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101 Not So Simple Monster Templates (13th Age)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/29/2014 17:54:08
Original review: http://realmsofchirak.blogspot.com/2014/10/rite-designs-reac-
hes-13th-age-with-101.html

This crept up rather innocuously on rpgnow.com (and its other drivethrurpg site). Rite Publishing has done a lot of stuff for Pathfinder over the last few years, most of it good or notable as 3PP resources go. This foray into the 13th Age is no exception, and actually the first really cool 3PP resources I've stumbled across that's worth a review and mention.

101 Not So Simple Monster Templates provides exactly what it indicates: one hundred and one templates you can overlay on existing 13th Age creatures. The templates follow the standard set in the 13th Age core rules, which is basically additional features or modifications that enhance or change the existing creature (so, standard D20 system stuff). Unlike some of the existing monster templates in the game, these offer a really wide range of the strange and familiar all at once.

Want a kyton-bound minotaur? Here you go. Are you determined to stat out that homeless, legless beggar? Add the legless template. Eager to take out your party with an exploding manticore? Add the Pyrrhic template. There's some good stuff here.

All of these templates are concise and too the point, except for the ones that are really complicated or offer a lot of specific detail such as the winterwight, walking fortress, grim reaper or bloodshackle templates.

Some of the templates add in some "D&Disms" to 13th Age currently absent or under-represented. If you've been missing crypt things in your game, you can make all sorts of them with the appropriate template. The aforementioned kyton-bound, constructed, divine, phase, and others will fill in needed gaps.

All of the templates offer definitely flavor and make for interesting and distinct creatures....for the right mix of encounter stew, naturally. A few could be the basis of entire plot lines (I'm thinking a kyton-bound template would open up all sorts of interesting denizen concepts for a visit to the City of Chains, for example).

Anyway, if you're a 13th Age junkie like me this is a PDF well worth checking out. I've printed out my copy for easy access at the table in my next planned 13th Age campaign (coming soon!)

Rite Designs has a sample on their blog if you'd like to see a bit for free.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Not So Simple Monster Templates (13th Age)
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BRP Mecha
Publisher: Alephtar Games
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/03/2013 12:54:21
A very good book, adding detailed design mechanics for giant mecha to the Basic Roleplaying system. It provides a sample campaign, scenario, lots of advice on character generation in a manga/anima world with giant robots, and sound build mechanics. I have encountered no noticeable errors/errata yet. The art is black and white with an anime style to it, nothing terribly special but its genre appropriate and not ugly, either (sorta looks like Mekton in style, actually).

Worth buying if you are like me and have been wanting more SF themed sourcebooks for BRP!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BRP Mecha
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Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/25/2012 15:08:32
This book is a steal at the current price, though I admit the price used to be higher and that kept me from checking it out. Now that I have it, I intend to buy the print edition. Very short but here's the pros and cons of the book:

Pros: a fantastic resource for an undersea campaign environment and very comprehensive at that; gorgeous illustrations, the nicest 3PP Pathfinder book I have yet seen; full of useful and interesting content; provides three dimensional rules for undersea combat.

Cons: Very specific to undersea adventuring, so of limited use if that's not your thing; the undersea combat rules look a bit complex.

Overall ratings:

Style and Presentation A+
Content: A+ for what it sets out to do; a C if you are looking to mine for ideas in on undersea campaigns.
General Value: A+

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting
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Castles & Crusades Classic Monsters The Manual
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/25/2012 14:37:33
Another fine book from the trolls. If you, like me, felt that the pinnacle of monster manuals from the 80's was the Fiend Folio, this is a book for you. Includes about 200 classic monsters from the era, as well as an extensive 1st edition DMG-style index of monsters from all three C&C monster books at the end. Great black & white illustrations, faithful recreations of many old classics of D&D that have been missing from C&C, and does a lot to bulk up the monsters of M&T.

