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Olympian Breed: Act One
Publisher: Palewolf Publishing
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/05/2012 19:59:14
Disclaimer: The publisher contacted me directly to review their products, providing a complimentary copy.

1 Cover, 1 blank page (really? Why is page 7 blank of all text?), 5 pages of text. 7 pages total.

As are all Olympian Breed products, designed for Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition and the Super Powers Companion.

This is a good adventure set-up with some back-story at the beginning. This story provides information for the GM and can be used as a guide for what the PCs know about the state of affairs.
Summary: There's a big party to announce a royal engagement. Demonic party crashers arrive, kidnap the royal ladies, and try to slaughter some guests - time to be a hero. In the aftermath, a royal summons give the heroes an interview with an Oracle, who tells them where to go to rescue the ladies. The king promptly gives them a boat and a crew. Curtain Call.

Short, simple, and classic. If used in the same session as character creation, I can see this being a full night. However, on its own this Act should last about one hour. You could add another hour or two of interactions before and after the combat, but Savage Worlds combats are pretty short. Between the (heavily scripted) fight and the various interactions, this is a pretty slim "adventure".
Interestingly, the combat is against a bunch of creatures built with the core monster rules instead of the super power rules - they're good foes, and fine for a normal group of heroes, but might be too easy for the demigods that Olympian Breed focuses on.

Oddly, I wasn't sure when to "stop reading boxed text" and "roll initiative" (this is Savage Worlds, but Deal Initiative doesn't have quite the same impact). The writing flows so smoothly between the two that I wasn't sure, until afterwards, if I was supposed to run a combat or just tell the players that "Plot Happens". For the overall story, the player's actions in the combat don't matter - you can make them matter (and should) via NPCs rescued and the reactions of characters in the aftermath, but for the purposes of the story the entire fight scene could just be descriptive text.

Again, the graphics are grayscale (excluding the cover and one small map) and images are few, but skillful and useful.
Layers, for printing, would have been a nice addition. The parchment-effect background is attractive and evocative but will eat up some print cartridges.

Stats:
NPC stats are a bit buggy. The author leaves a lot of modifiers off of derived attributes (Parry scores ingoring edges and gear; Toughness that doesn't include armor), uses the wrong values for setting-equipment (the shield is supposed to be a +2 parry, but is repeatedly listed as +1), and everything has high Traits (d8s are typical, with a couple of d10s and only a handful of d6s). Which means that things will be interesting for the PCs when they have to throw down. Not unbeatable, especially for Demigods, but interesting.


Overall: 3.7
Good production values and nicely thought out; a solid first act. I'm genuinely curious to see where the story goes and what cool things the authors do with this.
However, this is basically just an opening couple of scenes, not a full adventure. I've seen more gaming packed into the free One Sheet Adventures on the Pinnacle website (www.peginc.com), or some of the fan-made freebies on their forums.
This product is nice, but not worth the $5 price, which is a shame because I enjoyed it enough to want to recommend buying it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Olympian Breed: Act One
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Olympian Breed - Setting Primer & Character Creation Guide
Publisher: Palewolf Publishing
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/05/2012 19:34:35
Disclaimer 1: The publisher contacted me directly to review their products.
Disclaimer 2: I automatically upgrade my ratings for Free products (which this was when I reviewed it; hopefully it stays that way).

Content:
1 Cover, 2 Character sheet, 5 pages of text. 8 pages total.

For the SWEX rules (Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition), plus Super Powers Companion, instead of the current Core Rules (Deluxe Edition). That doesn't matter much, since PCs don't have to worry about the Guts skill, and removing that was arguably the biggest change in character creation between the editions.

Solid opening text. It references classic mythology without going into details or explanation. If you're reading this product then you probably already know about Greek mythology; if you don't then this will leave you confused. My complaint is that there are no references or recommended readings, at all, so people wanting to do some research for the style and tone of the game are completely on their own.

