Demon Lords of Porphyra
This installment of the Porphyra-series clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of SRD, leaving us with 27 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
All righty, the first thing will only come as a surprise to those of you not following the Prestige Class Archetype-series – namely the reprint of the (as far as Paizo hardcovers are concerned) Deific Obedience system from Inner Sea Gods, which is a big plus from the get-go. The demoniac, for example, made use of the materials herein. Anyways, we thus gain an expanded deific portfolio for the respective demon lords depicted within this book: Being the default obedience benefits, three boons are provided for all of them. It should be noted that, yes, domain arrays are internally concise – 3 domains, 3 subdomains. No undue discrepancies here, with the exception of the Spider-queen stand in, who gains 4 domains and subdomains. As a big plus, I should not fail to mention that each of the demon lords depicted within features his/her/its own spell-preparation ritual…and the favored weapons and animals/instruments noted in the respective demon lord summaries add a sense of immersion to the proceedings. At the same time, there are some minor, cosmetic hiccups here and there – the first demon lord’s alternate titles sport one that has erroneously been printed in purple. There also is a remnant formatting (b) before a correctly bolded spell-preparation ritual – you get the idea. On the plus-side, these are cosmetic and don’t impede the functionality of the game.
Well, if you’re like me, you’re here for the demon lords themselves, right? Well, we begin with Ayporos, the Counter – also nicknamed Mr. Blue, for his irrational fondness of the color, which extends to his signature narcotic Deep Blue…after all, the demon lord’s favorite weapon, the syringe spear, makes pretty clear that addiction’s the name of the game…and his clerics like to indulge…and to tattoo themselves. Balakor, the corpse-king, the unrepentant. Once the lord of the city that should not have been, fabled Bhaal-aak. Dispossessed, angry and driven into exile, his works crumbled to dust, wailing and a palpable sense of being cheated out of one’s due power adds a complex and interesting angle to the necromancy/living ghoul-theme of this demon lord – big kudos for managing to provide a fresh take on a trope that features in most campaign settings. Big thumbs up!
Buer, a classic from mythology, also comes with a rather enticing idea that I have NEVER seen before for a demon lord: The Giver, the Extinctor promises the ecstasy of a return to the wild, to a more primitive state of being. Oh, and his boons include the option to curse an area in a forest – those that linger suffer suicidal urges – NO SAVE. While this is very potent, its limitations are enough to reign it in and the ability is evocative indeed.
The Dark Mistress, an ascended succubus with ties to the movers and shakers, is interesting. Oh, and there is Gomm-Thog. All about destruction, this guy would be the demonic equivalent of the Incredible Hulk, defined by smashing and breaking stuff and violent, deadly rages. There would also be aforementioned spider-queen stand-in, Kazerothrine – who becomes somewhat interesting as an embodiment of hungry and destructive motherhood. The Lord of Many Forms is actually something different altogether: Imprisoned in the Crucible Tower, this entity has gestated from the amalgamation of a living seal made of nobles and proteans – a demon lord created and ripened, if you will,a being of pure chaotic malevolence, rather than just a large blob from the Abyss. Morcheox would make for another highly unconventional and cool demon lord – here, we have the trope of the demonic moon. IT alone (no typo!) makes for a potent foe that strikes the chords of the Sword & Planet genre, apocalyptic fiction and classics ranging from Final Fantasy VIII to 3.5’s Elder Evils in a rather neat manner. Naehemoth, an ascended Qlippoth lord, makes for a cool twist on old Nyarlathotep, though with a focus on madmen and forbidden lore. Perhaps it’s the symbol of the deity (each demon lord gets his/her/its own custom, full-color symbol!), but I was reminded more of the malevolent, inscrutable entities behind the Blair Witch, as heralded in the little-known Rustin Parr-sequel to the cult classic video game Nocturne. If you got that reference, my hat’s off to you, btw.!
Pasiphae would be one of the most interesting demon lords featured herein – the mistress of puzzles, is about unsolvable, nasty puzzles – and her obedience focuses on playing with a perception-defying puzzle. I absolutely ADORE this one. Why? Because the destruction of PERCEPTION is supremely creepy to me…and not something I have ever seen a demon lord focus on. Big kudos! Good ole’ classic Pazuzu can be found within, as can Tajam’muhur: This fellow is the lord of the despondent masses housed in squalor, the lorded over and downtrodden; he is the master of the mob, the cruelty of the masses that manages to eliminate any semblance of decency. Notice something? These are really creative. Thurin’Waethil, the bloody marshal, She Who Weeps, was defeated, but certainly not destroyed. Her boons include a hampering of mundane means to stabilize others and her desire for blood and vengeance make her an intriguing being as well. Yog-Muan would be the God-Killer, a reptilian demon lord that is a twist on Yig, with the added emphasis on killing deities – in a world, where they may rise and fall, this makes sense to me and provides, once again, a creative divergence from the default tropes. Zaqqit, the Fallen, is the epitome of the fallen angel – once a solar lord, he swells with pride and power, but also arrogance and hubris, cultivating a decadent sense of superiority.
Beyond these amazing, creative demon lords, we also get a wide array of new magical items (with some mundane ones spliced in) – here, we can find the angel-heart (exactly what it says on the tin…), which can bolster the summoning of demons and even be bartered away. The Kitab al-Sahar Shaytan, the book of demon lords, is amazing, idea-wise – it is basically the in-game representation artifact of this book: It contains the information on demon lords presented previously as well as the new spells featured herein. It also is hazardous to keep if you’re not a demon worshipper…and as an artifact, it makes for a dangerous tool indeed. Buerite unguits, which may ricochet, the magical drug Deep Blue…and I like the demonpelt cloak, which provides a variety of defenses, but only temporarily…and switching between them is a cool tactical option. Khadeg’s capturing pentacle is a temporary means of trapping demonic foes. When the ladder of the pit is inserted into desecrated ground, it can provide a means to get into the Lower Planes. There is also one item that is somewhat problematic: The lash of the legion conjures a dretch when doing damage – only 1 per target and the wound may not be healed without dismissing the dretch. Now, on a formal level, the “+1” should be IN FRONT of the magic weapon properties, not behind it (and nope, most of the items get that right). Secondly, the weapon should specify that it requires sentient beings to conjure dretches. While kittens can’t be whipped well due to the weapon’s unholy ability, slightly stronger animals to be herded and whipped can result in ridiculous legions due to a lack of a maximum cap of dretches called.
Thurin’waethil’s personal blade, Revenge’s Tear and a ring that fortifies against the potent auras of celestials complement this section. Now, as mentioned before, we also get a selection of new spells, which btw. come with full ACG and Occult Adventures compatibility. The signature spells note their associated demon lords and are, generally, rather potent. There are some minor formatting deviations – “Int” instead of “Intelligence”, slightly non-standard rules-syntax…but on the other hand, the spells actually do cool things: Gomm-Thog (the Hulk Demon Lord) comes with the signature spell concussion, which causes bludgeoning damage and Int damage on a failed save, scaling with damage caused (nice balancing), and enough subsequent casts may cause Intelligence drain. Really funny: The verbal component is actually shouting the alternate name of the spell: “BONK!”
A sneaky movement redirection curse deserves special mention as a creative and cool spell as well. All in all, I was rather impressed here: While a bit rough around the edges here and there, the spells featured are creative. Or take hubris, which begins as a buff and then proceeds to devolve into a debuff – really cool for sudden betrayal scenarios! Ultimate Weapon allows you to create a custom weapon, somewhat Green Lantern-style, and may modify it – personally, I think e.g. adamantine should be locked behind higher levels – more pronounced scaling among the effects would make sense here. Unfortunately, there also are a few instances where the rules are slightly compromised: Vengeful Tears causes the caster to bleed, but also makes those suffering regular attacks from suffering bleed damage. Two problems: The wording in clumsy, but more importantly, it is pretty evident that the bleeding damage should stack, which it RAW does not. Easy enough to fix, sure, but still.
Next up would be array of various subdomains/domains: Anarchy, Betrayal, Borders, Genocide, Porphyrite, Ruins, Spider and Verminkind: These and their abilities, as a whole, sport some seriously inspired tricks: Shifting ACs, drawing potent borders in the sand…but there also are some rough patches. The Genocide domain, for example, sports this sentence: “…as an immediate action, when any creature is killed within 30 ft. of you, you gain a caster level when casting spells against further members of that creature’s type for a number of rounds equal to your Wisdom bonus.“ This almost assuredly decreases the CL. I *assume* it should be a CL-bonus…but if that’s the case, then the bonus frankly is too high and should be nerfed in favor of a scaling one. The ruin domain’s Remembrance ability refers to druid levels.
Finally, we close the pdf with new traits for worshipers of demon lords – a LOT of them. And they generally are pretty nice. That being said, it almost looks as though multiple authors wrote this: We have precise traits with proper trait bonuses etc. We have a few remnant (i)s from intended, but not executed italicizations and some traits lacking the proper bonus type. We have really complex wording done right and potentially confusing, wonky verbiage like “You may class Knowledge (geography) as a class skill…” – we know what’s meant, all right, but you don’t “class” skills as class skills – for obvious reasons. It should also be noted that the traits do not state their trait type. We conclude the pdf with a summary of demon lords, with worshipers, domains, subdomains, etc. all collated on a handy table.
The pdf comes with a bonus pdf penned by Mark Gedak, one depicting “The Watch”, an eye-king otyugh who clocks in at CR 6 – think of these things as a beholder-y/otyugh elite law enforcement unit in the Advent Imperiax. Yeah, pure awesome!! Two thumbs up for this cool critter!!
Editing and formatting are pretty good on a rules-language level, okay on a formal level. While there are more easily caught glitches here than what I’d consider good, it’s a big step up in comparison to the author’s previous offering. Rules-language is mostly functional, with only a few instances I’d consider to be problematic, though there are some herein as well. Layout adheres to Purple Duck Games’ printer-friendly two-column standard with purple highlights. The full-color icons of the holy symbols are really cool – two thumbs up. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Perry Fehr is an inspired author. I’ll stand by that statement every day of the week. Alas, his rules-language tends to oscillate in quality rather strongly: Sometimes, he gets highly complex and evocative, creative concepts done right…and sometimes, he botches really basic stuff. This pdf highlights all of these observations in a rather succinct manner: The demon lords are absolutely amazing. I mean it. In a tradition so old, with so many iterations, he weaves narrative gold and really creative, innovative and flavorful concepts. As far as the concept-side of things go, this is a 5 star + seal of approval file – I adored the demon lords and while there are a few rules-hiccups here and there, they are minor ones. The magic items also are pretty strong offerings…and honestly, so is the rest of the book. However, similarly, the editing and formatting glitches do accumulate and drag down this pdf from the lofty perches I’d place it otherwise.
With a bit of nitpicky editing and/or development, this could have been a master-class pdf. Here’s the good news, though: A halfway capable GM can fix the issues herein pretty much on the fly, at least for the most part. And the high-concept content deserves being used – this *is* worth owning. If you’re looking for a go-play supplement, this may not be for you, but if you want to read some really fresh and creative takes on demon lords, then this can be a truly inspiring offering. This is, in short a diamond in the rough, with avoidable glitches hampering what would otherwise be pure awesomeness. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform based on the strength of the amazing concepts as well as the inspired bonus file.
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