Pros: 200 new monsters, well illustrated, very few typos/errata issues that I have found so far (i.e. cloaker seems to be missing from the index listing). Adds a lot of goodies for the CK to play with. A great tome if you loved the Fiend Folio. At $14.49 I felt I got my money's worth.

Cons: if you want new, this may not be the place to look; if you are fine with converting from other monster manuals of D&D to C&C, then this book may seem redundant to you. If you thought the Field Folio monsters were stupid, this book is not for you.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Classic Monsters The Manual
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Stars Without Number: Free Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/09/2011 12:18:13
It hardly seems necessary to add more praise to Stars Without Number but I was so blown away by this book that I feel I need to at least let it be known. SwN manages to blend old school aesthetics and rules with a modern sense of science fiction in to an incredibly accessible and playable package. Giving it away free is a smart move; I immediately purchased the hard cover edition through the POD service and am already planning to make this my new go-to system for SF gaming. Stuff like this is really showing just how relevant indie game publishers are today.

Rules: simple but efficient; it includes a skill system, level-based advancement, career packages, streamlined combat and a plethora of useful GM tools and rules for world, creature and adventure design.

Presentation: clean and easy to read, nicely illustrated with evocative pictures that add rather than detract from the product.

Usefulness: extremely; I am already planning to use this book, a lot. It's everything you need for old school SF gaming under one cover.

Overall: 5 out of 5.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Free Edition
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Starships & Spacemen (Original 1978)
Publisher: Goblinoid Games
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/04/2010 17:23:27
This is a quirky retro RPG...well, perhaps retro shouldn't apply, since this is the original Starships & Spacement, circa 1978, with some supplemental material and errata originally published in Different Worlds magazine from way back when (I loved that magazine!)

Starships & Spacemen is essentially an unabashed riff of classic Star Trek (TOS for you modern Trekkies) with analogs of just about all the original races and characters to one extent or another. The system is simple, based on a series of base stats, a chosen branch study and augmented by a healthy dose of gung-ho "where are the green skinned women?" style of play. Even the sample characters and situations in the game....revolving around Captain Jerk....speak to the unabashed extrusion of all things Trek in to the S&S mold.

That said, if you are looking for a retro clone of Star Trek as an RPG this is a good place to start. The system is playable, contains a basic but fully functional set of rules for starships and combat, and has lots of classic trappings of old school RPG design, such as randomly generated alien encounters, planets and stellar anomalies floating around to be uncovered. It's really quite fun, and noticeably better than some of the other Fantasy Games Unlimited (the original oublishers) SF RPGs of the time (cough _Space Opera_ cough).

If you consider yourself an officionado of the OSR, then you really can't go wrong here. if you just happen to be fond of kitschy Trek-styled space opera and rules-lite systems, look no further.

Appearance: 3/5 (it has that type-writer quality pervasive in games prior to 1980ish, but the art is decent for its time)

Substance: 4/5 (you get a full game here; I say 4/5 because it is so rules lite but if that's your thing consider it a 5/5)

Playability: 5/5 (plays well, and you can easily play it beer & pretzels style or go for a long haul campaign with it, I feel)

As a side note, Goblinoid Games seems to have plans to do support for S&S. I certainly hope so; it will make a fine addition to the Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future collage that GG is now known for.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starships & Spacemen (Original 1978)
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Tainted Lands
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/15/2009 10:18:08
Well, I just wrote a lengthy review that was devoured by rpgnow requiring me to sign in a second time (timed out I guess) and I lack the energy to rewrite this, so I'll just do a summary:

Style/Presentation: there are 5 books included but they are not indexed. The artwork is good, although the new artist's style took a bit of adjusting to get used to. As with all Troll Lords products it could have used a bit more editing. There is confusion on the extra prime rules introduced in the book.

Stand-Alone Usefulness: The book includes a C&C quickstart rules set but the game is clearly written for use with the main books, and so this is of limited usefulness. It works great as a specific campaign setting for C&C, but it is very high powered, and using much of this material in standard C&C games requires careful consideration.

