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Elemental Metals
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/08/2009 10:59:47
The art to making a good magical item includes selecting the most appropriate materials... at least, it does if you are playing the Karma Roleplaying System. But even if that is not your ruleset of choice, incorporating such concepts into your game enhances the flavour of magical craftsmanship, even if it does not contribute in terms of game mechanics.

The basic idea is that each metal has a certain affinity with one or more of the elements (the classical air, earth, fire and water, or the extended series used in Karma Roleplaying System magic). Once you have decided what your magic item is going to do, which spells you will embue it with, you can then decide which metal will be appropriate. Of course, there are other considerations such as cost, weight and will it hold an edge (if you are making a magical weapon), but even if the best metal to match the magic isn't the best one for the item you have in mind, perhaps it can be used as decoration.

Some metals, the base metals, are easy to get hold of and not too expensive... however they can still be very useful to the mage seeking to make something. Noble or precious metals are also popular, although they are rarer and generally cost more than the base metals.

Whether you are using the Karma Roleplaying System or something else, the information herein should enhance the flavour of magical item creation - characters can select the metals best suited to what they want to craft (giving scope for adventure to source it of course) and items in treasure hoards can be given addition interest - "This bowl is made of platinum, perhaps it has healing properties" for example.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Elemental Metals
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Karma Roleplaying System Core Rules Book
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/08/2009 09:27:35
Intended as a game which will allow you to play literally whatever you like, in terms of genre and character, with a game mechanic that revolves around a single D20, the Karma Roleplaying System is presented in a concise and logical manner. Naturally, you will first have to decide the setting and what the game will be about. Then you need to determine if the characters will be true heroes, with exceptional capabilities, or ordinary people caught up in the events of your story. Both the players and the storyteller, as the game master is called, need to be involved as this is above all a cooperative storytelling game, whatever form your story takes. As each decision you need to make is described, there are a few examples given to explain them. One of the critical choices is magic: is it commonplace or rare or misunderstood? (Or absent, athough the writer seems not to have considered that option!) The idea is that you settle these details before people start thinking about their characters.

Next comes a look at the core mechanic, as it's thought necessary for every to understand that before proceeding further. Basically, success or failure at whatever you are trying to do is based on a single D20 roll, the higher the better. Modifiers based on ability and any other factors are added to the raw roll. If you are competing with someone else, whoever has the higher total wins. The target you are aiming at for success is determined by how difficult the task is, with four levels of difficulty available. Critical failure is a possibility if your roll is really atrocious. This section continues with a discussion of the various modifiers which might come into effect and, of course, what happens in combat.

Once the basic rules have been covered, we move on to character creation. It's a point-build system, with the core attributes being split into three groups - physical, cerebral and spiritual - and the points being allocated depending on which groups you designate as primary, secondary and tertiary for your character. The number of points in each one determine your raw talents... which then of course are developed by putting more points into specific abilities or skills. Each group of abilities is affected by a pair of attributes, and most can be used untrained relying on these alone - but naturally you do a lot better if you've had some training. Magic cannot be used untrained, however. There are also talents, or innate abilities, which if chosen are things that your character is naturally good at, such as acrobatics or performance. You can add specialties to abilities which you are particularly good at and choose a profession, which gives a package of benefits; all this reflecting your character's experience before the game starts. Other things need to be worked out as well before you are ready to play, chief of these is Karma. This determines the character's luck (or the favour of the gods), and can be added to one roll per session as well as affecting how easy it is to heal or even raise the character from the dead. Finally, non-spell casters get a few additional points to spend on skills while magic-users gain 'spell creation points' instead.

All the above assumes a normal human being (well, perhaps apart from the magic), but it is possible to create characters of other races and/or ones with super powers if so desired. A wide range of possible powers are listed.

Next, equipping this freshly-created character is considered. The basic idea is that once you know what the character was doing prior to the game beginning, you can assume he has the normal items expected for whatever trade he was following - while you don't need to pay for them, you do need to write them down. Stuff you acquire later on once the game has started is best handled within the context of the game - shopping, stealing, and so on. Character creation winds up with a discussion on how characters advance through gaining experience and getting training.

