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Player Options: Ancient Wizard Magic
Publisher: Alea Publishing Group
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2009 07:48:40
One of the complaints I've read about that's used against the 4e GSL system, is that the wizard class got a serious reduction in power. Under the old 3.5e OGL system, a high level wizard was truly a force to be reckoned with, able to use an immense volume of powerful spells in displays of both destructive power and versatility. Under the 4e GSL, the number of wizard powers has reduced, and access to versatility is largely a function of rituals. Inside combat, though, you're limited to those handfuls of powers that are available to the class. Whether it is intentional or not, Alea Publishing's Player Options: Ancient Wizard Magic, offers a fairly neat way to enhance the character's versatility by using rituals to allow one to effectively gain an alternative power, thereby increasing the wizard's combat versatility.

Player Options: Ancient Wizard Magic is a short 18 page pdf product presenting new rules and mechanics for Ancient Magic Rituals and ancient magic in general. The product comes as a wonderfully presented pdf file, with some good, if perhaps a little suggestive, art, good writing, wonderful flavor and a bag full of new and interesting powers and mechanics. The writing and editing is top notch, as is the overall design and layout of the product. I suppose the only thing missing from the product is a summary table, something that's always a useful feature and allows one to quickly select those bits of information you're interested in. Bookmarks are also fairly limited. Overall, though, a professional effort from Alea Publishing Group.

This product introduces the concept of ancient wizard magic. Essentially magic has changed through the centuries of its use, and had become much less bonded to a particular wizard that it originally was. This bonding of magic to a wizard is the way ancient wizards used to cast their spells, and this product details how, through the use of rituals, more modern wizards can gain access to ancient magic. Ancient magic is by and large a means of using a ritual to replace an existing power with a slightly more powerful ancient wizard spell. The product provides plenty of flavor for each ritual and its associated power, along with useful and intriguing details of some powerful and respected ancient wizards.

Around forty new powers are introduced, and these cover pretty much all levels up to 30, different kinds of at-will, encounter and daily powers, as well as attack and utility powers. There's quite a lot to choose from, and while some powers fall into the rut of being very similar to other existing powers, there are some useful new rules and mechanics for these powers. One thing that can definitely be said about this product is that it brings something new to the gaming table, and something that's worthwhile looking at.

As mentioned earlier, while I'm not sure the concept was intended to be used this way, it does provide an avenue through which powers can be switched, even if only for a short while. I think that's a concept that can go a long way in the 4e GSL game, and can be played with and modified in a number of different ways to make it suit the game style of the group or the world the campaign setting is set in. This concept can go a long way beyond the use of ancient magic rituals, though the flavor there is fairly strong as well. I guess that's one of the things I liked about this product - these powers presented here don't only offer new mechanics, but also associated flavor. Having a wizard learn a new power is very different from having one learn the ancient power of a legendary wizard.

Overall, I think Ancient Wizard Magic is a splendid product. It introduces something new, creates plenty of scope for fiddling with the mechanics and expanding it, and does so with plenty of flavor and good presentation. This is one of the few products for the 4e GSL that really brings something new to the table that can be quite useful within the scope of the game. This could make rituals far more useful than they already are, and improve on the versatility of the wizard class (or other classes, should this concept be expanded). Player Options: Ancient Wizard Magic is well worth looking at for those wishing to expand the class or the influence of wizards and magic in their game. I'm really starting to like the Player Options series!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player Options: Ancient Wizard Magic
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The Hero's Bastard (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/30/2009 06:38:28
Everybody loves a good monster, and everybody loves a challenging and exciting battle where fortunes sway back and forth until through sheer brilliance the PCs finally prevail. And one of the beauties of RPGs in general is that there is infinite choice in battle - you can use a variety of tactics, you have a variety of combat and magical options, you have terrain to exploit and you can even run away. Essentially, a good battle and a good monster will allow you to dabble in all these aspects of combat, where each round is different from the last. I mention this because The Hero's Bastard deals with a new monster that effectively takes one of those listed options away - the option to run. When dealing with the The Hero's Bastard, or Morekareth, it's not fight or flight, but just fight. And that changes the ball game quite a bit.

The Hero's Bastard is a short 8 page pdf product presenting a new monster for the Pathfinder RPG. The product comes as a single pdf file, and is professionally presented with good art, front and back covers, extensive credits and a useful set of short bookmarks. The only thing this product lacks presentation-wise is a little bit more of an introduction than that offered by the back page and the advertising blurb. The product dives in immediately with the statistic block for the creature, leaving the organisation a little back to front. Writing and editing is good, and the mechanics look sound, even those sets of new mechanics that are offered for this beast. There's even an extensive list of statistics to use for various variant d20 rules, though the Summon Monster options looks considerably off target. Overall, I was pleased with the presentation - Rite Publishing have done an excellent job.

The Morekareth, or Hero's Bastard, is a powerful creature born of the blood of a fallen hero. The details of this are left unclear in the product, but the pdf does provide extensive background information, including descriptive text, background details, combat tactics, and general information on the creature and its ecology. The morekareth has a number of unique abilities, the more pertinent ones the ability to suppress healing and the ability to summon a creature to be adjacent to it. The combination of the two makes the morekareth quite a unique challenge, as there's no healing and no escaping. Now, admittedly, that's not everybody's cup of tea, as the creature is designed in a way to ensure that the battle is not a fair fight, but it should certainly make for an unique and deadly experience. It was disappointing to find, though, that despite this creature being unique and having unique abilities, it has a paltry Will save that any 1st level Wizard can have a go at. For a CR 12 creature, that's not really acceptable.

The morekareth is an interesting creature, but one that should probably be used with care. I think that for all the good design that's gone into it, there are a few flaws that are just to easy to exploit for the CR. Overall, I liked the monster, its description and details and even the story of its origin. Perhaps a few more details on how the origin actually came about would've been useful. Like most Pathfinder RPG product, this product can most likely be used in standard 3.5e OGL games as well. Good pdf, interesting monster, unique abilities, and good presentation.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Hero's Bastard (PFRPG)
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks so much to Peter Ingham for taking the time to review The Hero's Bastard, Must go now and work on a web enhancement that covers some of his suggested improvements. Steve Russell; Rite Publishing
Call to Arms: Gallant
Publisher: Crafty Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2009 08:12:34
It's not hard to argue that the d20 OGL revitalised much of the gaming market, and that plenty of quality systems derived from it saw the light of day and are still hugely popular, even after the release of the 4e GSL. One such game is Spycraft, from publisher Crafty Games, which contains a neat set of mechanics and innovations based on the OGL. Recently, however, Crafty Games has released Fantasy Craft, an OGL clone similar to other OGL based games like Pathfinder and Trailblazer. Fantasy Crafty utilizes much of the content that made Spycraft so successful, and creates a stunning OGL game that builds on the OGL in creating a neat and elegant d20 OGL game. This product, Call to Arms - Gallant, is one of several products in the Call to Arms series, each supporting the recently released Fantasy Crafty by providing new classes and associated game material.

This 6 page product comes with both a print and a screen version, and is very neatly and professionally presented. It includes an excellent cover, credits page and OGL page, leaving 3 pages of content to spice up your Fantasy Craft game with. The writing and mechanics are clear and well done, although there could've perhaps been a little more flavor and roleplaying advice associated with the class presentation. Overall, this is a splendid looking product that fits in nicely with other products released for Fantasy Craft.

The Gallant, much like the name suggests, is a social troubadour, a brave and noble warrior that lives the life of high society and knows how to play the system. In many ways, this class reminds me of the bard class, though more specific in that it requires some sort of noble and/or wealthy upbringing. The overall feel and flavor is one that should be quite familiar to most players - a dashing, thrill-seeking noble with society and finance on his or her side. As such, this concept offers not only good combat abilities, but also plenty of social abilities and skills for roleplaying. The class won't always fit into most campaigns, but will do exceeding well in others. I wonder if this isn't in a way an inherent flaw, as the class will either shine or it won't. There doesn't appear to be much of a middle ground here, something that is often associated with classes built on very specific concepts. The pdf does give several useful examples of where the class fits in, and these can guide players in deciding how best to approach this class.

Mechanically the class looks really good, with a well-balanced offering of abilities that will make the character fun to play in combat and social scenarios. It's the kind of extroverted class that always attempts to shine, with abilities like Victory Flourish and Famed Blade enhancing combat ability temporarily in any scene to give the Gallant the chance to show his mettle. While the class may seem quite specific, on paper it looks quite enticing if you like that dashing noble concept, and I have to admit I've not seen something in standard 3.5e OGL that can compare in flare and mechanical execution based on this concept. For that Crafty Games have done really well. To add support to the class, several new feats are presented, mainly focused on the Sword-Circle combat feat and upgrades.

I really liked this product. For all it's specificness and potential pitfalls of that, it does make for an appealing and fun class to play. There's plenty of opportunity to use the mechanics and shape the class to fit a broader style and concept, if you're up to the challenge. Players and DMs will find this class quite useful for both PCs and NPCs, and create exciting characters that should be very memorable. Good pdf.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Gallant
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The Dungeon Under the Mountain: Level 9
Publisher: 0one Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2009 06:58:02
The Dungeon Under the Mountain is back! After nearly a year and a half of no products being released for this line from 0One Roleplaying Games, a Level 9 map for the mammoth dungeon has now been released. This level 9 map features a huge area of snake-like watery tunnels and waterworks, that is home to any aquatic creatures that your mind can imagine. This product is one of a large collection of maps and encounters for The Dungeon Under the Mountain, and is suitable for any roleplaying game.

The product comes as a single 13 page pdf file, of which 9 pages are devoted to the maps themselves. The product is very well organised, clear and neatly presented, with a good cover, clear and concise legend, and an extremely useful summary page with hyperlinks from there to the relevant map pages. You have the choice of either printing the massive 22"x34" map as a whole, or otherwise you can stitch it together using the 8 separate maps provided. The product contains very useful information on how to use the product or incorporate it into your game, either as a whole or in parts. Apart from the little section in the advertising blurb that reveals the nature of the level, the majority of the inhabitants and purpose of the level are left to your imagination.

One of the fantastic features of this map, and indeed most of 0One Roleplaying Games' products, is the Rule the Dungeon feature. This allows your to use pdf layers to customize the product as you see fit, removing various sections or features from the map. This makes it very easy to design for your own specific purposes, and is a powerful tool that's been added to this product map. The majority of the map is well described using the legend, and colour-coded to highlight main areas of the map such as watery areas, teleport areas, and main encounter areas. I do wish that some of the areas were a little more self-explanatory, as the map can be a little confusing in places. That said, creative minds shouldn't have trouble imagining purpose or traps to certain areas that may appear confusing.

The Dungeon Under the Mountain is an elaborate and intricate world of its own, and the map itself is quite high on the 'civilization' scale. By that I mean that the map isn't a rough cavern, but rather than carved and structured map indicative of intellect and engineering capability. While no real details on the nature of the map are provided, I found that the layout and design, as well as the useful colour-coding were extremely provocative in allowing the mind to wander and design areas or fill them with purpose and monsters. As with most massive dungeon crawls, it's quite difficult to create a sense of cohesion in a large map or even verisimilitude, but I think the map is designed in such a way that it helps to create such an environment.

Overall, I was pleased with this offering from 0One Roleplaying Games. The map is very well presented, clear, and does well to offer guidance in designing and filling the dungeon with your imagination. It can be a bit confusing in places, but that's largely to be expected for such a large map, almost like the designer wasn't sure what to put there either. An insight into the designer's mind would've been useful in places. Still, it's very good to see this product line back again, and this map will make for a fun dungeon crawl or just a series of encounters using parts of it. Good product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Dungeon Under the Mountain: Level 9
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Classes of Kor'Onus: The Legionnaire
Publisher: Stardust Publications
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2009 10:01:07
Classes of Kor'Onus - The Legionnaire is a short 6 page pdf file presenting a class from Stardust Publication's upcoming Eternal Legends RPG. These classes are all compatible with the OGL 3.5e game, and will likely also be compatible with fantasy games derived from the 3.5e OGL, such as the Pathfinder RPG. This product is one of several classes already released as a primer to their upcoming RPG, and features the Legionnaire, a strong and versatile warrior. Like the other classes released so far by Stardust Publications, the power levels are increased slightly, and hence this class should be suitable alongside standard OGL 3.5e characters 2 levels higher than the Legionnaire level.

