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Cameron Matthieu "Al Capwn" RSS Feed (San Antonio, TX)

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The Manifestation of Light
The Manifestation of Light
Price: $3.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprised - a solid first entry of a dark fantasy novel., December 12, 2014
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I started R.A. Salvatore's The Crystal Shard over a month ago and have not finished it. I read The Manifestation of Light in two days. That should say something. R.A. Salvatore is known for his popular "Drizzt" protagonist. I say this not to compare stories, but to compare Salvatore's first work against Shimek's first work. If I had to say which story was more interesting, The Manifestation of Light wins hands down.

The Manifestation of Light is really a dark fantasy rather than a campy Tolkien/Jordan yarn. Shimek did a very good job creating unique characters in the story, as well as providing a solid motivational force behind all of them. They all evolve during the course of the story and you can organically see the changes that occur. They do not seem forced and makes the story more believable.

Some of the constructive criticisms I had was that the main plot has been done quite a bit, and there wasn't too much of a drastic alteration to make it unique. Additionally, some of the uniqueness of the book's plot is spoiled by the blurb about the book! There could have been some more exposition to some of the story elements, though there is enough to tell Aven's tale. There are some segments of dialogue that are a bit wooden or bland. There are also some story elements that are a bit canned or conveniently contrived, but I prefer that to Salvatore's invincible party of Drizzt, Bruenor and Wulfgar. I actually felt like the protagonists were in danger - because they actually were.

However, overall I am very impressed with this first work. It's no Wheel of Time, gives Salvatore a run for his money, and it certainly beats Twilight. I certainly hope he continues to hone his craft and publish more stories, because if this is where he starts, then there is a lot of promise ahead.


K&N RU-2970 Suzuki Universal Rubber Air Filter
K&N RU-2970 Suzuki Universal Rubber Air Filter
Price: $40.99
41 used & new from $40.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Fits and upgrades your Suzuki GS500F., November 27, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Replaced my stock airbox on a 2006 Suzuki GS500F. Yes, it fits despite Amazon saying it does not; same build as the regular GS500. If you purchase this, be prepared to rejet your carbs. I opted for 142.5/65/20 for the jet sizes, and that seems to work very well. You will also need to adjust the air/fuel mixture screws which are concealed behind some brass plugs on the carbs.

Observations: Exhaust note changed rather dramatically. It has a bit more body to it, and while it by no means increases it to performance exhaust levels, it does make it more pronounced. Throttle response improved, and this became very obvious when riding that the "oomph" was increased. I attribute this to the less restrictive K&N filter paired with the richer-running jets.

Overall, this was 100% worth the purchase. It gives a bit more life to the GS500F and helps start and idle the bike easier. The lifelong filter is just icing on the cake.


Hoard of the Dragon Queen (D&D Adventure)
Hoard of the Dragon Queen (D&D Adventure)
by Wizards RPG Team
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.41
71 used & new from $15.81

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts out great, but quickly begins to fall apart., November 27, 2014
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Bottom Line Up Front:
The first 3-5 chapters are detailed and fun, but the rest of the book is a bit disorganized, suffers from glaring errors, contains boring mechanical magic items, is very linear and suffers from pacing issues.

Full Review:
Ok, I have waited a while to submit my review in order to give a fair assessment of this module. I will try to omit as many spoilers as I can. Let's discuss some of the nicer parts of this campaign book. It is a hardcover, and the artwork is nice. The first three-to-five chapters of the book are very good. Paths that the adventurers can take are covered in fairly good detail, meaning there is little scrambling the DM has to do.

However, the adventure quickly begins to fall apart once the "caravan" chapter comes into focus. We are introduced to a bunch of NPCs, many of which you may never use, and two semi-important NPCs that aren't fully detailed. Personally, I would like to know the description of the NPC, what their ultimate goals are, and what they are wanting in the immediate. This is not fully explained, but even more disappointing is that there are very few NPCs that "stick around" to be memorable.

Also, while I understand it is now "theater of the mind", could we at least get some player-friendly maps? The kind that don't reveal every treasure, secret and door? A page I can open to and show my players and say, "Before you stands this...". I digress.

The book also contains a litany of errors; some are minor, some are actually fairly major. There is a major name change/omission in a random encounters section, and there is one encounter that WILL kill your party if read-as-written. This was apparently an oversight by WotC as the encounter was written before the stat blocks were, making the encounter much more deadly than it was designed to be. New DMs won't necessarily know that, and it could prematurely end up killing your party.

