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Campaign Cartographer 3 Full Version
Publisher: ProFantasy Software
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/27/2007 11:53:40
Quite a powerful product but can be a little daunting. This was the first mapping program I bought and have no autocad experience so as such I might have chosen poorly. I found the controls and mechanics a little trick (the use of right clicking for example) but the tutorial and tech support have been very helpful.

Basically the learning curve is quite high, it can product some beautiful work if you have the patience to learn it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Cartographer 3 Full Version
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Essence Companion
Publisher: Guild Companion Publications
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/27/2007 11:48:21
Finally, an affordable copy rather than the outrageous prices for the original book on eBay.

Much useful information on essence casters and new classes like the favorite warrior mage. Also several skills for spell casters that can come in handy.

Excellent book to add to the RM collection.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Essence Companion
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Castles and Keeps Floorplans
Publisher: Darkfuries Publishing
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/20/2007 12:27:07
Quite an impressive product. The maps are quite detailed and well done. The brief descriptions of the various rooms is also a great help.

The only drawback I have is that the interface takes a little getting used to with what window opens where or if a new one pops up.

But overall a very good product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles and Keeps Floorplans
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The Echoes of Heaven Bestiary/The Tainted Tears (HARP Version)
Publisher: Final Redoubt Press
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/20/2007 12:15:32
Once again I was amazed at the possibilities that can be used in an Ulcer. In the Tainted Tears the party enters one and basically become posessed by the tormented souls trapped therein and attempt to solve a mystery while battling some demons trying to take over the Ulcer as their own. It did take two read throughs and some page flipping to figure out what was going on but it was well written. This type of adventure may not appeal to all players as it will make them think and there are some straight forward combats so there is something for all types of players.

One thing also that I liked was that this is not a 'close it or the world as we know it ends' type Ulcers as was in the latter adventures - something that the author points out in the introduction as well. In fact this is more of a side-bar Ulcer and could very well be avoided by the party. Although the cause of the Ulcer does tie in with the last adventure, it could easily be ignored and could be dropped in just about anyplace without a problem.

I also enjoyed the Beastiary quite a bit. It contains predominantly several types of demons, angels and everybody's favorite - dragons. While some of the entries are repeats from previous books, like the buckle golem and wind wraith, the majority is new. What really struck me is the relationship between the divine creatures to their fallen counerparts. The angel to their demon or the giant to nephilim relationship for example. I felt it added depth to the creatures by giving the potential temptations that might make an angel fall or the struggle of a giant to do good even though it knows it will be a demon after death.

One drawback in the HARP version is that to get a complete set of elementals you will need to reference the Bazaar #5 (or first annual) to get stats.

But overall I was very pleased with the content. The beastiary for background information as well as more options unique to the EoH setting and the adventure for not being 'world affecting' while adding a new perspective on Ulcers.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Echoes of Heaven Bestiary/The Tainted Tears (HARP Version)
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The Lost Kingdom of the Dwarves/On Corrupted Ground (Multisystem Bundle)
Publisher: Final Redoubt Press
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/11/2007 00:00:00
Lost Kingdom of the Dwarves

Lost Kingdom of the Dwarves is the next supplement for Echoes of Heaven. It details the country of Uzarag that was once the homeland for the dwarves but has since been taken over by the Warlord.

It starts with a history of the realm, more detailed story of Saint Kulan and the fall to the Warlord. I found the stories quite good and gave me a good feel for the history.

Next you have some backround on dwarves in general. The ironic part of this is that Uzarag is the home of the dwarves yet none live. This information has a lot to do with how dwarves live in other cultures while maintaining their own, and their dreams of retaking the realm. Although there are obvious parallels to Moria, which the author also points out, it is in this section where the differences are most notable making Uzarag Defendi?s as opposed to an imitation of Tolkein. The psychology of Belkanath dwarves is a little dark. For example the more you suffer in the attainment of a goal, the more important it is. Smith?s having their hands broken on their anvil (and healed) when they become masters. You also have the Unwed who gave up on marriage and family and instead devote their lives to another pursuit ? be it a craft or warfare.

Next up ? the orcs, the real denizens of Uzarag. Their culture is quite simple and brutal. You also get some brief descriptions of several cities, some NPC?s and adventure seeds sprinkled throughout.

