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Modern Floorplans Volume 1: Office Spaces
Publisher: Fabled Environments
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/22/2012 14:07:05
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=23156.

Office Spaces is a collection of three different modern office floorplans covering: Strip Mall Office, Highrise Building, and Warehouse Building. Each one is fully detailed with furniture and room identifiers and come in four formats: fully labeled with grid, no grid, no labels, and no furniture or labels. Having these different formats allows the GM maximum flexibility for what they wish to use the floorplan for including uses outside of modern settings such as post-apocalyptic or sci-fi.

OVERALL

Business locations are rarely the same going from one place to another. The best part of the Office Spaces collection of floorplans is that the layouts of these offices is very simple, somewhat standard, and more importantly completely generic. This too provides maximum flexibility to the GM for incorporation into whatever setting they are using. Although you don’t often see combat within a business office, they make great additions for investigative and even horror games. Can you imagine what may be hiding within that inner-conference room?

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Office Spaces is an extremely clean set of floorplans. The variety of the three styles is especially nice for use within various settings (urban, suburban, and warehouse) and so simple that their interpretation can vary just as much – especially when you use the unlabeled maps. The entire publication is clear and crisp and laid-out extremely well.

Visual Appeal: 8 out of 10
While the floorplans are clean, they are completely clean in that they contain no color or decoration. While they look great, they are a little on the boring side and ready for color. However, this style of design does allow the GM to add their own decoration anywhere they’d like, especially where it makes sense. While looking at a black and white floorplan is a little dull, it definitely gets the job done.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
I can think of a number of uses for floorplans such as these in and out of the modern genre. In fact, if you add a little destruction to the walls and furniture, you have yourself an awesome post-apocalyptic floorplan where deadly firefights could ensue. A lot is left to the imagination as what’s presented is so basic, but the excellent formatting of the floorplan and placement of all the key items (bathrooms, conference rooms, offices, cubicles, etc.) make for very realistic settings.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I love battlemaps and finding ones for modern settings is often difficult. While you may think you can just sketch out the office building you saw the other day, finding the right dimensions can prove challenging. Office Spaces takes that challenge away and provides three different office spaces that look and feel like actual, modern day offices. If this is the look you want, then there’s no need to look elsewhere.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Floorplans Volume 1: Office Spaces
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101 Pirates and Privateer Traits (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/21/2012 14:25:11
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=23037.

From Blackbeard to Cpt. Jack Sparrow, pirates have always been and will always be cool! We even get excited when misshapen but loveable characters like Sloth get in on the pirate action. Playing a pirate at the gaming table is a safe and less expensive way to enjoy the taste of a dagger between our teeth than say dressing up as one at the Ren Fest. (Don’t ask me how pirates got to be part of Ren Fest, I really don’t know….) Confusion aside, 101 Pirate and Privateer Traits is an exceptional product that was done with a tongue and cheek sensibility that is mechanically sound and really interesting.

OVERALL

Wow! The content in 101 Pirate and Privateer Traits might cause your seafaring character to be epic and your GM to run an amazing nautical adventure.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
There were no surprises publication-quality wise from Rite Publishing on this one. All of the art was public domain and had cohesion that I have been hounding Rite Publishing to achieve review after review. Finding Pirate and Privateer art isn’t nearly as difficult as finding art for the more esoteric subjects that Rite Publishing tackled in the past. Even with the “easy” subject matter, Rite did a great job with this one. Not only was the art well selected, it was well matched with the traits. There were a few small editing mistakes and at this stage of the game those are mistakes that I will ding Rite for. The art used for the Undying Curse trait on page 13 blew my mind, subtle and really cool!

Value Add: 10 out of 10
If you are playing a nautical campaign this is a 10 out of 10, if you are playing a swashbuckler of any type this is a 10 out of 10. For you’re a normal, everyday, land-bound heavily armored type there is value, but not Bo Derrick value. This supplement is great for players who need some ideas for character development. The traits, while focused and cleverly named with Pirate and scurvy, sea sodden names, still have value for other types of characters. Each entry is written like a little story and could be altered with minimal time and effort to fit into landlocked campaigns. The naming conventions would be lost but the essence of the entries would still be solid. As a tool for GMs 101 Pirate and Privateer Traits is a must have! These traits will pimp out your PCs and make your NPCs feel less non!

Overall: 9 out of 10
In the beginning of this review I made it a point to mention the designer’s note at the beginning of the book and now I feel I owe it to tell you why. This note lays it out on the line. I have read many designer’s notes that sound more like excuses than information. This note laid out the purpose of this product and let you know that this isn’t your normal 1 or 2 to a stat kind of book. This book puts the traits firmly in the GMs hand while still giving enough mechanics information to make it all work. This is a smart person’s product that is well thought-out and fun to read. This is one of those products that you have to Sea, to believe.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Pirates and Privateer Traits (PFRPG)
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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/18/2012 14:38:22
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22913.

The Coliseum Morpheuon knows only two forms of gladiator: the quick and the dead. Z.Z. Grimshanks, with a smile as sharp as any blade, is one of the quickest… and not yet the dead-est. While he’s still alive and kicking, even your seconds aren’t safe. This product provides an interesting and surprisingly in-depth look at an NPC I would not like to meet in a dark alley.

OVERALL

Rite Publishing highlights yet another one of the members of their well thought-out and really freaking scary lineup of Unusual Suspects that inhabit the Tarnished Souk. If you are looking for a detailed and interesting NPC to work with or against an adventuring party, look no further than Z.Z. Grimshanks

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
When compared with products produced but some of the larger RPG makers, many folks would not consider this product a 10. For Rite Publishing and many, many other smaller RPG makers, it sets the standard. Rite Publishing was smart to stick with black & white illustrations with this product. In past reviews I have dinged Rite Publishing for forcing color illustrations or choosing color illustrations that didn’t sync with the text or just looked cheesy. Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds, Rite stuck to the fundamentals and it works! Rick Hershey captured Z.Z. Grimshanks with the cover art. The malevolent smile and the casual tossing of a wicked looking dagger gave me and idea of the type of character Z.Z. Grimshanks is right away. The page borders are done in Rite Publishing’s grey-green runic pattern that is normally used with the Faces of the Tarnished Souk series. The interior art is relevant and well-done. The Time Thief looks like a Time Thief. I enjoyed that the behind-the-scenes over at Rite Publishing (in this case Steven D. Russell and Matt Banach) chose to add non Z.Z. Grimshanks pictures to the descriptions of some of the templates. I am quite fond of the Betrayer Gremlin on page 9

