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#1 With a Bullet Point: 5 Mount Steed Spell Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/07/2012 05:18:52
5 Mount Steed Spell Feats...yes, it's time again to look in on the Bullet Points series. Following the standard look and format for the Bullet Point series with the three page, three column layout, with of course the lead in page explaining what exactly the Bullet Point line is all about. Found three hiccups in the editing, which really surprised me given the usual level of quality behind SGG's products.

So, 5 feats....what does Owen have for us this time? Aethon allows for mounts to be included within abjuration spell targets (as long as the spells target a number of opponents rather than area effect, while Buraq allows for healing spells to include the mounts of those targeted. Augment Steed is easily one of the cooler feats in this collection, as it allows you to forgo summoning a mount to apply it's crunch to a mount you are already astride, as well as giving your mount some nice perks in regards to fatigue, hunger, etc. Heightened Steed Spell cranks up the effective level of the summon spell giving the summoned mount bonuses to its movement and AC. And last, not least, is my personal choice out of this collection, the Summon Steed feat. Summon Steed allows you to summon anything off of your summon lists that is already available to you outfitted and ready to go, as a willing steed...go ahead, let that sink in for a few minutes...think of how many things are on the summon lists, and how cool it would be to utilize some of them as steeds.

Final thoughts...the editing balanced against the design of the feats. Two of the feats are stellar in my opinion, with the other three being decent to cool, but not rising to the level of the other two. Settling at a three star rating for this one, a good product, just not entirely up to the standards Owen has led me to expect from him.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 5 Mount Steed Spell Feats
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Village Backdrop: Apia
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/07/2012 04:07:23
The Village Backdrop series gives that most needed of thing for any campaign that is going to do any traveling, detailed locales. Those places your PCs are going to be traveling to and through. With a genre that loves to over detail and fluff the importance of every place out there, this was one of those PDFs that I found to be refreshing, as Village Backdrop: Apia presented this village as exactly what it is, a normal place.

Apia is a village founded upon the remains of a previous settlement, built within the shadow of a castle's ruins. Born from those who originally came to loot what was left of the castle and the surrounding ruins of the previous town, and the people who seem to always be there following adventurers, a community of tents slowly built into the standards one expects to see within a village (bars, taverns, general store). That probably would have been all there was to the history of this town if not for an encounter one evening that changed everything for this village and its people.

An ettercap known as M’yxtix encountered a local child, hurt and in need of aid. Rather than following her first instincts, the realization that the villagers would hunt her down if the child fell to more harm led her to the unthinkable, she offered aid and “rescued” the child. Teaching the villagers the healing properties of honey to aid in the child's burns she ingratiated herself to the townsfolk, and was welcomed into their lives. She currently lives within the ruins of the castle with her “pets”, several large spiders. The village, since that first meeting, has become a bee-keeper central, and has rebuilt their economy around honey and it's many uses, both in culinary applications as well as as a health aid. And yes, we get a step into the fantastical there, with an alchemical honey potion, and the Mellified Man (a mummification process that turns one's remains into an uber healing component in battling poisons or disease).

Lots of cool little details here, including a table for random village events including things like a town dance, baking contests and harvest season (tied to crab-apples), and wild animal attacks. Prices for everything offered up gear wise (honeyed foods, tavern drinks, the alchemical honey), detailed interesting NPCs, a small bit of intrigue and even a matter of secrecy involving theft going on within the village all add up to one very cool little spot on the road to stop off and get to know the locals.

Bookmarks, fully linked Table of Contents and a really nice old school feel map of the village all put the finishing touches on a product I was already looking at giving a solid 5 star rating to. Well worth the price of admission, and a prime example of how to design a cool community without over doing it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Apia
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Dungeon Dressing: Fountains
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/07/2012 02:34:34
Dungeon Dressing: Fountains is the latest addition to the Dungeon Dressing line from Raging Swan. For those few out there who may be unfamiliar with this series the entire point and purpose of this excellent line is to make sure that you, the GM, never have to again find yourself facing your players with such thrilling descriptions as “There's a..um....fountain thingy...yeah, in the room. Its got water and stuff.” Come on, let's admit it, we've all shared a table at least once with that person. Always found myself trying to decide if I should reach across and smack them of simply feel bad for them, lol.

If you can roll a dice and look at a chart you can use the books in this series. It really is laid out and designed that easily, and that simplicity is one of the strong points behind the design, as the entire point of this series is to allow you to design insanely quickly, freeing you up to tackle other tasks.

So, what are we looking at here, what exactly is covered in a book discussing fountains? Ben Armitage does a descent job of covering enough of the details in answering that question that this book is about far more than just whatever peeing kid statue defaults to the center of the pool (sorry, I had to, lol)...no, he gives us random tables to handle a small list of shapes and sizes (local heroes, animals, trees, large stone chunks, gods, etc...you know, the typical statues), and the water pouring forth (be they clean or diseased, the quality of said water, or possible magical effects). All of that before we even get into the cool little details of what the PCs will experience when they encounter the fountain initially (The look and feel of the fountain before the game mechanics and such).

Now, up to now the tables, while cool and extremely useful, have not really handled what I consider the gravy points. They have been the required bits of knowledge in regards to designing a basic fountain. To demonstrate what I mean by this I rolled up a fountain from these initial tables, and present my creation below...

A statue depicting (a legendary hero) stands in the center of the pool on a raised column, with water flowing from his hands. The underground water source carries heavy metals to the fountain’s basin. Ingesting the water causes arsenic poisoning

Now, that's all well and good, and yes I left off the mechanics regarding the poison....but let's see what happens when I roll on the features and characteristics tables also, shall we?

A statue depicting (a legendary hero) stands in the center of the pool on a raised column, with water flowing from his hands. The underground water source carries heavy metals to the fountain’s basin. Ingesting the water causes arsenic poisoning. Inlaid on the inside of the fountain's basin is a mural depicting great scenes of glory. A wooden plank, held in place by a heavy rock, extends over the three feet deep fountain. Wet footprints lead from the water back up onto the plank.

Following along here? That's a grand total of 5 dice rolls. 1 for my initial fountain shape, 1 for the quality of water, 1 for the disease (since I rolled for tainted water), 1 characteristic and 1 feature...grand total time spent, 45 seconds...no really, I timed it, and I went slow, lol. Why do I make a point of doing this in every one of these reviews? Because I can not stress enough how useful and easy these products are.

Now, as has become a standard in this series, not only do we get the random charts of multiple design points that when combined make up a massive variety of fountains, we get a few traps. Three traps total, with a few spots of true coolness. Bonehold presents as a trap that might leave your PCs preparing to face a threat without understanding what they are facing initially, and these are the types of traps I like. A group of skeletons held in a ring around the fountains base under the water level by chains of stone await the PCs when they explore the fountain. The beauty of this trap is that the skeletons are not the threat, they are the last victims. The chains release the skeletons and attempt to grapple those who enter the water, pulling them in and holding them until they drown. And that's all just the initial round that anyone enters the water...on round two it gets more interesting as the second threat of the trap presents itself. But I'll let you read about that yourself.

Pairing this PDF with Dungeon Dressing: Pools would give you a massive amount of material to work with for designing some truly memorable pieces of detail as well as fantastically memorable encounter points. Tallying up my thoughts on this product...editing was fantastic, format was the classic two column approach. Two pieces of B&W artwork embedded within text flow, fully bookmarked and a linked Table of Contents (something I love to see) all add to the value here. Design wise what is presented here do allow for an immense amount of cool fountains, and there are several options within the lists for tainted waters, diseases and the inevitable slimes...but what I would have loved to have seen was more options for fountains that have nothing to do with water at all. Beer, wine, lava, blood, acid, flaming liquids...there are so many liquids that would have been cool to see added to this product that would have taken a good product to a stellar product in my mind. Am going with a 4 star rating, as the product is an excellent product, but the lack of inclusion of other liquids felt like an inclusion to me, and one of the three traps just didn't live up the bar set by the other two.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dressing: Fountains
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Racial Ecologies: Guide to Feyborn
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/04/2012 04:07:11
Racial Ecologies Guide to Feyborn marks the latest addition to the line from Fat Goblin Games. Written and illustrated by Rick Hershey this PDF tackles those born with a touch of Fey to them. Be that because they are blood descended or merely blessed from birth, the feyborn are not quite the rest of us in regards to straight humanity, and it is these differences that make this such an interesting option for a PC race. The product does go on the default that human subtype is the only option presented, but I can't help but feel this subtype would be easily applied to several other races working off of the racial adjustment mechanics given for turning a human into a feyborn. Lots of racial trait options to make sure you will not feel pigeon-holed, which is always a plus in my opinion when presenting a new playable race, as more options always frees up players to explore and design. Along with the trait options comes a full set of favored class options as well, adding a further level of customization.

Rick does a great job here in remembering a lot of the little details that all add up to making a fleshed out race, a table for weight/heights and aging effects, a knowledge DC table for common knowledge regarding the race, the things like that. Eleven new feats offer up such gems as Fey Sense (Allowing for one to detect the presence and amount of fey within an area), Fey-Born Sorcery (giving a bonus to Enchantment spells) and Life's Blood (allowing for you to trade hps worth of damage for healing points for an ally).

New equipment introduces us to Dryad Pheromones, which do all those things those fake pheromone colognes always promised to do for us, lol. A very cool item, with a lot of useful potential. Follow this up with the Crescent Twilight, a fey weapon formed of two crescent blades laid side by side, and game mechanics to explain just what exactly what Fairy Duct is...hint, it's kind of gross in all reality, but makes perfect sense. An easy table gives all the pertinent data for including the weapon into your game easily.

Six magical items ranging from a Sprigganblood Cudgel (which can grow three times per day gaining a Reach ability) to Auberon's Blade ( a very nicely designed weapon, a flaming longsword that can be transformed into a whip, retaining damage from the sword while picking up attributes of a whip). Amongst these magical items I have to point towards the Gremlin Bell. In a world filled with conmen and snake oil salesmen peddling useless trinkets to the uneducated there are occasionally a few trinkets that actually do exactly what they claim to, and this happens to be one of those items. A simple bell on a string, nothing more, nothing less...but it reacts to and affects gremlins when they get within a certain proximity.

And, to close it all out, for those looking to get into the specifics of which fey their characters can trace back to as far as the racial details go we have a section detailing the heritage mechanics of being from a certain fey. Five options detailed, including the Bogeyborn, Dryadborn, Leprechaunborn, the unfortunate Miteborn, and the Nereidborn. Intended for those characters who are more attached to their fey heritage, each of the five racial packages replaces the default Feyborn racial kit, with a set of ability adjustments, traits and special abilities.

A random table with physical attributes (horns, skin tones, etc) close us out with an excellent way to quickly and easily generate a varied list of visuals for Feyborn characters.

Layout goes back and forth between a two and a three column format, with top notch editing. I found only one area of odd spacing, and to be honest I only mention it so that when others see it they won't be scratching their head wondering why I didn't. It certainly doesn't impede reading nor understanding, and is only odd in that it is a space between paragraphs on a page where no other paragraph breaks are spaced the same way.

