RPGNow.com
Close
New Account
 
  
 
 
You will lose your chance to get the free product of the week.
One-click unsubscribe later if you don't enjoy the newsletter.
Close
Log In
 
 Forgot password?
 

     or     Log In with your Facebook Account
Browse









Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Against the Darkness: Into the Fire
Publisher: Tabletop Adventures, LLC
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2013 13:53:13
Although I’m very glad to see a new release for “Against the Darkness” (albeit six years after the core rulebook), I cannot rate the product as high as I’d like to. “Into the Fire” is pretty straightforward and showcases the tone of “Against the Darkness” well. On the other hand, the adventure is a little too straightforward at critical junctures, and the production values are noticeably below those of the AtD core rulebook.

Let’s start with the adventure’s strengths, though. The plot is straightforward and very easy for a beginning GM to run. Author Vicki Potter has very helpfully provided guidance for running two versions (shorter and longer) of the scenario, a feature worthy of emulation. Various scenes in the adventure invite the Justiciars to make both mundane and miraculous contributions to resolving the scenario’s major problem, a forest fire. Overall, the adventure is a pretty good way for both GMs and players to become acquainted with “Against the Darkness.”

However, there are some noticeable downsides as well—but I cannot explain them without giving away some plot elements, so consider this sentence your spoiler alert! The product description begins with the setup: “An unnatural forest fire threatens a Catholic center for contemplation and prayer.” Based on this description, I expected some kind of connection between the fire and the retreat center. There really isn’t one; the center functions a lot like the village inn in a stereotypical fantasy RPG, a mechanism for having all the PCs together in one place at the beginning of the adventure. At crucial points in the story, vital clues just run straight into the Justiciar’s open arms (and that is close to a literal description of what happens). Again, I expected more investigation going in, but there’s not really much of that. The whole thing really is kind of predictable: unusual occurrences turn out to have a supernatural cause. I can see a real danger of an AtD campaign turning into a “demon of the week” kind of thing, and unfortunately this adventure falls into that pattern.

Finally, I have to note that the production values are well below those of the AtD rulebook. The use of clip art and stock photos from a variety of sources and in a variety of styles is fairly jarring and somewhat off-putting. The very first page features no fewer than five different typefaces, another aesthetic misstep. Even the Table of Contents wavers inexplicably between Times New Roman and Palatino (or the Windows clone thereof), uses colons inconsistently at the end of headings, and switches between colons and dashes about 2/3 of the way through. The inconsistencies and poor aesthetic choices don’t interfere with the adventure as such, but they do hamper my enjoyment of the product.

Now despite the last two paragraphs, I repeat that I’m very glad to see a published adventure for “Against the Darkness,” and I hope we’ll see more of them—with varied plotlines and threats, and with higher production values. I wish I could justify giving the product more stars, because I want to support and promote this product line. However, I have to be honest with myself and with review readers, and this adventure just isn’t as good as I wanted it to be, or as I normally expect Tabletop Adventures products to be.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I have contributed material to other Tabletop Adventures products [in the “Bits of” line], but I did not have anything to do with the production of “Into the Fire.”)

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkness: Into the Fire
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Against the Darkness
Publisher: Tabletop Adventures, LLC
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2013 03:09:31
Try to picture Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as Catholic priests instead of FBI agents, or Buffy Summers and her friends as seminary students instead of high school students, and you’re well on your way to getting into the spirit of “Against the Darkness.” The straightforward and effective rules set does a good job of covering many possibilities while remaining light on details. The task resolution system is used across the board for all situations, combat and non-combat. Die-hard “simulationist” gamers won’t be satisfied with the level of specificity; for example, a single “Combat” skill covers all forms of armed and unarmed combat, and almost all combat attacks deal the same amount of damage (which doesn’t require a die roll). However, if you can accept the system’s “coarseness,” you’ll find that the “rules light” approach allows you to keep the action moving along with minimal interruptions.

The rulebook bills the game’s genre as “Vatican horror,” and the PCs are assumed to work for or with a secretive order within a fictionalized version of the Roman Catholic Church. The treatment of religion (both institutional and otherwise) is fictionalized but respectful. Christian GMs and players might agree with the game’s implicit theology in the real world, but should not find it offensive in the fictional world. The game is flexible enough to accommodate anything from orthodox (if old-fashioned) Catholicism to a more Pentacostal flavor to something out of “The Exorcist” or “The Da Vinci Code.” (It might be relevant to mention here that I am personally a committed Protestant whose day job is teaching biblical studies at the undergraduate and master’s degree levels.)

I like the overall tone and mechanics of the game very much, but I do find the product lacking in a couple of respects. As a matter of production quality, the typeface choices are inconsistent and sometimes unattractive; for example, one body paragraph might be set in Garamond, the next in Times New Roman. However, with only a few exceptions, the book seems to have been well-edited; readers won’t be tripping over grammatical errors every paragraph or so, as is often the case with small-press publications. As a matter of content, I felt that Specializations could have been explained a bit more clearly, and the rulebook occasionally features some repetitions that could perhaps have been avoided. But the main thing that hampers the rulebook—and the primary reason for my 4-star rating instead of a 5-star rating—is the lack of a sample adventure with mechanics. Interludes of short fiction illustrate the kinds of stories one might tell with “Against the Darkness,” but these are not illustrated with game mechanics. The introduction claims that “[i]n this rulebook … you will find everything you need to understand the rules, create characters, and begin playing,” but that’s not quite true; the GM still needs to come up with an adventure for the PCs to experience. The rulebook does contain several intriguing campaign ideas, but the lack of an included mini-adventure or sample scenario is a significant omission. (Tabletop Adventures did later release an introductory adventure, but that was six years after the publication of the rulebook.)

All in all, “Against the Darkness” fills an interesting niche in the RPG market, and it does so rather well.

(In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I have contributed material to other Tabletop Adventures products [in the “Bits of” line], but I did not have anything to do with the production of “Against the Darkness.”)

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Darkness
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

ICONS: Operation Shatterstone!
Publisher: Ad Infinitum Adventures
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2013 02:05:06
Operation: Shatterstone combines the “planetary disaster” and “alien invasion” motifs into a rollicking fun ICONS adventure. Author Dain Lybarger has populated this adventure with compelling situations, engaging NPCs, and interesting villains. Many possible plot elements and variations are included, so even novice ICONS GMs should be able to run the adventure pretty easily. The adventure would work fine as a one-shot, the beginning to a campaign, or an episode within a larger campaign. Dan Houser’s artwork lives up to the high standards he’s set in previous ICONS products. The layout mimics the layout of Great Power, but reverts to Helvetica Neue for body type, resulting in an overall less attractive presentation. Dozens of grammatical and typesetting errors and/or inconsistencies unfortunately mar the presentation. These issues aren’t significant enough to impede readers’ understanding, but they are noticeable. If DTRPG supported half stars, I’d add half a star to my rating.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ICONS: Operation Shatterstone!
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Fantastic Maps - Iconic Island
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/15/2013 23:49:27
This “Fantastic Map” differs from most of its line in two notable ways. First, the scale; instead of a miniatures-scale battlemap, this map presents an exploration-scale overview of the titular island. When I say “exploration-scale,” understand that the map itself doesn’t prescribe a scale. The land mass presented could be a relatively small island or a large continent; it’s all up to you. Second, the format: instead of the usual PDFs, this map ships as a set of four JPGs, allowing for easy editing using Photoshop, GIMP, or a similar tool. Third, the icons: the product includes a folder full of beautifully-textured icons (in PNG format) that you can layer upon the JPG backgrounds to produce a keyed map to your own specifications. If you’re competent with an image-editing program that uses layers and opens both JPGs and PNGs, you’ll find this to be an excellent product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps - Iconic Island
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Ground set #15 - Astral Plane
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/14/2013 14:24:06
Like all LZW Ground Sets, Astral Plane offers a substantial collection of 6x6 tiles in various configurations, with a “pavement” texture sitting atop a background texture. In this case, the background looks like outer space, and the pavement looks like bumpy green cobblestones. Many tiles are punctuated with ripples or vortexes of purple energy. The whole effect is sufficiently odd to befit an exotic setting like an astral plane, and the artwork beautifully complements LZW’s Battlemap: The Plane of Havoc. However, the Astral Plane tiles are 6x6 and the Plane of Havoc tiles are 7x10 with well-defined outside borders, so they don’t really fit together that well as a practical matter.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ground set #15 - Astral Plane
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Battlemap - The Plane of Havoc
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/14/2013 14:22:39
This latest in LZW’s series of battlemaps with a connected storyline brings characters into an otherworldly realm “paved” with something that looks like green cobblestones. The artwork is beautifully executed, but perhaps a little too tightly tied into LZW’s ongoing story. The map is long and thin, with unfortunate bottlenecks at a few points, making it a little bit “railroady.” The really significant negative, though, is the depiction of Abaddon chained at the end of the “room.” Having him pictured on the map ties him down, either making him more of a terrain feature than a creature or forcing players and DMs to ignore the printed representation if Abaddon gets loose. Also, although the artwork here blends beautifully with the artwork in LZW’s Ground Set #15 - Astral Plane, the Astral Plane tiles are 6x6 and the Plane of Havoc tiles are 7x10 with well-defined outside borders, so they don’t really fit together that well as a practical matter.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemap - The Plane of Havoc
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Limited offer - Abaddon [BUNDLE]
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2013 00:31:10
This bundle is a great way to get the three included products at a discounted price. Please see my reviews of the individual products for details about each one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Limited offer - Abaddon [BUNDLE]
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Dragon Magazine Annual, Vol. 1 (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/10/2013 01:27:49
This volume, the first and only Dragon Magazine Annual from the 4e era, contains a selection of 14 articles from the first year of Dragon Magazine’s PDF-only, 4e run. About half of the articles are really DM material, such as the articles on Yeenoghu, kobolds, Orcus cults, and the Bloodghost Syndicate. All of these articles are a lot of fun, and can really enrich any campaign’s use of the creatures and organizations described therein. Of course, the stat blocks reflect the first year’s monster math, and most DMs will want to update the math before actually using the creatures. For players, you have star pact warlocks, feats for gladiators and assassins, paragon paths for gladiators and planar-attuned characters, and so on. Several of the articles on the player side tend toward the darker aspects of D&D (dhampyr, shadar-kai, assassins), and I personally wouldn’t have chosen them for a showcase volume like this one.

