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Magnificent Marvelous Monsters Make Me Masterfully MerryChemlak —
If I have one single gripe about the Pathfinder rules, it's that high-CR almost always equals big. I have always enjoyed coming across monsters that are medium or smaller and tougher than your average bear (or level 8 Barbarian, at least).
Enter Malevolent Medium Monsters from Legendary Games. I heaved a huge sigh of relief when I saw this, not least because I know that LG can pull it out of the bag.
And then I bought it.
Please ignore the fact that this is part of the "Righteous Crusade" AP Plug-ins. This book is great for anyone playing a level 10+ game.
The Alabaster Beetle. This thing is terrifying. Whatever genius came up with the idea of an underground beetle that can burrow, fly, spray paralytic poison, reproduce asexually, and is invisible to dark vision, is simply... a genius. A sick, twisted, my-kind-of-evil genius. CR 12 and comes in groups of up to 20. Because players need to learn fear, sometimes.
Homonculous Dragon. Oh, hell, yes. It's... well, it's sort of the best (or worst, depending on your perspective) of all dragons. This round it might be breathing a cone of electricity, next round a line of ice. And its aura might be acid this round. Fire the next. Or something else. Because being predictable gets you killed. And being unpredictable tends to kill PCs.
Fiendfused. Okay, I want more of these. A lot more. A whole book more. Preferably with Mythic versions. Because... oh, there is nothing not to love about these: they're people who died while they were possessed by a fiend, and the fiend merged with the mortal body and... awesome fiendish stuff happened. Like the one based on the balor that has an explosion every time it takes a critical hit. Or the marilith-based one that has four arms and infuses its weapons with magic. Or the pit fiend one... you get the idea.
Save vs what? I can calculate a DC as well as the next guy (27, since you're asking), but the Bedlam Breath ability of the homonculous dragon is missing it from the entry.
Free metamagic? Maybe? Weirdly, this is another "issue" with the homonculous dragon (which is one of my favourite creatures in this book!). It has an ability to spend points from a pool to add metamagic feats to its sorcerer spells. It's a free action to spend the points, and it adds the feats on the fly, but... I can't tell if the casting time increases like it would normally for a sorcerer casting a metamagic spell. Part of me wants to say "yes, it does, be consistent", and the rest of me wants to say "CR 16, this thing should be nasty, let it be completely free!" I'd have liked it spelling out in the text.
Kingdoms, Fey, Forests, Fantastic!Chemlak —
The Forest Kingdom Compendium is a compilation and expansion of the various supplements Legendary Games have released which support (in typical Third Party fashion) the Kingmaker Adventure Path. At this point I will immediately say - if you don't have, don't want, and aren't going to play that AP, that should NOT prevent you getting this book. It's generic enough (within the areas it focuses) to be useful. Please note, I backed the Kickstarter for this book, so have had the PDF for a little while.
Subsystems FTW. I'm a fan of subsytems. I've been writing my own since the 2nd Edition D&D days (most of them not very good!), and I love reading new ones, and this book has a few (mostly involving fey and since I've got a possible nymph/paladin relationship of some kind in my kingdom campaign, those are awesome). The single biggest is Royal Tournaments (available as its own book), which is just crammed with amazing rules for running a festival, taking part in events at a festival, or just plain hanging out at a festival.
Beautiful art. I have a distinct fondness for fantasy art. Generally speaking, the more realistic the better. The art in this book is stunning. Yes, lots of it is repeated from other books (no real surprise), but just going to another page and seeing yet another pretty picture that perfectly fits with nearby text.
Prestige classes. I love the idea behind prestige classes. I think the implementation of them in the 3.x/Pathfinder rules sucks. They were overused in 3.x D&D, and Pathfinder has done a lot to make them less of a feature of the system, and I think that overall the game is better for not having many. So the addition of three prestige classes rubs me the wrong way. That's not to say that there's anything actually wrong with the classes themselves (though I do have to question a 6-level class), just that I think I'd have preferred archetypes to fit the niches.
The things that I think are wrong with this book do not even put a dent in the amazingness that is everything else. I'd be particularly mean to deduct a star for those things, and this book is being integrated into my home campaign (which has nothing to do with Kingmaker except Kingdom building). Got to give it 5/5.
How Have We Played Without This?Chemlak —
Everyman Gaming does it again. If you like comprehensive, well-balanced, clean, easy to understand yet allowing for infinite complexity rules systems: BUY THIS NOW. You won't regret it.
This book has brought me out of review hiatus, which might give you something of an idea about how I feel about it overall, but on with the usual...
Simple statblock. A skill challenge is presented like a monster or trap statblock. It's so intuitive and easy to read - if you can read a monster statblock, you can run a skill challenge with almost no trouble. There are a few new rules terms which it's worth reading up on, and to be honest I'd recommend reading the whole thing through, but it's not hard to grasp, and that's one sign of a brilliant designer.
It covers everything. Seriously. Read Endzeitgeist's review for some ideas, but when the first general skill challenge example in the book is Babysitting, and the last is Against the Avalanche, you get an idea how ridiculously flexible this system is.
Specific Challenge Types. So, not only do we have a general system that covers everything, there are also the specific rules for Chases, Contests, Influence, and Verbal Duels. Just in case you wanted more specific detail on those extremely common types of challenges. Which you did.
It's not been easy coming up with anything "bad" to say about this product. I'm into the realms of super-nitpicky, here.
Skill Challenge Type. Right after we get a breakdown of skill challenge statblocks, we get a series of example statblocks for General skill challenges (i.e. the ones that aren't chases, contests, influence, or verbal duels). We know that all skill challenges have a type. And that's the one thing missing from skill challenges with the General type. It's there for all the other types (right after XP, where the statblock breakdown tells you it's going to be), and I understand it being omitted, but it just rubs me wrong.
How badly can we suck without penalty? This stood out in the Babysitting skill challenge. I won't bore you with all the mechanics, but there is no difference in reward between succeeding with 2 demerits, succeeding with 3 demerits, or failing with no demerits on this challenge. They all "reward" you in exactly the same way. I don't know if this is intentional, but from the way it reads in the statblock I think it's meant to be different.
In case you hadn't guessed, I'm 100% in agreement with Endzeitgeist on this one - this should be core. Even if the only other book you own is the Core Rulebook, get this one (well, maybe the Bestiary first). Less than 50% of the art has kitsune in (not counting advertising material), for those of you who find that bothersome (and in my opinion it shouldn't, it's part of Everyman Gaming's charm), and I found the art as beautiful as ever for one of Alex's books.
I can't stress enough, Alex is quite literally a genius when it comes to skill-based rules subsystems (see Ultimate Charisma for another example) that are coherently wrapped together in elegant unity. 5/5.
Keep Your Friends CloseChemlak —
Imperial Relationships is the first in a planned series of products focused around the NPCs of the Far East Adventure Path, detailing 4 major characters that the PCs get to interact with throughout the AP, and providing appropriate relationship ranks and boons, as detailed in Ultimate Relationships.
You want more than that? Okay. Each of the four NPCs described herein gives you detailed (and I mean detailed) instructions on how to use them with the Ultimate Relationship rules, including, but not limited to: What their likely relationships are going to be about, what types of gifts and interactions they like, what types of characters they are particularly drawn towards, when they're prepared to actually adventure with the party, what relationship rank needs to be reached before they can enter a romantic relationship, and the absolute pinnacle of the product: fully detailed ranking up situations and interactions, including what the NPC is looking for, how they approach it, the DC of the necessary check(s) and what happens if the check to rank up fails.
Don't Mess With The Lawful Good Guys.Chemlak —
Heavenly Hosts is another Mythic Monster book from Legendary Games, presenting "mythiced up" versions of existing creatures from the Bestiaries, as well as some extra goodies suitable for players.
Having raved on about the monsters, there's some really lovely art in this book (perhaps not as much as I'd like, in general, but what's there is eye-catching), my personal favourite being the Vulpinal.
Oh, and the Planetar and Solar are missing their deflection bonus to AC against evil opponents in their statblocks from their protective aura. Oh noes. (I'll admit, on the Solar, that extra +4 when the normal AC is 56 might be overkill. But that's what the mythic Solar is all about.)
The problem with Sanctified Servant is so minor that I only point it out because if I didn't find something negative to say this review would be way too gushing with praise for the authors (kudos, but no great surprise, to Jason Nelson, Jonathan H Keith, and Sean K Reynolds).
