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Blackdyrge's Templates: Roguish
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/18/2007 14:49:58
Blackdyrge’s Templates: Roguish is the next in the line of “synergy” templates, as explored by the undead beastographer, Blackdyrge. Much like its previous version, this template adds inherent rogue-like abilities to a creature, which then become more powerful if it also has rogue levels.

The zipped file is just over four-and-a-half megabytes in size, containing just the single PDF of the product, which is seven pages long. Full bookmarks are also present. The only full color art is on the cover, with the interior illustrations (of the example monsters) being black and white.

After Blackdyrge’s rather amusing introduction, we get right to the meat of the template itself. Though rogues aren’t known for being combat powerhouses, the Roguish template seems to add a surprising amount of benefits, making the base creature gain not-inconsiderable power. Further, if it has five or more levels in the rogue class, all of these powers receive a boost, further raising the base creature’s CR. The two base creatures are a bugbear with this template and only two class levels, and a derro with this template and a dozen class levels, allowing him to access the template’s greater powers.

As with the previous template in this series (and likely the future ones as well) the major strength of this template is how it functions as an “and” as well as “or” template. That is, you can use this template if you want to just give a monster rogue-like powers without going through the process of having to add class levels (and their attendant baggage) to it. Alternately, if you want to enhance a monster that already has rogue levels, this template will do that as well, adding powers no normal rogue has. The best of both worlds are present here, making this template, like its predecessor, very useful.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Roguish
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Blackdyrge's Templates: Moldering
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/18/2007 14:37:24
Blackdyrge’s Templates: Moldering continues the line of single-template products as presented by the undead monstrozoologist, Blackdyrge. In this case, he uncovers a template wherein certain spores, molds, and fungi form a (somewhat) symbiotic relationship with plant monsters.

The zipped file for the book is a bit over four megabytes, and contains just the single PDF, which is ten pages long. Despite the brevity, it has full bookmarks to make navigation easier. The cover is the only instance of full color art, with the remainder being black and white depictions of the two example monsters.

The Moldering template has a bit more variety than most. Though it can only be added to plant creatures, the template’s special attacks and qualities vary depending on what exactly is infecting it: brown mold, yellow mold, or green slime. Each one changes exactly what powers the base plant gains, though most of the other alterations are static regardless of what the infection is. Note that, while none of these are true parasites, they do tend to harm their host somewhat. Two example creatures are given, one with a low CR and another with a high one. The first is a shambling mound infected with brown mold, while the second creature is an advanced tendriculos that is host to green slime.

I personally found this template to be very well done. The versatility of it having three variations, along with it being one of the few templates out there for plant creatures, make it quite noteworthy. If you’re tired of your plant monsters only getting some variety by being celestial or having a few druid levels, you need to check out what the Moldering template can do for them.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Moldering
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Master at Arms: Legionnaire
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/14/2007 05:11:36
Master at Arms: Legionnaire is a short 8 page d20 pdf and the 14th product in Blackdirge Publishing's Master at Arms series. Each product in the series focuses on a specific weapon and builds a prestige class, often with historical background, based on the use of that weapon. This product takes a look at the short sword, and in particular the quintessential historical wielder of the short sword or gladius, the Roman legionnaire. This product is compatible with the revised d20 core rules.

Master at Arms: Legionnaire follows the standard format of all the products in the series, coming with a standard cover including some good art by Jesse Mohn. The same art is also used once as interior art, amongst a few minor pieces that are largely standard to the format of the series. Like all the products in this series, the product is professionally presented, with good layout, editing, writing and general organisation. The mechanics is strong, and there are some useful design notes included to detail the origin of most of the mechanics and tie it in nicely with the historical background presented. Overall, another splendid presentation job from Blackdirge Publishing.

This product presents a new prestige class built around the short sword. In this instance, the prestige class is the legionnaire, a wielder of the gladius which is akin to the short sword as a stabbing sword. The legionnaire is one of the more famous warriors of the ancient world, renowned for combat prowess, discipline, endurance, will, and superior equipment and tactics. The legionnaire was one of the key features of the Roman Empire that allowed the empire to conquer vast territory during its prime.

