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Thunderbird

Kvantum's page

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 2,554 posts. 6 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 1 Pathfinder Society character.



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Wickedly Evil. Brilliantly Wicked.

*****

Visually this book is great. The chapter 1 opener alone is amazing. But what do we get in terms of actual content here? What makes this book worth your hard-earned gaming dollar? Well, let me break it down for you.

The first chapter is 124 pages of fiendish divinities, the vast majority of the Lords, Princes, Archdevils, Ranas, Harbingers, Demagogues, and whatever other categories of quasi-divine fiends that have been mentioned ever since the first Pathfinder Bestiary. All of them at the very least getting a few lines of description, an Obedience, and spell-like abilities for their Boons. The major players in the Abyss, Abaddon, and Hell get fully laid out cult details (domains, favored weapons, and whatnot) plus Evangelist, Exalted, and Sentinel boons as well as an Obedience.

Chapter 2 has 24 pages on Fiendish Realms, whether in Hell, Abaddon, the Abyss, elsewhere across the planes, or even within the demiplane linked to the Book of the Damned itself. (Yes, the tome you end up perusing might link the unwary to a netherrealm of fiendish darkness - reader beware!)

Chapter 3 brings us 36 pages on Fiendish Influences, ie, "crunch", feats, spells, rituals, magic items, artifacts, prestige classes, and six pages devoted just to Infernal Contracts, selling a soul in a buyer's market.

Chapter 4 unveils 36 pages for the Fiendish Bestiary, including discussions on summoning various creatures from the nether realms, focusing on demons, daemons, and devils, as well as a catch-all section for everything else, and then a new type of fiend for every existing fiendish subtype, from asuras to sahkils.

Finally, the Appendix includes 28 pages of excerpts supposedly from the Book of the Damned itself, blasphemous rantings of a fallen angel who saw too much, for too long. Lo, beware you who would read it too. lest ye go mad as well. For thine reviewer, however, 'tis but too late.

Finishing up things we get a 1-page index, the OGL on 1 page, and finally a 1-page ad for the Starfinder Alien Archive.

Any "missing" pages from the 288-page total are from chapter opening spreads (the one for Chapter 1 is gorgeous) or from the initial section detailing the dangers of the Book of the Damned itself, as an artifact your PCs or NPC villains might interact with.

This is a massive book, but if you want to fill a campaign with heavy detail about scores of fiendish cults then look no further. If you want to delve deeper into the monstrous evils of the Lower Planes then look no further. If you want to know just what those things are that go "bump" in the night around your PCs' camps, then look no further.

In all seriousness, though, this is legitimately one of the best books Paizo has put out for Pathfinder. If you play in the Golarion setting, or if your setting uses fiendish creatures of any kind, it is absolutely worth your money, even if just the $9.99 for a PDF.


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A mostly successful attempt to recapture the old-timey Catalog/Catalogue feel

****( )

This review is based upon a free copy via Flaming Crab Games's very generous "free copy to the first 10 posters" initiative.

Presented as an artifact from a crashed warship originating on an alternate universe magical Earth, this catalog from, oh, 1918 or so, aims to capture the feeling of old turn-of-the-century Sears catalogs, and for old school RPG gamers, the oh-so-fondly remembered 2e Forgotten Realms accessory known as Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue (which was also trying to capture the feeling of those old Sears catalogs.)

There's 28 pages worth of items, spells, and alchemical items to be had here, all of which are of minor use outside of the home at best. (It's a 39 page PDF in total, but 28 pages of actual items, plus cover, credits, an intro, lists of contents with prices, the OGL and a couple of other decorative pages.)

A few of the alchemical items have their uses for adventurers, but mostly this book's contents are for decoration and an attempt at verisimilitude for a magical civilization. Nothing is egregiously anachronistic, well, except for the "Room Baa," a mechanical sheep atop a floating magical disk that roams the home sucking up small pieces of debris and depositing them into an extradimensional space. That one just triggers my "too silly even for a game" sense.

The groan-inducing silliness of the Room Baa aside, there are also some things that feel a bit oddly balanced, power- or cost-wise, and it feels like some of the alchemical items might work better as magic (or vice-versa), but these are minor quibbles at best.

Overall it is a well done product, and does a good job of recapturing the old-school feeling of old-school gaming, and really old school catalogs. (The "Room Baa", though, that pun is just so terrible it's why my review settled down to just 4 stars. Bad pun. Bad.)


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It's all fun and games, until you hit on something major.

*****

So what are you getting with this product, an attempt to revive the types of things you'd see in an old April issue of Dragon Magazine? Well, you get a 17 page PDF (cover, 14 pages of actual content, credits, and OGL) that ranges from the pointlessly silly to the actually quite ingenius and *very* useful for a Golarion game.

* Half a dozen comedic traits.

* Comrade (Commoner). Basically they have a kind of inverted Leadership where they get stronger the more allies ("buddies") they have around them. They learn buddies' feats, class abilities, skill unlocks, etc., and they learn to become quite proficient indeed with Aid Another.

* Derelict (Paladin). Meh. Why bother? Evil's just going to triumph in the end. I can't even risk bringing down a celestial spirit by having them serve me or my weapon, but my own personal crushing despair, now *that* I can use for a weapon.

* Gnostic Atheist (Cleric). This is the single biggest and best thing in the book, and what inspired me to write this review. Sounds to me like much of the Rahadoumi world-view all in one archetype. No domains, no domain spell slots, no favored weapon, but they do get a sort of "Antimagic" domain and bonus spell slot per level per day. They become very skilled at counterspelling any divine spell, and they gain SR against any divine spell, or the spell-like abilities of outsiders. Finally, and this is where they might start to make very good BBEG's, or at least big rivals, their intense denial of divinity starts to spread out into an aura around themselves in an ever-widening radius, applying their anti-divine SR to everyone else, forcing any divine caster trying to cast a spell to overcome their SR just to function at all.

Yeah, this archetype has Rahadoum written all over it.

* Mad Scientist (Alchemist). Do you want to ditch alchemical mixtures and replace them with all sorts of crazy steampunk-esque gadgets while risking your lab blowing up if you mistranslate a forumla? Here's your class archetype. SCIENCE!

* Prankster (Bard). This is the truly comedic option in the book. The other archetypes might be funny sounding or have a comedic air about them, but this one is all-out comedy. Do you want to Heckle opponents that fail attack rolls or saves, be able to conjure Prismatic Pies out of nowhere, or hit them with the literal Killing Joke? (The mechanics also seem to have picked up a bit from the design process behind RGG's Talented Bard which just released recently, so there's no set progression on Comedic Antics, just level pre-requisites to meet.)

* Comedic Feats. These seem to keep to the trend of "heavily themed, but actually rather useful when you think about it." They also have that RGG/4 Horsemen level of "is this a little overpowered, or just about right?" I like the higher level of power, but I can see why some would say it's a bit too much.
- Dodecahedral Spell is one of my favorites. "Because there just aren't enough uses for d12s." It's a Metamagic feat that increases the damage dice of a spell to d12s, but at a varying cost depending on what the original spell's damage dice are.
- Extra Antics. Grants a Prankster Bard an extra type of Antic.
- I Think I Can. Grants you a cumulative (in)competence bonus to a skill check every time you fail it, as long as you can retry it again. This does come with an increasing cost of nonlethal damage for every attempt, though.
- Just Swing That Anywhere. Basically I Think I Can for melee attacks, but can only be used during a melee full attack, and the bonus goes away the next time you hit the opponent, or your full attack ends.
- Please Stop Helping. Your Aid Another attempts are effective, even when you aren't.
- Round Up. Exactly what it says. You round fractions up rather than down to determine bonuses or DCs that scale with level.
* Comedic Spells. Bull's Grace and Cat's Strength to inflict penalties to stats, Nag to conjure up a figure from the target's past to inflict increasing fear levels, Rubber Chicken to polymorph a given animal companion/eidolon/familiar/phantom to turn it into a rubber chicken for a short period of time (great for sneaking it past guards!), or Vuvvuzela, to conjure a crude trumpet that grants allies a bonus to attack and damage rolls while inflicting the same penalty on opponents.

All in all, there's actually quite a bit here for a $3.99 PDF. At first glance it all seems like silly jokes, but when you think about some of it, at least mechanically, it starts to seem less and less silly, and more like "You know, I can really use that in my next game."

And that Cleric archetype just screams Rahadoum to me louder and clearer than almost anything else I think I've seen. I've never really been able to quite get how that country could survive in Golarion with all of the obvious, powerful divine casters and outsiders around. After seeing this archetype, though, I can finally get a good idea of just how enough of them really could kick out the servants of the gods from an entire country.


