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Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2015 06:57:41
The Midgard Bestiary is a monster compilation with a difference. Born of Open Design's organic development process, it draws upon monsters featured in Kobold Quarterly, the website and already-published materials as well as the traditional folklore that powers much of their output. Keynotes are that monsters ought to be scary and have the potential to be used in unorthodox ways to keep players guessing and on the edge of their seats. There's an overtone of deep-rooted horror that permiates much of the Open Design (now Kobold Press) output, the sort of horror that stems from tales told and retold.

Each of the 89 monsters gets the same treatment: brief 'this is what you see' description, a full stat-block, illustration and full descriptive and ecological notes that supply the GM with all the information he needs to locate and run that monster as an integral part of the campaign world, not just something to fight (although most of them will put up a good fight when it's a brawl you are after!). Who could not delight in the bagiennik, an often peaceful creature with a talent for healing which goes absolutely mad with fury if you interrupt it when it's taking one of its frequent and languorous baths... well, I don't like being disturbed when bathing either!

Even reading some of the entries can send shudders down your spine... like the broodkin, really nasty constructs that are a sort of malignant baby or the beautiful but deadly cavelight moss that delights in devouring passing adventurers. Twisted birds, a host of clockwork creatures, and the carrion-eating death butterfly swarm lie in wait, and the twisted evil of a derro fetal savant is just sick. I think I prefer the ink devil, these prefer chatting, whining, and pleading to any form of combat, being known cowards - and fun to role-play as well.

Twisted, strange, unpredictable, the stuff of the sort of legends you tell around a camp fire late at night... just don't get bitten by a doppelrat! Whether your game is set in Midgard or in your own campaign world, when you want to scare the party as well as provide them with opposition, this is an excellent collection to browse through. To aid in selection, appendices list them by type, CR, terrain and role, while there are also notes on re-skinned monsters (ways to create quick variant critters) and a set of location-based encounter tables if you need a quick random monster. Definitely worth adding to your monster collection - you can never have too many!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
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Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/31/2015 05:18:48
An Endzeitgeist.com review

This compilation of the Larger than Life-series (plus new pieces) clocks in at 78 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?


Ah, the blessings of me being swamped in reviews. A couple of small installments are released and once I could get around to them, the big book's already out there...yeah, I know. I'd love to be faster.


That aside, what we get within the pages of this book is not a simple monster book themed around giants - instead, this book should be considered a kind of combination of ecology + toolkit -and personally, I very much enjoy this approach. Why? Well, at this point, you've probably heard me lament the decline of fluff text and the inspiration it brings in various monster-supplements, so yes, this type of book is right up my alley. Furthermore, as someone who likes to tinker with monsters to make them more lethal, any kind of toolkit is definitely appreciated, so let's break down the giants as presented herein - after all, they probably should differ from what was depicted in Paizo's Giants Revisited.


This being a kind of ecology toolbox-combination, the respective chapters doe follow a certain structure - we begin each of the entries with a general run-down of motivations, society structure, attitude towards the most common of races. These entries actually go into the details of the respective societies, also providing some instances of usual customs and similar pieces of information that render the entries infinitely more compelling for the GM, and best of all, more inspiring. So yes, kudos for going this route - as far as I'm concerned, I vastly prefer such a detailed look at a given culture. That being said, the entries do not limit themselves to such information - GMs can also look forward to an array of racial feats specifically designed for the respective giants. Beyond those, equipment, variants and spells as well as sample statblocks provide ample crunch fodder for the discerning GM.


Now it should be noted that the respective feats usually actually are racial feats - i.e. they require the creature to be of the respective race, so there is not much chance of actually abusing the feats presented herein. I do welcome this decision due to two facts: One, if a GM truly wants to, he can still flaunt the prerequisite and two, this means that the respective giant types actually utilize different tactics. Finally, beyond the sample builds, adventure seeds can also be found herein. So that's the structure presented in the respective entries. That out of the way, let us dive into the matter at hand and begin:


The first type of giant depicted would be the Thursir, who also are the most numerous and least pleasant giants as far as humanoids are concerned - they are characterized by not only their predilection for crafting, a certain misogyny and a huge appetite. While not depicted as compulsory cannibals, once tasting the texture of humanoid flesh may render them degenerate and even more frightening. With females often reduced to the traditional roles or that of spellcasters, it should come as no surprise that there are actually feats that allow a cunning thursir lady to be the power behind the throne via suggestion et al. or cut down foes to size with reduce/enlarge person. Thursir may apply magic weapon to weapons they crafted themselves and have some forge-themed tricks, which range from interesting to a bit bland: Fire resistance 10, for example, may be nice, but I have seen that one quite often before. At the same time, synergy with Northland's rune magic can be considered rather interesting. On the other hand, would you as a GM waste a precious feat-slot for +1 to atk and damage versus dwarves? I don't care how thematically appropriate anti-X-feats are, their benefit should imho be on par with a feat-investment. So no, not all of the custom-options here are worth taking, though e.g. +10 rounds of rage when starved is NASTY - and yes, it caveats that you usually can't rage when fatigued. Nice catch! The equipment section is inspired - from field forges and barbed armors to hammers that allow the thursir to bull rush foes, the options are nice. A new special quality and nice magic complements the section.


Hill Giants are depicted in this book in a manner that somewhat deviates slightly from the base concept -while the general stupidity and short-sightedness can still be found within this interpretation of the giant type, they can more be likened to bullies that treat the divine as petulant children would treat their parents. Strangely, they also show a taste for runic magic and while the overall concept may not sound too groundbreaking, the combination of the themes evoked actually makes them frightening in their implications: If big, nasty bullies can destroy you by sheer thoughtlessness, they may be harbingers of things even worse than their own predations. The feats provided here allow the hill giants to blind/deafen foes with attacks, substitute Intimidate for Handle Animal or gain your Int-SCORE to resist attempts to reason with you alongside some general rock catching/squashing-enhancing feats. With liquid bravado, dung boulders and wax to prevent them from succumbing to language-dependent magic, the supplemental material does support the surprisingly frightening concept of this kind of giant. Magical bags of rocks and spells to assess settlements and whether they're ripe for plunder further make these primitive, lazy bullies a threat to be reckoned with.


Stone Giants have had perhaps one of the most significant re-designs in pathfinder and for a good reason: The old iterations have not been particularly interesting and, in fact, I will always fondly remember RotRL #4 for being the first module wherein I considered stone giants interesting foils. Now the ecology of this book provides not a truly new stance on the concept itself, but rather in the detail - in a perfect example *why* I consider more extensive monster ecologies so vital, stone giant society is depicted as having some almost zen-like quest for truth being part of their decision making: It would not be uncommon for one of these long-lived giants to walk around and ask a multitude of beings the same question, only to return weeks later and draw conclusions after careful deliberation - while this sounds like a small component, it inspired me actually to a large extent, so kudos for that! Supplemental material-wise, we obviously get the stone-related options you'd expect - from better durability and stealth to even getting hardness (!!!), the options are thematically concise and thankfully limited to adversaries. With demoralizing drums and clarity-enhancing moss, the alchemical items also work well regarding the conjunction of strange themes unified in this giant race. Have I mentioned the new ioun stones of the magical stone sphere?


Now as for the Frost Giants, there probably is no giant type less in need of an awesome additional fluff, right? At least as far as I'm concerned, the harbingers of the Fimbulwinter, the scions of ice and snow, perfectly encapsulate all that is awesome about giants and all that renders them cool. Yes, I'm going to put a dime in the bad pun jar for that. That being said, you probably won't be surprised by me not particularly being keen on more details for them, though rune-enhancing etc. and the accompanying fluff are nice. However, at the same time, I should not fail to mention one particularly awesome "Why didn't I think of that before"-concept presented among the crunch: The Avalanche Rider-feat. use Ride to literally ride on avalanches. Think about the imagery - the mountains shake and the northmen look up, as a huge white cloud rushes towards the settlement. In panic, magic is woven, children are brought into safe places - and then, not only does white death come above, they hear the thundering of giant feat, sliding into their midst - the giants have come. Yes, I am so going to use this. With auras that deal ice damage and feats to break bones with crits, the frost giant-options herein help set them aside and distinguish them from their brethren.


Conversely, the Fire giants have been a second set of favorites for me, with the Weltenbrand and the inherent discipline and structure conventionally expected from the in-game depiction of fire giants, they pretty much are the opposite side of the coin - and no less awesome. It should hence come as no surprise that the feats sport a burning aura, anti-cold options etc. At the same time, their organization is not just a mirrored law/chaos dichotomy - e.g. deals with devils are not as common as you'd expect and the supreme organization also translates into a better structuring regarding the cooperation with e.g. fire beasts and red dragons. Emitting a heat wave and thus, concealment or leashes of fire made to control trolls provide nice, coherent options that render their society more believable and ultimately, more inspiring for the GM. It should also come as no surprise that this supreme organization also translates to more unique weapon special abilities than for the other giants.


The final section of the book consists of a double ecology depicting Cloud and Storm Giants - which makes sense to me since they do sport some conceptual overlap. The alignment-split and inherent hedonism of cloud giants is depicted in a rather interesting manner, with transitions being described in a rather interesting manner. At the same time, though, it should be noted that storm giants are relegated to an afterthought within the write-ups here, usually receiving one paragraph of a couple of lines - personally, I consider this a somewhat lost chance of further tying the races together ina new and innovative manner, but that may just be me. That being said, the crunch provided for the races tends towards the more awesome side of things: Whether it's temporary switching of alignments for cloud giants or becoming electromagnetic for storm giants to lightning auras, griffon companions, cloud/fog control, better weather control - there are quite a few options, including temporarily disguising oneself as a medium humanoid. With spells that allow for the strengthening of nature, forcing creatures to assume gaseous form to generating strangling fog with magic, it should come as no surprise that these most magic of giants also receive the most unique spells. And yes, thunderbolt javelins are included in the mix.


Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can still be considered good - but it is a far cry from perfect. While I can live with some minor deviations from default rules-language, whole feats sans proper formatting and a plethora of italicization glitches can be considered slightly annoying. Layout adheres to a nice, printer-friendly 2-column full-color standard and the pdf does sport a few nice, original full-color artworks. The book comes bookmarked with minimal bookmarks: One per chapter - In a book of this size, that's not enough. To make navigation quicker, nested bookmarks to the respective sub-chapters would have very much been appreciated by yours truly.


Mike Welham is one of my favorite designers for a reason - Mike only rarely disappoints and there is a reason he has found his way more than once on my top ten-lists. Unlike many authors out there, he is both at home in crunch design and fluff, though especially his prose can be considered to be, more often than not, simply glorious. And this creativity can be found in this book, in many of the gloriously-written little details that greatly enhance the respective cultures.


The question you probably have, though, is the following: "Is this any good?" - Yes, yes, it is. Especially the giant-specific content actually really helps making the giants distinct from one another and provide unique tricks that set them apart -some of which are absolutely iconic and inspired. So overall, yes, I consider this book to be a tad bit more inspired than Giants Revisited. And yes, this book makes giants more distinct. That being said, I do believe I have some gripes I can field here: For one, the spells imho could have used more racial material components to make them harder to acquire or more thematically unique - this is a nitpick, though, and not something I will penalize the pdf for. Much like Giants Revisited, though to a lesser extent, this pdf does not solve the issue of giants in PFRPG itself: Giants suck mechanically. The elimination of many immunities giants had in previous editions has made them very susceptible to a plethora of save-or-suck-effects and tricks that simply have taken a big part of the iconic threat they should be out of them.


While the new feats presented herein do help make them more distinct, I couldn't help but feel that this pdf would have greatly benefited from a first chapter, wherein options to make ALL GIANTS more hardy, a general toolkit collection if you will. Of course, there actually are some specific options that help set them apart and e.g. hardness indeed does help stone giants to have more staying power - but certain classes still have a pretty easy time eliminating giants due to their sucky touch AC. If you have ever featured giants in your game, you'll probably know what I'm talking about. So yeah, that would be the big, lost chance of this book. While Larger than Life has succeeded in making the giant types more distinct among themselves, the series does not enhance the giant-subtype as opposed to other humanoids, making them, in this one regard, not larger than life.


I am very much aware that this complaint may be deemed unfair and for that I apologize: I usually try to not complain about roads not taken, but in this instance, the experiences I've had with giants make it very much impossible to not mention this.


