Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire (PFRPG) PDF (based on
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Scales, claws, and elemental dragon magic, from the coin swarm to the wyvern's sting! A collection of feats, spells, and exotic animals and dragon magic for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!
The Dragon Empire region is the exotic land of a conquering Sultana, a land of elemental gods and unstoppable legions. Learn the secrets of this The Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire has new options for those who seek adventure and fortune in this exciting realm!
This 30-page collection of materials provides players with a regional overview, plus a wide range of new powers and options for any Pathfinder RPG campaign, including:
New archetypes and prestige class options for Monks, Magus, and Rogues as well as Fighters and Druids, such as Elemental Exarchs, Dragon Magus, and Monk of he Fiery Fist or Wind Palm
Exotic animals from axebeaks to baboon and far beyond
4 Magic Rugs and Carpets from the bazaar, with full magic item and construction writeups
17 new spells for elementalists and dragons
25 new feats and dozens of regional traits
Advice for playing drakes or dragonkin as PCs
An overview of the region, its titles, and heraldic devices—and the harem assassins!
Pick up your copy of the Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire today, and behold its thousand wonders!
The second of Midgard Player's Guides is 31 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 28 pages of content, so let's check this out!
The Mharoti-empire is one of the most interesting nations in the Midgard setting: An empire in service to the elemental dragon lords, this vast nation is governed by a sultan(a) elected by the conglomerate of dragons in order to avoid the power-struggles between draconic masters. Hungry to satiate the draconic lust for treasure and power, the young empire is on the constant verge of expansion and looking to use its vast, draconic military to fuel its conquests. That being said, another interesting fact is that humans are actually second-class citizens that rank below the dragonkin and kobolds - after are, the scaled races are closer to their scaled overlords. But in fact, the social structure of the empire is more complex, as the entry on the castes show:
The Jambuka (or jackals) occupy the bottom ladder of the empire and consists of the non-scaled folks - with one notable exception: The sultana of the empire is actually a dragon-blooded human. Also, the legendary Harem Assassins of the empire are recruited from this caste as a kind of elite cadre of enforcers. Above the jackals rank the kobaldi, who make up the bulk of engineers, sappers etc. and beyond the kobaldi, there are the Sekban, the lowest caste of dragonkin, which also include a few humans with draconic blood. The shocktroops of the empire, the Edjet are a warrior-caste raised from birth to serve as the backbone and elite of the empire's vast military forces. Minor lords and light cavalry, the Akinji-caste is the home of dragonkin and drakes, whereas the highest strata are the Timarli (dragon dukes), Urmanli (scaled lords, a caste for dragons) and finally, tehre are the Morza, the grand dragons that truly rule the empire.
After all this great fluff, we're off to the crunchy bits of the guide, with a total of 43 (unless I have miscounted) traits being offered to show that your PC hails from glorious Mharoti. Among the regular traits, the vast majority can be considered balanced an well-conceived, with one exception: "Dragon Fighter" doubles your threat range versus draconic foes, which is imho broken even if you don't take into account that dragonkin and kobolds may or may not count as draconic creatures. This trait needs a revision. Among the racial traits, we also get a solid selection of traits, with many exclusive to dragonkin and drakes, though rules to play the latter are not included in the book.
EDIT: Broken Components from the first iteration of the pdf have been revised: Deep Seer has been upgraded from a trait to a feat, for example and a broken trait that expanded all threat-ranges for a weapon-category was nerfed to where it works as intended..
We also get 24 new feats, unfortunately also several ones with problems. While I like the options for kobolds and dragonkin to gain gliding wings and flying via feats, there are also issues: Climbing Claws nets you a +4 feat bonus to climb as well as climb speed at full movement with a -5 penalty AND retain your dex-bonus. The thing is, there is no such bonus as a feat-bonus in standard PFRPG and the benefits feel rather a tad bit too much for me.
EDIT: In the last version of the Player's Guide, the Breath Weapon-feat was broken adn it has been redone so it actually works and feels balanced - kudos! The completely broken Dragon Slayer feat has also been salvaged: Now you auto-confirm threats versus large or larger draconic creatrues. While I personally don't like auto-confirms, as a reviewer I don't complain about this feat's revised and much streamlined iteration.
