Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

Product-Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

System- Dungeons and Dragons

Producer– Wizards of the Coast

Price– $41 here https://www.amazon.com/stores/page/D890997E-DC03-45CB-BABE-5A760E103954?channel=dnd-site-jam&_encoding=UTF8&tag=wotc03-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=5e6ae51a65de0619af85a9a07edec25f&camp=1789&creative=9325 

TL; DR– Spaceships and Sorcerers! 76%

Basics–  TO THE SKY!  Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is the latest setting for DnD that really encompasses all the other settings.  Spelljammers are space ships that can travel between different systems and explore, so really the limits of this setting are the limits that you can steal and borrow from all the other DnD settings and your favorite fanfic of Star Trek.  Let’s get into this one.

Mechanics or Crunch– This is a good book with some new mechanics, but not a ton of information.  Overall space beyond a planet system is just empty and full of “air”, so you don’t need much.  The spelljammers are fun ships, but the DnD isn’t really set up to do ship battles well.  It’s not bad, but it’s simple and the system defaults to basic rules in the DMG for side combat for ship combat.  There are new races, but not a ton beyond that.  So if you want a lot of new crunch for your players, there isn’t that much here.  Ships get a good rundown, which is needed, but  don’t expect much as a player.  There are monsters of the cosmos, which are absolutely needed, but for each system you need to grab that world’s/setting’s books and get monsters from there.  This book adds decent materials for the GM, but not much for players. It doesn’t really expand the rules beyond the basics we’ve seen.  4/5

Theme or Fluff– I don’t hate the story here, but I’m left wanting more in a bad way.  This setting is all about space and boldly going to new worlds.  You do get the basics of that, but you don’t get a ton of new worlds beyond “Go grab your favorite other books and go there!”  Again, it’s not bad, but it feels too loose to be helpful.  I do think the adventure they give is awesome and will help GMs and players who are new to the setting get used to it.  That “fish out of water” adventure that is included is going to be your best introduction to this setting. That said, after reading this book, I need more to really know what this setting is.  4/5

Execution– Can’t buy a PDF, but when there was an update it came out as a PDF.  I can rent the book via DnD Beyond, but other than that, it’s physical only.  What is in the book is a solid ok.  Good spacing and text size and all the things I look for in a book, but it’s only in their proprietary app.  I want to own my book, so you either buy a physical book or rent DnD beyond.  And, while I love the adventure they give you, they don’t give you pregens at fifth level.  Just include the pregens!  I don’t want to make some for my players nor do some groups want to make some when the GM buys that book.  I want to play ASAP and that would massively help those groups.  It’s 2022 and you are behind the times.  I am not pleased.  3.5/5

Summary– Spelljammer is a fun setting and book that just needs more.  The mechanics here are ok, but there is not much for players and just enough for the GM to run a game beyond go to the DMG.  The story is fun, but there isn’t much beyond go look at other stuff.  The execution misses many marks that other companies are doing and it hurts my impression of the book.  If you want some classic space and sorcery, this will be a fun book.  If you don’t have an idea of what Spelljammer is then you still might not after reading this book.  76%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Down Darker Trails

Product-Down Darker Trails

System- Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed

Producer– Chaosium

Price– $44.99 here https://www.chaosium.com/down-darker-trails-hardcover/ 

TL; DR– Cowboys and Cthulhu! 97%

Basics–  What’s that ahead on the trail?  Down Darker Trails is a wild west source book for Call of Cthulhu.  This book has information for both the game master and players to build anything, from gunslingers to wild west cults serving dark gods all across the west.  Let’s look at the parts.

Mechanics or Crunch– This book is an interesting and well done mix of old and new.  Arguably there are LOTS of reskins of stuff we have seen before, but honestly, that’s what I need.  I need to know what the fire rate for guns in that time was and and the prices.  There are some major changes between 1880 and 1920, but the damage really doesn’t change that much in this game.  That said, this book adds a lot of new stuff, from spells to real life states for characters, to excellent new options for investigators/players.  I like everything that is here and it adds the right amount of depth and crunch for a game in this time.  5/5

Theme or Fluff– I like what’s here, but I have some minor issues.  I mentioned before that there is a lot of reskinning for the time.  That’s true and it’s true here too.  But, I don’t see anything crazy new here regarding the mythos.  It doesn’t invent a ton of new monsters or elder things.  Lovecraft didn’t do a ton out west, so thats part of it, but I would like to see more new in the story of the mythos.  That said, what is here is excellent.  Amazing history summaries, great write ups on persons of the time, solid respect to the cultures of the west and its people, and character options that will let a person who is new to the old west beyond Back to the Future III into the world of what really went on out there.  There is always more to be learned, but as a first pass into this world and the idea that a book can’t continue for forever, this is a great way to build mythos into the west and the west into the mythos.  4.5/5

