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Other comments left for this publisher:
Lowell Was Right! - A Very Different Now
by Kenneth S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/14/2014 13:50:45
I've yet to play this game but based on my first cursory read through I'm kind of in love with it.
I've yet to grok the mechanics, something to do with pools of D20s... there are two optional forms of this to choose from or mix together. There are Traits and Skills and Edges... some talk about 'setting stakes.'
Nothing jumped out at me as being too heavy or too clever/quirky... I'm guessing the system is fairly utilitarian and 'gets out of the way' quickly.

What REALLY has me soaring though is the setting... it's so familiar yet so strange!
At first I thought I'd have to suspend a lot, too much, disbelief to run/play in the alternative reality it presents... based on obsolete science... but then I realized how much fun/bizarre stuff became possible without directly confronting me with nonsense I couldn't swallow.
As the introduction states, this isn't Steampunk... it's based on science rather than SCIENCE! Everything in here extrapolates from acceptance of 1880's scientific assumptions, but takes part in our present day. So much is different though that it's pretty much another world.
No electronics but spaceflight is common (with lots of alien life forms on other planets)... evolution can happen in a flash, as can geological changes.
A particular favorite of mine is the scientific vindication of some of the claims of Spiritualism... and the idea of creating ghosts of living beings, on purpose, for various mundane purposes. It's a pretty wild idea in a book full of wild ideas... that aren't all that wild since they are based on a real world science that once was current/modern/up to date.

It's all a bit to wrap my head around... it's not a setting I think could just be jumped into... similar to brain-twisty stuff like Eclipse Phase this game was a bit of a mindwarp as I first read it... but it's a fun one, and not depressing/scary/uncomfortable the way Eclipse Phase felt at first.
Definitely recommended for at least a read through and mine for ideas, since I can't speak for how it plays... yet.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lowell Was Right! - A Very Different Now
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you, Ken! I\'m kind of in love with it too! This is the hardest game to describe I have ever designed, but you did a bang-up job of it! :D -clash
Volant - Kingdoms of Air and Stone
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/02/2013 16:22:32
WHAT WORKS: I love the setting concept. I love the idea of playing an adventurer riding around on a giant bird. It’s just cool. I really appreciate all of the tools provided to make Volant your own, right down to the resolution mechanic used. All of the various examples at the back of the book are certainly appreciated, and the maneuvers are a cool feature to provide mechanical support for more versatile combat.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: The extra cost tables on weapon creation just seem out of place because, unless I missed it, there is no real benefit to paying more for better quality weapons…so why would you? As much as I love tools and random charts, I do also like having ready-made material to work with, so I would have appreciated a larger bestiary.

CONCLUSION: This one “sings” to me more than clash’s other games do, because of the fantasy element over the alternate history element. That and it’s just overloaded with cool factor. Also, I can’t NOT love this many random charts in one book. This is definitely not your average fantasy game. There’s no dwarves, elves, gnomes or halflings, or orcs, goblins and drow here. That said, if you’re wanting something you can just jump right into and run, that’s not going to work unless you’re adept at running with the random results. That’s not a knock on the game, just an observation. My favorite iteration of StarCluster yet.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2013/06/tommys-take-o-
n-volant-kingdoms-of-air.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Volant - Kingdoms of Air and Stone
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Volant - Kingdoms of Air and Stone
by Andrew M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2013 11:49:25
My first-read review of Volant is that it's a good value. The writing is clean and straightforward, and the writer sticks with his concept and keeps the whole deal coherent, both the milieu and the book's content and construction. Most of the things you'd want to see covered in a book about a world of floating cities and giant birds are here, and they seem well-designed. Twelve dollars is a fine price, although page-count padding abounds, like it does with all of these projects, with loads of white space and full-page art that's nothing special.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Shebang
by Stephen Y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2013 09:50:53
For £5.26, Shebang is 196 pages, of which 192 are the rules,maps, etc.
There are 2 colour maps included.
The character sheet is one page, but has an ink heavy top part (picture).
Your character starts off with either 40 or 55 points to spend on 5 attributes.

The setting is Mars; where the wealthy/powerful, prey on/use the less fortunate (dog eat dog).

The prices are in dollars. The weapons have restrictions.
The PDF can be ink heavy if printed; it's not as bad as World of Wonder, but it will still consume some ink.

Mechanics: 1D6 modified by the difficulty of the action. Modifiers are applied to the character's chance of success, not the dice roll itself.

It's not bad; so I'll give it 4/5.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shebang
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In Harm's Way: StarCluster - Five Ships
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/16/2013 11:58:29
Herein are presented five military vessels, in the service of the SaVaHuTa Navy. Naturally, if you are playing a different game, you may assign them to whatever naval forces suits.

Two are quite small and agile, built for stealth - one is intended for unorthodox inter-ship warfare (but can also carry and land ground-pounders) and the other is designed for infiltration, sneaking up on large enemy ships or planets to land its complement of warriors.

The rest are much more massive. If things go wrong, there is a giant hospital ship. Despite being painted in bold colours, so that its nature is plain to all who see it, it is able to defend itself if the need arises. Conventional enemies might respect the non-combatant status of a hospital, but who knows what aliens think?

There is a bizarre thing called the Three Amigos, basically three capital ships linked on a spinal mount, each capable of being released to perform different functions once the big engines on the spine get them to where they are needed. And finally there's an even more bizarre and unorthodox vessel called The Last Resort. This has an innovative array of spines - making it look like a hedgehog or porcupine - the idea being that any incoming fire is going to hit spines rather than the actual hull.

The download contains a PDF with rather crude pictures and plenty of background about each ship and a spreadsheet (you'll need Microsoft Excel to open it) with all the statistics needed for this ruleset. The information in the PDF is the sort of thing that might - provided you are on the same side as the navy using them - be found on your ship's library computer... or maybe in an intelligence report if they are your enemies.

This would be good for ship-to-ship combat under the Star Cluster ruleset, or as some really strange vessels passing by whatever rules you are using. There are no deckplans, so don't get too tactical when visiting any of them, though. However, I enjoy collecting unusual vessels from other games to puzzle my Traveller players, and these will be really useful for that!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In Harm's Way: StarCluster - Five Ships
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StarCluster 3 Five Ships
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/15/2013 09:27:38
This is rather a neat idea: five specific ships each with its own purpose and backstory. They're suitable for passing encounters, part of the backdrop that forms your universe - if your plot causes for much action aboard any of them some further development work may be needed - in particular, no deckplans are provided.

The information comes in two parts. There's a PDF document with a one- or two-page summary of each vessel along with rather crude illustrations. It's at about 'library data' levels of information, the sort of thing that characters ought to be able to access if they think of it when they encounter the ship in question. The second part is a spreadsheet (you'll need Microsoft Excel to read it) with full game details for each ship. You could use this as a basis for conversion if you want to use this ships in another game system, should you have a need for actual numbers (if you just have them happen by, that may not be needed).

The ships are the Petronius, a 'resource-extraction ship' - basically an ore processing plant with drives attached, the Kirin System Police HQ and one of the cruisers based there, the Hare's Rest (a smuggler ship), the Enchanting Esmerelda (a touring theatrical ship - perhaps bringing a whole new meaning to the term 'space opera'!) and the Winston Powell University. This last is a travelling educational establishment in which students and teachers get to go see what they are studying rather than just read about it. Wonderful idea, although I wouldn't care to speculate how high tuition fees are!

These are really inventive and whatever space-faring game you play you may well find a use for at least one of these.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
StarCluster 3 Five Ships
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Outremer
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/02/2013 09:26:12
OVERVIEW

Outremer: A Dream of What Could Have Been is a Alternate History game of the Crusades, set in the Levant. Outremer, comes from the French and means Overseas, as the Holy Lands of the Crusades were called. The subject of Historical/Alternate History RPGs is an interesting one, as traditionally there have been relatively few historical RPGs. Most authors instead opting for alternate earths with faux versions of historical societies, or outright fantasy worlds. Which is a shame, as historical adventure makes for very fertile ground for RPGs.

This has been true for most fiction as well, your author was relatively unfamiliar with the Crusades themselves, in part due to the limited amount of source material. As part of my reading, I read through the historical adventures of Robert E. Howard, of Conan fame. First the omnibus by Bison Books Lord of Samarcand and other adventure tales of the Old Orient There is also his collection Sword Woman and other Historical Adventures . Howard himself talks about this limited love for Historical Adventure compared to Fantasy, Weird, and Science Fiction Tales, in a letter to a friend, written after he had completed the Sowers of Thunder.

"And Babar the Tiger who establishes the Mogul rule in India — and the imperial phase in the life of Babair the Panther the subject of my last story — and the conquest of Constantinople by the Fifth Crusade — and the subjugation of the Turks by the Arabs in the days of Abu Bekr — and the gradual supplanting of the Arab masters by their Turkish slaves which culminated by the conquest of Asia Minor and Palestine by the Seljuks — And the rise of Saladin — and the final destruction of Christian Outremer by Kalawun — and the First Crusade — Godfrey of Boullion, Baldwin of Boulogne, Bohermund — Sigurd the Josala-farer — Barbarossa — Couer de Lion. Ye Gods, I could write a century and still have only tapped the reservoir of dramatic possibilities. I wish to hell I had a dozen markets for historical fiction — I’d never write anything else."

Another Author I read is Howard Lamb, his Swords from the West and other Swords from Series have great Historical adventure. Even Hollywood has only done a few Crusader movies. The most recent being Ridley Scott’s the Kingdom of Heaven (which has gorgeous shots, but is kind of dull, thought its version of Baldwin makes for great inspiration. I also watched Arn: The Knight Templar, based on the popular Swedish book series by Jan Gaillou. And of course, there are innumerable books on the subject. I read through Thomas Madden’s A Concise History of the Crusades. For further reading Check the Crusades titles by Thomas Asbridge and Armin Malouf. But I digress

Outremer: A Dream of what could have been, part of Flying Mice Games ‘Blood Games’ line, in which the option of Magic is included, is a Historical Adventure RPG set during the Crusades, in a alternate history where the Crusader states were able to survive into the 16th century. Although it could use some more introductory text and supplementary material., Outremer provides a set serviceable rules, a novel campaign setup, and an option for troupe play, that come together to deliver solid historical adventure RPG in a field with a dearth of titles. Check it out, God Wills it!


THE PDF

293 Page PDF, Color Illustrations, as well as some black and white line art. historical looking pieces done as paint filtered, brings across mood/feel ok. Good for most part. It is laid out as a single column with a sidebar in a serif font. It consists mostly of black white text and tables, with a few art pieces here and there. Serviceable and is relatively printer friendly due to its simple design aesthetic, . It is easy to read and has plenty of whitespace. However, some of the text has been cut and pasted from another game in the “Blood Games” line, On Her Majesty’s Arcance Service (OHMAS), or Starpool, which you will see reference to where it should be Outremer. So –1 point there.

INTRODUCTION:

The introductionIs fairly dense, and focuses on the history of the crusades. The text could have used more Historical asides here and there, such as the one included on Hulagu of the Mongols. (An appropriate one would have been a note on the assasination of Saladin as historically the old Man of the Mountains and the Assassins of Ismali attempts on Saladin’s life). Later in the chapter a Timeline of the Crusade era, as well as the alternate Outremer timeline is given. Which would have been better first. A brief overview of the Crusades themselves probably would have helped make this game more accessible. A couple of Maps are included which help.

Probably the most interesting/contentious element of the game, that despite it being a alternate history that closely follows history in the real world, that the game includes magic in the setting. However, the designer makes a good point, the power of faith and a belif in magic played a real role in the historical crusades, consider the siege of Antioch, the Crusaders were trapped by the Turks, starving, and by all rights ready for defeat. Then a monk by the name of Peter Bartholomew dreamed that the Spear of Loginus, the relic used to wound Christ on the Cross, was buried in the city. After much digging in St Peters, the Crusader leaders produced a rusty spearhead. Believing it the Holy Lance, the Crusaders managed to sally forth and defeat the Turks.

Or consider the capturing of Jerusalem during the first crusade. Starving and with their numbers greatly decreased, the Crusaders won Jerusalem after the Barefoot Procession. The barefoot procession occurred after a Priest by the name of Peter Desiderius claimed to have a divine vision in which the ghost of Adhemar instructed them to fast for three days and then march in a barefoot procession around the city walls, after which the city would fall in nine days. Amazingly enough, the crusaders marched barefoot, while the Fatimid forces jeered them. And, they were able to successfully besiege the city and the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. So there is precedent for miraculous happenstance. Of course, it easy enough to ignore the magic bits, or declare them charlatanry, or outrageous luck at your table.

THE SYSTEM & COMBAT SYSTEM

Outremer uses the “Starpool” house system from Flying Mice’s Starcluster game. This can be deduced by the fact that the text is cut and pasted without changing the chapter name. Task Resolution has the character rolling xD20 as a dice pool against a target number equal to the controlling attribute for the skill. (Attributes have a max of 15 usually). Characters roll a base D20 plus one D20 versus, an individual target number, for each point of skill. 0+ skill leaves you with one die against a Target Number equal to the controlling attribute. For every 5 ranks in a skill, a character has a level of Mastery which lets him reroll his skill attempt if the attempt fails.

Combat is a standard actions in initiative order individual attack and defense actions type system. The system is moderately lethal, and a competent and functional traditional combat system. Healing is fairly quick in the system, and there is possibility of magical healing. In addition rules for diseases and other typical hazards are included.

CREATING YOUR ASSOCIATION

Unfortunately, the game falls down a bit in its presentation in that there is no explanation of the overall design of the game. Such as the fact that each of the characters is assumed to belong to an Association. (It is tucked away in the GM section, and the discussion of troupe style play, for which this game is a great fit, is in the appendices. Also, Can I get a search and replace on that, it has OHMAS in several places where it should be Outremer.)

Now that we have figured that out, each player character is assumed to be part of the same association or organization. These organizations can be one of a variety of associations. Mercenary companies, holy orders, Courtier Retinue, Government Agency, Secret society, religious cult, Witch Hunters, scholars, or part of a trading company. You determine the capital available to the Organization, and use these ‘points’ to purchase a home base and attendant amenities. A Mountain Stronghold would cost your Assassin organization 256. The options range from a literal hole in the ground (caves) to a full on palace. You then spend the remaining points on a number of “areas of interest”, with a logistics and maintenance overhead. These amenities/areas of interest include guards and security, espionage assets, warships, transport, medical assets, armory, Arcane library, Training, Cartography, Mercenaries, Artificers. This system will let the players build their own Monastery Fortress “Krak Des Chevalier”, or the mountain stronghold the Ismali Assassins and the Old Man of the mountain. Each amenity gives the characters access to various bits of equipment, retainers, etc, and serve as great plot hooks.

CHARACTER CREATION

Outremer’s character creation is done using a life-path system. Which I find helps immerse the characters more in the setting as they see their character evolve from the environment into which they are born. One of the biggest considerations for characters, if magic “is real” is if character follows a magical path. Which is a total commitment, they are limited to one Path of Power. Which offer great benefits and advantages. These paths include The Esotericist, The Magus, Minstrels, Crusader/Ghazi (holy/warrior paladin), The Kabbalist, The Sorcerer, Mechanists, Oracles, and Dervishes. Then there are the “quasi-path” hedge mystic types including fortune tellers, snake charmers. etc. There also options for non-humans, Half-angels, Immortals (there can be only one, or should be in a party), and Half-djinn. But we are interest in historical gaming, so you can agree to ban all this stuff at your table.

Eschewing these options, we go back to our life-path character creation. You first decide on a characters attributes (max of 15), distributing 44 points or a making a random roll for Strength(STR), Coordination(COOR), Agility (AGY), Endurance(END), and Charisma(CHA). In addition points are distributed or randomly for characters Intelligence (INT), Magical Potential (MAG), and Family Lifestyle stats. Family Lifestyle here is a bit like Social from Traveller. Players then have a life stages, mother’s milk (you get a few points to spend on skill your character would have learned growing up, at age 10), then Apprenticeship (Artisan, Farmer, Scholar, etc.) and Journeyman stages. The character must meet attribute requirements and lifestyle requirements . The is a waiver roll to let the character enter it anyway, each apprenticeship, journeymanship, and profession has similar rules and skills and attributes available to those in it, similar to Careers in Warhammer.

So overall a solid system though it can be a bit lengthy. This flexibility and depth of detail in the character creation system is taken advantage of in the GM section by pointing out how a character can be ‘scaled’ to a particular “age” or stop on his lifepath, and then have adventures occur there. So it offers flexibility in play as well. Overall a good system, reminiscent of Warhammers careers.

RELIGION

A chapter with a brief outline of the major tenets and religious observances of the major faiths, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are given, as well as rules for Tests of Faith, Tests of Will, possession and Relics Artifacts. The section on Islam is both respectful, and includes details on the many sects within the religion.

THE NATIONS OF OUTREMER

This chapter outlines the major nations of Outremer (there are many, as it was a very balkanized area inhabiated by many people.) An overview of the many peoples and how they are referred to as well as the major languages of the setting are included. Included in each description are overview of the states relations with the other city-states and holdings, as well as common traits of the people. It is a good chapter for all of the players to read, and perhaps print out, as its exotic names and overview of each nation are inspiring. Consider the Order State of Ascalon, with major holdings by The Knights Templar, Knights Hospitalier, Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Knights of St. Lazarus, and the Teutonic Knights

APPENDICES:

The appendices are full of good supplementary material including Historical/Culturally appropriate names for Frankish, Arabic, Armenian, Jewish, Byzantine, Bohemian, Kurdish and Turkish peoples. A short chapter on Cuisine discussing the major foods that would be available as well as the common types of dishes, and the diets practiced by the various faiths. Good Info for bringing across the exotic atmosphere, no monkey brains though. There is an appendix Muslim Titles, so you know a Turkish Atabeg from a Egyptian Caliph, from a Mongol Khan. Again, brings across the exotic atmosphere.

APPENDICE A: Options

This chapter is full of good stuff for adding optional rules. The most interesting being the rules for Troupe play. Which along with the Generational play style outlined in the all too brief Game master chapter is a great fit for this game.

SUMMARY

Overall Outremer is an unpolished Gem. It is chock full of Crusader era goodness and cool ideas. It could stand more detail for historical play and supplementary material to get people into the Crusader states and the Outremer setting.. My biggest complain is that that it is underdeveloped and underwritten at the moment. The game could use more explanatory text, and editing of its imported sections. Some of the sections feel more like notes than a full text. But if you and your group are up to diving in and using the bare bones presented, you have a solid set of rules and inventive alternate history to explore a terribly underrepresented and exciting setting for historical adventure. Check it out. God Wills it!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Outremer
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Outremer
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2012 20:49:12
WHAT WORKS: I really do love clash’s layout, with the helpful details in sidebars. The extra detail being present in the book so I don’t have to look for it is also great. I’m a big fan of both Lifepaths and random charts.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: If you already own On Her Majesty’s Arcane Service, a lot of that book is present in this one, including the art. An unfortunate side effect of making a game completely self contained. For me, personally, the Middle East – past or present – isn’t a section of the world that holds a ton of interest for me as a gamer.

CONCLUSION: For me, personally, Outremer falls short against the previous Blood Games releases due to the focus of the game: As mentioned, I have no interest in playing or GMing in a Middle Eastern setting, historical or not. That said, the material in this book is completely compatible with the other two games if you have the extra to spend. Not a bad game, just not my cup of tea, setting-wise. Might just scratch your itch for fantastic historical horror set in the Middle East, though.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2012/12/tommys-take-o-
n-outremer.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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StarCluster 2 Guide to Cluster Religions
by Chet C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/15/2012 23:55:21
Something of a disappointment. With the richness of the multitude of religions and philosophic traditions on Earth, one naturally would assume an extrapolation of what mankind would carry into the stars. Instead, these look more like random elements brought together through random generator charts. There are a couple of interesting ideas in here, but nothing which indicates any research was done, beyond the superficialities of a Wikipedia article. I give 'em three stars for effort.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
StarCluster 2 Guide to Cluster Religions
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In Harm's Way
by Steven M W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/02/2011 17:00:37
Well, I finally had to buy it. There just aren't enough Age of Sail RPGs out there that I could ignore this one. Unfortunately, though, I wish I had. Not that it's bad; it isn't. It has interesting character creation and group dynamic rules that would encourage roleplaying. Where it falls short is in integrity of period detail and overall atmosphere. I know that it says right in the blurb that it is aimed more at adventure than historical recreation, but that doesn't excuse the GROSS inaccuracies in their nautical presentation. What really bothers me is that young players coming to the genre through this particular game will tend to take what it professes at face value and encourage ignorance in others they may bring to the hobby.

If you're thinking about buying this and don't have a copy of FGU's old classic Privateers and Gentlemen, do yourself a favor and pick that one up instead!

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
In Harm's Way
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StarCluster 3 - Developer's Edition
by Erathoniel W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/08/2011 20:50:49
Starcluster has a lot of stuff going for it, and a lot against it.

The system's pretty good, and I really enjoyed the setting in many ways, but there's a sort of do-everything mentality. This isn't necessarily bad, but you'll run into a lot of stuff you don't necessarily need, and a lot of stuff is over-detailed or under-detailed.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
StarCluster 3 - Developer's Edition
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the Tools of Ignorance
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/22/2011 04:38:28
The Good:

- I still love the trademark layout.
- Written clearly enough that even someone who isn't a baseball fanatic figured most of it out without doing any outside research.
- I love the random charts for "life events".
- Simple enough system with nice options for some extra oomph.
- Rules for playing through games, or simulating them with one roll.

The Bad:

