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RPG Background Loops MP3: Villain's Spaceship Bridge
RPG Background Loops MP3: Villain's Spaceship Bridge
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Iron Heroes Bloodwood Setting
Publisher: Fiery Dragon
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/02/2014 07:07:46
A 14 page guide to a small land along the shores of a great lake, with a further two pages dedicated to B&W and colour versions of a map of the region. It serves really as an introduction to a series of adventures - which, so far as I can tell, were never published.

Because of that, it's all rather vague. Although technically for the Iron Heroes system, it's actually all but system free, and so can easily be adapted to anything else. The only exception is the page or so on suggested PC traits, and even those are generic enough that they could be fitted to another character generation system without difficulty.

It's well written and coherent, with a good variety of settings within it, including dank fenlands, boisterous mining towns, pirate isles, scholarly and religious communities, and so on. The artwork is good too, although not extensive. On the other hand, the primary menace comes from the Bloodwood itself - which is never really described, presumably because that was the intended point of the adventures. It's really that, and the lack of anything particularly obvious to do that makes the product weak as a stand-alone.

I'll give it an extra star for being free, but, without the adventures, all you have here is the competently written outline of a fairly mundane region, under threat from something that's never described.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Iron Heroes Bloodwood Setting
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Hellfrost Region Guide #1: Sacred Places
Publisher: Triple Ace Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/16/2013 09:29:06
A 12-page booklet describing magical places within the world of Hellfrost, this could equally well serve as a source for any fantasy setting where magic can imbue the landscape. The first 4 pages or so are taken up a general discussion of sacred places and the incorporeal, otherworldly spirits that imbue them with power. These are not creatures to be killed, but sentient magical essences that can grant some kind of boon to visitors, usualy in return for a sacrifice.

This is followed by a description of thirteen such places, the nature of their spirits, and the powers they grant. Most are generally low-level, and there is a wide variety of different kinds, including divination, fertility, healing, and combat spells. They are all atmospheric, and should work in most settings. Finally, there is a description of the minor god of brewing, and of an undead monster.

This won't be of immense use if you're only interested in dungeon-style adventures, but otherwise it should be useful in most fantasy games. The rules for the sites and their powers are fairly minimal, and so should be easy to adapt if you happen to use a different system. High recommended if you're looking for a bit of magical flavour to make your world seem truly mythic.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hellfrost Region Guide #1: Sacred Places
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City Builder Volume 1: Communities
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/16/2013 08:58:44
This 31 page book (plus OGL, cover page, etc.) describes communities in standard fantasy settings, ranging from temporary labour encampments to metropolises - although the focus is mainly on cities. While I was rather less impressed with later volumes in the series, this first one is particularly good.

It opens with a general description of communities of various sizes, and how they might be affected by non-human populations and the like. Much of this is generic, but it seems well-researched, and provides a solid base to deviate from if your setting has particularly unusual features. This is followed by a brief look at common building types, and some more detailed examination of urban fortifications, law enforcement, and street lighting (or the lack thereof). There's also discussion of moving about in cities, addressing such things as rooftop chases and sewer delving - a staple in urban RPG settings.

Finally, there is a rather good 6-page section on civic disasters, covering things like flood, fire, famine, and plague. Any of these can radically upset a city and the lives of anyone resident within, and they can make dramatic backdrops for adventures, or just a sense of living in a real world. Again, a lot of this is well thought out.

The artwork is good, although some might want to note that 8 of the pages (a quarter of the total) are art-only, so that the text portion of the book is shorter than you might expect. What remains, though, is well worth the price.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Builder Volume 1: Communities
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Indulgence: Blood Waters
Publisher: Sinister Adventures
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/16/2013 07:59:10
A short adventure in which the PCs must explore a network of submerged lava tubes on the seabed to rescue a locathah prince. It's well written, and the while the scenario itself is, perhaps nothing extraordinary, the underwater setting gives it a fresh and original feel. Indeed, the background to the scenario suggests many more plot hooks for continued aquatic adventuring.

