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The Genius Guide to Earth Magic
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/04/2012 07:08:25

This 13-page booklet focuses on magic associated with stone and earth, although one senses that the writers struggled a little more than they did with its counterpart on Air magic. For instance, some of the spells are more to do with acid than earth. There is a justification for this in the book, and it is, of course, fully consistent with the Pathfinder rules, but it still feels as if the writers felt hat earth itself was a bit too limited.

There are 22 spells in the booklet, and, despite the comments above, in fairness most of them are quite directly to do with the element. Most are directly related to delivering or resisting damage, as one might expect, although there is some more variety at the lower levels. The spells range from 1st to 7th level, and are mostly for druids and wizard/sorcerers, although some are also available to bards, and (at higher levels) to clerics.

The booklet also includes a stone descriptor for spells, which makes a lot of sense, and has certain advantages over the standard earth descriptor. There is a bloodline for sorcerers and a speciality for wizards, as well as a monster template, and rules for a special kind of earth elemental (which one of the spells lets you summon). Clerics get a new domain, but it's really about anti-magic, not earth.

In general, this is a good, well-written rules source, albeit one that strays a little too far from its stated topic at times.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Earth Magic
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The Genius Guide to Air Magic
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/04/2012 05:43:44

This product aims to fill a gap in standard spell lists, namely that, aside from elemental summoning, the majority of 'air' spells are actually about lightning, or sometimes rain. Here the focus is on the use of air itself, especially in the form of various wind-related spells.

Sixteen spells are described, for clerics, druids, sorcerers, and wizards (one is also available to bards), and ranging all the way from 1st level to 9th. The lower level ones have a range of effects not always directly associated with air, but that do make sense in the context of a mage specialising in such things. At the higher levels, spells focus on the more obvious effects of hurricanes, tornadoes and the like, which are naturally more deadly.

After the spells, the booklet goes on to provide class options for clerics, druids, sorcerers, wizards, and druids, as well as two new feats and a simple 'airborne monster' template.

All in all, a thorough and well thought out 12-page booklet that plugs a gap in standard spell lists.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Air Magic
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Krazy Kragnar's Black Market Magic Items
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/04/2012 04:05:34

This 15-page booklet is all about magic items that are likely to be banned in at least some civilised societies. It begins with a good discussion of the sale of such items, and the kinds of black markets where they might be available - tied in to the rules on settlements from the Pathfinder GM Guide. This, in itself, seems to be well thought out and helpful, although, inevitably there might need to be adjustments for specific campaigns.

This is followed by a list of 21 magic items, including weapons, armour, rings, rods, and wondrous items. Each section includes some discussion of why and how specific jurisdictions might ban some of the standard magic items in their category. These all make perfect sense, and are worth thinking about, although some GMs may prefer to ignore such issues in order to allow PCs more freedom of action.

The items themselves are all fully described, and each includes a justification for why it might be banned. Some are obviously evil items, or so unpredictable as to be a potential menace to innocent citizens. Others are useful primarily for committing criminal acts, making them particularly useful for rogues, but clearly undesirable to the authorities. Some are banned because they encourage other activity that certain regimes might disapprove of.

It may be worth adding that this is something of an 'adult' product. There's nothing explicit in it, or anything like that, but some of the items do revolve around torture or casual sex, which might be an issue for certain campaigns. There's also some partial nudity in the illustrations, if that sort of thing worries you.

All in all, this is a very good selection of magic items, with a wide range of different powers. Some are best used by evil NPCs, while others are genuinely useful for PCs - albeit with some sort of downside, even if it's only unwanted attention from the authorities. All in all, this is one of the better booklets in the range.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Krazy Kragnar's Alchemical Surplus Shop
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/04/2012 03:05:51

A collection of 31 alchemical items (some with 'greater' and 'lesser' variants) presented in much the same style as the 'Loot for Less' line of booklets. While those focussed on cheap goods for low level games, here the range is rather broader. Part of the stated intent is to make the Alchemy craft skill more useful, and in that it certainly seems to succeed - this is quite a good variety of gear.

Many of the cheaper goods are minor healing items of various kinds, while some other items duplicate various bits of technology (flash grenades, fuse wire, and so on). But there's plenty here for all purposes, much of it useful in low to mid level campaigns without being overpowering. It's a good selection, if you're interested in giving more variety to alchemy, and of giving characters some 'magic items' that won't actually show up with most 'detect magic' abilities...



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
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The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 9: Bell, Book, & Candle
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 10:42:22

Volume 9 in the Loot for Less series covers low-level wondrous items fitting the title description - a rather random assortment obviously inspired by the phrase.

There are six magic bells, five books, and six candles in the book. The bells are, naturally enough, generally either alarms or some for of sonic magic, while the candles tend to be area effect items where the magic imbues the pool of light they create. The terms 'bell' and 'candle' are used fairly generically, giving you the variety of having, for example, magic gongs or rushlights.

The books are also varied, with some giving spell-related bonuses and others with specific powers related to writing. One of them doesn't work for me, in that it's hard to see what it achieves that a regular written book couldn't do better, but that's just one item out of seventeen in total.

There are also some suggested rules for crafting these special types of magic item, giving bonuses from appropriate mundane skills, and so on. So, overall, as useful as the rest of the series has proved, if you're after low-level magic items.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 9: Bell, Book, & Candle
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The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 8: Belt One On
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 10:24:23

Volume 8 in the Loot for Less series deals with low-level magic belts, girdles, buckles, and similar associated items. The buckles, incidentally, don't 'stack' with belts; you can no more use both a magic buckle and a magic belt than you can wear two magic rings on the same hand. That's obviously sensible, while the fact that magic buckles exist at all gives a great variety to what might otherwise be just a list of girdles.

There's 18 different items here, which is quite a few, and they're all well described and thought out. Many are defensive in nature, or more limited versions of girdles of strength, but as always in this series, there's a wide range of different powers that would be useful to many different low-level characters.

For the relatively low price, this is a good offering in the series.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 8: Belt One On
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The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 6: Cloaks and Daggers
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 07:46:06

Volume 6 of Loot for Less focuses on low-level magic cloaks and daggers, items that are really only linked by the opportunity for a cool title.

The book includes ten magic cloaks. Five of these are based around racial concepts (with the obvious exception of 'elvenkind') and, frankly, do seem a bit random, although there's at least a sort of sense to the orcish and gnomish ones. The remaining five magic cloaks are rather better, conferring a range of different abilities, all of which have an obvious connection to their form. Despite the title of the book they aren't specifically - or even mainly - aimed at rogues, and can be used by a range of characters.

There are six magic daggers in the book, and these are also pretty good. Some of them are more accurately knives than true daggers, since they aren't much use in a fight, but they are all focussed around the general idea of what knives are for. As a result, most of them are more akin to wondrous items than to magic weapons, which is a useful extension of the general idea. The two that are most use in combat, incidentally, are both ideal for rogues, which makes sense for this type of weapon.

Another good book in the series if you're looking for a range of low level magic items.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 6: Cloaks and Daggers
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The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 5: All You Need Is Gloves
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 07:27:41

The Loot for Less series describes a range of magic items worth less than 2,500 g.p. in the Pathfinder rules. This volume covers gloves, gauntlets, and similar handwear.

There are 15 items here, each with a clear description, and an explanation of how the price was worked out, where necessary. The general theme of the items is, as might be expected, manual tasks, although, on the whole, they're more useful for fighters and magicians than for rogues. However, there's something here for everyone, and the range of different things the items can do is quite broad.

It's another good product in the range, with some definitely useful ideas.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 5: All You Need Is Gloves
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The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 3: Hot Rods
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 07:20:31

The Loot for Less series describes magical items worth less than 2500 g.p. in Pathfinder, and this volume covers magical rods.

There are a total of nine items here, which is significantly less than in the rings volume, although they generally require a much more detailed description of what they do. Even so, that's less pages for the same price.

Since there isn't much of a clear outline of what rods do in d20 - they're more defined by their shape than their function - the ones here are a varied bunch. Some are substitutes for mechanical devices, with the main advantage being that they're more portable. Others are more 'magical', albeit always with low level effects that would take some ingenuity to use, which is no bad thing.

This is probably slightly less value than volume 2, but the items are somewhat more original and unusual, which partly makes up for the smaller number of them.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 3: Hot Rods
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The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 2: Pretty, Pretty, Rings
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 07:10:41

This book provides descriptions and stats for 30 magical rings, all worth less than 2500 g.p. in the Pathfinder system. It's a useful selection of simple, relatively cheap, items for low level adventurers.

Explanations as to how the prices for some of the items were worked out are included, which would prove useful if your own game uses slightly different assumptions, or you want to use these ideas for some other version of d20. There's also a discussion of wearing rings on portions of anatomy other than fingers, and a number of illustrations of such, although the default assumption is that you still can't wear more than two at once.

Most of the rings provide small bonuses to abilities or to specific uses of attributes, although there's a good selection of other minor magical powers, too. The prices for the rings go down as low as 35 gp, although are (unsurprisingly) in the mid to upper range of the book's chosen limits.

On the whole, a nice selection of minor magical items, well laid out, albeit with quite a lot of colour on the pages.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Loot 4 Less Vol. 2: Pretty, Pretty, Rings
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Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/01/2012 04:31:24

The first volume in the Castle Builder series provided the basic rules for designing and constructing buildings, as well as an overview of the role of fortifications. This second volume focuses on two specific types of building: inns and secure (but not truly fortified) wealthy households.

After the introduction (reprinted from volume 1), the book gives a general discussion of the roles of these buildings and considerations of their design and how they can be described in game. This is generally helpful if you're thinking about designing and placing such things, if a little repetitive in places.

This is followed by floorplans and details for an inn and a mansion house. The plans are drawn with the basic version of CC2, which is perfectly fine for their intended use, although they aren't top-of-the-range battle maps.

The descriptions that go with them are suited to their purpose, and include some useful ideas for what you might want to put in your own designs. Each room is accompanied with a summation of the design cost, calculated using the rules in volume 1, all of which is summarised and totalled for each building at the end - very useful, considering this is essentially a design book.

There are a couple of problems, however. Firstly, the Castle Builder series was clearly originally intended as a single book with seven chapters, rather than as a ten volume series, and somebody has forgotten to change some of the text accordingly. Thus, the introduction to this book states it has seven chapters (it doesn't), and there are references in the text referring to "chapter one" that are apparently meant to refer to Volume one.

Secondly, the actual design of the buildings, as shown in the floorplans isn't quite up to the level of thought that has gone into the accompanying text. The floor plans don't show windows (why they probably should) but, even so, it's obvious that a number of rooms can't have any, because they have no external walls - something that often seems at odds with their intended purpose.

On a similar note, the inn does seem implausibly large. For example, the innkeeper's bedroom alone has three times the floorspace of my entire house in the real world. I know I'm not rich, but that seems rather excessive, and the rest of the inn is on a similar scale. The mansion is, after all, a mansion, so no such issue there, although I'd also have liked to see something the size of a real-world "manor house" as well (say, 6,000 square feet), which, being smaller than what we do get wouldn't have taken up much of the book.

Having said that, for $2, and 22 pages (excluding the cover) this is a good guide to the general concept of imposing houses/inns in fantasy, and I'll be buying future volumes in the series.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 2: Manor Houses
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Cultic Fervor: Revcora
Publisher: Dark Quest Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/27/2011 09:44:02

Four pages of description for the cult of a chaotic goddess of prostitution. It's reasonably well done, and not bad for $1, although you will need to do some further work to use it fully in a campaign - whether as an adversary or a bit of local colour for a decadent society.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cultic Fervor: Revcora
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Castle Builder Volume 1: Strongholds
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/27/2011 08:38:49

Intended to be the first in a series of books about fortifications in fantasy games, this volume focuses on the purpose and basic design of such buildings. It begins with a thorough analysis of the role that castles, towers, and other strongholds play, and discusses considerations such as placement, shape, use of the local geography, and so on. Taken together, this section of the book helps ensure that strongholds have a feel of living, breathing, places that could really exist, even in a fantastic realm.

