This massive compilation of all Carrion Crown-plug-ins clocks in at 256 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/SRD, 1 page ToC, 1 page dedication/backer-list, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive, huge250 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?
This book was moved up on my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a hardcover for the purpose of an honest and fair review.
So, after a collection of nice introductions by the authors, we dive right into the material presented, so let’s begin a short recap, shall we? The carrion crown plug-ins were not only Legendary Games’ first line of products – they also, to me, remain one of the most interesting product-lines due to a variety of factors. Of course, over the inception of the line, a variety of feats, class abilities and archetypes have been provided – and, as befitting of a compilation, e.g. the feats now do sport a massive table, rendering the organization pretty simple on the GM. The details of the respective class options covered herein have all been analyzed by yours truly in my various reviews of the respective constituent files, so please consult those for the details.
That being said, the Gothic Campaign Compendium’s organization paradigm regarding the respective components obviously also extends to the variety of spells compiled from within the respective plug-ins.
In case you do not want to look up all those individual reviews of mine, here’s the tl;DR-version: While there are admittedly some feats in here that I’d consider at best flavorful and less worthwhile, the vast majority of the content provided can be deemed at least very good – and in several cases, downright excellent. Whether it’s spells to create and control mutants or feats that let you exert your will over your underlings, the diversity provided is significant and, most importantly, the actual crunch, more often than not, manages to inspire – and that is, to me, the most important quality.
The means by which the series originally managed to captivate me more than the sum of its parts in the respective installments would have managed, ultimately, boils down to a simple, yet genius practice: Grimoires. Know how nothing is as boring as finding a spellbook in the treasure heap? One should be excited, but isn’t. To me, this has always been frustrating, especially when fiction abounds with legendary, awesome books that essentially are characters of their own – whether it’s the Necronomicon, the Agrippa or Von Unaussprechlichen Kulten – every horror-fan knows the books of evil containing forbidden lore – often, at the cost of the reader’s sanity and powerful and compelling enough to constitute the angles of whole campaigns, if desired. Now the Gothic Grimoire-series took exactly this concept and translated it into a formula of truly astounding grimoires that not only come with an extensive background story and a detailed appearance, but they also provide benefits and unlock unique class options and benefits characters can tap into.
Let me give you an example – “On the Inverse Calculus of Unseen Refraction” would be a tome written in phantom fungus spores, with a special lens attached – containing cutting-edge alchemical studies that deal with invisibility etc., it is written in naturally invisible ink and offers means to generate invisible bombs, turn physically invisible etc. – but all at a risk, as the tragic and madness-laden history of the book suggests. Studying the books can grant access to these tricks, yes, and the grimoires are lavishly-rendered in gorgeous artworks. However, at the same time, they utilize the new mythos-descriptor, which codifies potentially madness-inducing spells and effects in concise terms and provide a nice list of suggested spells and abilities available.
Alas, this does not hold true in all grimoires – indeed, while almost all grimoires do feature specific contents enumerated for your convenience, this does not hold true for e.g. the “Inverse Calculus” – here, the content reads “This encyclopedic reference contains the methods for mastering an unusual metamagic as well as six alchemist discoveries and 15 spell and extract formulae, eight of which are unique to this tome.” – I do not object to a certain degree of customization, but I still maintain that properly listing the information contained herein would help using the pdf – when in the original pdf, it was clear that all content in the pdf was contained in the book, the respective class options etc. are now in the chapters containing them, thus rendering this particular grimoire slightly harder to use. Now granted, this does not render any content unusable, but it is a slight comfort detriment in my book. Personally, I also would have loved to see suggested means of esoteric destruction for all of the grimoires, but ultimately that’s just me being spoiled – I absolutely love the concept and wished it had been expanded to AP-plug-in-series beyond Jade Regent, which at least got one pdf containing such awesome (non-mythos) tomes.
Speaking of awesome – one should not fail to mention that the superb, strange and awesome critters introduced over the course of the plug-ins also feature herein, but in a particular interesting take, there is a special practice to be observed here – for one, the gorgeous one-page full-color artworks can be considered to be rather inspired – their layout alone on a page also means you can reproduce the artworks for the critters as handouts. Those critters that do have some rules-text on the page of their artwork can be found in the appendices – where perforated pages makes it possible to just extract the player-friendly versions of the maps provided for the modules and pregen stand-up figures.
The pregens from the Gothic Heroes supplement have obviously been included and so have the modules to insert in the pdf. On a nitpicky side, I’m not 100% sure why the modules have not been organized by their levels – the lower level “Fiddler’s Lament” can be found after “Feasting of Lanterngeist”, a decision for which I could not find a feasible explanation.
But I would be failing hard if I failed to mention the rules for both insanity and forced chirurgery/mad science – the rules-frames provided here are solid and easy to grasp and should provide a great addition to a given game that features the gothic horror tropes. Of course, the iconic items featured in Legendary Games very first supplement, the “Treasury of the Macabre”, can also be found within these pages, making this pretty much a whole package deal.
Editing and formatting are very good – while I noticed a minor italicization glitch and the like here and there, the level of aptitude shown here is pretty impressive, especially for a book of this size. Layout adheres to an absolutely stunning, yet easy to read two-page full-color artwork with a huge array of original full-color artworks provided. The cartography is nice and the inclusion of player-friendly maps, especially ones that can easily be extracted from the book, is awesome.
Now regarding the hardcover of this book – it is stitch-bound, sports the name in elaborate letters on the spine and uses high-quality, glossy paper – this book is both beautiful and made to last and since I received it, I’ve been using it and carrying it around for quite a while and the book seems to take the abuse from my backpack quite well, so yes, a high-quality tome.
Now take a look at the authors: Jason Nelson, Greg A. Vaughan, Clark Peterson, Neil Spicer, Clinton J. Boomer – you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the content herein is high-quality and in a significant array of instances, utterly inspired.
The question going through your mind right now is an obvious one – should you get this? Well, the answer is a complex one, ultimately. Personally, I am a huge fan of printed books – I print all my pdfs since my reading is simply more precise and more enjoyable for me once I have the haptic feedback of raffling through pages. Now having a gorgeous hardcover goes A LONG way for me, so if you’re similarly bibliophile-inclined, then, yes, the answer is simple – this is a gorgeous book and well worth its place among all my gothic horror toolkits and supplements. The content is great as well. At the same time, should you already have all the pdfs, it really depends on whether you want to get this tome – unless, as mentioned before, you want the beautiful print. That being said, this is still a glorious compilation with just a few minor oversights and glitches that slipped through the cracks – and in the end, it is worth a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.