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Big and Beautifully Dense, and an Unfortunate Mazedoc the grey —
That moment when you write your piece, misclick, and watch your whole review get sucked into the aether
But, I've got a book to review and things to say, so lets try this again.
Big, Beautiful, and Tragically Baroque, Dragon Wings' Lore of the Gods is an amazing tome that is a good book so close to being great that it almost kills me. A conversion of their 3.5 book of the same name, Lore of the Gods is an awesome book that is hamstrung by amazing content that is attached to what appears to be old production decision on information layout, art, and pdf design that don't destroy the book but do keep it from being the absolutely amazing piece it should be. This leaves you with an amazing pathfinder pdf that feels trapped in a web of layout and design decisions that are left over from the maelstrom of the old 3.5 days and in ways that don't help the book.
The book itself is broken into 10 chapters which can really be broken into about 4 sections the pantheons and all their ephemera (including artifacts associated with them), prestige classes, the bestiary, and Avatars. To start, the pantheons, the thing I assume a lot of you are here to see are, to be blunt, f*%%ing fantastic. Each pantheon gets its own chapter and each chapter feels like a boulder of information that could literally kill someone if you smacked them across the head with it. Each god gets an information block so dense that it puts everything even Paizo's put out on their pantheons to shame, giving you everything from their portfolio, alignment, and holy symbols to things like sacred colors, allies, true form, forms most associated with them, sacred animals, enemies, and even things like SACRED MINERALS. In all my years I would have never thought that Amon thought Nile River Clay would be something special, or that Nergal loved fungus and obsidian. Now, I know that might sound dumb but it gets me excited, it gives me ideas on how to design their temples, how to use sacred animals as omens and signs with the faithful, what colors the clerics wear and how to use that to code scenes so that players can know which NPCs are allied with who just by telling you what colors their clothes are, and gives me a rubric on what offerings someone would have to give a Hound Archon working for Anubis to show them devotion and fealty to the judge of the dead by looking at that list of sacred animals, minerals, and plants (p.s. the answer is dogs/jackals, natron, and gum myrrh). And I wouldn't know any of that, let alone think to even look for some of that stuff like sacred minerals without this book. In this way, Lore of the Gods sets the bar for what to expect when a publisher wants to release a comprehensive guide to their religions of choice and I want to see others follow suite.
Unfortunately, though this stuff is great and trust me, I could sit here and GUSH about this level of minute and absolutely laudable detail I feel like I'd be doing the reader both as customers and designers of tabletop content themselves a disservice if I didn't talk about some of the real issues this book has.
First, as of this writing the pdf version I have downloaded lacks any bookmarks. Now, this might be okay in a small, 5-10 page supplement covering a single topic like say a single archetype or maybe a brief new race with just some stats, art, and a brief description but Lore of the Gods is a 340 PAGE BOOK with 10 chapters, 4 different pantheons, a bestiary, a whole chapter devoted exclusively to the items and artifacts of ALL THE GODS in it, and an opening chapter about designing divine avatars for ANY AND ALL THE GODS HERE AND BEYOND. Having to fish through this monster of a book with nothing but a single table of contents who's page I have to remember and bounce back and forth between in a pdf is unacceptable, and more often than not leaves you forgetting what you were even looking for in the first place. For example, say you flip to the bestiary and find this cool monster called Asag and you want to know more about the gods that made him. Usually, you'd read through is entry, see the name Anu, and be able to just click the bookmark button and be on your way. But instead, in Lore of the Gods you are going to have to memorize the page you found Asag on, fool around trying to find the table of contents again, fish his divine dad out of that list, punch in the printed page number and hope it lines up, and then have to vacillate between the two memorized page numbers until you finally get exhausted and realize you really don't want to keep doing this. And realize that this problem only GETS WORSE the more parts you add, such as needing to look up multiple gods, artifacts, prestige classes, and a couple monsters to understand how they interact. The thing is like a giant chinese finger trap that locks you into basically memorizing every page you think is relevant to whatever you're looking up as a matter of course in order to not have to waste your whole reading section constantly having to bounce back to the table of content and then onto whatever you were looking at. And with how many times a lot of the proper nouns and other key words in this book pop up control f searching it is just not an option, you'll end up searching 55 different references to Anu before you find the one you're looking for that way. This pdf NEEDS bookmarks like a fish needs water, and without it the thing feels way too cumbersome especially considering the sheer density of content it wants to you absorb.
Second is the art. Varying across each chapter as each pantheon is covered by a specific artist and each opening with its own piece from an entirely different artist from the one covering the pantheon in question, the art in Lore of the Gods often comes off as inconsistent both in style and tone. The Egyptian chapter opens with a piece of 3D art that looks like something from a Playstation 2 game that was inspired by Heavy Metal and then slides into black & whites of Amon, Sobek, and the rest of the chapter that look like they were done by Rob Liefeld at the height of the 90's. Seriously, Bes looks like he could bro fist the 90's version Cable a la handshake scene out of the original Predator and the only thing missing would be Bes' color palate. Neither of these things help sell the chapter on what it's about and feel more distracting than evocative of the content, as you find yourself wondering why Horus looks so ripped or completely thrown off by how the Egyptian Priestess in what is basically a slutty Egyptian Halloween costume doesn't match the content that follows it. The later pantheon art gets much better, with the full color Mesopotamian chapter getting some really beautiful and stylized full color art that really sells the world in this thick lined comic book esque way that really works for it, but this inconsistency in the first chapter really does get in the way and the terrible CGI art, which continues throughout. The latter is even worse, as it feels like it not only looks bad, but begins to have less and less to do with the actual content of the book as you read along. One example of this is page 193, when we get what is essentially a naked white lady straight out of the 80's animated movie Heavy Metal in nothing but metal pasties in the middle of the artifacts chapter and 0 context for what item she's even supposed to be showing off. Is it the Garments of Ladyship on that page, the Girdle of Rapture on the other, is it actually the feathered cloak of Journeys and we're supposed to be looking at her red cape?! The image gives no context to what item she's supposed to be showing off and what's worse she doesn't look like she belongs to ANY of the settings any of these pantheons this book is about, so I the reader can't even use the information from previous chapters to help me figure it out. All the CG art comes off like this and it hurts the book, distracting you from the actual mechanics of the book with art that makes no sense with it either in tone or style.
Final for this piece is the general layout of the content. Pathfinder is now nearly a decade old and the 3.5 system it is based on pushing towards two, and both have begun to get us all accustomed to a certain layout for how the content is presented, a format that keeps all the content easy to read and reference because the flow of the content naturally passes from the first line to the next. Dragon Wings unfortunately makes a few decisions though that go against this paradigm and they tend to work against them. One of the biggest ones is the way they handle favored weapons. Generally included in the big block of text at the start of the deity's entry, favored weapons are instead segmented off from the list entirely, wedged into the text fore each individual "Devoted" boon the god offers. Though the Path of the Devout is a really cool idea in concept (basically creating a minor paladin's code for each god that faithful can follow in exchange for some god specific powers) putting favored weapons here buries them in the sea of other content surrounding them, making this often key information for character design almost invisible to anyone looking for it. To make matters worse, the Path of the Devout concept is really only explained in a single paragraph at the beginning of the book and then never again, which meaning the only people who are really going to know where to look for this stuff are going to be those who read this book from cover to cover, something that few really do with a reference book like this that almost begs you to just look up that cool god you just heard about or flip to that cool name you saw in the table of contents. This issue is compounded when you consider the idea of extended use, as even players and GMs alike who would read this thing cover to cover run the risk of forgetting this little tidbit after they sit the thing down for a few months and then return to build that priest of Ishtar only to find they either can't find what her favored weapons are or have to potentially read the thing all the way through to find out where the authors put that information and then get to look it up, and in something as big and dense as Lore of the Gods that fact is a killer.
Now, all of these critiques aside, what works in this book f@@%ing works. You have never had a book that so meticulously details every little thing you ever wanted to know or didn't know you needed to know about these ancient pantheons or really ANY pantheon quite like LotG does and that detail will set an expectation bar that others will have a hard time leaping over. But, when you have a book this big, with this much technical and minute detail for us as GMs and Players to pour over, the layout, structure, and navigation needs to be tight, otherwise people will get too frustrated navigating your product to ever use it, and that's the biggest tragedy here. If they clean up the layout of some of this information, maybe change or pull some of this art like the CG work to help each chapter at least have a uniform artistic aesthetic, and DEFINITELY PUT IN A BOOKMARK SYSTEM this monster might actually be able to really sink its teeth into the audience that really wants it. But until then, I feel like Lore of the Gods will be relegated to only the smallest list of consumers who are willing to overlook these problems.
Pathfinder Player Companion: Legacy of Dragons (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $10.49
It left me feeling like an Angry Dragon both for good and for Illdoc the grey —
An overall solid read, legacy of Dragons is a return to form for the legacy line with 32 pages of archetypes, spells, and dragons! for players to explore and find new use for in their character creation schemes. From new spells that let you turn into the alien outer dragons to whole new writeups for the draconic bloodlines to include the near half dozen new True Dragon types like the chinese Imperial/Lung Dragons and the Occult Esoteric Dragons the whole thing feels packed to the gills with cool s$!$ to play with.
Of special note is the new Dragonheir Scion. A Fighter Archetype, the Scion is an amazing example of high fantasy concepts applied to martial classes. The fighter slowly becomes a living half dragon, growing scales and being able to call upon his blood's magic to wreath his weapons in their iconic energies while terrifying his enemies with his very presence and slowly growing scales to fend off the slings and arrows of those who dare wake his fury. All that and all you really lose is Armor Training and some Feats!
This is a fighter archetype done right Paizo! I want to see more like this and with other creatures! Take this and give me damned magus', fighters, and cavaliers who become more like devils, vampire sworn fighters who can feed on the dead for power and become more ghoul like as they go, and fey trained swashbucklers who's dealings with the fairfolk make them spritely fighters of deadly dances. This is the mark for where to go next guys, take this in with hungry minds!
The crowning achievement of this book is the drake companions, lesser dragons that have become willing to follow around an adventurer foolish enough to try to ally with a lizard just as willing to eat them as taking orders.The Drakes follow the same structure as animal companions but with their own dragon stats meaning d12 hit dice and fast BAB progression and a new suite of abilities for the characters to invest in as they grow, allowing PCs to build their own custom Drakes to stalk into combat beside them initially as tiny (and likely flightless) pissed off lizards and end as elephant sized lightning breathing death machines that carry you across the battlefield like the angry storm of war! Unfortunately, though the drakes themselves have few flaws (the lack of energy resistances of any type seems a major misstep if not an editorial error) the archetypes that give them to you have some major issues with most of them dumping huge swaths of base abilities just to get them. Druids lose nature bond, wild empathy, woodland stride, venom immunity, a thousand faces, and timeless body and dropping wild shape for a nerfed version that makes them a sort of half-dragon light; Paladins give up channel energy, aura of justice, aura of righteousness, additional uses per day of smite evil gained at 4th/10th/& 16th, mercies at 6th/12th/& 18th, and the assumed divine bond. Worst of all though is the Cavalier who, in order to get a dragon mount literally gives up EVERY ABILITY HE HAS save challenge and orders and even the latter is limited to a small list and whatever your GM approves of. That's huge and though the dragon is good the other limiters put in place by the drake companion mechanics presented within the book like its limited drake powers and inability to easily replace them should they fall does more than enough to limit these guys that this level of class ability slash and burn feels excessive. Now some of the others like the Shaman archetype fair better but in general the Drake companion feels like an albatross tied around the neck of many of the classes that get them, weighing down the class so much by fear of overpowering the base class that it overcompensates and nerfs them into mediocrity or oblivion in the case of the Cavalier.
This right here is what cut a star off this recommendation and if I had the ability at least another half star. Fortunately the new bloodlines, feats, and some absolutely amazing archetypes that aren't connected to the drakes saves this book from mediocrity but don't make up for egregious oversight here with those archetypes that manage to actually get drake companions yet suffer under slash & burn archetype design. Hopefully a few of these will at least get an errata sooner or later to put some of this stuff back, in the meantime I'm going to be figuring out some patches for that cavalier build.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Heaven Unleashed (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $15.99
Chained and Muzzleddoc the grey —
The site ate my first draft of this so bear with me but like the star count and title of this review might hint at this book falls tragically short of not only its potential as a supplement to really flesh out the various mundane celestials we already have through interesting writeups but also fails to match the evocative, inventive, and unique works that it seeks to follow up both in Hell Unleashed and Chronicles of the Righteous.
To start, the celestial beings have always had bad hand in tabletop gaming in terms of theme and narrative. Standing beside amazing and enthralling writeups for the various other outsiders like the incredibly detailed Devils as produced by Wes in Princes of Darkness and the volumes of APs and modules that feature them, the new Daemons that create this original group of fiends that are equally horrifying, malicious, and tragic as creatures crafted from the horrible ways they died and the suffering that beset them, or even the Inevitables with their inflexible adherence to law regardless of the morality of it the celestial races have always been stuck falling into one of two camps. The former, a group of outsiders more defined by not being evil than any interesting theme of their own or by being "not as good as they are supposed to be". The former is something that snakes through all of the celestial beings, leaving them for the most part feeling uninteresting and flat, telling me nothing really about them that isn't shared by every other thing statted that doesn't have an E in its alignment. The latter undermines what little we do have to go on when we as GMs sit down to design games around these creatures, with a lot of the other sources we've had to reference about these guys talking more about how all of the interesting ones really just end up falling to evil and tyranny rather than presenting something unique and interesting yet wholly good and caring. It speaks volumes that for the longest time the most interesting celestials we've had in print have been the ones that now rule Hell and when you're talking about beings that are literally forged from the souls of the countless number of paladins, clerics, good wizards, and noble thieves we've all seen cross our tables that seems a bit tragic.
Now, that said Chronicles of the Righteous did an amazing job of pushing back against a lot of this stereotype with it's release and Bestiary 5 gave us our first glimpse of some insanely powerful angels in the form of the Empyrean Angel, but Heaven Unleashed seems to have just devolved back into the pitfalls mentioned above. The bulk of the angelic entries fall into one of the two categories listed above with entries in the former category coming off as little more than "angel that guards a hellgate" or "Planetar who watches over a fort" or entries that fall into the latter category that paint these celestial beings as cause more harm that good at best or coming off as something much closer to a demented demon lord at worst. In the former category I feel particularly bad for the aforementioned "angel that guards a hellgate". A Gate Archon named Ambithas, this angel is described as having studied arcane magic for lifetimes if not eons with some of the greatest arcane minds in existence to such an extent that he can LITERALLY CHOOSE TO MAKE HIS SPELL LIST ARCANE OR DIVINE each morning when he preps spells. He can literally prep wish, timestop, and/or planar binding one day and then miracle, raise dead, and commune the next. He's written like he could have studied under Nex back when he was still on Golarion or Merlin after being summoned from the mounts of heaven 1000 years ago. Unfortunately, all of that interesting character is relegated to a minor paragraph and his special ability on the last page, the rest of his entry preoccupied instead with telling minimally describing the hellgate and the same old story of the diabolist who built his house over it and died opening it.
Meanwhile the latter category of celestials who are more like evil pricks who somehow have a G alignment are all the more infuriating. The flying helmet angel is so rigid and blunt that it sounds more like an inevitable than any angel, constantly berating and instigating conflict in its quest to ferret out "the sins/truths" of others while simultaneously giving it not a single redeeming quality that helps make it come off as if it were good save the fact that it's an angel. The worst offender though has to be Andoletta. The Empyreal Lord of Consolation, respect, and security (a portfolio I looked up in Chronicles of the Righteous because it was better defined their than in the writeup itself) Andoletta comes off less both less interesting than her original writeup in Chronicles of the Righteous or her Infernal Duke counterpart in Hell Unleashed and yet somehow more malicious and disturbing. Her whole schtick at best can be defined as "Old lady who always knows better than those gosh darned kids" at best but once you get into her the description her whole concept seems to take on a tone far more in tune with that of a fiend. Her heavenly realm is initially described as this idyllic little village on a hill but the more you read the more disturbing and out of character it seems to become. A whirlpool swirls at one corner of the the realm and when her petitioners see it they, "are struck by a troubling sense that they’ve forgotten something important" which quickly disappears when the whirlpool disappears back into the fog, a secret groove is cordoned off by stags devoted to erastil who both won't let others onto their tiny island and act nervous and fidgety if anyone asks what they or their site are doing here like some kind of weird blackops site for the stag lord. Finally, he village contains a forest that no one can enter unless they have forgotten their previous mortal life and when said event occurs are shepherded their by Andoletta, never to be seen or heard from again. The whole description paints it less as a heavenly afterlife and more like heavenly slaughterhouse designed by demon lord taking design tips from Temple Branden, Soma pumping through the air to pacify and fog the minds of the chattel souls about to be slaughtered ala Huxley's Brave New World. The whole thing feels like a cosmic oversight and and on top of the copy past errors already in that chapter (her writeup has abilities listed that she doesn't actually have), a list of pretty uninteresting powers already, and again her most interesting facets relegated to a few tiny paragraphs at the end of the chapter. I mean in the last page of her chapter we are introduced to the concept of her clerics solidifying in the dreams of the faithful and fending off Freddy Kreuger like threats in pitched dreamscape battles alongside her SPECIAL ANGELS SPECIFIC TO THIS TASK. But yet again all that cool stuff occupies the tiniest part of that whole chapter, filling out the end and stopping just as you get really interested.
On top of all of this the art inside the book (unlike the amazing cover) is for the most part boring and uninspired. Art for the heavy hitters either looks just like the art for said character's creature type from a different angle or boring and derivative of stuff we've all seen before. Tzyduk and Ambithas just look like your stereotypical white guy with wings & male gate archon, Andoletta looks like the iconic spiritualist crossed with an old varisian woman to make a character that is both less than the former amazing art by Wayne Renolds and like something we've all seen a million times before in both paizo art and the classic old gypsy woman trope any of us could find with a few seconds of google searching, Awigazi (the half celestial coatl) is cool but thanks to the odd perspective makes him look like he's got a disproportionately large head on a tiny body, and Penshi, the choral angel that runs a bar's art just paints him as an Asian bard with a lute that feels so generic it could be replaced with nearly any similar art of an asian bard and you likely wouldn't notice. Hell this is an angel! Give me art of how it looks in its true angelic form, NOT THE DISGUISE HE USES TO BLEND IN WITH PEOPLE SO THEY DON'T THINK HE IS ANYMORE THAN A MUNDANE HUMAN! I can find art like that on google in 5 mins based on the text description, I'll have a much harder time finding art of the unique agendered angel from a class of angels that has art of them singing notes so pure they literally are FRYING BEARDED DEVILS in Chronicles of the Righteous. Worst of all the human characters we get are little more than Iomedean clerics and paladins that we've all seen a dozen times already in everything from Wrath of the Righteous and Inner Sea Gods to the Bestiary in the Numeria campaign book, with both of them (especially the paladin) looking just like all the other attractive girl paladins in not boob plate with a sword that Iomedae has in spades. S+&%, if all the mortal worshipers in here must follow Iomedae (and not someone who's church we haven't seen a lot of representation for like say, a Sheyln paladin) could we at least get some body diversity? I would love that paladin to have looked more like Brianne of Tarth, a fat elf woman covered in scars, a trans dwarf woman with a beard styled after the dwarf from Rat Queens or a dozen other options over 2 pics of what is essentially the same holy woman of Iomedea I've already gotten a dozen pictures of but this time with red hair. Ohh and last but not least, we have an Empyrean Angel (the type of angel on the cover) who just looks like Warlord Shen from LoL with some fire wings that could just as easily be banners. All that said there are some standouts that really do look amazing like Pilali the Keeper (an Exscinder Archon with amazing burning wings of this amazing cobalt blue) or the Cassian Angel Cadathiel who's design reminds me of a highly stylized mix of ancient Assyrian helmets and the silver immortal masks from 300, they are but a tiny minority among the other trite offerings they seem to share the pages with.
Finally, the book has a bad habit of overusing their, they, and them exclusively to describe "agendered" characters. Now I understand the want to explore characters who's gender falls outside the human gender binary and I am excited nay thrilled and elated to see more of them going forward but Paizo has to start using different pronouns here. This is a game that not only has capacity for agendered characters and beings to exist within its worlds but also animated objects, legion like hive minds, plant beings, vishnu like multifaceted plural beings, and machine robots that do not reproduce at all or do through a mechanism like say crafting them that would be wholly alien to our understanding of gender. And yet, all of these things can be described using the pronouns they, them, and their and it just leads to confusion. For example, in this book we have 2 minor characters mentioned in the first 2 pages of this book named Henezien the First and The Many Faced Prophet. The former is the first sentient Iron Golem who reads like it could be either the first singular golem of its kind or a whole batch of sentient Celestial Iron Golems who became their own group or could even be a hivemind. Meanwhile the latter is a doppelganger oracle who cycles their disguise and identity with each village/city/culture they pass through to such an extent that I could totally see them having something much closer to a pangender (panperson even?) identity construct akin the the concept of Vishnu where they are both one person, many people, all the same and all different, but because all of these characters use the same freakin' pronouns you can't really tell. On top of all that, it runs into readability problems the minute you start reading anything in which these singular characters start to interact with small groups of undefined characters like the PCs. This leaves you with sentences that can read like,
"Azreal talks to the PCs and pleads for their help exploring the tomb. If they accept their proposal, they nod and head off to explore the west side of the crypt while they sweep the eastern wing."
It's grammatically correct but incredibly confusing and considering how often we are going to see these characters' actions written in response to the group the is the PCs I think it's time we pick pronouns more specific to the character in question than they. I mean right now we have ey, hu, jee, ney, peh, per, e, thon, ve, xe, and yo just for agender singular pronouns alone, why not use them? And hell, once you crack that box and start applying cultural filters on top of it we could maybe even see something really cool, like associations based on cultures the characters inhabit like agendered Garundi out of Thuvia using Peh or agendered numerian technomancers using thon. That gets me far more excited than having to sit here and read these entries multiple times and try to parse out which of the aforementioned genders or more the author could be alluding to by using "they".
Now I could go on (even the chapter on heaven feels boring and uninspired when compared to some of the other realms we've seen like Hell, Abaddon, or the Akashic record) but I feel like I've made my point well enough. For all the hopes one might have for Heaven Unleashed considering the pedigree of books that came before it, all it manages to do is present a lot more of the same.
A perfect complement to your Iron Gods or strangely your Kingmaker gamedoc the grey —
For those of you who don't know I'm a big fan of the technology guide. I love that we have rules for adding things like lasers, robots, rockets, and power armor to my fantasy setting. I love that it grants us the chance to insert a little more mystery into our worlds than just "it's magic" and make our players a bit more intrigued by the dungeons and worlds that exist in their lands both in Paizo's home setting and our home games without having to write a book myself to do it. What's more the style in which it was presented was amazing, a fusion of classic scifi tropes like laser pistols and death rays with a healthy dose of 40k future diesel punk and grim dark thrown in for some amazing options (looking at you chainsword, monowhip, and rad grenades) that really scratch that itch and make these options feel grimy and brutal in all the right ways for a world with Conan style barbarians rubbing shoulders with robot titans.
But with all that in mind it wasn't enough. We got a lot of the good starters but we were left with far more questions. How the hell does all of this fit into a world like golarion where stuff like a toothed sword that screams as it saws a man in half is far more likely to be attributed to being possessed by a demon than it is to a microprocessor? And for that matter what do they do with all the broken pieces, do they just leave them lying around, what do they think happens when one finally shuts down, and do they ever try to fix them or more try anything more interesting? Well it seems Fat Goblin has heard me, since with this book I get new tech, an answer to some of these questions, and oddly enough a tech tree system.
First lets talk about the biggest addition and the bulk of this product for most consumers, augmentations. An answer to my biggest question about what the hell all these primitive societies do with all this broken or discharged tech that is lying around in places like Numeria's rust fields or other worlds where these things are ancient technology left behind that they barely understand, augmentations are weapons and armor that have had used, broken, and discovered technology incorporated into their design to help improve their function or capitalize on the remains of destroyed tech. Augmentations let you do everything from repairing armor by lashing it all together with ion tape (basically duct tape) to attaching chainsaws to your greatclub to give you a baseball bat that will chew through your enemies like a wood chipper. In short they are amazingly inventive and already have me and my players chomping at the bit to play with them at the table, from our warpriest wanting to wrap a chainsaw blade around his holy weapon to both of them wanting to buy a pack of cylex rounds (ammunition coated with impact activated C4) to help them even the odds against a morlock tribe they ran afoul of in a local dungeon these things get me amped to not just incorporate them but use them as ways to explain how this midevil culture has started to incorporate them into their world beyond sacred relics. It lets me have blacksmith who make full plate out of rare plastics scraped from the machinery of ancient dungeons, weaponsmiths who craft greatswords around damaged graviton engines to impart "the thunder of the gods" into the wielders stroke, and to have kobolds that craft uranium laced longspears from broken rad grenades to permanently cripple any foolish long shank dumb enough to try and break into their lair. And all of it is done with a fusion of old gear and the pieces they would naturally find. That is awesome and what's more those are just some of the examples I could pull from here. On top of all that the rules for crafting them allow you to use old, burnt out, and discarded tech to create these augmentations, turning that timeworn chainsword you picked up and burned out a few sessions ago from a worthless piece of junk and into a key component for turning your humdrum greataxe into a howling toothed chainsaw greataxe that would make Kharn the Betrayer proud.
The next big thing in here is the tech tree system, oddly something designed for of all things the kingdom building system presented in Kingmaker and Ultimate Campaign. With this system you get what is essentially a civilization style tech tree system that allows you to invest build points into furthering your nations understanding of technology, granting basic things like learning physics and basic biology at the start to eventually crafting things like orbital space stations, airports, and hospitals that can replace your arm with a top of the line cybernetic replacement at the highest end of the trees. The investments are steep for each facet of the various trees you invest in and many require investing in multiple trees to qualify for options (i.e. pharmaceuticals requires you have invested in biology and chemistry in order to begin studying it) but having a way to not further your nations education in a tangible way and see the fruits of it start to show up is just icing on the cake. The system even helps incorporate things like firearms into the equation, offering them up as some of the first pieces of advanced technology your budding nation can produce. The examples here go on and trying to lay them all out could take pages but suffice it to say if you would like to add a little more Civilization to your kingdom building this is a great place to start.
