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Venture 4th: Pact of Ghosts
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2009 04:18:10
Venture 4th - Pact of Ghosts is the latest product in Adamant Entertainment's Venture 4th series, a series of products devoted to developing game material for the 4e GSL system. This product is also one of several taking a look at alternative warlock pacts that can be used to flesh out your warlock character. Pact of Ghosts is a short 12 page pdf product, featuring all the pact details, powers from level 1 to level 30, new feats, a new paragon path and a few new magical items. Other warlock pacts in the Venture 4th series include Blood, Angelic Choirs, Vermin Lords and Dragon Lords.

This product comes as a single pdf file, very well presented with some stunning cover art and good frills on the inside to make the product professional and presentable. The writing, editing and layout is done well, and I particularly liked the flavor text, although at the same time the flavor text could've been supported a little better by some better mechanics. More on that later. Writer Stefen Styrsky packs in quite a lot of material in this product, giving good value for money in flavor and mechanics for those interested in looking at alternative warlock pacts. The product doesn't contain bookmarks, and perhaps a list of powers and brief descriptions would've been useful as an overview glance of the product material. Overall, though, well presented, professional, with good art and writing.

The pact of ghosts is just as the name implies - the warlock makes a pact with those departed spirits that for one reason or the other were unable to complete their journey in the afterlife. This grants the warlock access to a spell that can shake the mental faculties of his foes, and an interesting ability to manifest some of the ghost world whenever a foe is defeated. Naturally, the largest portion of the product contains warlock powers suitable to this ghost pact. As mentioned earlier, I thought the flavor text was done rather well, and fitted in excellently with the theme and feel of the product. On the other hand, the mechanics weren't that interesting.

For all the good flavor text, the powers' mechanics were just psychic or necrotic damage with the occasional addition tacked on. To a certain extent, this does fit the theme, but it speaks volumes as well with regard to lack of versatility in there somewhere. It just seemed rather disappointing that every cool description given to a power is followed by some psychic damage description which leads to a little disappointment. Having said that, some powers were actually quite good and made more use of the 'freeform' available to powers. Don't get me wrong, I think strategically and tactically these powers can be of a lot of use to a warlock character, but it's just more of the same with different flavor text, and I guess therein lies my problem with it.

The product concludes with a new paragon path, the Master of Shrouds, and several useful new feats that improve the ghost pact's abilities and fit the flavor nicely. Three magic items are included, and I particularly like the Book of the Damned, a tome that grants you the power of knowledge on various shadowy and otherworldly creatures. There's a lot of 'bang-for-your-buck' in this product, with loads of material that can be used - most of the material is usable even if you don't want the ghost pact specifically, or at least can be easily modified to avoid the pact and just use them as general warlock or other class powers.

I think this product has gone a good job of presenting an interesting and useful new warlock pact that is brimming with new flavor and mechanical options. It's very well presented with great art, and the writing is vivid and descriptive. My only negative is the implementation of the powers which just didn't seem to take full advantage of the flavor offered by the power itself. Overall, a very good product, and well worth looking at if you're after a ghostly pact for your warlock character.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Venture 4th: Pact of Ghosts
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COPPER DRAGON: Caverns 1
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2009 10:26:22
I've looked at quite a few 2D terrain and tile products from numerous publishers over the last year or more, but I have to say that this offering from Fat Dragon Games puts a lot of other products in a different light. This product is class, and it's immediately noticeable from your very first look at the product - high quality art, pseudo 3D graphics, good variety, utility and versatility. These tiles will look good, there's no doubt, and at a price that offers excellent value for money. Copper Dragon - Caverns 1 is a high quality terrain tile product, containing 24 excellent cavern tiles to create a wide variety of stunning 2D cavern maps for your tabletop RPG gaming needs.

Copper Dragon - Caverns 1 is an impressive 30 page pdf product, containing 24 pages of 8x8 square tiles that can be printed to create high quality maps and battlemaps. The product contains an impressive cover, very useful introductory material and guidelines on using the product, and an even more useful set of mini pictures over two pages that give you an overview of each of the cavern tiles. The presentation is very professional, and you can see Fat Dragon Games know how it needs to be done, because they deliver top quality work. The work in this set is naturally also compatible with all their other products (and largely also with everything else on the same scale on the market), making this set doubly useful. This set forms the first and foundation set for some upcoming releases, which having seen this, I'm quite excited to see.

It true to say that Fat Dragon Games have definitely got their own sense of style when it comes to 2D terrain tiles, something which is mostly true for all publishers. In this case their style reflects a pseudo-3D looking tile, rather than the more traditional looking flat 2D tile. This actually works wonderfully well, and creates some excellent print outs that work very well when cut out and stuck to some strong cardstock or similar. As a foundation set, this is in a way a no-frills set of caves and corridors, meaning that there are no objects present anywhere, other than the odd scattering of rocky rubble or pebbles. To be honest, not much more is needed. I've always preferred an approach where objects are distributed in something like an object or item pack (much like FDG have done in the past), as this allows you to customize your own tiles after printing. Other publishers tend to use more complex pdf technology or layers to provide customization on screen rather than off. Either approach works, really, although I'd like to see a publisher take the reins on producing high quality objects in 2D or 3D that can be used on any tile set on the market.

As one would expect, this product contains a good variety of different types of corridors, cavern walls, room entrances, rooms and the like. It provides options to create both small rooms with a single tile, or otherwise much larger rooms contains combinations of multiple tiles. One can probably achieve quite an impressive number of different features, though I haven't played with all the tiles to those lengths. As mentioned before, without objects these tiles lack a certain versatility, but at the same time offer enough variety and stunning art to make them definitely worthwhile. Those gamers that like high quality, stunning art and good variety will be drawn to this set, while those gamers that prefer more versatility in customizing objects on tiles might prefer other products on the market. Either way, I can only recommend this product for everyone interested in 2D terrain tiles.

I was very impressed by this product - it offers high quality tiles in good variety and with plentiful options in cavern design. I'm looking forward to seeing future tilesets from FDG, including others in the caverns series. A great value product well worth looking at.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
COPPER DRAGON: Caverns 1
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Critter Cache 5: Daemons
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2009 09:59:12
Goodman Games and Blackdirge Publishing have done it again with Critter Cache V - Daemons. This 35 page pdf monster book for the 4e GSL system really sets the bar for quality, value, and gaming goodness. The fifth in the Critter Cache series, this product presents numerous 4e GSL daemon monsters, from the terrifying Typhon to the lesser daemons and soul larva that inhabit the Pit of Tartarus. The combination of good monster design and creation with top quality presentation and background story make this product an excellent choice for any monster lover.

Critter Cache V - Daemons comes as a single pdf file. The presentation and design is excellent, and the author, Aeryn 'Blackdirge' Rudel, and artists, Hunter McFalls and Erik Nowak, combine together efficiently to create a visually pleasing pdf with great writing, art, design and layout. The product includes a stunning cover, full bookmarks, and other useful features such as a table of monsters by level and challenge. The overall product carries a fairly Greek theme, using names and concepts from legend, along with other Greek-like terms for the various monsters like Myrmidon and Hoplite. Overall, a splendidly presented pdf - something that'll be difficult to beat.

This product presents a comprehensive background and overview of the daemons of the Pit of Tartarus. Daemons are mercenary creatures that serve demon and devil alike, and create a kind of middle ground between the two fiendish entities. A complete history of the daemon is given, as well as background details on the nature of the Pit of Tartarus. In addition, full details are given on the life, motivations and society of the variety of daemons that inhabit the pit. Following this imaginative and inspiring background information, the pdf presents mechanical statistics for a whole slew of minor and major daemons alike. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the background of the daemons, though perhaps it would've been better to separate the background from the Greek mythodology and naming.

The daemons in this product range from level 3 all the way up to level 34, where the daemon Lord Typhon stands as a powerful and destructive lord of the Pit of Tartarus. Along with level, there are a whole variety of different roles for the creatures, with a fairly even distribution of strikers, controllers, soldiers and the like. While I've never been a fan of the nature and direction of monster powers in the 4e GSL, this product does actually come up with some unique combinations that break away from the mould of typical 4e GSL monster powers. I hope that more and more publishers will realise the freedoms that the 4e GSL gives in creating monsters and not just go with the strict 'some attack vs some defence doing some type of damage and inflicting some movement or some condition'. The creatures here will really challenge your PCs, and the content of this product can easily be used to construct an entire campaign. In a way, I'm kind of surprised that the product doesn't contain more ideas along those lines, as it coherently ties all these creatures together.

Critter Cache V - Daemons is a splendid pdf, and pretty much everything you could ask for in a monster pdf, except of course, for even more monsters! Coupled with good descriptive writing and fantastic art, this is a top quality pdf and excellent value with 23 immenintly usable creatures for any fantasy GSL campaign. I like the coherent way in which the content was approached and designed, and indeed how the society and hierarchy of the creatures was portrayed in the product. The background details were vivid and very welcome, creating an impressive culture and ecology to work with. Great pdf!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Critter Cache 5: Daemons
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3.5 NPCs & Monsters
Publisher: Black Death Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2009 10:25:52
A good monster or NPC book can really whet one's appetite for adventure, gaming, and tabletop battle. There's something quite surreal about the excitement one can feel when reading a cleverly crafter monster description, or delving into the background of a cunning and crafty NPC. As such, when it comes to monster or NPC books, I always hope to find some tantalizing new ideas, monsters or NPC concepts that can spark my imagination and really get my gaming juices flowing. 3.5 NPCs and Monsters is a short 13 page pdf from Black Death Publishing, that features a large number of monsters and NPCs from the demi-plane of Hanan Pachal, the land of their campaign setting. Eagerly anticipating some good monster and NPC fodder for the imagination from this product, I was unfortunately somewhat disappointed by this offering.

The product comes with both a full colour screen copy of the pdf, as well as an easier to print black and white copy. The pdf sports a small but neat cover, and some of the interior art is fairly pleasing as well. To be honest, though, the organisation of the product lost me after the second page, despite some of the other appealing aspect of the pdf presentation such as the art. Monsters and NPCs appear to be thrown together into pdf with no rhyme or reason, with no explanation as to what these stat blocks, monsters and NPCs are or how they fit into Black Death Publishing's game world.

On top of that, the use of the OGL and the general OGL mechanics are just wrong and poor, and the product includes references to old 3e material (DR 15/+1, for example), and even uses material that's not OGL in the product. I'm not even sure the correct OGL licence was used - Section 15, for example, is completely missing. At times the mechanics were so strange I wasn't even sure which system this product was really for (using the old T or Thief abbreviation for a Rogue), and there are a lot of things in there not contained within the OGL SRD without any descriptions either. While I've generally been pleased by Black Death Publishing's adventures and other products, this product could use a lot of work to bring it up to standard.

I have to admit that I found it really hard to extract good ideas and concepts from the pdf given the lacklustre organisation, but to be fair the product isn't a complete loss. The product comes with a whole plethora of stat blocks of NPCs, creatures and monsters, and while most of the will require mechanical fixes, it shouldn't take long to do just that. The sheer quantity of material means there is always something useful inside its pages. Stat blocks include, for example, armies of orcs, orc shamans, ogre mages, various barbarian, lycanthropes, vampires, succubi and even a gold dragon. In almost all cases the monsters are described by there stat blocks only (or text taken straight from the OGL SRD), but here and there are some useful bits of information on the creatures, motivations and tactics. One of the few really useful bits of the product is the horriad, a new monster that's the offspring of the union of two demons. In general, if you want to sift through pages of information for good bits, then you'll find something interesting, but skin deep this product is fairly disappointing.

I think this product fall shorts in several areas, but at the same time contains at least a handful of useful parts and features that you can use. I have to admit that apart from the horriad, I wasn't particularly inspired by any imaginative material, mainly because most of the material was largely stat blocks. And, given the amount of errors in those, it would almost be worth creating your own rather than using these. Organisation is poor - in the current pdf market you can surely structure material with additional descriptive text, motivation text or just campaign setting fluff, rather than just crowding stat blocks into a pdf and using the pdf ad blurb to give some hints as to what's going on in the product. I'm sorry to say that I'm disappointed - it has good art, the horriad is interesting, and some useful stat blocks, but for the most part a lot more effort could've gone into the product to make it more presentable and useful.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
3.5 NPCs & Monsters
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for the very constructive critique of our first effort at providing a supplement. We have already uploaded a new version that uses your critique to 'iron out' the rough spots. Each of the NPCs after the orc section now have an explanation and brief history to assist the purchaser. We think that the price ($2.25) is hard to beat especially with the useful information now provided. We did use the online Hypertext 3.5 SRD stats as the basis all of the creatures listed. The supplement is organized in this way: The Spire of the Raven God, The Lair of the Demon Princess, Into the Gates of Hell and The Dead of Winter. I will look at some of the other supplements for better ideas as far as organization.
Fantastic Maps: The Ice Temple
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2009 07:01:59
Fantastic Maps: The Ice Temple is a 33 page pdf file from cartographer Jonathan Roberts and Rite Publishing. This product is one of several products in the Fantastic Maps series, each product featuring a 1-inch scale battlemap of a unique and interesting location to use for your roleplaying gaming needs. Ice Temple features a frozen cavern within an icy overhang or waterfall, that holds the long trapped body of a dragon, and an altar of sacrifice. The product is suitable for any fantasy RPG, and contains both a colour and a light grayscale version of the battlemap tiles.