Elements of Magic comes next, explaining how the magic system and individual spells work. To cast a spell, both a D20 roll (to determine success or failure of the attempt) and the expenditure of 'mana' or magical energy are required. While there is an inherent 'philosophy of magic' underpinning the rules, characters are able to design their own spells and rituals via a point-buy system. Magic use is arcane, psionic or divine in nature, the difference being the power source used. While this does lead to great flexibility and customisation for magic users, it does require that time be spent before the game figuring out a character's spells - there's no convenient list to draw upon... well, some starting spells are suggested to get you going and provide examples, but they are all low-level basic spells. As characters develop their powers they will have to get stuck in to designing their own spells. Magic users are also able to craft magic items. A whole range of different types of item, and the processes involved in crafting them, are listed.

Next comes The Art of War, which looks in greater detail at how combat is conducted in this game. It looks at such concepts as special combat options and manoeuvres, and at the martial arts. Some examples of styles are given, but it is suggested that players come up with their own particularly if they know a little about real-world martial arts disciplines. There's a lot more detail about other weapons-based fighting styles as well - so those who chose particular weapons when selecting skills during character creation can get the lowdown on how to use them to good effect in a brawl. (There's a gem of a spelling mistake here, apparently it takes special training to use a marital weapon... think they intended to say 'martial' here!) There are some good generic descriptions of a wide range of weapons, so you can get at least some idea of what you are wielding; although firearms have been abstracted to generic types - if there will be guns in your game you may wish to research real-world ones and modify the generic details to reflect the diversity of modern firearms. Armour and shields get a similar treatment.

The next section is entitled "For Storytellers" and goes into detail about running a game, beginning with the need to decide just what kind of game you wish to run. Once you've settled on your plan, stick to it and don't introduce other elements on a whim because they looked good, but only if they contribute to the kind of story that you and your players have already decided to tell. Game balance is important too, the 'opposition' needs to be carefully judged so that they are neither impossible to defeat nor a push-over, based on the capabilities of the characters. This is followed by a discussion of the relative merits of meta-plotting and freeform games. Some people have a detailed plot with everything mapped out, others are happy with just a basic idea of what the characters have to deal with... and as usual, something in between usually leads to the best games. Some of the choice depends on the players - are they story-driven, do they have goals for their characters of their own... or are they just out for a bit of fun and a few brawls? There are also some ideas for different kinds of encounters - not necessarily ending in a fight - which can be part of the normal environment of your game, or related specifically to your plotline.

While major characters might be created in the same way as player-characters, a shortened form is provided for the run-of-the-mill NPC, giving you enough detail to know what he can do and how well without getting bogged down. Monster creation gets similar treatment. Finally comes some detail about money and other valuables with which to rewards characters, including a system for determining an individual's reputation based on his behaviour and deeds.

Overall, this is a well-designed and considered set of rules; but one suited to players and referees who have plenty of ideas about just what kind of game and characters they wish to play and plenty of time to use these game mechanics to develop them. It's not something to buy, flick through and run the first game that same evening; but if you are prepared to make the effort, a memorable game tailored to your precise requirements can result.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Karma Roleplaying System Core Rules Book
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Cosmology of Karma
by Ward M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2009 23:39:33
I love this product!
Regardless of what game you play, this product should be in your collection. While intended for use with the Karma Roleplaying System, this product contains no system-specific information.

What this product does do is provide a planar framework for your campaign. You can use the framework presented here, then effortlessly slide your own pantheon of deities into the setting. It will come off looking like you went to a lot of trouble to add layers of realism to your campaign. Simply incredible!

I especially appreciate the fact that this product comes bundled with a gray-scale verson suitable for printing.

20 page PDF file
price: $4.99

good value for the price
high-quality scan

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cosmology of Karma
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Karmic Grimoire
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/07/2008 08:02:53
First things first, from a purely design standpoint, this book looks great. The PDF has the look and feel of an ancient magical tome. There is no art in the PDF except for a spattering of arcane symbols that look like they were taken from a real magical text, and a background image that appears to be a bunch of arcane symbols.

