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Supplement 15: Powers and Principalities
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2014 08:39:16
This is a fascinating and thought-proking collection of ideas and resources to help in world design, looking as it does at three key areas that the party is likely to interact with on any planet visited: governments, corporations and religions.

First, corporations. You have to buy their stuff, you might get hired by them, if you are lucky enough to have spare credits you might even invest in them. It comes in two layers: information which is available publically and that which is not widely known (and hence, at least initially, for the Referee only). Some of the latter can be researched or otherwise discovered. There are also ideas for plotlines involviing the corporation in question, just in case the information presented about it hasn't spawned a few ideas already.

Each corporation is also given a Universal Corporate Profile, a hexadecimal string that gives basic information about it in the same way as UWPs (and indeed UPPs) work. The information includes 'allegiance' - basically, in which jurisdiction it is based - as well as number of employees, how wide-spread it is, gross annual revenue and how risky it is as an investment. (Remember Dunn & Bradstreet ratings? That kind of assessment.) Further digits give influence, public image, type of ownership, industrial classification and the style in which it operates - how much R&D they do, how traditional they are, how centralised are their operations and even how much dissent there is in the boardroom. (I'm beginning to think this would be a useful way to classify real-world corporations too...) There's even a couple of ratings for how they treat employees (and what said employees think of their employers). The whole UCP is given a detailed explanation with some worked examples and a worksheet for doing your own before we get to look at the actual list of corporations.

The corporations given here are divided into different sections, beginning with the catch-all of 'Administration' - everything from firefighters to whole planets run as a single corporation and privatised tax collectors... plenty of scope to mess with the party as they interact with corporate workers with a completely different outlook on how things should be done. Next is Agriculture, followed by Construction, Finance (including Insurance and Real Estate), Manufacturing (of a whole profusion of products), Mining, Service Industries, Trade, and Transport (including Communication and Utilities).

For those who enjoy a sly giggle, look out for gems like the game manufacturer Far Past Enterprises or Gridlore Technologies with their penguin logo, in-jokes by and for those who have been playing Traveller since its inception.

The next section deals with Corporate Scheming and is repleate with ideas for whole campaigns never mind adventures. To make it all sound good there's a glossary of business terms as well.

Whether they like it or not, everyone has to deal with governments - their own and those of places that they visit. The latter can often prove awkward as they may have strange rules that you are unaware of... until you fall foul of them. This section is ordered according to the government codes in a UWP, and goes to prove that each category still allows for a great diversity of government styles and types. Again, there are plot ideas a-plenty, as well as those that you will have as you read the descriptions.

Finally come the Religions. Whilst the Imperium promotes religious tolerance - everyone may worship in any way they see fit provided it does not threaten the peace and security of other systems - religions themselves, when met on 'home turf', may not be anywhere near as tolerant. So it doesn't matter what the characters' own views are on the subject, they are likely to have to interact and cope with all kinds of weird beliefs and customs on their travels.

Religions are classified by broad groups of belief system - Animism, Dualism, Monotheism and a range of other styles - each with several examples. Every example comes with public knowledge, Referee notes and at least one plot idea. If you find it hard coming up with religions that don't have at least some elements of real-world ones, this is a treasure trove - apart from one which is derived from Judaism none have fallen into this trap.

Overall this is an excellent resource for embedding adventure into the everyday tapestry of commerce, government and faith: things which likely loom large in the minds of the inhabitants of every system the party visits.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 15: Powers and Principalities
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Starships Book I00II0 : Kite Class Corvette
Publisher: Christian Hollnbuchner
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2014 04:58:27
Looking oddly like a beetle, the Kite Class Corvette has excellent sensors, but limited range and rather cramped quarters - meaning that crews generally have to pull double duty as there isn't space for enough people to run more civilised shift patterns. It seems to serve well in system defence modes, however.

There is a rather muddled account of the development of this class of vessel, apparently done in tandem with the Cutlass Heavy Fighter which uses it as a mobile base. The success of the Kite has rather piggybacked on sales of the Cutlass, it seems, to the delight of the manufacturer (just who that is we are not told...).