Execution– Chaosium knows book publishing with the art, layout, readability, and book mechanics like hyperlinks and such all on point.  This book even has real pictures of people from the time to so you can see the real faces of the west.  Furthermore, since the real west was a lot more racist than the fun and wholly-pretend cowboy and Indians I played as a child, the book treats the indigenous peoples of the west with respect in art, writing, and design.  5/5

Summary– This is a phenomenal book.  I love Call of Cthulhu, and recently lots of my video games have been old west as well.  The pretend old west is fun, but the real west is far more entertaining and deep.  This book gives me the keeper/gm the tools I need to merge those loves and it gives my players the tools they need to jump right in as well.  I have some minor issues, but like all the products I love that quibble about it comes down to wanting more.  What I do have is a well done book with crunch and stories to build a fun western adventure and a book that easily revealed its secrets.  If you want cowboys in the mythos, then you need this book.  96%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Pathfinder Adventure Path #164: Hands of the Devil (Abomination Vaults 2 of 3)

Product-Pathfinder Adventure Path #164: Hands of the Devil (Abomination Vaults 2 of 3)

System- Pathfinder 2nd Ed

Producer– Paizo

Price– $24.99 here https://paizo.com/products/btq027jm?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-164-Hands-of-the-Devil 

TL; DR-Another solid piece of the Abomination Vaults puzzle  100%

Basics–  How deep is the place?  Hands of the Devil dives deeper into the lighthouse from Ruins of Gauntlight.  Players meet new people, monsters, and horrors beyond time as they delve deeper into the lighthouse’s history and people.  Are your players willing to sell someone else to the devils?

Mechanics or Crunch– This is a dungeon crawler.  You kill monsters and find loot.  Monsters are fun and new but balanced at the same time.  Solid work from Paizo.  There are also new items and character options, so this book might not be for everyone, but it does try to have materials that everyone can enjoy. 5/5

Theme or Fluff– The first book of the adventure path was very much find stuff, kill stuff, and that was fun. This one has multiple factions and people all trying to one up each other.  It’s a welcome change of pace.  Your characters can still kill everyone and take their stuff, but there is MUCH more here than the first few levels for story and interaction.  This book also has players do a lot more in town, further strengthening the roleplaying aspect.  It’s a welcome change of pace.  5/5

Execution– Solid art, layout, text, story, hyperlinks, maps, and flow all make this a BREEZE to read.  Paizo knows good books and their adventure paths are where they really shine.  5/5

Summary– There isn’t much more to say than this is well done.  Solid fun fights, good story, and excellent execution all typify this one.  I like what’s here as the players can now decide if they want to talk to the monsters instead of just kill them.  They CAN just kill them, but it is still fun to see if the monsters now want to eat them or have my players just want to kill them.  This is a solid intro dungeon crawl for Pathfinder, and one I’m glad I’m running with my group.  100 %

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Starfinder Society Intro: Year of Redemption’s Rise

Product-Starfinder Society Intro: Year of Redemption’s Rise

System- Starfinder

Producer– Paizo

Price– $5.99 here https://paizo.com/products/btq02c6r?Starfinder-Society-Intro-Year-of-Redemptions-Rise 

TL; DR– A simple, yet solid intro adventure. 93%

Basics–  STARFINDERS!  The society calls you to make friends?  Year of Redemption Rise is the latest intro module for the 5th year of Starfinder society.  Starfinders meet three new factions, learn the basics of these factions, and help each with a micro adventure.  It’s the standard fare for a faction introduction adventure, so let’s see how it stacks up.

Mechanics or Crunch–  This adventure is a solid balance of fights and fluff.  Players will talk with just as many NPCs as they shoot at.  The crunch here for both sections is well balanced and thought out.  It’s not reinventing the society’s basics, but it does a good job with the pieces it does have. 5/5

Theme or Fluff– What’s here is good, but there is not much here.  The major adventure beats are leading a tour group, clearing an abandoned house, clearing a greenhouse, and cooling a political discussion.  Nothing bad and it does set up for the future conflicts of tech vs. self sufficiency, but don’t expect some crazy inversion of the adventure template.  You meet new groups, make friends with them, and then finish pretty quickly.  Short, simple, and sweet. 4.5/5

Execution– Short, simple, and sweet is a good description of the execution of this book as well.  Good layout, good pictures, a map for those who don’t have the specific map for clearing the abandoned facility, and easy to master intro and outro pieces for GM in a hurry.  Six bucks is a bit steep for this, but that is my only complaint for this module. 4.5/5

Summary– This adventure reminds me of many of the other faction intro adventures.  Paizo does their execution well, but it’s a bit pricey.  The basic crunch in them all is well done and shows a mastery of the system.  And while the story is basic, it does a good job introducing new major characters to the players.  Overall is this is a solid adventure and introduction to the next year as the society heals its rifts and repairs who it is. 93%