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D20 Rules Options: Volume #1, Second Edition
Publisher: Stardust Publications
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/01/2009 11:37:09
D20 Rules Options Volume # 1 takes a lot of the good enhancements that have floated around the d20 world, been included in variant 3.5 campaign settings and stored in the house rules of rogue DMs into one 24 page supplement.

Published by Stardusk Publications and assembled by Brian Joseph Baker, Rules Options brings some of the more popular and game changing ideas to your game table, whether it is modern or fantasy. Many of these ideas are not new to DMs, though there are a few new coats of paint on some.

The Action Point system introduced has the facet of similar point systems with the exception of its interaction with initiative and failures. Several optional damage systems are used including a body part variant and a deadly combat variant. Massive damage is given an extensive treatment, providing an alternative massive damage result and a system for rotting off limbs after massive damage. Rules Options ends by introducing an Armor as DR variant, new experience charts for low level campaigns and a way to overcast spells.

For the DM
These are some inventive Massive Damage rules. The system does specific damage to specific body parts with specific results based off of a series of charts.

The Iron Word
Outside of the Massive Damage Threshold rules, nothing in here has not been seen before. The busy layout of many of the pages also makes it difficult to figure out where things are at times. On the first page, the heading says action points but it begins with something completely different. Theres also the problem with not being able to cut and paste, which makes it difficult to take just the pieces you want and put them into your campaign storage. If you are looking for a pick me up for your game and do not have 2 or more of these variants available in other supplements, or you want a good way to avoid the too instant death of massive damage, D20 Rules Options Volumes 1 is a smart purchase.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
D20 Rules Options: Volume #1, Second Edition
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Aurora Hold
Publisher: Worlds of Adventure
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2009 17:58:07
Aurora Hold is a simple adventure with a simple plot and a simple premise. The simple setup follows a simple path which leads to a simple conclusion. The simplicity of the adventure may be a turnoff for more advanced players looking for a bit more bite.

As a straight dungeon crawl that begins in a town, it introduces nothing new under the sun as far as adventure design, but will mildly entertain a party for a few hours or so, so long as the Dungeon Master can make up for the bland parts with a little pizzazz. The 21 page adventure is very well written and well laid out, despite a slight bit of discoloration in font color from page to page.

The story revolves around an ancient elf appearing on his ancestral lands and telling the town that has now built itself up there that they must vacate it so he can reclaim it, as it is a powerful, and deactivated, portal. The players must venture into the elf’s newly appeared structure and find deactivate the portal before it is too late.

For the Dungeon Master
The saving grace of this adventure is the really cool puzzle and handout that accompanies it. The writer does a great job of designing a visual handout that tells the tale of the puzzle, but also providing clues for the party that want to insure their skills are beneficial in solving the puzzle. Rarely do you find a good puzzle in a short adventure (or any adventure).

The Iron Word
Aurora Hold is a solid version of this familiar story with a well done defeat the creature and solve the puzzle ending. It benefits from being short, so using it as a sidetrek or a one night deal will not distract your party. The combat encounters need to be spiced up and the box text condensed, but colorful dundjinni designed map and the clear layout make up for its shortfalls.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Aurora Hold
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Undefeatable 4: Barbarians (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2009 17:32:00
The design of the Pathfinder system leans heavily towards feat driven characters. Most classes receive twice as many feats as their 3.5 counterparts. These feats are used to design more dynamic characters without the use of PDFs. Logic would state that the more feats you have access to with this system, the more diverse characters you can create.

Bad puns aside, the UndeFeatable series by LPJ Design expands on the feat selections of Pathfinder classes. Each entry highlights a specific class and introduces a little over a dozen new feats. UndeFeatable 4: Barbarians not only presents feats useful for the class, but creates a new selection of Barbarian feats that adds some creative flavor to our wild raging buddies.

Barbarians are famous for their raging ability, so it is to no surprise that UndeFeatable 4 either enhances are uses rage in all but one of the feats it lists. The feats are descriptively written, allowing barbarians to gain more rage powers as they slaughter foes or as they take wounds. .

Those feats are good, but the really impressive ones are the Aspects, groups of feats that instill animal traits onto your barbarian. More than just an enhancement of the rage ability, aspect feats allow the barbarians to take on stat traits and abilities of various animals. It is very reminiscent of the old totem prestige class but a bit more dynamic in terms of control.

For the Player
Aspect Feats can really bring the background of your tribe into play.

For the Dungeon Master
I can imagine there are a great deal of ideas to establish undocumented regions in your campaign world by using villages made up of barbarians with different aspects.

