Someone probably rolled their eyes when they saw that title because they think it’s just 52 new flavors of undead.
It’s pretty cool, actually. Then again, I’m a Game Master that prefers Undead (or un-dead if you prefer) as one of my go-to bad guy monster options in most fantasy games. To be completely honest, I grabbed this book to mine it for ideas to use in other fantasy games as well as Pathfinder 2E.
This book has a lot going for it. As a friend of mine says, it has a lot of fluff as well. I call it flavor text. It’s not really a negative if you like PF2E, Golarion, and so on. There’s a lot of world background there to be used.
Another defining quality of this book is the way it makes the macabre and morbid seem like an everyday occurrence. It even goes so far as to detail undead gods such as Orcus. There are also entire lands of the dead, including an Isle of Terror. To top that all off, there are plenty of undead character options. (Probably wouldn’t fly in my campaign without a phenomenal backstory, but…)
There are a lot of parts of this book aimed at the players, but GMs can benefit greatly, too.
There’s the old GM paradigm that if the players can use it, so can the GM. There are spells and feats in the front matter of the book that would work just as well on NPCs as they do for PCs. GMs who create their BBEG just like they’re making a regular character. Use Feats, new spells and abilities to the villain’s advantage and now the regular run-o-the-mill lich becomes a level 20 necro monster with the Reanimator Archetype, an undead companion, and some pretty gnarly spells.
I’m sure a lot of people, GMs like me maybe, got this book for the 100+ pages of undead monsters. It’s tempting to skip right to Page 71 and dive in. However, I found it especially worthwhile to go over the other parts of the book, too. The art is the usual phenomenal job we’ve grown to expect from Paizo’s other PF2E books. The adventure is definitely worth a look as well.
It’s really all about the monsters, right?
I know a lot of people probably saw this book and thought, “Oh, it’s just another book of reskinned zombies with bat wings. There’s nothing new here.”
And those people are what I like to call “wrong.” True to Pathfinder tradition, creatures of myth from all over our world’s cultures are represented. Of course they have the Pathfinder spin on them, but Page 71 does a lovely job explaining which cultures some of them came from.
Full disclosure: they do give the undead adjustments for the “regular undead.” So, if you want to make a mummified dragon or a vampire kobold, you can do it. Yes, there’s even a way to doctor up a zombie and give it bat wings, but that’s not the point of the monster section! (*LOL!)
There is some straight-up nightmare fuel for the PCs in Book of the Dead if the GM chooses to pull it out. There’s everything from ooky spooky things that go bump in the night all the way to cunning, manipulative, and hella evil. A couple of the beasties in here can pretty much touch off their own zombie apocalypse if they wanted to. I don’t want to drop too many spoilers, but I’m truly glad some GMs/DMs maybe won’t pick this one up. Yeek.
It’s more than a standard book with more Skeletons and Zombies.
As Pathfinder books go, I give it a 5 out of 5 stars in its own arena. As an RPG book in general, I have to knock one star off because of the heavy PF2E influence, some of the fonts were hard to read in places, and there is a heavier amount of gore than some players might be able to handle. I’m definitely mining this book for some 5E and DCC ideas. Lots of great ideas here!
I can’t see Wizards of the Coast ever putting a book like this out officially for 5E or “One D&D.” It’s just not quite as warm n fuzzy as most WotC books. DMsGuild has a lot of fan-made undead sourcebooks already.
Not that anyone from Paizo would read this, but I think they should do a whole series of books like this. Golems/Constructs, Dragons, Elementals, and so on would be pretty cool. To the best of my knowledge they didn’t do any PF 1st Ed books in this vein, but it’s possible. I also think pulling some of these undead into Starfinder might be pretty cool, too.
Thanks for taking the time out to read my little review. Please go check this book out in PDF or at your FLGS. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re into horror roleplaying. I appreciate you stopping by.