DriveThruRPG.com
Browse Categories











Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders
by Steven T. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/26/2005 00:00:00

Some role playing books are like a bag of gold pieces. You find it laying in a treasure horde, and eagerly scoop it up, happy to add more gold to your coffers. But once you?ve read them, you realize that this treasure was all too quickly spent, and you?re going to have to go make another raid for more gold. Every now and then though, you come across a product that is more like an abandoned mine. At first glimpse, it?s just a dirty hole in the ground. But as you explore it, and make several repeated trips to this mine, you start finding a few shiny bits of rock. Eventually you stop to appraise these shiny trinkets, and you realize that you?re sitting on a diamond mine. A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders is that kind of product.

When I first looked at the product it left me cold. Ho-hum, I thought. It?s just a book about knights and templars. I suppose it might be useful if I wanted to run a low-magic crusader type game. But as I took my time reading, and began really looking at the systems developed in this book, I became more and more impressed with the wealth of material presented in this package. Clearly, if a crusader era, low magic game is what you?re looking for, then this is the product for you. However, even if you aren?t interested in crusades, or even knights and paladins, there is still a host of useful material for almost any campaign.

The color cover artwork by Ryan Rawls, Joshua Raynack and N.C. Wyeth is fitting, depicting a group of knights in matching livery. The cover is laid out in the by now familiar ?faux-tome? style, with leatherized texture surrounding the artwork. Gilded lettering, an ?embossed? seal and faux keyhole complete the design. It?s well done, and would certainly fit right in on a bookshelf next to the latest offerings from WotC. One page of credits, one age of advertising, and one page of Table of Contents/introduction lead off before we come to the bulk of the book.

It?s been said that RPG products live or die on crunch. Colorful flavor text is great, but if I?m not getting something mechanically new, then why bother? In this respect, A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders does not disappoint. There is crunch aplenty in this book, and while it?s presented in the light of Alea?s default setting of Terra ? a Crusade era, Earth-like fantasy world, there are plenty of great parts that could be easily transplanted into any world. Appropriately enough, chapter one lays out the new rules used in A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders. First up is the Class Template.

A Class Template functions much like any other inherited or acquired template. It is a set of statistics/abilities that are added to a qualified character in exchange for a Level Adjustment. The difference between a Class Template and a regular template is that the abilities gained via Class Template are applied to the character as he levels up. This is an excellent way to mirror the concept of a military order without having to design a prestige class. With Class Templates, any PC, no mater their class can operate as a member of the order, without dipping into multiclassing, or switching to a variant class. Want to play a Rogue with a heart of gold who serves as a scout for a group of Templars? Just add the appropriate Class Template and you?ve got a whole new twist on the character. For me, templates are one of the most creative parts of the d20 system, and this novel use of them is a real winner. As I said before, while the Class Template system is perfect for modeling military orders, it can be applied to far more than that. The system would also work well for modeling guilds, and even adventuring groups with a special focus. I know I?ll be getting a lot of mileage from this concept.

Another winner in chapter one is the system for Banking & Loans. Once again, this is a perfect fit for a book dedicated to military/crusading orders. Raynack rightly includes a brief history of medieval banking, noting the historical use of banking and lending by the Brotherhood of the Temple of Solomon. It?s always nice o see that an author has done his homework before presenting a book dealing with the subject. I have seen banking systems that require the DM to possess a degree in Business Administration to run. A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders? system is much simpler, and ultimately more useable and fun. Aside from serving as a moneychanger, the main role of a bank is to offer loans. Loans are handled through the existing Skill, Feat and Level systems. Want to borrow 500 gp from your order? Take 5 ranks in the Loan skill. Pay it back and you get your skill points back to spend elsewhere. Want more money? Offering a Feat as collateral in conjunction with a few ranks in the Loan skill allows you to overdraft your account even further. Still need more cash? Take an Overdraft negative level and you can accrue some truly impressive debt! The system is simple and elegant. It is worth nothing that it does still require some monitoring by the DM. An unscrupulous player could take the Loan Feat in order to have cash to use now, then pay it off when he needs the Feat to qualify for a Prestige Class. While this may be a trifle unbalancing in some games, bear in mind that the PC is still operating without a Feat during this time. As long as the DM carefully monitors the use of this system, there should be no problems.

Sadly chapter one does contain a few clunkers. The Reputation & Fame rules are a nice idea, but really just boil down to the DM choosing to apply a situational modifier to social skills if your reputation is well known. And since situational modifiers aka Favorable & Unfavorable Conditions are a part of the core rules, this system doesn?t really offer anything new. The Multi-skill Check suffers from the exact same problem. While it makes sense that a few ranks in Survival might help someone making a Heal check in the wilderness, there?s no need for a new rules system to handle this. The section on Skill Synergies in the PHB specifically notes that the DM can add new synergies at will. Why complicate a perfectly useful system?

Chapter two dives right into the military orders themselves. Each of these features an appropriate Class Template full of new features for your characters. While many of these orders are based on standard, historical groups, there is plenty of accommodation made for fitting them into any fantasy game. Again, I was pleased to see the author using accurate history to lend flavor to his rules here. The Brotherhood of the Temple of Solomon historically was destroyed by tales of witchcraft. Here the author allows Knights Templar to chose to become dedicated foes of witchcraft, or worshipers of the dark forces themselves. The rules for this are well done, and could add a lot of interesting twists to a group working as part of this order. There are several purely fantasy based orders detailed as well. Need a military order dedicated to fighting undead? Try the Order of the Perpetual Day. There?s even a ?blank? order Class Template ready for DM?s to fill out and design their own military order.

Chapter three delivers thirty-four new feats, including a new class of feat ? the Order Feat. These feats are only available to a member of the appropriate military order. In the cases of some of the more powerful feats, like Divine Physician which allows you to cast any spontaneous cure spells as a free action, PC?s will need to be high ranking members of the order to qualify. The feats seem well balanced. While there are some such as Sudden Strike (add your initiative modifier to attack rolls vs. specific opponents) that are quite strong, they are all balanced with appropriate restrictions and limits.

Chapter Four sees the introduction of two new ten-level Prestige Classes ? The Grandmaster, and the Knight Commander. Both of these are really designed for high level play. The Grandmaster in particular being suggested as an Epic Prestige Class! This is completely appropriate. The Grandmaster is designed to be the head of a particular order. This character by his very nature must be a legendary figure. A PC can only enter this class if the previous Grandmaster is dead ? a ruling that evoked first edition nostalgia for me as I recalled the old named character levels and descriptions of challenging for rank. The Grandmasters abilities make him he supreme leader of his order. He can inspire his troops, and improve their combat abilities, even as they die to protect him. The Knight Commander is quite similar to he Grandmaster, but rather than a worldwide leader, the Knight Commander is instead the highest ranking member of an order in a single city. His abilities mirror those of the Grandmaster, with a few minor differences. Realistically, although it isn?t required, a PC should pass through Knight Commander before taking on the role of Grandmaster. These prestige classes are very much in the style the d20 designers originally intended. They are meant to evoke the atmosphere of a specific group, rather than just a set of new powers to tack on to a character. The roleplaying hooks connected to even becoming a Knight Commander of Grandmaster are truly grand. Not to mention the possibilities inherent in holding such a position.

Chapter five presents Remedies & Poultices, which are great ideas hampered by a clunky rules set. The concept behind these various liniments, compresses and poultices are to offer low magic games, or groups without a dedicated healer some access to rapid healing. It?s a great idea, and the actual concoctions themselves are well designed. Each mixture is detailed with the method of application, and the time needed to make it. The varieties of mixtures each allow healing for a specific type of wound. Falling damage requires a different treatment than wounds caused by acid, which in turn must be treated differently than burns. It?s a good idea, and one that makes sense in a world without a cleric to just ?kiss it and make it all better.? The problem is that these substances can only be created with a Multi-skill Check as detailed in Chapter One. It seems like the Mutli-skill Check was only designed for use with these materials. Here?s really no reason for it. Each of these potions could have just as easily been created with an appropriate Craft skill check.. Considering the the makers Heal ranks are sued to determine the duration and effectiveness of these substances, I just don?t see why Raynack felt the need to tack on a clumsy new system to their creation. It feels artificial. Fortunately, it?s a simple matter to just dump this system and use the standard DC?s listed with a normal skill check.

New Spells are outlined in Chapter Six, as well as a new system of Spell Augmentation. Spell Augmentation allows as caster to use special materials (usually herbs) to slightly enhance the effectiveness of a spell. These effects can only be brought about by a PC that has the appropriate class feature instructing them in this ability, or by a highly skilled scholar who researches these variations on casting. Each spell is listed, in standard format, along with the following additional information: The DC required to research the augmentation; the components required to effect the augmentation; alternative components that can be used with added difficulty, and the augmented effect each caster will receive modified by the caster?s level. It?s nice to see that the author included augmentations that will apply even into Epic level play. The spell augmentation system is a real gem, and will combine nicely with other d20 products that offer unique spell components to enhance spells.

Appendix one describes four new monsters, and two modified versions of the Vampire Template from the MM. The monsters are clearly designed for Alea?s default Terra setting. The Jackal, Dire Jackal, Scarab Beetle, and Spawn of Anubis all have an Egyptian flavor to them, as do the new Vampires. The Egyus Vampire summons different animals, and creates different spawn. It also has a different slate of weaknesses. Likewise the Romus (Roman) Vampire summons different beasts, and can assume different forms from a standard MM vampire. Again, the weaknesses are changed as well. These variant templates while clearly designed for a ?Cleopatra? style Rome vs. Egypt campaign could be a real surprise for any group of adventurers who think they are dealing with a ?normal? vampire.

Appendices two and three contain three maps. Two of these are aerial views of a keep and a castle. They contain no legends and are ready for a DM to label and drop into his existing campaign. The third map is an overland view showing an area controlled/contested by Templars and Teutogens. Again, it seems clear that this map is designed with Terra in mind, and has been labeled appropriately. The labels are vague enough that an enterprising DM could file the serial numbers off and use this map in his own campaign as well. It?s worth noting that each of the maps has been included as a high resolution JPG file. This will allow easy modification in any image editing software.

While most OGL disclaimers are fairly dry reads, it?s worth pointing out that Alea has embraced the OGL concept fully with this product. Under the open game content section on page 44 is mention that this book is to be accompanied by an ?Alea Publishing Group Reference Document? or APGRD. This file would contain only the open content found in A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders, and is designed to allow publishers easy access to this material. While my review copy did not contain this document, this is an admirable feature, that really encompasses the spirit of the OGL, and I applaud APG for their efforts.

If you?re itching to run a Crusaders game ? don?t waste time. Buy this book now. There a mass of great information in this file, making it a must have if you are playing such a campaign. If the crusades aren?t your thing, this book still offers a lot of bang for your buck. Five bucks gets you a great system for designing new military orders, guilds, etc. as well as some excellent crunchy feats and a simple and elegant banking/lending system. While the spell augmentation system is slightly flawed by the Multi-skill check it?s easy enough to salvage, and useful enough to make it worth doing so. OL isn?t a shiny bag of easily grabbed gold. It?s a demanding read that you?ll need to mine to truly harvest its riches. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The banking system is simple and elegant. The Class Template concept is a great way to build custom classes, especially for troublesome classes lke Paladin that otherwise have problems with mlti-classing.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The Multi-Skill check sysem is clnky, and unecessary. It adds uneeded complication to an otherwise great idea. The rules for Reputation and Fame were likewise more complex than need be. Good ideas, but clunky implementation.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Mindcraft
by Josh B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/25/2005 00:00:00

As a slightly crusty (and on occasion odd-smelling) gaming veteran, I haven't been content with psionics since 1st edition AD&D. So I dove into Mindcraft expecting the worst while hoping for the best.

I always like to get the bad stuff out of the way first. Most of my complaints with this particular product are style related. The first of these is the advertised page count: the listed 64 pages includes the front and back covers, ads for other Alea Publishing products and the OGL notification.

As advertised it comes with two versions; one with all the bells and whistles, and one stripped down to be less abusive to your printer. While it's not that I dislike this, I would have personally preferred a landscape version for a more comfortable on-screen read.

Despite my small complaints, the overall visual presentation of the product is excellent. The backgrounds and page borders are attractive, but I never felt they were intrusive or distracted from the content. Mindcraft is bookmarked, enabling you to easily jump from section to section.

Moving on to the game content itself, we are presented with two core classes: the Mind Walker and Mental Warrior, which are similar to the Psion and Psychic Warrior classes. There are also two prestige classes, the Master of the Craft and Mental Inquisitor, rules for epic progression of the two core classes and rules for using reputation. Mindcraft also introduces four new skills; three of which are used in conjunction with the power system, 13 mental feats and three epic feats.

The power system presents several changes from the Expanded Psionics Handbook. Powers are assigned to slots which can not be changed later. Rather than a number of uses per day, a nonlethal damage based fatigue system has been used; overuse of powers can leave a character drained or unconscious.

The individual powers are assigned to one of eight categories. While most of the abilities do not have a level requirement, the more efficacious abilities will have one or more prerequisite powers. This new system has its good and bad points. While it allows you to customize your power selection, the inability to switch out old powers can leave you stuck with something you don't like down the road. The Energy Control powers may disappoint some players; while many of them have quite powerful or interesting effects, you are limited to pursuing only one of the elemental trees.

The remainder of the book details several new items, a selection of monsters and finishes with a brief overview of a psionic organization.

While it certainly isn't for everyone, Mindcraft presents an interesting take on psionics. Anyone dissatisfied with the regular system, or simply looking for a change of pace should consider taking a look.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Good presentation and layout. Well bookmarked. Interesting variation on the psionics system.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: More accurate page count needed, would have liked a landscape formatted version. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mindcraft
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Honor and Corruption
by Steven P P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/31/2005 00:00:00

The honor system in this book is just a little bit of genius -- it takes the d20 Modern Wealth system and converts it into a method of treating one's personal Honor as a resource, with which one can purchase either permanent or temporary benefits in line with the great knights and so on.

I can see using this in a variety of campaigns and think that it lends itself to all kinds of expansion.

For example, change the name to Glory, and make a few other small changes, and use it in a Viking (or even Werewolf: the Apocalypse styled) campaign. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Honor and Corruption
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

APG Paper Tiles Vol. III: Future Basic Room Set
by Douglas B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/29/2005 00:00:00

I am enjoying the product. This is especially the case with the floor tiles. I can use them in my Dwarven Forge Sci-Fi and Cavern Master Maze layouts. It allows my change the floors slightly to specialize rooms made with these 3d Terrain pieces by Dwarven Forge. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The Runway especially!<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: They need more Sci-Fi tiles!<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
APG Paper Tiles Vol. III: Future Basic Room Set
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders
by Anthony L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/08/2005 00:00:00

The main concept in this book - a class template for advancement in an order - is an idea that's astoundingly simple and yet no one has done it before. It's a great idea, and I quickly found that prestige classes were getting replaced in my games by class templates - an idea taken from this book.

So even if you don't like military orders all that much - if you find yourself using prestige classes in most of your games, or all of your games, you owe it to yourself to check out this product. You may find yourself using more and more class templates instead.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Question of Loyalty: A Guidebook to Military Orders
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Professions: Game Enhancement
by Mary J. J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/28/2005 00:00:00

Informative. I admit, I was expecting more details, more pages, but on the other hand, I don't feel I did wrong spending $1.50 on it. It will be put to good use in my new campaign!<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Professions: Game Enhancement
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Professions: Game Enhancement
by Jeremy S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2005 00:00:00

An interesting take on the "normal people" skills. There is a system for "Craft Points" which allow for a character to build something during downtime. It seems to work well enough. But even without the Craft Points, there are quite a few feats that could be useful in a game.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Whisper of Horses
by C J. W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/11/2005 00:00:00

The Whisper of Horses was a GREAT adventure. I purchased this PDF d20 Modern Horror adventure and converted it and ran it in a GURPS modern style campaign. The game played well and was easily converted into the GURPS system. There were a lot of options for roleplaying and my players took full advantage of it. There was actual suspense and even a little bit of fear at the table many times during the course of this adventure. In the first of 2 six hour sessions, the party did not engage in combat once, and my gaming group is pretty trigger happy. Twice in over the course of the adventure, the room fell silent and mouths dropped open as i described a scene or event from the scenario. Way to go Josh and Alea! Thanks for a great adventure and fun time! I can't wait for your next Modern Horror game!<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The idea was great. The adventure built suspense. The handouts, maps and illustrations were good. A few questions that I had were answered by the author within 2 days by email.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: There were a few items that werent explained very well. There were a few things that didnt make sense, but were explained in correspondence with the author. Thanks!<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Whisper of Horses
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

APG Knight Guidebook Package
by Ken W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2005 00:00:00

Loved it all cavler in many flavors. If you want cavlers in your campaign it's what you want or historic fiction.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
APG Knight Guidebook Package
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Character Theme: Crusader (3.5)
by Ken W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2005 00:00:00

Not what I wanted. I deleted it. I was not an idea that I was cuold see useing. I liked there product on knights though.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Disappointed<br>



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Character Theme: Crusader (3.5)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Professions: Game Enhancement
by James S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/13/2005 00:00:00

When I first saw this product, I was very excited by the thought of what it was going to bring to the table. I was a bit let down though when I discovered that alot of the content inside was hingent upon the implementation of a new mechanic (craft points). While the craft points system is well thought out and works great, it is of zero value to me because I have already tweaked the core rules to such an extent, that if I were to add craft points it would require ALOT of re-engineering on my end. This by no means detracts from the product itself - unless of course you are like me and game with TONS of home rules. If you are running a campaign that uses little to no special rules, then this would be well worth a look.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Professions: Game Enhancement
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Character Theme: Alchemist (3.5)
by Michel M. d. C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2005 00:00:00

Great subclass. I hadn't used these before, but I am going to use this for some NPC's in my first campaign as DM. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Simple, to the point, and it didn't drag. Also, it had a few minor alterations to the core rules that it made it much more exciting. <br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Nothing much. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Character Theme: Alchemist (3.5)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

APG Paper Tiles Vol. I: Basic Room Set
by Patrick C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/24/2005 00:00:00

Nice looking terrain. Well worth the price. Go ahead and buy this.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
APG Paper Tiles Vol. I: Basic Room Set
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

APG Knight Guidebook Package
by Trevor C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/19/2004 00:00:00

see my ratings as addressed in the sections below.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Disappointing<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Disappointed<br>



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
APG Knight Guidebook Package
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Poor Gamer's Almanac (November 2004)
by keith s. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/04/2004 00:00:00

I was looking for ideas to place in my new nation that I'm developing and this issue has several of them in one place. It is well writen and flows easy. Great job.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Poor Gamer's Almanac (November 2004)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 106 to 120 (of 140 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
 Gift Certificates