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Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Heaven Unleashed (PFRPG)

**½( )( ) (based on 2 ratings)
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Heaven Unleashed (PFRPG)
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Angels on Our Shoulders

The celestial beings of Heaven are paragons of virtue and good, standing steadfastly against the creeping threat of evil. Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Heaven Unleashed reveals 13 of these holy champions, from a cassisian angel and a serpentine couatl to an empyreal lord and the herald of a goodly god. Each article includes a unique stat block, an encounter map, details on the site's locations, and guidelines on integrating the agents of Heaven into campaigns of all alignments, allowing for conflicts between both those allied with and those opposed to these servitors of goodness.

Among the exciting characters included in the book are:

  • Dunnoziel, commander of a celestial fortress detached from the great wall defining Heaven's edge and now floating in the chaotic Maelstrom.
  • The Grim White Stag, herald of the god Erastil, and the cervine protectors grown from his shed antlers, now guarding a site of great druidic power in the demon-infested Worldwound.
  • Penshi, the angelic proprietor of the Blessed Cup, an unassuming tavern in one of Absalom's poorest districts, dedicated to providing the needy with food, drink, and shelter.
  • Pilali, an exscinder archon dedicated to collecting artifacts of evil and keeping them from mortal hands.

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Heaven Unleashed is intended for use with the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can be easily adapted to any fantasy world.

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-828-1

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting Subscription.

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Product Reviews (2)

Average product rating:

**½( )( ) (based on 2 ratings)

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Highs and lows

***( )( )

This is an uneven product. A few of the writes ups are truly excellent and useful, providing good flavor and hooks for using celestial agents in your campaign at a variety of levels. Others, like the stats for the Empyreal Lord Andoletta, suffer from the mediocrity and inconsistency of past efforts, but have some solid stuff in there.

But what prevents this from getting four stars is the two sections that just don't belong. In a book that is not particularly long and supposedly about Heaven, I don't understand why there is not one but two write ups on mundane LG people (one cleric and one paladin) that don't bring anything particularly unique or in line with the overall theme of the book. Surely we could have replaced these with another Archon write up or another Angel? (The lack of a Solar was surprising, and only partially compensated for by the Empyreal Angel.)

If you want a few ideas for celestial campaigns and you're willing to pay a fairly high price for it this book is worth getting. If you're only looking to spend this money for completely rock solid products then give it a pass.


Chained and Muzzled

**( )( )( )

The site ate my first draft of this so bear with me but like the star count and title of this review might hint at this book falls tragically short of not only its potential as a supplement to really flesh out the various mundane celestials we already have through interesting writeups but also fails to match the evocative, inventive, and unique works that it seeks to follow up both in Hell Unleashed and Chronicles of the Righteous.

To start, the celestial beings have always had bad hand in tabletop gaming in terms of theme and narrative. Standing beside amazing and enthralling writeups for the various other outsiders like the incredibly detailed Devils as produced by Wes in Princes of Darkness and the volumes of APs and modules that feature them, the new Daemons that create this original group of fiends that are equally horrifying, malicious, and tragic as creatures crafted from the horrible ways they died and the suffering that beset them, or even the Inevitables with their inflexible adherence to law regardless of the morality of it the celestial races have always been stuck falling into one of two camps. The former, a group of outsiders more defined by not being evil than any interesting theme of their own or by being "not as good as they are supposed to be". The former is something that snakes through all of the celestial beings, leaving them for the most part feeling uninteresting and flat, telling me nothing really about them that isn't shared by every other thing statted that doesn't have an E in its alignment. The latter undermines what little we do have to go on when we as GMs sit down to design games around these creatures, with a lot of the other sources we've had to reference about these guys talking more about how all of the interesting ones really just end up falling to evil and tyranny rather than presenting something unique and interesting yet wholly good and caring. It speaks volumes that for the longest time the most interesting celestials we've had in print have been the ones that now rule Hell and when you're talking about beings that are literally forged from the souls of the countless number of paladins, clerics, good wizards, and noble thieves we've all seen cross our tables that seems a bit tragic.

