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Book of Beasts: Legendary Monsters 1 (Legend/RuneQuest)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/06/2012 06:28:48

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/08/06/ttboo-
kofbeastslegendarymonsters1/


http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/08/06/ttboo-
kofbeastslegendarymonsters1/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: Legendary Monsters 1 (Legend/RuneQuest)
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Shadowsfall: Temple of Orcus (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2012 02:27:02

This adventure is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/patron-list, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 14 pages of content, so let's check this out!


This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.


Still here? All right! In the village of Dronabar, a woman and her children have been abducted by zombies - less than two hours until dusk are left and it's up to the player characters to save them before darkness falls and all the dangers of the woods creep from the shadows. When the PCs find the broken cart (including a b/w-map with a grid), the PCs will have to defeat some fast zombies and then track the assailants back to a graveyard where their knowledge-checks as well as the flavorful read-aloud texts will provide for a creepy atmosphere - that will be enhanced even more by the realization that they will have to take a portal into the plane of shadows to save the innocents and encountering a helblar, guardian of the dead and cemeteries.


In the plane of shadows, the PCs will have to make their way to a desecrated temple now consecrated to Orcus - after braving the dangers of the place, clearing the zombies etc., the players will hopefully be there in time to prevent the sacrifice of the innocents by the dread zombie-lord cleric of undeath. Additional ideas for the continuation of the story-line are part of the deal.


The pdf also includes a page of general introductory information to Shadowsfall, the plane of shadows, as well as a selection of 4 pregens (all with artworks) - they include a dhampir (plus new weapon, war-trident), an umbral kobold alchemist (including full racial trait information), a fetchling ranger and a wanderer wizard (also with complete racial traits).


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good - while I noticed some minor glitches, I didn't notice any significant ones. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column standard and the b/w-artworks are nice. The maps are ok and serve their purpose. The pdf comes with full, nested bookmarks. This module is FREE and it is hard to beat free stuff - here a heartfelt "Thank you" to JBE and all sponsors without which this module would not have been made.

The narrative is mostly well-written and while some pieces of prose are slightly less compelling than others, the overall narrative is solid. Free Rpg modules usually are intended to introduce players to mechanics and settings and thus, this module is not extremely hard, challenging or far-out, but it provides an interesting and compelling introduction to the plane of shadows that makes me anticipate the other Shadowsfall-books even more. Its introductory mission is accomplished, its flavor is nice etc. - however, not all is perfect. here and there the narrative feels slightly less organic to me. We get no player-friendly maps. The overall plot is nothing to get too excited about. We do, however, get herolab-files. That being said, while not perfect, this module is free and I'm willing to forgive these minor imperfections and still settle for a final verdict of 5 stars - it's free and you have definitely nothing to lose by checking out this neat little module.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall: Temple of Orcus (PFRPG)
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Book of Friends and Foes: Assassins in the River Nations (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/01/2012 05:35:20

This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 9 pages of content, so let's check this out!


After a page of introduction that explains the methodology behind the creation of these assassins, we dive right into the killers by providing the first one and I already love her: Muffin Brownbarrel is cute as a button. The halfling baker is sweet, kind and a master of poisons that specializes in killing arcanists. She has only a few magic items - she doesn't need more and her background, modus operandi and artwork make her uncommon, cool and oh-so-unthreatening - until you try her goods...


In direct comparison, the witch-assassin Jolanta with her centipede-familiar feels rather insultingly straight-forward and unsubtle, but each task has its tool... Speaking of unsubtle: The mountain-stalking Qog, a half-orc ranger/assassin build with his pet dog may also not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but he gets the job done.


More subtle and versatile, Cyali Starwatcher, cleric and cultist to a god of murder has not only some divine power to back her up, but also a host of interesting options at her hand. Honorable in his dealings, but despicable nonetheless, the hobgoblin fighter/assassin Koron has brought fortune to his tribe by killing for money and is now known as the warmaster of death.


Much more interesting and less straight-forward, Mariana (rogue 5/assassin 7) has the chameleon archetype and uses it to devastating effect - catching her will prove to be a challenge to say the least. And then, there's a gnomish court bard/assassin who has been also known for his calling card of putting an arrow into a dead target's left ear.