Now if that sounded negative, do not take it as such - this is still very much a very good toolkit, though one that falls short of its own potential to become the state-of-the art giant-book. There is much awesomeness to be found within these pages and Giantslayer-GMs will most certainly cackle with glee when handling this book. It's just that the glitches and aforementioned oversight constitute two detractors that made this book slightly less awesome to me than what it could have been. Ultimately, I consider this a good addition to the system and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - GMs seeking to make giants more distinct definitely should get this book.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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Southlands Campaign Setting
by Tim W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/28/2015 17:14:46
Warning this review is totally biased. As an ongoing patron of Kobold Press products, I was not surprised by the HIGH QUALITY ART, roster of DISTINGUISHED GAME DESIGNERS, and excellent detailed CAMPAIGN SETTING materials. This resource over-brims with Egyptian-themed, African-themed and Arabic-themed fantasy. Speaking of high quality art, the CARTOGRAPHY in this tome is superb. If it were completely perfect, I would be overdoing the praise to the point of fibbing. That being said, I found that the few typos throughout the book were minimal and on par, make that well above par, with any good RPG book that actually delivers when they say they will. Huzzah! Kudos! and Thanks for this wonderful sacrificed preserved dead tree that I will treasure for many years!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting
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Alleys of Zobeck (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/27/2015 11:49:34
This work is a collection of additional enhancements for those using Streets of Zobeck (or indeed the Zobeck Gazetteer) in their campaign. It opens with a short scenario 'Nothing to Declare' which should be run the first time that the party arrives in the Free City of Zobek, an adventure that sets the scene and flavour of the place ready for whatever you have planned for later. It's a neat introduction to a place which runs on favours and reeks of corruption, and provides a lead-in to whichever of the adventures from Streets of Zobeck you intend to run.

This escapade is followed by a selection of rules material, each keyed to one of the Streets of Zobeck adventures but of potential use in their own right whether or not you are going to run the adventure in question. Clerics may appreciate the Lust domain - whichever deity they worship does NOT require celibacy of devotees! There are creatures, templates, the odd encounter... plenty to spice up whatever adventure you are running in Zobeck or, for that matter, any equivalent city. Or perhaps you'd like to introduce Goldscale the kobold and his dire weasel mount...

There are other NPCs too, new feats (including some dirty fighting moves!) and traits, magic and mundane items that might come in handy, and more. There's a rather odd incantation called the Incantation of Memories Lost which quite frankly baffles me. It's not clear what the purpose is, the benefit of casting it. Better are some tables for generation the sort of odds and ends the party may find in the pockets of the next body they find in the gutter. If it's fine dining you are after, the Rampant Roach (a kobold-run resturant) is best avoided, but there's a description and floor-plan for those unwise enough to go in. Ulmar's Rare Books may be worth a visit, and there are adventure ideas both for these places and for some of those mentioned in other Zobeck books. Finally if the party finds the city confusing, they might want to engage the services of another kobold called Blackeye who has a carriage for hire, taxi-style. He makes a good ally - provided you are happy with the army of cousins he recommends and the never-ending chatter about Zobeck and its inhabitants.

Overall, a nice addition to the other two Zobeck books, but of less use if you are not using them.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alleys of Zobeck (Pathfinder RPG)
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KOBOLD Guide to Worldbuilding
by Danilo K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/26/2015 20:14:55
The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding is a very good and useful book. It contains essays written by the top professionals of the tabletop gaming industry, and it does deliver on it's promise, which is to help you make your own world. But I think that the book could benefit from a bit deeper insight on many of the topics, although some (religion, for example) are already excellently covered. Also the first essay makes it look like a detailed history for your world is unnecessary, but the later essays seem to contradict this. All in all, a good book, and I recommend it to all who are currently in the process of worldbuilding, or soon will be.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
KOBOLD Guide to Worldbuilding
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Streets of Zobeck (PFRPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/25/2015 10:23:55
If you like adventures grim and gritty, enjoy the odd heist, and are not too particular as to which side of the law your characters might be on, this collection of adventures set in the Free City of Zobeck may be just up your street. Set in the underbelly of the city, the characters will need to be cunning, tricky, ruthless and smart to survive... but if they do, who knows, they may end up rich!

This is more than a collection of adventures, however. It starts with some beautifully-detailed and colourful characters and fascinating locations for use both in these adventures and ones of your own. Each NPC comes with notes on their motivations and goals, their long-term activities, and on 'schemes and plots' - ideas for how they might be incorporated into or even spawn an adventure here and now. The location entries also have adventure ideas as well as floorplans and notes on the folk that you might find hanging around. Standout here is the Silk Scabbard, a fight club/brothel... the entry even has suggestions for the party taking over and running it. There's also a collection of feats, traits, spells and gear that might come in handy for adventurers in Zobeck or indeed those who enjoy city adventuring in general.

