Archive | RPGs

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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