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Unveiled Masters: the Essential Guide to Mind Flayers
by Michael I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/29/2016 16:31:53

A awesome book for those who love the brain eaters. It has a wealth of history, tips, insights, and expanded abilities to make illithiads even deadlier threat.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unveiled Masters: the Essential Guide to Mind Flayers
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So Shall Ye Reap
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/21/2012 11:07:51

In its original form, this was the first adventure released for the Living Arcanis shared campaign, under the Dungeons & Dragons 3e ruleset. Now it has been retooled using the new Arcanis RPG rules and released to a wider market.


On the face of it, the challenge is a simple one. The characters' mission is to retrieve a young scion of the nobility who is off on a 'gap-year' wander around Onara, as word of a plot laid by the Harvesters to kidnap him has come to light. Being Arcanis, of course, there are wheels within wheels...


The sequence of events moves at a fast pace, yet there's time for characters to interact, to think, to investigate, as well as to fight. Material is laid out in a logical fashion so as to be clear to the Chronicler what should be said, and how NPCs and monsters will behave depending on what the characters do, although it is assumed that the characters will follow the sequence as provided without too much deviation. There are one or two points where, unless critical die rolls are made, characters may fail to pick up essential details: they will be able to (more or less) complete the adventure without them - although they'd likely miss the climactic battle at the end - but will not have much chance of understanding what was actually going on! The scenario provides alternative endings to accommodate success or failure, and is intened as the first in a whole plot arc, so some points may become clear later even if they are missed during this adventure.


Whilst overall the adventure is laid out clearly, there are some minor niggles of misplaced words that a thorough proof-read would have eliminated; and at one point the text suggests that the characters would receive a favourable modifier if they mention a piece of information that, according to earlier text, they will not have been told!


However, it's a good adventure that provides an excellent introduction to just how devious things can get in this setting. There's a new monster, a nasty new Talent and, for those who want to use this in a shared campaign, the necessary certificates to print out. If you don't, there are still some good contacts and pointers to further adventure.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
So Shall Ye Reap
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Forged in Magic - Arcanis RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/19/2012 11:32:50

The Introduction launches straight in to a discussion of the role of magic items in Arcanis. In a word, they're unusual! Even magic armour and weapons are rare. They are hard to make, involving meticulous preparation, precise crafting and arduous rituals. Few but the dwarves even bother. They should appear only as significant elements in your plots, the object of a quest, perhaps, or reward for some major exploit. So it is worthwhile to make some effort over the ones you include, for they will become notable artefacts, the sort legends build up around and about which songs are sung!


General rules are also dealt with here, mostly concerning how many magical items a character can use at any one time, and explaining the way in which the descriptions of the ones that form the majority of the book are laid out. Trade in magic items is miniscule, you are unlikely to find anyone selling them let alone a whole shop-full, and in the unlikely event a character wants to part with one, a gift to a patron or a protege is more likely than a sale... after all, characters are heroes, not merchants!


Lesser but potent effects can be brought about by carving runes into your weapons or armour, as described in the next section, Runic Items. Again, it is a difficult procedure and few learn and practice the craft. Indeed, an individual runesmith's work is generally distinctive enough for him to be identified. Although weapons and armour are the most likely places, they also can be placed on shields, wands and even fine clothing. The rune used, of course, determines the effect that can be caused. Runic items are marginally more common than magic ones, but not by much. The item on which the rune is inscribed has to be worn or used normally for the rune to take effect. The section finishes with a list of runes and the effects that they can have - these often vary depending on where you put them: a fire rune, for example, will protect the wearer of armour on which it is inscribed, whereas if you put one on your sword, you can command it to burst into flames, providing light and/or causing fire damage (in addition to normal damage) when you hit someone with it. There's a wealth of runes available, each with a range of options, so you can devise pretty much whatever you want.


Next follow sections on different items, each providing some examples that you can use or which would serve as exemplars should you prefer to design your own. First, Magical Armour and Shields are discussed. As recommended in the Introduction, each item has a unique title and a backstory... a history that may be used to spawn ideas of how to use it, make it an integral or pivotal part of your plots, or may be something that characters research once they have heard, or even come into possession, of the item in question. In short order, these defensive items are followed by wands, weapons, garb, and miscellaneous gear.


Then comes a section, Elixirs, Oils and Potions. Again crafted through the use of complex rituals, these will cause magical effects when consumed or otherwise used. This is followed by a collection of Alchemical Items. Although their effects may appear magical, are they the creation of a wizard or of science? Most characters will probably just take the benefit of the substance's effect without worrying too much about how it is made!


Finally, there is a note about the creation and use of Spell Scrolls. These are relatively straightforward to write, provide you know the spell and are willing to put in the time, and even easier to 'cast' - anyone can do so simply by breaking the seal on the scroll - or are they? For it is whoever releases the spell that takes the Strain of the casting, and that three-fold! Ouch!


This is a neat supplement packing a lot in, not just information about how magic items, runic items and other magical or quasi-magical things can be made and used, but providing a goodly assortment to get you going or to inspire you in the creation of your own.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forged in Magic - Arcanis RPG
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Arcanis Bestiary - Arcanis RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/15/2012 10:00:19

No fantasy world is complete without monsters to pit your wits - and sword-arms - against, and despite the rich heritage already in place for the Arcanis campaign world, a completely new ruleset requires new monsters to be written to accommodate it.


The nice thing is, this book is as much a 'how-to' build your own monsters (or adapt existing ones from other games) as it is a selection of beasties with which to threaten your players. Whilst this is in part necessity: it's plain not possible to provide the wealth of monsters that most gamers have become accustomed to, it also provides for the creativity of the average gamer to be supported... and enables individual gamers to 'convert' their favourite beasties which cannot be presented under this ruleset for copyright reasons!


The Introduction explains how the authors are indeed going against the 'bucket of monsters' trend, preferring to recommend that Chroniclers concentrate on plot rather than stat blocks (especially for beasties that will only end up dead fairly soon). Even the monster entries focus on flavour and narrative detail, and the more general notes on creating monsters, or Threats as they are termed, revolve around those characteristics that will make them into interesting adversaries rather than pure game mechanics.


Next comes an explanation of the Threat Box - the stat block that defines a monster in mechanical terms - which has been subtly refined even since the publication of the core rulebook. It sums up a monster in an easy-to-read format (even if you are in the middle of combat), but unlike many 'stat blocks' manages to contain more information that merely the monster's capacity for giving and receiving damage. This is followed by a run-down of threat types - the different characteristics, like for example being undead - that can be applied to any monster. This enables you to tailor threats to suit your needs precisely, rather than trying to shoe-horn an existing pre-written monster into the required niche.


A selection of monsters follows, as exemplars or indeed for use if they happen to fit in which what you want. As well as the Threat Box details, each entry is repleate with information from ecology and history through evocative descriptions and notes on likely motivations and combat tactics that commonly are employed by the monster in question. The monsters listed range from ordinary animals like war horses and hawks, through 'wild' animals such as lions and bears, to exotic true monsters: zombies, skeletons and even a necromantic sludge ooze! Oh, and a few golems... Plenty to play with!


Back to the theory of monster-crafting, with monsterous traits and flaws and notes on a specific swarm called a murder. This is an aggregation of hundreds or even thousands of tiny creatures which are handled mechanically as if they were but a single organism, being considered to act in concert. Their Threat Box reflects this, showing for example a single damage value, it being assumed that this is the total damage done by all the creatures that make up the murder acting in unison. It's a neat mechanic to achieve the dramatic effect of a massive horde without too much messing around.


Finally, a couple of appendices. The first puts some numbers into the black art of building encounters, so that those who demand precise balance are able to modify the components of their encounter until it is just right. Even if you are not so worried, it provides a useful measure to ensure encounters are not overwhelming or ridiculously easy... unless, of course, that is what you intend. The second appendix contains notes on creating and modifying threats, in particular converting existing monsters from other rulesets and tweaking ones created for this game to meet your precise needs. Infinitely tailorable, away with making do with the 'best fit' you can manage from your monster book!


Overall, this sets you up not just with ready-made monsters but with the tools you need to make your own, and to keep on churning out an endless variety as your game progresses. A good clean elegant system, clearly presented!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arcanis Bestiary - Arcanis RPG
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Arcanis: the Roleplaying Game PDF
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/13/2012 09:30:22

Like many people, I've enjoyed adventuring in the world of Arcanis as presented for the Dungeons and Dragons 3e ruleset for a good ten years now. It's good to see innovative alternate realities survive the game mechanics that they were originally written for, but whilst many survive version changes it is less common for an entirely new game to be created just so that alternate reality will continue to thrive. This mighty tome has set out to provide a comprehensive system rooted in the Arcanis we already know and love, whilst introducing that world clearly to those who have not ventured there before.


