I first ran into the Tengu in an adventure product by Paizo, The Godsmouth Heresy. To avoid spoilers I will just say that they were encountered in a mini low level dungeon that seemed entirely out of place. No back story of significance was provided and it seemed that they were just included as a level appropriate potentially non-combat encounter. As I was modifying the thing for much higher level characters I chose to simply remove this out-of-place encounter. But as I did so, something scratched at the back of my brain. I was sure I had seen these beings before somewhere. I just chalked it up to the fact that I have read many game supplements over the years of playing and decided it was likely that my déjà vu came from this.
Then I heard of Rite Publishing’s In the Company of Tengu as a future supplement that fit in well with their Kaidan campaign world. This is when it struck me; I now know where I ran across references to these beings. Long ago I read about them in my studies of the cultures of Asia and the Pacific. Now I know why they didn’t fit in the dungeon where they had been placed. I could simply run the encounter as written, let my players deal with them and simply shrug when they ask questions. But I prefer to run adventures where things in them make sense. There has to be a reason why these creatures were in this dungeon, and prior to this product by Rite I was hard pressed to come up with a good one. Here is the value of Rite’s “In the Company of” series, for me. It fills in the background of these strange beings just as was done for the Kappa in a previous book. This isn’t merely for players who wish to play something quite alien from “typical” adventuring races. It provides a fully fleshed out society, an invaluable tool for the busy GM.
Included in this book are the player centric tools for those who really want to play in an Asian-style setting, from notes on Tengu adventurers and names, racial features, traits, and favored class options to class specific sections for running a Tengu PC. Not only does this supplement have the expected monk (Budoka) and paladin (Yamabushi) classes, but also there’s a Dire Boar mounted archetype for a Tengu Cavalier (Tenuhatamoto; Order of the Boar), an extensive section on a pure fighter class (Tengubushi), as well as a racial paragon class, the Hishoken, that interweaves a blade master with the Tengu’s affinity with flight and air. In addition is a section on the ultimate paragon of Tengu society, the Daitengu, which serves as an NPC for the GM or possibly the ideal goal of a PC. Lastly is a full page of Tengu-based feats.
The icing on the cake for me is the look of the book. Included in the pages is some art that clearly came from original Japanese sources showing their mythological view of the Tengu. In addition, there is some new color and black and white art that helps the players and GM visualize these beings. It isn’t all awesome, but it is good. I have to admit that I really like inclusion of the traditional Japanese art best of all, but that is probably the anthropologist in me.
From a personal note: I thank the folks at Rite for solving a plot hole for me in my own campaign, though you didn’t know I needed a solution. This provides me with a tapestry of culture that I can weave in front of my players and helps me prepare when they choose to get interested in these strange bird-like beings from a distant place. An encounter with an isolated group suddenly grows to become first contact with an entire society.
I rate this at five of five stars for this fantastic tool for both players and game masters who want to play in a Japanese-type setting. Admittedly this is a niche product, but that is what third party companies can do incredibly well. Rite Publishing proves this to be true yet again. More Kaidan setting tools please!
[5 of 5 Stars!]