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Great mix of old and newGeneric Villain —
As a long-time player of Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons before it, I was apprehensive about the 2nd edition. Fortunately my fears proved unfounded. The new rules keep to the spirit of 1st edition, while also streamlining and simplifying many rules. Additionally, many of the rules and adjustments made over the course of 1st edition's decade of life have been included. For example, rituals (that is, spells that anyone can learn and that require long casting times) are included in the Core Rulebook.
Player classes are, to my eye, decently balanced. I suspect that spellcasters will continue to outshine their more martially-minded companions, but oh well. I really liked how every class allows for a wide degree of customization. It is now much easier to make unique characters without the necessity of multiclassing or choosing archetypes.
Spells have been simplified and re-categorized, such that classes no longer have unique spell lists. Each class simply chooses from one of four categories (arcane, divine, occult, and primal). It's clear that an effort has been made to balance spell lists against themselves as well. This means that arcane casters no longer dominate.
Magic items kept a solid mix of classic and new. I'm not completely sold on the idea of popping magical runes in and out of items, but I can see why this major change was made.
The core rules are no longer campaign setting-neutral, and now assume that the world of Golarion is used. Personally I'm glad about this, but for people who don't like Golarion, it's a simple matter to transfer the 2nd-edition's rules to the campaign setting of their choice. For Golarion fans like me, though, there's some great stuff here. For me personally, the complete world map is the most exciting.
All in all, while I certainly didn't love everything about this new edition, I believe it is superior to its predecessor. This is a great framework for many more years of high-quality Pathfinder content.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #131: The Reaper's Right Hand (War for the Crown 5 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Down the rabbit holeGeneric Villain —
This is a delightful adventure. It's whimsical without being absurd, has quirky and memorable characters, and some great roleplaying opportunities. The villains are no slouches either. What I most enjoyed about Reaper's Right Hand though, is that it grants a welcome reprieve from what has been a fairly tense and serious adventure path. It does not, however, do so at the expense of the War for the Crown AP as a whole. Sure your PCs might be running against a medusa for a political position, or convincing a hivemind cockatiel swarm to give back a ring, but these goals still serve to forward the story. The whimsy ends - mostly - in the third act, however, when the PCs must storm a classic dungeon.
I was worried that an adventure set in the lawfully-aligned plane of Axis would be sterile and boring, but this is not the case at all. To be honest, this adventure felt like it could fit as easily in the chaotic realm of the First World with a few tweeks. The corner of Axis where Right Hand takes place has its eccentricities to be sure, but there are still reminders that this is the plane of ultimate law. An active police force, inevitable guardians, and even a bit of bureaucratic red tape keep things from becoming too out there.
The supplemental articles on Sayashto (the city where the adventure takes place) and the halfling assassin god Thamir Gixx were fine and accomplished everything they needed too. I wasn't blown away, but that's a small quibble. I was a little disappointment with the bestiary section, mostly because none of the monsters really "popped" for me. Again though, these small issues do nothing to detract from the high quality of the adventure itself.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #110: The Thrushmoor Terror (Strange Aeons 2 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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A potentially great adventure bogged down by some odd choicesGeneric Villain —
I love Lovecraft and I wanted to love this adventure. Indeed, there are many reasons to do just that. First off, I'm thrilled that the weird little town of Thrushmoor is finally explored in depth, and in that regard, I was not disappointed. The place drips with isolated, superstitious, almost claustrophobic weirdness, and though the townsfolk are not outright hostile, they have some mixed feelings about the player characters. Justifiably so, it turns out.
After exploring the town a bit, the PCs are supposed to head to the local fort that doubles as Thrushmoor's center of government. Ft. Hailcourse has some fun encounters, with the highlights being a shapeshifting mirror creature and a couple skum with class levels. The adventure culminates with a visit to Iris Hill, the former abode of none other than the insidious Count Haserton Lowls IV. This was my favorite part of the adventure, with Mythos beasties and cultists galore.
