Review – Thunderscape: The World of Aden Campaign Setting (for Pathfinder)

20 June, 2014

Thunderscape: the World of Aden Campaign Setting is an interesting book, obviously if you want to run a campaign set in the world of Aden this is a must buy item, but what if you are just a Pathfinder GM?  Well, in that case, it depends on how much use you think you will get out of the new races, classes and rules.  If you want to move your campaign in a more magical steampunk sort of direction, there are considerable tools to support that especially of you want to make vehicles more important to your game.  Want to have a corrupting evil that spawns twisted agents?  There are tools for that.  For me, the insect druid Entropomancer is almost enough reason alone to have the book, but not every campaign has a place for such a class.  But each GM will have to make the call for themself.

Thunderscape: the World of Aden Campaign Setting by Kyoudai Games for use with the Pathfinder RPG is based on the World of Aden used in the SSI computer game created by Shane Hensley and developed in both novels and source books.  This current version is written by Shawn Carman and Rich Wulf and was made possible by a Kickstarter.

The World of Aden mixes magic with technology, steam-powered vehicles, gunpowder weaponry and mechanical golems.  Opposing this are the sinister powers of the Darkfall and the nightmare creatures it has awoken.

Found in Aden are seven new races and nine new classes:

As well as traditional dwarves and elves (and half elves) such as: Faerkin, a small fey-touched race.  The Ferran, race of magically evolved animals that come in various subraces, predator, brute and sneak, to allow them to be customized to various animal types.  Goreaux and Jurak are variants of goblin and orc respectively.  Rapacians are lizard folk.  The most unusual are the Echoes, a spirit race that must take on the form of someone dead, and the Ilithix Exiles, a race of intelligent insects with interesting abilities from that heritage.

The new classes draw upon the nature of Aden: The Arbiter mixes high, but focused, combat potential with an investigative skill set, though it remains primarily a combat-oriented class.  A Druid variant, the Entromancer, which focuses on the control of insects and other such creatures and is by far my favorite class in the book.  Several of the classes mix magic and technology, the Golomoid (who enhance themselves with golem-tech), the Mechamage (who make golems), Steamwright (steamtech tinkers) and Thunderscouts (master of vehicles).  The Fallen are an interesting class, representing those who have been touched by the Darkfall but not subverted by it (though it can also be used to model those as well) who use the tools of evil to fight.  Seers, who look beyond, and Thamaturges, who tap into the abilities of ancient heroes, also provide interesting options for characters.  As a nice touch, three example characters (only a paragraph though) for each class are presented just to give a feel for the class in Aden.

Existing classes are given a handful of new archetypes and how they fit into the setting of Aden as well as two example characters for each class.  Next are traits and feats, the Folk Magic Trait is especially clever and has a potential wide application, while most of the feats apply to the new races and classes.  A brief section covers new uses for skill in Aden, nothing groundbreaking but useful.

Then it moves into history and the nations of Aden, each getting a multi-page description that lays it out as a place to go and adventure in with the current political and military situation and a lovely flag.  It would have been nice to see some adventure hooks for each of the areas and points of interest, but what is here being serviceable.

Next it is back to rules with new spells, after a discussion of the place of magic in Aden, mostly to fill out the spell selection for Entromancers and Mechamages.  Followed by new equipment, including firearms, mechamagic weapons (magmaxe!), vehicles and rules for customizing vehicles, and a handful of new magic items.  A selection of Aden specific monsters and templates finishes off the book along with an index (always useful).

There is a considerable amount of useful material here for any Pathfinder game but it is very focused on the steam-magic world of Aden and will require adaptation, possibly considerable adaption, to fit into other campaign worlds.

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