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     " I can safely say they kick ass. "

      Title: Penumbra Backdrops by Atlas Games

      Format: D20 RPG accessory

      Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo

      The Hype: Most gamers are too busy, too untalented, or too just plain lazy to lay out maps for all of the buildings and structures in their D20 campaigns…So Atlas Games thought they'd do it for you. Penumbra Backdrops is a collection of 14 common map types to enhance your gaming experience.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Story and Drama: When Backdrops landed in my hands, I of course figured there would be no rating for this category (it is, after all, a map book). Much to my surprise, however, Penumbra Backdrops also includes half page text descriptions of the settings, optional back-stories, characters, and optional rules. Even more surprising was the realization that the information is actually cool! Don't have the imagination to paint a verbal picture for your crew? No problem- just read it from the book. Didn't expect them to take so much interest in a smithy and hadn't prepared an encounter for it? No problem- just use the beastie listed. It's sweet, it's handy, and- most importantly, it works! 4.5 out of 5

      Layout and Presentation: 14 maps in 14 chapters, navigating this book is a snap. Each section is two pages, the map on one and the descriptions, encounters, etc. on the other. Fantastic. 5 out of 5

      Playability: We didn't get around to using all of the maps, but having played more than ¾'s of them I can safely say they kick ass. Good encounters, clever layouts, and fun optional interests (like rules for what gets broken when you're fighting in a bazaar) all work together to enhance just about any campaign. My only gripe was the size of the maps. While they all have scales to tell you approx. size, every map is printed on the same 8.5x11 page…so there isn't any consistency in the hex sizes. While not a big deal for totally verbal gaming, these maps don't lend themselves to miniatures use, which is just a bummer. 3.5 out of 5

      Desired Content: For the maps involved I couldn't be happier. Layouts, descriptions, encounters…it's all here. The only negative is the number of maps included- a sort of paltry 14. While that's plenty to make it worth your while, you'll quickly wish they had included some more. 3 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       All in all, this is a killer addition to your D&D library. Maps, descriptions, and monsters- this thing's got it all. Pick it up before you run your next campaign.

      The Good: Everything's done for your lazy ass.

      The Bad: You'd best get un-lazy before you run out of locations.

      The Overall Ugly: A good time and a good buy.

      What it's Worth: Market.

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