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Marksman Subclass ($1.00)
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/27/2005 00:00:00

This 6 page PDF details the Marksman Subclass. The subclass is, as its name implies, a character class that doesn?t provide the abilities of a full class. Rather, they provide a specific set of abilities that in themselves don?t qualify as a full class, and aren?t specific enough to count as a Prestige Class. Think of them as specific character shticks a character can develop.

You obtain a Subclass by leveling; however, those levels don?t add to the character?s level or add a Hit Die. Instead, they are paid for via an experience penalty similar to Multi-classing. Subclass levels appear to be counted as 1/4th of a normal character class level. A character?s Subclass level can never exceed his normal class levels. Because the experience point penalties for sub-classing and Multi-Classing stack, for a whopping 40%, it is not recommended a character both take on a sub-class and multi-class. Additionally, a character can only choose one sub-class, there is no ?multi sub-classing?.

The Marksman subclass is pretty interesting, providing the sub-classed character with various abilities and bonuses with non-thrown ranged weapons such as slings, bows, crossbows, and firearms. The class provides the character with a ranged attack bonus when using the previously mentioned non-thrown ranged weapons. He also gains the Precision Shot feat, which works like a Rogues sneak attack, but only with non-thrown ranged weapons. At 6th level he gains the Sharpshooter feat, which allows him to double the range increment with his approved weapons, which allows him to use his Precision Shot feat at up to 60 feet. At 15th level he gains the Deadly Aim feat which doubles the threat range of all ranged attacks, it does not stack with Improved Critical or similar feats. Finally at 20th level he gains the Deadly Shot feat which increases the critical multiplier with all of his ranged attacks by one.

The PDF also includes the description of a new feat, Speed Loader, which allows the character to reload firearms faster than normal. This feat can be stacked to allow the character to reload a firearm without provoking an attack of opportunity. In addition to the speed loader feat, two firearms are also described, a black powder pistol and musket, along with rules for Black Powder, and the cost of ammo.

The PDF is nicely laid out in a two-column format with an ornate parchment like border and a wax-seal like decoration for the page number. There are two pieces of artwork, a picture of a musketeer type character, and a picture of a repeating crossbow, both are of good quality. A printer friendly version of the document is provided as well, omitting the colored border to save on ink.

Overall I think the Marksman subclass is pretty interesting, and the subclass option provides a good in-between step between a feat tree and a full on-class. Of course, a fighter character that focuses on bows as well as taking this subclass could potentially be unbalancing due to multiple attacks with bonus damage, so the GM may wish to limit this, or limit the class to firearms. I think the PDF offers an interesting option for characters and the subclass seems like an interesting idea.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Speed-loader feat and Firearms<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Potential for abuse with bow specialization and multiple attacks.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Marksman Subclass ($1.00)
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Professions: Game Enhancement
by Goran B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/24/2005 00:00:00

This PDF contains rules that let you add depth to your fantasy PCs by giving them a professional background that is part of the characters' lives before they began adventuring. It is assumed that the background comes from being apprenticed to a guild master. The background, which needs to be taken at 1st level, provides a boon that is slightly less powerful than most feats. The flip side is that it sets your character back a certain amount of XPs, so that the PC has to gather another 150 to 750 XP before reaching 2nd level.

The backgrounds available are quite a few and covers a broad spectrum, and so are the boons gained. Some backgrounds have odd XP costs and one background actually seems to be a drawback rather than a boon. There is also a new rules mechanic called "craft points" allowing a character to create an item more or less overnight using a pool of craft points gathered over time. After reading the part about crat points, I'm not entirely convinced that this is a good addition to the rules, but I will play-test it.

The art is rather scarce, but looks good. I like the borders on each page.