Then we get to the adventures themselves, a full seven of them, catering to characters of levels 1 to 10. Run them as a loose sequence, pick an appropriate one when the party comes to town, mix in your own adventures in Zobeck or the surrounding area, the choice is yours. The characters will be caught up in the dark underbelly of Zobeck from the outset, with memorable encounters with people who may prove a help or a hindrance in the future (assuming they survive the encounter, that is). It's a fascinating exercise in how to embed adventures in the very fabric of the setting, creating an harmonious whole that gives the impression of a city buzzing with life never mind what the party gets up to, yet enabling them to become movers and shakers in their own right if that's what they desire.

Each adventure stands on its own as an exciting series of events, taking the party around the city as they seek to complete a mission or find something out. The first is 'Everyone Lies' by Ben McFarland, which sets the characters to look for a local thief's missing girlfriend. Naturally all is not as it seems and a massive web of deceit underlies this seemingly simple task... oh, and they are not the only people looking for the young lady in question... and this is the adventure for 1st-3rd level characters!

Next is 'Rust' by Richard Pett. This 4th-5th level adventure sees the party asked to deal with a plague of demented animated metallic creatures that prowl by night. Who made them, where, and why? Finding the answers may give clues as to why competing merchants are taking an interest. This is followed by an adventure from Christina Stiles called 'The Fish and the Rose', billed as suitable for 5th-level characters. The title is the name of a painting, coveted by many but one thinks she knows where it is - and is willing to hire the party to acquire it on her behalf... an ideal adventure for those who dream of pulling off an epic heist. Then comes 'The First Lab', written by Mike Franke, which is for 7th-level adventurers and delves into the very origins of the gearforged as they are hired to retrieve a diary stolen from a senior professor at the Arcane Collegium.

Matthew Stinson is author of the next adventure called 'Rebuilding a Good Man' and appropriate for 9th-level characters. Someone has acquired (read: stolen) a gearforged body for rather dubious purposes, but perhaps if it was stolen back it could be put to better use... there's an exercise in morality as well as one for the swordarm here. Next, Mike Franke is back with 'Ripper' for a 10th-level party who rapidly get embroiled in the search for a serial killer whether they are interested or not. Finally, there's 'Flesh Fails' from Christina Stiles. Also for 10th-level characters, well it's billed as 9th-11th actually, it involves dark goings-on at the Arcane Collegium and murky dealings amongst the political elite of the city. Successful characters could even use this adventure, if concluded successfully, as a stepping-stone to political power for themselves.

If the Free City of Zobeck features in your game, this book is well worth a look... and if you don't, reading it will make you want to run a campaign set in and around Zobeck forthwith.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Streets of Zobeck (PFRPG)
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Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
by Txabier A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/24/2015 23:02:07
A great product, full of many interesting ideas and specialized knowledge offered by many of the industry's top talents, whose proven track record alone makes it a worthwhile read.

Everything that will help any aspiring professionals to better present their ideas is there. Whether it is pitching them, building more coherent and cohesive systems or come up with a print-worthy and publication ready products all on their own, should they decide to do so, you will most certainly find it here.

Do mind, though: this goes beyond "simple" adventure design in a snap. While you most certainly can use it as a great source for (greatly) improving your regular gaming, all of the information contained herein is aimed at helping you plan, produce and streamline your material, from vague idea all the way up to finished product.

I, for one, am using many of its finer points as "pointers" that help me focus my novel-writing, and most of its "hardcore" design rotes as unavoidable landmarks in the thorough and all-encompassing revision of a major game line I am working on at the moment....

So yes, you can say I find this 252 ebook, and absolute must in any designer/writer's library, and one that is well worth the admission price even if you don't find it at a sale price (which I lucky enough to do).

To put it simply and in as few words as possible: if you want to have an audience that is constantly pleased with your offerings, you should get this book and learn it by heart.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design
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Southlands Bestiary
by Billy W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/22/2015 09:47:24
We did a fill review on www.playersguidepodcast.com/reviews To summarize, the book is fantastic and we highly recommend it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
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Pirates of the Western Ocean (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2015 07:32:02
Pirates have always had a fascination for role-players, so it's pretty much inevitable that some were going to turn up... The Introduction, however, takes a historical tack, starting with Viking raiders and going on to consider Barbary pirates of the Mediterranean as well as the Caribbean ones most often thought of when considering pirates for a fantasy role-playing game. It also introduces the historical concept of the privateer, a pirate licensed by his own government to wage proxy war on the ships of opposing nations. This provides a wide canvas, a range of suggestions beyond the norm on which to introduce pirates into your game.

