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Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space - Eleventh Doctor Edition Upgrade Pack
by Steve B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/10/2013 16:19:09
super fun game. I am running adventures from this and everyone is having a really good time.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space - Eleventh Doctor Edition Upgrade Pack
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License to Summon
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/10/2013 07:21:23
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/05/09/tabletop-review-the-lau-
ndry-license-to-summon/

This book is a supplement for The Laundry, a role-playing game about a top secret British governmental organization that deals with the paranormal and the occult. Since this book is mainly a reference for magic, the review will not be as in-depth.

So uh…What do you want to cast?

The first section of the book deals with “computational demonology”, which is basically the department term for spell-casting. Sometimes spells are cast with old-fashioned chanting and ritual etc., but sometimes all you need is an app on your mobile device and a few accessories. This section is very thorough, going through all of these different types of magic and adding a few spells in each one. For instance, you have “entropy manipulation” which can be used to control physics like light and unstable particles; Gates for movement between dimensions; Prognostication and Scrying; and of course summoning. These are just a few examples of magic types described in this chapter. Each type of magic details how it is used, who has access to it, some spells, and mechanisms governing in-game use. In addition, there are sub-headings covering magic used in the traditional way, through macros, mass-produced spells, and just every way in which magic might end up in the mind and hands of a potential sorcerer.



The next section is really fun, it’s about gadgets. I got a distinct feeling of reading through some Paranoia manual or something with all the strange and humorous (yet well-rationalized) pieces of equipment available to Laundry agents. Right off the bat you have your Anti-Zombie Spray, which creates a line that zombies will not cross or which can be used to simply spray them in the face. You also have a “Miscalculator” which disrupts the use of magic nearby, since magic (and reality) is highly dependent on very precise mathematics. Want something really useful? You might need “Sans-Sans-Serif”, a font that has been engineered to be especially conducive to magical energies. Ahem, I quote: “…digital spells written in sans-sans-serif will be more powerful…” Occult departments in other nations may have items that are more traditional and less engineered. For instance, the Russians may have Rasputin’s Tea, and the Chinese a Fire Vampire Grenade. Yes, a Fire Vampire Grenade, which essentially summons a fire vampire on the spot where it lands. I don’t think I could make half of these up if I were given a room of highly imaginative children and a crate of Jolt.

Dreamers and Psychics

Bookending a chapter on grimoires are chapters on two entities existing in the world of The Laundry: “The Morpheo” and psychics. The Morpheo are a special division of the department that carries out missions in the Dreamlands(!). I think this is really awesome and only opens up the already crazy world of the game to the even crazier possibility of adventuring within that paranormal realm. The chapter on psychics is as you might expect, you’ve got ones that can read the future, kinetics, aura sensors, mind readers, and the like. A short chapter, but since a psychic is a pretty familiar idea to people, I am not surprised that it didn’t take pages to expound on it.



Some other sections talk about magical research and the dangers that those who use magic may be subject to. The first is called “Faustian Research” and, as the name may imply, is about making contact with anything from demons to Great Old Ones in an effort to gain some understanding or eldritch technology. Needless to say, consorting with the extra-dimensional is a tricky business. The second section on magical dangers discusses “Thaumic Resonance”, the idea that magic leaves a sort of residual radiation on those who are exposed to it, and if it builds up in your system it can really make some weird (and dangerous) stuff start to happen. One of the great things about this chapter is the scale of “Resonance Poisoning”; basically what happens to someone who has been exposed to magic in non-insubstantial amounts. It might start with animals acting strangely around you at level one, and at level five you might experience a gate opening when you get agitated.

An Adventure and then Thoughts

At the end of this book there is an adventure, “Case Goblin Willow”, that is about the fascinating topic of stealing ideas from the dead. Yet another wonderful moment of reading in this book when I pondered how insane yet totally rational the idea sounds in the context of this game world. Undead are no big deal where Laundry is concerned, they use zombies for filing. When someone disturbs the graveyard of one of the Laundry’s key burial sites containing the bodies of several powerful wizards, they know that a corpse or a soul can be contacted for department secrets and alarm bells go a-ringing.

Overall, this book expands on magic in many excellent ways: spells, explanations, magic items, magic organizations, and magic effects are all laid out thoroughly and in a most entertaining fashion. There are some typos about, either translated letters or in one case a footnote number that had not been put in superscript. Nothing major, and the layout and art are all top-notch. If you are a fan of The Laundry I would definitely recommend this book because it just fleshes out the magic in a really nice way. Beware though, the tone of this book leans toward the absurd, and while I found the humorous possibilities well worth considering when I imagined characters requisitioning some of the items, I could see where a more serious table would think a lot of the items were just fluff.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
License to Summon
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The Mythos Dossiers
by Greville W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/13/2013 20:07:41
I bought a hard copy and had to get the PDF as well. It's a fantastic mix of player handouts, adventure seeds and insight into the history and bureaucracy of the Laundry.

There's so much in here I'd want to give to players during the game; photocopying would destroy the hard copy, so PDF is perfect.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Mythos Dossiers
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Doctor Who - The First Doctor Sourcebook
by Alexander O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/10/2013 19:49:21
It has a lot of black & white pictures from the series which help add to the classic feel of this period of the series. Most of the material is more geared toward setting up the campaign feel, the campaign elements, and a handful of write-ups and rules-related material to help run the game using the DWAITAS system (easily translatable to other systems).

Chapter One really focuses on the overview and setting the tone for a First Doctor era or First Doctor-esque campaign. Really useful for planning key elements and themes of what is essentially a romp through various mini-settings and genres.

Chapters Two through Ten are a set of synopses plus game mechanics and character write-ups for twenty-eight First Doctor adventures, with pictures from the episodes. And it takes us from the beginning of the First Doctor's documented career to the end. We are introduced to well-known villains like the Daleks and the Cybermen as they first appeared, along with some less popular but important characters like WOTAN, a Timelord known as the Meddling Monk, and The Celestial Toymaker.

Recommendation

Buy this book if you're a compleatist fan of Doctor Who, or want to run a First Doctor campaign, or really want to do your own take on a new Timelord exploring his corners of the galaxy, out from under the shadow of the Doctor!

(for a slightly longer review, check http://armchairgamer.blogspot.com/2013/04/armchair-review-dw-
aitas-first-doctor.html)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - The First Doctor Sourcebook
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Doctor Who - The First Doctor Sourcebook
by Paul S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/26/2013 09:45:45
Those of us who enjoy (and some - whisper it! - prefer) the classic era of Doctor Who have been waiting for this (and - hint! hint! - others like it) since the Doctor Who RPG was first in our clammy, excited hands.

Whether you intend to use it to re-enact the First Doctor's adventures, or to 'fill in the blanks', this volume is invaluable. It is filled with useful information, copious (black & white) illustrations, many of which I don't remember seeing before, and statistics for the Doctor, his companions and all his opponents.

Indeed, even if you don't intend to run games with the characters, this is worth having for the nostalgia alone: the reminder of the days when the Doctor was a sometimes infuriating, often irascible, good-hearted meddler, rather than the superhero he has since become.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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God Game Black
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/20/2013 07:11:35
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/03/20/tabletop-review-the-lau-
ndry-god-game-black/

God Game Black is a sourcebook for The Laundry RPG primarily based on material found in The Apocalypse Codex, another novel in the literary series the game is based on by author Charles Stross. This sourcebook has a little bit of everything: Laundry personnel, adventures, expanded setting information, monsters, flavor fiction, and more. I really enjoyed reading this, the material is just so fun to read and captures that Lovecraft flavor excellently, plus it is presented excellently for game masters to use. Let’s take a look.

Creepy Dreams and The Sleeper



I feel like I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I have not read the novels related to the game, and the fact that this sourcebook draws on a lot of the material “revealed” in The Apocalypse Codex did leave me feeling a bit in the dark about a lot of details. Still, the way that the book reads is so engaging and well-written that it made me want to read the book, like immediately. What I gathered, and what one major portion of the book centers around, is this thing called “The Sleeper” who resides in some pyramid building on the Plateau of the Sleeper. In the core book, the code phrase “CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN” comes up a lot, and it basically references a scenario where an Old One awakens and humanity must defend itself or be destroyed. Well, The Sleeper awakening is some sort of herald or signal that things are in motion to move the scenario closer to actually happening. There is a major section in the book and one of the adventures that centers around this other plane of existence and the history and activity surrounding The Sleeper. The premise and the ideas surrounding this part of the book are fascinating, I really enjoyed reading it. It feels very much like a Lovecraft creation, with plenty of mysterious strangeness and murky occurrences that give you a taste of horror without revealing what is actually happening.

The book also contains some info that might be considered updates or additions to the core book in terms of characters. There are now rules for characters or other entities that are classified as “external assets”. These are essentially resources that The Laundry can’t officially have on the payroll for whatever reason. An external asset can be anything from some hired gun the organization keeps on call in the Amazon to a monster that is somehow useful to the department but can’t otherwise be kept around. External assets are particularly useful for one thing: conducting unofficial (read: illicit) missions that The Laundry can’t be directly associated with. Players can play a campaign or one-shot after having made characters specifically as external assets. Since they often undertake dangerous missions, being one of these hired guns can be a lucrative but short career, unless you’re really good. This can be a good alternative to the play style put forward in the core book where characters are part of the department and have to deal with bureaucracy and procedures etc., instead your group can roll up external assets characters and immediately jump into their mission which can be as action-packed or full of subterfuge as you want. Again, might be great for conventions or one-shots.

Made in America



So, you’ve got The Laundry looking out for British interests…what about the other side of the pond? In God Game Black, the American counterpart is explored in detail. This entity is known as “The Black Chamber”, and is rather infamous for having taken its own path in regards to the occult and its relationship with the Old Ones. Basically, instead of strictly watching and keeping the occult forces in check, The Black Chamber has a much more open attitude toward the powers of darkness, looking for ways to harness the occult for power. For some reason, entities within this organization have names or descriptions drawn from Tolkien: Dark Lords, The Nazgul, and “The Unblinking, Red-Rimmed Eye” (which is the description of Control); maybe it is some sort of jab at British-American relations in Stross’ view. People working for The Black Chamber might not even know who their overseers are, the B.C. tends to appropriate non-assuming organizations for itself, redirecting the activities of the group toward other ends, those more useful for boosting U.S. control and power. This section is another example of the wonderfully engrossing reading in this book, The Black Chamber is wild and crazy, and makes a great sometimes-friend to The Laundry. And guess what? Playing a character or group working for the B.C. provides yet another option for The Laundry RPG games.

In keeping with the mish-mash (as wonderful as it is) of stuff found in this book, there are a few pages about the history of British occult management from about the Renaissance period on. However, this material is rather sparse, and while the book suggests that you can play a historical campaign using this information, I don’t think it would be feasible without making a lot of stuff up. There are literally five pages of historical information covering history up to about the 1930s, I just don’t think it received enough coverage to be a ready-made setting for a Laundry campaign.

Toward the end of book you have two adventures. These both seem really well thought out and well-written. The first one involves (surprise) occult activity behind the shiny veneer of an educational institution, and the second one involves The Sleeper as described earlier in the book. The adventures are not outlines; they contain notes on playing the NPCs, documents that you can print out and hand to the players, contingencies for the ways the scenario can go, it’s just great. Really good stuff here.

Dog Dame Smack



This sourcebook is a great addition to the core book. It gives you a little bit of everything, and expands the setting for The Laundry RPG in excellent and interesting ways. The entire book is well-presented, well-written, and thorough in most places. There were a few typos here and there, but no glaring errors or anything. Not only does the book have lots of great information, it is really fun to read. I keep saying that about the books for this game, but the material is just really engrossing. It’s got more of all the stuff that makes this game thematically great: conspiracies, thrills, horrors, humor…did I mention conspiracies? If you like The Laundry RPG, I think this book should definitely be in your collection or on your buy list.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
God Game Black
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The Laundry RPG
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/11/2013 06:40:54
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/03/11/tabletop-review-the-lau-
ndry-rpg/

The Laundry is a role-playing game based on a series of novels by Charles Stross, called The Laundry Files, which are about a former IT guy who becomes a field agent for a covert British organization specializing in supernatural and occult phenomena. Stross is still writing books in this series, in case you’re interested by my snappy abstract. For this game, Cubicle 7 got authorization from Stross for the setting and authorization from Chaosium for use of their Basic Roleplaying System, seen most prominently in the Call of Cthulhu RPG. The system’s main feature is its use of percentile dice (AKA d100) for resolution. So, based on your skills and attributes, you might have a 43% chance of tagging a bear with a tranquilizer dart, then if you roll the percentile dice (which has a possible result ranging from 1 to 100) and roll equal to or below 43, you succeed. I like using the percentile dice, because it gives a really wide range of possible values to roll against, and at the same time, it gives you a probability to work with. It feels a little more game-like to me, and it’s not a d6!

