Author | spikexan

An avid reader and gamer, Todd picked up his habit for the latter with TSR's Marvel Super Heroes. Since opening that box set, he has ran hundreds of games, co-owned and operated a game store way too huge for his hometown to manage, earned a degree, and contributed writings to Abstract Nova and Eden Studios.

At this time, he works a day job between meaningful freelance assignments. He's more than likely checking his e-mail right this very second.

He currently lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky with his wife, son, daughter, and possibly the least graceful cat in the Western Hemisphere.


Into the Void SAS Review

Posted on June 15, 2011 by

Players can try something different with the newest SAS from White Wolf. In “Into the Void,” ($6.99 at RPGNow.com), players kick off an adventure with killing the Prince of their city. The Prince, in all truth, is a secret hording problem that a good Final Death solves.

Or does it?

This is one of the better SAS releases that I’ve read. While certain NPCs are named, there is no reason why the Prince can’t become the Prince of established characters’ city along with the key movers and shakers detailed.

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Dark Harvest RPG Review

Posted on May 27, 2011 by

Dark Harvest is an alternative setting (compatible with Victoria) from Cubicle Seven. In this pseudo-historic twist, Dr. Frankenstein establishes a seat of political and military power in the country of Promethea. This power base permits him to explore stranger scientific pursuits and achieve dangerous heights of hubris. Of course, things are far from well behind the curtain and PCs will most likely take part in the factions attempting to topple the status quo.

The artwork, layout, and cartography in Dark Harvest has several more hits than misses. The art itself is great as is the cartography. The book proves to be a bit dull visually. There is a great deal of information in this book (information about the various areas of the country, the history, key figures, and much more). The point in mentioning this is that the information gets a bit textbook without more interesting breaks in the writing.

In regards to the rich writing, few facets of day-to-day life were left unexamined. History, educational systems, religious structures, gender roles, and a wealth of other topics were laid out in an approachable manner.

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Pelgrane Week: Castle Bravo RPG Review

Posted on May 4, 2011 by

Castle Bravo is a tightly focused adventure for Trail of Cthulhu that ties together halfbreed mutants, nuclear bomb testing, and more sanity-blasting goodness. According to the product page on RPGNow.com, this adventure didn’t just go through an in-house playtest. It also went through some actual tabletop playtesting at Dreamation 2010. I mention this only because I enjoy games heavily linked to playtesting (Chad Underkoffler’s Zorcerer of Zo comes to mind). While this game only shows the finished product, it stands as an excellent example of how a well-polished adventure can look.

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Scenes of the Embrace SAS Review

Posted on March 22, 2011 by

Preludes. Some of my best memories of Storyteller games circle around Preludes. I could sequester away a player for perhaps an evening and, for a session, really get into that particular character’s head. Dice rarely hit the table. It was about motivations and character. I mention this because this eBook flirts with being a look at preludes. Let me clear that it isn’t, but even the author allows that some Storytellers will use it for exactly that purpose.

The PDF’s artwork is mostly good. In fact, there are some pieces within the file that are damned good (no pun intended. Really.). I personally liked Shane Coppage’s art the best (the cover belongs to this artist). The artwork proved a little distracting in that some pieces look like Hollywood was tapped for character inspiration.

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Mage Chronicler’s Guide RPG Review

Posted on February 18, 2011 by

The traditional print run of Mage: the Awakening ends with my favorite kind of supplement–the advice book. Although gaming advice is merely a click away today, some of the first useful gaming advice I gleaned came from the original White Wolf lines. Rather than rehash decades old thoughts on gaming, the focus instead turns to new ground. This book tweaks the core principles–setting, magic mechanics, and character–before setting loose some ideas on actual Mage chronicles. I’ll try to go chapter-by-chapter once I get the artwork out of the way. Before I do, one pointer: there is never a reason to quote Ayn Rand. Ever. Seriously.

For me, the book’s artwork isn’t very special. I do like the cover art by Imaginary Friends Studio; however, the interior art wasn’t engaging. It did tie directly to the fiction, which earned it a step up.

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The Black Seal (Issues 1-3) Review

Posted on February 10, 2011 by

This collection of issues, originally released between 2001 and 2004, showcase a variety of Cthulhu goodness, especially for those interested in modern horror. One of the organizations from the Delta Green line, the British occult organization PISCES, takes the spotlight. Since the material within the magazines are basically alike, I’ll tackle the trio together.

The artwork in the magazines comes from a collection of artists and are rather fitting for the Cthulhu Mythos. The first issue has a small amount of artwork (nearly non-existent if not for the well-crafted cartography within it). By the third issue, artwork fills nearly every page and yet doesn’t get in the way of the writing.

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Zombacalypse (Savage Worlds) RPG Review

Posted on February 4, 2011 by

You can go many ways with a zombie. Desperate horror is just as likely as Romantic comedy anymore. They are seriously everywhere, which is probably why they are such a threat.

