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12 Games Around the d20 in 2007

Twelve Games Around the d20
A Dozen Games for d20 System fans in 2007

By Allan Sugarbaker, Matthew Pook and Steve Kani

Once again, the season of giving, and of gaming during every spare holiday moment, is upon us. As we have for years now, OgreCave has brought together a list of great Christmas (or other holiday) gifts to give. This third list goes back to the rapidly waning d20 System, formerly the juggernaut of the RPG market, and other d20 derived products from 2007. As always, each item has been inspected by holiday elves, who were then eaten by our ogre crew, so OgreCave has verified the tasty gaming goodness in each of our suggested products.

Delta Green
Pagan Publishing, $39.95 Delta Green d20 cover

Pagan Publishing's Delta Green is widely regarded as one of the best roleplaying supplements ever written. Using layers of conspiracy and ufology - much like The X-Files television series its origins predated - it explained how the Lovecraft Mythos seen in Call of Cthulhu could be hidden and allowed to continue in the modern age of the 1990s. Equally important was its update of how the Mythos could be fought with late 20th century technology. Superbly written, the book came with three great scenarios and some very nasty threats, but has long been out of print. Now a decade later, Delta Green returns as a hardback with rules for both Call of Cthulhu and the d20 System. Movies like J.J. Abrams' Cloverfield, due next year, could spark your players' interest in facing the Lovecraftian unknown.

Rules Compendium
Wizards of the Coast, $26.95 Rules Compendium cover

The Rules Compendium is one of those products that we wish had come out sooner. Certainly one of the the more useful books WotC has produced since the announcement of Dungeons and Dragons 4e, this tome finishes the process of summing up 3.5 that the Spell Compendium and other books started. Just about every rule in the current Dungeons and Dragons edition can be found in this manual, including rules from specialized books like Stormwrack and Dungeonscape. Now you won't have to race to see who can find those grappling rules first, or search multiple books for situational modifiers. Gamemasters and players will both really appreciate this quick reference manual. Whether new to the game or long-time veterans, for D&D players, this book is a must.

Critical Hits Deck
Paizo Publishing, $9.95 Critical Hits Deck

No one expected the runaway critical hit of Paizo's Critical Hit Deck, meaning this excellent d20 add-on was out of stock for a while after its initial release. But now this 52-card deck is available to deal out pain and suffering, many in amusing ways that can alter the course of combat in memorable fashion. Each card has four combat results, for the standard types of damage - Bludgeoning, Slashing, Piercing, or Magical - which replace the usual, boring extra damage crit results of the core game. Ranging from uniquely entertaining (temporary blindness, broken leg) to downright deadly (CON bleed, or the ever-popular decapitation), the Critical Hit Deck can add a level of intensity to combat for gamers willing to go with the luck of the draw. That's why we named it Best Accessory in our 2007 Ogre's Choice Awards, and why you should check it out.

For more critical thinking on the Critical Hits Deck, be sure to check out OgreCave's full review.

Pathfinder #2: The Skinsaw Murders
Paizo Publishing, $19.95 Pathfinder - The Skinsaw Murders

The plot of the Rise of the Runelords adventure path deepens in Pathfinder #2: The Skinsaw Murders. Paizo has obviously perfected its technique of presenting DMs with full campaign storylines, and we can't think of a better format than this. Full color throughout, each 96-page Pathfinder volume devotes half its content to the continuing adventure, and the rest to supporting articles on the setting, religions, creatures, and history relevant to the plotline. Far beyond a mere dungeon crawl, The Skinsaw Murders will challenge players to solve many layers of mystery, some current and bloody, others ancient and farreaching. Paizo has made certain every step of the way that Pathfinder DMs are fully prepped to run the detailed story, whether they've run other story installments or not. Though not an adventure to run cold without a good readthrough first, this is one of the best horror adventures to hit stores in many moons.

The Pirate's Guide to Freeport
Green Ronin Publishing, $34.95 Pirate's Guide to Freeport

Here's a book that seems to be taking a step away from d20, while still honoring its heritage. Green Ronin was right there at the birth of D&D 3e with Death in Freeport, the very first scenario for the game. Set in the infamous pirate city of Freeport, it began a trilogy of scenarios and a series of supplements that have come to be regarded as one of the best settings for Dungeons & Dragons. Picking up some five years or so after Crisis in Freeport, we get a complete guide to the island city in The Pirate's Guide to Freeport. Detailing its people, places, politics, and perils, there is not a single attribute, statistic, or trait described in the pages of this supplement. Completely stat free, The Pirate's Guide to Freeport could be considered a systemless sourcebook, though drawing upon a d20 legacy. And if you want the stats, the d20 Freeport Companion provides them for Dungeons & Dragons, or the True20 Freeport Companion translates them for True20 Adventure Roleplaying.

Wicked Fantasy Factory #1:
Rumble in the Wizard's Tower

Goodman Games, $10.99 Rumble in the Wizard's Tower

Take equal parts action movie, video game, and professional wrestling league, and mix it with a dungeon crawl, and you'd have the Wicked Fantasy Factory adventures. Bringing D&D to the iPod generation, these modules focus on pulling off amazing moves and scoring legendary treasure. Characters have "finishing moves" to put the perfect flourish on a sweet kill, and against certain critters, everyone gets Great Cleave for free. For the DM, the monsters' stat blocks are streamlined for faster play, keeping players active. Rumble in the Wizard's Tower features a wizard, a tower to go find him in, and plenty of rumbling - what more do you need? Just remember: when playing through any of these bloodletting romps, the phrase "phat lewt" doesn't mean the bard needs help carrying his instrument.

D&D Miniatures: Desert of Desolation
Wizards of the Coast, $14.99/booster Desert of Desolation boosters

Always a solid gift choice for D&D gamers, the D&D Miniatures Game has provided yet another entertaining assortment of dangerous beasts and hearty warriors in the Desert of Desolation set. While the set's value as a 4th Edition preview is dubious at best, the figure selection is excellent. Several soldier-ish and character-ish figures are in the mix, as is the Farmer for those DMs who like innocent bystanders. A cool collection of beasts is represented as well, including the 4th Edition poster boy Feral Troll, a Warhorse figure, the first Cyclops made for the game, and the long-awaited Gelatinous Cube. Increasing a DM's range of miniature choices is always a good thing, so be sure to pick up a few boosters as an offering.

Kobold Quarterly
Open Design, $16/$36 (PDF/print subscription) Kobold Quarterly #1

Now that both Dragon and Dungeon have transformed into electronic periodicals only, some d20 gamers felt they were at a loose end. Suddenly, riding to the rescue, there was... a kobold. Yes, Kobold Quarterly, former Dragon editor Wolfgang Baur's creation, is a small publication which has already featured the work of Ed Greenwood, Skip Williams, Jeff Grubb, and other noted industry folks, doing what they do best - supporting the world's most popular RPG. For an added injection of tasty character options, alternate rules, strange critters, and other d20 goodness, a subscription to Kobold Quarterly might be what the DM ordered.

Exemplars of Evil
Wizards of the Coast, $29.95 Exemplars of Evil cover

Dungeon Masters will both love and hate Exemplars of Evil. The love will stem from how the book explores the role of villains D&D - who they are, how they behave, and how to introduce them - and more to the point, provides detailed examples. The book also explores villainous organizations as well, which could be unleashed on an unsuspecting campaign with just minor tweaking. Then there are the gnarly Feats and Spells in here that every player will be begging their Dungeon Master to allow them to use (therein lies the hate - or a chance for DMs to solicit bribes). Either way, DMs will want Exemplars of Evil on hand, a solid addition to the product line. Not that anything evil will come along in the game, perish the thought.

Dungeon Crawl Classics #50:
Vault of the Iron Overlord

Goodman Games, $14.99 Vault of the Iron Overlord

The Kingdom is in chaos - his majesty has died, there is no heir, and only the scepter of succession can determine who will take the throne. The problem is, that scepter is secured in the dead king's enchanted vault, a giant puzzle-dungeon with concentric ring levels that rotate around each other like a giant combination lock. A unique spin-dial map lets the DM track the action as characters attempt to both solve and survive this merciless masterpiece. Reportedly Monte Cook's "farewell" RPG product, this is one dungeon delve that will live in infamy for any game group.

Mutants & Masterminds: Ultimate Power
Green Ronin Publishing, $36.95 Ultimate Power cover

Arguably the most successful d20 spin-off, Mutants & Masterminds has continued to power up over the past year. To keep this trend going, M&M guru Steve Kenson recently gave players what they craved - Ultimate Power. Packed with more than 150 superpowers, along with the appropriate variants and power stunts, this full-color hardback packs quite a punch. More importantly, the book throws open Pandora's Box by providing flaws, feats, drawbacks, and other tools to let gamers design whatever superhuman ability they desire. A nominee in our 2007 Ogre's Choice Awards, this sourcebook is the ultimate necessity for any M&M player.

The City of Brass
Necromancer Games/Sword & Sorcery, $69.99 (boxed set) City of Brass box

One of the oldest locations associated with Dungeons & Dragons cosmology is the City of Brass. Mentioned by Gary Gygax in the original Dungeon Master's Guide, the legendary city has been the subject of various products over the years, but none as comprehensive as Necromancer's boxed set. Three books provide over 400 pages detailing the hellish metropolis, supplemented by a 24-page map book. Take Planescape's Sigil, dip it in simmering, noxious evil, and you'll have the City of Brass, a place where devils, demons, and efreet constantly run afoul of one another. Political scheming and infernal power mongering abound in this otherworldly bazaar, making it a hotbed of adventure. Numerous feats, spells, and beasts are introduced, along with an Alchemist core class and a pair of Prestige Classes. Not for inexperienced characters, City of Brass is worthwhile treatment of a classic D&D legend. A trip to the Plane of Molten Skies never looked so good.


So there you have it: the third of OgreCave's 2007 gift lists, focused around the d20 System and its various schisms. Whether through gift certificates or the kindness of relatives, owning these products will lead to a jolly holiday and new year of gaming. But there were other excellent titles we noticed since last year's gift-giving season, so be sure to look over our other 2007 gift lists for more great games to give or receive. After all, 'tis the season to be gaming.

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