Unbirthday Week 2014: People of the Sands

Welcome to Product Reviews! This week is Part 1 of 5; the subject is Alex’s Top 5 Paizo Player Companions and/or Campaign Setting Guides.

Welcome to Product Reviews! As you may recall, last week was my Birthday Week and I’m sad to see it go. So I did a lot of searching over the weekend and found an excellent way to keep the party going! You see … I’ve learned something wonderful. This whole week … is my UNBIRTHDAY WEEK!

How great is that? I only get ONE birthday a year, but now I can have as many UNBIRTHDAYS as I please! Huzzah! To celebrate my unbirthday, this whole week I’m going to be showcasing my Top 5 favorite installments in Paizo’s campaign setting. If you want more information about the style I’m using, take a peek at my Reviewing Products for Fun and … Fun article from two weeks ago.

ONWARD!

People of the Sands

People of the Sands is a desert-themed installment in Paizo’s People of Golarion line. In this line, Paizo describes different cultures found throughout their campaign setting, offering player-oriented information and character customization options to help their characters feel more at home in the described setting. I own quite a few of the People of Golarion products, and this is one of my favorites in the series by far. Why? Read on and let’s see!

Crunch (Game Mechanics)

People of the Sands has excellent crunch for your buck. It includes two new Prestige Classes. Living Monolith is an update to one of the first 3.5 era Prestige Classes that Paizo ever developed. 3.5 fans will get a distinct Greenstar Adept feel from this Prestige Class, except Living Monolith doesn’t irreparably suck. I especially like how this Prestige Class changes based on whether you’re a spellcaster or a martial character, and I would argue that the martial version of this Prestige Class is the stronger option, but that’s a matter of preference. Designed for both wizards and alchemists alike, the Thuvian Alchemist specializes in turning ordinary spells and extracts into cure spells. This is one of the few ways for a wizard (or sorcerer) to cast healing spells in the game and it effectively amounts to spontaneous spellcasting for both types of characters. It has a couple of other cool options, like bottled elementals, but it really focuses on healing and causes you to stop aging as its capstone.

Although this product has few archetypes (a welcome change in my opinion), it is brimming full to bursting with new feats and spells. There are some quality feats in this book, such as Horn of the Criosphinx, which allows you to use double your Strength modifier on charge attacks with two-handed weapons as opposed to 1.5x your Strength. There are also tons of flavorful character traits, and it’s actually the character traits that take this product’s cake, so to speak. At the very end of the book is a campaign trait that essentially gives half of trapfinding to any character who selects it: specifically, the ability to disarm magical traps. This trait has sparked something of a controversy among some members of the Pathfinder community, and my take on it is that trapfinding should have gotten the Track treatment to begin with, so this trait is welcomed in my games. For interesting options filled with creativity, I award this section 5 of 5 stars.

Flavor (Lore and Setting Information)

People of the Sands does an excellent job of setting up several different cultures for players to explore through the written word. Although fans of Egyptian culture won’t be disappointed, this product has a lot of different, unique cultures represented within its pages. I’m especially fond of the Ouat Dwarves, who are essentially sand dwarves. How often do you see sand dwarves in campaign settings? Many of the new locations are also fascinating to read about such as the glimpses into Rahadoum, a small kingdom where religion is outlawed because of a religious event that is suspiciously similar to the real-world 100 Year War. Other interesting tidbits come from the geniekin races from Bestiary 2, who get a small shout out that is comparable to the mentions received by the core races. In all, People of the Sands has a very complete feel to it and despite its small size, it has all the information you could hope for when crafting a short, simple backstory. I award this section 5 of 5 stars as a result.

Texture (Layout and Artwork)

Paizo has phenomenal texture to their products and People of the Sands does not disappoint. The soft yellows and beiges make this book look and feel like a product of the desert sands and the artwork keeps to the high standards that Paizo sets for its artists. The page borders are absolutely beautiful and look like Egyptian artwork and the most gorgeous “ancient” map of the region sits at a two-page spread in the center of the book. There’s one piece of artwork that’s a little too cheesecake for my tastes, however; she’s a mage who makes Seoni, Pathfinder’s iconic sorceress, look like a conservative dresser. One annoyance that I did note is that many of the pieces of character artwork often do not go with whatever character options are on that particular page, but the beautiful landscape artwork of the region’s various cities more than makes up for this. I award this section 4 of 5 stars, penalized somewhat for a handful of awkward character illustration choices.

Final Score & Thoughts

Crunch: 5/5 Stars
Flavor: 5/5 Stars
Texture: 4/5 Stars
Total: 14/15 Stars, or 4.5/5 Stars, rounded up to 5 Stars for sheer quality.

As far as I’m concerned, People of the Sands is the definitive guide to desert PCs. It feels very complete offers 32 pages of background information essential to playing a character from this region. I would have preferred the artwork to match the topics a bit better and one piece in particular heavily contributed to the product’s 4 Star rating in the Texture department, but in all this is an excellent product that makes for a strong addition to any GM or Player’s repertoire.

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune thuvian alchemist, and he prefers practical outfits to window curtains.

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One thought on “Unbirthday Week 2014: People of the Sands

  1. So, I haven’t had a chance to read this book, but I did take a look at the two prestige classes on d20pfsrd. I like the Living Monolith, sounds like a really flavorful and cool prestige class; the Thuvian Alchemist (Natural Alchemist on d20) is a little weird though. For example, while it allows other casters entry, the class really just doesn’t work unless you’re an Alchemist.

    The Natural Alchemist ability doesn’t allow non-Alchemists to meet Alchemist level requirements, so if any other Arcane Caster takes it, he’s kind of forced to take an odd-ball collection of abilities that don’t have an Alchemist level requirement. The Bombs ability eventually lets an arcane caster throw bombs as a third level Alchemist, but considering this doesn’t happen until 15th level, it’s not a very useful ability.

    I dunno, the Thuvian Alchemist greatly expands the Alchemist in cool ways, but it kind of makes any other arcane caster a much crappier caster.

    Unfortunately, that’s all I can really comment on this as I more-than-likely won’t be picking it up anytime soon.

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