Secondly, this is less a spell compendium than a spell and magic item primer for the Karma roleplaying system. All the spells are broken down with their point assignments so you can see exactly how they were made. This lets you edit them or advance them for your own game. There are also several indexes that sort the spells by type, elements, and impacts, so specialists can quickly find the spells they want (though the indexes don’t include page numbers or hyperlinks). The same is true for the magic items presented. They all show the complete point assignment, so players know immediately how many crafting points they need to make them.

The most important information in this book is the item pricing guide (which probably should have been in the core book). This provides the details on how to price magical items, how much they resell for, and how to calculate pricing in modern era games. Basically, it can get extremely expensive to have a magic user craft items for you, unless you can supply all of the materials. And trying to buy magic items on the open market isn’t easy, either. This makes treasure finds, particularly gems and precious metals, actually important beyond a “you find a ruby worth 200 gp” way.

The information on alchemy is comical in its perspective. Basically, the book presents alchemy as a giant scam perpetuated by magic users on unsuspecting commoners. It’s funny in that it is so believable, and it is an interesting take. The “Consumer-grade” magic items rules are perfect for modern campaigns for the same reason.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Karmic Grimoire
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Karma Roleplaying System Core Rules Book
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/06/2008 08:30:40
At first, this core rules books seems a bit backwards, because it presents things like combat and ability check rules before it goes into character creation. But yet that makes sense, because in order to maximize your character you need to understand how certain things work so that you know how to assign your points.
I think this might be the first game system that not only acknowledges that DMs house rule, but seems designed to encourage house rules. Want to run a high power game? Just give players more points to spend and more flexibility with things like race and spell creation. Want to run a more low-power game? Reign in points and limit access to certain powers.
Spell creation and magic item creation is a mixed blessing. If you are the type of player that always spends time thinking up new spells and items and trying to convince your DM to let you use them, you will fall in love with this system. Combine the right specializations with the right magic group and you can pull off some amazing spells and magic items relatively early in a campaign.
If you prefer to flip through a book and just pick out stuff a la carte, Karma might not be for you. There is a pre-generated list of starter spells included in the core book (there is also a supplement that has more spells and pre-generated magic items) but otherwise ready made spells and magic items are scarce. Playing any sort of spellcaster in Karma can be a time consuming effort as you make your own spells from scratch. If you enjoy having that kind of power, you will love it. If you don’t, then you’ll play a non-caster. Non-caster character creation can be done in under fifteen minutes once you understand the basic rules.
There are a few things that aren’t clarified in the basic rules, maybe intentionally. Do spells require a verbal component? Can wizards be “silenced” for example? What exactly happens if you are encumbered (the rules mention it in passing, but don’t provide a firm “if X then Y”). The answer may depend on the type of game, and basically these are the sort of things you need to sort out in advance with players before starting play.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Karma Roleplaying System Core Rules Book
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Karma Quick Guide
by Ashley D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/04/2008 03:11:29
Ah ha! I stand corrected. So without further ado, here's a review of the extra bits. The OGL conversion guide is fairly typical. You get some advice about converting the primary attributes, but everything else is largely guesswork. "And rightly so", I say. I prefer the authors approach to a classless system than the take in many other games - you may too. The character sheet is servicable, although it makes use of gray shaded boxes which may make it hard to write on depending on what printer you use. To conclude, you should download this even if you own the main book, since it contains the character sheet. If you want to get a feel for how Karma plays, it will give you the flavour. In fact, it's like walking down the street and catching the whiff of a nice resturant on the other side... do yourself a favour and buy the main game as well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Karma Quick Guide
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Karma Roleplaying System Core Rules Book
by Ashley D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2008 20:57:26
Yet another generic roleplaying game... or is it? Karma is actually a good engine for people who are tired of the complexity of OGL, but familiar with its basic tennants. Although the game bears little in common directly with OGL, you will get the feeling of familiarity as you read the rules.

