Archive | RPGs

Trail of Cthulhu: The Rending Box Review

Posted on August 25, 2011 by

Graham Walmsley’s The Rending Box is moderate-sized (30 pages with handouts) adventure for Trail of Cthulhu (though it could be modified for Call of Cthulhu with little hassle). While it isn’t an overly challenging adventure, it perhaps puts too much potence into the hands (literally) of the players. Characters will find that Pandora had it easy with her little box.

Huguenin’s artwork is appropriately gruesome for this chapter of the three-scenario Purist adventure. His cover piece is atmospheric while his interior works, such as the lovely Jakob Tulving removing his eyes so that he can see better looks like something from a 1950s pre-code horror comic book cover (that’s a compliment for those who don’t know me). I also love the detailed image of the box itself (a great handout to toss on the table before declaring “this is what will ruin your lives).

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Megan

Deadly Waves (Shadowrun) RPG Review

Posted on August 23, 2011 by

Presented as another entry in the JackPoint website/blog, and tagged with the warning to beware of icebergs, here is an eclectic discussion of all manner of things in and under the water.

First up, a discourse on The Reality of Sea Travel. Whilst people and goods are often transported by air, the sea is still used extensively, particularly for the transportation of bulky goods and for recreational purposes. The vessels used have developed, and submarines are no longer merely military playthings but used commercially, but sea traffic is by and large unchanged in its general nature. One thing to bear in mind is that watercraft can be leading, if not bleeding, edge or they can be archaic…and that these tech levels can combine in a single craft – consider a sailboat with the latest navigational and communications gear, for example.

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Megan

Altered Earth RPG Review

Posted on August 15, 2011 by

Opening with a Setting Introduction, which describes the variety of game types that you can play in this bleak yet chaotic apocalypic future-Earth, a setting rich with a wealth of opportunity for those brave, perhaps vicious, enough to sieze what they want and defend it against all comers. The background is explained, a gradual decline brought about by wars, economic catastrophes and environmental damage: no single apocalyptic event but a succession of disaster after disaster that brought once-green Earth to its present state of barren wasteland scattered with giant city-fortresses ruled by warlords.

Scene set, Chapter 2: Races looks at, well, the races available to players. The default is, of course, human beings – as described in the ‘Humans’ section of the Dungeons & Dragons 4e Player’s Handbook.

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Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple RPG Review

Posted on August 10, 2011 by

Daniel Solis’ Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple is a different type of game for me to review. It’s not the kind of game I would pick up on my own. This isn’t to say I am against indie games because, well, I have dozens of examples to the contrary. No, the genre just isn’t that interesting to me and I know my gaming group mostly wouldn’t get behind the concept.

With that said, the book really won me over (can’t make a claim to my gaming group though). There are three key elements to this clever game that make it intriguing and full of potential for gamers and, more importantly, young gamers. We’ll go over those elements (maybe two more) and I’ll show you why this is exactly the kind of game I’d play with my son (he’s seven or, as he’s say, seven and a half).

The idea of a wandering pilgrim is attractive even when laced in an anime dressing (not my thing).

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SJGames Week: GURPS Monster Hunters Review

Posted on July 29, 2011 by

Monsters: can’t live with them, and . . . well, it seems like there’s days where you’re spending all your time killing them. Particularly when it comes to horror gaming. If you’re not out staking vampires, you’re blasting zombies or shotgunning werewolves.

There are many table top RPGs that dip their toe into the horror genre with great aplomb. And when it comes to “regular people” (AKA Player Characters) taking up arms and blasting apart things that go bump in the night, three or four titles instantly come to mind. And one of those titles is GURPS–as if you didn’t know.

For the uninitiated, GURPS stands for “Generic Universal Role Playing System”, which is a fancy way of saying, if you can dream it up, you can play it using GURPS. First published in 1986, it came out at a time when nearly all RPG systems were tailored to a particular genre.

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SJGames Week: GURPS Horror 4th Edition Review

Posted on July 26, 2011 by

Luckily, I have had the pleasure of meeting Kenneth Hite, albeit briefly and in passing, at a convention only a short time ago. He was engaging, intelligent, and knowledgeable about things most people find horrific with a particularly keen interest in Lovecraft. I could think of few other game designers and authors better suited to write a game of horror. Even though I found myself quite daunted at the thought of reviewing a Steve Jackson Games product, I was not disappointed and from the first few lines my attention was transfixed while my mind whirled with the possibilities of my own fear-filled campaigns.

GURPS Horror, which I will simply shorten to G:H, begins with a history of the game, a small dose of the authors quite note-worthy credentials, and a short piece on what exactly ‘horror’ and horror role-playing is. After a brief explanation on why players need to remain mindful of their fears, G:H jumps into character creation. Going beyond simple numbers or hastily jotted notes, Hite actually seems to endorse players giving quite a bit of thought about their characters backgrounds.

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Labyrinth Lord RPG Review

Posted on July 14, 2011 by

I was asked at Odyssey Con, several months back now, if I would write a review on Labyrinth Lord after I spoke of it while helping with a panel. It has taken me far too long to write this, as I do enjoy the game a great deal. It has simple and quick character generation. It has endless ways in which to perish with little-to-no escape. It has what many games have lost over time.. simplicity.

Far back in the ancient days of gaming, gamers hewed dice from stone, wood, or chit and the games were far more bare and stripped down. They did not rely upon ponderous tomes of rules that detailed out every contingency. The rules left much of this up to the individual game master to work out. When new product would arrive into the waiting hands of players and dungeon masters, they would pour through these new found nuggets of lore.

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Megan

Book of Drakes RPG Review

Posted on July 5, 2011 by

Nothing quite as sweet as a miniature dragon, perhaps of a suitable size to hold in your arms like a pet… but drakes are not pets, but sentient beings in their own right, fascinating creatures to have around in your game. (I had to add ‘in your game’ lest I start to conjure fantasies of one coming in my back door…).

The Introduction talks about, despite – because of? – their iconic nature, how difficult it can be to actually have a DRAGON wandering around in your game. They’re big, they’re tough, and they tend to amass game-unbalancing amounts of treasure. Moreover, they’re supposed to be the creatures of myth and legend, not someone you meet down the pub for an ale and a few hints about the next adventure.

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Megan

The Lost City RPG Review

Posted on June 23, 2011 by

Throughout history, the concept of the ‘lost city’ has always fascinated… likewise generations of gamers have been drawn to explore by legend and rumour, right back to the Basic Dungeons and Dragons module B4: Lost City! Whether it’s fame and fortune, mere survival, or some higher purpose, mention lost cities and adventurers will come in droves. This lost city is no different, and there are wonders to discover for those brave enough and skilful enough to explore.

The lost city of Kadralhu has much to offer the adventurer and much also to offer the gaming group, for it is presented as a ‘sandbox’ adventure, a setting with much to do rather than a single plotline to figure out. Whatever the characters’ motivation for going there, wherever they venture once they arrive, there are things going on, things to discover, enemies to vanquish, allies to be made and secrets to learn.

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Tough Justice RPG Review

Posted on June 17, 2011 by

Tough Justice is not an easy game to sell. It is not for everyone and I would not recommend it for children as I would many other role-playing games. Tough Justice takes the players and game master to one of the bloodiest periods in British history, at least judicially speaking anyway. In years between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries there were hundreds, some estimations go as high as 300, of offenses that could result in death for the accused. It is to this era that Tough Justice sets it sights and it barrels ahead full speed into a dark and horrendous time.

Tough Justice is a beer and pretzel/crisp game only by default. It’s game mechanics are actually quite easy, even if it’s content is anything but easy.

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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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Megan

Curse of the Golden Spear 1: The Gift Review

Posted on June 14, 2011 by

Plunging straight in, this adventure begins with a brief outline of this richly-detailed Japanese-inspired setting. In a neat twist, the characters too are seeing it for the first time, arriving as ‘gai-jin’ (the Japanese word for ‘foreigner’ although it’s a word with somewhat negative connotations) and seeing it with all the wonder of outsiders visiting a new and very different place, even as their players are finding out about a new setting.

Much of the discussion, though, is best kept for the GMs’ eyes. Unlikely to be common knowledge elsewhere, although it may be a topic of discussion in some academic and theological circles, life and death here, the state of the souls of both the living and the dead, is somewhat unusual. Reincarnation gone mad, shall we say, and leave characters to discover it for themselves as they begin to piece together what is going on. Japanese-inspired this setting may be, but it draws on the darker side, on the tales that are told, that create a setting filled with oriental horror.

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Ace of Hearts RPG Review

Posted on June 7, 2011 by

Ace of Hearts is another of the lighthearted, ‘beer and crisps’ games by James Desborough. I’ll admit, you do have a certain type of humor to enjoy his products. But, if you do have a slightly skewed sense of reality then this will be a worthy role-playing game to take a look at. This particular product is definitely for adults. It has and deals with mature themes.. besides.. what is a kid doing drinking beer and eating pretzels.. err.. crisps anyway while role-playing? They should have school in the morning and be in bed sleeping. If they don’t have something to do, then I am sure the parent can assign some chores to keep them occupied. Chores are good like that, they can keep the child busy and it builds character.. well.. character and resentment. Anyway, back to the review.

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Darwin’s World (Campaign Guide) RPG Review

Posted on June 3, 2011 by

A little known fact of my life: when I was 5 my parent decided to vacation in Florida for the first time, and they picked the later half of October for this family outing. Of course, when I was 5 the year was 1962, and if you do a quick search on The Google you’ll discover in the last half of October, 1962, Florida was probably the last place in the world you wanted to be, since the odds of experiencing a live reenactment of Alas, Babylon, were pretty high.

