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Lost Classes: Emerald Warlock
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2006 00:00:00
One can't help but make comparisons between the prestige class presented in "Lost Classes ? Emerald Warlock" and a certain DC Comics ring-wearing superhero. Louis Porter, Jr., Design and writer Richard Farrese don't hide the similarities at all, but instead have managed to take the Green Lantern-esque concept and give it a fantasy gaming twist. (The artwork by Ryan Bodenheim does NOT resemble comics' Green Lantern, so this helps to establish the emerald warlock in the D&D arena as well.)

To gain entry into this prestige class, the arcane caster must enter into the order of the Emerald Warlock, and this can only be accomplished by undergoing a quest given to him or her by the organization. Farrese describes the Emerald Warlock organization in enough detail to not only provide players with enough information to successfully play this prestige class, but DMs are provided enough fodder to create interesting NPCs and organizations for their games and campaigns.

If the character succeeds on his or her given quest, an emerald lantern is presented to the character that grants the emerald warlock the abilities of this prestige class. Emerald Armor (which does stack with other magical armor modifiers) and the ability to Emulate Weapons are granted, their bonuses or effectiveness increasing as the character gains higher levels in the emerald warlock class. At various levels, the emerald lantern also allows the emerald warlock to swap out a Fort or Ref save for his or her Will save (Force of Will) or just adding a bonus to saving throws to resist a spell or spell-life effect (Force of Mind).

This is an interesting class, and as with the other Lost Classes products, it's well designed and easy to use. The editing of this product is tight, and there is little wasted space. Only one piece of artwork is presented (the portrait of an emerald warlock is all that's needed), which should go easy on printers.


LIKED: This is an interesting D&D take on a (DC Comics) Green Lantern-style class, and writer Farrese has done a good job in porting typically Green Lantern abilities (armor, etc.) into the fantasy role-playing game.

DISLIKED: For players and DMs that have even a passing knowledge of comics, the use of this class may stretch the players' immersion into the game a bit too much.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Classes: Emerald Warlock
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Lost Classes: Warrior Queen
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2006 00:00:00
"Lost Classes - Warrior Queen" presents a 10-level prestige class instantly usable in your Dungeons & Dragons game. Presented by Louis Porter, Jr., Design and written by Richard Farrese, this supplement is easy to use and read, wasting little time and space in presenting this prestige class (which is good since one-and-a-half of its four pages are devoted to the Open Game License).

This is a clean product; the written description of this prestige class is economical and to the point. There is no doubt as to what type of character might take levels in this prestige class. While the requirements for this prestige class are definitely based on a character having certain stats and skill ranks (a base attack bonus of +8, 8 ranks in Diplomacy or Intimidation, and a selection of feats) the character's backgrounds, beliefs and tendencies are taken into consideration by writer Farrese in describing who might become a warrior queen.

The class (rightly) is given a d12 as her hit die, and the base attack bonus increases +1 per level. The class abilities are unique enough to make the class stand apart from other fighter-based or -intended prestige classes. Among them, a character can enjoy a Defensive Stance (which grants a +2 deflection bonus to AC), Reputation (which grants +1 bonus per warrior queen level to either Intimidate or Diplomacy, depending on the character?s alignment), and Power of Steel (+2 competence bonus to melee weapons with which the character is proficient), and these are only the 1st and 2nd level of the class. Later levels enjoy a bonus to Leadership (Leadership Bonus at 6th level), the ability to ignore speed reduction inflicted by medium or heavy armor (Speed of Warfare, also at 6th level), and a +2 morale bonus to the warrior queen?s allies within 10 feet (Resolve of Eagles at 9th level).

Jason Walton provides the one piece of artwork in the supplement, and it depicts the class as a stern warrior-woman, confident and ready to prove her worth.

This is a solid supplement, well worth the time and expense.

LIKED: Solid presentation and execution!

DISLIKED: There is little room for improvement here.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Classes: Warrior Queen
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17 Monk Feats
Publisher: The Le Games
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2006 00:00:00
The monk is a strong melee class, but "17 Monk Feats" doesn't focus solely on the combat aspects of the class. Instead, writer James "Grim" Desborough has put together a selection of feats devotes to expanding the monk in all the aspects of the Dungeons & Dragons game, not just the hand-to-hand abilities of the class.

(Purchase of this supplement includes both a printer-friendly version of this product as well as a landscape version. For purposes of this review, the landscape version was used.)

Of the non-combat-related feats, Ascetic (which grants the monk a bonus to Fort and Will saves, as well as cutting the monk's need for food and drink in half), Calm Aura (which creates a zone of "peace and serenity" around the monk, preventing characters from using 'rage' or 'frenzy' class abilities within 25 feet of him or her) and Healing Breath (which allows the monk to, through the use of practiced and calming breath, heal ability damage and hit points) stand out.

The monk can be a devastating combatant as well, and "17 Monk Feats" does not forget that. No Mind (which allows the monk to slip into a trance-like state at the beginning of combat, gaining a bonus to attack roles and his or her Armor class at the expense of having access to his or her martial art-like abilities) and Steel Fist Technique (which grants the monk's fists extreme hardness and durability, allowing the monk's unarmed attack double the normal Strength modifier to damage) are exceptional, and available to first-level monks. However, the two feats that have my most attention are Improvisation (which allows the monk to use an obvious non-weapon - the examples given are a towel, a milking stool and a cowbell - as a weapon, complete with the statistics of the closest "real weapon" available, but with only a -1 penalty to hit) and Striking Scorpion (which allows the monk to sacrifice a hit point to be able to hit an opponent first in combat).

This is a solid supplement - easy to read and instantly usable without overpowering the monk class.




LIKED: There is a good variety of material here, and DMs and players will find that this supplement only adds to the monk's options without overpowering the class. The layout is easy to follow, and the feats' benefits and descriptions are easy to understand.

DISLIKED: There are a few typos throughout the document.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
17 Monk Feats
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Forsaken Hwellan - Lair of the Plague Priest
Publisher: 12 to Midnight
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2006 00:00:00
"Horrendous Habitats: Forsaken Hwellan - Lair of the Plague Priest" is a 44-page supplement that presents a location, a formidable NPC, a handful of new spells and magic items, and, in the hands of a capable DM, a challenging and exciting mini-campaign. Designed for a 4-person party of 10th-level characters (with accompanying suggestions for scaling the adventure up or down if need be), this extended series of encounters is well-written and -presented, and is well worth the $6.00 price tag

Father Marc is the titular "plague priest," and he and his followers have taken over the small mountain village of Hwellan. Writer Martin Jenner has included a number of different plot hooks to help DMs drive their players toward this village, and before they even arrive, a number of environmental factors, from avalanches to snow storms, can present a handful of exciting encounters. A strong sense of suspense and pending dread is weaved throughout the trip to the village.

And once the party arrives in Hwellan, the atmosphere at the game table can quickly change from one of encroaching doom to fear and disease.

Without resorting to any horror-theme cliches, "Lair of the Plague Priest" presents a fresh take on a story of a forbidden god threatening to bring plague and death to the world, and Father Marc is a well-drafted and -created villain that is certain to insert himself into your players' lists of memorable NPC opponents.

The supplement does contain a few typos and grammatical errors, and the accompanying maps do have a few slight labeling errors, but these problems are near-inconsequential. The layout of this supplement, including its four appendices, make it incredibly easy to use and read, reprinting relevant material from the D&D rule books when needed and inserting new material (like the eight new diseases) is presented in such a way that it can be seamlessly inserted into the existing ruleset.


LIKED: The NPCs (not just Father Marc) are unique characters; writer Jenner did not fall back on stereotypes when creating the kobold sorceress Snow-Blows-Through-Her or captured village priest Fillip Reese.

Additionally, excerpts from the diary of Father Marc are included, and they're quite telling of the Plague Preist's motivations and thought-processes.

A lot of work went into creating all the material a DM would need for a fun series of games.

DISLIKED: There were a few typos and grammatical errors, and a few items were mislabeled on the map of the village itself. Also, I do prefer my fantasy character names to be a bit more "fantasy"-sounding than Marc or Fillip.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forsaken Hwellan - Lair of the Plague Priest
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More Mighty Than Steel
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2006 00:00:00
"More Mighty Than Steel" is a "collection of magical inks and papers" from Skortched Urf' Studios. It is a mere four pages in length, the first of which is a full-page cover, and the last of which is taken up by most of the Open Game License. In the one-and-half pages of actual material, the uncredited-in-the-text writer presents six magical pieces of "writing equipment" and three artifacts.

The magic items here are varied in their purpose and presentation, as well as their required caster level for creation.

The Ink of Summoning does exactly what it says it does - it summons a named creature to the user's location. The potentially summoned creature does receive an opportunity to resist the magical effect with a Will save, but the text does make reference to the user being able to avoid this by using the creature's true name, but no "true name" rules are presented here (and "Truename Magic" from official Wizards of the Coast material is not considered part of the Open Game License or SRD).

The Parchment of Preparedness allows a caster to scribe a spell without the associated experience point cost, and comes in three varieties - Minor, Major and Superior. The Pen of Pain can be used to create a symbol of pain as per the spell. The Quill of the Cipher grants the user the effect of the 'secret page' spell.

The Quill of Transcription records the user's speech, and can work indefinitely. This seems a bit overpowered to me for its price of 2000 gp.

Sinned's Tattoo Ink allows a spell to be inscribed into a person's flesh in the form of a tattoo. As a free action, the spell can be activated when the tattooed person touches the tattoo. What's a bit confusing in the text is whether or not the touching of the tattoo - the free action - is enough for the spell to be completed, or if the spell's normal casting time must be added to the user's actions for the round.

The three minor artifacts are the Knife of Cutting, the Paper of Stone Binding and the Stone of Knife Crushing. If you ever wanted to include the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors in your D&D game, these items are for you.

The layout of this supplement is functional yet plain. It's easy to read and use, but isn't very inspiring, and is a bit pricey.



LIKED: The idea of magical writing equipment is appealing, and the variety of the items included here is great enough that a variety of different character types and levels will be able to use them. Outside of the brief mention of using a creature's a true name (with the Ink of Summoning), the text is non-confusing and easy to read.

DISLIKED: "More Mighty Than Steel" is a bit pricey for what it is - one-and-a-half pages of material. The cover page is nicely put together, but this is the only piece of artwork in the entire product, and the Open Game License takes up nearly as much room as the gaming material itself.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
More Mighty Than Steel
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Publisher Reply:
I want to adress the pricing of this product, since that seems to be the item you disliked the most. This was our first PDF published, and had a $1.25 price when initially offered on RPGNow. A few weeks later we began selling our items on DriveThruRPG, where they had a minimum $1.99 price; so rather than drop the product, we raised it to the minimum $1.99. (Intending to either add more content or bundle it with a another small product.) A short while after that, DriveThru & RPGNow merged, which removed the $1.99 minimum so we lowered the price back to its $1.25 intended price point. We clearly state in our item description that the PDF includes nine items, which I think is fair at about 14 cents per item. Your review just happened to fall within the six week period when the PDF was listed at $1.99. And I would agree with you, that is a bit pricey for the content offered in this PDF, but we do feel $1.25 is acceptable and hope that others reading this do as well. Thanks for your comments and review!
17 Ranger Spells
Publisher: The Le Games
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2006 00:00:00
Rangers may be heavy hitters when it comes to adventuring; they're melee-ready, their base attack bonus equals the fighter's, and their saving throws make them quite durable. At 4th-level, they also gain the ability to cast spells, but their spell list can be viewed as a bit limiting. "17 Ranger Spells" adds a few new functional spells to the ranger's spell list. Instead of halfway aping the druid's spell list, the ranger now has some ranger-specific spells that can add to the utility of the class even more so than its class abilities already have.

(The Le Games includes two versions of "17 Ranger Spells" with those download - a printer-friendly version and a landscape version. For purposes of this review, the landscape version has been used.)

"17 Ranger Spells" begins by introducing the Book of the Woodsman, a ranger-specific spell book. Hidden in the woods, this spellbook can only be found by rangers (or the occasional druid if the woodland animals guiding the druid to its location promises to deliver it to a ranger). Resistant to the elements, the book confers no additional benefits to the ranger character unless one of the GM's options is used in your game (the options include granting additional spells per day, granting a 1st level spell to a non-spellcasting ranger or even bestowing upon the character a bonus 10,000 experience points).

The spells are presented according to level. There are four 1st-level spells: "ambidexterity" grants the ranger the benefit of the Two-Weapon Fighting feat (or Improved Two-Weapon Fighting if the character already has the prior feat/ability) as well as a few other benefits to balance and tumble checks); "eyes of the eagle," which improves the ranger's sight and grants him or her additional range with a ranged weapon as well as a bonus to Spot checks; "heal the land" grants all natural creatures (undead are not affected) an immediate hit point of healing within a particular radius of the ranger; and "natural shelter" allows the ranger to create, as the name of the spell states, a natural shelter that can comfortably hold a number of people equal to the ranger's level.

There are also four 2nd-level spells: "detect poacher" allows the ranger to experience the last few moments of a poached animal's life, allowing him or her to identify its killer; "enemy shield" grants the same affect of "invisibility" to a ranger and his or her allies, but in regard to the ranger's favored enemy; "favored strike" grants the ranger a bonus to strike opponents belonging the ranger's favored enemy; and "free animals" returns domesticated or guard animals to a more free-willed state, as well as allows the ranger and his or her allies to be treated as friendly by the animal.

"Borrow animal ability" is the first of the four 3rd-level spells, and it grants the ranger a touched natural animal's ability (speed, climbing ability, etc.); "nature's armory" allows the ranger to turn natural debris (branches, rocks, moss, etc.) into armor and weaponry; "resume decay" works against the magical forces keeping (corporeal) undead creatures from rotting into uselessness, causing 1d6 hit points of damage per ranger level (this spell also affects flesh golems, and, strangely, lycanthropes); and "summon wave" calls upon a water source to cause damage to a ranger's foes, the amount and affect of damage based upon the source of water (a pond may blind up to three opponents whereas a large lake can cause 2d6 hit points of damage and may sweep the opponents into the lake afterward).

A ranger can call out to the animal kingdom for help with "animal assistant," the first of this supplement's five 4th-level spells, by summoning the nearest available natural animal for assistance; "earth's armory" is similar to "nature?s armory," but uses mud and dirt instead of sticks and twigs, and confers a magical enhancement to the created items as well; "enemy slayer" is a powerful spell (castable only by a ranger of 19th-level or higher) that enchants a ranger's weapon so that the next time he or she strikes a favored enemy, that favored enemy must make a Will save or die; "nature's roar" allows the ranger to gather energy from surrounding animals and then use that energy to deliver a massive roar causing 1d6 points of damage per ranger level; and "quicksand" creates permanent quicksand.

The supplement also includes a number of baubles and urus of ancient power, forms of magic items created by The Le Games that can enhance weapons or armor and grant them new abilities. I'm not a fan of the baubles and urus, however, one can immediately tell that many of these are designed for use by the ranger.

Overall, because "17 Ranger Spells" can add new flavor to the ranger by allowing him or her to have access to ranger-specific spells, I would recommend this supplement. Writers Tony DiGerolamo and The Le have crafted some well-balanced spells that would enhance an already powerful player character class without making him or her too overpowered.


LIKED: This is a well-designed supplement, and is incredibly easy to use. Also, that a printer-friendly version and a landscape version of the same material is included is greatly appreciated.

Additionally, The Le Games typically includes applicable material from the System Reference Document in their products. "17 Ranger Spells" concludes with the material for the actual ranger class, and the "ambidexterity" spell includes the material for the Two-Weapon Fighting and Improved Two-Weapon Fighting feats. The more a product eliminates the need to have more than a couple rulebooks at the table, the better.

DISLIKED: I'm not a fan of the baubles or urus, and could have done without them in this supplement.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
17 Ranger Spells
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None so Vile - Disciples of Darkness I: Ravenous of Agramogg
Publisher: Blackdirge Publishing
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2006 00:00:00
While "None So Vile: Disciples of Darkness I - The Ravenous of Agramogg" is presented in a way that any player of Dungeons & Dragons could use its material for character development, a Dungeon Master should be leery to allow a PC to access this prestige class. However, for a hideous and frightening non-player character, a DM can find quite a bit of inspiration and guidance in this product.

The ravenous of Agramogg is a 10-level prestige class designed for particularly nasty and villainous characters. The supplement begins with a gorgeous (if ink-heavy) cover, and then writer Aeryn Rudel takes charge with a gloriously deviant piece of game fiction to introduced the class. The prose is a bit clunky in places, but the imagery is solid, but can be a bit difficult to get through. That's not to say there's fault with the text itself; rather, the ravenous of Agramogg is a class built around the eating and consuming of other living, sentient creatures, and the story of a drow negotiator meeting with the only living character to have advanced through all ten levels of this prestige class pulls no punches.

It's inspiring.

After reading this supplement, as a DM, I now have a ready-to-use deviant and cannibalistic cult to insert into my ongoing D&D campaign. The amount of details and effort that writer Rudel has obviously put into this product is to be commended; one does not simply become a ravenous of Agramogg by making sure he or she has the right number of feats or can cast the correct number of certain-leveled spells. Instead, to enter into this prestige class, a character must partake in the Ceremony of Devouring, which just happens to involve the aspiring ravenous eating a living creature . . . over three days' time . . . that is, the victim must be kept alive through the entire process.

Inspiring.

Normally, I don't gush as much in my reviews, but this supplement has left me not just speechless, but also has left me eager to insert this material into my own game.


LIKED: This is an incredible product, and the idea is quite unique. Very well-developed.

DISLIKED: A few comments are made throughout the text referencing the "Citadel of Consumption," a great temple devoted to the vile god Agramogg; some maps of this temple would have been appreciated.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
None so Vile - Disciples of Darkness I: Ravenous of Agramogg
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OGL: The Arcane Duelist
Publisher: Mob United Media
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/23/2006 00:00:00
(The posted 09/27/06 review makes reference to an earlier version of this supplement. This review is of an upgrade to the product that took place in October 2006.)

This supplement?s text calls the arcane duelist a "spell-wielding warrior," and that is exactly what this class is. Wizards and sorcerers so often are relegated to support positions at worst or ranged combatants at best at lower levels, but the arcane duelist can keep up with fighters and other warriors right off the bat. Writer David Caffee has taken care, however, to keep this class "magically-flavored." That is, its melee capabilities don?t outshine its arcane magic abilities. In fact, its better class abilities combine both casting and weapon wielding.

At first level, the arcane duelist is simply a caster with a good attack bonus, but at second level, it gains the 'Spell and Blade' class ability which grants the character the ability to attack with both a wand and a weapon during his or her turn. More caster-specific class abilities come with higher levels - 'Craft Wand' and 'Counter Casting,' for example - but at fourteenth level, the arcane duelist gains 'Spell Parry,' which is a supernatural ability that allows the character to, with a weapon, deflect a spell targeting him or her. At eighteenth level, the arcane duelist gains 'Enhancing Touch,' which grants any weapon in the arcane duelist's hands a +1 enhancement (or adds an additional +1 enhancement to an already enchanted weapon).

The arcane duelist is a caster class, but its spell list is extremely limited. Writer Caffee wisely included existing spells in the class? spell list; there are no new spells here, which will help to keep the spellcasting capabilities of this class from disorienting or confusing the non-arcane duelist-players at the game table.

There's enough "flavor text" to make this an attractive supplement; it's not just a new class for the sake of being a new class. "The Arcane Duelist" can fill a unique role in your Dungeons & Dragons party.

LIKED: This is a unique character that combines two important elements of the D&D game - magic and combat. The balance between spell-casting and melee ability is well thought out and crafted, and the "fluff" material in this supplement makes it an attractive addition to the standard D&D game. The cover page is well-rendered, and gives readers and users an excellent idea as to what they'll find beyond this first page.

DISLIKED: There are a few minor grammatical and layout errors throughout the supplement, but hardly enough to detract from the actual text. The background image that serves as a sort of "watermark" to the text is a bit distracting and still somewhat bogs down the loading of this .pdf.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
OGL: The Arcane Duelist
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Ghoul Frenzy
Publisher: Bailey Records
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2006 00:00:00
Four-minutes and twenty-three seconds make up "Ghoul Frenzy," a track from Bailey Records, intended for your horror game. Music producers Bryan K. Borgman and T. W. Cory describe this music as a "perfect creepy score" and "Cthulhu-inspired," and it definitely has a darkened, dulling edge to it. While the titular "frenzy" seems to be missing from the track itself, "Ghoul Frenzy" certainly maintains a (dark) cult ambiance throughout its track.

It's not a static piece of music; rather, it intentionally takes listeners (and gamers) around the periphery of some sort of dark gathering, tracing along its whining and whistling, skipping along rhythmic drumming and slowly spiraling into darkness.

Dungeon masters will be hard pressed to NOT find use for this music. It has been produced and designed in such a way that it can definitely be looped over and over again during key scenes during a gaming session (the pattern of the music is broken up enough to prevent it from becoming too repetitive or redundant), but since it has such a recognizable tone and tempo, it can even be used to key the appearance of a recurring NPC or NPC group (much as "The Imperial March" is so obviously the entrance music of Darth Vader, "Ghoul Frenzy" can definitely become the entrance music for a particular event or character if the game).

As mentioned above, there is little "frenzy" in "Ghoul Frenzy." Perhaps the closest this piece of music comes to any sort of "frenzy" is maybe it could be used to summon or presage the introduction of something ghoulish (perhaps using the cymbal crash as a point at which something significantly Cthulhu-esque makes its appearance during your game).

LIKED: There's a lot of substance to this piece of music. It's got length and weight, and can be used in a variety of different situations and scenarios in either your horror or dark fantasy gaming session.

DISLIKED: There's just no "frenzy" to this music; the title is a bit misleading.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ghoul Frenzy
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Deterioration Furthers
Publisher: Bailey Records
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/15/2006 00:00:00
"Deterioration Furthers" is a cleanly-recorded, nearly four-minute long composition perfectly suited for a number of different scenarios in your horror or dark-fantasy role-playing game sessions. The tempo and pacing of this piece makes it ideal for "looping" without the track becoming boring or repetitive; players and DMs will find continued inspiration in using this track.

Music can play an important part of your game, but if a DM is going to choose to utilize music, it is vital to include music that isn?t going to detract from the gaming experience. Choosing to use well-recognized music from popular movie soundtracks, like "Star Wars" or "Lord of the Rings," can immediately rip players from the original story the DM is attempting to tell and firmly place them on Tatooine or in Middle Earth. Instead, a DM can use music from less-established media products (smaller-budget or more obscure films, or even certain video games), or he or she can turn to original music.

"Deterioration Furthers" can instantly bring your game to a dark and mysterious place. The beginning of the track starts eerily, spending the first twenty-eight seconds descending into a quicker-tempo that just seems to wind itself further and further up into a moody (as the title suggests) deterioration. This lasts for just over a minute before the track changes again. Adding a sound almost reminiscent of a didjeridoo to the mix, almost another minute goes by, dragging the music (and gamers) further down into gloom. Finally, the track releases its listeners as elements of the beginning of "Deterioration Furthers" are brought back to the surface.

Characters investigating a long-forgotten dungeon or tomb? Breaking into a scientist's lab? Recovering an artifact from a museum or library? You could do far worse than to use "Deterioration Furthers" as your soundtrack for these kinds of scenes. You'd be hard pressed to do better.


LIKED: This is a versatile and functional piece of music that will lend itself to a variety of scenes and uses in your game.

DISLIKED: This little to dislike!

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deterioration Furthers
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Keys of Magic
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2006 00:00:00
The idea of using keys as magic items is a good one, and this product makes the concept work. This is a short supplement - only seven pages (two pages are devoted to the product's title and another is devoted only to the Open Game License) - but the variety of ideas presented in Josh Benton?s supplement carries a great deal of weight.

There are nine magical keys here, and the stand-outs include: the extra-dimensional key, which turns any lockable container into a extra-dimensional container, not unlike a portable hole (the fact that the key is made of the solidified blood of an outsider is a nice touch); the locking key, which affects a touched door or portal as if the spell 'arcane lock' was cast upon it; and the teleportal, which can be used to link up to five doors (anyway in your game world) as teleportation portals (although no mention is made as to whether or not this key would link doors on different planes).

Requirements for creating these keys are provided, and they seem quite balanced. Most of these keys are presented as magic items that continue their use indefinitely, but some use charges every time their magical properties are activated (like the house key, which, by expending a charge, casts 'secure shelter' manned by an 'unseen servant' and guarded by 'alarm'). Writer Benton has included a variety of different magic items; some only cost 100 gp (the key to understanding), whereas others (the skeleton key) cost 510,000 gp.

Images of keys (drawn by Anthony Cournoyer) are scattered throughout the supplement, and while none of them are explicitly identified as any of the Keys of Magic, they do represent what magical keys in a fantasy setting might resemble.

LIKED: This is a quick read; the material is easy to understand and can instantly inserted into your D&D game. Skortched Urf' Studios has also made sure this is a printer-friendly document; it won't tax your ink cartridge.

DISLIKED: As mentioned above, there is little information given regarding how these keys may work on or interact with planes other than the Material. It's hard to state that this detracts for the overall value or quality of this product, however.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Keys of Magic
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The Arcane Smith
Publisher: Fifth Element Games
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/27/2006 00:00:00
With as many magic weapons, armors and other items that float through a Dungeons & Dragons game, one can't help but wonder who creates all these enchanted items. Most of the time, these items are either stumbled across in the marketplace or while looting fallen foes; maybe an NPC can be contracted to create a magical item for the party. Fifth Element Games presents "The Arcane Smith," putting the power of magic-item creation directly into the hands of a player.

Writer Iain Fyffe has created a fully-playable 20-level class that, as described in the text, is a "master of iron and flame." Including fire resistance as a class feature for the arcane smith was an inspired choice, and makes a lot of sense for a character that spends most of his career over a forge. (Fyffe's suggestion that the arcane smith be used as a favored class for dwarves and gnomes also makes a great deal of sense.)

Other features of the class include the ability to cast spells (from the limited arcane smith spell list) in light or medium armor sans the chance of spell failure; 'luck of the smith,' which grants the character a luck bonus to saving throws; the Weapon Focus feat for both light hammers and warhammers; competency bonuses when creating masterwork items; and the ability to cast 'identify' at will.

The arcane smith's two most powerful and desirable features, however, are the 'disenchant' and 'craft magic items' features.

Once an arcane smith reaches 7th level, he or she can attempt to disenchant magic items. The rule mechanics for this class ability are easy to understand and use (a class level check - a d20 plus class level - plus the Intelligence modifier is required, and the DC is based on the kind of magic item). (This is not an ability that can be used in combat; it takes as long to disenchant an item as it does to create it in the first place.)

But beginning at 5th level, the arcane smith can start creating magic items at reduced experience point costs and amount of time. At first, he or she can only create weapons and armor in this way, but eventually, the ability to craft rods and forge rings is earned at higher levels.

(At 17th level, masterwork weapons created by the arcane smith are considered magical, the enchantment bonus is based on the Craft check. Fifth Element Games was careful to not make this class feature too overpowering; a Craft check of 20 can create a +1 weapon, but it takes a Craft check of 28 to create a +2 weapon; 36 to create a +3; 45 to create a +5; and 55 to create a +5.)

This is a small product - only six pages, one of which is devoted to the Open Game License - so it's a quick read, but there are a few odd grammatical choices that might cause readers to stumble occasionally throughout the text. Overall, however, this is an easy-to-read supplement, and the rules governing the arcane smith's abilities are easy-to-understand.

LIKED: The concept of this class is fun, and the rules governing its play are solid and easy-to-understand. I'm actually going to incorporate the arcane smith into my own campaign this weekend!

DISLIKED: Grammatically, there are a few choices made throughout the text (but not enough to detract from the effectiveness of the supplement itself). Unfortunately, there are no arcane smith-specific spells, the inclusion of which would have pushed this product up to five stars for me.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Arcane Smith
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Publisher Reply:
We've just released a revised edition of the arcane smith, which not only features several new spells for arcane smith characters, but also includes the Scion of Hephaestus, a prestige class for arcane smiths who truly desire to become one with their element.
17 Magic Shields
Publisher: The Le Games
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/19/2006 00:00:00
Eytan Bernstein is the author behind The Le Games' "17 Magic Shields," a product that is misnamed as it actually contains eighteen magic shields and two artifacts for your Dungeons & Dragons game.

Before getting into the shields themselves, however (and after a few random treasure generation tables), writer Bernstein introduces a new type of shield enchantment. The 'reprimand' enchantment allows a shield to react to an opponent's deflected attack when that opponent's attack role misses making a solid hit due to the shield's AC bonus. The reprimand power may cause an opponent to become fatigued (as with the 'fatiguing reprimand' enchantment) or stun and deafen a opponent (as with the 'thundering reprimand' enchantment).

There is a good mix of interesting shield enchantments here (like 'hypnotic,' which can dazzle and fascinate an opponent for 1d4 rounds; or 'silence,' which creates a ten-foot zone of silence around the shield bearer), as well as specific shields (like the 'aegis of force,' a light shield that can absorb 'magic missile' attacks and increase its AC bonus until it releases the 'magic missiles' as attacks of its own; or the 'shield of conviction,' which grants a +2 to the bearer's caster level for abjuration spells and grants a +2 bonus to turn and rebuke undead checks).

The final two items in this supplement - artifacts from the kingdom of Molary - are two powerful shields that either cause severe damage with powerful shield spikes or can add bonuses to damage and attack roles, increase critical threat ranges or even cause a shockwave within a 20-foot radius that may knock opponents prone.

The variety of shields in this supplement is wide; there are artifacts included, but this is not a high-end magic product. Instead, The Le Games and Eytan Bernstein have created a collection of varying levels of shield enchantments and specific shield types.

The .pdf is well-formatted and laid out, and the clip art choices fit the product. With the exception of some clunky wording describing the previously mentioned 'aegis of force,' "17 Magic Shields" is a competently-produced product that players and DMs will find affordable and usable.




LIKED: This is an affordable product that introduces a variety of different enchantment and shield types to your Dungeons & Dragons game. The production and layout of this supplement is top-notch, and the material is easy to use and incorporate into your existing or new game or campaign.

DISLIKED: There is a bit of clunkiness to some of the wording describing some of the shields' effects (specifically the 'aegis of force'), but it is not enough to detract from the obvious value of this product.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
17 Magic Shields
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APG City Tiles
Publisher: Alea Publishing Group
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/19/2006 00:00:00
"APG City Tiles" by the Alea Publishing Group (with accompanying text by Joshua Raynack) is something any DM with a printer can use to help with a specific campaign or game, or, when needed, can help with the spur-of-the-moment-and-completely-unplanned-for-bar-fight scenarios in a fantasy or medieval game.

Easy-to-understand printing instructions make up the first page, and a brief description of medieval city structure makes up the second before diving into the city tiles themselves. (The writing is professional and easy-to-read; writer Raynack includes enough information to help DMs use this product in their own fantasy or medieval games without talking or writing down to them.) Seventeen pages of city tiles are presented here, and they include everything from a tavern or inn, a field of grass, city streets and even an eating hall. The cartography is clean and their functionality is self-evident. While these tiles are all quite generic, they would be easy to puzzle-piece together to create a dynamic playing area for your players' minis.

There are two different .pdf versions of this supplement - one is in color, the other is a grayscale black-and-white version. The grayscale version is identical to the full-color version minus the color, so if you're looking to save a little color ink, you?ll not miss out on any details.

Suggestions are provided at the beginning of this supplement regarding not just printing of the tiles, but how to make them a bit more durable (foamboard is suggested as a base) as well.

While there?s certainly absolutely nothing wrong with using wet-erase markers on a battle-mat, especially in a pinch, this is a solid product that deserves to be seen and used by DMs.

LIKED: At $5.00, this product is quite the bargain. These tiles can be used over and over again, and you'll more than get your money's worth. The cartography is clean and neat, and most of your town-building needs can be met with this supplement.

DISLIKED: There's very little not to like about this product!

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
APG City Tiles
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Lonesome October Nights
Publisher: Bailey Records
by Derek K. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/19/2006 00:00:00
As a single piece of music for your horror-themed game (or just a horror-inspired scene in a non-genre gaming session), "Lonesome October Nights" by Bailey Records definitely sets a mood of ominous mystery and eerie atmosphere. Its running time is short in length - just one-minute-thirty-seconds - so a DM or GM using this piece of music can trust that it will take little time for the track to hit the right mood after just a few introductory seconds.

After the first fifteen or twenty seconds - past the sweeping introduction - the track starts to pulse just a bit, and an enterprising GM may even be able to use an audio editing piece of software to pull this soft pulsating out as an individual loop to play over and over again during longer, darker scenes in their game or campaign. (Of course, this audio manipulation would definitely need to be for the purchaser's own private, gaming use.)

Unfortunately, as a track overall, "Lonesome October Nights" doesn't loop very well. This doesn't make this a "bad" track, per se, but it does limit its use, and a GM might need to use this entire piece of music sparingly. The track could have been extended a bit, especially after the first twenty seconds, to make this a truly useful piece of background audio for your horror-themed game.

However, if you're a GM that creates the table-top RPG equivalent of a "cut scene," this music may accompany this bit of exposition just fine.

"Lonesome October Nights" is a cleanly-presented .mp3 file, and comes packaged with .pdf and .doc advertisements for other products from Bailey Records.



LIKED: This is a slick, well-produced piece of music that is professional-sounding and presented. The price is also quite affordable.

DISLIKED: It's just a tad bit too short to lend itself to repeated use.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lonesome October Nights
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