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Ferocious foes and fantastic foils for adventurers at all levels of play.

*****

'Scions of Evil' is a collaboration of many creative minds from the Raging Swan Press stable, a compilation of thuggery and villainy with a staggering collection of stat-blocks, back-stories and brutal bad guys and gals. This is, simply put, a massive collection of antagonists rife with crunch and flavor alike; from minions and fodder to full-on organizations, the spread of creativity and challenge ratings presented throughout make this a robust library of adversaries for adventurers at all levels of play--and foils for more storied plots as well.

While primarily 'Scions of Evil' is a compilation of previously released Raging Swan Press supplements under the same vein, a considerable amount of potent bonus material is included with some seriously wicked and powerful foes; that aspect combined with having everything collated into one well-organized package makes this supplement a fantastic resource for expanding upon adventures and campaigns or building the foundations of the same.

In execution, the crux of 'Scions of Evil' is coupling the clever and cruel with sound crunch by way of well-made stat-blocks--and in this regard, the supplement is a fine sum of its parts. There is certainly a distinction between different challenge levels--as generally speaking, minions and low-level miscreants are somewhat limited in the complexity they can be afforded while high-level villains have much more flexibility in this regard.

That said, one of the things that I have traditionally enjoyed about the component products of this collection is that even 'simple' foes are presented with variety. For example, in the stead of just generic 'goblin' minions, we have four flavors of goblin: adepts, with a smattering of magical talent, raiders, scouts--skirmishers with tanglefoot bags and champions, tougher and better-equipped than most.

Villains arrive with an even more robust offering, presented with varying additional material such as adventure seeds, encounters (e.g. possible combinations of a given villain + minions with encounter level), lore for adventurers to unearth, tactics for battle and plot hooks. Some of the entries also include GM notes with suggestions and advice for running a particular villain--and throughout the whole of 'Scions of Evil', each of the named adversaries also come with their own back-story, of course.

While the staggering spread of stat-blocks overall are solid and competently crafted, the higher level villains are definitely my favorites when it comes to raw mechanical crunch. Gahlgax Atarrith (who appears for free in Pathways magazine #16 if you'd like an example stat block) is a vampiric balor fighter and servitor of Orcus who arrives at a whopping challenge rating 23--and to make facing him all the more daunting, he is presented alongside 'Swords of Orcus'--graveknight marilith antipaladins (CR 21 themselves) who pack a considerable punch. It's foes like these that would make excellent opponents for high-level adventuring parties--and could also fit well into grand campaigns such as the 'Slumbering Tsar Saga' by Frog God Games.

Others among the villains present similarly potent combinations. A Memory of Allwinter is an awakened demilich druid (CR 19) with wicked signature abilities; Vaerosk Ixuzygax is an aasimar half-fiend antipaladin (CR 15) and so on. From liches to witches, barbarians to balors--there is a breadth of bedlam-wreaking adversaries to machinate grand plots, orchestrate schemes and place adventurers in perilous predicaments; as suggested at the beginning of the product, one could approach the progression of power levels as a wheels within wheels sort of endeavor--a ruthless rabbit hole through which a party follows a trail climbing through the ranks of an evil organization along the way.

It's hard to go wrong with 'Scions of Evil' when it comes to bang for one's buck; the library of ready-to-use stat blocks alone are legion (135, for those keeping score) and the collected back-stories and pre-made organizations can suite a broad range of levels of play from low to high plateaus of adventuring.

While there are certainly plenty of fairly straightforward foes throughout the product, the presented 'persona' villains are cleverly written and boast personality--and the methods and machinations these foils and antagonists could bring to a given campaign are well-realized and often inspiring. Adventure seeds, plot hooks, info-gathering lore and combat tactics all serve to add extra shine to the villains and personas--providing much flexibility for tailoring each into an existing story.

Overall: 'Scions of Evil' is 201 pages, with 9 occupied by the cover, credits, forward, OGL and catalog--leaving us with 192 pages which form a veritable annals of antagonists! Raging Swan Press is well-versed and practiced in the editing room--and their high standards remain present here. Formatting largely adheres to a clean two-column layout, with a staggering number of stat blocks and reference points for game mechanics presented in a fashion that is concise and easy to work with.

