Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advanced Feats: The Cavalier's Creed

Advanced Feats: The Cavalier's Creed (PDF)
Published by Open Design

Disclaimer: The copy used for this review was provided by the folks at Open Design.

The Cavalier's Creed is that latest offering from Open Design in the Advanced Feats line of Pathfinder RPG compatible books that focus on the classes presented in the Advanced Players Guide. It is a 16-page PDF that consists of a full color cover with artwork, a credits page, the customary OGL page, a split-page of Advanced Feats line advertisements, and 12-pages of content.

As with previous entries in this series, we are presented with an examination of the advanced class, 30 feats for it, and build ideas and three examples. It also has a nice cover by Christophe Swal that is quite evocative of the cavalier.

Okay, there's the cut-and-dry aspects out of the way, now onto the editorialization...

It'd be a slight understatement if I said that I like the work of Sigfried Trent on the Advanced Feats series, as well as that of his wife, and graphic designer of the series, Anne Trent. I really do as they put out a quality product for the folks at Open Design each and every time and The Cavalier's Creed is no exception.

In addition to the crunchy mechanics within, we are also presented with various author notes about historical footnotes, design notes, and factoids that are a combination of interesting and useful for the reader. Whether the reader is someone who remembers cavaliers in their various incarnations in d20-based roleplaying games, as well as a certain overly entitled pain-in-the-backside from a certain fantasy-based cartoon, or they are someone new to the class, this PDF will be quite useful and informative.

The black-and-white illustrations are a nice touch, as well, especially given their period feel and flavor. In fact, I would say that the illustrations lend an ambiance to the text, given the subject matter, and it helps put someone in the right mindset for playing a cavalier.

See, it is not just about being noble, talking flowery language, or being the hopeless romantic, and The Cavalier's Creed helps show that quite nicely. A quixotic knight is not a career, it is a calling. It is not a character trait, it is character exemplified. It is not just tilting at windmills, it is knowing that one of them one day will be a dragon.

Basically, being a cavalier is taking an unreasonable ideal or belief and instilling it as such a core concept for a character that it becomes reasonable, nay even admirable. It is when chivalry leaves a cavalier that the unreasonable occurs, but fortunately with a piece like The Cavalier's Creed that will not happen.

Buy yours today, for $3.95 (PDF).

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Unkindness (PDF or Print)
Michael Satran
Cover Art, Illustrations, and Layout by DT Butchino
Published by BlackWyrm Publishing

Disclaimer: The copy used for this review was provided by the folks at Atomic Array.

First off, let us get the basics out of the way: Unkindness is an adventure for used with Heroes 6th Edition or ICONS that is 36-pages in length, which accounts for the front and back covers, blank inside cover pages, an informative credits page, an advertisement, a two-page license, and 28 pages of adventure material. There's color art and maps, a wide variety of dual statblocks for non-player characters, and more.

Secondly, it ain't often that I come across a gaming product that shares a touchstone with my academic life, yet Unkindness does just that with its psychological subject matter. Often when folks here 'mature themes' they think danse macabre, erotica, or some untoward thing, yet with Unkindness we're exposed to an all-to-common untoward act, as both a motivation for the events in the adventure and focal point for the heroes and their actions and re-actions. Not only did I find this an interesting avenue with respect to adventure design, but I applaud the message at the core of the adventure.

Yeah, I know, that's a bit vague, but I hate spoilers and I think that this is one best left discovered via player, or while laying out an adventure.

Basically, as a soon-to-be-graduated professional in the field of psychology, I'd like to take my hat off to Michael Satran and BlackWym Publishing for working with a difficult subject in a way that was both creatively sound, and morally sound.

But, enough of the lofty thought, and on to the grit of gamerness.

Unkindess is an adventure that you can drop into pretty much any location with only a modest amount of shoehorning. It includes some crisp maps that can not only be used for the adventure that they're included with, but also any contemporary roleplaying game. The art is very comicbookish, and it reminds me of some of the more indie comics, or small pressed from the 80s or, possibly, some of the later 70s.

You've a mysterious villain, unusual henchmen, and Norse mythology all rolled into a plot that's deeper, and perhaps more twisted, than a first or second look would suggest.

As the tag line suggests, "And even the mightiest of gods can be inspired by the evil that men do..."

Unkindness does just that. Not only could it pluck at heartstrings, and mash buttons on issues of the heroes, but perhaps their players as well. But, that's what roleplaying games can do for folks. Empathy is an interesting skill to hone, as not only seeing how someone else walks in their shoes, but why they walk as they do can be a powerfully moving thing.

So if you're up for an interesting game with your players, one that might have them think beyond the table while still having a good time, then Unkindness is definitely the right choice for your table.

Buy yours today, for $3.95 (PDF) or $6.95 (Print).

Want to learn more about Unkindness? Read on...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tales of the Old Margreve

Tales of the Old Margreve (PDF or Print)
Tim & Eileen Connors
published by Open Design

Disclaimer: The copy used for this review was provided by the folks at Open Design.

There are many stark contrasts between urban, suburban, and rural lifestyles, and all are quite telling of the communities that inhabit those environs. One of the more apropos, with respect to the topic of this review, would be that of the feelings of the people toward forested areas and what can be found within them. Those within an urban environment see the forest in two different manners, those verdant places outside of their borders that have a nostalgic veneer to them and the controlled parks within their border that are places of tranquility sometimes disrupted by the disdained segments of their populaces. However, the further away from the sprawl you get the truer notion of the old woods comes to the forefront...the deep dark of the wooded fringes are best feared and respected for we have forgotten the unfettered wilds within them.

Tales of the Old Margreve is here to remind your players of this very fact, that sometimes there are more dark things within the woodlands than found within mere dungeons.

Within this adventure anthology are all the resources you would need to craft a campaign with The Old Margreve forest as the centerpiece. Not only is there an open piece of fiction, to give you the flavor of the area, but also a gazetteer. There is also a bestiary and region-specific magic section, full of encounters and more flavor. Yet the bulk of this modest tome are the eight adventures that cover the ranges of play from 1st to 10th level that easily add to the potential sandbox nature of this product.

You've Richard Pett's Hollow (1st-level), The Honey Queen by Jonathan McAnulty (2nd or 3rd level), Challenge of the Fang by Dan Voyce (4th level), The Griffon Hatchling Heist by Michael Furlanette (5th level), Gall of the Spider Crone by Tim Connors (6th level), Dan Voyce's Blood and Thorns (7th level), Grandmother's Fire from Ben McFarland (8th or 9th level), and The Lustful Dragon by Steven Robert (10th level), all barely contained within these pages.

If you're looking for an imposingly ancient woodland, a place that would make even the longest of the long-lived whisper, then Tales of the Old Margreve is for you and your table. If your players seem jaded toward stone walls and tunnels, and you'd like to surprise them with an old thought or memory, then this is the product to use. It'd be easy to use the adventures as need, work up an adventure chain, or sandbox a campaign out of this book.

In addition to the main product, there are also supplementary products that include a useful web compilation and a cool set of Ashton Sperry's paper minis.

Buy yours today, for $9.95 (PDF) or $24.95 (Print). The web compilation for $1.95 (PDF) and the Paper Minis $3.95 (PDF).