The product comes as a single page pdf file that contains both the versions of the battlemaps. The cover features a larger scale overview of entire cavern, allowing you to get an initial impression of the map that the product contains. No backstory is provided within the product itself for the features and details of the icy temple, although the advertising blurb for the product features a plot hook or story idea that you can use. The product, barring the front cover, consists entirely of the tiles - 16 tiles in each version to form the entire cavern. The tiles are a rather unusual size, being something like 9 x 6.5, meaning that if you were hoping to combine this product with other tilesets, that may not be possible. Other tiles appear about half-size, although I suspect that it got more to do with the fact that the cavern is suspended in the air, and hence all the whitespace is just that - air. Overall, a satisfactory presentation, although I would normally expect more than just a cover and a whole set of tiles put together in a pdf. A tile overview or summary page would've been useful, for example, as well as some explanatory text.

The Ice Temple is a single room cavern or temple buried within an icy overhang or frozen waterfall. The main feature of the room is a trapped dragon, caught within the ice, presumably by some sort of magical ritual. The other noticeable feature of the cavern is a sacrificial altar. Based on these two main features of the cavern, one can imagine quite a number of possible plot hooks or backgrounds, and on that score I was pleased with the uniqueness of the location of the map and its features. The artwork and cartography is well done, particularly as I would imagine it's quite hard to get the look of ice right for a product. The cartographer has done well to capture the look and feel of the scene well in the art, although I have to admit that the dragon looks a bit short and stumpy to me - more akin to a buffalo than a dragon, but that's neither here nor there.

Overall, I'm quite pleased with this product. While there's some scope for improving presentation, I think this product offers good value. Naturally since it's only a single cavern, and due to the awkward tile size, this product is going to have fairly limited versatility. However, given the location of the map, it's unlikely to be a cavern or map that's used frequently in any case. This is more of a one-shot kind of product. I'm pleased with how the product captured a location and map that's quite unique despite the lack of versatility. Unique locations are often hard to come for good value when most gamers prefer utility and scope above uniqueness on the gaming table. Good art, good presentation, good product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps: The Ice Temple
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Publisher Reply:
I just wanted to thank Peter for taking the time to do a very through review of "The Ice Temple" Steve Russell Rite Publishing
The Complete Fighter
Publisher: UKG Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2009 08:17:35
A lot can be said about the relative power levels between the core classes of the 3e OGL game. Most would agree that at higher levels the spellcasters (cleric, wizard and druid) become far more powerful than their martial counterparts, and indeed also more versatile. While a spellcaster has numerous spells to choose from for a variety of purposes, the martial warrior is left with only blade, body and fists. Many publishers have attempted to address this 'imbalance' with differing degrees of success. This product, The Complete Fighter, focuses on the fighter class with the aim of allowing one to create a viable fighter build all the way up to level 20 without the need for extensive prestige classes.

The Complete Fighter is a 40 page pdf product for the 3e OGL system containing a selection of new feats and prestige classes. The product comes with both a printer friendly and a full colour screen version, and is very well presented with good design and layout. Art is a combination of stock art and pieces from artist John Picot, and contains a selection of good pieces depicting fighters in various stages of battle or battle poses. Editing and writing is good, although for the most part this product contains only mechanical descriptions rather than significant supplementary fluff or descriptive material. A very useful set of bookmarks and a full table of contents are included to allow for easy navigation of the pdf.

The Complete Fighter contains around 70 feats and 14 prestige classes that allow one to create a more powerful fighter. The feats in this product, and by extension the prestige classes that are built around these feats, are designed to build on each other and on feats in the fore OGL rules, thereby allowing the fighter's power to build as he advances in level. The fighter class is all about feats, and this product ensures that the feats the fighter gets allow him to compete with the spellcasting classes and the other martial classes. Two new types of feat are introduced - the Weapon Mastery feats that aim to get fighters into using weapons other than the sword, and the Body Builder feats, which turn the fighter into improved boxers, brawlers, grapplers and general physical champions.

There are a lot of feats in this product that offer a lot of scope and variety. Many of them are extensions on core OGL feats, whereas other explore entirely new areas. Some of the feats reproduce the abilities of weapons, such as Axiomatic Weapon Strike, while others are similar to metamagic feats, such as Empowered Strike or Quickened Strike. Other feats, in turn, aim to reproduce some of the abilities of the other martial classes such as the ranger, with feats like Favored Enemy.

In general, though, most of these feats are either new, or try and build on core OGL feats. The question is, do these feats make the fighter class more viable up to level 20? I think the answer is 'Yes' and 'No'. The feats in this product allow the fighter class to be anything that he wants to be - if you want to build a fighter like ranger or a monk, you can certainly get close using these feats and just the fighter core class. Personally I think that's where the beauty of the class lies. On the other hand, I think even the fighter's many feats are not likely enough to make him viable against powerful spellcasters and spellcasting martial classes. The feats in Complete Fighter give both additional versatility and power, and certainly improve on creating a fighter that is more interesting than one can create using the core OGL. These feats will give the single-class fighter a lot more, though, and in that this product has succeeded in its aim.

The latter half of the product is devoted to prestige classes. While this product is intended to show that feats can improve the versatility and power of the single-class fighter, the prestige classes aim to show how the feats can be built upon to create powerful new warriors. Prestige classes include the adamantine and cold iron warriors that infuse their spirits with these materials, the boxer who excels at unarmed combat, the big game hunter who is a ranger-like specialist, the prestige paladin, the living weapon, a monk-like fighter, and the centurion, a fighter specialising in wearing heavy armor. The prestige class descriptions are mostly mechanical with very little fluff, but in the old end they serve their purpose of being illustrations of what the feats can do and how a fighter can be tailored to be stronger and more viable. I think the prestige classes contain some interesting ideas, and certainly I can see using a few of these ideas in game.

