First, a brief historical note on my gaming group and D&D. We tried D&D 4e, and nobody in the group really cared for it all that much. So for a long time, Pathfinder was the only game out there in the FRPG genre that we would play after 3.5 faded away into obscurity (until D&D 5e, but that’s another story for another time and place).
I had longed for something different to run as far as a setting, and that’s where Steampunk Musha came in. Originally designed for the Iron Gauntlets system by Politically Incorrect Games (now Precis Intermedia), I picked up this gem of a setting a good while ago, and was rather excited to hear that it was going to be adapted to Pathfinder. So I jumped headlong into the Kickstarter for it.
Some time passed, and the book sadly never materialized. I was fine with giving them plenty of time to finish it, as I have talked with Rick Hershey of Fat Goblin Games many times over the years and find him to be a great guy. I had only been able to donate enough for the PDF reward during the Kickstarter, even though I would have loved to have been able to support it with a deeper pocket.
When the news came that the Kickstarter was canceled and the backers were being refunded, I was disappointed but I understood why. I was offered the book Shadows of Vathak Player’s Guide in return for my former pledge for Steampunk Musha. I promised Rick I’d review this book here, and with the new job I’ve barely had time to read much of anything lately.
Upon opening the PDF I realized that Shadows Over Vathak Player’s Guide is huge. It’s an ambitious undertaking by Fat Goblin Games to present a very deeply detailed, grim world. Fully 451 pages long, it is a delve into Lovecraftian horror threatening the destruction of Vathak.
The artwork, as usual for any project headed by Rick, is simply amazing. It’s deeply evocative of a world gone mad and beset by horrors beyond space and time. The game design propels you into that world, with a detailed history and new character generation steps that detail a character’s family background and new traits, backgrounds, and drawbacks specifically designed for the setting.
The core races of Vathak, including racial variants of humans, are unique to this horror-steeped land and present interesting new choices for a player such as Cambion (humans tainted by the blood of the Old Ones), Dhampir (half-vampire and half-humans), Hauntlings (ghostly beings who bridge life and undeath), Witchwolves (half-breed lycanthropes), and Wretched (half-constructs given life by alchemy). Shadows Over Vathak also supports any of the various core classes presented by the Pathfinder rules books, and also presents four new classes – Disciple, Fortune Teller, Reanimator, and Soldier.
Firearms are rather more common in Vathak, and their cost is greatly reduced from the core Pathfinder rules. The Craft (Firearms) skill is supported with rules for creating and maintaining such weapons, and a variety of feats are presented for use with firearms.
Religion features prominently in Shadows Over Vathak, and the struggle between the church of the One True God and the cults of the Old Ones is an overarching theme for the setting. The church is presented in great detail, along with divine magic, saints, and legends. Magic is treated as a force to be feared among the people of Vathak, no matter whether it be divine, arcane, or psychic. Although feared, all magic is also considered a potent weapon against the Old Ones, so spellcasters needn’t fear pitchforks and torches at every turn. There are quite a number of new spells detailed by the book for Vathak spellcasters.
I have to say that I’m a huge Lovecraft fan. The adaption of the Old Ones to a fantasy setting, while not entirely unique as of late, is extremely well-done with Vathak. The writing is top-notch, and there’s a lot of background and setting material present to absorb in these beautifully-illustrated 451 pages. I can’t really praise the artwork enough, in fact.
The layout is amazing. I absolutely love the page borders appearing as though they are pages from a book complete with the leather cover. I’m a huge fan of indexes and bookmarks in a PDF, and Vathak has both in spades: I can locate any section necessary within a matter of moments within the book very easily.
The main thing that I get out of Vathak is a grim and despairing world seeking heroes and hope filled with otherworldly horrors. I absolutely love that kind of setting, and Vathak makes me want to play Pathfinder again after having been immersed in 5e for so long.
Rick told me that he was proud of his new setting and all of the hard work he and his crew have put into it. And I’d say it’s for very good reason! This book was a delight to both read and look at. It’s definitely worth the time and effort, and I can’t recommend it enough.
So what are you waiting for? Head on over to Drivethru and plop down your cash! At only $19.95, this monstrous 451 page tome is worth every penny if you’re a Pathfinder and Lovecraft fan.