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Codex Martialis Weapons of the Ancient World Part II: Armor and Missile Weapons
by Pierre-Olivier B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/02/2012 02:17:59
This book is the second part of Codex Martialis Weapons of the Ancient World. As for the first part treating weapons (link : http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/63628), the book has a high level of quality in content and in historical illustrations.
There are numerous myths and clichés about armors ... the author tries to get rid of them in a scientific historical kind of approach. And though the book is very complete and well illustrated, it remains practical to be used or at least transposed to any RPG.
For my part, I also like it as an historical source of knowledge about armors.

I gave it 5 stars for the content (I really do not miss my 10 dollars).

Pierre-Olivier Bourge
(french mother language, so please excuse my poor english)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis Weapons of the Ancient World Part II: Armor and Missile Weapons
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Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World - Part 1, Melee Weapons
by Pierre-Olivier B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/02/2012 02:03:04
Citing the author : "Our goal with 'Weapons of the Ancient World' is to place pre-industrial weapons into an historically based functional context. Though many weapon compendiums have been written for various RPGs, the real functional differences of ancient weapons have never been accurately differentiated – leading to a variety of clichés such as the ludicrous idea that a twelve inch dagger is a nuisance weapon that can barely hurt you.
Weapons are different not just in how they look, but how they work. ..."

This book is by far more serious than a RPG's compendium could let think of it at first. It is built on real historical point of view (illustrations and documentations), from which, you will learn a lot on 'real weapons' (not the usual description of RPG's weapons).
Nevertheless, the content is practical and can be used in any RPG (or at least transposed to any).

I gave it 5 stars for the content (I really do not miss my 10 dollars).
If you are interested in this book, look at its twin : Codex Martialis Weapons of the Ancient World Part II: Armor and Missile Weapons.

Pierre-Olivier Bourge
(french mother language, so please excuse my poor english)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World - Part 1, Melee Weapons
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Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/05/2012 08:45:04
originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/04/05/tabletop-review-codex-g-
uide-to-the-medieval-baltic/

I highly recommend that anyone wishing to become a Game Master start collecting books and forming a reference library. There are lots of books that can help any GM create a more “realistic” campaign setting, especially when playing in a low (magic) fantasy campaign world. Understanding how different people interact with each other and their environment goes a long way in being able to portray a believable setting to your players.

This codex details what 15th century life was like in the area around the Baltic sea. The codex gives a good overview of the region and “drills-down” to give some great specific details that can liven up any fantasy campaign. I’ll have to admit that my initial impression of this PDF was rather poor. First of all, it costs $15 for an electronic copy. $15 can buy a GM both Life in a Medieval City and Life in a Medieval Castle in paperback. My demo copy was marked as being draft version 2.52 and I know that the file size is now listed as larger than what I’ve received. Is the PDF finalized, or is it still a work in progress? The author also added a forum link for people to help him find errors and listed a number of people as “Casual Proofreaders“. This, along with a reference to his “smoking hot mama” wife did little to make me think this was a document I’d be happy spending $15 on.

This was all just from page 2 of 268!

The document’s index started on page three and there was almost a page and a half dedicated to listing the various terms described in the eight page glossary. Although the author describes his work as a reference document, he decided to write about the 15th century in the present tense and then going on to joke about the language used in the book before devoting a paragraph to writing about modern fantasy and science fiction terminology to illustrate his point regarding keeping period terminology and proper names in his work. A bibliography and references, with web links, are provided while at the same time this large document doesn’t have a single PDF bookmark. Navigating the document is difficult at best, and the whole thing seems to be a general college research paper that was simply expanded and put online to make a few bucks.

If you can get past these warts, the Codex can actually be a good tool for a GM. I’ve only read through this document once and I’m not sure how many more readings it will take me to unlock some of the great things I can take and bring into my game world. While most sections of each chapter of the book are rather general in nature, not unlike what you’d find in other reference books, each section has extra details that really help bring the period to life. In the small coinage section there is a listing of coin denominations and their relative values. Pretty common fare, but the information goes on to describe furs as currency. Just a page later the author gives a few wages and prices, but goes on in better specific detail other resources usually skip over, “Day wage for a Carpenter or a mason in Saxony 2 groschen and 4 dinari, plus two jugs of ‘hornet’ beer, 3 groschen per week as bath money. Monthly wage = 29 Kreuzer per month (assuming a 5 day work week and not counting the beer)”

These details really help bring the subject matter to life. I don’t know how many times I’ve had PCs spend some “down time” trying to use an auxiliary skill to make some money. Instead of simply stating they make a certain number of gold pieces for their efforts I could reduce that amount and give them some credit at the bath house and provide them with beer. I’m sure my Dwarven PCs will love the beer and hate the fact that some of their wages are baths!

