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So What's The Spellbook Like, Anyway?
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/20/2012 15:37:21
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=24646.

So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway? by Landon Bellavia serves as another sister in the series of ‘So What’ supplements, this time bringing about an open invitation into libraries of grandeur. Whether elaborating upon and imbuing detail into the prized possession of a villainous wizard, populating an ancient arcane study, or even simply seeking to add progressively more intriguing nuances to an adventuring arcanist’s most precious of possessions–the many tables and reference resources herein embark to bring so much more to the scene than ‘You find a spellbook, here are the spells in it.’ Let’s crack the arcane lock, dodge the lightning bolt and summoned spiders and see what’s inside!

OVERALL

So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway? is a compelling assemblage of a la carte wonder which wizards and their ilk everywhere are apt to want to get their hands on. Details abound, both clever and bizarre–easily scaled for as much or as little elaboration one is apt to present with a given tome. While the writings and tables herein are ready for random rolling, I feel the real treasure comes in tailoring together stylish and intriguing thematic tomes–and with the nature of the material’s presentation, even players of spell-slinging adventurers could find much inspiration for their personal book. If you’ve ever been disappointed by spellbooks serving as tear-away pages of spells, this one might once again make such tomes a more exciting find!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Raging Swan’s high standards of editing and formatting ensure that the work here is solid and accessible. A clear two and three column layout presents tables and information neatly and is interspersed with nice black and white artwork of tomes; as well, the PDF is well bookmarked for easy reference and the whole should prove very printer-friendly. No complaints here!

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Utilizing So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway? will depend largely on just what you’re aiming for–as there are thirteen sections altogether with different tables and functions for detail. If one is keen to put together an ancient and venerable compilation penned by a legendary wizard, the results could easily span a paragraph filled with great detail–while likewise, there are tables present to accommodate quickly generating lightweight books with their spell contents and cost ready to go at a moment’s notice. Much comes down to simply deciding on degrees of detail–particularly since several of the tables presented could apply multiple times to a given tome.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
More than just a collection of random tables, I feel that this supplement could serve as a powerful spellbook construction kit–and in that regard, could be enjoyed by GMs and players alike. Throughout each section are a great many interesting and inspiring offerings both curious and evocative–and really, entertaining to piece together to boot. Because of the scalability of the sections presented, the material is well-suited for everything from fashioning a villain’s iconic volume to outfitting a worldly adventuring wizard or filling out an arcane library with multiple treasured tomes on short notice; the flexibility is considerable.

Overall: 10 out of 10
So What’s The Spellbook Like, Anyway? is an imaginative and well-realized endeavor which author Landon Bellavia has clearly crafted with care. While the supplement can work wonderfully for constructing a random spellbook on the fly, my feeling is that its true value is in offering a great variety of options whether behind the screen or not–it is a fantastic resource which can serve as a toolkit for GMs and players looking for inspiration. I made several spellbooks running the full run of the supplement to see what might result and was entertained and pleased with each–they’re liable to show up at the table before long. For something as iconic as a wizard’s spellbook, scribing nuance and history for such is an excellent goal for added flavor in a given campaign. My hat is off to Landon and Raging Swan both–this is definitely a supplement that I would highly recommend.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
So What's The Spellbook  Like, Anyway?
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Chaos 6010 A.D. Core Rulebook
Publisher: Arcanum Syndicate
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/13/2012 15:12:50
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=24257.

Chaos 6010 AD is a unique system and setting placing the characters in the midst of an alternate future of earth in the distant future of an apocalyptic event in 2206. The basics of the setting are that after this apocalyptic event, chaos consumed the planet and threw humanity into another dark age. The apocalyptic event, a massive asteroid that this the planet, created a link between Earth and other dimensions, allowing beings of chaos to pour out. Portals then opened allowing elf-like “cousins” into the world to hunt down the chaotic beings. From here, humanity’s “playground” opened up and a number of new galactic races have been encountered. However, Earth stills seem to be a shattered planet.

Chaos 6010 AD utilizes a roll-over system where the dice being used are dependent upon a character’s stat or attributes and comparing them to a somewhat static target number based on difficulty. Oddly enough, the character levels rise in number to the nth degree bringing the characters from lowly humans to dang-near supernatural levels. A bit much but can produce some epic campaigns.

OVERALL

Chaos 6010 AD is an interesting collection of mechanics and themes that can create a very unique experience. There is a lot of fantasy elements to mash with your sci-fi and throw this all into a dark version of Earth’s future producing a setting that requires a lot of survival skill. There are definitely a lot of options to keep your characters alive, but if they die, there are mechanics to continue their career. All in all, it’s a lot different than most settings available with mechanics that embrace epic game play.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 5 out of 10
Chaos 6010 AD is a decent looking book but loses marks for some overwhelming visual issues. The art is pretty good with smattering of pieces that are really cool. However, the layout is inconsistent and at times very non-functional. Throughout the book the layout changes from 1-column, to 2-column, to 3- column and back and forth. Sometimes there’s 1-column with a large illustration next to what could be a 2-column format. Sometimes the illustrations are within the 2-column format but not always well-placed. Some of the headers look awkward and there’s even times when the charts are in such a small font that you can hardly read them. Inconsistencies like this really detract from the quality of the book but at least it’s backed by some good illustrations.

Mechanics: 7 out of 10
The mechanics for Chaos 6010 AD are pretty good, although I don’t understand the need to bring them to such a high level. I like systems that allow for character definition through bonuses (values) and penalties (flaws), although I typically prefer them to be simpler. At times the mechanics felt bloated such as the large number of skills which can easily be consolidated and a core rulebook with too many options. Core rulebooks should be designed with the necessities in mind to avoid overwhelming new players. There’s almost too many character races and classes along with too many types of magic. The system, however, seems to be designed for epic-style play such as you would see in a movie or comic book, and the mechanics really embrace that. From a theme stand-point, the mechanics appear to do what they intend to do.

Desire to Play: 7 out of 10
If you’re looking for some truly epic-styled playing in a sci-fi setting, then Chaos 6010 AD has a lot of great features. If you’re looking for something simple or a quick-start, Chaos 6010 AD will probably not do well. This game is made for those who like to play lengthy campaigns with characters that are given a ton of options for customization. The setting could use further fleshing out, but that can be easily remedied in future supplements.

Overall: 6 out of 10
Although the term “too much” could probably be used here, Chaos 6010 AD is all about long-term games and lots of character options. The higher you go, the more epic your game play will be. Chaos 6010 AD is a lot like epic fantasy in that the game-play is continually turned up through the levels and your characters become more and more epic as they go along. It’s a very cinematic style of sci-fi and if you’re in to that, then take a look at what Chaos 6010 AD can offer.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Chaos 6010 A.D. Core Rulebook
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MARS: Savage Worlds Edition
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/10/2012 15:27:21
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=24255.

If you enjoy the planetary romance genre as envisioned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, with a bit of H. G. Wells “War of the Worlds” tripod action thrown in, you’ll have fun with this product. All of your favorite people and creatures are here, whether red, green, white, or grey. This is a collection of all the best tropes in the genre along with some new perspectives, set up to deliver some serious Savage Worlds fun.

OVERALL

I enjoyed MARS and found many worthwhile things that could be used in various genres. One of the strengths of Savage Worlds supplements is that the materials can easily be ported over into other environments. In eight chapters with a 192 page count, the planet and its history are presented very well. Character creation, player character races, gear, setting-specific rules, a gamemastering section, a five-part Plot Point campaign, and an excellent bestiary fill this book with quality content.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The production quality is excellent. There are several grammar and spelling issues which could have been avoided with some more extensive proofreading, but this is only slightly distracting from the otherwise rich content. There is a lot of “white space” which makes the content seem light for those used to very compact formats, but the art and content are very good.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The new Edges, Hindrances, and Setting Rules presented in this volume integrate well with the core Savage Worlds rules, and they provide an excellent extension that serves this genre well. The rules for creating new character races and species are particularly useful.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
The planetary romance genre is well-represented and the materials can easily be used to spice up Savage Worlds games in completely different environments. The pricing on both the hard-copy and PDF editions is at the higher end, however the content probably justifies the investment.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Overall, this is an excellent addition to the Savage Worlds RPG and will permit the players to have a rollicking good time on Barsoom. One interesting thought might be to mix elements of Mars: Savage Worlds Edition with Pinnacle’s excellent Space 1889 – Red Sands setting, just to give the British Empire a bit of a challenge. Mars: Savage Worlds Edition is well-supported with a series of supplements available at RPGNow.com, including Blood Legacy of Mars, City-States of Mars: Korium, Face of Mars, Minions of Mars, Rebels of Mars, Sell-Swords of Mars, Sky-Tyrant of Mars, Soul-Thieves of Mars, and Warriors of Mars.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
MARS: Savage Worlds Edition
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So What's the Hoard Like, Anyway? III
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/05/2012 14:04:58
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=24048.

So What’s The Hoard Like, Anyway? III by Ben Kent brings this line to a high-level close, a collection of ready-made and flavorful finds for high-level adventurers (15th through 20th level, in fact) to purvey, appraise and plunder as hard-won spoils of battle. If after a long and glorious campaign you find yourself feeling a bit tired of turning to randomly-rolled baubles and trinkets to hand-wave away at straight gold value, the third and final entry of the Hoard series from Raging Swan Press could be just the ticket to really spice things up and catch your players’ eyes–containing the sorts of treasures which inspire their collection rather than simple sale!

OVERALL

So What’s The Hoard Like, Anyway? III is an imaginative and thorough resource for adding flavor and style to the spoils of higher-level encounters; with each ready-designed to suit mechanically for per-encounter loot at each of the five levels covered herein, every encounter can reap something new and interesting–while the flexibility is also there to tweak or combine hauls for truly memorable hoards after climactic showdowns as well. If you’ve ever tired of trying to inject life and intrigue into randomly rolled finds, you owe it to yourself to check it out–these levels of play are when cool treasure matters more than ever!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Raging Swan rarely disappoints when it comes to editing and formatting–and the final installment of the Hoard series is no exception. Clear two-column layout work is supplemented by nice black and white artwork of treasures along the way in a clean presentation; as well, the PDF is nicely bookmarked for easy reference and the lot should prove very printer-friendly. No complaints here!

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Mechanically, So What’s The Hoard Like, Anyway? III is very straightforward and easy to work with: each of the five levels of loot covered herein are organized into twelve caches of interesting prizes. Every hoard included has been ready-calculated to be of an appropriate overall value for a single encounter at its level (e.g. the 15th level hoards average around the base value of 19,500 gp for a single 15th level appropriate encounter.) This value breaks down between coinage, gems and jewelery, objects of art or magical items in varying measures. A hoard could be selected at random with the roll of a twelve sided die or hand-picked at one’s leisure–and naturally it’s easy to combine sets for larger hauls after a particularly big battle if one is so inclined.

One of my favorite things about the hoard sets is that not only are they packed with evocative flavor–but many boast a cohesive theme among their contents. A great example of this is one of the collections with a draconic artistic direction which includes a platinum brooch of a dragon’s claw, an oil painting depicting a blue and silver dragon locked in mortal combat, an elaborate woven tapestry with near to a dozen dragons battling over a burning city, a set of crystal wineglasses with stems resembling dragon tails, a silver statuette of a dragon and a magical glowing falchion with a hilt of blue hide.

Together, this makes for a very cool set of treasure and just the sort of thing I could see players finding and going ‘Cool! We keep it!’ By the time you’re fifteenth level and beyond, one ought be collecting decor for the forthcoming floating sky-castle the party’s bound to commandeer. The magical items interspersed among the hoards are befitting the level of play they’d be found at as well, of course–and each is presented with descriptive text to make them a bit more than ‘just another ring of protection’ and so on.

I’ll also note that there is great ingenuity in presenting some of the objects of art as particularly challenging to -recover–the sorts of things that could leave adventurers pondering and bringing their cleverness to bear to retrieve their prize (such as a 6′x10′ wall mirror worth a handsome sum intact, but a tenth of its value in pieces.) This is an element I particularly enjoyed throughout the product–and anyone who has experienced one of those gaming moments where the party becomes -determined- to have the giant platinum monkey statue that was never intended to be moved might enjoy this element (and those who haven’t, ought!)

Value Add: 10 out of 10
I very much enjoyed the variety and flavor of the findings throughout the collections presented here–and with 72 hoards to choose from, the challenge in presenting such is appreciable. A few particular examples of treasures that I found quite cool: a crystal pitcher sculpted to resemble a pear tree with crystal goblets fashioned to look like plump peaches. A six-volume collection of leather-bound manuscripts dealing with the very beginnings of magic, as annotated by their original author. An amulet of natural armor which is presented as a small chunk of adamantine ore dangling from a steel chain. A BARREL of holy water bearing a holy symbol (400 pints!)

These are ‘typical’ to the treasures in the book here, a very fine par in my opinion; even beyond utilizing the lot of the findings herein as ready-to-go rewards after encounters, one could just as easily peruse the contents to hand-pick individually interesting goodies to custom-build an evocative hoard, decorate a lair, start plot threads or more.

Overall: 10 out of 10
So What’s The Hoard Like, Anyway? III stands out marvelously as a supplement for adding variety and wonder to any game at high-level play; Ben Kent has done a superb job bringing to life an impressive variety of wondrous treasures for adventurers to covet and cherish–and I could certainly see a great many of the finds throughout this product ending up as permanent fixtures in the homes of those same-such heroes. It would have been easy to make a product of this nature simply churning through random rolls to populate lists as a simple time-saver for GMs–but reading through this supplement it is clear that care was taken to ensure that everything read and felt compelling. In closing, I give the final entry in the hoard line a high recommendation–if you’ve a campaign at these levels of adventuring, it’s a must have for making the prospect of finding what goodies foes have hoarded away an exciting prospect again!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
So What's the Hoard Like, Anyway? III
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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Gobseck Vaultwright, Meister of the Golden Anvil (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/03/2012 15:56:10
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=23869.

Money talks and his vault walks! In the realm of dreams, money still has value and you can pawn your dreams. Gobseck Vaultwright sits atop a living vault that is filled with the hopes, dreams and gold of others. He sees no profit in fighting, but he will fight when it comes to protecting his ever increasing horde. Gobseck is not a Druegar to be crossed. He and his magic items can detect and smite cheaters from miles away.

OVERALL

I have rated Rite Publishing’s Faces of the Tarnished Souk very highly in the past, however Gobseck Vaultwright hits the reader with a level drain that might make Rite publishing fans cringe. This entire supplement lacked the spirit of many of the past additions to this series and ended up feeling more like a coherent collection of complex mechanics.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 7 out of 10
For me this book’s cover was the start of a product that is below Rite Publishing’s standards. Does that mean it is a horrible product that isn’t fit for whipping my backside with, no way! Rite Publishing reads reviews of their products and if the suggested changes make sense they do it. While the cover illustration was well done, it is white on a black background rather than the penciled looking drawing Rite has used in the recent past. This product doesn’t look like part of the Faces of the Tarnished Souk series. Rite has used this drawing before and it normally works, but not in this case. I found a grammatical error on the first page. It could be a word agreement issue, but it just didn’t sound right, not a good way to start a supplement. The suit of armor depicted on page 4 looks like a regular photo with a grey filter placed over it. I’m glad they didn’t go with color on it, but it seemed a bit out of place. If it is a drawing I’m sure it is a great drawing. The pictures of the interior of the living vault felt like they were phoned in. I know it is stock art, but Rite Publishing had a chance to do something amazing with a great concept and failed. A picture of the living vault from the outside would have been epic, but I guess there just wasn’t any stock art to support that…. Rite is still doing a good job of branding some images with bits of information from other books and the reprinting of feats or templates is helpful and creates the “one stop shopping” experience GMs crave.

Mechanics: 8 out of 10
Rite Publishing’s templates, while interesting, are overpowered; they need to develop more prerequisites to balance them out. I have tried to justify the whole these characters are high level, but with no level requirements of these templates, things could get out of hand really quick. Some of these abilities are like putting a cocked and loaded gun in a small child’s hand, something bad is bound to happen. Many of the mechanics in this supplement were good, but really crunchy, like crack your tooth crunchy. I’m not sure if it was because I got off to a bad start with this supplement, but as I read what some of the abilities and magic items do I tried to figure out how long a round of combat would take and how many calculations would need to be made to resolve that round if you were the GM running Gobseck Vaultwright, and I shuddered.

Value Add: 7 out of 10
There is some great stuff in this supplement, but much of it feels heavy. I can see the point of having a character like Gobseck Vaultwright, but outside of the Tarnished Souk he reeks of diminishing returns. There are some interesting magic items and abilities but they will require lots of paper work and the ability to do cool things becomes un-cool if those cool things become over complicated.

Overall: 7 out of 10
When you are producing top shelf products you are bound to have a bad batch and sadly for Rite this is that “bad batch” The character concept in this felt like the plot to a porn, kinda useless and a bit laughable. Big surprise an angry Druegar banker who was scorned by his one true love, so he dedicated his life to greed… The living vault is a really cool concept that kept this supplement from dipping lower in the standings. When on sale it is well worth the price, otherwise unless you are running a Coliseum Morpheuon game pass this one up. Don’t worry, Rite Publishing has plenty of other great products out there for you.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Gobseck Vaultwright, Meister of the Golden Anvil (PFRPG)
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The Raven Airship
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/01/2012 20:31:15
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=23166.

The Raven Airship is a multi-level ship (with “wings” for flight) with dock in the fantasy style. The wood is a rich reddish-brown and the battlemap includes the upper deck along with the lower deck. As an added bonus, the lower deck comes in two designs: one open and one with manacles for captives or slaves. Incorporating these two types means the ship makes perfect sense as a merchant ship or a pirate ship.

OVERALL

The Raven Airship is a beautifully designed airship and I especially love the two different interior options. The wood textures are incredibly life-like and features of the upper deck are amazingly well detailed.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
One thing I often find frustrating with ship battlemaps is when the publisher cuts the map down the center of the ship to lay it out across multiple pages. I always find it frustrating to properly visualize the map as a whole. The Raven Airship avoids this problem by placing the ship off-centered so that the middle is not cut by the page division, making some of the most important details that much clearer. Additional options to further customize the ship could have been included, but what’s there is already excellent and properly placed.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
If I could give this rating a 15, I would. The wood textures found throughout the airship are absolutely phenomenal. They look incredibly life-like and I love how they vary from plank to plank. In addition, a lot of attention has been paid to all the little details such as they ropes, canons, ballistas, and the manacles overlay for the lower deck. Visually, The Raven Airship is stunning!

Desire to Use: 8 out of 10
The Raven Airship is a really cool airship. I would like to see other overlays or page options such as removing the cannons, adding more cannons, and possibly a captain’s quarters on the upper deck. This does not mean one wouldn’t desire the use of the battlemap, it just means that the options that are presented are static other than the lower deck. However, with the to different lower decks, the airship could fall under the control of various types of captains.

Overall: 9 out of 10
The Raven Airship is a beautiful airship and another fantastic battlemap from DramaScape. If you’re looking to sail the skies, why not do it in style with an airship you can be proud of? The best part of a battlemap such as this is that it could come into use time and time again across the course of a single campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Raven Airship
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the Great review, I must point out though that there is an option to remove the cannons, there are replacement tiles which can be used, at the back of the pdf.
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Po'Kesteros, the Lostling (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/28/2012 14:47:40
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=23091.

Most fairytales that we were told as children were much more gruesome and seldom had happy endings (what do you expect from a pair of brothers with the last name Grimm). Po’Kesteros made a wish that took him to a land full of the kind of fairies that don’t leave change under your pillow in exchange for body parts, these fairies just take them, by force! The little boy survived and even grew up and now he is a tricksy old man who walks the dream streets ignoring every penny he passes, because he knows that luck is already on his side.

OVERALL

When I think of lost boys I think of Peter Pan and not glittered vampires; minus the semi-Native American appearance of Po’Kesteros the similarities end there. Po’Kesteros alone is interesting, but his role as the deposed reluctant leader of the Court of Fell Fortunes (the Tarnished Souk’s thieves guild) takes him over the top. This supplement is another example of why Rite Publishing is a force to be reckoned with.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Rite Publishing is full of human beings and while I have lowered my ratings for past editorial mistakes, for Po’Kesteros, the Lostling no errors jumped out at me. Rite Publishing was wise to stick with black and white illustrations, instead of risking color which has had mixed results for them in the past. Rite has really embraced branding in a really smart way. Instead of trying to shove stock art in whenever they can, they are using the picture of the luckbringer when they give us luckbringer stats. This might seem like common sense, but many of the smaller companies don’t get it. Wizards was actually really smart by making their core classes character art iconic. When you saw pictures of those characters you knew you were looking at the Monk or Cleric or Fighter or whatever.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Because of the high character levels in Coliseum Morpheuon, things can get complicated. Rite Publishing has found a way to strike a balance between the numbers game that occurs at close to, and at epic levels and playability. I love to game but I do find myself lost with the rules and mechanics complexities around 15th level. Think about the amount of abilities you need to manage for a fighter at this point in their career.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
By Himself, Po’Kesteros is a well thought-out NPC, put him up against Z.Z. Grimshanks (Faces of the Tarnished Souk) the current leader of Court of Fell Fortunes (the Tarnished Souk’s thieves guild) and that is where the real value comes in. Sure Po’Kesteros can stand on his own, but his tie-in with the Court of Fell Fortunes and Z.Z. Grimshanks makes him stand out. I would not want to get caught in the middle of an encounter between these two and to be honest, I would love to see a Tarnished Souk Fight Club over on Rite Publishing’s web site. This product’s value is limited for the player, but great for the GM. As a player there are some outstanding character ideas and good mundane and magic items, but Po’Kesteros really lets GMs take a walk on the wild side.

Overall: 10 out of 10
At this point it shouldn’t be a surprise that the Faces of the Tarnished Souk team consisting of Matt Banach and Justin Sluder is a winning combo; add in a little Stephan D. Russell and the result is a line of products that is hard to beat. I like the intertwined story arc between Z.Z Grimshanks, I think Rite might have done well to bundle both of these products or to come up with a versus PDF bundle in the future. This product is well done and reasonably priced; it shouldn’t be overlooked because you could be lost without it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Po'Kesteros, the Lostling  (PFRPG)
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Ancient Temple
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/25/2012 15:08:10
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=23160.

The Ancient Temple battlemap is difficult to classify. It can be used in fantasy, horror, historical, pulp, or even sci-fi settings. It is an extremely simplistic battlemap depicting a temple atop a series of stones labs and surrounded by jungle. A set of stairs leads you to the temple and the textures have a very weathered feel to them (confirming the use of the term “ancient”). And that’s pretty much it.

OVERALL

Representing a structure that rises 3-dimensionally on a 2-dimensional surface is tricky. Representing one that has different levels is even more difficult. While you can visualize what the battlemap is supposed to be, I would like to have seen different shading to represent this changing of levels as the battlemap rises to the temple. With that said, the shading means you can tell where one level ends and the other begins and the overall look and feel looks visually wonderful.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 7 out of 10
The Ancient Temple battlemap received in this package is laid-out wonderfully and cut perfectly across the grid. The presentation is good but the map is missing overlays for the actual temple. I’d like to see what’s inside of the temple or at least have an overlay that removes the roof. In fact, it would almost be easiest to have a battlemap without the roof and have the roof as an additional overlay. Otherwise the package includes a square-grid, hex-grid, and grid-less versions (the latter is for virtual tabletop use).

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
I really like the textures as they definitely pop from the battlemap. The entire battlemap has a very ancient look to it with stone overgrown by grass, stone obviously worn and even missing, and the subtle addition of a skeleton no longer intact. What really pops out at you (you may have to look closely) are the carvings around the actual temple. That is paying an extreme attention to detail.

Desire to Use: 7 out of 10
Without the ability to remove the roof of the ancient temple, the battlemap is seemingly limited to an external use of the temple instead of looking at what’s inside. However, it’s generic design allows it to be used in a number of genres. When I look at it, I see a pulp exploration into ancient Mesoamerican jungles where a lonely temple awaits its next victim.

Overall: 8 out of 10
Ancient Temple is a great utility map that has visual appeal to create an exciting encounter. While the interior of the temple itself is not shown on the battlemap, it can still easily be used as a center-piece for something interesting if not something extremely big. (What if ancient horrors were locked inside and simply stepping foot onto the temple’s platform woke the beasts, setting them free of their captivity?) Truly the possibilities for use are quite vast which gives the battlemap its true value.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ancient Temple
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Modern Floorplans Volume 1: Office Spaces
Publisher: Fabled Environments
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/22/2012 14:07:05
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=23156.

Office Spaces is a collection of three different modern office floorplans covering: Strip Mall Office, Highrise Building, and Warehouse Building. Each one is fully detailed with furniture and room identifiers and come in four formats: fully labeled with grid, no grid, no labels, and no furniture or labels. Having these different formats allows the GM maximum flexibility for what they wish to use the floorplan for including uses outside of modern settings such as post-apocalyptic or sci-fi.

OVERALL

Business locations are rarely the same going from one place to another. The best part of the Office Spaces collection of floorplans is that the layouts of these offices is very simple, somewhat standard, and more importantly completely generic. This too provides maximum flexibility to the GM for incorporation into whatever setting they are using. Although you don’t often see combat within a business office, they make great additions for investigative and even horror games. Can you imagine what may be hiding within that inner-conference room?

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Office Spaces is an extremely clean set of floorplans. The variety of the three styles is especially nice for use within various settings (urban, suburban, and warehouse) and so simple that their interpretation can vary just as much – especially when you use the unlabeled maps. The entire publication is clear and crisp and laid-out extremely well.

Visual Appeal: 8 out of 10
While the floorplans are clean, they are completely clean in that they contain no color or decoration. While they look great, they are a little on the boring side and ready for color. However, this style of design does allow the GM to add their own decoration anywhere they’d like, especially where it makes sense. While looking at a black and white floorplan is a little dull, it definitely gets the job done.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
I can think of a number of uses for floorplans such as these in and out of the modern genre. In fact, if you add a little destruction to the walls and furniture, you have yourself an awesome post-apocalyptic floorplan where deadly firefights could ensue. A lot is left to the imagination as what’s presented is so basic, but the excellent formatting of the floorplan and placement of all the key items (bathrooms, conference rooms, offices, cubicles, etc.) make for very realistic settings.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I love battlemaps and finding ones for modern settings is often difficult. While you may think you can just sketch out the office building you saw the other day, finding the right dimensions can prove challenging. Office Spaces takes that challenge away and provides three different office spaces that look and feel like actual, modern day offices. If this is the look you want, then there’s no need to look elsewhere.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Floorplans Volume 1: Office Spaces
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101 Pirates and Privateer Traits (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/21/2012 14:25:11
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=23037.

From Blackbeard to Cpt. Jack Sparrow, pirates have always been and will always be cool! We even get excited when misshapen but loveable characters like Sloth get in on the pirate action. Playing a pirate at the gaming table is a safe and less expensive way to enjoy the taste of a dagger between our teeth than say dressing up as one at the Ren Fest. (Don’t ask me how pirates got to be part of Ren Fest, I really don’t know….) Confusion aside, 101 Pirate and Privateer Traits is an exceptional product that was done with a tongue and cheek sensibility that is mechanically sound and really interesting.

OVERALL

Wow! The content in 101 Pirate and Privateer Traits might cause your seafaring character to be epic and your GM to run an amazing nautical adventure.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
There were no surprises publication-quality wise from Rite Publishing on this one. All of the art was public domain and had cohesion that I have been hounding Rite Publishing to achieve review after review. Finding Pirate and Privateer art isn’t nearly as difficult as finding art for the more esoteric subjects that Rite Publishing tackled in the past. Even with the “easy” subject matter, Rite did a great job with this one. Not only was the art well selected, it was well matched with the traits. There were a few small editing mistakes and at this stage of the game those are mistakes that I will ding Rite for. The art used for the Undying Curse trait on page 13 blew my mind, subtle and really cool!

Value Add: 10 out of 10
If you are playing a nautical campaign this is a 10 out of 10, if you are playing a swashbuckler of any type this is a 10 out of 10. For you’re a normal, everyday, land-bound heavily armored type there is value, but not Bo Derrick value. This supplement is great for players who need some ideas for character development. The traits, while focused and cleverly named with Pirate and scurvy, sea sodden names, still have value for other types of characters. Each entry is written like a little story and could be altered with minimal time and effort to fit into landlocked campaigns. The naming conventions would be lost but the essence of the entries would still be solid. As a tool for GMs 101 Pirate and Privateer Traits is a must have! These traits will pimp out your PCs and make your NPCs feel less non!

Overall: 9 out of 10
In the beginning of this review I made it a point to mention the designer’s note at the beginning of the book and now I feel I owe it to tell you why. This note lays it out on the line. I have read many designer’s notes that sound more like excuses than information. This note laid out the purpose of this product and let you know that this isn’t your normal 1 or 2 to a stat kind of book. This book puts the traits firmly in the GMs hand while still giving enough mechanics information to make it all work. This is a smart person’s product that is well thought-out and fun to read. This is one of those products that you have to Sea, to believe.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Pirates and Privateer Traits (PFRPG)
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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/18/2012 14:38:22
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22913.

The Coliseum Morpheuon knows only two forms of gladiator: the quick and the dead. Z.Z. Grimshanks, with a smile as sharp as any blade, is one of the quickest… and not yet the dead-est. While he’s still alive and kicking, even your seconds aren’t safe. This product provides an interesting and surprisingly in-depth look at an NPC I would not like to meet in a dark alley.

OVERALL

Rite Publishing highlights yet another one of the members of their well thought-out and really freaking scary lineup of Unusual Suspects that inhabit the Tarnished Souk. If you are looking for a detailed and interesting NPC to work with or against an adventuring party, look no further than Z.Z. Grimshanks

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
When compared with products produced but some of the larger RPG makers, many folks would not consider this product a 10. For Rite Publishing and many, many other smaller RPG makers, it sets the standard. Rite Publishing was smart to stick with black & white illustrations with this product. In past reviews I have dinged Rite Publishing for forcing color illustrations or choosing color illustrations that didn’t sync with the text or just looked cheesy. Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds, Rite stuck to the fundamentals and it works! Rick Hershey captured Z.Z. Grimshanks with the cover art. The malevolent smile and the casual tossing of a wicked looking dagger gave me and idea of the type of character Z.Z. Grimshanks is right away. The page borders are done in Rite Publishing’s grey-green runic pattern that is normally used with the Faces of the Tarnished Souk series. The interior art is relevant and well-done. The Time Thief looks like a Time Thief. I enjoyed that the behind-the-scenes over at Rite Publishing (in this case Steven D. Russell and Matt Banach) chose to add non Z.Z. Grimshanks pictures to the descriptions of some of the templates. I am quite fond of the Betrayer Gremlin on page 9

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
I still contend that some of the templates in Rite Publishing books are way too overpowered. Here is an example from Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds; the Accelerated Creature adds 8 to initiative, a 6 bonus to AC, CMD and reflex saves, 4 to Dex based skill checks 30 feet to all modes of speed and a special attack for a CR 1 while the Charming creature grants a 4 to Cha and gives the creature a permanent charm monster effect also at a CR 1. I understand how powerful permanent charm monster can be but compared to the Accelerated creature template not so much. At higher levels these additional templates make sense and can really add to a memorable adversary but to add a measly CR 1 to a creature with all of those benefits is a power gamers wet dream! If the folks over at Rite Publishing put a minimum level requirement on qualifications for these templates I think they would feel more balanced. If an NPC is given one of these templates at level 2, things would get out of hand quickly. Because of the increased difficulty of leveling up at much higher (almost epic) levels, the laundry list of improvements included with some of these templates make more sense.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
Rite Publishing has mastered the art of giving their customers more product for their money. Not only are their products priced to sell but they add things like variants of the already well thought-out creatures. For this product they included three variants for Z.Z. Grimshanks at each CR that they presented. This gives the GM a modular flexibility that few products provide. This is a great product for GMs and not bad for players.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Z.Z. Grimshanks, like so many of the other Faces of the Tarnished Souk, is a force to be reckoned with. Entire adventures and even campaigns could be based around an NPC like Z.Z. At lower CRs Z.Z. Grimshanks is much easier to integrate in places other than the Coliseum Morpheuom setting. Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds is a product whose time has come!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds  (PFRPG)
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10 Inquisitor Feats (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/13/2012 21:03:49
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22593.

The inquisitor is like a battle Cleric who tracks down the enemies of their church and brings them a brand of justice that is based on their interpretation of the will of their deity. In the end, inquisitors are above the normal rules of their church, but when the day of reckoning comes, they will answer to their deity.

OVERALL

10 Inquisitor Feats on two pages, no fuss, no muss. This product has an elegantly simplistic form that like most Rite publishing products makes it useful.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Rite Publishing has figured out that the RPG business is a marathon, not a sprint. Rather than over-extending themselves with overly flashy art, they have chosen the smart path of well-done black and white on this product. The cover depicts an inquisitor brandishing a blunt weapon and a holy symbol of some sort. What you see is what you get and what you get is solid. Toby Gregory’s art does a great job of capturing what I perceive to be a bit of the angst that every good (or evil) inquisitor must feel after fighting the enemies of their faith with no rest. The picture was used on the cover and once more in the book, I think they could have found a different picture to use in the whopping 2 pages of info, but in Mr. Russell’s defense it is a good picture.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
You would think writing 10 feats for any character class would be easy, well it isn’t. Writing reviews for Roleplayers Chronicle (Best web site ever!), I come across mass quantities of products that just can’t balance their feats with the rule of cool. Rite Publishing has a mature approach to feat writing that still feels fresh and cool.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
At no point did I get the impression that 10 Inquisitor Feats was trying to do anything but introduce feats for the inquisitor. That focus (some developers are a bit ADD) makes this a value to both players and GMs.

Overall: 9 out of 10
There are times when I love products like this; they cut to the chase and give you what you need. No foreplay, just business! I do like a little fluff and some background but the ascetic determination of the inquisitor and the minimalist approach to this product work well, they needed two pages to list the feats and that is all that they used. Yes, this book has the normal cover style and page border style that most Rite products have, but the good use of art and simple structure just feel Rite.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Inquisitor Feats (PFRPG)
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Three Kings - Call of Cthulhu
Publisher: Modiphius
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/12/2012 14:57:37
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22761.

Three Kings is part 1 of the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign, for Call of Cthulhu, taking place during World War II. While its roots lie within WWII horror thanks to the Cthulhu Mythos, the campaign (or at least this module) has a pulp-like feel to it and lies somewhere between investigative horror and pulp action. Considering the characters are military-styled agents, the campaign leans less toward the survival aspects of horror and more toward the extermination of it. While this isn’t the core of a traditional Call of Cthulhu setting or game, it is a new way of implementing the Cthulhu Mythos theme using the Call of Cthulhu rules in a setting that allows the players to experience a piece of World War II history flavored with horrific aspects. If you keep this in mind, you won’t be disappointed when playing the campaign.

OVERALL

Three Kings is well-written adventure and a good starting point for a campaign. Although it doesn’t follow traditional design for Call of Cthulhu, it does contain elements that allow you to survive through a full campaign and places the characters in the midst of a gran story unfolding between the events of World War II. Albeit more action-oriented than investigation, it still is a module that I recommend for those who enjoy a little pulp-styled adventure in your Cthulhu Mythos.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Three Kings is a beautiful book visually. It appears to have been designed for print, however, as the layering of the PDF makes the pages load dreadfully slow. When I read this on my Nook, some pages took almost half a minute to load. While this is annoying, the layout, formatting, and illustrations of the publication make it stand out. I find the text to be very easy to read and the formatting allows it to flow smoothly. The illustrations have a very early-20th Century look to them through the use of dark colors and lack of definition (this is good because it supports the theme). The maps are a great bonus and I love the loose-leaf design. When you look at the book, it looks like a briefing one would get before entering the field for covert operations. It should be noted that on my laptop, once each page has been loaded, going back and forth through the PDF does not take extra time to load.

Storyline: 8 out of 10
Three Kings has a good storyline that develops well from beginning to end. While there are several holes in the actions being taken by the characters (in relation to the content), much of this can be easily filled-in with the fluff material contained throughout and by simply following the general direction of the adventure itself. While many of these holes do seem to be very deliberate, giving the characters maximum flexibility in relation to how they proceed through the adventure, it would be nice to have suggestions on how to keep things moving forward should the adventure begin to stall. Regardless of this, the overall storyline is still a good one.

Desire to Play: 8 out of 10
Like Delta Green, Acthung! Cthulhu takes a very different approach to Call of Cthulhu. Characters are not professors (although they could be), archaeologists, reporters, and police officers; they are instead agents of the soon to be MI-6 out of England. Being that they are performing what could be called a covert operation, you would expect a more militant approach to the adventure. And that’s what you get, a more action-style Call of Cthulhu adventure that is more akin to pulp than it is to horror. While many may feel this strays from the concept of Call of Cthulhu, it is merely another way of utilizing the game system. If you view the adventure as it’s meant to be written, you will enjoy it a lot more.

Overall: 8 out of 10
Three Kings is an interesting deviation from the normal Call of Cthulhu adventure. It provides a little more survival power to the characters and involves them in more than just the Cthulhu Mythos. While the end Mythos creature is an important part of the adventure, it is not an integral part as the adventure encompasses more than just that. It’s a different approach, but a very well-developed one.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Three Kings - Call of Cthulhu
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Reclamation
Publisher: Architect Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/08/2012 14:56:52
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22537.

Reclamation is a sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic setting and system powered by a standard deck of playing cards instead of dice. The setting takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth after a pandemic swept across the world (caused by a Nuclear Cataclysm) and transformed half of the human race to bloodthirsty degenerates. The player characters assume the role of survivors touched in some way by the apocalyptic event (depending upon their age). Reclamation takes place shortly after the apocalyptic event so the setting is filled with those who survived the apocalypse, those who were born after it, and those who are considered the current youth population.

As mentioned, Reclamation utilizes a standard playing deck of cards instead of dice for resolution. Players flip over the top card from their Fate Deck, adding your ability, and attempting to meet or exceed the target number. Skills are used as a way of improving your odds by allowing additional cards to be flipped and hoping for a better result. Without spoiling the mechanics, some cards add to your total while others subtract. This is how you end up with the randomness like a die roll. Target Numbers vary depending on the action being taken, but they are essentially a measure of how well or poorly the action was instead of a simple pass or fail.

OVERALL

Reclamation is a truly unique setting and system, taking a very dark approach to sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic instead of the humoristic settings you find elsewhere. The apocalypse truly transformed the world for the worse and even the darkness of the layout accentuates that image. The use of the playing card mechanics provides a truly unique experience giving gamers something they may have never seen before. At the very least, if one doesn’t like using cards over dice, you can change the system to a dice pool or use it as a campaign setting. Either way, your bound to get a lot of enjoyment out of Reclamation no matter how you use it.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Reclamation is a beautiful book, supported by the successful Kickstarter campaign. It has great looking art, an easy-to-read layout, and the formatting looks nice. I would say that there is actually too much art at times. I found plenty of locations where the art did not really add to the value of what was being stated in the content. I also found the continued insertion of narrative to be excessive. A little narrative sprinkled throughout is nice, but when it really breaks the flow of the content, it becomes intrusive instead of valuable or fun. (You could say it was slightly over-produced.) However, visually, Reclamation is a great book and the layout and formatting make the mechanics easy to understand.

Mechanics: 8 out of 10
The playing card mechanics for resolving actions is incredibly unique and put together in a way that makes them interesting and fun. The character creation is a great way of building a great character and how the skills allow you additional cards to improve your chances of success is a great implementation of characters; this method really brings the action resolution mechanics and character creation together. Magic is a bit on the heavy side in terms of volume of mechanics. Almost half of the book is given over to magic (Gifts) which seems a bit much for a post-apocalyptic setting that seems to focus on sci-fi as much as it does on fantasy. Additionally, there is not nearly as much information for the Game Master (called the Fate Dealer) in terms of antagonists and Reclamation adventure creation (there’s a lot of generic stuff, but not so much setting content). The example adventure does a good job of painting the scene for the Fate Dealer, but I think a little more love for the person running the game could be included.

Combat has a very different feel for mechanics compared to simple action resolution. While the cards are still involved, there is a bit more decision making required on each participants part (by choosing how much aggressive one is attacking) and damage is static using the given options on each weapon (related to the cards suit). This is a very unique way of using the playing cards and again plays in quite well with the card-based mechanics of the system overall.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
Reclamation is a very unique setting and a very original system. If you refuse to play with anything other than dice, then I suggest using the setting for a campaign in another system. However, if you are ready to try something different, Reclamation has lots of great characteristics that make it desirable for play, even campaign play.

Overall: 9 out of 10
There are plenty of sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic settings and systems available. Many of them take a very epic fantasy approach to this version of post-apocalyptic and many add a bit of humor into the supposed dismal setting. However, many of these settings are wastelands that feel like survival is not as hard as it claims. Reclamation doesn’t have that feel. Reclamation puts the apocalypse back into post-apocalyptic by presenting a very dystopian and dark version of Earth after the apocalyptic event. You won’t spend your time wondering what the alarm clock you just found does (because you don’t know it’s an alarm clock), rather you’ll spend a lot of time fighting for your lives and actually struggling to survive in a world that has been drastically changed.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Reclamation
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Abandoned Station
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/31/2012 15:01:12
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22379.

Abandoned Station depicts just that, a small, abandoned train station with three decrepit train cars. The style is that of post-apocalyptic or modern and can easily be used for horror type gaming. However, you may need to add some destroyed bits for use in post-apocalyptic settings.

The map depicts a small train station set on the sidewalk leading to two sets of train tracks. One track has a large passenger car while the other track has two freight-styled cars. The building and the train cars are all depicted without a roof and the roof overlays are given as separate pieces later in the battlemap. The whole scene shows a general sense of years of neglect.

OVERALL

I like the simplicity of this Abandoned Station but I also like how it’s very different then what you find elsewhere. While most are making fantasy oriented maps, this outdoor depiction can be used for a number of encounters with a mountain of questions leading to “Why is it abandoned?”

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Abandoned Station is laid out very nicely with a good focus on centering each tile. What really steals the show, however, is the amount of detail added to make the entire map feel like it was abandoned. There is graffiti all over, the interior of the passenger train car is worn out while looking like someone was here recently. And my favorite is the body chalk outline in one of the rooms of the train station – that’s just awesome!

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
The Abandoned Station battlemap looks stunning. The textures are incredible in terms of choice and weathering. They all have a very weathered appeal including the grass which looks dead or dying from years of neglect. The coloring really grabs you when looking at the overview of the battlemap, seeing the decay of everything through muted tones and dirty effects.

Desire to Use: 8 out of 10
I like this battlemap and would definitely use it in a modern horror or post-apocalyptic setting. It could use a few more options such as being able to add additional tracks on the opposite side of the train station instead of the sidewalk or a way to simply extend the train tracks for additional cars, but that is quite minor. With the look and feel of the battlemap, you’re sure to find something lurking in one of those cars that will be trouble for the PCs. Maybe it’s a possessed hobo that turns into a vicious demon, or maybe its a group of zombies.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Abandoned Station is another great battlemap from DramaScape. There’s definite attention paid to detail and the concept of “abandoned” comes through perfectly in every single way. Its design is great for loose interpretation allowing GMs to use it for multiple settings instead of being stuck with only one or two.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Abandoned Station
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