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Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Companion (PFRPG)
by Michael M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2013 18:24:38

A few weeks ago, I received a pdf review copy of Shadowsfall from the publisher. I’ve taken the time to digest it and expose my gaming group to the content building up to writing the review.

First Impressions and Design

Shadowsfall is a 34 page document, with 27 pages of content and the rest taken up with covers, legal notices, etc., written by Dale McCoy. My initial impression of the book was very favorable – the cover art is very appropriate (I particularly like the kobold – a variant introduced in the book). The content is broken down into bookmarked sections covering all the things a player might be interested in for play on the shadow plane – races, classes, animals, strongholds, feats, equipment, deities, magic, magic items, and altered items.

The inclusion of the Strongholds section in the middle of the book seemed a little odd to me, that it broke up the mechanical, player-side content in the way it did – but it’s certainly not enough to distract from the usefulness of the book – and serves as a good reminder that this is not just a supplement to Pathfinder, but has elements of setting ingrained in it as well.

Overall, the layout and the art are effective and visually interesting. Most of the art is black and white illustration, with two internal color images. The art was all well chosen and well placed to make effective use of space, and to illustrate something in the text – not just to put art on the page.

The Introduction and How to Use This Book sections set up reader expectation well, establish the nature of the book as a player’s guide with setting content, and set a good tone for the shadow plane as the author envisions it.

Races

The information on races provides notes on the core races (and some of the expanded selection of races) that live in the shadow plane, also providing a new racial trait for each. The traits all seem comfortably to follow the expected curve for traits and are interesting. Some are particularly notable for how they link that race to the changes wrought by their shadow existence but others seem less setting-driven and more because they needed a trait for each included race (I’m looking at you, Elf). I found it interesting that they chose to go down the path of “good drow” in this book – something which is dangerously close to cliché at this point – but I can’t really fault them too much, it is a character type which remains popular with players so, opening the door isn’t really all bad.

The book also introduces two new races, the Umbral Kobold and the Wanderer. The Umbral Kobold is interesting beyond the shadow realm. As a much more balanced and interesting kobold variant than the standard kobold in Pathfinder, this was a real treat. I think I would offer this kobold up as a playable race in any game I ran from here on out in place of the normal kobold. The Umbral Kobold has just enough information to make it a shadow plane race but still works beyond the setting, which is always a bonus in a supplement. And while the Umbral Kobold addresses the weakness of kobolds, the Wanderer seems to wander slightly in another direction. The Wanderer is representative of a celestial being who has chosen to live their life among mortals. They provide an interesting alternative option to the Aasimar for a player who wants to have a touch of celestial might or feeling to their character. The Wanderer is a little less powerful than the Aasimar as well (though not by much) which may provide an alternative a GM feels more comfortable with as well. Wanderers have evocative descriptive text and racial traits, which set them apart nicely and provide a race which will appeal to many players – especially a player who wants to experience a very long-term perspective to their character. That said, they suffer even more from the clash of rules and description in their traits because they are immortal, and carry all the memories of their past lives as celestials, but have no traits related to their previous knowledges, skills, or experiences beyond starting the game speaking celestial. I’ve always found this type of interaction frustrating as a player and I suspect I am not alone.

Classes

The section on classes offers new options for many classes, starting with a discussion of how each class fits into the setting and moving to new archetypes for the magus and fighter, as well as a new cavalier order, new sorcerer bloodline notes, a new school for wizards, new witch hexes, and new evolutions that summoners can use for their eidolons. More than anything, what I found myself wishing for in this section was a sidebar for GMs – despite this being a player book, several of the new options presented seemed tailor made for NPCs and could be used to craft some interesting encounters. A small – For the GM sidebar here would have seemed to fit very well and been a useful addition.

The actual abilities in the section are flavorful, some more expansive than others in how much they change or add to a character’s options, but they all seemed well thought-through. I cannot really say if they were playtested though as no mention of playtesters is made in the credits as far as I can tell. Obviously, I have not tried out all of the options in the book but they seem to remain within a good comfort zone for content to add to an existing pathfinder game.

