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101 Magus Feats (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/07/2012 20:32:00
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=21094.

The Magus is a complex hybrid character class for the Pathfinder Fantasy system that is flavorful right out of the gate. With 101 Magus Feats, Rite Publishing has kicked things up a notch for the already yummy Magus.

OVERALL

101 Magus Feats is more than just a list of feats for one class. 101 Magus Feats takes Archetypes into consideration and categorizes the feats presented in this book to create a user-friendly product that is well-thought out and well-executed. Rite Publishing has always gotten crunch right and with 101 Magus Feats they have listened to feedback from the “field” and continue to tweak their format in ways that benefit players and Game Masters alike.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The cover of 101 Magus Feats looks amazing. Rite Publishing went went with their black faux leather pattern this time and the combination of the black “leather” with an outstanding picture of what I could best describe as a dominmagus. This lady looks tough; her sword, while completely impractical, is really wicked looking. Combine the wicked looking sword with stiletto heeled boots, an exposed midriff and spiked spaulders and you have the makings of a woman I wouldn’t want to cross; add the fact that she is casting some type of spell and things only get more interesting. This supplement uses Rite Publishing’s sepia lion boarder which I have yet to have a problem with. The feat entries are standard fare and easy to read. Some of the interior art in the book still fell short for my tastes but the art or images that were chosen normally had a description below them letting me know what feat each image went with. Those small captions make a world of difference. The sinister harbinger picture on page 23 was awesome! One of the best aspects of 101 Magus Feats is the chart listing all of the feats with a brief description. I have seen these charts 100s of times; what made this chart really matter was they broke it down by magus archetype. This small act makes the product much more user-friendly.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
These feats are mechanically sound. Rite Publishing has always done a good job of keeping mechanics in mind when they design and produce their products. Mechanics is another area where I felt that Rite really hit a home run in 101 Magus Feats. Many of the Archetypes that Rite developed for this product were actually written by Pazio or other third party publishers. All of the archetypes are properly referenced and credited to their originators. There are plenty of third party developers out there and they rarely go out of their way to support concepts that other third party developers come up. I have said that Rite Publishing is good about supporting their products with additional supplements; with 101 Magus Feats, they have just turned themselves into that mom in the neighborhood who feeds all of the kids on the block because she loves to do it and because it is the right thing to do. This mutually supportive environment is what the RPG industry needs.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
Who doesn’t like more feats? 101 feats for your Magus are great, but they are even better when they are this well-written and organized. As far as value, this product is useful on both sides of the screen. As a GM I could add a few of these to any Magus NPC to throw my players a curve ball. When I use this product I will consider actually giving my NPC Magus feats that are normally associated with an Archetype they do not possess just to mix things up.

Overall: 10 out of 10
There is nothing revolutionary about this product. The feats chart I mentioned earlier is a standard, but by placing it in the front of 101 Magus Feats and organizing the feats by Archetype, Rite Publishing did players and GMs a favor. Third party RPG companies work together all of the time, but Rite seems to show special love to their fellow publishers. Their quality work and the way Rite Publishing handles the feats for other publishers concepts shows they are in this business for their customers.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Magus Feats (PFRPG)
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The Unspeakable Oath 19
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/03/2012 15:05:55
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=20891.

The Unspeakable Oath is a magazine dedicated to Cthulhu Mythos role-playing, not just standard Call of Cthulhu. This concept is brought to fruition quite well within issue #19. Not only do you get some of the to-be-expected style content for Call of Cthulhu, you also get content for Trail of Cthulhu and Deltra Green and a new ultra-light rules system called Cthulhu Dark. The best part about all this is that everything is in the style of the Cthulhu Mythos and can be farmed for all aspects of Cthulhu gaming. The Unspeakable Oath continues to be the ultimate handbook for Cthulhu role-playing.

OVERALL

I love the direction The Unspeakable Oath continues to take. It does a wonderful job of incorporating new Mythos material while expanding upon existing material. It also shows love for the entire gambit of Cthulhu role-playing by incorporating Delta Green, Trail of Cthulhu, Cthulhu Dark, and reviews that focus on content outside of Call of Cthulhu in addition to the Call of Cthulhu content. I’m truly looking forward to perusing future issues.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The Unspeakable Oath is a beautiful magazine. The layout is wonderful, the formatting is superb, and the illustrations are beautiful; I especially love the covers they continue to use. This magazine sets an excellent standard for those looking to create similar products that incorporate a multitude of content. Also, this format of product allows you to obtain a lot of valuable content at an extremely low price.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
What mechanics within The Unspeakable Oath 19 are perfect, especially Cthulhu Dark. They do a perfect job of grasping the Cthulhu Mythos and its inherent concepts through new spells and bestiary along with presenting a number of great objects to seed your adventures.

Value Add: 8 out of 10
The Unspeakable Oath 19 has a ton of content for the Keeper, but very little content for the player. I understand the desire to present tools and scenarios the Keeper can quickly and easily incorporate into the regular game sessions, but offering a little love to the players is a good way to keep them coming back to the magazine. This is especially difficult if the Keeper plans on running one of the given articles inside the magazine and ensures the players do not read it. However, there is still a lot of great, valuable content.

