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Truly An Original Choice

4/5

Clan of the Deer is one of the releases in publisher Eric Morton's line of animal-based races. Like most of the rest it consists of eleven pages -- a cover page, title page, back cover, and two for the Open Game License. This leaves six pages to cover the deer therians, and they are pages well spent.

We get first a short bit of fiction explaining that deer are a part of nature. Real nature, not Disney-animated film nature, which means that deer can be as savage and remorseless as any predator. It's an effective bit of work, showing how the deer are different from humans and other races but can still be understood. This is something rather rare in works like this.

Next comes the basic information on their appearance (anthropomorphic deer, though here even the does have antlers), basics on their society and relations with others (they like salt for candy, nice little touch!), height and weight and aging tables are all included.

Then comes the crunch. Deer can be both small and medium in size with different modifiers for each. They also get different modifiers based on exactly which kind of deer they are. Elk tend to be physical powerhouses, for instance, while reindeer are tough and enduring. It works rather well as a way to differentiate the subraces of deer.

There are also feats that allow the player to, as their character develops, take on more deer-like traits such as increased speed or hard hooves. The various subraces also have the option to take this feat in place of various bonus feats a particular class would grant them, which I think is a clever idea. You can also get a set of evil antlers as weapons, which is definitely original. How many people ever think of diabolic deer?

We get some genealogy explaining how the deer clan developed, and then something rather novel, some notes on deer folklore and how some monsters will be and look different when seen through deer eyes. That is one of the better aspects of this series to me -- why would every single race view monsters the same way or tell the same stories about them?

Next is a section on the deer deity Cernnunos, who is more of a grimly merciless if not evil figure here than in the 'main' Pathfinder setting. His links with the Wild Hunt are played up as are his links to other related deities of the other therian clans.

Lastly comes a section with various heraldic symbols that can be taken as traits, providing a feat in exchange for a penalty of some sort to usually either saves or initiative. It's rather a new way to handle traits in-game, and it seems to be a good one.

My sole real criticism of this and the other entries in the series is the lack of racial favored class options, but this PDF gives so much that's a minor flaw at best. I'll go with four stars and definitely a worthwhile purchase at the price.


New Tricks for Slayers

4/5

This PDF is the first in a hoped-for series of releases to bring more options to the new classes from the ACG. This one covers the Slayer, and it comes in at twelve pages long, with one for the cover, one-half for the credits, one and a half for the OGL and copyright notices, and a full-page ad for the Veranthea Codex kickstarter. That leaves eight for the new material, and some rather fine work is found herein..

The first section is new Talents, which can be taken at the same time as any other Slayer Talent or in place of the track, stalker, swift tracker, quarry and improved quarry class features, if you want to customize your character even more.

There are some cool and flavorful ideas here, like the Death Drinker talent which allows your Slayer to heal themselves after making a kill (nice and creepy!), to the Elemental Grave talent that turns sneak attack damage into energy damage, to Studied Defense that grants an AC bonus against studied targets.

My personal favorites, though are the Face Stealer chain that allows you to take the appearance of an enemy reduced to negative hit points, a talent that can get stronger as you take more advanced versions of it, and the Shank chain, which allows the Slayer to take a light melee weapon they have proficiency in and use a better die of damage and have a better chance at inflicting critical hit.

Then we get the Advanced Talents. These include such nasty treats as the Sanction chain, which makes it harder and harder to return to life anyone the Slayer killed. Relentless lets the Slayer heal themselves if their studied target is still moving and they get killed or knocked out. Aching Strike makes it harder for a wounded by the Slayer enemy spellcaster to concentrate on their spells. The Shank and Face Stealer chains get advanced and more powerful versions as well. It's a good collection here.

Next come Lethalities, abilities that can be taken in place of studied target and sneak attack. You can replace every advance in those abilities or only some of them. Your Slayer can rage like a barbarian or cast necromancy spells from the cleric and witch classes, though most of these will have to be selected several times to be more than a minor ability. There are Death Blows that make your attacks able to inflict temporary conditions or reduce an enemy's speed. My favorite is 'Death From Above': your Slayer drops on an enemy and inflicts half their dice of falling damage on them! I wish the PDF mentioned whether this means that the Slayer only takes half damage from the fall, or just hurts the target half as much as themselves.

The Strangler chain of Lethalities allows you to use a flail group weapon as a means of grappling, and Steal Power, allowing you to temporarily use a feat or ability depending on the victim's type. This one has a nice creepy feel to it. Perfect for those murderous death cultists!

The PDF is rounded out with a few archetypes. One is the Headsman, who gets fewer studied targets per day, unless they're dealing with someone who was sentenced to death by a legal authority. They also get Weapon Focus for free in all two-handed slashing weapons and their sneak attack deals more damage against studied targets and inflicts max damage when used as a Coup de Grace.

The trouble-making Seditionist replaces sneak attack with alchemist's bombs and spell resistance against spells that read thoughts or detect alignment, as well as a bonus on Bluff checks to tell lies. They can also make traps as the Trapper archetype from Ultimate Magic.

Lastly is the Warhound, who gets an animal companion they can share their Studied Target bonuses with. It seems like every class is getting animal companions these days.

So you get a multitude of good new talents, new toys in place of sneak attack and studied target for those interested, and three archetypes of which two are pretty good to me. It's only of use to Slayer characters but wow is it ever of use to them. I am so very glad I got a copy. I'll give this one a solid four stars.


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Assemble the horde

4/5

#30 Mercenary Companies is a collection from Rite Publishing of, well, exactly what it says. One note that should be made for the sake of completeness is that you will need the mass combat rules from Ultimate Canpaign to get the best use of this PDF

It's 23 pages long, with one for the cover, one for credits, one advertising their '101 Forest Kingdom Encounters' PDF, one for the OGL and one advertising for Cafe Press, leaving eighteen for the companies proper.

The individual companies all have a 'hook', something done to differentiate them from each other, which work rather well. They also have short sections going into their background, listing their alignment, their headquarters and leader, their resources (I.e., ships, buildings, ruled towns...), structure and leadership (very useful for would-be infiltrators or as a quick idea on how to present them in roleplay), uniform and banner, and an overview with different amounts of information available depending on how good your skill roll is. One quibble is that the skill needed is not described: I would assume either Knowledge (local) or Profession (soldier) would do.

You then get an in-character description which gives more ideas on just how the group sees itself and others, as well as adventure hooks, and statblocks listing all the needed information for use in mass combat.

The mercenary units themselves are well done, with alliances, rivalries, and hatreds between each other. Suffice to say that not all the money in the world can get some of these groups to work together! They also cover a range of classes from the usual warriors, fighters, and rangers to monks, magi, and rogues. They even have units of summoners and alchemists here, who are listed s specialists for things like sabotage and the like, which I do like. Some of them seem a bit too powerful (mercenary units of several hundred 11th-13th level fighters and rogues?), but that's probably just a personal quirk.

I will admit that one other minor quibble is that almost all of the units are the races from the Player's Handbook. Which makes sense, but I wouldn't have minded seeing a few more units like Wings Over Water (giant eagles and griffins, based out of a network of farming and fishing villages) and the Wolflings, who are werewolves and who work with the Wings against cavalry -- the Wings eat the horses and the Wolflings eat the riders! They also probably inevitably have a company of paladins who are being secretly manipulated by evil but they're too honorable, pigheaded, and stupid to notice. Sigh. Maybe one of these days we'll get a group of evil mercenaries being tricked into fighting for good causes by a clever good guy?

This PDF promises you 30 mercenary companies with plot hooks and that's exactly what you get, with some very good ideas included. The problem is that it's of limited use to someone not intending to use the mass combat rules from either the Campaign Guide or Legendary Games' Ultimate Battle. However, if you DO use them this can be a great guide to setting your own units up as well as a source of plot ideas for any player. I'll go with 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for me because mass combat really appeals to me.


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Deeper into the woods

4/5

Faerie Mysteries is the latest PDF for Legendary Games Kingdom Building line of supplements. It functions as a kind-of sequel to the earlier release Faerie Passions, though the focus here is more on information that will be of use to GMs rather than players.

It mainly offers up a new idea for Pathfinder based on the by now familiar haunt, the Fey Impulse. These are basically minor or major eruptions of the fey realm into the mundane world with results that can range from the hauntingly beautiful to the utterly terrifying. They come in three types: rumors which are basically harmless illusions, though they can be a lot less harmless if they occur in the middle of a battle; ripples that can affect your emotions and thoughts as well as your senses; and ruptures that actually transpose the environment (as well as anything or one in it) from one realm to the other.

And if that wasn't enough, all three enhance an empower fey creatures within them. mildly so for the rumors, more for the ripples, and most of all for ruptures. Fey creatures know all about this, of course, which gives them all the more reason to confront PCs while making a stand in one.

The sample impulses listed cover the gamut from harmless yet lovely to images and experiences that feel like they were lifted from a Machen horror story. Like a tree that fills you with the emotions experienced by its dead dryad when she was hung from it, to facing the spectral charge of elven knights, to sating the hungers of savage redcaps!

The PDF also contains some very weird and wonderful fey-influenced events that can serve as anything from a bizarre roleplay encounter to an adventure location such as a mansion that vanished decades ago and has only just now returned. Any or all can serve either as is or as inspiration for encounters in lands haunted by the fey.

Lastly are three new monsters, all fey-influenced. First is the sadistic blackthorn dryad, descended from dryads that ended up in the Plane of Shadows and who were mated to kytons. They combine some of the magical talents of their mothers with the cruel chains of their fathers to lethal effect. Next is the murderous harionna hag with her array of hexes and lethal barbed hair. And lastly is a variant nixie, the stromkarl, using their beguiling song to lure either partners or prey to them.

All in all it's a fine new idea for the game, with plenty of good examples how to use it, as well as some new fey creatures to use it with. I'm giving it 4 stars and the recommendation for use in any fey-heavy campaign.


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Presenting the Lamia PC race

4/5

Slithering from the shadows, here is what must be one of the more unique releases in the Advanced Races line, the lamia PC race. It's 17 pages long, with one for the cover, one for the table of contents, one back cover with other products from the Midgard line, and one for the OGL, leaving 13 pages for the contents.

It starts with a brief section covering a non-decadent and evil lamia's realization that she doesn't belong among her cheerily vile kin, and then some information on lamia society, psychology, and more to help establish how these creatures differ from the normal Pathfinder lamia (who these ones despise). We get all the stats needed for the race, also including ones for age and height and weight. Very oddly for a potential PC race they get spell resistance, which may be a problem for some groups and campaigns. As a bonus we also get some information on favored class options and alternative racial traits.

Then comes a small yet flavorful list of racial feats. A few enhance the magic of the lamia. Others make their serpentine traits more obvious and useful in battle. We also get a new Oracle mystery for the Moon (central to lamia culture as shown in the fluff here), and a new spell. Last comes a pair of prestige classes, with one focusing upon the Moon-based mysticism of the lamia and the other a warlike one focusing on their love of using twin scimitars in battle.

All in all it's a well-done if somewhat bizarre addition to a line that has already given some odd new races. I'd say four stars, and a definite buy if you like serpent-folk as a PC race.


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Get your freak on

5/5

Mutant Manifesto is a PDF from Legendary Games in their Adventure Path Plug-In line covering mutations that twist the mind and flesh. It runs 21 pages, with one for the cover, one for credits, one for the table of contents, two explaining what the line/product is as well as some words on Legendary Games and what can be found in the PDF, two pages showing what else LG offers, and one blank back cover. That leaves 13 pages for the twisted goodness within, so here we go!

After a page-long discussion covering how to use the idea of mutation in gothic horror and dark heroic fantasy, the PDF offers a pair of archetypes. The Deviant is one for wizards who wish to get in on alchemist-style mutagen fun, allowing the character to take the Extra Discovery feat, but only for mutagen-affecting alchemist discoveries. You are also allowed to swap out some of your spells gained per level to get Extra Discovery as a bonus feat. You also eventually gain a familiar with the celestial or fiendish template, as well as the ability to buy summoner evolutions for it by sacrificing one spell slot per spell level you can cast. And your spells are harder to resist when cast on certain alien or mutated creatures. You can really build up one freaky mage and familiar with this archetype.

The second archetype is the Xenocidist for the ranger. Basically a ranger who loses their spell-casting ability in exchange for some inquisitor judgements, favored terrain for the ability to whip up angry mobs like a bard, and a limited number of potential favored enemies as well as resistance to polymorph and transmutation effects. This is a very unusual yet flavorful archetype, and can lend itself to some modifying for people who want to make it an enemy of undead, fiends, or almost any other class of creature.

Then we get several alchemist's discoveries revolving around mutagens that can make you into an aberrant creature briefly, sharing your flesh-bending mutagenic gifts with others, and bombs that are more dangerous to aberrant and (Cthulhu) mythos creatures. And of course lots of tentacles.

Next are a few feats for xenophiles and xenophobes as well as a way to grant the mana-wasted mutant template to summoned monsters. After this we get a list of some new spells that revolve around creating and fighting mutants. Probably the best are Blightburn meltdown, which damages and sickens opponents, interferes with teleportation, and enhances polymorph effects; and Genetic Purification, which can strip the various 'half-' templates from others as well as turn those half-elves, half-orcs, tieflings, etc. into normal humans. You can also transform enemies into mana-wasted mutants (the latter template is thoughtfully reprinted in the PDF), inflict random mutations on them, summon mutant monsters or something called 'hungry flesh'. The latter is listed as being described as Pathfinder Bestiary 4, which seems inconvenient for those who lack the book.

Last of all is a description of the dread Omnia Mutandis spellbook, which basically gives PCs a way to take any of the above spells, feats, etc. for themselves along with a free side order of accidental mutation thanks to the fact that the pages are soaked with the remnants of mutagenic experiments! It also gives advice on how to handle fleshwarping, Moreau-esque vivisection, and other fun topics. Truly a memorable tome and one that comes complete with its own nasty history and plot hooks.

In all, I really do enjoy this PDF. The archetypes, spells, mythos time, and everything else, all have that lovely creeping feeling this sort of a subject should have. My sole major complaint is that it allows you to summon some monsters which haven't even been released as yet, and in a book which may be out of the price range of some buyers. That is however a minor quibble when compared to everything you can use, with the PDF having hotlinks for anything and everything other than the new monster spell and material from the main Pathfinder rulebook. If you want some mutants in your game you'll want this PDF. I'll make it 4.5 stars for the reasons I listed, rounding it off to 5.


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The Wild Hunt Rides Again

5/5

In the latest module from Legendary Games meant for use with their "Kingbreaker" line, your newly-fledged rulers start off with a celebration for their new land, only to have problems when a child finds a slaughtered unicorn. Then it's a plea for help from an old ally and her unicorn friend for assistance against the Furious Hunt and that leads right into a wild battle, followed by a chase that ends up on the very threshold of the world of the Fae -- and then over.

And then things get really strange as you get a taste of what the First World can be like as you enter the bizarre Realm of Four Seasons. I really like the latter, as I'd say it 'gets' the feel of the otherworldly Fae and yet at the same time shows their links to nature. The second part of the adventure contains more interaction and social skill use than the more physical and combat-oriented first part as you had to finesse your way past several potent and whimsical Fae guardians. Do well and you may have some aid in the final battle. Do poorly and you end up with even more enemies.

