This product contains everything you need to insert a powerful, fully detailed NPC villain into your Pathfinder game. Considering that I wouldn't want to try to design something this complex in less than two or three hours (not to mention all the time just thinking through the backstory), this product is potentially a huge time saver and a fantastic investment at under $3. It has a few glitches, but no more than usually crop up in my major NPC creation, and it offers several things (original artwork being the biggest) that I couldn’t provide as a GM even if I undertook such a large project.
Following the cover and credits, we get a fantastic full page picture, “kobold warlock,” which creates a fantastically evocative image of Raxath and sets the mood for the document overall. Otherwise, the art in this work is fairly sparse, though of good quality and layout. There is also a lot of blue hyperlinked text that, at first, seemed to make the document difficult to read, until I realized that this hyperlinking is confined to the stat blocks and is actually a huge help for quick references to the PFSRD.
I enjoyed the opening fiction as an origin story for Raxath; it was suitably dark and foreboding, and gave a glimpse of the tiny, puny, scared kobold rogue who could eventually become the vessel of a goddess’s reincarnation. One thing that might go nicely with future installments in this line would be an origin story that can be shown to players…something similar to “Birthed of the Dark” (the title of the first fictional work in this document) but in a form suitable for characters/players to discover and read. This could be something like a journal entry, a letter vowing revenge upon a childhood bully, etc. This is just a thought for a way to connect players to the villain (and give the DM a bathroom break while they read it). I noticed a few grammatical and syntactical glitches (here and elsewhere in the document), the sort of thing that a spell checker wouldn’t necessarily pick up on, but nothing too major, and overall the editing seems pretty good.
After the opening fiction, we get an intense stat block for Raxath in all his vileness. This is the mechanical meat of the document, the “hard part” of designing such a complex NPC. Overall, it is very well done, clearly laid out, and thoroughly hyperlinked to appropriate references on PFSRD…a very nice touch. I noticed a few things that I question, such as the attack bonuses on the rod of withering. The stat block lists +11/+6/+1, which should be Raxath’s BAB, not the bonus with the rod; the rod’s bonus should include his Dexterity modifier to the touch attack, as well as size and enhancement, for a total bonus of (I believe) +17/+12/+7. I have a feeling that this may be the result of putting a little too much faith in the ability of Hero Labs to create a flawless stat block; while Hero Labs is good, it is not perfect. Though the rod is linked to the appropriate PFSRD page, it also wouldn't hurt to list the 1d4 strength and con damage and the DC 17 fortitude save to negate these in the stat block, just in case the wireless is down or you want to use a printed version. On a purely cosmetic note, I would also like to see either slightly larger margins or smaller borders to make the stat block easier to read…the text goes right up to the border, making the beginnings or ends of some lines seem slightly disjointed. Other than these few minor details, this stat block is tight, organized, and very useful, well worth $3 just on its own. Did I mention how useful the hyperlinking to the PFSRD is? I did? OK, well then, I’ll mention it again.
The villain himself is a thoroughly despicable creature, sure to pose a great challenge to most parties of a suitable level, especially good aligned ones. Raxath is cleverly built using the Hidden Priest cleric archetype, and is able to disguise his divine casting as arcane. If he opens with a spell that is dual-listed cleric/wizard, be sure to make a point of material components (even if the spell doesn’t call for them)…you never know, you might be able to lure a martial character into trying to disarm him of his spell component pouch rather than doing actual damage.
Raxath is also particularly effective against parties of primarily good alignment, especially those with good divine spell casters. The Talisman of Ultimate Evil can easily be the doom of a paladin, a good-aligned cleric, even a kind-hearted ranger. However, it doesn't do much against a largely neutral party, meaning that Raxath’s most potent weapon is really only circumstantially useful, as is his highest level prepared spell, Blasphemy. Raxath is also not quite as adept at escaping as I was expecting, unless I missed something in his stat block; he can be fairly easily contained unless he has a few backups not listed as standard in his entry. Wands of Freedom of Movement and Dimension Door with just a couple of charges each can make the difference between narrow escape and an untimely death at the hands of a grappling PC. If he is going to be away from his potent otyugh ally Zogulryk (such as to spread disease in a city), changing one of his spells to (or giving him a scroll of) Word of Recall to get back to his lair can also be a good way to ensure he lives to fight another day. Also, he has no real way of using swift actions with the feats and gear listed. Quick Channel gives him a move action attack (extremely useful in the overall action economy), but he has no rods of metamagic quicken to be able to throw out an extra spell on his turn. I recommend taking advantage of the flexible “Resources” entry and adding a rod (or lesser rod) of metamagic quicken to his equipment before letting your PCs track him down.
Beyond just the numbers, we are given a really great view of WHO Raxath is, not just what he is. His motives and history, a series of profane boons and prophecies that weave his destiny, all contribute to a VERY thorough presentation of his unholy existence. I also found a new respect for a creature that I have never really used before: the otyugh. In the artfully described filth that is Raxath’s home, “the otyughs thrive.”
We also receive some suggestions for Raxath’s lesser associates, low level kobolds who are primarily for story support (and fireball fodder). They do not receive stat blocks of their own, though they should be easy enough to stat out if you ever need them, and some of the simple ones (low level rogues, for instance) can probably be run from memory by many GMs. Stat blocks could be nice in a campaign that starts at lower levels and works up to fighting Raxath, Zogulryk, and possibly the Profane Vessel of Maramaga, but we get something just as crunchy instead: new custom traps. The traps are truly brutal, and likely to be strewn all over the PCs’ path. From the mechanical Devouring Box and disease-spreading Fetid Breath Blower to the magical Clutches of Fear and Dread Cannonade, these traps HURT.
The stat blocks that we do get are for a couple variant otyughs (I am curious as to their alignments…the stat block lists them as “NN,” making me wonder if they should read “N” or “NE”). The final stats are for the CR 20 Profane Vessel of Maramaga, a monstrous otyugh that houses the regenerating body of the dead goddess. Aside from a typo on the creature’s hit dice (it should say 19d8 instead of 6d8) and a question about its caster level for spell-like abilities, this monster is well laid out. Its combat abilities do not, in my opinion, warrant a CR 20, but the main challenge it presents is FINDING and reaching it. The spell-like abilities Screen and Guards and Wards make the thing very hard even for high level PCs to find. I suspect its main purpose is to not be found, leaving open the possibility that adventurers may one day be needed again to combat the evil goddess Maramaga. The work closes with details on Maramaga, including her history and divine doctrines, and a brief look at the secretive Deadwood Order.
In closing, this is one of the best 3rd party NPC/organization works I’ve seen for Pathfinder. The bang for the buck is second to none, and the publisher could well use this NPC and his organization to create a full adventure (perhaps with those stat blocks for his lackeys, and definitely with those new traps strewn about in strategic locations). While I did note some glitches as I mentioned, they were relatively minor and can be easily forgiven in light of the exceptional overall value this product offers. Five stars.
((I should mention for the sake of full disclosure that I did receive this particular product free for the purpose of reviewing. However, I believe in putting my money where my mouth is on a 5 star review, so I just bought two more Infamous Adversaries [Ichor Humansbane and Cytheria the Blasphemer] and am looking forward to reading them.))
[5 of 5 Stars!]