today, I'm going to take a look at two TRIBES-installments and a fine monster book, so let's dive in!
This installment of the TRIBES-series is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page overview, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC and SRD, 1 page introduction on how to read stat-blocks, 1 page ad and 1 page back cover. That leaves 26 pages of content.
The first chapter (6 pages) gives us an introduction to the 4 vastly different Brethren of the Crimson Altar. It is here that I have to insert a kind of disclaimer: I love vampires, I really do. And I’m in team Dracula, I.e. I think that vampires a) should never, ever sparkle and b) have very specific ideas on what vampires should be able to do, power-wise and how they should not act. (Like morons à la in John Carpenter movies.) To cut a long story short, I love my vampires intelligent, crafty, strong and devious. It’s hard to satisfy me in that regard. The different vampires presented here succeed flavor-wise in that endeavor. We also get a statblock for Kulan-Wyr guardians, lvl 11 skeletal champion monks and the intelligent, malevolent crimson altar. The chapter closes with one page that neatly sums up the particular things to consider when battling a vampire – change shape, create spawn and vampiric weaknesses – all compiled on one page. Nice.
The next chapter (10 pages) details the Brethren in the complex manner one has come to expect from Raging Swan, i.e. complete with mannerisms, distinguishing features, hooks and even favored disguises! It should be noted, that in contrast to other Raging Swan TRIBES-supplements, these statblocks are almost Rite Publishing-level complex, which is VERY NICE. We also get statblocks for Bat and Rat-swarms and each Brethren gets his/her own artwork.
The final chapter (10 pages) of the pdf features encounters with the Brethren 5 sample encounters, one of which is actually a smear-campaign against the PCs. This chapter also features 7 stat-blocks and has some neat ideas as well as artwork. The final page of the pdf collects the statblocks by CR and type with page-references.
I'm very hard to satisfy when it comes to vampires. This little book did it. It is extensive and provides a sufficiently deadly cabal of bloodsuckers with ample roleplaying potential for your perusal and features excellent editing, formatting, writing and b/w-artwork to boot. For the very low price, you practically can’t ask for more. It’s the best installment of the excellent TRIBES-series as of yet and will be nigh impossible to surpass. An excellent resource. My final verdict practically has to be 5 Rudii.
This pdf is 24 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 1 page overview, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC and SRD, 1 page explanation on how to read the statblocks, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover. That leaves 17 pages of content for the harpies of Pazuzu’s Fury.
The first chapter (6 pages) details the fluff of this particular tribe (or is it flock?) of harpies, offering e.g. a particular myth for the origin of this particular flock of harpies, which I definitely liked. While I admit to really liking Pazuzu’s real-world mythology background, I like how he is supposed to have acted in this myth (if the GM decides the origin story is correct) and how something new is done with the harpies. We also get 6 pages of new tribal feats, some of which enhances the deadly songs of Pazuzu’s Fury, some of which could be used for any airborne creature to devastating effect. None seemed overpowered or too weak. One, though, “Death from Above”, might be considered to be potentially fatal for PCs, so be warned. Pazuzu’s Fury also gets 5 new spells, many of which interact with bardic abilities and might interest players playing bards. The chapter ends with a page with the new exotic weapon of choice of the harpies, the aptly-named gutripper and 3 new magic items, of which none really impressed me. In fine Raging Swan tradition, they get their artworks, though.
The next chapter details stat-blocks, allies and encounters (10 pages).The chapter kicks off by providing 4 sample encounters as well as a side-bar on aerial combat, 8 stat-blocks of different harpies (casting and non-casting, from CR 6 to CR 10) as well as the corrupting aspect of Pazuzu, a kind of minor avatar-like creature (CR 10). Two pages are devoted to a sample lair, albeit without a map and some ideas for other lairs. The final page of the products features 5 adventure hooks, one of which “The Ugly duckling” is absolutely awesome. I’ve got three words for you (or 4, depending on how you count the compound): HALF-CELESTIAL HARPY PALADIN. ‘Nuff said.
I’m starting to feel like a broken record – here before you is yet ANOTHER excellent entry of Raging Swan’s TRIBES series. An intelligent, cool revision of a tried and true old creature, mixed with interesting mechanics, old-world-style fluff, nice tie-ins into the lonely coast and beautiful artworks. While I was missing a map for the lair and would have liked to see the aspect at a higher CR, it seems hardly fair to detract a whole star for that. Thus, my final verdict will be 4.5 Rudi, continuing the trend of extremely high quality Raging Swan has set for itself. Well done!
This pdf is 36 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 blank page inside of the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/Monsters by CR, 1 page back cover, 1 blank page inside the back cover, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisements.
That leaves 28 pages of monsters.
-Addanc (CR7): A cross between a crocodile and a beaver, this could be goofy, but actually works. Death Roll (Ex) is a cool ability.
-Autumn Death (CR 8): A deadly undead creature with autumnal abilities. Has two cool signature abilities.
-Avowed Reaver (CR 5):Touched by elemental powers, this is a set of 4 CR+2 templates in one.
-Bog Scum (CR13): Aquatic, climbing deadly ooze.
-Fly Trap, Giant + Dire (CR 2 and CR 6): Cool plants, but lack a way to enthrall their victims.
-Forest Giant (CR 12): A Giant with some spell-like abilities to escape and polymorph others.
-Frost Mite Swarm (CR 10): Terrible insects of icy cold, these critters are quite creepy.
-Garmunchi (CR 6): Ugly, strong, slug-eating Ogre-like Humanoids.
-Hatethrall Demon (CR 6): Flame-clad skull-demons that shoot fiery rays.
-Hydrus (CR ½): A poisonous aquatic lizard that invades others to eat them from the inside. Great critter!
-Lemkin (CR 9): Creepy blow-gun using fey.
-Nightcaller (CR 1): Deadly Raven-like birds that can mimic voices.
-Piranha, mature and Piranha Swarm (CR 1 + CR 2): Iconic fish. Lacking in lethality, though.
-River Dragon (2 pages, two sample dragons provided, CR 7 + CR16): Aquatic dragon with boiling-abilities – want your adventurers medium?
-Riverswell Spirit (CR 7): Drowned spirit with drowning touch.
-Shrine Stone, Animated (CR 7): Guardian golem of Druids and Fey.
-Silver Bell (CR 3): Supremely creepy and cool plant creature.
-Skate Spider, Giant (CR 5) and Skate Spider Swarm (CR 6): Spiders that can walk on water.
-Snapping Turtle (CR 2) + Snapping Turtle,Dire (CR 8): Cool, but I would have expected an expanded threat range.
-Stumble Fish (CR 1): Jumping fish.
The first Appendix features Humanoid Encounters:
-Cursed Brethren (CR 3)and their Bandit King (CR 6) (2 pages): Cursed bandits that share their pain and thus are deadly when acting in concert. Cool ideas!
-Grammy Beshic (CR 9) (2 pages): A Gnome Sorceress including her new “Rings of Rebellion” magic item.
Appendix 2 features 2 new gambling games and a new drug. (1 page)
Appendix 3 presents 6 new haunts (1 page):
Blinding Bushes (CR 6), Chamber of Screams (CR 3), Ensnaring Weeds (CR3), Ice Forge (CR 2), Pool of Betrayal (CR 9) and River Fog (CR 4). They are all cool and feature at least one interesting component to make them stand apart.
The final page contains the last two appendices, containing 5 new mini-templates and 8 new diseases.
The b/w-artwork is mostly ok and has a nice old-school kind of flair, the editing and formatting are top-notch and wording as well as prose are concise and well-written. The monsters themselves presented herein are great additions to any campaign – most have a signature ability or two, an interesting hook or are just iconic animals and plants. While I personally didn’t care too much for e.g. the Garmunchi, that’s a personal preference. E.g. the Silver Bell is an idea dripping awesomeness and win and there are several of this caliber herein. The new gambling games, drug, haunts, NPCs etc. are great additions (the haunts e.g. singlehandedly surpass any haunts from a haunt-pdf I recently reviewed)to this great book and I can honestly say that this is a no-filler-book and worth every cent. If all monster-books were like that, I’d buy more. My final verdict is 5 Rudii.
All right, I'll be off now. Thank you all for reading my ramblings, I wish you all a merry Christmas or whatever you are inclined to celebrate! My best wishes go out to you,