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This Map-pack not only is pay-what you want, it comes in a zip-file that sports two folders: One containing high-res jpegs, one that sports pdfs.
Let's start with the jpegs - these come with full-color and b/w-versions - both come in two versions: One sports labels that denote which buildings are which, whereas the others come without them for maximum immersion. (Nice if you're like me and HATE handing out maps with numbers detailing the hotspots...
The pdfs clock in at 23 pages each - 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 20 pages for the maps. The pdf first provides aforementioned maps that also are included as high-res jpegs - so if you require an overview of the village, these would be what you want. Thereafter, we get 4 blown-up versions of the map - each iteration is provided in a version, wherein the map spreads across a total of 4 pages, thus allowing you to print out a big map. If you're like me a European, you will be very much in luck, for one pdf provides the maps in letterpack format, whereas the second delivers the maps optimized for the A4-format.
What about the town - well, we get essentially a village of the most idyllic type, with a single (mage's) tower a bit off to the south and a small bridge crossing the meandering river. North of said small bridge, a mill and a few buildings loom, while the sparse trees show that this place probably lies in pretty civilized fields.
Tad Davis delivers a professionally-made, beautiful map-pack of a nice, picturesque village that could well be the starting point of a new campaign - as far as maps are concerned, this is a neat job and the drawing style is fine. While I caught myself wishing there was a version with a grid further blown up for your perusal with miniatures, at any price you're willing to pay, this is indeed a great offering of a professional, nice map.
My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
So what is GlimmerGloam? The easiest way to describe it, would be to call it a realm of dark, dualistic whimsy – somewhere between the narratives of the realm of the fey and classic tales of Alice, albeit more akin to American McGee’s interpretation. It is a world, where different species of fey abound and the Umbra rules – where counting steps or latent attempts at cartography only result in the very land thwarting your attempts. It is also a place, where the only influence of eidolon manifests in groundhog-dayish repetitions of feuds, where adversaries conveniently killed the night before suddenly exhibit an improbable twin or downright ignore death or decapitation (and it’s rude to point that out, mind you!) – GlimmerGloam, in a nutshell, is insane and you better know what you’re in for.
Thank the stair, there is this nice BungleCat – not akin our classic Cheshire friend, but oh so much worse – much akin to Rite’s classic Smiles-under-the-Bed NPC, this beast may be nice, but seeing things in a different light, more often than not can be taken literally in GlimmerGloam – the realm is defined by a plethora of meanings being assigned in alternating and even simultaneous patterns to EVERYTHING, with lighting conditions often triggering a flux. Hence, the friendly cat may pretty quickly turn into a xenophobic stalker or even a dragon-sized demon-being trying to murder you and everyone that crosses its path – all in good fun, of course. For reliable information, you may instead wish to consult the jabberwock’s severed head, now employed as the realm’s most deadly jack-in-the-box. Much can be gleaned, if you can survive the deadly eye-rays, madness-inducing aura…you know, all in good fun.
Oh, and if you thought the red queen was bad – GlimmerGloam’s fully statted ruler, the white Rabbit Queen, is nothing to sneeze at – with various forms, an intelligent mirror aptly named delirium and a vorpal needle-cum-sword, she makes for a fearsome ruler – in spite of the half-crashed supposed-to-be-floating castle and similar oddities. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that the oddity of the realm also results in actually unique special properties for the realm?
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach has a gift for providing environments, in which the imagination is incited, runs rampant and his experience with the realm of dreams (as in his Lost in Dream-novel and in the work for Coliseum Morpheuon-related products) and the odd, irrational logic which applies there. This can easily and perfectly be seen in this installment of Gossamer Worlds – when each character and locale not only resounds with literary quotations, but also with symbolic gravitas, we receive a rather interesting supplement full of entwined meanings, evocative connotations conjured forth by clever use of nomenclature and symbols. It’s also a nod towards one of the most influential, creative and complex myths in literature and I love it for that. So do yourself a favor, get this, use it, and if you have it, get your Norton Critical Edition Annotated Alice – with the latter, you can further amp up the already impressive content herein by at least a factor of threleven hundsand! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
First posted on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
Ladies and gentlemen,
apologies for the intrusion.
As you all may be aware, my situation is not particularly rosy to say the least - I've been asking around the boards, on my page, etc. for a quite long time and since the consensus was this step and since I'm always open to listen to you and your suggestions, there is now finally...
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Thank you for your kind consideration and all the support over the years,
This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Okay, so what happens if the gritty cyberpunk future of Shadowrun, minus magic, gets utterly and thoroughly one-upped? We receive cities sprawling continents and oceans, suffused with a constant overpopulation and stimulation, facilitated by the omnipresent MegaWeb that requires your ping every half a second to continue to cater to your needs. The look into this world is at once fascinating and disturbing – when the vast corporations like Uni-Goggle or the Kocha-Cola corporation have suddenly influence over just about everything, including the reality show to you by those thrifty, cool Enhanced Reality goggles, when all food and consumables come with mood enhancers and medical support similarly is tied to implants, chips, etc., you’ll be clamoring for the quaintness of the Rhine-Ruhr or Seattle megasprawls of Shadowrun.
This vista portrayed here is frightening for its winking proximity to our very own world, its relative believability – genetic tailoring, body-modification and similar complex cultural codes prosper, while the MegaWeb and its advertisements and influence on the minds of the populace reminded me of Andri Snær Magnason’s dystopian novel LoveStar. Beyond the omnipresent might of corporations, Mars as a truly red (read: communist) planet makes for a no less disturbing alternative, while a mega-powerful set of insurrectionists under the command of mysterious Zeus try to bring down a foe that outnumbers them more than a billion to 1. And then there would be the sentient AI Yuki, CEO of the Sen-Zaibatsu and avatar of eidolon (fully statted, btw.), well aware of the asset/threat that Lords and Ladies of Gossamer and Shadow represent… (Can I hear Renraku arcology, anyone?) Short rules for acting in the web can also be found – alongside one last refuge – Australia, protected by the strange Uluru-effect, blocks electromagnetic waves and could either turn out to be cataclysm or salvation for the world…
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of a blend of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach’s Neo_Neo unabashedly pays homage to Shadowrun and the cyberpunk genre in a vast array of its ideas and concepts – and then cranks them up a notch. If you’re like me and considered the change of the matrix and magic-systems a spellplague-level disaster, then this pdf will bring a smile to your face – what we have here, would be a less magic-infused take on what Shadowrun could have become. And I mean that as an honest compliment. If you’re like me and enjoy a bit of cyberpunk once in a while and were looking for an easy way to use all of those Shadowrun books in your LoGaS-game – well, here you go. And even if you just get this for a short visit, the concepts alone are inspiring, yet detailed enough to provide you for more campaign-fodder than you could ask for. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval…now let’s hope our children never get to see 64-lane-highways…
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
Posted here since I couldn't find it on Paizo.
This installment of the Mythic Magic-series clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 4 pages of hyperlinked ToC, 2 pages of introduction, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 41 pages of content, so let's take a look, shall we?
So, what does this book cover? well, obviously not spells from one big hardcover, but instead spells found in: Animal Archive, Demon Hunter & Dragon Slayer Handbook, Distant Worlds, Faction Guide, Inner Sea Gods, Inner Sea Magic, Inner Sea World Guide, Mythic origins, People of the Sand (& stars) and the rival guide as well as the osirion sourcebook. (The new one, not the 3.X Player's sourcebook).
Now I can't cover every spell herein without bloating the book. So I'll give you a selection. Additionally, I should mention that I do not endorse all spells mythified - indeed, I do consider some of the books from which the base-material for the mythic spells herein not particularly well-balanced. This will have no impact whatsoever on my analysis of the mythic spells herein - I am taking them completely on their own ground. To help orientation regarding source, concise superscript abbreviations help the reader's orientation. As always, if you do not have the books this is based on - fret not, for the spells herein tend to show up on the respective SRDs and sites like the useful archives of nethys. Got all of that? All right, then let's dive in!
The anti-summoning shield, for example, can have its summon-failure chance enhanced by 5% x mythic tier and, as an augment, be cast as an immediate action. Rolling craft twice per day when utilizing arcane reinforcements also can be considered a nice trick up one's sleeve - crafting two items at once can be pretty powerful, especially when used for magical items. Of course, plenty of spells deliver solidly scaling numerical escalations based on mythic tier and mythic power, but that is a given at this point in the series. More interesting, at least to me, would be enhancements like Baphomet's blessing now also granting the powerful charge ability and immunity to maze-spells.
When a mythic version of a monster or spell manages to actually render a base version more flavorful, more exciting by expanding the very concept of the base version into something more unique - that is when mythic rules shine in my book. From a rules-perspective pretty impressive would be Blade Snare -with increased benefits, interactions with non mythic creatures and weapons etc., the base version is beautiful. While the nitpicky guy in me wants to complain about a missing minus-sign in the augment-section of the spell, the option to maintain the snared weapon and even snare 1/2 mythic tier weapons at once for 2 mythic power makes for a pretty damn neat option.
Terrain-control via Brittle Portal, instant mythic mummification via canopic conversion and curse based control as an augment to the creation of such mummies make for rather iconic options that can be used for narrative purposes as well - not only do mummies freed from such a control gain free will back, they also receive a rather nasty buff. Can I hear mummy-revenant crossovers approaching? Yes, I can.
Channel vigor's flexibility is also pretty nice, with unique effects depending on the limbs into which you channel the effect. Other modifications are small, but still flavorful - adding blightburn sickness to cosmic rays? Heck yes! Discharging dazzling flashes to blind adversaries would also be a rather neat option. Diverse additional options, both in the regular mythic spell's text and the augment option of deadeye's arrow also provide some neat bonuses and added condition-penalties. While everyone who regularly follows my reviews knows that I'm not a big fan of detect spells, at least detect demons receives a pretty unique augment that turn demonic auras clearly visible, helping against foes shrouded in deceptive magic et al.
The defensive excellent enclosure is also pretty interesting in its concise interaction with other spells - the various effects of mythic geniekind also fit thematically seamlessly and organically within the context of the base spell while increasing its potency by means of added spell-like abilities depending on the geniekind chosen. The increased incremental control of fractions of heal and harm also can be considered a pretty cool way of tackling the base spell's concept and making it more flexible. Now this is a very personal preference, but the augment to make the mythic ghoul pack summoned by the spell of the same name subject to haste fit thematically very well within the frame of my own conceptualization of ghouls.
The low gravity options added to the cool gravity sphere should also be mentioned. Now personally, I consider the temporary dexterity penalties imposed by the mythic gravity well slightly less interesting than the concept deserves, but that may just be me really liking. Now perhaps it's due to my favorite in-game card-game being Tarokka or due to the superb "Harrowing" module by Crystal Frasier, but the spell never clicked with me and the relatively conservative card-discarding/numerical escalation of the mythic variant, alas did not change that. Now where things turn interesting once again would be with imbue with flight - the option to utilize mythic power to make objects of huge, gargantuan and colossal size to fly, including the option of sharing the mythic power required, ritual-style, between characters. It's a small thing, but a glorious one that resonates well with quite a bunch of cool fantasy tropes.
Interplanetary teleport now does feature several benefits for its augmented version, helping you survive in less than hospitable environments. Orchid's Drop now allows for the free allocation between regular and ability score healing - pretty sweet. Speaking of pretty sweet changes - shared sacrifice not only has its casting time decreased, it also does not end with the target moving outside of the area of effect, instead being suppressed to kick in once the target is in range again. Siphon spell also receives a nice upgrade that lets you roll twice on dispel checks and continues until you have siphoned a minimum amount of spell levels, with the high-level augment allowing you to ignore the cap at the significant investiture of mythic power - cool! Spawn Calling is also rather epic - why not call the tarrasque or another spawn of Rovagug instead of the Star-spawn? Summon the tarrasque. Yeah. Awesome. In a nice bit of synergy, summon accuser ties in with Mythic Monsters: Devils, but also provides a nice alternative. Sustaining Legend feels a bit strong, with healing and condition negation/decrease added to targets using mythic power in any shape way or form, but that may be me.
More deadly teleport trap may be nice, but transfer tattoo is imho more interesting - you can essentially store an inoperable tattoo with this for some time - can you see the narrative potential? "Your task is to bring the tattoo of power to the missing grand master..." Face theft via transplant visage has also not been this nice for a long time... Well, that came out wrong...
Vision of the Beast Mother's mythic version makes followers of Lamashtu much more fearful...why, you ask? Well, what about sending other spells along with the nightmare? Yep, really, really nasty and once again sporting quite an array of cool story-telling options.
Editing and formatting are good, though quite a few minor typos and various superscripts that have not been superscripted slightly mar an otherwise well-edited book. The pdf adheres to legendary Games' two-column full-color standard and sports numerous gorgeous full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, though oddly, once again, we have additional out of order bookmarks in the beginning, this time duplications of two spell-bookmarks. Since this does not impede functionality in any way, I will not hold that against the pdf.
Okay, after having reviewed 6 Mythic Magic-pdfs by now, I can somewhat fathom how Jason Nelson must have felt: While design is fun, doing so many mythic spells might also be considered one thing: exhausting. This must have been serious *work* - that being said, I can see another thing about this pdf: In spite of the vast amount of mythic spells before these, there still are simply unique tricks herein. A lot of them, actually. More so than I expected to find herein.
While one can see that, unlike in the great mythic magic installment for the APG, this is the work of one designer, the job Legendary Games' chief has done is not only thorough, it is more varied and interesting than one would expect. When it would have been easy to just phone in augments to spells like detect demons or duplicate and recolor spells à la "works like this, but with acid"; when formulaic numerical escalations would have been the easier route, this instead goes the extra mile by providing unique little tidbits to enhance the flavor of the spells. Not all are winners, but in the face of this many spells, that should be no surprise; the quote of cool and imaginative spells is definitely much higher than I anticipated, though, and thus, this can be considered a superb offering. While slightly below the superb APG-installment, this still is one of the best of the all-but-required mythic magic-pdfs; my review will hence clock in at a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval, in spite of the small glitches here and there.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek, GMS magazine and posted here, on OBS and d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Part II of my review
Still here? All right! The first mission is all about two cults warring on Altair, both of which have purchased a biological weapon that now kills the primitive inhabitants. In order to stop the plague, the PCs have to unearth the origin of the plague, its design-specifics from a cell-phone, and request help from Hazioth. In the next mission, they are to follow up on this issue and thus defeat lizardfolk, kobold tinkers' berserk reverse engineered Cyborgs and finally defeat the Kurion spy and his evil druid assistant. The next mission sees the PCs stranded on Tajano, a Kurion-controlled planet, where they'll have to survive in the wasteland, deal in trading bunkers and scavenge in hostile terrain featuring both living machines and marauders - fully mapped, btw.! Finally, the PCs will need to travel to the city of Lixian, where they'll have chances to interact with a living machine nursery and even infiltrate a military base before finally repairing the ship and escaping first the world, and then the system- I would have LOVED this mission being depicted in full-blown mega-adventure-detail - it is rather fun, but due to its format also requires severe work on behalf of the DM to flesh out. The next mission is more straight-forward and has the PCs hired to deal with pirates attacking a particular asteroid-colony -when properly played up, this one may become VERY creepy. Neato. The next mission has an uncommon target - the PCs are to crash a Kurion series and prevent psionic rift drive components from falling into the hands of either competing Kurion nobles. This, of course, is harder than it seems at first and includes infiltration and finally entering a huge ice-lump in space (with ship to steal the prize. Again, neat!
