today I'm going to take a look at some deadly NPCs to kill your PCs!
I'm going to start with two of the best NPCs from Rite Publishing's Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series.
First, let's take a look at
This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisements, leaving 8 pages for Elspeth, so let's dive in!
I'll go through the 3 incarnations in reverse order, from her lowest CR up to the highest. People who've followed my reviews probably know that I have a soft spot for Elans and this file details one. "Elan" you say? Yep, as this installment of Faces of the Tarnished Souk is a collaboration between Rite Publishing and Dreamscarred Press, offering support for my beloved PFRPG-psionics. AWESOME! Can her 3 incarnations stand up to this great premise? I'll see!
Her low-level incarnation is
-Lady Elspeth, Agent of Blackblade (Elan Psychic Warrior 4), CR4 - Nice build, although there is a minor typo, with her name in the "During Combat"-section being written like exponentials. Other than that, a nice build! (1 page)
Her mid-level incarnation is
-Elspeth Black, Operative of Blackblade Section X (Elan psychic warrior 5/metamind 1/war mind 1), CR 7: An even cooler build that utilizes two complementary PrCs to their potential. Cool!
We also get 2 magic item properties, "Reshaping" and "Weightless" (both featuring an extra "h" in the CL-section)and 4 new magic items. The items are:
-Crystal Key, Lesser: Open a portal to a specific plane 3/day. Do not travel with the user.
-Crystal key, Greater: Like their lesser variant, but they do travel with their user.
-Gate Key: Like the Greater Crystal key, but works for any plane.
-Gloves of Activation: Bonus to Use Magic Device, three sets are given in the construction section: +2, +5 and +10.
We also get 3 new feats:
-Battlefield Intuition: Add Wis-modifier to Initiative, stacks with other modifiers.
-Combat Advice: Move action to grant allies +1 to damage and attacks
-Command: Gain commandpoints equal to your level. Each time you use a move action to direct/command your allies, you can spend command points up to your Cha-mod to grant allies competence bonuses to their rolls.
Items and feats take up about one and a half page.
Additionally, there are 1.5 pages of stats for the 3 different incarnations of Elspeth's Psicrystal, Raze, as well as a little sidebox on its personality - Nice!
Her high-level incarnation (CR 15) takes up 2 pages and is
-Elspeth Black, Executive Officer of Blackblade (Elan Psychic Warrior 5/Metamind 5/War mind 5) Much to my delight, this statblock also features a whole paragraph on a potential cohort of hers, including names and short characteristics.
As is the standard in the FotTS-series, Elspeth also gets 1 page of aptly-written character background, including dream-burning information and a side-box on how to use her.
Conclusion: Layout adheres to the RiP-standard, artwork is nice and the additional content provided (especially the feats) make this a nice deal. Once again, we get complex statblocks and her lower-level incarnations might make for nice rank-and-file Blackblade operatives. The fluff made me curious about the organization and I'd like to know more about it in a future supplement. Given that I'm a sucker for psionics and that this character simply rocks, I'd immediately settle for 5 Rudii. Due to the minor glitches, I'll rate this 4.5 Rudii.
This pdf is 15 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages of advertisements, leaving 10 pages of content - Nice!
Following my format for FotS-reviews, I'll start with the lowest-CR-incarnations and work my way up, so let's go! Ninyantë is a very interesting NPC - why? Well, her low-level incarnations is:
- Ninyantë (Amalgam human dark naga shadow assassin 4, CR 8): Yep, we get a complex template base race AND some love for one of my favorite base-classes from SGG. How cool is that? Even better, all the information to run her are given, thus ensuring that you don't necessarily have to buy the SGG guide.
Her mid-level incarnation is:
- The Dark Lady Ninyantë (Spellpowered amalgam human dark naga shadow assassin 11, CR 14): Yep, we get 2 complex templates -YES!
Her glorious high-level incarnation is:
-The Dark Lady Ninyantë, Mistress of Venom (Spellpowered amalgam human dark naga shadow assassin 17, CR 21): Oh my, she is deadly. She is beautiful. She is glorious. I LOVE her.
The pdf does not stop there, though: We also get the two templates, 2 poison-related feats and 3 new magic items. Of course we also get a great page of concise, aptly-written introduction to her as a character complete with dreamburning information and a box of advice on how to use her.
