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NARRATIVE COMBAT: Story Driven Action For D20
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2005 00:00:00
As the ad copy implies, Narrative Combat does away with the tactical aspects of D20 combat. There is no need for a map or miniatures. There is no flanking, no five-foot step, no attacks of opportunity, etc. Instead, combat becomes focused on achieving one or more Objectives that serve to drive the story forward. For regular players of indie RPGs or visitors to The Forge, this might look perfectly logical (if not preferable), but for many d20 fans, I think this will be a journey into unfamiliar waters.

The system looks pretty simple at its core. The DM constructs a Template for the encounter that includes an Objective and possibly one or more Events. The most basic Objective is simply to meet a damage Threshold by delivering a certain number of dice of damage to the opposition. A non-combat Threshold could be a certain number of successful Climb checks or a successful Jump check to indicate climbing a cliff or jumping a chasm. Events can indicate how many points of damage are dealt to the characters per round by the Template and any number of other details. Templates can be simple or expanded into a grid, where the outcome of one encounter leads to another ?cell? in the template. Nine sample templates provide detailed examples for stock encounters like Ambushes, Brawls, and Duels.

The Narrative Round structure is similar in structure to the standard D20 round. Combatants dice for initiative and then choose one of five stances for the round. The stance is a broad indicator of what the character is doing in a round. For instance, attacking is an offensive stance, while casting a Bull?s Strength spell on an ally is a supportive stance. Each stance is detailed and example narrative descriptions are provided for each. Resolution typically involves resolving individual attack rolls and other actions. The total of each attack roll determines the number of damage dice added to the total needed to meet the damage Threshold, if it is part of the template. As you might expect this is all complicated by feats, spells, magic items, etc.

A chapter is devoted to translated bonuses for feats like Point Blank Shot and Improved Bull Rush that lose their traditional uses outside of the standard D20 combat round. For some reason, the Feats are drawn from the D20 Modern Core Rulebook and not D20 Fantasy, which I would think would be more popular. The next chapter provides some guidelines for translating bonuses to Narrative Combat from other D20 abilities and Feats not covered in the previous chapter. Three appendices round out the book with informational tables, a generic template and a Narrative Combat FAQ.

As you probably can tell, Narrative Combat is a pretty big departure from standard D20. Instead of the focus on tactical details, the focus is instead on a structure that pushes the story forward without the worry of tracking the hit points of every monster and NPC. This might be a hard concept for some players to grasp, however, and I think the GM should spend plenty of time explaining what Narrative Combat is and getting buy in from his players before dropping it into his campaign.

My main gripe with Narrative Combat it that it is a pretty hard read. The author throws around terms like cell, threshold and damage types without benefit of a glossary. Also, the author?s style is a bit dry for my taste (not unlike the standard d20 rules) and I had to read some sections several times before I felt like I was really grasping some concepts. On the plus side, I found few typos and the book?s layout is clean and professional.

The $10,000 dollar question is ? should you buy Narrative Combat? My answer is a bit of cop out ? it depends. If you are looking for a way to streamline and simplify typical D20 combats, I would argue that Narrative Combat is not the answer. On the other hand, if you are looking for a radical rethinking of D20 combat that focuses on narrative elements and not the nuts and bolts of tactical combat, you should by all means give it a try.


QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
NARRATIVE COMBAT: Story Driven Action For D20
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Ape 9 : Dice!
Publisher: V Shane
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2005 00:00:00
Ok. This is a bit of a different product. It?s dice. More specifically it?s pictures of dice. Of course, if you are a PDF publisher, you might want pictures of dice. And it?s a bit hard to find pictures of a d20 in the average clip art collection. This package is designed for you.

The package contains a zipped file with eighteen pictures of dice in the TIF file format. You get two versions (b&w and color) of a d4, d8, d10 and d20. You also get six versions of a d6, including versions with numbers and pips (which are somewhat humorously called ?pits?) and four versions of a d12.

Since the files are bitmaps, it should be simple to manipulate and color them in a program like Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop. The images have no backgrounds, which should also ease this process. The files range in size from an average of 150k for the b&w images to about 300k for the color images. On the downside, since these are bitmaps, they cannot be scaled as nicely as vector images.

