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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Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Is there gear or new army formations in this?

Shadow Lodge

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

Okay other question: Having just got this is the Juggerloathe supposed to have a damage type with its swallow whole ability? Otherwise how is it able to make use of its Devour Life ability unless it literally eats someone and they either die passing the gums or bleed out in it's gullet?

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Another question, do Orcs age differently than presented in the ACG, since as it stands Grask is at least 23 years old by the timeline the book presents and worried about hitting middle age but would already be middle aged by the books reckoning.

This only gets exacerbated if you assume he wasn't born directly into the control of the Empty Hand Tribe as the book seems to present and run on (he invents the token system and manages to wrangle together the rest of the stability in Urgir and the region by then) which means he's likely much closer to his 30's.

Is he actually supposed to already be middle aged or old and worrying about dying, is it a calculation error, or do orcs age differently in Golarion than the book line presents like tieflings?

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
doc the grey wrote:
Okay other question: Having just got this is the Juggerloathe supposed to have a damage type with its swallow whole ability? Otherwise how is it able to make use of its Devour Life ability unless it literally eats someone and they either die passing the gums or bleed out in it's gullet?

Yeah, I was confused by this one, too. Maybe the leeching of life force is reflected by 1d3 negative levels per round, Fort save DC 27 negates (Con-based)?

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Kvantum wrote:
doc the grey wrote:
Okay other question: Having just got this is the Juggerloathe supposed to have a damage type with its swallow whole ability? Otherwise how is it able to make use of its Devour Life ability unless it literally eats someone and they either die passing the gums or bleed out in it's gullet?
Yeah, I was confused by this one, too. Maybe the leeching of life force is reflected by 1d3 negative levels per round, Fort save DC 27 negates (Con-based)?

Did you just make that up or is that something listed somewhere? I've got my book open and I can't find that anywhere.

Silver Crusade

doc the grey wrote:
Okay other question: Having just got this is the Juggerloathe supposed to have a damage type with its swallow whole ability? Otherwise how is it able to make use of its Devour Life ability unless it literally eats someone and they either die passing the gums or bleed out in it's gullet?

This is not an official word, but: I need to get home to check my books but IIRC there should be some lighter-than-expected acid damage. Something might have switched during development. I'll take a look as soon as possible!

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
doc the grey wrote:

Another question, do Orcs age differently than presented in the ACG, since as it stands Grask is at least 23 years old by the timeline the book presents and worried about hitting middle age but would already be middle aged by the books reckoning.

This only gets exacerbated if you assume he wasn't born directly into the control of the Empty Hand Tribe as the book seems to present and run on (he invents the token system and manages to wrangle together the rest of the stability in Urgir and the region by then) which means he's likely much closer to his 30's.

Is he actually supposed to already be middle aged or old and worrying about dying, is it a calculation error, or do orcs age differently in Golarion than the book line presents like tieflings?

To be honest, I forgot that they generally have such short lifespans. On the other hand, Grask is a very unusual orc, and might not yet be under the stat-effects of middle-age. Since his full stat block isn't presented anywhere, you're welcome to create it as you see fit. What IS presented on p. 21, however, is that Grask is quite aware of his mortality, and is worried that his reforms will not outlive him.

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
doc the grey wrote:
Kvantum wrote:
doc the grey wrote:
Okay other question: Having just got this is the Juggerloathe supposed to have a damage type with its swallow whole ability? Otherwise how is it able to make use of its Devour Life ability unless it literally eats someone and they either die passing the gums or bleed out in it's gullet?
Yeah, I was confused by this one, too. Maybe the leeching of life force is reflected by 1d3 negative levels per round, Fort save DC 27 negates (Con-based)?
Did you just make that up or is that something listed somewhere? I've got my book open and I can't find that anywhere.

Made it up based on the text, and the usual rules for negative levels.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Branding Opportunity wrote:
doc the grey wrote:

Another question, do Orcs age differently than presented in the ACG, since as it stands Grask is at least 23 years old by the timeline the book presents and worried about hitting middle age but would already be middle aged by the books reckoning.

This only gets exacerbated if you assume he wasn't born directly into the control of the Empty Hand Tribe as the book seems to present and run on (he invents the token system and manages to wrangle together the rest of the stability in Urgir and the region by then) which means he's likely much closer to his 30's.

