Archive | RPGs

Megan

Mistborn Adventure Game Review

Posted on February 22, 2012 by

This mighty tome, over 500 pages long, contains everything that you need to start adventuring in the world conjoured up by author Brandon Sanderson… who has not only allowed the use of his setting, he’s written fiction especially for the game, has added comments throughout, and was even involved in the playtesting!

First up, the treat of an original short story set in the Mistborn world called The Elventh Metal. It tells of a small group of malcontents, seeking revenge, seeking change, and introduces a world rich and strange – metals that burn within and confer power, swirling mists, ash that falls from the sky, twisted exotic buildings. And so the strangeness, the richness of this setting is revealed: allomancy. Familiar if you know the novels on which this game is based yet brought magnificently into prominence whether or not you have read them – by utilising mystic powers different metals can be used to bring about a range of spell-like effects. Learn the tricks of their use, or perish miserably!

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Megan

Mistborn Adventure Game Characters Review

Posted on February 2, 2012 by

Whether you are looking for inspiration, want a few well-detailed NPCs to act as associates or rivals, or need a character (or whole party) in a hurry, this product will fill your purposes admirably.

Herein are eight fully-developed characters, set up as an integrated crew. Each one gets a couple of pages – one a filled-out character sheets with all the necessary game stats, and the other a write-up of the character’s background, including a brief history, notes on personality and motivations and even what he thinks about the other members of the group. There is also a sketch of the character to enable you to visualise him.

A fairly shady group they are, too. The leader is one Beck, a fixer – the sort of fellow who can get you whatever you want, no questions asked, provided you are willing to pay his price.

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Megan

Kobold Quarterly # 20 Review

Posted on January 23, 2012 by

As we have come to expect, a wealth of resources for fantasy games – what with archers (and arrows for them) heading up the character-based resources for players, adventures for GMs to run and ideas to help them hone their skills. The focus is on Pathfinder, but there is material for other rulesets (and much can be translated with little effort, provided you are reasonably familiar with the game mechanics of the system of your choice).

The Editorial introduces the issue focus on archery, with an account of how fictional archers inspired the editor, Wolfgang Baur, not only to play archer characters but to learn how to use a bow himself.

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Megan

BRP: Merrie England RPG Review

Posted on January 16, 2012 by

This is the England that ought to have been, rather than the history of the one in which I sit writing this review. This is the mediaeval England of legend, with Robin Hood scampering around Sherwood Forest, a Good King Richard off fighting the Infidel whilst Bad King John does his best to steal a kingdom, never mind everyone’s hard-earned gold… this is an England in which excitement and adventure are to be found, but where drains don’t smell and nobody worries about the Black Death!

The Introduction outlines this setting, the mediaeval England of stories, rooted firmly in the history of the 12th and 13th centuries but with an eye to the rise of the ideals of chivalry, to the world of ballad and folk-song, the sort of mediaeval England that you’d like to visit. Designed to be used in conjunction with Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying (BRP) ruleset, there’s a handy list of what rules from that work will be of particular use when running this setting. Whilst there’s a whole section about running adventures and campaigns at the end of this product, it’s noted that Scenario Hooks are scattered throughout, to spawn ideas and help Game Masters come up with their own material, or players to develop their characters more fully.

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A Review of Two Savage RPGs

Posted on January 9, 2012 by

Review: A Tale of Two Savages
Agents of Oblivion and Peculiar Pentad

It’s no secret I’m a fan of horror RPGs and Savage Worlds, which makes these two entries especially appealing. Agents of Oblivion suggests a world where Jason Bourne gets put into a blender with HP Lovecraft and turns out rather interesting results. With the Savaged version of Peculiar Pentad, readers are given five entrepreneurs who have uncovered a troublesome niche market–those seeking items attached to the Cthulhu Mythos. I’m thinking a 401K isn’t a worthwhile investment.

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Billzilla

Carthians (Vampire: The Requiem) Review

Posted on January 3, 2012 by

Predators are competitors. They compete with other types of predators for food; they compete with others for territory. And they compete with others of their own kind for both food and territory as well. Sometimes, predators will form alliances with like-minded individuals to protect a larger area, making survival – even prosperity – more likely for all within the group. So it is with apex predators like vampires; they don’t care much to be around each other, but when faced with threats too big for one to handle, they band together to form protective groups. Those groups of like-minded vampires are called Covenants, and one of the most interesting of those is the Carthians. Based on the premise of greater equality and of emulating the institutions of their prey, Carthians hope to both blend in better – be less obviously a predator among the flock – and keep the stifling, unchanging nature of near immortality at bay.

Carthians begins with a fine piece of fiction by Greg Stolze to set the mood, then launches into a dissection of the Carthian Movement – its history, goals, and styles of governance.

