Beadle & Grimm’s, purveyor of the finest and most esoteric licensed merchandise for Dungeons & Dragons and Critical Role, is branching out. The company co-founded by actor Matthew Lillard has a new line of items to support Pathfinder’s Absalom: City of Lost Omens. It’s also taking a big swing with a lavish assortment of kits for Magic: The Gathering. But while I’ve sung the company’s praises in the past, this new batch of products is definitely a mixed bag.
Let’s start with the best of the batch: Pathfinder Character Chronicles. These $40 hardcover books are customized for each of the game’s core classes, and contain everything you need to manage your player character from level one upward. There is a character sheet up front — up to 25 pages long for some classes — that gives you more than enough room for all of your skills, feats, spells, and more. These books also include all of the rules from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide that apply to a given class: spells, feats, even some extra stuff that Beadle & Grimm’s made up on its own. Add in original art and a pull-out dry-erase board so you’re not making nasty erasures all over the place during play, and it’s chef’s kiss perfect in my opinion. There are even a few ribbon bookmarks to keep your place, and they’re perfectly made and reasonably priced. I want them for Starfinder, D&D, Cyberpunk Red, Twilight: 2000 … everything. Make them now, please.
Next up, we’ve got Absalom: City of Lost Omens Gold Edition, a weighty campaign-in-a-box that includes all of the content from the Paizo-published campaign book. This is the same sort of treatment that Beadle & Grimm’s has given to Wizards of the Coast’s campaigns in the past, including Baldur’s Gate: Descent Into Avernus, Curse of Strahd, The Wild Beyond the Witchlight, Tal’Doeri Campaign Setting Reborn, and more.
This Gold Edition format hits a sweet spot right between Beadle & Grimm’s over-the-top Platinum Editions and Paizo’s core book itself. For game masters (GMs), the entire campaign is broken up into smaller pamphlets that make prepping and playing at the table a breeze. There’s a custom GM screen, along with NPC and location cards that make it easy to share art with players at the table, in-world handouts to pass across, and an assortment of pins, coasters, coins, and other ephemera to bring the setting to life. It’s another outstanding package, albeit with a premium price tag — $349.99. But as I’ve said before, having run a lot of campaigns, some that take a few years to muddle through, I can say it’s a real joy to have this kind of support at the table. This set will make your life as a GM easier, and your players will love it. The Gold Edition also comes with some of the most vibrant and interesting large-scale battle maps that I’ve seen in any Beadle & Grimm’s product to date. They even throw in a code to unlock the entire campaign digitally, which is a welcome addition for quick reference alone.
My only gripe here are the maps, which are redundant in the extreme. There’s a large map of the entire city of Absalom, an even larger two-part map that’s something like four feet across, and a portfolio of over a dozen 8.5-by-11-inch maps of each of the city’s districts. That means you have three copies of the same city map printed at different scales. Making matters worse, the city map itself isn’t all that interesting. It’s such a large urban center that it may as well be a texture when seen from above. Here, however, I think it’s more an issue with the source material, which may have simply left Beadle & Grimm’s without any more interesting cartography to riff on.
Finally, my least favorite line out of this latest batch of products are the items that support Magic: The Gathering’s newest set of cards, Kamigawa Neon Dynasty. I simply can’t recommend the $499 Kamigawa Platinum set. Some of the big ticket items — the deck boxes, the backpack, and the art card folio — feel cheap, like swag you’d pick up at a fan convention. Some of the add-ons, like the art-inspired life counter and the demon mask necklace, are just obnoxious. The biggest disappointment is the sword-adorned card vault, which is difficult to open and won’t lay completely flat on the table. It’s also got these big lids that are easy to catch your hand on if you leave them open.
On the other hand, the $199 Kamigawa Silver includes the best stuff from this line. The LED playmat is a delight, and while it’s a bit thin for my liking, it’s quite the conversation piece. It runs off USB power, including cell phone battery packs. The metal counters are also pretty slick, and have a great heft in the hand. Collectors will likely want to avoid slamming them down on their most expensive cards, however. Add in 100 card sleeves, a handy game log, and a world map, and you’ve got some decent value for your money.
The trouble is that Beadle & Grimm’s originally wanted this Kamigawa line to start shipping in February — around the same time that Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty was released in print to the public. Magic’s next set, Streets of New Capenna, drops on Friday, and the Kamigawa line is still showing as a pre-order on the Beadle & Grimm’s website. The global logistics pipeline is shot right now, I know that. But this isn’t the first time that the company has been late on its shipping estimations, either. If it plans to keep up with the breakneck pace of new releases that Magic is known for, Beadle & Grimm’s is going to have to get a lot better at logistics to keep hungry fans sated.
Everything on the Beadle & Grimm’s website for the Pathfinder franchise is 10% off through April.
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