After this some new rules ? dwarven rune casting and the Unwed training package. The latter is fairly straightforward. Runecasting and the rune priest I found quite interesting as a new class in that the character could have a ring of runes (like keys) to cast from. You also get some stats for rune silver and rune gold, magical elements that are found in Uzarag previously mined by the dwarves.

Overall I found the material quite interesting and well put together. One thing to remember is that it is a region book and not a city like Feldric?s Redoubt in The Last Free City was. As such there are no city maps but there are a few tiles of that could be used as generic locations like part of a dungeon or a gatehouse. While these are a nice touch, I feel they were almost unnecessary. They are well done but seem out of place ? the book deals with a region and the map is of a room for example.

It did seem to be a bit light on specifics but I felt a lot of that was covered in On Corrupted Ground as use for an active orc installation.

On Corrupted Ground

This is the companion adventure that goes along with the Kingdom of the Dwarves. It continues the saga of the Splinter from the first adventure The Throne of God. The party learns that the Splinter is in Uzarag and bad things will happen if it stays. So the party hitches up with some dwarves on holiday (as in off to Uzarag to kill some orcs and perhaps find return some dwarven artifacts) to go to one of the cities in the eastern part of Uzarag and get it.

Overall the fort is put together well. The battle plan of the orcs is fairly simple and if the party screws up they will most likely be killed or captured ? as it should be if you are entering a hostile fortification. Perhaps I am too much of a purist but it was actually nice to see bathrooms (or garderobes as they are called in the book which I had to look up) in an occupied fortification.

The climax could make some very tense players and reminds me a bit of Vecna Lives. Let us just say that it should be very intense and end quite badly and quickly for the party.

A new monster is included (water wraith, more powerful windwraith from an earlier supplement) And stats for the Warlord.



LIKED: Kingdom - Excellent map of the region. Loved the history. I also thought the nuances on dwarven psychology fit the setting quite well.

Corrupted Ground - Liked the stat sheet for tracking inhabitants. Will be very helpful.

DISLIKED: Kingdom - Some editing errors - typos referencing stats from other systems for example.

Corrupted Ground - The teaser to me seemed really out of place - like a half-teaser - and I didn't think added much. Perhaps it will make more sense in the next one.

The maps are really good but awfully dark. Although well done (I am envious of his proficiency in CC3) the room numbers are hard to read if printed in color on 8 1/2 x 11.

Failure again could cause the world to end, like the last one. Although I enjoyed the adventure, if played in succession (rather than with some filler as there aren't enough exp in the last one to get the party to the suggested 9th level) 'saving the world' again could lessen the drama later on saving the world for the final time.



QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Kingdom of the Dwarves/On Corrupted Ground (Multisystem Bundle)
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The Dungeon Under the Mountain, Level 1
Publisher: 0one Games
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/28/2007 00:00:00
Slowly but surely I am picking up many of these map suppliments.

One big dungeon of 8 pages and nicely separated out for easy printing.

Toggle features very nice.

About the only minor drawback I have is that there are almost too many rooms like the mapper saw empty space and had to fill it with something.

As a suggestion if at all possible, a masking funciton for blocking off aread much like the toggle function to make many smaller maps out of the big one and make them more customizable.


LIKED: Nice 'fill' ink saver feature on printout.

DISLIKED: Map is a little 'busy'. But with some editing easily remidied.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Dungeon Under the Mountain, Level 1
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0one's Blueprints: Keep on Mountain Pass
Publisher: 0one Games
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/14/2007 00:00:00
Another simple and straight forward map of a keep.
It is pretty custom - spanning the entire pass - but it is just begging to be filled and I am sure my players would love it.


LIKED: Very good value.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Blueprints: Keep on Mountain Pass
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Blood and Fists: Hong Kong Knights
Publisher: RPG Objects
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/14/2007 00:00:00
I originally picked this up as I have been a practitioner of Ying Jow Pai for 12 years and this is the first supplement I have seen mentioning it. I am also curious as to how martial arts are handled in various systems. D20 martial arts are quite dull so I thought this might spice it up a little. I should also say I play d20 sparingly and don?t have very many other supplements.

Overall, I was surprised by the choice of the various styles. Usually you get the stock mantis, shao lin, karate, etc. but here they have added several rarer ones like hwarang do. I also found the descriptions quite interesting.

