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Fantastic Maps - Iconic Island
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2013 11:37:22
I am gearing up for the BIG finale of my years long 3e game. The final battle where the forces of good battle the forces of evil happens on an Iceland-like island in my world. I could have drawn anything, I could have even taken an older module and altered the island in Photoshop. With this product I didn't have too. It even looks almost EXACTLY like what I wanted. The ZIP file contains maps of the island. Non-marked, marked and hexed variants. Plus a BW version. There is no text or fluff to go with this, which is great, I have my own. This is my new Dragon Isle! I would love to see more products like this one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantastic Maps - Iconic Island
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The Modern Spellcaster Basic Class
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2013 11:18:37
This book is for the d20 Modern Game, Pathfinder and a few other d20 based games. It presents a generic form of a spellcaster that isn't a wizard, cleric, witch or druid. In a sense it is a throwback to the older "Magic User" class. The basic premise here is to provide full powered (up to spell level 9) spellcasters from D&D like games to your Modern Games. I am not sure how this works out in play, but the concept on it's own is interesting enough. There are new feats and a fun "arcane death" table. Frankly I would like to see that expanded into an "Arcane CSI" to be used in any modern game with magical elements.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Modern Spellcaster Basic Class
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Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Publisher: North Wind Adventures
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/05/2013 15:28:30
There is just something about a big red box for games.
I have not been able to get Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea in it's big red box form, but I do have it on PDF, and let me say it is really nice.
So what do you get with this? Well there is a 256 page player's book, 240 page Referee's book, a map of Hyperborea and pdfs of the Box Covers. So all in all about 500 pages worth of old school playing goodness.

Now there is a lot here that is old hat for the experienced role-player and some that is similar to many of the OSR games. That all being said it does also make it a great intro game for anyone and there is a still so much here for the old-timers that I don't feel a page is wasted.

The Players Book focuses on making characters, magic and combat. So ability scores are covered, alignment and classes. Most of this is the same as say D&D or S&W, but there are enough little changes to make it worth your notice.
for starters the races of Hyperborea are all human-centric. So we have Amazons, Kelts, Kimmerian, Vikings and Hyperboreans among others. All what I call the "Conan" races.
Let's move to the classes. There are the four basic classes, the Fighter, Magician, Cleric and Thief. But each also has 4 to 6 subclasses. Fighter has the Barbarian, Berserker, Cataphract, Paladin, Ranger and Warlock. The Magician has Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer and Witch. The Cleric has the Druid, Monk, Priest, and Shaman. Finally the Thief has the Assassin, Bard, Legerdemainist and Scout.
Each subclass is very much like it's parent classes with some changes. The classes look pretty well balanced. I liked the bard as a single class option (nice to have and not something that we had in 1979). I would love to try out the Necromancer, Witch and Warlock and I know my son would love to try the Pyromancer.
Each class has a "Fighting Ability" and a "Magic Ability" which relates to attacks. So yes, even magicians can get a little better in combat as they go up in level. It's a great little shorthand and works great. So a 4th level Fighter has a fighting ability of 4. A 4th level magician still only has a fighting ability of 1 and a cleric 3 and thief 3. Sub classes can and do vary.

AC is descending (like old school games), BUT with the Fighting Ability stat it could be converted to an ascending AC easy. There are background skills and weapon skills.

The next 90 or so pages deals with magic and all the spells. The max spell level is 6. Not a bad number really and that is still plenty of spells.

The last 60 pages of the Player's book deals with combat in all it's forms. So combat, mass combat, saves and conditions. A great collection really of some of the "Best of" ideas I have seen in many games, but it all works really nice here.

The Referee's Manual is next.
It is nearly as big (240 pages vs 256).
The first half is fully devoted to monsters. The format is most similar to Basic or Labyrinth Lord, and it is full of the usual suspects with some notable exceptions. For starters this book includes the Demons (but not the devils). It does NOT include any dragons. But to make up for it there are many of the "Lovecraft" races such as the Great Race, Elder Things and fish men. Great inclusion.

The next 50 or so pages covers treasure. Among the magic items are things like Radium Pistols and other sc-fi artifacts. Very pulpy.

Finally we end with the Hyperborea Gazetteer. A great bit that I can easily drop into my game. The lands are a pastiche of Howard, Vance, Lovecraft and Smith. If these names mean anything to you then you know, or have an idea, of what you are going to get here.

All together this is a package of such great ideas I can't wait to use it somewhere.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
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Your drawings for you book : GHOUL
Publisher: Old School Dungeons
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/04/2013 06:18:57
The next round of Old School Dungeons "Your drawing for you book" are out.
The publisher took my earlier review to heart and is now providing a large PNG file as the download.

This one in particular is a ghoul, color and line-art in the same image file.
The file looks like the cover, only transparent. Two images of the monster and the title/logo taking the up 1/5 or 1/6.
The image size is 3779x4590.

The license is simple: use it, credit the artist.

NOTE: The price to this has been reduced to a more reasonable one. At just under 4 bucks this would be a perfect choice for someone's project.

I give credit to the artist/publisher for listening to suggestions and making changes.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Your drawings for you book : GHOUL
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Your drawings for you book : THE PRIESTESS
Publisher: Old School Dungeons
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2013 16:14:32
I never feel 100% comfortable reviewing art. I know what I like and I know what I like to use, but that is n't always right for someone else.

So I seek out things I either really like or can use. The Old School Dungeons series is described as "Your drawings for you (sic) book". So I grabbed this one.

First things first, the art is very good. You get a full color version and a line art version. In this case I am more inclined to the line art version.

But there are some issues.
First there is the file. It is a PDF file. Not actually a publication mode format really. A zip file of PSD or TIFF would have been much better. Even JPG is preferable to PDF.
Secondly the license, while attempting to be open, doesn't really explain how it can or can't be used. There is too much room here for misinterpretations for my taste.

Lastly there is the price.
While I never doubt that art is worth a premium price the $34 price tag for one image in a format that is difficult to use is really just too much. In truth I would have only paid about 1/10th of that ($3.50) and maybe more if the file formats had more utility.

So yes. The art is good. But the file format, unclear license and price are not.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Your drawings for you book : THE PRIESTESS
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Publisher Reply:
I want to post them in PNG, but there is no such function.
Teratic Tome
Publisher: Neoplastic Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2013 17:05:12
The Teratic Tome is an "old school" monster book for OSRIC or any old School "Advanced" version of the game.
What do you get? Well a lot. Let's start with some of the things that others have not all mentioned first. This book is 100% OGC. So if you want to use one of these horrors in one of your products go right ahead. Just abide by the OGL. There are a lot of reasons why you might want to use these monsters too. They are some of the most original horrors I have seen outside of indie horror games.

The layout and feel is evocative of those "monster manuals" of old. It does quite a nice job of it too. The art though is much better than what you would have seen circa 1980. The art varies in style, but all of it is quite good. Now is a good time to point out that the art and the monsters they depict are not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of "body horror" here. The grotesque mixed with the commonplace or even the erotic. The feeling is more Clive Barker than H.P. Lovecraft and I think that was a great direction to go.

Truthfully I would have picked this up for the demons and dragons alone, but there are 120 pages worth monsters here. Even the halflings are evil little buggers in this tome.

If you like horror and new creatures, and your players can handle it, then this is a great monster book.
If you like horror and monster books in general, then this is great to have as well.

Plus who can argue with a $6.66 price tag?

Who should not get this? I don't know really. I mean I am not going to use any of these creatures in my games with my kids. So that does lessen the utility for me, but I can still use some ideas. And that is just as good.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Teratic Tome
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Nobility and Eros: The Noble Succubus
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2013 09:53:58
Love is a disease.

At least that is how the succubi might feel if you use this supplement in your OGL games. The Noble Succubus (not 100% sold on that name, but it does work and I can't come up with anything better) is a succubus that has become infected. She is no longer a demon, but a creature with a soul that feels. In a sense a "good" (if chaotic) succubus. The role-playing options here abound.
There is plenty of background information that can be used and plenty of hooks into various game worlds including modern, sci-fi and the standard fantasy.
The real meat though is in the crunch on what the differences between the Noble and Demonic Succubi and how to use Noble Succubi as characters.

Myself I would make them much rarer, and still have it be a process that maybe one in 100 Billion succubi could go through. I also think it would be interesting to have a Noble Succubus and for whatever reason choose to remain evil. That would be an adversary worth having.

11 pages with cover and OGL page (13 total). At 2 bucks that's a good deal.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nobility and Eros: The Noble Succubus
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101 Names of the Devil
Publisher: Lee's Lists
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/19/2013 09:40:47
You could spend a hour or two doing internet searches for names of the devil, or pay a buck to get this.
For a dollar it's not a bad deal. One page with 101 names. No references, but all CC licensed.
Suitable for any game that has demons, devils or one that just needs an name with evil connotations.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
101 Names of the Devil
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Fang & Fury: A Guidebook to Vampires
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2013 10:24:28
This is an older book for 3.0 (not 3.5) D&D but there is still a lot of great things here. This is certainly written from the D&D-fantasy world vampire; so feeding off of dragons and the like, what happens to certain classes. There are feats, prestige classes, monsters and gods. There are plenty of spells, magic items, weapons and artifacts. There is really a lot of good stuff here and if you have vampires in your game then you need this. If you have any vampire big-bads in your game then this is also a great buy. Some of the material needs to be updated to 3.5 or Pathfinder, but nothing that is a show stopper that I could see.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fang & Fury: A Guidebook to Vampires
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Vampires of the Olden Lands
Publisher: James Mishler Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2013 10:06:26
The Olden Lands is James' in house campaign the Chronicles of Mhoriedh. All the books in this series are dual stated with Labyrinth Lord and Castles & Crusades stats. This appeals to me on a number of levels. I like that he went through the effort to do this and the nice effect is that between these two sets of stats you can play this under any old school version of D&D you like. There is also plenty in this book that work with any other game as well.
We start out with some common protections against vampires. We follow with 8 very different sorts of vampires including living, dead and spirit. All dual stated. There is a new race to play, The Dhamphir. I have seen a lot of "Dhampirs" over the years, but this one is one of the best so far just in terms of simplicity.
All in all a really nice take and these vampires are not like the Dracula-Lestat-Edward clones that can populate so many other games.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampires of the Olden Lands
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Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2013 07:08:16
The 20th Anniversary Edition combines the best of the best of the old Vampire the Masquerade game and strives for completion. All the clans, all the powers and most of the iconic characters. It is more expensive that any of the other White Wolf Vampire games, but it is also the largest and everything you need for years of playing is right here. Or more the point, everything from years of playing is right here. It is easy to pick this up and feel like it is 1990 again.
I think this book is really aimed more at people that played V:TM back in the day and now have a desire to go back to those nights where monsters roamed the city. There is a lot here for new players though too. If you have never played a Vampire game then this has everything you need.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition
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Vampire: The Requiem
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2013 21:53:45
A while back White Wolf rebooted everything. They redid all their game lines, edited the rules and gave us a new World of Darkness. On the plus side Vampire the Requiem has much more cleaned up rules. They were similar to the old rules, but just better in most respects. The meta-rules or how the vampires are played though felt worse. Not worse really, but off to me.
Basically you can play the same kind of game you did in V:tM, though if you had a favorite clan in the old game it might not be here, or be changed in subtle ways. Still though this is a great game with less overhead than old World of Darkness. If you are choosing between this game and Vampire: The Masquerade then this might be the easier choice, even if it is less "classic" choice.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Requiem
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Victorian Age Vampire
Publisher: White Wolf
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2013 21:36:45
The Victorian Age is best time for vampires in my mind. This the age of Dracula, of Varney the Vampire and tons of great Gothic Literature. Also it is a time of science vs. religion, the city vs. the rural, the traditional vs. the modern. This is a perfect mix for a Vampire game. The Vampire game mechanics are well served by this mix; the human vs. monster. In many respects this game is actually superior to it's parent game V:tM.
All the same vampire clans from The Masquerade are here, but changed. Not as much as the Dark Ages version, but the alterations fit the times well. The vampires here seem to be so much more than their modern counterparts.

If you like the Victorian age (like I do) then this is a great book just for that to be honest.
If you enjoy Vampire, then this is also a must have.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Victorian Age Vampire
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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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