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Contributor. Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber. FullStarFullStarFullStar Venture-Agent, Pennsylvania—King of Prussia 6,236 posts (7,018 including aliases). 40 reviews. 1 list. No wishlists. 24 Organized Play characters. 4 aliases.



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Excellent scenario if you like a challenge.

*****

Without too many spoilers, this scenario is Season 9's Waking Rune. While lacking a hard mode, it is a well-balanced, tough scenario that will put the PCs through the ringer.

GMs, make sure you Prep for this one; you need to know what happens where and why, and you need to track conditions on the PCs, including bonuses they've gained and penalties they've accrued.

PCs, if you liked Waking Rune, you'll probably like this adventure. If you didn't like Waking Rune, you probably won't like this adventure.

The adventure is masterfully crafted—John and Matt deserve a real shoutout here. This also excellently continues the "Faction Story advancement" theme of Season 9, and has interesting consequences for the Scarab Sages. As someone else mentioned, this is a must-play for members of that faction, and a darn good scenario for everyone else.


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Season 9's Scenario to Beat

*****

We played this scenario last Saturday—party composition was catfolk bloodrager, halfling bard (Lem), human bloodrager (Crowe), and tiefling alchemist.

Guys, seriously, this is by far one of the most FUN scenarios I have ever played. Immediately on my Top 10 list. The scenario does EVERYTHING right. Without spoilers, some quick highlights:

— The Venture Captains take time to address the elephant in the room of, "What to do if you're a worshiper of an evil deity going to Heaven or a tiefling," and there are consequences for those character choices that are REALLY satisfying.

— The adventure itself is extremely evocative and creative; if you're a fan of James Sutter's Redemption Engine, there are a LOT of callbacks to the Heavenly content first explored in that book.

— Everything your characters do has consequences in Heaven; the adventure feels very similar to Unguarded But Unbroken in that regard.

— The encounters are memorable and enjoyable in their own way; there is a very real chance your character will die in Heaven if they're unprepared, and the skill-based challenges are lots of fun and very rewarding.

— The adventure satisfyingly follows up on two major characters; I know that there is some concern about the Tier of this adventure, but everything is handled with the upmost respect.

I really, really loved this scenario. This is how you get new people excited and rearing to return to Pathfinder Society.


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An Amazing Scenario When Run by a Quality GM

*****

To say that Thurston "Thursty" Hillman regularly challenges what makes for a fun, engaging scenario would be an understatement. The author of classics such as Siege of the Diamond City, Blakros Matrimony, and Traitor's Lodge, Thurston's scenarios are famed for "breaking the mold" of what the PFS experience is like, and Bid for Alabastrine is no different.

As many have already pointed out, 7-22 has virtually no combat and is almost entirely driven by roleplay and social interaction. As a result, your mileage on this scenario will vary based upon the quality of your GM—players, try to sit down for this adventure with a GM whose antics you genuinely enjoy, as it will make the experience all the better. GMs, you 100% need to prep this one in advance. Not only is Bid for Alabastrine a low-combat scenario, but the "fun" is entirely in interpersonal interaction. You need to work to sell this one to your players, and the results will be well-worth it.

I ran Bid for Alabastrine twice at PaizoCon this year, and both times my players left the table telling me that it was the most fun they had ever had at a PFS table. The key to success is making every character feel vibrant and alive. Thursty goes into extreme depth explaining every key NPC's personality and quirks, as well as their biases and interests. EXPLOIT THAT. Make sure to pick up a copy of Ultimate Intrigue and be familiar with the influence rules herein, which are summarized at the end of the scenario. If you've run Merchant's Wake or Blakros Matrimony before, don't worry too much about it—the scenario makes heavy use of the influence system that was created in those pages. The version in 7-22 is merely refined, and the quality shows.

Grab your courtier's outfits and prepare yourselves for a slot like none you've ever played before.

Alex Augunas
Everyman Gamer
Know Direction Network


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Everyman Product Reviews: Book of the Damned

*****

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5/5 Stars
Flavor: 5/5 Stars
Texture: 4.5/5 Stars
Final Score: 14.5/5 Stars, or 4.75 Stars/5, rounded up for its flavor.

Individually, the three volumes of the Book of the Damned are amazing, excellent reads. The fact that the series managed to hold the same level of quality throughout several years of printing and a slew of authors is a testament to Paizo’s mastery over the evil realms. These planes are ripe for use in adventures of all sorts, and I am pleased to have such a thorough, encompassing guide on the topic. I would highly recommend all three volumes to any GM’s toolbox: they will meet your needs and exceed them a hundred times over.

For the full review, head to the Everyman Gaming blog.

(Note: This review is for all three volumes of the Book of the Damned combined. Not that it matters much; this score applies to all three books equally.)


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Everyman Product Reviews: Book of the Damned

*****

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5/5 Stars
Flavor: 5/5 Stars
Texture: 4.5/5 Stars
Final Score: 14.5/5 Stars, or 4.75 Stars/5, rounded up for its flavor.

Individually, the three volumes of the Book of the Damned are amazing, excellent reads. The fact that the series managed to hold the same level of quality throughout several years of printing and a slew of authors is a testament to Paizo’s mastery over the evil realms. These planes are ripe for use in adventures of all sorts, and I am pleased to have such a thorough, encompassing guide on the topic. I would highly recommend all three volumes to any GM’s toolbox: they will meet your needs and exceed them a hundred times over.

For the full review, head to the Everyman Gaming blog.

(Note: This review is for all three volumes of the Book of the Damned combined. Not that it matters much; this score applies to all three books equally.)


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Everyman Product Reviews: Book of the Damned

*****

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5/5 Stars
Flavor: 5/5 Stars
Texture: 4.5/5 Stars
Final Score: 14.5/5 Stars, or 4.75 Stars/5, rounded up for its flavor.

Individually, the three volumes of the Book of the Damned are amazing, excellent reads. The fact that the series managed to hold the same level of quality throughout several years of printing and a slew of authors is a testament to Paizo’s mastery over the evil realms. These planes are ripe for use in adventures of all sorts, and I am pleased to have such a thorough, encompassing guide on the topic. I would highly recommend all three volumes to any GM’s toolbox: they will meet your needs and exceed them a hundred times over.

For the full review, head to the Everyman Gaming blog.

(Note: This review is for all three volumes of the Book of the Damned combined. Not that it matters much; this score applies to all three books equally.)


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Everyman Product Reviews: Chronicles of the Righteous

*****

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5/5 Stars
Flavor: 5/5 Stars
Layout: 4/5 Stars
Final Score: 14/15 Stars, or 4.5 Stars, rounded up for it’s flavor.

Chronicles of the Righteous is a must-own book if you do absolutely anything with good outsiders in your campaign. This book provides a much needed insight into the nature of the celestial races and provides plenty of fodder for potential gods and entities in your campaign setting. This product is a rich tapestry of righteousness that your Pathfinder collection is incomplete without.

Read the complete review at the Everyman Gaming blog.


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Everyman Product Reviews: Champions of Balance

****( )

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 3/5 Stars
Flavor: 3/5 Stars
Texture: 5/5 Stars
Final Score: 11/15 Stars, or 3.5 / 5 Stars, rounded up for it’s layout.

Champions of Balance is one of my favorite Paizo products because of it’s beautiful layout. The colors throughout the product complement themselves perfectly and it’s extremely pleasing to look at. While the flavor could be stronger, I felt that this product was worth it’s price by merit of the Practiced Leadership feat alone; it is a new mechanic that I would love to see expanded upon in the future. Note that most of the other options in this product are great, it’s just that nothing stands out as the iconic, quintessential Neutral character option. And honestly, that’s okay considering that Neutrality is much harder for us to quantify as players compared to something easily identifiable such as Good or Evil. Despite my critiques, this is an excellent book to check out and a worthy addition to your collection for the reasons I’ve noted.

Check out the full review at the Everyman Gaming blog.


