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Good, solid start to the AP

4/5

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Fires of Creation is the first part of the Iron Gods Adventure Path, which fully embraces the guns, androids, and spaceships part of the campaign setting. This is not the first appearance of such elements, but it is the first to make them a significant focus. As such, it's not an adventure path that will necessarily appeal to people who don't like to mix science fiction and fantasy. However, for those who do, or for those willing to give it a try, Fires of Creation makes a great starting point. It's a somewhat “sandboxy” adventure that introduces standard fantasy player characters to a wider world of technology and science fiction.


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Great resource for new players!

5/5

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The Strategy Guide is a great resource for introducing players to the full Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, whether they are coming from the Beginner Box, have played a few times before but are still confused about elements of the rules, or are jumping straight into the game with no prior experience. While you will still need the Core Rulebook to play the game, this book is far less intimidating than that heftier tome, and succeeds at explaining the game far, far better. It's a book I'm proud to have on my shelf and I will be eagerly lending it out to new players who join my games in the future.


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Okay, but not very useful

2/5

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The Advanced Class Guide introduces ten new “hybrid” classes for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. As hybrid classes, they combine two existing classes together, offering a selection of abilities from both classes as well as new abilities that fit their combined flavour. These classes essentially provide a way of multiclassing without multiclassing. This is the fundamental reason why these classes mostly don't appeal to me. While they do have some new abilities, they don't offer any new flavour. In all cases, it's possible to create characters in the same style with the existing multiclass rules. Now, I should probably also confess that I like the multiclassing rules. Yes, there are problems with them (particularly with multiclass spellcasters), but as long as you can get away from the idea that “class” is synonymous with “profession”, you can create a huge variety of character types with them—and yes, they can even be effective characters. As there is already a way to combine the abilities of different classes, there really doesn't seem to be a place for hybrid classes. New classes should be exactly that — new. I have the same problem with the magus from Ultimate Magic, to be honest.


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Disappointing adventure but great support articles and fiction

2/5

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In many ways, Pyramid of the Sky Pharaoh by Mike Shel feels like the same adventure as The Slave Trenches of Hakotep. Sure, the location is changed and the specific monsters and villains to fight are different, but the overall approaches to both adventures are identical. Both involve dungeon crawls with PCs overcoming difficult traps and dangerous monsters in order to solve a specific puzzle and reach their goal. To make matters worse, Pyramid doesn't really handle itself any better than Slave Trenches, and anyone who has read my review of that adventure knows that I was not very impressed by it. This makes the two concluding adventures of the adventure path into one extended slog through encounter after encounter with monsters and villains that serve no other purpose than to sit in one spot until the PCs arrive to kill them—adventures in which the villains take no active roles at all other than to wait for their demise. On the plus side, I absolutely love one of the support articles, and the fiction that has been running through the entire adventure path (reviewed at the end of this review) is the best I've read in Pathfinder Adventure Path so far.


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Tedious

2/5

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While there are aspects of the adventure that I like (including one great NPC), overall The Slave Trenches of Hakotep is a long slog through a succession of dungeons, each filled with traps and monsters, and many of them forming pieces in an overall puzzle for the PCs to put together. Apart from that one NPC, there's very little opportunity for roleplaying interactions, and very little to keep the adventure spiced up and moving along. It will take many sessions to play through, and most of those session will start to feel like the same thing over and over again—and that's not good.


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Gorgeous Maps, but one oddity

4/5

The Mummy's Mask Poster Map Folio comes with three full-colour poster maps suitable for use with the Mummy's Mask Adventure Path. However, like other adventure path map folios from the past few years, all the maps are easily usable in any campaign set in Osirion. There are maps of the cities of Wati and Tephu, and one of the country of Osirion. The map of Osirion is designed as a player map in the style of something characters might actually acquire in the game world. However, the two city maps are also safe as player maps as well.

All three maps are beautiful, but accolades really must go to the map of Osirion. I really love these player-oriented, in-world maps. They truly are wonderful to behold, and this one is no different. However, there is a difference with this one and some of the others that have appeared before: This one has no labels, not even of cities. The odd part is, this is exactly the same map from the centre of People of the Sands, except larger and that map had not only the names of cities, but also rivers and mountains, as well as roads and common travel routes complete with the distances from one location to the other. This map completely lacks all labels, except for the name “Osirion” in the top right corner. This severely limits its usefulness during game play. While cities are marked (and are wonderfully illustrated to look like the actual cities rather than just having one common symbol for every city), players will still have to go to other sources to find out which city is which. This is rather surprising, considering that similar maps in other map folios (such as the maps of Varisia in the Shattered Star Poster Map Folio or Irrisen in the Reign of Winter Poster Map Folio) have had labels on them. I'm not sure what the motivation for removing the labels on this map might have been (or indeed if this is due to an error or oversight), but it does mar what is otherwise a gorgeous product. I hope the lack of labels will not be a trend in future map folios.