Overall: 9 out of 10
The Unspeakable Oath is a great way to get your Cthulhu Mythos fix for a low price. For Keepers, it presents you with a ton of great content for your regular game sessions without having to buy piles of expensive books. While creating your own is rewarding and a lot of fun, sometimes the rushed Keeper needs something fast. With the incorporation of non-standard Call of Cthulhu content, Arc Dream Publishing and the crew is showing how much they appreciate all aspects of Cthulhu role-playing and not just the one system that started it all.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Unspeakable Oath 19
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Roads-2-Nowhere 1: Urban Crawl
Publisher: Scrying Eye Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2012 14:09:06
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=20887.

Roads-2-Nowhere is part of the TopoTiles set of modular battlemap tiles from Scrying Eye Games designed under a specific theme but for universal applications. Urban Crawl carries a post-apocalyptic theme with possible use in modern and sci-fi applications. The set consists of generic road tiles with small attached buildings that can ultimately be used for a variety of purposes. The set is post-apocalyptic themed, however, as the associated elements (such as the ruined or rusted cars, broken pavement sections, tossed buildings, and random “destruction”) fall under what you would envision in a post-apocalyptic setting.

As is common with almost all of Scrying Eye Games’ battlemaps, there are an abundance of minute details (such as the small pieces of debris in the buildings, the grass protruding from the cracks in the pavement, and the sewer grates on the road) that make the battlemap visually appealing. In addition, the tiles are designed to be used in any configuration by offering very generic designs that can be mixed and matched at your leisure.

OVERALL

Urban Crawl is a good set of battlemap tiles, although the title really doesn’t fit the theme. To me it has more of a suburban if not rural feel as the roads are sparsely populated and the buildings quite small. However, I would not rate a product based on its name but rather its design and functionality and it could be used as the outskirts of an urban area.

The set of included roads comes in two flavors: 2-lane and 4-lane. The 2-lane roads appear to be one way streets due to the white lines in the center instead of yellow (although it can easily be used as a bi-directional street), while the 4-lane roads appear to be bi-directional. Linking these two flavors together is a single intersection with four lanes going one direction and two lanes going the other. At least, I believe the purpose of that tile is to link the two together. I would like to point out that this set is designed for a neighborhood or industrial park and not the open road as there is only one 4-lane tile and it happens to be straight.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Urban Crawl is a good set of tiles that look great and provide a decent number of options. I would like to see more 4-lane road options and additional items such as front yards, back yards, alleys, intersections with street lights, and commercial buildings. Still, as-is, Urban Crawl is a good set of tiles with a lot of options. The tile format presents the user with an endless number of combinations.

Visual Appeal: 10 out of 10
Scrying Eye Games is one of the best battlemap-makers when it comes to detail. They always include a lot of little things to their battlemaps that make them interesting and believable. And besides the tiles, you get a heck-of-a-lot of add-on elements to further flavor the tiles you decide to use. A lot of work and dedication goes into making these maps and the visual appeal truly pays off.

Desire to Use: 8 out of 10
When I think of a suburban wasteland, wiped out by some apocalyptic event, this really matches my vision. I like the use of the street tiles combined with the various buildings, although I think more options should be available for buildings and streets. Many mapmakers ignore the post-apocalyptic theme and this one not only embraces it, it really fits what that vision of wasteland would be. It definitely needs more options, but there at least plenty here to get you started, and the price is extremely reasonable.

Overall: 9 out of 10
If you are running a post-apocalyptic setting in a suburban environment, Urban Crawl is a great set of tiles to show your players what the city looks like after that apocalyptic event. The decay of the surroundings are prevalent and the obvious neglect (because everyone in that area died) really comes through. It really has that “What happened here?” look to every single tile, producing a very cohesive battlemap for post-apocalyptic settings.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Roads-2-Nowhere 1: Urban Crawl
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10 Luckbringer Feats
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/20/2012 14:52:53
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=20572.

Once again Steven D. Russell and the crew over at Rite publishing provide even more support for their creations of RPG goodness by adding additional feats for the Luckbringer class.

OVERALL

This is one of those short and sweet, no frills kind of products. Rite Publishing knows how to support the products they make and the classes they develop and these 10 feats make the Luckbringer just that much more playable.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The cover of 10 Luckbringer Feats is a departure from the normal faux leather cover of many Rite Publishing products. The best way to describe it would be that it is like watching the Prince of Persia jumping off of the Arch De Triumph getting ready to kick the reader in the face while singing, or casting a spell or getting ready to make an obscure gesture with his hand. The full color background is a nice change of pace, but when you combine it with the acrobatic breast plate wearing Prince of Persia wanna be, it becomes less appealing. It almost looked like old school green screen, think Total Recall. The picture of this Faux P of P is repeated on the first interior page and without the CGI background and smaller it looks much better. This product uses Rite Publishing’s Sepia Lion border which always looks great . The text is easily readable and the feat format is standard. No need for an index with only 2 pages. There is a short paragraph which lets the read know where to find the entire Luckbringer class write-up. I think a Hyperlink to The Secrets of the Luckbringer would be great in the PDF version. This would allow me to buy the base class if these feats interested me.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The Luckbringer is a crunchy class and these feats do nothing to make it more chewable. People who are playing Luckbringers and GMs who are allowing them in their games or running NPCs with Luckbringer levels understand this and won’t bat an eye at the extra crunch and flavor these feats add.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
If you have the Improbable Class feature, this is the product for you! 7 of the 10 feats require the improbable class feature while the remaining 3 require the Moment of chance class feature. Some of these could be tweaked, but I think the requirements are balanced as-is.