I would recommend the codex to someone wanting to use the setting for their campaign or a GM who wants to be able to get a little insight into the medieval world. Personally I would like to see the PDF edited some more, bookmarked, and make available for a more reasonable price, but it is still a worthwhile GM resource.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World - Part 1, Melee Weapons
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/02/2012 08:11:20
An incredibly detailed and thorough document on historical weaponry for the OGL 3.5 rules. While this book may not have the fancy design and layout of many other RPG books, it makes up for this in content - a glossary of weapon terms, historical context, a brief history of metallurgy, new weapon rules (shield hooking, slashing the weapon hand, etc.), with color and black and white illustrations and photos on practically every page.

Not many gamers desire this level of detail in their RPGs, but if you're looking to fact-check your historical OGL game, this is the book to have. I don't often give five stars to a product, but this book perfectly accomplishes its goal, and has well earned it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World - Part 1, Melee Weapons
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Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
by Steve H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/25/2012 13:21:13
What I enjoy most is the wealth of historical detail, the research into a little known area that was a crossroads of peoples, cultures and trades. The depth adds reach detail to any gaming or other use of the material. Just fine, just fine.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
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Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/17/2012 09:03:32
A fact-filled guide to running historical roleplaying in the medieval Baltic region using the d20 system. There is little to no original art here - instead, all artwork is historical, and there are many photographs of historical weapons, ships, and more.

The text is a little dry, but puts all of the historical elements of Baltic culture, society, government, and geography in one convenient place, and there are links to further resources.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
by Richard M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/23/2012 19:08:36
This codex is jam packed with historical information regarding the Baltic in the mid 1400's. The setting includes a detailed overview of the region, politics and culture with plenty of analogies to make comparisons that are understandable to an audience.

The depth of the book is its strongest feature including, but not limited to

The landscape
Laws in the town and in cities
Life in the towns and cities
Religion
Culture groups
Language
Personalities
Role of women and men
Technology
Warfare including elements fairly unique to the region, such as armored war-wagons

And much much more.

The intense work is backed up with sources, as well as plenty of anecdotes and art to enliven the pages. From a pure historical standpoint the book is a good read, having both breadth and depth and for any RPG provides ample details for a detailed, authentic setting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
by Jay V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2011 18:08:40
As a writer of historical novels, I look to many sources. I need more than just the who-did-what political history, but something that sheds light on society, law, economy, military affairs and culture. It is hard to find all that in one book for your target period or country. But Jean Chandler’s “Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic” manages just that for the Medieval Baltic states, collecting and condensing a vast amount of information into some highly readable pages.

Chandler writes about a time of interest to many — the late medieval and early Renaissance — but focuses on an unusual location, the Baltic states of Prussia, Lithuania, Poland and Russia, and the territory occupied by the Teutonic knights. The work in fact assumes that it was written as a guide for the sophisticated traveler of 1456.

The Codex gives details of these states, their government, peoples, geography, economy, currency, their towns and countries, languages, how they fight, and more. In short, it contains just about everything you need to know about these countries during that critical but often overlooked period in history.

One of the joys of reading history is how the truth crushes your expectations. The medieval and early Renaissance are periods which we moderns usually view through prisms of preconceptions that prove to be false and misleading. Chandler does a good job of lifting the fictional veil that 19th century romanticists and 20th century ideologues have cast over this time and the culture that flourished during that period.

For example, we all have grown up with the certainty that life then was nasty, brutish and dirty. It may have been for some, but certainly not all, or even most. People took regular baths and were attentive to cleanliness, and their standard of living, even for the peasants, was above subsistence. They weren’t well off by our inflated standards, but they generally weren’t starving most of the time.

The status of women during the period is often misrepresented in modern writing. While women legally were at a disadvantage, for most practical purposes they enjoyed far more equality and freedom than writers today want to admit. For instance, Chandler chronicles how a significant percentage of masters in the craft guilds were women. And, most surprising, he documents how women even obtained knighthood — not a lot of them, but he makes the case that at least 68 women in England during the 1300-1400s were listed in documents as knights.

Most of us, however, are interested in things military, and Chandler does not disappoint. He goes on at length about the military establishments of the people in the area, and there are extended discussions of their tactics and weaponry and the relative advantages and disadvantages the various militaries enjoyed.