The way in which ability checks are made is elegant and the skill list (called abilities) is concise and nicely organised into logical groups. Spells are created by individual players making them unique to their characters, but this can be a little time consuming so you should probably purchase the grimoire if you want to see more ready to use spells.

There are no monsters in the core rules, aside from a smattering of NPCs. There is a larger monster compendium available to make up for this short fall, and guidelines are provided for creating your own creatures in the Races section.

If you want to see how the basic game might play, download the free quick reference. The game uses d20 + two attributes + skill _ target number. Although the game can be used to play any genre fairly easily, you should be aware that if you intend to play a modern game there is only very cursory information provided. For example, there are no rules for vehicles. The combat system is cinematic, and works in “real time”. Which essentially means you don’t roll for initiative. In practice, I found this a little unweildy, so I introduced a minor houserule to bring back a little organisation to the chaos.

The PDF package comes with a colour and greyscale version of the rulebook, which sensibly removes the rather pretty, but ink gobbling side graphic.

Should you buy it? I think the game shows promise. If you like collecting games, then it’s definately worth adding to your collection. The engine is an intelligent and elegantly applied mechanic. It does rely on the 1-20 random roll and when you consider that the most you will normally be adding to that roll is 15, you might decide that such a huge random component to checks is something you dont want to use. (I’ve tried using 2d10 instead for the nice probability curve). There is enough detail in character design to offer many ways to make diverse and entertaining characters, while not requiring fixed classes or levels. It might be a little much for a total novice to get to grips with, but all told a good job.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Karma Roleplaying System Core Rules Book
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for the review. We hope to introduce more modern and futuristic supplements in the coming months. And there will be plenty more single monster PDFs available so storytellers can pick and chose which monsters they want.
Karma Quick Guide
by Ashley D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2008 20:17:07
Quick introduction to what is actually a pretty good little game. The download however does not include any of the extras listed. Only the 4 page quick reference.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Karma Quick Guide
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Publisher Reply:
Ashley, The other files should appear under your downloads. It is a problem with the RPGNOW interface when you buy a free product. The immediate download only shows the four page main file. However, if you go under your account and check your "recent purchases with download links" the other files should appear there. I did just test it and it worked.
Adventure Havens: Library Lore
by Christopher H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/14/2008 02:22:26
I've had very good luck with Bards & Sages products in the past, but this one was, frankly, much less impressive. The problems begin already on p. 4--the first page of actual content--where the author refers to a previously unmentioned "multi-library quest" to find "the Astral Fortress." Nothing in the document prepares readers for this; all that precedes this notice is an explanation of the library stat block format used throughout the product. The author doesn't even begin to explain this "quest" until p. 36 of a 42-page product. Perhaps the author wanted the DM to "experience" the quest in a manner that mirrors the PCs' experience in visiting various libraries and assembling various clues, but as a DM seeking to use this product in a home campaign, I would call that a very poor and off-putting choice. This feature was a disincentive even to read past p. 4.

Moreover--especially egregious in a product that's supposed to be about centers of learning--the product suffers from frequently errors in spelling, grammar, usage, and mechanics. Already on p. 4, the reader encounters such mistakes as a reference to "story arches" instead of "story arcs" and the "peek times" (the correct phrase is "peak times") for library traffic. Later, readers encounter a library that has some books "for sell" (the author should have written, "for sale"). The formatting of the stat block varies from line to line, and various punctuation marks are either misplaced or missing. I counted five errors of punctuation or capitalization in the first three paragraphs alone. That sort of thing immediately removes all presumption of confidence in the quality of the work. I'm a college professor, and if a student handed in a paper with that many errors in the first three paragraphs, I would not even bother to read the rest of it; I'd give it back and insist on better proofreading and revision before spending my time trying to give it a grade.