The product starts with a brief introduction to the history of the legionnaire, by describing weapons, tactics and features of this superior infantry warrior. This gives a good, albeit short, and very useful overview of the legendary legionnaire, allowing those unfamiliar with this Roman warrior to place the prestige class into perspective and add some flavor. The legionnaire prestige class, like other classes in this series, is built to follow the historical character fairly well. It encompasses aspects of the Roman warrior well, for example, endurance (Endurance feat requirement and the ability to improve carrying capacity), discipline (Iron Will feat, and an ability that allows the warrior to resist certain effects), combat proficiency (a range of good abilities and feats), and versatility (by including Profession (soldier) as a required skill).

As a warrior focused on the short sword the class gains improved ability with its use in the form of feats, synergy abilities with the fighter class, and several new abilities that make short stabbing and piercing thrusts with the short sword much more deadly. The prestige class fights effectively with shield and short sword against two-handed weapon wielders, and can deliver very deadly blows to the body. The class is well built with good flavor, and forms an interesting and balanced representation of the Roman legionnaire. I wasn't particularly fond of one or two of the mechanics, but that's largely because of the massive damage mechanic used that gets slightly modified for one of the legionnaire's abilities.

As per usual, the last part of the pdf details a new NPC that uses this prestige class, in this instance a fiendish character with devil ancestry. The write-up is as usual excellent, with good background and flavor and strong mechanical exposition. The NPC will make a useful and interesting villain or even ally for a d20 fantasy campaign.

Overall, I liked this product. It provides a flavorful and useful class that builds strongly on the historical basis for the Roman Legionnaire. The prestige class will fit in well with an organised military unit that forms part of a larger campaign world. Whether this concept should've been built as a base class rather than a prestige class is a matter for debate, particularly given that the legionnaire in most fantasy games will be a commander type (higher level, given the entry requirements) rather than an infantry and to a certain extent disposable warrior. The NPC is very good, and something that I can see easily being used in many games. Very good product, once again from Blackdirge Games.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Master at Arms: Legionnaire
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for another nice review. I really wish I could have included more historical info on the Roman legionnaire, as history is fairly bursting with information on the subject, but in the end I had to resign myself to cover only the main points, basically arms and armor. And what's funny, this intro still ended up being the longest one in the entire series.
None so Vile - Disciples of Darkness IV: Doomsayer
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2007 09:22:14
Blackdirge Publishing seeks to prove that the spoken word is far more horrid than a sharpened weapon with the latest in their None So Vile series. None So Vile: Disciples of Darkeness IV: Doomsayer, is not the best in the series, but holds its own as another twisted prestige class to create a dark villain. As usual, the exceptional polish and creativity of the publication excel at creating the creepy vibe the publishers entended.

Doomsayer’s are the evil high priests of dark religions. They set aside their mace and shield to spew rhetoric so evil that it harms their opponents and strengthens their followers. The PDF is 14 pages long and very meaty for a PDF. The nuts and bolts of the class takes up the first 6 pages with the remainder of the book focused on the flavor of the class. Knowing the tactics of the class as well as its layers and tendancies is a nice touch and helps further integrate it into a campaign. Reading the material you can walk away with a nice little mini adventure in your head. If you do not, there is a mini encounter towards the last few pages that include an NPC and a side track for your PCs. Its amazing how many prestige class books do not include a sample NPC, so it is refreshing that Blackdirge did. However, because of the low level the prestige class starts, it would have been nicer to have a lower level NPC included.

The cleric class is pretty much the only class worth prestiging into the Doomsayer. The Evil clerics can start taking levels as early as 5th level if designed correctly. Doomsayer’s abilities early in the class are very nicely named, but are simply allotments of various evil spells we have seen before. The class does pick up later with two fairly creative powers, the Unholy Dictum and the Legendary blasphemer.

For the DM
Haunt your pcs with Legendary Blasphemer. This spells makes a nice little additional modification to blasphemy spells cast that really empowers the effect. A cursed little effect to pull on a midlevel party.

The Iron Word
Many of the class abilities are renamed but seen before powers. However, the flavor and additional material of Doomsayer really adds a lot more value to the book. If you want to add a little bit of flavor to a cleric, the Doomsayer is the different route you should take.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
None so Vile - Disciples of Darkness IV: Doomsayer
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the nice review. I'm glad the "creepy" flavor came through loud and clear. That's the biggest challenge in writing these things. It's not terribly difficult to create an "evil" prestige class or NPC, but "vile" carries with it a whole different connotation, and that can be hard to pull off convincingly.
Blackdyrge's Templates: Martial
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2007 14:44:27
Blackdyrge’s Templates: Martial is a short d20 monster book from Blackdirge Publishing. The zipped file is just over four megabytes, and contains a single PDF of the product. It’s nine pages long, including the cover, the credits/legal, and the OGL. Full bookmarks are present.

As with all of the Bestiaries, the only color artwork here is on the front cover. Beyond that, the remainder of the art is for the two example monsters presented. Borders with information about the book itself line the top and bottom of every page. If you elect not to print the cover, then there shouldn’t be any major problems with printing this book.

The Martial template is the first in a “synergy” template, which is basically meant to add the basic abilities of a class onto a monster; naturally, this one is for the Fighter. Now, going off of that idea alone, you may be tempted to overlook this template based on the idea that you can just drop class levels onto a monster and be done with it. However, this template actually works with that idea; several of its special powers are augmented if the base creature has levels in Fighter. In this way, the Martial template can serve to either strengthen your monsters in place of adding class levels (if you’re pressed for time, this is certainly faster than going through and adding skill points, hit points, etc.), or it can be used to augment them. The versatility factor is high here.

Fans of this series of Bestiaries will be pleased with an easter egg tossed in to Blackdyrge’s opening entry, as he mentions the outcast elder devil Vexicus, from the Elder Fiend template. As usual, his writings set the tone for what example monsters are showcased. Here, we have martial barbed devils (CR 6) and the celestial eradicator (a martial hound archon fighter 10; CR 16). These nicely showcase using the template by itself to make your creatures stronger, or using it in conjunction with Fighter levels.

My only real complaint with this template is that, in terms of synergizing with class levels, it seems too narrowly restricted. “Martial” is a fairly broad category, so why do only Fighter levels warrant additional special powers? Why not levels in Barbarian, Paladin, or Ranger? This is easily house-ruled, of course, but it would have been a bit more useful if it didn’t have to be. I hope that the templates for arcane and divine spellcasters won’t be similarly restricted to wizards and clerics.

That’s an altogether minor complaint, however. The Martial template on its own works great, whether you want to just add a bit more power to your creatures, or want their Fighter levels to pay off even more. This template is elegant in its simplicity, and is sure to pay off quite well with the monsters in your games. I heartily recommend making your creatures a bit more Martial.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Martial
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the great review. Your point about the martial template not applying to other "martial" classes is certainly valid; however, I plan to make a synergistic template for all the base classes, or at least all the ones that survive 4E. So, for example, there will be a barbarous template, which will preserve the individual flavor of the barbarian, rather than simply lumping it in with the martial template.
Blackdyrge's Templates: Elemental Exemplar
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2007 14:25:38
Blackdirge’s Templates: Elemental Exemplar is a short monster book from Blackdirge Publishing. The zipped file contains a single PDF of the product, which is sixteen pages long, including the cover, the credits/legal page, and the OGL. Full bookmarks are included.

The cover is the only instance of full color artwork. All of the remaining art is black and white. Each example creature has a piece of art depicting it in all its elemental glory. Borders run along the top and bottom of every page, listing information about the product. Altogether, there’s little loss in not having a printer-friendly version, as most printers should be able to handle the graphics here.

