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Vampire Lord

Treppa's page

RPG Superstar 6 Season Dedicated Voter, 7 Season Star Voter. Pathfinder Society Member. 8,610 posts (15,043 including aliases). 2 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 82 aliases.

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A Triumph for RPG Fiction

****( )

First off, the star rating system is far too unclear. Four stars - to me- mean that this is a really good book! Buy it and you won't be sorry, particularly if you have avoided fantasy fiction based on RPG settings because of past disappointments. Paizo Publishing is blessed with good writers both internally and under contract, and their quality shows in "Prince of Wolves." Mr. Gross' prior work, "Hell's Pawns", though as comfortable serialized in the "Council of Thieves" adventure path as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar vacationing at Procrustes' Bed and Breakfast, was compelling enough to make me want to explore his work further. "Prince of Wolves" is a well crafted and well written adult story. It was engrossing from start to finish.

"Prince of Wolves" is the story of Varian Jeggare, nobleman detective, and his rough trade hellspawn bodyguard, Radovan. They travel to the haunted land of Ustalav in search of a member of Jeggare's organization, the Pathfinders, who has disappeared on the trail of a mysterious relic. Their voyage takes a sharp left turn and the two are forced to struggle on their own through a land rife with intrigue, cults, and monsters.

The story is revealed in alternating first person, with Radovan and Jeggare as narrators. Radovan's casual voice is easy to read, while some may struggle with Jeggare's dry, pedantic style. But for a nobleman to whom "I'm glad you're not dead" is an embarassingly effusive outburst of emotion, the style is perfect. Those accustomed to easy-read adventure stories may find this offputting, but this is a book, not a movie. The reader is expected to invest some effort into the reading in return for a richer and more rewarding experience than being spoon-fed entertainment.

The book takes us through a land much like those in the old vampire and werewolf movies, and the author gives those classic movies a friendly nod in several places. He slyly lulls the reader into believing they know what comes next, just before events take off in unexpected ways - a nice bit of misdirection. Mr. Gross makes the lands and the characters come alive, masterfully handling descriptions of monsters and magic so they flow naturally into the story, yet are completely accessable to a reader unfamiliar with Paizo's Golarion setting.

On the downside, part of Varian Jeggare's narration is forced into 'tell' mode rather than 'show' mode so every reader understands where the story is taking place and why. The action bogs down for a while in a morass of new names and places. This is a brief lull before the book regains its generally lively footing. One disclosure at the end seemed out of the blue, but upon rereading of the last two chapters, the foreshadowing was there, but subtle. Mr. Gross is more fair to his readers than Conan Doyle ever was, allowing the audience enough information to figure things out for themselves, or at least come close to an explanation. The few motivational questions or loose threads that appear are answered or woven in nicely. The author does not shy from descriptions of violence, sex, and gore, though they are handled tastefully.

I look forward to more Pathfinder Tales and anything from Mr. Gross.

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We welcome our drake overlords


The Book of Drakes had me nodding my head in agreement in the Welcome page. I rarely use dragons in a game because they're so powerful and alien, and I cringe whenever a dragon fanboy player wants to have a draconic bloodline or, worse, become a Dragon Disciple. But games like Pathfinder lose something deeply fantastic if draconic elements are entirely excluded. The drakes in this book have a charming, whimsical, yet dangerous quality that is more accessible and somehow more human than a full-blown dragon. Midgard specifics take up very little of the space in this book, and help non-Midgard GM's see how drakes can be used in other settings.

Other reviews go into detail about the structure and organization of the book, so I'll simply add my impressions to what others have said. Overall, the elements presented in this book are flavorful and well-balanced and designed. I have not seen anything yet that I would not allow a player to use at my table. However, I would be careful of using drake companions too heavily. These are not simple animal companions which can be run by the PC. Each is a full-fledged character. Drake companions will need thought and care on the part of the GM to give them their due. I would run them as GMPC's, which can be a lot of work.

Different drakes are lovingly and clearly detailed and usable right off the page. There is a nice variety for different situations and alignments. This is one of the books I'd keep handy as a GM in case I needed an interesting ad hoc NPC.

And if detailed ecology and player information and a whole cornucopia of fun drakes isn't enough, the section about building drakes lets a GM expand the book to suit their own campaign. The rules are easy and clear and the examples useful.

The Book of Drakes is a wonderful addition to any gaming library. It's beautifully designed and written, full of substance as well as fun fluff, and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, perfectly reflecting the character of the drakes they illustrate. I give it five stars. Maybe now Wolfgang Baur will return the authors' pets?

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