The massive appendix includes fluff-only write-ups of sample NPCs, random encounters (CR 6 - 15) and an example for ship to ship combat to help you get how the rules work.
Benjamin Martinali's "Between Chains & Starlight" is an extremely ambitious setting - and in its first iteration, it failed to realize to unify all of the copious components, which was to be expected for a project of one man. Still, it did show promise galore and know what? After my admittedly very critical review of the original pdf, I wouldn't have been surprised if he had abandoned the project. It is my utmost pleasure to report that this reviewer at least is very glad he didn't. My criticism, unlike in most books I review, wasn't directed (primarily) on the rules, though some remnants were there that required revision. Instead, the main issue of the first iteration of this setting was simply that its internal logic and writing didn't gel well together.
This is almost an impossible feat to fix and it didn't expect the focus of the revision to actually lie on making the whole setting more consistent.. Benjamin Martinali has done it. I can actually see myself running this system, this setting, with its nigh infinite possibilities. The formal issues of the book have almost completely vanished and version 2.0 does not have any need to hide behind the big setting. From all original full color art, to much more believable, ultimately more interesting renditions of the factions, to better prose and additional content, this is one of the most significant improvements I've seen in my whole career as a reviewer. Now it should be noted that ships and vehicles sport their own rules, so there's not much overlap in that regard with Paizo's take on vehicles - and in this case, this is probably a good idea. What really made me grin from ear to ear were the small parts -the fixing of special energy weapon types, the more "realistic", less stereotype laden-portrayal of societies, the very fact that this massive book simply reads infinitely better than its predecessor.
Let's get that out of the way: "Between Chains and Starlight V.2.0" is a damn good book and even more impressive as the achievement of a single author. It is a labor of love and it shows in all the right ways. Beyond the inspiring ideals and streamlined mechanics, some rough patches can be identified, but a system that, from currency to politics, manages to cover such an extent is damn impressive. Now who does this compare to Necropunk or Amethyst Renaissance? It doesn't - the two are completely distinct entities at this point, with BCaS setting the focus much closer to blending scifi and fantasy...and actually achieving that. Where the former two focus on real world issues, philosophical ideas and transhumanist concepts, struggles between ideologies etc., BCaS is more focused on portraying a fantasy-like take on a scifi setting, moving away from this gravitas into the realms of space opera; mind you, this does not mean that the setting can't support these themes and does touch them, just that it's focus it completely different. Now I *could* nitpick components of the world-building here and there, but that wouldn't do this book justice.
There is one more factor to consider - this is a "Pay what you want"-book on OBS. That's a pretty powerful enticing factor for it. After carefully considering the book's virtues, I can definitely recommend spending at the very least 5 bucks, probably even 10 - 15 on it. Why? Because even if you only end up using some customization options, the weapons or the monsters (or the modules!), you'll get your money's worth.
This is the scifi/space mash-up quite a few people demanded and V.2.0 makes for a compelling, massive and unique setting that has greatly matured since its first iteration. The incorporation of the material from "Dragons in Space" also helps the book alongside added art, maps, expanded space combat etc. Never, for the life of me, would I have imagined this revamp improving the first book to this extent. And know what? I actually might use quite a bunch of the material herein - whether for Iron Gods or one of my numerous scifi-infusions in regular gaming. My final verdict will hence clock in at a very warm recommendation of 4.5 stars; I'd usually round down here due to some unnecessary deviations from the base system and some minor rules-relics, but seeing the amount of bang herein and the generous gesture of making this "pay what you want", I'll instead round up to 5 - people, take a look and give this a read. It is worth your time.
Oh, and my heartfelt congratulations to the author - it takes true dedication to provide such a massive overhaul.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
I sincerely wish all of you (including those among you who don't like my reviews or opinions) a wonderful time; may everyone who reads this have a great time in the circle of beloved people; may you receive wonderful presents and may, should you write, the creative juices continue to flow.
Have a great time!
My dear readers,
while I am no American, I do think that Thanksgiving is a wonderful idea - so here we go; I hope you excuse my indulgence in hijacking this tradition, so here we go:
I am thankful to the following 3pps:
-Rite Publishing: Steve, you gave me my first complimentary copy. I probably wouldn't be reviewing without you and most Rite Publishing books still tend to land on my "must play"-pile. Love your work both as a publisher and writer. Also: Thank you for the spot in Pathways!
-Rogue Genius Games: Owen's company taught me *A LOT* about good crunch, ingenious design, etc. I have no other 3pp that has so many allowed PC-classes in my main campaign. That and talented classes rock my world. Also: Owen, thank you for your professionalism.
-Frog God Games: You people are not only professional and nice, you keep on creating the awesome, big and gorgeous mega-tomes I want. It goes without saying that I'm extremely happy about all of them. When I read the "thank you"-shout out in Slumbering Tsar back in the day, I teared up a little. Also: YOU MADE RAZOR COAST HAPPEN. Thank you.
-Raging Swan Press: When I'm burned out on crunch, when I don't want to read another module, I turn to Raging Swan Press - no other 3pp has made my DMing so much better and easier. Although I still have to translate the tables, villages etc. on the fly, the go-play aspect of your stuff is awesome. The Dressing-books changed my whole DM-style for the better. I salute you folks.
-AAW Games: Thank you for allowing me to be a part of Rise of the Drow, a Pathmaster-judge and for the support ad continued friendship - you are class acts! (Especially considering how I bashed your earlier, less refined modules!)
-TPK Games: Thank you for providing the crit-system I know and love as well as gritty, dark fantasy goodness. I'd also like to thank you guys for allowing my insane designs within your book.
-Interjection Games: Thank you for making some of the most beloved base classes at my table - without them, our game would be poorer. Also: Thank you for making me a part of the design-team for Strange Magic from the get-go. I learned *a lot* about complex class design and work has been an awesome experience.
-Purple Duck Games: Thank you for making some of the coolest, most underrated classes and supplements out there and for making legendary items work properly. Also: Thank you so much for introducing me to Daniel J. Bishop's superb work!
-Legendary Games: Thank you for all the great plug-ins, for making mass combat as deep and rewarding as it is and for providing all the mythic rules I need!
-Dreamscarred Press: Thank you for psionics and being class acts, even in the face of diverging opinions. I look forward to seeing what you create in the future!
-Radiance House/Everyman Gaming: Thank you for Pact Magic - without it, my games would be so much poorer.
-Kobold Press: Thank you for making Midgard and providing source-books that breathe this tangible spirit of the fantastic!
-LPJr Design: Thank you for making gorgeous, inspired and downright weird pdfs; I find my campaigns enriched by the cool ideas you bring to the game.
-Little Red Goblin Games: Thank you for providing my "And now for something completely different"-setting, Necropunk. I love what you have done and achieved there!
-Forest Guardian Press: Morgan, thank you for the Direlock - it's my favorite gish-class and sees *A LOT* of use at my table! Your Savage will join ranks here, I presume.
-Misfit Studios: Thank you for making me a part of Bite Me! back in the day!
-Mór Studios: Thank you for making a surprisingly captivating saga so far; I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes!
I'd also like to thank Abandoned Arts, ICOSA Entertainment, Fat Goblin Games, Zombie Sky Press, Storm Bunny Studios and every other 3pp I have forgotten who has sent me complimentary copies of pdfs at one time or another and taken my criticism to heart without being rude! Thank you for your patience! (I know, I'm slow...but catching up!)