Blackdirge’s opening tells of his recent travels to the Inner Planes, where he witnessed several elemental creatures that were stronger than normal for their kind. Thus, he brings us the Elemental Exemplar template. This is a single template, with different powers depending on what element you use; there are five altogether, air, cold, earth, fire, and water. Notably, this template can only be applied to a creature that already has an elemental subtype – it won’t make an elemental version of a creature, so much as it’ll make an elemental creature stronger.

One example creature is given for each of the elemental possibilities with this template, making this a slightly larger product than typical Bestiaries. In typical Blackdyrge fashion, the first two have Challenge Ratings in the single digits, whereas the next two are in the teens, and the last one is a low-epic monster.

With solid mechanics and good writing, this is a good product for helping to add more oomph to your elemental monsters without having to lay on class levels or natural hit dice. My only concern is that some may find this to not be thematic enough; if you already have a fire creature, does increasing its fire damage and giving it a few fire spell-like abilities make that much difference? There’s more to this template than that, but the idea is there. Still, for its versatility alone (in that it handles five elemental types in one template) this is a useful product, and of course it comes complete with five monsters, ready to be dropped into your game no matter what element your PCs are facing. This is a book that’s definitely worth its cost.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Elemental Exemplar
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Blackdyrge's Templates: Martial
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2007 09:28:01
Blackdyrge's Templates: Martial is a 9 page d20 pdf product that features a new template and two sample monsters. This product is one of several products in the Blackdyrge's templates line, although it is the first in a new series of 'synergy templates' within that line. This product deals with the martial template, for those creatures born with peerless skill at arms, and future synergy templates include roguish, devout, sorcerous and scholarly. This product is compatible with the revised d20 core rules.

One of the things I've always liked about Blackdirge Publishing's products in the Campaign Construction System. This system clearly identifies d20 material in terms of author, type of material (template), title of the material, and publisher. Blackdyrge's Templates: Martial, a fully bookmarked pdf, also includes these details, making it extremely useful in arranging Blackdirge Publishing's material in a binder, for example. The product has a great cover by Jesse Mohn (also responsible for some fantastic interior art), some excellent writing and editing, and a standard layout that fits in perfectly with other products in the series. Mechanics is excellent, as usual, and the general presentation is of a very high standard.

The product starts with an introduction by Blackdyrge, the 'author' of this series of product on d20 templates. The introduction gives a little background to the martial template, and how Blackdyrge scrutinised those that were born to warfare in an effort to illuminate on the martial template. The martial template, presented next, is for those creatures or races that have a natural talent for armed combat and armor. This inbred skill gives them exceptional ability with weapons and armor, doubly so if they can combine this talent with traditional (fighter class) training. Creatures with this template gain access to a number of martial abilities and bonus feats that could put a fighter of the same level to shame. In that vein, the template is provided with a LA, so PCs can take this template as they harness their born potential and talent at fighting and defence.

The martial template is naturally only for those that excel in battle, even though it could benefit most types of creatures by improving their abilities in combat. When combined with a few levels in the fighter class, the template increases in ability and power, providing a 'synergy' with that class. I quite like this concept behind synergy templates. One of the things that I've always found odd about certain creatures is that you can advance them by HD, but their innate magical abilities never improve. I'm hoping these synergy templates can provide an avenue to do so. The CR increases as a result of this template look reasonable, although for high HD creatures the ability score increases and the effective addition of about five combat feats might be worth more than a +1 CR increase.

The product concludes with two NPCs using the template - the martial bearded devil, and the celestial eradicator, a hound archon with fighter levels and the martial template. Both are well presented and written with good flavor and background details, and descriptions that bring the creatures into the imagination.