The work is made up of four sections, and begins with the Codex of Arcanis, thus getting you all excited (for the first time or anew) to go visit, with subsequent sections explaining the mechanics of doing so. A sweeping overview of history catches you up, event piling upon event to lay the groundwork for the current situation, underpinning the traditions and customs prevalent today. Intrigue looms large, even more than ancient racial tensions, making this an excellent setting for those who would scheme as well as brawl. Each state or region covered in the gazetteer is described in terms of how they came to be, with indications of likely tensions both internally and with other states. Beliefs and popular opinions, political issues, economic circumstances, all the things that go to mould the citizens' outlook are covered, making the whole place come alive as you read. For each state, there are useful notes such as the way in which citizens are named - useful if you want to make that your homeland, or for the GM creating NPCs - and a summary of the state of affairs in the present day. Although there are comments on religion throught the gazetteer, the Codex rounds off with an overview of religion throughout Arcanis, still a potent force despite a significant minority opinion that if there ever WERE any gods, they are dead and gone now! For those who still acknowledge deities, however, there's a comprehensive run-down on the entire patheon, plus details of major churches devoted to their worship.


Next comes the Codex of Heroes. This contains everything that you need to know to create and play your character - attributes, archetypes, races, nationalities, backgrounds, skills, flaws, talents and so on. It starts off, however, by explaining the core mechanic. When you want to do something that has a chance of failure, or that is opposed by someone else's actions, you need to roll an Action Roll. The dice you need vary depending on what you are attempting, core is a 2d10 roll (the 'Action Dice), along with an appropriate die for the Attribute you are using and any skill, talent or circumstance modifiers, and the result is matched against a Target Number set by the Chronicler (GM), or by an opponent's roll if you are brawling or competing with someone. Target Numbers go up the harder the thing you are trying to do becomes. That's the core mechanic, reasonably straightforward and robust. Interestingly, there is as much discussion about ensuring that die rolls are only made when appropriate as there is about what you need to roll! Recognition that getting the dice out can be quite disruptive to the dramatic flow of the story, and that it should only happen when absolutely necessary.


Now, on to character creation proper, beginning with devising a concept for your character. It will likely fall into one of four archetypes: Martial, Expert, Arcane or Divine. The Expert is one who lives by his wits, the Martial excels at combat, the Arcane covers magic-users and the Divine those who dedicate themselves to the service of a deity. Or, in other words, your character class! Each has a range of sub-options, however, so your choice can be tailored to suit your concept. Then a point-buy system is used to determine your physical and mental Attributes. Some skills come from your chosen Archetype, and more can be added. Oh, and you will need to choose a race, and decide where your character comes from and his background. Each choice will have a material effect on your character as well as taking him from a bunch of statistics to a living, breathing inhabitant of the alternate reality you are about to share... everything is embedded closely into the Arcanis setting - a strength if that is where you will be playing, but limiting if you like the system but wish to adventure elsewhere. Character creation is presented in two stages, first an overview that explains just what is needed, then sections laying out the options for each stage in exquisite detail.


After providing useful things like equipment lists, the Codex of Heroes moves on to Character Advancement, showing you how your character can grow and progress during play, and then rounds out with an interesting concept, Paths. These are selected as the character advances, reflecting the direction which his life is taking and often providing a way in which he, or perhaps others, might sum him up. Like the Archetypes and Backgrounds - which serve a similar role for the starting character as Paths do for more advanced ones - they provide mechanical advantage as well as a lot of flavour. In that respect, they can be seen as analagous to 'prestige classes' or similar in other games. Many have more than one level which you may progress through as your skills and abilities improve. There is a fascinating range of options to choose from.


