Author | Megan

Megan

I started role-playing in 1977 when I went to university (Cardiff), haven't really stopped since. True to form, met my husband in a castle dungeon (Treasure Trap, the first live roleplay site) in 1982.

After a doctorate in botany (York), turned to computing and worked in a software house writing planned maintenance systems, then wandered into this new-fangled web thing early and after some freelance work got hired by the local college as webmaster where I hit on the idea of using it to support and enhance learning and teaching rather than just advertise the place...this led to my current role as 'ILT Champion' (how's that for a job title?) at Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College, teaching computing and spreading the word about uses of technology whatever you're teaching... and got made a Fellow of the British Computer Society in 2007.

And of course the role-playing continues, and I'm never without the plotbook. I run RPG Resource and if I ever get bored there's my other website, Medals.org.uk.


Megan

Visions of the Oracle (Pathfinder) Review

Posted on March 4, 2011 by

What is more mysterious than an Oracle? It is the turn of the Oracle character class to come under the microscope: no mere list of feats but a detailed look at the potentials and options available to players who fancy being an Oracle.

We begin with an overview of the class as a whole, discussing the salient points of an Oracle. It’s an interesting class, a spontaneous caster but divine rather than arcane (the answer to those of us who mutter that surely our deities would never let us choose the wrong spells for the day…), with many opportunities for the role-player as they tend to be good socially as well as with that air of mystery! Speaking of mysteries, your choice here sets the flavor of the whole character, affecting him in terms of game mechanics as well as laying the seeds for role-playing and characterization. As they are so important, there’s a thumb-nail sketch of each one, to aid your choice based on just what kind of oracle you would like to play. Oracles are well set up for defense, if offensive capability is desired crafty choices of mystery (Battle is good, or an elemental one) can prove an advantage. Oracles will tend to specialize in something, but that thing they can generally do very well indeed.

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Megan

Kobold Quarterly 16 Review

Posted on February 11, 2011 by

The Editorial opens with the promise of a great treat: Wolfgang Baur’s own home campaign is to be written up for publication! Apparently Kobeck is part of it, but the rest of the setting is now to be subject to the Open Design process and brought into the light of day. Wolfgang’s words show his excitement… now I’m looking forward to it as well.

And so to the first article, Ecology of the Gearforged. They started off as an act of desperation, Kobeck’s craftsmen and wizards collaborating to create something, anything to stave off the House Stross forces during the rebellion that saw Kobeck free – but they have matured to more than mere war machines.

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Megan

The Andwan Legacy RPG Review

Posted on January 5, 2011 by

Beware of beautiful ladies approaching you in inns… or at least, expect spectacular adventure to follow! This lady seeks help in retrieving her inheritance, secured by her late husband in a dungeon under their house, the secrets of which he took to his grave. Needless to say, all is not precisely what it seems, and characters who take up this challenge will have to contend with two rival gangs of thieves as well as the perils of the dungeon itself.

The adventure provides characters with challenges both mental and physical, as before dealing with the contents of the dungeon they need to figure out how to get in! Interaction with various people, most of whom are not quite what they claim to be, provides scope for role-playing as well.

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Megan

CthulhuTech Core Book Review

Posted on December 20, 2010 by

Enter a world rich and strange – even the cover art suggests this even before you read a word! But it’s stranger – and scarier – that you might imagine. The opening piece of fiction sets the scene: a heady mix of warfare, implacable enemies, fighting machines… and yet at the core human beings, maybe a bit different but still real people who care, who love, who hate… and have nightmares afterwards.

Then Chapter 1 bids us Welcome. Welcome to a near-future alternate world in which giant mecha, magic, technology and unspeakable horror are melded together mixing That Which Should Not Be with hopes, harbored by all who go to war, that better times are just around the corner. It begins by explaining unfamiliar terms, both those of role-playing and those specifically for this setting. Now obscure references in the opening fiction become clear – not, alas, the sidebar text, small black text on a strident and messy dark pink background is not conducive to clarity: rather a shock in a work where excellent design is otherwise evident. Many of the references are familiar if you happen to read Lovecraft – Cthulhu himself, and many of the cults and dark gods that lurk around – and others if you care for anime and mecha in general.

