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Thunderscape: The World of Aden (PFRPG) Hardcover

***** (based on 6 ratings)
Thunderscape: The World of Aden (PFRPG)

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A World of Steam and Darkness! In Aden, a thousand-year Golden Age of prosperity gave rise to an unprecedented development: the fusion of magic and technology into a unique discipline called mechamagic. Arcane power, steam power, and gundpowder changed the world almost overnight. The Golden Age ended, and the Age of Thunder began. It seemed there would be no limit to the industry and ingenuity of man. Until the Darkfall. A supernatural cataclysm of unknown origin, the Darkfall plunged the world into darkness as the sun was blotted out for only a moment. In that moment, every nightmare and horror imagined byt he people of Aden sprang into existence, and the world was thrown into chaos. Villages were wiped from the face of the world, entire cities burned, and tens of thousands perished in an instant. It seemed that the world would die in flames. But Aden will not die so easily. Now, ten years later, the people of Aden struggle to survive in the face of unrelenting assault by horrors beyond imagining. It is a world of magic, a world of industry, a world of horror. It is the world of Aden. Thunderscape: the World of Aden is a setting and mechanics sourcebook compaitble with the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. Within the pages of this book you will find the following: Details on twelve different races of Aden, eight of which are new to this work! Nine base classes heavily integrated into the setting but portable to all manner of campaigns, from the golem-commanding mechamage to the legend-summoning thaumaturge! New traits and feats, and new uses for existing skills! New spells, new technology, and new magic items! A sample bestiary of eleven creatures from Aden! And much, much more!Pages: 224

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Product Reviews (6)
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***** (based on 6 ratings)

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Crunch, Glorious Crunch.

*****

Here is the thing; I don't use campaign settings. I don't. I make up my own. But what I do love is a campaign setting like this, one that offers up a TON of awesome crunch for use by me outside of the proffered campaign setting but in my own twisted little make-em-up world.

And boy-howdy but is there a bunch here. Great classes like The Entomancer; a druid for you twisted weirdos who don't want to squish every creepy crawly bug you see. The Fallen, a GREAT class for a mangled wreck of a magical catastrophe who wants to do great things alongside those pretty Paladins and fancy-schmancy Sorcerers. You want to be a butt-kicking magical cyborg? Can we say Golemoid? And there is way more. But I don't have the listy-skills to go through the whole bunch.

And we have new weapons, gear, feats, spells and even some kick-butt new monsters.

So in the end, I haven't TOUCHED the campaign setting data, but still have gotten way more than my money's worth out of it.


An Endzeitgeist.com review

*****

This massive campaign book clocks in at 227 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 221 pages of content, so let's take a look, all right?

Now, if I utilize my usual level of detail and analyze everything down to the feat-level, we'll be here next Christmas, so please bear with me while I present this book's content in slightly broader strokes.

After introductory prose and well-drawn maps as well as a general introduction, we begin this book with the section on races, discussing the core-races and their roles within the setting of Aden first - though it should be noted that there are no default gnomes, halflings or half-orcs here - instead, there are A LOT of new races. The Faerkin would be basically the replacement for gnomes - flavorwise, they have ties with the fey, which translates to various alternate racial traits that represent this - Quickling blood increases base speed to 40 ft., for example - generally, I like this race - it's pretty well-balanced, though the aforementioned racial trait lacks the "ft." after the 40. Ferrans would be a race that all fans of werewolves and anthropomorphic animals will love - they are an artificially created race, intended for servitude, though by now they have claimed freedom via a massive insurrection - this war did leave its mark on the race, though - the avian and reptilian ferrans are extinct and now, only the mammalian ones remain - which is, balance-wise, probably a good thing. With either claws or bites, movement speed customization. Here' I'd like to thank the authors - not only have they concisely defined natural attacks, less experienced players also have the rules explained to them - nice one! Btw.: Ferrans come with two complete, alternate racial suites for brutes and sneaks - oh, and the race can select from a list of 3 different bestial abilities to account for the race's diversity. While the ferrans are a powerful race, it's not one that suffers from feature bloat or the like - my playtest did show them to be most appropriate from standard to high fantasy and less so in gritty low-fantasy scenarios, but admittedly, they can function in such contexts as well. Well-crafted one. Here would be, btw., as good a place as any to mention that alternate racial traits etc. tend to favor untyped bonuses, not racial bonuses - so if you're a consistency stickler like yours truly, you might be somewhat annoyed by that. And before you pull out the pitchforks - yes, I am aware that not all published races adhere to this convention either - it just would be nice if they did.

