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Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales
by David P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2006 00:00:00
Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales does exactly what it promises to do. It gives DMs 12 ready-made, easy to use taverns already populated with cool NPCs and built in story hooks. I don?t think there?s a DM alive who hasn?t been stumped with trying to come up with a tavern on the fly when the players got to a town.

Each tavern has a stat block that covers everything from how many tables and chairs fit into the building to what?s on the menu to what kind of booze you can get. The patrons sections gives you information of important NPCs who frequent the establishment, complete with stats, and the general attitude of the typical patron. In fact, there are tons of ready made NPCs in this product, and there is even an index by CR so that you could use them on the fly if you needed quick antagonists. The majority of the NPCs are standard races, though there are a few notable exceptions (Feralas Nightsong the Drow, has somebody been playing too much WOW?). A couple of the generic NPCs (town guards, mercenaries, etc) are presented with multiple CR stats, but most only present one set of stats. Not a big deal, as since they for the most part use standard races and classes, they are easy to tweek up or down depending on the level of your party.

The mini-adventures included are a nice way to kill time between story arcs, or even if you are looking to run a one-shot game. And the multi-tavern quest that ends in a really cool boss fight involving?well?don?t wanna give it away, but it?s something the party won?t see coming.

The PDF also includes a handful of new items, most of which involve alchemy or cooking. OK, that sounds weird. But their cool items. And some of the quests even allow the party to learn how to make them.



LIKED: Tons of new NPCs and 12 original taverns that can fit just about anywhere.

DISLIKED: Would have liked the NPCs and adventures to have been scaled to different levels.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales
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Trees of Fantasy
by David P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2006 00:00:00
This product will have every elf player you know hugging you like you were a tree. There are 23 non-magical, non-treant trees designed for a fantasy world in this PDF. So what?s so exciting about trees? Plenty, when you examine this PDF. Each tree includes information on special properties, harvesting the wood, and effects the tree would potentially have on the world if use. The obvious benefits of some of these trees are in the making of weapons and armor. Armors, for example, that can offer fire resistance because they are made of Red Cypress, a tree that grows near lava. Or bracers that don?t really do anything for your armor class rating, but could save your life if your plate-mail warrior finds himself overboard.

But there are plenty of products that offer new weapons and armor. Where this PDF is different is in the practical uses of the trees. This product isn?t so much an alternative source of treasure or twinking, but something to help add a bit of character to your setting. So what happens when the party is in a town during the dry season, and the surrounding forest of everburn pine suddenly explodes? That feeling of gloom as they approach the evil vampire lord?s castle isn?t just dread, but evil coming off of the Death Yew trees surrounding them as well.

But people are gonna want new stuff, and this PDF delivers that as well. There are a lot of variant traps in this product, illustrating how the wood from the different trees can be employed to make even normal stuff more interesting (and dangerous). And some of the items are just too cool. Make hang gliders and wooden legs (there are even new skills for making and installing prosthetics and safely operating a hang glider!).

The product isn?t printer friendly, because the art is full color. On my monitor, though, it looks great and the illustrations do a great job of taking these fantasy tree ideas and making them seem real. Some bookmarks and some flesging out of the table of contents would have been helpful as well. But it's not that big of a deal.



LIKED: A great collection of trees to add a little variety to a campaign, and tons of new items to make tree huggers happy.

DISLIKED: no printer friendly version or bookmarks.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trees of Fantasy
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Koboldnomicon
by Andrew B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/26/2006 00:00:00
The Koboldnomicon is either a dread tome of unspeakable secrets, penned in blood by a yipping and yapping monk from an eastern land?or a somewhat tongue-in-cheek sourcebook of all things kobold. Based on the feats, spells, and prestige classes, I?m leaning toward the latter. Still, it never hurts to be too careful, so I?m checking over my shoulder from time to time as I write this.

Seriously, though, the Koboldnomicon is a book that I?m surprised didn?t come out years ago. It?s just such an obviously good idea to create a sourcebook based around D&D?s lowliest humanoid antagonist. The idea of the book as a kind of forbidden tome gives the Kobolnomicon a neat hook and, when it works, adds a little humor to the sourcebook.