The Iron Word
UnDefeatable 4: Barbarians continues the solid series of UnDefeatable books by providing classes options without painting a template onto them. The feats are nice and the Aspects will provide some new paths for the Barbarian.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Undefeatable 4: Barbarians (PFRPG)
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Fantasy Craft Second Printing
Publisher: Crafty Games
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/28/2009 16:25:44
The end of the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 era is a great deal reminiscent of the death of superman comic storyline from a while back. After the great superpower is declared dead, several individuals emerged to declare themselves the new holder of the title. Some of them were just as potent as the predecessor while several failed to live up to the expectations.

Created by the innovative thinkers behind Spycraft, Fantasycraft makes a strong argument for controlling the true title as the next version of Dungeons and Dungeons with a creatively enhanced OGL system that takes D&D in a new direction. Several changes places this system on the same high quality level of other leading 3.5 successors like Pathfinder.

Fantasycraft is a 402 page tome with everything you need to run the system within its pages. It contains player creation rules, dungeon master guidelines and monster templates. Fantasycraft is innovative in a way that does not feel too evasive to the D&D experience. There are many places that feel as if it is overcompensating, however, not so much that it changes the balance of the game.

Instead of inundating the reader with a dozen or so chapters, Fantasycraft takes an unintimidating approach by presenting seven chapters that encompass one concept. The Hero chapter goes over character creation. Even to the veteran D&D player, this process will feel unfamiliar. Fantasycraft takes a different approach to character building, starting with a concept and allowing the concept to influence in the game play of the character. Even the traditional feels diverse Attributes are distributed in a point system, and though a bit too overpowered for most DMS, its easily scalable. Origin involves selecting a species (race), talent (special ability) and specialty (extra feat). There are 11 classes then introduced. Some of which, like the mage, allow for a broad interpretation of the class while some, like the assassin, constrict a more rigid view of the class. Finally players select their interests (alignment, language and miscellaneous endeavors).

The next chapter Lore begins by explaining action points, normally something that repeats from edition to edition, but the idea of having action points confirm criticals is refreshing and eliminates the idiotic confirm critical check that has haunted D&D for decades. It also allows the player to activate critical errors on opponents and heal your character. Rounding out this chapter are skills and feats. Skills have been greatly consolidated and each contains an error and critical success text. Feats are split into a dozen categories for easy reference and to simply various class bonus spells.

The Grimoire Chapter introduces spellcasting which adds more interaction for the spellcaster. Spellpoints have always been a simpler way to handle spells than the current Victorian system. Fantasycrafts spells require that you spend the cost of the spell and roll a spellcraft check to see if you succeed. Many of the spells sound familiar and endure only a slight change from their 3.5 counterparts. The system tries to simplifies matters by having one skill beneficial for the caster check and one check beneficial for the spell DC. Most DMs will want to change this to add flavor to the classes. Though it does make since for simplicities sake.

The Forge Chapter presents all items that can be purchased in the system. The entire purchase system is translated into silver and is pretty normal affair. The slight difference is that players can earn coin and purchase special items based off of the reputation.
The Combat Chapter sticks earlier chapters together like glue. There is a lot here to love. So much so, that most of the review would be filled with the things introduced to make the combat great. Here’s a quick run down: Armor as damage reduction, area effect spells that spread out of the spell radius, vitality and wounds done simply, a heal like skill that actually allows players to heal, damage types that add additional flavor and mechanics, a long-term injury chart, simplified mounted combat rules, advanced actions that allow for called shot and parrying etc. The removal of two-weapon fighting and multiple attacks are dealt with by allowing foes to be dealt with easier.

The Foes chapters does more than just display a series of creatures, but shoes how to easily build them based off a point system. Even better, it has a simple conversion chart for converting 3.5 creatures and NPCs.

The last chapter, the World Chapter, should be a throw away chapter, a repeat of things you have previously read in other Dungeon Master Books. However, concepts about how and when to DM fiat and organizing player votes raises it up a notch.

For The Player and The Dungeon Master
Rarely is it hard to pick out just one thing that stands out in the book. In every chapter I found something that induced a “wow” or an “ah”. Even if you are not switching to another system, you can take parts of this and it would greatly add to the flavor of a campaign.

The Iron Word
Fantasycraft may just be the most fun you will have role playing this year. And being a big fan and supporter of a couple of the newer systems, that is hard to say. It is very much Dungeons and Dragons with enough changes to justify switching to a new system. If there is a negative it is that this book is for fans of Role Playing games. Though combat feels simpler, initially it can be daunting, as your options are increased a great deal. Players new to the concept of role playing games or hate the math of role playing games will probably want to limit their options. Still, it is well mixed blend of the good of both 2nd edition and 3rd edition with the foreknowledge of the problems in both. Though it does not have the production value of other systems, it more than makes up for it by reinventing the fantasy genre. It contains the new "it" that 4th edition fans like while maintaining the traditional fantasy feel that pathfinder fans enjoy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Craft Second Printing
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Open Game Table - The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2009 20:20:33
There is a reason I do not read blogs a lot. Most people are not qualified to be giving sugar to their neighbors let alone advice on anything important. And though there are a few folk in the RPG world with enough experience and command over the hobby to iterate sound opinions, most people who think they are in the RPG world have little understanding of writing and running games.

So its no surprise that Open Game Table: The Anthology of Role Playing Game Blogs Volume 1 is a mixed bag of crazy man rants and knock out D&D Gems.

I am not a fan of celebrity endorsements, and though famed RPG writer Wolfgang Baur is publishing the book and providing the foreword, he has very little presence in the book. Instead we have a book comprised of bloggers from across the net.

The 142 pg book has a simple, sometimes mashed layout with no bookmarks, which makes it difficult to navigate. The Game Blogs is divided into nine chapters, each a collection of similar blogs. The ideas are incredibly diverse from one another, some even directly contradicting one another. Many go on past the point of boring rhetoric as the editor attempted to keep the entire blog of an individual in tact. For the sake of brevity it would have been a better choice to cut some places. One blogger goes on and on about introducing a lazier style of D&D preparation because “all DMs” are lazy and all players are never on time. Like I said, mixed bag.

The good thing is that the juicy parts of the bag are downright good, which makes enduring the poorly written parts agonizing, but worth it.

For the Player
The book dedicates an entire chapter to 4th edition, providing optional elements such as firearms and a new pact for warlocks. Though it would be nice if there was an OGL material portion, the material introduced brings some strong points especially to the use of Action Points to improve the cinematic effect of 4th edition. Phil Menard really lays out a more stylish use of action points that can easily be applied to OGL and Pathfinder games. Tony Law does an advice to the players blog that every player should read. Honestly this should not even have to be stated and should just be basic common courtesy.

For the Dungeon Master
Enrique Bertan does a great article on creating counters from your game for free. Despite the less than stellar blog that comes after it, Fang Langford’s The Most Important Game Master Tool is the kind of advice that every Dungeon Master needs to know. I had the opportunity of training some young dungeon masters for the Iron Player Championship and the subject of pacing came up more than enough.

The Iron Word
Open Game Table: The Anthology of Role Playing Game Blogs Volume 1 needs a better layout person and stricter editing. It is very difficult to navigate and one-third of the material is long, diatribes of writings by people who should never quit their day job. Thankfully, two-thirds of the material is really good advice by really strong writers and worth the painful exploration to reach.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Open Game Table - The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1
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Publisher Reply:
I need to point out that Wolfgang Baur DID NOT publish this book, I did (Jonathan Jacobs; did you read the preface?). I was a RPG blogger myself, until recently, so the idea of doing the anthology was natural. There is just too much content in the RPG blogosphere to navigate - an anthology is a way to highlight the best blogs out there. I asked Wolfgang to write the foreword because he had a reputation of being one of the cutting publishers out there that was hip to the Web 2.0 way of doing things (blogging, social networking in general, etc). Fortunately, he agreed to do it and the book is much better for it. As for the content, as the Editor in Chief I made a decision early on that I wanted an independent body of judges/reviewers to decide what blog posts made it into the Anthology. I received over 150 submissions, the reviewers scored and whittled the list down to 47 - which was the minimum set needed for coverage of the blogging community (it covers a lot of ground). I had very little input in deciding what articles made it in. So.. yes.. not everything in there is for everyone; but this was expected. As for the layout, yes. I would LOVE to have someone help me with the layout for the next volume! I know pretty much close to zero about layout and design, so I count myself lucky that it came out as well as it did.
Slasher Flick
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2009 12:09:58
Building a role-playing game where the PCs are slasher movie victims seems like a loosing cause. Very rarely do you tell players at the beginning of an RPG that all but one or two of their characters will die. With Slasher Flick, Cynthia Celeste Miller and Spectrum Games cut through the challenge and created a simple and gory RPG system that addresses obvious problems.

Slasher Flicks starts off with an introduction to the Slasher Film genre for the uninitiated. It’s a historic journey into the bloody killer movies that made the genre what it is complete with Miller’s personal commentary on each film. After a the intro, it moves into the chunks of the system.

The system starts off with a unique dice rolling system. I certainly have not come across it in my gaming years. Instead of trying to get a unique number by adding stats and rolls, every player instead rolls 4 dice. You score a success for every 2 dice that match. Stats are kept simple, with only 4 trait stats that are either poor, good or normal. This determines which four of what die you will roll. Players also choose qualities that add an extra dice to the roll. The matching system has a higher rate of failure that the traditional meet this benchmark system, which works very well in a horror movie where the players play average folk (or below average) in a dire situation.

