Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stormhaven - A city needing more info...

"Stormhaven" by Patrick Younts, published and distributed by Mongoose Publishing.

ISBN = 1-903980-22-4.  MGP # 5002.

Quick Look-see:
01) Introduction
02) Stormhaven - Overview
03) Upside - Castles in the Sky
04) Driftdowns - Pillars of Broken Dreams
05) Sailors, Soldiers, and Scoundrels
06) Sailor's Tales
07) OGL

Part 01 - Introduction.  The intro includes a one page short story, and a short intro to the book.

Part 02 - Stormhaven - Overview.  Looks at the history of Stormhaven, but leaves important background info for the GM to play with - if they want to.  There's a look at Stormhaven today, including local government, outside nations, the military, festivals, religion, and magic.

Part 03 - Upside.  A term sometimes used for Upside is "Castles in the Sky".  Upside includes a look at the "World Disk", "The Black Crown" - a place where scholars of the arcane of all types meet, The Staircase District, the Noble's Quarter, the Warehouse District, the Government District, and The Rat's Nest.

Part 04 - Driftdowns.  Far below the World Disk, lies the Driftdowns, a collection of less-fortunate souls.  Important Neighborhoods include: The Central Piers, the Dockyards, the Sailor's Sleep quarter, the Driftwood Kingdoms, and the Underdocks.

Part 05 - Sailors, Soldiers, and Scoundrels.  A few important NPC's are here, as well as five organizations, and some short info on Driftdown area guards.

Part 06 - Sailor's Tales.  This is a very short section on various rumors and legends, as well as 2 new feats, 2 new spells, and 3 new magic items.

Part 07 - OGL.  The usual Open Gaming License.

This is the second in a fairly short series from Mongoose called "Cities of Fantasy".  Mongoose has used almost every open space for info on Stormhaven.  The rather basic maps of both Upside and Driftdowns is on the inside front cover, and on the inside back cover are basic diagrams of Rat's Nest Rowhouses. an Embassy, a typical pub, a typical Driftdown Apartment building, a typical Driftwatch Storefront, a look at a basic rendering of a Fire Tower, and a diagram of Driftwatch Station. 

When they say in the intro that Stormhaven is "ripe for a game master's customization", they aren't kidding.  Stormhaven suffers from the same 64 page limitations as its earlier predecessor, "Skraag".  Some thought appears to have been given for this, but the solutions Mongoose found just aren't big enough for a book detailing a whole city.  I thought all of it could use a little more fleshing out - maybe even enough for a 128 page book.  There just doesn't seem to be enough info to "just drop" this city into your campaign.  Having said that, though, I still think enterprising GM's could supply this city with enough to last a hundred adventures.  Only three stars from me, although I =might= have given it four if it had been even 80 pages.  Not for Players.

Skraag - City of Orcs

"Skraag" by Wil Upchurch, published and distributed by Mongoose Publishing.
ISBN = 1-903980-15-1.  MGP # 5001.

Quick Look-see:
01) Introduction
02) City History
03) Government
04) Ecology
05) Daily Life
06) Commerce
07) Religion
08) Defences
09) City Tour
10) Movers and Shakers
11) Skraag in your Campaign
12) OGL

Part 01 - Introduction.  The intro includes a one page short story, and a short intro to the book.

Part 02 - History.  A look at the former inhabitants of Skraag, how they were driven out, rebuilding Skraag, what happened after the first rebuilding, and the present day.

Part 03 - Government.  The current leaders of Skraag, their opposition, a new Prestige Class, and penalties for various crimes.

Part 04 - Ecology.  Food and water supplies, and shelter.

Part 05 - Daily Life.  One new Feat, and a two page summary of daily life.

Part 06 - Commerce.  A one page summary of Skraag commerce.

Part 07 - Skraag Religion.  Including one church, one cult, two new Prestige Classes, one new creature, one new spell, and the former High Shaman of Skraag.

Part 08 - Defences.  The Orc Horde, and factions within it, four Skraag siege weapons, four new spells, and the Skraag guard forces.

Part 09 - Tour of the City.  12 major city attractions, two new creatures, and a generic map of Skraag.

Part 10 - Movers and Shakers.  Nine major NPC's, a look at the opposition forces, a few other NPC's, and another new Prestige Class.

Part 11 - Skraag in Your Campaign.  Campaign and scenario ideas, including a couple example scenarios.

Part 12 - OGL.  The usual Open Gaming Licence,

This is the first in a fairly short series from Mongoose called "Cities of Fantasy". Life is short and not very precious in Skraag.  This 64 page book is nowhere near big enough to squeeze in what probably needed to be there.  I felt that all of the sections could have been fleshed out a little better.  They really needed a better map of Skraag (look at what passes for a map on page 45). Putting Skraag in your campaign may require a little bit more tweaking.  However, there are some really good ideas on how a Orc city would operate without tearing each other limb from limb.  GM's should at least look at this book if possible, Players don't really need it.  Only three stars this time - I =might= have given it four if it had a much better map of Skraag.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Undead" by various, published and distributed by Alderac Entertainment Group.

ISBN = 1-887953-39-6  AEG # 8504

Quick Look-see:


Part 1 - That Which Cannot Live
01) The Land Beyond Death
02) Why Seek Undeath
03) The Hammer of Faith
04) Controlling the World

Part 2 - Hunters of the Dead
05) New Skill
06) New Uses for Old Skills
07) New Feats
08) 14 New Prestige Classes
09) Undead Hunter's Kit

Part 3 - Beyond the Flesh
10) Worshipping Death
11) Lords of Death
12) New Domains
13) New Spells
14) New Magic Items
15) New Artifacts

Part 4 - More than Flesh
16) Undead Archetypes

Part 5 - Beyond the Pale
17) Undead Campaigns

Part 6 - Secrets of Undeath
18) Liches
19) Mummies

Part 7 - OGL
20) OGL

The intro is a one page short story.

In Part One, is an overview of undeath, a few pages about why some seek undeath, a look at faith among the undead, and a couple pages about how to control the world from beyond the grave.

In Part Two, there is one new skill, Craft (Autopsy), and a few new uses for old skills. There are 14 new prestige classes, including Wastelands Druid, Unbeating Heart, Sacred Theurgist, Risen, Raider, Puppet, Paladin of the Pale, Knight of the Eternal Eye, Hunter of the Fallen, Faith Hunter, Exorcist, Dying, Chirurgeon, and Champion of the Dead. There's also a description of a basic undead hunter's kit.

In Part Three, there are two pages about the soul's journey and worshipping the dead, a bit about the Lords of Death, including the domains available from those deities, 13 domains and the spells available from each domain, 19 new spells, 12 new magic items, and 7 new artifacts.

In Part Four, there are 8 new archetypes, including The Avenging, Free Ghouls, Ghostly Advisors, Guardian Mummies, Mad Wraiths, Power Hungry Liches, Vampires, and Zombie Servitors.

In Part Five, this book looks at the possibility of having an entire campaign based solely of undead PC's.

In Part Six, there are many details of Liches and many details of Mummies.

In Part Seven, there is nothing except the usual Open Game License.

This 128 page book is jam-packed with info about many types of undead, and how to add them to a campaign.  With the exception of the 10 pages of unusual ideas about a PC based undead campaign, this book can serve up really detailed undead of various types.  The fourteen new Prestige Classes give quite a bit of flexibility to GM's hungry for more than the basic info on undead, and since most of the new Prestige Classes are meant to be monsters at worst, or evil NPC's at best, the section of new Prestige Classes gives many ways to beef up the usual horde of skeletons.  The larger section of info about Liches is very useful, as is the larger section on Mummies.  There are illustrations throughout the book.  All in all, I'd say that this is another great effort by Alderac - I bought one, and GM's should at least take a good look at it.  Four Star recommendation.

Friday, May 24, 2013

"Gladiators" by Matthew Sprange, published and distributed by Mongoose Publishing.

