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Annals of the Drunken Wizard: +0 Weapon Modifiers [PFRPG]
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/07/2013 20:19:38
Magic weapons are something of a drag at lower levels. The requirement that you must have a +1 enhancement bonus first, not to mention the high cost of a +2 weapon (which is what you need to get beyond just adding “plusses” to hit and damage) means that low-level characters aren’t going to get cool magic weapons.

That’s the reasoning behind Interjection Games’s latest Annals of the Drunken Wizard: +0 Weapon Modifiers.

Five pages long, with one page for the cover and another for the OGL, +0 Weapon Modifiers is short but sweet, listing twenty new minor magic weapon properties in the remaining three pages. Beyond its cover, the book makes for a fairly spartan display, though it tries to juice its aesthetics up with thin but conspicuous page borders, and the occasional black and white illustration of a small runic design.

The book gives us two paragraphs of how +0 weapon modifiers work, and actually manages to hit pretty much all of the information we need in that space. For example, it is mentioned that weapons with these enchantments still require a +1 bonus (something which I think was a mistake; these would make great enchantments that could be placed on non-magical – and even non-masterwork – weapons, making for a new class of “minor magic weapons”), that each weapon may only have one such +0 enchantment (a somewhat heavy-handed but necessary restriction), and that if issues of pricing are necessary, to assume that a +0 weapon property has a market price of 500 gp.

This may sound like these enchantments grant something for (almost) nothing, but the truth is that the counterbalancing agent for these minor powers are built into the properties themselves. Each grants something, but also introduces a drawback. For most of these, this is to remove the critical hit multiplier from a weapon – a lesser bladethirst enchantment, for example, makes it so that on a critical hit no extra damage is dealt, but the weapon heals the wielder for a number of hit points equal to its enhancement bonus.

One thing that the book didn’t talk about, but which I found to be an interesting thought, is the idea that these enchantments could be viewed as an alternative to standard cursed items, at least for higher-level magic weapons. It’s one thing to give up the critical hit multiplier for a greatclub to be able to dazzle a creature for 1d4 rounds on a critical hit (the flaring property), it’s quite another thing when the weapon is an otherwise-normal +4 keen scythe.

Of course, not all of the weapons balance out by removing the critical multiplier. Several grant a +1 bonus to a certain type of CMB check, but apply a -2 to the wielder’s CMD (apparently versus all kinds of checks). Another removes the weapon’s enhancement bonus from damage rolls, and applies it to initiative instead; there are a number of ways that these weapons incorporate drawbacks into their powers…it’s interesting to consider which seem more worthwhile than others.

Unfortunately, much like the new magic weapon properties here, there were a few drawbacks to the book. The resisting property is merely a cut-and-paste of the raging property’s text, which is clearly in error. Similarly, the weighted property is explicitly called out as being non-magical, which is awkward, since it not only still has a caster level listed (and is noted as having a level requirement to create), but it’s +1 bonus to trip CMB rolls is much the same as other weapons that grant a bonus to another type of CMB rolls…yet those are listed as being magical.

It’s also worth noting that the text on the book’s storefront is not reproduced in the book. While the expository text describing how the material is balanced is essentially restated, the framing fiction from the book’s product page is not to be found here. If you were amused by the opening bit of fiction, you’ll need to go online to reread it.

Overall, despite some odd flaws, the magic properties in +0 Weapon Modifiers are quite colorful, and help to add some necessary innovation to the panoply of standard magic weapon properties. Rather than merely granting another kind of bonus or power, these add something much better: distinctiveness. They may be priced at +0, but that makes what’s here exceptionally valuable.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Annals of the Drunken Wizard: +0 Weapon Modifiers [PFRPG]
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Publisher Reply:
...Really? I did THAT? Well, I feel a bit of a fool. I've fixed Resisting and updated Weighting. I had meant there to be flavor text regarding what lead tends to do to magic in that ability, but them's what happens when the QA professional doesn't do QA. He sucks just like everyone else. May the record show I fixed it within 5 minutes, for whatever that's worth. To you, sir, this is exactly the sort of reviews I like to get. The good, the bad, the ugly, all of it - right in my face, and a better product comes from it. So, thank you, sir. Feel free to contact me at interjectiongames@yahoo.com with the name of one of my cheaper products. I'd be honored to give you a free copy. If there's a problem in THAT one, we can keep the cycle going.
...Ah, featured reviewer. Nevermind, then, but you're cordially invited to use your power to grab free stuff to acquire more free stuff without the obligation of reviewing it; how's that? :P
Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
Publisher: Distant Horizons Games company
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2013 14:42:16
I really don’t know how I’ve gone this long without reviewing this book. I’ve known about it for quite some time, and have been using it for the last several weeks in my home game, yet somehow writing a review didn’t occur to me. That oversight ends now.

I think that for everyone who plays a d20 System game, be it Pathfinder, d20 Modern, 3.5, d20 Future or whatnot, that there’s a sense of frustration with how patchwork the system’s exception-based rules are. That is, if you have an idea for a character, you can try to design an appropriate facsimile, but unless it happens to fall within some very specific parameters, there’ll be some aspect of the character creation mechanics that doesn’t quite fit with what you had in mind.

This, of course, leads to one of two things. Either you modify your expectations to fit within what the “class level” structure allows, or you go on a never-ending hunt for splatbooks and third-party supplements in hopes of finding new rules that will let you build exactly what it is you’re looking for.

Have you ever wanted to build a character that can shapeshift into different forms, but isn’t a druid, or even a spellcaster? What about a character that is able to manipulate fire via dancing? Or one whose spellcasting ability is limited by physical ability, rather than “prepared” spells? How many supplements and sourcebooks would you have to comb through to find rules that could let you play those characters? For that matter, how many would have rules to make ALL of those characters, and whatever others you can imagine?

The correct answer is: one. That being Eclipse: The Codex Persona, from Distant Horizons Games.

Weighing in at just over two hundred pages, Eclipse is an OGL supplement that has generously been made available for free. There’s also a page for a pay-for version of the book, which is completely the same as the free version in every way. In essence, the pay-for version is a tip jar, allowing you to pay for the book if you feel so inclined. Given that this book is essentially the same as every other character book ever released, that’s a staggering level of generosity.

The book hits the technical high marks for what’s expected of a PDF: copy-and-paste is enabled, and there are full, nested bookmarks present. Most helpfully, there is a link to the authors’ blog – I’ll mention why this is helpful shortly.

I should take a moment to mention the artwork. Entirely black and white, the artwork seems to be a mixture of stock art and works from the public domain. Moreover, most pieces are given a humorous caption. I say “humorous” because these captions tend to be of the Monty Python variety (in terms of how they read, rather than any specific quotations). For example, the illustration in the section on shapeshifting is of a woman with inhuman hands licking at her fingers. The caption? “Is it cannibalism if I wasn’t human when I ate him?” They’re pretty much all like that, though some are real groaners. As someone who loves making bad jokes (especially puns) I was tickled by these, but they might induce strain due to excessive eye-rolling in other readers. Be warned.

So now, having said all of that, just what IS Eclipse: The Codex Persona?

Simply put, Eclipse is a point-buy method of character generation for the d20 System. It wasn’t the first book to release a point-buy system, nor was it the most popular (thus far), but it is by far the most successful. Let’s get to why.

The book’s first section introduces the fundamentals. Basically, characters get twenty-four Character Points (CP) at each level. These points can be spent on a variety of things, ranging from the basics (Hit Dice, weapon/armor proficiencies, base attack bonuses, save bonuses, and skill points), to spellcasting abilities, to the much more colorful powers in chapter two, with things like damage reduction, the ability to actively block incoming attacks, esoteric means of communication, and so much more.

A review must, of course, gloss over some details, which is a shame since the first two chapter that detail these myriad abilities take up roughly a third of the book. But there’s something more fundamental that must be taken into account. While a large list of abilities that can be purchased is absolutely necessary to any point-buy system, it’s ultimately going to be limited – it has to be, since no single book can possibly list every ability that will ever be thought of in every other sourcebook, right?

Well, not exactly, no.

What makes Eclipse unique is that it gives a method for tailoring EVERYTHING that can be bought with Character Points, allowing you to alter them as necessary to fit with your idea for how they should work. How does it do this, you ask? By utilizing two related concepts: corruption, and specialization.

To be clear, both of these terms are referring to the same basic idea: that by placing some sort of limitation on an ability, you can give it a corresponding increase in another manner OR you can reduce the amount of Character Points the ability costs. The terms “corruption” is used to refer to a comparatively mild limitation, while the term “specialization” refers to a more severe one. It’s by using these abilities to modify the existing powers that you can create virtually limitless abilities.

For example, the Empowerment special ability lets you use your own ability score modifiers and caster level when activating a magic item, up to (3 + Int mod) times per day (sort of like how magic staves are normally). That costs 6 CP. But you could specialize that ability by limiting it to just, say, magic wands. By accepting that degree of limitation, you can choose to either cut the price in half (3 CP), or keep the full price, but remove the “per day” modifier. So when you make a character that’s a self-styled “Master of Wands” – with little actual spellcasting power, but is able to use magic wands far better than most fully-fledged wizards – you can easily distinguish him from other run-of-the-mill wizards and sorcerers.

The third chapter of the book builds on this, exploring what it calls “paths and powers.” These are, largely, more of the same, but where the first two chapters presented individual abilities that were largely unconnected, the various sections in chapter three showcase powers that have various sub-abilities. For example, channeling is the basic “turn/rebuke undead” power that clerics have. Here, however, not only can you manipulate how powerfully and how often you can channel positive or negative energy, you can do so much more. Beyond things like not needing a holy symbol, you can convert the energy into spell effects, turn or rebuke other types of creatures, grant bonuses to magic weapons, animate corpses, and so much more.

Many of the new abilities presented in chapter three are different systems for using magic. Skill-based magic systems, for example, have multiple different presentations here. So are low-level psychic powers, high-level direct manipulations of magic, mystical artistry, eldritch connections to a land you rule, and even divine ascension, among others.

Chapter four concerns itself solely with epic-level magic. This may seem very specific, but with the various ways to manipulate spellcasting (did I mention the metamagic theorems in chapter two?), it becomes something of a practical concern…depending on the sort of campaign you run. The spells here don’t use, surprisingly, any kind of new system of magic. Rather, they still use spell levels, ranging from level ten spells all the way up through level twenty-four.

It’s in chapter five that we move away from mechanics and more towards how to utilize what’s in the book. There’s a section for players here, and a section for GMs. The player section largely discusses the type of character you want to build, which is more helpful than it sounds when you can build pretty much anything you want. For GMs, the advice is even more practical – any role-playing game system can be abused by problem players, and in an open system like Eclipse, this requires a more proactive GM. Issues of deciding ahead of time what powers (and combinations of powers) should be disallowed are dealt with, in addition to suggestions and advice for what to do if a character goes out of control. Some templates and sample epic-level monsters help to round out the GMs tools.

A few appendices close out the book. There’s a quick example of chakras, presented as an in-game reason for disallowing certain power combinations. The second and third appendix take standard 3.5 and d20 Modern classes and show how they’d be built in Eclipse, along with how to take standard feats using Eclipse abilities. Some helpful worksheets are the last thing given.

If you’ve read this far, you probably have a pretty good sense that I’m a big fan of Eclipse. The author says in the foreword that none of his players want to use any other character-building options besides what’s here, and having gotten a chance to use the book in my own game, I can completely understand why. Why go back to digging through various books to hodge-podge together a character that resembles what you wanted to make, when you can use one book to put together exactly the PC you really want to play?

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Eclipse is a book against which no criticism can be leveled. The biggest critique that can be said of the book is that it’s horribly lacking where examples are concerned. This is no small complaint, as the system is a fairly complex one to understand, especially if you’re expecting more of the fairly rigid class-level structure from standard d20 games. There are numerous points where a helpful example would go a long way towards making things clearer.

To be fair, the book does have examples for some sections, but these are few and far between. The system is, I believe, fairly intuitive…but only after you’ve made a significant investment in understanding exactly what it’s offering and how it goes about doing it. Luckily, there’s a remedy for this: remember the authors’ blog that I mentioned earlier? It has a plethora of sample characters and items built with Eclipse (including my favorite articles on how to build 100% Pathfinder-compatible characters using the book), and more than fills the need for examples of what can be done with Eclipse.

It’s also important to keep Eclipse’s limits in mind. The book allows for many options in building characters, and while this often brushes up against many other parts of the d20 System, there are some that it doesn’t replace. For example, there are many different ways to manipulate the skill system with the powers here, but the system itself is independent of Eclipse (which is why it works with d20 Modern skills, 3.5 skills, Pathfinder skills, etc.). There are different ways to build magic items, but magic items themselves aren’t dealt with here (though relics, which are similar, are). Eclipse is a powerful character generator, but it’s not a complete replacement for your d20 game of choice.

My understanding is that Eclipse is so named because it “eclipses” all other character-building options in the d20 System, and I can honestly say that it does. Think of every fictional character you’ve ever read, watched, or heard about; you can make them all here. You may still need to increase the amount of levels necessary to do it, but it can be done. The Codex Persona is exactly what it promises, and is still completely compatible with whatever d20 game you’re playing, to boot. So put on your protective eyewear and look into the Eclipse.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse: The Codex Persona Shareware
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The Genius Guide to 110 Spell Variants vol. 4
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2013 19:38:31
There’s something of an implicit understanding to the Pathfinder rules; we all take it for granted that the rules are finely-tuned for game balance. Now, certainly it’s true that the game does make an effort to maintain balance, but there’s a corollary that if we mess with things too much, what balance the game has achieved will begin to fall apart. What I enjoy about The Genius Guide to Spell Variants Volume 4, from Super Genius Games, is that it helps to remind us that that assumption isn’t true (or at least, isn’t as severe as we sometimes think).

A fourteen page book, the fourth volume of Spell Variants opens with a discussion of making variant spells, and the formatting used herein. Class spell lists are given, before we move to the variants themselves. Fans of the previous books will find the same style of presentation used here, as each spell is numbered for where it appears among the 110 given in this volume. The variant spells themselves are presented only in terms of how they differ from the original spells (which are always referenced in the descriptive text).

If this makes the book sound prosaic, then it’s only because I’m not doing the contents justice. When you have a spell like Wall of Molten Tar, a sixth-level sorcerer/wizard spell that acts as a Wall of Iron that deals damage as per a Wall of Fire, there’s some great innovation going on. Of course, a few seem to be questionable in their utility, such as Antijuju Field, which only blocks hexes and the magic of hags…but apparently witches are okay.

The occasional error also managed to creep in, mostly in the form of some spell names being unitalicized, and the rare grammatical error. For the most part though, the book is fairly free of technical issues.

Overall, the fourth volume in the Spell Variants line lives up to the high bar set by its predecessors, giving us dozens and dozens of new spells, all without the huge presentation that would normally come from making full descriptive blocks for each; by referencing existing spells and making the necessary changes, class spell lists can be massively expanded without nearly as much effort, or text. See how a few small changes can go a long way in The Genius Guide to Spell Variants Volume 4.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to 110 Spell Variants vol. 4
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Horns of Valhalla
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2013 15:57:28
There are certain magic items in Pathfinder that are classics. These aren’t your typical +1 longswords, but rather the magic items with iconic names and powers that everyone knows about, even if they’ve never gotten one themselves. Things like the staff of the magi, the apparatus of the crab, or the cubic gate. And of course, the horn of Valhalla. This last one, though, carries with it a bit of bookkeeping, as it requires you to have stat blocks for the combatants summoned – there’s also a bit of an oddity in having a horn named after a plane of existence that might not exist in your game.

It’s issues like these that Raging Swan Press aims to take care of with their eponymous Horns of Valhalla supplement. Let’s see how well they do.

On the technical side of things, there are two versions of the supplement, one for screen viewing and the other for printing. That’s what the file names indicate, at least, because I didn’t see any difference between them. Both have the same illustrations, layout, page count, etc. The sole exception was that some of the illustrations are slightly sharper in the print file, but I had to do a side-by-side comparison to notice this.

The product did otherwise hit all of the technical checkmarks that it’s supposed to as a PDF; copy-and-paste is enabled and there are full, nested bookmarks for each section and subsection. In terms of artwork, the book is fairly sparse. There are no backgrounds or page borders, for example. There are enough illustrations that the book never feels visually boring, though, with a black and white illustration, usually of the creatures summoned by various horns, found every few pages.

The book opens by going over the basics of how horns of Valhalla work. Right away, the book presents useful material by giving us additional information (e.g. its armor class, hit points, etc.) and small variants (horns that summon different types of warriors with each use) for the horn. I quite liked this, as these are the sorts of things that nobody cares about until you need them (e.g. somebody tries to sunder a horn), at which point they’re impossible to find. Likewise, I quite enjoy randomized variations on classic things, finding them to be very old school in feeling.

