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Possibly the best Expansion ever, following one of the best Archetypes ever.


You know, I could go on for an hour about how I just spent a day making one of these, how much fun they look to play, how intuitive and imaginative the system is, how easy it is to use the pre-made masks and how cool it is that you can still make your own, and on and on and on. But when push comes to shove, there's really not a whole lot I can add that Endzeitgeist didn't already write, so I heavily encourage people to read his review and add a universal +1 from me to just about everything.

The one complaint I'd have is that a single feat was a bit confusing in how it's worded, but Mark Seifter was more than kind enough to come by and clarify it (on a Saturday even!) and it makes pretty good sense now, so even that's not all that big a deal. (The feat is Chimeric Masquerade and the explanation is on page 2 of the discussion, if you're looking for it.)

So yeah. Get this. Get it now. You will not regret it one bit.

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Demons, Danger, Destruction, Deviltry, Deception, and the Divine!


After my less-than-enthused completion of Queen of Thorns, I was eagerly looking forward to King of Chaos for two reasons - one to get away from Kyonin and the elves, which as stated in my prior review I don't much care for and I think much of their culture hurt the actual story of QoT; and two, to get a look inside Oparal's head. I wanted to like the paladin so much in the prior story, but she came off too much like the Lawful Angry stick-up-the-anatomy paladins you hear so much complaining about on forums like these. I wanted Hinjo and got Miko Miyazaki, in other words.

King of Chaos remedied so much of that. Since the weak point of Queen of Thorns was, in my opinion, the cast, I'll begin there with this one then discuss the plot. The characters in this story are so much more interesting, more well-rounded, and above all much less frustrating, irritating, or plot-derailing.

Radovan is his usual awesome self, and we get a nice view into the nature of his fiendish heritage and the strange bond he has with his progenitors in this story. The one-liners and smart-aleck commentary never cease to amuse.

Varian plays up the best and the worst of the scholarly mage archetype, delving into magical theory with and against a Sorcerer and a Summoner and showing the ins and outs of research into dangerous heretical texts. We also get a little more of his Pathfinder background, an examination of his divided loyalties, and lo and behold, some great character development, both story-wise and mechanically.

Oparal returns, this time as a perspective character, and she has GREATLY improved as a cast member. While she's still stern, taciturn, and overly formal, it's far less frustrating and inflexible compared to how she was portrayed in Queen of Thorns. She even attempts to crack a joke with her soldiers in the first chapter - admittedly it's not a very good one, and she herself says so, but the fact that she tried is itself a testament to the character's improved presentation from the prior story. Tensions between her and Radovan still run high, but on more than one occasion it's Oparal speaking in his defense, something I thoroughly appreciate and approve of, and would have sadly never expected out of her as she was portrayed in Queen of Thorns.

Then there are the new, non-perspective characters. In addition to Radovan and Varian's hired mercenaries and Oparal's elite crusaders, each of which are fairly unique and get their own moments of awesome screen-time, even if small, there are two that particularly stand out: Jelani, a crusader sorceress, and Alase, a Sarkoran Summ... err, I mean "God-Caller" and Varian's hired guide, along with her eidolon Tonbarse. Both of these women were extremely entertaining and interesting to add to the cast, providing unique new perspectives on magic and the locales of the Worldwound, and interesting reactions to the main protagonists.

And now for the plot. VERY excellently written, and a thoroughly fitting successor to the prior three stories. This one hits my high points up there with Master of Devils in so many ways. I love the descriptions of the Worldwound, the nature of the fiendishly-tainted countryside, the broken culture, the demonic cults, and the sinister dealings going on as the cast - protagonists and antagonists alike - vie for advantage. I would almost go as far as to say that King of Chaos should be required reading for anyone planning to run, or maybe even play in, Wrath of the Righteous, as it introduces the Worldwound and its component organizations in such a thorough, descriptive way.

And the MAGIC!! There is so much magic in this book, and it's beautifully and thoroughly described. Wizards, clerics, paladins, sorcerers, summoners! All of them doing what they do best, and doing it well. I would recommend this book for just that on its own - an excellent literary description of how magic works from a first- and second-hand point of view in the Pathfinder/Golarion reality.

I highly recommend this book. Immensely so. If you, like me, were troubled or bothered by the presentations of the characters in Queen of Thorns, especially Oparal, fear not - this book makes up for it and then some. And if you weren't, it's a great story on its own, regardless. Very worth the five stars.

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An Excellent Story... if only the Characters would stop getting in the way.

****( )

After Master of Devils, which I thought was amazing and thoroughly entertaining and had me psyched for the next book in the series, it was all I could do to restrain myself from diving straight into Queen of Thorns right that second. That eagerness was fairly quickly tempered when I discovered this next book was set in Kyonin, home of the Elves. Not enough to blunt my interest in the story to be told, but it certainly put a hesitance on my rush to read.

I'm not a huge fan of Elves, you see. The vast majority of published settings, Golarion included, have never portrayed them in a way that gets me interested in them as a race or a culture. I'm fond of the concept of Forlorn Elves - one that comes up quite a few times in this book - but pretty much everything else about the race I tend to find lacking. "Oh well, at least we'll still have Varian, Radovan, and Arnisant, which should provide plenty of entertainment on their own, right?" Which it did.

The story here is amazing. Varian has come to Kyonin, after earning a special pass that allows a rare non-elf to visit the inner cities, to track down his never-met father and see to the repairs of his beloved Red Carriage, destroyed all the way back in Prince of Wolves. As expected, tracking down the wandering elf is no simple matter, and eventually a ragtag group of escorts, protectors, spies, and guides is gathered up to lead the count and his bodyguard/partner/friend through the forested wilderness. Along the way they encounter ancient magic, bizarre creations, demons galore, forgotten ruins, and - I'd call it a spoiler but it's right there on the cover - an ancient green dragon.

The plot itself is great. When it was rolling and things were happening, I was thrilled. The adventure, the action, the intrigue, the mystery, the magic - good grief, the magic! More magic gets flung around in the last couple of chapters of this book that the entirety of Prince of Wolves! It's all here, and it's all amazing.

If only the cast wouldn't keep derailing things.

(I'll try to avoid spoilers from here on but I might mistakenly share a couple, so be warned.)

Joining the errant count and his retinue in this book are three elves and a gnome, provided by the Queen of Kyonin and her court as escorts, guides, and minders/babysitters for the visiting outsiders on their quest.