This could have easily been a 4-star or even 5-star adventure. However, I think there were some major missteps in its execution. The biggest issue is the order in which the PCs are meant to tackle the set pieces. They have a choice between Ft. Hailcourse and Iris Hill, and due to the respective difficulty levels of these two locales, they really need to hit the Fort first. Alas, from a PC's perspective, I think Iris Hill is a much more reasonable target. There are no imposing walls, multiple points of ingress, and a doorman who is shady at best. Contrast this with Ft. Hailcourse and its single point of entry, which is guarded by a shapechanger with a very believable alibi and a solid Bluff check. To be fair, the author suggests that a helpful NPC guide the characters to the Fort first, but I don't think this is quite enough. At all.
Another issue is the unexplained disappearance of the town's high priestess, as compared to other important missing NPCs whose fates are fully detailed. Additionally, as brought up in a post from johnnyzcake, there's the fact that the PCs are supposed to collect a wide range of books in Iris Hill for the next adventure. Most of these can be found in one room, though not all of them. The author's explanation for why the characters should know to pick up these tomes, is because they happen to have titles. That's it. That's the only reason. And while I say the party is "supposed to collect" these books, based on what I read, it looks like the party needs all of them for the next adventure. Granted I haven't yet read that adventure yet and may be mistaken, but if I am not, this is a big problem.
None of these problems make The Thrushmoor Terror unplayable. Not by a long shot. With that said, it looks like a GM is going to need to make a few significant tweaks to run it smoothly. Even with these problems though, it manages to be a cool adventure.
Aside from the adventure itself, there's the ubiquitous Bestiary, a rundown on Hastur and his cult, and a close look at Thrushmoor itself. I was quite pleased with all three of these supplements. No complaints spring to mind.
Pathfinder Module: The House on Hook Street (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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A solid - if convoluted - adventureGeneric Villain —
House on Hook Street is the first time Paizo has put the rules from their Occult Adventures hardback in motion, and it is dripping with nightmarish goodness.
The adventure begins as a slow-burning horror/mystery set in the urban sprawl of Korvosa. The PCs are called to investigate a spate of recent deaths, uncover the new source of a mind-altering drug, and find out just why everyone seems to be experiencing the same collective nightmare. The author really drives home how desperate the impoverished people of the Bridgefront neighborhood are, with even many of the villains being victims in their own way. It's a fun, grimy romp.
The climax has the characters venture into the Dimension of Dreams. I have always been leery about adventures that involve dreaming as an essential element, but House does a pretty good job. Yes - PCs who die in their dreams die for real. No - they can't decide to dream themselves up as dragons and kick bad guy butt with impunity.
PCs do gain a few benefits in dreamland however, and may be able to shape its nature to suit their needs, but that means their antagonists are capable of the same feats. A GM will need to be familiar with the rules for lucid dreaming and the Dimension of Dreams from Occult Adventures to fully take advantage of the weirdness of this setting.
My favorite part of the adventure is the titular House, for it is destined to be explored both in the waking world and the dreaming one. The House is unpleasant enough the first time through, but should be downright terrifying once the PCs revisit it in their dreams. The author has made an effort to reskin standard monsters such that even veteran players are going to have trouble figuring out just what is trying to murder them.
Now for the bad parts. A lot of House's plot felt convoluted to me, with so many twists and turns that it might be hard for PCs to really grasp what is going on. I understand that part of an Occult Adventure is creating a complicated plot that requires PCs to peal back mysteries layer by layer, but this adventure had a few too many layers for my taste. The villains are split into three different factions: a standard cult, some "excommunicates," and a band of mercenaries. Each has their own motives and methods. To further complicate matters, there are two major artifacts in this adventure, and both of them serve as secondary villains with their own goals as well.
My second gripe concerns the PC's initial employer, who happens to have hidden desires of his own. And normally that would be fine. However, the adventure ends with him maybe gaining access to one of the aforementioned artifacts, and then... he's never heard from again. Even a few sentences in the Concluding the Adventure section would have been appreciated. To be fair his ultimate goals are noted earlier in the adventure, but I still felt like this end was a bit too loose.
As long as the players are motivated and interested in solving mysteries (perhaps with the aid of a notebook), and as long as they don't need the plot to wrap up at the end in a nice, neat little package, House on Hook Street should be great fun.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Tombs of Golarion (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Why was this in the Campaign Setting line?Generic Villain —
In the past, the Campaign Setting line has taken a look at six individual sites - be they castles, cities, or mega dungeons - that could inspire whole campaigns. These products have also expanded on the lore of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting. While Tombs of Golarion accomplishes the latter, it fails pretty terribly at the former.