The book suggests a few thematic variants for horns (e.g. a horn of the dwarvish lords), each receiving just a sentence of two of description, before moving on to additional powers and variants. For the most part, these are a large table of additional powers that a horn could have, and how that modifies its caster level and price, along with some additional information regarding horns that are aligned, cursed, and/or intelligent.

This section was quite good, but it was a situation where I felt like it didn’t take a good idea far enough. For example, the table of additional powers didn’t have a percentage, so you can’t (easily) roll randomly on it. Likewise, I would have loved if there had been a table for variant prerequisites for activating a horn (because remember, you need the proper prerequisite to make a horn work correctly, or its summoned warriors attack you).

It’s after this that we’re given full material on six horns: the classic horn of Valhalla and five variants. I say “full material” here because we’re given not only the standard magic item information, but also a visual description, overview of who (or rather, what) typically uses such a horn, and its legend. Oh, and of course, full stat blocks for the creatures it summons.

These five variants are based around themes, with Arachne’s horn, for example, summoning spiders, whereas the horn of the dead summons skeletal warriors. While each horn is detailed nicely, it’s the stat blocks that are the real meat of each item, as having the types of warriors summoned is very convenient. For the most part, the stats themselves seemed fairly consistent, but I did notice the occasional error (for example, the fighters summoned using the horn of the bow have the archer archetype, from the APG. However, they’ve only had the first alternate class ability of that archetype swapped in; the others, such as having trick shot replace armor training, aren’t there.

It’s also worth noting that Raging Swan Press uses a slightly modified version of the typical Pathfinder stat block. Each section, for example, doesn’t have its own header, and one or two things are different, such as a listing for how much a creature’s armor check penalty (or ACP) is. For the most part it’s not a big deal, but it might cause some confusion initially; luckily the book breaks down how it organizes its stat blocks in an appendix, but I still think it might have been better to stick to the standard Pathfinder presentation.

Finally, I question the decision to make all of the creatures listed here be of the construct creature type. I know this follows with what’s listed for the horn of Valhalla in the Core Rulebook, but I suspect that the designers made this change to avoid the thematic problem of summoning actual spirits, not realizing that this creates a more practical problem instead. You see, in addition to having a wide swath of immunities, these creatures also get a fairly hefty bump in hit points – constructs don’t get Constitution bonuses to their Hit Dice, but they get bonus hit points based on size. Since most of these constructs have few Hit Dice, but are man-sized, that means that their hit points have heavily inflated. For example, a typical giant spider is a CR 1 creature with 16 hit points. One summoned with Arachne’s horn, on the other hand, is a CR 1 creature with 33 hit points, and construct immunities. Admittedly, this won’t be a problem since most groups of PCs will likely be higher level than this, but it still seems off to me.

Had it been up to me, I’d have kicked that whole “they’re really constructs” idea to the curb, and just treated all of the combatants summoned by any horn as creatures of the appropriate type; is that really much different from how summoning spells work now? I’m aware that it’s ironic of me to take Raging Swan to task for not hewing closely enough to “traditional” Pathfinder in terms of stat block presentation, while then turning around and saying they shouldn’t have conformed quite so much in the kinds of creature summoned, but there it is.

Overall, Horns of Valhalla is definitely useful to a player, or a GM, who has such a horn. Having the relevant stat blocks at hand is not just useful, but almost necessary for including such an item. The extras and variants are just the icing on the cake. That said, it’s the little things that made me knock a star off of my final rating; the errors with the horn of the bow’s archers, the issues with all of the summons being constructs, etc. were sour notes in the otherwise-clear call of these horns. Still, I recommend this book to those who have or want a horn of Valhalla in their game; without this book, using that horn really blows.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Horns of Valhalla
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#1 With a Bullet Point: 6 Anachronistic Armors
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/03/2013 14:53:17
A lot of gamers forget (or quite often never knew in the first place) that the dividing line between fantasy and science fiction used to be far more permeable than it’s generally considered to be today. Indeed, high-tech-versus-magic remains a sub-genre of its own today, though usually moreso in fiction than in role-playing games. However, we do still see technology creeping into our fantasy in tabletop RPGs, with all of the results that come from getting peanut butter in our chocolate.

#1 With a Bullet Point: 6 Anachronistic Armors, by Super Genius Games, is a product that dives directly, albeit briefly, into this genre mashup. As the title suggests, it provides Pathfinder statistics for six kinds of armor (actually four kinds of armor and two shields) from contemporary Earth.

I had some reservations about this product before I looked at it. I was dubious that the author would simply assign statistics to these armors and shields that would put them on an even keel with standard Pathfinder defensive equipment. That would, in my mind, have defeated the entire point of making these anachronistic armors different – after all, contemporary armor and shields are supposed to be better than older ones, usually in terms of their level of protection versus their weight and bulk, and so just making them have parity with their “medieval” counterparts would have defeated the purpose of statting them at all.

Of course, these guys are called the Super Geniuses for a reason. Author Owen K. C. Stephens saw right through my initial concerns, and did indeed make these armors different, in a way that made them unique and desirable without being overpowering.

The key here is that, for the armors, the bonuses they grant against firearms are much greater than against other kinds of weapons. Indeed, not only does its AC bonus increase, but it makes the attack roll be normal, rather than a touch attach. That’s a HUGE benefit! One of the shields (the tactical shield) offers similar benefits; only the riot shield is not as effective against firearms, but does gain modest benefits against improvised weapons (as well as attacking with it).

That said, there were a few minor quibbles I had with the product. The ceramic armor, for example, apparently has an error in it in that, despite being medium armor, it doesn’t seem to reduce the wearer’s speed rating; there’s no text about that, so I presume it’s in error. Moreover, the armor has a drawback in that its ceramic plates can lose their protective value when damaged; I don’t disapprove of this level of simulationism, but rather wish that there was even a single sentence about what sort of Craft check it would be to make new plates – presumably it’s Craft (armorsmithing), but the DC would presumably be different (since you’re not remaking the entire armor).

That said, some small issues with one armor out of the six here is still a very high bar! Given that the product surprised me by dealing with the issues I was concerned about, and how small its few problems are, I can’t give this less than five out of five stars. If there’s any sort of way your PCs can get access to equipment from other times and places, they’d do far worse than to pick up some anachronistic armors.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 6 Anachronistic Armors
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Way of the Wicked Book Six: The Wages of Sin
Publisher: Fire Mountain Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2013 20:22:41
It is said that all evil needs to triumph is for good men to do nothing. That may be true, but what about when good men (and women…and dragons, celestials, and so many more) do, in fact, do something? Can evil still be triumphant then? That’s the question that has been posed throughout the Way of the Wicked adventure path, from Fire Mountain Games, and the final answer is presented in the sixth and final book in the series, The Wages of Sin.

The Wages of Sin is presented in three files: the main book, a printer-friendly version thereof, and a set of player handouts. The player handouts are, for the most part, maps with the GM-only information removed, though one illustration is there too. The counterparts, with the GM information added, are found in the main book.

The printer-friendly file is the main file down to a “T,” save for turning the page borders into grayscale and removing the page backgrounds. This may sound like a lot, but it still preserves all of the interior illustrations, all in full color. I maintain that this detracts from the “printer-friendly” part of the equation, especially since several of these illustrations take up an entire page (though, to be fair, that does mean you can skip over those pages altogether).

It’s on that note that I do need to talk about the illustrations again. Michael Clarke’s talent is on full display once again, with a large number of full-color illustrations, many of which, as noted, take up an entire page. The artwork here is gorgeous, enough so that I wish that there was a separate file of just the art so that it could be shown to the players without needing to let them see the accompanying text (on the non-full-page illustrations, I mean). Heck, I just wish that there was an artbook of this material for its own sake.

The main file is just over a hundred pages long. While it does allow for copy-and-pasting the text, and there are bookmarks present, said bookmarks are to each of the book’s major sections only; there are no nested bookmarks to go to sub-sections, which is a shame.

The Wages of Sin opens with the usual introduction from the author, which is noteworthy this time because he talks about the issue of how to end the campaign; specifically, he calls into question whether you want to end on a note of evil victorious or evil undone, and discusses, albeit briefly, the pros and cons of each, insofar as what your players would like. I was actually somewhat impressed with this, since it brings up what I think is an interesting distinction in how the campaign ending can be approached – whether from a more personal point of view (e.g. “I don’t want my character to be defeated while on the cusp of total victory!”) or from a more poetic, narrative standpoint (e.g. “and so our PCs’ evil finally catches up to them, and they earn their just deserts.”). It’s an interesting dichotomy to consider.

The adventure background presents, well…the background for the adventure. More specifically, it goes over some of the things that have been happening outside the PCs knowledge to set things into motion, which isn’t unbelievable despite having five books’ worth of material behind them at this point. More specifically, we get the background on what Princess Bellinda (the last, best hope for Talinguarde) has been up to, and the information about the here-to-fore unknown Sixth Knot.

We then move on to the first major section of the book, which takes place shortly after the PCs successfully overthrew their master at end of the previous adventure. Now, the PCs are in charge…or are they? In fact, being in command is more than just having thrown off the shackles of servitude; it means actually taking control of the existing operation, enforcing their will on their comrades in evil, and keeping the late Cardinal Thorn’s plans on track.

Several events in this section focus on just that, as the PCs need to deal with the various factions remaining in the service of Hell, ending the “threat” of the humanoid army marching towards the capital, and then formally assuming control of the nation. Several of the events here revolve around existing NPCs that the PCs have dealt with before, and the author does a fairly good job of noting not only how these scenarios could play out based on what the PCs have done before now, but how they still could depending on what the PCs do.

My major complaint about this section was the sidebar near the end on why Princess Bellinda can’t be discovered and hunted down prematurely by the PCs. It’s not necessarily that she has a mcguffin item that makes her impossible to find, it’s that this is plainly acknowledged by the text, rather than giving her mcguffin stats. While all adventure paths are railroads to some degree, the major draw of this last adventure is that after so long being under the command of another, the PCs are now free to do what they want. This freedom is, for the most part, celebrated in this adventure…except where Bellinda is concerned. The text about her artifact makes it clear that there’s nothing the PCs can do to find her, and so the endgame can’t be tampered with (very much). It strikes me as a bit of a cop-out; at least give the thing game mechanics so that it’s conceivable, if unlikely, that the player-characters could have a chance of overcoming it.

Act two is the real meat of the book, being fully half of its page-count. It’s here that the PCs are at their pinnacle of glory. They are now in command of the nation that once condemned them; this section is given to all of the things that they can do – and that they must do – now that Talinguard is theirs. While various points in the campaign have been fairly open-ended in what the PCs could do, this is the largest the sandbox has ever been in the Way of the Wicked.

For one thing, the PCs are given several years of game time to indulge themselves. Over this, thirty different events are presented. Some of these are things that the PCs can do for themselves (do you want to legalize prostitution? How about the slave trade?), while others are things that happen during the course of their reign (e.g. assassins!). Insightfully, these events are set to take up set blocks of time, making them easy to adjudicate during the PCs’ rule over Talinguarde.

What really makes these events stand out is their scope. While some of these are issues of domestic policy, such as whether or not to erect temples to Asmodeus, others are much more grand. Do the PCs want to send their army to the north and wipe out the remaining humanoids (and other creatures) there, conquering the whole island? What about opening trade with foreign nations? There are many things the PCs can do to reshape the political and social lay of the land as they desire. As a bonus, there are almost two dozen additional actions that are specifically meant for the PCs minions (using the rules first introduced in the second adventure).

Event three is where it all starts to fall apart. Bellinda is back, and depending on how the PCs ran things, the degree to which the domestic populace flocks to her banner can vary wildly. Only a half-dozen events are here, and some of these are fairly low-key events like tallying up the respective sizes of the PCs army versus the Princess’s. Several individuals play out their last scenes, and the stage is pretty well set by the time things are ended here.

The fourth event is the finale to everything, as the two major armies clash. The PCs’ main opponents here are Bellinda and her immediate retinue, set against the backdrop of the battle. The bulk of this section discusses the battlefield itself, and the hefty stat blocks for the good guys, each one taking up about a page.

Somewhat disappointingly, what’s here doesn’t quite seem to tie together as strongly as I would have liked. For example, there’s several paragraphs of discussion given to the nature of the terrain on the battlefield, but the practical context of this (e.g. what happens if the PCs try to march their army through disadvantageous terrain) isn’t discussed. Likewise, the book uses a numerical score as a shorthand for determining the strength of the PCs’ army versus Bellinda’s…but while the results of this score are indicated clearly, it’s only in terms of how the setup looks, and not the actual outcome (e.g. you can read that score X means that your army outnumbers Bellinda’s four to one…but that doesn’t mean that you win).

The outcome appears to be entirely predicated on whether or not the PCs can kill Bellinda and her retinue, the lynchpin of the final battle. Hence, this seems to make the preceding sections somewhat superfluous. Whether the PCs have their army avoid the rough terrain, or whether or not their forces are a match for Bellinda’s army…all seems to come to naught, regardless of the final outcomes. What matters is this one last fight, and as that goes, so does the final battle. It’s a very poor integration of the wider implications for the PCs large-scale tactical knowledge, and the practical ramifications of how they conducted themselves as rulers of the nation.

A single-page epilogue is given next. It’s surprisingly poignant, allowing each player a turn to write their character’s final impact on the campaign, before the GM brings the curtain down. I was slightly surprised at the tone of finality here; I’m much more used to how Paizo gives us an entire section at the end of each of their adventure paths devoted to what you can do to continue the campaign, if you and your players are so inclined. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by that, but I find the absence of such a section here to be somewhat disappointing. Three or four meaty adventure hooks, and a CR 20+ stat block for some future foe, could have made for some very interesting material for enterprising GMs.

Several new evil spells and magic items appear next, courtesy of Jason Bulmahn. A sidebar addresses the irony of virtually none of these (save for one item) appearing in the adventure itself; of course, that’s somewhat expected, since the PCs are likely to be the one using these. What’s far more interesting, however, is the campaign timeline that’s presented as the last item in the book. This walks us through a chronological reading of the entire campaign, denoting which book the various events occur in, and what the PCs’ levels are, alongside dates and years. This really helps to lay down the feeling that this is a campaign that takes some time, as by the end of it over five years have passed. This chronology was far more interesting than I’d have suspected.

One thing I haven’t noted thus far is that the book does have some errors that crop up periodically, which is irking. For example, I noticed several spelling and grammatical errors throughout the book; not many, but enough. Likewise, some stat blocks had errors in them. While this can’t be helped much when you’re facing such high-level creatures, things like incorrect CRs were a recurring problem.

Of course, these don’t detract from the adventure very much at all. It’s here that wickedness reaches its fullest flower, and your PCs get to enjoy it greatly. They’ve become not only mover and shakers, but at last have reached their full potential as conquerors and tyrants, and they get to enjoy all that comes with it. This is the payoff that they’ve been working towards from the beginning of the campaign, and it’s in spades. If you and your group manage to get this far, you’ll have a great deal of fun reveling in The Wages of Sin.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Way of the Wicked Book Six: The Wages of Sin
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A treatise on fantasy gaming economics
Publisher: Leibhammer
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/17/2013 16:16:14
A Treatise on Fantasy Gaming Economics is pretty straightforward, not only in its title but also in its presentation. At four pages long, with two pages set aside for the OGL, it’s a quick, simple examination of how economics should work in a d20/3.5/Pathfinder game system.

The text makes a quick comparison to historical wages in terms of practicalities; e.g. how much grain can be farmed in a given period of time, times its worth, for the amount of money the average family will earn, minus certain taxes and expenses. This is then compared to the “basics” that can be earned over time via Profession, and compared to a few other wages for standard jobs.

This product’s aim is a noble one – I’ve seen many people try to figure out how the “real” economics of a Pathfinder game world (using only and all of the standard rules) would work, and even attempted a few calculations myself. The problem is that this book suffers on multiple fronts from not showing its work.

For example, the basic costs of things aren’t linked or otherwise referenced. If writing a treatise on something, you always want to cite your sources, no matter how common or obvious you think they are. In this case that’s probably a link to an SRD or perhaps the d20PFSRD – who remembers that Pathfinder lists a pound of flour as costing 2 copper pieces? (There’s also an issue of measurement conversion; the treatise keeps using kilograms and liters, whereas Pathfinder uses pounds.)

Likewise, the book doesn’t show its math. When it tells us that an average person (a human commoner 1) who is trained at his job but isn’t otherwise exceptional will earn 28 gold pieces in a month if he takes 10, it’s presuming that we know this means that the commoner will have 1 rank in Profession, with a +3 bonus for that being a class skill, and no other bonuses (meaning his Wisdom is 10 or 11). This, then, gives an adjusted result of 14, which means that 7 gold pieces are earned in a week, for 28 gold pieces in a typical month. It helps to walk through things like this instead of simply skipping to the end without saying how you got there – true, it can be figured out with some simple reverse-engineering, but it shouldn’t have to be.

The book also looks at what the price of a suit of plate mail, based on the costs of the goods, and the monthly wages of the people making it. I’m not sure where the monthly wages come from, but he extracts a price that is very much lower than what is in the official rules, and then closes by suggesting that the official prices of most things be slashed.

This is another example of the book not even scratching the surface. There’s no analysis of the (admittedly flawed) crafting rules for their prices and times to create. There’s certainly no wider analysis of the impact of how this would shape the game world. Ultimately, what’s here is a plausible but very thin explanation for saying that the official prices are skewed, and lack internal consistency when viewed with scrutiny across a holistic scope.

The things that make this problematic are two-fold. First, the book doesn’t take into account all the various ways that skill checks can be inflated, even by very low-level NPCs; for that matter, there’s no real analysis of how much your average NPC will level over time, which is directly tied to how well their skill checks can be pumped up. Combined with a near-complete lack of the analysis of how much money various skill check results earn in the course of a year, and the lack of any but the most casual examples of taxation, and what’s here is little more than summarized guesswork.

To be fair, a lot of this isn’t the product’s fault. There is no standard mechanism for saying how much NPCs will level over their lifetime, what taxes usually cost, etc. There’s a lot of data that’s simply not available that is needed to calculate these things on a wider level – simply importing real-world data and then trying to make the game rules fit that model is likewise a flawed attempt to make the rules more simulationist than they were ever meant to be.

Ultimately, there needs to be a lot more than what’s here. If this treatise really wanted to cover the impact of economics in the game world, it’d need to construct some fairly baseline, though necessarily arbitrary, models for the basics of how skilled/powerful NPCs can become, overview similarly basic models for how widespread magic is and how its regulated by the law, come up with something approximating basic community sizes, and then calculate these into skill checks at various levels. None of these will be necessarily by-the-book, since most of them will be invented to help construct the economic model, but I can’t see any other way to do make a fully fleshed-out treatise.

That’s not what’s here, though. What’s here attempts only to take some basic calculations and show that they don’t pass internal consistency. It’s not wrong, but it’s so quick and so offhanded as to be of little value. This product has a long way to go before it can honestly be called a treatise.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
A treatise on fantasy gaming economics
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Races of the New World: Coyotel
Publisher: CAGED DRAGON GAMES
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2013 10:36:33
Adding new races to an existing game world is a proposition that’s tricky at best. It requires an in-game explanation for why a particular race was never seen before, and is suddenly there now. One of the standard tropes is that a new land has been discovered, with that race being one of the more common inhabitants of said new place. This is the implicit assumption behind Caged Dragon Games’ Races of the New World: Coyotel.

A twelve-page book, RotNW: Coyotel takes a very minimalist presentation. It has no bookmarks (to which I say boo), and while the copy-and-paste option is enabled, every time I pasted the material it put each word on its own line, instead of preserving the paragraph formatting.

The graphic presentation is similarly stark. Other than the (admittedly somewhat evocative) image on the cover, and a small picture of a coyotel howling on the second page, there are no illustrations here. Each page has a single, plain black border surrounding the text on all four sides.

The book’s presentation is brief and somewhat workmanlike. We get a brief author’s foreword in which he tells us that this race is based off of the Coyote of Native American legend, followed by three paragraphs of descriptive text about the coyotel as a people, before we move towards the stats.

This, right here, is my major complaint about the book: there’s far too little exposition about the coyotel as a race. Leaving aside the implications that this race is from a “new world” (something which is likely to be campaign-specific), there three paragraphs we’re given don’t do nearly enough to tell us about the coyotel. We know that they’re chaotic, live in small groups on the edges of settlements of other races, and love playing pranks. There’s nothing about their religion, their psychology, their relations with other races in particular. It would have been cool, I think, if there had been a write-up on Coyote as their racial god, along with some information on his religion amongst other races, but that’s far beyond what’s here.

The racial write-up for the coyotel is fairly well-balanced, albeit on the stronger side. There’s no write-up given using the Advanced Race Guide point-buy rules, but if there were this race would be roughly on the same level as gnomes (their closest equivalent, in terms of their powers and abilities).

The book does present a fairly well-rounded set of alternate coyotel racial traits, several feats (many of which build on those racial traits, which is pretty cool), and favored class bonuses. Unfortunately, the tables regarding their height, weight, and age are all eschewed, which again deprives us of some of the flavor surrounding this race.

It’s here that we see another slight oddity in the book, which is the occasional presence of words that are in blue print (rather than black) and underlined. These have, in other words, the appearance of hyperlinks, except that they aren’t. Clicking on them produces nothing – insofar as I can tell, these were copy-and-pasted into the document from elsewhere, and the hyperlink imaging was preserved even though the links themselves weren’t. It’s slightly sloppy presentation.

The book ends with two coyotel-specific archetypes, the hashtaa (a bard archetype) and the wild druid (a druid archetype, naturally). Both are presented rather well, and have a paragraph of flavor text that nicely, if briefly, helps to tell us how these are the coyotel-versions of these classes, e.g. a racial spin on the bards and druids of other races (it would have been better, I think, if there’d been a sidebar expressly stating that these are the “standard” versions of these classes for coyotels, and that barring some deviants, they always use these archetypes for those classes).

All of this brings us to page seven of the book; the last five pages are taken up by the OGL, due to a huge list of Section 15 declarations. I’m frankly surprised by just how much is here, though I suspect that it’s copied wholesale from the d20pfsrd website. This is not incorrect, though I suspect that the author could have saved a few pages by going to the source for his material instead of citing the website as a whole – if nothing else, that would have saved people from expecting twelve pages of usable content when there’s really about half that much.

Overall, Races of the New World: Coyotel is a book that has potential, but needs some polishing to reach it. Hopefully an improved version will be released at some point in the future. As it is, the technical issues, combined with the sparse presentation make this a book about a race that can be inspirational and evocative, but only if the GM is willing to put some work in to fill in the gaps left here.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Races of the New World: Coyotel
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Publisher Reply:
You are absolutely correct about us forgetting the age, height, and weight tables. And I didn't even think of including the racial point breakdown. But now that you mentioned it, all of the tables and the breakdown are in our Coyotel Expansion, which is free. Thank you for catching what we forgot, and for the idea of including the points. All further races we release will have them.
We here at Caged Dragon take customer comments very seriously. In response to this review, we have revised our product to include more descriptions of coyotel society, appearance, relations, and culture. We have also included age, height, weight, and racial point breakdown. We hope you enjoy the expanded product.
Teratic Tome
Publisher: Neoplastic Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2013 10:52:38
Sometimes it isn’t enough for a GM to throw tough monsters at his PCs. Sometimes he wants creatures that shock, disgust, and horrify them; creatures so foul in appearance and action that the responses to them are visceral. Sometimes, a GM needs to break out the Teratic Tome, by Neoplastic Press.

This one hundred-twenty page book – written for OSRIC – is expertly constructed, featuring full nested bookmarks and has copy-and-paste enabled. Far more noteworthy, however, is the artwork. Ye gods the artwork. A talented team of artists illustrated this book, presenting us with a black and white picture for almost every monster featured herein (I think maybe one doesn’t have a picture). I suppose I should warn that there are a number of monsters that have a feminine form, and thus there are quite a few bare breasts here, but really such a warning is hollow – these creatures are universally twisted images of horror, and there’s absolutely nothing prurient about them. The images herein are the sort of things that would make H. P. Lovecraft recommend that the artists seek professional help.

Of course, the illustrations in this book are reflections of the writing of author Rafael Chandler. I can only presume that Chandler dreamed up these monsters while smoking weed mixed with the ashes of Ed Gein, since what’s here are uniformly twisted beings. Take, for instance, the curhadac. While not too visually arresting, this insect-man-thing will always kidnap seven victims, bringing them all together and letting them watch as he slowly, painfully kills the victim. He then breaks down the pieces into art supplies (e.g. bones for a stand, skin for canvas, blood for paint, etc.) and paints a picture of one of the remaining six victims. It then repeats this process until there’s only one victim left, to which it sets free, with the other six pictures given as a gift.

That’s basically a par-for-the-course monster in this book.

