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Legendary Planet: Confederates of the Shattered Zone (PFRPG) PDFLegendary Games
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[i]Disclaimer:[/b] I backed the Kickstarter for this Adventure Path and paid for this product.
Confederates of the Shattered Zone is the fourth part of the Legendary Planet Adventure Path (or fifth, if you count the prologue module). For various scheduling reasons, this actually ended up coming out prior to the third part (Dead Vault Descent), so this review is being written without taking into account how it builds off of the previous issue. The PDF version is a full-color, 102-page product.
The main focus of this part of the adventure is the Shattered Zone, an asteroid field inhabited by the part-machine Auttaine race. Of course, machines aren't the only thing the PCs are going to deal with, given the location of their next clue to get home... In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I'll leave it at that.
Aside from the main adventure, this PDF also includes a selection of new monsters, more alien treasures, a gazetteer of the Shattered Zone, and some new fiction. More importantly, however, it also has a large section on Auttaine Augmentations - including various prostheses and upgrades that characters might want to use. Auttaine player characters in particular may be interested in further customizing their bodies, and you may want to consider making this content available to them back in Zel-Argose earlier in the game.
Helpfully, the PDF has a number of links to somewhat less-common items, archetypes, and abilities, taking people right to d20pfsrd.com for references. It's a nice touch, and one that more third-party adventures should probably do.
Overall, the quality of this product is what we've come to expect from Legendary Games - and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Disclaimer: I backed the Patreon creating this line of supplements, and paid the full price for this product.
This is the eighth handbook in Spheres of Power's line of expansions, and focuses on a Sphere that I always thought was a little blah - the War sphere. The basic ability of the War sphere (a slowly-scaling damage bonus) is rarely the best thing you can be doing with your actions at low levels, and not as strong as it could be at higher levels either. Fortunately, much like The Diviner's Handbook, this ultimately ended up surprising me with how well it expanded the base idea.
Following what's become the basic format of the series, this book opens with eight archetypes that use the War sphere in various ways. There's plenty of variety here, too, from an Alchemist archetype that creates Devices to enhance their abilities to a lord of the undead who can eventually create and rule their own miniature afterlife. Even the good ol' Fighter gets some love with the War Hero archetype, which allows them to generate buffs for themselves and their allies when they do certain things in battle. For those with a more defensive mindset, the Mageknight's new Wardmage archetype focuses on protecting allies, while the Dark Presence archetype for the Eliciter focuses on negative emotions.
There's also a handful of additional class options for the Armorist, Eliciter, Mageknight, and Rogue to help round things out a bit more, and most of these are fairly decent choices even for people who aren't specializing in this Sphere.
Following the class options is the main draw of the book - new basic talents. In addition to a number of new totems and rally abilities, The Battlemage's Handbook introduces two new kinds of War powers - Mandates and Momentum.
Mandates are effects that link two allies together - and it can be the caster and a friend or two of their friends, so party composition has a big effect. Each mandate has a "trigger" situation (like an enemy missing one person affected by the mandate) that results in a bonus (like additional damage against that foe) for the other participant.
Momentum powers are a little different. When activated, the party gains a resource called a 'Momentum Pool', and any ally within 30 feet can spend points from the pool to activate abilities from any of the caster's Momentum talents. That's right - you don't have to specifically activate them for them to be available, and even better, generating the pool doesn't draw attacks of opportunity. It's a fast, efficient way to offer help to the party, and I like the style here. Possible effects include things like extra attacks (stacking with Haste effects!), adding to damage done, et cetera. It's certainly something that martial allies are going to appreciate.
The Advanced Talents section is pretty short, and focuses on two powers that let you attach buffs to ships and structures.
The Feats section is a generous enhancement, with things like Armored Casting (bonuses to concentration for casting defensively) and a number of Dual Sphere abilities to mix War talents with other nice Spheres. Many class abilities also see enhancements (such as expanding Paladin auras or using Channel Energy at range), but the big new thing here is the addition of Squadron feats. Centered around the Squadron Commander feat, these provide various kinds of buffs to people you treat as part of your group, such as giving them talent with a particular skill, bonuses to Aid Another, or letting them use your initiative roll (with their modifiers). It's definitely something that works best for groups that enjoy smart, tactical play - which, given the theme of this Sphere, makes sense.
We also get a few more traits, some drawbacks (sphere-specific and normal), and a few new items and properties for equipment.
After the "Bestiary" (just a +2 CR template, actually), the book closes with a Player's Guide offering some advice on different kinds of ways to play someone specializing in this Sphere. Unfortunately, this section of the book needed at least one more editing pass, since it refers to things like the "Gift of War" that I can't seem to find anywhere. This may have been something that was renamed or removed from the final version of the book - either way, those errors (and there are a couple of them) make this part of the book less helpful than it ought to be.
Overall, the PDF is 45 pages long, and as usual for this series, it's in full color and has a few pieces of original art throughout. I'm pretty happy with this book overall, and it's definitely something anybody focused on using the War sphere (and generally buffing their allies) will want to pick up. I do have to take off a few points for the glitches in the player's section, though, bringing my final score here to 4.5/5. For the purpose of Paizo's platform, I'm rounding it up.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter campaign to create the Grimoire of Lost Souls, ordering both the PDF and the hard copy of this product.
Let's start with the basics, shall we? The Grimoire of Lost Souls is a big book. I mean, this is a seriously big book - I have multiple-adventure campaign books (hard copies!) that are shorter than this. It's longer than the entirety of Interjection Games' Strange Magic, which contains no less than three separate, unique, fully-detailed subsystems with a bunch of options each. So what the heck is all of this book about, you ask?
Pact Magic. This is a system that's been worked on for quite a few years now, but the Grimoire of Lost Souls is easily the largest and most flexible version of the system ever published. The basic theme is that characters gain the ability to make pacts with specific spirits, receiving granted powers in exchange for influence and giving the spirit a place to reside. It's a bit like Paizo's Medium, except that A) Pact magic is older, and B) There are a heck of a lot more options. This will be discussed later.
The book opens with an overview of pact magic, including its availability and how it's usually perceived. The usual assumption, of course, is that it's not particularly popular unless it's widely practiced - after all, allowing mysterious spirits into your soul is rarely safe. The book itself is broken up into nine chapters, and yes, I'll be discussing each of them in turn. I can't go over literally every option here - there are far too many - but I hope to explain each section in enough detail to help you get a sense for the sheer volume of content this book contains.
The first chapter, Classes, opens with the Pactmaker base class. This is essentially the true master of pact magic, with more options and more ability to bind and control the many spirits than anyone else. As noted in the description of the class, the various spirits offer so many different abilities that a smart Pactmaker can be prepared for almost any situation. They can be of any alignment, have a d8 hit dice, a nice selection of class skills, and 4+ skill points per level. The class also has 3/4ths BAB, good Fort and Will saves, proficiency with simple weapons and light armor, and they rely on their Charisma modifier for most of their abilities. Intelligence doesn't directly impact most of their skills (and one of their powers gives them a bonus to certain Knowledge-based checks), but it's an important ability score for actually getting more spirits in the first place. Depending on their build, their need for other ability scores will fluctuate somewhat.
The Pactmaker begins the game by having a partnership with one spirit, and can gain additional spirits by completing four Knowledge Tasks (representing their Ceremony, Constellation, Personality, and Seal - more on this later), although they can only bind spirits whose maximum level doesn't exceed their limit. The spirits themselves come in 9 levels, progressing at every odd level.
Once a spirit is bound, it offers a variety of abilities to the Pactmaker. In addition, Pactmakers can learn Binder Secrets (additional powers, basically equivalent to Magus Arcana), Constellation Aspects (bonus powers based on the type of spirit a pact was made with, but only when a good pact was made), and Pact Augmentations (basic bonuses, like a dodge bonus to AC or Spell Resistance). Starting at 4th Level, the Pactmaker can also bind additional spirits to themselves, capping at four spirits when they reach 16th Level.
The point to take away from all of this is that Pactmakers have a LOT of flexibility. Once all of the class abilities have been explained, the book dives into the Constellation Aspects. You get one of these for each 'good' pact currently active, and each type of spirit has four potential choices (so, in theory, you could have all four constellation aspects if you bind four spirits of the same category). These are mostly minor but useful powers, such as the Angel constellation's Bless ability, which lets them cast the spell of the same name a number of times per day equal to 3+Cha mod.
Following that, the book explains the Binder Secrets, which allow the Pactmaker do to things like hide the signs of the spirits, penetrate the defenses of foes a given spirit's favored enemies, or enhance a weapon much like a Magus can. Some of these secrets alter the granted abilities, or act as rituals for things like calling the spirits for information. Some of these are definitely more useful than others - for example, the Steal Pact Spirits ability won't be very useful unless you have a lot of pact-making foes.
To cap things off, the Grimoire of Lost Souls offers plenty of Favored Class Bonuses, covering the Core, Featured, and Uncommon races.
As if all of that weren't enough, the Grimoire of Lost Souls has archetypes and class options galore, covering 29 of Pathfinder's normal classes (no Occult classes, I'm afraid) as well as the three Alternate Classes and its own Pactmaker class. Barbarians have new rage powers, Fighters can learn to make pacts, Paladins can become friends or foes of pact magic, Summoners can influence their Eidolons... if you want to dip into pact magic without actually making a Pactmaker, this section is going to help you do it. For balance, many of the archetypes have either diminished spirit level growth (capping at 6th instead of 9th) and/or the Tunneled Lore feature (restricting them to one constellation and Starless spirits).
