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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,980 posts (6,277 including aliases). 590 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.



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An RPG Resource Review

*****

If you've ever had dealings with real-world ministers of religion - be it a father or a vicar, an imam or a rabbi - you know they have very little in common with the average fantasy 'cleric' apart from devotion to their deity. This priest is a bit different from the clerics you're used to playing, and wouldn't dream of picking up a weapon to further his deity's ends (spells, however, are a different matter!).

OK, so what do you get? Like any class, there's some descriptive text explaining what it's all about, the fundamental features of the class... and a rather good and dramatic drawing that suggests a spell is being cast. Then there is the usual game mechanical stuff: hit points, alignment, class skills and progression chart, then the class features are listed.

Spellcasting is a bit interesting. The priest has to prepare his spells in advance, but once he has cast a given spell it's not 'gone' - he can cast it again provided he's not cast his full allowance of spells at that level. The number of spells that can be prepared is a bit limited (and a high Wisdom doesn't help here although feats do), however the choice is wide - pretty much any cleric spell is available. The number of spells the priest can actually cast does attract a wisdom bonus. Priests also get a bonus 'cure' (if good) or 'inflict' (if evil) spell on top of the others they may learn. Neutral priests can choose which type (cure or inflict), but once made that choice is permanent. To prepare spells, the priest needs to meditate or pray for an hour, which should be at the same time every day.

Another neat feature is the Divine Gift. The priest can pray, asking his deity for a specific blessing on himself or the rest of the party - there's a list of benefits from which the priest can choose at the time of uttering the prayer. These include things like spell enhancements, the priest going invisible or being able to fly, and even calling down a divine intervention, allowing any one player to re-roll a single d20 roll with the addition of half the priest's level to the result - and still being able to choose which roll, the new one or the original one, to use!

The book rounds off with a couple of new feats and a nature-based archetype, the Chosen of Nature. They use the druid spell lists rather than the cleric ones. There's an interesting sketch of a rather punk-looking Chosen of Nature having a chat with a young fallow deer, too... although the best piece of art in the book is a white-robed fellow who really gives over the impression of having his God on his side. (Unfortunately it's not signed so I don't know which of the three artists credited is responsible.)

This makes for an interesting class, appealing to the player who enjoys getting into the role and playing a character using his powers in the service of his deity.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This book presents a wealth of ideas to spark the Storyteller's imagination, emphasising just how broad the scope of this game is and the multitude of things you can do with a 'contemporary magic' game. This is exemplified by the opening fiction, which tells the tale of four children Awakening... what does happen to those who Awaken early? Did someone (or something) help them to come into their powers in advance of when they would normally develop?

Chapter 1: Genres of the Awakened World explores seven different styles of game you could run, concentrating on mood and tone and emphasis rather than game mechanics, although any new rules you might need are provided. The genres explored are action horror, pulp adventure, epic fantasy, Faustian sorcery, lucid sleepers (this is an urban fantasy approach with mages living amongst normal folks, hiding yet using their powers), punk, and noir. Masses to conjure with here!

Next, Chapter 2: Mirror Magic looks at changing the very essence of what 'magic' is... mechanically, the rules stay pretty much the same, but it might be weird science or perhaps mages cast their spells by taking drugs, or maybe it's all psychic powers.

Then, Chapter 3: Building Character discusses not just characters themselves, but the things that define them: cabal, path and order; and looks at how to enhance and change them to suit your needs. It also covers magical 'style' in depth, looking at how it works and how it affects each character, complete with pertinent game mechanics.

Finally, Chapter 4: Mage Chroncles contains three artiles about running the game. One looks at a three-tier concept, the second considers that awkward fact that using magic the characters might find it too easy to gather information and thus derail your plot - find out how to make that work for you rather than against you - and the last one considers what happens when your mages get really powerful.

