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Sheriff's Office
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/30/2012 20:31:48
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=29639.

Sheriff’s Office is a simple map depicting a simple building from an era where many buildings looked simple inside. If you want to match the western theme properly, then doing so requires lots of wood, open spaces, and simple decor. That’s what you get with the Sheriff’s Office map, a wonderful depiction of a western-themed sheriff’s office that really captures the look you would think of when picturing the interior of a western building.

Sheriff’s Office is a multi-part map set in that you get the battlemap, a Virtual Tabletop image-only, and a 360° flash file that gives you the ability to look at the interior from a 3-dimensional perspective. It truly is a complete package, even if you don’t need all of it.

OVERALL

Sheriff’s Office is a great western-themed battlemap with a good collection of holding cells, desks for the sheriffs, and a back room for whoever is spending the night. It has an excellent design in terms of the textures of the wood and is very convincing in terms of representing a western building.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Sheriff’s Office is a fairly small map and is broken up appropriately across its pages. This set does include the VTT and 360° versions as well, giving you additional options besides just the battlemap. All in all, it matches the standards established by DramaScape on all previous maps.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
This is really where the Sheriff’s Office map stands out. The wood textures are phenomenal and extremely varied across the whole piece. This gives the building a very natural look instead of using wood textures that look forced or are too cartoon-like. The map is also designed in that old western simplistic style whereas there isn’t a lot of furniture or clutter and everything is properly in its place and has a purpose.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
If you’re running a western game or one with a western theme, this is an excellent map to add. There’s an endless number of NPCs that can end up in those cells and this could become the main stomping grounds for the PCs if they are acting as the local lawmen. Either way, it makes a great location to add to your western town.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Sheriff’s Office is a map with a definite purpose, and does that purpose quite well. You could use it for other means, but the design wavers outside of being used as a sheriff’s office. Thus if you are running a western-themed game and need a sheriff’s office, this is a definite must-have. Even if you don’t need a sheriff’s office, you can use this map to stage some type of important encounter as the big villain sits idly within a holding cell.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sheriff's Office
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[PFRPG] Shadowglade: Player's Guide to Shadowglade
Publisher: Neo Productions Unlimited
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/30/2012 08:30:19
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=29596.

Players Guide to Shadowglade introduces us to a world that ended 500 years ago and has been reborn with a distinct lack of arcane magic. Divine magic is still around, but magic is generally a rare thing to be feared. Society has been slowly rebuilding itself, but when there are people involved, conflict is sure to follow.

Players Guide to Shadowglade is a supplemental setting for Pathfinder detailing a human-centric world that focuses on below 10th level play (E10). There are three products supporting this setting including the Players Guide, The Game Masters Guide and a Basic Bestiary. Settings for Pathfinder are a dime a dozen, however the Shadowglade setting incorporates some interesting concepts that allow it to feel unique without complicating the game mechanics.

OVERALL

This is what a players guide to a setting should be. Many guides follow the lead and style of a D&D type players guide and while that works for some, this guide is written with the idea that the information contained within is really attainable for player characters. Shadowglade is a mysterious world and this is the type of player’s guide a player could keep with them at the table and reasonably reference during a game without breaking the game with meta-thoughts.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Player’s Guide to Shadowglade looks good, not great; the sparse art has that cell-shaded feel that many people are using these days. For me that style still looks like screen captures from the Dragons Lair video game, but some people are really into it. The cover art is done well, but not evocative. The picture of the Gunblade revolver felt forced and inaccurate. There are no revolvers in this world, so why picture them? The font used is good and easily readable; the textured blue faux leather pattern that forms the background of the front and back covers is smart and simple. The “world map” looks great; it is minimal but effective. There is plenty of “white space” for an enterprising GM to “color” in. This book uses the standard 2-column format that most gamers are familiar with. The page borders are interesting without being a distraction.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
This setting doesn’t blaze a bunch of new or innovative game mechanics, but rather expresses its qualities in other subtler ways. The setting is designed on the tier 10 system. Put into simple terms, this means the primary focus of Shadowglade is to play below 10th level. There are suggestions and advice and simple, straight forward rules for running the game past 10th level, but the focus is 10th level and below. I enjoyed going into this setting knowing that it was designed as an E10 setting. I am not a fan of firearms in a fantasy setting, but their development makes sense based on the lack of arcane magic and the fact that the Pathfinder system has several firearms-based abilities and classes.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
Player’s Guide to Shadowglade is top notch when it comes to how it is written and information that is contained within. Shadowglade could be inserted on that mysterious continent that always seems to exist on any RPG world with almost no difficulty. Because of the restrictions on arcane magic, some class choices are limited, but rather than being a detractor I think this makes the system even more interesting. The rules in this setting make sense and with this guide most players can really make their characters come alive in an interesting way.

Overall: 9 out of 10
If you want to play an exotic race, Shadowglade is not the place to do it. If you want to reach 20th level, this is not the setting for you. If your entire gaming career is based on playing arcane casters, stay away. And yet I still give this product a solid, well deserved 9. This book seamlessly integrates game back-story with the realistic table-side implications of those rules. Player’s Guide to Shadowglade does a great job of changing its voice to reflect the world it is describing as well as what an everyday sword swinging adventurer knows. Stay tuned for my reviews of the other two core books from Shadowglade, but be warned, there will be spoilers involved with those reviews and I recommend you not read those reviews if you are going to be a player in a Shadowglade game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Shadowglade: Player's Guide to Shadowglade
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Classic Encounters Revisited: The Inn
Publisher: Wolf & Raven Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/26/2012 14:24:33
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=29390.

Classic Encounters Revisited: The Inn specializes on the one common place of all games, the local Inn and/or Tavern. Or both, depending on what kind of world you build! Every world has its watering holes; those places where everyone knows your name (or at least one of your names). These are the places where characters plot their rebellions, conquests and adventures. The inn/tavern is the ultimate location where all adventures come to begin or come to end. Although the title states “Inn” this is a sourcebook that can easily be utilized in a tavern or pub, depending on your needs as a world builder.

OVERALL

If you have difficulty in creating custom inn and tavern experiences, this will definitely help in getting out of the defaults of D&D and Pirates of the Caribbean style inns/taverns. This book helps GMs think outside the box and have loads of fun while doing so! If you have players who like to create taverns, it’s also for them to learn whether or not they have what it takes to run one of their own. For the first official publication of K² Games, this is a great first product launch. But it is not without a few minor glitches that I share in my review. These small glitches however, do not seriously affect the awesomeness of this product, and for the small price of $3.00 for the PDF, it’s worth the minor glitches. I am happy to say, that this is definitely a company and a product that is going in the right direction. I recommend this product to all and I would love to see this item as a printed product. I look forward to seeing what this company will produce in the near future.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 7 out of 10
I base my publication quality rating on two things: Ease of Portability and Layout Presentation of Information. The layout presentation is amazing, it’s all neatly and simply put together perfectly. It would have been nice if the section about creating the name of your tavern was up front. There are many players who pick the name before they even begin to develop the rest of the tavern, but that is a minor nitpick. The sourcebook keeps the art down to a minimum and there is very little white space being wasted. It is presented in a simple layout where GM’s can easily read it and if the GM needed to print pages out, they can do so in a way that does not burn excessive ink.

The reason this item is getting a low publication rating however is due to the ease of portability issues that it has. The file comes in at a whopping 81MB! Most apps on an E-reader or iPad are not even this size and I’ve seen other 3rd party publishers who have far more art and layout design, but still keep their file sizes down. This unfortunately means that downloading or transferring the file is not fast even on the fastest of download speeds. Moving from section to section in the PDF is even slower than molasses as a bigger result. The product is properly bookmarked does save time when moving from section to section, but only slightly.

When you are a GM, and you have to go from section to section when building an inn/tavern or on game day, it is an incredibly frustrating process. When I attempted to download this on my computer, it took quite a long time, and on my Kindle it was worse. I can understand a file of this size if you planned on printing this book or if this was a Core System Rulebook. But if you plan on purchasing this, and intend on using it regularly at your game table, go to your local printer and print it out. Otherwise expect a serious lag on your technology. (I personally call mine Ye Olde World Kinkos since they still have Fax machines and scanners.)

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Mechanically, there are very few major errors. The adventure doesn’t get into the nitty-gritty of inn/tavern life, but if you are looking for a foundation in which you can create a custom ruleset based on whatever your players try to throw at you, this product does that. The stat blocks for the Innkeeper and his family are nice touches. Concerning the tables, they are incredibly nice, but you could do well without it if you have a GameMastery Guide or the brand new NPC Codex. But overall, the mechanics are sound for the system, and allow GMs to be as flexible as they need to be when in-game.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
One of the things I love about 3rd party publications is that they are able to do things that many major game systems cannot cover due to time or development restrictions. This is one of those products that fits the mold. Where you can take something that is already established in a system, and think a little more out of the box. The tables are a little more diverse than what you would see in the GameMastery Guide section of building taverns, but if you don’t have it, and don’t want to buy it, then spending three dollars to focus completely on inns/taverns is a worthy investment. You add the high resolution maps that come with the product and you definitely have a great return on your small investment.

Overall: 8 out of 10
Overall, this product is a great item for those who spend a lot of time building adventures around inns/taverns. The price is definitely affordable, and you get quite a lot for your money. What keeps this product from getting a higher score is the fact that it is rather huge and cumbersome to load and/or navigate through. In an arena where publishers are doing more on less, it is something that this new company will have to master, formatting wise, and figure out as they continue to publish more material.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Encounters Revisited: The Inn
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Ruined Mill
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/16/2012 15:07:38
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=29182.

Ruined Mill contains the remains of a mill with a detached house and warehouse. The ruins are kept somewhat generic so as to allow the GM to create the method of how they became ruined (such as time, weather, attack, etc). The centerpiece of the map is the mill powered by a handmade channel for the water. This is an interesting take on the watermill concept and can be translated into a number of curious uses (such as why was this channel created and where does it lead). However, oddly enough the actual mill building no longer has a mill in it, just the wheel that’s supposed to turn the mill. In addition, there is nothing coming from the waterwheel that would normally connect to the mill. This leads me to wonder how the waterwheel is staying attached.

Given the abandoned state of this mill and weathered look of the structures, any number of creatures or humanoids could be using it as a base camp, waypoint, or refuge. With the inclusion of the water, one could realistically live there, pending the water is fresh and potable. The remains of a camp appear in the ruins of the warehouse, leading you to believe that someone has stayed there rather recently.

