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Cat (Revised & Expanded)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/12/2012 11:58:17
Cat is a 49 page PDF by John Wick in which players take on the roll of a cat in a dark fantasy setting that is based upon our own world but in which strange things are going on and humans can't see them. Cats are our protectors, set to the task of looking after humanity and protecting us from the dark forces that prey upon our fears and base emotions.

Okay so far.

To begin with, let me make it clear that I am a cat person. Very much so. As such, I was always going to want to give this game a try, however, conversely this also means I probably had reasonably high standards for any product relating to my favourite animal.

The rules are very light, with your cat defined by 6 traits rated from best to good and given 9 lives (as befits the folklore). Cats can also have reputation, which helps them with any action that involves the thing for which they are renowned. (Hmm, in which case my real world cats presumably have reputation in “devour cat treats at high speed” and “Avoid cat carrier when Vets appointment is due”).

Combat is quick and comes in two forms, cat-on-cat which is only ever for dominance and cat-on-non-cat which may be to the death, or may not. Damage is in the form of “scars” which impede a particular attribute unless and until they are healed, although your cat can sacrifice a life to avoid scars from a round of combat.

It is all remarkably efficient and rather charming, and I speak as some one who generally dislikes “light” systems. I tend to find they feel as if something has been sacrificed for speed of play. Cat, however, is not such a game. You instead feel the light rule system works perfectly, serves it's purpose (or should that be purr-pose – sorry, sorry, I'll stop now) and actually enhances play, not to mention it is such that it is hard to think of a situation it won't handle well indeed. If I have any criticism of the system it would have to be that I didn't think of it first!

Towards the end is a section on cat magic, which is also both simple and very flexible, a similar system could work well in just about any RPG of any setting, yet this particular interpretation conjures up (excuse the pun), exactly the right feel for the subject matter.

As I read the rules my own cats were in the room. One was trying to eat my pen whilst the other was falling off the desk in my studio whilst trying to get to her favourite sleeping spot. As a consequence the fantasy element of the game – in which cats are highly intelligent masters of creation was very much highlighted in my mind as fantasy, but the writing is such that even with real world examples staring me in the face I was still more or less able to suspend disbelief, now that has to be the mark of a good game!

In places one gets the feeling that the writing style is very much aimed at experienced RPG players, and may not be the easiest for new comers, some knowledge seems to be assumed on the part of the reader, by way of RPG conventions and tropes and so forth, but not so much that it matters greatly.

I bought this game as a beer and pretzels game to trot out now and again when we needed to fill and because... well... cats! However, now I'm really looking forward to trotting this one out and running it. It can be by turns dark and humours, sort of like a cat.

Now if I can just stop my two from batting my dice under the couch long enough, I'll run a few games.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cat (Revised & Expanded)
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Fantasy Business Place Names
Publisher: Polyhedron Games LLC
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/19/2012 08:31:05
A useful little product for anyone like myself who has trouble coming up with business names, especially when players blind side you and head for something you hadn't prepared. I can usually add-lib most things but names are something that I tend to draw a blank on.

It will be a useful tool to keep in my tool box, although it won't be something I need that often, it is free so, given that fact, it is worth keeping on hand for those moments when it will be useful.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Business Place Names
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Crits & Fumbles
Publisher: Polyhedron Games LLC
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/19/2012 08:26:57
A useful little product for people wanting to add some colour to critical hits and fumbles. Although aimed at systems using a d20 to resolve hits, it does not take much effort to convert to other systems, indeed I found I was able to convert “on the fly” as it were.

It's free and it does what it says it will.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crits & Fumbles
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you. It's nice to see some color in my stars. ;-)
The Age of Shadow: Campaign Guide
Publisher: Crooked Staff Publishing
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/25/2011 12:38:50
Age of Shadows; Campaign Guide is a 28 page supplement for the very good indeed “Age of shadows” RPG.

If you have read my review of the aforementioned RPG rules you will recall I drew comparisons to Lord of the Rings at the time, and those influences come across even more strongly with this product. This is not a criticism, far from it, this has been the holy grail of fantasy RPG rules sets since the white box of D+D. So, given that, then why is this product different?

Well the simple answer is that like Sir Percival, Kristian Richards is the first to finally achieve the goal so many others have sought. The feel and atmosphere drips from every word of AoSCG, you feel your self being pulled into the authors vision and wanting to share in it, wanting to play. Even the style of writing hits the nail so squarely on the head that you have to admit, this is what half the fantasy RPGs ever released were trying to be.

