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Excellent Beginner Kityronimos —
I really enjoy these everything-in-one-box starter sets, I collect them when I can, and this one is the best I've seen, so I'm surprised I haven't reviewed this one yet.
First, the bad: the price is a bit steep for an introductory product, there do seem to be a few minor errata in the booklets, and the Player's Book is rather dense. (To be fair, though, the errata come with the territory of RPG books, you do get a lot for the price, and the pregen character sheets do provide most of the technical information players need to enjoy the first night of adventure right on the sheet.)
The good (including some very nice touches):
* The layout of the beginner pregen character sheets is great: it's basically a two-page "booklet", double-wide with notes in the margins explaining sections of the character sheets in more detail inside, a full-length character portrait on the front, and a short character biography on the back. The contents of the character sheet are fairly transparent and user-friendly. The competition provided some fair, basic character sheets without the user notes in most of its products, and in at least one of the competition's boxed sets the "character sheets" were provided as cramped little booklets.
* The pregen character biographies are very nice, especially compared to the Other Guys' 3.0E, 3.5E and 4E pregen characters in comparable boxed sets: the characters feel fairly three-dimensional and sympathetic, with some heroic motivations to them, and just enough information to suggest the character's role in the party, without cramming the character into a generic stereotype. For example, the fighter is "strongest and toughest, using the biggest weapons and best armor... friendly and brave... sometimes gets in over his head... smart for a fighting man... loyal to his friends... his good heart made him not want to work for cheats, swindlers, and cruel men... became an adventurer, making his own decisions about whom he'd fight and why...." These are all characters I'm interested in and care about, it's a very nice change from their counterparts in other boxed RPG sets.
* You get a choice between the great pregens, and making your own characters with a somewhat stripped-down to beginner-friendly options, but otherwise full-featured, character creation system. Similar boxed starter sets from Those Other Guys generally only provide one or the other.
* Advancement to 5th level using the enclosed rules is possible. Similar boxed sets only provide for 3rd level.
* A good, sturdy, dry-erase map, with a blank grid on one side and a nice full-colour dungeon on the other. Similar boxed sets from The Other Guys provided a flimsy poster-paper map, or a small set of cardboard tiles, which, though nice and still reusable, are somewhat limited in what they can do without expansion. The Beginner Box map, particularly the blank dry-erase grid, should provide lots of re-use for a long time to come.
* A huge number and great variety of beginner monsters, with stand-up pawns. Equivalent boxed starter sets from the Other Company either provided a smaller number of flat cardboard chips/tokens, or a handful of very nice plastic miniatures. The Beginner Box's pawns are a nice compromise, and provide a better variety on monsters than the competition.
* The rules set is fairly close to the full-sized game. A few things are simplified or removed altogether (which seems to have been the cause of much of the errata mentioned earlier), but it shouldn't be a huge leap to move from the Beginner Box to the full set of rules. (Generally, this is true of the competition, too, though some of the Other Guys' recent boxed sets have made it much tougher to move from the starter set to the full game than others.)
* The player's technical information provided on the character sheets is a nice touch: for at least the first night of adventuring, the players won't have to refer much to the Hero's Handbook. Though the information is dense and a lot to take in all at once, the Hero's Handbook itself has a lot of useful information that can be studied between games if desired or easily used as a quick-reference during the game, and the book is full-coloured with great illustrations which do an excellent job of portraying what the game is all about. In comparison, competing products have usually had much cheaper-looking books with black-and-white illustrations which show little more than they need to.
* Though the Hero's Handbook emphasizes rules and begins with descriptions of combat, things like skill checks and ability scores are listed first on the character sheets, with combat listed near the end. The Hero's Handbook does have a brief section on "Playing the Game" which spends more time describing things like talking to NPCs and exploring than it does on fighting. This is a nice touch, in suggesting there can be a lot more to the game than throwing dice at an endless stream of monsters. In comparable products from the competition, especially some of the later ones, combat seems to dominate the player's information to nearly the exclusion of anything else.