Fascinatingly, there’s something of an undercurrent to many of the monsters here. While some, like the aforementioned curhadac, simply do what they do, a number of these monsters seek out particular kinds of victims based around themes of punishing bad people. The ruqoloi, for instance, only hunts blasphemers, punishing them by ripping out the organ they used to perpetrate their blasphemy (e.g. tearing out their tongue if it was spoken)…of course, it will also punish those who knew of the blasphemy and didn’t speak out against it, but such people are, by the monster’s logic, guilty also. Several monsters operate like that, such as the altar beast, that preys on those who would divorce.

What’s even more interesting are the hints the author drops throughout the various monstrous write-ups that these all exist against the backdrop of a specific world. Proper names, of places and individuals, are casually mentioned, but given very little exposition. We hear about lunatic sorceress Shauva Tiridan, or the Tenebrous Halflings of the Infinite Crypt, or the gnomes of Mecha Zel. Given the number of unique creatures in this world – such as the ten Venerable Dragons, each of which seems to bring forth some sort of particular apocalypse (in the days before each dragon arrives, horrible things are listed as happening) – this campaign world clearly seems to be on that is doomed, and may always have been.

The book closes out with a set of encounter tables based on both the monster’s type and its level, along with a helpful list of who produced what artwork. A quick about the author is given, along with blurbs for some of his other works (both novels), but I suspect that I’m going to need some time before I delve into Rafael Chandler’s works again…though now I certainly will.

In closing, this is a book that GMs should use if they want to make their players feel uncomfortable and afraid. Used right, these will be the creatures that will give your PCs nightmares for a long time to come. Even if your brand of D&D isn’t First Edition/OSRIC, I still strongly recommend you pick this book up; these monsters are absolutely worth going through the conversion process. Open the Teratic Tome, and your game will never be the same.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Teratic Tome
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Publisher Reply:
This is what I want my obituary to say: ‎"I can only presume that Chandler dreamed up these monsters while smoking weed mixed with the ashes of Ed Gein." Thank you!
A Necromancer's Almanac: 2012
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2013 13:08:12
A year is a long time insofar as RPG’s are concerned. You can run an entire campaign with time to spare, or if you’re a content-creator, then you can produce quite a lot of new material in a year. How much new material? Well, if A Necromancer’s Almanac: 2012, by Necromancers of the Northwest is any indication, about three hundred pages’ worth.

Some background information: Necromancers of the Northwest produce free content each weekday for the Pathfinder RPG. All of this content is (last I checked) is still there, but as anyone who spends a lot of time online knows, there are times when you want to have offline repositories of online content. Moreover, there’s no real index of quick-reference for the online material – you need to have it memorized, or you’re out of luck.

That’s where this almanac comes in. It collects the sum total of the free (mechanical) content produced for 2012, and puts it all in one place. It should be noted that there is no overarching theme to the content here. While the content of a given week was often produced around a specific theme, the aggregate of 2012 material has no such thematic commonality. What’s here is essentially a grab-bag of content.

The technical aspects of the PDF are what they should be. I didn’t encounter any trouble using copy-and-paste (though be warned that tables, such as for the feats, seem to be images rather than text), and full nested bookmarks are present, which is good since this PDF would be a nightmare to navigate without them.

The book is divided up into four major sections, as per how the content was originally presented. First are classes, then feats, then magic items, and lastly spells. Let’s go over more in detail.

The section on classes presents a header for each class alphabetically, and then gives the new content under that. For most classes, these are new archetypes, though several classes that have suites of “selectable” powers (such as barbarian rage powers, rogue talents, etc.) there are plenty of new abilities to choose from. There are also several specific features like a new cavalier order, a new witch patron, new sorcerer bloodlines, etc. A few new prestige classes round things out.

This section does, unfortunately, highlight one aspect of the PDF that was slightly weak: rarely, you’ll run into new material that seems like it should reference other new material, but doesn’t. For example, there’s a witch archetype that gives the witch a summoned companion based on her patron, with a table showing what companion is given for what patron. Immediately after this, there’s a new witch patron listed…who isn’t on the proceeding table for companions granted to that witch archetype.

Now, to be fair, this sort of situation is, as noted above, rare. It’s not often that the new material presented here will end up referencing other new material, but the odd case like the above does pop up.

The feats section is massive in scope, which isn’t surprising since it’s around sixty pages or so long. Thankfully, there is a table summarizing the various feats at the beginning, though this takes several pages to fully present. Interestingly, in addition to metamagic feats, there’s also a separate table for monster feats, and short sections on Leadership feats and wrestling feats. By far though, generic feats take up the majority of what’s here.

The magic items section is notable for its eclectic variety. For example, there are new magic properties for magic armor and shields, but no specific magic items. The magic weapons, by contrast, are all specific magic weapons, with no new generic magic properties. Beyond this, there are new magic rings, staves, and quite a few wondrous items, but (for example) no rods or artifacts. Oddly (though not in a bad way), there’s also a short section on intelligent magic items (three new specific ones) and some magical beverages…apparently these needed to be noted separately.

The book’s final section is new magic spells. Just the section on spell lists for the various spellcasting classes takes over twenty pages, so you can imagine how many spells are here. Again, I did notice the occasional error (e.g. an illusion spell with no subschool), but for the most part these are eminently usable in your game – it’s notable that I didn’t seem to notice any of the new kinds of spells from the Advanced Arcana series that Necromancers of the Northwest produces; there were, for example, no segmented spells to be found here.

Taken holistically, the Necromancer’s Almanac is notable for the sheer variety of what’s available here. The sheer amount of new material for classes, feats, magic items, and spells is, in a word, daunting. While it may be off-putting to be charged for material that the designers admit is still out there for free, the usability of having it all in one indexed, offline, searchable location is, to my mind, worth the price. This is especially true when the result is three hundred pages of quality new material. Take a look back at what a necromantic year 2012 was, with A Necromancer’s Almanac.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Necromancer's Almanac: 2012
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Class Acts: Witches
Publisher: Abandoned Arts
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2013 09:41:57
The witch is one of those rare Pathfinder classes that follows a very clear thematic element without being necessarily bound to specifics. Yes, we all know witches ride broomsticks, and chant “bubble bubble toil and trouble” over cauldrons, but beyond that it’s less about concrete actions and more about the theme of those actions.

For Pathfinder, that usually takes the form of the witch class’s hex ability. While very expansive, there are still many different hex abilities that a witch can use to cause wrack and ruin for her foes…such as those written in Abandoned Arts’ Class Acts: Witches book.

Four pages long, with a page for the cover and another for the OGL, the book nevertheless packs eighteen new hexes into its remaining two pages. Of these, thirteen are normal hexes, and five are major hexes – I was slightly surprised to find no new grand hexes here, but c’est la vie.

The hexes themselves are surprisingly evocative, without sacrificing playability. The abeyance hex, for instance, curses a specific area, damaging everything within it; the heartstone hex grants a witch greater defenses (on their saves) and protection from disease; the last laugh major hex allows a dying witch to lay a debilitating (but not necessarily unbeatable) curse on an enemy, etc. There are many hexes here that, while not necessarily “signature” abilities of classical witches, are highly reminiscent of their powers – who but a witch could not only scry a creature through a cauldron, but affect it by pouring in magic potions (via the scrying cauldron hex)?

Sometimes great things come in small packages; if you want to give your witch character some new abilities that seem like they should have been there from the beginning, pick up Class Acts: Witches!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Class Acts: Witches
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Transcendent 10 - Feats of Synergy - Heartbound Heroes
Publisher: Lost Spheres Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/31/2012 14:38:23
Love is like oxygen. Love is a many splendid thing. All you need is love…unless you’re a Pathfinder PC, in which case all you need is greed and bloodlust. To be sure, love can be a part of your game, but where’s the mechanical incentive for it? Purely role-playing rewards can be nice to, but they’re somehow less concrete than something that gives a numerical bonus. Love may be something that can’t be quantified, but that can certainly help.

It’s in that spirit that Lost Spheres Publishing presents Transcendent 10 – Feats of Synergy – Heartbound Heroes.

A short PDF at six pages long (with one page set aside for the title and credits, and another for the OGL), the book presents itself quite adeptly. While there are no bookmarks or table of contents, I can’t complain about that in a book with a half-dozen pages. Likewise, copy-and-paste is enabled, which is always pleasant.

The book has no artwork to speak of, but does have a simple-yet-stylish set of borders around every page. Between this and the red headers, it manages to avoid feeling entirely spartan presentation, something that’s usually difficult to pull off – props to the designers there.

