Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Zara, the Girl Who Died Dreaming
By Thilo Graf
This installment of the FoTS-series from Rite Publishing is 26 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 21 pages of content, so let’s check this character out!
Following my format for FoTS-reviews, I’ll kick this review off by mentioning what exactly is featured template-wise in the creation of the three iterations of the character: First of the templates would be the phalanx-creature (at CR +1 or CR+2), which makes it possible for the creature to share mental characteristics with other members of the phalanx-creature’s collective mind and telepathic bond. The Dreamwalker-template (CR +1 to +3) reflects creatures stranded in the plane of dreams that have mastered the multiple morphological peculiarities that can be found in the plane of dreams. My favourite template, though, would be the Dread Vampire-template (CR +3): Essentially the REAL vampire-template, this template reflects vampires that are not as wimpy as regular ones, coming closer to the iconic vampires in literature regarding their power-level, updated to PFRPG from green Ronin’s epic 3.5-book. Two thumbs up for that one! The Betrayer-creature template from the Book of Monster Templates (at CR +1) also makes an appearance, as does the simple accelerated creature template (CR+1) from 101 Not so simple monster templates.
A total of 10 different magical items (though no artefact this time around) and 7 armour and weapon enhancements also feature in the creation of Zara. Two dream-related traits that make use of Coliseum Morpheuon’s dream-burning mechanics as are 10 feats: Among these feats, you might know some of them from Way of the Wicked V: The Devil, My Only Master by Fire Mountain Games – in said part of the critically acclaimed evil AP, we get a rules-representation for playable vampire-PCs, the gradual transformation into undead being handled via a succession of feats. All these feats used in the build of Zara as well as some to enhance malefactor-powers are part of the pdf.
Malefactor? Yes, for Zara is a build based on TPK Games’ best-selling, excellent malefactor-base-class. If you’re not familiar with these walking harbingers of ill luck, check them out now. (I’ve btw. also written a review of this one, so feel free to take a look at that as well.) All right, so her least incarnation (At CR 6) has Zara already is already a dreamwalker, phalanx human malefactor (who counts as undead due to aforementioned feats) malefactor. Her mid-level incarnation has her levels upgraded and made her a full-fledged vampire and her epic final incarnation becomes a dread vampire dreamwalker phalanx malefactor 17 that clocks in at a frightening CR 22.
Now astute readers may have noticed that Zara’s build lacks some of the templates introduced – that because this essentially is two creatures in one FoTS: Zara is never seen without her teddy bear – unmoving, unblinking, staring at the marvels of dream with unflinching black button-eyes. This bear, Mr.Bear, is the one she communicates with via her phalanx-template, often talking aloud to an unresponsive bear. The teddy, in fact, is an imp – one slightly insane imp who genuinely cares for the lost girl Zara and who is fanatically devoted to maintaining the facade of just being an inanimate teddybear, though both know the truth. In a twisted way, this relationship is rather intriguing and the 3 builds for mister bear are of the trademark complexity. And come on, swearing that this inanimate bear has moved and getting a glimpse of a blinking knife in a plushy paw should be nightmarish indeed.
But what about Zara’s personality? Essentially, this child once ventured into dream to find her long-lost brother (who turns out to be the Po’Kesteros – the series’ luckbringer and rival of Z.Z. Grimshanks). Dream, though is a scary place and when Zara died, she turned into something different – now it is the time of the nightmares in dream to be afraid – of a harmless-looking girl selling matches and her bear, for this face of lost innocence is the nightmare of nightmares. Woe betide any who have to face her weapons, Pokey and Twang… Dreamburning information, notes on how to use her etc., are also, of course, part of the deal. Now what happens if this harbinger of misfortune and her extremely lucky brother meet up again?
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RiP’s 2-column, b/w rune-bordered old standard and the artwork of Zara by Juan Diego Dianderas is glorious, showing at once a nice little girl, but conveying a distinct sense of creepiness via her gaze that has almost certainly seen too much. The pdf comes with nested, extensive bookmarks.
All right, I’ll come right out and say it: I’m a huge fan of the Malefactor-class. I love it. TPK Games has created a class that actually awards crappy luck (and we all have a player whose dice seem like they’re cursed, don’t we?) and offers a gleeful, nasty, cool class that works differently from any other class out there. I also love vampires and all things creepy. So all awesome? Yes…and no. On a personal level, I really, really don’t like the feat-based vampire-take b Fire Mountain Games. It takes the iconicity out of the transformation. The metaphysical change. The mystic feeling of the wilful change into a bloodsucker is replaced by a selection of feats, making it feel, at least to me, wrong.
That being said, the build of Zara also uses a template to add bits and pieces to her and her companion is absolutely glorious! My gripe with the feats to turn vampire remain completely personal and won’t fracture into the final verdict – especially since character-wise, Zara stands out as one of the best in the whole series, though not being able to topple my all-time favourite Nameless Nil.
My final verdict for yet another glorious, grand addition to the series will be 5 stars, omitting my seal of approval only since it reflects more than the verdict my personal taste.
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Zara, the Girl Who Died Dreaming is available from:
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