Overall, this is an interesting addition that allows you to provide more depth to your character. There are a few editing issues - some spelling mistakesand a background that seems like a drawback as it is worded right now.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: The possibilities for creating characters that have a more believeable background than "I have been training to be an adventuring hero since the age of 5". <br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Could have been proofread a little better.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Professions: Game Enhancement
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Marksman Subclass ($1.00)
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/15/2005 00:00:00

Marksman Subclass

A subclass is a neat option Alea Publishing Group has come up with. They take a concept that does not quite warrant its own class or prestige class and make it a small group of abilities a character slowly gains over twenty levels. The subclasses though do have costs of experience making it a bit harder to gain levels. I am waiting for the day when there are plenty of subclasses so that each person in the group can each have one. Options like this I feel are best and most balanced that way. Marksman Subclass is a small six page PDF by Alea Publishing Group. While the book is only six pages long five of the six pages are devoted to the book and do no have extra ads or things of that nature. The sixth page is the Open Game License. The small PDF still has book marks and a nice lay out with a nice border that makes it look like it is on aged paper. One also gets a version of the PDF without the border so printing is not that big a problem with this. The Marksman is designed as a firearms using subclass. The nature of the firearm could make this a very powerful subclass. The firearms presented her has a tough limitation of a full round to reload or a move action if a feat is taken. This limitation prevents multiple attacks in the same round. However, the class is also said to be used with the repeating cross bows and many of the abilities can actually be applied to bows. These high rates of fire weapons could see the subclass become powerful. The class grants additional bonus to hit that becomes plus seven by twentieth level with ranged weapons. They get extra precision damage like weak sneak attack and eventually get an improved critical and extra critical damage on ranged attacks. I would have liked for the abilities to be limited to the forearm as a bow using character can really become something to be feared using this subclass. This is a good subclass. The idea of the subclass is not going to be something for everyone. But the cost of ten or twenty percent of ones experience is a big cost. I am not sure how it all plays out and at some point I think this will make a good option once enough subclasses are available for the many different character types.

<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Creative use for the firearms weapon<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: THe subclass can techncially be applied to most ranged weapons<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Marksman Subclass ($1.00)
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Professions: Game Enhancement
by Tom W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/14/2005 00:00:00

This little handbook turned out to be packed with information and quite handy. A good acquisition at the price.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: It is packed with information in an accessible format.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Nothing that I didnt really like about it.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Professions: Game Enhancement
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Honor and Corruption
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/05/2005 00:00:00

Honor and Corruption

Honor and Corruption is a new PDF by Alea Publishing group and continues with their theme of writing products that deal with Knights and Chivalry. This pair of PDFs deals mostly with an new honor system for knights and also for thieves as it deals with the corruption side of honor that such characters can dive into. The first PDF is thirty two pages and deals with these issues and the second eleven page PDF deals with quests. Both are book marked. They have a good amount of art and border done in colors so it looks nice but can be a pain to print out. The layout though is very consistent and they use the same style in all their books. The book starts with the honor system. It has a good share of table that describe gaining and losing honor through certain actions and how some alignments are have more honor then others starting out. There are honor checks that work like the same basic d20 check of rolling a d20 and adding the honor modifier of the character. There is a nice system for gaining rewards based on honor. I think this is well done and I?d actually like to see it expanded to replace the wealth rules and the gaining of treasure in a traditional D&amp;D game. It would be nice to just let all of that fall under the honor rules that way characters have a bit more freedom with adventures and will not feel cheated out if they don?t find all the treasure. The rules also allow for powers to be gained from a high honor and that can work well in a lower magical setting as well. Unfortunately the corruption side of things is not nearly as well defined or explored. I understand the assumption of this product to be people will more readily use honorable characters. But it would have been nice to see equal treatment and would have allowed the book to me more useful to a wider variety of gamers. The book goes on with a pair of races, and a pair of subclasses. The races seem like alternate humans but deal with honor. They are not bad but do not seem like they are needed. The subclasses are a class options that brings more power to the character but cost 10% or more of the characters experience. I like the idea as it slows down character progression while giving them a few more powers to play with. Though the ones in here seem better then other subclasses I have read by Alea Publishing Group. The book then has some feats that build of the honor system. Some of them help gain more honor, others allow the characters to do more impressive things if they have a high or low honor. For instance Heroic Leap allows one to jump as if they always have a running start while known Cruelty allows one with the leadership feat to use the cruelty negative as a bonus. The second and smaller PDF deals with quests for the honorable character. The quests are nice and knightly though they might also be called a bit clich?. There are quests like trhe Sword in the Stone and subduing the great white stag. Each quest completed gains the person additional honor and abilities. It can be a bonus to movement or even a very nice bit of damage reduction. This is a nice set of PDFs for people wanting knightly honor in their d20 system. I think the system can easily be expanded on and with luck Alea Publishing Group will include some support for this system in other books. I would have liked to see more corruption options though. That is the main drawback I had with the book.