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
I still contend that some of the templates in Rite Publishing books are way too overpowered. Here is an example from Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds; the Accelerated Creature adds 8 to initiative, a 6 bonus to AC, CMD and reflex saves, 4 to Dex based skill checks 30 feet to all modes of speed and a special attack for a CR 1 while the Charming creature grants a 4 to Cha and gives the creature a permanent charm monster effect also at a CR 1. I understand how powerful permanent charm monster can be but compared to the Accelerated creature template not so much. At higher levels these additional templates make sense and can really add to a memorable adversary but to add a measly CR 1 to a creature with all of those benefits is a power gamers wet dream! If the folks over at Rite Publishing put a minimum level requirement on qualifications for these templates I think they would feel more balanced. If an NPC is given one of these templates at level 2, things would get out of hand quickly. Because of the increased difficulty of leveling up at much higher (almost epic) levels, the laundry list of improvements included with some of these templates make more sense.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
Rite Publishing has mastered the art of giving their customers more product for their money. Not only are their products priced to sell but they add things like variants of the already well thought-out creatures. For this product they included three variants for Z.Z. Grimshanks at each CR that they presented. This gives the GM a modular flexibility that few products provide. This is a great product for GMs and not bad for players.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Z.Z. Grimshanks, like so many of the other Faces of the Tarnished Souk, is a force to be reckoned with. Entire adventures and even campaigns could be based around an NPC like Z.Z. At lower CRs Z.Z. Grimshanks is much easier to integrate in places other than the Coliseum Morpheuom setting. Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds is a product whose time has come!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Z.Z. Grimshanks, the Knave of Sharp Seconds  (PFRPG)
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10 Inquisitor Feats (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/13/2012 21:03:49
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22593.

The inquisitor is like a battle Cleric who tracks down the enemies of their church and brings them a brand of justice that is based on their interpretation of the will of their deity. In the end, inquisitors are above the normal rules of their church, but when the day of reckoning comes, they will answer to their deity.

OVERALL

10 Inquisitor Feats on two pages, no fuss, no muss. This product has an elegantly simplistic form that like most Rite publishing products makes it useful.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Rite Publishing has figured out that the RPG business is a marathon, not a sprint. Rather than over-extending themselves with overly flashy art, they have chosen the smart path of well-done black and white on this product. The cover depicts an inquisitor brandishing a blunt weapon and a holy symbol of some sort. What you see is what you get and what you get is solid. Toby Gregory’s art does a great job of capturing what I perceive to be a bit of the angst that every good (or evil) inquisitor must feel after fighting the enemies of their faith with no rest. The picture was used on the cover and once more in the book, I think they could have found a different picture to use in the whopping 2 pages of info, but in Mr. Russell’s defense it is a good picture.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
You would think writing 10 feats for any character class would be easy, well it isn’t. Writing reviews for Roleplayers Chronicle (Best web site ever!), I come across mass quantities of products that just can’t balance their feats with the rule of cool. Rite Publishing has a mature approach to feat writing that still feels fresh and cool.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
At no point did I get the impression that 10 Inquisitor Feats was trying to do anything but introduce feats for the inquisitor. That focus (some developers are a bit ADD) makes this a value to both players and GMs.

Overall: 9 out of 10
There are times when I love products like this; they cut to the chase and give you what you need. No foreplay, just business! I do like a little fluff and some background but the ascetic determination of the inquisitor and the minimalist approach to this product work well, they needed two pages to list the feats and that is all that they used. Yes, this book has the normal cover style and page border style that most Rite products have, but the good use of art and simple structure just feel Rite.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Inquisitor Feats (PFRPG)
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Three Kings - Call of Cthulhu
Publisher: Modiphius
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/12/2012 14:57:37
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22761.

Three Kings is part 1 of the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign, for Call of Cthulhu, taking place during World War II. While its roots lie within WWII horror thanks to the Cthulhu Mythos, the campaign (or at least this module) has a pulp-like feel to it and lies somewhere between investigative horror and pulp action. Considering the characters are military-styled agents, the campaign leans less toward the survival aspects of horror and more toward the extermination of it. While this isn’t the core of a traditional Call of Cthulhu setting or game, it is a new way of implementing the Cthulhu Mythos theme using the Call of Cthulhu rules in a setting that allows the players to experience a piece of World War II history flavored with horrific aspects. If you keep this in mind, you won’t be disappointed when playing the campaign.

OVERALL

Three Kings is well-written adventure and a good starting point for a campaign. Although it doesn’t follow traditional design for Call of Cthulhu, it does contain elements that allow you to survive through a full campaign and places the characters in the midst of a gran story unfolding between the events of World War II. Albeit more action-oriented than investigation, it still is a module that I recommend for those who enjoy a little pulp-styled adventure in your Cthulhu Mythos.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Three Kings is a beautiful book visually. It appears to have been designed for print, however, as the layering of the PDF makes the pages load dreadfully slow. When I read this on my Nook, some pages took almost half a minute to load. While this is annoying, the layout, formatting, and illustrations of the publication make it stand out. I find the text to be very easy to read and the formatting allows it to flow smoothly. The illustrations have a very early-20th Century look to them through the use of dark colors and lack of definition (this is good because it supports the theme). The maps are a great bonus and I love the loose-leaf design. When you look at the book, it looks like a briefing one would get before entering the field for covert operations. It should be noted that on my laptop, once each page has been loaded, going back and forth through the PDF does not take extra time to load.

Storyline: 8 out of 10
Three Kings has a good storyline that develops well from beginning to end. While there are several holes in the actions being taken by the characters (in relation to the content), much of this can be easily filled-in with the fluff material contained throughout and by simply following the general direction of the adventure itself. While many of these holes do seem to be very deliberate, giving the characters maximum flexibility in relation to how they proceed through the adventure, it would be nice to have suggestions on how to keep things moving forward should the adventure begin to stall. Regardless of this, the overall storyline is still a good one.