Magic items are scarce, but when they do exist the majority of them are boiled down into mechanical basics. I.e. "+1 longsword". Seriously, WotC? After hyping up the "three pillars of adventure" and magic item rarity your answer to an exciting magical item is that? Not, "You pull aside the sackcloth that covers this oddly-colored blade. Strange runes have been stamped into this hilt of this blade, and run down the length of its fuller. They glow faintly as you grasp the leather-wrapped handle."

Nope. +1 Longsword. It seems even in a pre-published adventure, they want DMs to make up whatever details they want. To me, that is laziness on the part of WotC. If DMs want to change the description, let them - but give them something to start with if they aren't prepared to answer the question of, "what does it look like?".

Finally, the pacing of some of the fights can be very pitched. There are some parts that force the party to press onward, but other times there is nothing to say they can't make camp in the middle of a cave or forest or wherever. This means some fights can be more balanced as the party is "worn down" a bit, but other fights become too easy for the PCs as they just roll over the villains with reckless abandon at full strength. The first few chapters do a good job at this, the later ones not so much.

Overall, this module is "OK" it is better than nothing at all, and will give an introduction to D&D, but it doesn't highlight the things that can make D&D great. There are only a few traps, and nearly no puzzles. Very few skill/social challenges. The overall plot/story is pretty cookie-cutter, but is not terrible either. It is a hold-over until the Dungeon Master's guide is available with details on traps, treasure, etc. If you can wait until then, I would pass on this.


Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
Player's Handbook (Dungeons & Dragons)
by Wizards RPG Team
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $36.09
71 used & new from $29.92

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smoothest Running Edition to Date - Highly Recommended!, August 30, 2014
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I am going to divide this review into two sections. The first section will be about the content/rules/mechanics of the new 5th Edition Player's Handbook and how they play out. The second section will be about the physical book itself (construction, art, layout, etc). If you are new to pen and paper role-playing games, I would say that hands down this is the edition of Dungeons & Dragons you will want to pick up. To give a little background I have been playing pen & paper RPGs off-and-on since I was a teenager, which is now a solid 15 years or so. I started with an old D6 Star Wars RPG system, migrated to D&D 3.0/3.5 and until recently have been playing Pathfinder. I skipped D&D 4th edition. That gives some background, so now on to the review!

Rules & Mechanics (5/5)
In my opinion, Wizards did a fantastic job of "trimming the fat" from the previous editions and bringing back the "three pillars of adventure" into the game. You can see a majority of these changes via the free Basic Rules that Wizards provides on their website. There are quite a few changes, so I will do my best to sum up the major ones I have seen thus far:

* Advantage/Disadvantage: Roll twice, take the higher/lower result.
It is simple and doesn't require multitudes of +/- modifier bloat. This is something I hated about 3rd edition because it turned combat specifically into a elementary math exam. "Oh I forgot that I got the +2 from the Bardic inspiration, so does that mean I hit? I rolled 10...+2+1+3+1+4...so...21?" Some people like this, because it numerically showed that their characters were growing stronger and that each person/item provided a measurable contribution to the growth. For players, that may be fine, but for DMs this tends to slow things down. Now there is a mechanic that can be utilized on a wider variety of skills/abilities/attacks/conditions, or even used impromptu by the DM when applicable. It isn't perfect, but it is elegant and simple and makes most things "make sense" and move along.

* Individual Saves for Attributes
This just makes sense. No more Reflex/Will/Fort, instead each attribute is important and carries its own save. This opens up new possibilities for DMs, while makes it easier for players since there is no arbitrary saves per class system.

* Spell casters and primary ability score attacks improved.
There are now useful cantrips (level 0 spells), including at least one combat cantrip per spell casting class. This means that casters are still dangerous even after having exhausted higher level spells. It gives options, something that made combat excruciatingly boring for casters after their spells per day were exhausted.

The other issue is that caster's magical attacks still usually leveraged Strength and Dexterity-based stats. This has been changed. Now for most spells, the primary casting attribute is added instead.

The finesse feat has been included with some weapons, meaning weapons like rapiers, daggers and darts can use the Dexterity ability score modifier instead of Strength. Ranged attacks such as bows also add their Dexterity to damage instead of Strength as well, something that may be a bit controversial, but I feel is an improvement.

* "Bounded accuracy", Skills, Feats and Proficiency
I hated in 3rd edition/Pathfinder that at achieving a level, you "suddenly" could pick up skills that a character had little to no experience in previously, and then suddenly be astonishing at. There is no longer the "+21 to Diplomacy" skill bonuses. The emphasis on skills and feats has been "nerfed to the ground" with many skills and feats removed. In fact, feats are completely optional and up to DM discretion. Instead the focus is on "Backgrounds" and "Proficiency" instead. Essentially, what used to be a "Base Attack Bonus" is now called "Proficiency" and is applied to anything that you are "Proficient" at. This can be skills, saves and attacks. Minimum is +2, Maximum is +6.

