Old Marm

DeathQuaker's page

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8. RPG Superstar 6 Season Star Voter, 7 Season Star Voter, 8 Season Star Voter. 8,449 posts (16,847 including aliases). 7 reviews. 7 lists. 1 wishlist. 26 aliases.

Sign in to create or edit a product review.

Add Print Edition $24.99 $12.49

Add PDF $17.99

Non-Mint Unavailable

Great start, disappointing finish but overall a neat swashbuckler tale


This is simultaneously one of the most interesting and most frustrating modules I've used. At a glance, it's a fun, rollicking swashbuckling sea adventure, with a good mixture of intrigue, skill challenges, and good old fashioned dungeon crawls to keep players on their toes. NPCs are well-developed and fun to flesh out. But as one digs deeper into the story--and the workings behind it as a GM--a bevy of inconsistencies, both mechanical and narrative, and poorly prioritized information plague the module and make it frequently difficult to run.

I recommend this module for experienced GMs who need a decent seafaring story but are able to adapt on the fly--and time on their hands to do so--and for those who can make use less of the module itself but would benefit from the appendices, e.g., the excellent Shackles map, the map of Lilywhite, the mini-guide to the Shackles in the back, the map of the Magpie Princess, etc. I do not recommend this module for those looking for ease of use or timesaving.

I should note I am judging this module as a GM, and I believe modules should first and foremost exist to make life easier for the GM, and evaluate modules primarily on this factor. While of course narrative and fun factor are important--after all, it's no fun to run a boring story--my key criteria for a module is that it saves time and eliminates--not creates--frustration factors of being a GM. People who purchase modules solely for narrative value will not find much use in my review.

In short, while there is a lot I admire in the module, that I found it frequently and deeply frustrating to run lowers its score quite a bit.

One of the advertised bonuses of this module is that you can use it as a substitution for Skull and Shackles part 2: Raiders of the Fever Sea. I purchased this module for this purpose, unsure my players would find Raiders as fun. Unfortunately, the module's introduction and guidelines provide far too little advice for how to insert the module into the AP, and barely address the key challenge to adaptation: at the end of Skull and Shackles' first part, the party has just gained its own ship, a huge and hard-won prize after a grueling and difficult adventure. The premise of Plunder and Peril, however, requires you join a different captain's ship and submit to a new captain's orders--not something very fair to ask of your players when they've just gained their own captaincy and own ship. There absolutely are ways to work around this--but it is nowhere near as easy to "slip" the module into the AP as the marketing and early product chatter suggested. By sheer chance, some of the choices my players made led this to be easier for me (their encounter with Hyrix and Mother Grund went poorly, and I had them wake up "rescued" by Varossa). Some of the changes I made to adjust to the AP also made more work for me down the line, though some of this was how I was trying to create some open ended options for my players. I accept any changes I made that caused things to be more difficult were MY choices, and the effect of my choices are not part of this evaluation. Regardless, using this module as a substitute for S&S part 2 is not as easy as implied.

As a standalone module, it will of course be much easier to use. Each of the three sections are also designed to be used separately if a GM needed a shorter adventure, and I would say that, with some adjustment, the first and last sections especially can be easily adapted to shorter adventures. If the GM is willing to do the (relatively minor) work of removing Varossa from chapter one and presenting the challenges within as simply activities available at the Rum Punch Festival, section one can also provide an excellent "shore leave" adventure for a low to mid-level party. Chapter 3 feels like a dungeon crawl designed for an entirely different adventure with Plunder and Peril shoehorned in, so it of course would be easy enough to extract and use as a standalone adventure--again, just remove Varossa and give the PCs a different hook to explore the island.

I found section 1 most fun to run--the town of Lilywhite is well-realized, with the Rum Punch Festival a refreshing backdrop to adventure compared to more gritty or typical spooky dungeon crawls and the like. Its lighthearted tone was especially welcome after the often dark and malevolent feel of the first book of Skull and Shackles--the PCs needed some respite and this provided it (and in a much better way than Rickety's Squibs would have offered). There is a lot of story potential for developing the town further, and the town's features are provided in just enough detail without distracting from the actual narrative. I enjoyed the variety of challenges offered in this section, from some fairly standard combats to some unorthodox skill challenges, including a race that uses a variation of Pathfinder's chase scene rules and a drinking contest, crucial for any pirate campaign worth its salt.