Some notes on typical crew - generally fresh out of Space Academy - are given, along with full stats, several external views and a deckplan. This shows how cramped it is - you have to walk through the Ship's Locker to get to the Bridge, and there are no common areas whatsoever!

The beetle-like appearance is due to huge sensor booms, by the way.

Best use for this vessel is a near-planet patrol, something your party may encounter as they arrive in-system.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Starships Book I00II0 : Kite Class Corvette
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Urban Dressing: Theatres
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2014 07:45:31
In the vaguely mediaeval world in which most fantasy RPGs are set, theatres were not frequently found... travelling players generally used whatever hall they could cajole their way into, or an inn yard or - in best mystery play style - performed on the back of a cart. Many earned most of their money appearing by request in some local lord's hall for the entertainment of his guests not a paying public. But this is fantasy, and theatres can be fun places for adventure, so it makes sense to include them.

And given that you intend to have theatres a feature of your game, this product will help you design interesting and memorable ones for the party to visit - or even perform in, should they be that way inclined.It begins with a couple of tables that give ideas for characteristics and appearance: the first dealing with external features and the second with internal ones.

The 'external' table presents a great variety of options from tents and puppet theatres to full-blown concert halls, playhouses and opera houses. Each is described in a sentence or so. Whilst you can roll dice, it is probably best to read them through and pick the most suitable one for the location and plot that you have in mind. Likewise the range of options provided for interiors needs some thought as some will not be appropriate for the setting you are creating.

The next couple of tables cover assorted things that might be going on there and the actual shows taking place. Not all the action, after all, will be on the stage; and there are some twenty ideas, each with several options, which could prove adventures in themselves, never mind something which just happens whilst the characters are at the theatre.

The last table is called Sights and Sounds, and provides seveal incidental events that might happen, all quite dramatic and both visual and audible... it all adds to the flavour of things.

Finally there is a collection of 20 NPCs who may be encountered there. Many might be involved in all the events listed in the tables. Each comes as an outline (rather than a full statblock) with name, race and class, and notes on their appearance, mannerisms, personality and 'hooks' - suggestions on how to use them. Loads of flavour here.

If the theatre is to play a part in your game, this will help them come to life in your shared alternate reality.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Theatres
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ROMA AETERNA - Patricians
Publisher: PERMES
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2014 06:14:41
A nice collection of well-drawn 2-sided 'flat' miniatures showing a variety of 'upper-class' Romans and their body servants.

The collection includes gentlemen in formal togas, parade armour and 'leisure' tunics, as well as ladies in flowing gowns. Some are seated or reclining (as one would for meals). All are fully-coloured, with a goodly range to pick from... not that I have ever heard of someone wearing a bright yellow toga!

Both male and female servants in appropriate dress are included, bearing jugs of wine and fans (and one fellow with a hat and a stick, not quite sure what he's doing).

A nice touch is incidental furniture - tables, household statues, even a fountain.

A selection of bases are included, along with basic assembly instructions.

Unless your game includes a lot of high-level intrigue where it's important to know where people are, this is more decorative than practical, but very good scene-setting for any Ancient Rome game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ROMA AETERNA - Patricians
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Alien Starship (interior) - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2014 05:52:12
It's all a bit off... not quite identifiable sounds that will make looking around an alien starship all that more scary...

Much of it almost subliminal. If you concentrate you hear it, but as soon as your mind moves away or someone speaks to you it becomes inaudible... yet it's still there.

It's just pottering along in the background as I write... in some ways almost restful yet it is edgy as well.

Just the thing for playing when your party is exploring Traveller Hephaestus by 13Mann Verlag, available hereabouts, for example.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alien Starship (interior) - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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Publisher Reply:
I think that\'s the best review I\'ve ever read. Thanks!
Laser Battle - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2014 05:42:20
Loads and loads of zapping sounds... a few 'tings' and bangs for variety.

I don't know about your players, but mine are very good at generating zapping sounds of their own when there's a laser battle in progress.

