An Endzeitgeist.com review
This revised expansion to the evocative Veranthea Codex-setting clocks in at 52 pages of content, 1 page of front cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 47 pages of content, so let's take a look!
We begin this expansion with a brief history of the veil. But what is the veil? The far North of Veranthea's oceans contain a colossal screaming maelstrom, a twisted wall of winds that stretches for as far as the eye can see. Most sane captains avoid the massive hazard, but time and again, the foolhardy and unfortunate are drawn into the veil...and those that survive find themselves in a region of scheming city states and pirates...think of the area basically as pirate country. A total of 4 greater landmasses can be found within this region, with the map featuring common routes. The mystical nature of the horrid storm are fully depicted - and traveling out of the region is a near suicidal attempt, as beyond the perpetual storm, the roaming reefs, made of a constructy components of chitin and sinew...and yes, there is some truth to the speculation of the storm, nay, the whole region, feeling a bit like a prison....for this is where the legendary mythic lich H'gal and his legions battle the puppetmen, constructs with an uncanny ability to infiltrate humanoid society, all in order to contain his greatest mistake, something even he could not undo...
A SIGNIFICANT improvement of the pdf over its previous iteration would be that it feels more organic, courtesy to the detailed elaboration on trade routes, how the trade interacts with the aquatic cultures and how the right of quarantine is enforced - in short - there is a bunch of new material that helps tie the disparate regions together - which represents a significant increase in the general sense of overall consistency this sourcebook offers - and yes, proper maps for the routes etc. are actually part of the deal.
Against the backdrop of this not-so-subtle shadow-war, we have settlements made of flotillas dubbed anchorages, one of which receives a full settlement statblock and some notable locations that generally are intriguing, but no map. Now onwards to the major geographic locations that move with this massive storm: The first of these would be the coldest, Polis Prime, which has a unique aesthetic of viking long-houses in the country meeting full-blown pseudo-democracy under the Misteria Conglomerate and its massive industrial complex - in the hands of a capable GM, this can be an intriguing backdrop indeed, with once again, a statblock for the metropolis and information on its quarters, but alas, no map or the like. A colony of trectyori exiles can also be found here (once again, with stats) and the technology featured within the region may well be the result of the adversary of H'gal, adding a magic vs. tech-angle to the whole proceedings.
Speaking of H'gal, the southwestern landmass is tied to his history; the deadlands, a wasteland deemed inhospitable until the successful settlement Gearingsport sprung up. This section, just btw., also introduces magnetite, a new material that treats weapons made from it...as though the user had spellstrike, usable Int-mod times per day. Oh, and it may hold touch spells for hours equal to the enhancement bonus, with a swift action activation. In the revised edition, this material has had its prices increased significantly - it is potent still, but for the high-powered gameplay Veranthea assumes, it makes sense. The section also mentions the disturbing blackblood plague...and guess what? The revised version now actually has proper stats for this most horrific of plagues. Kudos!!
The northeastern part of the Veil features tropical Caramballa, an archipelago where Port Balas provides the sufficiently Caribbean flair you may want...though there is the component of the sinister lurking behind the surface, as youngsters tend to suddenly leave for the jungles, never to return, to follow the mad whims of Carambal, the Last Irrational, a character previously statted and reprinted here. The details provided for the region also mention a Will-fortifying brew, and the revised version now sports a price for the draught. A note on the shadow war between H'gal and his mysterious mistake (I'm not spoiling the truth in this review) extending to beneath the waves make sense and we get a cool environmental hazard/trap at CR 15 - which would be even more amazing if it was formatted slightly better - white text over a full-color artwork in the background...not a fan from a layout-perspective. The pirate-county here would be Port Ciaro, once again fully statted.
The final region would be the Ostershain Isle, where rich soil provides food aplenty and a mercantile, stern enclave of mages rules. The order of the chambermages, with the secret of their prodigious power and their silent sentinel order or potentially anti-magic guardsmen certainly can be used as a nasty magocratic body of adversaries.
Now, as you may have noted, there is a very strong, high-concept leitmotif underlying the whole region - that of the conflict between H'gal and his mistake. The supplemental material further emphasizes that: H'gal's stats are reprinted alongside a cool trap, a nasty venom, a disease that covers your weapons with bleed-inducing blood (cool, but dangerous)...and we also get a cool new critter as well as stats for basically the end-game of the metaplot, which boils down to the PCs either using an intelligent doomsday device against a cthulhoid mecha or vice versa...or grow to mecha size themselves to duke it out with these threats...which is incredibly amazing and epic. The pdf also provides ample adventure seeds for your consideration. This, as a whole, makes the overall countries, ultimately, feel more alive.
After that, we are introduced to the Alterran race that spawned H'gal, now thoroughly revised: These guys get +2 Dex, +4 Int, -2 Con, -2 Cha (while still prone to being very potent, it is less lopsided than its previous iteration) and are monstrous humanoids with 30 ft. speed, darkvision 60 ft, stability, light blindness, +1 to Disable Device and Knowledge (engineering), plates that grant a +1 natural bonus to AC and a 1d4-talon attack that is now codified properly as a primary natural attack. Instead of darkvision and light blindness, they can gain +1 to Climb, replace the two skill bonuses with UMD and Knowledge (arcana) or gain a 1/day SP detect undead. To sum up - while I still am not the biggest fan of the base racial stats, the previous hiccups in craftsmanship have been completely cleaned up - kudos!!