Her Majesty’s Shoggoth Wrangler

The first thing I must point out is that, in the obligatory “What is a role-playing game?” section that apparently must be in every core rulebook, there is possibly the funniest description of what a role-playing game is, and an amazing hypothetical exchange between a player and a game master. Okay, that aside, the setting of this game is heavily influenced by the Lovecraft mythos, and so the Call of Cthulhu connection is also strong here. One new and fun magical aspect of the world is the existence of “computational sorcery,” essentially bringing rituals and spells into the 21st century by using technology to eliminate mistakes and tedious routines during preparation. So anyway, what is The Laundry? It’s a covert British department that other departments snicker about until a tentacled horror appears from a subway tunnel, memories need erasing and beasts need unsummoning. It’s highly bureaucratic, with one page dedicated to a chart of the administrative structure that will both make you laugh and cry, with departments like “Arcana Analysis” and “Enchant & Production” alongside Catering and I.T. That’s only the beginning of the fun there, because there is a whole section detailing each department! Seriously, it’s a great read. The organization is fleshed out, it feels alive and dysfunctioning. By the way, the Archives is mostly staffed with zombies.

Character creation is fairly normal, except for the fact that you roll six-sided dice for your attributes. Usually I would think this is best left to retro-gaming or uninformed and ill-fated game design, but it kind of makes sense in a Men In Black way, where things are a little tongue-in-cheek and the denizens of The Laundry come in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities. Still, I must ask why, in the age of role-playing enlightenment, there must exist die-roll attributes for a game like this. Other concerns in character creation include a set of personality types that you choose from, in addition to a profession you held prior to service, both of which give you bonuses in certain skills, then on top of that you choose (or roll for) an assignment within the department, which will give you further bonuses in skills. You haven’t even started applying skill points yet, yeesh. It does, however, force you to make a character that has both a past and present, instead of making a character in the present and then just making up whatever details about his or her past you want.

So, your character is probably going to be sent out to investigate the occult, which will probably involve some sort of horrible monster or cult or possession. Basically, you’re going to end up having to protect yourself and learn how to shoot or swing some deadly object around, and for that, you will need the all-important combat rules. Combat is pretty simple. Combatants act in order of their Dexterity skill and take one action per round, probably an attack. If you are attacked in a round, you can dodge or parry, with the difficulty of doing that successfully going up each time you try. It’s going to be very basic, there isn’t a lot of tactical maneuvering or special abilities or things like that (unless your character is unusual in having special powers). In the combat section there is something I really like: “spot” rules for specific situations. It’s great to have these all lined up and accessible in one section where you can find them easily, I feel like I’ve read whole rule books where all they were, were spot rules for situations. If you’re going to be traveling into danger while working for The Laundry, it’s probably best to carry some sort of firearm or magical item, because with the straightforward combat you want to take your opponent out before they have a chance to hit you.

The Royal Pains and Grimoires

Like in Call of Cthulhu, characters can lose sanity and suffer various ill effects. There’s a table dedicated to examples where a character would lose sanity and how much for specific situations. There are also different types of insanity; are you going temporarily insane or shall we prepare a more permanent bed in the psych ward? There are tables for short and long temporary insanity and the possible effects of each depending on the die roll. Come to think of it, there are a lot of tables in this book. I like tables. Ah yes, there is also permanent insanity, just in case your sanity score happens to hit zero. Probably undesirable. Consequences of going insane in one form or another can range from addiction to becoming completely catatonic, you can also relapse!

Oh, by the way, before you go out and face that thing that may or may not make you gibberingly insane, would you like to know what equipment is available to aid you in your quest? It’s almost like you’re reading through Paranoia in the section about equipment, because there are rules and tables for requisitioning things. That’s right, bring that grenade launcher back all dinged-up or covered in some ectoplasm, and good luck getting another one buddy! Also, if you don’t possess the requisite skills you’re probably not going to get a piece of gear associated with it. Things like firearms require you to have a certain amount of firearm skill before they’ll think about handing you a gun for use out in the wild. Requisitions aren’t only for gear, they are also for other Laundry personnel, like Baggers, Cleaners, and Plumbers, who more or less have self-descriptive job titles… as long as you think of them in terms of occult clean-up and containment, and use your imagination.

Speaking of other personnel, there is a ton of material on other groups engaged in the same type of stuff The Laundry is, and on both sides of it. By that I mean there are groups in other countries who investigate/battle the forces of darkness and madness, and there are also powerful groups or individuals who cultivate them. This book is really big, even for a core book, and a lot of it is dedicated to setting information and general information about the feel of the game. Whether it be sections on organizations inside and outside Laundry itself, similar organizations from other countries, an employee handbook, notes on game mastering and playing, whatever. There is just tons of stuff in here to read, and I think any fan of the books would enjoy it immensely.

Seal the Gate Already

Okay, so is the game interesting or not? I think if you have found the concept intriguing thus far, you will definitely enjoy this game. It’s a little bit of a departure from other Cubicle 7 games I’ve come to enjoy, but it retains the quality and depth of attention of any other games in their catalogue. It’s got it’s own unique flavor: a strange mix of tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic wit, and horror. I get the feeling that Simon Pegg would fit perfectly in this game world as a Laundry agent. Also, if you are a fan of conspiracies, I think this game has a lot to offer. The discussions of the various organizations and how they interact constantly references real world history and claim that this or that shady group or supernatural force was behind it. It’s a lot of fun to read, I can’t say that enough.

There are some great tables and charts, even ones for rolling up your own missions, using charts like the “Dramatic Situation” and “Bureaucratic Meddling” charts, including generating your own codewords like “BLACK ARCHER AXIOM THUMBSCREW” or your own tome names like “Thrice-Great Bargain of the Forgotten”. This game has the potential to have such an interesting atmosphere at the table, as moments of horror and moments of outright ridiculousness seem like they could burst forth at any moment. Overall, this game seems like a lot of just plain fun. I’m not too thrilled about the combat or anything, and I sense that there is a bit of a rub between the heroism of The Laundry (as a fictional, protagonist-driven story) and the sort of anti-heroic Lovecraft mythos that may cause some strangeness in long-term play. Nonetheless, I would definitely recommend this game to anyone who likes the concept, and definitely if you are into dark humor, British humor, crime drama, conspiracies, Lovecraft, and zombies. How could you not? It’s like not liking chocolate.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Laundry RPG
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Qin: The Art of War
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/21/2013 07:54:47
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/02/21/tabletop-review-qin-the-
-art-of-war/

Qin: The Art of War is the latest supplement for Qin: The Warring States, a role-playing game set in a mystical, ancient, and tumultuous China. This is the first supplement for Qin in almost a year, and only the fourth one even though the core book has been out (in English) since 2006. However, it is a welcome addition to the collection. Let’s jump in and see what the book has to offer.

Insert Any One-Liner About War Here

“War, what is it good for?” or “War, war never changes”, something like that would be appropriate here because this book is all about war. I don’t think there are many games where war is featured or focused on (well, except for Only War of course), and less where all aspects of war in the game get treatment in a comprehensive supplement book. This book is 144 pages packed with information about waging war in the Warring States (makes sense, eh?).

There are three major sections to the book, followed by a few smaller sections. The first is a roughly 40-page discourse on all aspects of war from troop recruitment to soldier life to sieges and tactics. It’s fascinating, and the information is well-presented with an ongoing narrative of flavor fiction throughout. This section is light on stats and rules, but explains a lot about the vagaries of war and covers many different topics, even fighting on the sea.


The next section is roughly the same size as the first and covers the forces for each of the seven states individually: Qin, Qi, Zhao, Chu, Yan, Wei, and Han. Again, all of the information is very interesting and I feel that this section, more than the core book or any of the other supplements, fleshes out the other states of the Zhongguo and gives the reader an idea of what these states’ political goals are as well as some hints of geography and social structure. Each state gets a breakdown of forces like infantry, cavalry, archers, engineers, commanders, and so on. There are also a few special characters given that are generally powerful leaders or high-ranking officers. One cool thing about this section is that there are descriptions of elite units and/or special units for each state like spies, alchemists, and saboteurs.

The third section is about 25 pages and contains the bulk of the actual rules pertaining to mass combat and the various activities surrounding battles and sieges. According to these rules, battles will occur via a series of “battle turns” where each general gives orders to his troops. These orders are as simple as attack, retreat, hold, and fire. What spices these up is that the general can attach “battle techniques” to these commands according to their “art of war” skill. These techniques are attached to a basic technique (move, attack, etc.) and command the unit to do something special like feint, concentrate fire, encircle, and a plethora of other special maneuvers. This is, in a word, awesome. I have never seen a book tackle mass combat like this in a role-playing game. I’m not saying it isn’t out there, I just can’t think of a book where I’ve seen it done. I was very impressed by this whole section.

Battlefield Advice and Adventures

The last three sections of the book are small and consist of game master advice and a few adventures. The advice consists of ways that the characters can be involved in an army and how they can perform some sort of task or service according to a rank they hold within the army. Armies have spaces for all kinds of characters besides strictly martial ones, they need alchemists, engineers, diplomats, and even magicians. This section goes over what the different components of an army would do during each stage of a battle, and how each tier of leadership functions during those periods of time. There are also several different types of missions suggested for army troops like disaster relief, escorting, and guarding.

Next up are two adventures, one dealing with barbarians in a desert region of the Zhongguo and the other has the players commanding a small Qin force to hold a southern border region. Both are well-written and thought out, providing some excellent material to get players familiar with the combat rules. The last few pages of the book are some excellent reference tables, an army sheet (like a character sheet for an army), and an index.


This Book is Awesome

I can’t hide my feelings about this book, it’s awesome. Not only is it well-written and presented, just about everything in it is useful and interesting. I have often considered how fun it would be to have players take part in a large-scale battle instead of the skirmishes that are so commonplace in role-playing games most of the time. This book seems to put forward simple but engaging mass combat rules, and tons of information on experiencing army life from all levels of leadership. For me, this book could be useful outside of Qin as well, I would definitely look to these sensible rules for mass combat in other low-technology games I might run, like just about any fantasy game. The adventures included are icing on the cake, as I would greatly enjoy the rest of the supplement even without those.

Qin seems to have gotten some nice attention in the last two years, but I think the core book is long overdue for a second edition. I hope that the continual release of quality material such as Qin: Art of War will signal further support for the game and (I hope I’m not the only one thinking this) a revised or second-edition rulebook. Here’s to Cubicle 7 and the crew for another great product!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Art of War
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Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/09/2013 18:39:53
I've enjoyed Cubicle 7's Cthulhu Britannica series, and their Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore is no exception. The book discusses how to incorporate Britain's folklore into Call of Cthulhu as, well as provides several written scenarios.

Folklore's "Using Folklore in Call of Cthulhu Games" is one of the best adventure design articles I've read. This article analyzes various permutations a folklore element and a mythos threat can relate to each other. For example, a piece of folklore can be mere rumors originating in a mythos threat. Or the folklore can actually exist, alongside the mythos, and act as a red herring -- or even vice-versa. Although written for folklore and the Cthulhu mythos, it can be used to meld any two ostensibly separate "mysterious genres" and not just in the 1920's. For example, you could use this article to help design a modern-day adventure involving the FBI or Illuminati (or both!) and the mythos.

"Using Folk Magic in Call of Cthulhu" is a shorter but still interesting analysis of how folklore-related "magic" can be use in roleplaying: as a derivative of mythos magic, as an entity unto itself, as medicine, or even as placebic belief. Some creative examples are included, and I wish this section had a "random idea generator" to help Keepers make up their own spells. Again, this section can be used for non-folklore magic, such as shamans and even modern-day psychics.

"A Folklore Bestiary" was enjoyable from the point of refreshing me on various folklore beings (eg. water horses) and has a useful but alas brief entry for magic-using humans (druids, witches, cultists...). Unfortunately, most of the entries are written from the viewpoint that the folklore entity exists, and include a short discussion of how it would work as an agent of the mythos. A dragon connected to the mythos is a bit much for my tastes. "Old Ones and Old Gods" is a too-brief discussion on plugging in mythos entities with British folkore.

"Folklore Mythos Threats" consists of nine well-written Cthulhu scenarios. The scenarios lack the conventional (and arguably unnecessary) handouts, maps, and pregenated PC's. The introduction even mentions that the Keeper has "enough materials ... to quickly build their own scenarios", but I think there's enough here for play. The adventures are NPC-heavy, so Keepers weaker in playing NPC roles may wish to enlist a roleplaying co-GM to enjoy developing the non-player characters.

If you've enjoyed the Cthulhu Britannica and Cthulhu Britannica: Scotland books, Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore will not disappoint!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore
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Doctor Who - The Time Traveller's Companion
by Jeremy M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2013 17:34:30
A thoroughly impressive piece of work, this supplement will be useful to anyone interested in playing - or using as NPCs - Time Lords from any era of the show's history. Although, in fairness, it's far, far more useful for classic era games where the Time Lords are still around, that canonical new series era games where the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords.

There's an extensive history section that does an excellent job of showing how Time Lord society evolved through its various TV appearances, a "Life on Gallifrey" chapter that gives Time Lord players all they need to create a background for their characters, a comprehensive guide to creating and using your own TARDIS, accompanied by supplementary rules on time travel and temporal phenomena (including Vortex Manipulators and Zygma beams), write-ups on the renegade Time Lords we've met over the years - the Monk, the War Chief, the Master, Drax, the Rani, and Romana - and a "GM's section" that reveals the secrets that aspiring Time Lord's *don't* get to learn during their time at the Academy. This section is slightly misnamed; the kind of dedicated Whovians who are the game's target audience know perfectly well that Chancellor Goth was secretly working for the Master, et cetera. As a means of keeping sensitive information out of the hands of players, it's of questionable value. What it does do, very usefully, is provide a clear dividing line between what the players know and what their characters do. This is a book that feels bigger on the inside than it is on the outside; it has a huge amount of useful material crammed into it, but it's all laid out in a very coherent manner and presented in a clear, readable style, with some very nice little flourishes (finally, we learn why the Doctor doesn't seem to use the same controls for the same functions all the time, for example).

Cubicle 7 has pretty high standards for its Dr Who game anyway, but this is the best product they've created for it to date, by a comfortable margin.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - The Time Traveller's Companion
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Kuro
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/10/2013 08:04:27
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/01/10/tabletop-review-kuro-cu-
bicle-7-entertainment/

Kuro is the latest in the line of interesting role-playing games put out by Cubicle 7 Entertainment, one of my favorite game companies. This game’s core thematic ideas have been compared, and rightly so, to the style of Japanese horror found in movies like The Ring or The Grudge. I am going to discuss the theme first, since that is really the meat of this game, and then of course I will discuss the way dice and characters factor in and the way the game plays.

It’s 2046, and things are messed up


In futuristic, dystopian Japan, there are strange and often terrible things happening. Bodies are found in alleyways, there is a blockade preventing people and goods from entering or leaving, and there is a general malaise over the population in the form of fear. When I read the introductory setting information for Kuro, I get that creeping feeling of dread that things have gone horribly wrong, yet no one knows exactly what is happening or what to do about it. While I felt that I had to suspend a bit of disbelief to get through the description of the eco-disaster future of the next 33 years (ice caps melt, oceans rise, energy crises, etc., I thought it sounded a little hysterical), once I got through the exposition I felt like I could enjoy the year 2046 as put forward by the book. The other thing I did not really buy was the description of international politics leading up to the nuclear launch that caused “the Kuro event”. In short, various alliances are formed and broken in Asia that lead to China launching a nuke at Japan which is intercepted by a strange electrical event. It seemed a bit fantastical to have these countries openly forming alliances and bickering about technology and trade agreements, including aggressive military action culminating in nuclear strikes. First, it all seems a bit like staged theatrics with a script for an action film. Second, if the future has androids and nanobots and clones … why are there still nukes and why would anyone launch them? Has the concept of mutually assured destruction disappeared?

Anyway, I found the setting exposition a bit tall, but it is easy to just read over it and accept that things got messed up, something drastic happened and now Japan is plunged into a strange darkness. To top it off, the event occurred during a contested election and the country is currently leaderless, dealing with an interior political crisis that leaves people just as confused by their government as they are with the strangeness around them. Add one dash of a blockade at the Japanese ports and around the perimeter of the country, and you have yourself a claustrophobic hotbed of supernatural horror.

So, what is the strangeness around them? Well, there are hints and overtures throughout the book. Sometimes the book is talking about spirits, ghosts, and the like. Other times, mentions of monsters, beasts and demons from Eastern mythology. Bodies are found having suffered a strange disfiguration, machines come to life and attack, technology is manipulated by the strange energy of the dead, strange noises are heard, and shadows flicker in the corners of eyes. Basically, whatever creepy thing you can think of or any trope from a horror movie is going to fit in here. Possession, haunting, poltergeists, demons, horrible Lovecraftian beasts, electronic interference, madness, all of that can have a home in 2046 Tokyo.

What Do People Do?


The idea for the players in Kuro is to have them be mostly ordinary people; they are used to living a regular life, going to work and living with whatever comforts are affordable or available, hanging out with friends, and in the midst of the Kuro event they are seeking a return to normalcy. While I’m sure it would be perfectly possible to play badass ghost hunters and demon killers, the game really doesn’t seem to encourage that line of thinking. This is more along the lines of supernatural and/or survival horror – think X-Files set in semi-hysterical, futuristic Tokyo. To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure how to imagine the level of alarm in the setting. Is everyone going crazy? Are people more or less living normally but with this oppressive fear kept under wraps? Is there constant evidence of the supernatural but some people dismiss it or ignore it and some embrace it? I think it is a mixture of all three. The book talks about spouters of end-of-the-world prophecies, cults, the wealthy living in isolated buildings that provide for all of their needs, various religious groups, those trying to capitalize monetarily on the tragedy, and the government being very quiet about it all except to reassure the populace that nothing is wrong.

Tokyo, now renamed Shin-Edo in the face of enemies (a tradition), is a divided city in more than just how people feel about the crisis. There are different districts where the disparate groups of people live. The very wealthy might live in one quarter, the influential businessmen and offices in another quarter, the less fortunate here, strip clubs there, etc. The book gives a nice description of each definable section of Shin-Edo, detailing the inhabitants and what typically goes on there. After reading this, the game master should have a good idea of what the different portions of Tokyo are like. The descriptions are not too short, dedicating about a page to each section depending on how much there is of note in the location. Following ward descriptions are a few pages about daily life: what to eat and drink, customs, currency, and the Shinto-Buddhist religion most people subscribe to. Not a lot of information here, but enough for a role-playing game. Anyone familiar with Japanese culture will probably learn little from this section, but those clueless about the nation will need this to help them add authenticity to the atmosphere.

Rollin’ Dice and Making a Tokyo-ite


Well folks, if what I have said has excited you thus far, I hope this doesn’t take anything away for you. As for me, I found the actual game mechanisms here functional but uninspiring. Basically, you take the number of dice (d6s) for the attribute related to what you are doing, add the level of the skill you are using, and then see if that meets or exceeds a target number set by the GM. Anyone familiar with other Cubicle 7 games like Qin and The One Ring will see similarities here. The differences are that there is an “exploding die” possibility, where a roll of “6” is rolled again and added to the total, and then (for a nice touch of flavor) a roll of “4” at any time counts as zero, because the word for “4” is the same as the word for “death”. Otherwise, that is pretty much it. It seems that Neko or whoever is responsible for setting the basic die mechanisms in Cubicle 7 games prefers to use six-sided dice with a twist thrown in somewhere. I can understand and respect that, I just would love to see something really interesting done with dice at some point in my role-playing life. I guess I keep hoping C7, since they seem to be the biggest professional company putting out games on interesting and non-tired subjects, will be the ones to invent those mechanisms.

Character creation is point-buy. You will be able to allocate points between your eight attributes (we’re talking single-digit, low attributes), and then allocate a certain amount of points between skills and skill specializations. One cool thing about skills is that once you specialize enough in a certain area of a skill you are allowed to choose what is called a “Gimikku” for that specialization. These Gimikku allow you to add bonus points to a roll, reroll dice, and other things that make your character very, very good at that one thing. The skill list covers a nice, general area without getting too deep. You still read through and think: “where is any character going to use his Jet Pilot skill?” So, while I personally think they could just eliminate a lot of these skills that probably would never crop up in a game set in futuristic, dark Tokyo, I guess it’s good to have them there just in case. For another example, you character can have the “Energy Technology” skill with a specialization in photovoltaic nanobatteries. Now, seriously, who is going to use this skill in-game? I’m not saying it is impossible, I’m just looking for an example of how a player who is highly specialized in photovoltaic nanobatteries is going to prove useful in the course of a game.

Without going into all the details of what is a fairly basic and standard combat system, I just want to point out something that I think is very cool with melee combat. There are three types of attacks: “Fast”, “Power”, and a normal attack. The normal attack is just your straightforward “to hit” roll, and the opponent can dodge if they have actions left. The “Power” and “Fast” attacks require you to invest a point of Strength or Reflexes respectively, and then provide various tradeoffs to damage and hitting depending on how much you invested. Now that’s interesting! This breathes a bit of tactical life into what is otherwise a pretty typical combat section. Now, if only something like this had been implemented for the heroes in The One Ring along with the tactical positioning…

Monsters and Terrible Things


I’m just going to describe one monster in the bestiary section, the one that gave me the most willies. It is the Tsuchigumo or “earth spider”. Awakened by the Kuro Incident, these large spiders look “like a sea spider, with a massive, whitish shell and a body with six long hooked legs”. Yeah. In addition to that, they like to live underground where they can remain undetected and hide in the dark. This was the worst part: “Incapable of coming out during the day without being noticed and by fear of the sunlight, this creature prefers to possess human beings with its eggs to make them obey without hesitation”. You also have the Kappa, a turtle-like humanoid with a beak and some sort of strange, salt-water brain (it’s hard to explain without just reading it over and over). There are also various demons and spirits here related to Japanese lore. It is by no means an exhaustive bestiary and does not contain much in the way of things a GM can pull out regularly for the characters unless the characters are really strong and the evil forces are really making a go of it.

Towards the end of the book are sections on gamemastering advice and a sample adventure for the group. Both of these are great, and give a lot of excellent information and examples on gameplay. The sample adventure seems really hard, and I don’t see how the characters could really survive it without at least one or two dying off. Basically, the players are trapped in a complex that has been locked down for security, and through the actions of some unwelcome intruders they will be forced even deeper in before the security really gets bad. However, the spirit of the recently-deceased lab director is there to help … but how much? I won’t spoil it for you, but the scenario given in this book is pretty freaky and intense.

Final Thoughts

Kuro nails one thing really well: theme. By making Tokyo (Shin-Edo) the setting and centering the game on it, then adding in all of these concrete and implied elements of Japanese horror, Kuro shines. Tokyo becomes like a pressure cooker, and all of these elements are added to the recipe to make a terrifying sauce for GMs to lovingly spoon over the story, topped with the player characters. Good place for food metaphors? Actually, few things could make me less hungry than the possible fear created by this game, in the hands of the right group. I’m not the biggest fan of fear, and I outright cannot stand senseless violence, but I do enjoy creepiness and supernatural happenings. This game can go full steam with both supernatural creep and gore elements, or it can just choose one of those two and focus on it. Want lots of dead people and violence? Kuro is ready for that. Want lots of creep, whispers, shadows, and that kind of stuff? Kuro is good for that too. Either way, the atmosphere of terrified Tokyo and the people within are ripe for a group to come and experience it. The crew at Cubicle 7 has made another excellent game on an interesting subject, and while I am not crazy about some aspects of the game like the lackluster test resolution and some convoluted rules, the feel is just too good to pass up.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kuro
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Doctor Who - The Time Traveller's Companion
by Matthew T. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/30/2012 11:30:20
This is a great book that adds lots and lots of new information and options for a Doctor Who game. Like all of the line, this book is pretty and easy to read. As a fan of classic Who, I was very happy to see that the book covered all the Doctor Who timeline both in the text and the illustrations.

The book includes cultural and historical information about Gallifrey and the Time Lords, answering a lot of questions and offering tons of plot ideas. It's worth reading even if you don't play the game. Not only do we have the big historic events (like the Dark Times and the Time War) but we have information on daily life on Gallifrey.