The artwork and map are top notch, and the writing and layout are very good, bringing the unusual setting to life. The scenario also includes a monster template, and a couple of spells that can apply it to existing creatures. (One minor point: aberrations aren't included in the template description, yet they were obviously supposed to be, judging from the example provided).

On the whole, well thought out, and an interesting change of setting.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Indulgence: Blood Waters
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Cities of Fantasy 2: Racial Neighborhoods
Publisher: RPG Objects
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/26/2013 09:27:54
This 37-page book provides a description of five racial neighbourhoods for fantasy cities - one for each of the major races of dwarves, elves, gnomes, halflings, and half-orcs. Each community comes with a description of the local architecture, it's social atmosphere, descriptions of characters and businesses likely to be encountered there, what magic is likely to be in use, and a selection of plot hooks.

The dwarven and halfling communities are both fairly typical, the sort of thing that might be found in any generic, multi-ethnic fantasy city. Either could be taken out of the city, and used as the basis for a town inhabited by that race, and general guidelines for how they live. Thought has been given as to how underground communities will be structured, and there are some rules guidelines for moving around in halfling-sized buildings.

The half-orc community is also generic - at least assuming that half-orcs aren't a social elite in your campaign world, which seems unlikely - but is more tied to the rest of the city. Much of the description here would work just as well for any slum area that's more frequented by beggars than it is by the Thieves' Guild.

The other two, however, are more specific. The elven neighbourhood is a scholarly retirement community, and the gnomish one a Vegas/Blackpool-style gambling district. Both make perfect sense, but, in most game worlds, they're likely not the typical elven or gnomish quarter, merely one example of a specialised variant. That doesn't make them less useful, and the material on how, for example, high-class casinos might work in a fantasy world, could well be handy whether or not gnomes are involved. But it's worth bearing in mind.

The book is well written, and passably illustrated, and includes a lot of useful ideas and rules that could apply further afield than the dwarven equivalent of Chinatown or Little Italy.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cities of Fantasy 2: Racial Neighborhoods
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City Supplement 3: Anyoc
Publisher: Dream Machine Productions
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/26/2013 06:10:26
A description of a moderately large city, this supplement has 19 pages of text, and a further 10 pages of maps, plus the floorplan of a guardhouse. Six of the maps are of the city as a whole - with numbered labels, text labels, and no labels, each in colour and black-and-white. The remaining four are expanded versions of the main maps, each showing a quarter of the city, in larger size for printing, but without extra detail.

The city itself seems suited to a high fantasy world, due primarily to the vast scale of the architecture. The governor's palace, for instance, is ten stories high, and the city walls tower 300' (higher than the spires of many medieval cathedrals, in the real world). All of which is perfectly reasonable for a high fantasy setting - and the walls, in particular, are implied to partly magical in construction - but not, perhaps, for more low fantasy campaigns.

Having said that, a few tweaks to the descriptions is all you'd really need to change it. Beyond the architecture (which is atmospherically described) the basic concept of the city is that is largely ruled by three noble families that don't entirely get on, and that it is built on the ruins of a much older city, dedicated to the forces of evil before its eventual destruction. Unfortunately, not a lot is made of the latter point, it's more of a plot hook than something that is really explored in the supplement.

There are full page stat blocks of the heads of the three noble houses, the governor, the commander of the city guard, and the high priest of the main temple. All, except maybe the priest, seem surprisingly low level for the size of the city. (The population isn't given, but we know the guard force is 250-strong, so it's surprising that the guy in charge of it is only 4th level). But they are at least well thought out and distinctive.

A number of locations, including all the shops along one street, are given brief descriptions, which can add flavour to the setting. There are also discussions on some unusual local flora, a mildly narcotic drink (no worse than alcohol, really), and some unique architectural materials, as well as things like the sewers and the water supply. Again, some of this implies a high fantasy setting, but nothing too far out of the ordinary.

There is also a page of scenario ideas, some of which would work in any city, and some of which are more specifically tailored to this one.