Now, I remember none of this, but my parent often told me the story of how, right in the middle of the stuff about to go down, they decided the place to hang was a motel in Clearwater, Florida, which is about a 10 mile jaunt across Old Tampa Bay from MacDill AFB, a huge Strategic Air Command base and, at that moment in time, a target that was going to get whacked out in short order should the Cuban Missile Crisis have decided to go hot.

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Nightlife RPG Review

Posted on June 2, 2011 by

What would happen if the cult classic “The Warriors” was set in the early 90’s with all the gangs being various super-natural creatures? You would have the role-playing game Nightlife. Nightlife was released in 1990 and 1991, with two editions and several supplements. It is hard to tell why one game fails to catch, and another game spreads like wild fire. It is also hard not to compare Nightlife with White Wolf’s World of Darkness, even though the two have very few similarities.

Both have vampires and werewolves and both games are set in a punk setting with horror elements. They use d10’s as their die of choice and super-natural creatures have strange awe inspiring powers. However, the similarities end there between the two games.

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Cthonian Stars RPG Review

Posted on May 31, 2011 by

The premise of Cthonian Stars is really quite simple, we are not alone in the universe. Even though we manage to overcome our current, and rather ignorant, age to reach out into our Solar System humanity will still be in its infancy when compared to what we may find. In the near future world of Cthonian Stars humans have settled into almost every corner of our Solar System. Colonies exist on Mercury to Pluto and every moon in between. Humans have come together in peaceful cooperation for our mutual benefit, yet the distances between the various colonies still has a stifling and isolating effect. Travel is not an instantaneous effect, but takes time and is dangerous.

The influences that sparked Cthonian Stars were ones that I was not only already familiar with but also a fan of. They listed movies such as Event Horizon, Pandorum, and Outland to help capture the ‘feel’ of the game.

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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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100 Horror Adventure Seeds Review

Posted on May 25, 2011 by


100 Horror Adventure Seeds is not a ponderous tome of highly drawn out and detailed adventures that focus on the things that go bump in the night. In this collection the ideas that James sets down are designed to trigger the imagination, not to stifle it. He starts off, quite early in the book, with the trials and pitfalls of horror gaming in general and moves on to the relative usefulness of a more structured module. It quickly becomes apparent that James is not a fan of the structured module. He does admit that they are good introductions for a new Game Master to a system, but eventually these will hinder a Game Master due to their lack of GM creativity.

James then describes why a more traditional module format tends to fail, and the main reason is quite simply the players. A player tends to have this nasty tendency to think for themselves and to have reactions that are not completely scripted. It is true that a Game Master can nudge and coddle a group back onto the modules path, but then that strips the players of their freedoms. With this collection, I believe James sets troubled Game Masters down the correct path where the plot is highly fluid and adaptable.

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Flames

Apocalypse World RPG Review

Posted on May 20, 2011 by

While at PAX East this year, I had the pleasure of sitting in on a panel on developing independent RPGs. Vincent Baker was among the panelists, and I was incredibly excited to see the man who had created the well-known and critically acclaimed Dogs in the Vineyard. Immediately after the panel I went to his booth and saw that he had another game for sale, Apocalypse World. Its cover, featuring a nude, ambiguous form in a gas mask, haunched over and lit from behind, intrigued me– I had just finished my thesis on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and was on an apocalypse kick, so although I had gone to the booth expecting to pick up DitV, I came away with a game I hadn’t even heard of before.

With Apocalypse World I didn’t really know what to expect. I admit, I don’t have very many systems under my belt– I’ve read far more games than I’ve actually played, and I don’t like to pass judgment on a system without actually playing it. But just from the get-go, Apocalypse World had a lot going for it.

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Megan

30 Haunts for Houses (Pathfinder) Review

Posted on May 17, 2011 by

Taking a new tack for Rite Publishing’s “30” series, this work looks not at items that you might find but a specific type of threat that you might encounter – the haunt. Indeed, not just any old haunts but those which have, for whatever reason, chosen to manifest in a house.

The product opens with an overview of haunts, which were introduced in Paizo’s GameMastery Guide – if you intend to make extensive use of haunts you may find a copy useful. Basically, haunts can develop in a location in which living creatures suffered in some way, and can be accompanied by undead. Despite having hit points and assorted capabilities, they can be thought of more as an atmosphere, an area in which effects are caused, than as actual beings in their own right. (I’m sure learned clerics and mages could argue for hours over that one!). They can only be removed from their location by performance of specific acts, based on the reasons why the haunt is there in the first place, although they can be damaged or negated such that they go away… but only for a while, they’ll manifest again later.

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