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Wererats of the Roach-Run Sewers $3.99
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Wererats of the Roach-Run Sewers
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Wererats of the Roach-Run Sewers
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Rollme S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/09/2012 23:42:11
This is overall a fairly useful resource for GMs, though some parts of it strike me as a little strange and/or off. The stat blocks alone are worth the $4 and are a HUGE help to the GM that wants to use wererats and wants more than just the one bestiary example, but hates sorting through all the rules on that template. This is kind of a long book with a lot of parts, not all of which I used, so I'll share some thoughts on what I did use. I should start by saying I did not use this book for its "tribes" purpose in a city/sewer, I got it for the stat blocks hoping that I could use them for an idea I've had for a while now for a pirate ship with a wererat crew. I didn't use the first nine pages at all, though some of it (sewer features/hazards and semi random encounters) would be useful for a city setting.

Page 10-11 has new class features, used in the book's NPCs, but not very well suited for PC use. The Filth is a cool concept (a kind of "ideal" that a cleric can devote herself to to get a domain, and that a witch can use as a patron, but not an actual deity) and makes for some nasty NPC devotees. The sewer druid is a variant blight druid whose abilities (mainly sewer stride) work extremely well on a ship, as well as (I would imagine) in a sewer. The rogue talents and one of the rage powers are awesome, though the "roach run rage" rage power is only good for wererat on wererat action. Feats were all sewer specific, so I didn't try them out (i changed feats on the NPCs that used these), they seem ok for sewer based NPCs, but very niche specific.

A few of the spells are basic, almost copy and paste from Paizo. Detect lycanthropes is just detect undead for a different creature type, detect vermin even says it functions as detect animals and plants except that it detects vermin, and hide from vermin is a modified hide from animals. Forced transformation is a potentially useful debuff against a lycanthrope in hybrid form, though I think it might do better as a close range spell rather than touch, since (IMHO) if the caster is in melee with a hybrid and can cast a touch spell on it, your tank isn't doing his job. I hope to be able to use the lunar memory spell on a player one day. Read the spell and see why (hint: it only works on afflicted lycanthropes).

After spells, we get some magic items of various levels of usefulness. The amulet of control is great and addresses one of my complaints with lycanthropes: both natural and afflicted lycanthropes are CR +1 templates, but afflicted lycanthropes have to burn a full round action to change shape, and might not even change at all if they fail their con check (wasting the full round), making shifting from human to hybrid form actually a very bad tactical choice once combat has started. The amulet makes an afflicted wererat almost as much of a threat as a natural wererat (minus the chance of infection) by shortening the time it takes to transform. I also like that it specifies that it doesn't help afflicted lycanthropes resume human form during the full moon. Overall great item. On the other hand, the next item, Filth Fever Flail, needs a little work. The price/cost does not match up, and the 1d3 days onset time for the disease makes it less useful in combat (I would like to see it work more like contagion with immediate onset). The hand of inglory seemed really weird at first, but then I read the Drinala Greentail NPC...more on that in a moment. Last is roachmusk, very cool concept, but it's technically alchemical, not magical.

Next up are a group of four stat blocks for lesser npc wererats. The stat blocks themselves are fantastic, giving separate blocks for human, hybrid, and (unlike Paizo's bestiary) animal forms. These make it worth the money to me right there. There are some sample npc personalities in this section, but nothing major. The personalities don't seem to have anything connecting them into a "tribe," so if I were looking to use this to populate the sewers of a city with an underground culture, I would probably find the sample NPCs lacking in that respect. If you want to change these over to the crew of a wererat infested ship, each of them uses one of the sewer specific feats, so just change that to something like Sea Legs, and switch out a skill for profession sailor (I traded out intimidate, bluff, ride, and craft alchemy, in order of the stat blocks given). Other sewer-friendly skills like acrobatics, climb, and swim, are also ship friendly, so the stat blocks required almost no modification. The stat blocks put skills in different places from Paizo, and that took some getting used to, but it didn't really slow things down.

