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Kaushal Avan Spellfire's page

FullStarFullStar Pathfinder Society GM. 185 posts (186 including aliases). 3 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 8 Pathfinder Society characters. 1 alias.

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Good Ideas, Messy Presentation

***( )( )

I ran this scenario recently for PFS and I must admit I was disappointed by the result. While the story, ideas, and enemies are all creative and interesting, the scenario is messy and sometimes unclear on how to handle certain situations. Information is poorly-organized, and excessive stat blocks for unique and variant enemies make some sections hard to read.

If you plan on running this scenario, I would recommend a hefty amount of preparation beforehand. Make sure you understand NPC interactions in each room, and read-up on all the effects and how they work ahead of time so you don't have to look it up later.

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Almost, But Not Quite There

Mythic Realms is the latest addition to the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, and promises some impressive ideas. Powerful figures from Golarion's lore, sites of incredible power, and even the legendary Starstone. But closer examination finds the book's contents lacking, its concepts deprived of the execution expected of a Paizo work.

Chapter I contains information on Founts of Mythic Power, like the Cenotaph, the Morudant Spire, and even the Starstone(!). Mythic Founts are sort of like "seeds" GMs can use to transform high-level groups from extraordinary to truly heroic. The idea is great--it provides GMs with high-level groups to continue the adventure even when all other challenges begin to feel trivial. Furthermore, there are unique mythic abilities tied to the mythic ascension that occurs at each location.

The problem here is that not all founts are created equal, and this is particularly true of the Starstone. First off, the mystique of the Starstone test is all but obliterated by the book's presentation, and second, the Starstone's role in the lore is inexplicably changed. Suddenly the Starstone is only a means of mythic ascension, not the engine of divine apotheosis we've been lead to believe. What's worse is that the mythic ascension triggered by the Starstone provides bonuses linked to pre-existing gods, and only the twenty greater powers of the Inner Sea (so no blessing of Apsu, Tiamat, Shizuru, Tsukiyo, &c).

Furthermore, Mythic Realms paints a very confusing picture of Golarion's history. Did the Aboleth fear Azlant, or did they grow bored with their human experiment? The historical accounts in the Morudant Spire seem to conflict with those in the Starstone, but this isn't the only contradiction. The history of the war between Azlanist and Karzoug grows more confusing. Who was winning? Who was planning to summon the Oliphaunt of Janderlay?

Chapter II is, in my opinion, the best part of this book. It contains Gazetteers on six locations for your mythic heroes to explore. Although, again, historical accounts sometimes contradict themselves (I now have two conflicting accounts of what happened to the city of Gormuz). Still, the imaginative settings give GMs a lot to work with when planning their own adventures, and one entry can provide dozens of potential ideas for any given mythic campaign.

If Chapter I is my least favorite and Chapter II my most, then Chapter III falls somewhere in the middle. Here we find a bestiary of several legendary figures throughout Golarion's lore, from the terrifying to the heroic. This is both a good and a bad thing, in my opinion, as it provides mythic groups with epic challenges, but at the same time somewhat demystifies these otherwise mythical characters.

There is an adage once uttered on "The Spoony Experiment," which goes "if you can stat it, they can kill it." Simply put, this suggests that if you give a creature concrete representation in the rules system, then it becomes subject to the whims of that system, including death. Now, there are always ways to get around this (AD&D Fiend Folio's Trillioch, anyone?) but caveats that prevent defeat kind of feel cheap when you have a fat block of numbers and words staring you in the face.

That said, the histories of each mythic character are fantastic, if not unfortunately brief in some places. They manage to retain the intangible nature of the myths and representations these characters enjoyed in previous source material, never willing to commit too much detail where detail isn't needed, which in my mind is only ever a good thing.

All-in-all, the book had some great ideas and inspires some great ideas. The problem comes with the mechanical execution of those ideas, and the inconsistencies generated by its new treatments of setting-specific features. It's a 2-out-of-5, worth having for the ideas, but not the rules.

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A Mixed Bag

***( )( )

There's a lot to say about this book, some of it good, some of it bad. For the most part, I can say that it is a fun book with a lot of interesting archetypes and character ideas, along with a few good feats, cool spells, and thoughtful mechanics. Of course, the exact same points could be made against the book: useless archetypes, pointless feats, silly spells, and bad mechanics.

Ultimate Magic suffers the same problem a lot of supplemental material in 3.5 did, in which the book does not feel as tight design-wise as it otherwise could be, given the incredibly limited application of some of it's contents. Consider the Witch hex "child scent," for example: When are you ever going to need to sniff out children? This feels like a villain-only ability, and even then you could probably give your villain witch a more useful hex. The same goes for the construct modifications. They're neat, but they're not worth it to most spell casters, better used for a dramatic villain fight than an actual player. Or maybe "cartoony" would be a more appropriate description- there's something strikingly reminiscent of Power Rangers that involves the bad guy combining with his robot helper. Also: The geisha Bard archetype. What the heck, man. Tea ceremony, really? It's neat and flavorful, but it breaks flow and forces me as both a player and a GM into that uncanny valley of "yes, I suppose you guys do technically have 10 minutes outside the boss room." I mean, it's not like the dragon's going to eat the princess any time soon, or anything...

Of course, for all the bad ideas there are good ones too. The magus looks like a fun class, albeit he loses out on damage output against classes such as the barbarian or the rogue, but he makes up for it with the versatility of spellcasting (and I absolutely adore the staff magus archetype). I also really like the customization of the Qinggong monk, and think the alternative channeling powers are amazing. However, these traits alone to not make the book great, only good.

Also, this is a nit-pick, but Paizo didn't fix the typo in the vivisectionist archetype for the alchemist. This typo was pointed out when they previewed the archetype, the editors responded to the post, and the mistake still made it into the final printing. Vivisectionists can't benefit from plague bomb because they don't *get* bombs. You think that a company as good as Paizo wouldn't let a mistake like that slip past them after it was brought to their attention.

In conclusion, Ultimate Magic is one of those books which is handy to have around for the additional options, but is by no means a "must buy."

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