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The Complete B/X Adventurer - RBG002
Publisher: Running Beagle Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2014 18:49:43
The Complete B/X Adventurer is the second book from Jonathan Becker.

It certainly lives up to it's hype and to it's predecessor the B/X Companion (BXC). Though there is no emotional investment on this one for me. I waited for the B/X Companion for almost 30 years. I waited for this one for only about a year or less.

I am going to make comparisons of it to B/X Companion AND to the old Bard Games "Compleat Adventurer" series (Adventurer, Spellcaster, Alchemist). I think both comparisons are fair. The first is obvious, but the second I want to explain. It is obvious in the construction that this book owes a lot to those previous books. The author, Jonathan Becker, acknowledges this in his Introduction. There is also a feel to this book that reminds me of the later Bard Games books, The Arcanum and the Atlantis series.

In all these cases the books provide additional classes, spells and magic with additional rules that can be added with little effort to your game. We saw something similar from the official D&D books in the Unearthed Arcana books.

But getting on with the review proper.

The physical book is now perfect bound, not stapled, and it comes in at 62 pages. The cover doesn't try to invoke any other old-school product I am aware of, but I could be wrong. This is a good thing really since it should have it's own identity. BXC very much wanted to invoke the images of the old Basic and Expert sets.
Table of Contents is on a page, not the inside cover.

Now on to the meat. We get a nice introduction from Jonathan Becker about how the book should be used. It does indicate compatibility with Labyrinth Lord, LoftFP and Swords & Wizardry. Though I don't see the compatibility licenses those products require. I hope that is not an issue, but something that the author should look into. Also this is not an OGL product, so no license and no OGC. May not matter to you. In terms of buying. I supposed if someone wanted to use some of this material in say an adventure that was broadly compatible Becker would give his permission (and he has said as much if I recall correctly). For me I like to operate in the safe harbor of the OGL. But this doesn't detract my opinion from the book at all.

First up we have charts on random head gear. While this section is very good, it feels completely random. Not in terms of the tables, but why does the book lead off with this? I would have made this an appendix or part of a later chapter. Oddly enough the class table does not include any of the new classes in this book. Move this to the back in future printings I say. This follows with class exceptional traits. Also very cool. This one would belong here, but I would have put it after all the new classes. Again, this does not have all the new classes listed. Sure use the sub-class idea with Witches as a type of Magic-User. Follwing this firearms. Again move to equipment. I might not ever use this, but my son wants too (he read the book before I did).

Next up are all the classes. These are the gems of the book in my eye. The classes get about a page each. So this will be nice to print out the PDF pages and re-org as needed. The classes are Acrobat, Archer, Barbarian, Bard, Beastmaster, Bounty Hunter, Centaur, Duelist, Gnome, Mountebank, Mystic, Ogre-Kin, Scout, Summoner, Tattoo Mage, Witch, and Witch Hunter.

The classes are about what you would expect if you have been in this game for a number of years, but they have their twists. The gnome, centaur and ogre-kin are obviously race-classes in the Basic/Expert style. The Summoner is really cool. You summon creatures to do your magic for you. So part demonologist, part Pokemon trainer! (ok ok) only really awesome about it. It is one of the neatest takes I have seen on this ill-used fantasy archetype. I will discuss the witch and the witch-hunter in detail in a bit.

This is followed by all the new spells that these classes need. It's a good amount, taking up the remaining 20 pages of the book. The spells are of a good sort and there are a lot of them here.

The art is good and similar in style to BXC, sharing a couple of the same artists. Each class gets an art piece (another similarity to the Bard Compleat books) but the spells doesn't get much if any. That is too bad since the art is generally very good.

My Thoughts
Again I think I would have put some the beginning material in the back to focus on the classes more.
But I really enjoy all these classes and I think that for my kids old-school AD&D game I would let them choose from this as a possible source. I can see my youngest wanting to play an Acrobat and my oldest a Bounty Hunter. I would some tips I have written in the past about converting "Basic" classes to "Advanced" ones, but honestly there is not much here I would change.

Another thought is that most of these classes are stated out to 14th level. This makes them perfect, obviously, for pure Basic/Expert style D&D. But there is something else they would work well with, ACKS.
In fact I have mentioned before how well BXC would work in extending ACKS. Well now you can use the TCBXA as an add on to ACKS. These two games have different purposes in life, but they fit together rather nicely, and this gives you some new classes to play around with till ACKS Player's Companion is out.

NOW all we need is Jonathan to give us a B/X Companion boxed set. It can include the B/X Companion, the CBXA, and a brand new module. I think that would be great!

