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Be a xorn, or a dracolisk headed tentacle monster

5/5

Ever wanted to turn your character’s head into a dracolisk and use their breath and gaze attack while growing tentacles with reach that can rot the flesh off your enemy's bones? Or, create and use crystalline weapons that go straight through armour and even mage armor to help you as you summon a plague of wights to crash a party? Indeed perhaps you could give your character the DR of a zombie and added resistances, and then decide to conjure two centipede swarms to bring a “death by centipedes”. If that isn’t nasty enough, you could curse a foe so that they think ants, spiders and any vermin are talking to them. They may go insane in 2d6 days. If your dungeons or tunnels need something extra, you could summon a gelatinous cube (that comes with the advanced template if summoned underground), or afflict an enemy with the delusion that they think they are a vampire . If you ever wanted to turn into a xorn and live off nothing but earth, stone or metal, well now you can and the spells to do all of the above are within.

This book has great potential and it is all about the spells (mostly conjuration) and the new options that they offer. It also comes with some great art, which is more than a little bit trippy and alien. I really liked this and a lot of thought went into the spells, some of which are delightfully cruel.

5/5


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On the Recent and the Present

5/5

We arrive at the end, at the fourth book of Designers & Dragons. This book has many parts and focuses as it tries to understand recent gaming history. Close to the present it can focus on what is still continuing, still here and around, but the previous books set in earlier decades had a clearer narrative to follow, the major players and the minor players were more clearly demarcated. Once we hit the d20 period and the rise of “indie” games the marketplace becomes even larger and more complicated.

Appelcline does a great job of going through it carefully and methodically, focusing as he has previously on companies and through their products telling their story and the stories of those involved and what they achieved (and sometimes failed to accomplish). I am pleased that although space is given to Paizo and the very popular Pathfinder it doesn’t overshadow Paizo’s many competitors and the huge breadth of tabletop games in circulation. This was a good decision, although Paizo fans may feel not enough was devoted to their beloved franchise. Appelcline is not playing favourites and everyone involved in the story gets a place. This is excellent to see.

As with the first, second and third books Appelcline shares the stories and product lines of so many different gaming companies. There is a lot to follow up on here, like or. The good news is, many of these will still be print or easily procurable (unlike things from the 70s or obscure stuff from the 80s).

We also have short departures to talk about individual designers in the great game of making tabletop games. These sections are compact but definitely present. Appelcline is clearly fascinated by indie game developers and Jared Sorensen (who I have never heard of before) gets the spotlight on pages 152-167. Lumpley Games and the strange stories around D. Vincent Baker were quite entertaining, especially his release of Kill Puppies for Satan and the results: “kill puppies for satan generated tons of hate mail, much of which Baker reprinted and mocked on his website.” So we have the legendary troll making his statements with a bizarre gaming system just before the indie gaming scene takes off. These... short stories on indie developers are done again for others, and the sheer length of this volume means Appelcline can trace what notable indie game developers have done and what influences they have drawn upon over many recent years and across numerous projects.

Speaking of Baker, what we also have is a continual discussion of the many influences coming into the hobby. Whether it be religious, cultural or pop cultural, whereas Asian content was almost completely new in the 90s, in the 2000s other voices and perspectives started to come in from previous groups that had very little say or contribution. Appelcline says later in the appendix that “roleplaying became cool” and in the 2000s we see the effects of cool roleplaying attracting new influences. This leads to products like Dogs in the Vineyard (2004) where according to Appelcline: “Dogs is set in the Old West, but an Old West centered on religion. Players take on the roles of God’s Watchdogs, who travel through communities to help protect the Faith. The moral codes of the Faith are presented so authentically that you can just feel the world that they create shimmering into existence around you. This is clearly the game’s first strength.” This game, was based on Mormonism. This is just one example of how there were no limits on what came in from the indie gaming scene. If people liked it and there was interest, more would follow.

The Appendix and its points on gaming in the 00s are still relevant for today (as of 2015). The d20 bubble has had a huge influence on the industry (both positive and negative after the crash), that is still felt, roleplaying has exploded in popularity and sometimes by some people it can be seen as cool. I cannot speak for the corporate control of 4th ed, although Appelcline has much to say there, but we are still in the time of indie games, pdfs and definitely remain in a period of new and experimential mechanics. It closes with a small mention of kickstarter, but that story has not concluded and therefore remains to be yet told.

In each decade tabletop gaming has changed. Appelcline’s last book of the four isn’t the end of the story, not by a long shot. New editions of existing games have come, we are in the indie revival, many people are making their own games, which may start out as house rules and end up wholly different rule systems in worlds of their own making. In the future there will need to be many more like this one to chart where tabletop gaming has gone and who was involved, what were their stories and what succeeded and failed. This finishes the four-part series on the history of gaming. It has been a great ride that I will return to again as a reference to better understand the history of tabletop roleplaying.