Overall, I think this is a good pdf that fans of the fighter class and the 3e OGL will enjoy. I think the feats are well designed and good, with some interesting concepts and additions to the fighter's arsenal. The feats will allow you to create just about any kind of fighter you can imagine when combined with those from the core OGL rules. The prestige classes build nicely on the feats, although I think they could've used a little more flourish to turn the mechanical concepts into something more life-like. A little bit more fluff material would've gone a long way to do that, but mostly the prestige classes have achieved their purpose. This pdf is worth a look if you're a fan of the fighter class, or haven't tried one in a while and want to give it a go. This pdf will allow you to do something different.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete Fighter
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Advanced Class: Sorcerer — Aberrant Blood
Publisher: Silent7Seven Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2009 03:57:16
Advanced Class: Sorcerer - Aberrant Blood is a short 4 page pdf file detailing a new spell source feature for the 4e GSL game. This product is the second in the Advanced Classes line of products, the other being Druid - Favored Forms. Like other products from Silent7Games, this product is rated according to their 7scale, a scale from 1 to 7 that essentially highlights the complexity and novelty of the product allowing one to assess the suitability for your gaming style. This product has a 7scale rating of 4, which means it includes fairly complex material, new rules material and other novelties of the 4e GSL system. Details of the 7scale system can be found on Silent7Games' website.

The product comes as a very neat and professionally presented pdf file, complete with some good art by David Sorois and Andrew Wilson. In general, the product contains all the trimmings one would expect from a short pdf, combining together to form a top-notch presentation in a style and layout that's pleasing. The writing is good and descriptive, although a few editing errors did slip in, some which I'm quite surprised got through ('vdistortion', for example). Nevertheless, I'm quite pleased by the presentation of this product, as it shows the commitment of the publisher to the 4e GSL and the pdf industry. Let's hope Silent7Games is here for keeps.

This product presents a new bloodline and spell power source for the sorcerer class - the Aberrant Blood source. As the name suggests, the sorcerer's blood is infused with the power or presence of an aberration, and grants the sorcerer various powers, the most notable being the ability to sprout several different aberrant growths like tentacles and eye stalks for various purposes. This spell source has quite a Cthulhu flavor, for those that appreciate the horror and twisted elements of that genre. This product includes the details of the power source, various new sorcerer at-will, encounter and daily powers that build on the spell source, a new feat, and a new paragon path specific to those sorcerers that choose this spell source. The paragon path is available as a free download from Silent7Games' website.

I think this product has produced something interesting and something quite new, both in concept and new rules mechanics. I like the flavor of the spell source, and indeed the various twisted powers available to the sorcerer with this spell source. Even the powers, which I generally find to be quite an uninteresting part of the GSL game, have been adapted to make them more interesting by including power upgrades. This mechanical features means that the powers improve in strength and utility as you advance in level, meaning that you don't necessarily have to switch powers as you increase in level. The upgrades tend to be different enough that you won't get bored using the same power over and over again. I particularly liked how the powers were tailored to the various aspects of the Aberrant Growth feature of the spell source. That makes them more interesting and different when coming from different sorcerers. The feat and paragon path, the Twisted Descendant, are good continuations and support for the spell source.

Overall I really liked this pdf. It's short, to the point, but has been designed well to include good conceptual and mechanical material in very limited space. I think the new spell source and the mechanical novelties are interesting, and leave a lot of room for expansion and roleplaying opportunity. While perhaps the Cthulhu theme isn't that novel, the product modifies it well for the 4e GSL and the mechanical execution is very good. I think this product is an excellent addition to the game and well worth a look at.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Class: Sorcerer — Aberrant Blood
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The Quintessential Fighter
Publisher: Mongoose
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2009 07:01:27
The Quintessential Fighter is a 146 page pdf product providing a plethora of new options for fighters and warriors in the 4e GSL game. This product is the second in Mongoose Publishing and Asterion's Quintessential series, the first release being The Quintessential Wizard. The 4e Quintessential series is both an update and a complete re-write of the 3e and 3.5e OGL Quintessential series, although a brief look at the material indicates that almost the entirety of it is new or has been substantially rewritten. Since the release of the 4e GSL edition, numerous publishers have produced products compatible with the 4e GSL, but the Quintessential series is the one of the few products that provides extensive rules support for the new edition beyond just a new race or a book of new powers and feats.

The product comes as a single pdf file, and is beautifully presented with some stunning art and good descriptive and concise writing. The authors, artists and layout designers have done a splendid job of creating an appealing pdf that looks very professional. On the somewhat down side, the lack of bookmarks is slightly bothersome, but otherwise the prose, art, writing and presentation are all top notch. To make up for the lack of bookmarks, there is an extensive table of contents that's detailed enough to find even individual powers by name. Overall, I'm very pleased with the presentation of this product and the effort that's gone into creating something excellent.

The Quintessential Fighter is all about fighters and warriors, and includes a huge amount of new material for use in your 4e GSL game. This product is naturally suited to both players and DMs, who can make full use of the contents therein. The product is divided into seven chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of the fighter class and its role in gameplay adventuring. The chapters cover the following: the fighter's role, new fighter powers, fighter paragon and epic paths, fighter feats, new equipments and magical items, fighter organisations, and lastly fighter arenas. Each chapter is fairly self-contained, and beyond the core content of each chapter, the chapters frequently contain other features such as plot hooks, short prose, and sidebars.

The first chapter in this pdf deals with the fighter's role. This is probably one of the more useful chapters in the book, since it's the one that provides support for creating a viable and interesting roleplaying character. One of the largest pitfalls in gaming is to create a character that cannot sustain the progression up to epic levels. Let's face it - players get bored, and as such it's very important to create a concept and personality that can go the distance. This chapter offers lots of useful information to aid in that, including the fighter's role in and out of combat, new build options, new multiclass build options, interaction with other classes and races, and new material related to selecting a fighter's origin, for example noble, slave, armorer or outlaw. I probably enjoyed this chapter the most, as it gives different perspectives to the fighter class, and allows you to come up with new ideas to build something interesting.

Chapters two, three and four provide the meat of this product as far as rules material is concerned, and take up approximately half of the product. These chapters deal with the standard additions to the mechanics such as feats, powers and paragon/epic paths. I'm not sure if this is a critique of this product or the system in general, but powers just aren't as interesting as I thought they would be. Once you've covered all the Attack vs. Defence options, run through the different damage types and conditions that can be inflicted and added in perhaps a few combat tactical options to push and pull people around, you've covered pretty much everything I've seen in many powers for the 4e GSL. Everything just appears to be variations on this - basically running through the various permutations and options to create something new, slapping on a name and some interesting text. That's not to say that the powers in Chapter 2 aren't useful - I'm sure there are useful synergies and powers to be had, but everything just seems so 'scripted', almost like a computer program could churn them out.

Thankfully this product at least takes powers a little further in creating Martial Rituals and Combat Styles. The former work just like standard rituals, but allows the fighter to prepare something devastating for the next combat. Combat Styles, on the other hand, combine feats, skills and powers to grant a certain combat advantage. I like the way these two additions have been added to the game, as they provide interesting options to fighter builds. The paths provided are much more interesting - each path comes with a full description and includes a very useful NPC write-up and stat block. Paths covered include Battle Commande, Champion of Honor, Lord of Chains, and Warrior Avatar. A lot of creativity went in to creating the paths, and I think they're mechanically the strongest portion of the product. Good flavor, good descriptions, and interesting concepts that one can build on.