Of Dice and Pen


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A bit too broad-ranging, but otherwise good

4/5

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On the whole, People of the River does a pretty good job of covering a large amount of material, but it is constrained somewhat by that large volume. While it's true that one can turn to more detailed sources (Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars and Guide to the River Kingdoms) for more information, I think I would have much preferred to see this book divided up into two books, one for Numeria and one for the River Kingdoms. They could then each be player-focused companions to the Campaign Setting books mentioned above. It would also allow for more in-depth coverage of the countries and the peoples who live there. But overall, People of the River is not a bad book and there's quite a bit in it to interest players creating new characters.


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Excellent Adventure

5/5

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Secrets of the Sphinx by Amber E. Scott is an example of a dungeon crawl done well. It wraps together an interesting storyline with a compelling cast of characters (and lots of opportunity for roleplay with those characters), and places it all down in a setting that is more than just a static collection of locations and rooms.

The adventure also advances the plot of the Mummy's Mask Adventure Path in one of the most significant ways so far, leading at last to a confrontation between the PCs and one of the key antagonists. It's the first adventure where the PCs will feel that they've achieved a major accomplishment at the end of it.


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Decent

3/5

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There's not really anything about Risen from the Sands that makes one go “Wow!” It's a straight-forward adventure that's not particularly original and has nothing that really makes it stand out from other adventures. However, there's nothing particularly bad about the adventure either. It does its job and it does it competently. With a skilful GM, it will provide a few hours of fun for any group.


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Good book for adventure ideas

4/5

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Numeria is a land where the high-technology of robots and lasers clashes with the very low-technology of barbarian tribes. There’s actually quite a lot of material to squeeze into Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars, as the various Kellid tribes that inhabit the region are not a unified people, and on top of that, there is the Technic League (a group that wants, and mostly has, a monopoly on the control and distribution of technology recovered from the crashed ship) and the crashed ship itself to describe, along with the various alien creatures, mutant beasts, and robots. Overall, Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars does a very good job of getting all this information in there and providing GMs with a compelling setting and hooks for many amazing and outlandish adventures.


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Uninspiring

2/5

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Blood of the Elements looks at the geniekin races (ifrits, oreads, sulis, sylphs, and undines), providing background and character options for each. It also goes beyond this and looks at the four elemental planes, as well as the famed City of Brass on the Plane of Fire—and this is part of where the book goes wrong. There have been a number of Blood of... books and the best ones (Blood of Angels, Blood of Fiends) have had tight focuses, while the weaker ones (Blood of the Night) have tried to do too much. Thirty-two pages really isn’t enough space to adequately cover five races and include a gazetteer of the elemental planes, making Blood of the Elements one of the ones that tries to do too much.


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A bit of a mixed bag

3/5

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There’s a lot to like in Shifting Sands, but I must admit, it’s left me with something of a mixed opinion. I absolutely love certain aspects - in particular, its ingenious new method for handling research, which makes the research far more interesting than just a few Knowledge checks. It also has some great opportunities for roleplay, as the PCs must secure for themselves permission to use the library in the first place. Unfortunately, much of that roleplay is with a rather one-dimensional NPC whose actions vary little regardless of what the PCs do. The concluding part of the adventure allows the PCs to do some exploration of the desert, and works pretty well, but does feel a touch tacked on.


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Great book

5/5

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Occult Mysteries offers incredible insight into the beliefs of the people of Golarion, and into their thought processes. The book looks at a number of “mysteries” from across the world—the strange things that people haven’t quite been able to explain, but have many hypotheses about. These include creation stories, the exodus of the gnomes, and the missing Volume 5 of the Pathfinder Chronicles. The book also looks at traditions like astrology and numerology, secret societies, and infamous texts of great power.


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One of the best

5/5

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The Harrow Handbook is the perfect example of how to mix “crunch” with “fluff”. Apart from the brief aberration that is the order of the hammer and a few combat feats, every option in the book has story value as well as mechanical value. This book adds life to the campaign setting in a way many other Player Companion books fail to, by developing something that is uniquely Golarion. This book is overflowing with flavour and I absolutely love it as a result. It is, without doubt, one of the best books in the entire Player Companion line and will be seeing a lot of use in my campaigns.


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Good, flavourful new options

4/5

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One of the things I like best about a book like Inner Sea Combat is that it’s much easier to see immediate uses for the new options contained within. Pathfinder is a game with a lot of options—far more than most people can easily keep track of. While generic books like Ultimate Combat may contain many interesting abilities, they can quickly get lost in the deluge as they don’t have a context to make them stand out. But with the world-specific flavour that Inner Sea Combat offers, its options are instantly more recognizable. They make both the characters and the world more interesting. There are several things in here that I already want to introduce to my own games, and any game book that fills me with ideas is a good book, in my opinion.


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Excellent open-ended adventure

5/5

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Empty Graves is an excellent adventure. It combines an interesting premise and mystery with a very open-ended structure, giving the PCs a great deal of control over what they do, and how and when they do it. Groups will likely find it a lot of fun to play through.


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Great and useful new options

5/5

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I tend not to get hugely excited by books that are mostly new “crunch” options for the game. The fact of the matter is that Pathfinder has a ton of options already and new ones tend to get lost (in my mind, at any rate) amidst all the others. However, the Alchemy Manual introduces a ton of new options that I can see immediate use for. With alchemy not receiving quite as much attention as feats, spells, and archetypes, this book stands out as a collection of things that truly enhance the game. As such, this is a book that really does excite me. I can’t wait to introduce its new options into my games.