The only--but rather outstanding--flaw in the first section is the poor setup for the two "bosses" that challenge the PCs at the end of the story. Firstly, the narrative makes clear that one of the "bosses" is spying on the party, but it isn't clear how he is doing it, or if the PCs should notice (I think the presumption is that the PCs shouldn't, but I'm not sure why). Secondly, and more mechanically problematic, the second "boss" is described in detail about her actions, motivations, and ways of approaching combat---and then her statblock is for a creature that does not have any of the abilities described in the narrative. Per the product discussion thread, this was a development error: this "boss" was originally given a unique stablock, but it was removed for space reasons. Unfortunately, her narrative was not updated to match the new stats she was given. This is a glaring editorial error that absolutely should have been caught prior to publication--especially since verbiage is now wasted describing actions she could not possibly take. Personally, I would have gladly sacrificed any number of things--artwork, other statblocks, descriptions (especially much of the useless dungeon descriptions in chapter 3)--to have kept the creature's original stats, for as described, she had a lot of narrative potential. I opted to create new stats to reflect the story rather than use the stats listed in the module. This worked much better me, but it was work I was forced to do just to make sure mechanics and narrative matched, and should have been unnecessary.

The second section is solid series of sea adventures. A combat-heavy chapter, I wish some of the fights had offered the GM more tactical guidance--particularly in Blackwarns Gallows, where the players can approach the treacherous situation in numerous ways, and one has to navigate a potentially incredibly diffficult fight between land, rough waters, and high up terrain with almost no guidance as how to do so. Another encounter, with a ghost on a shipwreck, also needed more details--particularly, there is a potential fight and a hazard, but depending on how you enter, you might be able to avoid the fight/hazard entirely which makes the whole scenario anticlimactic. How to time events and manage the encounter (whether diplomatic or hostile) seemed very vague. I could have used less of another NPC's backstory there and more tactical guidance for what was an unusually set up scenario. At the same time, I liked indeed that there were several encounters and challenges that could be managed by skill, diplomacy and cleverness, counterbalancing some of the combat focus. My players seemed to really enjoy negotiating with the dragon in particular.

My only concern about chapter three was the final encounter. As written, the game presumes characters escape a situation by riding some creatures provided them. However, you have to interact with a certain NPC and navigate a fight a very specific way in order to be able to gain the new mounts. There are a number of missteps the PCs could take--or they could simply opt to avoid the NPC or situation--that would as written leave them stranded, with zero suggestions for alternatives. Because I was using the adventure as part of Skull and Shackles, I found a way out using characters and resources from that AP, but standalone, it would have been a challenge to find other solutions. The other problem with the mounts being the only presented solution to the PCs problem is Ride is seldom a skill most PCs prioritize having on a seafaring adventure. As written, this was a glaringly annoying railroad solution in a story that up to this point usually accounted for a few ways to resolve challenges.

The third section, the big finale, was sadly most disappointing. After two sections featuring a wide variety of challenges and creative scenarios, the third section moves into an uninspired, bog-standard dungeon crawl. What is worse is, as mentioned above, the dungeon feels very much like it was designed for an entirely different adventure and then shoehorned into the module---complete with hundreds of wasted words on background lore of the dungeon that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the adventure itself. The not-too-spoilery gist is the PCs are chasing someone who has run into an old cyclops fortress, which was repurposed at some point by a long-dead pirate queen, who is relavant to the plot. We get almost nothing on what the pirate queen did with the fortress, but paragraphs upon paragraphs about what some cyclops did there millennia ago that provides no information or insight upon the present story. Not to mention half of the information is translation of ancient runes that the PCs have a very small chance of actually being able to translate (and they gain absolutely nothing of value by doing so). If I want to read information on an ancient Golarion empire, I will purchase the appropriate campaign setting guidebook. For a module, I want material that helps me and the players tell the PCs' story in the best and most dramatic way. This section of the module utterly failed in this regard.