Blackdyrge's Templates: Martial is a good template built on an interesting and very useful new concept of a synergy template. While the idea of synergy is not new to most templates, as they often play to the strengths of certain creatures, this template is specific to the fighter class, and builds strongly on that. The martial template is well developed, contains good new mechanics, and will give those martial creatures in a campaign new skills and abilities in combat. Good product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Martial
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Master at Arms: Curse Slinger
by Blaine S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/17/2007 22:23:04
Like many of you, I'm a fan of Blackdyrge's works. His templates are exceptional and his work on the Master of Arms series gives us all something to enjoy for those "classic" fighter archetypes. With this one, Curse Slinger, we are able to see a different side of what normally is a prestige class focused on non-magical effects. Instead we have a slightly magical effect based solely on the fact that hitting someone with a stone shot should be fun. Indeed this class, while drawing on classical interpretations (especially mentioned is David), show cases a class that many ranged players will enjoy. Indeed I can honestly see something like this in almost any campaign, low magic or not. It's a class that highlights the best in ranged assaults and will be the envy of many of those that want to do something other than bow shots or be the next Legolas. Curse Slinger offers PCs a chance to do some hefty damage but at the same time it's not going to out shine the others in terms of being the showcase player. This class is built, like others in the series, on classical lore and historical fact. If you're looking for something different I do suggest trying others in the Master of Arms series, but start with this one here.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Master at Arms: Curse Slinger
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Blackdyrge's Templates: Primordial Beast
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/07/2007 11:52:06
Blackdyrge’s Templates: Primordial Beast is a short d20 product from Blackdirge Publishing. The zipped file is almost six megabytes in size, and contains a single PDF of the product. Said PDF is nine pages long, including the cover, the credits/legal page, and the OGL. Full bookmarks are provided.

As with other works in this line, the cover is the only case of full color artwork. The remaining illustrations are black and white, including the pictures of each example monster. Almost every page has borders along the top and bottom giving details regarding the product’s information. There is no printer-friendly version, though given the relative brevity of this product, that isn’t a very big issue.

The Primordial Beast template is meant to be applied to any animal. Representing an atavistic throwback, it makes the animal a size category larger, along with giving them a few extra hit dice and adding one or two special attacks depending on their natural weapons. The two example animals are a leopard, and a fully advanced tyrannosaurus rex.

I personally found that I couldn’t get behind this template to the degree that I usually do for others in this series. While there can be no question that every aspect of this product is excellently done, from the mechanics to the layout and design, it just felt too unoriginal, and too limited, for me. The main theme of this template is that it makes an animal larger by a size category; the extra hit dice and the few new abilities are relatively minor additions on top of that. However, we already have templates that do that, and do it to a greater degree. I’ve seen several different versions of the Dire template, which increases any creature, not just animals, by a size category, and usually it can stack with itself for multiple size increases.

This product is a good one, but if you invest in d20 monster books, you quite likely already have a template that basically does what this one does. Even without a template, advancing hit dice and increasing size is easily done, and need not be limited to animals. In short, I like what’s here, but you may already have what you need to create your own Primordial Beast.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Primordial Beast
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review. Sorry this one didn't hit the mark for you. Maybe I can rectify that when it's converted to 4.0. =]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Primordial Beast
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/30/2007 10:58:01
Blackdyrge's Templates: Primordial Beast is a short 9 page d20 pdf and one of several products in the Blackdyrge's Templates line of products. Each product features a single template for your fantasy d20 game, and includes some example monsters complete with background and details on combat and roleplaying. This product features the Primordial Beast, a primitive but savage creature not unlike what one would come to expect from something like King Kong. The product is compatible with the revised d20 core rules.

Blackdyrge's Templates: Primordial Beast comes as a single, handsomely presented pdf file. The style of the product is very similar to other products from Blackdyrge Publishing, and the product also incorporates the Campaign Construction System, where every page is given headers and footers identifying type of content, authors and content captions. Layout and editing is very good, and artwork by Hunter McFalls and Edward Bourelle (from SkeletonKey Games) is excellent. Mechanics is very detailed and thorough, and the slight complexity of the template is very easily explained with all the required mechanical information. Overall, a splendidly put together pdf.

