[Disclosure: I don't like Raggi (or at least the person he plays on the Internet). I don't believe this biases my review, but you may. So, feel free to stop reading now. Oh, another bias I may have and which probably **is** responsible for the central thesis of this review is, to me, anything ~$20 less seems cheap and a no thought "buy", anything over ~$35 had better be damn awesome. Like more value than two editions of Fight On!, like that's gonna happen.]
tldr; If you're in a narrow niche (ha, gotta read to find out what niche that is) and willing to shell out a wad of cash, it's good and exactly what you want. For "experienced" RPG'rs there's not enough to justify the price.
I'm sure everybody and their familiar has reviewed this already. But, whatever, I've been off the blogs for months and it's new to me. Just picked up mine last weekend at NTRPG Con 2011 (impulse buy cause box looked so damn cool and my rational mind was weaken from Con Spending Spree!).
The packaging is cool and packed. Three books (of the proper size, digest), dice, character sheets, everything you need. The art is everywhere, really the most art I've ever seen even compared to some coffee table art books. (there's even 8 gratuitous full color plates in the middle of one book). Most of the art excellent (some merely good). It suits and compliments the material. And I appreciate that it's (not sure word arranged? composed? directed as in Art Director) well. Of similar quality and the styles synergize with each other. Beautiful. For a collector proly makes it worth the price of admission. But I don't collect games, I play them.
"Referee", 95 pages, has much that a newb DM needs to learn. It's opinionated which is better than being vague and useless. I especially like how Monsters and Magic Items are handled. Rather than having lists of them it's explained what they're for, how to use them, and how to create them yourself. The sections on attracting players and survey of "Traditional"(their word not mine) RPG products are interesting. But this whole book is written like the Internet doesn't exist and the reader is incapable of doing Google search. (Which feeds into point below that product should have been less pages and price). There's a sample adventure which should have been a separate book.
Final book, "Rules & Magic", is largest at 166pages. Half taken up with spells to 9th level. Cause newb players need that ultra high level content in the first product they buy. This book is booring. There's little (I saw) innovative here. Even the encumbrance system I've seen people rave about isn't changing things from adding up what you carry apply all these modifiers. It just made it more granular. The rules seem to take bunches of finiggly bits from AD&D but none of the fun stuff like classes. The Specialist is nice but like 3rd time I've seen that type of system. So many rules. Maybe that's what newb needs. But, I'd much rather see emphasis on rulings. More rule 0 and 1 from Referee book. Do what seems fun, when in doubt roll d6 low is bad, high is good. Less, much less, how many days can I survive without water and what do I roll...
Good: Art, composition/style, "game in a box", tutorial and newb DM advice.
Bad: Price, ho hum system. Miss-matched content/price/audience.
Ugly: It's full of rules.
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