It makes for an intriguing and atmospheric scene-setter, though, and as there is no real patten to it you can just turn it on when a brawl breaks out. It certainly makes you want to keep your head down... and I did wait until the house was empty before playing it!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Laser Battle   - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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Into the Breach: The Magus (PFRPG)
Publisher: d20pfsrd.com
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2014 12:07:18
The Magus is a fun class to play anyway, but here is a whole bunch of options to explore to make it even more interesting.

The bulk of the book is taken up with a collection of new archetypes. Each one comes with a description, notes on any changes to a regular Magus build and an array of special abilities to amend the class features appropriately for the archetype in question. There's an illustration of the archetype in action as well, which gives an indication of possible styles of play. The different archetypes explore various aspects of the balance between arcane power and martial skill, often giving a specific focus for the character to specialise in. Some are fun to play, others are best left for NPCs, often adversaries - unless, of course, your campaign allows the party to explore the depths of the dark side.

Many of the class features are original inventions, all with notes on their use and all necessary game mechanics. Some replace named elements of the class as originally published, others add options which may be chosen at appropriate levels alongside existing ones.

Next comes a Prestige Class, the ki magus. He blurs arcane power with his inner ki and often delivers a spell with a blow or strike. It's quite an interesting idea and could work well in conjunction with monk unarmed combat abilities.

This is followed by a selection of extra arcana and new spells, and a bunch of new feats rounds the book off. Overall, if you like the Magus class and want to add to its range and capabilities, you will find plenty of material worth considering here.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Breach: The Magus (PFRPG)
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Publisher Reply:
On behalf of all the contributors from Into the Breach: The Magus, thanks for the review, we appreciate feedback.
Monsters of Porphyra
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2014 11:26:02
You can never have too many monsters... and with this product the Purple Duck team has scoured the highways and byways of old OGL material released for Dungeons & Dragons 3e and retooled it for Pathfinder complete with special notes for the Porphyra setting and some truly glorious illustrations. And when I say 'scoured' put it this way: the Section 15 of the OGL copyright notice spreads over FIVE pages!

The Introduction explains the background: that the book was initial conceived as a Monster Update Project where subscribers were invited to select five monsters each to have rebuild under the Pathfinder ruleset: - a project launched back in 2010... so long ago I cannot even remember what my five monsters were! The development of Purple Duck Games, a then newly-formed company, somewhat got in the way, but here it is at last.

Each monster has a brief introduction that is suitable for reading aloud when the party first sees the beastie, a full stat block, gorgeous full-colour illustration, and notes about its ecology, behaviour, combat style and anything else that might be pertinent; including a mention of its particular niche in Porphyra. Each monster has a page (or two pages) to itself, making it easy to print out just the pages that you want for a game.

If you are missing a favourite monster from games past, it may be here. If it's not, sponsors are already being sought for a second volume!

There is a fine selection of creatures here which should provide a good number of opponents and beasties to marvel at in your game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of Porphyra
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Mythic Minis 6: Guardian Path Abilities
Publisher: Legendary Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2014 10:35:18
Mythic characters are defined, at least in part, by their path abilities; and so here are a collection of them for characters following the Guardian path.

They make interesting reading, combining good observational skills with some ferocious combat abilities - just the thing for the aspiring protector. Several, as appropriate for this style of play, will enable you to pull off spectacular if not cinematic exploits.

At the first tier, there is the choice of Analytical Eye (spot opponent's weak spots), Flanking Foil (dodging even when flanked), Pike Chopper (fun one, lets you attempt to sever a pole arm you are being attacked with), and Terrible Courage (fear effects? Nah, don't work on you...).

In second tier, you have access to Mythic Rider (you stay onboard your mount when lesser mortals would fall off), Parting Shot (they may think they've downed you but you can still strike back), Shielded Perimeter (protect your allies as you move around them), the wonderfully-named That Trick Doesn't Work on Me Anymore (having previously used Analytic Eye on someone, he cannot use a feat you know he has against you) and Trick Rider (again enhancement of your riding or animal handling skills).

