RPGNow.com
Close
New Account
 
  
 
 
You will lose your chance to get the free product of the week.
One-click unsubscribe later if you don't enjoy the newsletter.
Close
Log In
 
 Forgot password?
 

     or     Log In with your Facebook Account
Browse
 Publisher Info
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsLog in or create an account and you can choose to get email notices whenever your favorite publishers or topics get new items!









Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Legendary Races: Rakshasa (PFRPG)
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2011 15:44:40
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of rakshasas. They’re among the most versatile monsters, so in addition to the inherent customization that goes along with their spellcasting abilities, their special powers work equally well in combat as they do for deception and subterfuge. Given that, I couldn’t resist taking a look at Purple Duck Games’s new Legendary Races supplement devoted to the tiger-headed fiends. Let’s peel back some layers and see what’s here.

The book opens with a history of the rakshasas, one that was fairly different from most other takes on this particular monster’s origin. The section on their physiology notes that (like what’s in the Bestiary) a particular rakshasa’s animal head is purely a cosmetic different; however, the following section on their society does state that rakshasas feel a closer kinship to other rakshasas with the same sort of head (inasmuch as they feel kinship at all.

Subsequently we have a little over a page discussing rakshasa magic. Rather interestingly, there’s a rakshasa-specific school of magic for wizards. The implication seems to be that only rakshasas can take this, though the section’s opening implies that others can learn it as well, though that seems iffy. Still, it’s an interesting development, and lends itself nicely to the idea that certain races have a different “take” on arcane spellcasting. Likewise, there’s an alternate rakshasa sorcerer bloodline – the author notes that this bloodline is in Ultimate Magic, but this one is for characters who inherit more of their ancestor’s physical prowess, rather than magical.

Following this is a ten-level racial class for those who want to play a rakshasa PC. I’ll say upfront that this class is powerful, moreso than most of the base Pathfinder classes (particularly since you can freely multiclass from this as well). The descriptive text could have done a better job here covering the nuances of a racial class progression (like stating that this class must be taken at 1st level if you want to take levels in it), but overall it wasn’t bad. Still, the author’s note saying that the trade-off for the class’s power is its lack of flexibility rubbed me the wrong way…the class features are pretty well set in stone, it’s true, but they’re still strong and come with spellcasting.

After a sample character of the aforementioned racial class is showcased, we then come to a surprisingly burly section dealing with a new half-rakshasa PC race. I call this burly because this race gets the full treatment, Advanced Player’s Guide-style. In addition to the normal description and racial traits, there’s a full section on half-rakshasa adventurers of every class (up through Ultimate Combat) along with alternate racial traits and favored class options. A sample half-rakshasa character, perfect for pick-up-and-play at 1st-level, closes this section.

An “Eastern Options” section presents a new subdomain (for the Knowledge domain) and four new class archetypes, which did a good job of presenting a “mystical India” sort of flavor. The first two felt somewhat tame to me, but the second presented much greater options for changing the feel of the classes that they modified.

A single page describes a specific magic sword. More than just a standard magic weapon, this is a Legendary Blade, from the Purple Duck Games sourcebooks of the same name. If you don’t have those, however, this part of the book may be of limited usefulness to you.

Finally, the book presents four new monsters. The asura is a powerful creature that’s presented as being a sort of “super-rakshasa,” and is the only double-digit CR monster here. The darba, by contrast, is a rakshasa-like creature that lacks the true creature’s power; similar is the ravenna, a creature that’s a weaker offshoot. Finally, the vetala is an undead that, rather oddly, seems to be created solely by a rakshasa’s tortures.

Four pages of additional material follows, which is the Open Game Content used from other books that was added here; things like archetypes and spells used for example characters are presented fully here, which is a nice nod towards making sure we get the most out of the sample builds used.

So overall, how does Legendary Races: Rakshasa do for itself? Overall, the product is a good one, but seems split on whether it wants to be a GM or player resource. Things like new monsters and a legendary blade suggest that this is for GM’s who want to up the rakshasa presence in their campaign. On the other hand, the rakshasa racial class and new half-rakshasa race clearly lend themselves to PC usage.

It’s this dichotomy, more than anything else, that stopped the book from reaching its full potential. True, everything here is thematically consistent, and it’s quite possible that splitting it up would have made the resulting products too small to stand on their own…but at the same time, that’s what should have been done. They would have needed some fleshing out, certainly, but this would have been much better if it had known precisely who it wanted to market itself to.

Having said that, there’s still a lot here for players and GMs who enjoy rakshasas, and the new options here will help make them a greater staple in your game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legendary Races: Rakshasa (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Tome of Ingenuity
Publisher: Little Red Goblin Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2011 22:15:01
There’s a certain irony in calling new products for role-playing games “supplements.” That’s because when one hears “a supplement for a role-playing game,” it’s easy to think that it’s something that’ll enhance the “role-playing” aspect of the game, when in fact it’s usually presenting new rules that have little to do with playing a role. In fact, most books are content to ignore that aspect of the game and happily present new mechanics with barely a nod towards actual role-playing. But every so often you find a sourcebook that actually tries to take thing in a new direction…that bends things back towards actually playing the role of your character. Such rare supplements present what can only be called ingenuity.

And from Little Red Goblin Games, we have the Tome of Ingenuity, for the Pathfinder RPG.

Sixteen pages long, the Tome of Ingenuity hits several of the high-water marks for a professional PDF product. It has full bookmarks, albeit fairly simple ones to major sections only. Copy-and-paste is fully enabled. The product’s layout is fairly well-done also; only rarely is space wasted on a page.

The book’s visual design was aesthetically pleasing; the pages are set against a tan-grayish background, and there were several pieces of full-color interior art that were quite stylistic (and certainly a welcome change from what seems like the same recycled packages of stock art that appear in a lot of third-party products these days). It’s worth noting that there’s no printer-friendly version of this book, nor one optimized for other formats (e.g. your e-reader, etc.), but those are forgivable oversights.

After the (helpfully hyperlinked) table of contents, the book opens with a brief introduction, wherein it rather boldly declares that the classes it presents revolve around the creativity of the player, “creating a meta-level of gameplay” for Pathfinder. It’s a rather audacious claim to make, so let’s take a look at what the book offers and see if it backs it up.

The first major portion of the book deals with a new base class, the noble. An opening notation discusses how this class is intended for players who really enjoy getting into character when they play, and that the GM is encouraged to assign bonuses or penalties to their Charisma-based skill checks depending on their role-playing.

The noble is a medium-BAB based class that is a decent combatant, but is a master of the non-combat situation. Their skills and skill points don’t quite live up to the rogue (especially on points), but it’s worth noting that the list could easily have been smaller – a certain subset of skills are highly important to this class, primarily Diplomacy, and the rest take a distant second.

The thematic power that the noble gains, right at first level, is their ability to inflict morale damage. I’ll go over the morale damage mechanic shortly, but here I’ll say that their primary method of inflicting morale damage seems a bit too powerful for me, dealing 1d4 points of morale damage per class level, plus Charisma modifier – it’s limited in that it’s a Diplomacy check versus an enemy’s DC, but pumping up a skill bonus is incredibly easy in Pathfinder. Add that this is a standard action (though it provokes) and can be used an unlimited number of times per day…that just seems too powerful. I’d have brought down the damage and/or limited its uses per day, had I been designing this class.

The majority of the noble’s remaining class powers tend to focus on expanded and improved skill checks, but there are some combat-centered ones, mostly based around further uses of morale damage, and (somewhat oddly) teamwork feats.

The use of morale damage itself is worth mentioning, because the Fourth Edition of a certain popular fantasy RPG has brought this issue front and center. Unlike that game, which has morale damage being simple hit point damage alongside physical damage (and, in doing so, changing the nature of what hit points represent), morale damage in the Tome of Ingenuity is tracked separately, and in most respects is basically the same as nonlethal damage.

I found this to be intriguing, because while it’s a small change it’s also one that just works. When an opponent’s morale damage exceeds their hit points, they’ve lost the will to fight, and basically surrender (though they can defend themselves). Beyond that, there’s a few notes about what creatures it can and can’t affect, but other than that it’s basically nonlethal damage; in fact, I’d have been tempted to just rule that morale damage is nonlethal damage, since the differences are so small, but separating them works just fine as well. As it stands, I’m rather surprised at just how well this innovation functions as its own rule…I just wish the book presented more options to bring it into wider play, but we’ll get to that.

The next new base class is called the skirmisher, and for some reason I had a sort of alternate rogue in mind when I saw this class’s name. In fact, I was wrong, since there’s no easy analogue for what this class offers. Oh, the class’s role is clearly stated to be the guy weaving in and out of combat, lightly armored and cutting a swath through his foes with finesse and guile. So it certainly sounds rather rogue-ish. But in practice, the class is anything but.

A quick glance at its class table shows it looking surprisingly sterile. Most of its class features are bonus feats and expanded ability to score crits. The major inspiration here, however, comes from its Creativity power. This power lets the skirmisher, on an attack roll, voluntarily lower their roll to an adjacent number on the d20 and, if that still hits, gain a special effect based on the new number…presuming they can evocatively describe how they score that special effect. It sounds complicated, but in practice it’s incredibly simple and easy to execute. It’s a power that quite literally demands that the player be able to role-play how his character fights, or the power becomes a liability.

Interestingly, while the skirmisher can use the Creativity power at will, there’s a notation that talks about how ex-skirmishers – which it seems to imply are multi-class skirmishers – take a limitation on how often they can use this power. It’s rather ambiguously worded (which is unfortunate) and seems out of place since Pathfinder did away with multiclassing restrictions. At least…that’s what I thought, until I realized why that particular caveat is there; without it, it’s simply too tempting to dip into one level of skirmisher just to gain Creativity, and then never advance any further in the class.

Following this is a new ten-level prestige class, the kotodama master. For those who don’t know, “kotodama” is a Japanese belief that words have power, regardless of who says them or hears them (at least, that’s my admittedly imperfect understanding). For this prestige class though, which is based around the power of spoken traditionalist values, who hears them is very important.

The kotodama master has a small suite of powers, but the major one is their faux pas ability. This allows them to speak aloud a traditional value, and those who don’t save a value are forced to follow it. Nine such values are given, with things such as “women don’t belong on the battlefield” meaning that female characters cannot directly attack or be attacked, or “men need no comfort” which keeps male characters from regaining hit points. It’s a fascinating concept, and sits well in that virtually any class can take levels in it (though it’s clearly skewed towards being for the Noble base class). My one complaint about the class is that it’s other ability should have been staggered – that is, placed on the even-numbered levels to offset how the faux pas powers are gained at odd levels – which would nicely have avoided this class having four “dead levels” where no powers are gained.

Roughly a dozen new feats follow, most of which serve to boost abilities of the classes presented here. There are some duds though, such as Vixen (giving you a +3 bonus to Diplomacy against male humanoids…why not just take Skill Focus (diplomacy) for more universal results?). This section missed out by not having ways to allow the existing classes in the Core Rules to access ways to deal even a little morale damage (the closest it comes it helping out multiclass nobles deal more), as that mechanic is the one with the widest potential appeal for all characters, regardless of class. It’s an opportunity that wasn’t recognized.

Overall, the Tome of Ingenuity lives up to its name. Oh, it’s an imperfect book to be sure – it has the odd typos and grammatical errors, some sections are slightly unclear in what they mean, neither base class lists their starting wealth, and I’d have retooled some aspects of the classes themselves, but these are all minor issues, and could probably be addressed in an update. What’s far more noteworthy is that these classes do a great job of tightly integrating their mechanics with actual role-playing. From the noble’s bonuses when using cutting words to the skirmisher’s descriptive Creativity, and even the kotodama master’s literal enforcement of conservative values, these are materials that make you get involved in who your character is and how he does things.

What could be more ingenious than that?

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Ingenuity
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

A Necromancer's Grimoire: Faces of the Rakshasa
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2011 16:39:26
Rakshasas are one of those foes that work much better outside of a purely combat-focused scenario, I always thought. More than anything, they seem like scheming manipulators, being more inclined to extort, blackmail, and otherwise make others do their bidding without ever having to spill any blood. Despite their monstrous nature, that level of subterfuge can be tempting to a PC who wants to run the same sort of character. With the release of A Necromancer’s Grimoire: Faces of the Rakshasa, that path is now open to PCs everywhere.

Faces of the Rakshasa comes in two PDFs. The first is the full book itself, and the second is its printer-friendly counterpart. While I applaud the Necromancers of the Northwest for including a printer-friendly version at all – something that gets ignored all too often – its implementation here is imperfect. For one thing, the color cover is kept, as are all of the interior illustrations. What’s changed here is that the full version sets the background to a cream-colored parchment look, whereas the printer-friendly version is set on a while background.

Both files include full nested bookmarks, which is handy. However, the Necromancers still don’t seem to have licked that problem with copy-and-paste. The printer-friendly file doesn’t have it at all, whereas the main file does, but the pasted result has weird symbols and characters, resulting in a copy whose usefulness is limited at best.

After an opening piece of fiction that does an adequate job displaying the evil narcissism of a rakshasa, the book can be largely divided into three sections. The first deals with the rakshasa PC class.

A sidebar covers the basics of how this works, but what’s basically here is a 20-level base class designed to emulate the powers of a standard rakshasa from the Bestiary. Note that it achieves this in about fourteen levels; the remaining six levels add new powers to better make your rakshasa a paragon among its kind.

The second portion of the book is devoted to dealing with rakshasas in society, which spends a good deal of time talking about how to play a rakshasa PC. There’s some good advice here, talking about what to do with a PC that has mad powers to read minds, and also how rakshasas are typically evil creatures. However, I wish at least some time had been devoted to talking about how to play a creature that clearly looks inhuman (with their animal head and all). The rakshasa PC does get some disguise-based ability, but not right from the get-go, and it takes several levels before they can permanently disguised. This is something that should have been dealt with more.

The final part of the book is a bestiary of nine new rakshasas. Ranked in ascending CR, each is given an impressive amount of discussion for their tactics and their caste – this latter idea is one that’s explored more heavily in the book’s previous section, discussing how each rakshasa reflects a various form of sin among mortals, whether lust, greed, sadism, etc.

My major complaint with this section wasn’t about anything that was here, but because it makes the rakshasa PC racial class seem somewhat rigid in comparison. That class will let you advance as a standard Bestiary rakshasa, but what if you want to play as a sadistic makari rakshasa instead? There’s no support for that, and it’s disappointing – this would have been a good place for archetypes to come into play. Hopefully a further supplement will expand on this.

Overall, Faces of the Rakshasa does a lot for these classic foes. It gives depth and coverage to how they function in the game world that you won’t find anywhere else. The nine new rakshasa do an excellent job of fleshing out the myriad forms that these creatures can manifest in, and the addition of a rakshasa PC racial class is excellent for those who want to take a walk on the dark side. It’s unfortunate that the lack of expanded materials, and a few technical failings, hold this product back from being a five-star book, because the potential is clearly there. Hopefully we’ll see another face to these rakshasas to round things out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Necromancer's Grimoire: Faces of the Rakshasa
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Otyughnomicon: Northern Waste Otyugh [PFRPG]
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2011 18:11:59
It’s never been said (insofar as I’m aware) but I’m of the opinion that the otyugh was created either to fill an ecological niche in the game world (as to what cleans up the poo of dungeon-dwelling monsters) or as a nasty surprise when the PCs actually stop to go to the bathroom. Either way, they seemed like a monster that was fairly one-dimensional for what they offered. Mark Gedak and Stefen Styrsky, however, are determined to prove otherwise with their Otyughnomicon series of releases. In this case, we look at the Northern Waste Otyugh.

This book is a short one, being eight pages long (albeit with a six-page OGL listing, thoughtfully included as a separate file). Despite its brevity, full nested bookmarks are present, and copy-and-paste is enabled. There’s only one illustration here, a black and white picture of an icy otyugh, but the pages have a light tentacle in the background, and there are tokens of said otyugh (and, somewhat oddly, a polar bear).

After a quick introduction, the book tackles a topic that’s clearly dear to the authors’ hearts – should the otyugh be an aberration, or a magical beast? The rules say the former, while the authors clearly think the latter. As such, the first sample otyugh for the template (see below) is reproduced twice, once as an aberration otyugh, and once as a magical beast otyugh – all further otyughs in the book are magical beasts.

In all honesty, I don’t necessarily disagree with the reasoning given in this book, but I think that there’s something of a missed opportunity here. If you’re writing your own version of something you disagree with, you should introduce it in-game as something new! Perhaps the magical beast otyughs are a new breed that are edging out their aberration forefathers (in that case, you could even call them…neo-otyughs).

Following this is the new Northern Waste Creature template. It’s a fairly simplistic template (though not a simple template, in Pathfinder parliance), and does a good job of making a creature into an arctic counterpart, though I question the decision not to add the cold subtype.

After the two sample otyughs (and a new variant disease, frost fever, to offset the usual filth fever), we then get a sample tribe of northern waste otyughs – only the two leaders are outlined, as most of the tribe are typical specimens, whereas the leaders have class levels. I wish some attempt, no matter how small, had been made to give us some flavor text about these individuals, as they’re presented only as stat blocks. Another missed opportunity.

Six new icy-themed spells are provided then, though the majority of these seem to be cold variants of existing spells (e.g. hibernate instead of sleep, ice shape instead of stone shape, etc.). I don’t necessarily dislike spells that are variants of other spells, and these did a fairly good job differentiating themselves. But it was the next section that was magical.

The authors note that one of their fans made, on their facebook page, a comment about the sex lives of otyughs. Would that that fan had remained silent, and we’d have been spared the thought of what sort of union would produce the otyugh sorcerer bloodline. The bloodline is just as disgusting as its parentage, and I foresee some truly nauseating villains using it (as well as some gross PCs). Several new spells are presented as part of the bloodline spells, and these were much more inspiring. Spells to curse the land (with disease, undead, etc.), make a creature a disease carrier, or even cause an epidemic, are very much in the theme of the otyugh.

Overall, this is a good book if you’re a fan of the otyugh, but it could have been more. What’s here is solid work, but a little more polish could have made it great. Who are these northern waste otyugh leaders? What makes aberration otyughs different from magical beast otyughs? Still, these oversights don’t diminish what’s here, which are some great options for icy otyughs and those of otyugh ancestry. Pick this book up, and let these otyughs give your PCs all sorts of crap to deal with!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Otyughnomicon: Northern Waste Otyugh [PFRPG]
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Publisher Reply:
Thank you for taking the time to review this product.
Oracle Curses (PFRPG)
Publisher: Above Average Creations
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2011 20:10:11
There’s an old saying – “simple is best.” That’s an approach that’s usually approached with wariness by gamers when it comes to RPG books. After all, we’re usually happier when there are big production values and expansive coverage on a given topic. Products like Oracle Curses, however, the debut product from Above Average Creations, showcase how with good writing and a few select illustrations, a product with a minimalist approach can still produce top-quality results.

Oracle Curses presents, appropriately enough, ten new curses for the oracle class from the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Guide. The author, cogently noting that the mere six curses were far too few, presents another ten curses here. Interestingly, virtually all of these are curses of personality rather than physical problems.

What I found far more intriguing, however, was the author’s bold admittance that these curses were more to create strong role-playing opportunities than wow us with new rules’ crunch. Of course, that should be true across the board, but by focusing on curses that manifest as quirks of behavior, this is maximized. Moreover, there’s a helpful chart of the ten curses (with a note saying that you can roll randomly for your curse – something I found delightful; really, should a curse be something you choose for yourself?), and notes about their “type” (if they’re physical, mental, etc.) and how “strong” they are (how much they affect the character laboring under them).

The curses themselves are as imaginative as the author clearly wants them to be, ranging from being mute to being too famous for your own good, and more. While all function well mechanically (though to different degrees – taking a skill penalty is one thing, taking bleed damage with every attack is quite another), it’s the notations after them that are what really make this product.

Like all gamers, I enjoy being given glimpses behind the proverbial curtain. In this case, after each curse, there’s a paragraph wherein the author talks to the reader directly; while for a few of the curses he discusses the impact of them in the course of the game (such as how to deal with an oracle that’s mute), most focus on different ways of having the curse manifest in-game. For example, are you a hermit because you’re just a socially awkward, or were you raised by wolves, literally? The virtue of these sections is that they break you out of the more rigid thinking suggested by the curses themselves, reminding you that you can easily reskin many of these to allow for a broader characterization.

From a technical standpoint, the book has little to present, but what it has it presents well. The artwork is all historical pieces that are reused here (with a notation on where to find them and more online on the book’s credits page). There are no bookmarks, but in an eight-page book, that’s not really an indictment.

Unfortunately, the book is not without its share of problems. These aren’t faults of the content (though be warned, one curse does draw on some of the material in the GameMastery Guide, though that’s in the Pathfinder SRD now anyway), but of the book’s technical presentation. To be more specific: copy-and-paste doesn’t work the way it should – the words are copied in columns rather than lines. Likewise, there’s no declaration of Product Identity or Open Game Content; and the OGL Section 15 doesn’t list the Advanced Player’s Guide or GameMastery Guide.

Of course, these are problems with virtually no practical impact when it comes to using this book in your game. If you’re planning on playing an oracle, do yourself a favor and spend a dollar to pick up this product. The material here is as inspiring as it is expertly-presented, and gives some much-needed breadth to the curse of the oracle class. Unfortunately, Above Average Creations may need to change their name, since if this first book is any indication, their creations are excellent.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Oracle Curses (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Publisher Reply:
Shane, thanks for the fantastic review! A positive review is always appreciated, but when it involves a "first effort", it is doubly so. You clearly saw our vision and that's very gratifying. At the same time, you didn't pull any punches on where we made mistakes, which will greatly help us to improve. If you don't write reviews for a living, you should. Again, heartfelt thanks from all of us at Above Average Creations!
A Necromancer's Grimoire: Secrets of the Witch
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2011 21:41:08
The most flavorful class to come out of the Advanced Player’s Guide is, in my opinion, the witch. With hex powers and a familiar that’s more than window dressing, along with the rather spooky theme about their patron granting them power, the witch just oozes flavor. And yet, for all the APG offers in this regard, there are other aspects of the classical witch that are largely ignored. Very little is given, for example, to the idea of the witch coven, or how hags interact with that; what is given is brief and somewhat unsatisfying.

Who better to “raise” these issues than the Necromancers of the Northwest, in their witch-themed sourcebook A Necromancer’s Grimoire: Secrets of the Witch.

Secrets of the Witch aims squarely to round out the themes of the witch class that were overlooked in the APG, and in that regard it succeeds magnificently, focusing its attention on five key areas: hags as a PC class/race, coven abilities (as feats), new hexes, new abilities for familiars, and new spells designed to take advantage of covens.

