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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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Old Rock Tower - 4e Dungeons & Dragons Adventure
Publisher: Unicorn Rampant Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2009 09:07:16
Old Rock Tower is a 20 page 4e pdf adventure that takes the characters on an intriguing journey through an old wizard's tower. This adventure was originally released under the OGL, but has since been released under the new 4e GSL. Old Rock Tower is a location based dungeon crawl adventure, suitable for characters of 6th level. The aim of the adventure, and indeed all Unicorn Rampant's products is to provide tantalizing adventures and stories that are challenging, fun and easy to play.

Old Rock Tower comes as a single pdf file, and includes presentable front and back covers, complete bookmarks, and some fair art by Christopher Hay and Dan Smith. The adventure is written by Adam A. Thompson. As far as presentation goes, the adventure is well crafted and designed, with a decent layout and overall look. The writing and editing is good, although not all the descriptions are particularly vivid or leap out of the page. Nevertheless, some effort has gone into making this product look professional and presentable, and for that Unicorn Rampant Publishing are to be commended. A complete set of maps for all seven levels and the exterior of the tower is provided. This is probably my biggest gripe with the pdf - the maps are far too small and dark, making it really hard to discern details, encounter numbers and other features of the maps. In general the maps could've been a lot crisper but as they are, while still usable, they're fairly disappointing and unclear.

The adventure takes place in an old wizard's tower. Here the PCs are able to explore its many levels and uncover some of its magical secrets while dealing with the remnants of the wizard's legacy and some new occupants in various sections of the tower. The adventure provides a detailed background and a brief synopsis to assist the DM in running it, and provides a number of plausible plot hooks, in the form of a quest, to get the players to the old tower to start exploring it. The overall background story is fair, and the players should have an enjoyable romp through the tower, which provided both interesting special features and some challenging encounters. As they do, the adventure explores the tower's background well with the PCs, allowing them to learn the details and history of the structure and its previous occupants. This is something rarely done well in many published adventures, so I was pleased to see it here.

The tower itself consists of seven levels, each one largely built around a specific theme or a specific creature. The levels are accessible through a unusual staircase, which creates an interesting effect within the tower. Judging by the various levels in the adventure and the maps, the tower has a rather odd shape, and I wish they'd included a sideview map to indicate how the size of the different floors change as you go up the tower. Most of the creatures within the tower are standard from the core rules, but there are a few new creatures with stat blocks, including a rather unusual dire chicken! The encounters are generally well constructed, with interesting environs and challenges and a fair share of traps. For the most part though, the encounters are standard fare, although largely make sense within the confines of the adventure background and the logic of a fantastical world and wilderness.

In general this is likely to be an enjoyable adventure. I liked the concept behind the tower staircase, and the way in which the adventure led you through the tower's history and the wizard's legacy. Care has been taken to ensure the encounters in the tower make sense, which is good to see. The presentation is fair, although the maps are fairly weak and could've been clearer. I think more could've been done to spice up the backstory and some of the encounters in the tower to make it more dynamic rather than a fairly static, albeit interesting dungeon crawl. Overall, though, an enjoyable adventure.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Old Rock Tower - 4e Dungeons & Dragons Adventure
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Castles & Crusades PDF1 Encounters: Bands of Orcs
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/04/2009 05:54:25
One of the beautiful things about the 3.5e OGL system is that publishers and fans were allowed to modify and change the system to spawn a variety of variants. And the majority of these variants are fantastic games, such as Mutants and Masterminds, True20, Iron Heroes, Arcana Evolved and Castles and Crusades. The latter presents a simple and elegant system of resolution that streamlined gameplay for those that wanted to escape from the complexities of the OGL. This product, Encounters: Bands of Orcs, is a short supplement for Castles and Crusades, presenting a series of versatile and adaptable orc encounters to throw at your party of characters.

Encounters: Bands of Orcs is a short 7 page pdf file written by Davis Chenault for the Castles and Crusades system. The presentation and layout of the product is fantastic, particularly for such a short product, and a high standard of professionalism is evident in the product design. A great piece of artwork by artist Peter Bradley is included, and the cover features and neat design to kick off what will presumably be a series of products. Interior writing and design is good, with clear written descriptions and concise summaries of the various encounters in the product. Overall, an excellently presented product with high quality standards from Troll Lord Games.

This product presents 7 different orc encounters that can easily be inserted into any campaign or adventure. The product is aimed at those Castle Keepers that require an on the fly encounter or perhaps those that are too busy to make the required preparations. The encounters come with complete descriptions of the nature of the encounter, the mechanical details and statistics of the creatures involved, detailed treasure and equipment listings, and lastly a series of useful plot hooks to expand the encounter and give it more meaning, motivation and purpose. The encounters are suitable for a variety of different levels, using encounter levels from 1 to 6, but very easily scalable individually beyond what they're designed for.

The product starts with a brief introduction to the product and its aim and purpose. This is followed by a useful introduction to orcs, orc behaviour, orc combat tactics and other useful bits of information on orcs. The background introduction provides a better sense of direction and purpose to the combat encounters presented. The seven combat encounters presented are: orc raiders, orc hunters, orc warriors, orc miners, war party, orc shamans, and lastly a complete war band encampment.

Along with all the details on each encounter, the product provides adventure hooks to guide you in using these encounters and particularly in thinking beyond the combat encounters. These adventure hooks are phrased as a series of questions to get you thinking about motivation, background, and purpose for each of these encounters. In a way, the encounters are more like mechanical encounter templates, and the Castle Keeper needs to fill in the meaty story and plot details to flesh things out. This is both a good and a bad thing, depending on the requirements of the Castle Keeper at the time. The pdf concludes with some useful suggestions for orc names in the event, for example, that an orc gets captured.

Like many similar products for various systems on the market, the utility of this product largely depends on the needs of the individual GMs. Band of Orcs provides enough flexibility to cater for the majority of those, but not really for those GMs that require an out of the box encounter, complete with plot, motivation and story. Sure, that can be gained by working through the adventure plot hook questions, but that naturally requires extra work. Overall, the mechanical details of the product are logical and neatly organised, but I wish the adventure hooks had gone slightly beyond the norm. Asking a question such as 'Why is the raiding party here?' does not necessarily lead one in any useful directions. Perhaps if the product had actually answered some of those questions in the adventure plot sections with creative and inspiring suggestions, this product would've impressed more. As it is, it's impeccably presented, well written and certainly useful, but I expected perhaps a little more in creating interesting, fantastical, and memorable encounters.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades PDF1 Encounters: Bands of Orcs
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Dinner Guest
Publisher: War Games South
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2009 08:38:56
It's heartening to see continued support for the OGL 3.5e system, particularly in the light of the release of the 4e GSL. And it's particularly heartening to see new publishers jump in to support this edition, meaning that those that enjoy and play the 3.5e OGL game will continue to enjoy healthy support from 3rd party publishers. One such new publisher that's recently entered the market is War Games South, and their first offering is a short 13 page pdf adventure, Dinner Guest, for 4th to 6th level characters. This adventure sees the PCs investigate the disappearance of a young boy, only to find much more than they'd bargained for in the process.

Dinner Guest comes as a single pdf file. It's clear from the outset that this is not a particularly professionally done product, and the quality of the presentation is fairly mediocre. Essentially it looks like a document converted straight to pdf, which is somewhat disappointing as a first offering. Some attempt has been made to create an appealing cover, which is commendable, but even that does not save the product's presentation. Spelling and grammar errors abound across the product, and the writing is generally not the best. One positive, though, is that the maps look fairly decent and some effort has gone into them, although I wish more effort had gone into the product itself. Single column layout is used throughout, and the product has fair organisation. Also, while I may not be an expert in all things OGL and the OGL license, the least this product could do was include a copy of said license! Mediocre presentation from a new publisher.

The adventure takes place in the city of Port Rath, a city that's recently been ravaged by plague with the net outcome that those survivors in the city now live in an infested, lawless, and dangerous place. The adventure starts where the PCs are approached in one of the dockside taverns by a crying girl, desperately asking for help to find her missing brother. As the PCs investigate, they uncover much more than they'd bargained for. The background for the adventure and the backdrop itself is fairly compelling. However, the product provides no real motivation or reason for the PCs being in a plague infested city, nor enough detail to support the concept itself. A lot could be done to portray the city, and the product doesn't do enough to paint a true picture of the horrors of the city, and indeed the impact this would have on the surrounding areas and the people within and without the city walls.

The adventure itself is largely a dungeon crawl through one of the local abandoned houses. As one would expect for such a locale, the place crawls with undead and other nasties. Creatures are provided with references to pages in the core rulebooks rather than with statistics in the product, although the two new monsters provided come with full statistics. Even then, the mechanics is poor and strewn with errors, and no proper write-ups are done of each of the new creatures. Indeed, much of the work is left to the DM of this product - in one instance the product says that you need to apply a template to a base creature yourself. The creatures and the combat encounters, though, are logical and make sense within the adventure, and the encounters themselves are fairly challenging. The idea and concept at least has some merit, although from the start most experienced players will realise fairly quickly what's going on.

Overall, though, this product has the appearance of one hastily constructed with little thought gone into it, and unfortunately resembles more pre-game notes than publishable adventure. Mechanics were poor or incomplete for the creatures, presentation was not up to standard, and while the premise was interesting and had promise, not enough was done to turn it into something memorable. Dinner Guest showed some promise, but failed in the delivery. Disappointing product.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Dinner Guest
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0one's Blueprints: Dragon's Peak
Publisher: 0one Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/30/2009 03:31:56
You can always has use a new map, particularly if it's a good map. And by a good map I don't necessarily mean a map that has brilliant art, but more a map that is logical and well designed with the additional capability of being versatile. If you can modify the map to be, for example a handout, or modify it for another purpose or use, a good map becomes several good maps. 0One Roleplaying Games have always produced good maps, and they've managed to do that for years now. Each map in their Blueprints series contains a series of maps tied to a location, both in black and white, and what can be called 'old school blue'. Their maps/map sets have always struck me as logical maps where thought has gone into the design, the creatures that are there, and what a map should look like based on all external circumstances. This product, Dragon's Peak, is no exception to the above.

0One's Blueprints: Dragon's Peak is a 23 page pdf file. The file comes with a stylish cover, two pages of introductory text which includes the legend and details on the product, 12 pages of maps (6 maps in total in two different colours), and lastly itemised sheets detailing the maps, locations and location names. The latter sheets allow you to flesh out the location on the maps using short descriptions and other pertinent details. A blank detail sheet is provided should you require any additional sheets for writing details related to these maps.

Dragon's Peak depicts a small mountain that overlooks a very small hamlet. The maps provided include an overview of the mountain and the hamlet, and maps of all the interior caverns, tunnels and lairs within the mountain itself. No detailed map of the hamlet is provided, although the one that's there is still useful, and this product's sister product, Dragon's Foot, contains all the details of the little hamlet at the foot of the mountain. The background story included allows for plenty of room to manuever, and creative DMs can modify the details of the product fairly easily to allow the maps to suit a different background story to the one provided.

The maps provided cover the peak and the hamlet, a cross-section of the mountain, the two maps of mines inside the mountain, a goblin dwelling inside the mountain and the dragon's lair itself. Each map features 0One's 'Rule the Dungeon' feature, which allows you to change some of the features of the maps at the click of a button on the map. This gives the user control over furniture, text, grids and the like on the map, allowing you good flexibility in customization of the map for DM or player use. A good amount of detail in provided with each map, giving you a clear indication of content and to a lesser extent purpose. As mentioned earlier, the maps make logical sense, so there are no features there just for the sake of it, but rather more purpose-orientated features. The layout of the maps is also very good, maintaining a cavern-like feel but also indicating purpose and inhabitants at the right locations on the maps.

0One's Blueprints: Dragon's Peak is another quality map in the Blueprints series, and one that delivers on every count. The quality is good, the amount of detail is just right, the maps are logical and purpose driven, and the whole product adds flexibility through the use of pdf layers. This is the kind of map that I'd happily use, particularly when combined with Dragon's Foot, but even on its own there's a lot to offer. With useful background information and options for plot hooks and story lines, the creative DM can get a lot out of this. Even if you don't use all 6 maps as a whole, the individual maps on their own can easily slot into other areas of a campaign world on their own. Overall, a good, quality and very useful map and product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Blueprints: Dragon's Peak
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Equipment Card Set 1
Publisher: WeeWarriors
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/28/2009 05:10:55
Equipment Card Set 1 is the first product from new RPG publisher, WeeWarriors. This product features a collection of printable cards of weapons, armor and equipment that can be used as handouts during your game. The product comes as a set of 20 png files within a zip file, and the image files are organised with 9 images to a page. To provide more flexibility with this card set, a number of blank and card back pages are provided to add your own images, write on or create your own cards.

The set comes with a wide variety of different weapons and armor, including axes, daggers, clubs, bows, quivers, swords, polearms, crossbows, hammers, helmets, shields, staffs (magical and mundane), rods, scimitars and others. The variety is very good, and each weapon-type has fairly good representation, although things like swords, axes and shields are more commonplace which is probably the best approach. Artwork is done at 150 dpi resolution which is good for printing, though not photo quality, and each image is placed on a tan/brown background. Images are rendered to provide good 3D detail and light reflection, and most of the images capture this quality well.

The images capture the fantasy feel well, and depict more fantastical weapons than the typical medieval weapon. As the images are all the same size, they're not too scale on the paper, meaning that the polearms look rather flimsy compared to the beefy swords or even axes. In fact, the polearms are all fairly thin, making it difficult to gather the detail from the image. In a way it would've been somewhat better if some attention to scaling and size had been taken, particularly if you want to give your players an accurate representation of the item they've just found or acquired. The tan background is also in places somewhat cumbersome, dwarfing out the detail and colour of the other images. Having the images on a plain white background as a second option would've been nice.

I think WeeWarriors' first offering is fairly good. There's some good artwork, good variety, and I liked the fact that this wasn't too medieval but rather more fantastical. There are some minor issues with the product particularly related to the scaling of the polearms and perhaps the background, but for the most part this is a really useful collection of images that can be used as handouts, or for those that which to scale them even further, the images can be used as 2D terrain tile objects. The rendering and artwork has been done very well, creating lively pieces and with the ability to write on the card backs, you can create artifacts or interesting weapons with histories that will hopefully be more than just another magical sword. Good offering.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Equipment Card Set 1
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Blood Reign of Nishanpur
Publisher: Paradigm Concepts, Inc.
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2009 04:40:56
Broadly speaking, adventures can be divided into two categories - those that are generic, and those that are written for a specific campaign. Granted the former can easily be adapted for a specific campaign setting, but that's not necessarily the goal at the outset. Both types of adventures have their own inherent constraints, but if you have a good campaign setting as the basis to write on, then it's the adventure specific to the campaign setting that's likely to outshine the more generic one. I mention this because this pdf, Blood Reign of Nishanpur, written for the Arcanis campaign setting, will likely hands down beat any similar adventure out there, because it's based on one of the best campaign settings ever created, and uses that beautifully in the adventure to create a rich adventure to play through.

Blood Reign of Nishanpur is a 35 page adventure for the Arcanis Campaign Setting, and follows on after the events in the adventure The Spear of the Loghin, also from Paradigm Concepts, as the second adventure in the Carceri Chronicles. While it's probably best that you run that adventure before Blood Reign of Nishanpur, this pdf adventure provides plenty of background and advice on running this adventure on its own. It should also be noted that despite being recently released in pdf format, this adventure is actually much older, and utilizes the 3e (not 3.5e) d20 ruleset. This adventure in Arcanis is suitable for characters of levels 5 through 7.

The product comes as a single pdf file. The presentation and look of the product is very good, although parts of the product look like they've been scanned in, in particular the front and back covers and the credits page. Writing throughout is excellent, and this is complemented by some good artwork from several artists. Organisation and layout is very good, with the product broken down into 'hard points' and 'soft points', the former being encounters that are required to be run, and the latter being those that are optional. There's a good number of optional encounters, and you can mix and match to add the flavor that you desire. Bookmarks are based on these hard and soft points, allowing you to easily find the encounter you're after, as long as you know it by name. Expanding the bookmarks to identify the hard and soft points in order of appearance would've been helpful. Overall, a well constructed and presented product.

In the previous adventure in the Carceri Chronicles series, the PCs set out to destroy a powerful demon and retrieve the fragments of a holy spear. In doing this, they become embroidered in the affairs of a demon prince, and soon find themselves on a quest that takes them to the city of Nishanpur, where the Council of the Nihang is in turmoil following the destruction of the Dark Apostate. In an attempt to complete their pact with the demon prince and close a powerful gate to the lands of Sarish, the PCs must uncover the truth behind the Council's trouble, keep their pact with the demon prince, and in doing so deal with the lesser of two evils in the dark lands of Carceri.

Blood Reign of Nishanpur is a fantastic, if somewhat complex adventure, that will take the PCs through the darkest parts of Arcanis. The complexity of the adventure derives from its brilliant use of the Arcanis campaign setting, which is a rich and detailed setting. Despite the complexity, the adventure does a grand job of explaining things very well, giving thorough adventure backgrounds and summaries, and providing a detailed glossary to explain the background behind various aspects of the adventure. In this way the complexity gives way to a brilliant adventure that is probably unlike anything your PCs have ever seen before.

The adventure combines all the classic elements of an RPG into one - combat, diplomacy, mystery, intrigue, hard choices and plenty of roleplaying opportunity. Combine this with the rich detail of the campaign setting, and you get an adventure that's breathing with life, and full of riveting scenes and exciting encounters. I have to admit that despite a few presentation flaws, I love everything about this adventure and the campaign setting that binds it together. It might not be an adventure for the younger audience with its dark overtones, but for more mature gamers this adventure is a blast. I've said it before about the Arcanis campaign setting in general - it's one of the best out there.