My main complaint is that, although the six tombs were interesting, they felt like set pieces more suited for the Module or Pathfinder Society Scenario line. Of the six selections, only the Prismatic Lantern feels beefy enough to build a greater adventure or even campaign around. The others are too self-contained and stunted to be anything more than throw-away sidequests.
Where Tombs does succeed is fleshing out some thus-far neglected regions of Golarion. The Golden Ossuary offers us a glimpse into the wealth-obsessed Kalistocrats of Druma, the Tomb of the Necrophage is a gruesome microcosm of the cannibalistic Koboto people, and the Prismatic Lantern proves once again that we need more information on the nation of Nex.
In summary, compared to the possibilities offered by Dungeons or Castles of Golarion, Tombs was a huge disappointment. On the other hand, if you're looking for a few story-rich sidequests with some interesting opponents, you could certainly do worse than this.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #88: Valley of the Brain Collectors (Iron Gods 4 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Alien meets Aliens (but not Alien 3)Generic Villain —
To be clear, this is a Lovecraftian adventure, and that can be a polarizing thing. People either love his stuff or hate it, and there's usually not much middle-ground. That said, I think Valley strikes a good balance. The antagonists are aliens that want to do unspeakable things to the PCs, yes, but they lack the "eldritch horror" element often found in Lovecraft's work. These creatures are invaders and they want your brains. There are no books bound in human skin, no mystical symbols, no creepy hillbilly wizards - just terrifying beasts from outer space and a healthy dose of body horror. So much body horror. Now that my Lovecraft apology is out of the way, on to the adventure itself.
Valley of the Brain Collectors is a typical Pathfinder sandbox. Which is to say, you have a large region to explore, a few self-contained dungeons, and several fun encounters, all loosely tied together by a theme (which in this case could probably be summed up as alien weirdness). There are some specific goals for the PCs but for the most part they will need to be self-motivated. This could be a stumbling block for some parties, as the region is large and diverse enough to be overwhelming. The author addresses this, but I still got a "finding the needle in a haystack" vibe.
The adventure's antagonists are its definite highpoint. If Iron Gods is sci-fi, than Valley is the sci-fi horror episode, and in the hands of a motivated GM, the PCs will be in for a gruesomely good time. This is Alien(s), The Thing, and Predator, except that this time, the Predator might be on your team. In fact, my only real complaint would be that the author didn't delve into the horror aspects enough. Except for the Fungal Caves - those are awful in the best possible way.
This is the least technologically-heavy adventure yet in the Iron Gods AP. There are robots and high-tech treasures, but nowhere near as many as previous installments. Valley could easily be stripped of its techno aspects if the GM wanted a more standard fantasy adventure.
The two companion articles detail alien technology and the Dominion of the Black, respectively. The alien tech section is serviceable but I would have preferred less story (fluff) and more actual items (crunch). The Dominion article, on the other hand, is pure story and I loved every bit of it. Longtime Pathfinder fans have been waiting years to finally learn the truth behind this malevolent alien empire, and though there are still a lot of mysteries surrounding it, I think readers will be satisfied with what they learn. In a way I'm almost disappointed that the curtain has been pulled back, if only partially. On the other hand, Mike Shel did a great job and absolutely met my expectations.
The volume concludes with a Bestiary featuring a new robot and three aliens associated with the Dominion. Not too much to say here, except that we finally get to see what neh-thalggu evolve into when they've consumed enough brains. Hint: it's big, ugly, and still very much interested in taking your brain.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Occult Mysteries (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Weird, Wild StuffGeneric Villain —
Every once in a while a product comes along that strikes a perfect balance between mystery and discovery. The sort of thing that hands over all sorts of enticing facts and even more enticing hints, but never goes so far as to show you the whole, naked truth. This would be one such book.
