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Players are in for a treat over the high seas!

5/5

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=36631.

Locals and ship’s crews alike report signs of increased sahuagin activity in the waters around the Sunken Pyramid. Is the recent rash of disappearances and abductions, which have plagued the area, connected in any way? Can these abductions be stopped before even more people are taken? Can those already abducted be found and rescued? And what of the strange and often conflicting rumors which whisper of something far more terrible lurking far beneath the Sunken Pyramid?

Reviewers Note: I have done my best to keep spoilers down to a minimum. But if you plan on playing this adventure, please do not read this review to prevent the terrible curse known as “meta-gaming”.

OVERALL

I have always been a huge fan of Raging Swan Press. This publication is no exception! Although I have a few minor complaints, this is definitely a great buy for those who are looking for a light way to get into life on the high seas, without getting into a heavier campaign like Razor Coast, or Skulls and Shackles.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: The presentation of the adventure is definitely of high quality! Layout is nice and clean and everything is readable. But I am still not a big fan of Raging Swan doing everything in black and white. Especially since this is designed to be what they call a “mini-campaign”, which means you are going to be spending a lot of time looking at this art and layout. There’s nothing that really catches your eye out of the gate. This is not to knock the adventure, but players like all the extra swirls of color and style used.

Ease of Mobility: The file is easy to navigate and read through. 1st Generation Kindle Fire users may have a little trouble downloading due to it not being able to direct download. But 2nd Generations should be fine. Apple products should not have a major problem as they are good with bigger files. The bookmarks are nice, and great if you plan on running it through your computer.

Maps: I love Raging Swan’s maps. I hate them in black and white. It makes the map so dull and boring in comparison. These are good maps, but there is nothing wrong with doing at least your maps in art in color. Other than that, the maps are simple and easy to use, and they are still very detailed for black and white, and are versatile to be used in any campaign as well as the mini-campaign provided.

Storyline: 10 out of 10
Plot Development and Pacing of Story: The adventure is very straight-forward, with a twist. So the thing I like about this publication is that there are plenty of options to allow you and your players to either run linear from cover to cover, or you freeform and only jump to the parts you wish to utilize. It’s a nice change of pace, but at the same time, it’s not the size of a full Adventure Path which allows GMs the option to drop in items as needed. Also because it is a mini-campaign, the pace in which you wish to take it is totally up to you and your group. There is plenty here for it to be a nice long 2-year campaign, or if you are waiting for the release of another adventure path to come out, you can get things done easily in 3-6 months. (Your actual time invested may vary)

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
NPC Interactions: There is not as much NPC interactions written into the story line, which allows for a GM who may want to add those in as desired. The ones that are available are very well fleshed and thought out, which I like. There are also pre-generated characters, which can easily become NPCs in certain sections of the adventure.

Encounters and Rewards: There are a good number of new items and encounters that definitely make any work worthwhile. One of the things I have always loved about Raging Swan and their adventures is that there is an appendix talking about additional rules that are in Pathfinder, but are broken down further to allow additional clarification on situations. You see this a lot in their Dungeon Dressings and other supplemental material, but in this publication they made an additional appendix for rules concerning many issues that you will see in the adventure. (Spoiler: Primarily Water, Vehicle and Underwater rules.)

Overall: 10 out of 10
For Players: Players are in for a treat over the high seas! There is definitely enough action and activities to make the adventure something you are sure to remember!

For GMs: If you have been looking for a way into water adventures, that may not be on the same epic level as Razor Coast or Skulls and Shackles, fear not! This is the choice for you! It leaves tons of options to grow as you see fit and at the same time allows you to expand into something more awesome.


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Make your Pits Interesting

5/5

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=32532.

Looking for a new way of dealing with pits? Or even make the pits worse by adding additional items? This is the product for you! This is straight forward, no fuss, supplement that will make pits even more deadly and fun to have in your adventures!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: As always, it is done in the traditional Raging Press Style of minimalist black and white. Which if fine and acceptable especially for supplements. The layout of information is rather easy to read and done in the traditional style.

Ease of Mobility: The nice thing about Raging Swan Press, is that they have dual formats for those who wish to print, and carry mobile. It’s nice and keeps the files light and readable.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Mechanically it’s sound, and I learned a few new things about Pits that I can use on my players in my personal campaigns. But I wouldn’t pass this on to a few others because then I know for a fact, I would get hit and die with one of these pits. Which is a good thing in the supplement’s case.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
If you are looking for something that adds flavor to the infamously boring pit, is definitely something you should purchase. With a two dollar price tag, it’s hard to not buy it.

Overall: 10 out of 10
If you are looking for something to expand your pits for your trap-filled lair, this is one of the supplements for you. The price is right, you learn new things about pits that you didn’t know before. It’s awesome and you want to take advantage of the low price.


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A No Stress, No Mess Adventure

5/5

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=32079.

Catastrophe strikes the frontier village of Swallowfeld! With a grinding groan, the town’s mill slews into the Kilian River and breaks through the ceiling of an ancient subterranean dungeon. This accident frees a long-imprisoned evil to prey upon the shocked townsfolk. When several Swallowfeld residents—some innocent and some not so innocent—are spirited away into the rapidly flooding dungeon, it falls to a brave group of heroes to venture underground and rescue the missing before dark, rising waters seal their fate.

Reviewers Note: I have done my best to keep spoilers down to a minimum. But if you plan on playing this adventure, please do not read this review to prevent the terrible curse known as “meta-gaming”.

OVERALL

This is a no-stress, no mess adventure that you can drop in and out of your campaign/game night with little to no prep as needed. It is indeed a very fun adventure worth it’s weight in gold (in and out of game!)

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: The layout of the adventure is done in the traditional Raging Swan Press style of minimalist black and white. While it’s not a bad thing, it kind of irritates me. When you look at an adventure, you want there to be some color, you want there to be some life and energy in the adventure that makes a GM want to run and a player want to play. With the format, the way it is, it’s kinda… Unexciting… But it doesn’t take away from the adventure in the same respect as well. It’s just something to note for those who are used to full color adventures.

Ease of Mobility: The file is light and easy to manage from mobile to print. The plus side of minimalist formats is that they are ink friendly.

Maps: The maps are simple and light. Easy to draw for those who hate drawing maps, but if you wanted to blow them up and print them out, that can also be arranged quite easily.

Storyline: 9 out of 10
Plot Development: The plot of the story is pretty linear–Bad stuff happens to a mine, and the party needs to go down and not only save the innocent people who are still trapped down there, but in the same respect they need to destroy whatever is down there causing bad things in the mine. Although the plot is pretty linear, it’s still a great adventure! Ron Lundeen is one of my favorite adventure writers in Pathfinder Organized Society Play.

Pacing of Story: The pacing of the story is rather quick and rightfully so due to the nature of the adventure. It always has this sense of urgency, but it does leave a GM time to add in roleplay before and/or after the adventure as needed. If you want to expand from there, you also have that option.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
NPC Interactions: The NPC interactions are a little flat, but there is room for a GM to expand upon them and make them memorable. If you have charismatic characters, I would recommend fleshing them out a bit, as they can be quite fun!