I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure, despite it being for the 3e d20 rules. It combines rich detail, fantastic story telling, exciting scenes and encounters, excellent roleplaying opportunity, and challenging encounters with a great campaign background to form a fantastic adventure. Some might argue that the various hard points can be too constraining on the PCs, and perhaps there is some element of truth in there that you really need to know Arcanis to make the most of this adventure. It is very much an Arcanis adventure, and while you could move it to another setting, it would be a fairly difficult conversion. Nevertheless, for those that love attention to detail, rich stories and backgrounds, and adventures that are varied and different, this is a fantastic choice.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blood Reign of Nishanpur
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In Search of Adventure
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2009 08:38:20
In Search of Adventure is a 115 page pdf adventure collection from Goodman Games for the 4e GSL system. This product contains 6 short adventures for budding first level adventurers, though these adventures are each scalable for slightly higher levels if required. The adventures all vary in theme and location, and contain an eclectic and intriguing collection of plots ranging from ancient temples in the jungle, to a forgotten wizard's tower, to the desert pyramid of the Snake Queen. These adventure are ideal for kick-starting a new campaign, introducing players to the game, or just as a one-off adventure.

The adventures come in a single pdf file, with each adventure clocking about the same page count in the product. In addition to the six adventures, the product contains a plethora of new monsters in the appendix, and a few useful ones at that that failed to make the cut in the release of the new 4e GSL edition. The writing and design is excellent, with top quality RPG writers and authors contributing to this product, and the product sporting a highly professional and well-developed presentation. The cover illustration by Ben Wooten is excellent, as is the interior art, although the latter is all in black and white. A full set of bookmarks and a useful table of contents is included to round off a superb presentation and a great-looking product.

The first adventure in the product is titled King Dretch and takes place in a wizard's tower where a particularly fiendish dretch has managed to build himself a small army of creature to do its bidding. Player characters must take on the dretch in his tower, and solve the mystery of what happened in the tower, and where the dretch had come from. The adventure is a single location scenario, with plenty of new and fiendish monsters and a few useful and clever traps. It's a fairly simple scenario to run for novice DMs and players, although the ending does involve somewhat more involved future quests that new players or DMs would likely want to leave out or deal with more easily. The ending leaves some strings loose and it would've been better if there was at least a simpler way of solving the problem rather than having it hanging over the PCs' heads. Nevertheless, it's a fun romp through the tower, fighting dangerous and challenging creatures, and dealing with the magic of the wizard's tower.

The second adventure, Children of the Snake God, sees the characters stumble upon the lost temples of ancient powers within the jungle. There they must contend with a local tribe of serpent creatures which has plans for the lost temples and the wealth of treasure they are supposed to hold. This is probably one of the better adventures in the series, as it features more guile and cunning, subterfuge, and opportunity for roleplaying and diplomacy. Coupled with a fun romp through an ancient temple, this is a strong adventure and story. Like most adventures, the story is often something that's largely left for the DM rather than the players, but this adventures explores the plot well with the PCs.

The Scorpion Queen is the next adventure, and sees the characters travel to a pyramid where they must face off against the traps and beasts that do the bidding of the malevolent Scorpion Queen. The characters will get a chance to discover the mystery behind the pyramid's appearance, and vanquish the evil that lies within. The Scorpion Queen is another straightforward dungeon adventure, where the PCs battle their way through the pyramid to the source of its evil. As with most of the adventure in the series, the locations are quite fun, and there are lots of remnants of events from older adventures gone by. Having such interesting and varied locations allows new players to get hooked into the endless possibilities of RPGs and the fun they entail.

The fourth adventure, The Forbidden Crypt, takes the characters deep into the heart of the tomb of an ancient king, and allows them to explore its riches and its history. Like all the other adventures in the pdf, this is a single location scenario where the PCs enter a maze and work their way through it. Unlike the other adventures, this one contains a number of clever riddles, and is perhaps more of a thinking person's adventure that a straight fighting adventure. It has to be said of this adventure, and indeed of the others, that the combat encounters and encounter locations are all fairly interesting, with new creatures abounding and clever use of terrain and creatures throughout.

Next is Legacy of the Labyrinth, which again sees the characters explore a labyrinth, but in this instance the labyrinth serves a far more sinister purpose, and the actions of the characters can have repercussions should they not navigate the labyrinth correctly. I quite like the premise of this adventure, and it's certainly one of the more interesting ones. The location, too, is fairly intriguing, although I though in places that it could've been done a little better. Nevertheless, it's a fun adventure and one that's easy to use for incorporating long-term adversaries into your campaign world.

The last adventure is called Tides of Doom, and is probably my favorite of the bunch, although that's not saying anything about the quality of the other five. In this adventure the characters are confronted with something sinister in the village of Crafthaven, and will need all their guile and cunning to survive the machinations of evil in the village. I do wish that a little more roleplaying opportunity had been included in this adventure, as the premise is fairly 'classic' and one that young adventurers will have fun exploring.

When I first looked at this product I was impressed with the quality of presentation and the novelty of adventure locations but couldn't quite shake the feeling of 'It's been done before'. Having thought about it, I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing - a new era of gamers is bound to stumble across this series of adventures, and, looking at it from this point of view, it's no different from the classic adventure of old from thirty odd years ago that shares the same name as this one. Also, while the adventures on their own aren't that fantastic, I think together they create quite a good combinations of adventures that cater to quite a few different tastes in adventuring style. The strength in this product is that it does a splendid job of creating good first level adventures, particularly for new players or players new to the system. Old gamers might not find the adventures as good, but I think there's a richness in here that's bound to appeal to many, and even those that have played games for many years will still rediscover some magic within these pages. Very good product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In Search of Adventure
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Counter Collection Digital v3.0
Publisher: Fiery Dragon
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2009 10:06:15
Counter Collection Digital v3.0 is the latest digital product that collects all of Fiery Dragon and Claudio Pozas' 2D counter art up to December 2008. This 470 MB download contains more than 3000 unique counters of all sizes to be used for a variety of RPG genres, including fantasy, modern, superhero, and others. This product contains a large collection of JPEG images only, although separate fillable (though not saveable) pdf downloads are provided to assist in assembling all the counters you need for easy printing.

Claudio Pozas is probably one of the more known RPG artists currently active in the industry, and this product is a true showcase of his dedication and talent in the RPG industry. This product features years of 2D counter art that has come forth from his artistic talent, starting from the early days of the OGL edition. The product now spans far more than just the OGL 3e edition, and encompasses a small number of other genres, and indeed counters for the new 4e GSL game as well. This product contains thousands of counters for the 3e OGL game, hundreds for the 4e GSL game (including very useful counters for the latest 4e adventures for the game), and scores of other counters for modern games, superhero games, Tunnels and Trolls, Iron Heroes and Arcana Evolved and Ptolus from Monte Cook. In effect, this product provides everything you could really ask for in a 2D counter, particularly for fantasy RPGs. What I would love to see from Claudio Pozas and Fiery Dragon is object counters that can be used and placed on generic floor tiles enabling you to create complete dungeons and structure with objects and creatures from counters.

As mentioned earlier, this product contains digital JPEG images, and so all counters will need to be printed for use. Special free pdf form-fillable documents are provided as a separate download to allow you to construct the counter sheets you want. This is dead easy and simple to use, and the end results look great when printed. I've mentioned this about Fiery Dragon and their counters in the past and it's worth mentioning again - I wish their counter sheets would include some space (or a thicker line) where you have to cut the counters out, so that you can get a more uniform edge on the counters you cut out and use. Not a big deal, but it makes the final result look neater. It should be noted that the form-fillable pdf documents aren't saveable, unless you own the full version of the appropriate pdf software.

Organisation within the computer folder is generally by edition or genre, and within each subfolder the counters are organised either by the product they apply to (ifor example, an adventure in 4e) or by monster type (for the majority of the 3e OGL counters). It's fairly easy to find what you need as the counters are all very well named and give an indication of the size of the counter as well. Most of the counters will be of familiar creatures, but there are equally a whole host of counters for less familiar creatures such as counters from Expeditious Retreats' Monster Geographica line for OGL 3e. As most counter enthusiast know, a counter can be used for several different monsters and thumbnail views are very useful to browse and scan for the image you're after. All counters are square counters, though it's not difficult to adapt to circular counters and there are tools and websites out there to help you achieve this.

I don't think there's much more to say about the fantastic artwork that's in this product. There are some classic and gorgeous images, and some more mediocre one, but I cannot in all honesty say that there's anything in there that's even remotely 'bad'. The artwork quality and resolution is high, providing some clear images that look great when printed. Couple this to the sheer variety and number of counters, and it's hard to imagine that you'll ever need another counter product again. The product offers excellent utility and value for money, and is probably the single must-have product for any counter enthusiast. Having said that, this product collects all counters through to the end of 2008, so if you've bought previous digital versions of counters from Fiery Dragon there naturally will be some repetition.

This is a fantastic product, with some fantastic art and versatility in creating 2D battlemaps, skirmishes, NPC faces and for use in online gaming. It's fairly well organised, with some duplicate art between the editions for similar monsters, but with 3000 unique counters (3400 total), there's not a lot negative that can be said about this product. Personally I think this is a wonderful product, extremely useful, and a must-have if you want to replace your plastic miniatures with cheaper but still stunning looking counters. Highly recommended.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Counter Collection Digital v3.0
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Kagen's Books and Knowledge
Publisher: Generic Universe Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2009 08:34:17
Typical fantasy RPGs offer a large number of varying locations for characters to adventure in, but the city adventure probably offers the most scope and versatility in adventure design and potential. City adventures offer intrigue, politics, mystery, plenty of roleplaying and can even host small or even very large dungeons. Some of the best products and most known products for fantasy RPGs on the market have been about cities. With a well designed and carefully crafted city, the DM should never be at a loss for things to throw at his PCs, or ways to challenge them to the enjoyment of the players.

City Streets: Kagen's Books and Knowledge is the second in the City Streets series of products from Generic Universe Publishing, and is a product designed to assist in creating lively, versatility city locations filled with roleplaying opportunities and plot hooks. The product is system independent, and uses an innovative system called Sparks System Independent to help you convert the product to your fantasy system of choice. The City Streets products each present a well-crafted location filled with NPCs, plots, interesting events and the potential to make a city adventure even more fun. This entry in the series features a wisened mage and sage, and his research library, ready for the PCs to visit and more.

The presentation of City Streets: Kagen's Books and Knowledge is good, albeit fairly generic, with a well-presented cover, and liberal use of stock art to liven up the product interior. The entire product, including writing, layout and cartography, has been done by Patrick Lawinger, who some might recognise as a prolific writer for Necromancer Games, Dark Quest Games and others. The writing is good and clear with only a couple of noticeable errors, the layout easy to follow, and the cartography is fair, being hand drawn rather than computer assisted. Overall, a fair presentation that slots nicely into the series with a similar style to other products.

As mentioned, the product is system independent, but uses the Sparks system to create a way in which to guide you in converting the product and its monsters and NPCs to your favorite fantasy RPG. The system is based on grading a monster or NPCs on things like combat ability, magical talent, traps, and several others which act as a guide to the NPC's abilities. So a creature with mediocre combat ability is very different from one with heroic combat ability, while one with minor magical talent is different from one with awesome magical talent. Each grading consists of about 5 levels, which should be sufficient to convert. The system isn't perfect as it won't allow for the best conversion, but it's very useful as a handy guide to conversion. It's well thought out, and versatile covering most of the important aspects required to convert to most mechanical systems.

