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Tuesday, 11th May, 2010, 08:23 PM #1
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Planes Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea
Welcome to the Astral Sea, a place filled with adventure and challenge. This book is packed with information and places and seems like at times it barely touches on the surface of everything that can be in the Astral. I think Wizards could have filled a tome twice this size and not had it felt drawn out or complete. The artwork in the book is as high quality as ever and some of it really gives one the feel of the old Spelljammer campaign setting from second edition. Calling the Astral a sea and having boats that fly through it I think doa great job of reworking some of what made Spelljammer great without the need include some of the less liked aspects of the setting. It is also part of the Astral Sea that can be ignored if one feels it is a little to science fiction a complaint I have heard about Spelljammer.
What I most like about the book is its attention to adventure details. It is not an adventure obviously but it really sets up a lot of ground work for DMs to set their own adventures here in the Astral Sea. It has a good focus on the major players and what motivates them. The motivations I find are the key to adventures and plot. It has some good ship to ship combat rules and and some stats for a pair of Astral ships. Instead of listing many different ships stats it talks about what makes ships from different dominions different and how the basic ships stats would be modified to fit a dominion ship. I like that approach as it makes it very easy to follow this example to create other ships from DM created dominions to do something different for the PCs.
There are many Divine Dominions talked about in the book. It does a good job of not repeating information found in the Manual of the Planes and that book would be very useful for capturing the feel for these areas. With all the books it is nice to see them building on one another. There are some nice encounters set up some using ships other not but all of them offer good ideas for the type of fun one can expect in some of these different places. There are lots of domain described both big and small. There are new races though not described for player characters that live here. The book has Cauatls, Githyanki, Maruts, and Quom. Each is given a nice history that fits well into 4e and looks at their cultures and goals.
There are many new monsters presented throughout the book, more then I was expecting. There are almost 50 of them ranging from mostly paragon tier to epic tier. The most powerful in the Hundred Handed One an Elite Soldier 29 and inspired from the titans of greek myth.
The Plane Above is a good solid book detailing the Astral Sea. It is filled with adventure ideas and a few campaign arcs that can really bring a campaign to something different. It is the type of book that can get creative and present places that are a little bit odd but fit into the infinite wonder of the Astral Sea. I did get this book for review purposes.
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Friday, 21st May, 2010, 12:54 PM #2
Gallant (Lvl 3)
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- Aug 2004
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Thanks for the review. Sounds like a good book. I have a couple of questions.
Can you use this book without having (the 4th edition) Manual of the Planes?
How useful would it be as the basis of a 3rd edition Spelljammer Campaign?
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Tuesday, 1st June, 2010, 03:33 PM #3
Acolyte (Lvl 2)
I can't believe this book is good value at $30! Really? I know you got a copy of this book (free I presume) for reviewing but would you really have spent $30 of your own money on it? These are genuine questions not just a rant, I was bought The Plane Below and felt sorry for the guy who bought it for me as I thought it was sketchy and of limited use - 160 pages, 13 of which were terrain and hazards!
Tuesday, 1st June, 2010, 08:09 PM #4
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Price of books and use is hard to determine and quantify. Is $30 a lot of money? Some people who work a full day and don't get that much it is but for others that make that in less then a hour on the job it isn't. $30 is not a lot of money to me and I regularly buy books full price just to have them now instead of ordering on line. Price of books has gone up while page counts has gone down and this is across the board in the industry so that also is part of it.
I found this book creative. I also liked Planes Below. I will run games that are mostly if not always in other planes so I will get a lot of use out of these books personally. I like the writing and descriptions. Reading it helps me with my own creativity and coming up with cool encounters.