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Everyman Product Reviews: Paths of Prestige

****( )

Final Score & Thoughts:
Crunch: 4/5 Stars
Flavor: 5/5 Stars
Texture: 4/5 Stars
Final Score: 13/15 Stars, or 4/5 Stars

Paths of Prestige is an awesome Paizo Product; it’s one of the very best by a long shot. That said, it isn’t without it’s flaws. Paizo hadn’t perfected the spellcaster prestige class by this point and honestly, maybe they never will; almost all spellcasting classes are dreadfully ill-designed for multiclassing because of the lack of a character-wide statistic like base attack bonus. Prestige Class flavor is awesome in this book, but don’t expect to be learning anything new about the organizations that they represent. That’s one of the curious things about these classes, as a matter of fact. The prestige classes that tend to be the most mechanically powerful are the ones that have campaign-neutral themes that are attached to specific organizations: for example, Bellflower Tiller is essentially “Harriet Tubman the Prestige Class,” Knight of Ozen is essentially “Undead-Slaying Knight,” and “Mammoth Rider” is less of an organization and more of a hobby-turned prestige class. This is coming from someone who is obviously biased on the topic, but I think Paths of Prestige proves that while prestige classes might be conceptually easier to design if they’re assigned to an organization, mechanically they’re more interesting and viable options if their themes are extend beyond that specific organization.

Read the full review at the Everyman Gaming blog.


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Everyman Product Reviews: People of the Sands

*****

Final Score & Thoughts

Crunch: 5/5 Stars
Flavor: 5/5 Stars
Texture: 4/5 Stars
Total: 14/15 Stars, or 4.5/5 Stars, rounded up to 5 Stars for sheer quality.

As far as I’m concerned, People of the Sands is the definitive guide to desert PCs. It feels very complete offers 32 pages of background information essential to playing a character from this region. I would have preferred the artwork to match the topics a bit better and one piece in particular heavily contributed to the product’s 4 Star rating in the Texture department, but in all this is an excellent product that makes for a strong addition to any GM or Player’s repertoire.

Read the full review at the Everyman Gaming blog.


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Everyman Product Reviews: Inner Sea Gods

****( )

Final Score & Thoughts

Crunch: 3 / 5 Stars
Flavor: 5 / 5 Stars
Texture: 5 / 5 Stars
Final Total: 13/15 Stars, or 4 / 5 Stars

Inner Sea Gods is glorious to read, but its crunch is somewhat lacking. The needless restrictions on many of the feats harken back to my complaints with the Advanced Race Guide; restrictions need to make sense for both mechanical and flavor reasons. If they don’t, the option suffers for it. If you’re looking for deific crunch, this book has some decent stuff for you, especially the Prestige Classes. If you’re a GM, this book is priceless. You need this book to run the Inner Sea because you’ll learn so much more about the religions of the world you’re playing in as well as the gods who stand at the heart of it all. This book deserves every dollar you can throw at it.

Read the full review at the Everyman Gaming blog.


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Aptly Named; Mythic is Minimum

**( )( )( )

Legendary Games has an excellent reputation and a great line of designers behind it, so let's look and see what this product has to offer!

Crunch:
So, I was really looking forward to diving into this product. At one page, I was immediately reminded of Rogue Genius Games' bullet point line. Short, sweet, and inexpensive.

That said, the path abilities in this product are underwhelming. Sitting at eight abilities in all, there is nothing here that feels mythic, and there are a couple that appear to be in direct violation of the inherent 'balance' of Mythic Adventures. I'm going to specifically call out Combat Feat Mastery, which lets you spend Mythic Power to gain a handful of Mythic Abilities whenever you want. It is essentially a Mythic version of the Martial Maneuvers core class feature of the recent Advanced Class Guide playest's Brawler class. For what you get, this Path ability quickly grows to outshine the Versatility universal path ability by 10th tier.

Smashmouth, on the other hand, has the opposite problem. I like the concept of this Path ability, but it is too specific; it essentially causes your attacks against the target to penalize an opponent's bite attack. Why wasn't this expanded to allow you weaken any type of natural attack and called "Limbwrecker" or something along those lines instead? Reaping the Chaff is a very confusing read and has a very limiting focus; it can only be used against opponents whose Hit Dice do not exceed your Tier. That means my Legendary Hero can't use it on anything about 10th Level.

Overall, these Path abilities are uninteresting at best and cheesy at their worst. 1 / 5 Stars.

Flavor:
Taken from the product's introduction:

Mythic Minis wrote:
Mythic Minis are not about exposition, philosophy, and campaign-building; they are just flat-out fantastic ideas and great mechanics for GMs and players alike, written by the same designers that helped create the official mythic rules.

That about sums it up, except I didn't find these path abilities all that fantastic, as you just read. Star rating isn't applicable.

Layout:
After saying all of the above, I will comment that the layout on this product is *gorgeous. The only other Legendary Games product that I own is Ultimate Rulership, and this product's layout and design is much better than the aforementioned product's layout. The text is TINY, however, and I was straining to read it. They also reused the cover art on the interior page too; I'm sure it wasn't intended to fill up space, but that's the first thing I thought after I did a double take. Its cool to reuse art across multiple products, but twice in the same product? Not cool. 4 / 5 Stars.

Final Score & Thoughts:
Crunch: 1 / 5
Flavor: N/A
Texture: 4 / 5
Final Score: 2/5

I wasn't a fan of this product. The path abilities mostly revolve around granting the champion temporary bonus feats, which doesn't fit into Mythic Adventures. There is a precedent for this sort of power that clearly wasn't followed and it is clear that the author didn't follow Paizo's Advanced Class Guide playtest when designing this product; even if the Brawler doesn't exist as a class now, as-written this would be like making a better version of Smite Evil a Champion path ability that anyone could select. The focus on feats and the lack of ingenuity was noticeable and I won't be showing this product to my players, if only because these path abilities can't stand up with the existing ones in terms of coolness. If it comes between any of these path abilities and Aerial Assault, you can bet that I'm going to pick the path ability that lets me charge my opponent through the sky and send them spiraling into the dirt face-first. Every. Time.

—Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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Required for Every GM's Shelf

*****

I don’t usually review Paizo books because they don’t require the same coverage as 3PP products do, but I’m making an exception for this book. I am going to come right out and say that this is a 5-Star product; perhaps the most useful, inventive product that I have ever seen in Paizo’s Player Companion line. Go ahead, place Blood of the Moon into your sidecart before scrolling down to see why I’m making this robust claim before I’ve even started my review. I’ll wait.

Crunch
Player Companions traditionally have more crunch in them than their companion product line, the Campaign Setting line, so it should be no surprise when I say that this product delivers an array of quality crunch. The product focuses much of its attention on a brand-new race, the skinwalker. Believe me when I say that this book goes into excruciating detail on the skinwalkers; the race itself has two pages of content, plus eight skinwalker heritages that each have two additional pages. You read right, 20 of this book’s 32 pages are allotted to the skinwalker race. If you’ve ever wanted to play a lycanthropic character in Pathfinder, you can’t do better than the skinwalker. Skinwalkers are the descendants of lycanthropes and retain a fraction of their ancestor’s transformative powers. The system itself is reminiscent of the kitsune’s shape change; the change has benefits and lasts indefinitely, but it comes with a small downside (a –4 penalty on Charisma-based skill checks against humanoids who aren’t shapechangers) and can only be invoked a limited number of times each day. If you have Blood of Fiends or Blood of Angels, the presentation of the new heritages for the skinwalker will not surprise you; each heritage modifies the standard skinwalker’s abilities slightly, for better or for worse. Overall, it’s a very familiar set-up for the Player Companion, so why the praises? Unlike previous installments in the Blood of … line, Blood of the Moon goes out of its way to make sure its new options are available to ALL characters, not just skinwalkers or lycanthropes. There are suggestions of course, but nothing in the prerequisites bars your humans and elves and kitsune from taking the choices presented in Blood of the Moon, meaning this book is crunchy goodness for virtually any PC. 5 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
Blood of the Moon has spectacular crunch, far beyond what I’ve come to expect for the Player Companion line, but what about its flavor? The Player Companions are traditionally stronger in Golarion flavor than crunch, and I’m thrilled to say that Blood of the Moon’s flavor is excellent as well. Reading through the text is like reading through the notes of a seasoned lycanthrope hunter intermingled with the personal diaries of a skinwalker; it is not only informative, it is enlightening. The product excels at giving small bursts of information between its delicious crunchy chunks, making this book an enjoyable read all-around. 5 / 5 Stars.