Unfortunately, I can’t be quite so complimentary on the technical side of things. Now, the book does do most things right; it has a screen version and printer-friendly version, both of which contain full nested bookmarks. The screen version is also nicely illustrated, with the pages being set on a parchment-colored background, and every so often a full-color image (usually of a macabre nature) will appear. The problem comes with the copy-and-paste. While large sections of the book copy and paste just fine, there are some areas – areas where the text has a slight but noticeable blur – where the copy and paste won’t work cleanly, with some words being replaced with odd symbols and characters. It’s a persistent problem in Necromancers of the Northwest products, though it does seem somewhat diminished here.

Having said that, let’s examine the book’s content in further detail.

The first section of the book gives us the green hag racial class. For those not familiar with the concept, this is where a race is broken down into a series of class levels, basically combining class and race and spreading the latter’s powers out among the former. What’s different here (though if you’re a fan of the NotNW website, you’ll have seen this treatment for other races) is that while you can usually become a “full” – that is, Bestiary equivalent member of the normal race – green hag at 11th level, this class is extended all the way to 20th level, with new powers enhancing those commonly associated with these monsters.

And there’s little doubt that green hags are monsters. The book helpfully provides a large fluff section on green hags in the game world and green hag PCs, and the tone holds that green hags are monsters and everyone knows it. This is true, but I was surprised that they didn’t devote more time to those rare hags that weren’t stereotypical villains, since PC green hags will likely not be evil. As it is, the green hags as PCs section talks more about the mechanical balance of this class, which is helpful too.

The feats section of the book follows, and this is where covens are spotlighted. Characters that take the basic Coven Initiate feat – open to all arcane spellcasters (with a sidebar noting that certain creatures and classes may naturally have access to this feat) – are able to, when together, able to cast a select number of spells simply by virtue of being a coven. A generous helping of feats expand on this in a variety of ways. Beyond that, several other feats don’t require coven abilities, but instead focus on witch-like powers (my favorite here was witch-specific feat called Blessing of the Three, whose bonus changes depending on your age category in the vein of the Maiden/Mother/Crone trinity).

The hexes section is fairly slim (four new standard hexes, three new major hexes, and two new grand hexes) but again, the flavor of what’s here makes up for that. A hex to fly so long as the witch is riding a broom or similar object, for example. I won’t give any more away, but beware angering the witch with the Form of the Three hex!

Alternate familiar abilities are one of those ideas that seems so obvious it’s amazing no one’s thought of it before. These are like alternate class abilities in that you have a series of powers that replace one of the normal abilities you gain for your familiar as you level up. Instead of speaking with animals of its kind, for example, you familiar can learn how to vocalize a particular language. It’s simplicity itself, and is one of the most elegant ways to diversify familiars, since it requires neither precious feat slots nor temporary spells.

Lastly are the thirty new spells mentioned in the book’s product page. Given on the witch spell list (though many can be cast by other classes), almost all of these spells can be used by a single spellcaster…but that’s not where their real value lies. These spells also have the new ritual descriptor, which means that when cast with the aid of a coven, they have an enhanced effect depending on how many others are lending their power to the spell. For example, the Dread Calling spell calls an outsider (with no restrictions on it) of up to ½ the caster’s spellcaster level. However, if your coven ritual-casts this spell with you, that limit is lifted to ½ the total caster level of all those joining you in the casting.

Some of the best sourcebooks I’ve ever seen are those that serve a specific niche, but make sure to keep a wider applicability in doing so; Secrets of the Witch is one of those sourcebooks. Its material is tightly focused on the witch class, both in theme and mechanics, but almost all of the book can be used for other characters. Your green hag PC doesn’t have to be a witch, for example, and the alternate familiar abilities can be used by any character with a familiar. This book makes your witch more quintessential, or your other arcane spellcaster a little more witchy in presentation. Pick this book up and show the rest of your group just which witch is which.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Necromancer's Grimoire: Secrets of the Witch
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

101 Npc Boons (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/09/2011 15:45:29
I’ve been waiting for a product like this one for a long time. For quite a while now, I’ve been interested in treasures that were something other than magic items or piles of coins and gems. Sometimes favors are just as valuable as gold, if not moreso; unfortunately, there’s been too little discussion of the value of having someone owe you one…something that 101 NPC Boons, from Rite Publishing, aims to rectify.

The book is fairly upfront that it doesn’t use the basic method of boons laid out in the GameMastery Guide. Instead,there’s a brief overview regarding what sort of bonus they can provide on skill checks before the book divides itself into five general regions (e.g. urban, rural, nautical, etc.) and then subdivides each of these into groups you’d find within each one (such as city officials, upper class, and guards in the urban section). These descriptions offer about two paragraphs wherein they name a person and what they can do for the party.

The majority of the time these have no listed gp value, which is slightly disappointing but understandable. It’s hard to figure out the exact monetary worth of having a local judge tell you about the charges that a noble figure managed to dodge, for example. I personally didn’t find this to be much of a handicap, since these act as much as adventure hooks and ideas as they do favors. Given that the characters in these paragraphs are named, there are a lot of potential NPCs here to help you flesh out your towns and villages.

Not all of these are just name-drops, of course. There are eight NPCs with fully fleshed out stat blocks, several of which are from other Rite Publishing products. Helpfully, sidebars include all of the necessary material to run these characters even if you don’t own the books that they’re from. Again, I have to tip my hate to Rite Publishing here, since having full stat blocks for NPCs can often become an issue when the PCs take things in a new direction. These characters range from an awakened deer to a clockwork captain of the guard to a humble beggar, and more.

Unlike a lot of treasure books, 101 NPC Boons doesn’t just present you with a list of items and their numerical value and walk away. Rather, this book provides you with character ideas and favors that help integrate your PCs more closely with the world around them. This book isn’t just filled with a new kind of treasure for your PCs, but for your game world as well – being able to tie your player-characters to your NPCs more closely is something that leads to better role-playing, which is always more fun for everyone. Give your game a boon and pick up 101 NPC Boons today.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Npc Boons (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Publisher Reply:
I wanted to thank Shane for taking the time to do a review of our product. Steve Russell Rite Publishing
Minotaurs of the Black Hills
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2011 14:06:24
I came late to the game where Raging Swan Press was concerned, though I couldn’t tell you why. It wasn’t until I saw this particular product that I went and took a look at Raging Swan’s products. Upon doing so, I realized that I’ve been missing out; well, no further – let’s take a look at Minotaurs of the Black Hills.

After the cover (an austere black with the title in relatively small print) and credits page, the book comes to the table of contents. It’s here that Raging Swan begins to distinguish themselves from other publishers out there, as even this is different from the usual fare. Not only do they have the usual table of contents, but they also organize tables for the various crunch offerings of the book, even though they could have gotten away with it. For example, there’s a table summarizing the four new feats in the book, a CR table to chart the Challenge Ratings of the book’s seven NPCs and creatures, etc.

It was this sort of thing that immediately drew my respect; these little things that aren’t strictly necessary but make things easier and more convenient for the people using their book. Things like this separate the adequate game companies from the really good ones.

There was a section after it that charts out how to read the stat blocks. Ironically, I do think this went a little bit too far, as most people who’d be buying this sort of product don’t need to be told how to read a stat block – as this book uses the standard Pathfinder format for monsters and NPCs, this part seemed superfluous, but even so I didn’t hold that against the book, particularly since after this it turned its attention to the eponymous minotaurs.