Finally at sixth tier there is Healing Sink (maximises healing effects applied to you) and To The Last Breath, which lets you remain clear-headed and active even at death's door.

Play with these, and build an awesome Guardian.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Minis 6: Guardian Path Abilities
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Toys for the Sandbox 107: The Trade Market
Publisher: Occult Moon
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2014 08:02:15
Trade fairs and markets always have great potential for adventure, particularly if you enjoy intrigue and gathering rumours rather than merely being marched to the dungeon entrance...

This one's particularly good, because it is the melting-pot meeting point of diverse societies that otherwise might only meet across the battlefield if at all. It's not only used for trade either, as warriors and chieftains of all the communities involved attend as well. Treaties can be discussed and negotiations held... and there's likely to be the odd brawl as well.

The background as given is quite detailed about the situation. If you already have an established campaign world you may need to change a few names or races to make it fit in, but the general concept should hold good provided you can call upon a variety of groups who generally rarely mix without serious bloodshed. Once you reach the actual description of the woodland clearing that is the setting for the gathering, all you will need to do is designate a suitable location and you are good to go. The arrangement would work equally well in the middle of a large area of grassland if that's more convenient in your world.

Several NPCs are outlined. At best, all you need to do is provide them with appropriate statistics for the game system you are using; you may find that names of deities, homelands, etc., need tweaking as well. The overall concepts, however, are ones worth having in this situation to make it interesting. A priest, a veteran military man, a trader... and someone described as a reluctant bridegroom: plenty of story potential there!

And that is before we get to the actual 'possibilities' - suggestions for sweeping ideas for adventure. Each starts with a short paragraph that sets an outline scene, then there are several 'twists' from which you can choose one or more to make the original scene even more interesting. Investigations, wedding shenanigans, dodgy trades, stolen goods and even something lurking in the forest: they're all there awaiting your development into full adventures.

A couple of new items (complete bar any necessary game mechanics), tables of encounters and rumours and a map of the trade market clearing round out the product. Plenty to get you started on a market-based adventure or two.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Toys for the Sandbox 107: The Trade Market
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Heroes Weekly, Vol 3, Issue #24, The Academy of Crime
Publisher: Avalon Game Company
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/20/2014 11:13:32
The concept of a high school for budding superheroes is a common theme... but here is a place for all the would-be supervillains to get their start!

There's an outline of the Academy, buried in a bunker deep below an ordinary and quite innocent high school, with notes on some of the teachers and students. The students are graced with full write-ups and stat blocks, the teachers merely get an outline of their (decidedly crazy) personalities and teaching style. The supervillain community, not usually noted for its generosity, has funded the Academy generously.

Several adventure seeds are also provided. Two are aimed at regular superheroes, one in particular at those attending a high school for young 'heroes; whilst two more are intended for supervillain-focused games. One of these involves students at the Academy, the other puts the party as supervillains invited to an open day.

It's a neat idea, and one which could develop into an interesting part of your campaign.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heroes Weekly, Vol 3, Issue #24, The Academy of Crime
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SCIFI MONEY CARD: Silver Standard Government Issued
Publisher: Ranum Graphics
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2014 11:21:57
The odd prop always adds flavour to a game, and there's nothing like having actual 'money' to pass around...

These are nicely-done 'money cards' suitable for any science-fiction game, presented in both colour and in black and white depending on your printing facilities and desires. The instructions for printing, cutting and folding are clear: it's good that these are designed to be double-sided. For best effects use a reasonably stiff card (or stick paper print-outs to card), but given as it's a PDF, if they get tatty you can always print some more.

The design is clear and straightforward, with a slightly SF feel (yet not so futuristic that you couldn't use them in a near-future game). There's some convincing legalese on the back, which looks good. I just hope the 'serial number' refers to the 'silver standard' on which the currency is based and does not relate to individual cards, as it is the same on each one. (Of course, if you are a particularly mean GM, you could see if your players notice this and if they don't haul them up on forgery charges!)