Texture
This is a Paizo product. Of course its Texture score is 5 / 5 Stars, so I want to take the time to highlight some of the better layouts in the book. At the book’s center is a lovely two-page spread detailing the physical changes of lycanthropy complete with an in-progress lycanthropic transformation. Each skinwalker heritage includes a small sidebar that talks about the trueblood lycanthrope associated with the heritage in question as well as an extra feat, rogue talent, or a similar, small bit of crunch. Those were some of my favorite bits of formatting: areas where it was clear that the formatting was added to use space intelligently rather than cover up unused space. 5 / 5 Stars

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5 / 5
Flavor: 5 / 5
Texture: 5 / 5

Blood of the Moon is a paragon of what Paizo’s Player Companion could, and should, be. It is a book that is useful to virtually anyone; whether you play in Golarion, on the far-off world of Eox, in Greyhawk, or in a world comprised completely of your imagination. If this book isn’t on your gaming shelf, it should be. End of discussion.

— Alexander Augunas


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This Ain't No Nautical Nonsense!

*****

Whoa, Nelly! I think this is the absolute LARGEST dungeon I've ever seen from Raging Swan. I agreed to review this, like, months ago after I had playtested it in my home game. Yeah, word to the wise: don't make that promise for a behemoth of an adventure. Just write the review. :)

Crunch:
Although this is an adventure, this product has some very excellent rules behind it. It introduces two new monsters, the dangerous sharkjaw skeleton and the deadly Devourer of Souls. Both of these monsters work well in the adventure and are downright creative. I especially love the illustration of the sharkjaw skeleton that is hiding in the product.

Where this product really shines, however, is magic items. The Sunken Pyramid comes equipped with a surprising number of custom magic items, a whopping three items! These range from the creative and plot relevant sharktooth amulet to the very fun, very memorable Obsidian Trident. I especially love the fact that this product goes the extra mile and includes an intelligent item from among its trove (no spoilers on where you'll find it, though!"

Looking over the stat blocks, the author did an excellent job incorporating a wide variety of Pathfinder rules from an even wider list of sources. You'll find sahugin variants from the Skulls and Shackles adventure path and a treasure trove of memorable characters with well-known archetypes. As an experienced player and designer, it was pretty easy to note where the various rules came from, but if The Sunken Pyramid has one flaw, its that it doesn't cite its sources very well in terms of character options. The product sort of assumes that you know where to find the Free Hand Fighter archetype or the Magus base class. I would have liked to see that made a bit clearer for newer GMs within the stat blocks themselves. All around, this product left me very impressed, however. 5 /5 Stars

Flavor:
I can't give away too much on the Flavor department, but The Sunken Pyramid is absolutely amazing for it. The product works very hard to establish its theme and tone, and it pays off well in the end. Every setting in the adventure is meticulously crafted, from Grift, the one-armed former paladin to the charming named "Cyclops" lighthouse. But above all else, what really impressed me with this Adventure is the depths the author dove to give both the GM and the players an idea of what sahugin culture is like. Many of the encounters within The Sunken Pyramid are optional encounters with sahugin young and their caretakers. And even though those child/adolescent sahugin don't hesitate to try and kill you, there's an opponent who tries to parley with you in order to spare the younglings. That, my friends, is excellent storytelling and planning. 5 / 5 Stars

Texture:
The Layout in this Adventure is better than any other Raging Swan product that I've seen so far. A nice touch is that new encounters start on new pages, unlike previous adventures where one room's description might bleed into another room's description. This makes traversing the adventure quick and easy, although sometimes important stat blocks are spaced far apart from one another, meaning that you need to do some awkward page flipping. A nice touch is that commonly-used stat blocks are reprinted several times as they're needed to try and avoid page flipping too frequently. Spelling and grammatical errors are at a minimum in this one, which is extra impressive given all of the strange words and titles you'll find in here. Overall, Raging Swan has a nice layout and The Sunken Pyramid doesn't disappoint!

Final Score & Thoughts:

Crunch: 5 / 5
Flavor: 5 / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 5 / 5

This is a stellar adventure and is a perfect fit if you want to get your players' feet wet a little bit. It isn't particularly long; my players were able to finish in a couple of sessions, but everything is so well crafted that between the mermaid they saved, the sahugin they spared, and the people they met in White Moon Cove, running this adventure will have an impact on my game for a long time!

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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Every Good Mounted Combatant Needs a Running Start

***( )( )

Another month, another Class joins the Talented Line! I was really looking forward to this one, as the product's tagline basically strikes every single issue that I have with the cavalier / samurai class. I also love the idea that the theme for the cavalier is, "warrior of the noble caste." Very great theme and appropriate in my opinion. Let's see how SGG did with this product.

Crunch
I could be mistaken, but I'm fairly certain that the Talented Cavalier is the largest product in the Talented Classes line so far, weighing in at a hefty 30 pages. Like most of the "modern" Talented Classes, this product sticks to the edge / talent formula. Diving in a little bit deeper, you'll note several interesting things that this product does.

First, it breaks apart all of the Cavalier orders in the game into talents. This means that if you choose, you can have a cavalier who belongs to several different orders. Considering that this was fairly common in the real world, its a nice touch. Second, all of the archetypes and other abilities are available to play with here as far as I can tell. Finally, it ends with a neat section on how to incorporate Fighter talents with the Cavalier abilities. One thing I really loved about this product was the addition of a ranged-only challenge ability, called Mark. If you want to play a cavalier focused on fighting with ranged weapons, this product is the only way to do it well.

That said, while this product is large it does not feel as modular as the other ones do, mostly because over half of the abilities have prerequisites. Everything is tied to other abilities (especially order abilities, as the product itself notes) and while other Talented Line classes have really expanded their classes into a wide array of cool builds and abilities, this product's crowning achievement is the ability to essentially multi-order your cavalier. Perhaps the weirdest thing, in my opinion, is the utter lack of weapon proficiencies in this product. For example, there is no way to grab a samurai's proficiency with eastern weapons. It was especially jarring with the Weapon Expertise edge (originally a Samurai ability) noting that a GM should choose what weapons categories are appropriate for the cavalier. Ultimately I wasn't very impressed with the class. It has solid foundation, but a lack of customization aside from taking multiple orders and a lack of overall "noble" feel aside from what Paizo has already published really pulled me out of this one. 3 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
The Genius Guide to the Cavalier disappointed me flavor-wise. I got really excited when I read the description. Basing the Cavalier on the Noble Caste of Warriors from different civilizations the world over is an awesome idea and it was the sole reason I bought this product. I don't think the class delivered on this regard. Whereas the Samurai and the Cavalier separately felt very flavorful for their home inspirations, the Talented Cavalier feels like someone let a drop of chocolate mix into the vaniala ice cream. Its enough to be noticeable but not enough to be a savory twist flavor. While the trend thus far has been to have the first product in the series focus on adapting the 1PP class and then add more talents later, the cavalier needed more new material then it got, and I feel it shows in this product. 3 / 5 Stars.

Texture
The layout for this product is typical SGG style, although the one thing that I find very confusing is that the Orders are all chopped up. Parts of them are found under a unified Order talent which includes skill bonuses and Challenge/Mark bonuses, but all of the order abilities are mixed in with the rest of the talents. I've heard that this was to make it easier to look up those abilities during play, but in terms of character creation it is extremely awkward not being able to quickly figure out what abilities a specific order qualifies you for. Yes, I am aware that I could go check my Paizo books (the order abilities are unchanged), but if something is being reprinted, I feel like it should be kept in an easy-to-reference format, and this is not easy-to-reference. 4 / 5 Stars.