* The "Game Master's Guide" is quite nicely designed, and very easy to follow. Like the player's booklet, the illustrations are colourful, though on a neutral note they are more decorative here than evocative of the setting. On the downside, the adventure included is relatively short, but this is balanced out by some great GM advice and some excellent tools for the GM to design her own adventures with, which is, perhaps, even better than a longer published adventure. Another area where the GM's guide shines is the nice "Bestiary" section: this is perhaps the best beginner monster manual I've ever seen, with a nice variety of monsters, great illustrations, and nicely organized stat blocks. Similarly, the section on magical treasures is nicely organized and easy to follow. The sample adventure takes things one step at a time, provides nice advice for running the game, and, as another nice touch, encourages the GM to help the (beginning) players by encouraging them to do things like use "Detect Magic" and so on where appropriate. Aside from a minor complaint about the almost random illustrations in some places in the booklet, this GM's Guide is a pleasure to use and read! The Other Guys' DM's materials typically ranged from bland to annoying, though their 3rd Edition boxed starter set had a fantastic booklet containing nothing but pre-written adventures which was very nice. In contrast, though, the Beginner Box is the boxed set that really shines in making it exciting and easy to be a new GM!
* Advertisements - let's face it: advertisements for other, more expensive products requiring the commitment of players hooked by the starter set are a natural part of this sort of product. In this case, however, the advertisements take up less than a half a page in each of the two (fairly thick) booklets, and are quite unobtrusive. Besides that, this is a complete game right out of the box, which can provide a lot of great fun for a long time to come before buying all the other stuff. The competition's boxed sets, especially the later ones, began to feel more and more like the barest minimum of sample materials to run the first couple levels, plus fliers and full-page advertisements for the full game experience. The GM is given all the tools needed to create her own adventures, the players are given all the information needed to create their own characters and level them up to Level 5, and the replayability for those five levels should be pretty high. The Beginner Box does not insult its customers by leaving them feeling as if they bought a box of nice accessories and an advertisement for something to do with them, but rather a full game experience which happens to include some nice accessories that happen to be useful for the advanced game, and for that alone I would feel quite a bit of good will towards this boxed set! With all the other positive elements, though, this boxed set is a definite winner.
Nice Pre-painted Plastic Miniyronimos —
I just bought a handful of these Asylum pre-painted miniatures (Vampire, Werewolf, and Goblins), and this short review refers to all of them.
Nice paint work and great sculpts. They appear to be painted Reaper Bones sculpts? They fit in perfectly alongside leading fantasy pre-painted plastic miniatures like Pathfinder miniatures and D&D Miniatures, though the coloring is quite clear and vivid compared to D&DM (which tends toward a muddy, murky appearance), and more comparable to Pathfinder miniatures.
I have no complaints about these at all.
Pathfinder Adventure Path: Rise of the Runelords Deluxe Collector's Edition (PFRPG)Paizo Inc.
Our Price: $199.99
There's not much I can add in a review that hasn't already been said by the others, except that it looks far better in person than it does in the pictures and videos.
My only possible complaint might be that the simulated edges of "pages" on the presentation box seem a bit too white, and might have used a very light stain to a colour more like aged parchment, but that's only a very, very minor nit-pick, and the case still looks great without it.
The hardware seems to be steel, and it's fastened to the cover with screws, making the construction quite sturdy. The clasp is a perfect fit - neither too loose, nor too snug.
The apparently fake leather of the box and book looks and feels quite real, and it's very soft and comfortable to the touch. This may be the nicest cover material of any book in my small collection. The spine of the box and book are textured as if the contents were bound with a heavy cord under the leather (though I don't think that's actually the case, rather just a simulation.)
The inside of the box cover seems to be a very heavy, high-quality paper, and the box itself is lined with a nice, black cloth, with a dark red ribbon which makes lifting the contents out of the box easier. The inside dimensions of the box are just right for holding your typical RPG book, or the Pathfinder DM screen and one or more Flip Maps, for example. (As others noted, if it's not holding the special edition RotRl book, it would make a fine box to store a DM's screen, dice, paper, and other such materials in.)
