Book of Beasts: Witch Codex – RPG review
This installment of the Book of Beasts-series focusing on NPC Codex-style NPCs clocks in at 26 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of advertisement, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page of back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my supporters.
Okay, as usual, we begin with a brief introduction before diving into the respective NPC stats; the focus, for the most part, lies on the statblocks, though, like in the NPC Codex, there are a few instances where the statblock is followed by a brief sample NPC personality and potential roleplaying advice for said named NPCs. The rationale here is clever: Essentially, statblocks that do not take up enough room use the extra space to deliver this bonus content of sorts; conversely, this means that these entries mainly show up between the extremes of the level-range.
Book of Beasts includes a total of 20 statblocks, one for each level, thus spanning CRs from ½ to 19. A significant plus as far as I’m concerned: there are no derivative statblocks in the supplement, so you won’t see one statblock at CR 1, and a mildly-modified/scaled version of the same statblock at CR 5; instead, each of the builds actually is independent, which is a great thing as far as I’m concerned. It’s also nice to see that base statistics are included in the builds, as is a proper tactics section.
Beyond this show of genuine passion and care, the supplement also features another aspect I very much enjoy seeing: This book makes full good of PFRPG’s extensive book canon: Ultimate Wilderness, Ultimate Intrigue, and, of course, the older hardcovers (excluding, interestingly, Occult Adventures, pretty much my favorite PFRPG 1e hardcover by Paizo), which helps diversify the content presented in a significant manner. The builds actually represent this broad focus in more than one way: The CR ½ Coven Aspirant, for example, has chosen Defiant Luck, with the spellbook including snowball.
At CR 1, we have a goblin tribal cursecaller, with corresponding low Wisdom and Charisma, and a spell-selection that includes aphasia and mudball. I really enjoy seeing builds like this. Why? Because PF1e, in some of its best moments, uses mechanics to underline the story and flavor of a creature or NPC, generating this cool mutual reinforcement between rules and flavor.
Of course, there also is a rather significant diversity between patrons chosen for the various witches. The CR 2 clandestine practitioner, for example, has the ancestry patron, while the CR 3 draconic debilitator uses the occult patron; the kobold uses the hex channeler archetype, and with flame-retardant outfit and two different grenades, the fellow feels radically different from any builds after and before it.
Need an arcane skirmisher with hit-and-run capabilities? What about a CR 4 grippli using the woodlands patron and blowgun and Opening Volley? Yeah, cool build. At CR 5, we have a hedge witch (with a super-minor cosmetic hiccup: The correctly formatted archetype is listed twice in brackets; does not influence integrity of statblock) that pretty much is a take on the white witch trope; nice!
A dwarf brewing specialist has sensible feats: Brew Potion, Brewmaster, Ironguts…you get the gist; the rules complement the concept; same e.g. for the CR 7 changeling sea witch with a tidal theme, blending “stormy” aggressive and defensive options, resulting in a we—rounded build, including Brilliant Spell Preparation and a properly reserved slot. NICE. In fact, that is probably one of the things I enjoy most about these NPC builds: I can see these characters actually existing in the game world; they make sense.
Need a dhampir caster with a serious vampire mage angle? You can find it here. A sylph with a hard and soft terrain control angle themed around mobility and a theme of mists and air magic? Included. A tiefling with a seduction/enchantment theme? Yep. Want a witch who, spell-wise, cleaves closer to the wizard, representing arcane schooling? Included herein. Want a hermit with a subdued dark fey/thorn angle? You can find ne in this pdf. With the bonded witch archetype and deception as a patron, we have a CR 13 half-elf that makes for a good take on the arcane thief/heist-specialist. The ratfolk skin changer would do skaven proud, with a blend of transmutations & plague-based magic.
The book also includes an evil monarch build focused on domination and vengeance, supplemented by full-blown battle magics, and, on the other side of the spectrum, the most potent witch herein masquerades as a shepherd…and if you cross them, you may end up as a goat…
One of my favorite builds in a while: Fetchling gravewalker 17 that has a spell-selection based primarily on necromancy, with darkness and debuffs plus clever selection of hexes and supplemental options, making this witch a threat in regular combat, but also a surprisingly efficient serial killer style adversary. A genuinely cool villain build that made me come up with a neat adventure outline.
Editing and formatting are excellent on a formal and rules-language level; well done! Layout adheres to a two-column full-color standard, with a black border, and the pdf includes a blend of new full-color artworks and classic stock art pieces. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Richard Moore delivers, big time, in this NPC-Codex-style offering; the builds are versatile, make sense in-game as persons, and still retain a wide variety of tricks that make them mechanically viable for the respective focus of the build. The pdf does everything right that I’d want here: The builds are versatile and varied; they make use of a ton of options and provide a blend of straight and rather out there builds, and all without compromising the viability of the respective statblock as a representation of a character actually existing in-game. Heck, when a statblock makes me come up with a module structure? Yeah, awesome.
This is 100% worth the low asking price and stands as an excellent representation of a damn fine NPC Codex-style book.
Final verdict? 5 stars + seal of approval. Want a selection of diverse and cool witch statblocks? Get Book of Beasts. Heck, this might be worth getting even if that’s not what you’re actively looking for.