This means that the difference between between a 1st level hero and a 20th level hero is a measly +4 (in terms of raw proficiency). This does mean that a bit of "high fantasy" is removed, but it also removes the arbitrary Difficulty Check (DC) increase as well. Because, let's face it, the DM is rarely going to let players run roughshod over any and every situation. I.e. the PC that can Bluff past Deities because they are a one-trick pony with an insane Bluff score.

Furthermore, how many DMs ran a party of high level characters through a dungeon filled with low level creatures and traps? I personally never did, because a trivial adventure is a boring one. In 3rd edition/Pathfinder, at higher levels it becomes necessary to increase the DC to continually challenge the party. I.e. Picking a lock that used to be a DC 20 at 5th level now is a DC of 30 at 10th. So why artificially raise the difficulty? Bounded accuracy understands and fixes that problem and keeps an army of orcs potentially dangerous, even at higher levels.

* Inspiration: DM discretion awards.
Does someone take a rather unconventional path to find a solution to a problem? You can award an Inspiration point - basically a free "you gain advantage" card to use at a critical moment in time. Similar bonuses have been house-ruled before by DMs, but I am glad they have actually put it in the rules.

Book Content (4/5)
This edition puts more emphasis on the DM and less on the "rules lawyers" or "Rules As Written" (RAW) addicts. It would appear that the goal of 5th edition is "less is more" when it comes to a majority of things. In many ways, this is a good thing. However, there are some aspects that I appreciated the clearly defined rules of 3rd edition. For example, manacles are an item that can bind hands and feet. There is a description about them and how to escape them, but it does not state what the impact applying them has. For example, does an attack against a manacled creature/person grant Advantage? Is a status condition imposed, such as immobilized?

Update: The Player's Handbook lists 'Restrained' as a condition and does grant advantage against it, which I would assume would apply - but again, they should state that applying manacles applies this condition, if indeed that is the case.

While I appreciate the removal of the Combat Maneuver system and streamlining of spells, I do miss some of the myriad of equipment and armors, and the artwork that 3rd edition provided each item.

Book Construction, Layout & Artwork (4/5)
The binding of the book is good, but not great. As others have mentioned, some of the pages in certain locations look suspect. While I haven't lost any yet, I can tell that there are some weak spots where the glue was not securing the pages as well. Since there hasn't been any damage yet, I won't harp on it too much at this time.

The layout is good, but not great as well. The information and character creation is a bit out of order, in my opinion. There was some back-and-forth hunting on sub-races and other elements during character creation, such as backgrounds and starting gear. It is laid out well enough for it to be figured out, but it may be a bit out of order for newer players. Veterans I am sure will shrug and move on.

The artwork in this book, as many others have mentioned, has been my personal favorite. Not too serious, not too cartoon-like. It is what I picture when I think of adventure. The pictures showing the spells are among my favorites as it shows some previously plain spells ("I cast...Magic Missile at the darkness!") in a fantastic new light.

Summary
No system is going to be perfect, but I can see this edition going for a while - assuming that Wizards doesn't try to over-complicate it and sticks with the concepts of storytelling over power-gaming. If you enjoy your current RPG system, by all means stick with it. However, if you are looking for what I consider a "Six Sigma" version of D&D, this is it. It is classic D&D with flexible mechanics, smooth combat and is very intuitive for the most part.


Spyderco Dragonfly2 Brithish Racing Green FRN ZDP-189 PlainEdge Knife
Spyderco Dragonfly2 Brithish Racing Green FRN ZDP-189 PlainEdge Knife
Price: $66.01
53 used & new from $62.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "Little big knife" lives up to its title., July 26, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
If you are looking for a small blade that packs a big punch, this is a great option. I would recommend it for anyone who works in an office environment who wants a useful blade but doesn't want to scare their co-workers with a full-size option.

First, this knife packs a better (in my opinion) steel for general use. ZDP-189 has a reputation of being tricky to sharpen, but it also holds a very keen edge for a very long time. For those who want more millage between sharpening sessions and are not hard on their knives (which would induce chipping) this is perfect. I.e. for cutting cardboard, opening packages, zip ties, food and the like. Corrosion resistance seems to be relatively on par with the Delica's VG-10.

Second, this knife is very lightweight while still feeling solid. This version does not have liners, and for it's size it really doesn't need them. The wire pocket clip is deceptively good with plenty of tension and does not feel flimsy. Added bonus, it fits perfectly inside the "pocket watch/change" pocket inside of your jeans, freeing up more space in your actual pocket.

