Let me preface this this review by stating that the old 3.X Scarred Lands setting was, in my estimation, the best setting to arise from those fabled days of yore. It had a really unique setting that seemed vaguely reminiscent of Greek/Roman mythology and had the most flavorful elements you could think of. The setting featured things like dragons made of ashes and hatred, a city of non-evil necromancers nestled against a dead volcano, a sea tainted by the foul blood of a chained titan, a lawful evil god of tyranny who seemed strangely reasonable, crystalline beings that sought to return reality to the formless nothing that existed before the titans, the Divine War between the gods and titans that scarred the mortal realm, and a city built around a giant mithril golem made by the god of paladins himself. Those halcyon days of sitting around and dreaming up new adventures for the setting are one of the things that I remember most fondly during my years of public school.
So, that long ramble aside, how does the updated version of my favorite campaign setting hold up to the old? The short answer is very well, actually. The long answer is that the setting still manages to capture the wonderful and unique feel of the Scarred Lands of yore despite having a few thematic changes. While I will not elaborate too much on these, I will touch on a point made by a previous reviewer, that some of the titanspawn races have heretics who have turned from their creators and joined the divine races in worship of the gods. Some of the serpentine Asaathi, Sutak, and ratlike Slitherin have abandoned the old ways of their people, the ways of the defeated and imprisoned titans, to forge a new destiny for themselves and their people. This is jarring to some people who wanted the races kept in an adversarial light within the setting. I view it as something that was probably necessary due to the changing times. I have been a part of the Pathfinder community since just a short time after it's conception and there is a rather large subset of both players and GMs/DMs who believe that every humanoid or monstrous humanoid race within the normal power range of PC-friendly races should be an option for players. Aside from that, it makes a great deal of narrative sense for a group of sapient beings with free will to look at an untenable situation and decide to take a smarter approach that will save their people.
Now onto the content! I will provide some broad brushes of each chapter and try to keep things much more concise than the previous paragraphs.
Chapter One is concise view of the history of Scarn, the gods and titans, and the basic geography of the world. It touches upon most of the very basic, essential parts of the Scarred Lands setting.
Chapter two focuses on the various PC-friendly races. Those races are the Asaathi (Serpentine titanspawn with a distinctly Japanese-style honor culture and who tend to blend martial and magical discipline), Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, Hollow Legionaires (The souls of warriors who were bound into their armor to finish their cause.), Humans, Ironbred, Manticora (Savage leonine humanoids who were the creations of Vangal, the god of the apocalypse.), Orcs, and the Slitherin (Ratlike titanspawn with a very pragmatic, and cowardly, approach to the world.). Each race gets a lot of new options, from archetypes to alternate racial traits, most of which are very cool. Refreshingly, this section not only comes with the usual age/height/weight tables, but it includes separate entries for different ethnicities of the various races! Also included is a page-long list of all the languages of Scarn... 41 if I counted right!
Chapter three is all about classes and archetypes. There are 53 new archetypes for various classes and 6 new prestige classes, which is pretty impressive considering each one does something unique and fits with the flavor of the material.
Chapter 4 contains a lot of new feats and traits. It covers roughly two pages of the table of contents, if that is any indication of how many there are. Most of them are pretty well-balanced against pre-existing Pathfinder feats, so kudos to the team in charge of making these!
Chapter 5 is the one focusing on new equipment. There isn't much here in comparison to the last two chapters, but what is here works well, so no complaints.
Chapter 6 is a big one: spells and true rituals. Almost every spell in this section is unique, from things like Adamantine Bones to Blackflame, from Mage's Daggers to Moonlight Curse. The true rituals are where this chapter shines though. True rituals are sort of like Pathfinder's occult rituals in that they are involved, ritualistic processes with massive power and the potential for backlash.
Chapter 7 features new magic items and most of them are really cool. None of the old artifacts made it, unfortunately, but that is a very minor complaint.
Chapter 8 is a gazeteer on Ghelspad, which is Scarn's equivalent to Golarion's Avistan or Eberron's Five Nations. It is considered the cultural center of Scarn and encompasses a huge variety of biomes. I'll just give a short run-down on some of my favorite areas to give you an idea on what is here. Calastia is the Cheliax before Cheliax, a nation devoted to Chardun, god of tyranny, that somehow manages to be both a dark, oppressive place and a shining beacon of civilization. Dier Drendal is the underground haven of what was the Dark Elves, a magic-canny race of Elves whose god now dwells among them after they transferred his soul from his dying body to a giant golem after he was betrayed by the Dwarven god. Hollowfaust is a city of necromancers run by various guilds and is nestled up against a dead volcano... words cannot describe how awesome this place is really. Shelzar, the City of Sin, is a fantastical desert city blessed by the god(dess) of chaos and the goddess of desire, a place where any hunger can be sated and any lust fulfilled if you know where to look. And then there is Mithril, the city built around the divinely forged, mountain-sized Mithril Golem. Yeah, the places in this chapter are really awesome.
Chapter 9 is all about secret societies and organizations. I won't say too much because there may be players who want to avoid spoilers coming by to read this review, but they encompass nearly every type of secret society a GM could want, ranging from underhanded smuggling rings of disgruntled nobles, Dark Brotherhood-esque assassin cults, military legions whose members serve from beyond the grave if slain in battle, dark cults, cunning courtesans who manipulate politics to suit their whims, and more.
And lastly, chapter 10 features quite a few new monsters, all of which are titanspawn. These range from low-level threats like the Pilfer Pixies that steal magic and familiars and the snowy bears the Huror, to high-level threats like the Wrack Dragons forged from elemental material, dark emotions, and malice and the Lovecraftian Howling Abominations that are all mouths, tentacles, and teeth reaching throguh a dimensional tear.
This review was really long, but I hope it helps you get a view of what this book has to offer. I heartily recommend the book to anyone with the funds to pick it up, for it is truly a masterpiece in regards to both the PC and GM content. In closing, thanks for reading this massive review and considering the Scarred Lands Player's Guide!
Disclaimer: I am not affliated with anyone involved in this book, nor do I have any vested interests in pushing sales beyond possibly getting more material released for the setting.
[5 of 5 Stars!]