These are truly fantastic creatures, and I'd love to see some of them pop up in adventures, but at least I can use them in my own in the meantime (already plotting something involving a mythic solar...). 5/5, no question.
Huh. What is it good for? (Absolutely Nothing, unlike this book)Chemlak —
I'm a big fan of the Kingdom building rules from Ultimate Campaign, and this book presents another way of handling mass combats (I have several books on mass combat already).
Morale is covered in enough depth, with a nice, simple mechanic, that it's easy to include its effects on units without getting bogged down in detail. The book makes good use of existing conditions to show the effects of morale (which is exactly how it should be).
Commanders are characters who attach themselves to units, and provide benefits to them. They may also take specific actions of their own, which can have some interesting effects on the unit's ability to deal with the enemy. In addition, if the commander is a PC, they can earn Valor Points, which can be used for one-off bonuses to die rolls or, if saved after a battle, can provide bonuses to the character's Leadership score.
Firstly, it's less about war, and more about battle. While the rules do cover recruitment and upkeep of units, and a little bit about strategic movement, these sections aren't as deeply involved as the main mechanics in the book, which is something of a failing.
Big Creatures. The standard cohort rules in this book only cover cohorts from Small to Huge size, which is fine for the vast majority of engagements, but every now and then you want to throw a dragon (or trained house cats) into a major battle, and this possibility doesn't even get mentioned. It's probably a fairly easy matter to just say that the dragon fights as its own unit, but it would be nice to see the possibility covered in these rules.
Scale. Now, I'll admit that I've not taken much time to game out this system, and a nod is given to "faking" larger units by just saying "well, in this fight medium cohorts are actually 50-strong, not 10", the detailed tactical nature of these rules means that it suffers from the "big fight" problem that the core Pathfinder rules so - once you're dealing with more than about 20 combatants/units, the game gets bogged down. Which means that the maximum realistic size of fight that these rules can comfortably handle is (by my estimate) around 300. Which is a very fine number of people to be involved in a fight, but I think I'd have preferred to see a way to scale cohorts up in a way that lets them interact with normal scale ones.
You'll NEVER want to dump Charisma again...Chemlak —
Ultimate Charisma is a combination of Everyman Gaming's Leadership Handbook and Psychological Combat, with a healthy addition of extra content above and beyond the combined content of those books.
Consolidated social rules. Alex Augunas knows his stuff, there's no doubt about that. He's pulled together all the rules for followers, cohorts, reputation, relationships, explained them, expanded them, and made them work together, as well as adding dozens of perks (they're sort of like micro-feats) to expand on all of them, plus linking all of these things in to the Downtime and Kingdom rules.
Psychological Maneuvers. Oh, this is just gorgeous. Consolidating feinting with Bluff, demoralising with Intimidate, and adding the ability to antagonise your foes (basically, pissing them off), this section links them all mechanically, making them work a lot like combat maneuvers. And then there's the (glorious) hilarity that is "affronts of opportunity", which are the psychological equivalent of (no surprise here) attacks of opportunity, and certain things that happen in an encounter let you make an AfoO (bless you) to make a free psychological maneuver against an enemy. Using it counts against your attacks of opportunity for the round, which is what makes it balanced. The things that trigger it can basically be described as "things which scare the enemy", like scoring a critical hit on one of the enemy's allies, or doing half or more of the target's hit points in damage in a single turn. And then there's the (optional) psychological slights rules, which are basically a way to gain a bonus on a psychological maneuver by telling the target "yo momma so fat...". I love all of this.
It's really hard to find anything to criticise in this book. It's so amazing that the only thing I could even remotely say is a "negative" is the sheer amount of kitsune art. 12 out of 25 pieces of art in the book have a kitsune (I'm not counting the back-cover art twice) in. Personally I'm prepared to let Alex get away with it, both because I know he loves kitsune, but also because the art is actually really good.
This should be Core. Simple as that. It's absolutely brilliant, and I really hope that the Paizo design team take a good hard look at this book for the purposes of improving Ultimate Intrigue. This is how rules should be written, and it should come as no surprise that I'm giving this a solid, thoroughly well-deserved 5 stars. This book is in use at my table, and I can't get enough of it.
