Van Graaf’s Journal of Adventuring
This pdf from Mongoose Publishing is 142 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, 1 page SRD and 1 page back cover, leaving 137 pages of content, so let’s check out what Van Graaf’s tome has to say about adventuring…
Adventuring is a broad topic and thus it is only expected that not all bases will be covered and the first area covered would be a section on gearing up – an alternative system for mundane little items is presented – essentially, a rummage-through-clothes check to find items you didn’t have on your character sheet. If your players don’t enjoy planning their items all the time, this system might make them happy. The new mundane items are actually quite cool and consist of a lot of bits and pieces that could easily be overlooked. A new system for carrying equipment is presented as well – essentially, e.g. items on the back take longer to get and every character e.g. has a carrying slot on the thighs, back, shoulders, etc. Implementation of the system leads to more planning and more realistic Pcs, but could, depending on player-type, lead to annoyance due to bogging down play. However, not all is great in this chapter: There is an extensive amount of space devoted to suggested things to take along on an adventurous trip through any given terrain. While the idea is nice, the information provided is mostly of the “D’uh”-type – i.e. logical things that just didn’t need to be spelled out.
The second chapter, rules of engagement, provides us with a cool idea – party tactics that can be learned via several weeks/months of training that grant you and your allies bonuses when e.g. luring foes into ambushes. I really enjoyed the idea and its presentation. Unfortunately, though, the chapter contains much, much filler, providing an exhaustive, bland description of first, basic roles in the party and secondly, how classes view other classes. This information is so superfluous, words fail to describe the sheer obsoleteness of the section, constituting a blatant way of upping the page-count. Even worse, and this is problem of the whole book, it completely ignores the classes from the APG, UM and UC, somewhat making it feel overall as if it has not been written for PFRPG, but is rather a rehash of a 3.5-book. The fact that synergy-bonuses are mentioned further gives credence to this nagging suspicion, as does the fact that e.g. rage powers, bloodlines etc. are not discussed at all. More annoyingly, this chapter of the book also contains general, bland tactics and ways to deal with enemies by general types. Do we really need a discussion on the very basics of any form of investigation/reconnaissance? This is information that belongs to a starter-kit, not a book like this.
Chapter 3, entitled “intelligent spellcasting” organizes spells by purpose (which is handy to have) and provides us with sample spell-lists. A LOT of sample spell-lists. However, the utility of said lists is greatly compromised by the lack of APG, UM and UC-support, making this whole chapter, at least for me, rather useless.
Thankfully, the final chapter once again has some actually useful new rules, dealing with home bases of adventuring groups. Rules for provisions and upkeep as well as discipline etc. are covered, as are different types of bases. I would have preferred a tighter synergy with the Kingmaker or the Jade Regent-rules, though. Nothing is wrong with the content of this chapter.
Editing and formatting are ok – I did notice some relics, punctuation errors etc. Layout adheres to a nice 2-column standard. The b/w-artworks are nothing to write home about and nowhere near the quality of the cover. The pdf comes without any bookmarks, which, at this length, is simply unacceptable – navigating a pdf of over 100 pages sans bookmarks in this day and age is a sign of bad production values and simply sloppy.
While I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but feel that the content is a cobbled together rehash of 3.5-rules components that has not even been updated to the new realities of PFRPG – no APG, no UM, no UC-support is just weak. Furthermore, the redundant and boring, basic character-class/roles discussions never once mention archetypes or any of the innovations PFRPG brought to the table. And then, there’s the price. Essentially, this book asks you to shell out A LOT of money for an un-bookmarked pdf that contains obviously reprinted information that has not been updated. Blatantly boring filler-material abounds and the utility of the spell-lists (by the way: Over 20 pages!) is questionable.
Quite frankly, while the equipment and base-upkeep rules are not bad, I feel insulted by this pdf. It’s advice is patronizing, it’s content often redundant or simply not something ANY roleplayer but absolute beginners needs spelled out. In fact, I’d wager that even novices don’t need the pieces of advice herein. Add to that the lack of bookmarks and not only the scarce, but actually rather good components in here can salvage this book. I can’t recommend this pdf to anyone – especially at the ridiculously high price. If the items intrigued you and you want an equipment book, I’d much rather recommend 4 Wind Fantasy Gaming’s Luven-book. My final verdict will be a harsh, somewhat annoyed 1.5 stars, rounded down to 1. Steer clear of this book!