The first of these escorts introduced is Kameili, an Inquisitor of Calistra and the winner of "least favorite character" for this book. Kameili has only two modes: flirtatious and violent. Every time she shows up, she's either flirting with Radovan (and on a few occasions with Varian) or trying to encourage Radovan to do something violent, usually to the paladin (who I'll discuss shortly), over some petty sleight. She's 100% in character for a Calistran, and a living example of why Calistra is one of my least favorite deities in the Golarion setting. She also provided a lust-target for Radovan, which I felt was tiresome enough back when it popped up in Prince of Wolves, and this is far more prominent and more heavily leaning on the plot, which makes it all the more irritating for me. Some people like a lot of that sort of thing in their stories; I am not one of them. I much prefer the way his rambling nature was expressed in Master of Devils: where his propositions were either usually shot down or handled quickly and quietly off-screen and the plot forwarded to the next morning or jumped back to Jeggare.

Second is Oparal, a Forlorn Elf Paladin of Iomedae. I really, really wanted to like Oparal. I really did. I love Paladins, they're one of my favorite classes. I like Iomedae, much much more than Calistra; she's not my personal first choice for a Paladin patron - that honor goes to Sarenrae - but she's definitely in the top five. And I love the concept of Forlorn Elves - in the rare occasions I play Elves, they're always Forlorn (even back before I had been introduced to Golarion and had the concept of "elves not raised among elven society" given a name). But Oparal is everything people hate about having a Paladin in the party. To quote a grumbling rant I posted about halfway through the book:


And I want to like the paladin character. I really, really do. But she's every cliche complaint that people have about paladins in their party. She's unfriendly. She has no sense of humor. She snaps at everyone. She's harshly judgmental. She gets in a fight with one of the other party members and only reconciles because the Calistran Inquisitor tricks her into it using a spell. She has no subtlety, and is almost as badly lacking in humility. She smites first and asks questions later. And on more than one occasion she risks hurting allies in the process of getting her smite on. At least one of those times it's highly implied it was intentional, too.

I've played a prudish paladin character who wasn't interested in bedding up with other characters and was primarily focused on her duties and her oaths, not too different from this character. She still managed to have a good sense of humor, to jest with her compatriots, to politely deflect flirtation attempts and raunchy comments and innuendo, or in some cases even joke back, so long as she made it clear at some point she wasn't serious about any invitations or acceptances.

I do not feel she greatly improved in her flaws over the course of the book either. However, as she'll be rejoining the cast in King of Chaos, I'm still holding out hope for her showing some severe character development in the readings ahead.

The third guide is Caladrel, a Ranger. He's pretty awesome, and Gross does an excellent job of showing off a master ranger and huntsman working at his best in his home terrain. Of the elf characters in the book, he was my favorite.

But of the new cast members, he was second to my favorite character short of Varian and Radovan themselves - the Gnome Druid, Fimbulthicket. Oh man, this guy was AWESOME. A Gnome Druid who is all about the Golarion druidic religion, the Green Faith, and his connection to his fey nature. He also happens to be suffering from the Bleaching, the strange disease that plagues Golarion's Gnomes, and we get a firsthand experience of what it's like to watch a Gnome suffer from this malady. Every scene he was in was amazing, heartrending, or hilarious. I really, really hope we can get Dave Gross to write more about Gnomes in the future, and that anyone else writing Gnomes in Golarion take a few notes from Fimbulthicket.

So there you have it. If I were to rate this on the value of the plot alone, it'd be five stars easily. But the cast... maybe if Kemeili and Oparal had been slightly less front-focus characters, their antics might have left a less sour taste in my mouth. But as it is, almost any scene where one or both of them was at center stage, it felt distracting and disorienting, and only proceeded to delay the progress of the plot. Honestly I think the book as a whole would have been much better if Kemeili hadn't been included at all - I can't think of much that would be lost to the events that occurred in the story by removing her presence.

If sultry, vengeful elves and their like are your cup of tea, you'll love this book. If they're not, like they aren't mine, brace yourselves because there's a lot of them, but the plot underneath is still excellent despite them.

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Schemes and Sorcery in the Far East!


A very, very fun story starring once again Varian Jeggare and his companion/bodyguard/partner Radovan, and promoted to full cast member for the first time Jeggare's wolfhound pet Arnisant, whose surprising role as a central, narrating character caught me pleasantly off-guard.

As the three are separated during a bandit attack that goes horribly wrong when a pack of tigers shows up, all three suddenly find themselves being propelled in unexpected directions through the landscape of Golarion's Far East.

Jeggare becomes an unwitting student at a monastery, where he must overcome the distaste of his fellow students for a "foreign devil" and his own Chelish pride while investigating the mysteries surrounding a beautiful princess, a mysterious bodyguard, and one of his elite fellow students.

Radovan finds himself prisoner to Burning Cloud Devil, the titular Master of Devils, a vengeful sorcerer and self-proclaimed King of Heroes who is on a mission of destruction with Radovan as his weapon of choice, on pain of a very unpleasant death. Bonus points to Dave for the frequent inclusion of the amusing phrase "my g+%%~+ned little brother".

And Arnisant, separated from his master and his best friend, seeks out the aid of the kami Judge Fang, who leads him on a quest to gather spirits, beasts, and other mysterious entities for an impending conflict, and along the way proves himself as much a hero as his two humanoid companions.

The three viewpoints are far improved and much more balanced than in Prince of Wolves, where it seemed all the entertaining or action-packed chapters tended to be in Radovan's narration and Jeggare's chapters tended to be slower-paced. Watching the three separate storylines interweave and move steadily and inexorably toward their inevitable collision was a fun ride, and leaves me eager for more of Gross's work and excellent characters.

And here's hoping this isn't the last we see of Arnisant's narration. The first few of his chapters had me rolling in laughter, especially with Gust and the Goblin-who-Swallowed-the-Wind, the unnamed spider woman (I presume intended to be a Jorogumo), and the Great Turtle.

On to Queen of Thorns!

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An engaging start, minus some speedbumps

****( )

An adventuresome little story that admittedly takes a bit of getting used to the format at first. I wasn't expecting a first-person narrative from a story I'd been informed in advance had two central protagonists, and it took a bit to figure out when the chapters changed perspectives. By the end of the novel however it was easy to determine just based on the first line or two of dialogue - Varian and Radovan's internal narrations are vastly different, fitting for two characters so starkly unlike one another.

The story itself was interesting, kept me wanting to read more and solve the mystery, and almost all the characters were memorable and easily identifiable. I do have to agree with some of the other reviews that Varian at the beginning was very off-putting, but he does improve over the course of the book and I presume in hindsight that his initial presentation was meant to be a turn-off so the reader could see his development over time. Radovan on the other hand was appreciable from the get-go, and with few exceptions his narration tended to cover the more interesting or entertaining chapters. Hopefully in future novels in the series it'll be more balanced between the two.

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Weighed and Not Found Wanting... okay maybe a little.

****( )

If Death's Heretic can be said to be Sutter's treatise on order versus chaos, The Redemption Engine is his contribution to good versus evil. Extremely engaging, highly entertaining, a thorough mystery populated with intriguing and invigorating characters and lavishly-detailed locales. Makes me miss some good old-fashioned Planescape. And there's obvious improvement over his first novel in the series. Eagerly awaiting more from Salim.

EDIT: 4/24/15.
Okay. So it's about nine months later, give or take, and I recommended this book to a friend. She loved it, so in a sense, my above review is still completely accurate. And the complaint I'm about to add is not really enough to lower the bar, so no worries about losing stars over this. But it is a pitfall I believe Mr. Sutter may not realize he's fallen into, and that if there is ever a third Salim story I'd greatly appreciate not seeing repeated a third time.

Also, Spoiler Warning from here out.





So this is Salim's second written adventure, and clearly not supposed to be one of his earliest investigations, as neither was Death's Heretic; in both, he was established as an experienced, capable character who has been around for quite a long time and gotten very good at what he does. Good enough, in theory, that he can thumb his nose at the church hierarchy and get away with it because he simply consistently gets results anyway.

Yet in both stories, it seems Salim is never allowed to know what's going on until it's too late. Two investigations in a row where almost everyone but him has already solved the crime by the time he catches up. He finds out too early for a satisfying climax, allowing them to get one over on him and his companion of the week. Which it doesn't really feel like he's actually as good as his reputation and backstory say he is, save where like in Redemption Engine the other Pharasmin are.... well, kinda useless, only showing up to show how far ahead of them Salim is.

Otherwise, for a master investigator, Salim gets a surprising amount of "Oh yeah, didn't you know? Why did we hire you?" from the various people he interacts with, when his description and history seem to suggest he should be more the Holmes and less the Watson in this scenario. It's been made clear he's not infallible, so I don't think we're in danger of him drifting into Mary Sue territory... but perhaps in attempting to avoid that appearance of illogical hyper-competence, Sutter's gone a bit too far in the other direction, and the story doesn't really show fully that he's a competent investigator.

In the words of my friend who prompted this revision, "I mean, don't get me wrong, the books are great, I love the ideas, and I love that it gives the chance to see both planes. But that's twice now that he's met the orchestrator, talked about the crime in front of them, allowing them to lead him on false trail after false trail - after he's been shown to tell when people mislead him. [Sutter]'s not a bad writer, and the stories are fun, and there's nothing wrong with formula. It just... sorta reared its head a bit early on me when I was only about 50% through and he'd found the culprits, So there was no way he'd actually be able to win, they'd have to be able to trick and trap him to delay the conclusion."

I hope Mr. Sutter can take this bit of constructive criticism to heart in an otherwise-stellar pair of books and make any possible third all the better for it.

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Mystery and Mayhem on the Prime and Planes

****( )

A captivating story of one man's personal struggles with his beliefs, his occupation, old sins and new mysteries, set against the backdrop of lavish scenery, exotic locales both mundane and alien, and the universal struggle of order against chaos. Very entertaining. Lots of very good funny moments - Sutter knows his humor.

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Undead: Not Just For the Evil Anymore


If you've been on these forums for any length of time, chances are you've stumbled across at least one discussion with a title similar to "Why Are Undead Evil?" And usually inside is a wide variety of debates and opinions on the subject both for and against the idea of non-evil undead being more than an occasional rarity in the setting of your choice. Given that the view of those who write for Golarion, and thus those who provide most of the lore and themes for first-party content, is that non-evil undead and those who make use of them should be so rare as to be thought nonexistent, to be inserted only on extremely sparse occasions as a complete surprise, it's unsurprising that there's little first-party support for those who disagree. The one supposed exception, the Juju mystery for the Oracle, was quickly marked as a mistake by the development team and errata'd away; for those players and GMs who want alternative options, they've been forced to rely on house-rules and personally adapting content to meet their requests for non-evil walking dead. Meanwhile debates rage rampant as to whether or not the Necromancy school itself is evil in entirety, or whether a good character of any stripe - be they mage, priest, or otherwise - can make use of Necromancy and still retain the moral high road.

Enter the White Necromancer, a class that brings back the original purpose of the Necromancy school as intended: not as the domain solely of the lord of the undead horde or master of plagues, but as the spirit shaman, the seance performer - the balancer of life, death, and undeath in a revered triad that encompasses all existence. The White Necromancer is no puppetmaster of skeletal knights nor unleasher of horrors on the innocent, but a scholar of the power of life force, a student of ancestral spirits, a healer who knows that to truly understand healing one must first understand harm, to know life requires one to understand death.

Mechanically, the White Necromancer is relatively simple. His core mechanics are no different than the Sorcerer: d6 hit die, slow progression BAB, good Will save and poor Fort and Reflex, Charisma-based spontaneous arcane casting with the same progression of nine spell levels, and no armor proficiencies due to spell failure. He even gains Eschew Materials at first level as a bonus feat, same as Sorcerer. The main difference is that instead of a bloodline, the White Necromancer gets a varied array of abilities that center around his theme of being a non-evil master of life and death.

Non-evil being the key phrase: yes, this class has an alignment restriction - Any Non-Evil. And this is doubly reinforced by one of their class abilities also received at 1st level, regarding [Evil] Necromancy Spells. While the WN is not barred from casting such spells, they are treated much like a Wizard treats an opposed school's spell - casting such a spell requires using two spell slots. An available option, in the case that such a spell becomes absolutely necessary, but an understandably restrictive one given the class's flavor. Otherwise, the WN picks his spells from a list provided in the book, which includes a small handful of new spells introduced in the book's final section, as well as an array from Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Magic, and the APG.

Likewise at 1st, he picks up Lore of Life and Death, which allows him a bonus to Knowledge (Religion) checks regarding his focus - death and rituals and practices associated with it, the afterlife, and undead - as well as a bonus to Heal checks. Furthermore, he gains the Rebuke Death ability - a touch effect that heals a small bit of damage to an unconscious target. It's not much, but it's a nice way to get the core point across that the WN is as much a healer as he is what one would normally expect of a Necromancer.

At 3rd level, the WN gains Power Over Undead, gaining the Turn Undead feat as a bonus feat and the ability to Channel Energy as a Cleric a few times per day but only for the purposes of using that feat and any feats he takes later that build on it (but not alter it). The doc is quick to note that the WN's own undead (see below) are also affected by his turnings.

At 4th comes one of the class's most crucial abilities - White Necromancy. First, this ability removes the [Evil] descriptor from Necromancy spells that create undead, no longer taxing the WN two spell slots to cast them. Secondly, it allows the undead he creates with such spells to no longer be of Evil alignment: mindless undead such as zombies and skeletons are automatically True Neutral, while intelligent undead are of the same alignment as the WN. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the WN is not the master of these undead, but rather an ally and respectful petitioner. To obtain the aid of any undead he creates, the WN must first convince - using Diplomacy - the undead to aid him in his cause. Failing to show the proper respect or not agreeing to return the undead to its slumber or free it from his command once the task is done can lead to negotiations being far more difficult. Once convinced to aid, though, the undead (presumably controlled by the GM, at least out of combat) will work faithfully and loyally alongside the WN, though it may have quests and desires of its own - a great potential adventure hook for GMs to latch onto.

The middle levels are smattered with an array of small but interesting abilities: Life Bond, which allows the WN to transfer 5 hp per round to a bonded, unconscious ally; Necrotic Transfer, which allows him to give an injured but not necessarily unconscious target a larger portion of his own health; Voice of the Grave, a free speak with dead effect for a few rounds each day; Life Sight, a short-term short-range blindsense that automatically pinpoints living and undead targets (but not non-living or non-undead, such as Constructs); Grasp of the Dead, which summons up skeletal arms to snatch and slow opponents; Ghost Walk, a short-term incorporeality; and Death Warded and Protective Aura, which provide the WN with a resistance against death spells and the ability to save against such spells even if they don't normally offer a save, and then to project an aura of protection against death effects, draining effects, and negative levels out to his allies.

The capstone, Master of Life and Death, is pretty much exactly what one would expect from the class: immunity to death spells and effects, automatically stabilize below 0 HP, cannot have ability scores drained or damaged below 1, bleed and stabilize at will and a limited power word kill (150 HP or lower) once per day.

The next section is the new spells added, all of which are on the White Necromancer's spell list but also on the Sorcerer/Wizard and Witch lists as well. Bone Shards, Greater Bone Shards, and Bone Storm are Evocations, nice little damage-dealing spells and the first two add Bleed to the effect. (Still brings to wonder why SR would kick in against these, given their flavor and descriptions, but that's a discussion for elsewhere.) Chain of Bones is a Conjuration and functionally similar to the Chain of Perdition spell, just not a [force] effect and it doesn't have to contend with SR due to being a Conjuration instead of an Evocation. (Poor Evocation, outdone again... though the Chain of Bones can't do a Dirty Trick maneuver like the force chain can, nor does it have auto-success in ability to attack incorporeal things, so not a total loss =) I'm actually a bit surprised to not see Chain of Perdition on the WH spell list, given its inspiration.) Dance of the Dead is a very short-term animate dead effect without the material component that gives temporary unlife to basic skeletons and/or zombies, which can either attack (using the stats for basic humans with the template of choice) or perform tasks as unseen servants for a few rounds. Wall of Bones joins the long list of useful Wall spells, a bit more fragile than the Wall of Ice at the same spell level (5th) but less vulnerable to capricious temperature effects.

Feats are next, with two Metamagic feats being the whole of the lot. Necrotic Spell costs 1 spell level up and allows spells to affect corporeal humanoid undead as if they were whatever they were in life, and allows mind-affecting spells to work on corporeal mindless undead of any type. Siphon Spell lets you expend lower level spell slots to cast a higher level spell by adding their levels together, a great way to make use of unusued low-level slots after burning through your best spells earlier in the day.

Last but not least are two archetypes, the Necrotic Healer and the Grave Bound. The Necrotic Healer does exactly what it says it does, focusing on and enhancing the healing aspects of the WN and forgoing many of its powers over undead. The Grave Bound focuses in turn on the undead, obtaining an undead companion (of non-evil alignment, matching the Grave Bound WN's own) in a similar manner as a druid's animal companion, and gaining some undead traits of their own in time. The companions (choose between ghost, mummy, shadow, skeleton, vampire, and zombie) are weaker than their Bestiary counterparts for the most part, but scale in power along with their WN master and gain new abilities over time. (Among the most useful of which is the fact that they are explicitly immune to being turned or commanded. Clerics and enemy Necromancers can't steal or chase off your partner! How cool is that?!) There's no text saying what base creature the undead companion is, though the associated art is of a humanoid skeleton; I personally don't see any reason you couldn't have some other creature like a loyal undead family pet or something, since the base creature's stats and HD would be irrelevant as you'd be using the provided companion statistics anyway. At that point it's just the player's flavor.

All in all, the class is solid, does exactly what it advertises, and does it well. The few things I would lament is that it doesn't get any way to directly enhance its Necromancy spells, not even along the par of the Necromancer Wizard, nor does it take the necessary step of reclassifying cure spells as Necromancy when cast by a WN. (I personally houseruled them into Necromancy in all my games anyway, but I think that should have at least been something the WN had, to further exemplify the fact that they focus on both the Life and Death portions of the Necromancy school.) I also thought it odd that they got access to all the cure and inflict spells, but heal and harm are curiously missing from their spell list. Some of the healing abilities, likewise, are strangely limited or relatively weak (for example, it's a meager 1d4+level for the Rebuke Death ability, and only usable on unconscious targets), which hampers much of the healing ability the class is supposed to be proficient with, while their undead-related abilities are usually more potent.

Nevertheless, these in my opinion are relatively minor quibbles. For someone looking for a good way to introduce non-evil undead and the necromancers who love them into their campaign, you could do far, far worse than the White Necromancer. Five stars.

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Sahuagin Love to the Max


I believe this will be my first review for a Raging Swan product, and i have to say... man, what a ride to start on!

The Sunken Pyramid begins with a series of explanatory paragraphs for new GMs who might not be familiar with the layout and patterns of typical Pathfinder-style monster statblocks, encounters, and the like. A useful and thoughtful little addition that already sets the stage for the product. This is followed by the basic summary of the backstory of the Sunken Pyramid - its rumored connections to the aboleth, the arrival of the Sahuagin Atl'utaal ("blood and battle is life" - which, if the PCs manage to translate that, will give them hints of what to expect from their foes) tribe, and the awakening of the devil shark Nahuatal and the plans of the Sahuagin to perform mass sacrifices to the beast during one of their bloody holy months. With the sacrificial period beginning in a mere three days, the PCs are on a strict timeclock to deal with the Pyramid and its denizens before the bloodshed begins in earnest.

GMs are also provided with a useful list of items, spells, and resources that their players will need to successfully navigate the large volume of underwater combat that makes up much of the Sunken Pyramid, with recommendations to insert such treasures into earlier adventures or make them available through merchants or other means prior to the beginning of the adventure.

Before we get into the adventure proper, a few spare hooks are provided for GMs whose groups are uninterested in or unresponsive to the basic plot thread, or for those whose prior adventures don't make the "Night Raid" event feasible or logical for whatever reason. These range from kidnappings to mass slaughters to merchant ship raids, and include offerings of rewards, beginning with the obvious "reward of gold and any treasure you find is yours to keep" and advancing up to rumors of treasure within the pyramid or the favor of a local king for the rescue of a princess from the sahuagin sacrificial rites.