Additionally, plenty of artwork is interspersed among the many malicious individuals throughout the supplement--and finally, the PDF is thoroughly bookmarked, a must for navigating such a large compilation. Printing this beastly collection would be an endeavor, but the product is nevertheless printer friendly beyond being quite voluminous. Very well done on the whole.

'Scions of Evil' is an impressive product, formed from the union of a number of Raging Swan Press' already released and well-written GM resources. A collection of the works of many authors, this supplement is more than simply a compilation--re-organized, polished and presented in a fashion which serves as a powerful workshop for flavorful foes. It would have been simpler no doubt for Raging Swan to simply offer a discounted bundle of the prior products--but between the bonus material and the re-alignment of the elements gleaned from each of its sources, 'Scions of Evil' stands well on its own.

For one who may have already purchased the various components included in this compilation, re-acquiring them here may prove less desirable--but the added content is quite solid and I feel that having everything neatly organized in one source is a value unto itself. Whether perusing in a pinch to drop-in devious variations on simpler adversaries (spice up that pack of gnolls, goblins or kobolds with those of different roles, etc.) or pored over to plan a grand over-arching network of continent-spanning villainy, this supplement can serve as a powerful resource in any GM's collection--and is one that I would definitely recommend picking up.

Five stars!


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Landon Bellavia's Marvellous Grimoire of Stupendous Spellbooks

*****

'So What's The Spellbook Like, Anyway?' by Landon Bellavia serves as another sister in the series of 'So What' supplements, this time bringing about an open invitation into libraries of grandeur. Whether elaborating upon and imbuing detail into the prized possession of a villainous wizard, populating an ancient arcane study, or even simply seeking to add progressively more intriguing nuances to an adventuring arcanist's most precious of possessions--the many tables and reference resources herein embark to bring so much more to the scene than 'You find a spellbook, here are the spells in it.' Let's crack the arcane lock, dodge the lightning bolt and summoned spiders and see what's inside!

Utilizing 'So What's The Spellbook Like, Anyway?' will depend largely on just what you're aiming for--as there are thirteen sections altogether with different tables and functions for detail. If one is keen to put together an ancient and venerable compilation penned by a legendary wizard, the results could easily span a paragraph filled with great detail--while likewise, there's tables present to accommodate quickly generating lightweight books with their spell contents and cost ready to go at a moment's notice. Much comes down to simply deciding on degrees of detail--particularly since several of the tables presented could apply multiple times to a given tome.

For an example, the first section begins with spellbook titles--beneath which there is a table of descriptions coupled with another for subjects and a third for sample books; from this, one might come up with the Astonishing Ivory Folio of Heavenly Musings with five hits. Truly weird combinations could arise, but I found it entertaining puzzling out just the right feel here. The second section provides Wizard names and Epithets--so perhaps it is Hunstar the White's Ivory Folio. Next we're on to distinguishing features, where things really start to pick up. Did Hunstar affix his folio with ornate brass rivets? Perhaps there is silver wire stitching along its binding, or it has a quill holder built into its spine.

Of course, there's need for a proper cover for a spellbook--and the fourth section covers such amply. Hides, leathers, scales and all sorts of curious options are presented here--from the wyvern hide to the bizarre such as a cyclops' eyelid. Accompanied here is a quick chart for the condition of the cover, too, if one is so inclined--with 20 entries, as opposed to just 'mint, fine, good'--instead there may be water spots, small holes or a musty smell for instance. The fifth section offers further detail for the cover as well, proceeding into much more elaborate entries; for instance, entries on the 'Makers' table offer a paragraph apiece, such as one from a master taxidermist (explaining the exotic materials used, no doubt!)

Paper follows in the sixth section and was also one of my favorites--I particularly loved parchment laced with ashes from a vampire destroyed by sunlight. Cool! Another condition table accompanies, before we're off to the seventh section: ink. From holly berry concentrate to devil blood, emerald dust in iodine to phosphorous suspended in a potion of cure light wounds--the imaginative variety here is most excellent! After seeing to the makings of a given book, there's still quite a bit more material available; in the eighth section are preparation rituals a la those presented in Ultimate Magic--essentially boons gleaned by preparing spells from a given book. These tables present levels, costs and schools of magic and each offers an augment to casting.

The last three sections for the toolkit cover contents other than spells a book might contain (such as a map, contact information for a hobgoblin mercenary and other curious finds), potential histories for spellbooks and their authors (with basic and tough knowledge categories) and finally protection a given spellbook might have to secure its contents. This latter-most segment is particularly nice, providing a breakdown with level rangers for appropriate wards, locks and traps as well as the costs involved for each--making it an accessible resource for shrewd adventurers as well!

After so many fine details, the final two sections of the supplement buckle down for mechanical crunch in a very good way: with random spellbook costs and contents and pre-generated spellbooks. Here there is an exceptional breakdown for gold value, the number of spells of each level present within a given book and even the cost for scribing additional spells at each level on a single sheet which could be printed off and tucked in with other treasure generation resources if so desired. The thirteen sample spellbooks offer specific spells and value and could function as a baseline for starting off a more elaborate spellbook project.

More than just a collection of random tables, I feel that this supplement could serve as a powerful spellbook construction kit--and in that regard, could be enjoyed by GMs and players alike. Throughout each section are a great many interesting and inspiring offerings both curious and evocative--and really, entertaining to piece together to boot. Because of the scalability of the sections presented, the material is well-suited for everything from fashioning a villain's iconic volume to outfitting a worldly adventuring wizard or filling out an arcane library with multiple treasured tomes on short notice; the flexibility is considerable.

Overall: 'So What's The Spellbook Like, Anyway?' is 25 pages, with 7 occupied by the cover, credits, forward, OGL and an advertisement--leaving us with 18 pages to comprise the arcane intrigues of the magical tomes throughout. Raging Swan's high standards of editing and formatting ensure that the work here is solid and accessible. A clear two and three column layout presents tables and information neatly and is interspersed with nice black and white artwork of tomes; as well, the PDF is well bookmarked for easy reference and the whole should prove very printer-friendly. No complaints here!

'So What's The Spellbook Like, Anyway?' is a compelling assemblage of a la carte wonder which wizards and their ilk everywhere are apt to want to get their hands on. Details abound, both clever and bizarre--easily scaled for as much or as little elaboration one is apt to present with a given tome. This is an imaginative and well-realized endeavor which author Landon Bellavia has clearly crafted with care. I made several spellbooks running the full run of the supplement to see what might result and was entertained and pleased with each--they're liable to show up at the table before long.

While the writings and tables herein are ready for random rolling, I feel the real treasure comes in tailoring together stylish and intriguing thematic tomes--and with the nature of the material's presentation, even players of spell-slinging adventurers could well find much inspiration for their personal book. This is a fantastic resource which can serve as a tool kit for both GMs and players looking for inspiration. For something as iconic as a wizard's spellbook, scribing nuance and history for such is an excellent goal for added flavor in a given campaign. If you've ever been disappointed by spellbooks serving as tear-away pages of spells, with this one might once again make such tomes a more exciting find!

My hat is off to Landon and Raging Swan both--this is definitely a supplement that I would highly recommend. 5 stars!


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Marvelously evocative treasures to tantalize high-level adventurers!

*****

'So What's The Hoard Like, Anyway? III' by Ben Kent brings its line to a high-level close, a collection of ready-made and flavorful finds for high-level adventurers (15th through 20th level, in fact) to purvey, appraise and plunder as hard-won spoils of battle. If after a long and glorious campaign you find yourself feeling a bit tired of turning to randomly-rolled baubles and trinkets to hand-wave away at straight gold value, the third and final entry of the Hoard series from Raging Swan Press could be just the ticket to really spice things up and catch your players' eyes--containing the sorts of treasures which inspire their collection rather than simple sale!

