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[PFRPG] Phantasia Zoologica Volume I: Cats, Dogs & Horses
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Bennett S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/14/2016 14:25:59

5/5 - This product is as-advertised. If you need that niche filled, look no further.

Why did I buy this? What did I actually get? I’ve always enjoyed the 152-crayon box approach to monsters, and I was excited to see the same variety applied to those animals tied closer to human society. And we get exactly what’s advertised on the front, plus equipment!

Have I used this, or will I use this? I haven’t busted this out yet, but I’m currently running a Paizo AP - once I start a new one, I would hope to incorporate some of this into whatever the campaign turns out to be. I may mine this for ideas to convert to my recently started Dungeon World campaign as well.

How is the fluff? Enjoyable: each breed gets a little info about personality, and its interactions with nature and societies, without implying a setting - and I consider that a plus with this type of resource. Though illustrations are nice, it’s still a little disappointing that the statblocks are without the descriptive sentence or two at the top.

How are the mechanics? Each statblock comes with it’s own unique ability or spin that presents a lot of variety, while keeping it in a low CR range. Sometimes, it’s the Khyang Wild Ass, who’s sure of foot and thick furred, or the Coon Cat, who’s Intelligence (not the score, but an ability) makes it easy to train. Some are less distinct, but still serve their purpose. Chapter 4 offers equipment, both mundane and magical - one of the neater non-magical items is a scrollcase harness, fitted for a dog with two bone scrollcases attached. Animal prices, as well as rules for familiars and animal companions bring the book to completion.

How’s the artwork? The book is well-illustrated, and has distinct artwork for each breed. Though I prefer color illustrations because I do most of my gaming through VTT, I really enjoy what’s presented here, and the style would make it easy to color quickly myself.

How’s readability? The layout is simple, printer-friendly B&W. No complaints here.

Was the price fair? I paid $5.59 for this, which for 65 pages of content (72 total) is a great price in my book.

Favorite part? The elven dog, and it’s terrifying bark! On top of combat mechanics, the bark can be heard up to 5 miles away.

Least favorite part? From a personal perspective, I’m not big on horses. Nothing to detract from the book itself, but that chapter doesn’t grab me in the same way the cats and dogs do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[PFRPG] Phantasia Zoologica Volume I: Cats, Dogs & Horses
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101 Shadow and Darkness Spells (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Bennett S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/12/2015 11:10:09

Why did I buy this? What did I actually get? At this point, I own a couple PDFs from Rite Publishing's new 101 Spells series, and have dug the terrain focus. Though this is not aimed at terrain, I still felt confident it would be a cool product, despite numerous takes on shadow magic already existing.

Have I used this, or will I use this? These have not yet seen use in my game, but for every one of this, I'm sure I will have occasion for it - very cool & thematic curses are my jam, and there are plenty within.

How is the fluff? Fluff is tied to the mechanics in a PDF like this, and this does it well. As I mentioned about, cool curses exists, and others: 'Heavy Shadows' uses your enemies shadows to entangle them - provided you succeed at the ranged touch attack to throw a lead pebble into their shadow. Rules are included to calculate the touch AC of someone's shadow. Another one is 'Twilight Ghosts' - an illusionary ghosts appearing in rays of light fascinate creatures, convincing them they are seeing visions of their own death. There are also spells that work on the dark-cold interaction, polymorph spells, shadow manipulation spells, and divinations about reading the stars. To make it even tastier, many spells become more powerful if cast under the right conditions, as seen with the others in the 101 Terrain Spells.

How are the mechanics? Extremely thorough. The PDF opens up with a discussion of light and darkness, including new categories of light to mirror the dark - utter brightness and supernatural brightness, which are blinding in their own way. This becomes important, as I'd say 50% of the spells are complicated enough in their interactions where the above summary becomes quite helpful. There are also neat places where spells interact: the obvious places is spells that attack or grant movement through shadows, and others that manipulate shadows. Another is 'Shadow Conduit', which makes shadow conjuration/evocations whose effects begin within a bubble around the caster slightly more real! I'd find a lot of these spells overpowered, except that the author Dave Paul did a good job of including effective protection spells that can reduce or negate the otherwise more-problematic spells. I don't necessarily have a great eye for what's appropriate on different spell lists at this point, so I won't comment much on that, but it seemed to be on the level.

Hows the artwork? It's fairly sparse but professional quality. My complaint with the artwork in this PDF is that of the twelve distinct pieces I found, about three of them depict shadowy, dark figures - considering how cool some of the other pieces in the PDF are, it would have been nice to see a little more variety. It perhaps grinds me more than it otherwise would because those pieces show up consecutively as the last 3 pieces in the book.

How’s readability? Good - there's a couple points where I see spotted editing errors - the spell 'Cloud of Fire and Shadow' is called 'Cloud of Shadow and Flame' underneath the artwork that appears on the same page. A little worse than this, 'Sunrise Aura' specifies that if it is cast during twilight hours around sunrise, living creatures gain 1 hp/caster level when first exposed to the aura - not 'heal', not 'gain temp hp.' Now this isn't troublesome because the next spell, the counterpart 'Sunset Aura', does specify the similar effect for undead grants temp HP; if it hadn't been there though, we might have been a little worse off.

Was the price fair? At $5.99, we're at a more-than-fair price. I feel Rite Publishing always asks the right amount for their general above-average quality products.

Favorite part? I love curses, and 'Seeing is Believing' is a great one. The victim loses the ability to believe anything but what he sees - gaining amnesia about anything they're not currently looking at - and they cannot be convinced otherwise. They also gain a phobia of the darkness - if exposed to complete darkness or blinded, they must save again or they gain schizophrenia as their mind cracks.

Least favorite part? Even at 1st level, 'Alert to the Unnatural' seems to be a mostly-useless spell: you gain the ability to detect Frightful Presence, Fear Aura, or Unnatural Aura within 30 ft. - but don't most of these have a range of at least 30 ft. anyway? I understand that this would detect it when you can't see it, such as a mummy hiding in a sarcophagus, but Detect Undead is 1st level and has double the range, even if limited to a cone and one creature type. Also, it seems that the spell omits a "Target: You" line.

As an aside, shadow magic has been done in 3PP Pathfinder a few times, and pretty well in most of those cases. There is some overlap between this PDF and things you find in Deep Magic, Ultimate Antipodism, and Path of Shadows - however, this is a very complete resource of shadow magic for DESIGNED for existing Paizo casters. Shadow magic is but a small part of Deep Magic, and Ultimate Antipodism brings new classes and systems to the table. Path of Shadows is a bit better than this, but it still definitely encourages you to play the accompanying class. So if you're looking to add shadow magic to your campaign starting TODAY, this would be the PDF for it.

5/5 Not a new concept, but well done. Great to plug & play with existing casters.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Shadow and Darkness Spells (PFRPG)
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101 Forest Spells (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Bennett S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/06/2015 13:49:45

Why did I buy this? What did I actually get? I have been growing a bit tired of Vancian magic for a while, even at the point when I bought this, but it seemed like it would have something interesting to offer. And it did... I had no idea.

Have I used this, or will I use this? I have not yet implemented this in game, but come tomorrow, I imagine at least one of my players will be getting a Friend of the Forest tattoo from an allied tribe of werewolves...and there's nowhere to go but up from there.

How is the fluff? Not a lot of 'independent' fluff to speak of in this book, but there's definitely cool imagery invoked in the spells, and in the way they tie to the mechanics. As a simple example, Winter Hag Form says that you have an urge to worshipped, and eat warm raw flesh (especially that of children); if you're actively pursuing these goals, you get a hefty bonus to a number of skills. Many of the spells work on this 'mechanics-meets-narrative' platform, and it's utterly refreshing.

How are the mechanics? Nothing in this PDF jumped out to me as OP or out-of-control; especially when you factor in an introductory paragraph, explaining that a lot of these spells will be very powerful within to forest, but may be useless outside of it, and therefore may be better suited towards NPCs. But there are many cool categories of spells featured here in - many 'Aspect of the <blank>' or '<specific creature> Form' polymorph spells, altered core spells in the form of 'Mass Barkskin', 'Leaf on the Wind' (a Feather Fall variant) or 'Bones & Branches,' a lower level version of animate dead that creates weaker undead through the substitution of natural materials - dirt, sticks, leaves, etc. The aforementioned Friends of the Forest spell is a cantrip that leaves a simple magical tattoo on an ally - where this gets cool is the OTHER spells that work off of it: Friends Defend the Forest gives marked creatures combat bonuses, whereas Gather Friends teleports those creatures to your side from anywhere on the same plane. And I always appreciate useful cantrips, like Gather Kindling - everything in this PDF just looks like FUN, rather than work, which is how I've started to view more traditional Vancian spells (though Occult Adventures did something right with Explode Head).

How's the art? It adds a lot. Rite Publishing products often include cool, evocative art, but it doesn't always seem like it fits. That is not true in this case; I don't worry too much about art outside of monster books, but this would absolutely be a lesser PDF if any piece were absent.

How’s readability? As per usual, Rite Publishing has some great editing, a simple, easy to read layout, and a practical font. No problems here.

Was the price fair? I was hesitant to drop $5.99 at the time, not sure I wanted to pore through more spells under the Vancian system. But I'm glad I did - it was more than worth the cost. If you're not sure you'd ever see use of this in your game, go look at others in the series that might match up with your game better. Or maybe you're like me, and even if it never sees the table, you have fun reading cool mechanics and ideas; if so, I also cannot recommend this enough.

Favorite part? Like DaVinci, the Wright Brothers, and other inventors of old, the sky captures my imagination, but I'll never know it like a bird does. Wait, 'Host of Sparrows' lets me do exactly that, AND take my friends with? Sold.

Least favorite part? Unicorn's Prowess is a cool idea for a spell... but I don't know if I need to spend 10 minutes casting a combat-focused spell that last for 1 round/level, even if I'm at least 13th level before I gain.

5/5 - Worth every penny for games spending any time in the forest...maybe even those that don't.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Forest Spells (PFRPG)
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100 Dreams
Publisher: Ennead Games
by Bennett S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/06/2015 10:13:04

Why did I buy this? What did I actually get? Been meaning to throw more dreams at the characters in my campaigns, and for the price point, it was hard to say no.

Have I used this, or will I use this? I've been as of late not running short on ideas for what kinds of dreams characters should be having, but if I start to, I know where to look.

How is the fluff? The table entries are a little more generic (6-8 word dreams) than I had expected, but I think if you roll on the table a couple times and combine those elements, it will make more of an interesting dream. Trying it out in this way, I got "On a hunt and are the prey" and "Missed a ferry/boat", which is something I could work with, either combining those elements or just bumping them together, completely non-sequitur.

Hows the artwork? None to speak of except the cover. It's a fine design, but nothing to write home about, and it's not blended in with transparency or anything. Kind of an ugly pdf.

How’s readability? There are some small visual artifacts present, but it's not distracting. Otherwise, it's black text on a white background, with a pleasant page border, and no typos jump out at me.

Was the price fair? At $.75, I absolutely cannot complain.

Favorite part? A nice little d6 table is included at the end to determine the meaning if you don't already have a better idea.

Least favorite part? "39: found a mountain made of bacon" - that's just too cartoony for me.

4/5 - Won't take your breath away, but does as advertised at a great price.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
100 Dreams
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Creator Reply:
Thanks for the review, glad you liked it. The bcon mountain, I can see why it would be considered cartoony. I hope to try and update the older PDFs in the near future with a better, easier to read format and layout. Not sure when though. Again, thanks for the feedback :-)
10 Kingdom Seeds: Forests (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Bennett S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/05/2015 10:33:43

Why did I buy this? What did I actually get? I really enjoy the Village Backdrop series by Raging Swan Press, and I trust Rite Publishing's product quality. So purchasing this, despite knowing the focus and level of detail would be different, was still a no-brainer for me.

Have I used this, or will I use this? I'm hoping that one of the next campaigns I run can incorporate Ultimate Campaign's kingdom building rules. This would be, as of this writing, the first place I turn for a starting settlement.

How is the fluff? This is the lynchpin of a product like this right? Well, it delivers, each settlement sporting a paragraph or two summary, two or three buildings, and three rumors. Every settlement here has something cool to offer, whether it's Butteroak's double palisade with assassin vine's planted between to keep out the wildlife, or Garrant's copper jewelry trade, based on leaf molds taken from red-leaved trees. Moreover, this fluff is dense. The longest of these barely spills into the next page. Very good.

How are the mechanics? I didn't take the time to match qualities to the corruption and etc scores, but the stat blocks are all present, including stuff like Notable NPCs, Marketplace, and even Terrain Type.

How’s readability? Layout, font, and page backgrounds are all good.

How's the look? Art is sparse, but well done and appropriate. The covers certainly my favorite.

Was the price fair? At $1.49, this PDF is a steal.

Favorite part? Butteroak deals with troublemakers by making them run circuits of the aforementioned assassin vine palisade. A deliciously evil punishment.

Least favorite part? The rumors are kind of weak. They may have been better presented as a d% table at the end, as they all come off a bit generic as is, and I don't see that any but one or two of them couldn't be used for other settlements with a slight wording tweak.

5/5 - not perfect, but amazing bang for your buck



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Kingdom Seeds: Forests (PFRPG)
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10 All-New Giant Arthropods
Publisher: Octopus Apocalypse
by Bennett S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/04/2015 12:32:19

Why did I buy this? What did I actually get? I seemingly can't get enough of monster supplements. Additionally, bugs freak me out. Couldn't resist.

Have I used this, or will I use this? I've not put any of these bugs into the campaign I currently GM, but as long as this little PDF doesn't get lost on my HD, I see getting some mileage out of this. If I put in a little work to up their CR, I could see giant barnacles getting some use in the very near future.

How is the fluff? Good. The fluff describes the creature well, and scales them up to size to work in their environment.

How are the mechanics? Well rounded, and a cursory glance at the math seems to check out, but one or two of these creatures have mechanics that are too simple for my taste. The Giant Carnivorous Butterfly complements the Giant Carnivorous Caterpillar, but has nothing unique of its own. In addition, the Giant Water Scorpion has a unique Hold Breath ability, but outside of trying to drown it for two hours, would likely see no use in combat. The barnacles have an Immobile ability that make it immune to forced movement, but not teleportation; while this is cool, logic should dictate that a barnacle so teleported would no longer be anchored to its location, and would lose the Immobile quality. Other creatures do better, whether it's as simple a Giant Stinkbug's stench, or as cool as the Gargantuan-sized Giant Mantis Shrimp's Ambush Predator ability to effectively employ stealth.

How’s readability? The Immune line of the statblock reads mind-affecting effects as often as it does mine-affecting; not too big of a problem in this case. More concerning is that page 6 splits the two creatures listed by a horizontal rule, while every other page has done so by column; in doing this, the Giant Stink Bug's statblock moves to the next column between Ability Scores and BAB. It's a jarring shift, and made it hard enough to read that I spent a minute or so wondering if the designer had forgotten the 'Stink' part of the Stink Bug altogether. Finally, the Giant Water Scorpion has it's Charisma listed as "?". Outside of these issues, the layout and fonts used are readable.

Was the price fair? $3.95 is a bit steep for this PDF as is. If the aforementioned editing errors were cleaned up, and the less-exciting creatures beefed up or replaced, then I think we'd be in the ballpark, but I personally wouldn't see myself selling it for more than $3, considering the illustrations, I believe, are public domain at this point. If the author DID have to license the artwork, I would retract that previous comment - feel free to correct me if you'd like. To their credit, Octopus Apocalypse does a Free Monster of the Month release, including the Giant Whip Spider presented in this book.

Favorite part? Earwigs live up to the terrifying horrors they are in the real world.

Least favorite part? While I enjoy the authentic Victorian illustrations, I do practically all of my GMing on VTT. The art style is clearly listed in the description, and won't affect my rating, but I nonetheless always enjoy having full-color illustrations devoid of excessive background for easy token generation.

3/5 - Not terrible, but nothing to write home about either. This rating represents how the average consumer should come away from my review; if you are like me, and can't get enough of weird bugs, consider the rating a 4/5 instead.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
10 All-New Giant Arthropods
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#30 Magic Tools (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Bennett S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/04/2015 11:28:08

Why did I buy this? What did I actually get? I've always found a disconnect in the default High Fantasy Pathfinder playstyle where magic is commonplace, but magic items that are a practical price for low-level characters is non-existant. Having enjoyed the Loot-4-Less series by (then) Super Genius Games, I was imagining this product to be along a similar line. Surprisingly, there is number of high price point items in here as well.

Have I used this, or will I use this? I bought this around the time of it's release, and have yet to incorporate these items into a game. However, I would like to believe that they will see some use in a future game; neither of the characters I play, nor the campaign I presently run, have an obvious place for anything.

How is the fluff? The fluff is a blast to read, following the tale of Mellan the bard, creator of the items herein. Learning the history of the items have DCs as well, making sure the fluff not only keeps from interfering with game mechanics, but actively complements them. This is something Rite Publishing always does well.

How are the mechanics? In a word, fun! These items cover a lot of bases, from commonsense items in a magical world (a spoon that can detect and then purify poison) to iconic (Lightfoot Shoon allow you to double jump, while the Mantle of Unremarked Passage is a perception filter a la Doctor Who).

How’s readability? Probably the only item I take issue with is the Arcane Anthology, as it seems to refer both to a specific book and a general type of enchanted book at the same time. It works in either sense, but I found it a little obtuse. Otherwise, editing is good, and font and layout render the PDF readable.

Was the price fair? Absolutely.

Favorite part? Gauntlets that protect you from the heat of forging weapons - they fall not only it the "duh" category, but they're perfect for baking, too!

Least favorite part? Since I'm making myself pick, we'll say the bridle that prevents the rider from falling out of the saddle. Nothing wrong if it's your jam, but it tastes a touch too cheesy/exploitable for me.

5/5 - not quite what I expected, but it's probably a better product for it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Magic Tools (PFRPG)
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