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Prototype: Vivisectionist
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/28/2013 07:48:51
The vivisectionist is a mad scientist who alters existing life. They are evil, cruel and apparently have no sense of esthetics. The file has the class and a few feats, some of which were later incorporated into Megafeats.

I has high hopes for this file but found it extremely lacking. In the description there is mention of human/animal hybrids, cloned dinosaurs and cyborgs. So let's see how these creatures can be created.

Hybrids come about from the Breeder feat. This is a decent feat that makes making hybrids easy. My problem is it requires Handle Animal as the core skill. Handle Animal isn't a skill that works well with humanoids or other intelligent creatures. The feat works on all the monster types except constructs, elementals, oozes, outsiders, plants and undead. I understand most of those, but genasi prove elementals can breed with mortals, outsiders have many offspring with mortals and plants and oozes are alive and can be used to make hybrids with the right templates. There is another feat that allows the character to make hybrids with constructs and undead. Say what?

Cloned dinosaurs and cyborgs are completely absent. There is a loss of 3 stars right there. You may want to consider construct hybrids to be cyborgs, but there is nothing to indicate that nor any special rules for them.

Back to the class. Its class features allow it to beat the crap out of people and creatures to dominate them. These features provide bonuses to Handle Animal and Intimidate checks. The more advanced feature involves actual damage to increase the bonus. The vivsectionist can also bind people and creatures well (something I don't see as a solitary feature of a specific level), looks terrifying when covered in gore and can perform surgery on themselves, gaining an Extraordinary ability. It would be interesting to see a vivisectionist graft, eyes, bones, skin, hands, etc. on to (or into) themself. Meh to the whole thing. There are much better versions of monster makers out there. Loss of another star.

As for the feats, there are seven. Four relate to breeding monsters and the other three relate to bonuses to various skills (some important to the vivisectionist and some not). I think the Technocrat feat has a huge typo as the recipient skills of the bonus are unlisted.

Overall it is just terrible. The only worthwhile material was added to Megafeats (three of the four breeder feats). Everything else is junk. Even though Moreau and Darwin are mentioned in the description, neither are well represented here.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Prototype: Vivisectionist
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The Complete Guide to Genetic Engineering and Mutations
Publisher: DemOniX LLC.
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/14/2012 07:43:52
The rules are simplistic, the majority of mutations unrealistic and improperly taken from other sources. There is no list of illustrators, editor(s), copywrite information, designation of open content or listed sources in the section 15 of the licence.

There are much better sources out there for this information. Without a doubt, I wasted my money.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete Guide to Genetic Engineering and Mutations
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Microscope
Publisher: Lame Mage Productions
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/23/2011 07:04:37
It is the journey, not the destination. (Ironically I was watching the last few episodes of Stargate Universe when deciding to buy this)

Microscope from Lame Mage is a game about history. There are no player characters (per se), no levels, no stats. There are only players and the author suggests 3-4 (with 2 and 5 as the absolute limits). The players create a world by picking start and end points (or bookends) to the history and then filling in things between in the form of Periods, Events and Scenes. With most scene construction, the players do roleplay characters. There are several rules for keeping things on track like focuses. Eh, how about I show how it is done to make this easier:

There are three players A, B and C. They are creating a history of an expansion and colonization phase within a galactic civilization. A is the lens, the player who selects the focus. The focus means the other players have to keep to that theme while A is the lens (and in this case it is about one planet that will be colonized). The players design Periods, Events and Scenes going A to B to C. If B want to create a Scene (say about the first plague that hits the colony), then the order is reversed for the roleplaying (B, A and then C). As soon as C is finished with designing his addition, B becomes the lens (the theme may stay the same or change, say the third plague and assistance from a nearby station that will lose its entire population to the disease) and the whole process starts again. It is actually a bit more complex than that as the lens can make two nested actions (create a Period and Event or Event and Scene), one player in a Scene can select a group of people that drive the action (called Time) and just because one player mentions a Scene within an Event doesn't mean that the other players can look at the scene from different eras and viewpoints. And players work off of each other, not with each other (ie they don't share ideas or coach each other, they do their own thing and the rules help them mesh it altogether).

The station I mentioned dying off is called nuking Atlantis in the game. You can create and destroy anything as long as it doesn't contradict previous material the players have produce. And it doesn't matter because the station still exists in the game. The players may want to look at it at an earlier point and can do so at any point within the accepted bookends (or go forward with scavengers or new owners, but that isn't within the theme of nuking Atlantis).

