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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 6,009 posts (6,306 including aliases). 594 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.

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An RPG Resource Review


This book focusses on the personality, companions and adventures of the seventh incarnation of the Doctor, played by Sylvester McCoy. Some dismiss this Doctor as a mildly insane lightweight, others speak of hidden depths, of a sharp intellect and someone who tests and challenges everyone, enemy and ally alike. Read on and decide for yourself.

Chapter 1: The Seventh Doctor and Companions looks at the people and personalities involved. The Seventh Doctor himself is a mystery, mad professor (if you're being kind) on the surface, bumbling along and talking to himself, but this unprepossessing exterior hides an incisive mind with a deep understanding of space, time, and whatever situation he's got into at the time. He also has a novel approach to companions: they are fellow-travellers, expected to pull their weight, rather than assistants or strays he's picked up along the way. He sees, better than they do, what they can grow in to and 'encourages' them along the way. The companions discussed are Melanie Bush, Sabalom Glitz, and Ace (complete with homemade Nitro-9 explosives, of course). This chapter also contains full character sheets for this Doctor and the three companions. Finally, there are notes on the latest TARDIS.

Next, Chapter 2: Tools of the Trade rather oddly starts by analysing the sort of companions the Seventh Doctor prefers, with an eye to empowering you to come up with your own (if you don't want to use Mel, Glitz or Ace, that is). There are also ideas for alternative campaigns using this era as a basis - even ghost hunting and a crime spree are considered! We also get some new traits (good and bad), and of course new gadgets. Nitro 9 is mentioned, but mostly with a strong warning about leaving it well alone! There are no concrete game mechanics for it, it is just too powerful for its (your?) own good. There are some quite detailed notes on designing your own artefacts too, excellent if you fancy dreaming up some remarkable device to urge your plot along.

Then Chapter 3: Enemies takes a look at the opposition. Cybermen and Daleks, of course, there's also Fenric, the Master, and the Rani. Plenty of background detail, food for many a plot, and appropriate character sheets.

This is followed by Chapter 4: Designing Seventh Doctor Adventures. A wealth of advice here ranging from themes to the role of UNIT, adventure structure, getting scary, and general game mastering snippets.

And then we are on to Chapter 5: The Seventh Doctor Adventures. Here we find the standard pattern of adventure synopsis, notes on running the adventure, details of significant characters, monsters and gadgets involved, and finally suggestions for further adventures. Some may like to see how their group of players will cope with the actual adventures, others may prefer to use them as a jumping off point, perhaps using the suggestions for further adventures or drawing on something else that takes their fancy. Others will just revel in remembering past episodes (or discovering them for the first time depending on age and viewing habits back then!), but there's plenty here to enjoy whatever your intentions.

Again a comprehensive, definitive word on the Seventh Doctor. Sit back and be swept away once more...

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This book covers the tenure of the Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker), detailing the adventures that he had and the companions that he shared them with. This was a flamboyant Doctor from a flamboyant time, with adventures involving Daleks, Cybermen, at least one of his earlier incarnations and culminating in his being put on trial by the other Time Lords on Gallifrey.

Chapter 1: And Not A Moment Too Soon! takes a look at the style, the look and feel of this Doctor's adventures. In personality brash and over-confident, the Doctor could be quite difficult to get along with, frightening even. He viewed the universe as a place that was getting darker, and wasn't sure whom he could trust, perhaps not even his companions. This could make him difficult to run as an NPC. This wasn't helped by discovering that his own people were as bad as the rest of the universe's inhabitants, corrupt and meddling: all the things the Doctor has stood against. There's plenty of discussion here to help you get everything straight, and even a few adventure seeds that might spark ideas.

Next, Chapter 2: The Sixth Doctor and Companions presents character sheets for the Sixth Doctor, Peri and Mel and, of course, the TARDIS... a pretty wilful beast in this incarnation. There are a few new traits and the like as well.

Then the main body of the book is given over to Chapter 3: The Sixth Doctor's Adventures. Starting with a comprehensive synopsis there are sections on running the adventure, new creatures and game mechanics introduced during it, NPCs and gadgets; finishing off with further adventures (in quite brief outline) that could spin off from the actual one being discussed. As always, it's slightly strange. Do you want to recreate an adventure directly from the show? At least some of your players may have seen it. On the other hand, many of them are cracking adventures and even if your players did see it they may not have perfect recall. The follow-up adventures will need quite a lot of work to become playable. Yet this chapter provides a marvellous account of what happened during the Sixth Doctor's tenure, and makes fascinating reading for that alone.

Chapter 4: The Trial of a Time Lord covers, in extensive detail, the pivotal time when the Doctor was placed on trial on Gallifrey. There's loads of background and details of four complete adventures... and then ideas for where you can take your campaign next. This section is jam-packed with ideas about how you can weave elements of this story into your own plots (or, of course, make use of it entire).

Finally an Appendix looks at The Sixth Doctor and the Time War. This overarching event has its beginnings in the time of the Fourth Doctor and rumbles on even up to the present-day show. You may choose to ignore it, taking each adventure in isolation or you may prefer to weave it throughout your storyline. Here you will find plenty of ideas for doing just that - even if the Doctor, at this point, doesn't know much about it.

Full of ideas for adventure, this book should keep a group interested in this era, Gallifreyan politics or the Time War busy for a long, long time.

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****( )

Many creation myths speak of the universe coming into existance when some all-powerful being spoke words into a void - what if that void's still there and you can find out some of the words that will bestir it into doing something? That's what void magic is all about. Sounds tasty... but those who look into the void tend to go mad, so beware!