This product was written by a number of different authors, and at times you can tell it?s a compilation effort. While the book as a whole is well-written, it lacks cohesion. The contents are divided into sections: sub-races, classes and prestige classes, feats & skills, etc. Scattered throughout are kobold themed fiction and poetry (yes, kobold poetry). While it?s all organized logically, everything comes out feeling sort of cobbled together. Maybe it?s the sparse design style of the PDF, which is positively drab and uniform.

Fortunately, the actual rules and contents of the Koboldnomicon are pretty good. The Kobold Trapsmith prestige class is a logical addition, and I thought a number of the spells were clever. Every section contained more than a few things that I liked, and everything seemed balanced and well-written. Even the things I didn?t care for (such as the kobold sub-races) would probably work fine for someone else?s group and campaign.

I also found a few things that, while I didn?t really like them at a casual glance, eventually won me over when I read them in more depth. The best example is probably the section on ?kobold bio-weapons.? These are traps and weapons incorporating living animals. At first glance, I found them a little too silly. After all, they include in their number something called the ?angry-wolvering-strapped-to-a-battering-ram?, which is exactly what it sounds like it is. After reading through the bioweapons, though, they kind of grew on me. An angry wolverine strapped to the front of an imposing battering-ram would make a fairly terrifying contraption, after all. My favorite bioweapon is the caltrop-toad, which really is quite clever.

LIKED: The Koboldnomicon accomplishes what it sets out to do: help the DM make the lowly kobold a threat. Between the prestige classes, new spells, equipment, gods, and other new rules and ideas the Koboldnomicon should make the kobold more interesting, if not worthy of the respect of PC adventurers everywhere.

There are a lot of ideas crammed into the Koboldnomicon?s 60ish pages of rules, poetry, and other nonsense. Most of them are pretty darn good and, assuming you?re looking to spice up the kobolds in your campaign, you?ll find more than a few cool things here to help you. The writing is solid, the ideas are clever, and the rules seem pretty well balanced.

Overall, the Koboldnomicon a nice little PDF.

DISLIKED: The Koboldnomicon is built around the idea of an evil, necronomicon-style book dealing with the forbidden lore of the kobolds. It?s a clever thought, but one that the book?s design fails to use to its advantage. The opening introduction (by the mysterious Simon) supposedly came in the form of letter written in shaky handwriting and stained with brownish-red spots. So why not present it on a cool background, in a hand-written font? Some clear divisions between sections, along with a better use of art (which is good, but seems randomly placed) would have gone a long way toward making this book look more professional.

As it was, I felt as though I was looking at some kind of printer friendly version, wondering what happened to the layout and color. Also, where the heck are the bookmarks?

Finally, while the d20 ruleset has the level adjustment rules for handling the benefits a player gains from choosing a monster race, it has no counterpart for boosting those players that want to play weaker races such as kobolds. I would have liked to have seen this addressed. Kobold-themed feats, spells, and abilities are fine and well, but some kind of ?reverse LA? or experience bonus would have gone along way toward making up for the basic Kobold?s statistical shortcomings.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Koboldnomicon
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Trees of Fantasy
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2006 00:00:00
Trees of Fantasy is a 26 page pdf product. This product is a stand-alone pdf from Bards and Sages that features 23 fantasy trees, and in particular details the properties, descriptions and special qualities of the woods that derive from these fantasy trees. The pdf aims to provide a greater amount of detail to a fantasy campaign setting, both in providing types of trees, but also in the number of new magical and mundane items that can be derived from them.

Trees of Fantasy weighs in at 21 MB, largely due to the full color art contain in the product. The pdf contains no bookmarks, nor a printer friendly version, and in the latter case with the full color art, some of it taking up an entire page, it'll be costly on one's ink. There is a table of contents, although not quite detailed enough in, for example, listing the pages the individual trees appear on. A table providing a summary of all the trees and their pertinent use or special qualities would also have been useful. Artwork is generally good, although perhaps too 'real' and not enough 'fantasy'. Editing and writing is good as well, although the presentation isn't spectacular, as highlighted by the number of things that are missing from the pdf.