This product comes as a single pdf file. The cover is nicely done and features a detailed overview of the product. Normally I would've preferred less text on my cover and more art, but given that this is intended as a sample class, it suffices as is. The art used in the product is mainly what appears to be stock art - one would hope that the finished RPG would contain some original pieces. Writing and editing is overall good, as is the general presentation. I would've liked a little more background information on the class, but again one has to assume that this will be in the finished RPG. On the whole, though, this product is presented as a sample, and feels much like a sample, giving enough information to get the juices flowing.

The Legionnaire is a well known and well-used concept derived from the formidable Roman legionnaires. I've seen many attempts to get the tight formation fighting and Roman spirit built into a class, trying to encapsulate those aspects that made the legionnaire what it was. Having read through this product, I think it does fairly well. For one, it captures the enhanced versatility of the legionnaire well, not only in the skill selection, but also in the class abilities that grant feats and other abilities. The number of skill points is probably still on the low side and probably could've been bumped up. Secondly, the class excels at both formation fighting and can be fairly lethal in combat. There's an ability to be gained at every level, heaps of bonus feats (and several new feats are presented to aid formation fighting and sheer determination), and a lot of focus on armor and weapon training to improve mobility and combat prowess. The legionnaire class, apart from the added hp and BAB at 1st level, will certainly beat a standard fighter quite handily on the power front.

For all the good things done, I still felt the class failed to capture entirely the flavor of the legionnaire. And by that I mean that the class is very mechanical - it's almost built like the class is a robot of sorts, or to put it slightly better, it's really only a stronger version of the rather bland fighter class. Nothing special has gone into the mechanics of the class, there is understandably not a huge amount of flavor, and most of the concepts in the class have been seen before. I missed that something special that made the legionnaire feel more like a versatile warrior of old - perhaps the addition of the flavor text and a more roleplaying orientated concept would've improved it. As a sample it does what it does well, but without pushing the boundaries of uniqueness.

Overall, the Legionnaire is certainly a very useful class, and can be used in any campaign setting. It's fairly easy to reduce the power levels of the class to be more in line with standard OGL 3.5e. It does well in representing the stereotypical legionnaire in the mechanics, though doesn't push to boundaries of mechanics to create something that captures the spirit of the class a little better. Hopefully the flavor text and class background will go a long way in alleviating that when the final RPG is released. Overall, a well-built class, if somewhat bland, but capturing good elements of the legionnaire to make it look a little less than a fighter with heaps of feats.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Classes of Kor'Onus: The Legionnaire
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Remarkable Races Pathway to Adventure: The Boggle
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/30/2009 09:38:16
Remarkable Race (Pathway to Adventure Edition): The Boggle is a short 13 page pdf file presenting a new player character race for the Pathfinder RPG. This race first appeared as a race for the 4e GSL system, but has since been updated for the recently released OGL Pathfinder RPG. It's hardly surprising that publishers wish to take best advantages of both leading RPG systems, and several publishers have already jumped on the wagon of dual releases of the same product for different systems. I suspect in the future that we may end up seeing more neutral products with system specific elements added as an Appendix, much like Green Ronin Publishing did with their fantastic Freeport Campaign Setting.

This product comes as a beautifully presented pdf file. Alluria Publishing offer fantastic presentation, great art, and good writing all in one package. The presentation standard is very high, with professional layout and editing, and more importantly, they offer excellent customer service and customer relations. Alluria Publishing are continually improving their products and listening to their fans when making said improvements. Illustrators Randall D. Powell and Eugene Jaworski have crafted some vivid images to capture the look and feel of the boggle, while writer J. Matthew Kubisz has created a well-rounded effort with good balance between roleplaying and mechanical descriptions of the boggle race. Overall, another splendidly presented pdf product from Alluria Publishing.

The boggle is a small goblin-like creature that excels at mechanical devices and magic, and is not far removed from certain perceptions of the gnome player race, except that they are more goblin-like. These tinkerers are considered geniuses of all things mechanical, but along with that gift comes a curse - the boggle is prone to disease called boggle madness, that systematically drives the boggle insane. This product presents a very flavorful and detailed account of the boggle character race, including societal details, habits, physical appearance, beliefs and much more. The mechanics are sound, and offer good support for the underlying racial concept, and the addition of boggle madness offers good roleplaying opportunities. I think the stereotype for this race is fairly well understood and has been encountered many times, but this boggle class offers a sounder mechanical footing for that mad tinkerer concept within a proper racial framework.

The product doesn't stop with only presenting the race characteristics of the boggle, but also includes just over half a dozen useful new feats that expand or build upon the boggle's racial characteristics. The product even includes a prestige class, the Demolisher, which looks like it will be great fun to play. The Demolisher specialises in boggle bombs and other contraptions, and will make for an interesting character choice. Boggle inventions, equipment and weapons are described next - these are more boggle version of specific weapons that anything particularly unique, but I did appreciate the inclusion of at least one detailed mechanical contraption in a small boggle helicopter. Products often state that creatures are mechanical tinkerers but rarely do you see great inventions mechanically expanded. There is also a brief and not too detailed section on mechanical limbs, which is easy to use and more for completeness than anything else, I imagine. There are plenty of much more detailed products on this kind of thing on the market.

The product concludes with a monster write-up of the boggle race, as well as a monster in a heavily mechanically augmented boggle construct. Some very useful advice is given on how to run the boggle in your game, and incorporate their particular, though not so unique, culture into your campaign setting. In general I've enjoyed this pdf. I don't think the racial concept or the physical description are particularly unique, but what this product does well is to provide a complete and coherent framework for the race to exist in. It's done very well on the mechanical front, tying together all aspects of the boggle race in a complete package. Remarkable Races: The Boggle (for Pathfinder) is a strong product with a well-rounded race, which, while not unique (or particularly true to most European legends), offers a good framework for fun and exciting gaming.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Remarkable Races Pathway to Adventure: The Boggle
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Missing in Action
Publisher: Bright Ideas
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/29/2009 10:00:32
In an effort to improve the enjoyment players get out of RPGs and gaming, the 4e GSL introduced the idea that attacks that missed could still have some sort of effect. This concept is particularly prevalent under daily powers, where missing on an once per day power just seemed too much to not include some sort of miss effect. Whatever the merits of this system, Missing in Action, the first product from publisher Bright Ideas and EN World regular FireLance, brings some at-will powers that also have some sort of small effect on a miss. This product is suitable for the 4e GSL system.

