Hello everyone! For today’s double-sized resources article we come back to books. Rule books and supplements to be exact. These books are from a few different games/editions, but all hold help for flavoring your games. Regardless of what system you are using or where you want your game to take place, there is generally a flavor you may be shooting for. Maritime, perhaps, or maybe you want some Asian folklore mixed in. Such things are the purview of these books, and having them on your shelf will definitely help you when you need some influence!
Occult Adventures (Pathfinder)
This is one of my favorite add-on books from Paizo thus far. Despite moving away from Pathfinder and into 5th Edition (and smaller games), it was something I had to get. This entire book is based around the idea of a campaign where the “weird” takes the forefront. Once upon a time, almost everything in D&D and similar games was new, odd, exciting. Magic, potions, rituals, and creatures of myth. These are all things that have an air of mysticism when you first come into the fantasy genre. Nowadays there are A LOT of tropes, cliches, and expectations though. If you want to reintroduce some supernatural aspects, some mysticism, some eerie excitement to your game then this is the book for you.
The first part of this book is about character classes and, really, their names say it all: medium, mesmerist, occultist, psychic, etc. It tells you exactly what this book is going for and I think the occultist and the medium really exemplify the types of things that are big in the roots of fantasy but often left on the side of RPGs these days. After the class descriptions, archetypes, and feats you come to psychic magic. Now, part of me feels like the psychic classification puts a little oddness to some things, it is mostly a mechanic classification. The chapter describing it and some of their “spells” along with the occult rules chapters can greatly help a GM looking to add such thing to their campaigns. Then the running an occult game chapter. Well, its great! From new haunt rules to ley lines and expanded aspects of planes like the ethereal, it has a lot to offer. Finally, the gear section has some great inspiration for powerful items, and some great suggestion for normal items in a world where superstition and the supernatural takes its place.
Cerulean Seas Campaign Setting (Pathfinder)
I got this book for a very specific reason, mostly on a hope and a dream. At one point I was developing an under water campaign setting. Very nearly the whole thing would take place under water, and I even built a multi-tier grid for battles. Sadly, time and campaign priorities did not allow it to get very far. Something I needed to help me was a way to handle doing things underwater. And I don’t mean just a battle or trip. I mean full adventures, swimming speeds, sinking vs floating, metals that would be used, other materials, and stuff like that. While I was willing to do some work, I really was hoping I wouldn’t have to go crazy.
This book was everything I was hoping for! Aside from being a full Pathfinder compatible setting, in fact because of it, there is everything you need to run your own game. Being the edition it is, there is tons of it which correlates to 3.5 or 5th Edition with minimal to no changes. From buoyancy and economy to light and ecosystems, this book has it all. And it is all for being underwater. Classes, skills, magic, equipment, and monsters can all be used for inspiration for your own undersea adventures. Even if you are using a smaller, more flexible system where such things are less a concern, mechanically, this book still belongs in your files. It will have answers to questions you didn’t know you would need to ask!
Oriental Adventures (3rd Edition D&D)
This is another great setting book. I have had this one for a number of years now, and it is one of my go-to’s when I need a certain inspiration. If you couldn’t gather by the title, this is an Asian mythology based setting. Specifically the setting of Rokugan from Legend of the Five Rings. From a 3rd Edition standpoint this book as a lot to offer, though it is mostly flavor rather than innovation in new things. That isn’t realyl a big problem though, especially considering the whole point was to explore Asian influenced adventures in 3rd for the first time, and in Rokugan instead of Kara-tur. That, alone, is plenty to focus on and plenty for me.
This book as everything you need to start a campaign, in any game, with Asian influence. There are examples of oni, lung dragons, classes, weapons, and more. While the mechanics would be useless in most systems, the basics represented are more than enough. You will get an idea of how to rename weapons, or what mechanics look like to basic equipment to judge how to make it for your game. You’ll have plenty of mythos to work from too from the dragons to the kappa to the different version of the elements. Everything is found in mechanics, but due to the desire to make this a flavor of game play, rather than an exploration of new things, there is so much to learn from here. Everything is a launch pad for the proper wiki searches.
Slipstream (Savage Worlds)
I love this book, though I have yet to use it on its own. This is another setting book. Surprise! This one is out in left field though. At first glance, this is just a science fiction setting for Savage Worlds. Nothing too special about it, except the oddly old / retro looking things. But that, of course, is exactly the whole point! Slipstream was a setting made to give you the opportunity to play in a world like the pulp space adventures of earlier science fiction. There are laser guns, jet packs, bubble helmets, and clunky robots! It is so fantastic. The setting itself is quite interesting, in and of itself, but that isn’t why I added it. I added this to the list because of what kind of inspiration you can have for your campaigns. A lot of science fiction is likely to be hard sci-fi or Star Wars influenced, and there is nothing wrong with that. But for those of you looking for some high adventure, this is a resource you need. This is something that takes a pretty wild form of science fiction, one that doesn’t show up much these days, and let’s you play in it. If nothing else it has some interesting ideas to pull from.
Heroes of Horror (3.5 D&D)
This little book probably gets overlooked more often than not. A supplement from the 3.5 years of D&D, this book was made to help add horror to the table. There a few ways in which horror can be added to a game. Gothic horror like Ravenloft, cosmic horror like Call of Cthulhu, or expanding on weird creatures like beholders (see next entry). This book was a generic horror supplement though. It sought to help DMs instill a sense of dread and fear into their players. Some of the best things about this book ignore the mechanics of the game. The first chapter describes how to create a sense of horror, has a whole list of creepy effects, and a section on how villains act in such stories. It also gives us a new demigod, Cas, which holds a special place for me in the random pantheon(s) of D&D. The book goes on to describe things like adding horror to settings you may already be playing in, techniques on creating terror, the point of a hero in such adventures, and more! When you get to mechanics there are optional rules for fear, corruption, and death as they all exist in the horror setting. Finally you have some monsters to work with. If the grey jester isn’t enough for you, there are small sections helping you on how to use the resources you already have, broken down by creature type! If you are into horror, this is a great gaming resource.
Lords of Madness (3.5 D&D)
This is one of my favorite books because if offers a look into the Lovecraftian side of Dungeons & Dragons. While the game’s high fantasy, heroic aspects tend to veer it away from the absolute insanity inducing terror of Cthulhu and his ilk, the aberrations of D&D have always had the feel of such things. From the gibbering mouther to the aboleth, they represent the absolute weird and incomprehensible. Lords of Madness gave you the ability to create an entire campaign centering around such creatures. Each of the first few chapters takes a comprehensive look into a major sentient player of that world, many of which are D&D IP. The beholder and the illithid are just two such creatures. From this book you get insights into their psyche, their society, and even their biology. There’s another chapter that includes a number of new creatures for you to use as well, some linked to the ones detailed in previous chapters and others stand on their own. Finally, the last chapter is for the players. They are provided with a multitude of options for becoming hunters and banishers of such horrible creatures. Or perhaps you wish to experiment with them and graft their flesh to yours? That too is an option for you to partake of. If you don’t want to go full Lovecraft, but want to explore words that tread that fine line, this is the book that will help you do it!