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Colonial Gothic: Rulebook Second Edition
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/14/2014 18:06:49
WHAT WORKS: I'm a fairly psychotically patriotic, idealistic American, so playing or running a game at the dawn of the United States is cool to me, and adding in demons and devils and overwhelming eeeeevil just makes it cooler. I love a magic system with a chance of failure and consequences, which this certainly provides. It also provides utility spells, which are often omitted to the annoyance of many gamers of many games. The Action Points can easily make the game as cinematic as you like, by forcing success assuming you have any stockpiled at all, and you don't roll just miserably.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Not enough random tables. What? I like random tables. Rolling Ability Tests seems like a dicey proposition, as you are rolling 2d12 and trying to get under a single number ranked 1-12. The creation guidelines for monsters and adversaries worries me that the game could get a tad hefty on the book keeping end for GMs. Personally speaking, I would totally have placed the rules after the character creation. Just felt jarring to me.

CONCLUSION: I'd wanted to check this game out for some time, and I was glad to finally get a chance to. Supernatural action/horror in the time of the American Revolution ranks up there pretty highly on my list of "likes", right behind supernatural action/horror in the American West. Having not read the 1st edition, I can't tell you if it's worth buying if you already own that one, but for a first exposure to the game, I really enjoyed the subject matter and the presentation (aside from my quibbles with the organization). I'm slightly apprehensive about how the 12° system plays (specifically on Ability Tests), but the game has been around for quite a while and is in it's second edition without having that changed, apparently, so I'm willing to assume that the issue is bigger in my head. I would definitely like working this into my game table's rotation to find out for sure.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/01/tommys-take-o-
n-colonial-gothic-2nd.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: Rulebook Second Edition
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Colonial Gothic Bestiary
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/21/2013 11:46:31
The role monsters play in Colonial Gothic will depend on the sort of game you like to run. If you play the default 'Gothic Horror' style of game, monsters are best used sparingly but to good effect as you build up the evidence and the tension until whatever creature is behind events is revealed. A 'historic fantasy' game might have a fair few monster encounters, just as any other fantasy game does. And if you enjoy the political aspects of the game, most monsters come on two legs! My own games, which are alternate-history with an interest in exploration and discovery, however, can find a use for a monster or two...

There are over 50 monsters here, some are 'real' beasties - this doesn't detract from the threat they pose, take the alligator for example! - and others more fantastical, the beasts of myth and legend. Notes are provided as to the source of each one, useful if - for example - someone versed in the appropriate traditions is able to identify a given monster by matching the evidence to the legends that they know.

Each monster comes with an illustration (many very appropriate to the period in style), a stat block and notes giving all the game mechanical information that you need to run them, and further descriptive notes coverning appearance and giving ideas about how they might be used in your game. Many are quite scary and characters encountering them will have to make a Fear test to do anything but run screaming in terror!

The PDF version is comprehensively indexed, and there is a useful appendix which lists creature types and presents a combined listing of all monsters in this book and the core rulebook. In fact there are 2 lists, one being alphabetic and one by creature type to aid you in finding the right monster for your needs.

A good addition to this game line which should find plenty of use!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic Bestiary
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review! Here's a little more about Colonial Gothic and the Bestiary: http://graemedavis.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/here-be-monsters/
Colonial Gothic: Gazetteer
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2013 06:58:22
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/02/14/tabletop-review-colonia-
l-gothic-gazetteer/

Of all the Colonial Gothic material to review, this is an odd one to do later in the series because it is such essential setting information for the core book. Gazetteer was released in 2010, after a smattering of modules and after the revised edition of the core rulebook the year before. While some setting information sourcebooks had been released, this book had a broader scope that covered the colonies you would probably play in using the core book. Most of the colonies get their own chapter, with a few additional chapters dedicated to things like native tribes and an adventure.

Essential History

The book kicks off with a chapter on the basics of Colonial American history: wars, settlements, and the various acts (laws impressed upon America by the British). After that, each colony basically does the same, giving a brief history first followed by various nuggets of knowledge concerning the area. For instance, there is a section on the geography of each area as well as important locations and a few notable local legends or areas that might be adventure seeds. The only break from this pattern is in the section on Native American tribes, which turns out to be fairly comprehensive as far as I can tell. While not giving you a ton of information on the tribes, each one is given page real estate according to their presence in colonial life. The last chapter is an adventure involving the players intercepting a letter and then being asked to infiltrate a British fort.

Low Detail, More Overview


For a game master who is serious or wants to get serious about his commitment to a more historical Colonial Gothic game, this book is a must. It takes a bunch of necessary facts that are easy to grasp and organizes them by colony, then presents them according to type. It’s definitely not exhaustive, and the level of detail is more of a bird’s-eye view than anything else, but unless your players are hardcore into the historical detail aspect, it will suffice. Rogue Games continues to expand upon certain events or locations with entire sourcebooks so, while you will have to buy another book if you really want finer detail, you can get it if you want and you can pick and choose where you want your graininess. I find it a nice quick reference for historical timelines and important cities, I don’t use the mysteries as they tend to be sort of old-timey-American-legends type of things, and many of them I find silly. If you already know your American history cold or have other reference books around you want to use, you might skip this book. Otherwise, it’s a nice reference to have and read through for a general picture of each colony and its history.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: Gazetteer
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Colonial Gothic: New France
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/30/2013 10:57:20
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/01/30/tabletop-review-colonia-
l-gothic-new-france/

This review is part of a series of ongoing reviews of material for the Colonial Gothic RPG, a role-playing game set in Colonial America with supernatural and horror elements. For other reviews in the series check out this list:

-Colonial Gothic Rulebook Second Edition
-The Ross-Allen Letters
-Organizations: The Templars
-The French-Indian War

Now, on to the review!