The feats chapters is good, presenting a useful selection of feats for every tier. The variety is good, covering different weapons, races, and other character features, and allow you to both diversify and specialise. Some feats appear fairly new, while others are taking older concepts and reworking them for the new edition, but for the most part this is a valuable chapter for those fighters looking for something different in their feats.

Chapter five looks at new weapons, armors and magical equipment. Again there are a lot of old weapons and armors appearing here, all updated and ready to use for the 4e GSL game. New equipment, weapon and armor options include alchemical treatments, bucklers, tower shields, field plate armor, spiked gauntlets, flamberge, repeating crossbow, and lance. In addition, the product covers a small selection of black powder weapons such as muskets. This chapter concludes with a useful selection of new magical items, mainly weapons and armor, but also a sprinkling of other items for the arms, neck and feet. Overall, a useful chapter to expand on the options available to the standard fighter.

The last two chapters of the product cover organisations and the arena. The former presents a series of useful organisations that fighters can be involved in, creating both a good background and good roleplaying opportunities when creating your fighter. DMs can use this material well to create intrigue and mystery between various organisations, and power struggles are always an interesting option to explore. Each organisation covers duties, beliefs, hierarchy and rank, allies, antagonists and secrets; all in all lots of useful information. Lastly, the pdf covers battle arenas. A few arenas are presented here, including scale layouts, that will allow your fighters to take contests to test their mettle and steel. Each arena description includes the arena design and features, challenges to face, and very useful plot hooks.

Overall, I though this was a great pdf that gives you excellent value and more options for fighter classes than you're likely to need. Good design, good art, very useful new material and concepts, and excellent variety. There's a lot to take away from the product for both players and DMs, and thankfully the balance between mechanics and roleplaying information is good. For those interested in playing a different or more varied fighter or warrior, this pdf is a very good resource.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Quintessential Fighter
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Stone of the Daoine Sidhe
Publisher: Dementia Five Publishing House
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2009 11:14:36
The Stone of the Daoine Sidhe is a 44 page pdf adventure for the 3.5e OGL system. This adventure takes place in the fairly generic region of Midland, and takes the PCs on a gaelic/celtic themed journey through the world of Fey and their magic. Stone of the Daoine Sidhe is an adventure suitable for characters of levels 6 to 8. This adventure is designated as HF1, and incorporates elements of wilderness and dungeon exploring, although the later is where most of the action in the adventure takes place.

This pdf comes as a single pdf file that includes a cover page, credits page, table of contents, a set of partially incomplete bookmarks, and the adventure itself which includes plenty of maps and a useful selection of new monsters and NPC write-ups. The presentation is very old-school, and those familiar with gaming two decades ago will recognise the style, design and the layout from that time. Magical items, for example, are written in bold text, and the general design of the product is fairly loose and has the characters covering lots of ground. Writing, editing and layout is good, and apart from a few mechanical errors in some of the stat blocks, the new statistics are good as well. The product utilizes good art from Andy 'ATOM' Taylor and Jim Nunn, but also contains an extensive selection of stock art. Overall, the presentation is fairly good if you like old school style, but even so it's well designed and presented.

The Stone of the Daoine Sidhe takes place in the lands of Midland, a generic location that can be easily adapted to your preferred campaign setting. The adventure is based on a legend found in Surrey in England, and sees the characters get involved in the affairs of the Fey, crossing between the Seelie and Unseelie lands to prevent catastrophe and restore the Stone of the Daoine Sidhe. The adventure takes place in several locations across the region of Midland, and characters will venture through many towns there, although the main portion of the adventure takes place in the Lands of the Fey, where the characters need to enter the shadow worlds between the Seelie and Unseelie worlds to complete their quest. Here they will explore a vast dungeon, meet all sort of new and horrifying creatures, and eventually reach their goal.

The adventure is very much a gaelic/celtic themed adventure, and the author, Andy Champagne, has done a splendid job of creating an interesting Fey World and background story that should appeal to many. The details behind the Fey are extensive, and the pdf provides more than enough information to create a very flavorful adventure, even including Fairie vocabulary and notes for Fairie music! I was impressed by the creativity that had gone into crafting the background details for this adventure, and if one can make full use of the plethora of tools available in this product, the players and the DM will have a fun, interesting and vividly flavorful gaming experience.

The adventure is divided into three parts, each part seeing the PCs systematically achieve parts of the eventual goal, and uncover the mystery behind what it plaguing Midland. The first part is largely roleplaying orientated and sees the characters explore Midland and uncover the nature of its afflictions. The second part has them exploring the Fairie Lands, where they need to do a arduous rescue mission before they can complete their quest in the third part of the adventure. The product provides plenty of details to guide the characters through these parts, although there is very little hand-holding here or guidance, so DMs will need to do some work in getting and keeping the characters going in the right direction. In general, despite the detail of the adventure, there is a still a lot of DM work to do to make the adventure run smoothly without just rail-roading the PCs into the right direction.

As mentioned earlier, the main part of the adventure is a dungeon-crawl in the Unseelie Lands. This is quite an extensive dungeon, that's fairly well crafted. There are a host of interesting locations and encounters, and characters should have fun as they explore the more unsavory aspects of the Fey. In general the encounters appear fairly easy for characters of this adventure's level, but it's difficult to ascertain the full impact of that without playtesting the adventure. One thing that stood out quite quickly though, was that the magical treasure provided is far too good for the character level of the adventure, and most DMs will want to tone that down. The dungeon crawl is fun, though, even more so if the flavor elements of the Fey are kept in the forefront of the DMs mind.

The ending of the adventure sees the characters restore the Stone of the Daoine Sidhe, but despite the satisfaction of the success, the adventure as written has a rather odd ending that has a permanent and perhaps unpleasant effect on one of the party's PCs. Many DMs will choose to ignore or modify this, as it effectively permanently removes a character from the game. While it could work, it would again require quite a bit of work from the DM and I'd have preferred to not see such a 'fixed' ending with no way of avoiding the outcome.

