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Unchained options for everyone else

****( )

Following their previous and wonderful release Skills and Options, this is Everyman Games' collection of class and racial options for the new classes and PC races that came out since S&O was published.

It covers the occult classes, the vigilante, and the shifter. Aside from the usual extra spells and improved skills it allows you to improve the various unique aspects of each class. Kineticists can get new wild talents or increase their damage with simple blasts, mediums get better at handling/avoiding possession by haunts and ghosts, more mental focus for occultists and so on. The vigilante can become both more fearless or better at hiding their real identity. And the shifter can improve their wild empathy and minor form shapeshifting among other options.

They also cover literally every single new possible PC race that's been done since the original S&O. The new races can get improvements to the attributes they normally get a racial bonus on. They also all get some fun new options like extra shapeshifting for the rougarou, better shapeshifting for the reptoids and skinwalkers, improved telepathy for the munavri, and more. Really the new race options are the most fun part of it all to me.

Great piece of work and very much worth the price tag.


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A wonderful, wonderful class

*****

The latest entry in Legendary Games 'Legendary Heroes' line, Legendary Shifters is 32 pages long, of which things like the table of contents, back and front covers, and OGL leave twenty-five pages for the actual content. But they are twenty-five well-used pages.

Recently Paizo released their Ultimate Wilderness book. A major selling point to many was the promise of a martial class based around shapeshifting called the shifter. Many people had their own expectations of what the class would be and not quite all were met. In this PDF Legendary Games, which has already created and re-created some amazing classes like the swashbuckler, gunslinger, and kineticist, gives us their re-imagining of the shifter. And a very amazing and delightful re-imagining it is.

The class itself is still a martial class, but things are different from the start. It can wild shape starting at first level, and they are not limited to forms derived from their aspects. It lasts slightly longer than a druid's, as they add their wisdom bonus to hours-per-level duration. They can also shapeshift from one form directly to another wild shape at the cost of some of their per-day duration. The legendary shifter gets faster at shapeshifting as they rise in level, eventually doing it as an immediate action. They are normally limited to animal and magical beast forms with a size range of diminutive to huge, but some archetypes and feats give ways around that.

They still get aspects, and as they rise in level can combine two or even three of them. They can also combine their aspects with their wild shape forms or any polymorph effects, and they get a few more aspects as they level up.

Instead of just claws they can use fangs as well with all these natural weapons being primary attacks that ignore magical DR. If they use weapons, however, their natural attacks become secondary. They get more powerful over time in terms of both what types of DR they can penetrate and how much damage they do, topping out at 2d10 at level 20. Size has no effect on the damage they do: a shifter can become a dire bear or a mouse and they'll still do the same damage. The shifter can apply their natural weapon level benefits to whatever natural weapons they may possess in their wild shaped forms. I like that as it encourages the shifter to wild shape while permitting them to keep the improved natural weapons the class grants. It is unclear, however, if the Improved Natural Attack feat can be applied to the shifter's claws and fangs.

The legendary shifter still gets wild empathy and track, and defensive instinct. It provides an untyped bonus to AC and CMD, full Wisdom bonus if unarmored and without a shield, half the bonus if armored. The bonus increases every fourth level and applies against touch attacks and when the legendary shifter is flat-footed. They get woodland stride and trackless step at later levels.

The legendary shifter now gets bonus combat or wild shape feats starting at fourth level. And unsurprisingly, their keystone ability is the ability to shapeshift at will. They also gain the shapeshifter subtype and are only affected by transmutation affects when they allow it.

The basic class information is followed by an expanded list of aspects. The old ones are all here and the new aspects of Chameleon, Narwhal, Porcupine, and Shark are listed with their full benefits. Chameleon makes you stealthier, Narwhal provides a gore attack, Porcupine inflicts damage on anyone striking you in melee combat, and Shark increases the damage you inflict on wounded opponents.

Then comes the new archetypes, and here we get some truly glorious ones. The Bound Beastmaster gains an animal companion. She increases its natural weaponry damage rather than hers, though she still gets the base claw and fang damage, and over time can share both her aspects and her wild shape with her companion. Dragon Touched get a breath weapon in place of claws, improved senses and wings as they level up. They can also wild shape into a small dragon at first level. Their form is limited in several ways at first – not as many attacks and no flight speed. However it improves over time until they can finally become a huge dragon. They start out with one type of dragon they can become but eventually become capable of turning into three different dragons, gaining their breath weapons as well.

The Elemental Kineticist gains some of the kineticist class abilities including kinetic blast, though only when done as a kinetic fist. They can transform into elementals and gain a few wild talents as they grow in power. The Fairy Shifter can wild shape into fey. They can also cast druid and ranger spells up to 6th level at the cost of a reduced hit die and lowered BAB.

The Giant Shifter turns, well, into a giant. Very simple and straightforward but if you have the room and want to crush your enemies underfoot it works wonderfully.

The Lycanthropic Warrior gets fewer aspects and a smaller pool to choose new ones from. They also lose defensive instinct and gain DR/silver equal to half their character level as well as immunity to lycanthropy. They can also use a hybrid form of their base and alternate forms, with legs to walk on, hands to hold with, and they are able to talk. They also keep their gear. I think this archetype is going to be popular.

The Metamorphic Genius has a reduced BAB and hit die, and uses intelligence rather then wisdom for defensive instinct. In exchange they get alchemy and extracts as the alchemist class, together with a reduced level requirement for any transmutation extract the alchemist can normally use and extended duration on them all. And a limited number of times per day they can change the form granted by one extract either to another one permitted by it or to one granted by another extract of equal or lower level. I recall some people wanting a shapeshifting-focused warrior-like alchemist, here they get one.

The Mimickin turns you into a Mimic. No, really. You can secrete glue, turn into objects, and eventually swallow people whole. Plus you get improved Disguise and Stealth skills. The somewhat similar Oozeling turns you into an Ooze, allowing you to resume your normal form whenever you like. You can't become a magical beast but you eventually turn into a Huge ooze. You get other oozy abilities as you level up as well. These two are so bizarre people are going to love them.

Probably the simplest and shortest Pathfinder archetype I've ever seen is the Mystically Trained one. You lose your bonus feats and trackless step in exchange for ranger spells.

The Necromorph is as the name suggests undead-related. You lose your aspects in exchange for getting the ability to cast a few spells to create and control undead. You gain 'undead empathy' that can be used with mindless undead and can transform into vaguely humanoid shaped undead. You can eventually turn into incorporeal undead, though your duration takes a serious and game-balancing bite if you do. Creepily, instead of woodland stride you learn how to preserve the body of anyone you kill with a natural attack for later reanimation. You also can hide in plain sight and eventually become a lich.

Protean Mutants lose aspects but gain evolutions like a summoner's eidolon. He gains a small pool he can use even on his base form and a larger one he can use on his alternate form. The former points can be changed every 24 hours and the latter whenever he changes his form. A bizarre archetype that will be a big hit with everyone who ever loved the summoner.

Last comes the Polymorph Savant prestige class. If the legendary shifter can become animals and magical beasts, this can become just about anything. Vermin, monstrous humanoids, ooze, fey, plant, dragon, you name it. If you truly want to become anything and everything this is for you.

There are some new feats. Animal Spirit allows you to use Charisma rather then Wisdom to determine any shifter class effects. You can also add your Charisma bonus to your Will save instead of Wisdom, up to a limit equal to your shifter level. Basic Alteration allows you to become a Small or Medium humanoid with shifter shape, and to speak in all your forms. I love those two. Bestial Roots permits many of the archetypes to transform into animals like the base legendary shifter. Miniature Reach allows you to treat your natural reach as 5 feet even when size Tiny or smaller. The last three feats – Morphic Berserker, Morphic Lyricist, and Morphic Stalker – all allow you to combine levels in barbarian, bard (and I assume skald), or stalker with your legendary shifter levels to determine things like your defensive instinct bonus and how long you can rage, use bardic performance, or the bonus studied combat provides. Berserker also allows you to use Intimidate to demoralize as a free action when you active both rage and your shifter shape in the same round. Lyricist permits you to speak, spellcast, and use bardic performances while under a polymorph effect. And Stalker lets you use shifter shape as an immediate action whenever a studied target makes an attack roll against you.

There are also three new polymorph spells, object form I-III. They do what you think and turn you into an object. Sadly they don't let you become a golem or construct but statues count as objects too. The PDF ends with a sample character, Ines, who has a backstory and a fey-like love of mischief that can make her both a useful if fickle ally and a maddening antagonist as required.

In conclusion? I love this one. Good as the original shifter may be this is a wonderful improvement while still keeping with the simplicity of the original class design. Everything that needs to be explained is, and clearly. And it is just plain fun. Want to become an animal, a dragon, an undead, an ooze, a statue? There are options here for all of them and more besides. Legendary Shifter is an amazing improvement on the original class and leaves me hoping we may get a few more archetypes for the class from Legendary Games or someone else. A new Fiendflesh or Verdant shifter, perhaps? Maybe a Hagskin or something else monstrous humanoid focused?

Seriously though this one has you covered if you want martial or arcane or improved druidic/natural shapeshifting. It's like getting half a dozen new classes with the same central theme but all-new angles on it.

If you want shapeshifting action for your character or campaign, if you're just curious, maybe even if you don't think you'd ever need it, GET THIS ONE. Five stars and one of the heartiest recommendations I've ever given.


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Review of Faerie Bargains

*****

The fey are some of my favorite monsters in Pathfinder. The way the game plays with the myths behind various creatures to make something both familiar and strange usually works very well. However, something that seems oddly missing from the Pathfinder game are the deals people once made with the fey. You know – 'I'll give you fine crops if you let me take your child away' and so forth. The bargains that grant a great reward, but demand a terrible price.

Well, now someone did. This PDF consists of 32 pages, with eight pages devoted to material such as the cover, table of contents, GL, etc, and twenty-four for all the let's make a deal goodness. It starts with an explanation of what fey bargains are in both setting and game terms. Basically, they happen when a fey uses its innate magic to offer a little something to a mortal who pleased them, or did them a favor, or sometimes when it's forced on them by a more powerful creature. We get told who can make these bargains – fey, unsurprisingly, as well as beings like hags, linnorms, unicorns, and others with links to the realm of the fey. There are limits on how many bargains a mortal can have or a fey can offer, though we get feats to aid with both of these limits.

Any gift a mortal gets can be used as a spell-like ability, usually. Of course there are a few things your new fey buddy won't tell you, and that some research can uncover. We get DCs and just how many Knowledge Points (as in Ultimate Intrigue's research rules) you need to score before you find out just how to break the bargain, as well as the little surprises that come along with the bargain free of charge. I like the latter idea; it feels so 'mythic'. And when you do research, you find both random encounters getting nastier and random kingdom events becoming less pleasant as the fey display their annoyance at your nosiness. Fey bargains are not to be lightly entered into!

The next section details how fey bargains are written up in game terms, along with their base CR, their value as treasure, and whatever price they demand from you. Oh yes, these aren't free. Some cost simple treasure, some cost life force or health in the form of permanent HP loss or ability score damage or drain, or even memories – and their associated class levels. Still want to deal?

Lastly comes a list of sample bargains and all related game information, ranging in CR from ½ – 21. They cover a wide gamut. You can deal with mites to gain power over vermin at the mere cost of a chunk of your flesh. You can learn to cast spells from cantrips to the mightiest of invocations at the cost of some of your magical power and of making the fey bargainer more powerful. You can enrich your land, learn healing abilities from unicorns, or gain wealth from the fey via the old spin-straw-into-gold bit. So what if it costs your first born? And yes, you break the bargain by learning their true name. Hello there, Rumpelstiltskin!

One thing I especially like about this is the number of bargains that work with kingdom building rules. You can enrich your land, bringing in better harvests at the price of leaving a hex otherwise untouched by civilization. Yes, the Goodman's Croft in Pathfinder! You can defend yourself and your realm against curses or magical manipulations, make your land and people feel youthful (granting increased healing and morale bonuses, improving the bonuses of certain buildings and land developments, etc). And all it costs is your shadow. Which allows the fey to take your form when they want. What trouble could that possibly cause? You can make a bargain that enriches the land, but only as long as the ruler stays healthy. And the fey can make one simple request of you that must be obeyed. Your troops and armies can become mightier in battle but they can't confront or even notice the fey, and more.

One I truly love allows the mortal to bargain away everyone with less than 10 hit dice within twelve miles, sending them all into a state of fugue within the fey realms. This is an odd but definitely useful way to save people from a disaster. Of course, the fey can summon them to serve itself whenever it wants. Until you can trick or convince it to express regret for doing so. Just think of the story possibilities with this one!

You can get personal benefits too. Aside from the ones already mentioned, you can be granted the gift of shapeshifting at the price of your identity. A ruler can gain mythic powers for giving parts of their kingdom away – land, cities, farms, people and all. The more you lose, the more power you get. Until someone kills the fey. Who has now gained as many mythic ranks as the mortal bargainer. What a way to make a mythic villain to oppose the PCs! Or gain a voice fit to sing with the angels at the low price of your sanity. Really, the ideas these give players and GMs alike are amazing.