The book is printed in vivid colour in high-quality detail on heavy paper. This is the first time I've seen a Pathfinder adventure path of any sort, but I would have to imagine this is much higher quality printing than the original. The artwork is quite beautiful, meeting or exceeding Paizo's usual standards, the text is crisp and easy to read, and everything seems quite well-organized and easy to follow. The adventure is quite detailed (there is, perhaps, almost too much detail: the information provided is quite dense). The binding seems quite secure and well-done - this book seems to be designed for the long-haul (I can't really say the same for any of my other game books.)
The detachable hand-outs are quite a nice touch, though perhaps not really practical for real-life gaming, as I would imagine it could be quite easy to abuse the book by removing and replacing the handouts until things get dog-eared and distressed. Indeed, I would have to say that the book is best used for display as a collector-item only, rather than used on a real-world game table.
The high-quality art prints are another nice touch and could also be used as hand-outs or visual aids, though these seem more like bonus material than an integral part of the adventure path. Each print is protected in its own high-quality translucent paper (not plastic) envelope for protection, and yes the prints do seem to be nice enough to frame if you are so inclined.
I've shelved the book on my bookshelf next to the special edition of The Other Guys' fake-leather-bound special-edition 3.5E core rulebooks; the fit right in with each other, though I'd say that Paizo's product is much nicer than the Other Guys' special edition books.
The whole package seems to me to be worth the price, and I'm sure it will hold its value quite well for the future. Paizo have gone above and beyond on this product, and they've earned 5/5 stars for it.
pretty goodyronimos —
They look better in person than they do in photos, the sculpts are very nice, and the painting is easily much, much better than the pre-painted plastic iconic (and monster) minis from the "other guys'" boxed starter sets and collectible miniatures line.
I might be able to do the painting better myself, but there's no way I could mass-produce painted miniatures of this quality for only $3 each.
My first impression with Wizkids' plastic miniatures came from their "MageKnight" line, which I felt were some of the most crude pre-painted plastic miniatures I'd seen since the 1970's and 1980's (there used to be one or two companies producing cheap pre-painted green "army men" back then - a sloppy dab of flesh paint on the face, and a sloppy dab of black paint on the rifles - they were hideous.) I had low expectations for Wizkids' work on Pathfinder miniatures, but Wizkids seems to have come a long way since their MageKnight miniatures - there's no comparison between those, and these beautiful Pathfinder Beginner Boxed Set miniatures. If their other Pathfinder miniatures are anything close to this, then I would say that Wizkids have hit a home-run.
Great job :)
They be Goblins, I be fan!yronimos —
Paizo, I think, has a hit on its hands with their enchanting, unique, imaginative, and detailed take on what has traditionally been one of the weakest, most obvious, and most forgettable monsters in any fantasy RPGs. With a scary but adorable new face and a ton of personality, it seems that Goblins have become a sort of mascot for Pathfinder, and they should be!
"We Be Goblins" is an incredibly entertaining read from start to finish, and I couldn't help grinning non-stop like a kid on Christmas even after the third or fourth time I read it.
The .pdf of this adventure for Goblin PCs is currently free, but I am more than happy to pay for the print version, and just ordered it alongside "Goblins of Golarion", to go with my copy of "Classic Monsters Revisited" with its section on Goblins.
I'm now a fan of Pathfinder and Paizo based on the strength of the Goblins alone.
I would love to see further adventures built around these little critters in the future, and I think the content of "Goblins of Golarion", the Goblin chapter of "Classic Monsters Revisited", "We Be Goblins", and any other Goblin content and fiction would make a fantastic collection bound in one volume with a couple other Goblin adventures, the next time Paizo wants to print any or all of these items; I'd happily buy the collection in addition to the originals. Furthermore, I would vote in a heartbeat for Goblins supported as a core PC race in future editions of the core rulebook.
Seriously, the Goblins should get their own novels, comic books, movie series, toy line... must have more Goblins! :)
Pathfinder Chronicles: Classic Monsters Revisited (OGL)Paizo Inc.
