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Urban Dressing: Pirate Town
Urban Dressing: Pirate Town
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Urban Dressing: Traders & Craftsmen
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/17/2013 20:38:57
What you get: Two black and white pdf’s each 13 pages long. One is formatted to provide a quality printed version of the document, the other formatted for viewing on a tablet device. Two pages of covers, two pages of OGL and ads, one title page, one page credits, and one page Table of Contents and Foreword, leaving 6 pages of content.

Artwork: The two pieces of black and white artwork were both of good quality and fit the theme of the product.

Layout and Editing: Layout was two column standard. Editing was excellent, with only one “her” that should be a “his.”

Overall Impression: There’s a very good reason that this product is sold as a “GM resource.” There is almost nothing here for players. For GM’s this is a gold mine of tables of ideas for making your shops more unique and interesting.

The first table is 100 interesting characteristics to make shops memorable. Some are as simple as, “a small wooden shop that smells of fresh baked bread.” Some are complicated enough to give a rough idea of the shop’s Ikea-like layout. If you don’t want to roll percentile dice to decide what a shop looks like, you can still cherry pick shop descriptions for your game.

The second table is 100 different traders and craftsmen that could be working in a randomly picked shop that the PC’s walk into. Other than having a nice list of craftsmen that might be in a medieval-fantasy town or city, I struggle to see what use I could get from this table in my game. However, I can see where other GM’s might find it useful.

The third table consists of 20 hooks or complications that PC’s might encounter in a shop. These could be used as plot hooks to entice the PC’s into investigating a possible quest, or they could just be something that keeps a PC from shopping in that shop. Generally, these are some sort of trouble going on just as they arrive (shelf fell over, shop owner in back complaining of having been bitten by a patron, etc.). This was the most fun table to read, as each entry inspired my inner GM to invent quests for each of these.

The final set of tables consists of 8 table that, used in sequence, allow a GM to quickly roll up an interesting NPC. You get gender, name, race, appearance, mannerisms, purpose for being in the shop, and rumors. This set of tables, could be used by a player as idea seeds for a character, though I’m sure there are better resources available for that sort of inspiration. The prepared GM would use these tables to provide NPC descriptions ahead of time. In a pinch they COULD roll up an NPC at the table with these tables.

Final Rating: This product is darned useful, even if it’s not the most riveting set of tables I’ve ever read. Even a GM running a published adventure is left to their own devices for 90% or more of the material when faced with PC’s in town looking to spend money. This product combined with a copy of one of the “So What’s for Sale, Anyway?” documents would make the prep for a town worlds easier. Despite the dryness of the material itself, this product accomplishes what it set out to do, and accomplishes it well and thoroughly. 5 stars, and I want to check out more of this line of products.

-Aaron

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Traders & Craftsmen
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Wilderness Dressing: Woodlands
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/03/2013 22:28:54
What you get: Two black and white PDFs, each 17 pages long; one is formatted for printing, the other formatted to be viewed (portrait or vertically) on a tablet. Front and Back Cover, Title page, Ads/OGL, and Credits/Table of Contents/Foreword take 7 pages, leaving 10 pages of content. Two tables (one of minor events and one of woodland dressing) are tables of 100 ideas/hooks/environment descriptions. One table has twelve woodland encounters. One page is woodland features.

Artwork: Artwork was black and white and was of good quality. The style hearkens back to the art in old D&D books. The art does not directly correlate to any items in the table, but is all woodland themed and provides an appropriate “flavor” to the subject matter.

Layout and Editing: Layout was two column standard. Editing was very good. Since the tablet version is formatted for portrait or vertical view, and I read on a landscape monitor on a netbook, I am not able to comment on the difference/convenience of the tablet version over the print version, both provided an identical reading experience for me.

Overall Impression: Raging Swan Press’ books are immediately recognizable by their black covers with white text. This book is strictly a GM resource. There is nothing here for players. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the purchase. Within, you’ll find three tables (two of them MASSIVE) and a page of terrain features to make woodland combats more interesting.

The first table is 100 minor events. They range from animal sightings to trees falling on PC’s to adventure hooks, to creepy ghostly meetings. There is not a lot of information given for each one, but each one seems to be designed to get a GM’s creative juices flowing. Players can interact with or ignore the events as they will, but could end up with some fun side quests or at the very least, believable reasons for having a random encounter.

