Disclaimer: I was given a reviewer’s copy of this book. However, I am not paid for this review. That said, prior to being asked to review the book, I had already preordered it.
What you get:
This document is 34 pages long: one front cover, one table of contents, one page of OGL with an add, and one back cover leaving 30 pages of plane of shadows content. The physical book has a color cover with a black and white interior. The digital copy comes with two pdf’s: one is a printer-friendly black and white with color covers. It is basically almost exactly the dead-tree print version in pdf form. The second is a beautiful full-color pdf with parchment background. The digital copy also comes with Hero Lab files to allow you run Shadowsfall classes, races, deities, and all the options in Hero Lab. The digital copy also has hyperlinks to the PFSRD website to allow for easy access to all open Paizo content that is referenced. Now that we have the indisputable facts out of the way, let’s get down to my opinions!
Artwork: Jon Brazer Enterprises did not skimp on the art budget for this book. The artwork is mostly black and white and is good to excellent. The most of the art is better than what was in the [i]Book of Beasts Monsters of the Shadow Plane[/i]. There are two pieces of full color art that are very good. The picture of the wanderer is as good as the Player Class artwork that I have seen in the Pathfinder books or in the 3.5 Player’s Handbook. The black and white artwork is still black and white in the full-color-parchment-background pdf, so it sticks out a bit, but the quality of the majority of it is high enough that it doesn’t detract from the reading experience. Some of the highest quality art was of the Shadowfall iconics; I assume that this artwork was commissioned for the Shadowsfall products.
Layout and Editing: Layout adhered to a two-column standard. Editing was top notch. I tip my hat to the new editors at Jon Brazer Enterprises! There were very few errors that I noticed.
Overall Impression: This book is designed to give players and GM’s options for running an adventure or campaign in the plane of shadows. Everything that gets lost on the material plane ends up on the plane of shadows. Undead are much more common on the plane of shadows, and they are less limited there. This is [b]not[/b] a nice place to live. All light sources are cut in half, fire and light spells are harder to cast, shadow spells are easier to cast. Zombies are everywhere.
The plane of shadows slowly changes everyone who lives there, so many of the playable races (pulling lots of material from the Advanced Race Guide) are somewhat modified. Halflings are more like Gollum than Bilbo, Elves grow more Drow-like with each generation, and Dwarves slowly turn into Duergar as the generations go by. Some races are playable that would not normally be played: Dhampir, Drow, Duergar, Hobgoblins, Orcs, and Ratfolk are all common races. There are racial traits for all the races.
Two new races are included: The Umbral Kobold and the Wanderer. Umbral Kobolds are, well, Kobolds. They are small, quick, have darkvision and light sensitivity. The Wanderer is a celestial who has lost their immortality and looks human. I like the flavor of the wanderer race a lot.
Archetypes: Dusk Stalker is a magus archetype that allows a kobold magus to be a bit more roguish. Radiant Knight is a fighter archetype that allows a wanderer to use their Vestige of Holiness to provide themselves with some holy light themed abilities. The Radiant Knight archetype really makes me want to play a Wanderer when I play in Shadowsfall.
There is a new cavalier order, modified dragonblooded bloodlines for sorcerers, new evolution point options for the summoner, a Shadow elementalist school for wizards, and a new Witch hex. There are new animal companion options, including the Riding Dodo. It makes sense that an extinct species would end up on the plane of shadows. There are also new options for familiars; Pathfinder wizards can finally pull a rabbit (familiar) out of their hat!
Seven Strongholds (and the area outside the strongholds) are detailed, getting a half page each. Each also has associated traits for adventurers coming from that stronghold. Each stronghold is unique and well written. The traits do not seem to be overpowered and fit the flavor of each area. Room is left in Shadowsfall for an intrepid group of adventurers to establish their [i]own[/i] Stronghold.
Thirteen new feats are provided, one of which allows any character to gain 30ft. Darkvision (must be taken at first level). There is a set of feats that amount to a Shadow Style for the monk, allowing you to move faster, bypass a portion of enemy armor and deal strength damage. Combat, Teamwork, and Metamagic feats are all represented.
Some new equipment is available, including two new vehicles using the vehicle rules from ultimate combat. Deities across the alignment spectrum are well written and thematically appropriate. The Oracle’s Joy mystery is interesting; it requires a level of bard to access one of the revelations. The capstone ability is very powerful, but not unbalanced for 20th level play.
There is one page of new spells, which are mostly shadow related. I was a bit surprised at the first level spell Flicker, which functions like Invisibility but lasts only until the end of your next turn. The spells seems pretty powerful for a first level spell, but I would have to see how it played out. I can see Wizard/Rogues abusing it.
There is one page of new magic items, that are mostly shadow or undead related. I like the salve that gives you darkvision! I also liked the cloak that operates differently (and more powerfully) on the plane of shadows. Neat stuff here.
The two pages of “Altered Magical Items” is my favorite part of this book. In the same way that the plane of shadows corrupts all creatures that live there, it corrupts the operation of magical items. My favorite is the Ring of Troll Regeneration, which operates exactly like a Ring of Regeneration, except that it slowly changes your appearance so that you look like a troll.
I read all my gaming products on a netbook which has limited processor power; I found that the black and white version had less “lag” than the full color version. I found that I preferred reading the black and white over the color, though if I were to print it out, I would print the color version.
Final Rating: The purpose of this book is to provide options and background for players rolling up PC’s to run in Shadowsfall. It succeeds in that purpose. There are options for all of the PC classes, there are new races (designed according to the Advanced Race Guide rules) for players (and GM’s) to use. Layout and editing were great. I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about this book. 5 out of 5 stars.
[5 of 5 Stars!]