And finally - finally! - we're done with Chapter 1. Next up is Chapter Two: Feats. This is exactly what you'd expect it to be, and this section includes general, combat, grit, item creation, metamagic, pact, panache, and teamwork feats (with reminders for how they work). The options here include things like sharing minor abilities with allies, learning basic pact magic with any class, focusing on specific Constellations and/or Spirits so you excel in using them, extra class features, and even rolling for special abilities on a table. Notably, some of these feats are necessary if you want to max out particular class abilities (as written, for example, you can't get the maximum amount of DR/- from Pact Augmentations unless you take the Extra Pact Augmentation feat). All in all, this section is a very solid selection of choices for people using Pact Magic, and you'll definitely want to read through it when deciding on your build.
Now, up to this point, we've heard a lot about pactmaking but little about actually doing it. That's what the third chapter, the aptly-named Pactmaking, focuses on. It begins with an explanation of the Knowledge Tasks, the arcane lore a Pactmaker must uncover before they can summon a spirit. Sooner or later, the character will succeed - if they fail, they get a cumulative bonus to their next check as long as they keep working at it. The key thing to remember here is that someone who uses Pact Magic probably won't have access to higher-level spirits as soon as they level up - so it behooves them to try and get their knowledge skills high enough to succeed on a regular basis. Difficult? No. Important? Yes.
There's an aside of one page where all the terms used here are defined - a helpful reference for those new to Pact Magic, and very important for everyone to read. After this, the chapter moves on to the actual ceremonies. Summoning a spirit involves several steps and is broadly similar to preparing spells for the day, but with some important caveats. First, a binder can rush the ritual if they're pressed for time, but this usually reduces the chance of success and should be avoided when possible. The most important part of this is the Bartering, the last part, where the binder has to roll against the Binding DC of the spirit. If they exceed the DC, that's good and they get all the powers. If they REALLY exceed it, they get a bonus power. If you fail... well, that's a poor pact. You still get the spirit, but not all of the powers. Naturally, various things can influence the likelihood of success. For example, binders get a +2 bonus when trying to get spirits whose alignment matches their own (or a -2 penalty if they have opposed alignments), while anyone can use a totem related to the spirit to improve their odds of success. Note that totems are not exclusively physical - for example, you might get a bonus if you speak exclusively in a certain language, make the summoning circle in certain areas, or just don't break the law in the day before the summoning. (All of these are actual totems, by the way.)
This section also provides the rules for using granted abilities, including how often they can be used, what the DCs are, and notably, that none of them qualify as prerequisites because they're only temporary powers. To further complicate things - seriously, this is a robust system, people! - there are details on the physical signs that spirits cause and how binders can trade certain granted abilities for others. The section ends with a note on multiclassing - basically, levels in classes that grant the Bind Spirit class feature stack for determining your level as a Pact Magic user, but not for the level of spirits you can use.
The next chapter deals with the Spirits, and there are well over a hundred different options here - at least one spirit of each constellation per-level, plus two Starless spirits that aren't part of a Constellation and function a bit differently in regards to certain powers. Spirits cover the full spectrum of alignments, although some are definitely more popular than others - Chaotic Neutral and Lawful Evil are pretty popular early on, and poor Chaotic Good and Lawful Neutral tend to lag behind throughout. Neutral Good actually does pretty well, though, and is probably the best choice for alignment if you want to be a good-aligned pact magic user. I'm not saying we needed an even spread at every level, but I would have appreciated a little more alignment balance overall.
I'm not going to detail every spirit - there's way too many for that - but as a brief overview, most of them are essentially mythological entities, complete with their own legends. A number of these are reproduced in the book for fun, and all of the spirits in general are fairly distinct. For example, Forash is a forgotten archdevil who claims to have taught pact magic to mortals (which explains why he's so easy to get), while Marat is the spirit of a construct that developed a soul and now works to help protect others. Suffice to say that they cover pretty much the entire spectrum of themes.
Now, the full list of spirits is a very large part of the book, but we're still a long ways from done. Chapter 5 covers new Spells, with options for many classes. A fair number of these have to do with pact magic, of course, but there's also an interestingly high number of age-based spells that have effects based on how old the characters are. These help balance out the fact that classes other than the Pactmaker generally can't have more than one spirit at a time.
Chapter 6 dives into the Prestige Classes of the system, and six are offered.
Chapter 7 focuses on Magic Items, some of which are harder for people unversed in the ways of Pacts to identify. There are a number of new Armor and Weapon special abilities, most of which are probably only useful for NPCs going against the party. That's not an inherently bad thing - it's good to be able to challenge players - but it's worth keeping in mind. There are also some rings, rods (including metamagic rods), staves, and a good number of wondrous items. The endless chalk is practically a necessity in campaigns that track mundane supplies, since otherwise your daily bindings will burn through a lot of that (and it's priced at a very attractive 500 GP, so pick it up early). Gnostic Tomes provide all the lore for one spirit, and are a good way for GMs to give access to an additional spirit as treasure (they're probably not something PCs will craft themselves). There's even a pair of artifacts, although these are even less likely to see use.
Chapter 8, Occult Locales, is mostly fluff and fun. This chapter details some of the lore behind spirits, what exactly these mysterious beings are, and how they come to exist. It also details Organizations (groups that players can be a part of) and Planes where Spirits can exist (and that players can visit). For example, the Death Company is described as "Suicidal Mercenaries gifted with Occult Fortune", while the Apocryphal Desert exists on the edge of the Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Evil planes, close to the realm of non-existence. (How you get to the edge of an infinite place is a concept much harder to grasp - welcome to the fun of planar travel.)
Finally, Chapter 9 focuses on Esoterica, optional rules for a given game. This includes rules on Aging (the avoidance of which is a common goal among those who study the occult), the Frehmin (a race of pactmaking humanoids), four occult creatures, a Pactmaker background generator, Pact Maladies (curse-like effects), Ravager Spirits (a major threat to Binders), and some pactmaking uses of skills.
Closing out the book, we have a Thank You page where the Kickstarter backers are listed (I'm on this!), an index, and the OGL.
Whew! Okay, almost done! Now we just need to talk about the book itself. The Grimoire of Lost Souls is a full-color product, complete with a significant amount of very nice artwork (and I mean really nice - getting good artwork for this project was one of the main goals of the Kickstarter, and they succeeded). However, a few pieces do fall into the "mature" category, so this probably isn't a good book for kids. The book adheres to the standard two-column layout used by the industry, and it makes use of its colors to make things easier to read (such as by highlighting the names of abilities in red, and many sections in blue). This is not a short, simple PDF you'll be totally familiar with in ten or fifteen minutes of reading - it's a massive book, and I feel it was well worth the wait and the price I paid for it. If the idea of making contracts with spirits sounds fun to you, like a Medium pumped up, then you're probably going to like this book. Notably, there is an IMMENSE amount of room for flavoring your character here, covering everything from evil villains channeling the power of monsters to righteous figures calling on the spirits of angels and heroes.
I would personally rate this tome at about 4.75/5, rounded up. I do wish that a few of the options had been a little more player-focused, such as among the weapon and armor special abilities, but those are basically just quibbles at worst. This is a solid product, and I'm looking forward to using it in my games.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter that funded this book, and received both a physical copy and a PDF.
Ah, Bard's Gate. If you're at all familiar with the Lost Lands Campaign Setting, you've heard this name. Bard's Gate is to the Lost Lands what Absalom is to the Inner Sea - an economic powerhouse with a reach well beyond its size.
Now, much like Slumbering Tsar, Bard's Gate is a "city" book - but rather than being an adventure through ruins, Bard's Gate is an active, vibrant city with an immense amount of detail. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say this is the largest, most complex city book currently available for Pathfinder... and what a city it is. There are districts, political factions, guilds, and rules for buying property, managing a business, plenty of unique NPCs, a history of the region, details of the city's defenses, and even the attitudes of many social classes towards other people... all before you're even a quarter of the way through the book. In all seriousness, it's difficult to adequately describe just how much content and detail this book has. You don't truly understand it until you've actually read through it (and what fun that is, because it really gets your imagination going).
Endzeitgeist has already detailed this book with his usual attention below, so I won't bore you by repeating all of those details. What you should know is that Bard's Gate is a location that works as a true home for your campaign - a place for multiple adventure teams to explore, and an area that becomes more than just a place to buy and sell things before heading off on their next quest.
This book fully deserves the 5-star rating I'm giving it. Frog God Games is unquestionably one of the best third-party publishers, and this is the book focused on the cornerstone of their entire setting. Those are some pretty big shoes to fill... but they've succeeded with aplomb. If you're looking for an immaculately-detailed home for your players where there will always be something else to do and someone else to meet, this is it.
Disclaimer: I received this PDF for free as a prize from a contest.
Looking through this product... you know, honestly, I think I'm with Endzeitgeist on this one. The fundamental idea - improving Fervor, with the option of replacing a number of the character's bonus feats - is not a bad one. That said, I do think it could use at least one more pass to really tighten up the language. For example, the Godspeed ability allows the Warpriest to improve their base speed, but doesn't actually specify a duration.
