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Old Marm

DeathQuaker's page

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8. RPG Superstar 6 Season Star Voter, 7 Season Star Voter, 8 Season Star Voter. 6,917 posts (11,953 including aliases). 6 reviews. 5 lists. 1 wishlist. 20 aliases.

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Useful supplement for outdoor campaigns

****( )

Strange Weather is a fun, brief supplement that lists a number of weather-related hazards and weather conditions. Most of these conditions are supernatural or at least unusual, like the "aurora hypnosis," where atmospheric lights stupefy onlookers. The CRs of the hazards go up to 10. Most of the hazards are quite creative and provide useful, non-combat ways of challenging a party. As the introductory "fluff" descriptor intimates, this can be especially valuable for sea-voyage based campaigns, but the hazards and conditions listed are diverse enough to be useful in any kind of terrain. I especially like the detailed description of supernatural effects of moon phases.

For the most part, the mechanics for these hazards and weather conditions are solid; while many are quite complex (as are the more ordinary weather conditions in the Core Rulebook), I'd definitely use them in my campaigns even though I am the kind of GM who gets easily overwhelmed by new rules.

Weirdly, the one exception to the rule of the hazards being well thought out is the hailstorm: there are already rules for hail in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, and more to the point, the description of the hazard is basically a combination/repetition of the existing rules. This appears to be an unnecessary attempt at providing space filler that stands out against the far more superiorly creative and new elements surrounding it.

Likewise, other sections of the book repeat existing rules, such as listing the effects of diseases from the Core Rulebook (the diseases are there because of a plaguestorm effect). My take on supplements is that, for reasons of space, they ought normally not repeat anything that can be found in the Core Rulebook. These rules repetitions could have been replaced by more original text or artwork. On the other hand, as a GM, I like not having to look up everything in several different books; I can allow to some extent the designers were trying to do just that, but especially as some of these fill sidebars or bring a section to the end of the page, my critical side wonders if the developers were using the repeated rules as filler.

Strange Weather also includes a new creature, a storm elemental, and two archetypes, one for the shaman and barbarian. Best stuff first: the archetypes were really flavorful and well-written. At initial glance without opportunity to playtest, I can't comment on balance, but nothing untoward pops out at me mechanically. Both archetypes build well on the theme and provide some useful abilities I hadn't personally seen before in any variation.

The storm elemental on the other hand has far less "wow" factor. The creature is a standard elemental-type build with only one new special ability called “harsh winds.” AND the designers actually fail to list said special ability on the individual statblocks for each size of elemental (it's not clear, but I believe it's an aura effect and should be listed in its brief form in that slot on each statblock). The harsh winds ability is fine but not enough alone to make it stand out as a new, cool creature and there’s nothing that makes me want to use it over a standard air or lightning elemental. Personally, given how good the designers are at making archetypes, I would have preferred to see this space filled by another archetype.

I also wish we had the following instead of repeated rules and a lackluster monster: random weather tables that incorporate the new conditions, perhaps a handful of weather-related feats or spells or items, weather-related curses ("raindrops keep falling on your head..."). There's definitely room for more if the developers wanted to make a "Strange Weather II."

Regarding production values, the book/.pdf overall is pleasant to look at: everything is clear, consistent, using good, minimal use of contrasting colors, and printer-friendly. While no glaring spelling or grammar errors appear, the professional editor and ex-layout editor in me chafes at some more minor errors (e.g., comma splices) and word spacing issues (especially a lot of dangling, hyphenated words that could have been easily fixed with minor tweaks to tracking or kerning; a few word truncations are fine, but there are too many and/or many badly-placed ones).

In addition to word/character spacing issues, there's also some paragraph spacing issues; on some pages it looks like text is crammed in and on others far too spaced out. Likewise, some artwork appears "squeezed in” in some places and has too wide a space buffer in others.

The artwork itself is also inconsistent. Some of it is clearly original and quite nice, and I want to take particular note of the beautiful stormcaller artwork on page 10. Other art looks out-of-place or a distinctly different style from other artwork; for example, on page 12 there's an insert of what looks like a 19th century French painting! It is both incongruous in style with the rest of the book’s content and has nothing to do with the surrounding text. I know small third-party publishers cannot easily afford artists or even packs of royalty-free artwork. But I'd rather see no artwork or a simple design than something that draws me out of reading the text to go, "Huh? Why the heck did they put that there?"

One last quibble with layout, but I do not let this last one affect my "scoring" as it were, because all game publishers appear to do this: this is a .pdf-only product, but it is laid out like a print book, with two side-by-side columns of text. This means on a monitor or tablet, you have to scroll down to read one column, then go back up on the same page to read the next. This makes fast look-up of rules very annoying. I wish that ALL developers of .pdf-only materials would make their products much more screen-friendly to read. If there's no hard copy, there is absolutely no reason to make it look like what a printed book would look like. Yes, people rich in ink and paper do print out .pdfs, but interestingly a screen-friendly layout remains readable when printed far moreso than another way around.