Likewise, details are given on the sahuagin themselves: their ecology, culture, homelands, and physical traits; it even includes a note touching on a (presumed) error in the core bestiary, which lists Sahuagin as not having a language of their own but mentioning in the Merfolk entry that they typically do understand the Sahuagins' tongue; the adventure from this point on assumes that the Sahuagin "language" is at best a dialect of Aquan, but recommends simply changing the references if you prefer them to have their own distict language. Suggested names, like any PC-playable race entry, are provided in case you wish to flesh out nameless sahuagin NPCs for whatever reason (rare peaceful encounter, captive interrogation, etc.). Further detail is provided on their culture and religion, especially on the blood-sacrifice period of Nemaltem and their interactions within the all-female clergy.

Last but not least is a whopping five-page spread on the village of White Moon Cove where the adventure begins (provided you're not using one of the other provided hooks), providing the city's statistics and a map as well as going into short but detailed descriptions on several locations, people, and events that can be encountered within the city. The NPCs are, predictably, all human except for a single half-orc and halfling, but these can be easily changed if such better suits your location for White Moon Cove. Each of the provided named NPCs is given a short background and some personality hints, as well as information tying them to wherever they might be encountered.

A timeline of events, detailing not only the events up to the three-day countdown but through and well beyond it - to even two weeks past the beginning of the plot - begins the adventure proper, which starts with the "Night Raid" event: a gang of sahuagin, led by a sorcerer with a wand of sleep, burst into the village's docks and begin kidnapping people. Special note is made of the sahuagins' amulets, which provide the necessary water breathing not only to themselves (who don't need it, obviously) but to their net-crammed captives, keeping them alive until they reach the Sunken Pyramid and the day comes for them to be properly sacrificed. Rules are not only provided for the tactics of the sahuagin, but also for fighting the aquatic creatures from the docks, from within fishing boats, and even in the water, as well as scaling the adventure up as high as EL 11!

Afterward, the PCs can gather information around White Moon Cove and/or wait for the arrival of the Mermaid's Mistress, an incoming ship raided in the same manner the night before, whose captain will eagerly provide passage to the Sunken Temple in exchange for the rescue of her missing crew; impatient PCs can of course gather enough information with successful checks, clever use of spells, interrogating captured sahuagin (and yes, what the fishmen know is provided!), or simple sleuthing to set out on their own, once they can acquire a vessel to carry them.

Encounter charts for the path en-route to the Pyramid provide some random opposition, followed by entering the dungeon proper. At the beginning of each section or encounter, statistics are provided for the illumination, water (motion, temperature, and Swim check DC), ceiling height, floor status, and other geographical traits. Tactics are provided for the sahuagin both on and off their guard, and statistics for the opposition are scattered regularly throughout the adventure, easily found from almost any location in the PDF. A few of these are reprints from earlier in the document - you see "Sahuagin Warrior" or "Sahuagin Champion" several times throughout - it saves the necessity of scrolling back ten or twenty pages to find a specific statblock, and the convenience is immensely helpful. Advice for scaling the adventure both up and down continues to be provided after nearly every encounter.

Probably the best part of these descriptions is the little details. One area mentions the sahuagin have gotten bored and drawn graffiti of stick-figure humans being eaten by giant sharks on the walls. Another mentions the sahuagin piling up baskets full of food along a part of the floor in one room, and even notes that the water in the area is tinted red from blood. Another has hieroglyphic carvings telling the story of the tribe. And yet more are occasionally dotted with - get this - sahuagin proverbs. Seven examples are provided, and between that and the flavorful descriptions of the decor and elaborate explanations and examples of sahuagin theology and culture, it shouldn't be hard for imaginative GMs to cook up more in the same vein.

Speaking of culture, the entire adventure just drips in it (pun intended). Sahuagin flavor and personality is played up at every angle. An encounter in the hatchery gives tactics for children, who are no less vicious than their parents and swarm vulnerable PCs like humanoid piranhas. A necromancer oracle referred to as "Keeper of the Sacred Bones" animates a bizarre cadre of undead, including creatures formed entirely of shark jawbones and eerie skull traps. Backbiting, betrayal, and conspiracy abound, with one of the tribe untrusting of their new 'god' and willing to aid the PCs and sacrifice some of its kind to see them freed of their new 'master'. A malenti assassin (a sahuagin with a mutation that makes it look like an aquatic elf) poses as a captive and hides amidst the prisoners or wanders the tunnels claiming to be searching for an exit. And so on and so on and so on.

I could go on throughout the rest of the entire adventure, but at this point - though the adventure is well-written, thrilling, and remarkably detailed and convenient to run, especially for an aquatic, underwater plot - I think I've said everything that really needs to be said. If you have any love at all for the sahuagin race, this adventure is quite literally drowning in flavor and detail. And it's not limited to the enemies and their lair, either - the city, the captives, almost all NPCs encountered, and practically every location within the PDF is lovingly detailed without being overly wordy or long. And the document even provides an extension of the adventure beyond its end - a free web enhancement on Raging Swan's site that provides stats for surviving sahuagin exemplars who may hunt down the PCs or escaped prisoners for vengeance!

All in all, this is a brilliant product with a ton of flavor and thematic awesomeness. If you've ever wanted to do an aquatic adventure but been intimidated by the rules and unfamiliarity of it, this is the product for you - written with the first-time underwater adventure-running GM in mind. And experts and veterans will certainly not find themselves coming up short with all the resources and sheer descriptive power the story has to provide. Giving this anything less than five stars would be a crime.

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The Much Desired Next Member of the Spontaneous Circle


Anyone who knows me knows I love spontaneous casters. Immensely so. Given the option between two classes that use the same spell list, I will unwaveringly pick the spontaneous option over the prepared/Vancian option. Sorcerer over Wizard, Oracle over Cleric, every time. Imagine my delight when, mentioning my desire for a Druidic spontaneous counterpart, Liz Courts and Wolfgang Baur point me toward the Shaman. I buy it immediately.

And here I am, almost a year later, finally sitting down to write a review. Sorry for the wait, guys! And thanks to Marc Radle for giving me a solid nudge in getting around to it. I'd lose my head if it weren't screwed on....

Anyway, on with the show.

The Shaman is, at face value, a fairly simple concept class: it is a spontaneous counterpart to the Druid. It has the same hit die, BAB progression, and saves as the Druid, and the same spell progression and spells known advancement as the Oracle and Sorcerer. Honestly, if it had been that alone, bolted on to the Druid chassis (or added as an archetype, a fairly simple alternative option) I probably still would have bought it, though admittedly that's a less interesting alternative. Thankfully, it's not so simple as that. The Shaman has an array of newly-flavored and retooled abilities, similar in theme and design to the Druid but with a flair for the spiritual. That's the flavor behind the Shaman: whereas the Druid is empowered by the life and power and strength of nature, the Shaman operates through its spirit. They are intermediaries between the anima that dwells within all natural things, living and unliving, and draw their power from the wellspring of spectral energy that suffuses everything around them.