The Witch

Ok, I have to play special attention to the witch. Not just because it is a witch class, but because it is different than the other spell using classes. For starters the witch can cast in groups to cast higher level spells. That is a nice feature really and something very much in tune with the archetypal witch. The witch is the class in the book that is stated up all the way to 36th level AND built to gain powers to that point, also something I rather like. Why? Because a 36th level witch is the only class that can cast 10th level spells. Yup. This one goes to 10!

Crafting spells. The witch does not memorize a spell, but she does have a limit on how many she knows. The witch needs both a high intelligence (to know the spell) and a high wisdom (to learn and scribe it down in the first place). So a first level witch with a high Intelligence knows 1+Int mod 1st level spells. She can also scribe spells of 1st level + how ever many extra levels equal to her Wisdom mod. I like it. It is a nice quick way to know what can be done. In fact I would like to use that for clerics since gods should know ahead of time what spells their flock need and then they just give them to the cleric at that time.

For the witch though I would reverse it. Intelligence to write or scribe the spell and Widsom to know how many they can cast. Witches are often called the "Craft of the Wise" after all. But all in all I like it.
10th level witch spells are nothing at all to sneeze at. This is a powerful witch class.

The 10th level spells are a nice solution to the "Coven spells"/"Powerful magic" vs independent witches. I can't see too many witch covens in groups. Maybe two or three at a time. With what JB has done here is given us a way to have powerful magics in groups at lower levels and keep those same magics out of the hands of solitary witches till much later. This then does not make them a more attractive solution over Wizards/Magic Users.

Witchhunters
If you are going to have witches then you should have witchhunters. The ones here are fairly straight forward but they have some nice features. I like that they get magic, but not as spells but powers. Sure you could do a multi-classed Cleric-Ranger, but this is B/X not 3.x. I'd like to give this witchhunter a spin sometime.

Bottom Line
If you enjoyed BXC or even Basic/Expert or other Old School play then this is a great buy. If you enjoy old school play but are sticking with your clone of choice then I still say get this. Look at the class list above and decide if any of those sound interesting to you.

I like it and I recommend it. I would have organized things a little differently, but that is about it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete B/X Adventurer - RBG002
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Calidar, In Stranger Skies
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2014 15:36:42
Calidar, In Stranger Skies is the latest gaming product from former TSR writer Bruce Heard.

If you have been on the internet or follow any of the news surrounding Kickstarter or Mystara then you should have certainly heard about Bruce and Calidar.

If not here are two brief introductions:
http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/p/a-word-about-calidar.h-
tml
http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/p/where-can-i-get-calida-
r.html

Calidar is exactly what I expected it to be. Thankfully I expected it to be awesome. It is a real treat reading this. In a sea of "grim dark" settings Calidar brings back magic, fantasy and adventure to "D&D" and any game you care to use it with.

But that is getting ahead myself.

This book is designed for Pathfinder, at least is says so on the cover, but please do not let that stop you from using this with any other "D&D"-like game/system you own or play. In the majority of the book is system neutral. The book is even a fair amount setting neutral, which might sound odd about a setting book, but you could put The Great Caldera on any world's polar region and then drop that world into the Calidar Universe with only a little work. But that would get rid a lot of great stuff...

The first 40 or so pages set the stage of what is possible with this game with some game-related fiction. Now normally I dislike game fiction and tend to ignore it. But this one deserves a read since this is different than what you might be used to doing. A large part of the sense of wonder for this new universe is setup here.

Up next is the Calidar Universe. Oh where was this book 25 years ago! Immediately I am taken back in time to my aborted attempts to bridge Traveller and D&D. This book does it and does it so well. The "Solar" system of this universe is the Soltan Ephemeris. Nice! Mine was Sol Invictus. Not a surprise really. I loved Bruces work back in the day and I am certain we drew on similar sources. But alas that is as far as I got and Bruce kept on going at, well, light speed. Other planets are detailed such as Draconia (wonder who live there?), Lao-Kwei (a Mars-like planet), Canis Major (no relation to the Constellation) home of the Dog Headed people, Felix Major (Cat heads of course) and Ghüle, a Pluto like dungeon planet of alien creatures and gods (ie mostly Orcs). Calidar also has three moons where humans, elves and dwarve comes from respectively. There is also an Asteroid Belt (The Fringe).

In addition to the normal races we have the aforementioned God-folk and Cat-folk and the Starfolk. Starfolk are a catch-all race of aliens from other galaxies. Little is know about them. There are also the Fellfolk, or the natives of Calidar (aka Halflings).

Some Gods are also presented and I am sure there will be more. Gods are manifestations of the souls of the heavenly bodies. Interestingly enough there is an "American Gods"-like version of Odin. Here he is native to Calidar, brought by a group of Vikings stranded here. I like it.

Next Chapter deals with the World of Calidar itself. Various lands and countries around the Great Caldera. Several countries are covered in a familiar Gazetteer style. There is also a great historical timeline that helps set the stage for this world.

One land is covered in detail, the Kingdom of Meryath. I can't help to feel there is a bit of "Glantri" in the roots here. Nothing specific, just a feel. Though I have to smile that name of the main island is the same as my current hometown ("Palatine"). Also detailed are the various NPCs you are likely to encounter; both heroes and villains. I do like that no race in particular is designated as a "heroic" or a "villainous" one. With the exception maybe of the orcs. There is certainly a swashbuckling, high seas feel to these NPCs.
Guilds are detailed, and are likely to be more important in future works; books and adventures. Finally we end the chapter with the largest city in the Kingdom, Glorathon.

Creatures of Calidar deal some of the unique creatures we can find here. Mostly this is background text, no stats.

System Conversion covers the Pathfinder rules stats for both the characters and the new creatures.

Skyships of Calidar cover the ships of various sizes more moving about the universe.

The PDF has a few nice features. The Maps are all index via bookmarks as is all the art.

Let's talk about the maps and art.
Thorfinn Tait is one of the main people behind the maps and cartography of this book. Thorf has been one of the big names in maps for sometime now. He has done a ton of work of the maps of Mystara, which is certainly how he and Bruce Heard know of each other. The maps are a work of art and I love how planets and other objects are listed in "days of travel" on hexes instead of miles. A nice little change that means a lot really. Great from a DM's perspective and easier to adjudicate from a narrative standpoint.

The art is also fantastic. A nice cross between the style of Planescape, Spelljammer and 7th Sea. Which, if you think about it, also describes this book pretty well too.

Calidar, In Stranger Skies is an awesome product. It grabs you and makes you want to play in this world. I am not sure what the plans are, but certainly I can see an OSR version getting produced or even a D&D 5. But if not you could do it on your own with just a little effort (less if you know Pathfinder really well).

Personally I can't think of a single reason NOT to buy this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Calidar, In Stranger Skies
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Actual Factual: Dracula - A Compendium of Vampires
Publisher: Scaldcrow Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2014 13:41:10
Actual Factual: Dracula - A Compendium of Vampires is an unassuming book. The cover is stock art (I am guessing, not sure) and the preview is text with a small amount of art. That and the $40 price tag (sale price $18) might scare some people off.

That would be a mistake.

Inside are 472 pages of detailed vampire types from all over the world.

In this book we are given a basic overview of vampires (aka the stuff everyone knows) and then we move quickly into the relationship between Vlad the Impaler and Vampires. I will honestly say that this section, while entertaining seems tacked on. The book would have been fine without it, but is likely better with it.

Next we get into the heart of this book. The Compendium of Vampires.
The A to Z section detail vampires from around the world and not only represents the bulk of the book (340+ pages), but also the bulk of the research.

Each entry contains the name of the vampire, pronunciation and translation of the name. Also listed are it's country or area of origin, type of creature (creature, spirit, demon...), how it appears, prefered prey, how often it attacks or feeds, Modus Operandi, abilities, defenses against it and how to kill it. Not every creature has everything listed, this is not a Monster Manual, but there are enough. In some cases the author has used her own imagination to fill in the blanks. This is fine really, given that the author is Theresa Bane.
But I guess if you want something purer you can go to her pages of resources.

There is a bibliography, which is almost as interesting to read as the entries themselves.

What follows next really puts this book into a different category of usefulness, the indexes.
First is a more common index of words, names and other things you might want to find in the book.

Next is an index of Abilities. So if you need a vampire that is Beautiful (as an ability) then you have GREEN OGRESS 124 and SUCCUBUS 274.

There is an index of Appearance. So "barbed tongue" gives you:
ASWANG MANDURUGO 23
BICHOHINDU 44
GROBNIK 125
KRVOIJAC 164
UPIER 294
WIESZCZY 330 (one of my favorite barbed tongue vampires).

An Index on Creation. Indexes of How Often it Attacks, How to Find, Origins, Prey, Types, and finally Weaknesses.

Now what would have been a nice touch would be to hyper link all these indexes to the main document. But I am not complaining.

What the book lacks in art, there are only a few pieces, it makes up for in research and utility.
You can debate on whether or not Creature Y is a vampire or not, but I can't fault the authors for doing all this work.

All in all a great book. A must have if you are at all a fan of vampires or use them in your games.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Actual Factual: Dracula - A Compendium of Vampires
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Wild Wizard
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:42:44
The Wild Wizard is akin to the old Wild Mage. It is a Magic-User, but it has a Magical Flux. Magical Flux is summarized as an 1d20 affect table. It is is an interesting idea, but I think it needs something a bit more.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wild Wizard
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War Chanter
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:42:06
What the Bard is to humans and the Greensinger is to Elves the War Chanter is to Dwarves. In addition to being fighters the war chanter also has some powers "Songs" that they can use to aid others. If you are playing a Basic-era game and have more than one player that wants to play a dwarf, have one choose this. It is a pretty interesting class and one that would make good use out a larger group of characters.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
War Chanter
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Sword Master
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:41:35
This class might be called a duelist in other systems, but basically the idea is the same; a master of the sword. The most interesting twist to this class is the inclusion of the Mastery Points. Each level the Ps hass a certain number of these point they may use to increase their dice rolls. It is a neat mechanic and helps the Sword Master to score hits when he really needs too. There is an appendix for applying this to other fighter like classes as well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sword Master
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Pirate
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:38:50
Again, exactly what it says it is. An interesting class with some thief like abilities the best part is the "Sea Stories" power which gives the PC information in the form of rumor and hearsay that might be beneficial to the Pirate. The idea that pirates hear a lot of strange tales out at see.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pirate
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Kassai Rider
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:38:28
The Kassai Rider is a mounted warrior similar to the Mongol hoards. The class is a full 20 levels and has a number of special abilities based on combat on their horses. Lightly armored and using bows for the most part these warriors are superior on horseback, but I wonder how well they might function in the dungeon.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kassai Rider
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Greensinger
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:37:51
The Greensinger is something akin to an elvish Bard/Druid. Greensingers get some special abilities and can cast spells like that of a cleric/druid. The idea is a rather cool one and frankly I wanted more. The forests of Barrel Rider Games seem to be full of all sorts of strange and magical creatures.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Greensinger
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Goblin
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:37:27
enough her to play 8 levels of goblin fun. 8th level goblins don't get a special title, but they do get a dire wolf of their own. Which you have to admit is pretty sweet.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Goblin
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Friar
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:36:44
Friars are holy men, like clerics, but are a wandering sort. They do not get spells but instead a new special ability at each level. Additionally since they can't wear armor they have a Divine Protection power that keeps them from harm. in fact the highest level friars can have an AC as low as -6 if they reach 20th level and have a high dexterity. For those that want a different take on the cleric this is a good choice.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Friar
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Forester
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:36:22
FULL DISCLOSURE: The genesis of the class was based on discussion I had the James Spahn on what sort of class my youngest son Connor likes to play. All the material in this book is James' own original work, I am just rather fond of it.
The Forester is basically and elven Ranger with thief and hunting abilities thrown in. It is a 10 level class. The forester gets a lot of interesting abilities to help it in it's role as a protector of the forests including the abilities to hide in shadows and better fighting abilities when wielding a bow. The coolest though is the ability to get an animal sidekick in the form of an Elven dog.
Since this was built more or less for my son he has been using the class in our Old-School game. It plays like a Ranger with a few extra tricks up his sleeve.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forester
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Explorer
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:35:55
This might be the consummate PC Class. It focuses on adventuring and that thrill of discovery. It mixes a bit of thief and fighter with some sage-y abilities (id magical items, read magic) and cast some spells. If you are missing a class or two in your group the Explore might help feel the missing bits. Worth it for a look.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Explorer
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Death Knight
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:35:27
This class is something of a cross of warlock and an anti-paladin. The Death Knight are not undead per se but do have their life force changed to undead or demonic power. It is a full 20th level class and in addition to fighting prowess the Death Knight has powers and spells. The class is very comparable to a Paladin only Chaotic of course. Like some of the alternate classes that used to appear in Dragon magazine the Death Knight works great, and maybe better, as an NPC class.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Death Knight
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Commander
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:34:58
Commanders feel like they are on the opposite end of the fighting spectrum than beserkers. They are cool efficient battle strategists. The Commander is like a Basic-era Fighter, but his "powers" are his abilities to command and bolster others. For example at higher levels those under his command are immune to fear.
It is an interesting class and has some nice features.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Commander
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