Missing in Action is a short pdf of 9 pages, that comes as a single, fairly presented pdf file. The product contains 3 pages of actual content, but also includes 3 pages of power cards, and a useful page of design notes regarding the use of at-will powers that have an effect on a miss. The cover is fairly simple, and the design in general is one of simplicity and function rather than quality. Nevertheless, it suffices for such a short product where art isn't a high priority and bookmarks aren't really required. Writing and editing is good, with no obvious omissions or additions, and in general this is a fairly presented pdf that's more than acceptable for its length.

This product introduces 18 at-will powers that have an effect on a miss. The powers follow a fairly even distribution amongst the various classes, and all generally follow the precedent of the fighter power Reaping Strike from the core rules. While all the powers have a miss effect, some of them are also designed to fill some gaps in the powers of the core classes. The author has spent some time considering this and has done well to fill some obvious and useful gaps in powers for certain classes. The range of effects on a miss are varied, ranging from additional damage, to penalties to attack or defence, to movement related effects. Nothing appears overly powerful, although that's left to the individual DMs to decide.

I have to admit that one of the only complaints I have against the product and perhaps the concept, is that some of these miss effects are fairly hard to visualise. Also, these various miss effects introduce another minor layer of bookkeeping, as you need to log every miss effect as some of them can be activated by the actions of other characters. I do, however, like how some of these allow for more tactical options. Also, from a roleplaying point of view the use of some of these powers and their miss effects could be used to 'simulate' the fact that characters will know each others' combat tactics and abilities fairly well. So, for example, a character that misses with the Forced Misstep rogue exploit allows other characters who have combat advantage to deal additional damage. Roleplaying wise, the character with combat advantage will recognise and know the manuever, and be prepared to strike at the given advantage. As mentioned, other powers are not this easy to visualise.

Overall, I think this is a useful product and adds some additional tactical and roleplaying scope to your game. At the same time it can be hard to visualise the various powers, and many of them need to be kept track of to ensure that allies can take advantage of your miss. While the author deals with the issue of attempting to deliberately miss, I personally am not fond of this concept. Missing in Action is a good product with useful new powers.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Missing in Action
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The Secrets of the Summoning Chamber
Publisher: Fifty Latches
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2009 05:55:37
Old School gaming is alive and well. Not only are publishers releasing updated and expanded versions of the 1e game, but adventures are also streaming out from a variety of supporters and publishers. On top of that, new publishers, like Fifty Latches Publishing, are joining the fray and releasing quality material in support of old school gaming. The Secrets of the Summoning Chamber is the first product from Fifty Latches Publishing, and is an OSRIC compatible adventure for characters of levels 3 to 5. Here the characters investigate the ancient laboratory of a long dead wizard, aiming to end the threat of its inhabitants to a nearby town. As usual, the adventurers get a lot more than they bargained for.

The product comes as a zip file that contains 4 product files - a booklet version of the product (that folds in half to form a book), a non-booklet (screen) version of the product, and two files of handouts, one in colour and the other in black and white. A helpful readme file allows you to quickly ascertain the nature of each file in the archive. The presentation standard overall is very good - it kind of blends the super-useful OGL style of product with battlemaps and useful features, with the old school style of adventure writing and presentation. So you get some excellent battlemaps, player handouts with excellent art by Steve Robertson, and a well-written adventure in old school style. No blue maps in sight anywhere. Overall, I was really impressed by the presentation and effort that has gone into this product.

The Secrets of the Summoning Chamber is a short adventure that takes place entirely within a wizard's laboratory. Here a local group of bugbears have taken up residence, and the local town is justifiably on edge because the nearby threat. The PCs are charged with eliminating the threat. The adventure provides plentiful background and advice on using the adventure, allowing it to easily slot into any campaign world. It's a fairly short adventure, consisting of only seven encounters in a rather small laboratory. As one would expect, there are plenty of surprises to be had in the adventure, both from resourceful bugbears and the remnants of the wizard's legacy. In a way it's a tried and tested adventure idea, one that's rehashed here with not much that's novel or new in the execution.

Having said that, the adventure is very well presented and well executed even if it isn't all that unique. Each room or encounter is presented in a 'delve' format, so it is possible to take these rooms and use them as standalone area in another adventure. Indeed, Fifty Latches have done just this, releasing the seven room encounters as separate products in a slightly different format. The encounters are well described and easy to run, although the only complaint I had about the adventure as a whole is that it's not dynamic enough. The laboratory is fairly small, and any fighting in one chamber is likely to alert the creatures in the rest of the structure. No hint or mention of this is anywhere in the adventure, nor really information on how the bugbears would react to multiple excursions by the characters.

On the whole this is a good value product. It provides high quality presentation and entertaining adventuring into one short and small package. Barring the apparent lack of dynamism and tried and tested adventure formula, this is still a good product worth looking at for those that want to use it as a location in their campaign or just simply run a one-shot old school style. I liked the room and encounter format, the whole adventure is easy to use, and the location and inhabitants make sense and have been thought about. No red dragons in any 10 ft. by 10 ft. rooms. Overall, good quality product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Summoning Chamber
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Undefeatable 2: Clerics (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2009 07:31:58
UndeFEATable 2 - Clerics is a short 5 page pdf product presenting numerous new feats for the newly released Pathfinder RPG by Paizo Publishing. This is the second product in LPJ Design's UndeFEATable series, the first detailing new feats for the sorcerer and wizard classes. UndeFEATable 2 focuses on clerics, and provides new feats within the framework of the cleric class in the Pathfinder RPG, expanding on several class options there and providing several new ones.

