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  1. - Top - End - #91
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Notable for arcana form (Book of Eldritch Might I) was that you could theoretically cast heal or mass heal while in it and outheal the spell damage.

    Also, bolt of conjuration last I checked had NO SAVE and NO SR! Metamagic that baby and just win! Beware spell turning!
    Quote Originally Posted by GPuzzle View Post
    And I do agree that the right answer to the magic/mundane problem is to make everyone badass.
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    If you're of a philosophical bent, the powergamer is a great example of Heidegger's modern technological man, who treats a game's mechanics as a standing reserve of undifferentiated resources that are to be used for his goals.
    My Complete Tome of Battle Maneuver/Stance/Class Overhaul

    Arseplomancy = Fanatic Tarrasque!

  2. - Top - End - #92
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Book of Eldritch Might II: Songs & Souls of Power, Malhavoc Press

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    Summary
    Continues the theme of the first volume, Book of Eldritch Might (BOEM from here on in), in that itís a collection of new alternate classes, feats, prestige classes, spells (and things like spells), and magic items. Once again the idea is to expand the range of options available to arcane casters.


    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2004, 73 pages. Once again weíre looking at the updated 3.5 version of the book, not the original 3.0 version. Itís also Monte Cookís work once more. As at date of review it was available on large RPG market websites.

    Notable Features
    Anavarís Anticipated Attack (Sor/Wiz 1 spell): This is like the reverse of True Strike. I consider it on the line of being broken for balance. 1 round/level, the first time youíre attacked during the spellís duration, that attack suffers a -20 luck penalty (spell expires right after). Doesnít distinguish between melee, ranged, spell, you name it, just ďthe attackĒ suffers a -20 penalty. Standard action casting, so can be fired off if youíre in a surprise round. A wand of this would cost what, 750gp? Last you up to 30 fights? Eternal Wand of it for 820gp does it twice a day, buy a few of them and just pick up the next one between encounters? ďIt doesnít lock out natural 20s!Ē No, but it does lock out critical hits in effect, since any critical confirmation roll by definition is made Ďwith all your usual bonuses,í, i.e. at the -20 luck penalty. And anyway, natural 20s are why youíve got concealment effects. :D It sure seems to makes an Elan approach to armour a lot more practical!
    Harassing Weapon (Sor/Wiz 1 spell): Create a melee weapon of pure force, which hits for 1d8 damage, uses your BAB as its attack bonus Ö wait, are we getting an arcane Spiritual Weapon here? Well, no. This thing follows a foe you choose as long as itís in range, and 1 round/level, occupies the same area as the foe, making attacks of opportunity whenever that particular foe provokes them. One presumes that this not only covers situations like retrieving items or such Ö but with a DMís ruling possibly includes AoOs when the creature moves towards you and therefore moves out of a threatened square.
    Prohibit Kind (Sor/Wiz 7 spell): Social Distancing, the spell. Within a 30 foot radius, pick a race or humanoid subtype, or a type for non-humanoids. That race is the only type that can take actions in the radius. Everything else is frozen within an energy field Ö but canít be harmed or affected in any way. No saving throw, though spell resistance applies.
    Thief of Spells (Brd 5, Sor/Wiz 4): Touch range, but you get to yank multiple spells off a target you touch and apply them to yourself, starting with the highest-level spell active on the target, up to your own (character?) level. This seems a natural choice for Smiting Spell or the Spellsword prestige class in particular.
    Utter Thrall (Sor/Wiz 8): More powerful version of Dominate Person. As in, permanent, and the subject will even do self-destructive things, including giving their own lives for the controller even if not commanded to do so.
    Vivid Discharge (Sor/Wiz 2): St. Elmoís Fire, the spell. 1 minute/level until discharged, the next time you get hit in melee, the attacker takes 1d6 electricity damage per level, max 10d6.
    Lace Spell: Spellripper (feat): Cast an offensive spell on a target, and in addition the highest-level spell on the opponent is hit with a Dispel Magic effect. Wonít auto-nope a summoned creature or a Wall of Fire or similar, but free Dispel Magic also targeting the enemyís highest-level spell isnít bad. Have to be a 17-level spellcaster, though, INT 17+, CHA 21+.
    Lace Spell: Unravel (feat): More available and gorgeously versatile. A spell laced with this effect attempts to suppress, for this spell only, any spell effect on the target that directly interferes with the spell taking effect Ė e.g. itíll try to knock out protection from fire when you hit the opponent with a Fireball. Works from spellcaster level 10+.
    Knight of the Chord 1-8 (prestige class): Itís basically the only gish option for variant bards in the book, but for reasons set out in the Dreadful Features section below, you can and probably should qualify out of normal bard. Or better yet, qualify out of another arcane spellcasting class if you can pull Sculpt Sound onto your casting list via Extra Spell. Why on Earth would you do this, given this is a 5/10 casting class? Well, thereís a few reasons. Number one, itís full BAB. Number two, itís at least a d8 hit dice (and looks like it shouldíve been d10 before editing changes.) Number three, no arcane spell failure chance if your Armor Check Penalty is no bigger than -5. Duskblade eat your heart out, thatís casting freely in masterwork full plate, and yes, the Knight of the Chord is proficient with all armours. Number four: as from third level, 1/day per class level, GET AN ADDITIONAL MOVE ACTION IN THE ROUND. Explicitly allows move up to your speed and then make a full attack. Explicitly allows you to move your speed, cast or attack, and then move again. And so on. Number five: sing to your weapon and give it up to four abilities, which basically amount to: Weapon Finesse even if it canít be so used; Combat Reflexes even if you havenít got it; cut offhand penalty by 2; 1/day per class level, daze a target for 1 round; Wraithstrike quality; Blind-Fight; +1-+2s to things like Total Defense, damage, disarm and sunder attempts. Number six: 1/day, 1 round per class level, add luck bonus to attack rolls and AC equal to CHA modifier, i.e. if you can get CHA mod to these in some other way this will stack with it. The last two levels give you an AoE vs. stun and some resistance to sonic attacks, but these levels could be skipped for the saving of a lost caster level.
    Song Mage (prestige class): Once again, can qualify via normal bard or by pulling sculpt sound onto your class list. The prerequisites include ďone feat with the word Ďsongí in the nameĒ. Throughout 3.5 these are mostly bard feats. However, there is, as always, one exception: Dragonsong, from the Draconomicon, which doesnít require any bardic music. This prestige class needs ranks in Perform (Sing) which might be a bit trickier. But once again, why would we do this? Well, leaving aside the casting is 10/10, there are a couple of other interesting tools it offers. First up, once per day +1 for every 3 class levels, a spell with verbal components gets a different effect depending on what school it comes from. The strongest of these are that Abjuration and Necromancy spells have doubled durations. Transmutationís range doubles; Divination gives a 25% chance the spell wonít actually be used up when cast; enchantment and illusion have their spells DCs increased by 1. He also gets to create a shield spell once per day; at fourth level, he gets a 3rd level or less DIVINE spell to cast as a spell-like ability 1/day. Cast fly, various other minor effects, and at top level, cast summon monster IX or greater planar ally once per week.
    Eldritch Warrior (prestige class): Its mechanics generally are very similar to the Warrior of Darkness out of Book of Vile Darkness (also authored by Monte Cook), so Iíll leave you to have a look at that. As with Warrior of Darkness, the prerequisites are mostly skill-based and very modest; two feats, Weapon Focus and Magical Talent, which is from BOEM 1 and gives you a +2 to Knowledge (Arcana) and Spellcraft. It advances no casting, but on the other hand doesnít require any spellcasting ability to qualify. It varies from Warrior of Darkness in two key ways. First, that the Eldritch Warrior picks up the ability to store (once per day, 24 hour duration maximum, and only following a 1 hour ritual for each and at least 50 gp each time) a single 2nd level arcane spell, and a single 1st level arcane spell, in his weapon and armour. These can then be cast with no arcane spell failure chance using Eldritch Warrior class levels as the caster level. When theyíre cast, the runes fade, and you start all over again. Secondly, at 8th level, the warrior can pick any spell which can be made permanent for a character (i.e. anything under the permanency spell) and tattoo it for themselves on their body, though this takes a week. In what is likely an oversight, and distinct by its omission, it doesnít say that the character is limited down to one permanent tattoo. It also doesnít speak of any XP costs, which the permanency spell would otherwise impose. By RAW, then, and so long as heís got a lot of downtime, the Eldritch Warrior can sport pretty well all of the person-only permanent spells on himelf. This list is larger than the SRD would appear to suggest. This benefit kicks in about character level 13 or so.
    Grace (armor quality): For a +1 bonus, no max DEX bonus on your armor.
    Greater Maneuvering (armor quality): For a +2 bonus, no armor check penalty on your armor.
    Karmic (weapon quality): When you hit something, get a +2 to attack and damage for your next attack, which expires after that attack, but if you hit with that attack, the +2 to attack and damage continues! But if you miss, itís a -1 to attack on the next attack in the same way. +1 bonus.
    Knockback (weapon quality): +1 bonus. Small Bush Rush for ranged weapons only. Hit an opponent, make a STR check. Fail and youíre knocked back 5 feet.
    Chain of Supernatural Might (wondrous item): +2 armor bonus to AC, +2 damage to unarmed or natural attacks, +2 to DC of all of the userís supernatural abilities. 30,000 gp.
    Helm of Alacrity (wondrous item): Add insight bonuses to AC in the head slot (4,000 gp for a +1 bonus and so on upward). Not bad if youíve got nothing else to do with that part of the body.
    Lens of Focus (wondrous item): 20,000 gp, cast a ray spell through it, get a +2 to the ranged touch attack roll. Spellwarp Snipers could certainly use this.
    Lute of Charms (wondrous item): Player uses charm person AT WILL. DC of the effect depends on the personís Perform Check result (max 19 for a check of 26 or more). 6,000 gp, this is pretty damn good for Bards.
    Soul Magic Spells (new rules): Not really of any use to PCs, but itís an interesting few pages spent on the idea of spells that demand they cast themselves. Basically, magic is in some cases sentient, and a spell if intelligent enough can force itself to be cast, causing ability damage to the caster. PCs can construct these things, but itís largely without point Ė think of these mostly as more complicated spell traps.

    Dreadful Features
    Mindthorn (specific magic weapon): +2 rapier which, when you hit, inflicts 1 point of INT, WIS, or CHA (wielderís choice) on the target. Um, okay, but thatís all it inflicts if I understand it rightly.
    Variant Sorcerer: (variant base class): This oneís a regretful entry in the Dreadful Features section, for reasons Iíll get into. The longstanding rumour about Monte Cook is that he hated sorcerers under 3.0, and did all he could to nerf them as compared with Wizards. Iíve heard other stories that it was actually Skip Williams who disliked them and added the rule of metamagic taking longer for them. Whichever is the truth, the variant sorcerer is almost identical to the default SRD sorcerer, the Ďalmostí being pretty significant:
    (1) Effectively: free Eschew Materials. Sorcerers explicitly do not require material components. However, for costly components the variant sorcerer also doesnít have to have the component; instead, they can pay 1/25 of the gp cost of the component in XP. Spells that need a focus still require the focus. Yes, XP and gold is a river and all that, but one wonders which of these is the easier to obtain. It looks as though itís still open to be able to provide the material component and not have it locked to XP.
    (2) By RAW: a much smaller spell list than the default sorcerer, assuming splatbook access outside the PHB. Under Variant Sorcererís Spell List, we have: ďThe spell list has been rebalanced with the idea that the sorcerer can and will cast his spells over and over in a given day, rather than once or twice like a wizard.Ē The list of spells that then follows is basically the PHB Sorcerer spells from level 1-9 with some additions from BOEM Volume I and II. And when they talk rebalanced, this also goes to spell access and some spell levelst: Spider Climb becomes a level 1 rather than level 2 spell, Mount and Enlarge Person are omitted entirely Ö and thatís just at level 1. That is: itís heavily implied if not outright RAW that the variant sorcerer can only pick from the spells in that list, not from any of WOTCís sourcebooks. Even allowing copyright and the OGL likely preventing the authors from referring to splats outside the PHB, I found it surprising that there wasnít an attempt to address this in the 3.5 update Ė remembering that dozens of WOTC books had been blowing off their presses up to 2004.
    (3) EDIT: I only just realised this: the Variant Sorcerer gets more spells known than a default sorcerer does. It's about 1 more spell per level from about 6th level onward.
    Oh, and it gets a d6 rather than a d4 hit dice.
    The result is basically a sorcerer who has 90% PHB-only spells and Eschew Materials, in effect. This is not to say itís unplayable, but youíd have to go in knowing those limitations. Especially given the spells in BOEM I and II are almost without exception Sorcerer/Wizard spells, which means the Wizard gets everything the Variant Sorcerer can cast and more.
    Variant Bard (new base class): I donít know if Monte Cook hated sorcerers, but this variant seems like potent evidence that he didnít like bards. Or at least he really didnít like the way most people optimised their bards, maybe. For a start, letís drop all but one of the bardís unique features. No Inspire Courage, no Inspire Greatness, no songs, bang, gone. Oh, we still get Bardic Knowledge, hurrah I guess. Second, letís abolish the bardís spell list, and give him back about 60-70% of his spells in a slightly different way. No Glibness, no Grease, no Glitterdust, no Summon Monster, no Alter Self, no Dispel Magic (okay, there is a Dispel Magic effect way up at the end. By the way, did I mention that silence effects are basically Antimagic Fields for this class?) See, variant bards donít cast arcane spells anymore. They cast Spellnotes, Spellchords, and Spellmelodies, which are basically neutered versions of the Core bard spells and which are differentiated mainly by whether they take a swift action, standard action, or full round to cast. (You do get Inspire Courage back Ö as a spellnote. Meaning itís a swift action to start, and a free action to maintain. However, unless Iím missing something, this will never get higher than +1 morale to attack and damage rolls for your allies. By RAW none of the common optimisation strategies for Inspire Courage will work because itís no longer a class feature, and probably few to none of the common prestige classes like Sublime Chord either.)

    Now, the bard does get some capacity to sort-of metamagic these notes, chords, and melodies, based around giving up slots; give up two spellnote slots and you can make a spellnote with 50% increase in duration and range, or +2 to DC, or 50% increase in damage. Similar applies to spellchords and spellmelodies the higher you go, but the same sacrifice can be made. Also, spellnote slots can be used up to grant additional spellchords per day, at a rate of 5 to one. And Ė apparently Ė multiple bards can contribute spellnotes (or spellnote slots, I presume) to create a spellchord they all know, though the mechanics for this are not in my view complete. So Leadership or cohort abuse now becomes a fuel tank of additional music for the day, or maybe for some of the unique feats of the book Ö but these only increase DC, duration, or range for the most part. And bard spell damage under this is mostly based around d4s. Some of the effects arenít bad on the most powerful spellmelodies, but in particular the fact they can be turned into magic items explicitly under item creation feats means theyíre likely more useful as items you go looking for than class abilities you necessarily want. At least he can still skillmonkey to some extent (and for some odd reason the Survival skill is added to his class list.) His combat capacity is also slightly altered: now heís proficient with medium armor, and he suffers no arcane spell failure chance so long as the total armor check penalty he suffers is no higher than -3. This at least makes a breastplate possible depending on the material being worn, which is nice.

    I really think this Variant Bard is about a tier down on the default bardís effectiveness. Absent everything else, most notably that heís not a spellcaster anymore, he simply doesnít buff anywhere near as hard as he did, and thatís the primary strategy for the class in the current world.
    Diplomancer (prestige class): Yes. He went there. Unfortunately, standard Diplomacy-ab/using builds probably outstrip this thing. 6/10 arcane spellcasting. Random +1s and +2s to stuff related to messing with minds: charm person 1/day as a spell-like ability, maximum +3 to the DC of enchantment spells, +1 to CHA, +2 to CHA-based checks that relate to being physically attractive, +2 saves vs. Evocation spells, +1 to caster level on any language-dependent spell the character casts (not clear whether this means all spells with verbal components), learn a personal secret of someone to whom the diplomancer is talking (which is heavily affected by DM fiat, in that the DM can just plain grant a +2 to Diplomacy, Intimidation, or Sense Motive checks. Itís not bad, but itís not a patch on the sort of builds that can be pulled on a Google search out here.

    Who itís best for (Player/GM/both)
    Itís a bit of a mixed bag, and so really a bit of something for everyone. GMs could probably best use it by introducing it bit-by-bit.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: You can probably see from the features above that, again, itís a mixed bag. The variant base classes whether by intention or in effect nerf the bard and sorcerer in terms of spell selection at least. Iíd have less of a problem with this if anyone was saying the bard in particular was way overpowered and needed nerfing. Iíd also have less of a problem if a variant wizard had been produced locking down the spell choices and even ripping out some PHB spells. I donít know why that was and I guess weíll never really know apart from the ghostly rumour that keeps floating around that Monte Cook loves wizards and hates all other spontaneous arcane spellcasters. The prestige classes are at least not terrible, too. Knight of the Chord is actually a half-decent choice for a bard who wants to go frontline, or at least has some intriguing possibilities for combining with something like a White Raven crusader. Eldritch Warrior is probably a bit better than a Warrior of Darkness assuming you can ab/use the permanent tattoos option; Warrior of Darkness is one of the not-terrible, non-martial-initiator prestige classes for martials out there, and unlike horrors such as Arcane Archer or Arcane Duelist, it doesnít require you to waste feats on actual spellcasting levels. Song Mage is okay in that at least it doesnít take any spellcaster levels off you and it has one or two interesting doodads added to the progression. In short Ė a not-bad group of options mechanically which is roughly on par with a WOTC book again. Thus, 2/4.

    On concepts and fluff: Well, we can see where the bard options all went, theyíre in this book. And Iím inclined to be a bit more lenient on this one than I was on BOEM 1, mainly because, ironically, the bard variant is actually interesting. Even if it does really cut down the bardís available spells and therefore reduces its power, it does make the bard something more distinctive than just another arcane spellcaster. The idea of combining spellnotes, spellchords, and spellmelodies might not be much more than just giving up lower spell slots to power higher ones, but it did grab me intuitively. As said Ė it only really suffers from the competition of the builds that can be achieved in default WOTC books and the fact it locks out most of the options available to bards. Iíd pay good money to someone who took this idea and expanded it to bring back the bardís buffing capacity. I will also give Cook credit for the idea of spells that really, really want to cast themselves; the mechanics are not really useable by PCs as said, but theyíre just really inventive ideas and yet another way to screwjob the PCs expand the wonder of their world. I also give them credit for the Knight of the Chord, at least they were prepared to try and build an actual bardsader in a prestige class. Call this one a 2.5/4.

    On presentation: Standard Malhavoc Press format and layout which Iíve spoken about in other reviews, so a 1/2 here.

    Total: 5.5/10.


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

  3. - Top - End - #93
    Troll in the Playground
     
    GreenSorcererElf

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Eldritch Warrior (prestige class): Its mechanics generally are very similar to the Warrior of Darkness out of Book of Vile Darkness (also authored by Monte Cook), so Iíll leave you to have a look at that.
    I figured it was something like that.
    Secondly, at 8th level, the warrior can pick any spell which can be made permanent for a character (i.e. anything under the permanency spell) and tattoo it for themselves on their body, though this takes a week. In what is likely an oversight, and distinct by its omission, it doesnít say that the character is limited down to one permanent tattoo. It also doesnít speak of any XP costs, which the permanency spell would otherwise impose. By RAW, then, and so long as heís got a lot of downtime, the Eldritch Warrior can sport pretty well all of the person-only permanent spells on himelf. This list is larger than the SRD would appear to suggest. This benefit kicks in about character level 13 or so.
    Given how all the other abilities are one and done I think the intent is pretty clear, but indeed it does lack an explicit statement. Though most of the hugeness of that is going to come from a bunch of Savage Species and other spells that pretty obviously shouldn't have been added to the Permanency list, and had nothing to do with BoEM either (I really, really hate that part of Savage Species).
    Grace (armor quality): For a +1 bonus, no max DEX bonus on your armor.
    Which is fairly bonkers compared to 1st party giving +1 max dex for +1. There's even a thread on the front page now about what to do with massive dex bonuses and armor. Shifts the burden of AC expectation management from the armor system, to the DM.
    Lute of Charms (wondrous item): Player uses [io]charm person[/i] AT WILL. DC of the effect depends on the personís Perform Check result (max 19 for a check of 26 or more). 6,000 gp, this is pretty damn good for Bards.
    Notable as both an example of a "1st level spell at-will" item that still costs far more than 2,000gp- and yet also a massive basically free DC boost.
    Variant Sorcerer: . . .
    (2) By RAW: a much smaller spell list than the default sorcerer, . . . Spider Climb becomes a level 1 rather than level 2 spell, Mount and Enlarge Person are omitted entirely Ö and thatís just at level 1.
    I've never got around to properly analyzing this list to figure out what, if any, guiding principles are *actually* involved. Never even read it in detail- last time I was thinking about it was right before I realized the best and easiest Sorcerer fix, after which there's no point.
    (3) EDIT: I only just realised this: the Variant Sorcerer gets more spells known than a default sorcerer does. It's about 1 more spell per level from about 6th level onward.
    The key feature here is not in the totals, but in the practical level-by-level use. Instead of getting only 1 spell of their new level when obtained, this spells known table grants 2. Which is huge. Like, PHB-only Sorc vs this, I'd probably take this with barely more than a glance, since it's almost certain that none of the truly expected spells have been removed and double the spells of your highest level is double the spells.
    Variant Bard (new base class):. . . For a start, letís drop all but one of the bardís unique features. No Inspire Courage, no Inspire Greatness, no songs, bang, gone.
    Great, I've kinda grown to hate those features
    Second, letís abolish the bardís spell list, and give him back about 60-70% of his spells in a slightly different way. No Glibness, no Grease, no Glitterdust, no Summon Monster, no Alter Self, no Dispel Magic (okay, there is a Dispel Magic effect way up at the end. By the way, did I mention that silence effects are basically Antimagic Fields for this class?)
    Glibness was a 3.0 Specific potion that is only a Bard spell because they decided to abolish Specific potions (same for Heroism). And considering the cuts made to the Bard's list from 3.0 to 3.5, removing the rest of those spells is really more in line with what the Bard was becoming anyway. That those spells remained seems to have been arbitrary fickle fate.
    They cast Spellnotes, Spellchords, and Spellmelodies, which are basically neutered versions of the Core bard spells
    Which is basically the whole problem with the system: It's a really, really cool system, a much better compromise between the sort of "freeform" modifications and psionics-style augmentation that people want, and the demands of a game that is balanced around a set number of X slots of Y level. But it's tied to the Bard concept, which means it just has a list of everything they could think of that's "sound" related, and that's it, rather than actually taking a sweet concept and doing anything with it.

    Frustrating.

    Iíd have less of a problem with this if anyone was saying the bard in particular was way overpowered and needed nerfing. . . Iíd pay good money to someone who took this idea and expanded it to bring back the bardís buffing capacity.
    Overpowered, depends on the table, but I nope out of threads that rattle off a slew of Inspire Courage buffs just as fast as I do those relying on uberchargers or various magic cheese. Fundamentally broken? Yeah, the PHB has essentially zero optional buffs (either item replacement/overlap, expected survival, or expected Haste). So the underlying game has no real concept of "buffing", and the Bard's buffing creep is thus fundamentally broken (they also don't fill a primary role, so they're a force multiplier either added on top or precluding an expected function). Add to this the fact that I actually kinda do find uber-buffers offensive (they make you feel infantile, force everyone else to keep track of stuff they did not choose to use, and ruin the concept of characters who are supposed to be independent), and yeah, go ahead and nerf that Bard. Or rather and better, replace it with a similar class with a better custom-built spell list and casting focus (I'll get around to writing the list eventually, it's easy fun and I wanted to try some more difficult stuff first).

    But I would pay good money to someone who took the "spellchord" system and built it up to "replace" full casters, as in fulfill the two main caster roles and have sufficient variety to spare.
    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.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    sheer awesomeness

  4. - Top - End - #94
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fizban View Post
    Which is basically the whole problem with the system: It's a really, really cool system, a much better compromise between the sort of "freeform" modifications and psionics-style augmentation that people want, and the demands of a game that is balanced around a set number of X slots of Y level. But it's tied to the Bard concept, which means it just has a list of everything they could think of that's "sound" related, and that's it, rather than actually taking a sweet concept and doing anything with it.

    Frustrating.


    Overpowered, depends on the table, but I nope out of threads that rattle off a slew of Inspire Courage buffs just as fast as I do those relying on uberchargers or various magic cheese. Fundamentally broken? Yeah, the PHB has essentially zero optional buffs (either item replacement/overlap, expected survival, or expected Haste). So the underlying game has no real concept of "buffing", and the Bard's buffing creep is thus fundamentally broken (they also don't fill a primary role, so they're a force multiplier either added on top or precluding an expected function). Add to this the fact that I actually kinda do find uber-buffers offensive (they make you feel infantile, force everyone else to keep track of stuff they did not choose to use, and ruin the concept of characters who are supposed to be independent), and yeah, go ahead and nerf that Bard. Or rather and better, replace it with a similar class with a better custom-built spell list and casting focus (I'll get around to writing the list eventually, it's easy fun and I wanted to try some more difficult stuff first).
    I admit when I first glanced over the variant and saw the references to bards being able to combine their abilities I thought I was going to get into something where you could take multiple spellnotes you knew and turn them into something that was a mixture of both, like (without looking) a spellnote that could hit for 1d6 damage played together with a spellnote that would normally daze the target and get a spellchord that did (say) 1d4 damage sonic but also increased the DC for the daze by 1.5 or similar. You know, actually leaning into the idea that notes played together create chords, which have a different effect on the listener than one note played on its own. Really sad that the system didn't go anywhere near that, but likely that was probably very math-y and beyond the scope of what they meant to do...

  5. - Top - End - #95
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single 3rd-party sourcebook that gives Sorcerers nice things. Bards occasionally, but never Sorcerers. It's like all the conventional ways of making spellcasters better plays to a Wizard's strengths, and if you try to play to a Sorcerer's strengths, it's just not good.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single 3rd-party sourcebook that gives Sorcerers nice things. Bards occasionally, but never Sorcerers. It's like all the conventional ways of making spellcasters better plays to a Wizard's strengths, and if you try to play to a Sorcerer's strengths, it's just not good.
    really? that's surprising with just how much is out there.
    What about the homebrews? There's so much homebrew on this forum there must surely be some that plays well for sorcerors. It seems like it wouldn't be hard to make some.
    A neat custom class for 3.5 system
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94616

    A good set of benchmarks for PF/3.5
    https://rpgwillikers.wordpress.com/2...y-the-numbers/

    An alternate craft point system I made for 3.5
    http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...t-Point-system

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    Quote Originally Posted by zlefin View Post
    really? that's surprising with just how much is out there.
    What about the homebrews? There's so much homebrew on this forum there must surely be some that plays well for sorcerors. It seems like it wouldn't be hard to make some.
    I have quite a few 3.5 3PP books still as well. Sorcerer-themed books are definitely in short supply. Mongoose did do a Quintessential Sorcerer book, but I never bought that one.

    OTOH, there are a number of Pathfinder 1e 3PP books that are sorcerer-themed (as PF did pretty-up the class quite a bit).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Disaster View Post
    OTOH, there are a number of Pathfinder 1e 3PP books that are sorcerer-themed (as PF did pretty-up the class quite a bit).
    This is true! If I were going to run 3.5 again it would be seriously tempting to backport the PF Sorcerer and one of its Spheres of Power archetypes, to really give their "innate magic" flavor some backing. Still weaker than Wizards at higher levels, but who isn't?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Disaster View Post
    I have quite a few 3.5 3PP books still as well. Sorcerer-themed books are definitely in short supply. Mongoose did do a Quintessential Sorcerer book, but I never bought that one.
    It's. . . meh? Has a couple cool spells that are kindof reverse augmentable such that by learning the X level version you also get all the versions below that, which may be completely different spells roped in by a theme. Biggest thing is probably a True Name system where learning true names is mostly the DM making up a wacky fluff idea of where to go and what to do, and then knowing it lets you *actually do things*, but the things are still very limited 1/X time and the scale of quests they suggest for the more powerful things don't match what you actually get to do with them.

    But most of it is the same sort of stuff you could find elsewhere. The author's notes at the end say that they didn't like sorcerers because they're just wizards with a thing for explosions, but the book doesn't actually change that. The most notable mechanics aren't really tied to being a sorcerer. Most of it is the same sort of stuff found in plenty of other books for arcanists, but leaning a bit more on a concept of "legacies" rather than fixating on wacky bloodline powers (except when they do).

    It does beg the question of: just what do you need to actually do, to make a class feel like it's channeling the power of the universe through sheer force of will? 'Cause the wizard is already doing that, and these are the spellcasting mechanics we have. How do you actually make a Sorcerer Book, when the sorcerer is in fact just a spontaneous wizard? Really the only thing I can think of is getting rid of spells known, since that's what people actually want when they say those sorts of things: they want to respond to a situation by deciding or even making up a response on the spot, not having to refer to a set list of things they're allowed to do. Which is obviously broken in a game that expects you to, ya know, have to actually play the game and not have all the answers all the time. Giving the sorcerer more spells known than the wizard would be a start (which goes directly against what the game actually does with them), and just passes the question back to what the point of the wizard would be then.

    The concept of metamagic and modifying spells is solid, and indeed 5e has metamagic existing only as a sorcerer main feature, but in 3.x it's just feats anyone can take. If you wrote a sourcebook from a stance of core only/ignoring inconvenient published content, and made options that allow spontaneous casters (and only them) to reduce metamagic costs and/or get access to a "advanced" metamagic that can do way more things and stuff like reversible or multi-function spells, all of which can be added up to a character that can do a ton of things at once, maybe that would do the trick. But if you're working alongside WotC content, all the best metamagic feats and PrCs and everything are already wizard, or even cleric, or just everyone. You can't make the sorcerer cool for being able to learn shaping to multiply their effective number of spells, when everyone is already allowed to take Sculpt Spell.
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    Hmm, I guess you could give them a bonus feat progression purely for [Metamagic] feats. A much better one than the wizard already has, I mean. Really lean into the idea of Wizard v. Sorcerer being a battle of more spells v. more versatile spells.
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    I quite liked spells and spellcraft: it mostly added a ton of weird mechanics and weird spells(such as a spell that animates pictures: it is nearly at the level of oddity of ad&d spells) and a bunch of alternate rules(However it had no balance whatsoever and most of the added mechanics were broken in three different ways)
    Last edited by noob; 2021-05-01 at 05:46 PM.

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    Book of Eldritch Might III: The Nexus, Malhavoc Press

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    Summary
    The final part of the Book of Eldritch Might, this time the book centres is options for spells, feats, magic items and abilities around seven distinct locations, adventuring sites that are designed to be dropped into the campaign with their options. That said, it is not intended that the character options can only be used in these places, and the material can be extracted and used in a regular game. 111 spells, 45 feats, 97 magic items and abilities.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2004, 98 pages. It still appears to be available on large market RPG websites. Monte Cook once again was the sole author.


    Notable Features
    Intelligent Items (variant rules): This isnít really about something that can be exploited, itís more a miniature system for creating better-fleshed-out intelligent magic items as NPCs, right down to a half-decent selection of their own feats, spell-like abilities, and a character progression. This includes stuff such as granting characters enhancements to their own spell-like abilities, picking up certain weapon or armor enhancement bonuses, capacity to influence other characters, the whole shebang. If youíre irritated by the half-job that WOTC did with default intelligent items, this might well be for you.
    Item From Beyond (Sor/Wiz 3 spell): More for the lolz than anything else, scry-and-die now become scry-and-email-death. Once youíre scrying on something, transfer an object from your location to the subjectís location. Item canít be wholly magical (so no glowing bead of a delayed blast fireball, soz) but can be a magic item (e.g. a set of Blast Globes from the MIC, which do much the same thing anyway, or a magic trap).
    Ki Channel (weapon quality): +1 bonus. On first glance looks like the ki channel quality from WOTC, i.e. channel your stunning attacks and ki strike ability through a weapon with this quality. However, it adds the words ďand any other ability with the word Ďkií in the titleĒ, which might be interesting for something elseÖ
    Battle Touch (feat): Only prerequisite is DEX 15. Cast a touch attack spell (not ranged touch) and use it on more than once for multiple attacks in a round, because the touch spell lasts a full round, not just the one touch. Canít use it on more than one creature, but this is a pretty nice way of getting reroll chances on any touch attack spell you might want to hit a target with when it makes its save. Would be even stronger for gishes if your DM allows it to work with channelling classes like Duskblade.
    Deflection to Attraction (feat): 1/character level 1/day. Takes a standard action to charge up, but your weapon (or unarmed attack) not only ignores the targetís deflection bonuses to AC but also adds that deflection bonus to your attack roll. So if the opponent is using Protection from X, Scintillating Scales, Shield, or similar, this in effect nerfs their AC by double the value of their deflection bonuses. Personally Iíd have preferred to see this one as a swift-action spell or similar, although it could be ROFLworthy when combined with Pierce Magical Protection maybe.
    Precise Touch (Metamagic feat): Your AoE Evocation spell now becomes a single-target, Instantaneous, and touch range spell. Which is okay I guess if youíre fighting in close quarters, or youíre a Duskblade whoís stuck with touch spells, but the eyebrow-raising bit is that a Precise Touch Spell ďis as difficult to prepare and cast as a spell one level lower than itself, with a minimum of 1st level. You must be able to cast the spell normally, however.Ē Which seems to be trying to say that itís a -1 to spell level to place in a spell slot, i.e. free metamagic reducer, not that thereís likely a lot of Evocation spells that youíd want to pile up with metamagic Iíd have thought.
    Fuse With Item (feat): Basically take a magic item and turn it into part of you, which doesnít then need to be drawn or wielded to be used. Canít fuse with magic weapons, armour, potions or scrolls, but anything else is available. Bonus types donít change on fusion, so you canít use this to just fuse with a bunch of Headbands of Intellect or similar. However, fused wands allow you to cast the spell in the wand as a spell-like ability 50 times, which can then be synergised with stuff like Quicken Spell-like Ability out of the MM IV. Takes a 10th level caster, though, so doesnít help out the martials very much.
    Detoim Nar (Guided Strike) (Sor/Wiz 2 spell): Itís for those with the Dragon Magic feat specifically (i.e. a gateway feat for spells which are normally dragon-only), but the spell basically duplicates True Strike but extends the duration out to 1 round/level or until used, i.e. you can hold off the attack until you choose rather than have to hit in the next round In theory at least Extend Spell applied to True Strike can exist, but it still wouldnít match the duration of this one.
    Ferrod Adul Vestorimin (Vestoriminís Golden Aura) (Sor/Wiz 6 spell): Dragon Magic only again, but itís an antimagic field that suppresses only magic with the evil descriptor. No saving throw, no spell resistance.
    Margul (Dreaded Freeze) (Sor/Wiz 1 spell): Dragon Magic, but for 1 round, the target freezes helpless, as described in Hold Person. Main attraction here is the fact itís a first level spell for a helpless condition.
    Gauntlet of Arthanath (magic item): 5,500 gp and gives you the Dragon Magic feat in effect and allows you to speak Draconic. Better than using up a feat slot for the spells above.
    Ilrosos Tobor (Roses of Life) (Sor/Wiz 4 spell): Dragon Magic again, but produce 1d8/caster level of healing roses that can be held onto for caster level x hours and applied as needed. Costs 300 gp, and therefore inferior to Healing Belts, but in a pinchÖ
    Alikabaís Theft (Sor/Wiz 3 spell): Whatever someone else has in their hands is now yours. Includes a creature grappled by another creature. Doesnít include a ring theyíre wearing. Sure makes the disarm action even less useful to melee than it was.
    Alikabaís Gift (Sor/Wiz 3 spell): Whatever you hold in your hands is immediately transferred into the hands of a creature you designate. The commentary in the text suggests a delayed blast fireball as the item you transfer into the enemyís hands.
    Gird the Warrior (Sor/Wiz 4 spell): Grant someone a +10 AC and a +4 enhancement attack and damage bonus to their melee weapons.
    Plunge Deep To The Core (Sor/Wiz 2 spell): Hour/level, ignore DR of a specific type (magic, good, etc) chose at the time of casting. So just cast multiple iterations to cover different kinds. Fantastic choice for archers if they can get it. Also, touch range, so arguably persistable.
    Armor Piercing (weapon quality): Only on ranged weapons, and expensive at a +3 bonus, but ignore armor and enhancement bonuses to AC provided by the armor.
    Mage Tuned (weapon quality): +1 bonus, if the weapon is in the hands of a wizard or sorcerer, the character gets a +4 luck bonus to attack rolls with the weapon. Even more reason to multiclass or argue to your DM that Magical Training makes you one. This is absurdly good at the price.
    Change Weapon (Sor/Wiz 1 spell): Alter one weapon into another weapon of your choice with the same quality and magical abilities. Specifically can increase a weaponís size by up to 3 categories, e.g. dagger to dire flail. Whilst the RAI is pretty clear, by RAW they didnít think about what happens when qualities that canít go on certain weapons are transformed into others. And itís certainly a hell of a way to cheaply get a damage dice increase, the level of the spell is probably the most attractive thing about it for folks who want to dip Wizard and then beefy-bruiser the rest of their career using wands of this.
    Skid Boots (magic item): If youíre only moving in a straight line, add 10 feet to your movement by sliding part of the way. -2 circumstance penalty to Balance checks Ö but for 800 gp this isnít bad if you canít get other similar increases to movement speed.
    Devlinís Ring (magic item): Never track your mundane arrow ammunition again. Itís not Hankís Energy Bow, but it nocks an arrow ready to fire if you pull back an empty bow of any kind.
    Betray the Years (Adp, Brd 1, Clr 1, Drd 1, Sor/Wiz 1 spell): One object becomes immune to the effects of time Ö albeit it has to be a non-magical object no bigger than 10 lbs. per level. Are people objects? So long as you keep your figure, at 20th level you might become immune to the passage of time maybe. Permanent spell. And, just as with Unguent of Timelessness, the question immediately becomes what happens to a spell cast on the object at the time this spell is cast. Or what happens when Time Stop is thrown at a character with this spell on them.
    Power Craft (Sor/Wiz 2 spell): Create the automobile and the motorboat a thousand years ahead of time. A source of locomotion is provided for a cart, wagon, boat, or ship. 10 minutes/level.
    Champion Detecting (weapon quality): +0.5 bonus. Identify the highest CR foe within 60 feet and within sight. No, literally, thatís what it does.
    Roguefriend (weapon quality): +0.5 bonus, and the wielder can make sneak attacks as a rogue. Or get his sneak attack damage increased by +1d6.

    Dreadful Features
    Paraden, Blade of the Nexus (artefact): +5 keen greatsword can cut holes in the fabric of reality, i.e. free use of the spells Window to Elsewhere and Doorway to Elsewhere, which basically allow one-way Gates to other locations, i.e.e. eat your heart out portals from Forgotten Realms. This is clearly not the sort of item you can ever allow to fall into the hands of, shall we say, less mature, or ďfunnyĒ players.
    Armor Shattering (weapon quality): At the low price of a +4 bonus, if you hit someone with this, they make a Fort DC 19 save or their armour is destroyed. Yes, magic armor too. Because weíre all about better ways to destroy your loot!
    Subliminal Spellcasting (feat): Still Spell and Silent Spell in a can basically, but the fact youíre casting can still be detected and the spell takes 10 times the normal casting time.

    Who itís best for (Player/GM/both)
    Likely more for players, really. GMs can get something out of the locations, but itís basically another book of character options at the end of the day.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: Well, as youíd see, mixed bag again. Thereís a wider variety of stuff available, and at least we get into a slightly more diverse field of options than just another set of feats and spells. Some of it is at least a bit interesting and some of it is reasonably strong. Iíd give this about a 1.5/4.

    On concepts and fluff: This time the book is set around seven rough locations, mini-settings if you will, that have particular themes. None of them are fully fleshed out, but theyíre at least interesting, ranging from a classic city in the clouds to a fey kingdom to an endless battlefield to the Nexus, which is basically a hub for transport between worlds and scrying on said worlds. Thereís a fair number of adventure seeds placed in each, but none of them are particularly new or inventive as such. Maybe because the creatures and items had to fit into core games, itís all reasonably generic and not really that inspiring. On the other hand, the section on more fully fleshing out intelligent items I thought was pretty well done. Call it a 1.5/4 on this one.

    On presentation: Standard Malhavoc Press house style, so a 1/2 on this one.


    Total: 4/10.



    Next time: The Little People, a d20 Guide to Fairies, Avalanche Press

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    I interpreted Precise Touch as actually letting you cast the spell at a lower level, with the restriction being that you can't get early access to spells. Unclear, though.

    Also, interestingly in Dragon #308 Monte Cook wrote an article with Dragon Magic, which had some unclear wording and two good spells, Fly Like an Arrow and Shield Companion. I'm guessing he didn't reprint those spells in BoEM, so there was probably some sort of licensing issue or something. Still, WoTC reprints stuff from Dragon Mag, so go figure.
    The article said something about any creature with the dragon type getting the Dragon Magic feat for free, which in theory means you can just cast Essence of the Dragon, or alternately your Dragonwrought Kobolds get a free feat to retrain into something more useful. I'd be interested to see if BoEM has that same wording, or just lets dragons cast the spells without needing the feat.

    Also, Change Weapon seems like a better alternative to Morphing for shuriken cheese.


    On an unrelated note, I recently discovered that Distant Horizons has some free stuff which you might want to review, because it's pretty good, and more importantly, free. Eclipse changes so much that it's basically a different game though, so you may not want to do that one. Cool concept, though.

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    Also, interestingly in Dragon #308 Monte Cook wrote an article with Dragon Magic, which had some unclear wording and two good spells, Fly Like an Arrow and Shield Companion. I'm guessing he didn't reprint those spells in BoEM, so there was probably some sort of licensing issue or something. Still, WoTC reprints stuff from Dragon Mag, so go figure.
    The article said something about any creature with the dragon type getting the Dragon Magic feat for free, which in theory means you can just cast Essence of the Dragon, or alternately your Dragonwrought Kobolds get a free feat to retrain into something more useful. I'd be interested to see if BoEM has that same wording, or just lets dragons cast the spells without needing the feat.
    I'll have a look at Dragon magazine and see what it has to say. For what it's worth, BoEM has slightly different wording: "Dragons gain this feat for free," not creatures of the dragon type.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    I'll have a look at Dragon magazine and see what it has to say. For what it's worth, BoEM has slightly different wording: "Dragons gain this feat for free," not creatures of the dragon type.
    How are you interpreting "dragons", if not by type?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    How are you interpreting "dragons", if not by type?
    ...by MM entry?

    Seriously, I get it, but I was just noting the difference for the sake of the hairsplitters out there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Book of Eldritch Might III: The Nexus, Malhavoc Press
    I like some of the fluff in the Nexus stuff, and a lot of the little "filler" spells for things WotC never bothered to do, but it seems that even a 3rd party single author series must succumb to destabilization and power creep.
    Item From Beyond (Sor/Wiz 3 spell): More for the lolz than anything else, scry-and-die now become scry-and-email-death. Once youíre scrying on something, transfer an object from your location to the subjectís location. Item canít be wholly magical (so no glowing bead of a delayed blast fireball, soz) but can be a magic item (e.g. a set of Blast Globes from the MIC, which do much the same thing anyway, or a magic trap).
    The level is the most ridiculous part here.
    Battle Touch (feat): Only prerequisite is DEX 15. Cast a touch attack spell (not ranged touch) and use it on more than once for multiple attacks in a round, because the touch spell lasts a full round, not just the one touch. Canít use it on more than one creature, but this is a pretty nice way of getting reroll chances on any touch attack spell you might want to hit a target with when it makes its save. Would be even stronger for gishes if your DM allows it to work with channelling classes like Duskblade.
    This feat just seems borked- it says "try to touch more than one target," and then it says "cannot target more than one." It brings up both Chill Touch and Shocking Grasp, which work in drastically different ways. I find this unusable as written, there's no way to tell what it's actually supposed to do.
    Precise Touch (Metamagic feat): Your AoE Evocation spell now becomes a single-target, Instantaneous, and touch range spell. Which is okay I guess if youíre fighting in close quarters, or youíre a Duskblade whoís stuck with touch spells, but the eyebrow-raising bit is that a Precise Touch Spell ďis as difficult to prepare and cast as a spell one level lower than itself, with a minimum of 1st level. You must be able to cast the spell normally, however.Ē Which seems to be trying to say that itís a -1 to spell level to place in a spell slot, i.e. free metamagic reducer, not that thereís likely a lot of Evocation spells that youíd want to pile up with metamagic Iíd have thought.
    Since it doesn't multiply per feat, it's actually far less broken than other metamagic reducers. And since it specifically has to reduce area spells and down to instantaneous, it ends up creating gap-filler spells for core-ish lists, or when compared to increased no-save damage of later spells, means you're actually getting a worse spell.

    Still, since there are few touch spells to begin with, friendly fire is always a potential problem, and spells known are a thing, I could easily see someone making heavy use of this. Particularly a spontaneous caster if they didn't have to deal with metmagic slowdown.
    Fuse With Item (feat): Basically take a magic item and turn it into part of you, which doesnít then need to be drawn or wielded to be used. Canít fuse with magic weapons, armour, potions or scrolls, but anything else is available. Bonus types donít change on fusion, so you canít use this to just fuse with a bunch of Headbands of Intellect or similar. However, fused wands allow you to cast the spell in the wand as a spell-like ability 50 times, which can then be synergised with stuff like Quicken Spell-like Ability out of the MM IV. Takes a 10th level caster, though, so doesnít help out the martials very much.
    Also takes Cha 19. This feat is just, what even? Makes your items un-stealable, but costs a ludicrous amount of xp (and multiple failable checks!). This smacks to me of excuses to let NPCs break the rules, though a PC could use it to remove the item slot requirement for a cheaper item and carrying around minor wands.
    Gauntlet of Arthanath (magic item): 5,500 gp and gives you the Dragon Magic feat in effect and allows you to speak Draconic. Better than using up a feat slot for the spells above.
    Ah yes. Make a whole point of a set of spells that are deliberately more powerful than normal so they require a special feat, then sell that feat for less than the price of a +2 sword.
    Ilrosos Tobor (Roses of Life) (Sor/Wiz 4 spell): Dragon Magic again, but produce 1d8/caster level of healing roses that can be held onto for caster level x hours and applied as needed. Costs 300 gp, and therefore inferior to Healing Belts, but in a pinchÖ
    Considering that Healing Belts are deliberately underpriced to make them superior to everything, I feel it is disingenuous to compare anything to them. But yes, arcane healing spells that cost gp is a long tradition full of just bad spells. If you're going to charge the cost of a healing potion, the spell should make a healing potion- that doesn't expire. But the ridiculous cost of higher level healing potions means that any spell for an arcanist that heals more than a few hit points is given huge costs and penalties. Except when they're not.
    Alikabaís Theft (Sor/Wiz 3 spell): Whatever someone else has in their hands is now yours. Includes a creature grappled by another creature. Doesnít include a ring theyíre wearing. Sure makes the disarm action even less useful to melee than it was.
    Alikabaís Gift (Sor/Wiz 3 spell): Whatever you hold in your hands is immediately transferred into the hands of a creature you designate. The commentary in the text suggests a delayed blast fireball as the item you transfer into the enemyís hands.
    I find the various levels given to spells for forcing people to drop, hand over, or just bampf to you something they're holding, fascinating. The Gift version not only puts an item (or creature) in their hands, but also forces them to drop what they're holding if they were using both hands, and the item is moved even if they make the save. That's like two spells at once.
    Plunge Deep To The Core (Sor/Wiz 2 spell): Hour/level, ignore DR of a specific type (magic, good, etc) chose at the time of casting. So just cast multiple iterations to cover different kinds. Fantastic choice for archers if they can get it. Also, touch range, so arguably persistable.
    A pretty flagrant violation: an arcane spell for helping with DR could be reasonable, but the core spell for DR is Align Weapon. Which is 2nd level, only deals with alignment DR, and lasts 1 min/level.
    Gird the Warrior (Sor/Wiz 4 spell): Grant someone a +10 AC and a +4 enhancement attack and damage bonus to their melee weapons.
    Love the idea, hate the execution. Hey, how about more than double Mage Armor's Bonus and also cl 12/16 GMW for a single 4th level spell that doesn't even need to target the weapon? This is one of those paradigm shifting buffs if it's actually used.
    Mage Tuned (weapon quality): +1 bonus, if the weapon is in the hands of a wizard or sorcerer, the character gets a +4 luck bonus to attack rolls with the weapon. Even more reason to multiclass or argue to your DM that Magical Training makes you one. This is absurdly good at the price.
    Seriously, how does one even think this is a good idea?
    Devlinís Ring (magic item): Never track your mundane arrow ammunition again. Itís not Hankís Energy Bow, but it nocks an arrow ready to fire if you pull back an empty bow of any kind.
    This is another fascinating one. WotC material eventually puts out spells to let casters get away with lacking nearly all the things they're supposed to have (components, divine foci, instruments), and there's a summon weapon spell, but no summon ammunition that I've ever heard of. To the point that it seems a very intentional point being made that ammo is never free and infinite. But compared to the stuff they print all the time, a cantrip that conjures a few arrow and an item that does so automatically forever, would seem so innofensive as to not even warrant comment. So, why not?

    I wouldn't list it normally, but if a player asked for something like this, I'd have little reason to refuse.
    Power Craft (Sor/Wiz 2 spell): Create the automobile and the motorboat a thousand years ahead of time. A source of locomotion is provided for a cart, wagon, boat, or ship. 10 minutes/level.
    This spell is hilarious- can you see the joke?

    What everyone wants, is basically a tank. A mobile fortress. Or at least, a self-driving car. A vehicle that they climb aboard and will take them where they want to go without them actually having to drive (preferably while asleep even), an extension of the desire for pets, minions, AIs, etc. Things that serve you in times of distress and/or when you're at rest.

    This spell, like every single other spell I've found that provides a wind that can push a boat, fails. It only lasts 10 min/level. It doesn't take you to your destination unless your destination is somewhere in the same town. The spell duration ensures that unless the DM allows a continuous item, nothing actually changes, and learning the spell doesn't actually do the thing you want. You need Mord's Carraige or Caravel to actually do the thing.
    Champion Detecting (weapon quality): +0.5 bonus. Identify the highest CR foe within 60 feet and within sight. No, literally, thatís what it does.
    No-save CR detection is on my Significant list, yup.
    Roguefriend (weapon quality): +0.5 bonus, and the wielder can make sneak attacks as a rogue. Or get his sneak attack damage increased by +1d6.
    The evolution of sneak attack weapons is also amusing, with earlier books seeming to make it clear that there should be no such thing, then making it a thing, then making it a thing with extra benefits. This book giving it out as a half-bonus is just funny.

    Some more CBoEM spells I find interesting (several of these are probably from the earlier two, but yeah):

    Fey Storage: Hammerspace, the spell. The 1st level unlimited use spell. A spell I kindof want to exist, but also don't because storage is supposed to be important, and this is one of those spells justified by a magic item which was justified by spells etc. I've written an altered version, but it's not in my main brew doc.

    Hunter Serpent: This spell only exists as a way to dramatically tell the enemy where you're waiting for them, but it's kindof awesome at that.

    Jisgus Sepa (Disguise Soul): A no-cost year/level spell that makes basically anything not directly cast on you target someone else. Has ramifications on world-building similar to or greater than Mind Blank.

    Kin Curse: A 5th level combat-capable spell that forces the target to immediately go murder a relative, some BoED stuff there. Deserves an Evil tag.

    Mark of X: A series of spells much like the Heart of X in Complete Mage, passive buffs with discharge effects that end the spell.

    Minor Ward: An actual low-level, cantrip even, magical trap. I like stuff like this, since it shouldn't require a 3rd+ level caster possibly with a specific crafting feat, to do a lot of things casters are known for. Placing a little trap on something shouldn't be that hard.

    Missive Token: A 3rd level spell that actually lets you have a spy network all over that can notify you of things happening immediately- something people might ascribe to spooky spellcasters, but they can't actually do. Except now they can. Costs 25gp per cast, and would be viewed as a better stored Sending if there weren't other 3rd level communication spells that also blow Sending out of the water.

    Object Loresight: Notably this sort of thing can be found in the psionic Object Reading power, and either version's mere existence is a DM headache waiting to happen. I don't see how this keeps getting printed as a low level effect when it gathers information unstoppably, often including esoteric stuff you'd never be able to find out otherwise, and requiring the DM to track a ridiculous amount of information. Secondary mention to Recent Occupant.

    Private Conversation: Maybe it's only common in Wheel of Time, but this is one of those things that seems like it should be everywhere as well. A 1st level spell that stops eavesdropping, without being a Bard and using the giant hammer of Sculpt Sound.

    Prorogate Death: Hey, it's Delay Death more or less. But at a 6th level arcane spell for some reason?

    Slay Illusion: The coolest way to death with illusions, you send your own illusion to tear them apart, even if you don't know they're there (5th).

    Spelltrap: So, this 4th level spell lets you make yourself, or someone else, or a place, immune to as many spells as you want of any level, up to the number of 100gp gems and amount of pre-casting you do. I suppose you could say it has a drawback in leaving an explosion waiting to happen? But it's a 4th level spell that just flat out negates any spell of any level, and sticks around indefinitely until triggered. That's ridiculous.

    Undaunted Fixture: For the people that think every situation can be solved with Sovereign Glue, it's a sticking spell! Permanent, with DC 30 Str to tear apart. I kicked it up to 3rd and rewrote it so it's very clear that any amount of movement foils the bonding, 'cause as written you will have people trying to stick stuff to enemies during combat.

    I think there's probably some more notable items too:

    Starsword: Uh, this is just the Nightblade of Arvandor, isn't it? Except way cheaper, and not being touch attacks or having to do with good/evil.

    Tentacle Blade: A greatsword with +5' reach for +2,000gp? Seems pretty huge, and ridiculously underpriced.

    K'Teron Witchblade: And an even more underpriced no-HD-limit Daze Monster on every hit.

    Potion of Evasion: Good 'ol Specific potions, yeah this is one certain people would jump over themselves for.

    Message Rods: Notable as another source of cheap long-range "Sending" items to compare Sending Stones to. Made using Whispering Wind, even though they don't actually work that way, which was fine back in the day.

    Rod of Fears: Would appear to be a 5,000gp way to give people Shaken with no save at-will, since they didn't mention a save. At-will permanent curses at that cost, not if you ask me.

    Scabbard of Venoms: Seems superior to most, possibly all similar WotC items. 5,000gp for 10 doses per day with a good 16 DC, the d4s aren't that much lower than the usual d6s.

    Paraden, Blade of the Nexus (artefact): +5 keen greatsword can cut holes in the fabric of reality, i.e. free use of the spells Window to Elsewhere and Doorway to Elsewhere, which basically allow one-way Gates to other locations, i.e.e. eat your heart out portals from Forgotten Realms. This is clearly not the sort of item you can ever allow to fall into the hands of, shall we say, less mature, or ďfunnyĒ players.
    Considering how some literature seems to think portals and remove viewing are things high level casters just spam everywhere with no effort, theses Permanent Window and Door spells could be considered more in line with the given settings- even Teleportation Circle+Permanency or Create Crossroads/Backroads don't come close. Even the cheapest limited function portals take at least a week or two to set up. And It's not like there aren't WotC things that could be abused with juvenile humor either. An artifact that gives two high level spells at-will, which are themselves Permanent, is obviously either world-shattering or mild convenience the DM expected you to have. The Portal Key from ELH basically does the same thing, though it has a creation limit of 60 permanent portals for its 378,000gp cost.
    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.
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  18. - Top - End - #108
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    The Little People: A d20 Guide to Celtic Fairies, Avalanche Press
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    Summary
    While this book was written as part of Avalanche Pressís ĎCeltic Ageí setting/sourcebooks, it functions on its own as a sourcebook. Itís designed, for want of a better word, to make more authentic fairy characters and NPCs. It basically takes the historical view of fairies in the cultures that believed in them Ė and indeed how different cultures viewed them Ė and provides a means for incorporating them more fully into D&D 3.0 games. As the blurb for the book says, ďNot a book that simply rehashes old tropes or someone's "bold, new vision for an old legend," The Little People presents fairies as they were seen by the people who believed in them.Ē Includes new templates and statistics of more well-known fairies, feats, magic items, and other notes about including these in your campaign.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    September 2002, 84 pages. So itís certainly 3.0 and never got an update. The publisher is intriguing in that Avalanche Press seems to be primarily a maker of tabletop wargames rather than a RPG creator. It still exists, with a venerable age-category website that must date back to the early 90s or so but which still seems to be in production. From a sampling of the articles on the site, it looks like Avalanche decided around the time of third edition to get into the splatbook business along with every other man and his dog, and as a result produced a number of books which were Ė apparently Ė well-received in terms of awards.

    Unlike a lot of publishers, though, they look to have decided that they just wouldnít make new print runs if one of their games or books sold out, and they donít appear to have ever gotten into the e-book business. (They actually have a page on their website -- hilariously the page is called Valhalla Ė where they list their books and games that are now out of print. Some of the descriptions for these products are charmingly frank, such as the one for Noble Steeds: ď At a time when d20 books on stupid topics were appearing almost daily, we had truly filled a useful niche and failed to market the book very well.Ē) As at the date of this review, the book doesnít seem to be available on large market RPG websites, likely because itís a print-only edition. However, it does still seem to be on Avalanche Pressís catalogue.

    The author was a John Phythyon. Heís still active as a fiction author, but seems to have left RPG design back in the early 2000s or so (albeit having won a couple of Origins Awards back in the day, and apparently a number of Avalancheís books were finalists in those awards around that time.) He wrote a number of Avalancheís d20 books by the look of it.

    Notable Features
    Before you start picking through here, go down to the mechanics section first. Go on.
    Polymorph Self (Sp): You didnít go there, did you. Sigh. Fine: this is 3.0 Polymorph, only hideously better because itís at will. This is an ability that all fairies have across the board. Arguably it doesnít have to observe the restrictions on creatures that even 3.0 Polymorph imposes. But itís difficult to tell exactly what features of Polymorph were in or out since this was published after 3.0 Polymorph was adjusted in Tome and Blood. Even if you read this as 3.5 Polymorph itís still pretty damn powerful.
    Enlarge, Extend, Quicken Fairy Power(feats): essentially as the metamagic, but applied to fairy powers.
    Trip (feat): Fairies can trip a character regardless of size. No AoO. Defender has to make a DEX check at DC of 15+fairyís DEX bonus. Target doesnít get bonuses for size. Defender doesnít get to make a retributive attack if the trip fails.
    Cobweb (magic item): Net weapon, basically. Get caught, Fort DC 20, or be paralysed. Even if you save, take 1d3 STR damage every round you struggle. (Youíre still caught, i.e. youíre still considered pinned. Escaping takes a STR DC 20 check. That is, the longer youíre stuck, the less likely youíre going to escape, which is just cool.) 30,000 gp though!
    Oak (plant!): A twig of oak offers protection from magic; +2 circumstance bonus to saves against spells. Not too damn bad! And two such twigs bound with red cord in the home function as though a Protection from Evil spell had been cast by a druid.
    Hawthorn (plant!): A branch protects a house from storms, and it functions as Protection From Evil on a whole house.
    Ash (plant!): 10% less to craft a wand from ash wood. In addition, a wand of healing crafted from ash wood heals 1 extra point of damage per dice rolled on the healing spell in the wand. So an instant +1 to +3 or more on your cures, which is at least thematic and better than nothing.
    Fairy Protection: A person ringing a bell or sounding a clapper can attempt to Turn a fairy as turning undead.

    Dreadful Features
    Glamour (Spell-like ability): Iím being a bit childish here. The glamour is basically 99%-functional invisibility for faeries all the time. Itís given without exception to all fairy characters. Unfortunately, by RAW it only works on humans. That said I expect this oversight was because the setting contemplated is Celtic Europe, i.e. where the only playable race is really humans.

    Who itís best for (Player/GM/both)
    Really this is much more for DMs.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: Letís be clear, fairies are rendered pretty powerful compared with garden-variety (heh heh) D&D fey. I donít know how else you class a race with at-will Polymorph by RAW as one of their standard abilities, and then optional add-ons such as imposing ďany condition that comes with a lifetime guarantee that will cause the human to sufferĒ, granting Wishes (ďonly one to a given mortalĒ), or a more potent verson of Dominate Person with DC 20+fairyís WIS modifier saving throws. Or some of whose racial variants (i.e. Sidhe) allow you to start off with a free STR +2, DEX, CON, INT, WIS +4, and CHA +6. So when I started reading those entries I did feel my eyes start to roll towards my forehead at a proportional speed to my palm heading in the same direction.
    But.
    Then I caught this: ďWhatever you decide, proceed with a certain amount of caution. The fairies designed here are all powerful in their own respects. They may not be dragons and they might not have a lot of Hit Points, but they do have some powerful abilities. Fairy Powers operate on an at-will basis, and most fairies have at least three. This is in addition to Fairy Sight, Glamour, and Polymorph Self, which are innate to most of the Little People presented here. An enterprising player can think of all sorts of practical means to use Polymorph Self to his or her advantage. In short, do not underestimate the power of a fairy just because it is a Tiny or Diminutive creature. Adding Class Levels to it will make it a formidable character indeed.Ē

    That is, and unlike a lot of third party publishers, the author knew full well that he was arming his creations with nukes. This was at least consistent with the vision he had for fairies, describing them from the start as well and truly more powerful than mortals, but not as powerful as gods. Yes, thatís still a pretty wide range of creatures, but you get the idea. A DM who proceeds to let the players actually pick up fairy characters canít say they havenít been warned, albeit maybe the warning could have been written in neon for inexperienced DMs.

    Fairies, in short, are given access to a reasonably potent stack of abilities because the idea is to make characters (if not just humans) be damn wary when they go interacting with one. Most fairies in Earth cultures are seen as mischievous at best, a few (the Unseelie, Gwyllion) are outright evil, but all of them are seen as beings of considerable power who can abduct, kill, or otherwise massively affect lives. So they need a set of mechanical abilities that reflect that Ö which these do. Itís actually a solid marriage of mechanics to concept in this case. Itís just not a set of mechanics you would lightly grant to a PC. (And there, too, itís debatable whether PCs would necessarily take them anyway. The ECL of fairies is specified as somewhere between the +6 and +8 on normal characters.)

    Also notable is that the templates for fairies vary depending on the creatureís actual size. That in turn derives from the general observation from history that the bigger a fairy was in sheer size, the less likely they were benevolent or had good temperaments. I couldnít help a smile crossing my face when I read this. Tiny Fairiesí attack is a pinch. Awwwww!

    So is it balanced? Not in the sense that you can easily use fairies as PCs generally. But it does strike me as balanced for the purposes the sourcebook puts on them, which is fairies as quirky, potentially hideously dangerous NPCs who are a bit different to the standard lump of hitpoints you run into. The CR ratings for these creatures Ė up to 3 Ė are hideously off by reason of the Polymorph alone, but otherwise theyíre basically okay. Call this 1.5/4.

    On concepts and fluff: This is one of those books where the author came at it hard trying to squeeze historical realism into 3.0ís occasionally wonky ideas about how reality functions. At least the author certainly showed his research. He wasnít content to just try and stat out some classic, stereotypical fairy, he classified and took account of English, Gallic, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh fairies. Everything from brownies, trooping fairies, goblins, hobgoblins (not the MM ones, I hasten to add. The word comes from two words put together: ďhobĒ for hearth, ďgoblinĒ for spirit. As in, house spirits), korrigan, lutin, gentry, sidhe, seelie, unseelie, ellyllon, gwyllion, Tylwyth Teg. And you can see the author was determined to try and corral choices such that different templates for different fairies had different feels and abilities. For that alone, this sourcebook is to be applauded. There is an awful lot of generics to standard 3.5 edition, an awful load of mince produced from rich and delicious steaks. Even if youíre not going to use this sourcebook as part of a D&D game run in Celtic Europe, the historical, mythical fairies are actually a lot more distinctive than the sometimes-dreadful stand-ins WOTCís come up with over the years for them (the Feywild, Iím looking at you). This book stands a good chance of influencing how you run your faerie characters at least, or at least itíll make them more distinctive. Itís not perfect, but it gives it a better go than most WOTC books. Thus: 2.5/4.

    On presentation: Pretty much all black and white, serif fonts, but they arenít at eye-screeching size and some attention is paid to breaking up the text with other boxes. Some flipping back-and-forth required now and then. Call this 1/2.

    Total: 5/10.


    Next Time: The Assassin's Handbook, Green Ronin Publishing.

  19. - Top - End - #109
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Devil

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

    It nice to see non-generic fairies, although I can't help but feel that giving them stats at all kinda defeats the purpose. I mean, measuring something and defining its limits demystifies it to an enormous degree. I've always felt that the fey were sort of a precursor to Lovecraft-style eldritch horror. I mean sure, they looked human enough, but the assumption is that they weren't even remotely similar, and more importantly that they didn't care about the humans, and might cause them harm not out of malice but out of apathy.

    Tangent aside, if the DM is the only one with access to the book, then its fine, but I just can't imagine that a PC would be able to feel like a classic Celtic fairy in any kinda of normal game. No fault to the authors for that, though.
    Last edited by Kalkra; 2021-05-07 at 10:05 AM.

  20. - Top - End - #110
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    EvilClericGuy

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

    Ah, Avalanche and their soft-core covers. I wouldn't read them in public w/o a plain brown cover, but I *did* read them. I may even have a few still.

    They are still in business, and quite willing to sell any back stock they have. A lot of 3.0 content wasn't ever updated to 3.5.

    But I would swear a lot of these were available as pdfs, even from the Avalanche website, once upon a time. But I don't seem to have any in my pdf library. So maybe I'm wrong.
    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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  21. - Top - End - #111
    Troll in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    It nice to see non-generic fairies, although I can't help but feel that giving them stats at all kinda defeats the purpose. I mean, measuring something and defining its limits demystifies it to an enormous degree.
    That is an old problem. Like when they started giving stats for gods in early editions of (A)D&D and some players took that as a license to get powerful enough to take them out, Xena-style (although it predates Xena).

    Light the lamp not the rat LIGHT THE LAMP NOT THE RAT!!!

  22. - Top - End - #112
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    It nice to see non-generic fairies, although I can't help but feel that giving them stats at all kinda defeats the purpose. I mean, measuring something and defining its limits demystifies it to an enormous degree. I've always felt that the fey were sort of a precursor to Lovecraft-style eldritch horror. I mean sure, they looked human enough, but the assumption is that they weren't even remotely similar, and more importantly that they didn't care about the humans, and might cause them harm not out of malice but out of apathy.
    I'll say this, I found the concept fascinating and it was worth the look just to see how there was variation even across cultures for how fairies were seen. But I do agree, fairies as a historical concept are seriously ambivalent, more like a force of nature to be placated or dealt with very carefully. Most of them were said to be friendly to mankind, but some weren't. And even then, all the stories of how they abduct children and substitute changelings in their place is there and intact and disturbing in its own way. They were decidedly amoral.

  23. - Top - End - #113
    Troll in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Trashes & Treasures: Older 3rd Party Sourcebooks, a Walking Tour

    The Assassinís Handbook, Green Ronin Publishing

    Spoiler
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    Summary
    This is basically an attempt to rework and enhance the Assassin prestige class. It provides a new base Assassin class, some character classes, feats, spells, the whole shebang. And then adds on something of a miniature setting to give the whole thing some background. Green Ronin has a few of these, generally steering clear of base class handbooks such as Mongoose Publishing did.

    In that respect, itís worth thinking about the class theyíre focusing on. If youíve been around a while youíll know the Assassin doesnít quite get a bad rap so much as a ďmehĒ rap. For a start, the concept is not a natural fit in the orthodox D&D party, being generally a solo stealth type who is focused on taking out particular targets for money. The Assassinís mechanics also fall a bit short in the sense that its primary class feature Ė the Death Attack Ė was probably a bit overbalanced by WOTC for fear that it would be used too easily, being locked behind a 3 round charge-up time and then a Fort save which keys off class level and the Assassinís INT modifier, which isnít great. The most potent evidence for this being Deathsight, an Assassin spell that removes the 3 round study time, introduced a few years later. The assassin also gets poison use, but poisons are a bit subpar as an option mainly because the effects of a poison usually arenít significant in combat and often have DCs that take a lot of work to pump up. (Not that itís impossible to optimise. Look for Arsenic and Old Lace, the Poisonerís Handbook on this subject). He gets spells, but these arenít generally fantastic, and he also doesnít get the same skill points as the rogue. So with all of those in mind, letís see what the little green masterless samurai has for usÖ

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2002, 66 pages. So weíre dealing with a 3.0 book, one that doesnít seem to have had a 3.5 update. Though there were a couple of developers, two people are credited with design: David ĎZebí Cook and Wolfgang Baur. Baur was around for a while already in the RPG industry when this was written, and went on to have writing credits on Frostburn, some of Kobold Quarterlyís adventure design magazine, and eventually, Pathfinder. ďZeb,Ē for those of you who came in late, has a very big back catalogue Ö and a long history. He worked at TSR for 15 years, he was the lead designer for AD&D and on the Planescape setting. He wrote the original Oriental Adventures. He was the guy who developed the ĎEí in the BECMI for crying out loud. However, by the time third edition came out in 2001, Cook had already left and was working in videogames (most notably on Fallout 2.) So what we might hope for here is a mix of old and new. Green Roninís well-established in RPG world, and the book is currently available on large market RPG sites or direct from Green Ronin itself.

    Notable Features
    Shadow Mage (prestige class): 10/10 casting. If you like Assassin-only spells without wanting to play an assassin, dip this. Takes being able to cast 3rd level arcane spells to qualify, but immediately gets access to the Assassin spell list. And if your thing really is being Shadowy McShadowface, this has a number of interesting toys across the 10 levels: +6 to Hide, spell-like darkvision, deeper darkness, shadow walk, teleport without error, plane shift. Oh, and a new familiar Ö with the ghost template and the manifestation and corrupting touch special attacks.
    FidaíI 1-2 (prestige class): Heavily inspired by the medieval hashishim. No sneak attack included. Mechanically the most prominent features are its full BAB and that on first level it gains proficiency with the kukri, which is an addition to a rogueís list, and is martial weapon proficiency maybe for Abjurant Champion. Also picks up a +2 to Will which is nice. The only other prominent features are an ability to pick up DR 5/- and +2 morale bonuses to attack/damage/saves/skill checks for 1 round, once per day, which would get to 4 rounds, 3 times per day if you went all the way in this class. Really not worth the other 8 levels though, and even the dip is highly situational.
    Houri (prestige class): Would be a lot more powerful if it advanced caster levels. Over 10 levels, pick up +6 to Bluff, Diplomacy, Gather Information, Sense Motive. Grants spell-like abilities 3/day: charm person, suggestion, charm monster, dominate person, mass charm. Can also deliver an enchantment spell or effect by delivering it as a kiss. The spell is treated as a touch attack, with a range of Touch, which might be useful for other shenanigans I havenít looked into. Lastly, can also make a single-target spell work on all valid targets in a 40 foot radius Ö albeit this takes 1 full minute to complete. And on the RAW, it doesnít require the Houri to cast the spell as such, which could be a very useful way of pulling off mass buffs outside the Mass X spell. Maybe. Itís very firmly a seduction-ish class, which, even moreso than the Assassin, only really suits certain campaigns.
    Shadow Armor (Assn 4, Sor/Wiz 4 spell): Self only, but itís basically Greater Mage Armor with a further +2 to the armor bonus, albeit one level higher than GMA.
    Ghost Blade (Assn 3 spell): Make your weapon a Ghost Touch weapon, 10 min/level.
    Martyrís Death (Assn 4 spell): This spell makes every creature within 30 feet make a Fortitude saving throw or die. Whatís the saving throw DC? Not specified, but presumably the standard, i.e. DC 14+. If you donít die, you still take 1d12 damage per character level of the caster. Reasonably potent since as an assassin youíre at least level character level 12, but probably better as a raised middle finger for a Big Bad than to be given to PCs, given you have to kill yourself as part of the spell (and canít be raised or resurrected, per RAW).
    Part Crowd (Assn 2, Sor/Wiz 2): Crowd of up to 50 Small or Medium creatures part to make way for your passage and immediately close ranks again after you pass. You can full run through them ďwith no penaltyĒ. This is a round/level spell. No saving throw. This thing is just not fully thought through, it wouldnít be hard on the RAW to be a stupidly potent way to charge through enemies (or retreat through them) with no attacks of opportunity as you go, and you can cast it at the start of combat and use its powers for the whole damn fight.
    Death From Above (feat): When you jump onto a melee opponent as part of a charge attack, get +2 to attack and damage for that attack. Synergises perfectly with Leap Attack and all the other beefy boinging bruiser stuff you know and love.
    Glib Tongue (feat): First time you try to bluff a specific individual, get a +6 insight bonus on the opposed check. Normally I wouldnít recommend a feat for a one-off, non-scaling bonus like this, but particularly for Bluffs in combat you generally arenít looking for more than one bluff to succeed. And it amounts to 2 x Skill Focus (Bluff), so it is two feats in one.
    Craft (Poison): (New skill use): Provides an easy way to vary how a poison works. Turn an ingested poison into a contact poison, vice versa, cause permanent damage, and so on. Just very mild increases to the DC of crafting the poison.
    Poison Focus (feat): Pick a type of poison (ingested, inhaled, injury, or contact). +2 to DC for all saving throws for that poison type. Given it only takes a +2 to the Craft DC to shift a poisonís type under these rules, this is close to a +2 to all your different poisons, if you want to go down that path.
    Weapon Panache (feat): CHA instead of STR on attack bonus with a chosen type of weapon. Pretty good for combat bards or similar given the alternatives (according to X Stat to Y bonus anyway) tend to be limited to usage time or a uses per day mechanic. May even be worth thinking about for high-CHA Paladins, since Smite Evil allows you to add and this is a straight substitution.
    Curare (new poison): A number of real-world poisons are statted out in the book, everything from Death Cap to Digitalis. While most of them put out some pretty potent whacks Ė most do something in the order of 1d8 Ė 2d8 initial damage to a particular stat Ė their usefulness is distinctly limited in that almost all of them have onset times. One of the few exceptions is curare, the archetypical poison dart from South American vines. This stuff is a DC 17 save, and does 1d12 DEX initial damage, with another 1d12 DEX 10 minutes later.
    Cyanide (new poison): Cyanide has different types of administration and does different damage. The one weíre most interested in is the inhaled version, which has no onset time, and which does 2d8 CON damage immediately.
    Sword of God (new magical poison): I mean, initial damage of 1d20 WIS. Injury poison, so can be applied to weapons, DC 20 save. 1,500 gp a dose though.
    Marching Powder (equipment): 50 gp to get a +2 enhancement bonus to WIS and CON for 2 hours. Will save to prevent becoming addicted at the end of the 2 hours, but addiction can be overcome by lesser restoration, thus entirely negating the limit entirely.
    Hashish of Paradise (new substance): Incense gives a +4 morale bonus to all saves, -2 to INT and WIS-based skill checks. Subject is also immune to fear spells and effects. Lasts 1 hour. 1,100 gp a dose.
    Shadow Sword (magic item): +2 longsword from the Plane of Shadow which adds +4 to Ö the target DC of the bookís base class Assassinís killing blow, i.e. normal assassins canít use it for Death Attack.


    Dreadful Features
    Assassin (base class): Sorry, but if this Ė as the introduction says Ė is meant to replace the assassin prestige class as a base class and resolve most of the rogue/assassinís difficulties, it fails hard. Rogueís BAB and saves, so no improvements there. Assassin casting, yes, but spread out over 20 levels rather than 10, so at character level 20 youíve got the same Assassin spells youíd have had at level 15 under a prestige class entry. No freaking Use Magic Device, so we canít wand our way to victory like the Rogue and SRD Assassin can, not to mention weíve still got the Assassinís 4+INT skills all the way through our career. +3d6 Sneak Attack over 20 levels, so again, way short of what a Rogue/Assassin could put out. No Evasion, Improved Evasion, Uncanny Dodge; we get 6 bonus feats which can be drawn from a short-ish list that are mainly weapon or combat feats or some of the feats contained in the book. No Death Attack; instead we get an ability that permits us to make a coup-de-grace as a standard action anytime the target is denied DEX bonus to AC or is flanked. We have to make a standard attack roll, and it looks like we can use this at least at Reach range because thereís no specification of having to be adjacent, only that the assassin flanks the target. The problem? Over 20 levels we can only do this five times per day tops Ö with the fifth iteration granted at 18th level. Did I also mention this assassin doesnít get the canít-fumble-your-own-poisons feature that the SRD Assassin does? Very disappointing.
    Shadow Blade (Assn 4 spell): All attacks with the weapon are made as touch attacks, one round/level. Too bad Wraithstrike is an Assassin 3 spell and does exactly the same thing.
    Maximise Poison (feat): Editing mistake here, they give you an Empower instead of Maximising.
    Extend, Empower, Maximise, Quicken Poison (feats): All of these feats could be far more powerful than they first appear by RAW. Surmising the RAI, the writers used the word ďprepareĒ in relation to a poison when they should have used ďapplyĒ. The RAI is that, basically, if you take a full-round action to apply a poison, you can variously maximise its numerical effects, delay its onset, empower its damage, and so on. And thus the RAI would be decidedly subpar since what one generally wants is to speed up the application of poisons, not slow them down. By RAW, though, ďprepareĒ might refer to the initial creation of the poison, which might be much more palatable. Maximise Poison might still be worth thinking about anyway, since the payoff Ė larger slabs of ability damage rather than hitpoint damage Ė is much greater.
    Taint of Shadow (new magical poison): Initial damage of 1d3 negative levels, , DC 20 save. But at 4,200gp a dose why wouldnít you just put the money towards an Enervation weapon?


    Who itís best for (Player/GM/both)
    Really itís mostly for players. GMs are given a decent wad of fluff to give the assassin some context and a couple of feuding organisations to belong to, but this is mainly for players.


    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: As said, pretty disappointed all round. Possibly most of it is because the book was from early in third edition, and maybe we wouldíve seen some changes if theyíd updated for 3.5, but if your base class is weaker than the SRD Rogue/Assassin itself, thatís a hell of a whiff to open the game with. There are a couple of nuggets here and there as youíd see, but very little reason to take any of the base or prestige classes at all Iím afraid.

    The feats and equipment sections are a bit stronger, but not terribly much. Whether missed in editing or due to a certain ignorance of the game system, some of it just isnít useable, although there are one or two bits a poisoner might be able to bolt onto his build. That said, the use of real-world poisons seemed to be a decent or acceptable translation into D&D rules. But, due to the fact they make the Assassin weaker, Iíd have to rate this one 0.5/4.

    On concepts and fluff: In sheer page numbers, the authors spend more time on fluff and organisations than they do on mechanics. Just over half the book is spent on creating a couple of organisations for player assassins to be in, and the material could be mined by a GM for setting details. Even so, the pastiches for the two warring assassin guilds are pretty clearly Renaissance killer vs. Hashishim fanatics, which isnít the most inspiring of groups. Call this a 1/4.

    On presentation: Decent enough presentation. Black and white throughout. Green Ronin uses serif fonts but they donít cram the information in under tiny font sizes, although I really hate the font they use for their headings and subheadings. (It's the same font used on the front cover of the book, if you're curious to see what it looks like.) 1/2 for this one.

    Total: 2.5/10.


    Next Time: A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe, Expeditious Retreat Press.

  24. - Top - End - #114
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    Oh, MMS:WE. The book that got rave reviews and (I think it was) Monte Cook saying it was so good that he wished he'd written it himself. I own all three editions. :)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Variant Bard (new base class): I donít know if Monte Cook hated sorcerers, but this variant seems like potent evidence that he didnít like bards. Or at least he really didnít like the way most people optimised their bards, maybe. For a start, letís drop all but one of the bardís unique features. No Inspire Courage, no Inspire Greatness, no songs, bang, gone. Oh, we still get Bardic Knowledge, hurrah I guess. Second, letís abolish the bardís spell list, and give him back about 60-70% of his spells in a slightly different way. No Glibness, no Grease, no Glitterdust, no Summon Monster, no Alter Self, no Dispel Magic (okay, there is a Dispel Magic effect way up at the end. By the way, did I mention that silence effects are basically Antimagic Fields for this class?) See, variant bards donít cast arcane spells anymore. They cast Spellnotes, Spellchords, and Spellmelodies, which are basically neutered versions of the Core bard spells and which are differentiated mainly by whether they take a swift action, standard action, or full round to cast. (You do get Inspire Courage back Ö as a spellnote. Meaning itís a swift action to start, and a free action to maintain. However, unless Iím missing something, this will never get higher than +1 morale to attack and damage rolls for your allies. By RAW none of the common optimisation strategies for Inspire Courage will work because itís no longer a class feature, and probably few to none of the common prestige classes like Sublime Chord either.)

    Now, the bard does get some capacity to sort-of metamagic these notes, chords, and melodies, based around giving up slots; give up two spellnote slots and you can make a spellnote with 50% increase in duration and range, or +2 to DC, or 50% increase in damage. Similar applies to spellchords and spellmelodies the higher you go, but the same sacrifice can be made. Also, spellnote slots can be used up to grant additional spellchords per day, at a rate of 5 to one. And Ė apparently Ė multiple bards can contribute spellnotes (or spellnote slots, I presume) to create a spellchord they all know, though the mechanics for this are not in my view complete. So Leadership or cohort abuse now becomes a fuel tank of additional music for the day, or maybe for some of the unique feats of the book Ö but these only increase DC, duration, or range for the most part. And bard spell damage under this is mostly based around d4s. Some of the effects arenít bad on the most powerful spellmelodies, but in particular the fact they can be turned into magic items explicitly under item creation feats means theyíre likely more useful as items you go looking for than class abilities you necessarily want. At least he can still skillmonkey to some extent (and for some odd reason the Survival skill is added to his class list.) His combat capacity is also slightly altered: now heís proficient with medium armor, and he suffers no arcane spell failure chance so long as the total armor check penalty he suffers is no higher than -3. This at least makes a breastplate possible depending on the material being worn, which is nice.

    I really think this Variant Bard is about a tier down on the default bardís effectiveness. Absent everything else, most notably that heís not a spellcaster anymore, he simply doesnít buff anywhere near as hard as he did, and thatís the primary strategy for the class in the current world.
    Do note the book was released in 2001 unless I am mistaken. Bard had 4+int skill points and his inspire courage didn't scale.

    But yes I feel monte didn't like the bard and sorcerer and in his book of experimental might he suggests not using the bard at all or using his variant and the same goes for the sorcerer, which in the sorcerers case its even more weird since in that specific book he has changed the spell slot system.
    Last edited by VladtheLad; 2021-05-08 at 06:22 AM.

  26. - Top - End - #116
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    Quote Originally Posted by VladtheLad View Post
    Do note the book was released in 2001 unless I am mistaken. Bard had 4+int skill points and his inspire courage didn't scale.
    The edition of BOEM I've reviewed in each case is the 3.5 update Monte Cook released in 2004. From my sampling of books thus far, it looks like most third party authors, including Cook, didn't actually do a comprehensive review and update based on how people were playing and optimising builds back then. They preferred to just switch out feat names as WOTC more or less did, and basically leave everything else untouched. That said, the internet was nowhere near as widespread as it is now and I wonder whether they were that interested in really getting to grips with the problems 3.0 and 3.5 gave us.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    The edition of BOEM I've reviewed in each case is the 3.5 update Monte Cook released in 2004. From my sampling of books thus far, it looks like most third party authors, including Cook, didn't actually do a comprehensive review and update based on how people were playing and optimising builds back then. They preferred to just switch out feat names as WOTC more or less did, and basically leave everything else untouched. That said, the internet was nowhere near as widespread as it is now and I wonder whether they were that interested in really getting to grips with the problems 3.0 and 3.5 gave us.
    I am not sure what changed between editions of BOEM, but I don't consider Monte updating his bard to compete with the 3.5 a fair expectation. These books are totally remaining in the 3.0 framework Monte at that point didn't like 3.5 much and that goes for arcana evolved too. I think the only books that take the 3,5 seriously (the core books not the splatbooks) are his books of experimental might.
    Also I don't expect these books to be balanced with the splatbooks from 3.5 or even 3.0. Not that doesn't leave a lot of stuff that are patently over/underpowered. The spell that grants +4 luck bonus to everything including abilities for 10 minutes per level is such a direct example of this.
    In any case I am liking your reviews and the threads idea in general, so don't stop.

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    I feel the need to point out that the Hashashin probably weren't so named because they did hashish. They might not even have don hashish at all. Not that it matters, the book isn't going for historical accuracy. [/pedantic rant]

    Also, I'd be interested to know which of the poisons mentioned can be made with PMC, although I wouldn't expect the book to mention that specifically, and I found the Wikipedia page for cyanide to be confusing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kalkra View Post
    I feel the need to point out that the Hashashin probably weren't so named because they did hashish. They might not even have don hashish at all. Not that it matters, the book isn't going for historical accuracy. [/pedantic rant]

    Also, I'd be interested to know which of the poisons mentioned can be made with PMC, although I wouldn't expect the book to mention that specifically, and I found the Wikipedia page for cyanide to be confusing.
    You're right, by hashishim I'm only referring to the rough sketch of fanatic followers of the Old Man of the Mountains, which the book basically rips off.

    PMC - I assume that's talking about Psionic Minor Creation. Luckily, given it produces nonliving plant matter, from the book that seems to qualify the real-world poisons Curare, Amanita (Death Cap/Destroying Angel - also has a really low Craft, DC 9), Digitalis, Dumb Cane, Hemlock, Ricin, and Wolfsbane as obtainable by that method. The magical poisons in the book don't describe their sources or composition - save one, Sword of God, which is said to be a "milky white sap." Cyanide in the book is said to be made from a mineral (it's used to extract gold), so it's out.

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    A Magic Medieval Society: Western Europe, Expeditious Retreat Press (2nd edition)

    Spoiler
    Show

    Summary
    Itís not a setting book, and itís not another character option handbook. Not one new feat, spell, or class is listed herein. Rather, this is a book that guides the DM on how to marry the historical medieval Europe with the magical ones depicted in D&D. More specifically, it reconciles the city wealth system of the DMG with how those things work applied to how medieval Europe actually worked. That is, itís designed to export the feel of the medieval period without being tied to the history. Not only is there a thorough but concise guide to pretty much all of the major components of medieval society (including how magic affects them), but there are tools to create buildings, settlements, and kingdoms in much greater depth than the DMG aims at.

    Date of Publication and Page Count
    2006, 167 pages, which therefore places it smack-bang in 3.5 territory, and (so far) itís therefore the most recent of the books Iíve reviewed so far. There is also a third edition which contains two more chapters: on warfare and on properly naming places. Iím not looking at that edition, but the third edition comes in at 208 pages over this 167 page one, so judge that as you will.

    The authors appear to have been a husband and wife writing team, Joseph Browning and Suzi Yee. Theyíre still active and writing fiction together by the looks of it, having left RPG book writing behind it seems. However, their output wasnít just limited to this book Ė there are other ďMagic SocietyĒ books still out there from Expeditious Retreat Press, and this book is still available on large RPG market websites.

    This is the second edition of the book. The original won a 2003 GenCon ENnie Best Supplement Award. I canít find the source of the quote, but supposedly Monte Cook said that if youíre a DM and running a D&D game, you should have this book. Period. It apparently was a quote from his first perfect 10 review. I say that ahead of time just in case itís influenced my review.


    Notable Features
    N/A, see the sections below.

    Dreadful Features
    None, which is a good thing.

    Who itís best for (Player/GM/both)
    This would pretty much have to be mainly for GMs. It might be for a certain type of player who really wants to build stuff or start businesses but doesnít want to use the thumb-ruling of the Stronghold Buildersí Guide and the like, but in general, this is a GMís treasurehouse.

    Comments, thoughts, and rating out of 10.
    On mechanics: It takes guts to start your back cover blurb with this: ďNo new spells. No new feats. No new classes. 100% open.Ē But, as youíll see from the concepts and fluff section below, what weíre dealing with for the most part isnít affected by character options as such. The mechanics are more about generating demographics, income, etc, etc. And the stated intent is to reflect heavily the economic and agricultural realities of medieval Europe.

    Itís not that crunchy, merely comprehensive and with a lot of capacity to get really granular in some instances. On creating settlements with these rules, the mechanics are begging for someone to knock together an Excel spreadsheet or similar to make the procedural generation easier. I decided to take a spin out on the bookís rules by randomly generating a settlement, which happens to be named Saintheartville.

    Spoiler: Creating Saintheartville
    Show
    We start with p.137 of the DMG. Roll 52, so I have a small town. Adult population weíll make 1000 for ease of reference, and the GP limit is 800gp. Wealth on hand in entire small town is 40,000gp. Under the bookís rules, this means 400 gold per year goes to the townís lord, and about 2,000 gp of the townís wealth is in magic or magic items.

    Now we turn to the book and how it fills out the city concept. Physical size of the town in acres is population/pop density = 1000/30 = about 33 acres. This doesnít include the fields for growing food. I deem for no good reason that itís a high number of structures on average (within the 15-20 the book sets out), so the number of structures in the town is 33 x 20 = 660 structures in the place.

    How are these structures Ė buildings -- divided up into proportions of different businesses or types of quarter? Over to the wards section of the book! Itís basically 1 ward per acre, and we have 33 acres to play with, inside or outside the walls. Average number of structures in a small town per acre is 15-20. This is a 5 point spread over the 12 different ward types, which have different densities. Based on this, the shantytown in the town will have 20 structures per acre, being the most densely populated ward, and the merchant ward 15. So just taking some creative assignments based on the descriptions of wards:
    1 Merchant ward @ 2 acres x 15 structures per acre = 30 structures.
    1 Oderiforous Business (tanners, etc) ward @ 4 acres x 17 per acre = 68 structures.
    5 Craftsmen wards @ 5 acres x 18 per acre = 450 structures.
    1 Bridge ward @ 3 acres x 19 per acre = 57 structures.
    1 Market ward @ 3 acres x 20 per acre = 60 structures.
    Total: 665 structures. Saintheartville is a burgeoning mercantile town dominated by crafters and tanners of all kinds, with a bridge over the river that brings their trade, and a large, 3 acre market area. The elite of the town are its big merchants, who have their own merchant ward.

    Each of the structures within a given ward can then be assigned actual buildings, which in turn have a given variety of building styles, from derelict or rough right up to luxurious or imperial. There are d100 and d1000 tables for generating structures. You get the idea Ė it is possible to be incredibly granular about this if one wished. In my Merchant Ward alone my 30 structures turned out as diverse a set as Workshops, Cemetries, Plazas, a University (medieval universities were very small), Bathhouses, Administration buildings and so on. (And within the workshops definition, you can then specify the type of artisan working in it: once again, a d1000 table covering everything from scabbard makers to bookbinders and literally everything in between.)

    Now we move on to Power Centres. This is where we start to depart more completely from the DMG version and get down to generating power centres based on the size of the community. The book admits that this is a pretty laborious process in particular for larger cities, but itís very thorough and precise as well. In essence, while the DMG basically stops at determining what type of power centre is in the place, the book assigns an average number of influence points, 180 in the case of the small town of Saintheartville. Random generation says there are 2 power centres in the place. Every level of adept, aristocrat, barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk,paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, and wizard is one influence point. Levels of commoner, expert, and warrior are 1⁄2 influence points. The idea is that dividing these influence points up among groups of individuals establishes the pool of people under the influence of the power centres, whether they are groups or individuals.

    We have some guidance on maximum and minimum levels of people in a settlement from the demographics tables. Again, we can get very granular about this, and we wonít for this exercise; suffice to say itís pretty easy to define the upper and lower bounds of levels of NPCs in the community and how much influence (expressed as a percentage of the total of 180 points) a given faction has in a town. This has direct implications for how much of the townís wealth the power centre controls, and that percentage could easily be used as a factor in social skill rolls depending on whether you support one power centre or another (for example).

    So what you can get from this is that I ran out of motivation to more closely-define the town, but the mechanics and framework are certainly all here for getting you to a more historically-realistic generation of how many and how levelled people there are in the community. I find these sorts of things personally useful since I like to know where my boundaries are and then work within them.


    The next thing I found attractive was the economic simulator, which layers the issue of supply and demand over the standard prices for items. This is a lot more simple, useable, and intuitive, and got me smiling. The basic assumption is that there isnít a set price for items; every transaction is between a buyer and seller, and prices for items vary Ö i.e. people bargain, and not everything is available everywhere. And the way they do it is to assign a base DC for purchase of an item, modified by how common the item is, how much it cost, the size of the community in which the item is being purchased, and the amount the buyer is willing to pay. The book DCs reflect a generic medieval society and they outright encourage you as a GM to mess with the DCs Ė e.g. the prices for fish in the middle of a continent may be a lot higher, so the DC is higher. The actual roll to make against the DC is a standard d20 with some modifiers. (I can think immediately of stuff like the Mercantile Background feat which might allow one to make modifications to it).

    Spoiler: An example in supply and demand
    Show

    Iím in the market for a hand crossbow, normal price of 100 gp. The base purchase DC for something rare like this is DC 20. (If I was in a drow city, maybe the DM would set it at DC 10 since itís a far more common item down there.) Anyway, because Iím plumb out of options, I go shopping at the local hamlet Ö which means when Iím rolling, my modifier is 1d20-2, i.e. odds are zero Iím going to pick it up at that price. But the local blacksmith seems a bit shifty and shows some interest when I mention this fairly rare piece of weaponry, so I decide Iíll bite the bullet and offer him twice the normal price for the item. This gives me a +4 to my buyerís modifier and thus a total of 1d20+2, and, the RNG being the RNG, I natural-1 it, so he shakes his head. I draw blood from my bottom lip and go all out: Iíll pay four times the normal price, so, 400 gp for the hand crossbow, and as a result, Iím now rolling at 1d20+4 instead. Amazingly, I pull a 16, which hits the DC of 20, so the smith grins and hands over the hand crossbow while I hand over four hundred gold pieces, wishing I could just hand over four hundred hitpoint damage a la Schwarzenegger at the gun shop in the original Terminator movie. If Iíd rolled a 10, I wouldnít have hit the DC anyway, and the item simply wouldnít have been for sale.

    On the other hand, if Iíd been smart and waited around to go to a bustling metropolis like Waterdeep, Iíd have been initially rolling at 1d20+12 against a DC of 20. If I threw the money around again, offering four times the standard price, itíd be 1d20+18 against a DC of 20. Not impossible to screw up, but practically certain that Iíd get what I wanted Ö or get it at a price closer to the default.


    Important note here that the table which controls price multiplier-to-buyer modifier relationships, Table V.3, is borked on its wording. It appears to reverse the modifiers, so that if you went by the table youíd get a -24 to your modifier just for offering four times the price of an item. I think thatís because the first column of numbers are reversed. If thatís correct, then the implications are that itís a hell of a lot easier to pay four times the price for something than it is to get the same thing for half price (On the other hand, the table as borked works perfectly if youíre selling something, which weíll get to below.)

    It isnít perfect, sure. The authors do warn people about players using skills or ability stats to buy stuff at below cost price. As it is the rules offer a little bit of Ö um Ö letís call it capitalism Ö for players against hapless merchants: the table incentivises you offering below-default prices for low DC items. E.g. Winter Blankets have a Purchase DC 5 and a default price of 5gp. If youíre a cheap bastard, you might well turn up to the merchantís stall in the big metropolis with a smart-alec grin and offer to buy the winter blanket for thirty percent off, i.e. about 3.5 gold rather than 5, which gives you a total buyerís modifier of 1d20+12 (Metropolis) -16 (0.7 purchase price) = 1d20-4, which is still more than even odds of getting yourself a nice discount on a DC 5 blanket. As said, your buyerís modifier compels you to take a -24 penalty to get something at half price, but in a metropolis that translates to a total buyerís modifier of 1d20-12, i.e. hard but still not impossible for common stuff.

    While itís never a good idea to think through real-world implications of a game mechanic over which the authors explicitly say ďwatch for RAW abuse, we know we canít defeat the real Math Nerds out thereĒ, this phenomenon alone compels the conclusion that it makes no financial, or even common, sense for a vendor to be based in a city offering commonly available goods, theyíd be driven out of business by the sheer psychic force of one buyer after another coming in at low price points and trying the luck of the RNG until the vendor for no sane reason agrees to sell his goods at below standard price. The only other possible explanation for this situation to continue would be that, in the city, merchants are secretly marking up their prices way past the cost price. Whatever the fiendish explanation, itís still better than standard D&D economics anyway and it keeps out Diplomancy or other tactics to screwjob the local merchants.

    The authors also allow one to use the system for selling stuff. The default Ďsell for 50%í is taken to be selling to guild members whoíll then resell at the standard price. If the PCs try to sell products at full value, they are selling to an end purchaser. And if they do, they invoke the wrath of the local guild for bypassing their monopoly on the system.

    (Indeed, the selling system seems to work with the same modifiers if you come up with a Ďsell modifierí. Finding a willing buy is easier in the city, and gives you a +12 to the sell roll. Getting a buyer to accept higher than normal price, though, is a hell of a lot harder, although again not impossible.)

    These are great rules all round, albeit theyíre much more for the determined DM with a fair amount of time on his hands. Some of them are a little unwieldy and really probably arenít for session use, but rather out-of-session calculation. The economics rules are probably the simplest to bring into actual play. I rate this heading 3.5/4.

    On concepts and fluff: Man, these guys showed up. Now, my education in medieval history consists of one year back in university and scattered books since then (ďCathedral, Waterwheel, and ForgeĒ; ďLife in a Medieval CityĒ by the Gies husband and wife team, some random others). But this book is as much a short course in how the average medieval society hung together as it is a DMís tool. It cites a decent bibliography. It has an extensive glossary for most of the terms in the period. If youíre a GM and not content with the stage-dressing approach to putting together your medieval towns, villages, and kingdoms and you have any mild interest in this sort of thing, then prepare to descend into the orchestra pit, stop by the lighting desk, consult the security staff, and talk to the cleaners.

    Letís talk about how they see magicís impact on a medieval setting, i.e. the sort of subject which takes about five posts for the Tippyverse to be cited and/or the yelling to start on Internet forums such as ours. For these issues, the book simply makes a few key assumptions, and explicitly tell the GM to not read Internet postwars that some basic core assumptions of third edition integrate poorly with medieval society, and that GMs ultimately have to make these calls for their campaigns. On magic, the key assumptions they make are these:
    • Society developed and evolved alongside magic. It isnít just a recent discovery. The book is based on extrapolation of historical information and trends.
    • Most magic practiced in this sort of society is mundane, not adventuring magic. Most people stay rooted in their community and donít wander; therefore a real society focuses on magic that builds crops, medicine, craftsmanship, labor, and entertainment far more than spells appropriate to dungeon delving.
    • Magic is basically viewed as a form of technology. High-level magic is a great mystical affair in the society, but low-level magic is familiar to all but the most isolated (hence the NPC classes such as adepts or witches.) Itís not going to be understood intimately by everyone, any more than smithcraft is fully understood by people not in the craft (the authors remind us that smiths carefully guarded their secrets and sometimes would be called on to heal the sick by laying their hammer on the ill person).
    • Magic brings social change to these societies. It establishes another source of power, and is threaded through all the normal divisions in medieval society (basically between those who toil, those who pray, and those who fight.)


    Some of the authorsí cited assumptions outside magic are interesting, though:
    • Gender basically doesnít work the same way as it did in medieval history, if only for the charming rationale that D&D presumes equal stats whether youíre male or female. Ergo, female rulers and workers in every strata of society are much more common, but go ahead and keep your serving wenches and damsels in distress if it suits your table and your campaign.
    • Unlike the medieval historical reality, communication is effective and ubiquitous, given everyone speaks Common (with or without obligatory Scottish accent in the case of the dwarves). So no more comic scenes of kings and queens from different countries in arranged marriages trying to speak each otherís language. Also, and possibly more significantly, by virtue of being classed, a much larger percentage of society is literate than was in the medieval period. Even thorps, not including barbarians and commoners, have on average 15 literate people. Therefore: a more educated society, trade and cities arise more easily and are more pervasive.
    • Assume the base alignment of a magical medieval society is Lawful Neutral, since law and order keep those societies functioning; therefore moral implications arise based on maintaining structure; therefore there is reluctance to chance. Good maintains order, and change always upsets order. (I find this a neat, if unstated, rationale for medieval stasis too!)


    The creation of cities, buildings, and kingdoms is calculated against these assumptions. And itís done pretty well. Spells like Wall of Stone are taken into account, how solo spellcasters live is accounted for (typically, vassalage), the fact the religions tend to be pantheons rather than single gods is accounted for, and prominent magic items like the Lyre of Building are factored into it. (There are even rules for aristocrats acquiring magic items as part of their Ďtaxesí on fiefs.) The balance leans toward staying close to how medieval Europe worked on the records we have available, but I do think the authors understood how magic really would change the whole setting and decided to strike a balance between historical reality and a society where magic is ubiquitous. You can argue about where they put the balance point, but thatís their chosen balance, so either take it or leave it.

    Thereís a wide variety of material covered. Everything from day-to-day life on the manors to punishments for crimes through to ecclesiastical courts through to taxation through to agricultural production through to royal precedence from an Emperor down to the younger sons of knights. It has an economic simulator designed to try and weed out some of the more egregious screamers in the equipment guide. It includes adventure hooks from the smallest disputes on manors right up to standard kingdom-breaking plots. We have everything from beekeeping income through to scutage through to a template for a medieval king!

    In short: this is one of those books where once you start reading it you wonder why you ever did without it if your campaigns are in Generic Medieval Land -- as most are. And itís right there that perhaps the mildest criticism can be made, and itís probably not even a fair criticism: although these details are awesome and well-thought-out Ö well, in most cases, as a GM, do you really need them to make or run a good game?

    Thatís because when you get right down to it, this book is pure, gorgeous verisimilitude. It is for a campaign where the DM (and the players) want a setting that feels a lot like medieval Europe and where things such as the absolute number of people in a settlement makes a material difference to the campaign. The tables are designed to create manors and kingdoms and towns and give rules for building stuff, but absent a specific kind of campaign these are generally more for the DMís enjoyment and reassurance than they are strictly necessary to the game. The trick is using this stuff without boring the hell out of your players or without taking away from the experience of the game. Thatís something the book doesnít give you any advice on. It is something you have to consider for yourself as a DM.

    My guess is that the best sell of this book would be to a playing group whoíre complaining about how the equipment tables in the PHB are completely out of whack with reality, or want to realistically do something like build a cathedral. I suspect this book would probably have its best use in open-world sandbox games, because it provides a very solid grounding to generate any number of ideas and plot hooks without going to the old generic ďGo here and kill this monster thatís harassing the rubesĒ, or ďGo there and keep the thousand-year dynasty from collapsing because the youngest son of the king likes dressing in black and doesnít like primogeniture.Ē

    But as said: this book is practical, applied history. Itís history that can help DMs run campaigns. It is a beautifully-realised sourcebook that opens up whatís going on in a medieval society with beautiful detail. With the caveats I mentioned above, I rate this a big 4/4.

    On presentation: The first edition printed in sans serif font, and the second edition unfortunately went to small serif fonts, about the same size as Bastion Pressís Into the Green which is a point against it. However, the layout is a bit more tolerable and thereís a lot of illustrations in this one to break up the text. Decent glossary, kudos for a bibliography, lots of tables, no frigging index which is just cheap and should not happen in a book this dense. I wanted to give it a 1.5 out of 2, but sadly weíre back to 1/2 here.


    Total: 8.5/10.


    Next Time: Beyond Monks: The Art of the Fight, Chainmail Bikini Games.

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