We've an introduction to the premise along with a reference for appraising and assessing the value of treasures--after that, we're off and running to the meaty content throughout the rest of the pages. I'll start off by saying that this is an imaginative and thorough resource for adding flavor and style to the spoils of higher-level encounters; with each ready-designed to suit mechanically for per-encounter loot at each of the five levels covered herein, every encounter can reap something new and interesting--while the flexibility is also there to tweak or combine hauls for truly memorable hoards after climactic showdowns as well.

Mechanically, 'So What's The Hoard Like, Anyway? III' is very straightforward and easy to work with: each of the five levels of loot covered herein are organized into twelve caches of interesting prizes. Every hoard included has been ready-calculated to be of an appropriate overall value for a single encounter at its level (e.g. the 15th level hoards average around the base value of 19,500 gp for a single 15th level appropriate encounter.) This value breaks down between coinage, gems and jewelery, objects of art or magical items in varying measures. A hoard could be selected at random with the roll of a twelve sided die or hand-picked at one's leisure--and naturally it's easy to combine sets for larger hauls after a particularly big battle if one is so inclined.

One of my favorite things about the hoard sets is that not only are they packed with evocative flavor--but many boast a cohesive theme among their contents. A great example of this is one of the collections with a draconic artistic direction which includes a platinum brooch of a dragon's claw, an oil painting depicting a blue and silver dragon locked in mortal combat, an elaborate woven tapestry with near to a dozen dragons battling over a burning city, a set of crystal wineglasses with stems resembling dragon tails, a silver statuette of a dragon and a magical glowing falchion with a hilt of blue hide.

Together, this makes for a very cool set of treasure and just the sort of thing I could see players finding and going 'Cool! We keep it!' By the time you're fifteenth level and beyond, one ought be collecting decor for the forthcoming floating sky-castle the party's bound to commandeer. The magical items interspersed among the hoards are befitting the level of play they'd be found at as well, of course--and each is presented with descriptive text to make them a bit more than 'just another ring of protection' and so on.

I'll also note that there is great ingenuity in presenting some of the objects of art as particularly challenging to -recover--the sorts of things that could leave adventurers pondering and bringing their cleverness to bear to retrieve their prize (such as a 6'x10' wall mirror worth a handsome sum intact, but a tenth of its value in pieces.) This is an element I particularly enjoyed throughout the product--and anyone who has experienced one of those gaming moments where the party becomes -determined- to have the giant platinum monkey statue that was never intended to be moved might enjoy this element (and those who haven't, ought!)

I very much enjoyed the variety and flavor of the findings throughout the collections presented here--and with 72 hoards to choose from, the challenge in presenting such is appreciable. A few particular examples of treasures that I found quite cool: a crystal pitcher sculpted to resemble a pear tree with crystal goblets fashioned to look like plump peaches. A six-volume collection of leather-bound manuscripts dealing with the very beginnings of magic, as annotated by their original author. An amulet of natural armor which is presented as a small chunk of adamantine ore dangling from a steel chain. A BARREL of holy water bearing a holy symbol (400 pints!)

These are 'typical' to the treasures in the book here, a very fine par in my opinion; even beyond utilizing the lot of the findings herein as ready-to-go rewards after encounters, one could just as easily peruse the contents to hand-pick individually interesting goodies to custom-build an evocative hoard, decorate a lair, start plot threads or more.

Overall: 'So What's The Hoard Like, Anyway? III' is 19 pages, with 6 occupied by the cover, credits, OGL and an advertisement; this leaves us with 13 pages of terrific treasures to unearth after a fight accessible easily at a glance. Raging Swan rarely disappoints when it comes to editing and formatting--and the final installment of the Hoard series is no exception. Clear two-column layout work is supplemented by nice black and white artwork of treasures along the way in a clean presentation; as well, the PDF is nicely bookmarked for easy reference and the lot should prove very printer-friendly. No complaints here!