<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Nice easy to use Honor System<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Needed more options for the corruption side<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Honor and Corruption
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Legacy: Campaign Enhancement ($1.00)
by Jeremy S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/27/2005 00:00:00

This is a neat little document. It's a good way to make the characters have a connection with their heritage. While it isn't too powerful, at least at lower levels, it still makes a character seem to have that "something special".

The subclass system is well designed. It reminds me of the "kits" from AD&D 2nd Edition, and yet it is something that the character can progress in throughout his career (most kits were only taken into account at the beginning).<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Easy to "plug" into a game<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I would have liked even more content. Of course, this is a common wish of many readers.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy: Campaign Enhancement ($1.00)
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Mindcraft
by Lee P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/13/2005 00:00:00

Wow...! I really didn't expect this level of satisfaction. I am unimpressed with the D20 Psionics system (how, exactly, is it any different from magic...?) The core system does not lend itself to giving a unique feel for psionics and it makes it impossible to import the system into a truly futuristic campaign. Mindscapes succeeds in just about all respects. Psionics finally FEEL unique.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: The supplement gives you a sense of how psionics should "feel" in any campaign (past, future, modern, or fantasy).<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: A little short for the subject matter being presented. Further supplements are a must.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mindcraft
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The Whisper of Horses
by Amanda P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2005 00:00:00

I used this game on a group of 7 players, 3 didn't really know anything about Cthulhu, 3 were only slightly familiar with Cthulhu and 1 was an expert. Everyone had a great time. I added in more props for the players also, as well as more sound effects (horse neighs, flies buzzing, howling wind, fax machine etc). The ones that came with the game were a good starting point. I like that the sanity rules were included, but I had to add in more "creepy" encounters in order for any of the PCs to get significant sanity damage. Overall, I think this was a great value and I think it's a super introduction for anyone looking to get a peek at the Cthulhu system. For a group of 7, it took us 9 hours to solve.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: I liked the sound effects and other props. Alternative endings. Layout of the pdf itself was superb.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Linear storyline. I had to change a lot of the storyline so the players wouldn't feel like I was pushing them around. I also wish it had some default character sheets for example players.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Whisper of Horses
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Insanity: A Game Enhancement
by Jeremy F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/24/2005 00:00:00

As near as I can tell, this is just the OGC sanity rules from Unearthed Arcana (and hence, from Call of Cthulhu d20) packaged by itself.

And you know what? I'm totally okay with that. Since, I don't own UA myself (although I do own CoC d20 and BRP), I find this product convenient and useful and helpful in the extreme.

(One wonders, though-- and this has nothing with the nice folks at APG, who made this product-- how do the folks at Chaosium feel about their one-time, license WotC of the cost product becoming the vehicle for their proprietary sanity system magically turning into Open Game Content for anybody to use?)

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The Cthulhu sanity system is excellent, and I like it applied to any d20 game. It ought to be in a lot of games.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: More new game material would've been nice, but the added historical stuff is certainly interesting and a nice touch. I paid for the CoC Sanity System adapted to d20 in a modular way, and I got what I paid for, and I'm still a very happy customer.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Insanity: A Game Enhancement
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Character Theme: Alchemist (3.5)
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/04/2005 00:00:00

The way the subclasses work is they are minor abilities that are gained each level. They gain bonus hit points but not bonus hit dice. They get a small increase to saves and base attack and a few more class skills and a couple of skill points a level. There are some good abilities gained with potions crafting and other alchemical processes.

The Alchemist sub class does not come without a cost. Characters have a negative twenty percent experience penalty for taking the sub class. Certain races do have favored subclasses that only impose a negative ten percent penalty. In the case of the alchemist the gnome has it as a favored subclass. The true power of the alchemist subclass lies in the potion making. At the third level of the subclass the character gets the Brew Potion Feat. It is not automatically at third character level that this would be gained. The subclass can be started later then character level one if the player chooses to do it that way. The Brew Potion feat is special in that the character need not have any magical ability. The character automatically is considered to know all spells for the purpose of creating potions. The limit of what spells can be made into potions though still exists. At fifth level in the subclass and every three levels after wards the character can make potions of a spell level higher. So, at fifth level the character can craft potions of fourth level or lower, at eight they can craft potions fifth level or lower, etc. I really like the subclass idea. It gives another layer to the characters and it gives options without having to take certain classes or prestige classes and feats. The subclasses do have a hefty price though with the experience point penalty. That will have the character be lagging about a half level or so lower then the other characters. And with the spending of the characters own experience to make potions that discrepancy can get even worse.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Interesting way that works inside the level system to add roles to a character<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I think they could have actually done more with it<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Character Theme: Alchemist (3.5)
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Honor and Corruption
by Chris C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2005 00:00:00

Honor & Corruption covers exactly that and is a mechanic for keeping track of the relative honor of any player or NPC in a game. Before I get into the mechanics, let me first say that the art here is gorgeous ? the pages look like parchment, a bit fancier than the Player?s Handbook layout, and it works well. I wouldn?t want to print it, however, for that very reason ? luckily, it?s only 32 pages (not counting the add-ons they packaged with the zip in the download).

In some ways, the detailed system for gaining and losing honor reminds me a bit of Werewolf: The Apocalypse (White Wolf) ? there is a table of things to do and things not to do. The modifiers all seem to be for diplomacy and perform skill checks and a new type of feat called honor rewards. These feats aren?t purchased as normal feats, rather each game session a player may attempt to get a reward via a dice roll against a set DC.

These rewards range from masterwork items and monetary rewards to situational modifiers and benefits, such as an aura of courage (much like a paladin, but for a limited time) or a temporary damage resistance. You can even use it to get holdings from a lord. The chapter on corruption has all sorts of modifiers that make the corrupt look plain evil and has a very Legend of the Five Rings/Werewolf wyrm-touched feel to it.

The races have some problems, but they?re interesting. Honorborn are described as being especially righteous, but their only alignment restriction is lawful ? so a character could be an evil honorborn, which doesn?t make much sense given the background. Also, there doesn?t appear to be any challenge modifier for a honorborn character, and it should be at least +2. Tarnishborn, their opposite, do not have a necessary level modifier either. After reading them, I just wondered why they didn?t use the celestial and fiendish templates instead.

Subclasses are a new concept introduced in the supplement; basically, it?s an add-on class that you take in conjunction with a normal class selection in exchange for a cut in experience. The author takes steps to balance it, but only in the challenge rating of character. This becomes a problem if one member of the party takes a subclass and another does not. The penalty is identical to percentage cut for multi-classing, so there won?t be too much of a gap. The player with the subclass will have access to additional feats and abilities per level that the other members of the party will not.

The last section is a list of various honor-related feats for players to get. The feats have odd trade-offs, the most common being a reduction in sneak attack ability in exchange for some other bonus. The reduction is not permanent, however, and can be exchanged on a day to day basis.

Overall, I like the general concepts, but I?m not sure of their value in a game. Honor and corruption are treated as tangible things that have a real effect on the abilities of a character instead of a nebulous, social classification and reputation. Some might find that useful, so might not.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The layout and art were gorgeous. The ideas were well presented and formatted. The concepts were interesting and offered a new look at a little broached subject.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The bookmarks were listed without any organization or structure. The game material and mechanics are only valuable in settings where such concepts have meaning. Honor and corruption are definied mostly by western, Euro-centric ideals (medieval). Honor and corruption are more living, breathing things that affect a character rather than pressures and social responsibilities. It's not printer friendly.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Honor and Corruption
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Poor Gamer's Almanac (September 2005)
by Brian E. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2005 00:00:00

The Poor Gamer?s Almanac, by the Alea Publishing Group, is somewhat difficult to review, given that I?ve only read a single issue (issue 6, incidentally). As such, I?m going to give my general impressions of the magazine, rather than focusing on the specific articles within issue 6. First of all, I?d like to say that I think that Alea definitely has the right idea. As the magazine is published by Alea Publishing, its content is almost entirely made up of snippets of their product catalog. Granted, they do give some space to other publishers (in this issue, most notably a snippet from The Year of the Zombie by UKG Publishing), but it?s mostly Alea content that you?re looking at. This acts as a good way to advertise their upcoming products, as well as inform people about what?s inside of their current releases. Personally, I think more companies should do this. I can?t tell you how many times (and I?m sure many of you can sympathize) I?ve wanted to read more about an upcoming product, but the information simply hasn?t been there. I think that there are a lot of people out there who would pay a small fee for a regular magazine from their favorite publisher, and I?d include myself among them. That aside, however, not everything about The Poor Gamer?s Almanac is good. It?s a good idea, to be sure, but the execution could use a little bit of work. I often found the flow of my reading interrupted by grammatical errors, and there was more than one occasion on which I had to re-read a section because I simply didn?t know what the author was trying to say. I also wonder about how balanced some of the rules contained within this magazine are. Granted, I?m only looking at a single issue, and granted, some of these game rules might still be going through play-testing, as they?re from unreleased products, but I?d still give anything you read in this magazine a thorough examination before including it in your game. Of course, I?d say the same about feats and prestige classes found in Dragon Magazine, or even in some of Wizards? splatbooks, but that?s beside the point.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The artwork throughout was of a very high quality, and I was very impressed. The layout is clean and attractive, and there seems to be a good balance of crunch and flavor in the articles, themselves. I also like the way the ads are integrated into the magazine; specifically, the fact that you can click on them to visit the advertiser?s website. Very slick, and a good example of why PDFs are good for this kind of thing. And, of course, I really like the concept.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: This magazine could use some pretty heavy editing and proofreading before it goes to press (so to speak). Some play-testing might not hurt, either.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Poor Gamer's Almanac (September 2005)
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Poor Gamer's Almanac (September 2005)
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/02/2005 00:00:00

This issue of the Poor Gamer?s Almanac follows the tradition of some of its predecessors in being offered for free. It contains six articles of substance, with interspersed ads in the manner of a real magazine (though a significant number of the ads are for products from its parent company, as expected). The cover of this issue is an exceptionally well done gothic-style image of what seems to be a succubus. The Almanac?s stated goal is to show gamers new to PDF products what the format can do, and leading with such a strong (though perhaps slightly controversial) art piece is a sure way to do so.

The first article in the magazine is Feudal Lords Workshop. Feudal Lords is a forthcoming campaign setting from Alea Publishing. The setting is very Dark Ages of Europe in its feel, and this article talks about the low magic nature of the setting. However, while interesting, the article ultimately comes off as unsatisfying. Instead of discussing the mechanics of how to make a setting low magic, it instead talks about the various social groups of society (the church, the commoners, etc.), and why they would hate and seek to oppress arcane magic users.

While interesting, this is basically a slightly more substantive section on medieval European fears on witchcraft. There is a game mechanics section, for half-a-page, but all it really gives us is the mention that wizards must specialize in a school, and a single supernatural power (Hellfire) that a new base class can use against arcane spellcasters. Ultimately, this article was something of a let-down in that it showcased what seemed to be the least interesting aspects of a low magic campaign.

The next article, however, more than makes up for the shortcomings of the first. It presents a new prestige class, the renaissance magus. This prestige class is basically the superior version of the Mystic Theurge: taking levels in this PrC grants +1 level of existing arcane spellcasting, divine spellcasting, and psionic manifesting classes! While some readers are probably recoiling in horror now, rest assured that this does balance itself. Three levels don?t grant any bonuses to casting/manifesting (they grant abilities related to Concentration checks instead), and additionally, the class only grants one good save, and doesn?t grant any base attack bonus at all.

I really liked this article. Mystic Theurge-style prestige classes aren?t uncommon, but taking it to the next logical step seems incredibly cool, all the moreso for the fact that they balanced it so well. The article has accompanying opening text to give background for the character type that would delve into this PrC. Really, the only thing I found myself wanting was to see an epic progression chart, but that?s a minor quibble.

The next article is Backgrounds. Backgrounds are character explanations that you purchase for a small number of skill points. In return, you get a benefit. The idea is interesting, especially since it seems to almost be a merging of skills and feats. Likewise, some of the backgrounds are quite intruiging, such as the Draconic Ancestor backgrounds, which make certain skills class skills, depending on the dragon?s color. That said, there were some parts of this article that were confusing. For example, the introduction only intimates, but never clearly states, that you can only take backgrounds at your first character level, leaving it uncertain. Likewise it does explicitly state that no background can be taken more than once?and several backgrounds then state that they can indeed be taken multiple times. The idea here is solid, but the article needed to go through editing just once more.

The next article is The Lost Tribe. This is part of a continuing series examining the orc tribes from Alea?s book A Question of Honor. The article opens by talking about an innovative new mechanic: class templates. Class templates are basically templates you take, but they have entry requirements, and powers are only granted when you hit certain character levels. In effect, these are hybrid template-prestige classes. Very cool. However, the one thing I wanted to know was if the powers are given retroactively also. For example, if I take a class template at 7th level, do I gain the listed 1st- and 5th-level powers? It?s not spelled out.

The orc tribe discussed here is the Lost Tribe that titles this article. These orcs lair in an area that is experiencing a planar bleed from the Plane of Shadow, and as such, most of them have the Lost Tribe class template presented here. Of course, most of them are related to shadows. All seem balanced, though I suspect that the power that lets you regenerate 2 hit points per round when not in sunlight should be fast healing instead. Following this are a few new tribal feats that only members of this class template can take, and a map of the area where all these orc tribes live.

Following that is the Product Preview. We?re treated to a brief outline of the next several products from Alea, and general times of release. Surprisingly, the previewed product is the one that?s furthest from being released: The Book O? Death. Three new feats are given, two of which are Spelltouched feats from WotC?s Unearthed Arcana (though you don?t need that to use these). Following that is a new arcane spell. At first glance, the spell isn?t too original, since it just animates someone who dies under its effect as a wraith. However, it shows off a new spell type: immediate augmentation. Spells with that type have an outline in the description about certain circumstances where you can then cast another spell as a free or immediate action. In this case, when the target animates, you may then immediately cast command undead. This is another example of new mechanics that Alea Publishing makes that seem so natural, you wonder why you didn?t think of them first. The last bit of new crunch is a new disease?being infested with undead fleas. And you thought the living ones were bad.

The last section is also the longest. It?s a one-shot adventure set in the modern day. Titled, ?The Shafted Side? it?s an adventure from UKG Publishing?s Year of the Zombie, though you don?t need that product to run it. The premise is that the zombies have risen, and your characters and some NPCs have holed up in a building in town. Help may or may not be coming, but you can?t stay there forever. Virtually the entire product is descriptions of the surrounding areas and what the creatures there do. Very little outline for what happens when characters do something is given; the adventure is basically over when your characters escape or die.

Make no mistake, dying is more likely. Year of the Zombie zombies span a large variety, as evidenced by the three different types of zombies seen in the adventure. No quarter is given to the characters either; since they?ve been surrounded by a zombie horde for days at the start of the adventure, they begin with penalties against them. It gets worse from there. Needless to say, this adventure rocked pretty hard. If you?re a fan of zombies, or just need a quick pick up game, this one-shot is absolutely perfect. It even has several character stat blocks at the end, along with stat blocks for the zombies.

My major complaint with this issue was that a lot of the topics addressed could have had more coverage written for them; I can?t hold that against Alea though. My second major complaint is the one I have for virtually all of their products: no printer-friendly version! Even in greyscale, the gorgeous illustrations here would choke a printer. All in all though, this issue of Poor Gamer?s Almanac would be worthwhile even if you had to pay for it. And since it?s free, there?s absolutely no reason why you shouldn?t have started downloading it already. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The new mechanics presented boast minor tweaks that seem to open up new avenues of gameplay. They seem so natural you can't help but wonder why no one thought of them before.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Several sections don't get the coverage they deserve, letting you keenly feel how more could have been written. Also, a printer-friendly version is notably lacking.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Poor Gamer's Almanac (September 2005)
by Josh B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2005 00:00:00

The Poor Gamer's Almanac's stated goal is to show the potential for pdf products, and to try and lure fencesitters over to the dark side... err, I mean turn them into fans of ebooks. Each issue is initially released for free, rising to the price of $2.00 after two months.

The physical presentation is of the same high quality I've seen in other products from Alea Publishing. Even the ads in the front are attractive. The only thing I would change is to add the wax seal page numbers I have seen in used in other products. Some of the phrasings and constructions used throughout the magazine seem a bit awkward, and there are minor mistakes scattered here and there.

The opening article is a design diary for the forthcoming Feudal Lords campaign setting; this installment discussing magic in the world. I must confess to only skimming it. I've conditioned myself to avoid design diaries; every time I follow one it seems the parts I like the best get cut by the time a product gets released.

The Renaissance Magus is similar to prestige classes such as the Mystic Theurge. In this case combining arcane and divine magic with psionic power. The only thing about this class that doesn't appeal to me is the entry requirements. While the ability to cast 2nd level arcane and divine spells, and be able to manifest 2nd level powers is a good baseline; feat or skill prerequisites would seem appropriate additions. On the other hand, there's nothing mechanically wrong with the class as is.

Next up is a section on backgrounds. These represent experience your character has prior to taking up a class, or a hereditary trait unique to your character. These are purchased with skill points; the number varies based on which background is chosen, or you may give up a feat in lieu of skill points. I'm very fond of this idea, and have used similar systems in the past. Some of the options are also interesting: I think the Draconic Ancestor background makes an excellent prerequisite for anyone wanting to multiclass into a sorcerer down the road. I'm not quite as fond of some of the listed costs. While it's hard to tell without testing every one, some of the costs strike me as needing at least minor adjustments.

Another interesting concept is that of the class template. A class template works almost like a second class. If a character meets all prerequisites, she can accept a level adjustment and begin gaining the benefits of the template as she increases in level. The particular template given here centers on a tribe of orcs who have been mutated by exposure to energies from the Plane of Shadow. Members of this tribe gain access to shadow mutations, Hide, Knowledge (The Planes) and Move Silently become class skills, and the ability to select Tribal Feats - three of which are included, all of which focus on enhancing your shadow abilities. The only thing I didn't like here was the method which determines what shadow mutations you are able to select from: rogue levels plus Dex modifier, which is then compared to a chart. This method just struck me as off. This article ends with a map which shows the areas of influence of various orc tribes.

A final informational article starts by listing products on Alea Publishing's release schedule, some of which include a brief description of the planned contents. The bulk of the article consists of preview material from the Book O' Death (Working Title). There are three new feats, two of which are Spelltouched feats; one of these apparently requiring you to die and be resurrected as one of its prerequisites. The other feat involves ritual sacrifices, and as such might get you taken off the invitation list for some of the better parties. A new necromancy spell is previewed - it also introduces the concept of Immediate Augmentation spells. The general idea seems to be that under certain conditions the casting of one of these spells then allows the casting of a another spell as either a free or immediate action. Interesting. Undead fleas round out this offering. These are presented in the format of a disease, rather than a creature. Having grown up in a rural cat-owning household I find regular fleas are more than nasty enough; what kind of sick mind dreams up a version of them that you can't kill?

Running away from the undead fleas, we find ourselves face to face with a Year of the Zombie scenario. It seems to be a well written standard zombie situation; you're trapped and the zombie hordes wish to eat your brains. Nothing wrong with that. Any excuse to kill zombies is a good excuse, as my dear old mum used to say. With the PCs suffering fatigue the deck seems stacked in favor to the walking dead. Having only the barest familiarity with d20 Modern, (I looked at the SRD once) I'm afraid I don't have much to offer on the mechanics of this adventure.

Overall this issue of PGA is a good read. The errors that kept popping up were a bit annoying but bearable. Sure I complained about almost all the mechanics, but that just goes to show I liked them. I only bother trying to fiddle with things I like. There's no reason you shouldn't check this out.

I'm more on the fence as concerns the overall goal of the magazine. It's certainly a laudable one, but I'm not sure how well it can currently be accomplished. Designers and fans alike should write in, and see what you can do to help.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: An interesting PrC, backgrounds and class templates.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Various errors. Articles often refer you to other AP products for further examples. Which makes me then want those products so I can have the additional info. Which is obviously the whole idea but still.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Honor and Corruption
by Shane O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/30/2005 00:00:00

Honor & Corruption is a product meant for fantasy d20 games dealing with a new sub-sytem that measures, well, honor and corruption among characters. However, there's more to it than just that. Almost half of the product is devoted to new races, new feats, and a new mechanic called sub-classes, many of which is only lightly (though always thematically) related to ideas of honor and corruption. And that's not even getting into the free Quests enhancement product that comes with the main product.

I want to take a moment out to mention the art here. Generally artwork isn't a factor I take into account in most products, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention it here. Every page has a color "parchment" background, and there are frequent full-color illustrations on pages. Chapters begin with background pictures that are especially beautiful to look at. The only downside is that this will be murder on most printers, and there are no printer-friendly versions included.

The first chapter presents the honor mechanics. Basically, every character (unless you're Chaotic Evil) starts with some honor, and you have the chance to gain or lose more depending on your actions. The mechanics for this are simple, and place themselves nicely into the background. You can only gain so much honor during a game session, and you only check at the end of it, for example.

Chapter two talks about the rewards of honor. Basically, once per session you may make an honor check, and if you succeed at the DC for a particular Honor Reward (and meet its prerequisites), you may choose it. Given that fully fifty Honor Rewards are described here, there's plenty to make characters want to get at these.

Chapter three is the flip side, dealing with corruption. Corruption is measured as a negative honor score. The lower your score sinks, you gain a penalty relating to some form form of mental instability, and a bonus from some form of physical corruption. Only at the lowest form of corruption do you shed virtually all the negatives with being so twisted.

Chapter four introduces two new races, the Honorborn and the Tarnishborn. Thematically, these are like lesser aasimars or tieflings; these characters are born to human parents of either exceptional virtue or corruption, and have abilities relating to that. Neither have a level adjustment.

Chapter five introduces the subclass mechanic. Taking a subclass is very similar to multiclassing in a different class. The difference is that levels in a subclass tend to grant a very, very tiny increase to BAB and saves, and have class abilities (and, every so often, a few bonus hit points). That's it. In exchange, you take a -10% experience penalty.

Finally, chapter six has fifteen new feats. They feature rogue feats, which cost sneak attack damage dice to use. Not all of the feats here use the honor mechanics, though a goodly number do.

In terms of style and presentation, this product is equal to anything put out by any other company. I only noticed one error while reading through, and that was a number that had accidently been left off a table. While I have some philosophical differences with how a few things are done (such as the idea of a Neutral Evil character starting to go crazy because he becomes corrupt), I'm completely unable to deny that the formatting and layout here is rock-solid, and that the mechanics go the extra mile in how well they present themselves. Great products are found in the details, and in paying attention to those (such as mentioning if you can take 10 or 20 on honor checks, or listing the CR increase for corruption powers), Honor & Corruption shows itself to be a truly superb work. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The extremely professional layout and design. The gorgeous artwork. How it seemed to go the extra mile in offering things (such as new races and feats) that thematically rounded out the new honor and corruption mechanics presented here.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: There should have been a printer-friendly version included in the download. Also, one or two things could have used further explanation (does damage reduction x/honorable mean against a magic weapon with the honorable or redeeming qualities? Or does any creature with a positive honor score have their weapons count as honorable for purposes of overcoming DR)? <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Honor and Corruption
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