Next is a whole chapter on creating Time Lord characters, starting with tips for getting around the "last of the Time Lords" bit. This fixes the only real problem I had with DW:ATS, namely everybody (naturally) wants to play a Time Lord. This chapter includes a step-by-step process for creating Time Lords with background information (like the Academy and naming conventions) and good and bad traits. Most of this information is drawn from the TV show. There is also a lot of information on regeneration. Regeneration is handled randomly with rolls and tables increasing or decreased stats and changing physical appearance and personality. I'm not convinced this is the best way to handle regeneration but it does reflect the sometimes extreme nature of regeneration.

Chapter 4 covers temporal tricks in a lot of detail (possible too much detail). There's paradoxes, and vortex manoeuvres, and nexus points, plus a plethora of temporal gadgets. This chapter tries to catalog and understand 30 years of Whovian craziness, and it does a really good job (particularly since I strongly suspect the Who-verse doesn't make complete sense). But it also adds lot of complexity to a game.

Chapter 5 is dedicated to TARDISes, their history, systems, and uses. There are details on almost every aspect imaginable from the "desk top theme" to "spatial overlap" and the Cloister Bell. There are notes on ancient to advanced TARDISes as well -- most exciting of all -- rules for creating a TARDIS complete with good and bad traits (an insatiably curious TARDIS may nip off to have adventures on its own!).

The rest of the book is given to "GM-only" information: dark secrets of the Time Lords, hidden technologies, and famous and infamous Time Lords (like the Master and Romana!). While there's lots of great information here, it won't be "GM-only" to anyone familiar with classic Who. There are chapters of adventure seeds, ideas for setting games during different periods of Time Lord history, general GM advice, and even more advances temporal phenomena.

Finally, there is an extensive and helpful index, as well as Time Lord and TARDIS character sheets and helpful reference cards.

As I said, there's a lot of information here, not just setting but rules: new rules, modifiers, stats, and charts. Enough so that incorporating all these rules could alter the feel of a DW:ATS game. While the system is still simple, this supplement adds lots of fiddly bits. Without a light touch, all these new details could bog down a game (something the book addresses). These is a great book to dip into, cherry-pick, or even obsesses over, just like Doctor Who itself.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - The Time Traveller's Companion
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The Ballad of Bass Rock - Call of Cthulhu
by Benjamin B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2012 16:30:23
(Originally posted at http://secondleft.blogspot.ca/2012/12/review-ballad-of-bass--
rock-for-call-of.html)

Over the last couple of years Cubicle 7 has surprised us all by releasing their Cthulhu Britannica line for Call of Cthulhu to great acclaim. Their most recent print publication for the line, Shadows Over Scotland, was very well received (I really need to finish reading that.) If you haven't read any of the line go and grab them, they're all available from DriveThruRPG in PDF format.

The Ballad of Bass Rock is an adventure for Shadows Over Scotland that was originally supposed to be contained in the original publication of Shadows Over Scotland, but was cut when the layout of the book resulted in the page count growing beyond what was planned. Cubicle 7 has now laid out this adventure and made it available for sale.

So what are we getting for our $3.99? First off the adventure is 14 pages. It is professionally laid out and looks like it would if it had been part of the original book. Except the adventure isn't really 14 pages. The first page is taken up by a cover with a nice enough faux oil painting of the island of Bass Rock, and the second page is completely taken up by the credits for the product and license information. So now we're down to 12 pages out of our 14. For $3.99 my feeling of value is already dropping fast here.

The adventure starts in a minorly contrived way, but hey we're Call of Cthulhu players we're used to that now, with the players on board a boat on a pleasure cruise off the coast of Scotland. A storm suddenly arises and smashes the boat on the rocks of Bass Rock. The players, and any surviving NPCs, are then faced with getting help and surviving the day on the rock.

Bass Rock is mainly a bird colony, and the only structures are a lighthouse, the ruins of an old castle and an even older chapel. Unfortunately it's only inhabitants at this point are 150,000+ birds and one huge shoggoth. The shoggoth has been here a couple of weeks, has devoured the lighthouse keeper and the crew sent to find out why they hadn't heard from him. It has also been pulling dolphins and orcas out of the sea and leaving their rotting remains in the castle ruins.

The only real objective of the adventure is to survive and try and contact the mainland to get help.

The bulk of the 0 pages of the adventure are taken up with descriptions of the NPCs involved and descriptions of the locations on the island. The NPCs, two crew members and a newly wed couple, are given sufficient information to be interesting characters in themselves and there is certainly enough information to make them memorable NPCs for the players. Unfortunately there are no illustrations of the NPCs.

Most of the description concerns the lighthouse, and it is fairly thorough. Descriptions of each floor of the lighthouse and what can be found on each floor is very helpful in bringing life to the locations.

All in all the adventure is very basic but could be fun as an introduction to Call of Cthulhu. It will provide a challenge as it is unlikely that the players will find any way to kill the shoggoth, so other solutions need to be considered. I will likely find myself using the adventure at some point.

Finally at the end the last 2 pages consist of reproductions of the handouts already contained in the text, and a plot map table. Considering how short the adventure already is for the money, spending nearly two pages reproducing the handouts again feels like a complete waste. Since this is PDF only we can easily print whatever pages we like and cutout the handouts as needed. I understand this is normal layout process for an RPG adventure, but in this already short product it feels like padding and a reduction in the value for money.

Overall I don't think this is value for money. $3.99 is simply too much for what amounts to a 10 page adventure and this really should have been made available for free on the website for Shadows Over Scotland. So I can't recommend it from a value perspective.

From an adventure perspective it's enjoyable if a bit short. Not exactly the best adventure out there, but adequate for the size. It is however the kind of adventure you'd expect to see in a magazine or as a free download on a website rather than a sold product. If it had been included in Shadows Over Scotland it would have been fine, but here it's a little lacking. Maps of the lighthouse, ruins and chapel would have been appreciated, but aren't necessary.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Ballad of Bass Rock - Call of Cthulhu
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Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/28/2012 06:48:41
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/12/28/tabletop-review-cthulhu-
-britannica-folklore-call-of-cthulhu/

Cthulhu Britannica has been a hit or miss line to me, despite the fact I’m a big fan of both Call of Cthulhu and Cubicle 7. I found the original Cthulhu Britannica piece lacking and The Ballad of Bass Rock was one of the most generic and overpriced adventures I’ve ever seen released for the system. At the same time, both Shadows Over Scotland and Avalon: The Country of Somerset blew me away with the high quality content, incredible artwork and wonderful adventures. However, after Shadows Over Scotland, the Cthulhu Britannica line seemed to dry up with Folklore being pushed back so many times, I didn’t actually think it would ever be released. However, less than a fortnight ago it was released and so here we are with our review of it. I’m going to shy away from the bits of drama that surrounded this piece such as writer changes and the like and concentrate purely on the quality of the book itself. That said, with a PDF price tag of only fifteen dollars, Folklore is an amazing deal that all Call of Cthulhu gamers should rush out to pick up. It’s not perfect, but you’re getting a sourcebook and nine adventures for a pittance of cash and that should make up for some of the lackluster adventures or minor issues I had with some of the content.