Overall: 9 out of 10
If a GM or player at your table is remotely interested in playing a Luckbringer, check this product out. Will these 10 feats go down in history as the greatest feats developed for a class ever? Probably not; however they seem balanced, well-written and show that Rite Publishing won’t leave you hanging; if they develop a class or a product they are good at supporting them in subsequent supplements. In the end, it is a win for the publisher and player. Hats off to Steven D. Russell and Rite Publishing, what you do for RPGs it is no easy feat.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Luckbringer Feats
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API Worldwide: Canada
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/10/2012 15:12:14
The following review was originally published at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19996.

Worldwide: Canada is a sourcebook for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. (API) detailing, of course, Canada. But don’t think of this is a geographical reference book as everything inside is geared toward expanding the API setting to the frigid north (in regards to the US of course). If you think about it, Canada is a natural choice for oddities within the API world with its general size and large areas of wilderness. Demons, as they are called in API, can thrive in a land where humans rarely travel. To add to this natural value, the book is filled with great new options including applicable organizations, locations of interest, new races, and two detailed adventures. Even if you don’t want to run a game in Canada, this book is filled with lots of great content that can be incorporated elsewhere.

OVERALL

If you want to confine your Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. games to the borders of the United States, then Worldwide: Canada won’t do you too much good. However, a crafty GM can easily find a way to pull some of the organizations and adversaries in Canada into the northern fringes of the United States. So what does this mean? It means the book is a must have for adventures in Canada and a should have for those near the border. Everything else and it’s just another great addition to your library.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Worldwide: Canada is a well-put together book with a high quality layout and format. There are many minor editing errors, but none that stand out so much they broke the flow of the content. The book follows the same clean, simple layout as with other Third Eye Games’ books and a smattering of great-looking art supports the content. Third Eye Games has a tendency to stick with simple layouts that are efficient and effective, and look great.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Only about 1/3 of the book contains mechanics, but what is there, really adds value to the system (especially the setting). The new mechanics include character races, equipment, adversaries, paths, elite techniques, and mechanics for fighting in the frozen north. These alone are enough to add plenty of value to the sourcebook, but Third Eye Games includes plenty of content to tie all the mechanics to the setting and create a 3-dimensional description of API’s involvement in Canada.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
Worldwide: Canada is a great value for any API Game Master or player. The only drawback, albeit a small one, is that much of the mechanics are tied directly to the Canadian setting making them a little more difficult to adapt elsewhere. Granted, the intent of the publication is to create mechanics that embrace the Canadian setting, but that also means that if you don’t plan on running any adventures in Canada, then much of the content is lost. While this does not make the product less valuable as it is extremely valuable for those running adventures in Canada, it does mean that its use is very specific and not everyone will find it necessary.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Worldwide: Canada is a great addition to anyone’s API library should they want to branch off their adventures into Canada or even just to run adventures that occur within northern regions (or southern regions in the Southern Hemisphere) similar to that of Canada. Players will find new options for creating characters and outfitting them and Game Masters will find a wealth of new organizations and adversaries to throw at those players. It’s an extremely well-rounded product.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
API Worldwide: Canada
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So What's the Hoard Like, Anyway?
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/09/2012 14:35:33
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19870.

A glistening silver chalice, delicately crafted and possessing an airy lightness, lies within a frayed hempen sack. A fist-sized blue-green stone with tiny red flecks. A scuffed and well-worn text written with manticore blood ink on fine linen paper… Masterwork Bongos? All these and more can be found among the random hoards that await within this release from Raging Swan Press.

OVERALL

While short, this is a strong edition to any GM’s resource library. In addition to providing tables for generating loot as well as descriptions for each item in the hoard, the basic rules for appraisal and magic item construction are included. Furthermore, several hoards contain items that are all thematically related, a scepter, a crown, and royal robes for example.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
The book is up to Raging Swan Press’s usual standards, which look back, artistically, to older RPG products. It is black and white, free of unnecessary ornamentation, and is quite legible. Overall, an elegant package in PDF or printed form.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The format of the entries is easy to use and the mechanics are organized in a consistent fashion. After the name and description of an item, it is followed up by rules for appraisal and magical item construction, as previously mentioned, verbatim, allowing quick reference during play.

Value Added: 9 out of 10
SWtHLA falls just short of a ten in Value Added because it only goes to level seven and can only be used with the intended ease for one third of the standard twenty levels. One might combine hoards to increase their level value or make other adjustments to change the values of a given hoard. I hope they release another book that contains hoards of higher levels. Additionally, all the various items can be used independent of the hoards as general descriptors.

Overall: 10 out of 10
This book rocks. While I love writing descriptions and noodling around with treasure, I certainly appreciate having someone else do the work for me. As I said, I hope they produce more of these books for higher levels, or even just books of descriptions of items. This is my second review of a Raging Swan product and I hope to have the opportunity to review many more.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
So What's the Hoard Like, Anyway?
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Five Room Dungeon: The Rabbit Hole
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/05/2012 14:34:56
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19815.

Alice had it easy! The Rabbit Hole is an extra dimensional trip that dreams are made of literally. While 5 “rooms” might not seem like much, this adventure will turn players and GMs in directions they never thought or dreamed they would go.

OVERALL

WOW! I have seen some interesting concepts for dungeons, but this takes the crumpet! (tea anyone?). I am astounded by the way the trio of Ben McFarland, Clinton J. Boomer and Matt Banach were able to shove 10 rooms of adventure into a 5 room dungeon!