OVERALL

Ruined Mill is yet another great map from DramaScape with many possible uses in an outdoor environment. Given the added details of the now-dormant camp and the possibility of using the house as shelter, any number of beings could call this place home permanently or temporarily.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Ruined Mill is a well-laid out battlemap. It is a fairly large battlemap depicting a very small scene and is thus cut across many locations of the overall scene. This can be a bit tricky to line-up when the between-page breaks fall on the trees or the rocks. All the other page breaks should be fairly simple to line-up as they fall on buildings and other obvious structures.

Visual Appeal: 7 out of 10
Ruined Mill is a good looking map with some cool environmental and weathered features. The grounds around the mill are a combination of extremely worn, almost dirt-like ground and some thin trees. The actual mill, however, does not look much like a mill. There is a waterwheel and a building, but I don’t see any doors, or remnants of, nor is there an actual mill in it. The mill also seems a bit on the small side. I also found a handful of occasions where the textures of the rocks do not align well, making a bit of an odd transition between the two (this is extremely minor though).

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
Many fantasy adventures and campaigns find the PCs traveling across the land to reach their next major destination. To make that journey a little more interesting or to drop a clue as to what may be coming up, maps such as the Ruined Mill make excellent places for encounters or investigations. Looking it provokes many questions to determine why the mill is in the state it is and who may have stayed there recently.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Possibly the best value of the Ruined Mill map is its utility use. It’s so simple and random but evokes a sense of desperation or destruction if one should happen upon it. The purpose could be something as simple as famine meant the mill was abandoned or something more sinister such as the mill was set upon by vile creatures that tore the place apart, looking for food. This mood-provoking design, from such a simple map, can make it very usable in fantasy, or even historical, adventures and campaigns.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ruined Mill
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Cosmic Patrol: Into the Cosmos
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/15/2012 20:22:33
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28558.

Into the Cosmos is essentially a companion book to the Cosmic Patrol core rulebook. I say this because it feels like a fluid extension to the core rulebook instead of a tacked on supplement. Not that this content should be in the core rulebook, because all you need to play is that core rulebook. However, you can definitely expand your play quickly and easily with Into the Cosmos.

Into the Cosmos is a collection of supplemental material that continues where the core rulebook left off in numerous places. It is not only a handy guide to the Cosmic Patrol setting, it is an excellent tool to be used time and again for further game-play or to throw something new and exciting at the players.

OVERALL

Into the Cosmos is definitely the ultimate companion to the Cosmic Patrol core rulebook. Gaming groups that enjoy this game will get a ton of use from this book in numerous ways. And while I hate to say it, Into the Cosmos is visually superior to the core rulebook in that it contains a lot of artwork depicting this pulp sci-fi RPG.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Into the Cosmos looks fantastic! It follows the same layout and formatting as the core rulebook, but it has A LOT of added illustrations (one of my sore spots from the core rulebook). If you are have a hard time visualizing what makes Cosmic Patrol so unique and what pulp sci-fi looks like, this book can help to remedy that with lots of visual appeal.

Mechanics: 8 out of 10
Into the Cosmos does an excellent job of adding new rocketships and pregenerated characters to Cosmic Patrol. However, it doesn’t get into the mechanical aspects of any new race introduced here or those expanded upon here, forcing you to either go back to the core rulebook or to create your own mechanics. Although minor, it would be helpful to create flavored weapons and equipment unique to those races.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
Into the Cosmos is a huge value add to Cosmic Patrol. In fact, one of its most valuable qualities is that it feels like an extension of the core rulebook instead of simply being a supplement. There’s a lot of continuation from what you find in the core rulebook and lots of new opportunities for excellent game-play.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Into the Cosmos is an excellent add-on to Cosmic Patrol and anyone that enjoys the game is encouraged to add this to their library. Not only does it have a low price-point, but it has a lot of valuable content that is not only usable over and over again, it embraces that quick game-play style and the simpleness of the system itself. I definitely recommend Into the Cosmos for all Cosmic Patrol gaming groups.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cosmic Patrol: Into the Cosmos
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Pray for Dawn
Publisher: Arcanum Syndicate
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/08/2012 14:14:32
The following review was originally posted by Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28396.

Pray for Dawn is a sandbox-styled adventure for Chaos 6010 A.D. placed within the city of Necropolis and containing a large list of locations and encounters. From there, they refer to the included bestiary list or perform the narrative as listed (which can easily be use as just a suggestion and not a definitive narrative). The adventure has a general overarching storyline, but is kept fairly generic so that the GM can interpret it as needed. This is in the form as narrative text and GM notes. This also allows the PCs to travel through the city as needed, such as if they need to quickly duck into a building to escape a mob of undead.

OVERALL

Pray for Dawn is an interesting sandbox adventure and amounts to a grind through the city with the seeming purpose of surviving to escape the city and the surrounding lands. The guide seems to cover a very wide range of character levels and can easily amount to many interesting game sessions, as long as your characters survive.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 4 out of 10
The publication quality of Pray for Dawn is very conflicting. There is some fantastic pieces of artwork placed in ideal locations while at the same time there is some decent artwork that could use better placement and sizing. The background of the publication is not only unfavorable for reading, but it looks sloppy as it clearly depicts a textured rectangle that doesn’t fit the page and was instead tiled to fit, although the tiles do not match on each side. The font of the text is a little difficult to read and the entire publication is filled with an excessive amount of white space. Each section is not properly identified but at least the location listings follow an order (which happens to be alphabetical). At the same time, there are some good looking maps and no shortage of interesting artwork (although placement in the creature section is often awkward). Additionally, the PDF lacks bookmarks, which in a sandbox adventure are a definite need.

