I had bought myself Dragonmech in Dec 05 from DriveThruRPG during Goodman Game's (GG) 30% Xmas Sale. This is a hefty 44.5 MB download but is worth every single byte. I'll explain why in my review below.
DISCLAIMER - I am not affiliated to GG in any way.
THE REVIEW PROPER
The well bookmarked Dragonmech PDF clocks in at a whopping 484 pages. That's slightly more than twice the size of the print version. What gives?
Well, the great guys at GG decided to place the original and easy-print version together into one giant PDF. This is a great concept but I felt that search times took a bit longer to stop - fortunately there are no duplicated search entries as the easy-print version does not present any entries. Some of the later PDF books from the Dragonmech series (probably at someone's request) are actually split into two PDF files.
The cover artwork depicts a war battle with two mechs slugging it out on a bed of metal and dead men. In the background of the artwork (near the top), there is a mech fighting off a giant worm.
Browsing the context-linked Contents Page, you will find that the rest of the book is divided into 8 chapters. Each chapter is divided by an artwork depicted as a photographic "plate" - the chapter artwork is only adequate since they only take up about half the page.
The main text is generally divided into 3 columns. Across the top of the page is a repeating set of artwork depicting gears of all sorts. A small corner shows the page/chapter number next to it. I didn't like the font used for the page numbers as it looked too thin and gothic.
There is also a repeating motif of single gears (there are several different types) appearing throughout the book and is blended with the good artwork depicting characters/mechs/equipment or the Dragonmech world on the landmass called Highpoint by its people.
I'll briefly run through the 8 chapters of the book below:
Introduction (4 pages) - This introduces the book proper and throws you into the ravaged world of Highpoint. And ravaged it truly is as huge lunar rocks rain from the sky flattening civilization everywhere. Accompanying the lunar rocks are the sinister lunar dragons who wander aimlessly hunting, killing, and devouring everything. This forces a mass exodus for the underworld and the poor dwarves are the first to stand in line against the refugees. Wars are fought as the dwarves bravely defend their underground cities and losses are great for all. Fortunately, an old mysterious dwarf introduces a vision of mechanized walkers powered by steam. This is where the "mech" of Dragonmech comes in. From there, the rest, as they say is history - I leave you to read the rest.
Characters (58 pages) - A treatise on adjusting the baseline D&D races and classes are given. New classes and prestige classes are also introduced. We have the clockwork ranger, coglayer, constructor, mech jockey, stalker, steamborg classes and the anklebiter, assimilated, gearwright, mech devil, riftwalker, steam mage, vessel of Dotrak prestige classes. The entire lot of classes is rather imaginative and well-thought out although I have not had the opportunity to play-test them yet. The chapter ends with skills, feats, spells, steam powers, and a re-envision of religion appropriate to a steam and mech-type campaign. One thing that really surprised me was the new Cleric Domain: Engines. Now, that's something you won't find everyday in most other d20 products.
Mechs (56 pages) - The stars of the show are depicted in this glorious chapter. From combat to construction rules and a Monster Manual-esque listing of mechs from the Barbagula to the Viper; you'll find enough here to whet your appetite (until you get your hands on the Mech Manual - another book from the Dragonmech series).
Equipment (22 pages) - The weapons, armor and mech-related magic items found in this chapter are variations of steam-mechanized versions of modern-day and ancient equipment. You will find "cannons", "electric saws", "guns", "flame throwers", "bombs", "flares", "ballistas". I found the Hydraulic Armor to be a very cool concept.
The World of Dragonmech (36 pages) - The continental mass of Highpoint seems to be an area of extremes but yet life has evolved through living with or within giant entities which we know as steam-mechanized mechs. All the races (including the hated orcs) are represented. There is a quick gazeteer of Highpoint accompanied with a map of the landmass. Nex, the mechdoms, equivalent to kingdoms without a well-defined boundary (since the cities mechs can trundle all over the surface of Highpoint) are described. They include The Stenian Confederacy, the Irontooth Clans, L'arile Nation, The Rust Riders, The Legion, and the Mech Tribes.
Creatures (26 pages) - What campaign wouldn't give you unique creatures to battle over? Well, this one doesn't as the book has managed to squeeze in sixteen entries. Some of these creatures are worthy of destroying mechs, so adventurers had best look out!
The Dragonmech Campaign (16 pages) - This chapter is basically DM advice on how to run adventures based on Mechs, the devastating Lunar Rain, and attempting to rebuild the surface world. It's quite useful and gives a DM many ideas on a direction to go in building an epic series of adventures for his gaming group.
City-Mech Nedderpik (5 pags) - Well, whadya know... they managed to squeeze in a city-mech called Nedderpik. And Nedderpik is no small thing, its touted as the second city-mech ever built. The self-contained goverment, society, economy, military and organizations on Nedderpik are briefly introduced and up to the DM to flesh out. Unfortunately, no maps of the City-Mech accompany it.
At the end of the book you will find a short Designer's Notes (quite an interesting read), a useful Index, the obligatory Legal Information and OGL License, plus a handy Character Record Sheet. This is followed by a four-page advert and then the easy-print version portion of the book. The easy-print version is identical to the main book except that there is no background texture - this will save on the ink if you decide to print the book.
This book alone drove me to buy the rest of the series from GG which includes:
Mech Manual - this whets my appetite on mechs and monsters.
The Shardsfall Quest - a cool introductory adventure.
Steam Warriors - a book laden with extra character options.
Second Age of Walkers - the world of Highpoint and mechdoms described in detail.
The Last City - a complete description of Edge, the last remaining intact city snuggled comfortably next to and inside a towering cliff that divides the land.
(I didn't buy the Dragonmech: Rumors & Lies support book from Ronin Arts - I thought it to be too costly and the sample preview showed there wasn't much material that I liked within.)
As you can see, I love and treasure my Dragonmech PDF book a lot... it is creative and is actually a mix of concepts from BattleTech (from FASA/Fanpro), When The Sky Falls (from Malhavoc) and Legends and Lairs: Sorcery and Steam (from FFG).
I heartily recommend this campaign if you like the idea of mixing fantasy with a large helping of "science"!
[5 of 5 Stars!]