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Cerberus Stock Art - The Next Decade of Fantasy: Volume 1
Publisher: Cerberus Illustration
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/24/2012 04:46:05
Exactly the type of artwork small publishers need, with an easy to work within license and an even easier to work with artist, Joe Calkins collections are a must have for small publishers when it comes to stock art packages whose value highly exceeds their price.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cerberus Stock Art - The Next Decade of Fantasy: Volume 1
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Book of Friends and Foes: Assassins in the River Nations (PFRPG)
Publisher: Jon Brazer Enterprises
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/24/2012 04:42:35
Weighing in at thirteen pages with a cover, credit/TOC page, OGL and 1 ad, we are presented with eight pages of new NPC's and a one page introduction and explanation of how to use this supplement. Designed for the River nations setting from Jon Brazer Enterprises, each of these characters can easily be utilized in any setting a GM chooses to use them within.

The interesting thing regarding the introduction, is Dale writes it from the standpoint of a conversation, explaining when this book was originally planned to be released, how it got waylaid, and what inspired the collection in the first place. It is an interesting look behind the curtain into the design thoughts that went into this collection of eight not so typical assassins, and what he hoped to accomplish in their creation. So without further ado, let us examine them, shall we?

Muffin Brownbottle, Death's Chef is a halfling baker after my heart. Her statblock section on tactics is hands down one of the funniest and most excellent things I have ever read in an NPC statblock. Her During Combat states, and I quote “ Muffin will sit with her mark and talk while they enjoy their final meal.” Yeah, that's right, combat? Not from this sadistic killer. Nope, she will however make you an excellent meal, and join you for conversation and company while you enjoy her culinary labors. Being a lover of the culinary arts, this appealed to me on so many levels I can't even begin to explain them all. I will say though, she has earned a home in my campaign world, and a bakery, lol.

Jolanta Adanski, Grave Cackler, along with her house centipede familiar, Scurry, adds the idea of a witch assassin to the mix. Her write up is barely a paragraph, and we are left with no real story for her unfortunately, which is a shame. There is also an oddity in her statblock, in the listing of her prepared spells, mage armor is literally crossed out. I am not sure if this was done during design with the intention of replacing the spell, or perhaps removing it, or some other reason that escapes me at this point.

Qog Kirgon, The Mountain Stalker is a half orc ranger/assassin with a serious dislike for humans. Together with his dog, Scraps – a mangy golden retriever that is fiercely loyal, Qog has a fairly basic and straight forward approach to killing. History is slightly formulaic, but not bad in the least. It is almost a shame he was done as a standard ranger, as I can't help but think he would have been all the more interesting having been built as a Spell Less Ranger utilizing the class released recently by Open Design. I say this solely based upon the fact that for me I have a hard time seeing a half orc brute demonstrating the finesse for magic.

Cyali Starwatcher, Dying Moon Hierophant offers us a clerical assassin...yeah, let that sink in for a minute. Interesting character, interesting concept, and a fleshed out story that gives us not only a backstory for her, but an assassin's guild, a religious cult, and a mortuary business operating as a front for said cult. Now this is the type of character that delivers on value. Not only is she interesting, but she comes with so many hooks its ridiculous.

Korn, Warmaster of Death would be that handsome guy on the front cover near the bottom. A hobgoblin fighter/assassin is another example of an NPC who brings more to the table then just themselves. A leader of a tribe of hobgoblins living peacefully within human lands, operating as assassins for hire to those willing to pay the price.

Mariana, Master of Disguise is a rogue(chameleon)/assassin. Now for those unfamiliar with the chameleon, it was introduced in Ultimate Combat, and is an archetype that covers those individuals who blend and assume identity well. Disguise and misdirection are their most potent weapon, for they can be anyone, and disappear instantly. With an amusing backstory filled with misdirection in regards to who she really is, this murdering thief has made a living out of making sure no one knows who she is, but everyone has a tale to tell. Oddly, she reminded me of the Bruce Willis movie The Jackyl, in that she is a highly sought after assassin who assumes identities to serve her purposes and to ensure that all details regarding her are false.

Akanor, Funeral Singer, is a gnome bard/assassin utilizing the archetype of court bard. Akanor is the classic showman, the clothes, the attitude, the prestige, he lives for the attention, and has built quite a reputation traveling the lands as a court performer of some worth, and he has done so as a means to an end. In hiding in plain sight, by being right in front of folks as the great story teller and comedian none suspect he is in fact also a high priced assassin with a signature calling card, a telling wound left on every victim's body. In the end he kills for the same reason he entertains, the adrenaline rush, the excitement. A well thought out and designed NPC, with an excellent piece of art to support the design.

Ceriddaia Shimmerstar, Sword Breaker is our one and only non assassin by class in the collection, she is a Magus. Using a traveling dance troupe as cover to travel freely, this NPC comes off as a spoiled brat reading through her backstory. She kills simply as a means to have the funding to do as she wishes, when she wishes, wherever she wishes, and has gotten the dancing troupe (a cover for more than just her) discovered more than once by flashing far to much money to explain away with their cover story. Not that the spoiled brat concept doesn't work, her tactics in combat are interesting, in that she casts undead anatomy upon herself before combat and goes for total shock factor presenting herself as a skeleton whilst electrocuting her opponents, seeking to sunder them as fast as possible before finishing them off.

So, final thoughts on the eight. Several of these NPC's are very cool character concepts, one could use so much more to her story to make you want to invest in her. With each character receiving one page per, it almost felt as if Jolanta's design was truncated to accommodate layout and spacing, which is a real shame as we're given next to nothing story wise for her. The book overall needs another read through by an editor, as there were numerous editing oversights, sentence structures, missing words, odd grammatical choices. It was all understandable, but it truly would benefit greatly from another editorial sweep. Art-wise, only one piece felt out of place, Mariana's, it had an anime quality to it, which is a shame as it is a good piece of art, but when held up to the others, it really looks out of place.

It is hard to overlook the massive editing issues and the multiple issues with Jolanta (the crossed out spell, the fact that she has barely any fluff). On the positive hand however, we have several very good, and I do mean very good NPC assassins here, the traveling bard, the unassuming baker, the legitimate business women running a mortuary while leading an assassins cult, the Hobgoblin who turned his tribe into a money making killing machine. The design chops far outweigh the editing issues, as those can be fixed, design is what it is, it's either there or it isn't, and in this case it very much is there, and worth the price of admission. This product also carries with it Hero Lab files for the assassins, so there is yet another perk, and an excellent one I might add. Be forewarned my fellow Hero lab users, Ultimate Magic and Combat, as well as the APG are required to open and utilize these portfolio files properly.

I am going to settle on 3.5 stars, stating that I will be happy to raise that by a full star after a full sweep to correct editing issues. For the purposes of this rating system, I will however, round up, not down, as the design chops are here, and they outweigh the negative. So, final rating is a 4 star.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Friends and Foes: Assassins in the River Nations (PFRPG)
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#1 With a Bullet Point: 7 Shadow Assassin Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/24/2012 03:04:43
The latest addition to the Bullet Point series is intended as support material for the Genius Guide to the Shadow Assassin, but works equally well for several other character concepts utilizing the shadow-theme. Following the three column landscape format that is standard to the Geniuses, the two artwork pieces are stock from two of the better sources. Spelling and editing were of good quality, I found only one hiccup (in the Shadow Stalker – though you may leave a trail if you so chooses), and am willing to pretend I didn't see it, as it is only an errant extra “s”.

So, formatting, covered, artwork discussed, let's get to the real reason you're going to want to buy this, shall we?

Black Balm allows you to utilize the shadows to take a second and use the Heal skill, in a better function. Into the Darkness allows you to further disappear into thin air, making your stealth even better, even when facing creatures that could normally see you. Shadow Sense grants a blindsense when immersed within shadow. Shadow Stalker gives bonuses to initiative/stealth/perception and survival as long as you're in dim to no illumination, as well as giving you the option to leave no trail (does not stack with favored terrain, so no out of balance issues to concern a GM there). Through the Cracks allows one with enough ranks in Escape Artist to take advantage of tight space normally far to small for someone to work their way through or into. Umbral Venom allows you imbue a dosage of poison with the shadows, dimming the vision of a victim on top of the effects of the poison. And last, but not least, Unseen Terror lets you take full advantage of just how unnerving it is to be attacked from the dark, not knowing what your opponent is, or where they are, giving a chance to demoralize an enemy after successful attacks from the darkness.

Yet another excellent addition to one of my favorite consistent product lines. Not only are the Bullet Points insanely affordable, but they are by and far always useful, and this addition does not break that pattern. Well worth the purchase, I give this one a solid 5 stars.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 7 Shadow Assassin Feats
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#1 With a Bullet Point: 7 Cure Light Wounds Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/24/2012 02:59:17
Following the standard 3 column approach with a landscape orientation that the Geniuses have turned into their signature look, 7 Cure Light Wounds Feats is another solid addition to the Bullet Points series. With two pieces of art from Mongoose this time, one line drawing and one B&W, both of decent quality, and if of excellent quality in regards to spelling and editing.

Our 7 new Feats this time are all about the Cure Light Wounds spell, and the classes that can utilize it, and how to turn this rather humdrum, but extremely necessary utility spell into something more interesting and efficient. So lets take a look and see how they did, shall we?

Bolstering Cure allows for a usage for those extra hps we all hate to see go to waste when your cleric rolls well enough to grant more hps then are needed to heal to max, always a good thing to have a few extra on hand. Cloak of Curing is easily my choice out of this one for favorite, You may hold the charge of a cure light woulds spell, allowing your comrades to receive its benefits through touching you, thereby freeing you up to do other actions during combat, but still being the emergency healing station. Lay on Cure seeks to rectify a gap between paladins and clerics, allowing you to heal yourself at a faster rate than normal. Lingering Cure is one of those that took me a second to fully grasp, but once the idea is there, it is solid, and really good. Instead of poof, here's your hps, it spreads out how many you are getting over a matter of rounds, granting a higher amount of hp's when its done. Basing its bonus hp's upon the level of the spell (which matters more if you are utilizing meta feats or are a ranger) it allows this very limited healing spell to kick back a much better ratio of hps, albeit at a slower pace. Moderate Mastery allows you to apply feats designed for cure light to cure moderate....now go back and reread Lingering Cure and start to make that connection of how cool these two would be in conjunction with each other. Shared Cure allows you to split the total of hps from your roll between the healer and the healed. And Reinforced Cure lets you stack a 0 level spell on top of your healing, as long as it meets the prerequisites of the feat.

For the sheer amount of healing one can make happen if they chain Lingering Cure and Moderate Mastery with the right meta feats and spell mastery's this PDF is worth it, the fact that the rest of the feats are excellent and useful as well is gravy my friends. Yet another Bullet in the chamber, and another 5 stars to the Geniuses.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 7 Cure Light Wounds Feats
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Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/22/2012 00:59:04
In all fairness, I received a review copy of this excellent book a while ago, and posted the following review to NerdTrek originally.

The first thing one can not escape when scanning through the 488 pages of Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classic (DCC) Core Rule Book is the art. It’s everywhere, and I do mean, everywhere. The TOC is laid out inside art panels held up by characters, credits, play tester thank yous, designer notes, all tucked into the artwork, that is…for lack of better explanation, straight out of the 70′s. Seriously, this IS your daddy’s artwork folks lol. The art instantly took me back to my childhood and the style of RPG games that were on the shelves at my local game-store when I first got into role playing as a hobby. Is it cheezy art? Oh yeah, but in all the ways that make it good, that type of silly weird art that feels like a guilty pleasure.

Not looking to simply be yet another retro clone, DCC holds it’s own with a rule-set that brings old school simplicity to today’s audience of players, with just enough of the standards in today’s rules to make even hardcore edition warists feel comfortable learning how to play. One of the first things that stuck with me, when reading how one designs a character for DCC, was that your race is your class….You are an elf, or a wizard…remember those days folks? No Elven Wizards here, nor Dwarven Warriors…nope, uh uh. Old School standard put elves and dwarves as their own class, and so does DCC. We also have the concept of the Zero level character, which I could see being an absolute bloodbath for the poor players. Building characters as the rules layout, which will really irritate those min-maxers out there, you will end up with at least four zero levels characters per player at the table, all with truly random abilities and gear. Why so many? Why so Random? Simple. You roll your stats and right them on the sheet in the order you roll them, with 3d6, no re-rolling, no dropping low rolls, just take what you get…then roll for a profession to determine what piece of gear you get to take with you (anything from a farm implements to barnyard animals). You create a handful of characters because, well, you have no real weapon, skill, or armor….and barely any hit points, your gonna die, a lot, lol. But, with a crowd of characters the odds of one making it to 10 XP is good, and at 10 XP you become first level, and get to pick a class, and begin building your character into someone. Where as the concept of how to start a character is very different from most games in it’s approach to forcing a player to truly play a nobody at start, its a refreshing difference, and one that I think has the potential to be a lot of fun for a group, I can see them tracking the dead pool, and sharing tales of how their zero’s died, lol.

Another of the many concepts within this system that I found interesting was that magic corrupts, pure and simple. The longer one uses it, the higher in level one gets, the more chance the run that magic will corrupt them, both physically and mentally. Why? Simple, magic is derived by dealing in pacts with demons and devils, negotiating with celestial beings, and harnessing raw elemental forces never meant to be channeled by humans…so it kind of makes sense when you put it in perspective, and I find myself amazed that more mainstream systems have not tackled the very same issue as a standard rule as of yet. The magic section contains several d100 charts (I know, how long has it been since these were the standard for everything, mass nostalgia) handling magical effects, corruption results, costs of doing business with demons/devils, results of spell burns (a method for “saving” failed spells), and the most interesting chart of all, in my opinion, the Mercurial chart. Mercurial Magic, the concept that everything, and I do mean everything matters when it comes to magic, and therefore no two spellslingers could possibly be the same. The first born child of a hanged witch, child born as a rare comet reached the apex of the twilight sky, man subjected to blindness by looking into the well of the abyss….all of these people are special to the fabric of reality in a different way, and magic flows through them differently, as it should, hence the mercurial magic chart, to determine the different results of their spell castings. Just another concept of random weirdness to remind you that fantasy games are supposed to keep you on your toes, and never grow complacent.

And of course, it would be wrong of me to fail to mention that this system already has an immense amount of support material, not only int he form of adventures from Goodman Games, but from 3PP’s as well, and at least in my point of view, when you see a compatibility logo, it’s a good sign that a system is worth checking into, as it’s going to have new material and support from more than one source, which usually means there will be plenty of material for GM’s and players alike.
For those who are missing a simpler time in gaming, when demons were demons, and the bad guys wore black, this game will feel like coming home. For those who are looking for an alternative to their current mainstream that will take them back to their childhood (or at least their older brother’s), then this game will be a lot like dropping by the neighbors for a fun night of hanging out…something different, but all together enjoyable and familiar.

The formatting is top notch, in that it makes you think you are reading a book from the 70′s. I found practically no typos or editing glitches, and in a book of this size, that’s saying something. The layout jumps from single to dual column throughout the book, with artwork both embedded and on splash pages. The artwork is B&W and all invokes the era of the 70′s when it comes to the style of art that was popular during that time period, I swear a few of these pieces would have worked as side murals for vans back in the day, right down to the shirtless muscled warrior with sideburns saving the day.

The rules are solid, and fun, which is an all important detail when it comes to a game system. They are simplistic enough that a group could learn the game quickly, but complex enough to make sure one does not feel like they are playing a stripped down game. The balance found there was a good one, and impressed me with how easy the rules felt to grasp, while still being subtly complex in their design.

Overall, this is an excellent product to add to a gaming shelf, both as an alternative game for a group, a new game for those groups disillusioned with their current game, a instant favorite for the old school crowd, or a great way for the younger generation to reconnect with the older generation of gamers on common ground at the gaming table. I can not recommend this book enough, it really was a blast to read and reconnect with my roots, and I urge you to pick up a copy for yourself.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
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Publisher Reply:
"I find myself amazed that more mainstream systems have not tackled the very same issue as a standard rule as of yet..." I find myself amazed that somebody who purports to be knowledgeable enough to offer up a product review obviously has no idea of Warhammer (superior 2nd edition). Pay this much money for a game which "channels" a the "feel of the good old days"...? Easier to fish up a copy of a REAL game from the good old days, and find a copy of Warhammer 2nd Ed. So many clones; so few ideas...
Stock Art: Stirge Trouble
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/19/2012 20:21:20
Yet another excellent piece from the Ducks, with a full color, line art and B&W rendering, this piece was exactly what I needed, and I was happy to see someone had finally released a Stirge into the world of Stock Art for the small publishers.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Stirge Trouble
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Stock Art: Demoness II
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/19/2012 20:18:10
Another excellent piece from Gary Dupois and the folks at Purple Duck Games. Always a good value considering the quality of the art for the price, small publishers would do well to follow Purple Duck Games release schedule for consistent high end usable artwork.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Demoness II
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Undead pack 2
Publisher: Kimagu
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/12/2012 00:04:04
It is hard to go wrong picking up packages from Kimagu, each package I have purchased has been consistently as good as the last. Truly a prefect resource for the small publisher.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Undead pack 2
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Standard Stock Art: Goblin Mega-Pack
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/12/2012 00:02:02
Fantastic collection of gobliny goodness. Perfect for bulking up a small publisher's collection of goblin artwork.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Standard Stock Art: Goblin Mega-Pack
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Skortched Urf' Studios Sketchbook Page #14: Potion Bottles
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/12/2012 00:01:03
Fairly decent collection of filler items, my favorite being the orc skull turned into a potion bottle.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Skortched Urf' Studios Sketchbook Page #14: Potion Bottles
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Stock Arts: Wizard's Lab
Publisher: Sade
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2012 23:57:35
For the price it's hard to argue with this piece, but a clean straight border would have gone a long way towards making this a better product, and the B&W version is almost lost in the extremely heavy blackline and shading. Still, for what it is, and at the price, the color version is a useful enough piece.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Arts: Wizard's Lab
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Nmpsa Rt003
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2012 23:54:30
This piece would have been my first stock art from Nevermet Press, and I have to say I was highly impressed with the quality of the illustration. Yet another piece perfect for small publishers looking for good affordable artwork.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nmpsa Rt003
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Scout Stock Art
Publisher: Sade
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2012 23:45:38
Peter Temesi delivers with an excellent character piece, with several different coloring variations of said piece. An excellent piece for a small publisher or a GM.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scout Stock Art
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Human Ranger color
Publisher: Hopsy Graphic Art
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2012 23:44:22
Yet another excellent piece from Peter Temesi, color work is very impressive. Comes on a transparent background, which is always a plus. Excellent piece for a small publisher or GM looking to add some extra art to his home game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Human Ranger color
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Clipart Critters 28 - Fleshy, Absorbed, Mass
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2012 22:09:26
Had no trouble at all with this image, was as clear as crystal, and used it at a size just over 1/4 page.

A perfect piece for both small publishers and GM's, I used him as a variable Gibbering Mouther, and realized after doing so that he's so ugly, he's almost cute, in that weird kind of "Your dog is SO ugly kind of way, " lol.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Clipart Critters 28 - Fleshy, Absorbed, Mass
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