"Roar of the Dragon Lords" has also been nerfed: It allows you to emit a 30 ft.-roar 3/day. Foes with less than 1/2 HD of you get shaken if on a DC 20-save and you also get +4 to intimidate for a one minute afterwards. Oh, now it can't be taken at first level anymore, making it a nice feat-choice, though personally, I would have preferred a scaling DC.
After that, we get new archetypes: Cavaliers may now become members of the Order of the Firedrake, who may choose draconic/reptilian mounts at the DM's approval and gain some inspiration-based abilities. The remnants of 4th edition-style designs have been purged from teh archetype and it now works as intended. Great!
Also: Dragon and drake mounts are HARD to balance and the lack of guidance is a major bummer for any DM. Super Genius Games have their Dragon Rider class and it's balancing is HARD as it shows how much to consider. Minor size-based balancing guidelines for reptilian/draconic mounts have been included in the revision.
Druids may now become Elemental Exarchs may get an elemental companion with which they can fuse and gain some elemental-based abilities. The fusing is a neat idea, though I wished they had wildered a bit regarding the summoner-eidolon rules, as the rest of the archetype is mostly what you'd expect from elemental druids. Sorry, but in spite of the cool temporary fusion with the elemental, I can't really get behind it, though that's a matter of taste and not something I'll hold against the player's guide.
Edjet Warriors are exclusively dragonkin fighters are specialists with polearms that may cleave-trip multiple foes. At high levels, though, the archetype's balance crumbles to dust. At 15th level, the edjet warriors get essentially evasion for fort and will-saves versus spell-like abilities and spells. That's "Mettle" with another name, an ability that was broken in 3.X and still is. This ability needs replacement. Furthermore, worse, at 16th level, the Edjet also gains evasion when using a shield AND may grant that to ALL adjacent allies. At 20th level that becomes improved evasion. Ok at the highest level, though somehow, my DM-senses tingle at that ability as well. Still not comfortable with this one.
Dargon Magi may deliver elemental damage vi their spellstrikes a limited amount of times per day and later gain elemental rays and blasts as well as 11 different arcanas.The first broken "Arcane Strike"-arcana has been streamlined into PFRPG-rules and no longer is broken beyond repair. Two thumbs up! The Breath Weapon option I ripped to shreds in my first iteration of this review now also works as befitting the system..
Monks of the Fiery Fist are essentially a fire-themed monk archetype - ok, but not too exciting. The problem of the monks of the wind palm has been addressed: Their unarmed attacks get a reach of 15 ft. - now a limited amount of times per day. The terrain-ignoring entry has also been nerfed to make sense and NOT invalidate x feats. Oracles may opt to take the mystery of the void. The mystery per se is ok, though I don't like the fact that there's one that lets you replace cha or wis for int regarding knowledge-skills. The mystery now comes with its final revelation.
The Greyscale-archetype for the rogue is specialized on infiltrating draconic strongholds and come with 6 new rogue talents and 3 advanced rogue talents and actually constitute one I don't have anything to complain about. Wizards may now opt to choose the Void Elemental school, which has an insanely broken arcane discovery, available as soon as 13th level, that allows you to throw someone 1/week on a failed will save versus DC 35 (!!!) into the void, trapping the being there forever (unless wish'd or miracle'd out) and having a good chance of driving the subject insane even if he/she/it is rescued. That's a capstone, not an arcane discovery. I don't get why this one has not been nerfed.
We also get the new Dragon Emir PrC, which gets d12, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB, 1/2 fort and will-progression and can be considered a commander-style PrC that allows for some powerful, warmaster-like commands as well as some nice synergy with cavaliers. A cool mounted commander option, nothing to complain here and in fact a great PrC.
The penultimate chapter deals with new magic and generally, the ideas of the spells are great, iconic and even the one spell I considered broken before has been remedied and fixed. (Coin Swarm should btw. be on the list of ANY dragon out there...)
The final chapter is fluffy goodness again, providing us with a cool plethora of animals and beasts to buy in Mharoti bazaars as well as exotic types of food like aboleth brain and the like as well as gear from draconic beings, magic items and magic carpets, complete with price-lists.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to the drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard - Marc Radle did an awesome job there. The pdf is fully bookmarked for your convenience and the line-drawings in b/w are neat indeed.
