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Ekzis' Demonic Chessboard
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 00:44:34
Rich artwork and a fun concept combine here to make an interesting backdrop for a set-piece battle. Files are provided for print-and-play on either US letter size or A4 paper, or for use in VTT software. Demonic powers or mad wizards using chessboards as traps or puzzles fit well into many fantasy role-playing settings, and this one looks so good that it motivates me to find a way to use it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ekzis' Demonic Chessboard
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Legends & Lore (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 00:22:54
The AD&D 2e counterpart to the Deities & Demigods volumes in AD&D 1e and 3e, Legends & Lore adapts several real-world mythologies and one fantasy mythology (from Fitz Leiber's Nehwon novels) for use in AD&D 2e campaigns. Whereas the 1e Deities & Demigods is sometimes characterized as a "Monster Manual for gods," the 2e Legends & Lore emphasizes the relationships between gods and worshipers. I do question somewhat the actual utility of these volumes; most D&D campaigns in my experience use fantasy pantheons like those from Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms or Krynn. The greater usefulness of Legends & Lore would seem to me to be in DMs reskinning various gods to create their own fantasy pantheons. The section on Arthurian mythology holds greater promise for direct or near-direct use in a campaign, but it's disappointing that the entire discussion never mentions Christianity directly; despite the importance of the Holy Grail, Legends & Lore doesn't bother to explain exactly what the grail was understood to be. I find this volume more enjoyable than practical.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legends & Lore (2e)
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RAVENFELL: Items & Streets
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2014 23:27:27
The various pieces that make up this set range in modeling difficulty from easy (the elevated road segments) to fairly complex (the cart and the well). Precision is especially required for the bridge, but also for pieces that fit together like the cart and its removable hay load or the outhouse and its seat. If the instructions are followed skillfully, the results are quite attractive and can really enhance any medieval village type of RPG battlemap.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RAVENFELL: Items & Streets
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Template Pack #2 Bog
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2014 23:01:46
The "templates" in this pack are four high-res backgrounds for book covers and book interiors. The "bog" aspect comes in the foliage that decorates the covers and page edges. You could use these for a gaming product or—more likely for me—an in-game handout. They're very attractive, and would make good tomes of druidic lore.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Template Pack #2 Bog
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Ground set #17 - Bog of Hope
Publisher: Lord Zsezse Works
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2014 00:46:46
Featuring path shapes similar to other LZW ground sets, this one takes you to a swampy area crisscrossed with paths and bridges, and festooned with brightly-colored flowers and fungi. I suppose the bright colors are what make ti a bog "of hope." It would fit well into a faerie-forest or even an underworld lit by glowing mushrooms. A set of small dwellings made from materials fanciful (perhaps giant mushrooms) and mundane are included. PDF layers are used to allow the addition of boats and animals to various tiles—but I don't consider these to be especially useful additions, since they depict movable elements that I don't want tied down to static tiles. The brief accompanying text is imaginative but not terribly consequential (and in need of better editing). All in all, a fun set with good artwork.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ground set #17 - Bog of Hope
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Pro RPG Audio: Viking Dining Hall
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2014 00:19:51
The title offers a viking dining hall, and the track delivers a viking dining hall. Lots of voices, but they're not saying anything in discernible English. A bit of light instrumentation, some laughter, some clinking of tankards (or maybe small cymbals or something along those lines). Very well done and not too distracting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Viking Dining Hall
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Druid Ceremony - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
Publisher: Ambient Environments
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2014 18:16:45
This may be one my favorite tracks from Gil Luna yet. The pulse of drums, twittering of birds, ambient vocals, and other audible elements of this track deliver a feeling of awe, sacredness, and nature. Admitting the influence of the track's name, I can easily picture myself at Stonehenge or some other circle of standing stones, looking on while druids do their thing. I also like this track just for listening; earlier today I had it looping for over an hour while I worked on another project, and it never became distracting or boring.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Druid Ceremony  - from the RPG & TableTop Audio Experts
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks Chris! Glad you enjoyed it. Forest of the Fae is similar in that context as far as listenability goes. Thanks for all of your reviews. It helps me see where I can make improvements and do! Cheers! ~g
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
Publisher: Chaosium
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/31/2014 16:57:45
As someone who's always wanted to play Call of Cthulhu but has never really had the opportunity, I very much appreciate these quick-start rules. They're also a nice "holdover" for players waiting for the 7th edition to ship (which hasn't happened yet, as of this review). Be forewarned, however, that you won't be able to use these rules to play much other than the included adventure; they don't really contain enough for a keeper to devise further adventures using just the quick-start booklet. That adventure, by the way, is written both for new players and new GMs; as an RPG veteran but CoC newbie I thought it hit the mark rather well. The layout is a bit "Microsoft Wordy" and I noticed at least one missing word in some of the read-aloud text for "The Haunting," but these are fairly minor blemishes on an otherwise fine product. It's not a complete game, but you can get at least one good night of gaming out of it, at no cost. I call that a win.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Quick-Start Rules
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Pro RPG Audio: Haunted Mars
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 15:01:53
This loop evokes a mysterious, barren, windswept plain. You could be standing in a Martian desert; you could be standing in Egypt next to a broken statue of Ozymandias. There are some strange noises in the background that add to the sense of wonder and mystery; I suppose these might imply a haunting. Whatever they suggest to you, the track is very effective at setting a "haunted" (either literally or metaphorically) mood in a desolate place.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Haunted Mars
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Pro RPG Audio: Black Mud Swamp
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:45:25
How do you know this soundscape represents a swamp, other than the title? Mainly from the buzzing insects. The mud is implied by occasional "sticky" footfalls. Why is the mud black? Well, because the title says so, and because it's nighttime, as you can tell from the crickets. Unlike most of Plate Mail Games's background loops, this one also has touches of "music" in the form of sustained, relatively high-pitched tones. The sound is sometimes almost like an electrical hum. These long notes add a touch of mystery, making this an excellent loop to play under any swamp scene, such as (but not limited to!) a visit to a black dragon's swamp in a fantasy RPG or the Louisiana bayou in Call/Trail of Cthulhu scenarios.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Black Mud Swamp
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Pro RPG Audio: Fantasy Medieval Battleground
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:38:29
Clashes of swords and shouts of warriors resound through this battlefield, implying a rather large number of combatants. What makes this a *fantasy* medieval battleground is the fire-breathing dragon (or inarticulate fire giant, perhaps). Very effective and enjoyable.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Fantasy Medieval Battleground
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Pro RPG Audio: Superhero Hover Fortress
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:14:54
Once you get over the misspelling in the track title and realize that this is not about superheroes hanging out with vacuum cleaner salespeople, you can appreciate the track for what it is: a fine background soundscape for the control room of an orbiting superhero base. I think I've heard of at least one decidedly courageous team with one of those.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Superhero Hover Fortress
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Pro RPG Audio: 1890s Train Station Platform
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 14:10:01
In this loop you can hear almost everything you'd expect to hear on the titular 1890s train station platform: train brakes, bells, whistles, turning wheels, puffing bellows. There's only one thing missing, and it's a fairly significant oversight: people. Where are the passengers? The conductors? Judging by the apparent number of whistles and trains, this would seem to be a fairly busy station, but there's no crowd noise. There might be a faint hint of footsteps now and again, but they're so faint I had to turn the volume up fairly high to hear them, and they didn't imply more than one or two people. I wouldn't want to hear distinct conversations, of course, but more evidence of a crowd on the platform would make this a five-star track.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: 1890s Train Station Platform
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Pro RPG Audio: Deep in the Jungle
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 13:52:33
The worst thing one can say about this loop is that it seems misnamed. The soundscape actually puts one in mind more of the aviary at a zoo than the deep jungle. When my son heard it, he actually thought it was my bird-sounds morning alarm sounding. The key shortcoming in the track, relative to its title, is the fact that you hear nothing but birds. Where are the monkeys/apes? The reptiles? The mammals? And most tellingly, the sounds of wind and animals acting on the foliage? If you're looking for a soundscape for a scene set in a deep jungle or rainforest, I would suggest looking elsewhere. But this track would make fine backing for a trip through an elven glen, a bird sanctuary, a lively but lightly wooded forest, or the aforementioned zoo.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Deep in the Jungle
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Pro RPG Audio: Villain's Spaceship Bridge
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 13:31:37
This loop is very unobtrusive—perhaps even too unobtrusive, if that's possible. I would describe the sensation more as a derelict spaceship bridge, barely functional, than a villain's spaceship bridge. A bed of white noise is interrupted occasionally by twittering sounds that might remind you of R2-D2 or a Star Trek communicator pin's chirp, and that's pretty much it. I don't hear a bustling villain's lair; I hear a ghost ship. Reframe the expectations set by the title and you get a good track for playing under a scene of exploring an abandoned (or haunted) spaceship. Think Ripley aboard the crashed ship in "Aliens," not Spock aboard the Narada in "Star Trek."

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pro RPG Audio: Villain's Spaceship Bridge
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