Finally after all of that you get to the end, to the Dark Heart of Winter, and an enemy who may be familiar to Pathfinder/Paizo fans who've fought the Fae before around a place called Falcon Hollow...

It's a very well-done adventure, with a good balance of combat and roleplay, mayhem and skill use in it. Okay the main idea may be a little old school (rescuing a unicorn filly) but it works very well here, and can help explain some of what happened in earlier adventures from the Kingmaker line this is meant to support. It helps to display the Fae enmity that your PCs will probably end up dealing with in the long run as well as serving as a break in an otherwise encounter-a-day and exploration adventure you may be using. Well done and I like how it's handled; five stars.


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The Lighter Side of Necromancy

5/5

Ah, the necromancer. Favored villain of so many games, be he either the big bad or just a mook-making-machine. And usually stuck with that role until now.

The Expanded White Necromancer gives us an expansion of a character class that appeared in the now sadly-gone Kobold Quarterly, making this rather necromantic in itself. It is basically a necromancer who can work with the good guys. He has decent yet limited healing powers and can even protect against death attacks. And oh yes, he can make neutral and maybe even good undead as well. Of course he doesn't make undead slaves, he treats his undead with dignity and respect -- but still, here you have a heroic PC class that can send undead into battle. Now that is different!

We also get a pair of archetypes. The Grave Bound White Necromancer gets some undead resistances, but the main thing this one gets is their very own undead companion. You can choose anything from sentient zombies and skeletons to ghosts and vampires for your unbreathing ally. This idea in and of itself makes this PDF a joy to me. I love murderous and evil undead, but this idea works great.

Next is the Necrotic Healer, an arcane healer with some potent abilities centered around taking injuries and disabilities from others and giving them to yourself. I like the way this one works, as it feels a lot like healers from a great many works of fantasy who can aid others at personal cost.

The PDF also gives you several new spells with a nice necromantic twist, as well as some new feats that can be used by any spellcaster to control and deal with the undead.

A novel take on a classic fantasy character and it has a class I'd love to either use or see used in a game I'm in someday. Five stars!


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More magnificenty malevolent monsters from Legendary Games

5/5

Beasts of Legend: Boreal Bestiary is the latest such collection of new monstrosities for Pathfinder from Legendary Games, and it's quite a fine set indeed.

First the PDF itself. It's 40 pages long, with one page for the cover, the credits, the contents, one for an introduction, one telling the buyer what they can expect, one page of full-color paper minis, a dozen(!) pages of full-color art plates of the monsters, a page telling you about their other products, and a back cover. That leaves twenty pages of monstrous goodness, so here we go.

First is the Arctic Harpspider, an outsider that looks like the standard giant spider. Only this one is made of ice, and along with the usual poison it can play music on its icy web that captivates its prey, luring them in close so the appreciative spider can have dinner. Nice, odd, and quite eerie.

Next are the malevolent and pitiful undead Green Children. Formed from wrongfully slain children, these nasty little horrors (who almost always run in packs -- big ones, which when you consider their origin adds another layer of horror onto them) can inflict any number of nasty curses on you, as well as use a short-range teleport around the battlefield to gang up on their victims. And oh yes, when they gang up their curses and damage both improve with how many are attacking. And they can squeeze more of themselves into a square than bigger creatures! The green children don't look like much, but they can be incredibly dangerous.

The repellent half-centipede fey Gruen are kin to mites. They live with their creepy relations, and have the odd talent of being able to roll themselves up into an armored ball for both defense and offense, as well as a nauseating poison bite that can leave victims vomiting and unable to even speak. Charming.

The gigantic Hiisi are physically powerful, love to make nasty traps, and oh yes, their blood when spilled creates an anti-magic zone! The hiisi know this and will gladly spill their blood into their traps or on the rocks they hurl as weapons to weaken their human prey. In a nice creepy touch, the hiisi don't just eat humans to be jerks but because they think human flesh increases their intelligence and virility.

The Maniitok is a sort of spirit embodied as an ooze. It longs of the peace and stillness of the wild places -- and so naturally when adventurers or civilization shows up, it goes berserk and tries to kill everyone! It has an ability to destroy objects and structures that would make a treant weep with envy, can unleash a tundral swarm formed from its own body (which means it takes damage as it deals it) with varying effect based on whether it's freezing or not, and since it's made of mud, muck, and half frozen slush it's almost impossible to get away from if it grabs you or if you wander into range to fight it. It's a very dangerous, very strange monster to face, and it can be set off just by hearing the sound of human voices. This is something you'll have to deal with cleverly, if at all.

The fey Orruol are mountain spirits, the rulers of their lofty and stony abodes. They have powers to control and affect nearly everything about their homes from the affects of altitude to controlling the creatures that live upon it. They also have spellcasting power as an oracle of the Stone mystery with twists to keep things surprising. I really like them; mountains in real life have long been places of fear and mystery, and the orruol helps to make them that way in the game as well.

We finally get some nicely malevolent fey with the Polevik. Resembling a bug-eyed, maniacal and filthy dwarf with a chained pair of sickles, poleviks have a number of sneak attack and stealth-related abilities which they use in their pastime of jumping people and snatching pieces of their souls away to barter off to creatures from the lower planes. As this also drains your best ability score, this is very troublesome. Just imagine the problems PCs get into as they deal with who knows how many fiends to get the pieces of their souls back! Oh yes, the polevik can also use the stolen soul essence to create one of six different magical fetishes with different but always unpleasant powers. This entry finishes with a description of the double-chained sickle, which is certainly a nasty weapon.

The merciless Torden are literally cold and cruel hunters. They can cross ice and snow without difficulty, something they can share with their mounts, and possess abilities from the ranger class such as favored enemy and terrain, making them even more dangerous. They are descended from beings cursed long ago by druids, and so they bear a murderous hatred for druid, and creatures that serve druids, or beasts and plants that might be protected by druids, or... I think you get the idea. They can also conjure phantom hunting horns which can buff them and weaken enemies when blown, and their gore attack inflicts bleed damage. The Torden Huntmaster has more potent versions of all these powers as well as some nasty surprises all its own. Oh yes, torden also have long-standing alliances with giant owls and winter wolves, who gladly serve as mounts for torden hunting parties. Another favorite of mine; I'm a fan of all versions of the Wild Hunt and the torden definitely remind me of them.

The murderous Vodenjak serves as a nasty ferryman. He can control the water around his skiff, he can see the future, and far more original, he can grant limited wishes --- but ONLY to beings of 7 or less hit dice. The wish also comes with a geas free of charge to perform any one task of the vodenjak's asking to be done within one year. But what really sets this one off is his ability to snatch the souls of the dead and turn them into potions that affect either others or the vodenjak itself. Despite his evil the vodenjak can be bargained with for passage or a future foretold or even a wish. But always with a dreadful price. The vodenjak is great. It feels like an actually folkloric creature, and at the same time has enough power and threat to it that most PCs can't simply mug the poor monster to get out of paying him his fee if he helps them.

Lastly is the Wiitikowan, a template for someone or thing possessed by a raw and hungry spirit of nature. Based pretty clearly on the classic windigo possession/psychosis, this template basically turns someone into a maddened killer with a murderous bite that spreads its cursed state as well as the ability to inflict nightmares as the spell that also weaken its victim against it. It thoughtfully includes a human ranger, a wolverine, and a mountain raven that have already 'gone wiitikowan' and are ready to take a bite out of any PCs. Another favorite of mine; windigos are some of my favorite mythic monsters and this lower-powered yet scary template gives you the chance to have some in your campaign before meeting the true wendigo at higher levels.

The Boreal Bestiary promises some truly nasty monsters from the frozen north and it delivers in style. I like that many of them have a mythic or folkloric feel to them yet still manage to be honestly dangerous in combat situations. The full color section doesn't hurt either. I give this one five stars and my best recommendations!


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A druid with a difference

5/5

The Shaman of Humanity is a new archetype for the druid class that sees humanity as being a part of nature and has some differences from the normal druid to emphasize that. Boy does it have differences!

First one drawback, you get diminished spellcasting. You also don't get to choose between a domain and a companion, you get the animal. And your wild empathy only works on your companion, domesticated animals, or any animal under the effect of anthropomorphic animal. However, you also get better weapon and armor proficiencies and an enhanced companion. It has a higher intelligence and can choose additional bonus feats that are usually off-limits to companions.

The BIG change, however, is simply that you gain the ability to anthropomorphize your companion, making them human-like. This replaces wild shape and several other normal class features, but in exchange you get a companion that can use weapons and do nearly anything a person can (carry supplies, help with certain skills, etc.). The shaman of humanity can cast the spell more often as they rise in level, until they hit 14th level, at which point the companion can use it whenever and however they like and the druid can cast a special permanency on any animal under the effect of an anthropomorphic animal spell.

Also, the druid can alter his normal summoning ability to conjure anthropomorphic versions of normal animals, who arrive packing weapons and ready to obey orders. This is something that makes this archetype VERY different from the more normal druids, maybe too much so for some campaigns. Too, depending on the campaign, once you add in things like Augment Summoning and Superior Summoning and you end up with small armies of beast-folk following the druid around, that may be either too much support (or exactly enough depending on what the game is like).

The shaman of humanity also gets the ability to protect an entire community against attacks by animals, vermin, and magical beasts at 15th level, which is a nice twist on the more usual 'defend nature against the evils of civilization' angle of druids.

The PDF finishes up with two new feats, one that grants better weapons to your summoned anthropomorphs and another that lets them get through certain types of damage reduction. They are both very well suited to the archetype and make me wish you got more feats like these suited to use with new archetypes that expanded on their abilities.

The PDF promises you a new take on the druid and it certainly delivers. Yes this archetype is rather bizarre by some standards but I personally love it. If you want to have an excuse for bringing more beast-folk into a campaign this will work very well. And I like the new feats for use with the archetype. I'll go with five stars.


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Howl of the Worg

5/5

Exotic Encounters: Worgs is a 9-page PDF with a front and back cover, two pages for the OGL, title page and credits -- and then we're off to the monsters.

Now I have to admit, I love wolves IRL and I've always liked worgs and similar lupine beasts in my RPGs so I'm biased here, but I still think these are three great worg variants. First is the CR 3 Mocking Worg, a much more clever and slightly tougher (more HD) version of the usual worg. It can also pin you after it trips you. The big difference here is its ability to imitate voices and even steal them when it pins you. And to make it worse, if it steals your voice not only can't you speak but if you are a spellcaster than the worg can also take some of your verbal-component spells and cast them!

Next is the CR 5 Shadow Worg. This one can heal in shadows, use them to dimension door about the battlefield at will, and worst of all, mold shadows into as many as four weaker copies of normal worgs. This one can be a real threat in a nice shadowy forest or the like. And remember, worgs are like wolves, they hunt in packs -- so even a moderate-sized group of shadow worgs can swiftly become overwhelming.

Last and greatest is the CR 9 Great Speaker Worg. The size of a winter wolf with truly crushing jaws, this one has the unique power of getting more dangerous as it takes damage. It gains stronger and stronger fast healing as it takes wounds. Oh yes, it also starts gaining various nasty spell-like abilities which can be used as swift actions when it drops below a hit point threshold (90% or less, 75% or less, half and so so). And it can do so for as long as it's injured.

This is a great collection of lupine beasts. If your PCs have been jeering at worgs for being no more than the pets of goblins, sending a few of the beasts found in this PDF at them may change their minds. And for the rating, well, we're promised three nasty variant monsters and that's exactly what we get. And for a very fair price. From me, five stars.


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Stay out of the swamps

5/5

And off the moors, away from graveyards, or anywhere else these haunting horrors can find you!

Exotic Encounters: Will-O'-Wisps is a nine page PDF that offers three variants on the typical will-o'-wisp. It has 1 page for the cover, 1 for the credits, 1 for introduction, 2 for the OGL, and for the 1 back cover. That leave three full pages for the new monsters, and here we go.

Necromancer Games argues that the original legendary wisp was meant to be an elusive trickster guiding people to their doom, but the Pathfinder one is more of a very mobile beater with high damage, nasty spell resistance, and a very good AC. Here they offer us three versions of the wisp that try to get back to its mythic roots.

First up is the CR2 Wispling, basically a weaker (younger?) version of the Bestiary wisp. It does have some nice tricks of its own, such as an ability to use ghostly lights that can leave you shaken and a fear-inducing damaging cold touch. It also feeds on fear in a 30-ft radius, inflicting negative energy damage to its prey that heals and buffs the wispling proper. And it has a different version of the full-grown wisp's spell resistance that's not invulnerable but still scary for low-level PCs. They look to me like nice nasty surprises to put into a ghoul-haunted cemetery or the like. You might want to only use a few, though, unless you want to wipe out an entire adventuring party -- their feed on fear ability can be nasty.

Next is the CR9 Dark Guide Will o' Wisp. It feeds on death rather than fear, and can create ghostly lights that act as a lure to draw victims in closer. The lights work better on people suffering from fear, and the dark guide can inflict fear with its touch (which also does more damage than a normal wisp!) to soften you up for its attempt to lure you into whatever hazard it means to use against you. It also has a rather unique feature in that it's immune to divination spells.

Lastly is the CR 13 Devil's Eye Will-o-Wisp. It lacks the spell immunity of its weaker cousins but that's virtually the only good thing from a PC's view of this tiny horror. But it can reflect magic that doesn't penetrate its spell resistance, even when it's not directly targeted (Have your fireball back, wizard!). It has several nasty spell-like abilities, a potent shocking touch attack, the ability to drain life to restore itself, and can cause confusion among viewers. Oh, and it can create up to six copies that can use that shocking touch on you as well. This creature will definitely put the fear of wisps back into a high-level group.

This PDF promised three spooky and scary variants on one of my favorite legendary monsters, the will-o'-wisp, and it delivered. It's a good bargain for the price. Five stars!


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Sound the Call to Arms!

5/5

Ultimate Battle is a book/PDF for Legendary Games' Ultimate Plug-Ins line, meant for use in any sort of a campaign. As the name suggests it expands widely on the mass combat rules from Ultimate Campaign. Be warned, you WILL need them to properly use this.

The PDF proper has about 36 pages, of which 30 or so are devoted to the actual new and expanded rules. First is the 'Field of Battle' section, covering battles proper. It slightly reworks the casualties taken and inflicted by the various strategies to reduce the doubling effect granted by the bonuses and penalties to OM and DV already grant. It also divides the battlefield up into various zones (Camp, Command, Ranged, and Melee) to abstractly display just where the armies are in relation to each other.

It adds a Rout phase to the battle turn, which is when units check their morale to see if they keep fighting, run, give up, or whatever. It also expands on the three other phases as well -- Tactics now allows you to change your battle plan from turn to turn to respond to enemy actions, which is made easier by skill in Profession [soldier] (very realistic!); you can advance as well as fire and hold your ground in the Ranged phase. And if you shoot into a melee, better be careful not to hit your own troops! Melee phase is much as described in UC. But it is followed by the Rout phase, in which armies can be driven off if their morale is damaged enough. And if some of your units run, in a very real-world fashion others will take hits to their morale that may send them fleeing as well. You can also sound a retreat to pull out of the battle at this point. Just better hope the enemy doesn't pursue!