Animals and Strongholds

While these two sections offer a few mechanics, they are primarily setting information – the animals are all designed to fit the dark theme and do so well – especially with the alternate familiars (I’d love a opossum familiar…). The Strongholds outline some locations of note in the Shadow plane for players to use as adventuring sites, bases of operations, or origin stories. The setting information focuses on a sliver of the Shadow plane called, The Southern Peninsula and provides, in a few pages, enough information to draw players into this world. More than anything, it would seem to me that the goal of this setting information (in a player’s guide) would be to inspire players and give them places they want to visit. In this regard, the chapter succeeds though, as someone who rarely draws upon “established” setting information, I found the fact that this was the largest section of the book to be somewhat surprising. And as I previously mentioned, it does break up the flow of character mechanics information in a strange way.

Feats

Two pages of feats follow the Strongholds section. These feats are introduced with some flavor text to contextualize the offerings. Here again is a decent selection of character options that seem to have well-thought out rules matter, make use of the teamwork feat idea, and are a good mix of shadow plane related and general. Some of the feats do seem a little overpowered – primarily because of a lack of appropriate prerequisites. The Shadow Style tree of Style Feats gives me pause as a GM. I’d look long and hard at these before allowing them into a campaign. The high level requirements of the feats do mitigate their amazing effectiveness somewhat but they still have the potential to be problematic.

Equipment

Two pages of equipment offer some new items tied to the stories and setting of the shadow plane and provide new options for weapons, alchemical items, drugs, and even vehicles. The Reaper land vehicle is a classic sword-and-sorcery style vehicle that just seems like a fun addition to any campaign world.

Religion

The section on the religions of the shadow plane offers new deities specific to the setting, a new philosophy, two new subdomains (one based on Kytons, which I’m actually excited to try out), and a new oracle mystery. The new mystery is based around the idea of Joy and is one that seems like it would adapt well to any setting, making it a valuable character option for Shadowsfall but also beyond.

Magic, Magic Items, & Altered Items

Six spells, six magic items, and an assortment of items with altered options round out the offerings of the book. The spells range from variations on existing spells such as a Greater Disrupt Undead spell to completely original offerings. If anything, I would say the spells are too safe in their power level and may be tough sells for players to take over other options. The new spells are clever and flavorful though will increases their interest level.

The magic items are also clever and well integrated into the tone of the book. That said, this section is cramped and doesn’t leave much room for flavor text so it might have been nice to cut an item to allow the author to really amp up the remaining offerings. This is a minor nitpick though as each item has everything you need to bring it to the table. I can’t wait to put a Kyton Slavery Whip in a treasure hoard and see what they players make of it.

The section on altered items is a nice add on to the book. I was surprised by this, though I shouldn’t have been, because of the planar nature of the setting material. More than the specific items though, this section shines for offering up a cool idea and giving it some mechanics and examples. This is something more books could do and when done well it is rewarding.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I like the book. This is my second product from JBE (I purchased the Guide to the River Kingdoms when running a Kingmaker game) and I’m happy with the quality of the books, the quality of the content, and the options presented that I feel I can safely add to my games without too much oversight or worry. I could recommend this product to players and GMs, whether running a Shadow Plane themed game or not, and that more than anything means a lot to me.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Companion (PFRPG)
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Book of Magic: Insurgency of Summer (PFRPG)
by Bryan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/08/2013 22:56:10

Insurgency of summer is much shorter of a book than I had originally anticipated. It provides some very nice new fiery spells, creatures and Magical Items; but lacks any form of charcter options. I had expected at least a short five level prestige class that would be beneficial to fire casters. That being said, the new damage spells herein pack a nice punch, but I had expected Insurgency of Summer to at least list spells from other books that could be useful to fire casters. All things considerd the material in this book is a useful add on for a character who needs a bit more and has failed to find something elsewhere that fits what they wanted.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Magic: Insurgency of Summer (PFRPG)
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for downloading and reviewing this. I would like to mentioned that your review is not entirely accurate. You mentioned it "lacks any form of character options." However, it does cleric subdomains, witch patrons, animal companions, improved familiars, a bard masterpiece and a magic item. I understand your desire for more, be we did list what was in it in the description. Thank you for your feedback. We will be sure to incorporate it into future book.
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/08/2013 21:03:02

Disclaimer: I was given a reviewer’s copy of this book. However, I am not paid for this review.

What you get: This pdf is 14 pages long. Cover (1), Title Page (1), Table of Contents w/ introduction (1), Universal Monster Rules and OGL (2), leaving 9 pages of beasts. At one monster per page, that buys you 9 monsters for $2.99.

