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Peoni: Order of the Balm of Joy
Publisher: Columbia Games Inc.
by Steven V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/02/2022 19:24:12

This is a well-written and informative book about one of the two clerical orders of the goddess Peoni in the world of Harn/Harnmaster. Although it is meant for the game Harnmaster, anyone can use the material here to run any game system in the world of Harn, and there is plenty to crib from if one is not even using Harn per se. Any similar goddess of nature/healing would work as the patron, and a quick swap of the proper nouns could make this book work in almost any medieval-like fantasy setting. The PDF quality is excellent.

However, I had no choice but to dock Columbia Games a point, and frankly almost two points, for three negatives about this book.

The first is the price, which under normal (non-sale) conditions is almost $10, for a 12 page document. That's nearly $1 per page, which is utterly outrageous. For comparison, the Ironsworn Lodestar supplement is $2.50 for nearly 3x the page count (35 pages, or 7 cents/page), and D100 Dungeon is about $14 for 74 pages (or about 20 cents a page). I understand that Columbia has to make some money on this, but charging nearly $1 a page is outrageous, especially given that this is a nearly 10 year old document which, as near as I can tell, as not been edited or updated since. And this is a PDF, not a physical book -- and even for a physical book $10 for 12 pages would be pushing it. This is the major negative and took off most of the point.

A second issue is the lack of bookmarks, and the "file protection" system used here (either by CG or by DTRPG, I'm not sure which) that prevents me from adding them manually (the PDF filie is locked against any editing, even bookmarks). This means that the only way to find stuff is to scroll. It's only 12 pages, but by the same token -- it's only 12 pages. Surely Columbia Games could have taken 5 minutes to make a few bookmarks... one per congregation, etc.

The third and final issue, and this is common with several of their products not just this one - despite the fact that there is a cover for this document somewhere, it's not in the file on DTRPG, so my document starts with page 1, not with the cover nor a title/publisher info page. Just straight into the text. There's really no good excuse for this.

I came this close to dropping the rating to 3/5 over these issues, but the content itself is too good to warrant that low of a score. If they'd just had a cover and 5 or 6 bookmarks, and charged maybe $5 instead of $10, this would be a 5 star offering.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Peoni: Order of the Balm of Joy
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HarnWorld Master Module, 3rd Edition
Publisher: Columbia Games Inc.
by Steven V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/09/2022 14:54:40

This is a useful sourcebook for starting out in the Harn setting. The subcontinent (island?) of Harn is extremely well detailed, and there are several maps in the book showing kingdoms, resources, and geography. The book gives a 1-page summary of each kingdom, as well as brief summaries of barbarians, Gargun ("orcs"), deities/religion, magic, and the like. This book is more of an intro than a comprehensive setting manual. One would need multiple other books to have a complete picture of the setting. Useful to see if you might like purchasing the other materials, and as a guide for which materials you want. For instance, I am going to set my next Savage Worlds game in Harn, and after reading up on the Kingdoms, I chose Chybisa as the starting point. This then led to me buying regional maps and the kingdom book about Chybisa.

The quality of the PDF is excellent... I do wish there was a softcover POD option though (or heck, hardcover).

One negative, for which I had no choice but to take off a rating point - there are no bookmarks. None at all. And you can't add them yourself. Nor is there a TOC in the front, nor an index in the back. This makes finding stuff potentially frustrating.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HarnWorld Master Module, 3rd Edition
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Players Handbook (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/03/2020 15:25:17

The original classic, with a modded cover (the image in the center is the old one but the rest of it is obscured by the faux-leather image, probably to ensure that no one mistakes this for the original).

I give this book 5 stars for the quality of the PDF and the standard print hardcover, both of which I own. The PDF is a very clean scan, near-perfect, and the print version is fantastic. I challenge anyone to peruse the open book (without looking at the cover) and be able to tell it is not a mint version of the original printing. That is how clean and satisfying I find the printed product.

In terms of the content, it is classic, original AD&D, 1st edition. No changes or edits as far as I can tell (though I do not have the original, so I can only base this on memory, not compare side by side). The book is written in the typical authoritarian, somewhat-wordy Gygaxian style (though overall, I find him to be a competent writer). The game is extremely detailed and complex, but then, that is AD&D. I don't think it is worthwhile rating the actual game of AD&D itself since so many editions have come after it, and you ought to know what you are getting with this book.

If you have always wanted to see what AD&D was like, and want a quality copy of the original PHB, this is well worth the cost in my opinion. It's certainly cheaper than trying to be a decent-quality copy of the actual original print run... those can be quite pricey. And if you used to play AD&D but like me, your original books were lost to the eternal fires of Mount Doom, and you would like to have it back, then you can't really go wrong with this copy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Players Handbook (1e)
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Ironsworn: Delve
Publisher: Shawn Tomkin
by Steven V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/03/2020 15:18:35

This is an outstanding supplement to a very well-deseigned tabletop RPG. It is about the same length as the core rules, so with this book one basically doubles the amount of source material available for playing Ironsworn. It adds an entire, completely option, but incredibly cool set of moves and quests to Ironsworn that allows the player to add greater variety and detail to the gameplay. It introduces new "denizen" species of the Ironlands, and it even provides a large number of "pre packaged" Delve sites and maps out their locations, in case the player would rather use a more developed world than generate one de novo. I personally prefer to generate my own, but I have to say that the ones Shawn (the author) provides are quite interesting and add a ton to the atmosphere and setting of Ironsworn.

Once again I am blown away by the quality of not just the rules but the setting. As someone who normally hates it when RPG writers mix their setting with the rules, no one is more surprised than I am that I would say such a thing. But the setting is so well thought out, and dovetails so perfectly with the basic gameplay of swearing iron vows and all the rest of it, that I am incredibly pleased that Shawn put them together as one, and did not separate them into 'gameplay' and 'setting' books.

You can, of course, entirely ignore the setting and do your own homebrew world without any problem at all. You don't have to do "Iron" vows or live in "Iron" lands (people on the Discord have names like "bloodsworn" for blood vows, and maybe living in the bloody lands or something similar, for example), but I certainly won't be ignoring the setting in my game play. I love it to death and can't wait to see even more.

I love this book and its predecssor (the free-to-download core rules) so much that even though I already own the full PDF versions, I just today ordered hardcovers of both. I did this partly because I like physical books, but partly to show support for the author -- here's hoping he keeps making Ironsworn-related supplements for years to come.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ironsworn: Delve
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Ironsworn
Publisher: Shawn Tomkin
by Steven V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/30/2020 10:24:21

This is a very nicely put-together game. The core rules, which are available for free, are well-written, beautifully organized, and easy to understand. The game is engaging, and allows for interesting narrative RP -- a so-called "story game." Most mechanics of the game are highly abstracted, and this helps the player(s) to tell their story, without the need to chronicle individual actions like rolling a single to-hit with a specific weapon against an enemy's particular armor class.

Ordinarliy, I do not like it when the game's core rules are suffused with setting information, because to me, the rules should be how one plays, and the setting is up to the DM. However, in the case of Ironsworn, I think the setting material helps clarify and provide context for the rules. Although one need not use the Ironlands or its setting-specific material, the way the author sets up and explains the setting provides reasons why the mechanics work the way they do. For example, the "Iron Vow" mechanic, which is key to the game, particularly makes sense in the context of a harsh, unforgiving land where a broken promise could lead to suffering and death. Additionally, the Ironlands are a "low magic" setting, which explains why the magic system ("Ritual" assets) is rather minimal. There are no wizards hurling fireballs in this game (at least not without major home-brewing), and the setting explains why.

Additoinally, I find the setting highly attractive... the map is reminiscent of Greenland, and Ironlanders of the Vikings, and yet they are unique enough that they seem to be a land and a people all their own. I've told the author in the Ironsworn discord that I can easily picture a series of novels set in the Ironlands, chronicling the vows and adventures of those who swear to the Iron. In fact, the setting is so attractive that I have considered putting my next D&D campaign into the Ironlands and adapting some of its mechanisms to D&D play (mainly because I don't think I'd be able to convince my players to switch games). I love the idea, for instance, of telling my players they gain a level when they fulfill an Iron Vow....

I do not (yet) have a hard copy of these products, but I can speak for the quality of the PDFs, which is high. They are wonderfully bookmarked so you can find anything. The pages are laid out well. The black-and-white artwork is perfect for the mood and feel of the Ironlands (I'm sure it was done to cut down on printing costs for hard copies, but I think that the B&W works well thematically as well).

Overall, I can't say enough good things about this product. It's free, so it is a no-brainer on DLing the core rules. But it took me only one read-through of the free PDF to come back here and order the other books such as Delve. And I am planning to get hard copies of everything in the next little while... so that tells you how good this book is.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ironsworn
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Deities & Demigods (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Steven V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/17/2020 20:48:50

This book is a classic and has tons of great information for use with any D&D campaign -- even modern ones. You would have to change the stat blocks some, I guess, but the write-ups of the gods and goddesses and other creatures as well as the various planes of existence could be taken pretty much as preinted and used for any edition of D&D, or heck any fantasy game.

The scan itself is decent... it's clearly a scan of an old book, but the quality is about as good as one could possibly expect. I was rather pleased with it. Well worth the price.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deities & Demigods (1e)
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Champions: The Super Hero Role Playing Game (2nd Edition)
Publisher: Hero Games
by Steven V. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/17/2020 20:44:52

I love that this PDF is here, so that I can once again access a rulebook I long ago lost during moves across country. All the pages are here, but I have given a moderate review rather than a top notch one because the scan quality is so-so on some of the pages and several pages have pencil marks and other blemishes on them. This is far from a "clean" copy of the book. I suspect there may be no such thing as a clean copy, since these books were rather flimsy and those of us who played and loved the game were not easy on them... but the PDF is objectively full of blemishes.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Champions: The Super Hero Role Playing Game (2nd Edition)
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