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Van Graaf's Journal of Adventuring
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Van Graaf's Journal of Adventuring
Editeur: Mongoose
par Thilo G. [Acheteur vérifié]
Date Ajoutée: 01/27/2012 03:09:59

This pdf is 142 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 137 pages of content, so let's check out what Van Graaf's tome has to say about adventuring...

Adventuring is a broad topic and thus it is only expected that not all bases will be covered and the first area covered would be a section on gearing up - an alternative system for mundane little items is presented - essentially, a rummage-through-clothes check to find items you didn't have on your character sheet. If your players don't enjoy planning their items all the time, this system might make them happy. The new mundane items are actually quite cool and consist of a lot of bits and pieces that could easily be overlooked. A new system for carrying equipment is presented as well - essentially, e.g. items on the back take longer to get and every character e.g. has a carrying slot on the thighs, back, shoulders, etc. Implementation of the system leads to more planning and more realistic Pcs, but could, depending on player-type, lead to annoyance due to bogging down play. However, not all is great in this chapter: There is an extensive amount of space devoted to suggested things to take along on an adventurous trip through any given terrain. While the idea is nice, the information provided is mostly of the "D'uh"-type - i.e. logical things that just didn't need to be spelled out.

The second chapter, rules of engagement, provides us with a cool idea - party tactics that can be learned via several weeks/months of training that grant you and your allies bonuses when e.g. luring foes into ambushes. I really enjoyed the idea and its presentation. Unfortunately, though, the chapter contains much, much filler, providing an exhaustive, bland description of first, basic roles in the party and secondly, how classes view other classes. This information is so superfluous, words fail to describe the sheer obsoleteness of the section, constituting a blatant way of upping the page-count. Even worse, and this is problem of the whole book, it completely ignores the classes from the APG, UM and UC, somewhat making it feel overall as if it has not been written for PFRPG, but is rather a rehash of a 3.5-book. The fact that synergy-bonuses are mentioned further gives credence to this nagging suspicion, as does the fact that e.g. rage powers, bloodlines etc. are not discussed at all. More annoyingly, this chapter of the book also contains general, bland tactics and ways to deal with enemies by general types. Do we really need a discussion on the very basics of any form of investigation/reconnaissance? This is information that belongs to a starter-kit, not a book like this.

Chapter 3, entitled "intelligent spellcasting" organizes spells by purpose (which is handy to have) and provides us with sample spell-lists. A LOT of sample spell-lists. However, the utility of said lists is greatly compromised by the lack of APG, UM and UC-support, making this whole chapter, at least for me, rather useless.

Thankfully, the final chapter once again has some actually useful new rules, dealing with home bases of adventuring groups. Rules for provisions and upkeep as well as discipline etc. are covered, as are different types of bases. I would have preferred a tighter synergy with the Kingmaker or the Jade Regent-rules, though. Nothing is wrong with the content of this chapter.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are ok - I did notice some relics, punctuation errors etc. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column standard. The b/w-artworks are nothing to write home about and nowhere near the quality of the cover. The pdf comes without any bookmarks, which, at this length, is simply unacceptable - navigating a pdf of over 100 pages sans bookmarks in this day and age is a sign of bad production values and simply sloppy.

While I was reading this book, I couldn't help but feel that the content is a cobbled together rehash of 3.5-rules components that has not even been updated to the new realities of PFRPG - no APG, no UM, no UC-support is just weak. Furthermore, the redundant and boring, basic character-class/roles discussions never once mention archetypes or any of the innovations PFRPG brought to the table. And then, there's the price. Essentially, this book asks you to shell out A LOT of money for an un-bookmarked pdf that contains obviously reprinted information that has not been updated. Blatantly boring filler-material abounds and the utility of the spell-lists (by the way: Over 20 pages!) is questionable. Quite frankly, while the equipment and base-upkeep rules are not bad, I feel insulted by this pdf. It's advice is patronizing, it's content often redundant or simply not something ANY roleplayer but absolute beginners needs spelled out. In fact, I'd wager that even novices don't need the pieces of advice herein. Add to that the lack of bookmarks and not only the scarce, but actually rather good components in here can salvage this book. I can't recommend this pdf to anyone - especially at the ridiculously high price. If the items intrigued you and you want an equipment book, I'd much rather recommend 4 Wind Fantasy Gaming's Luven-book. My final verdict will be a harsh, somewhat annoyed 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1. Steer clear of this book!

Endzeitgeist out.

[1 sur 5 étoiles!]
Van Graaf's Journal of Adventuring
Editeur: Mongoose
par Shane O. [Testeur star]
Date Ajoutée: 12/23/2011 19:18:05

I really didn’t know what to expect when I downloaded this book. Usually a product goes out of its way to describe what you’re paying for, but the product description page didn’t really present much to go on. Curious, I checked out what Van Graaf’s Journal of Adventuring had to say about what your PC should be doing when he’s raiding dungeons and fighting dragons. The results were an interesting mix of insightful and obvious. Let’s take a closer look.

Before anything else is said, one thing must be pointed out: the page count given in the product description is wrong. This PDF has 142 pages, not 256. Worse, there are no bookmarks here, which I consider to be unforgivable in a book this size. With any luck, these problems will be quickly corrected.

Van Graaf’s Journal of Adventuring takes a somewhat simplistic tone in its visual presentation. The pages have a plain white background, with small borders along the top and bottom. Some black and white illustrations break things up every couple of pages. This isn’t anything that would break your printer, so there’s no fuss there.

The first of the book’s four sections is dedicated to (non-magical) gear. I personally found this section of the book to be the best, as there was a lot of great ideas and new materials here. The book talks about what sort of equipment you’ll likely have/need in various environments and situations, presents a system where you can make a check to determine if you have some incidental item on you (that is, it’s an answer for when your player says “oh come on, I’m sure I’d have an extra bowstring! I’m a ranger! Do I really need to writing EVERYTHING on my character sheet?!”), along with a list of some of the more likely items and what their game effects, if any, are.

Some space is then given over to what classes (from the Core Rulebook only) would use what equipment, how to transport equipment and under what circumstances (e.g. are you going for speed and stealth? Or is this a long trip where you can be weighed down with a lot of gear?), various containers, and how items are carried on the body. This last one deserves special mention, as it’s my favorite part of the book. The authors cogently note that very little attention is paid to how a character stores the gear they’re carrying, and there’s only a basic rule for how long it takes to draw things. To rectify that, they present a system of charting exactly where a character’s items are stored on the body, including how many items can be carried and where, and how long it thus takes to draw various stowed gear. It’s a slightly more complex system than standard Pathfinder, but only slightly, and it adds a level of verisimilitude to the game that I quite liked.

This first part of the book was, as I said, the best part of it, at least for me. Here we got a lot of down-to-earth overviews of things that aren’t usually thought of in the abstracted world of an RPG, even one as relatively-intricate as Pathfinder. The new uses for equipment, along with systems for checking for mundane equipment and personal storage, where very innovative. Groups that enjoy a low-magic, more gritty style of play will adore what’s here.

The book’s second section is where things become disappointingly prosaic. It analyzes the various party roles (e.g. healer, face man, magic offense, etc.) and the various classes in terms of their combat and non-combat roles and how they relate to other classes. Issues of party leadership (not the feat) are discussed, and then things start to get a little better where issues of marching order and party movement are discussed. Keeping watch is given some coverage, along with combat tactics. It’s after this that “tactical templates” are presented, which are various team-based moves that can grant a minor bonus in combat. These take time to learn, but once trained in them a group can pull off some interesting maneuvers. For example, training for 2 weeks in the Flash-Bang maneuver lets you, if you get the drop on an enemy with a bright and loud attack in an enclosed space, keep them flat-footed until the round after the surprise round, instead of just the surprise round.

A fairly lengthy assessment of various terrain types and battlefield condition follows, along with new rules for various party synergies – little bonuses that PCs can gain for using complementary tactics (e.g. if you have 5 ranks in Bluff and are flanking a target, your ally gains a bonus to feinting Bluff checks). The section closes out with a hard look at identifying enemies, defeating them, and dealing with them once they’re defeated (e.g. the logistics of taking prisoners).