Artwork: The artwork was okay to very good. Some of the art looked like a doctored photograph of something holiday themed (nutcracker, gingerbread cookie, meringue cookie), some looked like holiday cartoons, and some was exactly what you expect out of quality monster books.

Layout and Editing: Document is laid out in a standard two column format. Editing is superb. The only error I could find was a missing period in Appendix 2, Psychopomp Subtype.

Overall Impression: This book of Christmas/winter-holiday themed monsters is the first published material (I know of) from JBE’s new editor, Richard Moore. As you might suspect from the Santa hatted lich on the cover, there is significant selection of silliness in this book. You get constructs like the clockwork nutcracker and a golem made of gingerbread. You’ll find singing undead and Santa’s elves and Reindeer as you’ve never seen them before. If your party is hungry for more, you can serve up a killer fruitcake and wash it down with eggnog pudding. Although the theme of the book is silly holiday spirit, these monsters are still deadly serious. Any GM could easily strip the holiday out of the description and serve them up to players. CR’s range from 1 to 13. So, what’s the verdict for a rating? I like silly, so that was a mark up in my book. The monsters are well written and usable (and deadly!), even in a non-holiday themed campaign or adventure. The writing was pleasant to read; instead of slogging through a bunch of monsters, I was excited to see what made each one special. On the down side, it IS a specifically holiday-themed product, which could limit its usefulness for the less creative GM. It is also rather short for the price at 33 cents per monster.

Final Rating: That brings me to a rating of three and a half stars, rounded up to 4. If there’s one thing JBE writes well, it’s monster books!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
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Shadowsfall Legends: The Gem That Caught Fire - Kurdag's Tale
by Bryan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/08/2013 10:32:40

The Gem that Caught Fire Sports your typical nonhuman mad scientist type of Chaotic Neutral tinkerer's mayhem. Alchemy, if I do say so myself, is an under-utilized craft throughtout Pathfinder games; and a goblinoid throwing bombs like Link in a china shop reminds me in particular of how a little chaotic comical mayhem can really make a game interesting. I'm already liking the overall nature of the Umbral Kobold now that I've seen it fleshed out in a story like this. The taunting demeanor mixed with a need to sow a certain amount of chaos makes any character more fun to watch. I particularly like the imagery I get from the description of the city buildings here; very Tim Burton esque. Shadowsfall is really shaping up to be a nightmare before christmas meets assassin's creed type flavor; and that's always the best kind of city to play in. I whol-heartedly approve and I intend to share Shadowsfall with any group I can get my hands on.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall Legends: The Gem That Caught Fire - Kurdag's Tale
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Shadowsfall Legends: Pawn, Deception, and Sacrifice—Valdia's Tale
by Bryan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/08/2013 10:21:29

Pawn, Deception and Sacrifice is an interesting short story That I feel only scrathces the surface of What Shadowsfall has to offer. While the story here could be used as an interesting moral dilemma for a plot twist; the aspect of death, decay and demonic taint is not so uncommon in normal Material Realm Pathfinder Adventures. While it can be argued that this story is as vague as it is to avoid giving away too much about Shadowsfall; it is my opinion that such stories exist to reimagine and give life to the grim truths about such worlds. Even for a cliffhangar of a short story, I feel this book is somewhat undercut from what Shadowsfall has to offer. The actual characters were given distinct, if not cliche' personalities that made the story sound more of a copy-cat circumstantial cardboard cut out from pretty much any additive that came anywhere from videogame fetch and go missions to good old D&D misdirection. That being said; Pawn, Deception and Sacrifice {while being somewhat underdone} shows that it has the promise to evolve into a proper Shadowsfall novel given the right creative process that allows more and more of the denizens of Shadowsfall to find their way into the story.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall Legends: Pawn, Deception, and Sacrifice—Valdia's Tale
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Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Companion (PFRPG)
by Bryan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/06/2013 19:40:04

The idea of shadowsfall being a lost and found collective across all dimensions is fantasic. It makes Shadowsfall the perfect campaign setting to plan a game from 1 to Epic. The exspansive world Shadowsfall can be allows any DM to create entire millenia of backstory to add endless flavor or twist to any campaign.

I like the new races; but Shadowsfall has nothing in the way of new classes, which is very odd for a shadow plane of everything forgotten or lost over the known existence of time. The Wanderer Race is especially intruiging. A fallen angel, Ill-suited to being a paladin or cleric; that can wield a holy weapon no matter what their actual alignment is. Seems like it could make a good reason to play an evil rogue sneak attacking with a holy avenger. Just because you can. Or perhaps a two weapon fighting Warrior with both a good and evil artifact sword, both with their own personalities and psychic voices so they can argue throughout the entire campaign.

I see no true flaws with this book or the campaign setting. It's more vast and open ended than any other world, which for any other setting would make it seem incomplete; but with Shadowsfall it sparks the imagination into the possibilities of the forgotten past and actually encourages DM's to spend months {or even years} creating a unique version of shadowsfall, with special qualities from forgotten pasts that hint at forgotten wars covered up by powerful magic and ancient devices with unknown purposes from unknown planes of existence.

The possibilities with Shadowsfall are truly endless, and as a DM who tends to create campaigns from scrath {or even creat new games altogether} Its nice to finally have a concrete setting with a very changable world.

As a side note to players; look up the sword and socery: relics and rituals core book. The Penumbral Lord Prestige class is an excellent choice for spellcasters in Shadowsfall, if your DM will let you use it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Companion (PFRPG)
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Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/30/2012 08:43:26

This is a short bestiary of very silly Pathfinder compatible holiday themed monsters. You get the Aberrant Fruitcake, Clockwork Nutcracker, Gingerbread Golem, Eggnog Pudding, Dreidel Swarm, and four others in this collection.

As silly as they are, each entry is given a bit of background info that is well written, and will make it a bit easier for you to find a place for these creatures in your campaign. Just be sure to expect some eye-rolling from your players once they figure out what they're fighting next.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
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Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/24/2012 01:54:08

OK...let's begin with the statement that I am not a fan of humor in my game material. I know, I know, how very grinch like of me, but there it is. That being said, a product that is in fact a humorous product is not quite the same, now is it? I knew the second I saw the cover that what I had in my hands was a tongue in cheek collection of creatures...something for those looking to inject some holiday humor into their gametop...what I was not expecting was the solid design behind the creatures.

Yeah, I said it, solidly designed critters. Now, granted, their are a few here that will probably only ever exist in a game meant for laughs, such as the Gingerbread Golem, Eggnog Pudding, or even the Aberrant Fruitcake...but their designs are still logical and solid enough to field them, with effectiveness. That spoke through, loud and clear.

Taking a step towards the undead side of things I have got to say the Dirge Caroler is hands down my favorite creature in this collection, and oddly invokes some nostalgia for classic Doctor Who in me...not sure if it was just the feel of the creature or if there was something similar in an episode, regardless they are a cool concept. Leading a "caroling choir" of well dressed zombies, the dirge carolers enchant and devour to their heart's content within communities, adding a serious level of creepy to those annoying folks wandering around singing.

And the Dreidel Swarm, now that is an interesting concept, and a well executed one at that. That is easily something I can see getting some mileage at a gametable, showing up perhaps in the lair of a demented toy-maker....hmmm, excuse me, need to make a few notes....

Point being, if you are looking for a cool little collection of holiday inspired creatures, you've found them, period. There's something in here for any play style, and then some.

Now, did I have issues with a few things? Yeah...the art is all over the place, some pieces being extremely cartoony, perhaps even childish...but for what this collection is, that oddly added to the charm of the product. Which brings me to my only true complaint in regards to design, and that is the Clockwork Nutcracker having no form of bite attack. It seems an almost given that there would be some special linked with that gaping maw of his.

All in all though, as I stated, the creatures here are a good collection of holiday inspired weirdness, ready to bring a few smiles to the table as you roll some dice with friends under the tree.

A 5 star rating for a rather unique collection of oddities.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/23/2012 05:45:38

This pdf is 14 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword,2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 10 1/3 pages of content, so let's check out these holiday-themed creatures!

The first would be the Aberrant Fruitcake (CR 5),a feline-looking, sticky conglomerate of fruitcakes, taken from the world and lost in the shadow plane, infused by dread entropic energies.

Bloodhoves are CR 8 flying reindeers that could have been part of the woodland critetr christmas of South Park - deadly, and while a herbivore, prone to putting hooves and muzzle in the blood of vanquished foes.

Now the CR 4 Clockwork Nutcracker with its oversized hat (providing cover for allies) and blunderbuss makes for a great creature that could be considered an excellent addition to e.g. the Zobeck-setting - combine the Mouse King and the nutcracker and you get a cool idea for a module...

The CR 11 Gingerbread Golem comes with a neat spicy breath ability and a cool weakness - they are penalized if you steal their gumdrop buttons - and yes, they are fast!

The CR 3 Dirge Caroler is an undead, impoverished halfling, featuring wis-penalizing deadly dirges and the option to command the undead servants of his.

The CR 2 Dreidel Swarm is an uncommon swarm of miniature constructs that come with cool signature abilities galore, even beyond sneak attack and tripping capability - draining e.g. constitution, flat-footing foes, fascinating them or dealing more damage.

On the more weird and funny side, the Eggnog Pudding (ooze), which is not only highly flammable, but also comes with a nauseating slam and the power to split and cling to walls and ceilings.

The most powerful critter herein is the Psychopomp Wild Hunter (CR 13), who would also make for a great cadre of servants of Oberon/Auberyon with their ghostly servants, spiritsense and final death waiting at their hands...

More on the trickster-side of the fey-spectrum, we get the Scandinavian Totemnisse, tiny boot portal teleporting and jinx-using mischievous and benevolent fey.

The pdf closes with universal monster rules and the clockwork and psychopomp-subtypes being detailed.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting, while not top-notch, are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to an easy-to-read two-column standard with a parchment-like background and the (stock) artworks are ok at this price-point. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is commendable. The pdf is also hyperlinked.

Author Richard Moore has actually created a neat little array of funny monsters that not only are amusing to run, but actually come with intriguing signature abilities that make me want to use some of these and even brought me inspiration to develop some adventure-ideas. At the low price, a solid offering of neat critters that deserves a final rating of 5 stars, just short of the seal of approval.

Merry Christmas/whatever you celebrate! Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
by Nick F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/21/2012 08:58:13

Buying this collection of creepy holiday creatures is the best way to get over your disappointment that the world didn't end this morning.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
by Wendy M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/20/2012 15:32:48

These critters are fantastic! I alternated between laughing myself silly and quivering in terror as I read the descriptions. Some are pulled from folk tales, much like the ones my somewhat-twisted father told me, and others are like a Christmas buffet gone amok. What a delightful way to add some seasonal flavor to a game!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/20/2012 06:10:37

TV shows persist in doing it, so why not have a holiday-themed game... or at least the odd appropriate monster! Here's a collection of some nine beasties that in some way have a seasonally-aposite theme. Let them loose if you are lucky enough to have a game during the holidays. If, like me, all your role-players vanish as soon as the mince pies come out (after grabbing a handful, of course) most can be used anytime you need a wintry critter, although you might want to change the name.

Yup. They have seasonal - and quite silly - names, and you may find it hard to keep a straight face when an aberrant fruitcake or a dreidel swarm hoves into view! The monsters themselves are quite well-developed (and ought to prove a challenge), although sometimes the illustrations do not quite match the descriptions. An aberrand fruitcake, for example, is described as being a stack of fruitcakes arranged in a roughly quadruped form but the illustration is of a glorious leopard-like creature with spots the colours of candied fruit on tawny fur!

The clockwork nutcracker is a fine and quite terrifying construct, redolent of the one from the 'Nutcracker Suite' while drige carollers bring a whiff of decay and a threat you don't normally expect from a buch of carol-singers. The dreidel swarm also provides a level of threat rarely posed by regular toys and is really rather fun (if you are safe behind the GM's screen, anyway!). As for a gingerbread golem...

The nice thing is the level of detail and how appropriate everything is - with special abilities and attacks honed to suit the flavour of the monster in question. Even if you don't normally care for 'joke' monsters, these are worth a look.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races: Half-Faerie Dragons (PFRPG)
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2012 14:51:58

There’s that one gamer at every table that seems to approach the game with the idea that irreverence is the soul of fun; that is, they draw joy from taking nothing seriously, regardless of the circumstances or consequences of doing so. The challenge for the GM, and often the other players, is usually to find a way to make that PC function within the boundaries of the game, where the player can be true to what they want, without being disruptive.

I mention this because Jon Brazer Enterprises’ Book of Heroic Races: Half-Faerie Dragons, seems to be aimed squarely at this middle route. Shockingly, it actually seems to manage to walk it. Let’s take a closer look.

The book comes with the requisite aspects of a PDF product, in that it has full nested bookmarks and copy-and-paste is enabled. More striking, however, is the book’s spartan visual presentation. Now, to be clear, there is artwork here, having several color and black-and-white pieces, usually set in the center of the page with the two columns of text flowing around them. The issue here is that that isn’t enough.

The nature of half-faerie dragons is that they’re Chaotic Outgoing, possessing a manic nature with a focus on pranks and illusions. It’s therefore something of an irony that, save for the aforementioned art, the book presents itself with stark austerity. There are no page borders here, nor are there any backgrounds; just black text on white pages. Normally I’m glad for printer-friendly materials in a PDF product, but here the contrast is sharp enough with the subject matter that I can’t help but find it somewhat ironic.

The heavy text itself has an off-putting effect, albeit a very slight one. While most of the pages have their visual design enhanced with bullet points, tables, sidebars, or the aforementioned art, you will run across the occasional page with densely-packed text and little else. It’s somewhat fitting that these sections tend to be the flavor text for half-faerie dragons, as it pretty well encapsulates the idea of them fluttering around you and chattering at you nonstop.

The book opens with roughly a page-and-a-quarter of framing fiction which very clearly encapsulates not only the mania but the magical nature that are archetypal among half-faerie dragons, after which we’re presented with their racial stats. I frowned just a little to see that they didn’t have the Advanced Race Guide-style racial point breakdown for their race’s abilities; this isn’t a big deal, but it references the ARG for one or two other things (such as alternate racial abilities, though it notes that are also found in the Advanced Player’s Guide), so their lack of inclusion is somewhat notable. Also, half-faerie dragons have the “draconic” subtype?

The book doesn’t dive into the crunch straight away, however, as we’re given several more pages of the flavor text, Core Rulebook-style, about things like half-faerie dragons appearance, alignment, why they advanture, etc. The surprising length of each section is characteristic of the book where non-mechanical aspects of the race are concerned, and is something I’m of two minds about. One the one hand, all too often we’re given a new race without any real idea of what makes them different – they’re given a few broad (and often predictable) strokes regarding the roles they fall into, and that’s that. Here, at least, the author is trying to give us more than just a few sweeping statements about half-faerie dragons; he’s clearly got a very specific idea in mind and wants to communicate that.

The drawback to this strong authorial voice is that, in addition to simply being daunting at times, it can also start to feel something like a straitjacket. The idea of half-faerie dragons as giddy magical pranksters is hammered home quite often throughout the book, to the point where you have a hard time seeing a half-faerie dragon character any other way. If a new race can be typecast right out of the gate, the half-faerie dragon surely has been.

I also can’t help but bring up the book’s stance that, yes while the occasional half-faerie dragon is the result of a faerie-dragon/humanoid pairing, most are born to existing half-faerie dragons. In other words, that there’s already a stable population of these half-breeds so that they now breed true. While not quite as disingenuous as Paizo’s “most half-dragons are the results of magical experiments, and not that dragons are kinky…honest,” it still smacks of a taking the easy way out regarding the thorny issue of half-faerie dragons being prevalent enough to get their own sourcebook to begin with. It’s not an issue of practicality, but it was still mildly irking regardless.

Beyond this, the book (quite wisely) switches back and forth between fluff and crunch as it progresses. We’re given a suite of half-faerie dragon-specific traits, alternate racial abilities, and favored class bonuses, after which is a large section on their psychology and lands, before dealing with their vital statistics tables (for which I give props for remembering an oft-forgotten part of including a new race). Following this are new archetypes and prestige classes, feats, and equipment.

The above new crunch is good, but nothing that sets a new standard, with one exception. Early in the book the flavor text tries to paint the picture that half-faerie dragons are drawn to arcane magic holistically, that they trend towards preparatory and spontaneous arcane spellcasting, rather than one or the other. If that seems odd, it struck me that way too, until I saw the new prestige class here: the dappled theurge. I was quite struck by this, because it’s essentially a mystic theurge prestige class for preparatory and spontaneous arcane spellcasters. On paper, this may sound like a silly idea, but it works…or at least, it works as well as the normal mystic theurge PrC does, which meanst hat, at the very least, it puts the idea of a multiclass preparatory/spontaneous character in the realm of something feasible – it’s something genuinely new, and given that it’s done by using such a small yet artful twist on an existing PrC, it’s truly notable for that.

