Twelve Games Around The D20
A Dozen Games for the d20 System in 2005
By Matthew Pook, Joe Kushner, & Allan Sugarbaker
However you feel about Dungeons & Dragons and the d20 System, you cannot
deny its dominance in gaming today. Here at OgreCave, we acknowledge that
dominance in one of our "Twelve Games of..." lists, in the hopes of keeping the D&D and d20 fan happy. In our judgement, these products represent some of the most interesting, and above all, the most entertaining releases for both in 2005. Even those not attuned to Wizards of the Coast's 800-pound gorilla RPG or hip to the nuiances of d20 will enjoy many of these gift suggestions, able to mine them for ideas, if not adapt them to other systems entirely.
And so the third of our 2005 Christmas Gift Guides presents what we'd recommend the D&D or d20 enthusiast receive this holiday season, whether wrapped up under the tree or purchased for some inward goodwill toward gamers.
The Book of Unremitting Horror
Pelgrane Press, $29.95
Best known for The Dying Earth Role Playing Game, Pelgrane Press dips its
toe into the d20 System with a collection of dark, blood spattered, and
creepy terrors designed to be added to any modern set game of horror.
Conceived by Dave Allsop, the creator of the Scottish RPG of monolithic
creepiness and bureaucratic horror, SLA Industries, the book superbly
benefits from his pen and inks. The Book of Unremitting Horror also comes
with a other goodies, including a guide to running a horror campaign, and a
good (if simple) scenario, but it's the creatures that stick in the mind. A
Golem created during a snuff movie, a dark interpretation of the Pooka that
drowns its victims, and a surgical collective that performs the darkest of
procedures. Ghoulish, creepy, perverse, and downright nasty, this is a very
adult collection that deserves to find its way into any horror campaign.
Blue Rose: The Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy
Green Ronin Publishing, $29.95
A setting unlike any other, Blue Rose explores a softer, more feminine
fantasy in which relationships, entanglements, love, and romance take
precedence over monster slaying, epic quests, or saving the world from some
great evil. As radical as that sounds, the real departure for Blue Rose is
the rules, which use Green Ronin's True20 mechanics. These are an evolution
of those found in Mutants & Masterminds, stripped back even further from the
d20 System and employed to make combat, skills, and magic ever so easy. The
setting is rich and sees the characters upholding the ideals of Light as
they protect the kingdom from dark sorceries and rigid theocracies, but
really, it is the True20 System that stands out. And as a side note, this is
the best Star Wars RPG in years.
Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra
Green Ronin Publishing, $39.95
Wow! It comes in a box!! All right, nostalgia aside - remember when
roleplaying games did? - Egyptian Adventures: Hamunaptra is a member of Green Ronin's Mythic Vistas series, which we have liked an awful lot over
the last five years. Compatible with the excellent Freeport: City of
Adventure and Mindshadows, this supplement and setting can also stand alone,
presenting a version of Ancient Egypt into which the races of Dungeons &
Dragons have been ably worked, tying each to a major god in the Egyptian
pantheon. And that includes Gnolls, replacing Orcs as a playable race. What
makes this supplement so good is that it feels right, with a well worked
setting and history rife with adventure possibilities.
The Shackled City Adventure Path
Paizo Publishing, $59.95
Originally appearing in the pages of Dungeon, The Shackled City
Adventure Path is a single, complete campaign that takes the characters
from 1st to 20th level and which will provide a group of players with
months of play. Not specific to any particular world or setting, the
campaign takes place in, around, and under Cauldron, a town located within the
caldera of an extinct volcano. Coming to the rescue of a beleaguered priest
draws the characters into a mission to locate several kidnapped residents.
Of course, there is far more to these kidnappings than meets the eye, and
with the safety of the town at stake, the party must explore several
dungeons, save the town from rampaging creatures, and travel to the most
exotic of places, all before returning to face the villains of the piece.
Northern Crown: New World Adventures & Northern Crown Gazetteer
Atlas Games, $29.95
Imagine a Colonial Era North America in which the myths and folk tales of
the age were true. Work with the Puritans of Salem to save it from the broom
riding witches who cast spells granted by Imps; trek across the icy wastes
searching for the Northwest Passage; run with the natives before the cry of
the Wendigo; explore the foetid swamps of Florida for the Fountain of Youth;
and encounter legendary figures such as Ben Franklin, Paul Bunyan, and
Johnny Appleseed. Set in the same world as Nyambe, Atlas Games exploration
of a mythical New World comes in two volumes and brings together the
history, culture, religions, and folklore of Europe, Africa, and the Native
Americans in a rich setting that reflects both the history and the myth.
Weapons of Legacy
Wizards of the Coast, $34.95
Too often magic items are tossed to the wayside. Too often GMs have to
come up with new and better toys with little or no cost to the players
outside of stumbling upon those items. Weapons of Legacy tries to
change all that with rules for weapons that can advance as the players
advance. This intelligent arsenal also provides a host of methods to get
those weapons into the players hands, such as maps and monster
encounters, and throws in spells, feats, and a Prestige Class to
master the Weapons of Legacy.
The Book of Templates: Deluxe Edition
Goodman Games/Silverthorne Games, $34.99
The Book of Templates has long been a fan favorite in the PDF
market, and Goodman Games brings that goodness to store shelves at long
last. Packed with dozens of templates and sample creatures, The Book
of Templates is perfect for Game Masters who like to tinker with and
customize the monsters of their campaign setting. Why have a standard
orc when you can have one that's an Ebon Servitor? The number of
possible combinations presented by the book is staggering, and
gamemasters are sure to have their eyes opened to new options and
threatening beasts, making this a must-have for any campaign.
The Wurst of Grimtooth's Traps
Necromancer Games, $34.99
If there's anyone we ogres admire, it's Grimtooth the Troll: even after
decades of creating quality traps both lethal and humiliating, his
attention to detail and dedication to the trade never waivers. This
update of a classic series provides d20 stats for numerous Grimtooth
Traps, includes new trap mechanics, and has the customary Grimtooth
helping of dark humor. Add in the Traps Bazaar and over 60 pages
detailing the Dungeon of Doom (the all-trap dungeon), and you've got the
most gruesome, vicious friend a gamemaster can have.
Fantastic Locations: Fane of the Drow
Wizards of the Coast, $14.95
A hybrid D&D/D&D Miniatures product, this 16-page adventure is
light on background but heavy on meaty combat. Two lush, full-color
poster maps set the tone for a fully illustrated dungeon crawl that
plunges adventurers directly into a forgotten-yet-deadly drow
stronghold. Fane of the Drow asks DMs to hunt down the
appropriate D&D Miniatures to populate the combats, mostly from
the recent Underdark minis expansion set (which made our Under $20
list, by the way).
Malhavoc Press, $37.99
Do you like the high action heroics of the D&D system but hate the magic
pile up that high-level characters accumulate? If so, Iron Heroes is
for you. An OGL game that is familiar to anyone who has played a d20 game,
Iron Heroes makes the characters more capable of high action through
increased innate abilities. By using new core classes devoted to combat
mastery and a new token mechanic, Iron Heroes combat plays like no
other d20 combat without the magic items.
Wilderlands of High Fantasy
Sword & Sorcery, $69.99
The classic Judges' Guild setting returns as a boxed set that will soak
up all the playing time a gamemaster wants to give it. In two books,
Wilderlands devotes 450 pages to describing the points of
interest on the set's 9 double-sided poster maps. Whether playing
through the region, or mining the set for its hundreds of NPCs, cities,
lairs, and encounters, gamemasters will not be disappointed with
Wilderlands of High Fantasy.
Necromancer Games, $??
Despite being an open game license, the d20 system hasn't had a wealth
of books devoted to new spells. Eldritch Sorcery changes that. A
144-page hardcover that updates dozens of classic spells like Sticks to
Snakes and Fist of Stone, Eldritch Sorcery also boasts many new
spells perfect for your fantasy d20 campaign. Force the spellcasters in
your campaign to make a Will save against holiday cheer with this
excellent mystical resource.
So there you have it: our list of twelve (plus a bonus) slightly-more-pricey game
products from 2005. Save up those gift certificates, cash in the checks
from relatives, and buy your way to a happy holiday of gaming. Or give
them as gifts, of course, 'cuz it's better to give than receive... yeah,
that's what we meant. Be sure to look over our other 2005 gift lists for
more great games to pick up. For others, of course.