A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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  1. - Top - End - #61
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Midnight, Fantasy Flight Games (Second Edition)

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    Summary
    This book is an original campaign setting which (in a way that carefully avoids the publishers getting sued by the Tolkien estate) basically asks: “What if Sauron and/or Morgoth won?” It is set in a world where the archetypical group of four heroes (an adventuring party perhaps?) not only failed to stop the evil god who was the setting’s chief antagonist, but were corrupted to serve him. The PCs play in the century following that defeat as guerrilla fighters against the darkness, the flickering candle flames of hope in a setting where the bad guys have, unquestionably, won. New classes, spells, equipment, full setting is included in this book.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2005, 406 pages. The book we’re looking at is the second edition, which specifically upgraded for D&D 3.5, although once again you’re looking at a setting which heavily retools the class, character, and magic rules for the purpose of its setting, scope, and mood. Insofar as it’s any sort of signal of quality, Midnight was popular enough to spawn 17 splatbooks for its specific setting (not counting the original 3 that were produced under 3.0, nor a direct-to-video movie, Midnight Chroncles which was probably hideous to watch at low budget but by virtue of existing was probably more watchable than the average D&D movie.) Why did the setting die out? For much the same reason most 3.5 third party splatbook makers died out: WOTC dropped the edition to go to fourth, Paizo was a slow-burn success rather than a big one in keeping 3.5 going, and Fantasy Flight Games (likely) found there was more profit in board games than in RPGs. As at date of review, this book was available on some large RPG market websites.

    Notable Features
    Not as much to note this time around, mainly because the system is significantly different from default D&D. That is, I think it'll be difficult to extract a lot of transferable options from a Midnight book, mainly because they presumably were built with an eye to Midnight’s idea of balance. Still, for those like me who trawl books for nuggets, there are couple of interesting things:
    Drive it Deep (feat): Power Attack for light weapons. Can’t get two-handed weapon wielding bonuses, but it at least helps keep up a little bit.
    Devastating Mounted Assault (feat): when riding a mount that makes a single move or charge during the round, you may still perform a full attack … at -5 penalties on the full attack.
    Shard arrows (new Simple ammunition): These are brutal on their concept and description. 1d6 damage, with a critical hit range of 16-20. But here’s the thing: on a critical hit they don’t deal any extra damage … rather, if the target has an armor bonus of <= +4, the arrowhead shatters inside the body. The excruciating pain makes sudden movements impossible. Fort save 10 +1 for every shard arrow he’s been hit with, or lose 5 feet of movement and suffer 2 points of DEX damage. Concentration checks are also forced when casting or using spell-like abilities. These are nasty little buggers for a critfishing archer to consider, mainly because of that insane threat range, which means all it takes is either Improved Critical or similar and you’ve got a guy who can just spam attacks with a threat range of 11-20.
    Icewood Longbow (new weapon): Yeah, good luck getting it, but it’s worth mentioning basically because it’s a Composite Longbow that doubles your STR bonus to damage, up to a maximum of +6.
    Elven Raider (Prestige Class): Finally a not-bad archer sniper prestige class. Prerequisites are not specific to Midnight, so more transferable than most. Over 10 levels, +4d6 sneak attack damage, which can be done at maximum 130 feet out. Arrows can be used as light melee weapons. If you aim for 10 rounds, your critical threat range of the first ranged attack is increased by 5 maximum. Sounds bad, but combine this with something like Targetteer from Dragon and you have a decent opening sniper shot. If the target’s got concealment from vegetation, a Spot check knocks this down by 10% for every 5 you exceed DC 10. And lastly, if you declare an intimidating shot, can force an Intimidate check with a circumstance bonus equal to one half the total damage caused by the attack. Harder to capitalise on in Midnight, but has some possibilities. Lastly, its Disarming Shot ability is significantly better than the standard.
    Barter economics! Yes, they have a pretty decent system for this, which is really needed since basically most of the world is an occupied prison camp.
    Wildhunter (new class): Basically the retooled ranger of the setting … but with more optionality. Rather than lock the character down to one of two combat styles, the Wildhunter gets about seven ‘trait slots’, which can be filled up with thematic stuff like what amounts to a favoured enemy bonus, or increased speed, or Wild Empathy, or Woodland Stride, or an Animal Companion, and so on. I find this a really good feature mainly because it allows you to customise your ranger in either the default ranger direction or in rogue-lite or in some other direction. In passing, the most powerful class feature is the Hunter’s Strike: up to 5/day at 20th level, after an attack roll is made, decide whether to double your damage on the hit, or, in the case of a confirmed critical hit, the critical multiplier of your weapon goes 1 higher.
    Avenging Knife (new prestige class): So it only adds +3d6 sneak attack across 10 levels. For low-powered games, this one actually has the feel of a deep cover agent in an urban area. Basically it has mechanics for picking up insight bonuses to attack and damage or to AC while studying a target, allows use of Gather Information checks to find weaknesses in a site’s security, develop a cover story, that sort of stuff. Not strong, but very flavourful.


    Dreadful Features
    Defender (new class): Even if you key the DC of a Stunning Attack to a monk’s STR rather than WIS, it would appear the Monk still sucks over in grimdark worlds too.
    Fighter (new variant class): Not only do they not fix Fighters, but they force them down one of four or five ‘Warriors’ Way’ paths, akin to the Ranger’s Combat Style at levels 4, 10, and 16. Presumably your other feat slots are open to standard fighter bonus feats, but at these levels you’re reduced down to two or three narrow choices depending which warrior’s path you chose. The only grace, and it’s not a saving grace, is that you generally can take the feats offered without having the prerequisites for them.


    Who it’s best for (Player/GM/both)
    Everyone. It’s a campaign setting, read it already.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: The book significantly retools the class and level advancement system to suit the mood and scope of the setting. Basically only the Barbarian and Rogue are left untouched, which might provide a clue about the power level they were aiming for. It’s not just a simple Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms reskin.

    Unlike a lot of third party authors, it looks like FFG figured out early that for a dark, grim setting to hold out against 20th level characters, the default 3.5 magic system simply could not be used. So they dropped a bomb on it. First: no bards, rangers, wizards, sorcerers, clerics (NPC only, and that means NPC only here), or druids. Wizards and druids come back, but only as prestige classes, and even then, significantly nerfed. Second: the spell points system from Unearthed Arcana is used -- you get [Your Spellcasting Stat] spell points, casting a spell uses up spell points by level, e.g. 3 spell points consumed for a level 3 spell. (You can ‘overclock’ it by taking CON damage, but this is explicitly not able to be healed by Lesser Restoration, and only comes back after 8 hours rest). So spells per day are low, even at high levels. Thirdly: available spells are Core only, lumped into the one list (Cleric-only spells are banned to PCs). You take feats (any class, not just mages) to access each school of magic. And fourthly: certain types of magic are outright impossible (e.g. any magic that requires planar travel, i.e. so long everything from Dimension Door to Plane Shift to Rope Trick to Bags of Holding). Stuff like Summon Monster and similar also works a bit differently as well. Item Creation is also heavily altered, so this won’t be the standard ‘Characters Travel the World As Sparkly Christmas Trees’ campaign you’re used to, magic items are decidedly minor in most cases.

    However, and as said, if you do want to learn schools of magic, any class can take the feats for them. If you want to be a full-BAB Fighter who casts spells from the Necromancy school, take the Spellcasting feat. Done. (That said, Conjuration and Evocation are split into Lesser and Greater schools as well. Lesser Conjuration is explicitly ‘all Conjuration spells except the Calling or Summoning subtypes’; Lesser Evocation is only those evocation spells with a Darkness, Light, Sonic, or no descriptor. And in reality it costs you a couple of feats to cast properly, not just one.)

    The exception, of course, is the cleric. Long-suffering DMs can take a little vindictive pleasure in its use, because it is only available to the Bad Guys, i.e. the Shadow, i.e.e. the DM. And the cleric class, of course, gets all the Core cleric spells and the supplement spells, and doesn’t use the spell points system. So a standard-ish Codzilla build is now frighteningly dangerous against a party of PCs who have nowhere near the resources to fight one on even terms. And that’s before we get to the fact that even casting spells or carrying magic items is punishable by death under the Shadow, being the Big Bad’s government. Detect Magic becomes a whole lot more dangerous to PCs.

    Having ripped out capacity to easily magic up any buff a character wants, the authors then compel the starting character to begin with an archetype, which cannot be changed. This archetype then provides certain abilities as the character grows from level 1-20, independent of any class or prestige class chosen. For example, Giantblooded: starts off considered Large for the purpose of weapon sizes, gains some Intimidation bonuses, gains the ability to perform rock throwing (at character level 2, rock throwing 30 feet range increment for 1d10 damage) and so on. At level 10, he flat-out gets the Holy Grail of Big Beefy Bullrushing Builds – outright Large with all the mechanics that come with it. And so on, to natural reach of 15 feet at level 20. Compare the Healer, who basically gets a capacity to cast all of the usual heal spells, remove disease, blindness/deafness, Heal, on a frequency of about 1-2 per day, and finally raise dead 1/day at level 20. Generally the character templates give you the essentials of a concept, but they never allow the power level to become great. And at least there are no dead levels with this concept either. And then, in case it wasn’t obvious, you get your classes and prestige classes on top of it. And the prestige classes in particular – because the system has been rejigged significantly – have a lot more oomph than the standard ten levels of oatmeal you get out of a 3.5 product.

    The overall result, on my rough assessment, is that the floor of martial and mundane characters’ capabilities is significantly raised, and the casters’ ceilings are significantly lowered. Much more evenness without descending to the Procrustean Bed of fourth edition D&D. Does it solve all of 3.5’s magic problems? No. Some spells are just broken in Core even at first level; even if you can’t cast them all day long, most of the time you don’t have to. It’s a system where the casters are still going to come out more powerful, albeit not utterly consigning all the martials and others into insignificance. But I get the feeling that FFG had to strike a balance between significantly altering the availability of magic and proceeding to alter the entire system. I think they got that balance pretty close to dead right; indeed it's about the best balance struck of any third party source I’ve seen so far. For someone out to powergame through it I suspect their job would be significantly tougher. They very clearly set out to suborn the power of 3.5’s magic system to the mood and feel of the setting, and in that respect they were an outstanding success. This is not going to be the archetypical campaign where the casters are supreme all the way through, but that is by design, and for that reason, I rate this heading 3/4.

    On concepts and fluff: In the grimdark fantasy future of the Fourth Age there is only E6. Nah, it’s not that bad. Now, this is partially my own taste at play, but I did find the setting in all its grimdarky nature much more palatable in concept than the world of Warhammer 40,000, which I class as a setting so damn hopeless you literally can only play wargames in it. Yes, civilisation is breaking down, there’s no strong force of resistance to the Shadow, and life across most of the conquered realms is pretty damn miserable, but it’s still a setting with a lot of scope for adventure and entertainment. There are thorough descriptions of the forces resisting and how they work, and the regions are described one by one with a level of flair, passion, and distinction that puts the average Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting to shame.

    The setting has the epic feel of Tolkien without being a Tolkien expy. Different races, even human subraces, along with a prestige class that is quite literally devoted to the character being a trueborn inspirer and leader of men, a scion of the Former And Dessicated Line Of Men. Descriptions of the four Nazgul, er, the Four Princes , without stats which I actually think is a good thing: you shouldn’t be fighting these guys, and if they do show up, it should be curbstomping by the party. Also, a concrete goal for the Dark God, which is a lot nicer than just Orcus On His Throne. There is a strong match of mechanics to fluff: divine magic doesn't work at all (except for the Dark God) because of a magical disaster which blocked out all contact with the Celestial Realms (except for the Dark God). Most horrifying, but interesting, is that people who die don't go to their final rest. If their bodies are not dealt with properly, they come back as types of undead. This also explains the block on all planar magic too, and why summoned creatures operate a bit differently.

    When you weigh it all up, there are damn good reasons this thing won awards in its first edition, and I heartily agree with those accolades. 4/4.

    On presentation: Beautifully done. Colour for decent chunks of it, decent sized text. High production values all round. Only minor niggle is that the fluff is usually the standard massive clunk of paragraphs which are really more designed for reading enjoyment than to convey information that is really necessary to run a campaign. One might note that this second edition version of the setting is actually two books in one, with a lot more detail about the Shadow and world regions, so it is an improvement there. That said, it isn't really designed for beginner GMs, this is the kind of book you encounter when you're heartily sick of the Forgotten Realms kitchen sink and want to try something different.2/2.

    Total: 9/10.


    Next time: Into the Green - A Guide for Forests, Jungles, Woods, and Plains, Bastion Press.

  2. - Top - End - #62
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Now that's interesting news: not only does The Lord of the Rings meets Mistborn exist as a D&D setting, it's quite good?
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

  3. - Top - End - #63
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    Now that's interesting news: not only does The Lord of the Rings meets Mistborn exist as a D&D setting, it's quite good?
    It's pretty solid, though when they started talking about planar barriers and the gods being locked out my thought was Ravenloft, though it's not quite that either.

  4. - Top - End - #64
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    NB: I've never played Midnight, but I bought every supplement I could get my greasy little paws on, and I enjoyed the hell out of reading it.

    "The War of the Ring is over. Sauron won."

    Great review! The setting is a lot of fun to read.

    Some additional details: I wonder if the items of power (magic that grows with the user) is where WotC go the Weapons of Legacy idea from.

    The herbalism and charms subsystems can be poached for users looking for more low-magic options.

    There is *one* SRD sorcerer in Midnight; he's one of the Dark Four. They all eventually get stats in subsequent splats. But you're not going to beat them without 20th level characters of your own, an army, surprise, and several plans for victory.
    Last edited by thorr-kan; 2021-04-14 at 09:45 AM.
    I'm taking part in the Character Creation Challenge (#charactercreationchallenge): 1 character per day for January 2021. Come see who I've made at:
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  5. - Top - End - #65
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by thorr-kan View Post
    Some additional details: I wonder if the items of power (magic that grows with the user) is where WotC go the Weapons of Legacy idea from.
    So far as the third party stuff I've seen is concerned, the idea of items of power growing with the user seems to be relatively common: a few of the books I've reviewed have some version of it. I haven't really mentioned it because they usually aren't really that much to write home about. Insofar as Weapons of Losers had a progenitor, I suspect they really were trying to do an upgraded version of Legendary Weapons out of Unearthed Arcana, but good grief they muffed it badly. As far as Midnight is concerned, the second edition came out in 2005 and that's the same year WoL was published - so I doubt they got it from there.

  6. - Top - End - #66
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    So far as the third party stuff I've seen is concerned, the idea of items of power growing with the user seems to be relatively common: a few of the books I've reviewed have some version of it. I haven't really mentioned it because they usually aren't really that much to write home about. Insofar as it Weapons of Losers had a progenitor, I suspect they really were trying to do an upgraded version of Legendary Weapons out of Unearthed Arcana, but good grief they muffed it badly. As far as Midnight is concerned, the second edition came out in 2005 and that's the same year WoL was published - so I doubt they got it from there.
    They were included in the original, 1E Midnight. But the idea's a common enough trope that I don't insist on it. Midnight is just where *I* first ran into a mechanical version of it.
    I'm taking part in the Character Creation Challenge (#charactercreationchallenge): 1 character per day for January 2021. Come see who I've made at:
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  7. - Top - End - #67
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    The premise kinda reminds me of Escape from the Bloodkeep, if anybody here's watched that.

    Also, I'll mention that I've been on a bit of a Monk kick lately and I think I could actually make a decent character with the stuff from the Quintessentials.

  8. - Top - End - #68
    Orc in the Playground
     
    Beholder

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by PoeticallyPsyco View Post
    Now that's interesting news: not only does The Lord of the Rings meets Mistborn exist as a D&D setting, it's quite good?
    And unlike the majority of books this thread has covered, you can just go to drivethru and get the pdfs thanks to edge studio getting the rights to Fantasy Flight Game's old stuff.

    Whereas everything this thread has made me curious about it's "nope, not for sale, go find a dead tree copy."

    So you are luckier than I in that regard.

    Unless you prefer to buy print copies rather than pdfs.

  9. - Top - End - #69
    Pixie in the Playground
     
    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by StSword View Post
    And unlike the majority of books this thread has covered, you can just go to drivethru and get the pdfs thanks to edge studio getting the rights to Fantasy Flight Game's old stuff.

    Whereas everything this thread has made me curious about it's "nope, not for sale, go find a dead tree copy."

    So you are luckier than I in that regard.

    Unless you prefer to buy print copies rather than pdfs.
    Hmmm? The only ones I've been unable to find on DriveThruRPG are Book of Familiars, Staves of Ascendance, Quintessential Monk I, and When the Sky Falls.

    A full list of legally-available PDF copies from books listed so far can be found here, if you were trying to find one of the others:

    Arms & Armor (Bastion Press): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...rms--Armor-v35

    Forgotten Heroes: Paladin (Malladin’s Gate Press): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...Heroes-Paladin

    The Quintessential Monk II (Mongoose Publishing): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...ential-Monk-II

    The Advanced Bestiary (Green Ronin Publishing): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...estiary-d20-35

    Three Arrows for the King: The Archer's Guide (Revised) (EN Publishing): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...-Guide-Revised

    Secrets (Alderac Entertainment Group): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/3533/Secrets

    Midnight (Fantasy Flight Games): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/477/Midnight

    Into the Green: A Guide for Forests, Jungles, Woods and Plains (Bastion Press): https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product...ods-and-Plains
    Last edited by Endless Rain; 2021-04-14 at 04:31 PM.

  10. - Top - End - #70
    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Endless Rain View Post
    Hmmm? The only ones I've been unable to find on DriveThruRPG are Book of Familiars, Staves of Ascendance, Quintessential Monk I, and When the Sky Falls.
    Yes, and that would be the list of books that include the books I looked for. Lol.

    Even without glowing reviews, some of those books sounded worth picking up as old "outdated" pdfs on the cheap to stripmine for ideas.

    Although now I see it was Murphy's law and not weight of numbers that caused the problem.

    Oh well, not the end of the world.
    Last edited by StSword; 2021-04-14 at 05:57 PM.

  11. - Top - End - #71
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by StSword View Post
    Yes, and that would be the list of books that include the books I looked for. Lol.

    Even without glowing reviews, some of those books sounded worth picking up as old "outdated" pdfs on the cheap to stripmine for ideas.

    Although now I see it was Murphy's law and not weight of numbers that caused the problem.

    Oh well, not the end of the world.
    Speaking of Staves of Ascendance, I have a funny feeling I've found where the 3.5 update for it actually went. I suspect it was wrapped into this product, which still has some limited copies around in print by the look of it. I might put that on the list for review later down the track, though I suspect I'll just get something on a par with Legendary Weapons from UA as I did with the first book.

    EDIT: Maybe I should have an 'ease of acquisition' rating in the reviews, on a scale of "Plutonium From the Corner Drugstore" to "Indiana Jones".

    EDIT THE SECOND: What I think I'll actually do is incorporate warnings on availability into the 'date of publication and number of pages' section, which will basically be one of two indications:

    (1) Where you can't find a purchase site easily on a Google search: "As at date of review this book doesn't seem to be casually available for purchase as a PDF on large RPG market websites. You may have to go looking for this one elsewhere in the virtual world or the real world."

    (2) Where you can: "As at date of review, this book was available on some large RPG market websites."

    Mainly so I don't give the impression I'm recommending DriveThruRPG over anyone else.

    EDIT THE THIRD: And done. All reviews now have these indications contained in them.

  12. - Top - End - #72
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Into the Green – A Guide to Forests, Jungles, Woods, and Plains, Bastion Press
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    Summary
    This is basically a DM’s toolkit for making the four types of biome in the book’s title – forests, jungles, woods, and plains – interesting and hazardous places all their own. These environments tend to be overlooked in D&D 3.5, little more than just an entry against the ‘environment’ category on a monster’s stats. This book is designed to breathe life back into these four types of environments, with material as to climate, plants, animals, new environmental hazards and monsters for each. In concept, it’s similar to WOTC’s Frostburn, Sandstorm, and Stormwrack.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2003, 96 pages. It appears to date from before 3.5 came out in July of that year since the text talks about Wilderness Lore checks (rolled into Survival under 3.5), but the changes don’t make a lot of difference. The design and playtesting teams were pretty large, but principal design was credited to a Thomas Knauss. I can’t find out much about the author on a simple Google search, but he appears to have been active in RPG design and/or adventure design since at least third edition – he’s published for Pathfinder as late as 2018, though his own project seems to have been Bastion Press’s Oathbound setting which died somewhere around 2008. Either way, he wasn’t a one-hit wonder and seems to have done a few environmental and class books for Bastion Press in particular. As at date of review, this book was available on some large RPG market websites (and indeed from Bastion Press itself, which is still operating.)

    Notable Features
    Crop Circle (Drd 1, Sor/Wiz 2 spell): 40 foot radius spread, hack all grasses and underbrush to the ground instantaneously, leaving nothing but an empty circle. and deal 1d6+CL (up to +5) to any creature or inanimate object within the spell’s area of effect. Main interest to my mind on this one is that it might work as a useful way to counter Entangle.
    Hidden Lore (Clr 2, Drd 2, Sor/Wiz 2 spell): Basically allows you to work out that body parts have magical ingredients for creating items. But the mechanical effect is basically that you cut the XP cost of creating a magic item by 10% and up to 20% depending on caster level.
    Lumberjack (Drd 3, Rgr 3 spell): All together now: Iiiii’m a Lumberjack and I’m okay, I get insight bonuses all day. Specifically, +1 insight bonuses to attack rolls, AC, and saving throws when fighting plants, up to a maximum of +4 at 20th level, and my weapons do +1d6 fire damage, with plants vulnerable to fire taking an extra +2d6.
    Resin (Drd 3 spell): It’s slow for druids, albeit it takes a ranged touch attack and the creature can bust the resin by a DC 18 STR check. Also destroys 1d6 of Armor Class granted by metal armor and shields, despite its fluff basically saying that it eats away at metal, which might suggest that you’re not destroying your loot if you use this on an enemy.
    Slapstick (new magic item): Normally a +2 quarterstaff. 5/day, conjures a Grease spell below an opponent in melee combat. If the opponent fails the usual DC 11 Reflex save, he falls over. And if he falls over, the quarterstaff starts giggling at him. And forces a Will DC 14 save due to the sarcastic laughter that imposes -1 circumstance bonus to AC and -2 WIS “penalty” – not damage, “penalty”. And additional failures stack. This very trolly item is the work of the Ubi, a race who are among the smallest fey and the biggest @$$pains in the forest.
    Grimdeath Arrows (new magic ammunition): Hit by this, Will DC 16 or your adversaries seem to be the physical manifestations of your darkest phobias. If your enemy hits you in the next 1d4 rounds after that, Will DC 16 save or die of fright.
    Elderwitch Wood (new substance): Weapons and shields crafted from the elderwitch’s wood act as +1 weapons and shields for 5d6 days before losing their enhancement bonuses, and permanently grant the wielder a +1 to initiative. However, it’s vulnerable to fire. Still, an excellent candidate for Unguent of Timelessness ab/use, which blows out that 5d6 days to months or even years since Elderwitch Wood is necessarily a substance that was once living.
    Rosewood (new substance): Make a wooden musical instrument out of this, +1 circumstance bonus to Perform checks with it. Handy backup if you have a DM who rules that a masterwork instrument doesn’t count as a masterwork tool for the +2 circumstance bonuses to skill use, and a masterwork lute is (a) a wooden musical instrument and (b) offers other bonuses to the bard.
    Brown Snake Venom (new poison): Fort DC 19, or take 1d8 CON and DEX damage (!) primary and 1d4 CON and DEX damage secondary (!!), and because the bite area swells to five times its normal size, take 1 CHA temporary damage (!!!).
    Running Man (new substance): Grants the Endurance and Run feats(?) for 2d4+1 hours. Suffer fatigue for a period of time. Prolonged usage of the drug causes 1d4 temporary CON damage. Chemical feat prerequisites anyone?
    Clikkit: It’s a relative of the common cricket, but only chirps whenever it’s within 30 feet of a magical aura (such as from a spell or an object). Here’s a cheap Detect Magic device! The book is just full of these sorts of creatures, stuff that has just a little, original spin on the bog-standard creature and isn’t just about the trundling lump of hitpoints.
    Malaria, Yellow Fever, Loosegut (new diseases): Finally we’ve got chances of exposure and DCs for these very common diseases (well, apart from Loosegut, which is pretty much what it sounds like). Nasty effects.
    Wild boar: Yes, you can use them to hunt 2d4 truffles!
    Bracken Corpse (monster): Look, there isn’t much to say mechanically about this low-level undead, but it just appeals to me in concept: it’s the shambling body of a murder victim who’s been dumped in the wilderness, and who rises searching – erratically, and ineffectively – for its killer, repeating the killer’s name over and over. If asked questions it’ll respond with simple and confined answers about its killer, i.e. have a sort of Speak With Dead conversation while the monster tries to kill you. At the very least it’s a nice alternative to the standard skeleton or zombie.
    Thornclaw (monster): Good for a bit of a fright. CR 1/4 is probably about right when it’s on its own, but thornclaws – tiny evil fey who fly and swarm people – have an interesting mechanic for their poison attack: at base it’s very low, and even if the target gets hit by multiple Thornclaws it only makes one Fort DC save for the whole round … but the DC rises for every successful hit by a thornclaw made against the target in that round, i.e. if 6 thornclaws hit the one target in the same round, the DC rises by +5. The poison causes paralysis for 1d4+1 minutes, and thornclaws explicitly swarm one target at a time. Combine that with their Spell Resistance 16 and this has a pretty damn good chance of laying out multiple party spellcasters, or even party beefsticks if enough thornclaws hit them at once. And I really like the design because it’s the sort of creature that you can use tactically as a DM and beat tactically as a player: they have 1 hitpoint each, and are only ever doing 1 hitpoint of damage on a hit, so you can cut back on the Power Attack for accuracy and maybe start Cleaving. Or you can try and fight them ranged. Or you can send in a partymember with a heavily boosted Fort save as quite literally the tank while the rest attacks from the fringes. They’re not really fluffed as the kind of creature that allies up with bigger bosses, but this would be an interesting idea to pursue as well. I’ve used these guys specifically, and it was kind of fun to watch the party summon a hippogriff to attack them, which was taken down in one pass by virtue of being paralysed for the duration of the summon.
    Autumnal Mourner (monster): Lingering spirits of the neglected dead. Deprived of a proper burial, they mourn the summer’s annual passing and the death of trees’ falling leaves. In autumn they’re not dangerous, but in winter they attack savagely. Incorporeal, but only at +1 attack rolls, they do 1d4 +1d6 cold damage and can give themselves half concealment. Again, the concept is really nice, especially the idea of a creature whose aggressiveness changes depending on the season.
    Arborgeist (monster): What happens when a treant suffers a gruesome death due to fire at the hands of great evil? This thing does: a spirit of unthinking vengeance. If you’re within 20 feet of it, you take 2d6 cold damage each round (no save, though cold resistance applies). It can command plants 3/day as a 20th level druid. It’s incorporeal. Any living creature that gets within 60 feet of it and sees it makes a Fort DC 22 save or permanently loses 1d4 STR, DEX, and CON. Any individual struck by it makes a Fort DC 22 save or has 1d4 WIS drained. (Mind you, it also does 2d8 damage +2d6 cold damage and hits as touch attacks, +9. Fire holds it at bay, and it has a low AC, but I hope you’ve got some big damn Wraithstrike axes, because it’s got 130 hitpoints. Did I also mention it has a Will save of +18? CR 14 is still a bit high I think, but this is not the sort of creature you want to tick off easily. (Not that you'll get much of a chance: it has a stupid good Move Silently check and it ambushes people by using its Tree Stride ability. (I must say I do like the slightly different mechanic for how it's afraid of fire. This is both thematic and gives you a chance to throw it at a lower end party and them have a chance of fending it off and running for it.)
    Fierling (monster): Want to spice up the environmental hazard of a forest fire? Add this creature, which is a woodland spirit burned to death in a forest fire and turned into this creature which lasts only a few hours and which usually is leading the flames of an advancing fire.

    Dreadful Features
    Nothing I can really point to. Honest.

    Who it’s best for (Player/GM/both)
    This is primarily and mainly a DM’s tool. It’s basically there to fill the niche that wasn’t completed by WOTC with their environmental books. There are some random spells and some equipment of interest, but primarily this is for DMs. I have this book and I use it, and I'm happy with it.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: I think the book is stronger on fluff and twists to basic builds than it really creates new and inventive creatures as such. Also, although this thing was billed as having monsters to challenge parties at all levels, that’s not entirely true; the range more or less tops out around CR 14 or so, it doesn’t have quite as large a range of monsters as something like Frostburn or Sandstorm. Buuuuut it is covering four separate biomes rather than one, which I think makes up for lack of monsters from CR 1 to CR 20. And the mechanics themselves are solid, in that I couldn’t find anything gamebreakingly powerful or stupid in it. It is also detailed on random encounters – it contains new tables for all four biomes, incorporating its own monsters and those of the SRD. Lots of new and distinct plants too, virtually all of which have some mechanical balance or benefit, and none of which will try to eat you. (There's a really lovely vine, though, which grows around quicksand patches. When someone falls in, they grab the vine, whose sharp thorns then suck some of their blood out, giving the plant sustenance.) It’s also more helpful on weather, where (in the case of the jungle) it’s specific down to the level of humidity and therefore the extent to which Endure Elements is necessary. High and low temperatures, humidity, chance of rain/snow, thunderstorm, hurricane, and blizzard are all provided … for winter and summer seasons. The mechanics are really small-ish upgrades in power or utility because of twists on old concepts, as the Notable Features section above should give you a flavour for. They’re useable, they’re balanced, and the new substances, diseases and items really fill in big gaps that WOTC left. Call this a 3/4 on this one.

    On concepts and fluff: I really like thinking of this book as the missing environmental book that WOTC should have published. As a start, it takes a short but detailed look at each biome and how these environments function in reality. I learned a few things reading it, which was really helpful – the real-life structure of jungles are more subtle than you might think, and I honestly didn’t appreciate the real and significant differences between forests and woods. So that in itself was an eye-opener and helps campaigns, because it’s easier to visualise and describe the environment if you know more about it than what you’ve seen on a TV screen. Particularly nice was the rendering of some real-world diseases into game terms; hit your players with their first bout of malaria while in the jungle, in a world without quinine, and they may start to appreciate the things they take for granted these days.

    Then there are the extensions of these environments into fantasy concepts: monsters, hazards, animals, the lot. And these extensions are just as inventive and on-theme as the hard fact that grounds the book. The book is heavy on new fey, new undead, new magical beasts, but I am biased because the concepts they presented are pretty nice on that front. It’s also heavy on new alchemical substances and encouraging players to go hunting defenceless animals for their various body parts – most animals in the book have something semi-useful or saleable that can be harvested from their corpses, which doesn’t get a lot of attention in D&D, but at least that was nice to have added.

    If anything I’m frustrated because the book wasn’t longer. It’s only 96 pages and it covers 4 different biomes, so I’m guessing a compromise had to be made between book length and available concepts to go into each area. Any of these biomes could have been expanded out into longer single books in my view, apart from maybe the Forest and Woods biomes perhaps. I hope the reason all four were put in one book was because they had to stop, not because they ran out of ideas. 3/4 on this one.

    On presentation: Here’s where the book fell down. Like I said, it’s 96 pages, and it covers four different biomes. Probably as a result, the text is pretty damn small even at 100% in a PDF on a computer screen, and it’s pretty densely packed. This was also apparently Bastion’s first foray into black and white, and it shows, and it’s not great. I give it credit for at least having an index despite the book’s brevity, which a lot of WOTC books don’t do. This should have been a larger format or should have been at least two bigger books. 0.5/2 on this one.

    Total: 6.5/10.


    Next time: The Quintessential Fighter, Mongoose Publishing.

  13. - Top - End - #73
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Running Man (new substance): Grants the Endurance and Run feats(?) for 2d4+1 hours. Suffer fatigue for a period of time. Prolonged usage of the drug causes 1d4 temporary CON damage. Chemical feat prerequisites anyone?
    This one jumped out at me as fantastic for Frostblood (Half)-Orcs, for whom it's any feat they qualify for (+ Run).
    Quote Originally Posted by Darths & Droids
    When you combine the two most devious, sneaky, manipulative, underhanded, cunning, and diabolical forces in the known universe, the consequences can be world-shattering. Those forces are, of course, players and GMs.
    Quote Originally Posted by OgresAreCute View Post
    Realism, the natural predator of D&D mechanics.

  14. - Top - End - #74
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Devil

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Huh, I just read Into the Green a few days ago as part of going through all the stuff that this thread reminded me of. Yeah, good stuff all around, also read Black and Blue, Black made me want to made a diamond sword. I don't know how, although I suspect lots of Fabricate would be involved, but I want to turn DnD into Minecraft.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    The Quintessential Fighter, Mongoose Publishing

    Spoiler
    Show


    Summary
    Quintessential Fighter is designed to expand the options for Fighters in particular. Explicitly the authors admit that this may not make the fighter a lot more powerful, but it does offer him the opportunity to do a lot more with his stuff. As such, there are a large number of character backgrounds, feats, fighting styles, variant rules, and even rules on mass combat and building strongholds to try and expand what a fighter is. The rough structure of the book is similar to the Quintessential Monk I, so I am assuming as we plough through the Quints, we’ll be seeing similar sorts of things in others as well.

    Date of Publication, Page Count, and Availability
    2001, 130 pages. And it sure is 3.0; all the glorious references to Expertise and Ambidexterity are intact. As with Q.Monk, a second text, Quintessential Fighter II, was published when 3.5 came out, and we may get to that at some stage. And while Quintessential Monk was written by Patrick Younts, this one, Quintessential Fighter, also had a sole author credit: Matthew Sprange, the guy who founded Mongoose Publishing and who started with the various Slayers’ Guides before branching out into this area. Sprange has a long backlist of titles in D&D and RPGing more generally; 50 freaking titles that he has writer or design credits on, everything from RuneQuest to Lone Wolf to Traveller to Babylon 5 to Judge freaking Dredd and Starship Troopers. But this book was when he was first starting out in the industry. Anyway, Q.Fighter doesn't seem to be readily available from RPG market websites, so you may have to search elsewhere in the virtual or real world to find this one.

    (Note: Quintessential Fighter has a Web Enhancement which isn't hosted by Mongoose anymore, but can be found on Wayback Machine here. I've included references to it as well since some of the features are actually worth a bit of a look - I have identified which ones are from the Web Enhancement below.)

    Notable Features
    Fop (character background): Automatically get Weapon Finesse or Weapon Focus in the rapier, proficient only with light armour. If you’re going DEX-based anyway and you’re picking features or prestige classes that only work in light or no armour, this isn’t a bad tradeoff for a free feat you’re likely to need or use – indeed if one wanted to multiclass with Monk this could be an interesting start out in life for a Buddha-style character, who begins as a hedonist and then becomes an ascetic.
    Fighter Assassin (character background): Hide and Move Silently are class skills for you, -2 to CHA-based checks. No, the Thug variant Fighter from the SRD doesn’t give you these … and it synergises beautifully with it for that very reason.
    Nomad (character background): Start your career only proficient with a small array of weapons: spears, lances, daggers, scimitar, and shortbow, but pick up a permanent +2 competence bonus to Ride checks, which is always handy for the mounted types.
    Outlaw (character background): +2 competence bonuses to Hide, Move Silently, and Survival, only start with light armour proficiency.
    Thug (character background): Going Zhentarim Fighter, Imperious Command, fear-blasting via Intimidate checks? Start your career out right with a +4 competence bonus to Intimidate and a -4 to Diplomacy.
    Swashbuckler (Prestige Class): In 5 levels, add class level to AC when (omitted – presumably not in armour from the fluff text); +4 to Balance, Climb, Jump, Tumble, gets Evasion, gets Uncanny Dodge, and – in what is surely an error in editing – is never able to be stopped with effects that limit his mobility, e.g. Slow or web spells. Yes, because he may re-roll any failed saving throw in those instances. Which means he can re-roll the re-roll. And keep re-rolling until he succeeds. However: requires Dodge, Expertise, Improved Disarm, and Mobility.
    Distract (Fighter only feat): Similar editing problem to Swashbuckler and therefore probably unintentionally gamebreaking. If you can succeed on a CHA check vs. DC 10 + opponent’s character level/hit dice, he’ll only take partial actions (3.0 term) in the next round of combat. Only problem? Use of the feat is a free action. No other qualifiers provided. And yes, other feats in this book do contain limits like “only once per combat” or “only once per enemy per combat.” Ergo, keep on rolling until you get that 20, nobody’s stopping you. Only works on opponents with an INT score of 3 or more, which is to say whoever edited this thing is probably immune to this feat’s effect. I’m not sure if the fact the picture right below the feat is of a girl with no T-shirt on has anything to do with this.
    Expert Marksman (fighter only feat): Make called shots (see below) with any ranged weapon that you’ve got Weapon Focus in.
    Acrobatic Fighting (feat) (Web Enhancement): Tumble becomes a class skill for you, forever, and you get +1s when using it to avoid AoOs "or while engaged in melee combat", which is interesting.
    Exotic Mastery (feat) (Web Enhancement): Its base effect is to give you +1 with an exotic weapon you're proficient with. More interesting is if you've got Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialisation: if you have both, it's a +2 to damage and the weapon's critical multiplier increases by 1. Kaorti resin weapons, of course, are exotic weapons. So are Goliath Greathammers. This is not too damn bad at all for critfishing builds since it normally takes a fair amount of stretching to pick up flat increases in critical multiplier.
    Massive (feat) (Web Enhancement): Skip all the negotiations and argument about whether Jotunbrud and/or Goliath Barbarian turns you into a Large character when you want it. Just take this feat and bang, you're Large for all intents and purposes. Now go and get on with that Hulking Hurler build already.
    Beast Master (character background): Pick up the Animal Companion class feature of the druid, start with nothing but a dagger, spear, shortbow, 20 arrows, and proficiency only in these weapons and light armour.
    Gladiatorial Slave (character background): Okay, you start the game with only 1d6 gp. But you also get three Exotic Weapon Proficiencies, and two of said exotic weapons for free. And in what puts this teetering on the edge of Dreadful Features, you also start with, and I quote, “any light armour of his choice.” I think they really meant to say any non-magical armour of his choice, but a suit of Ghost Touch, Invulnerability, Improved Shadow, Spell Resistance leather armour is therefore available to you at first level. Hell, even if you just say he starts with mithral chain mail and then sell it at the first shop that comes along, it’s a net profit on starting gold. (Or, if you want to directly cheese things up, have one of your EWPs in a Heavy (Gold) Goliath Greathammer, your second EWP in Goliath Greathammer. You get both those weapons to start with. Then go sell the gold weapon head. Forty pounds of pure gold ought to net you something.)
    Last Survivor (character background): pick up a favoured enemy as the ranger class feature. Don’t start with proficiency in any armour or shields except light armour.
    Living Blade 3 (Prestige Class):Very hefty prerequisites. Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialistion and Whirlwind Attack, making a total of 7 feats, of which roughly half are useless to minimal. That being said: at 3rd level, you’re given the ability to deny a melee enemy’s attack at the expense of one of your own, both being at the lowest BAB possible for each combatant. “This ability must be declared at the start of the combat round.” Simplest way to game this? Quarterstaff. You have more than one attack via fighting with two weapons (as distinct from TWF, which isn’t needed for this trick). The monster has to close and (assuming it doesn’t get Pounce) only has one attack. You declare you’re losing the extra attack you’d normally get from TWF. The monster loses its capacity to attack. You then announce you’re attacking with the quarterstaff as a two-handed weapon, which suffers no TWF penalty since you’re not fighting with two weapons. Proceed to Power Attack the attackless opponent into the ground. This would probably get a DMG thrown at you, but you’re already taking Fighter all the way basically for the lulz, so why not? Or indeed, why couldn’t you synergise it with other abilities to give up attacks for bonus damage, attack bonus, blah blah blah?
    Blackfeather (fighting style): Fighting styles are similar-ish to the styles used in The Quintessential Monk, as in, if you take this particular feat-and-other-prerequisites tree, you are given these additional (Ex) abilities which don’t cost feat slots. Blackfeather is the one devoted to the longbow, and applies only when you’re using said longbow. Altogether, to pick up all of the fighting style’s bonuses, it takes nine feats, BAB +16, Concentration 2 ranks, Hide 4 ranks, and Survival. The capstone, and why we did all this? With a longbow, you only make ranged touch attacks to strike a target. The other benefits below it: once per round, all penalties for range, size, and movement are halved; a limited Power Attack (take a -2 on the attack roll, get a +2 to damage); sacrifice all your attacks bar one in a full attack to halve a creature’s movement speed (Fort DC 20); and be treated as being in one level better cover than you are when firing from cover. This is not a bad bunch of side benefits for a martial archer to pick up if he’s going to have to take feat after feat anyway. The feats are mostly what you’d have to take to make archery work or qualify for decent prestige classes anyhow: Point Blank Shot, Far Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Weapon Focus, Shot on the Run, Combat Reflexes, Weapon Specialisation, Improved Critical. Some sort of Fighter/Warblade mixture might work for this, moving to Deepwood Sniper and Peerless Archer. And as said the abilities themselves don’t take up feat slots, this is something akin to a phantom prestige class that sits alongside your other features.
    Eagleshaft (fighting style): The equivalent of Blackfeather for crossbows, including the capstone of using ranged touch attacks rather than ranged attacks. The abilities below are a +2 to attack and damage, Ranged Disarm, reduce reload time for heavy crossbow to move equivalent action (a generous DM would allow Rapid Reload to stack with this), +4 to initiative if your crossbow is loaded and in hand when combat begins. The feat prerequisites here are Quick Draw, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Lightning Reflexes, Alertness, Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialisation, Profession (Bowyer) 10 ranks, BAB +13. Probably just a shade less useful than Blackfeather due to the useless feats, when crossbow archery is already heavy on them.
    Orask (fighting style): Blackfeather was the style for longbows, this is the one for two-handed melee weapons. Unfortunately it’s not a strong a set of abilities, with one exception: the fourth level ability, Wounding Retribution. Whenever a melee attack causes damage to the character, he may make an immediate AoO against the enemy that struck the blow. It’s silent on whether this AoO is counted against your total for the round. This is where one stops, though, because the capstone is just being able to hit stuff within 10 feet on Whirlwind Attack. Orask is a little lighter on the feat prerequisites than Blackfeather – it focuses instead on having the right Fort save (+12), BAB (+12), hitpoints (40+) – but the feats are more useless: Combat Reflexes, Toughness, Endurance, Weapon Specialisation, Weapon Focus, Cleave, and Power Attack.
    Rain of Blades (fighting style): have to be using dagger and rapier, and light or no armour. Feat prerequisites are not too bad: TWF, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus in dagger and rapier, +6 BAB, INT 10+, Bluff 8 ranks. However: on a full attack, +2 deflection bonus to AC if you don’t use your dagger. And when doing said full attack, roll twice for your first attack, accepting the better of the two results, which is not too damn bad at all. The capstone of the school is basically like the Double Hit feat: when an opponent provokes an AoO, you can attack with both rapier and dagger, and only 1 AoO is counted as having occurred.
    Style of Cordun (fighting style): Finally some love for the sword-and-boarders! Capstone ability is get +2 AC for every attack you forego that round. Below abilities aren't bad either: once a round ignore an AoO for an action of his choice (yes, just flat-out lolnope an enemy's AoO without a roll); move at full base speed for 1 minute while in heavy or medium armour; +1 cover bonus to AC against one opponent, and no Armor Check Penalty on his shield; and lastly, on a full attack, make an additional shield bash attack without a TWF penalty. Easiest prereqs of all of them, Weapon Focus with a one-handed sword and some proficiencies you’ve likely already got, albeit you have to be wearing armour, using a small or large steel shield, and using a sword in one hand.
    Stoneholm (fighting style): For ****ing dwarves, laddie, and very few ****ing prerequisites since dwarves get proficiency with the Dwarven Waraxe, which this style focuses on. Tha’ said, ye still ha’ t’ take useless **** like Leadership an’ Great Cleave and Weapon Specialisation. Most o’ th’ abilities are aboot things like fightin’ in small spaces and singin’ in battle, bu’ th’ last abilities are not too ****ing bad: ignore half an enemy’s DR, just like tha’, no ****ing aligned weapons required, ye got DR 20, well, **** you, ye banana, it’s actually DR ****ing 10 now. And when ye do a full attack, forego some o’ yer useless -10, -15 iterative attacks and just gi’ yerself a +3 to damage for every ****ing attack ye give up!
    Bloodsteel (fighting style): The fighting style for the much-ignored orc double axe. The first three levels are actually not too damn bad for a double weapon (the fourth and fifth are useless). The third level ability, Linked in Slaughter, basically says: “whenever you hit with an attack with one end, immediately make a follow up attack with the other end. Has the same BAB, modified by the penalty for striking with a second weapon. Uses up an AoO.” Now, the reason this is interesting is twofold: (1) normally you have to commit to a full attack to get an extra swing out of the south end of a double weapon, and it’s only one. This one allows you – so long as you have the AoOs available, which you will since Combat Reflexes is one of the prereqs – to double up your number of attacks in a round, not just get one extra. “But what about the TWF penalty it imposes?” Ah, that’s where we come to (2): the second level ability of Bloodsteel says “cut the penalty for fighting with two weapons by 1 when attacking with both ends” … which we are, since this is a followup attack. With TWF and a double weapon, your penalties are down to -2/-2 already, and therefore the penalty on the free, followup attack you get from the third level ability is at a -1, and the primary attack is at no penalty at all, since you made it declaring that you were attacking with one end of the double axe. And lastly, the first level ability of the weapon says if you choose not to use both ends of the double axe to attack, you get a +2 to AC by blocking with one axe head, which is better than a kick in the said head. This is basically a free Defending effect. The prerequisites are also right up the alley for TWFers: EWP, Combat Expertise, Power Attack, TWF, Weapon Focus, Combat Reflexes, Improved TWF, Weapon Specialisation. If I had to use the orc double axe, I’d seriously consider this. It allows you to basically use the orc double axe as a two-weapon fighting device without having to really take the penalties of TWF to your first, primary attack, and being able to still use Power Attack to its fullest extent on that first blow.
    Quisane (fighting style): Odd but interesting! TWF with a whip and a longsword. Boosts to disarming, tripping, and entangle an opponent on a ranged touch attack with the whip, picking up a +2 to attack and damage with the longsword. And finally, deal normal damage with the whip, not subdual, and threaten an area 15 feet out.
    Fegrin’s Pair (fighting style): use a pair of short swords or daggers. Capstone ability is to give you sneak attack outright as the Rogue class feature, which sure beats negotiating with the DM over whether that bloody Assassination weapon of yours grants it or not.
    Ironstar (fighting style) (Web Enhancement): Very important to note that unlike Q.Fighter itself, the Web Enhancement adds an XP cost to attaining each level in the fighting style, including this one, which is aimed at combat with a spear or lance, but is particularly focused on mounted combat. Getting all levels in one of the Web Enhancement's styles costs 4,350 XP as well as the training time and all the prerequisites. What do you get for all this? Well, at the top end, if you charge with a spear or lance - or even if you make a single attack after a move action via Ride-By Attack - you get a single attack at your full BAB on each opponent you threaten during the movement. This could be really, really interesting if you start galloping around the battlefield with a Reach weapon like a longspear, which stops the enemy easily smacking you back with an AoO. The lower abilities include being able to Trip and Disarm without invoking AoOs (and using your lance as a Mage Hand), add a Shield Bash to a charge attack, use your shield as a defensive, counterattacking Sunder and stun attack in very particular circumstances, and finally automatically succeed on a Ride of DC 15 or less, as well as removing impediments to Ride checks higher than this. If you're going mounted combat, this is actually a really good bunch of sprinkles to put on the sundae.
    Storm Razor (fighting style) (Web Enhancement): Greatsword only, wielded two-handed. The top ability might be a lot more powerful than it appears because of a RAW oversight. Every time you hit someone with the greatsword, the opponent has to make a Fort save (DC of the damage of the attack) or be moved back 5 feet. (Also, helpfully, counts as killing someone for the purposes of Cleave. However, since the movement is not a 5 foot step of the kind that is free of AoOs - it generally doesn't happen during the creature's actions in the round, or it may have happened after the creature's already moved, which means it's not a 5 foot step - then it's moving out of a threatened square. That is, it possibly provokes an AoO from you as it leaves a threatened square. The lower abilities also aren't anything to sniff at: once you're not flatfooted anymore, you can't be flanked; +2 on saving throws against effects that halt or impede movement; pick up a 10 foot reach with the Greatsword, albeit anytime you actually use it, you trigger an AoO; take a -5 to attack, do maximum possible damage if the strike hits (and if it's a critical, it isn't maxed, but the critical multiplier goes up by 1), CHA mod/day; if an opponent has no DEX bonus to AC -- has no DEX bonus, not denied DEX bonus, though that might qualify too -- then it takes another -2 to AC. But the prerequisites to pick all of these up are ridiculous: Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialisation, Power Attack, Sunder (I guess Improved Sunder), Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Combat Expertise, Improved Initiative, Whirlwind Attack, Cleave, and Great Cleave. 12 feats, and that's before the (relatively low) skill requirements, BAB and ability score requirements. That said: a Human Fighter all the way taking 2 flaws could pick all of these up by level 9 and then have four feat slots (character and bonus fighter) to pick up Combat Brute, Improved Bull Rush -> Shock Trooper, and have one left over for Leap Attack before he hit BAB 13 and picked up the last ability in the tree. And at least it favours a weapon that works for flat-out Power Attacking ownage. It might not have the optionality of Warblade, but it's not awful either.
    Mercenary hiring tables (variant rule): A lot simpler guide to hiring mercs by type (archer? Shock trooper? Mounted Knight? Battle Mage?) and by race (everything from bugbears to minotaurs).
    Open Mass Combat System (variant rules): Mentioned mainly just to point out it’s there. This is a system for a unit-on-unit battle at a much larger scale. It’s pretty simplified and abstract, and it won’t impress the wargamers with its complexity.
    Called Shots (variant rules): When you score a critical threat against an enemy (hey, he got the terminology right, good going Matt!) you can declare a called shot to a certain part of the body. If you do, you forego the extra damage from the critical, but instead you impose a condition on the opponent (although note you need a certain BAB to be able to pull some of these off). The effects actually aren’t too bad, and can be summed up as follows:
    - To the Arm: automatically disarm them, 1d4 damage, -4 to all checks and attack rolls with that arm.
    - To the Eye: 1d6 damage, -4 to attack rolls and REF saves, DEX-based checks, lose 10 feet of base speed. If you’re lucky enough to call an eye shot twice, the opponent is blinded.
    - To the Head: Stunned, 1d4 damage, lose DEX bonus to AC, can’t take any actions, +2 to your attack rolls vs. the victim. And the stun shot will last 1d4 rounds, which is better than a Monk’s stunning fist at literally all levels.
    - To the Leg: 1d4 damage, halve your base speed. Climb, Jump, Swim checks at -4.
    Having done a little chronicling in the critical hits area (see my sig for details), my feel for this is that this stuff is probably most useful if your threat range is pretty wide but your damage is low-ish and your critical multiplier is the default x2. (And of course it’s ideal if you have an automatic critical confirmation effect like Bless Weapon or similar.) The reason being that by definition a critical multiplier of x2 isn’t actually getting you more than you already have; you still have to make 2 attack rolls either way (the critical threat and the confirmation roll). If the idea is to put the enemy down as fast as possible, then if you’re doing decent damage with a melee weapon and you’ve got a critical hit of x3 or better, you’re likely better off just pulverising the bugger than imposing a status condition; leave that stuff to the mages, if you’re a Fighter your job is generally production of tomato sauce in outsize quantities, not throwing onions in people’s faces. But this is not a bad bunch of effects for the 18-20 threat range crowd, and it sure makes your martial more versatile.
    Heavy Mechanical Repeating Crossbow (new exotic weapon) (Web Enhancement): Repeating crossbow that does 1d10 damage with 120 foot range increment.

    Dreadful Features
    Noble (character background): Start the game with 8d4 x 10 gp on starting equipment. Apart from that initial purchase, until fifth level, all your equipment costs 20% more because you insist on the finest quality. That would mean all your magic items are 20% more as well. I thought the character background ‘Fell victim to a loan shark’ was more descriptive.
    Explorer (character background): Lose 1st level fighter bonus feat. Pick up 8 extra skill points! … which can only be put in Handle Animal, Heal, Survival, Knowledge Nature, Ride, Search and Spot.
    Berserker (Prestige Class): Eeesh. It’s 5 levels, but if you want to do barbarian rages, be a barbarian already. Six feats to qualify (including useless Iron Will and Endurance), and 1/day enter a barbarian rage. Only interesting feature is Berserker 4, which says, 1/day, while in a Berserk Fury, ignore all damage “from any one single source”. Guess who’s going first into the Ancient Red Dragon’s lair?
    Master Bowman (Prestige Class): Hahahayeahno. For seven feats and BAB +12, you get +5 max to your bow shots, threaten 20 feet around you (single feats from Dragon will do this and more), +1d6 to all bow attacks so long as you don’t move, cut concealment bonuses and can’t be flatfooted against a ranged attack. Cut the number of feats and the BAB by half and you might have something interesting.
    Noble Defender (Prestige Class): you need to be a lord already, so we’re already calling on DM fiat. The capstone of this five level class just gives you 100,000 gp to start building your own castle or upgrade your existing one.
    Officer of War (Prestige Class): Shouty Sergeant, the prestige class, with all the Shouty and none of the [email protected]$$.
    Breaking Weapons (variant rule): … um … it’s called … Sunder?
    Ralix (fighting style): Capstone ability is threatening 10 feet in all directions, not five, with a polearm, but I’m still not taking Whirlwind Attack just to get that.
    Improved Dodge: the +1 Dodge bonus applies to everyone, not just one target. But pretty much everyone plays as if Dodge did this already, don’t they? (If they don't, then this feat becomes significantly better ... and more significantly illustrates how daft the original Dodge feat was...)
    Two-Handed Power Strike (fighter only feat):You may add twice your STR bonus to damage when using a two-handed close combat weapon with both hands. This feat may not be used in conjunction with Improved Initiate or Lightning Initiative and may only be applied when you are using the full attack combat option.” … k …
    Pretty well all the other feats: With one or two exceptions, I couldn’t find a single feat at least in this volume which didn’t either closely resemble a feat that already exists in 3.5, or which just gave effectively a +2 bonus (or just made a +1 bonus into a +2, e.g. Improved Weapon Focus which, you guessed it, takes Weapon Focus’s +1 and makes it a +2; Power Charge, which says +4 to attack rolls during charges, not +2.) Maybe if you’re in a very, very tightly-confined game with low magic this sort of stuff might make sense, but generally feats that only apply +2s to statistics aren’t worth taking except as prerequisites, even for fighters with feats out the proverbial.
    Blackpowder weapons: No, just no.


    Who it’s best for (Player/GM/both)
    Mainly for players, though GMs might get some use out of the Strongholds section, as well as the rules for jousting, duels and mass combat.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: Looking at this thing, I am acutely conscious of the title of this thread, Trashes and Treasures. The latter I think is a pretty apt description of this book. It is early 3.0, and as said I’m a little hesitant to smash indie publishers who didn’t have a lot of system mastery over a newly-built system. And a fair proportion of what’s in it has become obsolete or outright duplicated in other WOTC products through no fault of the writers, which could either be just the facts of life or a backhanded compliment in some ways. Mechanically, the feats and prestige classes are most showing their age: I’m not saying I have any instinct for this, but it’s getting to the point that if the feats section of a third party book contains a lot of +2ing to attack rolls, and the prestige classes have dead levels, I generally have a good idea what I’m in for.

    That said: as you’d probably tell from the Notable Features section, there are elements here that have managed to survive the test of time like a good V8 that’s been serviced and kept oiled even if it’s only been around the block in the past 20 years or so. They’re the elements that do not get in the way of the Fighter qualifying for his feats and which fit transparently over the top of the system. In short, the fighting styles and the character backgrounds, similar to those in Quintessential Monk 2 and 1, respectively. There is actually stuff in here, especially in the archery and double weapon areas, that I would consider using in my own builds, that I would consider wringing builds to find feats for, because by and large the fighting styles enhance an obvious build. They don’t force you to go out of your way for something that’s equivocal or situational like so many tiresome WOTC capstones or feat trees. Certainly some of the capstones for the dual weapon styles are more powerful than useless rubbish like Bear Fang Style or Crescent Moon Style from WOTC’s own Complete Warrior. Hell, by making the capstone for Blackfeather the ability to just make ranged touch attacks for longbows the book does more for archers than entire sourcebooks have (and indeed you can strongly smell Q.Fighter’s influence in Three Arrows For the King, well beyond the Called Shot system in that book). And the character backgrounds, with some exceptions, produce some worthwhile tradeoffs. I’ll give the author kudos for actually trying to do something with sword-and-board, hell, that was like a breath of fresh air.

    Mechanically, I think the character backgrounds are pretty nicely balanced (well, most of them.) I think the fighting styles are stronger than Q.Monk II, because they got right out of the way of feat-gating. It’s not perfect, there are still a lot of damn useless prerequisite feats in there, and I have a feeling these decent features were produced more by way of luck than thoughtful design as such, but the fact they recognised, consciously or unconsciously, how they had to get out of the way of the Fighter’s feat options, is enough to give this a 2.5/4 on my view.

    On concepts and fluff: It’s here that I think the book compares less favourably to Q.Monk 1. Although there was clearly a lot of work put into this to bring it to life, and you’ve got a lot of interesting subsystems introduced – everything from jousting to duelling rules to building strongholds to a mass combat system – it just doesn’t feel like it had the variety and passion put into it that Quintessential Monk did.

    But on the other hand I give Sprange big props for giving love to stuff like whips, orc double axes, dwarven waraxes, and dual-wielding daggers and short swords … you know, the sort of stuff that other players look at you strangely for using in an actual campaign. All it took was a half-decent attempt to do something interesting with an obscure weapon like the freaking double axe and, for one precious, beautiful moment, I was back opening my 3.0 PHB for the first time and feeling my eyes widen as I first saw those strange and enthralling weapons.

    The book sets out explicitly that this may not make the Fighter more powerful, but it does give him more options. I actually think it does a little of both. I’ll give this one 2/4.

    On presentation: Looks like the Quintessential series had a certain house style, which is stuck to and which isn’t terrible on the eye. As such, it gets the same score as Q. Monk 1 did:1/2.


    Total: 5.5/10. Yep, same score as I gave Quintessential Monk I, the irony has not escaped me. I liked these the same for different reasons.


    Next time: Book of Eldritch Might I, Malhavoc Press

  16. - Top - End - #76
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Looks like the cover image for Into the Green is broken.

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    As I mentioned earlier, I've been making Monk builds lately, and there's a martial arts style in Tome of Magic which grants total concealment from the target of your Dodge feat, and Improved Dodge would make that a lot better.

    Also, if you think that this Improved Dodge is bad, IIRC Q. Fighter II has a much worse one, as part of its system for generic Improved versions of feats.
    Last edited by Kalkra; 2021-04-16 at 12:26 PM.

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Troacctid View Post
    Looks like the cover image for Into the Green is broken.
    Fixed now (I mean, c'mon, Bastion, I was only linking the image from your own damn publisher's website...).

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    As I mentioned earlier, I've been making Monk builds lately, and there's a martial arts style in Tome of Magic which grants total concealment from the target of your Dodge feat, and Improved Dodge would make that a lot better.

    Also, if you think that this Improved Dodge is bad, IIRC Q. Fighter II has a much worse one, as part of its system for generic Improved versions of feats.
    Interested to see one of the builds! :)

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    Huh, I just read Into the Green a few days ago as part of going through all the stuff that this thread reminded me of. Yeah, good stuff all around, also read Black and Blue, Black made me want to made a diamond sword. I don't know how, although I suspect lots of Fabricate would be involved, but I want to turn DnD into Minecraft.
    Good calls. (For those of you who came in late: Bastion Press has two other environmental books like Into the Green. These are Into the Black and Into the Blue, which deal with Underdark and underwater environments respectively. I haven't got to them as yet and it might take a while to get there, but I presume Into the Black is going to have some competition from Drow of the Underdark and/or Dungeonscape, but I'm looking forward to Into the Blue when I get the chance, because whilst there is Stormwrack, that's more about the perils of open water adventures rather than undersea ones as such.)

  20. - Top - End - #80
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Anyway, Q.Fighter does seem to be still available on RPG market sites, and Mongoose Publishing still has a website where they’re selling this book, so it seems to be available for purchase.
    Where? Mongoose is selling Quintessential Fighter II and most of the other Quintessentials, but The Quintessential Fighter appears to be missing like Quintessential Monk I and Quintessential Psion.

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Endless Rain View Post
    Where? Mongoose is selling Quintessential Fighter II and most of the other Quintessentials, but The Quintessential Fighter appears to be missing like Quintessential Monk I and Quintessential Psion.
    That's odd, I was sure I'd seen it there. Nonetheless, a Google search confirms what you're saying, so I will adjust the review accordingly. EDIT: Done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Interested to see one of the builds! :)
    EDIT: Completely rewriting this post.

    For all of these builds, I'll be assuming no ACFs, no maneuvers, and no significant spells. I'm including Greater Mighty Wallop, because Monks need it.

    Raw damage:
    Warforged Monk with Beast Strike and a Battlefist. With Shock Trooper and Improved Natural Attack for unarmed strikes and slam, and with Greater Mighty Wallop cast on both at CL 20, your unarmed strike will do 16d8 + 8d6 + 15 + Str + double whatever you've enchanted your Battlefist with. If we assume you've gotten it's enhancement bonus to +5, slapped five +1d6 special qualities onto your Battlefist, and added a greater Crystal of Energy Assault, that's an additional +12d6 + 10 damage per strike. With a strength bonus of +5, that's an average of 172 damage per strike, if I did my math right and understood all of the interactions correctly, which I probably didn't. You can add in whatever you want after that.

    Can't touch this:
    This one's trickier. Anthropomorphic Bat Monk 4/Shou Disciple 5/Disciple of the Word 1/Dragon Descendant 10. Not necessarily in that order. With Word Given Form, VoP and a isS of 20 (before modifiers), against the opponent designated by Dodge you have total concealment and an AC of 46, plus whatever you get from Dex, which gets +6 from VoP, +5 from Combat Expertise and +2 from fighting defensively, if you feel you need it. You also have DR 10/Evil and DR 5/cold iron, and you can AoO anybody who attacks you, regardless of whether or not they hit. The thinking with this build is you get attacked as much as possible, and hopefully do more damage to your attacker than he does to you. I'm skeptical if this would actually work without some serious cheese. Notably, you can fly, which is the main disadvantage to VoP.

    Cheese:
    If you can transfer enchantments from unique weapons, Scorpion Kama and Manyfang Dagger are good options, particularly with Kaorti Resin and the Scourge from Dragon #275 and the Braid Blade from Dragon #120. Also does weird things with a Battlefist.
    Also, the Shield Companion spell from Dragon #308 allows you to gain the benefits of the shield without any of the penalties. Monk with a Tower Shield.
    Also, while not Monk-specific, with an Aptitude weapon and Roundabout Kick and/or Lighting Mace, you can get a ton of extra attacks.
    Also, while not cheese, the Spell Hero's Blade from Eberron grants, among other things, a keen effect which stacks with Improved Critical, the only way to do that which I know of. Sadly, it's a 9th-level spell which is only available from two obscure domains.

    Critifishing with the Quintessentials:
    Q. Monk I has the Iron Leg Kickboxer, which increases the critical threat range of your unarmed strikes by 2, and the critical multiplier by 1, and stacks with keen. Q. Monk II has the Ki Swordsman, who can summon a keen greatsword that counts as an unarmed strike but deals damage as a greatsword. It's weird, but with Iron Leg Kickboxer that means you'll have a crit of 13-20/x3. If you can cast Weapon Shift on it (which isn't clear due to the ambiguity of how much it's a greatsword and how much it's an unarmed strike) then you can get the threat range to 11-20, meaning you'll threaten half the time. The greatsword has keen and brilliant energy, so I'm not sure if something like a Necklace of Natural Attacks would work with it. You could still cast Weapon of Energy on it to make up for some of the lost damage. Regardless, Q. Monk II also has Mighty Blow, which has a lot of the same prereqs as Iron Leg Kickboxer and Ki Swordsman, and basically gives you a free stunning fist whenever you crit, which with the above build will basically let you stunlock anything not immune. Also works nicely with any source of extra attacks, particularly Roundabout Kick. Works really nice if you can Weapon Shift your Ki Sword into a Scourge.

    Other nice stuff from Q. Monk II:
    The wicker shield, which Monks can use without losing their monk stuff.
    Weightless, which let's a Monk use any shield for the price of +2.
    Blunted, +1 bonus, +1 crit multiplier.
    Enlightened, +2 bonus, does unarmed strike damage on a crit. If you can't put the Scorpion Kama enchantment onto another weapon, this is your next best thing. Pop it onto a keen Kaorti Resin Manyfang Dagger and deal x7 unarmed strike damage on a crit.
    Martially attuned, +2 bonus, grants proficiency and makes it a Monk Weapon.

    All of my math could be wrong, and probably is.
    Last edited by Kalkra; 2021-04-18 at 12:47 PM.

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    Question Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Isn't there a 1st level only feat in Quintessential Fighter that permanently gives a size increase? Or was the from QF II?

    [ediy] Was from the Quintessential Fighter web enhancement:

    Massive (General)
    You are much larger than normal members of your race.

    Prerequisite: Str 14+, Con 14+, original size category of Small or Medium.

    Benefit: You are one size category larger than others of your race. This brings with it all of the normal penalties and benefits associated with the larger size, including increased unarmed damage, Armour Class and attack roll penalty (if any), and the ability to use larger weaponry. Equipment may be more expensive and more difficult to find in your size.

    Special: Must be selected at 1st level.

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    EDIT: Nvm.

    EDIT THE SECOND: For the interested, on my quick look the web enhancement doesn't seem to be readily available from Mongoose Publishing - another one of those mysteries - but it does seem to be available on Wayback machine. I found it here: https://web.archive.org/web/20120916...ed_Fighter.pdf

    ...and on a quick look the Web Enhancement also introduces some stuff that merits some extra consideration, mainly because there's another three fighting styles introduced there directed to greatsword, mount-and-lance, and shield bashing. I'm going to briefly run these down in the Q.Fighter review before moving on to Book of Eldritch Might I, I'll update the review so it doesn't clutter up the first posts or this area further. Maybe the first thing to note is that unfortunately Mongoose does something stupid out of the WOTC playbook and requires XP to earn the (Ex) abilities of these fighting styles rather than just training time and finding a teacher. To pick up all elements of a fighting style, it's 4,250 XP altogether, which is just a **** move to just keep the Fighter down. Plus the training time on top.

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    At 10th-level or higher, that amount of XP is essentially meaningless. XP is a river and all that.

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    EDIT: Nvm.

    EDIT THE SECOND: For the interested, on my quick look the web enhancement doesn't seem to be readily available from Mongoose Publishing - another one of those mysteries - but it does seem to be available on Wayback machine. I found it here: https://web.archive.org/web/20120916...ed_Fighter.pdf

    ...and on a quick look the Web Enhancement also introduces some stuff that merits some extra consideration, mainly because there's another three fighting styles introduced there directed to greatsword, mount-and-lance, and shield bashing. I'm going to briefly run these down in the Q.Fighter review before moving on to Book of Eldritch Might I, I'll update the review so it doesn't clutter up the first posts or this area further. Maybe the first thing to note is that unfortunately Mongoose does something stupid out of the WOTC playbook and requires XP to earn the (Ex) abilities of these fighting styles rather than just training time and finding a teacher. To pick up all elements of a fighting style, it's 4,250 XP altogether, which is just a **** move to just keep the Fighter down. Plus the training time on top.
    Q. Fighter II has something similar, but it doesn't cost feats, and IIRC the benefits are better. You just pay xp, train, and get stronger attacks.

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Completely rewrote my previous post about Monks. Just looking at it bothered me.

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    The Book of Eldritch Might I, Malhavoc Press
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    Summary
    It’s a collection of feats, classes, spells, and magic items for arcane spellcasting. The author says specifically that any amount of it can be used without having to depend on other parts, i.e. it’s a collection of ideas that can be snapped on or snapped off without having to pick up the rest of it. The author also says at the start that this stuff is meant to go beyond traditional fantasy, but either way, it’s mainly for arcanists.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2004, 43 pages. The version we’re looking at is the upgrade made consequent on 3.5. The book itself comes with its own history of gossip, of which the salient bits follow. First, the sole author of this book is Monte Cook, one of the guys with his name on the original third edition of D&D along with Jonathan Tweet and Skip Williams. Aside from the DMG, the other main design he created is the Book of Vile Darkness. Cook left WOTC in 2001, because, in his own words, WOTC weren’t doing sufficiently weird stuff with D&D and weren’t pushing out books at a satisfactorily laxative speed. Anyway, he immediately started up Malhavoc Press. This book – or rather the 3.0 version – was Malhavoc’s first publication. At least according to Monte Cook it was the first commercial book published exclusively as a PDF from a print publisher. Around the time this, the 3.5 version, was published, Cook started selling his d20 productions through DriveThruRPG, which back then only used encrypted DRM PDFs. Eventually, both he and DrivethruRPG relented – and indeed this product is still available in large market RPGs.

    Finally: there are volumes in the Book of Eldritch Might series. Each covers different subjects. Malhavoc published the Complete Book of Eldritch Might that just slaps all 3 volumes (the 3.5 ones) all into one 206 page text, but I’ll be looking at each of the three volumes separately so I can be a bit more detailed. The Complete BOEM doesn’t add anything to the three volumes other than what amounts to a 10 page advertisement for Arcana Unearthed, Cook’s first attempt at a competing RPG system to D&D.

    Notable Features
    Graven One 4-10 (prestige class): Most of the class is very pedestrian and limited in power, mainly because it’s a 5/10 class and mainly relies on Tattoo-y effects which don’t especially make up for the lost caster levels in particular. The one possible exception is the Graven image class feature. You scribe an image of an animal or magical beast on your body (takes 10 minutes), and activate it as a free action at any point after that. When activated, the image leaps from your body and becomes a real version of the image, and remains 1 minute/level or until slain, obeying your mental commands as a free action. The maximum HD of the creature involved increases with the class levels to a maximum of 20 HD. The main utility of this ability presumably comes down to knowing your Magical Beasts. As an example, a 12-Headed Hydra is only 12HD. A Unicorn is only 4HD. Right at the top, there’s a Phoenix (MM 2) at precisely 20HD and which can pull Summon Nature’s Ally IX of its own. The rest of it as said is fairly pedestrian.
    Acidic Curse (Sor/Wiz 1 spell): Feels like a Spell Compendium version of Seething Eyebane from the BoVD. It’s on the Sor/Wiz list, operates at range, but only blinds the target for 1d4 rounds, not permanently.
    Arcana Form (Sor/Wiz 9 spell): 10 mins/level, make yourself into a being of pure magical energy. Incorporeal, immune critical hits, fly speed of 100. Use energy to cast spells, 5 hitpoints per spell level, no loss of prepared spells or spell slots. If you enter an antimagic field, you cease to exist … for the spell’s duration, which might be useful for some odd purposes.
    Bolt of Conjuring (Sor/Wiz 3 spell): Pew pew spell … that simultaneously summons an outsider as if Summon Monster I had been cast.
    Chains of Vengeance (Sor/Wiz 4 spell): Wrap chains of fire around the target that do 2d6 fire damage per round. If the creature tries to break free, it takes another 2d6 of fire damage.
    Conditional Spell (Sor/Wiz 6): Cast this spell as well as another spell of 3rd level or lower to be stored. When a specific spell you name is cast on the subject, the stored spell releases in a preset manner. This is Contingent Spell-lite, but could be handy for getting useful spells on a friend (“True Strike on my ranger buddy when he becomes the subject of a Hunter’s Mercy spell”).
    Dragonskin (Brd 3, Sor/Wiz 3): Acid/Electricity/Fire/Cold Resistance 10 and +4 in Natural Armor bonus – i.e. stacks with Mage Armor -- lasts 10 min/level.
    Mantle of Egregious Might (Sor/Wiz 8 spell): 10 mins/level, grant +4 luck bonuses to AC, attack rolls, saving throws, and ALL ABILITY SCORES. Also known as the “Rewrite Your Whole Character Sheet In The Middle Of The Campaign” spell!
    Mark of Death (Sor/Wiz 8 spell): Hour/level, grant a creature the power to fire a Wave Motion Gun. All right, all right. Give the creature the power to be immune to death effects, and discharge the spell by firing a ranged touch attack at a target, which must make a Fort saving throw or die.
    Primal Release (Sor/Wiz 8 spell): 10 minutes/level, give a creature a +10 inherent bonus to STR and CON, +2 to DEX, -6 to INT and CHA, -2 to WIS. BAB becomes +1 per HD. Creature can fight as thought it has the Power Attack, Cleave, Great Cleave, and Improved Sunder feats!
    Teleport Redirect (Sor/Wiz 5 spell): Sick of Scry-and-Die tactics? This says if the area of the spell is the target of a teleportation spell, the destination is redirected to a location you choose. Is “the surface of the Sun” a valid location? (For what it’s worth, when Monte Cook first produced these spells there simply weren’t any counters to teleportation magic. The SpC now has Anticipate Teleportation and Greater Anticipate Teleportation, though these ones are still cool.)
    Zone of Speed (Sor/Wiz 5): In this area, nothing can move faster than your chosen speed, minimum 1 foot. Any speed less than 100 feet stops all ranged physical attacks functioning (arrows are slowed down so much they can’t reach their target.) Characters can’t move faster than the rate you decide.
    Wandwrap: (Magic Item): Wrap this cord around a wand, which has 50 charges, and any charges from the wand drain the wrap, not the wand. Ridiculously good if you can convince your DM to let this apply to a magic staff and you’re using Eilservs School.
    Mirror of Vanity (Magic Item): slotless +2, +4, or +6 to CHA, since it grants the enhancement bonus whenever the mirror is in a character’s possession.
    Spellstealer (Magic Item): If you touch a spellcasting creature that steals spells, this gauntlet rips one off them at random. The gauntlet holds the spell, allowing the wearer to cast it as if she had prepared it. Gauntlet holds only 1 spell at a time.
    Magic Poisons (new rule): Basically, administer something akin to a spell’s effect when you poison someone. Some of them are solid, one – Swarmdeath – is horrible in the sense of inducing nightmares. It imposes a Fort DC 17 save or be killed instantly by a swarm of insects that burst out of them. Candyman, Candyman, Candyman, C—
    Liquid Power (minor artefact substance): drink this, get 6d6 x 100 XP useable only to create magic items or cast spells with an XP cost. Alternatively, dip a charged item – wand, staff or other – and it’s fully recharged.
    Random Rune Generator! (table): three d100 lists that allow you to generate a description of a glyph, emblem, rune, or arcane marks. Mine, according to the dice gods, is a sword inside a rose within an ouroboros.

    Dreadful Features
    Conjure Mastery (feat): +2 to STR, DEX, and CON of my summons. Augment Summoning out of the PHB gives me +4 to STR and CON and doesn’t force me to have CHA 17 and CL 17, though I guess you could stack the bonuses.
    Etch Object Rune (feat): It’s basically a cheaper scroll. Rune Magic out of the FRCS runs rings around this.
    Embermage (prestige class): 5/10 arcane casting, 5/10 BAB, for a set of abilities that are either equivalent to, or worse than, a Reserve feat that allows you to hit people with [fire] damage. The fluff is intriguing – the mage’s blood is literally burning – but the mechanics are pedestrian at best.
    Guilt (Brd 1, Clr 1, Sor/Wiz 1 spell): Go home and rethink your life, the spell. Well, okay. For 1d4 rounds a nongood creature can’t take any actions except to defend itself. I’d rather the Inhibit spell.


    Who it’s best for (Player/GM/both)
    The introduction addresses GMs, but this is at least partially useable by players and GMs alike. It’s pretty much okay for anyone.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: I’ve got to say, I was expecting better. When we get down to it the mechanics are about as balanced as your average 3.5 book, which is to say, favouring casters and thinking a handful of d6s of extra damage matters at high levels. It does fill some niches and some of the spells are interesting, but I didn’t find a huge lot to inspire me out of this beyond what’s above in Notable Features. I might be hard on this book given I have the advantage of 20 years of watching 3.5 and watching the system’s failings get picked apart repeatedly, but it’s not like this book was ever updated for strength or reviewed for power and balance past the 2005 days. Also limited is that while there are a few spells which can be used by Bards, Rangers, and friends, it’s pretty much entirely for Wizards or Sorcerers. I’d class this one about on par with a WOTC book, call it 2/4.

    On concepts and fluff: Some of this stuff is interesting, it’s true. However, most of it is really more a collection of ideas and concepts than that it really does a lot that’s different with the D&D system. There isn’t a unified whole here; I thought a number of the concepts could have been fully fleshed out. The Mirror Master prestige class – which I haven’t mentioned above – was an interesting idea at least, in that the mage focuses on mirrors and picks up one or two unique spells, but if you thought you’d be getting something like the magic system in Stephen Donaldson’s two-book series Mordant’s Need (‘The Mirror of Her Dreams’ and ‘A Man Rides Through’), well, unfortunately the ideas aren’t developed that far. The strongest elements are in discrete magic items or in spells: the idea of magic poisons was appealing, and the Wandwrap is just great (although prohibitively expensive at 20,000 gp). Unfortunately, a fair proportion of the stuff in this book is stuff that WOTC books-of-the-line address indirectly or duplicate. Give it a 2/4 at this heading.

    On presentation: It has Malhavoc Press’s house style, which is to say the layout is not eye-watering but it’s all in black and white. This was done specifically to save ink when printing. Call this a 1/2 as well.

    Total: 5/10.


    Next time: Book of Eldritch Might II, Malhavoc Press.

  29. - Top - End - #89
    Troll in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    I keep coming back to to see the updates 'cause I like the idea of the thread, but I'm just going to keep being annoyed with the analysis until I say something. So a brief piece then I'll buzz off.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Arcana Form (Sor/Wiz 9 spell): 10 mins/level, make yourself into a being of pure magical energy. Incorporeal, immune critical hits, fly speed of 100. Use energy to cast spells, 5 hitpoints per spell level, no loss of prepared spells or spell slots. If you enter an antimagic field, you cease to exist … for the spell’s duration, which might be useful for some odd purposes.
    No mention of how spending hit points to cast spells allows one of the most obvious and easiest infinite loops of "get a spell that heals more than it costs and you're done" ?
    Wandwrap: (Magic Item): Wrap this cord around a wand, which has 50 charges, and any charges from the wand drain the wrap, not the wand. Ridiculously good if you can convince your DM to let this apply to a magic staff and you’re using Eilservs School. . . .
    and the Wandwrap is just great (although prohibitively expensive at 20,000 gp)
    Yes, the item that only works on wands is ridiculously good if you completely ignore that fact and allow it to work with staves. Shocking. And 20,000gp is prohibitively expensive, even though it's actually 1,000gp less than the standard minimum cost of a 4th level wand, or almost exactly the price it should be as long as one assumes nothing but minimum caster level wands, not that any such stipulation is in the item.
    Etch Object Rune (feat): It’s basically a cheaper scroll. Rune Magic out of the FRCS runs rings around this.
    So this is entry is rated dreadful because it happens to lie between the power levels of a standard foundational item, and something which "runs rings around it?" I suppose I am to take the meaning that standard scrolls, despite being a foundational item, are so bad that "basically a cheaper scroll" is still dreadful?


    As much as I like the historical/contextual commentary, the mechanical evaluation constantly flip flops between nuanced and lol char-op, in every entry. It's dissonant. If you're evaluating based on char-op, why bother with the context? If you care about context, why do you evaluate things based on context-less char-op logic?
    Last edited by Fizban; 2021-04-19 at 05:31 PM.
    Attention Imgur Users! Imgur apparently doesn't like hosting images anymore and only works in certain places or for people who already have the image cached: No one can see your avatars or images!
    Also Photobucket users? Don't know if it's a bandwidth or region lock or something, but I'm seeing some avatars blurred out with a watermark that looks like the photobucket icon.
    And Tinypic went down a while back, seeing plenty of old avatars showing their downed image.
    Quote Originally Posted by Violet Octopus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    sheer awesomeness

  30. - Top - End - #90
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    As much as I like the historical/contextual commentary, the mechanical evaluation constantly flip flops between nuanced and lol char-op, in every entry. It's dissonant. If you're evaluating based on char-op, why bother with the context? If you care about context, why do you evaluate things based on context-less char-op logic?
    First thing to say, and this goes for everyone: don't be shy about providing criticism or indeed even just a contrasting viewpoint. I already know how good I am, I have no idea how bad I am More seriously, I do appreciate the feedback so I can tune the reviews a bit if there's a persistent problem with them, so - thanks, it's appreciated.

    Next thing to say is that insofar as I have any sort of rough approach to these reviews, the 'Notable Features' I am trying to make as a sort of list of stuff that pops out at me like a particularly inviting eyeball to a passing crow. It may be intriguing on its own, it may be what I perceive as strong or interesting on a short read, but I'm not consciously following a particular methodology in mentioning particular items (if I am unconsciously doing so, well, that's a different story and I might need to edit a bit better). The 'Notable Features' section is more an attempt to draw people's attention to interesting things in the text even if the overall evaluation is that the book is poor. The 'Dreadful Features' is my very unsuccessful attempts at comedy. The mechanical and fluff evaluation section are a lot more rule of thumb and a holistic look.

    It's a 'bit of everything' sort of approach and pretty casual. You may be right, I could be a bit inconsistent on evaluation of some features as opposed to others. If that's seen as a deficient approach, then I'll try to address it in future reviews. But my reviews by definition are limited by what I'm most experienced with and will no doubt be lacking on areas I'm not as experienced with. Some stuff will excite me, some stuff won't, whether because of my ignorance or just that's what floats my boat. If people have a different view, I am more than willing to hear it. I said right at the start of the thread that my reviews will be highly subjective and very general in approach. If people think a feature is more valuable than what I've put on it, and they think they make better use out of it, say so, or even better, use it! - because I'll still have achieved an aim of this book, which is to bring old stuff back to light.

    No mention of how spending hit points to cast spells allows one of the most obvious and easiest infinite loops of "get a spell that heals more than it costs and you're done" ?
    Fair point and well observed.

    Yes, the item that only works on wands is ridiculously good if you completely ignore that fact and allow it to work with staves. Shocking. And 20,000gp is prohibitively expensive, even though it's actually 1,000gp less than the standard minimum cost of a 4th level wand, or almost exactly the price it should be as long as one assumes nothing but minimum caster level wands, not that any such stipulation is in the item.
    That's probably my reflex at play; if it has five figures in the gp column I tend to feel my wallet scream. :D

    So this is entry is rated dreadful because it happens to lie between the power levels of a standard foundational item, and something which "runs rings around it?" I suppose I am to take the meaning that standard scrolls, despite being a foundational item, are so bad that "basically a cheaper scroll" is still dreadful?
    Etch Object Rune was probably a victim of my brevity and my bias because I've spent too much time looking at runes and the Runecaster, and I tend to think of FRCS options as likely more available at tables than they generally are. In terms of utility as compared with runes under FRCS's rune magic, I regard Etch Object Rune as inferior, but I'll certainly concede the point that in a more Core-y campaign, the option is still a pretty solid one.

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