The Rival Guide presents 10 fully detailed rival adventuring groups, complete with specialized spells, equipment, magic items, and unusual minions. These groups cover a wide range of themes, from haunted pirates to drow death cultists, monstrous slavers to nigh-unstoppable arch-villains, and much, much more!
Inside this 64-page book, you’ll find:
Full stat blocks for 40 different NPCs, ranging from relatively minor foes at CR 2 to world-shaking menaces at CR 19. Use these as rival adventuring parties, or split them up when you need specific NPCs or even last-minute player characters.
Background information on each group discussing its history and goals, as well as on how to incorporate its members into your game as rivals for your PCs to clash against.
Several new alchemical items, feats, magic items, poisons, racial traits, and spells, along with a new template for characters haunted by ancient, sinister spirits and a simple template for alchemically invisible creatures.
The Rival Guide is intended for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can easily be incorporated into any fantasy game setting.
by Brian Cortijo, Adam Daigle,
Tim Hitchcock, Brandon Hodge, Colin McComb,
Jason Nelson, Amber Scott, Neil Spicer, and Todd Stewart
Rival adventuring parties set to be recurring thorns in your players sides time and time again. From the downright evil to those that feel like they are helping everyone when really all they are doing is stirring up trouble. A group of rivals for nearly any campaign level :)
I'm giving this five stars even though there are some negatives, because it's just so incredibly useful.
Three times now, I've needed a party of evil, rival or antagonist NPCs in a hurry. At mid to high levels, this would take me a significant amount of time! But three times now, I've just grabbed the Rival Guide. A tweak here, a quick reskin there, and boom: NPC party, ready to go. I can't overstate how handy this is. And the book gives them some personality along with intra-party dynamics, goals and ambitions, and some quick notes on likely tactics in combat. It's just great. If you are a GM, good chance you will want this book -- and if Paizo writes another one like this, good chance I'll buy it.
And, oh yes, the artwork is lovely. Most of the NPCs look like people you'd want to meet, fight with, or play as PCs of your own.
So, overall, a fine piece of work and highly recommended.
Now the negatives. First, as another reviewer has already noted, the character builds are somewhat standardized and often suboptimal. And I don't mean "suboptimal in a cool way", but suboptimal as in "why has this character dumped this important stat," "why is this character using this crappy weapon," or "whatever is the point of this feat". It's not a huge deal, but if you're going to give a 7th level character an AC of 13, then don't give that character feats that would suggest she'll be in melee.
Second, the book has a lot of new items, feats and spells. Every single party has several of these. While it's nice to get new items and new feats, it's actually slightly overkill in this context. There are so many different options in the currently published books that it is totally possible to make ten original NPC parties, every one unique and different, without ever once needing special new spells or items. The new things are cool and all, but they take up valuable space and are, frankly, distracting. As a GM, I have enough going on running a complete party of NPCs without having to pause and think about how cockatrice grit works, whether sheet lightning is a good spell for the sorceror to throw right now, or whether the Pendant of the Blood Scarab is something I want my PCs getting their hands on. (It isn't.)
I'm not saying Paizo should avoid new spells, feats and items -- but treat them like salt, please: a little bit will go a very long way. They're not what we're here for.
Anyway, great product, please feel free to do another.
I like the effort they put into the back-story of each NPC group. I just wish they put more effort into their stat blocks. Nearly every single spellcastor has "combat casting" feat. It is a better feat in PFRPG than in 3.5, but it still should not be an 'always take' feat. Melee NPCs faired better in feat selection, but failed in weapon and equipment choices (far too many potions! and very few good weapons). I know NPCs get far less money than PCs, that is why it is CRITICAL for them to choose gear wisely.
Every NPC seemed to have taken generic ability score selections not at all focused on their class path which significantly weakened them. Even worse, few of them took an optimal path for their bonus attributes (4th, 8th, etc.) to maximize their primary stat.
In the end the stat blocks seemed like they were created by a spreadsheet rather than a character that was trying to be the best at what he does in life. That is why it is 3 out of 5.
This book is a great resource, a vast improvement on the NPC guide. Many of the stat blocks in here are high level, which means the GM gets to save time doing math. The new feats, spells, and templates are excellent. The stat blocks have seemed well-balanced so far.
Each of the parties presented in the Rival Guide makes for an interesting and three-dimensional encounter. Rivals can be used individually or in groups, but either way their personalities and goals make encountering them a memorable experience for your players.
The "fluff" here is some of the most interesting fluff I've read, though most of the book is used for stats and mechanics. The art is high-quality. There is nothing I didn't like about this book.