Divided into four chapters, Occult Mysteries begins by detailing six of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting's biggest enigmas. There is some rehashed info for those very familiar with the world of Golarion, but even so it's nice to have all that material collected together in one place. And while we never learn for sure why the gnomes left the First World, or how life began, each of the Big Six mysteries has its own "theories" section that offers excellent new avenues of possibility. It would be tough to read through this chapter and not walk away with a half-dozen awesome new ideas for your campaign.
I found the second chapter to be my favorite. Here we have eight secret societies, each with a two-page writeup with details on joining and operating within the cult. The mechanics are the same as those used for organizations such as thieves' guilds and mage colleges. Although most of these cults are evil - or at least freakin' creepy - there is one group where paladins would feel right at home. I was particularly delighted with Conference Z, and all its subtle and not-so-subtle nods towards that 90s phenomena, the X-Files. I'm only disappointed that the mad scientist illustrated along with this group wasn't smoking.
Chapter 3 has the most new rules and mechanics. Five esoteric traditions are presented, along with ways to incorporate them into your game. I have to say I was a little annoyed to see Harrow (Pathfinder's answer to Tarot) get yet more coverage, and would have much preferred some other weird tradition in its place, but oh well. My favorite bit of crunch was the section on self-mortification, in particular the Pain Tester prestige class. This guy/gal absolutely oozes with creativity and potential. Really disturbing, icky potential.
The final chapter was a stroke of brilliance. In the tradition of games like Call of Cthulhu, we are given details on six infamous and forbidden tomes. If you aren't a Lovecraft fan, don't worry - only one book is Mythos related. Others deal with subjects such as diabolism, prophecy, and the mysteries of the human body. There's even an Osirion Book of the Dead! All in all, a very neat chapter.
A book like this can only succeed if its source material is sufficiently appealing. It is very much "meta," working because Golarion's creators have carefully developed all sorts of mysteries in their fictional world over the course of years. The fact that something like the Aucturn Enigma, first mentioned six years ago in the Entombed with the Pharaohs module, has drawn enough attention from fans to warrant its very own product, just goes to show you how successful they have been.
In closing, this is not a book of solving mysteries. It is a book that delights in the power of the unknown.
Easily some of Paizo's best workGeneric Villain —
People tend to have a love/hate relationship with prestige classes, and Paizo has been hit-or-miss with them in the past. I can honestly say though, that of the 30 prestige classes presented here, there's not one I would consider a "miss."
Each class begins with a short flavorful writeup, but for the most part this book is all crunch. None of the classes struck me as under- or overpowered, and the abilities gained really help highlight each class's theme. If you take levels in Daggermark Poisoner, you can be sure that your character is going to be a master of everything toxic. Want to take your illusionist to the next level? Than look no further than the Veiled Illusionist class, whose spells will keep the enemy guessing until it's far too late.
If you don't play in Pathfinder's default setting of Golarion, I'll say that some of the classes are thematically tied to that world. At the same time, it would take very little effort to customize these for your own campaign. For example the Hellknight Signifier is, at its core, an armored spellcaster with some creepy Hell-themed powers. I can't think of a setting where that wouldn't be neat. Also, many of the classes are quite generic (though by no means boring!). The Noble Scion is perfect for any royal court, the Sleepless Detective would work beautifully in a gothic horror or steam punk setting, and if there are drow in your world, you can bet there's a Lantern Bearer hunting them somewhere.
In conclusion, I could really feel the authors' attention to detail in each class. Nothing feels like a throwaway, with even potentially mundane themes like Pit Fighter gaining all kinds of creative, unique powers. Whether you're a GM or a player, you can bet there's something in here for you.
An awesome toolbox for any GMGeneric Villain —
As a GM it can be a struggle coming up with interesting, unique NPCs on the fly. Fortunately, help has arrived. "Rival Guide" offers a total of 40 NPCs, each fully developed with a background, unique personality, illustration, and stat block. A few of the NPCs are low-level, but for the most part they skew towards the mid- and high-level range. Each of the ten parties is well conceived, and as a GM I can easily see uses for every one of them - to put it another way, there are no flops here. So whether you want to throw a group of unique baddies at your PC, or just need stats for, say, a high-level Hellknight, you'll find what you need within.