Now, that said Chronicles of the Righteous did an amazing job of pushing back against a lot of this stereotype with it's release and Bestiary 5 gave us our first glimpse of some insanely powerful angels in the form of the Empyrean Angel, but Heaven Unleashed seems to have just devolved back into the pitfalls mentioned above. The bulk of the angelic entries fall into one of the two categories listed above with entries in the former category coming off as little more than "angel that guards a hellgate" or "Planetar who watches over a fort" or entries that fall into the latter category that paint these celestial beings as cause more harm that good at best or coming off as something much closer to a demented demon lord at worst. In the former category I feel particularly bad for the aforementioned "angel that guards a hellgate". A Gate Archon named Ambithas, this angel is described as having studied arcane magic for lifetimes if not eons with some of the greatest arcane minds in existence to such an extent that he can LITERALLY CHOOSE TO MAKE HIS SPELL LIST ARCANE OR DIVINE each morning when he preps spells. He can literally prep wish, timestop, and/or planar binding one day and then miracle, raise dead, and commune the next. He's written like he could have studied under Nex back when he was still on Golarion or Merlin after being summoned from the mounts of heaven 1000 years ago. Unfortunately, all of that interesting character is relegated to a minor paragraph and his special ability on the last page, the rest of his entry preoccupied instead with telling minimally describing the hellgate and the same old story of the diabolist who built his house over it and died opening it.

Meanwhile the latter category of celestials who are more like evil pricks who somehow have a G alignment are all the more infuriating. The flying helmet angel is so rigid and blunt that it sounds more like an inevitable than any angel, constantly berating and instigating conflict in its quest to ferret out "the sins/truths" of others while simultaneously giving it not a single redeeming quality that helps make it come off as if it were good save the fact that it's an angel. The worst offender though has to be Andoletta. The Empyreal Lord of Consolation, respect, and security (a portfolio I looked up in Chronicles of the Righteous because it was better defined their than in the writeup itself) Andoletta comes off less both less interesting than her original writeup in Chronicles of the Righteous or her Infernal Duke counterpart in Hell Unleashed and yet somehow more malicious and disturbing. Her whole schtick at best can be defined as "Old lady who always knows better than those gosh darned kids" at best but once you get into her the description her whole concept seems to take on a tone far more in tune with that of a fiend. Her heavenly realm is initially described as this idyllic little village on a hill but the more you read the more disturbing and out of character it seems to become. A whirlpool swirls at one corner of the the realm and when her petitioners see it they, "are struck by a troubling sense that they’ve forgotten something important" which quickly disappears when the whirlpool disappears back into the fog, a secret groove is cordoned off by stags devoted to erastil who both won't let others onto their tiny island and act nervous and fidgety if anyone asks what they or their site are doing here like some kind of weird blackops site for the stag lord. Finally, he village contains a forest that no one can enter unless they have forgotten their previous mortal life and when said event occurs are shepherded their by Andoletta, never to be seen or heard from again. The whole description paints it less as a heavenly afterlife and more like heavenly slaughterhouse designed by demon lord taking design tips from Temple Branden, Soma pumping through the air to pacify and fog the minds of the chattel souls about to be slaughtered ala Huxley's Brave New World. The whole thing feels like a cosmic oversight and and on top of the copy past errors already in that chapter (her writeup has abilities listed that she doesn't actually have), a list of pretty uninteresting powers already, and again her most interesting facets relegated to a few tiny paragraphs at the end of the chapter. I mean in the last page of her chapter we are introduced to the concept of her clerics solidifying in the dreams of the faithful and fending off Freddy Kreuger like threats in pitched dreamscape battles alongside her SPECIAL ANGELS SPECIFIC TO THIS TASK. But yet again all that cool stuff occupies the tiniest part of that whole chapter, filling out the end and stopping just as you get really interested.

