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Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2013 06:58:41
Shadowrun Core Rulebook, Fifth Edition, which is the newest version of that classic game system. Like all new editions it has changes, some which are improvements and others which may or may not be but without a doubt it is a well laid out and pretty to look at. If you are a fan of Shadowrun, it is definitely worth taking a look at the latest version of the core rules.

Catalyst Labs has released the fifth edition of the Shadowrun core rules, to coincide with the Year of Shadowrun, and it is a beautiful presentation, nearly five hundred, full color pages. It covers all you would expect, and all you need to start, as far as gaming in the Sixth World is concerned. The basic system, a dice pool system, works well and the rules show how to use it very clearly. The major change from the last edition is the introduction of ‘limits’ usually based on the characters’ statistics and divided into physical, mental and social (with some exceptions we will look at in a moment) which are tied to various skills and limit the maximum successes a character can achieve. Honestly, not sold on the limit system though it can be overcome by use of edge, a special statistic that represents a character luck and ability to overcome trouble, but still not convinced that it adds anything beyond extra complexity to the system.

The character creation system returns to the priority system where you choose a set of priorities for you character (species, skills, statistics, resources and magic) and those give you the pieces needed to assemble your character . . . but some of the choices then include a nested set of sub-choices and you are given a block of points, which you can add to by taking flaws, to customize your characters. The advantage of a priority system over a point system, in theory, is that it makes choices clear. This system seems to me to combines the worst aspects of both, that priority systems are naturally more limited and deny flexibility with the point tracking and bonus seeking of a point-based system. There are a set of sixteen pre-built archetypes, so you can pick up play directly (though it would have been nice if the priorities used to built them were noted so you would have an idea of what a particular set of build choices lead to).

Skills are nicely presented though, oddly, it does not mention under gymnastic that it is the skill used for dodging in combat. Combat has been made more interactive, at a slight increase of complexity for the initiative system, and more deadly than 4th edition both of which strike me as positive changes. Weapons have an accuracy statistic that determine their success limit, rather than using the character’s physical limit, and even melee weapons have an accuracy statistic which seems a bit strange to me. Vehicle combat gets its own section and it looks as though it is properly integrated with the rest of the combat system now.

As it is a new edition, the Matrix and hacking rules have been revised again. They seem to be much clearer now and the technomancer rules are properly integrated into the system, the greater importance of the Global Overwatch Division in matrix security. Riggers are (for the first time) properly included in the core rule book with rules that dovetail nicely with the vehicle combat rules (as they need to).

As for the Matrix, so for Magic, the rules are cleaned up with enchanting and alchemy enhanced and a new type of magician (at least to me), the Mystic Adept who combines adept abilities with the full range of magic (except for astral projection) which strikes me as quite powerful. Overall, the magic system looks clean and as easy to use as it is likely to get for Shadowrun.

The Game Mastering advice is quite good, especially about discussing with a group what everyone wants out of a campaign. Good advice on structuring games especially for the traditional shadowrun (and a set of random tables for inspiration), using non-player characters, appropriate threats and rewards is presented. Contacts are further detailed and rules for favors are systematized. Creatures, toxins and drugs round out the game master’s section.

The book ends with a list of useful gear ranging from weapons to vehicles, cyberware to surveillance equipment. Certainly everything needed for initial forays in the world of 2075. Lastly there are a selection of full color art ‘plates’ including covers from all of the previous editions of Shadowrun. These are quite nice to look at.

While I am not thrilled by the general limit system, though I like their application in spellcasting and the matrix system, and the return to the priority system overall it is a solid edition of Shadowrun and if you are a fan of the setting, it is well worth taking a look at.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Fifth Edition Core Rulebook
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The Malefactor Base Class
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2013 22:24:12
The Malefactor, a new base class, by Total Party Kill Games is built around an interesting idea, a person who is a nexus of ill-fortune and can inflict it upon others. A very cleverly designed class with almost too much mechanical complexity, as its primary abilities cause a lot of tracking of effects, but if you are up to that, it should be a fun class to play and a challenging opponent to encounter. The inclusion of HeroLab files for the Malefactor as part of this product increases its usability for those who own that handy program.

Malefactors are the fortunate unfortunate few, cursed with a malicious spirit called a Yla, the Malefactor has learned to work with it to direct its harm to others in a (mostly) controlled fashion. The Malefactor is a midrange combatant outside their powers with access to a decent range of both weapons and armor and a good selection of skills (with sufficient skill points to be competent in several) for further flexibility.

But the main strength of the Malefactor is the ability to call down minor curses (called maledictions) on their opponents, however, this usually require them to get in close (20' range until 8th level, increasing after 8th level) so their combat skills will be needed. Their options and power of the maledictions increase as the Malefactor gains levels. They also have an interesting sideline in curse breaking (which is the focus of one of the archetype presented for the class).

Five archetypes, favor class bonuses by race and nine new feats round out the class. An example Malefactor (Talitha Shadowtongue, the Tiefling on the cover) is presented at 11th level so that one can see what a powerful Malefactor can do. The only thing missing is a class oriented magic item or two to really complete the package but overall, a very solid class.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Malefactor Base Class
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Call to Arms: Archer's Arsenal
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 15:57:41
Call to Arms: Archer’s Arsenal by Fat Goblin’s Games is a collection of bows, crossbows, arrows and accessories both mundane and magical. I like that each item has a short description though some of the mundane items (foot bow and drum-fed repeating crossbow, for example) are verging on silly. Overall, the items are useful and interesting mechanically but some abilities (such as the crossbow of inevitability) could have been a new weapon quality, the mundane options for arrows (such as broad-headed) should have damage changes be based off the arrow’s size otherwise small sized archers can really take advantage of them. Overall, however, this product has many useful tools here for archers and crossbow users.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Call to Arms: Archer's Arsenal
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Forager's Guild: An Organization
Publisher: Asparagus Jumpsuit
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 15:55:02
The Forager’s Guild for Pathfinder by Asparagus Jumpsuit is a short document presenting an “adventurer’s guild” that can be easily adapted for most campaigns, proving a base of operations, resources and training and a clearing house for adventure. Three of the upper level members of the guild are detailed for use as advisors, trainers and generally useful people as are a squad of bugbears converted to good who act as agents for the guild. Some fun, and very classic, things to play around with here, worth your time to look at if such a group would have a place in your campaign.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forager's Guild: An Organization
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Elemental Builder for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Asparagus Jumpsuit
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 15:54:07
Elemental Builder for Pathfinder by Asparagus Jumpsuit is a short document presenting a simple system for constructing elementals (using a bacon elemental as an example!). While a useful resource, it would have been helped by a step by step walkthrough of elemental building and maybe a few fully statted example elementals. Berin Kinsman is a creative fellow and I would have liked to have seen him display it a bit further with this product.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Elemental Builder for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
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Spells of the Animal Kingdom
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2013 15:52:21
Spells of the Animal Kingdom by Otherverse Games is a collection of animal-themed spells, building from spells such as Bull’s Strength and the other animal-named enhancing spells. There are twenty-five new spells here (not counting the mass versions of the spells) divided up into minor (seven spells of 2nd level or below), average (twelve spells of 2nd level) and major (six spells of 3rd level or higher). Good things about these spells: quite a few of them are built around interesting non-combat applications and several of the combat oriented ones have interesting, if narrow, applications (Mongoose’s Alacrity will be prized by any dragon or snake hunter for instance, or Horse’s Swishing Tail which is an anti-swarm effect). Bad things: Several are missing the material component needed, others seem either too weak or too strong for their level, Bear’s Slumber is -inadvertently- a stunningly effective combat spell and Rabbit’s Fecundity just seems problematic. Still, there is a lot of inspiration here if you wish to play around with animal-themed magic just consider the effect of each spell carefully before allowing it into your campaign.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Spells of the Animal Kingdom
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Shadowrun: The Way of the Samurai
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2013 16:13:17
The Way of the Samurai, while I was not overly thrilled with the in game universe framework for this, the mechanics are all solid. With new advantages (available only to the cybered), cybernetic suites designed for street samurai, and some new cyberware (revamping the old booster reflexes and new arm blades) and the archetypes -one for each race using the rules included here- are good and useful, even if they use art recycled from the first edition, which I found nostalgic more than anything else, though I miss the original character write up for the Ork street sam.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Way of the Samurai
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Shadowrun: Sprawl Sites: North America
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2013 16:12:35
Sprawl Sites: North America, is a collection of places each described with a color map in two versions (one with numbered areas for the GM and one without for the players). Each location has a short description keyed to the map, a set of adventure seeds and a piece of a linked adventure that visits all of the locations. Quite a useful resource if you are a fan of maps, the adventure seeds are mostly interesting and enough to inspire a run as needed. Though a brief notation on the matrix security for each of the locations would have been a useful addition to the descriptions provided.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sprawl Sites: North America
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Shadowrun: The Land of Promise
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2013 16:05:48
Land of Promise, updating information on the elven nation of Tir Tairngire to the current era of Shadowrun. Most of the product is in setting discussion of the Tir and its current situation, heavy on politics and attitudes light on actual data, the original Tir Tairngire book would almost seem needed to be able to use this to present the Tir as part of a campaign. The adventure seeds are uninspired but the character trove (write ups of generic NPCs) which include a variety of gang members as well as Tir police could be quite useful.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Land of Promise
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Shadowrun: Bottled Demon
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/09/2013 16:04:45
Bottled Demon, the real deal from 1990 (complete with ads!), scanned to PDF for your reading and gaming pleasure. Not an adventure I ever played back when it was new, but one that I always wanted to. A dangerous and mysterious magical artefact, legendary elven killers, a hard driving Lone Star cop and dragons, it hits so many of the key points of the Shadowrun setting in one adventure. That being said, it is also an adventure written in 1980 and it really tries to force the action down certain channels but it should be a fun ride in the hands of a good GM. Though, as with all of the scanned early adventures, it suffers from not having a conversion to the current edition of Shadowrun, especially with the 2050 setting book available that would be some good cross marketing.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Bottled Demon
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Shadowrun: Euro War Antiques
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2013 21:50:51
Euro War Antiques provides a mixture of setting information and new old equipment for the Shadowrun setting. Both parts are fairly focused in their application but could be invaluable for the right campaign, but not for all campaigns.

Euro War Antiques is a source book for Shadowrun. It is divided into two parts:

• History of the Euro Wars, an overview of the conflicts that shattered Europe and allowed the corporations to gain a stranglehold on the continent. While I am not entirely convinced by this future history, it is interesting, though some maps would have made it easier to follow.
• Equipment used by the various forces, most of these are military vehicles and weapons, with a few man portable weapons, but mostly heavy metal. If you have need for a variety of older tanks or aircraft, this will have you covered and it is interesting to see the write-ups for current (i.e. 2013) vehicles such as the M1 Abrams, HMMWV and the Leopard.

Both sections have in-world commentary by various source which provide some amusing insights and additional information. While exceptionally useful if you need some background on the Euro Wars or some antique heavy weapons, it may not prove very useful outside those confines. Just know why you are buying it and you will not be disappointed.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Euro War Antiques
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The War Dancer
Publisher: Drop Dead Studios
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/27/2013 19:39:41
The War Dancer is a combat focused class that specializes in mobility and manipulating circumstances on the battlefield. It has potential for those who like unusual combat and maneuver-based combatants but should be watched for potential abuse.

The War Dancer is an intriguing class, emphasizing mobility and battlefield control. They have a good selection of skills, two good saves and a set of additional abilities accessed through their dances, of which there are a wide variety. They are also a semi-spell casting class similar to rangers gaining up to 4th level spells starting at 4th level with spells continuing their focus on mobility and cooperative action.

War Dancers do not use armor (with the exception of the archetype) but gain other ways to defend themselves. The dances are their main trick but can only be used for a limited amount of time each day, the dances become more powerful as the War Dancer progresses and, at higher level, they can combine two dances.

Two archetypes, which show how the War Dancer can be adapted for various culture, two new spells and four feats round out the product. Overall, an interesting and flexible class but it maybe a bit front loaded in abilities possibly making it tempting for power-gamers.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The War Dancer
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Hostile Takeover
Publisher: Gun Metal Games
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2013 10:13:57
Cyberpunks, interested in how the other half lives (and works)? Hostile Takeover is a resource to allow you to play characters working for the megacorporations who rule the world in the near, dark future. Both as a guide for corporate-based games and as a resource for building and playing the corporations, Hostile Takeover is a useful and amusing resource.

Hostile Takeover is a Savage Worlds/Interface Zero source book on working for the mega-corporation from GunMetal Games. It is divided into two parts:

• The New Employee Orientation Handbook, which is the players’ section with options for characters (including new edges and flaws) and the new rules that affect them, such as the sweet expense account rules and a short catalog of toys to be purchased with such.
• The Policy and Procedure Manual, which is the game master’s section including advice on running a corporate game, mood, and a discussion of how to build interesting corporations using trapping along with seven example corporations.

Both sections have in-world commentary by former and current employees of the mysterious company which provide some amusing insights.

While a campaign framework is provided in Hostile Takeover it is only that, a framework, considerable work will be needed to expand it into a playable campaign. That being said, there are some useful tools here. There is a good amount of advice and general tools that could be applied to any cyberpunk/megacorporate setting but possibly not enough to justify buying it if you do not play Interface Zero/Savage Worlds.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hostile Takeover
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Ley Lines
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2013 13:03:40
If you have considered adding ley lines, or similar magical phenomenon, to your Pathfinder world this product should be a useful resource. Not perfect by any means, but a good starting point for thinking about such magics in a world.

Ley Lines is a Pathfinder source book from Scorched Urf’ studios detailing ley lines, that is the lines of magical force that can exist in a game world (and some say exist on Earth). It details various types of ley lines, divided by color, how they affect magic (and more) and what sort of patterns (“world lace”) they can form to enhance world building along with a meta-explanation for why multiple worlds have ley lines.

To further integrate ley lines into the existing rules there is: a goddess with a new clerical domain and nested sub-domains. A prestige class, Geomancer, whose skill list has not made the transition from 3.5 to Pathfinder. A magic weapon trait and new material (ley ash). With quite a few feats, some of which do not require ley lines including my favorite, Arcane Dancer, however I deeply fear that the Elemental Dominance chain of metamagic feats are overpowered and very abusable. Lastly there are traits linked to ley lines. This product provides a wealth of ley line related resources of various levels of usability.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ley Lines
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Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2013 15:09:43
This adventure is dark, weird, bizarre and quite wonderful, very old school and wacky. If you do not mind letting something a little outre loose in your campaign world, then give Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess a try, I do not think you will be disappointed.

Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess is a short module for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess weird fantasy RPG but compatible with most OSR style games (or similar games, I ran it with Pathfinder).

The basic plot is straight forward, recover and rescue a group of displaced halflings for a reward of course (this is old school, people are not expected to do thing because they are nice). They must be tracked into the Dark Wood, which comes with a fantastic set of random encounters, to find out where the halflings have gone.

Where they have gone is a literal land of milk and honey with gingerbread houses and everyone is happy or else. Perfect poodles, animated teddy bears and impish cupids enforce mandatory happiness on the surviving halflings. To free them, an ivory tower must be stormed, a fairy queen defeated and, possibly, dark deals must be made.

While the structure of the adventure seems humorous, it is a very dark humor and the stakes can be very high. One of the best modules I have ever read and that it also plays well, just makes it perfect.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess
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