And then there's the final assassin - who is not an assassin, at least by class: An elven magus completes the cadre of NPCs and makes for an uncommon and rather flashy foe.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are rather sub-par - I noticed several rather jarring glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column standard and each of the characters herein gets his/her own nice b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked and also with full herolab-support. This is essentially a collection of several interesting assassin-builds. While the builds per se are well done and I liked the use of archetypes, personally, I would have enjoyed more complex combinations, perhaps with templates, but I won't hold that against the pdf.
What I do hold against it, though, is its evident artificially imposed limit on the entries of the characters. Every statblock, artwork and supplemental information fits on just one page and while that means that all the information is on one page, the format also means that higher level statblocks take up more space on the page: Combine that with animal companions/familiars and the artworks, and almost no supplemental information is left, which is a double pity when reading e.g. Muffin's entry (who gets the most extensive background) - it's her modus operandi, her fluff influencing her crunch, that makes her interesting, unique and intriguing. And this is also where the pdf loses some of its potential: With an additional page (methods, signature calling cards, famous kills, battle and escape strategies, background etc.) of fluff, each of these builds could have easily become a star and this pdf an example of awesomeness. As written, though, it remains a good selection of statblocks that could easily have been much, much more. As written, it remains "only" a good, cheap selection of assassins and I almost went 4, but due to the editing glitches, my final verdict will be 3.5 stars due to Muffins being the adorable dealer of death she is and the low price - nevertheless, for now and as long as this has not gotten another pass at editing, I'll round down to 3.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Friends and Foes: Assassins in the River Nations (PFRPG)
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Book of Friends and Foes: Assassins in the River Nations (PFRPG)
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/24/2012 04:42:35

Weighing in at thirteen pages with a cover, credit/TOC page, OGL and 1 ad, we are presented with eight pages of new NPC's and a one page introduction and explanation of how to use this supplement. Designed for the River nations setting from Jon Brazer Enterprises, each of these characters can easily be utilized in any setting a GM chooses to use them within.


The interesting thing regarding the introduction, is Dale writes it from the standpoint of a conversation, explaining when this book was originally planned to be released, how it got waylaid, and what inspired the collection in the first place. It is an interesting look behind the curtain into the design thoughts that went into this collection of eight not so typical assassins, and what he hoped to accomplish in their creation. So without further ado, let us examine them, shall we?


Muffin Brownbottle, Death's Chef is a halfling baker after my heart. Her statblock section on tactics is hands down one of the funniest and most excellent things I have ever read in an NPC statblock. Her During Combat states, and I quote “ Muffin will sit with her mark and talk while they enjoy their final meal.” Yeah, that's right, combat? Not from this sadistic killer. Nope, she will however make you an excellent meal, and join you for conversation and company while you enjoy her culinary labors. Being a lover of the culinary arts, this appealed to me on so many levels I can't even begin to explain them all. I will say though, she has earned a home in my campaign world, and a bakery, lol.


Jolanta Adanski, Grave Cackler, along with her house centipede familiar, Scurry, adds the idea of a witch assassin to the mix. Her write up is barely a paragraph, and we are left with no real story for her unfortunately, which is a shame. There is also an oddity in her statblock, in the listing of her prepared spells, mage armor is literally crossed out. I am not sure if this was done during design with the intention of replacing the spell, or perhaps removing it, or some other reason that escapes me at this point.


Qog Kirgon, The Mountain Stalker is a half orc ranger/assassin with a serious dislike for humans. Together with his dog, Scraps – a mangy golden retriever that is fiercely loyal, Qog has a fairly basic and straight forward approach to killing. History is slightly formulaic, but not bad in the least. It is almost a shame he was done as a standard ranger, as I can't help but think he would have been all the more interesting having been built as a Spell Less Ranger utilizing the class released recently by Open Design. I say this solely based upon the fact that for me I have a hard time seeing a half orc brute demonstrating the finesse for magic.


Cyali Starwatcher, Dying Moon Hierophant offers us a clerical assassin...yeah, let that sink in for a minute. Interesting character, interesting concept, and a fleshed out story that gives us not only a backstory for her, but an assassin's guild, a religious cult, and a mortuary business operating as a front for said cult. Now this is the type of character that delivers on value. Not only is she interesting, but she comes with so many hooks its ridiculous.


Korn, Warmaster of Death would be that handsome guy on the front cover near the bottom. A hobgoblin fighter/assassin is another example of an NPC who brings more to the table then just themselves. A leader of a tribe of hobgoblins living peacefully within human lands, operating as assassins for hire to those willing to pay the price.


Mariana, Master of Disguise is a rogue(chameleon)/assassin. Now for those unfamiliar with the chameleon, it was introduced in Ultimate Combat, and is an archetype that covers those individuals who blend and assume identity well. Disguise and misdirection are their most potent weapon, for they can be anyone, and disappear instantly. With an amusing backstory filled with misdirection in regards to who she really is, this murdering thief has made a living out of making sure no one knows who she is, but everyone has a tale to tell. Oddly, she reminded me of the Bruce Willis movie The Jackyl, in that she is a highly sought after assassin who assumes identities to serve her purposes and to ensure that all details regarding her are false.


Akanor, Funeral Singer, is a gnome bard/assassin utilizing the archetype of court bard. Akanor is the classic showman, the clothes, the attitude, the prestige, he lives for the attention, and has built quite a reputation traveling the lands as a court performer of some worth, and he has done so as a means to an end. In hiding in plain sight, by being right in front of folks as the great story teller and comedian none suspect he is in fact also a high priced assassin with a signature calling card, a telling wound left on every victim's body. In the end he kills for the same reason he entertains, the adrenaline rush, the excitement. A well thought out and designed NPC, with an excellent piece of art to support the design.


