Oathbound: Eclipse (PFRPG) Print Edition

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Seven years now I have known myself, and though to many it may seem I have been idle and slack, I have in fact honed my craft and filled my head with the phenomena of the land I fashioned in my imprisonment, a land much apart from the rest of this Forge. Eclipse, it is called—a land at the top of the world, the whole of which lies in an impossible crater, a break in the earth. Shunned by both suns, the land knows only shadow. Its inhabitants are those who do their work in the dark: thieves, cutthroats, slavers, shapechangers, vampires... yet the dark has its lighter side as well, drawing artist, musician, and philosopher for its candlelight and clarity.

This is a domain of wild fungus forests, impossibly deep caverns, ink-black seas and shimmering cities. Here are long-forgotten horrors that defy description, hiding in the darkest of dark places. Here are reckless pioneers, hoping to bring order to this realm that they might profit from the secrets and treasures hidden deep in the shell of the Forge.

Here in Eclipse I have walked, at times as a blind beggar, others as a thoughtful nobleman, and even rarely as my Seraphim self, gathering knowledge, personal accounts, illustrations, and even the odd recipe. I have drowned myself in politics and plant life, spoken to children, kings, warlords and have even risked conversations with the few here who might be capable of harm to one such as me. The wealth of knowledge I have gained could fill a hundred volumes, but in this short tome I will lay out for you what is best suited to allow you to make of the world what you want. All that I have complied here from my disparate writings and humble illustrations, to the works of slaves, concubines and conquerors is presented for your pleasure.

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Oathound Revisited

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Disclaimer: The review is based on my perceived production value for a GM not familiar with Oathbound setting. Otherwise, one is strongly encouraged consider the book to be a collector's item with rating of 4.5 to 5 stars.
The following review is intended to raise visibility of Oathbound campaign setting. It contains spoilers and should be read with care by prospective players.

(Spoilers! Final warning!)


Your character died and instead of going to afterlife, they got sent to inescapable prison with a chance get rich, get weird or, most likely, die again trying. However, before you die, you are going to see epic things, experience vast and wonderfully rich world and partake in one of ultimately futile attempt to change destiny through war, epic quest or millenia-spanning intrigue.
Oathbound is a vast setting. It spans millions of years of a world much bigger than Earth. It has superpowerful immortals (millions of years...), 1:1 scale diorama realms (i.e. artificially made models made millions of years ago) and civilizations living on a pile of ruins of previous civilizations (at least hundreds of thousands of years). Amidst other things it has a half-a-mile high city built on a pile of rubble (hundreds of thousands of years...) and perpetually dark cavity in the ground of the size of a large continent, into which oceans fall: the Eclipse.


Oathbound is back with style. The full color book is an account of super-epic ex-power-turned-tourist revisiting domain of Eclipse. As per traditional presentation of Oathbound realm, you get an introduction, an overview of general realm layout followed by more specific entries on chief points of interest, followed by cast of characters, pieces of random stories of Eclipse denizens and selection of factual information (items, generic NPCs).
The word “traditional” is to be taken quite liberally – my experience with Oathbound is limited to 3.x days, with basic Oathbound book and the Wilds.

While entertaining, the book suffers from two major presentation issues. The first one is that of font choices. Some parts of the book written in character tend to use very small handwritten fonts against vividly colored backgrounds. While the pages look nice, the act of reading become quite a choir, and so I skipped the affected content.
The latter issue is that the book is very general. There is no adventure, no story seeds nor detailed specific NPCs – picking the book and running a story is not an option.


A few monster stablocks and advanced NPCs, several spells and the end boss. New races (some already present in other Oathbound publications). New basic and prestige classes. And new evolutions/adaptations.
The evolutions and adaptations are still very problematic – while conceptually simple – trade level-up experience for a new ability – they break CR system. Your characters grow horizontally in terms of power while remaining at the same level. Additionally, since some powers are not combat oriented, adjudicating creature's CR is even harder. Just like under 3.x edition of Oathbound.


Let me get the most important issue of my chest first – Oathbound does not play nice with d20 system. The evolutions and adaptations are the most obvious problem here, however it gets more profound once you dive deeper into the setting. For example, many important NPCs are millenia old. Correction: tens of thousands of years old. With immortals in charge running their business for millions of years. That's why I would find their levels to be higher, much, much higher.
Speaking of millenia, how come that the civilizations of Oathbound are so primitive? And if the gods cannot properly access the world of Oathbound, who grants spells to clerics?
Personally, as the book is light on mechanics I would recommend using any streamlined and pulpy system like: Savage Worlds, core World of Darkness/Exalted or FATE, or even Castle Falkenstein. We have used Arcana Evolved but, for the reasons listed above, had problems with maintaining our suspension of disbelief.
All these issues can be worked around with sufficient tweaking or using system allowing for greater amount of scaling.

The other problem for game masters – the book is too vague, too general to use straight away. Once you read it, you have a grasp of various cultures, entities and sources of large scale conflict. You, as a GM, need to provide NPCs, adventures, stories, maps... basically, you need to create PC level information from the scratch. It's not a great problem – we, game masters, are a creative bunch who enjoy coming up with things. It's just that for such a big book it is something of a let down.

Oathbound is epic at every level. The wars span continents, the cataclysms rend nations and history goes back hundreds of thousand of years. Always start big, and from there progress to bigger. Remember, that the ultimate goal of any PC in this setting will be tackling tricky issues of ascension to godhood... and then trying to gain freedom.


I realize that my vision is unlikely to reflect that of setting authors. However, if I were to develop a book for Oathbound, I would made damn sure that adoption of the setting would be a lot easier. To achieve this, I would:

- rid of doom and gloom perspective. The PCs should be freely able to leave the world of Oathbound, however the loss of Oathbound powers and possible other persistent penalties (“Joe, your characters is no longer immortal evolved vampire.”) should be sufficient to entice them to come back.

- provide information at PC levels. Specific NPCs with statblocks, adventure seeds, maybe a few simple adventures, or, using an excellent idea from Savage Worlds – provide a plot point setting. Describe a single default city in details sufficient to run it. Add statblocks for a few villains and potential allies. Add map for a few locales worth adventuring (no data, just a map and short description).
no handwritten fonts. Adhere to minimum size of 8pts.

- either publish simplified rules for epic creature advancement or avoid statting epic creatures altogether. As published, the Feathered guys (or ancients, or vampires) are not appropriate.

- offer evolutions and adaptations at preset levels to everyone for free. Add guidelines on what kind of power should be right and when. My opinion here is that all combat abilities should require standard action to use (thus precluding combining them with spells and attacks), swift action to maintain. Noncombat abilities should follow Wizard utility spells with regard to their power.

- explain the deal with divine spells.

- do not offer new classes or prestige classes. Archetypes are more convenient and it is harder to break their balance.


My favorite 3.x settings are Scarred Lands, Ptolus and Oathbound. Of these three, I could not run the last one because it does not mesh well with the other two, but friendy GM ran it for us using Arcana Unearthed (and then Evolved) rules, and we had a blast.
It feels terrific to see it again after all these years, and there is a chance, I'll reacquaint myself again with the world.