Veranthea Codex: Radical Pantheon
The massive first expansion for Veranthea clocks in at a whopping 100 pages (for this price-point!), 1 page front cover,1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 96 pages of content – quite a lot, so let’s get to it!
Veranthea Codex is a truly massive book – and still, there are a lot of components that simply, by virtue of their unique ideas, deserved more coverage. Well, this would be the first book doing just that. If you require a brief one-sentence summary – think of this as the setting’s Inner Sea Gods…though, admittedly, the focus is somewhat different.
In the first chapter, we get information on the respective deities – from ever sleeping Verahnus to Death and the Nightmare Gods – and, much like Inner Sea Gods, we receive information on the priest’s role in the respective society, aphorisms, holy texts, holidays, etc. – basically, we get the full fluff-write-ups, though, considering the comparably somewhat lesser page-count, obviously the entries are not as extensive as in Inner Sea Gods – still, what is here can be considered fun and sports information on (anti-)paladins for the respective deities – and yes, this includes paladins with an anti-chaos focus instead of the anti-evil focus, for example. Obediences, just fyi, are not part of the deal. If you’re looking for full-blown redesigns of aforementioned classes though, you won’t find them here. As a nice nod towards the game’s traditions, we have a couple of Easter eggs here that should certainly put smiles on the faces of quite a few GMs: Death’s holy text, for example, would obviously be the Libris Mortis.
The flavor of these deities is excellent – I will e.g. never stop smiling when reading about the deity of capitalism that puts a smiling face to the world, purporting to be LG when he’s actually LE. (And no, for your info – I am NOT anti-capitalist. Quite the contrary, actually.) The chapter is also suffused by pieces of crunch, though keen-eyed readers may stumble over some avoidable formatting glitches – some of the sidebars vary in font-size, which looks a bit odd. I noticed a reference to “page @@” and, in a feat that grants you a limited use gaze attack that causes hypnotism (insanities to those immune) – and fails to italicize the spell’s name. These hiccups may be cosmetic, but they are here.
On the plus-side: Studying some of the dread holy texts of Nightmare Gods can cause (conveniently hyperlinked) insanities – but also convey significant bonuses. And a feat that allows cultists to infiltrate other churches and society at large…nice. The pdf also sports a vast array of player options for the devout, beginning with Religion-traits. These traits generally are pretty powerful, but not in a way that would render then overpowered. For example, gaining +10 to Perception while asleep is interesting. Similarly, extending your darkvision (or getting it) a limited amount of times per day is cool – though the latter trait’s wording could have been a bit more streamlined. The pdf also sports a selection of spells, and they are interesting in some of their concepts: Arcodivinity takes a whole round to cast and emulates an arcane spell of 4th level or lower from the magus or sorc/wiz-spell lists or a divine spell from the cleric/druid-list of 4th level or lower when cast by an arcane caster. This is generally a cool idea, but it should be noted that this has system-immanent hiccups the more spells you allow in your game, allowing for a very strong wild-card spell that may be balanced by the increased spell-level for all but ranger and paladin and the 1 round casting duration, but still – GMs should probably impose some limitations on spell-selection here.
Not all spells fall into this high-concept category – blazing insight, for example, allows for an immediate action reroll of Int- or Wis-based skill or attribute checks made in the last round. Other spells are pretty intriguing – divinely intoxicated is interesting: Double your spellcasting attribute modifier’s time, the target has to roll twice any d20 – and then use the results in the following sequence: Better result, better result, worse result. Capital Capitalist lets you haggle exceedingly well – but the reduced price may result in the merchant decreasing his starting attitude towards you. Forcing targets to reroll damage just caused may be okay, but more interesting would be Gift of Undeath – which provides continuous healing for a couple of rounds…and then slays the imbiber and resurrects him as an undead. Ouch, but I( can’t be force-fed to unwitting dupes, thankfully…a damn flavorful for fanatic death-cultists! Touch of the Alien, available as a ranger 1 spell (the other classes get it at a more appropriate level) deals 2d4 Int-damage…and makes the Str-score equal to Int until said damage is healed. Which is basically a huge save-or-suck nerf for martials, with Will to negate. Not a fan here.
The pdf also contains an array of magic items, including a theurgist’s mace – basically a mace that grants you the option to smite 2/day spellcasters opposed to your tradition (i.e. arcane casters get smite versus divine casters and vice versa). This smite penalizes saves versus the wielder’s spells and SPs and if the wielder can cast both types of spell, he gets basically twice the smites and may target any creature – not just divine or arcane spellcasters. It should btw. be noted that the inconsistent italicization mentioned above also extends to this chapter. Still, there are damn cool ideas here – an artifact-level blowgun flute? Yes! A coin that acts as a shuriken and lets you convert metal coins while also enhancing your Sleight of Hand? Yep, pretty awesome.
The pdf also sports some archetypes – the divine drunkard brawler, who is interesting – when these guys consume alcohol, they accumulate drunk points, which they then can expend to duplicate one of 3 randomly determined effects. The effects are interesting and generally make for a chaotic experience well in tune with Dreksler’s nature. That being said, gaining a “mythic bonus” is probably a typo here and probably should not be here. The Holy Innovator gunslinger basically is a gunslinger who can utilize contraptions from the Veranthea Codex base book – nice. The paladin-archetype merchanteer is reprinted in this book, complete with tithed healing, magnetic channel and transformation to antipaladin. The Tian Ti-Ang Agent bard can be considered to be the heralds of the mythic vampire lords and as such receive an assortment of interesting vampire-abilities.
Then, however, one of the coolest chapters in the book begins – after the chosen template (CR +1), we get heralds for the gods – all of them! From an impossible slug swarm to more traditional executors of the will of the respective deities, these unique and powerful beings (clocking usually in at around CR 15) make for a truly inspired, interesting chapter and feature appropriate and cool unique tricks as well as information on planar allies available. The 3 immortal demigods of Urethiel, Boris and his entourage are covered/reprinted and we also get the CR 25/MR 10 Sciemaat the shattered, who seeks to repair the shield that once kept the nightmare gods at bay. Similarly, the last irrational Carambal can be found here. H’gal, the grand lich of Proxima Alterra (CR 17/MR 7), on the other hand, was a rather interesting final creature herein.
Editing and formatting aren’t bad, but neither are they up to the otherwise generally pretty streamlined standards of Rogue Genius Games – I noticed quite a few glitches and relics here and there. Layout adheres to Veranthea’s two-column full-color standard and the book sports a vast amount of full-color artworks, though they do not necessarily adhere to a uniform style. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Mike Myler, with contributions from Luis Loza, Michael McCarthy and Nicholas J. Giebel, has written a massive expansion here – and while there is some overlap with the content already featured in the Veranthea Codex, there still is ample material herein to justify the very low asking price for this amount of content. While I admittedly wished this book had expanded the information on heralds and previously unreleased demigods instead of incorporating material from the main book and while I would have loved to see a tad bit more on each deity, this still remains one of the most comprehensive highlights of a pantheon I’ve read. As such, one can postulate that this book does its job well…and even for scavenging purposes, there is quite a bit to find. Still, the glitches do accumulate and I wished that this component had been a bit tighter in its implementation. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.
You can get this massive, inexpensive pantheon-book here on OBS!