Thursday, September 08, 2011


I recently just finished Paizo's Rule of Fear and Undead Revisited.  Well, technically I still have a few pages left in Rule of Fear, but I'll finish that today over lunch, and I'm anxious to talk about while I've got a few free moments this morning.

The two go together fairly well--Rule of Fear is the regional sourcebook for Ustalav, which is the Pathfinder setting's area of concentrated horror tropes and conventions.  A Paizonian Ravenloft, if you will, in many ways.  It's an interesting area, and one that I wish was even more developed, frankly, as it felt like it was barely touching on all the things that could be done there.  But that's been true of most of the Paizo sourcebooks for me; if I like them (and I do for most) I wish there were even more detail, because it's more about giving you hints and thought-starters than it is about giving you a full-fledged and highly detailed area.  I guess I could check out the recently concluded Carrion Crown adventure path for more details on parts of Ustalav, and I probably will.  Eventually.

One thing that I feared Rule of Fear would do, and it kinda did, although not as strongly nor as annoyingly as I feared, was "bunching" of recognizable tropes together.  I.e., this is the county that's like Bram Stoker's Trannsylvania.  This is the county that's Lovecraft's Arkham.  This is the county that's Phantom of the Opera.  This is the county that's Shelley's Frankenstein.  Etc.  I think the tropes could have been mixed and mingled a bit more than they were.  But that's a minor gripe.  I like horror in my fantasy, and always have, and Rule of Fear delivers a setting tailor made for exactly that.  And although I don't run published settings, as I've said often enough before, it's still fun to have a well-stocked larder of setting material that I can raid when I wish to.

I also finished Undead Revisited.  I've said before that I had higher hopes for the X Revisited series than I actually got, and that's still true.  Rather than really revisiting the subject matter, the Revisited series has mostly strengthened and reiterated the already common and prevalent D&D filtered assumptions of what it's covered.  That's OK when the subject matter is good and D&D has in general done a good job with it, which is true for some of the monsters, I suppose.  Undead Revisited, however, has an even greater hurdle to overcome, though--most of the best, most classic, most iconic and most desireable undead to cover were already done in Classic Horrors Revisited.  When you can't use vampires, ghouls, ghosts, mummies or zombies, your subsequent undead book has to focus on more esoteric and more D&Diana-themed monsters... which detracts significantly from their iconic and classic nature, in my (n)ever-so-humble opinion.  So, Undead Revisited had a few real classics left to do: wights (familiar to almost all fantasy readers thanks to the grisly inhabitants of the Barrow-downs who captured Frodo and Co.) and liches, the iconic undead master.  After that, they had to go with much more esoteric monsters, like dracoliches (renamed raveners), allips, banshees, dreadknights (renamed graveknights), nightshades, mohrgs and devourers.  And frankly, although they made a good attempt here, it felt on occasion like scraping the bottom of the barrel when it came to classic undead.

Given how lightly touched the subjects have been in all the prior Revisited series, I think a nice idea would have been to go back to a few of the classics, especially the vampire, and really bulked it up even more with some more radical variants or something.  But, oh well.  I don't exactly dislike Undead Revisited, I just felt like it was a subject that had been seriously handicapped by the well-done earlier book in the series already taking the best choices out of play before this one even had a chance to get started.

I continue to mostly like the Pathfinder Campaign Setting series (formerly the Pathfinder Chronicles series) and am looking forward to a number of upcoming titles, although as some of my reviews of the series also show, I've decided to look before I buy, and only look at the titles that sound really up my alley.  For upcoming releases, I've got my eye so far on Lands of the Linnorm Kings (i.e., the "viking" sourcebook), Horsemen of the Apocalypse (the third of three fiend-centric books, and the most likely to be truly innovative and new of the three), Dragon Empires Gazeteer (the sourcebook for the Pathfinder Orient), possibly Mythological Monsters, although I'll be taking a really close look at that before I buy, Distant Worlds, the Sword & Planet sourcebook for the rest of the Pathfinder solar system, Isles of the Shackles, the Pathfinder pirate-themed area sourcebook, and Lost Kingdoms, a sourcebook on half a dozen long-lost ancient empires (and presumably whatever legacy they've left behind.)

Not a bad line-up at all, and frankly, most of what they've got on the schedule has at least piqued some interest from me.  Kudos once again to the intrepid Paizonians for some stellar setting development work.

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