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Minotaurs of the Black Hills $3.99
Average Rating:4.3 / 5
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Minotaurs of the Black Hills
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Minotaurs of the Black Hills
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2011 14:06:24
I came late to the game where Raging Swan Press was concerned, though I couldn’t tell you why. It wasn’t until I saw this particular product that I went and took a look at Raging Swan’s products. Upon doing so, I realized that I’ve been missing out; well, no further – let’s take a look at Minotaurs of the Black Hills.

After the cover (an austere black with the title in relatively small print) and credits page, the book comes to the table of contents. It’s here that Raging Swan begins to distinguish themselves from other publishers out there, as even this is different from the usual fare. Not only do they have the usual table of contents, but they also organize tables for the various crunch offerings of the book, even though they could have gotten away with it. For example, there’s a table summarizing the four new feats in the book, a CR table to chart the Challenge Ratings of the book’s seven NPCs and creatures, etc.

It was this sort of thing that immediately drew my respect; these little things that aren’t strictly necessary but make things easier and more convenient for the people using their book. Things like this separate the adequate game companies from the really good ones.

There was a section after it that charts out how to read the stat blocks. Ironically, I do think this went a little bit too far, as most people who’d be buying this sort of product don’t need to be told how to read a stat block – as this book uses the standard Pathfinder format for monsters and NPCs, this part seemed superfluous, but even so I didn’t hold that against the book, particularly since after this it turned its attention to the eponymous minotaurs.

The book discusses the tribe itself and the race that they serve – known as the yith – in adequate detail, covering their culture, where they lair, giving Knowledge DCs, etc. It then turns its attention to the layout of the Black Hills region itself. My understanding is that this connects to at least one other Raging Swan supplement, though I was left uncertain if this fit into the larger backdrop of the Lonely Coast or not (though I suspect that it does).

Several areas of the Black Hills are given several paragraphs of description, emphasizing the fallen empire of the yith. No maps or detailed information is given, though there are terrain features and a random encounter table listed, which I was glad for – too often those elements are ignored, though I think they’re an important aspect of adventuring.

Following this, the second half of the book turns its attention to new crunch. A new ranger archetype and a new sorcerer bloodline, four new feats, four new sorcerer-only spells, and two new magic items help to round out the nature of the Minotaurs of the Black Hills, leading in to two minotaur NPCs and a stat block for the yith themselves.

This last part, the yith, was where I was quite disappointed by the book. For those with a background in Lovecraft, the yith are more correctly the Great Race of Yith, aliens known for being able to swap their minds with other creatures across time. If this had been the yith in this book that dominated the minotaurs, that would have been too cool for words.

Instead of that, however, the yith are simply bat-people who had an empire which has since declined to the point that most of them barely remember it. In other words, much less interesting. I can’t fault Raging Swan too much here; my guess is that they just didn’t know about the Lovecraftian Great Race and the nomenclature is simply a coincidence, but even so, it’s a poor one. The name suggests a coolness that simply isn’t present here, and that’s the main reason why I gave this book four out of five stars.

Having said that, however, this book does a good job of presenting an atmospheric location and populating it with material ripe for adventure. Raging Swan has a distinct style to their books, and it’s in full force here. The Black Hills evoke a feeling of harsh isolation, with the terrain and its inhabitants being cruel to those who wander here, and at the same time hiding secrets that can only be unearthed with great difficulty. It’s very gothic…I just can’t help but wonder how much more gothic it would have been if they hadn’t inadvertently hinted at something much more cosmic than they delivered.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Minotaurs of the Black Hills
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2011 08:41:54
Minotaurs of the Black Hills is a Pathfinder RPG pdf supplement that details a new tribe of deadly and savage minotaurs and their evil overlords, the sorcerous yith. This product forms one of several products in Raging Swan Press' Tribes series, each detailing another deadly and dangerous monstrous tribe. Minotaurs of the Black Hills is a sister supplement to Centaurs of the Bleak Moor, though the latter is not required to use this product. Threats in this product range from CR 5 up to CR 13. Presentation and layout is very good, with some good art and neat, though not spectacular, maps. Writing and editing are good, presenting clear descriptions of all aspects of the minotaurs and the environment, society and culture they live in.

This is another enjoyable read in the Tribes series. The minotaurs are a savage and bloodthirsty tribe that are skilled at hunting and killing. They serve the enigmatic and sorcerous yith, a race of alien bat-like creatures of great power, though now a civilisation in decline. The background material is well written and presented, offering good information on all aspects of the area and the tribe that lives there. Stat blocks include general minotaurs, as well as the more powerful leaders. The latter are detailed with motivations and other background material, fleshing them out in interesting ways. The product doesn't only provide details on the tribe, but also provides new magical items, feats, spells and class features. These add nicely to the existing material, expanding it to create a comprehensive overview of these minotaurs and their masters.

Minotaurs of the Black Hills is a good product. It's detailed and interesting, providing useful material and an interesting location with novel features and terrain. While the tribe of minotaurs themselves is perhaps not that interesting on its own, their relationship with the yith makes it much more interesting and the two races form a powerful combination. The product would've been more useful with some detailed plot hooks or campaign arcs, particularly some that perhaps tied in with the sister product on the centaurs. Overall, an useful product with lots of potential both in location and the yith/minotaur relationship and interaction.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Minotaurs of the Black Hills
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/30/2011 09:40:32
This pdf is 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 1 page sub-header, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (including once again a great rhyme), 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving 18 pages for the tribe of minotaurs. It should be noted that the pdf comes (as all Raging Swan books that are part of the dual format initiative) with an additional version optimized for e-readers.
Without further ado, let's check them out!

After the obligatory page explaining how to read stat-blocks to novice DMs, we get 2 pages of fluff text on the minotaurs. The question you all want answered, of course, is whether this installment of the TRIBES-series once again manages to add a different twist to a classic monster trope. To be frank: Yes, it does - the scarlet axe minotaurs are made unique via several ideas: First of all, they are rather civilized, eschewing the barbarism and rage usually associated with the horned beasts. Another distinguishing mark would be the minotaur's special breeding. Serving an elder race on the decline, the scarlet axes have an aptitude for sorcerous power due to the mingling with their dread Yith masters. Suffice to say, we also get lore sections on the tribe, their masters and even some information on the black hills, their home.

Following the tradition of the TRIBES-line, we also get a huge box detailing the environment in which the minotaurs might be encountered and several locations that might serve as nice adventure locales/hooks for further adventures. We also get a one-page map of the black hills & the bleak moor, the haunt of the minotaur's archenemies. I should also note that the hills get stunning original pieces of b/w-artworks, as do the minotaurs.
On the crunch-side, we get the new Yith-bloodline for sorcerors, a new ranger-variant and 4 battle-feats that help displaying the unique fighting style of the tribe. I liked the bloodline and had no problems with any of the feats. We also get 4 new sorceror spells focusing on maneuverability and taking on aspects of the Yith as well as two new magic items (boots and a quiver), complete with their own artworks and lore-sections.
After that, we get to the stats:
We get normal and elite warriors (CR 5 & 7), Scouts (CR 7), Sorcerors (CR 7) and 3 sample encounters. In addition to the sample ideas for minotaurs given in the fluff section, we also get 2 fully detailed NPCs that get the Raging Swan NPC-treatment, i.e. we get distinguishing features, mannerisms, hooks etc. In addition, the two NPCs get their own artworks. The final two pages are devoted to the bat-like humanoid masters of the minotaurs, the Yith, which get 3 variant spell-lists, full stats and e.g. ecology & society sections as well as their own artwork.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice a single mistake. Layout adheres to the clear and elegant standard established by Raging Swan Press. The quality of both writing, stat-blocks etc. is superb. If I had to nit-pick, I'd say that I didn't particularly care for the battle-feats or the variant ranger and that the Yith-artwork is "only" good. That's it. The b/w-artworks are STUNNING and belong to the best I've seen in quite a while and the tribe per se, once again, is almost perfect. For the lack of flaws and the excellent writing as well as the overall supreme quality, I practically have to rate this installment of the TRIBES-series 5 stars and add the Endzeitgeist seal of approval - once again, Raging Swan delivers an excellent quality product for a very affordable price.

P.S.: The Kobold-tribe has been updated with additional information on terrain.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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