This supplement stands out marvelously as a supplement for adding variety and wonder to any game at high-level play; Ben Kent has done a superb job bringing to life an impressive variety of wondrous treasures for adventurers to covet and cherish--and I could certainly see a great many of the finds throughout this product ending up as permanent fixtures in the homes of those same-such heroes. It would have been easy to make a product of this nature simply churning through random rolls to populate lists as a simple time-saver for GMs--but reading through this supplement it is clear that care was taken to ensure that everything read and felt compelling.

In closing, I give the final entry in the hoard line five stars and a high recommendation. If you've ever tired of trying to inject life and intrigue into randomly rolled finds, you owe it to yourself to check it out--these levels of play are when cool treasure matters more than ever! For a campaign at these levels of adventuring, this is a must have for making the prospect of finding what goodies foes have hoarded away an exciting prospect again.


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Cry havoc and let slip the masters of martial mayhem!

*****

Returning to the field with weapons at the ready and maneuvers in mind, Steven D. Russell of Rite Publishing once more enters the breach to bring feats which expand existing chains further and open up new options for fighters and their martial ilk. 101 Combat Feats follows a similar vein to 101 Barbarian Feats in that it supplements existing options smoothly and seamlessly--a fine avenue of approach sure to appeal to all manner of mighty combatant. With much grit, guts and gusto, let's take a look at just how these feats fare!

Right off the bat we wade into the reference tables for the material herein and it's easy to see: 101 Combat Feats is bristling to the brim with a veritable arsenal of new options; there is tons of variety which can serve to satisfy anyone fond of arms and armor on the battlefield. Large feat compilations can often end up with entries which feel like filler or, worse-yet, unbalanced--but such is certainly not the case with this collection. Particularly in regards to martial characters, providing interesting, engaging, and mechanically meaningful options is crucial to the appeal of any supplement of this sort--and here Steven D. Russell does not disappoint.

While there are some outliers in the mix, the majority of the feats included here generally fall into one of four foci--weapon specialization, attacks of opportunity, combat maneuvers and grappling. I note grappling separately from combat maneuvers simply because there is a more fine-tuned focus there--essentially wrestling maneuvers chaining off of successful grapple attempts to inflict a variety of status effects or special follow-up maneuvers on opponents who have the misfortune of coming into a martial character's grasp. For example, Painful Pin can cause a foe to become sickened for a number of rounds equal to your base attack bonus.

Feat effects functioning off of base attack bonus and the like is a rather interesting angle to this supplement on the whole--as not only do the options here provide new ways in which a warrior might control the flow of battle, but having such mechanics ensures these choices continue to scale and remain useful as a character grows in power. In a similar vein to a magic user's spells growing more potent, here too a martial character might match a similar stride--especially once you look to the later options in each of the newly presented chains, many of which could serve nicely as capstone abilities.

As far as weapon specialization, there are rather interesting options for devotees--particularly those fond of bludgeoning weapons. A series of 'crush' feats allow you to debilitate an opponent's movement, dizzy their own attacks, bypass a shield's armor class, daze or sow confusion; or, perhaps you'd like to throw your hammer such that it ricochets about? If pole-arms are more your style, there's new versatility available for getting more mileage out of bracing, lunging and intervening to protect allies from an opponent's charge. Thrown weapons, shields, and double weapons get love as well--on the whole, there's plenty of great flavorful feats which broaden options beyond merely making full-round attacks of swings.

Providing added effects to attacks is one of the main themes throughout, and one which is sure to appeal strongly to any martial combatant; all too often the name of the game in melee boils down to full-round attack or bust. Being able to sow status effects on top of damage while maneuvering around the field goes a long way to improving on this predicament. Those fond of exercising battlefield control will find much interest in the feats focused on opportune moments; Opportune Focus kicks off a sizable series of duelist-flavored moves for finesse weapons such as Bold Riposte, which allows you to respond to an attack of opportunity with one of your own (very cool!) while other options like Press the Opportunity--allowing you to reposition in lieu of an attack of opportunity--are present.