Encounters and Rewards: The encounters are appropriate to the level, and leave a good amount of a challenge for those who are combat oriented. The XP is fine, and the treasure is a little lacking. GMs can make up for that by dropping their own special items.

Overall: 9 out of 10
For Players: Dark Waters Rising is a great adventure for players who like crawling through dungeons and discovering the many secrets this city and area have to offer! The possibilities are endless and you will have no problem going where and doing whatever you want.

For GMs: If you are having a campaign dry spell, or looking for a new location, Dark Waters Rising definitely helps with that! You can run it standalone and have a good time, or you can add it into a campaign or even expand from this one adventure alone!


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Plenty of Pirate Goodness

5/5

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30660.

Villainous Pirates presents, in 50 pages, Pirates of Note and nine Pirates of Renown ready for the time-crunched GM to quickly and easily insert into almost any campaign. Each pirate benefits from an extensive write-up including notes on their background, personality, mannerisms and distinguishing marks as well as a fully detailed stat block. Pirates of Renown also come with plot hooks making it easy to insert them into almost any campaign. It’s currently available for sale for $5.99 on DriveThruRPG or Paizo.com

OVERALL

Pirates are a very serious business for those who play Pathfinder. Villainous Pirates expands on the life of pirates and helps those who may need a little nudging in building pirates to remember! There are a few formatting kinks, and I would have loved the product in color, but it is not the end of the world, nor should it keep you from purchasing the item.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Raging Swan Press publication, but once again I was not disappointed. The layout is clean and simple. It is in black and white as per the format, but it’s not an epic deal breaker. I like the original looks of the pirates, they leave you to fill in the color thanks to the black and white format.

Formatting annoyance: I hate it when digital publishers who have enough material to give characters proper spacing, do not do so. Now granted, for printed works, space is precious. But for digital works since there is no page limits or printing restrictions it gives publishers the ability to give space wherever needed. The pirates are stacked on top of one another which makes the stat blocks not quite look right. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a ding for a GM who is trying not to go from one page to another.

Ease of Mobility: The bookmarks irritate me a bit cause they take forever to navigate. But other than that the file is smooth and doesn’t take forever to load, which is totally nice.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The product is quite mechanically sound. The stat blocks can be a little confusing, but again that’s due to the formatting issues that are above. Take your time when incorporating them into your campaign so you make sure to get it all right!

Value Add: 10 out of 10
There are quite a lot of pirate-related supplemental material going on in Pathfinder right now. It’s kind of that “flavor” of the RPG Season, as I’ve seen quite a lot of publishers big and small go and do a pirates add-on, but this is definitely worth the money invested! Give it a shot!

Overall: 9 out of 10
There are quite a lot of pirate fun goodies being written for the Pathfinder system as the result of Skulls and Shackles and a lot of pirate goodies in Pathfinder most recently, and this piece is no exception to the rule! This is definitely a product that will continue to help GMs for years to come!


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Bring your Statue to Life

5/5

Dungeon Dressing: Statues, is a product that specializes in an under-utilized object in dungeons: the statue. Something that most players walk right by, this small product helps bring a statue to life. Now whether you want it to really come to life or not is up to you!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: Raging Swan has a very minimalist format in their publications. If you purchase items from them, you should know that they don’t have heavy art or colorful layouts. But although they go small on the layout and art, they make up for it with the extensive amounts of information within the product. I personally, would love to see a little more color in their productions, but it’s not something that ruins the product. Information-wise, there is quite a lot of original and new information provided and done in a very efficient and clean way.

Ease of Mobility: The file is quite small and easy to transfer. It’s great to also see bookmarks that are done properly on an item as well. As a result of this minimalist approach, it’s easy to navigate through and is light enough to move around from mobile method to mobile method.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
One of the things that this product does well, is that it explains to the reader, the rules that are already in place concerning statues in Pathfinder’s rules mechanics. They also expand upon these rules and remind you of other things you can do with statues. Along with that, they come up with some new fun traps that can bring statues to life.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
I do wish there was a little more art but I understand the way Raging Swan Press works. Their art is more in the information they provide. This is a great addition to a GM’s toolbox, especially if they are looking for something to add a little spice to the dungeon.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Personally, being a card carrying member of Pathfinder Society Organized Play, I would love to see things like this in our actual adventures. To have statues that turn into traps, or even real constructs in a dangerous way is stuff that only 3rd party adventures can supply. This is something I look forward to utilizing in my future adventures both at the table and in my own campaign writings. Raging Swan Press once again shows us why less, many times, means more.


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Excellent Descriptions of Mundane Treasures

5/5

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19870.

A glistening silver chalice, delicately crafted and possessing an airy lightness, lies within a frayed hempen sack. A fist-sized blue-green stone with tiny red flecks. A scuffed and well-worn text written with manticore blood ink on fine linen paper… Masterwork Bongos? All these and more can be found among the random hoards that await within this release from Raging Swan Press.

OVERALL

While short, this is a strong edition to any GM’s resource library. In addition to providing tables for generating loot as well as descriptions for each item in the hoard, the basic rules for appraisal and magic item construction are included. Furthermore, several hoards contain items that are all thematically related, a scepter, a crown, and royal robes for example.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The book is up to Raging Swan Press’s usual standards, which look back, artistically, to older RPG products. It is black and white, free of unnecessary ornamentation, and is quite legible. Overall, an elegant package in PDF or printed form.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The format of the entries is easy to use and the mechanics are organized in a consistent fashion. After the name and description of an item, it is followed up by rules for appraisal and magical item construction, as previously mentioned, verbatim, allowing quick reference during play.

Value Added: 9 out of 10
SWtHLA falls just short of a ten in Value Added because it only goes to level seven and can only be used with the intended ease for one third of the standard twenty levels. One might combine hoards to increase their level value or make other adjustments to change the values of a given hoard. I hope they release another book that contains hoards of higher levels. Additionally, all the various items can be used independent of the hoards as general descriptors.

Overall: 10 out of 10
This book rocks. While I love writing descriptions and noodling around with treasure, I certainly appreciate having someone else do the work for me. As I said, I hope they produce more of these books for higher levels, or even just books of descriptions of items. This is my second review of a Raging Swan product and I hope to have the opportunity to review many more.


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Another Excellent and Simple Tool

5/5

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19450.

Ithmar Adlard, Emmi Keto, Cassander the Gentle, Luciana Numidicus, Gorm Skull Splitter, Hanish of Girsu, Sunilda the Weaver, Clovis of the Teutons, Kifi of Nuweiba, Mathfrid of Lorsch. Do you recognize these great names? No? That’s probably because I just generated them using Raging Swan’s name generators, So What’s the Human Called, Anyway I and II, two 13 page books loaded with tables for historically accurate name generation.

OVERALL

Not being a historian of any kind, I cannot attest to the historical accuracy of the lists. More important than the historical reality of the names though, is that they do allow you to create names for a variety of cultures that have identifiable differences and distinct characteristics. That said though, the real strength of this product lies not in its content, but rather what you do with said content.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The layout is clean and simple with readable fonts. Unfortunately, plain is the word that comes to mind when assessing the appearance of So What’s the Human Called, Anyway?. The lack of artwork and preponderance of charts reminds me of a statistics book. However, it’s a name generator, not the catalogue of works at the Prado and the format allows for name generation quickly and efficiently. Additionally, Raging Swan is known for simple, elegant layouts. I expect it just doesn’t work as well aesthetically for a product like this.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The mechanics work exactly as intended and generate tons of different names using two percentage rolls, one for first names and one for last names. If you have a die roller you can speed it up, and if you made an app for that you could do it even faster. Those aren’t really mechanical considerations however.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
While the books are both positioned as name generators, their utility extends well beyond that. It can be used to generate a name for anything. Need a town in an Egyptian setting? You are covered. Need a list of the professions of the businesses on the street? You’ve got that too. Want to instantly have a set of names that define your orc baddies as being a culture apart? Done.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I think So What’s the Human Called, Anyway? is a great product. As I mentioned, the utility extends way beyond simply generating random, culturally-appropriate names for NPCs and I have no doubt it will be making regular appearances when I plan campaigns or build characters. I really do wish it was just a tad more interesting to look at though.


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An Excellent, Simple Tool

5/5

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19450.

Ithmar Adlard, Emmi Keto, Cassander the Gentle, Luciana Numidicus, Gorm Skull Splitter, Hanish of Girsu, Sunilda the Weaver, Clovis of the Teutons, Kifi of Nuweiba, Mathfrid of Lorsch. Do you recognize these great names? No? That’s probably because I just generated them using Raging Swan’s name generators, So What’s the Human Called, Anyway I and II, two 13 page books loaded with tables for historically accurate name generation.

OVERALL

Not being a historian of any kind, I cannot attest to the historical accuracy of the lists. More important than the historical reality of the names though, is that they do allow you to create names for a variety of cultures that have identifiable differences and distinct characteristics. That said though, the real strength of this product lies not in its content, but rather what you do with said content.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The layout is clean and simple with readable fonts. Unfortunately, plain is the word that comes to mind when assessing the appearance of So What’s the Human Called, Anyway?. The lack of artwork and preponderance of charts reminds me of a statistics book. However, it’s a name generator, not the catalogue of works at the Prado and the format allows for name generation quickly and efficiently. Additionally, Raging Swan is known for simple, elegant layouts. I expect it just doesn’t work as well aesthetically for a product like this.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The mechanics work exactly as intended and generate tons of different names using two percentage rolls, one for first names and one for last names. If you have a die roller you can speed it up, and if you made an app for that you could do it even faster. Those aren’t really mechanical considerations however.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
While the books are both positioned as name generators, their utility extends well beyond that. It can be used to generate a name for anything. Need a town in an Egyptian setting? You are covered. Need a list of the professions of the businesses on the street? You’ve got that too. Want to instantly have a set of names that define your orc baddies as being a culture apart? Done.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I think So What’s the Human Called, Anyway? is a great product. As I mentioned, the utility extends way beyond simply generating random, culturally-appropriate names for NPCs and I have no doubt it will be making regular appearances when I plan campaigns or build characters. I really do wish it was just a tad more interesting to look at though.


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An Excellent Romp Through the Shadowed Keep

5/5

The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19271.

Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is a location-based adventure module for Pathfinder. It is designed for 1st Level characters to be brought to 3rd Level if the entire keep is purged of threats within. The adventure has an old-school appeal with a romp through the entire keep, above and below ground, similar to a dungeon delve. The biggest difference here is that the encounters are defined from room to room, although random encounters are possible.

OVERALL

Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is an excellent location-based adventure; not only in design but also in flavor and layout (layout of the adventure, not the publication.) It’s an excellent introduction to a lengthy campaign for those who enjoy this style of game-play. It creates the ultimate campaign starting point and launchpad, with campaign hooks included in the publication.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Raging Swan Press is known for their simple yet extremely effective and efficient layout and format. Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is one of their best products yet, if not the best. The flow of the publication is incredibly smooth and any GM will find it extremely easy to run the adventure. One of the factors that make it so easy is how detailed each encounter is in terms of tactics, environment, and scaling. Additionally, there are some beautiful illustrations that create a lot of visual appeal for important locations. Topping it all off is an old-school style cartography showing off every room and area of the adventure module.

Storyline: 8 out of 10
Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands has very little storyline involved while at the same time it has three different mini-storylines framing the different aspects of the keep. The three storylines frame the keep’s original purpose (along with its downfall) and its current residents. These mini-storylines are not designed to develop throughout the adventure as they are simply given purpose in the beginning and their outcomes will be decided by the actions of the PCs. The keep’s ultimate storyline is that of the PCs and how they view the keep. If they clear it and walk away, then the keep’s storyline ends there.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
As far as playing a location-based adventure, Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is an excellent choice and filled with details and possibilities. The GM can incorporate the keep in a number of ways, gauging the response of the PCs and how they view the keep’s future use. As far as using it as a launching point for a lengthy campaign, it’s a fantastic way for the PCs to get their feet wet while providing a base of operations should they deem it worthy. Essentially, Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands can serve a number of purposes besides just being a location-based romp through this broken down keep.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands is an excellent adventure in terms of quality of design and possibilities for use. Every single room within the keep is extensively described and detailed, making the GMs job much easier, and the flavor of which change or grow as the PCs get deeper and deeper into the adventure, which avoids the feeling of repetitious or mundane. Don’t expect the same old thing when you enter a new room, because you will possibly be very surprised at what you find.


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Everything a GM Needs to Cavern Delve

5/5

Have you ever wanted to let the player characters run rampant through a cave or cavern but didn’t have the time to prep the possible adventure? Caves & Caverns is here to save the day! As another supplement in the GM’s Resource line of Pathfinder supplements, Caves & Caverns contains everything a Game Master needs for a dive into a series of caves and caverns without all the prep work. The only thing you need to do is draw the map and apply the options available within. It is the ultimate tool for the GM who wants to be ready for any decision the characters make.

OVERALL

The GM’s Resource series is the perfect set of supplements for the GM that doesn’t have enough prep time, whose player’s like to make unexpected decisions, or is simply too lazy. Caves & Caverns is the ultimate addition to that line, giving you a single focal point for those adventures that reach the depths of the dark places. With Caves & Caverns, you can take many of those other GM’s Resource supplements and create an even larger setting (in and around the caves and caverns) along with add interesting, 3-dimensional creature characters and warriors. If you ever suspect your players will decide to take their characters into the Ebon Realm, you need Caves & Caverns, or at least you really should get it because it could make your job that much easier.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Raging Swan Press is known for their simple yet effective publications that exhibit very high quality. While there are a couple “gotchas” here and there, overall Caves & Caverns follows the same quality level as previous products. Stats are always extremely easy to read, the content is presented in an easy-to-understand format, and excellent illustrations are contained within. For this particular product, layout is very critical considering the high amount of mechanics being provided and it definitely does not let down.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Caves & Caverns is stuffed with mechanics. While the stat blocks are beautiful and crunchy, it’s the Features section that really stands out. Combat is just combat, and to battle your foes in a boring, plain “white” scene does not make for memorable games. The Features section alleviates this by presenting a number of mechanics to flavor the character’s delve in a number of ways from the floor to the ceiling and everything in-between.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
Caves & Caverns is filled with value for creating those memorable adventures through the Ebon Realm. The one small issue I found is that the span of Encounter Levels is too great. Ranging from 4 – 12 is a great variety, but almost too great. Characters of higher level may get bored with lower encounters while lower characters will be caught fleeing too often. It may have been better to focus more on one or two encounter level ranges, such as 4 – 6 and 10 – 12, by dividing the encounters for each range instead of spreading them throughout the entire range of 4 – 12. One thing to note is that lower level encounters can be scaled up by adding certain features, but it may become a bit overwhelming. Scaling is provided for each encounter +/- 1, but to go further than that will require more GM interaction.

With that in mind, Caves & Caverns is filled with value and lots of encounters and stat blocks for the GM to use for virtually any adventure. It ultimately becomes how far the characters want to go and how many times you decide to roll on the Random Encounters table, that’s what will define the adventure.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Caves & Caverns has a very focused purpose: to help quickly generate adventures through a series of caves and caverns with detail and flavor. It does this very well and if that’s the type of adventure you want to run, there’s little reason to look elsewhere. While it may not be a key part of your storyline, it could make for an excellent side quest.


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An Excellent Low-Level Adventure

5/5

Claws of Pelazin is an adventure module for the dark, epic fantasy setting Realms of Twilight and designed for characters of 1st – 3rd Level. While not necessarily an entry-level adventure, although it could be used that way if the adventuring party is big enough, it makes a great starting point for players who are new to the setting or even this style of setting. It features some of the dark themes within Realms of Twilight along with highlighting the dangers of living within its lands. Even though it’s only the second adventure module published for Realms of Twilight, Claws of Pelazin continues taking the setting in the right direction, giving GMs and players a true feel for what the world is about.

OVERALL

Claws of Pelazin carries a lot of value considering its published adventure material along with the source material. While GMs will get the most out of the product, there is information for players as well considering the worship of Pelazin and the location of the village and Trackless Jungle.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Silver Crescent Publishing continues to produce quality products with a pleasing format and layout that are not only highly effective but very easy to read. The stat blocks look fantastic and the illustrations are beautiful. Add to this a map of the end scene makes for a wonderful publication. They stop there though, because within the source material section there is a map of the applicable village including descriptions for all the important locations.

Storyline: 8 out of 10
Claws of Pelazin has a good, solid storyline that develops well throughout the adventure module. This story is very direct, almost too direct, and distinctly leads the PCs from the beginning of the adventure to the end. There is little room for wandering and there may be too many ends that are properly tied. This is a big reason why it would make a good starting point for further campaigns.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
For those already playing Realms of Twilight or looking to start, Claws of Pelazin is a good starting place. Not simply because of the interesting storyline or assortment of investigation and combat, but also because it gives a deep look at the setting and its dark appeal. It’s as close to dark fantasy you can get using an epic fantasy setting. The details of the village are enough to use just the setting of the adventure for other adventures or campaigns.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Claws of Pelazin is definitely a recommended adventure module for Realms of Twilight. If you don’t like running published modules, then there’s enough source material and NPCs here to create a number of possibilities. It is a good, solid adventure in a wonderfully detailed village surrounded by land filled with adventuring potential.


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Everything You Need for a Gunslinger

5/5

The Secrets of the Gunslinger is an all around, value adding Pathfinder supplement adding to the gunslinger class found within Ultimate Combat from Paizo Publishing. Instead of focusing on a single aspect of this new character class, the supplement expands upon multiple aspects, providing loads of new material for players and GMs to choose from. The Secrets of the Gunslinger is the perfect companion to the gunslinger class.

OVERALL

If you plan on playing a gunslinger, there’s no reason why you wouldn’t want The Secrets of the Gunslinger. It takes the basic options and template and expands upon them for the purpose of creating even more unique characters and allowing player characters to properly distinguish themselves form their compatriots, especially if they too are gunslingers. There’s even an archetype for worlds without gunpowder so they too can use the gunslinger mechanics.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Rite Publishing has established a good quality publication template seen before with The Secrets of the Gunslinger following suit. There are some excellent public domain illustrations depicting some classic-themed pirates/privateers to correspond with the theme of the supplement.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Considering all the mechanics are designed around the gunslinger character class, the entire supplement successfully presents a host of new options to correspond with the core mechanics. In addition, the archetypes and feats present a number of new ideas to correspond with the gun-toting hero that can use a gun like a ranger uses his bow.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
The Secrets of the Gunslinger is the perfect add-on to Ultimate Combat’s gunslinger class. In addition, there is the monster template for GMs to use besides simply creating gunslinger humanoid NPCs. From cover to cover, this supplement is filled with valuable mechanics.

Overall: 10 out of 10
A definite must have for any gunslinger character. New archetypes presenting not only the new templates, but interesting directions to take the gunslinger class. New feats to round out the options available to the characters along with creating new potential for settings that directly incorporate these types of characters. It’s truly the companion to the gunslinger class.


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Excellent Use of Shading

4/5

While I like the simplicity of the pyramid and the use of shadows and highlights to define height, it would definitely benefit from some type of wall between the different levels to add depth to the 2D perspective. It’s not easy creating a 3D environment from a 2D drawing especially when each level of depth is connected to the each lower and higher level. But to add that many shades represent the different levels is amazing. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen so many shades of “sand” in my life…

While it’s use may be limited, it would make a great centerpiece for a desert-themed encounter or some type of “King of the Hill” combat. The 1″ grid is fairly obvious, but is still hidden enough to be useful for many different systems.


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Curse of the Golden Spear Continues

5/5

Dim Spirit continues the Curse of the Golden Spear campaign across the lands of Kaiden, an island fraught with horror and asian folklore influence. The storyline picks up exactly where it left off with the underlying plot of part 1 coming to fruition. The player characters are thrown deeper into the lands of Kaiden as they learn more and more about what lurks across the island. However, I do not want to spoil anything.

OVERALL

Part of what makes Curse of the Golden Spear so enticing is the uniqueness of the Kaiden setting. Dim Spirit accentuates that setting by expanding upon those living across the land, friendly and unfriendly. The campaign turns more into survival than just fantasy and the players will have to think quickly and stay on their toes.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Rite Publishing has an excellent track record at publishing high-quality products. There are several little things (and a couple obvious ones) in Dim Spirit that stray from that track record. For example, I find two of the stat blocks within the Appendix to be much easier to read than those in the main content and a couple of the illustrations overlap the page’s frame. However, do not let these little things detract you from the content and beautiful illustrations found in Dim Spirit. There are five maps that I absolutely love, especially the 3-d rendered map of a small village in the woods. The bestiary illustrations are even more beautiful than the maps and really bring the appeal of this horrific setting to life. The main content is easy to read with a simple and solid layout and presentation.