I'm also a little concerned about the balance here - specifically, having enough abilities to actually do anything. If the Warpriest doesn't sacrifice anything, having a bunch of new abilities is a substantial improvement to their abilities. On the other hand, if you follow one not earlier on and replace 6-10 of their feats, you're... exchanging a lot of what are normally permanent, potent effects for many other powers all drawing on the same relatively small pool of energy. The PDF notes that without the tradeoff, action economy is still something of a balancer - this is basically true, but added versatility is a boon. Basically, this product will end up being either a straight buff or a straight nerf to the class - I almost wonder if it would have been better off having its own resource pool at the bare minimum.
The basic concept here isn't a bad one, and making Fervor more interesting and versatile would be good for the class - but I think it could definitely use some better balancing, and reconsideration over what's being gained and lost.
Uncommon Callings, Book 1: Archetypes for Outcasts, Vagabonds, and Pariahs (PFRPG) PDFForest Guardian Press
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Disclaimer: I received this PDF for free as a prize from a contest.
This is a 23-page product, coming in a full-color version and a smaller black-and-white version for easier printing. Subtracting the cover, copyright page, and OGL, we have 20 pages of actual content.
They don't waste any time getting into it, either, as we head straight into the first of the archetypes and options that this book focuses on. Rather than going into too long of a discussion, I think I'll go ahead and just introduce them one by one...
The Wild Shot is an archetype for the Brawler that gives them proficiency with hand crossbows or one-handed firearms, as well as a few abilities to help them use each. For example, Puncturing Shot allows the Wild Shot to expend a use of Martial Flexibility to let their hand crossbow attacks resolve as touch attacks within 30 feet, notably improving their overall accuracy. They also get a new Favored Class Bonus, adding +1/4th to critical confirmation rolls with the associated weapons (it does not stack with Critical Focus, or anything else that doesn't stack with Critical Focus).
The next option is the Order of the Veil, a Cavalier Order built around secrets and payments for the services they render. They're talented at Bluffing, are treated as meeting the prerequisites for certain feats even if they don't, and can even hypnotize people to forget they were there. It's not the usual get-on-a-horse-and-charge of the Cavalier, but it's worth a look if you're playing in a more espionage-focused game.
Next up is the Lurking Predator, an archetype for the Hunter that adds proficiency with certain hunting gear (boomerangs, harpoons, nets, etc.), and exchanges their spells for some new talents and an improved animal companion. They're also fairly good with teamwork feats, and can treat allies like they possessed them for the purpose of personally benefiting. If you like sneaking up on others and surprising them - and you don't just want to be a Rogue or Ninja who goes invisible a lot - this is an archetype worth considering.
The Vault Raider is an archetype for the Occultist, and as the name implies, they're pretty good for campaigns focused on delving through dungeons. They're better at finding secret doors (and determining if things are locked), gain various tricks relating to unlocking things, and get a new type of Implement (Delving) with powers like harming golems and creating supernatural traps.
The Brigand is an archetype for the Unchained Rogue, and is a bit more brutal to enemies with powers like Two For Flinching, which deals added damage to foes suffering from various fear effects. They're also good at causing said effects, with a 2nd-level power that lets them Intimidate as a free action when they deal sneak attack damage.
The Torrent Duelist is an archetype for the Fighter, designed to be using Combat Expertise pretty much all the time. There's some added commentary on the math for this class and making sure it works (definitely worth the read), and the Torrent Duelist actually manages to pull off being both Strength and Dexterity-based. They eventually learn to take reduced penalties on their accuracy rolls (i.e. Power Attack), and can later choose to specialize in One-Handed, Two-Handed, or Dual Wielding styles. Each has very distinctive effects, and they're fairly solid overall.
The Eye Collector is an archetype for the Slayer, focused around two-weapon fighting but also replacing a number of Slayer Talents. The main gimmick of this class is attacking the opponent's eyes - starting with causing Bleed and Dazzled, and moving up to permanently blinding foes by 10th level.
The Shawled Viper is an archetype for the Swashbuckler, focused on helping make them more mobile and granting them talent with poisons. Many of their abilities trigger off of using a poisoned weapon, and starting at 2nd Level they can apply poison as part of the activation. Their overall speed with this looks like it'll make poison a genuinely viable style, especially because they can make their own - and the fact that they can cut down on the onset time means a creative player could inflict all sorts of nasty conditions on foes. Of course, foes immune to poison are going to be a problem to face... so have a backup plan.
The last option in this PDF is the Studied Theosophist, an archetype for the Cleric that reverses the normal approach. Rather than getting power from a deity's divine favor, they gain access to it through the study of its teachings and of natural law - essentially, they're reaching out to the deity, rather than the deity reaching out to them. The Studied Theosophist uses Intelligence instead of Wisdom, gains all Knowledge skills as class skills (and can perform them untrained), and can pick one domain associated with their deity each day instead of having permanent access to two.
There's quite a lot of content in this PDF, and all of it is solidly flavorful. Some of these classes lean a little towards just one trick (something that is explicitly called out and discussed, actually), but overall they look like they could be pretty fun to play. I'm happy to give this product a full score.
Disclaimer: I received this PDF for free as a prize from a contest.
This is a 17-page product, coming in a full-color version and a smaller black-and-white version for easier printing. Subtracting the cover, copyright page, notes on savagery, and OGL, we have 13 pages of actual content. It's compatible with Psionics and can be played in such a world, although it doesn't really have psionic powers of its own unless you take one of the archetypes.
"Wait, hold on, Rednal," you say? "What was that part about notes on savagery? I think that's relevant." Well, you'd be right. It's not part of the class, though - rather, it's an explanation of the view that went into this product. Despite the name, the "Savage" isn't meant derogatory towards any group or culture. Rather, it's being used in this product as a fairly neutral term to note specific kinds of cultures, and it specifically encourages individual tables to come up with their own groups.
The Savage is an Alternate Class for the Barbarian and Monk - which means it can't be multiclassed with them. The class itself is a full-BAB class with good Fort and Reflex saves, a flurry-like Furious Blows ability, a d12 hit dice, and 6+Int skill points per-level. They're proficient in all simple weapons and a selection of thematically appropriate weapons, with are collectively referred to as "savage weapons". They are similarly proficient with certain specific armors, and bucklers, which are collectively "savage armor". This matters for their class features. To help compensate for this, they get a Wisdom bonus to their AC while wearing savage armor if they're currently unencumbered (making them somewhat more tank-y than a Monk).
Here at the start of the class, I would personally have included a note on its main ability scores - Strength (for damage), Constitution (for multiple class abilities), and Wisdom (as a secondary score for that lovely AC bonus). Looking over the abilities, I think this class does manage to strike a nice balance - it's more of a tank than the Monk, but not quite as smashy as the Barbarian. Indeed, rather than giving them a bonus to Strength, their Rampage ability actually gives them temporary HP equal to their foe's HD (which don't stack with themselves), although this condition also allows them to use various Barbarian Rage powers.
Starting at third-level, they get a bonus against one school of magic (personally, I suggest Enchantment, because Mind-Controlled Tanks are bad for your party), and as they level up they get further bonuses. Improved natural healing can help save on wand charges and spells used by other characters, while the Feral Pool helps with overcoming damage reduction and improving their overall combat abilities.
Overall, it's a very solid class, clearly designed to take what others can dish out and keep on fighting. If you want to feel like a nearly-invincible wall, this is the class you're looking for. I think it could use a few more out-of-combat abilities - although the decent number of skill points helps - and the book comes with a couple of archetypes to help further refine and flavor your character. All in all, this is a very nice class if you're looking for something primitive (i.e. Stone Age) yet capable.
Disclaimer: I received this PDF for free as a prize from a contest.
This is a 24-page product, coming in a full-color version and a smaller black-and-white version for easier printing. Subtracting the cover, copyright page, and OGL, we have 21 pages of actual content.
Now, the description above does a good job of explaining this product - it's a new base class, compatible with Psionics Unleashed and focused on creating what's essentially a personal debuffing zone that can hamper enemies while they use their other abilities to control the battlefield. The main attributes of this class are Charisma and Intelligence, with Strength as a somewhat-important secondary for going into melee combat. This is NOT a class meant to stand back from the fight.
At its core, the class is a 3/4ths BAB, 4th-level arcane spellcasting class with a d8 hit dice and good Fort and Will saves. They are proficient with all simple weapons and one other melee weapon of their choice, as well as light armor and bucklers. They gain proficiency with medium armor and heavy armor at later levels.
Direlocks are very big on frightening their foes - indeed, one of their first-level abilities grants a scaling bonus to Intimidate while hampering Diplomacy and Handle Animal - but the real power of the class is their Dire Zone. As long as they have at least a little energy remaining in their class resource pool (the Dire Pool), they get a bonus against fear effects and inflict a penalty to foes' saves against fear effects just by being around them. Creatures immune to fear outright lose their immunity in this zone (making, say, Paladins vulnerable to them if you're playing in an evil campaign - I'm always kind of iffy on even first-level characters being able to totally shut down a foe's immunity, but fear-based powers are pretty central to the class.)
The Dire Zone can be enhanced by the use of various inimica - ability choices that either empower the user or mess with enemies inside the Dire Zone. For example, the Sluggish Movement inimica forces enemies to treat the Dire Zone as Difficult Terrain (Fort negates). The effect lasts until the end of the battle, but the Direlock can't use their Inimica very frequently - that's what all their other class abilities are for, from throwing invisible eldritch tendrils onto people to studying ancient eldritch lore.
This class is very flavorful, and not at all suited for good-focused campaigns unless you have a great backstory and way of explaining things (although they're not actually restricted from being Good). Personally, I think it would work much better in something like Way of the Wicked, or perhaps Hell's Vengeance.
