A Dozen Christmas d20s
12 game selections for the d20 System
By Matthew Pook, Allan Sugarbaker & Mike Sugarbaker
The smell of turkey dinner is in the air. Holly, pine and mistletoe deck the halls. Candy canes and eggnog are offered to all.
But enough of that. You want to open the rest of your presents, 'cuz you can see some solid-looking packages back there behind the shredded wrapping paper and discarded bows. The time for patience is at an end, and you're going in.
OgreCave's got you covered. With this list, the third of our 2003 Christmas Gift Guides, we tell your friends, family and fellow gamers what you'd like to see under the tree. This time we consider all things related to the d20 System, that omnipresent RPG category so many of you love. Tear away the ribbons and wrapping, and see what we've decided to put on the d20 list this year.
Midnight Campaign Sourcebook
Fantasy Flight Games, $34.95
Midnight d20 ain't yo' mama's D'n'D. This magic-starved fantasy world of grim survival gives characters the opportunity to be the first true heroes of their time, or to fall by the wayside, unredeemed and forgotten. There really is no one for them to aspire to become, and problems are not typically solved by the acquisition of more powerful MacGuffins. The setting's sentient races are tightly and logically interrelated, with multiple options available for each available player race. The characters will find themselves outnumbered and outclassed at every turn -- they must be crafty, cunning, and willing to compromise their morals at the right time for the right reasons to accomplish their goals. Barring some ambiguity with respect to magical energy flows, which can be rationalized with a little creativity, this is an extraordinarily sound purchase.
Freedom City Campaign Setting
Green Ronin Publishing, $32.95
A supplement to keep superhero RPG fans happy -- and not just those of the game it was designed for, the innovative Mutants & Masterminds. Steve Kenson's fictional East Coast metropolis allows for gritty, crimebusting, four-color or mutant orientated campaigns and is beautifully detailed and illustrated. It also shows off his love of superhero comics and the gaming industry with a plethora of hidden Easter Eggs that refer to both! The minimalist details of the Mutants & Masterminds system mean that with little effort, this sourcebook can be used with any superhero RPG.
Stargate SG-1 Roleplaying Game
In a year light on licenses, whether from TV, film or literature, AEG's second SF RPG (after the Farscape RPG) stands out as the best of 2003. Using an adaptation of Spycraft, their d20 espionage RPG, to power its mechanics rather than the straight d20 system, Stargate casts the characters as members of the US Air Force's Stargate Command. Characters are tasked with visiting other worlds, contacting new civilizations, and protecting the Earth from the threat of the evil G'ould. In many ways a military orientated and tactical game, Stargate still leaves room for players to take on the roles of civilian specialists as well as roles drawn from a small selection of alien species. Acting as a sourcebook for the series as well (though not a comprehensive one), this is the best televisual adaptation to date for the d20 system, one that includes a guide to fitting some of the best d20 settings into the Stargate SG-1 universe. After all, who says that gate can't lead to Freeport?
Skull & Bones: Swashbuckling Horror in the Golden Age of Piracy
Green Ronin Publishing, $27.95
There have been lots of pirate supplements of late, but none get better than the second entry in Green Ronin's Mythic Vistas line. Released at a time when Pirates of the Caribbean was proving to be a favorite of movie goers, Skull & Bones took a historical approach to its subject first, setting the game on the many islands of the Caribbean and the waters between, during the Golden Age of Piracy. The book then adds a strong, dark streak of horror in the form of Voodoo. Superbly researched and detailed, the rules cover both the light and dark side of this Afro-Caribbean faith, along with rules for ship-to-ship combat, sailing the seas, duelling and of course, swashbuckling, d20 style!
When The Sky Falls
Malhavoc Press, $13.95
Have you ever wondered what would happen if a meteorite hit an average D&D world? This is the question answered by When The Sky Falls, the second "Event" book after Malhavoc's Requiem For A God, which explored the possibilities wrought by the death of a deity. The aim here is not to destroy a world, but to help create and explore the after-effects of a meteorite strike, whether the scramble for the precious metal it leaves behind or the disruption upon the "arcanosphere" from the EMP (or "Ethereal-Material Pulse"). Introducing a host of new themed prestige classes, feats and abilities, this sourcebook introduces an intriguing set of tools with which to dramatically change a campaign.
Testament: Roleplaying in the Biblical Age
Green Ronin Publishing, $32.95
At this time of year, it is perhaps fitting that we offer something biblical in nature, but less fittingly, Testament is a d20 treatment of the times and epochs of the Old Testament, rather than the New. The first entry in Green Ronin Publishing’s Mythic Vistas line, this massive supplement details some three thousand years of history, from the Bronze Age to the iron age of the Middle East -- and not just from the point of view of the Israelites. Though they get the major coverage, the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Phoenicians, the Philistines, the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians and the Assyrians all receive equal treatment. Fair, balanced and intelligent, Testament: Roleplaying in the Biblical Age makes the previously ungameable into something gamers will find rich and playable.
Malhavoc Press, $21.95
Mass combat comes to the d20 system with Cry Havoc, by Skip "The Sage" Williams, one of D&D3e's co-designers. The book contains both miniatures rules for unit-to-unit combats, and a different, more abstract system for handling thousands of troops. In the miniatures system, each miniature represents a unit of ten creatures. In the main system, averages are used to play out larger-scale combat, and rules are provided for PCs to act as individual heroes and commanders on the battlefield. Cry Havoc adapts magic, both spells and special abilities, into the game, as well as giving feats, prestige classes, and adventure ideas. "Pure role players" might balk at what is essentially a miniatures game, but if you have ever wanted to defend a village, create a skirmish, or even recreate the Battle of Helm's Deep, this is the supplement for you!
The Grey Citadel
Necromancer Games/Sword & Sorcery, $19.95
Providing a memorable setting, a moderately detailed cast of
inhabitants, and an adventure plotline that's both mysterious and
logical, the Grey Citadel of Dun Eamon stands out in the field of d20
adventure settings. Constantly shrouded in mist from the huge waterfall it's
perched upon, the Citadel provides a unique atmosphere of slick,
moss-encrusted streets, making combat a challenge. But the city's low
visibility and fog-muffled echoes are just the beginning: Dun Eamon is a
thriving trade center on the verge of catastrophe, as events point the
characters toward a missing mage and strange beasts that now prowl the
foggy streets. An old fashioned dungeon crawl and dozens of detailed
city locations complete this 108-page supplement, for a well-crafted
resource that makes the DM's job as much fun as that of the players. The
author has even gone ahead and created a website supporting The
Grey Citadel and the region of Eamon, expanding the impressive usefulness of
The Grey Citadel even more.
Atlas Games, $12.95
How do you out-munchkin a munchkin? By having this
special deck of cards at hand, which give a super-munchkin bonus at the right time -- with
the right card, of course. Inspired by the roleplaying adventures and
playing style of the cast of John Kovalic's award winning comic strip,
Dork Tower, this set of cards is perfect for the fans of the comic and
the munchkin in all of us. Even the DM can have a few cards, to offset the rule-breaking
Green Ronin Publishing, $22.95
It might seem too much to include the third of Green Ronin's Mythic Vistas RPG settings in our d20 list, but this one is as meaty and interesting as the other two. Mindshadows is the very first d20 psionic setting, so it requires the use of WotC's Psionics Handbook; and unlike traditional D&D, which is a fantasy interpretation of Western Europe, this is a fascinating interpretation of Southeast Asia, particularly the Indian Subcontinent. Set on an island over a thousand miles from Green Ronin's Freeport, but usable in any world's spare equatorial space, Mindshadows is a place where magic and psionics sit uneasily alongside each other and the status of classic D&D races have been inverted. Caste bound Brahmin Dwarven sorcerers, feral Elven Barbarians, monotheistic Gnomes, psionic Halfling Monks? All this and more, in what is a very different, but fascinating setting already supported by a supplement of monsters and creations.
Redhurst Academy of Magic Student Handbook
Human Head Studios, $29.99
For any player that's wanted to jump from one setting to the next in his D&D campaign, Redhurst has filled that need. A massive university that travels from world to world by teleportation, the fully mapped and detailed Academy searches for students of the highest caliber. Redhurst provides guidelines for dropping in on several popular adventure destinations, from Freeport and Nyambe to the Scarred Lands and Kingdoms of Kalamar. Designed as a student's guide to the school, the book describes all the classes, professors, and lessons the Redhurst Academy has to offer, with d20 stats and side comments in the margins. Visually stunning, and laid out in "widescreen" format, Redhurst will convince you to come enroll.
Dynasties & Demagogues
Atlas Games, $28.95
Going where no d20 rules have gone before, Dynasties & Demagogues sets about the task of putting rules to political intrigue, and succeeds admirably. With everything from a bureaucratic red tape table, to debate rules, to an example adventure with step-by-step analysis, this book provides an easy guide to one of the most nebulous of areas. Prestige classes such as the Chieftain, Conspiracy Leader, Religious Leader, and Discreet Companion provide creative options for characters to explore the realm of politics. Magic items for information gathering and influencing others round out one of the best d20 supplements of the year.
Have a look at OgreCave's full review for a deeper look at Dynasties & Demagogues.
Dungeons & Dragons Official Roleplaying Soundtrack
Midnight Syndicate, $15
Making this list a baker's dozen, this soundtrack is one of many excellent CDs Midnight Syndicate has created for use while gaming. Better than playing movie soundtracks, which can serve to distract players with memories of the film, the D&D Official RPG Soundtrack puts appropriately heroic, creepy, or energetic music in the hands of the DM. The mood of any game session can be changed or amplified merely through a musical theme, much like in the movies. While all of Midnight Syndicate's CDs work well for this, the D&D Official RPG Soundtrack is our primary suggestion. And thankfully, it has nothing to do with the movie.
Still not enough ideas for you? There are always the lists from last year or even from 2001! Of course, we can't promise all the games will still be in print, but us Cave Dwellers feel that every entry is still worthy of your time and pocket change. In the meantime, our other 2003 Gift Lists are ready to assist you in your holiday game shopping needs.