The Goreaux would be Aden's goblin-ish race...and they are extremely smart - with a focus on mechamagic and a focus on brilliant minds, they are an interesting race. That being said, they do gain +4 Int, which is something I am not a fan of, since it makes the race lopsided and ultimately makes them predisposed towards certain pursuits...and such increased bonuses tend to result in higher powered builds. The Jurak, highly adaptable survivalists, would be the stand-in for the half-orc -and once again constitute a great race - diverse, adaptable, interesting. Nice one! Rapacians would be the lizard-folk-ish race of Aden, though they are not primitive. Personally, I'm not a big fan of them getting bonuses to 2 physical attributes, but this is somewhat balanced by them being more straightforward regarding other racial traits - so yes, these guys get a pass from me. Then, there would be the echoes -blank slates of black in humanoid form, they are relatively recent creations...and these creepy-looking individuals may alter self - but only the form of a deceased humanoid, and only if they can secure a component of the humanoid to be integrated into their jewelry/vials/etc. This race is balanced, creepy and all awesome...however, I think the Transient Echo-abilities ought to specify that is Su in the ability-header, not just in the text - and yes, this is the nitpick-level that will not influence my final verdict. The Ilthix Exile, insectoid exiles of their alien insectoid race, get +4 Dex, -4 Cha, making them pretty lopsided. Worse, the race gets unassisted flight at first level, hive sense and non-verbal communication. This is the very picture-book example of a lopsided race and the unassisted flight before 6th level can be quite problematic. That being said, at least the fluff makes these guys suffer for their powerful abilities. This chapter btw. also contains favored class options for the new classes herein - there are a lot of them and chapter 2 is devoted to them. The race-chapter also sports age, height and weight-tables, common names, information on languages, etc.

So now, we'll take a look at the new classes - 9 of them. Seeing how one in-depth class analysis usually tends to cover 4+ pages, I'm going to instead focus on a broader strokes picture. The first class would be the Arbiter - at d12 and Full BAB, these guys are the agents of law and order, gaining e.g. class level as bonus to 3 skills, the class can be considered a more martial inquisitor in theme, with the talents granted at 3rd level and every two levels thereafter providing some customization. Theme-wise, arbiters would be tanks - with a focus on using shields, they can attack and AoO even in total defense and increase the power of these tricks. A solid blocker class - no complaints here...apart from the 10th level ability missing from table and write-up. Like all classes herein, we get information on how the class may be played via the example of numerous sample fluffy character backgrounds.

The Entomancer at d8 would be an alternate class of the druid (nicely done - quite a few authors fail in pointing the like out, resulting in multiclass issues...) and are all themed around "insects" - not vermin, mind you, insects - the definition of this term is pretty concise. Player agenda is emphasized by providing multiple insect mastery-groups - these can be pictured as collections of talents: Unlike bloodlines or orders, entomancers are not restricted to one, but may freely choose between them...however, the respective categories have prerequisites within, thus rewarding specialization in a given way. Once again, on the nitpicky side, I can complain about the prereqs e.g. once depicting the required masteries known as "two" and then as "2" - but once again, this is a cosmetic issue and will not influence my final verdict. From cricket to hawk moths, the companion-steeds provided are pretty cool and options for verminous scouts and swarms add quite a bunch of interesting narrative options - espionage in Aden can be pretty compelling. Oh, and yes, this would be horribly broken, but the loss of 3 schools means that the class needs the golems and actually proved to be a valid trade-off.

The single most defining event of Aden is 10 years past - the Darkfall. The very sun itself was extinguished for a short period and the whole world saw a sudden genesis of creatures from the very nightmares, the subconscious of the populace, suddenly springing to life. The offspring of this cataclysmic event's dread unions would be the Corrupted. However, some do not serve - these beings would be the Fallen, people born from the Darkfall, yet striving to resist its call. 2 good saves, d8 and 4+Int skills point towards a skirmisher -and indeed, they are - with an addition: They bear stigma, which they can use to channel debuff effects, so-called torments, which scale, btw., on nearby foes - think of a mechanic somewhat akin to an antipaladin's cruelties, but at range. Additionally, the fallen can choose a type of stigma, which can be likened to an order or bloodline in that it provides a scaling array of abilities and determines the bonus feats available. I generally like this class and enjoy the fluff immensely, but it does suffer a bit from sharing the same niche as Forest Guardian Press's excellent direlock, though surprisingly, the two classes gel very well with one another.

The manite implants of mechamagic have an unfortunate side-effect -the Wasting. At the same time, extremely modified creatures with a strong sense of dedication and loyalty seem to resist this effect -enter the Golemoids. At d10 and full BAB-progression, Golemoids gain a reserve of steam points with which they can activate their implants and, beyond interchangeable parts and combat specializations, these guys can be pretty much considered to be the robot-class of Aden, with 4 classes of manite implants offering a rather diverse array of options to choose from -e.g. rocket-powered fists. Yes, this class is pretty awesome! The Mechamage alternate wizard-class would be an int-based full caster, with no access to enchantment, illusion and evocation. The interesting component here would be that the class gets a golem minion he can call to himself - or rather, as many as he can afford. You see, while only one such minion can be active at a given time, the mechamage can have multiple ones with different customizations - doll golems, for example. Basic golems are pretty dumb and thus, the commands they understand are carefully noted...oh, and want to do something different? There are writs and they make an otherwise been there, done that pet-class interesting: Essentially, you have pieces of writing, cogs, etc. you prepare (at cost), which you feed to your golem, programming it. And yes, love how this reflects the legend of Rabbi Loew's golem. New writs are unlocked at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter for an integrated scaling mechanism.

The seer, who gets all good saves, 3/4 BAB-progression and d8, looks somewhat like a monk, but also gets Wis-based spellcasting from the class's own list. These rare beings, gifted with the power of prophecy, rank first among the Darkfall's hitlist - and as such, these beings are RARE. The class is interesting in that it utilizes its fatebending prowess via a significant array of customizable auras, some of which are powered (or can be enhanced) by a growing pool of second sight tricks. This class ranks among my favorites herein - unique in niche and presentation, the seer can provide narrative gold and remains an awesome addition to other settings and systems as well. The steamwright, at d8 and good will-saves + 3/4 BAB and can be considered a super-science-tinker-class, with the closest analogue probably being Alexander Augunas' Technician from the awesome "Age of Electrotech"-book. The interesting component here would be the variable pool of firepower-bonus damage that can be added with quite some flexibility to the damage-dealing components of the steamwright's arsenal. The inventions featured, from various guns/cannons to audiographs that can record what is heard, furthermore come with options to modify them - both invention-specific and general modifications. This class proved to be pretty powerful in playtest, though not to a point where I'd start complaining, especially since it does offer a neat array of awesome narrative options and non-combat utility. The Thaumaturge has a full caster's chassis and all bad saves and they may draw upon legends - the manifestations of how people are remembered (as opposed to how they were) - these legends are called forth and bound - and they modify BAB, feats, skills, etc., while also granting abilities - this class is essentially a dilettante-like class with a truly unique and compelling fluff. Interesting, btw. - the legends have aspects which provide a passive benefit and one more powerful consume ability, which renders the aspect inert until it's reactivated. This class is very interesting - it is extremely weak when caught on the wrong foot, but makes for a great class for solo-adventures or small groups that need multiple roles filled. Beyond that, an interesting conglomerate of narrative tricks can render this class in game pretty awesome - what if a legend's perception changes and a thaumaturge is invested in the legend's ideal? A good GM can craft some inspiring yarns from this class.
Did you always want to play the badass pilot on a rumbling micro-steamtank or a jetbike? With full BAB, two good saves, minor spellcasting and a customizable signature vehicle, the thunder scout class is THE class for you - with numerous talents and customization options (and spells pertaining the vehicle), we get an awesome class with one annoying oversight - the vehicle's dimensions and weight are not explicitly stated - while one can take the vehicles later as orientation, I still considered this annoying.