It also expands on the rules for armies that lose. They can be bloodied (damaged but still capable of fighting, especially if they get reinforcements), defeated (take losses and can be taken prisoner, attacked anew, or simply massacred as the victor desires), destroyed (like defeated but worse, as your country also takes damage from the loss), and disbanded (everyone runs away and half of them leave the country in shame, your other armies suffer hits to morale, and both the unit's home city AND your country suffer from it). One little touch I like is that if you try recruiting an army nearby a battle where enemy forces disbanded, you can get a one-time Loyalty bonus for recruiting because some of the defeated enemy troops join up. Once again, this is a bit of real-world history here!

There are expanded rules for dealing with fatigued troops and post-battle healing, as well as a very nasty and realistic threat of disease. It also allows you to attempt Parley to offer surrender, demand surrender, or simply bluster at each other.

UB then gives us a section on tactics both new and old. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole PDF. You can now use cavalry and light troops as skirmishers, make a Pike Block to defend other troops, flank and feint enemy units, retreat from battle or pursue someone else who retreats. Really you can do just about anything that could be done in a real battle with this rules. This section by itself is worth the price of the entire book to me.

Then we get the victory and aftermath of battles. You can take enemy commanders hostage, or execute them, or duel them. All of these have effects on both you and your kingdom beyond the battlefield. For instance, get a name for executing enemy leaders and you start adding Infamy to you and your nations' name. It also gives rules for how battlefield losses and victories affect both surviving armies and your nation. Losing soldiers not only affects how big an army you can have but also hurts your nation's Economy, Loyalty, and Stability. You can also plunder an enemy or be plundered, which not only adds (or costs) wealth in the form of BPs but can destroy buildings and terrain improvements. It also gives you options for what you can do with both POWs and captured civilians, ranging from use as forced labor to internment to simply massacring them all. Again, all of these have effects on both your nation and you, with some of them providing a little wealth but most of them costing in either Consumption or reputation.

Next is a section on Building Armies. Once again, it greatly expands on the rules given in UC, with new rules covering the size and CR of armies. The size of a troop is also enlarged when dealing with creatures with a CR below 1, which at the high levels (regiments, brigades, and legions) can lead to some gigantic forces.

The roles UC gives to both Commanders and Command Boons are expanded as well, with skill at both command and combat playing a greater role in determining your ability at generalship as well as how many armies your kingdom can have. It also provides some new Command Boons, including a few shifted over from Tactics in UC such as Cavalry Experts and Expert Flankers because it's felt that boons better represent a unit's training versus tricks anyone can use in battle. There are way too many new Boons for me to go into here -- suffice to say that you can pretty much do anything you can imagine with them and the new tactics, leading to very flexible battle plans.

It also provides new rules for recruiting and equipping armies. They both cost a little more than the rules in UC but also provide more flexibility for armies and commanders alike. You also can train troops after recruiting and even hire mercenaries, which is a quicker way to get skilled veteran troops provided they stay loyal. UB give us a pretty solid list of various items of equipment you can provide for your troops. Everything from Chariots to Howdahs to Reach Weapons to even Firearms and various Siege Weapons (the latter including cannons, bombards, and war wagons). There are rules for what it costs to keep armies active and in reserve, as well as complications concerning supply lines. This section ends with an expansion on the Special Abilities from UC.

The last part has a section covering troops on the march, with everything from scouting to forced marches to ambushes and living off the land getting some detail. We also get guidelines for how things like terrain, visibility, and weather can affect a battle.

Really, if you like mass combat that feels like real-world battles, you WILL want this PDF. If you like your mass combat very simple and abstract you might want to stick to the basic rules in UC, though even then this book can introduce some complications that can be used as the background in adventures. For instance, what if your camp gets plundered by troops gathering supplies while you're in the dungeon, or your home town gets hit by plague after sickened troops pass through? It is a GREAT PDF if you like this sort of detail the way I do. I'll say 4.5 stars because not everyone uses the mass combat rules, but if you do this will be a tremendous help, so up to 5 for my final rating.


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The Romance Between Mortal and Immortal

5/5

Faerie Passions is an Adventure Path Plug-In by Legendary Games for the Kingbreaker line. The AP they reference for it has a lot of interactions with the fey, but few guidelines on how to present them, a deficit which this product remedies.

It starts with a section going into detail about how the fey deal with the mortal world. It reminds us that as fey find humans as alien as we do them and possess a poor understanding of human reactions and thoughts, which can lead to catastrophe when the fey think they're about to be attacked or the like. The fey are motivated by things like a love of (what they consider to be) beauty, tremendous pride, a love of mischief and amusement, and sometimes simple feral bloodlust. But even then they have self-imposed strictures that they follow rigorously. I.e., the infamous 'guess my name and I'll let you go free' bit.

It also goes into the sorts of love that fey feel for mortals and vice-versa, which can range from pure romantic love to simple lust to a desire to control and possess. And any of these can lead to children -- who can have minor physical differences of which some are helpfully listed. Or they can be something far worse, almost an eldritch abomination. Any of these can lead to inspiration for characters and plots of all sorts.

It can also lead to some new Fey bloodlines, much as how the Elemental bloodline can be broken into the differing genie bloodlines. The ones given are for the dryads, nereids, norns, nymphs, and satyrs, and all of them possess enough quirks to individualize them while still being recognizably fey. The PDF also helpfully lists that 'you are considered to have the fey bloodline for purposes of effects and archetypes. If an archetype replaces an element of the fey bloodline you do not have, you give up an ability from the corresponding level instead'.

Finally we get two fey archetypes, the feyfriend druid. They get a slightly different skill list, some extra sorcerer/wizard spells for their list in place of the nature bond, the ability to take the forms of giants and fey in place of elementals with wild shape, and several other changes that make this a very distinct archetype.

Next comes the rather less faerie-friendly Fey Hunter for rangers. They lose some of the normal ranger abilities in exchange for ones that make them even more dangerous against the fey, such as their Favored Enemy bonus against fey applying to saves against their powers as well; the ability to use dispelling strikes and true seeing against fey and their powers; and the ability to share her save bonus with allies. This is a great archetype and one that will probably see a lot of use in fey-heavy campaigns.

A great supplement, balancing fluff with crunch and truly helping to bring the fey to life for any campaign or adventure. Five stars easy!


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Great Options for games with guns

4/5

The Expanded Gunslinger is a collection of traits, archetypes, and feats for the gunslinger base class from the ever-inventive folks at Kobold Press.

First is a collection of gun-centered traits. Several of these get away from the standards of '+1 to a given skill' and/or 'gain skill as class skill'. Some of them allow you to take a specific gun (pistol, rifle, etc.) as a proficiency, one gives you a penalty on attacks with guns but a bonus on rolls to confirm criticals, bonuses against foes who have yet to act in combat, and even an ability to make certain alchemical goods like thunderstones for less money. They seem rather different from most new traits in good ways.

There are several new firearm feats such as Steel Fury, allowing you to gain grit or rage if injured by a gun, and the Thundering God feats for pistol-packing monks. Oddly enough they don't seem to be listed as Style feats, as they're put together the same way. But in any event they are made to order if you want to play someone as good with a gun as their hands.

Then the archetypes, and there are some very original ideas in here. Note that unless stated otherwise every new archetype is for the gunslinger class.

The Black Hat loses some deeds in exchange for being able to put curses on anyone struck by one of their bullets. The Black Powder Reaver is a barbarian who combines their rage with firearms skill (no new rage powers for use with guns, though) and gets deeds in exchange for trap sense.