What makes Microscope so interesting is the end is known, the game is all about how everyone and thing got there. The microscope itself is how players can zoom in and out of the history and move all over the place. Players who love their dice and characters might find it weird, but the rules are so basic that anyone can learn it easily (it isn't Aria). Just replace dice with index cards.

I have to say that I haven't read a game that has interested me this much in many years. It is basic yet so powerful. And the best thing is that it can be intertwined with another game. The players can help create a setting and fill in blanks their characters leave within pretty much any other game. I was thinking of a Mutant Future game where the players decide on what the cataclysm was and help shape events that lead up to the campaign. It doesn't matter that they know the ending because there is so many details within the setting that can be filled out by their hand.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Microscope
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Legends Of High Fantasy
Publisher: Distant Horizons Games company
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/14/2011 07:36:17
Like the other books from Distant Horizon, LHF modifies, or replaces, the standard d20 rules. In this case it is for a setting but everything can be adapted, or used whole cloth, for your use. It starts with character motivations, backgrounds that provides minor bonuses and variant races.

The second chapter is where the meat of the book begins. Variant classes that can be signifincantly different from those in the SRD. The cleric, ranger and wizard are almost completely rewritten, the paladin is no longer a class but rather a calling in life with a divine boost, the monk is no longer a class but rather traditions that other classes can use and the fighter gets a boost. Clerics are not warrior priests and cast spontaneous spells. Rangers get (multiple) totem spirits that modify their spell list. Wizards have to spend cash each time they cast a spell and magic can have minor side effects.

Then there are three prestige classes. Dark Disciples gain power from lower powers, Fey-Brethern ally with chaos (fey aren't remotely human in the setting), and Merrin Crusaders are human warriors far beyond the basic fighter.

The druid and sorcerer have the most significant changes. They have a d12 hit die because they need to burn hit points for casting spells. Their method of spellcasting is different from clerics and wizards. They have much more freeform magic in the form of spellweaves. These are catagories that contain spells with effects that aren't set in stone like those in the SRD. One example is those sorcerers who can tap positive divine sources via the Holy Magic, a spellweave that contains the spells armor of light, awesome wrath, benediction, exorcism, hearten, open the way, prophecy and white light. To cast a spell, the sorcerer picks one of the spells and then suggests an effect. The DM says yes or no and in either case, some damage is taken (i.e. trying to cast beyond one's ability causes damage). A druid spellweave, Water Magic, as animation, tide of blood, polar current and tincture of alchemy. This allows the creation of life as well as manipulating water in its various forms.

Spellweaving is an interesting way to allow freeform magic. It isn't truely freeform so many of the headaches that come from having such power simply don't come into play.

The fourth chapter (three is the spellweaves) describes feats and weapon and armor proficiencies (something added in the class variants). Starter feats must be taken at first level. They are powerful but come with drawbacks.

Skills make up the fifth chapter. Most are what you expect but there are a couple that are different. Warcraft replaces BAB and ritual magic allows for freeform magic that is limited in a completely different way from spellweaves. Where spellweaves are generally quick to cast (round or less), rituals can take minutes to a decade or more. They require resources and, for higher level effects, special items. In some ways these are similar to incantations from Unearthed Arcana (and Urban Arcana) but they have nothing like seeds. There are lots of rules, suggestions and examples, 9 pages in all.

The sixth chapter examines magic within society. The wealth level templates and charms and talisments were also placed in The Practical Enchanter but there is more to creating charms and talisments in this book. The chapter ends with talents (a much shorter version than that in The Practical Enchanter), a way of providing magical powers to all characters.

The seventh chapter is legal information.

This book is as well written as the others from DHG and provides a lot of variants that could be useful to you. To me, it sits next to their other books as a 5 star product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legends Of High Fantasy
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Gamma World PC Record Sheets
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/22/2007 00:00:00
I didn't know it was for the 1st or 2nd editions. It is simply 15 copies of the same sheet (both sides). Useful, but it would have been better if it was for the 3rd or 4th edition and broken up into sheets for PSH, mutant humans, mutant animals and mutant plants.

DISLIKED: There is a fair amount of wasted space on each sheet that can not be used since it is black.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Gamma World PC Record Sheets
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Natural Wonders - Fauna Book 1: Aquatic Animals
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/13/2007 00:00:00
I am very biased here as my main interest in life is invertebrates. But that said, this is a great product on organisms from the sea that have some use to PCs or society in general. It is very similar to their previous book on plants in layout and function.

If you have marine adventures, this could be of use to you.

I hope to see more that covers freshwater as well as various terrestrial biomes.


LIKED: Nice spread of species and useful materials.

DISLIKED: The NPC art seems filler to me.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Natural Wonders - Fauna Book 1: Aquatic Animals
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Publisher Reply:
Derek, Thank you for your comments. We currently have 4 more books planned in the Natural Wonders series and these will cover insects (more invertebrates for you!), birds, fish and sharks, and terrestrial animals. Insects are planned for the next book, which should be out in 2008. Thank you for your continued interest in our products. Geoff Habiger & Coy Kissee Tangent Games
The Bestiary: Predators
Publisher: Betabunny Publishing
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2007 00:00:00
An excellent work covering many different species. It isn't the stat blocks that make it so useful, but rather all the other information.

A must for those DMs who want realistic animals in their settings.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Bestiary: Predators
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Post-Apocalyptic Dispatch (#9): The Nest
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2007 00:00:00
I was hoping for an adventure I could use in non-Darwin's World settings. The absence of the stat block of the primary insectoid makes this impossible, though replacing them is rather easy.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Post-Apocalyptic Dispatch (#9): The Nest
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Displaced
Publisher: Phalanx Games Design
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2007 00:00:00
The other review covers the contents of the books in depth.

Even though I think this is a great product, I want to warn others what its core mission is. It is not Sliders or Stargate or anything with constant travel; it covers people and materials that make a one way trip to another time or world. And it does that very, very well.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Displaced
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Wounds, Bruises, and Blood: A Rules Option
Publisher: Ronin Arts
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2007 00:00:00
A simple, easy system for those who want to add a bit of realism to combat.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wounds, Bruises, and Blood: A Rules Option
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(vsm) Future Broken
Publisher: 93 Games Studio
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/31/2006 00:00:00
If you have vs Monsters and enjoy the feel of the setting, this product shares that. It isn't great, but it is good and does what it sets out to do- a futuristic setting on Earth where combat is common and PCs can be something beyond human (mutants and cyborgs in this case).

The only thing I disliked about it is the absence of a print friendly version.



QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
(vsm) Future Broken
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Publisher Reply:
This product now includes a printer friendly version. Thanks for the review they are always appreciated, how else can we improve without knowing what to improve on.
Future: 13 Gene Therapy Templates
Publisher: Ronin Arts
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/14/2006 00:00:00
This should be called 9 Gene Therapy Templates as 4 of them are from the Future SRD.

Of the 9 new templates, there is a nice mixture of animal based parahumans, enhanced transhumans meant for their careers and combat based alterations.

If anything, I wish there was a lot more.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Future: 13 Gene Therapy Templates
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TERRAFORMER 8 - Aquatic Xenomorphs
Publisher: Blue Devil Games
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/14/2006 00:00:00
I am not impressed with this product. Of the 8 given species, 1 is not a close analog of a Terran species. Of the rest there is 1 salamander, 1 frog, 1 toad, 1 sea slug, 1 jellyfish, 1 shrimp and a leech.

Hopefully the next product on xenoforms will be of aliens.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
TERRAFORMER 8 - Aquatic Xenomorphs
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Michael T. Desing's Army Ants RPG Third Edition
Publisher: Splintered Realms Publishing
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/14/2006 00:00:00
I own the second edition and there are many changes. The most important is the ruleset. Now people won't need 40 dice to work out a battle. The Basic Universal Game System (Bugs) is decent and usable. It still uses 6 siders, but now the number of successes are determined by dividing the result of each die by 3 and rounding down (ie there will be 0, 1 or 2 successes for each die).

Another other change is the GM section. Advice on different types of campaigns (it doesn't have to be all combat like the 2nd edition), rules on PC compounds (expensive, but having one's own hill is worth it), and a sample adventure.

The 2nd edition is 120 pages and this is 88. The major reduction is a loss of most of the other invertebrates such as termites and spiders. I find this a loss as they were some of the most interesting parts of the 2nd edition. What are left are written much more broadly as to allow the GM to make whatever he or she wants of a setting.

Even if you have owned a previous edition, I suggest this to you.

Also I hope the mentioned future supplements are released.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Michael T. Desing's Army Ants RPG Third Edition
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Ars Lingua
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/14/2006 00:00:00
If you want new feats, classes and spells relating to communication, this is a great resource.

Unfortunately, there is only 11 pages devoted to languages, writing, sign language, codes and such. And that is why I bought the product and the reason I consider it a 3 star product.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ars Lingua
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Publisher Reply:
Derek, Thank you for your feedback. 11 pages devoted to communication is certainly more than what the PHB currently gives us, but if you have suggestions for additional material please feel free to send us your ideas at comments@tangent-games.com. We might be able to include them in a revised version of Ars Lingua in the future. Geoff Habiger Tangent Games
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