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Player Options: Flaws and Merits
by Peter I. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/05/2009 10:37:39

Player Options: Flaws and Merits is a 16 page pdf product from Alea Publishing Group by author Joshua Raynack. This product provides elegant mechanics for giving your player characters certain flaws and merits, thereby combining roleplaying and mechanics in a useful little system for enhancing your player character's options. This product is stand-alone and self-contained, and is written for the 4e GSL system.

Player Options: Flaws and Merits comes as a neatly presented pdf file. The cover illustration is good, though perhaps not entirely related to the product content. No bookmarks or a table of contents are included, but it should still be fairly easy to navigate the pdf. The interior of the pdf contains some striking and impressive art by artists N.C.Wyeth, Sade and Joshua Raynack. Of the 16 pages of the pdf, 14 are devoted to content, offering good value for money. Writing and editing is good, and the new mechanics are well defined and well described. Flaw and merit descriptions are straight to the point and easy to understand. Layout is also very impressive. Overall, this pdf shows all the characteristics of a professional product and indeed it is.

I'm generally a fan of combining the mechanics of the game and roleplaying characteristics all in one. It has, of course, its up and down sides. On the up side, it gives you a neat system of roleplaying your character within certain clearly defined rules, and those rules have a certain in-game impact. On the down side, this kind of thing is often quite stringent, and doesn't provide a lot of flexibility in escaping the rules. That depends on how a system is written, of course, but most I've seen through the years in different gaming system don't escape this very well. Characters by their very nature change their persona as time goes by - you can hardly expect that 1st level novice to be the same as the 30th level god-killing champion.

Which brings me to Player Options: Flaws and Merits. This product details a flaws and merits system which is essentially based on the feat system. Whenever you would gain a feat, you can take a flaw (to a maximum of 2) and given the nature of flaws, you can also take either a feat to offset the flaw or a merit, which is essentially a special kind of feat. The system balances itself very well, offering roleplaying opportunities in both flaws and merits as well as good mechanical balance. The system is designed to offer flaws and merits to specific character roles - so a striker will have different flaws and merits to a controller, for example. There's impressive variety here, which means you can place mechanical emphasis on pretty much any character roleplaying trait.

I think for the most part this system works well. Unlike other systems that are largely on or off, this system has an additional mechanic called 'going against the grain'. Essentially it means you can choose not to suffer from your flaw should you choose to do so. In this way, the mechanics effectively allow you unlimited roleplaying freedom when it comes from your flaw. Does your nervous character want to show some backbone - it's possible every once in a while where your roleplaying dictates it. With 52 flaws and 28 merits to choose from, you gave great flexibility in designing a character, working through the flaws, and even overcoming them. This was the only part of the system I didn't agree with - when you overcome the flaw you also lose the associated feat or merit. I would've thought that if you'd gained a skill, you would be able to keep it. Just because you overcome sort of phobia it doesn't mean you forget to do something like be a natural leader of a fast healer.

The last few pages of the pdf are devoted to providing flaw and merit combinations for all character classes, which provides a very useful framework starting point for using this product. Overall, I think this is a welcome product for the 4e GSL system. Now that the product for the 4e GSL are moving away from races and monsters, publishers are starting to fiddle and add to the rules with new and useful additions. Flaws and Merits will make a good addition to your game, and it will certainly encourage roleplaying. It's a very well presented pdf, with good and useful material that's well worth a look at.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player Options: Flaws and Merits
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Player Options: Flaws and Merits
by Naomi B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2009 16:45:45

Anyone familiar with the GURP system will recognise this idea but I think that it is a better format here. In GURPS you get enough disadvantages to buy the advantages you want. Not with this format. Pick a flaw and then you can have a merit that affects your attitude or behaviour. The lists are arranged in controller, defender, striker, leader or general order. At the end are suggested lists in character order. The suggested scenarios show how these can make the game more interesting and characters more fun to play. Or use it as a jump start to making up your own flaws or merits. Either way you can add so much more depth to the game and your character.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer's Guide to Cthonia
by David H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/03/2009 00:50:35

I have always enjoyed this original campaign setting. The two authors have spent a lot of time and effort to not only make it a 'fun game' but to also incorporate a lot of historical material. Yes, it is still a fantasy game; but I think anyone who enjoys history, especially of the medieval era will enjoy this setting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer's Guide to Cthonia
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Feudal Characters: Noble
by David H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/03/2009 00:43:52

Having used this product in the game I am playing in; I can honestly say good job to the Alea Publishing Group and it's authors, Cameron and Josh. I agree that while not all the powers mesh 100% with each other or a real game, it's a well written and useful multiclass.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feudal Characters: Noble
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Oracle of Orcas
by David H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/03/2009 00:35:22

This is a great side quest. It's easily ran and played as part of a larger campaign or indeed as a one shot module. Kudos to Alea Publishing for bringing us this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Oracle of Orcas
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Oracle of Orcas
by Nathan O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2009 18:12:05

This is a great quiet start for 4ed d&d so have fun with it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Feudal Characters: Noble
by Derek S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/16/2009 12:25:33

This is a good but not great way of doing a noble multi-class only class. By making noble a class you dabble in, any character class can be a noble. This is a great design goal but the implementation is unfortunately lacking. Weapon based characters are much better represented than implement based characters. The level of disparity in power a Noble Fighter would have over a Noble Cleric for instance is a bit jarring and detracts from what would otherwise be an excellent product. Also, the non-weapon powers don't have the implement keyword although adding that as a houserule is easy enough to do. The Paragon Path and the DM Noble templates are very good.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Feudal Characters: Noble
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APG Paper Figures: Military Orders ($1.00)
by Peter S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/09/2009 10:22:34

Absolutely bautiful cardstock Knights. Several different figures provided. Some are also provided with several copies of the same figure. They use the inverted T version which I personally prefer as I am able to glue the base to a 1" square foamcore board which works well with cardstock terrain.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
APG Paper Figures: Military Orders ($1.00)
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APG Paper Figures: Gladiators ($1.00)
by Peter S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/09/2009 10:18:03

For the Price, these are absolutely beautiful card stock miniatures when printed out. There are also several figures provided with the set and several copies of each figure. The only dissappointment I had was that they are only provided in the 3 sided versions and I prefer the inverted T that I can glue to a foamcore board base.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
APG Paper Figures: Gladiators ($1.00)
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APG City Tiles
by Christopher H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2009 01:45:31

Printable dungeon tiles are almost a dime a dozen these days, but good urban and village tiles remain semi-scarce. Alea's City Tiles plugs a hole in the existing printable tiles market. This product, well worth the $4 price tag, offers an interesting and useful variety of village buildings, along with a grassy lawn (reproduce it as often as you'd like to make larger meadows) and four different street tiles. While I like this product a lot, I have to admit that although the various buildings' layouts differ, their "look and feel" doesn't. I didn't realize that fantasy/medieval freemen lived in premanufactured tract housing where all the walls, floors, tables, chairs, etc. looked exactly the same. :-)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
APG City Tiles
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Wandering Magister
by Christopher H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/25/2009 00:01:38

This free preview of Alea's Feudal Lords campaign setting does a good job of sparking interest in the overall setting. Based on this preview, next time I consider a new 4e campaign, I will definitely give Feudal Lords a look.

The wandering magister paragon path presented here integrates tightly with the Feudal Lords storyline, but by "reskinning" the fluff a little, you can easily use the paragon path in a different setting. I love the way that Alea has incorporated the brand-new sorcerer mechanics into the paragon path, with innovative uses for wild magic.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wandering Magister
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Adventurer's Guide to Cthonia
by Andrew C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/24/2009 23:17:30

I have been eagerly awaiting the Adventurer's Guide to Cthonia since I picked up the stand-alone Noble Multiclass last fall, and does it ever deliver! Both of the new Multiclass-Only classes are wonderful additions. The Noble is all about enforcing your authority over your enemy, while the Possessed's Daily Metamorphosis powers are unsettling and way cool. And that's before the Paragon Paths, Epic Destinies, Professions (which work like regional backgrounds) of every conceivable kind, and Feats. Oh, the feats. My favorite of the new feats are the Fatigue feats, which let you expend some of your energy to perform spectacular, well, feats. The Equipment chapter is hit or miss for me, but there's enough other things in here that it simply doesn't matter. Oh, and the simple system for how long it takes to find a buyer for magic items is a great addition.

One of my biggest complaints with the Adventurer's Guide is with Chapter Eight, the Commands. There are simply not enough of them, I must have more! They're one of the best innovations in the book, in my opinion, and while there are enough for proof of concept, there's just not enough of them to illustrate the potential depth of the mechanics. Similarly, Chapter Four, Feudal Obligations, provides an appealing first bite but then leaves me hanging, hungry for a fuller exploration of the idea that's just not provided in this product. Here's hoping that Alea Publishing Group gets the chance to revisit these great ideas in future products.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer's Guide to Cthonia
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Adventurer's Guide to Cthonia
by Jamie P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/23/2009 12:22:46

Wow...where to start? First off let me say DO NOT be disuaded by the price....there is a LOT of material here and if you just want the capsule review here it is. Buy it- 4 out of 5 stars- some really well done crunch and fluff with just some minor nagging execution issues. Now for those who are staying along for the ride, please keep reading.

The Guide to Cthonia features art that enhances the feeling of the setting which I'm going to label Birthright meets Points of Light. This is pseudo-medieval western european done well -with suspicious peasants who trust the 'miracles' of divinie magic but persecute the 'godless warlocks' who practice arcane magicks.

There are sections on incorporating the various classes and races into this rich world. Among these is the new noble class which I found IMMENSELY entertaining. There are new paragon paths and epic destinies which show a decent command of 4th edition structure. There are some minor balance/technical issues with these sections but that seems to be par for the course for 3rd party publishers and I don't count it too heavily against the Alea group.

There is a highly useful character background section and those who have been lamenting the lack of role-playing fodder in 4th edition will gobble this chapter up.

There are feats, an almanac, a new pantheon, and more! Like I said, I don't want to reveal all the tricks APG has up their sleeves but this is a very solid product and I for one WILL be buying the next in the series.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Studio Companion: Dinosaurs
by Walter W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2009 05:40:53

Most of these images already are freely available on the Wikipedia commons, where they were shared with the intention of being freely used by other users. While the authors cite the illustrator, is she being compensated for her work? They're great illustrations -- you'll rarely find better. But I have penalize the company for selling what already is being given away for free.

Here's the wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Approved_dinosaur_images



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
Studio Companion: Dinosaurs
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Creator Reply:
The images are in the public domain and are free to use in any venture. While, like many PD images, these too one might find them elsewhere. The price reflects a number of valid points: we took the time to gather the images in one collection for those without the knowledge to access them; the original images are in .PNG form which we transferred each image into .JPG format, and finally, all of the original images were less than 30 .dpi. While this might prove fine for a web image, but if a customer wanted to print out the product or if a publisher wanted to make a print product with the original images, they would not suffice. We accomplished this by increase the .dpi to 300, the standard for print product images. While these points are moot for someone with the knowledge to accomplish this, in my experience I found that many small publishers do not have access to such knowledge or the time to devote to such endeavors when they can pay a small fee for this process. We do not make money on this, or any Studio Companion product, to justify the effort. But, since I have the means and the hope to rise the quality of other publishers' products to increase consumer confidence on the whole, then I find that we are justified. It is less than 20 cents per image the consumer is paying for this product for the service we provide distributing these images in a better publishing format.
Studio Companion: Mysterious Places
by Frank B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/31/2009 13:12:23

Not what I was hoping for in terms of clarity and detail. These are somewhat Impressionistic pieces that look best at 25% or 50% scale. I can see some use for some of them, but some are just too blurry and Impressionistic for my taste. On the plus side, the colors are rich and evocative, and the sense of place and treatment of subject matter is pleasant.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Studio Companion: Mysterious Places
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