An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment of the advanced races-series clocks in at 19 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 15 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So...shadow fey. I was not pleasantly surprised to see this book hit shelves, mainly due to LOVING shadow fey to death. "Courts of the Shadow Fey" is one of my favorite adventures...ever. And we all remember what a certain good drow ranger did to the beloved and fierce dark elves. So let's take a look and see whether this book offering shadow fey as a player-race ruins their appeal or manages to maintain it!
First of all, the write-up surprised me with one particularly smart decision - emphasizing the variety among shadow fey, thus denoting that they do not form a uniform species. Secondly, their mindset is pretty well explained, thus rendering actually portraying them as PCs easier. Oh, and quoting La Belle Dame Sans Merci? NICE!
The scáthesidhe receive +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Con, are of the fey type, light sensitive, receive +2 to stealth and always treat stealth and bluff as a class skill, can cast shadow jump as a spell-like ability once per day and reduce the penalties incurred for movement by 5 and for sniping by 10, making them born ambushers. If using the status-rules from the Midgard CS (nice to finally see these get some love!), they receive +2 status, more or less if belonging to a certain class. Very cool! There also are small shadow fey with a base movement rate of 20 ft. that also receive 1/day vanish as a spell-like ability.
The alternate racial traits cover a bite (getting primary/secondary natural weapons right!), poison affinity + detect poison, increased DC for shadow subschool spells and shadow-themed low level SPs, a hypnotic skin or dual resistances. Elfmarked descendant from the shadow fey may shadow jump and receive darkvision 60 ft.
We also receive FCOs for Battle Scion, Magus, Shadowsworn, Sorc, Summoner (with a minor typo - the "/" of DR in the wrong place) and the Theurge - nice to see some love for these KP-classes!
Now the comprehensive introduction to the Winter and Summer Courts and the very iconic factions thereof constitute another neat piece of fluff - particularly delving into the shadow fey's elitism and status-obsession making for nice, informative reading material. The take of the shadow fey on both Paizo and Kobold Press-classes is nice to see as well.
Now the copious traits delivered deserve special mention as well - first of all, they properly specify their trait-bonus-type, something many traits forget. Secondly, some of them are just damn cool - from ignoring status penalty to better moonlight tracking, they can be considered well-crafted and generally balanced.
A total of 11 feats are provided, some of which make use of status-mechanics, which is neat to see. Alas, not all feats can be considered well-crafted - Concealed Shot, which allows you to execute a surprise attack with a hand crossbow, while flavorful, utilizes an annoying per-encounter mechanic. Yeah, by now you know the rant by hard. Per-encounter abilities make no sense whatsoever. Next. Gaining DR 2/Cold iron (upgradeable to 5) is pretty cool and balanced via getting sickened on contact - NO SAVE. Now, while generally, I consider feats like Flicker boring (+1 to AC - yawn!), at least the bonus as racial is pretty uncommon - and it allows 9th level shadow fey to gain access to hide in plain sight via a follow-up feat, so that's a cool synergy. Full movement while using stealth for 7th+ level shadow fey is also part of the deal.
We also receive the new Order of the Swan for cavaliers to represent the rakish fey knights, a new familiar option, 3 shadowsworn talents (all of which are solid - mirror image, blinding and PINNING A SHADOW TO THE GROUND - nice, the authors know their mythology or have read the superb Van Richten's Guide to the Shadow Fey of Ravenloft, unrelated to KP's Shadow Fey...)
Wild-blooded sorcerors can take the shadow fey bloodline - which is solid. The Dread Hunter cavalier receives a powerful mount that advances as a cohort and utilizes stealth synergy with the mount - pretty cool. However, with potentially a shadavar or nightmare mount at level one, the archetype throws any semblance of balance out the window. It should also be noted that Dread Rider, which nets 1/2 level bonus to intimidate while mounted should probably specify it refers to CLASS levels; Additionally, the hunter may emit a debuff scream - which is nice, but the ability should probably be a language-dependent mind-affecting effect. The capstone upgrades the scream to confusion -per se a conceptually nice archetype with some minor flaws in the execution - and in need of a nerf-bat beating for the mount at low levels - otherwise the nightmare outclasses half the adventuring group and anyone who's seen a cavalier with a horse (which is NOT intelligent and needs to be commanded via tricks!) can get a good idea why this needs nerfing. The second archetype is the twilight envoy for the shadowsworn, who receives bardic spellcasting, trapfinding and access to the last-second save "Walking the Shadow Roads"-incantation - generally a cool variant on the shadowsworn.
We also receive 5 new spells, with 3 being chimeric transpositions that allow you to exchange special monster abilities and senses - weird, disturbing, cool. Black Swan Storm conjures forth a deadly storm of black feathers...and is pretty strong. As a 3rd level spell, it deals 1d8 per CL (max 10d8) and also decreases the illumination level around the target, granting concealment to the immediate vicinity - rather interesting and since it only affects one creature, nice. Shadow Jump, in case you're not familiar with it, represents low-level, short-distance shadow to shadow teleportation.
Beyond that, arrows that cause bleeding damage, balance-enhancing feather cloaks and shrouds for shadow fey prisoners make for cool items.
We also receive new creatures . the Razor Swan (with breath attack, sharp wings and a swan song - cool!), teh shadavar mounts and the owl-like stryx - which have human teeth in their beaks. Alas, I noticed some minor glitches in the statblocks. E.g. the razor swan's attack should be +6, not +5 (+3 magical beast, + 3 dex via weapon finesse) etc. nothing game-breaking, but still, slightly annoying.
Editing and formatting are pretty good: On a formal level, excellent, on a rules-level there are some minor glitches. Layout adheres to Kobold Press' two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The original artwork is neat.
Author-duo Carlos and Holly Ovalle have crafted an installment of the Advanced Races-series that made me groan when I saw it at first, only to have my negative bias dissolved for the most part. Power-level wise on a solid level akin to the plane-touched races, the shadow fey will not break a game. They manage to maintain their glorious fluff and thankfully, the authors get what makes them cool and enigmatic. Now while personally, I prefer the race as a DM-only race, the crunch provided herein, the information for players - all of that is pretty solid and makes playing these guys work well in the context of an adventuring group. Now that is quite a feat in my book! In fact, I was truly excited to see this level of detail and coolness, interesting rules-ideas etc. - this ranks as one of the strongest Advanced Races-installments. That being said, the supplement does sport some minor glitches and the cavalier archetype is in serious need of some nerfing to prevent the mount from being an utter show-stealer at low levels. Still, this constitutes a solid installment and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to these shadow fey not deserving a 3-star rating - the pdf is simply too inspired for that.