Good character-background questions section. Eleven questions to help generate character backgrounds, some of which I ask for all of my Savage games (because they help when choosing Hindrances).

Graphics are skimpy and mostly simple black & white, but very fitting and useful. The map of ancient Greece is probably better than what actual Greeks had, is sepia with color 'national' borders, and makes the land appear much more settled and orderly than was probably the case (and certainly moreso than the mythic Greece I'm familiar with would indicate). The map is also a page-stopper, and pulls me in ever time I see it; worth picking up the book just for that map.

Totally missing:
It could have used some good guidance on the style and tone typical for the setting (AGON had this in spades). However, the presentation leaves it up to each group what style and tone of Greece they play in (which AGON totally lacked), and freedom to play what you enjoy is a good thing.
Economic discussion. The character sheet talks about coins of various metals, but everything else is in dollars.

Crunchy Bits:
Super Powers Companion required. Very low power (Minor Leaguers: 6 pp, 3 per Power Points edge). There's a custom edge that replaces Arcane Background: Supers, lets you ignore the Guts skill, and gives characters a vague and plot-heavy 'mystic sight'.
Destiny hindrance could be renamed "Player Character" for all that it adds to the game. "Your life is marked with great challenges, strife, and peril," is all the downside the (major) hindrance enumerates. It's either a "no drawback" hindrance for those that don't want to role play, or an open invitation for the GM to do whatever evil, cruel, vicious, or mean things to your character that his black little heart desires. I can't tell which is the intention, and I GM a lot of Savage Worlds games. Maybe this is just supposed to be the Super Karma hindrance, taken to get extra power points?
No restriction or guidance on power choices. You can very easily play Achilles - immune to mortal weapons and therefore the scariest warrior alive (i.e. take the Armor power with the Heavy Armor modifier, making you immune to non-heavy weapons; if it's not a catapult or a divine weapon then you don't care).

Character Sheet:
Simple, clean, and fitting. Not too bad to print, all in grayscale. The first page gives a lot of room for the basics of the character and the second has plenty of room for advances (20 of them), a block for allies, and some usable notes space.


Overall:
The map alone makes me glad I grabbed this; it's gorgeous, in an austere sort of way. Add in the character sheet and I'm pretty pleased. The setting might pique your interest, though I wanted to see what they actually did with it (see Act One). An otherwise average hasty introduction to the setting, and for free it is definitely worth checking out. And decent character sheets are always worth finding.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Olympian Breed - Setting Primer & Character Creation Guide
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Mutants & Masterminds Threat Report #31: Power Corps
Publisher: Green Ronin
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/21/2011 16:19:07
The Good:
A zero effort update of an infinitely flexible villain group, appropriate for any setting.
New powers, features, and abilities that show these guys actually have improved over time, without changing their PL.
Full personality write-ups, including advice on who to change and how.
Tactical advice for GMs that need guidance on how to ensure a team of villains always gets away.
The price - you can't beat free.

The Bad:
No individual stat blocks - they all use the same base but most have a small change or two that can have repercussions if you don't prepare well before session.

Overall:
Excellent, raised to Outstanding by the cost.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Threat Report #31: Power Corps
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The Temple of Mysteries: In Media Res
Publisher: Malhavoc Press
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/30/2010 14:29:51
This adventure is a strange one, with a couple of major twists built in. It's designed for a one-shot (though it usually takes me about 6 hours to run it) of RP and mystery, not as part of an ongoing campaign.

I've run it three times, with mixed success and many character deaths. It is an extremely difficult module for the pre-gens, with a near-impossibility of total success.


Run well, with the right players, it can be a lot of fun. As the DM, I've always had a blast. The players have had less uniform enjoyment, with about a third of them actively disliking it.


Despite all that, I still recommend it. It's interesting, creative, very open about it's dangers, and inspiring for the rat-bastard-DM in all of us. Very much worth the $5 entry fee.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Temple of Mysteries: In Media Res
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The Iron Heroes Bestiary
Publisher: Fiery Dragon
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/30/2010 14:22:43
The Iron Heroes bestiary presents a number of new monsters, villain classes, and opposition ideas for the Iron Heroes alternative PHB.

Most of the ideas and creatures are evocative and interesting, though some wouldn't do well in a more traditional d20 game.
A good example is the Grey Troll. This troll is literally as stupid as it is hungry, and has a penchant for conversing with adventurers until it gets pecking, and then eating them. Being nearly immortal, they have a remarkable amount of lore to share with the clever party in need of information. Unfortunately, at a CR 8 they are relatively easy for a traditional D&D party to defeat (flight and fire spells will do the trick).
Still, the creatures are interesting and generally fun to run. They fit excellently into the feel and style of Iron Heroes.


The Villain Classes include the Champion, Demonic Minion, and Demon Knight.
The Champion is a highly skilled (and customizable) warrior, with a personal combat style that makes him the fiddliest of the Villain classes to use (you've got to select up to 15 feats), though the five example builds make it much easier to lift and use. He's useful across most of the CR span (3 to 20).
The Demonic Minion is low CR trickster (CR 1 to 6) with a few abilities that make it survivable while still being a minor foe.
The Demon Knight is an infernally-powered warrior-commander with excellent armor, magical weapons, and a couple of special abilities. It's more of a "sweet spot" foe (CR 5 to 15), but makes a great "mini-Balor" for any campaign. Of all the classes, it is the one that is most likely to be more powerful than its CR indicates.


There's also a discussion at the beginning of the book about monster special attacks and how to use them in Iron Heroes (where there is no magic to undo petrification or being slain). Several solutions are offered and all are useful in their various ways.


Overall: A very good book with a ton of value for any d20 fantasy campaign. While the emphasis is on Iron Heroes, the book itself is useful for any d20 game that uses HP and level-based advancement.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Iron Heroes Bestiary
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BASH! Ultimate Edition
Publisher: Basic Action Games
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/30/2010 14:06:57
This is a solid game for those looking for a simple but heroic super-system. It has a wealth of ideas, rules, and suggestions to give your games that super-powered feel.

Likes:
*The base mechanic (roll 2d6, multiply by character stuff, compare to difficulty) is simple, fast, and a brilliant way to provide a range of results from "untrained joe" to "cosmic super-being" with one system that still allows the occasional surprise (including underdogs winning and super-beings failing).
*The 100 hit mechanic makes all characters equally healthy, allowing Cyclops to actually be in the same scenes as Thor without breaking the suspension of disbelief. Thor's ability to soak damage without harm is greater, but they both drop after the same amount of damage taken.
*It uses an intuitive tri-stat system to grant base multipliers.
*Each power point of character creation feels powerful. This means the 15 point difference between Mystery Men and World-Class Heroes is a gulf that feels nearly insurmountable, making more potent heroes feel more potent.

Dislikes:
*Layout - the basic layout is attractive (in an austere way) but not helpful when looking for rules. For example, I spent 12 minutes perusing the combat section trying to find the base roll for dealing damage; I finally started reading through the whole chapter from the first line and found it in the opening (descriptive) paragraphs, with no repeated mention and no highlighting to help locate such a key rule of the game. It's 2d6, by the way, multiplied by Brawn (unarmed), weapon value (ranged attacks), or other formula (varies by attack type).
*The skill system is simple enough (and coincidentally similar to that of the Dragon Age RPG) but there seems to be no way to start with additional skills beyond the slots provided by abilities. So the only way to get certain skillful characters is to raise their Agility and Mind stats well above and beyond what the character deserves to have.
*Needs more Bookmarks or hypertext cross-indexing. There's too many spots where I wonder how to find a rules that was referenced but not explained.
*There's very little setting guidance. I freely admit that this is usually wasted on me, but it'd be nice to see more. Though, according to a comment for one of the previous reviews, setting books will be forthcoming.


