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Ambient Environments - Zombie Horde
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 16:38:07
Take a low drone resembling the sound of a door desperately in need of WD-40 being opened very, very slowly, add heavy, shuffling footfalls, and you've got the basics of this track. These monotonous noises are occasionally punctuated by groans, growls, and screams. Admittedly I'm not that interested in zombie stuff anyway, but this track does very little for me. I can see (well, hear) how it would work in the right setting, but I just don't like it very much (and I normally find Gil's soundscapes very enjoyable).

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Zombie Horde
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Ambient Environments - The Hidden
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 16:11:49
I don't quite know what's "hidden" in this track, unless it's the uncanny resemblance to the theme from "The Exorcist." But the track does a good job of evoking a sense of mystery, melancholy, and perhaps subdued menace. I could easily imagine using this in-game when the PCs are investigating any kind of "dungeon"—from the mines of Moria to a haunted mansion—where the emphasis is on exploring and a mounting sense of dread rather than combat.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - The Hidden
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Elven Forest
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 12:42:10
To break down the title, the sense of a forest is achieved in this track primarily by the sounds of chirping birds; some rustling of foliage would probably enhance the atmosphere. The sense of elvishness is achieved primarily by some ethereal music, sounding as if wind chimes could hold out their notes. The entire effect is very pleasing, although if you play the track too loud, the "wind chimes" may begin to sound shrill, so keep the volume low.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Elven Forest
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Sacrificial Pool
Publisher: DramaScape
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 12:33:52
Creative and well-conceived, this tile set gives you a printable map of an oceanside sacrificial pool embedded in a larger complex. In general, it makes a great scene for a big confrontation, and the introductory text even suggests a possible adventure hook. DramaScape provides square overlay, hex overlay, and no overlay maps for printing—which is great, but really should have been handled with PDF layers instead of three versions of each tile. You also get one large map for VTT use. The coloration of the scene brings coral to mind, which is good for a seaside facility like this, but the textures seem overdone and the edges between features would be more helpful if they were a bit more distinct. Even so, it's a unique and useful product. Do be sure that your printer has at least a full 8x10 printable area, however, or you'll lose some of each tile.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sacrificial Pool
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Ekzis' Demonic Chessboard
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 00:44:34
Rich artwork and a fun concept combine here to make an interesting backdrop for a set-piece battle. Files are provided for print-and-play on either US letter size or A4 paper, or for use in VTT software. Demonic powers or mad wizards using chessboards as traps or puzzles fit well into many fantasy role-playing settings, and this one looks so good that it motivates me to find a way to use it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ekzis' Demonic Chessboard
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Legends & Lore (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 00:22:54
The AD&D 2e counterpart to the Deities & Demigods volumes in AD&D 1e and 3e, Legends & Lore adapts several real-world mythologies and one fantasy mythology (from Fitz Leiber's Nehwon novels) for use in AD&D 2e campaigns. Whereas the 1e Deities & Demigods is sometimes characterized as a "Monster Manual for gods," the 2e Legends & Lore emphasizes the relationships between gods and worshipers. I do question somewhat the actual utility of these volumes; most D&D campaigns in my experience use fantasy pantheons like those from Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms or Krynn. The greater usefulness of Legends & Lore would seem to me to be in DMs reskinning various gods to create their own fantasy pantheons. The section on Arthurian mythology holds greater promise for direct or near-direct use in a campaign, but it's disappointing that the entire discussion never mentions Christianity directly; despite the importance of the Holy Grail, Legends & Lore doesn't bother to explain exactly what the grail was understood to be. I find this volume more enjoyable than practical.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legends & Lore (2e)
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RAVENFELL: Items & Streets
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2014 23:27:27
The various pieces that make up this set range in modeling difficulty from easy (the elevated road segments) to fairly complex (the cart and the well). Precision is especially required for the bridge, but also for pieces that fit together like the cart and its removable hay load or the outhouse and its seat. If the instructions are followed skillfully, the results are quite attractive and can really enhance any medieval village type of RPG battlemap.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RAVENFELL: Items & Streets
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Template Pack #2 Bog
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2014 23:01:46