On top of all of this the art inside the book (unlike the amazing cover) is for the most part boring and uninspired. Art for the heavy hitters either looks just like the art for said character's creature type from a different angle or boring and derivative of stuff we've all seen before. Tzyduk and Ambithas just look like your stereotypical white guy with wings & male gate archon, Andoletta looks like the iconic spiritualist crossed with an old varisian woman to make a character that is both less than the former amazing art by Wayne Renolds and like something we've all seen a million times before in both paizo art and the classic old gypsy woman trope any of us could find with a few seconds of google searching, Awigazi (the half celestial coatl) is cool but thanks to the odd perspective makes him look like he's got a disproportionately large head on a tiny body, and Penshi, the choral angel that runs a bar's art just paints him as an Asian bard with a lute that feels so generic it could be replaced with nearly any similar art of an asian bard and you likely wouldn't notice. Hell this is an angel! Give me art of how it looks in its true angelic form, NOT THE DISGUISE HE USES TO BLEND IN WITH PEOPLE SO THEY DON'T THINK HE IS ANYMORE THAN A MUNDANE HUMAN! I can find art like that on google in 5 mins based on the text description, I'll have a much harder time finding art of the unique agendered angel from a class of angels that has art of them singing notes so pure they literally are FRYING BEARDED DEVILS in Chronicles of the Righteous. Worst of all the human characters we get are little more than Iomedean clerics and paladins that we've all seen a dozen times already in everything from Wrath of the Righteous and Inner Sea Gods to the Bestiary in the Numeria campaign book, with both of them (especially the paladin) looking just like all the other attractive girl paladins in not boob plate with a sword that Iomedae has in spades. S!+#, if all the mortal worshipers in here must follow Iomedae (and not someone who's church we haven't seen a lot of representation for like say, a Sheyln paladin) could we at least get some body diversity? I would love that paladin to have looked more like Brianne of Tarth, a fat elf woman covered in scars, a trans dwarf woman with a beard styled after the dwarf from Rat Queens or a dozen other options over 2 pics of what is essentially the same holy woman of Iomedea I've already gotten a dozen pictures of but this time with red hair. Ohh and last but not least, we have an Empyrean Angel (the type of angel on the cover) who just looks like Warlord Shen from LoL with some fire wings that could just as easily be banners. All that said there are some standouts that really do look amazing like Pilali the Keeper (an Exscinder Archon with amazing burning wings of this amazing cobalt blue) or the Cassian Angel Cadathiel who's design reminds me of a highly stylized mix of ancient Assyrian helmets and the silver immortal masks from 300, they are but a tiny minority among the other trite offerings they seem to share the pages with.

Finally, the book has a bad habit of overusing their, they, and them exclusively to describe "agendered" characters. Now I understand the want to explore characters who's gender falls outside the human gender binary and I am excited nay thrilled and elated to see more of them going forward but Paizo has to start using different pronouns here. This is a game that not only has capacity for agendered characters and beings to exist within its worlds but also animated objects, legion like hive minds, plant beings, vishnu like multifaceted plural beings, and machine robots that do not reproduce at all or do through a mechanism like say crafting them that would be wholly alien to our understanding of gender. And yet, all of these things can be described using the pronouns they, them, and their and it just leads to confusion. For example, in this book we have 2 minor characters mentioned in the first 2 pages of this book named Henezien the First and The Many Faced Prophet. The former is the first sentient Iron Golem who reads like it could be either the first singular golem of its kind or a whole batch of sentient Celestial Iron Golems who became their own group or could even be a hivemind. Meanwhile the latter is a doppelganger oracle who cycles their disguise and identity with each village/city/culture they pass through to such an extent that I could totally see them having something much closer to a pangender (panperson even?) identity construct akin the the concept of Vishnu where they are both one person, many people, all the same and all different, but because all of these characters use the same freakin' pronouns you can't really tell. On top of all that, it runs into readability problems the minute you start reading anything in which these singular characters start to interact with small groups of undefined characters like the PCs. This leaves you with sentences that can read like,

"Azreal talks to the PCs and pleads for their help exploring the tomb. If they accept their proposal, they nod and head off to explore the west side of the crypt while they sweep the eastern wing."

It's grammatically correct but incredibly confusing and considering how often we are going to see these characters' actions written in response to the group the is the PCs I think it's time we pick pronouns more specific to the character in question than they. I mean right now we have ey, hu, jee, ney, peh, per, e, thon, ve, xe, and yo just for agender singular pronouns alone, why not use them? And hell, once you crack that box and start applying cultural filters on top of it we could maybe even see something really cool, like associations based on cultures the characters inhabit like agendered Garundi out of Thuvia using Peh or agendered numerian technomancers using thon. That gets me far more excited than having to sit here and read these entries multiple times and try to parse out which of the aforementioned genders or more the author could be alluding to by using "they".

Now I could go on (even the chapter on heaven feels boring and uninspired when compared to some of the other realms we've seen like Hell, Abaddon, or the Akashic record) but I feel like I've made my point well enough. For all the hopes one might have for Heaven Unleashed considering the pedigree of books that came before it, all it manages to do is present a lot more of the same.


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