The last part is a few magic items, some granted in fey bargains. Some aid individuals, like the green girdle of invulnerability. It grants incredible healing powers and allows the wearer to replace severed limbs. Yes, the Green Knight. Or the stone throne of destiny, allowing a ruler seated in it certain luck bonuses. Four particular items are best used by rulers, as they aid the realm or its armies. The cauldron of autumnal bounty, the staff of summer's might, the stone of wintry charm, and the sword of vernal light are all waiting for brave and foolish rulers willing to make the proper sacrifice for them.

This is an amazing piece of work, granting new options for desperate or foolish players, and new toys to GMs who want to see what the PCs will do for a little power boost. The listed bargains and the prices for them all have the tone of real fey mythology, but done in ways that make them workable in the game. And with some tinkering here and there they can also work as new genie wishes, fiendish bargains, and the like. Five stars and my firm recommendation for anyone and everyone!


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Review of Everyman Minis Unchained Fighter Options

****( )

This is a short and sweet PDF covering yet more options for the unchained fighter, who was already covered in two previous PDFs. These seem to be some odds and ends that didn't fit elsewhere, but they work very fine right here.

We get an introduction explaining at what levels the unchained fighter gets advanced armor training, advanced weapon training, and fighter training options, and what they are. Short version, they're new ways to customize your fighter character, granting them enhanced skills, new abilities, new ways to use their armor and weapons, or even ways to improve the fighter for noncombat situations. I personally love them for the options they grant fighters. And we get some very fine new ones here!

Under 'Advanced Armor Training Options', we get things like 'Armored Dash': In medium or heavy armor, the fighter can move through difficult terrain as though it were normal, up to a limit imposed by his strength bonus. 'Guarded Action' lets him deflect attacks of opportunity, provided he has a shield and is willing to spend some stamina points – another new idea from the previous 'Unchained Fighter' PDFs. 'Two-Shield Specialist' allows the fighter to double-wield shields for defensive purposes.

Under 'Advanced Weapon Training Options' we find 'Knockback Blow', permitting the fighter to make a bull rush in place of one attack during a full attack or attack of opportunity. If the bull rush works, the opponent takes damage as well as being driven back. 'Spell Parry' grants you temporary spell resistance against one spell if you have an AoO and some stamina points ready. I like this one, it reminds me of some of old school heroic fantasy stories where the mighty barbarian literally cuts their way through the evil wizard's magic. 'Throwing Mastery' allows the fighter to make a full attack with thrown weapons. And if he's not tossing thrown ammunition, such as darts or shuriken, his weapon returns to his hand. He has a fine set of reflexes there.

'Fighter Training Options' is the last and longest part. 'Battle Medic' allows a fighter to use their BAB for his ranks in Heal when determining his Heal skill bonus, and they get Heal as a class skill. Oh yes, they can add some of their fighter level to the hit points restored. This feels like another great idea to me – a lot of people seem to want more options for non-spellcasting healers; and given how good fighters are at taking foes apart, why shouldn't they know something about putting them back together again?

'Hack Apart' permits the fighter to make an enhanced sunder attack against an object or structure, ignoring a certain amount of its hardness as well. Great for your classic door-breaker. 'Master Acrobat' permits a fighter to make anime-esque flying leaps, basically a point to point one round fly speed, provided he's taken a fighter training option from one of the earlier PDFs allowing him to make greater leaps. 'Master Climber' and 'Master Swim' both permit fighters with appropriate training options from earlier PDFs to climb or swim at their full speed. 'Master Senses' grants improved version of normal or already-enhanced senses to the fighter if he has the proper training, like skill ranks in Perception. 'Master Perception' allows the fighter to pinpoint unseen creatures within short range in classic Tarzan/Conan fashion. 'Recuperate' allows a fighter to self-heal damage a limited amount of times a day after ten minutes of rest. One small problem here – you have to roll your BAB with a bonus from stamina points if they're spent and the DC isn't given. I believe it's rolled against a DC of 20, as in the description of the Heal skill when treating deadly wounds in the core rulebook, but clarification would have been nice. 'Shrug It Off' allows a fighter to gain fast healing for one minute, with the amount depending on how many stamina points they spend, for a limited number of times per day. Again, I really enjoy those last two. They put me in mind of half a hundred Robert E. Howard stories where the hero survives a savage battle by sheer toughness and willpower, and after taking a few moments to catch his breath he's ready for more mayhem.

So there you have it, a fine and inexpensive PDF with some great ideas for anyone who has the previous 'Unchained Fighter' PDFs. Admittedly if you don't have them this one may be of limited use. Or it may inspire you to purchase them, an idea I wholly support. And if you DO have the previous PDFs, you will want this one.

I give this one 5 stars if you use the unchained fighter, and 3.5 to 4 if you don't. I'll round it off to 4 with a recommendation that you give this one a chance.


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Gain the magic and might of the nine-tails

*****

This PDF covers a new prestige class, the Kyubi Paragon class for players of kitsune characters who want to go for the classic nine-tailed fox character. Normally this is difficult in the name, because the only way to do so is to take the Magical Tail feat. You have to do that once for every new tail, so if you want a full nine tails, your feats are eaten up until level 15 just for that. And since the feat only provides one spell-like ability per time its taken, usable twice a day, it feels like a large investment for very little payoff. Everyman Games and Mister Augunas have come to the rescue with this PrC, designed to work with nearly every character class and concept for kitsune willing to sacrifice to achieve the dizzying heights of power.

The PDF itself consists of seventeen pages, of which ten are devoted to the crunch of the class proper, with the rest given over to the OGL, cover, introduction, and such. The PrC requires that the prospective kitsune must have chosen the Magical Tail feat at least once, as well as Kyubi Awakening (a new feat described within). At first level you choose an 'aligned' class, which means that your levels in kyubi paragon add on to one of your old classes when it comes to determining your level-dependent effects from it. It doesn't grant any new class features or spells per day as you level up, which sounds problematic, but wait.

The kyubi paragon also gets a pool called their Chakra Reservoir. They can use points from this to cast any spell-like abilities gained from either Magical Tail or any kyubi tricks from their class without expending a normal per-day use. As they rise in level the kyubi can also use chakra points to add the effect of certain metamagic feats to their spell-like abilities. The class also grants a new Magical Tail feat starting at 2nd level and every three levels from them on. They also eventually get as many as three uses of the racial paragon vigilante talent. That works like the brawler's martial versatility ability, but it grants use of a feat with a racial prerequisite he meets but doesn't have. (So I guess no using this one for a few more tails when you need them.)

The class also eventually grants improved shapeshifting via the shaman's shapeshift hex. This counts as the basic kitsune change shape for the purpose of all effects that interact with it, like quick change spell or the lesser mimicry kyubi trick.

And there's still more. You also can choose what Embodiment you are. This is related to the aligned class ability and comes in three types. The Embodiment of Magic gets new spells per day as they level up, and at 6th and 10th level get other benefits. At 6th they can use their Chakra Reservoir with their aligned class spells as well as their Magical Tail and kyubi trick spell-like abilities to apply metamagic, though it costs far more chakra points to do so. At 10th level the kyubi can apply two such metamagic feats to any spell or spell-like ability as they cast it regardless of source, and when they do its caster level rises by one.

The Embodiment of Might shows us that martial classes are not forgotten. The martial kyubi paragon treats their BAB as equal to their PrC level, and their class hit dice is d10 instead of d8. You also get either improved weapon proficiencies or a bonus combat feat. At 6th level you get another combat feat, and can treat your kyubi paragon level as fighter levels, which they also stack with, for the purpose of meeting feat prerequisites. At 10th you get the ability to cast transformation on yourself.

The Embodiment of Skill gets extra skill points as well as the ability to spend chakra points to add their class level to the results of any ability or trained skill check. At 6th they can instead reroll any skill check, and can attempt all skill checks untrained. At 10th, the kyubi paragon can use chakra points to take a 10 on any skill check, or spend a few more to treat the roll as a 20 instead.

I have also mentioned kyubi tricks from time to time. These are a wide variety of special abilities the paragon gets as they rise in level, with the choices depending on how many tails they have. Most of them relate to either the kitsune's magical abilities or their shapechanging. They can also enhance their speed or senses, shapechange their way past bindings and grapples, shapechange to heal or gain prehensile tails, gain wickedly sharp claws, and more. Many of these also grow stronger as the kyubi gains more magical tails, giving you an incentive to keep taking those Magical Tail feats as well.

At five tails you can gain tricks that permit your shapeshifting to allow you to take on draconic forms, or create even more potent illusions and charms. Among the other lofty gifts for those exalted nine-tailed kitsune, they can turn a foe's sanity inside out – literally, or just rewrite reality to better suit themselves (worried GMs relax, that just means they can cast limited wish 1/day, though they still have to pay the material component cost to do so).

There are so many potent and amazing kyubi tricks it seems a shame you can choose only five. So, thankfully. I can report that you can take the Extra Kyubi Trick feat for more. The Kyubi Awakening feat is also described. It grants one kyubi trick, as well as the classic extended kitsune lifespan determining on how many tails you have. It also replaces the standard aging list for determining the bonuses you get on your mental ability scores. This part alone gives me some amazing plot ideas, like having to meet and talk with an ancient nine-tail to learn about some similarly ancient foe or curse the PCs have to face. Of course, their time is valuable, so you have to prove you're worth their time before they speak with some less than a century old child.

At the end we get some new spells, mostly the form of the exotic dragon I-III spells that permit you to transform into either primal or imperial dragons. We also get contagious suggestion, which makes the first person affected pass the suggestion along to other targets. And the secondary target can in turn pass it along to others! This can be one nasty spell in the wrong hands!

So there you have what I find to be one of the best prestige classes I've read in a long time. Admittedly, it is limited to kitsune, but if you play one and ever wanted to be one of the magical nine-tails, you can do so in magnificent style now. The amount of choices you get is amazing, all but guaranteeing that no two members of this class will resemble each other. You could easily have a small party of kyubi paragons and have everyone feeling that their character is 100% unique. If I have to make a complaint, it's that one or two abilities rely on Mister Augunas' Dynastic Races Compendium, but any kitsune fan will probably be getting that one if they don't already have it. After seeing what was done here, I know I will.

I give this one nine tails, er, five stars and a delighted recommendation to everyone who has ever even thought about playing a kitsune!


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Doomguard Review

*****

We love to be doomed.

Well, not in reality, of course, but in game? Having a character who has some terrible fate over their head to strive against provides some amazing chances for game drama. Some of the greatest heroes of myth and media labored under dread fates – be they Norse heroes like Grettir the Strong, or modern creations like Frodo and the One Ring, they stick out in our minds long after the tale is done. However until now there have been only a few ways to reproduce this in Pathfinder. The oracle class has curses. Some story feats allow you to face (or recover from) horrid events. And some magic items and spells can make your character miserable for years. But there was never a class that revolved around facing your doom. Until now.

The latest in Legendary Games' Hybrid Classes, Doomguard is a 37-page PDF. We get one page each for the cover, credits, references, table of contents, a welcome page, a what-you-will-find-inside, and the back cover. There are also two full-page pieces of art, leaving 28 pages of crunchy content.

The base class is a cross between the cavalier and ranger. You get favored class bonuses for all seven of the core races. You can issue something like a cavalier's challenge, here called defiance, against anyone who attacked you in the last 24 hours. When you do you also gain temporary hit points if they injured you, but only against them. How dare they interfere with your fate?

You also get a fated enemy, the foe who will destroy you one day. You can choose any monster type, but humanoids besides giant have to be chosen by class. Depending on who or what you choose, you get bonus skills and bonuses on attack rolls, combat maneuvers, and opposed skill checks. You can also use your defiance against them without it counting against normal uses per day. In return they have an easier time hitting you. And if they kill you, you are dead forever. You also can't inflict non-lethal damage on them and vice-versa. When you fight your fated enemy, someone has to die.

The doomguard also gets the bonus combat feats of the ranger, and increased resistance to things like curses or magical attempts to turn him aside from his path. Your charge attacks are better and you can track the target of your defiance with greater speed. You also gain a companion – either a cohort, an animal companion, or a familiar. You can go for Improved Familiar too if you like. The doomguard basically can't be stopped when they choose an enemy to slay, and they can eventually inflict the nastier aspects of their doom on their fated enemy, cut right through all their defenses, and permanently destroy them even if they can normally return like a lich.

And oh yes, you get a Doom.

Dooms are basically like oracle curses, but more suited to martial characters. That said some look like they'd work fine for an oracle. We also get a list of 45 dooms, so you'll have a fine selection to choose from. Like the Animal Transformation doom – every time you feel stress, you turn into any Small or smaller animal until it's over. Or Bondage, leaving you bound with blinders or gagged or hobbled, which can make life difficult. A Mutant appears like an inhuman monster with associated social problems but gets summoner eidolon evolution points to represent their increasingly twisted form as they rise in level. You can be a Leper, or Maimed, or suffer the heartbreak of Reverse Aging. Where you start out at Venerable with both the mental stat bonuses and the physical stat penalties from the start, and slowly youthen to adult. You can be so Solipsistic you can literally ignore some attacks because the real world just doesn't matter to you. You can be a humanoid beast, or be mad, or hear the voices of fiends dinning in your ears. They may have missed some sort of a horrible fate, but I can't see where!

