today, I'm going to review the scaled TRIBES of the aptly named line by Raging Swan Press - enjoy!
Kobolds of the Fallen Halls
This pdf is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of the front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, half a page SRD, leaving 20.5 pages of content.
This installment of Raging Swan's excellent TRIBES-series adheres to the same clear and printer-friendly layout, b/w-artwork and presentation. The TRIBES-series, at least for me, is always defined by going a bit further, by including that extra hook, that extra idea, that extra comfort for the DM to implement the critters. The first thing I noticed, was that under the statblocks-by-CR table, on the page with the ToC, we get an excerpt from a song or poem about the Kobolds - great idea to set the mood and already an adventure hook in disguise. That's a promising start!
After that, we get the obligatory one-page introduction for novice DMs on how to read the statblocks and then, after the chapter title page, two pages on the history of the Kobolds of the Fallen Halls, which already shows that this file somewhat differs from the premise of the other TRIBES-files - we get two Kobold tribes and their draconic masters, embroiled in a subterranean trench-war over a once great Dwarven stronghold, with a hapless group of adventurers quite possibly being the able to tip the precarious balance of power between the feuding factions. This aptly written history once again conveys the great old-world-atmosphere laced with decay I've come to appreciate in Raging Swan products. On the downside, I found the first typo in any of their products here, in the section on appearance, Kobolds should "smell" of something instead of "small".
On the next page, we get 7 new feats of the new [Battle]-type, a type of feat representing tribal combat tactics. All the feats come with two lines of fluff text, something I quite frankly think should be standard. The feats are:
-Dazing Shot: When you hit a flat-footed opponent, he has to make a fort-save or be dazed. Great idea for guerilla tactics.
-Hit and Run: Use a 5-foot step, even if you have moved this round.
-Improved Flank: Gain +3 instead of +2 when flanking.
-Nauseating Shot: When you hit a flat-footed opponent, he has to make a fort-save or be nauseated. Great idea for guerilla tactics.
-Spider Handler: You have a close Bond with a giant spider, can handle it as a free action or push it as a move action. You also get a bonus on saves vs. poison.
-Spider Rider: Gain +4 to ride checks on spiders and +1 to atk for every 4 levels you possess.
-Sniping Strike: As long as you are at least 10 ft. from your target, you only suffer from -10 to obscure your position after shooting.
As a great example for Raging Swan listening to their customers, we also get new Adept spells for this often neglected NPC-class (1 page):
-Darken Scales (Adp 1): +4 to stealth and +1 to AC for scaled beings
-Enervating Shadows (Adp 3): Grasping shadows cause exhaustion
-Furtive Step (Adp 1): + 4 to stealth, become harder to track.
-Occlude Trap (Adp 2): Hides traps and gives you a mental alert when the trap is triggered.
This section also includes an expanded adept's spell-list for one of the Kobold tribes who have the upper hand, magic-wise.
The next page features two fully detailed dragon hoards for the respective dragons.
After another header page, we get the statblocks for the Kobolds as well as some paragraphs on the customs of the respective tribes, making them more unique. The statblocks come with the number of respective Kobolds of the type the tribe can muster.
-Blackened Eye Warrior [warrior 1](CR 1/4)
-Blackened Eye Champion [warrior 3] (CR 1/2)
-Blackened Eye Scout [warrior 2/expert 2] (CR 1)
-Blackened Eye Adept [adept 2] (CR 1)
-Blackened Eye Miner [expert 4] (CR 1)
-Dire Rat Pet (Cr 1/3)
-Alaeix's Concubines [warrior 3/expert 2] (CR 2)
-Alaeix, Blackened Eye Champion [warrior 7] (CR 4)
-Dereghwyr, Draconic Master of the Blackened Eye [juvenile green dragon] (CR 9) The dragon gets the Raging Swan NPC-treatment I enjoyed in the adventures and "Brethren of the Crimson Altar", i.e., we get information on personality, mannerisms, hooks and distinguishing features. I would have loved for Alaeix to get this treatment, too, though.
-Bloodied Tail Warrior [warrior 2] (CR 1/3)
-Bloodied Tail Adept [adept 4] (CR 1)
-Bloodied Tail Trap Smith [expert 4] (CR 1)
-Bloodied Tail Spider Rider [warrior 2/expert 2] (CR 1)
-Hunting Spiders (CR 1)
-Unurnyth, Bloodied Tail Adept [adept 8] (CR 5)
-Irix (Familiar of Unurnyth)
-Sygax, Bloodied Tail Chieftain [warrior 6] (CR 3)
-Bloodied Tail Bodyguards [warrior 4] (CR 1)
-Antharuthux, draconic master of the Bloodied Tail [juvenile black dragon] (CR 8) The dragon gets the Raging Swan NPC-treatment I enjoyed in the adventures and "Brethren of the Crimson Altar", i.e., we get information on personality, mannerisms, hooks and distinguishing features. I would have loved for Unurnyth and Sygax to get this treatment, too, though.
On the next page, we get a d20-list of odds and ends Kobolds carry in their pouches (great idea) as well as two statblocks for non-combatants.
-Female Kobold [commoner 1] (CR 1/4)
-Young Kobold [commoner 1] (CR 1/6)
What would a pdf on Kobolds be without traps? Exactly! That's why we get 4 new traps:
-Crossbow Bolt (CR 1)
-Hidden Pit (CR 1)
-Falling Jars (CR 1)
-Tumbling Block (CR 3)
The traps come with nice lines to read when they are triggered (once again, great idea) as well as 3 augmentations for them in the form of brown mold, skeletons and spikes.
On the final page, just above the SRD, we get the racial information necessary to design more kobolds.
Layout editing are great, the pieces of b/w-artwork are nice and I only noticed the one typo I mentioned. The writing is concise and atmospheric and the feats and battle-tactics enabled by them scream "Kobold" to me. However, I also have some points of criticism: While I really liked the feats and new adept spells as well as the idea, that the bloodied tail has spider-cavalry, I was not to impressed by the blackened eye. In contrast to the bloodied tail, they felt rather like common kobolds, possibly also because their fluff and feats do not lend themselves as well to being iconic. I also would have loved the for the named Kobolds to get their own personality, hooks and the like. From the fluff I gathered they have their own agenda. The traps, at least in my opinion an integral part of Kobold battle tactics could have used some expansion and I think the pdf might have benefitted from a section discussing their guerilla-warfare tactics. While all of this is optional and the pdf provides plenty of content for a very fair price, it still doesn't quite reach the heights the series has set for itself. What's my final verdict then? This pdf is a very good book, though not as stellar as the other TRIBES-books I've read so far. Thus, I'll settle for a solid 4 Rudii and a hearty recommendation.
Next in the line of scaled tribes are the
This pdf is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover and half a page SRD, leaving 18.5 pages of content.
This installment of the TRIBES-series once again features an great poem/excerpt from a song to serve as an additional hook on the page with the ToC, that also lists statblocks by CR, the new feats, etc.
After that, we get the obligatory introductory page on how to read statblocks for novice DMs and after another page chapter header, we are introduced to the Troglodytes.
Their history, ecology and so on take up 2 pages. The troglodytes worship an elder evil at behalf of their aboleth master. A side box is given explaining the tribal art of the troglodytes and Amon-Pyr, said elder evil, is also given a short portfolio (including domains, favored weapons etc.).
On the next page, we get 6 new battle feats (including nice fluff-lines for each feat) as well as two alternative class features. The feats are:
-Cavern Stride: In caverns, you can treat 10 ft. of difficult terrain per round as normal terrain and 5-foot step in it.
-Dark Knowledge: Gain the spell-like abilities to cast death watch and doom once per day. However, no caster level is given for these. I guess the prerequisite caster level 1st could be a hint that the feat uses the same casting ability as the primary casting class.
-Greater Cavern Stride: Move 30 ft. through difficult terrain in caverns as if it was normal terrain.
-Greater Dark Knowledge: Gain Darkness and Death Knell as a spell-like ability. Same problem as with Dark Knowledge, though: I don't know which caster-level the new spell-like abilities get.
-Greater Rending Claws: If you hit enemies with both claws, one of the attacks deals 2 points of extra damage. Stacks with Rending Claws.
-Rending Claws: : If you hit enemies with both claws, one of the attacks deals 2 points of extra damage.
The alternative class features are:
-Barbarian: Cave Dweller, replaces fast movement, grants +2 Ini, Perception, Stealth and Survival, increases +1 at 8th level and 5 levels thereafter.
-Fighter: Unarmored Warrior, replaces Armor Training, gain +1 dodge bonus to AC and CMD, +1 every 4 levels thereafter.
On the next page, we get 4 new cleric spells (I'm not entirely sure why they are cleric spells, not druid, witch or adept spells, which would have felt more natural to me):
-Aura of the Grave (Clr 2): Shield of negative energy punishes people attacking you.
-Greater Weight of Ages (Clr 4): Temporarily age character up to venerable age, with cumulative penalties. Nice idea.
-Wall of Water (Clr 3): Both available as dark water, blocking sight, or turbulent water, making it hard to cross the wall. Unfortunately this spell features a typo, it should read "several effects", not several affects".
