It’s hard to deny that the intense mathematical aspect of Pathfinder is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allows for a great deal of customization and mechanical creativity; endless combinations are possible to help define the sort of character you want. On the other hand, it can also be a lot to handle, particularly if you’re a GM trying to generate NPCs of a higher level (and if they can cast spells).
Raging Swan Press’s new book, 100% Crunch: Liches, looks to take some of the work out of this process, at least insofar as liches, those pinnacles of undeath, are concerned.
100% Crunch: Liches comes with a print version and a screen-reading version. Usually I’m a fan of printer-friendly versions of products, but in this case I honestly had a hard time determining any practical difference between the two; the only one that I saw was that the print version was set to display two pages at a time, something which you can easily toggle with the “View” setting on your PDF reader. Both versions have full nested bookmarks, and have copy-and-paste enabled, to their credit.
The book has a minimalist presentation on design. The illustrations here are extremely few, and there’s some white space on the pages – the author actually speaks to this latter point, noting (wisely, in my opinion) that it’s better to have each NPC on its own page for easy printing, rather than having the stat blocks sprawling across multiple pages in a jumbled mess.
The book features an expanded table of contents, which is a nice addition to its bookmarks, as the TOC shows the alignment/race/class breakdown for each entry, sorted by Challenge Ratings. It also reproduces the templates for not only the basic lich, but also the forsaken lich and the demilich, which is a nice touch.
The book further introduces three new archetypes for sentient undead bards, druids, and rangers. This was something of a disappointment because, while I like the idea of introducing undead-specific archetypes for these classes, what’s here didn’t go far enough. The archetypes are mostly concerned with deleting and replacing spells on the listed classes’ spell lists, though the undead bard also gets an ability to use its spells and abilities to bolster undead creatures, rather than living ones. There should be more here – what about the animal companions or druids and rangers, for example (should they have them)? More could have been done with these.
It’s following these that we come to the NPC stat blocks themselves. These NPCs are, as the book’s title says, 100% crunch – other than the brief visual description, these are all statistics shorn of any flavor or descriptive text. The stat blocks are, for the most part, fairly well done, but errors and poor designs do creep in every now and then. For example, the CR 12 halfling clerical lich has its domain powers and domain spells in its stat block, but the domains themselves (Charm and Trickery, by the way) aren’t listed. Likewise, the CR 20 succubus lich has, as one of its highest-level spells, teleport without error. Leaving aside that this should be called “greater teleport,” why would she have this as a spell when she can use it as a spell-like ability at will? Little things like these pepper the book, though somewhat infrequently.
Beyond that, I do have to give credit to the book’s author for really mixing it up with his choices. While it’s obvious in theory that there are so many combinations of races, classes, and lich templates to apply, it’s something to see some of them here. A human ranger forsaken lich, an ancient green dragon lich, a dwarf oracle lich, and others are here – though for you purists, there are plenty of more down-to-earth liches here as well, including the basic human wizard lich.
Overall, the book is a good one if you’re worried about sitting down and making a lich character from scratch. It also doesn’t range too far afield; none of the spells here go beyond what’s in the Core Rules. While some small blemishes are present, virtually all of them are easily spotted and fixed if you look over your stat block of choice with a critical eye. Otherwise, your only problem is which lich to pitch at your PCs.
[4 of 5 Stars!]