Archive | RPGs

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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Little Fears: Nightmare Edition RPG Review

Posted on May 16, 2011 by

From the first few times that I heard of this game I was drawn to it. “A game where you take on the persona of a child?” I thought, “Now that would be rather interesting..”. Sadly, those first few chances I had to play were missed out on due to running my own or participating in other games. It enticed me enough that I kept an eye open for any chance to sit down at a session. Finally, the day came when I did play and my patience was well rewarded. I have attempted to run demo’s at a few conventions, without much luck due to the fact that I feel Little Fears is a difficult game to describe to others in only a few short words. My patience will one day be rewarded I am sure. I have played for many years and I have introduced many gamers to new games, but there have been very few where I have tried to push a book into someone’s hands telling, “You have to play this.”

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Megan

Northlands (Pathfinder) Review

Posted on May 9, 2011 by

Jumping right in, the first chapter – Riddles of Steel: Roleplaying in the Frozen North – explains what’s so special, what’s so different about games set in harsh northern areas inspired by Norseland sagas and Viking lore. The familiar cod-mediaeval or renaissance fantasy civilisations of the majority of games is replaced with a bloodier and darker mindset, never mind that the place tends to be darn cold as well! Vicious monsters abound, and those which walk on two legs live life to the full in conditions that others may see as primitive, certainly more self-sufficient than their neighbours to the south.

But it’s not just a lack of urban luxury, guards to protect you from thieves and villains, and lower temperatures: the whole mind-set is different, and to get the most out of such a setting both GM and players – particularly those whose characters are native to it – will need to start thinking in a different way.

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Pelgrane Week: The Dead White World Review

Posted on May 5, 2011 by

The RPG Call of Cthulhu has always seemed, to me, to be a game that a lot of people have played, but few get right. It’s a great game with a rich background, but the few times I’ve played it felt as if gamers had issues trying to fit their character into the world of the early 20th Century, and the efforts often resulted in hilarious incidents, like one player I knew whose character used a 19 year-old female NPC for point-blank .45 target practice and subsequent bloody blow-through wall spraying.

The other thing that’s always felt difficult to bring into the world is the over-all veil of horror that was an intricate part of Lovecraft’s story. Let’s face it: horror is hard to bring to the table. It’s difficult to put into word in such a way that it doesn’t feel like an descriptive afterthought to a game scene.

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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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Billzilla

Pelgrane Week: The Black Drop Review

Posted on May 3, 2011 by

Set in one of the most remote places on Earth, the Black Drop is an adventure for Trail of Cthulhu. Investigators, for reasons of their own, are on hand to witness the dismantling of an unsuccessful colonizing effort in the bleak and largely inhospitable Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean. There are rumors that the Kerguelens were once part of an ancient continent: a place of advanced learning and magic – Lemuria. Something ancient stirs beneath these islands – something unwholesome and hungry…

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Megan

Advanced Feats: The Inquisitor’s Edge (Pathfinder) Review

Posted on April 26, 2011 by

This work starts with an overview of the inquisitor, quite a talented chap with plenty of options. Pity the first paragraph repeats itself, perhaps we should send an inquisitor after the proof-reader!

So who is this inquisitor anyway? A potent mix of religious devotee, spy, investigator and hunter (of people rather than dinner): a bit self-serving in the way his powers generally serve to enhance himself rather than the group he is in, but at least he can claim it’s all to the glory of whatever deity he reveres! The special ability of ‘Judgement’ is both powerful and versatile, depending on what judgement is pronounced, and this is coupled with a reasonable number of skills and the ability to cast divine spells.

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Eclipse Phase RPG Review

Posted on April 20, 2011 by

Why does Eclipse Phase draw me in so? Is it the dystopian setting that keeps bringing the misery? Is it due to there being enough future tech to choke a blue whale? Is it the metaworld so rich it makes you want to live there right now, despite it being such a deadly, alien environment that none of us would survive for very long?

Yes. Yes to all of the above. And then some . . ..

It goes without saying that Eclipse Phase is a hell of a game. The moment you turn the first page (if you can actually turn a page in a pdf, that is), it sucks you in like a hunk of flotsam circling an event horizon. It makes you feel the unlimited scope of adventure within while, at the same time, makes you realize this isn’t only a game, it’s a way of life . . . and that life ain’t gonna be pretty.

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Megan

Antipaladins (Pathfinder) Review

Posted on April 14, 2011 by

Archtypical bad guys, the evil counterpart to that goody-two-shoes the Paladin… but don’t feel sorry for the seven to be found in these pages, as plenty of love has been lavished on developing them into well-rounded villains all ready to give any good-aligned party a run for their money.

Just as a paladin is a shining example of devotion to his deity, so is the antipaladin. The difference is the nature of the deity that the antipaladin venerates and serves… and often, the precise way in which he serves and what he does in the course of such service. Even they probably see the ‘evil’ in what they do, in what they are working towards – it’s certainly clear to the rest of us – and yet they press on, often motivated by selfish ends like personal power and other rewards, rather than pure love for their deity.

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Megan

Hiding in the Dark (Shadowrun 4E) Review

Posted on April 8, 2011 by

A couple of news stories and a police report set the scene before the Introduction runs through the standard background information for the GM on adventure layout and the specifics of running a game in a shared campaign. The Mission Synopsis then lays it all out, and the plot ties neatly back into what has gone before (assuming you played the previous Mission, Back in Business, that is!). How much of this the characters will ever find out depends on how they do during the ‘run, of course, but it’s likely that they will get the gist of it fairly quickly… and then have to make a very Big Decision.

Like most ‘runs, it all starts when someone has a job that needs doing – this time, it’s the law that’s hiring, and the job on offer involves discovering the identity of a mid-level crime boss. But even this introductory scene is well-described with plenty of atmosphere and incidental events that help it all come alive, as well as give the characters what they need to begin their task. Of course, nothing is as simple as it seems, and a couple of other groups start to take an interest and offer the characters money for information about what they discover in the course of their investigations.

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Megan

Back in Business (Shadowrun 4E) Review

Posted on March 28, 2011 by

The new season of the Shadowrun Missions shared campaign takes the storyline to Seattle, and this first adventure opens with atmospheric fiction as a veteran local ‘runner takes a call about a job and wonders which of the newcomers to town might be up for it…

The overall approach to structure is interesting. With the core use of ‘shared campaign’ scenarios being at conventions or other settings where time is limited, it is necessary to make effective use of the time available and the structure is designed to facilitate this.

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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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Hellfrost Region Guide 3: The Magocracy Review

Posted on March 21, 2011 by

The region guides for the Savage Worlds Hellfrost setting, with the exception of a couple which focus on non-geographical elements, comprise three discernible groups; “Evil” lands which have been overrun by the forces of the various villainous factions (the Liche Lands previously reviewed are a good example of this) and which are inimical to player groups; Border lands, such as the Freelands, where safe havens of civilization exist beside lurking dangers that threaten travelers; and “Civilized” nation states in the Hearthlands, where shadowy evil does lurk, but not in the same numbers as in the other places. The Magocracy is an example of the third category, and as such is a good location for WFRP-style Enemy Within type campaigns.

After a short introductory paragraph to set the scene, this pdf opens with a discussion on Social Hierarchy.

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Flames

Invaderz RPG Review

Posted on March 10, 2011 by

If you are a looking for a deep and philosophical game to explore the intricacies of your mind, then this is not the game for you. However, if you are looking for a light-hearted and whimsical romp in between long running campaigns then this game can easily fill that need. Early on the game touts itself as a ‘Beer and Crisps’ game (or a Beer and Pretzels game in the States), and it adheres to this easygoing philosophy.

One takes on the role of a Jerkian Warrior, a clone of the great leader whose purpose in life is to entertain the Exalted Emperor and feed the Exalted Emperor. It’s not an easy life being among the lowest ranks, and a gruesome (though entertaining) death is almost a certainty. One of the few ways to ensure your own survival is through treachery and betrayal of your fellow Jerkian Warriors; rank hath many privileges — one of the most obvious being fewer missions in which death is likely.

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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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Hellfrost Region Guide 1: Sacred Places

Posted on March 2, 2011 by

Region Guide 1: Sacred Places is the first proper title in a series of small pdfs for the Savage Worlds Hellfrost setting by Triple Ace Games. The guide is only 12 pages long, but is cheap, and adds more setting information to the game. The region guide series are not material that was cut from the Hellfrost Gazetteer, but additional material for the GM. In conversation with Wiggy, the author of Hellfrost and these region guides, he stressed that this was not an attempt to gouge fans, but to create additional material for certain areas of the game in addition to that found in the core books. When you look at the region guide series as a whole, you’ll find there are well over 400 pages of extra material in total, dwarfing the size of the gazetteer. Nor is any of the information in the gazetteer repeated here; this is all new material. As a personal note, I’d also like to add that Wiggy has made many pdfs freely available on the TAG website which also add to the Hellfrost milieu – hardly the action of someone wanting to gouge customers. So, why not just create a Gazetter 2 (and 3, and 4…) book instead of all these pdfs? The advantages of the region guide series are twofold; firstly, these pdfs can be released quite quickly; if Wiggy had wanted to wait until he had finished all of them before releasing them as a book, then there would be a much longer downtime before they saw print. Secondly, the GM can buy whichever pdfs he wants, depending on which areas he finds interesting or where his players want their characters to go.. No-one is making you buy all of the series.

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Hellfrost Region Guide 0: Of Men and Gods Review

Posted on February 21, 2011 by

The Hellfrost Region Guides are short, inexpensive pdfs (earlier guides tended to cover larger areas, and are 12 pages, later ones cover smaller areas and tend to be 6 pages) covering a particular aspect (usually geographic) of the world of Rassilon. In this series of reviews, I shall examine each region guide in order. The format of each is the same; there is no artwork, simply a title page with a one-column introduction to the area, then several pages of double-column information, some pages with sidebars. The text is clear and editing, for the most part, is average for the RPG industry; most region guides have a few typos here and there, but nothing too bad. As such, the Style points for each review will be the same unless there is something especially pronounced in a particular region guide.

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