Congrats on a great first issue. At 2 bucks (Or 4 Aussie Dollars) I hope it is around for a long time yet. I would love to subscribe (it can be a pain going into the city just to grab a copy). Any plan to offer international subscriptions?
I was going to post a full review of every section of the mag, but thats already been done a number of places on the net much better than I could ever hope to accomplish.
However, I do have a few thoughts / questions now I have read the full issue.
What is the difference between the editorial and the Wizards Corner? They seem to be basically the same thing
There seem to be a few 3.5isms creeping in. I'm not sure if this is Goodman Games gaming philosophy, but I would prefer a 4th edition magazine to follow the general philosophy of the edition. Things like the power Disarming Shot (p17) and the weapon ending 1d3 squares away. The mechanical implications of alignment (see pages 31 and 39). And the 3.5 adventure design of using higher level monsters to make the encounters harder rather than using more lower level monsters (more on this below).
There were a few crunch issues that seemed to creep through as well. The worst offender being Swing Hard in case you Hit (pg 18), how is this ever worth it? Especially with Power Attack in the game. You may as well just say you get the Power Attack Feat as a bonus feat, it would actually be better. The other one that jumped out was the Revanant Servant Paragon Path having one power based on STR and the other CHA. Mechanical slip ups like this are probably to be expected with a new game system, I just hope to see less of them as you get more familiar with 4th.
I thought Power Skins was a complete waste of space. It's a cool concept, but these barely even feel like 'reflavoring'. I reckon I could have come up with this 'new' flavor text pretty easily, and I absolutely suck at this stuff. They don't really sound that much different to the examples from the PHB. Push the boundaries, let's see some refalvouring advice for completely changing the feel of an entire class. Reflavor some warlord exploits for a fighter / mage. Or some cleric prayers for an archer cleric. Something that pushes the envelope instead of these straight forward stock standard examples.
Jack's ultrashort reviews are great. Even though I have already read them on Enworld, they are a great addition. However, why so many Goodman Games products? And why was the average of all the reviews 5 stars? Surely that is a little high? Why not review some of the rubbish out there are well?
What is going on with "Dear Archmage Abbey"? Is this suppossed to be serious? I couldn't quite tell. Is this the letter section of the magazine? I hope not. But I hope there is a letters to the editor section. I just didn't get what the point of this section was.
The two short adventures are a great idea. I love short, self contained adventures like this I can easily drop into my campaigns. They provide a great break from the main plot, gives us a chance for a change of pace, and either they are over in a single session, or the players can pick up the plot hooks and turn them into something more.
However, there are two things I hope you improve for future Road's to Adventure.
1. Make the encounters harder. My (relatively unoptimised) PCs would barely break into a sweat at these encounter levels. For level 7 PCs, I would prefer to see an encounter level spread of something like 8 (or 9), 7, 6, 10 (or even 11) over the 4 encounters. I would run this at about level 5 for my PCs, but then they are unlikely to hit, due to issue number 2, see below.
2. Make the monsters easier. The Rift of the Hill Giant Thane fell into the same trap as many WotC adventures. Namely, increasing the encounter level by increasing the monster level.
This is really bad in the final encounter. A level 12 Elite Brute and a Level 13 Elite Brute! The encounter level is right (or even a bit low), at level 8. But the monster levels are just crazy. How are level 7 PCs suppossed to even hit these guys? Let alone level 5s as I would like to run it for. Why not make the Hill Giant a level 6 / 7 Solo, give him a level 5 / 6 (elite) mount, and then if you still need some more firepower, a few level 4 - 5 mooks? Would make for a much more interesting battle than the frustration likely to result from fighting two monsters so far above the party. The monsters are unlikely to miss, and the PCs are unlikely to hit.
Wow, that ended up being much longer (and possibly more ranty) than I was planning. Please don't take it the wrong way. I loved the first issue. Each section was full of solid gold. The Bestiary, Azgar's advice, Deities etc were all excellent. And even those issues I have mentioned were, on the whole minor issues. But I would like to see Level Up around for a long time yet. Even better, I would love to see each and every page tailored exactly to me and my group and my gaming tastes. As that isn't going to happen, the best I can do is let you know what I think, and leave the rest up to you.
But (please) keep up the excellent work! I am very much looking forward to issue number 2 (and 3 and 4 and so on after that. Hopefully for a very long time yet).