Final score & Thoughts
Crunch: 3 / 5
Flavor 3 / 5
Texture: 4 /5
Final Score: 3.5 / 5 Stars

I really wanted to like this product going in. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. I really wanted to LOVE this product going in, at least, in the same way that I LOVE the Talented Rogue or the Talented Monk. I think that more than anything, this product shows how poorly designed the standard cavalier is. The standard cavalier is so linear and uncustomizable that even the Geniuses couldn't save what's already been published for it. While its not perfect, I have high hopes that the Cavalier and Samurai will find new life in the Talented Line. My score might not be a perfect one, but I think that this product lays down the roots to make something truly great here. Now all Mr. Owens needs to do is design a bunch of new abilities that really drive home the fact that this class is supposed to be, dare I say it, a Noble Knight.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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I Will Only Say it Once ... Buy This

*****

Buy this. Buy this product NOW. Tell you what, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll explain why you should put this PDF in your cart if you JUST PUT IT INTO YOUR CART ALREADY!

Crunch
If you’re familiar with Super Genius Games and their Talented line, you know what to expect from this. Basically, this product takes every monk archetype as well as the standard class, breaks everything down into talents that are roughly as powerful as a feat, and allows you to custom build your very own version of the monk class. The system resembles the one designed for the Rogue class; possessing edges and talents that you get as your level improves. Generally speaking, a monk edge is less powerful than a rogue edge, but monks get a heck of a lot more of them early on, and talents interact more with them too.

How do I begin talking about how amazing this design is when translated to the monk? Everything, literally everything you could have ever wanted from the Monk class is here. I would literally be copy/pasting the entire book if I were to stop and talk about every little thing that makes this class great, so instead I will pick a few big notes. First, the monk’s “Flurry of Blows” attack bonus has been expanded upon greatly; basically, its now called a “Special Attack Bonus” and as you gain talents you select special abilities to use with this attack bonus. Flurry of Blows is only one such ability; one of the amazingly awesome new ideas to come out of this book is called Fighting Style, where the Monk chooses one Fighter Weapon Group and gains proficiency with all of its weapons and can use those weapons to perform most monk abilities (except Siege Weapons; as the book says, no matter how good you are you can’t use Stunning Fist with a catapult!) This leads to amazing character builds, including the “Samurai Jack” for all of you fellow 90s kids. Another great change is special talents that modify what alignments your monk can be, from the ki-less martial artist to the Drunken Master, who may now adopt a Chaotic Alignment.

Ultimately, the crunch in this book is well pieced together and is character gold; you can easily look through this book and piece the abilities together into creative, unique character builds. 5 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
SGG Products aren’t well-known for their flavor, especially ones in the Talented Classes line. That said, there is a distinct theme in this class, and that is disciplined specialization. This becomes especially noticeable when you compare the Talented Monk to the Talented Fighter; almost all of the Talented Fighter talents work across multiple weapons and abilities, while the Talented Monk has abilities that function for weapons that the Monk chooses to devote themselves to. The product ultimately comes off with a vibe that the Fighter’s methodology is about how to excel at a given way of combat, regardless of weapon, while the Monk focuses on adapting a specific weapon to their personal fighting style. It’s very cool, very flavorful, and it’s a great feeling to be able to say that the Monk has a niche in terms of how they act in combat. 5 /5 Stars.

Texture
Super Genius Games products always look beautiful, but I want to call out this one especially because the art is some of the best that I’ve ever seen in a Super Genius Games product. Maybe it’s because gaming culture has a very strong collective identity for what it means to be a monk, but the art ties itself together very well from page to page; there are a couple of places where you wonder if a few of pieces show the same monk in different situations. Very nice, high-quality stuff here! 5 /5 Stars.

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5 / 5
Flavor: 5 / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 5 / 5 Stars

This product is absolutely essential to a player who wants to create a Monk. Of all the Talented Classes, I would say that the Talented Monk is probably the most powerful. But honestly, that is for a good reason. The standard monk isn’t very fun or imaginative, and most of the best Monk builds involve drastically changing the standard monk with archetypes. This product takes that one step further and truly creates a character class that says, “Yes, I can hold my own in this game. I am fun to play. I am filled with story ideas. I am a character who you will remember and cherish.” This might very well be one of the best designed monk-type classes of all time.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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Touching an Untouched Planestouched

****( )

Sylphs are sort of a weird topic to talk about; their overall design has game history in the game (they were called Gensai back in the old days) but as a relatively new race, they haven't been touched much. Let's look and see how Abandoned Arts handled this race.

Crunch
Abandoned Arts has a very specific style when working with races, and this product actually changes things up a little. It drops the race traits in favor of more, higher quality racial traits and it possesses less feats than other products done. That isn't to say the feats are bad; on the contrary, this content's pretty well done. There's a lot of emphasis on flight and defense against air-themed damage (sonic and electricity). This isn't a bad line up of abilities, but it also isn't very risky. The feats, the traits, all of this stuff feels very safe. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the Abandoned Arts products I remember are the ones that took what I like to call "logical risks."

Speaking of logical risks, the archetype in this book is designed for Paladins. A very interesting choice, to be certain. Now, this archetype has me torn. On one hand, the archetype is very cool, very thematic. It sort of reminds me of the Stonelord Dwarf Paladin archetype from the Advanced Race Guide, which never really made sense to me as a dwarf option. It always looked like more of an Oread option to me, personally. Anyway, back on focus the paladin archetype that we get is pretty thematic, but in terms of special abilities its simply bad. It gives away Smite Evil, the paladin wrecking ball attack, for a once per day ranged slashing damage attack. The attack is affected by damage reduction (Smite Evil normally isn't) and generally speaking, static bonuses will out preform dice every time. The dice you roll for this attack aren't big enough and the daily uses are too limited to warrant trading away Smite Evil. The archetype makes several other lackluster trades. The archetype is sort of themed around liberation and air at the same time, but it doesn't do a very good job of sticking to either theme. I don't really care for the archetype at all, and as I said the other options were solid but forgettable. 3 / 5 Stars

Flavor
Its hard to do flavor with highly mechanics-focused products, and Amazing Races! Sylphs does a pretty good job of emphasizing the air elemental aspects of the race. I think the flavor is top-notch, and the flavor of the paladin archetype admittedly helped to save it score over in the Games Mechanics section; its very confusing to see an option that you know isn't all that great, but the flavor really sells it to you! That said, I didn't really find anything new about the Sylph in this product compared to other Amazing Races! lines. At the same time, I don't want to fault the product for this; it is a noticeable flaw of all the half-breed "races." 4 / 5 Stars

Texture
I really like Abandoned Arts' set up for this product line. This is the first product that has changed it up (that I've reviewed thus far, anyway) but it still sticks closely enough to their formula that I didn't find it disorienting. 5 / 5 Stars

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 3 / 5
Flavor: 4 / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 4 / 5 Stars

This product is pretty good. It definitely is not a bad product by any means. However, the paladin archetype is pretty lacking and the abilities themselves, while useful, are not very imaginative. This product doesn't really have enough push to move into the "must-buy" territory for me, but it is a very solid buy. If you're playing a Sylph, pick it up. If you're not playing a Sylph, this product isn't going to convince you to or inspire you to.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


More About "Japanese" Kitsune Than "Pathfinder" Kitsune

***( )( )

Before I get started, I’m going to warn you all. The kitsune are my absolute favorite race in Pathfinder, so everything you are about to read is incredibly biased. Proceed with caution.