ISBN = 1-903980-05-4  MGP # 2001

Quick Look-see:


Part 1 - Arenas and Campaigns
01) Overview of the Arena
02) Races of the Spectacle
03) The Arenas
04) The Gladiator Campaign

Part 2 - Gladiatorial Combat
05) Characters of the Arena
06) Gladiatorial Feats
07) Types of Matches
08) Fame, Mercy, and the Crowd
09) Chariots
10) Exotic Weaponry
11) Dirty Tricks of the Sands

Part 3 - Sands of Death
12) Sands of Death
13) Sample Gladiators
14) Designer's Notes
15) OGL
16) Rules Summary

The intro is a two page short story and a short bit about the book.

In Part One, they have an overview of the arena in general, another bit about why they are built, a few paragraphs about gladiators in general, another short section on Stable Masters (the controllers of the slaves), a very short look at managers and contracts, some info on the crew of the arena, another section on the crowd, and a bit about smaller arenas. Races of the Spectacle include: Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Halflings, Goblinoids, Orcs, Half-Orcs, and other races.  Arenas include Pit Fights as well as larger outdoor arenas.  Outdoor arenas are split up into smaller and larger venues.  Finally, in The Gladiator Campaign section, there are thoughts about a gladiatorial based campaign, including a few plot hooks. 

In Part Two, they look at characters of the arena, including a new character class of Slave, the Gladiatorial Champion character class, the Beast Handler character class, and the Charioteer character class. Then there are new feats, info on types of matches, Sacrificial Games, blind fighting, and mounted entertainment, including Chariots and Jousts.  There's also a short section devoted to fame and mercy.  In addition, there are a few pages devoted to Chariots and how they operate, another couple of pages on exotic weaponry, and finally some dirty tricks Gladiators need to watch out for - or use.

In Part Three, they create a whole mini-game to use either in a regular role playing game campaign, or, believe it or not, as a stand alone product. There are rules for running "The Sands of Death", including some sample Gladiators. If you've ever had the desire to portray a "Stable Master", with gladiators under your control, this is the section for you. Finally there's the usual OGL, a rules summary, and a sample Stable Master's record sheet.

Although this is an 80 page book, I found the section on "The Sands of Death" almost useless, and it takes up 15 pages, including the inside back cover.  However, the sample Gladiators, of which there are 15, might be useful as either PC's or NPC's.  In addition, there are no diagrams or maps of any type of arena.  These two flaws, which I consider major, are the reason I'm only awarding this book three stars.  Had there been, maybe, even one good diagram/map of an arena, I =might= have give it four.  In this case, I'd say to stay away unless you =really= want to add Gladiators to your campaign.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

What's =your= fate?


Those of you who know me well, know that I usually do not accept advertising for my blog.  I'm just here to have fun and tell people about my adventures in the Gamers Circus.  But this time, I have a cause to parrot.  Evil Hat Productions, the current holder of the "FATE" rules for RPG's (a sub-set of the FUDGE rules)  is doing two Kickstarter programs for their company.  The first is to eventually release a hardcover book for the FATE core rules.  This Kickstarter has already completed, with an initial goal of only $3,000 and exceeded its goal by having $433,365 pledged.  With that kind of support, they went ahead and started a second Kickstarter for FATE dice.  The FATE dice Kickstarter is still going on (at this writing only 61 hours left!).  Although they have successfully exceeded their initial goal, two "stretch" goals remain, both of which I would like to own.  At this time, they are at $56,407, and need to get to $60K to "unlock" the "Leather and Brass" set, and need to get to $70K to got to the "Eldritch" set.  I would especially like them to reach both of these goals.  If you would like to pledge to this cause please use the following URL (=none= of which goes to me!):

Fate Dice™: Dice For Your Fate & Fudge Games

Please, if you use either FATE or FUDGE, consider pledging enough to buy a set (or two...).  And with FATE Core coming out "real soon now", if you don't use FATE or FUDGE, you'll have a chance to look at it in the stores.  Then you'll have a reason to buy a set (or three...). 

Bruce Gray

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Could this be the best RPG Atlas ever?

"Kingdoms of Kalamar Atlas" by various, published and distributed by Kenzer and Company.
ISBN = 1-889182-63-X  K&C # 1005

Quick Look-see:

1) Brandobia
2) Kalamar
3) The Young Kingdoms
4) The Wild Lands
5) Reanaaria Bay
6) Svimohzia
Appendix A: Geographical Abstracts
Appendix B: Pronunciation Guide
Appendix C: Land Types
Appendix D: Languages
Appendix E: Geographic Features
Appendix F: Primary Population Centers

Introduction: Features of the book, a map reference, and a map symbol key.

Chapter 1: Brandobia: From page 7 to page 36, nothing but maps of the Brandobian area. Also includes a small stat block for each map.

Chapter 2: Kalamar: From page 37 to page 58, nothing but maps of the Kalamar Kingdom area. Also includes a small stat block for each map.

Chapter 3: The Young Kingdoms: From page 59 to page 76, nothing but maps of the Young Kingdoms. Also includes a small stat block for each map.

Chapter 4: The Wild Lands: From page 77 to page 94, nothing but maps of the Wild Lands. Also includes a small stat block for each map.

Chapter 5: Reanaaria Bay: From page 95 to page 114, nothing but maps of the Reanaaria Bay area. Also includes a small stat block for each map.

Chapter 6: Svimohzia: From page 115 to page 146, nothing but maps of the Island of Svimozia and surrounding area. Also includes a small stat block for each map.

Appendix A: Geographical Abstracts: A look at Trade Routes, Ocean Currents, Wind Currents, Precious Metal Deposits, Utilitarian Metal Deposits, Industry, Fishing Herding and Ranching, Grain Production, Military Deployments, and a strange map of the continent.

Appendix B: Pronunciation Guide: How to pronounce the weird names found in this book.

Appendix C: Land Types: Everything from mountains, to prairies, to tropical forests.

Appendix D: Languages: A complete list of languages spoken on the planet, an untranslated word, and the translation.

Appendix E: Geographic Features: A list of geographical features in the kingdom, and where they are, both in the Atlas and in the book(s) they appear in.

Appendix F: Primary Population Centers: In alphabetical order by town name. This reference chart shows the population, the country, the Atlas page number, and the latitude and longitude.  THis is the longest of the appendixes, as it covers even smaller villages.

Folks, here is almost a master work of Atlases.  240 pages of the entire Kingdom of Kalamar, and there's enough blank areas to fulfil any GM's desires for customization.  I use Kingdoms of Kalamar reference materials for my campaign.  (P.S.: Geanavue and Loona are on page 45. :-).  The map stat blocks provide names of included cities and population.  The trade route section shows both sea routes and land routes.  There's even some small pictures of the various land types.  If you play using Kingdom of Kalamar info, then you should at least look at the Atlas.  If you are a Kingdoms of Kalamar GM, this book is almost indispensable.  I don't give out 5 star reviews often, but this one deserves it.  One of my highest recommendations.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's a feat just to have this many Feats

"Feats" by Jim Pinto, published and distributed by Alderac Entertainment Group.

ISBN = 1-887953-73-6  AEG # 8515

Quick Look-see:

1) Background Feats
2) General Feats
3) Infernal Pacts
4) Magic Feats
5) Quest Feats

Introduction: A single page overview for how to use this book, and why these feats were chosen.

Chapter 1: Background Feats: Covers feats from Academy through Wealth.  Includes many 'Bloodgift' feats which should only be given out one per player.

Chapter 2: General Feats: Covers such feats as Acrobatics through Zen Swordsmanship.  The largest section in this book.

Chapter 3: Infernal Pacts: These feats, covering a small range from Claws/Fangs to Wishes, are only made by making the infamous 'pact with the devil'.  Most are fairly powerful and should be limited, if used at all.

Chapter 4: Magic Feats: From 'Above the Law' (which isn't what you think), through Wyld Transformation, most of these are for various types of spellcasters.  Metamagic, Item Creation, and others are in this section.

