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College of Trick or Treat
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/05/2022 01:26:49

A bard subclass centered around trick-or-treating. The flavor is fun, but the formatting is shaky, and the mechanics a little odd. This also wouldn't fit well into any sort of serious campaign. At least the price is more than fair!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
College of Trick or Treat
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College of Caterwauling
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/05/2022 00:42:38

A fun concept: a bard subclass that's centered around cat stuff. How well this works depends on how serious you want it to be. Read as a joke subclass, this is pretty entertaining, especially their final "Kitty" feature (which stupefies targets with cuteness). However, if taken as a proper subclass, this falls a bit short: the Gift of Claws feature is a bit odd and complicated (a Bardic Inspiration plus claws that recipients can pass on) while Kitty is just too silly. (Also, $1.99 for five pages of material is slightly too much.)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
College of Caterwauling
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The Botanist - an Artificer Sub-Class
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/04/2022 02:45:28

A neat concept - an artificer focused on plants, rather than magical machines. Similar to the official Artillerist and Battle Smith, the botanist chooses from one of three types of plant allies that increase in power as they level. Unfortunately, unlike the Artillerist or Battle Smith, nearly everything is focused on the plant ally, which makes this subclass less versatile than its official counterparts. The other major issue with this product is that while the mechanics seem sound, it's all formatted in a very amateurish way. Also, the price is also slightly too high for just three pages of rules content. Not a bad product all in all, but it could stand to be better.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Botanist - an Artificer Sub-Class
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Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Limited Edition Hardcover Edition
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/30/2022 08:58:01

A role-playing game for adventures set in the Doctor Who universe. The basic assumption of DW: AITAS is that you'll be playing a Doctor and companions, but the rules aren't bound to that, and they do provide alternate models (such as games featuring UNIT or completely original characters).

The core mechanics of the game are very straightforward and interesting: roll two six-sided dice, add relevant bonuses, and compare the result to a difficulty... but then the degree of your success or failure suggests a range of possible results (including partial successes and not-quite failures). Characters also have a supply of "Story Points" that can be used to adjust the narrative in various ways. In addition, turn order is based on characters' intended actions, with "talkers", "movers", and "doers" all getting to go before "fighters". This last design choice is one of many in the book that shows just how much the designers understand Doctor Who and its tropes.

Going chapter by chapter:

  • Chapter 1 is a general overview of the game... which gives us an example of play before providing a basic explanation of the core mechanics (odd choice).
  • Chapter 2 goes through the process of character creation, and provides good advice along with a solid range of traits and skills. It's pretty plain that many traits were reverse-engineered from actual show characters, but that's not exactly a problem.
  • Chapter 3 goes over the game's core rules, with highlights including the different types of conflict (physical, mental, and social) as well as ways to handle potential character death. The chapter also includes various sub-systems, such as chase rules (a particular standout) and rules for gadgets. Occasionally it feels like they should have streamlined some of these rules, but overall they're solid.
  • Chapter 4 is an almost entirely lore chapter on time travel in the Doctor Who universe - well considered and very insightful, with good guidelines for play. This chapter is probably the most interesting to read.
  • Chapter 5 provides stats for various foes of the Doctor, covering all the major players from various eras: Daleks, Cybermen, the Master, etc. It also provides guidance for building your own aliens and monsters, which is fine but seems slightly too loose; some advice on balance would have been nice.
  • Chapter 6 provides gameplay and gamemastering advice. Most of this advice is decent but pretty generic, and likely stuff you know if you're an experienced roleplayer. However, it's better when focused specifically on Whovian tropes.
  • Chapter 7 provides adventure design guidelines, which assume you will structure your campaigns like the TV show - good if you feel up to the task, but one wonders if that raises the bar too high. It ends with some sample scenarios (one per Doctor) which are mostly just OK, and often very derivative of existing stories (though a few stand out).
  • The Appendix at the end of the book includes sample characters (including the Tenth, Eleventh, and War Doctors), some pre-built character templates, and a handy one-page rules reference.

Overall, this is a well-considered game with great core mechanics, made by folks who clearly understand the source material. There are some rough spots in the rules and their presentation, but none of them are deal-breakers. If you're a fan of Doctor Who and role-playing games, it's definitely worth picking this up, or one of the other versions of the core rules. (Originally posted on Goodreads)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Limited Edition Hardcover Edition
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3 Archetypes #04 - Druid
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/29/2022 00:28:35

Four new druid options:

  • Circle of Rebirth: A druid with better healing at lower levels, and death-themed features at higher levels. The concept is fine, but the execution feels merely adequate.
  • Circle of Seasons: A druid that gets different themed abilities for each of the four seasons. Again, the concept is good, but the execution is a bit too basic. (Also, why is electricity the theme for autumn?)
  • Circle of Witchcraft: A druid with a "witch" theme. An interesting idea, and probably the most distinctive of the three archetypes, but it gets odd and then overly powerful at higher levels.
  • Wild Shape Alternative: Optional rules that genericize how the Wild Shape feature works. It's fine, but I don't know what incentive druid players would have to choose this over the default.

Overall, not a terrible collection of new options (although the Witchcraft druid has serious issues), but not a very impressive one either. At least the price is fair!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
3 Archetypes #04 - Druid
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Heroic Options Volume I
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/18/2022 10:44:04

Over two dozen new subclasses that (as the description states) are inspired by Overwatch. In fact, these subclasses are so blatantly inspired by specific Overwatch characters that many have pretty fuzzy core concepts, and a number have conglomerations of abilities that don't make a lot of sense otherwise. As a result, many of these would be odd fits in a traditional D&D campaign, and a DM would likely need to account for them in their worldbuilding, or reskin features as needed. The author apparently tried to mitigate this with some new Realms lore for the subclasses in a few cases, but it doesn't help that much.

Going class by class:

  • Barbarian: The Path of the Enforcer is centered around using a chain-hook (which is immune to nonmagical damage for some reason), and also gets a random free short rest; extremely specialized. The Path of the Ironfist brings some unarmed combat capabilities to the barbarian, including some fun special techniques, although the last feature is just bizarre out of context. The Path of the Primal Storm is strangely similar in terms of ideas to the Storm Herald barbarian from Xanathar's Guide to Everything. Ironfist seems like the winner of these, outside of the final feature; Enforcer is too narrow a concept, and you're better off using the official Storm Herald over Primal Storm.
  • Bard: The College of Sound allows generic thunder damage and allows a bard's nearby allies to heal and increase their speed, which is a pretty bland concept out of context (and also seems to step on other classes' turf). The College of Comedy and Tragedy just feels like a random collection of features. Sound is the better of the two, but both have issues.
  • Cleric: The Astral Domain is a potentially interesting concept... that unfortunately has little to do with anything Astral, since it's drowned beneath Overwatch-inspired features. The Frost Domain is the better of the two cleric options, centered around cold, although the Ice Form Channel Divinity is another feature that just seems weird out of context.
  • Druid: The Circle of the Vigilant seems like a stretch as a druid concept, focused on being a sentry fixed in place; it also seems underpowered.
  • Fighter: The Arbalist is a super-archer, but randomly has morale-centric mechanics as well. The Crusader is a super-protector, which is a pretty solid concept, though the magical force barrier that emerges from your shield at higher levels is odd out of context (and kind of complicated). The Hospitaler is the most interesting, a sort of battlefield medic that also stealthily includes elements of the 4th Edition warlord, although the 15th level feature is extra random. The Hospitaler is probably the winner here, although the Crusader isn't too bad.
  • Monk: The Way of Balance features orbs of force that can be charged with healing or harming energy, which is interesting. Their final feature only seems to provide healing despite ostensibly combining both energies, which is disappointing. The Way of the Dragon Blade brings some swordplay to the monk, and seems fun enough, though it's now overshadowed by the Kensei monk from Xanathar's (which is presumably better balanced). Neither are bad options, although the official Kensei should likely be used instead of the Dragon Blade.
  • Paladin: The Oath of Mercifulness has a solid concept (a healing-focused paladin), but a shaky name and another with a broad concept done better in an official book (Redemption, from Xanathar's). Oath of the Dark Star's archetypal concept (drawing on extradimensional energy to bring balance) doesn't quite justify its otherwise flavorful - and probably too powerful - abilities. Mercifulness is the better of the two, but you'd be better sticking with the official Redemption paladin.
  • Ranger: The Dragon Archer has a decent theme that adequately ties its features together; though it might have been nice to vary from radiant damage, which no core dragon has. Watchful Healers can heal or debuff targets with their shots, which is neat, though they might be a little underpowered. Neither are too bad.
  • Rogue: The Arcane Infiltrator has some fun (if random) abilities, but it doesn't define its concept well enough to avoid competing with the Arcane Trickster. The Lantanese Outlaw is a gunslinger subclass, which also gets "stun grenades" later on for no clear reason. Lolth's Talon has some fun spider theming, but overcomplicated mechanics. The Outlaw is probably the best, though as it uses guns, it won't fit in all campaigns.
  • Sorcerer: Forge Spirit has neat lore, tying them to a primordial fire spirit, but some decidedly un-sorcerer mechanics with its focus on a "forge spirit totem." Volatile Primordial also has neat lore, tying them to the Elemental Chaos generally, but also relies on un-sorcerer mechanics (traps and explosives). These two probably suffer the most from being so close to their Overwatch inspirations.
  • Warlock: Eldritch Power is both random and bland, the least impressive in this product. Lord of the Dead grants shadow and death-related powers, and would work better with a more solid core concept (what they describe sounds more appropriate for a cleric). Natural Warden has a lot of random and complicated mechanics, and steps on the concepts of both the druid and ranger. Lord of the Dead is the definite winner of the three, despite the concept issues.
  • Wizard: School of the Arcane Warrior is fun, but doesn't really suit a wizard - it might have worked better for fighter or rogue. (Artificer would be the obvious choice among non-core options.) Further, it's not clear why this has a new "Arcane Blast" spell associated with it, instead of taking advantage of existing cantrips. School of Chronal Acceleration has a similar problem, being clearly suited to a more combat-focused class than the wizard; it also makes the dangerous decision to mess with the restrictions on concentration spells. Both of these subclasses are also very blatantly close to their inspiration. Neither are bad, but are among the least suited to generic campaigns.

Overall, this product would be useful if you're specifically looking to replicate your favorite Overwatch characters in D&D. However, it could be difficult to use most of this material unchanged in other types of campaigns. The product might also be slightly overpriced ($5 for 25 pages); so if you do want this, it might be best to wait for a sale or bundle.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Heroic Options Volume I
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34 + 1 Cantrips by DiBastet
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/18/2022 00:02:05

A small collection of new cantrips. Many are obviously weakened versions of higher-level spells, but there are also a number that add elemental effects to melee attacks, plus a few more random choices. The mechanics of the spells seem sound for the most part; however, some seem a little strong for cantrips, so make sure to review each carefully before including them in your games.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
34 + 1 Cantrips by DiBastet
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Cat Burglar
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/13/2022 02:58:20

A rogue subclass customized for tabaxi. Unfortunately, while the features are neat ideas, the subclass is notably underpowered, especially the 3rd-level feature (which is basically just flavor). Throwing in two NPC statblocks with examples of the subclass doesn't really help, nor does the slightly high price tag ($1.99 for three pages of material).



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Cat Burglar
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Musical Subclasses: Dancer Rogue
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/13/2022 02:17:41

A fun rogue subclass centered around dancing and movement, with some interesting mechanics, especially momentum. However, one wonders if this concept would have fit better as a bard subclass, instead of a rogue option. (Plus, the 13th level mechanic - while cool - might be a little underpowered.) The product also includes a Dancer feat (which feels like a condensed version of the subclass), and four very neat and flavorful dancing-related magical items (the Boots of Musical Movement are especially fun). The product may be slightly overpriced, however ($1.95 for two pages of rules content), so you may wish to wait for a bundle or sale.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Musical Subclasses: Dancer Rogue
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Dark Fantasy Artificer Subclasses
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/13/2022 01:40:24

Two horror-themed artificer subclasses:

  • Machine Cultist: Basically a warlock artificer, who gains powers from a far-future machine of evil. Very flavorful, with interesting mechanics, largely centered around granting warlock features and an "Infernal Engine" vehicle. The catch is that this subclass feels very specialized, especially with the vehicle focus.
  • Reanimator: An artificer with a golem ally, as well as lightning-themed powers. Again, very flavorful with interesting mechanics, and somewhat more broadly usable than the Machine Cultist.

The two subclasses are followed by a set of new artificer infusions, both for the new subclasses and (somewhat more randomly) for the core artificer and official artificer subclasses. I'm not sure about the balance on these, though they are, again, very flavorful. (I particularly like the Potion Injector Projector, a crossbow that fires syringes filled with potions at targets.)

The product overall has very high production values, to include great custom artwork (though it did miss a few typos). If you're looking for artificer options for a fantasy horror campaign, this product is highly recommended; this material is somewhat less useful for more general campaigns, if still very interesting.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Fantasy Artificer Subclasses
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Scourge of the Howling Horde (3e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/10/2022 04:17:11

A great introductory adventure for D&D 3.5. Nothing too fancy story-wise - you fight a band of goblins terrorizing a small region - but well-executed, with opportunities for both combat and role-playing, as well as welcome explanations of important rules at major steps. As a bonus, this also fleshes out a small town as a potential base of operations for a new adventuring party. Recommended for D&D 3.5 players, and not likely hard to adapt to other editions as well. (Originally posted on Goodreads)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scourge of the Howling Horde (3e)
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GATEWAY - The d20 Tabletop Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Aurican's Lair
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/10/2022 02:10:05

A streamlined, setting-generic version of the D&D 5th Edition rules, GATEWAY centers on 5E's mechanics of advantage (roll twice, take better result) and disadvantage (roll twice, take worse result). Characters have a mix of skills that they are proficient in (gaining advantage), skills they are deficient in (suffering disadvantage), and skills with no modifier (they take whatever result they get on a d20). This is a great core concept that cleverly exploits one of 5E's best new mechanics.

Unfortunately, the rest of the system is not as elegant. The skills are simultaneously both detailed (in terms of options) and vague (in terms of how they actually work); this is likely intended to be helpful and empowering, but winds up being a bit frustrating, especially when considering abilities like magic. Most disappointing is that the combat rules still retain much of the situational complexity of the original 5E rules, even if the die rolls themselves are much simpler. The GM support is also lacking - we never get clear guidelines for NPC design, and the rest is largely just generic advice. The product concludes with an "Advanced Play Variant", which might be better, but we don't get enough detail to be sure.

Another big problem is presentation - the product really could have done better on organization and formatting. The designer is also curiously cavalier about referencing copyrighted material like Star Wars' Jedi. Ultimately, GATEWAY feels much like someone's homebrew material. Fortunately, it's also priced like homebrew - it's a free product, so you don't have anything to lose by taking a look! Just manage your expectations. (Originally posted on Goodreads)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
GATEWAY - The d20 Tabletop Roleplaying Game
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5th Edition Racial Options - Kitsune!
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/08/2022 03:47:36

An adaptation of the legendary kitsune as a D&D 5th Edition character race. I wanted to like this more than I did, but something about the overall approach - making them more mysterious and secretive than mischievous - doesn't quite seem to gel. Still, the mechanics for the race (as well as the four subraces) seem solid enough, if occasionally underpowered (the white sub-race in particular). The other material, however, is shakier: the new feats grant more abilities (and stronger abilities) than feats from official sources; the new spell is a neat concept but seems too high-level for what it does, and inexplicably locks the DC to 18; and the two new magic items also seem a little off (though the origami token is probably fine). All in all, this product gives you a decent (if somewhat disappointing) race with some iffy supporting material.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Racial Options - Kitsune!
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The Lost Kenku (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/08/2022 03:41:07

The author describes this as basically just notes for an adventure, and this becomes clear as you read. The formatting is odd at times, there are obvious typos... and most significantly, they never clearly explain what the players are doing here, other than randomly exploring the town and mansion. You have to infer the player's goal - searching for the titular "Lost Kenku" - from the rest of the text. Now, to be clear, the setting and NPCs are fun, and you can still run this as a perfectly functional adventure... but extra work is required for the setup, which is pretty embarrassing for an official D&D product. Best to see the purchase of this product as a charity donation with some bonus adventure notes.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost Kenku (5e)
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Lair of the Lava Queen - 5th Edition
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by James B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/08/2022 03:13:47

A D&D 5th Edition adventure that - as the name suggests - sends players into the lair of the Lava Queen, a uniquely transformed creature. This scenario features a memorable setting and foes, and striking imagery. There are some quibbles with the formatting of the product, but those flaws are countered by the high-quality artwork and overall solid layout.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lair of the Lava Queen - 5th Edition
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