice to say, once again, the rules are almost painfully concise and easy to grasp in their presentations.
Now remember the example at the beginning, with the sultan's archers? Want to fly over an enemy army and rain death on them? enter missile mooks! By providing concise rules for volley-shots of large quantities of archers/crossbowmen and no less than 4 (!!!) pages of tables that include perception, CRs, XP-values, ACs, atks and damage, we get mooks for literally EVERY situation, spanning the Crs from 1/3 to 18! This chapter will get a tremendous amount of use, not only by me.
Have I mentioned concise lists of flying mounts by their terrain that cover the first 3 bestiaries 8the 4th hadn't been released yet...), the extensive rules on creating storms with wind-speeds, rain, climate, clouds, max visibility and special occurrences like lightning, hail and turbulences? Oh, for EACH SEASON and THREE CLIMATES? a concise system to create weather hazards on the fly?
What comes up, must come down, as the saying goes, and falling-rules, from simulation-style half-rounds to cinematic style options to ground-catch or mid-air catch targets are not only explained, their pros and cons are weighed and individual systems are provided for your preference. so yeah, if you always thought that Superman's arms should have sliced Lois Lane clean in three parts - here are rules for that as well as one-glance tables that show you the amount of damage caused. And yes, unconsciousness, the diehard feat, ferocity, being big and rings of feather falling - all in here, all taken into account.
Now how to handle this grid-wise? The book actually also has various ways for you to handle this, with sidescroll, top-down, full-blown 3d via two maps and tables of vertical reach summed up cleanly for you. If you don't want to go full-blown simulation, there are varying and all feasible abstract grid-options with corresponding rules to be found in here as well, including abstract ranges, movement etc. The Fly-skill's maneuvers, including u-turns of varying degrees on a more simulationalist grid are also perfectly explained and detailed alongside ascending/descending. And yes, they are expanded from the basis provided to include e.g. 135°-turns, the concept of expanded flight and different ways of dealing with the problem of the face of creatures -whether you want to keep it or get rid of it - this book has you covered. Have I mentioned strong winds, flying through canopies etc.?
Gamemasters aren't left hanging in the cold stratosphere either - this pdf literally has thought EVERYTHING through: The repercussions of common flight, from preferred weapons to the role of small folk like halflings and gnomes, the costs of maintaining herbivore/carnivore armadas of flying creatures, trade winds, guild-systems, flags & pennants, politics, ley lines, artforms (GEOGLYPHS!), strategic cliff-dwellings, food pyramids, overland travel via fly-speed distances (again, in 3 different forms) - this chapter is a world-builder's dream and perfectly summarizes key question of what would change in a world if flying was really common.
That is not where this book stops, though - Fly maneuverability templates and companion/cohort-sheets for just about EVERY CREATURE as well as token galore for the creatures, a missile mook sheet, a rules-checklist (so you can recall which of the various options you and your players settled on - e.g. a world with trade winds, but no organized sky guilds?) and finally, a concise summary of fly, ride and handle animal-skills -all of these can be found in here as well.
Editing and formatting are SUPERB - I only noticed two minor typos, one of which was my nick in the backer-list, but who cares - at this length an impressive achievement. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy-to-read 2-column b/w-standard that makes the tables herein (and there are A LOT) easy on the eyes. The b/w-artwork, of which we get a LOT is rather cartoonish/very old-school in many places, whereas some pieces are downright awesome. It took me some time to get used to it, but it does have its charm. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience and if you can track one down, get the hardcover - it is solidly and very professionally produced. I'm not 100% sure whether all the creature-sheets of the KS are included with this book on non-KS-venues, so I can't include those in my final verdict.
This book left me utterly, completely flabbergasted. I backed this when I wasn't as dirt-poor as I'm right now on a whim and honestly didn't expect to ever see it. One company that never released a supplement prior to this one, what can one expect? I had honestly forgotten about this book when it found its way into my mail-box - not due to excessive delay, but simply due to much on my plate. In an age where kickstarters by established RPG-companies sometimes are overdue by more than 2 years and often lack anything resembling regular communications, this was one surprise. It went promptly on my shelf in favor of daily reviewing and only after some time found its way into my hands. I read it and my jaw just dropped, smashed through the floor and hit the floor of the cellar.
I'm living on the 8th floor.
This is a once-in-a-blue-moon-book that is not only a testimony to Neil Carr's dedication and passion to the topic of flight, but also to his work ethics: To think that ONE designer made this is mind-boggling.
Let me spell it out: This book belongs into the library of every PFRPG-DM. No exceptions. Ne leeway. This is the Cerulean Seas of the sky and does what Cerulean Seas did for underwater adventuring (albeit aesthetically slightly less appealing) for flying, aerial combat, aerial campaigns etc. I'm going a step further: Players wanting to play flying characters should get this and get their DM a copy. This book is a milestone, a glorious beast that came from nowhere and that shows that having no track-record is never an excuse for faulty rules-language: This is as tightly worded, as concisely phrased as any book by Paizo, perhaps even beyond it. It covers all topics, intelligently and in varied ways and manages to deliver something for ALL playstyles, with huge amounts of customization-options. This is a RULE-book to judge all rule-books, a supplement that ups the ante, a book that is a superb example on what kickstarter can deliver - "Companions of the Firmament" is as important for PFRPG as Cerulean Seas, as the APG or Psionics Expanded; This is a Rulebook of the highest caliber that will be used all the time - you have no excuses; Unless you don't want to cover flight at all (then why are you reading this?), this book should be considered one of the best possible investments into rules one can currently make. This is revolutionary in much the same way as Ultimate Campaign is when combined with Legendary Games' stellar supplements to actually make the system work.
Unless you're very focused on artwork/layout, this pdf, and that I can guarantee, will NOT disappoint you - the sheer amount of useful rules, options etc. herein mean that there is no way I could rate this any other way that offer the highest praises. If there were ten stars, this would be 10/10. If there were 6, this would be 6/6 - by any scale I apply, this ranks among the apex-books in its usefulness, coolness, level of detail it covers and foresight. This must be a 5 star +seal of approval, a hot contender for the no. 1 spot of my Top Ten of 2013 and the most furious, impressive first product I've seen any 3pp produce in ages. Miss this at your own peril.
Posted first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on d20pfsrd.com's shop. Couldn't post it on OBS due to not having a coupon and it seems to not be sold here on Paizo - something I hope GIC will remedy.
Expect MUCH more playtime from ST than from e.g. a Paizo-AP. It's huge.
Now as to your question - it's a matter of preference. Rappan Athuk is very much a dungeon crawl, ST is not, at least not exclusively: There is a lot going on in the wilderness and temple-city, including boss monster, many small tragedies and small stories to find, much wonder to be unearthed. That being said, it is very much player-driven.
What does this mean? One of the downsides of APs is that their story is rather railroady - which is great and keeps them exciting, but can also stifle player-desires to e.g. expand settlements. Think about Part #4 and #5 of CotCT or the amount of groups that didn't want to leave Cauldron, Diamond Lake or Sandpoint. Slumbering Tsar is the opposite - it's very much up to your players to decide what to do and when to do it. While there is a general 3-part structure, within the parts themselves, they are rather flexible. This means that it offers a lot of freedom - for better and worse. Without players acting on their own and curiously engaging in the environment, you'll have issues.
Perhaps an easier analogue would be the Dark Souls/Demon Souls-games - subdued storytelling by showing, by small tones, by hints - Slumbering Tsar is, to me, the equivalent of Dark Souls - no holding hands, lethal as all hell, but also full of terror and wonder. Players have to get into that kind of storytelling and if they do, ST will work for you. If they want their story spelled out to them, then ST will probably disappoint you, though its story is in my opinion more concise than Rappan Athuk's: There simply is more variety in exploring the setting than just going down more levels.
If you require further guidance, drop me a line via my hp Endzeitgeist.com and I'll do my best to help you. :)
Thank you for your kind words!
Allow me to clarify some points:
I did not wish to insinuate that the WHOLE Stalker-class is OP - as I've mentioned in my review, it is stronger than melee core classes, but that's the design maxim and not something I rated the pdf down for. My criticism regarding the class is based mostly on failing the kitten-test twice and getting ranged melee attacks too soon/easily, thus outclassing its own capstone. I never called the whole class OP.
Of course, you may take issue with "Weasel words" like "widely considered" - to reiterate: Look at what options are used in insane min-max builds and how easily you can min-max skills in PFRPG. It was easy in 3.X, it's perhaps even easier now. There are quite a few threads out there regarding feat/skill maximizing I assume you may have seen - plus, there are a lot of items that provide significant bonuses to skills; bonuses which would be much harder to achieve for any other rules component. There is also the luck-component of competing d20 attack-rolls; You get a different curve than from one roll versus fixed value - you get a much higher fluctuation. Hence also: Different design-tenet.