Storyline: 9 out of 10
Pray for Dawn has a fairly standard sandbox-styled storyline, but is filled with suspenseful situations and the PCs would be wise to proceed with caution. The entire city reeks of horror and hopefully the PCs can survive to get elsewhere. Across the various locations, the storyline does an excellent job of building up to events/encounters within those locations.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
If you enjoy playing Chaos 6010 A.D. then there’s little reason why you wouldn’t enjoy a romp through Necropolis, unless you don’t make it out of course. This is a great sandbox location and there is no shortage of interesting buildings to visit with who-knows-what lying within. The encounters attempt to be somewhat unpredictable from one to another and could really keep the PCs on their guard at all times. There’s also a lot of variety from one location to another – not in terms of physical description but the narrative and the encounters.

Overall: 7 out of 10
If you can get past the layout and look of Pray for Dawn, you will find a well-written sandbox adventure with loads of opportunities for fun game sessions and a great representation of life in Chaos 6010 A.D. If you already play Chaos 6010 A.D., I suggest looking past the publication quality and make the best use of the content and maps.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pray for Dawn
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you so much for your honest reviews Aaron, I always love reading them and you are always dead on with all of the reviews you give. Thank you much for your hard work and honesty. -Rogue
Modern Warehouse
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/02/2012 14:53:16
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28602.

Modern Warehouse depicts a small warehouse within what appears to be an urban landscape (suggested by the lack of vegetation). The warehouse includes the building itself and the surrounding yard with no shortage of goods piled high on the shelves and various things in the yard. The depiction goes into further detail by including a loading and unloading dock with the warehouse being raised (depicted by the stairs leading to the doors). This is a great representation of a modern warehouse considering loading truck are always lower than the loading dock. This is not a large warehouse and would only support small trucks, but the generic design means you can easily store anything imaginable, luring the PCs within.

The warehouse is compact, great for an urban landscape. However, being inside warehouses and comparing this one isn’t exactly the same. Most warehouses are fairly packed inside using as much space as possible to rows of shelves or stacks of crates. Additionally, the office is much bigger than I would expect to see within a warehouse. While these are obviously details that can further enhance the warehouse, they are by no means show-stoppers to its use nor do they prevent you from creating memorable encounters.

OVERALL

Maps such as this are generally hard to come by. Not many publishers design modern maps and those that do seem to really capture the look and feel of what a modern encounter map would look like. It’s much different than fantasy maps as so many more details can exist due to modern technology and conveniences. The Modern Warehouse follows suit and definitely does not let down. The warehouse is full of goods and the yard has all the markings you would expect to see such as lanes for loading and unloading, areas marked off to be kept clear, and even a forklift ready to be operated. This would make a great place to house a weapons cache!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 7 out of 10
Modern Warehouse is a well put-together battlemap. The warehouse looks great and its yard has no shortage of detail. The only issue I see is the amount of open space within the warehouse, which you would mostly likely not see in an actual warehouse. More shelves could be added and the office can definitely be made smaller. What’s there looks fantastic, but a few tweaks can be made to clean-up some of that open space. Additionally, I’m not sure where the employees would park as the warehouse’s yard doesn’t show any parking spaces.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
Modern Warehouse is all about details. If you removed all the detail, you would have a boring empty shell. Instead, much attention has been paid to how the different aspects of the battlemap are depicted such as the groupings of boxes on the different shelves, the crates in the corner, the lines painted on the floor, the lanes painted in the yard, and a bunch more. This is one of those battlemaps where the shell does nothing without all those added details, creating an excellent looking map.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
One thing about this map that truly stands out is that it’s not empty. Some modern battlemaps you find depict the building, surrounding areas, and walls, but they neglect to fill that building with all the meaningful items you would find. In other words, you can print this map, slap it down on the table, and it’s ready for a firefight (or whatever you want to use it for). This warehouse can be virtually anything and could make a great scene in a modern action game pinning the characters against a heavily armed band of criminals.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Modern Warehouse is definitely a good map. It has little things that could be tweaked to make it more realistic according to what a real-life warehouse looks like, but otherwise it’s still completely usable as-is and offers a great modern building to add to your urban environment.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Warehouse
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Duergar of the Obsidian Citadel
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/29/2012 14:58:08
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28458.

Duergar of the Obsidian Citadel is a well-crafted product that presents the duergar’s society, environs, favored professions, lairs, and battle tactics, as well as new feats, new spells, new class features, and NPC archetypes in an easy-to-read, well formatted design. The product does a great job of putting together an in-depth yet broad look at the race of the duergar. Although there are several pages of information detailing the duergar and the Obsidian Citadel, the product still leaves the GM with room to incorporate it into any home game.