The Coilgunner is very fun -- being basically a mad scientist sort who's invented the equivalent of a SF blaster gun that can shoot bolts of lightning along with a few exchanged skills. If you like Numerian supertech from the Golarion setting, this archetype would fit like a glove.

Another good one is the Futurist archetype. This is a witch whose power comes from technology and science. She can set hexes on her bullets and gets to choose from three great new patrons; Alchemy, Mechanics, and Natural Philosophy. The one for alchemy is especially great, as it allows the witch to toss a few bombs per day along with lead and spells. Okay you get less spells per day than the normal witch -- but some on, a spell-slinging witch who can throw bombs and sling lead too? What more do you need?

There's the Gunfighter archetype for fighters who want to use firearms and get access to fighter-only feats too. You also get superior gunsmithing skills and the ability to reduce damage from injuries by half a few times per day ("Twas a mere flesh wound!"). The Hellfire Preacher is a cleric who has suffered a crisis of faith and decided to become a pistol-packing padre in response. His skill with channel energy is lessened and he loses a domain in exchange for gun skills and improved saves against divine magic. Last comes the Noble Shootist archetype for those noblemen who wish to duel with gun rather than blade. You gain a few new deeds and skills, but it seems rather lean compared to the sheer joy of the coilgunner and futurist.

Great, great collection of traits, feats, and archetypes. I'd have loved to see some a few new rage powers and maybe even a hex or two for the barbarian and witch archetypes; and sad to say that if your game doesn't allow for both guns and 3rd party material at the table this won't do you any good. But if it does, you WILL want to get a copy of this PDF.


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Ultimate Rulership lives up to its name

5/5

Ultimate Rulership is a PDF from Legendary Games in their Ultimate Plug-Ins line consisting of a host of optional yet very fun rules for the kingdom building rules in the recent Ultimate Campaign hardcover. It consists of 40 pages, with one page for a cover, title page, credits, contents, one page explaining the Plug-Ins line, one full-page piece of color art, a back cover, and two pages covering what else LG has for sale or is coming soon from them. That leaves 31 pages for the actual contents, so here goes.

First you get a list of new edicts for your PC rulers to use and some expansion on variants for the normal edicts listed in UC. The new edicts allow you to commission magical items from your populace, have festivals to entertain your subjects or establish places of art and learning for them, and my favorites, the espionage and recruitment edicts. They are both very detailed, allowing you to engage in all sorts of devilry with the neighbors if you so desire ranging from spying on them to rousing the rabble and promoting unrest. (Of course, they can do this to YOU too).

Recruitment edicts allow for the raising of an army -- militia, regular troops, and elites, with the latter given a list of building requirements. You can also set the level of militarism from 'Peace and Love' to 'We are Sparta!' with effects on how many troops you can raise and affects on your nation's economy and society.

The PDF also expands on leadership role skills in case you prefer that skill counts for more than raw ability when it comes to running a nation. There's also some material on just how your nation can be founded, and the differences between doing it all yourself, taking a fief, charters or land grants. There are rules for how to make Building Points a kind of treasure and how the Leadership feat can help.

Another section that I consider very well done is the one on judging the population of your kingdom and its cities. This new system goes into considerable detail as to how many people can be found in various kinds of terrain, how improvements such as farms affect it, as well as a new system for erecting various buildings on a monthly installment plan. It always seemed odd to me that you could put up a castle in a month. There's an extensive chart that lists all the information you need for this, including the population it will add and (another new optional rule) whether or not it can be built in your community, depending on how big it is.

And we get new building types, as well as rules for less-sturdy wooden buildings (quicker and cheaper to build but more fragile). Various magical improvements and natural advantages are listed as well, along with new exotic types of settlements such as cities built on barges, causeways, and cliffs. It ends with some new rules on dangers to your new town and attributes it can have or gain.

I think this is required for anyone who wants to use the kingdom building rules. Along with JBE's Book of the River Kingdoms it's some of the very best expansions for a game of PC rulers. My sole criticism is to wonder if they really needed nine whole pages out of a 40 page PDF for cover, contents, ads and all the rest. That stated what you get is worth every penny you'll pay for it. 4.5 stars and rounded up to 5 for this review.


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The Coldwood Codex: A Colossal Creature Collection

5/5

The latest offering from Legendary Games for their 'Kingbreaker' AP plug-ins, the Coldwood Codex is a set of undead and fey monsters for use in almost any wilderness campaign.

Be warned, I'm basing this review on an earlier version of the PDF. A redone one was released after I got my copy with a shorter page count and new formatting. One or two observations I make here may well have been changed.

First monster is the Amadan, a creepy little horror that is basically an avatar of misfortune, with a collection of cruel spell-like abilities and curses for use, along with a nasty bite, great resistance to injury (its body is basically a bag filled with liquid curse!), and a very nice and odd talent: it can only be seen by someone who's under a curse. So in order to see it, you have to let it put a curse on you! And then it can become a giant and smash you into a pulp. Weird, original, and very nasty.

Next is the Bokereyder, a little goat-man fey with the ability to drive tame animals wild and for some odd reason the HD and BAB of a monstrous humanoid. They can be nasty in a fight but these guys are threats more in the sense of what they can do a community under your care -- by driving the goats, sheep, horses and whatnot berserk they can cause a LOT of damage to farm folk and herders. They're very folkloric fey.

The Chernobog should be familiar to anyone who ever saw "Fantasia". They are staggeringly powerful fey warlords who represent nature's stark and coldblooded cruelty. This combined with a god complex and a raft of potent powers, including a druid-like ability to swap out uses of their spell-like abilities to cast summon nature's ally like a druid, make them memorable. Oh, did I mention the horn that when blown not only traps you with vines, they burrow into your body? And the chernobog can turn enemies into a non-necromantic zombie (complete with template)?

The undead Faleich-Wyrm is a primitive and feral undead dragon-kin, sort of like a great worm infested with undead leeches that drive their victims mad. It is not a glorious undead draconic tyrant, but a maddened rotting crawling horror that can devastate enemies between its attacks and the lingering madness its leeches leave behind. Very nasty and rather different, it's a grave-wyrm in the truest sense of the phrase.

Jenny Greenteeth joins the roster in the form of the Naekk, a lovely water-woman that lures you close with its tinkling riversong, blasts you into helpless despair with its cry, and then eats you whole! A new take on the classic murderous water-spirit, and very well done.

A Slough is a druidic lich with a tendency to establish savage cults and that maintains itself by use of accursed weirdstones and by draining the life from the land. A rotting, stinking, lord of marshes and wastelands, this is probably the best take on the 'undead druid' I've ever seen.

The bizarre Totemoq is an amoral fey wants to bring the glaciers back and cover all the world in ice. They're nasty spirits that can be a real menace to anyone wandering in the cold; and their appearance is truly unique! These are not your standard fey.

The pain-loving Ugrohter are undead fey who inflict pain on others to collect prime memories of agony and torment. They mostly do this by some nasty powers, like imbuing needles with spell-like abilities to cause suffering. Very creepy little guys.

The Barrow Wight is a true lord of the grave-mound, an undead miser and warlord that can track a grave-robber to the ends of the earth, inflict horrifying nightmares with a touch, and control a small army of superior wights created by its energy drain. This one is nasty indeed, a vicious enemy who can be used to set up any number of adventures with its greed, vengefulness, and power to act on both.

The prickly Boreal Wight is the remains of someone who froze in the northern forests. This left its mark on them, as they can root themselves and use the plants around them to seize and sicken their enemies. They also have a rather unusual yet very appropriate weakness, as well as a nasty habit of sending their wight-spawn back home to kill their still mortal loved ones.

The PDF also contains stand-ups for all the monsters they include, which is a nice touch. This is a wonderful collection of well-done themed monsters and it'd be a great addition to any wilderness campaign set in the frigid north. Five stars for a purchase you will be glad to make.


