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Spells of Vengeance
Publisher: Red Anvil Productions
by David P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/23/2006 00:00:00
Throw this one into the good in theory, not so good in practice slot. When a first level spell has a spell component that requires the tongue of a bard and ISN'T slapped with an evil descriptor, there is a problem. In fact, I had a problem with most of these spells. They had that feel of something thrown together at the game table and never actually playtested. In reality, most of these spells are cheesy and I can't think of a reason why a spellcaster would waste a spellslot to learn them. And some are so powerful that they could ruin a game (evil twin, which allows you to create basically a weaker version of a clone of another person without even having to know the person or have a personal effect from the person)

Another annoyance: all these spells apparently are known to a people called the Jeshatan, but there is never any explanation of who these people are or why they would feel the need to create these spells. Maybe if this was explained these spells would have some context.


LIKED: unfortunately, nothing

DISLIKED: spells just make no sense in actual gameplay. Unbalanced.

QUALITY: Disappointing

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Spells of Vengeance
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Trees of Fantasy
Publisher: Bards and Sages
by David P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2006 00:00:00
This product will have every elf player you know hugging you like you were a tree. There are 23 non-magical, non-treant trees designed for a fantasy world in this PDF. So what?s so exciting about trees? Plenty, when you examine this PDF. Each tree includes information on special properties, harvesting the wood, and effects the tree would potentially have on the world if use. The obvious benefits of some of these trees are in the making of weapons and armor. Armors, for example, that can offer fire resistance because they are made of Red Cypress, a tree that grows near lava. Or bracers that don?t really do anything for your armor class rating, but could save your life if your plate-mail warrior finds himself overboard.

But there are plenty of products that offer new weapons and armor. Where this PDF is different is in the practical uses of the trees. This product isn?t so much an alternative source of treasure or twinking, but something to help add a bit of character to your setting. So what happens when the party is in a town during the dry season, and the surrounding forest of everburn pine suddenly explodes? That feeling of gloom as they approach the evil vampire lord?s castle isn?t just dread, but evil coming off of the Death Yew trees surrounding them as well.

But people are gonna want new stuff, and this PDF delivers that as well. There are a lot of variant traps in this product, illustrating how the wood from the different trees can be employed to make even normal stuff more interesting (and dangerous). And some of the items are just too cool. Make hang gliders and wooden legs (there are even new skills for making and installing prosthetics and safely operating a hang glider!).

The product isn?t printer friendly, because the art is full color. On my monitor, though, it looks great and the illustrations do a great job of taking these fantasy tree ideas and making them seem real. Some bookmarks and some flesging out of the table of contents would have been helpful as well. But it's not that big of a deal.



LIKED: A great collection of trees to add a little variety to a campaign, and tons of new items to make tree huggers happy.

DISLIKED: no printer friendly version or bookmarks.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trees of Fantasy
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Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales
Publisher: Bards and Sages
by David P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2006 00:00:00
Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales does exactly what it promises to do. It gives DMs 12 ready-made, easy to use taverns already populated with cool NPCs and built in story hooks. I don?t think there?s a DM alive who hasn?t been stumped with trying to come up with a tavern on the fly when the players got to a town.

Each tavern has a stat block that covers everything from how many tables and chairs fit into the building to what?s on the menu to what kind of booze you can get. The patrons sections gives you information of important NPCs who frequent the establishment, complete with stats, and the general attitude of the typical patron. In fact, there are tons of ready made NPCs in this product, and there is even an index by CR so that you could use them on the fly if you needed quick antagonists. The majority of the NPCs are standard races, though there are a few notable exceptions (Feralas Nightsong the Drow, has somebody been playing too much WOW?). A couple of the generic NPCs (town guards, mercenaries, etc) are presented with multiple CR stats, but most only present one set of stats. Not a big deal, as since they for the most part use standard races and classes, they are easy to tweek up or down depending on the level of your party.

The mini-adventures included are a nice way to kill time between story arcs, or even if you are looking to run a one-shot game. And the multi-tavern quest that ends in a really cool boss fight involving?well?don?t wanna give it away, but it?s something the party won?t see coming.