Throughout the game, players play both their primary character and secondary characters. This avoids the big problem of a character dying too soon and then watching the rest of the game. Players want to try to avoid death from their primary characters by earning Survival points by avoiding calamitous situations. Even if you are doing bad on the survival end of things, playing up on Genre Tropes can earn you genre points that can alter rolls, create situations or perform special abilities.

The centerpiece of the system is its Kill Scenes, which put the players in situations that they have to describe through storytelling and creativity as they are faced with the killer.

For the Players
If you love the horror genre, this will be a great evening of fun. The system finely weaves climatic story telling with player input.

For the Director
Not having to detail a big bad with tons of numerical stats allows the director to focus more on creating a solid movie outline for the players. It was quite a relief. Instead the killer is made up of character background blocks called components.

The Iron Word
Slash Flick is perfect for a popcorn and pretzels night of gaming. The die rolling system fits the horror genre like a glove and the simplistic stats system makes for more emphasis on role-playing instead of roll playing. It handles keeping all players in the game the best it can for a genre RPG, but it still takes the right type of attitude from the players. Especially if they know that, regardless, at least three quarters through only half the players will still be playing the game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Slasher Flick
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Monsters of the Game Mat Edition 3
Publisher: Cerberus Illustration
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2009 10:57:30
There is a running joke in my house hold about the things I attempt to put together. I need a set of detailed instruction or the project is going to come out horrid. RPG Paper projects have treated me better than my television stand building forays, but Cerebus’s Monsters of the Gamemat series left me with a mess of paper and glue.

The artwork for Monsters of the Gamemat is crisp and vivid. Every creature has a distinct personality that comes across strongly in the artwork. Beholders look alien and deadly. Dire wolves look ferocious and tenacious. The product does not fall off on the creative side at all. It is the presentation that can be a bit of a turnoff.

Monsters of the Gamemat uses a very unique way of assembling paper minis. Most paper mini products fold and glue. With Monsters, there are two pieces to each, the base and the mini itself. You figure that they attach together somehow, but there are no instructions detailing how this should go. There is also no alternative assembly forms. They also have to be cut out very intricately. The creatures and stands are a set size, and though perfectly created for their standard size, there are no instructions for decreasing or increasing their size for alternative forms.

For the Dungeon Master
The detail in the color of the creatures brings a gameboard to life. Every mini appears to be a different height, creating a different effect.

The Iron Word
For a change of pace or a big encounter, it may be worth it to go through the trouble of putting together creatures from the Monsters of the Gamemat. However, it could be too cumbersome to use them on a regular basis.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of the Game Mat Edition 3
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Monsters of the Game Mat Edition 2
Publisher: Cerberus Illustration
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2009 10:57:05
There is a running joke in my house hold about the things I attempt to put together. I need a set of detailed instruction or the project is going to come out horrid. RPG Paper projects have treated me better than my television stand building forays, but Cerebus’s Monsters of the Gamemat series left me with a mess of paper and glue.

The artwork for Monsters of the Gamemat is crisp and vivid. Every creature has a distinct personality that comes across strongly in the artwork. Beholders look alien and deadly. Dire wolves look ferocious and tenacious. The product does not fall off on the creative side at all. It is the presentation that can be a bit of a turnoff.

Monsters of the Gamemat uses a very unique way of assembling paper minis. Most paper mini products fold and glue. With Monsters, there are two pieces to each, the base and the mini itself. You figure that they attach together somehow, but there are no instructions detailing how this should go. There is also no alternative assembly forms. They also have to be cut out very intricately. The creatures and stands are a set size, and though perfectly created for their standard size, there are no instructions for decreasing or increasing their size for alternative forms.

For the Dungeon Master
The detail in the color of the creatures brings a gameboard to life. Every mini appears to be a different height, creating a different effect.

The Iron Word
For a change of pace or a big encounter, it may be worth it to go through the trouble of putting together creatures from the Monsters of the Gamemat. However, it could be too cumbersome to use them on a regular basis.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of the Game Mat Edition 2
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Monsters of the Game Mat Edition 1
Publisher: Cerberus Illustration
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2009 10:56:28
There is a running joke in my house hold about the things I attempt to put together. I need a set of detailed instruction or the project is going to come out horrid. RPG Paper projects have treated me better than my television stand building forays, but Cerebus’s Monsters of the Gamemat series left me with a mess of paper and glue.

The artwork for Monsters of the Gamemat is crisp and vivid. Every creature has a distinct personality that comes across strongly in the artwork. Beholders look alien and deadly. Dire wolves look ferocious and tenacious. The product does not fall off on the creative side at all. It is the presentation that can be a bit of a turnoff.

Monsters of the Gamemat uses a very unique way of assembling paper minis. Most paper mini products fold and glue. With Monsters, there are two pieces to each, the base and the mini itself. You figure that they attach together somehow, but there are no instructions detailing how this should go. There is also no alternative assembly forms. They also have to be cut out very intricately. The creatures and stands are a set size, and though perfectly created for their standard size, there are no instructions for decreasing or increasing their size for alternative forms.

For the Dungeon Master
The detail in the color of the creatures brings a gameboard to life. Every mini appears to be a different height, creating a different effect.

The Iron Word
For a change of pace or a big encounter, it may be worth it to go through the trouble of putting together creatures from the Monsters of the Gamemat. However, it could be too cumbersome to use them on a regular basis.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters of the Game Mat Edition 1
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Trailblazer
Publisher: Bad Axe Games
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2009 12:23:40
At the end of the movie Eight Mile, the rapper Rabbit (played by Eminem) is on his last verse and really needs to bring it to win the rap competition. Instead of beginning by spouting off hatred against his opponent, he lambastes everything wrong with him. This is an good example of something I have said for a long time, you have to know all of your weaknesses before you can improve yourself. Bad Axe Games certainly realizes that 3.5 (and Pathfinder 3.75) has a significant amount of lingering problems and attempts to correct the system they love in their new supplement Trailblazer. However, I can’t but read the book and think that a lot of their ideas was done far simpler in the recently released Pathfinder ruleset, though, there is enough here to justify Trailblazer as a good addon if you are using Pathfinder, but it certainly is no trailblazer of innovativeness, and, in many cases, breaks the game where it tries to help.

Trailblazer begins by introducing the reader to its use for action points which does similar things as in previous supplements. As a veteran of action points, it is not the cure all that they claim it to be and, though it gives pcs a slight boost, is often far too random to fix things like save or die spells. It also introduces new character creation ideas, including a set array of statistics and a one pool of magic. Taking away a player’s option of designing their character and asking DMs to explain how divine magic and arcane magic now use the same magical source from a person is not a good start.

Trailblazer then goes into its major rule changes, which are preceded by pages of statistics and data tables. If you are a “I don’t need to know what is behind the screen” kind of D&D player, the math in this book will utterly bore you and feel needlessly written. In the beginning of the book, the author does a great job of laying down what the problems is and why, it seems cumbersome to go further than that. It is like a coach winning a football game and then going over to the opposing coach with notepads, charts and videotapes of how the winning coach broke down the loser’s team.

The class changes are retreads of various class options that have appeared over time and done much better. Monte Cook’s Might books provide much clearer bard and spellcaster options and the fighter options, though stronger, have been done better with feats. The skill section feels completely lifted from the Pathfinder ruleset, excluding the use of critical failures and critical successes on skill checks. Of course, this introduces some serious balance issues, but, like most of the things the book introduces that either messes up the balance or lengthens the game play, there are no neat data or statistical proof tables on it.

Trailblazer proceeds like a bizzaro PHB, going through the sections, from feats to equipment to combat and so on by using borrowed mechanics and rules from pathfinder, 4th edition, unearthed arcana and other sources.

For the Player
The best part of the book is the little nugget it introduces called combat reactions, which limit every player to one roll per turn but allows them to have a combat reaction when they hit certain base attack thresholds.

For the Dungeon Master
The lumped treasure chart is very useful and a far easier way of distributing treasure.

The Iron Word
There are a few new ideas in the book, and the majority of it feels like a person who read the Pathfinder Alpha Corebook and 4th edition two years ago and thought that he could have done a better job, and then ended up just combining supplements he found in the PDF world with his knowledge of statistics and excel. It is a Frankenstein concoction of the sequel 3.5 systems blended with a bunch of numbers and none of the sense that goes into a game system. Trailblazer has some good ideas, but the 3.5 world can do without arrows that invisibly go through your teammates, prayers and book magic all rolled into one and convoluted dying rules.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trailblazer
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Tome of Secrets
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2009 11:15:27
Being the First holds a lot of responsibility. When you are the first to step your foot into the unknown, you are setting the standard for everything that follows. Adamant Entertainment rolled the dice with Tome of Secrets and came up with a winner as the first supplement to the Official Pathfinder Ruleset. Tome of Secrets sets a pretty high bar, offering just enough material to invigorate a Pathfinder game but not too much that it will overwhelm the players.

The 198 pg Tome is a collection of supplements that work well with the supped up Pathfinder system. It is broken into two halves, character options and game master options. The character options offer 3 new races and 8 new classes. Out of the three races, only the Saurian really came across as interesting. The half-ogre and ratkin felt like been there, done that. By all intentions, the Saurian are dragonfolk with a much more traditional name.

The classes, however, are all pretty interesting, even borrowing several of the new 4e classes and making them actually feel like classic Dungeons and Dragons classes. The divine classes of Shaman and Priest are well designed. With the slight downgrade to the cleric’s battle power, the priest feels like the last in a natural progression of battle power vs priestly power, considering the first is Paladin. Though I still have reservations about the names Warlords and Warlock, both are given a classic fantasy spin that finds the classes their place in any campaign. There’s also the Swashbuckler, an armorless fighter; Spellblade, who blends magic and combat; Knight, a spellless paladin without too harsh of an alignment restriction and Artificer, a technomage every player should be eager to get into a campaign.

The latter half of the combat section introduces character drawbacks and occupations. Again, both systems are very well designed with their reliance on role playing perks and slight stat boosts that differ a lot from previously similar systems.

The Game Master side begins with the morale section. A very interesting take on inducting real fear and penalties in game. The Skillful Stunts section is fun, but, unfortunately, does not use neither CMB nor CMD, despite the chance to. There is an example that uses it, but it is not mentioned in the text. The temporary enhancements allow PCs a way to enhance items for certain creatures and prevent wasting time, but takes away something from the game for me. The book picks back up again by introducing Chase rules, which does away with maps and creates a more cinematic effect for chases; One Million Magic Items, a great way to give away magic items and taking away the generic; Alchemical Items, finally adding some punch to alchemy; Monster modifiers to enhance stale creatures; a Random Adventure Generator, more so an idea generator and Flintlocks & Fantasy which introduces guns into the world.

For the Player
The artificer is my favorite pathfinder class, creating a steampunkish character that integrates well into a fantasy section. The saurian race gives players that dragon like character without it appearing out of place in society.

For the Dungeon Master
The Hot Pursuit Chase should be read by every Dungeon Master. The best DMs have to jump out of the D&D rules if they hope to create an immerse atmosphere. Chases according to the rule book are slow and boring. Chases according to the Tome of Secrets are faster and more interactive.

The Iron Word
The Tome of Secrets offers a lot of components that DMs and Players can introduce into the game to benefit their play style. There are some things I would never want to introduce into my game, but the writing is so clear that I understood why some DMs would want to introduce them. This is a solid lead off for future supplements of the system.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Secrets
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Fantastic Maps: The Ice Temple
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2009 12:51:11
To be honest, I rarely think about the cartographer of the maps I use in my games. Partially because the publishers rarely promote the individual cartographer, instead relying more so on branding their name.

However, Jonathan Roberts, is one of those artists that should get billing above the publisher’s name. Roberts is the artist of the Fantastic Maps series, a series of maps that have rejuvenated the 2-d map PDF market.

Ever since 0ones stopped publishing realistic battlemaps, the market has been skim on quality detail maps. Roberts Fantastic Maps were introduced in early 2009, and despite the inexpensive price, are some of the most intricately detailed maps to be released in some time.

Because of the similar high quality of each of the map products, this review will cover the entire series released so far.

The Fantastic Maps series is reminiscent of well made fantasy anime. With thick layers of color displayed in a somewhat whimsical quality. The pixels jump off the page, looking sometimes like hills and layers are actually there. Each PDF contains a color and black and white version of the map, and the map broken down into separate pieces that can be reassembled later on. The full scale of each map is roughly 20’ by 30’. As of this review, there have been six maps released so far, each as diverse as the previous:

The Glass Balcony is a map of a shear balcony overlooking a body of water with islands dancing around it. The refreshing blues used to create the water make this an ideal map for an interesting aqua encounter.

The Lone Island in the Sky has a massive tree holding up a patch of grassing land. However, it seems to work better as an open tree trunk that descends into a pit of unknown. The smoky texture that surrounds the tree is distracting, however, the crisp lines in the bark add to the character of the map.

The Leafless Wood is one of those maps that should be a staple in your map collection. Used for wilderness encounters, it’s a lot darker than the Glass Balcony and has a more serious tone. It is a very versatile map. You can use it for a track through a forest, or use it for river encounters.

The Mire of Lost souls is another possible staple for parties that travel through swamp lands a lot. Roberts tends to do water very well, as yet another version of water shows a series of murky greens and thick oil like blues. This map can feel quite dull when compared to the others.

Getting away from the generic maps, Black Sky Butte presents a massive alter that raises 100s of feat into the air. The surface of the alter is nicely done with cryptic writing and stars about, though it is uneven in places. The most permissive thing about this map is the impression of height.
The latest Map is the Ice temple and my favorite. A dragon frozen in ice over a large chasm embanked by snow. The layers of whites and blues to distinguish snow and ice bring out all the detail in this map.

For the Digital DM
Each map contains a black and white and a color version, which makes it slightly more difficult than other products when mass extracting the images. The large image included in the PDF is not scale, so you will have to place each individual piece. It would be nice if a high resolution single map was included.

For the Standard DM
Rich colors don’t come cheap and if you want to catch the detail you’re going to be pouring some extra funds into ink.

The Iron Word
For less than a buck, you can not beat adding one of these maps to any order you make. I am not going to tell Mr. Roberts that we are in a recession nor that his maps are of equal quality to high end-map products at only a fraction of the cost. Instead, I recommend purchasing these great steals and giving your player an engrossing game play experience.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps: The Ice Temple
Click to show product description

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Publisher Reply:
Jonathan Roberts and Myself just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to do an indepth review of each and every map pack. Steve Russell Rite Publishing.
Fantastic Maps: The Glass Balcony
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2009 12:49:59
To be honest, I rarely think about the cartographer of the maps I use in my games. Partially because the publishers rarely promote the individual cartographer, instead relying more so on branding their name.

However, Jonathan Roberts, is one of those artists that should get billing above the publisher’s name. Roberts is the artist of the Fantastic Maps series, a series of maps that have rejuvenated the 2-d map PDF market.

Ever since 0ones stopped publishing realistic battlemaps, the market has been skim on quality detail maps. Roberts Fantastic Maps were introduced in early 2009, and despite the inexpensive price, are some of the most intricately detailed maps to be released in some time.

Because of the similar high quality of each of the map products, this review will cover the entire series released so far.

The Fantastic Maps series is reminiscent of well made fantasy anime. With thick layers of color displayed in a somewhat whimsical quality. The pixels jump off the page, looking sometimes like hills and layers are actually there. Each PDF contains a color and black and white version of the map, and the map broken down into separate pieces that can be reassembled later on. The full scale of each map is roughly 20’ by 30’. As of this review, there have been six maps released so far, each as diverse as the previous:

The Glass Balcony is a map of a shear balcony overlooking a body of water with islands dancing around it. The refreshing blues used to create the water make this an ideal map for an interesting aqua encounter.

The Lone Island in the Sky has a massive tree holding up a patch of grassing land. However, it seems to work better as an open tree trunk that descends into a pit of unknown. The smoky texture that surrounds the tree is distracting, however, the crisp lines in the bark add to the character of the map.

The Leafless Wood is one of those maps that should be a staple in your map collection. Used for wilderness encounters, it’s a lot darker than the Glass Balcony and has a more serious tone. It is a very versatile map. You can use it for a track through a forest, or use it for river encounters.

The Mire of Lost souls is another possible staple for parties that travel through swamp lands a lot. Roberts tends to do water very well, as yet another version of water shows a series of murky greens and thick oil like blues. This map can feel quite dull when compared to the others.

Getting away from the generic maps, Black Sky Butte presents a massive alter that raises 100s of feat into the air. The surface of the alter is nicely done with cryptic writing and stars about, though it is uneven in places. The most permissive thing about this map is the impression of height.
The latest Map is the Ice temple and my favorite. A dragon frozen in ice over a large chasm embanked by snow. The layers of whites and blues to distinguish snow and ice bring out all the detail in this map.

For the Digital DM
Each map contains a black and white and a color version, which makes it slightly more difficult than other products when mass extracting the images. The large image included in the PDF is not scale, so you will have to place each individual piece. It would be nice if a high resolution single map was included.

For the Standard DM
Rich colors don’t come cheap and if you want to catch the detail you’re going to be pouring some extra funds into ink.

The Iron Word
For less than a buck, you can not beat adding one of these maps to any order you make. I am not going to tell Mr. Roberts that we are in a recession nor that his maps are of equal quality to high end-map products at only a fraction of the cost. Instead, I recommend purchasing these great steals and giving your player an engrossing game play experience.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps: The Glass Balcony
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Fantastic Maps: The Leafless Wood
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2009 12:48:24
To be honest, I rarely think about the cartographer of the maps I use in my games. Partially because the publishers rarely promote the individual cartographer, instead relying more so on branding their name.

However, Jonathan Roberts, is one of those artists that should get billing above the publisher’s name. Roberts is the artist of the Fantastic Maps series, a series of maps that have rejuvenated the 2-d map PDF market.

Ever since 0ones stopped publishing realistic battlemaps, the market has been skim on quality detail maps. Roberts Fantastic Maps were introduced in early 2009, and despite the inexpensive price, are some of the most intricately detailed maps to be released in some time.

Because of the similar high quality of each of the map products, this review will cover the entire series released so far.

The Fantastic Maps series is reminiscent of well made fantasy anime. With thick layers of color displayed in a somewhat whimsical quality. The pixels jump off the page, looking sometimes like hills and layers are actually there. Each PDF contains a color and black and white version of the map, and the map broken down into separate pieces that can be reassembled later on. The full scale of each map is roughly 20’ by 30’. As of this review, there have been six maps released so far, each as diverse as the previous:

The Glass Balcony is a map of a shear balcony overlooking a body of water with islands dancing around it. The refreshing blues used to create the water make this an ideal map for an interesting aqua encounter.

The Lone Island in the Sky has a massive tree holding up a patch of grassing land. However, it seems to work better as an open tree trunk that descends into a pit of unknown. The smoky texture that surrounds the tree is distracting, however, the crisp lines in the bark add to the character of the map.

The Leafless Wood is one of those maps that should be a staple in your map collection. Used for wilderness encounters, it’s a lot darker than the Glass Balcony and has a more serious tone. It is a very versatile map. You can use it for a track through a forest, or use it for river encounters.

The Mire of Lost souls is another possible staple for parties that travel through swamp lands a lot. Roberts tends to do water very well, as yet another version of water shows a series of murky greens and thick oil like blues. This map can feel quite dull when compared to the others.

Getting away from the generic maps, Black Sky Butte presents a massive alter that raises 100s of feat into the air. The surface of the alter is nicely done with cryptic writing and stars about, though it is uneven in places. The most permissive thing about this map is the impression of height.
The latest Map is the Ice temple and my favorite. A dragon frozen in ice over a large chasm embanked by snow. The layers of whites and blues to distinguish snow and ice bring out all the detail in this map.

For the Digital DM
Each map contains a black and white and a color version, which makes it slightly more difficult than other products when mass extracting the images. The large image included in the PDF is not scale, so you will have to place each individual piece. It would be nice if a high resolution single map was included.

For the Standard DM
Rich colors don’t come cheap and if you want to catch the detail you’re going to be pouring some extra funds into ink.

The Iron Word
For less than a buck, you can not beat adding one of these maps to any order you make. I am not going to tell Mr. Roberts that we are in a recession nor that his maps are of equal quality to high end-map products at only a fraction of the cost. Instead, I recommend purchasing these great steals and giving your player an engrossing game play experience.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps: The Leafless Wood
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Fantastic Maps: Lone Island in the Sky
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Nathan C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2009 12:47:27
To be honest, I rarely think about the cartographer of the maps I use in my games. Partially because the publishers rarely promote the individual cartographer, instead relying more so on branding their name.

However, Jonathan Roberts, is one of those artists that should get billing above the publisher’s name. Roberts is the artist of the Fantastic Maps series, a series of maps that have rejuvenated the 2-d map PDF market.

Ever since 0ones stopped publishing realistic battlemaps, the market has been skim on quality detail maps. Roberts Fantastic Maps were introduced in early 2009, and despite the inexpensive price, are some of the most intricately detailed maps to be released in some time.

Because of the similar high quality of each of the map products, this review will cover the entire series released so far.

The Fantastic Maps series is reminiscent of well made fantasy anime. With thick layers of color displayed in a somewhat whimsical quality. The pixels jump off the page, looking sometimes like hills and layers are actually there. Each PDF contains a color and black and white version of the map, and the map broken down into separate pieces that can be reassembled later on. The full scale of each map is roughly 20’ by 30’. As of this review, there have been six maps released so far, each as diverse as the previous:

The Glass Balcony is a map of a shear balcony overlooking a body of water with islands dancing around it. The refreshing blues used to create the water make this an ideal map for an interesting aqua encounter.

The Lone Island in the Sky has a massive tree holding up a patch of grassing land. However, it seems to work better as an open tree trunk that descends into a pit of unknown. The smoky texture that surrounds the tree is distracting, however, the crisp lines in the bark add to the character of the map.

The Leafless Wood is one of those maps that should be a staple in your map collection. Used for wilderness encounters, it’s a lot darker than the Glass Balcony and has a more serious tone. It is a very versatile map. You can use it for a track through a forest, or use it for river encounters.

The Mire of Lost souls is another possible staple for parties that travel through swamp lands a lot. Roberts tends to do water very well, as yet another version of water shows a series of murky greens and thick oil like blues. This map can feel quite dull when compared to the others.

Getting away from the generic maps, Black Sky Butte presents a massive alter that raises 100s of feat into the air. The surface of the alter is nicely done with cryptic writing and stars about, though it is uneven in places. The most permissive thing about this map is the impression of height.
The latest Map is the Ice temple and my favorite. A dragon frozen in ice over a large chasm embanked by snow. The layers of whites and blues to distinguish snow and ice bring out all the detail in this map.

For the Digital DM
Each map contains a black and white and a color version, which makes it slightly more difficult than other products when mass extracting the images. The large image included in the PDF is not scale, so you will have to place each individual piece. It would be nice if a high resolution single map was included.

For the Standard DM
Rich colors don’t come cheap and if you want to catch the detail you’re going to be pouring some extra funds into ink.

The Iron Word
For less than a buck, you can not beat adding one of these maps to any order you make. I am not going to tell Mr. Roberts that we are in a recession nor that his maps are of equal quality to high end-map products at only a fraction of the cost. Instead, I recommend purchasing these great steals and giving your player an engrossing game play experience.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps: Lone Island in the Sky
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

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