The Primordial Beast template creates creatures of legend; creatures that dwell in the hidden and dark places of a world unexplored by man or civilization. The nature and feel of the template is very much 'King Kong' - although perhaps not on the scale of the great ape himself. The primordial beast template takes ordinary animals and transforms them into fearsome beasts, yet still retaining much of the character of their animal species. The template can be applied to animals of Medium or larger, although I quite like the idea of being able to apply this template to other animals as well to which it should be equally applicable with a little alteration of the details. Deep jungles aren't always ruled by just big creatures - small, primordial creatures also have their place in the ecosystem. The template also lends itself well to creating 'dire' creature off a base animal, although the template perhaps creates a more powerful version rather than the standard dire animal.

The product provides an introduction by Blackdirge - a brief overview of the product and the creatures inside in a narrative vein. Two sample creatures are provided - the primordial leopard and an advanced primordial tyrannosaurus rex. Both are given their own unique flavor and character, making them stand out above the standard primordial animal of its species. Each of these creatures not only increases in size, but also gains a number of useful new special attacks that make them even more fearsome and dangerous. Overall, the template succeeds at creating something far more dangerous from a standard animal, and something player characters can fear.

While this template may perhaps not be the most unique of ideas, it's very well executed and presented, making for a very useful product that can be used often to instil a little extra power into standard animals. Presentation is very good, and the primordial template provides a step up from the standard dire animal, providing a challenge for higher level parties. A very good product and useful to DMs (and players if DMs can agree on information regarding animal companions or summoning of primordial animals).

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Messianic
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/29/2007 10:45:24
The road to godhood for NPCs may be a lengthy epic journey in your world, but those looking for a shortcut can receive may be able to receive divineness from the latest entry in the Blackdyrge Templates series, Messianic, depending on your belief of what a messiah should be. .

Messianic, a brief 10 page PDF, is a template that supposedly makes the NPC the messiah of a god. The template does this but with such a hefty level cost this is obviously something more for an NPC to use, as per the prose example included in the PDF. The template itself does not feel very religious, which you would think it should considering the source. The first thing that struck me is the low intelligence requirement. I would hope a Messiah would be a little more bright than his followers. There are intelligence requirements for the spell-like abilities, but even feels like it should be bumped up slightly.

The abilities themselves are nicely written and statted but do not fit the flavor of the template. Curse of the infidel does not effect the same race as the person casting the spell nor his alignment. This would make since in real life where race is really divisions of the overall human race, but with d and d and its overall races, often enemies of one god are of the same race as his followers. The Voice of the Chosen is a nice touch and my favorite ability in the class and fits the charismatic abilities I expect from a Messiah.

For the DM
This template does not feel quite “Messiah” enough but could very well fit for a chosen priest or priestess. There is definitely some variety to the template with its spell-like abilities depending on the hit die of the Messiah.

The Iron Word
For such a divine creature, the Messiah should have more divinity type requirements too it and its powers should be a little broader to truly effect the enemies of his god.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Messianic
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review. I understand that my idea of a messianic creature might differ from others, and I certainly won’t challenge your opinion on that point. However, I thought I would explain my design philosophy for the low intelligence requirement. Simply put, I wanted to give DMs the ability to apply the template to a wide range of creatures, not just humanoids or giants. For example, personally, I think the concept of a messianic chimera is an interesting one, but such a monster would be impossible with a higher Intelligence requirement. Also, to address your concern about a messianic creature not being smart enough, consider the fact that the addition of this template increases the Intelligence score of the base creature by +4. Therefore, a messianic creature will be much smarter than a standard example of its race.
Blackdyrge's Templates: Abominable
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/14/2007 15:45:13
Blackdyrge’s Templates: Abominable is a short d20 monster supplement from Blackdirge Publishing. The zipped file is just over five megabytes in size, and contains a single PDF file. The book itself is nine pages long, including a page each for the cover, credits and legal, and the OGL. Full bookmarks are given.

There’s not too much art to be found in this book. The full color cover notwithstanding, the only illustrations here other than the company logo are two black and white pictures of each of the sample monsters (though these are quite nicely drawn). Beyond that, there are page borders with the product’s information along the top and bottom of every page. While not truly printer-friendly, this product shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to print out.

The Abominable template is given as a reference to the snowman of the same name. In other words, this template turns whatever creature it’s laid on into an arctic version thereof. This basically grants it the Cold subtype and a few powers besides, though it also usually adds the cosmetic change of giving the creature shaggy white fur as well. Two creatures, a minotaur (representative of a sub-species that have this template) and an annis hag are showcased.

While perhaps not as sexy as some other templates in the series, the Abominable template does an excellent job at filling in a niche among monsters. Arctic versions of existing creatures have been fairly slim picking up until now, but this opens up great possibilities for what winter monstrosities you can create. While not much use outside of arctic-based adventures, any GM that wants to spend some time adventuring in such an environment should get this to broaden their choices of foes for their PCs.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Abominable
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Blackdyrge's Bestiary: Terrors of the Under Realm (Revised)
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/14/2007 15:32:34
It’s always difficult to review a book that’s a revision of an earlier incarnation. It brings up the question as to whether you should review the new book on its own merits, or try and compare it to the previous version to see how it has been improved. With the revised version of this incarnation of Blackdyrge’s Bestiary, I’m going to try to do both, pointing out what it has, and what’s different from the original.

Blackdyrge’s Bestiary: Terrors of the Under Realm (Revised) is downloaded in a zip folder just over eleven megabytes in size. Only a single PDF of the book is found therein. The book itself is thirty-one pages long, seven pages longer than the older version. It also has bookmarks where the other one did not, and all of the creatures are in the new stat block format (from the DMG II).

The book is fairly generous with its artwork. The cover is the only instance of full color art in the book, but there’s at least a single piece of art for each new creature covered, as well as a few supplementary pieces. Grey page borders are found along the top and bottom of every page, giving basic information about the book (its author, the title, etc). Overall, it shouldn’t be too much trouble to print out, but a printer-friendly version might have been nice.

The book opens with an all-new piece from Blackdyrge himself, describing a creature new to the revision: the writher. Quite a bit of coverage is given to this evil race of centipede-taurs, along with a low-level NPC. After this comes a venomous troglodyte, complete with the venomous template. The undead choker is now a dread ghoul, rather than a greater ghoul. Then comes the half-fiendish mephit blackguard with the sentient weapon, followed by the half-dragon behir. And the crowing monster of the bunch remains the huge otyugh; this one has undergone a fairly substantial revision, and while the CR remains the same as it was, this creature is now size Titanic (the size above Colossal), and has a few unique abilities, making it far more massive than its previous Gargantuan incarnation. Sadly, Blackdyrge’s commentary on the massive creature has been deleted from the revised version. The original book then presented the rot wasp swarm, which is what rot grubs pupate into, and then ended. The new version presents the swarm, but also reprints the information on the rot grub hazard. It also reprints the dread ghoul and gigantic templates, which is a nice touch.

The revised version of Terrors of the Under Realm is unquestionably greater than the old version. While a few things have been lost or changed, much more has been gained. From a new monster, to the conveniently reprinted templates, to simple editing and errata, this is in every way a superior product. If you never owned the original, then this is a very nice book to get if you want a slew of underground foes, with CRs ranging from 2 to 25 for your heroes. Blackdyrge’s new bestiary is an even better tome for a GM looking to bedevil his players.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Bestiary: Terrors of the Under Realm (Revised)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the nice review. The omission of Naggrogh's (the huge otyugh) intro is an error. I'll have the revised version uploaded and sent to everyone in the next couple of days. Nice catch there!
Blackdyrge's Templates: Spawn of Apophis
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2007 00:00:00
Blackdyrge's Templates: Spawn of Apophis is a short d20 product from Blackdirge Publishing. The zipped file is roughly five megabytes in size, and contains a single PDF of the product. The book itself is eleven pages long, including a page for the cover, a page for the credits/legal, and a page for the OGL. There is no table of contents, but the product does have full bookmarks.