Desire to Play: 8 out of 10
Like Delta Green, Acthung! Cthulhu takes a very different approach to Call of Cthulhu. Characters are not professors (although they could be), archaeologists, reporters, and police officers; they are instead agents of the soon to be MI-6 out of England. Being that they are performing what could be called a covert operation, you would expect a more militant approach to the adventure. And that’s what you get, a more action-style Call of Cthulhu adventure that is more akin to pulp than it is to horror. While many may feel this strays from the concept of Call of Cthulhu, it is merely another way of utilizing the game system. If you view the adventure as it’s meant to be written, you will enjoy it a lot more.

Overall: 8 out of 10
Three Kings is an interesting deviation from the normal Call of Cthulhu adventure. It provides a little more survival power to the characters and involves them in more than just the Cthulhu Mythos. While the end Mythos creature is an important part of the adventure, it is not an integral part as the adventure encompasses more than just that. It’s a different approach, but a very well-developed one.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Three Kings - Call of Cthulhu
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Reclamation
Publisher: Architect Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/08/2012 14:56:52
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22537.

Reclamation is a sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic setting and system powered by a standard deck of playing cards instead of dice. The setting takes place in a post-apocalyptic Earth after a pandemic swept across the world (caused by a Nuclear Cataclysm) and transformed half of the human race to bloodthirsty degenerates. The player characters assume the role of survivors touched in some way by the apocalyptic event (depending upon their age). Reclamation takes place shortly after the apocalyptic event so the setting is filled with those who survived the apocalypse, those who were born after it, and those who are considered the current youth population.

As mentioned, Reclamation utilizes a standard playing deck of cards instead of dice for resolution. Players flip over the top card from their Fate Deck, adding your ability, and attempting to meet or exceed the target number. Skills are used as a way of improving your odds by allowing additional cards to be flipped and hoping for a better result. Without spoiling the mechanics, some cards add to your total while others subtract. This is how you end up with the randomness like a die roll. Target Numbers vary depending on the action being taken, but they are essentially a measure of how well or poorly the action was instead of a simple pass or fail.

OVERALL

Reclamation is a truly unique setting and system, taking a very dark approach to sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic instead of the humoristic settings you find elsewhere. The apocalypse truly transformed the world for the worse and even the darkness of the layout accentuates that image. The use of the playing card mechanics provides a truly unique experience giving gamers something they may have never seen before. At the very least, if one doesn’t like using cards over dice, you can change the system to a dice pool or use it as a campaign setting. Either way, your bound to get a lot of enjoyment out of Reclamation no matter how you use it.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Reclamation is a beautiful book, supported by the successful Kickstarter campaign. It has great looking art, an easy-to-read layout, and the formatting looks nice. I would say that there is actually too much art at times. I found plenty of locations where the art did not really add to the value of what was being stated in the content. I also found the continued insertion of narrative to be excessive. A little narrative sprinkled throughout is nice, but when it really breaks the flow of the content, it becomes intrusive instead of valuable or fun. (You could say it was slightly over-produced.) However, visually, Reclamation is a great book and the layout and formatting make the mechanics easy to understand.

Mechanics: 8 out of 10
The playing card mechanics for resolving actions is incredibly unique and put together in a way that makes them interesting and fun. The character creation is a great way of building a great character and how the skills allow you additional cards to improve your chances of success is a great implementation of characters; this method really brings the action resolution mechanics and character creation together. Magic is a bit on the heavy side in terms of volume of mechanics. Almost half of the book is given over to magic (Gifts) which seems a bit much for a post-apocalyptic setting that seems to focus on sci-fi as much as it does on fantasy. Additionally, there is not nearly as much information for the Game Master (called the Fate Dealer) in terms of antagonists and Reclamation adventure creation (there’s a lot of generic stuff, but not so much setting content). The example adventure does a good job of painting the scene for the Fate Dealer, but I think a little more love for the person running the game could be included.

Combat has a very different feel for mechanics compared to simple action resolution. While the cards are still involved, there is a bit more decision making required on each participants part (by choosing how much aggressive one is attacking) and damage is static using the given options on each weapon (related to the cards suit). This is a very unique way of using the playing cards and again plays in quite well with the card-based mechanics of the system overall.

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
Reclamation is a very unique setting and a very original system. If you refuse to play with anything other than dice, then I suggest using the setting for a campaign in another system. However, if you are ready to try something different, Reclamation has lots of great characteristics that make it desirable for play, even campaign play.

Overall: 9 out of 10
There are plenty of sci-fi fantasy post-apocalyptic settings and systems available. Many of them take a very epic fantasy approach to this version of post-apocalyptic and many add a bit of humor into the supposed dismal setting. However, many of these settings are wastelands that feel like survival is not as hard as it claims. Reclamation doesn’t have that feel. Reclamation puts the apocalypse back into post-apocalyptic by presenting a very dystopian and dark version of Earth after the apocalyptic event. You won’t spend your time wondering what the alarm clock you just found does (because you don’t know it’s an alarm clock), rather you’ll spend a lot of time fighting for your lives and actually struggling to survive in a world that has been drastically changed.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Reclamation
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Abandoned Station
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/31/2012 15:01:12
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22379.

Abandoned Station depicts just that, a small, abandoned train station with three decrepit train cars. The style is that of post-apocalyptic or modern and can easily be used for horror type gaming. However, you may need to add some destroyed bits for use in post-apocalyptic settings.

The map depicts a small train station set on the sidewalk leading to two sets of train tracks. One track has a large passenger car while the other track has two freight-styled cars. The building and the train cars are all depicted without a roof and the roof overlays are given as separate pieces later in the battlemap. The whole scene shows a general sense of years of neglect.

OVERALL

I like the simplicity of this Abandoned Station but I also like how it’s very different then what you find elsewhere. While most are making fantasy oriented maps, this outdoor depiction can be used for a number of encounters with a mountain of questions leading to “Why is it abandoned?”

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Abandoned Station is laid out very nicely with a good focus on centering each tile. What really steals the show, however, is the amount of detail added to make the entire map feel like it was abandoned. There is graffiti all over, the interior of the passenger train car is worn out while looking like someone was here recently. And my favorite is the body chalk outline in one of the rooms of the train station – that’s just awesome!

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
The Abandoned Station battlemap looks stunning. The textures are incredible in terms of choice and weathering. They all have a very weathered appeal including the grass which looks dead or dying from years of neglect. The coloring really grabs you when looking at the overview of the battlemap, seeing the decay of everything through muted tones and dirty effects.

Desire to Use: 8 out of 10
I like this battlemap and would definitely use it in a modern horror or post-apocalyptic setting. It could use a few more options such as being able to add additional tracks on the opposite side of the train station instead of the sidewalk or a way to simply extend the train tracks for additional cars, but that is quite minor. With the look and feel of the battlemap, you’re sure to find something lurking in one of those cars that will be trouble for the PCs. Maybe it’s a possessed hobo that turns into a vicious demon, or maybe its a group of zombies.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Abandoned Station is another great battlemap from DramaScape. There’s definite attention paid to detail and the concept of “abandoned” comes through perfectly in every single way. Its design is great for loose interpretation allowing GMs to use it for multiple settings instead of being stuck with only one or two.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Abandoned Station
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Squadron AIU
Publisher: Ulster Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/25/2012 14:02:00
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=22103.

Squadron AIU is a new military sci-fi setting powered by a unique game system. Depicting a not-too-far future version of Earth, it pits humans in a battle of survival (essentially) against a couple of ancient races from across the cosmos. At its core, the Squadron AIU mechanics are designed to embrace the militay sci-fi theme in a couple different ways. The basics of the game include a roll-under d100 target number system, simple enough, but when you move to the system’s handling of weapons, it truly takes a different approach on how difficult it can be to handle different types of weapons and how deadly one can be over another.

OVERALL

Squadron AIU is an interesting setting with some good military sci-fi mechanics. While it is plagued with extremely poor editing, it does have some great ideas for handling sci-fi combat and probably scales well from a warfare stand-point. The setting could use some really good sourcebooks to boost its fluff and embrace its mechanics better (by providing more character options), but what’s there is a pretty good start.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 4 out of 10
The cover of Squadron AIU really grab your attention to the possibility of an awesome looking book with some really kick-ass art. While the publication has a collection of great art, much of it is used twice throughout the book and don’t really match up with other pieces of art that fall flat compared to what you see on the cover. The publication’s layout and format is very simple, and sometimes moves from decent to visually unappealing. Even the background doesn’t quite look right as the background frame is mirrored from left and right pages, but the background is not. This produces a very odd effect while looking at a two-page view.

Squadron AIU suffers from one major drawback: it has some of the worst editing I have ever seen. At times, the grammar is extremely poor and the number of misspelled/misused words is unbelievable. Much of content is difficult to read due to the high number of editing errors and I often found myself rereading the content just to figure out what it meant.

Mechanics: 8 out of 10
Content and editing aside, Squadron AIU has an extremely interesting approach to handling combat and weapons. It allows the designers to create a military sci-fi setting where there is an extremely high number of different weapon types with damage capabilities that vary from one to another. By assigning each weapon a type and power value that are cross-referenced on a static damage chart, you don’t have to create unique mechanics to handle each type of weapon. In addition, you don’t have to define how one weapon should be more difficult to handle than another, it’s all right there on the chart. You check your values and your target number is right there on the chart. In addition, they take a unique approach to how damage is assigned. Instead of stating one weapon does X wounds in a static fashion, each weapon’s power has different damaging effects to different parts of the body. While this isn’t something you would want in space opera or epic fantasy system, it makes a lot of sense in a military sci-fi setting where ranged combat is the norm.

The rest of the mechanics are written in a rules-light fashion allowing players and GMs the ability to focus more on the unique characteristics of military sci-fi settings rather than worrying about trivial things such as an abundance of skills to handle minute things.

Desire to Play: 7 out of 10
Military sci-fi is the sci-fi version of hack-n-slash. Squadron AIU embraces that by creating unique mechanics to handle the complicated differences between weapons and one’s ability to handle them. With that in mind, if you like sci-fi hack-n-slash, then a system such as this may be very intriguing as it has a lot of crunch to recreate those high-powered combat often seen in miniatures wargames or even futuristic military warfare. In other words, if you like lots of big guns and cool mechanics to govern them, then you should give Squadron AIU a look.

Overall: 6 out of 10
Squadron AIU is a system and setting with lots of potential. If you can get past the horrible editing and poor grammar, you’ll find a lot of cool mechanics to recreate sci-fi combat, almost like taking a wargame and turning it into a role-playing game. Plus the characters on the cover look really cool.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Squadron AIU
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#30 Haunts for Kaidan (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/21/2012 14:38:42
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=21908.

The islands of Kaidan are as haunted as they are old. The name Kaidan means “ghost story” in Japanese. The undying court is just that, undead! Using new and innovative undead variants and interesting storylines, Rite Publishing brings us 30 haunts that will scare your katana right out of its scabbard.

OVERALL

The #30 series has a reputation as a solid line of products that is just the right length. The product support for Kaidan follows the standard of excellence established by the #30 series. The combination of the two products is like combining chocolate and peanut butter or peas and carrots.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
#30 Haunts for Kaidan’s cover is a great example of the value of original art. The cover art evokes a haunted feeling. Not all of the “haunts” depicted on the cover are in the book, but that doesn’t matter. The art looks like it was taken from an old oriental painting and the style is dead on. The subtle black and grey map that forms the background of the cover not only provides a nice contrast to the wonderful art work, it looks great. While some might feel that the cover is a bit cluttered I would disagree. The inclusion of the Pathfinder and Kaidan logos lets me know the purpose of the product and what game it is intended to be used with. The bamboo boarder on the pages is still a great idea and with a little Photoshop love would be perfect.

The map on page 3 looks great and takes a unique approach to depicting the water. Instead of using one of the multitude hues of blue, the cartographer chose to go with a bamboo mat pattern, it takes a second to focus on the map as a whole, but it is well worth the miniscule effort. Apparently all ghosts of Monks look the same in Kaiden look alike. Both of the illustrations (page 9 & 18) are the same drawing. The illustration on page 18 is merely a close-up from the page nine drawing with some minor color changes, that drawing on page 18 felt phoned in. The full page drawing of the Kuchisake-onna or Slit-Mouthed Woman was a huge disappointment for me. I feel that if you are going to dedicate a full page to some art it should be worthy of full page treatment. This drawing is far from that. Due to the drawings size looks like most of it was done on a computer and not done extremely well. This drawing and a few others detracted from the flow of the book. If Rite Publishing had stuck to the cover art style this book would have been a 10; as is, it’s a 9 minus.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
I am accustomed to Rite Publishing products earning 10 out of 10s and was surprised by a few minor omissions that really jumped out at me. Every haunt entry includes a Destruction entry that tells the GM how the players can stop the haunt. T.H. Gulliver is even kind enough to break down how much experience the players should get during the encounter depending on what aspects they defeat, what Gulliver forgot was to include the type of knowledge check and what DC that knowledge check should be. I am grateful for the EXP breakdown, but the knowledge check type and DC would have been much more useful. Other than this I felt the encounters and the creatures were balanced.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
This is where this supplement really shined! The storylines (based on ancient Japanese ghost stories) are what I found the most impressive. I was actually acquainted with the basis of the storylines introduced, having seen several Japanese horror movies and having played in many oriental settings. It wasn’t the originality of the storylines that got me, it was the association of the storylines with the haunts. It is easy to just throw undead at an adventuring party, developing a story behind why the undead are there and providing a solution to excising those undead, makes playing a Cleric so much more than a healer/turner. I recommend that every GM pick up this product and figure out how to place interesting haunts into their game as plot hooks.