Overall, this class is solidly-written, flavorful, and interesting. I found no major problems with it, although I would caution players and GMs alike to carefully review it prior to allowing it in a game. Of course, that's true for any new class, but still. This class does exactly what its sets out to do, and if playing a spooky, intimidating figure sounds like fun to you, this class is worth a look.
Disclaimer: I received this PDF for free as a prize from a contest.
This is a six-page product, coming in a full-color version and a smaller black-and-white version for easier printing. Subtracting the cover, copyright page, and OGL, we have three pages of actual content here - which doesn't sound like much, I know, but Archetypes usually aren't that long to begin with (and with a price of 99 cents, it's not a very big investment to begin with).
The Ossuarite is an undead-focused Druid, replacing their animal companion with a skeletal beast. It's a fairly potent critter, with some effects that help it against undead. Their Wild Shape power is replaced by a skeletal transformation, and their Nature's Ally spells summon skeletal versions of the base creatures (with the new Graveborne simple template).
So... basically, this class is "skeletons everywhere". Honestly, that alone is probably going to tell you whether or not you want to play it. I haven't thoroughly playtested it, so I can't say for sure what its ultimate power level is, but the Druid is so strong to begin with that even a nerfed version would still be a fairly good class to take. If your campaign is looking for something a little more necrotic, go ahead and give this a look. I noticed no particular problems with this archetype, so it gets a full score from me.
Disclaimer: I received this PDF for free as a prize from a contest.
This is a thirteen-page product, coming in a full-color version and a smaller black-and-white version for easier printing. Subtracting the cover, copyright page, and OGL, we have ten pages of actual content here.
This product introduces "Nuances", which it introduces as something similar to the Wizard's Arcane Discovery and can be taken in place of a bonus feat. They are specifically not feats themselves - the book notes that they were written solely with the Fighter in mind, and by not making them feats, they were able to avoid unplanned synergy with other classes. GMs do have the option of allowing them for other classes, though.
A number of these options have definite value for players. For example, one of the nuances allows Fighters to acquire Item Creation feats and take them in lieu of other bonus feats (although they're still going to need a high Spellcraft to craft effectively - but it means they won't be relying solely on other party members to make gear). Other nuances include choices like using their Bravery bonus on certain skill checks, wielding two-handed weapons with one hand (albeit at an accuracy penalty), and raising the DC of Concentration Checks for enemies who are casting in certain areas.
Some of these are definitely more desirable than others - not being disarmed, for example, is an issue that rarely comes up in most games and probably isn't worth a feat. That said, many of the choices here are powerful options, although they mostly just further improve the Fighter at what they're already good at - beating down enemies. Make no mistake - allowing this content is pretty much a straight upgrade to the Fighter in their strongest area, although how much use someone will make depends a lot on their build and how many feats they need - I don't think people are too likely to break the game on accident, though, and it's not as if well-made Fighters can't be brutal murder-machines to begin with.
Starting on Page 8, the book notes a number of alternate options, including how to use these as feats instead of a Fighter-only option, or making them broadly available to Fighters (either universally, or one per bonus feat) but requiring the expenditure of grit. This is adapted from the Gunslinger, transforming the Nuances into Deeds for the Fighter with a fairly similar method of expending, and regaining, power. Basically, it's trading easy access for limited use (although crit-focused builds will still do pretty well).
The book closes out with a few final options, including some nuances that grant magical abilities (Bloodrager or Magus spells, easy use of Dimension Door,etc.), and finally some advice for creating your own nuances.
I think it's clear by now that this book makes Fighters better - enough to raise some definite balance concerns, since stuff in combat isn't where the class has trouble. I would advise only allowing this for players who have their build planned in advance, allowing you to get a better sense for what they're actually going to do and how their use of this product would affect things. That's less of an issue if you're just using this to make an impressive NPC fighter, of course.
The book includes a number of (fairly basic) pieces of art and adheres to the standard two-column layout. I didn't notice any egregious spelling or grammar errors. All-in-all, this is a solid product that definitely achieves what it set out to do, and I'd personally rate it a 4/5. It's not a must-have, but if you're looking for a way to buff Fighters a bit, it is worth a look.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.
Krampusnacht is part of the "VsM" system - specifically the vs Stranger Stuff line, which generally seeks to emulate classic 80's "Kids and Monsters" movies. This product is no exception - and before you ask, don't worry, everything you need to learn the rules is included with this download. You will, however, need a deck of playing cards - as well as a writing utensil for making characters and recording changes. The game expects a minimum of two players, and probably shouldn't go over five.
The product here is a series of six linked adventures - none of which will take especially long to complete, so it's very likely you can finish the entire game in one night. This makes it an ideal break for your gaming group, especially if people are busy and don't have quite as long to get together as they'd like. As the name and system implies, this is basically the "Kids versus Evil Christmas" story, and each section has 1-2 fights and a few roleplaying encounters. This is more combat than the base system expects, and guidance for how to deal with this is provided.
Krampusnacht isn't an especially long adventure, and it's not something you're probably going to play more than once (unless you're running it for multiple groups), but it's priced very attractively, won't take you very long to learn, and overall fulfills its purpose of being a fun diversion. If your group enjoyed stuff like The Goonies - or, heck, if you actually have kids you want to play something like this - consider this an option worth picking up.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter campaign that created this product - so while I didn't exactly pay the full price for it, I did pay.
All right, so this product has been quite a long time coming... but it's here at last. This is actually a two-part product - an adventure module and a small bestiary for Spheres of Power. The adventure itself is designed to be genuinely modular - the enemy and the ally during the campaign are randomly selected at the start, which offers a certain degree of replay value for the GM.
As you might expect of an adventure produced for an alternate magic system, there's a certain emphasis on magic in the plot - namely, that it works best if the PCs are students who are enrolling in the Academy where all of this takes place. If someone truly doesn't want to be a magic user, a few suggestions are included (mainly, being staff at the school), but this may separate them a bit from the rest of the party.
Now, the actual layout of this adventure is a bit reminiscent of a PFS module. Unlike the high/low tiers that many modules are broken into, though, Wizard's Academy scales all the way from Level 1 to Level 20, with content broken into five different tiers. The player's objectives change based on how strong they are - in lower tiers their goal is to find and rescue allies who have the power to stop the plan, while at higher tiers they'll be the ones fighting the villain. Now, many groups are used to being the ones who do everything themselves, so be certain to drop hints about what's appropriate for their tier, especially in the lowest rank.
In addition, students are given a schedule for their days - after all, it's expected that a student will spend classes, and doing so offers various mechanical benefits throughout the rest of the module. This helps to keep up the pace of things. Given the sheer amount of randomness to the adventure, though, it's very possible that three or four playthroughs could end up being quite distinct from each other. This is particularly notable with the allies and enemies, all of whom have a unique dungeon section to help close out the adventure.
After all of this, we're only halfway through the book. The rest of this product is composed of a bestiary with a respectable number of entries. Many of these are conversions of existing creatures (Unicorns, Succubi, Rakshasa, etc.), but there are some new creatures to go with them, and the entire section is filled with notes from teachers. It's fairly fun to read through, and it's even applicable in-game since players who own the Bestiary have the option to look through it (for six real-life seconds at a time) during combat in order to try and get information.
Unfortunately, the book stumbles a bit here with the art. Most of it honestly isn't too bad, but in some cases the art either has pencil marks that weren't removed or consists of actual rough sketches. That does make this section feel a bit rushed and incomplete, and I think that's a shame. It's not a game-ending problem - the statblocks are all there, and that's what really matters - but it's definitely something you'll notice.
Overall, I rate this product a 4/5. The adventure section is put together reasonably well and offers a great deal of flexibility (and even replayability), and the bestiary is quite functional, but just a bit less polished than it should have been. I know art can be expensive, but it probably would have been better to have no art for a creature at all than something that looks too rough.
A Classic Adventure In The Best Possible WayRednal —
Disclaimer: I purchased a physical copy of this book from Frog God Games' website.
All right, first things first! This book is nice - it's a hardcover, full-color product, with plenty of attractive art sprinkled throughout. It's fun to just open it up and flip through the pages, since there's always something there to catch your eye. In fact, more than once I found myself stopping to go "What is that thing!?" as I moved through the pages - and the answer rarely disappointed. This book is also a complete sandbox adventure in its own right, fully capable of taking brand-new PCs all the way to Level 20. If you're looking for a solidly-written exploration game with more of an intrinsic plot than Slumbering Tsar or Rappan Athuk, this is the book you're looking for.
That said, when I describe this as a sandbox, I'm not kidding. It is not a straight campaign in the sense of an Adventure Path - rather, it's a collection of tools and pieces that all work together, but it's fully expected that the GM will read through things and set up the main campaign themselves. This isn't quite a book to simply open and run from - not unless you're really good at improv, anyway. For me, this is neither a positive nor a negative - Frog God Games has always been very honest and clear about the fact that different books are designed for different kinds of games, and Sword of Air is no exception to this.
The bulk of the content is split into eight chapters, each covering a specific area of the adventure. These aren't (quite) meant to be played in direct chronological order, but they do help to organize the information and show you where to look in the book whenever the players are headed to a new region. Unfortunately, I can't go into many details of the plot without a great many spoilers - suffice to say that there are some very interesting locales detailed within the book.
Overall, this book feels like a classic to me - not in the sense of what it could become in the future, but in the sense of what it is right now. Sword of Air isn't an Adventure Path, it's an Adventure - it has an impressively large scale, but with a tight main plot and a lot of things to enjoy along the way. For me, this is the Lost Lands' version of Rise of the Runelords - a fantastic adventure with many of the most famous and popular highlights of the genre, all created with Frog God Games' usual attention to detail and excellence. It's not a skinny book, either - while it's not on the scale of Rappan Athuk or Slumbering Tsar, this book has over five hundred pages of full-color content, and I absolutely believe it's worth the price if you're looking for a long-term adventure for your group.
My overall rating is 5/5 stars, plus a personal recommendation for any group that wants to play a true classic of this gaming genre.
Exactly What I Was Hoping ForRednal —
Disclaimer: I am a Patreon backer for the campaign creating these handbooks, and I paid the full price for this product.
All right, the seventh handbook for Spheres of Power has (finally) been released, and I've been looking forward to this one - I have a character who specializes in Alteration, and you can bet I plan to make use of this. Let's dig right into the content, shall we?
After its introduction, the book moves right into several new archetypes. The Beastsoul Monk is an archetype for both the normal and Unchained Monk, and switches their focus from unarmed strikes to natural attacks. They also make heavy use of the Transformation feat (a new option detailed later in the book), as well as feats linked to it. In addition, they can learn the Alteration Sphere and its associated talents in place of ki abilities... so they're not quite a caster, but they're close. This is a flavorful, interesting choice for anyone who wants to play a nature-themed monk (or something more exotic - that would work, too).
The next archetype is the Experimentalist, an option for the Thaumaturge focused on alchemic boosts and harvesting parts of dead creatures for later use. If you like the idea of chugging drinks for power, this archetype definitely has options. The book also has a sidebar discussing the ethics of this, and notes that an alternative to eating dead creatures (such as taking "ethereal essence" or "morphic energy") can be done with no mechanical impact. It's also noted that it may be possible to purchase samples instead of harvesting them.
The third archetype, the Protean, is focused on the Shifter - and gives them access to the Breadth of Form ability, which allows them to access Alteration talents they don't actually know. This ability improves as they increase in level, and it's best-used by someone who truly knows their options and has the most common choices written down. XD Either way, a solidly flexible option.
The Resizer is a Mageknight archetype, and as its name implies, it focuses on growing and shrinking as-needed. At second level, they ignore the penalties for changing size (but still get the bonuses), and eventually get to stay whatever size they want without even having to concentrate. So, if you've ever seen the movie Ant-Man, it's pretty much that. There's also a pair of Mystic Combats exclusive to this archetype, and I'm not going to lie, getting to use your enemy as a weapon is awesome. XD
The Warshifter is another Shifter archetype, and it makes use of the Path of War rules (by Dreamscarred Press) - yes, that means you can now easily have a spherecasting initiator without spending feats or using gestalt rules. Hooray! The Warshifter has access to the Broken Blade, Primal Fury, and Thrashing Dragon disciplines.
Following this, we get a selection of new arsenal tricks, bestial traits, and mystic combats that any character with access to them can use.
Now for the part of the book that really matters - the new basic talents. The real power of Alteration is the ability to adjust yourself based on the situation, and hoo boy has that been expanded. Aberrant Body, for example, teaches traits for things like spitting acid, sprouting eyes so you can't be flanked, or creating roper strands. There's improved flight, enhanced agility, and options based around the aligned outsider types - and even transforming limbs into weapons (*Cue evil laughter*). You can even turn yourself into an object, which has all sorts of horribly creative uses.
So, has this book truly expanded what a shapeshifter can do? Yes. Yes it has. There are a lot of fun options here, and following Spheres' usual style, many of them are excellent at supporting ideas. Want to play a character who transforms into an angel? You can do that. Want to turn into a swamp monster? You can do that. Want to erupt into a swarm of bees? You can do that. Want to hurt other people by transforming them into something weaker? You can do that.
The next chapter, as usual, is the Advanced Talents. Remember, these are not normally allowed in games - mostly because they tend to seriously mix things up. Among the options here are fusing creatures together, drastically increasing the offensive power of transformations, or removing a target's fast healing. There's a few Incantations as well, but perhaps more importantly, there's the Adaptation section. The designers of Spheres of Power are completely aware that it would be difficult to create a talent for every conceivable form - there's just so much variety that it doesn't make sense to do that. We don't get a table the way we did for the Destruction sphere, but the book does offer advice on creating new talents for specific transformations, and GM's ought to read this before rejecting a player's wild idea. Who knows? It might be workable after all.
Moving into the next chapter, we get the Player Options, starting with new feats. Unsurprisingly, most of these are related to either general transforming or specific, related class abilities. There's also the Transformation feat and a number of options that go with it, which allows you (at the start) to morph into one specific creature. There are also several new Combat feats, a trio of sphere-specific drawbacks (which can be taken for bonus talents), and several traits. This handbook takes things a step further by offering alternate racial traits for quite a few races, and players interested in using the Alteration sphere should definitely look through this part.
To wrap things up, we have the new equipment options (from a lycanthrope hunter's kit to a new weapon property and some specific items, including anti-shapeshifter stuff), some advice for GM's running characters that make heavy use of transformation, and a quick-reference guide for which form talents are associated with which creature types (and what kind of components they can normally fulfill - note that Spherecasters do not have components by default, but can take them through drawbacks).
This PDF is 42 pages long in total (minus a few for the covers, OGL, etc.), full-color, and adheres to the standard two-column layout. Editing was mostly sharp, although I did notice a few hiccups, but those weren't enough to seriously detract from the product. Overall, this book is exactly what I hoped it would be, and it's a definite buy for any Alteration-focused character. My final rating is 5/5 stars, and given that I love transforming characters, it's also a favored product that's definitely going to see some use.
Disclaimer: I backed the Kickstarter campaign for Legendary Planet and received a copy of this PDF as one of my rewards.
So, are you ready to continue your exploration of the universe? I sure hope so, because The Scavenged Codex isn't staying put on Argosa for long... but before the players head out to their next destination, there's something they're going to have to take care of... and it's here that the adventure really starts to shine. Unlike some of the previous parts of the adventure, violence may not always be the best option, and I appreciate seeing times where the players are pushed to roleplay through problems instead of just smacking them upside the head.
From here, however, the adventure truly continues - and the PCs are thrust into a situation that I'm not going to spoil here. Suffice to say that I encourage GMs to have a lot of fun with it. I really can't say anything else about the plot without spoilers, but suffice to say that I'm personally quite happy with the way things are going. One more thing to note - The Scavenged Codex is 20 pages longer than To Worlds Unknown, and basically all of that extra space goes to the adventure. That's a lot of extra content.
Past the adventure itself is, of course, the rest of the material in the book. This particular tome features nine new monsters the PCs will encounter, ten new items, a gazetteer of the new world, rules for vehicles (and using them in fun ways!), and the next chapter of the included fiction, "Fixer". To Worlds Unknown was a fun, fresh experience, and with The Scavenged Codex, Legendary Games has managed to stick the landing. If you're looking for an experience your players won't see coming, this is the adventure path you want to get (starting, of course, with the earlier parts!).
A solid book for newcomers and veterans alikeRednal —
Disclaimer: I purchased a physical copy of this product from Frog God Games' site, and got a PDF version with it.
Okay, so Stoneheart Valley is pretty small as far as Frog God books go - and that might not be a surprise, since it's the book that introduced the Lost Lands Campaign Setting that their other products have been set in. Now, the first thing to know is that Stoneheart Valley is fundamentally a good book for beginners - both players and GMs alike. Nowhere is this beginner-friendly nature more evident than in the first of the three adventures that make up this book, The Wizard's Amulet. The adventure itself is simple and straightforward, with a few main encounters and a couple of variations based on how the game is going... and it guides you through every step of the way, complete with reminders about the rules. If you want to get started as a GM, this is probably the friendliest introduction you're ever going to get. (It also has a slew of pre-generated characters for players to use, so they don't have to learn how to make a character before they get started, and even some advice on what sort of party makeup you should ultimately settle on).
The next adventure, The Crucible of Freya, is more open than The Wizard's Amulet - and it fully recognizes the probable endings of the previous mission. After explaining how to adjust the adventure for each, it dives right into a little bit of everything. There's wilderness exploration, hanging out in town, and exploring a (small) dungeon. None of it is too large or complicated, which reinforces the beginner-friendly nature of the book, although you will want to read the entire module through before actually running it.
The last of the three adventures, The Tomb of Abysthor, takes up a bit more than half of the book, and serves as a larger, more complex adventure for GMs to run once they've gotten their feet wet with the first two modules. As a multiple-level dungeon, this is probably going to take several game sessions to complete, even for relatively experienced players. It can definitely be worth it, though - within this dungeon is one of the few pre-written ways that a character can access the Justicar of Muir prestige class, one of my personal favorites. There's a lot to see in this dungeon, and it'll be good practice for the PCs (and the GM!) if you want to continue in the Lost Lands...
Now, throughout this, I've been discussing how beginner-friendly this book is - but that doesn't mean experienced GMs can't run it. That can happen, too, and you just won't need to worry about the reminders and helpful advice that have been added to the book - even without them, this is a solid set of introductory adventures and a way to get some new characters up to higher levels so they'll be ready to tackle some of the bigger challenges in this campaign setting.
The layout is good, the art is nice, and even this early book displays the quality I've come to expect from Frog God Games. It's earned 5/5 stars, a special recommendation for new GMs, and a place on my bookshelf.
A massive book that's worth every dollarRednal —
Disclaimer: I purchased a physical copy of this book and got the PDF with it.
Okay, before we go anywhere, we need to make one thing clear - The Slumbering Tsar Saga is not an Adventure Path. There is a plot here, but it's more of a setting than anything else, a reason for why things are the way they are. This book is better described as an adventure setting - if Rappan Athuk is the ultimate dungeon crawl, then Slumbering Tsar is the ultimate ruined city crawl. (For a city adventure taking place somewhere that's still fully active, you'll want to look at The Blight, forthcoming from Frog God Games.)
The series starts off in The Desolation, the ugly wasteland that was once a battlefield as the forces of light assaulted Tsar. Most notably, players are quickly introduced to The Camp, which is the safest place for them to rest on excursions throughout the area. (Note that "safest" does not actually mean "safe"... just not quite as dangerous as everywhere else). Before the players can even get into the city, though, there's danger and death to be had. In the Lost Lands Campaign Setting, Tsar was not the site of a skirmish or a battle - it was a war, with the unholy city besieged by a force of over 140,000 (including outsiders, representatives from many species, and a significant number of the world's heroes). Great powers were used by both sides... and the ruins left behind are what the players have to make their way through. One way or another, everywhere they go they'll see the remnants of battle - from storms of deadly bone dust to an enormous chaos rift, players could spend quite a few sessions just trudging around and learning what happened.
Sooner or later, though, they'll want to start making forays into Tsar itself - and while the city may be ruined, it's far from deserted. There are multiple dungeon-sized regions players can stumble through just by walking around (and indeed, they'll have to if they actually want to get into the Temple of Orcus, which is massive even by Frog God Games' standards (comprising over 400 locations). There are waaaaaay too many things here to even begin covering all of them in detail - suffice it to say that if your players enjoy seeing what's in the next building and exploring the world they're in, this book will not disappoint. (If you prefer a more structured adventure, you can trim out some of the locations and insert a plot of your choosing. The book provides a very good mechanism for delivering information.)
Following the three main sandbox adventures is a bunch of extra material, ranging from new monsters (the Battlehulk, in particular, is fun to throw at players) to unique magic items and even a pair of prestige classes. Players may or may not take levels in either of these - one is for the devoted of Orcus (who is quite possibly *the* villain of the Lost Lands setting), while the other is sort of a Paladin on steroids. Lots of extra power (crit-focused builds, in particular, will WRECK evil monsters), but extra restrictions as well (like needing Atonement for things that weren't even your fault). It should be noted that the Justicar of Muir can easily be reflavored to fit the champion of any other appropriate deity, should the GM be willing to permit that. If normal Paladins are the elite crusaders of a church, the Justicars are a lot like divine champions, likely to be known the whole world over. (...As you may have guessed, I rather like this prestige class. XD) There are also a few hierarchy charts, some new spells, and over a hundred pages of maps. The PDF version of this book is very valuable here, since you can simply print out whatever you need to use.
Slumbering Tsar is massive (clocking in at over 900 pages of content, most of which is solid adventure), and depending on the speed of your group, it could easily take them months or even years to finish going through this. That makes it a good choice for stable groups, and... a bit harder for anyone else. As with most of Frog God Games' products, though, it's fairly easy to drop individual sections into your own campaign world. For example, you could pull individual parts of The Desolation and drop them in somewhere, which breaks the series into manageable chunks that are good for shorter adventures and smaller time commitments.
Again, though, Slumbering Tsar is not inherently an adventure path - if you want a true story, you'll have to step up as GM and come up with something that fits for your group. This book essentially demands an active GM'ing style if you want to get the most from it. Obviously, I can't recommend this to everyone - many groups would find this difficult to play (if only because of how big it is), but if it's something that works for your table, then you're going to get a massive amount of content for your investment. Yes, this is one of the most expensive RPG books you're ever likely to see, but on a per-page value, its cost is actually pretty low. There are just so many pages. It might literally take you weeks of reading just to go through it the first time and start preparing to run the game. XD
For those tables that can use this book, I think it's a solid 5/5. It really does require commitment, though - if you're not truly serious about exploring this region, you may be better off looking for a shorter book instead. (Off-hand, I suggest The Northlands Saga Complete - that actually is an Adventure Path.)
Disclaimer: I am a Patreon backer for the campaign creating these supplements and paid the full price for this product.
The Illuminator's Handbook is the sixth entry in the line of Handbook line expanding the options for the Spheres of Power system. We open with the Class Options section, which offers one Hedgewitch Tradition and three new archetypes.
The Astrology Tradition is pretty bad for stealth, because its core feature revolves around emitting auras of light. All of the celestial auras have a radius of 30 feet, apply only to allies, and are activated as a swift action, allowing the character to apply one of four scaling effects as long as the character is conscious, although they're limited to just two choices unless they use a Tradition Secret to learn more. The four auras are Moon (an untyped bonus to fortitude saves and a pool of temporary hit points that refreshes each round - fairly useful), Planet (resistance to cold or fire damage), Star (bonus to perception and initiative - but you're glowing, so don't expect stealth to work very well), and Sun (1d4 fire damage to weapon damage rolls, with an additional dice every 5 hedgewitch levels). It's a very solid tradition overall, and for those who aren't familiar with the way the class works, Traditions are not Archetypes. They're closer to Wizard Schools than anything else, so you don't really have to give anything up in order to take advantage of this option.
Next up, we have three entries that are archetypes. The Glass-Eye Gunmage is an archetype for the Gunslinger that focuses on the "Lens" talents in the Light Sphere. These are a new type of talent that I'll go over more later, but the basic idea is that they bend and alter the properties of light. The Glass-Eye Gunmage can get these talents by swapping out Deeds of their choice at the appropriate levels, and it's a very nice concept.
All in all, it's a solid collection of class options - and it's followed up by the most important part of the book, the Basic Magic section. It opens with a bit of errata (improving the way that Glow talents work) and descriptions of two new types of Light Talents - Lens and Nimbus. A Lens ability works to alter light, and is represented by abilities like Aiming Scope (treating creatures as one or more range increments closer for ranged attack penalties and such) and Dim Light (rendering a creature immune to your glows - not those of enemies, though). Nimbus talents change the shape of your Glows, allowing for things like the Beam talent (which lets you shoot it in a long line instead of a circle) and Weird Radiance (a build-it-yourself shape).
Other talents include options like Disorienting Patterns (which makes an area into difficult terrain for creatures that use sight), Flash (applying effects at any point in your turn, rather than at the end), and Irradiance (which allows you to impose the Sicken or Nauseated condition on targets). It's a great expansion of options for characters that plan to specialize in Light - not much in the way of direct damage, but for inflicting conditions and controlling the battlefield, this Sphere just got measurably better.
Following the Basic Magic section, we have the new Advanced Magic bits. As always, the Advanced Talents are available with GM permission only because they're more powerful than most options. The choices here include powers like Constellation (which allows you to create motes instead of a static glow, and these can be directed to various places around the battlefield for maximum control), Diffuse Body (Move to two different places at once, and decide which one you actually went to later), and Everglow (Make some Glows permanent, albeit with restrictions). If you missed the old prism spells, that's been rectified with the Prismatic Radiance talent, which is abnormally expensive at three spell points but allows glows to unleash random, potent effects each round.
After this, we've got a pair of new Rituals - Beacon Pillar is great for letting others know where you are, while Reflection/Refraction allows you to change the visual properties of an object... and do things like, say, creating a small peephole for yourself. Smart characters can get a LOT of versatility out of that, though the 10 minute casting time means you're not going to be doing it in combat, and it has no effect on Invisibility.
From here, the book dives into the new Player Options, starting with feats. We're introduced to a new category of feat - Dual Sphere Feats, which allow you to apply the effects of two different spheres at once. For example, the Aurora feat allows you to apply a Glow while simultaneously using Telekinesis to lift the target (and given Light's emphasis on debuffs, conditions, and battlefield control, that can be quite potent). Other options include Destructive Radiance (which switches from line of effect to line of sight for your ability to target foes - situational at best), Hard Light (allowing you to use the Creation sphere to make things out of light), and more.
The section has a few new traits (allowing options like shining as a torch or creating hypnotic patterns in your skin), some additional Sphere-specific drawbacks , and even alternate racial traits for gnomes, aasimar, and ifrit.
From here, the book heads into new equipment, and begins by describing eight different ways that items can generate light. The main focus here is what shape the light is in and what the conditions for lighting up are, and these effects can be applied to any magical item when they're being created. There are also two new magic item properties - Radiant Edge (which uses light to expand the reach of attacks during your turn, as a +2 bonus) and Sunset (Staves of the Light sphere only, allowing glow effects to persist for a bit without concentration, as a +1 bonus). We also get a few magic items (the Dimlight Veil grants immunity to dazzled and light sensitivity, while the Miniature Orrery helps with directions, not getting lost, and figuring out where the heck you are (useful if you've been teleported a long ways - at only 1000 GP, it's easily affordable at higher levels, when that might actually be useful).
Finally, the book gives us the options for Radiant Tattoos, slotless and weightless magical effects a character can wear (although they can't have more than 3 of them). I quite like these, and effects like the Icon Tattoo can be a thematically fun choice for characters that need a divine focus to cast.