Crunch
This book gives plenty of options for kitsune characters, including an alternate race, new racial traits, favored class bonuses, archetypes, feats, and magic items. I’ll cover each briefly. The alternate race is okay; the biggest change is the alteration of change shape so it allows you to transform into a supernatural fox (it uses the dog as a template). The new racial traits aren’t particularly interesting; the coolest in my opinion is one that changes the kitsune’s type to outsider (native and shapechanger). Favored Class Bonuses are exactly what you would expect; this product includes all of the core, base, alternate, and Super Genius classes, so there it’s a few solid pages of content. I don’t really care for this section, but SGG doesn’t do anything wrong here; they’re all about the same level as Paizo’s bonuses, and several are pretty creative. My favorite is the cavalier’s; you add +1/2 on damage rolls made with attacks of opportunity against the target of the cavalier’s challenge.

The archetypes range from meh to HOLY CRAP THIS BARBARIAN ARCHETYPE IS AWESOME! The alchemist archetype is called the arsonist, which is a shame. I hate when universal ideas are wasted as racial archetypes, and there is no reason for an alchemist archetype focused on burning stuff down to be kitsune only. The oracle archetype is a bit on the underwhelming side; it forces you to take some mediocre revelations, but it gives you some flexibility as to when you earn them. The sorcerer bloodline makes no reference to the Nine Tailed mythology, which is a bit strange. Both of these options should have done so. But man, I’m willing to forgive ALL of that for the barbarian archetype. It is phenomenally well-done. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but the basic idea is this: instead of raging, you change shape into a fox-monster. It is incredibly awesome and the best piece of crunch in the entire product.

The feats, on the other hand, are boring. There is a new take on the Nine-Tailed feat chain; it’s been condensed into three feats. The basic idea is that you get a ki pool-like resource based on the number of tails you have, and you can spend the points to do different effects. The powers themselves are okay, but where the feats fail spectacularly is that each feat actually penalizes you for taking it. These feats include drawbacks, and the drawbacks become more crippling as you invest more into the feat change. Pretty bad design, in my opinion. One new magic item rounds out the roster; a named meteor hammer. Now, to be fair, I did skip some crunch. The reason I skipped it however is that all of the kitsune crunch from Paizo’s Advanced Race Guide is reprinted in this book. Why? I have no idea, but it really bothered me. I can understand wanting to make the “definitive guide on the kitsune,” but all of those rules are available on various channels for free. It didn’t need to be hear and ultimately it came across as lazy. 2.5 / 5 Stars

Flavor
Super Genius isn’t really known for its flavor. This product is literally oozing with it; a massive 11 of its 21 pages is dedicated to detailing the kitsune; maybe more. I personally have very serious problems with this flavor, however. Mostly because it makes absolutely no effort to stick with the style for the kitsune established in the Advanced Race Guide, and instead focuses entirely on their Japanese heritage. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it goes as far as to introduce several different subraces of kitsune; the titular clans. One of them is basically a human with fox ears and a tail that can turn into an actual fox, one of them is basically a clanless kitsune who’s “gone feral,” and the final type is a fiendish kitsune who has either been possessed or transformed into an oni. Of those three types (four if you count the base kitsune), which would you want to hear about? For me, personally, it was the fiendish monster, and after the first paragraph they are mentioned in, the product never speaks of them again. Instead, most of the product is spent trying to talk about kitsune as a general race, and then focusing in on either the core kitsune or the new kitsune subrace mentioned early. I wish I could tell you more, but the problem is that the product comes up with these weird Japanese names for both subraces, explaining that its, “Just like how core dwarves are called hill dwarves.” I don’t think I’ve heard anyone use the phrase, “Hill Dwarves” since I played Forgotten Realms; that certainly isn’t a reference to make for Pathfinder. Because the product throws around these unfamiliar Japanese words, it is extremely difficult to keep track of when the product is talking about the kitsune that I knew and loved, and when it is talking about this weird not-really-a-Pathfinder-kitsune subrace. With all of this considered, the product does not take any effort to try and elaborate on any of the kitsune traits that are referenced in the Advanced Race Guide; it hardly talks about their loyalty and their love of art and culture, or their outgoingness. Instead, most of the book is spent contrasting the new subraces from the Pathfinder Kitsune; I really didn’t feel like I learned anything new about the kitsune in this product.

If I had to pick one thing that bothered me the most, it was the origin story for the kitsune. The book glosses over a lot of the commonly used explanations, but then it says that all of them are wrong and promotes a poorly paced legend involving agathions as the definitive answer. I really hated this section for two reason; one, I personally use lycanthropy for my campaign world’s explanation for the kitsune, and that is hand waved away without discussion. And two, the product gives you an answer at all! Why give players (or GMs) an answer? What it should have done was go into detail on each origin story and discuss the merits and flaws of each and then let the GM decide for himself/herself. 2.5 / 5 Stars

Texture
Super Genius Games has a nice layout, and it’s not lost on the Kitsune Clans. There is some really great kitsune art in this product; having searched for pictures on various social media I recognized some of them, but there were even a few new pieces here and there. Overall the product is pretty, although there’s this one section hanging out after the Racial Traits that is practically screaming, “Hey! Alex! Design more racial traits for us!” 4.5 / 5 Stars

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 2.5 / 5
Flavor: 2.5 / 5
Texture: 4.5 / 5
Final Score: 3.25 / 5 Stars

I will not lie to you, readers, I went into this product expecting to love it. What I got wasn’t awful, but it left me confused, and I don’t think that this product is quite at the same level as many of the other Super Genius products. I nitpicked this product a lot, but if I had to pick three things that really hurt this product in my eyes, here’s what they would have been.

1) This product reprints everything from the Advanced Race Guide.
2) This product almost completely ignores established kitsune archetypes in favor of Japanese mythology, and then spends half of the fluff contrasting the existing kitsune with the newer ones instead of diving into the psyche of the existing kitsune much.
3) This product’s crunch is not top quality stuff.

There are exceptions to all of those; the barbarian archetype is fantastic, the name generator is insightful, and there is an excellent article at the beginning of the product that does a darn good job explaining why kitsune should have a place in a campaign world. But ultimately, this is an average product from an above average company, and I’d be lying if I said that I was hoping for more than I got.


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Its Not Easy Being Featured

****( )

Okay, that's going to be my one bad pun for the entire review. I promise. No croak.

Crunch
This product follows the Abandoned Arts design flawlessly; a chunk of feats, two race traits, two racial traits, and an archetype. First thing's first, I REALLY like most of these feats, with only two exceptions, and ironically both of those feats are in the same chain. The first is this nifty little feat that grants you prehensile toes. Think of the prehensile tail racial trait, except on your feat. The thing that is weird about this trait is that you can qualify for it as a vanara; the monkey race. That makes perfect sense thematically, but having an either / or in the perquisite description is odd; it makes me think that if another race comes along that thematically should be able to take this feat, it won't be able to without some GM houseruling. If it were me, I would have made the prerequisite for this feat a racial trait that I could easily build into, say, the vanara or other races. Prehensile Toes eventually builds into a feat called Webbed Warrior, which allows you to use your feet to fire a ranged weapon while prone. This is a pretty cool idea, except unlike the previous feat in the chain, it only allows grippli to qualify for it. Why not the vanara? Monkey feet would probably be better than frog feet at doing this maneuver anyway.

Aside from those two examples, the rest of the feats are well thought out and they feel very appropriate for the grippli. Every feat plays off of a racial trait, which ultimately looks and feels very good. The race traits are both pretty decent, but despite loving puns as a form of comedy, I hate having them in my class features, so the character trait, "Its Not Easy Being Green" really rubbed me the wrong way. One of the alternate racial traits, which grants you hold breath, is so perfect that I can't believe Paizo didn't give it to the Grippli in the Advanced Race Guide. The other trait is pretty interesting as well; it makes it nearly impossible for someone who is not trained in Sense Motive to make untrained checks against the grippli. Pretty neat.

