The usual disclaimer applies: I am one of Tim's proof-readers, so...there's that. That doesn't color my perception or review; all it means is that I get to see the good stuff in advance. Even still, there's nothing like holding the final version in my hands and
John Larrey's cover art sets the tone for the issue. Who among us has not been in the shoes of that fighter, facing down a slavering troll, with naught but our shield between us and certain death?
In point of fact, all of the artwork in Issue #8 (as usual) is top-notch and fits perfectly in its assigned place, setting the scene for the article.
The grappling article by Cole and Dell'Orto, while written for S&W, is going to be stolen for my 3.x house rule file, at least for my kids' game. It's just so neat and elegant, especially when you compare it to the cluster that is Wizard's attempt at explaining a grappling system. (Honestly, 3.5's grappling rule is one of the things cited by a player who left our group as one of the things driving him away from the hobby.) This system seems like it would resolve grappling quickly, neatly, and easily.
There's only one thing I would change, and that's an addition. Now, I will admit to knowing very little about the S&W rule set. I know, I know...go ahead, get the gallows started. But as far as using this grappling rule in 3.x, there are times when a creature can substitute a DEX modifier for a STR modifier. I think that this should be one of those instances, at least for certain classes or Prestige classes (the "Brawler" or the "Swashbuckler" for example). I don't think this would violate the spirit of this easier rule; instead, I think it fits right in to the very spirit this rule change is designed to promote. Additionally, it adds a bit more flavor to the rule. As an illustration, remember back to The Princess Bride.
[Aside: I'm referring here to the BOOK version of the story, as it's the version I prefer. However, for purposes of this example, I suppose one could refer to the movie version as well. It fits my purposes just as well. Just this once, though. End aside.]
SPOILERS: The MIB's DEX wins the day and Fezzik succumbs to the
As for the other articles, they're also just as useful as the Grappling article. I just purchased a copy of Trey Causey's Strange Stars RPG. I'm looking forward to getting my print copy and sitting down to absorb a great-looking Sci-Fi setting (and then trying to convince my group to play it, but that's another story).
Tim's hirelings, torches, and Torchbearer class all made me ask the same question: Why isn't our 3.x party using hirelings?!? It's a proposal I'm prepping in my head already to present to members of my group. Definitely some good stuff here.
My recommendation? Get yourself a copy. Even if you've never picked up a copy of The Manor before, get this one. 5 out of 5 stars. Yeah, it's that good.