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A very interesting new addition to tabletop combat

****( )

Strategists and Tacticians is a new book by Ryan Costello Jr. and published by 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming, dealing with combat and strategy, including new options for maneuvers. First off, I do want to start this review by noting a big improvement in this book over some of 4WFG's past books - the internal art is (other than a reused piece or two) finally what I expect to get out of a PDF that costs this much. It may all be B&W, but it's *well-done* black and white. The cover is a slight step down from their previous releases like the one on their overall excellent release Luven Lightfinger's Gear & Treasure Shop but it's still a decent looking piece.

Chapter 1 - Strategic Characters (18 pages)
It opens with a good but too brief section on combat strategies for each of the core races. Next comes variant class features for every core class, from Serene Barbarians and Violent Bards to Learned Sorcerers and Intuitive Wizards. Then there is the Apprentice class, a way of essentially achieving the same goals as the old 3.0 0-level character rules, a multiclassed character at first level, neither (for example) fighter nor mage but a little bit of both. The chapter finishes up with an alternate version of the Bard, a Schooled Bard, one that focuses on music's capacity to induce feelings and states of mind in others, in one of five schools of performance distinct from the core varities.

Chapter 2 - Prestige Classes (27 pages)
There are 14 prestige classes presented here, in varying degrees of quality, with a few unfortunate typos here and there
Armor Bonded - a warrior who really gets attached to his armor.
Blood Caster - an arcane caster who can use her own blood to power her spells
Butcher - an expert in severing limbs
Crowd Displeaser - a Bard who thrives on the angry roar of a disapproving audience
Daredevil - movie-style martial artists and Parkour enthusiasts
Expert Fighter - more fighter than a Fighter (?)
Holy Striker - a nice Fighter/Cleric hybrid that actually has flavorful class features at each level
Ioun Angel - an arcane spellcaster with a thing for Ioun Stones
Jinx - curse-oriented warrior/arcane caster hybrid
Land Shark - not bulette-related, but a druid with a strong facility for nature's eating machines... just walking around on land
Monster Within - Dr. Jekyll as an arcane spellcaster, basically.
Pikeman - a spear specialist with a touch of the Final Fantasy Dragoon
Righteous Rager - a Barbarian/Cleric hybrid
Roughhouse - a bar fighter and improvised weapons specialist

Chapter 3 - Options (24 pages)
New feats and spells. Unfortunately, for every good, balanced, and useful feat here, there are two or three ones that are either far too powerful or that no one would ever take. The new spells introduced here are as a whole pretty good in terms of flavor, balance, and usefulness, but GMs may not exactly want to allow their players complete free reign over them. ("I cast Autocannibalism on the king.")

Chapter 4 - Tactical Maneuvers (6 pages)
Here is the real meat of the whole book, the new combat options that some of us might have thought were missing from d20 combat all along. Choking Strike, Sever, Strangle, Throat Threats (holding your blade against a target's neck), and then Off-Hand Tactics, in other words, fighting dirty. The chapter then details the mechanical effects of losing body parts.

Chapter 5 - Flynn Dielle
More of an appendix than a true chapter, this is the statistical details of the book's narrator, including tips on how to incorporate him into a GM's campaign

Appendix - Prosthetics (7 pages)
This section is reprinted from 4 Winds' earlier release Luven Lightinger's, though I don't begrudge them the reprint here at all, as limb loss and limb replacements do tend to... err... go hand in hand.

All in all, this is an interesting book with many good ideas for combat, even with its problems. A good buy.


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Don't let initial impressions fool you...

*****

At first glance when I read through this PDF, I was underwhelmed. It seemed like a mediocre little book of modified core classes, just little meaningless tweaks to abilities here and there, swap this for that, blend these two classes together, etc.

Then I sat down and really worked with the material here. The eleven new classes, (or about 22 cents a class) are all non-magical, with the partial exception of some of the Scholar's abilities, and those are only if they are chosen, so this book makes for a great counter to those who feel the Advanced Player's Guide will go overboard with caster classes.

I can't give it the in-depth review it really needs here, because the genius in the classes only comes out with time spent working with them, statting out characters, seeing how they compare to core classes, and recognizing just how the changes all counter-balance one another and the new options they bring to the gaming table.

And did I mention it's only 2.39, people? Half the price of a latte, in other words. It's certainly worth 239 of your gaming pennies.


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