Finally, we've got the Bogwalker. Its a swamp-themed druid archetype. I think that this archetype is a very good Druid archetype; its fun, its interesting, and it actually tries to give the druid some new powers. Aside from being swamp-based, however, it doesn't really feel like it should be limited to the Grippli. So I give this archetype a big thumbs up, but I don't see it as being grippli only. 3.5 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
I'm pleasantly surprised. This product does a good job of painting an excellent picture of grippli society through its flavor text alone. That is extremely hard to do with any race! The products hint about what the grippli value in each other, how they treat outsiders, and their overall survival instincts. Sure, its not much but when you're buying two pages of content that is almost entirely dedicated to fluff, you'll take what you can get! 5 / 5 Stars.

Texture
I like Abandoned Art's layout and style. Its very simple and elegant, and like I say in most of my reviews, it proves that you don't always need art on every page in order to have a gorgeous product; you only need something that is pleasing to look at. 5 /5 Stars.

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 3.5 / 5
Flavor: 5 / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 4.25 / 5 (ROUNDED DOWN)

I think Amazing Races! Grippli is a good product. If your campaign features the Grippli or you simply want to play as one of these adorable little frog people, you should definitely give this product a look. That said, I wasn't as blown away by this product as I was the merfolk one, and that's mostly because of the puns and strangeness involves in the prehensile toes feats. I appreciate thinking outside of the racial product presented here, but honestly such feats are better tied to the racial traits themselves than the actual race.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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Definitely Take A Bite Out of This One

*****

Sorry guys. I can't avoid the lame pun .... TIME TO DIVE ON INTO AMAZING RACES! MERFOLK! Hyuck, hyuck, hyuck.

Crunch
Wowzers. I really went off on a rant in the Amazing Races! Humans product about how bland it was and the lack of synergy between the human crunch and its flavor, and the lack of limited options that make sense. This product ... is the EXACT opposite. Every single feat, every single character trait, and every single racial trait is absolutely PERFECT for Merfolk. And doesn't really make sense for any other race. What's better is that almost all of the feats in this product play off of the merfolk's racial traits, so nothing feels wrong or out of place here. There is this terrifyingly cool chain of feats that allows you to basically squeeze the air out of your foes lungs while grappling them under water. So. Freaking. Cool. There's one feat that I personally think is sort of silly; it grants the merfolk a climb speed under rather specific circumstances, but I'm personally not sold on the whole, "Merfolk crawling onto your ship" idea.

The product makes up for that one feat with one of the coolest sorcerer bloodlines I have ever seen. It basically turns the merfolk into a siren, and it even has some great multiclassing potential with the bard, which is a somewhat rare combination. The bloodline is actually a pretty good one, too, and most of the abilities are well-suited to the theme of being a merfolk. I really like this product's crunch. 5 / 5 Stars.

Flavour
There's a bit of flavor in this product, but most of it is in the feat and bloodline descriptions. Abandoned Arts isn't a very flavorful company, but AR!Merfolk is definitely on the better end of their fluff scale. I found the flavor of the crawling feat to be a little bit silly for my tastes, but otherwise its not bad. Not bad at all. 5 / 5 Stars.

Texture
Abandoned Arts uses the same set up for most of their products, and while it is very minimalist, it looks very good. If you want to see my full thoughts on their texture, check out my Amazing Races! Humans review. Otherwise, trust me when I say it is very aesthetically pleasing and I highly recommend it. 5 /5 Stars

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5 / 5
Flavor: 4 / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 4.5 / 5 (ROUNDED UP)

This product is really, really good. I enjoyed this product a LOT better more than Amazing Races! Humans. The crunch is in the right place; all of the options are very good and very viable, but none of them make you think to yourself, "Man, why can't my human fighter take this feat?" They all play off of the powers and abilities of the merfolk and its environment. Most of the feats possess powers the other races can't get, but when you're talking about using your giant, fishy tail to suffocate a land dweller, I'm willing to let that one slide.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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Fighters Got Their Act Together

*****

This PDF was included in my Pathfinder Online Kickstarter bundle. Now that I have some time to look through stuff, I'll be posting up some reviews on the several hundred PDFs that have fallen into my position.

... this is going to take a while. •_•

Crunch
Abandoned Arts is pretty much a player crunch company, from what I've seen. Class Acts seems to follow this routine, as the moment you open the PDF the product is like, "Feats! Feats! Get your fighter feats here!" I was a little hesitant going into this product because as a pretty hardcore fan of the Fighter class, I think its fine as it is. People underestimate the advantage of having 21 feats over 20 levels. But I'm not going to say no to some Fighter Friendly Feats, so what do we got here?

Honestly, most of the feats AREN'T fighter specific, but in my opinion the absolute best ones are the combat feats who do manage to tie into the Fighter class. For example, there is a nifty feats that cranks up the Bravery class feature to 11; you can outright ignore the shaken condition from most non-magical sources AND you add your Bravery bonus to the DC to intimidate you (brilliant choice). Very cool. I like it. As a matter of fact, the feats that tie into Bravery are all very cool. I could definitely see a few of them as real contenders for a fighter's feat slots, especially when he's got a few floater feats to kill, which a Fighter will have throughout his career.

There are a couple feats that are a little overpowered, such as this one feat that basically removes the penalty to deal nonlethal damage with the club if you're Power Attacking, and if you are Power Attacking and you use the feat the Power Attack damage (plus damage from Weapon Specialization) is doubled. Ouch; might be a LITTLE too good there, boys! That said, there are a bunch of feats that add to the gameplay of relatively underused weapons, like the whip (usually taken as a bard over a fighter), the club, and even the javelin. Overall, the feats are pretty cool, even if the rules are sometimes worded funny. 4 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
Honestly, this product doesn't have much flavor. The flavor text is decent enough, and there's nothing as bad as the Amazing Races! Humans flavor text that made me flip the heck out. Its passable, but considering that even I have no idea how to add flavor to three pages of feats, I'm not going to dock this product on flavor. — / 5 Stars.

Texture
I personally think that Abandoned Arts is proof that you don't need a big art budget to be a successful 3PP. This product is very minimalist in approach, and honestly I like it that way. Besides, let's face it, which are you going to use in the game? Two full pages of crunch, or one-and-half pages of crunch and a picture of a topless fighter babe. Actually ... don't answer that. Please. 5 / 5 Stars.

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 4 / 5
Flavor: — / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 4.5 / 5 (Rounded up to 5)

This is actually a pretty good product. Some of the game mechanics are worded a bit strange and there are a couple of feats that seem ripe for abuse in my opinion (mainly that club feat I mentioned early), but overall I like this product. I would allow most of these feats in my game, and I think the ones I did allow would make for good, fun, flavorful additions to my campaign as well as my player's arsenal.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


A Pun in Your Title is Not a Good Start

**( )( )( )

Okay, so I finally got around to checking out all of the PDFs I got for backing Pathfinder Online, so let's dive in and look at the very first one I saw, Inkantations!

Crunch
This book and I did not get off to a good start. The first chapter is 100% in the flavor department, and so our first piece of crunch strolls by 8 pages into this 52 page behemoth. And the very first thing I see is half a dozen new Craft and Knowledge skills. Why? Why on earth would you take tattooing and split it up into a billion different skills? Folks, if you are going to create new skills and subskills, that's fine with me. But if you do, you better make sure that those skills are actually needed. Why do I need four different Craft skills, three different Knowledge skills, AND a Profession skill for this? Looking at the rules, Craft skills are used when something is actually created, so I would have said no to the Profession skill and lumped everything together into Craft (Tattoo) and Knowledge (Tattoos). Or better yet, merge tattoos into Knowledge (local). Why? Because Knowledge (local) is all about discerning the cultures and customs of the area, and Chapter One flat-out states that Tattoos are all about Culture and Custom. And then it goes on to say that you need one skill to mix the ink and another to actually apply it! Really? Why? In my opinion, this page is wasted.

Getting into the new feats, most of them are garbage. Why would I waste a feat on an ability that gives me a +3 bonus to Intimidate AND a –2 penalty to Diplomacy? I could use that feat slot on Skill Focus (Intimidate), which improves with my level AND doesn't penalize me. Most of the feats are like this; they either have very unimaginative effects, downright poor effects, or they penalize you. If you're going to penalize someone with a feat, it needs to be like Power Attack. That feat is worth the penalty. Grotesque Tattoo is not. The best feats in this chapter are the ones that interact with the actual Tattoo Inkantations, which I'll get to in a minute, but there are just so many tattoo feats that aren't worth it, its easy to skip over them by mistake.

