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Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player’s Companion

 

Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Guide

 

This pdf is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let's check this out!

After a nice parchment-like page of fluff, we are introduced to the plane of shadow, respectively its characteristics. After a short description of the planar qualities of the shadow plane, we delve right into the section on playable races. Not only the standard races, but also the drow and duergar, dhampirs, fetchlings, hobgoblins, orcs, ratfolk, tiefling and wayang are covered - all with a new racial trait to reflect the hardening effects of the plane of shadows. There also are two alternate racial traits, one granting halflings darkvision and one granting wayang negative energy affinity and after that, we get even more racial options with new races, first of which would be the umbral kobolds:
Umbral Kobolds get -2 to Str, 2 to Dex and Int, darkvision, 1 natural AC, 2 to Perception, Profession (Miner) and Craft (Trapmaking) with the latter and stealth always being class-skills, are light sensitive and small. The second new race are wanderers, mortals spawned from angels who abandoned their duties to become mortals looking slightly like humans, but being shrouded by an intangible aura of loss and sadness. They get 2 to Con and Int, -2 to Cha, darkvision, are ageless, treat any weapon as good-aligned, get resistance 5 against acid, electricity and cold as well as a 2 bonus to saves against emotion effects they can also extend to allies within 10 ft. The two new races rock hard, can be considered iconic and balanced and are neat, but unfortuantely lack age, height and weight tables, which is a major bummer in my book.

The second chapter talks about the respective classes and their roles in the eternal twilight of the shadow plane. We also get new archetypes, starting with the Dusk Stalker. Presentation-wise, the Player's Guide does something awesome here: Each entry features a short list of associated class, races (i.e. these are exclusive to the respective races), modified abilities and skills before going into the rather major modifications of the base-abilities of the respective classes. The Dusk Stalker is a variant of the magus that gains stealth-based abilities like silent spells, the option to use arcane feints, can expend arcane pool points to potentially silence foes and also get sneak attack. Neat! The radiant knight, especially suitable for wanderers: These fighters may harness their lost angelic heritage, gaining a vestige of divinity. This vestige can be used in a neat variety of ways and a dazzling burst of holy glory, ignore miss chances and aid allies with a bonus to AC and against fear. Also, the radiant knight's light is not dimmed by the darkness of the plane. We also get new class abilities: Cavaliers now can join the order of the blackened heart, an order seeking to cut away any weakness and inflict pain to purge weakness from the cavalier. Interesting, especially since the order is not necessarily exclusive open to evil members, allowing you to play a flagellant-style fanatic just as well as a kyton-worshipper. Sorcerors of the draconic bloodline may now benefit from umbral and quake dragon breath weapons, while summoners get 2 new 4-point evolutions, allowing their eidolon to create deep shadows that block even darkvision or add a touch that deals str-damage that can be used a limited amount of times per day. Witches gain the new blinding light hey, inverting the usual dark connotations of the class, while wizards now can also take the shadow elemental wizard school.

Speaking of arcanists: There are 4 new familiars (rabbit, opossum, pale fox and shadow terrier) as well as 8 new improved familiar option (but sans stats) that actually include the flumph! Neat! Neater, though, are the new 4 animal companion stats included: From a giant nightcrawler to an umbral vulture, we also get 2 stellar ones: Riding Dodos and shade ferrets (which can stand on their hind legs). Awesome!

Now Shadowsfall is anything but a safe haven, yet the intelligent races still prosper in their enclaves - thus, like points of civilization in the dark lands, we get not only a nice, one-page spanning b/w-map, but also 8 regional entries on the grand city states and boy: From the bullwark against the ever-present undead, Bastion, to the arcanocracy of Gear's Gate to the Kyton-stronghold of Bloodchain, the golem-patrolled Kingsgrave that provides shelter for those who manage to evade the constructed guards to even the outlands between the city, we get a nice overview-primer of Shadowsfall. Between 2 and 3 regional traits are provided for each area to customize your characters with backgrounds tied to the setting. Better yet, the traits actually are interesting, providing a minor edge against negative energy or even a DR against non-lethal damage. Nice!

