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A Skill for Everything
by Ronald W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/30/2009 09:04:40
The best part of this book is how they have split the Base Attack Bonus into several sub skills.This book provides a good framework for skill use in any d20 game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Skill for Everything
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Alignment Paragons
by Michael F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/30/2007 10:50:51
Alignment paragons is an excellent addition to many D20 campaigns! The classes presented are clear, generally balanced...paladin-like but adaptable. I very much enjoy using these and having my players immerse themselves in their alignment.

-MF

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alignment Paragons
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Monstrous Bloodlines
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2007 00:00:00
Monstrous Bloodlines is a short d20 supplement from Fifth Element Games. The zipped file is about half-a-megabyte in size, and contains a single PDF file. The book is twenty pages long, including a page each for the front cover, back cover, credits/legal, table of contents, and OGL. The table of contents isn't hyperlinked, and there are no bookmarks. It's worth noting that although this is a sequel to Fifth Element Games's book Bloodline Levels, you do not need that book to use this one; Monstrous Bloodlines stands on its own.

There's very little art to speak of in this book. The front cover is done in full color, as is the back, but beyond the image there, and the FEG logo on the table of contents page, there are no other illustrations to be found. Even the page borders at the top and bottom of each page are just thin black lines around the headers and page numbers. In short, there's no printer-friendly version because one isn't really needed here.

Monstrous Bloodlines presents a different take on the idea of characters using bloodline rules. First introduced in Unearthed Arcana, bloodlines originally gave your character special powers, but you periodically had to spend a level in a bloodline to pay for it, a level that gave you virtually no mechanical bonuses (hit points, skill points, etc.) whatsoever. Fifth Element Games presents a new take on that.

In this book (as in Bloodline Levels) bloodlines are retooled. In order to be able to take one at all, you need to take the Bloodline feat, selecting which creature it's for. This feat gives you a small bonus to a few skills, and to some skill checks against that creature. It also makes you eligible to take levels in that creature's bloodline class. This is pretty much like a prestige class in that regard: it grants you skill points, increases to saves, more points of base attack bonus, hit dice, and special powers.

The book opens by explaining all of this, and then talks briefly about how some bloodlines can correspond to alignment, before moving on to the bloodlines themselves. Twelve new creature bloodlines are presented here: aboleth, aranea, behir, chuul, cloaker, couatl, harpy, lamia, naga, rakshasa, sphinx, and treant. These all receive a slightly larger write-up than the classes in Bloodline Levels did. In addition to a paragraph about how someone would have this bloodline, there's also a paragraph regarding their appearance, and one regarding their personality. The classes themselves fit nicely with the monsters presented; the couatl bloodline gives you telepathy, for example, in addition to the ubiquitous bonus feats and ability score increases. However, those who were hoping that there'd be translations of these new classes back to the Unearthed Arcana bloodline system will be in for a disappointment, as those aren't present.

Altogether, Monstrous Bloodlines works very well in presenting a system for your character to present a monstrous side. If the standard bloodlines are too tame for you, and you don't want to deal with the level adjustment a template comes with, making your character's history a little more monstrous may be just what you?re looking for.



LIKED: Having a dozen new short classes is very cool, especially when they reveal a more monstrous side to your character.

DISLIKED: It would have been nice to have the original UA system for these new bloodlines present.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monstrous Bloodlines
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A Skill for Everything
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/05/2007 00:00:00
A Skill for Everything exposes what some might see as a flaw in the D&D 3.X system: that attack rolls, saving throws, and ability checks are handled differently than skill rolls, despite being essentially the same kind of thing (it would seem to me that swinging a sword, breaking down a door, and resisting an enchantment are all things that involve some skill). There are 3 reasons this is an excellent product:

1. It identifies the problem. Not only is the basic idea a good one (the kind of thing that makes you wonder why you didn't think of it before), but the author reveals the areas in which the problems occur (such as when you are trying to avoid nonlethal damage incident to a forced march). This makes it easy to see the scope of the problem and generate ideas for solutions, even if you don't agree with the solution the author proposes.

2. The solution proposed (a bit of a supplementary skill system) is quite decent. I suspect what's really needed is an overhaul of the core skill (and attack bonus) system and a re-distribution of skill points among the classes, but that would be much larger, hard to do without being the main D&D publisher, and who would disrupt their campaign that much? The proposed solution is simple enough to use and incorporate into a campaign and appears to adequately solve the problem.

3. The solution can be used piecemeal: you can use what you want to without having to take the bad with the good. If you agree that ability rolls should be skills, you can use that. If you think the attack bonus needs to be more focused, you can use that system. If you think saving throws should remain as they are, they can be excluded from the skill system.

Overall, this is an excellent product. It addresses a problem that others haven't addressed much (yet), it proposes a workable solution, and it's not filled with fluff that reduces its value compared to its price. If you like to tinker with the d20 system in your games, this should be an excellent choice. If you're not looking to change things much, this may not be as helpful, although you could still use it to get ideas for new skills and feats.