I respect your opinion that this is a non-issue FOR YOU. I have to take various campaigns into account when writing a review and campaigns where skill-buffing items are not limited in some way may be influenced in a detrimental way by these mechanics.
Regarding deviations from traditional pathfinder-tenets: My point is that the pdf doesn't need them - it could just as easily work WITH the system instead of using its own subsystem of rules-syntax/establishing how things are done. Think about it - wouldn't you be confused if a new class threw a fireball at you and you wouldn't save with a ref-save, but an acrobatics-check? Good design breaks the system/expands it when it's flawed/not enough for a component, but tries to otherwise adhere to the language and conventions of the rules. Death effects are just one obvious, little example. Skill vs. AC is the most prevalent of these cases.
That being said, I REALLY want this to work - I like PoW and want it to work. I don't consider the class too "advanced" or complex. In fact, as I've tried to show in my review, I really, really like the system - the basic system WORKS - awesomely so. But the accumulation of non-standard design-decisions means that I *had* to address this or lose my integrity: I've always called issues like these out, it just happens that here, they are part of a much beloved system. These *might* be considered massive problems - not for everyone, but for a significant amount of persons they are.
I honestly dreaded the fallout of this review; I know that a lot of people love this - a group to which I'd love to belong. As written, it is my opinion that the system is flawed an won't work for every group that likes the idea, mainly due to aforementioned anachronistic design-decisions. As a reviewer, it is kind of "my job" (haha, if only...) to point stuff like that out. I've done so in the past and I will continue to do so.
That being said, I never considered my opinion the only valid one - it is, in the end, just that - an opinion. I'm looking forward to reading your review!
Since you have the "breaking apart of space"-component covered, what about a race that can phase through space/time, being slightly asynchronous. Would also make for a great PrC/racial paragon-class/Time Thief-support. And THINGS could haunt them...
Thinking about it, feels more like a racial template à la Raijin...
Upgraded my pledge to print. One note: International shipping is VERY cheap. I hope you won't make a loss on it. If you have indeed managed to do this THAT cheap, then this is a total blast!
On another note: Review of the PG for Prepare for War will finally hit daylight next week. I'll mention this KS then as well and see what I can drum up.
It looks good, but the conversion guidelines will probably not be that extensive from what I could glean; the stretchgoal only entailed 25 additional pages. Now don't get me wrong - the setting looks great and has me all nostalgic - but the ships look like rules-nightmare to put into proper crunch. I hope they'll offer some mechanics for the conversion before the KS is over, for without them, I remain skeptical.
Still, thanks for posting this, totally did not notice this KS in the first place! Oo
I supported the KS to keep the lights on; The SGG-files were a cool bonus, though not the reason for me. I wanted the PFRPG-conversion and yes, I'd consider a cleaned up pdf-version of Dragon's Delve with art etc. a dream-book, if only because I think the dungeon suffers from its presentation, though I understand the limits of the format. In the end, I liked the content, but honestly...was I blown away? No. It's a very good, huge dungeon with a lot of cool stuff going on, but site and presentation (and the fractured nature of the pdfs) detracted from its appeal, at least for me.
I never used the homepage for anything other than to download the pdfs because it is a terrible hassle to navigate and having to log in again after clicking on any link just annoyed me to heck - actually to the point where I was shouting at the screen. Adventureaweek.com has shown how the website-concept can work sans all those annoying login-glitches and I actually check that site MUCH more often. Plus: AaW's bonus content rocks.
Just my 2 cents, mind you!
@Jeff: Really loved your Gingerbread Golem Swarm, btw. ^^
Aleron, Amanda, Louis, Jason, Bradley: Thank you so much for your kindness! ESPECIALLY since I know that at times being kind to one's critics can be HARD...so thank you! I hope I can continue to contribute to the growth and prosperity of 3pps!
Thank you so much, everyone!
@Ken: You made my day, more so than you can imagine. I started this all to show people how good 3pps can be and hearing that a group actually benefits this much from my reviews is awesome. I hope I'll be able to be of service for years to come.
@Orthos: I am humbled by being considered an inspiration for you; I enjoy your reviews and enjoy reading them, so thanks for being out there! The same goes for Eric's reviews.
Jeremy, Marc and Mike: You guys are all very talented designers and rank among those I look forward to reading about, even in the rare cases when I don't absolutely love a given product.
I'm not good with emotional speeches and the like, so I'll keep it brief:
I'd like to thank Paco Garcia Jaen of GMS magazine, without whom there'd be no endzeitgeist.com - you are the best friend a man could wish for. I'd also like to thank Lou Agresta, who continued to encourage me throughout the years and Jonathan Nelson of Nerdtrek, who has helped me tremendously since we met. Finally, without Steven D. Russell's encouragement during my early days I would have never kept doing this...so thanks again.