Add PDF $12.99
Print Edition Unavailable
Required Reading for RPG Monster Book Writersyronimos —
I just got this book today, and, though it only contains 10 of the most basic and generic monsters found in any Fantasy RPG, it has leaped to an undisputed position at the top of my list of favorite monster books - nothing else comes close.
This should be required reading for writers of RPG monster book "fluff"! It seems that RPG writers have been pretty lazy about these sorts of monsters, giving a token nod to the likes of Goblins and Orcs as "oh, there's also some generic Tolkien-inspired cannon fodder... now, let's move on to some interesting stuff!" But in this book, the writers give these monsters the attention they deserve.
My favorite entries are for Goblins, Bugbears, and Ogres, which seem particularly alive and vivid as images from effective and memorable horror films, so that these monsters become unforgettable and vividly nightmarish.
This book, light on stats, would be right at home on the shelves of DMs running anything from Pathfinder or D&D (3rd and 4th), to Call of Cthulhu, and a number of these monsters can even be adapted to stories for RPGs based on Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, X-Files, and Supernatural.
This book should have been produced a long time ago, and should have been built into D&D by now :)
Very usefulyronimos —
The artwork on these is very good, and the tiles themselves are modular and can be connected to each other and to other tile sets from this and competing manufacturers quite easily, making this set very versatile and reusable.
Most of the Map Pack sets consist of large, simple single-room "set-piece" areas, but the natural cave tunnels depicted in this set include many great twists, turns, hiding places, and other nice places to explore. The tunnels themselves are quite narrow; most competing products have wide tunnels, which are great, but this set delivers something a little different, which makes it perfect for combination with other cave tile sets.
My only complaints:
1. The cardstock is somewhat thin; I guess this can't be avoided, but a competing product (Dungeon Tiles) uses a very nice, heavy cardboard (reminds me of the cover of a hardback RPG book cover); I suppose these tiles can be glued down to a heavier material to keep them from sliding and to make them more durable; I'll try that out sometime.
2. A couple of the cards are less useful than the others. A card apparently representing an outside entrance to the cave is hard to see; this isn't too big a problem. The lava area looks a bit unnatural and I will have a difficult time finding a use for it; I would rather have seen an empty room with some partial cover or movement obstructions (similar to the mushroom area); perhaps some boulders or rock formations. And the chasm and river cards cover the same ground: the chasm card could as easily depict an underground river with dark water, leaving the cards representing the river with blue water free to be replaced with more of the great tunnels.
These are small complaints, though, and the set is otherwise great.
Great wilderness mapyronimos —
This should make a splendid wilderness map! I rarely need one, but when I do, it's nice to have a pre-drawn map handy.
It should be easy to use this map to stand in for jungles, swamps, and forests. In the case of swamps and jungle, the paths can be designated as swampy water or muddy streams, or as dry paths, whatever is most useful. Having wilderness on one side and wilderness with some simple ruins on the other side is a very nice touch! A map like this can be used in a variety of situations, making it very versatile and handy to have around.
The art is, as usual for the Flip Mats, quite beautiful.
A unique and interesting mapyronimos —
I've been thinking of running a SpellJammmer-style game for a while, and I'd been thinking of drawing a map of the PC's ship until I saw this product.
What a great idea!
I, too, would have preferred cargo space rather than cannon, but it's a small gripe that can be hand-waved away with a bit of "just pretend", and the cannon should be fine if I ever run a different style of campaign in the future (at least a couple of gamers in my group have expressed interest in something with a pirate theme, for example.)
The interior views of lower decks is a fantastic idea! I wish the same design had been applied to the ships in the Map Pack as well, as those only had the upper deck to work with (it's times like this that it's a shame the Map Packs aren't double-sided; an interior and exterior view of a couple of those ships would have been great!)
The art is, as always, fantastic on this Flip Map, the plain grid of ocean on the other side is one of the few times I'm perfectly happy with a "one-sided" Flip Mat, because the "busy side" has four views of the same ship.
It misses a star only by being the sort of thing that can only be used in a few situations, but it only barely misses 5 stars.
The art on these Flip Mats is always beautiful to look at, and most of these maps are great to have around when they can be used for multiple purposes.