The PDF also includes a handful of new items, most of which involve alchemy or cooking. OK, that sounds weird. But their cool items. And some of the quests even allow the party to learn how to make them.



LIKED: Tons of new NPCs and 12 original taverns that can fit just about anywhere.

DISLIKED: Would have liked the NPCs and adventures to have been scaled to different levels.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Havens: Tavern Tales
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101 Mundane Treasures
Publisher: Ronin Arts
by David P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2006 00:00:00
Do you have a fashion conscious player in your party? Do your adventurers prefer design named treasure to the store brand stuff? Are they willing to pay a bit more for an item that is made of designer materials? Then 101 Mundane Treasures is for you. I picked this up because, honestly, you can only roll on the random treasure table so many times before you get tired of mock eye patches and dragon shaped combs. Heck, one player actually has a box full of the damn combs. It?s become a running joke. Whenever it comes up she?ll ask what color dragon, and pretends to get excited when it is a color she doesn?t have.

The organization of the product is a bit weird. For example, demon hide is introduced on page 4. But additional information is added to a sidebar on page 6 (along with additional information for Glow Steel and Star metal). Yes, it?s supposed to be an ?alternative? information sidebar, but it?s the kind of thing that makes you go hunting for all the information.

I was a little disappointed in the selection of mundane armor. With the exception of the Dragon Helm, most of the pieces were normal, everyday armor pieces decorated with a few gems to increase their value and maybe some flourishes and designs. The clothing items proved much better, taking mundane pieces of clothing and using odd materials and such to get different effects. The jewelry items were very nice as well and were interesting. Definitely a nice change of pace over the typical sapphire ring or pearl necklace you?d normally throw in the treasure trove for variety.

I actually like this product a lot, as a DM, it?s sure to throw off the players. Based on the descriptions and the names of some of these items, I can see my spellcasters wasting their see magic and identify spells trying to determine what they do (since I?ll probably feel the need to through a false dweomer on some of them). But many of the items have no benefit other than a cool name and a high price tag. So DMs need to be careful about throwing them into treasure piles, as you could find yourself with a party with too much money after they sold everything.



LIKED: New items inspire a lot of new ideas to do stuff for my game, and it's something other than a dragon comb.

DISLIKED: Item prices can make a party to wealthy too quick if a DM isn't careful.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 Mundane Treasures
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17 Plants
Publisher: The Le Games
by David P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/25/2006 00:00:00
Well, I just got roped into running a game, and since everyone is playing elf tree-huggers I figured I should get me a few products to keep the nature lovers happy. This will definitely do the trick. Each entry includes information on how the plant can be harvested and the special properties it offers. Each plant is interesting and seems designed for a specific type of ecosystem, making the product useful in a wide variety of environments.

Unfortunately, the explanations aren?t really fleshed out well. The product alludes to a lot of stuff that can be done with the plants, but doesn?t really get much involved in the mechanics. So DMs need to read, understand, and plan a mechanic beforehand before using some of these plants.

I?m not sure how I feel about the art. A lot of it is real-life photos, which obviously don?t represent the fantasy plants. Others are medieval woodcuts. Others look like generic clip art. It makes for an awkward looking product.



LIKED: A lot of good material to use for a nature-geared game. Good price.

DISLIKED: Art doesn't do anything for the product, and the mechanics aren't fleshed out.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
17 Plants
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Soul's Requiem: Of Blood and Shadow
Publisher: Bards and Sages
by David P.
Date Added: 12/28/2005 00:00:00
Hmmm, this is one of the products that makes you wish you could split your ranking. The world presented in this comic is kind of a cross between the World of Darkness and a typical fantasy setting. While not related to any specific RPG, there are elements here that RPG fans will enjoy, and I can see the world being branched off into a campaign.

I found the storyline interesting, but the delivery was a bit off. The artwork was pretty simple, which is good, since I think sometimes some artist tend to get too creative. But there is also a lot of white space wasted, and it would have been a better presentation is the artist had done a better job of employing the space on each page instead of spreading it out so much. It's a 24 pg product, but probably could have been reduced to 18-20 with a better use of the page space.

