Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes (PFRPG)

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Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes (PFRPG)
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Blood and Brutality

Orcs are the scourge of civilization, the raiders who come in the night, slaughtering innocents for treasure and the simple joy of the kill. Their brutality extends even to their own kind, with tribes battling for supremacy and only the strongest individuals surviving to adulthood. Yet despite their fearsome image, orcs maintain a society of their own, having carved out the legendary Hold of Belkzen. Within this chaotic region, warlords vie for supremacy, adventurers plunder ruins long lost to orc barbarism, and those bold orcs who imagine a better life struggle for change.

Whether your players are treasure hunters stealing the riches of the past, soldiers seeking to end the orc threat once and for all, or orcs seeking to escape or rule their brethren, this book has everything you need to run a campaign in the war-torn Hold of Belkzen, including:

  • Detailed gazetteers of Belkzen’s settlements, from the surprisingly cosmopolitan capital of Urgir to the turbulent Blood Plains and the rare non-orc settlements such as Freedom Town and the hanging monastery of Sech Nevali.
  • Information on the terrifying orc gods, such as Dretha the Dark Mother and the Blood God, Nulgreth.
  • Overviews of the most prominent orc tribes, from the Empty Hand and the Broken Spine to the Ice Tooth and the Skull Eater.
  • Information on orc warfare, including their beast-powered war machines.
  • Tons of new adventure sites ripe for exploration, including the draconic Sleeper and the Flood Road, plus a detailed regional map ready to lead your player characters to riches—or a bloody death.
  • Nine new monsters, random encounter tables, and more!

Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes is intended for use with the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can be easily adapted to any fantasy world.

Written by Tyler Beck, Jason Garrett, Alex Greenshields, and David Schwartz

ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-710-9

Note: This product is part of the Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscription.

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3.00/5 (based on 3 ratings)

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More than just orcs

4/5

I used this book for two different campaigns and I think it deserves it a better rating.

Map & gazetteer:

Spoiler:
The book starts off with a map that's stained in blood which is a nice effect. A lot of places are marked there - it would be quite challenging to prepare all of them, so maybe use only a fraction of the map for your campaign. Neighbouring countries and places are missing, which is unfortunate.

The gazetteer is good enough to give an impression on Belkzen. Flood Truce is an interesting concept that adds more depth to orcs. History is summarized within 2 1/2 pages - for me the rise from Underdark and the reign of the Whispering Tyrant were the most interesting parts.

Five areas get a four-page write-up: Blood Plains, Conquered Lands, Smokespur, Urgir and Whisperfall. While some of the content is typical for orcs, human settlements, undead menaces and even a hanging monastry are mentioned. Urgir as an orc metropolis should make a great place to visit for adventurers.

Adventuring:

Spoiler:
Eight gods are described on half a page each - pretty helpful if you want to add more depth and flavor to enemy divine spellcasters. The orc tribe list has some surprises like female chieftains, worship to Sarenrae and wyvern tamers. Conflicts between tribes get some room here, which could contribute to the story.

Orc war machines, siege engines and mounts show a few creative ideas which might add to flavor when battling orcs. The 14 pages of adventure sites are a wealth of starting points for adventures, but you will have to make up most maps and stat blocks for yourself. Only the map of a small human settlement is detailed enough to be used directly, imo.

Bestiary:

Spoiler:
There are 8 creatures and a template, but I found only a few of them to be actually helpful - which is not so different from regular bestiary books, but still a limitation. Ankhrav is a more powerful ankheg - nice if you want to add a boss to an ankheg encounter. The Burning Child is an unique flavorful creature which probably works better as a story element than as a straightforward encounter. Dahzagan is pretty cool if you want to augment an orc horde with an orc-related outsider.

So, overall this book gives you a good introduction into the area, but limited material that can be used directly. Orcs naturally get a lot of attention here, still it's not "Orcs of Golarion, Campaign Setting edition" - which is a blessing, given the high quality of the nonorc material. The book walks a fine line between the classic orc horde and surprising new takes on the greenskins - and succeeds in doing so. There are some decent adventure hooks, which might be the most interesting part.


Disappointing

2/5

Read my full review on Of Dice and Pen.

Belkzen, Hold of the Orc Hordes should have been an opportunity to add more depth to orcs in Pathfinder, and to be fair, it makes a couple tokens attempts to do so. However, on the whole, it misses out on the opportunity, instead focusing mostly on describing locations and adventure sites, many of which happen to have orcs in them. It does little to give the orcs any real character beyond violent killers or to differentiate one orc tribe from another. By the end of the book, orcs remain pretty much as faceless as they’ve always been, just fodder waiting for for the PCs to kill them.


Good but not great!