Finally you get the actual new tech of the book which is surprisingly sparse, in total numbering out to maybe a half dozen or so new items that are not examples of augmented tech but all of which are pretty cool. Ranging from a set of adamantine piston knuckles a la fallout that let you roll twice for damage to a nanofiber vest that can expedite healing and even grant fast healing but has the wearer risk cardiac arrest if the push the system too far. Each one is interesting, well priced, and easy to insert into any campaign alongside the tech guide with little problem.
Now the book is not perfect. It's got some formatting errors that drive me crazy like notes for where bullet points are supposed to be that haven't been added (part of why it's not 5 star as of this writing) but overall the book is an absolute treat for those looking for more ways to incorporate the options introduced in the technology guide in more interesting ways. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to design a gnoll barbarian with a radioactive axe.
The second best option for injecting more Undead toys into your gamedoc the grey —
So if you are like me and have been playing Pathfinder for even a short amount of time there's a good chance 2 things have crossed through your mind. First, is how cool and exciting the chance to raise and lead a horde of undead with your own hands can be and second is how difficult that is by the standard rules. Being a necromancer can get really expensive and on top of the obvious in game social issues of looking at a potters field as a recruiting station the mechanics of doing so can be both exceedingly cumbersome and a bit uninspiring. The only way to interact with undead is to either spend money and make them or get lucky and flip them to your cause with spells or a single ability if you have the luck of running into one. This is only exacerbated at low levels when you're at that also stuck being too low level to create undead and yet your other abilities don't really hold up to making you feel like the undead connected necromancer you are trying to play. Enter Summon Undead, a book that tries to correct this through introducing a new mechanism for giving you undead early while not overshadowing the options that already exist.
To start, summon undead takes a page from the summon monster spells in core, giving you a set of spells that summon undead to your side from a list of options presented in the book. This list ranges from moaning heads and feeble ghouls on the lowest end to Banshees and demiliches on the highest levels. This gives players and GMs wonderful options that allow players at low levels to really start making those squads of undead and getting used to that power and play style at the earliest level. At the same time it also keeps balance with the system since, like summons all these options are limited to only a few rounds of service before they return to wherever they came from, allowing your necromancers to burst into hordes of dead but keep them from being able to command and strategize in ways that those with more permanent necrotic flunkies could manage.
Things get even more interesting once you start looking at some of the other spells that managed to make it in here. Summon Minor Undead is a really cool 0 level spell that lets you create a minor undead flunky to help you out after a 1 hour ritual. Thing takes forever and the corpse isn't exactly a combat machine, but like prestidigitation and other utility level 0 spells the options it opens up are really nice. Summon a floating head to spy around corners, a skeleton to help port goods, or even a zombie king crab to tank a room while you get away. The options are many and the idea of 12 hours with an undead sycophant are exciting. Also really love the Summon undead Legion, Horde, and Army spells as a great way to just instantly summon these huge swaths of shambling corpses like every would be necromancers dreams about.
Now on top of all that we get a new summoner alternate class called the undead summoner and 9 new archetypes, 2 of which are for the new aforementioned class. Also of note is that we even manage to get an archetype for the new classes presented in the ACG which in this case is the hunter. All of the classes are pretty cool with most of them taking some advantage of the new eidolon type that the undead summoner gets (referred to as a fetch) and all of them having some sort of connection to undead. Most of them are pretty cool and though the fetch isn't always the most interesting option for some of these (I would have preferred something like a negative energy affinity for those classes that already have animal companions) the replace for them is pretty simple and the rest of their kits are usually evocative enough in the mechanics department to carry them through.
Now again though the biggest draw here though are the spells which again, feel amazing but have just one big problem. That problem in short, is Deep Magic by Kobold press. Another 3rd party source that offered up their own take on this same niche and though it lacks the more diverse list of options that Summon Undead does it presents a system MUCH more uniquely undead than this book does.
Now that might sound pretty damning and on some levels it was, this books system though cool was just not as original or outstanding as the one leveled against them by Kobold but you know what? I still enjoy it. The work is solid, the archetypes cool, and the spells that are in here are still solid. In my home games I know I've done some conversions on certain spells to bring them more in line with Kobold's Animate Undead line of spells and I've loved what comes out of it and with this books tables of pre built undead I've still got mounds of options for when my players decide to use that spell to try and convert X monster into a zombie without having to worry about stopping game to have to do a stat block. On top of all that too at a price point of only $5 usd it's still a 5th of the price you would be spending on that book just to get at that spell.
So in closing I guess what I have to say is this, Summon Undead may not have the greatest version of this summon monster/undead fusion I've seen put to page in pathfinder but it is still leaps and bound ahead of the options Paizo has given us thus far in the niche and for the price is a fine replacement or even supplement to both those rules and the options presented in the titular Deep Magic.
Probably one of the best supplements to the classdoc the grey —
In case the title to this review seems a bit hyperbolic let me be clear. I love the cavalier class, I've loved it since it dropped in Advanced Players Guide and since I got to finally play my first character that wasn't one I ran from behind the screen. I've loved the whole concept of this more classic knight designed around the idea of a noble who is trained to lead his men as part of his education in becoming a king, queen, duke or what have you and finally I've loved how things like the tactician abilities and especially the orders help me as the player not only feel like a tactical commander (as opposed to the solo trained fighter or barbarian) and through the orders have a way to build a huge variety of cavaliers that supports this huge brevity of characters. From bastards of the Cockatrice order to nobly striving Blue Rose men who want to try to fix the world they live in. All that being said, the cavalier has had its problems and one of them is order options. Sure we have a lot, nearly 3 different hardbacks and likely over a half dozen softcovers all take a stab at adding new orders to the list for the wayward master of the mount and field but the overall quality we get amongst them can be middling in narrative uniqueness. We exist in a world where the diplomacy focused but hard trained diplomats of the Blue Rose exist beside the at least 2 different orders that focus on protecting peasants specifically and though that is cool we all know there is a lot more ground we can cover here and I'm happy to say this book does it in spades. Giving us 12 new orders and an archetype on the side, flaming crab games has managed to squeeze out what might be some of my favorite orders yet on page along with some great support for each.
To start we get the Order of The Black Rose or as it has come to be called amongst my peers the death knight order. Ever wanted to play that cavalier of Ugathoa who lauds the power of undead and seeks to slowly become one? You got it. The Black Rose gives it to you, focusing on improving your abilities to understand undead and even granting you the ability to command them with your raw magnetism a la the grave knight at 2nd level with command undead and from their it only gets worse. Your challenges flay peoples AC with a challenge and eventually your capstone power lets you smack the divinity out of your clerical foes, severing their ability to channel positive energy against you if they fail to fend off your might. On top of that the feat option they give you allows your mount to slowly become necrotic with you, gaining the ability to heal off negative energy as you do and best of all the feat can be picked up as one of your cavalier bonus feats (a pattern that gets repeated throughout the book).
Next we get the the order of the Claymore, these rough and tumble cavaliers who are all about physical prowess, never backing down from a challenge, and kicking the ever loving s$*@ out whomever is dumb enough to challenge them with big two-handed weapons. At first sounding a bit redundant what makes these guys really stand out is not only their stellar abilities (including getting to treat a greatsword like a lance for damage when charging, boosting challenge damage vs. really tough opponents, and literally being able do a mounted cleaving charge like some demented set of battlefield hedge clippers) but the story that ends up getting told through both the art and the support feats they get access to. You see the Claymore cavalier presented in the art here isn't this young barbarian conan type you might expect but this old, weathered vet. The dude looks like Don Quixote in his mid 50's but he's still clutching this greatsword and riding off into combat, ready to take on any fool who's thinks they can unseat the old man. To top it off you get the feats Grizzled and Rugged, the former letting you add double your age bonuses to Sense Motive and Intimidate to mirror your decades of service and the latter allowing you have one of your physical stats IGNORE AGE PENALTIES. That's huge and what's better is as a Claymore Cavalier you can take it up to 3 times! Basically letting you play a 65+ year old vet martial character without worrying about having your Str, Dex, and Con be total crap. It turns the class into this haven of grizzled veterans in my mind, this group of cavaliers who've lived so long they've formed this fraternity of the best and baddest brawlers to ever trot the earth. They've managed to jokingly become known as the Liam Neeson order at my table but they are still so good that anyone interested in either combat focused 2 weapon cavaliers or playing that aged swordsman who's come back to fight that one last time should really take a look.
Next we get order of Cold Iron, likely the most metal order in the book. These guys are like paladins, dedicated to the complete destruction of demons and their friends but don't have to worry about being L or G to do it. They are unyielding and unwavering in their quest to put down every succubus, baubau, and cultist that allies with them and they are going to take a page out of the titular metal's play book to do it. To start they get flat bonuses against the spells and spell-like abilities of their challenge and bonuses at id'ing their favored foes but eventually they gain the power to dispel the DR of cold iron weak creatures they crit for a short time and eventually outright banish them back to the abyss with a swat. Heck the class is so metal their first ability lets their mounts natural attacks treat as cold iron for overcoming DR! and it only gets better once you start looking at the feat selection including Strike the Weakness, which allows you to add a monsters DR to your critical hit if you pulled off said crit with a weapon that overcomes that reduction.
And this level of cool and detail continues on with nearly each other order moving through this book. The order of the Flagon are a bunch of beer swilling partyers who get better in combat the more intoxicated they become. The order of Fortune are a bunch of mercenaries who focus on adopting wildly diverse tactics from other orders in order to win, going so far as being able to outright copy other order abilities as they go along, allowing you to create insane odd ball combos of powers and techniques you could never do otherwise. The order of Luck gives up all their tough decisions to random chance, trading in sure thing answers for big crazy boosts in combat. They aren't for the faint of heart but encourage this level of interesting and inspired play that is just unique, like being able to say I'm going to either attack this guy with my longsword or tumble around this other guy to give my buddy flanking, flip a coin, and now whichever one I got gets a nice bonus but if I choose to do something else I take a penalty (but am not forced to take the chosen option). It balances the risk of building a character around such chaos with a reward system and rules good enough to keep a player engaged. Order of the Road is this group of old souls who are tasked with roaming all that they can see and more, never staying in one place for long and helping weary travelers find their way. Not focused on combat for sure this option really shines in something like kingmaker where wilderness travel, survival, and the harsh realities of weather and season really matter. What's even cooler is one of their feats gives you an aurochs for free as a mount and (if you are like me and run games with more open mount options) also treats its Str as 10 higher for the purposes of carrying capacity. That might not sound as cool up front but as a GM who runs an open world survival game where roughing it is the norm that boon has lead more than one player to flirt with the idea of a buffalo riding nomad. Order of the Scorpion lets you live out your fantasy as a Medjai from the Mummy, protecting your chosen place with your horse and stinging whip and eventually letting you effectively wield the thing at no penalty alongside your other weapons. Being able to whip trip someone as a swift action and then charge them down with my lance sounds so good it hurts and I love that this gives me that option I never knew I wanted.
The final one I really want to gush about though is the order of the White Rose. Focused on the classic idea of chivalrous love, the White Rose cavalier devotes themselves to a singular individual and the protection of that person, going so far as to risk life and limb to make sure they are okay. Now this might sound like a recipe for trouble but the class executes it with such grace you just want to play one and makes it a joy to run. Your challenge grants passive AC to your charge, your 2nd level ability lets you share a square with your charge (even while mounted), give them cover while sharing it, and lets me charge through their square. Effectively I can select my monk, rogue, or other melee focused teammate as my charge (this bond doesn't have to be romantic but does represent a deep connection with this person), let them get into a fight, and just charge right to them. Now all of a sudden my partner has gained a free +4 AC bonus minimum just by having me gun in to save them and I'm still feeling like I get to be that protector character without hindering their ability to play the character they want. From their White Rose only gets better, giving you Saving Shield for free (with boosted effects on your charge), shield other 1/day on charge, and finally the ability to magically transpose an effect onto your cavalier that your charge has failed to save against, taking the full force of the spell but letting them walk out unscathed. I wait for a day I can get to roll up one of these guys.
Now not all of these orders are this spectacular. The order of the Sea is really niche and doesn't sing like the rest do and the order of Truth is really cool thematically but in execution falls a little flat of the judge dredd styled Inevitable of truth it's aiming for but on the whole are small misses when compared to the sheer awesomeness that is the rest of this book. In short, if you are into cavaliers and are looking for more order options that give you great options both mechanically and thematically to tell interesting stories this book is for you. Go out, get it, it's totally worth the $5 USD is asking for it.
Pathfinder Player Companion: Alchemy Manual (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $8.99
Print Edition Unavailable
Everything it says in the namedoc the grey —
A solid addition to the player companion line this book gives you everything you would expect with the title. More alchemical items to make, more weapons, new remedies, and drugs to add to your parties budding alchemist's cookbook. On top of that though you get tons of new item options you weren't even prepared for like Ooze crafting, herbalism crafting, mythic alchemical items, fungal grafts, and homunculus modifications everyone is in for a whole lot of new fun items to play with. On top of all that you get the spontaneous alchemy system, allowing players to throw together alchemical items potentially in instants but with bigger surprises in case of failure and slightly higher costs. Honestly the best part of the whole spontaneous alchemy system though is how they sought to replicate the historical system of alchemy, giving special symbols to each ingredient type and alchemical process. Right now I'm just starting to hand out some of these symbols to my party alchemist and I literally cannot wait to watch him start fiddling with different reagents and processes trying to instantly remake other items.
If I had to have one complaint though it's that we only get spontaneous alchemy stats for the poisons and drugs presented in this book (instead of all those in the PFC and GMG) as well as missing a lot of recipes for Ultimate Equipment as well. But they do manage to get all of the basic alchemical items from the Core rulebook and with luck they will manage to get the rest of the items in the PFC and Ultimate equipment stated out for the system soon enough.
Pathfinder Player Companion: Champions of Balance (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $8.99
The Best players companion to hit so far this yeardoc the grey —
After last months Bastards of Golarion I was worried I wasn't in the best of spirits for this books release, worried that it would be another book with weak mechanical offerings and content that is either too focused on small sections of the pathfinder homeworld or just not that interesting all together. I can tell you here that this book is nothing like Bastards, literally everything in this from the thematic elements, the new mechanics, and the discussions on the nuances between the neutral alignments is solid gold.
Inside you will get 32 pages of solid content awesome starting with an excellent discussion of the various nuances of the neutral alignment from how being LN does not mean that you cannot break laws to how CN does not mean you can play it like you are CE. These sections are incredibly well written, providing numerous examples of archetypes that exist within those alignments and some guidelines as to how to play those alignments well and in a fulfilling way. The rest of the book focuses on the various new mechanical offerings along with information on various references to many of the major nations and factions of Golarion and how to incorporate characters into those organization. As for the mechanical options they are all awesome, from the new gun twirling bullet naming death that are the new gunslinger feats to the new Impossible bloodline every piece of mechanics presented in this book is not only well thought out but evocative, leaving you wanting to play with them and build characters that take advantage of their abilities. Special mention must also be given to the 2 new archetypes presented here The Negotiator Bard and Survivor Druid. The former is basically a bard turned into professional lawyer, able to talk himself out of near any situation and convince people of just about anything he says. Meanwhile the Survivor Druid is like a survivalist or primitive hunter variant, trading some of your spellcasting and your wildshape ability for the trap mechanics presented in Ultimate Magic. In all honesty these are both some of my favorite archetypes I've seen all year, the bard fills a perfect niche that I have desperately been looking for in a bard archetype and the Survivor is such a cool option for druids, putting a whole new spin on the usual protectors of nature, setting them up as a magical trapper who supplements his hunting and trapping with more potent magical power. That alone has got my mind whirring on dozens of new druids alone and with the dozens of other options that this book presents in content I know I'm going to have more then enough to play with both as a gm, player, and pathfinder society member for the next year at least!
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a cavalier of the scales hellknight to design, an impossible sorcerer, and figuring out if I can give my slayer the blood pact ninja trick.
The perfect addition for any sunken city adventure/dungeonpunk style gamedoc the grey —
So before I get too deep into this review I want to state that I'm coming at this review from a setting neutral standpoint as someone looking for material that is both mechanically well done and incredibly cool. Any connections this might have to any campaign setting work like Zobeck or kobold's other campaign works and how it integrates into that mythos will not be covered here.
Now with that out of the way lets get on to the review.
In short this might be one of my favorite 3rd party additions of the last 6 months. Seriously if you have any plans to run a game that has anything to do with lost civilizations sunken under the waves ala Atlantis, powerful ancient technology that seems both futuristic and at the same time old (aka archeotech or other past visions of future technology like jules verne, dungeonpunk, steampunk, or industrialpunk), mythos style aquatic abilities linked to some of the oldest cthulhian style monsters in the game (the aboleth), new fighting styles and feats centered around aquatic or semi aquatic campaigns, gear for aquatic or games based largely around, or even a little psychic magic style options or even potential gladiator style fighting options this book is for you. And if you can believe it that's just scratching the surface.
The book starts off with a nice foreword about the creation of the Aboleth, a nice addition and an interesting look at the creation of one of the oldest and most long standing monsters in the table top world. Next there is a wonderful section on ancient sunken civilizations of history including Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu along with ways to incorporate them or their feel into your own home world from talks about the technology associated with that particular fabled city to discussions on the writers and their associated styles that made those cities stand out from one another, along with various questions meant to get your mind churning on how to create your own great lost city lost to time.
After that we get a nice section of new feats and character options ranging from things like a net & fighter build for fighters to a sea monster domain for clerics and a few awesome new bloodlines up to and including a bloodline that gives you psychic powers that can not only shield you from attacks but let you fling people across rooms and read their minds! That last one has me jonesing for a chance to get into a game that lets me deflect attacks with my mind or have one of my players want to throw down a sorcerer who plays like something akin to a classic telekinetic telepath in a world of magic. This section has even more than this, with options for every core class ranging from rogue talent like options for base classes to whole new archetypes that help acclimate those classes to a campaign more focused on the sea/lost civilizations. On top of that you also have tons of feats to help further that motif with many that would work just as well in campaigns near the ocean as far away (with the trident & net fighting feats really springing to mind).
Wowdoc the grey —
Really the title says it all but in an effort for completeness I will continue.
First a little background. I picked this book up with some store credit I had left over from GM'ing Gencon and in an effort to stem my pining for the October releases of Bestiary 4 and Blood of the Moon and because of an ever growing love of ancient american history. In short, I have not been disappointed thus far.
To start the book drops a whole new class on us called The Brave, a full attack melee character built around the iconic american brave and it is fantastic. Basically a Brave is a full BAB melee fighter with this pool of points he collects (referred to as coup) that he can use for everything from bonuses to his attack and damage to bursts of movement, extra attacks, and full party healing. Trick is that the only way to collect these points is to do risky things in combat like tapping enemies, performing combat maneuvers, never taking damage, and stealing and mounting an enemies mount with the most dangerous options netting the most points. On top of this the pool starts to leak points the longer a Brave goes without actually performing risky maneuvers so it encourages the player to get risky. On top of this you get various other abilities we are all familiar with like uncanny dodge, track, specialized weapon training, and pass without trace making it easy to build this tomahawk wielding guerrilla warrior who pops in and vanishes before anyone knows what hit them. Top this off with a few other abilities like the ability to Intimidate an opponent with a hit so badly that you get to add your Intimidate ranks to your damage when you hit him, stealth while being observed, and double rolls vs. fear saves and I have to say that I am sold.
Next we get 8 new archetypes which, as far as I have gotten as of this writing have been stellar. The Painted Warrior is an archetype to play as this classic painted warrior, hunting down enemies on horseback with a bow and arrow, bedecked in ceremonial warpaint, and taking it down. What's even more amazing is that it's an archetype for the samurai class and it works, especially when you stack it with the new Order of the Nomadic Warrior. On top of this is an awesome mechanic which grants you AC thanks to crafting and applying warpaint to yourself and you have an excellent archetype that takes a very different class and molds it perfectly to make it fit in a world of native Americans, buffalo, and the great plains.
Next we get the Conquistador, Spirit walker, Jaguar warrior, Cowbowy, Mountain Man, and Vigilante. The Conquistador gives you this amoral mercenary Fighter archetype with a proficiency in guns, an amoral attitude, and a knack for knocking off indigenous peoples. Basically you trade weapon training, armor training, and some of your feats for gun training, a mount, and the ability to select a race and gain proficiency with all their native weapons, know their language, and gain an intimidate bonus equal to half your level against them. Run on I know but that I just love that last ability, giving a fighter a free ability that grants him languages, knowledge of his enemies, and the ability to strike fear into them just oozes with so much style that I can see this arch working in just about any game that can field mounts and fire arms, from the conquering Spaniard it's based on to the blackpowder wielding dwarf determined to wipe the Orc menace from his home.
The spirit walker is a ranger arch that allows you to take an animal companion much earlier, bond with it, and enter a spirit walk where you and your animal become one and destroy your enemies. Add to this the fact that your animal companion eventually becomes fiendish/celestial and eventually half fiend/celestial depending on your choices and you have all the makings of an absolutely badass spirit walker and his half celestial bear, smiting whatever is foolish enough to threaten his home.
Next is the Jaguar Warrior, a barbarian archetype that allows you to become more and more like the Jaguar. It starts by modifying rage a bit swapping the bonuses to Str and Dex and penalizing Int and Cha then follows it up by giving you claws, a bite, and pounce as you level. Combine this with other optional jaguar traits you can take in rage powers and the loss of a few of your rage powers is more then worth the price of admission.
Special mention goes to the art in this book. It has about 5 pieces of art 2 of which are for some of the new weapons but what is there absolutely sells the piece. The images of the painted warrior are absolutely beautiful as well as the spirit walker and the Jaguar warrior is just mean looking. All of them are rendered in this kind of rough oil painting style that just bleeds cool and makes me a little jealous of what my players might think up looking at them as they are giving me a million character ideas.
Now I'm still working my way through this book but I haven't even scratched the surface of some of the other mechanics like new rage powers (including totems) sacrifice mechanics, feats, and new weapons. This book is absolutely dense with new fun stuff to play with that I think any player or GM would kill for. In short if you like cool new mechanics, buy this. If you like the old west, or native american themed options why do you not already have this? Go, spend money, this one is worth the price.
The guide to running madness and Cthulian horror in your gamedoc the grey —
So to start a string of reviews that don't have a title involving the word fantastic here is one of the first, Tomes of Ancient Knowledge. To start this book strives to accomplish 3 things in my mind. Number 1, to create a new and thematically appropriate system for sanity & madness mechanics for the pathfinder system, present the concept of mythos themed spells, creatures, and spellcasting in an interesting and thematically sound way, and presenting us with some thematic and compelling examples of these vile tomes.
First up is the sanity system and I have to say that they hands down hit it out of the park. For those of you who like me have a passion for a certain pulp author themed high mortality horror game you've all had that fantasy at least once of being able to run some of those madness rules inside your pathfinder game. The problem I've always found though is the dissonance between the two mediums with Call of Cthulhu's sanity mechanic being very well built to help promote that horror through it's disempowerment while simultaneously being ill suited to the power fantasy that pathfinder is built to help promote. In short, the big problem with the sanity mechanic is that it's built to increase the fun by taking away a characters power which is the exact opposite of what pathfinder is built to do. Now with all that stacked against them Legendary has somehow managed to pull it off. To start the system doesn't lock itself to your wisdom stat(the classic choice for most sanity ports) but instead is built around your lowest mental stat. This does two things, one it allows players to build the character they want and not have to pump a certain stat specifically, second it manages to somehow leave no one class truly safe from the madness of the mythos. Now you get to watch as your paladin becomes more forgetful, your wizard become unhinged, and your monk slowly become more and more distant and despondent until they start shouting Tekelili! at the top of their lungs. Next even though accruing madness does bring about some penalties to your stats it also grants boons including incite into the mythos and bonuses on rolls against it. Top this off with ways to handle the penalties including temporary and permanent solution and you have what might be the best system I've seen to handle insanity to date.
Next up we kind of have to talk about the tomes which make up the bulk of this book. Now I have to say that pretty much everything else in this book from after the sanity system on is pretty much GM's eyes only until your players get their hands on one of these dark and terrible tomes so if you are a player I suggest you stop reading to avoid spoiling the surprise. For the rest of you though carry on.
Each tome is not only well written but just oozes style with any one of the 4 tomes presented within being able to fit into nearly any game regardless of setting. From the bloody crystal shards of cannibal cults to the time warping hundred pound tablets of a Babylonian chrono cult you will find something awful to throw at your players and tempt them to play with. My personal favorites thus far are the crystal shards of Sarkulis shards, the aforementioned crystals carved with the dark teaching of a bloody druid cannibal cult and allows those who read its contents to crystallize their own blood and hurl it as a deadly weapon along or compel their enemies to try and feast on the still living flesh of their allies. The other one that really begs mentioning is the last tome of the book, All Flesh & Form by Flame Made Ash. A divine tome full of funerary rite and divine opining over the eventual heat death of the universe. Now it doesn't add any new spells in its pages but instead presents two new metamagic spells that either leave behind choking and revealing cinder clouds or mix in heavy doses of lethal radiation, forcing those who are hit by the spells to make saves or basically get cancer and begin to slowly waste away.
Now this book might not be for everyone, but if you have any interest in trying to pull of a pathfinder game with cthulhian elements or that wonderful cosmic horror that games like Call of Cthulhu have then you definitely need to pick this one up, now. There is not a better book for it.
Arguably the best in the seriesdoc the grey —
I've now read through all 3 of the tribes anthologies and I have to stand by this statement, if you have to buy just one of these books start with this one. First off it's has arguably some of the most common monsters as its focus for each of it's chapters including duergar, orcs, frost giants, and evil cults which makes this one of the easiest books to just drop into about any game your running from frigid artic games to urban sprawl. Now to try and give a quick overview.
Bugbears of The Frozen Tears: Think of it like taking all the new lore we have for bugbears (painting them as these sadistic murder obsessed serial killers in love with terror) and mix in the mystique of the frozen Himalaya's and furry killer yetis who's preferred mode of attack is to separate and terrify mortal travelers till they die of exposure alone in the mountains. And that's just the start of it, combine that with demons, political clan intrigue, new religions, and the potential to start a bug bear civil war and help capture what is arguably one of the most terrifying creatures on the slope and you are just starting to understand the potential this section has.
Cultists of Havra Zhoul: Take the standard idea for an evil cult and then turn it into a vigilante organization bent on pursuing absolute order at any cost. After that throw in some good old political intrigue and some morale ambiguity on the part of the organization itself (many of the members are actually trying to clean up corruption and make their world a better place) and you have the recipe for an organization that can be the center piece of an entire campaign or a prominent side story. To be honest I could totally see this playing out as a side quest during ap's like council of thieves or even kingmaker given the right context. My one complaint with this entry is that the writing can feel a little lacking in some places with a whole lot of side characters and places that are just begging for more information but I feel like it just gives you a lot of room to personalize them to your setting.
Duergar of the Obsidian Citidel: Great piece, mostly because I love the way it uses new mechanics to really represent what this tribe of Duergar are all about. We get a fighter archetype focused on destroying things, feats to help manufacture cursed items, new curse mechanics, wizard schools focused on weapons and armor, and even some mechanics for trading art and beauty for gear with them. I will say that I wish we had gotten more on the culture and society of the obsidian citdel but that complaint is quickly assuaged by the excellent prebuilt characters we get who really steal the show. The princess is an awesome character and sounds like an absolute blast to rp off of the right party and the relationship between her, her half-fey trickster uncle, and the master craftsmen of the citadel have all the makings of a great game of political intrigue to get any rp heavy PC group interested in. On top of that even the minor character blurbs we get for the minor npc's are compelling with character motivations ranging from a need to explore to desperate raids induced by marital stress. The characters in this chapter really give gm's a lot to play with if they are ready for it.
Frost Giant Pirates of Icy Heart: Okay, it's a giant ice berg that is crewed by frost giants, powered by white dragons, and sculpted by a rhemoraz. It is exactly as cool as it sounds. Combine that with some political plays by the creators secret founder, the stories of love gone wrong, and some horrifying tactics for capturing wayward ships and you have the makings of a true nightmare on the high seas. Look I want to show this to my S&S GM just so we can start fearing it appearing on random encounter rolls. This thing fits perfectly in any high seas or even winter based campaign so long as you are near the high seas.
Orcs of the Eternal Zenith: What happens when you take the standard horde of orcs and convert them into misguided followers of a LG sun god? You get a giant horde of orcs focused on stealing religious artifacts and building a giant artifact that channels the raw power of the sun in order to prove they are the true worshipers of their sun god. Its equal parts insane, awesome, charm, and a bit funny. Top this off with a very cool new oracle mystery, awesome feats, interesting npcs (you get wax mask wearing orc rogue heretics that infiltrate churches that spread their twisted faith and have a tendency to light their masks on fire and bite you when they get discovered), and a pretty cool oracle curse that involves having to monologue and laugh maniacally every couple of rounds this whole thing is just awesome. Ohh and that doesn't even factor in the awesome new spells one of which literally gives the target cancer from exposure to ultraviolet light.
Look if all that doesn't sell you I don't know what will. Go out, buy this book, enjoy the shenanigans you will cause to your party. Now I want to find a way to use cancer casting orc oracles in my home game and lava slinging duergar.
Pathfinder Society Scenario #3-11: The Quest for Perfection—Part II: On Hostile Waters (PFRPG) PDFPaizo Inc.
Our Price: $3.99Add to Cart
Absolutely fantasticdoc the grey —
Now I know for others this may not be the scenario that really ramps them up but for me and my usual party we had an absolute blast. The river ride was a ton of fun with out resident fighter turned captain driving the boat with one hand while trying to fire crossbow bolts and pulling dirty tricks with various chunks of rigging. The fact that we spent most of our time on the same boat allowed us to better coordinate our efforts and prepare for the various encounters that came down the river and considering we had a lvl 1 in our party and were playing up that little fact was a godsend. The final fight was an absolute blast with our party and watching as our samurai nearly got obliterated by a shocking grasp longsword crit and having to struggle as my cleric and the cad fighter had to fend off the boss & his goons while our samurai tried to not bleed out and our gunslinger fought off goons prone as he tried to reload is an encounter that I will not soon forget. In the end the scenario was a great flip on some old concepts and the boat and aquatic travel really helped liven up what would have been just another item quest-athon.
Just yes, so much yesdoc the grey —
So I picked up this book after learning that a friend of mine wanted to gm pathfinder for the first time and start with running Carrion Crown and invited me to game. Now considering that I have basically gm'd solely for the better part of 5 years now getting the chance to play an rp heavy gothic horror game with ghosts, zombies, werewolves, and Cthulhlian horror all thrown into the mix I couldn't do anything but say yes and getting a chance to finally run my dhampir witch that had been rolling around in the back of my head for the better part of a year was just too good to be true. So looking for more sources to add give me ideas after Blood of the Night didn't meet my expectations I picked up Scions of the night hoping to find some compelling and balanced options built around the idea of playing a vampires bastard spawn and I have to say this book hits the nail on the head.
To start with Raging Swan builds an absolutely excellent list of viable and balanced replacement for every single racial trait the Dhampir has. Want to build that Nosferatu born who always suffers from that wasting malady but feel like the undead resistances sort of work against the whole "is easily sickened" idea? Flip the bonuses to something new like channel resistance and mind-effecting affects. Want to play a Jiang-shi born dhampir fighter who's a little crazy for portents and isn't really interested in the skill bonuses the manipulative trait gives? Give him paranoid for bonuses in sense motive and perception or take the undead skin option and get some DR/silver for your trouble with your gm maybe even altering the dr to make it more in line with that of the jiang-shi. Want to build a Svetocher (moroi/vanilla vamp) dhampir bard who's obsessed with the stage and beguiling but think that the light sensitivity or postive energy weakness BotN gives really give you something cool to play with? Give them a water weakness that makes them treat it like holy water, now you have an excuse to only drink the finest wines let alone why they choose to bath in it (or how hard they are since when they bathe like normal people it could really kill them). Now the list goes on in on giving you option after option to create a really interesting and unique variant all your own. I mean in this example alone I haven't even gone over what I've changed to fit my with lol. Special mention should also go to the random tables to help give backstory to the events of your characters birth, I know for myself I had always had trouble thinking of many options for the vampire parent being female but the idea that your character is literally the result of a miracle spell cast by an unholy priest of undeath just gives me too many ideas to not want to use it for something (let alone reevaluate what one might want to do with that spell).
Next we get some new class options including some new things for the cleric, oracle, rogue, sorcerer, and witch. The Cleric gets 2 new subdomains, one for the death domain called Graveborn and another for the Luminous Subdomain for Sun. Now the Graveborn one is kind of like a white necromancer or becoming more human option with the domain granting positive energy healing and some more powers based on controlling people and undead (dominate person, control undead, etc.). Now I will say I really like this subdomain but felt like it fit more with the repose domain then the death domain and would allow someone to take both this and the undeath domain on one character which seems to be what they intended in the writing with some special interplay for being healed by both positive and negative energy. The Luminous Subdomain is okay with a focus on the aspect of light rather then fire. It's pretty interesting even if it doesn't call out to me. The oracle gets a few new revelations for the bone mystery including the ability to channel negative energy and drain blood. The rogue really gets some fun options with rogue talents letting them play dead after taking damage or sap life from a target and gain temp hp a few times a day. The sorcerer gets a few replace options for the undead domain to make it more vampire like including gaseous form and the ability to dominate others. Finally we get hex options for the witch including the ability to cut off targets from cure spells as well as an option called soul drinker which lets you slap negative levels on enemies.
After that we get the feats. Some of them are pretty standard fair like blending in with humans, getting some more race traits, and more alternate spell-like abilities but amongst them we also get some real gems a feat that gives your familiar or animal companion undead traits or the ability to substitute your hp in place of black onyx gems when creating undead.
Finally we get some sample Dhampir in the back. All in all we get about 6 different stat blocks for various characters ranging from antipaladins to rogues running the alignment gamut form LG to CE. One of the really cool things is that even though there are only about 6 or 7 stat blocks we get 11 unique characters out of all the stats with Raging swan giving us 2 completely different characters with write ups motivations, and goals and only having to really change the name and alignment on the stat block. I know I loved this since it gives me a wide range of interesting and compelling npc's to use in my home games while finding a way to compress the stat blocks so that they fit into this slim folio which I have to applaud them for.
So in closing this book is excellent, an absolutely wonderful supplement for any group looking for more options for their dhampir characters or just more options to add onto those given to us by blood of the night and if you can believe it there is still even more stuff for players to look into.
Great way to make a random encounter feel like anything but random.doc the grey —
Unfortunately the internet ate my first writing of this so I'm going to try and keep this one a little bit shorter.
To sum it up this book (and those in the tribes line) is meant to turn your random encounters battles into something like a mini campaign/vacation game for whatever big adventure you may be running allowing you to do everything from spice up your random encounters during a long trek in between dungeons to create an interesting jump off point for a gm looking for an interesting antagonist to kick off a homebrew campaign.
Now with that being said Raging Swan really brings it with the Bleached Skull tribe, giving us an ecology, stats for gnolls from various positions and rolls within the group, a whole new creature, encounter tables ranging from ambushes to shaman's and their vile retinues, and whole new magical items to really give the tribe its own distinct style. By the time your parties done they will know what it means when they find those terrible glyph carved skulls amidst the forests and learn to fear a gnoll brandishing a shriveled chicken leg. That being said the fact that those magical items that can be used as weapons count as masterwork for the purposes of attack and damage rolls seems odd to me and makes me wonder if they were meant to be treated as +1 items. Luckily that is but a minor quibble in an otherwise excellent book with this being able to be dropped into near any session in a forested area from the darkened forests of Ustalav to the gnarled jungles of your home campaign. I know for me I'm already looking for ways to bring the bleached skulls against my own party at some point in the future, maybe using them as a nasty horror to waylay them on their way home through primeval forests or see my own gm drop them in when we begin to roll out of civilization and our first time players begin to get their first exposure to what horrors the wilds of the world can hide. In the end if you whether you're looking for a way to give some organization to your random encounters or just give you a jump off point for your home game the Bleached Skulls are a great choice if your looking for an interesting take on the dark cult in the ancient woods.
Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $7.99
Print Edition Out of print
Absolutely excellentdoc the grey —
Just got my hands on this and it have so far been really impressed with what I've been finding. Forewarned this review is still in progress and I will add info on the other sections as I manage to get through them.
Now for the animal arch's they have so far been pretty appealing with an archetype to match just about whatever you want to build with options like bodyguard, charger, and racer. Particular notes though go out to the Valet and Totem guide with the former allowing you to create that servant cohort many have always wanted with a familiar that gains craft, perform, and profession as class skills as well as the ability to run around the battle field using aid another and slinging buff spells with ease. In short he's the monkey butler, he does your crafting, buffs your party, and draws enemy attention so your fighter can hit the troll. The totem guide works as a connection to your totem spirit with your animal companion losing evasion and devotion but gaining the ability to cast spells to help lead you towards your goals, the ability to talk to you, eldritch claws, and the ability to fight ethereal targets. I personally loved Totem guide but am a little annoyed that some of the spellcasting that it allows requires you to burn spell slot, leaving a chunk of it's abilities locked off from classes that have animal companions but not spells (like the barbarian) and could have been easily solved by including a cap of something like 1-3/day for these classes.
The gear is interesting with prices for animal feeds, ways to poison you creatures bite attacks, and alchemical drops that give your animal a minor rage. On the magic side we get things like collars that allow your animal to speak, new rods to take advantage of the new metamagic introduced, and a set of silver holy horseshoes to allow you mount to hoof stomp your current evil outsider of choice. Finally we get prices for just about every single animal that's come out for pf as well as information on what kinds of hoops one might have to jump through in order to buy one, including some truly outlandish creatures like the blue whale, mongoose, and glyptodons.
Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Inner Sea Bestiary (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $13.99
Absolutely fantasticdoc the grey —
So after getting this, doomsday door, and the mythic playtest all within 3 hours of each other I'm still reeling as I process it all, but of all of them this has been the true gem of them all by far. This book is absolutely packed with creatures of all cr, type, and need from giant magical beasts meant to wipe out continents to playable robots that have nanites that can activate and fuel their abilities just to start.
The art in this one is also amazing, I will admit that I was not a fan of the cover and was worried about whether this would be the artistic tone we would be getting through the rest of the book but I can say I was happily mistaken with beautiful art for each creature that really sells nearly every one of these creatures as compelling creatures that beg to be used against the next unsuspecting party of heroes from the new Kyton(thank you paizo) mother who lives in an iron maiden and transforms others into it's perfect art children to the sadistically cute monkey goblin that looks like a cross between a iguana, goblin, and chimp the art in this has been stellar and makes me wish they artists had their credit on the side of the page like those in the normal bestiary's.
Another amazing part of this is how much love many of the little used types and subtypes get. If you have ever wanted to do something with plants, sentient constructs, kytons, or psychopomps but felt like you don't have enough variety to make a whole campaign around them or even a decent sized dungeon look no farther. In this we get everything from kytons to a whole section on psychopomps ala the standard bestiary including an aside on psychopomp ushers (their equivalent of demon lords and infernal dukes). Even basic creature types like the vermin type get some love with a giant preying mantis big enough to eat wyverns and treated as sacred by the red mantis assassins with a stat block that makes it so much more compelling and dangerous then just a giant preying mantis.
For those of you who play exclusively in golarion the bios really help sell you on the connection each of these creatures has to the world from the aforementioned mantis and it revered position to the red mantis to the orocni, a new monstrosity from the fleshwarping vats of the drow. Each just feels like it fits perfectly in the little niche it was designed for and for that I thank Paizo.
Finally we get 4 new "playable" races listed in here that I wanted to give special note to. For those who had wondered about them they are all awesome each compelling in their own way from the nanite infused android to the race of plants that literally evolved from a batch of magically created plants meant to feed a nation. Each one has a wonderful amount of detail giving you plenty as a player to build off of and as a gm to integrate them into your own world be it golarion or home brew. The new racial abilities they have are wonderfully flavorful (literally one of them has delicious as a racial ability) and unique that I wish we could get an expansion for the race builder with more ability options like these. Speaking of the race builder each one has a point break down of each races point spread and the rp each ability is worth, perfect for the gm who may want to snag one of their abilities to use for that race that's been rattling around in your head and wanted to know how paizo balances it out.
So in short if you are a fan of bestiary's and your annual catalog of monsters to destroy your friends and PC's with you need this the work is just amazing and you won't be disappointed.
Trade Routes: Expanded Caravan Rules Sourcebook (PFRPG) PDFLouis Porter Jr. Design
Our Price: $2.99Add to Cart
Absolutely Fantastic!doc the grey —
The title here basically says it all but I think you may want more to go on then a title and a star rating. To begin with it reprints all the material for caravans from paizo's jade regent ap right along side all the new material. Now this may not sound that inventive but it allows all of us to look over all of these rule quickly and easily in a settings neutral format without having to cross reference with other books. Next is just the sheer amount of expansion they managed to add to the system with everything from alternate horse trains like mules to elephants to plants you can grow on the side of your wagons and mobile bordello's this book has thought up so many new and inventive ways to play with the caravan system that it just begs to be played with. The thing is also well edited To top it all off the book is just 3 dollars which is an absolute steal for what content you're getting which could go for triple what you're paying here from other guys. In short if you have any plans to run a caravan game you need this book the content is solid and at this price is a steal, pick it up and show support for more content of this quality and style.
amazing content but terrible editingdoc the grey —
I suppose that the title up there pretty much says it all but this book deserves a bit more of an explanation then that. First off the art in this book is absolutely fantastic far above anything I would have expected from a 3rd party book and right up there with Paizo's pieces in terms of quality and style. The content of the book is quite good as well the 8 goblin strains are all interesting in their own unique ways and I know I will be using more then a few of these in my own games like the grim goblins, sewer goblins, and the Wolfsworn class.
Unfortunately the content does still suffer from the balancing issues that many 3rd party books have like the flame goblins ability to make any weapon they wield burning or the plethora of weapons that seem to come with either bleed for free, burning, or melee scatter(I can think of so many ways my party would break games if they got a hold of cheap bleeding weapons)and I know these could imbalance a game real quick. All that though can be easily handled though with the proper fixes in house or the non-use of them and there's still plenty to be had that is if nothing else full of flavor to jump start your next goblin filled game(ex. trash armor that has a 1-in-6 chance of drawing a hungry bird swarm to attack the wearer).
Now though we come to the hulking blemish of this otherwise fantastic piece of 3rd party work, that my friends is the editing. Now I'm usually one that can deal with the odd spelling error or word mistake every now and again in these books, the company is small and editors aren't exactly free so it happens and usually I'm cool with this but some of these are just insane. Now these can run the gamut from the small like not bolding racial ability names like darkvision or not unbunching abilities from info lines, to the severe. A few of these examples include some basic editing errors that completely throw me out of the read like having the word taught when they meant taunted in a bit of flavor text for a chapter opener (then line reads that a goblin "taught" his victim from behind a crumbling edifice while he bled to death, funny but makes no since with the context clues). Another incredibly glaring one is that they make references to mechanics that no longer exist within pathfinder, best example of this is that about half the goblin races are listed as having a +4 bonus on move silently checks which baffles me since we haven't seen that since 3.5 and it leaves me wondering if these are just really doofey editing issue as the writer had a blast from the past or if they were copy paste errors they had left over when they began modifying the goblins to make their new ones.
Overall I give this a 3 out of 5 for me as stated all the creative pieces are fantastic the art, and content are top notch and the fluff is nice and inspiring but the terrible editing really takes it down for me from the vaulted place it should have had but I think in the end we all deserve a finished product when we pay for one instead of something that we will have to finish for ourselves.