Bottom line: in spite of some complaints (non-stellar monster, unnecessary repetition, minor editing and layout problems), I ABSOLUTELY recommend this book for GMs who are looking for ways to spice up a campaign that takes place outdoors. The material is well-written, creative, and accessible. Players of shamans and barbarians will be very interested in the archetypes. I look forward to more from this publisher, and expect many of the little wrinkles seen here will be easily ironed out with time.

Disclaimer: I received this item for free in a special offer at the Paizo boards.

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Useful set for all GMs

****( )

If you are attracted to the flip-mats but don't have the resources to buy lots, buy these. The package contains two double-sided mats. One is watery on one side and covered in light stone tile on the other. The other features meadow-like terrain and worn flagstone on the other. While the particular point of these is that they are largely "blank" with very little detailing, there are a lot of nice subtle touches to the design that makes these more desirable to have than the basic flip-mat--for example, shallow puddles dispersed across the flagstone, areas of strewn rocks and light undergrowth on the meadow. The detail is well designed without being distracting or getting in the way of items you may wish to place or draw on the mat.

I expect these will mesh very well with a number of map cards from the map packs, so you could create an endless variety of landscapes with these and the cards, or of course you can draw or embellish as you see fit with whatever tools you have at your disposal.

My only complaints are relatively minor:
First, as with all of the flip mats, I wish the brightness and saturation was turned up just a notch on the color; in particular the flagstone one needs to be a tad lighter and show more contrast, and the meadow is more of an ooky green than nice grass green. None of these are TOO dark, but most save the stone-tile side perhaps a bit dull, and I always prefer lighter, brighter mats upon which anything I draw will show up brilliantly. I am being nitpicky here, in full admission--these work fine as they are, but lighter or brighter would be even better in my opinion.

Second, I wish the water side had been a cave floor/darklands floor instead (perhaps usable for wasteland terrain as well). You are FAR more likely to need such terrain than you are ever going to need a blank water mat. While you can use the stone tile or flagstone maps for dungeons, something for natural terrain would have been ideal. Also, if you're really wanting water terrain, you're likely to want to be purchasing one of the other water-scene-based flip mats, many of which also have blank water sides, and I can't imagine needing more than one. However again if this is all you're getting in flip mats, this will absolutely cover a wide range of needs.

It is still a nice, practical product and I look forward to using these extensively.

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Extremely useful compilation of items, both new and from the RPG line

****( )

How much does x cost? Does x exist in your world? What are the stats for x—can it give me a bonus to a skill? Is there a material that can let my armor become x?

I get a lot of questions from players about equipment, and often I have to look up materials in several different books and/or wing it to answer their questions effectively. Ultimate Equipment is a fabulous resource in which no matter what x is, you’ll likely find it (or at least something similar enough that it’s easy to go from there). It is also one of the best laid out, best organized Pathfinder RPG books I’ve seen, and its .pdf version is one I’ve had the easiest time navigating of any of the rulebooks. The art is beautiful and helpful without being distracting.

More or less Pathfinder’s answer to the various D&D Arms and Equipment Guides, Ultimate Equipment compiles gear listed in the Pathfinder RPG line of books. I noticed a lot of gear transferred over from the Pathfinder Companion Adventurer’s Armory as well. It also adds new equipment, materials, and qualities that can be applied to gear.* As of this writing I am still comparing errata, but I can confirm so far that the errata for the Core Rulebook, Advanced Player’s Guide, and Adventurer’s Armory is included in the gear entries in Ultimate Equipment (I note this because I have read claims that UE does not include errata, and that is clearly untrue, as anyone can tell if they start comparing errata line by line to UE).

Further, a lot of core items get more detailed descriptions, which is both informative, interesting, and useful—finally, we learn a backpack holds 2 cubic feet of material. Sure, that can be a tiny detail, but sometimes those tiny details mean a lot in a nitpicky gamer group. :)

In addition to the compiled gear lists, UE contains a massive appendix of treasure generation tables, to assist GMs in creating appropriate treasure lists for monster loot. You can look up what tables to roll on by monster type which is extremely helpful. It is time consuming to roll on the charts and note your results, but still incredibly handy (and I would not be surprised if an enterprising and savvy player finds a way to incorporate the tables into software sooner or later).

Determining what’s most exciting or useful about the book is difficult—on one hand, the compilation aspect is a godsend for character creation and GM preparation. On the other hand, there’s a lot of exciting new items and materials—for example, 10 new item creation materials I’ve never seen before, dozens of new magic item properties, and lots and lots and lots of awesome alchemical items and mundane gear. There’s also handy compiled “kits,” based on both class and role, to quick generate adventurer gear. And then the treasure generation tables! A comprehensive resource for players and GMs alike.

All that being said, there are a few errors and problems. Some of them are minor, but while they exist they do reduce the book’s usefulness as a compilation as you have to double check against other sources. Examples: The weapon generation table is missing a chunk of entries. Some prices and weights seem to have changed from the RPG books to UE—a chicken jumps in cost from 2 cp to 1 gp. Or what is an Alchemist’s Kit in the APG weighs 5 lbs, but renamed as the Alchemy Crafting Kit it is suddenly 50 lbs. (It is renamed the Alchemy Crafting Kit because the “Alchemist’s Kit” is now one of the class-based prepackaged adventurer’s kits included in the guide.) There’s also some Wondrous Items that look like the designers or playtesters, if any, could have thought further about what body slot they should be in. Of more minor note, there are a handful of spelling mistakes (e.g.,“contagious” where it should say “contiguous”). Fortunately I have not seen a lot of these overall, though they do affect the book's quality a little.

The biggest thing to bear in mind with Ultimate Equipment is what you see is what you get. It was touted as roughly half a compilation of RPG line gear, half new material and guidelines (like the treasure generation tables). And that’s exactly what it is—and 400 pages’ worth at that! As such, it is phenomenally useful and amazingly well organized.

But if you were somehow hoping for an infinite encyclopedia of every item in every fantasy game ever, or you were hoping for that one Golden Bullet item that fixes your favorite class (when gear really can’t do that), or hoping for stuff that has very heavy Golarion flavor in a core RPG line book—then of course you will be disappointed. But, frankly, that’s not ever what this book was advertised to be or could ever be, realistically speaking.

What it is, is an invaluable resource I know I am sure to use for every Pathfinder campaign I run in the future. Will I use every item? No. Will I hope the minor errors that exist are fixed quickly? Yes. But am I very happy with my purchase? Very very definitely.

*As a note, I do not collect Pathfinder Campaign Setting materials like the Chronicles or Companion (Adventurer’s Armory was a rare exception for me). It is possible some materials that appear “new” to me are actually items from some of these books. My understanding however, that the focus of Ultimate Equipment, itself part of the Pathfinder RPG line and not the campaign setting, is to compile RPG line materials, so anything from the campaign books are bonus but not to be necessarily expected. My further understanding is that a good deal of what appears to be new is indeed new.

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That's a cave, right?

**( )( )( )

The title is what a player said when I held up the map from about five feet away, while commenting on the fact the flip mat was too dark. "But it should be dark, that's a cave, right?"

No. No, it's not a cave.

I know the other reviewers have already noted this issue, but I want to be clear just how dark this thing is. Dry erase markers barely show up, negating much of the point of having a flip mat. This has been an increasing problem with flip mats; the "dark" side of the cathedral mat is also too dark to draw on and see the details well, for example.

The sample art on the Web page is deceptive--my print of the map at least is darker than the sample image, and is so dark a green to be nearly brown, so it's not very pretty to look at, either. Maybe I just got a bad copy, but based on what I've read here, that is unlikely.

This is especially disappointing as the Forest flip mat was to replace, thematically speaking, the much vaunted "Woodlands" flip-mat, now out of print (which I never got a chance to buy). I imagine you'd still be better off buying, begging, or stealing the OOP mat than buying this one. (Disclaimer: I do not actually advocate theft of any product.)

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Very disappointing; far below the product line's par

**( )( )( )

I received these as part of my map pack subscription, which largely has blown me away in innovativeness and beautiful detail. This pack is instead bland and repetitive. Given time, I could make better on my own.

The only good feature of this set is the "inside of the whale" set of four cards. This is what the whole pack should have been like: the mouth and gullet of the creature, with some unique, clear details (and the watery bits can also be re-used for other water scenes). These cards are the reason for the 2 star rating, rather than a 1 star.

The gelatinous cube is also neat because we have both the cube and the corridor it's in. Or it would be, if the rest of the corridor were gridded so you could actually use it as a combat map. I’ve yet to see a fight take place entirely inside a gelatinous cube, so the only way this card will be useful is if you cut the cube out.

As for the other 13 cards? The sample pics now up are exactly what you get--a bland silhouette of a monster in generic terrain, with some blank red squares inside. Again, there are no gridlines outside the monster, so you can't use the whole card as a battlefield (so say, if one PC is in the monster and another PC is outside the monster, you have no way of easily judging distance). If there were gridlines, you could use the card atop a regular battle map and move it if the monster moves; again, most of these are monsters where the fight would not take place entirely inside the monster. I cannot see a way you can get your money’s worth for these cards’ limited use.

The real shame about this set is that it had the potential to be an awesome set of “living” landscapes to be used as both innards and alien terrain, and this potential was discarded in favor of an unusual shoddiness, laziness, and poor forethought otherwise unseen in the Game Mastery line.

I’m tempted to dump the majority of the set straight into the recycling bin. Maybe I can get some use out of them as index cards at least.

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