Moreover, the author's assumptions about shelf space seem quite wrong to me. The author states that a "ten foot high, three foot wide, bookshelf can hold between 100 large tomes or 1,000 small ones" (p. 4; all grammatical errors in this quotation are in the original). I'm not sure what dimensions the author imagines for a "small tome," but I'm sitting next to a three-foot-wide bookshelf right now, and the top shelf has 31 books on it. (The thinnest is "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"; the thickest is the "Lord of the Rings" three-in-one movie tie-in paperback). I've been in quite a few modern libraries, and I've rarely seen one with ten-foot-high bookshelves, but let's work with that for a minute. If the vertical space allotted to each shelf is about one foot, that gives you ten of those three-foot-wide shelves on which to put your library books. Ten three-foot-wide shelves gives you, obviously, a total of 30 horizontal feet or 360 horizontal inches in which to store your books. In order to fit 1,000 "small tomes" into that space, each of those "small tomes" must average no more than 0.36" thick, less than half the thickness of the D&D 4e Player's Handbook. Somehow, I just can't picture many tomes in a fantasy RPG world being quite that small. The books in the illustration on p. 7 are certainly much thicker than 0.36"! The numbers at the "low end" of the scale work fine, but at the "high end," they're way off.

I tried to hang in with Library Lore a bit longer, especially because my current D&D campaign requires the PCs to search for a particular book--and what better place to look for a book than in a library? Frankly, my esteem for the product didn't grow as I read through it. I really wanted to like this product, but it's just not very well done. The artwork and layout are unattractive and, in some ways, not very useful; for example, the subheadings within a library write-up are larger than the type that introduces each library to begin with (in the stat block). Too much of the detail given about each library ties into the "multi-library quest," an element that isn't even mentioned at all in the product description!

But what about the libraries themselves? "Arnie's Library" has an entertaining patron, but otherwise offers relatively thin story possibilities unless the DM is using the "multi-library quest" (or the PCs try to break in when Arnie's not around). "The Corner Store" offers even less if you're not using the "multi-library quest"; the proprietor serves chiefly as a vehicle for inexplicably giving the PCs a magic item. The "Echo Library" offers some very interesting possibilities, if an enterprising DM chooses to develop one of the bullet-point adventure seeds. "Gadget Hall" is rather too "steampunk" for my tastes (one of the proprietors is close to inventing the parachute?). I like the idea of the "Grass Lot," but the product focuses on developing a link from the Grass Lot back to Gadget Hall in service of the "multi-library quest" instead of enhancing one's sense of the library itself. "Grom's Library" introduces a quasi-dungeon crawl into the product. The "Halls of Steel," a dwarven mining and stonecutting library, feels awfully stereotypical. The idea behind the "House of Cards" is pretty entertaining, but following the plot suggested forces the PCs to go to one of the other libraries. Using the "Knowwood Forest" as written requires the DM to insert a "Knowwood" and a "Darkwood" into his or her campaign, a proposition that some may find disagreeable; moreover, a forest library run by elves and featuring books written on leaves is every bit as stereotypical as the dwarven mining library. Similarly, using "North Legal South Law" in your campaign requires you to import a whole bunch of the author's campaign assumptions into your own setting. The "Rainbow Paradise" is apparently supposed to be set on a tropical island, but how you get it close enough to the other libraries (which don't fit naturally on a tropical island) to make the "multi-library quest" workable--in a way that doesn't stretch the imagination too far--is a little beyond me. Finally, one gets to the "Astral Fortress," the target of the multi-library quest.

Oh, and one more complaint: there are too many dragons in this product! "Arnie's Library" involves a red dragon; some patrons suspect that the proprietor of the "Corner Store" has dragon blood; "Gadget Hall" involves a blue dragon; a half-dragon is on the staff of "Grom's Library"; a green dragon figures in one of the "Knowwood" adventure hooks; and a "redeemed" red dragon apparently lives in the "Astral Fortress." One dragon might have been okay, but this is overkill.

