This massive tome contains over three hundred pages of content. Endzeitgeist's review is fairly comprehensive. However, I'd like to add my own input on this pdf.
I generally DM online and find detailed, complex descriptions to help set scenes very well. Sometimes it can be difficult to figure out how exactly you are to create those scenes...this book definitely helps in many respects. The first chapter is on Dungeon Design and is, in my opinion, the most useful chapter for immediate use. Many of the other chapters are best for references rather than reading through for general ideas. This chapter contains numerous questions designed to prompt your GM imagination. It helps with both the theme of the dungeon and creating the actual map for it. Making a maze with a series of rooms and monsters who don't interact with one another or have no purpose of being there other than to fight the PC's is NOT what this book is about. Its about crafting a piece of beauty, a dungeon that makes sense. How do the denizens access different areas? Where do they gain food and water from? How do they interact with one another? It has many questions and advice on all of these. It contains advice that I would love to read in a DMG.
The second chapter, Dungeon Dressing, is the core of the book. While the first has design principles and some very good advice, this is the chapter where you'll find the description and crunch all Dm's crave. There are three main parts of this chapter: random tables for description, miscellaneous crunch and traps. I find the random tables intriguing not for the randomness, which doesn't fit how I tend to run a game, but for the in-depth details and the way it inspires further thought and imagination. When the players enter an important room, what is in it? How does the archway look? What sort of doors does it contain? What are the light sources like? This section has a lot of really fun ideas and I love the pre-set traps for use. The core Pathfinder game has few traps and most are simply damage. This, instead, provides things that could make an encounter more interesting. For example, the adhesive door handle on page 80. A low CR trap that simply gets a victim stuck to the door handle. By itself, its not that impressive-requiring a DC 15 strength check. However, combine it with a sudden encounter and you have a good fight on your hands.
Deeper into this chapter you discover more percentile lists of random graffiti along the walls, tapestry descriptions and more. When I first read through these sections, I was overwhelmed with the amount of content. It really can't be stressed enough simply how much there is to use. If you like to make dungeons, even if they are smaller, mini-dungeons of only 6-7 encounters, this is a perfect companion book. There are so many traps within that make use of tapestries, walls, doorways, fountains, piles of corpses and more!
The third chapter delves into riddles. It contains numerous examples of riddles which are thematic to a fantasy setting. While the internet is filled with simple riddles, sometimes it can be hard to find thematic fantasy-themed riddles. This is probably my least favorite chapter simply because riddles are difficult to use. They challenge the player rather than the PC. The chapter does address this in a small blurb, providing some ideas for interesting ways around a riddle other than a simple intelligence check. I do wish they had gone into more depth about these ideas though.
The final chapter is on Treasure Hoards. Everyone loves treasure. Dms love giving it out. Players love getting it. Whether its a pile of gold or actual magic items, all of it can be interesting. As a player, I prefer interesting items to simple piles of gold—although I prefer the actual sale part to occur off-screen. Producing appropriate amounts of treasure that contains various items can be time-intensive. As such, this is one of my favorite parts of the book. It provides a random table for the treasure as well as a listing of how much each hoard costs. Treasure hoards are also divided up by level. If you have a level 4 party, you can easily look up the level four list, roll a D12 and give the players something interesting to find. As an aside, I love that these use D12's over D20's. The d12 doesn't get enough love.
Summary: GM's Miscellany: Dungeon Dressing was of a superb quality in fluff and crunch. I've made extensive use of it for the two dungeons I've crafted since obtaining it and its made me add the urban Dressing book to my wish list as well as many of my games take place within a city. I highly recommend this entire series of books based off of this example.
When I first saw the Kickstarter for 13th Age, I was intrigued. But I didn't purchase. I don't tend to try new systems outside of D&D (put Pathfinder under that umbrella as well). When I do, I rarely (re: never) like them.
This book is quite different.
The format is well-laid out and clean. It jumps straight into the book and forsakes the "What is roleplaying" introductions some RPGs contain. They assume experienced or at least mildly experienced gamers.
The game uses the basic six stats used in D&D, but does a good job of encouraging spread out points. Armor, magical and physical defenses are calculated by taking a mid-point. For example, for mental defense you take the middle value of Charisma, Wisdom and Intelligence. A wizard may cast using intelligence, but will be basing their magical defense off of charisma or wisdom, depending on which is higher.
The core book contains the fighter, cleric, ranger, rogue, wizard, sorcerer, barbarian and bard. Each class plays significantly different from one another. Fighters have an interesting mechanic giving them various buffs or effects based on their die roll. Wizards gain daily, at-will and cyclic powers that are usable at different times. Rangers rely mainly on talents, but can be made more complex by picking up limited spellcasting and animal companions. I could go on. Essentially, each class is designed differently. The magic system does avoid the Vancian casting that is common in D&D and its derivatives while not conforming to the At-will/Encounter/Daily repetition that is 4th edition D&D.
Feats, instead of providing numerical bonuses, often exist to open up options. You pick up feats to alter the way certain abilities work or to open up more options with those abilities.
The game uses Backgrounds as its skill system. Backgrounds are a very open way of allocating points to specific concepts. For example, your wizard may have three points in "Member of the Thule Necromantic School." At first, I was somewhat skeptical of this. However, after over 6+ sessions of play, I am a huge fan. Rather than asking for a knowledge (nobility) check, I would ask for an intelligence check using any backgrounds that relate to nobility or history. This might include being the bastard son of a noble, the ambassador to a foreign court or the legitimate heir of a minor banner house.
Many others point to the One Unique Thing as a key element of 13th age as well. The OUT is something about your PC that is relatively unique in the world. Perhaps you are a daughter of Baba Yaga or the reincarnation of an ancient hero. These are designed to make PC's feel special and unique and can be slowly developed during play.
The best part of this system is the ease of play and DMing. No more do you spend 20+ minutes creating a level 5+ NPC or monster. No more do you have vague CR values that give ranges as opposed to expected statistical values. 13th Age makes creating monsters a breeze. Check the chart, grab the AC/Magic defense/ physical defense and then (if desired) apply one or more keywords that modify those stats. For example, a Brute may gain a % in hp but lose 1 or 2 from its defenses.
Overall, I was tentative about 13th Age but can't imagine running any other game. The ease of Dming this system combined with how much fun the combat is makes it ideal for my style of game.