The second table is 100 items of “woodland dressing.” These items are designed to give GM’s material for making campsites or encounter areas a bit more interesting. You’ve got lots of different tree descriptions and geological features to play with. No more boring circles on the battlemat to signify the campsite.

The third table is twelve random encounters ranging from EL 2 to EL 10. Each encounter has a block of text outlining why the PC’s might have this encounter. Rather than having woodland creatures attack for no reason, you have enough background to make these encounters somewhat believable. Your players may just think that they are still on the main quest instead of just getting a random encounter!

Finally, you get one page of woodland features. These are dressing to make encounter areas more interesting. You get different things that PC’s and NPC’s can interact with in the environment during a battle. If your battle site has a fallen tree in it, how can it be used as cover? How do you adjudicate movement through the leafy top of the fallen tree? The rules governing these sorts of situations are outlined on this page. Of the entire document, this is the one page that I will print out when my players are getting into woodlands.

When I started counting up pages, I was surprised at how many of the pages in the document were “non-content” pages. The 10 pages of content were so densely packed with gaming goodness, that this is not a huge detraction from the product, but I did notice it. To be fair, the document IS short, and the number of pages that are non-content (covers, OGL, ads) are no more than what I find in Paizo’s products, the low page count makes the percentage feel high.

When I first glanced over this product, I cringed, thinking, “How am I going to read through a book of tables?” I was pleasantly surprised to find that these tables were interesting to read! I wasn’t bored, rather my mind flew between thinking, “How would my players react to that?” and “Can I find a good way to slip this into my current adventure?”

Final Rating: Five stars. Any product that is essentially 10 pages of tables, that keeps me reading and keeps me thinking, “I want to use that!” deserves a five star rating.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wilderness Dressing: Woodlands
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Book of Magic: Insurgency of Summer (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/04/2013 21:04:07
What you get: You get two PDFs of the product, a printer friendly version and a tablet/laptop version and a Hero Lab file. The printer friendly version is 10 pages; 1 cover, 1 credits, 1 table of contents w/ introduction, 1 OGL, and 1 back cover, leaving 5 pages of gaming content. The tablet version is 15 pages; 1 cover, 1 title page, 1 table of contents w/ introduction, 1 OGL and 1 back cover, leaving 10 pages of gaming content.

Artwork: Artwork is all black and white, and is good to very good. Artwork was all tied to the theme of the book, and, except for one piece, tied back to the material that it was near.

Layout and Editing: Editing is superb, there were very few errors. Layout is two column standard in both formats. Tablet version is in landscape, but it fits nicely on a 10 inch screen that way. Special attention was paid to layout in the tablet version. Only one thing (the mechanical owl familiar) crosses onto another page. This makes reading much more comfortable and natural.

Overall Impression: This product provides summer/fire themed extras for your PC to use. Released to coincide with the beginning of another company’s very cold centric adventure path, your PC can have lots of fire spells and domains to deal 150% damage to cold creatures. This product is also useful to anyone who wants to have a fire-themed or summer themed character.

The spells are well balanced. Some of them are a little complex with more than one effect, or an effect that last while the charge is held, but lost when the charge is expended for a different effect. A little careful reading will solve any questions. One spell (Campfire Forge) lists two different durations (one hour per level and one round per level). The new Bard Masterpiece is fun, and will be useful against trolls! New subdomains are very summer themed, but not overpowered. The new item hearkens back to The Princess Bride, with a Holocaust Cloak. The familiars allow you to gain a Mechanical Owl or a Young Phoenix as a familiar.

That covers the content. I’d like to address the tablet format for a moment. Paizo and the Third Party Publisher (3PP) community should take a good hard look at JBE’s tablet format and imitate it. In my opinion, this format is the best development in digital gaming books since the watermarked pdf. This format provided the most comfortable reading experience that I have ever had on a 10” netbook screen. Every time I have looked through this product, I have done so on the tablet format. I glanced at the printer friendly version to confirm there were no content differences, but I READ the tablet version.

