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The Complete Vivimancer
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome Productions
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2014 21:40:21
I recently downloaded The Complete Vivimancer the new book from Necrotic Gnome Productions, the same folks that gave us Theorems & Thaumaturgy.

Gavin Norman, of the City of Iron blog, gives us a new(ish) class, the Vivimancer. The book is 88 pages and advertised as Labyrinth Lord compatible with both Basic and Advanced stats (more on that in a bit).
The class was introduced in Theorems & Thaumaturgy. The basic class is a type of Wizard/Magic-User and detailed on two pages. The experience per level, saves, spells, and attacks are not too different from the Magic-user normal.
For the Advanced option elves and half-elves can also be vivimancers. Interestingly enough elves can advance to 11th level and half-elves to 10th. I would have expected it to be the other way around.

The next substantial chapter is on Spells and Laboratory procedures.
The biggest expense in gold and time for the vivimancer is his laboratory. The vivimancer according to the rules needs to spend 6 hours per day in his lab. I wonder how much time this leaves for adventuring, eating and sleeping. Sure some apprentices can cover this time. Upkeep costs is 10 gp per spell level, so about 1980gp per month at 20th level. Not unreasonable really.

The next 65 pages detail spells levels 1 to 9. Like most Labyrinth Lord compatible products the spells are compatible across a wide variety of products. You could use these with any old school product wizard, magic-user and yes witch. Though to do so I think robs the class of some it's charm and power.
The spells are a varied sort. There are some very useful, some are variations on a theme and others will have limited utility to the adventuring vivimancer. But all have a lot of style. If you prefer your games a little more G-rated then this isn't a book for you. While not as over the top as Carcosa or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, there are a lot of cutting things up and putting them back together.

The chapter on magic items is nice varied lot as well, with attention paid to things the vivimancer needs to perform his craft.

We also get Appendices on Psionic Powers and Mutations. Both are fine and work but in use I might swap out the same rules in the Labyrinth Lord compatible Mutant Future.

Overall I really liked it. Like the book said why let Necromancers have all the fun. There is a lot here that can be used in any game really even if you never use them as a class. Personally I wonder what a bad guy team of a Vivimancer and Necromancer might produce. Heck with the Advanced rules, a Vivimancer/Cleric.

There are couple of places where Insanity is mentioned but not a lot of details on how insanity would work in a game.

The art is somewhat sparse, but it is all original and unique to this book (ok maybe 1 or 2 are in T&T). So that gives it a sum positive in my mind.

The book is 88 pages, as mentioned above, and lists at $10.00 for the PDFs. Maybe a bit higher $/page ratio, but I'll be honest I am not sure where to price these things. I think $7.50 would have been best, but I am not judging.

I have to admit I was set to like this book. "The Complete Vivimancer" reminds me of the old Bard Games "The Compleat Spellcaster" and "The Compleat Alchemist". Not just in terms of title and feel, but in terms of content. This is the sort of thing I enjoy from the OSR/Old School publishing realms. I like something I can drop into my games with no issues. Plug and Play gaming.

I would like to recommend this book. I particularly recommend it as a change of pace from the evil Necromancer NPC.

There is a lot to love about this book.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Complete Vivimancer
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for taking the time to write the review Tim! Just to clarify what you mentioned about the rules for laboratory usage: the requirement of spending 6 hours a day in the lab is only when a magical procedure (i.e. a spell) is underway. The rest of the time the vivimancer is free to go adventuring or get up to whatever mischief he or she should wish.
Witch Girls Adventures: Director's Cut
Publisher: Channel M Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2014 12:49:42
A lot of what said about Witch Girls is still true from my original review. Here it is, with edits to reflect this newer version.

We now have 2, soon to be 3, versions of Witch Girls Adventures.
WGA = Witch Girls Adventures (1st ed)
WGA-DC = the Director's Cut, this version. 1.5 Edition.
WGA-BoS = Witch Girls Adventures: Book of Shadows, 2nd Edition. Out sometime in the future.

Witch Girls Adventures is a a "Drama Diaries" game, using the "Drama Dice" system from Malcolm Harris. This version, WGA-DC is using the first ed version of the Drama Dice system with some of the modifications of the upcoming 2nd Edition.

It is aimed at new players predominantly and girls in particular. The book begins with 10 pages of the Witch Girls Adventures comic to set the tone and mood of the game.

The book continues as it goes on to your typical introduction into what is a roleplaying game and is written for a young or teen girl audience ("just tell the geek (trust me; they are used to being called geeks) behind counter you need... ") cute. But too much of this would ruin the presentation of the game for me. Thankfully this is the only time, but it does establish one thing right away; this game is going for a different audience. The intro stuff continues with some terms both for the game and for RPGs.

It makes an odd left turn to give us optional rules (we haven't had any rules yet for these to be optional to) about how to run a "Harry Potter" like game with this. Eh. Nice, but this should have come last, not first. I still think this would have worked better as an appendix.

Chapter 2 gives us "Cliques" . So perfect. In another game these would be "Factions" or "Classes" or even "Traditions" or "Associations" or "Backgrounds", but given the Middle-school/High-school this is great. Cliques basically give your starting dice and what skills you are likely to have. The system is very easy. The dice system (The Drama Dice system as it is called) quickly reminds one of Cortex or Savage Worlds. Attributes are scored d2 to d12 for most types. The spread even looks the same as Cortex and Savage Worlds. Not surprisingly, afterall it is a logical progression. You have six attributes Body (which combines Strength, Agility and stamina), Mind (intelligence), Senses, Will, Social and Magic. Right away you see there is only one body type attribute but four mental ones. This is the way it should be really, WGA is not about beating people up, it is about the social aspects of the game and about magic, our last attribute. There are some secondary attributes that are derived. Rolls are made depending on the dice vs a difficulty table very similar to d20 or Unisystems' success levels. Cliques are detailed and they are your basic magical girl stereotypes (the Goth, the insider, the outsider…) . Plenty here to work with and if you are so inclined create your own (which is what the "Harry Potter" bit tries to do).

Chapter 3 moves onto skills. Each chapter has some fiction to introduce you to the Witch Girls world. It seems to be a cross between Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Buffy and the Craft mixed in with anime magical girls. Skills. Unlike Cortex or Savage Worlds, skills are given a + score like Unisystem or d20. Roll the die associated with the attribute (each skill is connected to an attribute like d20) add the bonus the skill provides, check your success, or roll greater. There are 34 mundane skills and 10 magical skills. A little too much in my book, but I am willing to see how it works out here.

Chapter 4 Traits details traits, which are like Edges or Qualities. They are broken up into Talents (which you can get later in life) and Heritages (which are inborn and never change). Heritages have both a positive and negative aspect to them. Typical ones are there like "Beautiful" and others which have to be unique to this game like "Drama Queen".

Chapters 2, 3 and 4 are all well detailed and very straight forward.

Chapter 5 is Magic. Really this is what we came here for. There is a lot more here on what magic is and what it means to a witch. There are different types of magic (necromancy, mentalism, cybermancy…) which you can spend points on to improve your rank. This can provide a lot of variance between witches. Think of it as somewhere between Harry Potter's classes and Mage's spheres. As GM (a Director in WGA) I might limit some of these to NPCs (Guest Stars) and not to PCs (Stars). Spell casting is broken down into a lot of detail. More than maybe the seasoned gamer needs, but given the audience it might be about right. Effects are broken out into Magic Type Rank (MTR) and the overall feel is like a table you might see in Mage or Mutants & Masterminds with what MTR (read as Power level) you need to achieve a certain effect. Want to cast that spell across the world? Better have an MTR of 9.
There are rules for Signature Spells, which take less Zap (read: Mana, Essence), choose only one and from the "School" with your highest MTR (which makes sense really). I like the idea of the signature spell and might try it in my other games too.
This is all followed by 20+ pages of spells and these by no means seem to be all of them. Since your cast member (Star, remember) isn't going to be buying swords, guns or anything else that characters spend money or points on then this is a good thing.

Chapter 6. Your Star gets an allowance allowing her to buy things like magical computers, flying Vespas, and more brooms than found in Home Depot. There are familiars, clothes, wings and all sorts of magical equipment here as well. You could build an adventure on just shopping for these things cause I am sure getting them is not as easy as going to the mall. Lots of neat wands and I have to say the books for young witches are pretty funny ("Samantha's Guide to Merry Mortals" yeah that made me laugh). And a bunch of mundane stuff like DVD players and skateboards. The allowance system is nice, I like it better than the Modern d20 purchase DCs and easier than keeping track of cash.

Chapter 7 is some odds and ends. A character questionnaire (nice) and a filled out character sheet (also nice). Good detail on what things mean and if you are new to games a certain boon.

Chapter 8 is for Directors, so all the rules of the game. The system, some combat rules (yes this is the FIRST game I have seen where the rules for shopping are longer than the rules for combat. ;) )
Some nice background fluff and some ideas for different types of stories, basically you can do Buffy, Good vs. Evil, Charmed, and Magic School. The experience system is "interesting" (Voodollars), but it looks like it works.

Chapter 9 is the world background. Now this one is kind of neat. I details the various races (witches are a different race) and they are not alone. Some history, some magical places (Santa's Workshop, No joke and it looks cool!) The ruling council of Witches (I am yoinking this for my Unisystem games), Spelling Bees, groups and other schools. Even how the mundane world reacts to all of this.

Chapter 10 presents some creatures. But if the art is any indication most of these are not for combat purposes, but potential dates (well there is only one witch kissing a vampire…) Nearly every kind of creature is covered from fairies to Cthulhu like horrors. But no demons. Seems a bit odd, given it all. Some NPCs (Guest Stars) of note.

Chapter 11 details the Willow Mistt School. Lands, buildings, faculty, everything you would expect to find is here. Willow Mistt is not Hogwarts, but it is easy to make the comparisons. I actually found it closer to Claremont Academy from Mutants & Masterminds.

We close with a sample Episode, some plot ideas, a lexicon, and a list of Witch names (see how many you recognize!), and some NPCs with sheets.

The Good:
Harris obviously has a love for this genre and it shows. The rules are well crafted and while there is nothing earth shaking here, they are familiar mechanics done up in a very nice way. The point of view of the work is nice. This is anti-Grim-Dark. It's not all unicorns, princesses and kittens (though it does have all that), it's a fun game. The art is not D&D 4e, but it is good and more to the point very appropriate for this game.
For new players this is a great little game. More experienced players may want more, but that is not due to the game itself, but rather expectations. Do not expect this to be "WitchCraft: The Junior High Years" (though you can do that).
This Director's Cut has been update to mostly full color interiors. Especially the art.

The Bad:
I know Harris is basically a one man operation so I am willing to cut him some slack here. But there are a large number of typos that should be fixed and some terms that might have either been mistakes or from earlier versions (the Magic attribute is called "Zap" in one spot.) I am willing to overlook those IF they are corrected in the 2nd Edition. They should have been corrected in this edition to be honest, but I am going to cut him the slack here but none in the 2nd ed WGA-BoS.

The Ugly:
Well....WGA has something of a weird rep online. I am not sure it is entirely justified to be honest. Gamers can get really weird about the oddest things. Are some of the witches depicted here anti-social monsters? Yeah. The poster child, Princess Lucinda is exactly that, but it is presented in the same vein of cartoon violence.

So. Who is Witch Girls Adventures for?
Well , that sort of depends but here is what I see.

New players and Game Master get a lot with this book. I see them having a great time.
People that enjoy the more social aspects of a game (and of gaming) rather than a bunch of combats.
Anyone that is a fan of Magical Girl Anime, Witches or even high school based games.
Anyone that has ever wished for a Harry Potter RPG.
Anyone that looks at the setting and resists the urge to make it "darker". WGA is not about being dark. You can be evil sure, and as a witch the entire world is after you, but the setting does not need the WoD feel at all.

Last Words
This is a fun game. Take it as it is, not as you want it to be, and you will have fun too. If you are an old pro, use this game to introduce younger people to the hobby. I hope that Malcolm Harris is successful and ends up getting a lot of new people, boys and girls, to our hobby.

The Director's cut adds a few more pages and most of the interior is now full color. There are some new pieces of art and some of the older b/w art is now in color. Whether or not this is worth 10 bucks is up to you. I enjoyed the 1st ed so much I wanted to get this.

I have two hopes for Witch Girls now.
1. That the final copy of 2nd edition, WGA-BoS, is out soon.
2. That Malcolm Harris gets someone to help with the editing. It is a shame to mar a great and fun game with some easily fixed typos.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witch Girls Adventures: Director's Cut
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Universal Adventures Caves of the Unknown
Publisher: New Realms Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2014 12:00:02
I just finished taking my boys through the classic modules B1: In Search of the Unknown and B2: The Keep on the Borderlands.
This module is in the same vein, but much more barebones.

You get 7 pages with 30+ encounter areas. You can customize as you wish. The feel is very, very old school but it could be adapted to pretty much anything. It can be used with any version of D&D, Gamma World or even a planet you touch down on in Traveller. I think you get the idea.

At $2.50 it might be on the high side for what you get, but maybe the optimal price is something like $2.25 or $2.40, so not really enough to quibble. A larger map as a seperate PDF would have been nice though.

But you get exactly what is described here, so no complaints. For Old School D&D you could empty it out in a longer session and your characters would be home in time for supper.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Universal Adventures Caves of the Unknown
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Cartographer's Guide to the Creatures of Eira
Publisher: Genius Loci Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2014 14:56:16
27 pages of fae-like (or related) creatures for your Old-School games.
There are some familiar names here (Korrigan, Slaugh, Ragman) but all neat takes on some classic monsters.

Use to use and read and can be dropped into any old-school game.

Can't wait to try some of these beasties out.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartographer's Guide to the Creatures of Eira
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for the review and I\'m very happy you enjoyed the Creature Guide! May they torment your players for years to come!
Fighting Fire - Ernie Gygax Benefit Adventure
Publisher: Creative Mountain Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2014 07:44:34
Originally posted here:

The adventure itself is 32 pages (minus cover and title pages) with some NPCs. It is edition agnostic (neutral in their words). While they could have used something simple like Swords & Wizardry to give it some crunch, there isn't anything here an experienced gamer could run in about hour of prep time. In fact while typing this I have gone from wanting to run this at as an "Old-school" adventure with something like Basic D&D to maybe running it under 3rd ed. instead.

The adventure is a simple, if tongue in cheek, one. Defeat the evil fire wizard.
There is a lot of self-referential material here. So knowing a little bit about the gaming industry and some of the people involved over the years will help you see some of the inside jokes. But if not the adventure does not suffer for it.

It is described as a fairly simple adventure and it doesn't disappoint on the that regard. Easily dropped into any game and any campaign.

A lot of the art and maps come from various sources. I personally think it is kind of cool. Everyone contributed something to this.

While I can be accused (and rightly so) of waxing too nostalgic at times, I like the idea of the town of Gamington. I also like the idea of adding it to my own world as a place where old adventurers go to retire. They bring their treasure hoards and retire in style.

In any case, this is a good cause and worth the money spent.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fighting Fire - Ernie Gygax Benefit Adventure
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Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Limited Edition Hardcover Edition
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/11/2014 14:14:11
Fantastic! Allons-y!

ORIGINAL REVIEW: A great and worthy game to bear the name of the highly acclaimed "restart" of the Doctor Who series.

Using a simple 2d6 + stat, roll over target number system, DW:AiTaS though goes beyond what is typically since in RPGs. Talking and Running are preferable to fighting, just like in the show and there many ways to measure success.

The system is similar to Unisystem and even GURPs, but not as "crunchy". This is a game of normal humans and the occasional alien battling foes that out match them, out gun them and out "tech" them. You are going to need to be very clever or lucky (or both!). While this could have fell into the Call of Cthulhu end of the spectrum on hero survival, heroes are expected to survive and even win.

The trade dress and artwork is all from the 11th Doctor/Moffat era, so it resembles the 11th Doctor set in that respect. But if that were all then there would not be much need to buy this. In fact there is quite a bit of "new stuff" that feel this is much more of an update than a simple re-edit and design.

It is an extremely attractive book (256 full color pages). If you are new to this game then this is the place to start. If you are new to Doctor Who, well then I would say grab the Tenth or Eleventh Doctor version of the rules. All the same rules, but less emphasis on the the show's own history. Though there are the story/adventure seeds for all 12 doctors and that is very nice.

If you have either of the 11th or 10th Doctor version of this game then you have most of the rules and text, though some things look like the are a bit clearer (or I am rereading them for 10th time). This is one full document as opposed to the multiple PDFs of the "boxed sets". It also updates the text to reflect the last bits of the Matt Smith seasons and the Day of the Doctor 50th Anniversary special. So stats for the War Doctor and updated Zygons.

I plan on picking this one up in hardback as soon as I can to be honest. That's how much I enjoy this game.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Limited Edition Hardcover Edition
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Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay (PDF)
Publisher: Small Niche Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/03/2014 11:26:38

I have been waiting for this book for a while and I have to say it was worth the wait.
Dolmvay is not only a highly detailed city complete with maps, npcs, new monsters and pretty much everything you need, it is also a shared city.

Let's talk about the product first. It's Pay What You Want, but it is certainly worth at least $19.95 or more (so pay at least 5 buck or more!). You get 223 pages worth of material. There are the maps I mentioned, but there is also a fairly detailed history. You could easily drop this into any game, and let's be honest, any system. If you are familiar with other products from SNG then takes place in the World of Amherth setting. But this book (and most of the Amherth books) are easily adapted to any setting.

There is a chapter on adventuring in the city. How the local churches react to magic and what can be expected of travelling adventurers.
Makes it perfect for a way point between adventures, but you would be missing all the fun.
The book also details an number houses, factions and NPCs and their own desires for the city. If you like games of political intrigue and courtly drama then this is a good place to start.

The bulk of the book details the layout of the city. In this respect it reads like a guide book. NPCs, hooks and other information is given. There is plenty here for new GM to use it as is and plenty more for an experienced GM to add their own information.
It strikes a nice balance between detail and flexibility. Among my favorite items are the random rumor table and the common greetings and gestures. Things like this give a setting life of it's own.

Common businesses are covered as well as a sampling of Taverns and Inns. City encounters and even some new monsters.
Venture into the sewers or the Island of Heroes.

There is a section on random NPC generation as well.

Dolmvay the concept is the idea that this is a shared City. If developers want to create their own encounters, adventures or anything else really and set it in Dolmvay then there is an easy to use and free license to do so.
It is such a great idea I am surprised that no one else has done it before.

This book is steal at any price.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay (PDF)
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you Timothy! I\'m glad you like the idea of a shared city. I still think a witch\'s coven would fit in nicely!
Mecha vs. Kaiju Campaign Setting (True20)
Publisher: Big Finger Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2014 09:56:22
The game is set up much like other True20 books. You have your three archetypes/characters (Adept, Expert, Warrior) and a host of new feats and powers to choose from. Some are campaign-specific but almost all could be used anywhere else. In fact there is enough here that the main feature of MvK is readily apparent; you don't have to do games about fighting giant monsters all the time. Now of course the main plot and thrust of this game is fighting giant monsters, but I can easily see some adventures of exploring monster islands, contests between cocky pilots, mad scientists, children with newly awakened psychic powers.

When I first read this game my thoughts went first to Godzilla, but you can do Akira here as well and any number of other "Neo Tokyo" genres. Plus it is compatible with a host of True20 books I already have, so adding cyberpunk, horror or even comedy is easy.

If you don't like the campaign background you can leave it, but I think you would be missing out on something really fun if you do.

This might in fact be my favorite True20 setting.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mecha vs. Kaiju Campaign Setting (True20)
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Wildstar Class Corvette/RPG Battle Maps
Publisher: Wydraz
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2014 07:19:40
The BEST thing about DriveThruRPG? I can usually find a product that does EXACTLY what I want it do.
Case in point, the Wildstar Class Corvette.
I have been wanting to reboot my old sci-fi game and I had a map of a Corvette scout ship. That map disappeared years ago. A quick search here on "corvette" uncovered this map.

It is pretty much exactly what I needed.
It is a good map for 40 crewmen and usable with any sci-fi game.
My only gripe about it is there is now side projection of decks. I would have liked to have seen that as well.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wildstar Class Corvette/RPG Battle Maps
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Elizabeth Porter Presents: Winged Cat
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2014 08:17:15
Fantastic little cat. Great for a unique familiar or other monster.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elizabeth Porter Presents: Winged Cat
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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3 rulebook
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/09/2013 20:20:09
I just got my pdf of Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3 thanks to pledging in their Kickstarter.

This one was a no-brainer for me. I loved CAH:S2 and have really enjoyed all of Spectrum Games products to date.

How does CAH:S3 stack up? In an 80's word, Awesome!

CAH:S3 takes us back to the 80s Saturday morning (and week day afternoon) cartoons AND the toys that were so linked to them. But I am getting ahead of myself.

And while I am still ahead of myself this game has the most awesome character sheet EVER!

Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3 (CAH:S3) is a game about cartoon and toy emulation. Specially 80s cartoons and toy emulation. So there are some things that a given out of the box. You won't see any deaths. Violence happens in terms of gun fire, explosions and maybe a fist fight, but you won't see people getting hurt. There is a moral or message to every "episode" and the bad guy is going to get away in the end only to be back next time like nothing happened.

The book, like Season 2, is divided into "Channels". Channel 1 is the intro material, Channel 2 is the game system, Channel 3 is series creation (potentially more important than the characters themselves), Channel 4 is all about the Players, Channel 5 is the Game Master's section and finally we have an Appendix.

Channel 1 is the simple introductory material, but more over there is a great overview of how these cartoons (and this game) worked. There is a logic at work here in these and to get the most out of this game it is one you should follow. The best feature of this Channel is of course the overview of the 80s cartoons. It's not a laundry list of every toon, but a selective "bibliography" and must see TV.

Channel 2 covers the game system itself. In many games this is the Character creation chapter, but since character creation and series creation are so closely tied together we will discuss the system first. The game is made up of a Series (the game), Seasons (a campaign), Episodes and Scenes. Characters are PCs and GMC (Game Master Characters). A Season for example is made up of 6 Episodes. I might stick with my more familiar 12 and allow a mid-season break. Why is this important? At season breaks is when you can improve your character or change it all together.

Characters are made up of Traits and Qualities. Traits are something definitive about the character like "Strongest Man in World" or "Sneaky Thief" or "Leader of the Decipti-bots". Stuff like that. Qualities are more quantifiable and are measured based on how powerful your series is. Characters can also be ranked in terms of their Star Power. Stars (and PCs) have the highest at 3, your nameless, faceless goon has 1. If there is only one star, then they are Star Power 4.

Oomph is the power-, hero- or drama point mechanic. Collect "Proofs of Purchase" to get more Oomph!
It is equal to your Star Power but changes through out the game.

The basic mechanic of the game is the Check.
Traits and Qualities (and Oomph) add to the dice rolls on a Check.

Characters may not die, but they can loose an important scene. For that there are Setback Tokens. These Crucial Checks are usually the ones right before a commercial break or even worse, the ones at the end of an episode and continued next time (granted there were not a lot of those, but GI Joe first season comes to mind). Gain more Setbacks than your Star Power and you are out of the scene.

Season 3 has something new in it, or at least something I don't recall from Season 2. Gestalts. This allows you to combine powers, bodies or whatever into something greater. Think Voltron or some Transformers.

I think one of the rules I like the most here is "The Movie" which allows you, within the game, to throw out some of conceits of the game. So in this characters can die! Bad guys hit their targets! Mechanically you get more Oomph and damage and Setback tokens are not removed as often (no commercials after all) the risks are higher but characters that make it out gain experience and can be changed. Think "The Transformers Movie" from 1986.

Channel 3 covers Series Creation. Wait, where is Character creation you ask? Well it's here too. Series and Characters are created together. You can't have GI Joe without the Joes or Transformers without the Autobots. First this is create a Series guideline. First figure out what your series in named and it's tagline. So the example I used last time was The Hex Girls with the tagline "We'll put a spell on you!". Next up figure out the details of the series. Tech level, twists, genre. What is your elevator pitch on this. "Modern Earth, magic is real, but no one believes in it. Characters are supernaturals and try to lead normal lives." Something like that, only more detail. The newest feature of the series creation is the Dial. Dials tell you the levels of the game. How comedic is it? How realistic? What's the violence?

Now we get into character creation.
Characters are ranked as either human, superhuman or cosmic. The GM will decide, based on the series, on what traits can't be used, or limits on the traits and other details before the characters are made. So as an example a series about wizard kids must all have a trait "Wizard" at 3 or better, but no technology-based traits.
After that character creation is a breeze.
There are some special abilities and then we discuss GMC (Game Master Characters). They are created much the same way, only less details. Some templates such as goons and Master Villains are presented.
Playsets are where the action takes place and they are created in a similar way.
How cool is this sheet?
Character advancement is handled next. Among the obvious places for advancement you can also put in points to the playset to upgrade your base. So something like in Season 2 getting a new super smart computer in the base or a new book of spells.

We end with 8 series ideas.

Channel 4 covers advice to the Players. A game like CAH requires a lot of buy in from the players. You can't go into it like you do other games. This is not "Dungeons & Dragons" this is the "Dungeons & Dragons cartoon". So the players have to go in with the right frame of mind. You want your game to be like the first season of G.I. Joe where everyone worked together, not the seasons that featured (and were dominated by) Sgt. Slaughter.

Channel 5 has similar advice for the Game Master. Again emphasis here is placed on cartoon logic, and creating a fun series and episode. Don't forget the "And Now You Know" messages at the end! That's not a bug, it's a feature of the game.

In the end what we have is a crazy fun game again. If you were a kid in the 80s and watched any cartoons then there is something here for you. It is also a great change of pace from all the other games I play. This game focuses on having fun as well as being fun.

There are no conversions for CAH:S2 here. But the conversions look simple to be honest. Enough that I feel fine moving characters from one to the next with little to no effort.

Character Creation is much improved in this edition and much more streamlined. Series creation is about the same, but it was just right in the last version.

Looking forward to doing a lot more with this one!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3 rulebook
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XL1 Quest for the Heartstone (Expert)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/08/2013 14:27:56
Module XL1 Quest for the Heartstone is an adventure for the D&D Expert set, Mentzer/BECMI version.
Let's be honest and upfront right away. This is not a great module. The adventure is widely described as being akin to everyone's first module. The adventure is your basic "retrieve an item at the end of a dungeon crawl" fare.

The real reason behind this module are the toys. Specifically the LJN/AD&D toy line.

In fact you can pretty find an entry for every monster in the toy line, save for Tiamat herself.

Now I am not sure if the module was designed to sell toys (not likely since the markets seemed different to me) or rather as way to bridge the lines. There are references in the module n which toy to use for the encounter and to tell you the truth, it sounds kind of fun.

Reviewing the module again in this light, as an excuse to use the toy line, it actually dawns on me that it would be a blast with the right group.

It should also be said that this module includes the stats for many of the favorite npcs/figures such as Warduke, Kalek and Strongheart, plus a few I didn't even know about.

So viewing the module in this light, is could be quite fun despite it's short comings.

So 4/5. The adventure itself is more of a 2/5, but the stats and the idea of the using the toyline improves it in my mind.

[4 of 5 Stars!]
XL1 Quest for the Heartstone (Expert)
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The Shrine of St. Aleena
Publisher: Small Niche Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2013 12:58:55
Originally posted here:

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl.

The boy was just getting started out in his new life as an "adventurer". He didn't know much, and the girl even asked him if knew about clerics at all. But theirs was not a story to fill long epics or sagas. Her story ended then when she was murdered.

The Shrine of St. Aleena is an adventure in the lands where that boy who never forgot that girl, would later become a man, settle down, raise some kids and erect a 20 ft tall statue in honor of the saint she became and the girl she was.

The adventure "The Shrine of St. Aleena" is another act of devotion. Maybe by a similar boy, now 30 years later a man. Sorry, I don't know Peter C. Spahn personally. The adventure is designed for beginning level characters, levels 1-3, around the the eponymous shrine. Just like the old days there is a dungeon crawl and the surrounding environs where monsters can be fought and sometimes even NPCs can be befriended.

The central plot is that the minions of "The Infamous One", the wizard that killed that poor girl, are attempting to defile this most holy of places. It is up to this generation of heroes to once again stop his plans.

This could have come off as a ham fist attempt at nostalgia, but there is an earnestness about it and honesty that instead it comes off as loving tribute. The art, descriptions and some situations all have thinly-veiled references to things going on in the 80s in gaming that if you are the right age then you will find them very amusing. But if not, no worries, they still work in the adventure.

The plot is thin at best, but it's still more plot than most of the old-school adventures from the time when the Saint herself was still alive. So really, that is feature not a bug.

There is a great table of rumors (d12 though not a d20), plenty of random wilderness encounters (yeah a d20 table!) and of course that awesome site of the 20 ft statue of the saint (see cover). In true old-school fashion there are a lot of save or die encounters here, so you are warned.

The objective is easily defined, but there is a lot here to keep the party busy. A dedicated party could complete in one (longish) session. Most parties though will take more.

The only thing I think missing in this is some information on what the shrine is like after the defeat of the Spawn. Personally I think drinking from the pool grants a Cure Light Wounds once in a character's life time or maybe even a Bless enchantment. Another random table! d6 for random benefit!

In the end I really enjoyed this and plan on inserting it into my regular game as a "Side trek". That's pretty serious for me. I was limiting all my adventures to modules made in the 80s only.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Shrine of St. Aleena
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Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
Publisher: BRW Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/18/2013 12:20:27
Originally posted at:

If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.

I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard. While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise. Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.

Let be honest up front. We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before.
Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.

And none of that matters. This is still a great book.
At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in. So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes. But I am getting ahead of myself.

The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor. Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day. Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself. Maybe I'll see if I can do that here. The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.

The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions.
Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not score but an adjustment. Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules. Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt. Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text. Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful kickstarter for this (more on that later). The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.

All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.

Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries. Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines. This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages. I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900. Anyway it's a lot. I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were. Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those. There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.

The book sections are:
Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters
Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books.
Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.

Appendix A details creating your own monsters.
Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes.
Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes. This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book. Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago..
Appendix D is magic resistance table
and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.

All of this in a PDF for just under $15.

I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark. Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early. Let that sink in for a moment. In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early.
You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.

So should you get this book?

If you like monsters then yes. If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes. If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book. It is also the best book in his line.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
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Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
Publisher: BRW Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2013 13:54:12
Originally posted here:

One of the greatest books ever produced for any game is the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide. One of the most disappointing books ever made was the 2nd Edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

The logic for this was good. All the information that all players need should be in the Player's Handbook. The rest goes into the DMG. The result should be a larger Player's Book than a Game Master's book. That is what we got for 2nd ed. Somehow it didn't quite work as well.

Adventures Dark & Deep follows the same logic but gain a different result.
The Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit is the book that BRW and Joseph Bloch didn't have to do a Kickstarter for. The statement that Joe put out at the time was Kickstarters are for projects he needed to finish the funding for. The Game Masters Toolkit did not need it.

The GMTK is smaller than the Player's Book at 174 pages. Not as small as the 2nd ed DMG, but the comparison is there. The GMTK also includes some information from A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore but it also has a lot more.

The GMTK also follows an example from 2nd ed and it largely mirrors the layout and placement of sections form the Players Book. Something that the 1st ed DMG could have done better.
We start with a discussion on "alternate" races like the Dark Elf or Deep Gnome.
Various NPC types are discussed including class distribution and some non-classes like noble and hirelings.
There are tables to generate personalities and physical traits for random NPCs, as well as alignment and possessions.

We get into the Game Environment that is a hold over from A Curious Volume.
Swimming, Underwater travel and Flying are also discussed along with various terrains and hazards. A little bit down we have a section on ships that is greatly expanded. Again, could have used this when I was wrapping up my 1st Ed AD&D game.
The feel of these is similar to the classic DMG, but better organized.

Social Encounters come from A Curious Volume, but having them here in context with the other rules is much nicer.

Treasure types are discussed and magic item distribution.

The most interesting bits to me are coming up. To me this shows the influence of the 3e DMG or just a natural progression. Bloch covers not just the campaign world, the campaign mythos as well. So whether you like playing in a Classical world, a Lost Golden Age, Underground or even in a Lovecraftian-inspired world is up to you. You are given the tools to build what you need, but not the worlds themselves (this is Feature, not a Bug!).

Religion and Gods are covered next. Various reasons to have a god or a patron deity are covered and what sorts of powers they all have. The list of powers and abilities is more 1st Ed than 2nd Ed. I will also admit I don't know much off the top of my head about what Gygax said about gods and religions. I know he said some things. On a personal note I had conversations with Mr. Gygax himself on the topic of religion and I know he was no great fan despite his own history.
Bloch though moves on and gives us a sample Pantheon to use in our game, the Norse gods. Again from personal knowledge I know that Joseph Bloch is a fan of the Norse mythology and gods, so this is a good fit really. Though I do wonder at the utility of listing the XP for permanently slaying Odin (1,022,000 XP btw).

The Planes of Existence is up next and it is cut from the Gygaxian cloth. Wholly compatible to what we have seen in 1st and 2nd ed, there are some nice twists. I like the art depicting the planes in relationship to each other.

Next we get into a section on Designing Adventures. Covered are Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban. The section is not long, but very useful.

Magic Items are next. Personally I would have liked the charts for the Magic Items and the descriptions to all be in one place. This takes up quite a bit of the book at 70 pages.

Appendix A is last and it collects and reprints all the useful tables.

With the GMTK you can really see the utility of Adventures Dark & Deep over a reference guide like OSRIC. Not a slight at OSRIC at all, but this book has a slight edge in just by being a seperate Game Masters book.

To me the advantages of this book, all this information is one place, is better than say OSRIC or Labyrinth Lord + what is missing.

That being said, there are still some things I would have done differently. Most involve the placement of various section. Others I know are "locked" into the Gygazian visions or at least how Joseph Bloch interprets them. For me, I think I would have expanded the sections on adventuring in Dungeons, Wilderness and Urban settings more. I would have expanded the section on how to create magic items and even changed somethings. But that is me.

All in all this is a good addition to the game line. I felt less of the Gygax connection here. Hard to say if that is me not knowing what he said on these subjects OR these are things that need to be here logically to make the rest of the game work. In any case I am happy with what I got.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit
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