Think Far Eastern Adventuring is all about accepting your place on The Great Wheel?
Heroes of the Jade Oath takes the choices and flexibility of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and adds an immersive, fully researched, and instantly playable Far Eastern background.
So kick karma in the butt and choose your own destiny with Lands of the Jade Oath.
Heroes of the Jade Oath includes:
Detailed information on the new setting Lands of the Jade Oath
New marvelous player races like Bakemono, Mandragoran, Qahngol, Shenxue, and Yueren elves and 11 other variants.
Evocative new character classes and archetypes like Demon Hunter, Enlightened Scholar, Kensai, Kusa, 7 different Monk archetypes, 6 new totems for barbarians, 4 new witch archetypes, and two new paladin archetypes.
The new Fung Shui skill and a massive number of far eastern style feats including a new feat type Chakra.
Optional Rules for Cinematic Combat and Zodiac Signs as campaign traits.
A new spellcasting option for Sutra Casters.
A huge selection of weapons, armor, and alchemic items from the Far East.
...and much, much more.
Author: Frank Carr Cover Artist: Wayne Reynolds Pages: 176, Full-Color Hardcover or PDF
This is an exciting and much anticipated release. The rules and content have been discussed and described elsewhere and I have few quibbles with what has come before. I found the setting to be intriguing and well thought out abet a bit derivative; which I think was, at least partially, intended by the author. However, I have two, major issues with the book.
The text: The text appears, throughout, to be essentially the author’s research notes dumped straight into the book. The text is repetitive, redundant, and, in places, contradictory. In some instances it appears as if the original research notes and the first rewrite of the sentence or paragraph were both included; either immediately adjacent or later in the same description.
This makes the content of the book painful and confusing to read and brings me to my second issue, the editing: There does not appear to have been any editing…
Reading the discussions there was clearly some but if the author or the publisher actually paid anyone to edit this tome they need to take them to small claims court and recover their money. The author and publisher need to find whatever money they can and hire an editor for the future printings of this text. Freshperson English majors should be available and affordable…
To summarize: This is an intriguing concept and an exciting and interesting setting that is brutally hamstrung by the writing and editing. I grade freshperson and sophomore essays for my classes and this tome sparked painful flashbacks and made me want to bang my head against the wall every couple of pages.
I look forward to a well edited second printing that will do justice to the excellent setting that has been presented here.
I find that EZG, as normal, has pretty much hit the rules part of the review on the head. I am not a PF rule fiend so the rules are, to me, fine. But as to balance I cannot give you the answer to the same depth as EZG and he has pointed out there are AU to PFRPG glitches. But there are in any RPG book so that doesn't bother me hugely.
The 'fluff' part of this books is what really shines, and why I have been waiting for ages for it. I loved the 1E Oriental Adventures which gave me a soft spot for asian/eastern flavoured D&D - Kara-tur and Al-Qadim are in my collection. this is right up there with them. I am not a scholar but I really enjoyed the flavour of the fluff in this book.
Now I was not planning on reading this book until I got the physical but I ended up firing it up on my iPad. And it is stunning, the layout and art are gorgeous. I looks luxurious and I entirely disagree that it resembles a text book. Obviously this is subjective but the green-theme really works for me. I can' wait to see it 'in the flesh'
I highly recommend this for any d20/D&D oriental-phile. You won't regret it IMO; as to the rules glitches I don't feel they are that bad and can be got through with common sense, but if you are buying this more for the rules than fluff/feel then I suggest you read EZG's review and see if that is a good idea for you
This massive book is 175 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 168 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
First of all, let me tell you about the genesis of the project – HotJO has been in the making for what seemed like forever and was originally the first BIG project of Rite Publishing, intended to be released as a supplement to Monte Cook’s Arcana Evolved. When the Beta-version of the book was released, the content was fresh and interesting in style and flavor. Now, with the advent and influx in popularity of PFRPG, people on the RiP-boards, yours truly included, started to ask about a conversion and the pdfs released so far in the line were used to get more artwork and even better production values for the Omega-version and the book this review is all about, the very first iteration of Heroes of the Jade Oath for PFRPG. Why is this important? well, because it explains some of the design-decisions made as well as all the races introduced – AE doesn’t feature the standard races as prominently and thus, this book has a LOT of ground to cover in a scarce few pages, even at its length.
Now that doesn’t mean that this book is all crunch and indeed, it begins by introducing us to the very concepts that define social structure in the setting of the Jade Oath: Favors, Family and Face. The importance of (extended) family structures, clans and the value of face are all concisely and easily understandable to western audiences as relayed herein. Thankfully, the done-to-death cliché of Seppuku is also addressed and put into a valid cultural perspective that shows that author Frank Carr has a firm grasp on social strata and cultural concepts. If you’re looking for an almost historical level of detail regarding customs like in the release of the German old-school setting Midgard’s (NOT the one by KP) KanThaiPan, though, you won’t find that level of detail here, with e.g. the making of appropriate presents, food and medicine not covered, but chances are you probably are not reading this review to know about the likes anyway. That being said, the map of the lands of the Jade Oath should be commented on – made by cartography-legend Jonathan Roberts (now of “A Song of Fire and Ice”-fame), the 2-page spread is eye-watering in its gorgeousness – and it is my pleasure to report that the locales featured in the gazetteer-style gloss-over of the lands provides places that stand in no way behind the quality of the map:
The respective regions not only include massive amounts of write-ups for covenants, societies and clans (all with their respective symbols and tokens), but also contains areas like the undead-hampering “Fallen Pillar of Heaven”, the gorgeously-illustrated city of Xinmar in the Heaven’s Reach Mountains, the floating garden or the crawling dragon mountain, which is in fact the world’s oldest dragon, slowly winding its ways through mountainous ranges. Now if the extensive gazetteer-section with all its pieces of information on culture, produce, locations etc. has not sparked some sort of great idea for an adventure, I’m not sure your imagination can be helped. The Lands of the Jade Oath feel very distinct and there is no way they could be mistaken for any other Asian-themed setting. That out of the way, let’s take a look at the chapter on races and their mechanics, shall we?
Now first we get pronunciation-guidelines for races and an entry on the breeds of human (the discovery of the eight will usher in a great doom, by the way!) before delving into the Bakemono. A metal-eating, goblinoid race, their males are small, horned almost goblinoid looking beings that get +2 to Con and Int as well as -2 to Cha, slow landspeed, darkvision 60 ft., light blindness, a bite that is devastating vs. objects and undead, +2 to saves vs. poison and +2 to craft-check relating to metal. They also have slow speed and count as evil goblinoids and get full spell-progression. Their females instead get +2 to Wis and Cha and -2 to Str. They also can take levels in the Bakemono-Paragon-class, which spans 6 levels and gets d8, 4+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression and good ref-saves. The class also improves bites by granting improved sunder to the bite and allowing bakemono to eat magical items as well as continuously detecting magic. The class also allows them to gain the shapeshifter-subtype as well as turning into large size, the form corresponding to their chosen totem or even into a swarm. And also minor attribute enhancements depending on the gender of the bakemono as well as attribute bonuses over the levels, something that almost each of the paragon-classes grants.
The towering, ponderous Dahren can either gain +2 to Str or +2 to Con and Wis, low-light vision, +2 to intimidate and sense motive and craft as well as the giant subtype, in spite of their medium size. The race also gets its paragon-class, spanning 20 levels and having them grow to up to colossal size (the additional sizes also being covered in the height & weight-table, btw.!) – the class is essentially a revised variant of the Jotun Paragon-class featured in RiP’s “In the Company of Monsters“, but allows the character now to multiclass as soon as they have passed 6th level. The class offers d8, 4+Int skills, 3/4-BAB-progression, good fort-saves, up to +13 natural AC and improving slam-attacks (up to 4d6) as well as rock catching skills and a selection from a wide variety of elemental-themed talents. Now, it would have been easy to just cut-copy-paste the class, but there actually are new talents in here and since the original class is elemental in its theme and HotJO uses the eastern system of elements, the respective abilities have been modified, which is nice to see.
