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Gostor: Nymph (5e)
Publisher: First Ones Entertainment
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/26/2018 14:33:41

Gostor - Nymphs: Minor Goddesses, a new race for D&D 5E, by Jean-Philipe ‘JP’ Chapleau provides exactly what it promises, the race of nymphs, nature spirits or the most minor of goddess, inspired by Greek Mythology in a playable form.

A short background of the place of nymphs is followed by the types of nymphs. A few paragraphs on using nymphs and four paragraph length adventure seeds

Nymphs, as presented here, have three playable subtypes: underworld, forest and waterway, while wild nymph and hags are noted for story reasons, and sky nymphs appear as monsters. They seem balanced though all, naturally, have some magical abilities.They are supported by two backgrounds, whose features need clearer definition of how they should be used, and one new feat, which really seems more aimed at NPC nymphs as it makes the character an ally of hags.

Two new "monsters" round out the product, sky nymphs (which oddly, cannot fly) and wild nymphs, both which have a very minimal descriptions outside their statblocks.

While this product achieves its aims, there is so much more it could have done. It only allows for female nymphs, for example, while males would have another name there is no reason for nature spirits to be confined to one sex. Some tables for suggested characteristics to go with the backgrounds and a magic item or two would have really solidified the usefulness of this product. As it is, it seems of more use to a DM than players, but even then it would have been nice to have had more support material.

3.5 rounded up to 4.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gostor: Nymph (5e)
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Worldbuilding Theory
Publisher: Dancing Lights Press
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/29/2018 16:23:24

Interesting advice book for roleplaying games masters and, to a lesser extent, players and writers. It discusses on of the three pillars of a game world (the other two being characters and adventures) and it does this through a consider amount of repetition of the framework of how it is discussed, useful and self-reinforcing but a little tedious at times. It places the various parts of world building in context of genre of fantasy (dark, high and so on) and setting (contemporary, medieval and such). Useful advice to keep in mind, nothing groundbreaking but solid, useful advice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Worldbuilding Theory
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Shadowrun: Street Lethal (Advanced Combat Rules)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2018 16:51:11

Shadowrun: Street Lethal bills itself as the Advanced Combat Sourcebook for Shadowrun but it is not that, there are new toys, some crazy bleeding edge technology, and some excellent information on corporate security along with updates on mercenaries, pirates and militias in the Sixth World. But apart from one rule section with very narrow applicability, there is not really much to make it an “advanced combat sourcebook,” it is however a very useful sourcebook, especially for a Shadowrun GM, but it could have used a more accurate subtitle.

Shadowrun: Street Lethal, the Advanced Combat Sourcebook of the 5th edition of Shadowrun, while it does not actually add that much in the way of rules it provides new weaponry, for player characters and NPCs, information on how Corporation Security works, and studies the role of mercenaries, pirates and militia in the Sixth World.

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves straight into new weapons, with a detour through the role of less lethal weapons and the current status of some of the major weapon producers. Normally the new toys are in the back, but here they are front and center ranging from various handguns and new melee weapons, for day to day use, to machine guns and grenade launchers with a variety of new less lethal options. Also, one modification for armor is provided so defense is not totally neglected. Some of the new weapons fill useful niches, other fun and a few silly, the new weapons from Krime! mostly being in the later category (a sledge hammer than fires shotgun shells?). Several charts collect all of the weapons from this section (and this section only) for quick reference.

The next section is Military and Future Weapons (or toys for the GM), mostly comprising interesting ongoing projects from the corps such as new planes (the Blood Hawk) from Aztechnology. But there is a twelve-page section supposedly on the tech being developed in a secret base in Africa which includes gravity manipulation technology . . . This is so out there and so game and world changing that I am surprised it was not just mentioned in a thowaway section rather than page after page of stat for things like anti-grav powered vehicles, gravity grenade (no, really) and gravity force fields. I just cannot see how this section is supposed to be used, not only is such tech tonally different from anything else in the game world and it is too big of a change to suddenly add to the setting. Sure, we have magic, but now we have technology that totally breaks the laws of physics too. Why? I cannot see how this makes the game world any more plausible or interesting, just more unreasonable. Equally, even if you decide to use this crazy tech in your game, how do you do so without turning into a whole different game? This tech is not cyberpunk, it is space opera. After that it settles down a bit to Ares working with memory-wiping technology (ala Men in Black), smart bullets and anti-magic armor. Then there are microwave, sonic, centrifugal force and genetic weapons, plasma shields, warframes and powered armor (which, for some reason, is just not allowed to exist in Shadowrun in a usable form), anti-dragon weaponry, comments on atomic weapons and new nanobot and matix weapon just to cover all the angles. Apart from the one odd section noted above, this part of the book is packed with inspiration for runs and problems to happen on runs making it quite useful for the GM.

Opposition Report: CorpSec may be the most useful section of the book from the GM’s perspective, and it is not bad for players either, it begins with discussion of both what CorpSec does and how they do it, discussing active and passive security and a whole range of interesting subjects to help the GM think about how to make things secure (and make runs interesting and challenging for the players). It moves on to how each of the Big Ten megacorps approach security with some supplemental information for smaller companies and specialized subgroups. This chapter is rounded out with CorpSec themed qualities, life path modules and yet more new toys. The weapons included here are not collected in a single page reference nor are they included in the one are the end of the first section.

Unconventional Warriors covers mercenaries, pirates(!) and militias of the Sixth World, starting with a brief overview of the International Mercenaries Association, the licensing organization for mercenaries who ensure a particular code of conduct and professionalism among its members and tries to clamp down on unlicensed mercenaries. A good organization to have around and it makes sense for the world. Several mercenary groups are covered, some of which have been reference before, some of which are new and two of which are outside of the IMA and definitely enemy groups. While this is good world background it is probably of limited usefulness in most campaigns. The pirate section covers both groups and locations which makes it easy to plot intersection with where your games take place, everyone needs a pirate themed game on occasion, right? The militias are organized armed groups with political agenda, not terrorists but they may work with such. Again, lots of good adventure ideas here and they go out of their way to show what sort of work runners could find with these groups. The section ends with new qualities, new life path modules and NPC stats than can be used for members from these various groups.

Lethal Arts New Techniques and Options is where the new rules are, building from the small unit tactics rules, this adds mixed unit tactics as a skill and a bunch of maneuvers that can be executed with it along with a set of new maneuvers for small unit tactics. These are pretty much the only rules introduced in the book and they are of marginal utility.

The book ends with a set of Adventure Seeds, which I approve of, and almost all of them hook into pieces of the book, also a good choice. A few needed a little more fleshing out, but still a good addition. What the book does not end with is an index or a compilation of the new qualities and life modules, which are split across two sections, as are the new weapons and equipment (setting aside the bleeding edge tech) making finding some things more difficult than needed. A chart of all the new weapons and separate ones integrating them into the existing equipment lists would be a useful PDF addition.

Street Lethal is an interesting resource providing new tools for the GM and players, but it lacks focus, covering a lot of ground in different directions. But, on the GM side, it is well worth it for the information on corporate security and new toys to dangle in front of the characters.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Street Lethal (Advanced Combat Rules)
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Shadowrun: Shadows in Focus: Morocco
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2018 21:11:39

Shadows in Focus - Morocco is a location sourcebook for Shadowrun and provides useful information on Morocco and its environs that would be useful to the sorts of people who are Shadowrunners. It is the sort of book you need if you are going to run a game set in or around Morocco.

Shadows in Focus - Morocco is a location sourcebook for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book covers the shadow nexus of smugglers, corporations and nationalism that exist in the Morocco of the Sixth World.

Morocco is a gateway to the Mediterranean and Islamic worlds so it serves as a nexus of trade, legal and illegal, as well as a gatekeeper of the Gibraltar straights. In the Sixth World, it suffered heavily during EuroWar II which saw it invaded by European forces driving back the Islamic forces which had used it as a stepping stone to invade Spain. Morocco has rebuilt with heavy corporate aid making many see the government as a puppet of megacorporate interests. The truth is more complex with the Morocco government, corporations, traditional social groups and other factions all vying for power.

With smuggling, corporate power plays and corruption permeating the government, there is considerable work for career criminals such as Shadowrunners. But they have to play the game according to local rules if they want to go far which means keeping magic and cyberware out of sight as much as possible and not offending the Islamic faith when you can manage.

As far as mechanics go there are two new animals (the Atlas Bear and the Barbary Lion), five new Life Modules for that character generation system, and some suggestion on how to model the cultural dislike of cyberware.

Shadows in Focus - Morocco is an interesting resource providing enough information to set missions in Morocco as well as a variety of potential adventures (though some adventure seeds to really spark ideas would have been nice).

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Shadows in Focus: Morocco
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Shadowrun: Dark Terrors (Plot Sourcebook)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2018 16:12:45

Shadowrun: Dark Terrors is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and provides a lot of information, a lot of interesting information on the dark corners of the Sixth World but not a lot of advice on how to use or incorporate that information into a campaign, especially an ongoing campaign. I enjoyed the read but, for me, there is almost nothing I can or would use in my ongoing street level campaign. I am not sure who the target audience for this book is, it seems like it should be a GM’s book but there is just not enough here to hang campaigns on, in many cases there is barely enough to hang an adventure or two off of. Equally, players can read it and be scared of the horrible things out there but there are not any tools to help you fight the terrors. So, ultimately, I am not sure what this book is for beyond pushing the metaplot(s) forward (especially on CFD) a little.

Shadowrun: Dark Terrors, is a Plot Sourcebook for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book covers a variety of dangers, threats and evils, primarily magical in nature that exist in the Sixth World.

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves into The Heart of the Hive, which provides new information about the insect spirits. There is a fair amount of in-game story in this section that ultimately does not provide a lot of actionable (or adventurous) data, much is implied but very little is confirmed. And when dealing with a megacorp, it is nice to know what is going on. Game wise, there are many new types of insect spirits, a few of which prey on other insect spirits, along with rules for playing a free insect spirit which would be interesting but very dangerous (both from and to the other characters).

Marooned Spirits talks about the fate of the shedim, body possessing spirits, which were a major threat but since the gates to their place of origin have been closed they are less of a danger but still a danger. They remaining master shedim are plotting something, and whatever it is, it is best for everyone on Earth that they are stopped. The shedim section ends with new creature powers, primarily shedim specific ones, and some preconstructed shedim who showcase the new powers.

Paint it Blacker discusses the latest machinations of the sinister Black Lodge, a conspiracy of powerful magicians, and calls out some of their members. Let me just express a personal opinion, I do not have any use for the Black Lodge in my campaign and I do not find them interesting or plausible. Why does the setting need an evil magical conspiracy group that apparently outwits dragons and governments while twirling their mustaches and chuckling? So cliche. Can we just stick with the megacorporations as the villains of the piece?

The section entitled Monads and CFD deals with just those subjects, mostly bringing this long running storyline to a tentative close with “cures” for CFD finally available. Personally, I am pleased to see an end to this plot-line, while I applaud Catalyst for making a technological rather than a magical threat a major plot point, making it one that overwrites people’s personalities, thus stealing player autonomy, was a dead end in playability from my viewpoint.

The Hidden Faction details the latest convoluted political twists and turns of the Seelie Court for those who need more wacky fae for their games. Followers of the Elder God looks into those who are seeking artefacts and magical knowledge tied to the fourth world (the last time magic ruled) from the files of the Ordo Maximus, a secret and massively powerful vampire conspiracy (yes, another magical conspiracy!) but the items, information and creatures are interesting (though not provided with game statistics). This section at least has some explict plot hooks though they do not strike me as being very useful.

Dwellers of the Deep Foundation dips into the hidden recesses and foundations of the Matrix, and my, there are some strange things going on there. Including Matrix spawning beings, called the Null Sect, who have their own agenda for whom and what should be using their “home.” Additional there is a proto-nation of AIs and other strangeness afoot. This chapter relies on the ownership of the Data Trails soucebook and references both the Howling Shadows and Run Faster books. Fascinating setting materia but challenging to incorporate into a campaign and very niche.

The Ghoul Queen and her People takes us to the much talked about the nation of Asamando after a brief tour of how various other nations and groups are dealing with the expanded threat of the infections that created vampires (and their subtypes) and ghouls. Asamando gets a good and engaging travel log from three in setting character viewpoints. It paints an evocative image, very well written, but apart from setting up future survival horror scenarios does not really give the GM a lot of ideas or tools for how to use Asamando in a campaign. The section concludes with new awakened powers (which reference a host of other books), a new magical tradition (Dark Magic), three new metamagic techniques (two for the infected and one for blood magic) and nine infected archetypes, mostly enemies but one or two that might be allies.

The last section is Untamed Metaplanes which looks at several dangerous metaplanes that people might wish to visit or end up in along with some in-game hooks for why characters might want to risk body and soul to go there. Also there is the Hudson Valley which is chock full of astral portals and gateways to the metaplanes for those seeking to travel without all of the ritual rigamarole, while it is light on details the Hudson Valley could be a fun setting for some adventures or even an entire campaign, but the information here is just a starting point.

Dark Terrors is an interesting resource providing lots of tantalizing hints to things happening in the Sixth World but very little solid information or plot hooks to work with making it a very strange book. It is a fascinating and, mostly, enjoyable read but at the end, I am really not sure what to do with it.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Dark Terrors (Plot Sourcebook)
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Shadowrun: The Complete Trog (Runner Resources)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/24/2017 21:28:42

Shadowrun: The Complete Trog is a runner resource for Shadowrun and this makes it unusual at it is a player facing book in many ways, providing world information to make playing orks and trolls deeper and more tied to the setting. It provides considerable, if scattershot, information for ork and trolls and how they fit into the Sixth World. For any campaign that features orks and trolls (and their struggles) prominently, it will prove to be a vital resource.

Shadowrun: The Complete Trog, is the first of the Shadowrun Runner Resources for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book is all about how orks and trolls, and their variants, fit into the Sixth World of Shadowrun.

After a short introduction to what is in the book, we get two fiction sections, and then starts with a section entitled What Are You? Which is an in-game look at being a trog with commentary from others. This gives an interesting, and fairly nuanced, view on what life is like in the Shadowrun world, at least the American section, for those who are orks and trolls.

Living as a Trog in . . . looks at how orks and trolls are treated in various places across the Sixth World. Starting with the Black Forest Troll Republic (in what used to be Germany), life in the Native American Nations, Chicago, Dubai, Seattle, Neo-Tokyo and Nagasaki, and many more. Mostly providing information about places that have not had their own sourcebooks recently. These provide useful snapshots of places for characters to be from or visit. It would have been nice to see more information on the variants of orks and trolls and how they fit in, this is done a bit for the giants in Scandinavia, but other metavariants get a sentence or two at best.

Working as a Trog in . . . talks about what roles and what challenges are faced by those who work for the various megacorporations. This is useful for playing characters who are former corporate employees and for interacting (and infiltrating) those same corporations when you have orks and trolls on the team. I would have liked to have seen a little more expansion on the government employee section (they only covered Seattle). What is life like for those who join a national military in North America for example would have been exceedingly useful.

Trog Heroes is about the orks and trolls who have made it in the Sixth World whether by talent (such as rock star Orxanne) or birth (such as King Alphono XIII of Spain), a dozen successful people who can be inspirational (or not). Mostly this is interesting world background but there are some potential plot hooks woven in but you have to disentangle them. There is also a very short (page and a half) section on Or’zet, the Orkish language with some useful words and phrases.

Trog Enemies is just that, various groups ranging from political organizations to terrorist cells and powerful individuals that are oppose to ork and troll rights at the least and seek to eliminate them entirely at most. In many ways, this is one of the more useful sections, it gives you instant enemies but it is also states that there is a racist conspiracy of vast proportions that is manipulating the megacorps and governments . . . While I have no problem with an anti-meta-human conspiracy, the megacorps should not to be reduced to patsies of racist creeps, the corporations are the true villains of the Shadowrun world. (Also amusing, one of the enemies is a UCAS Senator, never once in his description, it is mentioned which state he is from.)

Trog Runners provides history and statistics (for both Shadowrun and the Shadowrun Anarchy rule sets) for sixteen well-known Ork and Troll runners, including 2XL, Bull and Clockwork. Followed by nine example starting ork and troll runners. Useful for many campaign uses: contacts, mentors or even rivals or enemies.

United We Stomp: Trog Groups & Societies is just that, starting with three groups based out of Sweetwater Creek area of Atlanta (CAS): Southern Guard (security), Trog Rock Recording (entertainment), and Big Tech (guess). All good and interesting companies, but they read a bit like the characters from someone’s campaign, which is not all bad but they have a bit too perfect of a shine to them. But good to see some more information on MoM. (Mothers of Metahumans) and the ORC (Ork Rights Committee) which have been around as long as the setting has.

It concludes with Everything Trog, new quality (mostly ork or troll only), new gear (just a little, one new piece of cyberware, one new vehicle, one new weapon and some interesting utility items), and some life modules for people who use that character generation method. Sadly, there is no index but the table of contents is fairly complete.

If you are playing an ork or troll, this is an excellent resource, it will give all you to build a solid character foundation. If your campaign is focused around orks, trolls or the struggle for metahuman rights, get this book. If neither of these are true, it is still a worthwhile reference but not a must have book.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Complete Trog (Runner Resources)
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Shadowrun: Book of the Lost (A Shadowrun Campaign Book)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/03/2017 10:34:32

Shadowrun: Book of the Lost is a campaign book for Shadowrun and provides a considerable amount of potential adventure for a GM. But is it necessary? Not really, unless your group is already intrigued by the Sixth World Tarot, you do not have to prioritize this book, it is pretty and has quite a bit of fun stuff but all of it will need to be adapted to your campaign. But if a tarot hunt sound like it would be fun for you and your players, then pick this up.

Shadowrun: Book of the Lost, is a Shadowrun Campaign Book for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book covers how to use the Sixth World Tarot (SWT) in a Shadowrun game and how, story-wise, that tarot deck is affecting the word of Shadowrun. The book is jam packed with beautiful full color art, much of it from the SWT, but, my, there is a lot of art.

After a short introduction to what is in the book, we get two fiction sections, and then it moves into what is known about the SWT in the setting. The chapter called Deck Building talks about the major players who are hunting the SWT and some of the tactics they use. A variety of plot hooks are scattered through this section waiting to catch a GM’s eye.

Next is Aligning the Court which deals with the interaction between the Seelie Court and the Tarot, essentially a useless section if you are not playing a Fae Court game at least it is short. More art and Using Themes and Motifs follows and gives some general advice, do not interpret the cards too literally, and gives an out for the GM (in the form of an NPC, the Wondering Fool) to help players who get lost.

Items and Objects is two parts, first an insetting lecture about the symbolism of the things that appear in the SWT (if you have a deck, it would be good to have it available as you read through this section). Interesting but very dense going without the cards as reference. The second half is a set of divinations (again, in setting) and possible interpretations thereof (i.e., plot seeds).

After more art and a very short piece of fiction there is People, a bunch of snapshots of people involved directly or indirectly in the hunt for the SWT. Useful as NPCs, just to namedrop or as plot seeds, or some mix there of. This section provides considerable amount of inspirational stuff for your game here. Next up, Taco Temple, a new fast food chain that has sprung up in the last couple of years and appears on multiple SWT cards. This section discusses what might be the secrets behind Taco Temple and its relationship to the SWT, interesting if convoluted stuff.

Codes and Puzzles is the setup for how to use the SWT in game, starting with what a character is likely to know about it, then moving into how the various power players perceive it. Then some, but not all, of the puzzles presented on the cards are discussed, others are hinted at. But the bulk of this section is sample operations and campaigns building off of the puzzles on the cards, given who is hunting the SWT some of the easy missions seem, well, too easy when they involve actual acquisition of cards from the SWT. But these puzzles provide a good foundation to work from if you want to integrate the SWT into your campaign.

Cards as Augury talks about how to use the SWT as, well, a tool for prediction. This section covers how its symbolism differs from most tarot decks and some of the patterns that appear in the SWT. It also provides some advice on using divination in a game which is always tricky.

Ending the primary resources is Power of the Cards, which talks about what sort of magic can be worked with the cards themselves, these are usually ritual and are tied to possessing four of the same card (say “2s”) of the minor arcana or any card of the major arcana. Looking at the sorts of effects the cards can generate, it is easy to see why people are hunting for them. But be warned, the effects from some of the cards are potentially campaign changing, a GM should think very carefully before letting the power of the cards loose in their game.

The final section is a bunch of stat blocks for the people referenced in the People section, the problem is, it is mostly just stat blocks. A few get a couple of sentences of tactics, some get a paragraph of background info, but mostly just page after page of stats. There are three new mentor spirits, an alternate Raven, Goddess and Lion, and the highest of high end comlink as new equipment, scattered through here as well. And, as is mostly usual for Shadowrun books, no index.

This book looks beautiful with the color pieces from the SWT scattered throughout and there is so much implied adventure here as long as you want to focus on the magic and mystical side of the Shadowrun setting. If you prefer to focus on the grim and gritty cycberpunk side, this book will not give you much to use. Still, a worthwhile addition to a GM’s library if not a priority.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Book of the Lost (A Shadowrun Campaign Book)
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Through Their Own Eyes (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2017 11:19:27

Through Their Own Eyes: New Personality Features for Fantasy Races for D&D 5e presents good roleplaying tools for constructing nonhuman characters. It is entirely support for character building and is quite helpful for those interested in playing nonhuman characters.

Through Their Own Eyes: New Personality Features for Fantasy Races for D&D 5e by Brandes Stoddard and published by Tribality Publishing is what you would expect, new traits for fantasy cultures tied to the traditional type of fantasy folk. The layout is clear with thematic color photographs for illustrations.

For each dwarves, elves (surface and drow), halflings, gnomes, half-orcs, dragonborn, tieflings, aasimar, goblins, and kobolds there is a short paragraph with thoughts on their culture. Then each of either six or eight options for personality traits (gnomes get ten options here, the only ones that do), ideals, bonds, and flaws to mix and match with those from backgrounds.

The only layout issue is that the notes on aasimar culture are repeated, it is not a lot of wasted space but some more thoughts on aasimar would be interesting. While primary player oriented, a DM can get some food for thought about the nonhuman cultures in their campaign world as well.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review. Also, Brandes is a friend of mine and one of the players in my original Sea of Stars campaign, but I like to think that did not influence this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Through Their Own Eyes (5E)
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Shadowrun: Forbidden Arcana (Advanced Magic Rulebook)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2017 09:46:44

Shadowrun: Forbidden Arcana will be on the list to acquire for anyone GMing a magic heavy Shadowrun campaign, both for useful background information on what is happening with magic and new things to play with. For players, sightly less useful but there is still a lot of good information and interesting options for characters here. Overall, one of the more solid works to come out of for Shadowrun lately.

Shadowrun: Forbidden Arcana are the Advanced Magic Rules for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, expanding on the earlier rules presented in the Street Grimoire (which is required to use several sections of this work).

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then it begins with a section called Seeing the Invisible World which talks about how non-magical people perceive magic with a variety of (in game) first hand accounts of encounters with magic. This is useful for both for players and GMs when describing magical effects to characters who cannot directly see magic.

The Magic Mastery section is the character option section starting with new Mastery Qualities representing the ability to manipulate magic in refined ways all of which have requirements, usually skill based, and which can be acquired after character creation (which is good as many of them have steep requirements) at no increase in cost. Some of these provide interesting options, from improved alchemy to allowing mundanes to assist with rituals and new options for peace makers, which are rare in most game systems. New focused spellcasters: elementalist, hedge witch/wizard, null mage and seer provide more ways to have character to use a narrow section of magic. There is new metamagic, including way for characters to flip to insect or toxic shamanism, most of which builds on that presented in the Street Grimoire but tarot magic and necro magic is new to this book. Aspected magicians are expanded with new options for “apprentices,” enchanters, explorers and the barely magical Aware. Of course, there are new spells, including one that manipulates gravity(!) and a few new rituals, including the necro-magic one that creates animated dead things, always good for a scare.

Traditions talks about, well, traditions and how there are changing under the effects of Unified Magical Theory (UMT) and its effects on existing traditions, updating seven existing traditions which include some radical changes to how some of them work which may cause problems in an ongoing campaign with practitioners of these traditions. Some advice for GMs on how to incorporate (or not) the way these traditions change for existing characters would have been helpful. The eleven new traditions cover a lot of ground and variety, from cosmic to green (plant) magic, Olympian gods to Tarot, red (animal) and necro magic, good tools for players and GMs alike. Fourteen new mentor spirits are presented, including one for religions Holy Text, and alternate versions of three existing totems (rat, spider and wolf) are included again, providing some strong new options for those using mentor spirits. Magic oddities introduces the possibility of hybrid traditions and rules for an awakened martial art (Way of Unified Mana Hapsum-do). A section on magical demographics, i.e. how many magically active people are out there?, rounds out this section and is an interesting read.

No prize for guessing what is in the Blood Magic section, this builds on the rule presented in the Street Grimoire and tries to restrict the use of blood magic as well as presenting a noble path (self-sacrifice) that uses blood magic. There is a lot of information on how blood magic works, what sorts of people are drawn to using it and the dangers of doing so. Additionally, there are new blood magic spells and rituals, blood crystals (functionally magical cyberware) and new spirits (bone spirits and blood shades). Lastly, there is the addiction danger of blood magic which will turn the user of blood magic into a remorseless and casual killer if they succumb. Placing limits on blood magic, social and cultural as well as mechanical, is a good call as maybe that will keep players from messing with it.

Where the Wild Things are drops back into UMT and how that has affected the application of magic and spirits in the Sixth World and what (may have) been behind the explosion in the number of wild spirits in the world and the new sorts of spirts than have been appearing including the spirits of beast, radio waves and vehicles! So much fun to have with spirit here. Then, then, a huge amount of metaplot partly revealed through in-game world discussion. This section concludes with statistics for the new spirit types and new rules for summoning and negotiating with wild spirits.

Advanced Alchemy is just that, with a discussion of corporate alchemy, new reagents, new tools, compounds (which are new ways to use alchemy) and preparations (which are common ways spells are bound into alchemical items). All of which give the alchemist considerably greater flexibility and utility which they sorely needed. A short discussion on how the “dark traditions” (blood, insects and toxic) use alchemy to leverage their forms of magic in ugly but effective ways. Research, Rumors and Legends are five bit of knowledge which, unusually but usefully, each come with a set of adventures seeds both for groups with or without an alchemist in them. This section ends with some brief advice for the shadowrunning alchemist, basic but solid.

The entire book ends with an index of all of the new things included inside.

Forbidden Arcana is a useful resource for any Shadowrun campaign in which magic plays a major role and even in those where it is just a background element, it is a useful book for the GMs shelf. It does provide considerable support for alchemist characters and anyone playing such will want at least access to this book (a gift for you GM maybe?) but that is probably is not worth the purchase price alone.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Forbidden Arcana (Advanced Magic Rulebook)
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Shadowrun: Cutting Aces (Deep Shadows Sourcebook)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2017 14:52:35

Shadowrun: Cutting Aces is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and provides an odd mixed bag of information on the metaplot and setting which providing more options for social-based characters and challenges. As it covers some neglected aspects of the Shadowrun world, such as the Middle East and social skills, it is probably a good investment for a GM but the book is so unfocused unless cons or Constantinople are the focus of your campaign, I cannot say that it should be a priority to acquire.

Shadowrun: Cutting Aces, is a Deep Shadows Sourcebook for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book covers a variety of sins, confidence games and swindlers, Constantinople (formerly Istanbul) and a bit more about current events in the Sixth World.

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves into what is going on with the big megacorporations and the world, including the special election for the Governor of the Seattle Metroplex, what is going on with Spinrad Industries in the Middle East, too much news from Faerie, and -perhaps most importantly- what sorts of cons (and thus scenarios) the situations exposed are ripe for.

Next we have Constantinople, in all its glory, which lacks that most useful of props, a map of the city, the two and a half pages spent on the pre-21st century history of the city would have been better used for maps. Oddly, the Constantinople at a Glance sidebar neglects to mention what languages are used in the city. The city is full of interesting places and adventure potential and the new information blocks for NPCs scattered throughout look useful. It is rather off the usual beaten path for Shadowrunners and while the adventure seeds are interesting, more ways to tie the city into an ongoing campaign would have been useful.

After another fiction section, there is Alibi Artists of Constantinople, twelve interesting NPCs done in traditional NPC stat blocks, not the one used in the previous section which contains some information that should be folded into any NPC that can be used into a contact. This section then has a selection of life modules for those who wish to play confidence artists (and use that alternate character generation method).

The Art of Confidence covers just that, running down the basics of short and long cons. It is mostly a list of traditional cons, sometime with more modern names, and some idea of how they run. At best an overview of the subject but sufficient for the purpose of most games.

Gat and Glad Rags is the toys section with new weapons, clothing (armored mostly), modification to armor, gear including many things that can be useful in a con (tailored perfume, social subscription software), a handful of smaller drones. Information for Sale lists the price to acquire various types of information that can be of use to con artists and shadowrunners both. A selection of new qualities, both positive and negative, almost all social oriented follows. Next a few new adept powers (three) and spells (four). Then it sets up the expanded social interaction section with new “social maneuvers” that really could have been better defined and structured. And this section then ends with a shift into a list of five character (personality) archetypes.

The next section, the Grifter’s Bible, is the rules section starting with Factional Reputation, that is how particular groups see you and what you can use such reputation for. A good idea but possibly too much of a bookkeeping chore as written. Expended rules for social skills detail, maybe excessively, the value of things when Negotiating prices for services (i.e. a run) or selling gear or information. Rules and structure for using the Con skill to actually run cons. Some advice on using Intimidation in the game. And the world thing ends with a page and a half example of the new social rules in action.