I had high hopes for this product and ended up very disappointed.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Havens: Library Lore
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Neiyar: Land of Heaven and the Abyss
by Jason G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2008 14:49:14
Neiyar is not your normal game setting. The typical male gamer will have to completely rethink his attitude, because it is a matriarchal world (at least, the human civilization, anyway). The gender role reversal isn’t along the lines of the evil-drow-sacrifice-unwanted-males-to-lloth variety, but it is readily apparent and permeates the world. Nor is it the femi-nazi sort of GYRLL POWER thing you would expect. The social structure isn’t portrayed as good or evil, it just is what it is.

There is a sort of cold war going on in the setting. The enemies of the Neiyar culture, the Krakodons, are almost the polar opposites of the human culture. The Krakodons are a draconic sort of race that is highly patriarchal. The Krakodons control most of the southern half of the island, and while there is trade between the two groups and the war is officially over, both sides wage a subversive war to keep the other in check. Also thrown in the mix are the Mahaultae, a race of cat people, who more often than not side with the Neiyar, but sympathize with the Krakodons. The Amphikin are a frog race of con artists and opportunists that play both sides against each other. Auronnes are a swan race that are mostly loyal to the Neiyar, but try to stay out of the political fray.

There is a lot going on with the setting. Of course, you have your prerequisite assortment of ruins and abandoned cities to explore. There are also a lot of special organizations, secret societies, and sects waging political wars with each other. Joining an organization has distinct advantages in game play. Many of the churches are on the verge of fragmenting due to internal squabbles over dogma, and players can get caught in the middle. Add to the whole mix the fact that prophesy claims that the Demon God Nephar will rise and launch another Demon War soon and you can need a scorecard to keep track of who is on whose side.

Some of the prestige classes resemble similar stuff that has been produced elsewhere. There are a few really cool spells and feats, but nothing earth shattering. There is a spattering of new magic items as well. The Hearth Magic system, however, totally rocks. It’s simple and makes perfect sense considering the flavor of the setting. The monsters section includes some sweet critters to throw at players. A swarm of fleshcutter ants (carnivorous ants that are the size of a dog) will definitely strike fear in the hearts of adventurers. The Sleeper Bat can serve as a familiar, and there are special rules that allow it to learn and cast spells independently of its master.

The real strength of the book is the flavor of the setting itself. The island isn’t just an exotic jungle. There is a distinct Ravenloft vibe (I actually used the setting as a domain in a Ravenloft game I was running). See, elves, dwarves, and such are not native to the island, but sometimes end up there due to shipwrecks or magical backlashes. And once you end up on the island, it’s almost impossible to leave. Teleportation magic doesn’t work. Scrying often fails. And there is a big, nasty, immortal sea monster called the Green Death ready to crush any boat foolish enough to try to leave.

I like the look of the revised format over the old edition. The new design makes it easy to read onscreen, and easier to find information quickly. There is some nice new art added, though I wish there was more of it. The maps are the same ones from the old edition, though. They are OK, but not stellar.

A disclaimer. I bought a copy of the old version of this book from a now defunct vendor two or three years ago. When I saw the publisher’s press release about the new version being available at RPGNOW and that RPGNOW customers could get the new version free, I contacted them because I wanted my freebie, too. After some back and forth, I found my old confirmation e-mail to confirm my original purchase, and the publisher sent me a coupon to download a free copy of the revised edition. After thanking her and giving her my thoughts on the new version, she asked if I’d think about leaving a review. So I thought about it, and I did. Since she went to the trouble to help me get a new copy, the least I could do was write a review.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Neiyar: Land of Heaven and the Abyss
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Elemental Gemstones
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/21/2008 17:52:09
I confess that I’ve never been a person who cared for RPG supplements that didn’t have any rules. Such flavor-based books always seemed like a waste to me; why pay for something when, as often as not, the information you really wanted could be found at your local library, or on the internet, or even in the fertile depths of your own imagination? What I wanted was someone to do the math for me, inventing new systems and sub-systems that I couldn’t find elsewhere. And yet, despite all of that, I found myself head-over-heels for Elemental Gemstones before I’d even finished the first read-through.

The zipped file containing Elemental Gemstones is just over three megabytes in size, holding a single PDF version of the book. The supplement is a full twenty-seven pages long, though this includes the cover, a credits page, a Consumer End-User License, etc. The PDF does have bookmarks, but they’re for each section of the book, not for each gem. Luckily, the table of contents does list each gem, and is hyperlinked.