The "templates" in this pack are four high-res backgrounds for book covers and book interiors. The "bog" aspect comes in the foliage that decorates the covers and page edges. You could use these for a gaming product or—more likely for me—an in-game handout. They're very attractive, and would make good tomes of druidic lore.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Template Pack #2 Bog
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Ground set #17 - Bog of Hope
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2014 00:46:46
Featuring path shapes similar to other LZW ground sets, this one takes you to a swampy area crisscrossed with paths and bridges, and festooned with brightly-colored flowers and fungi. I suppose the bright colors are what make ti a bog "of hope." It would fit well into a faerie-forest or even an underworld lit by glowing mushrooms. A set of small dwellings made from materials fanciful (perhaps giant mushrooms) and mundane are included. PDF layers are used to allow the addition of boats and animals to various tiles—but I don't consider these to be especially useful additions, since they depict movable elements that I don't want tied down to static tiles. The brief accompanying text is imaginative but not terribly consequential (and in need of better editing). All in all, a fun set with good artwork.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ground set #17 - Bog of Hope
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Viking Dining Hall
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2014 00:19:51
The title offers a viking dining hall, and the track delivers a viking dining hall. Lots of voices, but they're not saying anything in discernible English. A bit of light instrumentation, some laughter, some clinking of tankards (or maybe small cymbals or something along those lines). Very well done and not too distracting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Viking Dining Hall
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Ambient Environments - Druid Ceremony
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2014 18:16:45
This may be one my favorite tracks from Gil Luna yet. The pulse of drums, twittering of birds, ambient vocals, and other audible elements of this track deliver a feeling of awe, sacredness, and nature. Admitting the influence of the track's name, I can easily picture myself at Stonehenge or some other circle of standing stones, looking on while druids do their thing. I also like this track just for listening; earlier today I had it looping for over an hour while I worked on another project, and it never became distracting or boring.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambient Environments - Druid Ceremony
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks Chris! Glad you enjoyed it. Forest of the Fae is similar in that context as far as listenability goes. Thanks for all of your reviews. It helps me see where I can make improvements and do! Cheers! ~g
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
Publisher: Chaosium
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2014 16:57:45
As someone who's always wanted to play Call of Cthulhu but has never really had the opportunity, I very much appreciate these quick-start rules. They're also a nice "holdover" for players waiting for the 7th edition to ship (which hasn't happened yet, as of this review). Be forewarned, however, that you won't be able to use these rules to play much other than the included adventure; they don't really contain enough for a keeper to devise further adventures using just the quick-start booklet. That adventure, by the way, is written both for new players and new GMs; as an RPG veteran but CoC newbie I thought it hit the mark rather well. The layout is a bit "Microsoft Wordy" and I noticed at least one missing word in some of the read-aloud text for "The Haunting," but these are fairly minor blemishes on an otherwise fine product. It's not a complete game, but you can get at least one good night of gaming out of it, at no cost. I call that a win.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Haunted Mars
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 15:01:53
This loop evokes a mysterious, barren, windswept plain. You could be standing in a Martian desert; you could be standing in Egypt next to a broken statue of Ozymandias. There are some strange noises in the background that add to the sense of wonder and mystery; I suppose these might imply a haunting. Whatever they suggest to you, the track is very effective at setting a "haunted" (either literally or metaphorically) mood in a desolate place.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Haunted Mars
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Black Mud Swamp
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:45:25
How do you know this soundscape represents a swamp, other than the title? Mainly from the buzzing insects. The mud is implied by occasional "sticky" footfalls. Why is the mud black? Well, because the title says so, and because it's nighttime, as you can tell from the crickets. Unlike most of Plate Mail Games's background loops, this one also has touches of "music" in the form of sustained, relatively high-pitched tones. The sound is sometimes almost like an electrical hum. These long notes add a touch of mystery, making this an excellent loop to play under any swamp scene, such as (but not limited to!) a visit to a black dragon's swamp in a fantasy RPG or the Louisiana bayou in Call/Trail of Cthulhu scenarios.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Black Mud Swamp
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RPG Background Loops MP3: Fantasy Medieval Battleground
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:38:29
Clashes of swords and shouts of warriors resound through this battlefield, implying a rather large number of combatants. What makes this a *fantasy* medieval battleground is the fire-breathing dragon (or inarticulate fire giant, perhaps). Very effective and enjoyable.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: Fantasy Medieval Battleground
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