- Not "bad" per se, but you do need to know at least a fair bit about baseball.
- There were some editing issues at the time of the review, but the author has since fixed those.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/02/tommys-take-o-
n-tools-of-ignorance.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
the Tools of Ignorance
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On Her Majesty's Arcane Service
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/07/2010 16:24:31
On Her Majesty’s Arcane Service is a new RPG released by Clash Bowley and Flying Mice Games, based off of his Blood Games II setting. Rather than the more modern horror approach of Blood Games II, On Her Majesty’s Arcane Service is more of a historical horror game, set specifically in 16th century England. I have both the PDF and a the POD version of the game. The PDF is available from Precis Intermedia Games’ website (www.pigames.net) for $10, and the POD version is available from Lulu for $22.71.
PDF vs POD
The PDF is full color and bookmarked. Clash has filled his RPG with clipart, but the vibrant colors of the PDF make much of the art stand out in a very good way. The art doesn’t look as impressive in the black and white tones of the POD version. As well, the formatting clearly wasn’t designed with POD in mind, as part of the back cover blurb is covered by the UPC code. Just speaking aesthetically, unless you have a hatred for PDFs, I would recommend the PDF over the hardcopy, as the PDF just looks better, top to bottom.
Table of Contents
We do get a Table of Contents, with chapter headings. Always a good sign. I can get around a lack of index in RPG books, but when they don’t even bother with a table of contents, that’s just annoying.
Introduction
Before I begin breaking down the chapters, I do want to comment here: I love Clash’s layout. He does a single column of text on the pages, and on the side he has little headings relating to the subject matter. I loved that in Blood Games II and that continues here. Anyway, the introduction begins with the history of this earth, up through the 16th century. It begins by talking about Homo Sapiens being hunted and stalked by Vampires, Lycanthropes and Demons. Enoch is sent to earth bequeaths both civilization and magic to humans. Humans beat back the darkness, but Demons find new ways to counter the advancements of humans and return in force. The battle has waged back and forth, slowing the advancement of humans. It is now the 16th century, Elizabeth has just become queen, and forced Catholics to the fringes.
Dr. John Dee, at the orders of Queen Elizabeth, has headed up Her Majesty’s Arcane Service, a secret force designed to protect England from mystical attack. Dee is a devoutly religious man, guided by angels to find his agents, PC and NPC alike.
The game is designed with a pretty clear focus, spelled out as the book discusses PCs. Namely, PCs are assumed to be agents of Dee’s, and assumed to be some denomination of Christian (any other religions need some work by the GM and player to make sense).
A section follows on group set-up, with PCs being Path (magical) characters or Non-Path (non magical) characters. What follows is a paragraph on each character type, and their typical role in the party, from Hunters and Templars to completely unskilled parties. Blood Games II included a similar section and it is a helpful read.
Creating Your Association
The group begins by creating their own branch of Her Majesty’s Arcane Service. The GM can decide how much starting “capital” the organization has, or they can roll 1d20 on the included chart. From there, you determine what kind of organization this is, once again determined by random roll or selection, and including entries such as Witch Hunters, a trading company, military, government diplomats or even simply an extended family. The book provides a helpful, short description of each entry.
Now, the group selects their home base, and a two page chart follows showing various entries, and their cost depending on their placement (broken down to “In London and out of London”). These range from palaces to working farms to derelict castles to pubs, warships and even pocket universes! A very nice selection covering all “levels” of games.
The group next needs to fund Areas of Interest, defined as Guards and Security, Espionage, Warships, Transport, Medical, Arcane Library, Training, Cartography, Mercenaries, Artificers and Device Development, and Logistics and Maintenance. This section expands on each entry, detailing costs of pikemen, details on tomes and libraries, costs of mercenaries and more. The chapter ends with a helpful worksheet designed to keep the numbers straight.
I like this system, but the downside seems to be that it is geared towards something of an in-group “game” where each side haggles for what they think is appropriate. As I often GM for only one or two players at a time, a lot of that would be lost. A little crunchier than, say, the Angel RPG organization rules, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Creating A Character
Character creation is handled via a Lifepath system. You start at 10 years old and age through Apprentice and Journeyman stages before seeking out professional life. Come up with a basic, short concept and decide if you are making a Path character or a Non-Path character. You have two choices for character generation: Point Buy, which gives you 44 points for physical attributes (Strength, Coordination, Agility and Endurance) and 180 points for mental attributes (Intelligence, IQ, Magic, Lifestyle and Charisma), or a random roll method in which you use 2d6 for your physical attributes and percentile die for your mental. Next, take four “Mother’s Milk” skill ranks – that is, skills you would have had before the age of 10. Find an Apprenticeship that suits you. If you meet the prerequisites for it, you’re fine…if not, you can make a waiver roll on a d20 to bypass those requirements. This grants you 9 skill ranks/attribute increases. Next comes Journeyman, which is handled the same way. From this point on, you can decide if you want to take a Path or not. If so, that opens up new skill and attribute opportunities, as well as special abilities. Then, you begin selecting professions. You take one increase per year spent in the profession with an additional increase for every six years in the profession, and you can change at any time. This persists until the character is “aged” appropriately. Every two years in the profession, you have an opportunity for advancement, which can increase your Lifestyle. For finishing touches, add 7 levels of Traits, which can be taken from a sample list, or defined by you. One example from the Traits section featured a character using his 2 ranks of “Goad” on a guard. You calculate your Constitution score from your physical attributes, select starting gear and you’re finished.
The chapter continues with a brief note on die mechanics. The Starpool system which powers On Her Majesty’s Arcane Service uses a d20 die pool with every roll under the target number counting as a success. Also, like BGII before it, a character only advances once a year, and is assumed to have approximately one major adventure a year.