The book gives us a brief introduction (which was slightly hard to follow; there’s an odd flow to the syntax), discussing the use of love as a motivator in your game (and warning to make sure that the group is interested and invested in doing so) before presenting ten new feats. Interestingly, these feats have a new descriptor: heartbound. A heartbound feat is a feat that grants you power based on the strength of your love for someone, hence the feat requirement you have a “partner” – a specific person who is the focus of the feat. What’s notable here is that the partner also needs to have a heartbound feat as well (suggesting that they genuinely do love you back), but it need not be the exact same feat; any heartbound feat will do.

It’s an intriguing mechanic, and certainly a more colorful one than simply giving us new feats with a mere thematic resemblance. The feats themselves are also slightly more expressive than you’d expect. Each one opens with a relevant quote (though the person making the quote seems to be a fictitious character, robbing this part of some of its impact), and after the usual feat presentation, has a paragraph of “GM Advice.” This “advice” is often the author explaining or expounding upon something rather than actual help in using the feat, but I still quite enjoyed the insights.

Many of the heartbound feats are surprisingly innovative. For example, the Heartbinding Spell feat makes it so that when you use a mind-affecting effect on someone, you enchant them so thoroughly that you feel some of those phantom feelings yourself, letting you use them as your “heartbound partner” (though I’d have appreciated a note here that this didn’t work for things like fear effects). Wordless Bond lets you and your partner share telepathy when close, and give vague sensory/emotional impressions further apart. All’s Fair lets you treat a target as flat-footed for a round (notably, this feat requires that you have sneak attack) if you’ve seen them harm your beloved. And of course, there’s a feat called Polyamorous, so that you can have more than one heartbound partner.

Of course, not all of these feats can be winners. Heart’s Vengeance is just like All’s Fair, save that it gives you a rather prosaic +1 BAB. Love’s Resolve seems somewhat too powerful, in that it lets you re-roll a failed save multiple times per day. Still, there are more hits than misses.

The book closes out with a new spell and a new psionic power. Interestingly, these are both essentially the same spell, with the latter being a psionic version; the spell allows you to quickly call out to your beloved, no matter where they are, and not only lets them know that you need them but gives them bonuses to track you down. It’s an interesting effect, though I’d have set the duration to “instantaneous” and noting that it lasts for so many days, rather than having an (easily-dispelled) duration of one day per level. Moreover, having a uniquely psionic version (which does take into account new Pathfinder-compatible classes like the tactician and the vitalist), with augmentations, is nice.

Overall, Heartbound Heroes does a good job of presenting feats that not only have a fairly substantial role-playing angle, but also present some interesting and balanced mechanical effects. There are some rough spots, but overall these feats can be a fun way to put your PCs’ love lives back into the forefront of the game…or at least, make them care about something other than gold and glory.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Transcendent 10 - Feats of Synergy - Heartbound Heroes
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Tome of Missing Magic for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Asparagus Jumpsuit
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/26/2012 12:35:06
One of the things that makes Pathfinder such a great game – at least, to me – is its sense of continuity. Yes, it has its own set of mechanical changes, and we needn’t mention its original campaign setting, but there’s still a strong feel of connection to earlier editions. Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that, for various reasons, some aspects of the game fall by the wayside.

It’s therefore a great joy when somebody decides to pick up one of those lost aspects of the game, dust it off, and update it to the Pathfinder rules. That’s what Asparagus Jumpsuit has done here for magic items in their Tome of Missing Magic Items. Let’s take a look and see what’s to be found within.

The book’s technical presentation is perhaps its weakest aspect. At ninety-six pages long, there is no table of contents nor bookmarks, dealing a substantial blow to its usability. With no way to easily navigate through it, or even get an at-a-glance overview of what’s here, the book’s functionality is impaired. This is perhaps its single greatest weakness, and definitely worth knocking a star off its rating.

Luckily copy-and-paste is enabled, so there is that. I’m also of two minds about the complete lack of artwork. While I’m in favor of printer-friendly options for PDF products, that’s usually something I like to see in addition to a version with artwork, rather than instead of it. As it is, there are no illustrations of any kind to be found here. The best you’ll get it shaded headers and table rows.

I’m also slightly miffed at the incorrect use of the OGL. While the book does seem to comply with the Pathfinder Compatibility License, and does reproduce the OGL at the end, it doesn’t have a Section 15 citation for itself – worse, it has no declaration of Product Identity or listing of Open Game Content. Part of the strength of a work like this is that it allows for other companies to reuse what’s here and help proliferate the missing items back into the game. That’s hard to do if you’re not sure what’s OGC and what isn’t. Hopefully there’ll be an update to correct this soon.

Beyond the technical issues, what’s actually to be found here? Perhaps surprisingly, there’s a great deal more than just a collection of updated magic items; quite a bit more.

The book opens with a serious of random tables for determining treasure hoards and magic items – note that there are many more tables dedicated to randomly determining the latter. In fact, the sheer degree of tables is slightly awe-inspiring for how deep it goes. For example, you can roll “scrolls” on the random magic items table. You then go to table 4-1 to determine how many spells and of what level are on the scroll (or it could turn out to be a protection scroll or even a cursed scroll – can you feel the First/Second Edition vibe starting to ring through?). You then follow this up with a roll on table 4-2 to determine if the scroll’s spells are arcane or divine in nature. And then, you roll on the indicated set of tables for spells by level (e.g. a table for 1st-level arcane spells, one for 2nd-level arcane spells, etc. for all arcane and clerical spells). As a quick aside, this is only for spells in the Core Rulebook – and standard for all parts of this sourcebook.

As mentioned above, this trends very strongly towards the manner of magic item determination in First and Second Edition. I actually pulled out my copy of the 2E DMG and compared its magic item tables to this one – while not identical, the degree of parity was pleasantly great. There are even insightful footnotes for things like rolling randomly for how many charges rods, staves, or wands will have, and there’s even a(n extremely small) chance that you could find an artifact!

It should be noted, by the by, that these tables also extend to magic weapons, armor, and shields. I find this noteworthy because the tables allow for not just the random determination of what magic properties are present, but also what type of weapon/armor/shield is found, its size, etc.

After the sets of tables are the magic item descriptions. You’d think that, for a lot of these (such as potions and scrolls, certainly) the book simply doesn’t bother to give a full description – but notwithstanding the scrolls that just have random spells on them, you’d be wrong. Full magic item descriptions are given for things like potions (which, quite amusingly, have a paragraph of description regarding things like their smell and flavor) – though they refer you to the Core Rulebook for the effects of the spell effects – wands, and certain scrolls. Since the aforementioned tables are meant to be somewhat holistic in scope, they also listed standard magic items in the Core Rulebook as well; these are given an entry in the descriptions section that simply refers you back to that book, striking what I thought was a nice balance between needlessly reprinting existing materials word for word and omitting those existing materials entirely.

Of course, as mentioned before, there are a lot of magic items here that are from older versions of the game that have been updated to Pathfinder for the first time here. If you have fond memories of using things like an Alchemy Jug, a Chime of Hunger, a Girdle of Opposite Gender, or a Phylactery of Eternal Youth, you’ll be delighted to find these again here (perhaps with slightly different names). Even some existing items have tables given (e.g. what kind of ioun stone did you find, exactly?).

All of this takes us to just under halfway through the book, at which point we come to the section on artifacts. Here, the book takes a slightly different tact. The author denotes that a lot of what made artifacts such fun back in earlier editions was how they presented aspects of a greater campaign world without explanation, as though the reader were already familiar with the game world’s history. Correctly noting how this spurred the imagination, the author tries to take a similar tact here.

Each artifact is clearly an IP-free version of an artifact from the olden days of the game. One can’t look at the Cup of the Martyred Saint or the Iron Urn and not see the author quite clearly winking at the reader. What’s interesting is that the artifact’s description gives a few paragraphs of descriptive text, which clearly makes reference to the existing game world, but at the same time isn’t afraid to change minor details (or perhaps it’s more correct to say “necessarily changes minor details”).

The format of each artifact is that it opens with its typical game information (e.g. caster level, body slot, aura, etc.) before giving us its overview and history. We’re then given its powers, and the various DCs of Knowledge checks that can be made to learn more about the item (though I found these to be a bit too low for my liking). There’s also a section on the consequences of using each particular item – focused almost solely on the in-campaign ramifications of having an item of such fame and power – and the possible method of its destruction.

Interestingly, these artifacts don’t seem to have been “scaled up” to match with the generally increased power in Pathfinder. While I won’t say that these aren’t powerful, they don’t seem to subscribe to the theory that artifacts need to be uber-epic magic items in order to be awe-inspiring. Take that as you will.