Have you ever thought Colonial Gothic was missing something? Something…a little more French? Maybe you wondered: “do we have to play this game in the boring old 13 original colonies?” Or perhaps you thought out loud while reading some other sourcebooks: “yeah, yeah, but what about CANADA?” Well my friends, I’m going to tell you about a book that will blow the beaver pelts right off of your fur trade, because this is Colonial Gothic: New France written by Rogue Games’ resident New France correspondent Gabriel Brouillard. With this book, you’ll feel like you can take your table straight up to the French holdings in the North.


Parlez Vous “Cult Activity?”

Ok, so I have to mention something right off: this book is not really about supernatural stuff. It’s geared toward a mostly historical presentation of New France during the 18th century up through the end of the Revolutionary War. I say “mostly historical” because the book states that the facts as we know them are bent a bit to make the sourcebook more attuned the game rather than just a source of historical information. What would really bump these books to another level of awesomeness is if certain things were labeled as historical and non-historical. Perhaps, if only there were some sort of symbol that could be used to denote things which may require clarification or special mention, something like the things I might put around *this* word…that would be quite useful. For instance, if I were to write: George Washington led his troops on a yellow horse, which was colored in that manner because he superstitiously powdered it in Turmeric before a major military movement or engagement*. That kind of notation would let people know that I made that sh– up.

So what are the historical parts then, what does Brouillard have to tell us? The book starts off with the beginning of France’s involvement in the New World, and then continues on detailing milestones which mostly involve major conflicts like wars with the British or edicts passed by the British or…British occupation. Ok, a lot of it has to do with Britain, but at the time those Brits were all up in everybody’s business, so it’s no wonder they ended up getting booted off of the island (eventually). The major periods include “The Golden Age of New France”, a time of growth and prosperity for the settlers there; the period around the French-Indian War, where Britain and France once again came into conflict; and the period of the Revolutionary War, where French sympathizers aided against the British and where those seeking refuge from the war traveled North to New France. All told, this book encompasses the early 1700s, and then from about 1756 to 1783 with snippets from other parts of the 18th century.

Oh Acadia

Chapter 2 is a run-down of colonies in New France, most of which are recognizable names today (to Americans anyway) like Montreal, Canada, Newfoundland, and Quebec. Each colony gets a brief description of how it was founded and notable things that happened there. Following that are descriptions and illustrations of forts and trading posts, and then a good many pages discussing the various kinds of people that would populate a French colony. There is a passage about how at one point immigration was limited to Catholics and any others wanting to come had to renounce their faith and convert. This made it a bit harder to get people over to New France! Land was controlled by this group and handed down to seigneurs to be further divided among the settlers. In this way the regions of New France were populated, so the book explains. This chapter also includes an interesting portion about a group of one hundred merchants who basically were given a monopoly on the lucrative fur trade in exchange for bringing settlers to New France. Is this true or not? I assume it is at least partly true, but there is nothing in the book letting me know one way or the other, and while I am somewhat knowledgeable about the period I don’t know about anything like that. Again, some symbol might come in handy here to let the reader know what the author has made up for the game world.


Chapters 3 and 4 contain information on the various organizations and groups one might find in New France, like the aforementioned merchant cabal. The non-native ones are few but include the Spain-established Knights of Malta. Other groups mentioned are mostly native tribes including the murky “Mandoag” which are a ubiquitous and shadowy native group found in nearly all Colonial Gothic books I’ve seen. Other native tribes like the Huron and even the Inuit are mentioned, each getting their own paragraph or two of brief history and description. There is no really detailed information here, but it does give you some names to throw around and add a little authenticity to your game. Chapters 5, 6, and 7 are each dedicated to one of the important historical periods I mentioned earlier. For each period there is a longer description of the events that transpired and how they affected New France, as well as groups involved and important personalities with adventure hooks including them. These chapters have some really nice information on these periods and what they meant to the development of New France; for instance the French-Indian War chapter goes on about the French generals as they struggled to keep the British from taking Quebec, and gives several adventure scenarios involving different groups like the Freemasons, or legends like hidden Templar riches.

Duels!

The last four chapters are a smattering of rules on various topics. There are some new backgrounds added like French Catholic priest and Coureur des Bois, a person who goes out into the wild to trade with native peoples. Some backgrounds are just New France versions of the ones found in the core book, like Rural and Urban Colonist. You’re given two entire pages of French names from the period, how cool! Enjoy naming your French colonist “Michaud St. Pierre”. There is a chapter dedicated to duels. Yes, in case the honor of your character or your character’s charge is tarnished in some way, you can now look at these rules and see whether you prefer a sword duel or a pistol duel, and if the latter which set of rules you would like to abide by. The last two chapters are some adventure seeds in the form of mysteries (real or not? I don’t know!) that can be turned into Colonial Gothic sessions and a short chapter containing a few monsters. The adventures are interesting and peculiar, like high-quality roads being mysteriously built in the middle of nowhere and a magnetic hill…not sure how to turn those into riveting adventures but who knows.

Overall, this book is great if you want to run an adventure in Canada or other French-owned territories, or if you are looking for more information for a campaign during the French-Indian war. Gabriel does a great job of condensing information and whipping up some adventure ideas, as well as giving Game Masters what they need to help make the game authentic in the French territories. Great supplement for Colonial Gothic.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: New France
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Colonial Gothic: Rulebook Second Edition
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/17/2012 10:03:07
Originally Posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/12/17/tabletop-review-colonia-
l-gothic-rulebook-second-edition/

Colonial Gothic: Rulebook Second Edition is part of an ongoing series of reviews for the game Colonial Gothic, which has just received another treatment of its core rules by Rogue Games founder Richard Iorio II.

For earlier reviews in this series, check out The Ross-Allen Letters, Organizations: The Templars, Locations, and The French-Indian War.