The product starts by providing a brief introduction to the pdf. This pdf is about trees, and in particular the wood that comes from them. The wood of different trees can be used for different purposes, be it crafting weapons, armor or more mundane yet interesting items. A full overview is given on the details one can expect in each entry, with a complete description of each entry and the meaning of the key elements of the entry. Wood from these trees can be used for a variety of purposes, and the pdf has a section entitled 'effects on the world' under each entry which details some of the considerations one needs to use when using the material. I found those very helpful as a form of 'designer note'.

There are 23 unique fantasy trees presented in this pdf. Examples of the trees include the Bone Spruce (for creating wooden skeletons that can be animated as undead), Balsa Liftwood (a floating wood that can easily lift things), Ironwood (resistant to fire and most weapon damage), red cypress (protection from fire), Silver Fir (weapons crafted from it affect creatures with DR silver), and Yellow Sugi (a wood with certain calming effects and good auras). Overall there were some good and interesting trees, with a suitable variety for use in most campaign settings. I particularly like the Bone Spruce, which can be used by necromancers to create wooden skeletons.

In places the mechanical explanation of a tree's properties is weak or incomplete, by for example, mention things like 'DR fire' rather than 'fire resistance'. More details could certainly have been included on crafting aspects of using these woods. For example, the red cypress is invulnerable to fire, but it's not mentioned in the entry what happens when armor is crafted from the wood, nor what crafting such armor would cost. The incompleteness of some of the entries makes using the material problematic in places without sufficient mechanical backing.

The latter part of the pdf covers a whole host of mundane and magical items. There were some interesting and useful items here, but again the mechanics was disappointing. The hearing aid, for example, a device crafted from the quivering aspen, grants the user a +2 bonus to listen check when worn in the ear. This, however, only costs 5 gp, which is too cheap for the function it provides. The variety of items, though, showcases the utility and benefits of the different trees, and most DMs and players will find some useful material in this pdf. A number of new traps based on these woods are also included, and welcome addition to the pdf since not many pdfs have details on traps.

Trees of Fantasy is a product that presents a variety of different trees and the properties of the wood that can be harvested from them. There are some interesting trees with useful functionality, although the lack of detail and the often weak mechanical execution hamper one's appreciation for the trees themselves. Nevertheless, with 23 trees and a lot of new magical and mundane items, this is a useful product that can find use in any campaign setting.


LIKED: The variety of trees and magical items increases the utility of the product, and there are some interesting ideas such as the bone spruce. The pdf covers a niche area that's worth exploring, and provides some good information to expand on your campaign world, and in particular the forests and trees of the world.

DISLIKED: The pdf requires a printer friendly version given the heavy use of full-color art. Weak mechanical implementation and lack of detail in places makes it unclear how one should make the most of the material included.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trees of Fantasy
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Publisher Reply:
Peter, thank you for your review of the product. As some of our customers have pointed out (and what we know from our own experiences) all printers have an option to "print in B&W" or "print to grayscale." For those not wanting to print in color, this is a quick and easy solution. In fact, as a hint, most printers also offer a "draft" option that prints quicker and uses less ink, ideal for when you just want the text and aren't concerned about reproducing the art. I use this all the time for my own print outs. I just wanted to point out that the Red Cypress does, in fact, mention what happens when you use it to craft armor. Masterwork items crafted of the material gain fire resistance of 20. We even included an example item (Red Cypress shield) to illustrate the point.
World Building
by Keith T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/15/2006 00:00:00
It does a good job of promoting the idea that when creating a world (or a game) you should have a consistant vision for it instead of basing a whole setting or system around one or two 'kewl' things. It should have gone into more detail about the case study, though. Why did the group end up with the choices they made instead of something else? What other options did they consider?


LIKED: Raises some good points and doesn't cost that much.

DISLIKED: Too short (about eight pages of content) and somewhat vague.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
World Building
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for your comments. Unfortunately, because this was a seminar class, they didn't have time to engage in a lot of the research end. Decisions were made based on majority rule and existing knowledge. Sometimes discussions of one aspect needed to be cut short in order to move on. Hopefully, that explains the abbreviated nature of their choices.
Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/11/2006 00:00:00
Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales is a 44 page pdf product, and the first in Bards and Sages' new line of Adventure Havens supplements. The series aims to provide DMs with a number of useful game tools such as locations, NPCs and story hooks, so that the DM is never unprepared during gameplay when the players do something unexpected or different. The first in the series, Tavern Tales, provides a number of fantasy taverns for DMs to use, including complete descriptions, NPCs, layout, mini-quests and more.

