Monday, May 16, 2011

Open Design - Northlands

Northlands - Roleplaying in Winter's Chill (Print+PDF, PDF)
by Dan Voyce
Published by Open Design

Disclaimer: The copy used for this review was provided by the folks at Open Design, which is really cool of them when you think about it since, honestly, they didn't have to do that. I mean, seriously, while my readership is fierce, it is also tiny. *grins*

One of my favorite things is the amalgam of historical ethnographic aspects and fictional groups and places, I'm just a massive sucker for it. Whether it's Tad William's world of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn or Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea, or Robert E. Howard's Conan, I just love it and eat it up like teriyaki beef and noodles — seriously, if you've not seen it, I'm a beast when it comes to pan-friend noodles with various flora and fauna thrown into it.

So I'm sure you can imagine my excitement when I first heard about the Open Design patronage for Midgard, and it's not just because I've been a patron for several Open Design projects or that I'm a sucker for a lot of things that come from these folks and their projects — well, it's not totally because of that — but it's also because I enjoy that source folklore and mythos. It could be the norse in me, or the gael in me, or even that odd mix of norse-gaels, but you get the idea.

Now let's move the timeline forward a bit and there in my inbox is an e-mail for Wolfgang Baur's other half, some might say better half yet this is not a review for talking sides and weighing the worthiness of kobolds. Within this e-mail is a link, which once followed down the rabbit hole led to a file known as Northlands.

Yeap, a piece of the Midgard within my grubby little HDD — okay, it's more dusty than grubby, as I don't mind dust as much as I do garbage.

It's Pathfinder Roleplaying Compatible; although as I've said in several other reviews, Open Design is one of those publisher who's  work I enjoy and use in any and all systems. I mean it, too. I seriously think that they could use a codified version of Rock-Paper-Scissors, such as that used by various LARPs, and it'd still be just as awesome as everything else that they've done.

With cover art by Aaron Miller, and cover design by Crystal Frasier, we're given a crisp, clean and enticing window into the wintry lands of the North. Once we're within the offering, we're met with the teamwork of designers Dan Voyce with Wolfgang Baur, Thilo Graf (also the linguistics lead), Jim Groves, Chris Harris, Jonathan McAnulty, and Christina StJles — I swear, if I typed that right it's a miracle — as well as the artwork of W.G. Collingswood, Rick Hershey, Arthur Rackham, Carl Wahlbom. We also have Liz Courts on layout and Hank Woon, Jr. as editor.

Now I don't know about you, but that seems a group worthy of the price of admission, and that's just the credit's page. Of course, there is also the classy move of giving the patrons a healthy slice of the pie with their gratis page. Always a nice touch.

As with the ever eccelctic nature of my reviews, which those who read my blatherings should be use to by now, I shall throw out some quick crunch and then gloss over the details.


I hope so, because I'm gonna do it anyway as I'm a jerk like that...I also always tear band-aids off before I actually say three when I count to three. I've also short-sheeted folks, yelled weird things out car windows as I drive by people I don't know, and I've thrown mayo packets at douches. I'm sure there's some issues in there, but I'm a psychology major so it comes with the territory and it grants me an awesome CR.

Northlands is over one hundred pages of material that's cut up rather nicely into six chapters. It's got nice artwork, solid layout, and a nice mix of crunch and flavor. As an editor, it's look like it was picked over rather nicely and I'm sure Huginn and Muninn would approve, and I rather enjoy pointing out when I think something was well-edited, regardless of being able to prove it. It's more an article of belief than fact, and it's my blog so it works.

The Northlands takes its time and bathes you in the setting material, and in many ways it's not only a primer for sending your PC's a viking, but it's also a lesson in how to immerse folks in a culture. They do it often, they do it well, and I think it pays off handsomely.

For me slang and words are a good thing to have in a game, with respect to cultures, since it not only sounds cool when you use them but it also helps a player 'think' in the terms from which the words are driven. In sociology it's one of the things that helps break down the fundamental attribution error since thinking like someone who is not you weakens the reflect to not give them the benefit of the doubt, or apply negative motivations to the actions of others. Basically, you go beyond the stereotype of someone and actually start to understand their motivations. 

Anyhow, that seems weighty of thought so I'm gonna go back to blathering and saying that this book is awesomey.

If you're someone who wants a campaign thrown into the wintry lands of epic tales and wonder, then you could do so much worse, and rarely better, than Northlands. It's meaty, it's chewy, and it's thick in all the right places. It has culture, mythos, sociology, teratology (I know, not the totally right usage yet I do it anyway), and it can be dropped into any campaign that needs it. There's solid environmental rules, haunts, magic systems, features for PCs, and location, location, location.

See that? Glossy details with works praised, I'd throw in a catchy reference to A Song of Ice and Fire, but I was doing it before the hipsters and I don't wanna justify their behavior. Next thing you know I'd be all copying Wil Wheaton, talking about how I've penetrated this town, or the other, and I'm just not Johnny Depp pretty enough to do it...this is known.

Frak! I did it anyway. Well, at least I avoided the whole frosty climax line. Or is that chill is cresting? Cold is almost here?

Eh, I give up. Go get Northlands, it's awesome.

Check them out (Print+PDF - $19.95, PDF - $9.95) and enjoy!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Kobold Quarterly - Spring 2011 - Issue 17

Kobold Quarterly - Spring 2011 - Issue 17 (PDF+Print SubscriptionPDF Subscription, Print, PDF)
by various talented folk
Published by Open Design

Disclaimer: While I was offered a complimentary copy for my review, I didn't need it as I've had a KQ subscription (Print+PDF) since the beginning and I don't plan on changing that any time soon as I enjoy it, a lot. 

Now I could go the easy and obvious route and point out that Kobold Quarterly is the torchbearer to what Dragon and Dungeon magazine was before, but that's not only too obvious its something that's been done before...over and cover again, since it's quite true. Instead, I'm just gonna blather on about some of the cool offerings that this issue has in it and why I like them. It won't be an encyclopedic review, though, because those are rather droll. 

So, in no particular order, rhyme, or reason, here we go.

Stan! Seriously, I like Bolt & Quiver, and anytime I see it in print I'm a happy camper.

Allison Theus's cover, 'Charge!', for this issue is pretty sweet, too. If that doesn't scream 'Win or lose, go down swinging' I don't know what else does.

Hell, I even enjoyed a lot of the ads, too. I know, I'm a bit odd, but one of my favorite things to do is flip through and check out the ads for anything interesting. Regardless of edition or genre, too. Sometimes you can find the most interesting offerings, be it a supplement, setting, utility, or software.

Anyhow, on toward the articles.

I like taverns, and I don't think that the cliché can be overplayed, either. Richard L. Smith the Second's 'The Black Goat' hits the spot just right. With art by Kevin Crossley and cartography by Sean Macdonald, you've a nice feel and what you need for an interesting haunt or an encounter. It could just be a place that folks enjoy, regardless of its eerie nature, or just the right sort of place to raise interests and investigations by the characters.

Next we've 'The Value of the Monster' by this Monte Cook fellow, and he seems pretty talented. *grins* Lame joke, I know, but the article is quite good and his introspective on the qualities and characteristics of a monster, of its value, is definitely a solid read. Given his pedigree, it's a given that Monte would produce such a succinct, efficient piece, too. There's something to be said about informative brevity.

Now I'm a sucker for flavor, especially if you can get it to flow off of the tongue and toss around solid coinage values with it. Matthew J. Hanson's 'Elf Needs Food Badly,' with art by Scott Foresman and Rich Hershey, does just that. Now this ain't just foodstuff for the in-character foodie, but it's magical sundries for the 4e game. Conceptually it wouldn't take much to slap down an idea for PFRPG campaigns, either.

Next we've Mark Moreland's Pathfinder Society offering of 'Ambush n Absalom,' with at by Jenny Clements and cartography by Corey Macourek. I really enjoy the organized play offerings from Paizo via the Pathfinder Society, and this one is no exception. I'm a sucker for urban adventures and throwing players in the sewers, as my Ptolus campaign folks know too well, and I could easily see using this offering to help that or just play it as part of the Pathfinder Scoiety its self.

Lastly, there's a Midgard Campaign Setting support article. Again we've another 4e offering, but the material that Stefen Styrsky puts out in 'The Scourges of Vael Turog' is just solid, and Pat Loboyko's art is killer. As I've told the folks over at Open Design before, when I play 4e it's either a homebrew setting or one of their offerings. Period.

If there's accorded neutral grounds within the d20-based gaming world, it's definitely Kobold Quarterly.

Interested? Intrigued? Tempted?

Then check out the following links and pick you method of ingestion: (PDF+Print Subscription: $27.99, PDF Subscription: $15.99, Print: $7.99, PDF: $5.99)

If you can't find a method of receiving and enjoying Kobold Quarterly, then you're really not trying hard enough.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor's Edge

Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor's Edge (PDF)
Published by Open Design

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

Ain't no mixing up of my words, I've enjoyed the Advanced Feats series quite well, as my various reviews have shown, time and time again, and The Inquisitor's Edge is no exception.

But, before I get to far into things I'll share the nitty gritty pieces first:

  • 16-pages devoted to the Inquisitor class
  • 30 new feats
  • Three builds that help study this interesting class
  • Cover art by Christophe Swal, who also added interior art along with Stanislav, and Anne Trent (who, herself, was the Graphic Designer of the piece).

Now, as a head's up, this is but one of three Open Design products that I'll be reviewing over the next seven days. You see, it's my birthday week — I know, most folk have a day but I like screwing with it for a week — and I figure why not enjoy it by talking about various products and projects of Open Design. 

So onward to Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor's Edge...I like it, a lot. Now folks who read my reviews might comment that I seem to like everything, but I should point out that I don't review something I don't like...I figure that there are enough of those out there, if something sucks, and I don't wanna waste my time doing it unless something really ticks me off. I figure since I'm not paid to do this, and often I get a complimentary product in hopes of a review, why put effort into something negative.

Weird, I know. It's not like I don't rant all over the place.

But, anyhow...

I enjoy the new classes from the Advanced Player's Guide by Paizo, since each of the classes adds an extra layer of flavor and fun for those folks who'd like to add something new to their game. But, with new powers come new issues, yet the Inquisitor's Edge handles it as solidly as the other offerings in the AF series.

In a lot of ways the Inquisitor class reminds me of Sparhawk from The Elenium and the Tamuli, with the little bit of rogue and the little bit of holy warrior thrown into one thing and I think the Inquisitor's Edge hits this right on the head with talking about all the versatility of the class.

Once again both the Trent's down an awesome job, as the layout is just as evocative as the words on the page. Each feat adds something extra to the class, the walk through lends its self to solid ideas and aids on understanding the class, and then the builds exemplifies them.

At it's comfortable pride and excellent quality, not to mention usefulness, The Inquisitor's Edge is a worth addition to your Pathfinder game.


Buy yours today, for $3.95 (PDF).