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.

Hot War RPG Review

Posted on July 23, 2009 by

Malcolm Craig is a lunatic who loves his games. That single fact establishes him as one of my favorite game designers. I had the pleasure of meeting the kinetic Craig at my first GenCon where I picked up the then-fresh a|state. A few years down the road Craig brings us a new game he calls “something of a follow-up” to Cold City. He may not put much faith in urban dwellings (cities in all his games are filthy, vile things), but his ability to weave a story isn’t to be ignored. Just to prove this, Hot War was recently nominated for two Ennie Awards (Best Writing and Best Setting). Let’s take a look at the respectably large (204 pages) game.

Paul Bourne’s illustration, photography, and graphic design makes the full version of the book shine. Aged pages not only depict the rules, but some of the halted stages in London’s demised during the game’s time period (the early 1960s). Familiar British sites like Big Ben and Parliament take on a new look as they are rendered into decimated versions by the artist’s expert hands.


Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas Review

Posted on July 20, 2009 by

12 to Midnight presents its first horror anthology, a twelve author collection centered around their well-established Pinebox, Texas setting. Buried Tales of Pinebox, Texas contains an impressively wide scope of stories (and horrors) while still maintaining certain key threads and locales throughout. There are even repeated nods back to various 12 to Midnight adventures like Skinwalker.

It won’t take long for me to talk about the artwork for the anthology. Jeff Varnes cover depicts what must be an image from within the Big Thicket, one of those recurring locales in the book. It’s simplicity makes it work. Any temptation to depict a horror of some sort would have probably stalled. Also, the artwork evokes common and well-ingrained childhood fears of being alone in the woods. Inside, there are two pages of cartography by T.C. Largent.


Armory Reloaded RPG Review

Posted on June 26, 2009 by

Game books devoted entirely to the Art of Death, Destruction, and Detective Lieutenant John McClane rarely win me over. It’s a personal taste because I fully know that a handful of the players in my gaming group deeply appreciates the details that good combat manuals can offer. I assumed when diving into this book that it would be an updated version of the Combat book White Wolf released with their original run in the World of Darkness. That book always struck me as too much comic book and too little horror. Even the front and back covers had artwork that never matched anything else in any of the other lines. I must admit there were some flinchingly horrific pieces of art in that book that I’ll call Things You Don’t Want to Happen to You. Even with those minor high points, I felt cheated by that book.

That was then . . .

Armory Reloaded gets away from White Wolf’s Street Fighter RPG rules and tries to remain attached to the grit and horror of the setting. In the introduction, readers are told that “Combat is Horror.” The writers of this book don’t want to make the same mistake the miserable Combat made. The development of this project backs the statement through both its writing and artwork.


Blood Drive RPG Review

Posted on June 22, 2009 by

Blood Drive ($6.99 PDF) is the newest installment from White Wolf’s Storytelling Adventure System. This Hunter: the Vigil adventure offers an action-oriented romp for slightly seasoned characters (XP 25-29). This adventure plays on a personal favorite of mine. It’s the classic tale of the supposedly “easy job” that becomes something else altogether. At eleven scenes and forty-six pages (none of which are ads), this is a healthy night’s adventure or (more likely) multiple sessions of fun.

The direction of this adventure, like other White Wolf products I’ve recently reviewed, continues to impress me. The layout of the adventure offers both the detailed story, which the Storyteller will have to go over and a collection of Scene Cards to act as Storyteller cheat sheets.


The Testament of Longinus Review

Posted on June 17, 2009 by

Most players enjoy something tangible given to them in a game. It can be as simple as dice, poker chips, and a character sheet; nevertheless, the experience deepens when newspaper articles, photos, and varied memorabilia are also handed out. People are bound by their senses.

The more senses used during a game greatly intensifies the overall experience. Attack them all. While the Testament of Longinus (PDF $7.99) won’t smell like a centuries old text, it’s still a masterfully fun little addition to the World of Darkness (and you can always check-out an old book from the library to relate that old smell for your players). This psudo-document follows the story of a self-described “antichrist” as he moves from criminal to vampire to . . . something more.


Slaughterhouse Five (Vampire: The Requiem) Review

Posted on June 15, 2009 by

White Wolf experiments with “ready-made player-characters” for those gaming groups on the go. Two such PDFs already exist, but I’ll only be talking about the Slaughterhouse Five. The PDF is 26 pages (no ads) devoted to the description of five player-characters and a bit of the world they live in. It’s an interesting idea, so let’s see how I felt it played out.

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have wanted to be fed a handful of pre-made characters to push onto my gaming group. It’s too much fun to make your own character. Right? Once upon a time, I would answered “yes” to that question without hesitation. I’ll now mend my answer to “yes, usually.” Why do I now permit myself to sacrifice creativity for availability? First, I no longer believe that question is even valid. The biggest reason why is pointed out by the blurb for the game.