Not mentioned as of yet, because quite frankly I am still trying to decide where I stand on it, is a sidebar regarding naming concepts. The sidebar as it stands is a useful tool, but within the text flavor of the Feyborn it is mentioned that their names are as varied as any human cultures, and that they are raised typically within these human lands. It seems to me that human parents would name their children according to their local racial customs and naming customs...that being said, in a fantasy setting, if a PC is looking for their Feyborn to have been born to parents who recognized them for what they were and want a name more fitting their heritage, the list is extremely handy. So...I guess, in the end I settle at the list is extremely useful for those looking to utilize it, which goes the route of providing options for those wanting them, which is something I tend to be a big fan of...hmmm, guess I figured out where I stand on the sidebar then, lol.

OK, so final tally. Artwork good, editing good, layout solid and design very appealing. An all around interesting racial option for a player race provided with a lot of options to make sure an entire table of players could choose this race to play and still manage some wildly different characters. A solid 5 star product, and well worth the price of admission! Well done!!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Racial Ecologies: Guide to Feyborn
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Dungeon Dressing: Doors
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/03/2012 04:27:20
Dungeon Dressing: Doors addresses that which all of us have put a few well placed shoulders and boots through over the years, and handles them with the perfect blending of logical application and devious design. For those not familiar with the Dungeon Dressing series this line seeks to help give a time harried GM the means to provide an immense amount of flavor and detail to their designs with as simple an action as rolling on a random chart. Formatting and editing appeared to be fantastic, I didn't see anything jump out in that regards, so well done there! We got two main charts this time out, one for features of the doors, the other for flavor. But before we get to those charts we have a full breakdown of the basics, types of doors, their AC, their hardness, all the good stuff one needs to know. The cool thing in here is we get mechanics for bead curtains...yes, I said bead curtains. Trust me, by the time you get to the traps in the back of the PDF you'll be thrilled you have game rules for a freaking bead curtain, and you just might be face palming for having never thought of this brilliant move yourself...I'll give you a hint, it involves poison, of the contact variety, covering the beads...

Reading through this we've got a massive amount of doors covered in this product, I think in all honesty the only true door type I didn't see represented was the pocket door (although there was something similar to be fair). So, as is my standard when I do a review on this series, I rolled a few dice (d100) to see just what type of door I could come up with on the fly, and I'll share with you here so that you can get an idea of how easy this series lets you design cool features. So, no further ado, my random door...

The door is decorated with gilded writing in an appropriate alphabet. It is rendered in immaculate cursive. A soft knocking, in a staccato rhythm, is coming from the door's other side.

Now, obviously before I'd read this to my PCs I would change the bit about an appropriate alphabet to a language that works for my setting, but that was 2 dice rolls. And one seriously cool story plot point...what's the wording on the door? A warning? Instructions? A warding spell keeping whatever is knocking behind the door? And just what is doing the knocking? All from 2 dice rolls. Starting to see why I love these books? Yes, any GM worth their salt can do this all day and night themselves, no doubt of that...but how many of us have the time? Products like this free us up to do what we most love, and that is game.

Now, as is a known fact of every paranoid PC who has ever opened one to many doors with reckless abandon, some of those portal covers are not without their own means of defense, I of course am referring to traps. Jeff Erwin excelled here in giving not only some cool options for traps (along with variants and the appropriate CR modifications for each), but he hooked us up with a very nice presentation of the standard poison needle trap. Why do I single this most basic of traps out for praise? Because along with the basic trap write up we are given a full table of CR adjustments for differing poisons, disable or perception DC variations, and attack bonuses to the needle itself. All arranged in an easy to read and use chart that turns the basic needle trap suddenly into a plethora of variants. This is the type of chart that you copy/paste into a GM screen folks, seriously. And to accompany this highly useful chart Jeff goes and gives us one for commonly used magical traps for doors as well, along with a minimum CL listing and CR ranking for each spell as used in a door trap.

Another solid addition to the Dungeon Dressing series, and well worth the price of admission folks, a solid 5 star rating not only deserved, but earned.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dressing: Doors
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Dwellers Amid Bones
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/03/2012 03:14:38
Dwellers in Bone from Raging Swan press is the perfect example of a side trek, those glorious fillers that are not quite an actual adventure, but far more than a simple encounter. Following the 2 column approach for the layout editing appeared to be of high quality, and is decorated with a couple of stock B&W art pieces.

The story behind this side trek falls to this....ah, see, you thought I was just going to jump right into it without waiting to see if the players would stop reading first, didn't you? Come on, we all know by now they're going to read anyway, so if the players out there are looking to ruin their fun, that's their issue, for we must continue, lol. So, without further ado, let the spoilers commence...

The Severed Ear Clan of orcs had accomplished something more or less baffling to most other races, a note of civility. To demonstrate this I offer up the fact that they buried their dead in cairns. Most notably their dead from battles, but lets face it here, that's how most orcs die after all. It is the location of one of the cairns that will be at the center of this sidetrek. Years have passed and the Severed Ear Clan has long since been broken and scattered, and most of their cairns have been located and looted, all save one. And it to this cairn that a mated pair of drake have come to nest. The PCs will find themselves sent/led/or drawn to this site depending upon which of the provided hooks is used, where in they will meet the self appointed guardian of the last remaining cairn of this once proud clan, Grok Shattershield...or at least his extremely stubborn ghost. Grok and the drake's have hit a stalemate, as he keeps reforming after they kill him, and he is unable to affect them himself. Grok offers diplomacy, insisting the PCs aid in slaying the drakes. Of course he really doesn't offer anything up as a perk for doing it, since he is not going to agree to anything leaving the cairn, as he sees it all as property of his tribe, but as least working with the ghost will keep him from trying to possess any of the PCs and attacking with no thought of the damage being done to the body he's joy-riding in.