All of these dooms provide bonuses along with their drawbacks at 1st, 5th, 10th, and 15th levels. Annoyingly to me, the PDF mentions a 'Cursed' feat that I assume would allow anyone other than a Doomguard to take one of these charming conditions. However it's not listed anywhere in the PDF, though 'a Doom for a feat' isn't hard to figure.

We also get four archetypes. The charismatic Challenger fights in light armor and inspires his fellow adventurers like a bard. The slow and steady Doomwarden gets to use heavy armor, can learn armor mastery feats from the Armor Master's Handbook, and can reduce damage when taking a blow from someone they use their defiance one. This last is listed as something gained at 12th level, and while it doesn't say if it replaces the normal Doomguard 12th level class ability, it seems likely that it does. The Fey Foundling can only use non-metal or mithral armor. In exchange he learns how to communicate with the fey, lure them in for a meeting, and masters their secret backroads through reality. The Raven Banner is a classic Norse hero, defying death to make an end the skalds will sing of and getting a cavalier's banner to inspire their allies and followers. At high enough level he can even use a breath of life effect if killed by someone other than his fated enemy. How can you fall to a lesser opponent, after all?

Really, I think this is a great class for players who want to have a character that either embraces their fate or defies it to the end. The list of Dooms alone is amazing and can be very inspiring for characters. Just glancing through them was giving me ideas for characters with this class. I'm giving the Doomguard five stars and I hope you'll like it as much when you get it.


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An Amazing Collection

*****

This book contains fourteen prestige classes tied to various good deities for the Pathfinder setting. Prestige Classes got a bad rap back in the old 3.5 days because for a while it seemed like we were drowning in them. In Pathfinder, they have been relatively rare, with the idea being that a PrC should be something tied to the setting and that it should provide unique benefits that no regular character class can. This book gives us over a dozen such examples.

The Brewkeeper is for anyone who wants to play a brewer. Ah, but such a brewer! They can modify their spells or alchemical extracts with metamagic feats to aid or with harmful conditions to hinder. In tune with their patron Cayden Cailean, the drunken hero, they get bonuses on saves when they drink any of their own magical beverages. Really an original PrC, as well as a great option for the seemingly forgotten alchemist. I long wanted to play a dwarf alchemist brewer and with this I can make an amazing one.

The Dawnflower Anchorite is a sort of Sarenraen hermit. It is best for druids or clerics but allows itself to be modified for a great may spellcasting classes. Really, you can do almost anything with this one provided you're Neutral Good and worship Sarenrae. They can progress like druids, clerics, inquisitors, or warpriests with plenty of room for customization.

The Runeguard is focused on the dead realm of Thassilon and its lost virtues. Unlike some other PrCs this one is pretty much solely for wizards who specialize in Thassilonian spellcasting. That said it does so in great manner, to the point that if you were playing a good Thassilonian wizard this is the PrC you always wanted. They gain powers based on the virtues of Thassilon, and they all seem well thought-out and very thematic.

The Stargazer is a class best suited to the witch. Some fans complain about the weakness of the witch, or that it doesn't get very many prestige classes that can support both their spellcasting and their unique class features like hexes. The stargazer seems to be the answer to this. Full spellcasting, some new hexes from the shaman class, a cleric subdomain and associated spells, and some oracle revelations, what more do you want? A new witch patron based on the theme of the aurora? Class abilities focused around the Cosmic Caravan, the zodiac of Golarion, granting a number of unique powers? You get those too. Really, this one makes me want to play a good witch of Pulura and I never even thought of that empyreal lord very much before this. That seems to be the biggest problem with this book. I keep finding myself saying/thinking, 'okay now I HAVE to play one of those!'

Bards get their due with the Ashavic Dancer and Sphere Singer. The Ashavic Dancer specializes in sending ghosts and haunts to their rest, peacefully or otherwise. They get special dance performances that can quell undead, harm them, or even return them to their graves. The PrC also comes with a feat that grants the Necril language and gives bonuses on using social skills on the restless dead. Great class for anyone who wants to make an undead-busting bard, but aside from that utility may be a bit limited.

The Sphere Singer serves Desna and gains abilities in tune with her patron. She can sing and increase her speed, protect dreamers, and even fly. She can communicate through dreams and in the end, become a fey being, gain butterfly wings, and become immune to cold and even lose the need to breathe. Once again, this is really a great PrC that makes me want to play one of these characters.

Don't worry, martials get their share too. Ragathiel's Crimson Templars fill some niches I feel the game has needed for a long time. They're lawful good assassins and they specialize in fighting devils, though they're equally good against other evil outsiders. Really, why must every lawful good hero paint a target on their back by demanding that the villains face them out in the open? Why can't honorable good guys be sneaky when they have to? With this PrC now you can.

I was surprised at the Darechaser of Kurgess. The class itself is fine if a bit odd for Pathfinder. Basically, it turns you into an incredibly talented athlete. You can run faster, jump higher, and swim quicker than anyone else. You can also dare yourself to accomplish something great and get a variable but potentially amazing bonus on any attack or save or other roll that helps you to fulfill it. I originally expected Kurgess' chosen to be more fighters, but then In remember he's the god of competition, not mayhem. And this PrC does work very well in a fight anyway. It's really an amazing PrC for anyone who wants to play an athletic brawler in the game.

The Devoted Muse of Shelyn is one of the very best PrCs in the book. They're basically glaive-wielding, dancing swashbucklers of the goddess of art and beauty. They can wield their glaives with such gorgeous skill that foes are left gaping in disbelief, and perform attacks so elegant that even her comrades are inspired. This has to be one of the most original takes on the swashbuckler class I've ever seen, and to me it's the very best PrC in the entire book. You also get a feat allowing swashbucklers to use glaives like rapiers for the purpose of class features. I won't lie when I saw that I really want to see someone with this PrC show up in an official adventure someday.

Iomedae's Heritor Knight is probably the PrC most heavily based on setting material. They go through the same events that Iomedae did when she became a goddess, getting all their class-based abilities from them, It also comes with a fine feat that makes it easier to land a blow provided you're willing to take the time for it.

Erastil's Hinterlander is a defender of farming villages and other small communities across Golarion. Their powers revolve around defending others and archery. This PrC comes with a feat that allows Erastil's worshipers to use their Wisdom modifier on ranged attacks with bows, which is something this god's worshipers really can use.

Another great original PrC is the Rose Warden of Milani. Basically a divine PrC for rogues, they specialize in rousing angry mobs and urban fighting. This is an amazing class for good rogues and would work incredibly well in campaigns like Curse of the Crimson Throne. It's enough to make me want to play such an adventure of campaign just so I can make one of these characters.

Torag's Sacred Sentinel is an amazing PrC for anyone who wants to play a defender, especially a dwarf cavalier. They're great at protecting others and even develop a limited healing ability as they progress.

Vildeis' Scar Seeker is another defender. They can share in the pain of others, give forth one last burst of healing power when slain, inflict greater damage in melee at the price of bring hurt themselves, and gain paladin mercies. They can also accept injuries rather than expend daily uses of their powers; and eventually, they get morale bonuses on several rolls by doing so. This is yet another amazing and flavorful class in this book. Vildeis' faith revolves around martyrdom, and the powers of the class focus on accepting pain and injuries to spare others.

In the end this book is an amazing collection of prestige classes for a Golarion-based game. These PrCs are each unique, flavorful, and fill a niche in the setting. The biggest problem I have with the book is that I kept finding myself wanting to play these classes! It makes me hope that more such themed prestige class collections get done for Pathfinder, especially in they're on this level.


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Send in the Troops

*****

One of the very best new monster ideas Pathfinder had in recent years was the introduction of the 'troop' subtype. This is simply a way to keep low-level monsters a meaningful threat to mid and high level PCs. Your 5th-8th level adventurers may laugh at the threat posed by a single goblin or angry peasant, but what about a score or more of them? Ever since the troop was introduced fans have been clamoring for more of them, either as a sadly unlikely template or simply as more stat blocks to serve as inspiration. Those fine people at Rogue Genius Games have heard our pleas and this fine PDF is the result.

Monster Menagerie: Troops is a 22-page long PDF. One page each suffices for the cover, credits and contents, introduction, the OGL, and the back cover. This leaves us with seventeen pages of goodies, and here they are.

It starts off with a description of the troop subtype, which is vastly appreciated. You get all the information needed to run one, though some guidelines on how to manage the troop's characteristics would have been appreciated. The first troop proper is the CR9 Centaur Warband. Aside from terrorizing opponents with their thundering hooves and being able to heal themselves with potions and the Heal skill mid-battle, they can also hail down arrows like the hordes of Genghis Khan. In a cross-country or wilderness adventure these guys would be a terrible opponent for most PCs, especially if they have followers or companions of their own who couldn't just fly or teleport away.

Next are Pathfinder's most beloved inept villains, the CR5 Goblin Warband. Their special attacks are what you'd expect for goblins; they hurl torches and sing a cheery Goblin war song that emboldens them and frightens their enemies. They also have the unique but flavorful ability to sometimes split apart into individual goblins as they follow their scatterbrained impulses. However, if they find themselves next to a non-unique goblin, they can try to absorb it into the warband, regaining hit points. Given their tendency to split apart and then bring members back in, even a few of these can drive PCs up the wall as they try to stop them from running here, there, and everywhere, burning things and rejoining to trounce their enemies, This one really catches the spirit of Pathfinder goblins!

The CR18 Heavenly Host is what it sounds like, a band of angels come to smite the wicked. They have several unique abilities, like being able to surround weaker allies and extending the defenses of the troop to them. They also do not willingly attack plants or animals and vice-versa, and they can channel smite attacks through their troop attacks. They can even do this to non-fiendish or undead opponents, though they do less damage. This does feel like what a band of angered and protective warrior angels should feel like.

The zombie apocalypse comes with the CR17 Legion of the Damned, a horde of undead flesh-eaters risen from their graves. This isn't your usual pack of shambling stiffs; they can call upon the unhallowed dead to reach up and grapple their foes, it literally cannot be stopped in its march by anything, and is surrounded by a thick mist that both provides fast healing as new corpses arise to join the troop and that weakens any magical healing or positive energy used within it. It also removes any immunity to fear effects. And of course they can infect you with their necromantic plague (1d6 Constitution drain every minute for 30 minutes, yikes!). Oh yes, when you die from it, you both join the horde and heal it for a variable amount depending on your hit dice! Toss a few of these at your high-level heroes and see if they still think zombies are a joke!

The CR6 Mite Rumpus brings somewhat less intimidating enemies to the table. They can hurl a volley of darts at either one opponent or every enemy in reach; they do increased damage against dwarfs and gnomes; and their increased numbers permits them to use their spell-like abilities at greater effect and with a tougher save. They really have the feel of a vicious swarm of nasty insects. Which, given the nature of mites, is perfect.

The reliable CR7 Peasant Mob is next. Driven by fury, they become more dangerous when they reduce enemies to half their hit points or strike someone suffering from a fear effect. They fling torches at enemies, and due to their 'togetherness' have an improved armor class. They can also inspire fear in others when they damage them, going so far as to remove immunity to fear when they do so. These angry peasants can be useful is frightful allies or a serious threat to the PCs.

The CR11 Sahuagin Frenzy pits you against the devil men of the deep. They can fly into a blood frenzy. They can attack at range with crossbows, tridents, and nets, leaving you unable to escape or defend yourself if you're caught. It can summon sharks to aid it in battle. Best of all, their lust for loot is such that they can use a steal combat maneuver as a swift action at better than usual odds whenever they damage someone.

The CR7 Secret Police Squad is ready to aid your favorite tyranny with its abilities to deal nonlethal damage with its troop attacks. They also had special training to make them harder to trick or scare and to see through pathetic attempts at evading their authority. They can seize and carry someone off if they manage to grapple them into their midst, and their ability to surround someone in their midst for flank and sneak attacks helps. The latter gives me the mental image of a gang of hoods surrounding a hapless victim as they beat them senseless with their saps. Finally, they know their home community well enough that they can track you through it.

We return to nature with the CR15 Treant Grove. They can deal crippling injuries with their troop attacks; even their mass Entangle ability can inflict severe injuries. They can move through forests without difficulty and oh yes, they can use their control of trees to basically turn them into a battery of catapults. These fellows can provide any druid with a living siege weapon when they need to tear down whatever part of civilization has offended them this time.

PCs may laugh at the CR1 Toy Soldier Brigade, but not for long. They can call to other inanimate objects, giving them life enough to try seizing their enemies, they look so harmless they get a bonus on initiative, and its precision marching enables the entire troop to move and react as one. We also get guidelines on how to make one yourself if your PC mage wants to guard their kids, as well as ideas how nasty they can get if they team up with monsters like the attic whisperer or the soulbound doll. They also sometimes seek to transform living children into more toy soldiers. Nice horror fuel for the right adventure there!

Last is the CR15 Warband of the Fell Hunt. This is the classic Wild Hunt, a host of gleefully murderous fey. Their weapons are as cold as ice and inflict cold damage; they can summon phantom steeds to ride as the spell; and they can cross ice without any problem. They are susceptible to shatter spells, however losing their usual troop's resistance to single-target spells. Pity we didn't get a hunting pack of yeth hounds or the like to go with them, but something has to be kept for the next PDF.