I said 'finally' but actually there is more: a whole fifteen chronicle ideas. These might inspire you to come up with your own ideas, or you may choose to run with them more or less 'as is'... or modify them to suit your requirements. Ideas a-plenty. This is a book to read whilst you are plotting your next game, rather than with a mind to changing the current one (unless perhaps you decide to end an otherwise conventional chronicle with all the 'mages' waking up in rehab having finally dried out from whatever they were taking!). Loads of ideas to sift through and consider, plenty of scope to help you let your imagination run riot!


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Opening with a weird bit of fiction - the reflections of someone around whom terrible things happen, yet they can never quite remember - the Introduction begins by talking about the rules of magic. In, that it ought to have them, and indeed does... just that they are not always clear, even to those who study magic and make use of it. Even those who practice magic only think they know what they are doing, it can be unpredictable - a bit like herding cats. This book asks what happens when magic enters the world unbidden, just as a tornado or forest fire doesn't trouble to ask before it destroys your house. Magic doesn't care, if one can anthropomorphise for a moment, whether the mage wielding it is able to control it or not. Magic changes things, sometimes for the better and sometimes not, but always for the weirder.

So what does that mean for our game? Using magic is, for most mages, a pleasreable activity, a bit of a rush even - but it can so easily get out of hand. Mages can get carried away, drunk on their own abilities and power, becoming filled with pride at what they can do... and that's when magic turns and bites them, or escapes to cause unintended effects elsewhere in the world. This book is jam-packed with ideas for handling such events and their consequences in your game... it's time to make magic scary!

To aid you in making this happen, this tome contains a whole bunch of... well, antagonists for want of a better word. In presenting this feeling of forces bigger than the mages attempting to use them, and scary to boot, concentrate on description, on building up atmosphere - show, not tell. Each entry is designed to provide resources to make that happen, with detailed descriptions and backgrounds, secrets and rumours and above all story hooks - ideas about how to weave them into your plots and indeed build entire plots around them.

There are four sections, based on the nature of the entities therein. First up are Mages - well, that's obvious. We know what mages are. But these ones, well - the magic has got to them. Some are innocent (but no less dangerous for all that), others know exactly what they are doing and revel in it. Next is Characters and Creatures. They are not mages but have been touched by magic in some manner. Then there are Constructs and Objects. Not all artefacts were created deliberately, on purpose. Sometimes they just... happen. Then there are Conditions and Infections. States of being that can arise when magic and paradox run riot. As a bonus, there is actually a fifth section, Places. This describes three places where magic has got so far out of hand that it's affected entire locations.

If you like the idea of magic almost having a mind of its own, running amok, you will find ideas to inspire and help you make it happen in your game. Even better, if you'd like to inject some honest-to-goodness horror into your chronicle, here are some tools to freak out the most self-contained and confident will-workers. Indeed, it's when your mages are getting confident, think they know what they are doing and have everything under control, that it is a perfect time to spring something from this book upon them. But use sparingly: less is more when it comes to horror and wild magic... even a small instance will have everyone nervous about their next spell!


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Many ancient magical traditions touch on the summoning of otherworldly powers, and the Awakened too reach out to gain information, power or other favours from beings not of this world. The opening fiction tells of a strange 'prayer wheel' that is connected to some being that the protagonist's grandfather summoned and made a pact with - instead of prayers it sends forth the being's name through strange glyphs - and has, of course, an unsavoury undertone, an implied threat that means it's not really safe to meddle with such things.

Indeed the dangers and risks often outweigh the benefits, not that this stops mages from dabbling, often calling upon beings too powerful for them to control, beguiled by the possibilities, the terrifying splendours, they perceive to be on offer. This book is designed as a resource for anyone going down the summoning route, building on what's in the core rulebook and presenting a whole lot of new stuff about otherworldly entities and the ways in which mages can interact with them. No one size fits all, there are a range of options and the Storyteller is encouraged to decide which will work and which are but traps for the unwary, the incautious and the over-eager. Some summonings are easy to perform, others very complex and/or requiring exotic materials and lengthy preparation of both mage and ritual.

Chapter 1: From Distant Shores opens proceedings by discussing the nature of the beings that can be summoned. Note that there's no discussion of their home planes or worlds, the struggle between them and our mages will be fought here... mages wouldn't last an instant in the sort of places that they come from!

