I've been reading this parallel to proofing ym review of the campaign setting and can say that this book actually looks like the best OT-book to date. Review will follow. :)
James did a really great job on A Place Beyond Hell. He took a simple concept I suggested and really expanded on it to make it the great product it is.
We also get new monsters, prefaced by the H'laqu creature type, which is surprisingly well-thought out: They are susceptible to normal weapons, but resistant to spells and magical weapons. Nice idea to make PCs drop that killer blade and take up the pitchfork. I really like that each monster comes with three quite extensive adventure seeds that are more detailed than "Kill X" - a nice innovation I hope will continue in future books of OT. Each monster comes with its own, original and simply gorgeous artwork. Even for the beautiful OT-line, these artworks rock and are on par with Paizo and WotC.
-Abyssal Arm (CR 6): Thorny, dark appendages that seek to crush and draw the mortals to their doom. The seeds are very good.
-Bacterial Macrobe (CR 3): Giant floating bacteria. How cool is that? Oh yeah: The adventure seeds rock, too!
-Black Glass Mites (CR 2): Actually a swarm, this vermin is a nice way to slowly introduce the H'laqu at lower levels. Their adventure seeds are nice.
-Black Man (CR 8): Fully infected creatures, these could work as a kind of H'laqu boogeyman. Their adventure seeds are once again, top-notch.
-Corvidim (CR 2): A take on crows with a hivemind. Ok and has some nice story-telling potential.
-Infected Land (CR 5): A quite versatile piece of H'laqu-tainted land, this mobile piece of corruption ranks among my favorite critters from this excellent bunch. The adventure seeds once again provide ample inspiration.
-Meteor Golem (CR 15): Quite powerful and cool take on the Juggernaut-from-the-stars-trope.
-Nyxsus the Surgeon (CR 30): This is it. The major player of the H'laqu. The one to stand up against Calix Sabinus and the like. Of all the high-CR-major-players of OT, this is by far my favorite. Why? Well, because his mechanics are interesting. This CR 30 guy has an AC of 10. And under 200 HP. And is still a credible and terrible threat due to the cool defensive abilities and the feeling that he is truy unique. Great job! His seeds rock, too.
-Viral Macrobe (CR 4): Big, bad flying viruses that can reproduce. Fast. With your HP. Damn, I love them. Once again, the seeds are inspiring.
-Void Elemental (CR 5): Free floating holes in reality that are sentient. Nice, but my least favorite of the critters. The seeds, again, are imaginative, though.
After that, we're introduced to the cult of black glass, the aforementioned H'laqu cult with information of the H'laqu as deities for clerics as well as three more adventure seeds.
The H'laqu-infection their very presence may bring to mortals, is detailed in a three-stage process, resulting in verious bonuses and penalties and culminating in a kind of new racial template, the so-called "Shattered". I like how the infection is handled and how at the last stage, there is a sliver of hope to retain a piece of one's personality when becoming one of the shattered. Once again, rules for immunity as well as adventure seeds are provided.
The final two pages of the book detail breaching points and their mechanics, I.e. places where the H'laqu have rent time, space and magic. Characteristics are provided and sufficiently creepy, as are the adventure hooks.
This book is beautiful and follows the nice Obsidian Twilight layout and the monster artwork ranks among the best I've seen in any 3pp's books and even on par with some Paizo/WotC-artwork. Editing and formatting have improved significantly in contrast to the older OT-books, I noticed no formatting errors apart from the one spell and almost no typos. More importantly, though, there is content: Expertly written fluff that gives one glimpses of the world of Abaddon and the H'laqu. Plus: This book actually IS rather horror-themed and the monsters reflect this: PCs have to fight intelligently to defeat these critters.
So let's get to the crunch: Some of the feats, especially the rituals, can be considered plot-devices and I actually like them for what they do. They would have benefited from more concrete rules to disrupt the rituals/keep them up while being attacked/shot. I would have liked to see more taint-feats in place of the ones that use the Fear Rating mechanic, which I quite frankly think, shouldn't be in this book, as it's not part of the standard OT-rules. What I was missing, were psionics as an established part of the world of Abaddon that just, at least to me, scream H'laqu. Now, with Psionics Unleashed out, it would have been awesome to see them get some Lovecraftian love. Perhaps in an additional pdf? The spells are vastly superior to those in the campaign setting: They have their unique flair, some are downright clever and I enjoyed most of them. The true stars of the book, though, are the new monsters, the new H'laqu-type, the information on the cult and especially the adventure seeds that are enough to design a whole campaign on the creatures. The biomechanics of the H'laqu are iconic, cool and use some very imaginative mechanics, especially in the case of Nyxsus. I would also have loved to see more biomechanics. The prose is great and I'm looking forward to reading more.
So what's my final verdict? While I love most of the content of the book, I have to acknowledge that there are some glitches and some of the feats as well as the metagamey spell don't appeal to me. However, what really irked me, was the usage of the per se great Fear mechanics without specifically mentioning it or including it in the basic OT-rules canon. Considering these downsides, I'd settle for 3 stars, but the amount of adventure seeds, the quality of the prose and the inspiring artwork, I'll settle for a 4-star final verdict. If you're thinking about a semi-lovecraftian (in the pulpy style) invasion of strange beings into your campaign setting, give this a try. For the low price, it's worth it.
Thanks, D_M!I can't really believe it's been that many reviews already. Now I'm also feeling kinda OCD. O.o XD
Yeah thats how I felt when i first hit 100 and only more so at 150. I did get a nice email from paizo about it. I made a thread down in gamer talked and pointed out you also had hit 150 there as well. :)