And while the NPCs are the book's focus, there's a lot more here than just 40 stat blocks. Inside you'll find 8 new spells, 10 feats, and 19 new magical and alchemical items, poisons, and drugs. These new rule elements help make each of the "rivals" unique and interesting, but are also useful by themselves. Need a cool spell for your jungle druid? Try sheet lightning. Want to really baffle your PCs? Let them find Chomper, an intelligent bag of devouring.
There are also 2 new templates, but unfortunately neither really impressed me. I don't like how the Alchemically Invisible template functions, and the Haunted One template strikes me as unneccessary, as it could easily be accomplished through roleplaying alone. Ironically, the two NPCs afflicted with these templates are among my favorites. Oh well.
This is one of those resources that a GM will keep coming back to, time and again. It's an incredibly versatile product, and for that, easily earns five stars.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #41: The Thousand Fangs Below (Serpent's Skull 5 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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An excellent debut from Graeme DavisGeneric Villain —
This adventure focuses on the PCs exploring an ancient, ruined city. Which is precisely what they were doing two adventures ago in "City of Seven Spears." Thankfully, the underground city of Ilmurea feels far different than its counterpart in the world above, which means there's little chance players will be feeling much deja-vu.
The primary adversaries in "Thousand Fangs Below" are serpent people, and the PCs will be slogging through a small army of them. Fortunately there are a variety of other enemies such as morlocks, gugs, drow, intellect devourers, and daemon-spawned urdefhan to keep things feeling fresh. There are also several opportunities for diplomacy, intrigue, and shady alliances here, leaving sneaky or socially inclined characters with plenty of chances to shine.
I would also like to compliment the maps in "Thousand Fangs." The cartographer did an excellent job with Ilmurea, and the serpent people's fortress (the titular Fortress of Thousand Fangs) is well done. It's essentially an enormous, coiled, hollow stone snake - really cool in other words.
There are four new high-CR monsters in the bestiary. Three of the beasties come from African mythology, while the fourth is the mysterious herald of the magic god Nethys. All four monsters were unique and interesting.
Speaking of Nethys, he gets a full write-up in "Thousand Fangs" as well. The author, Sean K Reynolds, is known for his excellent treatment of deities, but I found this article to be among his weaker pieces. Nethys came across as a bit bland. Yes, I understand that he encourages his followers to learn/create/use magic, but to what end? I thought the previous look at nature deity Gozreh, back in "Race to Ruin", was a much more intriguing piece. Oh well.
To round out "Thousand Fangs," we have a gazeteer of Ilmurea - the city in which this adventure takes place. There are some great adventure hooks to be found here, and a creative GM could keep his players occupied for many hours exploring this nifty set piece.
All in all, this is a well done penultimate adventure.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #30: The Twice-Damned Prince (Council of Thieves 6 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Good but not greatGeneric Villain —
This adventure had some definite strengths and weaknesses. One of its strong points was its non-linear flow: the GM is presented with a series of related events to run as he pleases and in no particular order. This allows for the adventure to develop in an organic manner, as opposed to forcing the PCs down a particular path. Also, the manner in which the party deals with these events usually has an impact later on, further adding to the realism. There are no dungeons per se in Twice-Damned Prince. This made me a bit leary at first, but the author pulls it off quite well.
Now for the bad. While all of the adventure's events are solid and well presented, few of them struck me as particularly interesting. With the exception of the two main antagonists and a tiefling monk, I found the NPCs bland and uninspiring. For example, many of the enemies in this adventure are, not surprisingly, rogues. Why, then, did the author decide to make the vampiric Thesing a rogue as well? Why not a bard or sorcerer? It would fit his character thematically, and make for a much more interesting fight than yet another backstabbing thief-type.
Another annoyance came in the form of the fame point system. Specifically, Twice-Damned Prince adds a new type of "points" called popularity points, which must be tracked separately from fame points despite being very similar to them. This seemed unneccesarily complicated.
The article on the archdevil Mammon was fantastic, easily as good as Sean K Reynold's best Deities of Golarion articles. You even get a ready-made 20th-level high priest of Mammon who would make an excellent villain should the GM wish to continue this campaign. The bestiary has some intriguing high CR entries, though like past CoT bestiaries, the illustrations are mediocre. The Catastrophe article presents a great set of rules for running disasters such as floods and fires.