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Billzilla

Night Horrors: Immortal Sinners Review

Posted on December 27, 2011 by

The amount of source material produced for the World of Darkness role playing universe is truly impressive. Not all of it is useful to players – much of it being useful primarily to the game master for the purposes of fueling any individual group’s adventures – and some is of benefit to all players. Night Horrors: Immortal Sinners is a book that is fascinating to read for any aficionado of the setting, but is likely best left to the GMs (or “Storytellers” in White Wolf’s World of Darkness parlance) as it spends most of its 160 pages detailing powerful vampires that the players’ characters could bump into in-game.

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Megan

Designers and Dragons Review

Posted on December 20, 2011 by

This is a monumental work, a comprehensive and scholarly history of the role-playing industry from its inception in the early 1970s to the present day. The focus is interesting, concentrating on the individuals and companies that have made role-playing what it is today rather than looking at the games themselves.

Whilst detailed, the writing flows well, making it eminently readable and often entertaining, a fascinating survey of the companies and people who have shaped role-playing and are responsible for most of the books on my shelves (or, these days, lurking on the RPG hard drive) – and who have provided me with years of entertainment and passion. If your interest in role-playing goes anywhere beyond the next dungeon delve, if you like to know the background and history of the games you enjoy, you should find something here catches your attention… and once caught, be warned, it may be a while before you can tear yourself away!

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Billzilla

Red Eye Of Azathoth Review

Posted on November 28, 2011 by

Red Eye of Azathoth, published by Wolfgang Baur and the Open Design LLC, is an unusual adventure for Call of Cthulhu. This campaign pack has the investigators following an evil madman through centuries of effort to summon the Daemon Sultan Azathoth to earth, an event that would cause our planet’s near-total destruction.

In a unique twist, players take on the roles of different characters in each separate scenario – each time battling the same villain, who has possessed a different victim to further his diabolical ends.

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Megan

The Stars Our Destination (Eclipse Phase) Review

Posted on November 21, 2011 by

Diving straight in, the work opens with a brief note about how it provides a ready-made, populated location for gamemasters to use, or useful background for players whose characters are scumborn or belong to a scum faction… and just in case you are not sure what that means, it then launches into an introduction to the whole concept. Briefly, a scum swarm is a space-faring community with a very democratic – even anarchic – approach to everything: collective decision-making, consensus… and little regard for rules or reverence to what more settled societies may find important.

From such generalities, the narrative turns to a specific group, the Stars swarm. Born out of industrial unrest in turbulent times, the swarm began with workers in lunar orbital facilities taking control of the resources around them… just when the situation back at headquarters took a turn for the worse, and so nobody was in a position to object as the collective upgraded propulsion systems and took off, gathering many other refugees as they departed. Rather more ordered than some swarms, they now follow a set route around the system, trading as they go but still adhering to their original libertarian collectivist lifestyle.

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Ashen Stars RPG Review

Posted on November 14, 2011 by

The Gumshoe mechanic gets tested on a new genre: sci-fi. In Ashen Stars, players enter the Bleed where they play Lasers, law enforcement of sorts. This heavy (305 pages) book is a stand-alone game that fully details Law’s sci-fi setting and delivers the Gumshoe rules. I have enjoyed the previous Gumshoe setting, particularly Mutant City Blues and Esoterrorists, so I was intrigued to see what the future held.

The layout and artwork of the book holds the same feel as Trail of Cthulhu and MCB. Bordering is neat, but doesn’t attract much attention. Sidebars are tight. The artwork has more hits than misses, though nothing really stands out as excellent. One thing I do like is the full color splurge on the book. It makes reading a volume of this size all the more pleasurable.

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Totems of the Dead RPG Review

Posted on November 11, 2011 by

This ambitious Savage Worlds setting mixes Norse and Pre-Columbian Native American lore into a sword and sorcery setting I find damn interesting. First, the artwork and layout of the book is an outstanding mix of watermarked images, detailed artwork, and fresh creativity. I’d love to see this book in color, which is really my only complaint about the book. Consider me spoiled.

There are few times that a supplement supersedes the production value of its core work. This is one of those times. The artwork of this book easily bests the majority of Savage Worlds releases, including the core book. The writing is excellent, providing a rich background for players to explore.

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The Unspeakable Oath 20 Review

Posted on November 7, 2011 by

Anthologies like The Unspeakable Oath are a mixed bag. Dragon, Dungeon, White Wolf Magazine, Eden Studios Presents, and others are testament to this. Sometimes a great collection of talent can make the uninteresting (to me) fascinating. The other is likewise true. No particular title is safe. You have to take each edition as a singular creature.

First off, I find that the included art to #20 is top notch, particularly the cover artwork by Todd Shearer. The interior illustrators offered a surprising volume of artwork to the collection. The layout ranged from the scribbled nonsense (fine for the subject matter) to smooth looking black bars. Some ads are scattered throughout the book, even put into the columns of articles. It’s a smooth fit.

There is a terrific amount of material in this installment, much of which is aimed at Delta Green (fine by me).

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Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Review

Posted on November 3, 2011 by

Where has the time gone? Knowing this game has been out for twenty years seems wrong to me. There are gamers in my group who were ONE when I was thumbing through my
first copy of the original edition. Wrong, so wrong! Rather than share my Vampire recollection here, I’ll instead talk about this massive (529 pages) winner of the (I assume) 2012 Origins award.

