Today, I'm going to take a closer look at Raging Swan Press's
Villains II is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC (once again with a nice rhyme - I really like them!), 1 page advice to reading stat-blocks for novice DMs, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 21 pages of content, so let's check it out!
What defines a villain besides being an enemy to the PCs? Well, for example the fact that they usually have minions and thus, the pdf introduces minions for the villains herein.
So, what kind of minions do we get? We get Gargoyle scouts (CR 11, ranger 7), 2 stat-blocks for Ghast hordelings (CR 7 and CR 9, fighter 2/rogue 3 and fighter 4/rogue 3) and three unique minions. These unique minions get the full-blown Raging Swan Press-NPC-treatment, i.e. they get background information, mannerisms, distinguishing features and hooks - impressive. Even more impressive, though, is that the minions have enough character to be villains of their own right. From an Invisible stalker rogue over a Quasit bard to an Ogre-mage fighter, the minions rock.
After 1 page chapter heading, we are introduced to the villains, the first being an elf wizard turned necromancer and vampire during his career- including the lost divination spells in the block. Next up is an extremely cool Incubus fighter who might very well be the center of a whole campaign. Next up is a sorceror lich who can tap into his draconic lineage to grown wings and use draconic breath weapons, but feels compelled to act on draconic greed and delusions of supremacy. Next up is a rather disturbing werewolf druid (in normal and hybrid form stats) that has succumbed to his bestial nature to the extent that he mates with his animal companion (who also gets stats) as well as 5 members of his demented circle of fanatics. On another note, we get a deadly Minotaur barbarian come pirate who lives only for the moment and has succumbed to alcoholism and his destructive bouts of anger. The final villain is a rather sad/tragic, a sorceror/dragon disciple who has been lynched and mummified alive by an angry mob now seeks for vengeance and has a nice potential tie-in with "Fellowship of the Blackened Oak".
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice an mistakes. Layout adheres to the printer-friendly, simple and elegant 2-column standard set by RSP and the b/w-artworks were ok for the price. On the formal side, there is nothing to complain about, so what about the characters themselves? My main point of criticism towards the first villains-book was that some of the villains lacked unique characteristics. This book remedies that, and brilliantly does so - the villains get unique abilities, captivating backgrounds and always FEEL like characters - i.e. their reasons for their descent into evil is logical and concisely written - To the extent that each villain made me spontaneously come up with several plot ideas for adventures while still being easy to drop into any given campaign. Quite a feat, I might add!
With my lack of criticism, the flawless writing and the cool characters herein, I practically have to settle for 5 stars and the Endzeitgeist seal of approval. This pdf is worth each and every cent and continues RSP's trend of awesome, almost perfect, high-quality supplements. Well done!
Next up s another high-quality series, i.e. RiP's new
This installment of the Faces of the Tarnished Souk-series is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and 2 pages advertisements, leaving 11 pages for the 3 incarnations of Arhanoht, so let's check them out!
In the tradition of the FoTS-series, this one kicks off with an aptly-written one page of character introduction, information on dream-burning (though this one is dream-barren), a lore-section as well as a how-to-use sidebox for the DM.
As per my format for these reviews, I'm going to work from back to front: There are a lot of templates in this book: The "Broken creature"-template that makes constructs "broken" and thus weaker (immensely useful in my opinion), the exemplar template that makes a creature one paragon of its kind with better and more pronounced attributes, the suzerain template, which makes you a natural born leader and the time-seer template (which is probably the coolest), which lets a creature perceive the future and act according to this constant barrage of possibilities via a wisdom check - otherwise it gets impeded by the conflicting images it constantly perceives. The pdf also does something I've longed for quite some time, introducing a lesser version of the Kolyarut-inevitables that clocks in at CR 6, making it easier to give them class-levels.
Next up is the low-level incarnation of Arhanoht and what can I say - He's a Kolyarut-inquisitor using a meteor-hammer (a chain with a huge ball, gets its own stats) that doubles as a censer. Matt Banach and Justin Sluder have officially infiltrated my mind - in my home-brew campaign there's a legendary inquisitor with exactly that weapon, including passing dispassionate judgment! The low-level incarnation has no class-levels and thrice the broken template and has not yet the time seer template, while the mid-level incarnation gets monk and inquisitor levels. In the most powerful incarnations, he is the leader of the Iron Gavel, a group of powerful individuals serving Arhanoht and passing judgment in the Souk. He gets 2 traits, Dream-barren and Killer and 2 new bracers are introduced that keep their wearers alive. His deadly meteor-hammer gets its powerful stats and 3 feats are provided to expand judgments, extra banes and cohorts. The true star, though, is the awesome, deadly high-level CR 21-incarnation of Arhanoth: Using 3 templates, cool items and finally providing for a cool high-level inquisitor/monk, he ranks among the most deadly and relentless combatants I've seen in quite some time.
Layout adheres to the classic B/w-RiP -two-column standard. Formatting is top-notch and I only noticed one very minor editing glitch, a superfluous asterisk in the time seer template. The piece of artwork for Arhanoht is awesome and the NPC per se is awesome - hell, I practically admit to having just about this character in my home-campaign, thus, of course, I love him. If his signature litany would be In Strict Confidence's "Engelsstaub"-song as a theme, I'd be sure that Matt and Justin have somehow infiltrated my table - With the lack of any significant glitches, the cool ideas and the beautiful stat-blocks, I'll settle for a final verdict of 5 stars, continuing the excellent track-record of the FoTS-series.
All right, that's it for now.
As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,