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Fang & Fury: A Guidebook to Vampires
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2013 10:24:28
This is an older book for 3.0 (not 3.5) D&D but there is still a lot of great things here. This is certainly written from the D&D-fantasy world vampire; so feeding off of dragons and the like, what happens to certain classes. There are feats, prestige classes, monsters and gods. There are plenty of spells, magic items, weapons and artifacts. There is really a lot of good stuff here and if you have vampires in your game then you need this. If you have any vampire big-bads in your game then this is also a great buy. Some of the material needs to be updated to 3.5 or Pathfinder, but nothing that is a show stopper that I could see.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fang & Fury: A Guidebook to Vampires
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Vampires of the Olden Lands
Publisher: James Mishler Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2013 10:06:26
The Olden Lands is James' in house campaign the Chronicles of Mhoriedh. All the books in this series are dual stated with Labyrinth Lord and Castles & Crusades stats. This appeals to me on a number of levels. I like that he went through the effort to do this and the nice effect is that between these two sets of stats you can play this under any old school version of D&D you like. There is also plenty in this book that work with any other game as well.
We start out with some common protections against vampires. We follow with 8 very different sorts of vampires including living, dead and spirit. All dual stated. There is a new race to play, The Dhamphir. I have seen a lot of "Dhampirs" over the years, but this one is one of the best so far just in terms of simplicity.
All in all a really nice take and these vampires are not like the Dracula-Lestat-Edward clones that can populate so many other games.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampires of the Olden Lands
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Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2013 07:08:16
The 20th Anniversary Edition combines the best of the best of the old Vampire the Masquerade game and strives for completion. All the clans, all the powers and most of the iconic characters. It is more expensive that any of the other White Wolf Vampire games, but it is also the largest and everything you need for years of playing is right here. Or more the point, everything from years of playing is right here. It is easy to pick this up and feel like it is 1990 again.
I think this book is really aimed more at people that played V:TM back in the day and now have a desire to go back to those nights where monsters roamed the city. There is a lot here for new players though too. If you have never played a Vampire game then this has everything you need.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition
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Vampire: The Requiem
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2013 21:53:45
A while back White Wolf rebooted everything. They redid all their game lines, edited the rules and gave us a new World of Darkness. On the plus side Vampire the Requiem has much more cleaned up rules. They were similar to the old rules, but just better in most respects. The meta-rules or how the vampires are played though felt worse. Not worse really, but off to me.
Basically you can play the same kind of game you did in V:tM, though if you had a favorite clan in the old game it might not be here, or be changed in subtle ways. Still though this is a great game with less overhead than old World of Darkness. If you are choosing between this game and Vampire: The Masquerade then this might be the easier choice, even if it is less "classic" choice.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Requiem
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Victorian Age Vampire
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2013 21:36:45
The Victorian Age is best time for vampires in my mind. This the age of Dracula, of Varney the Vampire and tons of great Gothic Literature. Also it is a time of science vs. religion, the city vs. the rural, the traditional vs. the modern. This is a perfect mix for a Vampire game. The Vampire game mechanics are well served by this mix; the human vs. monster. In many respects this game is actually superior to it's parent game V:tM.
All the same vampire clans from The Masquerade are here, but changed. Not as much as the Dark Ages version, but the alterations fit the times well. The vampires here seem to be so much more than their modern counterparts.

If you like the Victorian age (like I do) then this is a great book just for that to be honest.
If you enjoy Vampire, then this is also a must have.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Victorian Age Vampire
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Vampire: The Masquerade - Revised Edition
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2013 21:22:15
This is it, the original. Well, not the original, original, but the revised version. This game is the go to game for playing an angsty, tortured monster. Nearly everything known about vampires in myth or fiction is in here somewhere. Re-reading it today if you had no knowledge of this game you might be tempted to say that this game is full of cliches. But in truth this is the origin of a lot of things that we take for granted.
Truthfully this is a great book to get even if you never plan to play the game. There are plenty of ideas for Role-playing as well as integrating it with LARPing. There is also a lot of ideas for vampires here.
If you like Anne Rice's vampires, then this is the game for you.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade - Revised Edition
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ACKS Player's Companion
Publisher: Autarch
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2013 07:24:10
So the long awaited Adventurer Conqueror King System Player's Companion is now out in PDF. I don't know know if it is out in stores yet at all or if people that supported it on Kickstarter have their physical copies, but it is up on here on DriveThruRPG.