Three new faerie dragon deities are presented, forming their own mini-pantheon for religiously-inclined half-faerie dragons. The deities themselves are presented in something of an abstract way, denoting their relationship to each other more than how they interact with mortals, though they do note how mortals tend to view them. I appreciate that these write-ups included subdomains and oracle mysteries, but it was slightly vexing that their holy symbols weren’t listed (nor, to be exceptionally picky, are inquisitions, a minor game mechanic introduced in Ultimate Magic for the inquisitor class).

Several new spells, magic items, and even artifacts follow, before the book takes a long look at several half-faerie dragon communities (no community stats given) and how to use the race in your game, finally closing out with three NPCs.

That’s the entire book in a nutshell. Overall, how much you take away from this is likely to depend strongly on to what degree the author’s intent for the race influences you. Without a doubt, there’s enough new mechanics here that you could do a great deal with half-faerie dragon PCs and NPCs for quite a while. It’s the flavor text, however, that will likely make or break your enthusiasm for what’s here – if you agree with and like the idea of this as a race of merry magic pranksters, but still want to really role-play them, then you’ll likely find this book to be made out of solid gold. On the other hand, if you find preconceived notions and attitudes for the race your playing to be obstacles more than springboards, then you’ll probably feel like you’re swimming upstream against the author’s writing.

Having said that, I do appreciate that having more to work with, even if you don’t agree with what’s here, is far better than lacking material to work with at all. When it comes to new races, less is not more. Given that, and that the other issues I had with the book were small omissions and stylistic disagreements, I can’t find any reason to give the Book of Heroic Races: Half-Faerie Dragons full marks. Five out of five fluttery butterfly wings.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Heroic Races: Half-Faerie Dragons (PFRPG)
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Book of Friends and Foes: Ratfolk of the Ruins (PFRPG)
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/19/2012 20:40:38

[b]What you get:[/b] This PDF only document is 12 pages long; front and back cover, title page and OGL take up 4 pages leaving 8 pages of content. On those 8 pages you get a new race: “Ratfolk” created using the rules from the Advanced Race Guide and 7 Ratfolk NPC’s of the following CR’s: 1/2, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8. You also get the Hero Lab files for the content.

[b]Artwork[/b]: There are 5 illustrations in the book ranging from “Meh” to “Excellent.” One illustration is in color (and would not look out of place in a Paizo AP or Module), and the rest are black and white.

[b]Layout and Editing:[/b] Layout is a standard two column layout. Editing was very good, I noticed only one error in the entire document.

[b]Overall Impression:[/b] If you came here looking for Wererats, you are in the wrong place. This book is filled with small humanoid rats. Two of the NPC’s listed are low level warriors for another of the NPC’s. The range of listed NPC’s is good. All of them could be helpful or harmful to a party to a greater or lesser extent. Each of the five NPC’s outlined has a reasonable backstory with potential plot hooks that could be used to drop them into an adventure.

[b]Final Rating[/b]: 4 out of 5 stars. Editing was great, price may be viewed as high for 7 NPC’s. The Excellent artwork balanced out the “Meh” artwork. If you are looking to run a sewer themed adventure, this would be a good investment.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Friends and Foes: Ratfolk of the Ruins (PFRPG)
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Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Companion (PFRPG)
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/17/2012 21:36:17

Disclaimer: I was given a reviewer’s copy of this book. However, I am not paid for this review. That said, prior to being asked to review the book, I had already preordered it.

What you get: This document is 34 pages long: one front cover, one table of contents, one page of OGL with an add, and one back cover leaving 30 pages of plane of shadows content. The physical book has a color cover with a black and white interior. The digital copy comes with two pdf’s: one is a printer-friendly black and white with color covers. It is basically almost exactly the dead-tree print version in pdf form. The second is a beautiful full-color pdf with parchment background. The digital copy also comes with Hero Lab files to allow you run Shadowsfall classes, races, deities, and all the options in Hero Lab. The digital copy also has hyperlinks to the PFSRD website to allow for easy access to all open Paizo content that is referenced. Now that we have the indisputable facts out of the way, let’s get down to my opinions!

Artwork: Jon Brazer Enterprises did not skimp on the art budget for this book. The artwork is mostly black and white and is good to excellent. The most of the art is better than what was in the [i]Book of Beasts Monsters of the Shadow Plane[/i]. There are two pieces of full color art that are very good. The picture of the wanderer is as good as the Player Class artwork that I have seen in the Pathfinder books or in the 3.5 Player’s Handbook. The black and white artwork is still black and white in the full-color-parchment-background pdf, so it sticks out a bit, but the quality of the majority of it is high enough that it doesn’t detract from the reading experience. Some of the highest quality art was of the Shadowfall iconics; I assume that this artwork was commissioned for the Shadowsfall products.