Aside from its treatment of military affairs, however, the book is of particular interest to the HEMA martial artist. Chandler makes a case that the Baltic states, and their free German cities, were a crucible for the development and preservation of the arts we in HEMA seek to recreate. He points out that many of the masters whose fechtbucher we study came from a Baltic free city. The culture and military situation of these free cities was important to the development and preservation of these arts. All freemen in these cities were expected and required to be armed and to know how to use their weapons in order to defend the freedom of the city. They were evidently quite skilled. Chandler quotes a future Pope who was amazed at the skill he saw displayed by burghers in cities he visited. There is even an eyewitness account of a fechtschule competition.

This helps to put the creation of the fecthbucher into context. While Chandler does not say so outright, his presentation implies that the fechtbucher were written by men in the free cities to perpetuate and communicate their martial skills so that they could better defend their guilds and their towns.

Last but not least, I should mention that the book is lavishly illustrated throughout with dozens of period drawings. This alone makes the book worth having.

Altogether, I highly recommend “Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic.”

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
by martin m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/17/2011 08:25:30
Having played this game system, I thought I would comment. This Codex is a head and shoulders upgrade over D20 based systems I have used. It has Tactical choices not seen in other systems with real world terms and techniques (and consequences). It has a much more real and gritty feel to combat that stands out over "WOW" flavored combat systems that seem to be in vogue.
The magic system is plug and play from other systems allowing easy adaptability to high or low magic settings. The Baltic setting provided seems unique and as historically accurate as a DM might want (or not). However, the system itself could be applied to almost any fantasy or medieval setting. You wont feel a lack of substance with this Codex.
The only negative I have might be that combat is a little deadly, but a good DM can solve with a few extra Hit points per level. The skill system allows for depth and swash buckling as you style may be. Best Codex under $20 I have seen in many years!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis V1.0
by Matthew S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/26/2011 18:41:17
Author: Jean Henri Chandler.
Contents: 40 portable document format black and white pages, 1 credit page, 2 contents pages, 4½ pages of rules, 9 pages of feats, 3½ pages of extracts, 6 pages of black and white illustrations, 10 pages of appendices, 1 character sheet page, 2 index pages, and 1 open game license page.
Publisher: Ire Games
Product Code: Not Applicable
Retail Price: $12.00

Overview

At the time of the initial release of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons there was a short run of articles on the Wizards of the Coast website entitled "weapons rack". Each presented statistics and design notes for a new weapon that was to be available in the game. As part of the article introducing the infamous two-bladed sword, Skip Williams explained that the weapon represented "several elements of the game's design philosophy at work: emphasize fantasy over history, make the world look cool, provide players with hard choices, and offer numerous ways to master the game (deciding exactly how to employ a two-bladed sword or any double weapon requires a good deal of thought)." The Codex Martialis is a combat rules supplement for D20/3e that not only makes the argument that historical arms and armour are "cool", but that authentic combat techniques and assumptions, translated faithfully into game rules, can potentially present a plethora of verisimilar opportunities to "master the game". For anybody dissatisfied with the design decision to "stray a bit from past editions and recognize that D&D isn't really a historical game, but a fantasy game", this alternative contention has a lot to recommend it.

For the D20/3e system, there are two major innovations introduced in the Codex Martialis that help increase the feeling for the participants that the game is emulating realistic combat. The first is that all weapons have three new numerical characteristics, reach, speed, and defence. Of these, reach is an attack bonus added at "onset" range, whilst speed is an attack bonus used primarily at "mêlée" range, and defence is a bonus added whenever the weapon is used to parry. So, for instance, a dagger might have the characteristics 1|5|1, whilst a spear has 7|1|3, making the former better at mêlée range and the latter at onset range. Generally, the more reach bonus a weapon has, the less speed bonus it has, and vice versa. The second is the use of a "martial dice pool" for combat actions, which ranges from one to four dice as determined by the base attack bonus of the character. A martial die is expended whenever an attack is made in a round; several can be used to increase the probability of a successful single attack, as well as individually used to make follow up attacks, or saved for use in defence. They are also used to change combat range from "onset" to "mêlée" to "grapple" and can be used to enhance saving throws as well.

Unsurprisingly, like most systems that purport to increase the realism of combat in Dungeons & Dragons, the Codex Martialis opts to treat armour as damage reduction, ranging from one to ten. As with the much praised D20 Conan system, though, attackers can choose to bypass armour, which translates as a penalty to hit or a defence modifier ranging from two to ten (which is to say, effectively an armour class). Ordinarily, a combatant has a passive defence of 8 + base attack bonus + dexterity modifier + shield bonus (which ranges from one to five); however, if the character has any unexpended martial dice left in the round he can use one or more to actively defend himself, rolling 1d20 in place of the static defence of 8, and optionally applying the defence modifier of his weapon in place of his shield bonus (though these can be added together with the appropriate feat). Since a shield also adds a die to an active defence roll, it is useful even if it contributes less defence bonus than the weapon it is used with. There is also a system for critical hits and "dynamic" critical hits in place, which increases the amount of damage done on a roll of a twenty, depending on the number of martial dice expended in the attack.