I’m not going to overanalyze them. People much smarter than me have already done that. What I will do is say I ran a super hero zombie one-shot for some friends once and enjoyed the Hell out of it. I also played a convention game where zombies were the main attraction (liked that too). For the most part (and this isn’t fair really), zombie games have a one-shot feel to them. Some games like Zombie Run (an excellent Savage Worlds adventure) and the zillion plus supplements for All Flesh Must Be Eaten suggest ways to make longer campaigns, but I always felt like zombie games were filler (like a blockbuster summer flick) than a campaign (like Walking Dead). I’m hardheaded and wrong, which this book quickly points out.

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Fallen is Babylon RPG Review

Posted on January 20, 2011 by

Fallen is Babylon is part of White Wolf’s Storytelling Adventure System, a series of well-tailored games that can be picked up for one-shots or slipped (most of the time) into a campaign. This particular setting makes no specific claim to line. It instead provides a town with a curse of sorts. The appearance is that the supernatural isn’t welcome. Vampires cannot sire here, Will-Workers find their abilities bleeding away the longer they stay, and, well, you get the idea. Of course, a mystery like this needs to be investigated.

Enter the players.

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Vampire Translation Guide Review

Posted on December 27, 2010 by

This is a fun little book (52 pages/no ads). I can see why it’s holding at number one at Flames Rising RPGNow Shop since its release. It’s a useful little bastard that gives canon material to what gamers have been doing since Masquerade’s end and Requiem’s release. I guessed it would be a book about translating the old system to the new, but it doesn’t play favorites. It goes both ways.

The first three pages detail the similarities and differences between the two lines. For example, the original line ran with the “we’re the Childer of Caine” speech where untrustworthy memories make any origin story suspect in Requiem.

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Signs of the Moon RPG Review

Posted on December 13, 2010 by

Signs of the Moon takes a look at one of the few aspects (pun intended) I love about the Werewolf (both of them) lines. The Auspices appeal to me because it always seemed realistic, as realistic as a game about shapeshifters can be. People are pulled by the moon in ways we barely understand. Just as sure as a hot August day can statistically cause a homicide rate to rise, the moon too plays a role in our little dramas. Why not write a book about it? This is a hefty 227 pages of new gifts, rules, filler and more.

The artwork to the book keeps to the feel of the line. It’s a visceral, tribal style that is so much stronger than what the original line offered. My personal fave is on page 207. I usually shy away from talking about layout in a White Wolf book because, well, they set the standard for high quality.

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The Kerberos Club RPG Review

Posted on November 18, 2010 by

Benjamin Baugh’s Savaged edition of The Kerberos Club is one of the more imaginative settings I’ve seen for the engine in awhile. The setting couples super heroes with Victorian England. It’s really a game for fans of Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the comic of course, not the movie). Beginning in 1860, superhumans begin cropping up (or flying about in this case). The public is understandably weary of such, so factions quickly form. The superhumans come in all flavors. There are mystically created heroes, Mystery Men of Science, and more. The 300-page corebook, while meaty, still requires both the Savage Worlds corebook and Savage Worlds Superpowers Companion to play.

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Shanghai Vampocalypse Player’s Guide (Savage Worlds) RPG Review

Posted on October 26, 2010 by

What do you give the Savage Worlds’ character who has everything? In an earlier review, I suggested Suzerain, which permits players to take their characters to the demigod level and opens up, well, all the other game books on the bookshelf at home. This is becoming quite the trend as massive gaming collections fail to the get love they deserve. Eden’s under-appreciated Odyssey Prime tried this (with D20 and Unisystem no less). John Wick has an interesting take on it with his Flux game while Suzerain tries to work from one system (Savage Worlds) to make all the setting fit into place. The designers at Savage Mojo could have stopped with the core book, leaving readers to fend for themselves; however, they instead have created a series of settings intended for demigod powerhouses. To paraphrase the game, fighting a few vampires is good work for a hero. Fighting an army of vampires is what you get when you attain Suzerain status.

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Compacts and Conspiracies (Hunter) Review

Posted on September 2, 2010 by

A good PDF should be more than just a scanned version of a book. Okay, so many of them are laced with hyperlinks and bookmarks, which are great. Some PDF releases really explore the potential behind pure digital media.

When the second edition of Vampire: the Masquerade came out, I didn’t care about the Tremere at all. They were, to me, an excuse to make sure yet another RPG had a wizard hidden within it.

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Our Ladies of Sorrow RPG Review

Posted on August 26, 2010 by

There are many ways to put together a Call of Cthulhu adventure, although so many of them have the same trappings. Our Ladies of Sorrow truly comes from a different place that is part Greco-Roman myth, part psychology (some of the game involves a common psychological condition), and, of course, part Lovecraftian Mythos. It feels so much more like older Cthulhu adventures mainly because it is so ingrained with investigation work. As the author suggests, a small party (3-5) is ideal for this adventure. The story centers around three sisters, be they the Fates, avatars of Nyarlathotep (for keeping with traditional Mythos flavor), or several other well conceived possibilities. This large adventure (154 pages/7 pages are ads) consists of a brief foreward and introduction before jumping into the first of four chapters.

