Twelve Games of d20
One dozen of the best d20 game products
By Matthew Pook, Cedric Chin, Mike Sugarbaker, and Allan Sugarbaker
It's a year after our very first 12 Games of Christmas list, and it's time to introduce something new. You see, you cannot ignore the presence of the d20 System on the shelves at your friendly local gaming store or its popularity -- and neither can we. It's everywhere. Therefore we add a new list for the d20 enthusiast, filled with d20 products only.
So we come to another Christmas tree, under which are twelve gifts of d20 goodness. Gather 'round one and all to join the OgreCave family as we list the gifts from 2002 that a d20 fan might wish for...
Malhavoc Press/Sword and Sorcery, $18
Monte Cook, author of the DMG and numerous other D20 products, has written one of the best dungeons to date. Not only is it packed with creative monsters, magical devices, and delver's challenges, but numerous organizations have a stake in The Banewarrens, each of which is well detailed. And guess which PCs are right in the middle of it? The NPCs and plot twists will challenge experienced GMs, but even new ones will enjoy running the dungeon.
Tomb of Abysthor
Necromancer Games/Sword and Sorcery, $12
Necromancer's slogan is "3rd Edition Rules, 1st Edition Feel." You could go even further -- Tomb of Abysthor is 1st edition done right. Taking place in a dungeon stronghold, this adventure combines a variety of challenges with good game design. Take 4 to 6 characters of level 2-8 through catecombs near the desecrated Temple of Muir, Goddess of Paladins. With Tomb of Abysthor, the original Temple of Elemental Evil has a worthy successor.
RPG Objects, $8.95
GM advice products are slowly appearing in the market, and NPC Essentials provides some
of the best "from scratch" game design advice for NPCs around. Not only does it help you create NPCs, it provides advice in maintaining them, turning stat blocks and plot devices into living, breathing characters. NPC Essentials also includes a mini-adventure and is usable in any RPG system. A print version will be available in March of '03, but until then, you'll have an 80-page PDF to tide you over.
Ambient Press, $6.00
Need a bartender? Need a town guard? Need a seneschal? (What's a seneschal?) Everyone Else provides all the important -- yet nameless -- extras you need in an adventure. About 90 different professions' worth of NPCs are here, each with four different levels of stat-blocks, in a 70-page PDF. The variety of professions alone will help the GM add color to a hamlet, town, or city. This is a product that works very well with NPC Essentials.
Monsternomicon - Volume I: Denizens of the Iron Kingdoms
Privateer Press, $29.95
In a year of d20 monster books, this is a solid favorite, devoted to creatures and races for the Iron Kingdoms setting created by Privateer Press. Despite being entirely black and white inside, this a stunningly beautiful tome of the strange and wonderful, often with a mechanical theme that reflects the setting's grimy, industrial feel. Penned by the renowned Professor Viktor Pendrake, High Chancellor of the Department of Extraordinary Zoology at Corvis University, this is (barring the d20 stats) a book written for the setting, not just for the game. Monsternomicon manages to be gorgeous, useful, and inspiring. Other monster books, take note.
Mutants & Masterminds
Green Ronin Publishing, $32.95
No, there's no D20 logo on the cover. Green Ronin chose to skip the D20 license and go all OGL, even doing some wacky stuff to the system you know and love, such as eliminating the need to roll any dice besides a d20, ever. Other sacred cows of D&D are stripped out as well -- levels, hit points, alignment and classes -- to give a simple, fast paced, but detailed four color game of heroes, criminal masterminds, and anti-heroes. Never fear, though - the powers system is modular and flexible, made for building exactly the hero you want. If you're looking for speed, speed, speed and a contemporary feel (M&M's art kicks every kind of ass available, we should add), and a somewhat faster clip of support product releases (the Freedom City Sourcebook
hits next month), get with the Mutants.
Sláine - The Roleplaying Game of Celtic Heroes
Mongoose Publishing, $34.95
For those that want their fantasy with an earthy feel and a lust for life, the Sláine RPG takes the players back into prehistory Europe and the legends and myths of the Celts. Based on the Sláine series that appears in the long running weekly British comic 2000 AD (home also to the Judge Dredd comic strip), the game casts the players into a variety of roles. As tribal or noble warriors, Warped Ones able to channel Earth Power through their bodies to twist into great feats of strength, thieves, witches or druids, the players become potential heroes, willing to fight across "Tir Nan Og" or "Land of the Young" for honor, tribal glory, and the Earth Goddess. Beautifully done by Britain's biggest RPG publisher, this is Mongoose's second RPG to be based on a 2000 AD strip (after Judge Dredd, of course).
Quiklink Interactive/RPG Realms, $44.95
Any new version of the classic Traveller RPG has a lot of ground to cover, and a d20 version even more so. This is the game that introduced character prior history to the hobby over twenty-five years ago! Fans will be pleased to see all that and more stays in this version, which still manages to introduce both the d20 system and the D&D3e fan to the gritty, hard science setting that is Traveller. Though the book might be light on describing the base setting -- the Third Imperium of the year 5638AD -- it has everything else. There are rules for creating alien and human characters with careers in the military or scout service or as scientists, running starships and computers, creating planetary systems, as well as combat in deep space. Everything and the Traveller kitchen sink is in this monstrous (464-page!) hardcover.
Citizen Games, $24.95
More of a "pure" western experience, Sidewinder stays true to history, capturing the feel of exploring the west of old. Who needs fantasy and horror blended in? Easy rules for being a gunslinger hurl players into the wagon seat, guns a-blazin'. A wild west timeline, a glossary of terms, and an extensive list of resources and inspiration point GMs in the direction of more adventure. Wagons west!
Epic Level Handbook
Wizards of the Coast, $39.95
At long last, the glass ceiling imposed on D&D3e was shattered by the Epic Level Handbook, allowing characters to advance beyond 20th level. Adventurers reaching Epic heights learn of Epic feats, Epic spells, epic iron rations... well, you get the idea. The artifact-like mystic items are something wonderous to behold and covet for your own. Of course, this means bigger, nastier creatures are required to provide an adequate challenge, and the ELH doesn't disappoint. From the just plain bigger beasts, to the out-and-out freaky ones, the creatures run rampant in WotC's usual high-quality, full-color style. Advice on running Epic level campaigns rounds out the package nicely, making this the official book to have this year.
Atlas Games, $29.95
Atlas brings the funk with Occult Lore, detailing ten types of new magic and over 100 spells. Ranging from Alchemy to Spirit Cultivation, new methods of manipulating mystic forces can add a splash of color to your game's spellcasting. Then there's the twenty or so special herbs, fourteen new classes, feats, cleric domains, and various other wonders. Occult Lore is the crunchiest of crunchy bits, the extra-crispy bacon bits atop your d20 salad.
Forged in Magic
When you look for new magic items, you want the unexpected, the unique ideas that will make players stop and marvel at what their characters have found. From fans to masks, from warpaint to mystical constructs, and yes, a wide range of weapons and armor, Forged in Magic describes over 400 items of power. New spells and feats are offered up along the way, as well as new attributes for weapons and protective gear. Over a dozen new materials these items could be made of are fully described as well, making this book all the sweeter. The Master Smith prestige class is the icing on the cake.
So there's our d20 Christmas picks for this year, making the majority of d20 gamers very happy indeed. Have a look at our other lists for this year, if you missed them. Otherwise, the OgreCave staff wishes you a happy holiday season, and we'll do this all again next year!