The massive expansion hardcover of „In the Company of Dragons“ clocks in at a massive 199 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with194 (!!) pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreons. It was further expedited by me receiving a print copy.
All right, so we begin with a massive foreword by Bill Slavicsek, original author of the by now classic Council of Wyrms…and then we dive right in. Okay, usually, I assume a degree of familiarity regarding the “In the Company of..:”-series, mainly, because it is by far the best monster-playing option series out there for any d20-based game. Yes, I’ll stand by that. Since this book is a massive hardcover expansion of the original content, it must be considered to be special. Let us be a bit more in-depth.
So the first thing you’ll note upon starting to read this massive tome, particularly if you’re new to the series, is that this does not read like your average splatbook: Rite Publishing employs a cool framing narrative, wherein Qwilion of Questhaven requests members of specific species to talk about their own race; we basically get the inside scoop, and this is amazing for a couple of reasons. In the hands of a talented author, this inadvertently means that we get a glimpse at the psyche, biases and Weltanschauung of the respective races featured, one that goes beyond what we’d otherwise receive from a neutral depiction. As an aside, this also makes paragraphs that many readers are likely to skip in other publications a joy to read – this book is no difference and does not read like a phone-book of stats, but rather like a compelling, intriguing glimpse at draconic psychology.
These write-ups, obviously, also tap into creation myths and an often delightfully positive view of physical descriptions. Qwilion’s draconic correspondent, Thunders in Defiance, for example, wastes no time mentioning how the draconic form is the crest of royal houses, a symbol of destruction and majesty. These are little components that accumulate, enhancing the profile we have of the race: When e.g. the dragons tells us about how a clan of Taninim (that’s the name of the dragon-race herein) consumed a divine clam, losing their wings and becoming compelled to organize the world as a potential origin story for imperial dragons, I couldn’t help but smile at the compelling mythweaving. Now, beyond these components, we also learn, in depth, about the structuring paradigms of the taninim society in the Lost Isles, the backdrop/setting that houses them – more on that later; for now, let it be known that taninim differ in a couple of key aspects from regular dragons, but fret not: This does NOT mean that they are anything short of majestic apex predators. The Lost Isles is what I’d call a tie-in mini-setting; much like the Plane of Dreams or the Shadowplane, it allows for easy plugging into another campaign setting and its presence explains why few folks had heretofore heard of the taninim.
Anyways, the reputation of a taninim is important and the pdf explains the various grand rites of the race – these are relatively rules-lite rituals that account for example for banishment, challenges, changing alignment, etc. The acquisition of names and titles is also a big deal, with additional, grandiose titles gained…and there is a rite that governs basically a mating ritual of the otherwise mostly asexual taninim, who btw. also can change sex. These entries do codify their effects in proper rules-language, just fyi, so yes, while flavorful, they also carry game-mechanics with them that make their success or failure relevant in game-terms.
It should be noted that alignment changes may actually yield a painful process in which the character gets new scales, and the extensive discussion also delves into taninim religion and the psychology of hoards and lairs – territory is important. Now, it should be noted that chromatic/metallic distinctions are not *necessarily* color-coding All right, I know, I’m waffling – so let’s take a look at the rules-chassis, shall we?
Tanimin are dragons, receive +2 Con and Cha, -2 Dex, are Small, receive regular movement, can use manufactured weapons et al (at a -2 penalty) with their claws (secondary, base damage 1d3), receive darkvision and low-light vision, are immune to sleep and paralysis, can glide, receive +1 atk and +2 AC versus dragons as well as +2 to saves versus SPs, spells, etc. of such targets and +2 to Knowledge (arcana) to identify dragons. They also get a properly codified natural primary bite of 1d6 +1.5 Str-mod; Their hide yields +2 natural AC, but their form requires special armor. They increase ACP by 2 and suffer the same amount as a penalty to atk when wearing one; oh, and they reduce their maneuverability by one step when wearing armor while flying. They also get a +2 racial bonus to Perception and Sense Motive. Taninim are quadrupeds, receiving modified slots (armor, belt (saddle only), chest, eyes, headband, neck, shoulders and wrist. Armor costs are doubled, but they get a greater carrying capacity, depending on size, as well as the usual +4 to CMD versus trip and overrun.
Alternatively, they can elect, racial ability modifier-wise, for +2 Str and Con, -2 Int, +2 Dex and Cha, -2 Wis, or +2 Wis and Cha, -2 Dex. Among the alternate racial traits. Beyond these, we get alternate racial traits. It should be noted that the alternate ability arrays are not simply that – instead, they are tied to certain types of flavor and additional benefits – the Dex and Cha-boosting option, for example, comes with Tiny size and sports only a 20 ft. base movement rate, but also provides a fly speed from the get-go. Yeah, in case you didn’t know that already, we’re talking DRAGONS right here; I’m not going to complain about the first-level flight here. If you’re reading this book, you’re not going for a gritty low-fantasy game where that would become overly intrusive. There is a trait to use Wisdom instead of Intelligence for Knowledge skills where the character has at least 1 rank. +2 concentration, better giant killing (+1 to atk, +4 to AC), being a Lung dragon, immunity to altitude sickness and no lost Dex-bonus when climbing; better aerial combat, toxic blood and spiny hides complement this array. The alternate racial traits contain meaningful tweaks beyond their mechanics.
The race also receives a couple of favored class options -barbarian, druid, fighter, magus, monk, paladin, ranger, sorcerer, taskshaper and war master are covered. Before I delve into the respective archetypes provided, let’s not mince words so far – the taninim are strong. On a cosmetic level, the slight feature-bloat and two alternate attribute-sets that gear the race towards caster/martials are not something I’m overly fond of. Still, generally, the race itself can be considered strong, but manageable. It should be noted that we get tables denoting sizes by category, which is really neat.
Now the racial paragon-class is the draconic exemplar, which covers 20 levels, nets the taninim full BAB-progression, 3 good saves,d12 HD, 4+Int skills per level, no proficiencies apart from natural weapons. The taninim also receives a draconic essence – each of which provides one type of scaling energy resistance, a color, a breath weapon type and a unique compulsion, which always remains hard for the dragon to refrain from doing – which fits in thematically nice with the overall theme of draconic types. How many do we get in the expanded edition? Well, not “just” 20 as before…but rather than that 4+ pages of them!! Twice as many as before! And yes, these include trifling dragons, zealots, primeval ones, etc. Upon taking level 1 in the class, claws are upgraded to primary weapons and 1d4 damage. (The claws and how they work are one of the changes in this expanded version.) And yes, the role of e.g. linnorms in the context of the Lost Isles is covered.
Additionally, at 1st level, 7th, 13th and 19th level, the draconic exemplar can choose draconic weaponry – these can be used 1/2 class level + Con-mod times per day. Rather interesting – if applicable, their save-DC is governed by either Con or Cha, depending on the ability. They include fascination-inducing gazes, bolstering oneself against assaults, blinding gusts of wind, receiving the breath weapon associated with the chosen essence, elemental aura, charging through allies, enemies etc. The iconic whirlpool of bronze dragons, faerie dragon euphoric gas, frightful presence, spellcasting, roars, rampages, channel energy, retributive attacks after crits…and at higher levels, growing additional claws or even a second head can be gained thus – and yes, before you ask, draconic essence requirements prevent combining these two – thankfully! And yes, e.g. death curses by linnorm-y subtype are provided for your edification…if your PC falls, at least the enemy will suffer…There also is a sub-category of draconic weaponry that almost takes up 5 pages on its own, the draconic flair, which allows for the use of draconic weaponry uses to power SPs, with 1st, 7th, 10th and 13th level unlocking new options. Some of these sport unique tweaks to the SPs; zealots get their own unique abilities here; minor hiccup: The 13th level ability states 10th level in its explanation, but it is pretty evident what the intention is.
Additionally, at 2nd level and every 3 levels thereafter, the exemplar receives a draconic defense, which is chosen from its own list – rerolls versus sonic/language-dependent spells, evasion while airborne, all-around vision (at higher levels) spell resistance (even reflective one!), 1/day save-rerolls (upgrades at higher levels), scaling resistance to negative energy, an aura of slowed time (class level rounds per day), scales that apply ½ natural AC to touch attacks (does not stack with other such abilities, thankfully) – quite an array of iconic tricks here. High-level swimming through lava can be found alongside fast healing, which thankfully sports a daily maximum cap, preventing abuse. A blinding aura, fortification, nictitating membranes (called “nictating” here), being breath-less – you can basically make very linnorm-y or esoteric-style dragons – the expanded section provides a serious array of unique tricks.
This is not everything, mind you: We receive a third list of special abilities, the draconic gifts. These are chosen at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter, they are also governed by Con or Cha, depending on the ability. These gifts usually require a specific draconic essence to pull off – without access to energy (acid) and a corresponding breath weapon, you can’t make pools of acid, to give you an example. Most of these provide alternate uses of draconic weaponry and similar tweaks. Here, we can find high-level adamantine claws, the option to use two heads (if you have them) more efficiently, adding an auto-trip on a failed save to the breath weapon…and e.g. lacing the breath can be found.
Now, it is pretty awesome and something I’ll get back to later, but the book makes, courtesy of stretch-goals, use of quite a few amazing supplements: If you’re like me and like the time thief/warden-classes by Rogue Genius Games, for example, you’ll enjoy seeing the option to learn a bit of time-dabbling via aevum here. Blindsense and forming a potent living bottleneck in cramped conditions is another cool trick – after all, you are bound to explore dungeons sooner, rather than later, right? Camouflage, capsizing vessel, various gaseous weapons, poisonous chrome crystals, magnetic pulses, crushing foes, summoning temporary crystal balls, flinging foes…and have I mentioned basically bleed added, clinging napalm-y breath, oozing ice breath, no penalty to Perception while asleep, partial bypassing of energy immunity/resistances, touching spirits with claws, starflight, rending armor asunder, sweeping breath weapons…and yo know you want to unleash a tungsten sandstorm, right? How many of these do we get? Well, I only touched the tip of the iceberg here – more than 15 pages (!!!) of these gifts are included. Yes, you heard me. This is vast. It should also be noted that the array of gifts available often taps into the respective essence and other class options, generating specific progressions based on prerequisites that prevent OP combos…but rest assured, even a moderately capable player will get something rather cool out of this section.
10th level provides spell-trigger/completion items as though a sorcerer/wizard, using class level as caster level.
But we’re Small! That sucks, right? Well, here’s where dracomorphosis comes into play – gained at 4th level, this one nets you size increases, secondary wing attacks (or primary gore for Lung-dragons), AC and attribute bonuses – and flight. Dracomorphosis is gained every 4 levels thereafter, allowing the taninim to grow to Gargantuan size at 16th level – the race also reduces Dex during the size-increases and receives tail sweeps, crushes etc. Which is damn cool, granted…but what happens if Dex drops to 0? No, I’m not kidding – with a total reduction of -8 to Dex, this is a real possibility. And yes, I am aware of how this sort of thing is usually handled with monster-advancement, but the point remains that this pdf ought to have tackled this particular issue. I am also a bit disappointed here, for this issue already cropped up in the original version. The capstone is, of course, the final great wyrm apotheosis.
The book also contains no less than 3.5 pages of feats, with the options to swallow snatched foes, changing spell damage a limited amount of times per day to mirror the breath weapon, one that helps capture foes alive and the usual “additional class feature”-feats. More guardians for the lair, high-level appendage serving , etc. – quite a cool, if potent array. The section also contains suggestions for monster feats suitable for the taninim.
Now the archetypes – first would be the draconic hero – an archetype that allows a taninim of any class to gain draconic essence and grow via Dracomorphosis at the cost of some class abilities usually gained – as a massive multiclass-covering archetype, the abilities replaced vary from class to class, including Rite’s taskshaper and RGG’s hellion and war master classes, as well as the ACG-classes among the supported classes. No occult classes support, though. This archetype is very much a required component of the book, for it provides means for various different draconic PCs to further diversify the party’s portfolio without compromising the integrity of the classes and balance.
Speaking of hellions, a new archetype herein would be the defiler of lairs, which necessitate that I elaborate on a crucial flavor component of the Lost Isles – you see, there is the Well of Oblivion, an almost cosmic-evil level source of power and corruption that can taint the dragons to become what they call “worms”, undragons; the spiteful corruption of all dragonkind. And you wondered why dragons reacted so picky when not called “wyrm”, as proper…Anyways, the ultimate representation and a sort of satanic adversary for dragonkind would be the White Worm, tapping obviously into the literary tradition of the conqueror worm imagery. The defilers are tainted dragons with a slightly modified patron spell list and 1st level yielding the White Worm’s taint, modifying the basic combat capabilities and form of the defiler of lairs, replacing the bonded object ability. Instead of 8th level’s hellion talent, we get an aura that can suppress luck bonuses as well as better combat capabilities while, bingo, assaulting lairs.
Scaled Juggernauts are essentially taninim fighters specializing in combat with their natural weapons, gaining rake and pounce at higher levels, as well as better defenses. Stormclaw magi are a natural weapon-based tweak of the magus-engine, combining that with draconic essence. Trueblood Sorcerors are locked into the draconic bloodline, but receive a scale-spell-component that replaces material components/divine foci and replace regular bloodline powers with a breath weapon. The wardrake war master archetype replaces consul with better Diplomacy with dragons and may even get a dragon cohort later. Followers may have the drakeling template added.
White Worm Apostates, oracles tainted as undragons, receive degrees of fortification and may disgorge a swarm of consuming, maggot-like worms and later, rise as a twisted phoenix from their corpse 1/day – a very powerful archetype that absolutely *requires* the immense social stigma associated with the white worm to be added to the campaign. Amazing one, though!
Now here is one aspect of the book that is slightly annoying s far as I’m concerned: The player-facing material is split to a degree: The psionic dragon-chapter penned by Jeremy Smith is basically an appendix at the back of the book, which is, organization-wise, not ideal – we get, for example, psionic class support for use in conjunction with the draconic hero general archetype, requiring page-flipping. Similarly the draconic exemplar racial paragon class sports psionic support here, with 5 psionic essences for dragons, which doe interesting things, like e.g. tying the breath weapon to active energy, or providing cryptic support; we also get a new array of even more draconic flairs based on psionic powers – weird formatting decision: While functional, they are not presented in the same table-style manner. A total of 6 different draconic defenses may be found here, which include a dream shroud, negative energy resistance, astral suits, a buffer versus psychic enervation, a nightmarish mind and the option to attune to attacks after suffering them, gaining DR versus the creature’s weaponry from that source. We also get a massive 20 new draconic gifts that include astral cages, being right at home in astral or shadow plane, gaining cryptic insight, dream surges, bursts of ectoplasm and a scaling, cool mastery of oneiromancy. Beyond these massive expansions to the core features, the chapter also contains 3 new archetypes: Psychic warriors can elect to become black dragon heralds, locking them into the feral path, which is further enhanced. The bonus also applies to acid-damage-causing damage-rolls. Instead of the secondary path power, we get exhalation of the black dragon, which may not be changed out. 12th level yields claws of energy and 15th level breath of the black dragon. The gale dancer would be another psychic warrior archetype, gaining a draconic essence if the character doesn’t have one; the archetype also comes with its own path, which focuses on aerial combat mastery and basically pounce while flying for psionic focus expenditure as soon as 3rd level – OUCH. The archetype also nets better overland flight and 12th level yields all the unique dogfighting techniques we expect – death spiral, hovering…pretty neat. 15th level provides further adaptation to airborne assaults as well as yielding the ability to form shape and solidity of clouds. The third archetype would be the winged horror dread, employing terrors via claws and natural attacks and the tapping into the terrifying draconic weaponry; bonus feats and draconic gifts complement this one. A total of 6 psionic feats complement this section for e.g. temporary fast healing for psionic focus expenditure, with a hard cap. Rerolling Will-saves via psionic focus expenditure, but only versus non-dragons and options to increase the potency of the new options complement this section. We also get 5 favored class options for psionic classes. (Ultimate Psionics can be found here!)
The second player-facing chapter relegated to the back of the book deals with Rogue Genius Games’ Dragon Riders/Dracomancers – Since Taninim are similar, but different from the classic draconic threats, the book provides one archetype for either class: The Spirit-Bonded Rider and the Spirit-Bonded Theurge – these two focus mainly on modifying the base class engines to account for the taninim ally, modifying e.g. bonus spells etc.
Thirdly, there would be a massive chapter penned by none other than Jason Nelson of Legendary Games, and the chapter is glorious: Some dragons once were overcome by the Elder Voices, making the eldest of these titans the cairna drakh, the First Fangs; in recent years, the younger glorven muun have risen, a new generation of mythic heroes. While the default assumption of the Lost Isles is that mythic powers are restricted to NPCs, the material herein is extensive. If you do go the NPC-route, be sure to pick up Legendary Games’ superb Path of Dragons and Path of Villains, but that as an aside. In addition to notes for PCs within the context of the Lost Isles, we also receive notes on mythic hoards and lairs and more than 3 pages of mythic modifications for the racial paragon class, including augments and meaningful changes. Beyond that, we get no less than 18 different mythic feat-upgrades for the material herein and beyond, making these adversaries really, really deadly. I love how this section ties deeply into the captivating lore presented in the book.
All right, now I’ve already mentioned time and again the Lost Isles mini-campaign setting, gorgeously mapped by none other than Tommi Salama in full color. The islands, sheltered behind the mystic barrier, sport an absolutely GORGEOUS map and more detailed looks at the respective islands are covered – this whole section acts as basically a massive gazetteer of different regions: There would be Borealis, land of ice and snow, where the glasslike aurora coral grows; rugged and mountainous Earthspine sports the majestic Windscour Cliffs and the small fireflower islets and the ones known as jetsam promise more adventure still; war-torn Stormhome calls to the brave, in spite of its foreboding skies, the earth lush and rich, maintained by draconic might…and wooded Verdance is home to the feykith, human settlements and may well be refuge if you manage to hassle the powers-that-be…and, of course, there would be the festering wound that is the Well of Oblivion…but I touched on that before. The Lost Isles breathe the spirit of high fantasy in the best of ways, providing glimpses at unique vistas that may well have carried their own book; as far as I’m concerned, I’d love to see this unique tie-in setting developed further.
The role of regular dragons in the setting is btw. also covered, and we get a chapter on the unique magic items that may be found herein – several of which would be barbules, which are implanted in the thick draconic hide, allowing e.g. weapons to be treated as dancing. The downside to these potent implants is that they cause permanent damage while implanted. Really cool for big dragons – with the proper barbules, you can generate a missile-deflecting shield, guarding allies within your space with a powerful 75%, non-stacking miss-chance. Ability-score boosts and spell storing is also included in the deal…and if you’re afraid that the big dragon won’t accompany his allies into dungeons, well, there is a collar that allows for compression. Class ability enhancers can also be found and the eye of elemental focus allows the taninim to form breath weapons into fireball-like blasts. The steelrain war howdah also rocks and yes, there are vambraces to duplicate the standard benefits of unarmed damage escalation. Even better, we actually also get Elder’s Pixane, a legacy item collar. Legacy items are Rite’s scaling magic items, just fyi. What begins with a basic defensive item becomes pretty amazing pretty fast. Now, as noted before briefly, there is a CR +1 drakeling template and we get 2 new critters: At Cr 8 and CR 11, the Screaming and Whispering Entropy, respectively, horrid clouds that can exsanguinate and possess targets, tied into the rich lore of the setting.
Okay, so the book has another chapter that made me smile from ear to ear: This book is, in fact, also a Dragon-NPC-Codex of sorts. Why should you care? Simple. When someone asks me for the best NPCs in the 3pp-circuit, my response is usually to list a whole variety of Rite Publishing books first; the complex and challenging builds are what, a long while back, led me to become a fan of Rite Publishing. So yeah, we don’t just get some standard codex stats, we get fully developed characters…and not any characters either, mind you: We get full stats of the Elder Voices, and they are EPIC. Take e.g. “Darkened and Bloodied”, the mighty draconic hero war master wardrake: This lady clocks in at CR 22/MT 5, and she will mess you up – if not with superb tactical acumen, then her ridiculously potent physical tricks. Beyond here, we get to know the most accomplished spellcaster of the isles, the mighty green sorcerer Gardener; Heart of the Mountain; Infinite (includes an artifact); Winterglide (again, with unique item) – none of these sport less than CR 20 and guess what? They come with stats sans buff-suite as well. Beyond these mighty demigods, we get 10 mighty dragons of note, including the narrator of this missive, Thunders in Defiance – and yes, the stats are pretty complex and diverse. This one is pretty epic. Beyond this aspect, however, we also get the rules to make undragons and an archetype for the jotun (see Rite’s In the Company of Giants) – the race sports a pretty cool tie-in with the tale of the taninim, putting a spin on the classic giants vs. dragons-conflict.
Okay, so this also includes an adventure intended for dragons of level 1, guiding them up to level 6. The adventure is billed as a scripted sandbox and comes with, once more, gorgeous full-color cartography by master Salama. Even better: We get player-friendly versions of the maps in the back AND high-res jpgs of them for VTT-use. Dear publishers, please take note: This is how it’s done. When you have amazing maps, make sure that players get to see them sans secret door markers, keys, etc. Kudos to the Rite team! Oh, I didn’t mention the most important thing, did I? Guess who wrote it? None other than Ben McFarland. If you have any kind of experience with adventures, this alone should be enough t make you grin. Oh, and guess what? The adventure is not some brief 10-page standard supplemental adventure – we’re looking at a proper, full-length module. The adventure takes place on the volcanic island of Pani Ura (explorable via hex-map!) and deals with taninim granted a fiefdom there. Years passed, no sign remained. Sounds familiar? Well, one way to think of the module is to consider it a reclaiming of a Roanoke-like aftermath, through the lens of a brilliant writer and high fantasy.
Want to know more? Well, sure, but for that, I’ll have to go into SPOILERS:
The taninim PCs are sent to Pani Ura by none other than Raging Tide, to figure out what happened on Pani Ura and to secure the island for the taninim – which is depicted as a hex that contains tribal lands, wilderness, villages – etc. Heck, we even get entries for subaquatic animals noted, for the PCs will need to sustain themselves; the island is inhabited by several tribes: The Maohi, who btw. are the native grippli (yay for frogfolk!); the Otsjanep tengus; the Pu’oku locathah and the Saissut iguana-lizardfolk; all of these tribes come with notes on their settlements, sample statblocks, story seeds and potential threats/developments. Similarly, there are several threats the PCs will have to contend with – like the interaction with the tribes, these threats are tied into the environment and can be used in a pretty freeform manner by the PCs. After establishing contact, it will be up to the PCs to unify the island: Seeds for the dealing/negotiations with the respective tribes are provided and ultimately, the PCs will have to explore the old taninim lair within the dungeon of Pani Ura. The dungeon comes, once more, with a superb full-color map and the locations sport read-aloud text here as well. It is here that the PCs will have t deal with taninim that have been utterly corrupted, as well as a body-jumping menace that was foreshadowed before. Once the PCs have defeated these foes and destroyed their tainted idol, they should have managed to consolidate their rule, right? Well, no. Unfortunately for the PCs, crusaders have found the island; the crusader’s ship is fully mapped and the invaders are hostile, belonging to an order dedicated to the enslavement and eradication of all dragonkind. Usually, those guys would be potential allies for PCs…but this time around, the PCs unfortunately are the dragons. If the PCs are smart, they better prevent the escape of the vessel and defeat these fellows…but this is not the end. The order won’t just take a loss; instead, they send really potent, really nasty folks atop the mighty Drake’s Misery, a fully statted vessel, armed to the teeth…and if the PCs don’t intervene, the crusaders will deal serious damage to the island…let alone the PCs… The literally only thing I didn’t love about this great module is that I have finished it; while the replay-value is huge, I wish this was a full campaign. I mean, seriously, the defending the isle angle is great!!
