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Calidar, In Stranger Skies
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2014 15:36:42
Calidar, In Stranger Skies is the latest gaming product from former TSR writer Bruce Heard.

If you have been on the internet or follow any of the news surrounding Kickstarter or Mystara then you should have certainly heard about Bruce and Calidar.

If not here are two brief introductions:
http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/p/a-word-about-calidar.h-
tml
http://bruce-heard.blogspot.com/p/where-can-i-get-calida-
r.html

Calidar is exactly what I expected it to be. Thankfully I expected it to be awesome. It is a real treat reading this. In a sea of "grim dark" settings Calidar brings back magic, fantasy and adventure to "D&D" and any game you care to use it with.

But that is getting ahead myself.

This book is designed for Pathfinder, at least is says so on the cover, but please do not let that stop you from using this with any other "D&D"-like game/system you own or play. In the majority of the book is system neutral. The book is even a fair amount setting neutral, which might sound odd about a setting book, but you could put The Great Caldera on any world's polar region and then drop that world into the Calidar Universe with only a little work. But that would get rid a lot of great stuff...

The first 40 or so pages set the stage of what is possible with this game with some game-related fiction. Now normally I dislike game fiction and tend to ignore it. But this one deserves a read since this is different than what you might be used to doing. A large part of the sense of wonder for this new universe is setup here.

Up next is the Calidar Universe. Oh where was this book 25 years ago! Immediately I am taken back in time to my aborted attempts to bridge Traveller and D&D. This book does it and does it so well. The "Solar" system of this universe is the Soltan Ephemeris. Nice! Mine was Sol Invictus. Not a surprise really. I loved Bruces work back in the day and I am certain we drew on similar sources. But alas that is as far as I got and Bruce kept on going at, well, light speed. Other planets are detailed such as Draconia (wonder who live there?), Lao-Kwei (a Mars-like planet), Canis Major (no relation to the Constellation) home of the Dog Headed people, Felix Major (Cat heads of course) and Ghüle, a Pluto like dungeon planet of alien creatures and gods (ie mostly Orcs). Calidar also has three moons where humans, elves and dwarve comes from respectively. There is also an Asteroid Belt (The Fringe).

In addition to the normal races we have the aforementioned God-folk and Cat-folk and the Starfolk. Starfolk are a catch-all race of aliens from other galaxies. Little is know about them. There are also the Fellfolk, or the natives of Calidar (aka Halflings).

Some Gods are also presented and I am sure there will be more. Gods are manifestations of the souls of the heavenly bodies. Interestingly enough there is an "American Gods"-like version of Odin. Here he is native to Calidar, brought by a group of Vikings stranded here. I like it.

Next Chapter deals with the World of Calidar itself. Various lands and countries around the Great Caldera. Several countries are covered in a familiar Gazetteer style. There is also a great historical timeline that helps set the stage for this world.

One land is covered in detail, the Kingdom of Meryath. I can't help to feel there is a bit of "Glantri" in the roots here. Nothing specific, just a feel. Though I have to smile that name of the main island is the same as my current hometown ("Palatine"). Also detailed are the various NPCs you are likely to encounter; both heroes and villains. I do like that no race in particular is designated as a "heroic" or a "villainous" one. With the exception maybe of the orcs. There is certainly a swashbuckling, high seas feel to these NPCs.
Guilds are detailed, and are likely to be more important in future works; books and adventures. Finally we end the chapter with the largest city in the Kingdom, Glorathon.

Creatures of Calidar deal some of the unique creatures we can find here. Mostly this is background text, no stats.

System Conversion covers the Pathfinder rules stats for both the characters and the new creatures.

Skyships of Calidar cover the ships of various sizes more moving about the universe.

The PDF has a few nice features. The Maps are all index via bookmarks as is all the art.