What follows is a detailed design system that works, not just for strongholds, but for just about any building imaginable. Although written with d20 in mind, aside from the prices, this system could be used for any game where you want a detailed description of building construction. It's most likely to be useful if PCs want to build a castle or wizard's tower for themselves, explaining how long it takes, how much it costs, what materials it needs, and various other factors that need to be considered.

However, even if all a GM wants is a checklist for drawing floorplans of his own buildings, and some discussion as to how such things actually work, this book would be very valuable. The amount of detail and thought put into the book is remarkable, and, while focussing on what could really be achieved with medieval European technology, it does not forget more exotic building materials for magical otherworldly palaces of pure crystal, or the like.

For less than $4, this book is highly recommended. It's around 50 pages long, ignoring contents pages, etc. and well illustrated with appropriate copyright-free work, and writing and layout are both of high quality. I recommend this to anyone looking for a bit of detail and realism in their building design.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Builder Volume 1: Strongholds
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Builder Magic
Publisher: Castlewrks
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/27/2011 02:36:37

This is a relatively short book that, ostensibly, describes the use of magic to construct buildings. There is only one internal illustration, but that's fair enough for the price, although the layout of the book is extremely basic, without any apparent effort having gone into it.

Still, for $4, that's forgiveable if the book includes some good and usable information. Unfortunately, this one really doesn't. There is some general discussion of magical architecture, but it's all fairly obvious and there's no detail about, for example, how much it would cost, and only a few vague statements about it being possible to do things with magic you can't do without it - all of which is fairly obvious.

The bulk of the book consists of a spell list for architect-wizards. Most of the spells fall into one of two categories. The first type allows you to draw architect's plans, which, presumably, could be done equally well with a quill and parchment. These spells are, to my mind, overly specialised, not very well described (I think they're putting an image from the wizard's mind onto parchment, but if so, why they only work for narrow sub-types of plan is beyond me - why can't I project an image of, say, a mountain scene?)

The second sort create invisible workers that actually do the construction, similar to an unseen servant, or make things like kilns. There are a few others, such as creating an illusion of the finished building.

The book finished out with more statements of the mostly obvious that it fails to elaborate on, and a reaction table for how annoyed non-magical masons get when they find out you're taking away their livelihood.

Well, okay, so the idea is presumably to have the construction process appear magical, and look cool in a fantasy world. But beyond that, why bother? Despite being told that it's possible to construct buildings this way that you couldn't otherwise, there's no indication as to why, and crucially, no explanation of WHAT you can do. Assuming your game doesn't focus on construction work, the finished product is surely what matters. What cool things can I have my magical building do, or even look like, that normal ones can't or don't?

I'm not going to give this a '1' because it is cheap, and it could have been worse. But it's hard to imagine what it would be useful for.



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[2 of 5 Stars!]
Builder Magic
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Complete Guide to Treants
Publisher: Goodman Games
by JK R. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/30/2011 09:28:13

Treants are, perhaps, an unusual topic for a sourcebook. Despite the role of the ents in Lord of the Rings, they have never received much further coverage in fiction or fantasy RPGs. This book redresses the balance with a thorough look at the race, their psychology, and their magic.

Although character classes, feats, and spells are provided for treants, their distinctly inhuman nature does, to my mind, make them most suitable as NPCs. However, a GM wishing to use them as such will find much here of use, and its well written and evocative.

The treants of the MM are NG, but this book provides plenty of alternatives that make them more useful as a foe in traditional games. There are 'shadowed' treants here, that take vengeance against axe-wielding humans to an extreme, but also a couple of varieties of undead treant (both of which make perfect sense, and don't just feel like something tacked on for the sake of it), as well as three other evil or monstrous creatures based on the treant theme.

All in all, this provides rather more useful material than might be expected from its coverage of an obscure and good-aligned, but not very PC-friendly, race might suggest. Its well written, has good artwork, and gives a real opportunity to have a neglected race from one of the founding works of fantasy literature have a key role in your campaign.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Complete Guide to Treants
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