If you are looking for pictures of gaming dice for your web page or PDF, the DICE! package should certainly fulfill your needs. The pictures are not of amazing quality or resolution, but they are serviceable. I can?t really complain about the price since the product seems to be aimed more at publishers than at end users. I would have liked to see vector versions included for increased scalability, but dice pictures for half a buck each isn?t a bad deal.


QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ape 9 : Dice!
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for the review. I did want to point out that the dice average the size of 3" x 3" @ 300 dpi I can't imagine anyone making the dice bigger than this hence the non-EPS aspect of the dice, and scaling down smaller obviously isn't a resolution issue. So the Dice Are designated for Print, I know, I tested them out myself on my Printer.
Iron Gauntlets Core PDF
Publisher: Precis Intermedia
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/25/2005 00:00:00
The Iron Gauntlets PDF is 116 pages with color cover and b&w interior. Reference sheets, a two-page character sheet, a page of paper miniatures and nine color battle maps are also included. There is no index, but the PDF is bookmarked. The layout is clean and better than many of the 'amateur' PDFs that I see. I have seen much of the interior clip art before, but it is used here to good effect and is of even quality for the most part.

The Iron Gauntlets core rules deliver a complete RPG. There are rules for character creation, magic, a bestiary and task resolution. There is also a section for the gamemaster (called the Director in IG) with information you would expect, including advice on adjudicating magic, customizing characters, story hooks and magic items.

Character creation involves picking a character race, background and vocation (analogous to a class), assigning points to six normal abilities (and one or more magic abilities for characters that use magic), assigning points to skills and purchasing equipment. Abilities can be customized by the use of Flairs, which refine character abilities. For instance, a player may refine his thief character by giving him a dexterity flair to his fitness ability. Flairs act as a bonus or penalty to the associated ability and most total zero. Characters can be further customized with Gimmicks, which act as bonuses and flaws.

Task resolution in Iron Gauntlets is similar to many other sytems, but has its own wrinkles. Essentially, the Director picks a difficulty for a task and this determines how many 'steps' are required for success. The player rolls a number of dice equal to the relevant ability for the task. If a skill is involved, each die rolled less than or equal to the relevant skill level counts as a step toward success. If the player possesses no relevant skill, a step is only achieved on a roll of one. Luck can also be used to affect tasks and tasks can also be contested, resisted, sustained, etc.

Magic is divided into Crafting, Divinity, Essence and Totem-based forms. Each form consists of various methods and styles used to achieve the practitioner's ends. The various magical abilities work like skills with a difficulty scale based on what effect the practitioner wants to achieve. The magic chapter is definitely the crunchiest part of the rules, but there is also plenty of flexibility and ideas for players and Director alike.

Iron Gauntlets falls squarely into the 'rules light' RPG camp.If you need a system that tells you exactly how many minutes a torch burns or how many miles a horse can be ridden in a day, Iron Gauntlets is not for you. On the other hand, if you are looking for a fast and flexible RPG that has many of the traditional tropes, you should give it a look.


LIKED: The system is flexible, but still packs plenty of detail. The layout and writing are a cut above the average PDF.

DISLIKED: I wanted more examples of how to use magic. A sample adventure or setting information would have been a nice addition.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Iron Gauntlets Core PDF
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your feedback. As described, this product is just the core rules. If you would like a sample adventure, there is one included with The Chronicles of Amherth setting book, or you can pick up one of the many adventures currently available. In addition, the Expanded Edition (PDF or retail softcover coming in November) includes two adventures - one short and one full-length. More examples of magic are provided at the Politically Incorrect Games website (www.pigames.net), in the Collaborative, as are more vocations and other content. I wouldn't call the game rules-light. It is more like rules-light with detail. Of course, compared to d20, it is rules-light. Compared to other mainstream systems, it is just as detailed, though the explanations are refined and concise, and with plenty of examples. What does this mean? Simple... you don't have to read a 200-page book to be able to play. Plus, NPCs are quick to create, and you can easily create your own skills, gimmicks, background, vocations...
The Dungeon Under the Mountain, Level 1
Publisher: 0one Games
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2005 00:00:00
Level 1 of The Dungeon Under the Mountain is a mammoth 22" X 34" inch dungeon map that was obviously influenced in look and feel by the Undermountain dungeon of Forgotten Realms fame. The map is divided into eight 8 1/2" X 11" sheets and features 0one's Rule The DUNGEON! feature. This feature allows the owner to turn on and off nine separate features of the maps, including room numbers, grid and background fill.