This map makes a great stronghold for adventurers to assault and loot, it can work as a military base, a small castle, a stronghold base for the PC's or their villain arch-nemesis, part of a dungeon, an underground dwarven hall, and lots more.
This should come in handy sometime...yronimos —
I hardly ever need to run a wilderness scene, but, since I have a difficult time drawing a convincing forest, I felt like one or two maps like this one would be handy to have around.
I have no complaints at all about it: I'm sure this will work just fine for some of the few wilderness scenes my group ever do end up in, and the Swamp flip mat will work great for the rest, in combination with one or two map packs and Dungeon Tiles sets.
I think this will be quite suitable for any purposes I'll need it for.
(And, now that I think of it, why couldn't it double as a cave?)
not a bad dungeon mapyronimos —
I like having some nice, atmospheric pre-drawn dungeons to work with, and something like this is a great way to run a quick dungeon crawl in a pinch.
The only thing keeping it from a 5-star rating is the cramped little mazes of passages going nowhere, and the shortage of rooms.
I hope to see more of these dungeon-style maps in the future, perhaps with more rooms of a slightly larger size with multiple doors: these can easily be broken down into custom rooms of appropriate sizes and shapes with a few strokes of dry-erase markers.
Another great underground mapyronimos —
A fine companion to the "Darklands" Flip Mat, and the cavern-themed Map Pack (in fact, I could easily imagine a package deal with the two Flip Mats and one or two copies of the Map Pack working quite nicely, especially if bundled with a short campaign.)
Again, dry erase markers can be used to draw in walls to add some complexity to either side of the map, and the flip-side offers a lot of room for larger-scale encounters.
I like these cavern maps a lotyronimos —
It feels a bit cramped, and I was a bit disappointed at first that there weren't many rooms and tunnels.
However, the fact that walls can be added with dry-erase marker to create complicated, twisting caves puts the map in a new light. Still feels a bit cramped on the busy side, but the flip side is sparse enough to make up for it, and dry-erase can add more complexity where needed.
I expect this will get used in a variety of different ways for my gaming group.
Could have been more useful...yronimos —
This set of map cards is a perfect example of some of my favorite complaints about so many of these Map Packs: these are flat, wide-open set-piece areas with no walls or obstacles to use for combat cover or ambushes, or to provide interesting areas for exploration, and little opportunity to link things together into a "dungeon" complex full of tunnels, rooms, and chambers.
I knew what I was getting before ordering a pack, thanks to the wonderful preview images on this site, but I didn't examine the images closely enough to notice the problems before ordering. I think I had images of claustrophobic Diablo-style hellish dungeon areas and landscapes when I ordered.
The art is, as usual, quite stunning; A+ for that.
The bridge and river should be useful to add to cavern areas, at least. It's dark enough to pass for a bottomless chasm, if needed, adding some versatility.
The flat, open spaces could work for large cavern spaces or even alien landscapes, though I think they badly need a few cavern and building walls and terrain features such as ledges and pits; this is one instance where I definitely wish the Map Packs could take dry-erase markers the way Flip Mats can, to add in architecture and other features as needed.
I might find a way to put the "hell gate" to use in horror-themed games for cultists to summon some eldritch horror through. The ice and fire pits could make some interesting set pieces, though I think I would have preferred to have seen them set in some cavernous grottoes with walls and rock formations so that they could be get double use in natural settings.
The road is something I wouldn't find much use for, sadly; I might have been happier seeing a couple of bends for the river, instead. This would be the only tile I would set aside to the "bits bin" to gather dust in this set. With some modification and imagination, I think the rest can be combined with dungeon, sewer, and cavern settings to build an Underdark or Diablo-flavored hellscape full of subterranean ruins and other creepy features to explore.
Nice collection of ships...yronimos —
My only complaint is that we only see the top deck of ships that would have internal cargo holds.
I bought these for use with a Spelljammer-style game, and perhaps a pirate-themed game in the future, and for other sea voyages or ocean adventures.