And what of these drakes? Mistaken for green dragons by the local townsfolk, which if played up enough before sending the PCs off to the cavern could make for some interesting issues once they get there and discover they have prepared incorrectly depending on what preventative steps they take.

An extensive cavern layout, with an entire section flooded, forcing this adventure into the mechanics of swimming and fighting underwater, against a foe that moves through water just as easily as through air. Two pages are included at the end of the PDF with the intention of being printed for each player at the table, so that everyone has handy notes at fingertip to remind them of penalties for swimming, movement, visibility, attack...etc.

Short, sweet and to the point. Just enough fluff to build the encounters up and give us a history to the cairn, as well as those little pieces here and there of description that one would expect from the series that keeps giving us the So What Is X Like Anyway?. Detailed carvings in the wall depicting previous orc glories, specific details to areas of scattered bones throughout the cairn (as opposed to “There are bones.” over and over again). A small handful of potential seeds and thoughts to take this somewhere beyond the scope of what is written here, and to further utilize the NPCs of the local Baron and his trusted servant who initially are used to hire the PCs to deal with the dragon threat.

The beauty of a product like this is that it can be taken straight as it is and run, entertain a group for an evening and be done, no questions asked, and everyone had a blast. It can also be developed with very little effort to be a full blown adventure of its own, having the PCs encounter the drakes on their own, before ever finding the cairn or the town, perhaps a history with the Severed Ear Clan itself. And, best of all, it is designed to be tucked into a campaign easily, which is always a major plus in a product of this nature.

Extensively bookmarked, which always pleases me to no end, and of course the Raging Swan checklist at the opening of the book. I had to bring up the checklist, as it got me wondering the last time I reviewed a book from this publisher, what are they going to do when that list outgrows the page? Personally, I can't until it does, as the Raging Swan imprint rarely lets me down when it comes to solid quality, and delivering exactly what they promise with each product. An easy 5 stars and well worth the price of admission. This is an excellent side quest, and more than enough of a unique challenge to keep a party entertained...I mean come on, how often do you find yourself underwater on a drake hunt?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dwellers Amid Bones
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Monster Menagerie: Threats From Beyond
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2012 05:36:44
Threats From Beyond, the latest addition to the Mythic Menagerie series from Super Genius Games brings us 8 new threats for the outsider classification. Very good artwork for each creature is always a plus, although I really wish a few more of them had been done in color as opposed to grayscale. Formatting follows the 2 column layout, with a few editing glitches here and there (spell lists not lining up in one of the statblocks, an errant letter left behind from a deleted sentence, and the word bite not having its “e” in the special abilities for Black Dog).

First creature up is the Black Dog, a creature a great deal of us should be familiar with, and I have to say I like the treatment of it here. It's simple, straight forward and true to what the legends of this creature are at their core. And it certainly doesn't hurt that the art conveys the ferocity and overall odd darkness of this particular creature.

The Prismatic Couatl offers up a more chaotic variant to the stricter standard Couatl, and earns my knock for wishing to have seen a color piece of art. The art is fantastic, I just really would have loved to have seen this beast in its full glory. A very cool special ability in the shedding of scales to form a cloud that brings on confusion and glitterdust. The Prismatic Couatl also caused me a moment of confusion in that it covers a page and a half, but following the 2 column layout of reading it is not entirely apparent at first where the entry ends and the next begins. Once you realize how the layout handles this, it ceases to be a problem.

Next up is the Daemon Shax, visually answering that age old question of just what would the child of a goblin and a chimp look like? Lol. The Shax Daemon gets its jollies leading folks to ruin and death at their own hands, helped along by the wickedly cool Suicide gaze special ability that causes those who fail Will save after meeting its gaze to attempt to end their lives. Followed by the Demon, Karkinide, or Crab Demon. A monstrous crablike nightmare of four legs, two humanoid arms and a giant set of pincers, averaging around 7 feet in height, 5 foot in width...and continuing to grow as they age. Very efficient in combat when it comes to utilizing the numbers game against their foes, these demons stack bonuses with each other the more they can get involved in a conflict. Do not get yourself cornered by these things.

The Black Charger can best be described as what a centaur would have been if born in hell. Sadistic and aggressive, these creatures relish the opportunity to challenge new foes, and are at home on the battlefield. Hate Spirits offer up possibly the coolest origin story out of the collection, as they are formed when a powerful being of worship is destroyed while feeling hatred. The immense emotional survives the death of the being, forming into a Hate Spirit, who has an interesting attack form. Its claws and bite do no physical damage, but rather inflict a random curse (small random list supplied).

Hounds of Abaddon are one disturbing looking creature, with the body of a powerful dog roughly the size of a bear, missing its head. In place of a head floats a skeletal powerful jaw. They hunt like wolves, utilizing the pack mentality to formulate attacks upon stronger foes, or drawing out the fear and hopelessness in weaker targets.

We end with the Traveler...an odd creature that I am not sure is properly represented by the artwork depicting it. I can't lie here, I took one look at the artwork and thought tapeworm, instantly. After reading through its entry my thoughts changed, somewhat. The Traveler is a Huge outsider that is basically a long super thin ribbon shaped life form with tiny (in proportion to its main body) hands and eye stalks covering it. It has the capacity to do exactly what you are thinking from its name, travel. Between planes specifically, unerringly, and yes, it can take passengers, if they are willing to pay the cost.

