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Pier
Publisher: DramaScape
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/09/2014 11:06:27
This provides an interesting setting, a pier built out over a rocky shoreline and providing mooring for boats... and a few places to sit and enjoy the view, fish, etc. There's even an intriguing little story provided involving lights going out, boats crashing and people being attacked if you don't have a ready use for this in mind.

As usual, the download includes a PDF with a single-sheet overview and several multiple-sheet (print out and stick together) versions - hex grid, square grid or no grid at all - as well as a giant JPEG version for virtual table top users or those with access to poster-printing facilities.

It's a little disappointing that there are no buildings on shore or much of the shoreside quay shown, as well as a lack of any structure on the pier itself - what looks like buildings on the cover picture turn out to be no more than a canopy, bus shelter style, over bench seats. Some kind of shack would have been nice...

The image quality is excellent with good contrast between the planks of the decking of the pier and the rough rocks below. The top-down view, of course, makes it hard to judge relative heights of things, but the effects of water around rock are particularly well done.

I think this is a working pier, rather than a tourist attraction, but it is not quite clear - I'd expect a working pier to have nets, crates, fishing equipment and a shack or two; while a tourist attraction generally has a bit more than a couple of seats. Maybe a shorefront bar?

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pier
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Ossuarite Druid Archetype
Publisher: Forest Guardian Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/09/2014 10:02:55
Have you ever wondered what happens to sacrificial animals after they've, er, been sacrificed?

The ossuarite druid archetype takes the conventional druidic view of the cyclic nature of life and death and explores the extremes of death, believing that nothing should be wasted and that the very remains, the bones, of those who have gone before should be put to good use.

As a fully-playable archtype, all the necessary information is provided regarding new class abilities. The pivotal one is the new bonecaster feat which allows the ossuarite druid to summon animated skeletal creatures rather than the normal flesh-covered live ones when casting Summon Nature's Ally spells. However, they cannot cast as many spells as regular druids although they do not have the normal alignment restrictions - death is the ultimate neutrality, no respecter of alignment and so no such moral or ethical obligations fall upon ossuarite druids either.

An interesting feature is the ossuarite druid's familiar - it's skeletal although with the normal intelligence of whatever animal is chosen. At higher levels, the druid himself can assume a skeletal form.

This is an interesting take on the druid. It may work better as a really strange NPC rather than as a party member... others may find it rather disturbing.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ossuarite Druid Archetype
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- The Comics Code -
Publisher: Simon Burley Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/07/2014 10:39:19
OK, there are superhero games all over the place - so why bother with yet another one?

One reason is that this is a rules-light game that lets you focus on the fun part of being a superhero. This lets it capture the FEEL of the genre without needing dense mechanics to ensure that it works correctly in true four-coloured style. But the real joy of it is that it - like the very best comic books - steps back from the nuts and bolts of operating your superpowers and lets you concentrate on the man or woman inside the fancy spandex getup, explore the way they interact with the world, with fellow superheroes and the villains they come into conflict with, and lets you pose the big moral questions: what should a superpowered being do with all that power and how do they fit into the regular world?

If you happen to be a superhero, you see, there are only two ways out: die (heroically, of course) or become a villain. You might not intend to be a bad lot, you might even not be a bad lot... but how does the public view you and your actions?

The Comics Code is designed to handle these kind of questions with as much ease as it handles an out-and-out super-powered brawl.

After the Introduction, which explains all this, we move on to Chapter 1: Birth of a Hero. This explains the relatively simple process of creating your character. The basic character sheet is well designed to support this. In essence, you need three superpowers - or three facets of the same power - which are used to attack, to defend and, well, for whatever else you might need to do with a superpower. Maybe you fly or have x-ray vision or some capability that's useful for solving crimes or getting cats out of trees... there are suggestions if you are struggling, but let your imagination go wild. The whole process of character creation is illustrated with logical examples.

There are some neat features like the 'special effect' - an off-the-wall, whacky or plain spectacular thing you can do if you roll a double on 2d6 when using a superpower - or the way in which power strengths are calculated. You've got three powers, right. Take the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Assign two of these numbers to each power, then multiply them. A vast range, great flexibility, and not too taxing for the arithmetically-challenged.

That's about the limit of the rules, most of the rest is done by thinking about how you want the character to operate and distilling that down to a few phrases.

Chapter 2: Playing the Game then shows you what you can do with the newly-minted superhero. Some of this is pretty basic and serves well to introduce newcomers into role-playing. Superhero games are a good way of doing this, after all - everyone has heard of them, even if they are not so much in to fantasy or science-fiction. There's a neat sub-plot concept which gives individual characters goals or things that need sorting out to go alongside the main storyline.

The core game mechanics are simple too. A single die roll against characteristics handles most task resolution with two dice being rolled when superpowers come into action.

Because the concepts of status and heroism are written into the rules, as well as the sub-plot concept, it can become a little mechanical but if handled with care these mechanical bits ought not to impede role-playing but enhance it by giving it a framework to hang upon.

There's some advice for GMs and a section on running battles as well, with plenty of examples and ideas for using minions, ganging up on people, desperate actions and so on... and the all-important rule that participants must describe actions and effects rather than merely roll dice! There's even a rule for cheating. Wait? That cannot be right... but it is. If a character is in a desperate state he can either flee combat or cheat. Cheating means he automatically wins, but it does of course have consequences. And you have to describe a plausible way in which you fled or cheated, of course.

Finally, there's a simple sample adventure with which to try this all out. Oh yes, and some other additonal rules and ideas that you can use if you want, but which are not necessary to make the game work. The adventure is well laid out and shows how to incorporate the way in which this game functions mechanically into whatever plotline you have in mind.

Overall, this is an excellent rules-light fun-heavy superhero game built for enjoyment over realism. Zap! Biff! Pow!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
- The Comics Code -
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Village Backdrop: Vulcanbridge
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/07/2014 09:03:15
This would make an interesting place to visit: a village perched on pylons over a volcanic plain. The inhabitants make their living from the riches - gemstones and the like - cast up by volcanic activity or actively mined under the settlement. Not surprisingly, a lot of the inhabitants are dwarves, but other races are also found. As they trade their wealth for necessities, they get plenty of visits from traders... but may attract less welcome visits from the likes of bandits. All can make for an interesting visit by the party!

There's a sketch map of the settlement, descriptions of notable locations and people of interest, as well as information that can be gathered about Vulcanbridge and rumours that might be picked up there.

The final section covers life in Vulcanbridge, with details of trade and industry, law and order and the like, as well as a short list of random events (roll a d6 or pick the one you like) that might take place whilst the party is there.

It's an unusual settlement and one which could easily find its way into a plot that requires obtaining gems or travelling to a volcanic region of your campaign world.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Vulcanbridge
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Birthright: Book of Priestcraft (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/05/2014 12:46:33
Never mind the Birthright setting, if you want to play a Priest character as more than a healing machine who casts spells (never mind that they're divine in origin rather than arcane) and can fight a bit, this is worth a look. If you are playing Birthright, all the better... let your Priest take a full part in the intrigue and manoeuvering that is part and parcel of this unique game.

It starts with a thorough review of the different gods in the pantheon of Cerilia. Your chosen deity need never again be merely a name on your character sheet... you will know all about him or her, understand the organisation of that deity's church and know the festivals and rituals, and if you are playing a priest or a paladin you know what you need to do and what powers you get. So even if you are merely a devout individual rather than one of the 'professionally' religious, the bits about the deity and the church are worth reading!

It's really all quite fascinating. There's enough here to fuel many a religious debate between devotees of different deities, you can learn about different orders and strands of belief even within the faith of a single deity... this really makes the clerical scene come to life, providing a rich backdrop to everyday life. Even the most worldly folk will find the odd festival worth celebrating, or may seek a church in times of need... or just when they want to get wed or have dead to bury.

You may think this is overkill, but it can add real depth and flavour to your game. When you find the ranger sneaking out at dawn to say his prayers or a paladin getting really embarassed because the murder he's investigating has led him to have to quiz the Madam of a brothel... then you know that your game's alternate reality is coming to life in your players' minds. Giving them this level of detail about the deity they casually wrote on their character sheet is a part of it.

The next chapter is Strategies and Tactics, and it is particularly aimed at those players who decide that their Regent character is a priest by trade, although much of what is said can work equally well for the clerical cohorts of a Regent who is a layman. A Priest-Regent has great assets at his command, but is also quite a good target! Any senior clergyman will have cohorts and most wield some temporal power as well as spiritual power - owning lands and commanding allegiances, for example. Diplomacy, the role of faith in peace and in war, even the relationships between faith and state are discussed here. Even a layman Regent is likely to have some religious beliefs, and these can have a significant effect on the support he receives and on which faith is regarded as the 'state religion' in his domains.

And then there's ceremonial as a political tool. Most Regents want some kind of investiture or coronation ritual to mark their assumption of office, and such ceremonies are generally religious in nature. This has special significance if people believe in a sacred bond between a ruler and his domain... one which can be established by spell and ritual.

The final part of the book covers spell lists (and plenty new spells) for priests of the different Cerilian faiths, battle magic, spells for Regents and an array of magical items and relics.

Even a cursory study of history will show you how in the real world religion and politics and statecraft are entwined: with this book you are equipped to generate the same level of involvement and intrigue within the context of a Birthright game... or give you ideas for how to do so even if it's not Birthright that you are playing!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Birthright: Book of Priestcraft (2e)
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Crypts & Creatures Psionics Handbook
Publisher: Pick Up & Go Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/04/2014 09:04:20
Continuing the stream-lined presentation of cutdown D20 rules, here's all you need to include psionics, the powers of the mind, to your game.

It starts off with five new races - presumably they are capable of psionics although this isn't stated, nor anything about the races we already have. Apparently your character becomes a psionic by choosing one of the specialist psionic classes which are the next thing to be detailed. These are the Psion (who concentrates on his mental powers), the Psychic Warrior (who combines mental and physical prowess) and the Wilder (who is, well, a bit wild and uncontrolled!).

Then there's a new skill: concentration. Only psionics are capable of it, and it is used for focussing your powers as well as for rising above mundane distractions to get on with something else. Then we move on to the psychic powers themselves. They use a power point system, and there are lists akin to spell lists of what is possible and how much they cost to employ.

Finally, there are some psionic monsters too, which can employ various powers against characters (who need not, of course, be psionically active themselves!). Indeed it can be quite entertaining not to allow psionics to PCs, but have some adversaries using these - to your players - strange and exotic abilities. (Or am I just a nasty GM?)

A large amount of 'crunch' concisely presented and straightforward to use.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crypts & Creatures Psionics Handbook
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War Is Hell
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2014 11:10:54
The world of Contagion is not a pleasant one... and this supplement contains tools to help you make it even less so. All is not as that last sentence seems, however. Here are additional spells, rituals and other material that you might wish to add into your game - and some vicious combat moves that any sane individual would shy away from employing - how about yanking on the ears of those with the large pointy ones that adorn the heads of many of the more fantastical denizens, for example?

We start off with a collection of feats. An interesting one allows the use of a familiar by spellcasters, another lets you enthrall an NPC by flashing a bit of leg or in some other way flirting with them (the effect being a bit like a charm person spell), and yet another covers the inscription of ritual circles.

Then come the vicious combat moves, of which the less said the better, and some new rituals to research and perform. There are some new creatures as well, most of whom you don't want to meet down a dark alley on a moonless night.

A collection of various additions to the system that are worth a look, you may wish to add some or all of them to your game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
War Is Hell
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Publisher Reply:
Megan, Thank you so much for the thoughtful review! Travis Legge Aegis Studios
Delver's Digest - Of Mycorrhizae, Addled Mere & Deigma
Publisher: Polycosm Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2014 10:18:11
Are you looking for something truly weird yet oddly plausible to use as a location, background, environment for a game - be it fantasy (for this is fantastical) or perhaps in some distant science-fiction planet - then this is worth a look.

A whimsical analysis of what is a real-world association of fungus and flowering plant - mycorrhiza - leads to speculation about forest-spanning webs of interaction, and presents a strange land to explore, the Addled Mere, repleat with strange wildlife and formations.

Wilder speculations too. Some are almost incomprehensible, and could be used verbatim as the mutterings of a deranged sage - perhaps the characters can interpret what he's saying or they may too leave baffled and unknowing. Perhaps there's a place in your world for the magical analysis of patterns, or geometry that bends reality (and downright breaks the rules laid down by Euclid!). Or maybe this is better as speculation in the more extreme reaches of a magical university... but it all sounds good. And plausible.

Some fun to be had, this work describes itself as 'weird, abstracted gaming material themed with real world reflections and presented as if a publication for local dabblers in exotic cosmologies and seekers after adventure' and that about sums it up. Such things can be amusing to throw out... I recall baffling players by having an NPC chant the words to the Pink Floyd song Chapter 24... they never did figure out what he was on about! Have fun with this one too.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Delver's Digest - Of Mycorrhizae, Addled Mere & Deigma
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Advanced Races 11: Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2014 10:25:11
There is method to the madness inherent in the shadow fey, amply reflected in this book which distils out the essence of what makes shadow fey tick - at least as well as mortal minds can comprehend.

We read a little of the race's history - something about which there is dispute and debate even in shadow fey circles never mind amongst outsiders - and find out how they'd work as player-characters, details equally useful to GMs who wish to use them as fully-developed antagonists.

There is copious background on shadow fey society - a complex and ever-shifting structure of feudal relationships that is elitist and hierarchical... and woe betide the shadow fey who forgets his place or acts out of turn! But of course, ALL shadow fey believe themselves to be superior to everybody else, even if there is a distinct pecking order within their own ranks.

Shadow fey always take great care in their appearance and attire, meticulous and dressing as finely as they can afford, be in court robes or attire appropriate to their profession. They value romance and passion, but prize correct etiquette, seeming to view everything as some kind of stately dance with very strict rules.

Should you wish to play a shadow fey, most classes are open to them. However, whilst they are fascinated by divine magic they tend not to be very good at it, thus there are few clerics; and few are willing to take on the sheer discipline necessary to become a monk. Bards and any class combining magic and combat are popular choices, as are rogues. Sorcerers are more common that wizards, but the shadow fey love pacts and quite often become witches too. Racial traits, new feats and various other options are provided for the budding character to choose from; and there are also spells, magical items and creatures appropriate to them here.

Foul and grim or intriguing and beautiful? You'll have to decide, but play one or meet them, you are likely to be changed by your association with the shadow fey, and this book provides plenty of resources to make it happen.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Races 11: Shadow Fey (Pathfinder RPG)
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Thulian Echoes
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2014 10:55:40
Wouldn't it be easy if you knew what was in a dungeon before you went there? Knew all about the tricks and traps that awaited you... (and I don't mean by sneaking a look at the GM's notes or reading the module he intends to use!).

That's what this adventure sets out to offer, sort of. Naturally it doesn't work out quite as easy as you might think.

The whole thing begins when the party finds a journal of long-lost adventures... and get to act it out with a bunch of pre-gen characters before they actually go there as their regular characters. Will knowing their way around this admitted death-trap of a party-munching dungeon help them any?

A bunch of pre-generated characters and NPCs are provided, then it's on with the adventure, take 1, somewhen in the distant past. Things done in the past influence the now, which is modelled by the use of keywords that are set (like flags in computer code) as a result of certain actions or inactions during the fictional visit, the one being played through to simulate reading the book. Well, nobody goes role-playing to read books, they want to, well, role-play.

For each location, there are two descriptions. The first is how it initially appears, the second is how it appears now, when the real party go there themselves.

There's a large map which manages to give a 3D rendition of the dungeon layout on a single sheet. There's a lot of weird stuff there and part of the deadliness stems from the fact that things are so odd - there just is no logical way to deal with them all. At least, not the first time around. Whether the party will do any better the second time, when they come as themselves... well, I suppose it's possible. If you want something truly weird in your world, this might just be what you are looking for!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thulian Echoes
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Wasteland Treasures 1
Publisher: Outland Arts
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/26/2014 08:58:07
A major part of any post-apocalyptic game is seeing what you can scavenge in your travels, and then working out how to utilise what you've found or at least trade it for something else that you want. This means that the GM has to be ever alert to leaving stuff around for you to find... and here's a collection of random tables to help the GM do just that!

The author describes compiling them by reading catalogues and visiting websites for military/survivalist suppliers, looking around campsites and even in his own garage - and indeed as you look around you right now, there's probably quite a lot of stuff that might interest a scavenger. Even if my desk is mostly piled with RPG books and computer equipment, the odd item within eyeshot might be of use (at least until I tidy the multi-tool away!).

Anyway, to get you started there are three tables here. Roll randomly, or read through them and select the things you want the party to have. The first one is quite general 'loot found in ruins' - and there's a motly collection of items that might be found in any ruined urban site. Each is given a variable value - if you do try to sell it you will probably have to dicker - and often some suggested uses. Oh, and no doubt in reference to my desk, it includes a fantasy RPG complete with dice AND a multi-tool!

The second table is slightly more focussed, as it presents items found in old warzones. As anyone who's visited a real battleground or military training area will know, there's a lot there that it is wisest not to meddle with... but copious details and options are provided to cope with those who do meddle, like your average player-character. Several options provide scope for a whole encounter or even side-adventure.

The final table covers items found on wasteland savages. Many of the things they carry are downright odd, and there's quite a lot of potential for fun with these items... and some are quite unpleasant!

A useful collection, giving a good balance between things that are useful, some quite bizarre stuff... and a fair few that are both!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wasteland Treasures 1
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Urban Dressing: Borderland Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2014 12:05:28
Borderland towns have great potential for adventure in themselves, as well as being a useful jumping-off point for adventure in lands beyond... somewhere to gather rumours and supplies if nothing else.

So, how to make it more interesting than a stop at the supermarket? Try this book for a start.

In the style common to many Raging Swan Press books, this work consists of several tables covering different aspects that might apply to, in this case, a borderland town. Reading through them is recommended, you will find ideas spawning as you do so; but if you are in a hurry rolling dice and using whatever you come up with generally works well too.

The first table is Sights and Sounds, and is good for setting the scene and making the place come alive in your player's minds as you describe it. There's a full hundred sights and sounds... and the odd smell... any of which could lead to a whole side-adventure of their own if you (and the party) choose to follow it up.

Next up is a fine list of Businesses. For many parties, coming into town is for the purpose of conducting business: now it can be a lot more than selling loot and purchasing supplies, new weapons and armour and so on. This is followed by a collection of Folk of Interest. They might be who the party has come to see, they might have a job for them... or they might merely be sitting at the next table in the inn and strike up a casual conversation.

Finally, if you want to make things really interesting for the party, grab a d20 and roll on Hooks, Complications and Opportunities. This is a mixed bag of events that will involve them, like it or not, in the ongoing life of the town. Poisoned wells, invasions of rats or enemies, offers of money and strange events... about the only thing missing is an earthquake!

The party will never forget their next visit to town!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Borderland Town
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The Pirate GM's Right Fist
Publisher: Black Shark Enterprises
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2014 11:15:36
Most of us at some time want to run an adventure at sea, piratical or otherwise... even if it just involves the party taking passage on a ship when they need to get someplace else that's more easily (or only) accessible by sea. Here's a collection of tables and ideas to make that voyage come to life.

It starts off with some innocuous 'events which might occur at sea' - so grab a set of percentage dice or choose whichever event suits your needs. The effects will vary depending on whether the party are passengers or crew, legitimate mariners or flying the Jolly Rodger... but all provide for some excitement, especially if the characters get involved in whatever is going on.

Next up is 'let's explore the island' - again, it doesn't matter why the ship has paused there, this table gives a range of different islands, a quick snapshot of plausible places at which to drop anchor. If the characters have access to a map of the area they are sailing through, you may have to be selective in your choice, but if they are in uncharted waters, go wild. Many could provide whole adventures if you wish, or it could be a brief call to break up a voyage, get supplies or repair storm damage. If you want to spice up the shore leave the next table - 'events which might occur upon land' - provide a range of events from rumours about treasure to invasions, earthquakes and even an active volcano!

This is followed by a selection of tables to provide quick answers to questions like 'who be they?' (not much use in a fantasy game, it's tailored for the Caribbean...) or 'where is it hidden?' Ship types, destinations, pirate nicknames and directions (of the compass, of course) and more enable you to come up with answers for all those pesky questions speedily.

There's all manner of useful information too which will make even the most landlubber of GMs sound like a salty sea dog and aid him in calculating how much treasure a ship can carry and even how long it will take to unload your spoils. There's even a reading list if you want to put some real knowledge behind the hastily-acquired vocabulary - again, this concentrates on real-world historical Caribbean pirates, but ought to translate readily to your fantasy campaign setting without too much difficulty.

If you run pirate games, or even those with a nautical twist, this is worth a look.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Pirate GM's Right Fist
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Character Webs
Publisher: Thunderegg Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2014 10:03:23
Role-playing works best when you know who your character is. Really know him, know him so well that he could be a friend you've had for years... and one way to get off to a flying start is to have a detailed backstory to compliment the necessary game mechanical information that goes on your character sheet. Some games provide a means to create or generate a 'lifepath' that gives you the bare bones of his history prior to game start, some more enlightened GMs require their players to come up with some background, but here's a generic system to provide you with a wealth of detail to add to the basics of character class/profession (and species if applicable) and other basic details that you know from setting him up ready to play.

Mechanically it's quite simple. Get 4d6 of different colours and a d10, roll this handfull once per page, and note the results. Naturally, you may use the rolls as guidance and inspiration rather than taking the results 'as is', but the sheer randomicity can be a spur to your creativity as you take the results and build them into your background.

The areas covered include family structure (are you an only child, etc.), social background, educational background, work history (which may be rolled multiple times for older characters), and personal relationships- if he's married, and how many of the other PCs he already knows (and the nature of their relationships). You'll need to work with the other players to work out the precise details of how they know each other. These tables are followed by a worked example of the system in operation.

Next is a discussion of the concept of a 'character web'. It's a neat way to work out relationships and group dynamics with anyone - PC or NPC alike - with whom your character comes into contact.

Finally there's a neat option for GM use - although the wise GM will be observing and plotting throughout the process, of course! Here it is suggested that the GM make a secret roll for each character in the party. This determines whether that character knows a secret, and the nature of that secret - many of which suggest hidden twists to the relationships that they have with each other. Sit back and watch the paranoia build as you hand out notes to everyone (even if the note contains no secrets whatsoever)!

This is an elegant way to build group dynamics from the outset - a great improvement on the traditional bunch of complete strangers meeting in an inn and deciding to go off risking life and limb in pursuit of loot...er, adventure. The system will work equally well in games of genres other than fantasy too. Well worth a try...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Character Webs
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Publisher Reply:
Megan, thanks for the kind words! It\'s always great to read a review from a satisfied reader. Hope that you will check out our next release, Species and Societies, when it comes out.
Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/19/2014 10:03:06
Do you want your critical hits not just to do damage to your foes but to do spectactular damage that will have people talking about your mighty blows for weeks, years even? Do you want every 'natural 20' roll to have a significant effect irrespective of what the confirm critical roll comes up as? Look no further...

Ageing gamers may recall the brilliantly cinematic critical hit tables from the Iron Crown Enterprises' game RoleMaster, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who reused them with other rulesets. Here, though, is a system written for use with the Pathfinder ruleset, mechanics honed to work directly with that system. Of course, fumbles are included as well, and the whole is an elegant way to make combat spectacular and exciting.

The core concepts are simple and easy to grasp. To start with, every 'natural 20' does maximum damage and counts as a 'critical hit' rather than merely a 'threat' - subsequent rolls are used to determine the severity of your attack, but the recipient of the blow gets a save against more debilitating effects such as losing limbs or life itself (although at the cost of taking extra hit points of damage).

Throughout, there are numerous examples to show you how everything works and plenty of optional extras that you can bolt on if you wish - or leave out without disrupting the core system. It's not long before you're into the effects tables. These may not have quite as cinematic descriptions as the old RoleMaster ones, but give a better idea of precisely what damage and other effects your luckless foe suffers... and there is enough detail for more bloodthirsty imaginations to run riot as you describe what's going on.

Damage can be bludgeoning, slashing or piercing (depending on the weapon) and the severity of the effects can be light, moderate or severe depending on how well your follow-up rolls went once you'd scored your critical hit, so there is plenty of variety as in each catagory you roll a percentage to get one of fifty options.

Next, there's a collection of Critical Feats. Most of these give a bonus either to your critical severity check or to your save against critical damage, but can be used to build up an idea of how you go about combat - dealing Exacting Strikes perhaps, or having Acrobatic Reflexes... you get the picture. Use them to effect as you describe combat, for what could be a dry treatise on damage dealing provides tremendous scope for making combat come to life as those involved describe their actions and results in epic cinematic style.

These are followed by some fully-developed archetypes. Note that these work best if you are using this rules modification, they won't be as effective or may not work at all in a game played with straight Pathfinder combat rules. There are archetypes for just about every kind of fighter you can imagine, even rogues get a look-in, while some of the monk ones in particular sound rather fun.

Finally come the Fumble rules. Only fair, if your critical hits can have spectacular effects, when things go wrong that can be spectacular as well. If you roll a natural 1 when attacking, there's a chance something terrible will happen... but generally you get a save to mitigate the effects. Most enable the player to come up with an amusing description of the mishap, only adding to the fun. There are separate tables for fumbles in melee, ranged combat and when you are using natural weapons.

And we're not done yet, as appendices deal with niceties like called shots, healing, armour and magic as they all impact on dealing out critical effects (or guarding against them). There are some new spells, just in case the wizards among you are feeling left out a bit, and finally there is a piece of fiction which demonstrates how effective good descriptions of the injuries sustained in combat can be, and a final iconic NPC.

Spice up your combat with crunchy rules that facilitate role-playing by providing ways to give cinematic descriptions of what is going on rather than merely delivering large numbers of points of damage.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
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