EZG’s Top Ten of 2015!
It’s this time of the year again, my friends!
Let’s begin this year’s Top Ten list with a recap:
2015 has been an awesome year for the 3pp-scene. Fact.
Beyond a huge amount of superb releases and the start of my patreon, I have branched into other systems – so starting 2016, my Top Ten list will include all game-systems I cover.
As always, the list that will follow will reflect my own preferences – and be less about refinement, more about what *I*, as a person, love. So my reviewer’s hat is half off for this.
That being said, all of these books are truly superb.
One more thing: I have one rule for the Top Ten. If a book or component of it has already featured on the list, a further book that compiles/expands it, is not eligible for the list – this rule exists mainly to prevent the same type of book from scoring multiple times.
Before we go into the respective lists, I wanted to thank everyone who supported me over the years and particularly thank the 3pps that continued to step up their game – I have never been able to write this many positive reviews before, with the average quality being exceedingly high. A special, second “Congratulations!” should be extended to every publisher and author who managed to get even one book nominated as a candidate.
And yes, this brings me to the following books that have been disqualified due to this one rule (and would otherwise feature on the list):
The significantly expanded book that collects last year’s superb Psychological Combat and combines it with the excellent Leadership Handbook is one of the most-used books in my game. Its streamlining of Demoralize and Bluff and introduction of the Antagonize social maneuver is brilliant. A must-have book and worthy EZG-Essential I use in every campaign!
Last year, Matt Finch’s first part of this masterpiece scored on my list and it remains one of the most awesome Underdark Sagas I know; brilliant, evocative and awesome, part II in no way falls short of the superb qualities of part I – but it also very much is an essential second part, one that works best when combined with part I. Hence, I elected to retroactively add this superb book to last year’s Cyclopean Deeps I as a winner of last year’s award – the combination of both is awesome.
The original iteration of Snow-White scored on a previous Top Ten; however, this book really made me grit my teeth regarding my own rules – with over 50% new content, absolutely superb production values, huge amounts of glorious ideas…and, more importantly, it features rewrites that eliminate all potential hiccups the original iteration sported. The result is a superbly gorgeous book that is a blessing for one’s bookshelf.
All right, so these would be the three superb books that would be on the list, were it not for the aforementioned, one rule I established for myself.
Since the current year has seen a significant array of non-PFRPG-reviews as well, let’s take a look at 3 particularly inspiring books that I feel obliged to note as highlights of my year:
If you like horror-gaming…well, then you damn well NEED this. No exceptions. Beyond being basically compatible with the superb Night’s Black Agents, Trail of Cthulhu and similar GUMSHOE-settings, Esoterrorists is mindbogglingly good and inspiring; I was pretty drained regarding Cthulhu and horror and this book totally changed that – by virtue of its smart offerings, concepts and downright awesome adversaries, this (and to a lesser extent, the Fear Itself sister book) humble little book is currently my favorite horror book. Yes, that good.
This humble little pdf for Rite Publishing’s Diceless system is actually written in verse…and so is my review of it. Writing it was a joy and beyond being a glorious little pdf, I had a LOT of fun writing the review for it. It has a very low price, so even if you’re not interested in the system, checking it out is a great idea!
A wonderful roleplaying game that emphasizes travel, is a superb first setting and family friendly to boot – if you’d ask me for what would be a great first supplement to introduce kids to roleplaying – this would be my recommendation.
All right, so all of these out of the way, here is my Top Ten of the best PFRPG-books of 2015!
Spheres of Power is a truly evocative, brilliant alternate spellcasting system that literally allows you to play a vast array of unique, different and evocative types of character and construct completely different games – were it not for a couple of rough edges in the deatils, this would rank even higher on this list.
Okay, so if you’ve been following my reviews, you’ll know that I absolutely LOVE good environment-sourcebooks…but, alas, there simply aren’t that many. Suffice to say, while I can rattle off a list of underdark sourcebooks or desert/frozen-reaches-themed books, once we get to PLAINS of all regions…there was none. Until this book hit shelves. Fields of Blood is a glorious GM toolbox and inspired a significant array of glorious modules in my game. Oh, and the sample adventures also rock hard.
And here, we have what the rogue should always have been. Modular, fun, diverse, well-researched and presented, this is simply superb. This is THE definite rogue for a d20-based game. ‘Nuff said.
One of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read, Southlands is a thoroughly inspired, brilliant and creative campaign setting that breathes the glorious spirit of Midgard, that takes a bow to real world mythology and that feels concise, almost novel-like in its superbly evocative prose. Southlands is absolutely superb in every way.
What can I say?? I’m a huge sucker for Kaiju, massive high-level foes, super enemies…the like. It was pretty clear I’d absolutely adore this book and the added rules for piloting a Power Ranger-style mecha just complements this further. Awesome.
The book you didn’t know you needed until you did – Microsized Adventures is a truly superb book that lets you create a huge assortment of new options, all around shrinking and sizes. This humble book is small, concise, and it opens a huge amount of new ways to play the game, with rock-solid, impressive and complex rules for creatures of vastly different sizes…and size-changes. Get this glorious little book!
Joshua Gullion has given us a true gift; when he championed Michael Allen getting the gig to write this adventure saga, little did I know how absolutely mind-blowing this would become: Steeped in Aventyr-lore, this wonderful saga managed to keep its exceedingly high quality, smart premises and diverse environments and progress them through the installments, with none of the modules like the other. Shattered Heart is a truly superb saga and I sure as hell hope it will get an expansion/epilogue in the future -as it stands, it is a superb example of how AAW Games has ramped up their game throughout 2015, releasing a huge array of truly premium modules.
Richard Develyn is not only a gifted author, he has elevated adventure-writing to a form of art. At ridiculous 4 bucks per module, you will not find any module out there on par with this bang-to-buck-ratio. The fact that Richard’s modules have continuously not only managed to be nominated, but actually WIN Top Ten-spots in the highest echelons should speak volumes for the quality, thought and creativity that went into every one of them. Not content with simply providing great modules, each has a vastly different style and pushes the envelope of what can be done with a given adventure. These belong in any GM’s library.
The literally only reason Ultimate Ethermagic, Composition and Truenaming did not make my list last year was that I knew they’d be collected in this book. The make-it-or-break-it magnum opus of Bradley Crouch sports 3 perfectly balanced, customizable, complex alternate casting systems, all of which feature heavily in my campaigns – whether it’s THE definite manabar/warlock-y system ethermagic, the actually “feels-like-music”-composition system or the impressive and definite take on truenaming, these systems blew me away, each and every one of them. I adore this book and its impact on my games is only rivaled by Dreamscarred Press’ Ultimate Psionics.
Okay, this probably did not surprise anyone, right? Sword of Air has been in limbo for pretty much as long as Necromancer Games and Frog God Games existed. No other adventure ever had to live up to such a huge legacy of hype and overblown, impossible expectations. In fact, I didn’t really dare read this for a while…because I was convinced that this would, by necessity, disappoint me. The opposite turned out to be true: It exceeded my wildest dreams. Sword of Air is a huge book – and it needs every damn page in it.
There is no other module, perhaps not even a campaign setting out there, which manages to instill this sense of cohesion; with a firm, modular plot-line, it combines the best traits of wide-open old-school sandboxes and narrative-driven gameplay; it brims with unique ideas and ranks as one of the densest, most flavorful campaigns I’ve ever read. There is no doubt – this is a true masterpiece, a once-in-a-decade-level of quality saga that should, even among FGG’s massive mega-adventures, be considered the crown jewel.
If I had to take a single adventure to a remote island…I’d probably take this one.
Not only is it vast, it can be run in wildly different ways and never is bogged down, redundant or bland – a masterpiece in every way, this is literally a must-own saga if there ever was one. This book very much exemplifies how Frog God Games’ team has honed the craft of each member and combined their significant strengths to turn this into a collective larger than the sum of its parts and if you need to see what’s great about 3pps, old-school gaming and mega-adventures – look no further. This would work in no other way or format – neither as an AP or as a similarly structured series; Sword of Air is a mega-adventure in the truest sense; This is the benchmark for mega-adventures and truly deserving of being called “magnum opus”.
All right, so that’s it – ladies and gentlemen among the designers, developers, publishers, layout-artists, artists, cartographers, you made my year a truly blessed one.
Thank you for your effort, creativity, work and, more importantly, for spreading joy to thousands of tables all over the world!
My heartfelt congratulations to all winners, though I’d like to emphasize that even a nomination is a HUGE feat in itself!
Here’s to 2016 and may it bring us as many awesome books as last year!
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