Cutting Aces is a interesting resource providing new tools for the GM, and possibly for the players, but it is scattered, covering a lot of ground in different directions. However, maps for the city and tables for the social maneuvering would have made this product more useful.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Cutting Aces (Deep Shadows Sourcebook)
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Three Sorcerous Arts (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2017 08:45:25

Three Sorcerous Arts: Three Sorcerous Origins for Firth Edition provides some excellent options for sorcerers in 5E and expands the range of choices for that class. Everything seems well balanced and if you like playing sorcerer, or using them as rivals to the players, give this product a look.

Three Sorcerous Arts: Three Sorcerous Origins for Firth Edition by Brandes Stoddard and published by Tribality Publishing is just that, three new Sorcerers’ origins (or bloodlines as they would have been called in some other sources) and some supporting magic items. The layout is clear with thematic color photographs for illustrations.

After a very brief introduction to the product, it presents Royal Sorcery, the blood of queens and kings flows through you and imbues your magic. Royal Sorcery provides an interesting mix of increased combat abilities, ally support and Charisma tricks which some payers will delight in, especially though that like to take a leadership role in a game.

Tidal Sorcery is, naturally, tied to the sea and if you want to play an underwater campaign, convince some of your players to take this origin; while they are far from useless inland, they shine in, or under, the sea.

The third origin is Winter Sorcery, the fae touched magic of frost and cold, which does mostly what you would expect with some nice weaving in of the fae’s ability to charm when dealing with creatures who are otherwise not much damaged by cold. The18th level capstone ability, Master of the Frost, gives the ability to impose additional conditions but lacks a note of when those conditions end (I would say a save at the end of each of the target’s actions to shake them off, but clarification would be nice).

Lastly, there are seven new magic items several of which are only for spell casters of various type but just one is a sorcerer only item, though several get attritional benefit when used by particular type or sorcerer (and a few others). These items are all quite potent and worthy of being the end result of quests or major victories.

A solid addition to the options for sorcerers, and other spell-casters when the magic items are included, except for the one concern above (easily fixed) I would have no problem with allowing any of these in my campaign.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review. Also, Brandes is a friend of mine and one of the players in my original Sea of Stars campaign, but I like to think that did not influence this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Three Sorcerous Arts (5E)
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HARP Loot
Publisher: Iron Crown Enterprises
by Customer Name Withheld [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2016 19:30:09

HARP Fantasy Loot is more than just lists of treasure, it has some good world building advice folded in and a very complete set of magic item creation rules. It should be indispensable for a HARP GM and those of others systems can probably find a goodly amount of material as well but obviously the rule heavy parts would be of much less use.

HARP Fantasy Loot by Jonathan Cassie and published by Iron Crown Enterprises presents rules and advice for loot and treasure for the High Adventure Role Playing (HARP) system. The layout is clean with sparse but good illustrations.

It begins with a short introduction and then moves into a look at what can be defined as loot beyond the obvious treasures, things such as information, items of sentimental value, trade goods and more are all potential loot. This section provides useful advice and good things to keep in mind for a GM.

Next it moves into Loot in the Wilderness, which discusses both loot placement and what sorts of treasure the common monsters of the HARP are likely to have. Some of this is tied specifically to the HARP view of certain creatures (say hobgoblins) but the general sweep of the discussion is still a good guide to the things that should be considered when placing treasure. Two example ruins show how to weave these creatures linked threads together in a setting that character might wish to explore (and loot). Then, Loot in the Big City, which talks more about cities than loot but is a solid reference section all the same covering types of cities: core and periphery, human and other. But indeed some loot can be found in a variety of city markets, though more through trade than seizure.

We then move onto Fabrication & Materials, this section is intimately tied to the HARP system, detailing the rules of creating magic items in the system. The sorts of materials, plant, animal, mineral and even more unusual things (such as hearts of fire) that can be combined to create magic items, and what they can be applied to and how much magic they provide, is carefully detailed. A nice selection of charts provide the costs to create a wide variety of effects which are paid for the components used to create them, providing the basics of a fascinating if clunky system. It then moves onto specific types of items: Potions define the steps needed to make potions, or other consumables, of two general types which provide many different potential potions. Runes are next, which are the scrolls of the HARP system, and are easy and useful items, there is a subset, Crystal Runes, inscribed on gems which are reusable within certain limits. Crafting Talismans covers charms, fetishes and talismans, which all fill the niche of a basic defense or enhancement item and differ in duration, weeks for charms to permanent talismans. Creating high magic items and intelligent items wraps up the fairly comprehensive fabrication section.

The short Now What? Chapter deals (briefly) with debased currency but mostly with what happens when magic items go wonky with some tables to help out the GM when such happen.

The last third of so of the book is random treasure tables and a general overview on the various kinds of loot that can be found, from coins to cultural artifacts. Then in moves to an adventure favorite sort of loot, magic, with many magic item lists and descriptions of the unusual ones, most of which come with some implied world building and a few of which are jokey or punny, so be warned. But overall a wide selection of interesting items that, while statted for HARP, could be easily adapted to other settings.

The book ends with an index, which is always helpful.

