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Class Catalog for B/X Essentials
Publisher: Cross Planes Game Studio
by Harrison S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/11/2019 01:04:21

This presents ten additional race-as-classes for B/X Essentials and other old-school games, which fill two niches: AD&D class options that aren't present in B/X (e.g. a dwarven cleric, an elven magic-user/thief), and a few popular later-edition races. No firbolgs or tabaxi, alas.

All of them rely upon the "core" B/X Essentials rules, and otherwise follow the format set out in B/X Essentials. You can print them out and put them next to B/X: Essentials classes, and barring minor typos, players won't get confused.

All the classes are closer to what you'd get with the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion or with AD&D than to weirder, baroque OSR classes, like the demihumans of Dolmenwood or Fever Swamp's Transfiguration Host.

This also presents a simple rules variant for skills, which I'll cover at the end. None of the classes have mechanics that depend on it, so if you don't care for it, simply ignore the extra two saving throw columns.

Before I dive into the classes, some layout problems:

  • No index or table of contents, boo.
  • Not as much attention to layout, fitting all relevant information on a spread, as BX: Essentials's class writeups.
  • Innate racial spells refer you to B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells, The Dwarven Priest refers you to the Cleric class for rules on turning undead. I would prefer the relevant text be duplicated here, in line with B/X:E's goal of modularity.at least page numbers are given.
  • Some typos, copy-paste errors, and strange text encoding issues -- at time of writing, every apostrophe in the pdf renders as a ᴙ, but copy-pastes as a ÿ.
  • The line spacing is also a little too close.
Classes

All ten classes use the cleric/thief attack chart, even the half-orc and pixie. Like the core B/X Dwarf class, the dwarf classes and half-orc get +1 HP per level from 10th level over what their closest human analogue would get. Nice attention to detail there.

Some classes grant initiative bonuses, with the usual caveat about how this only applies if individual initiative is used.

The demihuman thief classes (Dwarven Thief, Elven Rogue, Halfling Burglar) all get Thief Skills like the standard thief, with some adjustments to the odds. Unlike Labyrinth Lord or Basic Fantasy, each class reprints the Thief Skills table with those adjustments built in. They also repeat the text describing how each roll is used. I appreciate not having to crossreference here.

However, there's no effort to integrate separate demihuman abilities (e.g. a Dwarf's ability to find nonmagical traps, a Halfling's ability to hide) into their thief skills.

Like the B/X Dwarf, most classes have XP requirements that are worse than their closest human analogue, needing an extra 200 XP or so for 2nd level. The main exceptions are Halfling Burglar (a B/X Halfling has the same XP requirements as a Fighter), and Elven Rogue. This is effectively a multiclass thief/magic-user, and follows the standard Elf class's lead in combining the XP requirements for thief and magic-user, with a slight discount.

All the classes have saving throws better than their nearest human analogue. e.g. Aasimar & Tieflings save as Fighters with +2 to all saves, Pixie saves as Thief with +2 vs wands, breath, and spells, and +1 vs paralyse. Gnome is an oddball, it uses the Dwarf chart, but at a slower progression, improving every four levels instead of every three.

All classes except Halfling Burglar and Pixie have Infravision.

Aasimar, Gnomes, and Tieflings each get two racially-innate 1/day spells, and Pixies get a 1/day Invisibility. I would have written the resist fire ability of tieflings to be a passive effect inherent to their physiology, rather than a spell they cast.

Dragonborn get a 2/day breathe fire ability (15 ft, 2d4 damage, save vs dragon breath negates) and +1 to Armour Class.

Dwarven Priest has typical Dwarf abilities, and casts spells as a Cleric of their level. They can turn undead, though their turning rolls look to be made on d20 rather than 2d6. The odds of success are roughly equivalent, but a note clarifying this change would have been nice.

Dwarven Thief is what you'd expect. Note that dwarves are often completely nonmagical in old-school D&D, and this class follows that lead, getting no Scroll Use. Better at traps and locks than a standard thief, worse at climbing.

Elven Rogue has racial abilities of a typical Elf, and the Backstab, Read Languages and Scroll Use abilities of a Thief. They're better at hearing noise, hiding, moving silently and picking pockets, but worse at lockpicking. They cast spells as a Magic-User, which makes their Scroll Use ability redundant?

Gnome detects construction tricks as a dwarf. Their racial spells are both illusions, and they can cast from Magic-User scrolls.

Halfling Burglar is what you'd expect. Has Thief Skills, better at hiding and picking pockets.

Half-Orc is basically a Fighter with infravision, better saves and +1 melee damage, but their attack chart is worse.

Pixies. Oh boy. They cast spells as a Magic-User, but fly and have +2 to initiative (again, if group initiative isn't used). They can't wear armour, but have +2 Armour Class vs all creatures larger than them. This improves to +4 vs all creatures larger than a human. Their weapon attacks always deal 1d4 damage, but they can wield anything a Halfling or Dwarf can. Oh and they have better saves too. Note they have no Spell Research feature, unlike the standard Magic-User.

Tieflings get to roll on a d10 table of fiendish traits. Most of the effects are static in their mechanical effect (i.e. +2 to a save, +1 AC, you have claws, etc) but rolling on tables is always fun, and having "chitinous hide" actually written on your character sheet changes how you interact with people and the environment more than a fluff description at the beginning of the class writeup.

Rules Variant

It presents a simple "trained and untrained skills as saving throws" variant. Instead of the normal roll-equal-or-under ability check rule that BX presents (albeit as a variant) each class has two additional saving throw categories: Trained and Untrained. When a skill check is warranted, make a saving throw. It's left to GM ruling as to whether a skill check is trained or untrained for any given character (based on character class and background) and/or whether ability score adjustments apply.

None of the classes rely on this rules variant, not even the ones with thief-type skills, so it can be completely ignored if desired.

This can be retconned onto other classes by taking their best save as their Trained progression, and their worst as their Untrained progression. All of the classes in this follow that guideline except for Dwarven Thieves and Gnomes, both of whom have a better Trained progression than any of their five regular saves.

Note if you do this, it makes Dwarves & Halflings into excellent skillmonkeys thanks to their better saves, and overall favours more martial classes over Magic-Users. Elf also has a martial save progression, but their XP requirements balance that out.

Verdict

This works fine, but it's not quite fully baked, nor is it spicy enough.

The only classes I would baulk at allowing as-written are Pixie, and maybe Half-Orc for a low-level one-shot where its slower attack progression will never matter. Pixie's flight trivialises a lot of dungeoncrawling problems, that and their proficiency with short bows lets them fight from a safer range than a Magic-User. Their defensive bonus amounts to leather or chain unless you only ever throw tiny monsters at them, and all their saves are better. While they have an 8th level cap and harsh requirements for prime requisite bonus XP, those are often ignored and are poor ways to balance classes. If you do allow Pixies as-written, definitely enforce the "no spell research" rule so human Magic-Users still feel special.

Other, more fluffy details are underdeveloped. I know B/X Essentials omits the level titles from its class tables, but it still lists them on p. 22 of Classes & Equipment. This doesn't even do that. Even if I never use them in play, it's still cool to see what an author thinks a 1st level Tiefling would be called, or a 5th-level Half-Orc. Similarly, the stronghold abilities don't really inspire me, most are copy-pasted. Pixies don't even get a stronghold. What are pixie strongholds like? Inquiring minds want to know!

Mostly, this doesn't do enough surprising things. The tiefling class is a highlight of the document, I wish the other classes were more like that. I also liked Gnome, Half-Orc, and Dragonborn. Elven Rogue is a good template for a magic-user/thief multiclass, and put some thought into whether the Hear Noise thief skill should be adjusted.

But a 50% hit rate still isn't great. I would recommend this to someone who is too busy or not knowledgeable enough about B/X norms to homebrew or do the conversion work (from AD&D or 5e) themselves, and I would allow 90% of it in my games if a player asked, but it just needs that little bit of extra polish before I'd recommend it more generally.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Class Catalog for B/X Essentials
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for taking time to do such a thorough review. I appreciate your input and will take it all into consideration.
I made some changes and am curious if you would be willing to give me further feedback. Thanks.
Blessed of The Traveler: Queer Gender Identity in Eberron
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Harrison S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2018 05:00:48

tl;dr: Some parts are less imaginative than the product as a whole, but if it sounds like it's in your wheelhouse, buy it. You're unlikely to be disappointed. Also, this is Eberron-specific mainly because of the interesting races & cultures specific to that setting. Much of it is still useful for campaign worlds with less commonplace magic than Eberron.

also quick disclosure: I'm cis, also I haven't read Wayfarer's Guide. My knowledge of Eberron comes from the 3.5e books.

This is an entirely DM-facing, lore-based supplement. The only crunch is one magic item and one spell. Further, all the lore assumes a supportive, non-oppressive campaign world. This makes sense for Eberron -- all the major religions have literal demons and other horrors to care about, and commonplace magic-as-technology is a hallmark of the setting. Naturally a group could agree to change this if so desired.

The highlight of the supplement is the section on races. Changelings, kalashtar, Tairnadal elves, and warforged each receive about half a page elaborating on how they tend to understand trans identity either as individuals (as with changelings and warforged), or culturally (as with kalashtar and the Tairnadal). Cursory suggestions ar also given for other elves, dwarves, gnomes, and Dhakaani goblinoids. Some of it ties directly to racial mechanics and may be difficult to adapt to another setting where that race is absent. Others are entirely cultural in nature, and could be applied to the Realms, or even a humans-only setting.

The latter are gold for me as a DM because I'm aware human cultures have varied widely in how they conceptually explain the existence of trans people, and what social roles exist for them. But I don't want to just use (and probably mangle) concepts like Two-spirit, Hijra, or Fa'afafine, nor do I quite feel knowledgeable enough to attempt to invent my own from whole cloth. This is where supplements like this one can really shine.

Less interesting to me is when the supplement covers different kinds of transition-related herbalism, artifice, and magic. Again, these therapies lean towards being readily available & culturally accepted, with no equivalent of medical/legal gatekeepers. No particularly new ideas here, but it could save time writing your own homebrew if a player expresses interest in such tings.

The Religion section briefly covers which deities among the Sovereign Host & Dark Six are most likely to be prayed to by trans people seeking aid and guidance, and details how trans adherents to other religions (Blood of Vol, Silver Flame, and druid sects) might let their faith influence their conception of their trans status. I enjoyed this section, for siilar reasons to the racial section.

Finally there's some NPC descriptions, all located in Sharn, but mostly easy to place elsewhere if desired. Some offer services of interest to trans characters, others are trans characters more likely to be encountered for reasons other than their trans status. I particularly like Professor Naska (particularly since Shifters get no attention elsewhere in this supplement) and the Circus of Copper, a troupe of body-modifying warforged performers ^__^

Presentation is mostly good, only the occasional typo (I saw three). A print-friendly option would be nice. The NPC section could have benefited from some whitespace to break up the text.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blessed of The Traveler: Queer Gender Identity in Eberron
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Iron Clad Artificer Subclass (5e)
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Harrison S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/02/2018 18:47:38

tl;dr: some minor typoes but nothing that impedes understanding, except for unclear intent regarding the base stats of an Ironsuit. Subclass has a lot of bonus action & reaction abilities, which are not to my taste, but YMMV. I would allow this in my game.

Things I liked:

  • All the suit modifications are available from 1st level and scale as you level up. This is good because otherwise the per-rest ones would feel too much like spells, particularly since they can be swapped out with a long rest.

  • One of the modifications is a Hookshot. Heck yeah!

  • You can load your suit with potion vials and inject them as a bonus action.

  • Random tables for deciding how you got your suit, what its power source is, what it looks like, etc.

Problems: No definition of what type of armor the Ironsuit is. I guess the Iron Clad artificer starts with either a scale mail Ironsuit or a studded leather one?. Presumably this subclass can turn any suit of armor into an ironsuit with 24 hours' work and 150gp, which again, presumably, is in addition to the armor's cost? There's a lot of assumed knowledge here that needs to be conveyed to the reader.

I had issues with the following Modifications:

Forceful Blast. An attack roll that also causes a saving throw. This would be better if it were just the one die roll.

Grappling Hook. Another attack roll + saving throw effect.

Mobility. Longstrider effect 1/short rest, plus advantage on Dexterity (Athletics) checks. Should be Str(Athletics), or "ability checks to run, swim, or jump".

Offensive Stance: Very similar to Aiming Stance, just for melee attack instead of ranged. But the two stances should either give the same mechanical benefit (one give you +1 attack, the other advantage, only one grants disadvantage on Dex saves) or be made more distinct. Or merged into the one stance, even.

Shock Field: Two typoes ("you just [sic] finish a short rest before you can use thIs [sic] ability again") and it refers to "electricity damage" instead of lightning.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Iron Clad Artificer Subclass (5e)
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Creator Reply:
Hi Harrison, thanks for your invaluable feedback on this, I've now updated the Iron Clad to tweak most of the things you've mentioned here :) Jay.
Wild Souls: Ranger Options for High Fantasy and Gritty Realism
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Harrison S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/28/2018 23:26:16

tl;dr this does what it says on the tin, and has given some thought to replacing the varied utility spells provide, not just DPR and healing abilities. The free preview includes the whole document, so judge for yourself, or keep reading.

I've never been a big fan of the ranger class, and as a player my go-to option for playing a spell-less wilderness warrior would just be an Outlander fighter. But I seem to be in the minority here, so as a DM I'm interested in providing a spell-less ranger option to my players.

This review is on the product's own merits, not in comparison to other spell-less ranger options available on the Guild or elsewhere.

So what does this ranger get to replace spellcasting?

(as a side note, none of these alternate abilities are modified by Wisdom. You'll be worse at perception/survival, but you can run this variant class with a low Wis if desired)

Expertise: in one ranger class skill, with more expertises gained as you level up. This is welcome, and something I would add to the standard ranger too.

Expert Hunter: An ability very similar to the Hunter's Mark spell. Differences: it refreshes per-short-rest, cannot be moved to a new target if the old one dies, and has no "at higher levels" equivalent to make it last longer. It also has a few tactical options to choose from each time you use it, making it a little like Battle Master maneuvers. The only quibble I have is that the "better at tracking them" option is limited by the short duration. A 9th level PHB ranger can cast a 3rd-level hunter's mark and track someone with advantage for 8 hours. This variant cannot. Though I do like how it gets advantage on any ability check to track/locate the target, including things like Intimidate, Insight, or something truly oddball. Very nice change that broadens the idea of tracking.

Herblore: A pool of points representing foraged herbs, effectively equal to 2 x Ranger level per long rest. These points are spent one-for-one to heal HP. Higher-level rangers can spend more points to create antitoxins, healing potions, remove exhaustion levels, etc. Two touches I like:

  • they can hand off their points to other variant rangers, or to people with proficiency with Herbalism kits. This really helps maintain the fiction that these points represent actual foraged herbs.
  • using Herblore takes a minute, making this out-of-combat healing only, feeling distinct from spells and Lay on Hands.

Worldwalker's Stride: this replaces some of the flexibility ranger spells give in overcoming environmental challenges. IMO 13th level is a little late to be giving it out. Easy fix though -- I'd let a player swap this feature with Favored Enemy if they wanted, gaining the latter at 13th level instead.

The rest of the document is various kludges to make the spell-less ranger work with other class & subclass features that assume the ranger can cast spells. Necessary, if a little inelegant.

So, does this do what it sets out to do? Yes, the new rules are clearly, if not always concisely written. The variant features seem largely balanced with what they replace (for either PHB or playtest revised ranger), and little details and suggestions keep the herblore pool from feeling too abstract. The quibbles I have are all minor and easily houseruled if desired.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wild Souls: Ranger Options for High Fantasy and Gritty Realism
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Retroverse Free Preview 2018
Publisher: Lasers & Liches
by Harrison S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/08/2018 06:09:32

tl;dr: Mechanically solid, incorporates retro/homage elements in interesting ways, good writing, layout, art that could benefit from a paid editor. If this at all sounds like it's up your alley, read it (it's free!) or check out the Kickstarter.

I'll cover things in order, except the Holo-Knight, which I'll tackle separately.

Four varieties of dragonborn -- neon, laser, xenon, tesla, with stats and physical description. I like how there's more going on here than just slapping some different damage types. e.g. neon's fire breath flows as a gas and can filter through cracks in cover, and xenon deas less damage than the others but creatures who fail their save are blinded for a round.

Mercenary Background -- Excatly what it sounds like. Feature lets them always find good-paying work. A nice variety in the ideal/bond/flaw tables. 100 starting gold, which is a lot more than the Player's Handbook backgrounds, but still within the realm of game expectations (i.e. plate armor is unaffordable at 1st level)

Shiny Variants for monsters -- A set of 14 "palette swaps" and associated templates (4 detailed in this sampler), which are randomly chosen via d100. Suggested 1 in 100 chance of any randomly encountered monster being shiny. Each probability is 5% or 10%, so I would have just used a d20 table, but that's a minor quibble. I'm also not a fan of templates that alter ability scores, though 5e has much fewer flow-on effects to calculate than 3.5 did.

Monsters Gooblin -- Goblinoid oozes, which are instantly going in my game as unstable biomantic flesh-vat creations. For their CR, they have low hp and AC, but high damage. Slow speed and no ranged attacks, expect savvy player to kite them. Neo Bandit -- Pretty stock bandits, except they have an extra ability based on their clan. I assume all four clans are references, though I can only spot two of them. High damage, including at range. I think they're closer to CR 1/2 than 1/8. Pizza Slime -- Low AC, high HP, potential for high damage. CR seems about right, but again, expect players to kite them as they're slow and their ranged damage is terrible.

Magic Items: Fanny Pack of Holding is just what it sounds like, a Bag of Holding with a different storage capacity. This reprints all the normal rules adjusted for its different size, which might annoy some people for such a minor tweak, but other people might appreciate not having to refer to the DMG.

Great Shield -- not a magic item, this is a two-handed shield that gives +4 AC and has some extra rules for wearing on one's back. Probably needs an clarification on whether it requires 2 hands to carry, not just wield. e.g. could a cleric forgo the AC bonus for a round to have a hand free to cast a spell, without having to drop the shield?

Sunglasses of Protection -- advantage on saves vs. blinding effects, +1 AC, but you're blind in dim light. Pretty straightforward. Text is a bit long-winded for what the item does. Clarification on how it interacts with darkvision would be useful.

Deity: Pahku Pahku. A neutral-evil god of hunger incarnate, symbolised by a yellow 3/4 circle. When he devours worlds, he gains their knowledge, and shares it with his followers.

HOLO-KNIGHT Holo-Knight - a new player class. A lightly-armored (at first) magic user who can conjure weapons. The big question with any new class is what can it do that an existing class (i.e. hexblade Warlock) cannot, and does it justify the rules/player option bloat?

I compared both classes at level 6, and while they're fairly similar, they're less so than, say, Sorcerer and Evoker. The holo-knight has weaker spellcasting, as a ranger but Int-based. Their spell list is illusion-heavy, with some good extras like alter self and polymorph, which suggests conjuring holo-gills, holo-claws and the like. Both can wear or conjure medium armor. Warlocks can summon/swap their weapon as an action, HKs do so as a bonus action, which makes up for their lack of damaging cantrips. Warlocks get to use their spellcasting stat for attack/damage rolls, HKs don't. Both classes have an extra attack by 6th level, but the HK can, via their Weapon Shatter ability, get a third attack every other round.

So HK ends up somewhere between an Eldritch Knight (with illusions instead of evocations) and a Hexblade in terms of combat style, and probably is a little less effective than either of them, though I'd need to playtest to know for sure.

Changes I would make -- give them simple weapon proficiency (currently they only have holo-weapon proficiency), add more transmutation buffs (e.g. fly, spider climb) to the list. I'd also change their Weapon Shatter ability. The fluff suggests it's a desperate attack, but there's little consequence since weapons can be reformed at-will. That is, the fluff and crunch are at odds.

In my own game, I'd probably just change the class to be a variant eldritch knight, but obviously this book is released under the OGL and can't implement the concept that way.

FINAL THOUGHTS Presentation 3.5/5 -- Mostly good. Lluis Abasias's art is eyecatching and immediately sets the tone, layout is readable, and formatting the Holo-Knight's spell list so that SRD spells are red is a useful player aid. A few long-winded descriptions, typoes (e.g. "unique color pallet", overlapping d100 results in the shiny monster table), But that's the kind of stuff a paid editor can pick up, which is one of the points of running a kickstarter.

Crunch 3.5/5 -- no particularly inspired mechanics, nothing broken either. Rules language occasionally doesn't follow the 5e standard, but intent is clear enough that you can use it in your games immediately.

Fluff 4.5/5 -- is this just a bunch of 80s/90s references? I don't think so. This takes references and homages and uses it to craft something distinct, goofy, and immediately gameable. You won't run into a wild Pokemon, but you might run into a Shiny carrion crawler, and infer some of its new abilities by its particular palette swap. Pahku Pahku isn't just a Pac-Man reference, it's mixed in with ideas more typical of Galactus, Unicron or an Elder God. The dragonborn variants have 80s aesthetic, but aren't a reference (i think?).

If the rest of the Retroverse is this good, I'll be a happy kickstarter backer :-)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Retroverse Free Preview 2018
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Godmetals of Porphyra [PFRPG]
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Harrison S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/22/2014 12:30:05

The seven Godmetals are a reskin of the seven skymetals first published in Pathfinder Adventure Path #61, and reprinted in the Technology Guide. As a result, all the rules for them are now available for free on the PRD.

Yes, this was published in 2013, before this was the case. And the PDF is still pay-what-you-want. So it seems unfair to rate this too low. Still, it would be nice if PDG updated the product description so buyers/downloaders knew what they were getting.

So is it worth getting for the fluff? Each metal (including adamantine) has 2 or 3 sentences explaining its presence in the world of Porphyra, what virtues & schools of magic it tends to be associated with, which god brought it to the world, etc. If you dislike the "super-science" flavour of the Technology Guide, but want to port some of its rules back to a more traditional setting, reading through this may spark some ideas.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Godmetals of Porphyra [PFRPG]
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