Storyline: 9 out of 10
The Curse of the Golden Spear storyline becomes the overarching storyline within Dim Spirit rather than the direct storyline. Dim Spirit brings out more of the setting as the player characters move along in that overarching storyline. You get a new look at what’s possible in Kaiden including a new race and playable class archetype (found in the appendix). The storyline continues to move forward as expected, but this deeper connection with the setting gives the setting itself more depth adds new value (and potential) to the campaign (outside of the given storyline). It essentially becomes part sourcebook as well.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
For those looking to continue the Curse of the Golden Spear campaign, Dim Spirit is essential. Additionally, those looking to expand on the content they have surrounding the Kaiden setting would benefit from Dim Spirit as well. What could be considered as side-adventures really play into the setting’s design, regardless of the campaign storyline, which I see as the true motivator for those wanting to play Dim Spirit.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Dim Spirit is not only an excellent addition to the Curse of the Golden Spear campaign but is also a great book for GMs looking to use the Kaiden setting for adventures and campaigns of their own. There is lots of source content embedded in the campaign module; not just bestiary but also maps and locations of interest.


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Another Excellent Tribe for The Lonely Coast

5/5

Minotaurs of the Black Hills is another Tribes supplement for Pathfinder detailing the black hills, the minotaur inhabitants and their winged masters, the Yith. It contains an excellent amount of source material along with the applicable in-game stats to easily place this tribe into your own adventure or campaign or use them in conjunction with The Lonely Coast.

OVERALL

Minotaurs of the Black Hills is another great addition to the Tribes line of supplements for Pathfinder and more importantly a great tool for any GM to have. These minotaurs make for great encounters for mid-level characters seeking a challenge other than the norm.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Raging Swan Press always has a clean and simple layout and presentation in all of their Pathfinder products. Minotaurs of the Black Hills follows that standard perfectly and includes some excellent illustrations depicting these minotaurs and, more importantly, a beautiful hand-drawn topographical map of the black hills.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Keeping in the Raging Swan Press traditional Tribes style, Minotaurs of the Black Hills not only contains stats for the different minotaur builds but also includes new feats, spells, and magic items. Almost as an added bonus, you get the mechanics for the Yith master race of the minotaurs.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
The most valuable part of the Tribes series of supplements is their effectiveness for GMs in a rush, in need of random encounters, looking for new source material, or those that are just too lazy. This is due to the fact that the encounters are fleshed out and contain scaling options plus each creature contains all applicable stats. It should be noted that the black hills contain all applicable terrain stats as well.

Overall: 10 out of 10
The Tribes supplements from Raging Swan Press have a definite purpose that they not only continue to fully support, but continually get more valuable with each subsequent release. The minotaur is an excellent creature to throw at a group of adventurers and now you can do with with more life and depth. I may be slightly biased, but the way these creatures are brought to life and given purpose is an excellent concept for an ongoing series of supplements.


The Ultimate Thousand Suns Tool-kit

5/5

Foundation Transmissions expands upon the core mechanics presented within the Thousand Suns core rulebook. It presents new tool-kits for creating great new things to add to your adventures and campaigns plus new options for running military-inspired games. These tool-kits coincide with how the game is designed, as a sandbox with plenty of options. While it may sound a bit cliche, Foundation Transmissions is the ultimate sourcebook for anyone playing Thousand Suns.

OVERALL

Foundation Transmissions is an excellent combination of direct mechanics and tool-kits for adding new goodies to your game. The weapons, armor and robot tool-kits are excellent for players looking to really add their own flavor to the game and the addition of scheming allows you to look beyond combat. For GMs there are pre-generated planets and a new race. For everyone, there is a new look at creating teams that include characters of different ranks, something you would expect a space exploration team to have. It truly contains all the right mechanics and tools needed for long-term Thousand Suns campaigns.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Rogue Games has a tendency to create simple books with a clean layout and presentation. They are easy to follow and pleasing on the eyes when reading. Foundation Transmissions sticks to those principals with its high-quality publication and even higher quality presentation. It is the presentation of the mechanics that truly stand out, although the illustrations help as well. Not only is it a great tool-kit, it’s a concise and fully detailed tool-kit that doesn’t require interpretation. There are many possible approaches to take for a tool-kit oriented sourcebook, this one definite took the right path.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Foundation Transmissions is all mechanics, pretty much. Each section contains its own set of mechanics being introduced or expanded upon compared to the core mechanics. The true perfection of these mechanics is how they are put together when using the tool-kits. There are so many options that you may be afraid of bloat. However, everything is presented in a standard and fairly generic method that the options don’t become bloated and you can see how much effort was placed on balance. When creating your own weapons and armor, you want to make sure you can easily match up your description to those of the tool-kit (and thus the given mechanics). Foundation Transmissions does this beautifully.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
If I could rate this higher, I would. However, 10 is the highest so I’ll stick to 10. From the mechanics and presentation, Foundation Transmissions is all value. There is literally something in it for everyone. You want to design your own weapon? Now you can. You want to design your own armor? Now you can. You want to design your own robot sentinel? Now you can! This is the perfect book to be married with the core rulebook, that’s how valuable it is.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Foundation Transmissions is an awesome sourcebook and tool-kit collection for Thousand Suns. It really sticks to the basic principal of presenting a sandbox setting with lots of flexibility. Especially since the core rulebook is filled with tool-kits as well. This is a definite must have for any Thousand Suns player.


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A Dark Twist on Epic Fantasy

4/5

Realms of Twilight is a unique and complete setting for Pathfinder featuring a world lost in an everlasting twilight. This twilight is a result of two seemingly apocalyptic events that threw the entire world into a state of disarray. The aftermath of these events has created a world filled with darkness, dangerous areas of wilderness, a quickly changed landscape, and multitudes of societies whose people have never seen the sun (only the eldest remember it).

Silver Crescent Publishing has taken the concept of epic fantasy and spun it in a very new direction. While many epic fantasy settings are designed to prevent the worlds destruction, Realms of Twilight places players in the middle of a world where the destruction occurred hundreds of years before. Now the people are left with surviving and finding a way to bring the sunlight back to a seemingly dismal world. It is not only truly unique, but an excellent twist of the genre. One should keep in mind that while the world is lost in the never ending twilight, the setting is not dark fantasy. There are dark creatures and difficulties abroad, but horror is not a factor and the PCs should have no problem facing down those who lurk in the shadows.

OVERALL

I’m a big fan of unique settings, especially ones that take traditional ideas or genres and twists them about. The reverse ideals of Realms of Twilight make for a new and interesting way of approaching adventures and campaigns. The only thing left now is to see what direction Silver Crescent Publishing takes the setting and how they put it all together in published adventure modules. I recommend Realms of Twilight for those looking for a new epic fantasy experience.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 6 out of 10
Indy publishers often surprise me with how well they pay attention to the quality of their publication. While I don’t find the presentation order of the book to be ideal, everything is grouped together to prevent having to spend a lot of time flipping through the book (character creation for example). The opening half of the book has a great layout filled with fantastic maps, easy to read content, and a minute detail like the page frames containing different pattern designs in each chapter. However, somewhere in the middle of the book this layout begins to change and pieces fall apart. The book changes from fully justified to right justified and back to fully justified. In addition, some of the character creation pages could use some layout tweaks here and there to make them more visually appealing and keep with that ease of reading. Upon reaching the bestiary, the layout quality improves and the stat blocks look great.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
The setting itself is extremely well developed and filled with new mechanics. This not only covers the twilight cursed world but also a handful of prestige classes that correspond to the setting, a new Combat Alchemist class, a complete new set of deities, new equipment material, new magical weapons, and new races. There are other mechanics associated with these as well including spells and abilities. Not only is everything properly described and detailed, but they are very interesting and can make for great new PCs. My favorite of all these are the new prestige classes and races because they fit very well within the fluff and feel of the setting.

