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Arthur Lives!
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/16/2009 17:07:29
I'm in favor of reviewers mentioning their prejudices up front, so I will do so now: I really don't give a damn about King Arthur. I just don't. I barely liked the Disney Sword in the Stone. "Wake me when there's some girls, guns, cars jumping off things and explosions," is what I said to the award-winning RPG Pendragon. Well, my alarm clock just went off with the release of Arthur Lives!

The game is True20, and requires the main True20 book. It is compatible with the Adept and Warrior's Handbooks as well, and probably with most of your favorite True20 stuff. I was at a bit of a disadvantage without the True20 Companion, but in practice this lack didn't matter much. Systemwise, True20 is adhered to quite closely, which is a good thing as it is one of the best open systems on the market.

In Arthur Lives!, the characters are reincarnations of the figures of Arthurian myth in the modern day. As such, they begin to remember abilities and skills from their previous incarnation(s?) and thus the levelling-up system of True20 gains a new dramatic focus - you're not just building on your in-game experiences, but revealing parts of who your character used to be. Your character is in part defined not just by their capabilities, but by their relationship to their capabilities. If you're a staid middle manager, for example, and you suddenly remember and absorb your past as a seductive and sensual half-nymph, that's going to change not just numbers on your character sheet, but also how your character thinks about themselves and is motivated. This is one of the most innovative approaches to the level system of d20 variants that I've seen in any game.

The first chapter is on creating characters. This is the meat of the Arthur Lives! system. In addition to making your typical True20 character, you select your character's incarnation, and when they become aware of it, they gain benefits including bonus feats that push them along the path of knowledge and capabilities that their previous life had. A reincarnation of Merlin or Nineve will gain magical feats and abilities, for example.

I really can't emphasize enough the flexibility of this section. For example, questions regarding the sex of characters are addressed more thoroughly than in almost any other adventure RPG that I know of. A female character could be a reincarnation of a male Arthurian figure, or perhaps freed from the strictures of the day, a capable female reincarnation might able to upend the myth and take it in a whole new direction. Or, the game could adhere more closely to myth and try to emphasize the legendary relationships as closely as possible. The very fact that this is addressed, and encouraged for players to think about when designing the character elevates this above so many other mythical and historical games. There just is something different between a modern woman and a woman in Arthurian myth, both have something to bring to the table and you've got to make a decision about the nature of your character and what you want to do with it.

The next few sections details some new, Arthur-style feats and magic, with an interesting new system for awakening people's memories, and using remembrances of the past to set up advantages in current situations. A section called "echoes" describes the "reincarnation" of mystical and magical artifacts from the era into the modern day.

One last thing that makes this product sing - it is a labor of love. I didn't even really need the Afterword to tell me that the author is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about Arthurian myth. Remember, I came into the product not really giving a damn about it. All the enthusiasm I have for this game came from the verve and energy he put into the whole product. It has an excellent style that will draw you in even if, like me, you are a bit of an outsider to the whole thing. The impact of this can't be overestimated.

If I had to pick out some things to be improved, here's what I'd be looking for: a pronunciation guide (Malahaut? Lamorak? Morgause? Is Balin BAY-linn or Bal-linn or Bahl-linn or wut?), the incarnation list should be in the bookmarks (I should be able to click on 'Arthur' and be taken straight to Arthur's writeup), and there should be more "famous" Arthurian incarnations (Morgan Le Fay, Modred?) But these are nitpicks.

The purchase includes a printer-friendly and a screen-friendly version, although they are not that different, the screen-friendly version has some color illustrations, but otherwise they're more or less the same.

Arthur Lives! is one of the best True20 games on the market. Arthur fans will want it, obviously, but even if the Arthurian mythos sorta bores you? As one of those people, I'm saying: you want it too.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arthur Lives!
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World of Arkara: Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles
by Dominique C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/06/2009 10:00:17
The Canterbury Isles is a 17 pages PDF describing a region of the World of Arkara (which is a fantasy campaign setting for Osric and other retro-clones and simulacrum games).

The only map is the one shown on the book's cover. As in the Known Wold gazetteer review, I will say that the drawing is okay, but the lettering ugly. Then, the map could have included more information, at least it could have some roads indicated. Now I understand that the author may have budgetary constraints; however, in a perfect document, I would want a detailed black and white, line art map for this region.

Then, onto the PDF content: The first thing I read is a typo (or seems to be): "... the first supplement in the world of Ariakus". Is it not Arkara? There is a few areas described, with plot devices included that may help a DM generate some adventures. Then, there is the description of a city, though the (ugly) map depicts a small village in size. Afterwards we find several NPCs and two additional classes: the Cloistered Cleric and Guardsman. Overall, I am not really satisfied. So we have a generic setting, which is a good thing there, as far as I am concerned. However, I think it could have been implemented better. It seems to be mid-way between a fantasy world description and an adventure module. For example, there is no description of the region's climate, trade, main roads, statistics of population, various settlements' stat-blocks, etc., and of course there should have been random monster encounter tables for the region. On the other hand, description of NPCs are too long, fitting more a module format than a setting; in a setting I would have rather three lines for each of the few important NPCs, with vague descriptions such as "Fighter 7th", in order to have DMs tailor this as suits their needs.