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Rite Publishing used a black faux leather cover pattern instead of their normal brown. Some of their more recent products have used a variation of colors and I applaud Rite for mixing things up. The cover art by Mark Hyzer would make Lovecraft proud, and it looks great in black and white. The cartography by Jonathan Roberts is top notch. The actual depiction of what I can best describe as flexibly amorphous rooms were elegant in their execution. Instead of their normal page border patterns, Steven D. Russell and company went with a full color sort of starry night type of drawing on the header and footer of the page (as found in Coliseum Morpheuon). This touch added a dream like quality to an adventure that focuses on those subconscious thoughts that occupy our thoughts when we sleep.

This product lost points for a few reasons, such as some misspellings, but this is minor. There were a few times when the information from knowledge checks seemed to cut off abruptly. In one case it looked as though if the players got a higher result on their knowledge check, they would have the rest of the knowledge contained in the descriptive sentence. If this was the writer’s intention, it didn’t work. There was no indication in the beginning of the adventure as to the recommended level of the players. Not a big issue but it should be noted in a more immediate and obvious location. I think some of the adventure background information could have been re-ordered to make more sense for the GM, but I will confess that I have been brainwashed by the big companies to look for a specific format.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
There was only one small problem with the mechanics in Five Room Dungeon: The Rabbit Hole. Regardless, this adventure takes the idea of a dimension with flexible laws of gravity and even reality and puts a set of logical if not a bit complicated set of rules to them. This is no minor feat. Anytime designers and writers can place useable mechanics onto a high concept that can change based on the most unpredictable factor of them all (the player), you have something that us mere mortals are not worthy of (cue Wayne and Garth).

Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
This product was designed for a very specific setting and while it could be tweaked to be used elsewhere, its lack of modularity was my only complaint. The fact that this adventure is for high-level characters might cause problems for some and limit the audience to use within the upper levels of the Coliseum Morpheuon adventure, but don’t let that stop you from adding this to your bookshelf (real or virtual). The rules that cover situations where the player can change the surrounding environment and the rules of gravity are worth the full cost of this product. The cartography is outstanding and the complex thought processes that went into creating this should be acknowledged with your money and support!

Overall: 9 out of 10
This adventure is unique in ways I can’t even begin to describe. I went into this product thinking it was going to be a kind of tongue and cheek Alice in Wonderland set up. I was right and I was wrong, there are a few well-done homages to AIW, but those were serious and added great, spicy flavor to the adventure. This adventure does so much to help the GM set the mood and bring a twisted dream realm to life in ways that would make James Cameron blue with envy. Products this complex and well-thought out are rarely produced, and when they are, they are often too complex and not useable. Five Room Dungeons: The Rabbit Hole is the type of product lesser companies could only dream of making.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Five Room Dungeon: The Rabbit Hole
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The Secrets of the Oracle (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/02/2012 14:49:26
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19789.

The Secrets series is a wonderful example of what a third party publisher can do to enhance material produced by the original publisher. The Secrets of the Oracle takes a hard look into the Oracle class and makes it not only more interesting, but much more fun to play.

OVERALL

The Pathfinder Fantasy system has done a great job of establishing mechanics that add modular versatility to most of the base classes with mechanics like Archetypes and mysteries. These “add-ons” Help ensure that very few Oracles will be alike with The Secrets series and especially The Secrets of the Oracle.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
The cover of The Secrets of the Oracle is done in a faux blue cover instead of the normal brown. I think that moving to a color-coded format for each series might be a good thing. Rite Publishing has quite a few products out there and the different colored covers might be an easy way for a reader to identify exactly which series a product belongs to. I have been critical of Rite Publishing’s use of stock or public art in the past and even more critical when it comes to the use of color art in those domains, The Secrets of the Oracle bucks that trend. While not overburdened with art, this supplement feels like it has much more artistic cohesion and I was blown away by the drawings on pages 4 and 5 depicting the Primeval and Rot mysteries.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Providing outstanding 3rd party support for products is not an easy thing to do. In The Secrets of the Oracle, David Mallon has taken the time to study the Oracle and produce enhancements that are useful and balanced. The mysteries are interesting and, if used correctly, will act as a good role-playing direction for Oracle characters. The feats are solid and really work mechanically and thematically with the rest of the product. The most mechanical flavor comes with the curses. There are only six curses but they add so much to the Oracle as a character class. As player curses are fun to role-play and as a GM they provide some great adventure hooks and are a small way to reign in that player whose head gets a little big for their helmet.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
This product is great for players and GMs, provided there are Oracle player characters or Oracle NPCs. At a price of $3.99 USD I would not recommend this product just to have on hand. If you are running a game that involves Oracles in any way then this one is worth the cost. I am not saying that this product is overpriced, but it isn’t versatile enough to justify an impulse or an “I might use this product” buy.

Overall: 9 out of 10
While The Secrets of the Oracle is not a versatile product, it’s well-crafted and well-thought out. The mysteries, curses and archetypes make me want to play and include Oracles in my games. To be honest, before reading this supplement I had passed Oracles over as yet another flavor of Cleric, boy was I wrong and The Secrets of the Oracle has shown me the light.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Oracle (PFRPG)
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Supernatural Role Playing Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/31/2012 16:57:58
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19817.

