Review: GM Screen Inserts

GM_Screen_InsertRaging Swan Press has just released a new product, GM Screen Inserts. These are available in a portrait and a landscape version, purchased separately. Both versions have 4 pages, and contain the same information. The only difference I spotted was the fact that the Sense Motive skill table is missing from the portrait version.

Each of the four pages covers a different topic. First up is combat actions, which includes lists of the various types of actions and whether these provoke attacks of opportunity or not. These tables are grouped differently from the ones found in the core rulebook. There are also tables of movement rates, monster identification and what the main combat manoeuvres do.

Next up is combat modifiers, which includes a list of common conditions, penalties for two-weapon fighting, concealment miss chances and various other modifiers in handy little tables. These tables are particularly useful for reference.

The third page covers magic and treasure, including the DCs for identifying treasure and spells, concentration check DCs and diagrams of spell areas of effect – I can see these being of particular use in my games.

Finally there is a page of common skill use DCs, including acrobatics, perception, climbing, riding, bluffing and diplomacy. I know these will come in handy for my games as well.

Visually, these inserts look great, using the same clean and easy-to-read style of other Raging Swan products. In a couple of places it feels like there is not enough space between columns, but for the most part the pages are very well laid out.

I would definitely recommend these GM screen inserts to any GM who wants well-laid-out reference tables for their GM screen. I personally use a landscape GM screen (I found a portrait screen was too high), but mine has only three panels as that’s all that will fit on my table. I might experiment with printing two pages on one as I’m not sure I’ll be able to decide which page to leave out. Needless to say, I’ll be printing these tables out and using them for my next game.

You can pick up both versions of these GM Screen Inserts over at paizo.com.

Review: Village Backdrop: Edgewood

PZOPDFRSP101502EThis Village Backdrop product from Raging Swan Press gives us Edgewood, a prosperous but troubled town with plenty of adventuring opportunities for characters.

Like other Village Backdrops, this one gives a general overview of the settlement, highlights important inhabitants and locations, lists items for sale and the general look and demographic of the townsfolk. There are also several rumours that heroes might overhear in town, as well as a map. All of this is mostly system- and setting-neutral, making it easy to slot the village into just about any game.

What made Edgewood of particular interest to me was the strange curse that plagues the inhabitants of the village. Though the town is very well-off in terms of its produce and so on, every year, about three villagers die in horrible and violent ways. Although several reasons for this yearly ‘culling’ are suggested, they are kept vague enough that a game master could come up with just about any explanation that suits their story. Plenty of ideas came to mind as I was reading through this PDF.

If you’re looking to add a mysterious village to your game, this Village Backdrop is for you. You can pick it up on paizo.com or various other websites.

Review: Village Backdrop: Arrowhill

Arrowhill_front_new_220Arrowhill is a small town of humans with a deep distrust of magic, and a hatred of elves. This intolerance is not without cause, however, as the town has been at the mercy of a spiteful elven druid for many years. The druid has been even more demanding and unpredictable of late, however, and it seems that something more sinister is really controlling the town.

This Village Backdrop by Raging Swan Press presents Arrowhill in a surprising amount of detail in just 5 pages of content. In addition to a general overview of the village, the names and general background of several notable inhabitants are also given. Lore and rumours that characters might know or discover about the settlement are also provided, as well as a general description of what the average townspeople are likely to look like as well as what they might wear.

There is also a neat hand-drawn map of Arrowhill, which is labelled only with numbers, giving it potential as a player handout in addition to a GM resource. A brief overview of these numbered locations is given, followed by more detailed descriptions of each location, which paints a pretty vivid picture of the town. There are also full stats given for two characters whose combat skills could become relevant while the PCs investigate the town.

Finally, a bit more detail about life, trade and events in the village are also given so that GMs can flesh out the town as needed. All of the information given is specific enough to spark the reader’s imagination, but vague enough so as to make Arrowhill flexible enough to fit into a variety of situations and settings. Apart from the stats given for one of the NPCs, most of the rest of the content could easily be adapted to any system, not just Pathfinder.

Village Backdrop: Arrowhill is a great little product that presents a ready-to-use adventure site that game masters can use as-is or adapt as needed. It is available from several online shops, including paizo.com.

Review: Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Ruins

AD_Mystic-Ruins_2201Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Ruins from Raging Swan Press is a short PDF packed with a wealth of ideas for a GM who wants to run a slightly different dungeon.

As the name suggests, this product is aimed at game masters who want something out of the ordinary. The PDF starts with an overview of what mystic ruins might entail, and then gives practical advice on how to design the dungeon by listing various effects and dangers that could be present in a location that has been infused with ancient magic.

Next up is the ‘dressing’ section, with a table full of strange and idea-inspiring things to make your mystic ruins unique and interesting (not to mention dangerous!) There are also some suggestions on how to handle characters who want to harvest magical artifacts or spell components from the dungeon itself. I probably wouldn’t have thought of something like that unless my players brought it up, so these kinds of guidelines are extremely helpful.

There are also a page listing a number of creatures that might be drawn to your magically-infused dungeon, and why they might be there. This is followed by a number of natural and magical traps or hazards that might be present in mystic ruins, as well as other strange magical effects that could occur in such a dungeon. Finally, there are a couple of adventure hooks for game masters to build upon.

The artwork complements the content nicely without taking up excessive space. As always, this product is laid out in Raging Swan’s clean and easy to read format, and both a print and screen version are included. I can definitely recommend Alternate Dungeons: Mystic Ruins to any GM who needs ideas on making that ancient wizard tower or other magical dungeon more interesting. Although the rules-related information that is given is Pathfinder-specific, I think most of the content could apply or be adapted to other games as well.

Review: Varisia, Birthplace of Legends

PZO9425_500It’s not exactly a new product, but it’s one that I have referred to extensively in my Rise of the Runelords campaign, so I thought I would write a quick review.

As part of the Pathfinder Player Companion line, Varisia, Birthplace of Legends is limited to the 32-page format used by all the products in this line. Nevertheless, it manages to pack quite a bit of content into those few pages.

As a GM, I have found this book extremely useful in preparing NPCs and general flavour for my Varisia-based campaign. Since there is no Campaign Setting book that covers Varisia as a whole (and I don’t really expect there to be one in the future), this is the next best thing to get a good overview of the types of people who live in the region.

The inner front cover provides a map of Shoanti territories, as well as the important totems, domains and oracle mysteries that are relevant to to each of the clans. There are two more pages later on that offer some names, traits and typical roles of the Shoanti people. These are invaluable if you want to play a Shoanti character, or if you want your PCs to interact with the Shoanti people. There are also a couple of pages detailing the native Varisian people, which are similarly useful for populating the region.

There are a couple of new feats and archetypes, with Thunder and Fang feat and the Thundercaller bard archetype really standing out to me as interesting and flavourful options. There is also a quick overview of arcane schools and major religions in Varisia, as well as region-specific equipment.

The two centre pages contain a rather cool-looking stylised map of Varisia. Perhaps the most useful feature of this map is the travel distances between the various towns, information which is handy for PCs and GMs alike. The inside back cover shows Varisian trade routes, and also has a useful distance and travel time table between the major settlements in the region.

The second half of the book briefly details the major settlements of Varisia, giving stats of the settlement, some traits for PCs who want to originate there, and some roles describing local characters. There are four pages at the back of the book listing adventure paths that take place in Varisia, with some traits for each, plus a brief player’s guide for the Shattered Star adventure path. These pages are a bit strange, and seem at first like advertising, but they are actually mostly made up of campaign-specific traits, so they make sense in a player companion for the region.

This book also looks good, with great cover art and some really nice interior pieces. I recommend Varisia, Birthplace of Legends for anyone spending significant time in the region.

Review: Urban Dressing: Slum Town

Slum_front_220Today I’ve got another Raging Swan Press product for review. This one, Slum Town, comes from their Urban Dressing line. You can pick it up at Paizo.com.

This 10 page PDF has 7 pages of tables covering just about anything you might expect to find in the slums. The first table is sights and sounds, providing 100 things your PCs might happen upon while wandering through your slum town. Some of these are just flavourful descriptions that will help your town come to life, while others might give you ideas that could be expanded upon.

The second table lists 50 businesses that might be found in the slums, each with a unique name, what type of shop it is, and something noteworthy about the business. The third table contains 50 NPCs that might be found in the town. Some of these clearly match up with the businesses in the previous table, while the rest are just persons of interest who your PCs might encounter or need to deal with while in the town. The final table offers 20 activities in the town that could serve to liven up the PCs’ visit, start them off on quests, and so on.

As I read through this PDF, it painted quite a vivid picture of a grim slum town. Besides giving life to a location, the descriptions also gave me plenty of ideas for missions and side quests, as well as a wealth of NPCs to help deliver the plot hooks. If you are planning to use some kind of slum town in an upcoming adventure, this product is a must-have. The descriptions are almost entirely system-neutral, meaning this supplement could be useful to any game master.