Final Rating: This product is what it advertises: fire and summer themed options for a PC. It is balanced. Editing is good. The tablet format is superb. Overall rating is 5 stars.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Magic: Insurgency of Summer (PFRPG)
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to write such a glowing review.
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/08/2013 21:03:02
Disclaimer: I was given a reviewer’s copy of this book. However, I am not paid for this review.

What you get: This pdf is 14 pages long. Cover (1), Title Page (1), Table of Contents w/ introduction (1), Universal Monster Rules and OGL (2), leaving 9 pages of beasts. At one monster per page, that buys you 9 monsters for $2.99.

Artwork: The artwork was okay to very good. Some of the art looked like a doctored photograph of something holiday themed (nutcracker, gingerbread cookie, meringue cookie), some looked like holiday cartoons, and some was exactly what you expect out of quality monster books.

Layout and Editing: Document is laid out in a standard two column format. Editing is superb. The only error I could find was a missing period in Appendix 2, Psychopomp Subtype.

Overall Impression: This book of Christmas/winter-holiday themed monsters is the first published material (I know of) from JBE’s new editor, Richard Moore. As you might suspect from the Santa hatted lich on the cover, there is significant selection of silliness in this book. You get constructs like the clockwork nutcracker and a golem made of gingerbread. You’ll find singing undead and Santa’s elves and Reindeer as you’ve never seen them before. If your party is hungry for more, you can serve up a killer fruitcake and wash it down with eggnog pudding. Although the theme of the book is silly holiday spirit, these monsters are still deadly serious. Any GM could easily strip the holiday out of the description and serve them up to players. CR’s range from 1 to 13. So, what’s the verdict for a rating? I like silly, so that was a mark up in my book. The monsters are well written and usable (and deadly!), even in a non-holiday themed campaign or adventure. The writing was pleasant to read; instead of slogging through a bunch of monsters, I was excited to see what made each one special. On the down side, it IS a specifically holiday-themed product, which could limit its usefulness for the less creative GM. It is also rather short for the price at 33 cents per monster.

Final Rating: That brings me to a rating of three and a half stars, rounded up to 4. If there’s one thing JBE writes well, it’s monster books!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Beasts: War on Yuletide (PFRPG)
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Book of Friends and Foes: Ratfolk of the Ruins (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/19/2012 20:40:38
[b]What you get:[/b] This PDF only document is 12 pages long; front and back cover, title page and OGL take up 4 pages leaving 8 pages of content. On those 8 pages you get a new race: “Ratfolk” created using the rules from the Advanced Race Guide and 7 Ratfolk NPC’s of the following CR’s: 1/2, 2, 4, 6, 7, and 8. You also get the Hero Lab files for the content.

[b]Artwork[/b]: There are 5 illustrations in the book ranging from “Meh” to “Excellent.” One illustration is in color (and would not look out of place in a Paizo AP or Module), and the rest are black and white.

[b]Layout and Editing:[/b] Layout is a standard two column layout. Editing was very good, I noticed only one error in the entire document.

[b]Overall Impression:[/b] If you came here looking for Wererats, you are in the wrong place. This book is filled with small humanoid rats. Two of the NPC’s listed are low level warriors for another of the NPC’s. The range of listed NPC’s is good. All of them could be helpful or harmful to a party to a greater or lesser extent. Each of the five NPC’s outlined has a reasonable backstory with potential plot hooks that could be used to drop them into an adventure.

[b]Final Rating[/b]: 4 out of 5 stars. Editing was great, price may be viewed as high for 7 NPC’s. The Excellent artwork balanced out the “Meh” artwork. If you are looking to run a sewer themed adventure, this would be a good investment.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Friends and Foes: Ratfolk of the Ruins (PFRPG)
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Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Companion (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/17/2012 21:36:17
Disclaimer: I was given a reviewer’s copy of this book. However, I am not paid for this review. That said, prior to being asked to review the book, I had already preordered it.

What you get:
This document is 34 pages long: one front cover, one table of contents, one page of OGL with an add, and one back cover leaving 30 pages of plane of shadows content. The physical book has a color cover with a black and white interior. The digital copy comes with two pdf’s: one is a printer-friendly black and white with color covers. It is basically almost exactly the dead-tree print version in pdf form. The second is a beautiful full-color pdf with parchment background. The digital copy also comes with Hero Lab files to allow you run Shadowsfall classes, races, deities, and all the options in Hero Lab. The digital copy also has hyperlinks to the PFSRD website to allow for easy access to all open Paizo content that is referenced. Now that we have the indisputable facts out of the way, let’s get down to my opinions!

