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A Magical Society: Beast Builder
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/30/2006 00:00:00

Beast Builder


It sometimes seems odd that with all the monster books out there has never been a good source for creating one?s own monsters. Sure there are a lot of great monsters but every now and again I just can not find one that fits exactly what I need. Most of them time I will find something as close as I can and maybe alter it. But it just never seems as right as when creating them from scratch. But doing that can be time consuming and it can also be easy to forget stuff. And that brings us to spring. It seems that spring not only brings in the nice weather, picnic lunches, and lots of pollen; but it brings along with it the new Magical Society book from Expeditious Retreat. This is the third year in a row we have gotten a book in the springtime and this marks the third book in the series.

Magical Society Beast Builder is the new and anticipated book by Expeditious Retreat. They have the other two books in the series; Magical Medieval Society Western Europe, and Ecology and Culture. Both of those are top notch books well research and well put together. Beast Builder is out as a PDF right now but will be in print ins a few months or so. The two hundred nad twenty five page book is filled with information. It has a three page table of contents and some very nice book marks. I hope the print version also gets an index as there is none here. The art is good but there is not a lot of it there. The book is black and white with some nice borders so it will not be that big a deal to print out.

The book is filled with a lot of information and might to some have too much information in it. For me though too much is better then too little. I might not need to know what the food supply of the creature the player characters are just supposed to kill is, but other times with a druid and range er in the party knowing about the local food webs and how it all works can create some very interesting and different sorts of adventures. There are little adventures ideas in here with how to use monsters and creatures in different ways. Many are not overly obvious and require one to think outside the box. It is not every book that presents a way to send the player characters into an environment to fix a food web that is out of whack for the local druids.

The first couple chapters deal with some good if sometimes not that useful monster information. This book is constructed to give you full information on all aspects of the creatures and in Dungeons and Dragons that is not always needed. The book starts with a nice introduction and goes into creature concepts and function. This is a nice section for people who might not know exactly what they want to create. Next it goes into the food chains and the food webs. It has some great information for what the monster will eat and how it interacts with its environment. It has some great information on magical eco systems and magical metabolisms. Fantastic creatures can be difficult to fit into nature but this book does a good job of saying how it can happen. I like the bit on what the creature eats and what eats the creature. What the creature does in terms of defense, reproduction, digestive, and many other traits are looked into as well. This will really allow for a creature to be created in a way that makes it almost alive. These details help make the environment more real and to have the beasts react in a way that might seem a little more realistic. The book has good sentimental information so one can determine where the beast place for the creature to live, roam, and hunt is. It covers tundra, grasslands, forests, desert and scrublands, rivers and lakes, swamps and marshes, coastline oceans and islands, underground environments, and mountains. The only area I think is missing is creatures that live only in the air and never come near the ground. I think that would be an interesting environment if a difficult one to describe. How the creature interacts with other creatures is next and it is followed up by evolution and intelligence. This is a great chapter filled with ideas and details that make it easy to create a creature even if one has little idea where to begin.

The next chapter should really be known as the John Cooper Chapter; it is all about the stat blocks. For those that may not know John Cooper is on of the reviewers here and is well known for deconstructing stat blocks in books and checking them to make sure they are all correctly done. There is a lot of information here but the two most important pieces I find are under the Challenge Rating and Level Adjustment. The best way to figure both of these out is to play test them. Creatures need to be play tested to see how they actually stand up to different levels of opponents. It seems at times that monsters do not get to be play tested enough. This whole section is really good and should really allow people who may feel uncomfortable creating the stat blocks for new creatures the confidence and knowledge they need to do so.

The book moves on to types and subtypes next. Everything is listed here and given skill points, feats, hit dice and all the other fun information that gets tied to the creature types. Then it goes into special abilities and conditions. This is a complete list of every special ability and condition that exists in the system reference document and in Monster Geographica Underground. And in all instances except for the extremely common ones like low light vision, each monster that uses the ability is listed. This is a fabulous resource for finding monsters. I want someone who can detect Gems. So, looking that up I find only the Gold Dragon can do that. I was actually expecting a few more then that for some reason, but gold dragons will work. Next, I look under sneak attack and see that there area few creatures this time: Babau and Derro from the SRD and Cave Hermit, Gutslug, Leytru, Silid, and Slithe from Monster Geographica Underground.

The book has a great appendix checklist that helps one check over his own work . There is an appendix with some d20 mechanics in it, but my favorite appendix is the random monster generator. This is the perfect way to just start getting the creative juices flowing and come up with something that no one has ever seen before. Just rolling and combining everything might not be the best thing so a person may need to alter some of the rolls to something that makes a little more sense to them.

This is a pretty darn useful book. I think it would be interesting to see someone create a PDF of monsters using this as their resource. The book has everything one needs to create a monster or fifty. This book is really something that anyone who want to create some new and different monsters for their campaign really needs.

<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: Well organized and useful<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Society: Beast Builder
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World Building Library: Items of Myth and Legend: India
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/25/2006 00:00:00

Items of Myth and Legend India


This is one of those nice deals where a company I really like ends up covering a topic I really want to see covered. It is a rare occurrence since real world inspired d20 products are pretty rare in the market these days. Avalanche Press did some but their covers were highly criticized. Green Ronin has done some great works but it seems they just did not appeal to fans. RPGObjects has also done some nice ones that I have been enjoying greatly. This review of course covers Expeditious Retreat?s covering of the topics.