Kobold Press has gone up and beyond in this revision of the Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire, fixing almost all the issues of this pdf - while e.g. casting foes into the void still feels broken to me, the vast accumulation of problematic content has been purged and what remains could be considered a matter of taste/individual balancing of a campaign and nothing a DM can't do him/herself. The amount of fixing makes this pdf thankfully the book it should have been and while not perfect, I feel easily justified in rating this revised version of the book 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
A 30 page book, the Midgard Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire is a very attractive PDF, with an accent framed parchment style background to the pages, heraldry shield page decorations, both color and B&W artwork, a predominately two column layout and truly astounding editing work. Where as the TOC is not linked, the PDF comes with nested bookmarks that handle the issue just fine.
So, the Dragon Empire...Imagine for a second what would happen if the biggest and baddest dragons out there got tired of defending themselves constantly. If they got tired of having to put out their own efforts to keep their lands and hordes growing. What would happen if egos and personal ambition could be put aside long enough to realize an alliance, a council if you will, would be beneficial for far more reasons than not. From this the Mharoti Empire came into being, named for the dragon who brought the proposal to his fellow dragons within the lands that came to be ruled by the empire.
The really cool thing here in this concept is that we have a very familiar thing here, in that a ruling council governing a large body of people living in various social castes, but we are presented something very new and fresh at the same time. The idea of a society that is in fact designed to favor the scaled races, while allowing for the usage and growth of the various “hairy” species is really cool. We are given not only the social caste and who falls where, but the terminology in Draconic for each level. Coolest thing there in regards to the draconic language being incorporated? We get a common phrase straight from the lips of the Jambuka (Jackals – or to be less polite, us humans and our fellow hair growers). Now, the oddball thing here is that the office of power within the empire is given to a human, as the dragon lords recognized that they could never trust each other to rule the collective lands and amassed armies. Where as the position carries a great deal of power with it, in the end it is a puppet string away from the teeth of the Great Dragon Lords, and the Sultanate lives a life of constantly trying to balance the desires of her draconic masters.
A collection of new traits provided give plenty of options for characters who choose to be from the Dragon Empires as opposed to merely traveling there. Several of the traits however seem to be missing their prerequisites. By the wording, and the sheer names of some of the traits it is not hard to see what the prerequisites should be, but a GM will need to impose them to avoid those players looking for loopholes, as gaining traits benefiting from draconic heritage when one need not be of draconic descent could make it very easy for someone to gain an unfair advantage. As an example of what it is I am referring to I offer up the trait Quick and Cunning Kobold Child - Your quick wits and quicker reflexes are reflective of your kobold ancestry. Now, I'm not going to list the benefit here, but I will say that there is no requirement for you to be either kobold, or at least have an associated bloodline, even though the wording makes it pretty clear you're supposed to. Now, there are section heads detailing for some of the groupings of traits (Combat, Magical, etc.) to whom they are supposed to belong, but there are several points where no distinction has been made, and I find only one trait that specifically has a prerequisite. We are also given a full set of traits that are specifically linked to certain races, as explained in the section lead-in, and the names of each trait. To be clear my complaint in regards to missing prerequisites is for various traits before the racial traits section.
So, that out of the way, what are we getting out of this traits section? A lot. 43 traits in total, with my favorite out of them all being Draconic Trait. This trait allows ANYONE to take a trait meant only for dragons, drakes and dragonkin. It still has its limitations to keep one from going insane, but it does allow you to replace a racial trait with one from the kobold or dragonkin options. A very cool way to allow for the idea that those who live amongst and serve the reptilian races will, in time, pick things up.
24 new Feats make up the next section of the book, with a small sidebar recommending how to handle playing a Drake as a PC race. A great deal of the feats here help take a dragonkin or kobold a step further towards their ancestral big cousins, with feats covering flying, gliding, thicker hide, breath weapons and the such. But there are plenty of feats here for any and all races as well, and even feats to recognize the four elemental gods of the dragons of this region as well. A decent collection of feats, with prerequisites in place and a couple of small feat chains for those who love to link their feats for bigger and better effects.