For a GM of HARP, this book is likely to be invaluable. For those who play other systems, there is still a lot of good material here but perhaps not enough to justify its purchase.

Disclosure: I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
HARP Loot
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Kemonomimi - Moe Races (5e)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Customer Name Withheld [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/04/2016 16:33:59

Kemononmimi: Moe Races for Dungeons & Dragons 5e opens some interesting options for character race by opening seven races of animal spirit touched beings for use as characters. While they certainly will not be to the taste of every player, or fit in every campaign, there are some good and useful ideas here that are worth taking a look at if animal-themed races have a place in your game world.

Kemononmimi: Moe Races for Dungeons & Dragons 5e by Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose and published by Amora Game presents the seven new subraces of the Kemononmimi, animal spirits given human form to aid humanity. The layout is clear with color artwork illustration for each of the different type of Kemononmimi.

Simply put the Kemononmimi are animal spirits that were given human form to aid, guide and protect humanity. For example, the Inumimi (dog spirits) were tasked as guardians and the Akaimimi (red panda spirits) are to help humankind in its spiritual and meditative journey. They all share darkvision, an affinity for the animals their spirits reflect but otherwise have statistic and skill bonuses to reflect their personalities and assigned role. It seems to me that the universal traits could have been placed at the beginning of the descriptions rather than fully repeated for each but that is a minor layout issue.

For the right campaign niche, they could be quite interesting to encounter in game and the animal-person vibe will appeal to some players. Though some DM guideline on divination might not have been a bad call as the Akaimimi gain supernatural insight in the form of the Augury spell once a day, and if you give a player character a free use of Augury each day, they are going to use it. The other spirits all have their own themes as well with the effect that there is a subrace of the Kemononmimi here for most player styles.

If this product has a weakness is that it is only the Kemononmimi, no backgrounds or other support material is provided to allow for quick, thematic character generation.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kemonomimi - Moe Races (5e)
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Genies (5E)
Publisher: Tribality Publishing
by Customer Name Withheld [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2016 13:31:52

Genies for Fifth Edition is not, as one might expect from the title, a book of genie-type creatures (though it does include four genies of legend) but rather primarily a book about genies and their magic. If you are thinking of including genies in your D&D Fifth edition game, this product, though short, will give you useful ideas and tools to build from.

Genies for Fifth Edition is for D&D 5e by Colin McLaughlin and published by Tribality Publishing is about genies and their magic. The layout is clear with thematic color photographs for illustrations.

It begins with a brief look at how genies perceive the world and the four elemental courts they are organized into, and what they want. It is short but evocative and provides the framework for the rest of the book.

Next are four genies of legend, each one a powerful exemplar of its element and has their own lair, briefly described, complete with lair actions. These are tough (CR 16) beings so not everyday encounters but good to have access to in a world with genies about.

Next there are new spells: one aligned with each element for Cantrip (Zero), First and Fourth Level spells. The First level spells are an interesting design as each enhance the cantrip of the same elemental type. While the fourth level spells let you call upon the power of the genie-kind, granting you a spark of their power including protection from their element.

Eleven new magic items (the “Genie’s Horde”) round out the product with a good mix of weapons, defenses and utility items including a cursed hat and a carpet that functions as a trap. A nice selection even if a few are quite specialized, a common trait among D&D magic items though.

A good selection of genie-based magic and idea here, that being said, it really seems like this book should have had a genie-based subclass or two to really have a character type who was integrated into the lore presented here.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Genies (5E)
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Kemonomimi - Moe Races (PFRPG)
Publisher: Amora Game
by Customer Name Withheld [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/16/2016 16:26:34

Kemononmimi: Moe Races for Pathfinder opens some interesting thematic options for character race. While they certainly will not be to the taste of every player, or fit in every campaign, there are some fun and interesting ideas here that are worth taking a look at if animal-themed races have a place in your game world.

Kemononmimi: Moe Races for Pathfinder by Wojciech Gruchala and Greg LaRose and published by Amora Game presents the seven new subraces of the Kemononmimi, animal spirits given human form to aid humanity. The layout is clear with color artwork illustration for each of the different type of Kemononmimi.

Simply put the Kemononmimi are animal spirits that were given human form to aid, guide and protect humanity. For example, the Inumimi (dog spirits) were tasked as guardians and the Akaimimi (red panda spirits) are to help humankind in its spiritual and meditative journey. They all share low-light vision and an affinity for the animals their spirits reflect but otherwise have statistic and skill bonuses to reflect their personalities and assigned role.

For the right campaign niche, they could be quite interesting to encounter in game and the animal-person vibe will appeal to some players. Some of the particular abilities are quite interesting the Akaimimi gain supernatural insight, the Araiguma (raccoon spirits) can dowse for water and purify food by washing it in clean water while the Usagimimi (hare spirits) have a creative craftsman ability reflecting their roles as builders that encourage in game crafting. So, there is a subrace of the Kemononmimi here for most player styles.

The products only weakness is that it is just the subraces, no traits, feats, or other support material is provided to really flesh them out and give them focused, thematic options.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kemonomimi - Moe Races (PFRPG)
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