It’s easy to overlook the importance of money in Pathfinder. While many quests are centered around lofty ideals of saving worlds and defeating evil, the immediate focus of typical sessions tends to revolve around acquisition, usually right after having killed the monstrous former owners. Indeed, some creatures may establish a fortune of wealth so vast that they have other creatures specifically to guard it. In the Tarnished Souk, the Khan of Nightmares has such a creature overlooking his own vast finances: Gobseck Vaultwright, Meister of the Golden Anvil.
A seventeen-page book, this product hits most of the technical benchmarks we’ve come to expect from quality PDFs. Full nested bookmarks are present, and cop-and-paste is enabled. Ornate borders are on all sides of every page, and several black and white illustrations break up the text every few pages or so. I do wonder if there should be a printer-friendly version, as the heavy borders combined with the periodic artwork may be tougher for some printers, but in a PDF this short it’s probably not a huge deal.
Gobseck is, as a character, perhaps best characterized as Ebenezer Scrooge before he met the three ghosts – that is, he’s a cold and heartless money-grubber who has a romantic tragedy in his past. The nature of this tragedy, or more aptly, the identity of the woman in question, is never revealed, though a sidebar on using Gobseck in your campaign does include some pointers on who she should be in a Coliseum Morpheuon campaign. As with other characters from the Faces of the Tarnished Souk, Gobseck’s stat block is an impressive collection of first- and third-party content. While some of his levels use a fighter archetype from Ultimate Combat, the majority of them are magister levels, from the Super Genius Guide of the same name (though take note, those with older files may remember it as the Genius Guide to the Magus instead).
Several of Gobseck’s feats are reprinted here for ease of reference, even those that can be found in the PFSRD already, which I found helpful. A pair of spells from Rite’s own 1001 Spells book are given next before we move into a number of magic weapon and armor abilities – these are quickly put into context as we then get Gobseck’s individual magic items broken down, and I have to say, he’s as equipped as a CR 20 encounter should be! His hammer, in particular, is not something you want to be on the receiving end of.
Gobseck’s vault is statted up next – not just a thing, it’s actually a living vault, albeit a unique one. Not only does it have powers unlike other living vaults, it’s also a monstrously powerful thing, weighing in at CR 33! I actually snickered at the listing for its XP rating, as I strongly suspect very few groups will ever be able to earn experience points for destroying it.
Slightly oddly, two quick variants are then given for Gobseck – specifically, there are two sections listing what changes should be made to his stat block if you add the Divine or Exemplar templates to him. I wish there had been more context to why these were here – are these versions of Gobseck from parallel universes? Things that could happen to him in the future? Just dumping alternate materials on us without talking about what they mean in the game gives us numbers, not a character.
This is a lesson driven home in the two alternate stat blocks for Gobseck that follow, lowering his power down to CR 13, and CR 6. His title changes with each stat block, which I take to mean that these represent Gobseck at earlier stages in his life (ironically, each also has a note on what to change if those templates are used with him).
The book closes with four templates presented – these are the two templates that Gobseck does have (Smoke and Element-Infused, with him having the air version of the latter), and the two that he could potentially have. Oddly, there’s a small section (two or three paragraphs) of “bonus content” that talk about the one sentimental item that Gobseck keeps in his vault. I did like this bonus bit of exposition, but I found that it actually highlighted what would have been a far better bonus – a listing of what’s to be found in the Vault; while this will obviously vary between campaigns, even a guideline of what sort of fortune of treasures and magic is to be found in the vault would have been useful – I consider it a missed opportunity.
Overall, however, the book is still a good one, and like all of the Faces of the Tarnished Souk, it’s a case-study in how to use OGL materials to great effect. While the aspect of character development is somewhat overshadowed by the game mechanics here, that’s the natural consequence of (rightly) including the reused material for reference purposes. The result is that you have a very strong character with an understated but potentially engaging backstory, to say nothing of his massively-powerful living vault. Use Gobseck in your game, and see why money is the root of all evil.
[5 of 5 Stars!]