Now full disclosure time. I did provide some support for the witch class. I was able to look at an early copy of the witch and provide some feedback since it had been based on some work I had done for d20. I shared a copy of my spells research notes and some material that would be part of my own Witch Book.
Neither group was looking for cross-compatibility except int he broadest terms. We did though develop from similar source materials and there is a bit of cohesion between the two classes. To be clear though, I didn't actually write anything for this. The authors had their ideas in a pretty solid form when they talked to me.

That being said let me proceed. ACKS Player's Companion reads like an "Unearthed Arcana" or even a Player's Handbook 2 for the ACKS set. In many ways it is very similar to the Complete B/X Adventurer that came out last year.
There are a number of authors that were brought to together to author the various sections. Sometime you can tell, other times not. This is not a big deal to me except for maybe there are some redundancies in various classes.

Chapter 2 covers all the new classes. We get: Anti-Paladin, Barbarian, Dwarven Delver, Dwarven Fury, Dwarven Machinist, Elven Courtier, Elven Enchanter, Elven Ranger, Gnomish Trickster, Mystic, Nobiran Wonderworker, Paladin, Priestess, Shaman, Thrassian Gladiator, Venturer, Warlock, Witch, and Zaharan Ruinguard. Not a bad list at all. That takes up about 44 pages of the book's 160.

The classes vary a bit. I liked most of them to be honest. The new feature of ACK:PC are the templates (Chapter 3), so all the new classes also have these templates. They define starting proficiencies and equipment.

At first I expected to hate the new racial classes but they provide a nice bit of background that goes beyond just crunch and fluff. In particular the Elven Enchanter and Elven Ranger add something interesting to the game. Sure, you could do this in AD&D in 1978, but here it has a bit of different feel. In fact I reminded of the old Dragon article back in the mid 80s about the Elven Cavalier. Sure it was something you could do on your own, but the article and this book give you something a bit more. The Gnomish Trickster could be reskinned if you are like me and miss the Halflings. The Mystic is a suitable Monk replacement in the vein of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia. There are few ACKS unique race-classes too. We also get a Priestess, Warlock and Witch. Those I'll deal with later.

Chapter 3 introduces Templates. These are part role-playing tips and part mechanical. If you remember the old 2nd Ed Kits these remind me of those, or the Backgrounds in newer games. Several are presented for all classes, new and old. Each character gets Proficiencies and Starting Equipment. It's a really fun idea.

Chapter 4 is an interesting one. It is a custom class creation tool. I have not seen how it compares with similar systems I have seen on the net or in Dragon. I know that the classes in this book were "Verified" with it, so it at least has ACKS internal consistency.

Chapter 5 is Spells. There is a section on magic experimentation and mishaps. Really fun stuff to be honest. Also a section on creating new spells. This is from the same school of thought on the Class Creation. in theory you should be able to check on any spell in the book and get the same numbers.
This followed by the Spell lists. Spells are listed by type and level then the descriptions are alphabetical by name. There is about 38 pages of spells here.

Chapter 6 covers Supplemental Rules. Things like Aging and various equipment.
There is a hyperlinked index and two more for spells and powers.

Utility for other Old School Games
Well the classes can be ported over outright for the most part. The Proficiencies and Templates are a nice addition to any game even if you ignore the mechanics and use them only as role-playing guides.
I am not sure if the Class Creation guidelines will work outside of ACKS or not. My feeling is that they will with some tweaking. Same with the Spells sections. Chapter 6 should be fine for any game.

Witches, Warlocks & Priestesses
The witch is why I picked this book up. The other classes (like the Anti-Paladin and Paladin) also deserve a lot of attention, but the witch is what I am most interested in.
There are three (four if we throw in the shaman, or even five if we count the Elven Enchanter) classes that fit the witch archetype. The Priestess is a female cleric dedicated to what we normally call Mystery Religions. They honor a Goddess for example. Now in other games this would just be another type of cleric, or a cleric with role-playing notes. To me it actually seems weaker than the regular cleric. The Warlock is stereotypical "Evil" warlock and that works well here really. But the real utility for me is when you compare the Warlock to the Witch.
The Warlock is an arcane caster and the Witch is a divine one. So depending on what sort of archetype you want to build you can choose a witch or a warlock. This is a dichotomy that I have also used in the past and it works out well. You can even rule in your games that witches and warlocks were once one class that split or two classes with similar methods or not even related at all.
Witches are most similar to my own. Witches in ACKS:PC also have Traditions. The Traditions here are Antiquarian (a classic witch), Chthonic (dedicated to dark gods), Sylvan (woodland and faerie) and Voudon (voodoo or even Shaman-like). You can adapt these traditions to work with my book or my trads to work with ACKS. I should post a conversion guide between the traditions sometime.
Spells of course a completely cross compatible.

The Book Itself
The layout is top notch and this is a good looking book. It will be attractive as all heck in dead tree format, but the PDF is no lesser product. The index is hyperlinked to pages and it is fully bookmarked.
The art is great and I especially enjoyed the "character" art of Chapter 2. The art changes by Chapter 5 to some commercially available art, which is not a bad thing, but the style is different for the later half of the book.

Who Should Buy this Book?
For the first audience, players and game masters of ACKS, this is a no-brainer, you should get this. There is enough here to make this purchase worthwhile even if you only use parts of it.
If you are a fan of B/X clones and top your games off at level 14 then this is also a good buy. Also the class creation and spell creation engines are worth the price if you like to experiment with your games.
If you play other retro-clones or other versions of the Grand Old Game, then there are still some things here you will find useful.
At 10 bucks for the PDF this is a pretty good deal.

I have more detail on this book at my blog as well.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/02/review-acks-playe-
rs-companion.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ACKS Player's Companion
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D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2013 07:32:12
This was the 1981 followup to the D&D Basic set. Designed for the Moldvay Basic there was even a little bit about what to do if you had the Holmes Basic.

This expanded the game to level 14 and for most of us it was all we needed for a very long time.
I loved the introduction of all the new undead like Vampires and Spectres (was a big horror fan even then) and that little map of the Known World. I starred at that map for hours, learning lands and names of places far off and never were.
Plus all the new spells! The options of spells for my cleric and magic-users were beyond my 11-year old brain's reckoning at the time.

At 5 bucks this is a criminal steal. I wore my old copy of my expert book out, now I have a PDF to go back too anytime I like. Combine it with the Basic book and some adventures and you are set. Everything you need to play D&D just like the good old days. No skills, no feats, no attacks of opportunity, but plenty of flexibility and action.

I love newer games, but this is the one. The one that keeps me coming back. Back to the Keep, back to Glantri and back to D&D.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
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Barbarians of Lemuria (Legendary Edition)
Publisher: Beyond Belief Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/28/2013 22:03:44
I had the chance to pick up Barbarians of Lemuria: Legendary Edition recently and I have to admit I was quite pleased. The game was not at all what I expected it to be. Well...the setting and the tone was, the mechanics were not. This is the best combination really.

Ok, so tone. Barbarians of Lemuria is what I expected in that it is a fantasy game of mighty barbarians, evil warlocks, sly thieves and semi-naked women. Very much the stereotype of the Pulp Age of fantasy I expected it to be. Except it plays it with an honesty and earnestness that I really want to play a big, dumb barbarian with might thews and a giant axe.

The game is full of sorts of great background that I could adapt it to any old-school fantasy game with no issues and run with it. I mean honestly look at the cover. Barbarian standing in a pit surrounded by vaguely eldritch horrors as a tribal shaman gorilla prepares to sacrifice a slave girl. If you think the next scene is the girl's spilled blood and horrors unleashed over the land, then go play a horror game. If you think the next scene is that sword cleaving through the bodies of the horrors and the barbarian killing the shaman and saving the girl. Then this is the game you want.

The system I have to admit took me aback, in a good way.
I was expecting another OGL-based or D&D-clone, but instead we get a very nice, very simple system. Character creation is all point-buy, and not dozens of points, but 4. The real joy here is being able to create a character is minutes and get going.

The underlying mechanic is a simple 2d6+mods vs target number of 9. This makes it very, very similar to Unisystem and also to Spellcraft & Swordplay. I suppose that if you wanted a more flat game then you could use a d12. But d6s are great and they give us boons and flaws. Boons and Flaws are a neat mechanic. In either case you roll 3d6 instead of 2d6. If you have a boon, drop the lowest d6. If you have a flaw, drop the highest. Each character gets a boon or two boons and a flaw.

There is plenty for everyone to do in combat since fighting style can vary. I like that the emphasis here is that everyone has a chance to be the hero. Sure you might be a lowly thief or slave, but you still have something to contribute.

The careers are nice touch and helps give your character some background on what they were or did, or what they can do now. Frankly I enjoy how it is all put together.

The art is good, not up to the level one expects from say Pathfinder, but perfect for the tone and the feel of this game. And I liked it, so that is great for me.

The magic system is very open and reminds me a lot of magic from the time period. These are sorcerers that gained their power through evil pacts or forbidden knowledge. There are no Hogwarts grads here.

It really is a lot of fun and the rules-lightness of it is a huge benefit.
Even if I didn't like the rules I could use this for my own fantasy games since the background information is so great.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barbarians of Lemuria (Legendary Edition)
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Darkisle Stock Art #2: Tree-Cloaked Mysteries
Publisher: DRAKAT Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2013 07:26:58
Grabbed this one on a whim. It was only 75 cents and had 5 hi-res images.

The images are photos that have been pixilated to appear like paintings. Great for some background shot or even a visual aid in any sort of game.
They are royalty free, so that is also a bonus.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Darkisle Stock Art #2: Tree-Cloaked Mysteries
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Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (3e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2013 06:58:26
The 3rd edition update to the classic Gygax intro adventure.

Return to the The Temple of Elemental Evil has a new generation of characters returning to the Village of Hommlet (where time seems to have stood still) to investigate the new uprising of evil.
Designed obviously to appear to adults who were kids when the original T1 and ToEE came out, it looses none of it's appeal.

Regardless what version of the game you play, if you ever played the original ToEE then pick this up.
If you have never played or run the original, but are a fan of the 3rd game, then certainly pick this up.

This is one of those adventures that should be republished for every edition of D&D. Great to start with and run some 1st level characters through but dangerous enough to merit coming back to at a later time.

Besides who doesn't want to go up against ultimate evil, stare in into it's ugly face and say "come get some!"

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (3e)
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Basic Turn Tracker
Publisher: Lee's Lists
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2013 06:42:42
Clever little device with icons for keeping track of your Basic Era turns.
If you are an old pro at B/X D&D you might not need it, but if you are new or haven't played this version of D&D in a while then it is a great tool.

Plus it has a nice Old-School vibe about it. Back in 81 all the coolest stuff was DIY and this captures that feeling nicely.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Basic Turn Tracker
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H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 14:47:32
The first module of the great Orcus/Raven Queen campaign for 4e. The module itself tries to harken back to another Keep; The Keep on the Borderlands, but the feel here is very, very different. There is a lot more going on and it can feel very combat heavy and even a touch predictable. But that is fine for a 1st adventure. Everyone is still too busy figuring out moves and markingins and surges to worry whether or not rumor X or rumor Y turns out to be true.
The big feature of this module though is also the quick start play rules. There is lot here that can help the new 4e player and DM. So it you are at all curious about 4e then give this one a look.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
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D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 14:35:14
If you are like me then this is it. THIS is what D&D was. Sure I had read a friends Holmes/Blue-book Basic set and I knew of AD&D through the Monster Manual. But this is the D&D book that started it all for me. This is the one that set fire to my imagination.

This is a complete set of rules. Character creation through to 3rd level. Monsters, treasures, dungeons. Everything that ever was or will be D&D had it's start right here (more or less). Honestly this book is not worth 5 stars here. It is worth 6 out of 5.

I almost would say that if I could only play one version of D&D ever, then this might be the one. It lacks the complexity of AD&D or 3e, but anymore I see this as a feature.

64 pages plus cover. Marbleized dice and crayon not included.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
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D&D RPG Starter Set "Quickstart" (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 14:28:03
Everything you need to start playing D&D 4e except for people, dice and some monsters.

You have heard a lot about this game to be sure, but the proof is always in the playing. At the incredibly low price of Nothing you can see how the most current version of D&D (as of this writing) plays.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D&D RPG Starter Set "Quickstart" (4e)
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