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Martial Flavor $14.95
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Martial Flavor
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Martial Flavor
Publisher: Chaotic Shiny Productions
by Brian F. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2014 16:14:17

When you look up the word “martial” in the dictionary, most definitions tend towards the use of a few key adjectives – warrior, warlike, or military. So I’d be lying if I said that the Martial Flavors book from Chaotic Shiny Productions focuses on mostly peaceful people. Most of these cultures could be described as mercenaries, raiders, or warriors whether they believe in the chain of command or the power of the strongest sword.

At a mere 55 pages, Martial Flavor has to be one of the most colorful supplements I’ve seen in a while. Color, art, fonts, and text boxes are used to provide a layout that’s easy on the eyes and convey details on multiple levels.

The use of color works well to denote different sections, such as green for the titles, introduction, and table of contents, and a red/green pattern for The Daikort Pack, a green/brown pattern for The Elessim, etc. And each section is laid out consistently from group to group – starting with a vignette, an overview, appearance, hierarchy, rituals, races, sample characters, powers, and feats.

The full color and black and white artwork used on the front and back covers and inside provides not only a great way to break up the text, but provide a feel for each culture’s dress and appearance as well as what’s important. For example, for The Daikort Pack, we see a full color picture of an fair-haired elven maid wearing leather and a plate breastplate, which tends to indicate she’s more ready for a fight than to go frolicking in the woods in which she’s standing. But for The Elessim, there are three horses in the picture on a broad grassy plain and one rider. Something tells me the horses are important!

The black and white art was also quite striking, as with the appearance of a female Elessim with her long hair “in dreadlocks, knotted full of meaningful patterns. Many also fill their hair with beads and braided ribbons, highlighting the knot patterns with bright colors.” If the image had provided a bit more color to some of the beads, I don’t think I would have needed the text to help me figure out what was in her hair as much. But that’s a minor nit.

The book covers five separate cultures in detail:

The Daikort Pack – A group of mercenaries skilled for any terrain and any mission, the Pack is not to be trifled with from within or without. As mercs, they have accomplished an amazing array of tasks over the last few years, including slaying dragons, capturing outlaws, rescuing innocents, and even negotiating treaties.

The Elessim – A nomadic group of horse breeders happy to find fair trades or fight to protect what is theirs.

The Ikanoi – Tattooed warriors from the lands of ice and snow, these are fierce people who are prepared to survive anything and keep their tribes and traditions together for the ages.

The Legions of Arytis – The Legions protect their people and their city with a distinct focus. Each member of the Legions must serve in the city military for five years and will defend their way of life from all threats.

The Sijara – These nomads can be found anywhere – cities, wilds, oceans, deserts – wherever their paths lead them. They wander freely through the world and pity outsiders or “bound people” who cannot go when and where they want.

The content in the book is tailored for Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition, but I think the cultures themselves could easily be used in other games. I especially liked the concepts of The Ikanoi, which would be at home in the icy wastes of just about any world or system.

Though I love the concepts, I did run across a few nits. For example, as I hinted at in the first paragraph the word “martial” is in the title, but never defined anywhere. I think that a glossary of terms or even working the definition into the introduction would solve that problem easily. And when Powers are described for the various cultures, I was trying to figure out why some of the boxes had a red title box and others had black or green boxes. It might be good to have a key of some sort indicating the purpose for each color in that context. (It may just be that it’s a 4e thing that I don’t get, as I haven’t played with it yet.)

If you’re looking for some interesting crunch for your world, I’d definitely recommend that you take a look at Martial Flavor from Chaotic Shiny Productions.

(This review originally appeared here: http://www.gameknightreviews.com/2010/10/book-review-martial-flavor-chaotic-shiny-productions/)

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Martial Flavor
Publisher: Chaotic Shiny Productions
by Mark M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2010 05:06:45

The book is a 55-page pdf, with some great cover art by Rachel Yung, featuring a human and Tiefling fighting one another. Yung’s art is featured throughout, and is top notch for a 3rd-party publisher. The idea behind the book is that it is a book of various cultures for your martial characters. But this isn’t just a book of fluff, it also features background benefits, feats, class features and powers. These are cultures that can be dropped into literally any campaign setting and used as is, simply incorporating in the history of the world to make it match their specific culture. The first group featured is known as the Daikort Pack, a band of nomad mercenaries who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Their allegiances change as often as their camp. The book states that the recruits the Daikort take in are either “the best of the best, or the worst of the worst, depending on who you believe.” The Daikort will take in anyone who is good enough to make the cut, regardless of race or sex. Most often, members of the Pack are either Rangers or Warlords. There are some pretty cool Utility powers for Rangers and Warlords for you to use, includimg my favorite of the bunch, Turn the Tables, a 10th level Warlord power which allows you to use it to cancel out you and any ally’s ability to be surprised who is within Range 10, as well as a few other bonuses. The Elessim are known as the “people of the horse”. They are a proud, noble culture, who believe that there is no better life than on the back of a horse. Their villages are small, surrounded by vast grazing land. The people have no written language and are seen by some as primitive and poor. The book advises you to use Eladrin, Elves, Half-Elves, Halflings or Humans for your Elessim culture. The Elesim are most commonly Fighters and Rangers, of which there are Utility powers to match. The Ikanoi are very similar to the Inuit of North America, living in the snow and ice of the bitter north. They cover themselves in tattoos from head to foot, each tattoo telling stories about their cultures and tribes, as well as their ancestors. Each part of their body tells the story of something else. Very fascinating and adds a lot of deep backstory to your character. It is advised you play the Ikanoi as Dragonborn, Dwarves, Half-Elves and Humans. I thought the idea of playing a Dragonborn Ikanoi as an excellent and unique idea. In this chapter, all four Martial Classes are given a nod, each being given three Utility powers to choose, as well as feats. If I were to choose a favorite culture in the book, the Ikanoi would be it. The Legions of Arytis are a very Romanesque culture, in which every citizen becomes a member of the Legion, known for their Rogues and Fighters. They are a mixed lot of races, who are not highly spiritual, and instead worship the spirit of the city itself. The Sijara are another nomad culture, reminiscent of Gypsies. They look disdainfully on the “Bound People”, those who live in one spot. They travel in family groups, “ranging anywhere from small troupes of three or four to huge extended families with members numbering in the dozens”. The Sijara wear their wealth through jewelry and ornate weapons. The book says that a “quick glance at a Sijara’s many earrings is usually enough to determine his or her current monetary situation”. The Sijara are most often Rogues and Warlords. This is my second favorite culture in the book, as I was looking, in the past, at playing a gypsy character in 4e. In the future, I’d love to see “Arcane Flavor”, “Divine Flavor”, “Primal Flavor”, and even “Psionic Flavor”. Near the back of the book, it mentions that they will be coming out with more books featuring even more details about the five cultures, each book focusing on a specific one of the cultures. I look forward to these as well. If you are playing 4e right now, I can’t praise this book enough. It’s got everything you need to introduce new and fascinating cultures to your current game.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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