The Monk. With added Monk.Chemlak —
The Monk Unfettered offers a pre-Pathfinder Unchained revision of the Monk class, intended to overcome the monk's Core Rulebook shortcomings (such as low hit rate, MAD, and the movement/full attack conundrum, to name a few).
Insights. This is probably the biggest single departure from the Core monk. Insights are gained at 1st and 2nd level, and at every even level after that. They range from a number of Core monk abilites (which got pulled out of the main class features), to completely new abilites, with a broad range of applicability (that insight you pick up at 10th level is almost always going to be as powerful as any other 10th level insight, regardless of which one it is).
Stunning(ish) Fist. This was something that made me sit up and take notice. One of the main things I've always liked about the various iterations of the monk is stunning fist. It's just a shame that it's less useful than I'd like, most of the time. The Unfettered Monk takes Stunning Fist and shifts it into overdrive, in the coolest possible way. Yes, it suffers from the old "must choose before the attack" problem, but being able to actually paralyse the target for 1d6+1 rounds at 20th level? That's awesome.
Everything is the same, but different. As a GM, looking at this class, my initial thoughts are pretty simple: I like it. Quite a lot. Except... the damage progression has changed, some of the abilites are worked differently, and there's dozens and dozens of insights to work through. As a long-time player, I can mentally work out a Core monk's flurry attack progression with a few simple pieces of information. Learning a new way of calculating it is... irritating. Not bad, as such, but it leaves me with the feeling that my players (who, let's face it, can be a bit lazy at times) might look it over and say "looks nice, too much like hard work, stick with the original". Now, this particular point really is me being quite nitpicky, I know ("waah, don't wanna learn a new class, waaaaaah"), but it does factor in to me deciding whether to offer this class as an option to my players. (I am doing so, by the way. Not that any of them want to play a monk right now...)
Carried Away by a Moonlight ShadowChemlak —
I was sent a review copy of this book, having already seen some of the other reviews, which promises a new base class, the Nightblade, for use in your games.
Shadow stuff! An absolute metric tonne of shadow-related feats, spells, items, archetypes. I can't even begin to scratch the surface of these, there's so much, it's all good stuff, well-written, well-balanced, and on-theme. Oh, okay, a nice 5th level Nightblade, Sor/Wiz spell called Shadow Field catches my eye when I look through the spells: a 20-ft high, 20-ft radius spread (perhaps it should be a cylinder?) which sets the light level to darkness, and does Str damage to creatures in it. For 1 minute per level. What's not to like?
The Nightblade. Really the entire purpose of this book, this class is a sort of combination Rogue, Shadowdancer, Magus-esque Sorcerer mashup, with not less than 5 archetypes presented in the book as well as the base class. All of the class abilities are very shadow-related, fit in nicely with existing classes, and are not overpowering. See in Darkness at 14th level is a brilliant touch (there are so few ways for PCs to get this!), and the class has a veritable plethora of selectable options as it levels up (called Nightblade Arts, these are functionally similar to rogue talents, but very shadow-based, and include the utterly wicked Dusk Strike which lets the Nightblade make a weapon or natural weapon attack against touch AC by partially shifting the weapon in the Plane of Shadow). Oh, yes, I mentioned Magus-esque Sorcerer: the class is a 6th level spontaneous caster with a restricted (shadow-themed - I know you're surprised) spell list.
Cover/Iconic Art. Okay, this is definitely me being super-nitpicky, and I know it, but I find the image on the cover and the class iconic image in the book to be a little too "comicy" for my taste. Don't get me wrong - they're truly beautiful pieces of work, the colouring in particular is stunning, and I'd love to own the originals, but I favour realism on the front of books.
I know I mentioned that I don't like the comicy feel to the cover and the iconic, but I really, really, really like the pictures, and I want to know more about this grey-haired woman in black with the "don't mess with me" eyes. She's a brilliant representation of the class and the concepts in this book - all credit to Danielle Sands for the imagery.
I almost want to overstate the issues I have with the complexity of the Nightblade class, so that this doesn't turn into a 5-star love-fest, but honesty compels me to admit that I overcame those issues on carefully reading through the class with one of my players, and "it doesn't say it's an advanced class" along with my art preferences are not a good enough reason to knock a star off an otherwise utterly perfect product.