Using the Cortex System at its foundation, the Supernatural RPG allows a group of die-hard fans the opportunity to play the Winchester brothers, or other hunters, and one other to be the screenwriter/producer/director they’ve always dreamt of within the surreal world of darkness created by the popular TV show. For me, it’s my first full experience with these mechanics and Margaret Weis Productions’ continuing line of licensed games. I’ve seen the show a few times, but never caught it on a regular basis, because I’m a slave to watching everything in order and have yet to find a channel airing it in syndication or a local store selling the first season on DVD.

All that adds up to an eager anticipation on my part to see what all the fuss is about: game mechanics and the setting material alike. The latter is very effective and highly evocative, written as if it were spoken by Dean himself, and sets a clear tone for both those familiar and inexperienced with the show. The former was an acceptable system capable of embracing player participation and character interaction, but seemed rather ho-hum on resolution and combat.

OVERALL

After reading through the book, I felt as if the Supernatural RPG‘s mechanics were heavily influenced by White Wolf’s World of Darkness games and while I’ve never read Hunter: The Gathering, I’m sure it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to adapt that game into a homebrew of this show. While the book is well-written and mechanically solid, I have to admit disappointment at what I was expecting. It feels typical to nearly every other RPG out there and while Plot Points are a nice touch, it’s only a fresh coat of paint on a street where all the houses are built the same. If you’ve been waiting for a RPG to come out supporting your favorite show after spending weeks working on a hack from another system, I’d be hard pressed to insist on ditching that work.

This doesn’t mean the game itself is poor, just standard. If you’re new to role-playing, it’s a perfectly acceptable way to enter or continue into the genre. But if you’re experienced and looking for something new and exciting, you might not find it here. I’m in the second category, which is why this game doesn’t quite do it for me in light of what I came to expect.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
Every page looks as if it came from one of Winchester’s journals and helps propel the mood of the game and its relation to the show. Very effective in print, a bit of a bother in PDF (my copy came in at 42Mb and was a bit slow to load on the tablet).

Mechanics: 7 out of 10
Functional, yes. Effective, yes. Evocative? No. While Plot Points and Traits were a nice touch, they didn’t make a massive difference to differentiate this game from any other out there.

Desire to Play: 5 out of 10
I’m more psyched about watching the show more than ever and would pull this out if my players squealed when they found out I had a copy. Otherwise, it’s another book to add to the shelf.

Overall: 7 out of 10
Don’t get me wrong, this is a good RPG and demonstrates Margaret Weis Productions as a worthy publisher. Jamie Chambers and the team’s handling of the material is excellent and perhaps if I was already a nut for the show, I’d be more enthusiastic. Yet my personal feeling on the been-there, done-that mechanics is not my cup of tea. Some of my discontent also stems from my expectations of the Cortex System – I don’t think this game lives up to the potential I’ve come to expect from this system. If you’re a fan of the TV show, the rating may be more like 8 out of 10.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supernatural Role Playing Game
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Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Xoti, the Usurper (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/30/2012 14:17:24
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19699.

Faces of The Tarnished Souk (FotTS): Xoti, the Usurper is a supplement for the Coliseum Morpheuon adventure for the Pathfinder Fantasy system. Xoti, the Usurper is the celebrated playboy of the Tarnished Souk. He seems to deal quite well with being exiled from his homeland, or maybe he’s just overcompensating.

OVERALL

Xoti, the Usurper is a godling walking. Some believe that he is a god while others feel that he will be a god someday. His larger-than-life personality combined with his physical prowess and his martial skills lend credence to these god and god-to-be rumors. He is loud and brash, everything that we love and hate in our RPG gods.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 6 out of 10
The Faces of the Tarnished Souk series has done such a good job for so many of the products in the series that they had to fall short at least once when it comes to publishing, and it looks like Xoti, the Usurper is where and when that happens. There is little art in this book and, to be honest, none of it really worked for me. The cover depicts a well muscled bearded man who must be Xoti. The problem is he looks more like a tall dwarf rather than the picture of the new race the Mahrog that is found later in the book. The use of stock art here could be greatly improved upon. The depiction of the Mahrogs looks more like pictures of either Orcs or Half-Orcs, with the Mahrog name tacked on. The public domain art that was chosen to depict the Fortune-Based creature (some people playing cards) was decent at best. In the description on how to use Xoti, the Usurper, there is a grammatical mistake on page 1 that can stop the easy flow of reading, standing out a bit too much. On the plus side, Rite Publishing does a great job of referencing the sources for any material not covered in this product.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
Matt Banach and Justin Sluder and the Rite Publishing crew know mechanics and they know them well. In past reviews I have felt that some of their templates are a bit overpowered, but for the Tarnished Souk and Coliseum Morpheuon, most of these templates work well. The Coliseum is a deadly place and the people who live and fight there are no slouches. I am a big fan of templates and Xoti’s templates really add to his image as an interesting NPC and his status as a once and future god.

Value Add: 9 out of 10
Xoti, has the potential to be a wonderful plot driver and is the type of NPC that I personally love to hate. Some GMs put their NPCs in god mode, Xoti, is in god mode, no need for additions from the GM. Xoti is the kind of NPC that gets players into trouble and into the action. In fact, Xoti creates action even where there shouldn’t be any. He is larger than life and not ashamed of it. My hatred for this type of NPC is quickly overshadowed by just how epic of a plot device Xoti can be. If you are a GM and you want to stir things up, unleash Xoti on your players and let the fun ensue. This guy is good to go right out of the box!

Overall: 8 out of 10
I didn’t feel like Matt and Justin immersed Xoti like they have with other NPCs in the past. Xoti is interesting and could really change a game session, but there is something missing. I hope the grammatical error and less-than-ideal use of stock art is improved upon in the future. The Mahrog, as a race, are interesting and definitely on my races-to-play list. The use of what I call the runic border for this product was a good call and the formatting was spot on. I hope that GMs and fans of Rite Publishing and Faces of the Tarnished Souk look past the visual depictions of Xoti, the Usurper to find the godling inside.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Faces of the Tarnished Souk: Xoti, the Usurper (PFRPG)
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10 Taskshaper Feats
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/28/2012 14:12:48
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19787.

When new base classes are developed and introduced they are often left to fend for themselves. They tend to receive little support in the way of magic items and feats. For fans of the utilitarian Taskshaper class, never fear; Steven D. Russell and the folks over at Rite Publishing have not abandoned the Taskshaper, and even show this fledgling class some love with 10 Taskshaper Feats.

OVERALL

I applaud Rite Publishing and Steven D. Russell for stepping up as the Taskshapers baby daddy. As previously mentioned, people tend to abandon their creations to whither. As a player who enjoys playing unusual classes, I always get giddy when products like this are released. I have been forced to develop my own feats for under-supported classes in the past and having the actual developer of the class produce something like this is a godsend.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Instead of their normal faux brown leather cover style, Rite went with a green-hued faux leather cover, which actually works really well with the green and black cover art. The picture goes well enough with the content. One of the hallmarks of the Taskshaper is the ability to change into a dragon form. This drawing gives the reader a sense of transformation but the end creature depicted is an eagle, not a dragon. Based on the unusual qualities of the Taskshaper I can see where finding stock art to depict the class would be difficult. I would have recommended original art for this product, but I’m satisfied with the art they chose and the use of green and black instead of black and white was different and appreciated. The feat write-ups were well-done and in familiar formats. Rite used it’s sepia lion border which always works well. I would have love to see the Taskshaper class written up in the product or a small introductory write-up on the first page, call me old fashioned, I like a little fore-play.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
This is Rite Publishing, what do you expect? Rite thinks before they publish when it comes to mechanics. Their products are well-thought out and while they can get complicated at times, they always provide an outstanding payoff. The Taskshaper is a paperwork intensive class and the addition of these feats will add to that paperwork. The good news is that because the amount of feats a character gets is limited, each and every one feels like they are worth taking. I always fret over which feats to take and all of these would interest me if I was playing a Taskshaper.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
If you are playing a Taskshaper or if you are a GM who is running a Taskshaper NPC these feats are golden. If there are no Taskshapers in your game or in the foreseeable future, then this product has limited use for you. Some of the feats can be tweaked for other shape-changing classes.

Overall: 10 out of 10
My only real problem with this product is its length. All three pages that contain the write-ups for the feats are well-done, but this should be an erratum to the Taskmaster class write-up as opposed to a stand-alone product or like other Rite Publishing products, could have been included in another supplement. However, at a cost of 10 cents (US) per feat how can you go wrong? Rite Publishing, thanks for being a responsible parent and looking after your intellectual children.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
10 Taskshaper Feats
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101 Not So Simple Monster Templates (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/27/2012 14:52:38
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19633.

Templates are nothing new, but they are often spread throughout multiple books, slowing down games and wasting valuable table time. 101 Not So Simple Monster Templates takes monster templates that Rite Publishing has included on many of their products and consolidates them into one book.

OVERALL

In a day and age when players have learned to min/max their characters and have no fear of things like orcs and goblins, it is good to see a product that gives Game Masters a chance to beef up lower challenge rating creatures or gimp out creatures that might be a perfect fit for the story but overpowered for the adventuring party.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 9 out of 10
Rite Publishing has done a good job of mixing color and black and white art into 101 Not So Simple Monster Templates. I have to give them props for selecting art that is more in-tune with the text they are presenting. The addition of captions or titles that describe is a clever way to make sure that some of the stock or public domain art is useable. There is a quick reference chart that lists each of the template’s names and their challenge rating adjustment. Charts like this are a must to ensure that a product with this much information is table-friendly for players and GMs. The templates are in alphabetical order, which works. To improve the usefulness of the well-done chart, I would recommend including a page number behind the challenge rating adjustment number, to make things that much quicker to find. The chart works at the back of the book, but I would be interested to see it at the front of the book where it could be an index/quick reference chart. These are minor points that should not overshadow a well-set up supplement.

Mechanics: 9 out of 10
Some of these templates still feel over-powered, but they are all done well. 101 Not So Simple Monster Templates mechanically gives GMs a huge amount of flexibility in how they create monsters to face adventuring parties. Throw a few of these templates on your everyday kobold and you could achieve a total party kill on a 3rd or 4th level adventuring party. Some of the templates include quick rules and most give rebuild rules. This is important especially if a monster acquires one of these templates later in its career. The addition of challenge rating adjustments that subtract from a creature’s challenge rating adjustment is almost as valuable as the challenge rating adjustment on the positive side. Most of the negative challenge ratings involve the loss of a limb or sense, but mechanically they could easily be applied for a player character that gets their arm or leg hacked off, gnawed off, burnt off or dissolved during an adventure.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
There are a boat load of templates in this book. Some are very specialized while others could be used in most situations. Adding these templates to creatures that face adventuring parties will create a variety and add a feeling that these monsters are not just stat bags and treasure generators. Some of these templates would be interesting on player characters. This book should be in every GMs toolkit.

