DriveThruRPG reviews for January 16–22, 2011

During the week of January 16–22, 2011, I reviewed ten items at DriveThruRPG. Although it didn’t receive the highest star rating of the bunch, my favorite was Spark: Fantasy Personas by John C. Walborn for Knights Crimson.

  • After the Battle by Christy Carew for Sonic Legends. Based on the title, I thought this might be a good soundscape to use during short rests in my D&D 4e campaign—but that was before I heard the sobbing. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★★★
  • Children of the Dawn by Christy Carew for Sonic Legends. Strings, drums, and pipes combine to good effect in this soundscape, although I confess to finding some stretches a bit too given over to the highly repetitive drumbeats. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★★
  • De Profundis by MichaÅ‚ Oracz for Cubicle 7. If you want to explore the potential strangeness of the world around you, influenced by the weird fiction of H.P. Lovecraft and similar writers but unconstrained by rules, campaign settings, dice, or character sheets, you might enjoy giving De Profundis a try. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★★
  • Domain of the Ice Lord by Christy Carew for Sonic Legends. Composer Christy Carew uses long, soft, somber tones, accented with occasional chimes, to create in this soundscape the sense of a vast icy or snowy wilderness. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★★
  • Expansion for the Ground Set #4 by Zoltán Bárány for Lord Zsezse Works. This expansion adds a whopping 40 tiles in the style of LZW’s Ground Set #4. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★
  • Fantastical Currencies: Kingdom Edition Master Set 1 by Rick Hershey for Empty Room Studios. If you want to include money props in your fantasy campaign, this product gives you an easy way to do that, and it’s much less expensive than purchasing sets of manufactured fantasy coins. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★
  • Gamescapes: Fantasy Battleground by Alida Saxon for Savage Mojo Games. When fully assembled, the “Fantasy Battleground” gamescape measures 24″ x 32″ and depicts a winding road where a battle of some sort has taken place. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★★
  • Spark: Fantasy Personas by John C. Walborn for Knights Crimson. This volume in the “spark” series goes well beyond the usual “d100 NPC personalities” type of product or table. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★★
  • The Judicial Legion of Adventurers #1: The Dark Avenger by Quinn Murphy for EN Publishing. A 30th-level Batman for D&D 4th edition … it’s as simple as that. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★
  • The Moreau-1 Files by Dan Houser and Mike Lafferty for Vigilance Press. In “The Moreau-1 Files,” Vigilance Press offers us a modern-day supervillain, the titular Moreau-1. He’s a robotic bioengineering genius; if you read Marvel comics, think of a cross between Ultron and the High Evolutionary. (Read more at DriveThruRPG.) ★★★

The following didn’t make the cut:

  • D100 Discoveries Series: Caves, Sea, and The Great Outdoors by Jarrod Camiré for Taurus Twelve. It’s not very clear to me just how the author intends for DMs to use this product. For each of six environments, the author offers 100 “discoveries.” I cannot recommend using this product during a game to generate random encounters, because many of the entries require more preparation and DM buy-in than is really possible at runtime (unless you want to slow down your game significantly, or you are very, very good at improvising). For example, if the PCs are exploring a cave and you roll a 5 , yielding “A stalactite suddenly falls,” a nice bit of atmosphere that’s easily incorporated right into the adventure as it unfolds. The entry for 12, however, tells you that “[a] green dragon chased or killed all the wild elves who lived in The Rainbow Caverns and now resides somewhere in their former abode.” What do you do with that? It’s neither a random event like the stalactite falling, nor an encounter; it’s really a plot hook or adventure seed. Other entries would alter the very geography of the dungeon, like entry 22 for caverns: “Thousands of skulls line shelves carved straight from the limestone walls found inside a vaguely rectangular chamber.” The problem is simply that plot hooks/adventure seeds, locations, rumors, simple environmental conditions, and actual encounters sit side-by-side on the tables without distinction. The tables can still be used, but not for random rolls at runtime. Instead, I would instead approach the volume as an “idea book” to give me inspiration as I prepare my adventures. The grammar and such need some attention from a good copy editor, and the publisher needs to made different decisions about the colors used to zebra-stripe the tables. The black text is somewhat hard to read against the dark gray used for the cavern table, the dark green used for the forest table, and especially the bright red used for the volcano table. I found the hill and volcano tables painful to look at because of the bright hues used. All of the zebra-stripe colors need to be made lighter and toned down considerably. For the reasons described here, I found this volume somewhat disappointing compared with volume 1. ★★

1 Comment on DriveThruRPG reviews for January 16–22, 2011

  1. John C Walborn // March 17, 2011 at 6:09 am // Reply

    “…Although it didn’t receive the highest star rating of the bunch, my favorite was Spark: Fantasy Personas by John C. Walborn for Knights Crimson…”

    It happened in January, but I just saw it and this made my day.
    :)

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