The shaman has the same alignment and armor restrictions as the druid, but a slightly more limited selection of available weapons - only simple, without the druid's handful of other weapons available. Likewise, they have the same restrictions on aligned spells that all divine casters must contend with. They are granted Sylvan as an available starting language, in addition to racial bonus languages, but do not receive it for free. No Druidic, interestingly enough, though I suppose that they are not technically Druids and therefore not in on the Big Druidic Secret, whatever it may be; those of you (like me) interested in tossing them all in the same pot can always tack that on for free in your home games.

In place of an Animal Companion, a Shaman receives a Spirit Guide: an animate nature spirit in the shape of an animal partner. There's a wide variety of available animal forms - 16 in all - extremely similar to the Druid's list, but with a few changes. Most notable is that each spirit is tagged with a "totem spell" - a bonus spell granted freely as an addition to the Shaman's spells-known list, unique to each Spirit Guide. The guides, despite being listed as simply animals, are actually all Magical Beasts. In addition to the standard companion benefits gained as the Shaman levels (Evasion, share spells, devotion, improved evasion, etc.), the Spirit Guide gets tricks like Invisibility, SR, Incorporeality, and a few Familiar traits like Share Spells, Deliver Touch Spells, and Scry on companion. It has a couple of unique abilities as well: Commune with Spirits, which allows an augury (later divination, then commune) for free with a minute-long trance, and Spell Summons, which once per day allows the Shaman a free casting of any Druid spell, even if not known by the Shaman.

Back to the Shaman him/herself. The next trick they pick up is Totem Secret, a nice little collection of abilities that can be selected at various levels across the spectrum. There's familiar shamanistic tropes in here, such as using entrails to perform divinations, speaking with animals, seeing ethereal and incorporeal creatures, creating a defensive armor out of local spirits, and calling out the anger of a region to attack a foe. The Shaman gets to choose a total of six of these abilities, the final at level 19, and there are twelve to choose from.

The Shaman picks up Woodland Step and Wild Empathy, which function exactly as they do for Druids, followed up by Shaman's Touch - a CHA/day minor healing ability that scales up along the cure line over levels - and, of course, Wild Shape.

After this though is the Spirit Dance. The Shaman can spend three rounds dancing, communing in a ritual with the Spirits, to augment their magical capabilities. The dance can empower spells by upping caster levels, adding free Metamagic, and boosting attempts against SR, and eventually gets multiple uses of the ability.

The class rounds itself out with Spirit Step, allowing ethereal jaunt (strangely not italicized in the PDF) for a few rounds a day, and Vision Quest, an astral projection or legend lore (again, not italicized) ability that while interesting requires 24 hours of uninterrupted meditation and fasting to perform, regulating it to offscreen downtime more likely than not, or frequent interruption by impatient GMs or party members. The class, perhaps most glaringly, doesn't have a capstone ability, though the Spirit Dance does become available as often as the Shaman wishes it at 20th. Given that all Pathfinder base classes are designed to have a unique ability at 20th level, this seems like a pretty notable oversight.

The PDF provides a trio of archetypes following: the Elemental Shaman, the Primal Shifter, and the Witch Doctor. The Elemental Shaman trades the Shaman's spirit theme for an elemental one, replacing the Spirit Guide with an Elemental companion and swapping several abilities for less nature-themed, more element-themed tricks, including an Elemental-based Wild Shape.

The Primal Shifter and Witch Doctor are two sides of the same coin, sacrificing one aspect of their class abilities to empower another. The Shifter significantly reduces their spellcasting ability, dropping down to a 6-level progression (as Bard) but gaining augmented Wild Shape capability in exchange, and exchanging Spirit Dance for Primal Dance, which empowers the Shaman's combat ability in Wild Shape. (A revised spells known/spells per day chart is included for the Primal Shifter.) The Witch Doctor is the opposite, gaining a very meager Wild Shape and enhanced spells-known availability, empowered Shaman's Touch, and Spirit Sense (an augmented detect undead that picks up astral, incorporeal, and ethereal critters as well) and Brew Potion as a bonus feat.

To round the whole thing off, three new spells and four new feats are provided. The elemental blast spell is a nice evocation, also available to Sorcerers/Wizards, that tacks some secondary effects onto each of the elemental options. Rain of fangs is just a cool sounding spell, and the description makes an awesome visual. River of moonlight is a nice mind-affecting spell that I imagine will get more use from the Witches that can cast it rather than Druids and Shamans, since there are so few non-animal focused mind-affecting spells on the druid list that few (Druids and Shamans alike) are likely to be focused around it much. Three of the feats are Shaman-specific (Improved Shaman's Touch, Practiced Spirit Dance, and Prolong Spirit Dance) but the fourth, Extra Wild Shape, will probably be as popular with Druids as it will be with Shamans, especially Primal Shifters.

All in all, the class is exactly what it advertises itself as: a spontaneous Druid. Honestly, that's what I came looking for, and the Shaman delivered. The lack of a unique capstone ability is a little disappointing, but the Spirit Guide is cool, and what of the class's abilities aren't immensely awesome are at least practical, though making the Shaman's Touch more along the lines of Lay On Hands rather than a cure SLA that lags a little behind the spells the Shaman can cast might have been a better option. Still, the class looks effective, has a few unique abilities that make it more than just a Druid with a spontaneous casting option, and a nice set of archetypes that offer some interesting twists on the class.

I'm going to rate this one at 4.5 stars... which it turns out is what the two reviews before me have rated it. Since they both went with "4 stars but we mean 4.5", I'll do the reverse, hopefully pulling the total rating up toward the more accurate representation. A definite recommend for the spontaneous casting lover looking for a nature-flavored alternative. Another well-done to the Kobolds.

Now someone point me at spontaneous Witches, Magi, and Paladins =D

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An Arcane Paladin with a Force Smite... Revised and Awesome!


As mentioned in pretty much every review so far, Kobold Press's Battle Scion opens its description with the phrase "arcane paladin" as an apt and accurate description of the class presented herein. So, the following review will take pains to compare the class with its divine counterpart. The similarity toward 3.5's attempt at a full-BAB arcane caster class, the Hexblade, is also too prevalent to ignore, so I'll be examining how this measures up against what was considered one of the least effective caster classes of the 3.5 era.