Twas a Few Weeks Before Christmas

Anyone who pays attention to the Rogue Games website may have noticed the “12/12/12 12:12:12” announcement that something was coming on that date. Well, my friends, that something was a splendid gift of the second edition of the core rules for Colonial Gothic. I must say that it looks great, and everything has been really nicely re-worked and situated as a whole. Clocking in at 284 pages, this version is actually a few pages less than the revised version of the first edition rulebook (released in 2009), however, it remains a bit larger than the first edition of the core rulebook (which I actually have in print) at 211 or so pages. I think one reason this second edition is a little smaller than the revised edition is because they removed Jennifer Brozek’s flavor text intro, which was extremely similar to the exchange found in The Ross-Allen Letters, and overall trimmed other unnecessary or odd bits here and there. Sections of rules have also been rearranged and organized differently.

Needless to say, I am quite pleased to see a second edition of the rules here, and the book shows how far Rogue Games has come since Colonial Gothic’s release in 2007. The table of contents is tighter, more succinct and professional-looking, and in the PDF is hyperlinked! That’s always nice. The layout is slick, I really like what they have done here. Headers have a nice font, and the body text is nice and readable. Each page has a textured background that is not at all intrusive or distracting, and the pages remain clean. I do have one gripe about the page background, but that will come later. You can read more about what Richard did with this edition at the Rogue Games blog, which includes a bit of an embarrassing tidbit about one of the reasons for this new edition: he couldn’t get the old layout files for the previous version to open. Well, Providence favors us this day, for one game designer’s computer issues have brought the gaming world a much improved product in the form of Colonial Gothic Rulebook Second Edition.

What Do I Like About Colonial Gothic?

Okay, so I’ve been doing a series on the game and ranting and raving about this and that, but why do I actually like this game and what are some cool things about the system? I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a thing about dice. I like it when games use non-standard (i.e. non-D6) dice, and a role-playing game using regular six-sided dice just doesn’t feel as fun to me. I know, it’s stupid. FUDGE dice are okay, but they are still six-sided. It would be awesome if there were such a thing as “SUPER FUDGE” dice that had eight sides and some funky symbol on each side that could be as easily interpreted as the simple plus and minus symbols. My point is, Colonial Gothic uses not one, but two 12-sided dice. This mechanism of rolling 2d12s against a Target Number (you want to roll under the TN) is called “12 degrees” by Rogue Games. They are also using this system in their fantasy-themed game Shadow, Sword & Spell.

Another thing, and this is probably what I like the most about the game, is that it is full of theme, the theme is unique and interesting, and the design focuses on this theme. This is not a rulebook for a universal game system like GURPS or Palladium’s system, this is a book that is dedicated to a certain cause, and the game is stronger for it. The setting is from the Colonial period of America, a few hundred years before the Revolutionary War, to about forty years after the war. In the first edition of the rules, the time period was meant to be just before the war, when tensions were high and a lot was going on; this is mostly still the case, but it is up to the GM if they want to put the game somewhere else. I personally think the pre-war period is really an interesting and exciting time to set a game in, as there is just so much going on and so much opportunity for players to get mixed up in something.

The third thing that I would say tickles my phant’sy about the game is that it is not too crunchy. It has some math, some sort of archaic calculations and such, but lets a lot of little things go to discretion. There are not rules for every little thing, there are overall guidelines and structures. The book gives rules and information for helpful areas, then lets the GM come up with anything else that is needed. 2d12 is enough dice to be interesting without the dice pools and modifier complexity of, say, Burning Wheel.

So, those are the main things I like about the game. Mostly, I just really enjoy that there is a game dedicated to horror-tinged historical fiction in the Revolutionary Colonies.

It Puts the Chocolate in the Peanut Butter

Ah, but this is not simply a historical game. More precisely, this is a historical game that wants you to incorporate fictitious elements, thus making it a historical fiction game. Not only do you adventure in early America, you deal with the occult, the strange, the dangerous and the mysterious. You may help put down a Royalist uprising in Plymouth, or you may be pelting a horrendous beast that has just appeared from a dark forest with musket balls. You may be seeking an agent of a dangerous occult sect, or you may be running a letter accompanied by a vial filled with a strange substance from New York to Boston. Something weird is happening in the Colonies, and it is up to the GM and the players to decide what that is and how they deal with it. I really appreciate that the danger and wonder of the New World is mixed in with the danger and wonder of the supernatural in Colonial Gothic. Of course, how much all of it works depends on the imagination of the participants, and whether or not they are into historical situations and the Colonial period. Seriously though, who could not be interested in hanging out in the Colonies just before the Revolutionary War?

As far as character creation and game mechanisms go, it’s pretty simple, though Richard has added some mechanisms that have become popular in some games in the last few years. Characters have abilities and skills, like in many other games, though the names are a bit different and streamlined. For instance, abilities are Might, Nimble, Vigor, Reason, and Resolution. Characters also have a Sanity score which is basically how much strangeness they can handle before they start to suffer from disorders. Characters also have “Hooks” which are like Aspects in Dresden Files, little phrases or sentences that say something about who the character is or what they believe. Action Points are the in-game currency that anyone can use to help them pass a test in a pinch, even after they have failed the roll. Beyond that, when you make a test, you just add the skill you are using to the attribute tied to the skill, and then add or subtract any modifiers. That gives you your Target Number, then you roll the d12s and see whether you succeeded or failed and by how much. That’s basically it! Of course, as with most games, there are spells, equipment, a bestiary and all that stuff that give hard numbers for the players and GM to use. Really, the fun is in getting everyone into a story.

Other Cool Bits and Final Thoughts

Combat, physical and social

Combat is straightforward, you take the skill you are using (archery, brawling, melee, etc.) and then roll against that, plus the attribute, as your Target Number. If you succeed, you hit, and the degree of your success measures damage. However, there are conditions and tactics you can use to affect how hard it is to hit, and you can try to avoid damage. There are tactics like Charge, Aim, Defend, Take Cover, and a few others. Basic, but even those add a little flavor to combat instead of just whacking the opponent. The book says that combat is meant to be swift and deadly… and it definitely can be. I would personally disregard the short section on movement during combat, as it does not appear to make any sense, especially since earlier in the book Richard defines a round as a very amorphous time period (giving a rough definition of five seconds), however in the combat section a round seems to be quite long. How else could I move fifty feet in a round without running? I can’t say I’ve ever seen movement rules during combat that I liked AND that had hard numbers attached to them, and I don’t understand why this section seems so strict when many other parts of the book are free-flowing.

