Lantern Bearer

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RPG Superstar 8 Season Star Voter, 9 Season Star Voter. Organized Play Member. 1,182 posts. 44 reviews. 2 lists. 4 wishlists.



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Three's Company

5/5

For disclosure, I received this product for free for purposes of review. Also, I have made commensurate changes to reflect the 5th edition version of this book.

This product is amazing, and it wouldn't do to review it without addressing it's component parts, so here we go.

Angelic Imp-
I am glad to see the Angelic Imp as being a fancier bar than the other two I have reviewed. It rounds out the other taverns so far, and provides a nice wide range of taverns from which to select for your campaign's needs. The random events are excellently thought out and interesting, serving as great adventure seeds or even small role playing encounters that could make a session memorable. I am especially impressed by the social nature of these events, as most are not solvable through combat (or so one would hope). The short and sweet nature of the
tavern presentation is especially nice, given the succinct nature of the tavern itself.

Blackberry Bill's-
This tavern seems to be the quintessential "former adventurer" tavern, and a welcome addition to the bevy of taverns we have seen so far. It is likewise excellently described, and does a great job at conveying the nature of the inn, it's inhabitants, and the very mood of the establishment. The events are more adventurous, naturally, and are excellent threads to get the players involved in the town politic, if you so wish, or at least just fun diversions to improve the immersion into the story. The rumors table here is a lot of fun, and one of the rumors could even lead to a tavern feud, and invoking two of the taverns would be a lot of fun, as one might start to see interaction between the dramatis personae of the respective taverns.

Blackberry Bill in particular is an interesting character, and one that could be the centerpiece to a whole slew of campaigns. His penchant for pie making and shady adventuring past make him incredibly useful for any number of adventure seeds and role playing opportunities, especially in a campaign set primarily in the confines of a city (these taverns are a must for such campaigns).

I have to take a moment to say that the author's show a great knowledge and enthusiasm for 5th edition, crafting excellent NPCs that are excellently made with the 5th edition sensibility. Blackberry Bill himself would make a great barbarian or fighter that could challenge a low to mid level group.

The Pattering Platypus-
This is probably the most humorously amusing tavern of the three, and very food-centric. I like the twist quite a bit, and has even inspired me to inject some food-war adventures into my campaign, where the players either quest for rare ingredients or embroil themselves into food preparation (our group loves cooking shows). This and Blackberry Bill's seem to be a perfect pair for each other in that respect, and a town of food obsessed chefs might be a great set piece.

Of all the taverns, the dramatis personae here is the most vibrant (which is no mean feat). And that is to say, it is varied, and less focused, but that seems to really suit the Platypus, and make it more of appealing to wider ranges of groups as a place to go and visit with frequency, even if it is to vie for information, fence goods, recruit companions, or even mentor burgeoning adventuring groups. This tavern underscores the manner in which all the taverns feel very vibrant and alive.

Overall-
Excellently written, good prose, a good eye for evocative description. I like the description of the food especially; though not especially descriptive, it serves as a good guideline that foody gamers might latch on to, as I have.

The NPC's are exceptionally crafted, both in bare statistics and as colorful personalities. The potential interplay here is enormous, and really is the kind of "casting" of NPC's that many Gm's should aspire to (depending on your play style, of course). I was pleased with the art as well, as it complemented my expectations of what each NPC looked like.

Additionally, I love the included NPCs in all three of the taverns, and would be willing to pay more if Dire Rugrat were to put out a book of NPCs or, better yet, printable NPC cards, perhaps with artwork on the back. I'm definitely a fan of their NPC craft, which rivals that of Volo's Guide and the Monster Manual.

I give this product a 5 out of 5, and the king's approval.


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Run, Rune, Run

4/5

First of all, let me start by saying that Kobold Press always puts out some amazing books in terms of layout, art, and presentation. though I did not put on my editor hat, I didn't notice any grammatical errors, and the book itself is beautiful. It is a shame that the book is so short, or I would want to order it as a print item. I hope to see a compilation in the future that might come in a hardback perhaps?

Now onto the meat of the review. This is a very interesting book, and has some strong implications for magic through feat selection. Given the precedent for magic through feats (PHB feats: Magic Initiatve, and Ritual Caster), these spells seem on par, giving a very different and curiously intricate venue for either giving magic to classes that do not have it, or bolstering those that do. I would presume that a magic using class would be less likely to take them, and fighters more likely, given their abundance of feat options. This is exciting, and makes me want to make some kind of Runic Viking fighter.

The runes themselves all seem well done, and somewhat narrow in scope. This focus makes them good for cherry picking, especially as some have a shallow but wide utility, making the rune selection less about bonuses and more about a character's personality.

The runic mastery abilities, learned through another feat, are far more powerful, and represent a path to power that requires great investment on the part of the player. The structure of this power acquisition is ingenious, and shows a lot of forethought and great design acumen.

There are a bevy of new spells as well that complement the runic powers in theme. I think I have the most issues with this section, and the spells themselves are oddly balanced, usually not being powerful enough, or having effects that don't make sense (e.g. extending the range of a spell using 5 ft increments per spell level, or having a 4th level spell to break objects that is on par with the 2nd level spell shatter). Some spells are so specialized that they seem aimed at NPCs or very specialized casters (which makes classes like Bards, Rangers, and Sorcerers unlikely to take them). Many of the 1st level effects seem almost meant for cantrip effects, and are not on par with the 5th edition design model of having 1st level spells be more effective than their 3rd edition counterparts. It is almost as if these spells were directly moved from their Pathfinder version, and as I have not had a chance to look at the Pathfinder verison of Deep Magic, I can only assume this to be the case.

Many of the spells are good and well balanced by 5th edition standards, but enough of them are not that it seems like this product could use a revision specific to the spells.

The magic items are rather interesting and well done by my reckoning. I would love to use them in my campaigns.

The conditions are great, as I have felt like 5th edition's current conditions list is lacking for certain situations. I love the concept of hypothermia as it deviates from just defaulting to exhaustion, and makes the cold really matter more than just being a throwaway occasional Constitution saving throw. The cold should matter, and this condition makes it very prominently dangerous.

Two monsters are included, one a reprint from Tome of Beasts (the Vaettir) and one is new (the Tupilak Golem). The Vaettir is included as it is relevant to the spells and runes from this book, and the Tupilak golem is a welcome addition and a very neat monster that I can't wait to use. Both are done very well, and make masterful use of the rules.

Overall, I am very happy with this book, though I am hopeful to see if the issue with the spells may be addressed in the future. As it is, I can use them, but I intend to modify them perhaps for my purposes. This is a solid book, and you can't really beat the price. If you like the concept of rune magic, this is an excellent resource. If you like things Norse and cold, this is also an excellent resource. Don't cast off on your viking longship without it!

I give this product 4 stars.


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5/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy.

This product covers another establishment for use in your 5e fantasy games, but is not a tavern. It is a tea house, and Dire Rugrat has done a wonderful job of contrasting it to their taverns, showing that they are amazingly adept at creating distinct locations, as they have in the past.

I am happy to say that the art is improving with each successive product, which makes me very happy. The portraits to an excellent job of setting the tone and giving a thorough impressing of the characters. It makes me want more portraits to get a better feel for the other characters. I look forward to seeing it get even better!

The 5e rules are very well represented, and there is a lot for GMs to glean. The stat blocks include some cleverly designed NPC abilities that can easily be applied to other NPCs and monsters. There is an excellent attention to detail and the thematic design space for 5e NPCs.The teahouse itslef is very fleshed out and feels organic, as I've come to expect. The NPCs are all interconnected, and it is a pleasure to read through the book to discover the social web that has been woven. I don't ever feel like anything is extraneous or meant to fill space. I especially like Arradeth, and her portrait. Everything about her really sets the tone. Really, the way that the NPCs were presented as whole and intricate people was what made me so happy with this book.

As with any of Dire Rugrat product, I always enjoy how the entire story unfolds as I read through the whole book, setting up an excellent narrative that makes the entire book relevant and interesting. The teahouse has an amazing depth, and any number of city adventures can begin and end with the teahouse as an excellent set piece.

My only quiblle is that I wish for more ways that players could interact with this teahouse other than either being an all girl group, letting the focus fall on female characters, or the old "man in disguise" trick. There is a lot about this tea house that is compelling, and it would be neat to figure out more ways to put it to use. The fact that men are not allowed is interesting, and presents a unique obstacle, but simply requires a little more GM magic to make sure that the players enjoy everything that the teahouse has to offer to a group of adventurers.

I give this product a very well deserved 5 out of 5, and my royal seal.


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Tome of Damn Good Monsters

5/5

Disclosure: I don't know if this needs to be said, but I did kickstart this project, so there you have it.

So this review has been a long time coming. I have had this book for a long time, I have looked at a good number of the monsters in detail (though not all, it may take another few months to a year to do so). I think I have a pretty good handle on this book and its contents in a way that I can deliver a relatively in depth review, and hopefully I can tell you something you didn't already know.

What you likely do know is that this book is amazingly well done. It has many great monsters that are very well thought out and excellently written. It has a lot of baked in adventure ideas that can be based off of nearly any of the monsters within. It has art that is the envy of the 1st party publishers. It has enough monsters to keep your players entertained and challenged for many a campaign.

Lets start with some of my favorite monsters.

First, I thoroughly enjoyed the Chained Angel. It is one of very few examples of a creature that can be redeemed, and gives a very good reason for wanting to redeem it. Most creatures are made for bashing to death, or at the very least to present formidable opposition with no choices outside of victory and defeat. The art for the chained angel is excellent. Interestingly, the chained angel had a good number of errors in its mechanical text that have since been fixed in errata, so be wary if you have a print copy. That having been said, the errors do not make this creature unplayable.

Second, I have to call out Camazotz as being one of my favorite creatures. I won't go into its mechanics for being a CR 22 creature, but the art is fantastic, and the fact that it is derived from a Meso-American myth is something that pleases me to no end. Overall, well done, and a good candidate for a demon lord.

Third, the Drakon makes me happy because it is a beast. Beasts need more love, and one of the central issues with the "animal" type in Pathfinder is that they are too boring. 5e, and Tome of Beasts in particular, seem to dispel this notion and make beasts as interesting as any other creature type. The art work is of course evocative and great, and its stat block is brief but useful.

Finally, in a sweeping category I love the NPC section, as it expands the very useful but relatively limited NPC section in the 5th edition monster manual. Not only do we get pictures (unlike in the aforementioned monster manual) for every NPC, and the statistics can easily be used for a plethora of occasions. This is a good addition to the Tome of Beasts, but actually makes me wish that Kobold press would put out a book of NPCs on its own!

An honorable mention goes to the various Cthulhu creatures. There is one other book that has Lovecraft monster and I hope to do a comparison on my blog, but so far I am loving the Kobold Press take on them.

Now on to the things I didn't like. Now I know a lot of people have mentioned this, but I have to echo that the "dangerous water maidens" are pretty prevalent. In all fairness, it is an artefact of Pathfinder; Pathfinder probably has more of the dangerous water maidens throughout its various bestiaries. However, I would have wanted maybe... one entry for a dangerous water maiden, and an ample side bar or page dedicated to the various cultural variations that comprise the numerous myths surrounding women and water (and boo for not having "la llorona", if you are going to go full on water maiden, be all inclusive!). Really, I get that water maidens are an interesting cultural touchstone like vampires and dragons and ghosts and so on, but I think that it could have been approached more elegantly, with an eye towards the curious cultural differences and what they say about the collective myth.

I also am somewhat disappointed that some of the potential playable monsters (things like the Ramag or the Rat Folk) weren't given sidebars for play as PCs, but this is hopefully just to preempt more products like Midgard Heroes and Southland Heroes, both of which I enjoyed and recommend.

If I had one other quibble, it is that there are no comprehensive lists as with the Pathfinder Bestiary, with breakdowns of creatures by type, terrain, and so on, but that's really just me being lazy, and I don't fault them for not doing that. I'm sure that the layout on this monster (book) was enough as it was. Moreover, I'm sure that some industrious individual will create such a list soon, if not already.

Now, my dislikes of this book were actually few and shallow. I have to end this review by saying that I love this book, it was very well done, and it is an essential book for anyone serious about running 5th edition games. It should be essential if you love bestiaries as I do, and fancy just paging through monsters for any reason. This book is essential as a designer, because every stat block tells a story through its intricate use of the rules.

This book is just essential.

Trust me, you won't regret the $20 that you will spend on this book as a pdf, and if you should have the extra money, pay to get it in print. I can't tell you how impressive the book really is as a physical text. You will marvel at the size of it, then at the beauty of its full color and glossy pages. It's as big as those obnoxious textbooks you had to carry around in college or perhaps high school, with the important distinction that you will want to see every page and thumb through it.

Yes, get this book. Get it now. What are you waiting for!?

5 stars and my royal approval.


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Best Beasts

5/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy.

Now, I have to say that I am massively impressed with this product. It is not a bestiary so much as it is an ecology primer on a bunch of new creatures that are original, inspiring, and effective. Ranging from animal to elemental to monstrocity, there are plenty of interesting and original creatures to use in your campaigns. For each creature or type we are given a wide number of alternative builds, whether they be stronger versions of the base creature, or full distinct variations on a similar theme. For instance, we get young, adult, and elder spider bears, while the druidic guardians are varied by elemental type.

Each cluster of creatures comes with plot hooks, potential treasure (when it makes sense), and pointers for how a creature might behave in battle. This, coupled with the brief but comprehensive descriptions give creatures a depth that is not conveyed in a 1 page stat block. And although the hit point values are a bit low for a given CR, the creatures themselves are excellently represented for 5th edition statistics.

I very much look forward to seeing more books like this, and it has even changed my view on what shorter bestiaties should be. Without the history of older and established monsters, every new beast needs to be as fleshed out as the ones in this book.

5 out of 5 stars, and my royal seal.


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Welcome to my Parlor

5/5

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this product.

Along Came a Spider is an excellent and unorthodoxed adventure. It lets spiders take the center stage as the villains for a low level adventure, rather than as the rabble and fodder that are encountered incidentally on the way to the true threat.

This product is chock full of spiders, of all sorts. You have a young ettercap, swarms of spiders, and even a few new spiders designed just for this book. The adventure starts out pretty straight forward, but begins to take a strange and interesting twist. I won't say much for fear of spoiling, but I was impressed with the adventure, and I can't wait to run it.

This adventure is thorough, and has some varied locations. This is definitely an excellent introductory adventure. It is balanced to help survivability, as it is a bit of an issue for 1st level players in 5e. It also has great sensibilities for adventure design, such as appropriate traps and encounters as well as appropriately low ability check and save DCs to ensure you don't hurt or hinder the players too bad out of the gate.

All in all, this book benefits from the author's considerable talent and understanding of the system and of adventure design. This is an excellent 5th edtition module, and I look forward to seeing more! 5 out of 5!


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A cantankerous caper

5/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy.

An excellent addendum to the Delectable Dragonfly Tea House, this mini adventure does well to take advantage of the various intricate social ties of the tea house's various personalities.

The adventure is well thought out, and is well out of bounds of the normal "kill something and take its loot" paradigm that is too common in adventure design. I had hoped that the reward for the adventure were more socially aligned as well.

I should add that I was especially happy with the write up of one of the NPCs, whom had a very interesting set of social abilities that really captured the essence of the character in a way that married the thematic to the mechanics perfectly. I may have said this about the 5th edition version, but it remains the same for the Pathfinder version. I am especially impressed that they were drawn from such disparate sources. Dire Rugrat knows both games like the back of their hands.

That having been said, the cues for this adventure are wonderfully thought out, and make accessing the tea house an interesting prospect. There are likely more adventure hooks that could be drawn from this tea house, and I would love to see even further adventures of this kind, given how much I enjoy the location.

I give this a 5 out of a 5. Please do more mini adventures like this.

P.S. I'm still pulling for a compilation.


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Tea Tollers Unite!

5/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy. Also, I have replicated most of my review for the 5e version of this product, but I find that most of the same points apply, and have changed what I felt appropriate.

This product covers another establishment for use in your Pathfinder games, but is not a tavern. It is a tea house, and Dire Rugrat has done a wonderful job of contrasting it to their taverns, showing that they are amazingly adept at creating distinct locations, as they have in the past.

I am happy to say that the art is improving with each successive product, which makes me very happy. The portraits to an excelleny job of setting the tone and giving a thorough impressing of the characters. It makes mw want more portraits to get a better feel for the other characters. I look forward to seeing it get even better!

The rules are very well represented, and there is a good bevvy of new rules information that make this book interesting to dive into. Look to the appendix to see unique character options that help round out the equally unique NPCs in this book.

The teahouse itslef is very fleshed out and feels organic, as I've come to expect. The NPCs are all interconnected, and it is a pleasure to read through the book to discover the social web that has been woven. I don't ever feel like anything is extraneous or meant to fill space. I especially like Arradeth, and her portrait. Everything about her really sets the tone. Really, the way that the NPCs were presented as whole and intricate people was what made me so happy with this book.

As with any of Dire Rugrat product, I always enjoy how the entire story unfolds as I read through the whole book, setting up an excellent narrative that makes the entire book relevant and interesting. The teahouse has an amazing depth, and any number of city adventures can begin and end with the teahouse as an excellent set piece.

My only quiblle is that I wish for more ways that players could interact with this teahouse other than either being an all girl group, letting the focus fall on female characters, or the old "man in disguise" trick. There is a lot about this tea house that is compelling, and it would be neat to figure out more ways to put it to use. The fact that men are not allowed is interesting, and presents a unique obstacle, but simply requires a little more GM magic to make sure that the players enjoy everything that the teahouse has to offer to a group of adventurers.

I give this product a very well deserved 5 out of 5, and my royal seal.


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Short but sweet

5/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this product.
Second Disclaimer: I will repeat many of my thoughts on this product in the other entries in this series, as most of my points apply.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this product, I can't help but think that it was too short. The mini adventure is excellent, and does well to highlight Dire Rugrat's other products. Having already gotten those products, this mini adventure was all the more enjoyable.

However, I can't help but feel that they should be somehow bundled with their sibling products (in this case Tuffy's Good Time Palace). Alternately, I think that I would have liked to see a string of adventures rather than a mini adventure, perhaps. Maybe a series of plot hooks that could bring the players closer to the tavern of choice, and that could easily be adaptable to other taverns or campaigns. I would eagerly pay for a sort of "Big Book of Taverns" that compiles this and other taverns and adventure hooks, both generic and specific.

But that's not to say that this mini adventure isn't good. It's everything that it should be, but it does make me want more, just as most Dire Rugrat products do. In that it did not fail.

Though my reviews for the other products were much the same, this mini adventure in particular does stand out in that it does a great job of presenting a robust combat encounter with many combatants, and does so in a way that was efficient (referring to the PRD rules in a way that makes the adventure short but thorough).

5 out of 5 and the royal seal.


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Short but sweet

5/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this product.
Second Disclaimer: I will repeat many of my thoughts on this product in the other entries in this series, as most of my points apply.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this product, I can't help but think that it was too short. The mini adventure is excellent, and does well to highlight Dire Rugrat's other products. Having already gotten those products, this mini adventure was all the more enjoyable.

However, I can't help but feel that they should be somehow bundled with their sibling products (in this case Simon's Dinner Theater). Alternately, I think that I would have liked to see a string of adventures rather than a mini adventure, perhaps. Maybe a series of plot hooks that could bring the players closer to the tavern of choice, and that could easily be adaptable to other taverns or campaigns. I would eagerly pay for a sort of "Big Book of Taverns" that compiles this and other taverns and adventure hooks, both generic and specific.

But that's not to say that this mini adventure isn't good. It's everything that it should be, but it does make me want more, just as most Dire Rugrat products do. In that it did not fail.

5 out of 5.


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A short encounter

5/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this product.
Second Disclaimer: I will repeat many of my thoughts on this product in the other entries in this series, as most of my points apply.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this product, I can't help but think that it was too short. The mini adventure is excellent, and does well to highlight Dire Rugrat's other products. Having already gotten those products, this mini adventure was all the more enjoyable.

However, I can't help but feel that they should be somehow bundled with their sibling products (in this case the Blackberry Bill's found in the Trio of Taverns product). Alternately, I think that I would have liked to see a string of adventures rather than a mini adventure, perhaps. Maybe a series of plot hooks that could bring the players closer to the tavern of choice, and that could easily be adaptable to other taverns or campaigns.

But that's not to say that this mini adventure isn't good. It's everything that it should be, but it does make me want more, just as most Dire Rugrat products do. In that it did not fail.

5 out of 5.


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5 Star adventure!

5/5

Firstly, the background for the adventure is very well written, and seeps out character and flavor. It was plainly well thought out and very developed. It is excellently layered with a hook that does not belie the true nature of the adventure, and a twist that should keep player interest throughout the endeavor. Good setup and thorough execution of initial hook. Also, there is good characterization of various expository NPC's that promises a memorable session if a GM is willing to act them out.

From the first encounter, it seems like encounter design and balance are well done for the sensibility of 5th edition. The initial combat is meant more as a test of the character's sensibility than their combat prowess, and could lead to some interesting decisions later. Statistic blocks are handled rather nicely, and are concise and readable. The next few encounters are a bit standard, and probably a sync for a 2nd level party to deal with, but it really builds up the atmosphere, especially with the special glyphs that seem to permeate the enemy lair. Room and encounter design do a nice job of setting the tone of the adventure by slowly introducing a creepy undertone.

There are interesting little details peppered within the room descriptions of the enemy lair, including some interesting moral choices regarding enemies that do not resist or fight.

The inclusion of a new creature (the negative energy elemental) is refreshing, and a bright contrast against the relatively mundane hobgoblin foes, as well as foreshadowing the nature of the lair itself.

The methodology for controlling the number of creatures in a later encounter was interesting as well; depending on player actions, they could fight more enemies at once, or fight a few with more enemies entering per round. This seems to reward players for circumstantial actions rather than punishing them for making an unknowable mistake.

Ultimately, the adventure is very short, and could serve as an excellent set piece to be fit into a larger campaign. There are a lot of loose ends presented within here that could either be tied to your campaign, or simply expand the adventure to interesting directions. This adventure will most likely take your 2nd level group to 3rd level (depending on how many there are in your party), so that makes it ideal for moving your characters into an ideal starting point for a full on campaign (given that the accepted wisdom states that adventurers are more sturdy and defines at level 3).

All in all, this excellent and short adventure is a showcase of an excellent understanding of 5th edition design and low level balance! 5 stars and my approval!


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Strike from the Shadows

4/5

I like the Shadow Warrior Archetype, and it stands out as likely being the first of many hybrid archetypes (to say nothing of ones already present in the SRD and/or PHB), but a well done one at that. It is not quite warlock enough to make a Shadow Warrior step on the toes of a Warlock, but it blends the creativity of the Warlock's thematic approach with the sensibilities of a combat focused rogue, making something almost unique in the process. This is an amazing and viable alternative to arcane trickster, likewise being distinct enough from that character option to justify itself, and interesting enough to be considered for use by players.The abilities seem well balanced. I also rather enjoyed the integration of "exotic" weapons as a modular and workable approach, rather than a cumbersome call back to the rule set of a prior edition.

I believe that this product was among the first available class options available for 5th edition, some time before the SRD was released. I mention this as relevant because it seems to be a dipped toe in the water of 5th edition products. Though it has a fantastic cover, the presentation of this book is not as exciting as I'm used to from Rogue Genius games, though everything looks neatly laid out and otherwise well done. The borders are thick, and a bit distracting, but that's more of a quibble. I would very much like to see a revision of this product, changed to include perhaps a piece of art or even the actual rogue class for the sake of ease, given its current inclusion in the SRD. Seeing this class integrated with the rogue rules might expand the product by a few pages, but it would be an excellent printable resource for anyone playing such a class. One last complaint is that it seems to be slightly expensive for a 5 page product containing one archetype, though I did buy it on sale. Granted, this was an early product, and did not have the benefit of seeing the rough pricing structure that has organically grown through trial and error.

I give this product 4 stars; it is a promising if slightly unpolished start to a venture into 5th edition products!


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Ironclad

5/5

As always, Ascension Games brings its best to the table, and presents us with another hefty tome that not only provides a plethora of options for players and GMs alike, they do so in a way that is at once novel and digestible, giving us options that will appeal to any and every character, old or new, wishing to add a bit of spice to their character. Let's get started...

This book clocks in at 165 pages, and they make the most of it. Right off the bat, the art is top form. What I wasn't happy with, though, was the speed at which the pdf loads from page to page. This might be an issue resolved with an update, but I remember this happening with Path of Shadows. I can understand how such a beautifully made product would take a while to load, but it begs for a printer friendly version is such a change would make it easier to navigate, or at least print out for perusal.

Right off the bat, the different character choices are evocative, well defined, not quite the same as other classes yet easy enough to internalize for play without being a "Pathfinder Expert". This is an excellent method of player option design that grows out rather than up by presenting new and intriguing options rather than ones that are simply improved over older designs.

Almost as though they had known that 5th edition would follow suit, Path of Shadows (much like some Dreamscarred Press classes) has baked in archetypes, on top of more traditional and optional ones. These choices are not merely different or interesting, but they change the entire thematic of the class without diluting its uniqueness.

While it is harder to classify the classes into the traditional paradigms (i.e. healer, damage dealer, control, etc) that is actually a boon. These classes tend to either provide multiple avenues of problem solving without either devaluing other classes or becoming overpowered in the sense that wizards perceived to be.

Using a good portion of established rules in new and ingenious ways, they avoid the problem of making new classes that require new and strange rules to fit into the 100,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that is Pathfinder. There is a sense of seamlessly interlocking with the system and becoming part of its unique math driven ecosystem without seeming stale or rote.

Additional material, while almost required for new classes for Pathfinder, have the same amazing care and attention that do so much for this book. You don't have to pick from the three new class offerings to benefit from this book. There are so many spells, feats, archetypes, magic items that all overflow with the thematic flavor of this book that you may want to run a campaign just from the ideas presented therein. Your current characters can more than benefit from any range of material from this product, and you will likely be flipping through it to absorb as much of it as you can, like I have been. You won't find issue with the mechanics. The people responsible for this book were thorough and precise, I assure you.

My only regret is that I did not have this book for my android character running through the Iron Gods Adventure Path. This material fits so well into that setting and especially for my character concept that it would have been the only book I needed to make my character even more memorable! I may even try to do the AP again using this book; that's how freaking good it is!!

Please, buy this book. I'd rate it 6 stars if I could. For now, 5 stars and the Elven Wizard Seal will have to do.

Addendum: I realized that in my haste, I forgot to address the themes of the book. This book is about runes and iron and metal manipulation. Where you might have once used wall of iron, heat metal, or any number of runs, symbol of glyph spells in the past, this book takes those themes and runs with them. You might find metal manipulation a d constructs interesting, but even if you don't, this book demands that you take a second look, and makes it worth your while.

Seriously though, buy this book. Use magnets, control golems, and scribe mighty runes! You won't regret it.


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Not over until the diva sings

5/5

Disclosure: I received a review copy.

Dire Rugrat has been an impressive producer of fantastic if not humble locales. Simon's Dinner Theater upholds the standard of quality that I am used to seeing, delivering another wonderful location that would fit perfectly in a campaign, especially one that is urban based.

Short and to the point, Simon's Dinner Theater has a bevy of wonderful NPC's that populate the establishment and bring it to life. While you won't (likely) be killing monsters and hunting for treasure here, the theater is still an excellent arena for social encounters, information gathering, as a fantastic set piece for a chase scene, or even just a place for your players to retreat to and relax.

Most impressive to me so far is the art, which has only improved with each product released. I am only sad to have not seen an illustration of the half-orc stage hand, as she seemed to have a lot of personality packed into her 1 paragraph description.

There is a lot to play with here if you are willing to indulge a campaign that is more social and less combative, even if for just a session. There are lots of interesting hooks and characters with which to interact if you want to make this place the center of some campaign specific intrigue or scheme. Just know that you won't find much in the way of magic items, monsters or typical adventuer fare. But worry not, this is an excellent product through and through.

So don't delay; Book a seat at Simon's Dinner Theater, and partake of the excellence therein. 5 out of 5.


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The sharpest blade

4/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy.

This product presents a brand new 5th edition class, the Kensei. If you are familiar with chanbara film and storytelling, or the classic samurai/ronin tropes, then this class is for you.

First off, this class is not tied to a katana, which is great, since it already bypasses the typical fanboy urge to make the katana more important than the character. you can use any weapon, and have a backup in case you need to use another weapon. This really goes against the grain for a lot of classes that focus on a single weapon as this product does.

This class comes complete with archetypes (or ways) that really seem to make the class shine. There is an impressive spellcasting class that can make you something of a samurai paladin, one that focuses on your blade, and one that focuses on your body as a tool to be perfected.

If I had one complaint about this product, it would be the layout. It isn't that bad, but I am spoiled on layouts that are a little neater or readable, and when I am referencing a class, it helps to have neater layouts to facilitate in cross referencing. That having been said, it was not so bad as to deter me from enjoying it.

The Kensei stands to be an excellent jumping point for any samurai or wandering swordsman templates that you may want to play, and is a solid entry into the so far untested waters of 5th edition base class creations. It stands apart from Fighter enough to merit a new base class, and has done a great job of presenting itself as distinct and impressive. 4 out of 5 stars.


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Destiny Awaits!

5/5

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this product.

Given the relative infancy of 5th edition, there is a lack of material for it. Road to Destiny, though not originally designed with 5th edition in mind, is an excellent product and conversion effort that displays all of the hallmarks of good 5th edition design.

This adventure details a short tale of a caravan, an attempted abduction, and an ancient grudge. I have enjoyed everything about the way that the adventure is laid out: The encounters are well balanced, treasure is appropriately sparse (something that is integral to 5th edition design), and the adventure itself is well designed and characterized.

If this product had one flaw, it would be this; it is meant as a companion to the Jade Regent adventure path, which of course it not itself a 5th edition product. This is not a serious flaw, as adventure paths can be converted to 5th edition rules with relative ease, and the adventure itself is given to fitting in other campaigns with a few detail changes.