And just a final point - this is Ascension Games' first book. Someone forgot to tell Chris Moore that first products are usually less than stellar.
Bring a 10-foot pole. And be prepared.Chemlak —
The Firebringer is an adventure for 1st level characters, providing enough treasure and XP to bring a party of 4 characters to 2nd level by the conclusion. It is based around an old abandoned dwarven mithral mine, since overrun by goblinoids (amongst other things), set near the village of Pig's Trotter (heh).
I was lucky enough to be sent a review copy for 4DD, and was warned that it is a) their weakest work, and b) quite tough.
If this is their weakest work, I'm looking forward to seeing more, and this thing is deadly as all hell.
When playing this module, I had to take some liberties with the setting - I'd already run an introductory session for my players and was hemming and hawing about how to move a plotline along, when the review copy of this module fell into my possession, and it was a godsend. I needed goblins. It has goblins. I needed the goblins to have a home. They have a home. I needed them to have a reason to be out raiding. They have a reason to be out raiding. So far, so good.
On the downside, I have only 3 players (plus a plucky half-elf teenager NPC), and the intro session was set in the wilderness, some miles from any settlement.
So, I set about making the few minor adapatations I needed to this adventure to squeeze it in to my setup, and set my players loose.
XP/Treasure table. This addition was perhaps my favourite part (and I really liked a lot of things in this adventure): near the beginning is a room-by-room breakdown of the dungeon, with the XP award for defeating the challenge, and the treasure awarded, with values, so you can easily see what there is. There's also guidance on the table for increasing the treasure if you have a larger party.
Zombie dragon! My favourite creature in this whole thing, which my players avoided like the plague (they made good stealth checks, it sucks at perception) is the zombie white dragon. I was really looking forward to describing it drunkenly flopping down in front of them, gobs of flesh hanging from its bones, as it lazily shambles towards them. But they ran away. Ah, well. Other notable creatures include the half-wit half-ogre with mommy issues, the mommy ogre with everyone issues, and the insanely arrogant ifrit sorcerer. Love them all, love the little touches that make them incredibly easy to play and turn them all into real characters. Bang-up job writing engaging NPCs for the GM, even if the players learn nothing at all about them.
Maps! Maps, maps, maps, maps, maps. I love maps. They're one of my biggest weaknesses (or at least one of the things that makes my bank account go "ah, there are maps, so that's why I'm empty again") as an RP collector. Give me a good map to purchase, and I will devour. This adventure comes not only with the maps in the adventure pdf (which are beautiful), but blown up image files of each of those maps (in all their delightfully attractive cartographed glory) and simplified versions (without all the cool drop-shadows and shading, and whatnot), and unlabelled versions of each of those, too! Utterly perfect for the GM running the adventure online a VTT - upload, fit, line up the squares, and bosh, you're ready. Brilliant.
Room number which, what, where, huh? Nitpick time! The room numbering on the maps goes haywire at level 3. The text has a room with no number right at the start of the level, and then the next room picks up the numbering again with no break, but the maps are numbered in full, so you have to subtract 1 from the map's room number to make sure you're reading the right room in the text. Phew! That one threw me for a loop for a bit.
Read-alou-ooh-adventure-details. I'm not a fan of read-aloud text most of the time, because it's almost always too much. "This ancient room is designed in the Targorn period of architecture, with buttressed ceilings of sandstone run-through with so-called bloodstains - red streaks of iron-rich silt. The walls are covered in tapestries depicting historical battles from ages past, and your eye is caught by a particularly attractive needlework scene on a stand of the star-crossed lovers Wandero and Julia from a famous stage tragedy. On the floor is..." Bleurgh. This adventure manages to go to the other extreme by not including any read-aloud text at all, but falls down because the GM-details are mixed in with the room descriptions. Several times I found myself reading a small passage verbatim because the description was actually what I want from read-aloud text, only to have to catch myself before I revealed some secret that only the GM should know. I'd love to see those frankly elegant and perfect room descriptions cordoned off as read-aloud, with the GM-guidance text swiftly following on.
I've been arguing with myself about what rating to give The Firemaker, and I've settled on 4-stars: The extras such as the maps; the XP/Treasure table; the brilliant room descriptions; the wonderful creatures and their relationships, hopes, and dreams. All those things push this above just average. It's a total beast to your party, but this adventure is a good one to have in your repertoire.
Where can I buy one of... everything?Chemlak —
Mythic Monsters: Mounts is another installment from Legendary Games in their ongoing quest to provide everyone with the Mythic creatures you didn't know you wanted in your game, provided to me as a review copy.
Mounts have always been a bit of a weird thing for me, as a player and a GM. By the time you can afford to buy one that's not going to just die underneath you when the nearest enemy wizard sneezes, you're probably of a level where... the mount you buy is going to just die underneath you when the nearest enemy wizard sneezes because it just doesn't have enough hit points.
Sure, if you get the mount class feature, or an animal companion that's big enough to ride, your situation is a bit different, but average Joe fighter has better things to spend his starting gold on than a horse (hint: armour and weapons) that's going to panic at the aforementioned sneeze, and potions of healing are more valuable for the first couple of levels than forking out for a 19 hp target. So, when I play, mounts really don't feature very much except as a sort of "huh, we need to get to Big City quick, let's buy horses and sell them when we get there" experience.
There's some really nice suggestions on how to use a Mythic Mount as a cohort if you have the Leadership feat, ideas on mythic templates to add to give the mounts an even bigger boost, how to train mythic mounts, a couple of mythic feats (admitedly, I'd probably only ever take one of them, considering how short the supply of mythic feats is, though being able to awaken animals you train is kind of a cool idea), and some nifty path abilities that characters who are going down the mounted route will want to take a serious look at.
I've been torn trying to decide what my final good point would be - should I mention the mythic riding dog's ability to whine like a kicked puppy and prevent it and its master getting attacked? Or the mythic giant eagle's ability to spend mythic power and just ignore total concealment for a round? Perhaps the mythic hippogriff's ability to catch you if you fall off midair? How about the mythic light horse which can blitz around the battlefield at insane speeds and gain improved evasion and total concealment (only for itself, not its rider) while it does so? Special mention must be made of the mythic pegasus champion which really dislikes things bigger than itself and can smite such foes. And it's basically against the law to discuss this book and not point out the mythic advanced pony and its ability to cheat death. But the cream of the crop, the absolute bee's knees, the dog's proverbials, has got to be the mythic triceratops. I can just picture thundering into battle atop one of these things and I just giggle at the thought of what happens to the foes it decides to trample, impale, and generally just smash into a pulp. Yep, it's a thing of beauty. A thing of beauty with Deflect Arrows.
Let's talk art. The Mythic Monsters line hasn't generally had much in the way of art, trusting that you have a handy Bestiary with the attendant pretty pictures, and I am very well aware that art is a HUGE chunk of a product's budget, and that stock art is a good way to stretch your art budget, so I don't want to do Legendary Games a disservice by inflicting my own perspective on individual pieces, so I'll just say that some of the art isn't really necessary, and could probably have been left out because in my opinion it doesn't add to the product. It's not horrible, it's not jarring, it's just not anything worth looking at. Except the hippogriff. That is an awesome picture that I would hang on my wall. It's gorgeous. (If you want to see it, it's the cover of Mythic Minis 3: Feats of Flight.)
So, I'm giving this one five stars. The problems are more than outweighed by the good stuff, and even though it's not perfect, it absolutely delivers what it promises, and does it extremely well. Art and a QoL issue aren't enough for these fine animals to lose a star.
What would Grue be without his minions?Chemlak —
(If your first reaction to anything I say below is "but, hang on, it's...", I know.)
There are many things to like about many d20 derivative games, and one thing that several of them have done is some form of "minions" rules, to represent the hordes of cannon fodder that every Machiavellian Master of Manipulation surrounds himself with.
With four bestiaries, the Monster Codex, the NPC Codex, and more monsters than you can shake a stick at in Adventure Paths, Pathfinder is still lacking a way to have those "trash mobs" represented in the game. And then along comes this one-man-band Third Party Publisher called Minotaur Games showing that they have the design chops to play with the big boys and show them how it's done.