There are also rules for social combat, which were part of the Revised edition but have now been refined a little more. Essentially a person’s disposition toward you affects how difficult it is to use one of your social skills to influence them to your point of view. Dispositions now have modifiers attached to them, so that if you are trying to chat up someone who is antagonistic towards you, you will have a tougher time with them than if someone were simply unfriendly or neutral.

Magic and Alchemy

Naturally, in a world of the supernatural and the occult, there must be some strange practices occurring. These are largely going to fall into the realm of magic and alchemy. If you didn’t know, alchemy was a sort of mystical term for a long time before modern science. Alchemy involved everything from extracting the essence of a juniper berry to purifying precious metals. Alchemists might have sought legendary things like The Philosopher’s Stone or Solomon’s Gold, and some were crackpots and some were legitimate scientists. In Colonial Gothic, alchemy is very much a legitimate art that can yield chemicals and elixirs, the equivalent of potions.

Magic is rather self-explanatory. There is a list of spells in the book, put into Common and Arcane categories. Common spells are easier to learn and cast, and have a shorter duration with less powerful effects. Arcane spells are more powerful and long-lasting. Thematically, magic is not widely accepted in the Colonies, and everyone more or less knows of its existence. Unlike in Dresden Files, where most of the populace might not even be aware that the supernatural is happening around them, magic is accepted as being completely real but considered dangerous and largely repressed.

Setting Information and Gamemastering Advice

There is some information in this book about the Colonies, what was going on and where it was happening. Timelines of events, religion, even libraries are discussed. This is a great resource for the GM, especially one who doesn’t know a lot about the time period. Even if you do know, this section sums up a lot of information very nicely, as the series seems to do a lot. Still, it’s not exhaustive, and I would definitely recommend picking up other books in the Colonial Gothic line, like the Gazetteer (keep an eye out for a review upcoming). What is interesting is that there is a lot of information about the various Native American tribes, which is really great.

The other section that I really like is the section on being a Gamemaster. Richard has some great advice, and it is obvious that he has run his share of sessions. The curious GM will have pages and pages of advice to read through on various subjects, including history, villains, running a horror campaign, and just going with the flow. Even for veteran GMs this kind of stuff is always a good reminder.

Final Thoughts

Whew, there is a lot of stuff in here! I like almost all of it. Really, this manual will define Colonial Gothic for the next few years, if not more. I hope the production of this book carries through to future releases, as everything looks really great. Even the clipart and images that I have complained about in other books really look nice and sharp in this PDF version, and everything is laid out wonderfully. My one complaint about the background of the pages (did you think I forgot?) is that when I printed them out, they were way too dark! I was surprised, because the background looks so light on the screen, but even with only black and white settings and the fast draft option chosen and all that, the background looked like a dark gray with graphics in white boxes. I don’t know enough about digital publishing to know if that is a problem on my end or something with the PDF. I think it’s something with the PDF, since I just printed out a bunch of stuff for another game and it was totally fine.

Anyway, I will definitely try to get a print copy of this book when the softcover is released in a few weeks. I assume it is softcover, since Rogue Games focuses on affordability and none of their other products come in hardcover. By the way, did I mention there is a creature builder in the bestiary section? There is, and it is pretty cool. I’ve already made this article too long, but there is a lot to cover here. For any fan of the game, this book will probably be a must-have, but it is not strictly necessary if you already have the Revised first edition book. There are rules changes here and there, skill specializations are gone, and various other tweaks have been made in the re-write that Richard feels makes the game better and more streamlined. However, these are tweaks, not major revisions. Those still holding on to the first edition (not the Revised) should finally upgrade. You might expect a revised version of this book in a few years, but I think Colonial Gothic has finally reached a plateau of refinement and maturity. I just hope the production values in future books are consistent with the ones seen in this volume. Three cheers for Rogue Games and the team that supports it, you guys have worked hard to get this game to the community, and I’m sure they will be grateful!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: Rulebook Second Edition
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Colonial Gothic: Rulebook Second Edition
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2012 16:23:47
For a bit of background, I have my BA in History, with my concentrations in Early American History and The Middle Ages. You study what you enjoy, as it makes the hard work just a tad more enjoyable. So when I saw that the Colonial Gothic RPG had just released a a new edition of the rules (which I had missed the first time around) I had to take a peek.

I'm fairly impressed.

Under the hood it uses the same D12 system as Shadow, Sword & Spell. (I have SS&S and will have give it a second look at some point, as I have now found the system intriguing)

I like the alternate history that is shown. I like the idea that you can set a "dial" of sorts for the campaign's horror component - not all groups will be comfortable going "all in". I really like the flavor. I really like the adversary / creature design chapter. Heck, I'd love to do something similar for the OSR (I know of Raggi's Creature Generator, but it doesn't always fit my needs)

The big missing piece?

There's no short adventure to kick things off with. Believe it or not, although they often feel like throw aways, this little pieces often showcase how a game system works and make a good example of game design for the rule system. Coming from my OSR roots, I'm sure I could bang something together but I'm not sure it would good fit for the system.

I guess I'll need to track down an introductory adventure at some point.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: The Ross-Allen Letters
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/13/2012 06:37:17
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/12/13/tabletop-review-colonia-
l-gothic-the-ross-allen-letters/

The Ross-Allen Letters is part of a continuing series of reviews of supplements for Colonial Gothic by Rogue Games. For earlier reviews in this series check out Organizations: The Templars, Locations, and The French-Indian War.

”My Dear Frederick,
I trust that this letter finds you in good health, and that you find your esteemed position in the northern colonies agreeable. I have no doubts that your expertise is estemmed [sic] as highly by your new associates as it is by the Society you left behind. I am eager for your opinion of your new surroundings. You must not think that I have never made the journey so far north from any lack of desire, and perhaps the lure of your company will help me find the time for such a journey. I am confident that the need will arise for meto [sic] visit your society for a matter of some import.”

These are the opening lines of the fictional correspondence known as Colonial Gothic: The Ross-Allen Letters. As you can tell, the theme is strong here, and indeed the whole of the document is a narrative meant to evoke this mysterious story set in the world of Colonial Gothic. In the introduction, some words about collaborative storytelling and using the letters in a game give the GM some ideas as to how this PDF might actually be useful to him or her. One suggestion is to have players write to each other in character, which immediately reminded me of De Profundis, a game I reviewed here quite a while ago. In De Profundis players create a narrative using some sort of medium other than simply talking to each other, usually just pen and paper. With The Ross-Allen Letters, the same sort of idea is used and demonstrated in what amounts to wonderful reading and mental preparation for the mysterious world of the game.


How Do I Use This In My Game?

These letters are tough to figure out, because they are great to read and all, but then what role do they play at the table? Some suggestions at the beginning of the book say that players can discover these letters and become part of the narrative. Maybe they stumble upon the first letter, then find a few more in the series, and eventually uncover enough that they get the whole story. In a way, this book can be turned into a really cool module by an enterprising GM. Picture this: the players are tasked with finding one of the letter-writers who has been missing, and in the process uncover the letters and the secrets they contain, along with weaving their own stories into the tapestry. Imagine handing your players the letters printed out on some rough paper and then hand-aged by Mr. Enterprising GM (coffee, holding them over a flame heat, etc.) as they find them.

Production Value

Expect typical Rogue Games production value here minus artwork: nicely formatted, sort of edited. There is no real artwork to speak of (or complain about for that matter). For some reason, I keep coming across RPG supplements written using Lucida Handwriting! It is very silly, since anyone can go to a fonts website and get any handwritten-looking font they can dig up. Why use the same word fonts that have been put in hilarious e-mails since 1997? [As an aside, I did some digging on the actual origin of Lucida Handwriting and this is the opening sentence of a description I found: “To a business world dominated by formal, traditional fonts, Lucida Handwriting brings a refreshing and modern informality.” Source.] Aaaand we’re back! Seriously though, anyone reading this and writing games should not use Lucida Handwriting. It looks lame and it makes it look like you are not trying. Please use a normal font, I promise to imagine that it is hand-written.

The writing is very nice; Brozek has proven to be a good producer for the game’s thematic content, even if it appears that either she doesn’t edit very well or her work goes straight to print without any editing. Right there in the initial paragraph of the first letter there are two typos. How does this happen? I would be reprimanded at my day job if I pulled crap like that. I don’t think Rogue Games should be held to any lower standard just because they are some sort of “indie” RPG company. Edit. Your freaking. Writing. I see one-person, no-name RPGs being sold on DriveThruRPG with more editing. Send me the manuscript I will edit it for you. I would really love to see a higher production value for this game, but right now fans must take what they can get.


Plot and Final Thoughts

I realize I have not actually said anything about the narrative as far as plot is concerned. Basically, there are to very polite gentlemen named Woodrow Ross and Frederick Allen, who happen to be interested in the fabled Philosopher’s Stone (rather confusingly, an element supposed to be able to turn lead into gold). This interest becomes more of a dangerous endeavor when death befalls a colleague involved in researching it’s existence. From there, the tale spins on to become more mysterious and a bit dark, ending with a solemn conclusion that I will not ruin for you.

If you want a good read and to get in the mood for Colonial Gothic, light some candles and read these letters. Use them in your game, give them to your players, make them real. Even with it’s faults, for 99 cents, this is a darn good deal.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: The Ross-Allen Letters
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Colonial Gothic: Locations
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/30/2012 08:20:31
Originally Posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/11/30/tabletop-review-colonia-
l-gothic-locations/

Continuing the series of reviews of supplements for Colonial Gothic, today’s item is Locations. Be sure to check out The French & Indian War and The Templars as well.

This volume is large, clocking in at around 170 pages, and is chock-full of…what else? Theme!


A Tale of Towns

This book concerns itself with four towns in the New World: Plymouth, Elizabethtown, Savannah, and Charlotte Haven. Each town has an extensive writeup of the history, the notable people and locations (Real? Fictional?), events (fictional) that occurred in the town and when they occurred, a section detailing the people and circumstances behind the events, and some adventure seeds (called “Campaign Starts”).

The historical part of each section is, as usual, fascinating and a good summation of the general course of events in the place and how it may look at the current time (that is, somewhere between 1750 and 1800). The other parts are good as well, especially the one detailing how the town is situated and important buildings that the town contains. For me, the people around town are not as important, as I can just see the scenario in my head of players meeting someone important in town and then doing something ridiculous to/with them. Basically, I’d rather have players know the important people of the town just by their fame and not actually getting a chance to stand within arm’s length of them. Call me paranoid.

Adventures in a Colonial Wonderland

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find adventure seeds to be hard to run with most of the time. In Locations this is no different. The first adventure seed in the book is about a local werewolf, and I just am not interested in werewolf-hunting. No, no, it’s not because of Twilight, it’s because I don’t like playing the game where the object is to defeat the “Big Bad”. Can’t we make roleplaying more interesting than that? I would certainly like to try. The last adventure seed? Fighting a pirate ghost over his treasure. I’m not saying I could do any better, but dang I wish I could do better. I wish someone else would show me how!

I’m particularly interested in the intrigue side of Colonial Gothic, and that is where the “Societies” section of each town really excites me. Each town has a section for each of the major societies that operate in it; some are benign, some are not. Some are malicious, some are merely powerful or power-hungry. For instance, The Women’s Quilting Circle in Elizabethtown? It’s sort of a gossip group, it might be a potential source of information, and it might be a cover for some witch’s coven that preys on the new folks in town. Of course, whether or not this innocent crafts group unsuspectingly holds a dark secret is up to the GM, but the descriptions of the societies in the book are detailed and give the reader great ideas for what people actually DO around here, and paint places for things to occur, such as secret witch’s covens.


