Legendary Villains: Dark Druids (PFRPG)

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When the Woods are Wild and Wicked, Beware!

Druids have long been an afterthought in RPGs, relegated to the sidelines of adventure as harmless hermits or tree-hugging environmentalists. NO LONGER! Though little noticed, evil alignments have been open to druids since the dawn of 3rd Edition, and in a wilderness-based campaign they make magnificent and malevolent menaces.

Legendary Villains: Dark Druids discusses the role of druids as villains and introduces the concept of the Umbral Wood, a transplanar wilderness that reaches across the Shadow Plane, the Fey Realms, and into the Material Plane. Deep in the heart of this blackest forest lies the realm of the Midnight Master, a debauched and debased deity that embodies every awful possibility that might darken the heart of a corrupted warden of the wilderness. What follows is a collection of archetypes, richly detailed and thematic feats, and druid spells. With over 30 new rules elements, including spells like bloodspear, drought, and nightwing host and feats like Tidalwave of Rot and Unhallowed Shade of the Umbral Wood, alongside the Darkwolf and Unseelie Ovate druid archetypes, this 26-page sourcebook offers a bevy of options for making your druids dangerous and deadly!

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An Endzeitgeist.com review

4/5

This installment of the Legendary villains series clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 18 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?

Okay, so first of all, the pdf takes the concept of "Shade of the Woodlands" and expands on it, essentially providing a kind of thematic continuation and exploration of the more sinister concepts associated with the umbrae tokens provided as part of this feat. But before we dive into the crunch component, the pdf provides guidance in a rather unique and helpful way - it guides DMs regarding the implementation of such a token on a conceptual level - how does it interact with Knowledge (religion), for example? What do they look like? Some pretty evocative imagery is quoted here and the token itself is linked to the Umbral Wood - think about this place as something akin to perhaps the fey's First World blending with the Plane of Shadows, a primordial, savage echo...or something different altogether. The pdf provides advice on integrating this cool concept into your game before delving into the things you may reflect on regarding druids as villains - the motivations provided should definitely provide for interesting ideological rationales.

First up regarding the crunch would be the Darkwolf druid archetype - ad if you can't tell by the name, the darkwolf can be considered a kind of pseudo-lycanthrope, complete with silver allergy and high-level werewolf-summoning. Unseelie Ovates receive modified proficiency and skill-lists. They can spontaneously convert spells into fey allure spells - or at least, that's what the pdf states. Only problem being - there is, at least to my knowledge, so such spell. I assume, the pdf instead was referring to the Unseelie Arts, which provide modifications of the spell-list. These guys can also assume faerie forms via the new spells provided within this pdf.

The next array of components would be the aforementioned feat-tree based on umbrae-tokens - and these feats are both exceedingly awesome in concept (and their fluffy descriptions), but definitely should not find their way into player hands - the very first one provides free energy admixture (no level-increase, no need for preparation in advance AND it extends to abilities, though energy-specific additional effects may not be present any more), allows for wildshape into creatures of the fire subtype and allows for the casting of sympathetic wounds in place of 2nd level spells. Now yes, the feat also decreases your HP by one HD and the feat nets you light blindness and modifies the umbrae-token's auras, but still - I don't have to tell you that this is the legendary VILLAINS-series, right? Seriously, as awesome as the feats herein are, as glorious and evocative as they develop the concepts, be very, very weary of ever letting them even close to your greedy player's hands... I know my players would wreck havoc with these. On a formal level, I do think that the reduction of HP should specifically specify that HD-dependant benefits are not modified by the reduction, but that is probably me being OCD.

Not all feats herein are themed around the awesome umbrae-tokens: What about a stronger, nigh-uncontrollable animal companion with rabies? Yup. Okay, this once again is not an option I'd necessarily let into player hands, but it is damn cool! Speaking of which - what about delivering touch spells at range in dim illumination and below? Yes, complete with disturbing mask imagery. Or what about a feat that allows you to expend a swift action to execute sneak attacks as a ninja of your class level -4 - no, no limit, but a prohibition of never ever talking to a those not of the faith.