Finally, the feats oriented around combat maneuvers are among my favorites of the offerings here, flavored strongly around tactical control; take Strikedown to add a trip attempt to blows modified by Power Attack--or Leap into the Fray to augment a charge attack to overrun your opponents and bowl them over in a blitz. As well, one might get more mileage from Combat Expertise by utilizing Close Quarters Shift to swap places with a foe, or fight with follow-ups based from Dirty Trick like Blinding or Bloody Assault. Needless to say, there are plentiful options available to open the door to a greater engagement of martial mechanics in battle!

As mentioned before, there are feats which would serve well as capstone abilities and truly bring a feeling of awesome power to a martial character's presence; Destructive Power brings to bear the option, once per day, to force an opponent to make a fortitude save (based off of base attack and strength bonuses) or suffer an additional 10 points of damage per base attack bonus possessed. Fearsome! Bear in mind that the prerequisites include seven feats and 18 levels of fighter. I definitely feel that these feats provide a valuable breadth of appealing options for characters which will grow alongside them on their adventures and serve to add a bold impact at higher levels as well.

Overall: 101 Combat Feats is 32 pages, with 5 occupied by the cover, credits, OGL and advertisements; this leaves us with 7 pages of fine feat tables and the remaining 20 to cover the many martial masterstrokes herein. Rite Publishing's two-column standard of formatting is present and ever neatly organized; after the feat tables there's art on every page, a mix of full-color and black and white which match the material well. The artwork accompanying throughout has popped up among other products, but each piece fits nevertheless.

Layout and spacing are good, I did not notice any egregious glitches or typos during my reading; if I had one complaint, it would be that since a number of these feats are at the end of such long chains of prerequisites that at times it can be a bit daunting to pore over everything required for a particular pick--but there's not a whole lot that could be done in this regard. The PDF is bookmarked for groupings of feats by letter, which is serviceable.

101 Combat Feats provides a fantastic spread of specialty feats to fine-tune and tailor any fighter and their ilk; there is a considerable variety to the offerings here which both bolster the potential of existing chains of character focus as well as inspiring new kits. From combat maneuvers both offensive and defensive to mobility and opportunity-based options, there's plenty of excellent synergy to help martial characters master the battlefield around them.

On the whole, the options presented herein are flavorful, cool and mechanically interesting and prove very sensible when weighed with existing mechanics; I've got to give Steven D. Russell praise for managing such care and thoughtfulness in balancing such a sizable spread of new options while constructing so many choices for characters. To me, these feats feel mechanically in-line with those found in the core--they could easily be included as part and parcel with the official line, which is a simply fantastic benchmark for any 3PP supplement. With that said, the choice is clear: five stars from me and a hearty huzzah!


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Raise spirits and pints for pugilists everywhere--let bawdy brawls commence!

*****

'Barroom Brawls' by Creighton Broadhurst provides quick, concise and easily accessible mechanics for a given gaming group to throw down, flip tables and get into a bawdy brawl at a moment's notice. With a variety of fun prompts and at-a-glance inspirations, the material herein could be used for a planned out plot and introduction of hooks or characters--or simply spontaneous mayhem after a hard adventuring session for rowdy rabble-rousers to cut loose and let off some steam. Let's take a look at what it entails to really get the fisticuffs flying!

It's likely safe to say that there is a frightening drought of drunken brawls in most adventuring circles--and that for all the origins of organized groups springing forth from gathering at a tavern, far too few fisticuffs accompany most tales as they unfold. Tongue-in-cheek aside, like as not folks generally don't delve into such situations simply to avoid flipping through books to round up the appropriate mechanics--and thus Creighton's endeavor to bring together a nice collection of the lot makes for a very practical product.

We begin with a general overview of the elements of a barroom brawl--which breaks down into the Brawl Trigger or catalyst for the coming chaos; a collection of twenty triggers are provided with descriptions of prompts which might begin a given fight, which one could simply pick or roll randomly. After this are Brawl Events, sudden and unexpected twists which might change the 'terrain' of the tavern, shift the fight out into the streets or simply see some random sod smashing a chair over the back of one of the PCs--these serve to add a lot of spice and flavor to a given bout of fisticuffs. Again, these could be picked or rolled at your leisure.