The Good and the Bad

There isn’t much more to say about this volume except that it is full of information. It is a really great resource for GMs and players alike to get more familiar with the Colonial period of American history. Brozek does a great job of giving a feel for the place, though I feel like her writing is weak when it comes to adventure hooks. Just reading through the section for a town fills your head with so many things that can spice up and add detail to your Colonial Gothic game, I would recommend this for anyone who is having players spend some time in a town that isn’t one of the really major ones like Boston.

Production-wise, I continue to be disappointed that Rogue Games does not think it is important to add fresh and quality artwork to their books. It is a little disconcerting to see them charging $20+ (albeit for the print version) and using cliparts of varying quality that look like they either ripped them from Google Images or raided a library for old books and scanned the illustrations. Also, this book could use a little proofreading as I found more than a few typos and one place where it looked like information was cut and pasted, then changed slightly to accommodate the location. Besides that, if you are not on a tight budget and enjoy this game then I would definitely recommend this book, especially for GMs. I don’t know if I would pay what they are asking for the print version, but for the PDF I could spare eight bucks. Plus it’s good to support writers who make RPG content. As for Rogue Games…I don’t know what to do with you. I love your game, but the products you are putting out for it need more love and attention. Please take note.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: Locations
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Colonial Gothic Organizations: The Templars
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/08/2012 06:55:28
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/11/08/tabletop-review-colonia-
l-gothic-the-templars/

Continuing the series of reviews of supplements for Colonial Gothic, today’s item is The Templars. Be sure to check out The French & Indian War as well. This book about the Templars is the first in a series being released by Rogue Games regarding various organizations, many of which we are familiar with through movies like National Treasure and The Da Vinci Code if not through our own interest in historical strangeness.

Touch Solomon’s Junk

The first section gives you the general history of the Templars: where they originated and how, and then their growth and dissolution a few hundred years later. As you may know, after the Templars go underground is when things get interesting for them. They are not supported as openly by the church or the ruling power, now they are a rogue organization…kinda. In some places they are kicked out and unwelcome but in other places, like Scotland, they flourish. It is here where the legends and myths begin.

The Templars have, or are thought to have, lots of secrets. That makes them an interesting subject for Colonial Gothic and fits in very well with the setting. Some of those secrets involve the finding or keeping of stuff like Solomon’s knowledge, the Holy Grail, vast sums of money, secrets of architecture, even drugs. This is all in the second and third chapters; various legends and things about the Templars, some that are made up for the purposes of the game and some that were actually reported. The third chapter in particular discusses the various incarnations and machinations of the order as they faced persecution and dislocation. Basically these chapters are informational, giving you an idea of the history and characteristics of the Templars. Colonial Gothic books tend to be good on informing you of the history, which I like a lot.


Late Knight Meetings

Chapter 4 begins giving us actual in-game information on how the players can interact with the Templars: be caught up in some of their doings, having to track one of them down, being asked to perform a task for them, etc. Each of the little sections in this chapter about the order’s situation in the colonies has a few adventure seeds in it, which is always great for a GM to at least look over and maybe get inspired. The chapter also describes the forces other than the Knights Templar who are working to make the Colonies into the sovereignty they want: the Mandoag, Knights of Malta, the Inquisition, etc. This chapter gives the GM and players a lot of different factions to play with, and potentially a lot of intrigue to enact.

The next chapter gives rules for a Templar character, while at the same time cautioning that a Templar is not your normal character type. I personally would resist a Templar character, as if I’m going to use them as a secretive organization I can’t have a player sitting at the table who knows the secrets! You can always have the player be a lower-rank Templar though, in which case they probably would not be privy to all of the knowledge and power of the higher-ups. This chapter gives several options for different ranks of Templar character, and very helpful notes about each one. While not exhaustive about the rankings and what the day-to-day workings of the organization might be, it’s good enough to give an idea of what the character might be like and what they might do.

This Last Part is, Literally, a Book

I, too, think that heading is silly and nonsensical. This next part appears to be an excerpt from a book, but I can’t tell if it is real or not! I’ve written plenty of research papers, and by all the markings this looks and reads like a real book, plus it is clearly stated at the beginning of the section that it is an excerpt from such-and-such book. Well, my fellow RPGers, the last section of this supplement is some period prose for you. It describes many different things about the Templars, from the point of view of this 19th century scholar focusing on their habits, rules, idols, ways of worship, rituals, and so on. It’s a pretty interesting read, although it is a bit weird to have it appended the way it is to the back of this supplement. I don’t know what else to say about it, it’s basically just a chapter from some book.

All in all, this supplement reads more like a history digest, but it does give the GM and players a little bit of actual rules and such to work with. I think the intention was more to inform and excite the imagination than to heap on any more rules, which I am completely fine with. The book does seem to cover all of the legends of the Templar pretty well, and it also sheds a little light on a lot of other organizations in the Colonies that the players and/or the Templars could get mixed up with. Really, the whole milieu of secret orders is pretty fascinating. I would suggest this book if you are interested in playing Colonial Gothic in a game with a lot of intrigue and mystery. It’s just ripe with that kind of stuff.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic Organizations: The Templars
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Colonial Gothic: The French & Indian War
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2012 08:35:30
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/10/31/tabletop-review-colonia-
l-gothic-the-french-indian-war/

Colonial Gothic is one of those games I dream about getting really into. I love the theme, I love the setting, and I love that effort has been put in to allow for a historically accurate game. Rogue Games has put out plenty of material for it too, and I will be reviewing a few pieces that we have here at DHGF, starting with The French-Indian War.

The book is divided into three main sections: a portion covering the history of the war and the factions involved in it, a portion with various additional rules including rules for mass combat, and a section containing a series of adventures set in this period of history. There is also an appendix with stats for various characters the players might run into.


War never changes

This particular war occurred right smack in the middle of the 18th century and was sparked primarily by a spat between Britain and France over Ohio territory. I won’t go through the history of the conflict, this book does it for you. The first chapter takes you through the various battles of the war and incidents that drove it. The second chapter is about the various locations important to the war, which means lots of forts and trading posts. This chapter includes a lot of maps which is great, some of them are rather grainy but tend to be labeled so that the important parts are at least pointed out. Chapter three deals with groups and personalities involved in the struggle. This section gives real groups that were a part of the struggle and also details how they can be flavored to fit in with the setting of Colonial Gothic. Each topic in these chapters explains what role the entity had in the war, and contains useful and interesting information that help to piece together the multi-faceted puzzle of powers involved.

Rules of Engagement

Section two begins with some new backgrounds and several backgrounds from the core rulebook that have been modified specifically for use in a French-Indian War setting. Players can choose from “Indian Trader”, a soldier in the British army, a colonist, or even a Native American, among others. Chapter five is a bit of a laugh, it’s essentially one page of new skills. Moving on…chapter six details the rules for mass combat. The whole ordeal is too complicated to explain here, but essentially units (or, depending on your level of granularity, whole armies) are given a numerical rating made of up several different factors. Rolls are made, totals are compared, and then a chart is consulted to see what the outcome is. In a nutshell, that’s mass combat, but there are a lot of possible exceptions. While I am really interested in conducting a mass combat using these rules, I am almost confident it would take at least an hour with armies of any size, so I think the possibility that combat could take up most of a session is a pretty good one.


Ohio Territory: Land of Adventure

The third section of the book is an impressive list of possible wartime events that the players can take part in. They are presented in sketch format with a brief description of the event and then some notes for the Gamemaster. While they are historical for the most part, they incorporate the supernatural flavor of Colonial Gothic. There are a TON of these events, and a GM could potentially take a whole string of them together to build a campaign or a session on.

The last portions of the book are an appendix and a short bibliography listing references used by the author (one of which is the movie The Last of the Mohicans). In the appendix are such personalities as George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, who are such mythic figures I wouldn’t even want players to meet them in a game. I mean, as a GM how do you roleplay George f-in Washington? I guess ol’ GW seems like a person of such an opposite personality from me, I would just mess up any possible version of his personality I could try and portray.

Digressions aside, this is a really great book. If you like Colonial Gothic this is a great supplement for taking the game out of the Colonies and more into the wilder territories of the West. The mass combat rules are very interesting, if a bit complicated and fiddly. While some might just throw out those rules or avoid mass combat altogether, I could see putting together some nice battles and getting a little game-within-a-game action with some nice tactical action at the unit level. The thought of players caught up in a large-scale battle has always intrigued me, and I would be interested to pursue it using this ruleset. Aside from the new rules and backgrounds, the historical information is really succinct and covers a lot of topics well enough to get an idea of how to use them, not to mention the whole conflict is absolutely fascinating for an armchair history lover like myself. It’s not exhaustive, but this gets you enough information to spark your imagination and make your players think you know your colonial history. Bryce presents his information authoritatively and with a decent bibliography to back him up. I would bet just reading the title and knowing about the general feel of Colonial Gothic would tell you whether you are interested or not; and if you are interested, I say definitely get this.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: The French & Indian War
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Dice Boxes
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2012 13:51:32
As dice boxes, these are... okay. You print them, cut them out, then assemble them.

The artwork is on the cartoony side, particularly the zombie. The coffin art looks like a party favor (in a good way). It's too bad the artist didn't include a photo on the cover page so you could see for yourself.

But, speaking of party favors, these boxes could be used at your Halloween party to hold candy or other treats. No need for an emergency trip to Diddam's or Michael's -- just print and assemble. You could even print them out as an activity for your kids for Halloween!

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dice Boxes
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Dice Boxes
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2012 11:14:31
The mathematician in me is confused. Dice are random number generators and as such cannot be 'bad'...

... but if you are of the superstitious persuasion (and if you have the slightest belief in 'luck' or the like, this IS the time to indulge it after all), but don't just want to take a lump hammer to errant dice, you might fancy constructing a coffin to bury them in. The threat of the thing, lurking on the table beside your dice bag, might be enough to urge them to 'behave' for you!

The really neat thing, though, is the 'Zombie Chow' box. Bright and colourful and likely to distract passing zombies long enough for you to hide behind someone else or get your shotgun out and blow 'em to heck...

And it makes a neat dice box.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: Locations
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2012 08:46:49
The Introduction sets the scene: this book contains four very detailed locations, settlements within the Thirteen Colonies and elsewhere on the North American continent that can provide suitable settings for your adventures. The descriptions include each place's history as well as notable current inhabitants, mysteries and intrigues - plenty to spawn ideas for adventure there. The first two - Plymouth and Elizabethtown - have previous Colonial Gothic supplements dedicated to them, but even if you already have them the information is expanded on here, and of course there are two new places as well, Savannah and the new settlement of Charlotte Haven in Florida, a territory only recently acquired by the British.

First up, Plymouth. One of the oldest settlements in the Colonies, and the place where the Pilgrim Fathers first settled, it's to the south of Boston and serves as a major port. We first read of the town's history, a rich and detailed one, and learn of the original inhabitants, the Native American tribe the Wampanoag. It makes for fascinating reading, and the historical material is accurate and informative. Ironically, it appears that the original Puritan settlers, despite being motivated by a desire for freedom to practice their chosen faith, had little tolerance for anyone else's religious freedom! By the 1770s, the period in which Colonial Gothic is set, most had moved elsewhere and the predominent denomination was Roman Catholic.

The history section is followed by one about the people and places of note in the 1770s. There are a lot of well-developed people who will prove invaluable as NPCs whenever your characters visit, all with their own lives to lead and ambitions to pursue which adds to the sense of reality. This leads on to a section on Societies, the various groups which meet or associate in the township to various ends. Some have both overt and covert intentions, you'll generally only find out about the latter if you are invited to join.

