Player's Guide to the Crossroads (PFRPG) PDF (based on
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This 36-page collection of materials provides players with an overview of the core region of the Midgard setting and provides a wide range of new powers and options for any fantasy Pathfinder RPG campaign, including:
New PC races: the Kobolds, the Ghoulish Darakhul, and Gearforged
The Shadowsworn Class: a 20-level class of roguery and shadow magic, with 7 new spells!
Dark Holidays of the Crossroads
New options for Cavaliers, Paladins, and Rogues, including Griffon Knights, Fixers, and White Lions
Ghoulish and Vampiric Sorcerer Bloodlines
Clockwork and Illumination Schools of Magic
60 new feats and dozen of regional traits
8 new weapons for dwarves, gypsies, and rogues, including the rat poniard and Nordmansch greatax
The Crossroads region of Midgard includes all the most famous locales of the setting, including the Margreve Forest, the Ironcrag Cantons, the Magdar Kingdom, the Free City of Zobeck, and the undead lands of Morgau and the Ghoul Imperium.
Master the magic of the Crossroads, and unleash its new spells, feats, and mysteries!
The first in the Player's Guide-series for Kobold Press' Midgard Campaign Setting is 36 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 33 pages of content, so let's check this out!
Tantalizingly hinted at in the Zobeck Gazetteer, I was looking forward quite a bit to this Player's Guide and let me say here that I'm a huge fan of good player's guides as I hate giving my players access to all the delicious plot hooks and pieces of information usually contained in a campaign setting or e.g. city setting book like the one on Zobeck. That out of the way, what's in here?
Well, first we get an overview of the Free City of Zobeck, the Electoral Kingdom of Krakova and the Ironcrag Cantons, Perunalia (The Duchy of Perun's Daughter), Magdar and of course the Ghoulish Empire under the surface and the dread Principalities of Morgau and Doresh, where the undead rule. Now if you're a DM, go get the Imperial Gazetteer and the Zobeck Gazetteer ASAP, for while these entries feature pieces of information on gods, populations and short briefs on public people and interesting places, it is there that the truly juicy bits are - and that's just like a player's guide should be. Now I have one very minor nitpick here - I do love the Germanic Nomenclature and calling an equinox festival in Morgau "Messern" (essentially German for "Knifing") is awesome, but the midwinter festival of "Verhangnisvoll" should a) read "Verhängnisvoll" and b) does not translate to "Gathering in the Darkness", but rather to "Ominous", "Fatal" or "Cataclysmic" - which is awesome per se, but if you're as picky with things like that, you may want to be aware of that. Now, don't get me wrong - I get that in setting, the word can translate to anything, really, but if you're like me, you'll probably rename the festival - especially when e.g. a festival like "Vielfraz", a bastardization/pseudo-anachronism of the German word "Vielfrass" evokes perfectly associations with unbound greed, as appropriate to a holy day devoted to Mammon! Now the fact that I complain over such paltry issues should give you pause to ponder on the quality of writing that is at such a high level as to making me resort to it. Yes. it's that good.
Now, there's also one page containing adventure hooks for the dark holidays and honestly, I'd love to see a mega-module dealing with these, but I'm not sure these belong in a player's guide - in my opinion, they should be reserved to a DM's book, for as soon as they are read, they lose some of the potential for the players.
Now, we get a new crunchy racial options for player characters, the first being the Darakhul, who get +2 to Cha, are small or medium, gain a burrow speed of 10 ft., darkvision 60 ft., channel resistance +2, a 1d8 bite attack and also thankfully weaknesses. Why? Because, if you're not in the know, Darakhul are undead, to be precise, High Ghouls. Thus, these beings get all the immunities of undead, no con-score etc., but also are have a reverse reaction to positive and negative energy. Furthermore, they suffer from a -4 penalty to skill and ability checks, saving throws and atk while in daylight, -2 when affected by the spell. They also need to eat raw meat every day to avoid suffering from lethal, unhealable damage. Now, if you're following my reviews, you'll know that I LOATHE undead player characters in most times. However, I have to admit that while the benefits are significant, the drawbacks should do their part in addition to the social stigma to make this race an option that could be considered balanced. The next new race is the Gearforged, who are clockwork constructs. While I really like the integration of clockwork constructs as deeply into the setting as Zobeck has managed, I also have to compare these to RiP's Ironborn, NNW's Replicants and Stormbunny Studios' Automata, and unfortunately are of these construct races are mechanically more interesting and in my home game, I fear I'll rather use these. Of course, we also get stats for Kobolds, who get -4 Str, +4 to Dex, -2 to Con, are small, get darkvision 60 ft., +1 natural AC, +2 to Craft (Trapmaking), light sensitivity and proficiency with picks. Nothing to complain here.
After that, we're off to new character options: Cavaliers may now also belong to the order of the famous Griffon Knights of former House Stross-fame, while paladins may now become members of the Order of the Undying Sun (light and warmth-related abilities) and the Order of the White Lion, who gets modified mercies and a celestial bond at 5th level. Rogues may now take the fixer-archetype and there is also a new base-class, the Shadowsworn. Shadowsworn get d8, 6+Int skills per level, proficiency with simple weapons, hand crossbows, rapiers, saps, short bows and short swords, but not with armors or shields. Shadowsworn may also cast spells of up to 5th level and cast them spontaneously, but use the unusual attribute Int instead of Cha for spontaneous casting. They also get up to +7d6 sneak attacks, 3/4 BAB-progression, a good ref-save and may select from 14 different talents, which I'd expand by giving access to some of SGG's Shadow Assassin talents. All in all, the class could be summarized as "spellcasting thief with shadow-theme" - a solid class, though one that could use more supplemental material or a unique signature ability beyond some exclusive spells. As provided, it feels a bit lacking and I'd honestly consider the Shadow Assassin by SGG the more interesting class. The class also comes with a spell-list and write-ups of a couple of new spells for the shadowsworn.
Other arcane casters also get fodder - the sorceror being now able to elect to get the ghoul and vampire bloodlines - both actually surprising me with nice abilities like ghoul fever-laden spittle. Nice! Wizards may now get access to the Clockwork and Illumination schools and may add that they are neat indeed - both are balanced and come with multiple nice ones. We are also introduced to new skill uses for Knowledge (Architecture & Engineering) as well as Disable Device and the Craft (Clockworking)-skill and if I haven't miscounted, we also get 57 new feats - which range from awesome to problematic: Take a firm hand, which allows you to slap unconscious people awake to ricocheting shots to being able to use the Kariv's Crab-divinations and Trick-Riding as well as figuring whether one lies after tasting the person's blood. (Vampire red herrings, there we go! Very cool!) Unfortunately, there's also a rotten apple in here that threatens to spoil the bunch: The harmless-sounding feat "underhanded Strike" is INSANE. Requiring only one feat and a BAB of +6, this allows the character to treat ALL hits versus a foe who is denied his/her/its dex-mod as critical threats. That's so unbalanced it's not even funny. How this abomination of a feat could slip past the capable editors and designers of Kobold Press, I have no idea. We also get almost 50 new traits for the areas covered in the book that help immerse the character in the respective setting.
The final pages of the pdf are covered by some dwarven weapons, street weapons appropriate for gangs as well as stats for alchemical smoke bombs and clockwork caltrops and narcotics: Apart from the Akiri Blossom, we also for the first time get PFRPG-stats for the very cool Requiem-drugs introduced in KQ.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice a single glitch. Layout is in full-color, adheres toa 2-column standard and can be considered drop-dead gorgeous, as can the artworks rendered in gorgeous full color. The pdf comes with full nested bookmarks, but no printer-friendly version, which is a bit of a pity.
This Player's Guide is a good offering indeed - Open Design/Kobold Press has been known for the stellar quality and imaginativeness of their writing and this pdf is no different, providing mostly stellar content - only mostly, though. There's the broken feat. The comparatively boring Gearforged and the traits, which, while nice, don't do too exciting things. That being said, there's some material you'll recognize from other releases set in Midgard like e.g. "Streets of Zobeck", now compiled for player use, which is also why I won't complain about them. As much as I like this guide, it still feels like it could have been a tad bit more streamlined, with e.g. the page of hooks being replaced with other content like Gearforged modifications, something rather absent from this pdf and something I'd expect from a construct race. Now, all of this conspires to make this pdf a very good offering, but not a perfect one - hence, I'll settle on a final verdict of "only" 4.5 stars, rounded down to 4 for the purpose of this platform and still urge you to check this out: When playing in Midgard, this is all but required.
I will try to not cover what has already been covered.
I too am a fan of Midgard. I like the mix of Eastern European and middle east and Scandinavian mythology. My interesting part was the description od Darakhul, Gearforged, and Kobold PC's. The coverage of Player Options that cover the Cavalier, Paladin, Rogue Sorcerer, and Wizard are very interesting options. The new Feats are fun too. Feats like Bank Shot, Bend Shot, Echoes of Past Lives, several Gearforged only feats, and additional Midgard based Traits are interesting options for Players'. Two new weapons are catching my eye, they are the Estoc, and the Nordmansch Greataxe.
In the Midgard Campaign Setting there is a limited amout of information on the different areas of Midgard. The idea of Players' Guides to fill out the regional information makes sense. I sort of wish it could have all been in one book, but with each area being near 20 to 30+ pages, and each area being written up at different times it would have been near impossible and several years away from publication.
I think Midgard and the Crossroads Players' Guide are well worth the cost. Perhaps in time it will be in print so I don't have to use up the ink in my printer.
Full Disclosure: I had nothing whatsoever to do with the creation of this book. I am a fan of Kobold Press. Call me biased. That takes nothing away from this latest release from the Kobolds.
I'm not going to regurgitate the contents as listed above. I'm merely writing this to explain what I liked about it and why it's a fabulous addition to the beautifully realised world of Midgard.
If you are a long time fan of Midgard, this should not surprise you - the really amazing thing about the Midgard setting and range of books is that there are never ideas that exist in a vaccuum. Bringing ideas and concepts together with flavor (and panache) seems to me to be the defining aspect of a Midgard release - taken all together, almost all the information contained herein is relevant to the region.
Standouts for me:
* Creative and flavorsome gang equipment, rogue archteype (the fixer) and feats that really scream "Zobeck".
*The section on "dark" holidays for Morgau/Doresh and Zobeck - I loved that this ties these regions together - remember that Morgau and Doresh were mundane kingdoms before the advent of Lord Lucan and his vampires - I especially liked the page of adventure hooks relating to these. Again - the beauty of the Midgard design is that little is presented in isolation or without some Midgard-esque guidance - helping you to make Midgard living and breathing.
* A small section on narcotics - again, a nice design aside that brings out more of the culture and natural history of Midgard.
* A new base class - the Shadowsworn. Now I'm not sure exactly why this is in this book, although its dark mien does fit neatly into Zobeck's dark and grimy alleyways this is not explicit in the text. Why do I love this guy? First off - it's a freakin' Base Class. What does that mean folks? That's right - potential for.... archetypes!!!!
With his nice mix of sneaky thiefstuff and arcane shadowmagic, this class strikes me with its flavor and mechanics.
If I have a few little niggles with the shadowsworn it is in the formatting/layout of the class - firstly it isn't explicitly stated at the outset that it is a Base Class - it just kinda sits under the Rogue Fixer archetype, and even has a less eye-catching heading than the "Rogue" heading above Fixer.
The other small gripe is that the layout has the progression table on a separate page from the ability desciptions, and a lack of italicised shadow traits made it difficult to determine which were main class abilities and which were these shadow traits - as both have their fair share of "shadow-" in the title it was a tad confusing. None of this takes away from the sheer awesomeness of the (base) class.
There is a fantastic mix of rule/crunch/mechanics and flavor/campaign meat in this little gem. It seems way more than a mere 36 pages. I love the way that I'm equal parts intrigued and inspired when I stare away into the midddel distance imagining my Midgard adventures and planning the next session.
Lastly folks, as usual for Kobold Press publications, the artwork is mouth-wateringly good - the whole PDF is an artwork in and of itself - my faves are the female Paladin of the Undying Sun (love the sword and shield) and the darakhul bard.
All in all, a worthy addition to the stable of awesome Midgard books. Well done Kobolds.