Of course, the brawls can't all be fun and games--for next comes the Brawl Aftermaths, potential consequences and outcomes for once all the dust and chandeliers have settled. Some of these are simple enough--damages and expenses as a result from rowdiness in a given establishment--while others offer potential hooks or opportunities for characters; perhaps the brawl served as cover for a robbery, or the proprietor was so impressed by a particular PC that they're then offered employment! This was one of my favorite sections of the supplement.

After these flavorful sections we have on tap a collection of sample brawlers for ready use; an iconic barkeep, a merchant, a member of the town watch and a sergeant-at-arms are offered as potential participants. We're also presented with collected rules for non-lethal damage and maneuvering about a changing 'battlefield' as tables are overturned and drinks are spilled--Barroom Brawls also includes an amusing set of new conditions by way of Tipsy, Drunk and Hammered to toss out to tavern-goers at the table.

Finally, we wrap up with sections on taproom features and improvised weapons--both of which are suggested as print-outs for brawl participants, such that a given player can quickly eyeball their options before wading in tankards akimbo. On the whole, the mechanics are simple and straightforward, but no less sweet because of it--not only are there readily available references for a variety of improvised weapons to be found about a taproom melee, Creighton's gone and put together furniture presented as terrain features.

Alongside the spontaneous events to start a tavern brawl or to occur during a brawl in progress, the sheer novelty of having these sorts of mechanics grouped cleanly and concisely makes for a fast and fun experience--while avoiding headaches (though the same cannot be said of the brawl's participants!)

My only complaint regarding the mechanics herein is more a minor wish--I'd have loved to see the premise taken as an opportunity to include a set of new combat maneuvers flavored for pub-bound pugilists (e.g. a dirty trick splash of ale, etc.) Nevertheless, the mechanics are well thought-out, very functional and quick to pick up--introducing the system to a given game should prove a snap.

Ultimately, Barroom Brawls is added fun--easy to implement and use and a nice change of pace from pounding (or being pounded by) ogres and their ilk. Personally, I'm fondest of the proposition within to utilize a good old-fashioned tavern brawl as a means of introducing rival adventurers to a party of players--but at the end of the day, it's precisely the sort of affordable supplement that serves splendidly in any GM's toolbox for a rainy day.

Overall: 'Barroom Brawls' is 15 pages, with 7 occupied by the cover, credits, introduction, OGL and an advertisement; this leaves us with 8 pages of pugilistic prompts, props and purveyors spread between example brawlers, a few easy to use random charts and ready reference to print for participants to make a throw-down easy to orchestrate. Raging Swan's high standards for editing and formatting continue in this concise mix with some nicely flavorful black and white artwork interspersed with the material presented (including of course frothy tankards aplenty.) The layout is unsurprisingly clean and professional--and as always there are very welcome elements of convenience, from thorough PDF book-marking to the material being nicely printer-friendly. Top marks.

'Barroom Brawls' is short, sweet and entertaining in its offering of easy-to-use rules for ruining the taprooms of beleaguered barkeeps everywhere. While more powerful adventuring parties would require a bit more prep if the intent is to give an equal challenge (though certainly sometimes, a given group may just enjoy mopping the floor with patrons), inside are handy inspirations and reference material for chaotic bar 'battlefield' conditions and improvised weapons from tankards to table legs. This is a shot-glass-sized supplement that packs a punch; Creighton Broadhurst has done a fine job of bringing together a thematic and functional collection of rules that are apt to bring a breath of fresh air to any table's adventures.

If you're looking for an interesting way to introduce new hooks or characters with a classic approach or just keen for an unexpected change of pace, this is a fine way to pull it off. Pound for pound, the material herein serves to expand options for entertainment at a very affordable price; grab it, print some quick reference sheets for your players and embrace a bawdy brawl! Raising a pint to cheer Creighton's creativity, I've got to give Barroom Brawls an enthusiastic five stars.


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