Next up are the agile Faen, who get +2 to Dex and one mental attribute of your choice, are small, gain their own fey-related subtype, slow speed, low-light vision, +2 to perception, stealth and proficiency with bows and faen-weapons as well as a reroll 1/day. They may replace latter luck with minor spell-like abilities or the run-feat and +1 to initiative. Their paragon-class gets d8 HP per level, spans 6 levels, 4+Int skills per level, 34 BAB-progression, good ref-saves, 3 levels of spell-progression and an interesting idea: Depending on the racial trait chosen, the paragon-class expands the options, gaining either more spell-like abilities, more luck-based options or more quickness-based options. Cool! The most important thing, though, is already known to people familiar with Arcana Evolved: Faen may undergo a metamorphoses at 3rd level of the paragon-class, going into chrysalis and emerging as a full-blown fey, a so-called sprite. These sprites threaten regular 5-foot squares, gain +2 to Dex and -2 to Str and also wings, which allow them to fly at 30 ft. It’s also nice to see that the conversion adds fly to the list of class skills upon the transformation.
The Garuda should make for an interesting class you almost assuredly haven’t seen before: Partially scaled and feathered, this race resembles a badass-version of a humanoid archeopteryx with a stronger lean towards colored feathers. Story-wise, they are the hunters of the tainted, created by the dragons to stem the tide of the infernal dragon’s taint. They gain +2 to Dex and Wis, -2 to Cha, +1 natural armor, low-light vision, may glide up to 100 ft. with their wings, gain +2 to perception and may cast detect evil 1/day as a spell-like ability. Their racial class grants d8, 2+Int skills, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort-saves, up to +3 dodge-bonus to AC and also increasing flight capabilities as well as bites, claws, spell-like abilities and finally even pounce.
Now if you’re more a fan of canines, the goushen-race has you covered. The race is descended from the foo dogs of legend and get +2 Con and Wis, -2 to Int, low-light vision, +2 to survival, scent and their 6-level paragon-class gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort and ref-saves and up to +2 natural armor. Their paragon-class provides them with bite attacks, grab with their bites and also massively improving grapple-capabilities.
For more feline-affine people, the Hushen-race would be what you’re looking for – essentially a tiger-faced class of proud feline humanoids, they gain +2 to Str and Cha, -2 Int, low-light vision, +2 to intimidate, stealth and perception and suffer from blood frenzy, requiring a save to break from combat once blood has been spilled. Their 6-level paragon-class comes with 3/4-BAB-progression, d8 HP, 2+Int skills per level, good ref and fort-saves, +2 natural AC, scent, bite, claw and even rake and pounce as well as the option to run while using stealth, making them rather lethal with their natural attacks.
Now, the Kirin Shen-race is interesting in that it essentially is an acquired template that can be taken by taking a single-level as a Kirin Shen racial paragon. Kirin Shen are the chosen of the Kirin, gain +1 to BAB, ref and will, 6+Int skills and d10. The template they gain requires them to be of at least 6th level and is provided for the DM’s convenience with all the tools necessary to add it to respective creatures (it’s Cr +1 if you don’t take levels in the racial class, btw.) and allows it to use a healing touch that improves with HD as well as overland flight, ethereal jaunt and finally immortality at the highest HD.
Perhaps the most far-out and interesting race of the setting, at least for me, would be the Mandragorans: Mandragorans are essentially humanoid plants with alluring bodies that feature long vines instead of hair. They may manipulate objects and taste via these vines and they gain +2 to Wis and Cha, -2 to Str, low-light vision, +4 to stealth in forested and marshland areas, 1/day roll a will-save twice and take the better result, full spell-progression, + HD on saves vs. poison and their spores grant them +1 to diplomacy, handle animal and bluff, but also make hiding harder. Mandragorans may also heal a limited amount of damage via spending time in the sunlight and resting at night as well as communicate basic emotions via spores. They also get 5 alternate racial traits that feature magic abilities, desert and water-dwelling mandragorans, mandragorans with a mild poison and those with thorns. Their racial paragon-class gets 3/4 BAB-progression, d8 HP, 2+Int modifier skills per level, more spell-like abilities, woodland stride, the option to regrow from being torn to shreds and plant-like immunities. The racial paragons may also change gender in a week-long ceremony, which emphasizes their alluring strangeness as well as providing for interesting roleplaying options.
The reptilian Nagaraja, genderless asexually-reproducing humanoids are the stewards vs. the infernal taint introduced by the dragons, but many think they are shirking their racial duties. They gain +2 to Int and Dex, -2 to Con, 60 ft. darkvision, +1 natural armor, gain a limited array of spellcasting abilities, +2 to acrobatics and swim as well as linguistics and may opt to chose from two alternate racial traits, one granting a hood and a charming gaze attack, while the other replaces legs with a tail they may use as a natural weapon vs. foes. Their 6-level racial paragon-class offers them 3/ BAB-progression, good will-saves, 5 levels of spell-progression, d8 HP, 2+Int skills per level, blind fight an improved detect magic per will and up to +2 natural armor as well as increased casting prowess.
The Qahngol, a variant half-orc-race, once conquered the empire, only to ally with their subjugated race to vanquish an undead dragon. They gain +2 to one ability score of their choosing, count as orcs, gain low-light vision, +2 to ride and handle animal and an interesting racial curse: The Qahngol get a name mask upon their coming of age and upon removing/losing it, they run the risk of being targeted by their ancestral curse, which turns them into infernal cannibals – the simple template is provided as well as rules for the creation of name-masks and the simple-template. Their 6-level racial paragon-class gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort and will-saves, 2 levels of spellcasting progression, rather massive attribute bonuses, a limited synergy with the fighter and barbarian classes when determining bonuses for feats, rounds of rage etc. as well as keen scent and wild empathy.
Ruishishen are essentially the HotJO setting’s Litorians, i.e. Lion-like humanoids, this time descendant from the celestial lions and massively decimated by traitorous groups. They gain +2 to Dex and Int, -2 to Wis, low-light vision,+2 to perception, intimidate and survival, count as one size larger for effects based on size and their 6-level racial paragon-class gets d8, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort- and ref-saves, up to +2 natural AC-bonus, bite and claw attacks (the latter counting later on as ghost touch weapons!), scent, faster movement, a fear-inducing roar and may as a capstone temporarily turn incorporeal.
The variant dwarven race, the Sanesaram, get +2 to Con and Wis, -2 to Cha, slow speed (and no encumbrance speed modifiers), +4 dodge bonus to AC vs. gainst, +2 to appraise, +2 to saves vs. spells and spell-like abilities, + 1 to atk vs. goblinoids, +4 to CMD vs. bull rush and trip as well as clan-dependant bonuses, 8 of which are provided. Their racial paragon-class spans 6 levels, grants d8, 2+Int skills per level, 3/4 BAB-progression, good fort and will-saves, 3 levels of spellcasting progression , stonecunning, may add their class-level to craft-checks, further increase their resiliency to detrimental effects and improve their distinctiveness by gaining more abilities depending on the clan they belong to. At highest levels, they also get minor bonuses to atk and damage whenever someone hurts them – a Sanesaram’s grudge is a force indeed.
The Shenxue are the descendants of spirits and mortals, being thus native outsiders that can be influenced more with their truenames. Since the term shenxue thus applies to a vast variety of combinations of races and spirits, they come with information on racial traits for all the core and HotJO-races as well as a rather large array of different aspects that offer access to snow, panda or mountain spirits, to name just a few. Each aspect has its own penalties as well as different penalties to balance their benefits. Since they are born from such a cosmic union, the shenxue are required to adhere to a certain obeisance chosen at character creation, prohibiting them from for example sealing them from private dwellings, crossing rivers and cool, unique ones: Wandering Eyes for example, makes it only possible for the shenxue to see through the eyes of a chosen host. The shenxue paragon-class develops these further by modifying the class-skill-list according to aspects and providing highly versatile spell-like abilities and unique options depending on the aspect you’ve chosen. Like most paragon-classes, they span 6 levels and also gain d8 HP, 2+Int skills per level, 5 levels of spellcasting progression, 3/4 BAB-progression and also an ability that lets them see the presence or absence of all the spirits inhabiting everything, making for an interesting story-telling device. The racial paragon class suffers from non-standard save-progression for all 3 saves: They cap at +3 at 6th level instead of +2.