The dungeon itself is very large. Each sheet is fairly filled with rooms and there are over forty main encounter areas. Counting the secondary rooms, there are literally hundreds of rooms to explore. The maps are rendered 'old school' style with minimal features and the included legend details the symbols used on the maps. A summary shows how to place the separate sheets to create the overall map.

It is worth noting that there are no suggested encounters, plot hooks or any details of the dungeon's inhabitants. It is up to the DM to fill the dungeon as he sees fit. And with such a large map, this should take awhile indeed. It could take a group of players quite a few sessions of play, just to clear out this level, depending on the number of encounters the DM sees fit to place. And with two other levels already released in the series, a DM should be well on the way to creating his own 'world's largest dungeon'.

LIKED: The Rule The DUNGEON! feature is very cool. The maps are well rendered and colorful.

DISLIKED: Only the main encounter areas are numbered. Some suggested encounters or background information might ease the burden on the DM.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Dungeon Under the Mountain, Level 1
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All Fall Down by Philip Reed
Publisher: Ronin Arts
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/11/2005 00:00:00
All Fall Down is a game about children - but it's definitely not for children. It is a storytelling game that is designed for a group of four to ten players. It looks like it might be especially suited to play with a group of like-minded adults at a spooky Halloween party. The PDF itself is just four pages long with a tinted color and black & white interior.

The players take the role of children in a small village that is beset by plague. Each player has a pool of counters that represent sickness and depression. The players take turns deciding whether to 'go outside and play'. Players that stay inside slide towards depression. This is represented by moving their depression counters from left to right. Players that make the decision to go outside (and risk the plague) take turns telling stories of the other children at play. The other players then vote on whether the storyteller's story was good or bad. If the story is bad, the storyteller slides towards depression. If the story is judged good, he gets to move some of his counters back from right to left. This continues until all the players but one have succumbed to depression or sickness. The last child standing is the winner.

There are more wrinkles added to the game in the optional rules, but I don't want to give away the whole game! All Fall Down is certainly a dark game and one that will probably appeal most to the Ann Rice and Buffy set of fans, I would assume. I did not find it offensive, but if you find the idea of playing a game that involves the death of children due to sickness or deppression repugnant, your mileage may certainly vary. Caveat Emptor.

LIKED: It is an edgy little storytelling game with some neat mechanics.

DISLIKED: The dark theme might put some people off.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
All Fall Down by Philip Reed
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Mapz 'n' Tilez: Temple of the Spider God
Publisher: UKG Publishing
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2005 00:00:00
Mapz 'n' Tilez: Temple of the Spider God is a collection of maps and one inch scaled tiles that together represent three levels of a small underground complex or temple. Somewhat uniquely, it uses an executable to bring up an HTML interface for the maps and tiles. The individual maps and tiles themselves are PDFs. The package also includes editable JPEGs for each map level if you want to make your own additions or changes to the maps and that is a nice addition.

Each map and tile is presented in color and grayscale versions. There are also four renditions of each map; detailed, detailed with overlay, classic blue grid (which is a bit silly in grayscale) and black grid. There are two renditions of each tile; lit and unlit. The lit versions have 'atmospheric' lighting added but are otherwise identical to the unlit versions.

The tiles are nicely rendered with crisp details and good shadows and lighting effects. The three level dungeon is fairly small, with a total of twenty-one encounter areas, including the third level, which is one large, open encounter area. The encounter areas are numbered, but there are no game statistics included or suggested encounters (note: the product information does not say that any game information IS included, but I just wanted to make it clear for potential customers).

Temple of the Spider God is a nice addition to the increasingly popular category of 'We provide the map. You provide the monsters' type of PDF products. It could easily serve as a nice side trek adventure in an Underdark campaign and/or a drow temple for the PCs to assault. As an aside, the Underdark set of D&D miniatures from Wizards of the Coast will probably include some nice nasties to populate the dungeon with.

I like having unlit and lit versions of the tiles, but I think the 0one Games approach of using checkboxes to achieve this same type result is probably a little neater approach. Including JPEGs of the tiles was certainly nice for those that are handy with Photoshop and similar programs. If you need an underground temple to populate with drow or other nasties, check Temple of the Spider God out.

LIKED: The tiles are crisply rendered with nice lighting effects. Including JPEGs of the tiles was a nice addition.

DISLIKED: Other maps that use checkboxes to turn on and off map details is a neater approach than having different versions of the maps.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mapz 'n' Tilez: Temple of the Spider God
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Thieves' World Player's Manual
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2005 00:00:00
The Thieves? World Player?s Manual is a 193-page PDF that has a color cover and black & white interior. The book has a table of contents, index and is fully bookmarked. The two-column layout is clean, with crisp fonts and good illustrations. In short, it is up to the professional standard that you would expect from Green Ronin.

The Player?s Manual kicks off with a short story. I usually find this sort of genre fiction pretty dreadful, but to Lynn Abbey?s credit, I actually enjoyed reading this one. My knowledge of the Thieves? World fantasy anthology series stops with Storm Season and so I was thrilled to next find a list of canonical books. I would have liked to have a more comprehensive overview or timeline, but I guess I will need to pick up one of the newer books to bring myself up to date on the current goings on in Sanctuary.

The entire first chapter is devoted to an overview of Sanctuary. This is very good stuff. You get information about currency, languages, laws, economics, etc. You even get a sort of walking tour of Sanctuary?s various districts. I love this kind of information, unburdened as it is from game mechanics. If I wanted to run a Sanctuary campaign with say the Savage Worlds game system, I could pull this whole chapter out and use it with no conversion. Very cool.

Since there are no non-human races in the world of Sanctuary, a player instead chooses a Culture and Background for his character. The Culture provides the character an ethnicity and the Background provides some information about the character?s pre-adventuring career. Both give skill and other bonuses. The combination of Culture and Background should really help a player to define ?who his character is? in the world of Sanctuary. It is certainly more satisfying than just saying ?My character is a dwarf?. It also worth noting here that Thieves? World does not use alignments and so no d20 mechanics like spells, that are based on alignments, are used in the setting.

Many of the base character classes have been extensively reworked for Thieves? World. The Barbarian, Fighter and Thief are basically unchanged. New or changed classes include the Assassin, Godsworn, Initiate, Mage, Noble, Priest, Ranger, Savant, Survivor and Witch. Many of the changes are necessary because extensively modified magic system. All characters also have a Reputation bonus, which indicates their likelihood of being recognized in Sanctuary, that increases with level.

The book includes a total of eighteen prestige classes. These represent everything from Blue Star Adepts to Hell Hounds. I have to admit that I am not a big fan of prestige classes, but I guess that are a necessary evil of the d20 system. I would have liked to see some information about how a character actually becomes say a Hell Hound, outside of the game mechanics requirements, but the prestige classes do look well thought out and interesting.

The Skills and Feats chapter introduces one new skill (Gambling) and a host of new Feats, many related to the new magic system. I was happy to see that very few of the Feats were of the ?+2 to Skill X? variety, which is one of my pet peeves.

The Supplemental Rules chapter introduces rules for severe injuries, wound infection and lowers the standard Massive Damage threshold. This is all in keeping with the down and dirty nature of the Thieves? World setting. This chapter also discusses how the Reputation bonus works and information on obtaining and using Contacts in Sanctuary. The Equipment chapter provides lists of herbs, poisons and drugs, including the infamous krrf.

Sorcery in the world of Sanctuary is divided into three basic techniques, magic, prayer and witchcraft. All characters cast spells by making a spellcasting check. The check must equal or exceed a Mana Threshold that is determined by the spell?s level. If the initial check is not successful, a caster can continue to cast until the threshold is reach. A caster can also cast a spell as a ritual, which takes longer, but increases the spell?s duration.