This is an amazing collection for anyone who wants to see more done with the troop subtype. The troops within all carry the flavor of their individual types and at the same time they have sufficiently unique and original abilities that PCs will get a surprise if they go in carelessly against any of them. My sole real complaint about the whole thing is that I wish they could have included more troops, like a pack of worgs or a flight of wyverns or manticores. Maybe for the next PDF, if we're so lucky? I give this one five stars and, if like me you like troops, the highest recommendation.


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Skulduggery is afoot

*****

With this latest PDF from Legendary Games we return to both their 'Ultimate' and their 'Kingbreaker' lines. Ultimate Factions follows in the trails blazed by such fine products as Ultimate Rulership, Ultimate War, and Ultimate Battle in that it mainly deals with some new problems that can arise for the rulers of a nation.

Politics. We all hate them but we all have to deal with them too. They can make your life exciting, yes, but infuriating as well. However, they are part of running a nation and dealing with society, yet they rarely show up as a force in their own right in campaigns. Oh, they may be an enemy to be defeated or an ally or patron to provide work and aid, but rarely do we get much insight into what they specifically want and how they intend to attain it aside from what directly affects the PCs. Ultimate Factions was written in part to address these problems as well as a way to give the poor downtrodden NPCs a voice in the councils of the mighty. How well does it work?

The PDF proper consists of 28 pages. There's one for the cover, back cover, a splash page, credits, OGL, introduction, table of contents, an ad for the rest of the Ultimate line, and a basic rundown on what to expect, which leaves us with 18 ages of content. Like the rest of the series, they are eighteen well-done pages.

We first get a definition of 'faction' for the purposes of the game: 'an organization or group within a kingdom which is attempting to assert political, economic, or social control over the entire kingdom, or some part of it'. This covers a lot of ground for possibilities ranging from a thieves' guild attempting to reduce the effectiveness of the town watch to a secret society seeking domination behind the scenes to the patrons of a particular tavern seeking to keep their favorite watering hole open. It does get recommended that even the smallest kingdom have at least two factions to represent the interests of the leadership and the public.

Factions have alignments that affect their stats, much like kingdoms. They also have goals that they try to gain through operations, and for stats they have power, resources, and reputation. They also have size and type, for just what sort of a faction they are. As kingdoms have Build Points, factions have Wealth Points that the spend to achieve their goals. And while kingdoms have Unrest, factions have Tension. The higher a faction's Tension gets, the more difficult it becomes for them to achieve their goals. Eventually they may fall apart entirely.

The initial size of a faction is determined by both their type and what sort of buildings your kingdom has. The faction's type also influences their stats. For instance, a civil faction is usually a large group of citizens working to a common goal, and they get a boost on Reputation. A Judicial faction is working for (or against) the kingdom leadership and gets a bonus on both Power and Reputation. Other kinds of factions include Academic, Foreign, Military, Religious, Social, and Trade. Factions can also have different levels of secrecy. Some are Open, some are Covert like thieves or the secret police, and some are Disguised, pretending to one sort of goal on the surface while seeking something else entirely.

They also have Goals – Major Goals that can drive adventures or even a while campaign and Minor Goals that are more the day-to-day efforts. Goals further divide into Aim – do they want to control, boost, reduce, or eliminate something or one, and they all list what effect this has on various Kingdom rolls – and Scale, for how large a group they want to affect. Everything from one single shopkeeper to all trade in the land to the rulers themselves is covered. Goals can also be Public or Secret, with the latter much harder to achieve but known only to the Faction leadership.

We also get a new 'Faction Turn' meant to be set after the Edict phase of the Kingdom turn. First they perform Upkeep to see how well they're doing, then they do Operations to see what they can accomplish and how many WP they can add. Many operations can affect the Kingdom stats, but they have to be paid for with WPs. This can get expensive, but the faction can accept a lower modifier if they pay less WPs.

Operations cover a lot of ground. Factions can abandon a goal or advance it, aid another Faction or their Kingdom, make allies, fight enemies, get more wealth, spy on other factions or subvert them, subvert the kingdom, go recruiting, or even just engage in lobbying for ruler support, do a publicity campaign, or let their members know how appreciated they are so they stay loyal. The latter can be very important to avoid the Faction splintering or even falling apart entirely.

You can do a lot with these rules. A Faction can channel support and cash to another group. If, say, the citizenry faction likes what the leaders are doing, they can support them. If not, they can balk them at every turn. We also get rules for how to use skills to learn about factions and guidelines on how to create factions for already existing kingdoms. There are also very simplified rules for people who don't want more bookkeeping, allowing for the faction that does best every turn to affect one single aspect of the Kingdom or to weaken other factions. The kingdom Ruler can do the same to weaken or strengthen any faction. There are also rules for how to use factions with the downtime organizations from Ultimate Campaign or the organization rules from Ultimate Intrigue. There's even a new Edict for kingdoms to use allowing them to support a loyal or suppress a troublesome faction, at the price of dinging your kingdom Loyalty.

We get some guidelines on how to use factions in play. The most interesting idea here is that you should allow some players to control some factions, including ones that are working against their role in kingdom leadership. I can see this working great for some groups.

A section on why factions matter lays out some more guidelines for why and how to use these rules. Basically, until now, the people of a kingdom had little opportunity to let their desires or complaints be heard while your PC rulers were building the kingdom. Not everyone is going to agree with the rulers and their 'brilliant' ideas or agree with how much or little they tax everyone or just what kind of an army or diplomatic deals they try to make. Using the rules in Ultimate Factions, now their support or lack of it becomes something PCs have to deal with. It opens up the door for intrigue and (hopefully) non-violent interactions between the rulers and the ruled. If some of those subjects support you on one point but oppose you on another, it all just gets even more exciting.

The PDF ends with a list of sample factions to give you some ideas on what you can accomplish with the rules.

For people who like role-playing and the intrigue rules from Ultimate Intrigue, this PDF is a delight. It can help anyone who ever wondered what the ordinary citizens were doing while the rulers were running the kingdom. Or those who just think that the current kingdom rules somehow make things 'too easy' for PCs and want to make their rule a little more exciting. There are one or two minor typos in the book but those aside I noticed nothing that would interfere with using this PDF. This is one of those PDFs that will make you wonder why you never knew you needed it before reading it. I give it five stars, and if you use the rest of Legendary Games' Ultimate line, my unreserved recommendation.


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A creepy little treasure

*****

A Creepy Little Treasure

We all like getting something big and impressive in our third party material, right? But sometimes we can forget that the little things can be pretty good too. Well, 'good' may be a relative term with this particular PDF, but many a GM will find it of fiendish use.

This PDF is seven pages long, with a cover, credits, introduction, three pages for the OGL, and one for the ritual proper, but what a ritual it is. On recurring complaint is for polymorph magics that can last for more than a brief fight. That is partly remedied by works like Inner Sea Intrigue and the Spymaster's Handbook, but there is still room for more. There's also a desire in many corners for more and better occult rituals as introduced in Occult Adventures. I happen to be one of these people myself. In this PDF the reliable and inventive author Mister Augunas has met that need very effectively.

The ritual is simple. It allows the caster to use some weird and hard to find components to turn a living physical creature into a wearable costume of themselves. It doesn't kill them, unlike a similar spell from the aforementioned Inner Sea Intrigue. They are alive and aware, just unable to do anything about it. If the garment is put on the wearer can transform themselves into the original being as with the greater possession spell. This effect lasts as long as the garment is worn.

Also, being an object, the transformed creature no longer ages or suffers the other limitations of mortal flesh. Though the suit itself can be damaged or destroyed, with the results of such actions clearly spelled out. If the 'suit's' hit points are reduced to 0 it returns to a garment. Nothing is said about the effect on the one wearing it. This sounds like a great way to set up a nasty surprise for PCs in a fight. They 'kill' their opponent and surprise! Their true enemy only now stands revealed!

That's all very simple and provides a nice nasty way for evildoers or sufficiently ruthless PCs to make their very own 'people suit', but it's the unmentioned possible complications of the ritual beyond all of that which make this so much fun to use. Like the very hard to gather components. Hard enough that, say, maybe some random useful adventurers can be used to get them? Given that the skinsuit does not age or change with time, who is to say that a seeming immortal foe your PCs meet time and again and who has a history in the setting isn't really some poor victim of this ritual worn by one successor after another? They don't even have to be humanoid – the ritual can be cast to create a skinsuit out of any corporeal creature. And of course there is the simple paranoia factor of realizing that someone you thought you knew was really a foe all along. Who else could be merely a skinsuit covering an enemy? Your patron? Your lover? The queen?

Even a failure of the ritual opens the way for potential adventures. It does things to the primary caster. The least of these is to give them an insanity focused on the intended victim as well as the power to do something about it. Suffice to say that in a campaign with this ritual dopplegangers may have a truly grisly origin.

There you have it. This is short and sweet and for the price tag the potential it offers anyone willing to allow occult rituals in their game is amazing. If this is what can be expected from Mister Augunas the Everyman Minis line is going to be an amazing series. I give it five stars and gladly recommend this one to everyone.


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The Fighter is Fun Again!

*****

One of the biggest complaints from fans over the years has been how underpowered and unimpressive the Fighter is when compared to all the other martial classes. They lack the power of the Barbarian, the specialized niches of the Paladin and Ranger, the special abilities of the Cavalier, the Brawler, and the Slayer. Along with the baseline Rogue the poor Fighter was all but forgotten. It was hoped that Pathfinder Unchained would rectify this, but while it did introduce the Stamina rules they were made potentially available for all classes, diluting them.

But as the Rogue was made once more amazing by Legendary Games' Legendary Rogues, so has Everyman Games tried their best with the Fighter. In this 46 page PDF – with one page each for the cover, credits, and contents, two and a half for the OGL, two and a half for ads, leaving 38 pages for content --- they did a great job!

It opens with a description of the new Unchained Fighter class. In many ways it resembles the old original fighter, with full BAB and d10 hit dice and full armor and martial weapons proficiencies, so I see no need to go into that here. They also still get a new combat feat at first, second, and every even level afterwards. You do get an extra 2 skill points per level, which I like. Armor training still comes at third and seventh, Armor Mastery at 19th and Weapon Mastery at 20th, it's all mostly the same. But the new stuff is something else again.

First of all the unchained fighter gets Weapon Training starting at 1st level. They can choose an entire weapon group and become proficient with every martial and exotic weapon in it from the very start. They still gain bonuses to hit and on damage at 5th level and every four levels after that, but can't gain any new weapon groups unless they choose them with advanced weapon training. More later on that.

The unchained fighter also gains the Stamina pool rules from Pathfinder Unchained. The rules for it here seem to be the same as in 'Unchained', though now some uses are limited to your weapon group. Like using Stamina points to get a competence bonus on attack rolls. I will also add here that Stamina allows the Fighter to get something like the Brawler's rule that permits them to get certain feats even if their stats are too low, which I enjoy.

Starting at 3rd level the Fighter now gets Second Wind, permitting them to get temporary hit points when injured with Stamina points for 1 minute. This scales over levels, making for a decent boost to keep you in the fight without having to drop out for healing. This reminds me of all those Howard-esque Conan stories where the hero is able to stay on their feet through sheer determination no matter how badly hurt.

At 4th level we get Martial Spontaneity, permitting the fighter to spend Stamina to get a new combat feat. This is like but not as good as the Brawler's ability; then again the Fighter gets so many more feats than the Brawler does. After this comes the new and improved, very improved, Advanced Weapon Training that was originally introduced in Weapon Masters Handbook. But oh my gosh has it been expanded here. You can add your Bravery bonus to Will saves. You can enter a trance and increase your weapon training bonus. Want to overcome negative conditions, get new Weapon Groups, expand single-weapon feats to cover more of your weapon group, gain an improved damage bonus when using light or single-handed weapons, get a mount, use improved combat maneuvers at range, or even improve your Psychology DC (from Everyman's Ultimate Charisma), or share teamwork feats? And much, much more? They've got you covered. You'll need to spend Stamina points and to be using a weapon from one of your weapon groups for most of these, but not all. This feels like an amazing improvement to the base fighter, providing lots of room for individual customization.

And that's not all! The new Unchained Fighter also provides Advanced Armor Training from the Armor Master's Handbook starting at 7th level. You can use Armored Confidence and Dutiful Guard to become an amazingly aware and intimidating guard. Armor Specialization and Armored Juggernaut can make you an untouchable or invincible opponent. Buckler Training and Shield Training improve your use of those defenses. And quite a bit more. The base Fighter has become quite the attractive character choice again!

The PDF then helpfully lists all weapons currently described in the game in a section for weapons and weapon groups. It include weapons from sources like the Player Companions, giving them full stats as well. I did notice a few minor discrepancies. The Boarding Pike doesn't get a description along the other weapons, and neither does the Flambard. And is it intentional that the Sharpened Combat Scabbard is much more expensive yet far less useful than the regular Combat Scabbard? I'd consider these all to be minor flaws though given just how much information we do get here. There's a tremendous list of odd weapons for those looking for that special something for their fighter.

We also get a redone listing of nearly every single fighter archetype, updated to work with the new class. They all look to me like they add up properly. It seems like the PDF covers archetypes from the Advanced Player Guide, Ultimate Combat, Occult Adventures, the Advanced Racial Guide, and more. There doesn't seem to be any specific to Golarion, but that won't be a problem for everyone. You've got a great selection to choose from.