All in all, Twice-Damned Prince is a solid adventure that falls a bit short in flavor and comes with some great supporting articles. I'd give it 3.5 stars if I were able.
Pathfinder Module: Masks of the Living God (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Pathfinder Adventure Path #26: The Sixfold Trial (Council of Thieves 2 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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I don't like the theater...Generic Villain —
But I really enjoyed this adventure. The theater aspect is presented as most social encounters are: a series of skill checks. The level to which the DM and players wish to ham things up is entirely up to them, and while roleplaying is certainly encouraged, it isn't necessary. And of course, the "Sixfold Trial" isn't just any old play... it's a murderplay. Which is to say, when actors die on stage, sometimes it's for real. For parties who absolutely refuse to participate in the play, an alternative option is provided.
Richard Pett gives us an intrigue-laden dinner party for the second part of this adventure, and ends with a great dungeon. The dungeon is spooky and filled with numerous cool effects that will keep a party guessing. It also continues CoT's "shadow" theme nicely.
The Sixfold Trial gives plenty of chances to foreshadow future events for the PCs. For example, numerous NPCs introduced in these pages will be reappearing later in the adventure path, granting PCs a great opportunity to form relationships with these individuals early on.
DMs will appreciate the effort made to keep them informed and in the loop. Lots of background information is provided, and perhaps more importantly, the author makes sure to note which NPCs are expendable and which have future roles in the adventure path. The DM is also given an ample head's up on what's coming in future CoT installments.
The article on the goddess Iomedae is solid, and the bestiary has some interesting beasties. I particularly liked Paizo's answer to the death knight, the graveknight. While clearly inspired by the death knight, this undead warlord manages to be a unique and interesting monster.
All in all this is a great adventure, and proof that Paizo is listening to its fans.
Pathfinder Chronicles: Dungeon Denizens Revisited (OGL)Paizo Inc.
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Spice up your dungeon todayGeneric Villain —
I own all the Pathfinder Chronicles books, and this one is my favorite so far. The "Revisited" line is as strong as ever, offering original, creative stories for some of D&D's most memorable beasties. As with its predecessors, Dungeon Denizens Revisited is rules-light, though what rules we have are certain to spark anyone's imagination; for example, there are feats for making creepy, ooze-friendly druids. The bulk of the book, however, is "fluff". And boy is it ever... fluffy.
I liked the mimic chapter the most. The author has given these formerly two-dimensional menaces a complex lifecycle, as well as a psychological impetus for sitting in a dungeon looking like a treasure chest. For the first time ever, we even get to see what a mimic looks like in its natural form! (Ugly as sin, if you're wondering). I also enjoyed the cloaker entry, wherein the creepy bat-things are revealed to be worshipers of HP Lovecraft's "Mythos". There are plenty of cool cloaker variants as well, including ones covered in dangerous symbiotic mold and primitive cloaker/manta ray halfbreeds. Heck, even the gelatinous cube (and to a lesser degree, oozes in general) gets some much-needed love. Ever wonder what happens when you toss alkali on acid-based slime dudes? Well now you'll know.
Not all the chapters are gold. The owlbear and bulette, for example, seemed lacking. Perhaps I'm biased, as I was never a huge fan of either monster to begin with, but I doubt it; I still don't like rust monsters, but I enjoyed their entry nonetheless. These chapters are by no means bad, mind you. They just don't measure up compared to, for example, the purple worm or roper. (Fans of Nicholas Logue will not be disappointed by his take on the roper, btw).
The illustrations range from adequate to awesome. I particularly liked the baby gelatinous cube. It somehow manages to be cute, even with the human skull suspended inside.
All in all, a fantastic product. I can't wait for the next installment.
Pathfinder Companion: Osirion, Land of Pharaohs (OGL)Paizo Inc.
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Print Edition Out of print
Good, but could have been betterGeneric Villain —
The guide to Osirion is well written, has cool illustrations, and lots of ideas for adventures. However, there were a few key things I wanted to see, that never materialized. First and foremost, I would have really liked a map of Sothis, Osirion's capital city. You get a writeup of the place after all, so the lack of a city map seems to be a sore oversight. Another problem I had, was the inclusion of three Osirion-specific deities... except their alignments, favored weapons, and domains are not listed. Again, this is a real problem for me; why invent new deities without giving any concrete information on them? My final gripe is the lack of info on the elemental spirits of Osirion. They are alluded to several times, yet very little of substance is said about them. The genies and elementals appear to play a vital role in this land, yet we are told next to nothing about them.
The bad stuff aside, I did really enjoy this product's offerings. You get a list of several neat locales, with all the spinxes, lost and forbidden pyramids, and evil mummy kings that you can handle. There's also some great, distinctly Egyptian-flavored necromancy spells (seal your enemy in canopic jars? Yes please!), a prestige class to scare the crud out of any would-be tomb robbers, and a great write-up of Osirion's ruler. There's a section of new feats, but none of these impressed me.
All in all, I'm glad to have this sourcebook, but wish there was a bit more in the way of vital info and a few less adventure locations.
*EDIT: I decided to give this 4 stars instead of 3. I forgot that this book was meant primarily for players, rather than DMs, and was looking looking at it from the wrong perspective. For player's, it's great.
If there's one thing Paizo excels at, it's making products that feel familiar and classic, while at the same time being new and original. Guide to Absalom is no different.
The massive realm stacks up quite well to the great fantasy cities of past days, such as Waterdeep, Sharn, and Greyhawk City, yet it manages to have its own unique flavor. A melting pot in the truest sense, Absalom's citizens come from all parts of the world, and the place is by no means a classical, European-style setting. In fact, it feels quite a bit more like ancient Greece or Rome, with a native population of harpies, minotaurs, and centaurs, gads of political intrigue (et tu Hugen?), and even a legendary labyrinth that (may) exist beneath it.
The Guide covers a gamut of locations, from mighty cathedrals and fortresses, to kite shops and clockwork centipede-ship-classrooms. We even get an old fashioned Running of the Bulls... except with less bulls and more gorgons. And while there must be a hundred interesting places to every one detailed, we still have plenty of info to get a feel for the metropolis.
My only problem with GtA is that none of the NPCs are given stats or alignments. I suppose this gives a DM more flexibility when it comes to customizing the city as his/her own, but I personally like having an idea of a given character's morality and power level. That small complaint aside, for being a 64-page sourcebook, GtA is an excellent tool for any DM.
Pathfinder #11—Curse of the Crimson Throne Chapter 5: "Skeletons of Scarwall" (OGL)Paizo Inc.
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Welcome to Castlevani- er, I mean Castle Scarwall!Generic Villain —
“Skeletons of Scarwall” is my favorite entry in the Curse of the Crimson Throne path so far (“Seven Days to the Grave” now officially being my second favorite). It’s a site-based adventure set entirely in the titular Castle Scarwall, an eerie, brooding place packed full of all sorts of goodies. Undead are the most plentiful bad guys here, but there’s a handful of other critters to keep things interesting.
Designed in the style of gothic horror, Skeletons of Scarwall takes its cues from classic films such as Dracula, and classic D&D adventures like Castle Ravenloft. Its winding halls, elegant yet creepy décor, undead guardians, and occasional “boss monsters” also reminded me very much of the classic Castlevania video game series. Speaking of bosses, there’s a nastily iconic surprise towards the end of the adventure that will be sure to strike fear into any veteran player. I won’t ruin it, but let’s just say that fans of the classic “Tomb of Horrors” will be pleasantly surprised.
My only problem with “Skeletons” was its map. A few of the rooms are incorrectly numbered (room 38 is labeled 28, room 26 is labeled as 24), while other rooms aren’t marked on the map at all (22 and 29). Furthermore, secret doors don’t show up on the map. That’s a little too secret for my taste. These are relatively small mistakes however, and considering the sheer size of the castle, not unexpected.
My favorite part of Pathfinder 11, however, is the article on Zon-Kuthon. The author pulls no punches here, giving us an unflinching look at the god of pain and his sick worshipers. As a big fan of Clive Barker, I can see his influences all over the Midnight Lord. Fans of Hellraiser will rejoice, especially when they see Zon-Kuthon’s illustration; the dude could practically *be* Pinhead. It’s a shame, then, that this article was smaller than that of the three prior gods. I would have loved to see a Kuthite prestige class...