The pdf also sports an assortment of new spells, with greasy, stealth-crippling algae or green slime or oozes being summonable via a very flexible spell or spells that conjure forth a spear of bloody power that drinks from your blood, but also provides significant benefits. Creating fey crossroads or a defensive lightning shield also is possible, as would be the option to incite grass to grow to provide more terrain control. Wyvern's Watch would be an interesting variant of mage's faithful hound, as another example.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not as excellent as in most Legendary Games-products - I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches. Layout adheres to legendary Games' beautiful two-column full-color standard as a established in Kingmaker-plug-ins. The pdf comes with full bookmarks for your convenience and the pdf does sport some gorgeous artworks in full color - original pieces, btw., though some may be familiar to fans of Legendary Games from other publications.

Jason Nelson and Clinton J. Boomer deliver herein -concept-wise, in spades. I'm a big fan of Clinton boomer's writing (Read his "The Hole Behind Midnight" if you considered the last couple of Dresden Files to be toothless!) and his high-concept approach to design and focus on narratives well reflects on this villainous toolbox. Let me make this abundantly clear: I adore the utterly broken, overpowered feats that capitalize on the umbrae-tokens - the whole concept is so incredibly awesome, it is a narrative goldmine. Just about every feat in this category made me come up with at least one VERY nasty build. Now, and this should be emphasized, they are not perfect - could one for example kill oneself with the HP-reduction of these feats? Know what? I don't care. Still, it should be emphasized that this is the VILLAINS line.

These options do NOT belong into player hands - which brings me to the somewhat schizoid feeling of this pdf: On one hand, the feats almost unanimously revel in their high concepts and obviously do not care about being balanced or the like - they are the nasty tools for which your PCs will LOATHE the villains. On the other, the spells and archetypes feel, pardon the pun, tame in comparison - to the point where I'd allow them in e.g. Way of the Wicked and similar campaigns. So yes, I couldn't help but shake the feeling of these two halves not really jelling well with one another - in the end, I wasn't perfectly sure whether to hand this to PCs on the evil spectrum or not.

Conversely, the content that does not directly tie in with the concept of umbral wood and umbrae tokens did feel like it was a different book to me - like two books had been smashed together. Now, don't get wrong - this is not a bad toolbox by any means, but I do wish the awesome concepts had been tied more consequently together - what about token-exclusive spells, for example? Now yes, none of the components of this book are bad, but, ironically for a book on druids, this feels somewhat inorganic in its composition.

The result is a book that does provide some content with Jason Nelson's trademark crunch-mastery and some content with Clinton Boomer's balls-to-the-wall awesome concepts and high-end, high-concept crunch that left me craving more of both - I found myself wishing, that the high-concept content had received some balancing or at least advice for DMs. At the same time, I felt myself craving the objectively more balanced crunch to tie in better with the ridiculously awesome concepts. In short - I wished this pdf had a better internal synergy. Do I recommend this? For DMs, the intended audience, the answer is a resounding "Yes", but one tinged with a fragment of hesitation. My final verdict for this book will clock in at 4 stars - just don't let this fall into your player's clutches unless you're going for a ridiculously high-powered evil game.

Endzeitgeist out.


Nature in the Raw

4/5

Is not a nice or pleasant place, as we discover in 'Dark Druids', a PDF and book from Legendary Games for their Kingdom Building line. The PDF/book itself consists of 26 pages, of which 17 are the actual content wit the rest being full-page art, credits, contents, OGL etc. But they are seventeen very-full pages.

