Wednesday, July 11, 2007

My brother-in-law is cool

My brother-in-law Jim is a gamer of the boardgame/wargame persuasion. I'm told he played D&D back in the day but he's been out of that scene for a long time. Anyway, he just got back from Origins and he brought me some swag. He grabbed me some Tokkens, which are kinda like the magic item cards from Paizo I got a while back, but weird. Instead of paper cards, they're little tin plates the same size as normal playing cards. Unlike the Paizo cards, these things have game statistic information on the back of them, but the info is truncated and refers you back to the official item description. I wouldn't pay money for a set of these, but I may get some use out of the freebies on hand.

Jim also found some vendor clearancing d20 books in lots of 10 for five bucks apiece. He grabbed one of these stacks for me, settling on a stack that included Orcfest, an orc-filled adventure from Fast Forward. He knows me well enough to figure I'd get some sort of use out of pretty much any book with the word "orc" in the title. Half the stack were Avalanche Press books. You know, the guys who put all the gratuitous T-and-A on their covers. I've heard good things about some of Avalanche's products, but I could never bring myself to buy one. My wife would never let me live it down.

Anyway, the Avalanche book were Aztecs; I, Mordred; All for One, One for All; Nile Empire, and Noble Steeds. Note that Noble Steeds, a book about horses and such, doesn't feature a nearly naked chick on the cover. I've been kinda interested in I, Mordred for a while, as a D&D game with some dark and dirty Excalibur action thrown in appeals greatly to me. And I might get some use out of Aztecs in my present campaign. We'll see.

The odd man out of the lot is Marauders of the Wolf, a sourcebook not for D&D but for Sovereign Stone. If I was a gamestore owner sitting on a bunch of Sovereign Stone books, I'd probably try to sneak them into a d20 lot, too. If there are fans of that game out there I don't think I've ever met them.

The Troll Lords were represented in the stack by Heart of Glass, a module by Stephen Chenault. I'm a bit of a fan of the Troll Lords Castles & Crusades line, but I think this is my first straight D&D module from them. It's set in Erde, their house campaign world.

The picks of the litter are probably the two books from Skirmisher Publishing. Warriors is an interesting-looking take on expanding the fighter options for a straight medievalish setting. It's full of crunchy stuff like prestige classes and feats and whatnot. Tests of Skill is an unfortunate name for an very intriguing book. From the title I thought it was going to be a crunch book all about expanding the D&D skill system. But Tests of Skill isn't that at all. Instead it is a mini-setting book that emphasizes skill use, particularly social skills. For example, the wandering monster charts include starting attitudes for the encountered creature and the best way to influence a more friendly reaction.

Tests of Skill will be a little too plain vanilla, a little too SCA/Ren Faire for some D&D fans. But if you want to focus on politics and normal folk in a faux medieval world, it looks like maybe a good product to fit your needs. It's the kind of setting where most DMs will want to very carefully pick what optional material to allow players. Ninjas and robots just don't go well with this book. A straight core book game would be a much better fit, with perhaps a sprinkling of a few choice bits from supplementary materials. If I ran Tests of Skill I'd plonk down a bit stupid dungeon somewhere on the map, which the book as written lacks.

Thanks for all the fun reading material, Jim!