The next section is the Codex of Conflict, which discusses everything you need to know about the game mechanics about fighting within this ruleset. It starts with the basics, then adds in all the variations and added complexities that more experienced players, or those who really enjoy combat, can use. Unlike many systems, combat with this ruleset does not proceed in rounds. Instead it proceeds in a fluid sequence based on a starting Initiative with subsequent actions based on elapsed time since the previous action, the time interval being based on how long each action takes. This is moderated by a master 'clock' that steps through, each participant in the combat taking their action at an appropriate time. Plenty of encouragement is given to the Chronicler to be responsive to innovative moves from characters rather than to be wedded to the letter of the rules, rewarding tactical play and unusual ideas for combat moves by allowing them to happen rather than to insist on die rolls for everything. The Codex then moves on to details such as movement rates (depending on how fast the character running, flying or swimming happens to be) and other factors that may influence combat. How much account you wish to take of these is left open, with the suggestion that the less important the combat is in terms of plot advancement, the more it is safe to abstract the actual brawl... unless, of course, you and your players relish playing out combat in minute detail. For those who like detail, a wide range of combat manoeuvres and actions are available, enabling each character to develop their own distinctive style of combat... or to take advantage of each opportunity that presents itself.


Once everything that can be done in combat has been dealt with, the discussion turns to the inevitable result: damage, wounds and the recovery therefrom (or death, as the case might be). There's also room for people to become terrified. Next comes Fate points, which can be used to modify outcomes, and are given out by the Chronicler as rewards for anything from good role-playing and ideas to helpful things like providing snacks or organising things. A few example 'threats' - as in, monsters - are provided, although you will be better off purchasing the Bestiary if you are to be the Chronicler. Still, to get you going, and to practise your combat, there are a few wild animals, undead, and the like; also an interesting section on the various characteristics that a 'monster' may have - useful if you want to understand the mechanics or design your own. The 'Monstrous Flaws' are notable for introducing some features that will make monsters really MONSTROUS rather than merely exotic hostile wildlife...


Next comes a very comprehensive and detailed example of combat, whilst there's no substitute for creating some characters and getting the dice out yourself, it provides a fair understanding of the process. As always it will work better once everyone is familiar with the mechanics, although to begin with as long as the Chronicler has mastered the rules everyone else can be directed when to act and what to roll. The Codex rounds out with a comprehensive section on Adventuring and a miscelleny of things that can be encountered whilst doing so - modes of travel, food and drink, how much you can carry, the uses and abuses of objects and even poisons.


Then comes the Codex of of Magic, which sets out to expound on the different forms of magic to be encountered in the game, how the rules work for spell-casting and, of course, massive lists of spells that magic-using characters may learn and cast. There's the usual tension between those who wield divine power, drawing on the deities that they serve, and those who are sorcerers or mages who channel the very energies of creation through their own bodies to cast their spells... yet all wield 'magic' in a similar manner, irrespective of the source. Each form of magic has its distinctive style of study and of delivery, so practitioners of Elder sorcery are precise and deliberate whilst Eldritch sorcerers are more 'quick and dirty' in their application of the same power, that of creation itself. Theurges draw on the Gods, and are often priests, while Primal magic is the domain of shamans and others who draw their power from nature and spirits. Rarest of all magics is Psionics, where change is driven, power is drawn, from the practitioner's own mind. Within each type of magic there are different traditions. Starting spell-casters will have limited access to but one tradition, as they gain in experience and power they may begin to study other traditions as well. Following this overview, the actual game mechanics of spell casting are discussed: these are common whatever sort of magic you are using. Many spells can be cast during combat and - like any other actions - they take a finite amount of time, which is factored into the flow of combat along with everything else that is going on. Spells can often be modified within set parameters at the time of casting, but they all take effort, such that a character cannot cast another one straight away, at least not without risking damage to himself!


The remainder of the Codex, and indeed the entire book, is made up of a comprehensive list of spells from which spell-casters of all types may choose, depending on the source and tradition of their powers. An index, character sheets, and 'spell templates' - for use with miniatures when working out area and cone effect spells round things off.


There are one or two minor quibbles and typoes that better proof-reading would have caught, but the one thing I'd have really liked would be a map of Arcanis to complement the detailed and absorbing gazetteer! Other than that, it's a masterful game, well-honed to running the sort of adventures that the setting has always engendered. If you want to play in this alternate reality, and are not wedding to what is now an old version of Dungeons & Dragons for a ruleset to hang your game upon, this is definitely worth a look. It is a good, solid and elegant game mechanic in its own right, but would require some work to use in any other setting, the level of integration between ruleset and setting is both a strength and a weakness, depending on what you want to do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arcanis: the Roleplaying Game PDF
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Forged in Magic - Arcanis RPG
by David B. S. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/01/2012 20:31:27

Forged in Magic is a much-anticipated addition to one of my favorite rpg games- Arcanis. You see, in the world of Arcanis, magic items are rare, unique creations. There are no "magic shops", where one can waltz in and sift through bargain bins and barrels of +whatever items. And this is a good thing.