OVERALL

Wonderful product for both players and GMs! It is well organized and well crafted. The graphics are very well placed and pertinent to the material. The descriptive writing is superb. The Pathfinder system rules adhered to and explained in relation to the duergar’s special features. The new class features are clearly written and incorporate a set of racially designed rules – the Sunder specialist for the fighter, the minor talents for rogues, and the two new focused arcane schools for the wizard.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The artwork is appropriate, the editing is well done, the layout is easy to read, and the product is generally very cleanly designed and written. The product is well organized which allows the content to flow from topic to topic.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Duergar of the Obsidian Citadel is balanced – nothing is overpowered or underpowered, has great depth yet easily incorporated into any game, is multi-purposed usable by both players and GMs and is cohesive in its use of the rules.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
This product is one of the best of its types. It gives gamers everything they need to incorporate its usage in any game with having to tweak any of it, yet it also gives gamers enough latitude that they can tweak it if they want to.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Great product in its publication quality, adherence to and use of the Pathfinder mechanic, and the worth of the product to gamers. If all of Raging Swan Press’s Tribes products are like this, I would not hesitate to pick up more.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Duergar of the Obsidian Citadel
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Fading Suns Player's Guide (Revised Edition)
Publisher: FASA
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/26/2012 15:00:53
The following is a review of the Revised Edition of Fading Suns and will highlight the differences between this edition and the 2nd Edition. A review of the 2nd Edition can be found at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=12829.

The following review covering the Revised Edition of Fading Suns was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28312.

After a brief hiatus, Fading Suns comes back to life in the form of a Revised Edition (as opposed to a 3rd Edition) and within the hands of the renewed FASA (bringing all titles from RedBrick over to FASA). But this is not a simple tweaking of the core mechanics or a repair of any errata, this is an actual revision that remains backwards compatible (with a few minor adjustments) while cleaning up those core mechanics. Fading Suns already has a rich history and an in-depth setting that has seen a fair amount of life. The core aspects of the setting have not been changed, rather they have been expanded and the timeline has been moved ahead ever so slightly. The result is a beautiful update to a fantastic game with an even more fantastic setting.

OVERALL

The Revised Edition of Fading Suns is absolutely brilliant! The writers obviously did a thorough scrubbing of the entire game and probably did so with the backing of the Fading Suns community. As such, they have removed all the clunky mechanics, cleaned-up the available options, streamlined character design, and made combat quicker by once again removing clunky mechanics. Additionally, the Player’s Guide sticks to the core aspects of Fading Suns and definitely does the game and the setting justice.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The Player’s Guide is a beautiful black-and-white book. Most, if not all, of the original art has been retained (because it was good artwork to begin with) along with some new ones added. However, it’s the general layout and formatting that have seen a significant overhaul (in addition to the smaller form factor) with improvements to general layout, ease of referencing, ease of reading, and the flow of the content. It could benefit from additional illustrations depicting the character equipment available, but otherwise the book is a fantastic read.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
This rating is in regards to the cleaned-up mechanics of the Revised Edition over the 2nd Edition. Some of the mechanics from the 2nd Edition were a bit bloated and sometimes a little confusing. In addition, the combat system was extremely bloated and needed a lot of TLC. This has all been fixed and the system is definitely trim and should play a lot faster than previous renditions allowing you to focus more on the storyline and less on the lengthy combat and deciphering dice rolls.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
The best part about this Revised Edition is that its still the same game as before and GMs and Players can optionally add some of the advanced material back in without breaking the system. Being backwards compatible with only minor changes makes for a truly excellent game-play environment as all your old supplements and adventures are still valid. Yes some of skill names have changed and the Spirit characteristics have been cleaned-up, but none of this is so different from before that the two are not compatible. I think fans of Fading Suns are truly going to enjoy this Revised Edition.

Overall: 10 out of 10
A definite homerun for Fading Suns fans and FASA. The writers appear to have gone through the old content with a fine-toothed comb, listened to their fan base, and sat back to think how can they truly make the game better without making the old material obsolete. The result is the Revised Edition and although the core rulebook has been divided into a Player’s Guide and Game Master’s Guide, there are WAY more options here than before and player’s may be in awe of how much more they can do with this one core rulebook compared to before. This is a definite revision that was necessary to keep a great game existing by supporting their current fan base and reaching out to a new one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fading Suns Player's Guide (Revised Edition)
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The Old Cemetery
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/25/2012 09:34:01
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28400.

The Old Cemetery is possibly the creepiest cemetery I’ve ever seen. This is not the site of religious sorrow or continued respect for the dead, it is a place of horror embraced by the restless dead. Everything about this map screams bad news to anyone that dare enter. It is the perfect addition to your Halloween collection!

The Old Cemetery features a fenced-in cemetery weathered by many years. There is a collection of many burial plots with weathered headstones and small tombs, all decorated by creepy statues and uninviting fence. The grass shows true neglect and the entire scene looks like it’s straight from a horror movie. As an added bonus, a small collection of horror paper miniatures are included, ready to populate this true death trap. To entice adventure, the largest tomb stands prominently in the center of the map with a keystone path leading to its door. What lies within? This single piece is the perfect motivator for bringing your adventure into this obviously horrific cemetery.

OVERALL

The Old Cemetery could easily become wildly popular with those running horror adventures on Halloween. Everything about it portrays fear and you may be hard-pressed to convince the PCs to actually enter. It just has that look that says “You don’t want to be here.” I would love to see more maps in this style.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The Old Cemetery is very square and thus cuts easily across multiple pages. The grid is lined up extremely well along the outer fence and the inclusion of the paper miniatures makes this a truly valuable find.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
The textures of the grounds stand-out significantly, embracing that appearance of horror and desperation (should you venture inside). The features of the cemetery have been mixed between headstones, statues, small tombs, and other bits-and-pieces making the overall map very appealing and totally cool to look at. There is so much attention paid to detail that even the highlighting and shadows make every little detail really stand-out.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
If you’re looking for a great horror encounter location, this is a perfect option. However, The Old Cemetery doesn’t have to be limited to horror as it can easily be used for the zombie apocalypse, within fantasy adventures, or even as a prominent feature of an historical location. But when all is said and done, it really carries an air of horror and makes a great location for that style of encounter.

Overall: 10 out of 10
The Old Cemetery is an excellent map and a definite must have for anyone running an outdoors adventure in a horror setting or simply need to create a horrific atmosphere. The best part is that the horrific aspects of the map are not simply because it is a cemetery, but rather it’s because the design, chosen textures, weathering, and shadows that make it feel like a place of horror.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Old Cemetery
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Shadow Planes & Pocket Worlds (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/23/2012 20:13:24
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28065.

This supplement to the wildly popular Dark Roads and Golden Hells takes the sometimes confusing and completely amorphous concept of the planes in RPGs and provides more interesting and exciting planes and monsters to encounter while taking a wild planar journey.

Kobold Press has hit a real home run with their view of the planes and how they operate. Shadow Planes Pocket Worlds feels like a solid supplement rather than something that was just tacked on because there was extra material just lying around. Even without the benefit of Dark Roads and Golden Hells, this book still works well as a standalone, product for extra-planar information.

OVERALL

If you are planning on running a game that involves planar travel then this series is for you. This supplement does not go as far as its predecessor to explain how the planes work, but that isn’t the purpose. The two new locations alone make this a product worth buying; add in the rest of the crunchy information makes Shadow Planes Pocket Worlds even more appetizing.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The cover is branded correctly, complementing its older sibling very well. The layout of this book is spot on, rather than trying to fix what wasn’t broken, the folks at Kobold Press stuck with a winner. The page borders still look great and they are just what the Dr. ordered for a product dealing with the planes. The interior art is well done in black and white; there were a few “white spaces” that would have been great for art, but that is minor. The fonts are the right size and easy to read, this book looks great!

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The diseases and poisons were handled well. Rather than just a charted entry for each poison, there is a brief description, not just a collection of numbers. The templates are reasonable and don’t feel overpowered. Putting a template to an imaginary friend was innovative, but I should realize that Kobold Press has shown a willingness to go there and make it work when they get there. The magic items were interesting, without adding additional burdens to the GM or the player.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
If you are not running a game that involves the planes, then this product loses some value. Even a product as well thought out and as well presented as this one diminishes if not used in the context for which it was intended. If you are even hinting at any type of extra planar activity in your game, then there is something here you can use. The poisons and diseases lose a bit of their flavor in the same way the entire product does if not handled correctly.

Overall: 9 out of 10
This is a tight, tight product! The layout and editing are spot on; the content is top notch. There was a little too much white space on a few pages that could have been filled with art or even designer notes or suggestions on how to run a better planar game. For many of you, this might seem like I’m asking for and expecting way too much, but when you do things as well as Kobold Press does, expecting more is the only way they will maintain their high standards or strive to top themselves. This is a product that should spend no time in the shadows or be kept in anyone’s back pocket.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow Planes & Pocket Worlds (Pathfinder RPG)
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City Ruins
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/22/2012 16:03:23
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28271.

City Ruins depicts a very urban area (factory or warehouse district, crowded urban design) after some type of disaster struck, natural or unnatural. This is not a post-apocalyptic style of ruins, but rather a city block after something caused a good amount of destruction to the buildings and surrounding environment. There is much debris about and one of the buildings appears to be a multi-story structure that has collapsed near the middle.

The city block appears to be centered on a side street or at least something that dead ends into some type of industrial yard. The colors are extremely muted and the street ends quite oddly at a building, in addition to the ground textures ending oddly near that building. Some of the map elements are a little awkward such as down telephone poles with no cables strewn about. In addition, the map doesn’t just end on the city block allowing your creative mind to keep the city depiction going as you please. The whole thing truly captures that “urban jungle” feel and what could potentially happen in the wake of a disaster.

OVERALL

City Ruins is a pretty good battlemap. Using the Virtual Tabletop image as a guide helps to maneuver visually throughout the different pieces of the battlemap within the PDF to bring the whole thing to life. The buildings in this ruined part of the city are fairly big so having a guide such as that is quite valuable (granted that’s not what it’s for, but it definitely comes in handy). The battlemap has a lot of greys and an almost excessive use of muted colors. However, the road ending in such an awkward way in front of a random building does not increase the appeal of the map, but if used as a post-apocalyptic scene, it could make sense. The cover illustration depicts a wall (I believe) at the end of that road, but this is very difficult to discern from the map and still doesn’t feel quite right.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Maps with buildings this size can be tricky to cut from page to page without losing too much visibility of what the building is. DramaScape does a good job of laying out the map across multiple pages and keeps them in a nice order. However, the map could benefit from some loose elements to shape the scene better, although not at all a requirement. It should be noted that the map comes in square-, hex-, and no-grid layouts.

Visual Appeal: 6 out of 10
Yes this is an urban depiction and yes it has lots of urban coloring. However, the lack of contrast between the different textures makes the map difficult to discern. When you look at the greys between the rooftops, alleys, sidewalks, road, and industrial yard, it’s almost too much grey and not enough other colors (even to use black or a much lighter grey). In addition, a structure with the multi-story collapsed building, I would expect to see a lot more debris than is depicted. On the other side, the muted colors do a great job of depicting the ruins and the dismal atmosphere after disaster and could work extremely well in a post-apocalyptic environment. But with that type of environment, I would expect to see a lot of overgrown buildings in addition to the destruction (again not required because it’s not actually a post-apocalyptic map).

Desire to Use: 9 out of 10
Yes I did not give a glowing rating for visual appeal, but the use of this niche map could be quite extraordinary. When I look at it, I see a great stomping ground for some type of street gang or the sparks of a zombie apocalypse. The map just has a “panicked” appeal to it that says something really bad has happened and this area suffered, but what’s lurking within these buildings and around those corners? You could also make it the scene of horror as if something supernatural has come upon the city and has destroyed it or caused the natural disaster that destroyed it. Either way, this is a great place for an urban fight.

Overall: 8 out of 10
The City Ruins battlemap can be a great place to house a cinematic urban battle with no shortage of open space to hide in and no shortage of debris to hurl at your enemy. The coloring makes it a bit tricky on the eyes but it definitely holds a sense of despair. Regardless of what the disaster was, this part of the city did not hold-up well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City Ruins
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Renaissance Deluxe
Publisher: Cakebread & Walton
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/18/2012 16:19:29
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=27914.

Renaissance Deluxe is the extended version of the Renaissance SRD and is the latest addition to the d100 family that includes RuneQuest, Legend, OpenQuest, and Basic Roleplaying. In regards to those systems, it was built off the OpenQuest system and resembles a mash-up of OpenQuest and RuneQuest or Legend. To me, it seems like a simpler version of Legend or a more intuitive version of OpenQuest (essentially it lies somewhere in the middle). Renaissance is designed for black powder (fantasy) settings and nominally set in the early modern period of Earth’s history (which includes the Renaissance era).

Renaissance is a roll-under d100 system where the majority of dice rolls are made against a list of common and advanced skills formed by either adding two base characteristics or by doubling a single characteristic. Each character then receives a number of skill points to improve those skills and thus create their own character archetype. Each character is defined by a social class, profession, and faction. Social classes are a character’s background that defines what professions are available. Professions define what a character did BEFORE they became an adventurer. Factions define what the character’s believe in the most. All of this defines a character’s background and beliefs but does not hamper their ability to advance and become whatever they want. Obviously they don’t get the inherent bonuses for social class and profession, but characters are never limited by a given character class or archetype. This is the same method as the aforementioned d100 systems.

According to Cakebread & Walton, Renaissance Deluxe has expanded content in Factions, Equipment, Alchemy, Witchcraft, and Bestiary. The Sanity and GM chapters are new plus quick rules are included for combat and naval combat.

OVERALL

I hate to say this because it sounds biased, but this is by far my favorite implementation of the d100 systems that include OpenQuest and Legend. For as much as I like both of those systems, Renaissance removes the things I don’t like about those systems. It removes some of the combat complications of Legend while adding more options compared to OpenQuest. The only drawback I see is that it’s tied too heavily to Clockwork & Chivalry in terms of only offering Alchemy and Witchcraft along with equipment that is tied heavily to to early modern Earth. While this is a slight drawback, it does mean that other settings will require new mechanics/options in those areas (although remember that Renaissance is designed to recreate the early modern era with a fantasy twist). However, due to its inherent compatibility with OpenQuest, RuneQuest, and Legend, you can easily pull from any number of already available sourcebooks and core setting guides for that information.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
I applaud Cakebread & Walton with their continued improvements to their publication quality from their beginnings with the 1st edition of Clockwork & Chivalry up to Renaissance Deluxe and beyond. There are some very little things in regards to cleaning up the formatting, but they’re completely minor and by no means interfere with the content. However, this is just a sidebar to what is truly awesome about Renaissance Deluxe. Early Modern and Black Powder Fantasy artwork is something you do not come across very often. Following with the style of artwork found in Clockwork & Chivalry, Renaissance Deluxe has an excellent collection of rustic feeling artwork depicting Early Modern times and the technology within the core mechanics. While you may not think that means much, Black Powder Fantasy and the Early Modern period is somewhat rare in role-playing games and you don’t see a lot of period-appropriate artwork.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
This may sound a little biased, but the Renaissance system removes all the mechanics I find to be bulky in Legend (RuneQuest II) while avoiding the overly simple implementations from OpenQuest. It is an excellent implementation of the d100 mechanics that harken back almost 35 years. Yes it is tied directly to the era it’s meant to represent, but it can easily be modified for similar eras or other interesting settings due to the strength of the core mechanics.

Desire to Play: 8 out of 10
If you are looking for black powder or historical fantasy set in the early modern period, then Renaissance is the perfect fit. However, it does have a slight drawback in that those themes are integral to the system and are difficult to avoid. If you want to change the flavor to match a slightly different theme, there are lots of bits and pieces that need to be adjusted. In addition, I hate to say it, but I find the d100 mechanics in Renaissance, compared to its counterparts, to be much more favorable for quicker game play and more flexibility (depending on which one you’re comparing it to). Renaissance’s familiarity due to its core mechanics predecessors can make for some quick starting games as you don’t really need to learn a lot of new mechanics.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I definitely recommend the Renaissance d100 system as an excellent comparison to its predecessors. I also definitely recommend it for those wanting a game set in a black powder setting. These are two things that Renaissance Deluxe does very, very well and it’s worth taking a look at if you’re shopping for a new game system.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Renaissance Deluxe
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The Crypts
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/15/2012 14:22:50
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=28036.

The Crypts is actually a collection of three different crypt maps, all with a horrific fantasy appeal. The first map is a set up like a maze with one of the rooms given over to a collection of sarcophagi. The second map is a dungeon-like room, completely open and filled with pillars to hold up the ceiling. Any number of nasty villains could call this home. The third map is another dungeon-like room with a center containing a flow of lava and one side has a large opening beneath a bridge. This particular map reminds me of a cult hideout from a pulp thriller.

Starting with the first map, this one is similar to The Ossuary map with a collection of sarcophagi, what appears to be the ossuary built into the extreme walls, two bone pits in the room with all those sarcophagi and a couple of statues that look like they guard the room. While I’m not thrilled about the stairs (they don’t feel convincing due to the lack of shadowing), the whole map is exquisitely creepy and just feels like it belongs in a horror adventure.

The second map is open and simple, with any number of possible uses. There are a few skeletons including one crushed by a fallen pillar, a nice added touch, but otherwise the room is mostly empty (aside from the puddle and the pillars). This is not a bad thing as it is large enough to be used for a wide variety of purposes. The overall stone design of this room makes it good for dungeons or underground lairs.

The third map is cool in concept but I’m not thrilled with the execution. The floor texture is very blurry and I have a hard time connecting a floor that looks severely cracked and weathered with a bunch of pillars that look as though they haven’t weathered at all. I think the texture is supposed to represent the cracking of the floor due to the lava, but the lava flow is very isolated to a center “stream.” The map is still very cool and can definitely be used for a number of things. It definitely gives off a vibe of chaos in a room that could house any number of villains.

OVERALL

The Crypts is a good collection of battlemaps. One major strong point is that it contains three different crypts with a variety of uses. In fact, if you look at the whole collection, they can easily be used outside of the standard fantasy or horror settings to include pulp fantasy, gothic sci-fi, and a lot more.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The three crypt maps contained within The Crypts are all rectangular and subsequently cut very well to fit within the different pages. The third map, with the bridges, even contains a set of closed bridges to layer on top of the open ones found in the actual map. As always, the maps come in both square and hex grids.

Visual Appeal: 8 out of 10
The stone textures used throughout all three maps are superb. The floor on the third map is a bit tricky to discern, but that could easily be part of its appeal. The walls are well-done and properly shadowed and all the little extras, like the skeletons, have been rendered wonderfully. However, the stairs are not very convincing as stairs, maybe more like a ramp. It may also help if they stood out a little more.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
From a utility stand-point, these are a great collection of maps to use for dark, crypt or dungeon-like situations. They just look terrifying! One very valuable thing to consider is that these maps are generic enough to cover many types of use and house any number of lurking beasties.

Overall: 9 out of 10
It can often be difficult to find maps that are more horrific in their design than just fantasy or dungeon. DramaScape has done a good job of presenting another map (three of them in fact) that carry that darker side of gaming and truly bring out the horror that could be inherent to any questing situation. After all, if you want the mood to be dark and terrifying, you should have a map that matches it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Crypts
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In The Company of Lurkers (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/11/2012 14:05:19
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=27578.

Rite Publishing’s In the Company of Lurkers by Steven Russell and crew for use in the Pathfinder system brings to the table a fully developed character race concept that began some years ago with the Bastards and Bloodlines supplement by Owen K.C. Stephens. Lurkers are a combination of gnomes and cloakers.

This is a very good product. There are descriptions for three different sects of lurkers, the racial traits and appearances of the race, the race’s society, racial traits and alternative racial traits, favored class options, racial feats, and three archetypes.

OVERALL

Very good product for both players and GMs. It gives the GM a new race of spies and assassins to throw at the PCs and it gives the PCs a new race to play. This is a product that anyone who likes gnomes will either love or hate. It detracts from the pure-blooded gnome but it adds so much more than what it takes away. If you like odd combinations – half breeds – you will like this race.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Very good descriptions and some good artwork to support them. It is 12 pages of really good material. There are some typos – words omitted or misspelled and some missing spacing – but they do not take away from the playability of this product, they just hamper the readability slightly. Also, the product is written in the 1st person perspective of a lurker. Some of the text is quite well written and some of it is very simplistic – like there were two hands doing the writing. Whether this was intentional or not I do not know but it is noticeable in the reading.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
The product sticks very solidly to the Pathfinder game mechanics. The only issue I have is the favored classes section – I think the lurkers are short changed a slight bit in some of them. For example, in the Ranger favored class, the lurker adds 1/3 dodge bonus to the AC against the favored enemies. At low levels this amount is negligible. This system of favored class benefits is given as an option instead of adding a skill or hit point as favored classes normally do. Additionally, this race could be very easily adapted into any campaign.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
Absolutely great value added to the game with In the Company of Lurkers. Players and GMs alike are going to want this product. This product will make players want to play a gnome-like character or a stealthy character just to try out this new race and the new archetypes.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Very good product. Gamers of all types will want it, especially those that like unusual races. The production quality, game mechanics, and value added to the game in general are very good and will make for a great addition to a gamer’s collection.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In The Company of Lurkers (PFRPG)
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