Here's what we do NOT get in section 3, that would have been far, far, far more helpful to have:
- Enough guidance on the approach to the area (which may vary considerably depending on how the PCs leave the ending of section 2) and different ways the PCs may deal with an enemy ship they approach, save from who might or might not attack them.
- Information on how to run an encounter with a bard NPC who could be friendly but whom the PCs may equally see as an enemy and attack immediately. We are given full stats for the NPC--but in the scenario he is supposed to be badly wounded after a fight, and it's not clear, for example how many spells or rounds of bardic performance he has left. Further, the stats provided show the bard can cast cure light wounds but the scenario describes him at zero hit points and thus helpless--but if he has spells left, wouldn't he heal himself? Yes, as GM I can make this call, but it is very unclear as to what his status would be--and how to respond if the PCs attack him and how difficult an encounter that should be.
- Information on the following NPC encounter, where a possibly-formerly friendly NPC is now hostile and insane. The too minimal text on the encounter seems to assume the encounter will turn into a combat to the death, and yet the party could very much want to try to subdue or talk down the NPC (and indeed, my PCs wanted to talk him down). There is NO guidance on if he can be talked down, how, or what to do with the NPC if he is subdued and captured (or how the other NPC interacts with him). We know what the g+@$$#n cyclops runes say, but no clue what to do with two extremely major NPCs whose presence could dramatically alter the PCs experience and challenge level in this dungeon.
- For the very crucial boss fight, additional guidance on placement and starting tactics. Especially given the big boss has telepathy and would likely sense the PCs coming, the module needs to provide some approaches both the PCs and monsters might take to the end game. There is SOME advice offered here, but not enough for how important and challenging the fight should be.

The boss fight also illustrates a distinct flaw in how Paizo overall chooses to organize its modules in general, which is that they put "lesser" enemy statistics in the adventure text, "important" NPC statistics in one appendix, and other "important" and additional monster statistics in a different appendix. This means in general the GM has to constantly flip through the book or .pdf to get different combat stats, which is very time consuming and frustrating. In this module's final fight, there are three enemies in the final combat. One enemy's statistics are included within the module's narrative text. Another enemy's statistics are in the Bestiary appendix. And to make things extra confusing, there are two sets of statistics for the third enemy, one in the NPC appendix and one in the Bestiary appendix (the latter of which is the correct one to use, but the module directs you to the NPC appendix). So to run the fight straight from the booklet, you need to be constantly flipping between separate sections of the module--the last thing you want to be doing while running an intense boss fight. I had to make my own combat sheet to make the thing runnable, which took time a module should not have to make me take. Personally, I think all enemy statblocks should be put in one place--a single appendix--that GMs can pull out or print separately from the running adventure text, so they can have all the stats they need in one place and can place it side-by-side with any relevant adventure text or maps. This alone would make the entire module line easier to use and, for me, I would purchase more of them were they organized in this fashion.

Finally, I must note that the third chapter ends on a bit of a disappointment--the whole point of the adventure is the hunt for a legendary treasure horde, which in the end turns out is not very much of a treasure hoard at all. I understand wanting to make the treasure level-appropriate, but I had to find some creative ways to bolster it (and explain why there wasn't more). (The in-game explanation for where some of it went doesn't make any sense--it says a dragon in the backstory stole most of it, but the whole way the adventure begins is that a background NPC killed said background dragon and found the key to this treasure in its hoard. If the dragon already had most of the hoard to begin with, then the background NPC would have already had it and there would be no point to looking for the treasure!) The larger "treasure" is really the ship and the cyclops fortress that the PCs can move into, but the narrative itself downplays this. I up-played it. Since I WAS indeed running this for Skull and Shackles, gaining an extra ship and fortress for establishing credibility in the Shackles was valuable. If this had ended as a standalone adventure, however, I think the ending as written would have been a considerable let-down for the PCs.

In the end I don't regret running this module--and I'm even glad I chose it over Raiders of the Fever Sea. But it did demand a lot more work than I had hoped, and the inconsistencies between chapters and chapter quality speaks to the fact that having three different people write three different sections of a module is a bad idea. Still absolutely the module was worth it for the first two sections, and a great set of NPCs on a ship crew that is usable for many seafaring adventures. I really loved the backdrop of Lilywhite and Captain Varossa and her loyal (and not so loyal) crew, so whoever was responsble for those developments especially deserve kudos. I hope the PCs can return to Lilywhite later and I can play more in it as a sandbox.