Perhaps the most substantial part of the Codex Martialis is the nine page section that details the basic and advanced "martial feats" intended to be used with the system. Here we find translations of the strikes and methods of extant medieval fight books, such as "durchwechseln", the "meisterhau", and "morstrosse" into game rules; the author suggests that one of these be gained for every point of base attack bonus advanced. In combination with the rules governing counterattacks and the various optional rules that provide additional detail, these are the features that give the system tactical diversity and flexibility, as well as the character customisation and predefinition that is at the core of the D20/3e system. Unlike the default rules, though, it presents very definite reasons to situationally shift between weapons; no player is likely to be left wondering why his character is carrying a dagger or wondering what possible use a spear might be when he has his trusty sword to hand. Indeed, there can be little doubt that the Codex Martialis successfully differentiates between weapons, assigning them authentic historical characteristics within the limits of the abstract D20/3e paradigm, but how does it play?

Criticism

Whilst Codex Martialis is at its strongest in its ideas, it is somewhat weaker when conveying them to the reader, especially with regard to how they interlock with the D20/3e system. To some extent this must be intentional, in that the author is allowing individual game masters considerable leeway when it comes to applying the rules of the supplement to their campaign. However, there are several points where confusion can arise, and it would seem that the work could have benefitted from some sort of "action table", perhaps analogous to the one in the default rules, spelling out what martial dice can be used for. For instance, it is not at all clear how a character might go about drawing a new weapon, in the default rules a move equivalent action or a free action with the appropriate feat. Is the martial pool grafted directly onto the action system, working in parallel with it so that it requires a standard action and a martial die to make an attack or does it replace the usual action system as implied on page nine? If so, how does a charge work? It may be that there is some nomenclature confusion between the "full attack" and "full round" actions, but it is just not clear from the text quite what is intended.

Although the quotations from medieval chronicles and sagas are interesting and set the mood, the space would have almost certainly have been better used for examples of the game rules in action. Such things are usually tedious to write and often unappealing on a first read through, but can be very useful when it comes to fully understanding the way the rules are intended to work. In particular, many martial feat entries could do with greater clarity and economy of language in order to facilitate comprehension of the various nuances that are not immediately apparent. These are concerns that can be easily addressed, and perhaps have been to some extent with the newest version. For instance, two orcs armed with daggers have one martial die each, whichever of them spends one to close to mêlée range is going to lose the initiative, so likely they will keep circling at onset range. This seems realistic, but on the other hand if one of the orcs has a base attack bonus of two, three, or four, he can potentially move to mêlée range and gain the bonus to hit from speed for up to three follow up attacks and the chance of his opponent counterattacking is slight. Is this intended? The difference between base attack bonus one and four seems very significant.

It is probably apparent to even the casual reader that the rules of Codex Martialis should not simply be grafted onto a regular D20/3e game and played with the usual expectations. This is not a problem for those who create their own campaigns whole cloth, but it limits the compatibility of the supplement with any existing campaign settings or adventure modules written for the default game. In that respect it is more like a prototype of something like Iron Heroes than a rules supplement for Dungeons & Dragons. This lack of compatibility is further exacerbated by the choice of terminology, which is more in line with what is current in medieval martial arts circles. Such a format is desirable for a supplement of this sort, but because the nomenclature is not directly transferable to Dungeons & Dragons it can be an obstacle. It would perhaps have been nice to have included an appendix using the standard game terminology with corresponding approximate characteristics for their use with the Codex Martialis rules, though perhaps antithetical to its purpose! At any rate, none of these concerns should deter anybody interested in giving their D20/3e game a more authentic combat vibe, even if only some of the ideas are incorporated.

Conclusion

The Codex Martialis is a fascinating supplement. It obviously owes a good deal to other games, such as the Riddle of Steel, but incorporating such ideas and systems into D20/3e is a very ambitious goal and on the whole seems to have been successfully achieved. Without further play testing and analysis of the results it would likely be premature to judge the system in detail. There are certainly concerns about how the various subsystems interact and the how the underlying mathematics works out, which is hard to judge when dealing with such dynamic dice pools. It is difficult to predict the difference between the probable outcome of a single three dice attack versus three single die attacks, particularly when they can be actively opposed by another die roll on the part of the defender. The author also suggests a hit point limit based on constitution for characters to further support the "grim & gritty" aesthetic of the supplement, which presumably would also have to be applied to monsters to some degree. Again, that is a concern for anybody who wishes to preserve game balance (what little there is of it in D20/3e) in, for instance, his third edition Forgotten Realms campaign, but the results would no doubt be interesting!

To judge by the newer versions of the Codex Martialis, this supplement is a work in progress, and at the moment in a constant state of improvement, as much with regard to artwork and layout as content, and that can only be for the good. Apart from the public domain illustrations, there are some strong and evocative pieces by Reynard Rochon. In particular, the wounded men on page eight give a good sense of the intended atmosphere of authentic medieval combat. Therein, maybe, lies a hint of the most suitable purpose to which this work might be put, which is to say not so much a conventional game of Dungeons & Dragons, but as a rules supplement for a D20 Past campaign; more Flesh & Blood than Hawk the Slayer perhaps. Nonetheless, if the above concerns are borne in mind, there is no compelling reason to dissuade anyone from using the Codex Martialis with a more conventional D20/3e campaign. Indeed, it is tempting to imagine how it might play out in the Caverns of the Snow Witch or the Warlock of Firetop Mountain. At the very least, such a trial would be entertaining for players and game master alike, historically minded or not, and when all is said and done that is the purpose of adventure games.


Author: Jean Henri Chandler.
Contents: 108 portable document format black and white pages, 1 credit page, 5 contents pages, 12 pages of rules, 23 pages of feats, 56 pages of appendices, 4 bibliography and recommended media pages, 1 character sheet page, several full page illustrations, and 1 open game license page.
Publisher: Ire Games
Product Code: Not Applicable
Retail Price: $10.00

Addendum

Included in the price of the original Codex Martialis is access to a revised and expanded version, which is also sold separately for a slightly lower price. Whilst the layout and fonts show signs of improvement, the overall production values remain those of an "amateur press" endeavour for the moment, as one would expect for an evolving product of this sort. The majority of the additional content is accounted for by four pages of bibliography and media recommendations, four pages of conversion notes for common D20/3e feats, four pages of mounted combat rules, eight pages of sample animal conversions, and eighteen pages of example characters. In the latter case it would have been nice to have seen these take advantage of the Codex Martialis character sheet. The combat rules and martial feats section have also been expanded, clarified and corrected to some degree, and whilst the work itself still lacks examples a number of these can be found on the supporting website. Several of these rules have been incorporated from the Mêlée Weapons supplement where they originally appeared. Additional interior illustrations have been provided, mostly public domain, as well as several anecdotal historical extracts of interest.

Even though this is a marked improvement upon the original, a number of questions still remain unanswered for the reader, whilst the answer as to how move equivalent actions are handled is a little unsatisfactory and vague. In the case of the latter it is left to the discretion of the game master as to how many martial dice are required to perform a move equivalent action, but one to two are suggested. This seems a little harsh for characters with one or no base attack bonus, and it would seem an advisable alternative to allow those who do not move in a round to take a move equivalent action without expending martial dice. It remains unstated how many martial dice are required to take a charge action, which is to say whether one or all of them. More significantly, it remains unclear from the text exactly when an active defence is declared (before or after an attack roll is made) and against which attacks it applies (the first made in the round, all attacks made in the round, or selectively against attacks nominated by the player). What is intended by the author can largely be inferred from the online examples, but still needs to be made clear in the rules themselves, if it is not be left at the discretion of individual game masters.

One new rule introduced is "desperation defence", which allows a character whose active defence has been overcome to reroll if he has any remaining martial dice, losing the initiative as a consequence or if already at that disadvantage losing one of his available martial dice for the following round. This seems to reduce the risk involved in holding back dice for a counterattack, and is a sensible solution. Other rules have been modified, such as no longer adding base attack bonus to initiative as an optional rule, instead the character with the highest base attack bonus in a mêlée gets to roll two dice and choose the best. Such a rule seems to be better fitted for an individual duel than for a larger mêlée. An optional rule for initiative modification by weapon length would also seem more reasonably applied at onset range, and weapon speed at mêlée range, but then optional rules are really more the province of individual preference and customisation. The missile weapon rules have been refined, and the corresponding exotic weapon table expanded to include the flat bow, the English "war bow", a "heavy" composite bow, and the Japanese yumi (弓), presumably the daikyū (大弓) rather than the hankyū (半弓), along with some notes for handling mounted archery.

A short appendix dealing with mounted combat introduces the "deluxe warhorse" template, along with five specific breeds and types of medieval horse, which is to say the destrier, the palfrey, the courser, the hobbie, and the jennet. These additions are typical of the modus operandi of the Codex Martialis, reducing the level of abstraction and including authentic historical details that give the participants more options and a greater sense of verisimilitude. Perhaps the only criticism worth making in that vein is that there is an unlimited transference of strength from mount to rider permitted, whereas in reality the size and strength of both are of great consequence in a mounted charge. By way of extreme example, one could hardly expect the strength of a destrier to be transferred through the arm of a child (or halfling), no matter how securely seated. Despite its title, this section has surprisingly few rules relating specifically to mounted combat outside of the horses themselves, and it would be reasonable to expect that this section of the rules will be revisited and expanded on in the near future. If not, then a supplement dealing with the rules for mounted combat as a whole in more detail will be much anticipated.

Whereas the earlier release of the Codex Martialis was more of a barebones affair, this is clearly a more developed version, but completely recognisable as having the same aesthetic, objectives and basic structure. It seems likely to be the result of considerable play testing, campaign development, continuing research, and feedback from a dedicated community. One of the more notable changes is that the damage reduction provided by armour types has been significantly reworked. Generally, these values have been increased, but they are also optionally categorised by attack forms P, C, and S (piercing, chopping and slashing), though a value for "B" (bludgeoning) appears to be lacking. As might be expected, some weapon characteristics have also been altered, but largely they conform to the same pattern as earlier, so the general result is that armour has been rendered more protective in this latest version of the supplement, which is also reflected in the modified bypass values. These are the sort of changes that are interesting to follow in a developing work, and it is to be imagined that further refinements, expansions, and alterations will continue to increase the sense of authenticity whilst preserving the underlying game structure intact.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis V1.0
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Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World - Part 1, Melee Weapons
by Matthew S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/26/2011 18:40:21
Author: Jean Henri Chandler.
Contents: 120 portable document format black and white pages, 1 title and credit page, 5 contents pages, 19 pages of introduction, 82 pages of weapon statistics, 7 appendices pages, 4 bibliography and recommended media pages, and 2 open game license pages.
Publisher: Ire Games
Product Code: Not Applicable
Retail Price: $10.00

Overview

This is an expansion for the Codex Martialis combat system for D20/3e, and the first of two parts, dealing as it does with mêlée weapons, whilst the second part encompasses missile weapons and armour. More than one hundred types of weapon are presented in this supplement, almost all of which have an accompanying example image of the weapon they are describing, either being an extant historical weapon or as accurate a reproduction as has been managed. Although many of the images are freely available elsewhere, a number are much more difficult to find, and to see them all assembled in a single document with descriptions and statistics is impressive and useful indeed. Unlike many previous adventure game supplements of this sort, which have chiefly relied on books published many decades ago, incorporated inaccurate information from popular culture, or otherwise suffered from efforts to fit into an already established structure for the game they seek to augment, Weapons of the Ancient World makes excellent use of the many resources available, including modern historical research and practical experience on the part of the author and contributors. As such, it is decidedly free of the errors that are frequently repeated by adventure games.

As with the Codex Martialis rulebook, Weapons of the Ancient World incorporates a good number of public domain illustrations and interesting period anecdotes, which are wholly appropriate here. Moreover, the authorial voice is frank about its aims, clear in the information it seeks to impart, and pleasant to read. The glossary is useful and informative, as is the brief history of metallurgy, especially for anybody wishing to differentiate between various time periods or cultures in their campaign. By the same token, the weapon quality rules distinguishing between bronze, iron, steel, tempered steel, pattern welded steel, and wootz steel are well handled and should prove useful to anybody wishing to do so in their D20/3e game. The weapon list itself is extensive, and the numerous images, in many cases several for a single entry, spur the imagination and make it much easier for the reader to comprehend what is being described. Each entry is concise and to the point, and the author is clear when he is giving his own impressions of a weapon, as opposed to restating more academic opinions. The information in this book is not limited to the D20/3e system; the statistics are adaptable to just about any swords & sorcery type adventure game.

Criticism

Very few editing errors are apparent for a work of this scale, and it would seem that there are no spelling or grammatical errors to speak of. Since this work was originally released prior to the latest version of the Codex Martialis it contains several rules that were originally supplemental, but have since been incorporated into the main work; this extraneous information ought to be excised. The illustrations are a mixture of colour and black and white, and almost certainly will have to be rendered the latter in a cost effective printing, which may obscure some of the detail. In an ideal world, each image would be exactingly redrawn for a professional release, but that is likely wishful thinking! Although Weapons of the Ancient World is free of the inexactitudes that plague other such volumes, it might be said that it introduces its own prejudices when selectively reassigning the nomenclature. Certainly, Dungeons & Dragons owes more to Fritz Leiber in its use of "shortsword" and "longsword" than to a misunderstanding of medieval weapon designations. It should also be noted that there is some disagreement between the individual entries, the tables in the appendix and the Codex Martialis with regard to weapon characteristics.

Conclusion

Simply by virtue of its accuracy Weapons of the Ancient World stands head and shoulders above the vast majority of previous efforts for adventure games, including relatively modern efforts such as the Castellan’s Guide to Arms & Armour, whilst in scale and statistical utility it rivals the Palladium Book of Arms & Armour, but the huge number of authentic images that accompany this supplement gives it a really unique appeal to any gamer interested in ancient and medieval weapons. With a resource like this on hand, it will be a rare occasion when a game master is unable to visually answer the ubiquitous question "what sort of weapon is a such-and-such?" Indeed, aside from the layout, the chief way in which the utility of this work might be improved is through the addition of more illustrations and entries. A great deal of effort and knowledge has gone into the production of this work, and it is surely something to be proud of. Furthermore, as a "living" work any shortcomings it does display are likely to be fixed in subsequent updates for the immediate future. Given the impressive content, inexpensive price and availability of Weapons of the Ancient World there really is no reason not to own a copy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World - Part 1, Melee Weapons
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Codex Martialis CORE RULES V 23
by Benjamin R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/07/2011 01:46:23
Codex Martialis is a unique product built for the Open Gaming License/3.5 community. This is a combat supplement that turns whack-a-mole grind-fests into dynamic, exciting—and deadly—contests. Codex Martialis is based on real historical fighting techniques described in manuals from Medieval and Renaissance fighting masters, whose martial arts are being brought back to life by small groups of modern practitioners around the world. I was very excited when I found out about Codex Martialis, because to me, the usual d20 combat just wasn't that exciting anymore. Codex Martialis introduces three critical things that make combat truly exciting again.

First, it makes combat really deadly. Face it, traditional d20 combat can get pretty stale despite all the bling of magic weapons and nifty feats, because no matter how you cut it, all you're doing is slowly whittling away hit points. Seldom is there a real sense of danger, especially at higher levels. Codex Martialis changes this by suggesting a realistic hit point ceiling and making critical hits more frequent and potentially more dangerous, just as in real melee combat. Second, it requires the player to fight smart, not just because of the increased danger, but because it literally takes some smart, strategic decision-making to win. Knowing your own abilities and the strengths and weaknesses of your enemy's weapon, armor, and strategy can make a real difference in your ability to win. Third, it allows you to customize your fighting style based on your weapon and your chosen feats to make every fighter truly a unique force on the battlefield. The clash of different fighting styles makes for a different battle every time.

The meat of the system is pretty straightforward, although it can take awhile to get used to. Rather than a single d20 die, Codex Martialis fighters are given a pool of d20s, up to four dice, to use throughout the round. You can use these dice to make multiple single-die attacks or combine them into bigger multi-die attacks. The single-die attacks are pretty much business as usual. With the multi-die attacks, you roll however many dice you've chosen, say three, and take the highest result. This drastically increases your chances of getting a hit or a critical hit. In addition, you can take a standard movement action by spending a die. You can also keep dice in reserve and save them to roll as defense when you get attacked. When making a defense roll, a natural 20 (or a natural 1 by your opponent) means your opponent missed and also allows you to make your own attack out of turn! Rolling a tie triggers certain special abilities that I won't get into here. What's great about this is that it makes combat much more dynamic. You get don't have to just sit there and cringe while the DM rolls an attack. You get to actively participate in your defense. Fights feel like the natural give and take of real duels instead of a repetitive turn-taking exercise.

Those are the basics, but there's much more. For example, each weapon gets special bonuses depending on your range. Spears and longer weapons get special reach bonuses in the opening stages of a fight. Daggers and other short weapons get a big speed bonus when you've closed to grappling range, while the longer weapons get penalties until you back away again. Armor acts as damage reduction rather than adding to your defensive bonuses (more encouragement to save your attack dice for defense!).

And here's the true genius of the system: the so-called Martial Feats. These are special feats that are meant to model those real historical fighting moves I mentioned earlier. For the most part, they take advantage of the dice pool concept by granting additional dice in certain circumstances, but others give you additional attacks, or give you special techniques for taking advantage of your or your enemy's weapon and fighting style.

Codex Martialis also contains rules for archery, mounted combat, animal/monster attacks, and integrating spellcasting rules.

What about the book itself? It's is a PDF that's reasonably well designed, if a bit plain, and illustrated with simple line-art drawings taken from the aforementioned fighting manuals along with a few classical paintings and some other sources. The line drawings may seem a little strange at first, but they do add a sense of history to the book. The book reads well for the most part. It could use a little bit of editing attention, but there's nothing terribly wrong and it still holds up quite well compared to other similar products. Considering the great content, the current price of $10 is a bargain for what you get.

My only real criticism is that some aspects of the system have a bit of a learning curve—at least, they did for me. It can take a while to get used to the dynamic nature of the dice pool (do I use all my dice? keep some in reserve?) and to remember how the various armor and weapon stats apply. But even more than that, the expansive new feats can be almost overwhelming at times. It was hard to figure out which ones to choose and which ones work well together to represent a given fighting style. For example, I wanted to make a spear fighter, but it took a while to figure out which feats were best suited for the style of combat I wanted my character to have. On top of that, many of the new feats are named according to their non-English descriptions from the historical sources I mentioned above. Most of them have translations provided, but it could be a bit of a turn-off for those who aren't familiar with other languages.

One more thing I wanted to mention. The author of these supplements maintains an active forum for Codex Martialis and its companion supplements. He's very active and responsive on the forums, which I found refreshing. It's not like some supplements where you're left to your own devices. With this book, you get a small but helpful community of like-minded gamers, not least the author himself, who are willing to answer questions and help you out. That just makes the book worth even more in my eyes.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis CORE RULES V 23
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Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World - Part 1, Melee Weapons
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/25/2010 19:47:18
Codex Martialis is a giant pack of weapon goodness.

The one downside: Not much that isn't easily available. However, since it's all statted out, this can be forgiven, since I've never seen such a large collection of weapons all statted out for the same rules, and most medieval weaponry is pretty easy to find, but not easy to actually know much about other than general function.

All in all, it's good, has lots of diagrams, and all that jazz. However, it just feels like it's missing something, so I feel that I can't give it a five. If you need a ton of weapons quick, this may be your best bet.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis: Weapons of the Ancient World - Part 1, Melee Weapons
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Codex Martialis CORE RULES V 23
by Shotgun G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2010 09:14:31
Codex Martialis, is basically a stand alone core rules system; or can be used as a suppliment to any existing 3.5 OGL system (Pathfinder, D&D, etc).

While the core rules are light, consisting mostly of the combat rules. It is adaptable to most genre's or settings a GM could want. The Combat Rules are an adaptation on the d20 system; with an emphisis on making combat more historically accurate.

Taking references from historical texts of famous fighters, the combat system doesn't add a level of complexity; that will slow down the game. Starting with a Martial Pool, players are able to draw from the Martial Pool (MP) during combat. The MP allows GM/players to make the usual attacks and defending. However it also allows players/GM's, to use the MP; to activate special (weapon) feats as well as counterattack.

How it achieves this, is to use a number of d20's; dependant on the action required (max of 4d20). To attack, it migh be 2d20; with only the highest d20 counting. So a player with only 2d20's, could use those dice for one attack; then defend, use a feat or counterattack.

It lacks a focus, for it to be a true core rules. However, it does work really well; as a suppliment to exisiting 3.5 OGL systems. Adding Codex Martialis to a campaign would be simple enough. All the existing feats and weapons in 3.5, have been included in this. Any feats that have been replaced, have been noted; as well as comprehensive details of how new feats work.

Overall a great publication, that will allow a GM to add an extra flavour to their campaign; using real fighting techniques from history.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis CORE RULES V 23
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Codex Martialis V1.0
by Pierre P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/07/2010 03:18:27
This book has some very different, and in my view good ideas about how to handle combat in D&D. It outlines a system that takes combat from a mostly die-rolling exercise to one that requires more tactical decision making. The system is intended to be more realistic, which I prefer, and it is well-researched and presented. I haven't had a chance to fully play-test the system, but it doesn't seem to sacrifice fun or speed for the sake of realism. In addition to explaining the basic premise behind the system the book also details feats, armor and weapons, and includes very basic rules for integrating magic and other elements of combat. One difficulty I had in testing this system is that there aren't a lot of examples to show how it works which left me with unanswered questions. I went to the website which has quite a few topics and I found some answers there. My biggest frustration though is that I can't get registered on the website to ask questions of my own. I registered once, but did not get the activation email. Now when I try to register it indicates that my email is already registered and the account is inactive. Unfortunately there is no way to contact anyone to address this and attempts to resend the activation email get no response. Still I like the product enough to consider purchasing v2.3 of the rules with the hope that some of the details will be cleared up in this version. I just wish there was an upgrade option at a reduced price.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Codex Martialis V1.0
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Publisher Reply:
Glad to hear you liked the Codex. Sorry about your trouble with the websites, new registrations were shut down for a couple of weeks due to spam attacks, but the issue has been cleared up since we added a 'captcha'. You should be able to create an account there now. If you contact us on the site we will give you a free upgrade to the 2.3 version.
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