That being the case, I actually enjoy the modularity of the encounters within this book. I am planning on using them as distinct set encounters that I can tuck away in case my group should decide to partake in side trek away from my session plans. In that respect, this book does wonderfully at providing a plethora of encounters, and even beautifully rendered maps that give you everything you need to run these encounters. I was especially impressed with the full page maps reproduced in the back of the book.

Road to Destiny is an excellent entry into the so far sparse offerings of 5th edition adventures, and among the few to have experienced and versatile game designers. I am impressed with Jim Groves and Alistair Rigg, who have shown their excellent writing chops. I would also be remiss to omit praise for the artist, Jason Juta, who lends this adventure a very impressive sense of dread and excitement.

I give this adventure 5 stars, and my royal approval.


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Avast!

5/5

Disclosure: I received this as part of a holiday giveaway, and I resolved to review it, and here I do so gladly!

I don't have much to say, because this product is one page with 5 feats. However, the brevity does a lot to convince me of both the quality and breadth of Legendary Games, both for their command of the rules, and for their commitment to delivering on thematic rule sets for any campaign or character.

Within you will find new mythic feats, as well as a few great variants. All of these are of course geared towards an oceanic campaign, and grant various impressive and balanced bonuses to travel (and combat) by sea. In having read other mythic rules by Legendary Games, I feel like they have a great sense for what makes the mythic rule-set so good when it works, and they know how to make it work.

While these feats generally do simply add bonuses to various checks and abilities, they are either paired with unique abilities that do more than just crank up the math, or add bonuses in genuinely interesting ways. Take for example the feat, "Hoist the Colors", which can allow a character to intimidate other ships through sheer reputation. These flavorful effects really showcase that mythic isn't just about being stronger, faster, or smarter, but about being a peerless champion that can shake the world.

Conveying such flavor and thematic brilliance in one page through feats is not easy, but Legendary Games manages to do just that. Bravo. 5 out of 5. I would love to see a compilation of these mini products.


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Guess I'll go eat worms.

5/5

Disclosure: I received this product thanks to a wonderful Holiday contest, and agreed to review it.

"Mythic Monsters: Worms" is an excellent product that has me hungry for more of its kind. It is succinct, but delivers exactly what it promises; mythic worm monsters for your mythic campaign. These crawling creatures are not merely updated with mythic rules, but given nasty and potent features that make them more deadly, more interesting, and usually far far more creepy than the original version.

A lot of lovecraftian love was poured into these monsters, and it is evident that the designers weren't just throwing out another product, but rather making something that they could be proud of. Each entry drips with flavor that comes through with each special ability and stat block.

This product clocks in at 32 pages, with 8 pages taken up by front and back cover, PRD information, credits, and other miscellaneous pages, this product still manages to wow, as well as pack in amazing monsters. As if that weren't enough, there are a handful of feats, a domain, and 6 worm companions for players wanting to be extra creepy themselves.

This product harkens to the now famous Age of Worms adventure path, and almost begs that you run it, or are inspired by the mighty wrath of these wormy foes.

"Mythic Monsters 23: Worms" gets 5 out of 5 from me, and royal approval.


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New Races!

5/5

Disclosure: I received a free review copy.

Let me begin by saying that this product impressed the hell out of me.

It clocks in at 16 pages with 12.5 pages of content (1 page for cover, 1/2 a page for credits, 1 page for OGL, and 1 page for an ad). Formatting and presentation are excellent, with every usable part of the page being well utilized for space.

Additionally, the content is excellent. The races provided are not only fitted with sound rules, but also with excellent exposition that makes the races stand out.

Provided within are Catfolk, Hagborn, Samsaran, and Tengu, and sub races for each. Also, the book provides number of new sub-races for dwarves, halflings, elves, and gnomes. Though the latter is a lot more brief, it is an excellent example of what a sub-race can be.

The highlight of this product is the showcasing of the racial write ups, giving the utmost attention to the society and background considerations for the new races. While the mere fact that this product provides new races at all is amazing (considering the hitherto infancy of 5th edition), this product blazes a trail and leaves an example of what new race books for 5th edition should be, and look like.

Bravo. 5 out of 5!


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Spooky Scary Gardens

5/5

Disclosure: I received a review copy.

It is no secret that I am a fan of the Deadly Garden series, but this product really knocked it out of the park. My only feasible complaint about the line to date is that I wanted more, and Spooky Gardens delivered!

The monsters here really evoke the themes of horror, and are terrible even if they happen to not be a threat (to higher level parties, for instance). The very idea that they exist is enough to provoke fear.

The book wasted as little space as possible, giving you 13 pages (1 for cover, and 1/2 for OGL). Everything else is packed with monsters, a neat template to make your undead more horrifying, a magic item, and even some useful items that you might derive from these creepy creatures.

The statistics are of course top notch, and the art is amazing. Get this book if you like monsters, horror, or even just spooky things. You won't regret it! 5 out of 5 stars and my approval!


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Two Great Stings That Go Great Together

5/5

Disclosure: I received a review copy.

I am fully impressed not only with the monster featured in this product, but the new system for natural items, which allows for the creation of special materials from natural sources. Long have we needed a system to simulate natural cures that were not the work of an herbalist or alchemist, but of everyday people that know the land and know its secrets.

This product continues to wow with quirky and interesting creatures that are not just monsters for their own sake, but come baked in with plot hooks and adventure seeds, and even some useful items to boot.

The scorpion cactus does not disappoint, making for a memorable encounter. As for the natural items, each one is intriguing and useful, at times making me wonder why someone else hadn't already made something similar.

With lots of fun ideas for player and GM alike, this is a steal at $1. you get 5 pages (1 page for cover, 1/2 page for OGL) packed with good material. I give this a 5 out of 5.


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A howling good time (can't help myself!)

5/5

Disclosure: I received a review copy

Bite Me! Werewolves is a good and succinct product that delves into not what it is to be a shapechanger in general, but more specifically what it is to be a werewolf. It differs from Bite Me! Guide to Lycanthropy in that it really does give focus to werewolves. The product does a good job of showcasing them, and goes above and beyond to establish a social order for non-cursed werewolves.

And this is the part that impressed me. Much care was given to steer away from stereotypes of werewolves as ravenous killers or even as enemies to normal humanoids. Rather, they are depicted here as noble packs that value bonds and camaraderie over violence and glory. One could easily see an all werewolf game being run with just this book and the core rules alone!

I'm not ignoring the crunch of the book. Werewolves are presented as a race, so they are rounded out with alternative racial traits, racial sub-types, custom favored class options, racial archetypes, equipment, feats, magic items, a subdomain, spells, and two fabulous NPC write ups! And all of them are of the quality that I have come to expect from Misfit Studios, all being excellently written and developed. I was particularly happy with the archetypes and feats, as they drove home the pack mentality that the book espouses.

The art is awesome as always, and does a great job of setting the tone of the book. The whole thing clocks in at 30 pages, with roughly 7 devoted to advertisements and OGL material, but is still entirely worth the asking price. If I were going to run a werewolf campaign, I would certainly not only buy this product, acquire it in print somehow. A must for any who love werewolves! 5 out of 5!


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Fiendish Fun

5/5

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this product.

The Coldwood Codex for 5th edition is an excellent addition of monsters, not only for bringing up the number of available Fey and Undead, but also for being inventive, covering a spectrum of challenge ratings, and presenting everything through amazing illustrations.

The monsters in the codex are truly creative, either drawing from lore and myth that have not been explored before, or inventing new concepts that are similarly innovative.

From undead druids to dark fey lords, this book does a great job of presenting monsters that feel like monsters; evil and motivated to get in the way of your players. They also benefit from a well developed grasp of the 5th edition system, making full use of the intricate monster creation rules while also presenting unique and interesting abilities that help them stand out even more.

Ultimately, I would give this product 5 stars and my stamp of approval. You would be hard pressed not to want to include these monsters in your game, and even a slight reskinning could result in some memorable encounters over a wide range of challenge ratings. If this is the caliber of monster design for Legendary Games, I can only anticipate with eager wonder a more thorough bestiary down the line.


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Simple, but robust. Short, but utile. In a word, awesome.

5/5

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this product.

At 9 pages long, This product delivers as advertised on an excellent range of simple templates that expand the possibilities for monster and encounter design. It does an amazing job at it as well, understanding the nuanced design to templates and monsters alike.

To be brief, there are diamond, eternal, ghul, mighty, missing, and two-headed templates. I won't go into too much detail, but...

Diamond- This makes the monster into a living diamond. Physically tougher, and able to make slashing attacks. I'd worry about the players trying to sell the corpse of a diamond anything, but it's not too hard to put the kaibosh on that.

Eternal- This makes the monster immortal, as in can't be killed. Though this worried me at first, it was handled with a great deal of care and attention, addressing in the description the need for restraint from the GM. I wish that more products did this, treating GMs with respect rather than handing out powerful rules and hoping we know how to handle it off hand.

Ghul- This makes a monster into a ghoul, in essence. This is a great addition to the standard "zombie" and "skeleton" options when making undead. Best of all, it lets the creature be a thinking undead, which is rare for a simple template.

Mighty- Here is my favorite. It makes the creature amazingly powerful, moreso than say a combination of the "giant" and "advanced" templates (though putting all three together might be fun, if used responsibly). I'd see this as a good way to leverage a creature as a boss fight, helping the survivability of a monster without just simply heaping on hp or AC (though it does those things too). Well implemented and thought out.

Missing- Displacer beast without the beast. This lets you shock your players with displacer otyughs or anything you might want. I rather like this option, but I'd personally advize that it be used sparingly.

Two Headed- No surprises here, but the two headed template is well done. I know that I've toyed with adding a head to a given creature, but the rules here are solid, and I'm glad to have a means to do so that isn't slap-dash.

Ultimately, the beauty to this product is in its simplicity. Like simple templates, it is easy to internalize the information here to add to your creatures on the fly, and with minimal page flipping. I could probably put the templates on note-cards or on the margins of my campaign book with ease, which is a big plus in my book.

There is an excellent understanding of the math AND fun that makes an encounter memorable, and the simple templates stand with those tried and true core rule templates that are so ingrained in the game that we now take them for granted. Bravo, 5 stars.


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