The next section brings us the archetypes and prestige classes for the Dragon Empire, and the first offering impressed me to no end. Order of the Firedrake (Cavalier Archetype) is in fact a rider, be it dragon or drake, aimed at being that character on the battlefield inspiring and leading her allies into combat with a roar on her lips, and the blood of her enemies painting the ground beneath her. An impressive set of class abilities, my favorite being Dragon Strike (15th level she brings her allies with her on a charge attack, granting them an attack on their move as long as they reach a target...imagine the damage of such an attack folks). The Elemental Exarch (Druid Archetype) gives us a druid who doesn't worship nature, but rather the elements themselves, the underlying keys to nature. Gaining an elemental companion in much the same sense as an animal companion, although with several much cooler perks in regards to what one's companion can do for you, these druids can literally be fused with their elemental, gaining instant bonuses to ability scores depending upon the nature and size of the elemental.
There are 7 more archetypes covering the Magus, Dragonkin, Monk, Oracle, Rogue and Elementalist classes...and no, I didn't miscount, there are two for the Monk – Monk of the Fiery Mist and Monk of the Wind Palm. I could easily write another full page discussing these archetypes, but having nothing negative to say in regards to them, I am going to move on instead to the prestige class. Dragon Emir is a full 10 level prestige class that takes what the Order of the Firedrake started in whetting my appetite with a mounted concept and kicks it into high gear. The Dragon Emir are the elite, those few chosen to ride draconic mounts in to combat, leading the charge, rallying the troops and devastating the enemy. A very cool prestige class, even if it is limited to only the scaly races, lol.
Now what good would a book introducing us to a new lands and society be without a section on new magics, right? Thankfully the Kobolds agree, and they have graced us with 17 new spells to make you twirl your mustache while laughing evilly...mwahahaha...oh..ahem..sorry. So, spells, let's discuss my new favoritest spell for the week...Coin Swarm. Turn any pile of 1,000 coins into a freaking swarm of flying cutting whirling disks of metal, with all the bonuses of potential exotic metals (cold iron, silver, etc.)...I warn my players here and now, as I know a few of them read my reviews...every dragon from this day forward will know this spell....lol. Wyvern's Sting does one of two things, either it transforms the end of a character's tail into the whiplike stinger of a wyvern dealing Con damage, or for those PCs without tails it grows a full wyvern tail for the duration of the spell dealing the same damage as above.
Fiery Sandstorm brings into being a bludgeoning sandstorm enhanced with burning damage as well thanks to the flames licking through the sand. Extra perk? Natural flight impossible, and spell chuckers have to make concentration checks or fall back to manual labor while in the midst of the sandstorm.
A sampling of the exotic goods of these lands closes us out, and is truly the only place in the PDF where I feel let down. We open with a collection of monsters and animals that serve different purposes within these lands, and the list for the most part makes perfect sense and really helps sell the fact that a great deal of the Dragon Empires is in fact a desert nation ruled by draconic races. However, in the intro to these animals and their usages it is mentioned that zombies and yeti are amongst the creatures imported for usage, but they do not appear in the actual write ups, so we are not given a reason for them to be there. From the imported critters we move along to some of the more exotic wares one would find amongst the bazaars of these lands you might not find back home, like Aboleth Brain, or Basilisk Heart (both a delicacy amongst dragons), various weaponry for those with a draconic body frame, poisons that will overcome a dragon's natural resistance to sleep and paralysis...just over all cool exotic stuff...with no prices. And that is where we hit my disappointment with this book. This insanely cool chapter filled with really cool new gear, with no simple chart showing us weights, prices, etc...the basic information we need for gear to incorporate it properly. I can overlook the zombie and yeti being left out of the first part of this chapter, but teasing me with all of this cool gear, and then not giving me prices and basic info...ouch.
Four new magical rugs/carpets tie it all up as the last offerings in this PDF, with a magical trap in the form of a Carpet of Confusion, another in the Rug of Suffocation and Flying Carpet of Suffocation offering the more mobile version of the rug of the same name. The Teleportation Carpet allows for instant transport between two rugs sharing the same plane as long as one knows the correct activation word, unless of course these are set up as traps as well, causing any and all who step upon them to be whisked away...ah traps, wrapped up in cool magical items...gotta love it.
Which brings me to the final thoughts and rating. Overall, I loved this book. I did. My only real complaint is that the chapter handling gear feels like it is missing a very vital chart, detailing not only the gear, but the weaponry introduced there as well. The problem is I don't feel that is a small thing, as it leaves us without prices for any of it, let alone weights. Luckily, this is the type of thing that would take up enough of a page all on it's own it could easily be drawn up and released in the form of an enhancement to avoid having to update the PDF. Hopefully we'll see such a chart at some point.
Now, on to the positive stuff...everything else. No really, this PDF is solid, and introduces a really cool new locale for your Midgard campaign. Not playing in Midgard? Not an issue, a scaly race empire could easily make any campaign world it is dropped in a cooler place to play within. The art is very thematic and will have you thinking along the lines of Persia, Arabia and the vast deserts...well, except for the tribute piece to the classic arcade game Joust....lol, that piece alone needs to be put on T-shirts...just saying Wolfgang, put me down for one, lol.
OK, so, rating. I'm settling at a 4.5, with a rounded rating of 5 for the purposes of this forum, but I am going to clarify that the only reason I am not giving a true 5 is the lack of important information in regards to the new items and gear. And I do hope that something formal is made available to address this.
The Midgard canon jumps up another notch with this release. At first I thought this was not as stellar as the recent Crossroads release, but on further examination this is as good, if not better. As I and others have mentioned many times, the strength and durability of the Midgard Campaign setting is its attention to detail. The tiny flashes of personality and story that bring the whole to life, that inspire whole arcs of plot and history. This book is littered with tiny flashes that make the whole glow - author Adam Roy and his fellow designers should feel proud of the little gem that this book is.
Be prepared for a fairly draconic-heavy theme - after all as the title says - it's a Dragon Empire. Inside you'll find a brief but concise history of the formation of the empire and its historical roots. Immediately following a caste breakdown (with some fantastic asides of inter-caste tensions) we get into the meat - loads of traits and feats - many just for drakes or kobolds or dragonkin - but others for those who vie against them - the Inured to fear trait for example provides a bonus against fear effects but also frightful presence. Useful for those dragonhunters among us...
Then we get a load of on-theme archetypes - Cavalier (Order of the Firedrake), Druid (Elemental Exarch), Fighter (the way cool Edjet Warrior - think a formation/troop trained caste warrior), Magus (simply named Dragon Magus), TWO, that's right TWO monks (the Monk of the Fiery Fist and the Monk of the Wind Palm), an Oracle Mystery (Mystery of the Void) Rogue (Greyscale) and an Arcane School. PLUS a Prestige Class - the Dragon Emir. PHEW! Lots of options and I found all of them interesting and a few were real standouts - the Edjet Warrior and the Monk of the Wind Palm were my favourites.
What else is in this book? Great dragon themed magic/spells (love the Vicious Spikes spell that imparts natural spikes to the recipient a la spiked armor) some weird and wonderful items (Bulwark armor that is bolted to a dragon's scales and upgrades the protection or the obscure and odd Wind jars full of air from foreign lands that no-one is really sure what the purpose of them is, only that the followers of the Four Winds prize them highly ) and interesting takes on unusual or mundane creatures and their usefulness in the Empire. My personal favorite were the green eagles - as a normal giant eagle but with longer legs and a 20' ground speed! Aaaaaaaagh! RUN!
The work is, as I said, littered with little gems of history and culturea and even vernacular sayings that brings the whole to life and evoke wonderful imagery and ideas for any campaign, not just one set in Midgard. Yes, it is specialised and focused on a dragon-centric empire, but a savvy DM can cherry-pick the awesome from this easily and often. And all with absolutely fantastic illustrations. Anything with Russ Nicholson art in it gets an automatic star just for that, so this should really get 6....
While the south in Midgard is not a region that really excites me... I tend to prefer more Eurocentric areas...... This is an excellent book.
This PG oozes with flavor and options, especially for scaled PCs, no matter where they are from. Your Kobold from Zobeck... or your Drake from the Northlands can still use them.
Also, any amount of new setting information is exciting, and the new bits about the Dragon Empire are a fun read. The Midgard folks have hit their stride, and every new bit makes the world even better.