Artwork: Jon Brazer Enterprises did not skimp on the art budget for this book. The artwork is mostly black and white and is good to excellent. The most of the art is better than what was in the [i]Book of Beasts Monsters of the Shadow Plane[/i]. There are two pieces of full color art that are very good. The picture of the wanderer is as good as the Player Class artwork that I have seen in the Pathfinder books or in the 3.5 Player’s Handbook. The black and white artwork is still black and white in the full-color-parchment-background pdf, so it sticks out a bit, but the quality of the majority of it is high enough that it doesn’t detract from the reading experience. Some of the highest quality art was of the Shadowfall iconics; I assume that this artwork was commissioned for the Shadowsfall products.

Layout and Editing: Layout adhered to a two-column standard. Editing was top notch. I tip my hat to the new editors at Jon Brazer Enterprises! There were very few errors that I noticed.

Overall Impression: This book is designed to give players and GM’s options for running an adventure or campaign in the plane of shadows. Everything that gets lost on the material plane ends up on the plane of shadows. Undead are much more common on the plane of shadows, and they are less limited there. This is [b]not[/b] a nice place to live. All light sources are cut in half, fire and light spells are harder to cast, shadow spells are easier to cast. Zombies are everywhere.

The plane of shadows slowly changes everyone who lives there, so many of the playable races (pulling lots of material from the Advanced Race Guide) are somewhat modified. Halflings are more like Gollum than Bilbo, Elves grow more Drow-like with each generation, and Dwarves slowly turn into Duergar as the generations go by. Some races are playable that would not normally be played: Dhampir, Drow, Duergar, Hobgoblins, Orcs, and Ratfolk are all common races. There are racial traits for all the races.

Two new races are included: The Umbral Kobold and the Wanderer. Umbral Kobolds are, well, Kobolds. They are small, quick, have darkvision and light sensitivity. The Wanderer is a celestial who has lost their immortality and looks human. I like the flavor of the wanderer race a lot.

Archetypes: Dusk Stalker is a magus archetype that allows a kobold magus to be a bit more roguish. Radiant Knight is a fighter archetype that allows a wanderer to use their Vestige of Holiness to provide themselves with some holy light themed abilities. The Radiant Knight archetype really makes me want to play a Wanderer when I play in Shadowsfall.

There is a new cavalier order, modified dragonblooded bloodlines for sorcerers, new evolution point options for the summoner, a Shadow elementalist school for wizards, and a new Witch hex. There are new animal companion options, including the Riding Dodo. It makes sense that an extinct species would end up on the plane of shadows. There are also new options for familiars; Pathfinder wizards can finally pull a rabbit (familiar) out of their hat!

Seven Strongholds (and the area outside the strongholds) are detailed, getting a half page each. Each also has associated traits for adventurers coming from that stronghold. Each stronghold is unique and well written. The traits do not seem to be overpowered and fit the flavor of each area. Room is left in Shadowsfall for an intrepid group of adventurers to establish their [i]own[/i] Stronghold.

Thirteen new feats are provided, one of which allows any character to gain 30ft. Darkvision (must be taken at first level). There is a set of feats that amount to a Shadow Style for the monk, allowing you to move faster, bypass a portion of enemy armor and deal strength damage. Combat, Teamwork, and Metamagic feats are all represented.

Some new equipment is available, including two new vehicles using the vehicle rules from ultimate combat. Deities across the alignment spectrum are well written and thematically appropriate. The Oracle’s Joy mystery is interesting; it requires a level of bard to access one of the revelations. The capstone ability is very powerful, but not unbalanced for 20th level play.

There is one page of new spells, which are mostly shadow related. I was a bit surprised at the first level spell Flicker, which functions like Invisibility but lasts only until the end of your next turn. The spells seems pretty powerful for a first level spell, but I would have to see how it played out. I can see Wizard/Rogues abusing it.