Usefulness as a Horror Setting: This game is clearly inspired by Ravenloft, but it is much closer thematically to the movie Van Helsing or Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. I would also suggest this was a great resource for a Castlevania style game. Characters in this game are tough, very tough. They face slavering hordes of monsters that are just as tough, however; it's a strange mix that felt like a "fantasy heavy metal" take on horror to me.

Contents: Four new classes, a ton of new magic items, gear and spells, a detailed overview of the demiplane and a scenario for 4th level characters that will put them through the wringer of a haunted former keep turned inn turned bastion of EVIL. There is also a PDF with class-based character records and a quickstart rulebook that is more useful as a hand-out to players new to the whole RPG thing than to running the boxed set as is.

Overall: James Ward knows how to write a fun old-school sourcebook. It's not for people who find and crave balance, nor is it for people who learned everything they ever knew about role playing games within the last six years; if you were gaming in the 80's you will grokk what this set is about and appreciate what it's trying to accomplish. It;s very accessible and full of weird over-the-top ideas. Well worth the attention of old school and C&C fans alike. I could also see this being converted to a more modern game like Pathfinder with minor work involved. Fans of WoD games need not apply, this is a brand of heavy metal dark fantasy that has little to do with the precepts of the White Wolf brand names; likewise if you come to this expecting a Ravenloft supplement with the serial numbers filed off you will only be partially correct; the Tainted Lands is closer to James Ward's homebrew Ravenloft, I suspect, than anything else, and the higher overall power level of this game means it will most definitely play out like some sort of dark heroic fantasy than gothic horror.

Style: 4/5 -- good art, good layout, needs some errata and editing
Rules: 3/5 -- useful for its internal setting, harder to adapt a lot of it to a standard C&C game
Readability: 5/5 -- James Ward's relaxed and casual style of writing is a pleasure to read and made this more engaging than many existing C&C modules
Overall: 4/5 -- I'm using this for a Tainted Lands campaign "as is", the wacky concepts within make for a singularly unique over-the-top splatterfest campaign; if you like old-school and this sounds intriguing, grab it!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tainted Lands
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Castles & Crusades Of Gods & Monsters
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/03/2009 12:41:51
This is an "old school" approach to gods in fantasy gaming and C&C in particular, and a product I have been looking forward to for some time. If you were disappointed with the 3.0 edition of Dieties & Demigods as having far too few deities/pantheons and far too large a set of stat blocks, then this book will appeal to you.

Of Gods & Monsters includes fantasy pantheons for the various races (including goblinoids, gnomes, elves, dwarves, and halflings), the Airdhe pantheon (the default setting of many C&C modules) and a large sampling of real world mythologies, including Japanese, Indian, Roman, Greek, Celtic, Norse, Aztec, American Indian, and Egyptian. Each section provides a representative collection of the deities from each pantheon as well as statistics for their avatars (kind of like it was done in 2nd edition AD&D's Legends * Lore). A plethora of new monsters relevant to each pantheon are included, making this a good addition to C&C's Monsters & Treasures book, as well. A load of new spells are also included, and each deity entry includes suggested benefits clerics of the god might receive.

The plus side of this book is obvious: a convenient grouping of gods from real-world mythology as well as some ready made fictional pantheons, easily inserted in to whatever campaign world you desire. The book is gorgeously illustrated throughout, and has all of Troll Lord's signature artists involved, giving a nice range of variation. As always I enjoyed Bradley's art, but the new arist (who ilustrated the Norse pantheon) did some reall cool stuff here, and I really like his style; it's grown on me quite a bit since Tainted Lands.

The down side of this book isn't really a down side unless you're part of the newer generation of gamers who are accustomed to rigidly balanced mechanics. Many of the new clerical abilities, spells and even some monsters/avatars in this book have interesting stats and approaches. Some struck me as peculiar or potentially unbalanced (not many, just a few). From my perspective as an older gamer this is not an issue; C&C runs like older edition versions of D&D, and those did not arc everything along a specific line of balance. Likewise, C&C is famous for encouraging house rules and customization, so if something seems wonky, excluding or changing it does not cause problems. Personally, I've found nothing with which I had issue here, but then again I'm a more story-focused GM/CK so this book's range of diverse pantheons and ideas will greatly benefit my play style. If you are obsessed with balance, however, you might find some things odd or annoying.