Casters have a number of Known spells and Familiar spells per level. Known spells can be cast normally and Familiar spells can be cast with additional preparation time. The price of casting is that all spells (with some exceptions for cantrips) do an amount of non-lethal damage to the caster equal to the spell level. This amount is doubled if the caster casts a spell above a ?safe? spell level limit that is determined by his class level. The Sorcery chapter covers additional topics including cooperative casting, spectacular casting failures and successes, curses and magic items.

The Spells chapter lists what spells and domains are appropriate for the Thieves? World setting, as well as introducing new domains and spells. One important change to note is that there are no actual healing spells. Instead of actually healing damage, spells convert an amount of lethal damage to non-lethal damage. Besides these ?convert? spells, there are more than twenty-five new spells in the chapter.

The two appendices list the gods of sanctuary and a glossary of notable NPCs. Each NPC has an indication to show if it is from the classic ?Rankan? era or from the modern era of the new stories. There is also a Thieves? World character sheet, which for some reason has a big, black, ink-sucking border around it.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that Green Ronin now offers an update that does NOT include the black border. Kudos to them for making the change.

The Player?s Manual is an outstanding book. It takes a setting that was primarily designed for fantasy fiction and firmly beats it into the d20 mold. It does it not by just tweaking the rules a bit and tacking on a few prestige classes, but by making thoughtful changes to the game mechanics that actually make sense. I applaud Robert J. Shwalb and company for a job well done.

There was nothing that was missing in the Player?s Guide for me except perhaps a more extensive overview of recent Sanctuary history. Things like NPC write-ups, more maps, encounter tables, etc. are sure to come in the GM?s book, Shadowspawn?s Guide to Sanctuary. If you like d20 and Thieves? World, this is a must buy. If you are looking for a grittier campaign setting, it is also an excellent choice. It is also worth checking out for its unique magic system. Good stuff, indeed.




LIKED: An outstanding conversion of the d20 system for Thieves' World. The production values and writing are top-notch.

DISLIKED: I would have liked more of an overview of recent events in Sanctuary

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thieves' World Player's Manual
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HARPer's Bazaar Vol #1 Issue #4
Publisher: Test-Chuck
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/09/2005 00:00:00
The 4th issue of HARPer's Bazaar follows the general pattern of past issues. It presents two new races with associated blood talents, two new cultures, an alternative damage systems, three new clerical orders and three new casting traditions. The PDF is 12 pages in length with a table of contents. There is a smattering of decent new and reused art.

The two new races are the Phrenali and the Drogosi. The Phrenali look physically a bit like the greys of UFO mythology and they favor the new Nali culture. The Phrenali benefit from several vision-related enhancements, including the ability to 'unnerve' their opponents with a stare. The Drogosi serve as a template for the new Tribal culture and they could easily be inserted into a jungle or other remote setting in a campaign. They have the abilties to sense nearby life forms and alter the color of their clothing and skin as a form of camouflage.

The new Damage Dice system is presented for HARP players that don't like to look up combat results on critical tables. The size of the attack determines what die to roll for damage. For example, a Small attack uses a d8 and a Large attack uses a d12. The total attack result determines exactly how many attack dice are rolled for damage. Optional rules are also included for using the damage dice system with other types of damage like bleeding, stun, etc.

The three new clerical orders presented focus on non-human races. One is presented for dwarves, elves and gnomes. Like the orders in previous Bazaars, they are fully fleshed out with spheres and selectable spells. Some of the spells are from the College of Magics and these are noted. This issue closes out with three new casting traditions; totem casting, divine casting and wand casting. The new casting traditions all use some form of focus for casting, whether it be a totem, divine symbol or wand. These casters benefit from foci that are created from rare or very rare materials.

I would recommend this issue, especially if you are like HARP, but don't like the system's Rolemaster style critical hits system. The new clerical orders are also useful for filling a need for non-human clerical orders. I hope Tim Dugger will keep cranking these out.

LIKED: The damage dice system is useful if you hate Rolemaster style critical hits and want more of a d20-style damage system.

DISLIKED: Nothing really stood out as 'must have' new material. Pick it up if you see something that fits your particular campaign.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HARPer's Bazaar Vol #1 Issue #4
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Modern Misfit: Storming Heaven's Shores
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/08/2005 00:00:00
Modern Misfit: Storming Heaven's Shores is an adventure for d20 Modern. The PDF is 25 pages in length, with a color cover and mostly black & white interior. The adventure has the heroes attempting to rescue hostages from a band of mercenaries and terrorists that have attacked the Vatican in Rome. The adventure's layout is decent with a smattering of unremarkable clip art illustrations. There is no index or bookmarks.

The premise of the adventure is certainly an audacious one, involving the Vatican and the pope. It is also designed high levels. Based on the Challenge Ratings of the villains, the heroes should probably be at least 10th level or higher. There is an adventure timeline, suggestions for capturing the 'feel' of the Vatican and suggestions for complications and final confrontations. Statistics are provided for three major villains, as well as the mercenaries. There is an overall map of the Vatican, but no detailed interior maps.

Storming Heaven's Shore is an interesting adventure. I like the information provided about the villains' motivations and background. However, the lack of interior maps places a lot of weight on the GM's shoulders if he wants to run many tactical situations during the adventure. The writing itself is also a little rough, with some editing errors and lack of polish to the writing. Finally, the situaton itself, a hostage rescue operation inside the Vatican, is certainly not one that is going to fit into every campaign.

If the premise of the adventure fits your d20 Modern campaign, Storming Heaven's Shore is worth a look. With some more polish to the writing and some quality interior maps, it would have been an even better adventure, but if you are willing to do some work, it is certainly worth checking out.

LIKED: The subject of the adventure is an audacious one. The major villains have interesting backgrounds and motivations.

DISLIKED: The writing is a little uneven. The lack of interior maps makes it hard for the GM to run tactical situations.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Misfit: Storming Heaven's Shores
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Weapons of Power Armor Destruction
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2005 00:00:00
Weapons of Power Armor Destruction is a 19-page PDF devoted to something that will please Iron Man fans everywhere - power armor. Designed for use with the d20 Future rules, Weapons presents a simple and direct menu approach to creating power armor. Power armor comes in one of three sizes - small, medium and large. Each size of armor has different characteristics, including hit points, base speed, height and number of equipment slots. Once you pick the base armor size, you add superstructure, armor, and equipment like flight systems, sensor systems, defense systems and weapons. Each of the systms take up one or more of the armor's slots.

In addition to the rules for armor creation, Weapons includes information about power armor movement and combat, critical hits, new power armor related feats and even a new advanced class, the power armor pilot. The writing is clear and the rules look like a good complement for d20 Future. The layout is professional and the cover is an attractive comic-book style color illustration. The layout is in Louis Porter's landscape format, which makes it easy to read on the screen.

If you are looking to add power armor to your d20 Future campaign, Weapons of Power Armor Destruction is for you. And if you pick it up and like it, Louis Porter has released two follow-ups (Weapons of Power Armor Destruction 2 & 3) that give you even more options.

LIKED: The rules are clear and concise. This is a useful addition to the d20 Future rules if you need power armor in your campaign.

DISLIKED: The landscape format is great for viewing on the computer screen, but in my opinion, not so great for printing.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weapons of Power Armor Destruction
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0one's Blueprints: The Citadel
Publisher: 0one Games
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2005 00:00:00
The Citadel is part of 0one's Blueprint series. The PDF is fifteen pages long and fully bookmarked. There are a total of five different maps, each one in old-school blue and in more modern black & white. Layers like the grid and room numbers can be turned on and off by using checkboxes at the bottom of each map. This adds some functionality to the maps. The Citadel is quite large, with a 20' to square grid. There are a few adventure hooks included as well.

The Citadel is a good value if you are looking for a large complex for your campaign, especially if you need one that borders on a body of water. The dungeon and sewer layers are also useful if you lean toward the dungeon crawling style of play. It could serve as a large temple complex, monastery or a more secular fortress.

