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The Knights of the Crucible (PFRPG) PDF

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Three Orders. Countless Possibilities.

Knightly orders—groups of knights bound together by common oaths, beliefs, and goals—are a fun and exciting part of fantasy lore with deep roots in actual history. The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Player’s Guide tapped in to this vein of flavor with the cavalier class, which includes a variety of cavalier orders as one of its class features. Though these orders are flavorful and evocative, and also mechanically interesting, they left one thing to be desired: there was no information about the actual orders themselves, as organizations.

Knights of the Crucible presents a somewhat more in-depth look at three new knightly orders, each of which falls within the larger organization of the knights of the crucible. These orders—the order of the bronze shield, the order of the golden helm, and the order of the iron blade—not only include mechanical information for cavaliers who join the order, as well as archetypes for various other classes that might be interested in joining, but also have detailed information on the way the organization operates, its goals, and its members, as well as specific information on how to implement the order into your game, whether as an organization one or more PCs are a part of, or as NPCs, both allies and enemies.

The book also contains detailed mechanics for membership in the order, including ways to rise in status and rank within the order, and various benefits and perks which high-ranking and influential members can gain through association with the order. Finally, the book concludes with a gallery of sample NPCs and stat-blocks for various members of the orders, in order to make implementing the orders into your game that much easier.

While, at heart, Knights of the Crucible presents three new cavalier orders, in reality, it does far more, providing three unique and detailed organizations for player characters to join, ally themselves with, or fight bitterly. No matter what you need, the knights of the crucible can be a valuable addition to fantasy games of any sort.

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Knightly organizations with worldly impact

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This pdf is 55 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with exactly 50 pages of content, so let's check this out!

As most publications by NNW, this pdf kicks off with a short narrative, this time one illustrating three orders in just one page before starting to elaborate the aim of this book. If you're like me, this book does speak to one issue you may have had with knightly orders as presented by the cavalier-class. The class per se is rather interesting and its orders work - but essentially mainly for solitary knights/renegades. The orders of cavaliers and their membership in them actually doesn't influence the PC that much beyond edicts and mechanics - the orders of the cavalier remain abstract concepts and ability suites and not organizations. This product now seeks to remedy that and make belonging to one of its orders actually have significant influences and results - it should be noted, though, that non-cavalier classes can just as well become members of the knightly orders herein.

The first of these knightly orders presented is the Order of the Bronze Shield: Not beholden to any noble or king and the political squabbles, all of the orders herein are wholly devoted to a realm's well-being and make up the "super-order" Knights of the Crucible". The order of the bronze shield is somewhat reminiscent of the order of guardians from Ravenloft: They essentially seek to collect deadly, evil artifacts that can't be destroyed and keep them safe and from the hands of those that might be corrupted by them. The Iron Blades make up for the militant part of the Knights of the Crucible, their fortresses, soldiers and charter houses not being beholden to lords and political clashes, but being an organization that watches over the people e.g. in times of war. The final branch is the order of the Golden Helmet, closest to a cavalier's order, rare and somewhat reminiscent of the knights of the round or paladin-like questing knights.

After this general run-down of the order's history, we get information on the three respective branches and their initiations, daily lives etc. as well as hot to use the respective orders for PCs and NPCs. The order of the bronze shield gets 2 different archetypes - fighters can become bronze shield guardians who are better at using their defensive capabilities, armors etc. and may act as interesting bodyguards - they can choose adjacent allies and not only grant them bonuses, but also intercept foes attacking their charges via AoOs. The second archetype the order offers access to would be the Sacred Custodian who is less adept at channeling energy, but gains the ability to temporarily add charges to select magic items - the higher his levels, the higher the GP-limit that denotes to which magic items the custodian may add temporary charges. They may also bond items via a ritual at higher levels , thus making the item's magic usable exlusively for them, representing the order's devotion to keep destructive items out of the hands of villains. Of course, we also get a cavalier-order entry, which is btw. also rather defensively focused- no surprise there.

The second order, the order of the Golden Helm, is the smallest and most elite of the orders, operating from a flying fortress and accepting only true champions - essentially a justice league-like elite organization of adventurers and elite fighters. This order also comes with extensive advice on using the organization and its role in the world as well as 2 archetypes and a cavalier order. The first archetype is the glorious berserker, a barbarian archetype focused on performing astonishing feats of strength and becoming almost impervious to combat maneuvers at higher levels in exchange for their trap sense. Paladins may now become Golden Helm Crusaders, who gain challenges as well as improved charging in exchange for their mercies and a supporting aura, but for the exchange of their mercies, making the archetype overall feel more linear than the standard paladin. While I like the idea of a spell-less paladins, the execution makes the archetype feel a tad bit restrictive. The cavalier order for the golden helm gain access to a pool of glory points the cavalier can exchange on a 1-on-1 basis to gain as a bonus to AC or saves and at higher levels, the bonuses actually increase further They may also spend multiple glory points to potentially daze foes hit by their strikes and better succeed at skills. At higher levels, they may replenish their glory pool by succeeding in subduing/killing the subjects of his challenge. I really like the glory pool, but wished there were more options to choose from - more usages for the pool etc.

The final order would then be the militaristic Iron Blades, who accept nearly everyone and act as the massed force of the knights, providing the respective payment after a pre-set term of service. Fighters can take the Iron Blade Legionnaire archetype who get more skills, replace bravery with dedicated training that hardens their resolve against charms and the option to declare foes his quarry and gain a bonus to atk and damage as well as select skills against the foe and at 20th level, have more devastating criticals against his/her quarry. Rangers can now become Iron Reeves who don't get access to spellcasting, but can keep allies alert to dangers, granting them scaling bonuses over the levels as well as uncanny dodge and its improved brother. Ok, I guess, but nothing too exciting. The cavalier order gains access to step up, bonuses in familiar territory and improved capabilities when fighting foes they've challenged.

The organizations also feature tables for traits (something characters are/achieve) and deeds (something a character does) to track status within the respective orders. Ranks, titles, membership-benefits, quest-access and other benefits and duties are covered in excessive detail, as are the perks, privileges and benefits are provided alongside money for bounties and training options - quite a bunch of options to make use of the respective influence gained.

The last pages of the pdf are devoted to sample statblocks - to be precise, a total collection of 16 statblocks including sample rank and file soldiers as well as 3 sample high-level NPCs.

Conclusion:
Editinga nd formatting are good, though not perfect - the order of the golden helm is for example called order of the golden crown once or twice and there are some glitches here and there, but none that truly impede one's enjoyment of the pdf. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with a parchment-style background. The only artworks are silhouette-like renditions of knights and stock art, which is a bit unpleasant at this rather significant price point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks as well as a printer-friendly version.
This is a strange pdf for me to rate - on the one hand, I really enjoy the respective organizations (though the golden helm is not my cup of coffee) and the information on the respective benefits, traits, ranks etc. rocks and is just neat. The archetypes, though, are of varying quality - while most feature some good or at least interesting idea, there also are some that can be considered too linear or filler at best, lacking interesting signature abilities. The cavalier orders per se are neat and the organizations per se, which should be considered the main meat of the book, are well-presented and in fact, rather enjoyable reads that make valid, cool additions to one's campaign. However, the pdf also is rather expensive at $7.50 and provides neither the original artworks, nor the massive page-count I'd expect from a pdf of this length, which is also one of my main gripes with this pdf. If the price-point was lower, I'd probably settle for a final verdict of 3.5 or even 4 stars, but for now, I unfortunately can't go higher than 3 stars on this one.

Endzeitgeist out.





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