The product comes as a single pdf file (a sizable 26 MB download) that contains a table of contents with handy hyperlinks to the tavern descriptions and details in the text (though not necessarily directly to the right location for the start of the tavern description on the page). There are no bookmarks. Presentation is not the best, looking quite amateurish in places, and the pdf could certainly have done with some improved presentation. The taverns, for example, have no headings to indicate where they start - one moment a mini-quest on a tavern ends, and the next the new tavern starts after a small amount of white space. Artwork is good and plentiful, mostly pencil sketches but also a small number of full-color pieces. Writing and editing is generally good and easy to read, although there are one or two minor errors. Stat blocks are plentiful given the large number of NPCs detailed, and almost all of them contain errors, which is disappointing to see.

Tavern Tales details twelve fantasy taverns. The pdf starts by providing a very lacklustre overview of how to use the product and what one can expect under each entry. Each entry contains details such as name of tavern, owner, layout, food and drink available, prices, number of prices, sleeping accommodations, history and background, patrons, ideas for integrating a tavern into your game, and mini-quests that can be found in each tavern. Each tavern is also accompanied by an insignia or sign associated with it.

The tavern descriptions themselves are interesting and useful, containing a wide variety of useful ideas and plot-hooks for quests and mini-quests themselves. They made for an enjoyable read with some interesting NPCs that should make for fun roleplaying encounters. Gertrude, for example, is a high level wizard who bakes cookies that are capable of healing people. Each tavern description is overflowing with detail, and DMs should be able to find more than they want under each description. The taverns are also suitable to a wide variety of locations, be it a town, village or even city, and the nature of the establishments is varied enough so that no two of the taverns are really alike (e.g. dock-tavern or gambling hall). The pdf succeeds well at creating unique taverns with their own characteristics to make them stand out.

Examples of the dozen taverns include are Crying Wolf, where revenge haunts the staff of the tavern, the Saty'rs Love where a disturbance from below and a strange collar lead to sinister secrets, and The Wailing Banshee where ghost stories are not always what they seem. The mini-quests are interesting and varied, and cater for a wide variety of different encounter levels. With this is mind, each tavern and its associated mini-quests cater for a certain party level, meaning that while the taverns can be used for any level party, the mini-quests can't. This limits the usability of the quests somewhat, unless DMs wish to modify the associated stat blocks and just use the ideas.

The pdf concludes by including hyperlinked lists of items (Gertrude's cookies and training collar, for example), lists of monsters and NPCs, and NPCs by CR. These are useful and allow DMs to cater a particularly mini-quest to a particular level of party. Overall, this pdf provides a DM with some useful tools that require little work to integrate into a campaign.


LIKED: Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales presents a dozen fully detailed taverns complete with history, NPCs and mini-quests. There is a good variety of interesting and useful material, and plenty of opportunity for roleplaying with NPCs that have a little more life than one would normally find in a tavern. Most DMs should find this easy to integrate into an existing campaign or story arc.

DISLIKED: Presentation was disappointing and certainly could've used more attention. Stat blocks were also full of errors. While the mini-quests are a good idea, the implementation means that if you wish to use a quest you're forced to use a tavern that is suitable to the party level, limiting the usefulness of the material. Perhaps scaled mini-quests would've been a better implementation.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales
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Trees of Fantasy
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/11/2006 00:00:00
Going out on a limb, the team at Bards and Sages has presented a decent product with their releast of Trees of Fantasy. Trees of Fantasy is a supplement that provides details on 23 different types of trees to import into your d20 game.

Trees of Fantasy is a small supplement sprouting 26 pages of information about our often ignored lifeforms. The lack of the d20 stamp of approval may throw you off a bit, but rest assured that the items and stats are all compatible. I have never been big on details such as flora in my campaign, but the short descriptions and interesting stats and varieties for each tree are interesting enough to want to put one or two of them as permanent fixtures in your campaign.

For the Dungeon Master

This book is primarily for DMs whom like to flesh out their world. If you have five or six regions in your campaign, this book is an excellent for adding a popular breed of tree in that region. Your PCs will really understand and get a feeling they are in a new ?location? if the type of flora in the area changes with the climate. Sure there are no treants in the book, but there are enough monster trees on the market. Each of the tree descriptions are well written and very different. I believe DMs will really enjoy the death yew. It?s a tree that grows when intense death has happened in the area. Without saying too much you could portray to your PCs the danger of the area by throwing in a Death Yew amist a bunch of Everwood Pine.

You will also get some good use out of the items in the back of the book. If you have strong forest cultures in your campaign world, there are plenty of items to decorate homes and NPCs with to pull off that ?foresty? look.

For the PC

This book is a must for druids, rangers, fey and other foresty type characters whom you wish to give some additional character too. If you wondered how to stock a character with items when he has never been in the city before, you can surely use the magical weapons and armor. I can also see foresty PCs using the tree descriptions in their background stories.

The Iron Word

Outside of adding a few PC eating trees, I never thought about the forests of an area. Trees of Fantasy will grow the detail in your campaign with some well placed flora. You will probably want to find your own artwork for the trees though. There was much to be desired from the washed water paint trees in the book. Some looked a bit too natural for a fantasy game, like the kind that guy on PBS used to draw.



LIKED: Great way to plug a niche that has gone unexplored

DISLIKED: The artwork took the feel of the writing away from me

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trees of Fantasy
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Trees of Fantasy
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/08/2006 00:00:00
Trees of Fantasy by Bards and Sages is a 24-page source-book of fantastic trees and types of wood. As the introduction of the book points out the trade in lumber and worked wood has a long and profitable history and it should be no different in a fantasy world. Indeed a fantasy world is likely to have special woods with unique properties which this product details.

Each of the 23 types of wood is detailed by appearance ? and accompanied by a full-color illustration ? with complete game statistics, value and ability and the possible effects of including such wood on a game world. Among the types of wood presented are: balsa liftwood that floats in the air under certain circumstance. Types of wood that are as hard as metal, including ?mystic? ironwood and elven redwood. With other woods possessing interesting special effects and abilities.

There are several items, quasi-mundane and magic, using the new materials. Though one of the items (Sugi Staff of Healing) is given the ability to cast both lesser restoration and cure serious wound without a cost in charges, making it an eternal and very powerful (artefact level) healing item. Along with ways to use these woods in traps. Lastly, there are new uses of skills.

While the full color illustrations are much appreciated and provide a useful set of visual references, a printer friendly version with the illustrations broken out separately (so the DM would only need to print the ones needed at the time) would have been helpful.

This product is a wonderful way to expand a game world by adding colorful (often literally) background elements with as much system impact as the DM wishes to allow. While the rules used in this product are D20, most of the ideas would be easily adaptable to any fantasy settings.


LIKED: Fantastic items that are interesting without being powerful.

DISLIKED: No printer friendly version.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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The Encyclopedia of Skill Lore
by Candice J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/15/2006 00:00:00
The Encyclopedia of Skill Lore turned out to be *very* useful, and was integrated easily into our campaign. It's given us all sorts of ideas for books ourselves... I highly recomend it.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Encyclopedia of Skill Lore
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Challenges and Rewards
by Phil N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/04/2006 00:00:00
This expansion to awarding Experience Points is an ideal way to reward Players for their non-combat actions. While many GMs may do this already, the possession of a formula to make such awards is very useful.


LIKED: The formulae for determining non-combat Xp

DISLIKED: The added book-keeping that would be required, although most of the maths can be performed between sessions. Only short, but concise.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Challenges and Rewards
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Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/24/2006 00:00:00
It may not have Norm, Sam, Woody and Diane, but Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales delivers you enough creative taverns with over two dozen quirky individuals to mold your own version of Cheers into your campaign world.

Tavern Tales is a neat little resource that provides a dozen taverns ready to be plopped into your fantasy campaign world. Each tavern has an exclusive back story, patrons and quests. Bearing in mind that similar products with only one or two places detailed cost the equivalent price to Adventure Havens, this product is a steal.

For the DM:
The backgrounds of the taverns average about a paragraph or two in description. This is a big change from the products that tend to detail every single room and its history. I found this feature positive. It delivers a good enough description of the overall building, and then focuses on what makes a good tavern a good tavern?It?s patrons. Let?s face it, Cheers was not the number one comedy on TV because of the well constructed stools. It was the people, and Tavern Tales realizes this. Each of its NPCs is provides a statblock and a unique description that ties it to the tavern. The quests merge everything together. The taverns become more than just a place to receive the quest. They become a part of the adventure. The mini adventures are skeleton enough for the DM to expand or condense however he or she chooses.

The Iron Word:
Adventure Havens: Tavern Taless gives DM?s the trifecta of hurried material for a campaign. At some point, every DM has had a point where they did not have a place, NPC or quest after their PCs deviated from the main adventure. The basic artwork in the book represents its skeletal approach. Each tavern is basic enough to be a nice diversion, and has the capability of being expanded to become a place where everyone knows the PCs name.



LIKED: They got it right about what makes a tavern a tavern by focusing on the patrons and quests. I also like how each Tavern has its own logo.

DISLIKED: There are no bookmarks, though the table of contents does link you to each Tavern. IF they were going to use this as the main mode of navigation, they should have had links back to the table of content for each tavern.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales
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Challenges and Rewards
by Dennis K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2006 00:00:00
This product provides some simple but effective means to determine CRs and gauge rewards, making nice additions to the SRD. However, this publication is more of an essay than a book, IMO. The Cover, ToC, and OGL license take up 1/2 of the publication. You only get 3 pages of content. While, it is nice to not have pages and pages to read through in a reference; that is also partly why you buy a book-- for the flavor text. Then, just add on a reference sheet that GMs and players could print out and use in their games. In this manner, I feel that more could have been done to enhance the meaning, context and usage of the rules outlined in this publication. Overall, I would think this would make a nice add-on for bundling with another product or as a promotional. [Update Note: I've adjusted my Quality rating up to Acceptable and Overall rating to better reflect what I do like about the content, namely the suggested rules mechanics. I'll admit that I do use the rule mechanics in this publication for my games, so I am finding the content useful. However, I just can't shake off my disappointment in the value and presentation of the content. I also notice that the publisher has lowered the price by nearly half since I purchased it earlier this year, so IMO the value is better now than when I purchased it. (No, I don't want any money refunded, etc. I'm just being honest here.) Finally, I appreciate the publisher's reflections and feedback on my initial comments; I think that it was appropriate for me to expand on my initial review. Thanks.]








LIKED: This product provides some simple but effective means to determine CRs and gauge rewards, making nice additions to the SRD.

DISLIKED: The Cover, ToC, and OGL license take up 1/2 of the publication. You only get 3 pages of content.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Challenges and Rewards
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Publisher Reply:
We always like to hear back from customers. Yes, the product is short, but when it comes to calculating experience for special circumstances, who wants to wade through 20 pages of text? The product is deliberately short and concise to make it easy to use. Other than the page count, was there another issue you had with the product, because from your first sentence it sounded like you liked the product, but your rating doesn't reflect it. We appreciate feedback we can use, so if you could flesh out your review a bit more it would be appreciated.
Challenges and Rewards
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/04/2006 00:00:00
Challenges and Rewards

The game of D&D is built for combat. The easiest way to gain levels is by killing things and the DMG does suggest getting XP in other ways but really fails to say exactly how that can happen. I would have thought that someone would have come out with rules for this type of thing years ago. But the long wait is over, or so it seems. Challenges and Rewards is a PDF that has ways for gaining XP through skill use, breaking things, and other actions out of combat.

Challenges and Rewards is a small PDF by Bards and Sages. It is written by Julie Ann Dawson and Josh Benton. The PDF is one of the smaller I have seen coming it at only seven pages. And with the OGL taking up two pages, the front cover and a page for the table of contents and then art on most of the pages this is actually much smaller then those seven pages might suggest. There are no book marks in the PDF though they really are not needed for a one of this material and this size. The art is okay. The layout is in a rare single column format that is also just okay.

The book starts with skill checks for experience. It has an equation for how to figure out what the CR of a particular task is based off the DC of the skill check and potential rolls of the skill check. The book does stress that not every skill check should award XP. Only those that are rather important like swimming to save drowning and important NPC or picking a difficult lock. It does not give the DM guidelines for figuring out what is important or what is not; so the DM will have to make some judgment calls with this. The equation seems to work but I am sure there will be some odd instances especially at higher levels where it can break down.

The breaking things section is really simple. I am not going to reprint the equation they use but it should be simple to use and the CR?s determined by this will be low and at higher levels the PCs will not gain XP from just breaking things. And that seems to be about right as breaking things at higher levels is not all that impressive.

Gaining XP from contests is similar to the skill checks. The equation is the same and even though contests are usually opposed rolls of some type there is enough similarities between the two that allow this to work. It can potentially have the same problems at higher levels but I think that is less likely to happen in these types of contests.

Creating magical items is an odd way to get XP since in making them one uses XP. I like the idea here though because it is not just making magical items for the party and player; this is making magical items to help people or give away or fix the broken holy sword of a famous NPC knight. The CR?s here look like they can get pretty high at higher levels but I like the idea behind this way.

The last way is through sacrifice. This usually involves money like making a large donation to a church or actually returning a merchant?s stolen gold to him. Of course the key here is it has to be a true sacrifice of a gift and be meaningful to the character and possible to the campaign.

Overall I like the idea here of awarding XP for non combat activities. The attempt here is good. Some of the equations could be a little simpler and at higher levels I can see some of these breaking down a bit. This is a product for DM?s who have a good idea on what XP should be awarded for like important activities and not just climbing az random wall.





LIKED: Giving another option for gaining XP

DISLIKED: Some of the ways will break down a bit at higher levels.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Challenges and Rewards
by Don R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/26/2006 00:00:00
Challenges and Rewards from Bards and Sages Publishing does exactly what its first page says. It offers a few hard and fast rules that allow GMs to give a decent amount of experience for non-combat challenges. The idea is a good one. Giving a set of equations by which to figure non-combat experience saves a GM interested in doing so some trouble. With rules to reference, he doesn?t give too low or too high by his own misestimation of the numbers.

The first section of the supplement gives an equation for figuring experience from any skill check. It uses the DC of the check along with some creative use of a character?s skill level to ascertain a CR for the check, and requisite experience is then assigned using that CR. This is an intuitive solution, I think, to the problem of non-combat experience. Offering a fairly simple equation makes things much easier on everyone and nobody can argue with it, so long as they?ve agreed to the rules.

Further rules in the supplement cover how to assign XP for other situations, like contests and item creation. What?s very nice about the supplement is that it uses the same basic principles as for skill checks, with minor modifications for other types of non-combat actions.

A potential balance problem is cleared up easily. The authors urge throughout the supplement that XP is not to be given for every single skill check made, only for skill checks that were highly beneficial or significant. This leaves part of the question in the hands of the GM while still offering rules.



LIKED: A great idea. I know that I and many people I know wish that d20 was more role-playing friendly, and this supplement allows it to be. Using Challenges and Rewards, a character is not stifled every time he wants to do something other than combat. The chosen equation is only slightly modified for different situations, and so the consistency is nice. It makes for streamlined usage. It?s also good that they cover pretty much any non-combat situation where you might want XP.

DISLIKED: The basic equation isn?t exactly easy to remember. You?ll be keeping this book on the table for constant reference, and you?ll need a calculator. Of course, that?d hardly different from normal XP. I?m also not sure how well the whole thing balances, and I imagine you won?t know until you submit it to some fairly rigorous playtesting. I?m also not sure how useful the whole supplement will be to a whole lot of people.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Challenges and Rewards
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/15/2006 00:00:00
A rather simple, but useful system for those DMs who want more use of skills.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Click here to issue a publisher reply
Publisher Reply:
Thank you for the comment. We're always glad to hear back from customers. I would hope when you have the opportunity you will flesh out your review a bit, so we can better hear about what you liked and didn't like.
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