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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Jubal D'tirn, The Fool's Champion (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/18/2013 20:42:40
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=32274.

He’s just a good ole’ boy trying to gain glory. When he isn’t fighting gladiatorial battles in the Coliseum, he passes his time in a tent made of animal hides plying his trade as a taxidermist. His unintended slight of the Kahn has led to his possession of a cursed weapon. What’s not to like about this guy?

OVERALL

Yet another solid product for Rite Publishing’s Faces of the Tarnished Souk. With Jubal D’tirn, I felt like he was a little closer to a normal person than many of the other faces in the Tarnished Souk (if such a thing is possible). I see a guy who isn’t bad at fighting, but made a simple mistake that could cost him his life. It’s funny, but we all know someone similar to Jubal: a person who isn’t completely out of the game, but if one little thing had happened differently they might be on top of the world.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 7 out of 10
I’m going to ding Rite Publishing on this one, because at this stage of the game there is no reason they should have editing problems. I know no one is perfect, but if I can catch some editing mistakes, then someone else in the food chain should have done the same thing. The cover art for this book is great and because of the small amount of actual pictures, I wasn’t as turned off by Rite Publishing’s use of the reverse white and black or what I call the photo negative quality in the pictures. I am still not a fan of Rite’s extensive use of stock art, but by presenting it in this manor they gave a few pictures a second lease on life. The graphics for the Enraged Giant Hellhound were actually saved by the reversal of white and black.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
I often complain or at least mention how complex some of the NPCs from the Tarnished Souk are. With this product, I tried to put that aside and look at Jubil as a plot device and what he could do for me as a GM. When I shifted my previously narrow view, what I was able to see was a versatile and modular NPC that, for some reason, seemed even more real than some of the other faces from the Souk. There is quite a bit of good advice on how to integrate Jubal into your game and ways to use his powers. I would have loved to have even more information on good ideas for making Jubal come to life, but in no way did I feel like I was left hanging.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
Souk tested, player approved. Because of the folksy vibe I got from Jubal, he really could be used as an interesting NPC, especially at his lower levels. His story is compelling and with minor tweaks I could see Jubal as the taxidermist in a town or even a decent sized village. Some of the magic items introduced in this supplement are really interesting and would add some real excitement to most games.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Editing problems aside, Jubal D’tirn, The Fool’s Champion is one of those NPCs you kind of love to hate. I actually don’t think he would be a bad guy to hang out with. I would rather not be on the receiving end of his sword, even if it is cursed. I could see Jubal being the kind of recurring character that would produce tons of plot hooks and dynamic interactions. This supplement is worth the money don’t be a fool, be a champion and learn more about Jubal D’tirn.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Jubal D'tirn, The Fool's Champion (PFRPG)
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API Worldwide: South America
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/15/2013 20:48:10
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=32063.

Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. is set within the United States in the core rulebook. Third Eye Games expands the game’s options and territories by presenting these API WorldWide sourcebooks. South America does what the title says, presents new options for those wishing to take their game to South America. However, instead of just presenting you with a new location, South America introduces new species and conflicts that further expand the Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. canon. This method of releasing products does two things: Expands the setting of API and introduces uniqueness throughout the world whereas one location doesn’t simply feel like another in terms of how the history of the area, from an API perspective, unfolded.

OVERALL

I really like the API WorldWide sourcebooks, and truly appreciate their uniqueness regarding the overall Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. canon. One thing prevalent throughout is how the fluff and mechanics are flavored to match the setting, in this case South America and the Amazon. If you want to extend your games into South America, this is the best way to do it.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
API WorldWide: South America is a good looking book. It is not without editing errors and possible tweaks to illustration sizing, but overall it is a high-quality publication with excellent artwork and a clean layout and format. It follows the standards previously presented in API books and executes that standard appropriately.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The mechanics of API WorldWide: South America is where this book truly shines. Not just because they give you new options, but because they take the fluff content and translate them well into in-game mechanics, again all flavored to match the setting. It’s always nice to have new options, but it feels much more cohesive to have those new options completely match the flavor of the setting from which they originate.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
API WorldWide: South America does a fantastic job of extending the game’s setting into South America. This presents a lot more fluff and conflict opportunities. Even without using the new in-game mechanics, much of the source content can be incorporated into games within other continents should the organizations within South America decide to branch out to other areas. It truly is an all-encompassing book.

Overall: 9 out of 10
API WorldWide: South America is a definite value-add to Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. If only for the extension of the game’s canon, you can further flesh out your own campaigns by introducing new elements coming from South America. Otherwise, you can take your came to a completely different location and place the PCs within the heart of the Amazon, for whatever reason. Sourcebooks like this really grow the overall options of the game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
API Worldwide: South America
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Oriental Interiors
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/14/2013 21:15:14
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=32046.

Oriental Interiors is a beautiful battlemap that accurately captures the feel of iconic oriental adventuring environments. There are nine locations, with each one representing a classic spot where intrigue and martial arts are equally likely to occur.

OVERALL

Oriental Interiors allows the players to have an excellent oriental role-playing experience, whether set in a contemporary or fantasy environment. The maps include two small homes, a moneylender/money exchanger, a street side food stand, two shops side by side (one selling books and portraits, with meals and drinks on the other side), three shops side by side with a warehouse behind them for storing stock (futons, containers, and fruits), a dojo, an exclusive soba diner, an upstairs area with styling similar to the soba diner, and a mill with a waterwheel and a creek. Each map is presented with Hex, Square and No-overlay versions; you will need to check which pages these are to save printing unwanted pages.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
DramaScape has released a perfect set of locations for enjoying the feel of oriental adventures. The square-grid, hex-grid, and gridless versions of each location are extremely well represented. In addition to a full set of overhead maps, there are a series of profile images that allow players to see what the room might look like when entered. I am deeply impressed by the quality of this product.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
This map constitutes a set of perfectly rendered locations. The coloration is vibrant, with thin black lines for the square and hex grid that allow perfect positioning without detracting from the visual experience. Each location has a variety of well-crafted features that lend authenticity to the setting.

Desire to Use: 9 out of 10
To be honest, I rarely run oriental-based adventures, but this set of maps has changed my stance! Oriental Interiors is the perfect place for major misunderstandings involving shady organized crime syndicates, ninjas, high-flying martial arts escapades, or a harmonious tea ceremony interrupted by Things From Beyond. What you get is a full set of oriental locations that are ready for adventure!

Overall: 10 out of 10
Oriental Interiors is an excellent addition to your fantasy or pulp environments and another quality piece from DramaScape. By providing a wide assortment of locations perfectly keyed to the oriental feel, Oriental Interiors allows the Game Master to run the full oriental adventure experience with a full set of tactical options, whether the characters are having a nice meal with allies or tearing up the rice mill while battling the local crime lord.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Oriental Interiors
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Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/12/2013 20:39:56
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=31014.

From the best of the best in the industry, comes an eight-island, five-adventure anthology of exploration and swashbuckling encounters with the unknown. Journeys to the West expands the Midgard Campaign Setting across the sea, where new wonders and dangers lurk.

OVERALL

Journeys To The West, was a Kickstarter project that Kobold Quarterly usually hosts twice a year to allow fans to determine what they should work on. Boy did those who supported this project get their money’s worth! Journeys to The West, is something that all publishers, writers and designers of RPGs should read. But if you are just a general gamer, this is the product for you as well. If you are not a proud owner already, get a copy, it awaits you!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: The layout is clean, simple and gorgeous! They layout items in the same fashion as Paizo Publishing when it comes to locations, archetypes, items, etc. It makes navigating rather simple.

Ease of Mobility: The bookmarks are off a bit, but not by much, add to the fact that it is done in a style in which players can easily reference a section, compensates for that. Transferring to mobile is nice and light, without losing the quality of the file. But this is a product that needs to be printed, and sat on a gaming table!

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Mechanically, it is a fairly sound product. After reading Dragons of the Empire the traits in this one, kind of aren’t as WOW as that supplement book, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
This product, is one of those turning point supplements for the Midgard Series. It not only expands the world to another place, but it allows for many more new adventures to come! What I love about this supplement, is that it creates new opportunities through the adventures to allow players the opportunity to expand the game to all these new locations!

Overall: 10 out of 10
It’s a great product and for those of you who kickstarted it to make it a reality, thank you. This is a product that Pathfinder fans will love forever.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Journeys to the West (Pathfinder RPG)
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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Smiles-Under-the-Bed (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/11/2013 23:08:22
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=31579.

Now they’ve done it! Rite Publishing has statted out the Cheshire Cat. Well not exactly the Cheshire Cat that you would expect interacting with Johnny Depp, gracing a classic Disney movie, or even in the twisted pages of Mr. Carroll’s novel. I mean at no time were the versions of the Cheshire Cat that Hollywood and literature have given us described as a mangy grey feline that is always hacking and mewling, appearing old and sick. Yes That famous Cheshire Cat and Smiles-Under-the-Bed are both unhinged, but Smiles-Under-the-Bed crushes dreams and ushers in nightmares of the highest order!

OVERALL

Minus the gimmicky (completely Cheshire Cat) magic item, this was a concise, well done product. Smiles-Under-the-Bed is a bit limited in use outside of the Souk, but still makes for a nasty NPC that will make you feel like you’ve stepped on a cold hairball with bare feet in the middle of the night.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
This series is well branded and established and Rite Publishing is smart to stick with that formula. My gripe as usual is their use of stock art when there are thousands of artists out there looking for publishing credits. The cover looks original, but I feel like the cover art for Smiles-Under-the-Bed could have broken the traditional cover format and showed her in either form or transitioning between the two. The rest of the book minus the stock art is top notch and has progressed in quality well beyond the size and budget that Rite Publishing has.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Still complex and deadly; anything with a CR 19 is going to be hard to run. Smiles-Under-the-Bed is much more manageable at her lowest level but the addition of several templates can fade into the background and be overlooked in the heat of battle if a GM is not careful.

Value Add: 8 out of 10
Because Smiles-Under-the-Bed is so dream focused, her use outside of the Souk is more limited than some other Faces that Rite Publishing has produced. Smiles-Under-the-Bed has a reclusive nature that, if not played properly, could cause her to become a “break only in case of high level encounter” kind of NPC. To be honest I don’t think I would like to deal with Smiles-Under-the-Bed in any situation.

Overall: 9 out of 10
It is good to see the Cheshire Cat statted out and made into an Emo, Grunge, highly deadly, nightmare of a creature. If they hadn’t made a new magic item that creates a floating smile, I don’t think I would have rated this higher. I understand the homage, but it came off a little cheesy. Smiles-Under-the-Bed is the last thing you want to run into in a dark alley in the realm of dreams!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Smiles-Under-the-Bed (PFRPG)
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Wagons Roll
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/07/2013 20:32:35
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=31790.

Wagons Roll is a more of a set of accessories than a battlemap, though there are pages with sections that form long streets or trail segments for encounters. There are also a number of wagons, horses, cattle, and various objects that might be encountered on the road. The first two images show what all of the terrain pieces look like together at a smaller scale, followed by the individual pages set at a 1″ equal to 5′ scale. The smaller pieces can be placed on other battlemaps or on the road sections to simulate a variety of situations. What players get, once the sheets are cut out or assembled, is a set of road sections with ample items to cover any sorts of road encounters in either urban or rural environments.

OVERALL

Wagons Roll is an excellent production, allowing the players to have complete road encounters. An wide and interesting variety of items is provided, including horses, cattle, upended wagons, wheels lying on the road, log sections, boulders, and both rural and urban streets upon which to place them. This battlemap can save a lot of time and replace hand-drawn items on other battlemaps with high-quality images that give an excellent tactical feel to overland encounters.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
DramaScape has done an excellent job of sizing the battlemap segments to fit diverse items. It also includes a square-grid and hex-grid version for each image. I’m very picky on sizing of images for battlemaps, and I noticed that the horses were a bit large for the declared 1″ equals 5′ scale, but that’s just me. I went to the trouble of measuring the largest Clydesdale to see how they fit, assuming large draft horses. The largest horses on Earth are just over nine feet in length from nose to tail, while the scale of these makes them 12 to 13 feet in length. So, these are heroic-scale horses. On the bright side, there’s plenty of room on each to conduct a good fencing match! Other than this minor quibble, everything works out very well.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
This map has captured the essence of what sorts of things players expect to see on an overland road encounter, both on urban streets and out in the rural trails. Both the road sections and the objects to be placed on them are extremely well crafted. My own players will soon be facing some of these items in the next convention game, so it’s money well-spent.

Desire to Use: 9 out of 10
I’ll be using this in my next convention run, since I happen to have heroic-scale horses in my game world! Wagons Roll is an excellent product for misunderstandings on the road, or even for pleasant encounters. The construction is such that desired sections can be easily cut out, which is exactly what I’ll be doing shortly. What you get for your money is a full road or trail experience for your fantasy role-playing encounters.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Wagons Roll is an excellent addition to your fantasy or pulp environments and another quality piece from DramaScape. By focusing on visually appealing accessories, Wagons Roll allows the Game Master to the players with high overland adventure with excellent visual quality.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wagons Roll
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Ancient Temple Interior
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/31/2013 20:38:02
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=31789.

Ancient Temple Interior is a dark, dismal battlemap that accurately captures the feel of an ancient holy place. The visual appeal is a matter of textures and a combination of rubble and areas that appear to be actively maintained. This means that you can easily use this battlemap for classic fantasy delves, or for more modern scenarios involving pulp-action characters compelled to discover ancient treasures. The main focus of this battlemap is the ominous environment, combined with features that support many tactical options in a conflict. What players get, once the sheets are assembled, is a 20″ by 48″ main temple, with a secret 7″ x 8″ ritual chamber and treasure area that can be placed against any wall and accessed by a secret door.

OVERALL

Ancient Temple Interior is an excellent map, allowing the players to have the full delving experience. It is complete as a temple, though support areas like kitchens and barracks are not included. There is a raised dais with four sets of steps coming up from each direction, a main hall with pillars, and plenty of room down the length for some spirited archery encounters involving dodging and diving behind obstructions.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
DramaScape has done an excellent job of sizing the battlemap segments across multiple pages. It also includes a square-grid, hex-grid, gridless, and Virtual Tabletop version. I was initially concerned that the overall coloration was too dark but when actually printed, the faint yellow lines of the squares or hexes are easily visible and do not in any way detract from the dark and ancient feel of the environment. Owners of this product can choose where to cut the white edges off so that they can assemble the pieces in a way that allows them to combine seamlessly. My suggestion for the best final result is to laminate the pieces once this decision is made, then use non-permanent double-sided tape on the white edges so that, once assembled, nothing shifts or stains when players get excited and spill their beverages their haste to battle the evil cultists.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
This map has perfectly captured the eerie feeling that should accompany a nice delve into the unknown. The coloration is dark and subtle with torches, broken statues, mystical symbols, and a variety of well-crafted terrain features. It also has a fantastic ancient look, showing that the environment has seen many centuries of holy or unholy ritual.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
I’m using this in my next convention run! Ancient Temple Interior is the perfect place for a major misunderstanding involving the minions of the deities. The size is perfect for one of the standard rectangular tables used in most gaming areas, and the construction is such that the temple can be gradually revealed rather than being assembled all at once for smaller play areas. What you get is a full temple experience whether it is in the age of swords and spells, or pistols and dynamite!