Value: Very Good. There's a lot of system for a very reasonable price. Not quite enough to make it worth picking up without ever playing the game, but enough to make it worth while when deciding what system to use for a supers campaign.

Quality: Good. The interior art is on par with the cover, the page layout is easily read, and the organization is tolerable. The rules text is clear, when you can find it.

Overall: A good supers game, especially for groups that want something simpler and lighter than most alternatives (M&M, HERO, Savage Worlds) without being hand-waved (Truth & Justice, many others).

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
BASH! Ultimate Edition
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you, I appreciate the review. I would like to address two of your points: About damage- after the beginning of Chapter 2, it is also mentioned twice under a heading: there is a heading labeled "Attacks" on page 18 that explains the various types of attacks, how to hit and damage is rolled. On page 19, there is a Heading labeled "Damage and Soak" that also explains it. There is a way to start with more skills- there is an "Intense Training Power" called "Skillful". Each point you put into it gives you 2 additional skill slots. Also, if you want to make a character who is a complete Polyglot, there is an Advantage called "Jack of All Trades" that lets you default with skills at a much smaller penalty. However, these could have been mentioned in the Skills section of Chapter 1, I suppose.
Trailblazer
Publisher: Bad Axe Games
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/04/2009 21:56:31
Remember how you felt when you first opened D&D? How every page was filled with wonder, surprise, and ever-increasing coolness? Get ready to feel that all over again.

Trailblazer, as the previous reviewers note, is a toolkit product for 3.5 SRD gaming. It introduces, and repeats, various options, ideas, and class rewrites. It provides genuine analysis and insight into both the system as it was originally written and the goals of the changes presented. This information makes is fairly simple for the reader to decide if, how, and why they disagree with what's printed; or it makes it simple to understand what a phenomenal job the authors did and why you have that growing excitement in your gut, driving you to get your group together and run something right now.

Good
Analysis, in useful depth, of the weaknesses of the system and how they have reinforced or replaced them.
Class rebalance, bringing the martial classes closer to the primary casters, and pulling the casters to a more consistent level.
Simpler to-run feats and abilities.
Bards that don't suck. Fighters with interesting abilities at every level. Monks that can actually replace Rogues in the party. Monks and Rogues that can fight. Paladins and Rangers with very real and useful spell casting.
Base classes that make Prestige Classes truly optional.
Greater utility with feats. Many marginal feats got improved, and many others got broadened to simplify play.
Dozens of options for greater fun, faster play, better balance, all of it optional.
Just about every change or modification has some explanation attached, letting you know what happens, why it is different, and letting you make an informed decision about whether to use it, lose it, or modify it.
Restatement and certification of DM authority. Trailblazer wants the DM to be master of the rules, not be mastered by the rules, and says so on page one. Everything it brings is optional, and only the DM has the final say.
The level of love the authors obviously have for the system shines through. It's like they got their beloved fat kid to get off the couch and exercise himself to great fitness. Lots of work, lots of attention, and they had to change some fundamental stuff, but the end result was both healthier and much more appealing.

Bad
There are a number of misleading statements throughout, not to mention the inevitable typos (fewer with each correction). The "big six" analysis can easily mislead you into thinking that you can use Trailblazer to run a no-magic campaign: this is incorrect. Trailblazer needs magic, just as much as the original rules did. It's built into the assumptions that make up the "spine" of the system.

Neutral
Most of the rules, ideas and options can be found in other sources. In some respects, much of this is a collection of the best parts of other d20 systems. And you can find these others in the OGL if you want to look up the originals.
I call this one neutral due to the convenience of a) having it all in one place, and b) integrated together for consistency.

Value
Is this worth $5 US? Absolutely.
Even if you decide that it's not your cup of tea, and you are devoutly not a math person, simply reading the analysis of the system is insightful and can't help but make you more comfortable using the system, and will probably improve your gaming.
If you are a math person, at least as far as RPGs, then you'll get even more value out of it, seeing how things line up, compare, and work over the entire 20 level progression.
Even if, like myself, you gave up on 3.x long ago, it can be insightful how the authors went about analyzing the system, identifying problems, and solving those problems. It might even inspire you to come back for another go at the system.

Overall
Trailblazer is one of those products I wish had come out 10 years ago, or even better never been necessary. But now that it's here, I'm glad for it.
It has gotten me to gear up for a Trailblazer campaign. I haven't run a 3.x game in the last 5 years because of my issues with the system, and the last time I (reluctantly) played in one campaign was almost 4 years ago. And here I am working on getting one going.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trailblazer
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Mutants & Masterminds, Second Edition
Publisher: Green Ronin
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/28/2008 12:01:25
Mutants & Masterminds, second edition is an excellent product with only a couple of flaws.
It's a solid d20-based system, that takes the core mechanic all the way to it's extreme end, and does so beautifully. The core mechanic of rolling a d20 and adding stuff, then comparing the total to a target number (DC) is used for almost every aspect of the game, from attacks to damage to skills. It's elegant and pretty consistent.

The powers system is extremely accommodating. With a bit of thought, I have been able to reproduce every power and power set possessed by every fictional (or non-fictional) character I've thought of. From the miracles of Jesus, to the powers of a Green Lantern, to the magic talismans of the Jackie Chan adventures, it's been quick and fairly painless. The extras and flaws mechanics, combined with power feats, does a great job of providing nearly limitless customization; with a few additional flaws and extras (usually worked out by myself and the guy running the game, for really odd ideas) I've been able to do exactly everything I've wanted to do.

Unlike most d20 games, you can actually have all of the feats and skills you want, right now. And at exactly the values you want. Wonderful.

The PL cap system is brilliant, allowing a costumed human detective and a flying, super-strong alien to operate at the same level, fighting the same villains, while still feeling like completely different characters. It effectively allows two different styles of progression, one where you get more rounded and another where you gain more raw power, and you can even combine the two.

The example archetypes included in the book are pretty good starting points, though they seem to make greater use of the Impervious extra than they really need to.

There are a few highly unbalanced combinations of powers. These include being Concealed from all senses (except touch), being completely incorporeal, being able to fry someone's brain from your bomb shelter on the other side of the planet, and several others that are pretty obvious when you sit down and read through them. These powers can still be fair and fun, with a little bit of common sense and utilization of the existing flaws.

LIKED: Simple elegance of the basic design. Extremely flexible powers system, coupled with fun and interesting drawbacks / complications mechanics. Brilliant Power Level system to keep most things roughly balanced.

DISLIKED: Unique subsystem for most powers; while this makes each power feel special, it makes it very difficult to remember how many powers work during the game. Movement powers quickly become dominant; if you don't have any movement powers then you are at a serious disadvantage once things get mobile.

VALUE: Outstanding

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds, Second Edition
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Iron Heroes: Dark Harbor
Publisher: Fiery Dragon
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2008 14:58:20
Iron Heroes: Dark Harbor by Adam Windsor, is an Iron Heroes adventure for levels 1 to 5. It starts with a description of the city of Malador (centerpiece of the adventure) and its environs. Then it jumps into the action, taking the party through a hectic and exciting adventure that can permanently change the nature of Malador.

Points of Note:
1) It is one of the best written and most complete modules I've ever read (and by extension, run). There are stats for just about everyone in the adventure, a plentitude of rumors that change based upon where in the story your group is, lots of opportunities for combat and negotiation and plenty of guidance for when your players go off track. The story itself is entertaining, subtle and very logical.

