The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22913.
The Coliseum Morpheuon knows only two forms of gladiator: the quick and the dead. Z.Z. Grimshanks, with a smile as sharp as any blade, is one of the quickest… and not yet the dead-est. While he’s still alive and kicking, even your seconds aren’t safe. This product provides an interesting and surprisingly in-depth look at an NPC I would not like to meet in a dark alley.
Rite Publishing highlights yet another one of the members of their well thought-out and really freaking scary lineup of Unusual Suspects that inhabit the Tarnished Souk. If you are looking for a detailed and interesting NPC to work with or against an adventuring party, look no further than Z.Z. Grimshanks
Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
When compared with products produced but some of the larger RPG makers, many folks would not consider this product a 10. For Rite Publishing and many, many other smaller RPG makers, it sets the standard. Rite Publishing was smart to stick with black & white illustrations with this product. In past reviews I have dinged Rite Publishing for forcing color illustrations or choosing color illustrations that didn’t sync with the text or just looked cheesy. Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds, Rite stuck to the fundamentals and it works! Rick Hershey captured Z.Z. Grimshanks with the cover art. The malevolent smile and the casual tossing of a wicked looking dagger gave me and idea of the type of character Z.Z. Grimshanks is right away. The page borders are done in Rite Publishing’s grey-green runic pattern that is normally used with the Faces of the Tarnished Souk series. The interior art is relevant and well-done. The Time Thief looks like a Time Thief. I enjoyed that the behind-the-scenes over at Rite Publishing (in this case Steven D. Russell and Matt Banach) chose to add non Z.Z. Grimshanks pictures to the descriptions of some of the templates. I am quite fond of the Betrayer Gremlin on page 9
Mechanics: 9 out of 10
I still contend that some of the templates in Rite Publishing books are way too overpowered. Here is an example from Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds; the Accelerated Creature adds 8 to initiative, a 6 bonus to AC, CMD and reflex saves, 4 to Dex based skill checks 30 feet to all modes of speed and a special attack for a CR 1 while the Charming creature grants a 4 to Cha and gives the creature a permanent charm monster effect also at a CR 1. I understand how powerful permanent charm monster can be but compared to the Accelerated creature template not so much. At higher levels these additional templates make sense and can really add to a memorable adversary but to add a measly CR 1 to a creature with all of those benefits is a power gamers wet dream! If the folks over at Rite Publishing put a minimum level requirement on qualifications for these templates I think they would feel more balanced. If an NPC is given one of these templates at level 2, things would get out of hand quickly. Because of the increased difficulty of leveling up at much higher (almost epic) levels, the laundry list of improvements included with some of these templates make more sense.
Value Add: 10 out of 10
Rite Publishing has mastered the art of giving their customers more product for their money. Not only are their products priced to sell but they add things like variants of the already well thought-out creatures. For this product they included three variants for Z.Z. Grimshanks at each CR that they presented. This gives the GM a modular flexibility that few products provide. This is a great product for GMs and not bad for players.
Overall: 10 out of 10
Z.Z. Grimshanks, like so many of the other Faces of the Tarnished Souk, is a force to be reckoned with. Entire adventures and even campaigns could be based around an NPC like Z.Z. At lower CRs Z.Z. Grimshanks is much easier to integrate in places other than the Coliseum Morpheuom setting. Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds is a product whose time has come!
[5 of 5 Stars!]