Next is a section on Events and Mysteries. Whilst at least some of the earlier material could be made available to players, this is definitely 'GM only' stuff, things that can take place during play, perhaps spawning whole adventures of themselves. The ideas are presented as letters, which could be sent to the characters (or found by them) as a jumping-off point, although you will need to develop the events mentioned in each letter to make a full adventure of them. Even if your plot deals with other matters, throw a few in as background events to help the place come alive.

This is followed by Mysteries Revealed. Herein lies all manner of truth about the people, societies and events that have been mentioned earlier, so as to inform the GM's development of plotlines and adventures. To round up the information on Plymouth, there are two Campaign Starts - actually outline campaigns based in and around Plymouth for you to use as a basis for your stories. Each has several hooks, details of what is going on and a basic timeline of events.

Next comes information on Elizabethtown. Opening with a map (something lacking for Plymouth) and the history of the town, this part of the book follows the same pattern as that for Plymouth: history, people, places and so on. Elizabethtown has its own character, well-developed and distinctive, with its own secrets and scope for adventure... and, it appears, more of a penchant for evil! Perhaps that's why there is a list of monsters including in this section, one of which features in the associated campaign outline.

We then move on to Savannah, in the colony of Georgia. It is but recently established, in 1733, and has been laid out according to a definite plan. It is a trading centre, quite cosmopolitan and a place where the devout of several faiths can find a place to worship.

The Savannah section includes some notices and graffiti found around the township, an interesting and colourful addition to the rumours and events also presented. Several strands come together in the campaign outline, giving you scope to embed it well into the ongoing story of the settlement as well as making it the focus of your adventures.

Finally, the settlement of Charlotte Haven in Florida is presented in similar detail. Originally colonised in the sixteenth century by Spain, Florida was ceded to Britain in 1763. Charlotte Haven is a fishing port, the local soil is not conducive to food production although mangrove trees grow well and the wood is exported. It is, however, a nodal point for spies and conspirators with everyone - Spanish, British Loyalists and budding revolutionaries - wanting a foodhold in Florida, as well as being a known refuge for escaped slaves. Plenty of scope for those who thrive on intrigue! The Events and Mysteries in this section are presented as snippets of conversation: GMs who like role-playing their NPCs could have the characters overhear these as starting points for adventure. The campaign outline is a fine romp concerning pirate treasure and 'Siempre Protege' - a mysterious person (or is it organisation) that seems to have a hand in just about everything that happens in town.

Beautifully presented with a wealth of period-style woodcut illustrations and snippets of period maps, there are signs of a lack of proof-reading, as if the author got carried away scribbling ideas as fast as they occurred and never read it over throughly. However, that's a niggle rather than a real flaw (the teacher in me!), and this is a fine work providing four well-detailed towns for your characters to visit or even settle in, scattered around the America of revolutionary days, thoroughly recommended!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: Locations
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Colonial Gothic: Witchcraft
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/20/2012 14:20:49
I enjoy the Colonial Gothic game quite a bit. I love how it weaves the earliest American history with horror and monsters.
I was set to like this book quite a bit and I do, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting given how much I enjoyed all the other CG books.
This book gives us Witchcraft for the CG world and it does a great job of researching, but it only gives us the "evil" sort of witchcraft associated with summoning demons. Granted, that is perfectly fine for this game. I think I wanted to see a little more.
The first half deals with Witchcraft in the CG world and is great. The second half is from the writings of King James and frankly he was more than just little bit paranoid.
In the end it is still a good book for the game and something to grab if you are interested in thoughts a views on witches of the time.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Colonial Gothic: Witchcraft
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The Stew
by Kenneth A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/19/2010 10:24:24
The Stew is a reworking of an adventure that Richard wrote for the Dave Arneson's Blackmoor MMRPG, a living-campaign-style series of adventures that were played at conventions and were published by Zeitgeist Games. That adventure, Mountain Madness, was very popular among the Blackmoor player base, and all the quirkiness that made it so memorable is present here. The Dave Arneson's Blackmoor MMRPG told a lot of good stories, and I'm very glad to see this excellent story being made available for this creative new rules system and a new set of victims...errr, players.

In a four hour gaming session, my group of experienced gamers was able to create SS&S characters from scratch and play through the first half of this adventure. I think SS&S is a fun system, and I believe that the slight clunkiness in the NPC stat blocks will eventually be ironed out. I found myself penciling in target numbers in this adventure's stat blocks so that I didn't have to add skill ranks and attributes in my head before every single test. This sped things up for me considerably. Although it only took a few seconds to do this by hand, perhaps Rogue Games might consider editing the standard NPC stat block in future adventures to include combat target numbers already combined.

Based on our experience last night, combat is rather deadly. In the ambush encounter, I would recommend scaling the number of hunters down to the number of players at the table.

There are two very memorable NPCs in this adventure. Gerd and Old Mila were very fun to roleplay in both the previous incarnation of this story and the current version. Based on Richard's wonderful description of Gerd, I tried to channel MASH's Charles Emerson Winchester as I portrayed his upper-class disgust with everything about his current situation. And the creative takeaways from the encounter with Mila were as popular with my players last night as they were when I ran this adventure for Blackmoor players.

But the most memorable part of this adventure has to do with the eponymous stew. I won't go into detail in this review, but I would hide the title of this adventure to prevent suspicious types from jumping to conclusions when you describe the wonderful aroma. It seems to me very Robert E. Howard-ish to hand a new adventurer a bowl of this particular variety of soup, and then to have it color and inform the rest of their adventuring career. Years after the Blackmoor campaign ended, I still smile when I think about the widely varied but uniformly fun reactions from players after the "reveal."

Richard makes great stories. His writing gets in the way of his storytelling just a bit, so I'm giving it a four instead of a five. But this is an Adventure with a capital A. Even if you don't plan to run it, it's worth the ninety-nine cents just to enjoy this inspired set up and delivery.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Stew
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