2) It supports Iron Heroes beautifully. Condition and option zones are listed for every area in which combat is likely, and range from slippery bird pooh to slingable mud to collapsible houses. The environments are almost always intriguing and inspiring for clever stunt uses. Every NPC uses either the Iron Heroes PC or NPC classes for stats, meaning there is no conversion required.

3) The encounters are challenging and threatening but aren't a danger if the PCs are smart. I lost half the party in a drowned tower because the Resilient Toughness religious fanatic didn't wait for others to heal up before kicking down the next door and starting the next fight. This resulted in all sorts of unpleasantness and eventually death for the fanatic and the harrier. When the party came back (with new members) they easily handled a similar encounter to the one that had been lethal.
Similarly, in one of the dungeons, they snuck from encounter to encounter and where able to take the monsters by surprise. As such only two of the twelve beasts they encountered actually got to fight before they were cut down; however, those two dealt a good amount of damage and showed that it would have been a very dangerous encounter if it weren't for the party's preparation.

4) The encounters are varied. Birds, beetles, frogmen, thugs, gladiators, ghouls, pirates, hydras and a wide variety of other challenges result in not only having interesting battlefields but also having interesting foes.

5) It's been very easy to work in replacement characters as necessary. Malador is a cosmopolitan sea port, allowing many different types of people to show up there. This has been most useful.

6) It's portable. Malador and it's relationship with Borat are actually fairly generic and can be taken to whatever setting you desire with little fuss. On the other hand, one can build an entire setting around the information in the module, which is what I have done.

7) The art work is evocative and attractive, in as much as it can be given some of the subject matter. The layout is simple and easily navigated. The interior is black and white, with color covers.

8) My only real complaint is that the layout can make it a bit difficult to locate specific information about locations and NPCs in the first chapter of the book. This didn't cause me and my group a lot of trouble, but it could have.

Dark Harbor is excellent if you're looking for a low level module to start an IH game. It's one of the best modules I've seen, for any system, and I and my players have been very happy with how it has played out. Plenty of chances for everyone to shine and lots of neat stuff to do besides kill things and loot their bodies (though there's lots of that too) make this a good module for getting people interested in Iron Heroes.

LIKED: Everything. Advice, story, NPCs, environments, etc. The level of detail and completeness made this a simple joy to run and lots of fun for my table.

DISLIKED: A few layout issues with information about the city.
The adventure ends; it reaches an end point and stops, logically.

QUALITY: Excellent.

VALUE: High

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Iron Heroes: Dark Harbor
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Sons of the Gun (M&M Superlink)
Publisher: Big Finger Games
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/26/2008 14:36:53
Sons of the Gun by Big Finger Games. A lot of good ideas but flawed execution.

An early attempt at creating a villain supplement for the 2nd Edition of Mutants & Masterminds, it starts with the most important part of an interesting villains, the stories. Each character has a comprehensive background that is easily manipulated to fit into your favorite modern-world super hero setting. There are a number of character, adventure, and setting hooks suggested, along with advice on how to use the characters effectively either as irredeemably evil or a troubled soul hoping for redemption. BFG did a great job of catering to multiple uses and concepts with this product, and making it fairly easy to use as a background for your villain-of-the-week, foil, or campaign mastermind.

Unfortunately, the value drops off dramatically when you get to the character builds.
Each character is touted as being a master of the gun, firearms that can be found and used. However, the individual builds all use super-weapons, one-off devices or mystical firearms that are merely flavor text for a standard super-hero blast. Instead of using the mechanics to make a character who is good with all guns, the vast majority are only good with one or two specific weapons, weapons that any Joe on the street could pick up and take out a SWAT team with. The emphasis is on tons of damage, rather than on building a clever opponent, and the damage all comes from standard superhero sources. (Sneak attack, favored opponent feats, and blast-powers limited to firing a gun are all great ways to increase damage for characters that have to blast through men of steel.)

Toughness saves are wonky as well. Some characters have Protection powers, which are innate to the character, yet are described as being much weaker when caught without their protection, which isn't possible. Many of the foes presented are not alive (being ghosts, robots, or mystical golems), and their Toughness saves have a number of extra points in them that can't be bought.

Skills, feats, powers, and ability scores are generally inappropriate to the character's concept and intended use. Just about all of the characters are either too competent or not nearly competent enough, depending upon what you're looking at. Many of them lack crucial abilities for their backgrounds; they are no longer able to use those abilities, but they used them in their backstories and the abilities were very important to them (such as the ex-spy's social skills). They also are way too good at things they shouldn't be good at, or at least shouldn't be that good at.

OVERALL, it's a great product and I'm glad I own it, but BFG needs to get someone else to do their Superlink mechanics. The concepts and ideas are worth the price by themselves, but the mechanics are awkward and bland at best and just plain wrong at worst.

LIKED: The concepts and stories were inspiring and made good use of the idea of the gun. The flavor text is brilliant and whoever the story people are, BFG needs to hang on to them.

DISLIKED: The lack of rules comprehension, the over-building of the villains, and the very simple, inappropriate, and clumsy builds were very frustrating as both a player and a GM. Only one character in the book uses actual guns, and he's supposed to get beaten by most heroes.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Acceptable

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Sons of the Gun (M&M Superlink)
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Book of Magic
Publisher: Green Ronin
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/13/2008 12:15:35
Filled with an interesting take on magic in comic-style settings, Green Ronin's Book of Magic is a useful addition to any campaign that incorporates mystic elements an uses the M&M rule set. While not essential for any such campaign, it's a great guide on how to incorporate the feel of comic book magic into any setting. The Freedom City examples, while specific to that setting, are a fairly comprehensive example of everything the book discusses.
For those looking for Freedom-specific information, there are a wealth of new threats, allies, informants, organizations, and a deeper exploration of the mystical history of that setting.

What it is: As the introduction does a very good job of explaining, this is a book about magic as it works in comics. It doesn't explore the nearly limitless types of magic covered in various fantasy settings, the variations explored by real world mythologies (past and present), and only touches on the magic as mind-destroying horror in the briefest of ways. Instead, magic is treated as a mysterious, complicated, and slightly dangerous (because of the attentions it draws, rather than the nature of magic) source of power and stories. While not as comprehensible as super science, it is still understandable and generally follows a set patter.

The Layout: The book is split into four chapters.
The first is about the mystic world, and focuses on tone, stories, and fundamental concepts found in comic book magic. There is a fairly significant analysis of the progression of magic in the histories of both DC and Marvel comics, giving some good insights into how magic in comics has evolved over the decades. It has long sections discussing the complex role play and characterization aspects of being steeped in magic, as well as providing guidelines on the various mystical dimensions that exist in many settings (and the powerful denizens thereof).
The second chapter is for mystic hero creation, and includes both suggestions to build the desired character and a few new options (feat uses and power flaws) to make the magic work the way you want it to. It also includes a library of 'common' spells in the Freedom City campaign, their origins and associations; this information is useful for both spell building and setting enhancement, providing examples useful to any setting.
The third chapter is all about mystical campaigns (series in M&M speak). The long lists of villainous archetypes, supporting characters, and a short section on frameworks for a mystic series are all found here.
The fourth and final chapter is an exploration of magical characters, locations, history and ideas in the Freedom City setting. While the entire book is useful for any mystic series, this chapter is most useful either as examples / inspirations or for GMs running a series set in Freedom City.

The Good:
Wonderful advice on mystic campaigns. This stuff is golden, even for settings with completely different limitations and concepts of magic.
Templates. I, personally, really like templates for beings of roughly the same type, and this book has a wide variety of them, from Olympian gods to Asgardian dwellers to angels to fey to hungry dead to demons galore. Enough templates to keep me happily building nasty NPCs for months.
The character concepts. NPCs, PC ideas, villains, whatever, these concepts are interesting, deep, and well thought out (though not all their mechanics are). Even the villain archetypes, though they draw upon pre-existing ideas, are great inspiration and have some fun twists buried in them.

