Categorized | Flash Fire, RPGs

Flash Fire Mini-Reviews (GenCon Wrap-Up)

Posted on August 22, 2008 by Matt-M-McElroy

We’re back from GenCon and so are the Flash Fire Mini-Reviews.

This week we’re going to take a look at some of the cool new books we picked up over the weekend in Indianapolis. This mix of Horror and Dark Fantasy game products from large publishers and small press shows off just a few of the interesting items that were available at the convention.

I’ll be upfront and admit I have not completely read these titles yet. GenCon was only a few days ago and some of these books are quite hefty (Starblazer Adventures alone is 600+ pages). So, these are first impressions and notes from playing demos at the convention.

The Atlas of Eslin

The Atlas of Eslin offers up original cultures, richly envisioned and varied in scope, sure to entice even the most experienced gamer. This volume contains eight complete, different and geographically huge Realms for Epic Role Playing adventures and campaigns. Each Realm is loaded with distinct races, diverse governments and social structures. The Atlas of Eslin contains over 200 occupations & professions for players and boasts tools and information for Game Masters, such as plot hooks, ideas for conflict and adventure, and campaign themes.

This is the latest product from Dark Matter Studios for the Epic RPG. This is a big book with a ton of useful information regardless of what fantasy RPG you are using. There are plenty of maps, lots of different story hooks and all kinds of interesting stuff for a group to explore. The writing is clear and gets you hooked on the setting quickly. Politics, religion, economic information and more is detailed for each region (my personal favorite bits are the “Myth & Legend” sections because they are full of adventure ideas to introduce into the game.

The Atlas of Eslin is available at

Witch Finders

Suffer Not A Witch To Live

Witches are real, and they wield mad magic beholden to no natural law. Man is not meant to touch such power, yet these sorcerers, blind to their own hubris, reach for it time and time again. The hunters must act.

Rulebook for Hunter: The Vigil

Not only did White Wolf have Hunter: the Vigil available at the convention, but they also had a few early copies of the first supplement. Naturally, I had to scoop one up right away. This is an awesome book. It does not replace Mage: the Awakening or World of Darkness: Second Sight, but you also won’t need them to run a Hunter game that deals with magicians. There are plenty of spells, rituals and other information included to build interesting antagonists (or allies) of a group of Hunters in this book. You can also skip those sections if you would rather use Mage or Second Sight. The history chapter and the chapters detailing how Mages and Hunters interact won’t really be affected by your choice of rules.

Hunter: the Vigil is a pretty big book and should keep Storytellers busy for a while introducing terrifying monsters and deadly enemies to any group of Hunters. Witch Finders adds a ton of great setting material, new Compacts, a new Conspiracy, new Merits and plenty more.

Witch Finders is available at


This high-octane Science-Fiction role-playing game for 2 or more players has your Space Troopers killing bugs all across the Cosmos. You’ll advance in rank, improve your weapons, slay civilization after civilization and find out who you are through an innovative “Flashback” mechanic.

Terra’s plan is to kill every living thing in the Universe to protect the home world. See where your tour of duty in the 3:16th Expeditionary Force takes you and your friends. Revel in the kill-happy machismo and enjoy a campaign of Carnage Amongst The Stars.

3:16 is a Science-Fiction role-playing game about Carnage Amongst The Stars.

Every year at GenCon there is a lot of after-hours gaming going on in the Embassy Suites. 3:16 was by far one of the most popular games folks were digging into each night. The game is quick, fun and easy to play.

It is a violent, action driven game of teamwork and creative energy. People were shouting and laughing throughout the game with over-the-top descriptions of the events on the table. The writing is top-notch, the rules are easy to learn/easy to teach and the art is perfect for setting the mood of the game. All-in-all, this game is a blast and you should definitely check it out.

3:16 is available at

Houses of the Blooded

The new game by the Origins Award-winning author of Legend of the Five Rings and 7th Sea!

Ambition. Lust. Revenge. You cannot have one without the others.

Thousands of years ago, the ven ruled the world. They were a passionate people, obsessed with Romance and Revenge, opera and theater, and all the forbidden delights their decadent culture provided. In the end, that which made them beautiful was also the key to their own destruction. Houses of the Blooded is a game about tragic obsession. Set in the fantastic world of ven myth and legend, players take the roles of powerful characters bent on conquering their world, destroying their enemies and possessing all they desire.

Billed as the “anti-D&D” and described as Atlantean Blood Opera, Houses of the Blooded is over 400 pages of intrigue, romance, revenge and mystery. It uses elements of the FATE system, so folks familiar with Spirit of the Century will pick up the mechanics quickly. One of my favorite aspects of the setting is that the word for “romance” and the word for “revenge” are the same. This shows the depth of the culture and the challenges the characters face as they move through society.

Look for more information on Houses of the Blooded here on Flames Rising, including design notes and a new interview with John Wick in the next few weeks.

Houses of the Blooded is available at Indie Press Revolution.

Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide

Make the jump to lightspeed 4,000 years before the Battle of Yavin to a time when Jedi Knights and Sith Lords clashed in galactic conflict. As the galaxy plunges into one war after another, the forces of the Republic, along with their Jedi allies, struggle to protect themselves from hordes of invading Mandalorians, tyrannical Sith lords, and traitorous allies on every front. This campaign guide offers both players and gamemasters a wide array of new options that can be used to craft an epic Star Wars roleplaying game experience during one of the most dangerous periods of galactic history.

We don’t normally cover a lot of Star Wars products here at Flames Rising, but this book was hard to pass up. The Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide pulls from all the best parts of the setting and includes fully-statted characters, history timelines and other goodies in a straightforward style. From existing characters like Jolee Bindo and Bastila to chapters dedicated to Mandalorians and the Sith, this book serves as the perfect companion to the Star Wars Roleplaying Game Saga edition corebook. What I really liked about it, is that you can design your campaign to be geared in any direction you want it to be–Sith, Jedi, Mandalorian, Selkath, Droid, etc. Obviously, here at Flames Rising we’d probably be running a Sith-based game. With Sith Lord names like Darth Traya (Lord of Betrayal) and Darth Sion (Lord of Pain), there’s plenty of material to play the dark lords of the Sith in the Old Republic.

Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide is available at

Starblazer Adventures

Starblazer Adventures is based on the classic British comic series, Starblazer, from the 1970’s and 80’s. Each of Starblazer’s 281 issues explored a whole adventure set within the vast galactic empires of the far future, giving this massive 632 page roleplaying game from Cubicle 7 Entertainment a wide variety of settings to explore. From low-fi space exploration to galaxy-busting wars to space fantasy epics at the end of time, there is plenty for everyone.

Starblazer Adventures is powered by the critically acclaimed FATE rules system. FATE was recently seen in action with Evil Hat Productions’ popular Spirit of the Century RPG and has been tweaked to give Starblazer players the full intergalactic meal deal. FATE lets you leave the maths behind and really focus on exciting stories. There are many options to let you skip the more detailed rules and keep it lite and fast or play starships, star monsters and even whole empires just like characters. For those familiar with FATE we’ve added new FATE rules for alien powers, robots, vehicles, starships, giant war machines, empires, equipment, careers and more.

Ok, so it isn’t quite as big as Ptolus, but wow, this is a big book. Based on the original Starbalzer comics by D.C.Thompson this game has a ton of alien worlds, starships, monsters and other cool sci-fi elements all crammed together. Another FATE based system (notice a pattern developing here?) this game is easy to pick up and play (it will take you longer to read the book than it will to learn the system). There are introductory adventure ideas, worlds to explore and lots of cool bits to keep your game interesting for quite some time. The Cubicle 7 folks were super excited about this game and that vibe was easy to pick up on throughout the convention.

Starblazer Adventures is available at

Worlds of Their Own

Many of today’s best (and best-selling) fantasists got their start writing shared world fiction supporting roleplaying games. This massive anthology collects more than a dozen thrilling tales from R.A. Salvatore, Michael A. Stackpole, Monte Cook, Ed Greenwood, Elaine Cunningham, and more to give an exciting overview of the original worlds and characters of authors who achieved their greatest fame writing stories they do not own. Edited by James Lowder (The Book of All Flesh, Prince of Lies), Worlds of Their Own presents an unprecedented sampler of fantasy and science fiction adventure tales from some of the best-loved and best-known authors in the genre.

After we posted a recent interview with James Lowder about this book I couldn’t wait to check it out. James offers up a lot of good information about how the book came together and gives a few teasers about some of the stories included in the collection, but that isn’t quite the same as reading them. There are some surprising tales included here from some of the best authors in the industry. I can’t say for certain which of them is my favorite, but I was truly impressed by the overall quality of the work. I was already a fan of several of the authors, but now I’ve got a few new ones to check out as well (I have to dig out of this stack of review books first though).

Quite simply, this is a collection of great original fiction from some of the best authors in various “shared world” series.

Worlds of Their Own is available at

Pyramid of Shadows

The ancient trees of the Shadowsong Forest have borne witness to the passing of epochs, and hidden beneath their dark canopy are the remains of empires long departed. Few souls brave enough to explore the primeval forest ever return, for countless horrors haunt the crumbled ruins. When a band of evil criminals seeks refuge within the darkest reaches of the forest, brave adventurers are needed to root them out. The trail leads to the heart of the woods, wherein looms the greatest secret of all — the Pyramid of Shadows.

H3 Pyramid of Shadows is a D&D adventure designed for heroic-tier characters of levels 7-10. It can be played as a stand-alone adventure or as the final part of a three-part series.

This product includes an adventure booklet for the Dungeon Master, a player’s booklet containing new character options and campaign information, player handouts, and a full-color poster map, all contained in a handy folder.

The latest adventure for Dungeons & Dragons is now available and is full of cool stuff to toss at your players. I rarely, if ever, run published adventures “as-is” and usually tear them apart for ideas, antagonists and other twists to include in my game. This adventure is fairly linear, but still plenty interesting, and works very well. Folks still somewhat new to the role of GM (although they have probably run Keep on the Shadowfell and/or Thunderspire Labyrinth by now) will find plenty of useful information to keep the game moving along. The detailed write-ups for Tactics and each areas’ Features are entertaining reading and full of cool bits to keep the interesting.

The production quality on this and other D&D 4E products has been top-notch. Everything is easy to use, interesting and helps move the game along without being bogged down with extra pages or material.

Pyramid of Shadows is available at

Savage and Macabre: Gangrel

Back to Nature

At the edges of civilization, they prowl. Their Beasts rise close to the surface, sniffing for sustenance. Loners and pack animals alike, the Gangrel are the untamed Savages among the Kindred. Though they are primal blood-drinkers and howlers at the moon, their animalistic allure is not to be denied. From the urban jungle to the wild places unwalked by other vampires, the Gangrel are there. Prepare yourself — it’s time to run with the pack.

The latest Clanbook for Vampire: the Requiem, seeing this on display at the White Wolf booth during the convention was a cool surprise. Technically this book does not come out until next month. These Clanbooks are amazingly high quality and full of crazy/cool in-character bits to keep any character going for months. Instead of a dry text explaining how the Clan works, we are offered up some amazing insights into the culture, secrets and history of the savage vampires who laugh at the politics of the other Clans.

While I’m a big fan of the Ventrue, this is definitely my favorite Clanbook so far. I was never sure exactly what to do with the Gangrel as a Clan, now…my Players should be very afraid.

Savage and Macabre: Gangrel is available at

Crux: the Pandemonium Scriptures

Crux is an irregularly-published supplement for the Books of Pandemonium. This magazine features fan-created information for players and GMs, including new spells, demons, scenarios, campaign info, NPCs, enemies, weapons, and vehicles. Crux also features artwork, fiction, poetry, articles, and anything else that the fans want to submit!

Crux is a thin volume that expands on Dread: the First book of Pandemonium with all kinds of new material. New spells, new demons, setting fiction and other cool bits that add plenty of new gore to an already violent game of monster hunting. Sold at cost, Crux is a project entirely driven by fans of the game and fully supported by the publisher. Other publishers should definitely check this out and follow the lead set here.

Crux: the Pandemonium Scriptures is available at

Back to work…

Well, we’re home from GenCon and we should probably get back to our “day jobs” but with all these cool games, that is proving to be a bit difficult. We should have some new reviews up soon and several new interviews are in the works.

How did GenCon go for you? What was your favorite new game?

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