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Publisher: One Monk Miniatures
by RAISTLIN W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/20/2008 09:56:55

An extremely useful set of paper miniatures in any fantasy setting.

You get three files with essentially the same images. The main file is one page of full-color, nicely shaded thief/ranger types with one bow and one sword each, as well as miscellaneous "cololr" equipment. They are all male; nine are Caucasian and one is African. There is enough variety for players to be able to say "I'm shooting at the (whatever) one" and be easily understood.

The secondary file contains the same images without color, so you can produce thieves and rangers with differently colored cloaks (VERY useful for large battles, or for Robin Hood type settings where multiple players will be fielding these types of characters).

The third file is a .GIF of the same uncolored images (the other files are .PDFs). I had a little trouble with this one, as the results just weren't as good as when I used the .PDFs. Since it's the same images, though, that didn't matter -- I ended up producing my own .PNG version of the images with screencapping.

The last file contains matching slot-bases for these figures. One Monk has either the best or the second-best paper miniature bases I've seen, depending on your point of view. It's a toss-up. WorldWorks bases can slide miniatures in and out easier, but come in a LOT less variety and cost money. One Monk bases work best when you glue the figure in, I've found, but you can get any kind of floor (not just dirt, cobblestone and wood, but multiple choices of indoor and high-tech flooring) and, best of all, One Monk bases are FREE on their website.

It's true that all of these figures are identically armed, and with a weapon combination good for wargaming but not terribly likely in RPG settings. While the double-sided images make it hard to remove the bow in the graphic, once you've printed them out and assembled them the bows can be removed in seconds, leaving a realistic-looking clenched fist.

All in all a very useful set. It'd be nice to see female thieves and rangers at some point, but that's a future-product-request issue, not a problem with this product.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Amber
Publisher: Diceless by Design
by RAISTLIN W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/20/2008 09:19:58

This review assumes you are familiar with Roger Zelazny's "Amber" novels. If you're not, don't bother -- the rulebook assumes you've read at least the first five books (the Corwin arc) and is nigh-incomprehensible if you haven't.

An absolute tour de force, one of the most innovative RPGs ever created. Re-creating the ultra-powered Amber universe, where player characters can essentially create planets of worshippers in a matter of minutes and destroy universes on a whim, would be impossible in the standard wargame-based RPG setting. (Witness the Dragonball Z RPG, a valiant attempt at not-quite-as-powerful characters that ends up an algebra textbook.) By using a minimalist rules structure and ranking PCs against each other instead of on a concrete scale, Amber RPG manages the task abstractly.

PCs are built on a certain number of points; they bid these points against one another in auctions to purchase their basic attributes, then go on to use the leftover points to buy powers, strongholds, and artifacts. (Lesser magical items and allies can be created on the fly.) Players have the option of overspending, which will produce a dark character plagued by ill luck, or understpending, which will produce a more likeable character smiled upon by fortune.

The powers and abilities on offer are mostly very flexible. Sorcery is a pain in the butt (but, then, the characters in the novels also whined about its complexity), but the universe-spanning powers Pattern, Logrus, Trump and Shapechanging can all be used as the basis for strong characters. Since most of what a power actually DOES is up to player creativity, duels between characters end up resolved most often not by raw point expenditure but by a combination of planning and tactics.

A wealth of GM information is also provided, including all of the characters from the first five novels (with multiple interpretations of each, yet, including evil interpretations of heroes and neutral views of villains). There are pages and pages of advice on helping players develop great characters, constructing a campaign (including Amber-like universes using Zelazny's core concept but none of his worldbuilding), controlling basically uncontrollable PCs, and adapting the rules to your own tastes.

All in all, this is about everything you could want from an Amber RPG (except, well, any coverage whatsoever of the Merlin books, but that's why they published the Shadow Knight sourcebook).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Amber
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The Mutant Experience
Publisher: Mongoose
by RAISTLIN W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/11/2008 08:05:23

This book essentially comes in three sections: a collection of new mutant powers of various types, a toolkit for allowing GMs to determine the status of and attitude towards mutants in Alpha Complex ... and a lot of junk.

Unlike most Paranoia books, this isn't much good for pleasure reading. It's primarily a reference book.

Essentially that's it. If you want more mutant powers in your game, this book will provide them. "Paranoia Straight" GMs, particularly, may be interested in some of the alternate Alpha Complexes and how they treat their mutants. I didn't find anything in here that got me particularly excited, but I don't feel my money was wasted either.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Mutant Experience
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The Centauri Republic Fact book
Publisher: Mongoose
by RAISTLIN W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/11/2008 08:01:52

Priceless, not just for those playing Babylon 5 per se but for anyone playing in a sci-fi game that could use a "Centauri-like" expansionist race or some nice prestige classes. This book covers psychology, physiology, culture, practices, hardware and ordnance, and really makes the Centauri into more than just the "Romans with the serial numbers filed off" that they're usually portrayed as.

The only complaint I have is something common to ALL of the B5 fact books: the wasting of massive amounts of space producing non-canon maps for every single inhabited planet in the empire. Honestly, while having the writeups of the worlds is useful, the "view from orbit" map is pointless (and looks randomly generated).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Centauri Republic Fact book
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All-Purpose Miniatures Rules
Publisher: Avalon Game Company
by RAISTLIN W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/11/2008 07:57:09

These don't actually work for ALL purposes; rather, they provide a decent rules framework for squad-based skirmish games, large engagements, and epic engagements. If you're looking for something that can handle RPG-like framework for simulating Star Trek / Doctor Who "heroes and redshirts" objective-based engagements, Fantastic Worlds is fast and flexible and available for only slightly more.

On the other hand, if you're just looking for a way to use your entire miniatures collection for wargaming, this is not at all a bad way to go. A bit beer-and-pretzels, but fun.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
All-Purpose Miniatures Rules
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Xcrawl Core Rulebook
Publisher: Goodman Games
by RAISTLIN W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/21/2007 20:50:33

I was honestly not expecting much from this product -- the basic idea, showing dungeon crawling as a professional sport, is cute but could be fully explored in a much smaller, cheaper book. Just adding the higher level spells to the d20 Modern rulebook would be able to handle it.

I was very pleasantly surprised. There are a couple of (useless) prestige classes, a rather silly system for generating a "nested" GM within the game, and some good new items and spells. Surprisingly, though, the meat of the book is a full-fledged setting, a differently-imagined dystopian America ruled by Emperor Ronald Reagan and dominated by clergy of the Roman Gods.

Xcrawl itself isn't the most interesting feature of the setting, but it's a great excuse for getting PCs up to a decent level before involving them in the real meat of the setting -- the intrigue in the Leagues, how they can use their celebrity to change the world around them, and how they interact with the lunatic populace and government.

The oversimplicity of the idea they're selling the book on should be chalked up to the marketers. The writers and designers did a crackerjack job creating an innovative "fantasy modern America" well worth exploring.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Xcrawl Core Rulebook
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Glantri: Kingdom of Magic (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/29/2006 00:00:00

One of the best books for one of TSR's most creative settings. Glantri is a functional magocracy, ruled by a noble class of powerful wizards and the secret crafts into which they have been initiated. It is something akin to Renaissance Italy, full of intrigues, warring factions, and surprising alliances; PCs can easily fit into this world as apprentice wizards at the Great School of Magic, allies, enemies, or minions of the various Princes, or as Princes and Princesses themselves for a fascinating high-level campaign.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: While the majority of the book is taken up by the Princes' intrigues and detailed character descriptions, there is more than enough basic information on the operation of the Principalities to make Glantri a living, breathing city with little additional effort on the DM's part. The characters and the setting are both fascinating, and the culture is refreshingly different from the others in Mystara.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The scan is ... not the greatest. There's an upside-down page, the maps are chopped up and useless, and the contrast is a little bit off, making an already colorful graphic design look unpleasantly garish. The adventure is no great shakes, but it was okay -- unfortunately, the adventure included an accompanying compact disc of sound and dialogue that is NOT included with this purchase. Without the disc the adventure goes from adequate to pointless.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Glantri: Kingdom of Magic (2e)
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Disposable Heroes: Western Set 1
Publisher: Precis Intermedia
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/02/2006 00:00:00

A neat system; the download contains instructions only, and you go to PIG's website to receive the actual product. The menu will display all of the miniatures with checkboxes; on your first trip you select Print All, and subsequently can go back and print sheets of single miniatures or a small assortment, pre-numbered so you can tell them apart.

How do they compare to Pinnacle's Cardstock Cowboys? Well, there's slightly less variety, but the ability to print full pages of any one miniature without messing around with graphic fonts is a good one. Cardstock Cowboys give you a greater variety of different choices for each character type, but you're paying for a lot of Deadlands-specific stuff and the pages aren't customizable.

In the end, I would say that if you are running a Western RPG you want the Cardstock Cowboys, so your players have a better chance of finding distinctive pieces to represent themselves. But for a minis game, definitely go with the Disposable Heroes for their printing flexibility.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: The artwork looks unimpressive on the website. Be patient and download the actual miniatures; they look like Disney cowboys, very well-drawn and realistic but still cartoony. They're perfect for any but the most grim Western games.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: It's not a huge disadvantage, but you have to be online to get customized miniatures pages. That's slightly inconvenient. More to the point, though, it's a relatively small set without that much variety. You have one or two of each cowboy archetype and that's it.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Disposable Heroes: Western Set 1
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for your feedback, but you misunderstand the purpose of this set - it is a western set, not a cowboy set. There is more to the west than just cowboys, and you're paying half the price of the Pinnacle products.
Faction War (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/01/2006 00:00:00

Faction War is the ending adventure for the Planescape setting, and was thus intended to wrap up all of the setting's loose ends once and for all. Planescape never really had a real metaplot -- though they sure tried with the last series of products -- but for what it's worth, here's how it ends.

The plotline is that one of the biggest villains in the setting finally decides to make his move, and step one is stirring Sigil up into a huge war between the factions. He should be easily stoppable, but all the characters who could do so seem to disappear or are "laying low" during the adventure so it's up to the PCs.

The product consists of a series of loosely related adventures that involve the players going to various places to witness NPCs doing things. It's a lot like a White Wolf adventure in that way.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The backstory is actually pretty interesting, and this adventure would have made an interesting novel. Unfortunately, as the book even admits itself, there's no way the PCs will ever find out what's really going on; most of the events that take place are deeply ironic in one way or another, but the players are never let in on the joke. Still, it's quite a good joke in the end.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: There's really nothing here. The previous products (Great Modron March and Dead Gods) have all been leading up to this, and it's underwhelming ... just a couple of routine missions set in a war-torn Sigil, a grand finale no one but the DM can appreciate, and no real way to influence the outcome. It's sad that such a vibrant and creative setting had to end in such an uninvolving way.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Disappointing<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Disappointed<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
Faction War (2e)
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Players Handbook (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/07/2006 00:00:00

The First Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was flawed in many ways -- overcomplex, inflexible, too focused on minutiae and too "boardgamey" -- but it was many people's first gaming experience. This makes it more than a simple historical curiosity; it's an artifact.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: It's a faithful scan that offers half of everything you need to begin playing Dungeons and Dragons (you will also need the Dungeon Master's Guide or a Gamemaster Screen for some vital charts and tables, and a Monster Manual is highly recommended).<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: There were no real "bells and whistles" -- it would have been nice to have a choice of covers, for example.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Players Handbook (1e)
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Monstrous Compendium - Planescape Appendix II
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/06/2005 00:00:00

The second Planescape Monstrous Compendium fills in a lot of holes, providing useful descriptions of some Upper and Conflict Plane critters instead of focusing on the Lower. It provides a few more useful sects for good NPC encounters, but a few more "unthinking brute" type monsters than we really needed.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The encounters and creatures in here are weird enough, and the Upper Planar NPC races interesting enough, to get $5 worth of value out of it.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: It's good, but it's not indispensible. Skim the page on aasimar, and the rest of the book is painfully optional.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monstrous Compendium - Planescape Appendix II
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A Guide to the Ethereal Plane (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/06/2005 00:00:00

The Guide to the Ethereal Plane is, in the vein of the Inner Planes and Astral guidebooks, a basic outline of the environment of the plane with advice on running adventures there. It includes a variety of encounters and adventure ideas, and basically just integrates everything previously said about the plane between two covers.

Overall, the book is less useful all the way through than the others are, because it's geared more towards gathering up info and providing specific adventure outlines than in being a general resource. I'm just not sure there's enough to say about the Ethereal to fill a book, so I'm willing to be a bit generous.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The conceptual information on the plane was very good, and I liked how PCs can now use willpower to shape the very stuff of the plane. (It's dumb, though, how once again everyone is expected to waste a proficiency slot on a plane-specific ability -- do they realize how few proficiency slots characters actually get?)<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Too much of the book, especially the encounter lists, is ripped off from other books in the series. Places like Maelost that have already been exhaustively described once don't need it again, and we don't need intricate descriptions of monsters straight out of Monstrous Compendium III. Also, they repeat the error of the Demiplane of Imprisonment being a separate area. The sections on the Prime are also unhelpful; in particular, Krynn's includes the metaplot from Dragonlance Fifth Age, which isn't even the same RPG.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Guide to the Ethereal Plane (2e)
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Uncaged: Faces of Sigil (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2005 00:00:00

While it's demonstrably not NECESSARY, being after all just a book of detailed NPC descriptions, Uncaged is a great tool for Planescape DMs. The NPCs here include common shopkeepers, lawyers, researchers, street performers, spies and turncoats, and criminal overlords.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: It's not so much that this is a vital book because you need to know about these characters; rather, the biographies, descriptions, and interlocking relationships give you a better idea of how Sigil works and how to create your own intrigues and conspiracies. If you do use the NPCs as written, their tricks and plots are a terrific source for adventures -- this is one of the first books I turn to when I get stuck for ideas.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: One or two of the NPCs are a bit too typical of their kind (the shator and the modron especially), though it's more than balanced out by some of the seriously out-there entries.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Uncaged: Faces of Sigil (2e)
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The Great Modron March (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2005 00:00:00

The basic idea here is that, once every 300 years, the modrons march an army through all of the other planes for no apparent reason. Most get killed off but a few make it back to Mechanus; no one knows why they do it. This time, though, they're marching off schedule for no apparent reason, and behaving oddly to boot.

This is far from being an exceptional adventure pack -- in fact, it's close to unusable. The adventures involved are all tied together and occur in sequence, but with wide gaps of time between them; nevertheless, each one is consecutive in its level requirements. This is basically your campaign if you run it. The book's no good as a sourcebook; this Modron March is so weird that even what little general info you get isn't applicable unless you use the full background.

If you want a coherent campaign with more creativity and better writing, get Tales from the Infinite Staircase. If you want a combat-centered campaign that shakes the multiverse but actually makes sense, get Hellbound: The Blood War.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The second scenario is completely playable and a lot of fun, although it makes the modrons into out-and-out villains. This is a problem, because most of the remaining scenarios are about helping them. It also actually gives (good-aligned) PCs reasons to participate in the story.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: In the rest of the scenarios are often blatantly coercive or just assume the PCs will accept missions with little motivation; there is no troubleshooting advice if they don't, just "if they don't take the job, there's no adventure." The scenarios repeatedly contradict each other about the basic way the March works and the conditions involved. Two scenarios are just nonstop combat; there are NPCs to talk to, but nothing to accomplish by doing so. Another scenario requires the PCs to seek vengeance for the death of an amazingly annoying NPC. The writing is poor and unusually gory, even for Planescape; only Hellbound was more bloody-minded, and it made SENSE there.

What's more, this is a metaplot adventure, which permanently changes the universe -- if you want to keep using later Planescape adventures, you have to either run this or assume that it happened in the background. In addition, this adventure never even tells the DUNGEON MASTER the reason for the premature March; you're expected to buy the next module in the series to find out!<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Poor<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Disappointed<br>



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Great Modron March (2e)
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Tales from the Infinite Staircase (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Raistlin W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2005 00:00:00

Without a doubt, one of the top three best adventure products TSR ever put out. A great new threat to the multiverse as a whole has arisen, one that threatens life on the planes in a way the players have probably never considered. As the PCs see what's going on and try to figure out how to stop it, they find themselves at odds with panicked planars, opposing groups, an evil plot and several of the Big Secrets of the Planescape universe. It's an epochal adventure, with plenty of big fights, clever puzzles and desperate negotiations.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: All packaged adventures need tailoring, but this is the only TSR adventure I've ever seen that doesn't need huge sections reworked. There is some serious playing with the PCs' minds going on, too, and that touch of surreality that distinguishes Planescape from most of TSR's other settings.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: In order to even understand what's going on at all the players are going to have to have a deep familiarity with the Planescape cosmology. Despite the low party level required, this is an adventure for experienced parties ONLY.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Infinite Staircase (2e)
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