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An RPG Resource Review

5/5

Intended to portray druids as more than nature-loving clerics, this book contains a collection of prestige classes, new feats and spells, and other ideas designed to enhance this character class.

The Introduction sets the scene. Most folk regard the forces of nature as something to be feared and to be overcome: druids embrace them and utilise them instead. However they are not some kind of vegan ecowarrior (at least, most of them are not), surrounded by adoring animals and making use of hallucinogenic drugs. They are interested in living in harmony with nature and are often solitary, although they enjoy the company of animals and other druids. Most do hunt for food, and utilise flora and fauna for many purposes. They do tend to be a bit sanctimonious about respect for nature, though! They seek to maintain balance, hence a neutral alignment.

Six prestige classes are presented in copious detail. These druids are the specialists: in a particular type of animal or in a given terrain, such as the Glacier Walker who embraces the chillier parts of the world, many of whom produce magificent ice sculptures which can serve many purposes. Warnings to visiting hunters and trappers to respect the land. Messages to other druids about what is there. Boundary markers to their territories. At the other extreme, a Guardian of the Oasis is a desert-dweller. Although they usually have access to fresh water, they are often regarded with suspicion as they get along with snakes and scorpions. There also are Highlanders (who tend to be ferocious), Lords of the Flies (who get along with insects and even base their social structures on them), and Packleaders (who travel with packs of wolves rather than settling in one place). Likewise a Pride Master associates with lions. A Scourge of the Dead is particularly ferocious in pursuit of the undead (although no druid cares for them much), and finally the Waverider is concerned about the aquatic environment - usually rivers, ponds and lakes although some prefer the sea.

Next comes a collection of useful feats aimed at druids, although most may be taken by any character who meets the prerequisites. This is followed by a collection of Nature's Handiworks which starts with discussions of wood and leather as resources with which druids can work... mostly, apparently, to make armour! However the use of homeopathic remidies is covered (would-be herbalists are directed to Alchemy and Herbalism, another Bastion Press sourcebook), and there are various compounds to make. Most sound suspiciously like herbalism to me. As well as healing compounds, there's also a section on natural poisons and how to harness them; including a rather dramatic account of how to harvest venom from snakes. Harvesting plant-based poisons sounds a lot safer.

Then comes Nature's Magic, a collection of new spells for druids and also rangers. These are followed by new magic items, mostly armour and weapons although there are also some rings and staves; and some wondrous items as well.

The next section covers the main druidic organisation, the Circle. Although they shun conventional civilisation and tend to the nomadic, they still socialise with one another, and work together against any threats. There was some mention of Circles in the discussion of prestige classes, but here they are gone into in much more detail. The Circle is both a group and the physical space in which the members meet, so there are details of how Circles are constructed in every type of terrain. Once built, rituals must be undetaken to consecrate the new Circle before it can be used. This is quite long and involved. The various forms of organisation and activities a Circule of Druids may engage in is also discussed. Gaining membership can be arduous and even life-threatening... unless the candidate is the child of two existing Circle members. They are accepted automatically.

Finally, Nature's Bond deals with companions, the druidic equivalent of a familiar. They exemplify the bond between the druid and nature itself, and provide company and friendship for the druid. There's also a rather sad note about what happens when a druid becomes disillusioned or decides to head for the comforts of more 'civilised' life... and how they can restore their place within nature if they change their mind.

Much of this material will be of more use for NPC druids, or as background knowledge for a druid player character, rather than something that can be used in play. However, there is scope for constructing adventures around many aspects discussed in this book, with druids as allies or enemies, depending on the party and what the druids might be doing. Plenty here worth a look.


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An RPG Resource Review

4/5

The Introduction goes to lengths to explain that this isn't just an update of the 2001 Arms & Armour book for the revised ruleset, but an overhaul of the entire contents with plenty of new material to feast upon. They've drawn on material published under the open gaming licence plus plenty of new original stuff to present a wealth of new weapon and armour types and options... even if they do liken it to a fashion-conscious individual searching through their wardrobe for just the right garment! They aim for the spirit of discovery that a new player has, when everything in the game is excitingly new and shiny.

We start with weapons, with three chapters devoted to them: firstly a list of just about any weapon that you can think of, then a chapter about weapon qualities which can be applied to the weapon of your choice, and finally a collection of Weapons of Valour, being a selection of ready-made magic weapons to use or at least be inspired by when designing your own. They also make good loot, if you're a DM looking for something interesting for the party to find. The weapons chapter discusses the categories weapons fall into: classification as simple, martial, and exotic; and then by size and type; making it quite easy to find the sort of weapon you're after - and which you are able to wield to effect. As well as tables providing statistics, each weapon is described and many are illustrated.

The spotlight then turns to armour, with the same format: a chapter listing all possible types of armour, a chapter on armour qualities, and then a selection of Armour of Gallantry with ready-made items to wear or at least be inspired by when designing your own. This armour section also covers getting into your armour in a hurry, and how some of it - especially shields - can also be used offensively. There is als a discussion of 'damage reduction' that may be implemented to give the party even more reason to wear it: basically, even if an attack hits (despite the AC your choice of protection confers) the armour you are wearing may absorb some of the damage the blow might otherwise do to you. Intriguing thought, although the bookkeeping is a bit intense.

The final part of the book looks at new materials you can use in the manufacture of weapons and armour, and the effects that they have, and presents an array of legendary if not divine weapons, and some new prestige classes to go with them, and there's also the 'dark side' of cursed items. Finally there are some ideas about constructs.

Well, the better part of two hundred pages covering the most important purchases a character might make, especially if they are front line fighters, present a wealth of options for what the well-dressed and appropriately accessorised warrior might be wearing!


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An RPG Resource Review

5/5

Do you find combat a bit mechanical, just chipping away at your adversaries' Hit Points (HP) until they fall over? And can you really imagine describing to your mates over a drink about how someone once managed to do 25 HP of damage to you... but you killed them with a mighty blow that dealt out 30 HP in return? Not very realistic, and if you would prefer rather more graphic descriptions of battle injuries, you've come to the right place.

The Introduction explains how this book is intended to bring excitement and realism to combat... and maybe even deter player-characters from taking excessive risks. 'You lose a leg' sounds a lot worse than 'You take 20 HP damage', after all. It also outlines the contents, beginning with the rules to make it all happen and then building on them with material on healing, armour, prestige classes, new spells, equipment, weapons and monsters. All you need to make combat memorable... and deadly.

Firstly, Critical Hits notes how in real life, most people will only use violence as a last resort because of the chance of getting hurt... unlike the average role-playing game character, who wades in regardless, with the player feeling no pain even as the character's HPs reduce. In this system, when you get a critical hit, as well as dealing out HP damage as normal, you also deliver a 'Critical Effect'. That's when it gets graphic... and downright nasty. It adds a bit more complexity, there are extra die rolls to make, but you may find that it's worth it in making combat more dramatic. Basically, a Critical Effect can be mild, moderate or serious, depending on how much over the minimum you needed to hit you got. Then you determine which part of the foe's body you hit, and apply an appropriate Critical Effect based on the sort of damage (crushing, piercing, etc.) your weapon does. It sounds more complex than it is, especially when you remember that it only happens with a critical hit anyway. The one thing that might have improved it is a table of Critical Effects rather than a lot of narrative to plough through to find the apposite one. There are a lot of variant cases, to accommodate monsters with wings, tails, or lots of legs and the like; with a system of 'body profiles' to determine what is the most appropriate 'which body part did I hit?' table to use. Oh, and you may call shots if you have an urge to chop off your foe's tail or whatever - but this reduces your chance to hit.

Next, Healing and Helping takes a look at how dealing out damage in this way affects recovery from injury. In particular it highlights non-magical healing, making the Heal skill much more intersting. There's a bit about using herbs too (an extract from the book Alchemy and Herbalism from the same publisher). Magical healing is also covered, and there's a note about scars. A new healing tool, the practise of acupunture, is introduced, and there are extensive notes on the equipment would-be healers need to have. There's druidical lore, new healing spells, and - should all else fail - artificial limbs.

The rest of the book contains more useful material like extensive notes on armour and how it can protect you against critical effects; the marksman, spirtual healer and apothecary classes; new feats and spells and weapons; and finally some new monsters and templates.

The material herein certainly makes combat more realistic and visceral, empowering vivid descriptions; whether or not the overheads in terms of extra die rolls is worth it willl be up to you and your group to decide.


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An RPG Resource Review

4/5

This book is all about the fey, and about how to include them in your campaign wherever it may be set: for faerieland is accessed via mystical doorways that take you somewhere else, somewhere magical, somewhere fey. The fey feature in many traditional stories from around this world, which makes sense, we want to embue our lives with something a bit magical. Yet, the fey have their place in a fantasy world where magic already exists too.

The book comes in four sections. The first deals with 'character' - including using fey as player-characters. Then we can also read about the geography and interesting locations in 'FaerieLand', then the law and lore of the place, and finally fey magic. It's mostly intended for characters who will be interacting with the fey or FaerieLand itself, but some material is appropriate for consideration for your game even if the fey rarely if ever make an appearance themselves.

To start with, if you want to have fey player-characters or NPCs in your game, all the information you need is provided here. There are a lot of different fey to choose from and in addition it's possible to use fey creatures presented in monster books, you'll learn how to do that too. There's material on adapting the standard classes to suit the fey mindset and new feats galore. Prestige classes cater both for fey characters and those who make a profession out of interacting with them.

Chapter 2: Lore of Faerie explains what the fey are like. The information here will aid you in making FaerieLand stand out as a distinctive and different place within your campaign world, should the party visit there (on purpose or otherwise). You can find out about the everyday life of the fey, as well as the laws that govern both the fey and anyone visiting FaerieLand, not to mention the conduct of fey when travelling in the 'real world'. There are warnings of the things you need to be mindful of when dealing with them, and information about political and philosophical factions - stuff the fey themselves can get quite uncomfortable discussing.

Next, Chapter 3: The World of Faerie lets you take a good look around. Discover the lay of the land, and possibly more importantly, find out how to get there (and get back home again!). Sometimes, characters will find themselves there unintentionally which can prove amusing to all but the poor character... but at least there are details of some of the interesting places that may be visited while you are there.

Finally, Chapter 4: Magic of Faerie takes a look at the particular magic practised by - and inherent in - the fey. They make use of magical power sources, practise rituals and know the power of knowing someone's real name. There are plenty of new spells, of course, and a fair few magic items. The book rounds off with some critters and templates that may be used to give a fey twist to existing monsters.

If you want to bring the wonder, the otherness of the fey into your game, this book will equip you with a good grounding of what you need to know. Whilst game mechanics may need modification, the concepts hold good whatever ruleset you are using.


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An RPG Resource Review

5/5

Aimed primarily at DMs - although also useful to players whose characters are Rangers, Druids or otherwise interested in 'the great outdoors' - this book describes some of the environments in which wilderness adventures can take place.

Most of us, even city dwellers, have some idea of what a forest or a plain would be like back in the pseudo-mediaeval days of the usual fantasy setting. A bit wild, uncultivated, limited roads (read 'tracks'), few inhabitants and plenty of wild animals. This book sets out to explain what it's really like, wandering through this kind of environment perhaps for days or weeks on end. How will characters survive? What will they eat? What might they expect to encounter?

In these pages, you will find a dense mix of 'real world' and fantastical ecology. Each chapter begins with an overview of the environment in question, and then details several imaginary plants and animals that you might encounter there. Each is well-described, with information about their ecology, how you would be able to make use of them in a survival situation as well as what harm they might be trying to do you, and how they engage in combat. The climate is also covered, so you know what sort of weather conditions to expect.

The four environments considered are - as described in the sub-title - forests, jungles, woods and plains. The forest is the pristine virgin growth, a botanical climax of flourishing life in resource-rich, well watered ground. This is what you find covering temperate lands that have not yet been exploited by humans... or in the fantasy setting, humanoids. The jungle is the equivalent grown in tropical areas. Woods are interesting - they are at least semi-civilised, the interface between primordial forest and cultivated lands. They still pose dangers to the unwary and - by their nature and location - are more likely to be visited by virtually all adventurers at some point in their careers, unless they flatly refuse to leave the city walls! Plains are again lush and fertile, but serve as a transition between the abundance of forest or jungle and more arid parts of the world such as deserts.

The fifth chapter of the book covers 'wilderness equipment' - both that which it would be useful to take with you and that which can be created utilising the resources to be found there. This is particularly fascinating, because it could be used as a reason for visiting such areas - to collect or trade in useful items - or at least a profitable sideline if other concerns take you there. There are also some magical items relevant to wilderness situations, but the most useful parts are the 'new materials' selection - things you can acquire during your travels such as animal pelts and specialist woods - and an associated collection of 'new substances' that might be of interest to herbalists and alchemists - drugs, pigments, poisons and even glue and sunscreen! Many of the resources described are also of interest to spellcasters, as material components or for use in the creation of magical items.

Finally, there's a collection of spells, mostly aimed at control of or protection from natural dangers. There is even a spell to relieve allergic reactions and, for the more nasty-minded, one which causes anaphylactic shock in its target. You can create a magical storm cellar in which to take refuge, or use the ford spell to create an instantaneous bridge to get across a river.

There are several Appendices: naturally-occurring poisons, encounter charts for the various environments (including random plant-finding for use if the party botanist asks what he can see!), and a basic weather system. These are all useful for chance encounters and descriptions of what's going on around the party as they travel, although if weather, creatures or plants are actually important it's probably worth planning in a bit more detail before running the wilderness exploration.

Overall it's a very useful book, especially if you want to run wilderness exploration adventures. Even if the overland bit of your scenario is intended just as a journey from A to B, with the events in A and B being the important stuff, it's nice to have some tools to make the travelling time come alive. How often have a party of adventurers been told it's three days' travel to the wizard's tower or whatever, and barring a couple of fights with bandits or wandering monsters, just, well, got there? This book gives the DM some tools to add realism to their alternate reality... it's not just a string of encounters linked by your plot, but a living, breathing world in which the player characters exist and interact. Most of it you'll need to read through and plan ahead, but once you know what's where in your world, the 'bits in between' ought to come to life.


An RPG Resource Review

4/5

The Foreword describes how this book has been quite a while in the making, with some of the earliest deities having been invented for the author's first-published adventures, and now being brought together with all the other ones which have popped up over the years, along with wholly-new ones including those venerated in the main by non-human species. Whilst each deity is quite richly-detailed, their spheres of influence have been left quite general to facilitate a pick and mix approach by those GMs who have their own deities - use what you want and discard the rest. It's not a rigid pantheon where you have to use all of it or nothing at all.

We start off with major human powers. Each deity is listed with alignment and areas of influence, before the text goes into more detail covering symbols, clerical attire, holy texts, a summary of their teachings and so on. There are six of them. The holy symbol of each is illustrated, although The Mother appears to have the symbol of another deity called Conn rather than what the text describes for Her. These are followed by a whole slew of minor deities, who are treated in the same way. It's not really quite clear what distinguishes a major deity from a minor one, perhaps it is the breadth of their interests: the minors seem more focussed.

We then move on to non-human deities with pantheons for dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings and orcs. These are only treated in summary, none of the detail lavished on the human powers. This is in part due to the Gloomhold Campaign, for which these are intended, being fairly human-centric. The temples and clerics you are likely to encounter are more likely to be those of the human deities.

This also begs the question: is ancestry (or species) more important that what a deity stands for? How do people choose which deity they wish to revere? Or do they drop in on whoever is appropriate for what is concerning them at the moment? Beyond the scope of this book, perhaps, but things worth considering for the role-playing aspects of worship as a part of everyday life in your campaign world.

But I'm rambling. This work ends with a summary table to help you select the right deity for your needs. The human powers have been well-developed, it would be nice to see a more thorough treatment of the non-human ones...


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An RPG Resource Review

4/5

It's a fantasy game, so how about a fantastical way to travel around? Who wouldn't like to soar high above the ground, freed of the tyranny of gravity... but not everyone is born with wings or the capacity to work powerful magic. Airships are here described as a vessel that sails through currents of air, although they may have some kind of engine and be capable of powered flight, thus making them one of the fastest modes of transportation around (if you discount the likes of teleport spells).

Starting with airship construction, and then discussing crews and aerial movement (not forgetting aerial combat, of course), this book addresses the equipment required, the role of airships in trade, making appropriate characters (with new feats, skills, and prestige classes), and the use of magic in the air, rounding off with sample airships and a collection of jargon to make the characters sound the part!

Building airships is a complex, costly and time-consuming process, but the construction chapter takes you through the process. Size is based on 'tonnage', a rather abstract concept that refers to volumne rather than weight and which is based on ten-foot cubes. There's lots of detail here and parties who want to build their own ship - rather than look around a used-airship lot - will soon find there are loads of factors (and expenses) to deal with. The engines are handwaved delightfully, apart from mention that spellcasters are needed to manufacture them, there's no clear indication of how they actually function... and a wide range of fuels from wood-burning to direct magical input may be used. Not at the same time, of course, you need the right engine for the fuel source you want to use. You can reduce the power you need by installing a dirigible to provide some lift, but unless you are content to drift with the wind, you will still need an engine, albeit not so powerful a one. Various means of steering and navigating your airship are also discussed, and a plethora of airship-mounted weapons.

It seems that airships need quite a lot of crew, and a section discusses the various jobs that need to be done - he average adventuring party is going to need some help! We then get deep into the game mechanics of airship movemement, with the familiar three forms of movement: tactical, local and overland... but of course there's the essential difference that an airship moves in three dimensions, not two. Plenty here to help ypu understand how that works, but it can take some time before it becomes instinctive, and of course there are various things that can go wrong... and that's all before you engage in combat! Now that does get exciting, and difficult to manage. Like combat at sea, it can be hard to integrate individual character actions into the overall melee.

Getting a bit more peaceful again, there's a look at overland travel by air and the various ways in which you can navigate: by looking at landmarks on the groud, dead reckoning, and celestial navigation. The introduction of airships to a campaign world can lead to a profound change in mapping of that world... but there are still hazards like getting lost and coping with bad weather to contend with. After a brief discussion of aerial equipment (mostly designed to help you and your kit from falling off the airship!), there's more detailed discussion of how to conduct a trading business using an airship. This can all get very complex and detailed, and you might want to run a game centred around an aerial trading company... or you may prefer to abstract it to run in the background whilst the party engages in other activities more to their taste.

For those wishing to spend much time aloft, there are some professional and craft skills as well as an array of feats to choose from. There are a few prestige classes, and an extensive section about magic in the air including new spells as well as novel airborne applications of existing ones. As mentioned earlier, the book rounds off with some sample airships, ready to use.

This is an interesting area to explore, but one to be used with caution. The introduction of airships will cause a profound change to your campaign world, even if the party doesn't want to make regular use of them. If your world is already established, you'd also have to give thought as to how this fairly mature technology has suddenly appeared - perhaps a rift to another world, or an as-yet undiscovered continent on the other side of the world... That said, they do provide for some entertaining concepts and a chance for swashbuckling high jinks that is unparalleled!


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An RPG Resource Review

5/5

Possibly not the best book to read at lunch, the introduction reminds just how much poisons feature in fantasy gaming. Be it something an assassin might employ, a trap that makes picking locks oh-so-interesting, or a weapon deployed by a monster (natural or otherwise), they are always there but by and large not really developed beyond handing out a bit of damage and maybe calling for a save or two. They could be so much more... and this book sets out to attend to the matter.

It all begins with the 'poison chain' - the way in which the poison on that blade actually gets there. This begins with the source or ingredients of the poison. Plenty of scope for quests to find the stuff in the first place, if you are so inclined or not too fussy when selecting employers. For that matter, how was the poison discovered in the first place? This too can be woven into your plots. What, for example, if it were a healing potion gone disaterously wrong? Once you have the ingredients and know what to do with them, the process must be carried out, and this may well be complex or arduous. Once made, does the person who made it actually want to use it, or is it a work for hire? Or stock for a shop? It might be hazardous to store or transport, too. Finally, how is it administered, what are the effects, and how do you treat victims? There's a wealth of opportunity in this small section alone for making poisons a lot more interesting, and not only if your party wants to use them... they may have to clear up someone else's mess, even if they are not the poisoner's intended target.

There are plenty more ideas for making poison use more of an integral part of your game before we move on to Poisons: A Comprehensive Look. Much of this section supplies the game mechanics you'll need to take poisons to the next level, but there's also a list of poisons, many animal/monster based, complete with distinctive effects, drawn from throughout the published game and indeed, real life. To continue the mechanics, there's a rule for extracting 'poison' glands from venomous monsters, as well as new and modified skills to enable poison use and the like. A collection of wholly-new poisons follows.

This is followed by a section on drugs - the recreational sort that produce desirable (for the user) effects and which are often addictive. There are often undesirable side effects as well. The next section touches on Alchemical Processes and Products... after all, making poisons is part of their regular trade. There are some ideas for substances they can make as well as variations that they can bring about to their poison recipes. Then comes a collection of useful items for the would-be poisoner to enable them to practise their nasty trade at less risk to themselves. Weapons and other delivery systems are also covered here, including traps and magic items.

Finally a collection of feats (including some for modifying monsters), some new poisonous (venmous?) monsters and a collection of apposite spells round off this awful collection, along with a few prestige classes that provide murderous variety for those who don't want to just be assassins. These come complete with suggestions for building entire campaigns around them.

Poisons never need be boring again. Maybe you have a morally-dubious party who want to make use of all this stuff, or perhaps you would like to introduce some of these ideas into your campaign. You have everything you need at your fingertips!


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An RPG Resource Review


Here is a mammoth collection of monsters, mostly familiar faces from the past, presented in a manner that is clear and makes them easy to use. The Introduction remineds you that, as the Game Master, you get to play the monsters - they are not there as mere cannon-fodder to be slain and looted, they should be an integral part of your setting, there because they live there not just for passing adventurers to kill them and steal their stuff. Use the tools herein to make them come to life, if only briefly... after all, we know adventurers. They probably will kill the monsters and take their stuff anyway!

Each creature has a stat block, which is explained in extensive detail in the Introduction. Once you understand that, you know how the monster works in terms of game mechanics. Of course there's more to them than that. You'll find information about each creature's worldview, their ecology, the sort of societies they live in and more, which will help you bring them to life... and decide if they'll run away or surrender or fight to the death if things don't go their way in combat. They might even try to bargain their way out of trouble. Going back to mechanics, there's advice on how to make any monster stronger or weaker than the 'book' version, if that's what suits your story better. Even more detail on terminology can be found in the Appendix, along with listings of creatures by type and by level, to aid in selection of the most appropriate ones for your needs.

We then dive straight in to the monster lists, which are presented alphabetically. Each has a dramatic, dynamic image - my only issue with this is that they are melded with the text, lovely eye-pleasing layout, but without a bit of fancy footwork if you have the PDF version, there's no way of holding up a picture and saying "You see this!" to your players. (If you have the PDF, choose the 'select' tool in your reader program, select the image you want, copy it, then paste it onto a blank page or into a graphics package... but be mindful of copyright - it's OKish to do that to show your players, but don't spread the images far and wide!)

There's just so much here. Flick through, by all means, to see what is listed; but then settle down and study the first few that you actually intend to use. Get to know them. Sentient or not, they mostly have at least some intelligence and with that comes aims, objectives, likes and dislikes. These may be as simple as the need to survive, the desire to mate, and other 'animal passions' - but often there's more. A rudimentary societal structure, perhaps, a common purpose with others of their kind, or different creatures in the same area. Use this to make them come alive in your game, to become memorable parts of your plot... Monsters are an integral part of your game, this book will help you place them squarely at the centre of it.


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An RPG Resource Review

5/5

Magic is fundamental to fantasy, states the Introduction, the one thing that takes the genre beyond some imaginary mediaeval world into the genre we know and love. It is not just the preserve of the spell-using classes, all character classes in some way make use of magic during their adventuring lives. Magic of itself is, like fire, neither good nor evil; it all depends on the uses to which it is put.

In this work you will find a collection of new feats and spells, prestige classes and magic items. There are also chapters on novel ways to practise magic: blood magic, dragon magic, faery magic, mirror magic, jewel magic, rune magic, the Path of Shades (not quite as dodgy as it sounds), the Spellsinger, and totem magic. Whilst certain classes may be more suited to a give sphere of magic, and its associated prestige class, there's definitely something for everyone here.

First up, the new feats. They've been collected from the prestige classes discussed later on, but many already have a broader application, or wouldn't need much modification to allow for more general use. Some are quite dramatic. The Blood Power Metamagic Feat enables a spellcaster to power spells by taking damage themselves, whilst Eye of Knowledge confers extra information about the runes... at the cost of plucking out your own eye! There is also a delightful section of new uses for old skills. Alchemists making gems look more expensive indeed!

Chapter 2: Blood Magic introduces this method of powering spells by the caster's own life force. It's a dangerous art to practice, even if it does let you cast more spells than equivalent practitioners of other paths. There's a prestige class that lays it all out, depicting the blood mage as a spellcaster that makes others a bit uneasy... and revealing that some prefer to use someone else's blood rather than their own to power their magic. Most people would regard that as an evil act, especially if the other person isn't willing. However, if the whole concept is making you feel a bit quesy, actual bloodletting does not appear to be part of the process, it's really life-force that is being used and, mechanically-speaking, hit points that are lost.

Next, Chapter 3: Dragon Magic looks at how to tap into dragons' legendary magic prowess. Dragons are fascinated by magic, in particular the underlying concepts that make magic 'work'. Apparently part of this involves the energy between a person and an item they love, and this leads to an explanation of why dragons amass hoards. They created the Trovebond Ritual to tap into this, drawing on the inherent power of possessing a hoard to create the magics that protect that hoard. These skills are not limited to dragons alone, anyone can practise dragon magic if they have the patience to learn. Just about anyone can take the Dragon Mage prestige class as long as they have the ability to cast spells, all they need do to begin with is discover the Trovebond and start amassing a hoard.

More types of magic, each with an engrossing backstory and a detailed prestige class for those choosing that path, follow. Some study the natural and powerful magic of the fey, becoming known as faeriers. Others harness the magic of mirrors or of gems - but this is no simple matter of harnessing the inherent power of mirrors or gems, but a complex series of manipulations to create astonishing effects. The possibilities are endless, the potentials fantastic, as we're swept through rune magic with its ancient traditions (including a detailed run-down of all the runes) - and including suggestions for running a game where rune magic is the only source of magic, should you so wish. Then there's the Path of Shades, not necessarily evil but fairly dodgy however good your intentions are... no dealings with the undead can be completely pure.

Spellsinging is a lot nicer, harnessing the power of song. It's a favourite specialisation of bards, of course, but sorcerers, wizards and rogues (provided they have some musical training) can also become Spellsingers. Naturally, the one thing they dread is a silence spell! Totem Mages get back to nature, forging links with a spirit guide or totem creature, and it's a practice popular with druids and rangers, especially as you need to be able to assume the form of your totem creature. Abilities vary according to the animal adopted as a totem, so choose wisely.

A vast spell list and a collection of magic items wind up this fascinating tome, which is excellent for anyone interested in digging into magic theory and finding new ways to practice the stuff of fantasy.


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An RPG Resource Review

5/5

It's called DUNGEONS and Dragons, yet how much thought do most of us put into what lies underground beyond traps to circumvent, monsters to kill and treasure to loot? What's going on down there when there are no adventurers poking around and generally making nuisances of themselves? Now is a chance to find out... with notes on the ecology of the subterranean world and the particular challenges that those creatures living there face, as well as more detailed information on several different types of underground space.

From there, we move on to four chapters which cover four distinct underground environments: caverns, catacombs, mines and sewers. For each there are notes on what makes that particular environment distinctive and detailed accounts of the plants and animals to be found there. There are sections on the rocks and minerals you can find there (of particular note in the mines chapter, but you never know what you might find elsewhere), the hazards to be faced and a collection of monsters.

Next comes a chapter of New Equipment. This includes useful items like flameless means of illumination (to avoid setting off explosive gases) and hip waders... and even a mask to guard against the horrible smells to be found in the likes of sewers. There are a few magic items that might come in handy as well, and a few new minerals and other materials are introduced. The final chapter is a collection of spells with an underground theme, provided for all magic-using classes. Most look pretty useful for quite mudane tasks such as detecting poisonous gases or potentially useful minerals or even shoring up a roof that looks as if it might come down. Or you may prefer to turn an enemy into a pillar of salt!

It's all written in a fairly academic style, but really empowers you to turn the 'dungeons' of your game into alternate realities in their own right rather than merely a backdrop to the party's killing and looting. Recommended if you like to make your campaign world as realistic as possible.


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An RPG Resource Review

5/5

Would you like a mage for a neighbour? The wizards who live here certainly do, there are no less than four traditional wizard's towers here, although one has fallen into ruin. The introductory notes provide a few ideas for using them 'as is' - or of course you can use them individually whenever you have need of a residence for a mage. It also provides a key to common items on the maps, and directions on how to operate the customisation tools to show or hide numbers, grid, furniture and heavy fill on the black and blue versions of each plan.

First up, an overview of the valley, which has a Y-shaped river - the eddies suggest that the two branches entering from the bottom of the page join to flow off to the top-left, but that's up to you to decide. There are paths, woods, and bridges to enable the mages to visit each other without getting their feet wet or having to expend flying magic.

Next is a round tower described as the Old Wizard Tower. This has three levels plus a cellar and a circular staircase. The ground floor has a kitchen and a living room, upstairs there's a comfortable bedroom for the mage and space for an apprentice on the top floor. There's a front view and a cross section to help you sort everything out. The notes describe the living area as the laboratory: well, it has bookcases and a large table with chairs... but also a couple of comfortable armchairs round a fire place.

The second tower is called the Small Tower. It's basically squat and square with some unusual crenellations around its flat roof. Squat it may appear, but it still packs a ground floor and two upper levels as well as a cellar and that flat roof. Like the previous tower, the cellar is used for storage. The ground floor has a kitchen, dining room and bedroom; and there's a laboratory, a library, and a palour upstairs. The mage's comforts have been attended to, there is both a privy and a bathroom noted.

Next the Large Wizard Tower is quite an impressive edifice. It has four levels plus a flat roof, and stands in its own grounds with a separate stable block and gazebo... and a full-blown dungeon underneath, complete with cells and a couple of laboratories. The ground floor contains the kitchens, library, a more public laboratory, dining room and storage. Upstairs, there is a master bedroom for the wizard and accommodation for several apprentices, who have yet another laboratory and a storeroom for components. The wizard has his own private laboratory at the top of the tower just under the roof as well.

Finally, the Ruined Tower. In a considerable state of disrepair, you can still make out a ground floor, cellar and two upper levels. It was built to a round plan, tapering towards the top, and the remains of a spiral staircase can be seen.

These are three nice towers that any mage might want to settle in, with ample room for study and experimentation. I'm not sure I want to know what goes on in the dungeon, though!


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5/5

Billed as a 'small' citadel, I think it's actually quite a spacious one, suitable for whatever political intrigues or bloody insurrections you may have in mind. The introductory material covers the customisation possible (showing or hiding fill, numbers, grid, and furniture) and presents a legend for map symbols - and also suggests that the grid be taken as 20' squares as the place is large! There are also some ideas for how the citadel can feature in your game. This might be the centre of a larger town, or a stand-alone and self-sufficient outpost. It's on a river (or sea shore) with a dock, as well as stables, a forge, inns, and other necessities.

The first plan shows ground level, the second shows the upper level, and the third the rooftops (perfect for parkour...). There are two further plans, one showing the caverns underneath, part of which has been altered to form a dungeon complete with cells, the other presents a sewer system.

There are well over an hundred rooms to play with. The temple is massive, either whoever rules here is quite fanatical about their deity or maybe this is the base of a religious rather than secular power. Although the introduction talks about stables, a forge, and drinking establishments, most of the chambers are able to be assigned as you wish - there are some obvious stables with rows of stalls.

The main courtyard boasts a massive structure which could be a flamboyant podium or memorial of some kind. Maybe this is where whoever is in charge holds audience, on dry days! There's accommodation, a cloister, halls, two entrances, and a smaller courtyard that has a gated entrance to the larger main one.

There's a lot to play with here. Have fun designing the centre of power for a faith or an area of your campaign world - or have even more fun gifting it to your party when they reach a resonable level or pull off an amazing feat that deserves reward, and watch them making it over as they wish (and then, of course, invade!). It's an unusual edifice, yet one replete with potential to do something quite unique!


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5/5

The vampire lurking in a remote and ancient castle lair is a standard image in the horror genre, so here are the tools to recreate it (you don't even need to be playing Dungeons & Dragons to find a use for these plans!). Of course it may not be a vampire who lives here at all, maybe it's the family seat of an ancient bloodline whose history is entwined with that of the lands around, or it may have been abandoned or repurposed for another use entirely - a grand hotel with hidden secrets, perhaps - or maybe your own party has been gifted the place by a grateful monarch... but you have to make it your own! The possibilities are endless.

The introductory notes offer some ideas for why the party might pay a call here, as well as providing a legend for map symbols and instructions on using the customisation tools that switch fill, numbers, grid, and furniture on and off.

The first plan gives an overview of the entire castle, with a gatehouse and curtain wall around the central structure. Perched on a hilltop with a chasm between the main castle and the entranceway, unless you are good at climbing (or can fly) it is quite difficult to gain access.

The second plan presents the entrance in more detail. There are 2 small structures on the far side of the chasm, a drawbridge, then a small complex of chambers in the outer wall with a wide passageway leading further in. This page also depicts the 'overlook' - a balcony on the far side that looks out over the lands beyond. Relatively safe from attack, this is an open area with several rooms and a terrace.

We then move on to an exploration of the main structure, beginning with the basement or Level -1. Down here there's a veritable maze of very small rooms, probably cells, and a lot of statues. This is followed by a plan of Level 0, which has several large rooms, including a hall that contains a massive statue, and shows the base of several towers. Level 1 shows that the hall with the massive statue is two stories high and also includes what appears to be a throne room.

Next, Level 2 provides the roof to some areas (including the large hall which has a dome over it) and includes high walkways to the surrounding curtain wall, including two which extend to the 'overlook' spoken about earlier. Level 3, Level 4 and Level 5 are mainly rooftops apart from some towers that continue upwards, their top levels - open to the sky - appear on Level 6. Within the castle there are many rooms, most of which have been left empty and unadorned, you will be able to have fun deciding what is there.

This is a quite magnificent castle, worthy of some great ruler or historied family. It's wasted on a vampire... if one's there, it is time to throw him out and install a more worthy resident!


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An RPG Resource Review

4/5

The idea here is that there is a multi-level underground complex that was built for and inhabited by (or at least was at some time) by giants. There's a ruined keep outside, near the entrance - was that a guardpost to protect them or was it designed to keep them in? There are plenty of things you'll have to decide, although a few ideas (one garbled beyond recognition) are provided in the introductory section, along with information on how to customise the plans (you can choose whether or not to have the heavy fill, grid, numbers or furniture displayed) and a legend for common items that may be found in the plans. It's common to all of 0one's sets of plans so not everything may show up!

The first plan is the ruined keep. Much of the walls are missing, and there isn't much aside from debris within. Even the bridge across the stream running outside looks pretty battered. It's not very clear where the entrance to the underground complex is - look for the number 1 in what appears to be a slight curve in the hillside overlooking the keep, that's where it is supposed to be.

Next is level 1 of the complex proper. It's apparently the domain of guards and warriors, but also boasts a couple of temples. Even they might want to worship after all. There are storerooms and bedrooms. The temples have pillared halls and statues, one is larger than the other. Perhaps two deities of differing important to the residents, or one is a shrine to drop in for a quick prayer and the other the location of formal worship. The way down is to be found down a corridor of storerooms and barracks, not a very smart entrance. There's another way down too, if you can find the secret door to access it!

