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Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Faiths (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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A Great AdditionMort the Cleverly Named —
While the book is basically Inner Sea Gods: Part 2, I'd argue it is an even better addition to the system. While Inner Sea Gods updated the old AP articles and put them in one place for people to find, this book serves to breath life into many of the minor deities of the Inner Sea that hadn't gotten one before.
Honestly, it has given me more ideas for characters, villains, and adventures than anything I can recently recall. Whether you are more often a player or GM, if you find deities and religions at all compelling I'd say this is the #1 campaign setting book you should pick up this year.
Pathfinder Player Companion: Armor Master's Handbook (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Lazy, but useful feat taxesMort the Cleverly Named —
Have you ever thought "I wish there were options to restrict me to one type of armor, so I didn't have as much incentive to use anything but my preference of the 3 useful armors instead of the magic banded mail someone inexplicably made?" Well, I have the book for you!
Besides making extra sure you never wear anything but your chosen chain shirt/breastplate/full plate, this book is incredibly lazy. It seems everything is 1/day or 1/round, with extra feats to use it more times (and fill page space). They also repeat it all for armor and shields. There is inordinate love of tiny bonuses to specific circumstances, in case you didn't feel like you had enough to remember as it is.
It isn't all useless. There are feat taxes to do things like wear a heavy shield while casting, bash with a buckler, or be a Monk and use a buckler. If you want to optimize or use a specific flavor there are feats to allow a lot of options that didn't exist before. There is even a headbutt that seems to think helmet = armor type and I'm sure will spawn another dozen questions for the multiweapon fighting FAQ request, but in theory is useful to many greatsword Fighters.
Overall, this just isn't a very good book. There is none of the feeling of inspiration from Weapon Master's Handbook here, just the bad bits like flavor restrictions and overly long feat chains. It is by the numbers, mostly terrible, with a handful of useful feats to allow certain styles. It will soon be forgotten, absorbed into the amorphous mass of options, with a few choice bits making their way into guides or as the thing you need to use certain combinations.
I'm really rather disappointed after some of the good bits that have been turned out in this line recently.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Intrigue (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Tone deaf advice and mechanicsMort the Cleverly Named —
Intrigue can be a difficult subject to deal with in Pathfinder and similar games. Unlike a story with a single author who can arrange just the right events, choices, and reveals for a compelling story a Pathfinder GM has to contend with a group of players with powerful abilities making their own decisions alongside tableside issues of player knowledge, time useage, and so on. Unfortunately, while Ultimate Intrigue occasionally mentions these things it does not interact with or address them, essentially explaining what intrigue IS without making it easier to pull off.
The advice segments use many pages on rambling descriptions not specific to the game, then vaguely handwave how to accomplish these events given the actual system. The Vigilante has a secret identity, but issues like the effects of being found out, changing identities, or even integrating it into a game are unexplored. When there is specific advice it is often terrible, for example fixing Leadership by making cohorts essentially NPCs you pay and increasing the cost of monster cohorts with "disruptive" abilities to the point they are nearly useless. Various spell "clarifications" are poorly thought out, for example detect poison firing off of low doses of things not normally considered poison, meaning things like salt or the arsenic in fruit would set it off. Heists are a difficult subject that have been done well by games like the Leverage RPG, but this book wastes tons of time describing them then handwaves the difficulties with a few sentences of vague advice.
The mechanics similarly have many issues. In the advice segments they have tables of DCs that appear completely ignorant of how Pathfinder scaling and divergence works. Various feats are required to do with skills what one would assume you could do anyway, limiting those skills for all players. Elsewhere there is advice on "calling for a ceasefire" that is so handwavey the feat may or may not be an improvement. Dual Identity is seemingly simple but actually very complex, with those complexities and anything but the most standard situation of "Bruce Wayne goes to a dinner party and changes costume in a closet" totally ignored.
I'm sure people will vehemently disagree with me, and I wish I could go into greater depth rather than a broad review like this. However it would take far more than a single review to get into the individual issues of underdevelopment, tone deafness, and mechanical failure of each part. I would recommend avoiding this book, and if you really want another ladle full of archetypes, feats, and magic just wait for it to be on an SRD.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #96: Shadow of the Storm Tyrant (Giantslayer 6 of 6)Paizo Inc.