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Fine Collection of Magnificent Mounts

4/5

Cavalier Mounts is a four-page PDF collection that promises to deliver, well, some new and unusual mounts for the cavalier class. And it does.

The PDF itself has a cover page, credits, and then two pages with the actual mounts along with some explanatory information. After that it's straight to the mounts with some basic stat blocks. They all get a 4th level advancement like the more mundane horse and pony, save only for the size Large wolfhound, which gets it at 7th. It seems odd only in that a cavalier's mount thus has to wait until 7th level for the combat trained quality.

The mounts themselves are quite an odd and intriguing collection. You get several vermin mounts (giant ants, beetles, and spiders), a pair of fliers in the riding eagle and hawk, and then six more mundane steeds, for a certain definition of mundane -- the cave salamander, elk, Gila monster, ostrich, tumble pig, and wolfhound. It's all very basic. I would have appreciated just a little on where you might find these mounts and who would use them, but any player or DM with some experience can probably figure out a place for them pretty quick.

One minor question I have is for the vermin mounts. They get an Int of 2 at 4th level. I assume that means they're no longer immune to mind-affecting effects, and that they gain skills from that point on, but it's not specified.

In the end you are promised several very different mounts for your game for a very fair price, and that is exactly what you get. If you like the more unusual sort of cavaliers or campaigns, you'll almost certainly be able to get some use out of this PDF. Four stars!


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Kingbreaker Plug-Ins off to a flying start!

5/5

Cold Mountain is a 47-page PDF that starts off a new line of plug-ins meant for use with the Kingmaker AP. It has four full-color maps, one page for the cover, one for credits, and a back cover that lists some of Legendary Games' other products. That leaves roughly 40 pages for the adventure itself, so here goes.

The adventure is for 4th level characters and meant as a way of injecting some straightforward adventuring into the early exploration of their new kingdom. The PCs' land has been having trouble with weird and brutal killings by... something, that cannot be identified. Some believe that the nearby Ughar hillfolk might be involved -- and then they approach you to beg for help with the exact same problem! If it's not them, then who or what is responsible? This leads into a mixture of combat, investigation, exploration, and diplomacy in an adventure that deals with grief, loss, supernatural revenge, the immortal jealousy of the fey and the wrath of the windigo.

The adventure has a nice mix of roleplay, combat, skill use and exploring, and it presents some cool new monsters as well as a template that does a great job of presenting an infectious and terrible curse to deal with. The rewards if you do well and pretty good, involving some new allies both human and inhuman as well as some new resources for your kingdom. And it plays into the themes of the larger campaign as well. Really a good piece of work and a great start for what promises to be a exceptional line of Campaign Plug-Ins. Five stars.


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More Lovecraftian Goodness from Legendary Games

4/5

The latest PDF from Legendary Games, Beyond the Void is a 15 page PDF. It has a cover page, back cover (listing their other available PDFs), two pages for credits, leaving eleven pages for eldritch weirdness, so here we go!

This PDF is meant for characters of all sorts who wish to investigate, contact, and summon alien entities of mind-bending horror. As such it works very well with most of the 'Gothic Grimoire' PDFs LG sells, as well as their 'Gothic Campaign' line. The PDF proper starts off with several new character archetypes -- the alienist for summoners, who gains a be-tentacled alien eidolon. The alienist also gets some new spells and a few variations on their usual class abilities to better reflect someone who spends their time communing with Lovecraftian horrors. Maybe the best is the replacement for gate at 19th level that lets you summon such cuddly things as shoggoths and neothelids.

Next is the deep-sea diving bathynaut for anyone who wanted to play an alchemist version of Jacques Costeau diving off R'lyeh. I REALLY like this idea, simply for the new discoveries and class abilities revolving around exploring underwater. Not to mention mutagens that basically briefly turn you into a Deep One. Oh, and you learn how to make devices that allow your friends to join you under the waves as well. For some campaigns this will be a truly awesome archetype.

Last is one for wizards, the ocular-obssessed Iridic Mage that allows for you to take increasingly potent and bizarre eye-related talents as you gain in power It also makes you a more potent foe of Mythos creatures and aberrations, making you into a stronger foe of Mythos horrors even as your sanity crumbles. Very nicely done!

It then gives us some new alchemical discoveries for the bathynaut, new feats including one, Summon Star-spawn, that allows you to summon alien horrors in place of the usual beasts for summon monster, and some new spells for anyone who wants to conjure an eldritch abomination of their very own. Best(?) of the lot is embryonic implantation, which allows you to turn someone into an unsuspecting brood mare for baby aberrations. It grows to maturity and devours them as it does before bursting forth to attack your enemies. Nasty.

Lastly we get two templates, 'alien' for use with the new Star-spawn feat and 'embryonic' for use with the new spell mentioned above. With the latter we also get four monsters adapted with the template so you can immediately start implanting your own nameless abominations in unsuspecting innocents.

If I'm rating this four stars, it's only because it's not quite as amazing as some of Legendary Games other PDFs. It's still easily among the very best takes on Lovecraftian horror done for the Pathfinder game. If you like Lovecraftiana in your game, you want this one.


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Creepy Cultic Gooodness Right Here!

5/5

Cultic Cryptomancia is the latest PDF from Legendary Games, covering, you guessed it, cults in gaming. It's 14 pages long, with one page for the title, one for the credits, one explaining what you can expect inside, and one for the back cover (listing various of their other products for sale). This leaves ten pages for the meat so let's get started.

First comes a section on character options, listing various classes and archetypes that would probably work best with a cult-related adventure. It's rather heavy on clerics, inquisitors (both hunting and serving a cult), oracles, and bards for phony cults, and has hyperlinks to all archetypes listed. It also has a brief section on just what different cults can be like, ranging from benevolent if secretive good-guys to the vilest of villains.

After that we get the new archetypes. There's the apostate for formerly-faithful inquisitors who've turned against their fellow believers, with altered abilities and a spell list centered around deception. This is a great archetype for either tales of internal corruption or playing a character out to change his faith regardless of the cost. There's the sublime bard for would-be cult leaders and master manipulators, which it's recommended you combine with the demagogue for even nastier effect.

Lastly we get one of the real prizes of this PDF, the Eldritch mystery for oracles. What can this one do? What can't it do? Revelations included can grant witch hexes, various bardic performances, the ability to transform into an aberration, and a multitude of cult-creating and controlling abilities. If you want to buy this PDF for any one thing, get it for this mystery.

Next come some fine cultic feats, nearly all of them with a well-done sinister air. You can make mind-altering drugs work better on yourself, cast bane spells, get a morale bonus from coupling with fey, outsiders, or (ugh!) aberrations, become a flagellant, or learn how to punch an enemy's heart out, literally.

But the best here are two feats revolving around the offering of sacrifices for enhanced magical power. Really, why DO those cults keep slicing up nosy locals and meddling tourists? When you read sacrificial power and sacrificial summons, you'll know why. Really, these are feats that Pathfinder villains should have had long ago.

And then we get the spells. First come the various aberrant form spells, which work like beast shape or monstrous form and again, they're something I've long wanted to see done for the game. There are the angry mob and torch-wielding mob spells, good for any spellcaster who wants to have some backup when they go to confront the local witch's coven or deranged mythos cult; fire charm to enthrall budding pyromaniacs; fearful rapture to both enhance your allies and terrorize your foes; demand offering to force someone to hand over whatever they have in hand, and foster hatred to get some intergroup strife going. There's the inscrutable grimoire to keep people out of your occult tomes, and orgiastic rite to, ahem, keep groups of opponents 'occupied' while you make an escape.

