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Kos City (Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting)
by Benoist P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2013 17:28:09
I am very impressed reading through the Swords of Kos Campaign Setting material. It comprises two volumes as of this writing: Kos City, which describes the urban environment that has been built upon and developed throughout a variety of gaming and fiction products released by Skirmisher Publishing LLC over time, and the Lands Beyond Kos detailing the surrounding regions, most of which are located around the Mediterranean sea in this fantasy Bronze Age/Medievalish Magical alternate world of theirs.

The first thing I should note is that these products are completely free of system-specific descriptions, a fact which sometimes goes against the nature of the setting or scenario described, but which in this case I feel is a strong component of its appeal, particularly when paired with its generic yet specific (mostly because of its alternate history type fantasy with a strong helping of Classical and Ancient history you don't see that often in game products) appeal as a setting. Because of these Classical influences, I think the whole of the setting would work admirably well with game systems such as Original and Advanced D&D, Mythus Prime, RuneQuest II, III and 6, and the like.

The second thing that I should say is that I like the description format a lot. I am going to get back to Lands Beyond Kos later probably and use Kos City as my primary example: fundamentally, Kos City as a game product is a map that comes along with a short history of the place and the world around summarized in a few pages. On this map, and this loose yet (again) specific and very flavorful description of the setting, is grafted the real meat of the product, which comes in the form of 50 specific locations spread across town, from the chariot race tracks to the harbor to the training halls and restaurants, the cemeteries and jails of the city, you actually get a pretty good idea of the way the whole of the city works with just those few locations, which is a way to approach such a complex gaming environment that is both word-count effective, and somewhat liberating to one's own imagination at the same time, all the time providing a wealth of detail which could be used in any number of ways by any referee worthy of the name.

What I mean by this is that the locations, plots, factions could be just as well inserted in your games using Villenor, the City State of the Invicible Overlord, Ptolus, Waterdeep, Laelith or whatever other fantasy urban setting of your choice. I think Kos City is a coherent whole that deserves to be gamed on its own merits as such, but assuming you would not like the setting described, there is much detail included which could be dropped into another city without too much work, which in itself, I think, should be a win for any GM out there, especially considering the price of the PDF. The added bonus is that it doesn't take hundreds upon hundreds of pages to get there, and that you can basically switch from one place to the next in the book however you want, opening it at random, and picking up a nugget or scenario idea wherever it lies without having to do much flipping through the contents, since ideas abound, wherever you look.

I was expecting to dislike the map of the city but ended up liking it very much. I would love to see a version without the district coloring, and perhaps a full color version one day, who knows? My only real criticism is that some locations could have used floor plans, though I understand the rationale in not including them at all, since it leaves room for the GM's imagination to do his own thing with each of them.

A last thing I want to mention is that Michael O. Varhola, one of the main contributors to the Swords of Kos campaign setting, has been working with us at GP Adventures on the Crossroads to Adventure game books series taking place in the world around The Hobby Shop Dungeon ( https://www.facebook.com/hobbyshopdungeon ).

What struck me immediately reading through the Swords of Kos material is some of the similarities between our Duinnsmere area and the fantasy milieu described in the SoK Campaign Setting, including a fanciful distortion of historical references for fantasy's sake, and a work ethic very clearly aimed at creating material meant to be played at an actual game table, and not merely enjoyed from afar. I don't mean to say that one setting would be based off one another: This isn't the case at all. It is just that these similarities of colors and inspirations reflect the workings of kindred spirits apprehending fantasy and the construction of a milieu useful for others to play in comparable, yet different ways. It would be very interesting to run a campaign in which these worlds acted as alternate dimensions of each other, perhaps at different points of the chronology one could fathom construing each as a shade of a quintessential Prima Terra somewhere.

In any case. Kos City is a solid, gameable product that will be useful to anyone running urban areas in his or her campaigns. The Lands Beyond Kos I shall get back to, for I believe they deserve their own specific review. This stuff is worth getting into! I want print copies, now! - BP

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kos City (Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting)
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The Jester Dragon's Random Tavern Generator
by Heath F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2013 15:06:54
When it comes to Random Tables, I usually have to wade through them to;
A) make sure that they are geographically appropriate to the campaign setting at the time and
B) make sure that they are not contrary to campaign material (ie, if you say that the world is low magic and the random encounter is a highly magical creature).

Skirmisher's "The Jester Dragon's Random Tavern Generator" is as it advertises, that is to say; a random tavern generator.
It covers the essential topics of a good tavern and allows for tweaking the fun little things.
If you don't need a table within the generator, don't use it.
If you already want to use a particular predetermined NPC or encounter in the tavern, the generator is incredibly flexible so that you can insert your data.

It is complete in its simplicity, allowing you the GM to set the scene, tailor the small details and let the adventure hooks begin!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Jester Dragon's Random Tavern Generator
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Game Retailer Guide
by Andrew B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/23/2013 12:40:20
Having been following his blog for many months on my own quest to open a game store, it made total sense to purchase his book. I haven't been disappointed. The broad range of topics discussed give me a great idea of what I need to tackle, which is a lot. Each topic is broken down and explained at length. There are a multitude of things to think about and plan for when opening up a store, far more than I even thought of. For anyone planning on taking the plunge, or even if you're a little more than casually interested, this book is a must read.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Game Retailer Guide
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The Jester Dragon's Random Tavern Generator
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/22/2013 10:53:43
A handy set of random tables that you can use whenever the party gets a thirst on, to enhance your alternate reality by giving them a proper drinking experience rather than a bland "You get some ales" and move on.

The first table is a combined one: roll percentage dice twice to determine a convincing name for a tavern whenever the party declares that they are looking for one. Some combinations will work better than others, but even if you are good at coming up with names on the fly this can be helpful especially if your characters are getting suspicious about finding a Sword and Board and The Broad Face (two tavern names I use quite often) in every settlement they visit!

Next is a table to determine the primary clientele, and this is followed by one with the intriguing title of 'Tavern is fresh out of...' You may prefer just to select whatever it is your adventurers (particularly the grumpy ones) like to order, else get your bones out and roll. The results offered are quite broad, so you may wish to use this table with caution - inns that are regularly out of essentials like ale do not keep their customers for long.

And so it goes on with further tables for Barkeep's Attitude, The Mysterious Person Drinking Alone in a Corner, The Facilities are a... (very useful for those who like an air of realism, if not a miasma in the privy - this has a subtable to determine how clean the rest facilities are), and for those who want more entertainment there are tables for games played in the establishment and that evening's live entertainment.

There's even a table for likely consequences for those who have a bit too much to drink; whilst you can also find out the name of the house drink, the atmosphere of the place, what accommodations are available and even which section of the community is not welcome at the tavern.

Overall very handy, generating enough for you to create a realistic establishment literally as the characters ride into town declaring that they need a drink!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Jester Dragon's Random Tavern Generator
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City Builder Volume 1: Communities
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/16/2013 08:58:44
This 31 page book (plus OGL, cover page, etc.) describes communities in standard fantasy settings, ranging from temporary labour encampments to metropolises - although the focus is mainly on cities. While I was rather less impressed with later volumes in the series, this first one is particularly good.

It opens with a general description of communities of various sizes, and how they might be affected by non-human populations and the like. Much of this is generic, but it seems well-researched, and provides a solid base to deviate from if your setting has particularly unusual features. This is followed by a brief look at common building types, and some more detailed examination of urban fortifications, law enforcement, and street lighting (or the lack thereof). There's also discussion of moving about in cities, addressing such things as rooftop chases and sewer delving - a staple in urban RPG settings.

Finally, there is a rather good 6-page section on civic disasters, covering things like flood, fire, famine, and plague. Any of these can radically upset a city and the lives of anyone resident within, and they can make dramatic backdrops for adventures, or just a sense of living in a real world. Again, a lot of this is well thought out.

The artwork is good, although some might want to note that 8 of the pages (a quarter of the total) are art-only, so that the text portion of the book is shorter than you might expect. What remains, though, is well worth the price.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Builder Volume 1: Communities
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Game Retailer Guide
by Muzaffer B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2013 00:54:24
If you're thinking about running your own gaming store, then you need to read this book. Period.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Game Retailer Guide
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Game Retailer Guide
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/23/2013 12:57:37
If you have ever thought that you'd like to make your living selling the games you love, this book gives the low-down on how to set up a bricks-and-mortar game store and run it effectively. It's no guarantee of success, of course, but it is full of considered and thoughtful advice from initial thoughts to opening your doors and conducting business.

It is quite biased towards someone opening a game store in the United States, if you live elsewhere ensure that you understand - in particular - the relevant laws in your country and especially the laws of contract for things like leasing or purchasing your premises. Even if you are in the USA, get professional advice. There's no substitute... but this book will equip you with the basic knowledge and enable you to ask the right questions of any advisors you retain.

Just about everything is covered. Store location. Layout. To have a gaming area or not. Internal and external signage. And the things you might not know you need to consider, like competitive analysis, and strategies for making your store stand out from the competition. Precisely what to stock and how to promote it. The 'other stuff' that you might also sell - fiction, replica weapons, food and drink, artwork.

And then there's the website, and do you want to offer an online option? Now here I speak with some knowledge, I teach an undergraduate course on business skills for e-commerce. It's only a short section - this book is about running a games store, not a website - but the material here is sound.

Next comes marketing and advertising. No use having a wonderful store if nobody knows about it. Then the all-important pricing strategy. Do you discount, and if so by how much and on what product? Worked examples give you the information you need to decide... and there are no right or wrong answers, here or anywhere else. The whole book is about the options available and empowering you to make choices that will work for the sort of business you have in mind.

With any business venture, success cannot be guaranteed, and however much good advice you receive, it's ultimately up to you to make a go of it. However, being primed with solid no-nonsense information about the specific enterprise you want to embark in will stand you in good stead: and that's what prospective game store owners will find in these pages.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
City Builder Volume 2: Craftsman Places
by Roger N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/14/2013 14:18:44
For anyone doing any sort of world building centred around cities, towns etc this whole series is very useful.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Builder Volume 2: Craftsman Places
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City Builder Volume 3: Entertainment Places
by Roger N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/14/2013 14:18:26
For anyone doing any sort of world building centred around cities, towns etc this whole series is very useful.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Builder Volume 3: Entertainment Places
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City Builder Volume 1: Communities
by Roger N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/14/2013 14:18:00
For anyone doing any sort of world building centred around cities, towns etc this whole series is very useful.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Builder Volume 1: Communities
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Sex Cult of Cthulhu (Cardstock Characters™)
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/14/2013 07:49:53
Secret cults with exotic practices have long formed a staple element in roleplaying games and tabletop figure wargames of the more imaginative sort. Cast figures to represent cult members and their victims too have been around since the early days of RPGs, but for some reason paper minis seem to have lagged far behind in this respect. This small set from Skirmisher is one of the few exceptions, although it concentrates exclusively on, mostly naked, human women, drawn in the company's signature style, bold and somewhat cartoon-like.

Given its mildly salacious title, you might expect there to be some male figures too, perhaps some fish-men or man-frogs, but the closest things to anything male are the two identical, if differently-sized, standing stone pieces, carved with mystic runes and an octopus design, and which, like many standing stones, might be thought to have a phallic dimension. This seems something of a missed opportunity, particularly given the general inventiveness shown by this and other Skirmisher paper miniature sets. Even so, the eight cultist figures here make a useful "inner cabal" caught in mid-ceremony.

The full group of minis is available in colour and black-and-white versions in the PDF file, the black-and-white pieces allowing for some hand-drawn customisation, not merely in terms of colouring, but also affording an opportunity to add clothes, fresh weapons or other features as preferred. Although giving quite some extra work to achieve, this does increase the set's potential.

Construction is straightforward, either as flat, inverted "T"-shapes, following the enclosed instructions, or recutting the bases to form triangular "A"-frame standees instead. Full back and front artwork is provided for all except the three "magic circles", which are identical, flat, square counters in two sizes. One of the two smaller rings has a spreadeagled, naked victim tied face-up to it. These circles would benefit from some background surface texture, as like the "T"-form figure bases, they are plain white otherwise. While this might be added by hand with paint or felt pens, there is much very fine detail on the intricate circle designs which could be lost easily in doing so, so the absence of options for printed texturing here appears rather an oversight.

As seems uncomfortably standard with the Skirmisher line of minis, an "actual size" printout gets you standing female humans upwards of 40mm tall, much too big to fit with other typical 28/30mm figures and scale terrain, so some experimental resizing will be needed in such cases. Again, something of an oversight in the layout.

Looking at the care involved in the artwork, it's clear this set wasn't intended simply as a throwaway one-line joke. Give the cultists some powerful magics, and your players won't think so either!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sex Cult of Cthulhu (Cardstock Characters™)
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Forbidden Monsters of Foree: Brainlashers (Cardstock CharactersTM)
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/30/2013 07:16:16
An interesting small set of paper miniatures from Skirmisher, which might be imagined as "purple people-eaters", since they're all purple-skinned and you probably wouldn't want to get too close to any! There are seven figures, four "normal"-sized humanoids, each with an octopoid head, a larger humanoid form mostly drawn like the convoluted contours of a brain, with tentacle hands and feet, a four-tentacled "land octopus" with a brain-contoured head/body, and a larger worm-like creature with four head tentacles surrounding its mouth.

Mental powers are shown on two of the humanoids as misty green shapes by their heads, while the mage has conjured a small blue crystal-shaped object in the air by its head. The two more physically combative humanoids have green metal weapons, seeming to hint at magical or psionic power in them as well. These weapons and the mage's staff are repeated as separate counters, and on a larger counter showing the complete set together.

The artwork is in Skirmisher's usual bold, comic-book style, somewhat cartoonish, leading to clean, clear printouts, and the figures can be constructed as flat inverted "T"-shapes, as per the instructions, or with their bases recut in "A"-frame standee form. If left intact, the "T"-style bases are plain white, as is the background to the four counters. Some layer options in the PDF file would have been welcome here, to add suitable base textures for these, as they can be quite jarring when used with printout 2D and 3D paper terrain. Or perhaps break out the felt-tip pens to colour them by hand.

Sadly, as also seems typical with many of Skirmisher's paper minis that I've made-up, there are some minor technical problems. An "actual size" printout produces the smaller humanoids as too tall to comfortably fit alongside most other 28/30mm scale figures and models, so will need resizing. Best to try a draft-quality greyscale test print on ordinary paper first, I found. However, you'll find that because the rogue/assassin figure has a cloud of green psionic power trails above its head, this drawing has been reduced in size to still fit the whole image into the same-height rectangle as the remaining humanoids, so ends up looking under-sized this way! This is OK to a point, as a successful rogue/assassin might need to hide in small spaces after all...

More troublesome is the mage, whose staff is held at an angle, and one side of the figure's background panel has been sloped out towards the top of the figure to accommodate this. When stood upright in either a "T" or "A" format, this makes it unbalanced, so even if you normally don't bother, this figure would benefit from having a small weight added to its base. The end of the mage's trailing robe has been cut off too, and as there was ample space on the printed page, I'm not sure why this figure's outline "box" couldn't have been made a little larger and properly rectangular like the others.

Overall, these aspects are not major, but do suggest a lack of care in the final layout. That's disappointing as these are good minis otherwise, which sparked ideas for me in how they might be employed in scenarios, and showing the kind of creativeness with an unusual group of creatures of the sort it would be excellent to see more often.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Monsters of Foree: Brainlashers (Cardstock CharactersTM)
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Forbidden Monsters of Foree: Wan-Ti Snakemen (Cardstock Characters™)
by Alastair M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/23/2013 09:26:37
Unusual paper miniatures are always welcome to me, perhaps sparking fresh scenario ideas, or simply filling an empty niche in my imagined fantasy worlds. I found the Wan-Ti Snakemen set did both, as I discovered it while preparing a 3D paper "lost temple" in a jungle setting, for which the more humanoid figures seemed ideal, while the larger snake-bodied demi-humanoids opened up options for serpent deities and inner sanctum guards.

The artwork has quite bold, simple, comic-book lines and colours, in a somewhat cartoon style, which fits well with many other paper minis currently available, and prints out crisply from my experience. Although from the instructions provided, it's intended the fronts and backs of individual figures should be folded over and glued together as stand-up inverted "T" shapes, the base panels can be easily recut to form them into "A"-frame standee shapes instead, without necessarily gluing them at all. This latter also means you don't end up with plain white bases. Note that some of the figures have fine edge detail and there are no thick black outlines, so if you like to cut away the blank background around your flat and "T"-style paper figures, you'll have problems with these. With care, a thicker black border could be added by hand, though I haven't tried, so can't be sure the figure backs and fronts match up perfectly enough for such close cutting to be practical.

There are some minor technical issues too. The three largest miniatures have a small discrepancy in the heights of their front and back panels - around two to three millimetres. This may not sound much, but it's enough to prevent the base score and fold lines from matching up, so measure and check before you score them to prevent the finished figures falling over.

More annoyingly, while billed as compatible with 25/30mm scale minis, an "actual size" print of the PDF pages came out with the smaller human-sized figure panels a whopping 40mm tall! While all these panels are larger than the figures they contain, so could be partly cut away to reduce this unwanted gigantism, even the smallest artwork figure, a female humanoid rogue, not fully upright, was about 33mm tall foot to crown. So if, like me, you need these pieces closer to other 28/30mm figures and scale 3D models, you'll need to resize the smaller figures at least before printing them.

As it is, this is a nicely inventive set of minis. With the technical issues addressed to prevent quite so much unnecessary work, it would be better, and better still if there were some base textures added, perhaps by introducing some optional layers in the PDF file.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Monsters of Foree: Wan-Ti Snakemen (Cardstock Characters™)
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The Jester Dragon's Guide to Defects
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/03/2013 21:04:58
I absolutely adore this source book! It offers a fun addition to any D20 system by giving you the option to add some really great quirks to your character. Said quirks not only make your character more interesting, they can also make playing your character more challenging! Just imagine playing a DnD Fighter who's Allergic to Magic or a Star Wars Jedi who's a Bot Hater. The Jester Dragon's Guide to Defects even includes some excellent metagame defects like Curses Fate or Existentially Ignorant which will affect the player instead of the character!

Regardless of what type of D20 game you're playing, you'll find many defects within this book that you can use. It spans literally all of the game genres available. On top of having all of these great quirks to choose from, the book is also wonderfully illustrated. The comical depictions of many of the defects will keep you highly amused as you read through this fantastic guide!

If you're looking for a way to add some more laughs to your game, the Jester Dragon's Guide to Defects is the way to go!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Jester Dragon's Guide to Defects
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Castle Builder Volume 4: Towers
by Diana L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/25/2013 16:14:36
In the fourth installment of his ten-volume work "Castle Builder," Richard T. Balsley leaves no stone unturned as he writes about towers and their construction. Not only is he thorough in the construction, uses, costs, strengths, and weaknesses of this type of stronghold, but he really does it with a lot of flair. It's clear that he is well-read, and he incorporates many examples of the use of towers from various genres of literature (including fairy-tale and fantasy genres), myths, and so much more.

This volume is such a quick read. I think in part that is due to his wit and style. This book is very informative and useful, but I have to say that the description of the wizard in his tower is alone worth the purchase and the read. I laughed so much and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Nicely done, Richard. I definitely hope "Al" makes an appearance in more of your work!

"Castle Builder Volume 4: Towers" also made me rethink the use of towers, meaning it opened my eyes to uses, layouts, etc. that I had not considered before. I highly recommend this item.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 4: Towers
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