We start in Chapter 1: Lords of the Seas with copious details (including full stat blocks) of five notorious pirates encountered in the Western Ocean of the Midgard Campaign Setting. (If your game is set elsewhere, just tweak names and details to fit your needs.) This is followed by Chapter 2: Faces of the Western Ocean, which presents other NPCs who ply the sea lanes of the Western Ocean whom you can use as enemies or allies, chance encounters or just a passing rumour heard in a tavern. Ideas for how to incorporate them into your plots are included as well as standard details of stat block, background, combat information and portraits. One stand-out is Czakthorash, a green dragon who was the runt of his litter and devised a cunning plan: outclassed by his siblings in regular dragon methods of amassing a hoard, he's established himself as a 'cargo-cult' deity providing trinkets to primitive islanders in return for adulation... and plenty gems and gold as well!

Next up is Palau Kelaparan, Home of Mechuiti and the Behtu. This presents an entire island located in a remote corner of the Western Ocean (or someplace suitable in your campaign world), the residence of Mechuiti (who is a demon) and his cohorts as well as the natives: the pygmy Behtu, who have some unpleasant habits. Explore the place if you dare, defeat the inhabitants if you can... This section includes some ideas for ways of getting your party to go there in the first place. Then comes Umbrasca, another island with a long and dark history. Again the geography is outlined, with locations to explore, and notable inhabitants to meet, along with plot suggestions for how to incorporate it into your game.

If neither of these appeal, the next section presents several Lesser Ports of Call which a ship-borne party may care to visit during their travels... and if they are getting too complacent, call upon the inhabitants of the following section Pirate Bands to provide some opposition. These are provided in outline only, you'll have to put in some work before they are ready for a brawl on the high seas.

We then move on to a Bestiary of the Waves, containing cannibal pygmies and rum gremlins, and notes on rules pertaining to being adrift at sea deigned to enable you to generate an encounter with someone cast adrift at short notice. Next is a section on Ships and Cargo, which provides loads of detail such as ship templates to aid in devising the ships your party sails in or encounters... but despite the heading, nothing much about cargo.

This is followed by Mariner Magic and Culture. Here we find some new spells with a nautical flavour... and others, including some rather cunning temporal ones. There are also some magic items and mariner traits, for characters who spend plenty of time afloat.

Finally, there are some Secrets of the Western Ocean... dark secrets for the GM to know and craft plots around ready to ensnare unwary parties and give them the thrill of discovery as they unravel the mysteries. These are based around aboleths and sea titans, who both once held sway in the depths but whose influence has waned, although it has not faded away completely. At the end there's a map of the Western Ocean, a rather disappointing one as it doesn't show any of the places mentioned in the text!

There's plenty to spark the imagination if you want to bring pirates into your game - particularly if they will be attacking your party rather than the characters actually taking to a life of swashing their buckles pirate-style themselves. It could have done with more maps, the single one provided is virtually useless, but there are some good ideas here, although most will need further work before they are ready to be included in your game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pirates of the Western Ocean (Pathfinder RPG)
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Zobeck Gazetteer (Pathfinder RPG)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/20/2015 08:45:06
The Introduction opens with a key question: What is Zobeck? Seems a good place to start, and the text explains how Zobeck is one of the few places in Midgard not to have a feudal overlord since a revolt some 80 years ago kicked out the ruling family... not to mention that it's a trade hub and by all accounts a vibrant and exciting place to live in or visit. If you don't happen to use the Midgard campaign setting, a helpful sidebar explains, it will not take too much adaptation to locate Zobeck in your own game world instead. It's a town with a dark side, a teeming underbelly. It conducts trade primarily by river, and there's a deep, dark forest nearby. Inspiration includes middle Europe, a rich source widely ignored by fantasy game authors.

Chapter 1: A History explains the genesis and growth of this city-state and how its main inhabitants - humans, dwarves, gearforged and kobolds - developed the relationships that they have today. First there were the Fey, who were tricked into a pact that resulted in them becoming the Shadow Fey but gave them so much power that they don't seem to have resisted much. Then kobolds turned up to exploit the wealth they found underground. This annoyed the Shadow Fey who formed an alliance with a human lordling called Stross, who conquered the area and established his own rule... and thus the seeds were laid for what is found today. Interestingly, all the history recounted here is information that any interested character might find out, while it's probably common knowledge to the locals.