At the basics, there's very little visible difference. The Battle Scion is a d10, full-BAB class with two good saves (Fortitude and Will, same as Paladin), access to all armors, all non-tower shields, and simple and martial weapons, which puts it squarely on par with Paladin and well ahead of the light-armor-only Hexblade. For obvious reasons it lacks the latters' alignment requirements and has no prerequisites to play. It has a broad array of available class skills, but in turn only 2+INT skill points per level, an unfortunate choice in my opinion that's slightly mitigated by the fact that, unlike both the Paladin and the Hexblade, the Battle Scion is an INT-based caster class, and thus will probably have little issue with the shortage of skill points. (Being a skill junkie, however, I still stand beside my dislike of 2+INT classes on principle.) ;)

Now we get into the meat of the class - the signature abilities. There's really three that make up the core of the class: the force blast, the dweomered weapon, and spell tactician. Force Blast is the first and most noticeable of these abilities, a scaling damage attack starting at 2d4 force damage a few times per day based on the INT of the Scion. This is clearly the class's most notable ability and the best thing to compare it to in its two counterparts would be the Paladin's Smite Evil and the Hexblade's Curse. Frankly, it blows the latter out of the water and gives the former a good run for its money. The recent revision to the class has changed the automatic successful hit, as per magic missile, to instead a ray with a ranged touch attack roll, both allowing for the opportunity to miss (as unlikely as it may be, as a touch attack on a class with Full BAB) as well as inflict a critical hit. As a force effect it's fully effective on incorporeal enemies, and it's available a large amount of times per day - 3+INT, meaning possibly as much as six or seven with a moderately high point buy or a sufficiently stat-focused character. While this doesn't sound like much at first, it's well above the 1/day of both the signature abilities of the other two counterparts: a Paladin doesn't reach seven smites per day until level 19! For drawbacks, the damage is about on par, if a little higher than Smite at low levels and a little lower at high. In addition, Force Blast is an (SP) ability, meaning it will still need to content with Spell Resistance should it arise. Still, compared to the prior auto-hit mechanism, this is a grand improvement.

Enough on the Force Blast for now though. Dweomer Weapon is the next trick the Scion has up its sleeve, and it's a fun one. The Hexblade had nothing that compares to this, but the Paladin has his Bonded Weapon option and the similarities to the Magus's abilities are visible enough not to ignore. Simply put, this is the same style of trick: the Scion gains a free +1 to their weapon's enhancement, which scales up by level, and a selection of weapon bonuses that they can place in exchange for a portion of that enhancement cost. Other than one really notable typo - the parenthetical explaining enhancement costs for the extra abilities mistakenly says "in the Pathfinder RPG" and leaves the sentence hanging, where I believe it's supposed to say "in the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook" - this section is pretty much verbatim from the Paladin and Magus abilities of the same style, with a few alterations to the list of available enhancements, and the ability is clean, simple, and effective. As the Scion levels, he gains the ability to apply dweomered bonuses more quickly, topping out at 15th level as a swift action. A nice little bonus for those last-second "oh I need THIS against the X!" moments.

Last but certainly not least is Spell Tactician. The ability starts off sounding boring, merely adding first +2 then +4 to the Scion's bonus Combat Casting feat. While perhaps boring, it's immensely practical - Concentration checks can be a beast in Pathfinder, especially with the Scion's reduced Caster Level (class level -3, no different than its two counterparts or the Ranger), and the extra boost will be considered quite helpful to a class designed to cast in melee. However, at 9th level, it ceases to be boring. It first grants the ability to, 3+INT per day, cast a personal spell as a swift action. True strike, anyone? That's where my mind went at first. I'll compare this one to the Paladin's Lay on Hands - which, when applied to the self, is likewise a swift effect - and say it pretty much comes out even.

At 11th, the Scion adds his INT to his DEX for attack rolls with rays and other ranged touch attacks, likewise 3+INT/day. While not especially necessary - touch attacks at that level are almost always a given - it's a nice little ability and might come in handy a time or two when the roll is low or the enemy's evasive capabilities unusually high. And since the Scion is likely running about in plate, his DEX is probably not too impressive. At 13th, once per day the Scion gets a free Metamagic without affecting the spell's level - a nice bonus, especially for Metamagics that would push the spell above the Scion's 4th-level cap, enough to make actually taking Metamagic Feats in this class even considered. (Until I saw this ability, I'd just assumed they wouldn't be worth it - have YOU ever seen a Paladin with a Metamagic feat?) This gains a few more uses as he levels, topping out at 4/day at level 19.

The class is rounded out with the Arcane Aura - which started as a scaling Deflection bonus that really does very little except free up a hand from a ring of deflection +X, but with the latest revision now also grants a scaling bonus to hit with the Force Blast. Not really necessary, but cool to have, and it makes the Arcane Aura feel less like it simply exists to free up an item slot. As well, the Scion gains handful of bonus feats, fighter training, Armor Training (as per Fighter), and a capstone that pulls his caster level and Fighter Training up to 20th automatically and gives the ability to expend a spell as a free action on a critical hit. This is a correction from my previous review, which specified "melee critical hit", but neither the old nor new versions of the Scion document specified melee. Meaning that a crit with the Force Blast or even another spell could indeed trigger this capstone ability. Awesome.

That sums up the class itself in a rather long-winded nutshell... but the game's not up yet. There's two archetypes conveniently included: the Force Blaster, which focuses on amping up the Force Blast to 11, and the Bonded Scion, who turns his weapon of choice into a bonded item as per wizard and gains some expanded uses of the item. The Bonded Scion is interesting, exchanging a few of the class abilities for some more focus on their weapon and a few extra abilities on top of Dweomer Weapon. The Force Blaster, though, takes the singular balance issue I have with this class - the basic Force Blast - and shoots for the sky with it. The Force Blaster can use their Force Blast more often, deal more damage with it, throw two blasts at once, and reduce the use time to move then eventually swift action. With the revisions to the Force Blast, this is still a powerful damage-dealing archetype - on par with a well-built Evoker, if more limited in resources - but less viciously broken.

The last of the document provides a selection of feats that, while obviously available for Scion use, has a couple with the above-and-beyond benefit of being useful, available, and interesting for non-Scion classes. Granted all of them are caster-friendly, you won't be getting anything for your Fighter in here, but I can see a Magus or a Wizard getting some use out of one or two of these things just as well as a Scion.

The PDF closes with a trio of scaling magical items belonging to the character Gax, who I guess is our de-facto Iconic Battle Scion. The items' prerequisites pretty much demand they be used for an arcane warrior type class, but none of them are so limiting that you couldn't pick them up with a Magus or Eldritch Knight, and they're not bad low- to mid-level items even without the scaling bonuses so even a party who doesn't have a character who meets the items' desires could still make use of their basic, if uninteresting, abilities until they find a worthy buyer or new party member.

