AEG’s Ultimate Toolbox: A GM’s Dream, An Editor’s Nightmare

Ultimate Toolbox is a GM’s dream (and a must-borrow for players looking for unique character concepts!).  I received this book shortly before GenCon and have been totally excited about it ever since.  I’m not the only one, either.  They sold out of their first printing and you’ll have to wait a bit to pick it up again.

In the spirit of Geek’s Dream Girl, I’m not one for serious, nitty gritty reviews.  That’s just boring and frankly, that’s what everyone else is going to do.  I’m not everyone else.

Ultimate Toolbox has a bazillion tables for everything you could ever imagine (and some things you probably never thought to imagine).  Every table has 20 options, so you can go totally old school and let your dice decide if you want.

Here are some of the neat things you can do with AEG’s Ultimate Toolbox…

Make a Crazy Character (PC or NPC!)

Select your stats:

  • Table 1-1: Character Beginnings
    • #4  Born into a convent
  • Table 1-2: Family Composition
    • #18 One parent alive, no siblings
  • Table 1-3: Famous Ancestry
    • #18 Powerful cleric of a strange faith
  • Table 1-8: Character Backgrounds, Concepts
    • #12  Tattoos.  You can’t quite get enough of them; you either pay someone or you do your own.
  • Tables 1-9: Character Motivation
    • #9 Become a martyr
  • Table 1-16:  Common Rites of Passage
    • #20  Taking vows
  • Table 1-17:  Character Quirks
    • #12 Frequently rubs holy symbol around neck
  • Table 1-19: Character Features
    • #3 Bald, intentional or not
  • Table 1-33: Tattoos (Unusual)
    • #3 Crows feeding on a dead body
  • Table 1-49: Cleric Quests
    • #4 Build personal strength

Do you have the same image I do?  I’m thinking about a character who is a member of a bizarre faith (perhaps a cult?), born into that group as the only child of the leader.   After taking her vows to her goddess, she’s sent out into the world to build up the strength she would need to be the leader of her faith once her mother dies.  If she cannot do this, she must die the death of a martyr.

As dictated by her faith, she shaves her head nightly and rubs her holy symbol over her head and neck before going to sleep.   She throws herself into fights, pushing ahead of her party so she can get to the action first.  In her mind, if she dies fighting for her goddess, it is just as well.

After every major encounter that she survives, she tattoos herself with an image to remind herself of the battle.   She hopes that by the time her skin is covered with ink, she will be ready to assume her position as priestess of her goddess.

Answer Questions You Weren’t Planning on Answering

Every GM has had the experience of players latching on to something and heading in a completely different direction than you’d originally planned.  Now, you can always railroad, but what’s the fun in that?  Why not pull an adventure straight out of your ass… oh wait, you don’t have to!

Flip to Chapter 2.  Roll a die.  Question answered.

  • “What’s the name of the bridge we just crossed?”
    • #15  Span of Harmony
  • “What’s the weather like here?”
    • #11 Flashes of lightning from the clouds nearby, but not a drop of rain falls from the sky
  • “Are there any goblins living near here?”
    • Yep, and they live in… #3 Eel Gut Hole
  • “I caught a fish!”
    • It’s a … #8 Grouper
  • “I’m going to hunt!  Woo, 20! What did I shoot for dinner?”
    • #12 Silver Fox
  • “I’m gonna pick that guy’s pocket!  How much did I get?”
    • #6 1d3cp, 1d8sp, 1gp
  • “What kind of rumors do we hear at the tavern?”
    • #2 Circus always leaves death in its wake
    • #8 Guild leaders are in league with hell
    • #14 Ruler is a vampire lord

Fun Tables, Tables, Tables

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Gatehouse Diversions (page 82)
    • #9 Members of the town guard check all who enter against a wanted poster.
  • Local Legends (page 93)
    • #5 Dire rodents eat local lettuce and dance to strange music.
  • City Smells (page 106)
    • Table 3-62, #12 Cut grass or bushes. (I love the smell of freshly cut grass!)
  • Gravestone Description (page 109)
    • #6 “Best cook in the land,” followed by “Always go easy on the basil.  Too much can overwhelm the stew.”
  • Blocked Path/Detritus (page 155)
    • #19 Slow-moving livestock  (Believe it or not, I’ve had this problem in real life!)
  • Potion Tastes (page 227)
    • #7, Burnt leather (Ew.)
  • Villain Trigger (or Hot Button, page 322)
    • #18, Sensitive about height or appearance
  • All of Chapter 5′s section “The Dead.”  Seriously, if you want to make your Buttkicker players feel more kickass, start using the tables here to describe the carnage they create.
  • Uses for Gnomes (page 391)
    • I love all of these!  (#3 is especially devious.)

And yes…

While this book does contain nearly 400 pages of tables, there is an extensive index in the back so you can frantically look up the page of flag descriptions, or pirate names, or tavern dinner menus.

Finally… The Editorial Nightmares

One thing kept cropping up over and over and over as I read through this book – silly mistakes that could have been avoided by a good editor.  For example:

  • There’s no set amount of spaces after a period.  Sometimes it’s one.  Sometimes it’s two.  Sometimes there’s no space at all.
  • There are times when an asterisk is placed after an item in a table (or a table header), but there’s no reference in the footnotes (pages 66, 119, 123).
  • In other cases, what should be a footnote for multiple tables is listed directly under the first or last table of that set, regardless of whether it’s located on the top of bottom of the page (pages 312, 313).
  • In other cases, the asterisk is followed by an explanation on the same line (pages 15, 220).
  • In two-column layout, descriptions spanning two lines sometimes have the second line indented (page 17), but sometimes not (page 68).
  • On page 81 in the CITIES box, the third sentence reads: “They answersthe basic questions…”
  • On page 85, #12, the words “stone bridge” are repeated twice back to back.  Seriously, it says “complete a great stone bridge stone bridge connecting two interested but separated lands.”

When one purchases a $50 book, it is expected that all parties involved did an outstanding job creating it.  While I can’t say that the editorial team hit the mark, I can fully vouch for the writing team.

There are pages and pages of awesome ideas in this book that any GM, regardless of system, can pick up and use in their campaign.  GMs will love this book.  Players who like to write extensive back stories for their characters will love this book.  Folks who want to write their own adventure modules or fantasy novels will love this book.

Grab your copy of Ultimate Toolbox from Amazon.com if you can, it’s nearly $20 cheaper than retail!

P.S.  For those who want to scan this review and comment with any editorial discrepancies they may find within it, knock yourself out.  I’m sure I missed a few, but then again, I’m not being paid to find them.

About e

Since 2008, E. Foley of Geek’s Dream Girl has been helping geeks from around the world find love. She writes amazing online dating profiles for her fellow geeks and guides them through the perilous waters of the dating scene and out the other side. She's totally proud to report that she's even caused a couple geek weddings! She lives in Maryland with DaveTheGame, her adorable cats, Mr. Peanut & Don Juan, and Titania, Queen of the Cocker Spaniels. (Email e, or follow @geeksdreamgirl on Twitter.)

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