Is he actually supposed to already be middle aged or old and worrying about dying, is it a calculation error, or do orcs age differently in Golarion than the book line presents like tieflings?

To be honest, I forgot that they generally have such short lifespans. On the other hand, Grask is a very unusual orc, and might not yet be under the stat-effects of middle-age. Since his full stat block isn't presented anywhere, you're welcome to create it as you see fit. What IS presented on p. 21, however, is that Grask is quite aware of his mortality, and is worried that his reforms will not outlive him.

Yeah I don't doubt that it's something like that for him but I would like to see if that was taken into consideration for the book or not especially since it seems to happen with some other orcs as well.

On the other hand I could also be down with Orcs being super competent like right out the gate. Would be great to find out that the greatest Orc chiefs are usually successful by the time they are 5. Also it would be great to see an adventuring party have to capitulate to a 5 year old grand warchief.


Gotta be honest, I'm loving this book. It presents a METRIC TON of background stuff and what not for the many tribes of Belkzen as well as the locale itself. I love the fact that it shows Orcs can be relatively peaceable with one another when circumstances force them to do so, and I absolutely adore the background info on Grask Uldeth. I do wish there was more on Hundux, my favorite half orc and a possible child of Halgra of the blackened blades. Love the artwork overall especially of Grask, Kring, and that Wingripper cchieftain. I love how Grask seems to be an incredibly intelligent wunderkind of an Orc, and part of me wants him to succeed in creating an incredibly powerful, somewhat stable society, like what Belkzen could be, not what it is. That's why I would have liked some more on Hundux as well. Will there ever be more info on any of them put out sometime in the nearer future? Like helping to stabilize Urgir or improving the strength of some of the tribes?

Silver Crusade

Kvantum wrote:
doc the grey wrote:
Kvantum wrote:
doc the grey wrote:
Okay other question: Having just got this is the Juggerloathe supposed to have a damage type with its swallow whole ability? Otherwise how is it able to make use of its Devour Life ability unless it literally eats someone and they either die passing the gums or bleed out in it's gullet?
Yeah, I was confused by this one, too. Maybe the leeching of life force is reflected by 1d3 negative levels per round, Fort save DC 27 negates (Con-based)?
Did you just make that up or is that something listed somewhere? I've got my book open and I can't find that anywhere.
Made it up based on the text, and the usual rules for negative levels.

After double checking the final version, I'd suggest Kvantum's approach too, alongside acid damage, at most half that represented in the Ejection ability, with the justification being that the negative energy dulls the acid's reactivity both out of practicality given its schtick and pure malicious sadism built into its nature.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Major_Blackhart wrote:
Gotta be honest, I'm loving this book. It presents a METRIC TON of background stuff and what not for the many tribes of Belkzen as well as the locale itself. I love the fact that it shows Orcs can be relatively peaceable with one another when circumstances force them to do so, and I absolutely adore the background info on Grask Uldeth. I do wish there was more on Hundux, my favorite half orc and a possible child of Halgra of the blackened blades. Love the artwork overall especially of Grask, Kring, and that Wingripper cchieftain. I love how Grask seems to be an incredibly intelligent wunderkind of an Orc, and part of me wants him to succeed in creating an incredibly powerful, somewhat stable society, like what Belkzen could be, not what it is. That's why I would have liked some more on Hundux as well. Will there ever be more info on any of them put out sometime in the nearer future? Like helping to stabilize Urgir or improving the strength of some of the tribes?

Glad you like it. There might be more Belkzen stuff in the Giantslayer AP. The first adventure takes place in Trunau, so you're bound to get a lot more background on the town for sure. As for there not being enough on your favorite Belkzen personalities, the softcover campaign books have to cover an entire country, and really just sketch out the rough edges. It's up to GMs, players, and APs to fill in additional details.

Dark Archive

Just got this yesterday, and, while I'm generally not a fan of 'more gods!', these orc gods were pretty interesting. For being limited to Chaotic Evil, and two of their four domains therefore being locked in stone, there was a fair amount of variety, particularly in theme.

Branding Opportunity wrote:
Glad you like it. There might be more Belkzen stuff in the Giantslayer AP.

'Might?' Some of the stuff about a local group of giants and what sort of threat they might pose to both local orcs and humans, in theory, if they got their act together and coordinated with other giants in the region, seemed pretty anvilicious. :)

The text about the previous giant vs. orc battle, and the monument the giants erected to their fallen, also seemed portentous (and intriguing, with the mention of cloud giant magics...).