The book discusses the tribe itself and the race that they serve – known as the yith – in adequate detail, covering their culture, where they lair, giving Knowledge DCs, etc. It then turns its attention to the layout of the Black Hills region itself. My understanding is that this connects to at least one other Raging Swan supplement, though I was left uncertain if this fit into the larger backdrop of the Lonely Coast or not (though I suspect that it does).

Several areas of the Black Hills are given several paragraphs of description, emphasizing the fallen empire of the yith. No maps or detailed information is given, though there are terrain features and a random encounter table listed, which I was glad for – too often those elements are ignored, though I think they’re an important aspect of adventuring.

Following this, the second half of the book turns its attention to new crunch. A new ranger archetype and a new sorcerer bloodline, four new feats, four new sorcerer-only spells, and two new magic items help to round out the nature of the Minotaurs of the Black Hills, leading in to two minotaur NPCs and a stat block for the yith themselves.

This last part, the yith, was where I was quite disappointed by the book. For those with a background in Lovecraft, the yith are more correctly the Great Race of Yith, aliens known for being able to swap their minds with other creatures across time. If this had been the yith in this book that dominated the minotaurs, that would have been too cool for words.

Instead of that, however, the yith are simply bat-people who had an empire which has since declined to the point that most of them barely remember it. In other words, much less interesting. I can’t fault Raging Swan too much here; my guess is that they just didn’t know about the Lovecraftian Great Race and the nomenclature is simply a coincidence, but even so, it’s a poor one. The name suggests a coolness that simply isn’t present here, and that’s the main reason why I gave this book four out of five stars.

Having said that, however, this book does a good job of presenting an atmospheric location and populating it with material ripe for adventure. Raging Swan has a distinct style to their books, and it’s in full force here. The Black Hills evoke a feeling of harsh isolation, with the terrain and its inhabitants being cruel to those who wander here, and at the same time hiding secrets that can only be unearthed with great difficulty. It’s very gothic…I just can’t help but wonder how much more gothic it would have been if they hadn’t inadvertently hinted at something much more cosmic than they delivered.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Minotaurs of the Black Hills
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

The Faerie Ring: Along the Twisting Way #2—Red Jack (PFRPG)
Publisher: Zombie Sky Press
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2011 17:41:29
I should admit straight-up that I was a bit biased in regards to this product. As a student of Japanese culture, I was naturally intrigued when the Prelude to the Faerie Ring products noted that kitsune and yokai were among the fey it’d be covering. And when the next in that series, Along the Twisting Way #2: Red Jack, came out, that turned into full-blown eagerness. But what sort of presentation did the book make? Let’s find out.

Two-dozen pages in length, Along the Twisting Way #2 makes a strong showing of itself in terms of technical presentation. Presented with full, nested bookmarks and with the copy-and-paste on, the book hits all of the high-water marks. Much more notable, however, is the imagery. Presented on a light bluish background, the book only had four illustrations, but they were spectacular. I say this even with one of those being the cover illustration again, and another being reused from Along the Twisting Way Prelude. Julie Dillon’s artwork is just that vibrant.

Turning to the book itself, I was surprised by just how much Zombie Sky Press was able to squeeze into twenty-four pages. The book opens with Red Jack’s background and current sketch, before talking about his domain (with a sidebar noting its planar traits) and its major features (which also has a sidebar on a new major artifact, the Murder Stone).

Following this is an unexpectedly lengthy discussion about kitsune, and some subtypes of kitsune, before talking about Red Jack’s daughter, Ren. At this point we’re just over halfway through the book and it’s been almost entirely flavor text with little in the way of game stats. While I’m usually a bit of a curmudgeon about that, here I confess that I was captivated by the writing. There’s a style in this book that seems to suggest that it’s presenting only a piece of a larger whole, but feels no need to give additional details (though in several places it does make reference to where further information may be found).

It also helps that the second half of the book (noted as appendices I and II) is where the game stats come out in full force. In appendix one we get the stat block for Red Jack, who is a walloping CR 27, making him one of the highest-CR’d creatures for the Pathfinder RPG to date (notwithstanding v.3.5 material).

Following this is a sidebar discussing how fey lords of Jack’s type have a singular item, a memento mori, that gives them greater power. After this is the stat block for Red Jack if his memento mori is lost or destroyed, busting him down to CR 23. This part of the book made me frown a bit, simply because the jump from CR 27 to 23 is comparatively small, as are the tweaks to his stat block that make up this drop in power. While I can certainly understand the utility of having fully-formed stat blocks for each version of Jack, I wonder if it wouldn’t have been more economical to just list the changes made if his memento mori is lost (or have his power be reduced to a point where an alternate stat block was more necessary, like CR 21), since there was a lot of repeated text. Of course, this is a PDF, so space isn’t really a concern anyway.

After a listing for Jack’s personal major artifact (something to which I tip my hat to the author; it’s been too long since writers remembered that unique, powerful individuals should have unique, powerful artifacts) we move on to stats for kitsune.

The three types of kitsune – the normal kitsune, the ghost fox, and the pipe fox – are all presented here. Except, not really. Rather, we’re given a ghost fox NPC (since ghost fox is a kitsune-specific template given immediately after this), a kitsune NPC (since they’re a playable race), and generic stats for the pipe fox (which, to my delight, can be taken as improved familiars) and their elder variant. A sidebar discussing several new subtypes that kitsune have closes out appendix one.

Appendix two is PC-related information, in regards to the kitsune. After basic PC race stats (which include the method whereby the gain more tails), we’re presented with a series of feats that allow for different uses of fox magic. I liked this section, but it was too short by half (and it noted that these weren’t all the fox magic that there were); mostly absent were fox magic feats designed for having multiple tails (that is, being higher level). Hopefully there’ll be more in a future supplement of web enhancement.

Some discussion is given to a uniquely kitsune magic item, the star ball. It’s interesting that the star ball is designed to allow kitsune (which in their natural form have no opposable thumbs) to utilize magic items they otherwise couldn’t, since they can imbue their star ball with those items (using a new spell presented here). However, the basic construction information for how a star ball is made wasn’t presented here. A minor oversight, to be sure, but it would have been useful. The book closes out with an incantation that allows a kitsune to, upon a success, possess someone for a short while (something I’d keep out of the hands of a PC, even despite its built-in limitations).

Overall though, I greatly enjoyed this product. The references to Japanese mythology alone (particularly the story of Tamamo-no-Mae, which the author acknowledges and gives a surprising twist on) were enough to win me over. But even had they not been, the engaging writing and excellent new mechanics would have. Red Jack is a powerful foe who has long arms thanks to those kitsune who serve him, and with his wily daughter out there, there’s a built-in campaign waiting to happen, especially if you have PCs who want to play a kitsune.

The only real complaint I have about the book was that it was much too short. The section on new material for PCs could easily have been twice as long (more fox magic feats, stats for human-kitsune children, etc). And though I thought Red Jack’s two forms could have used more distinction, the character himself was truly epic (pun intended). If you’re looking for a method to add fey foxes to your game, look no further. The Faerie Ring: Along the Twisting Way #2 – Red Jack gives you a fox-faced foe you won’t soon forget, and all that he en-tails.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Faerie Ring: Along the Twisting Way #2—Red Jack (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

The Genius Guide to 110 Spell Variants
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2011 12:52:11
Magic is a science in Pathfinder, with spells creating very specific effects without any possibility of variation. If you want to change any aspect of a spell you’re casting, you’re generally out of luck, unless there’s a metamagic feat for it. Otherwise, you need another spell entirely. This can be frustrating if you only want a minor change, because it’s likely that another such spell will be more radically different than what you want. In this case, you just need a spell variant…and here, Super Genius Games have produced 110 such variants.

The book provides a quick introduction, outlining how these variants are formatted. Organized alphabetically by spell level, after the variant spell name, we’re given what level the spell is for what variant class (note that APG classes are included – disappointingly, other Super Genius Games classes are not listed here), and how the variant differs from a specific spell, something that usually takes only a sentence or two. Of course, there are also different stat listings if the variant spell has them (e.g. this variant has an expensive focus where the original does not), but this is comparatively rare.

It should be noted that while simple, these variants are never obvious. The introduction says that they eschewed making something like an Iceball spell that’s a Fireball that deals cold damage. Instead, what you have here are spells like Detect Enemy, which is like Detect Undead but for one of a ranger’s favored enemies; Scry Trap, which is an Alarm spell with a built-in Scry spell when the alarm is set off; and Analogue, which is a Clone spell that is active as per a Simulacrum spell until you die and it resurrects you in its body.

Needless to say, these examples should show you that the variants herein are exceptionally innovative without being complex. Just changing a few things, without having those things be mechanical alterations to basics like damage type, and you have fascinating new spells on your hands. It’s easy to see here how a little bit can go a long way. Pick up 110 Spell Variants and discover brand new spells that you’ve known all along.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to 110 Spell Variants
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Year of the Zombie - Eat the Rich
Publisher: UKG Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2011 10:24:10
One of the ultimate themes of any good zombie apocalypse story is that ultimately, the zombies aren’t the worst thing to happen to people – other people are. That’s a theme that Year of the Zombie, the d20 Modern “zombocalypse” campaign setting, has dealt with previously, and returns to with the location-sourcebook Eat the Rich. In this case, however, you’re not dealing with marauders or slavers, but an insular community of the uber-rich.

A seventy-three page PDF, Eat the Rich presents itself with the familiar ring-bindings on alternating sides of the page, as though you were flipping through a notebook in reading this. Full nested bookmarks are present, which is a must in a sourcebook like this. Lightly-shaded background elements are on the pages also, which appear to be bloodstains (one is a bloody handprint, implying that this notebook’s owner came to a bad end).

The book is peppered with illustrations, many of which are in UKG’s signature style of being full-color CG-generated images. However, there are a large number of black and white pencil sketches also, usually of key NPCs. The maps are somewhat spartan, but are still presented in full color with good labeling. It should be noted that there are no tactical maps here – all of the mapped locations are overviews of the entire community or a section of it (such as the security center).

Finally, a printer-friendly version is included that removes all graphic elements entirely; the illustrations, maps, and background images are all gone. It’s a nice extra, particularly since the rise of POD and tablet-viewing has seen the decline of printer-friendly material.

Fans of Year of the Zombie will find that all of the familiar elements are in place in Eat the Rich. The book begins with an overview of the gated community, going over its general location and resources. Right away you get the same gritty, hard-boiled edge that YotZ is famous for, with the place being tightly guarded with security that would seem almost ridiculously high until you remember that the people who live here probably have more money than most countries. The community itself is covered, building by building, and is a monument to excess and self-indulgence. All items for purchase are high-end, from wines to tech-toys to “companionship.”

The security group Red Talon is covered next, and they’re nothing short of a private army. It’s here that the book starts to move from “ultra-realistic” to being somewhat pulpy in feel; it’s nothing heavy, just that when you have the security group being in control of a subterranean base that can withstand a nuclear assault, you tend to think in more James Bond-style terms.

A brief coverage of the fish hatchery is all that remains before we move into a detailed overview of the residence of Green Hollows. And it’s here that the book stops restraining itself. The author makes no bones about the fact that these people are the scum of the Earth; rich enough that normal rules and laws don’t apply to them, most of these NPCs are completely debased, though in different ways, and at times it strays into near-supervillain material.

Each resident has their background and personality fleshed out for a few paragraphs, before displaying their d20 Modern stat block. After this is a “reaction to the Rising” section that tells us what these characters do once it’s clear that that the world is being engulfed in zombies. Most of the time, this is where the character’s evil comes to the fore, and several are summarily killed by other characters.

Following the detailed overview of the population of Green Hollows, we then get a look at Staffording’s Place, a nearby community of normal people that have been utterly victimized by their rich neighbors. These people have basically been zoned out of existence, with their resources and land gobbled up by people who have access to an army of lawyers and can pay off politicians easily. It’s a stark contrast to Green Hollows, and is already a near-ghost town before the Rising starts.

It’s in the last section that we get a timeline of how the Rising affects Green Hollows and Staffording’s Place. This goes in increments of a few hours, and showcases how things quickly break down, resulting in the community eventually closing and enduring a power struggle; each entry notes what can be seen on television. This section ends with the author writing directly to the reader about some of the campaign mysteries that have been built into the book (which I shan’t discuss here).

Overall, Eat the Rich is a great supplement to Year of the Zombie, and keeps the campaign’s tone of pulling no punches in terms of how brutal the people, the weapons, and the situations can be. Some may find this supplement harder to work into a campaign, simply because the interconnected nature of the Green Hollows community makes it difficult to incorporate outsiders (like the PCs) into the game – both in terms of the insular nature of the community, and because of the many overlapping plot elements. Still, the book takes that into account and does suggest ways to get the PCs involved. If you want to have your characters caught between the worst of humanity, and a rising tide of inhuman hunger, let them Eat the Rich.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Year of the Zombie - Eat the Rich
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

101 Monster Feats (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2011 21:37:38
There’s an art to making monsters that can really challenge the PCs. Some of these are obvious, like correctly matching the power of the monster(s) to the power of the player-characters. Others are the sort of thing that only experience can really teach you, like how only an overwhelmingly strong creature can stand up to the fact that the PCs have greater economy of actions. And of course, one important part of keeping the PCs on their toes is to have the monster utilize powers and abilities they don’t expect or are unfamiliar with.

It’s on that last note that we come to the topic of this particular review, Rite Publishing’s 101 Monster Feats.

Almost twenty pages long, this book needs no description for its contents. All of these feats have the “monster” descriptor which expressly forbids them from being taken by PCs. Not that they’d likely be able to anyway, as almost all of these hinge on having a particular monster ability or a given type or subtype.

While discerning gamers will be able to pick out one or two feats from another source (another Rite Publishing book, in some cases), the vast majority of these feats are brand new, and quite innovative in what they offer. One lets a lich turn a victim of its paralysis attack into an ad hoc phylactery. Another lets an outsider take a creature with it to the Astral Plane (the better to deliver the poor soul unto damnation). One lets a creature with a breath weapon use the swallow whole ability, and has the victim take breath weapon damage once swallowed.

That last one was part of a few recurring themes throughout the book. Several feats were obviously directed towards certain types of monsters, such as how there were somewhere around a dozen feats dedicated to breath weapons. This isn’t a bad thing, since monsters have very few universal points, it’s just an observation. Another set of feats gave what was essentially the same power (choking a creature so as to kill it via suffocation) to different powers, e.g. constriction, pouncing, tripping, etc. I can appreciate why this was done, but perhaps it would have been more economical to make those feats simply have any one of those powers as alternate prerequisites.

Beyond that, there were a few spelling and grammar errors, but nothing that made any of the feats impossible to understand. Likewise, I have to give props for the book having alphabetical bookmarks. But what really made this book fun to read – beyond the new mechanics it offered – where the in-character descriptions for the feats. You know how, right after the feat title, there’s usually a line of text describing what the feat does? Here, that’s replaced with a monster talking about having used the feat against someone. It’s a small touch, but it puts a devilish tone to the material here, invoking exactly the right frame of mind for an enterprising GM.