One aspect to the book that is unchanged is it’s layout. The book looks identical to the 2nd release in terms of fonts and structure. Mixed with art both new and old, this makes for a strong sense of nostalgia. The look of the book–fenced in borders, eye-catching headers, and more–was excellent twenty years ago and has aged well. If anything, they have enriched it by adding much-needed color to the mix.

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Megan

Divine Favour: The Druid RPG Review

Posted on October 17, 2011 by

The Introduction begins with an overview of the Druid class – a divine spellcaster drawing on the limitless power of the natural world, and with Wisdom as his primary ability. Special abilities include Wildshape, the ability to change form; whilst druids need to concentrate on the things they are good at with their spells – controlling the natural environment, participating in combat and acting in concert with their animal companion. This page is illustrated with a delightful sketch of a Welsh Archdruid from the 18th century, a time when romantics tried to recreate ancient practices, something that led to the establishment of the Gorsedd and the Eisteddfod, something completely different from Druidism as practiced within a fantasy game!

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Savage Worlds Deluxe RPG Review

Posted on September 22, 2011 by

Let me first confess how much I love Savage Worlds. I’ve been a huge fan of the mechanics from my first game (the Tour of Darkness setting) where I learned how deadly tossing grenades back at my opponents could be. What I love about the system is how malleable it is. With a few tweaks, you can lay out a 1940s pulp setting or a star-flung sci-fi one. There have been numerous releases for the engine over the years, giving players and game masters a wealth of material to mine. This release isn’t “new” as much as it is dressed in its Sunday Best. I’m going to focus on the changes for the purposes of this review rather than detail the entire work.

The lavish artwork is generous throughout the book. Since the engine is designed for players to play damn near anything, the artwork is varied. There are multiple excellent action pieces and the character pieces have more hits than misses (I liked 34, 57, and 70 the best). Much of the artwork is borrowed from other Savage Worlds’ releases either as a direct or inspired work.

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Megan

30 Haunts for Objects RPG Review

Posted on September 20, 2011 by

Haunts have been one of the most intriguing and (from my side of the GM’s screen, anyway) entertaining additions to the panoply of challenges to throw at characters… and here they take another novel yet classical twist: the haunt that is associated with an item rather than a location.

The work opens with a pseudo-scholarly account, the sort of thing you might cast before the more intellectual kind of adventurer to send them haring off into the horrors you have prepared for them. This leads in to the promised collection of some 30 haunted objects, by way of a note on persistent haunts, which can be a bit puzzling. As haunts duplicate spell effects whatever they do has a duration which can be ‘instantaneous’ or it can last for a set period.

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Brass & Steel RPG Review

Posted on September 7, 2011 by

As the Wiki sez, Steampunk “is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternative history, and speculative fiction that involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain—that incorporates elements of either science fiction or fantasy, and often features anachronistic technology or futuristic innovations as Victorians may have envisioned them.”

Steampunk is wild and funky; it is innovative and adventurous; it offers us with a glimpse of a world that never was but could have been. These days there is no shortage of steampunk novels and stories; Anti-Ice by Stephen Baxter was my first real exposure to it, but one can go all the way back to 1967 and Queen Victoria’s Bomb by Ronald W. Clark to get your fix. And, yes, I know Agatha Heterodyne is part of a “gaslight fantasy”, but she’s too cute to omit.

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Wicked Heroes: Children of the Mirror RPG Review

Posted on September 5, 2011 by

Wicked Heroes is the latest in John Wick’s Little Games line. In this RPG, players take on the roles of damned super heroes rather than the typical spandex fare. While the game may claim to be “little” this setting could be fleshed out so much more. It could easily be as meaty as Houses of the Blooded.

I’m not going to focus on the artwork of a 16 page RPG, because, well, the art isn’t there. There is no reason it should be. I will take a second to talk about the covers though. I hate them. Solid. Black. Covers. Really? Yes, A printed copy of a book (little or not) needs a cover and these covers could be much friendlier. When the final project comes out, does it means each chapter will start with these blackened pages?

The story itself is interesting. The gist of it can be found on the items blurb at RPGNow.com, so I won’t expand it.

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Billzilla

City of the Damned: New Orleans Review

Posted on September 1, 2011 by

Setting books are a tough sell in most role playing games. For one thing, if the game master opts to set the adventures of the characters in a different city then those offered – or the players’ characters find themselves drawn in another direction entirely – setting books become less than completely useful. Also, since they will only sell – for the most part – to game masters, more than three-quarters of the potential audience is already uninterested in purchasing it.

Such is the problem with city guides for the World of Darkness; despite aiming for fascinating cities with a great many points of interest besides vampires, werewolves and the like, they just haven’t sold well enough to justify others in the line. However, they are well worth a GM’s time and cash outlay to obtain; besides a wealth of interesting NPCs that might show up in one’s own game, the city books are filled with fantastic plot hooks and useful information that is easily adapted to any chronicler’s setting.

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