When you finally get to the tattoos, the rules themselves are very weird. I get the feeling that 4 Winds sat down, maybe even talked to a tattoo artist or had some done themselves, and said, "How can we translate this exact process over to Pathfinder?" I'm sorry, but when you tell me that using colored ink has the SAME increase as making the tattoo masterwork, then that's the point where I say, "This is too much detail." If I am increasing my DC, I want real, tangible benefits. Not shiny colors. But of course, as I say that I find out that BRANDING people, as in touching someone with a blazing-hot iron rod, requires a skill check. What's worse is that this book came out in 2011, after brand was created by Paizo. A cantrip that does exactly what you're telling me I need a relatively difficult skill check to accomplish. Clearly all inquisitors are part-time tattoo artists.

When you actually reach the point of the book that you're reading the magic item tattoos, then the book becomes pretty cool. These items are pretty well thought out, are decently priced, and they're well-balanced too. There are a few neat tattoos scattered throughout the section, but most of them appear to mimic existing magic items. One that I especially like is one called arcane bonds Its a very neat tattoo that allows the tattoo's crafter to enforce a hold person effect on the person with the tattoo. That's the sort of neat, inventive stuff that I like! Sadly, there are just as many tattoos that don't make much sense, like this one that lets you scribe an animal tattoo on your face, granting you that animal's exact natural armor bonus to AC. See the problem? Considering the cost of the tattoo doesn't scale, how do you justify the natural armor of a Tyrannasaurus to the natural armor of a tiger? Both are pretty awesome tattoos to have on your face; one is clearly better than the other with no increase in cost.

There are some spells in this book too, as well as some body piercings that function as wondrous items. The spells aren't all that interesting; the spell that makes you super fertile is sort of random in the product. Its obviously there because there is a tattoo that transforms you into a fertility goddess, but overall it just feels strange. The product's crunch ends with a prestige class that basically uses these magic items better than anyone else, making it somewhat boring to read about. It seems solid enough, but honestly the tattoos themselves aren't really cool enough to warrant this prestige class. Ultimately, the crunch of this product had me scratching my head in confusion more than it did exist me. 1 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
This product tries really, really hard to have flavor. It is literally oozing it. The problem is that this product oozes flavor in the same way that a pizza coming from a questionable shop oozes grease. That grease is not why you eat the pizza; it is only pooling on top of the good stuff, taking up space and making you question whether or not you really want a piece of that pie. There is so much flavor in this book that I found myself skipping through it, going, "Okay, okay, I get it. Where's the crunch of the product?" Flavor is forcibly injected everywhere in this product and the flavor overwhelms the rules, to the point where there are many questionable game design choices simply because it fits the flavor. An example is the needless number of tattooing skills that are described in this product. Another example is the five different ways that are listed to remove a tattoo, even though they all have almost the exact same outcome. The flavor really bogs down this product and it probably added on at least 5 unneeded pages. 3 / 5 Stars.

Texture
This product's grammar is decent enough, but the layout is pretty bad. The sections and subsections are not well defined and there are no breaks for chapters in this book; it essentially reads like a giant run-on chapter. As a teacher, I found it incredibly disorienting. 2 / 5 Stars.

Final Score and Thoughts
Crunch: 1 / 5
Flavor: 3 / 5
Texture: 2 / 5
Final Score: 2 / 5

I do not recommend this product. Throughout the entire thing, there was only one tattoo that I thought was remotely interesting. Everything else was rehashed material that I have already seen before placed in an item system that has been done to death. Paizo does tattoos much better in Inner Sea Magic, and there is one page, maybe two devoted to the concept there. This book expands mundane tattoos too far, presumably to fill a page quota, while most of the magic items are existing wondrous items re-flavored as tattoos. I hate to say it, but I'm honestly glad I didn't pay for Inkantations.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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Not Amazing, But Worth the Dollar

***( )( )

So Abandoned Arts has this entire line of racial products. I'm a little wary of this sort of thing, honestly, because I don't think I've seen a racial product that I've truly loved yet but at a buck a PDF, I'll bite.

Crunch
From what I can see, the Amazing Races! formula seems to be two pages of crunch, including new feats, racial traits, race traits, and an archetype to cap it off. Just to remind folks, racial traits are the abilities you get for your racial starting package while race traits are part of the Advanced Player's Guide's character traits system. Out of these options, nothing looks out of the ordinary but at the same time nothing really stands out as being great design or a unique idea. The one option I actually hate is a feat that gives a human 2 skill points. Considering the Core Rulebook establishes that a hit point and a skill point are about equal in value via the Favored Class Bonus system, if the toughness feat is going to give you 20 hit points over the course of your adventuring career, a feat that does less than this for skill points is not a viable option. The race traits are forgettable, but the racial traits are pretty nifty, swapping out the skilled trait for some pretty well-considered benefits. Finally, the Fighter archetype found in this product, the Seigemaster, is a pretty sweet idea that I like a fair bit. 3.5 / 5 Stars

Flavor
So big-time warming, race stuff is particularly important to me. Of all the game mechanics in Pathfinder race is byfar the one that affects your roleplaying more than any other. Sure, you might have to roleplay a specific way thanks to being a Paladin or a Cavalier, but how two different races view a given edict or code of conduct can vary greatly, and for that reason race is probably the most important choice a good roleplayer makes when designing a character. And when you get right down to it, this product does NOT capture what it means to be human. Not even close.

As I mentioned before, few publishers get race products right, and part of the problem is that some races (especially the halfling and human) just don't have much to work with. But when you look at a feat or an archetype and say, "Okay, so why can't my kitsune/half-orc/tengu/merfolk/half-dragon octupus/whatever select this character option," you are doing some fundamentally wrong. The only Pathfinder archetype I have ever seen get racial products right is the Cavern Sniper fighter archetype from the Advanced Race Guide. The reason this archetype succeeded where almost all others failed is that unlike every other archetype in the Advanced Race Guide, there is no dissonance between the flavor and the game mechanics.

What does that mean? Put simply, when you have in your game rules that only members of a certain race can select a specific option, yet the mechanics of the option itself is broad enough that keeping it unique to a single race doesn't make sense, then you has a dissonance between crunch and flavor. Its like having crisp rice in your pudding; yeah, I like Rice Krispies and I like pudding, but putting them together is an awful idea. To show off an example from this book, let's look at the feat that grants 2 skill points. Skill points are a game mechanic that every single race has access to. All races can earn extra skill points from their favored class. And yet this product says that the act of having lots of skill points should be part of the human flavor simply because humans get bonus skill points. Almost every option in this product suffers from this dissonance; nothing in this book feels human, and that's honestly a product that Paizo's Advanced Race Guide had too. Another thing I hate is the Character Trait that uses the male pronoun to refer to a study of the arts. "As a young man, you were a favorite among your instructors." So a woman can't be a favored art student too? Little things like this add up to a very bizarre, unsatisfying flavor. That said, the racial traits are really good and fill in some neat gaps that Paizo hadn't covered yet. 2 / 5 Stars

Texture
Texture is the product's layout, grammar, and similar formatting. Honestly, I have to say that Abandoned Arts has a really good thing going for them in this product. I like the links to their Facebook page, I like the format, I like the minimalist style combined with a parchment feel. The bright reds give the product a unique identity. My only complaint is that space doesn't seem to be used very well on the second page, specifically on the Archetype section. I'm confident that several more character traits / racial traits could have been squeezed in if they went with a two-column style instead of a one-column style. 4 / 5 Stars.