Overall: 9 out of 10
With minor tweaking, any of the storylines and haunts in this product can be used in almost any fantasy setting. Using these haunts in a game will quickly move your Cleric to the spotlight in the best possible way. I hope that Rite Publishing is willing to do another #30 Haunts for various locations in the Pathfinder setting. This product is scary good!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Haunts for Kaidan (PFRPG)
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The Ossuary
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/18/2012 14:31:32
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=21589.

The ossuary is a site that serves as a final resting place for human skeletal remains. The battlemap itself depicts a church sitting on rocky grounds with the ossuary beneath its grounds, near where everyone is worshiping. While the battlemap itself lends itself well to a number of genres, the biggest influence I find is horror due to the general ambiance created by the battlemap. Even the cover depicts a depressing sight.

The Ossuary battlemap is a series of rooms that connect to form the greater grounds of the church and ossuary. It is a multi-level battlemap with the church and temporary “burial” site (although no one is actually buried, rather there are sarcophagi lining the room) with a couple towers on the ossuary itself. The map also includes an overview of the outside while the front cover depicts the whole scene as seen in a 3-d fashion.

OVERALL

This battlemap is a little creepy, in a fantastically good way. Seeing a sarcophagus is bad enough, but when multiple ones are lined up and a few skeletons spew out of them, you get the sense that something’s not right. And who on Earth would want to worship on top of this? That’s why I think this battlemap works so well with a horror-influence setting. It has that creepy appeal with loads of potential for adding NCPs to terrorize your PCs.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The battlemap itself looks beautiful and is laid out well. The overview is a bit confusing considering the placement of each room. This could be remedied by using the included virtual tabletop JPGs and arranging them in the same fashion as they are actually arranged in the site. The overview of the battlemap does not arrange them as such compared to the outside overview, making it a bit confusing. There is a written explanation, but that too can be a bit confusing. It is a bit like a puzzle and when you figure it out, it all makes sense and gives you that “aha” moment.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
The Ossuary is a wonderfully rendered battlemap with excellent textures and a eye on detail. The walls and floors look great but more importantly are the sarcophagi and skeletons and the little details added to them. One thing that really supports the theme of the battlemp is the coloring. The dark brownish-grey textures add a horror-like ambiance to the entire battlemap, giving it a visual appeal that not only matches the theme but also the dark purpose of the ossuary.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
The Ossuary is truly a unique battlemap and location for encounters. It can be used in a number of ways from an old, abandoned building that is now haunted, to a the total macabre where heretical deeds are performed daily. This type of map would go great with a supernatural-hunting adventure, leading the PCs to a monastic temple on the cliffs of the sea where hideous creatures have been known to originate from.

Overall: 9 out of 10
While it is a very purpose-driven battlemap, you probably wouldn’t stumble upon this church and find a quest waiting, but it is superb in its “function”; especially if used within a horror setting. With that in mind, a number of horrific encounters could be created simply around the purpose of the ossuary without having to actually enter it. Let the PCs walk inside and they may be in for an treat they later regret.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Ossuary
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101 Combat Feats (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/17/2012 20:22:21
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=21912.

Returning to the field with weapons at the ready and maneuvers in mind, Steven D. Russell of Rite Publishing once more enters the breach to bring feats which expand existing chains further and open up new options for fighters and their martial ilk. 101 Combat Feats follows a similar vein to 101 Barbarian Feats in that it supplements existing options smoothly and seamlessly–a fine avenue of approach sure to appeal to all manner of mighty combatant.

OVERALL

101 Combat Feats provides a fantastic spread of specialty feats to fine-tune and tailor any fighter and their ilk; there is a considerable variety to the offerings here which both bolster the potential of existing chains of character focus as well as inspiring new kits. From combat maneuvers both offensive and defensive to mobility and opportunity-based options, there’s plenty of excellent synergy to help martial characters master the battlefield around them.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Rite Publishing’s two-column standard of formatting is present and ever neatly organized; after the feat tables there’s art on every page, a mix of full-color and black and white which match the material well. The artwork accompanying throughout has popped up among other products, but each piece fits nevertheless. Layout and spacing are good, I did not notice any egregious glitches or typos during my reading; if I had one complaint, it would be that since a number of these feats are at the end of such long chains of prerequisites that at times it can be a bit daunting to pore over everything required for a particular pick–but there’s not a whole lot that could be done in this regard. The PDF is bookmarked for groupings of feats by letter, which is serviceable.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
While there are some outliers in the mix, the majority of the feats included here generally fall into one of four foci–weapon specialization, attacks of opportunity, combat maneuvers and grappling. I note grappling separately from combat maneuvers simply because there is a more fine-tuned focus there–essentially wrestling maneuvers chaining off of successful grapple attempts to inflict a variety of status effects or special follow-up maneuvers on opponents who have the misfortune of coming into a martial character’s grasp. For example, Painful Pin can cause a foe to become sickened for a number of rounds equal to your base attack bonus.

Feat effects functioning off of base attack bonus and the like is a rather interesting angle to this supplement on the whole–as not only do the options here provide new ways in which a warrior might control the flow of battle, but having such mechanics ensures these choices continue to scale and remain useful as a character grows in power. In a similar vein to a magic user’s spells growing more potent, here too a martial character might match a similar stride–especially once you look to the later options in each of the newly presented chains, many of which could serve nicely as capstone abilities.

As far as weapon specialization, there are rather interesting options for devotees–particularly those fond of bludgeoning weapons. A series of ‘crush’ feats allow you to debilitate an opponent’s movement, dizzy their own attacks, bypass a shield’s armor class, daze or sow confusion; or, perhaps you’d like to throw your hammer such that it ricochets about? If pole-arms are more your style, there’s new versatility available for getting more mileage out of bracing, lunging and intervening to protect allies from an opponent’s charge. Thrown weapons, shields, and double weapons get love as well–on the whole, there’s plenty of great flavorful feats which broaden options beyond merely making full-round attacks of swings.

Providing added effects to attacks is one of the main themes throughout, and one which is sure to appeal strongly to any martial combatant; all too often the name of the game in melee boils down to full-round attack or bust. Being able to sow status effects on top of damage while maneuvering around the field goes a long way to improving on this predicament. Those fond of exercising battlefield control will find much interest in the feats focused on opportune moments; Opportune Focus kicks off a sizable series of duelist-flavored moves for finesse weapons such as Bold Riposte, which allows you to respond to an attack of opportunity with one of your own (very cool!) while other options like Press the Opportunity–allowing you to reposition in lieu of an attack of opportunity–are present.

Finally, the feats oriented around combat maneuvers are among my favorites of the offerings here, flavored strongly around tactical control; take Strikedown to add a trip attempt to blows modified by Power Attack–or Leap into the Fray to augment a charge attack to overrun your opponents and bowl them over in a blitz. As well, one might get more mileage from Combat Expertise by utilizing Close Quarters Shift to swap places with a foe, or fight with follow-ups based from Dirty Trick like Blinding or Bloody Assault. Needless to say, there are plentiful options available to open the door to a greater engagement of martial mechanics in battle!

Value Add: 10 out of 10
101 Combat Feats is bristling to the brim with a veritable arsenal of new feats; there is tons of variety which can serve to satisfy anyone fond of arms and armor on the battlefield. Large feat compilations can often end up with entries which feel like filler or, worse-yet, unbalanced–but such is certainly not the case with this collection. Particularly in regards to martial characters, providing interesting, engaging, and mechanically meaningful options is crucial to the appeal of any supplement of this sort–and here Steven D. Russell does not disappoint.

As mentioned before, there are feats which would serve well as capstone abilities and truly bring a feeling of awesome power to a martial character’s presence; Destructive Power brings to bear the option, once per day, to force an opponent to make a fortitude save (based off of base attack and strength bonuses) or suffer an additional 10 points of damage per base attack bonus possessed. Fearsome! Bear in mind that the prerequisites include seven feats and 18 levels of fighter. I definitely feel that these feats provide a valuable breadth of appealing options for characters which will grow alongside them on their adventures and serve to add a bold impact at higher levels as well.

Overall: 10 out of 10
On the whole, the options presented herein are flavorful, cool and mechanically interesting and prove very sensible when weighed with existing mechanics; I’ve got to give Steven D. Russell praise for managing such care and thoughtfulness in balancing such a sizable spread of new options while constructing so many choices for characters. To me, these feats feel mechanically in-line with those found in the core–they could easily be included as part and parcel with the official line, which is a simply fantastic benchmark for any 3PP supplement. With that said, the choice is clear: high marks from me and a hearty huzzah!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Combat Feats (PFRPG)
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Enter The Shadowside - Core Book
Publisher: FableForge
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/14/2012 14:10:43
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=21586.

Enter the Shadowside is a horror-infused setting surrounding a modern fantasy system, designed to create a unique experience for the players and GMs. It uses a d20 roll-over target number system where the target is determined by comparing the initiators might (a combination of their attributes, skills, and items) to their target’s difficulty (a combination of their attributes, skill, and items for opposed actions or simply a measure of difficulty). These two numbers are placed on a scale, referred to as Jacob’s Ladder, and then connected virtually with a ruler or straight edge to determine the target number (or minimum dice roll needed). This presents the players and GM (referred to as StoryHost) a sliding target number scale always determined by using the chart (so both parties are always aware of what the target number is). The attributes, skills, and items that play into these mechanics are modern fantasy based.

The Enter the Shadowside setting is a horror-infused version of our modern world such as this horrific parallel realm, essentially a spiritual realm where the spirits of the dead and other beings reside, is tapped into for creating the supernatural abilities the characters of the setting acquire. They do this by becoming imbued with a being from this parallel realm (called the Shadowside), gaining supernatural abilities. The system and setting have a lot of abstract behaviors producing a game that is meant to be flexible, but not really meant for the beginning player. It is an advanced system being that much of the crunch is determined through game-play and player input instead of simply existing in the rules. It allows for a huge amount of flexibility, but hampers those who lack the drive to determine these things themselves.

OVERALL

Enter the Shadowside is a unique system and setting for the advanced tabletop role-player. The game demonstrates appeal to those who wish to make their campaigns into “their game” by creating the mechanics presented as flexible or open-ended (such as skills and items). The system and setting also embraces the group participation philosophy on story design by allowing everyone’s character to truly affect the overall design of the campaign. Instead of having a campaign with a defined end, there are plot factors highly influenced by the characters’ design and what organization they belong to. Do they fight for the good of the people or just themselves? Do they attempt to make things better or exploit things to make them worse? It’s truly a game that can be pulled in multiple directions depending on how the players respond to the setting.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 7 out of 10
I have very mixed feelings on the layout and structure of Enter the Shadowside. The book visually looks great, but is not ideal in some ways. The book is designed as a PDF-only product. This is obvious through the lack of mirrored pages reflected by page numbers always being on the right and a background that doesn’t change from left to right page. That’s not a problem for a PDF-only book, especially those designed for use on handheld devices. However, the book is laid-out in a 3-column format which results in a lot of scrolling while reading the PDF. In addition, there are no bookmarks to help navigate quicker from section to section. You simply have to flip through every page and find what you want. There is no index pointing you quickly to the right sections (this is very important in core rulebooks).

The art, however, is absolutely stunning. There is a comic within the early pages of the book depicting the process of Hierogamy with a venture through the Shadowside. This comic presents an interesting depiction of the Shadowside, but does very little to explain the greater setting as a whole.

Mechanics: 5 out of 10
The Jacob’s Ladder system for determining target number is very interesting and innovative. It’s a unique implementation of a roll-over chart presented in a very simple manner. In addition, the game’s core mechanics are quite solid and easy-to-understand. If you’re a new to tabletop RPGs, however, you may find it extremely difficult to create the skills that define your character. I understand the desire to be flexible, but one must remember that the skills are used as a bonus to your base attributes. Thus, what they are exactly isn’t nearly as important as why your character possesses them (as in, defining how they are better in this skill compared to other characters).

One thing Enter the Shadowside relies heavily on are the different Organizations. Each one defines how the character goes through Hierogamy and what supernatural abilities are available to them. They are described, but not fully described. The content tells you who they are and what they do (albeit in a limited fashion), but it fails to explain why these organizations exist (as in what fuels their actions) and what their end goals are. After reading through the entire book, I have no idea what these organizations want and why they would want it. I’m sure this will be discussed in subsequent sourcebooks, but it really leaves large gaps in the base setting. This is explained slightly within the book as something the GM needs to decipher throughout game-play.

As discussed, skills are discussed but not detailed. Players are supposed to create the skills that define their character concept and provide a reason as to why they have those skills. But none of these skills are defined and the players and GMs are left to determine what is reasonable and what isn’t. They are also left to define what is relevant and what adds no value. Yes it allows for maximum flexibility but at the same time it opens the game to a lot of debate and a lot of situations where the players may try to associate a skill with an action while the GM does not. It is a mechanical implementation of abstract storytelling fluff to provide bonuses to your might when determining your target number. Connecting the dots is tricky, but advanced players may find it easy.

One gaping hole I found is the Item bonuses allowed. Characters carry equipment just like every game. This equipment provides bonuses or penalties to an applicable action. This equipment covers weapons, armor, and mundane items. However, there are no weapons, armor, or mundane items listed in the book. How do I know how much of a bonus is provided for a pistol versus a dagger? What about different types of armor? What bonuses are provided by mundane items? None of this is addressed other than the example character sheets which are not explained. Item bonuses are an integral part of the game, but never actually given. While this may seem like another flexible mechanic like skills, leaving this to player and GM interpretation can result in a thousand possibilities.

Another gaping hole is what do you do with the Shadowside after Hierogamy. Do the creatures come out? Do they attack the characters when attempting to use a supernatural ability? Or is it simply there for grabbing a spirit to perform hierogamy? There’s no bestiary in this book so I don’t understand how the Shadowside affects the greater setting other than providing spirits for hierogamy.

Desire to Play: 8 out of 10
Please note this rating is for the advanced player who can create the flexible mechanics easily. Beginning players may have a lot more difficulty. Enter the Shadowside has a lot of potential and an extremely interesting setting. If you are able to work through the flexible mechanics without over-debating it, the potential for interesting games is quite large. The fluff surrounding the Hierogamy process is enough to grab your attention simply to find out more. But how it plays is really up to the players and their dedication.

Overall: 7 out of 10
One of the reviews I saw stated Enter the Shadowside felt more like a sourcebook than a core rulebook. I agree with that statement as there are too many gaps that need to be filled and too many items that are open to debate. The book seems to focus a lot on the Hierogamy even though it’s only a portion of the game system. Some of the content reads like a blog of forum post instead of providing valuable content such as what you may find in a sourcebook. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see what supplements come available.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Enter The Shadowside - Core Book
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Barroom Brawls
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/12/2012 20:37:32
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=21594.

Barroom Brawls provides quick, concise and easily accessible mechanics for a given gaming group to throw down, flip tables and get into a bawdy brawl at a moment’s notice. With a variety of fun prompts and at-a-glance inspirations, the material herein could be used for a planned-out plot and introduction of hooks or characters–or simply spontaneous mayhem after a hard adventuring session for rowdy rabble-rousers to cut loose and let off some steam. Let’s take a look at what it entails to really get the fisticuffs flying!

OVERALL

Barroom Brawls is short, sweet and entertaining in its offering of easy-to-use rules for ruining the taprooms of beleaguered barkeeps everywhere. While more powerful adventuring parties would require a bit more prep if the intent is to give an equal challenge (though certainly sometimes, a given group may just enjoy mopping the floor with patrons), inside are handy inspirations and reference material for chaotic bar ‘battlefield’ conditions and improvised weapons from tankards to table legs.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Raging Swan’s high standards for editing and formatting continue in this concise mix with some nicely flavorful black and white artwork interspersed with the material presented (including of course frothy tankards aplenty.) The layout is unsurprisingly clean and professional–and as always there are very welcome elements of convenience, from thorough PDF book-marking to the material being nicely printer-friendly. Top marks.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
We begin with a general overview of the elements of a barroom brawl–which breaks down into the Brawl Trigger or catalyst for the coming chaos; a collection of twenty triggers are provided with descriptions of prompts which might begin a given fight, which one could simply pick or roll randomly. After this are Brawl Events, sudden and unexpected twists which might change the ‘terrain’ of the tavern, shift the fight out into the streets or simply see some random sod smashing a chair over the back of one of the PCs–these serve to add a lot of spice and flavor to a given bout of fisticuffs. Again, these could be picked or rolled at your leisure.

Of course, the brawls can’t all be fun and games–for next comes the Brawl Aftermaths, potential consequences and outcomes for once all the dust and chandeliers have settled. Some of these are simple enough–damages and expenses as a result from rowdiness in a given establishment–while others offer potential hooks or opportunities for characters; perhaps the brawl served as cover for a robbery, or the proprietor was so impressed by a particular PC that they’re offered employment! This was one of my favorite sections of the supplement.

After these flavorful sections we have on tap a collection of sample brawlers for ready use; an iconic barkeep, a merchant, a member of the town watch and a sergeant-at-arms are offered as potential participants. We’re also presented with collected rules for non-lethal damage and maneuvering about a changing ‘battlefield’ as tables are overturned and drinks are spilled–Barroom Brawls also includes an amusing set of new conditions by way of Tipsy, Drunk and Hammered to toss out to tavern-goers at the table.

Finally, we wrap up with sections on taproom features and improvised weapons–both of which are suggested as print-outs for brawl participants, such that a given player can quickly eyeball their options before wading in tankards akimbo. On the whole, the mechanics are simple and straightforward, but no less sweet because of it–not only are there readily available references for a variety of improvised weapons to be found about a taproom melee, Creighton’s gone and put together furniture presented as terrain features.

Alongside the spontaneous events to start a tavern brawl or to occur during a brawl in progress, the sheer novelty of having these sorts of mechanics grouped cleanly and concisely makes for a fast and fun experience–while avoiding headaches (though the same cannot be said of the brawl’s participants!)