LIKED: Good idea, straightforward presentation, seems easy to use, and not expensive.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Skill for Everything
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A Skill for Everything
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/22/2006 00:00:00
It seems that with the release of every supplement from Fifth Element Games, they seem to further break down and reinvent the 3.5 gaming system. With A Skill for Everything, the publishers once again create another intelligent benefit to the gaming world.

Ability rolls have always been like the duct tape of the d20 stat world. If nothing else fits use the ability. However, as 3rd edition goes into its 7th year, we pretty much have defined what most ability rolls are. If I need to break down a door I am rolling strength. If I need help with a puzzle a wisdom check may do.

A Skill for Everything gets rid of ability rolls. For that matter, it can get rid of saving and attack rolls (along with their accompany stats) as well. Instead, it replaces the ability rolls with the five basic sub skills, called secondary skills, that the ability roll is normally used for, creating 14 well written catch all sub skills. These are not treated as normal skills, as their price is different. This allows for a player to build a character that shows for once ?he is strong? despite his 14 strength score and maxed ranks in jump.

The product also replaces saving and attack rolls using a similar system. The saving throws are pushed into the secondary skills and the attack skills are broken down as if they are their own skill system. So instead of having one base attack that determines your ranged, melee, touch and other attacks. You instead receive skill points and place them into the various attack categories. There are eight skills and each class is provided a table line of what is its class and cross class attack skills. For instance, you can place up to the level of skill points in a wizards touch attack because it?s a class skill for him, but you still have to use more skill points to get him 1 rank in regular melee attacks. Finally, a system that doesn?t penalize a wizard?s touch attack roll or a ranger?s ranged attacks.

For the Player
The system offers choice, which always plays into the players power. There is an exurbanite amount of customization by incorporating the 18 secondary skills and 8 attack skills. This dynamically changes character design and makes characters feel closer to how a player imagines them. You also can get frisky and throw in secondary skills you don?t think are covered.

For the DM
The designers did a great job by including tables for the current character classes, prestige classes and even racial paragons that cover each classes cross class, secondary skills and attack skills. Another important DM reference is the tip boxes for how DMs can use this system and not have to redesign every NPC in the game or module.

The Iron Word
Despites its low price and plain layout features, this is a product that could have a serious impact on the d20 world and future edition design. In the 19 pages it pacts a compact system that you can easily incorporate into your game or design an entire game around. The book does lack a character sheet that incorporates their system which I hope someone will develop and pass around the net soon. Other than that this is a must buy for players looking for more out of d20.



LIKED: -thoughtful design that includes the dms needs
- honest marketing text on the product. It is simple in design, no layout just a complete system

DISLIKED: - needs a character sheet accompanied with it
- The only skill i didn't like was perception, i felt spot pretty much covers this one.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the positive review, I'm glad you like the product. We may be releasing a character sheet incorporating the new skill rules as a free web enhancement in the future. As for the Perception skill, we agree that Spot should be able to cover most anything that a Perception skill would. However, one of our design goals was to make sure that all ability checks specifically mentioned in the SRD rules are covered by the secondary skills. Thus, we needed the Perception skill to cover Wisdom checks in a couple of situations.
The Arcane Smith
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/27/2006 00:00:00
With as many magic weapons, armors and other items that float through a Dungeons & Dragons game, one can't help but wonder who creates all these enchanted items. Most of the time, these items are either stumbled across in the marketplace or while looting fallen foes; maybe an NPC can be contracted to create a magical item for the party. Fifth Element Games presents "The Arcane Smith," putting the power of magic-item creation directly into the hands of a player.

Writer Iain Fyffe has created a fully-playable 20-level class that, as described in the text, is a "master of iron and flame." Including fire resistance as a class feature for the arcane smith was an inspired choice, and makes a lot of sense for a character that spends most of his career over a forge. (Fyffe's suggestion that the arcane smith be used as a favored class for dwarves and gnomes also makes a great deal of sense.)

Other features of the class include the ability to cast spells (from the limited arcane smith spell list) in light or medium armor sans the chance of spell failure; 'luck of the smith,' which grants the character a luck bonus to saving throws; the Weapon Focus feat for both light hammers and warhammers; competency bonuses when creating masterwork items; and the ability to cast 'identify' at will.

The arcane smith's two most powerful and desirable features, however, are the 'disenchant' and 'craft magic items' features.

Once an arcane smith reaches 7th level, he or she can attempt to disenchant magic items. The rule mechanics for this class ability are easy to understand and use (a class level check - a d20 plus class level - plus the Intelligence modifier is required, and the DC is based on the kind of magic item). (This is not an ability that can be used in combat; it takes as long to disenchant an item as it does to create it in the first place.)

But beginning at 5th level, the arcane smith can start creating magic items at reduced experience point costs and amount of time. At first, he or she can only create weapons and armor in this way, but eventually, the ability to craft rods and forge rings is earned at higher levels.

(At 17th level, masterwork weapons created by the arcane smith are considered magical, the enchantment bonus is based on the Craft check. Fifth Element Games was careful to not make this class feature too overpowering; a Craft check of 20 can create a +1 weapon, but it takes a Craft check of 28 to create a +2 weapon; 36 to create a +3; 45 to create a +5; and 55 to create a +5.)

This is a small product - only six pages, one of which is devoted to the Open Game License - so it's a quick read, but there are a few odd grammatical choices that might cause readers to stumble occasionally throughout the text. Overall, however, this is an easy-to-read supplement, and the rules governing the arcane smith's abilities are easy-to-understand.

LIKED: The concept of this class is fun, and the rules governing its play are solid and easy-to-understand. I'm actually going to incorporate the arcane smith into my own campaign this weekend!

DISLIKED: Grammatically, there are a few choices made throughout the text (but not enough to detract from the effectiveness of the supplement itself). Unfortunately, there are no arcane smith-specific spells, the inclusion of which would have pushed this product up to five stars for me.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Arcane Smith
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Publisher Reply:
We've just released a revised edition of the arcane smith, which not only features several new spells for arcane smith characters, but also includes the Scion of Hephaestus, a prestige class for arcane smiths who truly desire to become one with their element.
Background Levels
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/24/2006 00:00:00
Background Levels is a sourcebook from Fifth Element Games. The zipped file is 1.21 megabytes in size, and contains a single PDF marginally larger than that. The PDF is thirty-three pages long, including two pages for the covers, one page for the credits/legal, one page for the table contents, and one page for the OGL. The table of contents isn?t hyperlinked, but the product does have bookmarks.

The book?s only full-color art is found on the covers, with the solid blue there. All the rest of the artwork is black-and-white. Given that different artists were used for the interior art, the quality of the pictures ranges from good to poor. Quite a number of the pictures seem to be low-quality, having been drawn with little detail. Only a few pieces are of the better quality seen on the cover. There also isn?t enough artwork to make the lack of a printer-friendly version an issue here.

After a brief introduction showcasing a conversation between a player and a GM about character backgrounds, the book launches into an explanation of what it offers. There are really two things being given in this product, the Background feat, and background classes. The Background feat itself is given then, before a brief explanation on the format of each listing.

There are a grand total of fourteen backgrounds given here: beggar, cloistered, craftsman, explorer, felonious, horseman, merchant, noble, outdoorsman, performer, professional, sailor, scholar, and soldier. Each has a brief introduction, followed by a notation of why a character with such a background would become an adventurer, followed by listings for how members of the non-human races in the PHB could come from such backgrounds also.

After this, each background has their mechanical information listed. While not directly stated, it?s obvious that this is broken down into two parts. The first part is in regards to taking this background with the Background feat. This has a mild prerequisite (typically a few skill ranks, or a minimum ability score) followed by the feat effects, which are many. Taking the Background feat can adjust your ability scores, make certain skills class skills permanently, or even grant free ranks or skill bonuses, adjust your starting money, change your weapon/armor proficiencies, or even add a (mild) special ability.

After this is the class information. Each background has a five-level base class given. The introduction notes that these do not count as multiclassing for the purpose of XP penalties. Each has a brief table summarizing their abilities and bonuses after the basic information (hit dice, skill points, class skills, etc.) are given.

All in all, Background Levels is an excellent idea given form, but the mechanics, while good, aren?t as solid as they could be. The Background feat isn?t ever stated to be required at first level; in fact, it seems to be implied that you don?t need to take it then, despite how awkward it?d seem to suddenly have your background shaping your character at higher levels. Likewise, it?s uncertain is the Background feat is needed to take levels in a background class or not. It doesn?t seem to be a prerequisite, but it could be understood that way.

Despite its flaws though, Background Levels functions well, and does a good job of making a character?s pre-adventuring history be more than just notes on the back of his character sheet. This book represents a step forward in integrating a character?s personality with their mechanics, helping to merge the two into a cohesive whole. Players wanting to make their characters? past a part of them would be well served to get Background Levels.


LIKED: This book does well in offering not only multiple backgrounds, but cleverly providing degrees for how much you want your character to be integrated with his background. If only a little, he can take the Background feat, or he can embrace it fully by taking class levels.

DISLIKED: A few of the finer points regarding the Background feat are unclear. Can it only be taken at first level? Is it a prerequisite for background classes? Those questions don't have a clear answer.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Background Levels
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for a fair and balanced review. I will take your comments under consideration when working on a revised edition. To answer your questions: the background feat is intended to be taken only at 1st level, and it is indeed a prerequisite for advancing levels in a background class. If you think background levels are important in building characters, you might also consider giving all 1st-level characters an extra feat to be used on a background.
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