There is one page of new magic items, that are mostly shadow or undead related. I like the salve that gives you darkvision! I also liked the cloak that operates differently (and more powerfully) on the plane of shadows. Neat stuff here.

The two pages of “Altered Magical Items” is my favorite part of this book. In the same way that the plane of shadows corrupts all creatures that live there, it corrupts the operation of magical items. My favorite is the Ring of Troll Regeneration, which operates exactly like a Ring of Regeneration, except that it slowly changes your appearance so that you look like a troll.

I read all my gaming products on a netbook which has limited processor power; I found that the black and white version had less “lag” than the full color version. I found that I preferred reading the black and white over the color, though if I were to print it out, I would print the color version.

Final Rating: The purpose of this book is to provide options and background for players rolling up PC’s to run in Shadowsfall. It succeeds in that purpose. There are options for all of the PC classes, there are new races (designed according to the Advanced Race Guide rules) for players (and GM’s) to use. Layout and editing were great. I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about this book. 5 out of 5 stars.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall: Shadow Plane Player's Companion (PFRPG)
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Shadowsfall Legends: The Gem That Caught Fire - Kurdag's Tale
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/05/2012 20:25:48
Kurdag is a male umbral kobold alchemist with a penchant for explosions. He owns an alchemy shop called The Exploding Herb in the town of Blackbat. When a human adventurer comes to his shop with questions about a gem that caught fire, he ends up in a struggle for his life. That's fine with him, though; it means he gets to throw his beloved bombs.

The pdf is 14 pages long:
1 cover
1 title page
10.5 pages of story,
1 page talking about Shadowsfall and the author

This story deals with a main character who is not especially well liked by the people around him. They tolerate him because of his prowess at making (and throwing) bombs and other alchemical creations. Like all kobolds, life is a struggle, but Kurdag has done better than most. Despite that, he is still discriminated against by a human adventurer (though not for too long).

There is a fast paced, exciting battle between the kobold and some enemies. It will certainly keep you turning the pages (or scrolling down) to find out what happens next. The story gives you a good feel for what towns and cities in Shadowfall are like. Although the citizens band together for safety from the undead that stalk the wilds of Shadowsfall, the citizens are also their own worst enemy, quarreling amongst themselves when not combating hosts of undead.

I enjoyed the story enough to read it through more than once. I will be sure to come back to it as the other Shadowsfall Legends come out. The Shadowsfall Legends are shaping up to be high quality short stories. These compete with Paizo's Web Fiction for quality of author, story and characters. If you enjoy the web fiction, I highly recommend picking this story up.

Editing was top notch. I did not see any spelling, grammar or punctuation errors in the entire piece. Priced at $0.99, this is a perfect impulse buy, especially if you are planning to pick up the Shadowsfall campaign setting. I was very pleased to note that it came as an ePub, PDF and mobi (Kindle format) file.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall Legends: The Gem That Caught Fire - Kurdag's Tale
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Shadowsfall Legends: Pawn, Deception, and Sacrifice—Valdia's Tale
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Aaron T. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/03/2012 17:50:02
This short story is about Valdia, a half-vampire trying to protect the village of Sheol. Sheol is located on the Plane of Shadow, an opposite of the normal world inhabited by undead and other creatures that shun the darkness. She has been hired to rescue an infant kidnapped by ghouls. Unfortunately, she has fallen victim to a plot to separate her from her chosen wards (thus the Pawn and Deception).

Here we have a heroine who is conflicted about her heritage who is trying to fit in with the human population of the town that she has chosen to defend. The townspeople don't trust her because of her heritage. She does not get along with her vampire father, who takes an interest in her activities for undisclosed reasons of his own. There is some fighting and mild horror violence. The words themselves are strictly PG on the MPAA rating scale. However, on film there are scenes that would push it firmly into the realm of PG-13. The story is dark, but not inappropriate for anyone 13 or up. Would definitely be enjoyed by any adult who is a fan of dark fiction (Valdia's father offers to take the infant off her hands, presumably as foodstuffs. No sparkly vampires here).

My only complaint is two spelling errors (incorrect homonyms used). I would rate this a 3.75, rounded up to 4 stars. A bargain at the price.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowsfall Legends: Pawn, Deception, and Sacrifice—Valdia's Tale
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