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Megan

Secrets of the Alchemist RPG Review

Posted on November 23, 2010 by

The alchemist has been knocking around the fringes of fantasy games for ages, generally – if codified at all – as an NPC that your characters can go to for a range of useful items to take on their adventures, with alchemy itself as a sideline skill practiced in your ‘Craft’ spot. Now Paizo’s Advanced Player’s Guide has brought him out of the workshop to become a playable character in his own right, with skills useful down the dungeon or out on the road, and this product seeks to expand on this and make him an even more attractive option.

The alchemist PC has several notable skills, which are mentioned in the Introduction – he can throw bombs, make and use extracts, brew potions and use poison. However, to hone such a character, he needs appropriate feats and here a grand total of 30 are presented for the budding alchemist to choose from.

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Megan

Wedding Knight (A Song of Ice and Fire) RPG Review

Posted on November 5, 2010 by

The introduction to this adventure provides an apposite reminder: in a game in which dynasties and bloodlines and the good of your House feature large, weddings are going to be very important events indeed. For players of the game of thrones, dynastic alliances are often sealed by a marriage, whilst the young may still harbor hopes of marrying for love rather than political advantage. Even if you are not getting wed yourself, there is plenty of scope during such an event to further your own ends as well as enjoy a good party!

So is the case with the wedding central to this adventure. Two minor houses are sealing recent agreement through marriage, having for many years been at odds with each other. One party is happy, affection having conveniently coincided with policy, but the other party has other ideas…

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Megan

Abandon All Hope RPG Review

Posted on November 1, 2010 by

You might think that it was bad enough to be locked up on an automated spaceship and sent off on a one-way journey to an unknown destination in the company of people even nastier than yourself… but that’s only the start of it. Science-fiction meets horror meets prison drama in this game – and digging a tunnel to freedom is not an option.

Chapter 1: History sets the scene, explaining the political, historical and societal changes on Earth that have led to the development of this rather drastic solution to the age-old question of what do you do with those people too mad, bad or inconvenient to fit in to normal society. Based on rather dodgy psychological theory, people were assessed for their potential to commit violent crime and those deemed most likely to become violent got locked away before they even had a chance to do something wrong.

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Megan

Fiasco RPG Review

Posted on October 15, 2010 by

The underlying concept to this game seems simple: you set up a situation in which things will go wrong, disastrously so, and then play it out as a collaborative story-telling game, taking the part of the main protagonists. That’s straightforward enough, but bolted on is a complex resolution mechanic that jolts you out of storytelling mode to administer – while giving structure to what could otherwise dissolve into chaos around the game-table (as opposed to in the situation you’re playing, where you WANT chaos!) it detracts from the interactive no-holds-barred narrative flow of the game.

Designed for 3-5 players (no GM required) and to take about three hours to play out, even the design process is very structured. Called The Setup, you start by determining when and where the game will take place, and then insert relationships and details to engineer your situation. But it’s not done by purely throwing out ideas until your mix feels explosive enough to begin, but through a system called a Playset. As a scenario-design system, it’s quite a beautiful mix of creativity and randomization. Each Playset comes with lists, you see, and once you have chosen a published one or made up your own, you roll a whole bunch of dice and take turns to choose items from the lists, each time using a die that’s rolled the appropriate number.

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Megan

Exodus RPG: Survivors Guide Review

Posted on October 8, 2010 by

There are several ‘post-apocalypse’ games around, even ones using the D20 ruleset, so what sets this one apart? The Introduction sets out the underlying philosophy: Man is a destructive beast, and it’s not unlikely that sometime he’ll nearly pound himself out of existence, very likely by mistake. The rot set in during the Second World War, when research led to the first atomic bombs, and continued with other scientific ‘advances’ until the calamity that sets the scene for this game. Taking a date prophesied by the Mayans as marking the end of the current age, 21 December 2012, a rapidly-escalating nuclear exchange is postulated, leading to an ‘exodus’ of survivors seeking safety in underground shelters from which they have finally emerged some twenty years later.

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Megan

Rêve: the Dream Ouroboros RPG Review

Posted on September 29, 2010 by


The book opens with a rambling foreword by the author, touching on how this is a complete rewrite – as the translation of the original I’m reading is of the 2nd edition of Rêve de Dragon – of the rules, suggesting the order and way in which it should be read and the like, before getting to the underlying philosophy of the game: that a dream exists only whilst the dreamer is dreaming… and that in similar vein, the alternate reality of a role-playing game only comes to life when someone is playing that game. The aim in creating the game is to provide a ruleset that facilitates the shared dream of the in-game reality.

The whole is divided into three books, the first of which is called Journeyers. For this game is about journeys: be they quests, searches for enlightenment or indeed actual travels. It begins with the rules for creating a character, or Journeyer. Each is described by a comprehensive list of 18 characteristics, assigned in the main by point-buy, as well as skills and other attributes. Interestingly, the details of actually acquiring skills and the like are left until later despite a fairly comprehensive outline of how a character is described mechanically, the discussion then moves on to the crux of this ruleset, the resolution table, which is brought into use whenever it is not clear whither an action will succeed or not.

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Megan

Dungeon of Terror Virtual Boxed Set Review

Posted on September 22, 2010 by

It’s a delightful conceit – a ‘virtual boxed set’ – harking back to the cardboard boxes that used to contain much of one’s gaming treasures… and this too is full of treasure, namely all eight parts of 0one’s Dungeon of Terror mapset with a few bonus goodies as well: a big DM’s map, random encounter tables and template pages on which you can record your notes about the various rooms. If you want to use the dungeon entire, this is well worth acquiring.

The eight parts of the mapset, which are also available separately if you have already decided that you only require a part of this vast complex, are presented as separate PDF files in your download, as are the three bonus items… and a JPEG image which is the one that appears in product advertising (I’d have liked a larger one of just the ‘box lid’ art to use as cover to a folder or even in on a hand-made box to make it a REAL boxed set!).

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Megan

Waking The Witch Fiction Review

Posted on September 10, 2010 by

This book sweeps you into the world of Savannah Levine, a young private investigator with a motorbike, a bit of an attitude… and spellcasting ability, the latter being a mix of her heritage of a half-demon witch mother and a sorcerer papa. For this is the 11th novel in author Kelley Armstrong’s ‘Otherworld’ urban fantasy series, where supernatural beings inhabit a modern America that’s otherwise just like the real contemporary one.

The story appeals on many levels: fans of detective fiction, female empowerment or the supernatural/modern world interface will all find this enjoyable. You could call it Kinsey Millhone (heroine of the ‘Alphabet’ series of private detective stories by Sue Grafton) meets The Dresden Files, but this is a living, breathing alternate reality in its own right where most people potter along in contemporary lives much as you and I do while supernatural beings mingle amongst us mostly keeping their abilities to themselves (with good reason, at times!).

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Megan

Sunken Empires RPG Review

Posted on August 31, 2010 by

The work opens with a foreword by David ‘Zeb’ Cook in which he muses on the durability of his invention, the aboleth – a monster with an almost-thirty year history and which features large in this book. A fascinating muse on how the aboleth came to be later, Chapter 1: Lost Cities of Myth and Legend explores the inspirations for this setting. Legends of fantastic civilizations lost to the deeps provide plenty of ideas, after all, as well as a compelling lure for characters looking for somewhere to explore. For that’s the intent of this setting: exploration, rather than somewhere to actually live as a denizen of the deeps.

The legendary civilizations of Atlantis, Lemuria and Mu are detailed, along with thought-provoking ideas on how to use them as inspiration for your own sunken empire, before the text launches into the design of a new lost city called Ankeshel for your characters to research and explore. Ankeshel draws on both real-world myths and the Pathfinder setting, with some Theosophist theories mixed in for good measure, including the concept of vril. The original human inhabitants were taught magic and mathematics by a strange tentacled, 3-eyed amphibious race. Needless to say, it all ended in tears and the city was lost… until recent discoveries began to bring tantalizing glimpses of what once was back into general knowledge.

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Megan

Dark Sun Campaign Setting (D&D 4E) Review

Posted on August 23, 2010 by

The Introduction jumps right in, explaining what is unique about the Dark Sun setting. Athas is a dying world, where mere survival is a constant battle… and where any sensible person would concentrate on creating a stable sustainable environment, ‘heroes’ of course prefer to seek glory. The differences between Athas and more conventional fantasy settings is encapsulated in the Eight Characteristics of Athas – it’s a desert planet, most people living there are pretty unpleasant selfish types, metal is scarce, arcane magic caused a lot of the current problems and still does damage if you try to use it, long-lived sorcerer-kings rule city-states as the main centres of power, deities seem to have lost interest in the place, the monsters are deadly, and even ‘familiar’ races are not quite what one would expect. Handy thumb-nail sketch, which makes me wonder if I actually want to visit… well, I do like deserts!