Finally, grip options. You basically can hold the knife in two ways: behind the choil, or with the finger choil. This gives you grip options for control, depending on the task. For fine work I prefer to use the finger choil as it offers quite a bit of precision, whereas for general slicing I hold behind the choil. I have average sized hands and this blade feels comfortable in hand; with all fingers being able to get a purchase when utilizing the choil. This is something I wish the Delica had, though admittedly the Delica has the best "grip feel" to me.

Pros:
+ Lightweight
+ Great steel
+ Fits in small jeans pocket
+ Good grip options and feel
+ Solid reversible pocket clip

Cons:
- Expensive for the size
- No steel liners; not a hard-use knife
- "Tip up" carry only


Da Vinci Maestro Series 10 Kolinsky Red Sable Brush for Watercolor, Round, Size 0
Da Vinci Maestro Series 10 Kolinsky Red Sable Brush for Watercolor, Round, Size 0
Price: $12.63
9 used & new from $9.55

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic brush, sizing runs a little smaller than the competition., May 17, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I ordered two of these, one for myself and one for Mrs. and both of these brushes are of excellent quality. In terms of size, they tend to run a size smaller compared to the Raphael 8404 series.

The Da Vinci size 0 makes for an excellent detail brush for miniatures. It retains its shape and controls the paint very well. This is ideal for intricate details or areas where you do not want the belly of the brush to contact other areas of the miniature. For my high-end brushes, I have a Raphael 8404 size 2, this Da Vinci Series 10 in size 2 and size 0, and those brushes tackle all of the heavy lifting.

Compared in size to the Army Painter Insane Detail brush, the Da Vinci is slightly longer and larger, but comes to an equally fine point. The extra hairs help hold more paint and prevent from drying out as quickly.


Da Vinci Maestro Series 10 Kolinsky Red Sable Brush for Watercolor, Round, Size 2
Da Vinci Maestro Series 10 Kolinsky Red Sable Brush for Watercolor, Round, Size 2
Price: $21.57
4 used & new from $11.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic brush, but runs a little smaller than the competition., May 17, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I ordered two of these, one for myself and one for Mrs. and both of these brushes are of excellent quality. In terms of size, they tend to run a size smaller compared to the Raphael 8404 series. So a size 2 in this brush is more along the lines of a size 1. The Da Vinci size 2 is, in my opinion, the optimal brush for the majority of miniatures painting tasks. It is small enough to sneak into narrow crevasses for base-coats, and comes to a fine point to handle just about everything but pupil-of-eyeball work. For my high-end brushes, I have a Raphael 8404 size 2, this Da Vinci Series 10 in size 2 and size 0, and those brushes tackle all of the heavy lifting.

This brush compares in size to the Army Painter Regiment brush, for reference.


Fellowes 100% Jam Proof Heavy Duty Shredder, 79Ci 14 Sheet Cross Cut
Fellowes 100% Jam Proof Heavy Duty Shredder, 79Ci 14 Sheet Cross Cut
Price: Click here to see our price
100 used & new from $129.00

4.0 out of 5 stars So far, so good., May 16, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
No major issues with this shredder - while it says it is jam proof, it will prevent you from inserting more than the machine can handle. You can override this "suggestion" by manually pressing the forward button, and it will still devour the paper. Most times this can be as innocuous as a thick credit card offer envelope, so you still have to break apart some of your junk mail. It does however do a very good job. It makes clean shreds (if organized destruction is your thing) and is very quiet compared to the "bargain specials" out there. Caster wheels make it easy to move around into the position you want, useful for moving it out of a corner, shredding, and returning it back once finished.


Samsung 840 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-7TE250BW)
Samsung 840 EVO 250GB 2.5-Inch SATA III Internal SSD (MZ-7TE250BW)
Offered by MDN® USA
Price: Click here to see our price
101 used & new from $120.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Super fast!, May 16, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Replaced a dying HDD in my mother's laptop with this. At first, the speed increase was significant, but not off-the-charts. However, after running through the optimization and dedicating a part of the HDD as a "cache" so-to-speak, the speed boost was incredible. Lightning fast boot times and file/application launches.


Global Game Gear GGG0024 Black Xbox Thumbsticks (4 Pack)
Global Game Gear GGG0024 Black Xbox Thumbsticks (4 Pack)
Offered by amermedia
Price: $5.75

5.0 out of 5 stars Prefect replacement!, May 16, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Between dogs and children, the thumb sticks needed replacing. Bonus: Security torx was included with the pack. All four sticks fit seamlessly on the war-torn 360 wireless controllers.


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