The Shaddow are a type of psychic vampire, for lack of a better term. They feed off the souls of the Children of Light, who in turn feed off of a strange substance that materializes during the mist nights. This mana is used not only as food, but also as a source of energy (both mundane energy such as fire and magical energy). The main character is a half-shaddow, who fights against his dark nature to help the Children of Light. The plot is a classic one, with a few interesting twists along the way.

As the first of a promised series, I hope the artist spends a bit more time fleshing out the design more. If possible, I?d split my rank for this one, giving it a 4 out of 5 stars for story and concept, and a 3 for design.



LIKED: Cool story concept

DISLIKED: layout needs a bit of work

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Soul's Requiem: Of Blood and Shadow
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Complete Guide to Vampires
Publisher: Goodman Games
by David P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/28/2005 00:00:00
This is definately one of the better attempts to create a playable vampire. Using the standard vampire template as a base, the author scales the vampiric abilities so that they are dished out a little at a time over 8 levels. This allows a character to play a vampire without the ECL 8, but it still doesn't resolve the issue that at 8th level you still have a vampire PC that is twice as powerful as other 8th level characters. Some of the vampire races described in the book are very interesting, though I'm not sure how I feel about the inferno vampire. It sort of smacks of creating a fire-weilding vampire just for the sake of doing it, without a real logic as to why. Perhaps if the author had provided a more detailed logic, instead of a "it was a curse, no one knows why the first one survived" answer, I would be ok with it. Otherwise, the vampire races seem to make sense and allow for some flexibility when create vampire NPCs and PCs.

I also like the backstory provided as to why vampires exist. It is one of the better explanations used, and it makes a great deal of sense when trying to intergrate a vampire-based game into a fantasy setting. Vampires serve a function in the ecosystem, and a balanced vampire population is actually important to maintaining the balance between negative and positive energy. A cool concept.

I also liked the artwork in this book. Very gothic black and white line art is simple, yet does a nice job conveying the feel of the project.


LIKED: Additional flexibility and playability for vampires

DISLIKED: doesn't completely address the game balance issue of a vampire PC. But it is workable.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Complete Guide to Vampires
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Publisher Reply:
Here are comments from Mark Charke, the author: I was also troubled by the power gained by vampires. However the cost is 8 levels in a race that provides no additional hit dice. In playtesting the vampire weaknesses, once discovered, were crippling. The Inferno vampire was created to compliment the Sukko (cold) vampire and to answer the question; "What would happen if a vampire drank dragon's blood?" Vampires have often been depicted as becoming stronger for drinking the blood of certain creatures. (And yes, I admit a fondness for fire that also compelled me to create the vampire.) I hope that helps explain his origins. I wrote the book with the focus of making vampires more playable as player characters and continue to work on rules to better allow players to play monsters. Thank you for taking the time to review the Complete Guide to Vampires. If you wish to discuss the book further please contact Goodman Games or visit my web site (www.Charke.ca) to get in touch with me.
Kressmer's Bizarre Grimoire: Seven Spells of Mischief
Publisher: Silverthorne Games
by David P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/28/2005 00:00:00
If I was playing a bard or mischievous sorcerer, I would definately want these spells on my list...so long as I was staying in town. While they are definately cool and could add some amusement to a game, I don't think they would be on my character's regular spell list when it came time for dungeon crawls or similar situations. Better to use these as scrolls than placing them on your character's regular spell list.


LIKED: fun spell ideas

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kressmer's Bizarre Grimoire: Seven Spells of Mischief
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Poor Gamer's Almanac (November 2005)
Publisher: Alea Publishing Group
by David P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/28/2005 00:00:00
For a free product, this is a professional quality PDF. I am new to the whole PDF thing, so I have to say I am pleasantly surprised to see the effort that went into this product. Plenty of free, quality information, along with some great coupon deals.


LIKED: Can't argue with the price ;)

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Poor Gamer's Almanac (November 2005)
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