5/5


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Two Titans and More

5/5

Continuing the grand tale of tabletop RPGs this book focuses upon the 90s. This has a considerable focus upon White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast, setting both of these gaming companies up as the juggernauts of the period. While this is meant to cover the years 90-99 as with the previous books, the nine year period that this covers is exceeded. This makes Designers & Dragons the 90s the book that is most focused upon White Wolf as it goes all the way up to 2014 discussing what White Wolf has done gaming wise and put out for to rule sets and products.

This isn’t only on White Wolf and Wizards of the Coast though or solely on their rise and creations. In Part Four we have the “Prelude to d20” section, which discusses a huge number of products. This gives time and space to talk about those that are not the two giants of the 90s, but which have their place and showed the direction gaming was really headed in the period. Appelcline focuses on the major influence of White Wolf and TSR, but there are other stories that are covered.

As with the previous books, Appelcline includes an Appendix section with ‘10 Things You Might Not Know About Roleplaying’ in the period. This is almost philosophical given how it covers the changing nature of gaming, and it is nestled in a place for comments and observations. There are some hard truths here like gaming losing some of the Old Guard in this period. This book also serves to mark those product lines that did not survive the passing of their founders which were clearly so essential for keeping them afloat and contributing to gaming history. Appelcline records them, so that they can be known and remembered.

This ends on a sombre note, but the book is full of the life and movement within the hobby. Acquisitions and new products of the time, personal anecdotes, what succeeded and what failed. There is also the mention (leading into the 00s) of new influences and experimentations with new influences. Take page 100 as an example, here The Legend of The Five Rings RPG and 7th Sea is discussed. Five Rings with its Rokugan setting marks for Appelcline and her encyclopaedic knowledge: “the first successful Asian-influenced RPG since ancient products from the ’80s like the aforementioned Bushido and TSR’s Oriental Adventures (1985). An astounding 30 supplements followed over the next few years, capped by a second edition of the rules (2000)”. Here we can see the time when new Asian influences for roleplaying broke into the market. While many roleplayers are against this today (I am not one of them), Appelcline clearly notes when change occurs and what successful products set it off. This is done again and again and it is why this is a great gaming history book.

5/5


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On the Biggest Gaming Boom so far

5/5

The second in a four part series, Shannon Appelcline here continues his comprehensive history of roleplaying games. This time, we are in the 80s. From the opening warning on gaming by Pondsmith (who brings in a different perspective to Appelcline) to the author’s Foreward on gaming in the 80s it then dives right in. Pondsmith claims this book is for the new generation of game developers, those that are often reviving the ideas, rules and settings of the early gaming pioneers. This book simultaneously looks back and forward in time, and yes, it does indeed feel for those wanting to know about gaming history, and isn’t only for those that were there gaming in the 80s.

As with the first book in this series, dragons are the problems that plague game companies and this centrally focuses on a specific grouping of major companies. Whereas the first book had 13 central actors (companies), now Appelcline wishes to speak about 22 (I suppose this explains the 402 pages). That is a lot to cover, but it done well. The 80s is cast as the “biggest boom ever (and afterward)” in roleplaying and in this telling it begins in 1980 with “The Second Wargaming Wave”. It is an exciting tale, with some treachery, as hinted at by Pondsmith.

The story here begins with wargaming, not roleplaying, but where the two mixed may also interest, especially as roleplaying elements would find their way into war and action games on computers and consoles later. Specifically there is mention of early games like Commando (1979), which was a “man-to-man tactical combat game, but this one featuring roleplaying nuances, such as character creation and skills”. Here we can see that one influences the creation of the other, but that roleplaying elements then find their way back into wargaming.

For those used to the organised regularity of later gaming, the haphazard and unpredictable nature of the 80s must seem quite strange. Take the example of Strategy & Tactics, this was a publication that included a new game every issue. No wonder this was a time of a gaming boom and no wonder with players so eager for new ideas Strategy & Tactics has persisted from 1967 into the present. That is a very impressive run.

There is quite a lot on Star Trek inspired games here. Some focusing upon starship battles, others on group and missions. The Star Fleet universe was criticised for the increased militarism, and there are points on divergent timelines and the different focus brought to Star Trek when it was made into a space wargame. The allure of conquest and militarism of Star Trek seems to have beckoned. Some people would not be happy with that, but Star Trek: Deep Space 9 would later flirt with militarism and concentrate on war throughout its seasons.

We also find mention of games like Delta Force, with the combating of terrorism presented in black and white terms and in a way that was not popularly accepted uncritically at the time. As identified by Appelcline, gaming has touched on and is connected to serious political issues and the stances of certain games are revealing. For the curious, there are also excellent sections on further readings if you would like to know more.

Within we find plenty of Steve Jackson games and the infamous Killer, released in 1981 but which was being played in the 70s at the University of Michigan. We have rich historical detail here, and pages of it to follow. Especially a large amount on GURPS.

The sheer number of products covered is staggering. This is best read next to a computer so that you can chase some of them down. For instance I did not know about GURPS Russia, a game that came out in a very curious way in the 80s (in the “straight line” program), but which focused on gaming in a Russian setting through any point in its history. Mainly though focusing on the 10th -18th centuries. If you go and find GURPS Russia you will note that it challenges the Cold War idea that Russia is only communism and an enemy, and books like GURPS Russia challenged the prevailing ideas of the time in the United States, thus they had to be careful. Inside you will find the names and the discussion of rare products like these that many will not know about.

That is enough for now, but I will say that this is a huge book, over 400 pages. That should keep the curious very busy and provide a near never-ending list of games to follow up on. This is an excellent book, weighty and full of information, stories, summaries of game systems and their fates.

5/5


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The History of Gaming

5/5

This is something I never expected to see, and it shows you how far gaming has come. One of a four-part series this focuses on the 70s but actually goes beyond that and discusses the pre-70s as well. You get the sense that this was a massive project by Shannon Appelcline, and once you check the appendix, the bibliography and the credits it is confirmed. This is the type of book so rich in gaming history, that it frankly made me nervous and excited.

The recounts (personal and objective) are easy to read and this is book is not hard to grasp, even as it covers so much across a great span of years. Greg Stafford offers a great foreword and some gossip on the beginning of Games Workshop and reveals the debts roleplayers owe to people like Lou Zocchi. This is history, but it is also history touched with the personal as some of those from the “primordial days” are still with us.

To help the reader make sense of it all Appelcline has broken the history of roleplaying into periods, like the “Cyberpunk Revolution” and “CCG Boom” and the reader is helped across a great deal of time and changing fortunes. The periods are very helpful ways to keep a sense of the changing times and the book is well organised and has been thoroughly edited to a fine finished product. For providing information I especially likes the small informative points such as: “TSR founded the roleplaying industry and ruled it for almost 25 years.” So that the reader gets a strong sense of what happened from even just a quick reading. Beyond that, there is a great deal of detail for the reader.

It is quite clear when it says that: “Before 1974 there was no roleplaying industry. The hobbyist game industry existed, but it centered on a different type of game: the wargame”. TSR and the other early companies are given a lot of attention, but most central is the people that were involved in the earliest days. Their journey includes what they were up to, how they were making ends meet, their first projects and how they came together or struck out on their own or in small groups. There is too much for me to fully discuss here, but how the name Dungeons & Dragons came about, and how it could have easily been called something completely different is revealed for the reader.

Money was important to the hobby even before it became an industry. It is noted that it was Brian Blume that helped the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association publish the first 1000 copies of D&D, and the money he gave secured his place in the company. Whereas Dave Arneson, a co-author of D&D was not welcomed into the company until 1976. In the early days Appelcline reveals there was rivalry, disagreement, winners and losers. There is also mention of gossip and legal disputes, specifically the legal threats and lawsuits that have been launched and leveled as gaming companies have grown.

It has a very nice and comprehensive index. A lot of work has been done here: Drang nach Osten is on page 157 and Flashing Blades is on page 241. You will be able to find what you are looking for.

Simply, I recommend the book. It is excellent, thorough and a fitting start to the grand project of presenting roleplaying’s history up to the present. As this reveals, roleplaying came from wargaming and the breadth that is covered is amazing—this isn’t only on roleplaying’s history and wargamers will get a lot from this. It strides across years while also taking time for personal points and amusing recounts. It is not dry, it is not dull and it is on a still living history. The history of gaming.

5/5.


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Terrifying Grigori

5/5

This adds Angelic options to your Pathfinder games (and other similar systems). The art is thematically strong; it starts how you would expect with holy angels, but then changes to less typical types. I found myself intrigued where they were going and that not all angels inside are actually the typical angels of art and Western myth.

The angels, or, Empyreal Lords are called Grigori within. There is a good introduction explaining their place, who they serve and additional information to place them in your games and get a sense of how to use them. What is also found is some on the heavens and how they could be considered and presented, as well as mention of hierarchies to navigate. On where your place is, goodness and actions matter, not appearances and those in the heavens will differ immeasurably in a setting because souls have been flocking there for thousands of years. A DM could truly present the realms of the Grigori as very alien, influenced by mortals many from centuries past and have a lot of fun roleplaying this context.

So we have our unusual setting, what is next? We have name suggestions and base Grigori stats. Options to modify these are given. The Grigori are quite strong and don’t have many weaknesses but they have a lot of options and plenty of abilities “come standard” as it were. Curiously the celestial fertility ability allows Grigori to quickly reproduce with mortals, even if infertility was in play and it applies to both sides. Grigori can reproduce with the barren. As will be welcome for those wishing to multiclass, there are also the rules for Grigori of specific normal classes (like monk and paladin).

There is a great deal crammed into this book. We have the paragon class allowing further abilities to be chosen as one levels, and a ki pool of sorts called the “Pool of Providence”. These grant a range of capabilities that would make monk players highly jealous. You just don’t see options like this in base Pathfinder. Two I particularly like are soulfire, hilariously causing a target to burst into flame, and angle of terror. The Grigori are meant to be scary and these abilities would allow them to really beat about and terrify weaker creatures.

Also within are celestial gifts, a summon celestial table and many archetypes. I quite liked the seraph. Snake Grigori they have grab and constrict options, a breath weapon and immunity to fire and some other things.

Originally, I did not care much for angels or celestials, but within I found a range of options to make some very powerful Grigori and all that is needed to run Grigori adventurers or the angels as foes. They would truly be a force to reckoned with were they the enemies of the party.

4.5/5. It is also very affordable for the HUGE range of options and rules inside.


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Oh cruel swamp, spare me!

5/5

In 101 Swamp Spells we start off with great art and get into truly ingenious great spells. The font is an excellent choice and the design is solid. After readings this I know my players are not going to trust swamps or swamp spellcasters in the future.

This is about adding spells and that is what it does. I want to mention six of my favourites so you get a sense of what is inside. First, Awaken Algae, to kill foes with an algoid that is immune to electricity and fire and has mind blast. Wonderful. I’ll take seven.

Secondly, blinding mist. An offensive spell that hides that the targets have even been blinded while they are in the bog. Nice low level group-blinding spell.

Thirdly, boiling fog. Now that’s just cruel. If you can keep them... bogged down inside the mist the damage becomes amazing.

Fourth, daemonic spit. Warps your head, grants you abilities like poison immunity and you gain a sleep-inducing spit. How horrifying.

Fifth, decay weapons. No saving throw, medium range -2 to hit and damage for weapons. A very useful spell to hinder a foe before they engage, or a spellcaster could launch this at the party before they fight a challenging boss or group of foes.

Sixth, grippli guise. Turn temporarily into a grippli to gain many benefits. The picture is rather cute.

There are many more, and I would like to talk about them all day, but I suggest you buy the book to check out these excellent new spells. Really complements the 101 forest spells if you want the wilds to be truly wild and dangerous for pcs.

P.S: I wish I had this when I ran my Sargavan game.


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Transformations, confusion and confounding spells. Drop logs on your enemies!

5/5

What you want in a spell book, is a lot of spells. This definitely provides and they range across the levels and classes. Even paladins, bards, witches and summoners get new spells.

Now are they any good, are they interesting, are they unusual and worth the purchase. Yes, yes and indeed yes. These spells are not all violent or offensive, some are about sensing or passive powers, the alchemist transformation spells into forest troll and mandragora really fit (and makes you think they should be in the base game). There are spells for many classes here, and a lot of thought has gone into them. I like the bard spells like Korred’s beard (entangling), the fey obsession spell forcing a target to count grains of salt is deliciously cruel, and labyrinthine forest proves that the focus isn’t solely on damage, but bafflement and confusion.

The cleric and oracle spells gain such intriguing possibilities as creating undead out of branches (very Blair witch, but they can fight for you), which I will be using next game for a evil forest cleric. As I said before, some really feel like they should have always been in Pathfinder, like Deadwood drop for dropping trees on people and mass barkskin.

I like the Magus spells (satyr form here I come), but what is central to take away from this excellent book is that any spellcaster from a forest origin or fighting the players within a forest is going to be much stronger and memorable in the unusual, atypical spells they can unleash.

Otherwise, the art is very good and fitting. The design is very light and green and quite calming actually.

Get it, and make forest encounters more interesting. The players won’t know what hit them (then probably offer them the new spells over time).


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Might yet enkindle you

5/5

Gossamer Worlds: Poetica Mundi presents a most unusual realm. Within “Poetry is both the spiritual substance of the world and the motive force behind all forms of creation, destruction, and change”, that is right, poetry is the force of life, movement and alteration, and all powers of destruction are under the control of poetry. This creates a setting whereby, as is stipulated “All communication, whether it be spoken, written, or conveyed telepathically, shall be in poetry.” From such expressions of poetry comes power and this means potentially anything can be changed and influenced via poetry.

Now this got my attention, as I was looking over Macbeth for an upcoming lesson when I decided to procrastinate. This pdf is what I opened appropriately enough, and I think it presents a wonderful roleplaying challenge. The setting, the world, is medieval, but it is also extremely high in magic, as the sole mode of effective communication: poetry, opens up immense possibilities. There are still stats and abilities and the system still stands, but think of the challenge of Poetica Mundi as an overlay to the system. This is an immensely original idea, and there is advice offered for helping a game master realise the full potential of the setting. Of course it would fit if one wanted to bring any of the stories from poems and plays to life in a game.

Suitably, almost everything written in this text is a poem, except stats (always resistant to the charm and beating life of poetry) and the help section. I wish this were a bit longer, as it is colourful in language and images but somewhat short. This is not quite enough to lose a full point for me. Fortunately, the price is excellent and you are buying something original in the world of rpgs.

The final thoughts deserve to be included so as to consider if this product is right for you:

Poetry made real,
recited with such zeal,
great beauty and appeal,
coax even jaded hearts to feel.


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The Scarlet Colour is PC Blood

4/5

Surprised at the low reviews I have had a look through. It is a well written very short adventure. It is easily thrown into any game or fantasy campaign and while it is set in Magnimar, you could port it over to somewhere else quite easily. I am thinking of using it in the near future.

This though, isn't really for level 6s. If you have a very strong full party of six members, you can take the end boss, but level 7s would be better. It all depends how challenging you want it to be, and do you want to risk a TPK? I support a tough fight once in a while, but as its a short adventure the players may feel suddenly overwhelmed at the end (as their characters die). Still Magnimar has been a tough setting before.

Art wise I don't like Avalexi - the legs are terrible, but Kasadei looks great with a strong bearing.

So it is a very challenging short adventure, and far better than 1 or 2 stars out of 5. Some don't like a hard challenge or to lose, but as it is free and dangerous, I recommend it.


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Solid

5/5

This is a very neat supplement if you want golem-like characters in your setting, and want to easily be able to implement it without too much fuss or hard work for the dm. It can be used for pcs or npcs; the iron titan is a class you add to a character. The character, having at some point, having been turned into an iron titan from an original form.

There are plenty of special abilities and choices to be made. Good art so as to guide the reader in what type of iron titans can be created. Iron titans get a lot of resistances and invulnerabilities making them, after they level a bit, very suited to facing specific foes and existing in hostile environments. Woe to the party that is vulnerable to iron titans.

What I most liked though, was the "we can rebuild him" section. This covers converting a dead character over to an iron titan, and it also throw in the possibility of how a party could continue from a tpk (everyone comes back as an iron titan). In doing so, the character or party are rebuilt, taking the class levels of the iron titan. What also interests me would be the possibilities of multi-classing. Just a bit, to secure some very cool abilities to complement the MANY options for iron titans in this book.

There are also feats, including feats for huge titans. Yes, you can be huge, and that means you have huge guts.

5/5


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I'm here for the fungus, will stay for the kaiju

5/5

With a very exciting cover of a brightly coloured Otyugh about to devour an adventurer, we can be sure there will be excitement and danger in this Adventure Quarterly.

Starting with the maps, they were easy to follow and grasp. The dungeons were not too large or small. My favourite map was The Palanut Badlands, it has real character and you just know from looking at it, that a maze in the badlands is going to spell trouble.

Back to the Quarterly, in the ruins perilous we find ourselves in the "Fungarium". Well you can't spell fungarium without fun, and this area for level 4s has a nice range of monsters. The Fungal Queen is tough, but the fungal spined otyugh is an absolute beast. One that could really take a party already carrying injuries. It's AC is good, its hit points aren't the best, but it sports some very nice poison abilities.

Now I don't want to give away too much about the latter adventures, but Mibre the isle of pleasures would be rife for rp, would serve as an excellent base in a longer campaign, and reminds me of Sune temples in the old Forgotten Realms. I like it.

As the Quarterly goes on, the adventures are for higher level parties. "In Iron Clad" is about piloting a golem so the player can fight above their "weight class", and that is an excellent hook. Why would you need to pilot a golem (of course you want to, but why)? Well... kaiju. Yes, this is a monster hunt and a very inventive one at that with really high CR beasties.

The Quarterly also has part III in running your own sandbox. As a fan of sandbox play and having run three of my own, I can say the advice looked good to me! There is even a small list of really cool loot.

The Quarterly is great. I am herding my players into the Fungarium in two weeks. :)


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Magic Item Innovation

5/5

Players and DMs that want new and innovative magic items should get a hold of this.

There are plenty of magic swords and staves in other books, but here they are more normal everyday items with magical abilities. Two examples I will discuss are the compass of desires and the fading gloves. The compass will lead the adventurer to one of their desires once per day. This would be extremely useful for adventurers hunting specific monsters or items.

The gloves are arguably better, and are an improved version of gloves of storing. They make what you hold invisible, and only that. Perfect for weapons, keeping stolen good in the hand but hidden, holding potions or crossbows or the like. An excellent idea, and the fading gloves aren't the only excellent items. Some like the heatsink gauntlets are even made to counter specific classes - like druids.

Items also come with a little background information and their past uses. All items are created by Mellan (who really has a Lann the clever vibe), a crafter who came into magic late in life. Mellan is clearly a bit of a scoundrel as well as an inventor.

One of the last things I wanted to say, is that the art is gorgeous. It appears to be from an excellent fairy tale book. There is a high attention to detail in the pictures, and they really work for Mellan's creations, giving a sense of a mischievous world that the players can enter.

I am running a low magic game, and these are ALL going in because of how useful they are, and because of the unusual special abilities and effects of the items. So I say get it, see what it has got and throw them into your games to really add more fun via these unusual magic items.


It's good!

5/5

This is a short review for a compact product. If you are playing a warrior of justice, kicking in doors and smiting the lowly and malevolent, this is the book for you. If you are dming for a paladin player or a group of paladins then this will make the game more fun—although they may argue over who gets the cool new items.

To the magic items themselves, they are pretty potent. We have weapons and wondrous items, boots, a bracer and even a tabard. I liked that the bracers, gauntlets and ring had varying levels of power and abilities, so they can come into a high or low level game. That type of consideration for the players is great to see. My favourite would probably be the Ring of Honour’s Justice. It really punishes those that use “cowardly” attacks upon the wearer. This includes ranged attacks! A lot of thought went into this, and for those that fight fair and honourably against those that do not, it can really even the playing field. It can curse and debuff, and its greater version truly handicaps a coward. Which, could actually leading to the enemy being more cowardly to try and win and escape. So using the ring will really add something to games. There is also an artifact, and yes, it is potent.


Somebody Run the Lost Isles, please.

4/5

Wendall Roy’s In the Company of Dragons is an impressive book, partly let down by its art.

What we have is a book for those playing dragons or fighting against them. There are a tremendous number of rules crammed into a not very large text. This is good, you are getting a lot and there has been evidently so much work that has gone into the rules for different types of dragons, abilities, with racial traits and archetypes. There are rules to modify classes, so that you can play the dragon with class levels, and the book helps you to do that. You will find a lot to read through here, and while a dm could use it all, a dm of the Lost Isles would probably want to pick and choose what is most common for their dragons.

There is setting information, on the Lost Isles and the dragon society of the Taninim that rule over them in a sort of competitive feudal landscape (although flying rights and air space would probably be more important than land for dragons). The relations sections is quite good, and it easily allows the Lost Isles to be placed into or next to other regions or attached on to a setting. That the Lost Isle Taninim view other dragons as their cousins can easily create a situation where the Lost Isles is the land of the dragons, or possibly the origin of other continent based dragons. If the Taninim roam too far, this could involve wars with other countries, invaders, pest-controllers and of course treasure hunters to visit the Isles for hoards of renown.

This brings us to the art and the central problem. The setting is good, the rules are abundant, but some of the art is not very high in quality. I find it disturbing, because some pictures are excellent, are exciting, carry a lot of information, or convey dragon character ideas; but some pictures simply aren't brilliant. This may put off someone browsing through, even if they like dragons and would love to run a dragon heavy setting. The dragons are also certainly not uniform in the pictures, and vary heavily. This seems to be a design choice, creating a book and setting where any dragon can find a place. I was shocked by one picture though, the dragon on page 16 is eating a woman’s breast. She seems to have tried to rob the dragon’s hoard. That was most unexpected, but does convey that the dragons are certainly not nice, and prey upon adventurers and the humans that are their thralls.

This is a very fine book for dms, world-builders and players and game masters that really like their dragons. It is quite compact as well, and very good at condensing a lot of information down into an easily readable length.


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Great Art and Writing (those faces *shudder*)

5/5

Dawn of the Dwimmerlaik should have its art complimented from the outset. The Dwimmerlaik (DWL) seem almost native American in design, and those elongated faces are more than a little creepy. What they do and their powers do not reduce their creepiness.

This is a heavy-information text and there is a lot inside it. It is set up as unconfirmed documents on the mysterious Dwimmerlaik. They are apparently magic users and mentalists and quiet alien. As such there are astral channelling rules included. They seem a bit like inquisitive mages, probing Lovecraftian mysteries in the attempt to get ahead. I don’t want to reveal too much, but it is quite rich and the DWL could be mysterious allies, manipulators or enemies. Coming to grips with them will be difficult for the players, as their astral powers could easily keep foes at length while they move their pieces around any campaign board.

There are magic items, like the portal tearing knife and clan houses are detailed so that a GM can quickly throw in DWL groups to attack, help or hinder Gossamer players.

To conclude, this is quiet well done. The art is excellent and the writing holds plenty of mysteries a GM could use for their game. I find them weird and odd, and they set me a little on edge. So the author did a very fine job.

I would get it if you want strange seers from beyond. 5/5 is secured because of good writing and very nice (disturbing) art.


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Get it if you like Wyverns

5/5

Pieces of Fate: Wyvern Coops and Easter Dragons is a fun, short supplement.

It has some ideas and rules on dragons, wyverns and their weaponization and proliferation in your games.

The idea of making wyverns as numerous as chickens and that they both taste like chicken, is pretty crazy (crazy good!) when you think about it. Then imagine that in a modern, wild west or post-apoc setting, there are giant wyvern eggs that can feed thirty, they can be used to make concrete and used for construction, but it is a whole lot of tech and danger to get them. You could use machines to fetch them, but the wyverns often eat them. *gulp* I smell adventure, and fried egg...

What sticks out most to me, is the funny, succinct storytelling in this supplement. I know a friend that likes wild west, Serenity and prairie settings and I am letting him know about this. Wyverns for all.

This also has the rules for a wyvern poop barrage.
5/5. I regret nothing.


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Great storytelling (or secret-telling)

5/5

Lucien’s Guide begins with a picture of a very creepy looking undead, chained underground with its mouth sewn shut and tearing at a beautiful glowing insect. This certainly has a lot of mystery, and this theme continues throughout as this book is about “some of the deepest secrets of the Universe” in the Lords of Gossamer & Shadow setting.

The preface is a great little primer by the character-author Lucien and it is very entertaining. The text is a series of reports by Lucien for the GM. It is conversational, easy to read, and pretty fun to go through.

There are a lot of jokes in-text and some very useful summaries in the conversation Lucien is having with the reader. Rob Donoghue can clearly write and it is believable, because while discussing ancient horrors the character of Lucien is frank with a sense of humour. How else would you discuss it? It is like this knowledgeable character is trying to get this information out as clearly as possible while also taking the reader along on a journey and not wanting them to freak out or go insane.

There are rules attached for using the entities covered, and my favourite is Basta: “Basta is... I suppose in the most technical sense, a plant”. I like the idea of a creeping partially-sentient jungle that experiments with different forms, what can I say. Definitely using that for one of my games. Especially its world-hopping aspect.

Lucien’s Guide, is simply really good. Definitely get it if you are into the setting or you want some new sci fi ideas (and you could re-work them for fantasy or Lovecraftian settings easily, yes, very easily).

5/5


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Secret Societies and Archetypes

4/5

The magus is a potent class in Pathfinder, and this product is all about giving more options, powers and backgrounds for a magus player. The catch is that it is all Eastern themed, so it works for Jade Regent games, and any of the Eastern settings being played, but may not fit for every gaming group. Whether you are for eastern fantasy or against it, this book knows what it is about and sticks to it.

We begin with a flail wielding eastern warrior, that looks they are trudging through the Vale in Game of Thrones. Then you realise that this may indeed be a labour of love. You see the creators have renamed themselves with titles such as Jade Mandarin and Lowly Farm Peasant. Very entertaining, I like a bit of humour in gaming products.

As it moves to explain how the magus fits into an eastern setting, it all makes sense. The magus allows the designers to mix martial arts, myths and magic into playable character! This is an incredibly good idea, and answers the question of “why can’t fighters have nice things with”, that has been raised in the Pathfinder hobby with “well they can be magic using martial artist magi.”

I continue, eager to find out more. It presents a number of magi organisations, secret societies, schools, celestial guards and alliances which each have a focus and character. The Golden Bat and Thunderous Cricket alliance sounds excellent and very fitting.

Then we arrive at more options and new archetypes. For the manipulators of mechanics, this will be what they are looking for. I quite liked quick draught and Akashic (blind) sight. A very useful ability, that even accords with mythic techniques from Asian martial arts. For those that like defensive builds, the web of defence 7th level ability of the threadcaster is very nice. There are also a couple of spells including a very nice low level spell allowing the magus to take damage in the place of another pc that was about to be killed. Potentially, very useful for an adventuring party.

I give this 4/5. It mainly loses a point because while I liked it and it had a lot of depth and the producers were clearly interested in the subject material, some of the font choices make it a bit hard to read, and that troubles me.

Otherwise, great if you like the magus and want more on them, brilliant if you are running anything in an Eastern setting, perfect for creating new enemies or npcs that are different to what the players know and a rather nice and cheap book that is over 30 pages.


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Fins, Wolves, Claws and Spears

5/5

From the front page and the first entertaining quote on a mercenary mocking adventurers, I knew this would be a good book.

I confess bias! I really like mercenaries. I put them in my games, I’ve got an interest in the Condottieri and the history of mercenaries and warrior tribes that fought for profit since ancient times. So I was really looking forward to going through the pages, but I also had high expectations. I want mercs done right, I want interesting leaders, and I don’t want clones of Daario Naharis everywhere—they have to have character the companies must have invigorating stories with a discussion of their speciality, background and appearance. This book didn’t disappoint, it covered exactly what I wanted.

As we proceed through we move through many different types of mercenary bands, and they have different motivations and leaders. It also gives their HQ and strength, characteristics and abilities, making them easily able to come in as allies or enemies to a campaign. One even has a song in the description, which makes a lot of sense for a mercenary company. It is great to see so much detail describing their uniforms and banners.

