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Folkloric - Baba Yaga, the First Setting in Rassiya $8.95
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Folkloric - Baba Yaga, the First Setting in Rassiya
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Folkloric - Baba Yaga, the First Setting in Rassiya
Publisher: Dog Soul Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2015 14:21:03

This 67 page book (minus covers, OGL and table of contents) is simply packed full of material for playing Baba Yaga. First we have some background on the witch herself including stats. We are also treated to a number of NPCs that have entered the witch's stories over the years. The book is written for D&D 3.0 edition, but the stats are so few that it could be easily used with any edition, or any game really. And you will want too because there is a lot here. This is book has guides to her hut, the lands that surround it, what happens to those lands and those that come into them. There is even tips on role-playing the witch. This really is an indispensable guide.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Folkloric - Baba Yaga, the First Setting in Rassiya
Publisher: Dog Soul Publishing
by Ron M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/10/2009 11:52:06

Folkloric: Baba Yaga From: Dog Soul Publishing Reviewed by:  Ron McClung

Folkloric: Baba Yaga is a new d20 Fantasy Setting Sourcebook from Dog Soul Publishing.

This Ennie Award nominated sourcebook is one of many in a series of folklore-based settings and source material by Dog Soul Publishing. I have been really impressed with the other items in this series, so this one looked no different on the outset.  

From page 1: “In a certain kingdom, in a certain land, there lived an uncertain youth - uncertain of his place in the world, of his purpose in his village, indeed, uncertain of the meaning of life itself.”

Folkloric: Baba Yaga is a sourcebook focusing on a fantasy setting of Rassiyan, which is loosely based on Russian folklore. The Baba Yaga is a prominent figure in Russian folklore and the inspiration for this PDF source book. She appears as a witch-like being and has some strong ties to nature. Her tales are usually about the balance of nature and world of man. In the short story provided, she appears in a chicken-legged house to a boy who is lost. The Baba Yaga is many things to many Eastern European cultures, and this PDF attempts to use them all as a source book to mold a fantasy world.

Content: The short story gives you an illustration of just one interpretation of the Baba Yaga. Following that, the author supplies certain axioms of Russian Folklore and the Baba Yaga. The Overview of the setting gives you the collective interpretation of the Baba Yaga, according the the author. Centrally to the Baba Yaga is the balance of nature and man's technology and her mysterious agenda.   Beyond the Baba Yaga, the Overview also gets into Russian Folklore in general, merging it into a new fantasy setting called Rassiyan. This is a refreshing break from the Western European-centered fantasy settings, and if a GM wants to dive into the mostly cold and wet world of a Russian-like culture, this section gets you started on that path. Focusing on a village called Derevnya, it begins to describe the culture and people of Rassiyan. Along with the Baba Yaga, there are two other immortal forces at work within Rassiyan: Prince Ivan Tsarevitch and Koschei the Deathless. They are further explained in the Overview.

The sections Inhabitants of Rassiya, Monsters and Animals contain all that one would expect. There are two special sections under the Inhabitants called The Three Maids and The Three Legends containing very special inhabitants of Rassiyan. No stats are given here, just story and background. This shows that the author appreciates good story and understands the focus of a good RPG.  

Monsters include the Three Horseman (if you had not noticed, many things come in threes), Lebedinoe ("swan-folks", relatives to Elves), and the Rusalka (a type of tormented soul like spectres or banshees). The animals include Baba Yaga's Oxen (the witch's special oxen), Catkin (an intelligent cat creature and pet to Baba Yaga ), Rip and Torn (Baba Yaga's guard dogs), and Grey (a gaunt, sleek, oversized wolf who roams alone). Again, no stats supplied immediately, just story. 

All stats are actually found in the NPC, Monster, and Animal stats section later in the PDF. There are a good range of Challenge Ratings for the GM to choose from.

From page #1 : “Be wary of wolves whilst you sleep, be wary of bandits whilst you walk, and at all times be wary of the forest’s dark heart, for all that lives there is death.”

Places in Rassiya cover in considerable detail many areas within Rassiyan including the the Village of Derevna, the Tyomniy Forest (an area that Baba Yaga has known to have been spotted), Mokriy Vale (another forest of lesser note), Berioza Grove (a mysterious forest where the Baba Yaga has also been spotted), Ivansgrove (the private hunting ground of Prince Ivan), Kholadna Swamp, and of course, the Baba Yaga’s Yard. Supplied in each major area is a random encounter table, which is very handy, of course.  Baba Yaga's yard and house are also detailed area by area, room by room, as well as trap by trap. There are several traps that the characters could possibly encounter and a random table is supplied for those. Also a possibility is the random encounter with a magic item or two. Both of these tables are an interesting approach to providing variety and wide range of possibilities. Roughly 15 or more magic items are detailed after. Also detailed as well as accompanied with a table is Treasure.

Sample Expressions of Major Characters is an interesting section that supplies some dialogue or typical expressions from the major NPCs like Baba Yaga, Vasilisa (one of the Three Maids), Kookla (Vasilisa's mysterious doll who will come to life at times), Melinika (one of the Three Maids), and Natalya (the third Maid). This adds further richness to the setting, giving you an idea of the context for each of the major NPCs.

Probably the most important section to the GM is the Plot Hooks section. The text says it well when it states "the land of Rassiya is packed full of intrigue and adventure." There are seven short plot hooks supplied here that are imaginative and inspiring. Closing out the PDF are three Appendices - Lebedinoe Racial Description, Glossary and Pronunciation Guide, and Rassiyan Naming Conventions. The Lebedinoe, as mentioned above, are elf-like folks of Rassiyan and this section supplies the character stats. Their key characteristic is their connection to the cold nature of Rassiyan and their ability to change to a swan.  

What I like the most is the Pronunciation Guide. Some of these words are hard to wrap my tongue around and this helps with that as well as helps the GM add some legitimacy to his running of this universe. 

Layout: The art is very well done. It brings out the feel of Russian-folklore based fantasy. I cannot say enough about the art. It is fantastic. The PDF layout is well done, although a little more than my work printer could handle. I assume that if bought, there would be a printer friendly version, but I did not get one. The Cartography for the Map of Rassiya, Map of The Village of Derevna, and the Map of Baba Yaga’s Hut and Yard are also done well, very colorful and clear.

In conclusion, this PDF is without a doubt a brilliant piece of research and writing for all to enjoy. It supplies a fresh new world for fantasy gamers to explore. It is rich with imaginative merging of folklore and fantasy. This is well deserving of the nominations it received and dare say that it is deserving of more than just nominations. It leaves nothing out. It is complete and well done. It is inspired and well written. The author should be proud.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Folkloric - Baba Yaga, the First Setting in Rassiya
Publisher: Dog Soul Publishing
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2005 00:00:00

I am not all that familiar with the folklore surrounding the mysterious Baba Yaga. As such it is not clear to me exactly how much here is right out of legends and what is the imagination and creation of the writing. While that might not seem like it is telling it actually shows the writing to be seamless. There is not much difference that can be noted between the difference passages and there are lots of different passages. In fact the book is a nice collection of writings with very little game mechanics in it. This product is for someone who wants information, lots of information. Allow me to amend that even farther. This is for someone that wants lots of well written, highly creative information. I can easily see someone using this material for other games that they want a Yaga Baba or someone similar in like HARP or even with some work into a more modern game like World of Darkness. This is made for the people that like story elements in their game and details and role playing.

The book starts with a general introduction on the legends and some of the people and then goes right into Baba Yaga. There is a good page and a half on her and no stat blocks or rules to muck it all up. That?s one of the nice things about the book, it reminds me a bit like what GURPS does having the good information in the front and most of the rules bits in the back. It then goes into detail on some of the other major and minor characters in the legends. The book then goes into monsters. The art is really neat and I like the feel the book gets from the art. Next, the area and major town are nicely mapped out and described. While the map is nicely done I would have preferred a hand drawn map as I think it would have fit the feel of the book, but that?s a pretty small complaint. The map is good, easy to use, and easy to read. Just a little to clean looking. Great descriptions are to be found of the few places described in the town and the areas around it. It will be relatively easy to take this place of cold wilderness and drop it into a campaign setting like the Realms, Midnight, or even Oathbound. Obviously certain settings might require alterations to the back story and the legends but a creative DM has a lot to work with here and should easily be able to make the modifications to have this all fit. While it will take a bit more work, this can also make a great encounter for a modern game and I think it has great potential for games like World of Darkness. The detail here is just great few books are this enjoyable to just read and let the imagination flow. As a first product this sets the bar nice and high as it shows they have imagination and can write. And on top of that tackling legends and bringing them to life is a great bonus for me. Another nice think is most people should in some way be familiar with Baba Yaga so they should have an idea ahead of time if this product would be of use or interest to them.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Creative use of an old folk lore brilliant brought to life.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: nothing<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Folkloric - Baba Yaga, the First Setting in Rassiya
Publisher: Dog Soul Publishing
by Steven T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2005 00:00:00

Very rarely do I find a product that I makes me want to use every part of it. Sometimes I find a good feat, or a fun looking class, but for the most part, I tend to pick and choose bits ad pieces from a variety of products when creating a new character, or ploting a new campaign. Baba Yaga, the first product in Dog Soul Publishing?s Folkloric line is the first product in a long time that makes me want to use everything in it. And there?s a lot of good stuff in here.

For those who might not be familiar with the legends of Baba Yaga, she is a legendary witch/hag who haunts Russian forests in her chicken-legged hut looking for children to devour. But it?s not really important whether or not you?re familiar with the Baba Yaga stories, because after reading this product, you will know everything there is to know about the hag.

The fluff to crunch ratio of Baba Yaga is perfectly balanced. The book opens with a fiction piece that sets the tone for the entire product - Dark, grim (should that be Grimm?), and mysterious. The book starts of by presenting all the elements of setting in strictly vague terms. This is an excellent technique, as it allows the DM to allow the players to read these parts and get a feel for the setting without having everything spoiled.

After the opening fiction we dive right into the inhabitants of Rassiya, the setting locale. Again, these really stand out. There are plenty of characters here, and each one is just dripping with plot hooks. From the Three Maids who were all changed by their encounters with Baba Yaga, to great monsters like the Three Horsemen, the Leshye (blue-skinned satyr-kin), the Lebedinoe (swan people), and the Bolotnitsa (evil snake-tailed mermaids) the inhabitants of the lads of Rassiya are vividly described, and again, each of hem is brimming with plot hooks, as well as a host of different ways to connect them together.

It?s worth commenting here on the connectedness of this product. Everything and I mean everything in this book is connected. As a DM this is ideal for me. I can have the PC?s meet a few townsfolk in the village of Derevna, and no matter who they speak to, there?s a reason for them to seek Baba Yaga, or go on some quest that eventually will lead to encountering the hag. Even the more random monsters like the Bolotnitsa have reasons to connect to other creatures and locations in Rassiya. This is for me the strongest aspect of Baba Yaga. It makes my job as DM so easy! No matter what plot hook I want to spring on the players, I can be assured that they are likely to find more and more reasons to adventure. This isn?t a ?fire and forget? product. This is a book that is likely to form the foundation of an entire campaign, or more likely several campaigns.

The locations detailed are as well done as the characters and monsters. The maps are top notch, and each area has a clear and easy to read encounter key. Again, no matter what location the PC?s choose to visit first, adventure awaits them. Want to purchase silver weapons from Sir Yebriniy's Silvers? He?s sure to tell them of his ancient quest to slay a great beast. Need a good night?s sleep? Those who stay in Padushka?s Snatvornaye Inn are certain to get just that, and a little adventure thrown in to boot. There are random encounter tables for each location as well, which once again makes this book easy to use and very DM friendly.

Of course the product wouldn?t be complete if it didn?t finally get around to delivering the straight dope on the title character ? Baba Yaga. Again, the work here is outstanding. Suitably horrific stats are provided for Baba Yaga, along with a back story that really explains who this hag is, and gives some suggestions as to why she does what she does. More importantly, there are excellent instructions for how to handle encounters between the hag and the PC?s. This is a big help, especially for DM?s who haven?t dealt with creatures of this power level before. (And Baba Yaga is just as powerful as she should be! CR: 20!) Every possible encounter the PC?s might have when visiting the hag is fully detailed with stats and plots galore. Everything from the magical talking creatures and items that guard the witch?s yard, to the precise DC for a Bardic Knowledge check to know the proper form of address for the infamous chicken-legged hut is laid out in exquisite detail.

Another feature of this PDF that really lends a lot of utility, as well as ?replay value? to the file is the random chars for traps, treasures and magic items that might be found in Baba Yaga?s hut. These charts are simple to use, but can generate a massive amount of variety. Best of all, these charts create items that fit the mood of an encounter with this legendary hag. Is the potion she gave the PC?s a blessing or a curse? Should they risk poking around in her pantry? Or is that a recipe for disaster?

Author Michael Fiegel really goes the extra mile with his NPC?s. Not only do we get stats for all the major players in Rassiya, we also get a section covering some sample dialogue and reactions these characters might have with PC?s. Again, this is a big help to DM?s. It?s great to have a well developed character fleshed out in a book. It?s even better when the author explains what you?re supposed to do with this character. This has always been a pet peeve of mine in setting material. Sure, I know Mordenkainen and Elminster are powerful magi. But how am I supposed to use these goons in my game? No such problem here, everyone from Baba Yaga herself, right through Kookla the living doll, and her mistress has enough detail to use right out of the box. These characters have personality. They aren?t just a collection of numbers and feats, they have personality and motivations. It makes a world of difference.

The file closes with three appendices that continue to add value to this book. The first is a full racial description for the Lebedinoe swan-folk. All the information needed to use these fey as a LA+3 PC race is included. The second appendix is the very much needed glossary and pronunciation guide. Let?s face it, with names like Koschei the Deathless, Misha Skomorokh, and Chyorniy, it?s quite helpful to have some idea how to actually say these words. The final appendix is an excellent segment on Rassiyan naming conventions. This is well researched, and will be very helpful for a DM who wants to create Rassiyan adventures of his own, or for players who need suitable names for their Rassiyan PC?s.

And before I forget, the artwork is just as good as the writing. Reuben C. Dodd has done some great work here. The cover (which in my opinion is the weakest piece in the book) is an eerie image of a young child?s face cradled in a marled crone?s hand. The interior illustrations perfectly capture the mood of the dark Russian forests that spawned these legends. The portrait of Baba Yaga on page nine conveys an air of malice and cunning that perfectly suits the old witch. Evocative moody stuff to be sure. I?m looking forward to seeing more of his Dodd?s work in the future.

There you have it. From start to finish, this is a first class product. Whether you?re just looking for some new monsters to spice up a game, or a handy village to drop into your world, or even a full-blown campaign setting Baba Yaga has what you?re looking for. If you?re an old grogard like me, you?ll appreciate seeing this old favorite get a new treatment that handles these old legends so thoroughly and in such a playable manner. The random traps, magic items and treasure charts also have a real ?old-school? feel that I enjoyed. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: What DIDN'T I like about this product? From top to bottom Baba Yaga is first rate. The witch herself is suitably powerful, and many an adventure could be built around her. I really enjoyed how well connected everything in he book is. The characters all have plot ooks that lead to locations. The locations have plot hooks that lead to items. The items lead back o characters, and it all circles back to the old crone herself.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I really can't find anything negative to say about this book. It's that good. The cover left me a little cold. It's moody, but doesn't really portray any action. That's a very minor complaint about a superb product.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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