Ultimately, while 101 Monster Feats has a few problems, they’re negligible compared to the value of what’s here. Want your incorporeal monsters to be able to damage creatures just by flying through them? How about lycanthropy that can’t be healed so long as the originating lycanthrope lives? Or night hags who can haunt the dreams of the innocent, alongside the guilty? It’s all here, and so much more. 101 Monster Feats is itself quite a feat for what it offers your Pathfinder game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Monster Feats (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Publisher Reply:
I wanted to thank Shane for posting a review of our product. 5/5 stars! Snoopy Happy Dance of Joy! Steve Russell Rite Publishing
The Lazy GM: Goblinoids (Pathfinder Edition)
Publisher: Creative Conclave
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2011 19:49:36
One of the charges that’s often leveled against Pathfinder when going over the game’s negatives is that, in certain areas, it’s cumbersome. And as any GM who’s ever tried to construct customized monsters knows, that’s not an unfair charge. Creating custom NPCs is often a time-consuming task, requiring meticulous work to stack class levels and templates on creatures. Your third-level bugbear rogue, for example, isn’t something easily generated on the fly.

It was exactly this sort of problem that Creative Conclave set out to solve, at least as far as bugbears and their ilk are concerned, with The Lazy GM: Goblinoids (Pathfinder Edition).

An update of the d20 v.3.5 version of the same name, this book details various possible builds with class levels, templates, and more for goblins, bugbears, and hobgoblins, as well as wolves, dire wolves, worgs, and goblin dogs, among others. A truly impressive array of stat blocks are presented for these – more than I could hope to count – leading to this 166-page PDF.

What makes this book truly impressive is that it doesn’t just dump a big bunch of stat blocks on you and walk away. In fact, the book opens with an impressive series of tables that describe and organize the book’s contents. Not only is the book divvied up by creature (with a handy table of contents), but it opens with a handy introduction going over each aspect of the stat blocks and explaining the decisions they made and why. Following this are listings of all the monsters in the book by Challenge Rating, and class/template/variant, with each entry being hyperlinked.

Of course, the book isn’t without its flaws. Some of these are technical in nature, such as the lack of PDF bookmarks (though the aforementioned hyperlinked listings help to mitigate this), and the fact that the stat blocks aren’t in the typical Pathfinder format but are instead in the older 3.5 format. I also suspected that there were one or two details got overlooked – I could have sworn, for example, that some monsters had no favored class bonus.

Still, it should be blatantly obvious that this book is a major help to GMs who want to have goblinoid NPCs in their game. Having put together a truly impressive listing of goblinoids of various class, multi-class, and template combinations, you’ll find something of use in here, or at least something approximating what you’re looking for. If you’re a lazy GM, then this series is quite literally named after you, so pick the book up today and save yourself a lot of trouble.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lazy GM: Goblinoids (Pathfinder Edition)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Publisher Reply:
You could be right about the lack of favoured class bonus - when we started putting this together Pathfinder was still in its early testing stages so this particular rule may well have been overlooked. My suggestion is to add a number of hit points equal to class level to any creature you think needs a favoured class bonus, which would be the easiset option, although it wouldn't be too hard to add another skill with ranks=level if you preferred.
Addendum to my previous comment, this is now the revised edition and those issues have been addressed - if you buy this now you'll find the stat blocks in standard PF format and favoured class bonuses included. We've also fixed a few minor errors and amended some features that changed between the beta test of Pathfinder and the final publication, such as scaling on feats like Skill Focus. If you've got the older version the updated file is a available to you for free.
Sexcraft: A Little Game with a Lot of Sex
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2011 10:23:03
Sex in RPGs has always been a proverbial sticky wicket. While the topic certainly deserves some degree of prominence, actually integrating it into a role-playing game is difficult to implement and tends to end badly. Knowing that, I was thusly quite interested when I saw that John Wick was tackling the subject in his book Sexcraft: A Little Game with a Lot of Sex.

Before we get into it (yes, that was another regrettable pun), let’s take a look at the mechanics of the book. The PDF file is twelve pages long from start to finish, taking into account things like the cover, credits, etc. The book is entirely devoid of illustrations save for periodic silhouettes of various sexy women – the pictures are silhouettes with singular parts in white to highlight certain things, such as the silhouetted woman with a white bra on. In fact, all of these illustrations are of sexy women; a note near the end of the book explains that they simply couldn’t find any “sexy guy” illustrations.

There are no bookmarks, which is a shame, but nothing crippling in a twelve-page PDF. It should also be noted that both eBook and Mac formatting are present, allowing for plentiful options about which platform you enjoy this product on.

But beyond all of that, what is this Sexcraft book all about? As the name suggests, this is its own take on sex-based magic. The opening fiction hints at the basic nature of sexcraft as a dueling sort of magic…that is, two practitioners have sex, which for them is a duel of their respective magic.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Sexcraft explains that it’s meant to be a meta-system; you can take the rules in this book and integrate them into other RPGs seamlessly. In fact, this was where I feel the book fell down, as I didn’t find the new type of magic here to be easily added to most other RPGs, but I’ll get to that in due time.

The introduction then explains that sex is often ignored in RPGs because it has no tangible reward within the framework of the role-playing game itself; hence, giving it mechanics and a metagame framework will help to bring it more fully into RPG gaming. Now, I completely agree with the premise here – most RPGs that I’ve played have emphasized mechanics enough that even the best of role-players wanted the system-based rewards. Hence, you need to make any new aspect of the game part of that. However, I was skeptical of a one-size-fits-all approach…

The book begins to get into the mechanics of sexcraft by first explaining that characters can only learn this particular art by being taught, and that it’s a rare and secretive power only a few know. Beyond that, gaining power via sexcraft requires taking it from others…but those who are uninitiated have very little power to give. The quickest way to “charge up” is to engage in a sexcraft duel and take another practitioners energy.

Sexual energy, we’re told, is measured in points. The uninitiated have only ten points (and in mundane sex – that is, sex between people who can’t use sexcraft – everyone just donates a single point to everyone else, resulting in no net gain), but practitioners can have quite a bit more; the presumption seems to be that however much energy you gain in a duel is how much you retain.

Sexual energy can be freely given by those who know what they’re doing, or practitioners can actively take it. Note that in either case, sharing sexual energy is only possible during consensual sexual acts – forcing yourself on someone gains you nothing.

After some discussion on the effects of loss of energy, we’re then told what sexual energy can be used for. Instead of spells per se, there are a half-dozen different applications, called “roses.” Each rose is a different color, and most cost just a single energy to invoke. The blue rose, for instance, requires a touched target to truthfully reveal the answer to a single question asked, whereas the red rose causes the target to become obsessed with someone or something.

I was surprised at the relative narrowness of each rose’s application, and how few roses there are. Each is certainly colorful in what they can do, but there aren’t that many. Further, the idea that sexcraft is “beyond” other forms of magic (something mentioned earlier in the book) seems bluntly reinforced here, with various roses mentioning how each rose’s power cannot be removed or defeated by anything, short of a reprieve from the sexcraft witch that used it.

The above system of sexcraft magic is where I really took issue with the book. For all its talk about being a meta-system that can be put into any RPG, the fact remains that magic is specific to various role-playing games, and using sexcraft as its presented here can be a poor fit. Consider how well this magic would fit, thematically, with Call of Cthulhu? It’s risk-free to the user and subject, easily recharged, and even enjoyable…it’s against the tone of the game, in other words. Likewise, using this in D&D would bring up problems if you said that sexcraft powers couldn’t be dispelled, removed, or even disjoined. The simple mechanics here don’t mesh with that system’s intricate, technical magic rules.

Magic, no matter what the type, isn’t something you can make into a single-use system to put into any established role-playing game.

Following the list of the roses, the book talks about sexcraft duels between practitioners. Each sexcraft user has a number of six-sided dice equal to their energy, and each turn can decide how many to use, but with the caveat that the loser of each round doesn’t get those dice back. There are also four tactics that can be used – attack, counterattack, feint, and protect. Each can give you an advantage (a single bonus d6) against a certain other type of tactic.