Stone of the Daoine Sidhe is an adventure with many different elements, but juggling all these will require quite a bit of DM work and might be difficult to pull off. This is unlikely to be an adventure for novice DMs, or those that don't prefer the often open style of old school adventures. The background details are very well crafted, although the adventure will likely require more DM 'leading' than I would've liked to see. The adventure provides good opportunity for roleplaying and combat in an unusual and flavorful setting. Good adventure, very flavorful and detailed background, good structure and design although it will require a bit of DM work to make it run well and as intended.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stone of the Daoine Sidhe
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Castles & Crusades Monsters of Aihrde IV
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2009 09:36:18
There is a lot of potential when it comes to creating monsters. Not only can you create something that will thrill in combat, but you can also create something that can have a real impact out of combat. A monster's ecology, behaviour or society can often play an important role in the grander setting and can be pivotal in any campaign world. I'm a firm believer that monsters should be something more than just statistics on a page, and that there should be some sort of ecological balance which they form an integral part of. Every monster should have a purpose and a reason beyond what is dictated by its statistics, but at the same time its behaviour and ecology should be reflected in its combat behaviour.

Monsters of Aihrde IV is a short 7 page pdf containing 5 monsters for the legendary world of Aihrde (as first publishing by Troll Lord Games in their Codex of Erde). This product is the fourth in a series of four which aims to revise and update the creatures from Aihrde and provide several new ones. In the light of what I wrote above, this product does a grand job of providing creatures that fit the bill in terms of ecology, setting and behaviour. Monsters of Aihrde IV is designed for the Castles and Crusades system, although can be modified for other rule systems by modifying the mechanics.

This product comes as a single pdf file. The presentation standard is very high and professionally done, with some gorgeous artwork by artists Mark Allen, Jason Walton and Peter Bradley. The cover art of the mogrl is particularly impressive. The product contains an excellent cover, informative credits and information page, and 5 pages of content. There are no bookmarks, but that doesn't really matter for such a short pdf. Writing and layout is excellent, with some really descriptive text and excellent details on each of the monsters contained in the product. Overall, a top quality presentation from Troll Lord Games.

Monster of Aihrde IV contains five monsters from the world of Aihrde - the eshchl (realistic demi humans), the io-topek (apemen), the mogrl (a powerful demonic creature), the sarab pool (magical, living pools), and the ceeana olgdonberg (powerful horse-like steeds). Each creature is presented with complete statistics for Castles and Crusades, detailed descriptive information on ecology, society and role in combat, and lastly a section on the creature's history and place in the world of Aihrde. The details are fascinating in places, and really give you a sense of the creature's role and place in Aihrde, and the descriptions do a good job of providing a vivid image of what the creature looks like beyond the artwork in the product.

I found this product presented these five creatures really well. I think the level of detail is just right, and allows room for creativity while at the same time giving the creatures a firm footing in one's imagination. At the same time, however, while the details are excellent, I'm not sure that the uniqueness of the creatures is the best. In the product we have a typical demi human, a humanoid creature based on an animal, a demonic/devilish creature, a sentient pool and a stronger breed of horse. Despite the concepts perhaps not being the best, the details themselves, and particularly how they fit into the campaign setting, make up for the somewhat weaker creature ideas. In a way, these are more creatures re-imagined for the world of Aihrde, than unique creatures in their own right.

Overall, I found this to be a good product. I loved the details provided on each of the monsters, and the thought that had gone into making them slot into the campaign setting. The presentation is top notch, both the writing and the artwork. While perhaps the concepts of each of the creatures weren't the best, I think the way in which these concepts are used in the setting makes up for this slight weakness in the pdf. Good product that one can get a good amount of use of, irrespective of setting or rule system.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Monsters of Aihrde IV
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Fantasyscape: Labyrinth of the Scorpion Cult
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2009 03:46:59
Fantasyscape: Labyrinth of the Scorpion Cult is a 23 page pdf of 2D terrain tiles for your fantasy roleplaying game. This product is one of several products in the Fantasyscape series, and offers 20 unique tiles to bring your gaming table to life by providing easy-to-print high quality tiles for your table maps. Each product in the series offers both unique tiles and unique locations, and to a certain extent tiles from different sets can be combined to create even larger or more complex structures. In particular, this set is very suitable for use with the Lair of the Scorpion Cult set. Each tile is 6 by 6 squares.

The product comes as a single pdf files. The cover page presents a snap-shot view of all the tiles in the product, offering a good view of the contents and to a certain extent the page number of any given tile based on its allocated number which roughly agrees with page number. Included as well is a very useful page of sample constructions from the set on a smaller scale, giving you a set of good examples on how to get the best out of this set. Tile artwork is generally very good, although none of the tiles offer any form of customization. Objects and features on the tiles are fairly easy to distinguish, providing clear-cut images of each tile so that they're ready to use from just a quick glance. Overall, the presentation is fairly simple, but functional, making the pdf easy to use and print.

Labyrinth of the Scorpion Cult presents a set of tiles aimed at creating mazes and complex passageways and structures using the Scorpion Cult theme. Most tiles in this set have the image of a scorpion present somewhere on the tile, which creates good flavor but at the same time limits the overall usefulness of this set when trying to combine it with others. In a way it would've been better to let the objects or structures reflect aspects of the scorpion better so that the majority of tiles could still be seamlessly used with other sets. Objects and typical structures within the tiles include pits, pools of water, fire pits, altars, braziers, pillars, fountains and more. Again none of these seem particularly scorpion-related. I wonder if the product wouldn't have been better served offering at least the customization to remove the scorpion if desired.

There's a very good combination of tiles present in this pdf, with a handy selection of rooms and different corridor intersections. Despite the fact that the rooms are nominally 6 by 6 squares, the objects and pillars often take up quite a bit of the space, meaning that most of the tiles will be fairly crowded once a battle breaks out. This can be both a tactical challenge, or perhaps frustrating to those involved. The theme of the scorpion is carried fairly well throughout the set with the scorpion on most tiles, although as mentioned earlier, the rest of the structures are not particularly related to the theme.

Overall I think this set offers a good selection of unique tiles, with good variety and generally good value, although with the lack of customization you really need to be interested in using the scorpion theme to make the most use of these tiles. This in itself is not a bad thing, since that is after all the theme of the product. Artwork is good and clear, although rooms can get fairly crowded. It's possible to build fairly elaborate structures and mazes with this product, and confusing ones as well if you're aiming to use a lot of tile repetition. Labyrinth of the Scorpion Cult is a good value set, very functional, with useful tiles and good artwork.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasyscape: Labyrinth of the Scorpion Cult
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Book of Vicious Damnation 1
Publisher: Inspired Device
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2009 10:32:53
Book of Vicious Damnation is a 11 page pdf sourcebook for the 4e GSL system. This product is the first in Inspired Device's new line Fantasy 4th, and details a number of powers that can be used to create an evil paladin or evil warrior champion. This kind of archetype is fairly common, so it's good to see a product that provides some support for a classic fantasy gaming element.

