By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Jon Brazer Enterprises is 52 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 blank pages on the insides of the cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page advertisement and 1 page containing both SRD and editorial, so let’s check it out!
The first thing you’ll notice when checking this pdf out, is the ToC with the accompanying introduction on the first page, the extensive bookmarks and the clear and easy to read two-column layout. This book is a compilation and expansion of the kingdom building rules for PFRPG’s Kingmaker AP that makes the system more accessible for players. Due to probably not everyone owning the AP, I’ll try to sum up the rules as we go. Thus, let’s get to building our very own kingdoms!
The first 2 pages depict what is necessary to build a kingdom in the first place – exploration. After the concisely-written notes, we are introduced to the mechanics you need to run your kingdom – there are 4 phases in a kingdom’s turn, upkeep, improvement, income and event. Almost all checks are related to a single mechanic and the player’s decision, allowing for luck, skill and planning to determine and influence the success of a given kingdom. “But wait”, you might say – “what about all the players in my campaign?” Fret not, each can fill a role in the kingdom and both the kingdom building and regular roleplaying are important. Especially when taking a look at city building, the next section of the book, in which you’ll also find stronghold building guidelines and rules for the development of open spaces, the connections between PC- and Kingdom-level become fairly evident. Want an academy with scholars in your city? Well, buy one! Edicts and events add a spicey touch to the building of nations and finally, there’s the mass combat chapter in which the clash of armies, their equipment and special abilities, vassal armies etc. are detailed. Players in battle and the change from units to PCs and back is also mentioned along a selection of several sample armies.
On the rather-PC-centric-side, we get 17 feats mostly dealing with leadership and terrain-movement like swimming. For small armies of casters, we get so-called mass-combat spells, i.e. spells that can only be cast as long, huge rituals and subsequently be disrupted. Which, at least in my opinion, as a concept make for great instances when the PCs try to prevent the casting of a mass combat spell. There are some non-mass-combat spells here, too, just so you know. 🙂
Next up are two prestige classes, the devout healer, a healing-centered caster, the hidden sniper alternate ranger-archetype and the King’s Eye, the kingdom’s master-spies. There also are 2 pages of magic items, an exploration map, a kingdom sheet, a city district sheet, a sheet to keep track of notable NPCs and a mass combat army sheet. All the sheets are top-quality, easy to read and concisely presented.
Layout is clear, adheres to the two-column standard and serves its purpose. The b/w-artworks are ok, though nothing to write home about. Editing is ok – I only noticed 2 mistakes on all the pages and both were minor typos. I only noticed one formatting error, a case of two capital letters in the beginning of a sentence. If you’re reading this review, though, that’s not what sparks your interest, but rather whether you should buy this book. To cut a long rant short: If you’ve ever entertained the notion of your PCs owning a keep, expanding it, ruling and participating in the complex notions of politics rather than just be henchmen of rulers, this book is for you – the rules from kingmaker are concise, cool and easy to grasp, but hard to master. And this book actually delivers all you need, compiled into an easy-to-hand-out reference that will make it even easier for your players to understand the rules and immerse themselves in the great prospects of rulership That being said, the book unfortunately is not perfect – while it’s a great resource for kingdom & city building, the rules fall short when it comes to mass combat, at least in my opinion. Yes, they are good. Yes, they are necessarily abstract, but I’m spoiled by 3.5’s “Cry Havoc” and would have LOVED to see an expanded take on the rules and more content in that section – more spells, monster rules, more special abilities for the units etc. I realize that this complaint might be unfair, but it’s all that keeps me from all out declaring this the ultimate resource on kingdom & city building and mass combat. As it stands, I still love kingdom & city building and will continue to use my own rules for mass-combat. But that’s just my preference. What’s my final verdict, then? It’s a great book, but it could have been the reference in more than being just a reference guide, but rather THE reference. Combined with the few typos, I’ll settle for 4 stars and a hearty recommendation. Anyone who plans to run Kingmaker should get this for his/her players and the same holds true for anyone planning on having the PCs acquire a kingdom/city – for you this book is a must-have.
Book of the River Nations – Complete Player’s Reference for Kingdom Building is available from: