Whether they are knights of chivalrous causes or nobles scheming nefarious designs, the movers and shakers of Golarion need strongholds to host their forces and to serve as a headquarters for launching their various plots and goals. Perhaps no strongholds are more suited to this challenge than the mortar-and-stone castles, keeps, and fortresses that dot the world, whether they are entrenched on grassy baileys or built into the sides of sheer mountain ranges.
Castles of the Inner Sea provides a thorough exploration of six different castles set throughout the Inner Sea region of the Pathfinder campaign setting. Detailed descriptions of the castles examine their histories as well as their most important features and structures, breathing life into fully realized maps of the castle grounds. Rundowns of castle denizens and stat blocks for key NPCs give players reasons to fear the dangers of these soaring fortifications, and a sample adventure location for each castle makes it easy for Game Masters to drop castle encounters into any game.
This book contains details on the following castles:
Castle Everstand: A borderland stronghold standing between the pastoral lands of vigilant Lastwall and the vicious orc hordes of Belkzen.
Castle Kronquist: A haunted Ustalavic fortress that is home to one of the Whispering Tyrant’s most dreaded vampire minions.
Citadel Vraid: A wicked castle founded as a gift to the Hellknights’ Order of the Nail and rumored to be cursed by ancient magic.
Highhelm: A cultural and trade capital of the dwarven empire that stands as a testament to the glorious achievements of this industrious race.
Icerift Castle: An unfinished keep, ruined by the frigid winds of the north and supposedly haunted, that plays home to monstrous arctic denizens.
Skyborne Keep: A floating cloud castle ruled by a malevolent storm giant, who uses it as a vessel to plunder various merchant ships and trade caravans.
Perhaps the best thing about Castles of the Inner Sea is the variety. These are six very different castles, providing opportunities for different kinds of characters at different levels. This means that, while it’s unlikely that any individual campaign would use all six castles, it’s easy to slot at least one of them into just about any campaign. Castle Everstand works well as a base of operations for low-level characters crusading for good, while Highhelm is practically a campaign setting all its own. Icerift Castle, Skyborne Keep, and Castle Kronquist make suitable adventuring locations for high level characters, and could even be the culminating goal of an entire campaign. Citadel Vraid, on the other hand, could be either the fortress of a major enemy organization or even a base of operations for PCs who belong to that organization.
If I were ever forced to pick just one Campaign Setting book to recommend to a new GM, this book would be it. It has a little bit of everything, whether it is something to drop into a game, or use as the seed for a whole campaign. I received this book only the other day and have read it over twice now, consuming it like water.
There are seven chapters in this book, starting with an excellent introduction that gives a brief overview of all the castles covered, and an informative list of castle terminology. After that there are six castles looked at, each given their own chapter. The chapters are broken down into an overview, history, description, talk about its denizens, and the threats of/to the castles. Last but not least there is also a mini-adventure at the end of each chapter related to that castle.
Did I mention that every castle also stats out at least one relevant NPC, and has a minimum of two gorgeous maps (usually one for a castle overview and a second for the location of the mini-adventure)? As a huge fan of cartography I can admit that the maps are what sealed the deal for me on this book. I feel spoiled as I flip through this book seeing full page grid maps of castles, keeps, spires, and dungeons.
Even with the amount of information packed into such a small book, nothing feels half done. While I am left wishing that each chapter had it's own book after reading this, what is in here is a rich building block for a creative GM to fill in a lot of the gaps. There's also a mini-adventure in here for pretty much any level gaming group (groups of four 3rd, 4th, 8th, 10th, 15th, and 17th level adventurers). This book oozes accessibility for a GM of any level gaming group. I will always keep this book within quick reach for great ideas, maps, NPCs, and adventures. Alyssa Faden and Tim Hitchcock have outdone themselves on this one.