I’ve long been of the opinion that one of the strengths of the d20 system, of which Pathfinder is the primary inheritor, is its unified mechanics. Few are the places I appreciate this more than the transparency between PC and NPC rules, particularly for monsters and races. True, they don’t always match up 100% perfectly, but as someone who remembers what a headache it was trying to add class levels to monsters in previous editions, what we have now is by far better.
Purple Duck Games supplement Legendary Races: The Cyclops is a testament to this facet of game design. Because while I’ve never personally had a player ask to play a cyclops, I’ve now got that angle covered should it ever come up (plus some cool options in the meanwhile).
The book is a short one, being a sixteen-page PDF. Pleasantly, there’s also a second PDF of counters; small squares with images of various creatures from the book that can be easily placed on your battlemat. Several different sizes are available here, reflecting the various sizes of the cyclopes and cyclopes-kin that the book presents. Likewise, the primary PDF has full nested bookmarks and has copy and pasting enabled.
Several black and white illustrations break up the book, roughly a half-dozen all told. There is no printer-friendly version of the book available, but in all honesty your printer should be able to handle what’s here anyway. There’s also no epublishing file, so if you don’t like how PDFs display on an ereader or tablet, you’re going to be out of luck.
I usually talk about my overall impression of a book at the end of my review, saving it for after I’ve discussed all of the different sections, but in this case it seems more apropos to mention up front how much I enjoyed this book. I really feel like a standard was set here in terms of presenting a truly holistic amount of information regarding presenting a race for use in the Pathfinder RPG.
For example, the book opens with a few pages talking about the cyclopes’ racial history, society, and physiology before moving into game stats. From there we get a new weapon (a shuriken-like throwing weapon called the gieve), before moving into how to play a cyclops PC. This is handled by breaking the Bestiary cyclops down into a racial class. This harkens back slightly to Third Edition, being a class that essentially must be taken, and cannot be multiclassed out of until it’s complete, but the class is only six levels long, so it doesn’t seem particularly cumbersome.
If you can’t stand racial levels, however, the book has you covered with its new half-cyclops race. A human-cyclops mix, this race is equivalent to the standard races in power. It’s not simply tossed out without any support either – the book presents a good deal of flavor information before presenting the racial mechanics. Moreover, it then gives expanded descriptions for how half-cyclops do in each PC class (not including the UM and UC classes, as this book predates them), and has both alternate racial traits and several new favored class options. More than anything else, these extras helped give the entire book a very comprehensive scope.
A single new legendary weapon is presented next, a shout-out to those using Purple Duck Games’s Legendary Weapon supplements. If you don’t have those, it may be of more limited use. Interestingly, one of the weapon’s powers is a psionic one, with the particular power reprinted here in its entirety. A sidebar converts the power into a divine spell for those who hate psionics.
A couple new feats are presented next, and this is one of the areas where I felt the book could have been tightened up a little more. For example, Intimidating Orb gives a cyclops (of half-cyclops) a +4 to Intimidate checks. Fair enough, but with ten or more ranks in the skill, the Persuasive feat in the Core Rulebook will give you that, and a +4 bonus to Diplomacy to boot (and you don’t need to be a cyclops to take it). Likewise, the Otherworldly Gaze feat lets you gain a +2 to gaze and blindness attacks…but feats like Great Fortitude add a +2 save bonus to a much wider set of saves.
A new oracle mystery comes next, along with a sample 1st-level NPC. After this, we receive two new templates, the man-eater and the god-scored (which, oddly, do not have sample NPCs of their own). I quite enjoyed these templates, as they both play into the theme of degenerate cyclopes, but remain broad enough that they can be applied to most creatures (there were a few nitpicks that I had, like the man-eaters bite being a secondary natural attack, or the god-scorned’s punish the prideful attack deal a whopping 4 points of ability drain on a failed strike – ouch!).
The book ends with a new monster, the chthonic cyclops, a huge creature weighing in at a hefty CR 16! Presumably these are meant to represent the cyclopes as they once were.
Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. While it had a few rough patches (where are the half-cyclops’ height/weight and age tables? And does the gieve count for the half-cyclops’ weapon familiarity, since “cyclops throwing star” is a parenthetical name for the weapon?), it seriously went the extra mile in rounding out what could have been a very terse racial presentation, while still keeping a very tight focus. Small errors notwithstanding, this is a great resource for those who want to show that a one-eyed character can be king even beyond the land of the blind.
[5 of 5 Stars!]