We also get a selection of 13 new feats that allow you t enhance the undead your create, granting you better servants, increase your caster level checks when casting darkness and shadow-spells, a teamwork feat to channel cooperatively, increased accuracy with shadow walk, improved guerilla-sniping, improved dirty tricks etc. The truly interesting feats herein, though, would, at least in my opinion, be the feat-tree for shadow style that increases the movement of the user as well as adding your wis-bonus to fly and stealth. The subsequent feats of the tree allow you to ignore up to your wis-bonus of armor and shield bonuses or use a standard action to deal str-damage to opponents, thankfully with a respective scaling save to prevent attribute damage. Nice, well-designed, no balance-concerns. The final feat I really consider interesting is the Blind Targeted Spell metamagic-feat. You can hit foes with your spells even if you don't have line of effect anymore, as long as the target is still in your spell's range and has been in your line of effect no longer than int-bonus before you cast the spell. At 1 spell-level and the restriction of not allowing the feat to work with touch attack-spells to give away enemy locations, I can only consider this feat to be an excellent piece of design I'll continue to playtest in my home-game - from my vantage point, it looks like a rather cool option and actually one of the rare metamagic feats that doesn't suck.

Of course, adventurers in the Shadow Plane also have their unique, distinct tools of the trade and thus the item section comes with a wartrident as wella s some interesting alchemical items: Cover your undead minions in deathburn to convey the damage of their natural attacks to acid or throw the vials at your foes or pepper your foes with glass orbs filled with holy water. Now, if you cover your body with a paste that contains Kyton-blood, you may convey 1 point of damage per attack to non-lethal damage (can we have more of those?) and another salve allows you to better resist the cold of the plane. Speaking of cold-resistance: Feyschroons (not sure whether that should read "-shrooms") also protect you against cold ina limited manner, but are an addictive, two-edged sword. I'd love to see more drugs in PFRPG and I'm glad the item was included in the section. And now, oh boy, did I grin from ear to ear when I read about the two new vehicles included herein: Reapers, vehicles designed to mow down legions of zombies, propelled by muscle-force would be the first, while the Scout Guardians of Gear Gate's arcanocracy would be the second: Propelled by an eldritch receiver within a certain area (and beyond, at lesser capacity with an alchemical battery), these vehicles are one-man arcane walkers with a ballista strapped to the side. These vehicles are PLAIN FRICKIN' AWESOME! Seriously, can you see Pcs escaping through the woods, running from the city's elite and their walkers, hoping to outrun the arcane warmachines? I can and boy - excellent!
A total of 14 short, primer-entries of the gods of Shadowsfall introduce us to the umbral pantheon (including domains and subdomains) of Shadowsfall as well as new philosophy to adhere to. Speaking of subdomains: We get a new shadow subdomain (though we already have a couple of these, this one is rather neat) and the kyton subdomain as well. The old Ravenloft-truism that the darkest worlds are most in need of heroes holds true in Shadowsfall as well and the joy-mystery for the oracle makes you a beacon of hope and light in this dark lands, including the ability to inflict foes with crippling sorrow and gaining access to limited bardic performances as well as gaining enhanced euphoria-induced healing and the ability to make instant friends. Awesome mystery!

There also are 6 new spells included in the guide, which let you create black, clinging snow, get a miss chance via blinding shadows, grant darkvision to multiple allies, a greater version of disrupt undead, a lesser invisibility effect and a shadow-based enhancement to speed. Finally, we come to the topic of magic items: 6 new ones are included, including a rope that rings its funeral bell when crossed by an undead, a cloak that enhances stealth vs. undead foes, a cowl to better intimidate undead, a kyton's slaver whip and a salve that grants darkvision. Cloaks of darkness in shadowsfall work differently, merging you with the plane and making you invisible to darkvision, but not to regular sight - interesting indeed! Speaking of "working differently" - the final two pages of the pdf are devoted to a selection of 11 magic items that work differently on the plane of shadows, having been changed by the latent energies that suffuse the plane. Rapiers of blood drinking allow the wielder to make a touch attack to drain con from foes, but suffer half the drain themselves. Belts of mighty constitution 4 may now also impart a -2 penalty to Str and result in physical deformities, while necklaces of fireballs can end up as necklaces of exploding beads that immediately go off when removed from the string, necessitating the wielder taking the damage him/herself. I wish this section was longer, I really do - the idea of tainted items and inherent drawbacks as well as their design is excellent.