Lastly are some new feats with combat tricks included for use with the Stamina pool. Many of them require you to possess either Armor Training or Weapon Training. Like Charging Momentum, which allows you to make a single Vital Strike enhanced attack at the end of a charge. Cheat Death permits you to use Stamina to save yourself at the last minute by turning all the damage to nonlethal; once again, this reminds me of many an old Howard tale where the hero is saved by being hit with the flat of the blade at the last moment. Leaping Assault allows the classic samurai-style kiai-and-leap, adding your Acrobatics score to your damage roll at the end of a charge. Recuperation permits for those rapidly-healing heroes who are ready to charge out for more after resting an hour or so. Others permit you to temporarily ignore ability damage or recover quickly negative conditions via a second saving throw. Masterful Grace is for everyone who wants a finesse-fighter that isn't a swashbuckler, allowing for dextrous use of weapons ranging from daggers to greatswords.

I will admit the feats section has some very minor typos. Some of the text for Elven Weapon Training is repeated under Gnome Weapon Training. But really, that's it, and anyone can tell what the feat is supposed to do.

This is an AMAZING product. The fighter badly needed an overhaul for a long time and here it got one that seems impossible to improve on. If you are a fighter fan like me, you needed this long ago. If not, you still seriously need to think about getting a copy. It is just that darned good. My old favorite class has retaken pride of place in my heart thanks to this. The only problem might be if you don't use the Stamina rules but you'll be missing out on a lot without them. Five stars and my sincerest recommendation to every lover of the fighter.

EDIT as of 11/21/16: The missing information for the Boarding Pike and Flambard has been added in, and the discrepancies about the Sharpened Combat Scabbard and Combat Scabbard have been cleared up.

Also, the Crossbowman and Polearm Master have both had some minor adjustments, mainly centering on their namesake weapons getting Advanced Weapon Training bonuses unique to these archetypes.

Lastly, the Unchained Fighter got something else new, Fighter Training Options. They can be taken in place of Advanced Armor Options, Advanced Weapon Options, and Fighter bonus feats. Some of them were originally one or another of the old Advanced options, like Master Craftsman which now can be used in place of either the old Master Armorer and Master Weaponsmith. Mount is here too but can now be taken twice if the Fighter wants a more potent steed. Old save bonuses to Reflex and Will are now under Fighter's Reflexes and Tenacity; and the improvements to Martial Spontaneity and Determination.

We also get a few new options like Dutiful Guard, Establish Perimeter, and Fortify Perimeter for people who want their Fighters to be even better defenders.

Th wording of some feats, like the various racial Combat Training ones, has been clarified. Great work all around making an already great product even better!


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Power Corrupts

*****

And it does so in stranger ways than ever in this PDF.

We get four brand spanking new corruptions here:

Devolution: Embrace your inner ape-man as you slowly turn into a feral savage. Feels great for anyone who wants to homage all those 40's B-movies where the mad scientists were always turning guys into gorillas. On a darker note, this also works with the evil devolutionist druid from Horror Adventures and/or weird time travel related accidents. Or even weird magical drugs -- read Machen's "Novel of the White Powder" for more.

Fungal: Pathfinder meets Matango:Fungus of Terror. If you ever wanted to roleplay someone slowly becoming a mere host body for some malevolent fungus, this is for you. Heck, you even get to make your own fungal minions after a while.

Kaiju: Yes, this one turns you into a giant monster. It will help mightily to have a copy of Everyman Games' Microsized Adventures for this one, but it's not necessary. Really this is sucha great idea you have to wonder why no one ever thought of it before now. And the art of sample kaiju corruption victim Danshi the kitsune is amazing!

Voidspawn: If you ever wanted to slowly become Wilbur "Dunwich Horror" Whateley, now your wish has been granted. You have become the host form for some... thing from realms far beyond our own. And of course it erodes your sanity and weak fleshly form as it turns you into something more suitable.

Each of the aforementioned corruptions also has a sample low-level character suffering the affliction at a manifestation level of 9, many of whom have been written up elsewhere by Everyman Games. This is great, as it shows you how the corruption actually does change people into something that's not-people any more.

We also get some feats, including two new types, Corrupt and Salvation. Corrupt feats are for those who want to give in to their new monstrous power; they make your new 'gifts' stronger and grant extra uses per day, and 'Embrace Corruption' can even allow you to stay a PC if you hit stage 3. Well, for a little while, anyway. Unfortunately these feats also make it much harder for you to resist becoming a monster.

Salvation feats grant resistance to the mental and physical damage inflicted by corruptions. They cause ability damage, but in return lowers the corruption DC or allow re-rolls with a bonus.

Next come simple templates for the four new corruptions in case you want any devolved savages or city-wrecking kaiju of your own running around. The new Voidspawn drone monster gets a full write-up as well. Magic items are included that aid in the fight to keep your soul and mind. Best of all is a magic diamond that removes the corruption by turning it into your physical duplicate. Corruption all gone! Of course you now suffer negative levels since you've been split in half, and your new 'sibling' is eager to kill you so it can reclaim the parts of themself that you have.

The last part is a list of the character options used in creating the corrupted characters included in this PDF.

A great piece of work, and I hope we see more like this.


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Who is that masked man?

*****

In Legendary Vigilantes, you'll find out! This 40-page PDF covers a number of new archetypes, social and vigilante talents, feats, magic items, a prestige class and even a sample character.

The archetypes cover a number of classic hero types. The Arsenal Summoner can call on a unique magic weapon that improves as they level up, as well as a suit of armor that they can conjure whenever they take on their vigilante identity. They can choose arsenal talents as they rise in level, allowing them to change the form of their anima, combine it with their bonded armor, and select fighter abilities like armor and weapon training. They eventually can stick their anima and armor into a pocket dimension for safe-keeping and can magically enhance their anima. Very nice!

Beast Born get an animal companion they can turn into a Tiny animal with a touch, and gain both wild shape and the ability to turn themselves into a Tiny animal as well. Their capstone is the ability to use animal growth on themselves when in wild shape. Pretty good for people who want to be martial shapeshifters.

Dynamic Strikers are pugilists supreme, either as a close-in brawler or the more scientific technician, who gains the investigator's studied combat as well. Dynamic Strikers also get their own list of vigilante talents to improve their bare-handed strikes and fighting.

The Exposed Vigilante is for everyone who has no time to waste on this 'I must hide my real identity' stuff. They lose dual identity and seamless guise but gain extra skill points per level and an additional social talent at first level. They're also forbidden from choosing any social talents that require a dual identity, but that aside can always use their social identity. This is one of the simplest archetypes in the PDF, but it may be one of the most valuable for non-intrigue campaigns and adventures. It allows one to make a martial or stealth character who is also a social wonder and highly skilled, and is far and away my favorite archetype in the whole thing! Plus, the way everything is done here, you can use it with every vigilante archetype in the PDF! It's absolutely brilliant!

Focused Hunters get familiar terrain like the ranger's favored terrain, and can hide in plain sight and even eventually gain total concealment that they lose upon attacking, so long as they're in one of their familiar terrains.

The Masked Grappler is for everyone who wants to embrace their inner luchador, allowing you to play, well, a masked grappler. They're great with the grapple maneuver and unarmed combat. They get a number of locks, submissions, and techniques to use on their hapless opponents, with names familiar to the wrestling fans. They can declare one maneuver a Signature Move and make it even more effective, and eventually make ti even more damaging to a foe as well. Really, if you want to be El Santo, this is the archetype for you.

The Noble Soul allows you to be a vigilante paladin. You can either be a crusader and smite evil, or a healer and lay on hands. Again there are unique talents for the archetype. You can do things like eventually treat every evil opponent as an evil outsider for your smite, or gain paladin mercies and even a few life oracle revelations. You get paladin spells too. I like how good it does at some of the things paladins specialize in, but not everything. It's definitely an option for paladin fans, but not one that makes its inspiration obsolete.

The Outrageous Lyricist gets bard spells, a magic girl style transformation that can leave opponents fascinated, and limited bardic performances. Certain talents can add even more performances, and oh heavens the names -- black metal medley for the dirge of doom, mosh pit for improved flanking, and more. Hilarious.

Last comes Ultraman, I mean the Sentai Soldier. They gain the Kineticist's kinetic blast and some of their other abilities as vigilante talents. They also have a special morphing device that allows them to take on their vigilante identity. With their limited ability to take Burn or improve their kinetic blasts, they'll never threaten the kineticist, but they feel like a heck of a lot of fun for tokusatu fans.

New talents follow. You can now take on Signature Skill feat, or gain a Specialty Skill like the Legendary Rogue. I love the absurd accusation, which allows the vigilante to make a Bluff versus Diplomacy opposed skill check. Win and anyone who accuses them of being a vigilante looks like such a fool it briefly damages their use of diplomacy!

The new vigilante talents allow thing like making a vital strike at the end of a charge, eventually improving both their reach and their damage with it. Defy Pain allows you to treat lethal damage as non-lethal for a limited number of rounds -- "No one could have survived that!" Really, it's best to say that most of these allow you to make an insanely good fighter. Then there's Spell Master. IT allows you to use magic trigger items from the spell list of a specific class, eventually adding your Charisma to the DCs of the item and even exchanging your class level for the caster level.

I did notice one small error. The Swooping Dragon talent says it works with the Rising Dragon strike talent. There is no Rising Dragon strike -- but they do have a Leaping Dragon strike, which I assume is what was meant. Some clarification would be appreciated.

In Feats we get things like Martial Bond, allowing you to use enhancements on a melee weapon with your unarmed strikes. The Masked Identity chain allows non-vigilantes to create their very own secret identity, and with the teamwork feat Shared Identity you can share your secret and vigilante IDs with others. Vigilante Casting Savant allows spellcasting vigilantes to pick a few more vigilante talents, which is helpful.

There is a small selection of magical items. Gloves of paired weapons allow you to share enhancement bonuses between twin weapons. Mundane glasses allow you to make like that Clark Kent guy.

You also get a fine pair of items for barehanded fighters of any sort. {i]Pugilists' robes[/i] improve your unarmed damage and make your strikes function as magical -- or silver, cold iron, or even adamantine depending on the set. The no-slot Martial wraps grant enhancement bonuses on unarmed strikes, and can grant them melee weapon special abilities as well.

The Scion of the City PrC makes your vigilante the master of their home city for better or worse. You gain bonuses on certain skills and improved social and vigilante talents. You also eventually gain a group of supporters who will be able to masquerade as you to help hide your secret ID. As the capstone ability you can change your city's settlement modifiers, alignment, or its advantages and disadvantages, but only one a month.

The PDF ends with a sample character, Rashid Zill the tiefling Sentai Soldier Dark Star, who's searching for the fiend who murdered his old master and kidnapped her daughter. The PDF actually provides a boon for gaining his trust, too.

So there you have it. I consider this an amazing piece of work, allowing for both normal vigilantes and non-intrigue and urban based ones depending on the archetype. It's an amazing collection of goodies for fans of the class. Best of all, the author is also working on Legendary Villains: Vigilantes, so we'll be getting even more of this from them soon!


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Hitler's Esoteric War

*****

Kenneth Hite is well-known in gaming circles for his use of what can be called either modern mythology or 'alternative reality' theories along with pop culture in his gaming write-ups. That is, he uses things like real world conspiracy theories, ideas about magic, UFO's, lost civilizations, superhero comics, the works of Lovecraft, and the like to create some very bizarre ideas.

Here in this book from Osprey Adventures Mister Hite takes on the multitude of myths that have developed around World War 2 and Nazi Germany to write a fictional history of the Esoteric War Hitler and the Nazis fought against the world.

Hite knows his stuff. It starts off with a section describing some of the Nazis' real-world occultist forerunners like Guido von List's Armanen Rune Society, Lanz von Liebenfel's Order of the New Templars, and the Reichshammerbund and Germananorden. Of course as this is fiction, rather than being drifty neo-pagan cranks or Jew-hating ex-monks obsessed with bestiality, they were recipients of occult wisdom from the Runes and Theosophy-influenced visions by the 'Aryan racial spirit'. Next comes a section describing the Thule Gesellschaft and its founder, astrological drifter turned self-declared noble Rudolf von Sebottendorff, and how the 1919 Munich Revolt played into the occult forces swirling around Germany. The creepy part is, the occult stuff beside, everything Hite describes here happened precisely as he describes it

We get a section on the hidden energies of vril and zero-point energy and Nazi efforts at creating a 'Yaktavian Bell' to power all the Reich. There's a lengthy section describing the real and fictional researches of the Ahnenerbe, the SS Ancestral Research Division, looking for everything from lost civilizations in the Hollow Earth to creating Nazi zombies, to archaeological digs, to investigations of 16th and 17th century German witch hunts. Hite has the Ahnenerbe training Hexensoldaten, 'witch-soldiers' and lists some of the investigations and expeditions that happened in his history. The scant few details we get leave you wishing that longer stories could be told -- an investigation of Howard's Black Stone at Stregoicavar; searching in Kafiristan for a lost Aryan vimana (basically a Vedic Hindu flying saucer); and trying to find evidence for the Welteislehre ('World Ice Theory') in the lost South American city of Tiwanaku. Why can't the SyFy Channel pick up on some of this?