Also, the book could have used a second edit. There were some typos that stood out in certain spots. That said, it's still orders of magnitude better than the 1st printing C&C Player's Handbook in terms of look and editing.

In the end, I would reccommend this book to all C&C players and also to OSRIC/Labyrinth Lord/older edition D&D gamers, as this book would prove equaly useful to such games, I feel. I actually plan to use it in reference to my Pathfinder games, as well.

Overall rating:
Usefulness 5/5
Mechanics 4/5
Presentation/Art: 5/5
Editing: 3/5
Value for the Dollar: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Of Gods & Monsters
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The Ruins of Ramat (C&C)
Publisher: Arcana Creations
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2009 14:18:30
This is an excellent starter adventure, both for new players to the hobby who are looking for a good entry-level dungeon and experienced DMs who need a decent low-level dungeon crawl. The production values are good, the interior art is pleasant with an old-school feel (without being crude, either, just simple black and white drawings that evoke the feel of the genre) and the dungeon itself is very clearly described with ready-made blocks of flavor text to read. It's nicely outlined, can be dropped in to any setting, and is good for 1-2 evenings of entertainment. The module also includes several classic monsters now statted for C&C.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Ruins of Ramat (C&C)
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Imperial Gazetteer
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/16/2009 11:09:38
Just a short note, as I am still reading and absorbing this amazing setting book. Well written, full of neat concepts that I am going to extract for use in my own campaign, filled with interesting NPCs, several new races and many, many monsters, all themed arounds a region of Wolfgang Baur's Zobeck setting which is dominated by intelligent undead.

Appearance: 4/5 the book looks great and I like how stat blocks are presented (doesn't look like the ink jet threw up on the page, and has its own theme without being a copy of the WotC format). The art is great, though some is copyright-free stuff that has been seen elsewhere, a lot.

Usefulness: 5/5 although I will definitely cannibalize for my own setting, the truth is I am pretty tempted to use this book as-is; Morgau and Doresh are well-developed and very strange regions that I think I'd like to see in play. Especially useful if you're a fan of undead and necromancers in D&D.

OVERALL: 5/5 best value I've gotten for a while in 4E PDF products; the price tag matches the size and value of the content, I feel.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Imperial Gazetteer
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One on One Adventures Compendium
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/13/2009 10:58:50
A huge bang for the buck here; I am impressed at how much I got for the price tag. This is an excellent compilation of one-on-one modules, most useful when you have a single player and an itch to play; the rules provide plenty of helpful hints on scaling and balance and I have encountered no glitches or oddities so far, off-hand. The only real problem I have noticed is that they are designed for various separate scenarios aimed at specific character types, and so it would be hard to run this book as a series of continuous adventures in a campaign.

The book is clean and well-edited, and has plenty of great illustrations and maps. Probably my favorite PDF to date for Pathfinder!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One on One Adventures Compendium
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[PFRPG] The Genius Guide to the Shaman
Publisher: Super Genius Games
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/13/2009 10:54:23
This is an interesting class, but could use some rebalancing to make it more effective at low levels. It has several features such as tethering spirits and crafting focus items, but doesn't provide enough guidelines (I feel) for a player to get a grasp on what he can do with the class, or a GM to arbitrate what shouldn't work. I would also have enjoyed an expanded section on the nature of various spirits in the spirit world (the thematics here remind me a bit of spirits in Runequest) as spirits are a new concept to PF/3.X as presented. The book is very clean otherwise and nicely illustrated. If your game is full of god role-players and no rules lawyers you will probably get the most mileage out of this book, but do not let cheesers get their paws on it, as the free-form nature of spiritual benefits a shaman can gain are easily abused.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] The Genius Guide to the Shaman
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Tome of Secrets
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/14/2009 01:47:42
This is a must-have book for Pathfinder fans, and is essentially backwards compatible with 3.X as well. I have so far already integrated the three new player races (saurians, half ogres and ratkin) in to the game, and have seen several of the classes in play as well. The book includes chase rules that look quite fun (haven't tried them yet), a plot path generator, optional character traits, rules on fantasy firearms, and several new classes as well.