I do love Lifepath systems. I generally find them to be much fun. I am a tad different in that I largely prefer a slightly more random element to my lifepaths, but I have long thought that the Starpool lifepath system to be a very solid system.
After the outline of character creation mentioned above, the book goes into much deeper detail, including discussion of Deterioration, which becomes a reality as characters enter their mid 30s.
Next we get a listing of Apprenticeships. Each listing has Prerequisites, Waiver Rolls, Lifestyle and Skills Available. You can take an apprenticeship as a Thief, Warrior, Hunter (not to be confused with the magical character type), Priest and more. From there is the listing of Journeyman entries, which has the same detail and includes being a Thug, Soldier, Sailor, Trapper, Squire and more. Finally, we get listings of professions, such as Pirate, Artist, Explorer, Engineer, Priest, Lord, Spy and much more.
A sample character, Sir Edmund Teague, is created for our perusal. Teague is a point buy soldier turned Esotericist.
Character Options
Half-Angels are just as they sound, but with a twist: While not born of a union between humans and angels, they are born of a lineage in which an angel has previously bred, and they have a latent gene which has activated. Half-Angels are always twins, one with light coloring ad wings and one with dark coloring and wings. Normal humans are incapable of perceiving Half-Angels for what they are. As in BGII, Half-Angels are so rare that if there are two in a party, the book STRONGLY recommends that they are twins. Half-Angels can fly, heal, make flaming weapons, and communicate telepathically. Once they have declared allegiance to the light or dark, they gain access to a few more powers, such as Auras of Light or Darkness, or emitting pure Awe or Menace.
Immortals have a destiny that MUST be fulfilled before they can die. Once they die their “first death” they become trapped in that form for the rest of their existence. They can’t even learn new skills, though they can “forget” ranks of skills and reassign those ranks to new skills. Only when they accomplish what they were fated to accomplish can death take them.
Changelings come in two varieties: fairies who have been left in the place of human babies, and human babies who have grown up in Faery. Fairy Changelings can access some oof the more magical Paths of Power, while Human Changelings are just like humans, physically, except they always exude just a bit of that fairy magic on them. They can learn some fairy magic, but can never take a Path of Power.
Hunters are kind of like the setting’s answer to Slayers, except gender neutral. They are humans enhanced by magic to fight the darkness, and are capable of low-end wire-fu type combat.
The Esotericists are scholars devoted to learning the secrets of the supernatural world, and combine all manner of mystical, scientific and religious study to that purpose. They can cast spells, create relics and have magical Grimoires that house their knowledge.
The Magus are followers of the Archangels, and the ones that imbue Hunters with their power. Each Magus follows a single Archangel, who grants them power over the areas that the Archangel lords over.
Templars are Holy Warriors. Once called, their creation also releases a Demon from Hell. The Templar knows its name and some of its personality, and is tasked with sending it back. Templars are also granted a small selection of Miracles they can use on their adversaries.
The Savant is basically a magical scientist, using logic to master mysticism. Savants can create Wards, read Astrological charts, Commune with spirits, create dimensional pockets, and more.
A Warlock’s main schtick is summoning spirits. They can call them, anchor them and even clothe the spirits in flesh. Warlocks have a very bad reputation, but aren’t inherently evil.
Cunning Folk use “folk magic” to achieve their ends, but neither they, nor their targets, realize that they aren’t actually using magic, but merely reinforcing their target’s belief in the desired effect.
Minstrels are similar to the classic Bards from Dungeons & Dragon, using their music to achieve effects bordering (and sometimes crossing that border) on magical. They can boost or lower a listener’s attributes, and even affect their memories.
The book shifts to normal humans and how they view the types of magic that they are even aware of. As well, it provides for an otherwise unpowered human to have developed some manner of “gift” from their contact with the supernatural: a talent that isn’t normal and can’t really be controlled.
OHMAS Skills and Traits
Skills give you extra dice to roll when attempting a task. If you are riding a horse and have Riding +3, you roll 4 dice (you always get one) and try to roll under your target number. For every five levels in a skill that you have, that’s a Level of Mastery, and that grants you a reroll if you fail. Simple and effective.
The skill list itself takes up four and a half pages, and that’s a bit larger than I tend to like for a skill list. However, the less than crippling penalties for not having a skill makes that slightly less annoying.
Next, we cover traits, which I went over above. Just short descriptors to flesh out the characters.
Finally, we get a look at unarmed fighting styles…specifically, Boxing, Brawling and Wrestling.
Religion
This chapter plunges headlong into the Seven Sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Unction, Matrimony, Holy Orders and Penance, as well as a fairly detailed description of each. Then the book moves into the differences between the Roman Church and Church of England. This section also touches on Calvinists and Puritans.
The chapter rounds out with Tests of Faith for confronting Demons and Vampires and the like, Tests of Will for the less devout to fend off Demonic Influences and rules for Possessions.
Adventure Generator
Yes! I love adventure generators! This one is pretty straightforward. Get a d20 and roll on the tables, or move through them picking for inspiration. You start with a rumor, move to a place, a table for finding out what is behind the rumor, how much the association stands to gain from the adventure and “sweeteners”. Then the book helpfully provides a list of adventures made with the generator.
Finally, there are bounties which can be tacked onto the adventures and up the PCs overall standard of living.
Non-Player Characters
Another fine chapter after my own heart: Need to generate an NPC and don’t want to put a ton of work into it? A series of tables that let you roll up on NPC, including quick rolls for attributes, personality hook, skill levels and more. As well, the book also provides a handy list of pre-made mercs, thugs and mooks to be used, hired and dealt with as need be.
Magic
We get a quick overview of how Magic works in BGII, namely using a characters MAG points as placeholders for magic effects. The chapter explicitly points out that no Magic is permanent, even magic used to empower items. Magi and Minstrels use MAG points differently, using them up in a session, with them returning at the next one. This chapter includes the Laws of Correspondence, the rules which govern the use of magic in the setting.