All in all, it's an interesting, efficient class that, thanks to the latest revision, has ceased to be beyond the expected curve of power for its intent. Turning Force Blast into a ranged touch attack goes a long way toward balancing it, just on its own - the opportunity to miss, even if low, would reduce the sheer improbability of the class's core ability being all but infallible. And it makes a nice synch with later abilities by allowing Spell Tactician to function with it, since it does specify it works on spell-like abilities, along with the change to Arcane Aura. The class has been just what a lot of people are looking for: a heavily armored arcane caster with a small array of spells (chosen at will or scribed from scrolls from the sorcerer/wizard list and cast by memorization from a spellbook, but only up to 4th level, and a very limited amount per day - no different from Paladin/Ranger) who mixes it up in melee but isn't as much of a glass cannon as the Magus or as slacking behind in interesting, useful class abilities as the Hexblade (which, if you really want a curse-slinging spell-swordsman, check out the Hexcrafter Magus archetype - it's right up your alley). The Battle Scion is a worthy inheritor to this desire; the class is solid overall.

A definite recommend, and I'll be making sure use of this in the future.

Thanks again to Kobold Press for the review opportunity, and especially for your willingness to work with your fans and their feedback and make revisions based on their recommendations. Five stars.

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Madness, I tell you!

****( )

The archetypes in this book are flavored highly toward campaigns revolving heavily around fey influence - perfect for a Kingmaker campaign or similar storyline with heavy fey involvement.

The Faery Knight is a Cavalier archetype that bolsters the mount with an array of new fey-themed abilities, sacrificing some of the rider's options to make the mount a stronger and more versatile companion, with the minor addition of a bit of variance in the Cavalier's challenge and related abilities that sadly doesn't get much focus compared to the improvements to the mount. Though interesting and certainly a far cry from most available Cavalier archetypes, I lament that this is yet another variant of the Cavalier that is heavily focused on the mount, missing an opportunity to fill the void of much-needed mountless Cavalier options. Nevertheless, it it certainly an interesting design, and the varied abilities of the Fey Mount are strong enough that, if the player so desired, they could treat the mount more like a Druid's Animal Companion than a mount, having it fight alongside the Cavalier with its unique abilities rather than be resigned to only being ridden or being left outside in dungeons and other places not amenable to mounted combat.

The Laughing Man Monk archetype is probably the weakest option of the three. Though the flavor is strong - a maddened vagabond who wields words and perplexes the mind more than delivering powerful punches and martial maneuvers - the mechanics fail to add up, for several reasons. First and foremost, though the flavor paints the Laughing Man as the capricious wanderer and speaker of perplexing paradoxes, the Lawful alignment restriction of the normal Monk class is never mentioned as being removed, thus forcing the character into a behavioral pattern that fails to mesh with the fey demeanor of the example Laughing Man character. Secondly, the vast majority of the Laughing Man's abilities rely on Charisma-based skills and effects - Bluff, Intimidate, and Wild Empathy - thus providing yet another statistic for the already-statistically-strained Monk class, and no mention of relocating the Wisdom basis of the Monk's usual abilities to Charisma is provided, thus leading to the understanding that a Laughing Man must not only provide the usual difficult-to-fulfill statistics requirements for a Monk - acceptable scores in all three physical stats plus Wisdom - but that the Laughing Man also cannot afford to lose Charisma as well. This, I fear, is a major design oversight that renders the archetype nearly unusable to most games, save those with extremely high point-buy or massively generous roll-stat generation methods.

Where the Laughing Man fails, however, the Masquerade Reveler Barbarian Archetype triumphs. This archetype exchanges the normal Rage benefits - AND most of its penalties, such as limitations on available action options! - for a small selection of Eidolon Evolutions, grouped together in "Masks" that the Barbarian activates while raging in Masquerade. These Masks evolve, gaining more and more abilities, and the Barbarian acquires more and more Masks to add to their collection as they gain levels, eventually subsuming the Masks on a more and more permanent basis into themselves as they become less mortal and more fey with time, culminating in an apotheosis that changes their type and instills them with yet more versatility with their Masquerade. The archetype is flavorful, interesting, and most importantly covers the necessities of pointing out the changes in the standard Barbarian necessary for the Masquerade Reveler to operate as intended, AND at long last takes the logical leap of providing a class option to give Eidolon Evolutions to the character themselves rather than a summoned companion.

A small selection of feats follows - two or three for each of the archetypes, though sadly no general feats for fey characters overall, and the booklet wraps up by providing a new fey creature, the Gancanagh, a CR 7 opponent that mixes social interaction, mind-affecting magic, and seduction with a monk-like evasive combat style, complete with a touch attack delivering an addictive poison.

This would have been a solid five star product, a definite must-have, if not for the sad failings of the Laughing Man's design. Thankfully the rest of the book provides more than enough to make up for the failures... so long as you didn't come with the original intent of playing a Monk. A definite recommend for players and GMs interested in turning fey activity in their campaigns up a few notches. Four stars.

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Rumors of its Overpoweredness are Greatly Exaggerated.


Perhaps this book should have been called "Genius Guide to Nice Things for Fighters" with "(and a few Horrifically-Overpowered Feats)" as a subtitle. Because really, other than a few things that seemed straight up this book's alley as an April Fool's joke - Extra Lives, Physical/Mental Paragon, Gestalt, Prestigious, et cetera - the rest of this book seems no more "horrifically overpowered" than a well-played, well-made core Wizard on a good dice day.

And frankly, that's a breath of fresh air in a game that's increasingly dominated by spellcasting classes. The Meta-Attack line of feats in this book is really alluring and appealing to me as a lover of martial characters, and they allow a few new tricks that expand your options beyond the standard "move and attack"/"stay still and full-attack" paradigm for melee combatants.

Don't despair, caster-lovers. There's a few nice tricks for you too that don't break the game too much either, though not nearly as many shiny toys as the Fighters get.

Heck, even one of the most blatantly broken-looking feats in the book, Denied, is really not all that bad. Once-daily negation of a single attack, for the cost of burning a whole feat? Not really that bad in the full scope of things, especially when you start comparing it to what else that feat could have been spent on.

I'd say that the one drawback of the book is its $4 pricetag, but I enjoyed it immensely regardless and don't regret the cost; as much use as I plan to get out of it, I think it a fair price. [Full disclosure: I actually got it during the November 2012 sale, so I paid slightly less ;)] If it interests you at all, and you have an open-minded but discerning GM willing to allow the stuff that's nice but not broken and prohibit the stuff that's clearly over-the-top, I think you can get a lot of mileage out of this book. Useful content, simple formatting that's easy to read, and a good volume of tongue-in-cheek humor make it a solid product. Well worth it.