Last there are three "personas," very thoroughly detailed NPCs. I only used one of these characters for a stat block (McAdi the halfling rogue, who I used as the captain. I really wanted to use one of the characters from "Villainous Pirates" as captain, but I finally went with a ship fullllll of wererats.), and am saving the others for on land. Drinalla Greentail, the one handed witch monk bent on using the afore mentioned hands of inglory as a tool of her personal revenge, is awesome with a fantastic story, and I am thinking about using her as a plot point in the future. I would love to see how a paladin interacts with her. I'd actually like to see an official adventure featuring her, just reading her story makes me want to watch a certain monastery fall and burn. If I use her, I will certainly run her as a redeemable evil and award at least as much XP for helping/redeeming her as killing her. The last persona, a noble widow with a freakishly large pet roach (the main reason she didn't end up on the ship), could also be a lot of fun, though she's not nearly as sympathetic of a character.

Overall, I liked this book. The stat blocks get five stars for usefulness and thoroughness, and go even farther than the core Bestiary in providing everything you need to run these creatures. I'm not sure about some of the other parts. On one hand, it covers a lot of material and seems very thorough in providing at least a few wererat focused options in almost every field imaginable, from custom class features to new magic. On the other hand, it doesn't really establish a cohesive "tribe," and I think it would have been nice to see some more coordination and connected stories between the NPCs. There are also a couple small issues with content, like the filth fever flail. I'm torn on the rating...I really wish drivethrurpg had a 10 point rating system so I could give this 9/10, or a percentage system, so I could say 87.4232179%. Very useful, not quite as good as it could have been, but overall, I do recommend it.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wererats of the Roach-Run Sewers
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/14/2011 18:01:05
This pdf is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 2 pages editorial/ToC (including the rhyme/stanza almost ever RSP-product comes with –awesome!), 1 page to help novice DMs read the statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement and 1 page back cover, leaving 26 pages for the wererat-installment of the TRIBES-series, so let’s take a look at what we’ll get!

This pdf’s introduction to the tribe in question is a bit different, kicking off with a rather general approach to explaining wererats, before going into details on two sample families, the Greentail Brotherhood and house Tarmaine. As the introduction text, the lore-section offers information on wererats in general instead of specific information on the tribes. After this general introduction at hand, we get a concise page of sewer features and hazards that can serve to enrich any encounters in the damp darkness, not just ones with wererats. For your convenience, 6 encounters with patrols and the like ranging from EL 5 to 10 have been provided.

In the tradition of the customizable TRIBES-line, we of course get new material, prime of which should be considered “The Filth”, a kind of abstract deific concept of decay, grime and…well, filth. The Filthe provides a new domain/patron spell-list, two new granted domain powers centering on disease and a new hex to instantly active a dormant disease. A variant sewer druid with stench, disease and vermin-focus is also provided, though I would have loved to see a more complex archetype here. The arcanists can now obtain delightfully disgusting cockroach familiars. Surprisingly, the rogue talents (usually something rather hard do) are very cool – in animal form, wererats can meld stolen items into their forms, making for some rather cool potential scenes. The wererats also get two new rage-powers, which felt odd to me – they would have better suited some more martially inclined subset of lycanthropes. Instead, I would have loved some new mysteries for sewer oracles or even wererat inquisitors – after all, they are the most social lycanthropes, why not?

The battle feats that define the respective tactics of a given tribe are also back: 4 feats for wererats that range from bland “ignore bad terrain” to the average “Sewer Guerilla” which lets you ignore any cover of flatfooted foes while in the sewers (and has a punctuation error) to the very cool “Roach Trainer”-feat that enables you to treat a roach as if it had up to 6 tricks.
5 new spells are provided, but apart from “Lunar Memory” (forces you to remember time while transformed) I liked none of them: “Detect Lycanthrope” is another one of these pesky, stupid detect spells that slow down game and should not exist: In a world with this spell, infiltration by lycanthropes is practically impossible, as it’s only lvl 2. The same goes for “Forced Transformation”, which hits another pet peeve of mine and is just a cheap cop out for the players of mystery adventures centering around e.g. wererats.“Detect Vermin” suffers not from this infiltration problem, but is still superfluous in my opinion.