Next is Chapter 2: The Free City of Zobeck. This is a survey of the districts that make up the city and the people who live in them. Everyday life, customs, languages, trade... it's all here, vital information for would-be visitors. There are also ideas for adventure scattered throughout, which can be picked up and developed by interested GMs. This chapter ends with notes on the city's neighbours.

Then comes Chapter 3: The Kobold Ghetto which goes into extensive detail about this fascinating district of the city. It may be a tough place to live, but compared to what kobolds have endured in the past it at least provides some security if not much in the way of creature comforts. There's plenty of information and a detailed map to facilitate visits - although non-kobolds do stand out and often get picked upon. Indeed, the ghetto is so alien a place that visitors actually are dazed (as in the condition) for several rounds on entering! There's plenty to see for those willing to brave it, however, and numerous ideas for adventure are provided.

Moving on, Chapter 4: Districts & Locations surveys the most prominent ones, with a 2-page map depicting the entire city and a wealth of notes and details about what is to be found there. There are places to visit, shops to browse in and fascinating individuals to meet... and of course several good taverns to drink (and brawl) in. Scene set, the next chapter - Chapter 5: Gangs, Guilds and Guardians - gets down to explaining the elaborate guild organisations that (at least in their own eyes) control the city as well as the numerous gangs which also lay claim to do so, certainly where the underworld is concerned. You can also find out about the local courtesans, including their habit of getting rival lovers to duel over them. Whilst the city is no longer subject to noble rule, 'society' and courtiers still flourish and those who wish to mix at such rarified levels (or in some way profit from them) will find the details that they need.

This is followed by Chapter 6: Gods, Cults and Relics of Zobeck which sets the religious scene for the city. It's important to know about them even if the party is not particularly religious, as the local deities enjoy meddling and interfering in the lives of mortals. The notes are quite intormative, but those seeking more will find it in the Midgard Campaign Setting. As well as the deities, there are numerous cults and even a group of 'crab diviners' who believe that crabs whisper the truth to them...

Next, Chapter 7: Denizens of Zobeck provides full stat blocks and details of several notable NPCs dwelling in the city, all ready to be woven into your game. Finally, Chapter 8: Magic of Zobeck takes a look at magic as it is practised here. Dominated by the Arcane Collegium, there are some interesting paths of magic and they are explained here: the clockwork school and the Gear domain, along with star and shadow magic which both fall under the school of illumination magic and are held to be unique to the city. For those interested, there are quite a few new spells to study as well as a magic shop to visit and some magical items to keep an eye out for during your stay in the city.

There are a few annoying typos (although you can make out what was intended) and a few references to the Streets of Zobeck supplement: it's probably best to pick up a copy if you want to make best use of this book. Whilst much of the information, especially in the first couple of chapters, covers things that a character might discover through inquiry or research, later material is probably best kept for the GM's eyes only, even where characters born and bred in the city are concerned. Overall, though, it is well-presented and brings a fascinating city to vivid life - the party will remember their visit for a long time to come!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Zobeck Gazetteer (Pathfinder RPG)
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Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/18/2015 06:56:43
What part do giants play in your game? If you'd like them to be distinctive personalities rather than 'ordinary' humanoids that just happen to be bigger than anyone else, this might be worth a look.

There's no introduction or preamble, it just dives straight in to the first section. The book is made up of sections about the different types of giant - thursir, hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, fire giants, and cloud and storm giants - but each section contains a wealth of information that can be used to make them come alive in your game, with details about their history, social organisation and even religious beliefs as well as their relationships with other races and the things they do that are likely to impact on their neighbours. There are hidden gems throughout - for example, thursir like (and excel at) metalwork and feasting, yet they loathe dwarves (who like and excel at metalwork and feasting) with a vengeance. It's not just jealousy either, there's a historical (legendary, really) reason behind the emnity. It's things like that which make them come to life as a people with their own ideas and motivations rather than a mark on a map and a stat block in your notes.

However, it's not all stories and legends, there are solid game mechanics here as well. Racial feats - treating each different giant type as a separate race (which, biologically speaking, they are) - distinctive items of equipment and even magic are provided, along with fully-developed sample NPCs and ideas for adventure using each giant race.