Presentation: I don't know if it is me, but I found the writing style better than in the precedent PDF (Gazetteer of the Known World). However, I am still not in love with the art and layout of Arkara supplements. This light gray background brings nothing to the otherwise bland layout. There is two pics of dwarf and elf that are okay, but nothing that would represent the region (some landscapes, forests, castles, etc.). Then, the city map is just plain ugly. If I ever run the setting (which I very well could if I am to run a generic D&D setting), I just will have to re-draw that map entirely.

So, overall I am a little disappointed with this book. It has potential, but still lacks in its current form. Also, given it's 2$ per booklet, how much will cost the final setting when it will be completed at around 200 pages or so. 20$ for a PDF with so little artistic value is too expensive for me. Despite this, I would like to see this setting brought to completion with the stuff I expect in a campaign setting, with cool old-school b&w art, a nice color cover by some of the great DF artists, all of this in printed book available on LuLu.

I know I want much, but this setting has the potential for it. It just needs more work.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
World of Arkara: Gazetteer of the Canterbury Isles
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World of Arkara: Gazetteer of the Known World
by Dominique C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/06/2009 05:43:38
First of all, to be honest I must tell you that I got this PDF as a complimentary copy in exchange for a review. However, I had already thought of buying this product; it's just that I would not have done a review for it, if I had paid for it.

What we have here, is a campaign world for use with OSRIC, which means for AD&D 1e. I will add, that this setting as is, can be used just as well with AD&D 2e, Labyrinth Lord, Sword & Wizardry, BFRPG, or Castles & Crusades. For the latter, converting the few added rules (i.e.: specialty priests and new classes) will be done very easily. The PDF "World of Arkara, Gazeteer of the Know World" comes at 25 pages, and is an overview of the campaign setting. As such, to play meaningfully in it, you will have to buy the other related products. At this time only The Canterbury Isles PDF (17 pages) is available (for which I have also done a review).

Arkara is a generic fantasy setting, in the spirit of Greyhawk, and I like that. It begins with a description of its pantheons. Normally I have a strong dislike of pantheistic D&D religions, and hate when campaign settings go at length describing them. Now, pantheons are a staple of D&D, and most players seem to enjoy them. In a "generic" fantasy world there thus needs to be some pantheons I guess. Overall, I like what is proposed here (even if I am not overly enthusiast because of my dislike of pantheons per se). In any case I like these gods better than those of Greyhawk and other published or homebrew settings. The reason is simple: they are generic enough, with just the necessary information. It means for example, that one could easily change a few names, but keep the description as they are. For instance, if players have fond memories of Greyhawk it's easy to rename Atos into Pelor, Drathor into Bahamut, or Liosia into Lolth. I also much like to see the Cat Lord featured as an available deity for PCs. There is three pantheons (good, neutral, evil). As such, some DM could well establish a single religion to the worship of all the good pantheon, but with specialty priests where is needed. Lastly, to create specialty priests without creating new character classes, each gods provides its clerics with a few additional spells that are drawn from the druid, mage or illusionist lists. This is simple and elegant, doesn't break any rule. Well, I would go for it without hesitation.

Now about the world overview. There is several interesting ideas. For example, in some land the dwarves are supplying weapons and armors to goblinoids, ogres and gnolls to get rid of their human neighbors. This is an interesting chng of pace where dwarves are generally good neighbors. I don't know what the dedicated gazetteer will tell about this place, but so far, the outlined situation provides interesting starting points for a creative DM. Then, reading the overview of those lands, I guess there might be some order of wizards and some order of knights / paladins somewhat reminding of Dragonlance, which would be good with my agenda. That is, what I like most in Dragonlance is the Order of Sorcery and the Knights of Solamnia. If I could find something like this in Arkara, I would be more than satisfied. By the way, the map of Arkara, with its inner sea, vaguely reminds me of DL, which I like too.

The third part is about classes. First, there is a Crusader class, which is a warrior with Turn Undead and attack bonuses against enemy faiths (but not spells). It is rather well done, even if simple (but that fits with the spirit of 1e), and I think this is an interesting addition to OSRIC. There is also 4 variant classes: anti-paladin (where most abilities are reverse of that of a paladin), and three ranger variants. Now I have a few issues with them. Bounty Hunters get the bonus to damage against wanted creatures and people; so what if the bounty-hunter is deceived into believing someone is sought after when he isn't? I mean, if the PCs discover that Olgrod the Mighty is their next foe, some of them could forge fake "wanted bills" to give their bounty-hunter companion an undue advantage in the combat to come? Then about Poachers. The class itself is okay, but I don't like the name poacher; to me poachers are but petty zero level characters just able to take a few rabbits with traps. I would like a more appropriate name (marauder?) for this variant. Thereafter there is a description of how the core OSRIC classes fit in Arkara. I especially like what is done for magic-users; while they technically remain the same, the added flavor with them relying on constellations, astronomy and astrology is great IMO. Finally, there is guidelines to add OSRIC Unearthed classes (a PDF by the same author) into Arkara. If I were to run an SRIC campaign using this setting (or another), I would certainly allow them.

There is two sections, one about social rank and one about crime and law that are useful. Here also, just enough info to make it worthwhile, but not too much as to make it a boring read.

On the bad side now: presentation. I have read some better literacy. Often I was obliged to re-read to fully understand; it's like a matter of the style not flowing very well. I don't know exactly, and maybe it's because I am not a native English speaker. Then, about art and layout. Meh. The layout is clear and clean, but really nothing to be excited about. The art is not bad, but this is just an occasional character here and there, and not the black and white old school art I would want to see in a setting said to be for OSRIC. There is several artists on the DF forums that do great art, and even a few clipart series on RPGnow with a more old school feel. The map is well drawn, but the lettering despite using gothic letters, is ugly. The PDF cover is also ugly.

Conclusion: I have a lot of campaign settings. In printed books, I have Greyhawk for 1e and 2e, Dragonlance for 1e and 2e, and a few other things for d20. In PDF I really have a lot of settings, many of which are very well done homebrew campaign worlds. However, in each of them there is something I don't like. So far Arkara looks the one I prefer. It's not because of stunning ideas or great presentation (which it doesn't have); it's rather because of its generic simplicity, so nothing repels me. I could well see myself running or playing adventures in it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
World of Arkara: Gazetteer of the Known World
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OSRIC Unearthed
by James J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/10/2007 10:00:59
A solid add on to oldschool gaming. Useful for those running an OSRIC based cmapaign, old AD&D game and adaptable to the retro-clone games available now.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
OSRIC Unearthed
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Clash of Arms: Infantry
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/23/2007 05:07:19
Clash of Arms: Infantry is a short 13 page d20 pdf product from Vigilance Press. This is the fifth product in their line of historical fantasy sourcebooks, and details the infantryman or foot soldier from the Middle Ages. Each product in the series covers a different aspect of the Middle Ages, bringing it to life in a fantasy world and presenting a new core class. Other products in the series have looked at witches, nobility, and cavalry warfare. This product is compatible with the revised d20 core rules.

This product comes as a single pdf file that includes a suitable front cover with some medieval art, but no bookmarks. The format and layout of the product is good and professional, with a clean two-column layout without any interior art. The editing and writing is good as well, supported by some decent mechanics, although in some instances the mechanics can be a little unclear or might need a little clarification work. Overall, this pdf slots in nicely with the others in the series, and looks like a decent, solid product.

This product takes a look a the common medieval foot soldier, and creates a fantasy d20 class based on that concept - the infantryman. The product starts by offering a brief introduction to the foot soldier, and, later on in the product offers some more mouth-watering tales from history describing the role of the infantryman in battle. The infantryman is a rather long and complex class since it attempts to incorporate all types of infantryman into a single class - the spearman, the man-at-arms, the skirmisher, the commander, the archer and the scout.

As such the class description is quite length although held together by a single block of statistics describing the progression of the class. I've always liked the utility of this kind of format, allowing a single class to take multiple paths and roles, and this does not disappoint in allowing you to build the infantryman to your tastes. Where it really shines is to allow you to combine aspects of the different infantrymen. Want a scout good at archery and command? Easy to do. Want a man-at-arms commander that can skirmish? Even easier. The class is flexible, and when combined with the d20 feats system, even more flexible.

Each of the different aspects of the infantryman gain multiple different abilities as they advance in level. Archer's, for example, gain the ability to rain arched fire down on their enemies, commanders can rally their troops, the man-at-arms is exceptional in heavy armor, the skirmisher fleet of foot, and the spearman effective against charges and in creating a shield wall. There's a lot of new material here in the mechanics to digest, in some cases offering different implementations of familiar ideas. In one or two cases the mechanics is a bit long-winded and could be more succinct or clearer, but for the most part this class captures the medieval infantryman well and builds a versatile and flexible class.

Next the pdf takes a look at a new skill - Craft (fortification). Throughout the course of medieval times the 'modern' armies of the time were adept at both warfare and numerous other skills. The more proficient an army was at surviving on the march and going on long campaigns by being self-sufficient, the better for the army. This skill takes a look at crafting fortification and digging in defences. It's a good skill with some versatility to most games. Lastly, but not least, the pdf takes a look at three climatic battles in history that illustrate the role of the infantryman. These battles are - Battle of Hastings, Battle of Arsuf and the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V's victory. These are all enjoyable reads, bringing together the concepts in the pdf and history together nicely and illustrating how history was used to build the infantryman class. It gives a broad overview of the role of the infantryman in each battle, providing material for building on the class from a roleplaying perspective as well.

Overall I liked this pdf. It's got a good balance between historical perspective and the new class, builds a strong and versatile class with good foundations, and illustrates the effectiveness of the class using historical examples. Here and there the mechanics is a bit weak, but for the most part this is a good pdf that hangs together nicely with itself and others in the series. I'm looking forward to seeing more products in the series!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Clash of Arms: Infantry
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Clash of Kings: Nobility
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/22/2007 00:00:00
Clash of Kings: Nobility, is a sourcebook for D20 fantasy written by Charles Rice and published by Vigilance Press. This is an eight-page document (six pages after cover and OGL) with a clean layout with no interior artwork.

This source book discusses and provides resources for playing characters who are part of the nobility, a western feudal nobility, but nobility none the less. The major part of this product is the Courtier class, a full twenty-level base class that is to the aristocrat NPC class what the fighter is to the warrior NPC class. It is an odd mixture of abilities at first glance, D10 HD, yet 3/4 base attack progression, proficiency with all armors and shields and a good selection of skills and skill points. Every other level, they gain an ability in one of three abilities trees: leader, intriguer or rake. Leaders gain followers and abilities to command them more effectively (though the Rally ability need to be better defined and limited). The Intriguer is a master of rumors and dirty tricks, tarnishing reputations and fighting dirty when called on it. Lastly, the Rake is honorable, swashbuckling sort, contrary to the images the name may conjure up, gaining bonuses to fighting in light armor and in a daring manner. Additionally, all Courtiers gain divine grace (at 1st level) and a variety of other talent, including a smite-like ability (usable against anyone) and Leadership as a bonus feat at 6th level. It is a class that a character could take a level or two in and then move taking a solid set of granted abilities with them, which may be problematic.

After the class is a discussion of the various titles of British nobility and what they represent as far as who rules over whom and the rough level of authority each title represents. A good overview of such noble titles and their interactions.

The Courtier is a mixed bag as they do not have a clearly defined role, ironically, as a class. Additional, a DM may not wish to deal with a character class who has access to swarms of loyal servants. Still, they are an improvement over the Aristocrat class and may make for an interesting opponent.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Clash of Kings: Nobility
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Clash of Arms: Cavalry
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/21/2007 00:00:00
Clash of Arms: Cavalry, a source book for D20 fantasy written by Charles Rice and published by Vigilance Press. This is a twelve-page document (ten pages after cover and OGL) with a clean layout with only a single piece of interior artwork (a nice B&W piece of clip art).

This source book covers cavalry, mounted soldiers, beginning with the Cavalryman, a full 20-level base class. It uses the Fighter as its starting point and all cavalrymen begin with the mounted combat feat, naturally. Instead of bonus feats, the cavalryman gains choices from three ability trees: heavy cavalry, horse archer and light cavalry. Heavy cavalry focused on heavy armor, lance charges and strait-up combat. Horse archers on speed and missile attacks. Light cavalry is fast, tricky and maneuverable. Additionally, at higher levels all type of cavalryman gain an improved mount (though the table for an improved mount only gives the bonuses for up to eight levels of advancement) and various other equestrian-related special abilities.

After the class is a discussion of the various ages of cavalry warfare and the ways that the class could be used to represent those periods and styles. A short discussion of cavalry equipment and rules for various types of saddles and other cavalry equipment (though no price list).

Lastly, there is a section about horses with random tables to determine a horse?s quality (from bag of bone to noble steed) and traits (such as clumsy, coltish or tough as nails). A good idea, but open to potential abuse, the bonuses gained from quality and traits probably should be reduced or at least monitored closely.

Like the mounted combat-focused fighter, the cavalryman is exceptionally dangerous when they have their mount and terrain they can ride on, but much less so when they must fight on foot. It can make it a challenge to balance encounters including such a character. But this product provides a well-built class and a useful source for information on cavalry.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Clash of Arms: Cavalry
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Clash of Arms: Cavalry
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2007 00:00:00
Clash of Arms Cavalry

Mounted combat was always a powerful force in the medieval days. But it has been one of those almost forgotten archetypes in the fantasy game as mounts are either to easily killed or just too big to delve into dungeons and crypts. Those problems are not easily solved and seem more campaign oriented then anything else. But writers do on occasion come out with a new class or new options that allows one to place a cavalry character.

Clash of Arms Cavalry is a PDF by Charles Rice. He has his name on many different books and is slowly becoming well known I think. The publisher is Vigilance and the book is a PDF. The PDF is twelve pages long and has some good book marks. The book has some good clip art but the lay out could use some work. Some of the sections need a header to separate them as abilities from a couple of different sections seem to be visually on the same list. It can be a little confusing.

The book presents a new base class called the Cavalryman. It is a character that rides a horse into battle. The class can pick abilities from the Heavy Cavalry, Horse Archer, and Light Cavalry options. One can specialize in one of these areas or take abilities from all three and be a bit more versatile. Many of the abilities are feats that can only be used on horseback but the character need not worry about gaining the requirements for them. The abilities are useful but some need to be better explained. The Heavy Cavalry has a Power Charge ability that works much like Power Attack. It does not say if the two can be used together or not. One could potentially really stack up damage if they can be used in conjunction. There is a terrifying Charge ability that works with a fear effect a saving throw whose DC is charisma based. With more riders the DC increases but the text seems to indicate that the charisma bonus is no longer part of that and that does not make as much sense. It could be written a bit clearer.

Of course not all the new abilities are badly worded. The Light Cavalry has a cool Fog of War ability that allows it to confuse targets he flanks. Later in the book there are rules for different quality of horses and the cavalryman is able to tell the quality of horses he examines.

The book then presents some cavalry equipment and a bit of historical ways cavalry were used. Then the horse qualities are presented. This is a nice way to have higher and lower quality steeds and not have every horse be the same. Some are good breeds with bonuses to strength and dexterity while others are in bad shape with penalties. The better the horse the more expensive it is as well. And the horse can have randomly rolled qualities that can also make them a bit better or a little worse.

Clash of Arms Cavalry is a good book for someone looking for a Cavalry base class. It has a nice list of options and class abilities. One can make a better Cavalryman with the class then just a basic fighter but the class does not set itself apart from other cavalry classes that are out there.


QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
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Clash of Arms: Cavalry
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/01/2007 00:00:00
This 10 page PDF (12 with front cover & OGC declaration) provides a new core class for D20 fantasy games, the Cavalryman. It also includes a discussion of the historical development of Calvary, as well as providing a list of cavalry specific equipment.

The Cavalryman is divided into 3 main types based on how they fight. These types are light cavalry, heavy cavalry, and horse archers. Light cavalry rely on their maneuverability to outflank other unit. Heavy Cavalry rely on heavy armor, powerful horses and powerful charges with lances to act as shock troops. Finally, horse archers are mounted archers adding increased maneuverability to the range given to them by the use of the bow.

The Cavalryman is a combat oriented class, and has a D10 Hit Die. The Primary ability for the Cavalryman class depends on the type of cavalry, light cavalry and horse archers have Dexterity as their primary ability, while heavy cavalry feature Strength as their primary ability. The class features Superior BAB, Good Fortitude saves, and poor Reflex and Willpower saves.

Cavalryman can choose their mounted combat specialty Feat gained at 2nd level, and every 2 levels afterward, from one of three feat trees, Light Cavalry, Heavy Cavalry, and Horse Archer. The feats within each tree must be selected in order, however. Key feats in the Light Cavalry tree include the Lightning Attack ability, providing a bonus to attack flat-footed opponents, and Lightning Rider, providing a bonus to armor class, initiative, and Reflex saves, but only while in light armor. The key feats on the Heavy Calvary tree include the Spirited, Power, and Terrifying charge abilities, and the mounted tank feats. The Horse Archer tree features the Mounted Archer and the Spur (adding to his horse move) feats as key feats.

The remaining section provides a discussion of essential cavalry equipment, and their historical development. Each period was limited by the mounted specialties available, the mounted equipment, and the mounts available For instance, ancient cavalry were limited to Horse Archer and Light Calvary (chariots only) mounted specialties, War Ponies ad the only mounts, and the Bridle and Saddlecloth as the only mounted equipment available. Rules are provided for the effect of the different qualities and levels of equipment on riding and combat.

Finally, a short section on mounts and a set of mount traits, such as Lame, or Pure Bred, are provided, allowing for some individualization and color to mounts.


The PDF is laid out in a two spacious columns with an ornate distressed script-like red-brown colored font in a large point size for section headings, and an easy to read serif body font. The art is sparse, with just one piece of clip-art. The tables are very readable, making good use of the header font for column titles, and light-red shading for odd-numbered rows. It is a plain, but easy to read document, with no excess ornamentation to waste your ink.

Overall, this is an excellent product, providing a solid mounted fighter class, with a nice introduction to the historical development of the cavalryman and how the evolution of mounted equipment affected his fighting abilities. The set of traits for mounts provides a nice mechanism for personalizing the player?s mounts. The Talent trees all seem well-balanced and put more emphasis on the use of mounts, or taking a mount out from under your opponent. I recommend this product to any GM or players intent on riding down their foes and taking them on the run.



LIKED: Terrifying charge (Could you imagine holding ranks against a charge of a 250lb man on 2000lb horse?)

DISLIKED: No stats for chariots.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Clash of History: Witch Trials
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/01/2007 00:00:00
This 10 page PDF (12 with front cover & OGC declaration) provides a new core class for D20 fantasy games, the Witch (She?s a witch, a witch, burn her, burn her!). As you might expect (No one expects the Spanish Inquistion!) an Inquisitor Privilege Class is also included A discussion of ?witchcraft? and witch hunts in Medieval Europe and into the present is provided, though no mention of the reported witchcraft deaths that have happened recently in Africa is made.

The Witch class is treated as an arcane spellcaster who learns her powers by consorting with supernatural entities. The Witch will also be granted powers by the supernatural entity she serves, depending on whether she is a ?good? witch, a White Witch, or a ?bad? witch, a Black Witch. (Being from the East or the West is unimportant, though all witches should beware falling houses.)

The Witch class is not at all combat focused; only receiving a D4 hit die. The primary ability of the witch is Intelligence, gaining 4xInt modifier skill points per level. The Witch has a fair BAB, with a good will save (2/3rds), and poor Reflex and Fortitude saves. The witch casts spells similarly to a Sorcerer, without requiring preparation as a Wizard or Cleric. The witch has access to a limited number of spells, only common spells from the sorcerer/wizard spell list, or unusual spells she has learned. Depending on her witches? path, Black or White, witches have additional abilities granted to her starting at 5th level, and ever 5th level thereafter. If on the White path, she gains access to healing abilities while on the Black path, she gains familiar shape, and a variety of curse abilities.

The Inquisitor PrC is a 10 level PrC, most quickly qualified for by as a Paladin, or Cleric. The requirements to enter the class are a BAB of +5, the Knowledge (religion), and Sense Motive skills each at 5 ranks, and the ability to cast 1st level divine spells. The Inquisitor?s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Concentration (Con), Diplomacy (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana, history, local, religion) (Int), Listen (Wis), Search (Int) and Sense Motive (Wis). Inquisitors gain 4+ Int. modifier skill points per level. Their abilities include the ability to detect lies, as well as smiting heretics, forced confessions and forced repentance.

The remaining section provides a discussion of European witch trials and a detailed timeline, as well as a few brief campaign concepts for incorporating witches, and witch hunts into your campaign.

The PDF is laid out in a two spacious columns with an ornate distressed script-like red-brown colored font in a large point size for section headings, and an easy to read serif body font. The art is sparse, with just one piece of internal clip-art. The cover features a medieval print against a grungey texture background. The tables are very readable, making good use of the header font for column titles, and light-red shading for odd-numbered rows. It is a plain, but easy to read document, with no excess ornamentation to waste your ink.

Overall, this is a solid product, fitting a rather cultural/religion specific concept into a general fantasy setting. The Witch class offers up some very traditional abilities for the Witch class, allowing them to seem sinister. The Inquistor PrC is a good treatment of the concept, adding real godly power to enforce his mandate. The witch hunt concept makes for an intense and compelling campaign premise. I recommend this product to any GM or players interested in adding witch hunts and religious persecution, with or without Monty Python references, into a game.





LIKED: Evil Eye ability, Malleus Maleficarum: quote. ??in which the reader is informed that any woman who does not cry during her trial should be automatically condemned as a witch.?

DISLIKED: White/Black witch concept is a bit contrived for my taste.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Disappointed

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Clash of History: Witch Trials
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Clash of History: Witch Trials
by Jonathan W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/30/2007 11:42:17
This was very poorly constructed with typos up the wazoo. First it says the witch uses Int to cast then it says charisma. It says it casts like a wizard/cleric, then goes on to say that it uses the sorcerer tables.
The Witch class is not a balanced one. It gets twice as many skill points as a sorcerer, the same spell progression (except at first level where it has fewer spells) with access to all the same spells, and it gets six unique abilities as it levels up. It's a beefed up sorcerer.
The Inquisitor Prestige class already exists. The author just changed some of the progression and wording on abilities and lowerd the requirements.
The timeline and progression of the witch trials is nice and can be useful. There are a couple of good campaign ideas to be taken out of this as well but nothing extraordinary.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
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Clash of History: Witch Trials
by Andrew B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/30/2007 00:00:00
This PDF focuses on witches from a historical viewpoint. Included are two new classes; one core and one prestige. The PDF is short at only around a dozen pages. There is a single piece of internal artwork, a medieval period piece that fits the theme of the book well.

After a brief introduction, the book presents a new core class: the witch. Witches are spontaneous arcane spellcasters who use the same spell progression as sorcerers. For some reason, the author chose not to include the sorcerer spells per day chart, instead referring the reader to the Player's Handbook. I would have preferred its inclusion here, if only for ease of use. Space constraints are not really an issue in an electronic product, so why not save me from having to cross reference my PH every time I want to make a witch? A minor quibble, I know, but a quibble nonetheless.

The class itself is a bit disappointing. Witches are very similar to sorcerers up until 5th level. At that point, their alignment determines whether they will gain the abilities of a white witch or a black witch. White witches are healers who can brew healing potions and lay on hands. Black witches gain the power to bestow curses, brew baneful potions, and change their shape or appearance.

The witch's class abilities are very fitting, but the mechanics behind them are lacking. By the time the black witch can use her Lesser Curse power, for example, she can already cast Bestow Curse five times per day. Bestow Curse is superior to Lesser Curse in almost all categories, leaving me to wonder at the real benefit of the class ability. The first power of the white witch, Healing drink, allows her to brew healing potions despite lack of access to spells such as cure light wounds. It is not a bad idea, but the witch has to spend XP and take time to brew the potions just like any other character. She gets no reduction in time, experience, or any other benefit above and beyond the normal effects of the Brew Potion feat. Sure, sorcerers can't normally make healing potions at all, but as a 10th level ability this doesn't exactly jump out and grab me.

Finally, the witch has no spell list. The author suggests that the player select common spells from the sorcerer / wizard spell list. Why not, at the very least, list spells that fit the theme and feel of the class? Leaving the work up to the individual player or GM strikes me as lazy, and it makes me question the necessity of this book at all.

I'm more pleased with the new prestige class: the Inquisitor. Inquisitors are basically paladins who trade away a few typical paladin powers for a suite of themed abilities. Overall, I like the class features. Forced confession allows the Inquisitor to render his target unable to lie, with a save based on the results of an Intimidate check. I thought that the mechanics behind this ability were clever. Forced repentance, a similar power, lacks mechanical utility but fits the theme and feel of the class well.

The remainder of the book is devoted to a brief appendix on the historical view of witches and witchcraft, plus a timeline showing the shifting attitudes of the populace towards witches from 1000 AD to the modern era. This section, while well written, is very brief. In talking about an anti-witchcraft manual, for example, the author alludes to a number of historical myths and impressions, but doesn't actually list them. While the information we are given is interesting, little of it is actually useful at the gaming table.


LIKED: This PDF is very well written. It reads like a quality article you'd expect to find in a magazine such as Dragon. There are lots of good ideas here, and an industrious GM would find plenty of inspiration for working psuedo-historical or historical witches into his or her campaign.

I think that $2.25 is a fair price, making up somewhat for the shallow nature of the content.

DISLIKED: This book feels incomplete. While I learned that medieval people had a number of superstitions about witches, I know almost nothing about what those superstitions actually were. The writing and subject matter are good enough to whet the reader's appetite, but ultimately the book doesn't deliver any juicy details.

The Inquisitor prestige class is worth checking out if you're interested in an alternate path for your paladins. The witch core class, which is the logical backbone of the product, falls flat. If you're interested in the subject matter, this book is a good start. You'll have to do most of the leg work on your own, however, and this PDF is by no means a complete primer on witches or the European witch trials.

QUALITY: Disappointing

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
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Clash of History: Witch Trials
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2007 00:00:00
Clash of History: Witch Trials is a d20 supplement from Vigilance Press. The zipped file is just under half a megabyte in size, and contains a single PDF. The PDF is twelve pages long, including a page for the cover, and a page for the OGL. The file is fully bookmarked.

There's very little art in Witch Trials. Besides the cover, only a single full color piece appears, a historical piece like the cover. There are no page borders, and even the headers for each section are a dark red that easily becomes black in a monochrome printing. While there may not be a printer-friendly version of the book here, that won't be a problem in most cases.

The book opens by presenting the new witch base class. Given full PHB-style treatment in how it's introduced, the witch is a spontaneous arcane spellcaster, like the sorcerer. The witch is said to gain her power from supernatural entities that are not gods, but there's no mechanic based around this. Most of the witch's other special abilities depend on the alignment of the witch's patron. Good patrons have white witches, which have healing-based abilities, while evil patrons have black witches, which have powers tied to curses.

Immediately following this is the inquisitor prestige class. The inquisitor is a divine spellcasting prestige class based on hunting down heretics. While they do gain a smite in this regard, most of the rest of their class features are centered on forcing a confession and then forcibly making the heretic atone for their wicked ways. Collectively, the witch and inquisitor classes take up half the book.

The second half opens with an explanation for why witch trials in previous centuries were so common, and gives an example of a witch hunter's handbook. Following this, several pages are given to outlining a timeline of witch trials, mostly in Europe. The book closes out with almost half a page of ideas for using witch trials in your game.

Altogether, Clash of History: Witch Trials seems like a book that could have been more than it was. The new witch class seems like just a sorcerer with a few new abilities; too few to really have its own distinct feel. The inquisitor is a nice new class though. However, both lack ability tags for their original powers, which is a tad frustrating. The real source of frustration here, though, is that half of the book is used to give a timeline of witch hunting, something that can pretty well be gathered through a bit of personal research. This portion of the book would have been better served to help lay out ideas (or even new mechanics) in a fantasy game. Why are witches worse than evil clerics? How are their patrons different than gods? There was a lot that could have been done, but the short section at the end barely touched on a number of ideas. The real crime in Witch Trials is how much wasn't done.



LIKED: The new inquisitor prestige class was rather cool.

DISLIKED: The witch class didn't feel distinctive enough from a standard sorcerer, and there wasn't enough information about how to really use the witch class in a standard high-fantasy game.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
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OSRIC Unearthed
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2007 00:00:00
I guess it is time to start using the term old school in a review. I haven?t reviewed any of the new old school games or supplements though I have been reading many of them. I still fondly have all my old first edition and old D&D books. It gets its use as reference material these days. I?m not sure the group of gamers I have is quite ready to game in the rules of an older edition. But with support like this maybe some day I will get to run one of my old campaigns again. I will have to add that to the list of things in gaming I want to run.

OSRIC Unearthed is a PDF published by Ronin Arts. It is written by Charles Rice and has the look and feel of an older edition supplement. It is in a product line called First Edition Fantasy and is supplement two. The forty two page PDF is superbly book marked and has some good art and a nice lay out. As a supplement of mostly classes and martial arts maneuvers with a few new magical weapons this will be easy to use from the computer.

The book starts off with eight new and easy to use classes. These all cover specific arch types that one will find useful in their fantasy game. Some of them are of an eastern feel while others are typical from other fantasy games. There really is not anything new here but it does offer some missing options. The inclusion of the Bard or Noble will not be seen as overly creative or daring. They are pretty standard as far as fantasy arch types but they are archetypes one would have trouble doing with just the standard OSRIC rules.

The Barbarian is a nice magic hating variety. They have bad saving through verse spells and magical spell like items. But if the Barbarian saves he goes into a super berserk rage an attacks the magic user or illusion who cast something at him. He has no problems with druids or clerics and their spells. The Barbarian has a normal berserk ability and great hit points. The class is slow in gaining levels but at the high level ones becomes a Warlord and can attract over 30d10 first level barbicans plus other leaders.

The bard is also very typical for the archetype. They get some cool mystic music abilities. Many of them imitate other magical spells. They gain some thief abiliti3es as they gain levels. But other then that they do not have anything. So this is not the old jack of trades class that some people might expect.

The Brawler is a class that has always been missing from D&D. It is a western style unarmed fighter. They can take weapon specialization unarmed combat and get access to many of the new martial art styles the book introduces.

The Ninja is a class that only goes up to fifteen levels. It also uses one of the martial arts and they get some cool magical abilities and disguise. It is a good write up of this archetype.

The Noble does best with a group of people. They have abilities that help and aid others out. They get some good followers at higher levels as well.

The book also has the Knight (which they forgot to book mark, Samurai, thief acrobat, and Yamabushi. The Yamabushi is the eastern version of the brawler. But of course with enough different to warrant it being its own class.

The martial arts section is really what separates the book from other class books. The system is easy to use and fits well within the weapon proficiency system the OSRIC system already uses. What I like best is that even though the term Martial Arts usually conjures up traditional Eastern themes OSRIC Unearthed has Martial Art styles for the Bow and Sword and other items that will fit very well with a more typical medical game. Each style gives a small bonus and allows the user to select new maneuvers with proficiency slots they gain through level advancement. It is a simple system that makes an easy add on. And it can really add a good new feel to an old style game.

OSRIC Unearthed is a good and solid product that opens up plenty of new options people will want to play. The classes are all basic ones that have been popular archetypes for years. And the martial art system is simple and seamless with the weapon proficiency system. This is a very solid product.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
OSRIC Unearthed
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Clash of History: Witch Trials
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/22/2007 00:00:00
Clash of History: Witch Trails is a short 12 page d20 historical pdf product and the fourth product in Vigilance Press' line of historical fantasy products. The products in the series aim to bring history into the fantasy world, and in the case of this particular product, the witch trials of medieval Europe and related history are discussed and detailed. Each product presents not only a brief history of the product topic, but also a class and associated game mechanics.

The product comes as a single pdf files and follows the same layout and structure as the other pdfs in the series. There is a nice front cover, some detailed bookmarks, fitting interior art, and a simple layout without any bordering. Editing and writing is good, although given the subject matter quite difficult to condense well within such a short amount of material. The mechanics for the most part is good, although in some instances there were cases of editing errors gone wrong (the white witch healing touch ability, for example, being referred to as lay on hands) and in one or two places the mechanics could've used a little more elaboration. There was also some older mechanics in the product - the black witch gains the thousand faces ability similar to that of druids, but it's based on the alter self spell rather than the more recent disguise self spell. Overall, though, a decent pdf, simple with no major problems.

The product starts with a brief introduction to the pdf before detailing the witch (or warlock) core class. The class is based on the sorcerer class, using the same spell mechanics and progressions. The novelty with the class lies in the various special abilities, and naturally the flavor of the class, where a witch relies on some tie to a physical entity for its magic and power. There are two paths that a character can follow with this class - the white witch focused on healing, and the black witch which is focused on curses and cursing. I like the idea of being able to take two paths for the class, and the class does a good job of following the information in the background of the witch trials to create a more realistic medieval class.

Next is a short prestige class, the inquisitor. This prestige class is essentially based upon the concept of finding witches and drawing the truth from them, so it relies on abilities like smite evil and the ability to determine the truth. It's quite a short prestige class, and not particularly well detailed, but it will make a useful addition to a campaign based on the ideas contained in this pdf. It's also reasonably easy to take the prestige class as a template and adapt to other uses or concepts.

The last half of the pdf covers in brief detail, though with an extensive timeline, the history of the witch trials in medieval Europe and to a lesser extent in other parts of the world. It makes for a very interesting read, although it can be a little sketchy in places. Then again, having to cover centuries of history in such a short space is quite a difficult job. Certain areas could've used more detail, such as perhaps more details on the trials themselves, and the logistics of keeping witches and putting them on trial, but for the most part it's a decent account of a broad period of history. There are several campaign ideas on the last page of the pdf that allow one to adapt the material to a fantasy world, and all are quite useful and interesting ideas.

Overall this is a decent pdf with some useful and interesting material. The classes are built well within the historical context, and I like the idea of the base class being able to progress along different paths. The history is interesting, but perhaps not detailed enough to highlight some of the methodology involved in the witch trials. The pdf is easy to adapt to similar themed scenarios if a DM wants to run a campaign based on these ideas. Worth a look if you're interested in some form of campaign where particular groups are persecuted, or if you're looking for a more historically accurate witch class.


LIKED: Decent account of the history behind the witch trials, and the class and prestige class slot in well with the historical background provided. Some useful campaign ideas and material for those wishing to build a campaign or adventure on these ideas.

DISLIKED: Here and there the classes seemed like they'd been constructed using abilities from other classes, and barring the novelty of taking the class along different paths, there's not a lot new in terms of special abilities for the class. To make full use of the material, some added detail on the witch trails, how witches were imprisoned or examples on how they trials were run would've been useful.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Clash of History: Witch Trials
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