By Thilo Graf
This installment of the 100% Crunch-series is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page advertisement, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 1 page advice for novice GMs on how to read statblocks, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 24 pages of content, so let’s check this out!
As with other installments in the series, we kick off with a table that lists the respective creature- stats by CR and also mentions some of the peculiarities associated with determining CRs for templates creatures like zombie lords before we get the zombie lord template and after that, the signature mini-templates to further add versatility to the template. Ranging from CR -1 to CR +2, we get a total of 14 different mini templates – all of which with one exception you’ll know from 100% Crunch: Zombies. Alchemical zombie lords, those acting as hosts to insects etc. are part of the deal, but e.g. the akata-spawned void zombies, yellow musk creeper zombies have no representation among the zombie lords – pity! Modifying the templates with some aberrant mutated one would have been awesome. Druid zombie lords with plant companion creepers could have been nasty indeed…
The new simple variant is the Mudra zombie, which adds more arms to the respective zombie lord. Worse, the ineptly-named magus-variant again makes a return – all my complaints about its nomenclature remain intact – for a longer rant, check my review of 100% Crunch: Skeleton Champions. (And since this was brought to my attention: I KNOW that the Magus-title is canon, official etc. – but I still consider it a glaring f***-up by Paizo, who should definitely know better.)
Per se, these variants are nice options, though e.g. granting archer-feats, armour-proficiencies imho does not necessarily need to be included as template variants for a template that presumes intelligent base creatures with class levels and would have been better used for unique variants.
Two of the complex zombie variants, the fast and plague zombie, are also reprinted from 100% Crunch: Zombies. No new complex variant templates in this installment either.
After that, we’re off to the selection of statblocks – at CR 2, we e.g. get a dwarf fighter 1, a goblin rogue 2, a hobgoblin fighter 1, a human cleric 2 – so far, so bland. But we also get a merfolk and a sahuagin zombie lord, which is neat indeed. Thankfully, in contrast to the book on skeletal champions, there is more variety herein – monks, adepts, warriors, oracles etc. mean that there is more variety in here regarding base classes.
Where the pdf thankfully completely outshines the Skeletal Champions-pdf is in its variety of base-races: Aberrant bloodline driders, 6-armed harpy oracles, rakshasas, dhampirs, stone giants, young green dragons, aboleths and even babaus complement more standard races like multi-classed elves, infernal tiefling sorcerors, gnoll rangers or straight, level-less ettin zombie lords, resulting in a much more balanced offering than the one on skeletal champions, offering a nice selection of the common and the weird. Personally, I would have loved to see more APG/UM/UC-non-lich-candidate-classes used in the builds, but at least the oracle sees some action.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s elegant two-column standard and the 2 pieces of b/w-artwork are nice. The pdf comes in two versions, one optimized for the screen-use and one to be printed out. The pdfs also come fully bookmarked.
Huhum. This pdf is a weird one to review for me – on the one hand I’m still bugged about the lack of intriguing new variants that set the zombie lord further apart from the run-of-the-mill zombies. I’m also sort of bugged at the lack of cavaliers (come on – fast zombie cavalry is hard-core!) and relative lack of support for non-core classes. However, at least we get some support for the oracle and e.g. getting a jackalwere zombie lord ROCKS.
On the one hand, much like the issue on skeletal champions, this pdf wastes a chance to improve the base template with unique options and has some massive overlap with the issue on zombies. On the other hand, the base-creatures used are much more versatile and interesting, making this pdf, at least for me, much more usable.
In the end, the installment is superior to Skeletal Champions, but fails to live up to the massive potential a collection of zombie lord stats could have had. Being better than the issue on skeletal champions, but imho worse than the one on liches, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded down to 3 for the purpose of this platform.
100% Crunch: Zombie Lords is available from: