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Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: From Beyond – Aberrant Horrors
by Joe K. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/17/2010 23:27:41
Another quick monster feature from the Blackdirge with art by Jesse Mohn. If you've seen previous work in the Bestiary series, you know what you're in for. Several monsters with solid line illustrations.

This book makes an excellent companion to the Cthulhu mythos 4e book as it focuses on the monstrous entities that are from the Far Realm. Challenge ratings go from level 24, 18, 4, 9, and 13 over eight pages.

These creatures are done in a standard format with brief bits about the creature followed by lorealways a dungeoneering check in this case. Also included are tactics and encounter groups. This makes it easier to run the creatures with your own group of monsters or just use the listed encounter as is.

While its easy to go with the highest level creature as a favorite and a near campaign ender, the chaos kraken is a little too standard in its motives of using energies from the Far Realm on others to see what happens. It's a solid standard and it can be used as a method of introducing various new monsters as well as having the creature doing this in service to an even greater beast. But it's a rarity type of thing.

No, my monster pick for this book would be the Grethling. At a lowly level 4, it's found almost everywhere adventurers go, dark caverns and ancient runes, and has an interesting method of attacking the face. For its ease of use, it gets the thumbs up.

At $1.49, its hard to think of why someone wouldn't want to add Aberrant Horrors to their 4e games.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: From Beyond – Aberrant Horrors
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Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Creepy Critters – Baleful Bugs
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/07/2010 15:18:07
Like all installments in the Blackdirge's Bargain Bestiary series, "Creepy Critters: Baleful Bugs" provides DMs (of D&D 4e) with a handful of well-conceived and well-crafted creatures. Players in my home campaign should not be surprised if they find themselves confronted by one or more of these creatures in the near future.

The stat blocks for these creatures seem entirely appropriate and innovative, although the puppeteer spider's webbed marionette power, effect 1, violates (intentionally, I presume) a well-established principle in D&D 4e regarding forced movement, and I probably wouldn't use it as written. The creatures range from level 3 to level 12, so you could find something here to challenge groups from the low heroic to the low paragon tiers.

Even though each creature is presented on one page with an illustration and a full stat block, enough flavor or lore text accompanies the crunch to help DMs incorporate the new creatures smoothly into a D&D 4e setting. I could wish, however, for less repetition in the flavor text. For example, one result in the scourgetail scorpion lore table reveals that "troglodytes actually enjoy [the] vinegary stench" given off by this creature, and the short paragraph under the "Encounter Groups" heading repeats this information in almost exactly the same words. Having been told this in the lore section, readers don't need to hear it again in the encounter groups section. Most of the creature writeups in "Baleful Bugs" exhibit this sort of repetition in the "fluff," and readers may wish those precious sentences had been used to convey new information about the creatures rather than to repeat information already given.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Creepy Critters – Baleful Bugs
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Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Hybrid Horrors – Dragon-Blooded
by Joe K. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/06/2010 11:50:42
Written by Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel and illustrated by Jesse Mohn, this barbain bestiary provides four monsters to throw at your 4e campaign. Some of these are classics like the dracosilk. It's such a classic that a miniature company looking to please the old school community even made a great version of it. This one however, is a combination of green dragon, not black. Makes a nice nod to the old school version while providing a new variant.The dracosphinx is another old school variant given new 4e life. This version hailing from a red dragon father.

Jesse Mohn's art is solid line work. The exterior cover illustrations are the same as those found inside. If you like the cover, you'll enjoy the interior. The writing is solid. Rudel has done enough 4e work that, without extensive playtesting, I'm willing to throw these beasties into the mix and see what happens.

Monsters are detailed with a quick background, lore checks with appropriate skills, monster stats, and encounter groups.

Four monsters for $1.49, ready for your 4e campaign.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdirge’s Bargain Bestiaries: Hybrid Horrors – Dragon-Blooded
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Blackdirge’s Bargain Templates: Templar
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/27/2010 23:15:39
If you want to quickly add a dash of paladin-like flavor to a 4e humanoid creature without actually making the creature a paladin NPC, I can think of no better way than to apply this templar template. (However, I must confess to feeling a little silly saying "templar template," because of the phonetic repetition.) Aeryn "Blackdirge" Rudel provides here a well-balanced and perfectly appropriate suite of powers to pump a creature up to elite status and give it a "warrior sworn to the gods" feeling in the process. Blackdirge realizes that the templar creature might swear fealty to a god anywhere along spectrum from lawful good to chaotic evil, so he wisely provides radiant and necrotic alternatives so that you can match the "feel" of the template's powers and features to the deity's personality. The blackfire slayer example, a dragonborn warrior sworn to serve undead dragons, tends toward the dark end of the spectrum, while the unimaginatively-named azer templar shines a brighter light. The art by Jesse Mohn illustrates the examples perfectly. If you use the template even once, your 99¢ was well spent.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdirge’s Bargain Templates: Templar
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Blackdirge’s Bargain Templates: Templar
by Michael E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/20/2010 14:10:41
This is a great template - especially if you enjoy making holy/unholy based villains. It adds some nice powers to make it fir the "elite/leader role" and can turn even a kobold into a solid elite leader! Definitely worth the price of a Whopper Jr... for a more detailed review, check out the Neuroglyph Games Website at www.neuroglyphgames.com.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Blackdirge's Bargain Templates: Trollborn
by Michael E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/30/2009 10:40:18
This is an awesome template for making some great elite monsters from beasts and humanoids of all kinds. The template is straightforward and easy to apply to 4e creatures, especially if you are a DDI subscriber and run Adventure Tools.

You can check out a detailed review of this product at http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=982

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdirge's Bargain Templates: Trollborn
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Blackdirge’s Bargain Templates: Venomous
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/28/2009 03:01:16
In this addition to the "Blackdirge's Templates" line, Aeryn Rudel offers a straightforward and, in my judgment, well-balanced template for turning any beast, humanoid, or magical beast into a venomous version of its species. Two examples, a lizardfolk and a vrock, demonstrate effective uses of the template. I did notice a typo or two in this product, which I consider odd for a Blackdirge publication. If you want a "venomous" template, don't reinvent the wheel; buy and use this product instead.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdirge’s Bargain Templates: Venomous
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Azagar’s Artifacts: Sabre of the Horselords
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/25/2009 23:38:52
Does your 4th edition campaign world need more artifacts? If your world features horse-riding clans like the Dothraki of George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series, even in the distant past, you enjoy dropping in Aeryn "Blackdirge" Rudel's sabre of the horselords. This PDF includes not only a creatively-designed artifact, written up in perfect 4e style, but also a new weapon property used to define the artifact itself. As usual, "Blackdirge" has given scrupulous attention to detail, and this artifact should slide perfectly into any 4e campaign. My only complaint about the artifact is that DMs will need to rewrite the artifact's backstory if their campaign worlds have no "Kingdom of Othoria" or "Drugari horselords," but this is an occupational hazard with any attempt to offer plug-in artifacts for a fantasy role-playing game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Azagar’s Artifacts: Sabre of the Horselords
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Blackdirge's Bargain Bestiaries: The Created - Lesser Golems
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/27/2009 09:08:58
Blackdirge's Bargain Bestiaries: The Created - Lesser Golems is the first product in the latest new series of monster products from the creative mind of Aeryn 'Blackdirge' Rudel. This 7 page product is the first in a series of bargain bestiaries - short pdfs containing a handful of monsters for good value for money. This first instalment features five new monsters, all of them lesser golems, created creatures moulded from cheaper and more common materials than the standard high power golems. This product is suitable for use with the 4e GSL.

Despite the low price tag, the product is very neatly and professionally presented, with all the frills and features one would expect from Blackdirge Publishing. As usual, regular artist Jesse Mohn is back to illustrate all five golems, while author Aeryn Rudel creates well written descriptive text and well crafted mechanics. The format, design and layout is very good, with 5 pages out of 7 devoted to content, one page to each of the monsters in the product. Overall, very professional presentation, apart, perhaps from one or two editing errors in the stat blocks where cut and paste went awry.

Lesser golems are created creatures much like iron or stone golems, except made by those spellcasters that do not have the skill or fortune to make a more powerful or expensive golem. Nevertheless, these lesser golems function much like their more powerful cousins, and can still serve as guardians or servants to their masters and creators. The golems included in this product are the dung golem, glass golem, straw golem, wax golem and wood golem. The power levels range from 1 all the way to 10, with a good mix of creature types and roles. Not much is said about the details of creating these creatures, but it's fairly easy to come up with something suitable to enable one to offer these lesser golems to your party spellcasters. A little guidance would've been useful though.

Each monster entry in the product provides a brief paragraph or two on tactics and background, as well as skill checks required to know or learn more about these creatures. That's pretty standard fare, really, being largely based on the type of material the golem is made of, and similarly the statistics are fairly standard as well for creatures of their level and role. The product does, in my mind, an admirable job of creating a bunch of new and interesting monster abilities that are specific to these creatures and will make them more unique than just a golem with big fists. Each creature's ability entries are quite novel and more importantly useful - they're not just abilities added for ability's sake, but rather carefully crafted to fit the concept and theme of the monster. The straw golem, for example, can create an itching cloud; the dung golem a stench, and the wax golem is particularly good at disarming people.

Overall, this is the kind of pdf that you would expect from Blackdirge Publishing - good monsters, good presentation, good art, good value. The monster abilities are creative and seem fun to use, and the monsters themselves are easy to insert into any campaign. There isn't really a down side to this pdf, although the flavor is a bit on the thin side but only just. Good pdf.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdirge's Bargain Bestiaries: The Created - Lesser Golems
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Paths to Prestige: Fell Knight
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/19/2009 12:22:29
This short but beautifully-presented piece introduces the fell knight, a fallen paladin. Well... one who has turned from the light, from service to the forces of good, at any rate. He may not be strictly speaking evil, but he's no longer the shining knight he once was.

Suitable deities for a fell knight are those who have dominion over war or death, or a fell knight may have merely slipped from the high standards required of paladin-hood without actually having thrown in his lot with a fully evil god.

Many paladin powers can still be used by a fell knight, but elegant suggestions are made as to how to subtly twist them to suit his fallen state. A collection of appropriate prayers and other powers especially created for the fell knight are also available.

Characters dealt with, there is also a fell knight template which can be applied to any suitable humanoid of 11th level or above. Suggestions are made for the modification of monsters or NPCs to use this template. A fine example is also given, using an azer as the base monster. This comes complete with notes on lore and encounter groups and even a good name - he's a 'Blackfire Champion' whose dedication is to spreading darkness.

A neat and elegant adaptation of the paladin to show the potential for service to something other than good... perhaps suitable opponent for the good paladin in your party!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Paths to Prestige: Fell Knight
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Critter Encounters: Bugged Out
by Francis B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/17/2008 10:45:32
This was a very solid product, a perfect side-trek adventure or one-shot session for mid-heroic tier play. A friend of mine wanted to try the DM seat out for a night so I pulled this baby off my computer, printed off the dungeon tiles from Skeleton Key (made specifically to be used with this adventure, but they still have applications elsewhere) and we had a blast. In fact I'd say bashing in ant brains was one of the most entertaining nights we ever had playing 4th edition.

From the start with a crazy alchemist begging for your help all the way to the deadly fight with the Queen Ant this two encounter adventure is absolutely perfect for a one-night session. It took just over four hours to complete, mostly because we spent a lot of time goofing off and enjoying it.

If you ever need a short adventure, something to buy time until you finish that adventure against the dragon or whatever it happens to be and your characters happen to be between 4-6th level, this is how you are going to entertain them and still have time to work the kinks out of your own adventure. It comes with everything you need to play, including counters for the various monsters you will fight, and if you get the bundle you also have dungeon tiles that are near perfect replica's of the maps in this product.

An amazing value and hopefully they will continue to put out more side-trek adventures a niche that is sorely lacking in Dungeon these days.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Critter Encounters: Bugged Out
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review; I'm glad you and your group had a good time with the adventure. There are more Critter Encounters and Critter Encounter Tiles on the way. =]
Master at Arms: Glaive Knight
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2008 15:54:13
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Blackdirge’s products. However, up until now I’ve never reviewed any of his Master at Arms series of PDFs. My reason for doing so was that I didn’t think I’d be that interested in the topic covered under that line. After all, new prestige classes rarely impress me, given how many of them are already out there. And the idea of a prestige class, even a short one, dedicated to a single specific weapon just seemed too narrowly focused. Does anyone really want to dedicate their hard-earned levels to mastering a relatively-obscure weapon? However, despite my hesitancy, I decided to take a chance on the Master at Arms line, thinking I’d give one of my favorite d20 designers the benefit of the doubt.

Blackdirge, I was wrong to doubt you.

Before I go over the meat of the book, let’s have a quick overview. The PDF is nine pages long, including a cover, credits page, and the OGL. Despite the product’s brevity, there are bookmarks to the various sections, which I consider to be a nice touch. The cover is the only full-color artwork in the book, showcasing one of the few interior pieces which are black and white.

As with others in the line, the book (in a manner I found to be both amusing and insightful) lists the weapon this product is about at the beginning of the text. Following this, the author talks about the weapon from a historical perspective, his design notes on making the PrC, and a brief class overview. While brief (only a little more than a page altogether), I was surprised to find just how much I enjoyed reading these opening sections. The writing here is nicely conversational, and presents some interesting insight and commentary regarding how the weapon was used and perceived in its day, as well as the process for how the class abilities were developed.

The prestige class itself is fairly short, as all prestige classes in this series are five levels in length. A few of the class abilities are used with an ally, making this something of a team-based PrC, though there are still offensive powers to deal greater damage. Interestingly, there’s also a power based around withdrawal, a combat option I’d almost forgotten about in the d20 system. A bonus we get is that there are also two new weapons here, though both are variants on the glaive – the naginata is more likely to score a critical, but deals less damage when it does so, whereas the guan dao does more damage than its sister weapons, and gives a bonus to disarm attempts, but is an exotic weapon.

The book closes out with an example NPC with levels in this class. Not just a set of stats, this character is presented with a backstory as well as tactics in combat. Interesting to note is that one of the class powers is in regards to the space a character occupies, and since the NPC is Large-size, it’s informative that the class power in his write-up accommodates this.

Overall, I found myself quite enamored of what’s presented here. The background flavor for the weapon and the design notes were more interesting than I would have thought, the class offered interesting and attractive abilities, and there are two new weapons for characters to use. Even if you don’t think this sort of book is your cup of tea, I bet you’ll find something here that you’ll enjoy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Master at Arms: Glaive Knight
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Publisher Reply:
Well, it's about time you reviewed some of these. =] Thanks for the nice reiew, and I'm glad you enjoyed the Glaive Knight.
Blackdyrge's Portfolio: Warriors I
by Julie D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/06/2008 19:08:14
Nice collection of line art. Four of the six pieces are engaging action scenes that will work well in a variety of projects.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Portfolio: Warriors I
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Blackdyrge's Portfolio: Elves I
by Julie D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/03/2008 13:52:34
Nice collection of elf art for character sketches, and I picked this up on sale so I can't complain about the price. I wish they were separate images instead of all on one PDF, as it would be easier to use them.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Portfolio: Elves I
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Publisher Reply:
Hi Julie. Your download should have come with a zipped file containing the individual peices of art. I just checked, and it seems the file is still attached to the download. However, if you still can't get the zipped file, email me (blackdirge@hotmail.com), and I'll send it along. Aeryn
Blackdyrge's Bits & Pieces: Weapons of Synergy
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/06/2008 13:21:43
Blackdyrge’s Bits and Pieces: Weapons of Synergy written by Aeryn Rudel and published by Blackdirge Publishing. It is the first of the Bits and Piece series that will look at various ideas for D&D/D20 fantasy and play with them. This product is 8-pages (6-pages after cover and OGL) with a clean layout and a limited amount of black and white art.

The product deals with a new class of magical weapon quality, synergy qualities, which have a basic ability and then a secondary ability that is usable by those with the proper feat. There are
twelve new qualities and three named weapons that make use of them (each of which is illustrated).

Example qualities are: Deft, which allows high Dexterity wielder to gain additional advantage when using it and even more if they have the Weapon Finesse feat. Saddlescorge which gives an advantage to mounted attackers and an additional bonus if they posses the Mounted Combat feat.
The three named weapons are:

• Addertongue, an elven rapier suited to those who master a flashing and flamboyant style of swordplay.
• Blackguard’s Bane, for the mounted Paladin or holy warrior.
• Goretooth, an evil -as one could guess from the name- and intelligent spear well made for a villain.

Like all of the Blackdyrge books this is well written and shows Rudel’s mastery of the D20 rules. It provides interesting options as well as ways to reward certain types of character builds. All in all Weapons of Synergy is a useful addition to a DM’s library.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Bits & Pieces: Weapons of Synergy
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