For Paizo adventure path enthusiasts, this probably isn't news. The new Iron Gods Adventure Path is completely focused on the land of Numeria, a territory defined by a spaceship crash long ago during an event known as the “Rain of Stars.” The ship was huge and scattered all sorts of materials: sky metals (adamantite); gray goo (nanites); mechanical people (androids); guns that shoot fire (lasers); strange materials that make you sick (radiation); you name it. This campaign setting beautifully expands upon the setting of Numeria and provides new rules, creatures, and setting fluff for establishing this technological world or for running your own fantasy/science fiction hybrid game.
The first section is Numeria/Golarion specific, focused on the setting itself. First off, Numeria is huge. Divided into four primary areas, each with half a dozen locations such as towns or abandoned ruins worth visiting. There's a lot here. While I personally found the extensive history a bit long and dull, the details on the lands and cities themselves are useful, providing plot hooks for enterprising PCs, layover points from the bigger adventures, and the Gazetteer grants a general feel for the sorts of strangeness that can be found in Numeria.
Plots & Perils
This is where the real meat of Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars lies. The first subsection focuses on unique diseases and environmental conditions in a high-technology game. From acid rain to radiation to EM fields to gravity effects, this book covers all the science fiction sorts of environments an adventuring party is likely to encounter. I'm especially happy with how both the radiation and gravity effects are handled. What could be rather complex ideas are seamlessly fit inside of the Pathfinder rules set with little adjustments needed and without feeling like they have no effects either. Radiation can be lethal or damaging in a hurry but can be removed by magic while gravity provides opportunities for unique combats in settings that have higher, lower, or a complete lack of gravity.
Not content to stop with a Bag of Holding full of cool environmental effects, the “Plots and Perils” chapter introduces the idea of Numerian Fluids, a strange group of chemicals with addictive properties that can encourage mutation in a drinker. Given this is might be the equivalent of drinking engine coolant or preserved alien blood, for all anyone knows, the effects vary drastically and reminds me a lot of drawing from a Deck of Many Things. Yeah, there are some really good results or mutations that could develop by drinking Numerian Fluids, but there's a lot that could cripple or kill a character in horrible, terrifying ways that makes anyone who goes down this path truly desperate. And, due to the addictive nature, once someone has their first taste, there's a good chance they'll be coming back for more.
While the city materials didn't grab my full attention in the “Gazetteer,” the profiles on the major players of Numeria: The Kellid barbarian tribes and the Technic League are awesome. Paizo has set up a classic nature vs. technology struggle here. Each of the Kellid tribes has a distinct feel and not all of them fit the traditional “barbarian” stereotypes. It's the Technic League, though, that is far more interesting, fitting the idea of a “Technomage” comfortably. The Technic League's goals and organization are fully detailed and provide a perfect nemesis for an ongoing campaign set in Numeria.
And then, this wonderful, detailed section gives us “Adventuring Sites.” Personally, I find the idea of a small, barebones, detailed plot hook far more useful as a GM than a fully outlined adventure, and this book is full of them, from an undead giant trapped beneath the earth to a virtual holodeck that traps people inside and forces them to act out complicated scenarios.
Fitting hand in hand with the “Adventuring Sites,” Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars ensures GMs who don't pick up Iron Gods aren't left without any appropriate new baddies to throw at their players. The Bestiary details alien creatures escaped from their cages, a variety of robotic threats, barbarians, nanites, mutants, and even several fantasy style NPCs who have adapted to the strange world they find themselves in.
Given, as always, that there's too much in a Paizo book to talk about everything, I'm going to highlight my three favorite things.
1.) Castle Urion: All three of these picks could easily be entries from the “Adventuring Sites” section of the book, but to avoid overloading things or spoiling too much, I'm going to go with just one. Castle Urion is a fortress for paladins, given to them by the Technic League. The Castle guards the border leading to the demonic Worldwound. Recently, the paladins have run across some invaluable technology that could turn the tide of the war against the demons of the Worldwound. Technology that, according to their agreement, should be turned over to the Technic League. As both sides maneuver against the other, we have a game of politics here, threatening to quickly devolve into war over a situation that could affect all of Golarian. Add to that a group of paladins who are struggling against their very nature. Do they serve the greater good or the order of law?
2.) Mutants: Listed in the Bestiary, mutants are a brand new template filled with beneficial mutations and deformities that make these creatures truly stand out from one another. From blind mutants with sonar to multi-armed, but mindless, mutants to spasming, but regenerative, mutants, there's a lot of variety here for GMs to craft their own unique monstrosities.
3.) Gravity: High gravity, low gravity, or no gravity, each situation changes up the rules of physics, affecting movement speed, projectile distance, encumbrance, and so on. Paizo's solution to detailing each of these effects is simple and yet leaves little uncovered. What GM doesn't want to run an Ender's Game-style zero-G battle?
For more information on Numeria, Land of Fallen Stars and to pick up the book yourself, visit Paizo's listing of it on their website.
Five Barbarian Androids out of Five