Call to Arms: Axes and Picks (PFRPG) PDF

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Call to Arms is a book line for players and gamemasters alike. Each book focuses on a different item, expanding rules for those items and adding everything from new mundane and magical examples of the item to new character options related to the item. Call to Arms: Axes and Picks not only includes new axe types and pick types, but also introduces rules for using double-headed hafted weapons like pickaxes and splitting mauls that have two different weapon heads (like a pick-head and an axe-head, or an axe-head and a hammer-head) in one weapon. Magical examples and new special weapon abilities are also introduced, including a new cursed item, new artifact and new mythic weapon. Finally, options for rogues and fighters are presented that take advantage of some of the ways axes, picks and related weapons, like the deadly misericorde, were traditionally used in battle.

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An review


The second installment of the Call to Arms-series clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 13 pages of content, so let's take a look!

After a brief paragraph of introductory prose, we are treated to a solid little introduction of the history of both axes and picks and their roles in warfare before we are introduced to the subject matter at hand - here, beginning with properly codified flint weapons, which, while fragile, may ignite flammable material when struck against metal - which is one of the trademark "Why hasn't this been done before?"-moments I love in the series. Similarly, I am pretty sure that more than one GM out there will appreciate the rules for weapons with double heads, allowing for the free action switching of them. If you're like me and contemplate converting Age of Worms, you'll certainly appreciate these rules for the signature weapon of servants of dread Kyuss.

Alas, there is a sensible modification that is rather problematic: Alternate Axe-bits make sense: They allow for the inexpensive addition of material-based weapon properties. For campaigns à la Ravenloft that sport the requirement for obscure materials to bypass some sorts of DR, this makes sense. At the same time, incorporating e.g. adamantine does feel problematic to me, since adamantine's price is carefully balanced versus the significant powers it grants. Material bypassing DR =/= material bypassing DR and while the scaling price does still reflect this, it imho does not do so in a sufficient manner for the more powerful materials.

A total of 12 different simple weapon axes and picks are provided, from the awl to the Alpenstock (originally created to serve as a climber's tool, literally meaning "staff of the Alps"), which helps with climbing - though the bonus type it conveys should probably be an equipment bonus. But that's just me being a nitpicky prick. A total of 16 martial weapons (including aforementioned climber's tool) are included within, as well as 9 exotic weapons, with the ricocheting gnomish throwing picks being among the more interesting ones, while e.g. the dhampir maul, is slightly problematic: The weapon is a big hammer with a slot for e.g. a stake to be inserted. So far, so good, right? Alas, the stake-part is fragile and the notation of damage is 1d6/2d6, which is slightly uncommon.

Now this is a cosmetic glitch, sure, but I do have another issue here: The finer balancing of some of these weapons seems to be slightly off. Take the executioner's axe: At 40 gp, it offers a base damage of 1d12, Crit 19-20/x3 and both the deadly and fragile quality - compare that to the dwarven longaxe, which costs 50 gp and offers a base damage of 1d12, Crit x3. Personally, I believe that the extended crit-range is more powerful than just the addition of the fragile quality offsets. While the weapons generally are on par with established ones, they sometimes slightly overshoot their targets - not by much or to a game-breaking extent, mind you, but still.

Regarding internal consistency, there are two entries among the weapons that are unlike the others, two entries that do not belong - the stiletto and misericorde. The latter being the "Mercykiller"-blade used to grant mercy to the mortally wounded - a long, narrow knife, thin enough to fit between the plates of armor. With the ample variants of axes, I don't really get the inclusion of these weapons here, but oh well - once again, I'm complaining on a cosmetic level. That being said, I do believe that the latter represents an obvious missed chance to grant the blade more of a mechanically unique identity by e.g. facilitating coup-de-grâce-attempts. (Granted a magical misericorde later provides that when used versus undead, but still... Oh, and the magic weapon is imprecise in that it does not state whether rejuvenation or similar abilities fall under the healing-prevention of undead finished with the blade.)

Reinforced sheaths make sense to me - these sheathes can turn picks and axes into a bludgeoning weapon, which makes sense - the item also codifies better nonlethal damage dealing and the new, sheathed properties of the axe/pick - kudos! On the magical side, the pdf introduces two new special weapon abilities: At +1 bonus, hewing weapons add +4 to CMB to sunder attempts and the +3-equivalent felling property increases the damage output of the weapon to be equivalent to the size of the creature targeted - but only for one attack and the damage-die never decreases for fine/diminutive. This is problematic in three ways: 1) It increases the "one hit kill"-factor that is anathema to epic battles. 2) Weapon damage die increases are pretty opaque, much more so for weapons of larger sizes - damage progression-tables would have been greatly appreciated. 3) For +3, 1 hit damage-increase, thereafter the weapon does not convey this bonus against the creature for 24 hours, feels very punitive. All in all, not a fan in the slightest of this one.

The pdf also contains 9 specific weapons spanning the price-range from 8K gp to 103,018 gp. The specific weapons are solid, though not always brilliant: Take the axe of fire and ice: One head +1 flaming burst, one head +1 icy burst (both not italicized) - and that's it. No additional trick, no unique feature...boring. Speaking of minor formatting hiccups - the forester's axe's one superscript property lacks the superscripting formatting for an unsightly "UE" in addition to lack of property italicization - though its doubled function as a renewable rod of flame extinguishing is at least not that bland. The Jack-of-all-trades, a poleaxe, is more interesting: Each head of it is separately enchanted and crafted from a different material to make the weapon feasible against all kinds of threats and the weapon even has the information for its non-magical price...but, alas, it lacks the precise damage-stats for each head: There are a lot of axes, spears and the like and while I love the idea of the weapon, its execution, alas, renders it an inoperable guessing game as provided.

On the plus-side, a weapon made to break objects, doors and locks is neat. Somewhat oddly misplaced herein: The thunderstone arrowhead is always "formed in the shape of handaxes or arrowheads" - does that mean there are handaxes with this property? This does contradict the +1 shock arrow base item, though...which brings me to the second entry, which covers the handaxe version...and its language is, alas, just as confused, referring to arrows and the like. Worse, its effects are that "powerful magical lightning strikes the ground" - does that mean lightning bolt at the item's CL? Would make sense, but the bolt strikes from above, so is it call lightning? I have literally no idea how this is supposed to work. On the plus-side, I *REALLY* love the magical sheathes provided here, conferring e.g. cold iron's benefits to the weapon. Surprisingly, the wording here is more precise. A cursed sheath that corrodes weapons is also interesting.

The intelligent axe Old King Harold, bane to orcs and goblins, is a rather neat one and we also get the stats for the mythic axe of Perun that can control weather via mythic power and call down lightning (here with the proper spell) in these called stormfronts - odd, really: How a more complex item works, where a simple one stumbles. On the downside, the lack of italicization and superscript-errors make complex items like this one harder to grasp than necessary. The indestructible spike artifact is a brutal spiked maul and conveys iron body on the wearer - BRUTAL!

There also is a new rogue talent that allows for the exchange of sneak attack damage die to reduce armor bonuses - basically, trade damage for precision. An okay talent. The feats are interesting: Using disarm to negate shield bonuses...though the alternate use, which lets you make "opposed Strength-checks" to make foes drop the shield feels wrong - opposed Strength-checks usually do not happen directly in battle; PFRPG tends to use CMB/CMD instead and the d20 vs. d20-base means that the roll is very swingy. Not a fan of this component of the feat. The second feat allows you to perform AoOs versus attacking foes when fighting defensively or in total defense, potentially disarming them. Oh boy, this one - I like the intent, but the feat "gives you an automatic attack of opportunity" - which is not default wording and could mean that you can exceed AoOs per round. I'm not sure how this works.

The pdf concludes with a solid write-up of Craft (Knapping) for the manufacture of flint or obsidian weapons and items.


Editing and particularly formatting need some work: The lack of italicizations of certain components and amount of superscripts not superscripted is pretty jarring. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' two-column full-color standard and the pdf sports nice full color artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

After the disappointing first installment in the series, I kept my distance to the series, mainly since I didn't want to bash Fat Goblin Games, then a totally different company, quality-wise, than today. Imagine my surprise when current Call to Arms-books actually were rather imaginative, inspired and cool....which made me wonder: When exactly did the series and company become better in such a short time? Well, I returned to Call to Arms to take a look at what Lucus Palosaari has crafted, to witness the growth of the author, if you will. So yeah, this is why you're seeing a review for this old pdf now. To get that out of the way: This was obviously before editing and formatting reached the current level, so in that regard, the pdf isn't that great.

Similarly, rules-editing is not yet as tight as in later installments of the series and there are quite a few slightly problematic components herein, some that simply don't work. At the same time, this already displays the strengths later installments exhibit - there are some true "Why hasn't this been done before?"-moments to be found herein, which provide equilibrium for the flaws. Ultimately, this is a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side of things, and hence my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, though I will round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

Pick a Winner!


Call to Arms: Axes and Picks was a supplement I could not resist picking up. I am a big fan of axes and picks, though the Pathfinder system often leaves them in the dust compared to swords. I wanted to see some good non-sword options to use in my games, and this book delivered.

This book starts off with a short introduction, explaining the purpose of the Call to Arms line, along with explaining what will be found in this book. After that there is a short piece of fiction that showcases items found in this book. Before getting to the crunch, there is a brief history of axes and picks, along with how they were used to fight. This use of fiction and history really got me hyped up for the remaining contents of the book.

We are introduced first to the double-headed weapon quality, which is contributes greatly to the versatility of the weapons in this book. It is a weapon quality that effectively lets each head of a weapon have different qualities that can be switched between as a free action. As an example, the cutter mattock has one head that works as a greataxe, dealing 1d12 slashing damage, which the mattock side deals 2d4 piercing damage and has a x4 critical modifier! Enhancing the weapon enhances both heads at the same time. The only time that both sides would not be enhanced would be if you construct one side from a different material than the other, such as having an adamantine mattock side and cold iron axe side. I personally disliked that detail since paying for both adamantine and cold iron on the weapon and enhancing it would cost a fortune. Similarly, even small modifications such as silvering one side for pocket change will suddenly make the other side have to be enhanced separately. Altogether this is a very desirable weapon quality since it allows the character to bring multiple damage types to an encounter with no time wasted drawing a new weapon.

Up next here is rules for a new special material to build weapons and armor from; flint. Flint weapons are very cheap, have halved hardness compared to their base weapon, and the Fragile quality. When flint weapons strike hard materials such as iron, sparks are produced. Thankfully, these sparks have a low chance of starting fires.
Also having to with special materials is a new rule that is exclusive for axe (and picks), where head of the axe can be made from two different metals, which allowing precious metals such as adamantine to make up just the blade. This reduces the cost of crafting an adamantine axe or pick to 1/3rd of the cost, but increases the craft DC by a significant amount.

After this, many new simple, martial, and exotic weapons are introduced. Many of the simple weapons are actually trade tools, such as butcher’s cleavers. As such, none of them are double-headed.
Martial weapons are a bit different. Most of them are double-headed, such as the spiked maul or the previously mentioned cutter mattock. There is almost every combination of one-handed and two-handed hammer/pick/axes in this section, which I really appreciated. There are also a few peculiar weapons that made their way in, such as the stiletto.

The exotic weapons are a bit different on the other hand. The only double-headed weapon is the dwarven pickaxe, which is essentially a dwarven war axe with a pick on the other side of its head. Just like the dwarven war axe, it is treated as a martial weapon by dwarves. The most peculiar exotic weapon in this section is the dhampir maul, which is a large hammer than can have a stake positioned in a slot in the head. This allows for powerful and easy vampire staking! Very cool. The executioner’s axe is another exotic weapon that earns its title, as it’s a 1d12 axe with a 19-20 critical range and a x3 critical modifier. I was quite happy to see that out of all these new weapons, only the executioner’s axe was numerically better than the axes and picks from the core line. Every other weapon was equal in power, though usually more versatile. Because of this, power creep was minimal, though unavoidable. Axes and picks are in a bad spot in pathfinder, so even a small versatility boost will strengthen them. Because of this, I find this slight power creep acceptable and even desirable.

New sheaths for protecting the blade of your axes and picks are available as well. These sheaths also provide interesting combat benefits, as when they are covering your weapons you can deal nonlethal damage at only a -2 penalty. Very nice attention to detail!
We also have two new magical enhancements. Hewing grants a +4 sunder bonus, and Felling grants a damage bonus based on how many size categories smaller the wielder is compared to the struck foe.
The specific magic item section has a lot of humor written in its item descriptions. The Looter’s Lockpick, a weapon designed to open locks (and sunder any item it touches really) is especially humorously written. My only complaint of this section is that there are very few cheap specific magic items. Not much for a lower or mid-level character to grab. There are also a variety of cheap magical sheaths, which grant interesting effects to weapon. For instance, the Gilded Sheath allows the weapon bonded to it to count as having the Glamered ability. Very handy for confusing your foes. Of course, there is also a cursed sheath that corrodes weapons inhabiting it.

Old King Harold, the resident intelligent weapon of the book, is a highly magical greataxe labrys, in which each side of its head is enchanted differently. One side is goblin-bane, and the other orc-bane. Old King Harold wants its owner to think that he is the soul of a dethroned king murdered by orcs, and will use every trick he knows of to convince his wielder this. He will use his knowledge of local genealogy to create a cover story that always meshes with the region and time period that he is found in. He will speak whatever language would make sense, and pretend to be whatever races makes sense for the area. Elves? Dwarves? Doesn’t matter. Old King Harold wants to have his wielder hunt down and fight goblins and orcs, and provides excellent support as long as the wielder does so. As an intelligent magic item, Old King Harold is a hilarious concept, and thankfully does not have campaign derailing power. In fact, he feels like he has great roleplay opportunity written all over him.

The mythic Axe of Perun is a very cool idea indeed. It is an axe formed from powerful magic lightning striking soil. Through the use of mythic points, a character may manipulate weapon and even drop lightning bolts on people! There is even a sidebar explaining who Perun is in Slavic mythology. This was a very nice and thoughtful touch to the book.
The last item is the artifact called Indestructible Spike. This spiked maul is so tough it even makes the wielder indestructible, placing them under the effects of an Iron Body spell while wielding the Indestructible Spike.

For character options, this book provides a rogue talent that allows sneak attack dice to be traded for reductions in enemy AC, as their weapon penetrates their armor. There is also the feat Hook Shield, which allows a character to push someone’s shield out of their way, or even rip it off their arms. Whirling Defense is a feat with hefty prerequisites, though it has a powerful effect. When fighting defensively, and two-weapon fighting with axes or picks, anyone who attacks you provokes an attack of opportunity. To top it all off, there is a new Craft skill introduced. Craft (Knapping) is the shaping of stones like obsidian or flint into usable weapons, arrows, and tools.

Call to Arms: Axes and Picks is an excellent book. I came into this book hoping to find some good choppy weapons. Instead, I got a lot of good choppy weapons, excellent weapon properties, comedic writing, character options and a collection of cool magical items I can’t wait to put in a campaign. For such a small supplement, I got a lot of good content. This book more than delivers, and deserves a 5 out of 5.

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Now available!

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This is my first purchase of the Call to Arms line, and I am very happy with it. Review incoming.

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Thank you for the great review, Adam B. This was my first after taking over the line, and it set the tone and style for the relaunch. If you like any of the other focus items, you should appreciate the others in the line. We have 4 more launching in the next month or so, with one a month for all of 2016!

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That is great news! Axes and Picks has excellent tone and style, so it makes me happy to know that the others will be similar. Keep on keeping on. I look forward to seeing what you write for this line.

I really liked this. Instead of making these weapons samey in order to combat the swords high DPR you instead made these weapons incredibly versatile for use.

I think a couple feats would be cool for future entries in the series though.

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Reviewed first on, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and's shop.

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