Layout and Editing: Layout adhered to a two-column standard. Editing was top notch. I tip my hat to the new editors at Jon Brazer Enterprises! There were very few errors that I noticed.

Overall Impression: This book is designed to give players and GM’s options for running an adventure or campaign in the plane of shadows. Everything that gets lost on the material plane ends up on the plane of shadows. Undead are much more common on the plane of shadows, and they are less limited there. This is [b]not[/b] a nice place to live. All light sources are cut in half, fire and light spells are harder to cast, shadow spells are easier to cast. Zombies are everywhere.

The plane of shadows slowly changes everyone who lives there, so many of the playable races (pulling lots of material from the Advanced Race Guide) are somewhat modified. Halflings are more like Gollum than Bilbo, Elves grow more Drow-like with each generation, and Dwarves slowly turn into Duergar as the generations go by. Some races are playable that would not normally be played: Dhampir, Drow, Duergar, Hobgoblins, Orcs, and Ratfolk are all common races. There are racial traits for all the races.

Two new races are included: The Umbral Kobold and the Wanderer. Umbral Kobolds are, well, Kobolds. They are small, quick, have darkvision and light sensitivity. The Wanderer is a celestial who has lost their immortality and looks human. I like the flavor of the wanderer race a lot.

Archetypes: Dusk Stalker is a magus archetype that allows a kobold magus to be a bit more roguish. Radiant Knight is a fighter archetype that allows a wanderer to use their Vestige of Holiness to provide themselves with some holy light themed abilities. The Radiant Knight archetype really makes me want to play a Wanderer when I play in Shadowsfall.

There is a new cavalier order, modified dragonblooded bloodlines for sorcerers, new evolution point options for the summoner, a Shadow elementalist school for wizards, and a new Witch hex. There are new animal companion options, including the Riding Dodo. It makes sense that an extinct species would end up on the plane of shadows. There are also new options for familiars; Pathfinder wizards can finally pull a rabbit (familiar) out of their hat!

Seven Strongholds (and the area outside the strongholds) are detailed, getting a half page each. Each also has associated traits for adventurers coming from that stronghold. Each stronghold is unique and well written. The traits do not seem to be overpowered and fit the flavor of each area. Room is left in Shadowsfall for an intrepid group of adventurers to establish their [i]own[/i] Stronghold.

Thirteen new feats are provided, one of which allows any character to gain 30ft. Darkvision (must be taken at first level). There is a set of feats that amount to a Shadow Style for the monk, allowing you to move faster, bypass a portion of enemy armor and deal strength damage. Combat, Teamwork, and Metamagic feats are all represented.

Some new equipment is available, including two new vehicles using the vehicle rules from ultimate combat. Deities across the alignment spectrum are well written and thematically appropriate. The Oracle’s Joy mystery is interesting; it requires a level of bard to access one of the revelations. The capstone ability is very powerful, but not unbalanced for 20th level play.

There is one page of new spells, which are mostly shadow related. I was a bit surprised at the first level spell Flicker, which functions like Invisibility but lasts only until the end of your next turn. The spells seems pretty powerful for a first level spell, but I would have to see how it played out. I can see Wizard/Rogues abusing it.

There is one page of new magic items, that are mostly shadow or undead related. I like the salve that gives you darkvision! I also liked the cloak that operates differently (and more powerfully) on the plane of shadows. Neat stuff here.

The two pages of “Altered Magical Items” is my favorite part of this book. In the same way that the plane of shadows corrupts all creatures that live there, it corrupts the operation of magical items. My favorite is the Ring of Troll Regeneration, which operates exactly like a Ring of Regeneration, except that it slowly changes your appearance so that you look like a troll.

I read all my gaming products on a netbook which has limited processor power; I found that the black and white version had less “lag” than the full color version. I found that I preferred reading the black and white over the color, though if I were to print it out, I would print the color version.

Final Rating: The purpose of this book is to provide options and background for players rolling up PC’s to run in Shadowsfall. It succeeds in that purpose. There are options for all of the PC classes, there are new races (designed according to the Advanced Race Guide rules) for players (and GM’s) to use. Layout and editing were great. I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about this book. 5 out of 5 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Companion (PFRPG)
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