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Review: The Grudgebearer by J. F. Lewis

GrudgebearerThe members of the race called the Eldrennai have pointed ears and live a long time. They created a race of warrior slaves called the Aren and then they crafted a plant-like race called the Vael, who were designed to appeal to the Aren. The main reason behind the creation of the Arens was to defeat a race of magically resistant lizard people named the Zur. The Eldrennai held the Aren captive for thousands of years, forcing them by oath and magical compulsion to serve their whims and fight their battles for them. All this was just fine for the Eldrennai until the Sundering, when the Aren rose up and fought for their freedom.

Now, after the Sundering, all three races meet every century for the Grand Conjunction to renew their peace treaty. This novel takes place six hundred years after the Sundering. Kholster the Aren is still the first of the original one hundred Aren created and still the leader of his people. He has not forgotten the shackles of slavery placed on him by the Eldrennai and has vowed an oath to kill every Eldrennai who was alive during the Aren enslavement. Kholster has also vowed to attend the Grand Conjunction to listen to the peace overtures of the Eldrennai. This conjunction is different since an Eldrennai prince has broken the treaty by unearthing sentient suits of Arenese armor that were sealed away as terms of the treaty. With yet another oath broken by the Eldrennai, Kholster must find a way to protect his people and fulfill his own oaths, even if it costs him everything.

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Collection of Curiosities: On the Cultists’ Altar

"Jiro the Kobold" by Pat LoboykoAfter the adventurers deal with the cultists, or when they stumble upon a more benign sacred area, it’s time to explore the area. You can roll randomly for a result below, use the handy number provided with each entry to figure out your result on a d12. You can also pick the one that works for the area in which your characters currently linger.

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Southlands: Favorite Player Options

Genie Shaitan Matt BulahaoThe assagi stabbing spear…Aeromancers exchanging their spells for air-themed powers…werelions!…animal hide armors…zebra mounts…the huge elemental companions of the Tamasheq paladins…the Kijani, a playable race of symbiotic plants…tactical feat trees of the Narumbeki Legions…the bounty of poisons and medicinal plants of the Living Jungle of Kush…

The Southlands project has generated an amazing slate of player options. We have new equipment, magic items, feats, traits, spells, archetypes, races, spell systems, and, of course, monsters to battle. We constantly oscillate in a pattern of obsession about each and every player option when discussing how it fits into the setting and cultures around it. Our goal has been to make each one more intriguing than the one before, but also to make them appropriate for the region. When you start digging into a manuscript as big as Southlands, though, you’re bound to have a couple of favorites.

Right now, we’re particularly excited about a few player options. For instance, Brian loves…

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Monster Mondays: Funeral Pear

MonsterMondaysThere was supposed to be a great battlefield here. Instead you find a still forest. Rusty pikes lean against its sturdy trunks. A man approaches. His flesh hangs loose, like well-worn clothing on a rough frame. From atop a nearby tree, the wind whistles through an ancient skull.

Living Monuments

After a great battle, the damage to the land can be considerable. Poisoned rivers, charred fortresses, and diseased fields are difficult locales for the natural order to reassert itself. When the land needs a little help, the followers of certain nature icons are known to plant funeral pears to retain the balance.

Funeral pears inhabit the bodies of fallen soldiers, growing woody humanoid frames to fill their hosts. The resulting parasitic masses appear to be shambling warriors until fast-growing spines pierce their supple, pear-fertilized flesh. The pears use their new bodies to remove offending elements from the battleground. They leave small memorials of the event. It is unknown whether this is because the funeral pears’ creator wished to communicate the price of war, or because the spiritual remnants of the soldiers retain slight control.

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Real Steel: Throwing Knives

Throwing KnivesDaggers, darts, and staffs. That was your choice of weapons when you rolled that level 1 mage with 1 hit point and one sleep spell way back when. Many of us chose the dagger or darts (more on darts and spikes another time) because they can be thrown and keep that single hit point out of melee.

The Bad News

Unfortunately, in the real world, throwing knives aren’t very effective. It’s hard to get enough force behind the point to get any real penetration, and it’s very hard to get it to hit point first without knowing the distance to the target. I’m not a physicist (maybe a physicist or an engineer can pipe in?), but it seems that too much energy is lost to angular momentum. And the spin works against you at every turn.

The good news is that gamers don’t care. We’ll make it work.

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