In brief, The Illuminator's Handbook is a solid expansion for the Light Sphere, helping to expand on its theme and characteristics in new, interesting ways. Illusionists, in particular, are going to like a lot of what they see here. If you want to light up the battlefield, this is the Handbook you want to get. As expected, it's a solid 5/5 stars.
Disclaimer: I purchased
The idea of an "all-day" mage is one of the more enduring ideas of the game. From the old Recharge Magic variant to complete replacement systems like Spheres of Power, there are a lot of different ways you can keep spellslinging all day. Now, at this point, we have to address an important game concern - the actual balance impact of largely limitless casting. Pathfinder is a resource-management game, with the normal expectation of several encounters a day - and bosses, typically, should not be faced at full power. This helps make them genuinely challenging, because a fully-charged party can usually stomp all over the first encounter they have, and that doesn't make for memorable boss fights.
Fortunately, the Eternal Mage has a few important balancing factors in play.
The point I'm trying to make here is that despite the power of unlimited spellcasting, there remain some serious limits that stop this class from being too powerful. Also, if you take out Infernal Healing or firmly enforce the idea that using it is Evil and thus bad for most PC's, it doesn't give unlimited use of the most important daily resource of all - hit points. PCs will still need to rest at some point. In fact, the truth is, this is pretty mild as far as an unlimited casting system goes, and I suspect it would be a lot less disruptive than many GMs would expect at first.
Aside from the casting, Eternal Mages can learn Eternal Secrets to further customize their character. Unfortunately, I did spot a glitch there (the Instant Recovery, Greater power refers to a 'Fast Recovery' that probably means the lower-level version of the power... so RAW it doesn't work, although any sensible GM will understand and adjust this for RAI because that was clearly just a typo), but more relevantly, most of these abilities are powered by the same pool that lets the Eternal Mage avoid burnout.
The PDF also includes a few archetypes (the Artillery Expert focuses on blasting stuff, the Dread Eternal gets access to hexes, and a Master Specialist drops to only two schools known, but specializes in one and gets more spells to compensate), as well as quite a lot of Favored Class Bonuses. The Human FCB isn't as good as it sounds at first, because the limited school selection and the cap on long-duration spells make it way harder to get use out of that.
Overall, this is actually a rather solid class - it's an interesting twist on the all-day caster concept, and executed quite solidly indeed. There are so many limits on it that I really don't think it would be too disruptive, so GM's accepting third-party material will probably be fine. (Just be sure you understand - and enforce - the limitations of the class.) I'll give it a solid 4.5/5 (dropped a bit for the odd formatting hiccup), rounded up to 5.
Disclaimer: I purchased a hard copy of this book from a different website, although the PDF is entirely usable.
The Tome of Adventure Design is one of the most powerful tools that a GM can have. However, it's only meant for a certain kind of GM - the type who loves creating their own adventures, not just running pre-made adventure paths and leaving it at that. As described above, the main purpose of this book is firing up the reader's creativity by providing ideas that get the mind moving (through rolling for random results), and let me tell you, it works. It's almost frighteningly good at this sort of thing.
For example, let's take designing a city, following the author's suggested method of making a large open area the centerpiece of the city. Unfortunately, I don't think I can roll in this review, so I'll be doing it off-site, but the results are... *Shakes virtual dice holder*
An execution plaza as the centerpiece! Oh dear. And the area surrounding this is... *Rolls again* A slaughterhouse district. Well, this is already ending up creepier than I expected, but now I have a town whose entire core area is focused around killing things for various reasons. Let's see what's happening in the city by rolling for the latest news, shall we? *Rolls* According to this, a faction war has broken out - and I think it could be between religious executors (killing people) and businessmen (killing animals), with each bothered by the way the others are using city territory and perhaps offending each other's gods (who are unhappy about so much death of another type happening in close proximity).
Now, this result is just one of hundreds, even thousands of potential combinations - but you've already got a vision of what a place like that would be like for adventurers, right? That's the kind of book this is. All of those results up there were genuinely random, not selected from the tables. Now, the book as a whole is split into four major sections. The first focuses on principles and starting points (what players are doing, what the villain's plan is, etc.). The next part focuses on generating monsters (which is fun for surprising player with), the third part deals with dungeon design (from random furnishings to actually making one), and the last is for non-dungeon adventure design. The book is about 307 pages long, with a few more pages for advertisements, and includes a quick list of tables and a consolidated index (alphabetical, by subject) in the back to help you quickly find what you're looking for.
The bottom line is that the Tome of Adventure Design is one of the greatest tools for bringing out your creativity and creating unique, memorable things for your games. I give it 5 stars, my personal seal of approval, and an extra recommendation for any GM looking to truly flesh out a homebrew setting.
Disclaimer: I purchased a physical copy of this book.
As the name implies, this is Volume 2, the second (and final) part of the Cyclopean Deeps. I don't know that these really needed to be split into two volumes - I'm sure Frog God Games had a reason for that, because they're certainly not shy about printing big books - but this tome matches well with the content released in the first book. It also provides a look into some of the other power figures in the area, and hoo boy does it get pretty crazy down there. I'm particularly fond of the region detailed in Chapter 9, which is... probably not what the PCs are expecting.
As with the first volume, these areas are fairly easy to drag and drop into your own campaign world with only a little adjustment, should you choose to do so. However, when all of them are taken together, they show what's ultimately a dense sandbox of interwoven plot threads, power rivalries, personal agendas... and the opportunity for the PCs to get involved in some very big ways. Or, y'know, they could do the smart thing and just try to get home. XD
If you're looking for a true underground campaign, you could do far worse than the Cyclopean Deeps. These areas are rock-solid places for exploration (even if GMs should be willing to develop their own adventures set in the area), and heartily encouraged for any table going in that direction. A solid 5/5 overall, and representative of the quality I've come to expect from Frog God Games.
Disclaimer: I purchased a physical copy of this book from Frog God Games' website (and got the PDF with it).
All right, let's get into this, shall we? As the name explains, this is the first volume (in a two-part set) of the Cyclopean Deeps, a realm deep beneath the ground. Now, to be clear, this is not an adventure path. You can easily build one of those (or just let it build itself by seeing where the players end up going - improv skill is a must), but this is by no means a linear series of adventures that the players must complete in a specific order. Instead, it's more of a hex exploration book, with an emphasis on allowing the players to roam around, get to know the locals, and take up the missions that interest them... all while trying to not die.
One thing I noticed (and was very pleased about) was the way the Under Realms started to get creepier and creepier as the chapters went on - it was absolutely delightful, and I'm looking forward to seeing how my players react to this place. Now, due to the nature of this book, it would be an extremely simple matter to pluck out individual areas and toss them into your own game world. That happens a lot with Frog God Games' stuff, so if you're just looking for a few unusual underground areas for your players to encounter, this works.
Unsurprisingly, most of the creatures in the Deeps are evil - but not all of them are actively hostile at every moment. More relevantly, few of them are from the core races, and they don't always act in a way that other species can understand. This really helps to increase the feeling of being in a strange, almost alien realm, and the PCs will have to be quick with their wits if they want to survive. (I mean, come on. This is Frog God Games we're talking about, so it's entirely possible they could stumble upon something waaaaaaaay out of their league. XD)
The formatting of the book is mostly top-notch, although I did notice a couple of repeated errors, most notably telling people to look to Chapter 4 for information on certain entities when that data is actually at the end of Appendix II. Given that this happened several times, I'm assuming that the book was originally formatted differently, and that's a holdover. Still, the actual content of the book is some of the best deep-realms exploring I've ever seen, and comes heartily recommended for anyone who wants to set a game there. (I'm looking at you, disappointed Throne of Night players.) The few errors aren't enough to cause a point drop, so this is a solid 5/5 from me.
Disclaimer: I purchased a physical copy of this book from Frog God Games' website.
Whew! I finally managed to get through this tome. It's not one of Frog God Games' gigantic tomes, but it's a sizable book in its own right, clocking in at 436 pages. The book starts off with a robust explanation of the area, including a timeline of the last ten thousand years, an explanation of the inhabitants, and a look at the major settlements throughout the area. Following that is a discussion of the cults that give this book its name - nasty figures one and all, and as insidious as you could ever want. (Indeed, they're pretty easy to just drop into your own setting if you need a foe for your PCs to fight. XD) There's also a smattering of new creatures and items.
The actual adventure series (deemed an Adventure Path in the book, although it's from levels 3-12) starts on Page 68, with Beasts Among Us. The book describes it as a short adventure, and they're not kidding - it's five pages long, with one page of that consisting of maps, and it's really just a hook to get the PCs onto the right path and towards the next adventure, Morrick Mansion. You'll probably finish it before the end of your first session.
This second adventure is considerably larger (a little over 50 pages, so rather comparable to the "Adventure" part of one of Paizo's Adventure Paths), and focuses on finding out what's going on in the titular mansion and putting a stop to it. To avoid spoilers, I won't be going into too many details here, but suffice to say that it's all kinds of creepy. Also, the PCs are going to be in a lot of trouble if they don't prepare properly, so don't be afraid to give them a few hints to help them out. They should also gain about two levels during the course of it, which'll help.
The third adventure is Shades in Yellow, a mid-length adventure (for this book) that really starts to kick off the main plot of this adventure series (such as it is - there's no one foe throughout these adventures, as it's more handling the existing situation and its various effects). I actually enjoyed reading this adventure the most, as it continues to blend classic adventuring with a strong dose of creepy.
