It's been quite some time since I first started reviewing books from Spes Magna Games and today, you'll get the rest of the bunch. So, without further ado: Enjoy the reviews!
The pdf is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial and 1 page SRD. That leaves 22 pages of content.
In contrast to the other pdfs by Spes Magna Games I’ve reviewed so far, this one actually features some flavor-text for each bloodline.
The presented bloodlines are:
-Aquatic: Water-based abilities, anti-fire abilities, blur
-Divine: Has access to a domain, smite and the like.
-Giant: What you’d expect – Rock-throwing, powerful build, Runes, Ancestors
-Ooze: Hard to kill, becomes slightly amorphous, nice cthulhoid fluff in the flavor-text
-Plant: Pun-power in the description made me laugh very hard, plant-focused spells, alluring scent, one with nature
-Psychic: Precognition and interrogation abilities, very suitable for an investigation-heavy campaign
-Vermin: Movement bonus, web casting, chitin armor
After that, we get new spells:
-Acid Touch (lvl 4) – self-explanatory
-Cloud of Stingers (lvl 6) – Cloud of nauseating stingers
-Conqueror Worm (lvl 9 – awesome nod for people like me) – devastating entropyblasts
-Dehydration (lvl 6) – self-explanatory
-Jotunblood Form (lvl 9 – actually has 9 different choices available) – become a Giant of your choice
-Ocean’s Depth (lvl 8) – Crushing pressure and icy chill
-Ooze Shape I (lvl 5) –self-explanatory
-Ooze Shape II (lvl 6) –self-explanatory
-Ooze Shape III (lvl 7) –self-explanatory
-Phantasmal Wasps (lvl 8) - Damage and Poison
-Pseudopod (lvl 1)- grow a tentacle
-Pudding Mob (lvl 9) – summon 1d4+1 Behemoth puddings
-Release the Kraken (lvl 9) – Field of powerful barbed tentacles crushes all enemies
-Wall of Water (lvl 5) –self-explanatory
-Whirlpool (lvl 8) – summons a crushing whirlpool
The pdf closes with a new Cr 9 creature, the Behemoth pudding (1 page) and 1 page of Ooze Shape traits that can be chosen via the respective spells.
The editing and formatting are ok, I only found one instance of a missing “and”, the prose is concise and to the point, the artwork is b/w and public domain, the small boxes of fluff-text are well-written.
Mechanically, I don’t have much to complain, but the bloodlines themselves were hit-and-miss for me: While the Aquatic, Ooze and Psychic are really cool and feature nice abilities (with the Psychic bloodline being my favorite…), the Giant and Plant bloodlines didn’t impress me that much and the Divine and Vermin bloodlines seemed rather uninspired in contrast to the other bloodlines.
The new spells, though, are AWESOME. They are cool, ooze flavor (pardon the pun with regards to Ooze Shape I – III) and are VERY iconic.
The Behemoth Pudding is a nice bonus.
The spells alone are worth the VERY fair price, however, I felt as if the product has fallen somewhat short of its potential. Some of the bloodlines are really cool, but, as mentioned above, some seemed rather uninspired. Due to the supremely cool spells, I’ll give this one 4 Rudii, add one Rudi if the idea of an Ooze bloodline or spells like “Release the Kraken” or “Conqueror Worm” make you cackle with glee. If you don’t particularly care for the spells, subtract one Rudi.
This pdf is 11 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/table of contents and one page of SRD.
That leaves 8 pages of content for you.
Barbaric traits consists of…well. Traits, one of the most popular innovations for PFRPG. But they are not any kind of traits, but rather barbaric ones, i.e. traits inspired by e.g. Robert E. Howards grim barbarian and antediluvian sword & sorcery-style play. Consequently, the traits are not exclusively for barbarians, but rather for all classes and feature some nice prose. They are divided in for categories for your convenience and I’ll include two abbreviated examples so you’ll know what to expect:
Combat (9 traits):
-“Battle-Born” grants a bonus when outnumbered
-“Blood-Mad” gives you a damage-bonus when injured
Faith (9 traits):
-“Heathen Oath” gives you a bonus when swearing to accomplish a specific task
-“Ophidian Cultist” grants you a bonus with reptilian creatures
Magic (9 traits):
-“Lambent Gaze” gives you hypnotic powers with certain spells
-“Voice of Pain” gives you a bonus with damaging verbal spells
Social (9 traits):
-“Black Corsair” gives you a bonus with certain pirate skills
-“To the Conqueror” grants a wealth and equipment bonus
That makes 36 traits for a very cheap price, all with the distinct “old” feeling you know and love from Howard. The editing and formatting is good, the writing is concise and while not brilliant, good and atmospheric and none of the traits seemed over-or under-powered.
I’m a sucker for pulp-fantasy, Sword & Sorcery and the like. Conan was my childhood-hero. I love these traits. But even if you’re not that into Howardesk fantasy, you still get a cheap, high-quality assortment of traits. For the price, you’ll get a definite recommendation for this file from me, especially if you plan to participate/run in Paizo’s “Serpent’s Skull AP”, Necromancer Games’ “Ancient Kingdoms: Mesopotamia”, the Conan RPG or Xoth Publishing’s “Bride of the Spider God” with PFRPG-rules or the like. 5 Rudii.
This pdf is 19 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/table of contents, 1 page SRD. This leaves 16 pages for 5 adventures – a tight space, so let’s give it a look.
First of all, if you haven’t figured it out yet: This is pure adventure-fluff, id est, no maps, almost no stats, DCs and the like. The adventures are free-form ideas. They are adventures, but you’ll have to do the mechanics yourself. I think adventures in 5 steps would have been a better moniker, especially due to the distinct lack of 5-room dungeons within this file.
Adventure 1: “Guard Duty” is a rather straight bodyguard adventure with a twist. Nothing too special.
Adventure 2: “Shelter from the Storm” is a nice sidetrek for the final of one of your murder-mysteries. The PCs screwed up and lost a killer? They want to hunt him on his escape? Awesome, set this one up. Simple, but nice.
Adventure 3: “Bird-flu of the Damned” is the goofy over-the-top adventure of the bunch. Your PCs can fight …*dundundunhhhhh* UNDEAD EMUS in this adventure. Do I have to say more?
Adventure 4: “Lost Love” is a nod to one of my favorite poets, W.B. Yeats and thus has some plus points. Of all the adventures, this one would need the most DM-work to successfully pull off. I’d recommend some ideas on fey and their courts, e.g. from Open Design for this one.
Adventure 5:”I’m so cold” is a rather tragic murder mystery for low-level characters and is best set in an urban environment in the winter after some harsh, cold nights. Of all the adventures, this one is probably the one with the most potential for a gothic-horror-style investigation.
The pdf closes with 3 pages of stats, the only stats you’ll get, by the way. The first is an NPC, the second is the emu and the second is the undead Emu. If you’re not intrigued now…I just don’t know.
The quality of the pdf is okay, editing and formatting are very good, it’s easy to read, art is public domain, as usual.
Is this worth your bucks? Well, if you’ve hit a little creative flat-line as a DM, then yes. If you are an experienced DM that improvises complex investigation scenarios on the spot, this compilation might bore you a little. If you buy adventures due to mechanics and because that has been taken of your chest or to scavenge them, you probably won’t enjoy this pdf. For the price, it’s a good buy.
If you’re stuck for ideas and want some quick and dirty scenarios, add a Rudi, for you, this is a 5-Rudii file.
If you’re an experienced investigation/detective-DM, subtract a Rudi.
If you want to scavenge mechanics, subtract a Rudi.
If UNDEAD EMUS got you, buy this now.
On average, though, I’ll give it 3.5 Rudii. Mainly, because there is another book on DM-ideas that has spoiled me beyond belief…and I’ll review it soon.
This pdf is 13 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD.
That leaves 10 pages of gaming material which are, as I’ve come to expect of Spes Magna Games, well-edited and printer-friendly.
The idea of Ars Metamagica is, that one abolishes metamagic feats and replaces them with a new system that actually gives metamagic some game time and makes players use it:
Modifying spells is now done via a kind of caster level check that depends on the metamagic art you apply to a certain spell. If you fail the check, you have might experience some repercussions, depending on how bad you failed: 4 or lesser means that the spell works without metamagic, 5-9 gives you temporary ability damage and a failure of more than 10 fatigues/exhausts you and might even deal subdual damage, if repeated.
Every Caster gets a selection of slots every day called “Metamagic palette”. If e.g. you have a palette of 5, you could choose a metamagic art with a value of +3 and +2. Or 5 arts with a value of +1.
You can also leave slots on your palette open and meditate 1 minute per +1 to fill them semi-spontaneously.
Both preparing and spontaneous casters are addressed and the pdf also takes the metamagic feats from the APG into account. The pdf takes several factors into account and offers revised version of the bard spell Arcane Concordance, a new universal Metamagic rod, Healing Domain’s Healer’s Blessing, Loremaster feat requirements, Magician’s Metamagic Mastery, the feats for Heightened Spell, Reach Spell, Spell perfection and Preferred Spell, the Sorceror’s Arcane Bloodline and the Wizard’s Universalist School.
We also get 5 new feats to be used with this system as well as two new traits.
This file has been exceedingly hard for me to rate due to several reasons. First of all, I don’t like the standard metamagic system, as it rarely gets used by players and is rather cumbersome. I’m also a fan of magic that may take a toll on one’s body, as reflected in years of house-ruling battlemagic and the like. However, somehow this pdf did not make me jump up and scream “Yes, that’s it!” I was thinking quite hard why that was the case and found the answers: The first one being that, while taking many special metamagic-using abilities into account, it does not provide guidelines for future additions. The second would be that, while comprehensive and well-written, it is not as comprehensive and well-written as some other releases by Spes Magna Games: It took me 3 pages to get the general idea of the system and while the presentation is concise, I think showing the table with all the modifiers before explaining the basic premise of the system is a needlessly complicated way to lead one into the new system.
That being said, you do get a, at least in my opinion, better metamagic system than the one in the standard rules for less than a bus fare.
Another major plus is the excessive support of the APG.
In the end, I’ll settle for a solid 4 Rudii for anyone who is interested. For all the people who abhor the current metamagic spellcasting system, but want to keep most of the rules intact, check this out – for you, this is a 5 Rudii-file.