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Megan

Dr Who: Adventures in Time and Space Review

Posted on August 5, 2010 by

Childhood revisited yet thoroughly contemporary: back in 1963 a very small Megan watched from behind the sofa (the Daleks terrified me!), and now I revel in the relaunch over the past five years… here in my hands is a box which like the Tardis itself contains far more than you’d think from the outside!

Just as the subject matter takes me back to childhood, presentation harks back to early role-playing games: a boxed set, ‘all you need to play’ even some dice. Purchasers of the PDF version get everything except box and dice, although you’ll have to print out cards & counters. The game itself – in both presentation and mechanics – is designed to be accessible to newcomers to role-playing as well as to those who have been playing a long time.

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Megan

Basic Role Playing: Quickstart Edition Review

Posted on July 21, 2010 by

As the Introduction states, this is a distillation of the core of Chaosium’s Basic Role Playing system, the mechanic that has powered many of the company’s best-known games such as Call of Cthulhu and RuneQuest. While the full system fills many pages, it is simple enough for the core to be presented fully-playable here, as an introduction or for use with a setting other than the main game lines.

The Introduction continues with an explanation of what role-playing games are all about, particularly useful if you’re using this work as an introduction to this type of game as well as to the BRP system. In describing what role-playing consists of, mention is made of the range of genres and settings you can play in…

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Megan

Shadows Over Filmland RPG Review

Posted on July 14, 2010 by

This work opens with ‘Double Feature,’ a scholarly essay comparing and contrasting 1930s horror movies with Lovecraft’s work: similar themes but different treatments. Lovecraft describes everything in detail while movies suggest with light and shadow, much being left to the viewer’s imagination. Many elements are common to both, but the movies have more random, innocent victims while most of Lovecraft’s bring horror upon themselves; and in the movies the monsters usually are defeated by the final reel… even if they return in the sequel! Your games will likely draw on both horror movies and the written word, and those pesky Mythos horrors have a habit of popping up in the next adventure.

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Megan

Judge Dredd RPG Review

Posted on June 16, 2010 by

Most people who are likely to pick up this book will already know who Judge Dredd is (from his origins in the 2000AD comic or the movie), but unlike many games based on books, TV shows or films, there is ample information for those who do not know the original inspiration to get a feeling for what is going on, for the Judge and his world. The Introduction encapsulates the situation. In a radiation-ravaged world vast sprawling cities hold most of the surviving population in relative safety, but law and order is a massive problem that conventional systems of police and law courts could not maintain, hence the Judges – who act as police and court and often sentencing agent as well – developed to keep some semblance of order.

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Megan

Trail of Cthulhu: Rough Magicks RPG Review

Posted on June 7, 2010 by

The Introduction lays out the intention of this work: to provide an optional systematic approach to magic that can be used within a Trail of Cthulhu game by the characters and/or their antagonists as the Keeper so chooses. Well, the antagonists probably will be using magic at times, but not necessarily according to a set of rules; their spells may be created as appropriate for the needs of the adventure being played.

The first chapter – Which Magic? – goes into greater detail about sources. Naturally, Mythos literature looms large, but Lovecraft was by and large unclear about the underlying mechanics of his magic, using it to create the desired effect without much regard to what was going on.

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Megan

Peril at King’s Landing RPG Review

Posted on May 31, 2010 by

Deep, complex intrigue lies at the heart of A Song of Ice and Fire, and this adventure is jam-packed with it! Featuring a complex plot designed to cast the characters and their House in the worst possible light while advancing another fellow to high position in both his own House and the land, there is absolutely no chance for any character to sit on the sidelines and observe. A Royal Tournament is to be held in King’s Landing, a chance for young men of mettle to impress… while in the background nobles of all ages plot and connive for position no less fiercely.

The plot, albeit complex, is laid out very clearly for the GM in the Introduction, and a range of ideas are provided to get characters even more embroiled than they will be anyway including suggestions for mystical foreshadowing of events.

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