By Thilo Graf
This pdf from Zombie Sky Press is 23 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1/3 page credits, ½ page SRD, leaving 21 1/6 pages of content, so let’s check out the fey!
The second instalment of ZSP’s Fey-line threads an unconventional terrain in its first instalment, offering us Red Jack, a tragic kitsune, i.e. a fox spirit who unjustly was murdered and clawed his way back from the dead to exact terrible vengeance on his tormentors. Infiltrating a village, the kitsune that one day would become dread Jack managed to marry and impregnate a girl and live will her as a human husband, only to be found out on his daughter’s birth and promptly be burnt alive. After transcending death and a vicious spree of rage he has now become the lord of his own demesne and convinced that there is one being worthy of his love and devotion: Lady Death, to whom he pledged his service. But before I go on to elaborate on Jack, let’s briefly discuss his demi-plane-like demesne, the semi-sentient Strngle Grove that can create deadly carnivorous plants along and e.g features a gallows-like grove of vines as well as the monument to death and revenge Jack made of his erstwhile wife, the major artifact murder stone.
Having once been a kitsune, Jack’s pdf also includes a lot of fox-related fey-like creatures, beginning with Kitsune, who get both their own stats as well as information on how to use them as a player race. The Kitsune get -4 Str, +2 Dex, +2 Cha, small, 40 ft. movement, low-light vision, are quadruped, get scent, a bite attack, can substitute the power of their tails for spell components, get an alternate form and can take fox magic feats, but more on them later.
Next up are the ghost foxes, Red Jack’s twisted kitsune, trapped somewhere in between life and death. Ghost foxes come with their own one page +2CR template to enable you to create your own. Formatting-wise there’s a rather strange decision, though: The template separates the entry of the pipe-fox into two parts, making this particular statblock harder to read than it necessarily should be.
Wait, wait, wait…pipe-foxes? Yep, the iconic secret-mongers are represented in here as well and even get 2 statblocks, one CR 2 and a CR 13.
Red Jack’s daughter, the one link that makes the difference between the contemplative, calculating schemer and the bestial, red-hot angry killer he was after his transcendence, also gets her own fluff-section and artwork, though her stats will have to wait for a future publication.
Red Jack’s primary statblock is a dread beauty to behold: CR 27 and deadly beyond belief. Even his bloodthirsty alternate statblock (when losing the connection to Ren), at CR 23 still will challenge all but the most powerful of groups. Befitting a creature of its power, the quasi-undead kitsune fey-lord of course has a unique weapon, an oversized starball called death bloom, which makes both for a cool signature weapon and an awesome major artefact.
3 new fey subtypes are introduced, the kitsune, the quiddity and the yokai, making for more diversity in your home game. Especially the quiddity is a very, very cool concept.
9 Fox magic feats are presented to enhance the flair of the kitsune and related creatures, their availability depending on the level of the respective foxes via the count of their tails. From the ability to create extra-dimensional spaces, enhancing attacks, summoning foxfire (ranged fire/electricity touch attack sans save) to changing planes and creating illusory duplicates.
The Kitsune’s star balls are also given their paragraph of information and a new spell deals with a convergence of these items with other wondrous items. Finally, there is something I greatly enjoyed and that is a new incantation for Kitsune to leave their bodies and possess them.
The pdf comes in two versions, one b/w printer-friendly version and one gorgeous full-color version that will test the mettle of any color-printer. Layout in the full color version is just ravishingly beautiful, blue background and fine lines complement the stunning artworks that can be seen in most ZSP-books. The numerous illustrations just rock and both fluff and crunch are top quality. Editing is also top-notch, I didn’t notice a single mistake. The full-color version comes with full bookmarks, the b/w-version has none. Which brings me to the one weak point of this pdf, the formatting: The bookmarks are littered with unnecessary typos: there are 7 blank spaces in the middle of words too much and 2 closing brackets are missing. Furthermore, the last lines of the incantation seem to be in another font as the rest of the file. While these are only cosmetic blemishes, they did upset me a bit due to them being a) unnecessary and b) tarnishing an otherwise excellent book. On the content-side, I’m not entirely convinced whether the shape-changing Kitsune really should be a player race, alternate shape often being something I’m rather wary of, as is being quadruped or not bipedal. For those of you who always wanted to play a kitsune, this book has a lot to offer and DMs will cackle with glee at the sight of this malevolent, yet very striking take on a completely different kind of fey lord. My final verdict will be 4.5 stars, rounded down for the purpose of this platform.
Along the Twisted Way – Red Jack is available from: