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Vampire: The Masquerade - Revised Edition
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2013 21:22:15
This is it, the original. Well, not the original, original, but the revised version. This game is the go to game for playing an angsty, tortured monster. Nearly everything known about vampires in myth or fiction is in here somewhere. Re-reading it today if you had no knowledge of this game you might be tempted to say that this game is full of cliches. But in truth this is the origin of a lot of things that we take for granted.
Truthfully this is a great book to get even if you never plan to play the game. There are plenty of ideas for Role-playing as well as integrating it with LARPing. There is also a lot of ideas for vampires here.
If you like Anne Rice's vampires, then this is the game for you.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade - Revised Edition
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ACKS Player's Companion
Publisher: Autarch
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2013 07:24:10
So the long awaited Adventurer Conqueror King System Player's Companion is now out in PDF. I don't know know if it is out in stores yet at all or if people that supported it on Kickstarter have their physical copies, but it is up on here on DriveThruRPG.

Now full disclosure time. I did provide some support for the witch class. I was able to look at an early copy of the witch and provide some feedback since it had been based on some work I had done for d20. I shared a copy of my spells research notes and some material that would be part of my own Witch Book.
Neither group was looking for cross-compatibility except int he broadest terms. We did though develop from similar source materials and there is a bit of cohesion between the two classes. To be clear though, I didn't actually write anything for this. The authors had their ideas in a pretty solid form when they talked to me.

That being said let me proceed. ACKS Player's Companion reads like an "Unearthed Arcana" or even a Player's Handbook 2 for the ACKS set. In many ways it is very similar to the Complete B/X Adventurer that came out last year.
There are a number of authors that were brought to together to author the various sections. Sometime you can tell, other times not. This is not a big deal to me except for maybe there are some redundancies in various classes.

Chapter 2 covers all the new classes. We get: Anti-Paladin, Barbarian, Dwarven Delver, Dwarven Fury, Dwarven Machinist, Elven Courtier, Elven Enchanter, Elven Ranger, Gnomish Trickster, Mystic, Nobiran Wonderworker, Paladin, Priestess, Shaman, Thrassian Gladiator, Venturer, Warlock, Witch, and Zaharan Ruinguard. Not a bad list at all. That takes up about 44 pages of the book's 160.

The classes vary a bit. I liked most of them to be honest. The new feature of ACK:PC are the templates (Chapter 3), so all the new classes also have these templates. They define starting proficiencies and equipment.

At first I expected to hate the new racial classes but they provide a nice bit of background that goes beyond just crunch and fluff. In particular the Elven Enchanter and Elven Ranger add something interesting to the game. Sure, you could do this in AD&D in 1978, but here it has a bit of different feel. In fact I reminded of the old Dragon article back in the mid 80s about the Elven Cavalier. Sure it was something you could do on your own, but the article and this book give you something a bit more. The Gnomish Trickster could be reskinned if you are like me and miss the Halflings. The Mystic is a suitable Monk replacement in the vein of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia. There are few ACKS unique race-classes too. We also get a Priestess, Warlock and Witch. Those I'll deal with later.

Chapter 3 introduces Templates. These are part role-playing tips and part mechanical. If you remember the old 2nd Ed Kits these remind me of those, or the Backgrounds in newer games. Several are presented for all classes, new and old. Each character gets Proficiencies and Starting Equipment. It's a really fun idea.

Chapter 4 is an interesting one. It is a custom class creation tool. I have not seen how it compares with similar systems I have seen on the net or in Dragon. I know that the classes in this book were "Verified" with it, so it at least has ACKS internal consistency.

Chapter 5 is Spells. There is a section on magic experimentation and mishaps. Really fun stuff to be honest. Also a section on creating new spells. This is from the same school of thought on the Class Creation. in theory you should be able to check on any spell in the book and get the same numbers.
This followed by the Spell lists. Spells are listed by type and level then the descriptions are alphabetical by name. There is about 38 pages of spells here.

Chapter 6 covers Supplemental Rules. Things like Aging and various equipment.
There is a hyperlinked index and two more for spells and powers.

Utility for other Old School Games
Well the classes can be ported over outright for the most part. The Proficiencies and Templates are a nice addition to any game even if you ignore the mechanics and use them only as role-playing guides.
I am not sure if the Class Creation guidelines will work outside of ACKS or not. My feeling is that they will with some tweaking. Same with the Spells sections. Chapter 6 should be fine for any game.

Witches, Warlocks & Priestesses
The witch is why I picked this book up. The other classes (like the Anti-Paladin and Paladin) also deserve a lot of attention, but the witch is what I am most interested in.
There are three (four if we throw in the shaman, or even five if we count the Elven Enchanter) classes that fit the witch archetype. The Priestess is a female cleric dedicated to what we normally call Mystery Religions. They honor a Goddess for example. Now in other games this would just be another type of cleric, or a cleric with role-playing notes. To me it actually seems weaker than the regular cleric. The Warlock is stereotypical "Evil" warlock and that works well here really. But the real utility for me is when you compare the Warlock to the Witch.
The Warlock is an arcane caster and the Witch is a divine one. So depending on what sort of archetype you want to build you can choose a witch or a warlock. This is a dichotomy that I have also used in the past and it works out well. You can even rule in your games that witches and warlocks were once one class that split or two classes with similar methods or not even related at all.
Witches are most similar to my own. Witches in ACKS:PC also have Traditions. The Traditions here are Antiquarian (a classic witch), Chthonic (dedicated to dark gods), Sylvan (woodland and faerie) and Voudon (voodoo or even Shaman-like). You can adapt these traditions to work with my book or my trads to work with ACKS. I should post a conversion guide between the traditions sometime.
Spells of course a completely cross compatible.

The Book Itself
The layout is top notch and this is a good looking book. It will be attractive as all heck in dead tree format, but the PDF is no lesser product. The index is hyperlinked to pages and it is fully bookmarked.
The art is great and I especially enjoyed the "character" art of Chapter 2. The art changes by Chapter 5 to some commercially available art, which is not a bad thing, but the style is different for the later half of the book.

Who Should Buy this Book?
For the first audience, players and game masters of ACKS, this is a no-brainer, you should get this. There is enough here to make this purchase worthwhile even if you only use parts of it.
If you are a fan of B/X clones and top your games off at level 14 then this is also a good buy. Also the class creation and spell creation engines are worth the price if you like to experiment with your games.
If you play other retro-clones or other versions of the Grand Old Game, then there are still some things here you will find useful.
At 10 bucks for the PDF this is a pretty good deal.

I have more detail on this book at my blog as well.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2013/02/review-acks-playe-
rs-companion.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ACKS Player's Companion
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D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2013 07:32:12
This was the 1981 followup to the D&D Basic set. Designed for the Moldvay Basic there was even a little bit about what to do if you had the Holmes Basic.

This expanded the game to level 14 and for most of us it was all we needed for a very long time.
I loved the introduction of all the new undead like Vampires and Spectres (was a big horror fan even then) and that little map of the Known World. I starred at that map for hours, learning lands and names of places far off and never were.
Plus all the new spells! The options of spells for my cleric and magic-users were beyond my 11-year old brain's reckoning at the time.

At 5 bucks this is a criminal steal. I wore my old copy of my expert book out, now I have a PDF to go back too anytime I like. Combine it with the Basic book and some adventures and you are set. Everything you need to play D&D just like the good old days. No skills, no feats, no attacks of opportunity, but plenty of flexibility and action.

I love newer games, but this is the one. The one that keeps me coming back. Back to the Keep, back to Glantri and back to D&D.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
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Barbarians of Lemuria (Legendary Edition)
Publisher: Beyond Belief Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/28/2013 22:03:44
I had the chance to pick up Barbarians of Lemuria: Legendary Edition recently and I have to admit I was quite pleased. The game was not at all what I expected it to be. Well...the setting and the tone was, the mechanics were not. This is the best combination really.

Ok, so tone. Barbarians of Lemuria is what I expected in that it is a fantasy game of mighty barbarians, evil warlocks, sly thieves and semi-naked women. Very much the stereotype of the Pulp Age of fantasy I expected it to be. Except it plays it with an honesty and earnestness that I really want to play a big, dumb barbarian with might thews and a giant axe.

The game is full of sorts of great background that I could adapt it to any old-school fantasy game with no issues and run with it. I mean honestly look at the cover. Barbarian standing in a pit surrounded by vaguely eldritch horrors as a tribal shaman gorilla prepares to sacrifice a slave girl. If you think the next scene is the girl's spilled blood and horrors unleashed over the land, then go play a horror game. If you think the next scene is that sword cleaving through the bodies of the horrors and the barbarian killing the shaman and saving the girl. Then this is the game you want.

The system I have to admit took me aback, in a good way.
I was expecting another OGL-based or D&D-clone, but instead we get a very nice, very simple system. Character creation is all point-buy, and not dozens of points, but 4. The real joy here is being able to create a character is minutes and get going.

The underlying mechanic is a simple 2d6+mods vs target number of 9. This makes it very, very similar to Unisystem and also to Spellcraft & Swordplay. I suppose that if you wanted a more flat game then you could use a d12. But d6s are great and they give us boons and flaws. Boons and Flaws are a neat mechanic. In either case you roll 3d6 instead of 2d6. If you have a boon, drop the lowest d6. If you have a flaw, drop the highest. Each character gets a boon or two boons and a flaw.

There is plenty for everyone to do in combat since fighting style can vary. I like that the emphasis here is that everyone has a chance to be the hero. Sure you might be a lowly thief or slave, but you still have something to contribute.

The careers are nice touch and helps give your character some background on what they were or did, or what they can do now. Frankly I enjoy how it is all put together.

The art is good, not up to the level one expects from say Pathfinder, but perfect for the tone and the feel of this game. And I liked it, so that is great for me.

The magic system is very open and reminds me a lot of magic from the time period. These are sorcerers that gained their power through evil pacts or forbidden knowledge. There are no Hogwarts grads here.

It really is a lot of fun and the rules-lightness of it is a huge benefit.
Even if I didn't like the rules I could use this for my own fantasy games since the background information is so great.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Barbarians of Lemuria (Legendary Edition)
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Darkisle Stock Art #2: Tree-Cloaked Mysteries
Publisher: DRAKAT Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2013 07:26:58
Grabbed this one on a whim. It was only 75 cents and had 5 hi-res images.

The images are photos that have been pixilated to appear like paintings. Great for some background shot or even a visual aid in any sort of game.
They are royalty free, so that is also a bonus.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Darkisle Stock Art #2: Tree-Cloaked Mysteries
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Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (3e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2013 06:58:26
The 3rd edition update to the classic Gygax intro adventure.

Return to the The Temple of Elemental Evil has a new generation of characters returning to the Village of Hommlet (where time seems to have stood still) to investigate the new uprising of evil.
Designed obviously to appear to adults who were kids when the original T1 and ToEE came out, it looses none of it's appeal.

Regardless what version of the game you play, if you ever played the original ToEE then pick this up.
If you have never played or run the original, but are a fan of the 3rd game, then certainly pick this up.

This is one of those adventures that should be republished for every edition of D&D. Great to start with and run some 1st level characters through but dangerous enough to merit coming back to at a later time.

Besides who doesn't want to go up against ultimate evil, stare in into it's ugly face and say "come get some!"

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (3e)
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Basic Turn Tracker
Publisher: Lee's Lists
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2013 06:42:42
Clever little device with icons for keeping track of your Basic Era turns.
If you are an old pro at B/X D&D you might not need it, but if you are new or haven't played this version of D&D in a while then it is a great tool.

Plus it has a nice Old-School vibe about it. Back in 81 all the coolest stuff was DIY and this captures that feeling nicely.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Basic Turn Tracker
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H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 14:47:32
The first module of the great Orcus/Raven Queen campaign for 4e. The module itself tries to harken back to another Keep; The Keep on the Borderlands, but the feel here is very, very different. There is a lot more going on and it can feel very combat heavy and even a touch predictable. But that is fine for a 1st adventure. Everyone is still too busy figuring out moves and markingins and surges to worry whether or not rumor X or rumor Y turns out to be true.
The big feature of this module though is also the quick start play rules. There is lot here that can help the new 4e player and DM. So it you are at all curious about 4e then give this one a look.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
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D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 14:35:14
If you are like me then this is it. THIS is what D&D was. Sure I had read a friends Holmes/Blue-book Basic set and I knew of AD&D through the Monster Manual. But this is the D&D book that started it all for me. This is the one that set fire to my imagination.

This is a complete set of rules. Character creation through to 3rd level. Monsters, treasures, dungeons. Everything that ever was or will be D&D had it's start right here (more or less). Honestly this book is not worth 5 stars here. It is worth 6 out of 5.

I almost would say that if I could only play one version of D&D ever, then this might be the one. It lacks the complexity of AD&D or 3e, but anymore I see this as a feature.

64 pages plus cover. Marbleized dice and crayon not included.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
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D&D RPG Starter Set "Quickstart" (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 14:28:03
Everything you need to start playing D&D 4e except for people, dice and some monsters.

You have heard a lot about this game to be sure, but the proof is always in the playing. At the incredibly low price of Nothing you can see how the most current version of D&D (as of this writing) plays.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D&D RPG Starter Set "Quickstart" (4e)
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Adventurer's Vault (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 13:34:37
Tons and tons of magic items for your 4e games. Broken up basically the same way they always have been. Armors, Weapons, Swords, Potions, Wands, Rods, Staves, and Miscellaneous. At 250+ pages with multiple items per page this is a packed book and there is something here for everyone.

Looking at this with an eye towards other editions, you could convert these to 3e without much difficulty. Other editions have more or less the same items (or similar ones) in edition specific books (The Book of Marvelous Magic comes to mind). But still a good selection for the money and a must have for the serious 4e player.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer's Vault (4e)
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Deities & Demigods (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2013 13:14:45
Deities & Demigods was the first Hardcover D&D book I ever purchased. So it is fitting then it is the first of the re-release (1/22/2013) of the D&D PDFs that I have purchased. For these D&D PDFs I will review the content as it is with the intended version in mind. I'll also look at these in terms what you can get out of this for any other version of D&D. Finally I'll look PDF conversion itself.

First of this is book is an update on the old OD&D Gods, Demigods and Heroes. Presented here are the gods (greater and lesser), demigods and heroes of 15 pantheons. Included are: American Indian Mythos, Arthurian Heroes, Babylonian Mythos, Celtic Mythos, Central American Mythos, Chinese Mythos, Egyptian Mythos, Finnish Mythos, Greek Mythos, Indian Mythos, Japanese Mythos, Nehwon Mythos, Nonhumans' Deities, Norse Mythos, and Sumerian Mythos.

There is plenty of information for build your world myths and the multivesre around your world. This also features the first update to known planes that appeared in the Player's Handbook.

The layout is somewhat like a Monster Manual, which is unfortunate. I can say that back in 82-83 that is exactly how we used it.

The art is now classic in my mind, with some of the biggest names in D&D/TSR at the time.

If you are playing newer editions then all the gods you know about had their start here in this book. All the other deities books are sequels to this one.

The PDF is clean and easy to read. There has been some post-scan cleanup on it so the pages appear very white and not scanned in white.

I feel as good about my purchase today as I did 30 years ago.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deities & Demigods (1e)
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D20 Decade: The 1980s
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2013 11:43:45
It is difficult not to compare this to Damnation Decade or Solid! in terms of capturing the feel of a decade.
For starters this is for the d20 Modern RPG, which I am not even sure is still being supported by anyone. That all being said, there is a lot of great stuff in this book. There are some pages spent on modifying the d20M skills, in particular how Computers worked then. That and the new Perform (Break Dance) and Perform (Free Style Rap). No Perform (Gymkata!) though. Of particular use to any 80s-based game is the list of common items we take for granted today that just wasn't there then. Easy stuff like Smartphones, but other not so obvious things like Caller ID. Sure there were cellphones, but they were huge and the batter life was only a couple hours. Chapter 1 covers the 80s. At 20% of the book content is really worth the price of the book. It is a great overview of 80s tech, culture and pop psychology. Its not a history book, but it shouldn't be either. Even at 30+ pages somethings are going to be missing; but this is the 80s writ large, not Master's Thesis.
Chapter 2 covers the "Imaginary 80s", an 80s that never was. Among the new races there is also a list of other games you can look into to help you out. With the OGL they could have simply included what they wanted from many of those games, but I thought it was kind of neat to include them. Speaking of the new races, they are really new. Some are twists on familiar concepts, but others are new and all fit the 80s to a tee. My favorite might be the Arcadians (Video game fey) or the Spetsnazski, the Russian Super Soldiers. Cause the only thing more fun than Nazi Weird Science is Russian Weird Science. The Crow Folk and High Solstice Sidhe could work just as well in a Pathfinder game. There are also about 16 new occupations for your 80s character. There are also, surprisingly, 144 new feats! Going past those for a bit there are also 5 new Advanced classes. If you were wondering when the Miami Vice influences would appear then take heart with the Blue Equalizer, which let you play any sort of 80s "Super Cop". Perfect foil for the Drug Lord Advanced Class. These are followed by a few new spells.
The last part, Confetti, has a few bits for the GM for adding 80s flavor to their game. These are also useful for any 80s game.
There is fairly good list of resources both non-fiction and fiction, and a good list of movies, TV shows and graphic novels.
Final the OGL where everything is released as Open Gaming Content. Very nice.
Ok, so this is a really cool idea and a lot of work went into these 164 pages.
Otherverse Games did a great job with this, but I am not without some quibbles.

I am not going to mention anything missing from the 80s. Trying to squeeze an entire decade into a game book is hard and something is going to get left out. If it's not there and you remember it add it on your own. Though missing *something* about a Valley Girl seems a bit like a huge omission to me.
The art is all over the place. Most is fair, but none of it is great.
The layout has a number of issues. The background on the pages is not great. In most cases it is only just there, in others the "page number block" obscures some text. It's the 80s, where are the pastels?
I have mixed feelings about even mentioning it since I have seen newer products of theirs and they look great. This one is an early effort.

Going back to my totally unfair comparison to Damnation Decade, I think it would be interesting to see this updated to something like True 20 (which is at the time of this writing just as dead as d20 Modern) with better layout.

Despite all that I can't help but really like this product. At 6 bucks it is a great buy.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D20 Decade: The 1980s
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101 Lesser Demons to Summon
Publisher: The Amazing List of Things
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2013 06:48:55
For a buck you get a list of 100 demons. There is a name and description. Culled from a variety of sources such as the Lesser Key of Solomon, the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and others.
Also tables for various demon aspects and motivations. The information here can be found elsewhere, but for a buck you are getting it all in one place and formatted. Can be used with any game that has demons. There are no stats and nothing in the way of measure the power of one demon to the next, but that is not what they are advertising here.
Great if you need new, random demons.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 Lesser Demons to Summon
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101 Greater Demons to Summon
Publisher: The Amazing List of Things
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2013 06:48:38
For a buck you get a list of 100 demons. There is a name and description. Culled from a variety of sources such as the Lesser Key of Solomon, the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and others.
Also tables for various demon aspects and motivations. The information here can be found elsewhere, but for a buck you are getting it all in one place and formatted. Can be used with any game that has demons. There are no stats and nothing in the way of measure the power of one demon to the next, but that is not what they are advertising here.
Great if you need new, random demons.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 Greater Demons to Summon
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