||Pirate weapons, new spells, a chaotic prestige class (with accompanying feats) and an enhanced hell hound is what you?ll find in this issue of Alea Publishing Group?s ?Poor Gamer?s Almanac.? Don?t let the price of this installment of the ??Almanac? fool you; even though this is a free download, there is some quality material to be found in this .pdf.
?Pirate Weapons? by Joshua Raynack details a number of weapons that would find use in a pirate-game or -campaign (without narrowing its focus so much as not to be useful in a non-nautical gaming situation). After a few brief paragraphs of concise background material, writer Raynack presents several new rules: concealment and Hide bonuses involved with black powder firearms; reliability as a mechanic for use with firing firearm weapons; and firing mechanisms that can be used to either increase a weapon?s reliability, range increment or time to reload. Additionally, rules are given for different loading types (muzzle-loaders and breech-loaders) and different barrel types (smooth barrels or rifle barrels). This section is a bit mechanics-heavy, but the new rules are easy to understand and use.
There aren?t just firearms listed among the ?Pirate Weapons.? Also included are more hand-to-hand-style weapons, like gully knives, boucan knives and boarding axes. Also the marlinespike is given stats as a weapon. These statistics and rules are well-rounded and -balanced, and can add a definite black powder flavor to your game. There?s even a new feat - Speed Loader - introduced to take advantage of some of these new weapons.
?Greater Hell Hounds? are nastier, meaner and more cunning versions of the hell hound. Cameron Guill has created an interesting and challenging beast that may thrill the DM but scare the players at the game table. These outsiders are a mixture of hell hounds and minor demons, and their enhanced intelligence definitely make them a threat most players would not see coming (especially since greater hell hounds tend to conceal themselves within a group of ?regular? hell hounds before revealing their true nature).
Unfortunately, past the initial description and statistics, not much more is said of the greater hell hounds. There are no plot hooks. These is no mention of where a greater hell hound may be encountered. At the beginning of this column, writer Guill states that if a greater hell hound is found outside its native plane, it is usually on a specific mission, yet no mention of just what kind of missions a greater hell hound would undertake is made.
(Additionally, as a nitpick, the cover of this ?Poor Gamer?s Almanac? proclaims the inclusion of the ?Greater Hellhounds? in this issue, even though the creatures are correctly referred to throughout the rest of this supplement as ?greater hell hounds.? Even in the Monster Manual, the name of the hell hound is made up of two words; it is not ?hellhound,? but rather ?hell hound.?)
Three spells are presented in ?Spells of the Month,? a new column in ?Poor Gamer?s Almanac.? Cameron Guill provides the writing for these three variations of the ?faerie fire? spell ? ?lesser reveal?, ?reveal? and ?greater reveal.? These three spells of varying intensities are druid-only spells, which might limit their use in a game, but when writer Guill states that these spells have been playtested for balance, it can be believed. These are fair spells; the only drawback is that ONLY a druid can cast them.
Shawn Folk is the writer behind the ?Harbinger of Chaos? prestige class. A character with the ability to rage can tap further into their personal chaos and fury and take levels in this prestige class. With class abilities like Chaotic Rage (adding harbinger of chaos levels to his or her rage bonus to Strength), Chaotic Toughness (adding to the rage bonus to Constitution) and Chaotic Resilience (adding the ability to expend a use of rage to gain temporary damage reduction), this prestige class would definitely appeal to the barbarian of the group.
Accompanying the prestige class is a handful of feats with the chaotic subtype. These feats (like Chaotic Vitality, Chaotic Sprint and Chaotic Reflexes) all use the character?s rage ability to produce other beneficial effects (like adding a +3 to Fortitude saves, adding a +10 bonus to speed or adding a +3 to Reflex saves, respectively). The feat Chaotic Mind, which, here, exchanges a use of a character?s rage for a +3 to Will saves, sticks out since there?s already a feat called Chaotic Mind created by Wizards of the Coast (from their ?Expanded Psionics Handbook?); a more unique name for this feat could have been chosen.
This ?Poor Gamer?s Almanac? is peppered throughout with ads and preview material for other Alea Publishing Group products. All in all, it is a solid supplement, and provides a variety of rules material that can be used at your game table.
LIKED: ?Poor Gamer?s Almanac? has a unified look ? the artwork of both the articles and the advertisements, the layout of the magazine, etc. is unified and helps to present a cohesive product. The variety of types of articles in this issue - pirate weapons, enhanced hell hounds and improved ?faerie fire? spells - makes this not just a supplement for just one gamer, but rather for an entire gaming table?s worth of gamers. Also, the price is perfect - it's free!
DISLIKED: While most of this supplement is well-edited and free of grammatical or typographical errors, the opening ?Thoughts From the Publisher? is scattered with incorrect wording or spelling and incomplete sentences. Also, in the ?Thoughts From the Publisher,? mention is made of the Alea Publishing Group?s upcoming 2d6 String System. However, more information about what this is can be gleaned from the full-page ad on a preceding page (it looks to be some sort of collectible card game with statistics that can be used for a table-top RPG).
QUALITY: Very Good
VALUE: Very Satisfied
[4 of 5 Stars!]