This is a simple but useful product if you are looking for maps to populate with your dastardly denizens. The only real problem I had with the maps is that with the large scale, it's hard to add much detail. Check it out. It's hard to go wrong with a price that's under two dollars.

LIKED: It's inexpensive and the ability to control the layers is useful.

DISLIKED: The large scale makes it hard to add much detail.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Blueprints: The Citadel
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Superior Synergy: Fantasy
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2005 00:00:00
Skill synergy is a simple concept from the core d20 rules. Essentially, some skills give a +2 bonus to other skills if the character has five or more ranks in the first skill. For example, if a character has five or more ranks in the Use Rope skill he gets a +2 bonus to Climb and Escape Artist checks. Superior Skill Synergy takes this concept and expands it. Synergies are expanded to include bonuses for five, ten, fifteen and twenty ranks. For example, if a character has ten ranks of Use Rope, in addition to the bonuses for five ranks, he has only a -2 penalty for accelerated climbing and it takes him only 30 seconds to make an Escape Artist check to escape from bonds. The synergy goes on to include addional bonuses for having fifteen and twenty ranks of Use Rope.

In addition to the expanded rules for skill synergies, Superior Skill Synergy introduces rules for Feat Synergy. As you might imagine, feat synergy gives bonuses to a character for having two or more specific feats. For example, a character with the Athletic (mislabled Athletics in several places in the rules), Endurance and Great Fortitude feats can hold his breath for his Constitution X 1.5 rounds. Unfortunately, since a character without these feats can hold his breath for his Constitution X 2 rounds, I assume this is an error. Perhaps it should have been Constitution X 2.5 rounds? Other combinations of feats give a variety of other bonuses like reduced times, additional damage, etc.

Of course, whether or not all this will be useful to you is another matter. Do you like the concept of skill and/or feat synergies? Do you want to add what is arguably another level of detail to the already detailed d20 system? If so, you might want to give Superior Synergy a look. The price is certainly right. And aside from a few grammatical and textual errors, some of which I have pointed out, the product is well-written. Misfit Studios does deserve praise for logically and cleverly extending a d20 rules concept.

LIKED: It logically and cleverly extends a concept from the core d20 rules.

DISLIKED: There are a few errors. The rules add a level of complexity to an already complex rules system.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Superior Synergy: Fantasy
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Publisher Reply:
The Athletic feat typo has been addressed and the instance of holding breath has been changed to "50% longer than normal"; there is a discrepancy between how long the SRD says one can hold one's breath under the Swim skill (Con x 1) and in the drowning description (Con x 2.) I've always gone with Con x 1 because this is used in both the Swim skill AND drowning rules for d20 Modern, but the revision will cover either direction the GM decides to use. Thanks for the review!
Future Player's Companion: Tomorrows' Foundation
Publisher: The Game Mechanics
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/03/2005 00:00:00
The Game Mechanics continue their Player's Companion series with the Future Player's Companion: Tomorrow's Foundation. Tomorrow's Foundation is 44 pages long with a color cover and a mostly black & white interior. The authors are Gary Astleford, Neil Spicer, Rodney Thompson and JD Wiker. JD and Rodney were two of the designers behind D20 Future and so the
credentials behind the book look impressive indeed.

Foundation is laid out primarily for printing, rather than onscreen viewing. The layout itself is up to The Game Mechanics' usual high standards. It is attractive, easy to read and obviously designed to minimize printer ink. There are about a dozen interior illustrations, all line art of uniformly good quality. There is a table of contents, but no index in this short PDF.

This first volume in the Future Player's Companion series focuses on character creation. You get new alien races and ten new 'subraces', the Sol Colonials. The subraces focus on characters born in particular areas of the solar system. For instance, Lunar Colonists get more resources from their proximty to earth, but suffer penalties when they are in normal gravities. Similar to the idea of the subraces are Environmental Packages, which are designed to be taken in place of a standard race.