So, wrapping up, some really cool designs, with the occasional editing mishap. Art for every creature, some better than others. Am thinking along the lines of a 4 star for this collection, as there were a few cool creatures here, but also a few not so thrilling (I'm looking at you Black Charger and Traveler)..add to that the occasional editing hiccup and yeah, I'm settling at 4 stars. If Outsiders are your cup of tea however, this just might be a 5 star for you folks, so pick it up and check it out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Menagerie: Threats From Beyond
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Stock Art: Thar-Naccandor, an exotic reptile
Publisher: Cloister Publications
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2012 04:20:21
One of the really cool things about buying a Cloister piece of stock art is that he doesn't package these as the typical stock art. You not only get several options for hi res images for print, but a lower res for the web, and PDF's walking you through the creation of the finished piece of art, and his system free design ideas for how he saw the creature being used.

A very very cool package for the insanely low price this is going for. An artist to keep an eye on folks.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Thar-Naccandor, an exotic reptile
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Stock Art: Dronhedon - Aquatic Mammal
Publisher: Cloister Publications
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2012 04:17:28
Nicholas Cloister continues to show just how cool stock art can be with the latest additions to his stock line. More than worth the price of purchase, this is a line of stock art to keep an eye on for gamers and small publishers alike.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Dronhedon - Aquatic Mammal
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Midgard: Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2012 04:06:11
A 30 page book, the Midgard Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire is a very attractive PDF, with an accent framed parchment style background to the pages, heraldry shield page decorations, both color and B&W artwork, a predominately two column layout and truly astounding editing work. Where as the TOC is not linked, the PDF comes with nested bookmarks that handle the issue just fine.

So, the Dragon Empire...Imagine for a second what would happen if the biggest and baddest dragons out there got tired of defending themselves constantly. If they got tired of having to put out their own efforts to keep their lands and hordes growing. What would happen if egos and personal ambition could be put aside long enough to realize an alliance, a council if you will, would be beneficial for far more reasons than not. From this the Mharoti Empire came into being, named for the dragon who brought the proposal to his fellow dragons within the lands that came to be ruled by the empire.

The really cool thing here in this concept is that we have a very familiar thing here, in that a ruling council governing a large body of people living in various social castes, but we are presented something very new and fresh at the same time. The idea of a society that is in fact designed to favor the scaled races, while allowing for the usage and growth of the various “hairy” species is really cool. We are given not only the social caste and who falls where, but the terminology in Draconic for each level. Coolest thing there in regards to the draconic language being incorporated? We get a common phrase straight from the lips of the Jambuka (Jackals – or to be less polite, us humans and our fellow hair growers). Now, the oddball thing here is that the office of power within the empire is given to a human, as the dragon lords recognized that they could never trust each other to rule the collective lands and amassed armies. Where as the position carries a great deal of power with it, in the end it is a puppet string away from the teeth of the Great Dragon Lords, and the Sultanate lives a life of constantly trying to balance the desires of her draconic masters.

A collection of new traits provided give plenty of options for characters who choose to be from the Dragon Empires as opposed to merely traveling there. Several of the traits however seem to be missing their prerequisites. By the wording, and the sheer names of some of the traits it is not hard to see what the prerequisites should be, but a GM will need to impose them to avoid those players looking for loopholes, as gaining traits benefiting from draconic heritage when one need not be of draconic descent could make it very easy for someone to gain an unfair advantage. As an example of what it is I am referring to I offer up the trait Quick and Cunning Kobold Child - Your quick wits and quicker reflexes are reflective of your kobold ancestry. Now, I'm not going to list the benefit here, but I will say that there is no requirement for you to be either kobold, or at least have an associated bloodline, even though the wording makes it pretty clear you're supposed to. Now, there are section heads detailing for some of the groupings of traits (Combat, Magical, etc.) to whom they are supposed to belong, but there are several points where no distinction has been made, and I find only one trait that specifically has a prerequisite. We are also given a full set of traits that are specifically linked to certain races, as explained in the section lead-in, and the names of each trait. To be clear my complaint in regards to missing prerequisites is for various traits before the racial traits section.

So, that out of the way, what are we getting out of this traits section? A lot. 43 traits in total, with my favorite out of them all being Draconic Trait. This trait allows ANYONE to take a trait meant only for dragons, drakes and dragonkin. It still has its limitations to keep one from going insane, but it does allow you to replace a racial trait with one from the kobold or dragonkin options. A very cool way to allow for the idea that those who live amongst and serve the reptilian races will, in time, pick things up.

24 new Feats make up the next section of the book, with a small sidebar recommending how to handle playing a Drake as a PC race. A great deal of the feats here help take a dragonkin or kobold a step further towards their ancestral big cousins, with feats covering flying, gliding, thicker hide, breath weapons and the such. But there are plenty of feats here for any and all races as well, and even feats to recognize the four elemental gods of the dragons of this region as well. A decent collection of feats, with prerequisites in place and a couple of small feat chains for those who love to link their feats for bigger and better effects.

