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Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure - Glade of the Unicorn
Publisher: Hero Forge Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/13/2013 12:56:53
My kids are on a My Little Pony kick, so this adventure perfectly fit the bill. It features a unicorn in need, some evil goblins and wolves, and a quest to save her. With just a few tweaks the unicorn Alethia became Princess Celestia, the spear became an element of harmony, the Darkenwold Woods became the Everfree Forest, the goblins became diamond dogs, the wolves became timber wolves, and with our miniature ponies collection we were off and, uh, trotting. My 3-year-old and 6-year-old were excited to play.

This scenario, like all the adventures in the Hero Kids series, is entirely self-contained. It includes paper miniatures, battle grids and maps, and scales up the adventure depending on how many children will be playing. It even places the monsters on the maps. Each encounter is straightforward, leading to a branching path determined by the children.

Although Hero Kids is theoretically for kids ages 4 through 10, the scenario is decidedly adult. Our kids have to save a wounded unicorn by retrieving a cursed spear from a goblin clan, dipping it in a holy spring, and bringing it back to the unicorn. The encounters include one role-play encounter in which the kids have to prove that they are "worthy" of the sacred spring; one with wolves (if they get lost); and three goblin encounters in which the goblins stage a running battle inside a ruined fortress.

My kids' characters got lost along the way and ended up encountering the timberwolves; once defeated, I had them turn into a dire timberwolf. They eventually found the sacred spring, which is the sole role-playing encounter. Here's the description:

You emerge from the dank and oppressive woods into a tranquil clearing that is dappled with soft sunlight. A mossy rock cliff rises straight up on far side of the clearing. At the bottom of the cliff is a still pool, a thick mist blankets the pool, wafted and stirred by a cool breeze.

I started to read this and then gave up. "Oppressive"? "Dappled"? "Wafted"? I don't mind stretching my kids' vocabulary, but the text (dripping with adjectives for every single noun) is way over my six-year-old's head, and he reads quite well.

This encounter is intentionally left vague -- the game master's job is "to coax from the heroes a statement of their worthiness." This can be a frustrating exercise if the GM doesn't know what that is. I pretty much took whatever my kids were willing to share (in this case, a tentative explanation of why Princess Celestia needs the Elements of Harmony.

The subsequent battles are a fight to the finish to retrieve the object and save the unicorn. Despite the combat challenges, both kids were engaged for the entire adventure and agreed to play more. This might have something to do with the fact that they were playing with the ponies they know from the show (including characters they haven't seen yet), but I like to think that at least some of it was due the structure of the scenario.

Overall, this scenario is a standard dungeon crawl written for kids closer to ten-years-old. Younger kids might not be as excited about the relentless combat and have difficulty with the larger words.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure - Glade of the Unicorn
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Battlemaps: Floorplans, Inn Vol I
Publisher: 0one Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/01/2013 07:22:30
I bought this product because I was looking for battle tiles of an inn. Battlemaps: Floorplans, Inn Vol I outlines an inn called "The Fang." It's broken out into a kitchen, brewery, warehouse, common room, bedroom with toilet, master bedroom, and "genius room." There are also black-and-white versions of all of these rooms.

0one Games' products tend to have a bit of a CGI-look to them, in that they're cleanly rendered but semi-realistically shadowed. It's a slightly isometric rather than a direct top-down view, so some detail is visible -- barrels aren't just circles, you can see the shelves on a bookcase, etc. This gives a little bit of a fisheye lens to the map, which works well in providing enough detail for the players to distinguish between a large plate, a bowl, and a barrel (all of which look like different colored circles from above).

It's called "The Fang" because of how it protrudes from the mountains, but although there is a front and side elevation map as well as how all the rooms hang together, there is no visual of this fang-like architecture. That's a shame, because by simply looking at the maps it doesn't make any sense as to why the place is called "The Fang." "The Axe" or "The Edge" might be more appropriate.

The brewery features a steampunk-looking distillery and a table with a tapped barrel and several mugs. The floor features 1 inch-square (or 5-foot square) tile that consists of two sets of different-colored triangles meeting in the center. These tiles are the unifying theme throughout the set.

The common room (two pages) has lots of detail, with weapons hanging from the walls and an active fireplace. There's a theme of axes on the carpets, which biases the set a bit. Maybe it's owned by dwarves, maybe by Vikings, but if you weren't planning on having axes be central to the inn you're out of luck. The kitchen is straightforward, but the warehouse is really the basement, also two pages.

The second floor has an axe-head design built right into the tiles. The single bedroom with toilet features two beds per room and a very fancy washroom. The master bedroom steps going up (not sure to where) and a double axe laying across a chair. This isn't really a master bedroom so much as it's a dwarf's bedroom, probably the owner, which means it's not particularly useful for scenarios.

Finally, there's the "genius' room," which features some kind of mechanical contraption, lots of papers, and little else.

If you're looking for an inn run by a dwarf, you can't beat this map collection. Because this set makes some very specific commitments to a style of play, game masters looking for a generic inn should look elsewhere.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemaps: Floorplans, Inn Vol I
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Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure - The Lost Village
Publisher: Hero Forge Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2013 20:42:07
The Lost Village is the second adventure I played with my son using the Heroes of Hesiod rules. This time he decided to bring three adventurers along: a bomb-throwing tinkerer, a paladin, and a druid. The adventure revolves around solving the mystery around the disappearance of an entire village. The adventure begins with a choice as to how to travel to the town, by water (an action-oriented challenge) or by land (combat). My son chose water, skipping the bandit combat encounter.

Once at the village, the next step is to find tracks – this is the answer to most of the scenario, as there aren’t really any clues to find beyond this. The meat of the adventure takes place within a cave, which is secretly led by a fringe cult of lizardfolk. My son’s adventurers avoided the pit trap and took out the guards, making their way to a prison cell. There, they had the opportunity to sneak past more guards, but the adventurers failed and ended up alerting them while trying to sneak over to the keys. After defeating the second set of guards, they freed the humans and discovered a lizardfolk in a separate cell who didn't share the same beliefs of the evil lizardfolk. Finally, a role-playing opportunity!

My son released the lizardfolk, whom I named Calactyte after my brother’s lizardfolk character, and Calactyte promised to lead the human prisoners to freedom. The prisoners were not okay with this, so I left it to my son to convince them that Calactyte was a good guy. After some role-playing he convinced them and they left, leaving the adventurers to deal with the lizardfolk lead cultist.

This final battle was epic, as the shaman, a lizardfolk warrior, and two archers ambushed the party. Once again they were barely victorious, with two of the adventurers down by the end. Calactyte returned at the last minute to assist and promised to lead the restore peace to the lizardfolk clan.

Overall, this adventure was a lot of fun, featuring both an interesting role-playing dilemma for the kids as well as thrilling combat.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure - The Lost Village
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Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure - Curse of the Shadow Walkers
Publisher: Hero Forge Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2013 20:25:48
My son has been playing some variant of Dungeons & Dragons since he was three (in other words, since he could roll the dice), but when I discovered the simple rules system for Heroes of Hesiod I decided he was ready to move on to something approximating an actual system. But I needed scenarios, and even though I’m not using the Hero Kids system, the scenarios are an excellent example of adventure design done right. The first scenario we tried was Curse of the Shadow Walkers, with a sorcerer named Sir John and his female fighter companion and sister named, oddly enough, Sis. My son controlled both characters, although he was nominally controlling Sis for his sister.

But before we dive into the scenario, a word about how these adventures are structured. Each encounter is clearly separated out, there’s box text to read, maps accompany every encounter, as well as a set of paper miniatures. We didn’t use the somewhat crudely-sketched maps in favor of my adventure tiles from the Dungeons & Dragons miniatures sets. And of course I replaced the paper miniatures with plastic ones. But any parent could easily use this adventure right out of the virtual box.

Even better, each encounter is scalable by the number of adventurers, from a solo game up to four. With the exception of dice and a character, this is everything a game master could possibly need to run an adventure. EVERY adventure should be like this.

That said, I grade scenarios for kids by their ability for the players to not just hack-and-slash their way to success. Unfortunately Curse of the Shadow Walkers falls a little short. The first scenario involves rescuing a girl from an out-of-control wagon, but it’s impaired by language that’s well above most kid’s reading level and features significant typos.

The order of events is straightforward: kids rescue girl, meet her family and rescue them from wolves (combat), meet with a wise-woman who tells them how to cure a werewolf, fight spiders to retrieve wolfsbane (combat), then fight a werewolf (combat) and force wolfsbane down his throat. The only role-playing scene of substance is discussing the cure with the wise-woman – she has no name, and neither doe the two farmers/parents of the girl the adventurers rescued. The discussion doesn’t really have anything but an obvious goal – ask about the cure – and there’s no alternatives provided if they don’t do the right thing. In other words, there’s really not a whole lot of role-playing to be had in this role-playing scenario.

There’s also no alternatives to fighting the monsters. The wolves, spiders, and werewolf aren’t interested in negotiating, so there’s really not a lot of decision-making on behalf of the characters. The players' job is to knock monsters unconscious and that’s pretty much it.

That said, this is a perfectly good scenario for older kids who are looking to beat things up. The giant spiders hatch from eggs, which makes combat interesting, and of course the wolves are a persistent threat due to their numbers.

My son made it through the scenario just fine, with Sir John taking out the wolves with a fireball while Sis took on the werewolf in hand-to-hand combat. In the end, Sis was knocked unconscious and Sir John just barely managed to defeat the werewolf, curing him of his curse.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Hero Kids - Fantasy Adventure - Curse of the Shadow Walkers
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d20pfsrd.com presents Open Gaming Monthly #1
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2013 07:22:04
The inaugural March issue of Open Gaming Monthly, presented by D20 PFSRD, has been released by Fat Goblin Games. Editor in chief Rick Hershey explained:

Earlier this year, I discussed with John L. Reyst about launching a d20pfsrd.com magazine to help support Open Gaming and the many publishers that work hard bringing fans 3rd party content. After many conversations and random brainstorming emails, we both had a solid idea of the type of magazine we wanted to produce. From there, it was up to me (with the help of Fat Goblin Games co-owner, Jason Stoffa) to start figuring out how we were going to actually pull this off. This first issue has truly been a labour of love – of art, good writing and publishing – by the team at Fat Goblin Games and all the contributors from d20pfsrd.com, the many publishers that donated time and content, the artists and freelancers who sent us material, and the fans who supported the magazine’s announcement on the gaming scene. I cannot say “thank you” enough for everyone’s encouragement and enthusiasm.

Open Gaming Monthly builds on the publications that have gone before, dividing its content into Features (new locations, races, and an interview with an industry insider), Characters (new equipment, spells, and archetypes), Design & DMing (new monsters, locations, and adventures), and Columns (Open Gaming Spotlight; The Good, the Bad, the Henchmen; and BadWrongFun).

The cover by artist McLean Kendree is a gorgeous blue-tinted battle between a flaming-haired demonic wolf-like humanoid and a lot of warriors in an arctic landscape. It's clear the warriors are losing the fight. There's a full-page spread of the picture on pages 4 and 5, but unfortunately it's cut up by the PDF into two separate pages, meaning you can't really get a good look at it.

After a roundup of news and events in the RPG and gaming geek industry, Nicole Lindross provides a recipe for Spinach Lasagna Rolls titled "Adventures in Dinner." It's written like a monster encounter, which is pretty funny, and it looks yummy too. Of course, Lindross is a highly accomplished game designer and her bio is surprisingly modest about her accomplishments. I'm not sure I would have put the recipe as the first feature in the magazine, but it's a welcome and different addition to the usual gaming fare.

A minor oversight: There's mention of Wolfgang Baur concluding Kobold Quarterly on page 11, but no recognition that he will be continuing a column dedicated to Pathfinder open content in Gygax Magazine.

Page 12 features an in-depth interview by Christina Stiles with the mastermind behind D20PFSRD.com, John Reyst. Throughout the magazine are Random Treasures, little blue boxes of magic items to reward readers randomly browsing through the magazine. They're not necessarily magical, but colorful additions to a campaign's random treasure tables.

Worlcraft features the land of Grigoria, complete with maps, deities, cities, and unique races. The picture of the new monster, the Gogling, is frightening, even if the name makes it sound cute. Arctic Arsenal is all about mundane and magical equipment for surviving in cold weather climates – appropriate, given the amount of snow dumped outside as I write this. Spring returns with the Briarborn, a plant race perfect for outdoor classes. Then we're back to winter again with cold weather monsters: the Frost Hag, the undead Glacial Gaunt, and will-o'-wisp variant Ice Wisp.

The discussion of existing open game content picks up with a discussion of intelligent folding boats. Author Landon Bellavia gets a second chance to improve upon his creations by fleshing out the details. The arctic creeps back in again with Winter Wonderland, a list of cold spells by Alex Riggs. That winter theme continues in Drake's Hollow, a frost-themed setting set in a caldera.

Actress and artist Jennifer Page is interviewed, accompanied by several large full color photos. This is followed by the NPC section of Aertar Frostfel the dwarf, his evil sister Ultana, and hound archon Maerlon. There's a short article of Nordic deities and accompanying archetypes for clerics, followed by spells to defeat frozen foes (with fire of course!). The mini-adventure, Ke'Aril's Hunt, is a non-arctic themed scenario for four player characters of 5th to 6th level. Knowledge Check focuses on skill challenges, followed by Nick Esposito's house rules in BadWrongFun. The magazine concludes with Tyler Beck, who explains how to optimize the Winter Witch prestige class, and PJ Grant, who discusses optimizing the Advanced Race Guide.

Overall this is a very impressive magazine for $2.99, with enough content drawn from Open Game sources to make it feel fresh, a professional layout, and beautiful artwork. It's a great start for a publication that's just getting started; here's hoping they can keep up this level of quality for future issues.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d20pfsrd.com presents Open Gaming Monthly #1
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City Ruins
Publisher: DramaScape
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2013 10:11:06
Continuing my quest to find a flooded city for my Shackled City campaign's climactic chapter ending battle against Cauldron's flood in Flood Season, I've given up on looking for an actual flood for my virtual tabletop and decided to settle for a city ruins map. I'll just layer over some blue or green water tint on Roll20.

This map is ostensibly of a modern city, ranging from some ruined warehouses, to a completely flattened building, to a military-style warehouse complete with toxic waste, barrels, and a fallen telephone pole. With the exception of the aforementioned pole and an abandoned forklift, you could easily use this for a fantasy city as well. Given that the modern elements are on the right third of the map, it's still quite usable in other contexts.

The product comes in both virtual table top format, 1-inch square grids, and hex grids. It's an excellent abandoned set for a showdown with mutants, gangs, or zombies. And, with an overlay of a watery tint, it will be perfect for battling floods in Cauldron.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
City Ruins
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Tech Grids 2: Sewers and Floods
Publisher: Scrying Eye Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2013 09:54:59
I'm very fond of Scrying Eye Games for their modern tile sets, which are in short supply. They also aren't afraid to try esoteric environments like a flooded sewer or a a coolant system on a spaceship. That said, Scrying Eye Games products are specifically meant to be print products -- or in other words, you buy them on heavy card stock like I did (at Gen Con one year I bought every modern set they had).

Unfortunately, this does not translate directly over to PDf. There are a lot of dotted black and white lines, as you can see from the cover. This means that these maps cannot simply be used as is -- you need to cut them up. That's fine if your plan is to use these tiles on a physical tabletop, but not all that helpful if you plan to use it on a virtual tabletop like Roll20.

The water is suitably realistic, with interesting shadows and ripples, but the walls consist almost entirely of big Xs with yellow and black hazard markings along the corners. This almost exclusively skews the set toward a futuristic setting or a modern water treatment plant. There's also some shoreline content, which I would have preferred to see more of.

The real purpose of this set is a sci-fi water treatment plant, and if that's what you're looking for this set will be perfect. But as is, they're not suitable for sewers. The water's a little too clear, the text a little too crisp.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Tech Grids 2: Sewers and Floods
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Publisher Reply:
1) Yup, we love to do things that nobody else does. Thanks! 2) The "big x" is not wall. It is catwalk over water. You can see the water through the grill. 3) The fantasy version will be released in a few weeks, along with the rest of the dungeon sets they match. 4) Its the exact same art from the printed product. VTT versions will be licensed through D20Pro and maybe Fantasy Grounds. 5) If we put things in the water, someone complains. If we put nothing in the water, someone complains. No win either way. ;-)
Halloween Horror
Publisher: Chaosium
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2012 15:17:34
Halloween Horror: The Elder Pumpkin

This collection begins with a modern scenario, Eyes That Should Not See by Jim Lynch. When someone begins gouging out the eyes of victims and using trepanation to control them, it's up to the investigators to discover the Great Old One behind it all. Unfortunately, the Great Old One's name (SPOILERS YOU SHOULD NOT SEE) is F'Ncec, which on paper looks like it might be pronounced "effin-kek." Remember authors, always have a reader unfamiliar with your scenario read your Mythos beasts out loud!

F'Ncec has curiously human-like emotions – he is "deeply jealous of Cthulhu's dreams and influence." Really? Great Old Ones get jealous of each other now? What ensues is an escalating series of attacks over Cthulhu's artifacts by F'Ncec's trepanned minions. The descriptions are sparse, the plot is more of an outline, and all around this scenario feels rushed. Still, it has potential, and could easily be plugged into Delta Green's Army of the Third Eye. Three out of five.

For an example of how to write compelling scenes, look no further than Oscar Rios' Halloween in Dunwich. The set up features a ghostly witch, animated scarecrows, hobgoblins, and man-eating cornstalks. The investigators are children who must use the power of folklore and their wits to overcome their great-great-grandmother, which makes their connection to the story all the more compelling. Each character sheet has an interesting background – one even has a ghostly ally that can be summoned in a time of need. The scenario has a time limit and by its nature hedges the investigators in, but that only adds to the spooky Halloween fun. Oscar even provides a variety of options to defeat the witch. This is how you write a scenario! Five out of five.

Terror at Erne Rock by R.J. Christensen also takes places on Halloween in the 1920s, thrusting costumed investigators into a shipwreck that leaves them stranded in a lonely lighthouse. The lighthouse has several dark secrets that begins (TERROR AT SPOILER ROCK) with a seabird attack and concludes with wave after wave of deep ones. This is a straightforward survival horror complete with a few investigator secrets that crop up at inconvenient moments. Four out of five.

The range of scenarios here are above average, elevated chiefly by Oscar's contribution. For a series of Halloween one-shots it's a tasty treat.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Halloween Horror
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Spookybeans
Publisher: Chapter 13 Press
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 19:58:34
When the Vampire role-playing game first debuted, goth culture had a grim and gritty approach to role-playing. Horror was no longer defined by Call of Cthulhu's battle against the unknown and unknowable, but rather the corruption was within vampires, werewolves, wraiths, and every other supernatural creature that is now common fodder for "urban fantasy" authors. These games were struggling to gain a foothold and demanded to be taken seriously. But goth gaming has mellowed over time, led in no small part by Tim Burton, who always brings a playful if twisted approach to horror. And thus we have the ENnie-nominated Spookybeans. As Serena Valentino explains:

Spookybeans takes a cheeky jab at ‘90s Goth culture, and though you can play whomever your devious little minds dream up, I fancy the idea of various incarnations of goth stereotypes running around The Hollow’s landscape on their misadventures often leading them to a disastrous and hilarious effect. As the creators point out: success almost never comes without a price, and whatever your characters achieve will usually be tarnished by some undesirable effect that will usually come back to haunt you.

The mechanics are simple. The game moderator (GM) rolls Adversity dice, the player rolls his or her Stash dice. Even rolls are Bones, odd rolls are Skulls. Because this is a goth game, Skulls are good, Bones are bad. It also means that so long as you use some sort of even-numbered randomizing tool (coins, spinners, cards, etc.) you can play the game.

If you win a Conflict (die roll between the player and GM you get a point towards your Yo, the happy ending and if you lose a Conflict you get a point towards your Woe, the bad ending. That's right, Spookybeans actually has narrative conclusions for each session. Also, your Woe is defined by another player, not you, which makes for some interesting role-playing interaction amongst players. Thingies are self-defined abilities of your character that can gain the player a mechanical advantage during the game. Thingies can be left undefined to be used during role-play at an opportune moment.

Spookybeans isn't about winning outcomes so much as it is about narrating them. Your character's Thingies can actually be flaws – winning a Conflict means the player gets to narrate how the circumstances affect the character, even if he's having a really bad day.

Additionally, Spookybeans is mechanically geared towards cooperative storytelling. To gain dice for Thingies, players need to convince the other players to contribute dice from their own Stash. There's just one catch: whatever dice are used to help the player go to the GM in the next Conflict roll.

Spookybeans actually reminds me a lot of game I played in high school, Teenagers from Outer Space. Spookybeans has a "They Came From Outer Spaaaaaaaaaaaaace" setting variant so the parallel is apt. The spirit is the same, although Spookybeans has shed much of TFOS' mechanical design to focus on telling a good game.

Spookybeans isn't just a smart role-playing game, it's also charmingly illustrated with undeniably dark characters peppered throughout. There's better maps in this game than I've seen in the majority of most PDF products. The entire PDF is generously illustrated with big, colorful pictures that make you want to read more.

With its offbeat humor, quirky characters, great art, and tightly focused game design, Spookybeans does an excellent job at an important but modest goal of reproducing the feel of goth toons. Its nomination for Best Electronic Book ENnie is well-deserved. I voted for it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spookybeans
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Condition Tokens
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/12/2012 19:42:47
I don' know about you, but after playing enough 4th Edition I quickly tired of throwing little band of color on different figures to identify bloodied and marked conditions. There are several solutions around this, like Alea Tools' magnetic markers, but they require rebasing miniatures. There's the aforementioned rubber brand solution, which is inelegant but easy. What's surprising is that nobody's created condition tokens…until now.

Each token is meant to be placed beneath the miniature, with a 1-inch square center. The tiles are ideally meant for square bases, but can fit circular bases easily enough. Edging the center tile is text in four directions along the border. Each of these conditions are also brightly colored and designed: bleed has blood spatter, confused is a panoply of colors, dead is black, etc.

The markers include a range of conditions from both 3rd and 4th Edition: bleed, blinded, broken, confused, cowering, dazed, dazzled, dead, deafened, disabled, dying, energy drained, entangled, exhausted, fascinated, fatigued, flat-footed, frightened, grapple, helpless, incorporeal, invisible, nauseated, panicked, paralyzed, petrified, pinned, prone, shaken, sickened, stable, staggered, stunned, and unconscious.

I have a few quibbles with this set. It seems the creators have a loose grasp on the past tense. "Bleed" should be "bloodied" because that's the 4th Edition term and it fits the tense used with all the other conditions. "Grapple" is also guilty of this – it should be grappled. I'm not sure what condition "broken" is used for.

The other problem is that these tiles, while very useful, only work for medium-sized creatures. It's possible to increase the size so that the tiles accommodate larger creatures, but it would have been a lot more convenient to include the entire range of sizes (or even offer them separately). Still, for two bucks you'd be hard pressed to find a better alternative.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Condition Tokens
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Aether & Flux: Sailing the Traverse
Publisher: Darkfuries Publishing
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2012 22:00:17
A long time ago TSR was running out of setting ideas for Dungeons & Dragons. In the manner of the Leprechaun and Hellraiser franchises, eventually they settled on the one remaining unexplored world: SPAAAAAACE! Spelljammer was a gonzo, kitchen sink kind of world that allowed every other setting to fit into it, from Greyhawk to the Forgotten Realms. The clever twist was that space travel was filtered through a medieval mindset, complete with crystal spheres and phlogiston. It was both corny and brilliant.

A little too corny for 3rd Edition. There were some attempts to bring Spelljammer into 3rd Edition rules in Polyhedron, but for the most part the setting was criminally neglected. Third parties took up the mantle; Aether & Flux is the closest to the original Spelljammer setting. Like Spelljammer, there is an aether and spellcasters are required to "sail the traverse." Unlike Spelljammer there is also Flux, a form of electrical energy that can be harnessed by mechanical flux cullers.

Spelljammer was also known for its alien races, particularly the Neogi, a cross between spiders and eels. Aether & Flux has the Ravin, an eight-legged bug-like race resembling ticks. The rest of the book is fleshed out with different types of ships – remember, since fantasy space bends the laws of physics, all manner of ships are possible. New equipment, feats, spells, ship-to-ship combat, weapons, and worlds round out the book.

Aether & Flux is basically an updated Spelljammer. While it's not an official product, it's the next best thing for 3rd Edition.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Aether & Flux: Sailing the Traverse
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Battlemaps: Floorplans, City Shops
Publisher: 0one Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2012 20:55:16
This set consists of a baker, jeweler, tavern, potion maker, stables, glass blower, merchant, and smith. The maps are fully three-dimensional. This means that although the maps are detailed, quite a bit of space is taken up by the walls. Since you're presumably using these maps for miniatures, navigating the walls can be a challenge. Each of the maps are somewhat grainy representations of computer-rendered rooms with bright, contrasting colors. Lighting is used generously – some rooms have shadowy illumination, others are brightly lit.

Unlike other tile sets, these tiles are extremely detailed, down to utensils on the table and debris on the floor. Most of the maps are a single page with the exception of the stables. Of all the maps, the small warehouse, tavern, and stables will probably see the most use. I just don't see a lot of combat taking place in a glass blower's shop – not long enough to justify a map with miniatures anyway. This set of maps work better as complete encounters than a generic tile set. If you're anticipating a battle with a baker, jeweler, or glass blower…this tile set will do nicely.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemaps: Floorplans, City Shops
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e-Adventure Tiles: Dungeon Details Vol. 2
Publisher: SkeletonKey Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2012 20:11:20
When I was running a Freeport adventure that featured a battle in a throne room, there weren't a lot of map tiles available. I bought these dungeon details specifically for the throne room, and in that regard it doesn't disappoint. It features three thrones flanked by a pair of tiles that run the length of a light blue, two-space wide path. The rest of the tiles branch out to either side in curious directions, with rooms sectioned off by angular walls. These rooms feature: hookahs, tables and chairs, shelves of books, a star pattern in the floor (for summoning monsters?), a huge pile of bones that are curiously incongruous with the throne room nearby, a Lovecraftian squid head complete with bloody manacles and a gushing sewer drain, some barracks, a rickety bridge over a bottomless pit, and a treasure room.

It's hard not to love this set. Although I bought it for the throne room, the squid head features, the pit, and the treasure room really seal the deal.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
e-Adventure Tiles: Dungeon Details Vol. 2
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e-Adventure Tiles: Lost Temples
Publisher: SkeletonKey Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2012 19:59:24
I picked up these tiles to flesh out a snake temple from a Freeport adventure (I DMed a lot of Freeport adventures). The set features the borders of a temple which consist of steps, pillars, and a combination between the two. Some of the steps are partially submerged, while others feature walls and doors. What's odd about this set is that there is no tile that fits in the center – you essentially can only make a temple by using the walls created by the various tiles put together. Some of these walls are placed in positions that are unique to this set, like the edges of a tile, which makes it difficult to use with other sets. I made the mistake of printing every tile and discovered that they don't all fit together neatly.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
e-Adventure Tiles: Lost Temples
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e-Adventure Tiles: Round Tower
Publisher: SkeletonKey Games
by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2012 19:43:49
Like Ed Bourelle's Wizard's Tower set, this set features similar quadrants, with ground level entrance, stairs, stables, and storage. The higher levels include stairs, armory, murder holes, gate winch, meeting area, upper storage, food storage, dining, kitchen, barracks, sergeant's quarters, noble's quarters, and servant's quarters. There's also an entrance to the roof levels and some dungeon tiles.

Although on the surface this set might seem compatible with the Wizard's Tower, it's got limited compatibility because the wall features don't all match up. Without that other set, these maps are for humanoids only.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
e-Adventure Tiles: Round Tower
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