The fourth adventure, Aberrations, is another long one adapted from an old module. Unlike the previous adventures, this one is a little more open - there's a beginning and a conclusion, but the middle parts can be run in whichever order the PCs end up going through them in, and this can change each part in response. For that reason, it helps to thoroughly read it before playing - it really is a fairly complicated module, and continues to up the level of creepy.
The fifth adventure, Vengeance in the Hollow Hills, is an interlude - and probably a welcome break from travelling around and finding out that everywhere you visit is pretty creepy. It's fundamentally a rescue mission, but also has the possibility of quite a lot of combat - and if the PCs aren't careful, they could find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the force they're trying to destroy. It's a relatively short adventure overall, probably a bit shorter in play-time than Shades in Yellow.
The last adventure in this book is Crystal Skull, easily the longest individual part. Again, for reasons of spoilers, I can't really go into too much detail about the plot (your players could see it, and that'd ruin the fun!), but suffice to say that there's way more going on here than they're likely to suspect, even after you've made them paranoid by going through the previous adventures. The section finishes off with some of the additional material originally published online, and serves as an extra little bonus if the PCs manage to uncover it.
The book finishes up with some large copies of player handouts, a map appendix, and a full-color map. This is simply an extra page in the PDF version, but comes as an actual, physical poster map in the back of the hard copy.
Now, one thing I noticed as a problem was that the last adventure, Crystal Skull, seemed to have more typos than any of the previous parts. This isn't a huge problem, precisely, but I think it could have used a little more editing before they published it. There was also an odd reference at the end to "If" you have a certain bonus thing... which you definitely do, because that thing is literally one flip of a page away. That probably should've been fixed. Anyway, these are small gripes, and there's really no huge problem here.
Overall, Cults of the Sundered Kingdom is an excellent mid-length campaign (going neither too high nor too low in level), and it's particularly suitable for groups that enjoy investigating new areas and dealing with the unknown. I do have to knock a couple of points off for the errors I noticed in Crystal Skull (I expect a few typos in every adventure book simply because they're so large, but there were more than usual in that bit), but this remains an excellent game book overall, and it's priced very attractively for the content you get (discounting Beasts Among Us because it's so short, you're looking at about $11 per-adventure, which is extremely reasonable for the page count and the quality of the adventures.) My final verdict is 4.5/5, rounded up to 5.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.
This is a 6-page, full-color PDF, although only a page and a half of it is actually content. The Class/X line is designed to make multiclassing easier on characters, by allowing them to blend more efficiently. For example, the Channel Shift ability lets you reduce Sneak Attack damage to increase Channel Energy damage/healing for the day, or vice versa, up to a maximum change of 2d6, while Balance the Craft lets you swap a Rogue Talent for a Hex you don't have (or vice versa) for the day, so long as you meet the prerequisites for the ability you're getting. Basically, they all enhance your flexibility, although you'll get the most out of each option if you have a good idea of what you'll be facing that day.
Note that most of these abilities generally aren't limited to specific classes, per se, but to class abilities that several classes may share. Compatible class abilities (and their normal class) include:
-Bardic Performance (Bard)
So if you plan to multiclass with any of those, you may get some real value out of this PDF. It's not meant for anyone else, of course. It's a very solid product overall, it's affordable, and I think it does exactly what it sets out to do. If multiclassing your rogue is on your list of things to do, this is worth picking up.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.
This is a 43 page PDF, five of which are used for the cover, OGL, and so on. That leaves us with 38 pages of actual content. It is a full-color product, and includes several pieces of rather nice colored artwork throughout. I'm not sure if those were ordered especially for this product or not, but the quality is considerably higher than I was expecting, so props to the publisher for that. Now, let's dig into the actual content, shall we?
The majority of the book is taken up new archetypes - twelve for the Core Rogue, four for the Unchained Rogue, and an Alternate Base Class for the Unchained Rogue. Each one is briefly introduced and described below.
The Booksmart Scout is all about using knowledge to its information, and gains the Bardic Knowledge class feature, as well as some bonuses to their Sneak Attacks for creatures they identify.
The Descrier is basically all about using Sneak Attack more reliably and effectively, including on creatures it can't normally be used on. There are advantages for inflicting conditions on foes, concentrating on specific foes, and even foes that have concealment. Note that Sneak Attack's growth is reduced, and it's less powerful against creatures normally immune to it (d4's instead of d6's) - basically, the archetype trades power for reliability. Whether or not this is useful depends a lot on how your group plays.
The Fugitive is about constantly being on the move and working to thwart detection. I don't actually think this would be useful for many players (for example, their Moving Target ability foils magical attempts to locate them, but only if they've been in the area less than a week), but it might be a good choice for someone that the PCs are pursuing. It's also got value for a niche "always on the run"-themed game.
The Haunted Skulk is a sort of blend of the Rogue and the Spiritualist, and gains Mage Hand and Ghost Sound as at-will spell-like abilities. The main change is being able to summon up the Spiritualist's Phantom for a little while each day, and they get much better at cooperating as they get higher in level.
The Honeypot is about developing relationships with others, especially those that could become sexually attracted to them. (Yeah, it's for more mature players.) Notably, this is more of a social archetype than an adventuring one - good if you're staying in one place and roleplaying a lot, but not so good if you hardly ever even talk to NPCs. Again, this is something only useful for certain types of games, but GMs may find more use for it.
The Kinetic Sneak is another blended character, this time granting some powers of a Kineticist to the Rogue. Notably, the Simple Blast they get does not scale with levels in Rogue, so it remains a relatively low-level (but at-will) ability. They also get one Utility Wild Talent at 6th Level. You'll want to be very thoughtful about this class, and know what you want your build to be before you take levels in it. I don't think it's a bad archetype, but my gut feeling is that you definitely need planning and some system mastery to make good use of it.
The Master Hawserier is all about using rope (and indeed, gets proficiency with the grappling hook and the lasso to support it). They even get bonuses to skills when they're using rope, and later on, they can learn to make rope from various kinds of creatures (and imbue them with special properties), and even later craft magical ropes. This is flavorful as heck, and I like it. XD
The Poacher is a hunter of the wilderness, and gets some pretty useful bonuses to Survival. They're most capable against animal-type creatures, and later learn the ability to create various kinds of ranger traps to supplement their other activities. This seems like a decent choice for a wilderness survival game, although it would still be a bit of a challenge to use.
The Quarrel Knave uses two hand crossbows (with automatic access to the Two Weapon Fighting line of feats), and adds in the ability to use Flurry of Blows with said crossbows. Later, they can learn to create special bolts and modify their crossbow in various ways (firing sling bullets, dealing more damage, etc.), which is a nice touch. There are quite a few options here, and more than enough to support a variety of different builds.
The Trickster Chef, unsurprisingly, is about food. Their main talent is the ability to trigger a Snack Attack in their target - it's silly, yes, but it fatigues the target and deals nonlethal damage instead of lethal. Later on, they can create foods to put in front of whoever they made hungry, which may provide other interesting effects. XD I don't see this being used at an overly serious table, but it has definite potential for relaxed groups or a one-shot silly adventure.
The Walking Arsenal focuses on hiding a bunch of weapons on their body, with an added bonus for making creatures flat-footed when weapons are drawn. They also get a bonus for grappling and can deal bonus damage when that happens, which offers some interesting possibilities.
The Wild Handler focuses on an animal companion, with the added benefit of teaching it how to make sneak attacks and use rogue talents. Teamwork, ho! Very useful if the rest of your party doesn't like to provide flanking...
That's all for the Core Rogue's archetypes. As mentioned earlier, there are also four options for the Unchained Rogue, as follows.
The Brickbat Striker isn't focused on killing foes, per se. Rather, they emphasize trying to weaken strong foes so others can finish them off. They can reduce the damage from their sneak attack in order to inflict various other kinds of damage or debilitating conditions, and there are quite a few options to choose from. This really rewards being able to land a lot of blows.
The Bunk Mentalist has everyone convinced they actually have vast mental powers, and they may even believe it themselves. The main feature is a modification to the Rogue's Edge ability, which adds one skill choice (at 1st level) and an additional mentalism ability for each major type of skill. This is a pretty good choice for a skill-focused rogue.
The Guild Capo is more of an intelligent fighter (actually using Int instead of Str for its primary weapons), with added bonuses to aid another and social skill checks made against allies. They also gain the ability to learn and share Teamwork feats - pretty good choice for a commander sort of character.
The Sharpshooter emphasizes ranged attacks, adding their Dexterity to damage with a selected weapon, and is particularly talented at inflicting a debilitating condition on foes so others can move in to mop them up.
Finally, after ALL that, we've got the Libertine - an Alternate Base Class for the Unchained Rogue. The book is very clear that this is an archetype for story-focused campaigns, especially those focused on politics and relationships. Their powers include things like creating Intrigues (relationships with other characters, friend or enemy), using leverage over them for various effects, and disrupting their activities. A very interesting class overall - limited in the kind of game it's useful for, but creative all the same.
The PDF wraps up with three pages of new traits, designed to help support the kind of rogue you actually want to play. These cover everything from being better at cheating to help identifying corporeal undead. As always, traits tend to be more flavor than anything else, but there are a fair number of useful items in here.
Overall, this is a very solid product. The art is excellent, the contents are definitely usable (as long as you know what you're doing), and there were only a few minor errors throughout. This isn't a product that will be useful for every table, but if you know what your plan is and like the offerings, I think it's worth the price. I'd call it a 4.5/5 overall (stuff that's of limited use at tables is always a bit lower for me), rounded up to 5 for the art.