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Todd’s Gen Con 2010 Adventure

Posted on August 9, 2010 by

They call it “The Best Four Days in Gaming,” but for me Gencon turned out to be one single day of hyper-kinetic goodness dotted by plenty of booth babes to punctuate my day. Going to Gencon in order to enjoy the event is quite different than being a man on a mission, well, missions. There were some fantastic new products this year, such as new releases in the Cthluhutech and Eclipse Phase lines. I picked up Smallville (and the Leverage Quickstart Job adventure) to see what twists they would bring to the Cortex system. I mean how could Clark Kent sport a D12 Strength when Jayne from Serenity does the same thing (Cam Banks’ answer to that question proves pretty interesting). White Wolf took a bold move by, well, not bringing a single book to read this year (though the booth, which looked like a Vampiric salon, was hopping with excited patrons looking to hear about upcoming products and get their drink on). Companies like Out of the Box had a fleet of new party and educational games while Wits and Wagers had both an expansion and family edition available (would have liked to see Say Anything release an expansion too, but oh well).

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Age of Cthulhu: Shadows of Leningrad Review

Posted on July 13, 2010 by

Shadows of Leningrad is the third in Goodman Games’ Age of Cthulhu series. These adventures, set in the 1920s, allow for pulpish globetrotting (Luxor and London set the scenes for the first two adventures). While these adventures can possibly become rather violent, their design strongly favors a traditional investigative format. With an unforgiving setting (early Communist Russia), a generous sampling of supernatural entities, and mundane threats, the adventure proves to be a daunting one.

The book’s smart layout ran a printer-friendly gambit of basic two-column text, minimal artwork, and good looking bordering along the headers and footers. When sidebars popped up, they were positioned at the bottoms of the pages.

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Hoodoo Blues RPG Review

Posted on June 11, 2010 by

Advertising will sometimes try to sell a movie as the funniest of the year . . . during the third week in January. I think that’s a fairly short-sighted marketing approach, but maybe people don’t remember that eleven more months will doubtlessly have contenders to the self-proclaimed title. Why even bring it up? Because I want to explain my take on this RPG. I’m not going to call this the coolest RPG I read in 2010 . . . yet.

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Hellfrost: Bestiary RPG Review

Posted on June 4, 2010 by

Before I dive into this review, let me point out that it reads differently. I think a good review should not only weigh a product’s pros and cons. No, they should also speak to previous tastes and biases. Comparisons. Rather than dwell here, let’s dive right into the Hellfrost: Bestiary review.

Hellfrost: Bestiary (Triple Ace Games; 132 Pages) is a massive collection of fantasy monsters for the Hellfrost setting and Savage Worlds’ game engine. The book covers all manner of vile creature from the evil deer (page 20) to truly loathsome Dread Liche (page 84). These antagonists also offer many variations of trouble for PCs. There are “tanks” with toughness of 23, psionics, pesky swarms, and mystical adversaries. Trouble. Loads of trouble.

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Armitage Files (Trail of Cthulhu) Review

Posted on May 26, 2010 by

The Armitage Files for the Trail of Cthuhlu line offers an old idea with a fresh approach. This smart-looking book centers around ten documents (authentic looking pieces ready for handing out to players) and how Keepers can use said documents in a campaign. I call this an old idea because in-game props are a tried and true staple of gaming. Even before LARPing was an acronym, game masters handed out handwritten notes, recorded messages, weapons, or something tangible for their players to enjoy.

It’s great to have something physical to link the real world to the fictional setting. Right? Those props usually end up not amounting to very much beyond cool memories. In this book, Laws tries to show Keepers how to get serious play from in-game props.

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Bogeyman RPG Review

Posted on May 24, 2010 by

There are many ways to tackle a horror game. What one finds in a Call of Cthulhu game isn’t what they find in Geist. Heck, What you find in Call of Cthulhu isn’t really what you find in Cthulhutech. This is a great thing. Some groups want to spend the night warding off hordes of zombified neighbors while others want to take on the personas of uberpowerful creatures of the night. I mention this because I will be putting Bogeyman (Sane Studios, 164 pages) into a box with other games of a Clive Barker feel.

The chief feature to Bogeyman is that it’s runs off a card-based mechanic rather than dice. In fact, each player needs their own deck while game masters require two (and you want to keep them separate). Beyond that, the typical gaming fare–character sheets, snacks, pens, paper–mostly fill out this game’s requirements. The only bit lacking are the “beads of sweat,” which I think is a terrifically named aspect. These little tokens have many uses, most of which are linked to impulses.

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11 Tales of Ghostly Horror

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