Some alterrans replace their tinkering expertise with 1/day silent image, mending or obscuring mist (italicizations missing), while others lose the natural AC and reduce speed to 20 ft. ... for DR, which now, in the revised edition, sports an elegant scaling mechanism - kudos!! Another racial trait has also been nerfed, now increasing the miss chance granted by dim light to 30% instead, which is viable for the trade-off. Nice: We get a TON of favored class options for the race, covering the advanced class guide and occult adventures options, including a previously ambiguous wording that has been fixed and streamlined.
The race also receives two racial archetypes: The biojammer corsair for the magus, who gains a modified skill-list and a modified proficiency-list, which includes the armerrufe -basically a bio-engineered quasi-musket that targets touch AC and deals electricity damage. They slowly recharge and the wielder may recharge them quicker as a swift action, taking nonlethal damage when doing so. At 3rd level, the corsair gains an arm with such a weapon integrated into the arm, allowing the character to one-hand-wield the weapon, but leaves the weapon fully charged all the time for infinite blasting. 5th level nets Craft Biodevices, with only a +15% price increases and 11th level netting the feat a second time, eliminating the price-increase. 10th level allows them to survive in the starless void for up to 10 minutes per arcane pool point expended and the previously ambiguous action economy here has been cleaned up properly. Now what does the aforementioned feat do? Well, it is based on Knowledge (nature) and duplicates magical effects, but lets the item in question work in wild magic/no magic, but only up to 6th spell level. It must be integrated to some extent into a users body. Generally, a pretty decent feat...with some flavor, but honestly, I don't get why the mechanics here do not tie in with the technology rules that imho make more sense in that context...but that may just be me. (And yes, I'm aware of Veranthea's handling of the concept being different than that of the Tech-guide - but it's something to bear in mind.)
The second archetype would be the colonial outcast, who increases sneak attack damage dice when used in conjunction with talons to d8s, but other weapons instead use d4s. 3rd level nets +1 to Disguise, Intimidate and Sense Motive vs. humanoids, which increases by +1 at 6th level and every 3 levels thereafter, replacing trap sense. 4th level replaces the rogue talent (typo-level hiccup fixed) with the option to ignore up to 15 ft. of difficult terrain when using Stealth; 8th level and every 4 levels thereafter increase that range by +5 ft. The pdf also features more items: Chitin salve helps detect alterrans and increases an alterran's natural armor bonus, but at the cost of reduced movement. Ystill-grath nests are generally a cool item: A bio-mine that is really flavorful - and this revised edition has significantly improved the rules-language of the item. Big props indeed!
Beyond the aforementioned feats, one that adds a talon attack to grapples, one that adds a spedd lockdown while grappling and one that nets a climb speed for alterrans can be found. The pdf also features 3 magic items - an item to fly in space, a gauntlet that disperses goodberries to wounded wielders as well as a vat that may use greater restoration, disintegrate those inside and when used to destroy creatures, it helps retraining their tricks...pretty cool. 3 spells can also be found: Gene Thief lets you steal racial traits - but only lets you employ those that you could, limb-wise. The spell's language has been streamlined, clarifying now properly how it interacts with natural attacks that you could potentially have, anatomy-wise, but not regarding your features.. Perfect Integration immediately integrates a biodevice and stellar journey basically is the magic equivalent of a rocket drive, allowing for the passage into outer space.
The pdf concludes with 2 pages of random encounter-tables and the revised edition now also sports the Matoriksu - basically a magical anglerfish of monstrous size, previously released as a stand-alone teaser...and it is AMAZING. It is so big, it is less of a creature and more like an amazing adventuring environment, one that generates a horrid false reality for those it captures! The pdf presents the creature as basically a collection of several potential encounter-themes, hooks, etc., with DCs and the like provided as well...and in the hands of a proper GM, this can be one amazing offering indeed.
Editing and formatting has been SIGNIFICANTLY improved in version 2.0 - the new iteration works very well in these categories. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and, as with pretty much all of Mike Myler's books, there is A LOT of information on every given page, which makes the book pretty busy, but also chock-full. Artwork-wise, the pdf sports a blend of public domain and amazing full-color art and also offers some seriously nice maps of the region.The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience.
Nicholas J. Giebel's "Into the Veil" took a pretty serious beating from me in its first iteration. That being said, the book has improved in every single way in this revised 2.0-iteration. While, as a person, I don't agree with all design-decisions, there is a ton of cool material to be found herein and the craftsmanship aspects have improved significantly. Moreover, the revised edition feels very much like its own book - one of the worst aspects of the original was that the respective environments were not really connected - they felt like fragments - and the consistency of the region's structure, the interactions etc. have been greatly improved by the inclusion of the new content, by the elaborations and fine-tuning employed herein.
In short: The Veranthea-team has taken the criticism, ran with it, and the result is a thoroughly amazing, weird and wondrous regional supplement - whether you're looking for scavenging material or to run this region in its entirety, there will be stuff herein you'll adore. In short - the revised edition represents a significant step up regarding quality, consistency and also balance. Now, you should be aware that this is very much a high-light reel - this is not lavishly detailed, it paints its vision in broad strokes. But unlike its previous incarnation, the resulting picture now actually comes together. In short: This is a great, evocative, balls to the wall crazy setting. Some folks may want to nerf some aspects, but considering Veranthea's general assumed power-level, I am very happy with this revision. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars - pretty much worth getting for everyone who's looking for a creative, evocative high-fantasy naval environment!
[5 of 5 Stars!]