RPGNow.com

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting can still be considered very good, though not perfect: While I did notice some minor glitches, they did not impede my understanding of the content herein and were few enough and far between. Layout adheres to a parchment-style look, 2-column standard and comes with a plethora of neat b/w-artworks as well as a neat piece of cartography. The wanderer-race and one of the AWESOME new vehicles even get their own neat full-color artworks. The pdf is fully bookmarked with extensive nested bookmarks, comes with a plethora of hyperlinks to d20pfsrd (which are not highlighted in the text) and comes with an alternate printer-friendly version that omits the parchment-background. Neat! Hero Lab users should also know that the pdf comes with herolab-files as an additional comfort!

This player's guide is a comprehensive, smart and well-written introduction to the plane of shadows that will whet your taste for the darkness of Shadowsfall. From nice racial options (with full ARG-support, if you like that book) to expertly-written, evocative primers on locales, this book has more to offer than the usual player's guides - While not all feats or spells are drop-dead-brilliant, there is at least one piece of crunch, more often than not multiple ones in each chapter that I'd not only consider innovative, but rather cool or even downright genius. My personal highlights of the book, though, would be the items and cities: Where the cities and areas drip with flavor and coolness and make you want to explore them, the items not only display a grasp of balance, but provide ample rules-representations for the taint of the plane and the resulting double-edged nature of magic items, a trope near and dear to my heart. Add to that the new vehicles and I'm all gushy about this product! After reading the entry on the walkers (which remain deeply entrenched in fantasy and don't become scifi-ish) and reapers, I so hope we'll see more vehicles and perhaps even vehicular combat supplements (adventures, all-out warfare anybody?) for the setting in future supplements.
This pdf would be a prime candidate for the full 5 stars endzeitgeist seal of approval, were it not for one crucial oversight: Neither the umbral kobolds, nor the wanderers get an age, height and weight table and while one could just orient one at the human or kobold entries, I still feel that by making umbral kobolds e.g. especially light or wanderers significantly heavier than humans (weight of sin, anyone?), the two races could have been further improved. This remains my only gripe in an otherwise excellent offering, though, and thus my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, still rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform. This is not only a great purchase if you're into the plane of shadows, but e.g. also to scavenge ideas for Carrion Crown APs or any rather dark setting really.

 

As always, thanks for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.

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Book of Signature Spells I & II

 

Today, I'm going to take a look at Jon Brazer Enterprises' Book of Magic: Signature spell-series, starting with

 

Book of Signature Spells I

 

This pdf is 12 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial & SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 8 pages for the signature spells.

 

After 3 pages of spell-lists, providing lists for classes like Magus, Alchemist, etc. (NICE!) as well as the basic core classes, we are introduced to the selection of new spells herein. If I have not miscounted, we get 31 new spells, several of which are supposed to be signature spells or certain legendary mages.  I really like that premise, as e.g. Bigby's hands will always have fond adherents among my players, as do the Tenser, Rary, Otiluke etc. spells - being a certain mage's work and carrying their distinct style makes them stand out amidst the flood of magic available.

 

That being said, signature spells need to go beyond just providing benefits - they have to fit a certain theme and feature an iconic quality - so, how do they stand up?

 

To be frank, the first three spells of this pdf did not excite me: They belong to a set of 4 spells that provide DR 5/alignment. Boring. Brick Wall's Fortitude provides a scaling bonus to fort saves. Not exciting either. There are also similar spells for reflex and will saves. Gaining Dragon Scales (DR, natural armor and associated resistance) is another spell I don't need. There are also two spells to cover one's scent, which I consider useful but not iconic per se.

 

Fortunately, Halican's 4 spells were up next - they deal with ships, repairing them or creating a hydraulic water burst - now we're talking! These water-related spells fit a characteristic niche, provide neat ideas and follow them. Leighanna's 3 spells, primarily dealing with subtle tactical advances and manipulations also offer some cool options like forcing foes to delay actions - again, neat!

