Jan 21 2013
I haven’t done one of these in a while! Between work and classes I’ve been away from the blog and not been as effective at getting to review some books provided to the blog for that very end. This time around I’ll tackle three books by the wonderful folk at Kobold Press for the Pathfinder RPG. So without further ado…
What about Dark Roads & Golden Hells?
The cover of this book identifies it as Dark Roads & Golden Hells, planar options for the Pathfinder RPG. That pretty much sums it up! Dan Voyce is the lead designer, with a group of very talented designers, puts forth a terrific book about the planes. The book is 111 pages (106 of content) long packed of useful planar content, both fluff and crunch. It includes an overview of the planes, advice on gaming there and the options to do so, the Midgard campaign cosmology, new planes, character options (classes, feats, traits, spells), GM advice and a bestiary.
I am a big fan of the old D&D Great Wheel cosmology from AD&D, I grew up with it, but even back when I began playing I did not see it as a straightjacket but as a concept I could populate with my own ideas. I understand WHY the creators of D&D 4th edition went with the World Axis cosmology, a different design and simpler to understand by new player, but I grew up with the classic and Planescape really made the planes come alive for me.
This is my biggest compliment to the book, without being a Planescape supplement it felt like one of the better products for that line! It’s full of ideas, it doesn’t tell me WHAT the planes are, and it gives me lots of possibilities and allows me to put together for my own campaign. If this is your first time out into the planes it will allow you to play, if you’ve been around the great wheel a couple of times, there is something here for you. And not just for high level adventurers, I can see myself running games at all levels with the content of this book.
Whether you are fan of Midgard, Planescape or just plane-curious (see what I did there!), this book has something for you. The cover art and inside illustrations are all very good as well as the layout, I have very little to complain about with this book, my biggest gripe? I would have loved more creatures in the bestiary, especially low level ones. I know the planes are seen as the place to go in higher level play, but I insist, the planes are good for any level.
The book is available in PDF for $9.99; and in print (softcover, B&W) from DriveThruRPG for $24.99. I believe there was a $19.99 at one point, but can’t find it as of the writing of this book. The book is great for $9.99 in PDF. I have not been disappointed by DriveThru’s POD service BUT find that $24.99 steep for a book this size. That’s just me, you may think differently.
What bout Journeys to the West?
Journeys to the West is a setting book and adventure anthology funded by a very successful Kickstarter Project that taps on very real desire of exploration in most of us and takes us into an adventure filled archipelago in the Midgard campaign setting. Despite being part of that campaign setting it is generic enough to fit into any campaign, specifically those having to do with naval adventures, exploration and swashbuckling. It is right up my alley since I run a game with those very specific characteristics. Even if I don’t runt the adventures as written they have plenty of ideas to plunder. If you are running the Skull & Shackles adventure path, like the setting and would like to continue playing in a similar vein, or want to fill some corners of the adventure path with some additional adventures, this book will be great for you!
The first thing that struck me about the book was the layout. The book just pulled me in from the very first time I opened the PDF, very nice! The cover art is gorgeous, and MOST of the interior art is of similar quality. The cartography… Well that’s hit and miss. The majority is good, and a few exceed my expectations, the map of Barsella for example, but others are disappointing, too simple. The adventure maps are efficient, B&W with a grid, what a GM needs to run the adventure, but most are simply that, efficient, but few inspired me.
What about the writing? The first part of the book is the setting, beginning with an introduction to the aforementioned Barsella, a city from which to launch a campaign tying together the adventures in the book. The city is very interesting, interesting enough to warrant more development! The city is followed by a guide to the islands, including important NPCs, monsters and maps, I might not have loved the maps, but the writing in this first half of the book was top notch. It has the best qualities of Kobold Press books, lots of ideas and details that come together as a great setting, but are usable on your own setting if you want to do so. I am often amazed at how well they walk that line!
The last part of the book is five adventures from level 1 to level 9. They make great use of the setting and with the feel of naval/swashbuckling adventure. You could play them separately or a whole campaign. There is a LOT of gaming in this 139 page book. Despite my gripe about the maps I Would pay $24.99 for a Print+PDF combo available in the Kobold Press store.
Last but not least…
What about the Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empire?
This book is a supplement for the Midgard campaign setting, which I reviewed for the blog, specifically for the Dragon Empire, an intriguing Near-East/Dragon mash up area of the world. Want to play creatures of scaly-kind, specifically the Dragonkin of the campaign book? This book has you covered!
Traits, feats, class archetypes, prestige classes, it’s all here. There is content in the book for Kobolds, Dragonkin and Drakes. But not the stats, kobolds and dragonkin are covered in the campaign book, drakes in the Book of Drakes. This last book is a great resource, just as good as the Midgard book, so it would be a great addition to any Pathfinder collection. Just know that you will need those books to use the Player’s Guide to the Dragon Empires.
The book has player information of the Dragon Empire, ideas how to play in, spells, exotic goods of the empire. This is a great supplement for the campaign. You can get some mileage out of it for other campaigns, but of the three books reviewed this is the one hardest to adapt for non-Midgard home games. But for $4.99 this 30 page PDF book is a very affordable expansion to the campaign setting. If you love Midgard, definitely check it out!
Well that does it for this round of reviews. I hope you liked them, or at least found them useful. If there is anything specific you’d like me to review, leave a comment. I can always use the blog as an excuse to justify RPG purchases to the GF! Just don’t tell her…
Thanks for reading!