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Pathfinder Player Companion: Magical Marketplace (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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This is easily the worst Pathfinder Player Companion volume I have seen.
Thematically, there is just nothing here. Not a drop of ink is spilled on overarching concepts of how magic shop work in relation to Golarion or the like. The shopkeepers are overwhelmingly obvious (a pirate on a ship! A Varisian in a wagon!), and there simply isn't enough wordcount given to their descriptions to make them or their establishments memorable or interesting.
Mechanically, most of the stuff is boring or bonkers. The price adjustments are random, and the very first one is an exception to how they work (as well as an infinite gold bug). Gating abilities behind gold values is nonsensical when they are at inappropriate points in relation to wealth-by-level (who picks a new Inquisition when they have 60,000gp?).
There is no balance to the abilities offered. The mid level Arcane Discovery that lets you randomly increase Illusion DCs is nothing compared to the one that lets you double up on successful Enchantment spells (because the only thing better than Dominate Person is a second Dominate Person for free). Shoot people off cliffs, a Rogue talent ideal for non-Rogues, even more options making Shields the best weapons in the game, and so on.
I haven't even gotten to the items yet, but at this point I feel it is basically unnecessary. More of the same, the overpriced next to the overpowered next to a bunch of spells-in-a-can, most of which are entirely forgettable. Nothing to redeem the book here.
Really, overwhelming disappointing. Not something I would recommend.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #61: Shards of Sin (Shattered Star 1 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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I ran this for some friends, and I have to say I had mixed feelings.
The adventure is mostly old-school dungeon crawling, and in many ways does an excellent job of it. Lots of interesting and varied locations, characters, and encounters. The support articles were also, as usual, interesting, and the whole thing has the standard, high quality Paizo art and layout.
That said, there were some downsides. Encounters were wildly variable, with many of the later ones being so easy as to feel like busywork rather than adventure. On the other hand, there are some things (especially related to skill checks) that are far beyond what even optimized characters of that level could do. There were also a greater than normal number of errors (mostly text referring to different numbers of enemies than stat blocks), but that didn't really impact our enjoyment.
Overall we had a good time, and there were certainly some fun, memorable moments. The mechanical issues hurt our enthusiasm for it as we worked our way through, but someone willing to put the time in to rebalance things could really make this adventure shine.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #56: Raiders of the Fever Sea (Skull & Shackles 2 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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A Slightly Overstuffed SandboxMort the Cleverly Named —
Raiders of the Fever Sea can be described as a non-traditional adventure, but in a very different way from The Wormwood Mutiny. Much like the previous volume in this path, it is an event based adventure with a mid length dungeon crawl finale. Unlike it, it is extremely open form and loosely defined. Players are given almost unlimited freedom to roam the Fever Sea and do as they see fit (though not to head into the Shackles, leaving my copy of Isles of the Shackles to languish for another adventure). Whatever direction players choose to go, the material could be trivially adapted, allowing a very free form experience while still staying within the confines of the adventure. The writing, art, and layout are all top notch, but I think that can be assumed of Adventure Paths at this point.
The only complaint I would have is that, with so much material to present, some of the scenarios leave little space for alternate approaches. Ships to plunder appear only at GM fiat, and the only system for dealing with them is fighting the captain (no offering of terms, no overwhelming the crew, no forcing a surrender). There is an event that hand waves an obvious option as simply "too difficult," despite enemies easily accomplishing the same thing later. There is little explanation of the main plot to the PCs, leaving GMs to craft their own way to make it seem like anything other than a series of coincidences. None of this breaks the adventure, and I'd rather have more material than long lists of "What if" scenarios and information dumps, but I feel the balance could have been better.
Despite this, I whole heatedly recommend the adventure for anyone interested in a pirate sandbox. Perhaps not an excellent choice for those that want a more traditional adventure, or one that presents options for anything other than straight piracy, but even then it could be an interesting read with some useful ideas.