My only complaint regarding the mechanics herein is more a minor wish–I’d have loved to see the premise taken as an opportunity to include a set of new combat maneuvers flavored for pub-bound pugilists (e.g. a dirty trick splash of ale, etc.) Nevertheless, the mechanics are well-thought out, very functional and quick to pick up–introducing the system to a given game should prove a snap.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
It’s likely safe to say that there is a frightening drought of drunken brawls in most adventuring circles–and that for all the origins of organized groups springing forth from gathering at a tavern, far too few fisticuffs accompany most tales as they unfold. Tongue-in-cheek aside, folks generally don’t delve into such situations strictly to avoid flipping through books to round up the appropriate mechanics–and thus Creighton’s endeavor to bring together a nice collection of the lot makes for a very practical product.

Ultimately, Barroom Brawls is added fun–easy to implement and use and a nice change of pace from pounding (or being pounded by) ogres and their ilk. Personally, I’m fondest of the proposition within to utilize a good old-fashioned tavern brawl as a means of introducing rival adventurers to a party of players–but at the end of the day, it’s precisely the sort of affordable supplement that serves splendidly in any GM’s toolbox for a rainy day.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Barroom Brawls is a shot-glass-sized supplement that packs a punch; Creighton Broadhurst has done a fine job of bringing together a thematic and functional collection of rules apt to bring a breath of fresh air to any table’s adventures. If you’re looking for an interesting way to introduce new hooks or characters with a classic approach or just keen for an unexpected change of pace, this is a fine way to pull it off. Pound for pound, the material herein serves to expand options for entertainment at a very affordable price; grab it, print some quick reference sheets for your players and embrace a bawdy brawl!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barroom Brawls
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Basic Tavern
Publisher: DramaScape
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2012 20:19:30
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=21583.

Basic Tavern is a free offering from the recently create DramaScape. Although it’s free, it doesn’t fall short of detail or visual perfection. In fact, it is quite a stunning battlemap with a great number of details within. The tavern itself is very simple with a door on both short walls, an assortment of tables, a fire place, a kitchen, and a wooden floor area. To coincide with the beauty of the battlemap is a front cover illustration depicting the battlemap as you would see it from the main door.

OVERALL

For a free product, this is an amazingly detailed battlemap. Combine that with the front-door perspective on the cover and you end up with an exquisite look at everything within the tavern.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The battlemap is laid-out very well consider grid placement and location within each page. It comes in two formats with a square grid and a hex grid. However, it does not include a greyscale version to save you on ink. In addition there is an overview showing the taven as it is designed and a very valuable mapping of the different pages showing their location in relation to the battlemap as a whole.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
Basic Tavern is a visually stunning battlemap for something so simple. Besides the extremely detailed floor, each table is given a variety of items to make the scene more realistic such as plates, food, and knives. However, one of the most appealing items on this battlemap is the textures of the stone floor and wood use throughout. It is extremely detailed and quite a sight. Battlemaps often lack this amount of detail on a simple texture.

Desire to Use: 10 out of 10
Many adventures start in a tavern. Why not make that tavern the best looking one you can find? Any GM would be proud to put this on their gaming table and show their players exactly what the tavern looks like, eliminating the need for all those detail questions… just look at the map and you’ll have an answer!

Overall: 9 out of 10
When you pick-up a free battlemap such as this, you really get a semblance of what DramaScape is capable of creating. Its simplicity should not be overlooked as many fantasy and historical games involve taverns at some point in time. And if they do, why wouldn’t you want the best looking map you can find? This Basic Tavern is truly a work of art!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Basic Tavern
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Adventure Quarterly #1 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/10/2012 15:00:55
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=21468.

Adventure Quarterly is a new Pathfinder magazine from Rite Publishing with a different mindset than their ongoing Pathways. While not being offered as a free product, it is much more focused and can be considered more as a collection of individual products rather than just a magazine (in other words, it is a magazine-styled release of multiple supplements and modules). With that in mind, Adventure Quarterly Issue #1 contains three adventures and two supplements.

OVERALL

Adventure Quarterly is a great direction to take in terms of offering smaller publications in a single product. It helps reduce the cost for customers and allows them to pick this up in Print-on-Demand (you can’t do POD for products under 40-something pages without it costing too much). This is a great direction for Rite Publishing and really provides a great value to the customer as they don’t have to purchase a bunch of smaller PDFs and pay to have them printed elsewhere or use all their own ink when printing them at home.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Adventure Quarterly Issue #1 is a great offering and a great-looking book. With a combination of content in a magazine style, the layout and formatting are clean, clear, and concise. In addition, along with the PDF purchase, a set of battlemap images are provided to coincide with the scaled-down versions found in the magazine. The stock art chosen matches up extremely well with the content and I love the creature commissioned for the cover and inside.

Mechanics/Storyline: 9 out of 10
The best part of this magazine-style of release is that you get adventures and supplements in a single product. The three adventures have solid storylines with adventure #3 being my favorite and the one I feel has the best plot line. The mechanics provided for the Tribal Name Generator and the incorporation of mechanics for the Forked Legion means a GM can add their own flavor to those adventures using included content, create their own adventures launching off the ones inside, or creating your campaigns using bits and pieces of what’s offered. It’s truly a complete offering for GMs.

Desire to Play/Use: 9 out of 10
The three adventures in Issue #1 do not tie together, nor do they flow from one to another in terms of PC level. In fact, there’s a chance all three are so completely unrelated you wouldn’t be able to run them all in a single campaign. That said, you can certainly use them all in a number of different campaigns or create different hooks throughout your campaign to weave these three adventures into your overarching storyline. The included Tribal Name Generator and Forked Legion means the GM just has that much more material to work with when constructing their own adventures and campaigns, which could be used to tie the three adventures together. I can see a number of different uses for what you find in Issue #1.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I may be slightly biased, but I’m a fan of the magazine-styled release format for smaller, sometimes seemingly unrelated releases. The customer is getting a great deal for their money and the publisher doesn’t have to pay the extra overhead of offering multiple, low-cost publications. Topping this all of is the availability of the Print-on-Demand, another driving factor for this style of product. In my opinion, it’s a definite great buy for Pathfinder GMs, even if you only use 60% of the content.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Quarterly #1 (PFRPG)
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