Things that go bump in the night...Chemlak —
Legendary Games very kindly sent me a review PDF copy of this instalment of the mythic monsters series, which I picked from their selection with malice aforethought. Let me be straight with you: I don't like undead. As a player or as a GM. They just bug me with their insane slew of immunities, nasty special attacks, and all-too-common damage reduction. I tend avoid them like the plague, or only use them if there's a logical reason for their presence in an adventure.
So, you may well ask, why the heck did I ask for a copy of a book about creatures that I don't like? Two reasons, really. First, because my natural enmity towards undead means this review isn't just going to be an automatic five-star love-fest for what Legendary Games put out, and secondly to see if the authors can do something to make me want to use their creations.
Guess what? It worked.
Special mention has to be made of the new undead nasty in this book: the jigsaw man. I love this thing! An undead serial killer that can transform into a swarm? The flavour text is evocative, creepy, and downright scary, and I can see one of these as the subject of an investigative adventure, and at CR 12 it's no pushover (and it really wants your PCs to bleed).
I know I'm going to use the jigsaw man as soon as my players get up a few levels, even if I have to rewrite my plot to fit it in.
I can't separate my feelings about undead enough to give a completely unbiased, objective review rating: I've been wavering between four-stars because I simply don't like undead, and five because this book absolutely delivers what it promises. On balance I'm settling on four because heck, it's my review, but if you like undead nasties, this is a five-star book.
Now THESE are DRAGONS!Chemlak —
Dragons. The name spawns images in my mind of massive beasts with wings flared, facing off against tiny-looking adventurers who quake in terror at their absolutely evident awesome power. One of my favourite-ever pieces of roleplaying art was the cover of the old D&D Companion Set, which had an armoured warrior with a massive magical sword, on a clifftop, facing a rearing dragon that just looked ready to rip him to pieces. Hell yeah.
Not just dragons. While the primary focus of the book is on the chromatic dragons, there's a decent sprinkling of other creatures with the dragon type (mostly drakes, but the pseudodragon and tor linnorm get a going over, too).
The dragons. Sorry, I'm about to have a nerdgasm. The dragons are amazing. Full-blown, no-holds-barred, mythiced up to the nines, and there's some judicious use of the giant simple template to really beef things up. Every power, every ability, I get butterflies in my stomach at how amazing they are. When I can read a statblock (oh, mythic great red wyrm, where have you been all my life?) and cringe in sympathy for any characters unfortunate enough to meet one, I know I've found something special.
So my one gripe? Only one of each chromatic dragon colour. Yep, that's it: I want more. These dragons are such... brilliant, wonderful, beautiful dragons that I want more variety of each dragon type.
Demons... turned up to ElevenChemlak —
I needed demons. Lots and lots of demons. I was running an adventure involving a demon lord, the PCs were mythic characters, and I needed... demons. And this book released at exactly the right time. And... it's (very almost) perfect.
There's also a set of new mechanics presented which allow, amongst other things, mythic demons to punch through magical barriers that normally prevent teleportation, and demonic possession of mortals.
On top of all that, there's a new creature given a full write-up, the Gulgerak demon, a colossal monstrosity at CR 22 which will deservedly wreak havoc on those who face it.
As usual for me, powerful creatures with a huge suite of abilities are a bit of a turn-off, and at the tougher end (like the balor and glabrezu), the reader is presented with more abilities than the demon will reasonably be able to use in a fight. On the other hand, quite a lot of the time the new abilities are overlays on the base demon's existing abilities, so you're not overwhelmed.
If you like to be able to throw powered-up curveballs at your party, and you want to use demons, this book needs to be in your collection.
Legendary, memorable, awesome.Chemlak —
I love high level play. In fact just a couple of weeks ago, I finished a campaign that had been running for two years and the characters were 23rd level with 6 mythic tiers (and man it was a lot of fun). I grabbed this book as soon as it came out, because I knew I would need some high-CR beasties to even approach being able to challenge my group.
More. Abilities. More. More. While every ability the creatures are given fit their theme nicely, they sure have a lot of them. It's almost unavoidable in the d20 game engine, I suppose, but one day I'd really like to see a CR 20+ creature that has just one or two powers which are amazing enough to put the fear of God into a party.
