20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is the second in the D&D enviroment books from wizards of the coast. It is similar in format to frostburn.
The book opens with formation of a waste and then goes on to define the different types of waste such as sand wastes, volanic wastes, various planes of existence where such wastes lie such as Gehenna. It then goes on to describe the dangers of these wastes to the characters like a couple of different types of sandstorms. The flensing sandstorm is particularly nasty which deal a d3 damage to unprotected characters per round.
The book then moves to new races,feats and skills. There are two new races introduced, the Asheratis and the Bhukas. The Asheratis are a human like race and the Bhukas are goblinoid. The discussion turns to the current races and how they have adapted to the environment. There are 24 new feats, most of which have some form of prequisite feat. There are five new presitige classes, all with a fair of amount of text devoted to them with such things like how to play this prc and their general use in a desert environment.
New weapons and equipment are next. Most ofthe equipment is devoted to protecting the character from the heat and dehydration effects. There is a small section on mounts such as camels.
There is a new type of magic called drift magic in the next section. To quote the book, "drift magic is the process of tapping the natural strata and tides of magic inherent in large collections of sand, ash. There are new cleric domains introduced like Nobilit, Rune, Sand, and thirst. There are about 70 new spells introduced, some seem rewrites of the Al-Qadim setting from 2nd edition. There is also new psionic powers and epic spells. There are new magical toys although some are just rewrites of current items like the bottle of endless sand is just like the decanter of endless water.
Monsters are next. A little over 80 monsters of the waste to torment the players and finally a chapter devoted to some basic adventures in this environment.
For me this is a enjoyable book to look at and to use sometime in the future. I was a little disappointed that there were none of the Al Qadim type kits and classes made in this book, but if you want a hot hostile place to send adventurers this should do it for you.
23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
First, the obvious. This book, being the second in the series of Environmental supplements, follows the same format as the first book, Frostburn. It covers the environment, new races, classes and feats, equipment, magic, monsters, and adventure sites. I find it good that WotC is formatting its books in a common structure.
The Environment section is missing a few important things though. It touches on volcanic areas, but the rest of the book mostly focuses on deserts. It seems the volcanic stuff was either added in as filler, cut out for space, or the sections were written by different people. Its not clear whether this is supposed to be the "Hot Environment" book or just the "Desert" book. Also, there are a few notable environments missing. The plane of Mithardir in Arborea is totally missing. And it would have been nice to see a mention of Athas, the desert world of Dark Sun.
The new Asherati race seems very derivative of the D'Resh characters from Magi-Nation, from the physical appearance/description to some of their peculiar talents. The Ashworm Dragoon prestige class evokes visions of riding the sandworms in Dune, though its hard not to find similarities to that epic. Most of the other prestige classes are interesting, and can play very interesting roles in a campaign.
With the equipment, we have the hydration suit, a derivation of the Dune Still-suit - perhaps a necessity, but still pretty obvious. There are also obvious versions of real-world items such as suntan lotion or crude oil. The sand vehicles - desert variants of sailing ships - are good additions. But I would have liked to see more originality here.
The monsters have a good variety of challenges. A new (deceased) race called the marru are mentioned in several monster descriptions, though not in a lot of detail. Desert varieties of many creatures (dust hag, sand dragon, dry lich, etc.) are complimented by other novel creatures. But again, there are some hidden derivations. It is difficult not to compare the saguaro sentinel to any number of other cactus creatures which have appeared in anime, gaming or so forth. But the Sand Hunter is clearly derived from Vernor Vinge's Tine race from A Fire Upon The Deep.
I have no problem with people creating derivations. Its common enough in gaming, but it would be good to see credit given. I would suggest a list of references to other material in the future. This would not only credit ideas, but it would also let gamers find good extra material and ideas for campaigns.