Conclusion: Writing is concise, Editing and formatting are top-notch and adhere to the RiP-two-column standard. Her b/w-artwork is nice and the amount of additional content makes reading this pdf an absolute blast. I didn't notice any glitches in the stat-blocks and they are among the most complex of the series as of yet and her CR 21-incarnation stat-block is a stunning beauty to behold. Some love for the extremely cool shadow assassin base-class does help, too. With all this praise, you can imagine what my final verdict will be - straight 5 Rudii. One of the best incarnations of the series.
Ok, you know I love the FoTS-series and if you like them as much as I do, you might also think about checking the following book out, even if you don't usually like the NeoExodus-books:
This pdf is 80 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page SRD, 2 pages mini-sheets, 2 pages char-sheet and 1 page combat & initiative tracker, leaving 73 pages for the folding circle, so let's check them out!
Detailing a kind of evil terrorist/guerilla-army led by powerful antagonists, the first PFRPG-compatible book of the "Enemies of NeoExodus"-line kicks off as it should, with the narrative of how the group of beings that make up the inner circle of the organization came together. The narrative is concisely and yet compellingly written and had me actually want to continue reading. The methodology of the group is explained, but the book does not stop there - we get paragraphs that explain which leaders are used for which tasks, which symbols they use ( great for foreshadowing) and even some unusual details of their headquarter. On the mechanical side, we also get a short table of the leadership-effects of individual soldiers fighting under the command of leaders.
The commanders are:
-Makesh the Undying, the glue that holds the group together. A human turned divine construct, he, as the other leaders, is presented in several incarnations: CR 4, 10, 14, 20 and 24. The stat-blocks come with EXTENSIVE tactics sections and even goes one step further than just progressing the stats- depending on the incarnation, he actually gets some cool completely unique abilities related to his background story and even his signature weapon is updated in each incarnation.
-Nysska, the renegade exodite assassin among them (CR 3, 7, 11, 15, 19) also gets this versatile treatment, her stats also containing signature poisons, tactics dependant on the level of her incarnation and once again unique signature abilities.
-The Destroyer, Enuka-incarnation of war and destruction also comes in several incarnations: Cr 5, 9, 13, 17, 21. Being the one creature that more or less could kill Makesh, this incarnation of destruction, as the other two, comes with cool signature abilities like a rebirth in blood or the ability to suddenly adapt to incoming energy. Or rip bone quills from his body and throw them at his enemy.
-Emok Zenyaka, a demon of corruption and life sealed in the body of a now genderless Prymidian. He comes as CR 2, 6, 10, 14, 19 and comes with disease-associated attacks and a special ability that defines how he uses his considerable magic power and culminating in terrible abilities that define how he can destroy and taint his enemies.
-Haru Anon, the condensed and combined terror and pain of both thousands of souls slain by Makesh (who is one day supposed to lead them to the afterlife) and his former tribesmen was bound into a hybrid undead/construct form by Emok. It comes as CR 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and actually has extremely cool ability progressions. As the other leaders, this IMMENSELY cool thing gets terrible destructive powers. Wow.
Next up, we get sections on how the organization of the folding circle interacts with the other powers of Exodus. However, apart from fluff, we also get mechanical benefits in the respective regions for members, even presenting feats to become the protégé of the respective leader, sans Haru Anon, of course, who is not interested in followers.
Followers...we get those, too: For example Seeker-in-Flame, a CR 10 burning Dalrean ranger with some very cool unique abilities and his mephit companion. Or Axo, crystalline Cynean apprentice to Emok who can focus arcane energy like a destructive lens.
Then, there is the Brotherhood. A sub-organization of assassins, they come just as varied and detailed in background as their leaders, though they "only" get one stat-block as well. From an Enuk-warrior who was fused with an elemental, a fate-twisting assassin wielding an artifact, a druid touched by elemental air, a Sasori monk possessed by an inner fire that can even create him anew, a Cavian sorceror disconnected from the hive-mind and muted in both bloodline, a corrupted nature-spirit and finally, a MPD-afflicted, undead child with terrible power over sleep.
Layout is just as beautiful as you would expect it, from LPJr Design. What I didn't expect, though, was how both writing and editing have improved in this file in comparison to others I've seen. I've scarcely encountered typos (quite a feat with a book of this size) and stumbled across no glaring errors. While there are minor formatting glitches (I e.g. noticed a section that was supposed to be bold and wasn't), they are few and far between - I noticed 2 on 73 pages with a similar number of very minor punctuation errors. The artwork in most LPJr-books rocks. This is even more true in this one - the full-color illustrations (One for EACH character) are beauties and only the portrait of ram (the corrupt nature spirit) didn't match up to a quality you could potentially see in a Paizo product. Especially the portrait of Haru Anon just blew me away and even surpasses the usually excellent artworks of NeoExodus books. More importantly, the NPCs detailed herein make AWESOME villains. Seriously. Just about every character comes with signature abilities, a new magic item or artifact or similar powers that would qualify them as being a major antagonist for your PCs. Even if you only use one of them, he/she/it is almost guaranteed to surprise your PCs. Add to that the fact that each one gets at least a page of background and you're in for quite a treat. While I have to admit that I didn't do the math on everyone of them, I noticed no obvious glaring inconsistencies and quite frankly, at this level I don't really care. The writing is cool, the NPCs rock, their organization is unique in design and agenda and the small bits and pieces like the aforementioned leadership bonuses make for a great reading experience. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to think about how to implement them in my campaign and which one to throw first at my PCs. What? I forgot the rating? 5 Rudii - this is by far the best book by LPJr Design I've read so far and I heartily recommend it to just about any DM looking for deadly villains, even ones who don't intend to play in NeoExodus. With cosmetic changes, these fellows can be the final bosses of your campaign.
Ok, that were a lot of deadly, high-level NPCs. Need some rather low-to mid-level ones that are more on the low-magic side? There you go!
This pdf is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 blank page inside the front cover, 1 page to set the stage, 1 page that explains how to read the statblocks to novice PCs, 2 pages of editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisements, leaving 21 pages of content.
Villains are, per definition, the primary antagonists of the heroes and often come with? Bingo, minions!
Thus we get a nice selection of minions for not only the villains in this book first: We get 2 assassins, 3 stat-blocks for mercenaries, 3 for rakes, 2 spies and 2 thugs, offering some nice alternatives from the stat-blocks in the Gamemaster's Guide. It should be noted that both the spies and assassins get their own names and are rather interesting choices for their roles.
Oh, and there is another rhymed verse at the beginning of the book on the ToC-page, which I mention due to considering having stuff like that in the back-hand a boon for DMs.
It should be noted that they all get the Raging Swan NPC-treatment, complete with background, mannerisms, distinguishing features etc. Now let's look at the villains: Teraim Arasten is a cruel, psychotic dwarf that is also an alcoholic. While somehow pathetic, he makes for a nevertheless chilling, cool adversary. Firhar Luedul is a mage who seeks lichdom to combat his Thanatophobia. Eiluanna Miaasar is an elven maid ravaged by orcs who seeks to quench her trauma in bloodshed. Her tragedy and complex psychology make her an interesting enemy. Myghal Nankeris is an insane monk who seeks to attain enlightenment via slaughtering enemies - his section unfortunately features two typos. Digory Odgers is a guildmaster in the making from the gutter who may make for a cool godfather-like crime-lord. Perran Gongye is an assassin's legend in the making who understands the importance of successful PR. Cornes Solethar is a sorceror aligned with the abyss and allied with undead. His only empathy is reserved to a dog. His section also contains three typos. More importantly, though, there is a discrepancy between his fluff and crunch: Although he is supposed to have a genius-like intelligence, he only sports an Int-score of 12. While is Cha is high as a sorceror, force of personality alone not a genius makes in my opinion.
Formatting adheres to the printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard set by Raging Swan and Layout also is top-notch. The b/w-artworks, while nice, are not as cool as in other Raging Swan books, but I guess that's personal preference. It should be noted that as part of the dual-format pdf-initiative a pdf-reader-friendly version is included in the deal. More importantly, though, some of the characters are not as absolutely awesome as in other Raging Swan Press releases like "Antipaladins" or "Fellowship of the Blackened Oak" - while generic and easy to implement in any given campaign setting, Raging Swan NPCs usually still feel unique and like true characters. However, in "Villains" some of the characters feel like cardbox cut-outs - especially Myghal and Cornes feel rather bland and uninspired, especially in contrast to e.g. Teraim, Perran, Firhar and Eiluanna. Due to that and the minor editing glitches, I'll settle for a final verdict of 4 Rudii -still a very good file, but not as perfect as e.g. Antipaladins.
All right, I hope you'll have found some great antagonists among these extremely cool NPCs, next time I'll have something different in store for you!
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,