Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal
Author: Steve Trustrum
Page Count: 101Price: $9.50 at RPGNow or DriveThru RPG
Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal is a supplement for the SpirosBlaak setting that delivers rules for black powder weapons, both the personal and artillery types, and includes an extensive selection of such weapons. However, the book is not limited to these weapons and includes non-powder weapons, new and altered skills, new feats, and new magic.
Chapter 1: Introduction
This is the introduction and author notes. It is a typical introduction, wherein the author talks about the trials and tribulations of getting the product ready and out, and gives thanks to the various people involved in said production.
Chapter 2: New Skills and Feats
This chapter includes additions to the Craft skill, allowing the creation of black powder weapons, artillery, and technological items. Craft (technology) has an interesting secondary use, allowing it to emulate other Craft skills. In addition, the Craft skill entries have extensive lists for crafting DCs, something missing in many products.
In addition, there are several new feats, most dealing with black powder weapons and artillery. While the feats are good and solid, there are no standouts.
Chapter 3: Melee and Ranged Weapons
This chapter details some new, non-powder-based weapons, ranging from the Battle Cleaver, which would be right at home in Athas, to the anime-styled Blade Lash, to the Dwarven Flame Breather, a primitive, bellows-operated, alchemist fire-thrower. These unique weapons can add a distinct flavor to characters.
Chapter 4: Black Powder Rules and Weapons
This is the heart of Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal – the rules and statistics for the black powder weapons.
The chapter begins with notes for racial and political weapon preferences in a SpirosBlaak campaign. It is good to know how your opponents will typically be armed.
The black powder weapons have a few new rules to give them a distinct feel in play. One is penetration; this provides a bonus or penalty to hit armored targets. This is a good rule, but it would benefit from notes on changes for common alternate systems, such as Armor as DR.
Weapons also have a misfire range, with acts much like a critical fumble rule.
Each weapon also lists a charge – the amount of powder required to fire a shot.
These additions to the rules help maintain distinctiveness for firearms, but are easily ignored for those who prefer less bookkeeping or detail.
The chapter contains a wide variety of black powder firearms, from the .22 pocket pistol (a holdout pistol if you will) to the .90 Slayer Gun (a modified small cannon). Included in this range are common black powder weapons, the inevitable melee weapon/firearm combination weapons, and some more unusual weapons.
Particular weapons of interest include the Arkanoclian Gun Pack (essentially, a chest-mounted, hand-cranked, slow-firing Gatling gun); fowling weapons (shotguns, affecting targets in an area); the Goblin Barrel Module Gun (like a primitive, but more useful Steyr-AUG), and the Mage Pistol (which is shaped like a wand to be familiar to such spellcasters).
Mechanically, the weapons are well balanced against other standard weapons (swords and bows), which should prevent characters from dropping their old stand-bys in favor of the new technology. The firearms presented make for fine backup weapons (for adventurers) or mass-combat weapons (for infantry).
After the black powder weapons, there are rules for artillery and mortars. Again, there are notes on racial and political preferences. These rules cover everything from small, 3-pounder cannons to 150-pounder cannons and 6-pounder to 200-pounder, indirect fire mortars.
These weapons include a variety of munitions, including alchemical shot, chain shot, and solid shot, and are quite powerful (a 150-pounder cannon firing solid shot deals 36d10 damage). However, this power is offset by the reload time (30 full rounds for the 150-pounder), cost (not too many people are going to spend 64,000 gp on a cannon), and weight (15 tons). There are rules for organ guns (multi-barreled cannons), and even a few unusual artillery pieces.
There is a small section on accessories that includes the mundane, like weapons slings, and cannon carts, and the unusual, like repeating mechanisms and revolving barrels.
The chapter also includes rules for grenades and primitive rockets. Grenades are good. Who doesn't like tossing grenades? They're like fireball, but louder.
The rules behind the weapons are comprehensive, simple, and easy to integrate into existing d20 rules sets, and include things like double loading, tap-loading, spooking animals, and skipping cannon shot over land and water. Again, you can ignore many of these rules without affecting game play.
One thing is that the mishap/misfire tables are all percentile-based, which is not interesting in and of itself. However, all of the misfire/mishap tables are modified by several factors, while "typical" d20 design philosophy uses percentile dice for rolls that aren't modified, and d20 for rolls that are modified. This should not affect the use of the rules; it is just an attention-catching design oddity
Chapter 5: Classes
This chapter introduces the Technologist core class. The primary function of this class is the building of gadgets – a gadget is a technological device, usable three times per day, which duplicates a spell effect. The class has a gadget list that covers 0-5th level spell effects, and gains a limited number of gadgets per level of experience. Because of this, the player of a Technologist, much like the player of a sorcerer, must plan ahead before he reaches each level to achieve maximum utility.
The Technologist has other abilities, most relating to constructing and handling black powder devices. It is an interesting class, but I think it will see use primarily as an NPC class. As a player, I wouldn't be interested in taking levels in the class, but I would try to find a Technologist pal who could build things for me.
In addition to the Technologist core class, this chapter includes four new prestige classes – the Artillery Adept, the Grenadier, the Marksman, and the Pistoleer.
The Artillery Adept is a specialist in leading artillery crews, and has abilities related to improving attack rolls, reducing reload times, and even an ability to use artillery for terror. This prestige class seems best suited to NPCs.
The Grenadier specializes in tossing grenades. This prestige class strikes me as probably the most fun to play, at least, until the rest of your party gangs up on you and leaves you buried for the ants. Among other things, the Grenadier gains the ability to throw multiple grenades simultaneously, and to improve on the destructive power of his grenades.
The Marksman is essentially a sniper, and a quite effective one at that. His abilities relate to killing things, and I can see this prestige class being a popular one. This class has another rules oddity. One of the Marksman's abilities increases his damage by +1d6, but on a critical hit, this additional damage is multiplied. This caught my attention because typically, bonus damage dice are not multiplied on critical hits.
The Pistoleer is a gunfighter/duelist type of class, with abilities relating to trick shots, and some useful abilities for using small arms in close quarters combat. None of the features of this prestige class are particularly interesting, but I can think of some character builds that would work well with the class.
Chapter 6: Magic
As expected, this chapter includes a few new weapon properties, a few wondrous items, and even a cursed item. The magic items and properties are fine, but none are eye-catching. This small chapter could benefit from more items, properties, and ideas on incorporating magic with technological weapons.
Chapter 7: Blood of the Clan
This is a short story – about 20 pages. It is an engaging story, and I would certainly be interested in reading more about he characters involved.
However, it is 20 pages of material (out of 102 pages) that has no place in this book. This is space that should have been used for more game material (expanding the aforementioned magic chapter), and the story has little to do with the theme of Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal, which is black powder weapons.
Blood of the Clan would be best delivered as download available on the company website for those who are interested. A link could be included in the document.
Layout and Style
The layout is standard two-column, with a small, easy-to-read font. The heading font is a difficult to read in some instances at normal magnification. Overall, the layout is clean and functional, but there are two things that are particularly distracting:
1. Sidebars: the sidebars are in text boxes that use a mottled grey and white background. This makes it more difficult to read the contained text, especially at a glance.
2. Italics: There is an overabundance of italics use in this book. Almost every table entry is in italics. When used sparingly, italics is like bold text, it draws the eye and allows you to quickly spot important or special text. When used for entire tables and large blocks of text, it makes the text harder to decipher.
The art in Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal ranges from "Not So Good" to "Alright I Guess." However, I do like the goblin illustrations. The goblins look intelligently sinister. The art in Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal is limited in use, and takes little space. I don't see this as any kind of sticking point, since I tend to ignore art in game books unless it is particularly good or bad.
Open Gaming Content
Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal has seven chapters. According to the open gaming declaration, the entire text from chapters 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 are open gaming content. This is a good thing, since it means that pretty much everything except the introduction and the short story, Blood of the Clan, is open content and can be used to your heart's content.
Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal lacks bookmarks, a clickable table of contents, and an index. For me, these are not deal-breakers, but I think pdf documents should take advantage of the format. Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal is full of information, and it would be nice to be able to jump quickly to sections as necessary.
More importantly, Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal is a locked document. You cannot manually insert bookmarks, extract pages, or copy text. This, more than anything, reduces the functionality of the document.
I don't keep a computer nearby when I run a game, but during my prep work, I like to make documents for the players that include rules updates/changes and rules and information specific to each character. This frequently involves copying and pasting from pdfs. Locking the document decreases the utility of the file while increasing my workload.
I like this book. For a very long time, I have wanted to introduce archaic firearms into my Greyhawk campaign, but I have never had the inclination to do the actual research and work involved. Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal does this for you. It does a good job of detailing basic black powder weapons, while not ignoring the more fantastic and "out there" elements common in many games. While it is designed for the SpirosBlaak setting, the setting connections in the document are few, allowing the book to be used pretty much "as is" in most campaigns.
Treasure Trove #1: SpirosBlaak Arsenal delivers what it promises, and it fills a need in fantasy gaming. The only disappointments are the use of unnecessary, space-taking fiction, and the underutilization of the pdf format.