Beyond that: "Thank you" to every publisher and author who has opted to send me complimentary copies and thus allowed me to keep up with the amount of cool supplements out there; Especially since it takes courage to face a review that is not guaranteed to turn out well and since I quite frankly wouldn't have the money to review that many products.
To every publisher who has corrected one of my mistakes: Thank you for being courteous and help me become a better reviewer.
I'd also like to thank Christian Stiles, Jonathan Nelson and Brian Berg for offering me a chance to contribute to their respective kickstarters.
Finally, I'd like to express my utmost gratitude to the few fine folk who actually donated me a couple of bucks to keep this enterprise running and those who commented on one of my reviews. Showing your support in any way helps me keep the fire burning.
So there it is - I'm nearing the big 1.5K reviews and wouldn't be here without any of you - may you have a blessed holiday, whatever religion (or lack thereof) you choose to follow!
See you after X-mas! Until then:
Magic Treasure Shop-style supplements:
come to mind. Especially the former by 4WFG is considered a milestone.
Raging Swan Press has a number of pdfs dealing with what's for sale in a given town: "So what's for sale, anyways?" -I wrote reviews for all of them, if you require further guidance.
Finally, a mundane crafter that is strong enough to go adventuring/make a good adversary would be Drop Dead Studios' The Artisan - apart from that one, most NPC-crafters are experts; see NPC-Codex, GM-guide etc.
Hope that helps!
As long as your alignment restriction makes sense in-game, I don't mind. While in my home-game, I tend to see alignments more like a guideline, I usually won't bash anything for an alignment restriction unless it makes no sense - lawful-demon-worshippers-level of discrepancies.
Anyone can simply ignore alignment restrictions if they wish to. Just be careful that strict adherence to an alignment isn't the only balancing factor - one issue paladins get so much flag is that there's no codified take on the strictness of what is LG; Our own moralities usually are more complex than black and white.
Just my 2 cents.
Designers of classes I consider very capable/that have thoroughly impressed me in the past:
-Owen K.C. Stephens (D'unh)
Not sure which one of the designers did Alluria's Aquanaut, but that person as well. Same goes for James Olchak and Brian Berg's cooperative Malefactor.
First of all: If you like the class, please support the publisher by buying it. It's not expensive and a well worth purchase.
Let's handle these questions:
2) ? It's a class skill. Where's the problem?
3) It's a bonus to all craft-skills, analogue to the cavalier ability.
4) Bottom line - producing inventions cost money as scrolls.
5) Automatons may learn to craft magic items, but require a PC/NPC to supply the spells/skills to ignore required spells.
Hope that helps.
You and me. It's my second favorite setting after Ravenloft. I found it by chance after googling whether the author of Necromancer Games' "Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia" (one of the BEST 3.X adventure anthologies - PERIOD.) had written anything else. If he ever kickstarts a book, I'd back the living hell out of it.
World Of Xoth is ACTUALLY kind of semi-pathfinder. The first glimpse at the setting/adventure anthology/campaign book is "Tales of the Spider God and other Tales of Sword & Sorcery" and is written for 3.5 and has since been also converted to the Legend-rules-set.
The two other modules ("Song of the Beast-Gods" and "Citadel beyond the North Wind") though, are Pathfinder. I just wish there were more modules like these...
Shadowlands has btw. 2 more modules, both of which are high up in my pipeline and will see reviews as soon as next week - at least one of them, that is.
To add some ideas:
-ANY further support for released classes like Witch Hunter, Shadow Assassin Hellion etc.
-books of pregens/sample NPCs (NPC Codex-style) using these classes (including talented builds - any left fro playtests? Compile them and release them!)
-Doing Shadow Magic that doesn't suck
-+1 to KTFish7's suggestions of magitech à la Chaositech
-MORE CHAOS MAGIC
-DSP-support, Pact Magic support
-Truename magic that doesn't suck
-Ultimate Campaign-support; more downtime
-+1 to The_Silver_Prince's suggestions for space - including 0-g-combat etc.
Nice review, Joshua! You have a point with the age-category - I assumed since the CR 30-beast was humanoid and no dragon in the strict sense, but an immortal, that that would be the reason for the age-category - measured in context to infinity, he'd be very young. I also assumed the low age category was chosen deliberately to maintain the size, but honestly, I could be wrong there.
On another note: Awesome to see you do some reviews! :D