Overall: 10 out of 10
Ancient Temple Interior is an excellent addition to your fantasy or pulp environments and another quality piece from DramaScape. By focusing on the main temple chamber rather than mundane support areas, Ancient Temple Interior allows the Game Master to focus the attention of the characters on high adventure and tactical conflict.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ancient Temple Interior
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Adventure Quarterly #3 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/28/2013 15:10:36
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=31315.

Modules and pre-made adventures drove the RPG industry for years and are a mainstay to this day. Rite Publishing has reached into its stall of great writers and has unleashed their sick little monkey minds to putting their spin on what adventures could and should be.

OVERALL

Rite Publishing has the right idea with Adventure Quarterly #3 and executed it well. Many game developers are reaching back to the good ol’ days where there were a few big game developers that produced these books with soft, thin covers that came out at very specific time intervals and could be found on shelves or racks. One could even arrange to have these magical publications delivered to ones’ dwelling.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The cover of this product is interesting; I would have liked to see the entire cover broken into separate quarters that better reflected the varied contents in this publication. I know it would have made things busy but it would have been cool, even breaking the cover into three sections with a creature, NPC or scene from each of the three adventures would have been kind of neat. As-is, the cover focuses on the first adventure The Red Leaves Enigma by Alex Putnam. Rite Publishing continues their practice of reusing art in the book, a common practice for many RPG developers. There is a much higher amount of color art in this product than I have seen in other Rite Publishing products. In digital form some of the art looks really pixilated. The jury is still out on the maps in this product; they are good enough, but I think some of them might have been better in black and white. The layouts are smooth and the fonts easily readable. The page borders are the standard sepia lion borders that Rite Publishing has used often.

Mechanics/Storyline: 8 out of 10
From the highest to lowest levels, the folks over at Rite Publishing know game mechanics. This is best illustrated in many of Matt Banach’s products that take place on the plane of dreams where several normal rules like gravity are often broken. The folks at Rite Publishing are not afraid to tackle tough situations that would normally cause long discussions at the gaming table, causing a significant loss of gaming time. As a GM I appreciate the way they write these potentially complex rules so that everyday folks can understand and use them. The biggest problem I had with these adventures was the amount of really blatant railroading built into them; with the first adventure The Red Leaves Enigma being the least “on rails.” Banach was the head conductor when it came to the railroading game, but that doesn’t mean the adventures are not mechanically sound or fun to play.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
The three adventures highlighted here should keep a gaming group busy for several gaming sessions at several different stages in their adventuring careers. However, the size of the maps and their lack of scale make it difficult to make them work. The Dungeon Dressings and articles do have a universal gaming appeal, but they are just icing on the Pathfinder adventure cake that this book is.

Overall: 9 out of 10
If you are playing Pathfinder, Adventure Quarterly #3 will definitely give you the most bang for your buck; after all it was designed for Pathfinder. I would like to see Matt Banach step out of the dream realm and see what he can do when players have to have their feet on the ground. I love what he does on the plane of dreams and I understand why he dwells there so much, but I’d like to see a change of pace from him. Dream Harvest really showed me just how much this product needs scaled maps as many of the encounters pre-suppose the use of miniatures. Sealing the Vault by Michael Welham was interesting, but it seemed like it had a back story that couldn’t be fully realized in this short adventure. This is not uncommon in higher level adventures, but I found the writing for this adventure confusing at times as Welham decided to explain what the creature “big boss” at the end had done to get to the end, and while the information was good, it muddied the waters a bit. It should be noted that these adventures rely heavily on possession of Pathfinder Bestiary 2.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Quarterly #3 (PFRPG)
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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Perfect Aneshka, Fate's Immaculate Blade (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/24/2013 14:41:24
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30980.

There are some folks you just don’t mess with even in an RPG. If you are running around the Tarnished Souk then there is a good chance you’ve spent a lot of time and effort making your character awesome. Aneshka could ruin all of your hard earned efforts really quickly: really, really quickly.

OVERALL

Perfect Aneshka is a compelling NPC that I would rather be on the good side of. Like so many of the faces in the Tarnished Souk she has an interesting back story that a fantasy novel could easily be written about. Not surprisingly she has so many traits and talents that make her almost undefeatable and complex to run properly.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Rite Publishing was smart to stick with the black and white for their art on this one. Because of their rampant use of stock art some of their products still come off visually as a bit disjointed. I’m not sure if the cover art inspired the character or if it was the other way around, but no matter how it happened they got this one right. The art is simplistic, yet it still conveys the aesthetic lifestyle that Aneshka leads. Based on the extensive detail, I’m guessing this is original cover art. Not only does it fit her description, but her magical bracers, swords and even her neck tattoo are included. The interior art is stock and the varying styles are a bit of a detractor. The page boarders for this book are typical for the series and work just fine.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Nothing having to do with the Coliseum Morpheuon is ever simple, mechanically speaking, and Banach and Sluder do an outstanding job of making the impossibly complex manageable. When you have a creature/character that is a CR 22 at it’s highest, there is going to be a lot of rules consultation and numbers crunching. This supplement, like many of the others in the series, does a good job of making those things manageable and useable. There is no escaping some of the complexities but their management is done well by Rite Publishing.

Value Add: 8 out of 10
Because of the extensive templates involved with Aneshka, this product is defiantly geared towards the Pathfinder system. Yes, the concept of Perfect Aneshka, Fate’s Immaculate Blade can be used in other settings and systems, but as written no way. Because of her powers and abilities, Aneshka must be used very carefully. I would compare her to an unlocked loaded gun; not dangerous just sitting there, but could be game changing in the wrong or even the right hands. If you are running a game that has anything to do with Pathfinder, the Tarnished Souk or even extra planer travel, then Aneshka is a good character to use.

Overall: 9 out of 10
FoTS: Perfect Aneshka, Fate’s Immaculate Blade is yet another well thought-out, well-edited and high quality product. It remains complex and full of crunchiness but that does not mean it isn’t a great product. The Tarnished Souk is a deadly place and the addition of characters like Aneshka just re-enforce that fact.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Perfect Aneshka, Fate's Immaculate Blade (PFRPG)
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World of Darkness Rulebook
Publisher: White Wolf
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 20:26:37
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30711.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a role-playing fan that doesn’t at least know about the World of Darkness. Many know it’s modern horror and many understand that it serves as the base for many different gothic horror settings published by White Wolf. However, there are lots of gamers out there that stay clear of horror games as they prefer epic fantasy or space opera and hesitate when they can’t simply kill the main antagonist (a common feature in horror gaming). Even though the World of Darkness, new and old, has been around for quite some time and many reviews have been written, I’m going to focus more on those who don’t really know about The World of Darkness and the Storytelling system and what it has to offer.

The World of Darkness presents a world much like our own, but where nasty creatures of horror and gothic horror fame lurk in the shadows or terrify people at night. It is not an alternate history whereas something in the timeline has changed, it just presents a more horrific version of the world that we know. The core rulebook presents the modern world with various horrors; other settings may add additional elements or place things in a historical era. However, the core rulebook is strictly modern and serves as the base mechanics for World of Darkness settings. Using only the core rulebook, characters are human and have standard human qualities and abilities (albeit maybe better than others). Other settings introduce supernatural concepts and abilities, but for this core rulebook, it’s all standard humans.

With this in mind, the stories to be told are not going to be like epic fantasy or space opera. They are not going to be filled with mind-blowing combat or extraordinary feats of unnatural abilities. They are most likely going to resemble modern horror stories and movies, investigation thrillers, or any number of feasible media that depicts humans in a modern environment, albeit with a horrific flair. The focus here is more on the story including how the characters immerse themselves within that story and how the story resolves. Another thing to keep in mind is the separation of The World of Darkness and the Storytelling system. The World of Darkness is the underlying setting used abroad for the core book and the setting guides. The Storytelling system is the mechanics that power game-play set in The World of Darkness.

The Storytelling system is a roll-over dice pool whereas a pool of d10s is constructed according to the character’s Attribute + Skill + Equipment with any bonuses or penalties applied. This dice pool is rolled to achieve a number of successes (rolling an 8, 9, or 10) against a static target number according to the difficulty. Target numbers are not floating and are determined according to difficulty, which all players would then be able to translate into the number of successes they need (such as a target number of 5). This is the base mechanic that the entire system is built upon; quite simple if you ask me. Attributes and Skills are listed as dots on a character sheet representing the number of dice you add to the pool being constructed. You could use numbers instead of dots; either way will give you the same result, just shown in a different way. Combining Attributes and Skills is quite dynamic as the two are only linked by general category (Mental, Physical, and Social), but not defined as a combination. In other words, you can combine skills with different attributes to create different effects, resulting in a different task being performed. This is a great way of reducing the number of skills required while maximizing their possible usage. Some systems reduce the number of skills available, but you may be left with wondering what skill applies to a specific task because it’s directly linked to a given attribute (which may not apply to that task).

The Storytelling system is simple, yet powerful and the World of Darkness is an excellent setting. This core rulebook definitely presents a story- and character-focused role-playing game with no shortage of possible horror.

OVERALL

The World of Darkness core rulebook serves as the base mechanics for all of the World of Darkness setting books. There’s enough content in here to run a modern horror game without a setting book, but the Storyteller will have to fill-in the gaps concerning antagonists. The good thing is that horror games don’t need a lot of antagonists like fantasy games do and this shouldn’t be too hard of a task. It’s a fantastic presentation of an excellent game system, but more importantly it presents a setting that is a great representation of modern gothic horror. The World of Darkness, and moreover the Storytelling system, definitely focuses on characters and their uniqueness by giving you mechanics that don’t hamper your creativity. Oh yeah, it’s also a great read, even if you don’t like the mechanics or don’t plan on playing the game; there is no shortage of content that can be extracted to create your own world.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The World of Darkness core rulebook looks fantastic. The layout is simple and effective, the formatting looks great, the majority of the artwork has a great blend of horror and modern-feel to it, and the complete package is pleasing in many regards. It’s a very easy read and I truly appreciate the mixture of narrative and game content.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
The Storytelling system is a solid dice pool system with simple mechanics that can be very flexible. I’m not a huge fan of representing traits using dots, but it definitely drives the point across of how simple using the dice pool can be. As stated before, you can easily convert the dots into a number, but then again dots are easier to fill-in as you go on a character sheet (no need to erase to write a higher number). I’m not particularly impressed with the antagonist list, but then again this book is meant to serve as the base mechanics only, and does that quite well. If you are turned away by the dots, use numbers, and storytellers would do well to look into additional material to flesh out additional antagonists if necessary. Otherwise, I find character creation to be quite flexible allowing you to create virtually any human character imaginable.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
If you compare the Storytelling system to other horror games (such as Call of Cthulhu), you get a lot of the same principles regarding how those systems view characters and their inherent flexibility regarding creation (no classes here). It’s another approach using dice pools instead of other means, and the low count of dice may not allow for a lot of granularity, but then you also don’t want to get tied up in too much dice rolling (horror is meant to focus more on the story and the characters than combat encounters). If you compare the World of Darkness to other horror settings (such as the Cthulhu Mythos), again you get a lot of the same principles, just with a different face (gothic horror instead of supernatural horror).

That being said, The World of Darkness and the Storytelling system do both of these things extremely well, presenting an excellent game package to Storytellers and players. Those who like dice pools will find an excellent dice pool system. Those who like horror will find a setting with plenty of twists, turns, creepiness, and horrific possibilities.

Overall: 9 out of 10
The World of Darkness is one of those games that is well-known for a reason. It has solid mechanics and an expansive setting, both of which fully embrace their fundamental goals. It’s not going to replace your epic fantasy, space opera, or even Cthulhu Mythos games, but it definitely gives you a perfect outlet for experiencing gothic horror in the modern world; all done with a focus on story and characters.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
World of Darkness Rulebook
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LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Grindhouse Edition
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/15/2013 21:30:41
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30658.

Dubbed as weird fantasy by the designer, Lamentations of the Flame Princess is an OSR product in the guise of Basic / Expert Dungeons & Dragons in a lighter version. The mechanics are designed with more simplicity in mind with what seems like an effort to move the game away from just combat and treasure hoards and into areas where the horror is turned up and the over-powering abilities of the Player Characters is turned down. Yes it contains the same core abilities as all OSR games and probably all the same spells, but skills are handled in a simplified manner (using a d6), alignments have more of a real meaning, there are no magical weapons, and characters don’t simply get stronger as they increase in level, they have to become better at what they specialize in.

Without looking at every single OSR game out there, and I’ve seen a few along with the originals, Lamentations of the Flame Princess has additional simplified mechanics over its equivalents such as static attack tables – there are no charts, just static target numbers according to armor. Saving throws are statically defined in the character class. Increasing melee attack bonuses only attack to Fighters (except for the simple +1 all others receive) again presented statically. There are no d% rolls when determining opposed checks, just simple target numbers. In other words, Lamentations of the Flame Princess takes out a lot of the fiddly mechanics from many OSR games to concentrate more on telling interesting (or weird) stories instead of just delving into random dungeons or clearing out the closest vanilla wizard’s tower (not that you couldn’t do it, but where’s the storyline?). This is an Indie game using OSR mechanics. The benefit there is that the amount of published material compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess is huge and thus can be incorporated into your games with little to no conversions necessary.

OVERALL

Before getting into the ratings, it should be made very clear that Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a game you have to want to play in order for it to be a desirable game. Why do I say that? Because if you’re a full-blown grognard and only play B/X or AD&D and their retro-clones, this may seem familiar and yet not familiar and not what you want. It’s not a traditional old-school system where you primarily delve into dungeons, castles, towers, or what-not and spend your time adventuring, collecting treasure, or just getting wealthy (or more powerful). This is an OSR game that tries harder to concentrate more on the story. This is an OSR game where player characters are extraordinary figures, but not epic fantasy almost-demi-god heroes. This is an OSR game where magical weapons may not exist and the creatures abroad are terrifying. This is an OSR game where you have to embrace the theme as much as you embrace the system.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is not a retro-clone, it is a unique game powered by old-school mechanics utilizing a unique setting (loosely defined setting that is). It is fantasy horror (weird fantasy), not epic fantasy with high magic. At the same time, it is not horror as there are still standard fantasy tropes. Once you realize that, you’ll better understand what it’s about, and what it’s not about.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The entire Lamentations of the Flame Princess package is beautiful. The writing is excellent, the layout and formatting and superb, and the weird artwork is creepy and terrific. If you pay close attention, in some of the sections, the headers change like a flip cartoon from page to page. I agree with the decision to break the system into three books, especially since not every player or GM needs to use every one of them. The fantasy horror of the setting definitely comes through vividly in the artwork.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
Although based on previous versions of Dungeons & Dragons and slotting into the old school renaissance, the lightness of Lamentations of the Flame Princess is an excellent implementation of the retro mechanics, focusing more on the story instead of convoluted charts and fiddly bits. The absence of a bestiary can be a definite turn-off for many people, but I am within the camp that new systems and settings benefit from unique monsters that players have never seen before, or at least have never experienced in this way. It’s a matter of creating something new instead of rehashing everything old. I would prefer to have seen more guidance such as a bestiary creation toolkit, but there is no shortage of narrative to get you moving. If all else fails, there is an abundance of bestiary material out there that is compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
As stated before, you have to want to play Lamentations of the Flame Princess to get the most out of it. You also have to embrace the flavor of the game presented within the content to understand the approach of the weird fantasy. You could very easily take Lamentations of the Flame Princess and play the same old dungeon crawls or campaigns seen for the past 35 years. The system presents a lighter version of those old mechanics, but you can easily play them and keep your epic fantasy experience. However, that’s not what the system and flavor is trying to promote. Everything within is attempting to explain and promote the horror of the setting above and beyond the high fantasy flavor and effects. The core mechanics keep the danger high, but you can overcome that. With that said, the desire to play a fantasy horror game is as much in the flavor of the game play as it is the mechanics of the system.

Knowing all this, I find Lamentations of the Flame Princess to be an excellent representation of fantasy horror and those ready to play weird fantasy will find the mechanics and flavor content embrace that to full effect.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I may be slightly biased here, but Lamentations of the Flame Princess is my favorite OSR game. Not because it allows you to play everything that you’ve played before, but because it presents a familiar system in a new light, with trimmed down mechanics and the removal of all those fiddly bits. I may also be slightly biased because the content truly embraces the weird fantasy flavor in every way possible, without forcing it through the mechanics. Published adventures and supplements can better demonstrate this, but the core mechanics are a perfect blend of familiarity, light rules, and opportunistic game play that brings out the storyline in the old school renaissance.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
LotFP Weird Fantasy Role-Playing Grindhouse Edition
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Dungeon Dressing: Stairs
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/14/2013 20:41:19
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30662.

Dungeon Dressing: Stairs is a small 13 page supplement for the Pathfinder System. Along with some nice rules explanations about stairs, it includes the following:

A table presenting 50 options for interesting features of your stairs.
A table presenting 100 pieces of stair dressing to breathe life into your creation.
Three clever, challenging stair-based traps (CRs 3-7; and four variants).

It is currently available at DriveThruRPG and Paizo.com for the low price of 1.99.

OVERALL

This was a first for me, to consider a new way to look at stairs besides them being broken or working fine. And I can simply say that I am not going to look at stairs the same way again. In this case, that’s a good thing.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: Layout is done once again in simple, minimalistic format that comes with Raging Swan Press. The bookmarks are done well and the format is quite nice. But I would love more than anything to see these supplemental products have a little bit of color, or Sepia for that matter, to balance out the simplicity. Since I do not think they will change that, it would be nice to see one day.

Ease of Mobility: This product transferred over well to my Kindle with ease. They have a printable and a digital version, and I love both.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
Now, this was the first product that I actually playtested somewhat before reviewing it. I run an online game with a few family members who live far away, and I had written a “Never-ending Staircase” while players were scaling up a Wizards’ Tower. The stair case had a few of the traps that were quite brutal for them to handle even at their CRs.

Mechanically, the staircases are sound, and the information providing the staircases with their functions and works are quite informative and helpful whether you are playing a homemade campaign, or a regular Pathfinder adventure like Masters of the Fallen Fortress in which I was running (revamp in progress) at the time.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
So the downside to all of these supplements that are specific, is that they are only for one or two things, and then they aren’t really applicable to other things outside of it. The price is quite right for the item, and you still get a good return for your money. I would recommend Raging Swan Press consider a bundle for their series, so that way you can get a little more, but as is, it’s quite well worth it.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Minus the specialty of product, this is a product that is quite a lot of fun, and you will want to use the product right away the next time you have people going up stairs.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Dressing: Stairs
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Street Level
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/11/2013 20:45:56
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30971.

Street Level is a future-like battlemap, although it can easily be used for modern settings too, featuring a small section of an urban street bounded by highrise buildings (not skyscraper). The futuristic appeal is more in flavor of the textures and the worn look of the street rather than any single piece that stands out as a true sci-fi addition. This means that you can easily use the battlemap for modern, sci-fi, cyberpunk, and post-apocalyptic settings, increasing its possible use options. The main focus of the battlemap is the urban street rather than the buildings. This means its more ideal for a street-level (see the significance of the name?) encounter such as rival gang members slugging it out or some type of high-tech duel between a PC and NPC.

OVERALL

Street Level is a cool looking map, albeit one that is fairly focused on a small area. I wouldn’t call it a full city block, maybe half a block, although the streets do allow you to continue your map in any direction desired. It be better to have a larger section of the urban environment represented or offer tiles that continue the street where all you need to add is the buildings. However, it still makes a cool location for a showdown.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
As always, DramaScape does an excellent job of cutting their battlemaps across multiple pages. It also includes a square-grid, hex-grid, gridless, and Virtual Tabletop version.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
The Street Level map is quite stunning. Unlike a previous battlemap, this one uses very distinct textures and coloring for the sidewalk, curb, and street, making each one very easy to discern. It also has a fantastic worn look to it that shows the environment is not new and has seen many decades of wear and tear.

Desire to Use: 8 out of 10
Street Level is a great battlemap to use for an urban showdown. The only drawback is how small it is, even though the 3D images depict a larger area. I think it should be about twice as long, but this is only a minor complaint. What you get is a good sized area and more than enough for that urban showdown.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Street Level is another great addition to your sci-fi urban environments and another great piece from DramaScape. By focusing on the street instead of the buildings, the Game Master has more flexibility in where they place this map within their city and what surrounds that street.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Street Level
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Villainous Pirates
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/10/2013 20:40:32
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30660.

Villainous Pirates presents, in 50 pages, Pirates of Note and nine Pirates of Renown ready for the time-crunched GM to quickly and easily insert into almost any campaign. Each pirate benefits from an extensive write-up including notes on their background, personality, mannerisms and distinguishing marks as well as a fully detailed stat block. Pirates of Renown also come with plot hooks making it easy to insert them into almost any campaign. It’s currently available for sale for $5.99 on DriveThruRPG or Paizo.com

OVERALL

Pirates are a very serious business for those who play Pathfinder. Villainous Pirates expands on the life of pirates and helps those who may need a little nudging in building pirates to remember! There are a few formatting kinks, and I would have loved the product in color, but it is not the end of the world, nor should it keep you from purchasing the item.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a Raging Swan Press publication, but once again I was not disappointed. The layout is clean and simple. It is in black and white as per the format, but it’s not an epic deal breaker. I like the original looks of the pirates, they leave you to fill in the color thanks to the black and white format.

Formatting annoyance: I hate it when digital publishers who have enough material to give characters proper spacing, do not do so. Now granted, for printed works, space is precious. But for digital works since there is no page limits or printing restrictions it gives publishers the ability to give space wherever needed. The pirates are stacked on top of one another which makes the stat blocks not quite look right. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a ding for a GM who is trying not to go from one page to another.

Ease of Mobility: The bookmarks irritate me a bit cause they take forever to navigate. But other than that the file is smooth and doesn’t take forever to load, which is totally nice.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The product is quite mechanically sound. The stat blocks can be a little confusing, but again that’s due to the formatting issues that are above. Take your time when incorporating them into your campaign so you make sure to get it all right!

Value Add: 10 out of 10
There are quite a lot of pirate-related supplemental material going on in Pathfinder right now. It’s kind of that “flavor” of the RPG Season, as I’ve seen quite a lot of publishers big and small go and do a pirates add-on, but this is definitely worth the money invested! Give it a shot!

Overall: 9 out of 10
There are quite a lot of pirate fun goodies being written for the Pathfinder system as the result of Skulls and Shackles and a lot of pirate goodies in Pathfinder most recently, and this piece is no exception to the rule! This is definitely a product that will continue to help GMs for years to come!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villainous Pirates
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101 Special Materials and Power Components (pfrpg)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/07/2013 18:35:17
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=30654.

101 Special Materials and Power Components, is a 31 page sourcebook that focuses on bringing you new special materials, that do not render the existing special materials useless, and versatile power components, which alter or augment a spell’s normal effects in new and interesting ways; it adds a bit more spice to a spellcaster’s life. In addition, a number of these items affect the spells generated by magical items or alter the very nature of an item operates so that it become more than just a spell in a box. It is currently available at DriveThruRPG for $5.99

OVERALL

I think this is a great product. It definitely adds flavor and options to make your spells even more powerful. If you are a caster, and/or the GM of casters and are looking for ways to give the caster a little more “oopmh” than just the normal spell component, 101 Special Materials and Power Components is a great place to look.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Presentation of Layout: It is done in the traditional format of Rite Publishing. Most of the artwork is public domain which is also nice.

Ease of Mobility: Files are nice and light, and easy to navigate. The bookmarks are off again, but it’s not a deal breaking issue.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Mechanically this is a sound product. No one product is too overpowering, but at the same time, there is quite a lot of good stuff that can be used for casters and fighters alike.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
All the items that are in this product are very well done! It is something that even I am considering in my future adventures and possible writings.

Overall: 10 out of 10
The final verdict for this product is that I like it for both gaming purposes and for writing purposes. Although we cannot use the product for OGL purposes, it’s definitely good for the campaign writer in all of us.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Special Materials and Power Components (pfrpg)
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