Desire to Play: 8 out of 10
One major factor driving a GMs desire to use Realms of Twilight or a player’s desire to immerse themselves in it, is its unique design. It primarily takes epic fantasy and turns it on its head placing the PCs in the midst of adventure after the world has fallen on perilous times. There are new races to choose from and new prestige classes as well. However, the one thing Realms of Twilight neglects is to address how other races and archetypes are directly involved in the setting or by providing even minute mechanics to make them distinct PCs. While this shouldn’t deter ones desire to play within Realms of Twilight, it may require the players to spend more time developing their character’s through standard game-play (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

Overall: 8 out of 10
Realms of Twilight is an excellent setting filled with a great amount of fluff and dimension and a completely different take on the epic fantasy genre. The direction the setting takes is unique and fresh and filled with loads of potential. While great adventures can easily be created, a grand campaign to restore the sun to the sky is not only epic in nature but filled with role-playing potential and devastating combat. An absolutely grandiose feat!


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101 Options For Unique Bestiary

5/5

101 Monster Feats is the next entry into the options category for creating characters (this one happens to be monsters) within Pathfinder. It allows a GM to have more options during character creation or new feats to use for creating unique and alternate versions of existing bestiary. This is a great tool for any Game Master looking to add more flavor and depth to their encounters or if they’re simply looking to create their own bestiary.

OVERALL

I am a big fan of options. I think it makes for much more interesting games when players are faced with bestiary that is a little more flavorful and avoids becoming dull or redundant. Supplements such as 101 Monster Feats help make those encounters more interesting or at the very least, different. Instead of simply running into the same foe you’ve met a dozen times, now they have their own tricks and have learned from their previous mistakes… just like the PCs!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
101 Monster Feats follows the standard, high-quality publication template that other Rite Publishing products utilize. It is very easy to read and the 101 feats are listed in alphabetical order. There is not table of contents but the PDF is fully bookmarked making it very easy to navigate (which is actually easier considering it’s a PDF format). There is an assortment of illustrations, although for this type of supplement they are not necessary, but do add a nice visual appeal. The true quality comes from how well the feats are presented and how easy they are to understand.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
There is a definite variety of feats being presented here, and all have their place. They appear to be well-balanced and Rite Publishing has gone as far as meshing some of the feats together (giving additional value to those presented). There is a large number of new feats along with a collection of “greater” and “improved” versions of other feats. All-in-all, it creates a great collection of options for creating different bestiary, especially if you want to take existing ones and make them a little stronger.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
The basis of this value add only considers Game Masters who wish to do more than just use the standard bestiary guides and templates. What 101 Monster Feats does is provide more tools for the GM to use to make their game unique or more difficult. In addition, you can take recurring monsters and add “greater” or “improved” versions of feats to show that they too have grown stronger as the days go by. The one and only thing I found that slightly hinders the value is the ultimate variety. A lot of these feats seem to be designed for use with more prominent monsters and I would like to have seen more variety. However, there is still a large amount of variety for use with numerous types of monsters.

Overall: 9 out of 10
For any Game Master creating their own bestiary, 101 Monster Feats is a very valuable took to add to your kit. It’s concise, easy to use, and flavorful. Using this is bound to keep your players on their toes.


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Simple and Hassle-Free

5/5

Rods of Wonder is the next Player’s Resource supplement by Raging Swan Press for Pathfinder. It is designed as a quick and complete reference for player’s who wish to use a Rod of Wonder or a similar item. The stats and options herein are presented in a concise manner and full of flavor. If you want a Rod of Wonder, there’s no reason not to use this supplement.

OVERALL

It’s often hard to rate a product that is short. However, when everything you need to use the supplement is presented so simply and in a format that is extremely easy to read, the overall value of the supplement is worth way more than its length. Simply put, Raging Swan Press has made it extremely easy for you to use a Rod of Wonder by removing all the hassle.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
As with all Raging Swan Press publications, Rods of Wonder contains an easy-to-read layout and simple presentation. Due to its size, this supplement does not have much content to rate. However, it manages to do such a good job of keeping everything simple and concise while keeping each set of mechanics on a single page for quick reference and use. In a way, the layout and presentation make it more desirable to use.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
Rods of Wonder does a fantastic job of presenting not only interesting (and sometimes humorous) effects for each detailed rod, but it does an excellent job of creating a variety of effects with a mixture of possibilities. This keeps the detailed rod from seeming boring and keeping each rod from being significantly different from one to another. The actual mechanics themselves are quite creative.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
Rods of Wonder is a very straight-forward supplement. It presents options for creating a Rod of Wonder, Bewilderment, Marvels, and Wonderment. This includes the d100 options and the intelligent rods. However, each mechanic is presented and players wishing to add different flavor or options would either need to do it on their own or use this as a launching point. In that regard, it works as a quick reference and a template to use for your own creations.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Even as a simple supplement, Rods of Wonder is a definite must have for anyone wishing to use one of these rods. Print it out and slide it into your character folder for quick reference, that’s all you’ll need to do! All the work has been done for you.


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A Welcoming Adventure into Kaidan

5/5

The Gift is a questing adventure module for Pathfinder set in the Asian fantasy horror setting Kaidan and designed for four characters of 5th Level. The adventure is filled with combat and a nicely paced storyline that fit in directly with the Kaidan setting. The Kaidan setting is extremely unique being a land filled with wandering spirits, creatures of Japanese folklore, and wicked humans. The horror elements of the setting are well-developed and integrated smoothly into the background, encounters, and the overarching storyline.

OVERALL

The Gift is an interesting and well-developed adventure module placed in a truly unique setting filled with horrific elements. It would be almost pointless to use it as a stand-alone adventure and sets the stage and initiates the quest throughout The Curse of the Golden Spear campaign. While it is combat-heavy, it is written with a styling that makes the encounters unique and interesting while continuing the story in a forward direction. And to top all of this off, you get maps and battlemaps to boot!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The Gift has a very smooth layout and presentation, flowing perfectly from beginning to end. There are lots of great illustrations but more importantly, there are some beautiful maps and battlemaps associated with the various encounters and areas. This really adds not only to the visual appeal of the module, but also to its ease-of-use. The high-quality of the publication does a good job of leaving you to want to finish the campaign series.

Storyline: 8 out of 10
The storyline is fairly solid and integrates well with the various encounters and overall purpose of the quest. However, even better than its integration with the adventure is its integration with the setting. This storyline does an excellent job of bringing out the Kaidan setting in many different ways. This includes the overarching storyline and the smaller bits-and-pieces scattered throughout that are integral to individual encounters. It should also be noted that it flows superbly from beginning to end without creating gaps or confusion.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
Considering The Gift has a large amount of combat encounters, it is not hack-and-slash. To avoid the quest from feeling repetitious, these encounters are quite different from one to another. They range not only in their setup and purpose, but also their style and storyline impact. In addition to the mechanical elements of the quest, the setting is unique which means you won’t feel like you’re playing an adventure you’ve played before.