Of course, the different races come over rather stereotyped. Thursir work wonders in the forge, provided they haven't been overindulging themselves with food and drink. Hill giants are stupid and a bit thuggish. Stone giants, on the other hand, are quite gentle and peaceful... and delight in their children, something many giants find quite difficult. Frost giants like hunting intelligent prey and will travel great distances to find someone worth hunting. Everyone else is regarded as slave material (or lunch). And so on. Whilst this makes it easy to categorise them, if you want to make them into real societies rather than groups of monsters, remember that the generalisations refer to the race as a whole and individuals may buck the trend... and indeed, there are hints and suggestions as to how not all giants of a given race are exactly the same. To go back to the thursir, while they detest dwarves and stomp on them at any opportunity, some female thursir are so enamoured of the freedoms female dwarves enjoy that they seek out magic to shrink them to dwarf size to mingle with them in secret!

Giants by their very nature do not live within mainstream humanoid civilisation, but they do interact with it. Using this book, you will be able to make giant communities come to life, whether your plot calls for the party to visit or encounter them, or for giants for some reason (probably warlike) to come a-visiting. Make them into something far more than large-scale humanoids to fight, giants can be people too! However, this is very much a book for giants as monsters/NPCs, albeit well-developed ones, if youm want to actually play a giant you will need more than is here although it may provide useful background.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/17/2015 07:44:35
Drawing on their new Southlands Campaign Setting, Kobold Press has launched its Dungeons & Dragons 5e line with a collection of races and backgrounds appropriate for characters who come from the Southlands or similar environments in your own campaign world. In particular, it capitalises on the mechanical differences between player-characters and their antagonists within this system to distil out the essence of particular races, classes and backgrounds to provide fascinating and challenging options for characters that capitalise on the features of the main Southlands environment - burning deserts and deep jungles.

Mechanically sound yet replete with role-playing potential, you can consider playing a gnoll or aasimar or perhaps one of the lizardfolk, or maybe a tosculi (insect creature), werelion or minotaur appeals. Each comes with some descriptive text, illustrations and a selection of traits and abilities to make the character that bit different, a true member of the chosen race. There's an interesting note on the creative use of animal companions and familiars, too, taking them deep into role-playing and away from the somewhat mechanical approach of the core rules that concentrates on fighting ability to the exclusion of much that could bring them to life within the party as a whole.

The second part of the book considers backgrounds, the third element of a character along with race and class. Backgrounds enhance role-playing, giving mechanical advantages to your characters' pasts, and also serve to highlight the flavour of your campaign world. Perhaps you travelled the desert extensively, or maybe you are regarded as the offspring of a deity... or served one as a temple slave. Sweeping and dramatic, these and more are presented with a wealth of ideas to inform the way in which that character behaves and approaches life as well as providing material benefits such as skill and tool proficiences, languages and items of equipment gained during the past in question.

Well presented with evocative illustrations and a skilful mix of game mechanic and inspiring narrative, it's easy to imagine playing any of the options in this book - the difficulty is deciding which one to try out first!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Campaign Setting Map
by Jim J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2015 17:38:31
This is an absolutely stunning map and well-worth the suggest price. I wish they would give the Midgard Campaign Setting the same treatment.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Campaign Setting Map
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Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
by David G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2015 10:49:36
This product was initially flawed and problematic, but has since been revised and updated, removing or correcting most of its glaring flaws, making it much higher quality product. It is much easier to recommend this product now.

The art is good and the production values are excellent. The new races seem balanced and in line with existing 5th Edition content. The gnoll and lizardfolk are easy additions to anyone's campaign.
Even if you don't have use for the werelions, they provide a nice template for how to design lycanthrope PCs, and the related sorcerer bloodline is a lot of fun.
The are also a lot of new backgrounds included. While designed to match the flavour of the Southlands, most are generic enough to easily fit into any campaign setting with moderate effort.

Some of the presentation of the races is more in line with Pathfinder than 5e. Several races swap out racial traits rather than relying on subclasses, which is a little odd. It's not broken but not ideal. And the new class options are tucked away in the races, which makes them a little awkward to find.

Read my lengthier review here: http://www.5mwd.com/archives/2904

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
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Southlands Bestiary
by Gregg B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2015 12:14:36
I'd grade this a solid B.

It's chock full of quality creatures -- many of which are variants of existing creatures (e.g., varieties of undead that died in various specific ways). Although there are plenty of quality creatures, there's not a lot here that is truly novel or indispensable -- which is why I wouldn't give it an A.

Based on the volume of entries, I wouldn't have any problem forking out the $ 14.99 that's currently being charged on DriveThruRPG.com.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
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