Ed’s Midnight Tales RPG Review

Posted on June 8, 2009 by

Ed’s Midnight Tales (TWL0032) gives fans of Savage Worlds and Pine Box, Texas another forty-two pages of information ultra-helpful for both. As the title suggests, this is a brief collection of scenarios (mostly one-shots). The stories do not need to be interwoven, but could easily be fused together in a long-running campaign. The book is broken up into an introduction and five chapters, each progressive chapter offering a more detailed storyline for players.

Finishing out the book is a special edition of the Pinebox News, complete with strange articles and story seeds. The PDF comes in two versions, a typical version and a printer-friendly version.

While 12 to Midnight tends to focus on supernatural horror in modern settings, this collection doesn’t always include supernatural threats. Forest creatures and gang-bangers fill out of the ranks of things to fear.


API Demon Pack 1 RPG Review

Posted on June 1, 2009 by

The third installment from Third Eye Games fittingly brings three new demon races to the world of Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. This minor races don’t merit a full book like the recently released Lochs supplement, but still offer some quirky newness to an API game. This trim PDF comes in at eight pages, which consist of one cover sheet, six pages about the creatures, and a one page ad. Let’s see what these three writers offer when only given two pages to play with.

We’ll also see how long a review is on an eight-page PDF.


CthuluTech RPG Review

Posted on May 26, 2009 by

In Jaws, Roy Scheider’s character tells us that “we’re gonna need a bigger boat.” That is
the chief message underlying CthulhuTech. We’ll explore the meaning of this later on. The Cthulhu mythos has seen some amazing variations since it’s conception nearly thirty years ago. The core rules evolved through six editions, not including solid side ventures like Delta Green. One of the hallmarks of these games is the sheer horror that comes when facing something you, well, can’t really beat. Chuck your stick of dynamite, hope you blow it up before you blow your sanity roll, and get the heck out of Dodge. I’ve always felt that these games were the Anti-Dungeons and Dragons based simply on the bleak outlook of the mythos and the mindset of the players.

Review by Todd Cash


Collection of Horrors RPG Review

Posted on May 1, 2009 by

Once upon a time, my friend David ran a Delta Green game. David was a huge fan of the in-game prop, especially when it came to this particular campaign. If our clues were photographs, we generally had photographs in our paws. If the clue was a recording of some nature, then we also received that. I mention this because White Wolf’s new Collection of Horrors line appears to follow in his beliefs that props are good things. CoH is associated with the Hunter the Vigil line as each entry describes a scene (using the SAS platform) that can either be fitted into an already existing campaign, spark a new campaign, or simply fill up a night’s worth of gaming.

As of this writing there are thirteen PDFs associated with this project (a couple more if you count the introduction module and Horror Recognition Guide).


Ancient Mysteries RPG Review

Posted on April 27, 2009 by

There is a movie called The Man From Earth that could have inspired this book. In it, a man tells his closest friends that he is an immortal. In turn, the friends try to ferret out if he’s telling the truth or playing some strange game with them. The friends make one mistake countless times when they try to get specific information from him. He often responds with vague accounts that are little better than a history book’s recollection. His claim is that people who cannot remember were they were a year earlier shouldn’t demand centuries old answers. I constantly found myself thinking of this excellent film. White Wolf offers readers an obscure history lesson in their newest release, Ancient Mysteries. After reading the blurb, I thought I would like the first half the book (the “Fog of Eternity” appealed to me) and would probably trudge through the latter half (I always wonder if anyone uses the NPCs from the various books).

Ancient Mysteries isn’t the standard Kindred history book. What Kindred consider high points in history does not always coincide with the mortal populace. On page 100, the authors cleverly compare the “Fog of Eternity” to actual fog filling a mountainous valley. In essence, much of the past is forgotten just as the valley is blanketed in mist; however, there will always be peaks immune to the fog. The text gives a detailed look to a few of those mountains.


Cry Wolf Fiction Review

Posted on November 11, 2008 by

Patricia Briggs takes a break from the Mercy Thompson series and gives readers a more detailed look at the Marrok’s world in Cry Wolf: An Alpha and Omega Novel. In this novel, the lead female is Anna Latham, a former Chicagoan who, with the help of the Marrok’s pack, is able to escape an abusive upbringing and to redefine her life. The cover art by Daniel Dos Santos is a solid depiction of the character Briggs brings to life throughout the course of the novel.

I picked up this novel because of the Mercy Thompson series. I am not a huge fan of werewolf fiction; however, the urban fantasy environment Briggs created in the before mentioned Thompson series continues to develop interestingly as new facets of the reality are revealed. That said, I am a fan of this novel. The chief reason for my conversion rests in Brigg’s ability to write convincing characters.


11 Tales of Ghostly Horror

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