If you subscribe to D&D Insider, you have all of the information in this compilation already, including the original versions in Dragon Magazine. If you’re not an Insider and you DM 4th edition, you’ll find half or more of the volume to be useful, if you update the monster math according to the guidelines given in the latest rules updates. The fact that there was only one such annual suggests that non-subscribers weren’t that interested in the material compiled here.

This PDF has better bookmarking than the Dungeon Magazine Annual, although the bookmarks still seem to have been auto-generated rather than created by hand. There’s no need, for example, for a bookmark to the front cover, and when you burrow into the bookmarks at lower levels, some of the anchors don’t make a lot of sense.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dragon Magazine Annual, Vol. 1 (4e)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Pro RPG Audio: Clockwork Factory
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2013 20:54:36
This piece is nothing more or less than a repeated clockwork tick-tock punctuated by heavy cogs turning—exactly as advertised. Unlike some RPG background pieces, this one has no music, only sound effects. As I first listened, I kept thinking of the scenes inside Big Ben in Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. If you’re playing D&D, this piece would work great in the background while encountering modrons or making a visit to their clockwork plane. And unlike some RPG MP3 publishers, Plate Mail has paid careful attention to the ID3 tags and has even embedded artwork (of a sort, just words on a maroon background) in the MP3 file. Just drop it into iTunes or similar software and go!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Clockwork Factory
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Scary discovery
Publisher: Arkania Studios
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2013 14:52:29
The music in this MP3 would work reasonably well under a short RPG scene in which the PCs make a “Scary Discovery.” A feeling of suspense and urgency permeates the track, but the track remains nonintrusive enough that it enhances rather than distracts from gameplay. The track does not appear to have been composed with looping in mind, however, and the fade-in and fade-out produce a gap of silence when you loop the track. On the negative side, if the titular discovery is scary, the metadata tags in this MP3 are downright terrifying. The album is given as “Album de geoffrey gerbou” and the track’s title is given as “original theme 2 jdr d”—the latter being particularly annoying because I wouldn’t think to search my iTunes library for “original theme 2 jdr d” to find a track that’s supposed to be called “Scary Discovery.” No artwork was embedded in the MP3 or included with the download, leaving the track with an ugly generic tile in iTunes or similar software. Sure, the track is only $1, but when you’re selling digital music at any price you should pay attention to industry conventions and user expectations, and you shouldn’t make it hard for your customers to use your product.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Scary discovery
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Dungeon Magazine Annual, Vol. 1 (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2013 13:37:15
That WotC decided never to release a second Dungeon Magazine Annual, despite the implications of the title, tells you something about sales figures, which in turn reflects the gaming public’s perception of the product’s utility. This book contains five adventures reprinted from the first year of the WotC digital edition of Dungeon Magazine. In order of presentation, these are “Menace of the Icy Spire” (2nd level, Forgotten Realms); “Winter of the Witch” (22nd level, with links to “Keep on the Shadowfell”); “Throne of the Stone-Skinned King” (15th level, Scales of War adventure path); “Storm Tower” (3rd level); “Heart of the Forbidden Forge” (7th level, Eberron). From a brief scan of the contents, you can see that the volume is best approaches as a “showcase of what D&D 4e can do.” The adventures chosen cannot easily be linked together into a campaign, nor do they even occur in the same cosmos. Dropping into the middle of the Scales of War adventure path can be quite jarring, limiting the practicality of that adventure. The Forgotten Realms and Eberron adventures are pretty tightly tied to the lore of those settings, so relocating them will take some work. If you’re a D&D Insider subscriber, there’s no reason for you to pick up this compilation; download the individual adventures and issues of Dungeon instead. If you’re not, you might enjoy running the adventures. Be aware, however, that the product has not been updated to reflect post-Monster Vault statistics, so running the monsters as written might result in easier fights than you’re expecting from the more mature versions of 4e monster math.

With regard to production values, the layout is attractive and the artwork is wonderful. But the product falls significantly short of expectations for a PDF. WotC did not bother to crop the pages down from printer’s sheets (so you get color bars, crop marks, etc. in the margins) and did not bother to bookmark the file. Two bookmarks exist, but they’re the ones auto-created by combining multiple files using Adobe tools, so they point to pages 1 (the cover) and 2 (the title page). This is particularly disappointing for this product, whose “table of contents” isn’t a table at all, but a series of paragraphs in Chris Youngs’s introduction.

I was never terribly excited about this book in print, and the PDF version, though costing noticeably less, doesn’t add any value beyond the print version. I’m not sure why WotC chose to roll out this book as one of the early 4e offerings at D&D Classics, but I don’t find it to be one of the more useful products in the line.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Magazine Annual, Vol. 1 (4e)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Peacekeepers: ICONS edition
Publisher: GRAmel
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2013 00:00:56
Peacekeepers has an engaging premise: superheroes helping to rebuild the world after an alien invasion. Sure, variations on this have been done before, but author Jakub Osiejewski does a good job implementing it. The text covers a broad range of considerations relevant to the setting’s world, but without straightjacketing creative GMs. For GMs wanting more guidance, Osiejewski offers adventure seeds for five linked scenarios that could form a satisfying campaign, as well as two more fully described one-shot adventures. There’s even a system for randomly generating adventures (using a deck of cards instead of dice) that GMs who enjoy that sort of thing (or are short on time) can use to replace or supplement the one given in the ICONS core rulebook. The writing is lively and engaging, though some of the conventions seem to waver between American and European English. The layout is pretty nice and evokes the feel of a comic book, but the mixing of black-and-white and full-color clip art is a little distracting, and you may find yourself wondering where you’ve seen that artwork before. On balance, the book is pretty good, especially if the backstory of its campaign world sounds like a place where you’d want to set your ICONS adventures.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Peacekeepers: ICONS edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2013 02:03:28
There was never much doubt that I’d love an A-to-Z summary of characters, creatures, places, tomes, and so on from H. P. Lovecraft’s influential corpus of weird fiction and related works inspired by Lovecraft’s story world(s)—and Dan Harms delivers in spades. I have only used the ePub version within iBooks on an iPad, so I can’t speak to the other formats. But the ePub version works great. The essay that the beginning on the origins and scope of the “Cthulhu Mythos” is quite valuable, too. Any Lovecraft aficionado or Cthulhu-curious reader will appreciate this book.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

ICONS: Gamemaster Screen
Publisher: Ad Infinitum Adventures
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2013 01:57:46
Does a game as straightforward as ICONS really need a GM screen? “Need” might be too strong a word, but ICONS GMs will certainly find much to like about this low-priced collection of tables and reminders. Also, a printable GM screen might seem inconvenient, but it’s great for those running the game from an iPad or similar tablet, or for GMs who, like me, use customizable GM screens that allow you to swap out insert pages. The PDFs (the screen and printer versions contain the same charts) provide eight pages of tables. Here’s a quick rundown, by page:

1. The standard scale from ICONS, test formulas, outcomes, the “Benchmarks” table from Great Power, and a table of dice probabilities. All but the last are close to indispensable. Fans have been asking for benchmarks for years, and I’m always forgetting where the cutoffs are for major and massive successes and failures. It should be noted that the outcomes table incorporates the “0 = marginal success” concept from the still-unreleased ICONS Team-Up product from Adamant Entertainment. This would definitely make the cut for my three-panel customizable GM screen, even though I really have no use for the dice probabilities table. I would much rather have had the “Uses for Determination” panel from p. 5 here instead.

2–4. Character creation tables. Page 2 includes origin, level determination, number of powers and specialties, and power type tables. Pages 3–4 include power tables for each of the power types, and p. 4 has a list of specialties. The power tables assume the use of Great Power rather than the original ICONS rulebook. (This is a good thing, but you should be aware of it going in.) I wouldn’t really want or need these in-game.

5. A collection of sample vehicles, definitions of the distance categories, and a bullet list of ways to use Determination. I’m inclined to cut out the “Uses of Determination” list and paste it on an index card to hand to players for their quick reference. I would definitely include this page in my customizable screen.

6. Random plot elements, villain origin, and a strong reminder to keep Determination flowing freely. I might include this as the third panel in my customizable screen if I expected to play pick-up games of ICONS. Otherwise, I’d just refer to it on-screen during my game prep.

7. A collection of sample animals, reproduced from the ICONS core rulebook. I think I’d keep this nearby, but probably wouldn’t insert it into my screen (if I had four panels, I’d include it, but I only have three).

8. A collection of stock characters and a collection of dinosaurs. I’d probably use this as my third panel, for the stock characters. There’s also a big ICONS logo here, which I don’t really need, but I’m not sure what else they might have put down there. Probably a table of weapons and other common devices would have been more useful than dinosaurs.

I’m very happy with this product except for one thing: the PDF presents the pages in portrait orientation, although the material is arranged on the pages in landscape orientation. In other words, when you open this on your computer or tablet screen, the pages will be sideways. You can quickly rotate the pages in Adobe Reader, but you shouldn’t have to. This, however, is really the product’s only significant drawback, and something that Ad Infinitum could easily fix with an update.

The “PF” (for “printer-friendly”) PDF omits the “heroes vs. villains” artwork that Dan Houser contributed for the outward-facing side of the screen, so look for it in the other PDF. The package also includes a panoramic JPG, but you’ll probably find it more convenient to print out the version from the PDF. While the artwork is beautifully executed in Dan’s signature style, the layout is disappointing because the three panels overlap. The repetition of elements from the center panel on the side panels creates an unattractive and distracting visual “stuttering.” Personally, I would probably use the outer panels only, replacing the center panel with page 1, with a copy of the “Uses of Determination” table pasted over the dice probabilities table.

So the product isn’t perfect, but it’s incredibly useful and only a dollar. The cost-to-benefit ratio is really, as we say in ICONS, “off the scale.”

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ICONS: Gamemaster Screen
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Dungeon Props :: Kit 01
Publisher: Inspired Device
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2013 00:04:30
This product includes both a printable prop—a circular maze that changes as the PCs move through it—and a storyline to help DMs use the maze. The artwork is well done and the maze is cleverly designed. The writing isn’t quite as good as the prop, but the prop itself is worth the price, so you’ll get your money’s worth even if you don’t use the suggested storyline.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Props :: Kit 01
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 106 to 120 (of 706 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG