Jul 282015
 

freelancingI think it’s safe to say that every single roleplaying games out there has, at some point, wanted to write games. Whether it is for their own adventures, new classes, professions, spells… and fully fledged games too, of course.

The RPG industry relies quite heavily on freelancers because few companies can afford to hire full-time writers. And when they do, they can afford to hire the best of the best.

Also a lot of *incredible* writers decide to become freelancers anyway because that gives them a lot of freedom to do different projects and never become stagnant.

But how does one become a freelance?

Well, Jim Pinto has been a freelance for long, long time and has worked with more than can (or wants to) remember. Vickey Beaver does a lot of work with a lot of freelancers and I have a few of them at the office and help with the recruitment process in my company, so between the three of us know a thing or two about becoming one.

And if you want to become one, follow this pro who’s making a career as a freelance: http://www.freelanceknight.com/

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Jul 272015
 

Machinesmith_Destruction By Endzeitgeist

This expansion for LPJr Design’s neat Machinesmith-class clocks in at 14 pages, 2 pages advertisement, 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

We begin with a new greatwork, the constructor – this greatwork occupies the head-slot and can be used to create items instantaneously from thin air. And yes, if you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll realize that the very concept is a hornet’s nest – weight-limits, masterwork items, material restrictions, etc. – there is a lot to take into account. Now here’s the cincher – the items are fleeting and come with material and weight-restrictions that, believe it or not, prevent abuse. The necessity to know what you want to make prevents the manifestation of fitting keys from thin air (unless the DM is lenient) and the restrictions even manage to maintain the balancing scarcity/price-level of firearms, clockworks etc. – Which renders the greatwork’s basic capabilities one impressive feat of design. Kudos!

Now where a basic nod from me becomes a full-blown grin would be with the progression of the upgrades of the greatwork – here, steel and yes, even progressive magic item creation on a temporary basis become possible. If you even remotely think about the very notion, you’ll realize the sheer amount of issues this necessarily creates – and will realize what an impressive feat the avoidance of just all of these problems is. The rules presented are so concise, they even take destructible items à la staves of the magi into account – oh, and the upgrades come at times, when the creation of firearms etc. from thin air become more than valid and not unbalancing. The permanent item creation at capstone levels, feat-interaction – this greatwork is a mechanical beauty and should be considered the reference work for crunch like this. Yes, charges etc. are covered. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed this greatwork and want to stress that yes, this makes non-magic crazy-prepared characters very much within the realm of possibility.

We also receive new machinesmith tricks – analyzers allow for the rerolls of natural 1s, faster motion analysis and a pretty cool idea: Scanning spells from scrolls to cast them on the fly via the analyzer – once again a hornet’s nest of design to cover that manages to get expensive components, etc. – all RIGHT! Mechanus augmentations have a different formatting for their header than the other tricks. The tricks here include additional charges, storing and launching drones from the mechanus, adding poison-biting capacity and even providing a rudimentary intelligence – yes, complete with a limited skill- and feat-list. Moebius suits can have crossbows/firearms installed, can provide monk-style improved unarmored strikes and higher level suit-wearers may even dimension door or spell turn.

If you have a moebius weapon, a crit-stunning impact hammer, additional, charge-costing attacks and progressive replacement of str/dex with into for attacks/damage (with multiple taking of the trick providing progressively better replacements) as well as bleed damage and maneuver-enhancers provide for neat tricks. The aforementioned new constructor can create more items, recall them or produce on greater scales – and at high levels , execute mage’s disjunction. The augmentations provided for the converter include environmental attunement, short-range fire-novas and high-level time stops.

Of course, we also receive an array of new gadgets – from alchemical sprayer (including improvements and concise mechanics), crank-powered third arms these are just as awesome – and I’m saying that before the more unique options, like deploying melee-turret-style fighting bots, instant-minimoat-creating brass worms, folding horses, flamethrowers, pneumatic launchers and portable cannons enter the fray. What about circular saws? One-man rampage armors? Dune-style water-purification devices? Sound-based stunners? Yeah. Awesome!

The techniques provided include losing prepared prototypes for greater dispel magic or even share their tricks – the techniques herein may be less flashy than the aforementioned options, but they nevertheless are powerful, nifty options. Finally, we also receive numerous new prototypes, some of which utilize the new and concisely-defined construct-subschool – here, we get animated swordsmen and shieldbearers, concussive bombs, emergency stabilizing constructs, electroshock coils for weapons, explosive tips for ammunition, prototypes tailor-made to blow locks apart and even vibro-blade enhancements.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but the one component I could complain about – the formatting of the titles and subtitles is not consistent. Layout adheres to LPJr Design’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard and the pdf comes with gorgeous full-color art – all original and as beautiful as you’d expect. The pdf’s printer-friendly second version is also in full-color – and less than 1 mb! I thought at first something went wrong with my download, but no – fully functional. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

This pdf can be summed up in “Stepping up your game.” After the evocative, but rushed and flawed first two machinesmith expansions, I was not looking forward to this one – and oh boy was I wrong! LPJr Design’s high-concept books have a surprisingly pervasive way of sneaking into my games, even when I complained to no end regarding a flawed piece of crunch or another – there is usually this sense of pure joy, of high-concept awesomeness in the books. Know what? This one marries this unmitigated joy with crunch mastery of some of the most difficult-to-execute, complex systems for one simply inspired expansion. I am not kidding when I’m saying that this utterly blew me away and that it should be considered a must-own pdf for any user of the machinesmith. Even if you don’t use the class, any steampunk/magepunk/whatever-system can benefit from the wealth of riches and precisely-executed crunch. Unless I’m sorely mistaken, this was the first such pdf by Jonathan Palmer I’ve read – and I definitely want more – Sir, my hat’s off to you for this glorious expansion. Same goes for LPJr Design – this level of quality definitely deserves accolades! My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval – and yes, I am very glad I am able to dish out this verdict – the machinesmith deserves tools of this quality.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jul 262015
 

30_magic_toolsBy Endzeitgeist

30 Magic Tools clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look, shall we?

So, know what pretty much I don’t get? In all those high magic magocracies and settings, why are there no actual tools, you know, everyday-useful magic items to make life more convenient? I mean, literature is full of wizards using convenient items to render life more comfortable for themselves and in a setting where the crafting of deadly, costly magical weapons, it is only sensible that some of the funds circulated would be used to actually improve the tools used to generate the respective tools, right?

Right – so here we are, new magic tools. All of them are masterwork per default, as the pdf notices and framed by an aptly-written, short piece of IC-prose, we dive right in: The Arcane Anthology, for example, opens itself on the correct page and politely positions itself in front of the reader, levitating and leaving his or her hands free. If that is not inspiring to you in and of itself, then the short piece of history provided for each item should exactly help in that regard. Now this is pretty much awesome, though, alas, not all items herein reach this level of coolness – take the Brass of Binding: It prevents the rider from being dismounted “no matter what happens.” No matter how good the CMB, no matter the circumstance – unless the points of the maple-leaf brass are tapped. Alas, this does not specify what type of action tapping the maple leaf’s points is. Oh, and cost: 1000 GP. For never being dismounted, ever. WUT? This sounds like it needs a hard whack with the nerf-bat or rather, a tighter wording: It is clear this should only prevent dismounting due to the rider’s own failed checks – and yes, I am very much aware that this is supposed to be a tool for the Ride-skill only, but as written, it does look like it can be used otherwise AND it still fails to mention the action required for (de-)activation, alas a glitch I noticed a couple of times when the item’s text (à la mental command) etc. provides no clear means of determining the activation action, though I do assume the standard action default for wondrous items. But I’m rambling about a nitpick, so onwards!

A spoon that can purify any poison from food 3/day and detect it 3/day as well is a cool item, though personally, I think I’d prefer the detecting and purification to be based on poison DCs, but I am aware that this is just a personal preference and won’t hold it against the pdf. There also would be an enchanted chisel that can carve into wood on its own. A compass that can lead you to food, animals or locations pictured in your mind is nice, as are gloves that turn held items invisible. The Flawpicker item needs a scaling mechanism – picking out flaws from gems is fine with me – eliminating curses from cursed items, on the other hand, imho should have a scaling rate of success chances. I do like the sight-enhancing magical kohl. Mantles that help you avoid detection are nice, but what about shoons that 1/day create a platform mid-flight to push off, adding +10 ft. height and length to a jump? Yeah, awesome. Pins to improvise opening locks and helping with escaping manacles et al. also are a-ok with me. What about a patch that allows for quicker application of liquids?

There also would be slippers that allow caught thieves to generate an illusion of an animal darting away, providing an excuse for any noises created? Using a needle to animate cloths and the like to entangle foes? Cool! What about a babelfish-like translating butterfly? Nice!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though not perfect -I noticed a couple of typos, italicization glitches and the like. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s two-column full-color standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artworks consist of thematically-fitting stock art.

Liz Smith’s items are glorious on the one hand – they make sense and in many, many cases, they can be considered awesome in their flair – breathing the spirit of fairy-tales and feeling like actual MAGIC instead of an accumulation of numerical bonuses, the tools herein may not be 100% perfect, but they have more soul than many magic item books I’ve read. Yes, there are some minor ambiguities and yes, I pretty much prefer Scaling options over those that work as a default – but in the end, most of the gripes I could field apply mainly to my personal preference, which has never been a sufficient reason for me to rate a pdf down, leaving as valid gripes only the glitches and non-preference hiccups, which ultimately are offset by the sheer imaginative potential herein. It should be noted that the items herein fit perfectly as rare items in a low magic game, so yeah, versatility is accounted for.

Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4. 5 stars, rounded up to 5 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jul 132015
 

Deep_magicBy Endzeitgeist

This massive, huge tome clocks in at 378 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages backer-list, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 367 pages of content, so let’s…

…wait. I can’t really convey the illusion of spontaneity here. Why? Because I have written and deleted this review 3 times as I’m writing these lines. This is quite literally one of the hardest reviews I have ever written, mainly because conveying my stance on Deep Magic is pretty ambiguous and prone to misinterpretation.

But let’s start at the beginning. This book is beautiful. Thanks to one particularly helpful gentleman, I managed to pledge by proxy over him (didn’t have the bucks when the KS ran…) and when this book’s physical copy arrived in the mail, I was utterly blown away. Not only did I receive a massive, gorgeous stitch-bound hardcover, it was in gorgeous full color and sported some of the very best pieces of artwork I’ve EVER SEEN. The matte paper helps create an illusion of an “old” tome and the superb, copious artworks render this book so beautiful, it even mops the floor with quite a few Paizo-books. Yes, that gorgeous. The layout, with its parchment-look, its subdued, unobtrusive glyphs further enhances this. Deep Magic is one of the most mind-staggeringly gorgeous books I’ve ever had the pleasure to read and both artists and layout-artists have been up to their A+++-game. Kudos!

Then, I went on and started reading beyond the forewords and the introductory short story by Ed Greenwood and after them, yes, I was utterly blown away and totally in the mind-set for the things to come:

The first we see would be the respective magical traditions. Old time fans of Kobold Quarterly and Kobold Press will see quite an array of old favorites herein again – from blood magic to fool’s summonings, quite a bunch of conceptual goldies can be found herein. At their very best, these new traditions are ridiculously inspired – new ioun stones and ley lines would be two such examples. The latter, for examples, can be tapped by casters with concise rules to tap into their powers – while very powerful, these ley-lines can not only make for interesting tools that can turn the tide of battle and e.g. prevent a TPK or provide unique, cool ways to execute narratives. The transient nature of ley lines and the option to burn them out/change their course places control firmly within the hands of the DM, preventing abuse. That being said, as a DM, I have to decidedly advise against making the numerous ley line feats available for PCs – their balancing is odd/non-existent, with no-save, no-SR 1-round blinding effects and the like not necessarily constituting good resources to place in player hands.

The fool’s summoning tricks go a different way – beyond interesting, more risky, but also more powerful summoning tricks, a copious amount of spells receive flavorful modifications and reskins – which brings me to another point. These traditions sport unique effects, and the same holds true for chaos/wonder magic, with distinct, odd effects and abilities rendering the experience of playing the respective schools pretty interesting. Alas, not all of the traditions herein receive such interesting rules – in fact, quite a few of the traditions adhere to the following presentation: We receive a short fluff-text, spell-lists by caster/level and then, a sample spellbook, including preparation ritual. (And yes, rules for intelligent, living spellbooks can be found herein as well – they are pretty sinister and narrative gold.)Now don’t get me wrong, I *love* the inclusion of these books, but all in all, the respective “schools”/traditions, at least partially, feel too rudimentary – there is not enough to set the spells themselves apart, no guidance to develop additional spells for such a school and some classes receive e.g. one exclusive spell for such a tradition – not much reason to pick a tradition. By providing a tighter focus, the traditions could have been infinitely more compelling, more specific…but…on the other hand, we for example receive a complete, new full-blown mythic path with the living saint.

What are living saints? Well, for one, they are chosen of god(s) – what I mean by this is that, like many a mythological leader of religious prowess, these guys experience a highly interesting phase of tribulations, wherein they are severed from their gods and besieged by the whole pantheon – essentially, all gods can tempt the saint towards their ideology and sphere of influence, proposing different spells etc. for obeisance and quests. This can also be used for interesting foreshadowing and over all, the mythic path, intended for divine casters, is pretty much a cool choice with plenty of narrative potential ingrained into the very fabric of the thing, especially due to the numerous spells sporting names of the saints, adding a cool narrative dimension and unobtrusive fluff to these miraculous powers. This mythic path is the first that actually feels like it could have originated in fiction, like it not only provides a rules-escalation, but an actually defining, narrative tool. I adore this path and the resonance of our own world’s myths, with obvious references to Christian (sans the ideology, mind you – you can’t be offended by this guy) narrative structures that are very ingrained into how we perceive certain myths, this path is a thing of beauty.

Vril, the unique pseudo-atlantean power-source introduced in Sunken Empires (inspired by Bulwer-Lytton’s writing) also receives new specialists, both archetype, feat and spell-wise. Converting spells into vril-blasts, for example, is pretty interesting. That being said, careful looks into this system also shows us a couple of somewhat odd choices – the archetypes, for example, are separated and relegated to their own chapter – so instead of looking up e.g. vril magic, you have to know where what can be found. Yes, organization is neatly organized by crunch-type, but in a book this focused on awesome concepts, I think another solution would have been appropriate. Also odd – Ink Magic, in depiction pretty much a tradition, can be found in the chapter on rune-magic. Strange.

But this line of reasoning brings me to the first issue of this book, though it is admittedly one of preference. The traditions as such, as has always been the strong forte of Kobold Press, just BRIM with imagination. They provide iconic, well–crafted concepts that set the imagination ablaze. I know a couple of them from their original books and the fluff, usually, did in some way limit the respective traditions – whether it’s the lost magic of vril, the blood magic of some limited tribes/traditions or the lost magic used to slow the progress of the Wasted West’s Old Ones…there always was this implied scarcity, this alignment of crunch with philosophies, ethnicities and accomplishments. So the PCs have this powerful spell xyz, BECAUSE they have taken on caster zxy, because they have braved the ruins of Gru’tharkrr…

This book collects all of these traditions and breaks their spells into a massive, huge chapter, dissolving the lines between them and implying by its very organization a general availability not implied in singular presentations – essentially, we have a disjunction of fluff from crunch to a certain extent. Now this means that you have to search the spells in the lists if you want to make a specialist, but have an easier time when just browsing through the book, looking for spells generally available – hence, the implication is that these spells are available freely, akin to how spell presentation works in Paizo’s big books. Now don’t get me wrong, one could argue that THIS is exactly what this book tries to do, analogue to the big Paizo-books, where you essentially slap down the book and have a general extension of the arsenal. My contention, ultimately, is that this is balance-wise one of the decisions that shoot the book in its metaphorical foot.

In my first iteration of this review, I went through all of the crunch here in these traditions step-by-step – alas, this bloated the review to the point where it wasn’t helpful anymore. (And if I’m saying that, with my tendency towards verbose reviews, you’ll have an inkling of what a monstrosity this would have become – my guess was 20+ pages – and let’s be honest, no one would read that…)

So, Deep Magic does sport, a HUGE chapter of spells, both new and old – all collated and organized by handy spell-levels. This chapter is where my first and second review-attempts broke apart. The first one due to my so far pretty jubilant review receiving a harsh dose of reality, the second because I realized that step-by-step analysis makes no sense, bloating the review. If that was not ample clue – not all is well here. It is only understandable that a vast array of authors will have diverging voices and different mastery of the system and yes, this does show herein. Now before you get the pitchforks, let me state one thing explicitly and clearly – the *concepts* of these spells are WONDROUS. Gorgeous. Superb. They are iconic. They *feel* like magic, not like some energy-colored damage-dealing vehicles. They manage to capture the elusive spirit of what magic ought to be and bring the “magic” back into a game often lost and sorely missed. I’d take the concepts of this book over those in Ultimate Magic and Combat combined any day.

The concepts.

For there is no way around the following statement, no way to sugar-coat it without outright lying. There are a lot of cool, functional spells herein. However, there also is a vast array of spells that would have desperately required the hands of an editor who truly knows rules-language and/or a capable developer. Name the issue and you have a very good chance of finding a representative of the issue herein, quite possibly in a spell that you absolutely love concept-wise.

This chapter almost broke my heart.

Any closer analysis shows ample problems, often to the point of rendering a spell highly ambiguous, unbalanced or downright inoperable – there are examples of authors obviously mixing up flat-footed and touch attack AC. Mechanics more closely related to 3.X-design. Spells that do not allow for saves which should. SR that is ignored when comparable spells allow for it. Contradictions between spell-block and its text. Faulty AoEs/ranges/targets. False spell-block formatting. Wrong save. Damage-escalation. You name it. Damage + no-save stagger at a level where it’s ridiculous. Non-sense descriptor-placement. Balance is not even crying in the corner anymore, it is utterly GONE, evaporated into some nebulous dimension. Some author(s) seem to not get the distinction between material components, foci and divine foci. Unspecified bleed damage à la inflict ” receives bleed 3″ – bleed 3 WHAT? Hp? Attribute? What about a spell generating an AoE geyser-like effect that gets just about everything wrong you can possibly get wrong regarding AoEs? Racial spells that could have simply used focus as a limiting component instead of wonky wording-crutches that try (badly) to cut out other races? Sentences that peter off. Wording so convoluted I can’t tell you how exactly a spell works. You name the glitch, it’s here – and right next to it, you may see one of the coolest spells ever.

This massive chapter was one of the most heart-rending experiences of my reviewer-career. My first skip through it saw me exhilarated. Closer scrutiny brought disappointment, actual in-depth analysis…well, there’s no way around it…pain. Now beyond the glitches, the balance-concerns herein may partially stem from bad design-choices and lack of rules-language development…but at least partially, they also have their origin in the simple fact that the book took the “soft” restrictions that served as a balancing factor before and took them away by smashing all spells into one big chapter. Where before, spells may have been “broken”, but rare, the implication here is that they are freely available, exacerbating what might before have been a reward into power-escalation. Now yes, in face of the vast army of issues that plague this chapter, even a change in presentation in the proposed way would be a drop of water in a vast desert of issues and would do nothing to render the formal issues void…but yeah, that would be one exacerbating factor.

And one that extends, alas, to the next chapter. I am a huge fan of runic/glyph magic. Allowing non-casters to learn the powers of rues is one of the most-beloved tropes for me – whether clad in a pseudo-Scandinavian guise or via lovecraftian alignment with aboleths et al.; The very concepts of the runes are powerful, and intentionally so. But once again, stripping these of their fluff, of their direct place within the world, of the achievements required to learn them, renders them problematic. When you have to mimic the deeds of the gods to learn the rune Uruz and then, finally have it, it becomes okay if you can paint it on your shield for a 1/day +20 bonus to overrun/bull rush – chances are, your DM knew what was coming and planned accordingly. If the fluff context is taken away, a ridiculously powerful rune, accessible for 1 feat, remains – and suddenly, we see the system stumble under the weight of one of its foundations being eroded.

I’m not going to analyze the word of power-subchapter, mainly because I consider the base-system introduced in Ultimate Magic just not well-designed. On the plus-side, the awesome incantations pioneered by Zombie Sky Press back in the day receive a significant array of new ones and these tend to be pretty awesome narrative devices.

Alas, the sloppy rules-language of the spells also partially (but thankfully, only partially!) extends to the following chapter, detailing bloodlines and mysteries. What about tentacle-attacks that do not specify as what they are treated? Check. Flawed target/reach-nomenclature…check. Sp, Su and Ex, in some cases, seem to have been determined at random, rendering some abilities utterly opaque. You get the idea. Now yes, the problems are much less pronounced than among the spells, but they are still here. As an additional note – the options among these class options do not feel as though they were balanced among themselves, with power-levels ranging from weak to VERY strong. Still, overall, these options feel relatively operable and easily fixed and the concepts provided are often utterly unique and cool. On a footnote, wizards, oddly, have their arcane discoveries/focused schools etc. in the tradition-section in the beginning, ripping the class options associated with the traditions in half. The problems outlined here also extend, alas and much to my chagrin, to the chapter on archetypes. That being said, the archetype’s main flaw remains the focus on the spells/traditions – you can’t build a house on sand and these, as compelling as they often are, sometimes do just that – which is a pity, for here, much like with aforementioned class options, the imaginative potential is rather impressive..

The following chapters, thankfully, at least for me, redeemed the book, at least partially – a concise and utterly awesome chapter on the creation of homunculi/leastlings and simple rules for undead crafting as well as nice clockwork templates for familiars et al. make provide significant fun, engagement and narrative potential. Speaking of which – portrayed in glorious artworks, a significant array of iconic, cool NPCs – those that are here, are great and flavorful, but I can’t help but feel that one per tradition would have been nice to see.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, are good. On a rules-level, they are BAD and ironically, deeply flawed. Layout, as mentioned, adheres to a 2-column full-color standard and the artworks range among the most stunning I’ve ever seen in an RPG-book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and the dead-tree copy ranks among the most beautiful books in my shelves.

Read this list: Wolfgang Baur, Creighton Broadhurst, Jason Bulmahn, Tim Connors, Adam Daigle, Mike Franke, Ed Greenwood, Frank Gori, Jim Groves, Amanda Hamon Kunz, Brandon Hodge, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Neil Spicer, Mike Welham, Margaret Weis. With this amount of creative potential assembled, does it surprise you that I consider this book the most inspiring spellbook I’ve ever read? Alas, even these titans can stumble. And they did.

This book could have been the ultimate spellcasting-milestone, a legend, a book that defines the very game we play, a whole new dimension of spellcasting. And it is – on a concept-level.

Instead, at least on a crunch-level, it is pretty much, as much as I’m loathe to say it, a wreck -not one that has sunk, but one that leaks. The lack of a rules-savvy editor/developer is readily apparent – there are plenty of glitches herein that could have been caught by even a cursory inspection.

And no, that’s not just me being overly picky. I put this book before one of my less rules-savvy players, opened it on a random page in the spell-section and had him read spells. Inadvertently, he stumbled over an ambiguity, an issue.

Were I to rate this one the crunch alone, I’d smash it to smithereens – the very skeleton of the book is flawed and that radiates outward to almost all chapters, poisoning them as well. Allowing this book flat and without scrutiny at a table is an invitation for rules-discussions and balance-issues – at least if the players are halfway capable at making efficient characters.

Why am I not bashing this further? Because, while deeply flawed, Deep Magic is also deeply inspired – the concepts herein are staggering, setting the mind ablaze with possibilities, conjuring forth ideas for adventures, campaigns even. Quite a bunch of the flaws can be ironed out by a capable DM…and flawed though it may be, Deep Magic has A LOT of passion, heart’s blood and soul oozing from its pages. The concepts of this tome, in the end, made it worthwhile, at least for me.

I’m not going to lie. My players will never get their hands on this book. But I will take the concepts, take the spells, fix them and reap the benefits of the exceedingly awesome concepts provided herein. On the one hand, we thus have a terribly flawed book that fails quite spectacularly and depressingly at becoming what it ALMOST achieved – being the best spellbook for any iteration of a d20-based system ever. On the other, the often flawed crunch does provide more great spell-ideas and concepts (as opposed to their execution…) than the APG, ARG, Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat combined.

Whether this book is for you depends very much on what you expect – if you want solid crunch, a book to just slap on the table and allow…well, then stay the 11 Midgardian hells away from this book. If, on the other hand, you’re willing to work with it, if you’re looking for inspiration and are competent regarding the design/balancing of material, then this is a scavenger’s mithril-mine and a great resource to have – you literally can’t open a single page in this book without stumbling over at least one awesome, iconic concept. The hardcover is also great to show off to non-gamer friends and make them marvel at the glorious artworks, layout and presentation.

How to rate this, then? I hate and love this book. I want to slap my seal of approval on it, in spite of its flaws. But I can’t. Deep Magic has too many issues and I can’t rate potential, as much as I’d love to. I can only rate what is here and its effects – which oscillate between “utterly awesome and inspiring” and “wtf is this supposed to do?”

Without the superb concepts, the lore-steeped ideas, the downright inspired take on magic and its flavor, I would have gone further down on my scale. But, as a reviewer, I also have to take these into account, as well as the people out there who are like me and still can take a lot from this book. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Jul 102015
 

BlueRoseCoverIn 2005, Green Ronin published a pretty different fantasy game called Blue Rose. It defined itself as a Romantic Fantasy Roleplaying Game and it made a point of having social inclusion and diversity as part of the setting and ethos of the whole game.

As oftentimes happen, the game became in need of some updating and TLC and it languished for a few years despite the fact that it was far from forgotten.

Now the time has come and Green Ronin is once again gathering a team of writers, illustration artists, game designers and the team needed to get a new and better edition of the game out next year.

For starters it’s expanding on the lore of the game and also changing its system from True 20 to AGE.

In Kickstarter at the time of recording this podcast, funded and having cracked a few stretch goals, I decided to talk to its line and lead developer, Steve Kenson, to find out more about Blue Rose and what we can expect from this new edition.

Hope you enjoy the show!

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Jul 092015
 

world_book2Dragon Kings was funded in Kickstarter in 2013 with a fairly unrealistic delivery date and the promise of a lot; rulebook, CD with music inspired in the setting, PDFs, posters, more rule books for different systems…

But I backed it anyway because the setting sounded fantastic and the artists they had recruited to do some illustration and cartography are second to none. In fact the map of Khitus is absolutely breath-taking.

Dragon Kings also sold itself as the spiritual successor of Dark Sun, one of my favourite settings for Dungeons & Dragons since it was published in 1994, so regardless of everything I would have bought it.

Now, one year late, I have the setting book in my hands, the music CD in my library, the MP3s in my phone and the posters on my wall, so I am happy I got what I paid for. Almost.

The fact is that at the time of publishing this video I haven’t got the Pathfinder or Savage World rules supplement and there’s not been an update on the project since February 2015.

So, with all those issues and the fact the typography is not great (should have made more of an issue of that in the video) is it worth getting this book?

Well, yes. Very, very much so.

And in the video I tell you why!

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