I'm a huge fan of the "Blood of" books. "Angels" and "Fiends" set a very high bar, and "Blood of the Moon" introduced a whole new, fascinating race. I was looking forward to "Blood of the Elements" to give more crunch options to the elemental races, which are, as a whole, weak and so situational that it's hard to justify taking them for a whole campaign. Hy hope was that this book would give us some decent, crunchy ways to increase the versatility of these races so that a choice beyond sorcerer or cleric would make sense.
Unfortunately, we got none of that whatsoever. A large section of the book was given over to a discussion of each elemental plane, which simply doesn't belong in a Player Companion book at all. The character options that were presented were mostly traits, and while traits are nice they don't justify a race choice, and they don't redeem this book.
Overall, this book is both a great disappointment and a missed opportunity. There is too much material that belongs in a Campaign Setting book, too little that belongs in a Player Companion, and too little helpful crunch to improve a bunch of races that are interesting in concept but need mechanical help. Sadly, I can't recommend this book.
More than any other Paizo AP (in fact, more than any other campaign I've run in 33 years of gaming), Kingmaker requires legwork for the GM and lots of it. Not only do you need to run the players through the adventure as presented, but if you want to get the most out of it you need to create scores, if not hundreds, of vibrant NPCs, give each PC their own plotlines to develop, and think several game-years (at least) into the future. The result can be an unparalleled immersive experience for everyone involved, but make no mistake, it takes a LOT of work to make it so. Therefore, anything that can make your life easier as a GM is something to buy, treasure, and recommend to others.
The first thing to take into consideration is the title. I think it's a bit unfortunate, since this is far from just a PLAYER'S reference; GMs will find much to love here.
I purchased the PDF version, so my comments are limited to that. Physically it's a nice book, with a lovely cover, good B&W illustrations throughout, clean text and presentation, and not a lot of page background to mess with readability or devour printer ink.
The first section deals with exploration and is essentially a restatement of the rules in Stolen Lands, with a couple of nice additions like a size-comparison chart showing how big a kingdom is with RL comparisons. It's fine, but nothing thrilling.
Next is city and kingdom improvements, which is where the book starts to shine. All Paizo's buildings are listed, but additions are made for cities (like Office of the City Guard and Witch's Hut), rural areas (like Apiary, Winery, and Royal Preserve), and even castles (ranging from a fancy art collection through a moat to an anti-scrying room). This is where the book starts to become indispensable, as much time, effort, and balancing will be saved by having these structures ready to hand, in addition to giving players more of the options they crave. A much-improved random events table is also included.
Next up is mass combat, and the additions here are very useful indeed, ranging from new army types (everything from various size militias through orc raids to everyone's favorite shambling undead cannibals) through new attributes (like bleed, crusader, and mercenary) and rules to generate the sort of humanoid hordes we all know and love. If you plan to feature a lot of mass combat, you NEED this.
A short section on new Feats follows, which gives both traditional (e.g. Armored Swimmer or Tumble Strike) as well as Kingdom (e.g. Aid Another Leader or Inspiring Ruler)and Mass Combat (e.g. Mass Combat Focus and Inspiring General) options. Again, for someone really wanting to get into the building rules that make this AP special, this is excellent stuff that you will make use of.
The next section is for new spells, and it's here that the only real problem I have with the book comes, in the form of the various "Summon Army" and "Summon Nature's Army" spells. They're only usable by mass combat units, but I still think the present serious balance issues. Still, YMMV, and I'm sure some GMs will find them perfect for their games.
A very interesting section, somewhat misnamed as "Secret societies and organizations," comes next. it has two 5-level prestige classes and a pair of new archetypes, all of which are good, useful, and interesting, but nothing in it can replace, say, the sort of thing found in the Faction Guide if players wish to found their own organizations.
Two pages of magic items are the last major section, and these are generally useful, especially the magical statues that grant kingdom bonuses when placed in Parks. More could have been done with kingdom stat-modifying items, but that's a quibble.
Rounding out the book are several pages of revised forms for kingdom tracking, which is fine, although I think the majority of GMs find that the kingdom must be tracked through computer spreadsheets. These forms are fine and you'll like them if they're the sorts of things you like.
Overall, this is a truly exemplary resource for players and GMs using the Kingdom Building subsystems in their games. It's not perfect, but it is clearly a 5-star product and an absolute steal at its price.
This was another piece that I didn't like the look of when I saw the picture, but was pleasantly surprised when I popped it out of the box. This seems to be the case for a lot of the minis in the set -- you need to hold them in your hand to really appreciate them.
The sculpt is pretty good, IMO. The size is right, the detail is good overall (especially the face, which is a weak point for the Battles line so far) and the pose is nicely balanced and dynamic. The weapon is a good size for the mini.
The paint job is where the mini stepped up its game. The pattern on the clothing are good, the sleeve garters are clear and smooth, and the overall detail is quite nice. It's not quite as flamboyant as Pathfinder gnomes ought to be, which keeps me from giving this piece the fifth star, but it's well executed for what it is.
Ok, look, let's just get this out of the way: this sculpt is too big by half. It's a medium-sized creature on a small base, and it detracts from the overall score considerably. That aside...
The sculpt is actually pretty good. It's detailed, the pose is excellent, and it looks evil and menacing. Just based on the quality of the sculpt and disregarding the size, I have nothing bad to say about it.
The paint job is decent, if a bit uninspiring. The browns on the body are nicely contrasted and the face is evocative, though I'm not sure it necessarily looks ratty. Overall I'd say the paint job is...competent? Sure, competent.
If only it had been properly sized, I'd have given it another star easily.
I have to admit, when I first yanked this guy out of the box, I was a bit disappointed. Then he grew on me, like rot on a dead man.
The sculpt has a bunch of really good points and one glaring bad one. The detail of the sculpt is quiet and not readily apparent at a cursory glance, but when you take the time to look at it, it's really astounding they put this much effort into a simple, building-block sort of common. Massive kudos for that, because the equipment and the wounds really pop. The pose is good in a loose-limbed, rotting joint kind of way, and again works better once you consider it for a bit. On the other hand, it's so darned slight! It's hard to be intimidated when you're being attacked by a stringbean. A little more bulk would really have gone a long way.
The paint job is actually great. Again, I was so underwhelmed at first, but once I looked at the different hues on the skin, the head wound, the rope, the pants (all detail which doesn't show on the pics, I might add), I was knocked out by it. Good stuff!