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    The Iron Realm Adventure Log and Strategy Guide Chapters 1-10
    Publisher: The Iron Realm
    by John H. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 06/12/2021 03:25:53

    I've finished my Chapter 10 Adventure Writeup for the Roleplayer's Campaign, so this is an optimal time to review the first strategy guide in the series, this one covering Chapters 1-10, for The Iron Realm, "the World's First Play-By-Podcast Campaign" (p. 3). Maze Master Abel Enzo states in the guide's introduction that, "[i]f you are new to The Iron Realm, then there is no better place to start than with [this guide]" (p. 3). Now I would have previously argued that The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG Solitaire Essentials and Gaming Guide would best come first. That's what I said in my review of The Iron Realm: Enter The MegaDungeon here on DriveThruRPG, and the Maze Master had suggested in Enter The MegaDungeon that Enter The MegaDungeon contained "all the gaming resources you need to begin" (p. 24).

    The best place to start really depends on the sort of player that you are. For myself, it was Solitaire Essentials and Gaming Guide because I wanted to know all of the rules and what I would be getting myself into. For my friend's birthday (the first one of whom I got some of The Iron Realm books for in any case), I provided him with a softcover of Enter the MegaDungeon to start because I thought that he would enjoy the listening part more. Having played through as much of the game as I have now, I would say that I would recommend that most start with the Adventure Log and Strategy Guide, which, had I done, I would not have had to listen to Chapters 1-4 again, learning in this guide that "Normally, the Writeup for a given chapter must be completed prior to beginning the next" (p. 7), especially since the Adventure Log is there for the player to work their way forward from chapter to chapter. Also, as far as the contradiction of why the creator would recommend the Strategy Guide over Enter The MegaDungeon, the guide is a later product, appearing on DriveThruRPG over 4 months later.

    The strategy guide devotes an entire page to describing a multiplayer way to play the podcast with a group as part of its Introduction (p. 8). If somehow this game had come along during the late 1970s or early 1980s with the podcast episodes being released on cassettes and accompanied by the guides, I think that this game would have been totally "taking the world by storm" (p. 3), as something to rival Gygax et al as the destination for otherworldly forays with friends. As it stands, I have gifted three friends on their birthdays in the past three months with The Iron Realm digital and physical products, all with uncertainty as to whether they will play or to what extent. This is not to say that I would not wish the game to grow in popularity in the attention economy of the 2020s. You can read my review of The Onyx Vault to learn how much I revere what has been attempted with this product and creator Abel Enzo's stalwart devotion to this visionary endeavor that he has conceived. (And truly there is a lot more to be gleaned from the playing of the game since I am foreseeing a way in which this game's revolutionary concepts can be applied to almost any existing world's lore, layering in all new considerations when writing fan fiction, especially for worlds of which one is not yet a fan).

    Since I plan on reviewing each Strategy Guide separately, my rating for each will likely differ. As to why I gave this one four stars (when I could have earned Ranks of Renown to protect me from a creature race in game as part of a 5-Star Review), it has to do with the product having plenty of room for improvement. Most notably, there are pages in it that you won't use playing through Chapters 1-10. So if you were to order a print-on-demand copy of the book, these pages might never get used since the later strategy guides have an identical format, and you would likely use the pages in the guide associated with the chapters where they are needed. Since I printed my copy via FedEx Office Print Online in a beautiful spiral-bound full color edition for around $30 with Abel's permission, I retained all of the pages since I had no idea that some would not get used in the first ten chapters. For the later guides that I've ordered through FedEx, in addition to obtaining translucent front and back covers that totally rock the way they look and help to protect them from the environment and time in which I primarily write, during long hot soaks in the bathtub, I've begun to edit my copies of the PDFs for printing what I think that I'll need (and that allow me to print off the inside back cover art as the back so that each has a different back cover in addition to a different front cover).

    Before I go into the detail of what pages are unnecessary, if you play the Roleplayer's Campaign, and you really dive into the writing, you will likely need many more Adventure Writeup pages than what are provided. Matter of fact, when I ordered my edited print of the Strategy Guide for Chapters 11-20, I added 25 additional pages, and it still wasn't enough (I made it to Chapter 7 of my Writeups, page 12 out of 14). So then I ordered a partial Extended Play Adventure Log print, using the picture introducing that part from the first Adventure Log as its cover, and included beyond the copyright page only Adventure Writeup pages as the next 98 pages (of which I had used 40 by the time that I reached the end of my 22-page Adventure Writeup for my Chapter 10). The rest of the pages in my ordered print were five additional Sacred Writ pages and the inside back cover of the first guide as this extra print's back cover.

    Since you can earn Ranks of Renown for every thirty minutes of writing Adventure Writeups if you are participating in the Legendary Powers Global Fandom, Sacred Writs could easily overpower the game for a Roleplayer's Campaign where the roleplayer spends hours and hours writing, researching, and editing their work (ten ranks are earned per hour, which all double if you post your work online for others to read), and it can become like work tracking all of those Ranks too. Since I want there to be some creatures left to challenge my character, I have decided to just reward myself with one Sacred Writ each chapter (although I'll have at least two going into Chapter 11 since I wrote a 5-Star Review of The Onyx Vault, which is worth 100 Ranks of Renown and a Sacred Writ all on its own). There are even some Ranks of Renown that I have left to tabulate for other Paths to Glory that I had not considered when I started the game. And if you want to know about all of these, the Solitaire Essentials and Gaming Guide lists them all (so far as I know since I have just begun to explore The Onyx Vault, which you can read about in my review of that product).

    So back to the pages that I felt were unnecessary for this first guide: the Relic Writeup (page 14), which, according to the sheet, is introduced in Chapter 43 of the podcast (in the fifth Strategy Guide, which means you're going to have one of these in guides 2-4 that you won't be using right away either if you're just playing the podcast and not designing your own dungeon); Transcendent Disciplines (pp. 15-6), which are first introduced in Chapter 10, and the latter of which you would not be able to obtain for quite some time since you need 20 Ranks in one of the first four before you can even choose working toward the further four; two more Relic Writeup sheets in the Extended Play segment (pp. 46-7); and two Challenges of the Maze Master sheets (pp. 50-1). There were additional sheets that I did not get any use out of yet (an Adventure Notes sheet, p. 13; Facts of Importance sheets pp. 48-9) and one that I would not want to use unless I had to (Heroic Death Writeup sheet, p. 38), but I can see the reason for including these sheets.

    What I found myself sorely missing with the provision of those latter sheets was a Character History sheet. Personal History / Family get relegated to part of the Profile Writeup sheet with room for eight handwritten lines. Now some players might need only that many, but considering the amount of questions asked about the player's character (known as Character Eight) in the fifth podcast as inspiration to help flesh the character out, they may find themselves wanting more too. I ended up using my own notebook for Personality, only six handwritten lines in the guide, and supporting evidence of my character's traits, compiled in 21 handwritten lines by me. In my notebook, I had an Important Facts section, which included a lot of my character's history from The Other World that he had been taken from, five handwritten lines in the guide, and 27 handwritten lines for me. For story purposes, I also outlined three alignment paths (27 handwritten lines), depending on which destiny I decide for my character to ultimately follow. Now I suppose that, had I understood the full range for what the Facts of Importance sheets could be used, I suppose that I might have used those for my character's history or other details as one is allowed to use them for "History Discovered," but I think that this meant history of The Iron Realm and The Maze more than my character's history).

    Also, the Maze Master provides rules segments, "Secrets of The Maze Master," in his podcast that are not really outlined in the strategy guide as they do not pertain to Character Eight. While I have been handwriting these in that separate notebook for future reference for when I decide to run my own campaign in The Iron Realm, I am supposing that I may come across some (or hopefully all) of these rules in The Maze Master's Guides series of books. You will have to wait for my review of those to find out unless you want to embark now, fellow Traveler of The Maze!

    If you are using The Maze Master's Guides series of books while playing through The Iron Realm podcast campaign, I suppose that you could use some of those unused sheets mentioned like the Relic Writeups to create future relics for your own campaign, so utility can sometimes be found when one looks for it. One reason to include it here was if the relic were somehow located within the Maze traveled in these first ten chapters, or perhaps you can start establishing your own backgrounds for parts of the explored Maze with Facts of Importance or Adventure Notes beyond those uncovered within the Play-By-Podcast MegaDungeon. They might also prove useful if the player decided not to buy the later Strategy Guides. While it could be said that having a preview of the sheets is nice to have, I would sooner have had them distributed to me as a podcast player when I would actually be using them.

    As a note about the book's organization, the guide promotes that it "puts the gaming aids you need at your fingertips in a convenient and organized fashion. Never again will you need to fumble through a mess of pages at a crucial moment. It is all right here in a single softbound volume" (p. 5), yet it goes on to say that, "If you need more pages than are provided [...] Simply tuck additional pages into the appropriate section [...] to stay organized" (p. 7). So by that notion, ultimately I may just have to create a loose-leaf binder to accompany all of my guides and partial guides and later releases, such as my tattered-at-the-edges Physical Description sheet that was released much later, or maybe Abel will conceive of a "Shelf File of Holding" to rival that Kickstarted by Goodman Games, which funded by over 500% of its projected price, for me to hold all of the loose-leaf binders. We just need the game to "[take] the world by storm" first, and then you can expect to see a lot more (at least double the output in the as-yet-to-be-realized Arena, but I digress: you might as well go looking for The Onyx Vault within The Maze). I still have a tickling feeling that a little more organization could have been done in the published guide as expressed: why, for example, are the Facts of Importance pages in the back and not up front near the Adventure Notes that accompany the Map Master's Graph Paper?

    I am just now realizing that I have not talked about the Strategy Guide segment of the guide, and this is the part of the book that really shines! The strategies for each chapter are carefully thought out beyond many elements that I would have even conceived of including, and there are some nice flavor text components that, while some might just consider filler when there aren't more strategies, to me make each strategy page a nice companion piece to the chapter for which they are included. There are also some useful stat blocks and sidebars (not really delineated as such although they are self-contained, such as "Disadvantages for Shared Fate Counterparts," accompanying Chapter 2, and a Treasure Room highlights listing for Chapter 10).

    One of the hardest choices that the player might make is whether to use the strategies before playing the chapter. I have avoided looking at them until after I finish, and the material is still worthwhile in consideration of future choices to be made.

    I also have yet to say that the art curation throughout The Iron Realm materials is thought-provoking! There is a nice mix of different art choices in each of the Strategy Guides to make them more visually appealing or to inspire players' Adventure Writeups. Already a few pieces scattered throughout the published materials have begun weaving their way into my character's adventures alongside his tribe.

    Apart from the Campaign Essentials and Character Guide that I found to be indispensable for the Adventure Writeups, the Adventure Log & Strategy Guide Chapters 1-10 is a hardy, reliable, and wise companion to accompany one's character(s). Although I will probably wonder for some time why a map was included for Chapter 2 that is not the Level Alpha One maze that Character Eight journeys through with his tribe, I am guessing that it is shown as an example of what a maze made using the Map Master Graph Paper could be expected to look like. I have yet to use my Map Master Graph Paper as I am using some of my own scrap graph paper for the rough draft of my Map Master's Campaign first. And once I've transcribed a final copy, then, for all I know, I might just create it again in Campaign Cartographer software or in a Virtual Table Top application. Deeper and deeper I go.

    Somewhere down in The Maze is The Onyx Vault, for which an introductory product has been made available by The Maze Master here on DriveThruRPG. I mention it here because if one travels into the Patreon version of The Onyx Vault, there is a Patron Premium version of this Strategy Guide available as a gift from The Maze Master at the $4 tier. I am still just a Traveler and not yet a Legend Seeker, so if you want to know what extra content that guide contains, you might have to try to get there before me. I have also heard rumors of limited-release versions of the strategy guides there, the most recent of which is for podcast episodes 91-100 and features an alternate cover. What I do know for certain, not just as some crazed whisper heard from the Void, is that I will continue to have the Adventure Logs & Strategy Guides at my back as Light so long as I shall journey through The Plane of Utter Darkness!



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    The Iron Realm Adventure Log and Strategy Guide Chapters 1-10
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    The Iron Realm Onyx Vault
    Publisher: The Iron Realm
    by John H. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 06/08/2021 22:28:52

    My writing has been so inspired by this game's Roleplayer's Campaign! If you have been looking to write more, and you listen to the play-by-podcast game of The Iron Realm while in this mode, then you will only play each chapter after writing about your own character's adventures using the Adventure Writeup pages, the template for which is included in this product's materials on page 11 of The Iron Realm Enter The Megadungeon (also available as a separate product here on DriveThruRPG, and I've written a review of that product on its page). What motivation to get writing: you will want to know what happens next to the characters of the audio drama AND your own created character! Roleplaying earns you Luck Points for the Dice Rolling Campaign, and they will help you when things might be looking grim: The Maze Master Abel Enzo will tell you that there are no rerolls, so you're going to need all the luck you can get!

    Jumpstart your experience with the first ten podcast episodes of The Iron Realm, included with this product. Since these are the only ones available on DriveThruRPG in addition to one prerelease (also in this package), I'll say a bit more about them here. And don't worry about buying the others: all, including these, are available for a free listen at the creator's Blogspot.

    As with most podcasts, this one may improve with time. The prerelease of milestone episode 60 is included, which was planned as part of this product to let you know that $1 patrons of the Patreon can hear the podcasts before anyone else. The Maze Master's Patreon is what The Onyx Vault product is all about: there is a LOT of exclusive treasure to be found there. Since I don't want any spoilers, I've yet to listen to episode 60 to see how the prerelease might vary from the final release (although I understand that there are more sound layers and so on added for the final cuts).

    I have, however, listened up to the first milestone of episode 10, and this is since I purchased the product in January 2021, which gives you an idea of the longevity that you are going to have with this game. The creator is at the cusp of prereleasing episode 100, having just prereleased episode 99 on June 7, 2021! We're talking history in the making, and you can get an audio public preview on the Patreon, posting date 4-25-21!

    So what should I tell you about the first ten episodes that give you an idea of what to expect? There is a crunchy rules segment and a Character Eight (your character) segment featured in episodes. There are roleplaying segments and a Map Master's Campaign segment when the character's party (known as your tribe) is on the move that allows the player to map along on The Map Master's Graph Paper, a template hand-tailored for the specific size of each megadungeon level. There are the occasional Character Profiles for those accompanying Character Eight through The Iron Realm. When you arrive at Treasure Room, then you know that your tribe is going to obtain some hard-won rewards (if only they can survive long enough to get use from them). There is some music curation that adds to the dramatic tension at key points while also becoming playful when the player is exploring the endless tunnels. Expect to hear some dice-rolling too for encounters, combats and treasure finds. Unless you've listened to a play-by-podcast before (and this is the "World's First"), this is going to be a new and exciting experience for you!

    Deeper into The Onyx Vault my friends, but I must tell you that there is rumored to be great peril within these gilded walls as well! Ambush Statue and Braeminn are two examples of what you may encounter or unleash upon your own hapless tribe if you decide to go beyond The Iron Realm podcast to run your own game using additional products that the creator is making available in his latest series of books, such as the The Iron Realm Dungeon Design guide, The Iron Realm World Building guide, the forthcoming Treasure Trove, or other products that, along with The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG Solitaire Essentials and Gaming Guide, will take your tribe to territories still to be discovered within The Iron Realm. Since these two foes are also available on DriveThruRPG separately, I will review them when I have a chance to do exactly that and use them myself!

    Finally, the end just the beginning, is The Onyx Vault booklet which, like Virgil guiding Dante through the Inferno, can take you beyond what you have experienced with this DriveThruRPG product by giving an overview of what is to come at The Onyx Vault on Patreon by way of an introduction, what can be found in the different tiers, descriptions of some of the premium versions of the DriveThruRPG offerings of The Iron Realm (some of which are limited-time releases, so that you may have some true relics in your digital book collection like premium Strategy Guides, the most recent of which is for podcast episodes 91-100 and features an alternate cover), and a brief overview of the first 50 podcast episodes.

    While I can earn Ranks of Renown in game and raise my Legendary Power Level in order to receive a Sacred Writ that will protect me from a creature race from The Iron Realm in the play-by-podcast game by giving a 5-Star Review of an Iron Realm product, the reason why I am giving The Onyx Vault package a 5-Star Review (you'll see, for example, that I gave The Iron Realm Podcast Chapter 01 Enter The MegaDungeon just 4 stars) is because it is Pay What You Want. Why is "Pay What You Want" significant? Because this packaged product, accompanied by the suggested price of $24.99, is a dated sampler of the Patreon, and to justify that price, it could probably use an additional update, such as a new prerelease (although I'm guessing that the prerelease of episode 60 is probably a great listen).

    Because the true Onyx Vault is the Patreon site, and this is just a sampler, if you have limited cash on hand, I would recommend putting some of this suggested price toward becoming a patron over there. The lowest tier there is $1 per month, so you could take $24 of the recommended purchase price of this Onyx Vault sampler and be showing your support for the show for 2 years over there! Or a full year at the $2 tier, 8 months at the $3 tier, 6 months at the $4 tier, 4 months at the $6 tier, 2 months at the $10 tier, or a full month at the $20 tier (of which there are only 20 spots available). Why is this an important consideration? Because the Community there needs more members to ensure viability. Because there are so few, I think what may have happened is what has been described by World Anvil's advertising as Patreon scalping, and I quote them in their own subscription model as posing the following dilemma: "Patreon scalping is a common practice in which fans back for a month on Patreon, download all available PDFs, and then drop their support immediately," ("Which WA Membership do I need," worldanvil, posted on their site as a Tutorials post on Oct 3, 2020). Now you may doubt this, but if you go check out The Maze Master's Blogspot of The Iron Realm, there are more Followers there and over 570 Following him on Twitter than what is reflected in his current Patron count.

    Like Abel Enzo says in this product's introduction, "The Iron Realm Podcast is given as a trial of love." And it is worthy of so much more support than it is currently getting. So start at Pay What You Want, consider exploring The Onyx Vault Patreon, bring along your friends, and I'll be awaiting you there. I have been buying The Iron Realm products as well for friends' birthdays this year. I hope that it gets my friends who are into writing into it as much as I have been getting into it lately (my latest Character Eight chapter, chapter 10 entitled "Puncture," is 22 hand-written Adventure Writeup pages in length and features some great milestone work of my own), and I wish that my friends who used to roleplay with me at the table, but don't have the time to commit to the in-person or online-scheduled campaign anymore, find a new roleplaying passion that they may have been missing in just the video game variations.

    I do plan on delving ever further into The Onyx Vault in time as I get further into the play-by-podcast story of The Iron Realm since I can appreciate some of the content more fully then, but there are glimmers of wonders that already tempt me in my current tier like a "Hidden Manuscript" of Chapter 100 "Revelations Part 1" within the next tier from my own!



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    The Iron Realm Onyx Vault
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    Building Characters [1st Edition]
    Publisher: Dancing Lights Press
    by John H. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 02/21/2021 23:24:52

    My rating might seem critical of this product, and it has to do with the editing. The book has a rough draft feel with lots of low-hanging fruit for correction. I purchased my copy through Bundle of Holding's revived Toolkit 4 bundle at the $9.95 tier, which means that I picked up my copy at $1.65, if I divide the tier price among the items that I received at that tier. This is a much better deal than what it is selling for here on DTRPG: $7, which is more than the second edition of the same book ($4.99).

    I ended up buying the second edition anyway because I do find the information useful from the first book, and what made me buy the second edition is how bad the editing is on the first. I was hoping that it might have improved for the second edition, and it has, so that product will get a better rating from me by one more star. DTRPG, however, will not allow me to give another low star review for the same publisher for 24 hours. The editing on the second book has not improved much (it still has mistakes that suggest that it was not proofread or not enough).

    So let us get into why the editing is a problem. If one is going to use this book as a regular go-to reference, those typos are going to pop up every time one looks at the book. Here are some examples:

    "What the leader dislikes are the disorganized, [...] things in like" (p. 10; see Full Size Preview, p. 14; "like" should be "life"). "The lover doesn't care what people, and won't allow gossip alter their pursuit of happiness" (p. 11; see Full Size Preview, p. 15; missing words are "want" after "people" and "to" before "alter").

    Here is an erroneous ranking for "Below Baseline Religion": "The character is more devout than the typical character within the story. They have deeper faith and engagement with dogma" (p. 43; see Full Size Preview, p. 47).

    Every time that one looks at these entries, one is going to falter at these typos. When one wants to understand the material fully, so one can focus on building a character, this is an unnecessary hindrance that breaks focus and train of thought. When one considers that the publisher has not made any effort to update this material for those who have purchased it at a $7 price tag, it seems lazy.

    Did their editing improve for the second edition? Some: two of the typos mentioned above are fixed. Still others are introduced or obsolete text remains from the first edition:

    "Looking back over the questions you answered for your character in the stages of lie section," (p. 67 in the second edition; "lie" was correctly "life" in the First Edition, p. 52 or p. 56 in the Full Size Preview, and there were actually questions that one answers, which are not present in the second edition).

    What this book did allow me to do was to generate a new page of data for my protagonist Character Eight in the game The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG. The data consisted of rankings in categories like Aptitudes as follows: Below Baseline, Baseline, Above Baseline. While more needs to be done to translate this data into interesting character story, it at least establishes a starting point for different "character elements" (or what I'll term aspects of a character).

    The full title of my version of this book is Building Characters for Writers and Roleplayers. While there is some useful material for writers, a book like The Art of Character by David Corbett (not available on DTRPG since it is not related to roleplaying) is a more professional and challenging book (and one would be hard-pressed to find typos in the latter book's pages). The material for writers is of value in the first edition of Building Characters, and it is missed in the second edition. How is one, for example, going to answer those aforementioned "questions you answered for your character in the stages of life" section if you only have the second edition? And there were a lot of defining questions for each stage of life: twenty for childhood, twenty for adolescence, sixteen for separation from parents, and so on.

    Some statements made by the first edition may be difficult to reconcile, like how aptitude ratings "are a zero-sum game: for every +1 in an aptitude, the character must have a -1 in something else" (p. 58; see Full Size Preview, p. 62). For a book that wants to "develop a more literary character" (p. 89; see Full Size Preview, p. 93) this seems counterintuitive. The book lists ten aptitudes, only eight of which I felt applied to my Character Eight in The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG setting, who is a Cleric. Four of these aptitudes for this class I ranked as "Above Baseline": Empathy, Morality, Reflection; Spiritual. While there could be unlisted aptitudes that I could try to come up with that are "Below Baseline," the other four that I kept from the book's list of ten total and ranked as "Baseline" were Body, Language, Reason, and Visualization. I really did not see why the Cleric would have to struggle with Language, as example of why I left it as Baseline. This zero-sum consideration is dropped in the second edition.

    Some parts of the first edition are approached differently than in the second edition. The section on Wonders has the reader consider Duration of a wondrous effect, for example, while in the second edition, this section advises more than questions. I am not sure which approach is better: I like both.

    As with the questions about the stages of life, another section missed in the second edition is about considerations in creating a character sheet using the elements mentioned in the book, along with creating a character journal and why one of those is useful. Overall, I felt that both of these sections are of value so that one might want both editions of the book for reference, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

    Will there be a third edition? If so, let us hope that the editing improves! Since the first edition was never updated to fix the typos, I do not have faith that we will see an update for future editions either.

    While I did find this book to be of use, I am not inspired by Dancing Lights Press in their quality of editing their books after seeing this one, so I dread what I am going to find in their other books that I already own, and I will have to think twice about picking up more (unless it is like the case of this one, where I am actively seeking the publisher's improvement as well as my own after reading an earlier edition).



    Rating:
    [1 of 5 Stars!]
    Building Characters [1st Edition]
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    Building Characters
    Publisher: Dancing Lights Press
    by John H. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 02/21/2021 23:22:33

    This version is an improvement over the first edition, and it still has a way to go to be the indispensable resource that I would expect from a publisher. While the formatting is better in this version, such as including bullets in place of the first edition's block paragraph of text for how different Character Roles interact with each other, there is still some sloppiness to the production. An example is this: "Looking back over the questions you answered for your character in the stages of lie section," (p. 67).

    Now you might think my issue is with the incorrect word "lie," which should be "life." I got over venting about that after reading the first edition (you can read my review of that edition to see how much I talk about this). I suspect that the second book may have been edited better, and since a lot of the content is the same, I skimmed the second version. I also wanted to be a little forgiving after all since a second edition meant that effort was made to improve the product.

    What didn't escape my notice in my careful skim is mention of the questions from the "Stages of Life" section. These questions are not in the second edition, and the publisher overlooked updating the context here, which still suggests a lack of better editing. Now I am guessing that the questions were removed because the publisher opted to go with leaning toward how building characters relates to roleplaying and games rather than how they relate to literary writing. If you really want that, you can pick up the first edition (even though it costs two dollars more than the second edition, and I suggest that The Art of Character by David Corbett is a far superior book for that sort of thing).

    There is some other material from the first edition that I felt was useful that has been cut too, such as descriptions of different rankings for Elements. Still, a reviewer of the first edition, Esteban M. V., felt that taking the time to describe these in detail was superfluous, such as a Low ranking Education meaning that the character has little or no education. Since that was a big chunk of the first book, one could hope that something more useful has replaced it.

    The improvement is that advice occasionally appears in place of what was in the first book. As an example, when talking about Activation of Wonders, the publisher suggests adding "a nice character bit" and suggests a few. Other material still got the chopping block that probably should have been retained, such as considering how long Activation takes. This may be because the publisher decided to define this book as a "minimalist [...] guide." Still, elements might have been retained that did not necessarily detract from the book like that I mentioned.

    Some of the new material is no better than that from the first book. I looked forward to (and read with interest rather than skimmed) the new introductory material on how building characters relates to worldbuilding, adventures, and rules. A lazy approach, reminiscent of the first book, was taken with each section, each ending with a sentence in this format: "When creating character background elements, keep [x] in mind," such as "keep existing worldbuilding in mind." Sure, this is useful for someone new to this sort of material or someone who is not reading the book from cover to cover, but it is recommended in the introduction that we "read through the entire book at least once" (p. 1). So as repetitive elements like the aforementioned come up, you know it's going to be a slog. It reminds me a bit of reading the Pathfinder Core Rulebook Second Edition rules in depth: be sure you guzzle some caffeine as you sit down to read this book.

    This formatting flavor is kept throughout the introductory section: "If your style leans more toward the wargaming perspective, consider [x]," e.g. x= "consider what abilities are common and uncommon in the setting" [Worldbuilding]; x= "the player should consider what abilities will be useful in the type of campaign or adventure being proposed" [Adventures]. Now the content in these examples is not bad: one can see why one would compare rarity of abilities in worldbuilding and usefulness in adventures. It is just the attempt to do as much as possible with formatting, and this style is maintained throughout the book. Concise and clear? Yes. An interesting read as one continues into adjacent segments? No.

    I am surprised that wargamers are even taken into consideration, and that they would want more depth of the nontactical variety. Still, kudos to the publisher to be inclusive. And this inclusivity should not pervade beyond the stat block format to the content of the stat block, as is done with the Story Points in the stat block: "Unanswered questions could include whether the character was like this in all stages of life, if they changed into their current state, and how this impacts components of [x]": x being "sociology and psychology" when talking about "physiology," and the publisher just mentions the other two when talking about another Dimension, i.e. "physiology and psychology" when talking about "sociology." Not only does this make for a dry textbook experience throughout the book, but considering this is a minimalist approach to the topic of Building Characters, one can wonder just how much actual content is left after shrinking down the remaining content from the cookie cutter statements used throughout in this manner.

    So the book's formatting is better, and I still expect and want more from this book. In my first edition review, I mentioned how I generated a new page of ranking data for my Character Eight in the the game The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG for all sorts of elements. The advice that was included in the second book did not bring me any closer to having fleshed out my character over the first book with the new advice given. I still just had my rankings from the first book, which would even have been harder to produce with just the second volume, when it does not even incorporate the section about character sheet considerations when using elements from the book. This is why my rating has only increased to two stars because, overall, the book has not improved enough.

    If a third edition were made (and since the book is useful, I certainly hope that the publisher is inspired in ways that the second edition could be improved), a thing that I would like to see would be diagrams showing how characters relate (maybe using smooth arrows for Protagonists and jaggy ones for Antagonists with each pointing in the direction of interacton). For mentioned characters, I would at least like a reference of what they are from, such as when Olivia Foxworth is mentioned as an Aggressor, it might read "Olivia Foxworth (Flowers in the Attic)." I would like to see more broad notion ideas like as is mentioned for not bothering to list an itemized inventory because one can go off the equipment modifier (p. 83) although some writers might suggest that what one carries around with them can define something about the nature of a character too as I learned in a writing workshop. I'm not even sure why the book aims to be minimalist when what I would seek is something comprehensive without being granular. In the meantime, I guess that I can draw my own diagrams and add my own notes, just like how I could take PDFs of both editions, edit them in a PDF writer into one edition, and come back with a stronger version that incorporates the useful elements of both without the typos and oversights.



    Rating:
    [2 of 5 Stars!]
    Building Characters
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    The Iron Realm Enter the MegaDungeon
    Publisher: The Iron Realm
    by John H. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 01/30/2021 17:18:44

    This is one of the first products to enjoy as you experience The Iron Realm. I recommend it as coming after The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG Solitaire Essentials and Gaming Guide in your consumption, and I'm the guy who generally reads the manual. If you like to jump right in, then you can do so with this product that I'm reviewing, The Iron Realm Enter the MegaDungeon, which includes the most common gaming sheets for following along with the various campaign styles, such as: The Map Master's Campaign Iron Realm Map Master Graph Paper sheet; The Advanced Game Dice Rolling Campaign Character Record sheet; The Roleplayer's Campaign Profile Writeup sheet, Adventure Writeup sheet, Relic Writeup sheet, and Heroic Death Writeup sheet; The Advanced Game Dice Rolling Campaign Challenges of the Maze Master sheet, Transcendant Disciplines sheet for the first four Disciplines, and The Sacred Writ sheet if you decide to participate in the Legendary Powers Global Fandom; and The Map Master's Campaign Iron Realm Map Master's Adventure Log sheet. These 10 sheets round out the offerings that you can write on or print out, depending on your medium. Just by turning the page, each of these ten useful gaming sheets are consecutively at your fingertips in the order that I have listed, ready for you to write on as you first find it convenient to do so as you begin listening to the podcasts. The reason why I recommend the other book first is that it will answer any questions that you may have about these sheets in regard to the rules of the various campaign styles. But there is no reason why you couldn't hole-punch a printed copy of this to make it the start of an attractive binder of The Iron Realm materials (or maybe your binder has a sleeve in the front where this will fit nicely when you're done filling it out) before you jump into the full rules book, which you do not necessarily need before listening to the first podcast.

    Other materials in this booklet include fantasy fiction excerpts from The Iron Realm to whet your appetite and sharpen your interest. This appears opposite the aforementioned sheets, accompanied by explanatory text of various offerings by the game and thoughtful artwork curation, making the volume as a whole appealing to getting started. An appendix in the back of this 26-page booklet (yes, there's a lot here in a small package) includes a synopsis of the first twenty podcasts and a recommended reading list of the next books (the one that I recommended reading first is recommended here as second). If you were to own a print copy of this product that I'm currently reviewing, it might be worthy of the signature of the creator Abel Enzo, right on the inside cover where The Maze Master addresses The Recipient of this Tome. If you were to introduce a friend to the series, a printed copy of this book might make a fine gift (I'm considering gifting a copy to my friend for his upcoming birthday, probably along with at least one or more of the other printed books). I avoided the fantasy fiction excerpts myself so far because I don't like any spoilers (which is why I'm chomping at the bit to get further in the podcasts so that I can start peeking more at The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG Campaign Essentials and Character Guide).

    Oh, and there is also a separate additional page insert that comes with the PDF offering that I own, which is an additional page pointing the reader directly to the podcast. You don't need this particular accessory book that I'm reviewing unless you are a completionist in which case you will want this accessory as part of your consumption. It might be fun to look through while listening to the first podcast of the same name if you can divide your attention like that. My own ears were riveted to what I was listening (although there is one dry section involving stat-rolling for the seven characters of the podcast, but that is part of my review for that product). If you are a completionist, you will also want to head over to the Patreon page where you can Follow along and pick up a digital copy of a nice free accompaniment to this volume, entitled Intro to The Iron Realm Campaign, which picks up as a catalog of additional recommended reading and overview of what you can experience.

    I leave you from my first review of The Iron Realm campaign setting with its rallying cry: IRON REALM! IRON REALM! IRON REALM!



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    The Iron Realm Enter the MegaDungeon
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    The Iron Realm Podcast Chapter 01 Enter the MegaDungeon
    Publisher: The Iron Realm
    by John H. [Verified Purchaser]
    Date Added: 01/30/2021 17:15:32

    So you haven't read The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG Solitaire Essentials and Gaming Guide that I recommended before wanting to listen to this podcast? That's okay, because you can dive right in without it!

    Sure, you might want The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG Solitaire Essentials and Gaming Guide eventually (these titles are so unwieldy). I've even picked up The Iron Realm Adventure Log and Strategy Guide Chapters 1-10, which I wish that I had prior to listening because now I'm listening to the podcasts that I've already heard again. I had learned in the Strategy Guide that it's recommended to write up your adventure for a chapter while it's still fresh in your mind (that and I'm recording mine in The Iron Realm Adventure Log and Strategy Guide). So there is a whole lot of chicken and egg going on with these products. The upside for you is that I decided to write this review on my second listen-through!

    Now, let's talk about why I gave this product 4 out of 5 stars when I could have gained Ranks of Renown in-game for a 5-star review. It's because the stats have to be rolled up for seven characters. At six stats per character, you listen to all 42 rolls with commentary in this first podcast. Now if you're a "behind the scenes" sort of person or into numbers, you might want to hear this. I didn't mind it the first time because there is a rollicking soundtrack in the background for that part.

    Still, filling out parts of my character sheet while relistening to this podcast, I just let the numbers roll by in the background. With this came the realization that this is when you should roll up your character. So if your eyes are glazing over from all of the number crunching, you have something to do with some numbers that mean something for your Character Eight, the character that you're going to play. I had my character all rolled up, chosen a class and everything before listening to The Iron Realm Podcast Chapter 01 Enter the MegaDungeon, and there is actually no better time to roll up your character than while listening to the Maze Master rolling up the rest of your tribe. Because then the numbers might mean something to you. The Maze Master talks about the merits of the different stats for different races, classes, and reasons, so this might help you decide with whom your Character Eight will identify. I think that overall, however, he could have said something about joining back up with you after he made his 42 rolls, and if he had done this, there could have been more action packed into this opening podcast, maybe near the end.

    Now that you've read why I only gave this podcast 4 stars, let's move on to what I like about it. There is lots of listening variety, including a segment with The Maze Master talking about solo roleplay versus roleplay with friends. The best part of the podcast to me is when the origin of the Iron Realm is described in chilling detail. You can read more about it in The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG Campaign Essentials and Character Guide, and if you don't have that at hand, you're going to hear enough in this podcast to make you want to know more. More than likely you're going to want to get diving in as soon as possible with your tribe, the seven action figures that The Maze Master has created to accompany you. You won't get their names or sexes this episode though: they're still just stat composites until the next podcast.

    If you're participating in The Roleplayer's Campaign (one of the styles of play), you're ready by the end of this episode to write your first Adventure Writeup for your Character Eight, most probably an origin story, and you do have options. Depending on which published materials you have in print, you can record your Adventure Writeup in several of them, and my recommendation is to use The Iron Realm Adventure Log and Strategy Guide Chapters 1-10 because you won't be putting anything else in those pages, and if you don't have that, other great materials that include a great spot for your first Adventure Writeup include: The Iron Realm Enter the MegaDungeon book, which is sort of like the quickstart accompaniment to this first podcast, or The Iron Realm Dark Fantasy RPG Solitaire Essentials and Gaming Guide. Granted, you might want to keep a blank copy somewhere to make more copies, maybe this one in that latter work.

    Finally, there are extras that come with this podcast. One of these, Enter the Maze, is a composite ad describing The Iron Realm Enter the MegaDungeon book with additional blurbs about where to listen to the podcast for free and a DriveThruRPG collection blurb, including a link to the publisher's full collection. The other extra is more valuable (and continues the chicken-and-egg conundrum of obtaining this podcast before any other materials) because it is a catalog defining the full collection, including materials that have yet to be released, helping you decide what you want to get while you read about the full line of products (or you could be like me and get everything). Entitled Intro to The Iron Realm campaign, this second extra includes a personal introduction from The Maze Master and is also available for free on his Patreon page. Speaking of the Patreon, if you enjoy listening to this first podcast, why not become a Traveler of The Iron Realm over there? I decided to after just listening to the second podcast: that's when things started to get really exciting!



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    The Iron Realm Podcast Chapter 01 Enter the MegaDungeon
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