The main reason that the world doesn't have a glut of magic items is that they are notoriously difficult to create and- the best part, in my opinion- the power of a magic item increases with the ability of the wielder! How cool is that? And it's all because of runes. Runes are the secret to making magic items of all types.


Following is a description of the various types of runes and their effects, based upon the item they are ibued in and again the wielder's ability.


Next the pdf give some nice examples of empowered magic items; including wands, weapons and miscellaneous trinkets and gear items. For the majority of the items (50+), no lore is given, but with the descriptive names of the items, a GM should have no trouble coming up with a suitable history.


Lastly, notable potions and alchemical items are described. Nothing exceptional got my attention, but this is probably because I was still drooling over the previous sections.


Overall a great product. Forged in Magic provides much-needed inspiration for a "Chronicler" to add some magical pizazz to his or her campaign. Sprincled with a minimum of artwork, this black and white pdf is nicely indexed, bookmarked and linked throughout. Very nice! This is how a pdf should be done!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forged in Magic - Arcanis RPG
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Spycraft: Combat Missions
by Darren B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/28/2011 22:11:57

This is the first review I've written, motivated by a product which is very weak and very disappointing.


For the money I expected a series of original missions I could insert into a combat/military focused Modern campaign. The problem is that the missions are simply not original. The first mission provided is called "The Taking of Ashland 2-2-3". If you've seen "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" its the same. In another mission called "Getting Results" a terrorsit group siezes a bus. Scene 1 is described in the following terms: "The bus is at the center of a swarm of police cars. The sides of the bus are filled with hostages: the terrorists have forced them to put their hands against the windows so they act as human shields." Then later in that scene: "The air is suddenly filled with a rhythmic beat. Helicopters. You look up to see the media swarming like flies to the scene. Tucker’s eyes bulge. “No, no, NO! You have to get them out of here. They were just stalling for time. They were just waiting for the cameras!”. d4 rounds later, the bus explodes. Sound familiar - The Siege.


There is simply not enough creative originality to justify its $10+ price tag. Save your money, I wish I had



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Spycraft: Combat Missions
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Shattered Empires the RPG
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/30/2011 18:29:52

Ah yes, I forgot to review this back when I read it, which is surprising, given how much I enjoyed it.


Shattered Empires is a great game. It has a nice blend of originality, balance, and a great style.


There's not really much more to say, it's a fantasy game, but with hints of Renaissance era technology.


I wish I had more to say about this, but I'd definitely give it consideration as a well-rounded fantasy game with enough originality to keep a group on their toes.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shattered Empires the RPG
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Shadows of the Forsaken Past
by Kenneth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2009 12:28:34

Great for Living Arcanis, gotta love it. Wonderful sourcebook.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of the Forsaken Past
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The Bloody Sands of Sicaris
by Kenneth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2009 12:28:15

Great for Living Arcanis, gotta love it. Wonderful sourcebook.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Bloody Sands of Sicaris
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Ssethregore: In the Coils of the Serpent Empire
by Kenneth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2009 12:27:54

Great for Living Arcanis, gotta love it. Wonderful sourcebook.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ssethregore: In the Coils of the Serpent Empire
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Magic of Arcanis
by Kenneth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2009 12:27:32

Great for Living Arcanis, gotta love it. Wonderful sourcebook.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Magic of Arcanis
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Legacy of Damnation
by Kenneth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2009 12:26:57

Great for Living Arcanis, gotta love it. Wonderful sourcebook.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy of Damnation
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In the Shadow of the Devil
by Kenneth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2009 12:26:38

Great for Living Arcanis, gotta love it. Wonderful sourcebook.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
In the Shadow of the Devil
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Carnival of Swords
by Kenneth W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2009 12:26:14

Great for Living Arcanis, gotta love it. Wonderful sourcebook.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carnival of Swords
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