An Endzeitgeist.com review
This installment of the „...of Porphyra“-series was sponsored by the Purple Duck Games patreon and clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
We begin this pdf with a brief summary of a variety of different in-character prose pieces before diving into what exactly dragon thanes are – in short, they are draconic gods or demigods, on a power-level with Porphyra’s elemental lords, psychopomp ushers, archdevils – you get the idea. Before we go into the nit and grit of the pdf, we actually get a handy table that lists the respective thanes with names, alignment, worshipers, domains and subdomains noted; favored weapon and animal are similarly noted in the respective write-ups. The respective thanes all sport 4 domains and subdomains, making them all well-rounded in that regard. It should also be noted that each of the dragon thanes gets his/her own holy symbol, rendered in full color. Each of the respective thanes gets 2 religion traits, though it should be noted that the pdf doesn’t use the trait bonus type, which constitutes a minor downside. However, the traits themselves are fitting and interesting…just internally add the bonus type… All of the thanes come with a nice spell preparation ritual as wella s notes on how the followers etc. behave – this adds some intriguing details to the overall proceedings.
Now, before you turn away, wait a second – we don’t actually get the standard, bland old duality-angle, instead opting for something different, which becomes evident from the get-go, with Dervayî, the Outer Thane. This neutral deity is tied to Porphyra’s first moon, which contains a plethora of craters that lead to…other places. While it is the gatekeeper that keeps these in control, it is Dervayrî, who, in regular intervals and for unknown reasons, seems to guide meteors into the moon, creating strange new gateways…but to what end, no one knows.
Douhaja Zmieja is an intriguing take on the genesis myth of the world serpent: The hoarder of sunken ships ostensibly squeezed the oceans, the blood, if you will, from a young and dry, dead planet…and promises to one day constrict and crush the world. The deity is thus both the origin of life and its promised end, blending those visuals with that of the serpent from the depths. Id Shidiin is a whole other beast: This entity hatched from the dreams of a dying, alien god and now dwells in spirit and flesh in the Cinotiksim Nation, where cryptic puzzle-dreams and nightmares are sent to the populace and the nation meets in congregation while asleep. Pure amazing and something one of my favorite Weird fiction authors could have written.
Magkon, Son of the First Rain, would be the imperial sovereign; his thanedom pertains refined civilization based on academic learning; it was him who ostensibly taught Draconic, who invented the scroll, and to this day, finding fabled Hidden Shei is actually the first test on a journey of lifelong learning…and maybe beyond. Speaking of the First Rain – soon thereafter, there was the first rainbow – but there were no intelligent lifeforms to marvel at its beauty, and thus it waited…for aeons. It became angry, spiteful, twisted. It became the Nameless Hunger when the people saw it and fled, and from its shards arose the twisted chromatic dragons, representations of a force of pure yearning and spite. AMAZING genesis!
The direct opposite would be Olha Pasom, the Mother General, grand lady of the metallic dragonkind and supreme ally of the ancient elven people…even to this day. In a really interesting twist, she champions basically a military dictatorship, in spite of being LG, leading to a rather impressive array of potentially intriguing moral conundrums in interaction with the fallible, but mostly well-meaning representatives of the militaristic church. Among draconic thanes that are so well-known, the strange and unknowable Porpyhrite Wyrm stands alone, a mystery with a strange agenda, partially served by errant Codionic Knights…but as a whole, this force of destruction may well play the long, long game, seeking to subvert both elementalists and deists alike.
Umhlaba, the Primal Thane, is a dragon cheated out of his place in history; or so his followers claim. The elemental lords and their zendiqi followers claim that the lords defeated the mighty titans that lorded over the planet in aeons long past. They lied. Back then, the elementals were undivided, one mind, and it rose as this Thane, as pretty much a Final Fantasy Weapon-level of planetary destruction, an engine of fury, not hate. The thane went, ostensibly, dormant and remains unconquered…woe, should it awaken!
And here is a section that warrants getting this pdf on its own, even if you don’t care about the amazing mythweaving featured in the write-ups of the thanes: Dragon cult rules. You see, this pdf posits that dragons in Porphyra can learn to grant divine spells to their followers…and they should, for they are immortal and don’t age: The number of followers and divine casters praying to the dragon are in direct correlation to the age category the dragon has; regression is not possible, and yes, this also governs the maximum spell level the dragon can provide to followers. The engine is amazing and includes notes on resurrected dragon worshipers, what happens if the dragon dies, etc. The pdf also provides dragon variants in the guise of dragons with limited evolution pools; beyond these, we can find incendiary breath weapons…and PORTAL BREATH. Yes, concisely codified.
The respective dragon thanes are further developed, courtesy to the unique artifact/near-artifact items provided for them. The belt of morphic loins allows for free race/gender switching and yields immunity to hostile polymorphs; Mangkon’s boots of serene steps allow for massive boosts to Acrobatics as well as both air and water walk and also prevents AoOs from moving through threatened squares. Breastplate of Sacred Generals would be Olha Pasom’s item, and it is a super potent breastplate that also provides the means to share teamwork feats, and successful use of such a feat yields temporary access to domain powers. The circlet of waking dream is basically a super Int-booster that also enhances senses and provides full control over waking and sleeping. I’d love to have this IRL…Faithbane is a special wepon quality that applies to targets of specific faiths (D’uhhh), a concept I’ve been using in my game for ages; here, it is based on domains. The gauntlets of endless stars not only are potent weapons, they can fire magic missiles. The kilt of primal endurance is a great puzzle-boss item – the wearer gets a massive boost to physical attributes and may slap the earth to FULLY HEAL…well, at the cost of 1 Intelligence drain. The ring of the all-dragon’s eye takes the concept of the draconic super-deity à la IO and provides knowledge…at a cost, as well as relatively free choice of level 1 domain powers… The sea snake corset is a powerful item that allows for depth-adaption, faster swim speed, better grappling and potent defenses. Finally, the Porphyrite Wyrm’s violet vainblade is a mega-potent weapon…intelligent, and it has the task to eradicate humankind. Yes, the collective gulp is justified.
The pdf also sports a couple of class options: We have a nice dragon miser oracle curse that makes you squirrel away items, but enhances your own item creation; The Faithbreather archetype can be applied to cleric or paladin, replacing channel energy with a breath weapon,a s appropriate for the dragon thane in question. The Heir of the Claw would be a tweak of the warpriest that gains sacred claws, which may be enhanced with increasing benefits. A handy table for damages by level for Small and Medium characters is provided. The sacred snout inquisitor replaces stern gaze and cunning initiative with frightful presence. They can also detect dragons and replace scent with the ability to sniff out treasure. Instead of bane, they learn to add special weapon abilities to their weapon for a limited number of rounds., with 12 th level upgrading their damage.
The final section of the pdf deals with unique spells (yes Occult support included): Ancestral allies allows the servants of the Mother General to call forth non-evil shadows of ancient elves to assist the caster, increasing in potency upon ancient elven cairns, where it may also yield the effects of commune. Yep, adventure-hook baked in. Love it. Bibliomorph is one of the more complex and amazing spells I’ve seen in a while. What do I mean by this? Well, you turn into a library. Yes, this is correctly codified; yes you retain senses. And theoretically, this can be a really cool narrative tool, just picture it: That blackout you had…there is a book missing from you! O.O
Devouring rainbow is a cool, low-level prismatic-style illusion; dragonrage fills the air with grit, as a stream of dust pours from the caster’s eyes; within the cloud, all take damage, but also get a buff…Dreamwalk is another spell that just drips storytelling potential galore, requiring a potion of sleep; the character emerges from the slumbering body as a dreamform…interesting one. Porphyrite detonation causes untyped damage, which I do not generally like…but the spell has a great additional effect: It prevents the crossing of the porphyrite borders. Anyways, while the damage is only 1d4 per caster level, I’m pretty sure the spell should not scale to full level and cap at 10 or 15 damage dice…but then again, the spell is granted by an evil thane and can help villains get away, so I’m kinda good with it. Still should probably be handled with care. Seasurge is amazing – basically a wave that races forth, crashing into creatures and objects, carrying them with the wave…and yes, this spell gets the complex interaction right. Finally, spaceflight…well, does what you’d think it does.
The pdf closes with a couple of suggestions for further, similar pdfs from PDG.
That’s not all, though: We get a bonus pdf penned by Perry Fehr with a deadly critter: The CR 8 Lavalantula! And yes, dear fans of Demon Souls, this lava-breathing spider with its ember hairs is an excellent representation of a certain boss. Pure awesome!
Editing and formatting on a formal level are very good; on a rules-language level, the pdf is similarly precise and juggles complex and rewarding concepts, with only a few and mostly cosmetic complaints on my part. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard with purple highlights. The full-color artworks provided are nice and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Perry Fehr and Aaron Hollingsworth both are talented authors that sometimes stumble over rules language; it is my pleasure to report that the team has absolutely excelled in what they bring to the table in this pdf. The dragon thanes are an amazing departure from the endless repetition of the classic draconic deity tropes, one that taps deeply into components of myths and reconfigures them in amazing, innovative ways. There is not one thane herein that I’d consider even mediocre; beyond that, the artifacts are potent, but remain manageable and enhance the themes of their thanes via appropriate tools for their champions. The spells, finally, contain some of the most creative ones I’ve seen in a while. And the bonus pdf is damn cool as well. Purple Duck Games really rocked this one!
Beyond that, it should be noted that the mythology featured herein makes for a great way to diversify the Lost Isles campaign setting in Rite Publising’s In the Company of Dragons Expanded….or, well vice versa. The weirdness of the Lost Isles is a perfect fit for Porphyra…and the material herein is actually all OGL, which means that, theoretically, a crossover/expansion could happen.
But I’m rambling. This is a fantastic little pdf, well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
[5 of 5 Stars!]