These are a wonderful companion for the fantastic ship Flip Mat, which does show all decks of a single sailing ship, and should make a fantastic centerpiece for any campaign involving ships; the flip-side of the Flip Mat is a blank ocean grid, a different shade of blue from the background of these ships and boats, but that can be forgiven.
GameMastery Map Pack: Extradimensional Spaces Print EditionPaizo Inc.
Add PDF $8.99
Interesting idea, great artwork, but...yronimos —
The artwork is beautiful and the idea is interesting, but there's not a lot that I can do with these. I'm glad I could see what I was getting before I bought these thanks to the preview images on this site: I wasn't disappointed with what I got.
I prefer modular multi-purpose cards that can be linked in a variety of ways, and which have walls and other obstacles that make them interesting for exploration or combat. These cards can be linked to larger dungeons through teleporters and dimensional gates, the elemental cards can probably double as caves in a cavern map, and the mansion would work for pretty much any sort of house, inn, guild, hideout, or front for a dungeon entrance (though it seems like one of the bedrooms should have been a kitchen.)
Unfortunately, almost all are empty single-room areas without much complicated going on for surprise encounters or cover in a fight, with the exception of the mansion, with its various rooms and furniture.
Sadly, I can't really imagine finding much use for the flat empty rope trick (which could have easily been sketched onto plain graph paper or onto the plain grid on the flip-side of a Flip Mat), or the visually stunning genie bottle; they'll get set aside with other stuff I won't be using.
GameMastery Map Pack: Ancient Forest Print EditionPaizo Inc.
Add PDF $8.99
Print Edition Unavailable
Nice outdoors tilesyronimos —
The artwork is a bit dark, but I guess it lends an appropriately gloomy atmosphere to these tiles.
This set isn't one of the more versatile Map Packs, but I'll give a 4-star rating because nearly all of these tiles should be good for multiple uses, and they appear to be modular enough to be combined in a fair number of different ways. They seem like they should be a good combination with the swamp Flip Mat.
I agree with a previous reviewer about the fairy ring, though: I can't imagine a single use for it... away to the "bits bin" with it.
I assembled the multi-part cards with masking tape; seems to be just flexible and tough enough to hold the cards together on a semi-permanent basis.
The art on these is not as nice as most of the other map packs, and these feel a bit unfinished somehow.
But, that can be forgiven because of the versatility of these sewers: these are modular, and can be arranged in a variety of ways to create a larger sewer or tunnel system.
These can easily be combined with similar dungeon-tile products from competitors, as well as any similar sets that Paizo/GameMastery (hopefully) produces in the future.
The bland artwork actually works in the favor of these tiles, as they can probably do work just as easily as the bowels of decrepit star ships in sci-fi settings such as Space Hulk, DOOM, Alien, or Star Wars, as they do for sewer systems in fantasy or modern horror settings.
This makes them much more re-usable than many of the other map pack sets. I hope to see more modular multi-use map packs in the future.
Not badyronimos —
I feel like I got exactly what I paid for with this product, and being able to see all the contents on this site before hand was a very nice touch: 2/3 of the tiles are something I could use, the last 1/3 I have no use for.
Most of the tiles look beautiful, with very nice detail.
The building interiors, forest, and swamp are great places to stage small encounters, perhaps with a villain and a couple henchmen. I'm quite satisfied with these, and they are what I bought the pack for: fairly non-specific, multi-purpose, re-usable areas to supplement WoTC "Dungeon Tiles" for use in dungeon crawls. The outdoors camps could stand in for pretty much anyone's campsite, the outpost can as easily be a farm house, bandit hide-out, hermit's shack, or last hold-out for the zombie apocalypse, the barn could do double-duty as a warehouse or blacksmith's worshop.....
I will probably never use the snow trench, desert oasis, or mushroom path, though: the art is pretty, but they are rather dull open spaces, not much in the way of walls or obstacles or anything else going on. Something like these could just as effectively have been sketched by hand in dry-erase marker on the plain side of the Flip Maps. I'll be setting these three areas aside in my "bits bin", I'm afraid; I wish a couple more shacks, caves, or dungeon-type areas could have been used in their places.