This system isn’t a bad one, but seems to favor using all of your energy dice at once in hopes of simply overwhelming your opponent (especially if they’re conservative with how many dice they use at a time). While you can still lose this way sometimes, the result of “higher number wins” seems to favor making large plays, with the various tactics providing some variance only if the participants both bet a relatively equal number of dice.

The book closes out with a word from the author talking about how, if this seems inappropriate, consider how many pages of how many RPGs are dedicated to killing things. It’s a salient point, but one that ignores the larger question of why sex in RPGs isn’t more prominent. It’s not a question of the appropriate nature of the content described, but rather that for most people it’s an awkward and embarrassing thing, even if you marry it more closely to game mechanics. That’s not an excuse, of course, nor is it a condemnation of either traditional RPGs or this one – it’s just why sexual-based RPG materials aren’t more prominent.

After this there’s a bonus section with the sexcraft witch prestige class for D&D 3.5. A ten-level prestige class, this is fairly decent, but makes some mistakes if you’re a Third Edition aficionado. For one thing, it’s odd that a spellcasting PrC (full arcane spellcasting progression) also requires, and grants, sneak attack dice (particularly with the note that the sexcraft witch can sneak attack someone while having sex with them).

The class abilities are interesting, and notably don’t try to translate the “rose” powers from earlier into d20 terms. Rather, we get things like the sexcraft witch having the ability to put a compulsion on someone else which they have to follow until they sleep with another person, having the power to cause a negative level with a caress (like a succubus), or using a death effect against anyone she’s ever slept with.

These powers are imaginative, but a closer look shows that they have some design problems. Leaving aside issues like requiring the never-before-mentioned Craft (sex) skill, or lacking power tags (such as Ex or Su), the powers aren’t defined thoroughly enough. For example, many lack a range listing, or any sort of limiter on how often they can be invoked. Several are too powerful, such as a power that (with a DC 15 Craft (sex) check) lets the arcane spellcasting sexcraft witch use any of several healing spells (though to be fair, this is limited to once per person per night).

On the last page, there are short notecards for a character’s name, their current energy, and how many roses they know.

Overall, Sexcraft is – like so many other attempts to bring sex into greater prominence in RPGs – a good idea that doesn’t work. In this case, it’s not because the attempt is too prurient (it’s fairly light in the tone of its presentation), but simply because in trying to apply itself to any game system, it renders itself inappropriate for quite a few, if not most, of them. The attempt is laudable, but in order for something to be universally applicable, it helps to cover ground that no one else has touched, and magic, regardless of the theme of the magic, is not such an area.

Ironically, the book seems to know it too. Presenting the sexcraft witch prestige class is a nod towards the fact that sex-magic is an area that can be tailored much more directly towards a given game system (a message which is diluted by the fact that the sexcraft witch needs further system editing).

Like a teenager getting ready to lose his virginity, Sexcraft knows what it wants to do, but what it actually presents leaves room for improvement.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sexcraft: A Little Game with a Lot of Sex
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Class Options Vol. 3: Rangers Renewed
Publisher: Gun Metal Games
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2011 13:55:52
Rangers are one of those classes that have made a success story out of taking two different ideas – the strong martial fighter and the skilled wilderness survivalist – and fusing them together. While on paper the ranger may seem like a mish-mash of ideas, in play the class makes them work quite well. The only real weakness of the class is its inflexibility – you can choose your favored enemy and combat style, but other than that one ranger is pretty much the same as another.

Gun Metal Games aims to fix that issue with the aptly named Rangers Renewed, the third book in their Class Options line for Pathfinder.

A ten page PDF, Rangers Renewed – written by the prolific and inimitable Stefen Styrsky – makes a very strong showing of itself. The PDF has nested bookmarks, which is praiseworthy, along with several pieces of high-quality full color illustrations. While aesthetics aren’t the most important thing in an RPG product, they help a lot, and I was quite pleased to see that such care was given to such a short book.

Before we get into the nuts and bolts of what Rangers Renewed offers, there’s an elephant in the room that must be addressed – since this book came out before Paizo’s Advanced Player’s Guide, with its plethora of new options for all classes, rangers included, we have to ask to what degree the ideas in this book overlap with that one.

The answer is: surprisingly little. There is some conceptual overlap to be sure, but not as much as you’d think. Two or three of the new combat styles are the same, and some of the alternate class abilities resemble those in the APG’s ranger archetypes, but that’s about it. The only other similar idea is that both books present spell-less ranger rules, but they handle them very differently.

So just what is here? First, we’re given a big list of new class abilities. Unlike the packages of alternate abilities that are APG archetypes, these are singular abilities which can be swapped in for normal class abilities (though the choice, once made, is permanent). Sixteen are presented, ranging from things like being able to gain a swim speed instead of woodland stride, intimidating animals instead of befriending them, or growing more skilled with a weapon (that is, gaining bonus feats for their combat style) instead of adapting to a new terrain.

After this, we’re then presented with two new alternate capstone abilities – new abilities that can be taken at 20th level instead of the normal master hunter ability. Essentially, these are also alternate class features, but they’re presented in their own section, something I thought was pretty cool, since capstone abilities are the rewards you get for playing a class through to the end. The first ability, veteran hunter, lets you be immune to one power of one specific sort of creature, while undying hunter keeps you alive despite hit point loss while fighting a favored enemy.

Following this, we’re given nine new combat styles that rangers can take. In a display of innovation, not all of these are actually focused around combat – rather, some let a ranger focus on doing something particularly well. The “beast master” combat style instead grants feats (several of them from this book) focused around connecting and bonding with an animal companion much closer. The “runner” combat style focuses on being quick and nimble.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t more traditional combat style choices here, however. From spear-fighter to mounted combat to mage-killer to trapper (using a net and bola), there are plenty of great options presented.

The section on spell-less rangers follows. These rules focus around a ranger giving up all spellcasting progression, in exchange for which they gain increased abilities with their combat style. That is, they gain several new combat-style class abilities at 11th, 13th, and 16th levels. Such new abilities are given for the nine new combat styles presented here, as well as the original two-weapon fighting and archery combat styles.

The book closes out with twenty-nine new feats. I found myself wishing that they’d included a table that listed them for easy reference; one of those things that you don’t realize how helpful it is until it’s not there. That said, the feats do a good job in presenting new options, with many being focused around animal companions – A Second Set of Eyes and Ears lets you add a bonus to your companions Perception checks, or to yours, or example. Companion’s Stride lets your animal companion use Woodland Stride. There are a number of great feats here.

Unfortunately, there are some problems here too. A few feats, like Death From Afar – which lets you coup-de-grace an enemy with a ranged weapon, so long as they’re unaware of you and flat-footed, from two ranged increments or less away – seem too powerful. Others make mistakes, like Sundering Critical letting you critical hit objects or constructs, despite the latter being vulnerable to crits already in Pathfinder. And a few just make what seem like simple errors, like several feats having “Expert Cast” as a prerequisite when it’s likely they mean “Expert Weaver.”

Still, despite its weaknesses Rangers Renewed does a lot to live up to its name. Even with the APG presenting quite a few new ranger options, most of the alternate combat styles and class abilities are innovative and present new options that aren’t found elsewhere. Alongside more than two dozen new feats and an interesting new way to have spell-less rangers, there’s a lot in Rangers Renewed that really does renew what the ranger class can do. Pick this book up and try something new with your ranger, instead of being another Aragorn knock-off.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Class Options Vol. 3: Rangers Renewed
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 91 to 105 (of 520 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG