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Legends & Lairs: Draconic Lore
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/25/2010 10:06:23

Passing by a couple of pages tabulating and categorising the dragons herein, we come to a Welcome! which explains both that this is the first softcover book in the Legends and Lore series (although preceded by several hardbacks) and something about the contents. The dragon, of course, is THE iconic fantasy monster, and one which characters, however powerful, ought to fear. Some of the dragons presented here are designed to be just that, the fearsome end-of-campaign climactic challenge. Others, whilst still posing sufficient challenge to make any character think twice about taking them on, have purposes such as populating specific environments or meeting particular needs.

Each dragon is presented in a standard manner, with a stat block and considerable amounts of descriptive material. Tables cover the necessary detail pertaining to draconic abilities based on age/size. Most are going to provide opposition to your characters, although a few have sufficient intelligence and inclination to become allies or companion beasts. The aquatic varieties are of particular interest, as is the cavern dragon which is only to be found in the darkest depths underground. This dragon is blind, but has excellent hearing and sense of smell - it is said that one you have attracted the attention of a cavern dragon the only escape is to get above ground, as they do not venture out onto the surface. Their lack of sight provides for some unusual treasure hoards as they eschew the 'shiny' items in favour of those which feel or smell attractive.

Diamondback dragons like mountainous regions near deserts and feature a rattle on the end of the tail, the source of their magical abilities which include hypnosis and suggestion, although they are powerful fighters and have a breath weapon as well. They are crafty and, as they are restless wanderers, ensure that their lairs are protected by ample traps to guard them whilst they are out.

As for the aquatic dragons, a fun one is the dragonshark, which combines the most savage aspects of a dragon and a shark - not something you want circling around when at sea. They number amongst the several 'mindless killing machine' dragon varieties in this book, although some aquatic communities claim to have managed to tame dragonsharks if captured young. There are aquatic 'real' dragons as well, the oceanic dragon poses a threat to ships while the reef dragon is smaller and weaker, using skills, magic and allies to make up for their less-than-imposing stature.

A reclusive and uncivilised group of sentient humanoids, the dragoth, are available as NPCs or indeed characters. Bearing draconic characteristics such as coloured scales (in the hues of the main chromatic dragons) and accessing, at higher levels, breath weapons they could prove an interesting culture to interact with, despite being regarded as mere legend by many.

Drakes are smaller cousins to the true dragons and can prove valued companions if they choose to befriend you. Variants can serve as mounts, guards, scouts or couriers, all exhibiting great loyalty as well as mental communication with their companion being... and, it seems, the drake is convinced that it's an equal partnership, whatever the companion may think!

Tome lizards are strange, although not smart enough to be able to read they love books and are drawn to libraries. They can be trained as guards, provided you can keep them from eating the volumes in their care! Their breath weapon is a black ink, prized amongst wizards for writing in spellbooks, and they can make good familiars. They have more dubious uses: wizards have been known to release one in a rival's library and they can be used to destroy other records that a crafty individual would prefer remained unknown or unavailable.

Amongst the other varieties presented, another intriguing one is the woolly dragon, which lives in extreme cold and is an intelligent and cruel hunter. Although scaled, they also grow fur or wool, hence the name. They do not fly but climb well, and harbour a mutual racial hatred for white dragons.

From the ecological stand-point, this is a fun assemblage of variants on the theme of 'dragon' - you can imagine numerous learned tomes tracing the relationships between the creatures here and the classic dragons we already know. There's plenty of scope for adventure and encounters involving these creatures, in all a neat collection.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legends & Lairs: Draconic Lore
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Legend of the Five Rings: Game Master's Screen and Adventure
by Don L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/21/2010 20:57:49

I have a problem with the way it was scanned. I would like to print this off but as it is scanned now, it is difficult to do. I have tried using GIMP but I have not figured out how to divide it into easily printed sizes.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Game Master's Screen and Adventure
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Anima Beyond Fantasy: Core Rulebook
by Richard T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/19/2010 09:28:44

First impressions here... A solid product. Good mechanics, love the richness of the game world. Character creation is not simple or quick, but I feel like this helps add to the customizability and depth of the characters. Magic users and ki users characters are even more involved. Overall, Anima is a welcome departure from the standard 'MMO on paper' that seems to have taken over mainstream gaming. Pick it up today!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Anima Beyond Fantasy: Core Rulebook
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/19/2010 05:20:09

Third and Fourth Edition of L5R herald a return to the 'Roll & Keep' system that is long overdue after the debacle that was D20 L5R. The system is excellent in conveying the flavour of the setting - one of heroism and epic deeds and is well-married to a rich, deep setting. The setting - a quasi-historical fantasy Japan - that offers a myriad of role-playing styles and opportunities. You want a game focused on ninja assassinations? Fine. How about a high-intrigue court game with an intense social setting? Done. How about a tragic game of honour, loss and epic battle? Check.

This is not 'AD&D with katanas'. It is a game where the social setting, etiquette, customs and culture come to the fore and the 'kewl powers' take a definite backseat. It is a setting where your characters see definite advancement and it is not always measured in dice and stats.

I'd recommend two other items to go with this purchase - the free module 'Legacy of Disaster' to get you started, and the novels. Whilst the latter are not brilliantly written (very standard gaming novel fare), but they do evoke the setting and advance the timeline very well.

On this note, the backstory is quite well-developed and tied to the events in the card game's continuity, but don't let this discourage you - it makes for entertaining reading and you can ignore almost all of it in any campaign.

In short, if you are after a fantasy game with a little more substance and a very different feel, this will fit the bill.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
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Legend of the Five Rings: Legacy of Disaster
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/16/2010 19:40:53

The question I have to ask about this product is:

Why hasn't everyone with an internet connection downloaded this?

Take everything I like about L5R, put it in an easy-to-play package, and you've got Legacy of Disaster. Granted, there's a lot you can do with more, but if you wanna give the system a quick spin, this is perfect for you.

This is like a slice of cake: There's still more out there, but it's really, really good.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Legacy of Disaster
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Legend of the Five Rings: Game Master's Screen and Adventure
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/16/2010 19:09:15

There's one thing you know for certain when you look at anything related to L5R. High quality.

That's all I can say about the GM screen and Descent into Darkness.

Top notch art, top notch writing.

While the $9 may be a lot for a GM Screen, if you play L5R, this is a must-have, and the included adventure provides a great stepping point for a campaign.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings: Game Master's Screen and Adventure
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Masters of Court
by Nicolas D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2010 14:27:24

Article mal scanné. Dommage. 20€ pour un pdf illisible... J'ai contacté le support RapideJDR, ils m'ont dit qu'ils n'avaient pas le problème et de le re-télécharger... C'est vrai que la qualité d'affichage d'Acrobat dépend beaucoup du téléchargement. LOL !!



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Masters of Court
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/08/2010 22:18:27

I have only one gripe with this: It's so long.

However, once you get past that, Legend of the Five Rings is worth the read. Basically a mix of cultural analysis and game, the nice thing about Legend of the Five Rings is that you can play it in any style: politics and fighting are available, so if you want a game of social intrigue, or wanton bloodshed, you can run it.

The rules are unique and interesting, and I must say that it avoids most of my gripes with the majority of systems out there. There are no huge modifiers leading to foregone conclusions, and you don't wind up throwing hundreds of dice.

The setting has loads and loads of content to go with it, almost all of the 400 pages are crammed with information, making it one of the best books around.

The art and typesetting is perfect. I really cannot find a complaint. Legend of the Five Rings has exciting, gripping typesetting and art that make it an easy read because you feel engaged and immersed.

Granted, at $36, it's an investment, but you really do get what you pay for, and since it has the content of many lesser systems, Legend of the Five Rings is a one-stop-shop for any feudal Asian setting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
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Legend of the Five Rings 4th Edition
by Shotgun G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/07/2010 18:46:16

Having discovered L5R through the CCG, I was immediately hooked on the whole history of Rokugan. For 15 years, AEG have been adding to this amazing story of a land torn by warring Clans, threats from the Shadowlands and more recently pestilence and disease.

3rd edition to me was very clunky, with a lot of things that made it slow and labourious. 4th edition is has been redesigned, almost from the ground up. Changes to combat, the Clan schools and tweaks here and there; have made the whole system smoother.

Whether your new to L5R or a player of the older versions, this edition should appeal. From the rich artwork to the streamlined character creations, the book is very well presented and full to the brim with information.

At 405 pages, it is a hefty read. But it is also an easy read, with each section broken into smaller Books. The Book of Air details the history of Rokugan, the culture that makes up society; as well as sections on all of the Clans. The Book of Earth is the general mechanics of the game; while The Book of Fire is the Character Creation. Book of Water has all the information on Advanced Mechanics, with the Book of Void covering all the GM aspects of the game.

Overall a great update on the system, with some tweaks that make the whole thing a lot sharper to play; both as a player and GM. If you like Japanese History or just enjoy an RPG with an oriental flavour; then Legend of the Five Rings is perfect for this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Anima: Gaia Volume 1: Beyond the Dreams
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/06/2010 03:15:13

Wow. I’ve been looking over this system for a while, the incredible attention to the art being a primary attraction for me. The question always arose of whether the game was all style and no substance (did they blow their budget on the art with nothing left for writing) – and the answer is that this provides both. The PDF copy has been formatted with utility in mind, with many internal links allowing you to ‘flick’ through the book rather than scrolling ad nauseum.

This is essentially a World Guide, analogous to the release for any other game world – now you have the rules, it’s time to look at where you can go. Each section is logically set out, with interesting facts about each locale and gives the reader a good feel that each place is slightly different and has its own flavour – a point that is made by the attention to the artwork in each section too. Whilst it is all tied by a common theme, there are distinct differences which is a nice touch.

Overall, Anima players and GMs alike will find this a valuable addition to their bookshelves (virtually or in print) and the internal links make this a game-night-friendly supplement.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Anima: Gaia Volume 1: Beyond the Dreams
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Anima Beyond Fantasy: Core Rulebook
by James b. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/23/2010 14:56:21

WOW! I curse myself for not getting this sooner then I did. Amazing in almost every aspect, definitely something I am going to get my group to take a serious look at when it comes time for a new campaign. From the rules, simple but can get as crunchy as ya like, to the general feel of it all, it works wonderfully. A nice break in the world that seems obsessed with the D20.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Anima Beyond Fantasy: Core Rulebook
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Grimm: Core Rulebook
by Hamilton R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/07/2010 07:18:07

Grimm is a fantasy-type setting for a world of imagination that resembles the classic fairy-tales of old. You play the part of a kid caught in this world, trying to make your way home, completing adventures and quests along the way.

It's a fascinating book, with a unique game-play system and a rich world to explore. The rating would have been 5 star, except for the price; either buy the PDF or the book, but not both: I suggest that you buy the book, unless you really like to read things from the computer screen.

All in all, a great purchase and a great game -- seasoned game players will find it interesting, beginners will find it informative. Grimm is a must-have for your collection.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Grimm: Core Rulebook
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Fireborn: Player's Handbook
by John Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/12/2010 23:11:34

great game great product....fast download and the ebook is excelent in quality....extreamly clear :) worth every penny I spent...maybe more would recommend this to a friend



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fireborn: Player's Handbook
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Midnight: Fury of Shadow
by Arnon R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/23/2009 03:11:07

Fury of Shadow is part of the Midnight line, a campaign setting detailing a war-torn land where evil has won, and the dark god Izrador reigns supreme. The forces of Izrador have crushed the land of man, where pockets of resistance still exist, and are now waging war on two main fronts: the Kaladrun Mountains to the east, home of the dwarves; and the great forest of Erethor that occupies nearly half of the western side of the continent, home to the elves.

Erethor and the elves is the focus of Fury of Shadow.

The box contains the following: a big map of Eredane, character sheets, DM screen, map booklet, and 160 pages soft cover campaign book (the meat of the box).

The map is a very high-quality image which you can zoom in to with very little distortion (to a point) and I can just imagine cropping small areas of the map, pass it trough some image manipulation tool (photoshop, paint.net, etc.) and hand them over to my PCs as prize.

The character sheet is just like the standard D&D character sheet but with a Midnight logo on top and a place to write your character’s Heroic Path, the magic area still has ‘Spells per day’ boxes where Midnight uses spell points, and Knowledge (planes) and Knowledge (religion) which are removed from Midnight are still there. And the DM screen, while it has nice paintings on it, has the usual information one would expect on a DM screen such as AC modifiers, actions, movement, and even a Turn Undead table, something not available normally to PCs; and a very small amount of stuff significant for a Midnight game: languages available, time to learn new spells, and the Sahi calendar. All these three things could have been much better.

The most important part of the box is of course the campaign book. This book is a must for any DM who plans to run a campaign in Erethor, or who just wants to expand his/her knowledge of the elves and what they are facing. The file comes with bookmarks to head of chapters.

I’ll break down the chapters for you:

Chapters 1 to 3 describe the various regions of the elven forest Erethor that are directly affected by the war with the Shadow (Izrador): the Caraheen (central), Veradeen (north) and the Arrun jungle and Druid’s Swamp (south). The Caraheen receive the most attention with a page count that almost equals both the south and northern area, which is a shame. The relatively quite coastal area of western Erethor, the Miraleen, does not receives it’s own chapter, and while it get several other mentions in other areas of the books, I think that some more information on this area of Erendane would have been welcomed. Even though, all three chapters a choke full of great locations and interesting personalities with enough quirks and twists that a cunning DM could have his players constantly on edge and asking themselves whether they should truly trust that elf. that particular person (and in my opinion, one of the most important parts of a Midnight campaign)

Chapter 4 goes into a little more detail about the various elven societies (all four), their strength and how they fight the Shadow, what could happen should the Shadow succeed in corrupting or defeating some of them, as well as some adventure hooks. The chapter also provides on some other groups that help/hinder the elves in their fight such as the Cult of the Witch, Roland’s Raiders, and the Pirate Princes.

Chapter 5 provides an excellent recounting of the war on Erethor for the past 99 years, an Arc by Arc (months in Midnight) description of the Shadows “final” and greatest offensive against the elves, and some of the Witch Queen plans to counter such an offensive. It is important to know, and the authors keep reminding us, that this chapter is a possibility of things to happen to provide adventure seed andor a backdrop to the party’s adventure in the elven forest.

Chapter 6 describes the Shadow’s forces besieging Erethor, the location and difficulties these forces have, their plans of conquest, the personalities and ambitions of the various captains (with all the conflicts between them), giving us a better understanding of how they might react; and as well as the elven forces and how they try to counter the Shadow’s minions. This is another excellent part of the book with plenty of ideas.

Chapter 7 provides general adventure ideas in Erethor for both good or evil parties, and three short encounters taking advantage of the various areas described in the book. Chapter 8 gives us the new monsters and several important NPCs complete with their personalities and quirks. Chapter 9 is the shortest and gives us a handful of feats and one Prestige Class, the Erunsil Blood.

The book on the whole is very well written. Short stories (several paragraphs at most) dot the chapters and give readers a more in-depth look at what the elves and orcs fighting in this warfront feel. You cannot read a page of this book without an adventures idea, if not a whole campaign, jumping out at you (in fact, I recommend reading this book with a notebook and pen on the side. Just in case).

There are no meta-plots in this book. The authors keep reminding the reader that everything written down are suggestions and ideas, a possibility of things to come, nothing more. They leave enough gray area for the DM to run around in and fit and mold into his/her own campaign.

The book in black and white (as all Midnight books are) and I like this because I believe it very fitting for this dark setting. While I do not like the cover art of the book, I do like the interior art. The map booklet is also black and white, and I have no problem with that either; I do not think it detracts from them, and still believe they are very good.

For people not playing Midnight, Fury of Shadow offers little. There are several mechanics strewn throughout the book for forest travel with haunted trees, braving rapids, dealing with thin ice, and more, but there are plenty of books out there offering such mechanics. Fury was made for Midnight and fits into the setting perfectly.

I bought the original box set when it was firs published (The original box set cost $50, and I do think it was a little too much for what the box offered. I’m sure a little shopping around will produce a better price. ); Read it and loved it; and over the next several years flipped through it from time to time. Recently, I have re-read the book and have fallen in love with it again.

With this new offer of Midnight PDFs and only a $7 tag price, this should be a no brainer. If you are a Midnight DM and plan to run an Erethor campaign, then this is it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midnight: Fury of Shadow
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Midnight Chronicles
by Jason T. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/22/2009 20:20:52

Writer/director/producer Christian Petersen’s Midnight Chronicles is an indie film based on the fantasy role playing game Midnight from Fantasy Flight Games. Evil rules in Midnight’s world of Aryth after Izrador, the dark god defeated the free races in a war 100 years prior. Men are now enslaved while Elves and Dwarves have disappeared into the forests and mountains. Hope resides in only the few brave enough to pursue it. As Mag Kiln travels to Blackweir to investigate the disappearance of a fellow priest, others also descend on the small town where a complex web of good versus evil develops that has implications on the future of the dark forces that rule the land.

For as relatively small a production as it is, Midnight Chronicles is incredibly ambitious. And while it surprisingly rises to the level of visual prowess demanded by its subject matter, it falls woefully short in the story department. Like a lot of recent indie flicks, Midnight Chronicles is another impressive-but-flawed realization of a lot of hard work, money, and time and it’s also one hell of a mixed bag of movie pros and cons. Unfortunately the cons are so fundamentally important to the art of storytelling that they are impossible to overlook.

I’ll start with the things Midnight Chronicles does well.

The photography is beautiful and stark, utilizing various filters to washout primary colors and enhance the dark oppressive settings in which this story takes place. Filmed in Wisconsin and Minnesota, Midnight Chronicles’ locations and sets are on par with movies that boast much larger budgets. This is apparent immediately during the film’s large scale opening shot of slaves being marched through a vast valley overlooked by a kingdom nestled in the hills.

Midnight Chronicle’s sound production is also very well done. This movie takes place in multiple and various settings, including large scale outdoor and underground locations. It features crowds, fights, the occasional flock of birds, creatures, magic spells, you name it. Yet the sound mix remains polished and consistent throughout.

The cast is wholly comprised of theatre, television commercial, and indie film talent based in the Twin Cities. Midnight Chronicles has more characters than the average indie movie which usually predicts a huge drop off in performance between the leads and the supporting characters. However, by casting capable actors rather than friends and family, Petersen by and large avoids the aforementioned indie flick malady. While no one here threatens Brando’s spot on the all-time list, more importantly there are no sore thumbs in this group.

From a production perspective – the sets, the costumes, the effects, the acting, i.e. the tools used to help tell the story – this movie is top notch. However, a movie’s entire reason for being is born well before the actors are cast, the sets are lighted, and the cameras role. Storytelling matters most and it’s here that Midnight Chronicles falls short.

Midnight Chronicles’ script appears to have been a structural mess from square one. I consider myself a fairly astute movie watcher and I spent over half the time wondering what the hell was going on. This is because the very basic essentials of plot, specifically movie plot are never clearly defined and in some cases they’re missing all together. For example, the three act structure is a forgotten concept. This makes it difficult to discern who the protagonists and antagonists are as there is no clear main tension established early on. The main tension defines when the first act ends and thrusts us into the bulk of the film armed with knowing who to root for, who to root against, and what they all want. It’s a simple concept the by-product of which results in a compelling story.

Midnight Chronicles also suffers from a considerable lack of originality. Conceptually, it’s extremely similar to Tolkien’s Middle Earth mythos. There are Orcs, and Elves, and references to Dwarfs. Even the proper names spoken throughout the film sound like they were cribbed from a Lord of the Rings improv group. I understand that the source material for the movie is a strain of RPG that owes much of its existence to D&D and by extension the Tolkien books, but this is a level of similarity that’s off-putting and distracting.

It comes down to the fact that I’m on the outside looking in and that usually doesn’t bode well for one’s reaction to a film. It’s certainly possible that Petersen is a bit too familiar with the source material for the film’s own good. And maybe fans of the game will dive right into Midnight Chronicles and feel at home. However, I’m neither familiar with the game, nor am I a gamer in general so perhaps too many of those source elements are lost on folks like me. The bad news for Midnight Chronicles is that there are more of us on the outside than there are on the inside.

Christian Petersen’s film is an admirable effort. Compared to the vast majority of true independent films, this movie is made with a superior level of effort and skill and the aesthetic results bear that out. However, it must not be overlooked that in an age when digital cameras and high-end digital editing suites are commonplace, the production quality of a film is no longer enough to ignore its flaws. As a matter fact, with this technology being both cheap and readily available to the masses it has put an emphasis on the most basic and timeless components of movie making – a creative angle on a well-crafted story. If Midnight Chronicles had succeeded in these areas as well as it has in all other areas I’d be trying to sell you on the second coming of Peter Jackson. Instead, I’m writing about a movie that didn’t quite fulfill its potential.

2.5 out of 5



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Midnight Chronicles
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