There's also words on the very real Nazi expedition to Tibet to prove that this was the original homeland of the Aryans. Of course Hite's version is a little more exciting than the real-life anthropological measurements and hamfisted diplomacy. His Nazis, lead by Ernst Schaefer, meet the Tibetan master of black magic, the Man With Green Gloves and his yeti bodyguards, receive the Black Termas and a phurba carved from meteoric iron, used to bind and release demons.

There's more on other less successful quests, such as for the Spear of Destiny, the Ark of the Covenant (you probably know how that one ended), and the very real-life Otto Rahn's search for the Holy Grail, imagined here as the secret of the pure Aryan bloodline. And/or a magic stone from Outer Space used by the Cathars; it's not clear. Hite's Nazis also searched for Zerzura, the City of Birds and dwelling place of the djinn. Unfortunately for them they found it.

The book even goes into detail about Aktion Hess, the Nazi's literal witch hunt for astrologers, mediums, and occultists after some of them advised Rudolf Hess to make his ill-received flight to Scotland. Here (and maybe in real life) it was a plan by British Intelligence to snatch a top Nazi, with the plan orchestrated by Ian "Bond, James Bond" Fleming. There's a description of the Nazi Werwolf project and its snarling successes, as well as the Nazi flying saucer base in Antarctica (aw, come on) and the failure of Operation Highjump to stop the Saucers of Shicklegruber.

The listing above hardly does justice to this bizarre tome. There are dozens of sidebars and descriptions under rarely-seen art that expound on a variety of topics loosely related to the main book. The Welteislehre is described, as are Freikorps militias, some highly odd occult groups in pre-WW2 Europe, the Wewelsburg -- Himmler's "Black Camelot" -- and much, much more. It's amazing just how much oddball information is stuffed into this book, and yet it never feels like too much. Mister Hite is a very skilled author.

And being an Osprey book, there is the art. We get some lovely one and two page spreads. SS men discovering an eldritch tome in a Prague attic and finding out why you shouldn't fool around with Lovecraftian horrors. Werwolf Werewolves making an attack on American troops. Tibetan sorcerers and savage yeti confronting the Nazi Tibetan expedition. Nazis attacking the djinn at Zerzura. And of course Nazi flying saucers in Antarctica!

And there's a bibliography that lists both works on occult weirdness and genuine history for those who wannt to find out for themselves just how much of this stuff really happened.

It's one whacked-out tome, but it's a load of fun if you like High Weirdness in WW2.


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Rogues get their due

*****

Legendary Rogues is one of the very best 3rd party releases for Pathfinder I've ever seen. Done as a way to improve the rather disliked core rulebook rogue and to provide some options for further character optimization and to help make the sort of rogue the individual player wants -- a dashing bravo, a swashbuckling hero, or a coldly sly poisoner, among literally dozens of other ideas.

The new legendary rogue gets Skill Specialties to replace trapfinding. They allow the rogue to develop great ability with one or two skills, as well as to use them in ways they can't normally be used in. Like trapfinding allowing you to find and disable magical traps, poisoner granting the poison use ability, and more. Also, you can get new specialties as you increase in level; a major advantage over the old rogue.

Trap sense gets replaced with Avoidances that advance at a +1 bonus every third level. You can now pick a different avoidance at every increase, or focus on just one. They are done in such a way as to make individualization of your rogue a snap -- swordswomen can choose a different bonus than snipers or acrobats.

Instincts are where we find stuff like uncanny dodge and evasion, as well as new ideas like ambusher, which allows you to take a full action in a surprise round, or celerity, which grants rerolls on initiative. Mainly defensive, these are now granted at 2nd level, 4th, and every fourth level from then on. Once again, both a needed power boost and a great way to customize your rogue.

The rogue Talents list gets updated, with almost 90 new and improved talents to choose from. You also get a table of the talents so you can see how they work together. And, many of them improve as you rise in level. I think this is one of the best parts of the book -- I was getting character ideas just looking through them.

Next comes a section to improve the rogue's combat abilities. The sneak attack gets some incredible improvement; and you get ways to use it albeit in weakened form against even non-flanked/flat-footed enemies as well as ones immune to precision damage. The whole section is so well done and thought out you;re left wondering why Pathfinder didn't do it like this in the first place!

It all comes together with the write-up for the new and vastly improved Legendary Rogue class, showing how all these new ideas can be used to keep the rogue viable and fun. The book ends with the Master Thief prestige class for people who truly want to create a king of thieves for their campaign.

If you like rogues, or if like me you dislike them and think you'd never be willing to play one, you WILL want to read this book.I loathed the class and now I can only wish I could play some of the characters this book inspires me with.


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Another Killer Product From Legendary Games

*****

Assassins. Everyone knows what they are, right? Evil, slink around alleys, use poison, try knifing your PCs in the back after they've meddled in the schemes of Ogrek the Awful for the umpty-eleventh time... They have their uses in game, but they seem to be rather limited. And what if you have a PC who wants to be a heroic or anti-heroic assassin? You were kind of stuck.

Not any more. Legendary Assassins is the latest in the Legendary Heroes line from Legendary Games. The other releases expanded on full 20-level character classes. This is the first focused on a prestige class; twenty-six pages long, fourteen of juicy content, and now let us see how well it does.

It opens with a section on historical and fictional assassins, and how the class can be more than an evil hired killer. For starters, they remove the alignment restrictions, and they change the requirements to a BAB of +3 and at least three skills at rank 5 out of a decent list.

The class also gets talents like those of the rogue that allow for considerable customization. There are ones for spell-casting assassins, for martials, gunslingers and swashbucklers, even ones to allow druids to improve their wild shape and Thousand Faces class feature. There are talents that aid clerical assassins, barbarian assassins, even monk or brawler assassins. You get a lot to choose from here! The talents really do a great job of opening the assassin up for other classes.

Sneak attack is also changed. In lieu of taking another +1d6 sneak attack damage, you can do thing like increase your spellcasting level or choose a new combat feat if you have a levels in any class with a full BAB. Very nice and another great chance at customization.

The Death Attack is still there, but now it becomes quicker to use as you increase in level. And one of the new talents allows you to base it off Strength rather than Intelligence if you like. Given the number of thuggish assassins I've seen in games that's a great idea. And at 9th level she can make one such attack a day without studying the foe. I do like what they did with the Death Attack, now it feels like it actually improves at every new level instead of just getting a higher DC.

Their normal save bonus versus poisons can now be applied to any one particular effect, ranging from poisons to mind-affecting effects to supernatural abilities.

We get one assassin archetype, the Many-Faced Killer. They specialize in disguise and slipping into a new persona, eventually gaining minor shapeshifting abilities. They even learn how to disguise their aura and alignment, defending them against alignment-based effects.

Last are some new assassin feats. One allows a summoner assassin to share their assassin class features with their eidolon. Another allows an assassin with a familiar to let it use sneak attacks when it delivers a touch spell. They have feats for an improved death attack, and one that allows monk assassins to expend ki on their death attack. There's one for poison-loving alchemist assassins, and a pair for members of the Red Mantis, referred to here as 'Crimson Assassins'. I'd call it a pretty good list.

The PDF ends with three sample assassins -- a monk who deals with unruly people who refuse to negotiate with her abbot; a necromantic cult slayer; and the Handmaiden, a Many-Faced Killer who can be used as either an ally or enemy to PCs.

This PDF is short and sweet, and it does a great job of expanding on the options for both PCs and NPCs who will either confront or want to become assassins. It makes me wonder about playing one for what could be the first time ever. Great work, five stars, and definitely worth the cost for anyone who even thinks they might use assassins in their game.


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Takes mass conflict in a whole new direction

*****

Several of them, actually. Into the air, the water, against the castle, greater unit detail, and much more.

Really, Endzeitgeist covered just about everything that could possibly be said about this wonderful product, so I'll keep it short. It has short sections on new command boons and combined arms, allowing you to put different troops types together in one unit. So if you want a pike/shot/sword unit like the Spanish tercios or the like, you're covered.

The main parts of the book cover three new types of warfare.

First is war in the sky, involving everything from flying creatures to msgical/steampunk-ish airships for those of you who want to scratch your Jules Verne itch. There are several different types of airship offered, as well as just what sort of resources your kingdom needs to build them. You also get rules on how to combine airships into squadrons for fleet actions.

War in the water follows. It allows for both simple and complex ships, including what's needed to make them. You get the squadron rules here too, as well as how to handle warfare beneath the waves. Ever wanted to have a horde of sahuagin fight a fleet of ironclads with diving bells? Now you can!

Both sections also have lists and explanations of available tactics in aerial or naval warfare, which is helpful.

The last part covers siege warfare, and it does so very thoroughly. It lists weapons ranging from catapults and mantlets to bombards, firedrakes, and cannon. It also lists tactics and options for both defender and besieger, as well as just what it costs in consumption to engage in a siege. Suffice to say that you'll want to end them quickly.

The book ends with some magical siege weapons and siege shot. Why hurl plain old stone at a wall when you can fling zombie apocalypse siege shot or use a thunderbolt cannon instead?

It is a great book for fans of military conflict and mass combat in Pathfinder. Five stars and worth every penny.


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Never Too Young To Start Adventuring

*****

Kid heroes have always been around, but for some reason options for playing one have been few and far between. You'd think someone out there would want to do Harry Potter, the last Airbender, or even Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper, but if they did their choices were limited. Until now, anyway.

Young Character Options is a 15 page PDF from the Four Horsemen and Rogue Genius that offers some character ideas, archetypes, feats, and traits for playing child characters. Let's see how they do, shall we?

The PDF proper is fifteen pages long, with one for the cover, one for the credits, and one for the OGL, giving us twelve pages of content. And very fine content it is. It starts with some general information on what a childhood in a mostly-Medieval fantasy world would be like. Basically, you're going to be put into more 'adult' roles and work very early on, and even childhood games will be as much about teaching you adult skills like hunting or crafting. Basically, no one can afford to coddle their children, as the world about them is too dangerous. There are sub-sections that go into detail about the age range for children from the main races, as well as what upbringings among them are like.

Let me say that I really love this part. Far too many game writers seem to assume that life in the usual fantasy setting would be more or less like modern life. These writers know it wouldn't and make sure we get that.

Also, there are cultural differences between the various races that feel right. Gnomes give their kids their head but keep a wary eye on them; halflings have large families, dwarves grow up in communal clan nurseries, half-orcs grow up fast and hard, etc. Very nice background information.

Next comes some words on just why kids would run off to become adventurers. Is the child a reincarnated hero? Some older person subjected to an overly potent youth spell? Or just an orphan or precocious child?

A section follows that explains just how and why child characters should be freed of the limits given in Ultimate Campaign, as well as a trait if you need to justify it in gamespeak. Some traits follow, and we get some rather clever original ideas here. One really good one is 'Innocence'. You basically look and have the air of being such an innocent cherub that even divination spells will be confused. Even evil kids 'look' harmless to the spells. Budding Rhoda Penmarks may wish to take note! 'Pass for Smallfolk' enables you to trick people into thinking you're a halfling or gnome. And 'Scrapper' is for kids who had their share of brawls and know how something about self-defense as a result. Rather a good selection here.

The 'Prodigy' family of feats follows. These are feats that give your character a few extra edges when they use magic, or fight, or perform, etc. Not just the same old '+2 on two skills feats', these provide bonuses that adult heroes would enjoy but that feel right for kids. Like the Martial Prodigy, who can use certain combat maneuvers without an AoO, but they take a whole round. Or the Magical Prodigy, who can use a metamagic feat with a spell without increasing the casting time at the price of losing another spell slot equal to the level increase of the normal metamagic feat. There are more for budding bards, rogues, and more.

The archetypes follow, starting with the Ageless oracle. This is an oracle with a unique curse. They can't grow any older. At all. Not so bad? Ah, but they're stuck as preteen children for all eternity. True, magical aging has no affect on you, and you slowly increase your mental characteristics, but who wants to be carded every time they try entering the tavern? It comes with a nasty alternate bonus spell list, heavy on the necromancy, and a pair of revelations that permit you to either retard aging in others or force them to age faster. Both are neat ideas.

Next is the Destined Blade magus, for a child who discovers a destined blade that increases in power alongside the wielder. You also get a much weaker arcane pool that can't be used to enhance your weapon, and it also contains your spells. And you can't put new spells into it by any means other than level advancement -- so scrolls, spellbooks, etc. I'd say this all balances out rather well given the potency of the destined blade itself. Something else I like is that at levels 5, 11, or 17, instead of a new feat you can reach adulthood. That provides you with a much better arcane pool as well as bonuses to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Pretty good way of handling it in game.

The Reincarnated Master is for a master monk who awakens to his past lives a little early. They use the damage dice for a Small monk as well as gaining some of the Prodigy feats as bonus monk feats. Starting at 6th level the reincarnated master can use a bonus feat slot to achieve adulthood with much the same effect as the destined blade. Their past lives also play a role, with the reincarnated master gaining new Knowledge skills, eventually figuring out how to explore past lives as a divination, and at his capstone spending Ki gain temporary style feats. This one sounds like it would work great for Samsaran characters.

The Street Rat rogue is your basic orphan turned thief, with them gaining some extra feats to represent their hard-earned lessons in survival and self-defense at first level at the price of a penalty on Strength or Dexterity to represent their half-starved upbringing. They can also use the Steal combat maneuver without provoking AoO, with the normal Small size penalties becoming bonuses. If they learn Improved Steal they can do even better at it. Also, when in any community larger than a small town they get a bonus on initiative, Knowledge (local), and Survival. And at any point from 4th level on they can replace a rogue talent with adulthood, which also removes the penalty from half-starved. Sweet and simple but a very well done archetype!

Last is the Wunderkind wizard, a magical child genius. She begins with less spells in her spellbook and some of the Prodigy feats. She also loses her 1st level arcane school power in exchange for the ability to use any one metamagic feat per day on her spells, even if she doesn't normally have the feat. Also, she can replace any of her bonus feats with adulthood, which in her case also grants the ability to use one of her opposition schools if she's a specialist. If she's a universalist, she instead gains a bonus on Spellcraft checks with any one school.

So there you have it. It's a short PDF but it is jammed full of goodies for anyone who wants to use child characters in their campaign. Several of the options work just as well with adult characters. All in all this is great for anyone who wants to have their character's heroic career start out even sooner than others. Five stars and far and away worth the price.


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Get ready to die laughing

*****

Clowns. For some reason so many people are scared of them in real life, so why not in games? Especially when they're not just clowns, but Killer Clowns from Hell? That is the whole point of this 26-page PDF, and as to how well the six hellish harlequins within do their job, we'll see!

First is the Coulrodaemon, providing the daemonic take on comedy. Formed from the souls of evildoers who suffered humiliating, ridiculous, or darkly ironic deaths, they juggle skulls that they can use as weapons. Being hit by them causes you to take an ever-increasing penalty on attacks, saves, and ability checks. They also negate any luck-based bonuses you have, which is a bad thing -- because the coulrodaemon is surrounded by a 'pratfall aura' that inflicts affects on anyone without a luck bonus akin to those suffered in classic slapstick comedies. Of course, people rarely died horribly in those comedies. The PCs won't be so lucky.

And one fun bit of background we get is: coulrodaemons avoid the soul-processing factories of Abaddon because they creep out the staff.

Next is the demonic Mazzuak. Brutish, cunning, and savage, formed from the souls of the gleefully sadistic, this guy is the living incarnation of every safe, boulder, or other heavy object dropped on the head of some unsuspecting cartoon character. It can conjure illusionary ludicrous objects of vast size and weight and drop them on several PCs at once, pinning them helplessly. Which is when it lines up a shot with that big honkin' hammer it carries. Not subtle at all, but this feels like demonic humor, all right. A great combat brute with some rather clever and original tricks.

The diabolic Paglichino or 'Mockery Devil' is next. They enjoy finding out secrets about good and/or influential people that they use for their comic routines, cruelly mocking and satirizing people. This is humor used to tear others down for self-advancement. It feels nice(?) and devilish. They possess the bardic performance of court bards. More, they can hide themselves as they conjure up a small army of shocking images. They make one of the images sound like the real paglichino, while hopping around the battlefield using their bardic music to drive enemies up the wall. Oh yes, when you destroy the last image, you get hurt even worse than usual.

The Laetitius kyton follows. It can terrify with its appearance and has truly nasty skill with its war razors. Creepiest of all, it attacks you with its face. As in, it tears its face off and slaps it over yours! It shares in all the resistance to damage of the laetitius, and if you don't remove it fast enough, you suffocate. One way or another, the laetitius puts a smile on their audiences' faces.

The qlippothic Lophigogdue is one of the oddest horrors in this set. It's not a clown, it's the whole circus. The big tent, anyway. It disguises itself as an ordinary circus to lure in the crowds. Then it reveals itself and unleashes its zombie performers and roustabouts on the audience. Oh yes, it also spreads a sickness that turns people into more maniacally laughing zombies before it leaves for the next town. In a rather nasty note, it especially enjoys doing this to children. I like it just for the weirdness value. Even in Pathfinder, how often does a tent try eating you?

The newest evil outsiders, the sahkils, get their representation with the Bhozol. Embodying the fear of the uncanny and distorted, bhozols can wrap you up in an embrace that turns you into a twisted horror. They can also hide in places you'd never think such a giant could. Like under the stairs, or in a closet, or under the children's bed... They also enjoy hanging out with the aforementioned laetitius for more fun.

The PDF finishes with some new magic items. The capacious carriage contains its own demiplane, and can produce armies of clowns and others from a safe hiding place. Clown Shoes help on using and resisting various maneuvers like trip, bull rush, or drag. They also make it harder to be stealthy. The puppet theater gives you the ability to do magic puppet shows, and that's about it. However, the cursed puppet theater can make your every word sound like it's coming from one of the puppets, making verbal spellcasting rather difficult.

Best of the lot are the two suits of slapstick armor. The non-cursed one makes every wound you take look catastrophic. And when it does so, you get a bonus on attempts to bluff your attacker. This one can work as well outside of comedy -- the master swordsman thinks he's landed a fatal blow, only to learn that his in truth uninjured opponent is ready to finish him.

The second suit is pretty obviously meant to be cursed, but that's not in the description. It still uses illusions to make your wounds look worse. It also inflicts damage of its own, and when you take ability damage, drain, or bleed, it makes it even worse.

All in all it's a pretty good PDF. The monsters are a fine bunch of horrors and have some really original touches. Even the art and flavor text for them is great. The magic items are okay in themselves.

EDIT: The problems I mentioned in the first version of this review have been cleared up, so I'll say 4.5 stars, put up to 5. It is worth the price if you want some truly bizarre fiends to use in your games.


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Getting your goat

****( )

Animal Races: Clan of the Goat is the latest addition to EMP's line of anthropomorphic races. This time around it covers the clans of the Goats and Sheep, and with a few additional surprises.

Like its fellows it numbers thirteen pages. One for the cover, one for credits, one for the back cover, and two for the OGL. That leaves eight pages of crunch and fluff, the latter being an oddly appropriate word here, so here we go!

It starts with another brief account from Marco Loupo, the boy raised by (literal) wolves, of the animal-folk he travels among. It's short but well done and definitely gives you an idea what the two races are like. Next comes information on their appearances, societies, and basic psychology. Both are members of the Zodiac Council introduced in previous books in the series, with the honorable and dutiful sheep having to take up the slack for the selfish goats.

We then get the racial package for these clans. Goats tend to be witches and can select their usual Clan feat when they pick hexes. Mountain Goats and Muskoxen both tend to be oracles and can select the Clan heritage feat when they choose revelations, and Sheep (are you ready for this?) are often paladins who can select their heritage feat in place of a mercy. I have to admit, when I thought of anthro sheep, I didn't think of them as paladins!

Next is the half-page for the clan genealogy. Interesting to me for the as-yet unwritten clans like the Antelopes, Camels, Elephants, and especially Horses. I would love to see all of those become available. There are also some feats. The normal clan heritage feats are there, as well as one giving some bonuses on Handle Animal and Intimidate for gruff goats. Meh, okay. You can also take a feat that allows your familiar to take a blow for you, and one that allows you to kill regenerating creatures on a critical. Three Billy Goats Gruff, anyone?

This is followed by the usual great list of how existing monsters fit into Goat and Sheep myth and culture, giving us the usual fun insights into their heads in the process. Goats think it a compliment to be compared to Bearded devils, for instance, and fanboy over hags. And of course they hate trolls.

There is a listing for the Sheep god, Amon. Mostly your standard LG deity save for the curiosity that his clerics can't create holy water. They instead make sanctified salt which functions in much the same way.

Next comes something fun, and just in time for Christmas too -- say hello to the Krampus! They do a good job on the old child-snatcher; among other things, it can 'swallow' you by stuffing you into its sack, and its armor of chains gives it an improved ability to intimidate.

Last come some new traits based on heraldic symbols that provide certain feats in exchange for penalties on your saves. And oh yes, we get a new oracle curse -- Fainting. So you can have your fainting goat character.

All in all it's a good piece of work with some fun extras you don't normally get in this line, not to condemn the other PDFs. I'll go with four stars, maybe more if you really want to have stats for Krampus.


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Gruesome Constructs Review

*****

As with the rest of the line, this PDF assembles four templates, one of them Mythic, for those who want to make the poor forgotten construct creatures of their game a trifle more memorable. Maybe for 'memorable' you should read 'nightmarish'; suffice to say that if you have careless conjurers trying to whip up mindlessly loyal minions, they may change their minds after you unleash some of the beauties found in here on them!

Ever run into a shield guardian? A properly used one can be a pain, protecting its master and smashing you into the ground every time you get close to its mage master. Ever wonder what happens when that master dies, but the shield guardian lives? Thus the Abandoned, a shield guardian that survived the death of its master and goes seeking out a new one. However, the golem has learned something from its former condition -- now it wants a master that will obey it! This opens the door for a lot of fun. Let the PCs find a magic amulet that summons forth a golem servitor. Hey, all is great, right? Until you do something the golem doesn't want. Then it uses its new powers to crush your will and make you the slave. Oh yes, and it can dump damage it takes on the "master", not to mention steal spells from them to use itself. And the amulet cannot be removed, except with their death. At which point the lonely golem goes searching for another 'master'... You can always try destroying the amulet. If you don't mind facing a berserk golem, that is.

Next is the mythic Insane Intelligence. This is what you can get when you give a very non-human and inorganic mind human perspectives. The construct starts to learn. And learn. And learn, increasing its new mythic rank every few weeks. Or in other words, going from 'standard(?) mythic hero' to 'incarnate GOD' in less than a year. Its Intelligence also starts at 10 and then increases every week after that. And this isn't Mister Data or Robbie the Robot, this is a mind like Hannibal Lecter's. Among potential mythic abilities it can break you into insanity by talking, control you with its supremely rational arguments, or just use its newfound knowledge of the weak points in your disgusting fleshy body to tear you apart. It can also learn how to transfer its mind into a new and improved construct body. Which means that a relatively weak Soulbound Doll can end up an adamantine golem in time -- an evil genius one!

Oh yes, the 'insane' half of 'insane intelligence' makes them both more terrifying and vulnerable. You just have to figure out how to use their newfound sadism or obsession against it, without ending up as another victim.

The guiding spirit of any golem is a bound elemental spirit. Few ever seem to question the wisdom is so using a sapient being to control what is meant as a mindless servant. Few save those who meet the Unbound, that is. Unbound are golems whose elemental spirits have broken their binding and boy are they ever mad. Rewarded with newfound powers from both their elemental heritage and their newfound hatred of spellcasters, the Unbound can also seize control of other constructs and send them into a murderous rage against their masters. This template can give you a chance at running a classic 'War with the Robots' style story. Of course, you can try renewing the bindings on the original elemental. It involves putting your bare hands on a rampaging golem and winning a contest of wills with the berserk spirit inside. How hard can it be?

Lastly is the creepy Vivisector. Some intelligent constructs become obsessed with fleshly life. They want to experience it for themselves. They want it so badly they learn how to steal the flesh of others and wear it to masquerade as mortals. This brings its own little problems, as they have to renew their disguise every 24 hours or they start to look a little -- odd. They are healed by both positive and negative energies, and can use even unliving flesh to restore themselves. Nothing can match living flesh for their disguises, though, and when they take some it will slowly and horribly kill the 'donor'. Oh yes, they can also grant flesh to other constructs too. Which causes their body to deteriorate even faster, so they have to snatch more victims. Vivisectors can make great long-term enemies, or even allies if they they succeed in hiding both their real form and their appetites. What do your PCs do when they discover that their contact or patron is really a murderous construct that's been sizing them up as flesh donors?

This is a great short PDF with some original templates in it. Several of them have a good pulp horror feel to them too, which I always like. For $4 you could do a lot worse than this.


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Revenge of the Blob

*****

Once more here we go with four fearsome templates for monsters. In this case -- it's oozes.

Yes, I know. Oozes seem scary at very low levels, but once you figure out how to handle them they're not so dangerous. Well, this PDF attempts to correct that, and as to how well they do, well, we're about to see.

First is the rather Lovecraftian Intruder. Basically an extrusion from realms measureless to man into our universe, the Intruder faces a constant battle against a reality that just wants it gone. It unmakes everything it touches -- the ground, the walls, swords, your flesh -- and warps reality and gravity around it as it carries a 'pocket' of its own reality around. So it can do things like cause gravity to make things fall to it, or burrow through everything from dirt to metal. In fact it has no choice; if it doesn't move, it will create a tunnel to the world's core given enough time. The Intruder ooze destroys just by existing. Thankfully sane reality realizes this and the monsters is slowly removed from our world. Unless of course it finds something to anchor it here. Like, say, an artifact.

Emulation oozes bring in some Body Snatcher-style horror. These are oozes that slither inside their victims and consume them slowly, controlling and mimicking them as they do. Indeed it controls them so well that the ooze thinks it IS them and registers to spells as such. It also retains its immunities to mental effects, and to hurt it when 'riding' its host you have to kill the host first. And all the while it has access to all the knowledge and feats of the host (no spells, though).