Editing and formatting are excellent on a rules-language level; on a formal level, I noticed a couple of minor, purely aesthetic hiccups, missing blank spaces and the like, but less than you’d expect from a tome of this size; in this category, I’d consider this to be good. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s classic 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with a ton of amazing full-color artworks. The cartography is excellent and in full-color, comes with player-friendly versions and even high-res Jpgs for VTT-use. The pdf-version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. The massive hardcover is really neat and well worth getting.
Wendall Roy’s original “In the Company of Dragons” was a “squaring the circle”-sort of file; on one hand, he had to capture the power of dragons; on the other, there had to be some sort of balance. He succeeded in a truly impressive manner. This expansion, then, represents a massive evolution and refinement. We add Steven D. Russell’s draconic flairs as basically a whole sub-engine; well-done psionics by Jeremy Smith; kickass mythic support by Jason Nelson and a masterclass adventure by Ben McFarland. Sounds like an all-star team? Yeah, well, it is.
Beyond the mega-impressive chassis and the subtle, unobtrusive balancing that prevents the worst potential combinations, this oozes flavor and flair; the prose is stellar and the mighty NPCs can carry whole campaigns. The added details to taninim culture and Lost Isles is a joy to read and radiates creativity and heart’s blood. The adventure is unconventional, creative and amazing and the supplemental material otherwise never goes the lame route, instead opting for creative and unique solutions.
The Lost Islands are unique enough to carry a campaign by themselves, but please indulge me for a second, for this book made me come up with a pretty cool idea: So, you know how PCs often are supposed to “save the world”? Or, when evil, lose in the finale, à la Way of the Wicked? Well, what if the evil guys don’t lose? What if the PCs get squashed by a certain, unleashed Worm-that-Walks, what happens when the comet-summoning ritual isn’t stopped and the world as we know it ends, nations fall, gods follow? When darkness claims the world, for the PCs have failed and been TPK’d? Here’s an angle: A few mortals managed to escape to the taninim and the Islands remained. In the aftermath of the downfall of deities, divine energy was released. Now, if you take the rules from Purple Duck Games’ Dragon Thanes of Porphyra, you can do something cool: The latter book assumes that dragons, with enough followers, can learn to grant divine spells to followers! The new PCs could thus be a single taninim with his followers, attempting to become a new good deity of sorts, guarded by the other mortals, in a world that has fallen…or all PCs could be taninim, using the universal leadership rules from Everyman Gaming’s Ultimate Charisma; they are basically a new, draconic pantheon in the making, as they venture forth to bring hope to a defeated world! Come on, can you honestly not be excited by this idea?
Anyways, the fact that I mentioned this angle should tell you how excited this book made me. Yes, I freely admit it. I go review-bot whenever I have to deal with the notion of playable dragons and focus on the crunch, the fluff and turn off my personal biases. As a private person, I don’t even LIKE the notion of playable dragons. I consider it to be a horrible idea in most games. I rated the original version grudgingly, with respect for the design and vision, but no truly pronounced desire to use it, as my games tend to gravitate towards grittier playstyles. This book changed that. Not only did the crunch duly impress me, the whole vision, the setting, the cool NPCs…there is an incredible amount of love poured into this book, and it shows. This is one of the tomes, where the synergy of evocative prose, unique crunch and a daunting vision coalesce and form something greater even than the sum of the parts. In short: This is pretty much the definite option to play dragons. It oozes passion from all of its pages. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval and the book is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2017. If the notion of playing dragons even remotely intrigues you, then look no further.
You can get this magnificent tome here on OBS!