3/5

THE GOOD:
All major locations are mentioned and get a description.
Half of the inside art is great.
4 solid settlement stat blocks.
8 orc gods get half a page each.
24 orc tribes get a short write-up inclusive their leaders and their level.
The 4 orc warmachines are all solid.
The adventure site section is absolutely awesome - this is were the book shines! All 15 sites are great!
Half of the monsters in the bestiary are good.

THE BAD:
The inside-cover map of Belkzen is not very beautiful.
The timeline spans 10.000 years and is only one page.
3 settlements don´t get a stat block.
The city maps are not detailed enough.
Only 4 of 8 orc gods get pictures.
Not enough orc war-machines and the art for the 2 large ones that are shown is not very awe-inspiring.
Half of the monsters in the bestiary are lame.

THE UGLY:
Half of the inside art is too dark.

Worth it for the adventure site section alone!


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Webstore Gninja Minion

Product image and description updated.


War Rhino. Nice!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I wonder how practical it would be to play as one of Mikaze's orc tribe in Giantslayer...


Officially day 1 purchase.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

That is a rockin cover

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16

I'm very excited for this one to come out. This book includes my largest Paizo contribution published so far. :-D


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Now I wonder which of those four authors is Mikaze. :p


I like the sound of the "Draconic Sleeper" location.


So, do you guys go into any sort of detail regarding the various religious organizations across Belkzen? I would figure that in some places, like wyvern sting, Gorum would be the dominant god due to the huge number of half-orcs living in the city.
It would certainly mean that in some communities religious institutions would hold greater sway.


The cover reminds me of the Old Battle system cover that was done by Easley and had the guy on the triceratops.

Dark Archive

PUSHED BACK AGAIN TO FEBRUARY 3RD!!!

Ugh.

I find it very unfortunate that the Players Guide,
the Campaign Setting and the first Adventure all come out in the same month.
If you count the "Daughters of Fury" module it´s 4 things that you have to read as a GM.

Not enough time to prepare the path in Advance...

Could you please post the Players Guide by late January?
Otherwise i have no time to read all this up until march.

And yes, this AP sounds a lot like a rehash of Rise of the Runelords with goblins exchanged against orcs and published because of the insane popularity of the "Attack on Titans" anime (which will get a live action movie in 2016).

I will buy it none the less and hope for a "King of all Dwarves" AP with retaking the lost Sky Citadel of Urgir from the Orcs in the future.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Yes clearly Attack on Titan is the reason a homage to G1-3 is being published immediately after a sci-fi adventure path. Surely the APs which are planned two years are solely based on the whims of weeaboos.

Dark Archive

Alex Smith 908 wrote:
Yes clearly Attack on Titan is the reason a homage to G1-3 is being published immediately after a sci-fi adventure path. Surely the APs which are planned two years are solely based on the whims of weeaboos.

Attack on Titan part 1 (the manga) was published in 2009.

The anime series started in April 2013.

So there is no problem to see this is popular 2 years in advance.

If you have read Module G1 and the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition you can clearly see the later has been inspired by the classic, especially the 2nd half of "The Hook Mountain Massacre" and the entire "Fortress of the Stone Giants".

I agree with you that "Giantslayer" is in part a more direct homage to the classic modules:

G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief = Pathfinder Adventure Path #92: The Hill Giant's Pledge

G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl = Pathfinder Adventure Path #94: Ice Tomb of the Giant Queen

G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King = Pathfinder Adventure Path #95: Anvil of Fire

There is no question to me that paizo will do a good to great job with these modules and put a twist on them too (team up with a red dragon).

BUT: Do we really need 5 books of fighting against giants?

Personally i think we don´t.
I will buy them and i am glad that part 1 features orcs that attack Trunau.
But when i think what could have been instead of fighting against all the different kinds of giants (again) - like humans and dwarves against orcs i think this is a wasted opportunity.

Maybe i´m wrong and i will love them but i would have prefered an adventure path with a theme like
"THE COLONIZATION OF AZLANT", "KING OF ALL DWARVES", "THE DARK TAPESTRY", "ELVEN GLORY" or "WAR OF THE RUNELORDS".

And i am sure we will get them one day...


I think it's unfair to judge an adventure path before it comes out. After all Serpent's Skull sounded cool and varied before it came out, and then we got the actual end product. Similarly the original pitch for Mummy's Mask sounded very samey with only one enemy type. Then the Mummy's Mask we got had plenty of enemy variety and rendered the whole "what about undead scourge paladins being OP?" questions moot. It trust Paizo to not make anything bad because they only have one enemy type, because if nothing else the adventure paths love squeezing in obscure monsters given the tiniest opportunity. So plan on seeing plenty of weird pets, slaves, allies, and livestock of the giants that are not default giants themselves.