Chapter one fleshes out the background of the setting a little and although it doesn’t really add much you hadn't suspected from the main rules, the writing stile conjures up the images beautifully. Yes it wears it's influences on it's sleeve, but what influences they are, and how beautifully crafted the sleeve is! The chapter ends with some new abilities for your creatures, to help to customise the forces of the enemy. This is a notable feature in AoS, instead of a huge bestiary of creatures, AoS has only a handful, but several such as the Felgrim and Beastlings are intended to be customizable so you can produce virtually anything you like from the template. A very good idea, making the game more flexible and fitting in with the ethos very well.

Chapter 2 is a Gazateer of the setting and provides an outline of the nations, regions and cities of the world. This is not an in-depth gazateer with each city mapped out or described in minute detail, instead each entry gives the GM just enough to work with and to build into as much or as little detail as he wishes. You are told the most important points, why the city is where it is, what this means for it's inhabitants and the rest of the world, and so on. It does this in a way that fires your imagination and does not get bogged down in minutia that you may well have no use for anyway. This chapter ends with two beautiful maps. They are clean and practical and their simplicity marries up with an artistic flair that makes you want to look at them.

Chapter 3 adds some spacial items to the game, such as Elf lanterns and mithr...erm, Dwarf steal. Again, these aren't items for the sake of items, but seem to add something to your understanding of the world an it's culture.

Then we have chapter 4, which is a set of alternative rules. Remember when I said in my Age of Shadows review that I was surprised they had gone with the random Character generation rather than points buy? Well points buy is presents here as an optional alternative, which adds more customizability to the system. Options for generating epic level characters as well as some new options for the combat system (order of action, variable armour ratings instead of fixed and so on) which can be used or not to let the GM make the game suit his or her needs and vision.

Chapter 5 is headed NPCs and introduces an intuitive method for quick and improvised NPCs as well as providing some basic templates that you can tweak as you need them, making the GMs job far more easy, as you no longer need to stat up everyone you think the PCs may interact with, you only need stat up major NPCs and you can fall back on these systems for everyone else, including the bulk of your grunts.

That, and the OGL info round off the product, and you are left feeling both satisfied that you made the right choice and hungry for more. Not to mention eager to play.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Age of Shadow: Campaign Guide
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ScreenMonkey Lite
Publisher: NBOS Software
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/02/2011 08:56:40
I picked up a copy of this product as a test to see if it would suit my needs with the intention of buying the full version if the answer was yes.

After playing around with it a little bit to get the hang of it I did find certain tasks were less intuitive than I would have liked in a programme I'm going to be using to run live games with players distracting me with their questions and actions and so on, but on the whole, once you have a bit practice you find it starts to become more natural. So far, so good.

Then we tried a live game and every single player, myself included, had problems getting the programme to work. Popping over to the forums to raise a question on how to configure it to work live I spotted that thread after thread was by people having similar issues.

Now, the staff and other users were very helpful in taking people through the procedure. However, in the end we found it was faster to give up and use a free browser based alternative that did the same things, slightly more intuitively and without all the configuration annoyances.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
ScreenMonkey Lite
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Crane Lady Stock Art Pack
Publisher: Sade
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/02/2011 08:41:37
In all honesty I'm more of a fan of Sade's covers and design elements than the rest of the portfolio as a whole. However, I love this set. Despite the fact that it won't fit in the prject I'm working on now or the one I've got coming up next I bought it anyway because I loved it so much and want to use it at some point.
The colours are rich and vibrant, the detail is appealing and well conceived and the character is deeply intriguing.
I'll certainly be using this in a project in the future.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crane Lady Stock Art Pack
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108 Terrible Character Portraits
Publisher: A Terrible Idea
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/02/2011 08:14:27
108 Terrible character portraits is a self deprecating little number that isn't at all bad actually. The quality of the portraits ranges from good to passable and whilst there are none that are great, there certainly aren’t any that are “Terrible” either. Many of them have a fair bit of charm.
I'll be honest there are more expensive art packs out there that are a lot worse.
I picked this up with very low expectations given the title and was very pleasantly surprised.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
108 Terrible Character Portraits
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The Age of Shadow: Role-playing Game
Publisher: Crooked Staff Publishing
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/02/2011 08:01:34
Being a fan of Open Quest and the d100 system it is based on it was with great interest that I took a look at Age of Shadows in order to see just what they had done with it. The answer, in all honesty, is not a lot as far as the rules themselves go. Apart from a few cosmetic changes here and there you could be playing open quest.

The layout is quite pleasing and oddly eye catching. In an industry where overly fussy layouts and pages with backgrounds and fanciful borders are becoming more and more common, the clean lines and crisp layout of AoS is actually a joy to read. There is nothing to distract you from the joy of the system (and it is a joy), and even the filler art is crisp and appealing to look at. Simple but very good. More companies should take a leaf out of Crooked Staff Publishing.

I'll start by talking about the modifications to the game engine. Divine magic has been trimmed out and battle magic has been tweeked a little bit to become innate magic available only to those with Elven linage. Sorcery is in there, and the hints that it has a tendency to tinge the user with darkness are a nice touch that works well in the setting. I also rather like the rules for manipulating sorcery to increase magnitude, duration, range and so on. This certainly makes magic seem more magical and differentiates powerful magicians from less powerful ones better than a “number of spells or amount of magic points” only system ever could.

Character generation has gone with the Random statistic generation option, which I find mildly at odds with the stated aim of a game that is flexible and allows you to develop the character you want to play with a minimum of restrictions. Still it has an old school charm to it.
I would have liked to have seen more effort put into the languages, rather than a few common racial tongues but to be honest that is such a minor quibble and one so many people will disagree with anyway that it's scarcely worth worrying about.

Not wanting to nit pick twice in one review but being unable to resist it, I do feel it's a shame they have abandoned OQs use of “Saga” to fall back on the industry standard of “Campaign” but again, if this is going to have a bearing on your choosing to pick the game up or not you may be a bit on the overly picky side.

Creatures is where the author is able to cut loose and really show us a glimpse of his vision for AoS. Now before anyone points out that it's largely some fantasy staples and that even the Beastlings are realy just the beast men that have appeared in almost every d100 derived game since Rune Quest, yes, that's true to a point. However, it's what Richards does with them and how he presents them that give you a glimpse into his world and what is to come. On the whole I dislike the good/evil dichotomy of most fantasy as I find it overly simplistic and rather dull, but something about how it is done here evokes classics of the genre like The Lord of The Rings far better than most games. There is just something about it that makes me want to play this game and revel in the very simplistic good vs evil idea I usually avoid like the plague. The flavour text throughout helps. It is surprisingly evocative and far less derivative than I'd expect.
The references to “The Enemy” whilst clearly LotR inspired and something of a fantasy cliché now none the less are oddly tantalising, and the writing style actually makes this not only work, but conjure up a world in a desperate struggle for it's life.
Oddly, despite my usual aversion to morally black and white settings and my preference for harsher, grittier ones I find myself really wanting to take this one for a spin. This is the result of the author having “got it right”, having taken ingredients that are so often used by others and with just the right pinch of seasoning here and there having produce a far superior cake to most the others, to use a food based metaphor (presumably because it's lunch time and I'm hungry).
I heartily recommend this game to you. Give it a try and see what you think, I predict that half of you will go on to buy more products in the range.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Age of Shadow: Role-playing Game
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Tentacles Stock Images
Publisher: Sade
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/07/2011 12:23:17
I had a bit of trouble with this product which seems to have some unintentional colour and lines surrounding the art itself. The result of which was I had to take it out manually in a picture manipulation program. Once I did this however, the actual art of the tentacles is great, and will see a fair bit of use in one of my upcoming projects.

The problem is one I’ve not had with anything else by this company and it certainly hasn’t put me off future purchases from Sade, which I almost always love. None the less I’ve knocked one star of my rating of the product as a result.

If you don’t mind tidying up the white background a bit this is still a very good product and well worth the money.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tentacles Stock Images
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The Temple of Lord Hnalla
Publisher: M.A.R Barker's World of Tekumel
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/07/2011 12:16:54
Tekumel has been a setting that has interested me for a very long time. Ever since I discovered an adventure for the first published RPG to deal with the creation of Prf. Barker. Consequently I’m always pleased to see the setting being supported.

This product is a 9 and a half page document with very basic layout that details the deity Lord Hnalla and is written as if by a priest of the deity. This is an excellent choice as it emerges the reader in the setting and the mindset of the people of Tekumel from the very first sentence. Like other products in he range there are no game mechanics here, so the product is equally as useful for Tekumel players using the GOO version of the rules or the original “Empire of the Petal Throne” or any system the user chooses.

Again, a determined Tekumel fan could probably garner most of this information from other sources with a few hours browsing time but it is a delight to have it gathered here in the form of this labor of love. Certainly I already had most of the information but didn’t need to think twice to know this product was one I was going to purchase as well.

Now if you are of the school that wants your PDFs laden with art work you will be disappointed, as the only art inthe product are a few stylized frames on the opening pages. However, if what you are looking for is good game content, full of flavor and which will spark your love of one of the most detailed and interesting RPG settings out there, then you could do far worse than adding this to your cart and hitting that check out button.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Temple of Lord Hnalla
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The Temple of Lady Avanthe
Publisher: M.A.R Barker's World of Tekumel
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/07/2011 11:51:27
As a long standing fan of the Tekumel setting it is great to see that it is being supported here on rpgnow. This 8 page (well, technically 7 and a half) product is a fairly in-depth look at one of the deities in the Tekumel pantheon. although the layout lacks the flourish and sophistication that I’m sure a true denizen of the Empire of the Petal Throne would expect, the material itself certainly doesn’t. It gives a good understanding of Lady Avanthe, her aspects, and how her followers venerate her.

I’m certain some people will point out that there is little here you couldn’t find out by asking on the various Tekumel yahoo groups and lists, but it is nice to have it all in one place for easy printing out and binding. Art is minimal, but then as an old-school RPGer I rather prefer minimalist art in products as it takes me back to how the hobby used to be. Besides which, I’m not certain that a great deal more art would have added anything genuinely useful to the product.

It is a shame more RPG products don’t pay as much attention detail as Tekumel products tend to do, and I would heartily recommend this product and it’s companions to anyone wishing to create a religion for their games to get an idea of how to add depth and colour. That said, if you are looking for game mechanics you won’t find them here. whilst some may be disappointed by this, I’m certainly not. With numerous system out there for running Tekumel games - and with my preference for using one of my own, mechanics aren’t what I’m interested - setting material is. I suspect most fans of Tekumel will be of a similar mind.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Temple of Lady Avanthe
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Fantasy Book Cover Stock
Publisher: Sade
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/18/2011 06:46:52
The chances are that if you spend a lot of time looking at product on RPGnow and Drivethrough you have already seen a considerable number of products which use one of the cover Stock products from this range.

there is a reason that Sade's cover stocks are becoming so popular with publishers and it shows in this first class product. The quality of the work and the thought behind the design shines out above a great many - if not all- of the competition.

This is another first class product with 3 eminently and instantly usable cover stocks (although I would argue that one is better suited to an internal cover than an external, I have certainly seen it used in both rolls).

As usual the price is excellent and the amount of work this will save you makes it a very sensible purchase for any publisher.

Now, this is where I usually add my "if id do have any criticism..." bit to a review so hear goes... If I do have a criticism it is that the product is perhaps in danger of becoming a victim of it's own success. with so many publishers using it, new buyers may be put off at the notion that they are seeing the contents of this product on a lot of covers now. Well, DON'T BE put off! With a little bit of work in a picture editing suite you can inset another piece of art and in so doing customise this work to suit yourself.

I have found myself coming back to this product time and again for covers for my own projects and invariably have people compliment me on the cover, well, I can't take the credit. With material like this to work with it is very hard to go far wrong.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy Book Cover Stock
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Template: Gold
Publisher: Sade
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/18/2011 06:31:31
Another stunningly rendered cover template for use in your products. I bought this without any firm idea of what I was going to use it for simply because of the quality of the image and the excellent use of colour.

Glad i did, combined with an inserted piece of art it made an excellent cover for a module I released at a later date.

The work is of the usual high standard to be expected from this publishers cover templates.

If I do have a minor quibble it would be that I would have liked to have a rear cover version as well. Whilst it was easy enough to mirror copy the image, this wasn't a perfect solution as the shading on the upper and lower hinge to the left (which become these the right when mirror copied) differs slightly so the match isn't perfect when you make a mirror copy for your rear cover.

None the less, it is an excellent cover template and again for less than a pound you can't go wrong.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Template: Gold
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Between two worlds
Publisher: Sade
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/18/2011 06:20:41
Yet another first rate product from Sade. The artwork in this set would make excellent chapter introductions or, combined with one of their cover templates and with a little editing work would also make an excellent piece of cover art.

The art is very evocative and if you are going for a dark, slightly "otherworldly" feel then this product hits the name on the head. There is something very "Neil Gaman" about this product, which is exactly what I was looking for and I suspect many other potential customers will find this to be very useful indeed. At under a pound the price is also exceedingly reasonable.

I find myself unable to think of a single complaint or reason for anything other than total satisfaction with this product, and I'm not that easy to please as a rule.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Between two worlds
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you :D i love almost all gaiman stuff :D
101 Fantasy Jobs & Professions
Publisher: Ennead Games
by Bryan I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/06/2011 08:33:25
A handy little memory aid for those times your mind goes blank (we’ve all had them - especially during character generation or when ad-libbing). True, it’s reasonably basic and nothing you couldn’t do yourself but then it is a time saver.

Does what it claims and it’s free. For a time pressured GM or one prone to needing aids to memory it’s a useful tool, but don’t expect it to rock your gaming world - that’s not the intent of the product.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
101 Fantasy Jobs & Professions
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