I like the idea of modules serving as possible "alternate routes" for APs and I also like the idea of developing modules in chapters that can be broken down to standalone. However, I'm not sure Plunder and Peril in particular succeeded in those areas. I hope Paizo tries the idea again, but is careful to develop it consistently and have one main writer for all three

Our Price: $3.99

Add to Cart

Useful supplement for outdoor campaigns


Strange Weather is a fun, brief supplement that lists a number of weather-related hazards and weather conditions. Most of these conditions are supernatural or at least unusual, like the "aurora hypnosis," where atmospheric lights stupefy onlookers. The CRs of the hazards go up to 10. Most of the hazards are quite creative and provide useful, non-combat ways of challenging a party. As the introductory "fluff" descriptor intimates, this can be especially valuable for sea-voyage based campaigns, but the hazards and conditions listed are diverse enough to be useful in any kind of terrain. I especially like the detailed description of supernatural effects of moon phases.

For the most part, the mechanics for these hazards and weather conditions are solid; while many are quite complex (as are the more ordinary weather conditions in the Core Rulebook), I'd definitely use them in my campaigns even though I am the kind of GM who gets easily overwhelmed by new rules.

Weirdly, the one exception to the rule of the hazards being well thought out is the hailstorm: there are already rules for hail in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, and more to the point, the description of the hazard is basically a combination/repetition of the existing rules. This appears to be an unnecessary attempt at providing space filler that stands out against the far more superiorly creative and new elements surrounding it.

Likewise, other sections of the book repeat existing rules, such as listing the effects of diseases from the Core Rulebook (the diseases are there because of a plaguestorm effect). My take on supplements is that, for reasons of space, they ought normally not repeat anything that can be found in the Core Rulebook. These rules repetitions could have been replaced by more original text or artwork. On the other hand, as a GM, I like not having to look up everything in several different books; I can allow to some extent the designers were trying to do just that, but especially as some of these fill sidebars or bring a section to the end of the page, my critical side wonders if the developers were using the repeated rules as filler.

Strange Weather also includes a new creature, a storm elemental, and two archetypes, one for the shaman and barbarian. Best stuff first: the archetypes were really flavorful and well-written. At initial glance without opportunity to playtest, I can't comment on balance, but nothing untoward pops out at me mechanically. Both archetypes build well on the theme and provide some useful abilities I hadn't personally seen before in any variation.

The storm elemental on the other hand has far less "wow" factor. The creature is a standard elemental-type build with only one new special ability called “harsh winds.” AND the designers actually fail to list said special ability on the individual statblocks for each size of elemental (it's not clear, but I believe it's an aura effect and should be listed in its brief form in that slot on each statblock). The harsh winds ability is fine but not enough alone to make it stand out as a new, cool creature and there’s nothing that makes me want to use it over a standard air or lightning elemental. Personally, given how good the designers are at making archetypes, I would have preferred to see this space filled by another archetype.

I also wish we had the following instead of repeated rules and a lackluster monster: random weather tables that incorporate the new conditions, perhaps a handful of weather-related feats or spells or items, weather-related curses ("raindrops keep falling on your head..."). There's definitely room for more if the developers wanted to make a "Strange Weather II."

Regarding production values, the book/.pdf overall is pleasant to look at: everything is clear, consistent, using good, minimal use of contrasting colors, and printer-friendly. While no glaring spelling or grammar errors appear, the professional editor and ex-layout editor in me chafes at some more minor errors (e.g., comma splices) and word spacing issues (especially a lot of dangling, hyphenated words that could have been easily fixed with minor tweaks to tracking or kerning; a few word truncations are fine, but there are too many and/or many badly-placed ones).

In addition to word/character spacing issues, there's also some paragraph spacing issues; on some pages it looks like text is crammed in and on others far too spaced out. Likewise, some artwork appears "squeezed in” in some places and has too wide a space buffer in others.

The artwork itself is also inconsistent. Some of it is clearly original and quite nice, and I want to take particular note of the beautiful stormcaller artwork on page 10. Other art looks out-of-place or a distinctly different style from other artwork; for example, on page 12 there's an insert of what looks like a 19th century French painting! It is both incongruous in style with the rest of the book’s content and has nothing to do with the surrounding text. I know small third-party publishers cannot easily afford artists or even packs of royalty-free artwork. But I'd rather see no artwork or a simple design than something that draws me out of reading the text to go, "Huh? Why the heck did they put that there?"

One last quibble with layout, but I do not let this last one affect my "scoring" as it were, because all game publishers appear to do this: this is a .pdf-only product, but it is laid out like a print book, with two side-by-side columns of text. This means on a monitor or tablet, you have to scroll down to read one column, then go back up on the same page to read the next. This makes fast look-up of rules very annoying. I wish that ALL developers of .pdf-only materials would make their products much more screen-friendly to read. If there's no hard copy, there is absolutely no reason to make it look like what a printed book would look like. Yes, people rich in ink and paper do print out .pdfs, but interestingly a screen-friendly layout remains readable when printed far moreso than another way around.

Bottom line: in spite of some complaints (non-stellar monster, unnecessary repetition, minor editing and layout problems), I ABSOLUTELY recommend this book for GMs who are looking for ways to spice up a campaign that takes place outdoors. The material is well-written, creative, and accessible. Players of shamans and barbarians will be very interested in the archetypes. I look forward to more from this publisher, and expect many of the little wrinkles seen here will be easily ironed out with time.

Disclaimer: I received this item for free in a special offer at the Paizo boards.

Add Print Edition $24.99

Add PDF $17.99

Non-Mint Unavailable

Useful set for all GMs


If you are attracted to the flip-mats but don't have the resources to buy lots, buy these. The package contains two double-sided mats. One is watery on one side and covered in light stone tile on the other. The other features meadow-like terrain and worn flagstone on the other. While the particular point of these is that they are largely "blank" with very little detailing, there are a lot of nice subtle touches to the design that makes these more desirable to have than the basic flip-mat--for example, shallow puddles dispersed across the flagstone, areas of strewn rocks and light undergrowth on the meadow. The detail is well designed without being distracting or getting in the way of items you may wish to place or draw on the mat.

I expect these will mesh very well with a number of map cards from the map packs, so you could create an endless variety of landscapes with these and the cards, or of course you can draw or embellish as you see fit with whatever tools you have at your disposal.

My only complaints are relatively minor:
First, as with all of the flip mats, I wish the brightness and saturation was turned up just a notch on the color; in particular the flagstone one needs to be a tad lighter and show more contrast, and the meadow is more of an ooky green than nice grass green. None of these are TOO dark, but most save the stone-tile side perhaps a bit dull, and I always prefer lighter, brighter mats upon which anything I draw will show up brilliantly. I am being nitpicky here, in full admission--these work fine as they are, but lighter or brighter would be even better in my opinion.

Second, I wish the water side had been a cave floor/darklands floor instead (perhaps usable for wasteland terrain as well). You are FAR more likely to need such terrain than you are ever going to need a blank water mat. While you can use the stone tile or flagstone maps for dungeons, something for natural terrain would have been ideal. Also, if you're really wanting water terrain, you're likely to want to be purchasing one of the other water-scene-based flip mats, many of which also have blank water sides, and I can't imagine needing more than one. However again if this is all you're getting in flip mats, this will absolutely cover a wide range of needs.

It is still a nice, practical product and I look forward to using these extensively.

Add Print Edition $49.99 $24.99

Add PDF $9.99

Add Non-Mint $44.99 $33.74

Extremely useful compilation of items, both new and from the RPG line


How much does x cost? Does x exist in your world? What are the stats for x—can it give me a bonus to a skill? Is there a material that can let my armor become x?

I get a lot of questions from players about equipment, and often I have to look up materials in several different books and/or wing it to answer their questions effectively. Ultimate Equipment is a fabulous resource in which no matter what x is, you’ll likely find it (or at least something similar enough that it’s easy to go from there). It is also one of the best laid out, best organized Pathfinder RPG books I’ve seen, and its .pdf version is one I’ve had the easiest time navigating of any of the rulebooks. The art is beautiful and helpful without being distracting.

More or less Pathfinder’s answer to the various D&D Arms and Equipment Guides, Ultimate Equipment compiles gear listed in the Pathfinder RPG line of books. I noticed a lot of gear transferred over from the Pathfinder Companion Adventurer’s Armory as well. It also adds new equipment, materials, and qualities that can be applied to gear.* As of this writing I am still comparing errata, but I can confirm so far that the errata for the Core Rulebook, Advanced Player’s Guide, and Adventurer’s Armory is included in the gear entries in Ultimate Equipment (I note this because I have read claims that UE does not include errata, and that is clearly untrue, as anyone can tell if they start comparing errata line by line to UE).

Further, a lot of core items get more detailed descriptions, which is both informative, interesting, and useful—finally, we learn a backpack holds 2 cubic feet of material. Sure, that can be a tiny detail, but sometimes those tiny details mean a lot in a nitpicky gamer group. :)

In addition to the compiled gear lists, UE contains a massive appendix of treasure generation tables, to assist GMs in creating appropriate treasure lists for monster loot. You can look up what tables to roll on by monster type which is extremely helpful. It is time consuming to roll on the charts and note your results, but still incredibly handy (and I would not be surprised if an enterprising and savvy player finds a way to incorporate the tables into software sooner or later).

Determining what’s most exciting or useful about the book is difficult—on one hand, the compilation aspect is a godsend for character creation and GM preparation. On the other hand, there’s a lot of exciting new items and materials—for example, 10 new item creation materials I’ve never seen before, dozens of new magic item properties, and lots and lots and lots of awesome alchemical items and mundane gear. There’s also handy compiled “kits,” based on both class and role, to quick generate adventurer gear. And then the treasure generation tables! A comprehensive resource for players and GMs alike.

All that being said, there are a few errors and problems. Some of them are minor, but while they exist they do reduce the book’s usefulness as a compilation as you have to double check against other sources. Examples: The weapon generation table is missing a chunk of entries. Some prices and weights seem to have changed from the RPG books to UE—a chicken jumps in cost from 2 cp to 1 gp. Or what is an Alchemist’s Kit in the APG weighs 5 lbs, but renamed as the Alchemy Crafting Kit it is suddenly 50 lbs. (It is renamed the Alchemy Crafting Kit because the “Alchemist’s Kit” is now one of the class-based prepackaged adventurer’s kits included in the guide.) There’s also some Wondrous Items that look like the designers or playtesters, if any, could have thought further about what body slot they should be in. Of more minor note, there are a handful of spelling mistakes (e.g.,“contagious” where it should say “contiguous”). Fortunately I have not seen a lot of these overall, though they do affect the book's quality a little.

The biggest thing to bear in mind with Ultimate Equipment is what you see is what you get. It was touted as roughly half a compilation of RPG line gear, half new material and guidelines (like the treasure generation tables). And that’s exactly what it is—and 400 pages’ worth at that! As such, it is phenomenally useful and amazingly well organized.

But if you were somehow hoping for an infinite encyclopedia of every item in every fantasy game ever, or you were hoping for that one Golden Bullet item that fixes your favorite class (when gear really can’t do that), or hoping for stuff that has very heavy Golarion flavor in a core RPG line book—then of course you will be disappointed. But, frankly, that’s not ever what this book was advertised to be or could ever be, realistically speaking.

What it is, is an invaluable resource I know I am sure to use for every Pathfinder campaign I run in the future. Will I use every item? No. Will I hope the minor errors that exist are fixed quickly? Yes. But am I very happy with my purchase? Very very definitely.

*As a note, I do not collect Pathfinder Campaign Setting materials like the Chronicles or Companion (Adventurer’s Armory was a rare exception for me). It is possible some materials that appear “new” to me are actually items from some of these books. My understanding however, that the focus of Ultimate Equipment, itself part of the Pathfinder RPG line and not the campaign setting, is to compile RPG line materials, so anything from the campaign books are bonus but not to be necessarily expected. My further understanding is that a good deal of what appears to be new is indeed new.

Print Out of print

PDF Unavailable

That's a cave, right?


The title is what a player said when I held up the map from about five feet away, while commenting on the fact the flip mat was too dark. "But it should be dark, that's a cave, right?"

No. No, it's not a cave.

I know the other reviewers have already noted this issue, but I want to be clear just how dark this thing is. Dry erase markers barely show up, negating much of the point of having a flip mat. This has been an increasing problem with flip mats; the "dark" side of the cathedral mat is also too dark to draw on and see the details well, for example.

The sample art on the Web page is deceptive--my print of the map at least is darker than the sample image, and is so dark a green to be nearly brown, so it's not very pretty to look at, either. Maybe I just got a bad copy, but based on what I've read here, that is unlikely.

This is especially disappointing as the Forest flip mat was to replace, thematically speaking, the much vaunted "Woodlands" flip-mat, now out of print (which I never got a chance to buy). I imagine you'd still be better off buying, begging, or stealing the OOP mat than buying this one. (Disclaimer: I do not actually advocate theft of any product.)

Beautiful, useful map


This map features on one side, a "light" colored cathedral with pews, columns, and stained glass windows, and storerooms/libraries in the back. It matches the feel for old cathedrals and churches I have visited in real life, while featuring a terrain design useful in a d20 combat setting. The flip side is a similar cathedral but darker in color with "evil" decorations.

This came out conveniently before I needed a cathedral for a fight in my campaign, and it's sure as heck easier to use than try to draw a fully detailed cathedral on a blank page by hand! The details are clear and gorgeous; the "light side" is especially well designed that if I needed to draw on changes in the terrain, I could do so and it showed up clearly.

My only complaint is that the sides are too similar--basically the same map, with different colors and a couple tile changes. Most cathedrals are multi story, and I would have preferred the flip side to be a balcony, basement, or catacombs area instead. Also, the "dark side" of the map is dark enough in color to make it harder for drawn on details to show up.

Add Print Edition $12.99 $3.00

Add PDF $8.99

Very disappointing; far below the product line's par


I received these as part of my map pack subscription, which largely has blown me away in innovativeness and beautiful detail. This pack is instead bland and repetitive. Given time, I could make better on my own.

The only good feature of this set is the "inside of the whale" set of four cards. This is what the whole pack should have been like: the mouth and gullet of the creature, with some unique, clear details (and the watery bits can also be re-used for other water scenes). These cards are the reason for the 2 star rating, rather than a 1 star.

The gelatinous cube is also neat because we have both the cube and the corridor it's in. Or it would be, if the rest of the corridor were gridded so you could actually use it as a combat map. I’ve yet to see a fight take place entirely inside a gelatinous cube, so the only way this card will be useful is if you cut the cube out.

As for the other 13 cards? The sample pics now up are exactly what you get--a bland silhouette of a monster in generic terrain, with some blank red squares inside. Again, there are no gridlines outside the monster, so you can't use the whole card as a battlefield (so say, if one PC is in the monster and another PC is outside the monster, you have no way of easily judging distance). If there were gridlines, you could use the card atop a regular battle map and move it if the monster moves; again, most of these are monsters where the fight would not take place entirely inside the monster. I cannot see a way you can get your money’s worth for these cards’ limited use.

The real shame about this set is that it had the potential to be an awesome set of “living” landscapes to be used as both innards and alien terrain, and this potential was discarded in favor of an unusual shoddiness, laziness, and poor forethought otherwise unseen in the Game Mastery line.

I’m tempted to dump the majority of the set straight into the recycling bin. Maybe I can get some use out of them as index cards at least.

List Price: $59.99

Our Price: $53.99


Add to Cart

Great mechanics, lovely box set, inconsistent writing


This game has a wonderfully intuitive, pick up and play system. Characters are made with a short, reasonable list of attributes, abilities, and traits. Checks involve rolling 2d6 and adding the appropriate attribute+skill. Traits modify the die roll.

Characters also have story points, similar to fate points in the Fate system, which can do a variety of things from modify die rolls to alter the game's narrative and environment (within reason). This adds beautifully to the cinematic nature of the system and universe.

Unfortunately, the rulebooks lack organization and the consistency and quality of writing. Nearly 50% of the Gamemaster’s Guide is a repetition of the Player’s Guide, a shameful waste of time and paper that could have been better used to provide a more in-depth description of the Doctor Who universe (which is otherwise a bit lacking). Alien traits and gadgets are found in the GMG rather than the Player’s Guide, unnecessarily complicating character creation. The narrative style of the books focus on sounding relaxed and “cool”; sometimes this results in useful, uncomplicated exposition, but at other times the tone grates, and some overly lengthy text could have been replaced by simple tables. Advice to the GM is fraught with contradiction: GMs are advised in one place to be flexible, and in another, in so many words, that GM fiat surpasses everything—horrifying to see in what’s supposed to be a rules-light, novice-friendly system.

The adventure booklet is shoddily written and obviously rushed. It’s filled with grammatical errors, let alone plot holes. The second, shorter adventure suggests having the Doctor as a player character, but then dictates the Doctor’s actions as if he were an NPC. Fortunately, the loose structure of the game makes it easy to design your own adventures if you want to—but that’s not helpful to first-timers who need some guidance on that front.

The production quality of the box set is fantastic: well-bound, beautifully laid-out paperback rulebooks, sheets, and cards. The 6d6 are lovely. Sadly the box needs to be sturdier, and is only just big enough to hold everything as shipped. Once I punched out my story tokens, they didn’t fit in the box with everything else.