Cora’s Guide to Dinosaurs is the eleventh (of 12) of Chamomile’s guides to everything. This is the guidebook to Dinosaurs, and focuses around barbarian types, and most importantly, giant lizards. I’m loving the cover for this one. I’m using a hard copy for the review with screenshots cropped from the pdf (with permission). You can pick one up at Drivethrough or itch, in physical or digital versions.
Those who are familiar with Chamomile’s guides should get the gist by now, and I’ll skip most of the introductory text, and instead say we get 14 pages of player options, with 25 for DMs, and 10 of stretch goal content. The format works, and is easy to digest.
Player options include a collection of barbarian sub-classes, some added feats, a bit on fighting giant things, some artic conditions rules, and ioun stones. I assume, although its not stated, that the focus on barbarian sub-classes is to fill a gap in WoTC 5e. How many Bear Totems can you see in your game after all.
The barbarian paths give us a Beast Whisperer, a guy who has a Pack, or a collection of beasts that he can train and work with. I immediately envision Chris Pratt from the new Jurassic World series. This is immediately backed up with a Jurassic Park reference in one of its abilities. Clever Chamomile. The Raptor Knight gets you a sweet raptor mount. That should be enough to sell it. If not, you can get a t-rex at 14th level. If that’s not your jam, we can’t be friends anymore. The Scorpion Warrior is the weakest conceptually of the four (its hard not to be next to the Raptor Knight), its pretty interesting. There’s a lot more reading here, but essentially you adopt a fighting style similar to a scorpion. Lots of grapple, poison, and burrowing abilities. I’d have maybe preferred letting you grow an actual tail and claws, but I see the value in just emulating it with weaponry. Lastly, we get the Titan Master, and the photo says it all. You ride giant dinosaurs. This class is all about finding and taming giant beasts, turning them into your pets, and then using it to squash people.
The new player rules here are Colossus Climbing. Essentially, playing God of War and climbing up the side of that brontosaurus so you can stab it in its smug face. It certainly makes encounters more dynamic, and Chamomile proposes some rules to make the classic tactic of surround the giant and stab his ankles less effective. To really use these, your group needs to all agree or disagree with them though. You kind of can’t have the one chick who bought the obscure netbook use the rules, and everyone else play core.
The last player section is on Ioun Stones. This is a revised take on a classic D&D item that’s had a bunch of disparate takes. Cora’s takes a minute to spell out what they could be, and then declares what they are in the Guide to Everything-verse. Essentially, my read on it is that they are mana crystals infused with colored elemental effects that you can grind and refine, like a gemstone, into different shapes for different effects. The system seems like it could be cool, but I have spent a couple of hours trying to parse it and can’t figure out what any of the stones do. I’m clearly missing something here, but some added language, or different charts may help others.
The DM Section opens with advice for running a Borderlands Campaign, and Chamomile’s DMing advice is always top notch. The best part of this section is the Spawner Quests, which I’ve used in various campaigns of my own for a bit now. Anytime I am doing a campaign that is not a streamlined adventure, I’m putting some combo of these in. In essence, some hex has a spawner quest on it. Maybe a nest of giant spiders or something. That nest of spiders has a die associated, D4, D6, D8, or rarely D10. Every [time interval] you roll that die. If it is a 1, a new quest spawns in, or near that hex. Spiders expand their nest into more of the forest, or some ettercaps move in to help the spiders or something. By ignoring, or not discovering the spawner quest, it’s gotten a lot harder. This is a great motivator for players to get out there and deal with threats before they escalate.
The second major DM section is on world history or lore, and most importantly how to build it. It doesn’t focus on crafting an epic or anything like that, and instead focuses on how to build an age, what sort of ages you should have, and general reasoning for what should be in each age. This is really helpful with insight provided into common expectations and tropes. When does your war with Heaven and Hell happen, when do the first dragons appear, how old is your ancient empire, when did they build all those pyramids? Chamomile ties all this together into a well thought out guide, so you can ensure you have the bases covered, or know if you’re purposefully skipping something.
Overall Coras has some really cool content in it. The player section has some awesome subclasses, and cool giant monster rules. The DMing advice, while always great, gets into some worldbuilding concepts more DMs ought to read up on to help make living and dynamic worlds.