All in all, not bad if you're looking for a fair sized, but not huge, city to put down in a fantasy campaign. The setting it is part of seems fairly generic, so there should be little difficulty in applying to most campaigns. The maps are reasonable, and the layout and proof-reading are both good. It doesn't, perhaps, have a true 'wow' factor, but it's quite good of its type.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Supplement 3: Anyoc
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Granitefist Clanholding & Mine
Publisher: Cartography Unlimited for RPGs
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/02/2013 06:34:40
A 15 page description of a mine and associated dwarven village, including 5 1/2 pages of maps. The maps are basic, drawn up in Campaign Cartographer, with a few minor mistakes like apparently floating mountains here and there, but they're functional and serve their purpose. The accompanying text is generally brief, with just a line or two per room, and the mine is clearly meant to be 'typical' rather than an adventure site in its own right. For example, while we're told where gold and so on are stored, there's no hint as to how much of it there is, or whether or not it might be protected.

The book rounds out with seven stat blocks for dwarven NPCs living at the site, with a short paragraph or two saying who they are. The layout of the book is minimal at best, with the NPCs, for example, blurring into one another due to a lack of clear headings. The book isn't bad, if what you want are the maps, and maybe some stats, but there's nothing much to it - although it's fair enough, for the low price.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Granitefist Clanholding & Mine
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City Guide: Harbor Side Mess Hall
Publisher: Dark Quest Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/02/2013 06:17:35
This is a description of a dockside restaurant, such as could be found in almost any port city, or even one on a large river. Its 18 pages long, and very detailed for what it is - all the doors and locks are described, for instance, along with a 2-page description of the available menu. There are twelve named NPCs, with full stats and well-rounded descriptions, covering the restaurant's permanent staff and a few regular entertainers. There are also generic stats and descriptions for a host of patrons and temporary hire staff (serving girls, errand boys, etc.)

If what you want is a detailed description of a restaurant where PCs can meet up, or arrange meetings with potential employers, or whatever, this is likely pretty useful. But there are a few down points. For one, there's no map, which is surprising giving the level of attention to everything else - although the layout of the building is at least described in the text. Although the layout is good, there are a number of typos throughout, and the description of the entertainment room is missing altogether (and replaced with a description of the women's toilet).

In addition, at the end of the day, it is just a restaurant. There are no dark secrets hiding here, although there's potentially some money to steal if you're that way inclined. The characters are well-written, and believable, and therefore great as background NPCs, but that's all they are - if you're looking for urban adventure and mystery, this may not be for you. There are a couple of suggested plot hooks at the end, but they're minimal (one is just 'rob the place'), and don't add much to the product. There's also relatively little fantasy feel to it, apart from the presence of a single dwarf, although that may make it easier to fit into cities in almost any campaign.

On the plus side, 18 pages isn't bad for the price, which nudges it up to 4 stars.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Guide: Harbor Side Mess Hall
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Tavern Denizens-Book I: The Dives
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/06/2013 11:20:13
Intended to be the first part of a series that, so far as I can tell, never got any further than this, this is essentially a collection of 25 NPCs. They have no stats, although some are rated as above average for combat ability and the like. For many of them, you probably wouldn't need stats anyway, since they'll mainly serve as background flavour. Each typically has one or two paragraphs of description.

They are all of the kind that might be found in cheap taverns, whether because they're career criminals, outcasts of some kind, or just poor labourers. There's a good variety here, and plenty of ideas. Many of them could be used as NPCs in other contexts, although a tavern is as good a place as any to meet them. The book rounds out with a list of 20 plot ideas, some generic, and some tied to specific NPCs in the book.