This section wasn’t quite as inspirational as the first one, mostly because the beginning part dealing with combat roles and the strengths and weaknesses of various classes is fairly intuitive, and veteran players will automatically know what’s here. A refresher never hurt anyone, of course, but it still comes across as something that everyone already knows. Conversely, the elements covering more tactical aspects, such as marching order, setting up watches, keeping prisoners, etc. were much more inspired, because they take place in the parts of the game that – in my experience – tend to be glossed over; these put elements that are typically background parts of the game firmly in the foreground. I had mixed feelings about the new tactical templates and synergies, however, as while they’re a great way to make the group a more cohesive entity rather than a collection of individuals, I wasn’t sure I liked how these were another way to pile on bonuses (something I don’t think PCs need any more of).

The third section is called “Intelligent Spellcasting” and takes up just over a third of the book. It opens with discussions of spells in broad themes (e.g. healing spells, direct harm combat spells, transportation spells, etc.) and includes lists of the Core Rulebook spells that fall into each category. It then discusses the party roles that spellcasters can play (e.g. defender, spy, booster) and – and this is the biggest space-eater in the book – presents spell lists for each of the spellcasting classes in the Core Rulebook based on each of these party roles.

How much you value this chapter will depend on how you view pre-packaged spell lists by (non-)combat role. This chapter is, unfortunately, weakened simply by the fact that a lot of Pathfinder’s magical utility has been expanded, both in terms of spells and spellcasting classes, by the Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Magic, and even Ultimate Combat. Even considering the Core Rulebook-only presentation here, if you’re not interested in the best way to make a healing-focused druid, for example, you won’t have much use for this section.

The last section of the book is “The Home Base,” and primarily focuses on where the adventurers hang their hats. This doesn’t need to be a permanent place to set up kip, but rather is where the party will be resting and generally storing their gear, licking their wounds, and operating out of for a period of time.

This section cogently starts off by noting that the first thing to be considered for a base of operations is provisions, for which it introduces the new Provision Rating, along with various modifiers for said rating. Rules then cover stockpiling provisions, what happens when your provisions are cut off, and rationing food and water.

The book then talks about how to conceal your base, how to erect various defenses (e.g. trenches, fences, etc.), how to guard the entrances, and storage and alarms. A larger section is given for guards and sentries, as the book wisely details the various issues that come with employing such people (e.g. supplying them, paying them, modifiers to their discipline and priorities, patrol routes, etc.).

Temporary settlements are given several pages, examining the different types (such as a gathering of tents, abandoned buildings, basic shelters in the wild), along with permanent bases ranging from manor houses to ships to castles to underground fortresses and more. It’s worth noting that none of these cover costs of construction (it keeps referring the reader to Van Graaf’s Journal of Strongholds and Dynasties, which at the time of this writing doesn’t seem to have been released yet) but rather focuses on the practical implications that such domiciles entail. The book then closes with several pages dedicated to running an institution wherein you handle training students (e.g. if you’re running a thieves’ guild or bardic college).

This last section was much more to my liking than its predecessor, simply because it again focuses on taking some of the elements of the game that are assumed and puts them front and center. The practical considerations food and water, keeping your guards paid and disciplined, choosing where to set up a base and more are all smartly discussed and commented on, with various mechanics given as needed. This is another part of the book that will be irresistible to those who want to delve into the nitty-gritty details, rather than cast a spell to create a personal demiplane and magically bind a few planar creatures as guards.

Overall, I found Van Graaf’s Journal of Adventuring to be a mixed bag, but one which hit more often than it missed. The book does have some not-inconsiderable strikes against it, such as its lack of bookmarks or how it sometimes belabors the obvious of the various class roles. But the considerations it places on the all-too-often ignored practical aspects of adventuring are highly evocative, and make the details of a campaign seem exciting for how fleshed out they are. Sometimes given game mechanics and sometimes discussed solely in terms of the impact on the game world, there’s a lot here for those who want to paint a very holistic, vivid picture of what goes into adventuring beyond the raiding and killing. As the title says, this is a journal of adventuring, with all that that entails.

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