The Bad:
As so often happens with Green Ronin products, my principle complaints are with the NPCs. The concepts behind them are often brilliant but many of the builds lack mechanical refinement. And the supporting archetypes are almost all flawed, with incorrect PLs (Fire Giant's fire aura; Academic, Antiquarian, and Humble Servant, given their skills), poorly added abilities (Minotaur's damage with his strike), feats used incorrectly (Mage Slayer's favored opponent should add to his damage, not his attack), or poorly chosen abilities for the concept (Nightmare Rider powers, or the Iron Golem's mental ability scores given the flavor text). Still, this is only really a problem for Game Masters that pull things out of the book without examining and modifying them first. Or people reading the entries to try and better understand the rule mechanics.
A minor complaint is that some of the Freedom City NPCs are repeated from other sources. This is especially minor since they are completely appropriate to the book and this keeps the reader from having to flip between multiple sources to see what they can do and how well they can do it.

Overall: A great book, but specialized.
If you're using some, or many, mystic elements in your M&M series then this is probably worth every penny.
If you're not too invested in magic, or don't want to be, then this isn't so good. Still worth picking up, if you can find it on sale (at $10 or less this book is worth it even if you don't run a mystical game), but probably not quite worth the list cost for those not running mystic-heavy campaigns.
I've enjoyed reading it and have picked up a bunch of fun inspirations, villain ideas, complications, and plots to plague my players.

Scoring: I held off on that last star due to the specialized nature of this product and the fact that it needs someone to go over all the stat blocks and make sure they fit their PLs (or change PL to fit their abilities). With corrections it would easily be 4.5 of 5 and I'd be sorely tempted to round up.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Magic
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Hot Pursuit: The Definitive D20 Guide to Chases
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/05/2006 00:00:00
The best rules for d20 based chases I have ever found. Things become abstract and cooler all at the same time. Cement trucks and pedestrians can suddenly appear or not, resulting in very cinematic sequences.

The only flaws are in the layout of hte pdf and the lack of guidelines with regards to aireal and space chases. Given the difficulties of those last two, I can understand and forgive.


LIKED: The basic premise and most of the rules and exectution.

DISLIKED: Layout is somewhat confusing.
No Index.
Not enough guidelines on three dimensional use.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hot Pursuit: The Definitive D20 Guide to Chases
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Battle Armor
Publisher: IDA
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/13/2005 00:00:00
Worth it but only barely. The pictures are nice to look at, the flavor text is interesting if not always consistent with the mechanics, and it very simply and easily ties the various armors to the existing Light / Medium / Heavy armor system.
Unfortunately the armors are either uselessly weak or hideously over-powered, the gadgets for the armors are inconsistent even when they arrived during the same era, and I was generally off put by the "one man show" feel of the product. It felt like it was done by one person without any input from anyone else leading to a very narrow focus on a very wide concept.

LIKED: It takes a unique approach to the creation and use of powered armor. They are just other suits of (light, medium, heavy) that happen to have extras built into them.
Also, good pictures.

DISLIKED: The armors themselves were weak and uninspired by my standards.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Battle Armor
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Sidewinder: Recoiled
Publisher: Dog House Rules
by David H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/25/2005 00:00:00
This is an indepth and well thought out product. It captures the feel of the Old West with brilliant clarity and shows you how to keep that feeling in your d20 Modern games. They've republished all applicable OGL material, meaning the only thing you'll ever need that's not in the book is the experience for level advancement tables. (Hint: look on page 22 of the D&D Player's Handbook; it's the same table.)

LIKED: The research, flavor, and quality of print and publishing.

DISLIKED: That I haven't owned it for 20 years.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sidewinder: Recoiled
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