You also get new talent trees, new talents for existing trees and new occupations. In addition to this, there is a chapter on new uses for existing skills and a heaping of new feats. The book closes out with a number of Class Combinations. Class Combinations are essentially recipes for creating a particular future archetype by taking a suggested combination of base classes in a particular order. For instance, the Cybertechie starts off with a couple of levels of Smart Hero, then takes a level of Dedicated Hero and so on. Along with the suggested combination of classes is information on suggested skills, feats and advanced classes. This information looks equally useful for players and for GMs to create NPCs.

Tomorrow's Foundation is a professional PDF from a company composed of professionals. The writing and design are top notch and the price is reasonable for the quality of information. If you are looking for additional resources to enrich your D20 Future campaign, this is definitely one series of supplements worth checking out.

LIKED: The writing and design are top notch. This is a professional product from a professional company.

DISLIKED: The Class Combinations take up twelve pages of Tomorrow's Foundation. If you don't care for the concept, you might be dissapointed at the amount of space devoted to them.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Future Player's Companion: Tomorrows' Foundation
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e-Adventure Tiles: Temple of Bones
Publisher: SkeletonKey Games
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2005 00:00:00
Every E-Adventure Tiles set that I have ever seen has been attractive and this one is no exception. The art is sharp and the textures and piles of bones are expertly rendered. You get six separate tiles in the set, which is intended to be an expansion to the Sacred Temples set. Skeleton Key has provided color and b&w versions of each tile and the b&w versions do not look muddy or washed out.

The only thing that confused me was exactly how to use the set. I don't own the Sacred Temples set and I couldn't really figure out how to put these tiles together to make anything. Maybe owning the other set would have made it more obvious, but I wish Skeleton Key had included a sample temple layout to help those of us that are tile challenged.

LIKED: The art is great. Both the color and b&w versions are very attractive.

DISLIKED: A sample temple layout would have been a big help

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
e-Adventure Tiles: Temple of Bones
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Truth & Justice
Publisher: Atomic Sock Monkey Press
by Anthony R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2005 00:00:00
Superhero games have always been funny things for me. They are usually either too rules-light or too rules-heavy. It is a rare game that has struck a good balance between the two for me. Truth & Justice definitely falls toward the rules-light side of the equation, but I still like it for lots of reasons.

The PDF is 133 pages with a color cover and a smattering of decent, but not remarkable interior art. There is table of contents and bookmarks, but no index. The layout is better than many PDFs, but it still was a little busy in places for me, with multiple fonts and tabbed sections, but nothing terrible. The writing itself is very professional and the author?s style is entertaining to read.

The game system is interesting. Characters don?t have traditional attributes. Instead, they have several Qualities like Kung Fu or Policeman that represent their ?normal? abilities and several Powers that represent their ?super? abilities. This separation between normal and super scales is a neat feature of the T&J. It allows the game to represent a character like Batman, along with a character like Superman, without resorting to some weird logarithmic scale. The system borders on the narrativist, but there is enough crunch to make it satisfying.

The only part that was a little jarring for me at first was the damage system. When a character gets hurt, his Qualities and Powers are reduced until they get to zero and he is knocked unconscious. The concept of having your Policeman quality reduced by getting punched in the face might seem a little weird at first, but the book does do a good job of explaining it all. In fact the plethora of examples and explanations in T&J are top notch.

The best thing about Truth & Justice for me was just the huge amount of wonderful information. You get some great advice on running a superhero campaign, a discussion of the superhero genre, example NPCs, detailed sample campaign settings, and a lot more. The sheer volume of ?stuff? is just great. Even if you don?t use the system, the book is worth it just for the advice and information. I was entertained just by reading the three full pages of bibliography. The only downsides that I could find about T&J were that the system, as good as it is, will still not please someone looking for a high level of crunch. A reader also might be a little confused by some of the terminology like ?penumbra? and ?high trust?, but thankfully the author does not degenerate into high Gygaxian.

If you are looking for a fast moving system that doesn?t require a degree in mathematics to make characters, Truth & Justice is a good bet. The information, examples and advice are top notch and the value for your money is high. Excelsior.


LIKED: The writing and advice are top notch. The author definitely knows the superhero genre and communicates it in any informative and entertaining fashion.

DISLIKED: There might not be enough 'crunch' in the system for some players.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Truth & Justice
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