I was also objecting to you saying this adventure path was being made "only" because of Attack on Titan. It's a claim that relies on really superficial things from both media. A lot like people claiming Hunger Games is a ripoff of Battle Royale (Hunger Games is actually a ripoff of the Running Man). When you boil it down the monsters of Attack on Titan have a lot more in common with Pathfinder's ghouls and trolls than the actual giants, and the entire story is basically a zombie siege story. Whereas this AP and G1-3 are more classic norse inspired tales where the giants are an evil army with organization that you take the fight to.

Paizo Employee Developer

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Also, fun fact... no one on Team AP saw Attack on Titan until a couple of months ago.


Speaking of Attack on Titan. If the AP Team ever does make an adventure path that does a full on base under siege story or an amnesia mystery story I'd actually be very happy.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

ya know...people make it sound like taking inspiration from Attack on Titan is a bad thing...

I got to say...that anime did the best job ever of making giants truly horrifying. I wouldn't mind seeing more works that go for horrific in depicting giants.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

I wonder if this book will implement a Nemesis system for taking out Belkzen's captains and warchiefs. ;)


While I agree that Attack on Titan is good, it's really more that it made zombies scary again by making them huge rather than doing anything with traditional giants.


Ugh, never been a fan of anime. Not my thing for cartoons.
Anyway, I'd love to find out if one of our major backers would be the sixth king himself, Daralathyxl, though one would have to ask why the sixth king just didn't act overtly himself, as he always seems to.

Paizo Employee Developer

Axial wrote:
I wonder if this book will implement a Nemesis system for taking out Belkzen's captains and warchiefs. ;)

It will not. Many, many warchiefs are named and given class levels, however, so you can set your sights on any number of them to eliminate if you wish. There's no new rules subsystem introduced in the book, however.


How many of them are pure barbarian?
Too many?

Dark Archive

Alex Smith 908 wrote:
Speaking of Attack on Titan. If the AP Team ever does make an adventure path that does a full on base under siege story or an amnesia mystery story I'd actually be very happy.

Half of Pathfinder Adventure Path #70: The Frozen Stars (Reign of Winter 4 of 6)features a base under siege situation.

But i agree with you - more of that would be awesome.
I kind of hope for a great "Trunau under siege from the orcs" setting in the opening of "The Battle of Bloodmarch Hill" (like the Attack on Sandpoint in Rise of the Runelords only with more NPC defenders).

A flip-mat for that village attack would also be great as we don´t have a map with sharpened tree trunk palisades, a gate and wooden watchtowers in print.

Also i never said this AP was made only because of Attack on Titan.
But i hope this appeals to fans of that show too so that it sells great and brings them to the rpg medium.
It is great marketing (like the Marvel´s Avengers/Attack on Titans Crossover) to bring something like this out right now.

It´s not that i don´t like the idea behind this AP but i hope there is more to it than just killing giants (the orc beginning is great).
But as i know paizo they probably have some aces up their sleeves.
Maybe the persons behind all this are the same as in the classic modules? ;-)

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 16

Ironwall Gap Must Hold features a mountain fortress under siege by a horde of orcs...

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
MMCJawa wrote:

ya know...people make it sound like taking inspiration from Attack on Titan is a bad thing...

The mentality crops up a lot in regards creative works, IMO, and often selectively. One of the people that I gamed with saw the green half-orc and went "Oh, so they're copying WoW."

Taking queues from Tolkein = good, getting ideas (supposedly) somewhere else = bad.

Gets of soapbox


Speaking of Tolkien, I'm surprised no one got my reference up there.

Webstore Gninja Minion

2 people marked this as a favorite.

Product image and description updated to final.


Wooooo!


1 person marked this as a favorite.

9 new monsters, is that including NPC/character class based enemies as well?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Getting hyped again - interested in reading more about the Dirt Sea, Ghost light Marsh, and the Foundry/Steel Eater 'tribe'.

SOON


Anyone gotten their PDF yet ???

Dark Archive

I do what questions you got?


Hmm... Cool! What are the new monsters in the book?


Is there a nonevil orc tribe in there? Any details on it would be great.

Dark Archive

Bestiary:

Animals/beasts: Bristle Boar, Bull of Zagresh, Warcat of Rull, Whisperfall Vulture.
Ankhrav
Burning Child,
Dahzagan,
Floodslain Creature (undead),
Juggerloathe

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Bloodied Gauntlets:
This tribe are worshipers of Gorum and it looks like they tend to be closer to CN then any other. They are on the eastern border with lastwall. They are locked into combat with a group of human Gorum worshipers. This tribe is described with having Honor and that they are oddly protective of the human Gorum Worshipers as they respect them for being worthy enemies.

This was the first one I saw I will scan through the rest

EDIT:

Burning Suns:
Are lead by a CG female Orc that worships Sarenrae. She gathers outcast Orcs from the Neighboring areas.

Ice tooth:
They are on the border with the Realm of the Mammoth Lords and raid that country. They are also one of the richest orc tribes as they sell a lot of the war beast they capture to other tribes.

Storm Screamers of Rull:
Led by a CN druid they are mostly peaceful but not weak. They have a good amount of Skalds. There Rangers and Hunters are known for being able to take down "Impossible" game.

I mainly went off there chieftains alignments to find "non evil" tribes

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.
brad2411 wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

This was the first one I saw I will scan through the rest

:)

Dark Archive

Mikaze wrote:
brad2411 wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

This was the first one I saw I will scan through the rest

:)

So far my favorite tribes are the Bloodied Gauntlets, Storm-Screamers of Rull, and Wingrippers.

Silver Crusade

I am very interested in getting to know these Storm Screamers.

Dark Archive

Mikaze wrote:
I am very interested in getting to know these Storm Screamers.

I edited the tribes post up above that has a little on that tribe.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Rull and the Iceteeth sound glorious! Hopefully this hits shelves soon? :D

Dark Archive

DeciusNero wrote:
Rull and the Iceteeth sound glorious! Hopefully this hits shelves soon? :D

Rull is also a god

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
brad2411 wrote:
DeciusNero wrote:
Rull and the Iceteeth sound glorious! Hopefully this hits shelves soon? :D

Rull is also a god

Interesting...

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
DeciusNero wrote:
brad2411 wrote:
DeciusNero wrote:
Rull and the Iceteeth sound glorious! Hopefully this hits shelves soon? :D

Rull is also a god

Interesting...

Rull:
Is the God of Lightning Storms and thunder. Favored Weapon is Falchion. Domains of Air, Chaos, Evil, Weather, Cloud, Demon, storm, winds.

The Chief of the Storm Screamers worships him.


SO many good/neutral Orc tribes! It's awesome. I feel like they would make good player characters for Giantslayer.

Question: are the tribes you listed the only Orc tribes in the whole book? Because I imagine they are a minority among the tons of evil tribes. Unless Paizo wants to avert Always Chaotic Evil so hard that they only listed the nonevil ones.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Good orcs? Great, more cheap XP!

Silver Crusade

5 people marked this as a favorite.
Axial wrote:

SO many good/neutral Orc tribes! It's awesome. I feel like they would make good player characters for Giantslayer.

Question: are the tribes you listed the only Orc tribes in the whole book? Because I imagine they are a minority among the tons of evil tribes. Unless Paizo wants to avert Always Chaotic Evil so hard that they only listed the nonevil ones.

Nah, most of the tribes are still various varieties of evil, which fits the cultural norm for Belkzen. But you'll definitely have some solid options for more heroic orcs as well. :)

If you're interested in playing one for Giantslayer, I can offer supplementary material for the Bloodied Gauntlet(some) and the Burning Suns(a lot) to help you fit into that campaign. I'm sure the creators of the Ice Tooth and Storm Screamer tribes will have some advice too!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns Subscriber

Curious to know, from those of you with the PDF already and willing to share, the level of detail given for Freedomtown?

Is it like the detail given in the player's guide for Giantslayer AP of Tranau... Map, major NPCs, major locations etc?

Thank you

Dark Archive

Axial wrote:

SO many good/neutral Orc tribes! It's awesome. I feel like they would make good player characters for Giantslayer.

Question: are the tribes you listed the only Orc tribes in the whole book? Because I imagine they are a minority among the tons of evil tribes. Unless Paizo wants to avert Always Chaotic Evil so hard that they only listed the nonevil ones.

They are not the only tribes listed and in all truth it is hard to say these are good or neutral tribes as in some of the descriptions they talk about how the tribes are

i.e.:
the storm-screamers of rull even though it says they are peaceful if they are challenged or attacked they can be as blood thirsty as any other orc tribe.

I also went off of the chiefs alignment to pick up those "non evil" tribes meaning they could still be evil just lead by neutrals or in one case a CG.

There are 24 Tribes in the tribes area of the book.

Dark Archive

lacker wrote:

Curious to know, from those of you with the PDF already and willing to share, the level of detail given for Freedomtown?

Is it like the detail given in the player's guide for Giantslayer AP of Tranau... Map, major NPCs, major locations etc?

Thank you

It does have a map and a town stat block with some locales. It is about a half a page of text and the other half a page is the map.

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