It starts with some ideas on what makes villainous druids different from more heroic versions, as well as other villains -- their rejection of reason, instinct, and the tools humans use to control their environment. It also mentions a feat that isn't listed within but is used very often, Shade of the Uskwood ('Shade of the Woodlands' here) from the Inner Sea World Guide and several online sites for the Kuthite druids of Nidal. We also get some ideas about the spiritual homeland of these dark druids, the Umbral Woods. The Umbrae-tokens required by the former feat are used by the Dark Druids as their unholy symbols and we get several ideas on how to describe them to players in ways designed to unnerve and frighten. Very well done.

Next are two archetypes. My favorite is the Darkwolf, basically a druid infected with lycanthropy who decides to embrace their new lupine nature. Basically they do better with wolves than other animals, can summon advanced and giant wolves, dire wolves, and werewolves. And they can wild shape into the by-now classic 'wolfman' form as well. In exchange the full moon makes them a little -- touchy, and silver can dazzle or even sicken them if used as a weapon.

Then is the Unseelie Ovate, a malicious version of the Seelie Ovate druid from an earlier release of theirs. They get some new skills, a whole list of nasty spells they can cast in place of summon nature's ally, heightened resistance to mind-affecting magic, and they can wild shape into both fey and magical beasts. Both archetypes have a nice creepy feel to them. They also don't require evil alignments, so anyone who wants to make a druid anti-hero with these two can go right ahead.

Next are a list of feats, nearly all of which require the Shade of the Uskwood feat to be used. This seems to limit them to druids of Zon-Kuthon in stricter games, though the PDF tells you right out that you can change any of this as you need to or please.

That stated, if you do like the idea of expanded Kuthite druids you've got a smorgasbord of ideas here. There are feats allowing the druid to use fire spells (normally forbidden if you take 'Uskwood') at the price of being weakened and going light-blind. One grants additional cold spells and makes them more powerful, another allows the druid to summon shadows and kytons as well as providing proficiency with the spiked chain (again, at the cost of weakening them an making them blind in the light). You can gain an evolution pool for your animal companion and certain summoner abilities with them; can learn how to hide the... evidence of your devotion to [strike}Zon-Kuthon[/strike] the Dark Prince of Pain and more easily fool unbelievers, deal piercing unarmed strikes with the thorns piercing your flesh, and much more. And in best Kuthite fashion, almost every one of these dark gifts costs the user in terms of either pain or other permanent nasty but not crippling conditions.

The non-'Uskwood' feats are just as good. You can turn your animal companion into a feral, rabid beast -- they get stronger and fiercer, and can infect bitten opponents with rabies as well. The druid can get a feat that allows them to change to any evil alignment but still retain their druid powers. And if they multi-class into anti-paladin, they can use touch of corruption to empower their metamagic. And you can gain the ability to ignore ongoing or repeating damage if it is about to kill you, though not easily.

Really, the list of feats alone makes me want to bring a group of Kuthite druids into 'Kingmaker' as enemies of the rulers just so I can use some of those wild ideas.

The last part of the book are new spells. They have spells for assuming fey forms, and for conjuring woodland beings (like planar ally, but with animals, fey, plants, and magical beasts). You can summon algal blooms that have the powers of green slime or oozes and that can infect you with hideous illnesses. Droughts can be laid upon a wide stretch of land, bat swarms can be called up, and stunning and deafening blasts of thunder are hurled on your enemies.

My favorite, however, is fey crossroads. It allows the caster to use a crossroads to make a temporary gateway into the realms of the fey; if no crossroads is handy, you can still cast the spell by making your own crossroads in the dirt but it takes a lot longer. Also, upon returning, there's a chance you might be weakened and shaken by what you've seen in the fey realms; better hope no enemies are waiting for you when you leave.

But best of all, you can remove the material components of the spell if you or someone you take with you create a performance for the fey first. Yes, if you can entertain the fey they'll make the spell easier for you to cast. This feels very folkloric and to me, it's how fey magic ought to feel.

While most of this PDF is meant for villains, there's enough here that can be used by non-evil druids and other classes that it can be handy for them too. I admit that I wish they'd give us some more feats or spells specifically for the darkwolf, but no one can have everything. They also list a few feats at one point that you have to go searching online for (but they include the links in the PDF). I'm going with four stars for this one -- and all the way up to five if you like Zon-Kuthon and want more information on his druids.


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Iiiinteresting.


I'll have to get this one. I like my druids to have a bit of an edge and a nasty side.


When I first saw this, I immediately thought of two things.

One being the adventure from 3.0 from Kuntz, called Dark Druids. Amazing set up and wonderful for advanced games. But it was promised to be something more, and sadly, it's all we have from that line...

The second is the nasty oasis you find in the Desolation for the Slumbering Tsar. The druids there have a lot of wonderful statistical joy along their storyline to ruin a players night.

So this could be awesome.


My order of the book arrived, so thanks! Very nice work, though I do wish that there was a little more for non-Kuthite druids, such as the Darkwolf (which I adore). But it's all great, and the spells and feats are very good.


So how much is in there for Nidalese Shades of Uskwood Druids?


Thanael: I'd say the bigger part of the book is useful for them, given that many of the feats require the 'Shade of the Uskwood' (rendered here for copyright reasons as 'Shade of the Umbral Wood'). There are also feats like 'Welcome Pain' which allows you to shed conditions that involved repeating or ongoing damage (like bleed) if they wold reduce you to 0 hit points if you can make the Will roll.

There are also a few feats that allow you access to goodies normally restricted to Kuthites or at least Lawful Evil characters, like 'Subtle Shade of the Umbral Wood' (allows you to hide the effects of your injuries and mutilations from unbelievers and grants some arcane enchantment spells, AND you can enter the Umbral Court Agent PrC); 'Tidalwave of Rot' which allows you to multiclass as an anti-paladin of the Lawful Evil-allowed 'Lord of Darkness' archetype (druid and A-P levels stack for touch of corruption) as well as granting access to some feats that seem to be from someone's Tumblr; and 'Unhallowed Shade of the Umbral Wood' which grants you access to clerical domains of Zon-Kuthon or give acess to bloodline powers and bonus spells of the Shadow bloodline, with Wisdom used in place of Charisma.

There's rather more than that, really the Feats section is the best part of the book. If you want to play or use a Kuthite druid you really do want this book.

Dark Archive

When I attempt to purchase this as a print edition, it says it's a Preorder.

Since it was announced as available on Oct 24 of last year, is this an error, or does it need to be restocked?

Community Manager

Set wrote:

When I attempt to purchase this as a print edition, it says it's a Preorder.

Since it was announced as available on Oct 24 of last year, is this an error, or does it need to be restocked?

It was accurate at the time you posted it—we have stock available now.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Yeah, this book slipped through the cracks of me remembering to actually order print copies to send to Paizo! Sorry you had to wait, but it's ready for you now!


Someone pleased post a review!

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

1 person marked this as a favorite.

"It's totally awesome. You should get it." - Anonymous Reviewer. :)


Just gave this one a review. I really like the lycanthropic Darkwolf archetype and the fey crossroads spell. That one just feels so very 'folklore', like fey magic should feel.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Unholy Moly...

People check out Clinton Boomer's Tumbler for some previews and/or accompanying material for this book.

Scarab Sages RPG Superstar 2008 Top 4; Contributor; Publisher, Legendary Games

Yep, some of what became this product just sprang out of a series of "dialed-up-to-11" Boomer ideas he posted on Tumblr. We were talking about it and decided to expand the whole thing and make it even bigger and turn it into a product. If you'd like a sneak peek at the stuff you'll find in here, check it out!


Congrats to Legendary Games for having this book in the Top Ten 'Downloads from Other Companies' from Paizo.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.

#3 with a bullet this week. Gothic Campaign Compendium and Treasury of the Kingdom also made the list at #6 and #9. Not too shabby. We're starting to crank things up on Legendary Planet, as well, so I'm hopeful folks like what they see when we debut some things for that at PaizoCon.


Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.

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