No Tears Shed For These Bugbears
First, I want to put this out there before anything else. Raging Swan Press has their pdfs set up in a way that's always kind of annoyed me. It's both pages on your screen. This makes things rather difficult to read. However, I've learned that if you use Adobe, in the View section, you can make it a single page scroll down by changing it to "Page Display - Single Page View". That helps immensely, and makes it far easier to read on a computer monitor, or certain tablets. The newer tablets seem to be okay with the format though. So kudos to them on having a way to change the layout, it just needs to be better advertised.
Secondly, when I read "Alternate Class and Race Features", my mind immediately thought that this book was going to have their take on the race as a Advanced Player's Guide breakdown. It does not. So if you're thinking of buying the book specifically for that, it doesn't have that there. Incidentally, it's over 20 points for all of the bugbear's abilities, minus the hit dice. I took the time to do it because it was bothering me. Would I have liked to have seen that? Absolutely. Especially with more races coming out all the time, and everyone's growing desire to play a monstrous race. Is it necessary to have had it in the book? No. This book has enough merits on its own.
Now that, that's out of the way, we can do the actual review. Neither of the above will get in the way of my final score.
The pdf opens with description of where this particular tribe of bugbears is located, and describes their home, and a bit of their personality. Called "sadists" and "chasing their prey", only to behead them at the end. This act is what places them in their pecking order.
The next page tells of how Raging Swan deals with errors and where you can find errata if you need any. It also tells us on the designer, John Bennett. It's very reminiscent of the old Dungeon Magazines where they'd describe the author as living in the jungle trees of suburbia, and compile them of skills and stats as if they were a d20 character themself. It was a nice trip down memory lane.
The first thing that really stands out to me about this pdf is the Table of Contents of the screen and print editions. Is it ever detailed. It tells you where exactly you should go, what stat blocks you can find, the new magic items, a brief description of the new spells, the alternate features, the feats, and the new monster. All this given to you on that one page.
This book comes in a pack of three. The package includes a print edition, a screen edition, and a stated pdf. The print and screen editions are exactly as they read. They're the books in question, just in different formats. The stated pdf is all of the NPCs and monsters in one small space so you can drop them in at any time for random encounters, or just because.
One thing I love about print editions is that they don't take up as much toner when I'm in need of having the stats out in front of me my tablet or laptop aren't working all the time. At first look they don't seem all that different, but once you start printing, you immediately recognize the error you've made.
I liked the fact that each NPC had a side bar that described them, and how you could put them into your game, or the type of encounter you'd find them in, and what kind of combat tactics they'd use. Groego stuck out the most to me though because of his personality, mannerisms, and especially his appearance. The guy has mad respect for his gear. It all shines and glows. Seriously, he should have a level or wizard or sorcerer so he can use Prestidigitation at-will. He's doing it the old fashioned way.
I used them for a pre-made evil adventure path that had the party dealing with a lot of bugbears, and a few of them are even going to be key NPCs for later. The PCs like a few of these guys, and are leery of others. Exactly how you want them to be when presenting evil NPCs.
Now, what do you get with the main pdf? Well, you get the location of the White Cliffs, where the bugbears are from, each of the four specific spots within the area, such as The Demon Pit and The Frozen Tears, and descriptions of each locale, and the lore behind the White Cliffs themselves. It's detailed, yet vague enough, that this location can be put into any campaign. The terrain features are wonderful to read, and the players are going to hate it as their character trek along the rockfalls, icy slopes, across the frozen rivers, and even have to go through blizzards.
Some of the things that the players can take from this are the new sorcerer bloodline, Yem's Bloodline (good for witch bugbear descendents), the Fear domain, a snow toad familiar, a few new feats, a couple of spells that are not only for the standard spellcasters, but also for the NPC adept. Who does that? Raging Swan Press, that's who. There's also a few new magic items to add to a character's arsenal. The creepiest of them all for me has to be the shrieking head. It's a disembodied head that's been placed on a pike, and screams if a password isn't given before walking by it. The art is probably what really creeps me out about it though. And while not really for the players, a new monster, the vhen nhar spawn, a frozen corpse undead creature that hungers for warmth. Needless to say, you'll be very surprised as to how these things are created. I won't spoil it. You'll have to buy this pdf in order to find out. I know I sure didn't see it coming.
Now, are there any cons to this? Yes, but it's a mild one, and it's something that I've come to notice with all of Raging Swam Press pdfs, aside from what I've listed above, and that is everything being black, white, or grey. It's hard to really immerse yourself into something when there's nothing to really grab your attention. The only colour in the whole pdf is that of the Pathfinder logo. While it's sort of this company's staple to be seen as it is, I'd like to see a little colour here or there to spice things up a bit. Make it a little more dynamic, and give it more of a sense of difference between the screen version and the print version. It's nothing big, just something that could possibly help emphasize things a little bit. A little more art every so often to help break up the bricks of text would be nice to see as well.
Overall, I liked receiving the three pdfs in the bundle. Even if you aren't running this specifically for its own side-trek, which you could very easily do, especially with Reign of Winter coming out, you could put this in any campaign that's going to have the PCs going North into the frozen wastelands.
I give this pdf a 4.5 out of 5. I recommend getting this product.