Anyone else notice the orc on the cover has 6 fingers on his right hand, and the other hand does not have the thumb around the grip of the blade?

Just things i noticed.

I've power skimmed the book and man does this look like a fun one! Really looking forward to diving into this title.


He's also got blonde hair but that's neither here nor there.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

2 people marked this as a favorite.

The Juggeloathe should have a swallow whole that does damage as a bodak's death gaze = 1d4 negative levels per round, with a DC 20 Fortitude save to negate. This save is Charisma-based.


ghost2020 wrote:

Anyone else notice the orc on the cover has 6 fingers on his right hand, and the other hand does not have the thumb around the grip of the blade?

Just things i noticed.

No, even looking for it I get distracted by the war rhino mount!

But looking at it further I only count four fingernails for the right hand, that green band at the left end could be his forearm and not a sixth finger.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
The Juggeloathe should have a swallow whole that does damage as a bodak's death gaze = 1d4 negative levels per round, with a DC 20 Fortitude save to negate. This save is Charisma-based.

Woot! That's terrifying! Ready to add that to my notes and in the meantime will this be reflected in the digital copies soon?


Aaahh yeah ok i figured it was another finger curled under. Forearm- got it now. Maybe. Nope. Brained now wired for another curled finger. Damn. :P
(but yeah that forearm makes more sense)

I like the cover, but i wish it was pulled back a bit, it's too up close, seems too crowded.

Dark Archive

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Owen K. C. Stephens wrote:
The Juggeloathe should have a swallow whole that does damage as a bodak's death gaze = 1d4 negative levels per round, with a DC 20 Fortitude save to negate. This save is Charisma-based.

Charisma-based? Really? It ends up lowering the DC way too much for a CR 16. Astradaemons have a Con-based Devour Soul effect that's along the same lines and it ends up a DC 25. The Plasma Ooze's Engulf has a DC of 33 and it's still the same CR. DC 20 for this is just not nearly good enough for the CR, if you ask me.

Scarab Sages Modules Overlord

1 person marked this as a favorite.

The guidelines for ability DCs by CR say for CR 16, a primary ability should have a DC of 24, and a secondary ability should have a DC of 17. While the swallow whole is a noteworthy and fearful effect, it's certainly not the Juggeloathe's primary ability. And if you DO get swallowed whole, you're making that save every single round. So a DC smack dab between the norm for primary and secondary is perfectly appropriate for the CR 16 monster.


It sounds to me like Sezelrian invented the Scarred Witch Doctor archetype and taught the orcs how to use it. Look at him: he has a mask and scars.


Just ordered this bad boy to help with my Nirmathas campaign and my giantslayer character.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Let us know if you have any questions about it, Brother Fen.

Shadow Lodge

Question regarding the Bull of Zagresh. The stats for a regular BoZ and the animal companion BoZ are listed below. So a standard BoZ is huge and one of its feats is improved natural weapon (gore). It's huge improved gore is 2d6. The animal companion starts at medium with a 1d8 gore and then at 4th level becomes large with a 2d6 gore. Shouldn't a regular BoZ have a huge gore of 4d6 with its improved natural weapon?

N Huge animal
Init +1; Senses low-light vision; Perception +8
DEFENSE
AC 20, touch 9, flat-footed 18 (+1 Dex, +11 natural, –2 size)
hp 85 (9d8+45)
Fort +10, Ref +7, Will +3
OFFENSE
Speed 40 ft.
Melee gore +14 (2d6+15)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Special Attacks trample (3d8+15, DC 24)
STATISTICS
Str 31, Dex 12, Con 19, Int 2, Wis 11, Cha 4
Base Atk +6; CMB +18; CMD 29
Feats Diehard, Endurance, Improved Natural Attack (gore),
Power Attack, Toughness
Skills Perception +8, Swim +17

Animal Companion Starting Statistics: Size Medium; Speed 40 ft.; AC +4 natural
armor; Attack gore (1d8); Ability Scores Str 15, Dex 14, Con
13, Int 2, Wis 11, Cha 4; Special Qualities low-light vision.
4th-Level Advancement: Size Large; AC +3 natural
armor; Attack gore (2d6); Ability Scores Str +8, Dex –2,
Con +4; Special Attacks trample.

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