Ceriddaia Shimmerstar, Sword Breaker is our one and only non assassin by class in the collection, she is a Magus. Using a traveling dance troupe as cover to travel freely, this NPC comes off as a spoiled brat reading through her backstory. She kills simply as a means to have the funding to do as she wishes, when she wishes, wherever she wishes, and has gotten the dancing troupe (a cover for more than just her) discovered more than once by flashing far to much money to explain away with their cover story. Not that the spoiled brat concept doesn't work, her tactics in combat are interesting, in that she casts undead anatomy upon herself before combat and goes for total shock factor presenting herself as a skeleton whilst electrocuting her opponents, seeking to sunder them as fast as possible before finishing them off.


So, final thoughts on the eight. Several of these NPC's are very cool character concepts, one could use so much more to her story to make you want to invest in her. With each character receiving one page per, it almost felt as if Jolanta's design was truncated to accommodate layout and spacing, which is a real shame as we're given next to nothing story wise for her. The book overall needs another read through by an editor, as there were numerous editing oversights, sentence structures, missing words, odd grammatical choices. It was all understandable, but it truly would benefit greatly from another editorial sweep. Art-wise, only one piece felt out of place, Mariana's, it had an anime quality to it, which is a shame as it is a good piece of art, but when held up to the others, it really looks out of place.


It is hard to overlook the massive editing issues and the multiple issues with Jolanta (the crossed out spell, the fact that she has barely any fluff). On the positive hand however, we have several very good, and I do mean very good NPC assassins here, the traveling bard, the unassuming baker, the legitimate business women running a mortuary while leading an assassins cult, the Hobgoblin who turned his tribe into a money making killing machine. The design chops far outweigh the editing issues, as those can be fixed, design is what it is, it's either there or it isn't, and in this case it very much is there, and worth the price of admission. This product also carries with it Hero Lab files for the assassins, so there is yet another perk, and an excellent one I might add. Be forewarned my fellow Hero lab users, Ultimate Magic and Combat, as well as the APG are required to open and utilize these portfolio files properly.


I am going to settle on 3.5 stars, stating that I will be happy to raise that by a full star after a full sweep to correct editing issues. For the purposes of this rating system, I will however, round up, not down, as the design chops are here, and they outweigh the negative. So, final rating is a 4 star.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Factions: Common Factions 1 (Legend/RuneQuest)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/25/2012 08:08:37

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.-
com/2012/04/25/tabletop-review-legendary-factions-common-fac-
tions-1/


If you’ve read any of my previous reviews of Legend, the d100-style game based on the RuneQuest II ruleset, you’ll know that a common complaint is that, in stripping out the Glorantha-specific rules that made it RuneQuest, you’re left with a system that demands a great deal of GM prep time and world building. This is more feature than bug, however, as it gives you a huge amount of flexibility in creating just the world that you want to play your game in. It would, however, benefit from a greater breadth of examples for the budding GM to use to model his own choices upon.


One area that will absorb a great deal of world-building time is the concept of guilds, cults and factions – the power groups and social organizations of the world, their hierarchies, special magical rituals and training regimes. These sound like the very kind of “fluff” that I live for in a well-defined game world, but starting from scratch can be daunting indeed.


For those who agree with this sentiment, I highly recommend picking up a copy of the John Brazer Enterprises book Legendary Factions: Common Factions 1. A relatively short book, covering just five factions in twelve pages, it gives a novice at the art of designing such organization additional examples what can be accomplished with them, including two divine cults, a sorcerous order, a mercenary order and a guild.


Each is laid out with most of a page of general detail that could apply to any game world, or honestly any game system, explaining what it known of the history, or at least an overview of the place of the organization in the world. This is followed up by some rule-specific entries including the skills and spells that are associated with the group, and finally a section detailing the ranks and roles within the organization, and the rights and responsibilities thereof.


The book really served me well by giving me some additional ways of thinking about factions in my games – including non-magically oriented groups, for example – as well as laying out how little mechanical crunch is required of the GM in setting them up. The bulk of your time is spent on honest creativity, devising backstory and plot hooks to weave into your game and your world.


Even at the original price of $2.99 (it’s going for $1.99 right now) the book is a welcome addition to your Legend or Runequest library for a pittance. I highly recommend it, whether you intend to insert these organizations into your game wholesale, or simply use them as inspiration and a template to work from to create your own material.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Factions: Common Factions 1 (Legend/RuneQuest)
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Book of Magic: Pirate Spells (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/11/2012 06:09:13

This pdf is 10 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page back cover and 1 page advertisement, leaving 6 pages of content, so let's check out these spells!


The pdf starts with spell-lists by class and includes antipaladins and the magus as well as the full APG-roster. After that, we are introduced to a tightly-focused roster of spells, which, surprise, center on pirates and privateering. The 24 new spells (including 2 mass versions) herein are interesting in that they might be changing how you view (under-)water adventuring: A major problem for low-level aquatic adventuring is the fact that the environment restricts players and the necessity for magic support to function properly. While Alluria Publishing's "Cerulean Seas"-setting somewhat addresses these, Pirate Spells herein are more centered on shorter sojourns and vessels. Indeed, it is in the vessel-focused spells that the pdf truly shines: From the ability to conjure up Sargasso-seas and barnacle growth to impede vessel-movement, make the floor of a ship shiver and influence the crew by temporarily giving them sea-legs or temporarily regressing them to being landlubbers, we are given a neat gamut of magical options. Two spells influencing the water, either making it more stormy or calming it are interesting choices as well. And vessel-grapples via kelp are a great idea as well, at least in my book.


However, not all of the spells herein are as innovative: Dwarven Stone Plating grants a ship MASSIVE DR and can be considered a kind of superior stone-skin for the whole vessel and unfortunately comes with a minor glitch, a misplaced "/" - I would have loved the spell to somewhat impede maneuverability of the ship it is cast on. Two other spells I didn't like are Floatsteel, which lets you ignore armor and shield penalties for swimming. I don't like this spell, because it opens up a logic gap - if this spell exists in your campaign (it's only 2nd level), why are there not more full-armored corsairs out there? Not my cup of coffee. The second is the level 1-spell buoyancy, which moves you towards the surface at 30 feet per round without mentioning how it interacts with diving sickness/pressure etc. Perhaps I'm spoiled by "Cerulean Seas", but in my opinion the spell does something complex and oversimplifies it.


Before you get the impression that this collection of magic is sub-apr, I'll mention my two favorites: "Sodden Ship makes" naval combat 3d in that it enables a ship to dive (and the crew to survive the experience). My only question is: Why is there no flying-ship-version of the spell? MY second favorite is the high-level shipgate, which teleports a whole vessel - mad captain leading everyone into hell, anyone? NEAT!
The pdf also comes with hero-lab files.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are very good, I only noticed one minor glitch. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked, which is neat. Artwork, as far as I could tell, is stock and while I get the standard-cover, I wished JBE would use a more evocative font on the cover. The spells detailed in this pdf cover the range from being "ok" ideas to being awesome and iconic and, on a whole, this pdf has left me wanting more. To be more precise, more spells on the as of yet neglected vehicle-combat. Animating a figurehead is cool and all, but after reading about 2000 spells for PFRPG, I just don't require any standard spells and a brave innovation in focus is always appreciated. That being said, not all of the spells herein are as innovative and "Floatsteel" in particular, while I get the reasoning behind it, might wreck a crucial logical element of many a swashbuckling campaign, which seems contrary to the interests of this pdf. Generally, I think that filling up the pdf to 30 spells would have been a good idea as it felt a bit on the short end. These two being my only gripes with this installment of the "Book of Magic"-series, I'll settle for a final verdict of 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Magic: Pirate Spells (PFRPG)
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Book of Magic: Pirate Spells (PFRPG)
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/29/2012 21:59:32

Opening with a breakdown of spells by class lists, It's more than fair to say there's some love for every class here. Presented in a dual column format with a total of 10 pages (with 2 covers, and 1 credits/OGL page). After the spell lists (2 pages), we're left with 5 pages total for spell descriptions for these 24 aquatically themed spells. To be fair, two of the spells are mass versions of two other new spells from this product. Internal artwork consists of one piece from Marc Raddle in B&W that is of fairly good quality. In reference to editing mishaps, there was the exclusion of the usage of a bold setting for the statblock of one of the spells making it stand out (as all other spells used a bold format to begin each section of the statblock).


As the preview already breaks down the names of these new spells, and I feel this many spells are far to many to cover in extensive detail, I thought I would follow with my standard of highlighting my favorite spells, and my least favorite. So, without further ado:


Shipgate is simply an awesome spell when you as a GM are looking to either terrorize your waterways with a crew that simply can not be tracked nor caught, or have a crew of adventurers that absolutely, positively have to get there overnight (sorry, couldn't resist)..But seriously, a teleport for an entire vessel, and all of its crew and cargo, has so many possibilities in the hands of a good story teller.


Sodden Ship took me a few seconds to really mull over, and I'll tell you why. When I first read this spell, and realized that I was essentially looking at the fantasy answer to the submarine, I knew I was looking at a spell I was going to love, I just had to stop visualizing a pirate frigate cruising under the armada hunting them long enough to go back to reading the spell...I mean come on, can't you see it??? A spell that lets you sail UNDER the water, how freaking cool is that?


Animate Figurehead spoke to me, pure and simple. There was a miniature put out by Reaper a while back, of an angel formed from the figurehead of a wrecked ship. I will be hunting that miniature down, solely so that I may do this spell justice when I unleash it on my gaming table. The concept of awakening the figurehead of a ship as a golem is fantastic, and I was very happy to see that a spell of this nature was included in this collection.


Shadow Sails adds that touch of darker fantasy back in for me, as up to this spell, where as there have been quite a few magical effects, in the end, when it came to the physical, it was still the boat and all its parts...but now, with this spell, the sails are replaced by creations of shadow and nothingness....and that just screams for an evil pirate captain and his crew of damned souls!!!!!!


OK, flipping to the other side of the proverbial coin here, Landlubber allows one to “remind” a target of their landlegs, effectively turning them into newbies on board the ship, at least for the duration of the spell. This spell has a mass version, and an opposite in the form of Sealegs. Where as they both fit the theme of this collection, when taking their duration into consideration, neither is really a useful spell until you're a much higher level spell caster. Not to mention neither live up to the bar set by the four previously mentioned spells.


Final thoughts....very soon a great many tables will be breaking out their nautical rules and undertaking a new path centered around a pirate's way of life....and it would be a great dis-service if this collection of spells were not available at everyone of those tables. Whether you plan to sail under the black flag, or are hunting those who do, these spells will vastly increase your options for naval adventure. Having only two true complaints when it is all said and done, I would have liked to have seen a few more pieces of art, as art is always good....and a release date for volume two.


Going with a full 5 star rating for this collection.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: Monster Variations (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/26/2012 16:01:44

This pdf is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 13 pages of content, so let's check it out!


The pdf kicks off with a page of introduction that gives us the basic premises of this particular book - born of monster-tweets, this pdf contains variants of monsters that include special modifications of the creatures and thus make them more unique. Reskinning monsters is a great practice to make the encounters more unique and keep the fear of the new in the game - take this basic principle, square it and there we are. But are these beasts truly novel or beings that you could easily reskin yourself? Let's take a look!


The first creature is the Attercope (CR 12) - a colossal spider that can attack not only via bites and slam foes with their legs. The second creature, the Bearowl (CR 6) is a avian creature with bear claws and bite-attacks and makes for a nice twist of the being, as does the roaring CR 5 Lionbear. The Bigfoot, a frightening CR 4-creature and a colossal CR 15 centipede - which comes with 22 HD and a hide of hairs that covers it from ranged attacks! There's also the Dragonsnake (CR 4) and the CR 8 Rage Giant. The former comes with a bite attack and the latter can cast rage on himself. The Rage Giant also makes for the first creature I didn't enjoy - adding rage powers would have been more interesting, but perhaps that's me. There are also two variants of the will-o'-wisps, the CR 6 goblin-o'-wisp and the CR 8 troll-o'-wisp.


The deadly CR 11 Hell Blob is a neat ooze with a corrupting aura and unholy acid - the infernal dragon snapper (CR11) on the other hand, is a rather boring variant of the dragon turtle and comes with a typo. The two mummy-variants, the CR 5 halfling mummy and the CR 7 giant mummy on the other hand, are rather boring and didn't excite me at all. The CR 8 Naiad is a variety of the nymph and while not too exciting, is ok. The reign of high-HD vermin includes the colossal Nightmare scorpion (CR 17) and the CR 18 Thundercrab. While the former is rather bland, the latter comes with a cool electricity-based bolt-attack. The CR 3 thunder lizard takes the monitor wizard and makes it elemental-themed, while the Roper Kind is a kind of super roper. The pdf concludes with two sample yellow musk zombies.


Conclusion:
Editing and formattingin the revised edition have been improved and are very good now. Layout adheres to a two-column standard and usually provides 2 monsters per page. The pdf is extensively bookmarked. Oh, how torn am I on this particular pdf. The design-advice is extremely useful and some of the monsters are on par with the best and coolest of the Book of Beasts-line. On the other line, some of the beasts herein lack cool signature abilities and feel like bland reskins that don't feature enough unique properties to feel truly different. The giant vermin rocks, but honestly, especially when taking a look at the thunder crab and comparing it with the Nightmare Scorpion, I can't help but feel that the latter falls short of its potential. I loved about half of the creatures and felt rather underwhelmed by the latter. I'd usually would have settled for a final verdict of 3.5 stars, perhaps even rounded up to 4 due to the low price and now that the editing glitches have been taken care of, I'll gladly round up to 4.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: Monster Variations (PFRPG)
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Riyal's Research: Traps (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/18/2012 18:24:26

This pdf is 7 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving 5 pages of content, so let's check out what this pdf has to offer!


Riyal's list of traps begins with a page of aptly-written IC-prose that introduces us to the matter at hand, and takes two often neglected components into account - trap designers and their mentalities and bypass mechanisms. The pdf contains 24 traps ranging from CR 1 to CR 19, from humble poisoned spears used by kobolds and alarms to acid dumps preferably used to cover the retreat of snipers, secluded summoning circles and other classics are provided as well - from spinning blade-filled pits to drowning chambers to the magic missile-to-the-face traps, we get some of the tried and true, but not necessarily too exciting classics.


Just when I was ready to give up on expecting anything too exciting from this pdf, some nice pieces of prose lift my spirits and introduce me to alchemical frost bombs and truly deadly storms of shadowy arrows blasting forth from relics of old as well as providing exploding columns that detonate and can be considered a delayed rocks-fall-you-die that leave the players with time to do something about it. The most disturbing trap, though, definitely is the CR 19 Collapsing Wall of Skulls, which not only does insane amounts of damage, but also because just one animate dead spell by the opposition may increase its efficiency even further!


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly b/w-2-column standard and the pdf comes with full bookmarks. In contrast to Riyal's research on haunts, this pdf is definitely centered on classic pulpy traps and while they do feature a certain iconicity, the sheer imaginativeness of the haunt-supplement does not suffuse this supplement. The IC-considerations on traps are smart and something to bear in mind when using traps and there indeed are some traps herein that are worthwhile. However, true genius or an eureka-effect like in "#30 Traps for Tombs" or NNW's "The Art of Traps" could not be found in this selection of humble traps. Don't get me wrong - for the low price, this pdf does indeed feature some traps you might enjoy and provides some quick and easy to use traps that can be used in almost any context. It's just that after reading the unique take on haunts in the other Riyal-book, I expected a bit more. For what it is, this installment of Riyal's Research is still an ok buy and thus I'll settle for a final verdict of 3 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Riyal's Research: Traps (PFRPG)
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Book of the River Nations: Complete Player's Reference for Kingdom Building (PFRPG)
by Anton M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/17/2012 09:59:12

I was intrigued by Paizo's "Kingmaker" adventure path, which transforms a D&D adventure into sort of a detailed cooperative "Settlers of Catan" or some other 'building' game, wherein each turn represents a month of world-time.


Unfortunately, my players are all too high-level to start at "Kingmaker's" level 1 adventure. Plus, would I really need to buy the entire Paizo adventure path, when I wouldn't be using their actual adventures?


Enter "Book of the River Nations." This book is inspiring, and condenses many many "Kingmaker" rules into its 52 pages. Most reviewers here mention it as a companion to "Kingmaker," but I want a replacement: how to create your own "Kingmaker"-like adventure.


Basically, your adventurers go out into the wilderness, fight monsters, discover valuable sites for resource creation and extraction, pre-existing abandoned facilities, and generally carve a kingdom out of the wilderness. The kingdom has several character-like stats, but there is a dark stat which brings down the other stats: "Unrest," or popular dissatisfaction.


I would really like some rules for map generation: how does one generate a "Kingmaker" wilderness, perhaps with some randomness. How much farmland is fair? How many windfall abandoned facilities are fair? How much mining is appropriate? In "Settlers of Catan" this facility is built in, but sadly, "Book of the River Nations" lacks this information. They do provide a page of hex paper, just no suggestions on what or how much to put in the hexes.


Another missing feature is some kind of straightforward "Unrest" calculator. Other people online have developed Excel Spreadsheets for calculating this, but surely this can be calculated on paper, and it would be helpful to see here. Also, it's not clear whether or how much unrest carries over from turn to turn.


Of course, this is specifically for "Players," and not "Game Masters," but the absence of a "Game Master's" guide makes the above gaps rather painful. I have to ding the book 1 star for that.


For all the complaints above, the book is swell, and well worth its now-reduced price. I just want the publisher to put together another "Game Master's" volume to cover the above-mentioned gaps. I'm willing to pay!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of the River Nations: Complete Player's Reference for Kingdom Building (PFRPG)
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Publisher Reply:
I'm really glad you enjoyed the Book of the River Nations: Complete Player's Reference for Kingdom Building. I noticed you had a few questions and I would like to address them. First, Unrest is a cumulative stat so if you have 5 Unrest last turn, you will have 5 Unest the following turn until you build something or have some kind of event that reduces unrest. Second, why was the word "Player's" included in the title? There are alot of reasons but they can all be summed by saying it is as much for GMs as the 3.5 Player's Handbook is for GMs. While we have been working on a more GM's based book that would detail things like map generation and the like, we have not yet finished that yet. So take heart. We will get there.
Book of Beasts: Monster Variations (PFRPG)
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2012 14:50:56

Weighing in at 16 pages (with Cover, PID/OGl, and an Ad taking up 3 of those pages) this collection of creatures is not the typical critter collection, in that there's nothing technically new here. And that, in the end is why a product of this nature is a good product. In attempting to introduce variations and alternative approaches to monsters both GM's and players alike know inside and out, this PDF attempts to give you a useful solution to the ago old problem of what to do when they all become to predictable.


Opening with a one page explanation of the purpose of this book, as well as the mindset behind it, including a few basic examples of what one can do very easily to change a standard monster into something your playgroup may not be expecting, the concept of variety becomes very apparent immediately. Amusingly, my favorite example of a variant creature comes from this intro, with no statblock write up, as it is only an example, a suggestion of what a GM can do at their table. Simply changing the name of goblins to razortooth, and turning them orange gives you a creature that your playgroup will approach more cautiously, as they wont know what to expect from this, when they would normally run right over troves of goblins as cannon fodder.


We are given 21 variant creature builds, all based on well known monsters, and all familiar enough at their core, but definitely something new as they are presented here. Of these there are a few great ideas, and a few not so great, I'll touch on a handful of each.


Goblin-O'-Wisp - Your standard Will-O'-Wisp with its electricity damage swapped out, and the visual representation changed to be that of a floating goblin skull wreathed in red and orange light. OK, sounds really basic doesn't? But that's the beauty of this, small changes that allow the creature to remain the same basic creature, but at the same time something entirely new. Trust me on this one, the illustration will sell you on this creature.


Mummy, Halfling - OK, first off, (LOL)....OK...I'm better now...I promise...No, no, I'm good. When I first saw this header all I could do was laugh, I mean, seriously, a halfling mummy??? But then I thought about this, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much the idea appealed to me. Players are notorious for taking small creatures for granted, especially when we're talking about something like a halfling. So, what we have here is a creature that's going to force your group to rethink how they view the harmless, even if it kills them.


Bearowl - OK, ignoring the obvious attempt to invoke the Owlbear with the name, this creature is a reverse melding, with the head of a bear on an owl's body. The designer notes point towards the griffon, but I gotta say it feels more like a peryton to me, and those things just never found a place in my game as I thought they were amongst some of the worst designed creatures ever added to the game.


Bigfoot - Am on the fence when it comes to this critter, as in the end all he really is is a temperate yeti, but, this creature build is exactly what this book is about. It is a variant of a creature presented within Pathfinder's rules that was previously not there, and is not outside of the realm of a logical variant.


Centipede, Hulking House - Taking the concept of big bugs to a new level, this ones cool enough, but I'm baffled by one of its abilities, as the description makes no sense to me. The distraction SA for this creature is based upon the hair on its legs causing nausea....I don't understand. Perhaps I am not enough of a bug guy to understand why seeing a giant hairy bug walk by would cause nausea.


Presented in a two column format, this PDF could have used another reread from an editor before being released. In fairness, I did receive an email letting me know that a pre-final copy had been released by accident, and that a more editorially sound version was available. I re-downloaded the PDF, and this review is based upon that copy, which seems to me to still have several grammatical missteps, odd wordings and sentence structures. I am hoping that what I have downloaded is in fact still the prerelease copy, and that there was a problem with updating to the better copy, as this is a good PDF in the context of its material, it would be a shame if poor editing were to be held against it.


Artwork wise we get three pieces, all black & white. There of course is the cover art and the ad, but neither really qualify as interior art. Of the three pieces of art, one is essentially a line drawing, another was fair, and the art for the Goblin-O'-Wisp I am seriously thinking of having inked into my back between my shoulder blades. Yeah, its that freaking cool.


Looking over the 21 variations for monster ideas here, there are four right off the bat that I know I'll be using within the next week at my table, with a few others I'm keeping on the back burner for later purposes. Where as there are a few that, for me, will probably never see usage, that is true of almost any collection of creatures, so I'm not going to hold that against this PDF to much, as that comes down to personal taste and preference. All in all, the PDF set out to give some simple variations on easily recognizable monsters, and gives an insight into the design process along the way with designer's notes sidebars. More artwork would of have gone a long way towards helping this product, as all creature books in the end rely heavily upon the visual to sell the creature. Final tally I'm giving this one a 3 star as I would of liked to see more artwork, and less editorial mistakes.


If this copy I have reviewed is in fact not the final release copy, I will be happy to raise this review by a full star if the editorial mishaps are addressed.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: Monster Variations (PFRPG)
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Riyal's Research: Haunts (PFRPG)
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2012 05:36:01

This pdf is 8 pages long, 1page front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving 5 pages of content, so what exactly do we get?


The pdf starts off with an aptly-written IC-discussion on the nature of haunts, which might make for an interesting in-game hand-outs for your players, as it omits mechanics, but names spells and tricks to evade/counteract haunts. Especially when coming from 3.5 or another haunt-less campaign or system, the information could save a PC's life. After that, we're right into the content, 24 new haunts, spanning the CRs from 1 to 15 and organized by their CRs are presented.


The overall quality of the haunts can be considered quite high, as thankfully no "common haunts" are duplicated - these can already be found in Rite Publishing's excellent "30 haunts..."-pdfs by T.H. Gulliver. Which also brings me to what I consider the trademarks of a good haunt - a creepy atmosphere, a cool effect, a nice tell-tale sign and a logical way of destruction that could be deduced via a vision/divination/the haunt's manifestation or similar means.


The haunts herein provide an interesting angle in that some of them seem to be tied to fey for a wholly different feelings and derivation from the "spirit of the dead"-angle, which I consider nice indeed - why should only the undead have all the fun? Some of the haunts indeed feel distinctively fey to me - a flower with a vortex that sends you into a maze of bone and decay? Now if that's not unseelie, what is?
A sense of Karmic balance pervades some of the haunts, to much effect: Take for example an alley, where a blind leper died. Within, his rags still animate once in a while and curse others with his blindness. In order to get rid of the haunt, a person that has always been blind has to be cured of the affliction in the alley at a specific time. Or take the inferno in a cottage that was incited by a goblin - only if a goblin puts out all the fires inside does the deadly inferno finally stop.


Not all of the haunts are up to this quality, though: Two specific ones represent pet-peeves of mine: They specifically mention that a war between elves and drow and humans and orcs has happened at this place. As a DM, including even an ancient skirmish, let a alone a war in the past, can have repercussions for a certain area, somewhat limiting the appeal of these two haunts for me. Haunts work because they are little stories/tragedies within an adventure. They flesh out the main storyline and provide additional insight. The more cumbersome a haunt in its background, the harder to implement it becomes. That's just my 2 cents, though.


Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn't notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, easy to read 2-column standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked. The pdf features no artworks, but at this very low price point, I expect none. All in all, I have to admit that I did quite enjoy this installment of Riyal's Research. While the IC-introduction didn't teach me anything new or offer mind-blowing DM-wisdom, it does provide a purpose and the haunts herein feel surprisingly organic. While some means of destruction resort to "dig up bones, bury with rite x", there are enough unconventional haunts and associated means of destruction herein to make this a good read, especially if you're looking for haunts that could also be some nasty tricks fey would pull off. However, none of the haunts are tied together (via e.g. associated haunts) or follow a narrative. While this makes it easier to drop them into an adventure, I would have liked to see e.g. 3 or 4 connected haunts to form a more complex encounter - the potential is definitely there! In the end, while not completely blown away by the pdf, I still consider it a good purchase you won't regret at the low price point and thus will settle for a final verdict of 4 stars.


Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Riyal's Research: Haunts (PFRPG)
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Book of the River Nations: Exploration and Kingdom Building (PFRPG)
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/11/2012 07:44:55

A nice set of supplemental rules for Pathfinder that bring mechanics for wilderness exploration, and kingdom and city building. Includes leadership roles (and the benefits for each, and penalties for not assigning them), the kingdom as a "character", building types, kingdom events, and more.


This is a great supplement for any GM wishing to add an element of empire building to their campaign - the possibilities for developing characters and storylines are very good (even if they're not the ones in charage of the kingdom!). This PDF is fully bookmarked for ease of reference.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of the River Nations: Exploration and Kingdom Building (PFRPG)
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Shadowsfall Legends: The Gem That Caught Fire - Kurdag's Tale
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/05/2012 20:25:48

Kurdag is a male umbral kobold alchemist with a penchant for explosions. He owns an alchemy shop called The Exploding Herb in the town of Blackbat. When a human adventurer comes to his shop with questions about a gem that caught fire, he ends up in a struggle for his life. That's fine with him, though; it means he gets to throw his beloved bombs.


The pdf is 14 pages long:
1 cover
1 title page
10.5 pages of story,
1 page talking about Shadowsfall and the author


This story deals with a main character who is not especially well liked by the people around him. They tolerate him because of his prowess at making (and throwing) bombs and other alchemical creations. Like all kobolds, life is a struggle, but Kurdag has done better than most. Despite that, he is still discriminated against by a human adventurer (though not for too long).


There is a fast paced, exciting battle between the kobold and some enemies. It will certainly keep you turning the pages (or scrolling down) to find out what happens next. The story gives you a good feel for what towns and cities in Shadowfall are like. Although the citizens band together for safety from the undead that stalk the wilds of Shadowsfall, the citizens are also their own worst enemy, quarreling amongst themselves when not combating hosts of undead.


I enjoyed the story enough to read it through more than once. I will be sure to come back to it as the other Shadowsfall Legends come out. The Shadowsfall Legends are shaping up to be high quality short stories. These compete with Paizo's Web Fiction for quality of author, story and characters. If you enjoy the web fiction, I highly recommend picking this story up.


Editing was top notch. I did not see any spelling, grammar or punctuation errors in the entire piece. Priced at $0.99, this is a perfect impulse buy, especially if you are planning to pick up the Shadowsfall campaign setting. I was very pleased to note that it came as an ePub, PDF and mobi (Kindle format) file.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall Legends: The Gem That Caught Fire - Kurdag's Tale
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Book of Friends and Foes: Under the Mountain (PFRPG)
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/01/2012 15:30:40

A collection of five colorful NPCs that your Pathfinder players can encounter during a dungeon delve. All characters have a profile pic and personality description, and each appears on a full page, for easy printing, if desired. The PDF is bookmarked for ease of browsing - a feature that I wish more publishers would use.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Friends and Foes: Under the Mountain (PFRPG)
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