The two most stunning in description spells would, however, have to be avasculate and exsanguinate. The latter causes an already wounded opponent to bleed out with horrifying speed, but the former? It rips the opponent's blood vessels out and entangles both them and nearby targets with them! Now that's the kind of inventively sick spellcasting evil cults should be doing!

Really, a great PDF with lost of good and some amazing ideas within. Get it today and start making some truly horrible cults for your PCs to defeat -- or control.


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The (Mad) Doctor Will See You Now...

5/5

The Mad Doctor's Formulary is the latest release from Legendary Games. This PDF is sixteen pages long, with 1 page for the front cover, 1 for the credits, one explaining just what this product is and how it came to be, one for the back cover (lifting other fine PDFs from Legendary Games), and three lovely full-color plates. One is of the book many of the... procedures, can be found within, and two are of a pair of creatures that no mad surgeon should be without. That leaves nine pages for the new goodies, so here we go!

The core of the product is a listing of new and nasty ways to use skills such as Heal and Craft (alchemy) to enhance and alter people in ways that would bring a warm glow to Doctor Frankenstein's eyes. The procedures listed have to be learned somewhat like spells, though there's nothing especially magical about them. Indeed, many of them either were or are practiced in the real world, which only makes them even creepier.

And oh, such procedures your character or villain can learn! How to alter appearances, or warp their personality, with everything from instilling manias to lobotomies available. You can graft new body parts onto someone, or remove disagreeable memories. You can implant reservoirs of drugs in them or give them a new personality (along with a side order of raving insanity), implant a Kill switch to help stimulate their loyalty, stimulate their adrenal cortex for some extra oomph in a fight, or heck, even perform actual mundane surgery. None of these procedures is easy, but they're a lot of fun (for the mad doctor, that is).

We then get some information on a book containing all this information and so much more: Regarding the Clockwork of Capillaries, a classic work of mad surgery. Sure, it might turn you into Doctor Frankenstein if your sanity takes a few hard dings, but what's a little madness between friends? New uses for skills aside, it also provides bonuses on several others related to medicine, surgery, and the human body. Not to mention two new feats!

Anatomical Precision: How to use your medical skill to more effectively slice up those meddlesome heroes who seek to thwart the progress of mad science.

Anesthetist: You get better at using poisons and drugs to knock people out.

It also provides information on how to create surgical abominations from any leftovers such as flesh golems, the morgechs from their Construct Codex, and cranial dissectibots and cyberphrenic tadpoles.

Oh, yes, we also get two new constructs complete with a page of lovingly-illustrated full-color art devoted to each. The cyberphrenic tadpole is the classic mind control implant. The cranial dissectibot will not only defend you, it helps perform surgeries without flinching and can even remove a few spare chunks of someone's brain. Send Igor back to the bell tower; the Age of Science is here!

All in all, this is an amazing piece of work, and a truly unique 'grimoire'. Really, this one deserves to be called The Vivisectionist Alchemist's Essential Sourcebook. Admittedly, it's a bit annoying that it doesn't list information on the morgechs, but it's easy to rectify that with one more purchase. Since not everyone might be thrilled with that, I'll go with 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5.

If you love mad medicos and demented doctors of all sorts, then you want this book!


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When you need a quick shop, stop here!

4/5

Urban Dressing: Traders & Craftsmen is another PDF from Raging Swan covering a variety of people your PCs can meet in town, willing to buy and sell whatever they might need. It's 13 pages long, with 1 page for the cover, 1 for the back cover, 1 for contents, 1 for credits, 1 for other products available from Raging Swan, and 1 briefly detailing this PDF and the Urban Dressing line. That leaves seven for the contents, so here goes.

First of all, it should be said that I was given this PDF for free by Raging Swan in exchange for a review. That said, it's got some very good stuff in it. The first two pages go into detail about 100 different shops your PCs can enter, ranging from rather nice places to the sort of shops people probably hire murderers in. Many of them are described in such a way as to make it obvious that they've had prior owners, and who knows what they could have left behind?

The next page covers a variety of different goods and services that can be offered. It's rather plain, but still very convenient. The next page lists twenty different odd events that can be occurring in a shop when PCs visit. They can be anything from local color to a combat or social encounter to the lead-in for an adventure. The last two pages cover any potential NPC you might meet in the shop. None of the information covers potential character levels or classes, but it does give some quick ideas for their appearance, rumors about them, and their purpose in visiting the shop among other things.

The PDF gives you exactly what it promises, and it does so effectively. I would have liked a trifle more information about the owners of the shops and any more unusual trades, but it still does a great job. I'll go with 4 stars. Definitely worth the price.


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Fine collection of encounters

5/5

Wilderness Dressing: Plains is a 13-page PDF from Roaring Swan detailing various sights and odd encounters PCs might have when traveling through, well, a plains area. It consists of 1-page front cover, 1-page back cover, 1-page listing other products available from Roaring Swan, 1-page for credits, 1-page contents and foreword, and 1-page briefly describing the PDF's contents. This leaves six pages for the good stuff, so here we go.

First of all, I was given this PDF for free in exchange for a review. That said, this is a very well-done PDF. It promises you fun and strange sights and encounters to use when PCs travel through the plain, and that is exactly what it gives. Two pages cover minor events, many of which are basically begging to be used as seeds for larger encounters, such as a swarm of ants carrying a skeletal human hand along or finding the skeletal remains of a dog topped by a human skull. We get 98 more bits of weirdness like this.

The next two pages cover odd features, ranging from a shattered house with a massive battle axe in the middle of it, surrounded by giants' footprints and a frozen-in-horror statue pointing towards the tracks of a six-footed lizard. Again, there are a hundred of these all together, and they can all easily be used as anything from some random oddness to the seed of an encounter to the start of an entire adventure.

The final two pages cover encounters and some minor features that can simply be helpful to remember, covering perception ranges, cover from hedgerows and fences, etc. The encounters range from CR 1 to 12, and involve everything from wandering ponies to the angry spectre of a hanged man to a lich returned home for revenge. These are all rather clever and can be adjusted for use with PCs of almost any level, depending on what sort of an encounter (combat or nonviolent interaction) you want to use.

This is a splendid collection of encounters and sights for use in a game. No typos and very professionally done; five stars easy.


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To Serve a Prince Undying

5/5

The latest in Legendary Games' Gothic Grimoires-series consists of 8 pages, with 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page how-to-use, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 4 pages of content. So here it is:

This grimoire is a bit odd even by the highly inventive standards of the series, being basically a 'how-to' for would-be tyrants and people who want to create their very own secret police. It has the usual chance of madness, but if you go insane you become LE instead of a CE psychopath.

The book provides information on such fun topics as how to use torture to maim others, how to brew drugs to control and enhance your flunkies, how to become a LE anti-paladin of the 'Lord of Darkness' archetype (Way of the Wicked fans take note!); and it provides ways to take certain feats in place of normal class features for anti-paladins, cavaliers, inquisitors, ninjas, and rogues.

Inquisitors can also learn four new inquisitions that allow you to protect your master or pursue, terrorize, and slaughter his enemies; and new monk vows for unquestioning obedience and protection.

Lastly the book allows inquisitors to cast certain spells not normally on their list, either for one day or forever if you choose to take them when you gain new spells. This includes three new spells. One leaves you sobbing and prostrate with pain; one that brings a chosen servant who'd taken a vow of obedience back as either a revenant or a skeletal champion; and the charmingly titled ruthless beating that let you, well, pound the answers out of someone.

It's a great PDF, with no errors or typos that I saw, and the book is delightfully nasty. Really, this would be a great book for someone playing a Way of the Wicked campaign. It does list information from a number of sources but the PDF proper has links embedded to all of the non-core rulebook information, which is vastly appreciated.

Five stars, easy!


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