Overall: 9 out of 10
Templates, if used correctly, can add so many dimensions to a game. Rite Publishing is getting better and better with every product they produce and 101 Not So Simple Monster Templates is an example of a supplement that is useful, good-looking and thoughtfully executed. There are some truly inspired templates in this book that I doubt you will see anywhere else.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
101 Not So Simple Monster Templates (PFRPG)
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So What's That Shiny Thing Like, Anyway?
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/26/2012 21:00:50
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19570.

In this continuation of the ongoing Raging Swan Press series of ‘So What’ supplements, author Richard Green provides a collection of ready references for GMs to utilize for inspiration–this time making what might ordinarily be mundane gems and goods a more interesting and flavorful find. Whether put on the spot unexpectedly or pondered up during prep, So What’s That Shiny Thing, Anyway? sets out to add spice to a session’s sweet rewards–so let’s take a look and see how this twist on mundane treasures measures up!

OVERALL

So What’s That Shiny Thing, Anyway? further expands upon the growing collection of GM tools in Raging Swan’s repertoire, serving to facilitate evocative and flavorful finds at a glance to spice up a given game’s loot. The content can be utilized quickly and easily and covers a wide variety of cool flavor–while also offering up additional descriptive details, hooks and complications along for the ride.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Raging Swan Press’ two-column standard is shown here crisply and cleanly, continuing to boast a nice professional presentation. Eight pieces of black and white artwork are found herein of a nice quality and flavor the material well. Layout and spacing are handled consistently–and given that much of the product is presented in reference tables, that these are found to be neatly formatted is apt. I did not find any editing glitches–everything appears ship-shape! The PDF is thoroughly bookmarked and broken down to individual tables underneath each category of goods, making it a fine electronic reference as well.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Given the nature of this product, the main meat to make or break it is in the tables themselves–and those presented do not disappoint. While the title denotes all things shiny, there are more goodies included than just gems and coins–and the full gamut breaks down to coins, gems, jewellery, books & scrolls, art objects and miscellaneous objects. Each of these categories is presented within multiple tables with individual entries providing their cash value and a distinct description for flavor. The range of value spans as little as a few copper pieces and as grand as twenty-thousand gold–which needless to say, ought to satisfy mundane finds at all levels of play.

Beyond the tables themselves–which are quite thoroughly chock full of evocative details–two sections of goods include additional layers to further tailor these findings. The coins include a table for what is printed on their reverse side, while the gems section provides reference tables both for appraising and identifying their value and for assessing the magical properties of gemstones (an especially neat table.) A few of the entries include minor mechanical effects, such as a bowl with mushrooms which provide a fortitude bonus versus disease for an hour if eaten–a nice extra inclusion among the mix.

Finally, at the tail end of the product is the Hooks & Complications section, which is really quite neat; here a table provides ‘looks and hooks’ (quite catchy) for gemstones, such as being marked by a wizard’s sigil or being the missing eye from a statue of a demon; while another table denotes ‘previous owners’ for the goods found herein, boasting a nice collection of potentially quirky or precarious encounters to be had should said owners cross paths with a party of adventurers. From start to finish, all of the tables presented include plenty of detailed information about the entries.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
I make no secret that I am a fan of supplements which provide a GM tools with which to spice up their adventures–and one which helps bring more memorable finds among mundane treasures certainly satisfies this calling. So What’s That Shiny Thing, Anyway? goes a long way in regard to providing plenty of alternatives to simply waving a hand and announcing the discovery of fifty gold of this and seventy gold of that–which in and of itself suits nicely for mechanical purposes.

Beyond just flavor, however, is another underlying element: these descriptions could just as well serve as inspiration for adding additional hooks to a given story and its characters–and that is really where the ‘shiny’ begin to shine. Many of the entries provide enough of a curiosity that they have the potential to spark a given player’s interest–and an attentive GM could certainly feed off of these piqued regards to further flesh out a particular find into something more meaningful. It’s these little perks that I feel help supplements, such as this, bring lasting value to the table.

Overall: 10 out of 10

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
So What's That Shiny Thing Like, Anyway?
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Don't Rest Your Head
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/23/2012 15:09:26
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19581.

Don’t Rest Your Head is a psychological, player focused mind trip of a game that incorporates aspects and ideas from some of today’s most innovative writers and film makers into a unique game setting that will keep you up all night.

OVERALL

Don’t Rest Your Head isn’t new, it’s been around for 6 years and during that 6 years it has helped to change the way designers and players look at RPGs. Don’t Rest Your Head is a high concept advanced RPG that is player centric and player focused. Character creation is mechanically simple, but intellectually challenging. The game focuses on the players who are suffering from insomnia in such a way that they are now known as the awakened. The player’s lack of sleep has opened up an existence that inhabits a place called the Mad City. The Mad City plays host to diverse denizens like the Wax King, the Blind Knights, the Roof Rats, the Paper Boys and the Ladies In Hating to name a few. In the Mad City there is a 13th hour and it is dangerous. All of these elements combine to create an RPG that easily gets into your head and is as far from the normal hack-and-slash dungeon crawl as can be.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 10 out of 10
Don’t Rest Your Head was produced before the concept of crowd sourced funding was around. Even without the benefit of public support Evil Hat Productions managed to produce a solid product that is minimalistic, well-thought out and useable. 99.95% of this rulebook is in black and white; the only color present is some red shading and a touch of blue on the face and in the hair of the person depicted on the cover. When color is done right it blows my mind, when black and white is done right it holds this eldritch power that is hard to explain.

