While writing my reviews for “Start a Campaign for free III”, I stumbled over the following files and felt that they would best be utilized when implemented at the beginning of a campaign. Thus, while not free, they might interest some of you people who want to start a new campaign.
All three products, while not free, are extremely cheap and cost less than a bus fare, so enjoy the 3 reviews on Spes Magna Games products!
There you go, for $0.99, you can have an alternative that, at least for me, makes more sense. That being said, here is:
Making Craft work
This pdf is 8 pages long, 1 page OGL, 1 front cover and 1 page editorial.
That leaves 5 pages for simple, concise and player-friendly craft rules.
The pdf kicks off with a short and humorous demonstration on why the craft skill, as written, does not work.
After that, we get the new craft rules. They are simple, elegant and actually make it very, very easy for players to determine how long it will take for a given craft. Special materials, masterwork tools or lack thereof, complex materials and faster crafting due to exceptional skill are all taken into account.
While the rules are by now way taking a simulationalist’s approach to crafting, it enables PCs to craft and still go adventuring and, best of all, are easily scalable and can easily be modified.
Editing and formatting is top-notch, however, if you’re looking for awesome artwork, you won’t find any here.
The pdf accomplishes what it sets out do – elegant, concise and simply a good system that should become standard and replace the current craft rules. For the price of $0.99, even the lack of quality artwork can’t detract from the appeal of the book. 5 Rudii.
I’m also a sucker for action points/hero points and similar systems and here we have another $1.50 product, that encourages your players to roleplay and provides good guidelines to award action points.
This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page OGL, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial. That leaves 8 pages of content.
Acting according to any of the three may earn the players action points, which are also explained in detail: How they can be used in different contexts, how many to award and so on.
As a nice little bonus, we also get rules for the DM to create Elite Creatures and Solo Creatures with quick on the fly rules that I’ve been using myself. It’s nice to see that some people out there like the author obviously had the same idea as yours truly.
The artwork is sparse and open content, as far as I can tell. The writing is precise and concise and shows a subtle kind of humor I enjoy. The editing and formatting are good, although I found a “with” too much in the text.
Due to the nifty ideas contained within as well as the very low price, I can recommend this one to just about any GM who has not yet read/implemented a hero or action-point system. If you seek to refine your own system, check it out. If heeded, the advice within these pages will surely change roleplaying behavior of your players for the better. For the price of $1.50, it’s a 5-rudii file.
Finally, I know that out there, there are many people who enjoy themselves a good swashbuckling action. Do you have a large group and dislike all players sitting around, waiting for one player or your monsters to finish their turn? I’ve found another product that might interest you, albeit one that costs $3.00. Here we go with a nice little alternative rules selection.
Fencing & Firearms
This pdf is 30 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page table of contents and 1 page OGL.
That leaves 26 pages of crunch to kick your game into swashbuckling mode. At least that’s the premise.
The pdf kicks off with two big changes that make sure that you realize the file is not kidding:
Big Change #1: In the modification proposed, there are no attacks of opportunity.
Big Change #2: Players get to roll more dice. Monsters have a fixed attack score and players roll defense rolls against the DC of the monsters attack score. It’s essentially like turning AC and attack upside down for the monsters attacking the PCs: Attack is now static and PCs get to roll a defense. That means less dice-rolling for the DM, but also, at least for me: Less fun for me.
After reading these two changes, you realize: While the new attack score can be calculated on the fly and is hardly complex, this system is more than an additional feat-tree or maneuver.
Saving throws and spell resistances work the same upside-down way in this system: You e.g. roll the dice when casting a spell vs. a set fort/ref/will-score.
The pdf continues to innovate by presenting quick rules for expanded skill usages with “Calculated risk” (-5 on one check to get +5 on another), “Fast Task” (Get the job done quicker) or “Simultaneous Task” (Get more things done at once).
Furthermore, a system is presented that enables you to accept a penalty to BAB and gain a set bonus on either attack rolls, damage rolls or AC. This usage is available to ANY character and replaces Combat Expertise, Power Attack and Deadly Aim feats.
After that, we get a selection of 4 universal feats, centering on aiding fellows, a replacement for cleave and a feat to fight with anything.
Other feats presented are 12 feats, including a better take on 2-weapon fighting.
There are also new rules on Damage Conversion & Armor: Armor-wearing characters get a DR against non-lethal damage and if an armor-wearing character is struck by lethal damage, he converts armor-bonus points of damage into non-lethal damage. This idea struck me as simple, elegant and awesome. Easy to implement, to adapt to spells and the like. Glorious.
Full-Round Attacks also get a revamp: You essentially only get a second attack that is treated like e.g. a flurry of blows, i.e. at a -2/-2 penalty. At Bab+11, this penalty is reduced. A great solution for all the people bored of rolling the “bad attacks” on higher levels.
Casting a Spell gets a similar revamp, as does taking 5-foot steps, i.e. at 16th level, you can take up to 4(!!!) 5-foot steps per round, greatly increasing mobility.
Injury, Death, magical healing of non-lethal and lethal damage, stable recovery and rest all get revamps, too.
After that, we delve into special attacks like charge, channel energy (including changes to spells and the glory and sun domains), combat maneuvers (including dreaded grapple) and the broken condition of items. That’s A LOT of covered ground.
After that, we get to the second, significantly smaller portion (~5 pages) of the pdf, the one on firearms.
This part of the pdf is less experimental and much easier to drop into a given campaign. We get 12 firearms, complete with stats, 6 accessories for firearms, Craft (Alchemy)-DCs to make gunpowder, set fuses, place explosives and the like, DCs for Craft (Munitions) and 3 grenades as well as the rules for them and alchemical gunpowder.
That wording, formatting and editing for this product, as I’ve come to expect from Spes Magna products, is concise and clear, artwork is minimalistic to non-existent and the bang-for-buck-ratio is very high.
I have to admit: On my first read-through, I was disappointed. Why? Because I expected some kind of feat-tree or fencing mechanic like e.g. in Nobis: Simple to implement in an ongoing campaign, a rather easy drop-in. When the radical changes and re-imagininations, that, granted, leave the core-mechanic unchanged, reared their head, I was a bit shocked. Especially due to big change #2, which I’d personally dislike, as I am one of the DMs that relishes criting his PCs.
I thought “Oh my, you’re not going to like this.” I was wrong. While all the pieces make up for a concise, faster gaming experience (which I’d especially recommend for larger groups of say 8 players…), the individual pieces can be taken out of the system on a whim. As a passionate rare-but-powerful-magic-worlds DM, I’ll be sure to use several of the rules, to be precise: The new full attack-mechanic (always hated the -10/-15 attacks), the new 2-Weapon-Fighting feat-tree, and the new healing and the armor-grants-limited-DR-rules. That’s A LOT. The second part on firearms is rather easy to drop into any given campaign, but not as cool as some of the crunchy ideas from the first part. I am hard-pressed to rate this. If you’re looking for drag-and-drop-fencing rules for an existing campaign, Sinister Adventures’ Art of the Duel might be a better buy for you. If you’re looking for variations on rules, ideas to speed up your game or want to start a campaign in the mood of Errol Flynn movies, this pdf will be like a gold-mine.
That’s why I will give two scores: The first one will be for people who have an ongoing campaign that is running well, who are content with the way the rules work: For you, this is a 3-Rudii file.
For people, who are looking for something different, for something imaginative and a new system, for people who plan to start a new campaign and for DMs who are annoyed by rolling all those monster-dice, this pdf is electronic gold and 5 Rudii.
My final verdict lies between the two, as I enjoyed the pdf and the price is EXTREMELY cheap for the content: 4.5 Rudii.
And that's it from yours truly for now, I'll now be back to digging out stuff that is free. See you soon on "Start a campaign for free Part III"!