Apparently you take a style as a feat then you get several maneuvers. This part I don?t have much of a problem with. It does however enter into the problem area that virtually all attempts to mimic a style fail. Many martial arts are quite inclusive. Putting them into a mechanic often makes them seem over balanced when compared to normal weapons. As such you either don?t get a true representation of the style or it is out of balance. For example Ying Jow does not have joint locks which is really ironic since the 108 locking techniques and eagle claw technique are what exemplify the style. There may be other examples that other artists may pick up on but that is beside the point. But overall with a little tweaking they might become more accurate.

What irritated me most about the book is that it is not stand alone. The page on rpgnow does not mention this at all. Going to the RPGObjects site it is indeed listed as a supplement. Many of the maneuvers are not described in the book and I am inferring that they are listed in the original Blood and Fists. It is also quite ambiguous as to what is a feat, how you get legendary maneuvers or simple descriptions of many of the maneuvers.

The second think I didn?t like was that it is in a landscape format. It says you can get a portrait version on the objects site but I couldn?t find it.

Overall the book showed a lot of promise but fell short due to misrepresentation.



LIKED: Different styles not seen in other products.
Background info on those styles.

DISLIKED: Not complete as it describes rules not in this product.
Landscape printing.

QUALITY: Disappointing

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Blood and Fists: Hong Kong Knights
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0one's Blueprints: Cairns
Publisher: 0one Games
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/12/2007 00:00:00
I have purchased a few of these blueprints and have been quite impressed. They are well worth the price - especially for someone like me with little experience with graphics programs and no drawing ability.


LIKED: Toggling function is very helpful.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Blueprints: Cairns
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The Last Free City/The Festering Earth (HARP Version)
Publisher: Final Redoubt Press
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/08/2007 00:00:00
The second installment in the Echoes of Heaven line is The Last Free City. Felric?s Redoubt is a melting pot of humans, elves and dwarves coupled with various human cultures from across Belkanath. But with all large cities you also have a dark underside just beneath the surface.

You are given a brief history of the city that also includes several adventure seeds and world threads (an aspect of the other products from Final Redoubt I like very much). From there a detail of the city itself with various NPCs, organizations (the Campaign Setting is needed for the initial descriptions of these), churches, governmental bodies, the military and how they all react within Feldric?s Redoubt. Again Seeds and Threads are sprinkled about along with notes about the attached module Festering Earth.

Overall the book is well written and I second the opinion on the author?s expertise with Campaign Cartographer. The map of the city and surrounding area is quite detailed. Enough detail is included to give a good backdrop but not too much to make it read like an encyclopedia.

The accompanying module Festering Earth is a little different than other publications. It is a murder mystery yet the results of which can lead to complete catastrophe with world affecting changes. The crimes are well described both in what the party originally sees, what really happened and how that fits into the greater scheme of things. My group can be really dense at times so it may take some tap dancing to keep them on track. One caveat is that if the party fails, basically they all die when Felric?s becomes an Ulcer and generally really bad things happen in all of Belkanath. As such you might want to have some contingency plans just in case. However the scene descriptions and dramatic purposes give a good idea as to how things should be progressing and if you need some GM intervention to prevent this.

One thing I did is that Throne of God is for 3rd level characters, Festering Earth for 6th and the next installment seems to be 9th. Simply put there isn?t enough exp. in these modules to be running them concurrently so you will need some fillers. There are however numerous adventure threads listed that could be used.

Also - one of the NPC's is a paladin. This class does not exist in the base HARP book but is in the Harper's Bazaar Annual from ICE. It really isn't necessary and the NPC could be replaced by a combat oriented cleric without affecting gameplay.

Overall though I found the style and quality of these products is excellent. You are given a lot of info along with an intriguing adventure. I eagerly await the next one.



LIKED: Format and style of writing. Easily readable with good content.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Last Free City/The Festering Earth (HARP Version)
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Guild Adventurer #1
Publisher: Guild Companion Publications
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/20/2006 00:00:00
Finally some short ready to run adventures for RM & HARP.

The articles on two different inns are also nice as putting the GM on the spot coming up with the name of a tavern is a running joke in our group.

While we don't play Spacemaster, the concept behind Paranoia could easily be adapted to a fantasy or even modern setting.


LIKED: Overall well written. Nice to see some short non-world encompassing adventures you could just pull out & play. The inns are nice to have too and parties always end up at one at some point.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Guild Adventurer #1
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The Echoes of Heaven/The Throne of God (HARP Version)
Publisher: Final Redoubt Press
by eric m. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/12/2006 00:00:00
Echoes of Heaven is a self-described ?Campaign Setting?. A very apt name as it is full of possibilities for adventures rather than being pages of stats for NPCs or prolific optional rules. I was worried that after reading the intro that the setting would require many changes to the HARP system. I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. For example the races are right out of the book (but no gryx) and with some minor interpretative modifications (like detect evil/good and mana sources) magic is also fairly unchanged.