Fred Hicks showed sheer genius in his use of black and white to create the mood and feel for Don’t Rest Your Head. At first glance, the page borders create the feeling of ripped pages, but as I delved into the book I got more of a feeling that the black around the edges of the pages represented the darkness creeping into the reader’s soul as they become immersed in the world of Don’t Rest Your Head. The fonts used in this rulebook resemble old newsprint typeface. You could easily picture this being done on an old school typewriter or printed in an even older school newspaper. This book sets the standard for the use of stock photos. All of the photos are in synch with the text and the skilled use of Photoshop makes some stock photos that many people will recognize feel fresh and in some cases imposing. Some of the art has been altered just enough to look like the old plates that were inked then pressed on paper in the early days of printing. Nothing in this rulebook is overdone or overwrought in this book.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
Don’t Rest Your Head does not have a crunchy rules system. For the type of game that Don’t Rest Your Head is, the rules are just right. When there is a conflict the player rolls three dice then can add additional dice based on the possible addition talents and madness dice. A roll of 1,2 or 3 is a success, the total number of successes is called a degree and the person who has the highest degree wins the conflict. Conflicts can occur between players, between players and the GM or between players and the environment. Tie goes to the player. There are other factors that come into play but this is the basics. If you want to get all of the details, buy the book. This is a game of simple dice pools and easy to learn rules. The rules are easy to learn and not complicated, they are flexible and simple enough to cover most situations and the entire feel of the game follows the rule of cool. The rule of cool states: If it is cool and not covered by the rules always go for cool, or strange or odd or just plain freaky. (Please note that the rule of cool is a subset of the Bro Code, unisex version 2.5.)

Desire to Play: 10 out of 10
This game is not for everyone. If you are the type of player who likes to name your character Fightor and the only time you speak at the table is to let the GM know your roll results, avoid this game like the monster under the bed. If you enjoy role-playing games that focus on the player, this is for you. At the more than fair price of $15.00 USD for the hard copy and $5.00 USD for the PDF there is no way you can go wrong with this book. This is a great convention game and perfect as a short term game. There are mechanics that allow you to run an extended adventure, but I think it works best in the short role. Because of its’ outstanding price point it is an affordable game to introduce to most gaming groups. This game is worth your time and money.

Overall: 10 out of 10
Don’t Rest Your Head was, and in some way still is, ahead of its time. This game embraces a player centric focus that many games forget. For many GMs, especially the ones who normally railroad their players, this game will be a huge change for you, in the best possible way. In this review I used the word players but throughout the entire Don’t Rest Your Head rulebook, the player characters are call protagonists. While this might not seem important it really is. This lets us know that this game is a storytelling game that is focused on the players, not the GM. There is no room in this game for NPCs in god mode. There are points in the game where the players actually take the game over. For some players who have never run a game or are table flowers this could be a deal breaker. This game is truly a team effort and if you have the right team or even mostly the right team you will enjoy it. This is a game that delves into human emotions, feelings and, most of all, fears. Don’t rest your head opens that closet door that kept you awake at night. It crawls under the bed where that unseen, but well-known, creature lurks. Don’t Rest Your Head looks down between its’ legs to see the potty hands before they grab you!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Don't Rest Your Head
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So What's The Human Called, Anyway?
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/22/2012 15:08:21
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=19450.

Ithmar Adlard, Emmi Keto, Cassander the Gentle, Luciana Numidicus, Gorm Skull Splitter, Hanish of Girsu, Sunilda the Weaver, Clovis of the Teutons, Kifi of Nuweiba, Mathfrid of Lorsch. Do you recognize these great names? No? That’s probably because I just generated them using Raging Swan’s name generators, So What’s the Human Called, Anyway I and II, two 13 page books loaded with tables for historically accurate name generation.

OVERALL

Not being a historian of any kind, I cannot attest to the historical accuracy of the lists. More important than the historical reality of the names though, is that they do allow you to create names for a variety of cultures that have identifiable differences and distinct characteristics. That said though, the real strength of this product lies not in its content, but rather what you do with said content.

RATINGS

Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The layout is clean and simple with readable fonts. Unfortunately, plain is the word that comes to mind when assessing the appearance of So What’s the Human Called, Anyway?. The lack of artwork and preponderance of charts reminds me of a statistics book. However, it’s a name generator, not the catalogue of works at the Prado and the format allows for name generation quickly and efficiently. Additionally, Raging Swan is known for simple, elegant layouts. I expect it just doesn’t work as well aesthetically for a product like this.

Mechanics: 10 out of 10
The mechanics work exactly as intended and generate tons of different names using two percentage rolls, one for first names and one for last names. If you have a die roller you can speed it up, and if you made an app for that you could do it even faster. Those aren’t really mechanical considerations however.

Value Add: 10 out of 10
While the books are both positioned as name generators, their utility extends well beyond that. It can be used to generate a name for anything. Need a town in an Egyptian setting? You are covered. Need a list of the professions of the businesses on the street? You’ve got that too. Want to instantly have a set of names that define your orc baddies as being a culture apart? Done.

Overall: 9 out of 10
I think So What’s the Human Called, Anyway? is a great product. As I mentioned, the utility extends way beyond simply generating random, culturally-appropriate names for NPCs and I have no doubt it will be making regular appearances when I plan campaigns or build characters. I really do wish it was just a tad more interesting to look at though.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
So What's The Human Called, Anyway?
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