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 3.5 / 5
Flavor: 2 / 5
Texture: 4 / 5
Final Score: 3 / 5 Stars

Honestly, this product's 3 stars are on the lower end of the spectrum for me. If you couldn't figure it out from my review, I did not care for this product on the grounds of its flavor alone, which is a shame because much of the crunch really is good. I like the Seigemaster archetype; the problem is that it is not a human archetype. Most campaign worlds have dwarves as master seige engineers (see Warhammer Fantasty Battle) and the idea that only humans or dwarves can be master siege engineers is laughable. Now, if you are playing in a campaign setting where humans invented the first seige weapons and they haven't spread very far yet this is all well and good. But this is a Settings Neutral product; as a publisher you do not get to make the call what the status quo is in your world, and even if you go by Golarion, there is a high chance your work will end up dated or invalidated by Paizo eventually. Even Paizo shouldn't be publishing stuff that in the Advanced Race Guide because it makes assumptions about your world in a world neutral line. (Note: I am also against Paizo IP drops in the Core Rulebook line aside from the Iconic fiction between chapters.)

When you design something that you intend to restrict a single race, you need to not only make sure that it makes sense for the race flavor-wise, but also mechanics-wise. Saying, "Oh, hobgoblins are a cruel, brutal race that likes whips so we'll make them better at demoralizing foes with whips," is not a good design choice. Look at history; humans are perfectly capable of demoralizing foes with whips because the idea that hobgoblins do this is based on our prior knowledge about what real humans have actually done. Now, if you gave humans an ability that allowed them to reselect their human bonus feat as they leveled up in the same manner as a fighter retraining his combat feats, then that's perfectly fine because all of a sudden you're tying your design to something that you can be 100% sure that only the human has; a human bonus feat. This will make your design stronger because you can assure yourself that your mechanics make sense for your race's flavor while finding support in what the race can actually do.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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Dark Waters, Dark Deeds

*****

Game of Thrones pun. On to the review!

Crunch
A product's crunch is its rules content, and you don't usually expect to see much when you look at an Adventure Path. The opponents that are presented in this product are built top-notch, and as always Raging Swan gives us additional ways to customize the encounters, making them easier or harder (I always make mine harder for my PCs because I'm particularly malicious). The one piece of crunch that I was particularly impressed by was this neat little table that helps the GM quickly calculate distances between multiple locations in the adventure path, so if you use all of those places, the table is really handy. I absolutely love how its set up; if I may be bold enough, I'd call it a genius design. 5 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
A product's Flavor refers to its story and overall feel, and without a doubt this is the most important part of an Adventure Path. The adventure starts with a very awesome concept; ghoul monks. You had me at those two words, Raging Swan. The set up for this cannibalistic order is very nicely done, and the encounters presented in the product are well planned and thought out. There are plenty of characters to interact with, notable the ones who appear within the dungeon itself. The adventure has a very real flow to it, and while previous Raging Swan adventures I have reviewed have been two or three encounters, this product is clearly designed to be a major adventure and it pulls off this feeling very well. The ending is very thought-provoking, as is the "Continuing the Campaign" section. I don't want to spoil anything (I bet other people have in this thread) so I'll leave you with the promise that this is top-notch stuff. 5 / 5 Stars.

Texture
The final section is texture, or how the product looks and feels. This is layout, this grammar, and this is Raging Swan Press, so I always to remind myself which side of the pond this product was made on; if I don't, the British spellings drive me crazy, personally. That said, everything looks very well set up in this product; it has a very professional feel despite Raging Swan's minimalist design. There are PLENTY of maps in this document's layout; they have this really cool look that perfectly sits between a professional-looking map and a map that you'd expect a cartographer from the era to draw; as much as I love crazy awesome maps, I sometimes feel guilty about giving my players Paizo handouts for that reason alone. This product does a very good job of holding itself together and in check, and it even manages to avoid the dreaded "table split." Most of the time. 5 / 5 Stars.

Final Thoughts
Crunch: 5 / 5
Flavor: 5 / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 5 / 5 Stars

When I saw this product's price, I was like, "Geez, you trying to kill us, Crieghton?" $5.99 (or however many euros that is) is quite expensive for a Raging Swan product. But when you open it up, its very clear why the price is as high as it is; everything is spot-on perfect with this product. The adventure is very solid and it is massive; we're talking over 35 pages of content, which is like 17 cents a page. You really can't beat that! If I had one comment about this adventure, its that Dark Waters Rising has a bit more identity than, say, Gibbous Moon. The adventure is a little bit more set upon itself, and therefore it might not import into people's campaigns as well as the smaller adventures do. But that is an honest risk that you take when you make a bigger adventure, and it should be one that consumers are willing to risk. If they do, this product is head and shoulders above any other 3PP adventure that I have read so far.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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So. Beautiful. Can't. Even. Question It.

*****

Normally I start with some sort of clever pun or silly question, but I can't for this one. Not for this one. It is stupendous. Exceptional. Read on to find out why.

Crunch
There is a reason that Owen is referred to as a "Crunch-Master." The man is darn fine at designing and balancing such things, and as I mention in all of my Talented line reviews, Owen's history with character talents in RPGs allows him to shine in this role. This product is roughly 30 pages long, not including its title and ending page. It has a small explanation section, but after that its 100% crunch. And wow, the Talented Rogue goes far beyond any expectations that the two current Talented Fighter products set for me. This product has nearly everything, EVERYTHING you could possibly want or ask for. Almost every core Rogue Talent is present in this product, and the beautiful thing is that their power levels aren't altered very much, making it easy to just slap in whatever new talents other publishers (including Paizo) make into the Talented Rogue model. The class is divided into edges, which represent powerful rogue abilities like trapfinding and uncanny dodge, and talents, which represent everything from existing rogue talents to sneak attack. Yes, sneak attack. You can build a rogue without sneak attack, which I know is something that many people look for.

The sheer scope of this product is incredible. Unlike the talented fighter, I couldn't find a single rogue archetype that wasn't accounted for in this product; you can even mix and match with the ninja with this product, allowing you to make a trapmaster ninja or one of a hundred different unique rogues. If you like the Core Rogue, you will love this product just because of how flexible it makes the Rogue class. 5 / 5 Stars.

Flavor
This is a tough category to talk about. As a revision product, there isn't much flavor in here. Most of the abilities are reprints or reimaginings of rogue archetypes and talents already produced by Paizo. However, the spirit of the product shines through, which is to make a fully customizable rogue. I don't really think flavor is very applicable in this product, and when you buy a Genius Guide, its not often you're doing so for the flavor anyway. — / 5 Stars.

Texture
This product follows the standard Paizo layout and it is absolutely huge. 27 pages of content, most of it rules. One of the things I HATED about the Talented Fighter was that it didn't include a table or some other way to sort the huge amounts of content it presented. Fore Fighter Talents didn't solve this problem either, and I despaired. But then, a light shone through and parted the clouds surrounding my irrational love of organization, and lo, the Talented Rogue contents a list! An honest-to-goodness LIST at the end of the product that sorts all of the talents by their purpose! It was amazing! Stupendous! Spectacular! And I loved every second I spent reading it. Thank you, Owen. Thank you. 5 / 5 Stars.

Final Score & Thoughts
Crunch: 5 / 5
Flavor: — / 5
Texture: 5 / 5
Final Score: 5 / 5 Stars

This is the first Talented product that I have given a 5 of 5 to. Not because Paizo's messageboards prevents me from awarding fractions of stars, but because this product has truly earned it. I am firmly in the camp that the rogue is not a bad class as designed in the core Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. I don't think that of any class, actually. But when I look at the Talented Line, especially the Talented Rogue, I see customization that is simply not available in the core game. I see the pieces of myraid unique characters learning in every talent and in every edge, waiting to be placed together by a loving player with a specific style, flair, and heart in mind. I honestly thing that this is not only how Rogues should be, but how character creation itself should be. Not a premade package that is exactly the same for everyone, but a thousand real, hard choices that allow you to make the character that you have always been searching for. I would consider this product a staple in the library of any fan of the d20 system.

— Alexander "Alex" Augunas


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