The book is also quite beautiful to look at, much like a gemstone itself. Almost every page is lightly tinted with various colors (the introduction seems to have a light violet, while the section with the gemstones is a light green, for example). Moreover, each of the seventy gemstones listed in the book has a photograph of an example stone right by the entry. There are no other illustrations here, but you won’t miss that at all, given how visually spectacular the book is. The only problem with this approach is that printing it out might be a bit of a hassle. Having a plain-text version wouldn’t have hurt.

As mentioned above, Elemental Gemstones is a system-neutral book. While it drops some hints to being compatible to Bards and Sages new Karma RPG, you’d never know this if they hadn’t mentioned it; and even so, I’m still not sure where this book intersects with that, as it still seems system-neutral. The premise of the book is that it describes seventy gemstones, and talks about their elemental natures, which make them suitable for certain kinds of magic.

The book opens by talking about the various elements. The four classical elements are discussed first (air, earth, fire, and water) followed by three secondary elements (lightning, metal, and wood), and three “astral elements” (aether and void). After this, it briefly mentions the availability of various gemstones, dividing them up into common, difficult, and rare, and discussing what those terms generally mean.

Each gemstone is then discussed (in alphabetical order) along with what elements it corresponds to, and what its availability is. The majority of each entry, which is roughly two paragraphs long, is to discuss specifically how the gem’s elemental affinities translate into magic. Both amethyst and aquamarine are water/aether gemstones, for example, but the former augments protection against fear and encourages peace, while the latter calms the restless dead and soothes the seas. At the end of the book are several lists indexing various gems by availability and by elemental affinity.

I confess that reading Elemental Gemstones reminded me of something that I’d forgotten: some supplements are supposed to stoke the imagination, rather than make new rules. And this book does that excellently. It provides a clear and lengthy list of new ideas for use of gems in your game, and leaves you to do the rest. Elemental Gemstones is a gem of a book unto itself.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elemental Gemstones
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The Manipulative Player's Guide to Sympathetic Magic
by Nadine S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/12/2008 14:09:26
Quirky little product. I actually like the ideas in this a lot, and the basic rules would work really well, particularly if you are running a modern game where a con artist could really thrive. For the typical fantasy fare, I don’t know how useful this would be. Written in a very conversational tone, as if you have a professional con artist giving a lesson to an apprentice. Pretty boring layout though. Worth picking up, however, particularly for a buck.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Manipulative Player's Guide to Sympathetic Magic
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The Keep of Lord Mmorpgus
by Nadine S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/12/2008 14:01:18
Somebody has too much free time on her hands. The author obviously had a lot of fun putting together this tongue-in-cheek collection of magical equipment. But before you laugh off such magical items as Barbaric Armor of the Rabbit or the Heroic Armor of the Triumphant Hedgehog, these silly named items are actually pretty cool, useful, and would add a funny splash to a game. Particularly interesting are the variant wands. Most interesting item in the collection—Rotted Mantle of Poverty, a tabard that is worn over normal clothes, with bonuses dependent on how charitable the wearer has been over the past week. The more you give, the more you get. For the price, a great addition to a your game resources.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Keep of Lord Mmorpgus
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Elemental Gemstones
by Nadine S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/12/2008 13:27:36
Just beautiful, though like Cosmology of Karma this product almost killed my printer. Well written overview of dozens of gems and their supposed magical properties. Gems by Elemental Affinity Chart provides a quick reference in case you want to find gems for specific elements.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elemental Gemstones
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SPIDERS!
by Tom B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/11/2008 12:15:10
If you have ever wanted to make spiders viable familiars or get more use out of them, this is the perfect product. Presents rules on arachnophobia, using spiders as familiars, alchemy uses for different spiders, and even a few fantasy variants to make things more interesting. Plenty of full color photos of real spiders, so don't show this to friends who really do have arachnophobia!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
SPIDERS!
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