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Good, solid book

4/5

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On the whole, I like the Undead Slayer’s Handbook. It scores over similar books like the Dragonslayer’s Handbook and the Demon Hunter’s Handbook by being of wider use despite its slightly niche focus. Many of its options (from feats to alchemical tools) will prove useful against more than just undead opponents, making them still good choices for campaigns in which undead appear infrequently and are not the central focus. It’s not a “must have” book, but it’s certainly a useful one.


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Remarkable Book

5/5

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Inner Sea Gods is really quite a remarkable book. The interior layout is absolutely gorgeous. More important than that, the content is full of flavourful information that will leave GMs with tons of material to create new NPCs and plots with. And although there’s a huge amount of information to absorb, it’s a fun and entertaining read from beginning to end.


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A calm, but rather good start

4/5

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The Half-Dead City is very much a dungeon crawl, and while I’m not the biggest fan of pure dungeon crawls, this is a well-made one and one I can imagine myself running at some point. As a consequence of delving into tombs, there’s not a lot of opportunity for interaction with NPCs, but nonetheless, it does manage to have several extremely well-developed and interesting NPCs. The PCs may not get a lot of time with these characters, but that time will almost certainly be memorable (assuming the GM plays them well).


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Good, but not great

3/5

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Tears at Bitter Manor is a decent adventure that has an interesting premise and some very good moments, but it doesn’t really stand out from the crowd of other decent adventures out there. Its main problem is the lack of development of the central NPCs it’s based around. In a stand-alone adventure that is meant to be inserted into another larger campaign, it can be hard to introduce NPC allies that the PCs will actually care about. Such relationships generally need time to develop. However, it can be done, and if the adventure is going to involve NPCs that the PCs should care about and want to help, it needs to be done. More vibrant NPCs would certainly help to raise Tears at Bitter Manor from a decent adventure to a really good adventure.


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Excellent examination of neutrality!

5/5

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Champions of Balance is quite a remarkable book and exceeds my already high expectations of it. I’m not a fan of alignment overall, and I honestly think the game could be improved without it—though it would entail quite a bit of work to make the change. However, if it’s going to be there, you might as well make the best of it. Yet alignment can be a difficult thing to adjudicate. Good and evil can be hard to fully define, and if you can’t define good and evil, then how do you define what fits between them? In the real world, these are just abstract concepts. Everyone has their own concept of what good and evil are, and they bring these concepts with them into the game. Yet in the game, alignment is not so abstract; indeed, it is an absolute concept where one can be objectively defined as “lawful good” or “chaotic evil”. In the real world, most people will agree that other people can behave in evil ways, but virtually no one would ever actually admit to being evil, as no one actually believes themselves to be evil. There are always justifications and reason for actions. Yet in-game, a detect evil spell can state quite clearly that someone is evil and there’s little one can do to argue against it. Outsiders representing the ideals of particular alignments exist in the multiverse. These powerful beings’ very existences are centred on, and defined by, their alignments. As such, the game needs a clear definition of what good and evil are. I’m not sure that that definition has been fully attained—it probably hasn’t, as there will still be disagreements between players—but books like Champions of Purity and now, Champions of Balance have moved things a little closer to achieving that definition.


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Pretty good

3/5

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Bastards of Golarion is a rather better book than I was expecting, even if it does at times seem unsure of its focus. It contains a lot of advice and suggestions for creating characters who are either half-human characters or outcasts from society in some way or another. As with any Pathfinder Player Companion, there are quite a few new mechanical options, but these are mostly limited to new traits that help support the “fluff” of the book. The emphasis of the book is very much on the background information, and this pleased me a great deal.


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Good background information

4/5

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The player’s guide for an adventure path is an important book for setting up the campaign and getting the players started. The successful guides help players to create characters that will fit into the adventure path, have a decent chance of surviving it, and be enjoyable to play. A less successful guide might give players a wrong impression of what the adventure path is about, resulting in characters that don’t fit. The Wrath of the Righteous Player’s Guide is certainly one of the more successful ones. It makes clear what the adventure path entails and gives useful background information, although it is lacking a bit in the advice department.


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Anti-climactic

3/5

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City of Locusts by Richard Pett, falls short of the grand climax Wrath of the Righteous deserves. In one regard, one shouldn’t judge it too harshly. It had an incredibly lofty to goal to accomplish, one that is extremely difficult to achieve, and it does come close. On the other hand, however, after the brilliance of the adventure path’s opening and its most recent instalment, Herald of the Ivory Labyrinth, City of Locusts ends up feeling like something of an anti-climax. Despite the massive amount of power at the PCs’ hands and the unbelievably powerful foes they must face, the adventure is lacking an important aspect, one that is ultimately a flaw of the entire adventure path (but hasn’t really been noticeable until now), and not just this adventure alone.

I should make it clear that I do think City of Locusts is a good adventure. It’s just not a good enough finale.


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