The next section brings us the archetypes and prestige classes for the Dragon Empire, and the first offering impressed me to no end. Order of the Firedrake (Cavalier Archetype) is in fact a rider, be it dragon or drake, aimed at being that character on the battlefield inspiring and leading her allies into combat with a roar on her lips, and the blood of her enemies painting the ground beneath her. An impressive set of class abilities, my favorite being Dragon Strike (15th level she brings her allies with her on a charge attack, granting them an attack on their move as long as they reach a target...imagine the damage of such an attack folks). The Elemental Exarch (Druid Archetype) gives us a druid who doesn't worship nature, but rather the elements themselves, the underlying keys to nature. Gaining an elemental companion in much the same sense as an animal companion, although with several much cooler perks in regards to what one's companion can do for you, these druids can literally be fused with their elemental, gaining instant bonuses to ability scores depending upon the nature and size of the elemental.

There are 7 more archetypes covering the Magus, Dragonkin, Monk, Oracle, Rogue and Elementalist classes...and no, I didn't miscount, there are two for the Monk – Monk of the Fiery Mist and Monk of the Wind Palm. I could easily write another full page discussing these archetypes, but having nothing negative to say in regards to them, I am going to move on instead to the prestige class. Dragon Emir is a full 10 level prestige class that takes what the Order of the Firedrake started in whetting my appetite with a mounted concept and kicks it into high gear. The Dragon Emir are the elite, those few chosen to ride draconic mounts in to combat, leading the charge, rallying the troops and devastating the enemy. A very cool prestige class, even if it is limited to only the scaly races, lol.

Now what good would a book introducing us to a new lands and society be without a section on new magics, right? Thankfully the Kobolds agree, and they have graced us with 17 new spells to make you twirl your mustache while laughing evilly...mwahahaha...oh..ahem..sorry. So, spells, let's discuss my new favoritest spell for the week...Coin Swarm. Turn any pile of 1,000 coins into a freaking swarm of flying cutting whirling disks of metal, with all the bonuses of potential exotic metals (cold iron, silver, etc.)...I warn my players here and now, as I know a few of them read my reviews...every dragon from this day forward will know this spell....lol. Wyvern's Sting does one of two things, either it transforms the end of a character's tail into the whiplike stinger of a wyvern dealing Con damage, or for those PCs without tails it grows a full wyvern tail for the duration of the spell dealing the same damage as above.
Fiery Sandstorm brings into being a bludgeoning sandstorm enhanced with burning damage as well thanks to the flames licking through the sand. Extra perk? Natural flight impossible, and spell chuckers have to make concentration checks or fall back to manual labor while in the midst of the sandstorm.

A sampling of the exotic goods of these lands closes us out, and is truly the only place in the PDF where I feel let down. We open with a collection of monsters and animals that serve different purposes within these lands, and the list for the most part makes perfect sense and really helps sell the fact that a great deal of the Dragon Empires is in fact a desert nation ruled by draconic races. However, in the intro to these animals and their usages it is mentioned that zombies and yeti are amongst the creatures imported for usage, but they do not appear in the actual write ups, so we are not given a reason for them to be there. From the imported critters we move along to some of the more exotic wares one would find amongst the bazaars of these lands you might not find back home, like Aboleth Brain, or Basilisk Heart (both a delicacy amongst dragons), various weaponry for those with a draconic body frame, poisons that will overcome a dragon's natural resistance to sleep and paralysis...just over all cool exotic stuff...with no prices. And that is where we hit my disappointment with this book. This insanely cool chapter filled with really cool new gear, with no simple chart showing us weights, prices, etc...the basic information we need for gear to incorporate it properly. I can overlook the zombie and yeti being left out of the first part of this chapter, but teasing me with all of this cool gear, and then not giving me prices and basic info...ouch.

Four new magical rugs/carpets tie it all up as the last offerings in this PDF, with a magical trap in the form of a Carpet of Confusion, another in the Rug of Suffocation and Flying Carpet of Suffocation offering the more mobile version of the rug of the same name. The Teleportation Carpet allows for instant transport between two rugs sharing the same plane as long as one knows the correct activation word, unless of course these are set up as traps as well, causing any and all who step upon them to be whisked away...ah traps, wrapped up in cool magical items...gotta love it.

Which brings me to the final thoughts and rating. Overall, I loved this book. I did. My only real complaint is that the chapter handling gear feels like it is missing a very vital chart, detailing not only the gear, but the weaponry introduced there as well. The problem is I don't feel that is a small thing, as it leaves us without prices for any of it, let alone weights. Luckily, this is the type of thing that would take up enough of a page all on it's own it could easily be drawn up and released in the form of an enhancement to avoid having to update the PDF. Hopefully we'll see such a chart at some point.

Now, on to the positive stuff...everything else. No really, this PDF is solid, and introduces a really cool new locale for your Midgard campaign. Not playing in Midgard? Not an issue, a scaly race empire could easily make any campaign world it is dropped in a cooler place to play within. The art is very thematic and will have you thinking along the lines of Persia, Arabia and the vast deserts...well, except for the tribute piece to the classic arcade game Joust....lol, that piece alone needs to be put on T-shirts...just saying Wolfgang, put me down for one, lol.

OK, so, rating. I'm settling at a 4.5, with a rounded rating of 5 for the purposes of this forum, but I am going to clarify that the only reason I am not giving a true 5 is the lack of important information in regards to the new items and gear. And I do hope that something formal is made available to address this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard: Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire
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Cardstock Miniatures: The Dragon Turtle
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/30/2012 04:24:57
As more and more offerings and options for paper miniatures become available it is nice to see the occasional oddball creature be remembered, as I don't think I have ever seen a dragon turtle in any other collection of paper minis out there, let alone a collection that provides one in multiple colors.

Included you will find the cover image reproduced in various sizes and red, blue or green for colorations, There is also a grayscale variety for the B&W crowd which could easily stand in as a black dragon turtle should you wish to use it in that manner. Each of the paper miniatures are the cover image, either resized or recolored though, so understand that this is not a collection of different images or poses.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cardstock Miniatures: The Dragon Turtle
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Publisher's Choice - Basic Racial Portraits (Fantasy Males)
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/29/2012 02:54:14
Rick Hershey's artwork is one of the most instantly recognizable on the scene in my opinion, as his style has developed its own identity and signature. The portraits contained here are exactly what you see one the cover, which is always a perk in my opinion, as I like to know what I am buying. Full color and B&W copies of each, with an easy to work within license for publishers make this an easily recommended product for fans of Hershey's style of art.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Basic Racial Portraits (Fantasy Males)
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#1 With a Bullet Point: 10 Subschool Augmentation Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/18/2012 00:17:19
10 Subschool Augmentation Feats focuses on those spellchuckers who choose to focus on a specific subschool, and giving them a reason to do it. Following in the pattern that is the Bullet Point series, we've got a 4 page, 3 column layout with 3 pieces of B&W art...and that second piece of art, truly cool piece.

So, what are we talking about here when we say subschool augmentation feats...well, for example, let's take for instance the school of Conjuration...now under it we have several subschools, but for the purposes of this example, I'm going with Calling. So, very first feat in the PDF is Augment Calling, which has as a pre-requisite Spell Focus (conjuration)...now, benefit of said feat goes as follows...use a conjuration (calling) spell to call a creature, and you grant them eldritch protection against an energy type of your choosing. Augment Creation grants a bonus to Strength and Constitution for creature's you create, and a Hardness and hp bonus for items. Augment Polymorph allows for the ability to leave targeted points on a target out of a polymorph effect, allowing for abilities keyed to these targeted areas to remain in effect during the polymorph...hands to cast, mouths to speak, etc.

The school breakdown covers the spread for schools with subschools, and gives some interesting perks to these specialist spellchuckers. Of the set I found only one that felt kind of phoned in, and I say that not because it isn't good, but in comparison to the others in this product, this one felt...less. Augment Healing comes down to a roll twice, take the better roll. Yes, technically it is a sound mechanism and works, but it is also highly over-used and pretty utilitarian.

Now, before we wrap this up, we have teleportation to cover...or more specifically Augment Teleportation. It is mentioned here in this PDF with an explanation for why it is omitted from this collection, as it is in fact included in another Bullet Point, 6 Teleportation Spell Feats. Where as the idea of reprinting material is becoming more and more common for the sake of inclusion, I applaud the SGG crew's decision to not include this feat within this product, as we are talking about the #1 With a Bullet Point series. This series sticks with a small handful of material for a very small price, and I don't think reprinting material in a product of that nature would be well received.

So, final thoughts and wrap-up. 9 out of 10 impress me with their design, hands down. 1 struck me as perhaps not so much. Editing was excellent as usual, but I expect nothing less from the Bullet Point series. Am going to go with a 4.5 rating on this Bullet Point, only because the one feat just fell short for me. But, for the sake of this forum's rating system, I will be rounding up to a 5, because my problems with the feat are not it's mechanics, which are still sound and useful.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 10 Subschool Augmentation Feats
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#1 With a Bullet Point: 12 Alternatives For The Rogue's Trapfinding Class Ability
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/17/2012 14:11:10
12 Alternatives for the Rogue's Trapfinding Class Feature....wow that is a mouthful. OK, the basics when it comes to the Bullet Point series are this, an idea, focused, and presented via small handful of mechanics. Be they feats, spells, traits or in this case class ability variants. Usually 3-4 pages total, with the material actually taking up 1 page most of the time. Beauty of the one page layout concept is that a 3 ring binder filled with print outs is easy to organize and keep track of in case you are one of those who likes a physical record of their game material.

Now, layout follows the standard Bullet Point landscape, with a 3 column format, and excellent editing and grammar. Artwork is all B&W, with the best piece being the cover image. One of the easiest things for a player to do to differentiate their character from the pack is the swapping of class features, so products like this become a trove of importance and wealth, in that they offer more variety, and variety is always a good thing in my mind.

Of the 12 presented here, there are a few that really stood out for me. Harass being the first. A perfect feature to use in combination with a playgroup during those all out attacks on the BBEG that really helps to utilize the rogue as a crucial part of the martial battle itself. Harass allows you to trade off sneak attack HD for negatives to your foe, to be applied to a variety of things. Pair this with good timing in combat, and you could cripple the opponents ability to do nearly as much damage to one's allies.

Black Marketeer gives a nod to those rogues with a mind towards business and value by adjusting the concept of price and worth accordingly for those who know what they are doing. Chink in the Armor is another one of those every given Sunday concepts. By that I mean this, anyone, can beat anyone, given the right circumstances. This class feature would allow for a rogue who has succeeded at a sneak attack, only to watch their damage be nullified (by, say fortified armor) still apply some of that damage. Remember folks, no matter how all-powerful one may think they are, every dog has their day.

Turn the Knife is for those players with a malicious streak, lol, granting extra damage per HD on a successful sneak attack. And Poison Use operates just as the Drow ability, just another route to get your hands on it.

I like options, I always have. Yes, it makes character creation longer. Yes, it makes a GM have to learn even more to run their game...and yes, I think both of these things are a good thing. Options are how we manage to never contain our imaginations within boundaries. And products like this help to keep adding solid, quality concepts to the pile. An easy 5 star rating to yet another stellar addition to the Bullet Point series, and well worth the price of admission.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#1 With a Bullet Point: 12 Alternatives For The Rogue's Trapfinding Class Ability
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Rawr! - Volume 1: Fear and Dread
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Joshua G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/17/2012 12:50:26
RAWR! A Series of Monstrous Malevolence, Volume 1: Fear and Dread....man that title is a long one, lol. So, for the purposes of saving space, time, and my sanity...we shall refer to this product as RAWR!

So, 18 pages, with a linked TOC and bookmarks. Laid out in a dual column format, with two full page images, and two other embedded pieces of art. Of the art, two are from Joseph Calkins' stock offerings, while the others are originals to this product, and are both exceptional pieces. Scattered throughout the book are random “doodles” that work well to keep the pages from being just boring block text to look at visually. The TOC is laid out in what I found to be an excellent idea, in that the sections are credited with the contributing/main authors for each section.

OK....what is this book...and why do you need it? Well...follow me here. It's game night, you're setting up the encounter for your players, you've just started to give the description of the creatures they are facing and two of your players are already scanning their character sheets and are ignoring you now, a third is reaching for his critter killing 20....wait...wha?? This ever happen to you? Got a group of players that know the creatures just as well as you do? Annoying, isn't it? There's a great deal of the mystery gone when the play group knows what to expect, and how to fight it before you're even done explaining the freaking visual of what they see. So...how do you tackle this problem as a GM? Design completely new creatures? Well, sure, there is always that....but leaving behind some classic creatures would be such a shame...especially when there are so many easy fixes to this situation. And that my friends, is where this PDF comes in.

Right of the bat RAWR! Comes off as more than just a standard collection of new feats and traits, there is real world advice here, offered alongside concepts to try at your table. The concepts and ideas are presented sans system and mechanics, and are more editorial in their mannerism. Now, I will admit, this bugged me at first, until I realized this essentially turned the topic into a conversation, one between the reader and the authors. They are not so much laying out multiple options on page/screen as they are advising what they do at their own tables, with stories culled from previous games. The personal touch there really helps to connect with these pieces of advice, and make one see why they work better.

Now, interesting story ideas to make your creatures different from the standard speed-bump to treasure most players are used to facing aside, this is a collection of new material. And there are some interesting new ideas here to make sure mechanically your creatures have a few new tricks up their sleeves. 6 new Feats, with offerings such as Devious Web (Combat) – adding monster abilities that can be done in conjunction with a web casting...think Spiderman's tricks, but done right. Bone Shield (Combat) – allows for those with animate/control undead to use them as a “living” shield of sorts. Can actually say, after reading this feat that I was amazed this wasn't already available somewhere, as it seems like such an obvious combat tactic of something that can fill a battlefield with undead.

6 new Traits follow the Feats, with a simple rule of thumb when it comes to deciding what types of monsters deserve traits. Most of these traits could easily be applied to PCs of a monstrous background as well, half-orcs and such. Some of the trait names alone just make you want to spend a night hanging out at a game table with these guys....lol....Taste for Eyeballs, Rotten Limb, Bone Collector....OK, so the first one wins, hands down...lol.

From there we go to a couple of new critters...what? You thought there weren't going to be some new creatures to play with? First up, the Gravesbane Colossus...a CR 21 nightmare straight out a madman's twisted dream. Imagine, for a second, a graveyard standing up and walking off to go attack and kill whatever it came across...yeah, just standing up, as a massive hulking creature. Now, the artwork gives us a bipedal, the description says it has six limbs...I'll leave that to you to decide...either way, this is one seriously cool construct, with an even cooler creation ritual. Heck, the ritual to create one could easily become a storyline in and of itself with the players trying to stop it from happening.

And that brings us to the Sundered One. This thing is twisted...truly. And I applaud the boldness in going for it that caused this particular creature to earn TPK Games the slap on the fingers in regards to the compatibility license. It doesn't take much to see the original design in this creature, and I doubt in all reality anything mechanically had to be changed, it was probably all in the flavor text...what we are left with is a truly truly disturbing undead...thing. Oozing necromantic slime that makes even getting close enough to fight this creature dangerous long before the creature even attacks you. This twisted nightmarish creation does a very good job of channeling all of those late night Oriental Ghost stories into a weird, visually disturbing, mentally unbalancing oddity...oh, and then pumping it full of steroids, dumping a six pack on redbull down its throat and sending it screaming after you...Yeah...that kind of wicked creature design.

2 new magical items finish us off, the Belt of Bestial Woe – which grants an unstackable AC bonus along with the curse of lycanthropsy to its wearer...and no ridding oneself of the sudden furry lifestyle is not as easy as simply taking off the belt, lol. The Fiend's Pitchfork operates as a + weapon, with a smite good ability enhanced with a selection of handy perks.

Wrapping up, the sheer fact that the title tells us this is merely Volume 1 means there is more to come, new rules and ideas, spells and creatures, as well as improvements to the overall line. Editing wise I found only one mistake, and that was the repetition of a sentence within a paragraph...not bad, but not great either. The odd white area left from an attempt to lay one of the images as a transparent on the page background really makes the entire page look...well, less.

And, yeah...that's all I've got. Really...a sentence got repeated, and one picture probably needed more time in a picture editor being separated from its background before used....in all, I have got nothing negative in regards to the material itself. Now, as much as I enjoyed the conversational advice, I am wondering if that will continue or be toned back in further installments within this series...I imagine time will tell in that regard. Until then, I am going with a 4.5 for this product, rounding up to a 5 for the purposes of this forum's rating system. A good first offering for a new series, and an interesting concept for said series. I look forward to seeing where Vol.2 takes us.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rawr! - Volume 1: Fear and Dread
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