Tabletop Review: Monster Focus: Mummies (Pathfinder)

Monster Focus: Mummies
Publisher: Minotaur Games
Cost: $1.99
Page Count: 6
Release Date: 05/22/2013
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

I love Mummies. From the most recent New World of Darkness setting, Mummy: The Curse, to the occasional antagonist in Call of Cthulhu down to Ankhtepot, a Darklord of Ravenloft, mummies are some of the coolest and most underutilized undead in tabletop gaming, mainly because most GMs and writers don’t know what to do with them aside from the occasional curse or bad horror motif. Minotaur Games appears to feel the same way as I do as their latest Monster Focus release attempts to breathe new life into Mummies – at least via the Pathfinder setting. Does it succeed? Let’s take a look.

First up, although the PDF is six pages long, one and a half pages are devoted to the cover and the license agreement, knocking the actual content count down to four and a half. It’s not much but it’s more than has been written on Pathfinder or OGL mummies in eons. I can’t say I’m a fan of the art in this piece. It’s better than I personally can do, but it’s not what I’d expect to see in a published professional release, you know?

Unfortunately, Monster Focus: Mummies doesn’t actually do anything to reinvent the wheel. They stick hard and fast to the tropes of fantasy gaming mummies that we’ve seen since early Dungeons & Dragons. So for those of you looking perhaps to have a more historically accurate mummy in your Pathfinder game or at least one that doesn’t curse PCs and wither them via Mummy Rot, you won’t find it here. What you will find are odds and ends to beef up your PCs AGAINST mummy antagonists as well as vice versa. I applaud the latter but jeer the former. Like we need even more ways for PCs to have a specific advantage over a niche creature. This supplement includes the following:

  • A DC for Knowledge (Religion) check and what a PC might know about the bandaged dead.

  • Four new feats – none of which are that exciting. One adds to a slam attack (which most Mummies don’t use anyway). Another gives Curse Resistance, which is better suited to PCs than Mummies (who cast curses) and something I dislike seeing. Why give a PC a specific feat that is only useful against Mummies and Vistani really? This is space that could have been used to make the Mummy more interesting rather than limit its threat and mystique when PCs encounter it. A third increases the intensity of Mummy Rot (which has been done before as far back as Third Edition D&D) and the other is Ward Off, which allows you to repel someone ala Turn Undead (fleeing rather than destroying). This last one again doesn’t make sense to have in a book for mummies and it also dilutes the Cleric’s trademark ability, which is a red flag and shouldn’t have been included. Nothing especially interesting or even good here.

  • Five Alchemical Items. These are more interesting and really well done – especially in comparison to the Feats. Embalming Oil is a nice touch, as are Sacred Salts. Flaming Oil already existed so it was not needed here and although I’ve seen variants of the Censer and Incense, the write-ups are well done and will be useful to those who haven’t seen similar pieces in other supplements.

  • Five new Spells. These are all quite interesting. Curse Charm is a Level 2 spell to give a PC a second roll when making a Saving Throw vs Curses. Again, not something I wanted to see as Curses are so rarely used as it is and it’s again a way to make PCs resist one of the few things that makes Mummies “special” in fantasy hack and slash gaming. It’s also lower leveled than I would like to see. I’d make it third level as an alternative to Remove Curse or a replacement for it altogether. Mummify is just weird and the name doesn’t fit the spell. It basically causes a long bandage to grapple and somehow dehydrate it chosen enemy. Sandblast is the most balanced spell of the lot, giving the caste an unexpected ranged attack that players (and NPCs) probably won’t expect. Since it does damage, blinding and pushes an enemy back with a failed save, I’d bump it up from a 2nd level spell to a 3rd level one. Scarab Swarm is Summon Swarm but with beetles and Wall of Sand is interesting and it basically an alternative to Wall of Wind. Thumbs in the middle here.

  • Four new Magic Items – none of which are very interesting. Canopic Jars aren’t actually well, Canopic Jars as they are meant to be, but a portable Summon Swarm spell. Meh. There are already multiple cat versions of Figurines of Wondrous Power, so we didn’t really need a Basalt Cat as well. Mummy Charm is yet another thing in this PDF to give PCs crazy bonuses against curses and mummy rot so I shake my head at that. It also makes no sense why a there would be group from the time of mummies that would make something to inhibit their power. You didn’t see the Norse making Anti-Odin devices or Celts coming up with anti-Jesus devices. Finally we have the Scepter of the Ancients which is a +1 Club that uses the Wall of Sand spell. I do at least like the Scepter’s ability to create a sand version of Ice Storm though. That shows some imagination.

  • Three different traps for a Mummy’s tomb! Okay, I loved this. New traps are always fun and having some Mummy-centric ones is a great idea. All three definitely feel like they were ripped straight from a 1940s Universal horror film. One buries the PC alive in crushing sand. Another fills a room with flesh eating scarabs and the third are mechanics for the usual Mummy’s Curse regarding taking objects from a tomb.

  • Three mummy variants. The ideas aren’t my cup of tea, but honestly, variants are really what the mummy needs (especially in Pathfinder) but these well…aren’t them. There’s not enough detail and the ideas simply aren’t very good. The Decrepit Mummy is simply a much weaker mummy. Yawn. The Mummy Priest is a weird throwback to AD&D 2nd Edition where it doesn’t actually have priest levels but a few spells. Unfortunately the OGL has had a true Mummy Priest variant since Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Just given a Mummy Priest levels ala Ravenloft. The last is the Shifting Mummy which is simply a Mummy that can turn into something else, say a swarm of scarabs. This too has been done before and could simply be done through a spell, so this isn’t really a variant, but a Spell Like Ability or something that would have been better off as a Feat.

  • Three Adventure Threads. None of these are really out of the ordinary as they stick pretty close to the tropes Mummies have in a D&D style fantasy game. One involves a stolen artifact from a Mummy’s tomb and the curse it brings. Another has artifacts being stolen from various homes that turn out to be originally plundered from a Mummy’s tomb, so pretty close to the first seed. The final has a horde of mummies attacking a town for reasons that actually make sense to them instead of for EEEEVIL deeds. Now, playing to the classical mummy adventure is neither bad nor good. Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason. All three of these would make perfectly fine adventures, especially for younger gamers or those less familiar with mummies and/or role-playing. For those looking for something outside the box though, you won’t find it here.

    All in all, this isn’t a bad PDF, but it’s not necessarily a good one either. There are some really fun ideas mixed in with really bad ones and so overall I’d call it an okay PDF. The problem is those who enjoy mummies in their OGL style system have probably found similar but better options and variants already. I think with more space to flesh out ideas and more of a focus on the monster rather than the PCs (especially in a series called Monster Focus), this would have potential. For now most mummy fans won’t find anything especially compelling in this piece to pick it up and most non-mummy fans won’t care enough to get it anyway.

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