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e-Publishing Secrets
Publisher: 12 to Midnight
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/20/2007 14:33:42
"A nickel's worth of free advice," as it were. I'm not a game publisher, nor am I planning to be, but this sounds like some of the most basic stuff you should know if you're considering becoming an e-publisher, or game designer, or even writing for a RPG. That said, it skips the painfully obvious and mentions sound principles that some may even know without having thought about it explicitly.

The first three sentences of the company history of 12 to Midnight is a hilarious example of why you need a good editor, a point emphasized with good reason in the secrets. There's little more I can say without revealing too much of the actual material. It's good stuff to know, it's a quick read with good writing, and it's free. What more do you need to know?

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
e-Publishing Secrets
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Loot 4 Less, Vol. III
Publisher: IDA
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/02/2007 00:00:00
As you may see from earlier reviews, I am a huge fan of the Loot 4 Less pdfs. Not only do I love cheap low-powered permanent magic items, but I love getting the reasoning that goes into them to help me design more of my own. The pdf is well written and doesn't contain any extraneous art that would increase the price. People running lower level campaigns can totally use these items, and those running higher level campaigns can still hand them out to villains to toss the players a little surprise. A lot of these items are really good ideas, in terms of really being useful.

The only disappointment with volume 3 is that the editing wasn't fantastic, e.g. "up to 30 ft. or rope" and a sidebar that refers to the belt of hidden magery, which I assume to mean the belt of secret magery. However, since the price is so low, this is no reason not to buy it, especially since the mistakes aren't with the mechanics (except for a slight discrepancy in the pricing of the boots of humankind between its description and the corresponding sidebar). If it weren't for the editing goofs, I'd easily give volume 3 another 5 stars.


LIKED: Great ideas, good writing, great price.

DISLIKED: The editing needs help -- if it were cleaned up I'd give it 5 stars easily.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Loot 4 Less, Vol. III
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RPGNow DEPOSIT
Publisher: OneBookShelf, Inc.
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/01/2007 00:00:00
A good idea, particularly for when you see the latest cheap pdf that you want to get real quick without figuring out anything else to get with it.


LIKED: Easy for both RPGNow and the customer.

DISLIKED: What's not to like? This idea is very simple and straightforward.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPGNow DEPOSIT
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A Skill for Everything
Publisher: Fifth Element Games
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/05/2007 00:00:00
A Skill for Everything exposes what some might see as a flaw in the D&D 3.X system: that attack rolls, saving throws, and ability checks are handled differently than skill rolls, despite being essentially the same kind of thing (it would seem to me that swinging a sword, breaking down a door, and resisting an enchantment are all things that involve some skill). There are 3 reasons this is an excellent product:

1. It identifies the problem. Not only is the basic idea a good one (the kind of thing that makes you wonder why you didn't think of it before), but the author reveals the areas in which the problems occur (such as when you are trying to avoid nonlethal damage incident to a forced march). This makes it easy to see the scope of the problem and generate ideas for solutions, even if you don't agree with the solution the author proposes.

2. The solution proposed (a bit of a supplementary skill system) is quite decent. I suspect what's really needed is an overhaul of the core skill (and attack bonus) system and a re-distribution of skill points among the classes, but that would be much larger, hard to do without being the main D&D publisher, and who would disrupt their campaign that much? The proposed solution is simple enough to use and incorporate into a campaign and appears to adequately solve the problem.

3. The solution can be used piecemeal: you can use what you want to without having to take the bad with the good. If you agree that ability rolls should be skills, you can use that. If you think the attack bonus needs to be more focused, you can use that system. If you think saving throws should remain as they are, they can be excluded from the skill system.

Overall, this is an excellent product. It addresses a problem that others haven't addressed much (yet), it proposes a workable solution, and it's not filled with fluff that reduces its value compared to its price. If you like to tinker with the d20 system in your games, this should be an excellent choice. If you're not looking to change things much, this may not be as helpful, although you could still use it to get ideas for new skills and feats.


LIKED: Good idea, straightforward presentation, seems easy to use, and not expensive.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Skill for Everything
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Campaign Planner 2
Publisher: Ronin Arts
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/16/2006 00:00:00
First, disclosure to give you some perspective on my review: I don't have any of the other campaign planners (yet). For the moment, I'm assuming those have similar forms that cover other areas of campaign planning, so I won't complain about missing essential forms. I do, however, have some other campaign form products and view the category of "DM campaign forms" to be fairly competitive. Not only are there other campaign form products around, but they must clearly outclass any home-brewed system a DM uses.

The forms do have a few entries that spark the imagination, but I would prefer them to be on a "reference card of things to think about" form instead of taking up valuable space on other forms. This is particularly a problem with many of the checkboxes on the forms. Is every dungeon hazard a slime, mold, fungi, or fog? Instead of adding an "other" checkbox to these, it would be better to list them on a reference card as types of dungeon hazards and leave a line for the DM to enter the hazard type. Is flammable gas a fog? What about stale air? How is the type different from the name of the hazard?

The organization of the forms and their entries is key to the success of a campaign form product, and while there are a wide variety of forms I'm not sure that most of them are comprehensive about their topic. Some forms like the trade route and plane description forms seem to have good coverage, but others don't. For example, the "other character class" form doesn't have entries for the base attack bonus or save progressions.

In addition, there doesn't seem to be a good organization to the forms in general, which would really help a DM to find information quickly. Maybe there was a "form organization" map in Campaign Planner 1, but if so there's no mention of where the forms in CP2 fit in. Some instructions on how to store and access the forms would help a DM to organize them and access them more effectively. For that matter, instructions for how to use the forms would have been helpful. The session event tracker form has good instructions, but it's one of the few.

Some of the forms were quite good -- the campaign outline forces you to really focus your purpose and the things you want to include on one page, which should help your campaign stay focused and more fun. It should also help you avoid over-designing your campaign. It also has backup forms to further describe the important events and the climax, which really help you flesh out the important areas on their own forms. It would have been nice if more of the forms had that kind of quality support and clear organization.


LIKED: Some good forms and ideas.

DISLIKED: The organization wasn't really good -- although I'll use a few forms directly and the others for inspiration, in general they're not organized and effective enough to be utilized wholesale.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Planner 2
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Tournaments, Fairs, and Taverns: D&D 3.5
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/06/2006 00:00:00
This is quite a useful campaign design supplement, dealing with the effects of alcohol, gambling, and designing effective tournaments, fairs, and taverns, among other things. The games, locales, and ideas tend toward the fantastic, but they do fire the imagination. In addition, as they mention, fairs are an easy place to introduce unusual and magical things in an otherwise mundane low-magic world.

While there are a number of editing mistakes, they're not terrible and the quality of the material more than makes up for it.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tournaments, Fairs, and Taverns: D&D 3.5
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Commodity Cards V: Finished Goods - Hearth and Home
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2006 00:00:00
I'm actually going to post the same review for Commodity Cards 1 through 5 since I bought the bundle and have the same things to say about them:

The Commodity Card series makes it quite easy to generate "mundane" (and more realistic) treasure for players, which should make it harder for them to get too much treasure and encourage them to interact more with the fantasy world and NPCs. It's quite nice to have summary tables of the cards, which I think I'll use much more than the cards themselves. In addition, someone wanting to use the variety provided will probably have to do some research to find out what some of the products really are and how they get used, but some basic hints are provided for the esoteric items. Even if a DM wanted to change the values of some of the commodities, the list provides a good comparison of relative worth between commodities. Although there may not be much provided in terms of fantasy commodities, it wouldn't be hard for a DM to make some up and use the existing information to price it appropriately.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Commodity Cards V: Finished Goods - Hearth and Home
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Commodity Cards IV: Finished Goods - The Adventurer's Kit
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2006 00:00:00
I'm actually going to post the same review for Commodity Cards 1 through 5 since I bought the bundle and have the same things to say about them:

The Commodity Card series makes it quite easy to generate "mundane" (and more realistic) treasure for players, which should make it harder for them to get too much treasure and encourage them to interact more with the fantasy world and NPCs. It's quite nice to have summary tables of the cards, which I think I'll use much more than the cards themselves. In addition, someone wanting to use the variety provided will probably have to do some research to find out what some of the products really are and how they get used, but some basic hints are provided for the esoteric items. Even if a DM wanted to change the values of some of the commodities, the list provides a good comparison of relative worth between commodities. Although there may not be much provided in terms of fantasy commodities, it wouldn't be hard for a DM to make some up and use the existing information to price it appropriately.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Commodity Cards IV: Finished Goods - The Adventurer's Kit
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Commodity Cards III: Finished Goods - Swords to Plowshares
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2006 00:00:00
I'm actually going to post the same review for Commodity Cards 1 through 5 since I bought the bundle and have the same things to say about them:

The Commodity Card series makes it quite easy to generate "mundane" (and more realistic) treasure for players, which should make it harder for them to get too much treasure and encourage them to interact more with the fantasy world and NPCs. It's quite nice to have summary tables of the cards, which I think I'll use much more than the cards themselves. In addition, someone wanting to use the variety provided will probably have to do some research to find out what some of the products really are and how they get used, but some basic hints are provided for the esoteric items. Even if a DM wanted to change the values of some of the commodities, the list provides a good comparison of relative worth between commodities. Although there may not be much provided in terms of fantasy commodities, it wouldn't be hard for a DM to make some up and use the existing information to price it appropriately.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Commodity Cards III: Finished Goods - Swords to Plowshares
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Commodity Cards II: Raw Materials
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2006 00:00:00
I'm actually going to post the same review for Commodity Cards 1 through 5 since I bought the bundle and have the same things to say about them:

The Commodity Card series makes it quite easy to generate "mundane" (and more realistic) treasure for players, which should make it harder for them to get too much treasure and encourage them to interact more with the fantasy world and NPCs. It's quite nice to have summary tables of the cards, which I think I'll use much more than the cards themselves. In addition, someone wanting to use the variety provided will probably have to do some research to find out what some of the products really are and how they get used, but some basic hints are provided for the esoteric items. Even if a DM wanted to change the values of some of the commodities, the list provides a good comparison of relative worth between commodities. Although there may not be much provided in terms of fantasy commodities, it wouldn't be hard for a DM to make some up and use the existing information to price it appropriately.


LIKED: Good coverage of the basic commodities.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Commodity Cards II: Raw Materials
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Commodity Cards I: Food and Drink
Publisher: Tangent Games
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2006 00:00:00
I'm actually going to post the same review for Commodity Cards 1 through 5 since I bought the bundle and have the same things to say about them:

The Commodity Card series makes it quite easy to generate "mundane" (and more realistic) treasure for players, which should make it harder for them to get too much treasure and encourage them to interact more with the fantasy world and NPCs. It's quite nice to have summary tables of the cards, which I think I'll use much more than the cards themselves. In addition, someone wanting to use the variety provided will probably have to do some research to find out what some of the products really are and how they get used, but some basic hints are provided for the esoteric items. Even if a DM wanted to change the values of some of the commodities, the list provides a good comparison of relative worth between commodities. Although there may not be much provided in terms of fantasy commodities, it wouldn't be hard for a DM to make some up and use the existing information to price it appropriately.


LIKED: Good coverage of everyday commodities.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Commodity Cards I: Food and Drink
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Everyone Else: A Book of Innkeepers, Farmers & More
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/21/2006 00:00:00
EXCELLENT utility: NPCs have classes geared toward their specialty, the different occupations/specialties have stat blocks for different levels, and they are fully bookmarked and organized by function so they're easy to look up. For the occupations that aren't directly addressed, it's not hard to find something similar in here.

A very good effort has been made to account for the presence of magic in how a certain occupation would work in high-magic worlds.

There are a few editing errors, which shouldn't be in a revised edition, but the revising may have introduced them. And a few errors in 70 pages is a lot better than a few errors in 10 pages.

If you run a d20 medieval fantasy world, chances are you would find this extremely helpful for filling out minor NPCs who wouldn't need a stat block if it weren't for those darn players...


LIKED: Great idea: instead of the universal adept/aristocrat/commoner/expert/warrior at various levels, use those classes to develop builds of the most common medieval occupations. They even give some relevant information about unique skill check situations and ideas for customizing the stat blocks for certain occupations further.

DISLIKED: Some minor editing mistakes, but this one is good (and unique) enough that I'm rounding up to five stars.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Everyone Else: A Book of Innkeepers, Farmers & More
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Loot 4 Less Volume II: Rods, Staffs and Wands
Publisher: IDA
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/17/2006 00:00:00
Having been amazed by the first of this series, as soon as I saw this one come out I knew I had to get it. It doesn't disappoint, either. It has a whole bunch of rods, staffs, and wands, and on top of that it:

1) has new ways to make staffs and wands work that fit better with fantasy literature and make them more than just a fantasy-style rocket launcher (but also has traditional ones if you don't want to use the new style);

2) includes a couple of new spells;

3) gives pricing decisions and formulas so it's super easy to design a personalized one for your favorite character or villain; and

4) is clearly written and easy to read.

My review of the previous one noted it was a bargain at twice the price. Once again I was amazed, and I have to say it improves on the first one and is easily worth 3-4 times the price!


LIKED: Great writing, ideas, reasoning included. I actually think not having art is a good thing: it's not there to distract me and I certainly would prefer no art if including some increased the price.

DISLIKED: Bookmarks would have been a bit helpful, but you really don't need them for something this compact. Since things are well organized according to theme (rod, staff, and wand), it's much easier to find things in this.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Loot 4 Less Volume II: Rods, Staffs and Wands
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40 Alchemical Items
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/16/2006 00:00:00
Excellent ideas to expand the possibilities for using the Craft (Alchemy) skill. The wording is clear, the whole is well edited, and suggested ingredients are included for each substance. In addition, there are indices to the substances by price and creation DC in the back, which are quite useful.


LIKED: It's clear and presents good ideas for things the players can do with the Craft (Alchemy) skill, or even just buy from an alchemist for use. Attractive layout, ease of reading, and eye for everyday uses make this a good inclusion to any fantasy campaign.

DISLIKED: Bookmarks weren't necessary (for 16 pages) but would have been nice, as well as some "behind the scenes" explanations or discussion for the DC's and the costs.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
40 Alchemical Items
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100 Fantasy Kingdoms
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Jacob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/15/2006 00:00:00
There are lots of good ideas here, but they tend strongly towards the "high fantasy" type, where each is based on a very unusual theme. If this is what you're looking for, it's fantastic. If you're looking for something more "low fantasy" or intricate political situations, this won't be as good.


LIKED: Good ideas and easy to read.

DISLIKED: A little more detail, varied political situations, and editing would have helped a lot.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
100 Fantasy Kingdoms
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