Despite its length, Spawn of Apophis is a product that is replete with artwork. The front cover is the only part with color; the rest of the product is black and white, but there's quite a lot of that. A number of illustrations dot the book, including one for each example monster, one of Blackdyrge himself penning the bestiary, and a few others. Moreover, there are grey borders at the top and bottom of each page, containing information about the product in every corner (a key at the beginning of the book goes over that in more detail). The amount of art here is exemplary, particularly for a book that's less than a dozen pages in length, but it makes the lack of a printer-friendly version a bit of a loss.

After Blackdyrge's introduction, the Spawn of Apophis template is introduced. Apophis is the divine serpent that seeks to destroy the Egyptian pantheon, and this template given to his progeny. It can only be applied to serpents or creatures with a serpentine shape, however (such as dragons), limiting its scope somewhat. The majority of its new powers revolve around constricting and swallowing enemies, though it also has a few darkness-related powers. Two templated sample creatures, a CR 8 serpent, and a CR 16 dragon, are given to showcase what this template can do at the lower and higher levels.

All in all, this entry in the Blackdyrge's Templates series is a good one, but it doesn't feel as good as the previous two. The problem isn't one of mechanics nor of presentation (both are top-notch), but rather its one of feeling. Elder fiends are iconic for how evil outsiders are expected to try and become planar lords; ghosts that possess inanimate objects is likewise something that just feels intrinsic to them. This template, however, largely just makes serpents more serpentine, and it doesn't evoke the same feel. Many snake-like beings already have constriction or swallow whole powers, for example, and adding them to those that do not just doesn't have the same coolness factor. Add that to how there's nothing here that really seems indicative of being divine progeny, and thematically this template stumbles. It's still a great work in every other regard, but it just doesn't seem to fire the imagination the way previous entries did.



LIKED: The template is quite sound in adding new qualities to serpents and serpentine creatures, and has great artwork.

DISLIKED: The feel of the template just isn't as cool as its predecessors. Also, it could stand to have a printer-friendly version.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Spawn of Apophis
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the nice review. You're right, this template is a bit more narrowly focused than the previous two, but just to clarify, the spawn of Apophis can be used with any monster that is reptilian in nature, not just those that are serpent-like. So troglodytes, lizardfolk, and even kobolds could be enhanced with this template. Still, your comments are good ones, and they are much appreciated. Thanks again.
Master at Arms: Crimson Pugilist
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/18/2007 00:00:00
Master of Arms: Crimson Pugilist is part of the Master of Arms series that brings historical fighting styles to D20 fantasy by Blackdirge Publishing/Skeleton Key Games written by Aeryn ?Blackdirge? Rudel. It is an eight-page product (six after cover and OGL) with a clean layout. The only art is the cover piece which is also used as the character art and some nice weapons on the title page.

The work starts with a discussion of the spiked gauntlet as a weapon, the spiked gauntlet is one of the weapons of D&D that is similar to but not exactly the same as any historical weapon, these historical analogs are discussed. Then the inspiration for the prestige class is discussed which most gamers should find quite amusing.

The centerpiece of this product, of course, the Crimson Pugilist prestige class, an expert in close in fighting with the spiked gauntlet. A barbarian / fighter-based class with abilities and dirty tricks to optimize the damage potential of the spiked gauntlet. A brutal close combat class but it seems well balanced.

An example Crimson Pugilist character, Zarga the Punisher, is provided along with a background for him. Zarga is a brutal and experienced pit fighter, a bugbear and a challenging and deadly foe. Lastly two new weapons, historical ones that are similar to the spiked gauntlet, conclude the product.

The Crimson Pugilist is a very focused but well designed prestige class. The Crimson Pugilist is very suiting for a campaign with pit fighters and brutal close quarter combat.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Master at Arms: Crimson Pugilist
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Publisher Reply:
Hi Sean, thanks for the nice review. I would just like to point out that Blackdirge Publishing is no longer an imprint of Skeleton Key games, as indicated in the opening of the review.
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