PROS: nicely illustrated, well-edited by and large, and it's easy to see that more than half of this book will see play in my campaign over the coming months.

CONS: not much, but mostly that a couple of the new classes are a bit wonky (I'm still scratching my head at the warlock....not a normal class by any stretch!) or boring (cough _warlord_ cough). Beyond that, I haven't encountered anything in this book that wasn't a nice addition to my new ongoing Pathfinder campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Secrets
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Malevolent and Benign
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2009 16:32:57
Excellent collection of monsters from Expeditious Retreat, statted for use with OSRIC (and therefore 1st edition AD&D). I am using the monsters with my C&C campaign right now, and the conversion is trivial.

PROS: the book is cleanly illustrated and the monsters all get some great write-ups. There are a lot fo interestign creatures in here, and the book is not an eyesore...even the retro cover, reminiscent of Erol Otus (by peter Mullen, whose got the Otus look down pat) is actually rather quirky and fun rather than an eyesore as in other retro games where the need to emulate the bad art of the 70's and 80's accompanied the retro-rule feel. The book is navigable as well with full bookmarks, a big plus for laptop-equipped DMs. Finally, as a resource designed fors classic style AD&D play, it both looks and feels the part, with all the appropriate bells & whistles, right on down to the layout and design. But the art in this one is much, much nicer than anything in Fiend Folio, I assure you!

CONS: I found that putting the monster description at the end of the entry rather than the beginning was a bit disconcerting....sometimes I needed to reference it first to figure out what the heck the creature's weird properties were. A few of the creatures are very...ah...complicated, which is to say, my head started throbbing thinking about managing the creature in-game, but don't take that as a con unless you are keen on simplicity of design.

Appearance: 4/5 - good cleanlayout, design, and nice art; a portion of it is definitely royalty-free and been seen elsewhere, but it's still good

Content: 5/5 if you need new monsters for OSRIC, C&C, or 1E/2E games.

VALUE: 5/5 for old school gamers.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Malevolent and Benign
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Tunnels & Trolls v7.5
Publisher: Fiery Dragon
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/02/2009 15:53:38
A great one-box set RPG that still holds true to it's old-school classic roots. This set includes the main rules, two supplemental monster books, a spell expansion, GM's adventure and solo adventure as well as counters and character sheets....probably some other stuff I have forgotten, too. I have both the print and PDF editions, and the print edition is so thick you can't close the box. Just sayin', it's a lot of bang for the buck.

LIKES: T&T in all its glory; the 7.5 edition adds a bunch of additional content to the main rules and four supplemental rule books not seen in the 7.0 edition. A few rule fixes are included (such as the change on experience gain and cost to advancement) as well. The art is great, using Claudio Poyas (sp?) material to good effect; he has a clean, distinct style that is reminiscent of the old days of T&T when Liz Danforth was the chief illustrator.

DISLIKES: Not much to complain about. I've been a fan of T&T since 1981 and in all fairness was a major fanzine publisher for it in the 80's, so I'm an old-school fan who loves this style of game. The game does make enough changes to the mechanics that while I'd rank it as 99% compatible with previous T&T books (solos especially) you will run in to an occasional bit where a judgment call or two will need to be made.

THOUGHTS: It might be too simple for some younger gamers used to the complexity of 3.X these days, but T&T works equally well for extended campaigns, pick-up games, beer & pretzel affairs and as a gateway RPG for new and young gamers. The 7.5 edition is well worth checking out if you want a game that is simple to learn but provides for an immense level of flexibility in what you want to do.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tunnels & Trolls v7.5
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