Let's talk about the maps and art.
Thorfinn Tait is one of the main people behind the maps and cartography of this book. Thorf has been one of the big names in maps for sometime now. He has done a ton of work of the maps of Mystara, which is certainly how he and Bruce Heard know of each other. The maps are a work of art and I love how planets and other objects are listed in "days of travel" on hexes instead of miles. A nice little change that means a lot really. Great from a DM's perspective and easier to adjudicate from a narrative standpoint.

The art is also fantastic. A nice cross between the style of Planescape, Spelljammer and 7th Sea. Which, if you think about it, also describes this book pretty well too.

Calidar, In Stranger Skies is an awesome product. It grabs you and makes you want to play in this world. I am not sure what the plans are, but certainly I can see an OSR version getting produced or even a D&D 5. But if not you could do it on your own with just a little effort (less if you know Pathfinder really well).

Personally I can't think of a single reason NOT to buy this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Calidar, In Stranger Skies
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Actual Factual: Dracula - A Compendium of Vampires
Publisher: Scaldcrow Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2014 13:41:10
Actual Factual: Dracula - A Compendium of Vampires is an unassuming book. The cover is stock art (I am guessing, not sure) and the preview is text with a small amount of art. That and the $40 price tag (sale price $18) might scare some people off.

That would be a mistake.

Inside are 472 pages of detailed vampire types from all over the world.

In this book we are given a basic overview of vampires (aka the stuff everyone knows) and then we move quickly into the relationship between Vlad the Impaler and Vampires. I will honestly say that this section, while entertaining seems tacked on. The book would have been fine without it, but is likely better with it.

Next we get into the heart of this book. The Compendium of Vampires.
The A to Z section detail vampires from around the world and not only represents the bulk of the book (340+ pages), but also the bulk of the research.

Each entry contains the name of the vampire, pronunciation and translation of the name. Also listed are it's country or area of origin, type of creature (creature, spirit, demon...), how it appears, prefered prey, how often it attacks or feeds, Modus Operandi, abilities, defenses against it and how to kill it. Not every creature has everything listed, this is not a Monster Manual, but there are enough. In some cases the author has used her own imagination to fill in the blanks. This is fine really, given that the author is Theresa Bane.
But I guess if you want something purer you can go to her pages of resources.

There is a bibliography, which is almost as interesting to read as the entries themselves.

What follows next really puts this book into a different category of usefulness, the indexes.
First is a more common index of words, names and other things you might want to find in the book.

Next is an index of Abilities. So if you need a vampire that is Beautiful (as an ability) then you have GREEN OGRESS 124 and SUCCUBUS 274.

There is an index of Appearance. So "barbed tongue" gives you:
ASWANG MANDURUGO 23
BICHOHINDU 44
GROBNIK 125
KRVOIJAC 164
UPIER 294
WIESZCZY 330 (one of my favorite barbed tongue vampires).

An Index on Creation. Indexes of How Often it Attacks, How to Find, Origins, Prey, Types, and finally Weaknesses.

Now what would have been a nice touch would be to hyper link all these indexes to the main document. But I am not complaining.

What the book lacks in art, there are only a few pieces, it makes up for in research and utility.
You can debate on whether or not Creature Y is a vampire or not, but I can't fault the authors for doing all this work.

All in all a great book. A must have if you are at all a fan of vampires or use them in your games.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Actual Factual: Dracula - A Compendium of Vampires
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Wild Wizard
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:42:44
The Wild Wizard is akin to the old Wild Mage. It is a Magic-User, but it has a Magical Flux. Magical Flux is summarized as an 1d20 affect table. It is is an interesting idea, but I think it needs something a bit more.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wild Wizard
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War Chanter
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:42:06
What the Bard is to humans and the Greensinger is to Elves the War Chanter is to Dwarves. In addition to being fighters the war chanter also has some powers "Songs" that they can use to aid others. If you are playing a Basic-era game and have more than one player that wants to play a dwarf, have one choose this. It is a pretty interesting class and one that would make good use out a larger group of characters.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
War Chanter
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Sword Master
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:41:35
This class might be called a duelist in other systems, but basically the idea is the same; a master of the sword. The most interesting twist to this class is the inclusion of the Mastery Points. Each level the Ps hass a certain number of these point they may use to increase their dice rolls. It is a neat mechanic and helps the Sword Master to score hits when he really needs too. There is an appendix for applying this to other fighter like classes as well.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sword Master
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Pirate
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:38:50
Again, exactly what it says it is. An interesting class with some thief like abilities the best part is the "Sea Stories" power which gives the PC information in the form of rumor and hearsay that might be beneficial to the Pirate. The idea that pirates hear a lot of strange tales out at see.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pirate
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Kassai Rider
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:38:28
The Kassai Rider is a mounted warrior similar to the Mongol hoards. The class is a full 20 levels and has a number of special abilities based on combat on their horses. Lightly armored and using bows for the most part these warriors are superior on horseback, but I wonder how well they might function in the dungeon.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kassai Rider
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Greensinger
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:37:51
The Greensinger is something akin to an elvish Bard/Druid. Greensingers get some special abilities and can cast spells like that of a cleric/druid. The idea is a rather cool one and frankly I wanted more. The forests of Barrel Rider Games seem to be full of all sorts of strange and magical creatures.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Greensinger
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Goblin
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:37:27
enough her to play 8 levels of goblin fun. 8th level goblins don't get a special title, but they do get a dire wolf of their own. Which you have to admit is pretty sweet.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Goblin
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Friar
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:36:44
Friars are holy men, like clerics, but are a wandering sort. They do not get spells but instead a new special ability at each level. Additionally since they can't wear armor they have a Divine Protection power that keeps them from harm. in fact the highest level friars can have an AC as low as -6 if they reach 20th level and have a high dexterity. For those that want a different take on the cleric this is a good choice.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Friar
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Forester
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:36:22
FULL DISCLOSURE: The genesis of the class was based on discussion I had the James Spahn on what sort of class my youngest son Connor likes to play. All the material in this book is James' own original work, I am just rather fond of it.
The Forester is basically and elven Ranger with thief and hunting abilities thrown in. It is a 10 level class. The forester gets a lot of interesting abilities to help it in it's role as a protector of the forests including the abilities to hide in shadows and better fighting abilities when wielding a bow. The coolest though is the ability to get an animal sidekick in the form of an Elven dog.
Since this was built more or less for my son he has been using the class in our Old-School game. It plays like a Ranger with a few extra tricks up his sleeve.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forester
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Explorer
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:35:55
This might be the consummate PC Class. It focuses on adventuring and that thrill of discovery. It mixes a bit of thief and fighter with some sage-y abilities (id magical items, read magic) and cast some spells. If you are missing a class or two in your group the Explore might help feel the missing bits. Worth it for a look.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Explorer
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Death Knight
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:35:27
This class is something of a cross of warlock and an anti-paladin. The Death Knight are not undead per se but do have their life force changed to undead or demonic power. It is a full 20th level class and in addition to fighting prowess the Death Knight has powers and spells. The class is very comparable to a Paladin only Chaotic of course. Like some of the alternate classes that used to appear in Dragon magazine the Death Knight works great, and maybe better, as an NPC class.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Death Knight
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Commander
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:34:58
Commanders feel like they are on the opposite end of the fighting spectrum than beserkers. They are cool efficient battle strategists. The Commander is like a Basic-era Fighter, but his "powers" are his abilities to command and bolster others. For example at higher levels those under his command are immune to fear.
It is an interesting class and has some nice features.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Commander
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Berserker
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 14:34:35
The Beserker class takes us back to some of the earliest days of D&D and The Dragon magazine. The Berserker presented here is different but the feel is the same. This class is a full 20 levels for Labyrinth Lord and gives the beserker such powers as Terror of the North and Form of the Bear. One can almost hear The Immigrant Song playing in background. There is a decidedly Norse flavor to this one (as opposed to say a Celtic one) but it works great.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Berserker
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