 

After that, though, we once again get spells that are rather bland - greater variants of mage armor. Riyal's three spells are low-level defensive magic and Rostov's snake themed spells felt nice - though the Snake Strike is overpowered: A level 2 spell that grants an attack action to the creature touched at its highest attack bonus against a target, essentially enabling you to hit via your buddy. Ouch.

 

Shallan's 4 spells deal with shadows - shadow walls, an area-of-effect enfeeblement attack (10 ft. burst) and a cha-leeching ray sorcerors and other cha-based casters will hate.

 

The pdf closes with a spell to summon dwarven armor and a wall of leaves.

 

Users of Herolab should rejoice, for the pdf comes with a .hl-file - great additional support!

DriveThruRPG.com

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to a very printer-friendly, easy-to-read 2-column standard and I really like the covers - I did not like the layout-decision to print the sub-header on the front cover in a rather bland, standard font, though. It somewhat impedes the coolness of the otherwise neat cover. The 2 pieces of b/w-artwork are nice. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks and I've already mentioned the herolab support, another plus. Oh boy. It's been quite I while since I was so conflicted about a pdf.

 

On the one hand, the new spells by mages and their thematic link is neat, as is the support for all the classes. On the other hand, several of the spells are the complete opposite to signature spells, being the epitome of blandness. The "alignment-body" spells and the + x to save spells are terribly uncreative and feel like filler at best. Call me cynical, but they just didn't do it for me. Which is a damn pity: Hallican's, Leighanna's and Riyal's spells felt VERY interesting, iconic and cool to me, making only more apparent that author Dale C. McCoy Jr. CAN write excellent spells. Moreover, none of the spells really felt completely out of line, striking a nice balance between innovation and power. Let me be frank: This pdf contains some of my new favorite spells. However, it also contains some of my new least favorite spells. The aim of providing signature spells has been partially fulfilled and were I to voice a request, I'd ask for flavor text (spinning little stories around the spells or their creators)as well as getting rid of filler spells in future installments. Improved versions of Mage Armor belong to a book on spell variants, not in one on signature spells.

Unfortunately, not all spells in this pdf belong to the category of kicking ass and taking names unique spells. You should just be aware that not all spells herein are killer or signature spells. The pdf is very affordable, though, and comes with Herolab-support, which somewhat offsets the relatively low amount of content when compared to other spell-centric pdfs. In the end, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform - if you're in it for some cool spells, you won't regret the purchase.

 

And here's the second, rather new book of the line:

 

Book of Signature Spells II

 

This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 9 pages of content, so let's check this out!

 

In the days of old, some spells were the creations of specific archwizards  -"Disjunction" was the work of Mordenkainen, a certain "laughter"-spell the creation of Tasha - this book endeavors to recreate the iconicity of said wizards by providing spells that were created by specific spellcasters - thus, we first get an introduction to the story of the spellcasters before we get the lists for the respective spellcaster-classes, including APG-classes, Magus etc.

 

The first spells we are introduced to, are Clarissa's, which deal with divine and language-dependant spells and abilities: A dome that is deadly for the undead to sacred bonuses for you and your allies and also a spell that impedes language-dependant spells. On the other side of the holy/unholy equation, we get Gravada's 3 spells, which enable you  to handle diseases better: From an improved form of contagion to a deadly tiring disease and a spell that makes getting rid of a disease harder, these sinister 3 spells make for a cool, nice niche of spellcasting. Also rather sinister are Iggaria's spells, which enable you to assume a demonic form or add claws, wings etc. to your form. Halabar's zone of frightening screams would be a way to panic multiple foes and we also get 3 new spells from Leighanna, which all could be considered to be rather interesting: From a  compulsion to end movement to one that forces the foe to deal non-lethal damage (nice also against Belkar-style players...) to one that enables you to suppress breath weapons, the spells are  neat and offer interesting tactical options.

 

Next up would be Mikard's spells, which are especially useful for Magi - from using an improved dirty trick with dust tosses to a spell that creates a minor tornado or a tripping gust, these mostly air-themed spells practically scream to be utilized by a gish-class. The 3 new Riyal's spells (yeah, the mage from Riyal's Research) provide us with an interesting spell: One enables the caster to once counter a spell as an immediate action - rather powerful, but works only once per cast, cost 10 GP material components and is a level 4-spell, so yeah - while powerful, it is still a spell you won't have active all the time: Nice! Also rather interesting in mechanics is a disrupting beam, which can be cast as an immediate action at a casting being to disrupt its casting, with the concentration DC being 10+ 1d8 per caster-level. Powerful, yet limited in appliance and the luck-factor of the dice means that players will be chewing on their nails. Rostov's trained snake enables you to add tricks to the repertoire of your snake, while Shallan's shadow-based spells will make for interesting additions not only to the Shadowsfall-setting, but also to the arsenal of any darkness-themed caster, including the iconic option to control a creature via its shadow. 2 of the 4 Tami's spells are rather expensive, but use a nice mechanic: One of them temporarily robs undead of their immunities - at the price of a 100 GP moon pearl! Cool, high-level enough to make it rarely used. The final new spell would be Trask's Wall of Blood, which nauseates those crossing the wall and grants partial concealment to one side.

DriveThruRPG.com

 

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a b/w 2-column standard that is very printer-friendly and the pdf comes with herolab files. The pdf comes with extensive bookmarks, which is nice to see - even smaller pdfs nowadays should have them. The second installment of the signature spell-series is vastly better than its predecessors, utilizing some creative mechanics like interactions with combat maneuvers, smart counterspelling etc. without providing options that are unbalanced.  When directly compared to its predecessor, this pdf definitely provides the better options, cooler spells and less filler. Thus and due to the low price, I'll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars.

 

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings!

Endzeitgeist out.

 

 

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Book of Beasts: Monsters of the River Nations & Monsters of the Shadow Plane

Book of Beasts: Monsters of the River Nation

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.

 

Conclusion:

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 stars.

And then we also have THE definite bestiary for the Shadow Plane,

 

Book of Beasts: Monsters of the Shadow Plane

The first of the supplements for the upcoming Shadowsfall-prodcuts centered on the shadow plane, the latest Book of Beasts (the predecessor made it on my top-10-2011-list) is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page containing suitable monsters from the core-books (nice support for the DM!), 1 page advertisement, 1 page blank inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving 44 pages of content, so let's check this out!

After the lists in the beginning, we are introduced to the first new beast, and glorious it is: The Black Worm (CR 18) is essentially the shadow plane-version of a purple worm, just...well...worse - add negative energy breath weapons, insane SR etc and you're in for a good example of what to expect from this book: While the beasts herein are thematically linked and shadow-plane-themed, they do feature massively different abilities from their prime material counterparts, if such exist. Also, each entry features a descriptive fluff of the beast and some text by one of the survivors or other players of the setting. The CR 7 Centaur Raav is an undead centaur with scyth-blades at the arms and bone-spikes protruding from their skeletal frames. While cool, the semi-incorporeal Clawed Kaidan (CR 9) features an aura of lethargy and feature not only a disturbing artwork, but also abilities to match and a neat weakness.

Truly disturbing and one of my favorites in this book is the (blandly named) CR 6 Darkling - Troll-like fey with an aura of silence, the ability to spray deadly snow and wicked stone axes - awesome creatures supplemented by a stellar b/w-artwork. The CR 17 Deathhands, hunters of Charon seeking to kill people who cheated death also make for a neat take on the Grim Reaper-trope. The Quake Dragons (3 sample stats) are also a neat new creature and actually a kind of dragon that does add something to the draconic family. Dread Gargoyles, essentially CR 10 more badasss gargoyles, are the first creature that somewhat fell short for me personally, in spite of its disturbing ability to form the stone of their own body. Then, there are the Dull Mites (CR 2), shadow plane versions of the mites that can steal your colors! Of course, we also get shadow elementals, rather tricky customers (6 statblocks) and while there's nothing bad about them, they fall terribly short of the...