-Weight of Ages (Clr 3): Temporarily age character up to venerable age, with cumulative penalties.
On the next page, we get two new magic items, both including their own artworks, lore sections, personality & background, requirements and anything else you might require:
-Abrul's Bane: The fluff text at the top speaks of a whip, when this is clearly a longsword. An editing mistake that could have been avoided. Other than that, a nice weapon.
-Black Whip of Amon-Pyr: A dark whip with an entrapped priest's spirit. Nice.
After that, we get the next chapter (including the chapter title page) of statblocks and encounters. Three sample encounters are provided, lone scout (EL 4), scavengers (EL 6), scouting group (EL 8) and raiding party (EL 10). There are also modifications for each encounter provided. The beginning of the chapter also features the statblocks for the tribe's non-combatants:
-Ebon Lake Young (CR 1)
-Ebon Lake Female (CR 2)
After that, we get to the main meat, the statblocks, which also feature a nice little fluff-text for the DM to read to the players as well as a short little extra block for all critters with barbarian rage, showing their changed statistics:
-Master of the Ebon Lake, Irfel-Thoth [elder aboleth] (CR 9): Perhaps due to me loving Aboleths to death, perhaps due to "Sunken Empires" or "Darkness without Form: Secrets of the Mimic", I somehow felt this Aboleth rather lacking. I would have loved for him to have some special abilities or at least get mannerisms, hooks, something to make him stand out more. As written, it's "just" a cool Aboleth.
-Acolyte Guard [Degenerate troglodyte cleric 3/barbarian 2](CR 7)
-Ebon Lake Warrior [Degenerate Troglodyte barbarian 1](CR 3)
-Ebon Lake Hunter [Degenerate Troglodyte barbarian 1/ranger 1] (CR 4)
-Ebon Lake Champion [Degenerate Troglodyte barbarian 3] (CR 5)
-Garix, Ebon Lake Chieftain [Degenerate Troglodyte barbarian 2/fighter3] (CR 7) Unfortunately the chieftain is not given his own block on personality and behavior.
-Lesser Acolyte of Amon-Pyr [Degenerate Troglodyte cleric 3](CR 5)
-High Acolyte [Degenerate Troglodyte cleric 7] (CR 9)
We are also given a new template, the degenerate creature template, including sections on ecology, combat & tactics of degenerate creatures and their lore.
Finally, we are given the CR2-basic statblock of the Degenerate Troglodyte as well as the necessary information and stats to design more tribal members.
Layout is, as always with Raging Swan products, great and printer-friendly. I encountered minor typos (see review), something that didn't happen in the first installments of the TRIBES-series. The b/w-artwork is of the high quality I've come to expect. Anybody who has been following my reviews knows that I'm a total sucker for Aboleths and anything remotely Lovecraftian and thus I've been quite hyped about this installment of the TRIBES-line. While the pdf conveys the old-world-flair I've come to love about Raging Swan books and thankfully (as btw. all of their files) doesn't fall into the magic item-inflation trap, I've mainly had one impression, namely the one of untapped potential. There is an alternate class feature for the fighter, yet apart from the chieftain no troglodyte has fighter levels. How did he get them? Does he have any goals? Why does the Aboleth have no special characteristics byond being a big bad Aboleth? Why don't we get e.g. the stats for the artifact he is looking for? Why are the troglodytes tactics so...boring? Swarm the enemy and beat them to pulp might work for the degenerate creatures they are, but e.g. under the direction of their Abolethmaster, they might e.g. use their walls of water to their advantage. What about underwater tactics? If e.g. the space for some of the rather boring and rules-ambiguous feats would have been used for a section like that, the book could be better. Don't get me wrong, this is still a nice book, just not on par with the rest of the TRIBES-line. Due to the editing glitches and the rules-ambiguous feats, I'll settle for 3.5 Rudii.
And the final one for today:
As with all recent TRIBEs-installments, we once again get some lines from a poem/song/prophecy about the tribe on the ToC-page - nice. We also, of course, get the obligatory page introduction to reading the statblocks for novice DM.
After the one-page chapter title, we get 2 pages on the history, religion, nomenclature and tactics of the tribe. Some potential for strife within the tribe is also given here.
Then, we get a page containing 3 new battle feats for use by members of the tribe:
-Pierce: You may use a ranged attack to attack an enemy within range increments of your weapon as a standard action. If you hit, make another attack at -2 against a target no more than 10 ft. away from the first one. The second target also has to be within the first range increment of your weapon.