Of note, the pictures are actually very colourful. This gives a sense of life and certainly not dreariness or “Grim-dark” in this product. There are a few spelling and formatting errors in the piece, so I feel it should have been edited just a little more closely.

My favourite company is the Fins of Blood, and I would definitely put them in a maritime game. Second would definitely be the Wolflings, and a company of Lycanthropes is an excellent idea. The Dwarf cavalry are also very interesting. The Motlies would fit into dangerous border regions and a lot of quests concerning hunting fugitives could be tied to them.

5/5
It gave me more than I wanted and my high expectations were reached. Get into it if you like mercenaries and want some ideas for roving groups of highly varied combatants for your games. The price is also crazy good.


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Worgs, Wolves, Templates, Feats and More

5/5

If you are a fan of worgs or winter wolves, like I am, this is what you need. RITE publishing love their monster variants and here we have 20 variants for a dm to enjoy reading over, before they are inflicted upon the players.

The worgs and winter wolves are quite strong with varied special abilities and templates. I quite liked Judge Kerist the celestial worg inquisitor, and his combat tactics. The CR 14 silver wolf was quite impressive, and while the damage isn’t great, the buffs, fortification and protections are.

This book also has a number of extra features hidden in the back of it. We have templates, such as for the dread vampire, dread wight and apex predator. There are half-balors, phalanxes, and the ravenous creature (which weirds me out as it looks so creepy). There are magic items, archetypes for classes and some very powerful feats, intended for monsters, to make them really challenge the party. Some of these feats though, are deliberately overpowered, so a dm should be cautious and perhaps up the CR of monsters or villains that have them.

This book isn’t just about worgs or winter wolves. There is a lot more to it and I am very pleased with it, and look forward to sicking them on to the players. 5/5. Now to try and work out how to get a lot of this into my games.


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From CR 23 to 1/2

5/5

This book is a welcome discovery. I was surprised by not only the amount of monsters and variants inside, but the breadth of CRs covered. The first one is CR 23, and they go through and down to CR 1/2.

The monsters and enemies are the guts of this book, and their stats are either complete, or they are variants of existing monsters with added special abilities and more description. What I most approved of was the “scaling the encounter” sections, which explain what to do to drop or increase the CR.

Having gone through the book, I will be using some of these in my game tonight. I especially liked the Green Guardian Alraune, the Greater Verdurous Ooze (that sleep effect could be fatal), the Dweomercat (to deal with spellcasters), the swamp eels and green hag encounter and Yooli the fearsome owlbear scaled up in CR.

Now for my rating, I am giving it 5/5. I really didn’t like the cover art, but that is not enough to detract from the high quality monsters and enemies inside—which is why we are really here.


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A Glorious City by the Sea

4/5

Tommi Salama does a fine job with this map pack.

This city is ready for adventurers. It is quite detailed, and could be a hive if villainy or a bastion of goodness.

For this product, the price is also quite good, and you get close ups and larger views of the city. I only wish that page 4 with its 15 landmarks had a lot more listed - which always provides ideas and places for a dm.

I really appreciate cartography and fantasy maps, and I liked this: 4/5.


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Kappa crash landing in feudal Japan, building giant robots

5/5

Reviewing Tetsujin Shogunate I will say up front that it is simply amazing. Bizarre settings like this are just what rpgs need. This is heavy on the Japanese themes (it is a shogunate setting of course) but also very sci fi and suitable even for abberation heavy or feudal but with lost tech fantasy.

The story and set-up is good. The alien kappa have fallen to Earth and allied with the Tokugawa shogunate and given them far future technology. The world has been devastated by the consequences of an alien war and the oni (also aliens) are on the loose. The kappa build their titans to counteract the Oni, who are not simply and singularly angry beasts, but manipulators and corruptors with a plan. It is quite an exciting set-up, although some may balk at mainland Asia being controlled by the Oni (and their mind-control technology) and Japan being the last hope of humanity.

Still it is a brilliant little setting, with a lot of good ideas in a small space. This is also so cheap at the moment, you really should get it.


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Dropping from the sky

5/5

This really got my attention, I just had to review it. It did not disappoint.

Within it has the stats for the 'Drop Bears' and how to place them into games. The bears seem impressive with swiping special abilities and on the defense, the ability to make opponents miss their first attack, so stunned are they by the might ursanauts, and some other tricks I won't ruin here.

The drop bears are designed to confound and annoy players, and there are a few jokes inside. It should also be noted that 'drop bears' normally refers to attack koalas in Australia that leap down from eucalyptus above. Here it has been re-appropriated to mean something far larger that also has laser and body armor tech.

This has in such a short space a lot of ideas for throwing/deploying them into fantasy, sci fi, pulp or horror games. Although for horror they are acknowledged to be more for comic relief.

5/5 So good. Great job Bill Collins.


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