A useful set of NPCs when you need to come up with some quickly.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tavern Denizens-Book I: The Dives
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Agouri's Scriptorium
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/06/2013 10:58:09
This, the last in the City Streets series to date, describes the business of a scribe and translator, a somewhat unusual service that PCs might nonetheless find themselves in need of. The artwork is unusually good in this one, which is 5 pages in length, and everything else is up to the usual standards. There isn't really any kind of dark secret going on here, although there are six suggested plot hooks that can make use of the business and the diverse range of apprentices that the owner has gathered together. All in all, a useful product that should fit in almost any fantasy city with little, if any, modification.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Agouri's Scriptorium
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The Mug and Bottle
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/06/2013 10:38:59
One of the darker entries in the City Streets series, this describes a drug den and brothel with some rather unpleasant goings on. The owner is suitably unpleasant, without being over-the-top, and it's likely that, in most campaigns, he'll be a minor villain rather than a helpful NPC. The descriptions are atmospheric, the artwork isn't bad, and layout, writing, and hand-drawn maps are all good, as usual.

Obviously, the fact that the place deals in drugs, and that these are a major element in what's going on, may not make it suitable for all campaigns, but it's more alluded to than described in detail, and certainly isn't glamourised, so I have no problem with it. A few drugs are described in general terms; two of these are real-world medieval drugs, and three are fictional, but quite plausible, even for a low-magic campaign. It should be easy enough to drop into most fantasy cities without modification.

(As an aside, contra the previous reviewer, there's no mention of heroin in my copy. Perhaps it was edited out at some point).

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Mug and Bottle
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Brandy's by the Bay
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/06/2013 10:22:34
A description of a relatively generic dockside tavern, this 6-page booklet is nicely done and can easily be dropped into any city that actually has docks, whether they're on the coast or just a large river. There's good descriptions of the proprietors, who, while with less of a dark secret than in other instalments in the City Streets series, still have potential to generate stories. Seven are provided at the end of the booklet, and there's plenty of opportunity to expand on them in a number of weighs. The use of old copyright-free art, rather than low quality drawings, is an improvement over some other booklets in the series.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Brandy's by the Bay
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Siarl's Herbs and Elixirs
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/06/2013 10:08:55
This 6-page instalment of the City Streets series provides a herbalist/alchemist's shop that, as usual, has a bit more going on behind the scenes. The artwork isn't quite up to the standards of earlier booklets in the series, but otherwise, it's well written and laid out, with decent hand-drawn maps. The secret in this case is one that makes perfect sense, while being fairly unusual, although it's arguably one that's slightly harder than usual to work into a game.

The booklet includes a brief description of some of the potions that Siarl can make, but this isn't really a book of potions, and most are fairly mundane (healing potions, for instance). Nonetheless, it's all good flavour, and some are a little unusual. There are, as usual, a number of plot hooks provided at the end to fit the shop into your campaign - and it shouldn't be a problem doing so in most settings. One of them does seem to come a little of left-field, as I'm not entirely clear what the motivation of the NPC is, but it should be dramatic if you can find a way to fit it in.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Siarl's Herbs and Elixirs
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Zinia's Spa
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/06/2013 09:52:52
This is one of the longer offerings in the City Streets series, at nine pages. It describes a spa on the outskirts of town, and, since it relies on the presence of volcanic springs, might be harder than some others in the series to just put down in a random city. The quality of the writing, layout, and maps is about the same as usual, although one of the two pieces of artwork is pretty dreadful.

Although there is a theme to the location, it's perhaps less dramatic than for some of the others in the series, although certainly useful nonetheless. The booklet is longer than usual because of the large number of staff in the building, each of whom gets a short description. (And, it should be added, this is quite specifically a spa, not a brothel).

However, there is also an alternative version of the spa for use in higher magic or higher level campaigns. This is less developed than the main version, but the central theme is much the same, so a lot of the information in the main section will work for both versions. Each version of the spa also comes with five suggested plot hooks.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Zinia's Spa
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Miel's Curios
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/06/2013 09:19:15
Another top quality instalment from the City Street series, this one covers what is essentially a jewellers' shop. As always, it's well written and laid out, with a decent quality hand-drawn plan of the building. The shop itself, isn't so much the point of the 5-page booklet, which is really a description of its mysterious owner and what he is up to. It's this that provides the real interest, and the six suggested plot hooks at the end. All of this is generic enough that it will fit into any city that has at least some kind of wealthy elite and a criminal underclass - which is surely most of them.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Miel's Curios
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Kobold Press
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