I'd especially want to thank those 3pps who went the extra mile and sent me a physical copy at one point or another - you guys rock! (Even though sometimes, I wished I could have rewarded that with a better rating, I know you value integrity and sent the books nevertheless. And that is just awesome.)
But most of all, more so even than to thank all the authors and publishers, many of whom I'd call friends, I want to thank YOU. Yes, you. The person sitting in front of a screen, clicking on reviews. The guys and gals who read my ramblings. I want to thank all of you who dropped me a comment at one time or another, telling me I made a difference. You can't fathom how much that means to me, how often it has elevated me from a place of doubt back to high spirits. And when the rare complete stranger surprises me with a random act of kindness with a donation of a file, a book, or just plain money, that is when I realize I have much to be thankful for - and it is all due to you.
I also want to thank everyone who has corrected one of my mistakes in the past - I'm not perfect, but you ladies and gentlemen help me on my continuous quest of self-improvement. So thank you. As per the writing of this post, my official review-counter stands at 1750 reviews. To anyone who has ever read even ONE of them, even if you disagreed with me and/or consider me a dumb, annoying doucheback - thank you for your time.
Have a wonderful day and see you, hopefully, tomorrow, with 3 new reviews!
This massive book of expansion-levels for Rappan Athuk clocks in at 165 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page back cover, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 159 pages of content, so let's take a look...
...but before, let me say one thing - this review is my Razor Coast. This review crashed and burned (!!!) times, with all data gone; Once on my laptop, once due to my mobile HD being stolen and once due to my desktop PC's HD crashing. I've literally written this review 3 times, only to have it crash before I had the chance to back it up. So let's get this posted before my desktop PC dies...again.
This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion. Got that?
So, after a brief introduction we receive the first of 4 new wilderness areas, Castle Calaelen. Situated west of Zelkor's Ferry and north of the mouth of doom, this locale makes for a good starting adventure in case your players are not hardcore enough for the dangers that lurk below the surface - the base of operations for a few goblins and their gnoll mercenaries. The castle itself sports relatively meager defenses and breathes a sense of a world that has turned onwards, that has left its heyday behind - with grim traps like trapped goblin tea parties, an infernal raven and finally the option to save an innocent gentleman (of half-orc stock), the level did remind me of the starting modules of old and is probably as close as Frog God Games gets to providing an easy introductory module. Bits and pieces that can turn nasty are here, but overall, the castle probably is the easiest thing to have been released under the Lost Land-banner. And generally, I wouldn't complain here - it's a nice place. When compared to the challenge that Crucible of Freya (nowadays collected in the Stoneheart Valley-anthology) posed, the attention to detail with light sources, shifts etc., I can't help but feel that this castle is meant to ease new players into the feel and playstyle. What I'm trying to say is - don't expect this chapter to challenge your players too much.
The second new wilderness area would be Hell's Hamlet - and scarcely has a moniker been so fitting. The town of Mitchrod is firmly in the hands of the forces infernal, with multiple examples of devils existing among the predominantly hobgoblin populace. Now here's the catch - no one like apocalyptic demon cults, not even the devils. Hence, this village may be tackled in two ways - on the one hand, your players could well opt to scourge the opposition, rooting this taint from the land. On the other hand, less scrupulous characters may well opt to throw in their lot with the village - after all, legendary Demonbane was wrought in the smithies of hell... Personally, I consider non-hostile interaction to be the more rewarding option here, mainly because this city and its inhabitants and guardians are unique in all the right ways - from the delightfully odd tin-man guardian golem to the kyton that may very well resurrect your allies to hallucinogenic mushrooms, there is a lot cool stuff to discovered - and in the vast depths of Rappan Athuk, there are plainly enough creatures for your PCs to jab their pointy sticks into...a bit of social roleplaying won't hurt them, especially if sprinkled with a healthy anxiety at the practices of their...hosts?
The third "encounter" is perhaps the oddest herein -assuming the PCs venture towards Rappan Athuk by sea, their vessel is attacked and they, by some means or another, are deployed into pirate captivity, only to be able to escape their bounds and into the wilderness. This may sound some alarm bells - and indeed, as the introduction acknowledges, this section may well seem contrived and forced if not handled properly. However, the good thing here would be that the main meat of this section is NOT about the somewhat railroady event, which imho can be potentially skipped, but rather about the survival action in the middle of a vast forest - from odd food to a variety of disturbing daemonic entities with unique tricks, guided by a malevolent will, the PCs will have quite a lot of exploration to do to toughen them up before they can return to the "safety" of civilization. That being said, while I do really, really like this survival aspect, the encounters, scavenging tables etc., I have to admit that I consider the tie-in to Rappan Athuk, both in theme and execution, to be almost non-existent. My advice is to run this as a stand-alone - it probably works better than beating PCs expecting a dungeon-campaign over the head with such a module. It's a good module, though not a perfect one and the glaring tactical errors the evil entity executes, while explained and rationalized by the author, might come off as DM-fiat to some players - experienced DMs can pull this off and make it very memorable and awesome, though.
The 4th wilderness encounter/following dungeon levels would be the Tunnels of Terror, situated in a ruined keep and guarded by bandits - and believe me when I say, these levels are on par with what one would expect from Rappan Athuk - the first level's map spans three whole pages. On its own. Level 2C and 3D would be the extensions of this massive dungeon. (Well...massive in relative terms when compared to other FGG-dungeons, but you get what I mean...) If you want to mince no words, make no false pretensions of Rappan Athuk being anything but deadly - well, here we'd have a neat example why a dungeon like this ought to be feared. Stone Ropers at CR 6, level 7 priests (yes, the channel energy WILL kill the party if they are not VERY careful...), death traps - while not as nasty as big ole' RA itself and terrain-wise, relatively conventional, this place is a challenge. On the downside, at least in my opinion, it does not add that much to the overall myth of Rappan Athuk. Hidden very powerful demons? Tsathar, bandits? Yep - you know the drill and unlike other examples of the Tsathar being their awesome, froggy selves, they may be the lesser of the evils in this case...which somewhat detracts from and diminishes their antediluvian demon-god/great-old-one crossover flair...but that may be me just being a fanboy for them. The tie-in regarding actually working for them may make for a hideous twist of fate near the end-game...after all, FGG has a module called "Against Tsathogga..."
Level 2C, as mentioned, contains the second level of the tunnels, and is not smaller - the temple of Tsathogga, blind albino frogs, magic mirrors - a nice example of an evil temple underground, though honestly, I considered the temple to be somewhat disappointing regarding terrain - some more unique hazards, flooded passages, unique traps etc. would have helped setting this temple further apart from all the Orcus-temples in main RA: The level also contains the Rainbow Vault and its riddles - pity that a tie-in/synergy with the Hall of the Rainbow Mage has been omitted here. One note - while I do love the puzzles on this level, I'm not a fan of ROYGBIV being a part of a puzzle's solution - that's mostly meta-gaming convention and knowledge and furthermore makes me flash back to Sam & Max Season 1. (The game, not the animated series..) Note that this is me being nitpicky, though - after all, there are the prismatic spells.... Speaking of puzzles - the final section of this level sports multiple statues that can be turned. to turn them, though, certain pillars have to be unlocked and rotated, but there also are pillars that activate traps - THANKFULLY, a massive sidebox explains this puzzle. As much as love complex puzzles like this, I do not advocate the way it is presented - it's a matter of taste, but I'm not a fan of Myst-style puzzles where you have a complex mechanism and then essentially guess what you're supposed to be doing. While not absolutely required to progress in the overall scheme of things, a general, cryptic clue, a visual abstraction of the level, which then can be identified by the players if their mapping-skills are up to par - some clue where and how to tackle this one would have been appreciated by quite a lot of players. Now don't get me wrong - in my book, we need challenges like this more often...but some hints to prevent trial and error would be more than welcome.
The final level of the tunnels contains another temple of Orcus (One more? So what does this one do if you deactivate it?), which generally feels a bit out of place. Oh well, at least the opposition, making ample use of Tome of Horrors 4, is pretty unique and the option to save a djinn is nice as well. Also a pity - this place is supposed to be created by an advance force from Tsar - so where's the optional tie-in to that place? Lost chance here. And yes, I'm complaining at a high level here, I'm aware of that. Now the second section of this dungeon-level is once again up to grisly lethality - golems, vampires, uncommon undead - all you'd expect from Rappan Athuk, yet still in a fresh guise. Nice!
Level 6B would present the PCs with perhaps the most lethal of adversaries possible - adventurers. undead ones at that. In their home-turf, with plenty of servants. And unique puzzle-creatures that are smart...and a nice nod towards Silent Hill 4's ghosts. Have I mentioned the friendly undead dragon wishing to chomp on your PCs? GLORIOUS.
We close this pdf with various encounters/NPCs to be inserted at your whim into your game, as well as an appendix that depicts the Disciple of Orcus PrC and the new monsters.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to FGG's printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard, with plenty of neat cartography and high-quality original artworks, though there are no player-friendly versions of the maps, which constitutes a detriment in my book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. Inexplicably, an index listing at one convenient glance the danger levels and exits/entries of the respective individual levels has been omitted - a pity, since RA already requires a lot of book-keeping on the DM's side and help like that would have been appreciated.
Bill Webb, Alex Clatworthy, James Redmon and Skeeter Green have woven more Rappan Athuk...but can it hold up to the original? Yes...and no. On the one hand, this tome is an example of excellent old-school adventure-craft - each and every piece of content breathes the spirit of what is great and awesome about old-school modules. On the other hand, though, the different voices show. I've been struggling quite a while with myself for this one. Why? Because I am honestly not sure whether it's just me. It might be very much possible that I'm burned out on Orcus-priests and their undead minions after Slumbering TSar and Rappa Athuk. On bandits occupying a ruined fortress as well. I can't be sure. It does feel like, at least partially and at least to me, though, as if I've seen some of the tricks herein done better before....in Rappan Athuk. Does every level herein have some part of that old-school magic? Yes! How could one NOT like gold-pooping, purring, fungus-shaped dwarf-affine pets that pose as rocks to avoid detection by certain races? How could one not like actual riddles that challenge one's mind beyond just rolling dice? This compilation offers quite a few examples of what is awesome about old-school adventuring.
To give you an example, the wilderness-survival module, in spite of its problematic beginning, is modular enough, with all its cool daemonic critters, to incite one's imagination. The puzzles are glorious, if not always perfect in their hint-distribution. Evil undead adventurers groups? Heck yeah! On the other hand, getting YET ANOTHER shrine of Orcus (sans bearing on the metaplot), getting a Tsathar domain that simply isn't as alien or partially, as interesting, as it could be...feel disappointing on a very high level. This expansion is best in the cases it truly enhances Rappan Athuk - by providing social encounters, a whole hamlet to interact with, by its distinct challenges. Alas, not all of this expansion is devoted to that - there are examples I'd consider derivative of the main module. This may be intentional. Perhaps it's just me after reading and purchasing 3 iterations of the dungeon + Slumbering Tsar...but it takes more to wow me than a couple of named NPCs, acolytes, undead and demons on a level devoted to Orcus to blow me away. Is it thematically coherent when it happens? Yes. Is it stellar? Alas, no.
Heart of the Razor - while not perfect, provided thematic, culturally relevant expansions to the main book. This one does so as well...in a couple of cases. In others, it fails to deliver them. In the superb wilderness module, for example, some kind of permanent boon would have most definitely been appropriate. Is this worth being purchased for Rappan Athuk? Yes. As a stand-alone? Yes. Is it required or perfect? No. This is a fun book, a good book, but falls short of the level of quality delivered in the new levels of PFRPG's iteration of RA - the level of awesomeness of a certain level with planar awesomeness as an organic, fitting change of pace, is absent from the book.
I really like components of this book, ESPECIALLY the fact that it demands that your players use their brains. But it also has some components that left me underwhelmed at a very high level. In a context that was not Frog God Games, I'd probably be singing praises on how this module is almost on par with Frog God Games' mastery of old-school modules. So what's my final verdict? Honestly, I've been somewhat underwhelmed by a couple of levels, but at the same time, I've really, really liked several ideas herein - hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars - a good compilation to have, but not a must-have.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here, on Lou Agresta's RPGaggression and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
This installment of the Treasures of NeoExodus-series clocks in at 4 pages, 1 page of SRD/editorial, 1/2 a page advertisement, leaving us with 2.5 pages of content, so let's take a look!
The Twin Furies are two kamas crafted for the vile religion of Khayne and as such have interesting abilities - one is a +1furyborn kama, one is a +2 vicious kama that only deals nonlethal damage to followers of Khayne. The dread weapons make the wielder harder to intimidate and when used in conjunction in a full attack (or flurry), and both weapons hit, the wielder may also execute a rend attack.
The pdf comes with item-cards for the Twin Furies.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no glitches. Layout adheres to LPJr Design's drop-dead-gorgeous 2-column full-color standard and the pdf features a glorious original artwork of the weapon. The pdf comes in a more printer-friendly full-color version as well and while both pdfs have no bookmarks, at this length they need none.
Jeff Lee's Twin Furies are nice weapons with unique options, but they fall a bit behind the last, glorious installment of the series - it's a nice pair of weapons, but not one that blew my socks off. A good installment of the series, well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.
This installment of Fat Goblin Travel Guides clocks in at 12 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 9 pages of content, so what do we get herein?
Essentially, we get a fully mapped location (map in full color, btw.) to drop into other adventures, as sidetreks, etc. The location sports a total of 7 keyed locations and while the full color map is beautiful, a player-friendly version sans keys would have been appreciated.
The terrain of the module itself is pretty well documented and the new hazard, essentially the magical equivalent of liquid nitrogen and a neat new CR 2 trap make for fine hazards. The 4 sample treasures that can potentially be found herein are also neat - a yeti-cloak, a lance that uses the mount's str-score, a charm that protects against ice damage - until it no longer works and instead can conjure forth an ice elemental...the items are flavorful and actually interesting!
We also get 3 new sample creature at Cr 4, 5 and 6 - and they come with cool signature abilities, gorgeous artworks...and minor or major errors in each statblock. Not only brackets at the wrong place in the block, we're also talking about damage output being incorrect and the like *sigh*
Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are very good. On a rules-level, they could be better. Layout adheres to Fat Goblin Games' gorgeous two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with stellar full color artwork and cartography as well as bookmarks.
The Tomb of the Dwarven Lord is a nice go-play insert location with a cool hazard (haha), okay terrain, a neat map and nice treasure. Alas, it also wastes 3 pages of its precious page-count on unnecessary monsters that sport errors. If you own *a lot* of the more obscure 3pp-offerings, you might also want to consider whether to get this, since, some components have seen the light of day before. *cough* Zeitgeist AP, Ronin Arts */cough*
That being said, I still think Rick Hershey has delivered a solid little sidetrek that is inexpensive and inoffensive enough to be considered an ok product for the fair price-point. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 for the purpose of this platform.
This Pay-what-you-want-optimization guide clocks in at 22 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 17 pages of content, so what exactly do we get here?
Firts of all - this is exactly what it says on the tin - an optimization guide. In case you're not familiar with these, usually, a color code of Red, Green, Blue and Purple is applied to skills, feats, spells etc.pp. to denote at a glance the feasibility of options available.
That being said, personally, I'm not too big a fan of optimization to the oomphteenth degree, mainly because some of my players *are* into it - adhering strictly to these can get in the way of making a character rounded, if you adhere too strictly to a guide. Those little touches like your PC being a baker's boy - they don't contribute to the combat capabilities and thus are often left by the wayside. Rogue Genius Games proposed bonus skills per level for exactly such "non-relevant" skills and introducing this house-rule into my game helped quite a bit.
That out of the way, the more pressing question on your mind will probably be "Why play a commoner?" And the pdf delivers answers - in brevity, here are *my* answers, for I have actually already pulled off this stunt. 1) The challenge. My players are extremely capable and taking away all those class features makes for a very challenging game-play less based on system mastery and more on guerrilla warfare and player smarts. 2) Get a perspective. I do like my main campaign (the non playtesting one) gritty and beyond 15-point-buy, players are wont to forget *why* those commoners keep on buggering them to kill threat xyz - even 15-point-buy heroes are exactly that - HEROES. This means they have so much more capabilities to deal with threats than average joe. Playing a commoner can make that apparent and drive home the reason why those guys don't deal with threats themselves. 3) Go for a tactics-high game. Every item, every purchase in a commoner game is relevant - each little bonus precious. 4) A change of pace. The PCs have been captured and those guys they saved time and again may now be their only hope - as an alternative to a TPK, the "PCs are captured"-scenario that has the players save their characters via commoners is better because the adversary not necessarily has underestimated the PCs, but failed to take those nameless, faceless losers into account - and that, ladies and gentlemen, is rather easy to justify and believe...
So these are my basic suggestions, so what does the pdf offer - well, essentially an optimization break down of attributes, core races, skills - one by one, with feasible and well-thought suggestions. It should also be noted that general combat styles (as in not-style-feats) receive their break-downs - suddenly those light crossbows and halfling slingstaffs don't look so bad anymore, don't they? Fascinating, what a few lacking attributes, feats and proficiencies can do...
It should be noted that even non-recommended styles d receive concise break-downs of options to make them work. Traits mainly are glanced over, with highlights pointed out.. Beyond these options, advice on granting at least a bit of starting gold, weapon-selection and magical/mundane items rounds out this pdf.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Misfit Studios' two-column full-color standard with artworks ranging from b/w to full-color and being stock as far as I could tell. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
This is intended as a teaser and first introduction to the matter at hand for author J. M. Perkin's "The Adequate Commoner" kickstarter to making commoners not suck...so much. As an optimization Guide, it does a decent job and is actually a good read, though you should be aware that it does not go through all options available at the level of detail found in some guides online - it can be considered a basic optimization guide that is well-written and actually fun to read. It offers smart advice for truly low-power-level gaming and as such can be considered a well-crafted book. This being a "Pay what you want"-file, it can be obtained for free, though I do suggest some sort of donation. But how much? Basically, this guide is good at what it is intended to do - it's a teaser, a help, an introduction and does that job well. If you have expected a full-blown, ultra-detailed 100+page guide of covered options, well, then this pdf does not deliver - surprise.
What it's intended to do, it does well and hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 pages, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.
Reviewed first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.
This installment of the Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So what is the Verse Arcanum? In one sentence, I'd describe it as "ye old fantasy setting" - elves, dwarves, magic galore, curses, prophecies and adventurers - fey and miles-long wyrms (true dragons in the most lethal, city-leveling sense...) and just about all other things and creatures you know from these settings can be found in this UNIVERSE (not just world!). Rainbow bridges? Check. Nasty Umbra-worshipping subterranean dwarves that specialize in unmaking magic? Check. Dual-natured elves that are at once light and dark elves? Yup.
Now of course, in the context of Lords of Gossamer and Shadows, the Verse Arcanum works differently - each Lord (or Lady) may erect one tower and said tower acts as his/her domain - no total control to be gained here. The influence of the tower and the respective ruler is felt via the demesne, or domain of said tower, in which the respective ruler controls the land. Now logically, this is not something most locals are keen on - and adventurers questing to take down the wizard's tower, annoyingly self-righteous paladins...here's the chance to hurl all those characters back at the players...
Beyond world trees containing whole worlds and civilizations, wizard academies and the like, the Verse Arcanum offers potential galore for a more meta approach to fantasy gaming.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing's full-color two-column standard for LoGaS-supplements and the pdf comes with glorious, thematically fitting original pieces of artwork. The pdf comes excessively bookmarked, which is nice to see, even at such a short length!
Matt Banach's Verse Arcanum is at once very conservative and one might argue, not as unique as some of his other creations. On the other hand, it could be seen as creative by its trope-inversion, by its essentially post-fantasy-gaming perspective on traditional fantasy tropes and as such, has quite some merit. Now one thing that personally didn't wholyl gel with me would be the focus of this Gossamer World - it's a universe, I get it. But why not devote a larger source book to it? The wyrms, for example, being the awesome beasts that they are, could have used some stats in the context of LoGaS and the dualistic nature of elves, dwarves etc. almost begs for an array of unique cantrips, spells etc. to learn. The tower defense angle is also rather awesome, but more concise effects on the demesne et al would have been awesome.
Don't get me wrong, this is a great book, but it also is essentially a teaser-level pdf that can only go into so much detail for an idea that is slightly too much for the constraints of the pdf. Unlike other Gossamer Worlds, this is more about the twists on fantasy in the context of LoGaS, not about playing grounds, and it just doesn't follow up on the ideas with proper effects.
Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 due to the low price point and awesome production values.
This FREE pdf clocks in at 14 pages, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let's take a look at what this offers, shall we?
As you can see, this pdf is FREE and about PUZZLES. Yes, puzzles. Remember those? You know the type that, back in the days of 1st and 2nd edition, provided the awesome brain-teasers, the food for your grey matter beyond crunching combat-numbers? Yeah. There aren't many around anymore, which I consider rather a pity - so what are these about?
Essentially, the idea is relatively simple - you have crystals and rods to poke the crystals with. There are three types of rods - one red, one green, one blue.
Crystals can have up to 4 different colors - red, green, blue and clear. Each of the rods has a specific result when poking a crystal. Taking for example a blue rod to poke a crystal will have the following results:
-It makes a red or green crystal blue.
-It makes a blue crystal clear.
-It also affects all adjacent crystals (not those diagonally adjacent) to the crystal touched.
Each rod has a different array of such rules that make figuring the puzzles out rather fun - and easily expandable.
Each Puzzle herein has a base configuration of colored crystals and a goal configuration to reach and the difficulty ranges from child's play to challenging - the penultimate puzzle took my group about 30 minutes to get right and my guys are good at solving logical puzzles. If you as the DM can't be bothered to solve this, sample steps to solve the puzzles are provided, though it should be noted that these not always are the most efficient way to solve these.
Now if this looks rather underwhelming on paper, rest assured that it's actually fun if your players enjoy actually thinking and flexing their mental muscles. I know my players enjoyed it enough to to make me make puzzles like these the basic technology of hotwiring the creations of one particular ancient civilization in my game.
While primarily intended as a mini-game while waiting for the one guy who's late, the 5 sample puzzles provided can easily be expanded by an enterprising DM to include many, many more. A total of 4 pages of dot-cut-outs to represent crystals is provided as well, if your players need a visual cue - for advanced groups, I'd suggest not providing these, since it makes the task slightly more complicated and is a nice memory-training exercise.
Now the pdf also offers some advanced tricks - If your players have too hard a time, provide a multi-colored rod that can change colors - especially nice if your PCs failed to find one of the rods. If you're sadistic (or to reflect botched UMD-checks, there is a variant which changes a random crystal's color every 5 moves. This should NOT be used for the more complex puzzles, though - your players won't be happy about it. Finally, there is a kind of template for a golem who can be tuned to a color, with different special attacks based on the crystal color they're attuned to.
Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor non-standard rules-language in the end, that is not something problematic or grievous in a free product. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard and the pdf has rudimentary bookmarks.
Okay, I'll come right out and say it - I love this pdf. A) It's FREE. B) It inspired me - the possibilities of this deceptively simple system are endless - more complex patterns of crystals? Possible. A Ziggurat that needs to be solved, with crystals strewn throughout the dungeon, requiring exploration to get the pattern and then solve it? Possible. Creatures that have superb defensive powers (Vastly increased DR etc.) and need to be solved first, requiring attacks with the rods while they try to bash you to smithereens? Possible. The potential of this humble little book is staggering and it simply is FUN. Now granted, if your players don't enjoy logic puzzles, then this might not be for you - but come on, give it a try. Remember those days when gaming was a teaser for the intellect as well as the imagination, from the time to which we point when we tell ourselves that gamers are above average in intelligence. Unleash your nerd and dare to use some fun puzzles - you literally have nothing to lose with these - they're for FREE and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval - an awesome free product by Bradley Crouch.
You can get this awesome pdf for FREE. Follow the link on my home page.
Interjection Games also currently has a kickstarter running for "Strange Magic" - check it out if you're by now bored by Vancian casting and want to see a Tome of Magic-style book done right!
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS and Lou Agresta's RPGaggression.
This book for the mean DM is 82 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 74 pages of content, so let's take a look!
So...Bill Webb has somewhat of a reputation for not only being FGG's mastermind, but also for being a capable and deadly DM - one I didn't yet have the honor to play with, but from what I've heard - wow. And this book, well, it contains some of his nastiest tricks - which makes for an interesting read, so let's see if even jaded DMs like your truly can draw some neat tricks out of this one!
The pdf kicks off with an introduction -and something that makes the book rather interesting in sensibility - Bill's game is a blend of old-school, Sword & Wizardry and 3.X/PFRPG sprinkled in and hence, throughout the book, Skeeter Green has boxes, where he explains changes in terminology in the system, provides spell-conversions into a given system and generally elaborates peculiarities, making this book MUCH more useful than it would be otherwise. All right, got that?
One glorious house-rule herein is rather interesting -XP for GOLD SPENT. No, seriously - think about it: Clerics building temples and sniffing good incense, paladins giving alms, rogues and fighter gambling and whoring -it makes for a great way to handle e.g. XP gained via downtime etc.- even better if you want to have leveling actually take some time and entail some...things that happen. A great roleplaying catalyst! Alternate weapon damage, attributes and bonuses, travel etc. are also provided, though these will probably primarily be a godsend for DMs who want to defuse the rules-heaviness of PFRPG's crunch, for they represent essentially concise, but still a bit quick and dirty simplifications. Now the "got lost" charts and rolls on the other hand are truly awesome and simple for just about every system they're used in -especially thanks to proper survival DCs etc. also provided.
Simpler rules for food and drink, foraging etc. are also in here - more interesting and yet another godsend-level table would be the concise 50-entry-three column table to generate unorthodox door opening mechanisms - so simple and yet so flavorful - awesome! This also extends to actual specific trigger-mechanisms for traps.
We all have been there - the moment where players just are incredibly LUCKY. I once had it happen that a PC could ONLY survive by a) winning initiative (enemy rolls 1, he a 20) - he did that. Thereafter, he had to crit the foe and confirm - two twenties required, both rolled. THEN he still had to roll max damage with a d10 and 5d6 AND then, in order to not be destroyed by his godlike adversary, he would have to roll a 10 on a d10 (indicating fatal head wound) and then a natural 100 on a d% in order to manage an instant-beheading according to the crit rules I used back then. Every other outcome would have seen him SLAUGHTERED. Well, do the math - I did not expect this character to survive. He did. Players are lucky...and this one suddenly had the regalia of literally one of the most powerful warrior-lords EVER to walk the lands, plus his fortune as by custom of trial by combat.
Where I'm getting at with this anecdote is - sometimes players are lucky, deservedly so - but the consequences might prove to become issues for the balance of the campaign. Hence, the next chapter is all about handling players with too much treasure via quite an array of options - several of them rather nasty, but concise and best of all: They make sense -both in a historical context of fantasy and in-game - just think about all those times in the stories and comics Conan got a fortune and was subsequently deprived of it (when he didn't squander it to convert gold to XP, that is!) - yeah, that level of loss. Now here's a huge issue I have as a reviewer - I *could* go into detail regarding all of the tricks, as I usually do - but that would somehow defeat the purpose of this book.
As soon as the tricks as made obvious, players are more likely to consider them as such and not as just a concise development of the campaign - by exposing them, I'd hurt their effectiveness. So I'll refrain from that - just one thing: Whether it's an AP kind of on the wrong side of a despotic city's law, a certain mythic incursion into an abyssal landscape or a certain kingdom-building experience - there's a fitting trick for just about every context here.
The next chapter is called "Situational Advantage" - and is glorious - generally, it is a DM's primer for some cool environmental hazards/modifications/tactics, with neat mechanics to supplement them - and you gotta love the Pepé-Le-Pew giant skunk-entry. Now there are also some other glorious terrain books out there, but this chapter still makes a great supplement for some rather nasty hazards...
Next up would be a chapter that my players would HATE - because I've used similar tricks: Magical keys that do nothing, Unobtanium and similar nasty tricks and time wasters are exceedingly efficient at making players not analyze EVERYTHING - but there's another benefit: A DM can use these tricks as blank spaces to later revisit and improvise contexts that weren't there before, retroactively fit in storylines and the like - and no, not going into all the details of this chapter. Once again - less effective if players know what they're up against.
The next two chapters also are smart - Wolves-in-sheep's clothing and vice versa - with these, you can drive home the fear of the unknown, read advice on unkillable (no, seriously! You CAN'T kill these! Yes. Pointy sticks and arcane fire aren't always the solution!) monsters or traumatize your players to be afraid of mold. No seriously - my players start gibbering and running whenever something mold-related comes up. Demons? Pfff. Bring out the unmoving fungus! With the tips herein, you can make YOUR players afraid of whatever you like! (And if you require further assistance - drop me a line!)
Now the trick-chapter is also interesting -from stacking certain hazards/obstacles to puzzle-style combat to tesseracts and portals - a lot of goodies here.
Finally, we have a great chapter called "Greed is bad" - from pointing towards the timeless "Don't drink two potions at once"-table from 1E (seriously - hunt that one down!) to some other...interesting tricks to make players stop succumbing to Karzoug's favorite sin, this is a fitting conclusion to this nice booklet.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard reminiscent of small booklets like digests. The print-edition, which is btw. of top-notch quality, does also adhere to this size.The pdf provides ample, cool and iconic old-school b/w-artworks. The pdf also comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Wow, this was an uncommon ride for me - mainly because reading this book was somewhat a blast from the past, with many tricks implicit in the old-school of adventure design properly and concisely spelled out. While the house-rules herein may not be to everyone's liking, DMs and groups looking for simplification got one awesome resource here. Furthermore, some of the tricks are glorious, while others elicited a "D'unh" from me - the latter though, as I realized, mostly due to me coming from kind of (though not wholly - Bill Webb's old-school credibility vastly outclasses mine!) this school of DMing. I.e. my game is lethal, PCs die and the world is not conveniently CR-stacked for PCs to slaughter. I started thinking, and relatively soon realized that most new-school modules simply don't use tricks like these - and worse, were limited to the module, whereas most of the tricks herein actually help keeping a campaign going, not a simple module.
And as every DM who ran something that was not a plot-driven AP can attest, it is campaigns, with freedom, strange choices and especially sandboxes that can provide the problems this booklet combats. As such, and due to the ridiculously low price, I can wholeheartedly recommend this useful book - even if you're a better Dm than me and know every trick in this book already, it still makes for a cool blast-from-the-past-style reading and should inspire some rules-changes/refreshing of the mentality at the heart of FGG's success. Congrats to Bill Webb and developers Skeeter Green and Matthew J. Finch - well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.
