Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Worldwound Review

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In continuing with the request from my FLGS that I write reviews for their website, this is the first of two reviews of last month’s Paizo releases.  I have often perused Paizo’s campaign setting books, but as I run most of my home games of Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons in my own setting, I have never found a reason to pick one up.  They are gorgeous, as all Paizo products are, but I have never found them as useful for me as some of the other products.

Until now that is, obviously.  The reason behind my purchase is twofold.  First, the Mythic Adventures book and the first part of its adventure path come out this month.  I will talk more about the reasons for my excitement when I review those books, but needless to say the adventure path takes place in The Worldwound, and since I want to run that path, I wanted to familiarize myself with the area.  The second reason is much more transparent.  It is a country that has a giant tear in it straight to the abyss!  That is just awesome.  There is a nation much like that in my world, and I wanted to see how another company handled the similar subject matter.

Overview

The book is 64 full-color pages, and is up to the usual Paizo standards for art and quality*.  The inside front cover has a great map of the Worldwound, while the inside back cover contains a timeline of the major events of the region.  The book is broken up into three chapters: the Worldwound Gazetteer, Adventures in the Worldwound, and Worldwound Bestiary.

Worldwound Gazetteer

This chapter contains the general overview of the Worldwound, as well as the major regions of the ‘country’.  It starts off with a review of the four major crusades that have been mounted against the Worldwound before giving us a brief glimpse into the nature of demons.  A sidebar lets you know that the next adventure path (Wrath of the Righteous) and the fifth season of the Pathfinder Society will be part of the Fifth Crusade, so while this book might contain some minor plot spoilers for the Society play, efforts have been made to make sure that none of the locations given in chapter two are part of the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path.

The remainder of the chapter covers the five regions of the Worldwound: Frostmire, Riftshadow, Sarkorian Steppe, Stonewilds, and the Wounded Lands.  Each section is a four page look at the region and starts with a regional stat block that gives a brief snapshot of the region.  These are: a regional descriptor, alignment, demonic influences, notable inhabitants, monsters and hazards, notable settlements, typical weather and precipitation, and Survival DC’s.  This stat block is nice as it gives a GM a single place to look to find the overall feel of the region and a good place to find challenges for a session set in this area.

Each regional overview contains its history, its inhabitants (sans stats), and then its location gazetteer.  The Worldwound’s regions cover a wide range of settings for exciting play.  Frostmire is a frozen swampland filled with fiendish marsh giants and a subverted dwarven skykeep.  Riftshadow has a large urban center, and with that, contains a large number of humanoid races.  Barbarian raiders assault the Sarkorian Steppe, testing their mettle against the demons of the Worldwound.  The Stonewilds is a petrified forest, where the druids that once protected the living trees sacrificed themselves and their charge rather than see it fall to the demons.  The druids still guard the remnants of the woods, but as petrified undead monsters.  The Wounded Lands are truly a heart of darkness, as the Worldwound rips through that area, its crevasses spreading through the heart of the once great city, Iz.

Adventures in the Worldwound

Chapter Two begins by explaining the difficulty PCs will have surviving the demonically tainted Worldwound.  This section covers everything from the weather in the Worldwound to hazards, to flora and fauna.  It becomes clear, and is mentioned, that the Worldwound is not for starting PC’s.  If you bring your first level adventure party into the Worldwound one of two things will happen.  One, you will weaken the region to their level, thereby removing some of the horror from the area.  Or two, all of your party will die in horrible ways.

The chapter then spotlights 10 adventure sites, each of which can be turned into a full adventure.  These sites run the gamut from long forgotten tombs, to demonic villages, to my personal favorite, a temple of Pulara that is under siege not just from the demons but from undead as well.  Each of these sites is given in just enough detail to spark the imagination and give you a good foundation to build an adventure around.  Some of them have enough substance to even support an arc of adventures as well.

Worldwound Bestiary

After presenting a random encounter table for each of the five regions, this chapter gives us 16 monsters of the Worldwound.  Not surprisingly, 7 of them are types of demons, and one is a demonic template, Demonic Vermin.  A second template, Plague Beast, is given to allow the GM to create creatures that have succumbed to the demonplague.  My favorite monster in the book is tied between Siabrea and the Warped Ones.

Siabrea are the druids who turned themselves into undead through a ritual of despair.  With the magic that created the Stonewilds, theses druids were cursed with undeath.  They are undead, but still retain their link to the land and their druidic powers.  This is also a template for the GM to use.

Warped Ones are creatures who have been overwhelmed by the demonic taint of the Worldwound, that they have been fused and transformed into a demonic-like entity.  Honestly, these creatures remind me of chaos creatures from the Warhammer universe.  You get three random tables to roll on when you run these creatures.  The first is a table you roll on each round to see what beneficial mutation the creature has for that round.  The second table, called Unstable Summoning, does pretty much what it says.  The Warped Ones have a 50% chance to summon… something.  And finally, they exude a warping field, which PC’s have to save against or gain a detrimental mutation.  Fun times all around!

Conclusion

I enjoyed the Worldwound.  As a primer for the Wrath of the Righteous, it worked.  I am very excited to take players into this demon infested realm.  As an example of a demonically tainted realm it did not disappoint either.  While we handle the material in totally different ways, the Worldwound did spark my imagination, and give me lots of things to think about for use in my home game.  If you are planning on running the adventure path, or fifth season Pathfinder Society games, I think this is a great resource to pick up.

*So above I mentioned that this book was up to Paizo’s usual quality.  I maintain this stance but had an issue with my book.  However this note is separate from the review, because I feel this was a fluke, and should not be viewed as part of the review.  In fact this note is more about Paizo’s customer service.  My book’s binding failed immediately upon opening it when I got home.  It looks like there was not enough glue near the top part of the spine.  I emailed Paizo and received a prompt response.  They asked me to check with my FLGS to see about an immediate replacement.  My FLGS explained that due to a variety of reasons that revolve around three tier distribution, he could not help me.  When I returned with that answer to Paizo, they let me know my new copy was in the mail.  Kudos to you Paizo.  I was able to resolve this issue with the same ease I resolve issues with Amazon or Apple.  Your customer service was top notch and speaks very highly of your company and the people you have working for you.

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