There is still a wealth of information here, and I can say the book is a valuable resource for GMs who want to run desert campaigns or adventures. While not quite up to the standard set with Frostburn, its still a solid supplement
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Robert J Defendi
- Published on Amazon.com
Anyone who's read one of my reviews of a Bruce Cordell product has probably come to expect a certain amount of praise. Sandstorm, the first in a series of D&D supplements to deal with setting as environment as opposed to setting as community, has three authors listed on the cover. Bruce R. Cordell, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes and JD Wiker (look, someone besides me eschews punctuation after an initial). This book is a relatively strong product which is undermined more by the Wizards of the Coast vision of Dungeons and Dragons than its specific content. The details are interesting and relatively well-written. Some of them positively capture the imagination. However they are crammed into a certain framework of design that has plagued all D&D books for a while now. This is the first time I've reviewed a book with this structure, so bear with me if I vent just a bit.
The first chapter of this book is the strongest. It deals with the waste itself, and let's face it, you're buying or not buying the book for this chapter. Here we deal with the realities of the waste. Heat. Dehydration. Survival. First this chapter addresses the real threats of a mundane waste, such as sand and the elements, the effects of glare and wind. Then the chapter veers off into the fantastic, things that could only be found in a magical world. These include everything from planes of fused glass to semi-sentient dunes, to ghost voices, to special poisons and diseases. Finally it ends with a description of the different styles of waste, complete with a list of features and the percentage of the area that would be dominated by those features.
Now the book lives or dies on this chapter, and I think it lived. It's interesting and it stimulates the imagination. It hands the DM practical information as well as a launchpad into the fantastic. Honestly my only real disappointment with this chapter is that they included those percentages for the terrain features of the different types of wastes and didn't take that any farther. Honestly, how hard is it to jump from there to a full-blown mini-table. You could use it that way as is, but you'd have to count down the chart to make it work and only a slight massaging of the data could have made it so much more useful.
So that's it. Now you know whether or not you want to buy the book. "What about the rest?" you ask. "Is the rest of the book just filler?"
A lot of it is, yes.
Let's look at the rest of the book chapter by chapter.
Chapter 2 is races, classes and feats. Now I have to admit. The very title of this first section makes me want to chew out my own tongue. I mean, honestly. When did someone decide that they needed to add a new race or two in every book. I've been gaming for years and some of my worlds have been around from the beginning. Am I just going to pop in a new race with every supplement? It would turn my campaigns into a joke.
The first part of the race section is just so much wasted space. It introduces two new races, just as you'd expect. The first look like gray aliens from UFO abduction stories spray painted a pleasant deep tan. The second are a race of desert goblinoids that have names and culture similar to Native Americans. I mean really.
Evidently the handing over of Dark Sun to a web presence precluded the inclusion of Muls and Half Giants. I can understand that, but as for the rest?
After this, the chapter becomes more useful. It takes the standard D&D races and discusses how to treat them in a waste environment, complete with a few swapped out abilities. The section on classes are much the same. This is how a supplement should handle races and classes. It came as a certain relief.
Next we come to Feats, and this is as interest section. It has a nice selection of feats but the main feature in the introduction of Touchstone Sites. These are ancient locals with which a character can bind himself. Doing so grants the character certain powers, both basic and advanced, that go hand in hand with his connection to the site.
My only problem with this section is a bit of murkiness about what happens when you take the feat to bond with multiple sites. In one place, it says that you can only have one of the basic abilities at once and must sacrifice it when orienting on a new site (by going there and recharging your vital energies.) A bit lower it says that you never lose these basic abilities. I think they changed to rule during an editing pass and missed one of the references. It's happened to me so I understand it, but that doesn't help you. You'll have to look for errata.
So I've already chewed out my own tongue. Next comes the section that makes me want to swallow it whole. Prestige classes. I thought these were a great idea at first, but now the glut of prestige classes has made them lose almost all meaning. In addition, the lack of any real game balance from one to another has made them an absolute nightmare to include in any game. This is the perfect example of a good idea that someone tried to take out for a ride only to find that they had to run it around and around and around, digging a trench like poor, enslaved Conan.
Sort of like I just did to that simile.
All right. So if I had my way, I'd never see another prestige class outside of a very specific setting situation (such as the various knightly orders of Krynn). That being said, I can grudgingly admit that maybe they aren't that bad in this context. A waste is completely alien to the climate of most fantasy. If they call me tomorrow and tell me they'd already decided against putting anymore prestige classes into their main supplements, but they couldn't see a way around it in this book, I'd forgive them. Is my phone ringing? No. I don't think it will, either.
Okay. So I made it past that section of the book without letting my own frustration get the better of me. It speaks well enough for the book.
Next comes equipment. This section has nothing spectacular about it. They ripped off Dune still suits here, but they really probably needed too (they ripped off worm riding in the previous chapter). Let's face it. Dune has done more to shape genre perceptions of the waste than perhaps any other work in history. Don't think of it as theft. Think of it as homage.
Magic is also a fine chapter. Here they treat with new types of spells, such as those that cause dehydration. They to a fine job of adding new deities and domains to deal with life in the waste. I liked it.
Chapter 6 is all about monsters. They could have snuck Muls and Half Giants in here and satisfied everyone, but alas, I'll have to go online for them. Again, I was fine with this section on waste monsters. If you run a waste campaign, you'll probably spend most of your time in this section, so they gave it just under a third of the book. Considering how tired monster sections are becoming in D&D books, I think they did an admirable job.
The final chapter contains three adventure sites, about twenty pages of what are essentially mini adventures. I was rather pleased with this section, because it speaks to a need in the audience. Whenever a new book comes out, everyone in a gaming group who likes the work becomes excited to add the new content into their games. I remember in the old days of 2nd Edition. When the Complete Fighters book came out, we started a new campaign of all fighters. When complete Thieves came out we did the same. We'd learned our lesson by the time Priests came out, if I remember right. We probably went back and started a new campaign of all fighters.
But I digress.
This section is fine. Instead of causing a rash of new campaigns and hundreds of illegal downloads of PDF versions of the old "I" series of modules, here we have the bones of three adventures. Twenty minutes of thought and a DM could easily dress them in the duds of his own campaign. Then the players can get the sand and the dust out of their system and make an informed decision about whether to continue gaming in the waste for the long term.
So, honestly, if you feel like gaming in waste environments (even in the planes), this book is probably worth your money. Does it have problems? Yes, but really, these aren't problems with this one book, but with the design philosophy of Wizards. If these elements don't bother you in other books, they probably won't bother you here. If they do bother you in other D&D supplements, well you've either stopped buying them or you've learned to deal with your frustration.
So in short, considering the structure imposed by Wizards, this is a fine work. Not the greatest achievement in Wizards history, but I'm happy to add it to my library. Now, let's get Cordell back to solo projects. I have games to run.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I'm a big fan of the Frostburn, Sandstorm, and Stormwrack series. If you're not planning to DM, the books provide interesting alternatives for your characters. If you DM and plan to do your writing for the campaign, these books are an excellent way to add flavor to your campaign. My favorite aspect to this book (and all of the environment books) is, not surprisingly, the guidance it gives in creating the relevant environment. Unlike one of the other reviewers, I view the prestige classes, feats, etc. as secondary. The point of this book is creation of waste environments, and this book is superb for that.
10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Sandstorm is a book about the waste environment, and it gives you everything you need to run or play in an arid or desert world, even on the outher planes. If you want to run an Al-Quadim style game, or a Darks Sun styled one, Sandstorm is for you.
Within the book, you will find the good old sections: races, prestige classes, feats, an in-depth description of the waste environment, great monsters and spells.
The lowpoint of the book is perhaps the races section, which is - at least in my oppinion - quite unimaginative.
The prestige classes presented in the book is quite good, but a bit more prestige classes would have been better than the new races.
The highpoint are the spells and the monsters section, which present lots of new opportunities and ideas. Within the book, one can also find lot's of descriptions of places that the DM can incorporate into his/her campaign with ease.