The school of void magic hinges on being able to master void speech. It's pretty dangerous, after all the void is a big nothing, oblivion... and by using void speech you give oblivion a form. It's pretty nasty even when not mixed with magic, and the written word is not much better. Expect bleeding eyes and the very paper degrading in front of you. Even when used with the best intentions, void magic tends to nasty consequences. It's hard to learn although apparently aboleths are quite good at it. Void magic spells are also hard to learn. You don't pick them from a list, you have to be taught them by someone else or find them in a scroll or captured spellbook. For those using the Midgard Campaign Setting there are some notes on the best places to find those who can speak void speech and who might know some interesting spells.

Still want to dabble? Only wizards are able to learn void magic, and there are a couple of feats to aid them. There's also an arcane tradition,, the Void Speaker, that you can follow. Next we get a very short spell list, a couple of cantrips then one or two spells at 1st to 9th level, followed by their full descriptions and necessary game mechanics. That's pretty much it, although Void Speakers have the ability to weave a few words of void speech into any spell and cause temporary insanity as well as whatever the spell is supposed to do - nasty.

It's an interesting concept but one possibly best confined to your NPCs (until someone steals a spellbook and starts leafing through it...). It reads a bit like a hasty summary of an idea that has been better developed, more is needed if you want to make void magic an integral part of your game. For example, what are the effects of studying void magic for any length of time? A mechanism for staying sane would be helpful after all the vague threats of it being dangerous to use, although the effects on other people are covered adequately. Even just wandering around muttering in void speech can make people frightened of you. (Wonder if that works on students?)

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The assumption is made that you have a reasonable grasp of what runes and rune magic are, and already know that they are associated with people from cold northern realms (think Vikings in the real world), it dives straight in by explaining that you need a Rune Knowledge feat to use them at all, and a Rune Mastery feat to develop your skills. Thereafter, though, the contents are excellent with a lot of material to get your teeth into.

First up, the Rune Knowledge and Rune Mastery feats are given in full detail, then there's a fascinating run-through of the runes themselves. This makes it clear that learning rune magic is a slow and painstaking process: when you learn Rune Knowledge you get to choose just TWO runes which you can use (and Rune Mastery enables to use a single rune you know at a higher level)... fortunately you can take both feats multiple times. For each rune, you get a specific bonus just because you know it, and then you learn the effects of tracing that rune (standard and mastery levels of knowledge) - and there's an image as well so you know the shape to trace.

Next, there are several rune rituals to perform. These are associated with specific runes and there's the rather cryptic comment that once you know the appropriate rune, you can eventually master the appropriate ritual - no indication of how long that takes or what you have to do to master it. The rituals themselves are full of Norse flavour, fitting that mindset.

Then there are rune magic spell lists (for all spell-using classes) followed by the detailed spell descriptions themselves. Many again have Nordic themes or deal with cold, curses, and similar concepts, although there is no real connection with runes themselves otherwise. They do fit in well with the general themes of the magic in this book, however, so could work well for spell-casters of appropriate origin or as spells used by a character who also has the rune-using feats in his build.

These are followed by a couple of neat magic items. The nithing rod is rather fun, it's a kind of landmine you set for an enemy whom you'd like to curse. Once you have created it (and you have to know the individual, it's not a general purpose weapon) you set it up someplace you think your enemy is likely to pass, and when he does it not only casts bestow curse on him, it keeps on doing so until he fails his saving throw! They also curse anyone who tries to tidy them away, although then they only cast the curse once.

There's also a couple of conditions - snow blindness and hypothermia - and a couple of monsters which relate to the rituals earlier, which summon them. It helps if you have the full statistics of whatever is conjured up, after all!

Overall, this is a nice selection of material to bring a northern flavour into your game - it's good on the crunchy bits, the actual effects you can create using your rune magic, but a little short on the flavour that would put it all into context.

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The concept of 'clockwork magic' first arose in Zobeck and then in the Midgard Campaign Setting, both published by Kobold Press, but of course the almost-magical qualities of clockwork go back to very early times - China about 2500 BC or the Greek 'Antikythera mechanism' that is nearly as old. Often used in temples to impress worshippers with their deity's power, or for navigation and timekeeping, it's still a bit mysterious if you don't know how it works. And of course, in a fantasy game we can add magic in as well. It's a plausible mix of magic and technology for the sort of cod-mediaeval worlds most of us use for our campaign settings... many of which have lost ancient empires to loot for inventions that have been lost as well.

Clockwork magic, then, has its origins in time manipulation, precision craftwork and machining, constructs and mechanical devices. Opinion is divided as to whether it was a devotee of a god with a suitable sphere (craft or time perhaps) or a tinkering mechanic who added magic to the steam or water power he was used to using to power his machines that first hit upon the concept. You may wish to establish your own origins for it, or just assume that it is known in certain circles in your world.

For clerics, and others of a religious persuasion, there are details of a Clockwork Domain and a couple of sample deities for whom it could be appropriate. Warlocks may seek out the Great Machine as a patron, and gain suitable abilities and access to spells from that connection. Wizards may choose to become clockwork mages, studying the school of clockwork magic. Each of these provides a framework for the individual character to begin to practice clockwork magic in some manner.

The rest of the book is filled with an array of spells that are in some way associated with clockwork or time in general, often with links into the fascinating world of constructs. There are other snippets scattered throughout: clockwork creatures you can summon and a nasty disease called rust that affects both flesh and bones and constructed beings.

Overall, it's an entertaining collection of magic. It could possibly have done with some items and gadgets to go along with the spells, but apart from that this makes a good starting point for adding a novel form of magic to your game.

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