Chapter 5: Quest Feats: These powerful feats should only be awarded at the end of a difficult quest.  These skulls include some from Absolute Faith to Weapon of Pride.

Appendix: There's only about half-a-dozen weird feats here, use only for a good laugh..... :-)

This compendium includes well over 1,000 feats, over 200 of which are brand new to this book.  As an example, there's over 100 feats just for spellcasters.  The Background, and especially the Bloodgift Feats can really help to flesh out character creation.  The large General Feats category does not have many class or race distinctions.  Some of the Infernal Pacts even require an XP cost to the player.  The Magic Feats category is the aforementioned one for spellcasters.  Quest Feats may even give a creative GM new ideas for further adventures.  Altogether, quite a reference source for any GM.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

An Expert Look at Experts

"Experts 3.5" by various, published and distributed by Skirmisher Publishing.
ISBN = 0-9722511-9-7  SKP # 0502

Quick Look-see:

Forward by Gary Gygax
1) Craftsmen
2) Entertainers
3) Professionals
4) Scholars
5) Tradesmen

Here, purports to be a through look at the often neglected Expert class, which is only briefly described in the DMG.  Let's open the book and see what we discover.

Forward: A two page praise for what Skirmisher has done with this book.

Acknowledgments: A two page list of thank yous for people helping with the book.

Introduction: A 10 page overview for how to use this book, including a new PC class: The Specialist.

Chapter 1: Craftsmen: Various details about Craftsmen, including: Armorer, Blacksmith, Brewer, Jeweler, Sculptor, Shipwright, Stonemason, Taxidermist, and Weaponmaker.  Many good facts about the craft-related jobs included.

Chapter 2: Entertainers: Various details about entertainers such as: Minstrels, Actors, Acrobats, Clowns, Courtesans, Opera Divas, Balladeers, Mimes, Skalds, Jongleurs, Poets, and Storytellers.  Specifics only given on Acrobat, Actor, and Courtesan, but there's a page detailing other types of performances.

Chapter 3: Professionals: Various details about Professionals such as: Barristers, Cartographer, Engineers, Architects, Navigators, and Physicians.  Engineers and Architects are grouped together.  There's also a short list of Medicinal Compounds.

Chapter 4: Scholars: Various details about Scholars such as: Alchemist, Archaeologist, Astronomer, Sage, and Scribe.  There's also a section on Alchemical Elixirs.

Chapter 5: Tradesmen: Various details about Tradesmen such as: Animal Trainers, Exterminators, Guides, Merchants, Millers, Miners, Sailors, Slavers, and Undertakers.  There's also a chart for value of slaves. 

Appendix 1: Prestige Classes: New Prestige classes for players include the Guildmaster, the Militia Leader, and the Spellcrafter.  The usual tables are given for each.

Appendix 2: New Skills: A large number of new skills, primarily intended for the Experts within this book.

Appendix 3: New Feats: A couple pages of new Feats, primarily intended for the Experts within this book.

Appendix 4: Sample Characters: 30 new people to populate your campaign with.

Appendix 5: New Magic Items: 21 new magic items, some of which might be found in the possession of an expert.

Appendix 6: Guilds: Some tables for local guilds and a short guide to guilds in game.

Appendix 7: Costs: A very general guide to costs, and a random cost table.

Appendix 8: Expert XP: One page guide to awarding NPC's some XP.

Appendix 9: Expert Work Areas: Some great ideas on where Experts would

Appendix 10: Open Game License

This list isn't anywhere near as comprehensive as it could be.  Yes, there are a =lot= of appendixes.  There is a lot of material in the 10 appendixes that compliments the main material.  A good GM could also derive even more experts than the ones in the book.  Since this is the first book to expand upon the limited info in the DMG, I, for one, was glad to see this 176 page tome.  The New Skills appendix really helped me flesh out major NPC's.  It also could serve as a way to show newer GM's that their NPC's deserve XP, too.  The fully fleshed out NPC Characters show what would happen if somebody utilized the new Expert abilities.  Appendix 9 even has a couple maps that could be used in a campaign.  Altogether, a very worthwhile purchase for any GM.