Calistria

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RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32. Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber. 615 posts (983 including aliases). 3 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 1 alias.



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4 1/2 Stars

5/5

I round up, because as an author I know how difficult it is to find errors in your work.

Chapter 1: I'm intrigued by the Gathlains, but I don't care for small races, and I found the omission of the racial type rather odd, but it is what it is. The Ghoran were neat, but not really my type of character... and I'm even less likely to be interested in the vine leshy, so I largely skipped it. There were some neat archetypes and other racial items and other features in the chapter.

The Shifter... ah, where to start? I think the problem with this was that so many people were expecting something different, including me. Looking back, they mentioned that they were planning on it being a sort of 'druidic paladin' to begin with. I feel that while the class is limited, it's still quite effective in its role, as I've rarely seen players use more than three forms in games to-date, and the two shifters I've built so far seem to be decent though not exceptional. As it stands, I feel the shifter is a decent chassis for creating other types of shifting archetypes, but it'd probably be better with a 3-5 bonus feats, (3 if any combat feat was allowed, 4-5 if you had a specific list to select from, like the monk or ranger).

Chapter 2: I'll be honest, this is where the bulk of my attention was focused. Almost half of the archetypes in this chapter interested me, with standouts being the Skirmisher and Viking for Fighter (lightly armored and rage-based respectively), the Water Dancer monk which gains Charisma to AC and some water kineticist benefits, the phoenix-themed Flamewarden for Ranger, and others. I was particularly hopeful for the Fiendflesh Shifter archetype, but this seriously disappointed me, as it allows the character to shift for only 3 + level minutes per day. While people are frustrated by the shifter being limited, they still get multiple uses of wild shape that are 1 hour/level per day.

Chapter 3: Feats tend to blur together for me, but in my overview, I felt that about 1/3 of them were pretty good, and of the remainder, it would depend on the campaign you're playing in. There are several feats that definitely take the Shifter from mediocre to being more effective, but this simply reinforces my belief that they should've gotten some bonus feats. I particularly like the improved versions of Spring Attack, though the prerequisites are punishing.

Chapter 4: I loved this chapter, as it went over a lot of rules and advice for getting along in the wilds, some basic wilderness traps, harvesting poisons, and more. I especially liked the trophy rules, and while I'll never use the weather tables, I liked seeing them. I also very much liked the additional hazards... but I'm usually a GM, so that's not surprising.

Chapter 5: This is all animal companions and familiars. I generally avoid both, but I quite liked what I saw! My one complaint was that we got a second spider animal companion, but neither of them (this is a web-spinner) can grow bigger than Medium. This is a complaint because I rather wanted a drow priestess or druid to be able to ride her spider mount. I suppose I'll have to make one myself, and this gives me plenty of examples to work off of.

Chapter 6: This is spells, and they're very thematic. I liked seeing spells to turn into fey and magical beasts, I liked seeing snowball brought in line with the other spells... and generally they looked useful. The chapter also contains rituals, and they were interesting, and allowed new, interesting story ideas.

Chapter 7: This has the gear and magic items, and the largest section of the chapter is taken up by the new magical plants, which I very much enjoyed seeing. I'm definitely going to use them in my games in the future. The mundane gear is decent, sometimes even good, and the magic items are refreshingly few, and all of it looks useful.

Conclusion
Bottom line, Ultimate Wilderness is about adventuring in the wild, and is useful for both GMs and PCs, in about equal measure in my view. The Shifter is decent but not exceptional, but that may change in time as well. I recommend getting the book as long as you enjoy adventures in the wilds.


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Amazing Concept with Flaws

3/5

First off, I want to lead with the fact I'm basing this on the hardcopy. Some of these issues may be changed in the PDF, but at the time of writing at least some of my issues have been corrected, but not all. First I'll address something that annoyed me, but which didn't factor into my rating.

The fiction in each chapter follows a series of characters who are jerks at best, and often evil. I'll be honest, if I'd looked at the fiction before the rules, I wouldn't have even bothered buying the book. My recommendation is to ignore the fiction.

Pros: The system is designed so that when you use magic, you use everything at full-power unless you choose to scale it back. This is awesome in that low-end powers really never go out of style. While the infinite nature of most abilities is somewhat worrying, most of the game-changing powers are gated behind Spell Points, which you'll always want, or advanced talents which the GM can restrict access to. Even without advanced talents, you can build entire characters around a single sphere and have a broad range of satisfying options, though I personally find that I always want more.

This book also contains rules for customizing requirements for different casting traditions, allowing you to inject a sort of artificial magical divide without having something as sharp as Arcane/Divine/Psychic, and uses an example that shows how to create elemental martial artists in style. The Spellcrafting system isn't well explained, but allows you to create new and unique spells sanely with your GM's permission, and both the Rituals and Incantations were a delight to read.

In the Magic Items section, the Staves and Wands are great, actually giving a reason for a mage to have a staff or wand more often. The rest of the chapter will be in Cons, which... yeah.

Cons: So, the editing of the hardcopy was not nearly as good as the concepts as a whole. Every couple of pages I noticed an extremely jarring typo, just often enough I couldn't forget about them (Ligh sphere instead of Light, DR?bludgeoning) which I believe are corrected in the PDF. The Elementalist having Frost Resistance has not been, however. I also find the classes to be... problematic. It really will depend on the group, but personally I've never had a problem with a fighter getting utterly overshadowed, but the Armorist rather thoroughly stomps the fighter, IMO. Your mileage may vary. These cost a star, and if it weren't for the magic items, the product would be 4 stars for me.

Magic Items: This is the train wreck of the book. They reiterate much of the crafting rules from the Core Rules, which is annoying but understandable, then add their own twist on them which is poorly explained, then mangle the crafting feats. Why does a door that magically locks itself need to be made with Craft Rod? Why does Craft Wondrous Item only create charged or use-per-day items? Why are all worn items like a Cloak of Resistance created with Forge Ring? The authors obviously wanted to change how item creation feats worked, but refused to change the names. Considering everything else they did, they should have just created new item creation feats and been done with it, rather than trying to redefine the definitions of the existing feats. And most disappointing of all? The one question I had, of how much an item that added to a caster's spell points would cost, isn't answered anywhere.

Summary: I love the concept, and the rules as a whole work quite well, though some abilities will require a fair amount of GM adjudication, which isn't necessarily good. However, I'm extremely wary of the classes, and the magic item section is largely a disaster.


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5/5

So, Demon's Heresy! Not going to go incredibly in-depth on this, I'll keep it brief, and hopefully mostly spoiler-free.

Each of the encounters feel suitably epic to a Mythic game, in my opinion, and overall the plot gels together quite nicely. There were a few twists I didn't expect, but that's to be expected. Each of the campaign traits player's guide had a tie-in in this adventure, and two in particular (my personal favorite was one of these, I admit) was freaking awesome. While there is some dungeon slogging (it is a D&D derived game), it doesn't feel nearly as bad as some adventures I've read, and the bosses are pretty impressive in my eyes.

However, what absolutely made the volume for me was the NPCs and items. It's rare that characters can bring me to the verge of tears, but this time one of them managed it. And each of the 'themed' magic items felt perfect to me. I'm impressed and gratified by their inclusion and the writing.