Probably what intrigued me most about this setting is the backstory. The explanation of the cosmology of the Echoes setting I found quite entertaining. The actual history was done more as a story than a dry list of dates and events. These events are the stuff of legend and as such perhaps details are sometimes lacking however I didn?t feel that details were all that important. It kept the feel that the Mortal Realm is indeed the battleground of Good and Evil.

After reading the preview I was worried that the Heaven vs. Hell theme would limit the setting by over simplifying the battle between Good vs. Evil that is much more fundamental in Belkanath. However again this was not the case. Each race has a slightly different church based on its interpretation of the Sundering (when the Mortal Realm and Hell were split from the universal Heaven) as well as different orders within each main church as well as various orders within the church. For example historical Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic knights were all military orders in the Roman church and yet had much different goals, beliefs and methods. There is also the Atavists (essentially druids or pantheists might be a better term) as well as pagans. The interaction between these organizations could be just as varied as any other more ?typical? polytheistic fantasy world.

This is also where ?adventure seeds? and ?world threads? come into play. Seeds are suggestions about possible adventure hooks about events listed on the page. World threads are a ?hands off? warning by the author as more details will come out in further supplements ? which one is sometimes listed. This is helpful as it gives you an idea what to expect in future products.

The gazetteer of the various realms was quite informative. There are pagan raiding societies, halfling realms and even a dwarven/elven kingdom. You are given a brief history and an economic/societal overview. One realm, Ludremon, is gone into more detail later and which was welcome. A ?starter? area if you will. This went into more detail of the cities and listed more important NPC?s for which was listed class and level but no other stats.

There is also a short chapter on bonded items. This is a different way of handling magic items. Rather than attuning to an item and getting all its powers, with a bonded item you only get some at a time and need to do a certain deed to be able to unlock others. The example given is that you get an attunement roll when you successfully get a crit while using the weapon. I like the idea but would tweak the mechanics of it.

Caveat ? there are no specific stats given for NPC?s, no new monsters, spells, items, etc in Echoes of Heaven ? there is a generic layman class only. I don?t count this as an official dislike but more of an irritating yet completely understandable observation. To do so adequately would have added way too many pages to this product and also taken away from several mentioned supplements so I will just accept that fact and wait for more products to be released to see what is added.

Overall I found the product done quite well. It gave enough information for the world as a whole but didn?t go into specific detail. If anything it just made me want to know more.

The Throne of God adventure included is a low level adventure that takes place in Ludremon. It is a good introduction of the players to the setting in which they enter an ulcer (a place where the Mortal Realm is literally turned into a form of Hell) and battle a demon. I found the Teaser chapter (an optional intro for characters) very interesting in which the character are literally there in Heaven when at the Sundering happened only to awaken 10,000 years later in Ludremon. I like this in that the players as well as characters will be entering a completely new setting for the first time. The rest of the adventure continues the theme of getting the players used to the setting and perhaps the system. And as hoped stats for a new undead, a demon and fallen angel were included.



LIKED: The back-story pretty much had me hooked when I read the introduction an other information posted by the author at the ICE forums.

The book itself it is well laid out and clear. There is even a little humor ? for instance the halfling opinion of dwarven mining as ?turning big rocks into little rocks? or the halfling soldiers in one realm are arguable the best fighters in Belkanath ? to keep things fresh.

Echoes only made use of the HARP base book but alludes to some of the supplements ? usually College of Magics. For example the clerical order spell lists are from the base book only. In the index there is a section letting you know what changes might have to be made to the other supplements but are mostly ?as is?. While I have nearly all the HARP products I count this as a plus for those just getting started.


DISLIKED: The maps are beautifully done in Campaign Cartographer. However as such the might be a little cumbersome. For instance there is a one-page map of Belkanath as well as another in which you can zoom into greater detail ? smaller cities show up for example. I only have the free viewer and moving the view on the map can be quite slow as it constantly has to redraw the image as you scroll even the slightest bit. I don?t know if the files can be converted to a hi rez pdf or some other format to make them more practical and user friendly.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Echoes of Heaven/The Throne of God (HARP Version)
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