The chapter concludes with a list of very common spells, common spells, uncommon spells and rare spells.
Starpool Dice Mechanic
An in-depth chapter detailing just how the dice mechanic works, from basic d20 rolls to Quality of Success (every ten points of success is an additional level of Quality of Success). As well, the book provides a fairly common sense guideline of what attributes a given action should fall under.
Initiative is handled like everything else: Roll a d20 and lowest roll is best. However, you can move up or down the initiative chain by adding or subtracting resolution dice. That is, if you roll a 10 and want to move faster, you can give up one of the dice you will roll for your action and drop to a 7 on the initiative chart. If you are convinced you can succeed and don’t need to go quickly, you can add an additional die to your action but move your initiative to a 13. Armor modifies the target number to hit someone, and combat has a bit of a death spiral where you take penalties as you lose Constitution points to damage.
In combat, Levels of Mastery grant you additional attacks, whether or not you succeed on the initial attack. This chapter also discusses Healing, magical and otherwise, as well as bits like splitting dice pools for actions (pretty much as simple as it sounds).
Creatures and the Spirit World
This is pretty much the bestiary of the book. It begins with a discussion of the Spirit World, the inhabitants therein and how to enter the Spirit World. The Spirit World presented here is a lot like the Astral Plane in a good deal of other sources, with the silver cord tethering the traveler to their body. It also details spirits crossing over into the physical world, such as by following the severed string of a now deceased traveler in the Spirit World.
A large list of spirit creatures are present, from the fire-based salamanders, to hags, demons, nymphs, ghosts, devils (these are the fallen angels of Christian lore) and djinn (and much more). The book then moves into other creatures like zombies, lycanthropes, and even skeptics, normal people whose skepticism can disrupt magical powers. One glaring omission is vampires, who are mentioned at the beginning of the book as being enemies of humankind, and from whom the whole Blood Games title comes from.
Next is a detailed discussion of fairies, all of whom are born the same and later grow into a different kind of fairy depending on how they live their lives. A few, like elves, can pass for human and live among humans, often in leadership roles. Other fairies include ogres, trolls and redcaps on the darker end, and brownies and piskies on the nicer end.
Weapons and Equipment
Pretty much what you expect: A sprawling list of weapons, armor and equipment available in 16th century England. The neatest part is the discussion of the importance of equipment, such as how important clothing was to 16th century England.
While there is no chapter break here, I’m sure there was probably meant to be one, but we move into the counties of England. Very helpfully done, this lays out the 39 counties of England with about a paragraph on each and a URL for a map of each county. This ends with an overview of the counties, which should probably have gone first.
Government and Politics
This provides some insight into the political structure of England in the 16th century, discussing Parliament, courtiers, nobles and so forth. The chapter then moves to a less generalized discussion, talking about the people of Elizabeth’s court from the Queen herself, and including Lord Robert Dudley, Mary, Queen of Scots, Sir Walter Raleigh, Dr. John Dee and even William Shakespeare.
Game Mastering
One of the first things this chapter points out is that the second the game begins, history has been changed, so if the PCs wind up altering things, let it go. Good advice. No plot immunity for you, William Shakespeare! From there it touches on things like Flashbacks, Foreshadowing and different kinds of play, including Generational Play where the PCs play different branches of their family tree, perhaps battling an adversary throughout different eras.
Appendix A: Optional Rules
This gets into optional rules like Plot Points (which can make an action an automatic success or failure), Troupe Play (everyone has multiple characters) including different types of Troupe Play (Mission Impossible style has the group leader selecting the participants for each mission, for instance).
Lastly, the book ends with an index, a character sheet, a character creation worksheet (for tracking advancements in the lifepath) and personal information sheets.
Overall
First, again, unless you hate PDFs, buy the PDFs. The art looks MUCH better. As for the game itself? I’m not a huge fan of the “alternate history England” thing (although its pretty much only alternate due to the presence of monsters and the PCs). For me, I think I would prefer Blood Games II and the more modern approach. However, OHMAS clocks in at over twenty pages more than BGII and still feels more tightly written. The Association rules and the Adventure Generator are great additions, as is the fairy material. The absence of vampires seems odd, but if you have Blood Games II they should plug right in with no problems. Clash once more does an amazing job for what is pretty much a one man operation. All of the various character types feel unique against one another, even if aspects of their mechanics work the same (such as Magi and Minstrels burning pools of Magic points each session).
If you like horror games (specifically, heroes fighting the darkness) games, and you especially like historical games, drop the 10-spot on the PDF. If you are living outside the US, then that’s pretty much the only option unless Lulu has stopped killing people on shipping. Very strong recommendation.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
On Her Majesty's Arcane Service
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High Valor
by Thomas B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2010 12:04:19
The Bad: A few poorly selected fonts, instances of "dwarves and elves who aren't dwarves and elves" and the usual (minor) issues of mechanics in which players do all the rolling. The Good: Very strong focus on epic storytelling, flavorful Magic and Faith mechanics, and a great deal of flexibility while still retaining the "game". For a more detailed review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2010/07/tommys-take-o-
n-high-valor.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
High Valor
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Hearts & Souls
by Todd M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/07/2010 21:28:29
Art: don't care. I'd give any product more stars if it didn't have any.
This is a very character driven, rules medium rare game. Does what it claims, no more, no less. Bonus for honesty.

At the moment it is five bucks. For an honest, low maintenance, low buy in game there is really nothing to gripe about. The 'no art' thing really is a vast minority request.

Good job.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hearts & Souls
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