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Brilliant - can't wait for more!

5/5

This scenario is a treat. I love the repeatable elements, and the Arcadian setting comes through in a couple great ways despite the relatively short pagecount. I'd love to play or run this, and eagerly anticipate more adventures in Arcadia to follow!


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A surprising treat for lore nerds

4/5

Full disclosure: I'm into Pathfinder much more for the lore than I am the mechanics.

That's why this was a book I initially had no interest in; while I like guns in fantasy a great deal, I expected this to mostly be a big bunch of rules and equipment that I wouldn't think twice about, and definitely didn't need to buy myself. Guns & Gears is not this book; flavor is baked into every bit of the text, grounding it firmly in Golarion and making these technologies feel like they demand to be the star of your next story.

The three section format works remarkably well, and I'd love to see it adopted for other releases going forward where applicable. I don't have a ton to say here; the new classes and archetypes are fun, I'm very fond of the new Ancestry and Backgrounds, and nothing seems egregiously broken. Guns are a smidge weaker than I would prefer them, but I trust the mechanical chops of others over my own.

The final chapter, on setting information, is a joy to read. We get a surprisingly international look at the flow of technology across Golarion, and how it's framed varies greatly from region to region, something I enjoyed a great deal. I was pleasantly surprised by how compelling all the weird Ustalav inventions are; the mad science-horror vibe is absolutely nailed.

The star of the show for me is the gazetteer of the Deadshot Lands, our first broad overview of a region in Arcadia larger than a single city or nation, and it shines; I didn't realize how much I wanted an indigenous steampunk western with ancient ruins and a demonic bird-person theocracy, and now I can't get it out of my head. The threat of a posse of outlaws led by a tombstone-toting giant necromancers is a standout here. I'm delighted to finally see a full, partially-labeled map of Arcadia - now give us the details!

Of some small note: there's a pair of pretty egregious art errors in the book at the time of writing. One is a map of international trade routes... except locations are shuffled to the wrong sides of continents and have almost nothing to do with their actual placement, making the map useless, as the routes it depicts are nonsensical and don't touch the places it claims to. Another is in the Ustalav section, where a vessel described as a metal-hulled dirigible is depicted as a magically-flying sailing ship - a pretty significant departure, and a bummer for anyone who would want a visual reference for such a unique craft in their home game.


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The strongest AP volume of 2e so far

5/5

This volume is a killer achievement, and a testament to Luis Loza's considerable chops.

Strength of Thousands' particular focus on adventurers who have a gentle touch than the average wandering slayers sees its greatest test yet: a diplomatic mission to Mzali, a xenophobic city-state under the command of a vicious, self-obsessed child-mummy-god and the cruel sycophants who serve him, in an attempt to persuade them to soften their hold on the people who live under them. This might chafe for any group's keen to kick in the doors and kill all these Lawful Evil jerks (and the book does seem to tease such a story will be told someday!), this is instead a mix of social intrigue, trying to impress valuable local leaders into aiding your efforts and prompting variable reforms that represent a significant shift in Mzali for the setting going forward. I love the chance to rub shoulders with contemptible servants of the child-god; each has unique priorities and encounters, and memorable rewards - I'm especially fond of the chance for the heroes to be rewarded with a free assassination attempt on anyone they wish!

The volume has an interesting dungeon crawl that doesn't overstay its welcome, with some neat ties into deeper lore for the region to be discovered and varied encounters inside. There's yet another chance for a peaceful resolution with a group most APs would simply present as monsters to be killed. I won't spoil the ending of this portion, but there's a notable and permanent change to the setting at the end that instantly had me clamoring for future stories and characters centered around it.

The final third of the adventure is a trip to a notable locale from the Mwangi Expanse book, where the players have a chance to do some wondrous research and meet some really special NPCs. This location is then laid siege to by a number of very frightening foes, with the PCs taking the chance to take place in a massive battle in ways that will make them feel like superheroes. Enemies are weird and fascinating, and seem like an absolute blast to DM. There's two particular options in this dramatic climax opened up by possible player choices in the diplomatic portion earlier that had me grinning ear-to-ear; I envy any groups that get to utilize them.

The backmatter gives us teacher profiles in the same style as the students in Book 1, and continue to be evocative, fleshed-out individuals, many of whom are very easy to read as subtle, sincere neurodivergent representation; I adore the entire cast of this AP. It's so refreshing to see so many Black NPCs treated so well in fantasy roleplaying! We also get an expansion to the Bright Lion archetype from LO: Legends and a handful of fun, weird monsters in the bestiary.

Strength of Thousands feels like 2e hitting its stride, and Secrets of the Temple-City is the best it's had to offer yet. Some groups might chafe at the idea of "playing nice" with the villains encountered in part 1, but for those who accept the terms of the adventure, the reward is some of the most unique play Pathfinder has to offer. I can't wait to see if this AP can stick the landing in the final two volumes - it's been a joy so far, the equal of any beloved 1e classic.

...now can we please, /please/ get that Bright Lions AP?


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5/5

I'm a simple woman; I'm methodically going through Paizo's back catalog and snapping up everything that takes us beyond the Inner Sea region, especially Arcadia. Diverse fantasy is a joy, and Pathfinder is quite good at it - more, please!


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More, please!

5/5

I adore how much sci-fi is in Pathfinder, and the delicious sword-and-planet weirdness is my favorite flavor of that. I’m hoping 2e revisits this material as soon as possible - and with a greater eye towards PCs from these places!


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A tough act to follow!

5/5

A site error wrote my longer review (eight or nine very good paragraphs, I promise!), so I'll be brief instead: this book is a triumph. It's a joy to see an African-inspired fantasy setting be treated not only with care, but with passion and joy so clearly shining through in the text. The new creations pale slightly compared to the brilliant reframings of traditional fantasy ancestries (I normally don't care about elves or dwarves, and I want to play multiple characters from both using the cultures within) due to their lesser wordcount, but they don't disappoint. The art is consistently stunning (the Taralu dwarves are some of the best art I've ever seen in an RPG book, and I have a crush on the Sweetbreath Gnoll), to a standard I hope Paizo can continue to follow.

A brilliant refutation of the Eurocentrism that dominates so much of the fantasy genre, and a shining example of what diverse voices can make together. I can only hope that we see other locales treated with the same regard soon; the Golden Road needs some updates to fraught older content like this offers and could really shine with changes, while the possibilities for Arcadian or Vudran material from designers of those respective real-world backgrounds would be mind-blowing.


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A tidy teaser

5/5

The adventure does exactly what I want it to, while the setting has me excited for more to come!


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Vudra

4/5

Full disclosure: I don't vibe with Agents of Edgewatch, but wanted to put my money where my mouth is and support content beyond the Inner Sea. Vudra seems great, and I can't wait to see it get more love from diverse voices. (And what's the deal with ratajins, anyway?)


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More Arcadia, please!

5/5

The Xopatl gazetteer is a joy; it also isn't nearly enough! Love everything we got here, and cannot wait to see more.