Bigger = Power. Yes, there are some handy-dandy tiny creatures included in this product, but the majority are large or bigger, which puts some serious constraints on use. There are never enough small or medium high-CR monsters, which are where I like to peg foes for my players (it can really throw them off balance), and after my third encounter in a row with huge creatures, I want something that looks like it might scale nicely to the PCs, but that's actually fantastic.
If you like Kingdom Building... you want this.Chemlak —
It should come as no surprise to anyone that I'm a huge fan of the Ultimate Campaign Kingdom rules, as well as Legendary Games, so when a complementary product is released, I'm quick off the mark to buy it (but not too quick to review, it seems).
This book is the perfect expansion for people who want more depth and options for their kingdoms, written by the maestro of kingdom crunch, Jason Nelson.
These should be Core. Seriously.Chemlak —
Now, I only just bought this book, and I've only read it through twice, but, as with most things I choose to buy from Legendary Games, I love it.
As well as offering these options to mythic characters, there's a full write-up on how these rules can be inserted into a non-mythic game.
Want NPCs to matter to your players? You want this book.Chemlak —
REVISED - NOW BASED ON UPDATED VERSION
Legendary Games are one of my go-to publishers for quality crunch supplements to enhance my Pathfinder RPG. The Ultimate series takes rules subsystems from Paizo's products that need a bit of love or extra detail, and gives them what they need in spades.
Ultimate Relationships is no exception, taking the Relationship rules (originally from the Jade Regent adventure path, and updated in Ultimate Campaign), and cranking them up to eleven.
Ever had a long-term NPC that the PCs talk to every time they're in town, but who still treats them the same as the first time they met? Or had a love-interest who seems to take forever to actually show any interest? This product gives you the rules to make those relationships develop as the campaign goes on.
The basic mechanic is gaining Camaraderie Points. These can be gained passively (by performing actions that the particular NPC appreciates), actively (by the PC going out of their way to have a positive interaction with the NPC), or simply by leveling up. When your character has a certain number of Camaraderie Points with an NPC, you get the opportunity (one or more checks, usually skill checks) to increase your relationship rank with them (ranks range from 1 to 10, with 1 being "I've met them" and 10 being "they are my bestest ever bud/lover/confidant"). Gaining ranks isn't hard, but it is intended to be specifically tailored to the NPC in question, and should involve specific circumstances and interesting skills/abilities/checks where appropriate so that the PC can't just max out Sense Motive and Diplomacy and blast their way up to Rank 10. This system favours multi-dimensional characters with diverse interests and abilites, a well as interesting and deep NPCs.
There's also a little bit of an issue with new concepts and mechanics not being fully explained. Most of the time it's not a big deal - the detailed rules regarding Camaraderie Points explain what they are, how you obtain them, and what they're for, but there's not quite as much explanation about what exactly a "Milestone" is, though there's plenty of rules about what your character can do in a Milestone, and rules about how often they should occur, but nothing about what they actually are. I'm pretty sure that a Milestone is best described as "an opportunity for the PC to actively engage with the NPC and have a positive interaction with them", so you need Milestones to increase your rank with them, and you can use them to gain Camaraderie Points, but there aren't any examples. Admittedly, that's a difficult thing to manage in a rules-heavy product like this one, so I understand it, but I think I would have liked "such as agreeing to have dinner together, or getting locked in a prison cell together, or watching a sunset together".
What I did
Not perfect, but boy am I going to use this book!Chemlak —
My first ever review.
I'm a big fan of Leadership. I'm well aware that it has something of a reputation as being broken and overpowered. Yes, it is easily abusable, but it is also an excellent way of integrating your character into the campaign world, making them feel that they can directly influence people, even without pumping ranks in Diplomacy, and that can be a valuable tool for a GM.
The Leadership Handbook is primarily aimed at GMs, giving them the tools to manage how PCs interact with NPCs who look up to them.
It promises to be a significant expansion to the Leadership feat rules presented in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, and it certainly delivers!
The artwork is good, though I personally feel that the cover is the best piece, and is suggestive of a leader interacting with their follower(s), making it a pleasant break from the relatively rules-dense text.
The rules are presented in a coherent format (see below), and each section of the book guides you through what you need for different levels of Leadership interaction.
Edit: The author has uploaded a properly edited version. I've not yet had a chance to read it through again, so until I do, I'm leaving this review at 4 stars.