It gets even worse if you combine the Emulators with the next template, the Exponential. Everyone knows how easy it is to kill oozes by splitting them, right? What if that didn't weaken them? What if every time you split them you made two oozes as strong as the original? And when they recombined, they were now as big as both new oozes combined? That is the horror of the Exponential. As long as they continue to feed, they can keep splitting into more oozes. Which then combine into ever-bigger oozes. Who needs gates to the Abyss or zombie apocalypses when these guys are running around?

Last is the mythic Hive Mind template. This is a swarm of dozens to scores of oozes of all different sorts that have developed a collective intelligence and mental powers to go with it. They can also bring other oozes into the hive mind upon encountering them, and even learn to do things like control humanoids, learn spellcasting that is shared with the entire hive mind, and share monstrous abilities among its members. Try combining it with the Exponential for even more fun.

As with the others PDFs of the series, there are sample monsters listed with every template. I'm giving this one five stars mostly because they managed to make oozes scary and cool again, and that's not easy. Really a great buy if you want to really creep out your players.


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Eldritch Horrors get an upgrade

****( )

This PDF is a collection of four templates for aberrations, those wonderfully creepy horrors from truly alien spheres. Like the other PDFs in the Gruesome series, it's short and to the point, with a cover page, one for credits and the OGL, and the remaining eleven devoted to the templates. So let's tale a look at them.

First is the Bound Horror, an aberration that has been confined to a creature, place, or object by some bizarre means. It lasts as long as its prison does. There's room for a lot of truly inventive and fiendish plots here. Maybe the haunted book with the strangling ghost actually has a choker bound to it, or the infamous haunted house that drives people mad is the prison of a neothelid or seugathi. And never mind how you'll deal with the innocent child who has some abomination bound to their very soul. Just to make it all worse, Bound Horrors are immortal and can only die when their prison is destroyed; and if you know about them, then anyone who controls the prison, be it place or object or creature, can command the horror. Imagine the possibilities this provides for clever villains.

Eternal aberrations are immortal and invincible to all save one specific substance or object or even location. Else they can be killed with great difficulty, but will return in perfect condition in a few days.

Fleshwarpers are my favorite here. They can control and manipulate flesh, their own or others. This gives them improved and changeable defenses (improved AC one turn, and energy resistance the next) and natural weapons. Even better is that they can twist and make monstrous anyone they get their appendages on, AND control them afterwards. This gives you one more reason to use the various fleshwarped horrors that have cropped up in Pathfinder and 3rd party releases, with the added bonus that they're innocent victims and as such the PCs may not want to blithely hack them to ribbons.

Last is the mythic template for this PDF, the Old One. Any Lovecraft fan can probably guess from the name alone what this is like, but just in case -- Old Ones are vastly ancient and powerful aberrations. They all possess mighty intellects, immunity to mind-affecting effects, and the ability to reduce even the bravest of heroes to cringing fear. They can possess even greater powers depending on their mythic rank. Old Ones can reduce mortals to gibbering madness, inflict terror on even mythic enemies, exist in multiple worlds at once and cast dread spells with the greatest of ease, or simply be unkillable. Of course on the other tentacle there's the problem that all Old Ones are downright apathetic. Just getting them to defend themselves is a major effort (that you will regret), and they spend most of their time on millennia-spanning schemes of their own. And yes this has an effect on just which actions they can perform in-game.

I should add that there are sample monsters with all these templates in the PDF. And there you go. The PDF has two classic aberration templates with the Old One and Eternal, and two great ones with the Bound Horror and Fleshwarper. For the price you get some amazing content; four stars easy, and it's a five star purchase for big horror and aberration fans.


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Gruesome Fey Review

*****

Four Horsemen Present Gruesome Fey is a PDF in Rogue Genius Games' 'Gruesome Templates' series. This one offers four horrific templates to produce fey less like Disney and more like the stories once told around low-guttering hearth fires about the terrible Good People who lurked out there in the wild darkness.

All four of the new templates possess a Shock Value, granting the frightful presence monster ability with an increased DC and level of opponents the fey can use the ability on. This helps to get the idea across that even in a world of hideous monsters, these are especially nasty.

First comes the Believer. Everyone knows about the fey love of illusion. Well, the Believer literally lives in their illusions. Worse still, they can drag you into them too. This is bad because the Believers love to live out their dramatic and grandiose stories, and as far as they're concerned, mortals are mere scenery in the unending glorious saga that is the fey's life. Their new abilities only reinforce this; when you fail saves against their illusion powers, they get stronger and harder to resist. They're also permanent regardless of the normal duration, and don't need to be concentrated on to keep working. And you have to believe they're false before you can use illusion-dispelling or detecting magic of your own on them! The Believers have one big weakness -- they're so in love with their own narrative that if you can suggest, say, that it would be so very dramatic for them to fight a duel with the best fighter or permit the heroes to escape, they'll do it. That and when you do see through their illusions, the illusion is destroyed. Of course then you've got a furious fey to deal with. This template really captures the idea of a child or narcissist who wants everyone to play their game by their rules, which is definitely something fey are known for. It also provides for an easy change of pace in a campaign -- any kind of story can intrigue a Believer into dragging innocents and PCs into it, so long as it's dramatic!

Every one of the recent 'Gruesome' PDFs has a Mythic template, and the Fey version is the Exiled Lord. This is basically one of those godlike fey who here has been flung into the mortal world and is none too happy about it.

Their main ability is the demesne. Every year they can change a several-miles across stretch of land into basically their own little world; and if you don't like it, your choices are either run or fight. This alone provides for so much potential in a setting. What about a water fey who creates a freshwater lake in the middle of the desert? Or a bogeyman who makes their citadel of fear in the middle of the PC's home city? What happens if the royal capital suddenly has to deal with a dark forest consuming it because Morgrym the Shadowed decides he likes the neighborhood? Ever wonder how some of those rather odd geological features came to be in the campaign world? Well, maybe it was an exiled lord setting up shop.

The Exiled Lord also gets extra mythic abilities that they can use in their demesne. Suffice to say that within their realm, they're pretty much gods. Anyone short of very powerful or cunning PCs will have to play by their rules. Unless, of course, you figure out The Rule. Every Exiled Lord has one rule or stricture that they can not break, basically like a Celtic geasa. One might be bound to never reject a gift and must repay it, another might be bound to always tell the truth/never tell the truth, and a third might have to eat babies every night. Figure out their Rule and you can manipulate the lord, or even break their connection to their demesne.

I really, really like this one. It provides the chance for using some incredible settings and clever PC trickery as the merely mortal heroes have to outwit an enemy that controls nearly everything around them. It reminds me of the old Ravenloft Darklords and their domains, and how smart you had to be to escape them.

Next are the Faded. Creatures as terrible to the fey as to mortals, the Faded are basically a nastier version of the Bleaching that hits gnomes. Stripped of their inherent magic and creativity, the Faded respond by devouring the magic in the world around them like a horde of locusts. They can't use their own magic any more, but neither can they be affected by magic. They can drain magic items into nothing, and they can turn other fey into Faded with their draining touch. They're also so utterly apathetic that they can be talked into doing incredibly dangerous things with ease, because they Just Don't Care any more.

The comparison between these beings and the Bleachlings makes me wonder if that was why the gnomes were driven from the First World. Once again, a simple template that offers some great ideas for the campaign.

Last is the coldly creepy Macabre. These are fey who were tortured into sadistic madness by their own fellows, and have become creatures of shadow and pain. Just watching their broken movements can terrify you, and their songs can sicken mortals with agony. The latter effect has limited use per day, but the Macabre have a way around that. They just torture some hapless mortal and then they can vocalize along with their screams! As if that wasn't enough, the Macabre are so in love with pain and torture than if you just talk with one they uncontrollably try to intimidate you as they rhapsodize about the music made by severed windpipes or how lovely your eyes would look in a bottle with the rest of their collection. They also apparently like t hang out with suitably twisted Believers and Exiled Lords, for extra fun.

This is a very fine collection of truly horrid fey. They can provide everything from a one-shot encounter to an entire campaign's worth of terror. It's really great for anyone who has fond memories of the truly charming characters you met in Ravenloft, among other places. I give it five stars and suggest that if you like dark fey that you get it now!


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Ultimate Charisma review

*****

Ultimate Charisma is a 68-page PDF devoted to what seems one of the most problematic feats in the game, Leadership, and a number of campaign systems like relationships, reputation, kingdom ruling, and more. I just know that someone will be along to give it the great review it deserves so I'll just try to hit the high points here.

1) The first section handles Leadership neatly by giving it to everyone as a sort of seventh characteristic. And yes, it allows you to use it in ways that don't rely on getting cohorts and followers if you want to use it but don't want to have an army following your PCs around. It also gives some rules for party leadership if you want keep it simple and let the group gather the followers.

2) The Cohorts section gives you some ideas for how to design a cohort, what to do with them besides 'extra adventurer' -- they can handle a business, help run a kingdom, command armies, do downtime activities, or even be a mount. The PDF also provides a rather exhaustive list of possible monster cohorts and what level they become available at. It also has some hints for GMs on how to make the cohort a source of plots and adventures rather than simply a extra body, which is very helpful.

3) Followers are also described in detail. How to recruit the ones you want; or do you want to be served by eager but hapless commoners for your entire career? You can recruit NPC classes for followers or PC classes, though the latter can get pricey. What tasks you can set them to, everything from army to work force to contacts and even managers and teams for your organization. It also shows about advancing them, and even provides nearly a dozen example followers. Not written out characters, but lists of what sorts of NPC classes, feats, and skills are best for laborers, soldiers, guards, crafters, and so on.

4) The Psychological Maneuvers section will be familiar to anyone who owns a copy of Psychological Combat. To those who lack a copy, this covers how to antagonize, frighten, or feint enemies. Or how to defend against it being done to you! It adds a new statistic, the psychology DC, which is very simple to use. Indeed the whole section has the wonderful simplicity of the original PDF, even while adding a few new things. Like affronts of opportunity. They work like attacks of opportunity, allowing you to anger, scare, or feint an enemy for free under certain circumstances. They also permit you to use feats like Dazzling Display at greater affect, like on every enemy within 30 feet rather than just one. It also allows for psychological slights, basically giving a potential bonus on the 'attack' if you do or say something to push your enemy's buttons. Rather a nice bit there for the better roleplayers!

5) Relationships uses the rules first provided in Ultimate Campaign to help your PCs to establish closer contact with various NPCs, as well as rewards like bonus traits that can be gained at various levels. It covers healthy and dysfunctional relationships, friendly and unfriendly ones -- we do have a relationship with the enemies we despise the most, after all -- and it covers how to work this into romance as well. There are also the core emotions of a relationship which can affect how those involved relate to each other.

6) Reputation covers how the rest of the campaign world sees and reacts to your PC. Is he hailed as the great hero or does he have to dodge flung rotten tomatoes every time he goes to town? It also points out that you can have multiple reputations with different groups, and provides a lengthy list of events that will affect your reputation for good or ill. Group reputations are also discussed, as well as prestige points. Get a good reputation and the people who like you can be convinced to give help, be it gear or magic or simple aid, in exchange for prestige points.

7) Archetypes and new character options are included. There is a new cavalier order and two archetypes, new talents and archetypes for the Investigator, Rogue, and Slayer, and more. There is quite a bit here covering how the new psychological combat rules in particular can be used with the published classes.

8) We get new feats for use with the new rules, like Improved and Greater Antagonize, both of which seem rather simpler and better than the 'official' Antagonize feat and ranged feints. There's how to use bardic performances to anger an enemy, and one that allows channel energy to do the same to undead. Teamwork feats that allow you to get a bonus if your friends aid you in a psychological combat maneuver, how to do this to animals, how to antagonize at range. There are also mythic versions of these feats, and how to use them with the stamina system from Pathfinder Unchained. It's always good to see some support for the new rules systems.

9) Next we get the best section of the entire PDF, Leadership Perks. You can use these to become better at commanding armies, running businesses, relating to others, and so much more. Want to make your familiar into a cohort, complete with their very own feats and a class template from 'Monster Codex'? Now you can. Ditto for providing an animal companion from a small list to any PC, or for keeping that awakened animal companion as your cohort. They get a class template and you can keep advancing them as your companion. It's restricted to 10th level and up so it comes off as very balanced. You can get free Story feats and traits, you can become a one-man army in the mass combat system, work better with contacts, or turn your organization into a druid circle or fighting school or new temple. You can even found a witches' coven if you want (evil only, sorry to say). Little of this will give PCs great advantages in a fight but will they ever help cement them into the campaign world!

And if you want to be a lone wolf you can use some of these perks to do that, too.

10) Last are some new traits, allowing you to do things like figure your Psychology DC with intelligence (for the cool intellectual types) or charisma (for the total egoists). You can be a better military commander, be scary to kids, or start with a better reputation than normal. Pretty nice and they avoid the standard '+1 to a skill' kind of trait.

In the end this is a great great product. A little pricey for 68 pages, but those are 68 well-done pages filled with tools and ideas that any group can use and may very well fall in love with. The ideas about the new psychological maneuvers and the new way to handle Leadership are amazing. Just plainly a great piece of work and one that anyone who runs a campaign that's more than one dungeon crawl after another will appreciate, but with enough that people who prefer the more combative side of things will be delighted too. Five stars for Ultimate Charisma!


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