Reviewed first on Endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on d20pfsrd.com's shop.
Okay, today I'll do something different - and take a look at a free d20-supplement. This review has been requested last years and it took forever. Why? Because we're talking Eclipse, 202 pages, 1 page front cover, 3 pages editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 197 pages, so what do we get?
First of all - if you like this pdf, you can buy the print edition or pay for it here - in the fine shareware tradition, I encourage those of you who find this book interesting to do so.
So, what is this about? This book is essentially the world's biggest character class-generator for d20-based systems. Don't believe me that this system is massive? Well...you could conceivably play children, infant characters even with it. The system introduces CPs - character points, which are used to buy EVERYTHING - skills, feats, Hit Dice - everything can be customized via these points, of which a character receives 24 per level. How does HD work? Essentially, a character gets d4+con-mod for free - bigger HD cost progressively more CP, allowing, provided the DM allows it, up to d20 HD.
This is a running theme - the system herein offers maximum flexibility, but never tires of emphasizing that a DM should retain the final say.
Skills not on the class-skill-list start as essentially the equivalent of cross-class, becoming class skills at 6 invested CP- with 1 CP equal to 1 rank. Now relevant for PFRPG would be that class skills/cross-class skills are handled more in line with PFRPG than its 3.X predecessor here, but with a catch - the character can also buy very specialized knowledge, i.e. knowing about a specific tome, a ritual etc. - these cost CP as well and provide in-depth information on those topics. Generally, that makes for a very interesting way of handling very specialized information. Saving throws cost 3 CP per point and most specialized abilities clock in at 6 points, but could theoretically also cost more, depending on the ability in question.
BAB is increased similarly - via the slightly unfortunately named Warcraft - which is an ability that costs 6 points and nets +1 BAB. Base Caster Level works similarly and have a limit of level+3, surprisingly. This also extends to the BAB, allowing you to potentially go above the level in question. Spellcasting per level is purchased in a similar manner, with fixed costs. And yes, these include the 3.X psionic classes.
Now beyond tables upon tables, there are roleplaying modifications to CP earned - depending on the campaign you run, you could prescribe X bonus CP to be used in a specific way. On a character's side, players may enter obligations, restrictions and the like to increase or decrease the CP gained each level. Disadvantages, much like flaws, are presented here as well. Action points are part of the deal as well, mind you, and represent just another buy-in option of specialized abilities available for CP.
Want to have a dominion, an equippage? Doable. Want to get completely rid of any class-distinctions? There you go. Point-buy casting via mana (which could be used to generate power points or spell-levels?) - in here. Return from death, villain-style? Possible. Shapeshifting? Sacrificing treasure in favor of mystic powers? Oversized combat maneuvers and weapons? Yep. Deal ability damage with attacks? Yup. Block attacks via fixed ref-DCs? Yep. This would also be one example (of many), where a particular rules-solution is inelegant and wouldn't see use at my table - ever - non-scaling, competing throws? Not my cup of coffee and similarly, not particularly balanced design.
Metamagic, lacing of spells - the same exceedingly modular approach applies. The same goes for handling ECL+X races and race-generation - including size modifications down to cellular levels. Some existing templates are also broken down by CP-cost and channeling energy, monster abilities etc. are covered in their own chapter, allowing for quite an array of alternative options for channeling.
Now, I've noted the option to have a dominion - this one nets Dominion Points, which allow further options for customization and achieve with the political might. Card-themed casting, godfire, occult abilities, martial styles, ritual magic, witchcraft - all there. Have I mentioned spells from the levels 10 -23? Yes, in case these meteor showers just don't cut it anymore.
World generation and motivations for characters would also be found herein - the system supports anything from anime-style campaigns to gritty ones and even pokémon-style gameplay. Sample character class (and PrC)-break-downs, handling different power-levels - and even checklists to make sure your now class-less character has proper motivations etc. - all of this is covered and infinitely more.
Editing and formatting are very good, I didn't notice significant glitches. Layout adheres to an easy to read 2-column b/w-standard with fitting stock art. The pdf comes extensively bookmarked with nested bookmarks.
Paul Melroy and Patrick Bryant have created an interesting book for 3.X - one that can be made compatible with PFRPG, by the way, if you're willing to do some work.
EDIT: I've been made aware that the system has been made Pathfinder compatible - you can find the respective information here:
Thanks to the comments that pointed this out!
Over all, Eclipse provides a superbly modular framework, essentially breaking down d20-based gaming to its base constituents in the endeavor to allow maximum flexibility. And generally, the authors have done an exceedingly fine job with it. The major problems I found were system-inherent - maximum flexibility allows for maximum options and hence also maximum fluctuation between PC power levels. While generally, the system tries hard to maintain a sense of balance, overall, eclipse is less about standard number-crunching and more about narrative-driven playing environments. "But why not go diceless or old-school in that case?" Well, perhaps you like the framework, perhaps you want some choices...or perhaps you just want general ideas on what *could* make for compelling, non-standardized options.
Now what makes Eclipse different, concise within the d20-framework? It is a system that breaks just about EVERYTHING down to CP - everything. Attacks, sneak attack, psionics, mana, runes, being a lord - everything. This is the system of ultimate possibilities and this vast array of options, some of which you probably won't even think you desired, makes this book such a mile-stone.
For a mile-stone it is. This book, true to its name, eclipses by far other race/class generators I've seen and over all, remains MUCH MORE balanced than e.g. the race generation in Paizo's ARG or just about all similar generators I've read so far. I still wouldn't unanimously recommend it as a base for a campaign if your players enjoy the power-gaming/number-crunching game, unless you're willing to do quite a lot of checking, also because some of the individual rules simply aren't balanced (or not scaling) or rather clunky. While in no way true for the majority of content herein, I managed to break a couple of sample concepts - which is acknowledged and in line with the more narrative-driven focus of this book. So what is the grand achievement in this book? This is essentially the talented concept, taken a significant step further. Now while it's theoretically compatible with Pathfinder, I'd contest that claim somewhat by pointing out the changed ability-suites, power-levels, skill-emphasis etc. - it *IS* compatible, yes, but it also imho requires A LOT of work and quite a few design-decisions not all DMs will be capable of making to fully break down PFRPG in CP. While the conversion on the blog are extensive, they necessarily can't cover the entirety of material out there, so be aware of the necessity to do some conversion.
This is modular...in the highest sense. And it also is one of those books that get the juices flowing. Even if you don't use this book, there are so many ideas for classes, archetypes, feats, magic systems etc. in here that any designer who hit a writer's block regarding such concepts can flip open this book and get inspired - not necessarily by the individual mechanics, but by their proximity, their concepts, their general idea and general CP-cost - the same holding true for balancing more esoteric means and CP as a means of specialized knowledge is a stroke of genius idea that could easily be integrated into a given game, even without the rest of the rules - this is crunch/idea-cherry-picking at its finest - and it's free to check out. If you like what you're reading, support these guys.
All in all, this may not be perfect, but the book is an inspiring read nonetheless and should be checked out by anyone intrigued, even slightly, in the idea of a truly modular character-generator that gets rid of all the class-borders. As such, I will rate the inspiration, what can be drawn from this, at 5 stars. You should be aware, though, that the experience provided here is radically different from standard d20 and requires a crunch-savvy DM as well as a lot of dialogue between DM and player and should not be considered a toolkit for anyone. Personally, some of the rules-components rub me the wrong way, I'm a bit too balance-obsessed and too time-starved to break down NPCs etc. in CP, but at the same time loved the inspirations this book provided.