By Thilo Graf
This instalment of the TRIBES-series from Raging Swan Press is 22 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside front cover, 3 pages of introduction/SRD/editorial featuring creatures by CR and another short poem/song for recital by a bard, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving 14 pages of content for Thanegar and his horde, so what are we up to?
Thanegar is lord over a ragtag band of goblins, bugbear and human misfits, a rather petty group for such a grandiose epithet as horde, the introduction with its lore-section already included serve to set the mood before the instalment goes on to show us the crunchy statblocks. From CR 1 rank-and-file goblin warriors (level 3), goblin skirmisher rangers (level 5, CR 4) to goblin wolfkeepers (ranger 6, CR 5), including stats for horde wolfs, the small goblinoids all come with sideboxes to make individual characters out of the general statblocks as well as a sample encounter.
The CR 5 bugbear shock-troopers (rogue 2/barbarian 1) also come with a sample encounter and a sample name to make an individual character of the creature. The human thugs (fighter 3/ rogue 3) among Thanegar’s servants also come with a sample character-box and a sample encounter.
The horde also comes with 5 sample NPCs, all of which get the excellent Raging Swan Press-NPC-treatment, complete with pieces of information on hooks, mannerisms, distinguishing features etc. We are introduced to sociopathic bugbear assassin Bertilak (ranger 2, assassin 3), the horde’s arrogant half-elf spy Dhaeris the Cad (bard 8, CR 7), Gheldorwhik, the deadly goblin sniper (rogue[sniper] 7, CR 6) and the infernally-tainted dhampir-sorceress Eranil make for a rather interesting social microcosm as well as cool NPCs. Thanegar himself, the crippled half-orc battle-oracle (who gets a neat artwork) (level 9, CR 8) is an interesting multi-faceted NPC – making a foe of the PCs both pathetic and intimidating is hard. To make you feel a tinge of sympathy for the depressed, crippled half-orc is even a greater achievement. Author Andrew J. Martin has a knack for writing lethargic, melancholia-ridden characters that, while despicable, still retain a deadly hate that makes them viable foes the PCs will strive to smite.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to RSP’s printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and offers us some nice pieces of artwork. The pdf is extensively bookmarked and comes with a screen-version optimized for use with e-readers. The writing is concise and this TRIBE feels special, being a ragtag band of goblinoids instead of an homogeneous group. Nevertheless, the horde, while ridden by internal strife and depression, still feels like an organic band of misfits. In the end, I don’t really have anything to complain about apart from the lack of explicit battle-tactics for encounters with the whole horde – after all, defending a village against a combined assault of Thanegar’s ragtag band might make for a compelling introduction to the TRIBE and I’d be interested to see the crippled half-orc’s escape plans – some additional content would have been nice here. This being not enough to rate down this instalment of the TRIBES-series, I’ll settle for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
A Necromancer’s Grimoire – Spirit Warriors is available from: