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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Pathfinder Unchained (OGL)Paizo Inc.
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A new high mark for Paizo!Neverwillibreak —
The unchained classes keep all the good parts of their predecessors while bringing them up to date with modern design principles.
Barbarian: Math and temporary HP are nice changes, but the idea of stance rage powers really shine. It's awesome to see that rage cycling essentially gets removed by keeping options enabled at all times.
Monk: The monk changes are really fantastic, and allow for a wide range of character concepts. You can rebuild the old monk using the new build, but it's also designed to more strongly follow wuxia archetypes and martial arts movies than the somewhat bland ascetic he was in 3.5.
Rogue: In the ACG, the Slayer firmly became the combat assassin (Ezio), while the investigator did the same to the role of skill monkey and flexible combatant (Sherlock). This, of course, left the rogue in somewhat a bad spot. If you can consider the ninja to be the "magical" rogue, the Unchained rogue successfully picks up its mantle as the jack-of-all trades it once was conceptualized as. It easily stands next to the slayer and investigator, and provides plenty of options to out-skill the slayer and out-fight the investigator.
Summoner: I'm not a huge fan of summoners to begin with, but the changes are pretty much what you'd expect them to be. If you've been put off by the power of the old summoner, the new summoner is definitely a better fit for most games.
Multiclassing: The attention the book pays to MC characters is fantastic, and features systems for partial BAB and saves from 3.5 Unearthed Arcana. In addition, the optional multiclass system (where a character trades feats for class features from another class) is pretty interesting and thematic. Multiclassing is still going to exist, but if you only want a few features, it saves you from having to dip. Multiclass players rejoice!
Mechanic Wording: It's nice to see changes to uncanny dodge to be inclusive of all sneak-attack classes rather than just rogues. For 3PP users and current-content players alike, this is a simple, clever change. This also allows the UX rogue to avoid the pesky spectre of not being able to sneak attack in dark alleys.
Stamina: This is really good for all martial characters, and particularly fighters. If you want an UX fighter, just let them have stamina and close it off to everyone else. But either way, it's a really, really well-done system with practical drawbacks (read: spells that cause fatigue are now a lot more dangerous).
Skills: I think the skills offer a bit of something for everyone. Personally, I thought the distinction between background and adventuring skills to be highly welcome, as well as the ability to pick and choose what consolidated skill sets you'd like to utilize. I'm not a huge fan of the skill groups system for players, but it makes NPC generation a lot faster. Additionally, several options for people who dedicate lots of time to a skill is reminiscent of Complete Scoundrel (3.5)'s skill tricks, and is well-done, though some benefits are questionable for the amount of expertise you need to include.
Alignment: There's a gaggle of options for alignment. I think the relative alignment (which, in the book's own words, treats moral dilemmas as boss encounters rather than minutiae) is well-done. The other stuff is definitely worth a read.
Action Economy: There's rules for moving the combat system away from the traditional Standard/Move dynamics. It's not for me, but it's pretty slick. Same thing with full attacks, although I'm not sure the design of the alternate full attack actually succeeds in speeding up the game.
Combat: Wounds system is cool and simple. Not what I'd use, but it's interesting if you want it. The disease/poison changes are perfect updates to the relative complexity of ability damage. It would be super easy to make them into talents for poisoner-types.
Spells: Of the magic section, I thought simplified magic was the best system, but I'd probably give prepared casters more options than just the base spell pool (which seems really small, all things considered). The other stuff is cool and versatile.
Items: Automatic bonuses are the easiest to implement, but I like inherent bonuses on magic items too. Scaling is neat, but I'd rather houserule it than codify. The new crafting system is super cool, but it's not the wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am that current crafting is. It's great for flavor, but not necessarily the right fit for every magic item. All in all, this is a hugely useful system.
Creatures: This is a more robust version of the rules used to design new monsters. It's very useful if that's your thing.
For players: Unchained offers a wealth of new applications for your character, particularly is you're martially or skill oriented. But...
For GMs: ...this book is a GM's book, and lets them tinker with systems to make their game their own. This is Pathfinder's Unearthed Arcana, and it does 3.5's one better. There's no content in here I think nobody will use, unlike, say, generic classes.
Overall: This book is a hugely useful tool to experienced GMs to make their d20 experience more tailored to their own interests. There's a lot of 4e-esque content here, but that's not a bad thing, and it's done in such a way to emphasize options and uniqueness rather than homogeneity.
This is easily the most important book for a GM to own besides the core rules, and it only gains more use as you open more and more of Paizo's other fantastic options.
Dragon Tiger Ox: Wuxia/Wushu Sourcebook (PFRPG) PDFLittle Red Goblin Games
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Dragon Tiger RocksNeverwillibreak —
LRGG has proven themselves to be one of the best companies to take advantage of style feats and Wuxia themes in their products, and DTO is no exception.
Despite the flaws, this product is SUPERB for anyone running a Wuxia setting, playing a monk, or just trying to get a whole bunch of awesome content. On a bang per buck basis, DTO is easily the best third party product I've purchased.
Solid Addition to Carrion CrownNeverwillibreak —
As a huge fan of gothic horror in general and the Carrion Crown AP in specific, I've found that Legendary Games has consistently provided support to shore up the weaker aspects of the setting as written.
In particular, Legendary Games' previous modules "The Fiddler's Lament" and "Murmuring Fountain" pull quite a huge amount of weight as far as fleshing out and focusing The Haunting of Harrowstone, so the bar for this mini-adventure is pretty high. In "Feasting at Lanterngeist," LG has taken on one of the most commonly criticized aspects of the AP (aside from the fifth volume): namely the changeover from the pace of the first three to the fourth volume.
The adventure is pretty short and simple, but solves motivational issues for the PCs, as well as fleshing out the presence of alien taint within Illmarsh, making the town a far more eerie, sympathetic place than a merely relocated Innsmouth.
Lanterngeist's writing and editing are top notch, and the presentation is excellent.
I'd like to see Legendary games take on the numerous issues in the fifth volume regarding seemingly obvious player choices, but "Feasting at Lanterngeist" comes highly recommended for any GM running Carrion Crown.
The Practical GM's GuideNeverwillibreak —
I'm normally a huge fan of expert guides to game design, and as such make a lot of purchases to get outside perspective to augment my own game design and worldbuilding.
And let me say, this is far and away a departure from the normal means of setting design. While most resources typically take a top down approach and list repetitive if useful tools for designing fantasy settings, the essays in this collection approach individual campaign components in insightful, pragmatic, and logical ways. While this style of writing is not for everyone, nor is every essay of equal versatility, I found it useful in the following ways:
1. In General: The guide presents a well-rounded approach to a wide variety of campaign types and options without losing specificity or resorting to describing campaigns and options as extremes, thereby allowing exploration of a spectrum of options. For instance, Magic and Industry are addressed as a single topic with magic as technology, magic and technology at odds, or campaigns that include one or the other.
2. In Specific: The essays are crafted with utility in mind for a given topic, such as the design of religions, conspiracies, and locales. I don't feel a single one of these essays fails to live up to the author's intent of providing thought-provoking and educational data on a given topic.
3. Weaknesses: Despite the obvious strengths of the guide's essays, I felt that some authors opted to market their setting under the guise of using those settings as examples. While I acknowledge and appreciate the poignant example, the repetitive use comes across as shameless advertising rather than an archetype for design choice.
I highly recommend this to anyone who has grown accustomed to the standard GM advice guides.
PS: The introduction includes a quote by Tim Powers from a writer's workshop about how gamers and writers "don't feel at home in this world" and that is why we play and write the games we do. That's genius.
Excellent class, poor editingNeverwillibreak —
The luckbringer class itself, and the fluffy introduction are awesome. However, the document suffers a great deal for it's terribly shoddy editing. This includes referencing the class by a different name, and generally poor punctuation, such as the omission of commas, words, and misspellings.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #54: The Empty Throne (Jade Regent 6 of 6) (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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Print Edition Unavailable
A Perfect CapstoneNeverwillibreak —
I've enjoyed the Jade Regent Adventure path so far; it had the right mix of story, combat, roleplay, and new mechanics to keep my players in check.
By the time we reached the Empty Throne, the adventure itself facilitated the campaign's close with a sense of urgency and triumph. My favorite part was how the nature of the campaign leads up to not only Ameiko's development, but also the power increase of the PCs. It has been a very long time since an adventure path has done this in such a novel, marked fashion.
I highly recommend this adventure and the Jade Regent adventure path as a whole.
Pathfinder Module: Cult of the Ebon Destroyers (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
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A Worthy ChallengeNeverwillibreak —
However, this divergence is obvious in minor ways as well. For one, I couldn't find a single Lovecraft reference, and while the model evoked feelings of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, it was clearly designed with the intent of having each encounter be different from the standard fare.
This alone was promising, and one of my favorite parts running (and playing through) the adventure.
-Challenge: There seems to be a lot of complaint about the level of difficulty in the module. However, my party found Cult of the Ebon Destroyers to be perfect. It's a solid bit harder than your typical adventure, I won't deny that. But it isn't the party destroyer people are saying it is provided your party acts with a reasonable degree of tactical knowledge.
-At times, the players were left with only one avenue to reach the next plot point. As a GM, I worked with them to basically use reasonable progression to get to the next stage, although I would have preferred fewer individual hunts for information in favor of a more connected series of events.
-Some enemies can die before their slated final encounter, without a real clear analogue on who should replace them.
-As a GM I'm getting really frustrated with the "villagers are helpful/no they're actually out to kill you" trope that seems prevalent in the modules and adventure paths of late. While this isn't this modules especial fault, I would've liked to see a village genuinely try and aid the PCs...but later be infiltrated by the cult.
In spite of the few plot/tactical faults herein, the combination of challenging, varied encounters, and a refreshing setting lead me to give Cult of the Ebon Destroyers a 4/5.