The product comes as a single pdf file. The style, layout and formatting is similar to the previous and first release in the series, and presents a neat and tidy look to a short pdf. The product contains no art, but is otherwise professionally presented. About the only thing that would make a useful addition to the product would be a table giving a short description of the feats, perhaps even linked to each feat's description for easy navigating. Writing and editing if fairly good, and there are no obvious ambiguities in the descriptions and workings of each feat. Of the 5 pages of the product, 4 are devoted to content with the last page containing the OGL and Pathfinder RPG declarations. Overall, a neat presentation.

Like most versions and adaptations of the 3e OGL RPG, feats play an important and often extensive role in the creation of the character, the direction the character takes and the character's overall development and prowess. Feats are a neat and elegant way to add options to characters, expand on existing options or generally just to shape a particular character for a specific purpose or with a certain concept in mind. UndeFEATable 2 presents 22 new feats to do just that for the cleric class, offering expansion and new tricks for the class. The general variety and scope is good, offering a good selection and versatility of feats.

In general the feats focus on specific areas, so that you have, for example, feats that enhance the clerics channel ability, feats that allow the cleric to improve or change his domain powers, and feats that are based on the cleric's aura class feature. I have to admit that most of these feats are fairly familiar, being incarnations of feats for the 3.5e OGL but with a different name and description although the outcome is broadly similar. Other feats, like Mystic Priest and Scholar Priest, are probably more suited to be alternative class features than feats, but that's a matter of semantics. There are a few novel feats like Domain Mastery, which allows you to prepare lower level domain slots into higher level domain slots. Overall, there's a mix-match of new feats and ones rewritten for Pathfinder RPG, but by and large these are the 'obvious' feats that one could think of when taking a look at the Pathfinder cleric class. None particularly expand the class in new directions, but rather build on the existing class features or make minor changes.

Overall, this is a good pdf for those looking to quickly find ways of enhancing or improving the cleric class and its abilities, though perhaps not for those looking to move the cleric class in different directions. The feats work well, are clearly written, and mostly balanced, although there are some reservations to be had about some of the feats (like Mystic Priest, for example, that grants a bonus spell at every level for very little drawback). Good product overall, and a useful addition to the Pathfinder Game, but nothing too different than what has come before.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Undefeatable 2: Clerics (PFRPG)
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Player Options: Flaws and Merits
Publisher: Alea Publishing Group
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/05/2009 10:37:39
Player Options: Flaws and Merits is a 16 page pdf product from Alea Publishing Group by author Joshua Raynack. This product provides elegant mechanics for giving your player characters certain flaws and merits, thereby combining roleplaying and mechanics in a useful little system for enhancing your player character's options. This product is stand-alone and self-contained, and is written for the 4e GSL system.

Player Options: Flaws and Merits comes as a neatly presented pdf file. The cover illustration is good, though perhaps not entirely related to the product content. No bookmarks or a table of contents are included, but it should still be fairly easy to navigate the pdf. The interior of the pdf contains some striking and impressive art by artists N.C.Wyeth, Sade and Joshua Raynack. Of the 16 pages of the pdf, 14 are devoted to content, offering good value for money. Writing and editing is good, and the new mechanics are well defined and well described. Flaw and merit descriptions are straight to the point and easy to understand. Layout is also very impressive. Overall, this pdf shows all the characteristics of a professional product and indeed it is.

I'm generally a fan of combining the mechanics of the game and roleplaying characteristics all in one. It has, of course, its up and down sides. On the up side, it gives you a neat system of roleplaying your character within certain clearly defined rules, and those rules have a certain in-game impact. On the down side, this kind of thing is often quite stringent, and doesn't provide a lot of flexibility in escaping the rules. That depends on how a system is written, of course, but most I've seen through the years in different gaming system don't escape this very well. Characters by their very nature change their persona as time goes by - you can hardly expect that 1st level novice to be the same as the 30th level god-killing champion.

Which brings me to Player Options: Flaws and Merits. This product details a flaws and merits system which is essentially based on the feat system. Whenever you would gain a feat, you can take a flaw (to a maximum of 2) and given the nature of flaws, you can also take either a feat to offset the flaw or a merit, which is essentially a special kind of feat. The system balances itself very well, offering roleplaying opportunities in both flaws and merits as well as good mechanical balance. The system is designed to offer flaws and merits to specific character roles - so a striker will have different flaws and merits to a controller, for example. There's impressive variety here, which means you can place mechanical emphasis on pretty much any character roleplaying trait.

I think for the most part this system works well. Unlike other systems that are largely on or off, this system has an additional mechanic called 'going against the grain'. Essentially it means you can choose not to suffer from your flaw should you choose to do so. In this way, the mechanics effectively allow you unlimited roleplaying freedom when it comes from your flaw. Does your nervous character want to show some backbone - it's possible every once in a while where your roleplaying dictates it. With 52 flaws and 28 merits to choose from, you gave great flexibility in designing a character, working through the flaws, and even overcoming them. This was the only part of the system I didn't agree with - when you overcome the flaw you also lose the associated feat or merit. I would've thought that if you'd gained a skill, you would be able to keep it. Just because you overcome sort of phobia it doesn't mean you forget to do something like be a natural leader of a fast healer.

The last few pages of the pdf are devoted to providing flaw and merit combinations for all character classes, which provides a very useful framework starting point for using this product. Overall, I think this is a welcome product for the 4e GSL system. Now that the product for the 4e GSL are moving away from races and monsters, publishers are starting to fiddle and add to the rules with new and useful additions. Flaws and Merits will make a good addition to your game, and it will certainly encourage roleplaying. It's a very well presented pdf, with good and useful material that's well worth a look at.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player Options: Flaws and Merits
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What's Mine's Yours
Publisher: Unicorn Rampant Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/05/2009 04:39:36
What's Mine's Yours is a short 8 page introductory adventure for 1st level characters. This product utilises the 4e GSL gaming system, and sees the characters become involved in Guild activities in the Fort Wood area where they discover things far more sinister work than meet the eye. This adventure is also the first in a campaign/adventure path called Points of the Compass, though no material for this has been released as yet. New adventures are being planned for release over the next year or so that will guide the players through a campaign to challenge the gods.

This product comes as a single pdf file with a neat cover and overall a good presentation. Cover artwork is appealing, and presents a professional look to the product. The interior contains one piece of good artwork, and also contains several battlemap representations of each combat encounter, as well as an overland map of the area around Fort Wood. The latter has a fairly heavy grid in place, making it difficult to read the names on the map without squinting at the screen. Bordering in the product is fairly heavy, making printing a little ink intensive - a printer friendly version would've been welcome. Writing and editing is fair - in places the writing isn't too coherent and feels cumbersome. I think the product in general could've used better organisation, particularly if this is to be the start of a new campaign. Overall, a fair to good presentation if a little rough around the edges.

The adventure takes place in the town of Fort Wood, a town heavily influenced by the mining activities of the Guild. Here the PCs are approached to investigate a kobold occupation of an important mine, but soon find that things are not as they seem and the tables are turned on the PCs fairly quickly. The adventure material provides useful guidance in getting the party organised as well as leading the PCs through the various parts of the adventure. However, I think that the material is lacking in certain areas, particularly as the course of this adventure can be fairly open. A little more information on exactly what happens if the PC decide to take certain actions would've been useful. If felt like the entire section where the PCs return from the mine was rushed, and certain encounters could've use a little more exposition.

The adventure ending is also a little unsatisfying - a kind of 'too bad, you lose' scenario. While there is no way of knowing what's happening in the next adventures in this campaign, it would've been good to know, otherwise the ending is a little hollow. The adventure as much says that there's nothing the PCs can do about the ending, which doesn't make for heroic gaming or any sense of satisfaction. That said, I think the idea of the adventure has a lot of merit and I liked the concept behind this adventure. There's a lot to work with and it's not something you see in everyday adventures published making the concept fairly unique. It's the lacklustre execution that could've use a more polish to make this adventure stronger and place it on a firmer base within the scope of a campaign and as a starting adventure. I just can't see this adventure hooking players to continue with the campaign.

The adventure contains a good mix of roleplaying and combat encounters, and there is some good variety and creativity in setting up the encounters. Plenty of opportunity has been included for skill challenges, and the encounter and challenge variety is varied. Overall, the thing I liked most about the adventure was the concept, because it's something you can really get stuck into. At the same time, it wasn't the best execution, leaving a few gaps and holes in the adventure that are difficult to fill. Worth a look at if you're after something different, but at the same time it's almost best to wait and see where the next adventures lead. Fair product from Unicorn Rampant Publishing and Inverspace Press.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
What's Mine's Yours
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Buck-A-Batch: Wondrous Items (4E)
Publisher: Creation's Edge Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/31/2009 09:50:19
Buck-A-Batch: Wondrous Items (4E) is a 14 page supplement detailing 25 new and unique magical wondrous items for your 4e GSL fantasy game. This product in one of several in the Buck-A-Batch series, and like the name says, you pay a dollar for a batch of new content and material for your game. Buck-A-Batch products deal with magical items and treasure, providing you with a quick and easy way to expand your fantasy game by including new items in it.

This product comes as a zip file containing 4 individual files - a front cover pdf, a back cover pdf, a main pdf detailing the items, and a supplementary pdf with printable cards containing the details of each item. Why these various files were not also combined into one large one for convenience is something I'm not sure about. Certainly it would've been a lot more useful and easier to view on screen. Design, writing, layout and editing are all good, and the general presentation is fair. The product contains a useful table that sorts the magical items by level and cost, something handy for a quick reference. The product is designed to be 'three-ring-binder' friendly, meaning that the left margin is larger than the right margin to accommodate the binder. Overall, a fair presentation for a short product, that fits in nicely with the other products in the Buck-A-Batch series.

I'm quite a fan of short pdf products. With a longer pdf you're almost certain to find something in the product that you like. With a short pdf, you're more likely to either find something that doesn't appeal to you, or otherwise you might find something of a gem. Short pdfs cater very well to clever concepts, new ideas and other design craft that doesn't require a longer product to explain or elaborate. I'd almost be willing to say that a lot of the innovations in the 3e OGL and the 4e GSL come from short pdf products. In any case, Buck-A-Batch: Wondrous Items is another short pdf that shows some good material with some useful and unique ideas.

The product contains 25 wondrous items, items that can by and large be used by every character class and are useful for a variety of tasks, combat or utility. Item levels range from 2 to 25, with gold piece costs from as little as 500 gp to a whopping 625 000 gp. Much like the level and cost, you have items dealing with all sorts of things, from summoning monsters, to creating zones susceptible to energy, to items that make teleportation difficult, to magical stones that can be used as a clever alarm system. There really is something for every class and character in here, and that says a lot for only 25 items in the product. For the most part, these items don't appear to have any problems with them, showing good utility and uniqueness that will fit into any gaming world.

Overall, this was a neat pdf. It had many items that you can easily see in play, and that most characters will find useful. These items enhance your strategic and tactical possibilities in combat, and some are useful utility items. I'd hoped to see a few more wondrous items that aren't so directly combat focused, but for the most part I was pleased with this product. Contains some good material at good value and well worth a look at.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Buck-A-Batch: Wondrous Items (4E)
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Power Alteration Feats
Publisher: Svalin Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/31/2009 04:16:22
The 3e OGL Power Attack feat has been a topic of much debate since the 3e OGL game was first released. Some people love it, others hate it, and many more have tinkered and modified it to fit their gameplay style. The sheer number of forum topics and calculators based on this feat are testament to its popularity or infamy. Now, with the new 4e GSL game in full swing, Svalin Games bring us a 4e equivalent with much more gusto. Power Alteration Feats is a short 7 page pdf product that uses the concept of the Power Attack feat (reduce one roll to gain a benefit) and applies it to the 4e GSL to produce a plethora of new heroic tier feats for characters to choose from.

The product comes as a single pdf file, which includes a cover, credits page and a full set of very useful bookmarks. This leaves 5 pages of content in the product, which includes a one page table summarizing all the feats in the product. The product contains no art other than the Svalin Games insignia, but for a short pdf that's fair game. The product contains no heavy bordering or other frills, meaning that it'll be easy to print with minimal use of ink. Overall, a fair presentation, and roughly what one would expect from a short pdf offering good value for money.

Power Alteration Feats are all based on the principle of the 3e OGL Power Attack feat. They allow you to take a penalty on a roll in order to benefit in some other area. This offers quite a bit of versatility in what you can achieve with any given feat, although at the same time I suspect that the power levels of these feats are somewhat higher than is typical for a 4e GSL feat. In a way, it would've been more appropriate to allocate some of these feats to the Paragon or Epic tiers, but that's easily enough done should the GM decide that.

Power Alteration Feats aren't really feats in their own right - generally they are feats that allows you modify other feats. So, for example, the Desiccating Attack feat applies to any other feat that uses the fire descriptor, and allows you to take a penalty on the attack roll to give the recipient of the attack vulnerability to fire. Most of the feats are keyed to certain descriptors in this way, allowing you to alter those feats as allowed by the Power Alteration Feat. That's the trade-off in taking these feats - you need to take a feat that allows you to modify others.

The product contains 34 feats, forming an impressive selection from which to choose and pretty much covering all the bases. While based on the Power Attack feat, they don't quite allows the versatility of the that particular feat, since the penalty is by and large always limited to a -2. In other words, you cannot take a penalty higher than that to gain more benefit. Should GMs or players want this, it looks like a fairly straightforward modification to achieve this. I'm assuming that this was done for both simplicity reasons and power balancing. All this feats in this product require a specific ability score related to the feat to be at least 15 as a prerequisite.

Overall, I think this is a nifty little product that offers good content at excellent value for money. There's good versatility here, and plenty of room for tinkering and modification. Some of the power levels look a little suspect, but by and large I think the product has done well to achieve a good power balance in these feats. One of the beauties of the 3e OGL system and the 4e GSL system is that their mechanics allow for a lot of modification and alteration, and this product does just that. I'm pleased to see publishers starting to add new mechanics and start to modify the rules or just simply bring new concepts to the game. Good pdf.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Power Alteration Feats
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Dungeon Dwellers Fantasy Adventure Game
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2009 06:34:10
Many gamers, like myself, who've been playing fantasy RPGs for 20 or more years will remember those times when younger where one would flip through the book of monsters, and create fights for your characters to face. A random monster here, some random treasure and you'd create a character that could face the challenge and live to tell the tale. And it was quite challenging - a lone character against a horde of creatures could make for quite a tough encounter, and you'd need to use all your guile to escape death. Dungeon Dwellers Fantasy Adventure Game reminds me a lot of those times - a simple board game where you face random monsters in a random dungeon, fighting your way to obtain treasure, avoid traps and trying to beat death.

Dungeon Dwellers Fantasy Adventure Game is a fantasy board game with rules and mechanics very similar to those of current fantasy RPGs. In the game two or more players can join together, each leading a character through a random dungeon where you face random creatures and basically kill them and take their stuff. The board game offers several options for play, from solo play (if so desired), to competitive play, to the longer and more involved campaign play. Gameplay takes place on a self-constructed board using 2D dungeon tiles to create your own unique dungeon to explore. In this way, each play experience is unique, and you get to face a different set of challenges in a different environment.

The product comes as seven zip and pdf file containing the various parts of the board game. As with other board games distributed as pdfs, this format has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you have unlimited tokens, cards, and characters, all of them being easy to print when you need them. There-in, though, also lies the problem - you have quite a lot of heavy color art to print just to play the game, and it could easily empty a printer cartridge just printing this game. Then there's some assembly time required to build all the tokens and cards. Naturally, if you're really interested in only the game and not the fabulous art (and you'd definitely be missing out of some stunning art if you take this approach), then printing is easier, and you don't, for example, need to print the card backs or other unimportant features.

The seven files of this product contain the instructions (screen and printer friendly), tiles to create your own dungeon map (based on Empty Room Studios' Dungeon Tiles product), a zip file containing card backs, a pdf with armor and weapon cards, a pdf with monster cards, a pdf with counters and tokens and lastly a pdf with item cards for treasure mundane and magical. The product is geared towards easy play and is very easy to learn, and several utility files like a readme.pdf enable you to quickly navigate your way through all the files and learn to play the game with little hassle. Overall, I was pleased with how easy to learn this game was, and how easy it was to use. Artwork is also fantastic throughout, with some stunning images in each part of the product.

Gameplay starts with players choosing a character to play. There are 8 types of character, each with a slightly different set of abilities and statistics. Character types include warrior, knight, priest, sorcerer, thief and barbarian. Each character is different enough to provide a variety of gameplay experiences, with each character being able to do different things and use different kinds of attacks. Players then construct and build the dungeon as they wish, allowing you to make it as easy or as difficult as you want. Some very useful tiles are provided with the product, though any 2D terrain tile will suffice to construct more complex dungeons or add more options. On that note, that's one of the good things about this game - it is very customizable and expandable to include pretty much anything you want to include.

Each room is then populated by a number of encounter tokens, as you prefer (or you can roll a dice to decide how many). These are turned upside down and can represent either a monster, trap, treasure or event. The first three are fairly self-explanatory. The latter is more interesting and details any event that you can imagine, such as, for example, a curse in the room. This makes the area even more customizable as you can easily add your own events. Once you enter a room, you can then face the monsters and enter combat, avoid the traps via a simple agility test, and gather the treasure which can be gold, armor, weapons, or other magic. These items can be used and equipped to improve your character, and gold can be used to buy things between adventures.

But, let's move on to the combat system as that's a meaty part of the board game and probably what it's all about. During combat characters can move and attack (melee, ranged or magic), using a combat test roll (the game uses d6 dice). Monsters are entirely passive, meaning that they don't make any rolls, although a few have some special abilities based on the outcome of the combat test. If you succeed at the combat test roll, you manage to damage the creature, but if you fail, the creature damages you instead. Certain creatures can only damage you based on the nature of the combat test. So if you strike a creature by magic and fail, and the creature doesn't have magic damage listed on its entry, then you take no damage. The game allows options for resting or 'returning to town' as a means of recovering health beyond priest healing.

So what's good about Dungeon Dwellers Fantasy Adventure Game? Firstly, for any gamer it'll be really straightforward to pick up. Even non-gamers can learn this game in the minimum of time. Artwork is fantastic, and the product really looks impressive. The versatility, expandability and options of the game make it fun to play and no one game is similar to the other. The competitive and campaign game options make it even more interesting and more fun. Basically, if you like the 'kill it and take its stuff' motto, then you'll really enjoy this game. The event cards are particularly interesting, and the game has been streamlined to ensure that minimal dice rolling takes place. Characters are allowed to grow and expand by gaining new weapons, armor and magic, which is good to see.

One of the problems with this game, however, is in the combat resolution system and the monsters. When attacking a monster, characters only suffer damage on a failed combat test if the monster has that particular combat type listed in its entry. So if you attack a monster with magic and it can only damage on melee, there are no consequences if you fail the combat test. Of the 20 odd monsters in the game, all can give melee damage, less than half ranged damage, and less than a quarter can give magic damage. So why play melee warriors or knights at all? If you walk around with ranged and magic characters only, you'll rarely if ever get damaged given the random nature of the monsters drawn. I think something needs to be done to make monsters more active, or otherwise improve the system so that each character type is actually required.

Of course, being entirely random, there are no issues of balance here. You're just as likely to fight a powerful dragon as you are a kobold. This is good and bad, but at least the game allows for a 'run' option. If you then run, rest and return, there's a 50% chance for a consequence of running away in a wandering monster, but otherwise you can just restart the battle as if nothing had happened. I'm not sure I appreciate this kind of gaming style - in a way I'd prefer to see an option where you build the dungeon and slog it out, or at least that run has some additional consequences, such as, for example, giving the monster a bonus on the repeat encounter.

Overall, I think this is a fun game if you play it as a fun game. It's a game that has a few loopholes that can be exploited, and that's probably not a good thing. Making monsters more active will likely go a long way in avoiding this. Still, it's fun, versatile, expandable and has loads of useful options. It's all about 'killing things and taking their stuff' and in its own way that can sometimes be fun. Still, it's an RPG game gone down into a board game without the addition of any elements that would make it an 'unique' board game experience. It's not unlike a fantasy combat encounter with a battlemap and random elements. Nevertheless, if you're looking for a fun game to play between RPGs or with the family this is a good one to take a look at.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dwellers Fantasy Adventure Game
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the in-depth review, Peter. This is actually a "playtest" version of the game, as stated on the sales page. So, all that great feedback you provided will be taken into consideration as we improve and alter the rules based on feedback from fans. If you bought this game and have feedback on what you would like to see added, changed, or modified, we would love to hear from you in our forums: http://www.tangledmuse.com/
Encounters Series 3: Stampede By Moonlight
Publisher: Corvus Lunaris Ltd
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2009 07:19:48
Encounter Series 3 - Stampede by Moonlight is a 30 page pdf that contains a lengthy and detailed encounter for the 3e OGL system. This product is one of several in the Encounter Series from Corvus Lunaris, and each is designed for several hours of play for when the GM needs something to fill the space, or simply just wants to run with some of the ideas contained within the pdf. This particular encounter features a rather sinister force stalking the night and the canyons, and it's up to the PCs to foil its plan and deal with a rather elusive prey. Stampede By Moonlight is designed for characters of levels 5 to 7.

This product comes as a single pdf file, complete with all the frills in a cover, extensive bookmarks, credits page, table of contents, and generally a well laid out pdf. The design and presentation isn't fantastic, but it gets the job done and a fair amount of effort has gone into getting it the way it is. There's no colour in the pdf, nor are there any borders or other page frills, so the pdf should be really easy to print. In essence, the presentation is more like a printer-friendly version than a screen version, but even that is still fair. Writing is good, and the product is well organised. The pdf also includes an extensive battlemap complete with 1"-scale tiles for use with miniatures. Overall, fairly presented, well organised, and good use of support features and frills to make the product worth that little bit more.

As mentioned, this encounter is fairly detailed. It starts by providing extensive lists on what various Knowledge checks will provide the players with - this is very useful, as it gives the PCs some needed information throughout the encounter. Having said that, most players will already know most of the information in this section even though their PCs might not. There are some useful bits of background there, though, and revealing this to the PCs piece-meal will make the encounter more interesting and build some suspense.

Next up is the encounter, which can be a fairly straightforward affair, though it has the potential for being drawn out and protracted if the DM chooses to make use of some of the suggested options. It's one of those encounters that not many DM or players will like, as it deals with lycanthropy and afflictions of that nature, and some people might not be predisposed to running with some of the ideas in the product. Nevertheless, it is fairly unique and open enough that DMs can modify and structure it to their pleasure. This is not a simple combat encounter - while parts of it are, I think the longer ranging encounter is going to be built on subterfuge rather than all out combat. Still, the good thing is that enough information is provided to make of this encounter what you will. You can use it as an interesting terrain while fighting during a stampede, or otherwise as a minor encounter with more subtle effects afterwards.

Several useful plots hooks are provided to expand on the material in the pdf, though there is a lot of material and background in the product already. Full statistics are provided for all creatures involved, and these look fairly good from a correctness point of view. The latter part of the product is devoted to providing a fairly rudimentary map of the encounter, both as an overview and as a battlemap with one-inch scale tiles. This gives you a little extra for the product, and while not the most beautiful tiles I've ever seen, they perform the function they were intended for.

Overall I think this product does a few things well - it provides a somewhat unique encounter and locations, gives detailed background information on the encounter, and offers plenty of options for expanding or modifying the encounter. At the same time, the presentation is fair, though not by any means great, and the added utility of the battlemaps is a plus. On the other hand, the subject material in the OGL system is a nightmare for most DMs, as dealing with afflicted lycanthropes is not necessarily for every players or DM. Players invest in their characters, and don't want to loose them to lycanthropy, while at the same time DMs don't want to railroad their campaigns looking for cures. I think this encounter has potential, and the format is good, but it lacks that special factor to make it entirely memorable. If you're looking for something a little different, don't mind doing a little work to make it fit, don't mind the subject and love detail, then this product is for you.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Encounters Series 3: Stampede By Moonlight
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