Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Pathfinder Campaign Setting Review: Undead Unleashed

Undead Unleashed is my first review of anything from Paizo's Campaign Setting line. This was the product line that really opened Golarion up to me conceptually. My first issue was Mythic Realms. Because the items in the Campaign Setting line straddle some of the thorniest issues in copyright law, I'm going to try and be clear about separating the specific names used and expressions of the ideas in the book (which Paizo owns) from the ideas themselves (which cannot be owned by anyone).

Undead Unleashed presents fifteen entries each detailing one or more unique undead in Golarion. The book begins with a two-page spread giving an overview of each entry.  The book has a good spread of challenges and different levels. The weakest is a CR 3 ghastly in an urban environment.  The second most challenging is a CR 22 banshee with class levels running a twisted reflection of her former pleasure barge that floats on a lake in the middle of a demon-overrun wasteland. Topping the list is the CR 23 Lord of Mohrgs.  At least one of these baddies also has some mythic tiers to really challenge the party.

Then come the fifteen four-page spreads for each entry. The first two pages of each entry are devoted to background and a stat block for each entry. The next two pages contain a small map and encounter entries for the specific undead creature's lair. Each of them also includes a haunt.  If you're a GM running adventures for PCs that don't necessarily love labyrinthine dungeons, the shorter entries will be perfect for you. The table of contents and the open game license round out the 64 pages. There's also a nice map of the Inner Sea region that shows where each of the baddies make their lair.

The entries, in order of CR, are:
·      Merik the Drowned, the ghast of a former serial killer hiding in the sewers beneath a large metropolis. (CR 3)
·      Mother Comfort, who ran an abusive orphanage in a war-torn land, and Poor Eledia, the attic whisperer whose initial death from neglect motivated the attic whisperer to torment Mother into the suicide that made her an allip. (CRs 3 and 4)
·      Razinia, a greedy jann whose final betrayal in life transformed her into an unholy reflection of her living self. Now she maintains a cover identity in the oasis in which she's cursed to remain for eternity. (CR 7)
·      Ordelia Whilwren, the ghost of one of the founders of a relatively young city in a half-tamed land filled with giant monuments from a long-vanished magical civilization (CR 10)
·      Prince Kasiya, a vampire plotting revenge on a long lived rival from his tomb in a pyramid-strewn desert kingdom. (CR 12)
·      Mehi Pahano, an accomplished diviner from a now flooded land who toils in unlife to bring about a magical connection between this world and an entire planet overrun with undead. (CR 13)
·      Arnlaugr, a drowned former hero from northern lands who now protects the very monster he'd set out to slay in life. (CR 14)
·      Rudrakavala, this devoured poses as the avatar of an apocalypse deity as he attempts to bring creatures from the borders of the Planes of Shadow and Negative Energy onto this world. (CR 15)
·      Walkena, the mummified avatar of a risen child god works to drive all foreigners first from his city and then from his homeland entirely. (CR 16)
·      Jolanera, a sinister nightwing who watches over the tomb of her former master, the Lich King, with plans to either ally with him or to overthrow him. (CR 17)
·      Seldig Bhedlis, a graveknight spymaster working a network to retrieve his mistress' internal organs from those who would return her to life and purity. (CR 18)
·      Wight Mother of Isger, a former priestess of the goddess of undeath whose life ended when she flung herself into a mob of ravaging undead. As a daughter of the goddess of undeath she's training her army of unliving minions to take over a portion of the country. (CR 19)
·      Arantaros, a blue dragon turned ravener performing twisted alchemy experiments to return itself to life and then eternal youth in a cave above the mountains of a desert land of city states. (CR 20)
·      Imaloka, who ran a pleasure barge in life that was cursed before a demon invasion of the land. (CR 22)
·      Erum-Hel, the lord of the Mohrgs, who plots revenge on a goddess of justice, purity, and valor. (CR 23)

In general I really like these entries. The ones at lower CRs make excellent big bads for early adventures. The higher CR monsters could also make excellent villains for the end of campaigns. Even better, some of the (Razinia especially) can be so much more than just a combat encounter. All of these entries have well-developed backstories, personalities, and motivations. They have been well-grounded into the lore of Paizo's world, Golarion, but could easily be adapted to a homebrew or another published setting with minimal work.

I give this 4.5 stars.

EDIT: I've added more in-depth notes about my thoughts and campaign/adventure ideas about how to use Undead Unleashed in a subsequent post.