Friday, March 22, 2013

Review: Pathfinder NPC Codex

Full of Opportunities

"NPC Codex" by Jason Bulmahn & friends, published and distributed by Paizo Publishing.

The very short introduction tells you how to use this book, and gives info on how the stats blocks will be laid out.

Part One, "Core Classes", breaks down each of the 11 Core Rulebook character classes into 20 examples, one for each level.  Some of them might make for good friends of the player characters, and some of them are better off as villains plotting against the players.  In any case, there are still plenty that are just plain NPC's that can be used in your game.  There's also the nice feature of being able to find out what each character class is capable of at =every= level.  From Barbarians to Wizards, there are portraits of each, and at least the same basic info you'd find in a Bestiary.

Part Two, "Prestige Classes", covers the 10 Core Rulebook Prestige Classes, with four good examples of each, from Arcane Archers to Shadowdancers.  Each has a character name and a short description of who they are, what to expect if in combat, and role-playing suggestions.  The major differences between each character point out that there is a wide diversity of choices for each class.

Part Three, "NPC Classes", only has the five Core Rulebook examples, but the 10 of each gives GM's many prospective city or country inhabitants.  They would also make for fine allies, friends, or enemies.  There are 10 example levels for each class.  From the first level Adept to the 10th level Warrior, these characters can help to really flesh out a world.

Part Four, "Iconic Characters", studies the same 11 core classes as part one, but instead of making each one different, this book assigns a single character per class.  For instance, we follow Amiri the Barbarian as she advances from 1st level to 12th level, with stats for 1st level, 7th level, and 12th level.  This was my personal favorite section, as it shows offensive abilities, defensive abilities, tactics, and a stat block.  This shows how a single character can develop.

There are three appendices: Animal Companions, Encounter Groups, and a class feature index.  The Animal Companion section details possible Druid and/or Ranger animal friends, and even how they might level up themselves.  The Encounter Groups section breaks down various bands of NPC's at low level, mid-level, and high level.  Great for that random encounter.  The Class Features section is merely an index to where the various features can be found.  There's also an index.

I'll start off by saying that originally I was not planning on purchasing a hardcover version of this book.  I usually take my laptop to gaming sessions that I run, and the fine Paizo PDF of this book was all I thought I needed.  But the PDF convinced me that the hardcover version was useful - especially when planning the next adventure at home.  I would like to urge Pathfinder GM's still sitting on the fence trying to decide if they want one to take a look at one and see what a great job Paizo is still doing, especially with their hardcovers.

Highly Recommended - especially for GM's.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: Tome of Horrors 1

 Extraordinary Collection of Creatures

"Tome of Horrors" by Scott Greene, published and distributed by Necromancer Games.

This massive 328 page sourcebook simply contains over 400 monsters for 3rd edition D&D.

The very short introduction has only three pages, a Credits page, a good Table of Contents, and a Preface.

One - The Monsters.  There's an entire menangerie of critters, from Adherers to Zombies.  Many were adapted from earlier editions of the D&D rules, most from first edition.  Altogether, they take up the vast majority of the bulk of this tome.  Everything from page 4 to page 285 is creatures.  That's 281 pages of crunchy goodness.  And almost all of them never appeared in other versions of D&D nil much later.  There's also a small drawing of each.

Appendix A - Animals.  These are just a few ordinary normal animals translated into 3rd edition.  There are only nine of these.

Appendix B - Templates.  There are only twelve of these, but they give creative GM's 12 different templates to apply to any other creature in the book. 

Appendix C - Snakes.  This small section gives a list of poisonous snakes and their stats.

Appendix D - Challenge Ratings.  Lists all the monsters in the book by Challenge Rating - not alphabetically.

All of the entries have a "credit" section which identifies the original creator and where the creature first appeared.  All entries are simply alphabetical, which means, for instance, that you needn't look for "Yellow Musk Zombies" under the letter "Z", but under "Y" for Yellow Musk Zombie.  All Giants and Golems are under "G".  This is the beginning of a three book set of Tome of Horrors.  I'm not even real sure of where they came up with enough creations to fill two more books, as I think this one is rather complete.  The only disadvantage to this book is that it uses D&D 3.0 stats.  There is a revised version using 3.5 stats, as well as a massive magnum opus of the "Tome of Horrors Complete Unlimited" that presents Pathfinder stats.

As it is, I wish I could give this more than the five stars possible.  It would serve any good GM as a powerful monster manual type reference.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Lean and Hungry

Not So Lean After All...

"Lean and Hungry" by Chad Brouillard, published by Penumbra and distributed by Atlas Games.

This 64 page adventure module is for characters from 4th to 6th level.

The Introduction includes the basics of what came before, customizing the module for your campaign, and a bit about the module.

Part One, "A City Besieged", includes getting to the city, getting in the city, some info about a local shrine, and heading into the adventure.

Part Two, "The Barbarian Raiders", includes the first encounter - composed of barbarian raiders, and a strange encounter with those nomads.

Part Three, "The Field of Combat", includes an encounter with terracotta soldiers, as well as a probable battle between the PC's and a new monster (or two - or few - or many).

Part Four, "The Ancient Kofun", includes a map of the pyramid the players will have to search, a curse that the players may be exposed to, and an encounter with an ancient alchemist.

Part Five, "And They All Lived", simply ties loose ends together (and leaves several more for GM's to fill out), and gives a rewards table.

Appendix One, "New NPC Classes", gives some info on a new NPC class called "The Criminal", and more info on a new NPC class called "The Faithful".

Appendix Two, "Characters", has module specific NPC's of both types - Villagers and Barbarians as well as Relic Seekers and a new monster.

The heavy Oriental/Asian flavor of this module may be difficult for GM's to place in their world if they do not already have an Oriental/Asian themed area on their world already, or if the PC's aren't anywhere near that area.  Filing off the serial numbers to create a non-oriental flavor would be daunting.  There are a few new magical items, new spells, new potions, and other things the GM may want to look at before using this module.  The two new classes are best used as NPC's.

I'd say this module deserves at least a look-see if interested - even if you're looking for a one shot deal.  Another good product from Penumbra.

Review: In the Belly oif the Beast

Trust is the Last Resort

"In the Belly of the Beast" by Mike Mearls, published by Penumbra and distributed by Atlas Games.

This slim 32 page adventure module is for characters from 2nd to 4th level.

Part One, "Introduction", includes customizing the module for your fantasy world, and a bit about the module.

Part Two, "The Story So Far", has a cast of NPC's broken down into various groups and then some info on each group.

Part Three, "The Setup", includes the main module hook, as well as a couple alternate hooks, and the beginning of the PC's mission.

Note: Part three is divided by an eight page "tear-out" section with a map, a combat table, 11 cards containing details on various NPC's, and a 12th card of a note to the PC's.

Part Four, "Into the Beast", contains the "meat and potatoes" of the module, and has nine events that all take place "In the Belly of the Beast".

Part Five, "Loose Ends", has several ways for creative GM's to extend the adventure beyond a simple module.

Although there is an 8 page pull out of stuff, the remaining 24 pages have a great deal of secondary info which may be useful to a GM if planning further adventures in the area.  The Combat Table was a nice touch.  A small "rewards" block gives ideas on possible XP.  The weird thing about this module is the fact that the party ends up deciding that - well, I better not reveal the ending...

I'd say this module deserves at least a look-see if interested - even if you're looking for a one shot deal.  Another good product from Penumbra.