All right, next would be the modifications/archetypes/infos on the traditional classes and their roles in Aden - from alchemists gaining golemoid manites to more controlled rages, the options here are solid, if not mind-boggling -essentially, we get means for existing classes to dabble in the new tools provided herein. On the plus-side, the awesome NPC-fluff-write-ups continue herein! Special mention deserve raging monks and the fact that paladins do not need to be good - however, they need to take several vows...and they do not fall. You heard me. Evil paladins can continue to smite evil and do not lose their class features. Personally, I love this. Why? Shades of grey, baby - and it makes the hypocritical erstwhile hero turned fanatic knight a much easier trope to play. Oh, and if you visibly violate your code, you'll sooner or later be hunted down... Oh, and there are golemoid palas. Samurai get flavorful new order names and an order that takes the smart fox/kitsune as inspiration...and there would be the shark and leviathan orders...

The book also sports numerous so-called folk-magic traits - essentially a toolkit that allows you to cast a single 0-level or 1st level spell as an SP, with CL being locked at 1st level - neat idea! As a nice note - traits utilize the often forgotten trait-bonus type. The pdf obviously sports numerous feats for the significant array of new classes herein -from better piloting to more techniques. Beyond these, support for multiclass monk/sorcs that let them use Wis instead of Cha and similar enabler-type-feats are provided alongside feats that extend the powers of a given racial ability. The chapter also details new uses of Knowledge (engineering), Heal and the rules for Craft (Machinery). After all of this, we dive into a concisely-written history of the world of Aden, which thankfully does not manage to get bogged down in the details, though a significant array of intriguing events are touched upon, before notes on languages, cosmology, calendar, wildlife and agriculture and so much more are provided - in spite of the relative brevity of this chapter, it, surprisingly, managed to captivate me. Major and minor religions, organizations (including a handy Pathfinder Lodge-stand-in) provide more than enough potential allegiances to have and share - though you should note that the religion write-ups are not particularly crunchy.

After this particular section, we dive into the nit and grit of the history, lands and politics of the massive nations that shaped Aden, noting governmental type, major imports and exports and predominant races - you won't find a detailed break-down of these components here, nor (thankfully) the rather annoying alignment-based nation-stereotyping. At the same time, military and similar crucial components are touched upon - and the respective nations sport their own full-color flags, which is a more than nice touch.

Part II of my review can be found in the product discussion. See you there!


*****

Other reviews have discussed this in greater detail about the contents so I'll keep this short, pointing out the things that stood out to me.

I'm a big fan of mixing magic and technology. I love properties like He-Man, Thundercats and Flash Gordon so for a while I was on a huge lookout for Pathfinder products that would satisfy my need to run a few Magitech or Dungeon Punk campaigns. Thunderscape is the book that satisfied me in ways that other similar products didn't. Part of that is because of how the technology guide works (I'll get to that) and part of it is the flavor it evokes but for the most part its the options given that just work out for me.

Chapter 1 didn't strike me as terribly special until I got to the Ferrans. The Ferrans are a cool design and kind of make for 4 races rolled into one without getting super complicated. If you want a diverse 'furry' race then these guys will be lots of fun to play with.

Chapter 2 introduces 9 new classes. While the EntoMancer and Mechamage strike me as something that could be a Druid or Wizard archetype the remaining 7 classes are new, fresh and well designed. I cannot immagine running a dungeonpunk campaign without them. I could go on and on about these classes, they are really the MVPs of the book.

There are new weapons, armor and material that are pretty standard but I'm not really a fan of new gun and vehicle rules as they kind of disrupt assumptions and makes you have to convert when porting in or out. The all star here is the concept of Manite and Manite Engines. Which give precedence to have a source of energy allowing you to port in Technology Guide Items that could believably be run with steam.

There is also a lot of Aden lore which while does nothing for me, I mostly use the book for homebrew settings, it is a pretty fascinating world.

There is also a mini bestiary giving you some new and really evocative monsters to work with.

If you want to run a Dungeon Punk this book will give you pretty much all you need including a setting and some races to work with. I recommend it above anything else I've seen unless you really need a more detailed and robust chapter on technological items. That said there have been PDF crunch books about six of the classes as of writing this review and those expanded the classes ENORMOUSLY so I wouldn't be surprised if I see a technological item pdf that will make me eat my hat.

I'm giving it five stars. I can't imagine running an Ebberon-like magitech setting without these options. and the world of Aden is a fun Ebberon replacement that is full of flavor.


Great book

*****

The two preceding reviews describe what's in the book.

It's a great book, with a lot of interesting concepts in the races, classes, etc. As said elsewhere, the classes chapter is where the book shines. From the class chapter, I most like the entomancer and fallen classes, monk archetype, and samurai orders.

The arbiter improved shieldwarden's stance ability seems to have been forgotten, so I'll make a stab at what it should say:

Improved Shieldwarden's Stance (Ex) At 10th level, the arbiter gains a +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class (rather than +2) when using his shieldwarden's stance. He suffers only a -4 penalty to attack rolls when he attacks while using the total defence action. This ability otherwise follows all the normal rules and requirements of the arbiter's shieldwarden's stance ability and replaces the shieldwarden's stance ability.

While not a fan of anthropomorphic races myself, what they did with the ferran race was well done- 3 body types (brute, predator, sneak)- and each of them chooses three Bestial Nature Racial Traits as well, to allow further customisation. Nice!

One thing I found is that the font size is small. On the other hand, that fact must have reduced the book size, and considering that the cost of the book including shipping was $ pricy for me, I am grateful for that small mercy!

Something I particularly like are the sidebars that describe how to use the material in your own games if they are not set in Aden. Also, the "chatty" parts which discuss particular rules elements, like the favored class bonuses and fallen paladins, are well argued.


One of the best 3rd party books I've read!

*****

This book is great! I wasn't familiar with the history of the world of Aden until I picked this up, but I'm quite glad that Kyoudai Games got their hands on the rights.

The book has some pretty amazing magi-tech related material: from people with cybernetic implants to airships and tanks, this book probably has what you are looking for.

The new races were okay: their lore was solid, but I wasn't overly impressed with the concepts of a few. But the classes definitely make up for this. If you've ever wanted to play a mad inventor, a mage with a golem bodyguard, or a vigilante with a jet bike, you won't be disappointed.

The lore of the world is also (from what I can tell with limited experience) ported faithfully from the original video games to the Pathfinder system. Great sections on history, important nations, and other events or persons of interest.

There are a few editing/formatting errors throughout, but not enough to really detract from the text. I did get left scratching my head a few times due to some wording trouble, but not in a dangerous way.

Another minor gripe is how widely the art quality seems to swing: sometimes, it's on-par with a Paizo book, but there are a few illustrations that are kind of cartoon-y.

Overall, very impressed by this book and would love to see more material for the setting over time.

Giving five stars because, despite a few stumbling blocks, this is an amazing introductory effort by the developers. Keep up the good work!


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