One of the joys of DMing is seeing the looks on the players? faces when you manage to surprise them. My personal favorite is when I surprise them with some new and bizarre creature they have never heard of. And when it comes to bizarre creatures, they don?t get much more bizarre than the one seen in Highmoon Media?s Bardic Lore: The Fachan.
HMP?s Bardic Lore line is a series of PDF?s dedicated to translating ancient Celtic myth and legend into d20 statistics. The Fachan detailed in this file is a legendary creature of terror that originates in the Highlands of Scotland. I was quite excited to review this product, since I am of Scottish and Irish descent. Legends say that these freakish monsters were said to have only one of all their body parts ? one eye, one leg, one arm, etc. The opening illustration for The Fachan certainly adequately depicts such a creature. Artist Kelso Kaiser?s two Fachan illustrations in this file (the only two illustrations in this file, aside from a Celtic knot work-style border at the bottom of the pages) remind me favorably of the style seen in White Wolf?s Changeling: The Dreaming game, which is good for an illustration trying to capture that same feel of Celtic myth.
The opening text surrounding this initial illustration is a short fiction piece describing a horrific encounter between an angry Fachan and the narrator, one Amergin O?Mil. The story itself is well written and gives an idea of the role this monster takes in the game, but the font it was laid out in is hard to read. This might just be a personal preference, but if the fiction must be in a different font, it really needs to be just as legible as the main body text. That said, while it takes a little longer to work through, this is only a minor problem.
Full d20 stats are given for this new monster, and are laid out in a fairly standard format similar to that seen in the MM. Personally, since legends usually connects the Fachan to their giant relative the Formorian, I?d have liked to seen the Fachan as a Giant. Again, this in no way reduces the playability of the monster as written. It?s just my personal preference based on my interpretation of Scottish myth. And mechanically, the Fachan works just as well as a Monsrous Humanoid.
One particularly nice touch the author includes in the monster?s Special Qualities is a specific mechanic for the creatures Horrid Appearance. Old Scottish tales often detail how a man could die of fright by simply looking at a Fachan. Horrid Appearance allows a Fachan to treat a Charisma penalty as a bonus for the purposes of Intimidation checks. Add in a racial bonus to Intimidate, and you?ve got a scary looking monster, that can use its awful appearance as an advantage. This is a nice design. A brief section on Fachan society and a guide to using them in your campaign rounds out the monster stats.
Guidelines are also included for those brave souls that might like to play a freakish beast as a PC. The Fachan has a Level Adjustment of +1, putting it in the same league as the Bugbear, Hobgoblin, Aasimar and Tiefling. There?s even a three level Racial Paragon class similar to those seen in Unearthed Arcana. A Fachan Paragon can become even more frightening, improve his armor and Strength, and ultimately even grow to large size. This is another reason I feel the Fachan would have been better served by being statted out as a Giant, rather than a Monstrous Humanoid. A sample NPC Fachan named Gwrgenau is also included. Perez wisely chose to have Gwrgenau make use of the new Fachan Racial Paragon class. This is a feature that should be used by more products. By have the new monster use the new class, we see how the author intended both to work together. Gwrgenau?s personality is sparse, but well done. I particularly liked the fact that a leveling scheme is included for Gwrgenau. Not everyone can use a CR 12 monster in their campaigns. By including a leveling scheme, Perez has added a lot of playability to this monster, without requiring too much work on the DM?s part.
As a big Bard fan, I was also quite pleased to see a table including DC?s for Bardic Knowledge checks regarding the Fachan. As I said in the introduction one of the best parts of DMing is seeing the surprise on the faces of the players when they encounter a new monster. Another great feeling is seeing the look of triumph on their faces when the use a rarely utilized ability to gain knowledge about this unfamiliar encounter. This is a feature that would have been a real asset to the MM! Bards are a core class that is difficult for many DM?s to handle. Including Bardic Knowledge checks for new monsters makes a DM?s job easier, and I?m all in favor of that.
Bardic Lore: The Fachan is a solid hit. If you?re running a Celtic themed campaign, this critter is sure to puzzle your PC?s. While mechanically the Fachan is merely playable, the extra effort put into the presentation, even in such a small PDF is quite impressive. You?ll get a lot of mileage out of the Fachan.
LIKED: This product really captures the feel of Celtic myth. The Fachan is not a creature most players are likely to have encountered in other games, so if you're looking for a surprise. This will work really well. The new mechanics for the Facahn's frightening appearance is very flavorful and well done.
DISLIKED: While I would have preferred to see the Fachan statted up as a Giant, hat's just a design preference, and there is nothing mechanically wrong with the creature as presented.
QUALITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Satisfied