Kagen's Book and Knowledge presents both a highly detailed book store and description of Kagen himself. The product describes the shop, it's location, it's interior with all pertinent features, and also any aspects of Kagen and his shop that are of note to adventurers and plot hooks. Kagen's business operations and clientele are also described, giving you a very good and detailed look at all aspects of Kagen, his shop, his motives and his life. Naturally the product also includes several plot hooks, featuring amongst other things murder and blackmail. The descriptions are vivid and realistic, and leave one with enough room to manuever to expand on the material should you wish to. Kagen is presented as an interesting researcher and sage, and has many uses to a group of adventurers beyond the plot hooks presented in this product.

In general I enjoyed this product. It provided a generic and detailed description of a useful city location, and adds several spicy plot hooks and enough detail to expand and create your own. The city location is useful as a location, and one that most major or metropolitan cities are likely to have. I hope that future products in the series will focus on both small and large cities, but also on more common locations, offering good variety in the series between location types. The location isn't particularly fantastical being more medieval than highly magical, and you can easily imagine a similar place in a modern RPG, but it does contain fantastical and magical elements. Overall, a good product that can provide a useful location for your city, but a little dose of the extraordinary and the unusual would not go amiss.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kagen's Books and Knowledge
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Remarkable Races: The Obitu
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/19/2008 14:59:35
Alluria Publishing is a new publisher for the 4e GSL system, and their first series of products for the system is entitled Remarkable Races. Each product features a new and unusual player race for the 4e GSL game, and having looked at their first two releases in the series, they've come out swinging and produced some high quality material. This product, Remarkable Races: The Obitu, features a living skeletal creature as a new race, and includes all the 4e material required to include the race in your campaign and create a memorable PC.

Remarkable Races: The Obitu comes as a single pdf file, and includes a front and back cover, credits page and table of contents, but unfortunately no bookmarks. The presentation standard is very high and professional with some wonderful artwork from Benjamin R. Barnes, and some good writing by the author of this 12 page pdf. The layout and design of the product is similar to what one would expect from a 4e product, and indeed a 4e race write-up. I was very pleased by the presentation of this product, particularly the vibrant art, but also the completeness of the product design and layout.

The obitu are a race of living skeleton creatures, originally created by a lich to serve as non-turnable minions with a necromantic, undead flavor. Due to unknown reasons, the creation of the obitu allowed them to gain sentience and life, eventually resulting in them turning on the Lich and becoming free-willed creatures. The origin of this race might seems somewhat contrived, but once you read the description of these creatures as a race, you'll realise that a lot of thought has gone into this race to create something that's plausible, living, vivid and real. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this imaginative description of the race, which has got a lot of believability to it, and is also well supported by the underlying mechanics.

The product includes the usual features for a racial write-up including racial traits (and a hefty +4 Dexterity bonus), racial powers, physical description, ecology, and a variety of other material including racial feats for heroic, paragon and epic tiers. All this material combines well to create a fun and interesting race, and certainly one that's got a lot more character than some of the races out there. I think what makes this race different is not so much the quantity of new material, or the mechanics, or even the concept of a living skeleton, but rather the potential for great roleplaying fun. There's a lot you can do with a character such as this in a campaign. Granted, not in every campaign can you walk a living skeleton down the city streets, but even there lies some potential for an interesting and different campaign devoid of some of the stereotypes of fantasy. I think this is where the product and indeed the series shines - it's provides playable races that are fun, with lots of potential and are more than just another weird shaped humanoid or bundle of leathery fur.

The pdf goes on to provide a new magic item slot for the obitu in the heart slot, and it lists a number of useful magical items that can occupy the obitu's chest cavity. It also lists a new disease, applicable only to undead, that is responsible for the creation of the obitu as they are today. One has to wonder what happens if some sort of remove disease ritual is used on an obitu, and unfortunately it's not mentioned in the product. The idea, though, could make for interesting possibilities. The latter part of the pdf concludes with several new obitu monsters, mostly good aligned, as well as some useful advice on running the race in your game and campaign world.

Overall, I thought the obitu was a imaginative take on the living skeletal warrior, complete with easy to understand and use 4e statistics, useful roleplaying advice and information, and in this reviewer's opinion a lot of potential for imaginative gaming. Remarkable Races: The Obitu is a very enjoyable product with top quality presentation and artwork, a very good mechanical write-up, and a vivid descriptive race with a lot of potential. With good value for money, it's well worth a look at.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Remarkable Races: The Obitu
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Master Tiles No.2 - Perilous Passages
Publisher: SkeletonKey Games
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2008 07:10:10
Master Tiles 2 - Perilous Passages is a short 6 page pdf product from SkeletonKey Games, offering, as the name suggests, several extremely useful passage and corridor tiles riddled with an impressive selection of traps and puzzles. This product is the second product in SkeletonKey Games' Master Tiles series of products. Each product in the series presents a small number of highly customizable tiles, using Adobe's layers function to increase the versatility of the product quite significantly. Perilous Passages introduces mundane and magical traps to catch characters unawares, although the tiles can be used for non-trap purposes as well and should fit in nicely with SkeletonKey Games' other tilesets. This product requires Adobe Acrobat Reader 6 or higher to use the layers.

SkeletonKey Games have long set the standard for quality and versatility in their 2D terrain tiles, and this product is no exception. It's very well presented, impressively illustrated, and the tiles are highly detailed and of high quality. Despite the fact that this product only contains 5 pages of tiles, it can produce endless more using Adobe's layers feature. A short but useful introduction gives a brief overview of the product, and an overview sketch of the tiles is provided to give a useful imaginative nudge to your creativity when using these tiles. Overall, a top quality presentation.

The variety of different traps in the 10 ft. wide passages of this product include arcane traps, pit traps, energy barriers, meatgrinders, spikes, otherworldly tentacles, acid pools, and sharp blades. In most instances, these traps can either be configured to be singular, or if you wish to spring more elaborate traps you can use two or more traps on each tile depending on which tile and which traps are available. One of the useful things about the layers here is that you can put a tile down that doesn't include the trap, but place the tile with the trap down once the PCs have sprung it or circumvented it. The nature of the traps and their lethality is naturally entirely up to the GM and the game system, but there's a really good variety of traps here and a large number of useful configurations.

The tiles also include a number of other features that can be turned on or off, such as the wall shape and colour, rubble on the floors, the floor tiles themselves, and various platforms and shelves. This allows you to change the décor of the passageway tiles to create different combinations. The passageways themselves also contain a good mix of junctions, corridors and corners so that you can easily design some sort of trap gauntlet that needs to be run. Tiles, all suitable to a 1-inch scale grid, can also be rotated to create alternative configurations. Basically, with only a set of five tiles, you can create a large number of configurations and tile options that can readily be combined with other tilesets.

I was impressed with this product. It offers great artwork, good versatility, and surprising options with such a small number of pages. And, as the series continues to build and more products are added, I suspect the older products will become even more useful. Combining products in this series is hopefully something that will be done in the future. While the first two products in this series focus on very specific areas (traps and vampire hideouts), and generic set of tiles that is fully customizable would not go amiss. Overall, a splendid product that lives up to SkeletonKey Games' reputation.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Master Tiles No.2 - Perilous Passages
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Tankard Tales: Willowbark's
Publisher: Myth Merchant Press
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/12/2008 03:43:33
The tavern is one of the, if not the, quintessential meeting places for young and experienced fantasy adventurers alike. I have often wondered why this is, given that there are many better ways to introduce characters to each other that involve more than chance meetings in a tavern. Perhaps it's because the tavern represents an easy way to jump straight into an adventure, or perhaps it is simply because it is the quintessential meeting place that many DMs choose to use it. Whatever your preference of tavern encounters, this product, Tankard Tales - Willowbark's, offers something that turns the tavern from a meeting place into something more - an adventure, adventure location, and a different way to start an adventure.

The product comes as a very well presented pdf file. I've said this before about Myth Merchant Press and it certainly bears repeating - the quality of their presentation is excellent, and they really go the extra mile to include everything that you might need in their product and then some more. Tankard Tales - Willow bark's contains some good and vivid writing, some excellent descriptive material, wonderful plans and tiles for the tavern, and some excellent maps. The layout is very well done, and in a way instantly recognisable as a product for the 4e GSL because of the style and layout of the product. This is another excellently presented and professionally done pdf from Myth Merchant Press.

This 16 page pdf product contains a description of the tavern, details on the core staff of the tavern, and two encounter scenarios associated with the tavern - one of the heroic tier and one of the paragon tier, making this product applicable to most party levels. Scaling should be straightforward if you wanted to use either of these encounter scenarios for a different level. Included with the encounter scenarios are short battlemaps indicating relative positions of the creatures in the encounter, and 1-inch scale tiles that can be used to represent these battlemaps with miniatures on the gaming table. The entire tavern is represented by these tiles, and an additional sheet of objects is included so that you can spice up the encounter with barrels that can be thrown, add obstacles, or just further decorate the tiles that make up the tavern.

This is very much a multi-faceted and open ended kind of product, since the tavern and its NPCs provide more than just background material for the two encounter scenarios. There are other interesting avenues that one could explore, and this allows the DMs imagination to build on what the pdf contains. There's also good opportunity for roleplaying with the core tavern staff, and a handy list of rumours that can easily be expanded on or modified.

The two encounters themselves involve a local adventurer's guild which posts notices and advertisements in the tavern. These allow the adventurers to easily get involved in the two encounter scenarios and even to join the adventurer's guild to further their pursuits of fame, glory or fortune. I do wish that more had been said about this organisation, perhaps fleshing it out so that it could be used more easily in this way. The encounters themselves are interesting and should be fun, one involving a brief journey to another plane of existence, and the other a more straightforward assault and kill the bad guy scenario. The scenarios are well constructed, and I particularly liked the brief overviews given of each encounter, that presents the encounter setup and resolution. Naturally these scenarios contain a handful of new monsters, including a thief apprentice, dire porcupine and a couple of new goblin variants.

Myth Merchant Press have put together a useful tavern with two tavern scenarios and roleplaying opportunities as the characters involve themselves with the staff and their affairs. The product is very well presented, with some great 1-inch scale tiles, and well constructed scenarios that are clearly set up, easy to run, and interesting. The pdf provides enough material to use and run with as is, but also adds in a few other elements that can be used to expand on the material contained in this product. While the tavern is set on the edge of the wilderness, it could easily be placed in another location that might suit the campaign better. Overall, a good product from Myth Merchant Press.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tankard Tales: Willowbark's
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Sidetrek Adventure Weekly 2: The Undead Chronicles – #5 Chasing the Last Breath
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2008 04:11:16
The second Sidetrek Adventure Weekly series, The Undead Chronicles, is drawing to a close with this fifth and penultimate adventure scenario, Chasing the Last Breath. Prior to this adventure the characters had arrived in the small town of Merzel's Fall, where the machination of strange zombies had been brought to their attention through a series of deadly attacks. In an attempt to save some kidnapped villagers, the characters enlist the aid of a Hunter of Ghedit, and through her aid they manage to discover the location where the zombies harvest the flesh of their own converted kind. This adventure, for 6th level characters, sees the characters chase after some escaped zombies and their cargo of mysterious brain-eggs, hoping to uncover the truth behind the zombies' dealings and who or whatever controls them.

The format and presentation of this product is very similar to others in the Sidetrek Adventure Weekly series of products. A neat cover is provided, with good image art, along with a useful ratings system detailing the nature of the adventure and its challenges. The rating system for this adventure indicates that this is a dungeon-type adventure with a medium level of threats and trap, which sounds about right. The rating system is useful, although I'd have preferred a more accurate indication of character level rather than simply 'Medium'.

As with the others scenarios in this series, the product includes a variety of useful additional features, such as a notes bar in the page margin for DMs, a good character sheet, initiative cards, and monster tokens for the key monsters in this product. Overall, a professional presentation that provides far more than you'd have expected for an adventure scenario. This adventure can be played as a standalone scenario or as part of the Undead Chronicles mini-campaign adventure. Plenty of advice and suggestions are provided for both scenarios in the pdf.

I've generally enjoyed the adventure scenarios in the Sidetrek Adventure Weekly series - the adventures are well presented, well written, contain interesting encounters and encounter set-ups, and fun and exciting adventure locations. Chasing the Last Breath is no exception. In this adventure scenario the characters take part in a death-defying minecart race, following the zombie brain-eggs deep into the dark depths of a forgotten mine. While the cart chase is probably not the most unique location or scenario, it's one that usually works well and will keep the excitement level high. The game rules governing the cart chase are fairly good, providing an easy way to adjudicate the chase while keeping the pace and tension high.

During the minecart chase the PCs will need to contend with a variety of challenges, not least of which is steering the minecart around the challenging track. On top of that the stench of zombie flesh is high and the characters will need to fight their way through hordes of zombies and other sinister creatures if they are to keep up with the quarry they are trying to chase. One of my concerns about this series was that a well-prepared party with a suitable cleric would walk through the undead quite easily. While I think that remains largely true, the authors have added some additional creatures that are not undead, and also used clever ways to boost the turn resistance of undead creatures. In this way I think the adventure can still be challenging for your average party.

Towards the end of the race the PCs start to uncover the masters behind the zombie excursions, and they are nearer to discovering the purpose behind the zombies harvesting flesh and brain-eggs for their masters. The adventure concludes with a dangerous encounter with the zombie masters, and leaves the characters on the edge of a pit into darkness that will lead into the last episode of this adventure series. The adventure concludes with useful information on scaling the adventure for different character levels, and a new monster, a non-undead creation that fits nicely into this adventure.

Overall I think this is another good adventure in the series from LPJ Design. I don't think it's the most creative or unique one in terms of location or setup, but being the penultimate adventure, it actually feels like one. The pacing of the adventure and indeed the series has been very good, and the exposition of adventure plot and mystery is well handled through the course of the series. The characters should get a sense that they're closing down on the motivation behind the adventure, at the same time as trying to keep pace with the minecart chase into the darkness and the hordes of undead flesh. I think this encounter will likely work best as part of the series, but can be used with some modification on its own. Chasing the Last Breath is another good SAW adventure which remains true to everything the series stands for - high paced action, entertainment, fun locations, and challenging encounters.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sidetrek Adventure Weekly 2: The Undead Chronicles – #5 Chasing the Last Breath
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Feudal Characters: Noble
Publisher: Alea Publishing Group
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2008 10:15:30
There are a number of significant changes between the new 4e GSL system and the OGL rules, one of the more notable ones being the class system and the associated system of powers. Under the OGL system, designing a class wasn't a particularly cumbersome task, as long as you could create an interesting and viable class with 20 levels and provide the associated spells, abilities and feats for the class as required. Under the new 4e GSL rules, designing a class takes more time and effort simply because you need to provide enough powers and feats for the class, including associated material like builds, class specific abilities and the like.

When I first saw Alea Publishing's Feudal Characters: Noble, I'll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect. A 'noble' as such is not really a class, at least not within the classes and their roles as defined in the GSL system. On the other hand, given the very much perceived weaknesses of the GSL's social system, I was intrigued to see what Alea Publishing would offer for an inherently social class. Most powers, barring sometimes the utility powers, are largely associated with combat, so the combination of a social class by definition and 'combat' powers would be interesting. Having seen what Alea Publishing have done, I was pleasantly surprised by the approach, creativity and neatness of what they'd done with the class.

Feudal Characters: Noble is a 16 page pdf product that presents a new class for the Feudal Lands campaign setting from Alea Publishing Group. This product is one of the first Feudal Lands products for the 4e GSL system, although several products have been produced for the campaign setting under the OGL rules (which I believe are to be updated to 4e GSL rules). This product is excellently presented, with a high standard of writing, layout, editing and general style of presentation. Some good illustrations are provided by Denise Garner, and the product includes a excellent cover, useful bookmarks and an attractive bordering to the pages in the layout. Overall, the product has a bit of eye-candy associated with it, and is done to a professional quality standard.

The noble class as a concept is fairly self-explanatory - a character born into or bestowed nobility and likely with that associated land, titles and other benefits of the status. The class itself is implemented as a multiclass rather than a base class, and I think that's a neat way of using the GSL multiclassing system. After all, nobles are not associated with any particular class, but the benefits of nobility can be obtained via a noble multiclass. In this way, more powerful nobles or lesser nobles can have varying degrees of multiclass powers, further providing a good solution to how to mechanically implement the noble class. I think this is an elegant choice, and whatever your thoughts on GSL multiclassing, I think this is an instance where it works really well.

Barring providing the multiclass noble feat for access to the noble's powers, the majority of the product, as one would really expect, is a long list of various daily, encounter and utility powers. Power cards are usefully provided at the end of the product for all the noble's powers. The powers are all based on a new power source, the bloodline power source, and a fair number of the noble's powers deal psychic damage. The powers themselves contain a fair mix of different flavors and descriptions, although the majority of them are unfortunately very combat focused. Some of the utility powers are focused on skill challenges, which I thought was a useful way of building the social aspects of the class.

Of the combat powers most seemed fairly balanced, although if you've read all the powers in the core books, the majority of the noble's powers are similar abilities in a different guise. Powers are based on such aspects of the noble's stature such as speech, commanding presence and the like, much like one would expect. In a way, and likely a good way, the noble's combat powers are very similar to those a knight would have. As always, roleplaying goes a long way in developing these powers for a specific character or noble concept. The latter half of the product includes a noble template as well as a new monster, the typical human knight. It's a rather odd, but descriptive name for a monster, but useful nonetheless.

Overall, I think this is a class where the approach taken as a multiclass pays of, and illustrates a good way of using the GSL multiclassing system. The powers themselves are mostly good, though perhaps a bit repetitive, but I'd hoped to see more playing with the social aspects of what the noble class entails. Nevertheless, I think the few social utility powers, the training provided to nobles in social skills, and general roleplaying will make this a multiclass that can work well in game. Alea Publishing Group have provided a clever approach to creating new concepts and classes by using the multiclass system. A good, strong product, with clever design and a very usable class.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Feudal Characters: Noble
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