Monday 24 February 2014

People of the Sands

It’s been awhile since Pathfinder products turned to the southern continent of Garund for further exploration. However, with the upcoming Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path being set in the Egyptian-themed country of Osirion, the time is ripe to turn setting-based products towards that region of the world. People of the Sands takes a player-centric look at the three countries along the northern coast of Garund: Rahadoum, Thuvia, and of course, Osirion. This is not the first supplement to look at Osirion. One of the earliest releases in the Pathfinder Companion line (before the name changed to Pathfinder Player Companion) was Osirion, Land of Pharaohs. While People of the Sands does have some overlap with that book, it does have quite a bit of new material as well and the overlapping material has been updated to the Pathfinder RPG rules (as Osirion, Land of Pharaohs was written for 3.5).

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that region-based supplements tend to be my favourite ones, and People of the Sands certainly doesn’t disappoint. As part of the Player Companion line of products, it contains a lot of new mechanical options (as well as updates to things like the living monolith prestige class). However, it also contains a good balance of fluff, with background information on the histories and peoples of the region it covers, making it a book that is entertaining and informative to read, and useful for gameplay.

After the usual “For Your Character” section, the book opens with a quick overview of the region, along with a brief mention of other areas of the world that have prominent deserts. It then continues with a short section on the history of northern Garund. This history is not very detailed (covering literally thousands of years in only a page and a half), but this is appropriate for a player book in which not every character will have ranks in Knowledge (history). The History section also contains a new role, the Osirionologist. There haven’t been a lot of roles introduced in recent Player Companions, and for a little while, I was actually wondering whether they’d been dropped entirely. For those unfamiliar with them, roles are simply a collection of suggested classes, archetypes, feats, traits, skills, etc. that players can use to create a character of a specific concept. They don’t actually provide new mechanical options. Experienced players may not find them of much use, and they were arguably overused in the earliest books to feature them; however, roles are very good for players new to the game, helping them to wade through a sea of options to find ones that will work for their character ideas. The Osirionologist is quite a broad role and offers suggestions for nine character classes and numerous archetypes to create a character versed in the study of Osirion.

The next part of the book looks at the dominant ethnicities that reside in northern Garund, with two pages each on the Garundi, Keleshites, and Pahmet dwarves. Along with background information on each group, there is also a selection of new gaming material running the gamut of new traits, feats, and spells. There is a sidebar with each ethnic group containing typical sayings that help add local flavour. While there has been a fair amount of information on the Garundi and Keleshites previously, this is the first significant detail on the Pahmet (which have only been mentioned briefly in a couple of other supplements), so it’s nice to have more information on this unusual group of dwarves.

People of the Sands then goes on to provide two pages each on the three nations of northern Garund, starting with Osirion. Along with general information about Osirion, there is also an oracle archetype, and some new traits and rogue talents. Rahadoum offers a new cavalier order, and for once the order is actually tied to the setting. One criticism I’ve had previously about cavaliers in Golarion is that there has never been any information on what role the orders play in the world. Even Knights of the Inner Sea, which includes several new orders, doesn’t discuss how the orders fit into the world or how they relate to countries and peoples. The Order of the First Law, however, is very much tied to Rahadoum and its role in the setting is clear from just a couple brief sentences. The section on Rahadoum also includes a couple new traits and a new spell. Thuvia’s section contains a new sorcerer bloodline, some more new traits, and a new alchemist discovery.

Next up are two prestige classes: the living monolith and the Thuvian alchemist. The living monolith is an update to the class that first appeared in Osirion, Land of Pharaohs, while the Thuvian alchemist offers a Thuvian-flavoured twist to alchemy and can be taken by any arcane class, not just alchemists. Following the prestige classes is a selection of new equipment and magic items. The final section of the book contains the campaign traits for the upcoming Mummy’s Mask Adventure Path.

Some additional things in the book include brief details on “Ancient Empires of the Sands” on the inside front cover. There is information on Ancient Osirion, the Jistka Imperium, and the Tekritanin League. The inside back cover contains information on desert dangers like dehydration, mirages, and sandstorms. In the centre of the book is a stunningly gorgeous map of Osirion. The map is very much an “in-game” map, appearing much as one might actually look like to characters in the world. It’s a little disappointing there are not similar maps of Thuvia and Rahadoum. However, space is at a premium, and a single map showing all three countries would not have as much detail, so I can understand the decision to go with just one of the countries. With Mummy’s Mask set there, Osirion was the logical choice. Purchasers of the pdf (or those who receive it free with their subscriptions) also gain a separate pdf of just this map, which nicely avoids the problem of page breaks splitting the map into two halves in the book.

As is often the case with Player Companion books, I do wish there was just a little more “fluff” in People of the Sands. I’d really like to get a better feel for what day-to-day life is like in these places—examples of kinds of dress, holiday traditions, types of food, and so on. However, I do understand that these books have to meet a demand for crunch as well. Players love new options for their characters! People of the Sands manages a good balance between the fluff and the crunch, and makes for a very useful and entertaining book for both players and game masters.

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