Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Trade Routes: Expanded Caravan Rules Sourcebook

Last week in my inbox was an email from Louis Porter Jr. Designs previewing their newly updated supplement, Trade Routes: Expanded Caravan Rules Sourcebook. I am considering running the Pathfinder Adventure Path, Jade Regent so I thought it would be worth checking out. My review is based on the November 21st, 2011 version of the supplement which include and expand on the rules presented in the Jade Regent Player's Guide.

The supplement is 25 pages long, including the title page, the OGL document and a Caravan sheet. The first 15 pages of the supplement include the word for word rules for caravans from the freely available Jade Regent Player's Guide. Sprinkled through these pages are a few additions such as additional wagons, an expanded equipment list and quite a few additional feats. I like the additional  content for caravans this offers but I just don't see value in repeating word for word the contents of the prettier stuff from the Player's Guide. The Trade Routes Sourcebook contains an expanded table for Caravan Equipment which combines all the equipment from both books but fails to do the same for feats. In fact, there is no feats table at all. This would have been useful as the feat table in the Players Guide serves as a handy quick reference for players and GMs alike. The only value I see here, apart from the few additional pages of new material, is the Trade Routes Sourcebook is easier to read and cheaper to print. Personally, I prefer the Paizo supplement over the Louis Porter Jr. one. I would have much preferred this section in the Trade Routes supplement to only include the new materials and updated tables combining everything.

The rest of Trade Routes is broken down into four sections. The first section discusses some of the real world things a caravan will find along its way. This adds a touch of flavour to a caravan adventure and will provide a GM with some places to setup encounters. Secondly, the sourcebook includes some Plot hooks. Most of the hooks presented here come from movies, books and legends. There is nothing here most experienced GMs would find useful. The third section is made up of some threats a caravan might face. Again, nothing ground breaking here, but they could save a GM a bit of time if he needs to develop an encounter in a hurry. The final section provides examples of some caravans. The examples are probably the most useful, but not overly so, part of the sourcebook and could be added to a random encounter while a party is travelling over land to a different destination. The final page of the supplement contains a Caravan Sheet to hold the caravan's information. I found the LPJ sheet to be much harder to read than the one Paizo provides in their supplement.

The bottom line is I just can't recommend Trade Routes: Expanded Caravan Rules Sourcebook. The materials provided don't add much to the freely available Jade Regent Player's Guide. I so wanted to like this supplement and was hoping for more than what I got. I wanted to see 25 pages of expanded rules and options. What I got was 25 pages of reprinted materials with a few uninspired ideas. I am actually surprised Paizo allows a third party to include so much of their material without any author credit being given. This is the first time I have purchased anything from Louis Porter Jr. Designs. I don't expect it will be my last but as a first taste it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

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