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Encounters ~ Plots ~ Places Review
Posted By Michael Holland On September 17, 2012 @ 10:25 am In Reviews,RPGs | 1 Comment
Encounters ~ Plots ~ Places: Creatures, NPCs, Items, Places and Adventure Hooks for any fantasy system is not only an impressively long title it is also the creation of writer Benjamin Gerber, egg-lobbing world traveler, lover of zombies and game writer. Throw in some bits about IT, sock puppets and cats on fire and you have a writer’s bio that makes me grin from ear to ear.
EPP (for short) is a system independent sourcebook of inspirational material for game masters running fantasy roleplaying games. Ben organized a Kickstarter in Nov. 2011 to help finish up production of the book, to allow folks to pre-order the PDF and/or physical copies and to pay for commissioned art work from Khairul Hisham. The end result is a well written book that I believe game masters will find very useful.
The Non-Player Characters section of the book details 12 human characters which can be dropped into any setting. While each character is presented as a human (to accommodate those games which do not include fantasy races) they can easily be adjusted to any race desired. Each entry includes a quote, key information about the character (Motivation, Strength, Weakness and a general Power Rating) and a background synopsis.
Each character is as colorful as the layout of the book. While I found each entry enjoyable to read I also found myself inspired to add them to my settings as soon as possible. I think that is the mark of well written material. When I can think of nothing else but how soon I can add elements into my game I raise my glass to the writer and say. “Well done!”
The Encounters section of the book is very similar to the first chapter although it focuses on the kinds of creatures normally seen as adversaries in fantasy adventure games. These are no mere goblins and kobolds though as each entry is as thought provoking as the NPCs which came before it. From dragons trying to create evolved societies to miniscule creatures who construct miniature replicas of nearby cities this section is a wealth of material.
The Items section is exactly what you think it would be, a section of interesting items. Where the utility comes in is the story generating power of each item and how they can be used to add incredibly interesting elements into a campaign. Golden acorns grow entire villages when planted. A magical flute carved from the tibia of a fallen god bestows anyone who plays it well with divine powers. The magical sword reclaimed by adventurers is actually the physical manifestation of a multiversal hive mind which exists in numerous dimensions at the same time and can speak with those who wield it.
I found the Places chapter to be the most interesting although that may be because I spend most of my time behind the game screen. While I can always work an interesting character, critter or item into a game if you give me an interesting locale I can forge a campaign worth of material in a very short period of time. This section does not disappoint my drive to build worlds and develop all the pieces inside it.
The book is filled with Adventure Hooks providing game masters with easy ways to work the material into their games. I think it was a very smart move to integrate the adventure hook entries into each section of the book. I have seen many products which move those kinds of elements to the back of their books and the end result is a lot of page flipping and missed opportunities. In EPP game masters will find everything they need in a single entry so the product is easier to use. Not to ignore tradition Benjamin included an entire section of additional adventure hooks in the back of the book which is the icing on an already delicious cake.
The general layout of the book is absolutely gorgeous but some of the individual art pieces seemed like questionable choices to me. Overall it did not feel like there was a cohesive vision for the art in this book which resulted in a mix of absolutely brilliant color pieces, some beautiful and moderately well done color and B&W pieces as well as some pencil drawings which probably should have been saved for a different product. The writing is brilliant, as is the layout and I believe the art should have been of the same quality throughout.
My other concern with the book is the editing needed to be touched up in places. There were several broken paragraphs throughout the book and a lot of errors like missing periods. As a PDF product I think they could go back and fix those issues and I hope they have the opportunity to do so.
These were the only flaws in an otherwise perfect product. I want to emphasize though these issues did not take anything away from the utility of the book and I think it is a great book for any game master to add to their collection. I know I am happy to have it in mine and I look forward to introducing elements of this book into my games.
Rated Four out of Five
Review by Michael Holland
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