GREAT DODO (CR 7)! Yep, you read right, there are still giant dods on the plane of shadows and they subconsciously know that your ancestors have hunted them to extinction on the prime material, thus making them even more ferocious and fueling their rage of extinction. Fast, deadly, cool and a little bit silly, the Great Dodo is a prime example of stellar monster design. For those discerning liches who are truly equal-opportunity, we get 2 stats for hunchbacked skeletons and then there are the Helblar (3 statblocks) - these undead guardians of the graveyards adhere to special ethics and woe to any who disturb their chosen fields....

On the iconic and truly disturbing side of things, we get two new kinds of Kytons -the CR 11 Dermestide (who skins foes alive and wears the straps like a mummy) and the CR 1 Noxil Kyton, who wears a spiked head mask and a heavy pendulum blade attached to it, forever suffering under its weight - very cool idea and features a unique fighting style - especially awesome for a CR 1 creature - they feel wholly distinct from any regular creatures of the same CR. Kudos!
The shadowplane is not Oz, yet there are Monkeybats (CR 1/4) as well and the filth is both a carrier for diseases and a great component for wizards. Not so great for wizards (or any other living being) is the new Nightstalker (CR 12), a lion-like Nightshade of black flames that heals via inducing fear while it leads its undead armies. The Onyx ooze (CR 8)on the other hand is a rudimentary intelligent predator that will make your PCs double-check any source of water.

The Phantasm Swarm, a conglomerate of dissolved souls forever barred from the afterlife (CR 12) seeks to wreck its vengeance on any priests and pietous characters (and comes as an undead swarm with an awesome artwork). The new Memitim Psychopomp (CR 14, I still can't get over the creature class-name - not the fault of this book, though) is a kind of reaper-angel that tries to escort powerful beings into the afterlife. When compared with this array of awesome beings, the CR 3 Shade Aurans, amphibious frog-like humanoids fall somewhat short, but this is offset a bit by two new statblocks on spectres and information on legendary spectres of the Shadowsfall.

Grognards like yours truly get a nice blast from the past/homage in the form of the Spiderbear, a CR 9 magical beast that had me remember Mishka and his dread demons. The CR 19 Starak is not even a bit cute - a class of legendary beasts, their control of the earth itself makes them for dragon-strength foes below the surface - very cool. The Unquiet Giant (CR 13) has a nice twist on the trope of the undead giant: They rhyme while squishing foes! While the idea is cool, I have some problems with this creature: a) I think it should have been a template. b) Been there, done that - x times. c) with exactly that (admittedly gorgeous) artwork - I've seen it 5 (!!!) times in different publications - we need a new undead giant artwork out there! The final creature of the pdf is the vampiric tree, an iconic CR 10 blood draining, voracious part of the flora that ensures that going to the deep dark forest is nothing to laugh about - they stun you via bark darts and then pummel you into submission to ram their blood-draining, fang-like roots into your body - ouch!

The appendices provide ample additional undead for your campaign, i.e. 5 different shadows (including a titan centipede shadow!), 6 sample skeletons, 6 sample zombies, the darkened template (CR +1), 4 sample creatures and for your convenience's sake, reprint some universal monster rules and monster feats as well as the rules for the shadow subtypes and a list of creatures by CR.

DriveThruRPG.com

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches, which is quite a feat over so many pages. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard that features awesome artworks - kudos to the participating artists. The pdf is extensively bookmarked, adding to the usability of the book and the overall organization of the content is awesome. The bits and pieces of information on the settings, specific individuals/advanced creatures etc. made me anticipate more books from the line and the overall standard of the critters, their signature abilities and sheer iconic qualities has baffled me - while there were 3 creatures that felt like falling a bit short of the standard of the book, said standard is so high that this was to be anticipated. In fact, I was rather baffled that this book turned out not to be another selection of easily exchangeable undead/dark creatures, but rather contains a wealth of cool creatures and ideas. If I had to voice one gripe I have with this book, then it would be that it does not include hazards and sample NPCs like its predecessor, but I gather that's because of the other books in the line. Thus, I look forward to seeing more supplements for the plane of shadows and, taking the more than fair price into account, remain with a final verdict of 5 stars and a definite recommendation for this excellent bestiary.

All right, that's it for now! As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

Endzeitgeist out.