Saturday, August 14, 2010

RPGNow Mini-Reviews: Gems, NPCs, and Terrain Tiles

Ever since I signed up for the RPGnow Blog & Podcast program I have been positively inundated with coupons for products to review.  I wish I had time to read, play, and review everything that's out there, but it would take a full-time crew and probably some support staff to handle it!  I'll be focusing on the products that are either generic or for games I play so I can give them a fair shake.

Today we've got a mixed bag of small products (I've got some longer works in the queue but I need to read and digest them first). Each of these items was a complimentary review copy provided by the publisher.

The first product we'll be looking at is Free Gems from Faster Monkey Games.  It's a preview of the sort of results you can get from using their "All the Treasures of the World: Gems": a collection of 46 gems generated using the system, either completely randomly or choosing a desired result.  Each of the entries, from the 1 gp "Chicken feed" to the priceless diamond of the dwarven kings, has notes on how it was created using the parent product.  It's two pages, the price (free!) is right, and it's definitely got me interested in the full rules that were used.  (Grognardia reviews the full 12-page PDF)

Next up is Ground Set #9 - God Mountain from Lord Zsezse Works. This is a set of terrain tiles (6"x6") consisting of what appears to be narrow, rocky pathways that drop off to clouds far below.  The actual tiles look like they are photoshopped pictures, so they have a great deal of detail to them, and the 1" grid is present but unobtrusive.  What the set unfortunately lacks is any impression of elevation differences - for a set of mountain terrain tiles, I would expect to see tiles with cliffs going upwards, as well as the narrow ridges surrounded by clouds you find in this set.  The ground in the tiles is very square: everything is at 90° angles, with no curves or diagonals in sight.  If you need the type of terrain in this pack, it's quick and cheap ($1.80), but the idea has a lot of unrealized potential.

Another set of terrain tiles is next: this one is a free, four-tile set of sewer chambers called Sewer Map Set 1 from Wydraz RPG Products.  Sewers are a classic urban adventuring destination (where else are the giant rats going to live?) and these four 8x10 tiles can fit together in a variety of ways to give you a backdrop for your rat-hunting.  They feature an entry chamber (with ladder on the wall), a T-intersection (with wooden footbridge), an offset passage, and a section where the sewer tunnel narrows, featuring a side room.  The tiles are mostly devoid of "dressing".  I have two big complaints about this set: first, the walls are done in a dark green, as is the sewer water, which makes them difficult to tell apart at a glance, especially when they are right next to each other.  Second, the grid lines are stark white, making them so visible they distract from the tiles.  I think they make the wall/water problem worse as they break up the drop shadows that give the walls the illusion of height - I don't have the problem on the sample maps on the front cover.

Last up we have The Rite NPC Deck, presented as a deck of cards with the image of a character on one side and space for notes on the back. The 49 images are mostly fantasy, although there are what appears to be a robo-ettin, a mecha, and a smiling gentleman with a distinctly Centauri haircut.  Most of the images are for humans and humanoids, and as a fan of Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed/Evolved setting I was glad to see pictures that could be used for litorians and mojh.  The NPCs portrayed here are not all your generic Western Europe types - many of the characters show Middle Eastern, Chinese, or even Mongol flair.

The best & worst of the Rite NPC Deck
The art itself for these cards is great - unfortunately, the presentation on many of them leaves something to be desired.  I get the impression that a lot of these NPCs were part of larger images (they definitely were not designed for these cards) but in removing them from those images we get some truly bizarre crop lines and a lot of wasted space.  The best images in the set are really fantastic and work with the space of the card - the mecha and the shy green woman with the tentacle hair are my favorites.  The worst images are small, strangely cropped, and look lost in the middle of the background.

Watch for more weekly reviews of what RPGnow has to offer, and don't forget about the coupons and the August Giveaway! Free stuff and you get to tell me about your character. Or his phat lewt, anyway.  Nobody has claimed any of the products, so all three are still available…

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