Overall: 9 out of 10
The Gift is a very good and very solid adventure module. Even better, it is an excellent setup to The Curse of the Golden Spear campaign series. The Kaidan setting really comes alive and this is only the first module. One of my personal favorites is how the ideals of reincarnation work within the setting in how a body can be stolen by a wandering soul or that a body can be an empty shell and thus be acquired by a nasty elemental spirit instead. It’s a very interesting concept and executed wonderfully.


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Bringing Fantasy and Horror to Colonial America

4/5

Colonial Gothic is an alternate history setting powered by Rogue Games’ 12° system and placed within the backdrop of the American colonial period. The historical aspect of this setting is mired in supernatural and magical superstitions with inherently paranoid inhabitants. Colonial Gothic turns all of these superstitions and beliefs into a reality thus creating a surreal setting filled with the legends and fictional writings of the time or pertaining to the time.

These writings are turned into the horror found throughout the setting, along with a few Lovecraftian themes thrown in for added flavor. This period of time is already rich with history and filled with significant events that campaigns and adventures almost write themselves. Add to this a rules system that makes combat brutal, role-playing interesting, and covers lots of ground without worrying about the little things that can slow down a more convoluted system.

Just imagine running through town looking for George Washington while hunting a vicious vampire just outside the city limits. Will you change society or will you help save the day?

OVERALL

With an historical setting that was mired in superstition, supernatural paranoia, and vivid fictional writing, Colonial Gothic does a fantastic job of giving that surreal feeling of horror within the dangerous New World. Game-play can range from cinematic combat to interesting role-play with mechanics that are very intuitive to giving players the true feel of the setting, while keeping things from becoming mundane. Even with the the noted confusions during Hero creation, once game-play begins, things should move swiftly and keep players involved.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
While the included content and illustrations do an excellent job of creating the setting, the multiple locations for defining the mechanics and their conflicting explanations can make reading through the book a bit difficult and slow to start. Once you get past that, the presentation flows smoothly and is filled with valuable source material.

Mechanics: 7 out of 10
The Character Creation mechanics are sometimes confusing and lend themselves to a bit of abuse. This can possibly be resolved through better explanations, more use of examples, and a better definition of terminology used throughout. The overall game mechanics, however, are fantastic and very fitting for a horror-based setting, especially when set within the colonial era of America.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
The richness of the historical aspects of colonial America could easily make Colonial Gothic desirable to those interested in playing within an alternate history. The horror added to the historical setting create an environment that is highly conducive to a possible endless number of hours of diverse game-play and very dynamic campaign settings.

Overall: 8 out of 10
What makes Colonial Gothic so appealing is the setting and how it works with the given game mechanics. It keeps with the style of horror-style combat being brutal and unforgiven while keeping with the cinematic appeal many players desire. The simple 2d12 roll-under system can create faster game-play without having to remember a multitude of different roll-types using an endless combination of dice. I recommend Colonial Gothic for anyone looking to move away from the often typical Fantasy and Sci-Fi settings and place themselves within a history rich setting filled with possibilities.


Taking Your Game to Epic Proportions

5/5

At its core, the Expert core rulebook adds to, builds upon and expands the core mechanics found within the Basic core rulebook. In actuality, Expert allows players to become master of their own domain, literally. And with this kind of power comes new responsibilities and threats that affect a much broader spectrum of people and places. To coincide with this new found power, Rogue Games has created a whole new set of mechanics that deal with encounters (as a backdrop primarily) on a much grander scale.

While ruling your own domain sounds like a lengthy lesson in paperwork and number-crunching, it is more of a purpose for new adventures and extended campaigns rather than what you should deal with from game to game. Just don’t start neglecting your people. Thinking of this, Expert is appropriately titled as these mechanics are not meant for new players or short adventures. They are designed for long-term campaigns and players looking to take their game to a whole new level. But this is not the only value within the book as there are plenty of new mechanics available (such as arcane spells) for newer players, adventures and short-term campaigns. Expert brings a new level of gaming experience to Shadow, Sword & Spell where the possibilities are virtually endless!

OVERALL

While the Basic core rulebook introduces and brings you into the system, Expert shows a whole new way of taking advantage of it and being able to truly create any type of gaming experience desired. This ranges widely from simple adventurers questing across the country to lords controlling a domain filled with a population of thousands. While it’s called Expert, there is something in here for everyone including arcane spells, new creatures and a sandbox setting. If you enjoy playing with the core mechanics from Basic, I highly recommend getting the Expert core rulebook and diving into the new mechanics, even if you don’t use them all.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Rogue Games continues to publish high-quality products, and with each subsequent publication the quality gets better and better. Expert has a great layout and presentation and reads smoothly. I like the sprinkling of illustrations throughout the book, especially the creatures. One thing I haven’t noted before but need to point out is how well Rogue Games utilizes their publication format. Expert is a digest-sized book and each page is well-filled with content and illustrations. Basically, Rogue Games does an excellent job of adding as much content as they can without producing an excessively large book.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
While many systems have third party supplements that bring in some of the various, large-scale mechanics, Expert actually brings them into the system directly with balance and purpose. While you may not use them, they are a wonderful way of expanding the potential of your campaigns and providing a gaming experience that is completely new and exciting! And to balance these mechanics, and balance the overall value of the book, there is still plenty of new or expanded mechanics and material that motivates one to use what’s found within (such as arcane spells and the setting). Expert does an excellent job of creating a setting designed for use with the core mechanics and providing a host of new gaming experiences to be had with the large-scale mechanics. Basically, Expert is filled with new and expanded mechanics and they all flesh out beautifully within the systems’ core mechanics.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
For those playing Shadow, Sword & Spell already, Expert is a fantastic addition. For those who desire a pulp fantasy system, Expert really enhances the ideals set forth in the Basic core rulebook. For those looking to play the most epic-level of campaigns where the sky is the limit, then Expert is an absolute must. But for those only looking to play simple adventures, Expert is probably not necessary (unless you plan on using the setting and creatures). I can think of multiple reasons why this is a great addition to Shadow, Sword & Spell and the only reason I can find for not using it is because it may introduce things that you just don’t need in your standard adventures.

Overall: 10 out of 10
I have one major reason for giving a 10 out of 10 rating: Core mechanics (non-third party) rarely covers mass combat, the art of trade and being able to run your own domain. What makes this even more powerful and desirable is that these mechanics are balanced (compared to the core system) and simple to game-play. The setup may take some time, but I wouldn’t expect otherwise. The possibilities for new, unique adventures and campaigns grows significantly when you take these large-scale mechanics into consideration. For instance, you can run an adventure that pins your characters as rulers, leaders and heroes of a massive army against the oncoming undead army that will stop at nothing to destroy your way of life. I’ve said this before with Shadow, Sword & Spell, but there are mechanics that allow the players to help create, shape and influence the storyline, adventure and campaign. These new mechanics follow that same appeal of the system. Players become a much bigger part of the game instead of simply taking the role of player characters.