The next plan is level 2. This is where the chieftain dwell. There's also a shrine, a forge, and several cells, as well as a kitchen and refectory and space to meet. There are storerooms and living quarters for a handful of the senior leadership as well.

Level 3 follows. This is a mining complex, built around a great rift that has been bridged in quite dramatic style. Probably not quite enough space for Gandalf to battle balrogs, but that kind of thing. There are storerooms, a couple more shrines and several crypts down here as well. The final plan depicts Level 4, which is under development, with mineshafts all around the central rift.

This all makes for an interesting complex - a somewhat militarised mining outpost, it doesn't seem to be a 'home' - but it doesn't screech 'giant'. You'll need to be creative about describing these great hallways... or maybe decide it's a 10' or even 15' grid, rather than the assumed 5' one (a scale is never mentioned, so you will be able to get away with that!). There's scope for fun exploring the place, whether it's a working mine with giants working away or an abandoned one which may or may not have attracted other residents.


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An RPG Resource Review

4/5

Finding a lost city can ensure your name goes down in history or even provide you with fabulous wealth... or your death! It can certainly be an adventure. So here is one, ready to explore. The introductory notes explain how the customisation tools work, enabling you to decide whether or not you wish to display heavy fill, a grid, numbers, or the furiture and other set dressing supplied. It's reasonably flexible and handled neatly. There also are some ideas about what's going on here that might have drawn your party to explore...

The first plan is an overview of the city as a whole. There's a large walled complex with a couple of gates that contains a massive pyramid and other structures (the introduction suggests these are temples) and there are many smaller structures outside the walls. There is also an entrance to the city which looks like a river dock... this could prove interesting if, as is suggested, you situate the lost city in the middle of a desert, half buried in sand!

Next up is one of the structures from the main compound, which is tagged as the Hall of Heroes. This has a long pillared hallway with statues in niches, and another area down a long corridor that has more statues standing as if on guard outside a series of small rooms. It's a bit unclear where this is on the overview map, but if you take the entrance to the Hall of Heroes to be the entrance through the walls into the compound it begins to make a little more sense. Perhaps everyone entering the compound is obliged to pass through here in respect to those heroes who have gone before.

These are followed by a couple of temples - which if the 'fill' is to be believed are carved out of solid rock! Each consists of a pillared worship area with at least one statue. Next is a page showing another small temple and what are described as a series of crypts - long passageways with lots of tiny rooms. Then there comes a plan labelled 'Main Crypt (Pyramid)' - think of the internal structure of the Great Pyramid at Giza and you get the idea, one major tomb down a long flight of steps.

In an attempt to make things clear, the final plan is a side elevation/cross-section showing how the main crypt is positioned within the pyramid. You are then provided with a few pages on which to make your own notes.

The central burial complex is covered quite well, but the rest of the city has been rather neglected. What are all the other buildings? Where did people live? Or did they only come here to bury - and perhaps even worship - their dead? Have fun coming up with answers to these questions! These plans will do nicely for more modern games as well when you need a complex of this kind for the party to explore.


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An RPG Resource Review

5/5

You never know when a small seaside village will be needed. The intoductory notes contain a few adventure possibilities from vanishing locals to sea monsters or the place being taken over by pirates (and one suggestion about seafood that has got garbled!), but I'm sure you can come up with more. This section also explains the customisation possible, a series of checkboxes that allow you to turn on and off the grid, eliminate the room numbers, get the walls filled and either show or not show the doors and furniture. There is also a generic legend explaining symbols used.

So, on to the first plan, being an overview of the village with a small cluster of buildings around the harbour made secure by a long breakwater. There are quite a few boats moored up, it seems that the fishermen are at home...

We then spin through more detailed interior plans for a shipyard, tavern, temple and warehouses... it's a bit difficult to locate them on the overview map but if you look at the mostly blank notes pages at the back, they have been given numbers that relate to the overview map. So that's sorted!

The shipyard is a two-storey building, the workshops occupying the ground floor with living quarters and office space above. The main workshop opens onto a slipway and there's room inside to build a fishing boat of the size shown in the harbour. There's a big store room as well.

The tavern is equipped with plenty of tables and chairs/benches and a bar in a single tap room, with a kitchen behind, and barrel storage in a cellar below. There is an upper floor with several rooms that can be used for private meetings or living space, plus the owner's bedroom.

The 'sea temple' has the usual sort of religious trappings, a big statue at one end and others along the side walls with living quarters for the priest in back and stairs down to an underground level boasting yet more statues and a pool. It shouldn't prove too difficult to come up with appropriate worship rituals for whichever god you decide to have revered here. My go-to sea deity is called Psglod, by the way, it's one I made up. Priests wear blue-green robes with white trim and this is the patron deity of fishermen and other merchant seamen.

Finally the warehouse has a series of chambers that can be used to store all manner of nautical bits and bobs. The illustrations suggest lots of barrels, fish and some spare boats. There is an upper level with sleeping accommodation, an office and a meeting room - perhaps this belongs to the harbour master or the chief of the fishing fleet.

What's there is excellent... but there are far more boats than there is living quarters for their sailors (and these appear to be day boats, not live-aboards). Even the two or three buildings on the overview plan that are not detailed further would have to be jam-packed with bunk beds to accommodate them all. Add some housing for the fishermen and you have a great little village on your hands.


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4/5

This set of plans depicts a well-constructed subterranean fortress that guards a tunnel. It's a tough nut to crack, but the daring may be able to conquer it, despite it being a comprehensive establishment well-suited to its role and to long-term habitation by its Drow defenders... of course, even if it was built by Drow, you may decide that they have moved out and been replaced by other forces, or even opportunists! The introductory notes provide several ideas for adventures using the outpost, but there's plenty of scope for your own adventures...

The fortress has several levels, described as 0, 1, 2, and -1 (this last being in the shape of a spider and which would make a good temple to Lolth. Being subterranean, there is no 'ground level' as such, although for internal logic level 0 probably can be considered so - it is the first level presented and has a front door! And a back one, for that matter.

The first plan, Level 0, provides for an open approach guarded by two towers between which there is a solid wall, all well-furnished with arrow slits. Behind this imposing facade there is an open courtyard which, if this fortress were outside, would be open to the sky, Beyond this is another wall (and more arrow slits) while to either side there's a series of storage rooms, barracks and a mess hall. The kitchen appears to be in a corner of the mess hall. Can you but find the secret doors, there is a passageway from the open approach to the storerooms on one side, bypassing the defences. Otherwise the route through the fortress leads through a couple of halls, the second lined with pillars, to a set of double doors that open to the area beyond. This side does not have arrow-slits.

The second plan depicts Level 1. There are numerous smallish rooms, the continuation of the towers and a gallery over the open area in Level 0. Of note is a large pillared hall with the depiction of a spider on the floor. There are more passages to one side, accessed by a secret door but not apparently going anywhere (unless you decide different, of course).

Level 2, the next plan to be presented, is much smaller, being a series of chambers towards the rear of the fortress. It provides comfortable quarters for the commander, with space for entertaining, and a secret door to further passageways - perhaps a means of escape if things get too rough?

Next up, Level -1 is, as mentioned earlier, spider-shaped. There is a pillared hall in the centre, and each 'leg' of the spider ends in a small room. The introductory text suggests these may be cells for prisoners. The final plan is labelled 'Cross section' but is quite hard to interpret. It doesn't really add anything to understanding the fortress' layout and is rather disappointing.

There is limited customisation, and both blue and black versions of each level. There are also some pages for notes, but you have to print them out and scribble on them.

Overall it makes for quite a nice fortress, either underground as intended or even in a narrow valley or mountain pass aboveground if preferred.


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4/5

If you have ever visited the Valley of the Kings in Egypt, you probably dreamed of exploring the numerous tombs to be found there. This is the next best thing, a hill with no less than five separate dungeons riddling it. The notes suggest that if you prefer, you can interconnect them or even dispense with the hill and stack them to create a multi-level complex. Several suggestions are provided for what you might put in them but ultimately it's up to you!

The first map provides an overview: the complete hill with all five dungeons outlined. Like all the maps, it's available in either blue or black and white, and you can make limited modifications by means of checkboxes on the blue version (which affect both, so if you want to use the black one, you set up what you want to see on the blue one). Most of the dungeons have entrances from the hillside (one has several), but one in the middle has no obvious means of ingress.

Next up is Dungeon Number 1, which is a purpose-built tomb with several crypts full of coffins as well as a primary burial chamber with yet another coffin on a plinth. This could be anything from a family tomb to the hideout of a whole gang of vampires. A storeroom at one side leads off to some natural caverns at least one of which has been turned into living quarters - by a mage, judging by the summoning circle and pentacle inscribed on the floor. Further away, there's a spiral stair leading who knows where...

Dungeon Number 2 looks deliberately constructed for magical purposes. It has but a single fairly discreet entrance, but some of the mystic circles probably do duty as teleports. Perhaps this is the meeting place of a bunch of wizards who do not want their activities overlooked - maybe they live in a region where magic is controlled or banned, and need a safe place to work. Or they are dangerous magic-wielding revolutionaries...

Dungeon Number 3 has no less than four entrances, each with steps (up or down as you please) leading into a veritable maze of passageways, all constructed. Again this is a magical or possibly clerical community, but one with a more open-door policy than Dungeon Number 2. It has a lot of statues, so unless they venerate mages who have gone before, the place is probably religious in nature.

Dungeon Number 4 also has no discernable entrance, so it's back to teleporting. There is a spiral stair, which may lead to an entrance, however. One hall is so filled with pillars that it will be difficult to move around, let alone see from side to side.

Finally, Dungeon Number 5 has no overt entrances either. Again there's a couple of spiral stairs, which may lead up (or even possibly down) to a way in, and there's a star-shaped chamber with a large pentacle that may serve for teleportation purposes. The complex is dominated by a long hall lined with statue-filled niches, and it also boasts an underground river. Let your imagination run wild as you determine who constructed this and who may be living there now.

There's a lot of scope here. Dream up your backstory and populate one or more of these dungeons with inhabitants all ready for wandering adventurers...


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4/5

For some reason, lighthouses make for good adventures and this one is set up to provide an ideal location. It's on a small island, which you can situate in an appropriate place - marking reefs, or the approaches to a harbour or warning of cliffs - in your campaign world. The first plan provides the entire island, complete with a dock, a small warehouse beside it, and some mysterious ruins as well as the building that provides the lighthouse itself and living quarters for its keepers.

The second plan shows how the island is riddled with caves which interconnect all the structures on the island. Excellent for locating a pirate base, or hiding fugitives plotting against unjust rulers... you see, just looking at these plans spawns ideas for how to use them!

The third plan depicts the lighthouse building itself. It has 2 stories, being quite generous living quarters for the lighthouse-keepers, with a tower at one side to hold the light which stands three of stories higher. There's also a high chamber suitable for keeping a lookout. It's a quite substantial building and would make a nice if isolated home. A side elevation is provided to help you get the picture, before we move on to a plan of the ruined building and the cellars beneath (which connect to the underground caverns, of course).

All plans are presented in black and white or in blue, and are to some measure customisable - you can turn off grid lines, numbering, and furniture (where present). Several pages are provided for you to make notes, but you'll have to print them out to scribble on unless you have a very steady hand at adding text to Acrobat pages!

It all makes for a good base for pirates or anyone who likes the isolation, or indeed if you actually need a lighthouse and the action goes there. With this plan to hand, it probably will!


An RPG Resource Review

5/5

If your Laundry officers have been sitting around for a while getting complacent in their knowledge of what's going on, these six adventures should light a fuse under them! Each is well considered, a delightful balance between arcane manipulations and good traditional tradecraft, pitting wits and muscle against the forces of evil and the enemies of your country (who may or may not be the same thing).

For 'diplomacy' means something a little different to the seasoned Laundry officer than it does to the mundane world. It's all about making treaties and deals not with other nations but with otherworldly entities... but if that goes awry and they won't come to the negotiating pentacle, why, then you have to resort to more, ahem, direct means.

Each of these 'diplomatic missions' comes with detailed background, the initial briefing as given to the officers, and then the adventure unfolds with all the information you need to run it every step of the way. Everything is well organised and ought to make for easy running, at least from this side of the GM screen. There are, naturally, plenty of twists and complications for the officers to contend with, neatly coupled with plenty of leeway to let them run riot around the plotline without derailing it completely.

All six are a real delight of nightmarish bureaucratic dealings with Things That Should Not Be, their earthly minions and anyone else who happens along (especially those who do not regard the officers' employers in a fond light). The level of detail is amazing, and support for running it well organised. Gibber and meep, all ye enemies of the state!


An RPG Resource Review

5/5

In the world of The One Ring, not everyone is cut out to be an adventurer. Many of those who do tread that path feel that it chose them rather than the other way around. This book brings a wealth of new ideas, new systems, and new cultures aimed primarily at players, but Loremasters will find plenty that is of use to them as well. The Introducion explains the five parts that make up this work.

Part 1: Characters is concerned with the process of and options available when creating a character, beginning with an overview of the process. Then there is a section that looks at the choices that can be made as a character is crafted to ensure a unique and memorable character, with ways to tap into the inspiration many get from characters in literature and other good ideas, also material on forming a group in ways that seem natural rather than forced. Most of this part of the book, however, is jam-packed with no less than thirteen Heroic Cultures from which your character might come. Revel in them, they make fascinating reading.

The next part contains New Rules. Want to be a Leader? There's a new calling to let you do just that. New combat rules and expanded masteries give new ways to use your skills to good effect both on and off the battlefield. There's also some neat ways of handling a party of mixed experience.

In the third part, Between Adventures, there is a focus on what you do when not adventuring. There's an excellent and clear explanation of how the Fellowship Phase works, and a comprehensive list of the things you can do, collated from all the material published so far. Handy to have it all in the same place. There's also a collection of potential patrons and some famous companies who have achieved renown in Wilderland - maybe characters will want to join them if not emulate their exploits. There's also discussion of the passage of years and the concept of multi-generational campaigns.

Then, part four - Curious Diversions - contains an odd assortment of things, from ranomised travelling gear to musical instruments and the things you might find in the average adventurer's pockets.

Finally, part five is For Reference. Here are things like the steps Loremasters and players go through when engaged in combat, giving ideas for turning a brawl into an exciting narrative not just a lot of die-rolling and table-consulting. Another section does the same for journeys, a pivotal part of this game. There's also a detailed account of how an encounter should play out. All this material is designed to enhance the role-playing and story-telling aspects of the game, to embed them into everything that occurs on the table-top.

This is not only a book worth reading, it's worth dipping into again and again. The rules here are in the main optional, but without exception they enhance an already good game, elegant and nuanced. If you play The One Ring, you should really get this.


An RPG Resource Review

5/5

The settlement of Bree always conjures up a cosy, welcoming feel... yet there's a feeling of being on the edge of adventure. This supplement matches that feeling well, with plenty of detail on Bree itself and in particular The Prancing Pony Inn, as well as three adventures and a wealth of ideas for things to do in Bree, be you adventuring or in the Fellowship Phase.

The Introduction puts this all in context, pointing out that Bree is to the west of Rivendell, a good stopping-off point for travellers, and with a history of meetings and encounters. Those who fancy playing a hobbit or a man of Bree will find all the details they need to create their character, while Loremasters (for whom this supplement is really intended) will find plenty to bring a new area to life in their game. Suggestions are provided for how to use the adventures: the default is that they should be used with a new party setting out from the area and, run in the order presented, take three or more years to complete in conjuction with Fellowship Phases, but at least the first two adventures may be run as stand-alones or the party may consist of more seasoned characters who have arrived in Bree. Plenty of options there to weave this material into your campaign.

We start off, however, with A History of the Bree-land. Opinions are divided it seems, some say Bree's ancient, settled by descendants of the first men to ever tread these lands, others say different. The Bree-folk themselves aren't too bothered, scholarly pursuits are uncommon amongst them although a hobbit historian has put together an extensive history for those who care to search out a copy and read it. He traces evidence of the existence of Bree back to the reign of the last king of Arnor, in the year 843 of the Third Age. Hobbits arrived somewhat later, around 1300 or so.

Next up is the geography of the area. Bree is a bastion of civilisation, a little island in the middle of the empty wilderness of the North - and the majority of the inhabitants are content to stay there. The East Road and the North Road cross nearby bringing plenty of travellers through (and allowing any locals with itchy feet a way out). There are some irregular patrols by the Rangers of the North, and characters spending a Fellowship Phase in Bree can help out if they're of a mind, and if the Rangers like them. There are plenty of other ideas for activities based in and around Bree too. Plenty of places and people are described, facilitating exploration of the area (particularly for non-local characters). The Prancing Pony gets a whole section to itself, complete with floor plans. This is followed by material covering the empty lands around Bree, and a section about adventuring in Bree.

Then, Men of Bree covers the people who live there, including background about them and all the information you need to create your own characters - hobbits as well as men.

The three adventures follow. Old Bones and Skin sends the party on the trail of a monster first encountered in tales told in The Prancing Pony, but grim and real enough... and so naturally enough begins in the inn itself. Of course, there's much more to it, enough to challenge the bravest adventurer and with real risk attached. Then Strange Men, Strange Roads is set set on the Road west of the Forsaken Inn, involving travelling to both the Chetwood and to Bree, and it all starts in the Forsaken Inn when the party is due to meet a Ranger who doesn't show up. Plenty of action and a spot of courtroom drama await. Finally, Holed Up in Staddle involves travelling the roads and entering Bree itself in the pursuit of some evil men.

This is a coherent and evocative supplement, ideally suited to the gentle yet epic feel of The One Ring, and comes recommended highly as another worthy expansion to the known world. There's lots to do in Bree...


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An RPG Resource Review

4/5

The pollution in Fair Haven is getting really bad... there's this blue mist that is killing some of the inhabitants and sending many of the rest insane. It seems to be coming from the sewers, so of course any adventurer worth the name will be straight down there to find out what's going on.

The DM notes begin with an overview of the adventure, there's an encounter list, scaling information, and some notes on how best to get the party involved. This adventure can be run as a sequel to DCC7: The Secret of Smuggler's Cove, but if you don't want to do that there are a couple of other ideas to propel them in the right direction. There's also plenty background material to make sure that you're clear about what's actually going on and how it came about... underpinning it all is a devilish plot to turn the world into another plane of Hell!

The adventure proper begins with an investigation into the noisome sewers of Fair Haven. They're cramped, smelly, and there are always traces if not pockets of the deadly blue mist. Also, there are wandering monsters to contend with. There is also a magnificent puzzle/trap that appears to be the key to dealing with the mist. This includes a riddle that appears almost out of thin air, for which a handout is supplied. It's noted that a particularly harsh DM might show it only to the player of the character who sees it, and snatch it away after the 30 seconds for which it appears (I had a DM play a similar trick on me once... the poor dear didn't know I have a near-photographic memory and just wrote out the message that had faded before my character's eyes!). There's a lot more to find, to fight, and to puzzle out down here. And the smell never gets any better!

As the riddles of the sewers are solved and the inhabitants put to the sword, eventually the party should open a portal to... well, somewhere else. They get sucked in, it's unavoidable. It's a dimensional prison, caging something that really, really ought not to be allowed out; and it's full of cryptic traps and puzzles. They are partly to keep the inmates in and partly to stop anyone breaking in to rescue them, and there's a third, darker, purpose (which could lead to further adventures...). A mix of aggression and cunning is needed here. Nothing is what it seems, but all is extremely dangerous. Indeed, it's likely that not all the party will survive. There is layer upon layer, you think you've reached the end and yet another level opens before you...

The end is suitably dramatic, with the party returned to a sunny Fair Haven with an enigmatic voice ringing in their ears. There are some ideas for follow-up adventures too. If you want a wild ride of deadly danger with the well-being of the very world at stake, look no further!


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An RPG Resource Review

4/5

This is a first-level adventure, but as usual the challenges facing the party are not trivial. A bunch of bandits calling themselves the Broken Knives has been purloining treasures from local temples and have made their base in a ruined castle. A party cleric may serve one of the burgled temples, or the party may just see notices advertising for adventurers to raid the bandits in the local town (Grozny if you're using the default world of Aereth).

The information for the DM includes an encounter list, scaling information, location notes and extensive background mainly centred on Castle Churo, explaining why it is in such a battered state and what effects result from that... it used to belong to a magician called Churo, whose experiments with high-powered magic were ultimately his downfall. This was some thirty years ago. Meanwhile, in town there are five religions competing for power and worshippers, and these recently started suffering losses of valuable relics from their temples...

Rather unusually for this series, the adventure itself begins with the party being brought before the town's religious council, which has representatives of all five religions - three of which have been robbed. The thefts were carried out by subterranean tunnels into their storerooms and although the tunnels collapsed behind the thieves, they appear to lead back to Castle Churo. After they are briefed on the missing items, they might want to gather rumours before heading on up there. And that's where the real fun starts...

Room descriptions paint the picture well, and there's a lot going on wherever the party should venture. This is all backed up with details of monsters/NPCs, their stats and likely reactions to party intrusions, and notes of what's available to loot if the party is victorious. A few handouts are included to help players understand what their characters can see. There are some innovative traps and effects for the party to navigate... and this is before they venture into the catacombs beneath the castle ruins. The adventure is wound up neatly with several alternative outcomes, with the possibility of further action if the fellow behind the thefts evades them, or goes undetected.

It's a coherent adventure, with every encounter having a good reason to be where it is. A neat way for a new adventuring party to start building their reputations.


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