Next, Chapter 2: From the Five Towers looks at Supernal summoning... but beware: they have a nasty habit of turning up to test mages, seeing if they are worthy before granting any boons or conferring any powers upon them.

Then Chapter 3: From the Endless Dark delves into the Abyss to see what can be dredged up... if you dare. It doesn't sound advisable to meddle here, opening doorways to allow unspeakable horrors out... you get the picture. Some do dare, however, and if very skilled and extremely lucky may retain life, limb or sanity. Many do not.

This is followed by Chapter 4: From Stranger Spheres (as if the ones in the earlier chapters weren't strange enough), where the unknown is explored, stuff that is even outside Awakened philosophy and knowledge. Beings that sometimes attempt to slither in uninvited or beguile unwary mages into inviting them in. A few come bearing gifts, many bring death and destruction, others are just curious... but what passes for innocent curiousity may be extremely dangerous to any mortal encountering it.

Finally, Chapter 5: Otherwordly Compacts gets down to the game mechanics necessary to handle the processes of summoning. There is much of interest to any mage who might wish to dabble, let alone those who want to make summoning their life's work. The main focus is on forming pacts with whatever has been summoned, but there are Legacies, merits, and much, much more as well.

This work opens up a whole area of magical endeavour, giving plenty of scope for mages who want to explore this type of magic or even just give it a go. Certainly a good resource for groups for whom the magic itself is central to their game, it raises interesting questions for those who enjoy the dilemmas that can face their characters, there's plenty of story potential... what's not to like?


Our Price: $31.99

Out of print

An RPG Resource Review

*****

The Seers of the Throne are power-hungy, power-mad even, and will do literally whatever it takes to gain it, no matter the cost. And, judging by the opening fiction (nicely legible this time, at least) they tend to be fairly foul-mouthed about it too. They serve the Exarchs, and are granted great power and reward for their services... but their service is aimed at one thing: keeping humanity in its place, preventing them for attaining their potential. Yet they are human themselves, even if even more self-serving than most. They believe themselves better than the rest, perhaps wishing to right perceived wrongs done them before they Awakened, filled with arrogance and thoroughly enjoying the material largesse they receive from their masters.

The clear intent is that the Seers be used as antagonists, but the material in this book is presented in the same way as the other Order books - so if you do have a group who like the idea of vast material wealth and power with a few distasteful tasks required to get it, it might be an option to let them be the Seers. It's more likely that you will have them as enemies, however, so here are the tools to make them really come to life within your alternate reality.

Chapter 1: A History of Loyalty looks at their history as recorded through their own eyes - given their self-serving tendencies, others may beg to differ at many if not all points. It gives a good overview of both their past and present concerns, however as well as a fair bit of detail about the way that the operate.

Then Chapter 2: Serving the Exarchs gets down to the philosophy, beliefs and dogma that membership in this order entails. Complete obedience to the will of the Exarchs is central, no matter what their request, however costly at a personal level or even to your soul. This chapter also describes how they operate and are organised.

Next, Chapter 4: Heads of the Hydra delves more deeply into organisational matters... they are full of factions and sub-groups, sometimes cooperating and sometimes resulting in friction. There are plenty of examples to provide you with ready-made groups to throw at your mages - or have working away behind the scenes thwarting them covertly, often a more likely way of operating. (The Appendix: Antagonists has more fully-detailed individuals, complete with game statistics, to be used as both combatant and non-combatant NPCs.)

Finally, Chapter 5: Gifts of the Exarchs lays out the magical resources that the Seers can access. The usual collection of magical traditions, spells, artefacts and so on to play with.

This is a neat approach, giving some of the major adversaries your mages will face the same type of structure and resources as their own orders have. It certainly provides plenty of scope for machinations and devious plots, and a wealth of suggestions as to how to use the Seers to best effect in your game. For the sake of your mages' souls, though, encourage them not to enlist with the Seers!


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