Pulp Fantasy with a Great System

5/5

Shadow, Sword & Spell is a blend of pulp action and fantasy mechanics, or simply put pulp fantasy. The action centers around the characters and the individual encounters they experience rather than experiencing a grand quest to save the world. The pulp aspects of the game blend bits of adventure, horror, and Earthly experiences while the fantasy aspects bring in ideals of magic and unearthly creatures. Rogue Games has learned and grown throughout their core releases with Shadow, Sword & Spell displaying a definite maturing of publication quality and core mechanic explanations.

The setting has many adventuring possibilities filled with great investigations, dynamic encounters, believable characters, and plenty of thieving and character growth. The 12° system developed by Rogue Games truly comes to life in these colorful but possibly excruciating battles which can find the adventuring party either coming out on top or limping off wounded and insane. With so many possibilities, it’s a great break from the typically found epic fantasy settings and systems.

OVERALL

Overall I really like the deviation from standard epic fantasy into something more gritty and focusing on individual characters and the encounters they experience. The Basic book contains enough information for players and GMs to get involved in the setting while leaving plenty of room for those wishing to expand their gaming experience with the follow-on core rulebook.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Rogue Games has demonstrated a definite maturing of their ability to provide quality products not only in description but also presentation. They continue to produce high-quality publications with an emphasis on usability and easy understanding. The improvements to mechanics explanations, examples, and illustrations should prove that these products will continue to get better and better with each subsequent release.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
I find the 12° to be much simpler and easier to use than other fantasy-based systems and it truly shines within the framework of Shadow, Sword & Spell. The implementation of these mechanics should provide quality gaming experiences with quick and easy play. The incorporation of social mechanics provides more options for those who want more role-playing experiences while easily being removed without detrimental effects to those who wish for more combat style experiences.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
Rogue Games continues to produce games that deviate from many of the typically found settings currently published providing new options for many gaming groups. Instead of simply changing the same settings with new mechanics, Rogue Games provides a whole new gaming experience that many may find a desired change from their current games. This setting is very conducive to different styles of gaming improving it’s re-playability and offering new opportunities even within similar adventures or campaigns.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Shadow, Sword & Spell does a fantastic job of bringing to life a pulp fictional writing experience on your tabletop. The exclusion of the heroic feel means PCs can be as cruel or lawful as they like without deviating from the ideals of how the system is supposed to feel.


A Truly Horrific Retro Adventure

5/5

The Cursed Chateau is a horror-infused, retro fantasy, location-based adventure module designed to be compatible with any old-school class-and-level system. It is designed for 4 – 8 characters of 4th – 6th Level and contains stats that are meant to be broad for compatibility with many systems. The adventure pins the PCs in a nasty little game of investigation and survival while attempting to succeed in the adventure’s hopeful outcome. This module is filled with twists and lots of nasties and should keep the players on their toes, as long as they realize how success is achieved.

OVERALL

The infusion of retro fantasy and horror is done perfectly. Obtaining the great riches can come at a heavy cost with plenty of secrets hiding in the shadows. It’s a great adventure module for dropping into a campaign or running by itself. Although if you’re not careful, this adventure could cut your campaign short.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The Cursed Chateau contains Rogue Game’s simple and easy-to-read layout and presentation with a smattering of interesting illustrations. These illustrations are disturbing and twisted and fit well with the setting, but I found a couple of them didn’t match the descriptions in the content. This may be done deliberately and are meant as an enhancement to the content rather than a visual display of the description, but they definitely help in depicting the scene being portrayed. The presentation of the content is very well-done and the NPC stat blocks are all easy to read.

Storyline: 8 out of 10
The storyline has a properly developed background and a definite end-point, however the storyline in-between is a bit vague and is presented as story-points rather than a story that flows from beginning to end. While this allows the PCs to move through the location as they please, I had to go back-and-forth between points to piece things together. This does create a very flexible storyline and allows the game-play to dictate the details.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
This could be a very interesting adventure module to run multiple times. Not for the sake of succeeding each time, but for the fact that your party may fail the first couple times and the players may want another crack at it. It’s a great combination of “dungeon crawl” and investigation, brought together in a fairly Lovecraftian style.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I definitely recommend running this adventure module. Not only as an old-school styled module but also as a horror-themed module for any compatible game system (or one that can become easily compatible). With its possible high-level of difficulty, its bound to keep your players guessing and each and every turn.


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A Great Setting Expansion for Colonial Gothic

5/5

New France is a campaign setting sourcebook for Colonial Gothic bringing 18th Century New France into the system. New France (the area) covers much of Canada and the central portions of the (current) United States from Quebec to New Orleans. New France expands the Colonial Gothic system from just the thirteen colonies to all the areas controlled by France and those subsequently taken over by British forces.

New France does a beautiful job of expanding the overall Colonial Gothic setting and really provides a 360-degree look at the areas of New France (the area) including the major colonies, organizations, important characters, and much more. While there isn’t nearly as much folklore within New France compared to the thirteen colonies, there are plenty of opportunities for great adventures and epic campaigns. Maybe your players will find the famed, lost treasure of the Templars.

OVERALL

New France is a wonderfully done setting sourcebook. One of the best parts of this book is the large assortment of illustrations showing the locations of all the places noted within the book and some that are only briefly touched on. I also find the NPC descriptions and adventure seeds to be very valuable and great adventures can easily be created around them. The only thing I didn’t find was a hidden, in-between the lines, storyline that could be developed into a full campaign. However, there are definitely enough seeds and ideas that can be pieced together to create a number of interesting adventures.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The layout and presentation are the typical high-quality for Rogue Games and especially Colonial Gothic. However, the numerous illustrations (mainly the different maps of the areas) really make this sourcebook shine. Not only do they look great, but they are key in understanding where these cities, forts, and territories lie compared to modern day United States and Canada. Second only to Boston Besieged (so far), this is one, very beautiful publication.

Mechanics: 7 out of 10
There is a bit of a shortfall when it comes to the mechanics of this sourcebook. While there is a wealth of source material, it’s mostly presented from a historical point of view with very little twists and turns using a Colonial Gothic fantasy and/or horror influence. Much of what colors the Colonial Gothic system is folklore, but I don’t see that within New France. The adventure seeds that are presented throughout are great adventure ideas and bits and pieces to campaigns, but there is very little Colonial Gothic colorization. I would have liked to see more fantasy and/or horror thrown into the mix giving the setting a Colonial Gothic appeal. With that in mind, the mechanics that are present make great additions to the system for bringing in more of North America into a possible adventure or campaign (especially for creating campaigns).

Value Add: 9 out of 10
There is a definite need to expand the Colonial Gothic setting further from just the thirteen colonies. Part of this is the ability to bring in more ideas while another part is giving the players the opportunity to expand their adventures. Any setting sourcebook that expands multiple aspects of the system’s main setting is very valuable. New France does not let down.

Overall: 9 out of 10
New France is a definite must have for Colonial Gothic Game Masters to not only expand their setting, but also to add new adventure seeds, important characters, more Native tribes, and especially new conflicts between the various colonies within all of North America. For players, there are a few things they will find valuable such as the additional options for character creation and the ability to create new backgrounds. However, much of the content is geared toward the Game Master.


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