Book of Vicious Damnation is written by Davide Quatrini and is very well presented with an eye-catching cover, introductory page, credits page, and complete bookmarks. The art is impressive, and quite fitting to the theme of the product. Layout and design is well done, and writing is clear without any hints of ambiguity. The powers are colour coded, as are the useful power cards included in the back of the product, allowing you to recognise the type of power by the colour. The power cards are an extremely useful feature where you can access the power details handily in card format for quick referencing. Overall, the presentation is very professional.

There are three parts to this short pdf - the details of a new goddess of pain, powers for evil paladins or unholy champions, and lastly a typical unholy champion monster or NPC. The new goddess is one of pain and evil, and fits in nicely as an appropriate deity for those characters that use the material in this book. The write-up is fairly short, however, with little more than beliefs and dogma, and it would've been more useful to get a better view of the deity's followers, structure of any organisations that support the deity, typical followers, aims and motivations and the like. Nevertheless, it's an adequate starting point that can be built on.

There are twenty dark powers to choose from within the pdf. The majority of the powers are daily or encounter attack powers, ranging all the way up to level 29, but there is also one at-will power and a handful of utility powers. The powers themselves all have suitable dark and evil flavor, and will go well with the character type they're utilized with. I though for the most part there was a sense of déjà vu here - the outcome of many of the powers is just a shade of other powers in other 4e sourcebooks. There are some clever and unique ones, but largely these go along familiar lines, although the themes of necrotic, cold and psychic damage are flavorfully well represented amongst the powers. The pdf concludes with a well constructed NPC (or monster) utilizing the myriad of powers to create an evil paladin, and of course, the power cards of each of the twenty powers, including some very useful blank cards.

So what's good and not so good about this product? Firstly, I think this is a good concept, and one worth exploring. The Fantasy 4th series is off to a good start in creating playable and very usable material. The overall content is good, with good variety in powers, a new goddess and a useful monster/NPC. The theme was very well adhered to throughout the product, and it felt like everything inside the product belonged rather than feeling out of place. Powers were suitably designed to 'feel' more like dark powers, including the names and various power descriptions. Power cards - always a bonus. On the other side, the goddess could've used a little more detail, and the powers could've broken away more from the 'different damage type/affect different condition/different stat' paradigm that's just not that exciting. Overall, a good pdf, and a useful and worthwhile product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Vicious Damnation 1
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Breathe Life Into #1
Publisher: Knowledge Arcana
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2009 10:25:29
There are a number of things that affect the nature of any encounter and make it fun and interesting. Examples of these include exciting and novel creatures, eclectic terrain and terrain features, good plot and story details, strong background details, strong encounter motivation, the sense that the encounter outcome if important, and no doubt a long list of other aspects. More importantly, keeping the encounter dynamic is an excellent way to ensure that players and their PCs stay on their feet, don't become complacent and prepare for the unexpected. This pdf, Breathe Life Into #1 - Kobolds, aims to address some of these issues with encounter design related to kobolds.

Breathe Life Into #1 - Kobolds is the first product in the new Breathe Life Into series. This series focuses on providing information that will allow GMs to spice up their encounters with useful information on the behaviour and ecology of creatures. This first offering features kobolds, and provides the GM with information on combat behaviour, society, personality, interaction and other useful ecology details that allow one to roleplay the kobold during combat encounters. This product is designed for the 3.5e OGL system, although small portions of it will be equally suitable to other game systems that feature kobolds.

This product comes as a single 10 page pdf file, of which only 5 pages are devoted to content, while the remainder are devoted to the front and back covers, licences and a page left blank. The product is fairly well presented, with some good art in the interior, and useful layout. The interior, though, is somewhat disappointing, particularly from an editing perspective. Sections of the pdf could be separated better (by, for example, changing the font size in headings), while the writing was poor and clumsy in places with several rather noticeable errors. The general cohesion of the pdf is not terribly good either, and the reading doesn't flow. Indeed in several sequential sections the reader is constantly reminded that kobolds are rarely found alone. Overall structuring of the pdf content could've been better, although the covers and the art are fairly good.

What does this pdf offer the GM, then, in terms of spicing up the encounters? Like most pdfs of this nature, the take on kobolds is unique in places, but fairly standard in others. For example, here kobolds loathe fey creatures, but are still trap creating little critters which is fairly common for kobolds. By and large the pdf hasn't tried to reinvent kobolds, but rather adds to them, particularly related to roleplaying potential and roleplaying during combat encounters. Lots of useful information is provided on how kobolds should react in certain situations, how they behave under different circumstances, and in general what one would expect when you throw a kobold into the deep end.

Aside from this, there is some useful information on kobold society and their relationships to their monarchs, details on kobold young, and information on typical kobold living areas. From here the pdf looks at two 'different' types of kobolds - mountain kobolds and forest kobolds. Each type is briefly explained, and each section contains a series of ideas for typical kobold encounters and typical kobold traps within these environments. The product details more than half a dozen traps for kobolds that the GM can use to flesh out encounters within kobold territory. The pdf concludes with a useful brief summary of the important points to remember regarding roleplaying kobolds.

I think this pdf has set off to do something quite worthwhile in creating dynamic and interesting encounters, but the execution if not the best. I found it hard to get a clear vision of what the author intended the kobolds to behave like. That's not to say that there weren't any useful ideas and implementations here, and in fact a lot of this information can be used to craft interesting encounters. But at the same time the structure and cohesion is not the best, and not helped by the layout which could've been better. Dynamic and exciting encounters are those that players and GMs remember, and while I think this pdf is a fair aid to achieve that aim, I think it could've used a little more work to make it better. Overall, some good ideas, but editing and pdf structure let the product down.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Breathe Life Into #1
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review Peter! I like to think any feedback is good feedback. I'll take the points you made to practice in the next release of the series and hopefully #2 won't be such a let down.
A Clan of Wretches
Publisher: Sceaptune Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2009 10:05:24
A Clan of Wretches is a 24 page pdf for the 4e GSL system. This product is the 2nd product in Sceaptune Games' Greysca4e series of products, the other being A Drake Miscellany. The aim of the Greysca4e series is to produce innovative game supplements for your 4e games, while at the same time being easy to print (hence the use of the term Greysca4e). The first two products in the series so far, which includes this one, focus on monsters and creatures, but also provide ways of adapting these creatures as PC races where applicable. A Clan of Wretches details the lives of the wretchers, a group of clanspeople creatures that live on the outskirts of civilised territories.

A Clan of Wretches comes as a single pdf file that's neatly presented and well designed. The product includes nicely done front and back covers, complete bookmarks, a table of contents and even a searchable index. The product is largely produced in greyscale, apart from the racial write-ups where the powers have been color coded. The use of greyscale means that when printed you'll use less ink than a solid black pdf. Sceaptune Games have pulled out all the stops in making sure this product is as usable as possible, both in terms of printing and searchability. General writing, editing and design is good, as is the current art set. Note that this product has been released prior to all the art being available, but a free update will be issued once the artwork has been completed. On the whole, this is a neat little pdf that looks good, and will hopefully be even better once the art arrives.

The wretch or wretchers are a group of humanoid creatures that live on the fringes of the known lands, where they gather together in social clans with strict and ordered hierarchy. This product presents these creatures both as monsters and as a racial race for PC characters, and introduces three different subspecies of wretch - the bogwretch, the moorwretch and the stonewretch. Each subspecies gets a complete write-up, including several different monster varieties under each write-up, meaning that in total you get 16 different wretchers to use as monsters, and this does not include the handful of other monsters that the wretchers can summon through the use of their ancestral magic.

The product presents a very detailed and structured overview of the wretch, and details all the important aspects of their society, such as their clan structure, their art, their music, their social hierarchy and more. Each of the three subspecies expands on this information, allowing one to get a complete overview on where the different wretchers fit into the overall society and what their role is. The moorwretch is the predominant wretch and the most intelligent, and these wretch normally use the massive and lumbering stonewretch as guards or guardians, while the bogwretch see to the day to day activities of the clan or society. The pdf provides useful Knowledge checks related to each subspecies and the wretch in general, typical combat encounters for each wretch subspecies, details on typical wretch clans, and several new rituals related to the wretch ancestral worship. All the wretch powers and racial abilities are combined towards the end of the pdf to allow you to use these creatures as a PC race.

This is a very complete pdf. The wretch or wretchers (the naming and singular/plural is very confusing) are detailed very nicely, and the social structure, group dynamic, and culture of the creatures is nicely illustrated. In this way the wretch have a sense of purpose and an identity, which makes them more meaningful creatures within a campaign world. This detail of their society and culture feeds down into the mechanics and abilities of the various monster creatures and racial powers, and it's good to see monsters build around a common theme or common societal elements. The detail allows you to see the wretch as a whole rather than in a vacuum which is frequently the case for monster design. The racial powers and monster abilities are well constructed, and there are some good ideas in there stemming from creative design. While some of the monsters have a little flair, for the most part the creatures are standard fare, as one would largely expect for a society of 'non-magical' humanoids. Typical abilities revolve around group tactics, music or battle cries and ancestral worship, fitting in nicely with the wretch culture.

A Clan of Wretches is a good pdf. I have to admit that I'm not a fan of the naming and the subsequent confusing use of the creature's name, but that aside this does a good job of presenting a well thought-out, detailed creature that has an identity, culture and society of its own. Even if you don't care for those details, there are almost a score of new monsters, several rituals and lots of other useful bits in this pdf. The culture and background has been well incorporated in the monster mechanics, although with the freedoms allowed with the 4e GSL, I'd hoped for a little more flair in the various abilities. Still, they mesh well with the nature and culture of the creatures, and that's good to see. Good pdf.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Clan of Wretches
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Cooper’s Compendium of Corrected Creatures: OGL Monster Stats A – D (Aboleth – Dwarf)
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2009 07:39:08
Most people that frequent the fan site EN World will be familiar with the reviews of staff reviewer John Cooper, and in particular his uncanny knack for spotting errors in monster and NPC stat blocks in the products he reviews. In fact, many view his reviews as a sort of 'unofficial errata' for the product in question, using his profound knowledge to complete and correct the many mistakes in published products. It's a strange feature of the 3.5e OGL system that very few people could get stat blocks completely right. This product, Cooper's Compendium of Corrected Creatures: OGL Monster Stats A - D (Aboleth - Dwarf), is the first of four products in a series that puts John Cooper's knowledge of the rules mechanics to work in correcting and adding to all the official OGL creatures found in the SRD.

The product comes as 2 separate pdf files, one containing the front and back covers, while the other contains the remainder of the document. I'm not sure why the covers (a 5 MB file) were omitted from the document (~ 3 MB), as it would seem easier to just include it in the main file itself. Nevertheless, the covers are very professionally done with some good art by Alejandro Melchor and look impressive. The product itself contains a fair proportion of art as well, although most of it appears to be more 'filler' art than actual new art for the many monsters in this product.

Design and layout of the product is good, using a single column to keep the stat blocks larger. One thing I would've preferred to see would be to not split the stat blocks across pages, but one can understand various reasons why the layout did not afford this. Given the nature of this product where you're most likely to print the needed stat blocks for use in game, it would've been useful to have one page for the stat block rather than 2. A full set of bookmarks and table of contents allows you to navigate the 134 page pdf smoothly. Overall, though, the presentation is top notch, and the stat blocks faultless

This first product in a four part series presents corrected stat blocks for monsters in the SRD, starting with the Aboleth and finishing with the Dwarf. Most gamers will probably not have noticed some of the many errors that are present in the SRD, largely because many of them make little to no difference. But some could be quite significant, and for that, and those gamers that just prefer to have their stat blocks correct, this product corrects the mistakes and provides complete stat blocks along with many comments on what corrections, reorganisation or alterations have been made. In addition to these corrections, the product also includes all the official errata and the stats for a number of mentioned creatures that never saw a stat block. In this light, one thing I'd wished and hoped they'd done in this pdf was to stat out the various dragons at different age categories, but alas that has not been done. Even a template would've been useful there.

This product is a valuable resource for both gamers and publishers of OGL products, although it remains a niche product simply because most gamers wouldn't be bothered if a particular creature had an extra skill point or two. Nevertheless, as one who approves of complete stat blocks, I'm very pleased with this product and the way in which it was done and presented. John Cooper's comments are very useful in guiding you in which changes have been made, and it's nice to see the monsters and creatures of the SRD as they should have been presented in the first place. The 3.5e OGL ruleset provided a excellent framework for monster design and construction, and it was disappointing to see how many people got it wrong. This, though, at least corrects some of the errors of the edition.

While Cooper's Compendium of Corrected Creatures: OGL Monster Stats A - D (Aboleth - Dwarf) will not be a product for everyone, it's one of those products that should've been done ages ago, and one that will take up useful and worthwhile space on your bookshelf or harddrive. In addition to the corrected stat blocks, it's in a way an excellent tutorial on monster design and getting it right. In that sense, I hope this product inspires future 3.5e OGL publishers and gamers to use the splendid rules to create fascinating monsters with correct statistics. The next volumes in the series are due for release monthly through to May, and will features creatures from E - K, L - S and T to Z respectively. A very good reference product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cooper’s Compendium of Corrected Creatures: OGL Monster Stats A – D (Aboleth – Dwarf)
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