So if you run a tabletop or LARP SF game, and feel the need for some 'money' this is ideal... and doesn't cost too much either.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
SCIFI MONEY CARD: Silver Standard Government Issued
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The Ephemeris Encyclopedia Galactica: Sector Eight (Althani Space)
Publisher: Nomadic Delirium Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2014 10:42:39
It's always good to look at a collection of new systems to explore, and this has some interesting places to visit. It opens well too, when the introduction begins "The version you are reading is in the Human’s lingua franca. If you are not human, and would like to read it in your species’ native tongue, please consult a data bank on one of your species’ planets and download the appropriate version" you know you are in for an in-character treat.

And you are, with each system described vividly in a few paragraphs, a pen-picture of what is there, who might be living there and what they are doing. Often, this mere description spawns thoughts of the kinds of adventures you might run if the party chooses to go there... and this is enhanced in many entries with a separate note aimed at the GM, giving any game mechanical details needed, such as rolls required to survive a virulent plague or a hostile atmosphere, for example. Yep, not all places are welcoming or safe to visit!

The one drawback is - no map! There's no indication of any spacial relationship between any of the systems mentioned, all we know is that they are in this Sector Eight, or Althani Space. The most information is the distance of each from Earth, and that just in light years without any directional component. Your astrogator will be tearing his hair out, or wringing his tentacles or something, depending on species.

Other than that, it's a nice collection of systems to explore... where's my starship?

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Ephemeris Encyclopedia Galactica: Sector Eight (Althani Space)
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Chronicles of Mhoriedh Map 00 Olden Lands Continent
Publisher: James Mishler Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2014 09:05:47
This is a rather fun collection of maps reminiscent of a school geography atlas. You know the ones, where you can see all manner of different information about the same bit of land - political boundaries, topology, population density, produce and so on. Having this sort of information about a campaign world helps to bring it to life on so many levels.

Here there are some seven maps of the same area - Mhoriedh - to examine. The first is a plain geographical one, the second is the same but with the features labelled. The third has the regions marked out and named. Then there's one with all the settlements marked and named.

The next one is labelled The Great Plague. I'm not sure what this shows, is it which bit was affected in which year, or numbers of people who died? That's followed by one which shows the paths of three 'nomad invasions' each spreading out from a different origin to assault different parts of the region.

The final map shows sub-divisions into different areas - possibly a pre-cursor to some more detailed maps of each.

It's interesting to see these different maps of the same region, but slightly hard to determine how to use them. If you know the names and locations of settlements, you probably are in a position to name the rivers (and other features) and the regions as well. Both the plague and the nomad invasions maps are probably best for the GM's use, he can use them to describe the spread of plague or invaders over the course of time, working out how they affect wherever the characters are. But it's an interesting concept and one worth exploring further.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicles of Mhoriedh Map 00 Olden Lands Continent
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Mythic Mastery - Mythic Heritage: Demonic Heritage
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2014 11:48:45
OK, so you're a Mythic figure. How did you come to be so? Your Path represents your destiny, but your Heritage speaks of your origins. Interestingly, this may not be something that you are aware of even once you've realised that you are Mythic...

This work explores one route to becoming Mythic, that you might have some demonic heritage. It may come in one of a range of ways, not just having a demon somewhere in your family tree. It might be the result of a ritual, or perhaps a cursed item imbued with the taint of the Abyss is affecting you. Whatever, any character whose alignment is neither Good nor Lawful could have a demonic heritage.

Having a demonic heritage opens up a range of new Mythic Abilities that are available to the character any time he becomes eligible to gain an ability from his Mythic Path. The character may choose to take a Path or a Heritage Ability, picking from the appropriate tier.

All that explained, the rest of the work lists the Abilities available. Many are pretty nasty as you might imagine, but at the 6th Tier you can even put temptation in someone's way with a Wicked Wish... all devilishly good fun, what?

Now, you might have eyes on telling rather more noble Mythic tales, but for darker stories - and of course for antagonists in a Mythic game - these could prove quite interesting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Mastery - Mythic Heritage: Demonic Heritage
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