-Great Pierce: You may use a ranged attack to attack an enemy within range increments of your weapon as a standard action. If you hit, make another attack at -2 against a target no more than 10 ft. away from the first one. The new target also has to be within the first range increment of your weapon. You can continue to make these attacks until there are no more valid targets or you miss.
-Improved Combat Casting: Stacks with Combat Casting, gain a + 2 to Concentration when grappled, reroll one concentration check per day prior to the result of the first one being known. You have to take the second one.
Ok, I'll have to comment this. I think "Pierce" and "Greater Pierce" should also work for piercing weapons, but ONLY against additional targets behind the first one. Otherwise you get a rather comical and ridiculous image of a javelin ricocheting through a party of PCs. That's just my 2 cents, though.
We also get new spells:
-Snake Staff (Clr 5, Drd 5): This spell is reprinted from the APG, courtesy of Paizo, and is marked as such.
-Acid Bolt (Sor/Wiz 3): Either send clinging acid via touch attack to your enemies or coat a weapon in it.
-Bite of the Viper (Adp 2, Drd 2): Grants you a poisonous bite weapon. Why is this not on the Witch's spell list? I think the spell practically screams "Witch". Oh well.
-Swamp Kin (Adp 1, Drd 1, Sor/Wiz 1): Negates some penalties of moving through bogs. Another spell that should also be available to Witches.
-Swamp Kin, Mass (Adp 3, Drd 3, Sor/Wiz 3): As above, only mass. Dito on the Witches.
The page also includes a modified spell-list for Adepts of the Dragon Fang tribe.
The tribe also has 3 unique magic items, complete with lore sections and their own pieces of artwork:
-Blood Spiller: A human bane spear that returns to the thrower and is made from darkwood.
-Dragon Fang: Made from the fang of a black dragon, this dagger may add acid damage on critical hits.
-Staff of the Serpent: The staff can cast poison and snake-related spells, including Snake Staff.
After that, we'll get the statblocks of the Lizardfolk, complete with three encounters (Raid EL 7, Kobold Emissaries EL 4 and Swamp Ambush EL 8 - all with information to modify them). Even better, though, we get a cool sample ceremony of the tribe - exactly that is what makes a tribe come to life in my opinion. Awesome! Thankfully, in contrast to e.g. the Kobolds and Troglodytes, the Lizardfolk get an extensive side-box on environmental modifiers to help you run encounters in the tribe's given environment, the swamp. The stats are:
-Dragon Fang Warrior (CR 1)
-Elite Dragon Fang Warrior [warrior 4](CR 3)
-Dragon Fang Scout [expert 4](CR 3)
-Dragon Fang Shaman [adept 2] (CR 3)
-Lizard Familiar (of the normal Dragon Fang Shaman)
-Dragon Fang Greater Shaman [adept 6] (CR 5)
-Lizard Familiar (of the Dragon Fang Greater Shaman)
Two variant Lizardfolks are also provided:
-Cliffborn Lizardfolk (CR 1): Better climbers
-Unseen Lizardfolk (CR 1): Chameleon Lizardfolk
We also get the war trident weapon as well as all the information to make Lizard Kings.
The tribe also features several important personalities of the tribe and it is here I thought "YES!" to myself: The personalities come with personality, distinguishing marks, mannerisms and hooks. Apart from the King, that is.
-Sesskarr, the Lizard King [Lizardking sorceror (black dragon bloodline) 9] (CR 11): Sesskarr comes with almost half a page of his own tale on how he became what he is now. I loved it and I think it's a nice substitute for the roleplaying information of the other personalities!
-Groth [Troglodyte Druid 10] (CR 10): A twisted, dark Druid, he urges the tribe and its king toward evil.
-Alssarrass [Lizardfolk Adept 12] (CR 8): Peaceful wife of Sesskarr and foe of Groth.
-Brethikk [Kobold Fighter 9] (CR 8): Wielder of Blood Spiller, this former Kobold King now serves as Sesskarr's bodyguard.
Editing, layout and the b/w-artwork are top-notch, as I've come to expect of Raging Swan products. While I personally don't like the Pierce-feats, that's just a personal opinion. I'd also like to see information/support for the APG-classes and still think that some of the spells should be on the spell-list of e.g. Witches. Apart from that, though, this installment of the TRIBES-series once again goes up and beyond what one would come to expect and finally, we get mannerisms, hooks, etc. for all the important personalities. The items rock, too. I would have liked to see more on the tactics of the tribe, but due to this being my only true criticism of the file, I'll settle once again for a five-Rudii rating - an excellent addition to the series.
All right, that's it for now, as always, thank you for reading my ramblings,