Items of Myth and Legend: India is the first of series of PDFs by Expeditious Retreat. This PDF is only seven pages and that for me is the biggest downside. But lucky there are many other PDFs of this topic coming out. The PDF is nicely book marked and laid out. There is some color art and borders in the PDF so printing it can eat some ink but the product is small so it is not too bad.

The book describes nine items out of India?s myth and gods. Most of the items are written with different power levels. There is the powerful version as if it was wielded by a god or great hero. There is a lesser version that is more appropriate for a god?s Avatar. And the lest version that is more along the lines of what most high level PCs would be able to make or use. The different power levels for the weapons are a really good idea. It will make it really easy for a DM to use the right one for their campaign.

The individual items are nicely described but there is some knowledge the reader should have like who these gods are. There is some very brief information on them when objects they have are defined but these just are not going to be enough. Hopefully this bit of information will come out in future PDFs and in talking to Joseph Browning a PDF on the gods should be out later this year hopefully. Obviously things like this are prone to change but hopefully it will be.

The book also has a a new weapon and two new weapon properties in it. The weapon is the Chakram made famous by Xena Warrior Princess. For those not familiar with the weapon it is a bladed circle of metal designed to be thrown. The two weapon properties are both epic in nature having a market price of +6 each. They are basically the same thing only one is fire and the other is sonic in nature. They do additional damage of that type on a hit and even more on a critical.

This is a nice PDF for someone looking for artifacts and items from the myths and legends of India. It does not quite give enough info so some people not really familiar with the gods and places might need to do a little research in these things. The items though are well done and are going to be useful for someone looking for India inspired items.

<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: different power levels of items<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: not enough info on gods and places referenced in the items<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
World Building Library: Items of Myth and Legend: India
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Seeds Compilation: Fantasy I-V
by Arthur J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/05/2006 00:00:00

GREAT stuff. Just what the DM ordered. Sometimes all you need is a little seed to grow a great tree. This product really delivers. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds Compilation: Fantasy I-V
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Seeds Compilation: Modern I-V
by James B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/15/2005 00:00:00

Good compilation, seeds range from one-liners to well-thought-out adventure ideas.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds Compilation: Modern I-V
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A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe
by Craig M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2005 00:00:00

Absolutely one of the best products (pdf or otherwise) that I have purchased in the last few years. If you are looking for an informative, consistent medieval take on a fantasy world, then this is the product for you.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: Everything<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Nothing<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe
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Monster Geographica: Forest
by lior s. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/01/2005 00:00:00

superb product. Already used it for a forest ambush in my Eberron campaign<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: very clear, very well organized. It was easy to pick a monster that suited me. I copied the stats over to my adventure document which I printed out very easily<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I would like art but know that's hard. I would appreciate longer descriptive texts<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Geographica: Forest
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Seeds: Sci-Fi IV
by Michael D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/25/2005 00:00:00

A bit weak for my purposes. Many of the seeds offered seem more like pitches for sci-fi short stories or campaign settings than inter-relatable adventure hooks. Too many caused me to think, well, that's an unusual world to grow up in, but what do my players have to do about it? This flaw is shared by Sci-Fi Seeds I through III.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: I did find one I could adapt to my campaign, so I got some use out of this product.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Tone is uneven. Near-future cerebral SF ideas like memory implantation as a way of childrearing are jammed up aginst kooky stuff like vampires from the edge of the universe. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Disappointing<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Disappointed<br>



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds: Sci-Fi IV
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1 on 1 Adventures #1: Gambler's Quest
by Ron S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/23/2005 00:00:00

Excellent - Very well done!
Please continue the series asap!<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: this is a quality product all the way around...very entertaining material as well.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
1 on 1 Adventures #1: Gambler's Quest
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Seeds: Post-Apocalyptic III
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/11/2005 00:00:00

It is okay. It should be of use for GMs who are having writers block in developing their setting.


It maybe because I have been a PA fan for the last 12 years, but there were not many seeds that interested me.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds: Post-Apocalyptic III
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Seeds: Post-Apocalyptic IV
by Derek H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/11/2005 00:00:00

Like PA Seeds III, I found it to be only somewhat useful. It is really upto the GM if the seeds will be of use to him or her.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds: Post-Apocalyptic IV
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Seeds: Supers
by Troy D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/10/2005 00:00:00

Very interesting story ideas! I'm using one as a major subplot in my campaign right now, as a follow-up to an adventure I just finished running.<br><br>
<b>LIKED</b>: Very easy to use, works well with my GMing style, versatile, and some damn good ideas too!<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Why is there an OGL license page when there's no direct use of D20 stats? That could make the product more expensive than it has to be.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds: Supers
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A Magical Society: Beast Builder
by David L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2005 00:00:00

A rather interesting take on monster design. This is probably THE manual for monster design. It's not just about what abilities to give monsters or how to balance their CR. It's also about how to make monsters logical and believeable, as well as realistic (at least, in a fantasy world).<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: All the details I need to know to make a really memorable monster.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Feels like a textbook sometimes, some explanations could've been more brief, but no biggie.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Society: Beast Builder
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Seeds: Pulp
by Geoff S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/12/2005 00:00:00

Some interesting hooks here that should spark your imagination for use in a pulp campaign.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds: Pulp
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Seeds: Pulp II
by Geoff S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/12/2005 00:00:00

Some interesting hooks here that should spark your imagination for use in a pulp campaign.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Seeds: Pulp II
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A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe
by Cire H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2005 00:00:00

This is excellent. It helps a GM understand how a magical medieval society might work. Unlike a medieval society, a magical medieval society has... well, magic. And that can really change things. The book is a wealth of inspiration.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Well formatted, excellent resource. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe
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