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Blood on White Petals
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/19/2007 07:38:51

An RPG Resource Review:

Blood on White Petals is a short scenario - designed for an evening's play - in AEG's Adventure Keep series. With a decidedly oriental feel, it is best run in an oriental setting - else the 'traditions' that the characters are being asked to uphold would be decidedly bizarre if not baffling to them, and much of the dramatic tension would be lost.

The scenario opens with a succinct background for the DM, explaining about the silk-rich Caotang province and the politics that have been going on, and the black arts practiced by the current magistrate of Caotang villiage... and the results when the local peasants discovered what he was up to. This is why you need to be using an oriental setting: peasants revolting against an unjust lord would not raise many eyebrows in a conventional mediaeval/fantasy setting.

The adventure itself opens with the characters arriving in the vicinity of Caotang village. Why they are there is left to the DM to decide - perhaps the scenario is to be dropped in as a 'side adventure' while the characters think they are about something else entirely.

Once the characters have encountered the devastated peasants - who quite naturally expect only death for having slain their magistrate - it will be up to them to figure out what has been going on. As the magistrate was killed while in the process of summoning and binding a demon, the demon is now attempting to break free - it needs to kill the remaining children of the villiage to be able to manifest permanently; so the characters will have to search a nearby monastery where the ritual had been taking place, fight off any number of animated corpses and items set upon them by a very wily, not to say desperate demon, figure out where the remaining children are hidden and slay the demon when it manifests briefly to devour one...

A simple and straightforward adventure, but with sufficient investigation to keep the characters thinking as well as fighting. Presentation is good, including a nice map of the monastery, but more attention should have been paid to proofreading as several spelling and grammatical errors have slipped through. It would be a good adventure for low-level characters to establish a minor reputation in this particular area.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Blood on White Petals
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Empire
by Jerry L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/02/2007 19:07:37

From a GM perspective I enjoy the book. It helps me with world creation and a few details that was over looked. Adds to big picture role playing. If you enjoy details from the top to the bottom, and with game mechanics.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Empire
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Toolbox
by John W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/27/2007 00:00:00

Toolbox is the kind of book that truly creative Game Masters have been waiting years for. Gets straight to the meat and lets you use its content in YOUR way in order to augment your game, not control it... Great resource for breaking out of ruts and getting past the "curse of the blank page". Also good for publishers as a raw resource of ideas and inspiration.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Straight to the meat, and lots of it. Helps me run the game MY way rather than simply adding to the plethora of same-same content already out there from publishers such as the long-since-lost-their-inspiration WotC.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Encounter charts use up a great deal of the book and are mostly useless since they're not broken down by CR... Just presented in a very flat format by terrain. Also, the product is devoid of hardly any descriptive text for chart results... Not asking for a ton, but a short blurb on each chart result and ideas of how to integrate into an existing game would have been a bonus. (In the product's defense, a lot of the results are mostly self explanatory.)<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Toolbox
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Out of Body, Out of Mind
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/13/2007 00:00:00

Does this line get some sort of a prize for the smallest amount of content per download size?

It's not a bad little puzzle-box of a dungeon, though, centred on a fairly major deception about what's actually going on. The outcome could be anything from complete party annihilation to killing the monster and grabbing all the loot, depending on some specific decisions that the group makes.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Out of Body, Out of Mind
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Tomb of the Overseers
by Kelley M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/09/2007 00:00:00

It is small but definitely worth while. Need a quick story and map? This is it. You can run this on the fly with only a few minutes prep. Of course how long it takes to go through with the players is always a question of how extreme they are - so the potential for a couple hours of play is here. I have several of these they have all been the same quality and presentation. It is more likely to be used as a quick random adventure encounter (especially since that appears to be what it is for).<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: everything<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tomb of the Overseers
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Against the Barrow King
by Kelley M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/09/2007 00:00:00

It is small but definitely worth while. Need a quick story and map? This is it. You can run this on the fly with only a few minutes prep. Of course how long it takes to go through with the players is always a question of how extreme they are - so the potential for a couple hours of play is here. I have several of these they have all been the same quality and presentation. It is more likely to be used as a quick random adventure encounter (especially since that appears to be what it is for).<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Everything<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Barrow King
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Jerimond's Orb
by Kelley M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/09/2007 00:00:00

It is small but definitely worth while. Need a quick story and map? This is it. You can run this on the fly with only a few minutes prep. Of course how long it takes to go through with the players is always a question of how extreme they are - so the potential for a couple hours of play is here. I have several of these they have all been the same quality and presentation. It is more likely to be used as a quick random adventure encounter (especially since that appears to be what it is for).<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Everything<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Jerimond's Orb
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Out of Body, Out of Mind
by Kelley M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/09/2007 00:00:00

It is small but definitely worth while. Need a quick story and map? This is it. You can run this on the fly with only a few minutes prep. Of course how long it takes to go through with the players is always a question of how extreme they are - so the potential for a couple hours of play is here. I have several of these they have all been the same quality and presentation. It is more likely to be used as a quick random adventure encounter (especially since that appears to be what it is for).<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: everything<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Out of Body, Out of Mind
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The Crypt of St Bethesda
by Kelley M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/09/2007 00:00:00

It is small but definitely worth while. Need a quick story and map? This is it. You can run this on the fly with only a few minutes prep. Of course how long it takes to go through with the players is always a question of how extreme they are - so the potential for a couple hours of play is here. I have several of these they have all been the same quality and presentation. It is more likely to be used as a quick random adventure encounter (especially since that appears to be what it is for).<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Everything<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The fact that I have never seen it in a store.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Crypt of St Bethesda
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Dead Man's Cove
by Kelley M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/09/2007 00:00:00

It is small but definitely worth while. Need a quick story and map? This is it. You can run this on the fly with only a few minutes prep. Of course how long it takes to go through with the players is always a question of how extreme they are - so the potential for a couple hours of play is here. I have several of these they have all been the same quality and presentation. It is more likely to be used as a quick random adventure encounter (especially since that appears to be what it is for).<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Everything<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The fact that I have never seen it in a store.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dead Man's Cove
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Servants of the Blood Moon
by Curt T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/08/2007 14:02:52

(No spoilers.) Servants of the Blood Moon is a good value. This AEG adventure can be dropped into most fantasy settings with ease. I especially liked the rumors; this extra touch aids the DM in befuddling the players. Only the slight differences between the map, the legend, and the narrative keep me from giving this product the highest marks. The DM can correctly update the map with a careful read-through prior to play. Lastly, this product's file size was much larger than it should have been (57.6 MB) for the relatively small number of pages. No viruses were found.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Servants of the Blood Moon
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Adventure I
by Thomas I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/27/2007 03:21:30

Many good and short adventures that you can play for one evening. I recommend it!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure I
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Dragons
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/22/2007 00:00:00

Dragons are a big part of the fantasy game. They are rare, powerful creatures that are often the focus of adventures and even some campaigns. Dragons have a sense of awe from them. Everyone knows and most seem to own Draconomicon by Wizards of the Coast. However, there is another lesser known book about dragons called Dragons. It is almost four years old and made for 3.0 but I have gotten a lot of use out it in the many years I have owned it.

Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) has recently been doing less d20 work then in previous years. But they had a great series of books people referred to as the One Word Titles. Simply they were single word names and they covered one single topic but did it well. The book is paperback and over two hundred pages. The paper is not high quality, the art is so so, and the layout is okay. The table of contents is not that great and there is no index so finding things in the book is not that easy. In fact if you sit this book next to the hard bound full colored glossy page Draconomicon it is hard to see how it could compare. The Draconomicon is a great looking book, a coffee table book if you will. But I don?t have a coffee table and I am more interesting in the ideas in the book then how well it looks.

Dragons is a book filled with some interesting ideas. My favorite of all though oddly enough has nothing to do with dragons. It is a very cool zero level Bard spell called Sharing the Ancient Lore. It allows others to see share a memory of the caster. It is a simple neat spell that really has no combat ability or is powerful. But in the four years I have had this book I have made good use of the spell. It Is the little things like this that make this book for me.

Now some of the rules in the book are not that good. The prestige classes are pretty cool my favorite being the Student of the dragon a monk oriented class that gives some neat dragon inspired abilities. Others like the dragon Slayer have been done by others but still are not that bad. The feat collection is an interesting variety again including some like Dragon Friend and Hamstring that have been seen in other products at least in name and basic ability.

One area that the book shines in is Dragon Alchemy. This section suggests using dragon parts to craft certain items. It has uses for the blood, bones, brains, claws, crests, ears, eggs, eyes, glands, heart, horns, kidneys, livers, ligaments, lungs, muscles, necks, tongues, scales and hide, stomachs, tails, and teeth of each of the ten common dragons. There is a lot of information and it makes for some good alternate treasures and reasons for hunting dragons. It also is one of the few products that basically lists power components for creating magical items an alternate rule that does not get enough print.

Another area I like that some probably will not is the Dragon Classes. These are five level base classes of increased power. So, instead of having the dragon take fighter levels to boost his power, give him draconic fighter levels and he gets a feat each of the five levels. The classes are stronger and made for NPC dragons to make them more powerful as Dragons should be. The classes are a little stronger then the base classes and nicely more focused on the dragon. The Draconic Rogue gets treasure sense and the Draconic Sorcerer gets his spell like abilities as known spells.

Third book despite being a little outdated still has some good options and ideas between its covers. I mentioned a few of my favorites but there is more that this book offers. Many of the other books in the series are like this one, not great on appearance but high quality in the ideas contained in it. Dragons is not going to serve as a replacement for Draconomicon but will serve as a good companion piece.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dragons
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Toolbox
by James J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/28/2006 00:00:00

Really just a whole bunch of tables. But they are in fact A WHOLE BUNCH OF TABLES. Lot's of little tidbits to fill out the bare spots in an adventure or to spark the imagination.

<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: lot's of tables<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The type face was gray instead of black, it printed fine but is a pain to read online.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Toolbox
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Evil
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/10/2006 16:09:47

An RPG Resource Review:

This book kicks off by attempting to define 'evil' - or at least, what most people regard as 'evil.' Naturally, a lot of folks you might define as evil would not apply that label to themselves, although they might be prepared to admit that they are greedy, like to get their own way and such like. It often boils down to politics. If a ruler operates by use of muscle to get what he wants, he may well fall - by the strict guidelines of D&D alignments - into 'evil' somewhere: Chaotic Evil if he operates by grabbing what he wants, or Lawful Evil if he establishes a structure that ensures he stays on top of the heap. Neutral evil cheats, tries to get everyone else to obey the rules while breaking them himself! Moving on from this analysis comes the step over to evil itself; why certain people go that way. Perhaps they see themselves as better, more fitted to rule, than the common herd. Or perhaps its just that if the world is divided into predator and prey, they know they don't want to be prey. And of course there's the question of style. Any fool of a hero can beat up their opposition, but the true evil genius leaves cryptic calling cards and wreaks more artistic vengeances...

The discussion continues with a look at how those deemed 'evil' see themselves, ending with the chilling thought that someone who accepts what they are can do anything that they please... without compunction or qualms. They might be lonely, but they get what they want.

Then comes another chilling concept: heroes make the best villains. Well, fallen ones do anyway. There are many ways in which a former hero can be seduced into evil. They make for great stories, whether or not the hero actually succombs to the blandishments of evil, and this section should provide food for thought for any DM who wants to bring some epic - and perhaps tragic - depth into their campaign. Or it could be that having finally confronted the evil genius they've been fighting for so long, your heroes discover that he once was a hero too. Will they be sorry for him and what he has become, or just take him out as the bad guy he is? Various ways of leading heroes astray are discussed, these should give you some ideas if this is the style of campaign you are looking for.

Then we step away from characters for a while, looking at how a group of players might cope with running an evil party. Things like how they still need to find ways to work together, as inter-party rivalry can easily get out of hand and spill over into the real world and ruin real friendships. From the other side of the DM's screen there are other problems to be faced. Heroes, by and large, are reactive. Give them a villainous plot to foil, monsters to fight or mysteries to unravel, and they're off. Villains are in some ways harder work for the DM. A villain operates by generating his evil schemes... so, the DM for a group of evil characters needs to guide them into creating their plots, then step back and prepare the rest of the world's response to what these villains are trying to do. Moreover, the DM needs to decide whether or not he's prepared to let 'evil' win the day... and whether the players (never mind their characters) are able to withstand being defeated and thwarted in the way the average Bad Guy usually is! It can, of course, lead to a distinctive and enjoyable campaign, or a few one-off adventures from the other side, though.

Next comes a look at the more supernatural side of evil. Some folks are led astray - willingly or otherwise - by too close an association with devils or demons. There's plenty of advice on how both demons and devils view such deals, which should enable the DM to carry off the devilish or demonic side of such a pact to good (if that's the right word) effect! Notes include examples of infernal pacts and the benefits the mortal party to them can gain, in the shape of several infernally-derived feats. There's also a Prestige Class, the Demon Summoner, to play with if you dare. The power the character may gain is easy and immense... but the price is very high. Still, for those who do want to go ahead, the necessary rules for scribing magic circles, researching the infernal beast you wish to summon and the spells themselves are provided.

Once a character (or for that matter NPC, if you want to build one from the bottom up) has decided to be evil, you'll need to decide just what sort of evil he'll practice. To this end, there is a collection of archetypes or concepts, aimed at low-level characters intending on a path of evil. Plenty of food for thought as to how to go about your rotten ways. Many of the rationales behind these archetypes do not necessarily lead to being evil, but here it's assumed that they will drive the character beyond the pale of what is normally regarded as good and decent behaviour. Creating a detailed background is important, unless you merely want a comic-book evil character (OK for a one-off or a non-serious campaign, but lacking in depth for true role-playing enjoyment).

As most fantasy non-human societies - dwarfs, elves, etc. - are presented as clannish, tightly-knit ones; it's a bit harder to see how someone from such a background might turn out evil. There always will be the aberrant ones, who are either cunning enough to hide their evil ways or smart enough to get out of the community before they are noticed and dealt with; while others will have gone to the bad after leaving home. Notes are provided as to likely ways in which members of the common humanoid races might have gone astray.

Next comes a section of new uses for familiar skills - of course some if not all of these ideas can be used by anyone, evil or not. But they might want to think about their motivations carefully, if they are worried about that slippery slope. There are new skills too, such as Bully, which basically takes Intimidation (forcing actions by the threat of violence) one step further to the actual use of violence to get your desired result; and Knowledge: Demonology, should you care to tread that dark path. There are also some new feats, Bribery should come in handy for a start; while Bootlicker and Living Shield will do well for assorted evil minions. There's a rather muddled Off-Handed feat, supposed to enable you to confuse enemies by using your other hand in combat. Now, while most people are right-handed and used to fighting others of the same, left-handers are common enough that a good regime of combat training will have exposed you to dealing with them. This one could have been better developed into some kind of 'weapon-juggler' feat where you are able to switch hands during combat without penalty - now that could be confusing! There are also a few rather nasty spells to round out that evil spellbook, and some more evil prestige classes for evil characters to aim towards.

Section 2: Mercy is for the Weak deals with the design and operation of an evil campaign, and is aimed mainly for the prospective DM. Various concepts are provided to spawn your own ideas for your campaign, and it is stressed that if contemplating an evil campaign, it is particularly important to consult with the players on the nature of the campaign they'd like - rising to power in city streets, mercenaries serving whoever'll pay, court intrigue or whatever - as it's not something that will work well if the players would prefer to be doing something different from what you have planned for them. There are lots of ideas thrown out to make you think, the real joy of this book. Indeed, this section would be useful for anyone planning an evil-oriented game, even if it isn't a fantasy one!

Continuing, there are notes on how to build the ultimate villain NPC - whether to provide opposition in an evil campaign, or as an adversary for more conventional heroes. There's information on such details as the best sort of NPC lackeys and hirelings to provide for your villains, lair construction and even how to create a complete villainous organisation.

To add flavour, there is a detailed group of villains complete with their objectives and minions - the Palm of Zadeh - as well as a sample organisation built around the Blood Archer prestige class. Other organisations are the Sisters of Dust (female necromancers), and a secret society called the Brotherhood of the Shroud. This is a sort of spy agency for hire, consisting solely of magic-using individuals who conduct political mischief, investigations or assassinations for pay. There are notes on creating your own secret societies too, including thoughts on how to involve your players - whether they like it or not! Another secret society called the Shadow Quills is provided as an example; and of course all of these can be woven into your campaign as adversaries or allies.

Just in case you don't have enough ideas yet, a selection of evil scenario seeds are provided to give you a start. Blackmail the local mayor, perhaps. Or give the characters a burning need to be revenged on the local thieves' guild. Artifacts to steal or otherwise acquire... and plenty more. Several NPCs - both good and evil - are provided to populate the adventure ideas, and there are some new monsters and artifacts (complete with their own adventure ideas) and finally a complete evil campaign outline to round things off.

Overall this is a cracking good read and idea generator for any DM, whether he fancies running an evil campaign or just wants to add some zest to the bad guys in a more conventional campaign. It's marred by sloppy proof-reading - many minor spelling and grammatical errors have slipped through - but otherwise is well worth a look.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Evil
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