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Thinking Races: Inhuman Beauty
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/28/2009 08:06:52

Thinking Races: Inhuman Beauty describes six new player character races. Each is, ostensibly, one often regarded as being physically alluring, yet obviously non-human. Physical allure may well be in the eye of the beholder, especially where the sphinx is concerned…


The first race is an alternative interpretation of centaurs, describing them as Fey, rather than as Monstrous Humanoids. This emphasises their connection with nature, but does not generally seem to make too much difference from the regular sort of centaur. Second are a variant type of dryad, able to change the plant they are connected to, giving them a little more mobility than the regular sort. Even so, they seem a little limited as adventurers, unless, perhaps, their plant is particularly portable (and the book is a little unclear here as to how possible this is supposed to be).


The Serpentines, which are half human half snake (but a lot sexier than, say, a yuan-ti abomination) are perhaps the most original race, and the most deserving of being slotted somewhere in a campaign world. They do seem a trifle over-powered for a race without a Level Adjustment, though.


Despite the name, Sirens do not at all resemble the half-woman-half-bird creatures of Greek legend, but are actually a Fey version of merfolk. Which seems a slightly odd choice for a name (unless you’re French), although it is hard to deny that mermaids are one of the best examples of “alluring but obviously non-human” in traditional folklore, so it would have been stranger still to leave them out. Aside from the name, though, this is a fairly good treatment of fey merfolk considering the space available, and they can walk about on land, to remove the obvious objection to them as PCs.


The fifth race are sphinxes, which seem a little odd, even in comparison to the other races here. Unlike the others, they do have a Level Adjustment. Finally there are the Swiftwing Pixies, which are traditional flying fairies. This is a good interpretation of that concept, with some added discussion on using a race so small and weak as potential PCs. They are best employed as mobile and hard-to-spot spell-casters, although even then, one wonders about their ability to use and carry the material components for some spells.


Following the six races is a section on rules for romantic entanglements, or, rather, the mechanical benefits of already being engaged in some. The suggestion that a third axis of Selfless/Selfish be added to the standard alignment system seems out of place here, and the attempt to argue that it’s independent – so that Chaotic Evil Selfless is a valid alignment – is not wholly convincing. The spells for familiars, while reasonable enough, also seem slightly out of place. The rules that actually are connected with familial and romantic love at least seem to belong, and are mostly fairly reasonable if you want there to be clear magical benefits to such things.


On the whole, despite the focus on PCs, much of the material in the book will probably work better for NPCs and campaign background. Still, if you are looking for some really exotic alternatives to the regular player races, this is a good source for its price.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Thinking Races: Inhuman Beauty
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Adventurer Essentials: Lantern
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2009 20:01:14

Magic and special items, many race-specific, work well with the theme - particularly good to see a human-specific item. A couple of these thematically might be better as artifacts.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer Essentials: Lantern
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Adventurer Essentials: Iron Rations
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2009 06:06:19

Where other books in this series have tended to concentrate on mundane and magical variations of a standard adventuring item, this one is longer an analysis of the basic idea. What are iron rations? How long will they last before going off? What exactly are the effects of missing a meal? And to what extent to common spells such as Create Water and Goodberry make a difference?


Of course, in addition, there are variations for each of the player races, plus a subterranean version for the likes of drow. (I'm not clear why this latter would include moss, which requires sunlight to grow, but that's more a matter of the nature of the Underdark than anything else). There are a couple of magic items, but these are both fairly straightforward.


As seems to be common with this series, there are a number of spelling errors, and quite a lot of whitespace that means the 12 pages contain rather less information than you might suppose. But, otherwise, production values are fairly good.


Primarily, this is a booklet to add detail to your games - ensuring that your characters don't starve to death, while having food be realistically perishable. And, if you want that extra detail, I'd say this is pretty useful, and a good entry in the Adventurer Essentials series.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer Essentials: Iron Rations
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Adventurer Essentials: Lantern
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2009 03:50:29

Despite the title, this booklet covers a range of different light sources - excluding torches, which got their own book.


There are a wide range of such light sources here, with some discussion of their relative pros and cons, and quite a lot of magic items. Indeed, many of the "basic" devices listed are, to all intents and purposes, cheap magic items.


But, while the coverage is broad, and includes many useful items, both magical and mundane, it doesn't hang together quite as well as some of the other booklets in this series. Why, for example, do so many races with darkvision go out of their way to create novel forms of illumination? And why do we get world-background information, such as a half-page myth, when the book should really be focusing on rules and equipment?


Most of the magic items make sense, although a few are, perhaps, a bit over-powered. More seriously, some of them seem completely random, possessing magical properties that have nothing to do with being a lantern - you could put the same enchantment on (say) a pair of gloves, and it would make as much sense.


There are relatively few typos in this, although at one point, there are three different spellings of the word 'kerosener' in as many paragraphs, which is a little jarring. And page 11 looks not to have been properly laid out - although, again, only enough to be jarring, not to actually make it difficult to read.


Despite all this, the booklet is cheap, most of the magic items are good, and there's a fair range of mundane items. So it's not bad, by any means, it's just that a little more thought could have made it better.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer Essentials: Lantern
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Adventurer Essentials: Rope
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2009 02:48:11

What adventurer doesn't use rope? Very few; and that's what makes this booklet a nice idea. Moreover, it's well presented, and worth the low asking price.


The book covers various different types of rope, pointing out that, for most adventurers, the rope in the standard equipment list is probably heavier than they actually need. There's discussion of the block and tackle (an item on the standard equipment list that's never really explained), and of rope bridges, among other items of equipment, as well as a basic discussion of the use of knots. All handy, simple information, well presented.


Some useful magic items too - and good to see that the Box of Infinite Rope is priced high enough to make it difficult to make a profit out of the thing (and thus put ropemakers out of business!)


I have a few minor quibbles, but nothing serious. There are a few typos here and there, and a few oddities in the layout, but nothing that causes a problem. I'd have liked to see a little more on rope bridges, and it's unclear why rope made from the silk of giant spiders is weaker than that made (presumably) by silkworms. You'd have thought it would be stronger - the strands must be thicker, right?


On the whole, a good, basic product, well-packaged for the price.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer Essentials: Rope
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Adventurer Essentials: Torch
by Kenneth A. C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2009 04:40:35

I bought this small pdf hoping to get a few interesting magical torches, but more on that later.


This product gives you an overview of torches, their use and how they are perceived by some races. It's all written from the perspective of a bard (if I remember correctly) which is a pretty nice idea. However, the pdf doesn't do a very good job at keeping the narrator and the mechanics separate (which they, in fact, say they wont) I think they should have separated these two.


There are some interesting viewpoints here, but not enough to make it truly useful. Now on to the magical torches. This section of the pdf disappointed me a little. There are a few and then there are some powders to be used with torches. The spells I could have done without, and instead I would have liked to see more magical torches.


A little expensive if you look at what you get for your money, but overall, not a bad product.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer Essentials: Torch
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Free20: Troublemaker
by Randy O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/23/2009 13:17:46

Fun information to add to any D20 Modern campaign.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Free20: Troublemaker
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Free20: Troublemaker
by Nathan O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2009 00:50:16

it free and that great so get it yaeh lol bot
:] cat



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dept. 7 Adv. Class Update: Voidsparrow
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/26/2009 21:48:49

Voidsparrow: Dept. 7 Advanced Class Update is an 8-page PDF (six after cover and OGL) for D20 Modern/ OGL Roleplaying written by Chris A. Field and published by Scorched Urf Studios. It brings cybernetic guardians of the space ways to a science fiction game near you.


The Voidsparrow is a fascinating concept, self-contained spaceflight and FTL capable cybernetic battle armor permanently boned to an elite guardian caste. It harkens to the Spaceknights of the Rom comic book series and the Silverhawks cartoon of the 1980s. The concept is exciting but the execution could be stronger and better supported and it requires a level of technology that may be too high for some campaigns.


The Voidsparrows are designed for a fairly high tech (or progress) level. Suggestions are made for using them for lower level of development but it does not really fit with the cybernetic technology and the ability to make human-sized space-capable craft that they are dependant upon.


The Voidsparrows are organized as protectors of humanity among the stars. They abandon their human bodies for new ones capable of traveling between the stars, each of which is styled upon various birds that modify abilities (eagles are optimized for close combat, for example). They gain many abilities relating to space combat allowing a flight of Voidsparrows to engage much larger enemy ships with some chance of success.


The basic idea of the class is strong (and this reviewer found it quite fun and nostalgic) but it could use some support in the way of both feats (though some are included) and, especially, equipment.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dept. 7 Adv. Class Update: Voidsparrow
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Fantasy Firearms
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/05/2009 16:26:36

Fantasy Firearms is a 10-page PDF for 3.5 OGL Roleplaying written by Eric Karnes and published by Scorched Urf Studios. It brings firearms, of a fantasy nature, to the (gaming) table.


If you want to mix firearms with fireballs and pit musketeers against mages, this could be a useful supplement for you. Interesting ideas for those who do not mind pistols with their magic swords and wands but the supplement is very general in scope and may not provide enough information to allow firearms to be easily introduced or integrated into a campaign.


This book talks about firearms and the way the various standard fantasy races view them, dwarves discovered black powder, gnomes are fascinated by firearms and so on. Though, oddly, the first race to use firearms is not discussed.


While pistols, muskets and cannon, along with exotic melee weapons that use gunpowder are statted out, the actual technology of firearms is not discussed. The means used to ignite the gunpowder is simply absent, no discussion of the differences between fire locks, wheel locks and flint locks. Just as the problems of making or transporting black power in a world filled with magical as well as just physical way to cause it to ignite and thus explode. The firearms and ammunition are entirely self contained and available ‘off the shelf’ with no attempt to place them into a large context, they are just one more item you can buy anywhere.


Four new feats involving firearms or ranger’s fighting styles are included along with three new spells affecting firearms. One new magic weapon enhancement (usable only by firearms) and seven types of specific magic firearms and ammunition are provided. Some of the magic ammunition is clever but nothing here really stands out.


The simplicity of the firearm system presented in this document is good for ease of play but it also takes away from the uniqueness and interest of firearms. Further, there are no suggestions or ideas for how to introduce or incorporate firearms into an existing campaign. Useful as reference but it could have been so much more useful with a bit more context, but real world and how to apply it to a fantasy one.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Firearms
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Thinking Races: Diverse Humanity
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/31/2009 10:20:04

The stated purpose of this book is to describe a number of variant races of humans, suitable for use in any fantasy game world. In this, it achieves a somewhat mixed level of success.


But first, some general points. The quality of the book, in terms of general layout and artwork, is perfectly acceptable for the price. However, it would have benefited from a contents page, or some bookmarks, given the large number of races described within. Also, most of the races are superior to normal humans, having all of the usual traits and advantages, with additional bonuses besides. Yet, oddly, only one (the Primordials) has a racial Level Adjustment, making regular humans seem a distinctly inferior choice.


The variant races fall into roughly five categories. First are a couple of variant humans distinguished only by some slightly unusual feats, and with little description to make them at all interesting. One rather wonders what the point was.


Next are a pair of somewhat bizarre races with rather more detailed descriptions. They both seem fine as far as they go, but they are odd enough that they just don’t seem very human, and feel a little out of place.


The third category, however, is the best part of the book. These two races – the Primordials and the Imperials – are both really collections of sub-races grouped together by a common theme. In total, then, this section actually covers 20 different races, and these feel very human, and exactly the sort of thing that one could use in almost any fantasy campaign. There is however, quite a long digression in the form of a description of the Imperial pantheon, which seems like a collection of fairly typical fantasy gods (in fact, they remind me of the Birds Gods of Rinliddi from RQ/HQ). Nothing really wrong with them, but they look like the sort of thing that belongs in a world gazetteer, or a book about religion, not a book on human races. I would rather have seen the Primordials fleshed out more. That aside, the races listed here are just the sort of thing that I can see myself getting real use out of.


Fourth comes, well… halflings, albeit called by a different name. Nothing wrong with having halflings be closely related to humans in your own game world, of course, but it’s difficult to see what they’re doing here. There’s a 1-page description of the halfling gods, too.


Finally, the book rounds out with a collection of half-breed races. Four of these are from the standard D&D books (half-elves, half-orcs, aasimar, and tieflings), providing nothing that isn’t in those books, barring a slightly different physical description. The half-dwarves and half-gnomes are functional enough, but were done better in “Races of Consequence”. And who would have thought that half-dwarves are naturally skilled lovers, eh?


All in all, this book has some great material that delivers what the cover promises. But it also doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be, vacillating between variant human races and descriptions of a particular game world. Its easy enough to adapt, but why is it there at all, when the book makes no claims to be a world gazetteer? Space used on this sort of material could have been better employed dealing with the books core subject matter, and giving it all a clearer focus.


Having said all that, the good material in here is well worth the price of $4, and for that, I am happy to rate it as 4-out-5. If you’re looking for ideas for variant human races, for this price, it’s a good place to start.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Thinking Races: Diverse Humanity
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Giants in the Earth
by Dan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/30/2009 13:24:37

This is a great book for those looking for additional creatures for 4th edition. Almost all the creatures have a ready-invented trait which blends perfectly with 4e's powers concept, with almost no work at all. This is of course natural given that powers ARE just game=mechanic expressions of Special Qualities, after all...


For example, the Sinosauropteryx' Combat Quills would give an immediate interrupt consisting of an automatic counter-attack against any foe's attack on the little save-less creature... Oh, and it has saves, they are just hidden. I guess they borrowed the Composagnathus' hiding qualities... Perhaps more proofreading and less propoganda is called for?


And despite decrying creatures having "wierd magiic or especially unusual powers to mess with your game's sense of reality" in 4e, no problem is stated with the magical powers bestowed by the creatores-cum-familiars upon the behalf of their masters. If fact, the statement "This book's dinos have unique abilities with little basis in reality" (despite being contradicted in the very same paragraph) shows the introduction is nothing but "yay-- I'm a lelling" manifesto against 4e. I think the color of the suthor's glasses is abudantly apparrent.


There is even a statement poinbting out WHY 4e was needed in the first place in "...[I]f you're playing a Druid and you DON'T DON'T (sic.) start wild shaping into every dino in this book, you're playing the wrong way." Power, baby. Raw BROKEN power...


Despite the editing miss here and there (on par with the skill-challenge fiasco in the 4e DMG...) I'd rate this PDF/book right on up there. There are some very good things here. The creatures are much better thought out than the author's views on 4e, and well presented. This is a welcome addition to the arsenal of a DM, regardlees of generation of rules system preferreed. and is a welcome bargain, a treasure-trove of creatures ANY DM should snap up as fast as a Spinosaurus can pouince upon and swllow-whole a meal.


[typos in this review, llke the review itself, provided free-of-charge.]



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Giants in the Earth
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Dept. 7 Adv. Class Update: Sentai Spectrum Ranger
by Marc R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/05/2009 09:49:59

Ever wanted to play a Power ranger in your d20 Modern game? Okay, maybe you haven't. But if you have, or simply wanted a way to stat out PR type characters for d20, here it is. A full advanced class, complete with 'flying kicks' and 'spectrum specialties'. No Zord support (thankfully, IMO), although it wouldn't be hard to add on with d20 Future or d20 Mecha. Sadly, there are also no sample stat blocks, but that wouldn't be enough to keep me from buying. All in all, it's what it is: A small PDF with the ability to add a team of Sentai heroes to your D20 game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dept. 7 Adv. Class Update: Sentai Spectrum Ranger
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Free20: Troublemaker
by Jeff J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/04/2009 21:00:14

I just downloaded this product and read through it. I feel they have captured the feel they were going for and I might add a NPC with this template to my game at some point. For a free download it's hard to go too wrong and while this isn't for everyone, it feels pretty good.


I'm quite satisfied with this download. Especially as I reflect on using tropes from TV and comics to make the game world more interesting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Free20: Troublemaker
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Fantasy Firearms II: Double Barreled
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/20/2009 15:32:36

Fantasy Firearms II: Double Barreled is a 17-page PDF for 3.5 OGL Roleplaying written by Chris A. Field and published by Scorched Urf Studios. It brings more fantastic firearms to the (gaming) table.


If you want to mix firearms with fireballs and pit gunslingers against spellcasters, this could be a useful supplement for you. Interesting ideas abound for those who do not mind guns with their goblins. However it does push the technology curve up considerably (in the mid-19th C. in fact) and so may be a technology too far for some campaigns.


This book builds on Fantasy Firearms (also by Scorched Urf) and claims not to need the earlier book but several of the magical firearms have an enhancement that appears in that book though the name of the enhancement -everloaded- gives a good idea how it works. These weapons are designed with cartridge-based ammunition in mind and are revolvers (with speed loaders!), bolt-action long arms and even a clockwork automatic, eleven new weapons in all. While costly, they provide an enormous amount of damage dealing potential even before using the magically enhanced firearms or special ammunition, both of which are available.


Nine interesting magical weapons and ammunition types are included ranging from Dwarven heavy revolver to Drow-made sniper rifles. Six new feats, several of which are very powerful: Full Chamber insures you never run out of ammunition (and can be taken at 4th level!), Gravedigger Gun let Cleric or Paladin wield pistols that become exceptionally powerful against the undead, and the Fanning/Shootist chain gives additional attacks with revolvers.


Rounding out the product is a new goblin sub-race (gunfire goblins) and their goddess -Clichsah, Lady of Hammers- who provides access to the gunfire clerical domain, a new aberration and a troll with implanted gunpowder weaponry, and a non-evil elven guardian undead, that is quite intriguing.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Firearms II: Double Barreled
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