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PaizoCon 2016

Book of Friends and Foes: Assassins in the River Nations (PFRPG) PDF

***½( ) (based on 2 ratings)

Our Price: $2.95

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Get personal—fully fleshed arch-nemeses and assassins for your characters await within! The Book of Friends and Foes: Assassins in the River Nations delivers eight NPCs to fill out your kingdom building game. These assassins will keep your the characters guessing where the next deadly threat will come from next. Covering CR 6-13, these assassins will cover your death squad needs for much of the adventure path. Use these deadly foes to hang plot hooks and move your adventure along.

Inside this supplement, you will find:

  • Muffin Brownbottle, Death's Chef, rogue 5/assassin 2
  • Jolanta Adanski, the Grave Cackler, witch 7/assassin 1
  • Qog Kirgon, the Mountain Stalker, ranger 5/assassin 4
  • Dyali Starwater, Heirophant of the Dying Moon Cult, cleric 9/assassin 1
  • Koron, Warmaster of Death, fighter 9/assassin 2
  • Mariana, Master of Disguise, rogue 5/assassin 7
  • Akanor, Funeral Singer, bard 10/assassin 3
  • Ceriddaia Shimmerstar, the Sword Breake, magus 14
This PDF supplement comes complete with a Hero Lab file, allowing for the quickest possible integration into your game.

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Product Reviews (2)

Average product rating:

***½( ) (based on 2 ratings)

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3.5 stars - cheap, nice assassins with some editing glitches/lost potential

***( )( )

This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 9 pages of content, so let's check this out!

After a page of introduction that explains the methodology behind the creation of these assassins, we dive right into the killers by providing the first one and I already love her: Muffin Brownbarrel is cute as a button. The halfling baker is sweet, kind and a master of poisons that specializes in killing arcanists. She has only a few magic items - she doesn't need more and her background, modus operandi and artwork make her uncommon, cool and oh-so-unthreatening - until you try her goods...

In direct comparison, the witch-assassin Jolanta with her centipede-familiar feels rather insultingly straight-forward and unsubtle, but each task has its tool... Speaking of unsubtle: The mountain-stalking Qog, a half-orc ranger/assassin build with his pet dog may also not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he gets the job done.

More subtle and versatile, Cyali Starwatcher, cleric and cultist to a god of murder has not only some divine power to back her up, but also a host of interesting options at her hand. Honorable in his dealings, but despicable nonetheless, the hobgoblin fighter/assassin Koron has brought fortune to his tribe by killing for money and is now known as the warmaster of death.

Much more interesting and less straight-forward, Mariana (rogue 5/assassin 7) has the chameleon archetype and uses it to devastating effect - catching her will prove to be a challenge to say the least. And then, there's a gnomish court bard/assassin who has been also known for his calling card of putting an arrow into a dead target's left ear.

And then there's the final assassin - who is not an assassin, at least by class: An elven magus completes the cadre of NPCs and makes for an uncommon and rather flashy foe.

Editing and formatting are rather sub-par - I noticed several rather jarring glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard and each of the characters herein gets his/her own nice b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and also with full herolab-support. This is essentially a collection of several interesting assassin-builds. While the builds per se are well done and I liked the use of archetypes, personally, I would have enjoyed more complex combinations, perhaps with templates, but I won't hold that against the pdf.
What I do hold against it, though, is its evident artificially imposed limit on the entries of the characters. Every statblock, artwork and supplemental information fits on just one page and while that means that all the information is on one page, the format also means that higher level statblocks take up more space on the page: Combine that with animal companions/familiars and the artworks, and almost no supplemental information is left, which is a double pity when reading e.g. Muffin's entry (who gets the most extensive background) - it's her modus operandi, her fluff influencing her crunch, that makes her interesting, unique and intriguing. And this is also where the pdf loses some of its potential: With an additional page (methods, signature calling cards, famous kills, battle and escape strategies, background etc.) of fluff, each of these builds could have easily become a star and this pdf an example of awesomeness. As written, though, it remains a good selection of statblocks that could easily have been much, much more. As written, it remains "only" a good, cheap selection of assassins and I almost went 4, but due to the editing glitches, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars due to Muffins being the adorable dealer of death she is and the low price - nevertheless, for now and as long as this has not gotten another pass at editing, I'll round down to 3.

Endzeitgeist out.

****( )

Weighing in at thirteen pages with a cover, credit/TOC page, OGL and 1 ad, we are presented with eight pages of new NPC's and a one page introduction and explanation of how to use this supplement. Designed for the River nations setting from Jon Brazer Enterprises, each of these characters can easily be utilized in any setting a GM chooses to use them within.

The interesting thing regarding the introduction, is Dale writes it from the standpoint of a conversation, explaining when this book was originally planned to be released, how it got waylaid, and what inspired the collection in the first place. It is an interesting look behind the curtain into the design thoughts that went into this collection of eight not so typical assassins, and what he hoped to accomplish in their creation. So without further ado, let us examine them, shall we?

Muffin Brownbottle, Death's Chef is a halfling baker after my heart. Her statblock section on tactics is hands down one of the funniest and most excellent things I have ever read in an NPC statblock. Her During Combat states, and I quote “ Muffin will sit with her mark and talk while they enjoy their final meal.” Yeah, that's right, combat? Not from this sadistic killer. Nope, she will however make you an excellent meal, and join you for conversation and company while you enjoy her culinary labors. Being a lover of the culinary arts, this appealed to me on so many levels I can't even begin to explain them all. I will say though, she has earned a home in my campaign world, and a bakery, lol.

Jolanta Adanski, Grave Cackler, along with her house centipede familiar, Scurry, adds the idea of a witch assassin to the mix. Her write up is barely a paragraph, and we are left with no real story for her unfortunately, which is a shame. Within her spell list would be one spell crossed out, to signify that she has in fact already cast said spell for the day.

Qog Kirgon, The Mountain Stalker is a half orc ranger/assassin with a serious dislike for humans. Together with his dog, Scraps – a mangy golden retriever that is fiercely loyal, Qog has a fairly basic and straight forward approach to killing. History is slightly formulaic, but not bad in the least. It is almost a shame he was done as a standard ranger, as I can't help but think he would have been all the more interesting having been built as a Spell Less Ranger utilizing the class released recently by Open Design. I say this solely based upon the fact that for me I have a hard time seeing a half orc brute demonstrating the finesse for magic.

Cyali Starwatcher, Dying Moon Hierophant offers us a clerical assassin...yeah, let that sink in for a minute. Interesting character, interesting concept, and a fleshed out story that gives us not only a backstory for her, but an assassin's guild, a religious cult, and a mortuary business operating as a front for said cult. Now this is the type of character that delivers on value. Not only is she interesting, but she comes with so many hooks its ridiculous.

Korn, Warmaster of Death would be that handsome guy on the front cover near the bottom. A hobgoblin fighter/assassin is another example of an NPC who brings more to the table then just themselves. A leader of a tribe of hobgoblins living peacefully within human lands, operating as assassins for hire to those willing to pay the price.

Mariana, Master of Disguise is a rogue(chameleon)/assassin. Now for those unfamiliar with the chameleon, it was introduced in Ultimate Combat, and is an archetype that covers those individuals who blend and assume identity well. Disguise and misdirection are their most potent weapon, for they can be anyone, and disappear instantly. With an amusing backstory filled with misdirection in regards to who she really is, this murdering thief has made a living out of making sure no one knows who she is, but everyone has a tale to tell. Oddly, she reminded me of the Bruce Willis movie The Jackyl, in that she is a highly sought after assassin who assumes identities to serve her purposes and to ensure that all details regarding her are false.

Akanor, Funeral Singer, is a gnome bard/assassin utilizing the archetype of court bard. Akanor is the classic showman, the clothes, the attitude, the prestige, he lives for the attention, and has built quite a reputation traveling the lands as a court performer of some worth, and he has done so as a means to an end. In hiding in plain sight, by being right in front of folks as the great story teller and comedian none suspect he is in fact also a high priced assassin with a signature calling card, a telling wound left on every victim's body. In the end he kills for the same reason he entertains, the adrenaline rush, the excitement. A well thought out and designed NPC, with an excellent piece of art to support the design.

Ceriddaia Shimmerstar, Sword Breaker is our one and only non assassin by class in the collection, she is a Magus. Using a traveling dance troupe as cover to travel freely, this NPC comes off as a spoiled brat reading through her backstory. She kills simply as a means to have the funding to do as she wishes, when she wishes, wherever she wishes, and has gotten the dancing troupe (a cover for more than just her) discovered more than once by flashing far to much money to explain away with their cover story. Not that the spoiled brat concept doesn't work, her tactics in combat are interesting, in that she casts undead anatomy upon herself before combat and goes for total shock factor presenting herself as a skeleton whilst electrocuting her opponents, seeking to sunder them as fast as possible before finishing them off.

So, final thoughts on the eight. Several of these NPC's are very cool character concepts, one could use so much more to her story to make you want to invest in her. With each character receiving one page per, it almost felt as if Jolanta's design was truncated to accommodate layout and spacing, which is a real shame as we're given next to nothing story wise for her. The book overall needs another read through by an editor, as there were numerous editing oversights, sentence structures, missing words, odd grammatical choices. It was all understandable, but it truly would benefit greatly from another editorial sweep. Art-wise, only one piece felt out of place, Mariana's, it had an anime quality to it, which is a shame as it is a good piece of art, but when held up to the others, it really looks out of place.

It is hard to overlook the massive editing issues and the multiple issues with Jolanta (the fact that she has barely any fluff). On the positive hand however, we have several very good, and I do mean very good NPC assassins here, the traveling bard, the unassuming baker, the legitimate business women running a mortuary while leading an assassins cult, the hobgoblin who turned his tribe into a money making killing machine. The design chops far outweigh the editing issues, as those can be fixed, design is what it is, it's either there or it isn't, and in this case it very much is there, and worth the price of admission. This product also carries with it Hero Lab files for the assassins, so there is yet another perk, and an excellent one I might add. Be forewarned my fellow Hero lab users, Ultimate Magic and Combat, as well as the APG are required to open and utilize these portfolio files properly.

I am going to settle on 3.5 stars, stating that I will be happy to raise that by a full star after a full sweep to correct editing issues. For the purposes of this rating system, I will however, round up, not down, as the design chops are here, and they outweigh the negative. So, final rating is a 4 star.

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