After this, there’s still more to the book. In fact, the next sections are ones that most gamers will likely be split on, as they delve into the area of pre-listing things that GMs could make themselves – it’s a question of whether or not you find value in something doing calculations and writing listings for you (personally, I do find such things useful, so I’m inclined to look favorably on that).

To be more clear, it’s at this point that the book starts giving us full listings for various specific magic armor, shields, and weapons. I say “specific” here because you have things like a table for each kind of armor, which lists it with enchantments of +1 to +5, and the corresponding mechanics for that, such as the total armor bonus, price to create and cost to buy, speed reductions, arcane spell failure chance, etc. It’s basically a complete overview of that armor or shield with each enhancement bonus.

It doesn’t stop there, as it also has tables for each single kind of armor magic weapon property (presuming a +1 enhancement bonus) with tables to determine what specific kind of armor has that property, and the various statistics such armor would have (e.g. total bonus, arcane spell failure, etc.). There are even tables for those armors made out of special materials as well. All of the above also applies to shields as well.

In essence, these tables allow you to pick whether you want to start with a specific kind of armor/shield, or a specific enchantment, and cross-index from there.

The information for magic weapons is presented slightly differently. Each weapon is presented in the format of a specific magic weapon, a la how they appear in the Core Rulebook, but the actual weapon isn’t specified. So you’ll have a magic item entry for “melee weapon, dancing, +4” just waiting for you to plug in a particular type of weapon, such as a heavy mace or longsword, with all of the existing magic item information given (and even a few suggested weapons listed). Ranged weapons and even ammunition have their own sections.

What’s fairly clear in the above sections is that the book is again harkening back to earlier editions, when all magic weapons, armor, and shields were specific in what powers they had, rather than having powers layered on them from a master list. This is evidenced much more strongly in the weapons, but the undertone is there through this entire section.

The book closes out with four new feats presented which, collectively, allow for the creation of potions and wands containing spells of up to ninth level, along with the associated costs.

Overall, the Tome of Missing Magic Items is a book that splits the difference between nostalgia and utility, something for which I think the author deserves a great deal of credit. He could have simply dumped some updates of old magic items on us and run, and that probably would have been enough. However, he took the old-school mandate further and created a comprehensive set of randomized tables which, collectively, not only evoke the feeling of older editions, but help put forward a play-style in that manner as well, since you can now randomly determine most – if not all – of the treasure and magic items your party finds (be warned through, this means necessarily eschewing a great deal of the “game balance” as its presented in the Core Rulebook with regards to treasure).

How much you get out of the Tome of Missing Magic will depend not only on how much you want to see older-edition items updated to Pathfinder, but also how much you value the use of tables for random treasure content, and how much you prefer to have game books list mechanics in for you (rather than you doing it yourself). Personally, I adore all of these things, and so I think the Tome is an incredibly useful tool for an old-school Pathfinder GMs. The only major flaw I find with it is its lack of ease-of-navigation tools; an update on that score would find my upping my final score to five out of five – as it is, the content alone earns this book a healthy four out of five stars. Find what you enjoyed about magic items in previous editions with the Tome of Missing Magic.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Missing Magic for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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Book of Heroic Races: Half-Faerie Dragons (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
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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Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer
Publisher: Zombie Sky Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/24/2012 14:42:09
Necromancy is one of those areas where a lot of people want to play one, but it’s always something of an awkward fit. Under the basic Pathfinder rules, the basic aspects of necromancy tend towards undead- and evil-focused material enough that you’re either not evil and doing it wrong, or doing it right but are evil as a consequence. It is, quite simply, hard to reconcile those two extremes.

No more! Zombie Sky Press’s Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer threads the difficult strands between offering necromantic powers without (necessarily) being a servant of darkness. Let’s take a closer look and see how it pulls it off.

The book conforms to the minimum material necessary for a quality PDF product: copy-and-paste is enabled, and full nested bookmarks are present. No printer-friendly version is presented, but that’s not really a concern because (save for the front cover) there’s very little artwork here; just three color pieces.

The book opens with its new base class, the sacred necromancer. On its face, this class looks a lot like an oracle – same BAB and Hit Dice, same skill points per level – but the differences quickly become clear. While the sacred necromancer is a spontaneous spellcaster, each day it gets to change what spells are on its Spells Known list, but with a catch – they can only choose necromancy spells, off of any list (with a necessary exception for 0-level spells). Further, their spells are considered both divine and arcane at the same time; the sacred necromancer’s study of death crosses conventional limitations. Being able to channel energy is also a valuable ability, but in this case it’s limited by the sacred necromancer’s calling.

A calling is similar to an oracle’s mystery, in that it’s a theme that grants some basic powers, and then presents a suite of abilities, of which you choose one every so many levels. In this case, a calling decides what sort of channel energy you can use and how you use it (e.g. channel negative energy, only for harming the living), has a “connection” (a signature ability that is automatically gained), and a set of whispers to choose from.

There are six callings presented (counting the Journeyman as two). The chirurgeon is obsessed with the physical aspects of death. Like Doctor Frankenstein, he can construct a golem-like “monster” that’s somewhere between an animal companion and an eidolon. More interesting, at least to me, was his whisper that lets him remove the “evil” descriptor from spells that raise the undead – I know so many players who will want this just for that.

The Exorcist is focused around trapping, dispelling, and otherwise countering the effects of outsiders and undead. There are a lot of abilities here that are defensive in nature, as well as some battlefield-control ones (e.g. seal an outsider in a protected area for a short time). The Journeyman of the Pale Path, by contrast, is simply an expert at manipulating negative energy, to the tune of things like taking an immediate action to reduce healing with a tightly-focused channel energy, or create undead that share teamwork feats. Nicely, there’s a sidebar that talks about reversing this class to be positive-energy focused instead, and each ability has a short section saying how it would work in reverse.

The Psychopomp is concerned with the state of the soul. It struck me as the weakest of the themes here, but it still had several interesting abilities, such as summoning a spirit to be able to be the focus point of channeling energy, or being able to summon ancient spirits of great heroes into your allies to boost their abilities. The final calling, the Revenant, is much more fun – you get to play an undead creature! Limited only in that you’re not flatly immune to mind-affecting effects, this calling has some fairly tightly-focused powers relating to your former life, such as focusing your hatred against certain kinds of creatures (presumably the same sort that killed you) or even against specific individuals.

Beyond these callings, sacred necromancers also gain “fields.” Fields are like mini-callings, adding additional thematic flavor to what your sacred necromancer can do. Most don’t inherently grant any powers, but rather expand what whispers you can take. For example, the self-experimentation field allows access to four whispers based around augmenting your body to gain.

There’s also a brief sidebar which says it lists “all necromancy spells for the Pathfinder role-playing game.” That’s great, particularly since most (though it seems like it should be all) of them are linked to the d20 PF SRD, but I do wish that those spells not from the Core Rulebook were tagged with an indicator to show what book they are from.

Nearing its end, the book presents a sample sacred necromancer named Ren. Ren, who is a shout-out to a previous ZSP book, has a full stat block, but has no flavor or expository text of any kind, which is a shame considering her background. She’s also fox-blooded, which is a new +0 CR simple template, which denotes that you have kitsune ancestry – I liked this, even if it was slightly out of place in the book, because it lets you delve into taking kitsune-specific abilities. Speaking of which, the book has three new feats, one of which allows you to have an extra fox tail. The other two are more necromantic in focus, granting an extra whisper or allowing you to turn the living (a la turn undead).

One thing I haven’t mentioned up until now are the book’s weaknesses. Remember how I noted that the spell list was linked to d20pfsrd.com? So are lots of other parts in the book…but there’s no visual indicator of what words are links and which aren’t. While this does make for a more consistent (and prettier) visual display, it can be surprising when you click to scroll the PDF and find that you’ve clicked on a link to open something on d20pfsrd.

There’s also the occasionally-unclear ability. A high-level exorcist, for example, is protected from bodily contact with outsiders and the undead as a supernatural ability…unless they have spell resistance. So he has to make a caster level check with a supernatural ability against their SR? What bonus does he have for that? Presumably it’s equal to his character level, but it’s unclear. There are a few instances of that kind of uncertainty throughout the book, though only a few (e.g. is Extra Whisper limited to just whispers you can take, or any whisper in any calling or field?).

Overall though, I think the book was not only mechanically sound in what it prevented, but highly evocative as well. This is the sort of book where, as you read it, you can’t help but think about how much fun it would be to play this class. To me, that’s really the best mark of quality an RPG supplement can have. Delving into death was never so much fun as the sacred necromancer makes it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer
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