The next section of the book details new magic items, including the filth fever flail (that gets its own artwork) and the hand of inglory, a minor semi-cursed brother to the hand of glory. My favorite item, though, is the alchemical Roachmusk that makes roaches friendly and helps training them.
The amulet of control though is not my cup of coffee – it helps the owner prevent change when he/she is an infected lycanthrope. While I’m glad the amulet does not prevent change altogether, it’s still a certain kind of item I don’t absolutely need in my game. All the items come with the lore-sections that can by now be considered part of the excellent RSP-standard.

Introducing the crunch-section, we get a page devoted to the distinction between natural lycanthropes, afflicted ones, what happens to slain ones etc., a lycanthrope abc so to speak.

Next up are the statblocks and as just about every DM knows – Lycanthropes need three of them and this book provides: We get Sewer Savages (Barbarian 4, with 2 sample RSP-NPC treatments), Sewer Shamans (Druid 4, with two names and RSP-NPC-treatment, i.e. sample hooks, mannerisms, etc.), Sewer Thieves (Rogue 3, again with two extensive NPC-infos to put names of the stats). More interesting, though than the other NPCs, is the sewer trainer (Ranger 3, 1 sample personality, includes trained giant cockroach and riding cockroach).

Of course, we also get sample personalities: Dinala (monk2/witch 5) is a one-handed wererat that looks after the orphans of the city and seethes with rage for a monastic order that took her hand when she was a child. Her plan to use inglory hands to this end rocs and makes for one of the best, most engaging backgrounds that may well see the PCs allied with her rather than as her primary foes. A great lesser-of-two-evils plotline waiting to happen!
The next NPC, Mkadi Litabou, an Halfling con-artist (rogue 8) of the most devious kind is another prime example for one of the most detailed and well-written NPCs in the line as of yet, almost on pat with e.g. Villains II.
On the other end of the social scale, Lady Ladonna Tarmaine (rogue 4/cleric 5), a decadent aristocratic devotee of Filth has managed to create a huge CR 9 cockroach abomination – iconic and cool.

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no glitches or errors and the writing is concise. Layout adheres to the easy-to-read, elegant b/w-two-column standard set by RSP. The pdf comes in a regular version and one optimized for use with e-readers and both are bookmarked. The b/w-artworks adhere to the high standards we’ve come to love in RSP-pdfs.

With regards to the content:
Two hearts, alas, are beating in my breast, the one is foul, the other blessed. When I started reading this pdf, I was confused – usually, we are introduced to a distinct tribe of creatures, a conglomeration of being, that, while belonging to a race, is distinct in location, customs and personalities. In this installment, we get basic information on the race, lycanthropes in general etc. While I can see that novices might benefit from this very basic approach, I think it suffers from it as no true immersion into the customs happens. The feats, while nice don’t portrait a coherent force either, but rather feel like some general feats for sewer-dwellers. The spells and items were of varying quality, at least for me, and especially the implications of the former in any game should be carefully considered by the DM. Only one item got its representation in a piece of artwork, which is less than in previous installments of the series. On the other hand, this is a LONG pdf for the price. The new archetypes and modifications of the base-classes felt nice, though I still maintain that without a significant tribal backdrop to explain it, the barbarians are somewhat out of place.

By the time I reached the statblock-section, I was utterly underwhelmed by this offering. Thankfully, the statblock-section offers an innovation I love: While former offerings of the series have provided a lot of general statblocks for the unnamed rank and file troops of a tribe, this one also provides some sample hooks, mannerisms and names to optionally customize these stats into named NPCs –awesome idea! I hope that this cool innovation will continue to be implemented in future releases. The named NPCs thankfully also rock hard and thus provide a nice balance to the first part of the book and where the first part fails in my opinion, the second triumphantly succeeds, proving the potential of author Landon Bellavia. Thus, while I loved the second part of the book, I could scavenge not that much from the first part and never had the impression of reading a book on a tribe, much less two, but rather a collection of material loosely tied by a theme, which is a pity - the NPC-write-ups prove that the author CAN weave interesting narrative themes together and knows how to make compelling characters. Had this knowledge also been applied to the “TRIBE” to weave a cohesive tale of two interwoven cabals of wererats instead of milling again through the basics of what wererats are, I would have rated this higher. This lack of focus, in combination with the spells that might spoil lycanthropes in your campaign and the mostly rather bland feats, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
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