Folklore is 136 pages long, but that includes cover, ads and the like. You can divide the contents into two categories: a sourcebook on folklore and its relationship to the Cthulhu Mythos along with the Call of Cthulhu rules system, and a whopping nine adventures. It’s really well done and the areas where I nitpicked the book are only because I myself have, let’s say “a few” articles on folklore published, but they were minor errors you’d only pick up on if you wrote about the subject like your next meal depended on it. The vast majority of gamers won’t find anything at all to grumble about and will be able to use Folklore not only as a comprehensive guide to non Mythos creatures that one can use with Chaosium’s venerable system, but for other role playing systems as well. The mark of a true quality supplement or sourcebook is if you can take the content and use it easily with other system. Folklore is just such a book. Anyone can take the core creatures and concepts and move them to say, Shadowrun, Chill or any other RPG system set more or less in our world.

I should point out that Folklore is a comprehensive guide to the folklore of Great Britain only. If you were expecting folklore bits on say Native American, Egyptian or Asian culture, then I have to point out the word Britannica is in the full title of the book. For those looking for information on Ireland, I direct you to Chaosium’s monograph, Mysteries of Ireland. The book doesn’t touch on everything, say Arthurian legends, anything about Whitby or the like, but it’s still quite good. The focus on Folklore is on that of the fae and faerie folk of England and the other countries surrounding it. There are some odd inclusions like werewolves and vampires which are not only already in the core Call of Cthulhu rulebook, but they are done better in it. As well, Folklore gets some of the most basic premises about the folklore versions of these popular Hollywood-ized monsters wrong, which surprised and disappointed me. Again though, the core of the book itself is fantastic.

Folklore gives you a short little treatise on what exactly folklore is, along with a set of references in case you want to read more about the subject without gaming terminology and mechanics. For those wishing to play a folklorist in 1920s Call of Cthulhu, you’re given a basic occupation template that really does fit the stereotype to a T. I’d definitely use the package if playing one. From there the book goes on to discuss how to use folklore with Call of Cthulhu. Is the adventure purely grounded in folkloric creatures? Are the folkloric creatures just a guise for mythos creatures or a misinterpretation brought on by seeing what man was not meant to conceive nor understand? Does the folklore co-exist or run parallel to mythos creatures, meaning there is room for both in an adventure or campaign? These questions and more need to be answered by the Keeper before writing adventures or starting a campaign. After all, if the Keeper decides that there aren’t any actual folklore creatures and all folklore is brought about by misunderstanding mythos beings, players are going to have a hard time running through the recent Terror From the Skies campaign that Chaosium recently put out as players will potentially befriend a Hob and Deep Ones alike. I strongly recommend a thorough reading of folklore by anyone who is thinking about adding in creatures like fae, trolls, gnomes and whatever to their CoC campaign for both a better understanding of these creatures and their relationship with Mythos races.

There’s also a chapter on Folk Magic Vs. Mythos Magic and again, it is up to the Keeper if there is going to be a discernible difference or not. From there the book goes into a very long bestiary about different classifications of folkloric creatures. This is probably the weakest section of the book as it lumps creatures that normally wouldn’t be or shouldn’t be together and gives them a set stat package. In some cases, like Fairy Folk, this makes sense to so a lump generic package but for others like the Shapeshifters category, it just doesn’t work. Again, the Hollywood version of werewolves is in the book rather than the actual folklore one, which is odd. As well, the book makes little errors here like saying, “The vampires of folklore differ in some respects to the vampire as presented in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and early 20th century fiction—not having to return to its original soil or coffin, for example.” which is incorrect as both Dracula AND his folkloric predecessors had to do sleep in their native either but NEITHER had to actually sleep in a coffin. The widespread use of coffins didn’t come about until the 18th Century, while the belief in vampires in one form or another in Europe is centuries older. The need for a coffin came from the same origin point as sunlight being a fatal weakness to vampires – movies. It was also odd to see banshees included as shapeshifters instead of in the ghosts section. It would have been better to have a section on lycanthropic beings, undead and to properly break out the spectral apparitions rather than lumping all these different categories into “shapeshifters.” Aside from errors like these and some names of creatures being a bit off, the section is pretty good when all things are said and done and it was nice to see Screaming Skulls and other lesser known deviltries show up here.

The book also includes a calendar of special folklore related dates, a small section of appropriate Mythos gods and creatures in relation to actual folkloric creatures. Finally we have the nine adventures. These adventures run the gambit from good to bad, which is to be expected with any adventure compilation. However one thing that is gets an across the board thumb’s down for me is the formatting of the adventures. Instead of having a clean break between adventures (that is to say starting a new adventure on a new page as is industry standard), these adventures just run together without any real breaks, making it hard to find where one starts or to flip through them for specific information. I’m not sure who thought formatting an adventure collection as if it was one long section was a good idea, but this has to be one of the worst editorial decisions I’ve seen in a while. Thankfully the content is quite good and the fact you’re getting nine adventures for fifteen dollars in addition to a seventy or so page sourcebook is enough to mitigate this down to a minor complaint. So, let’s take a look at the adventures, shall we?

The Beast of Bodmin – this adventure has players coming in contact with one of the great black dogs of British folklore as it commits fouls deeds in the town of Bodmin. Of course, there is a Mythos twist to the Black Dog, which savvy CoC players should figure out immediately from the fact it’s a DOG. What’s not so easy to predict is what to do here. Just when the players think they are going down the correct road, it just might turn out they’re doing exactly what the Black Dog wanted them to. This is a really fun little adventure that can go a dozen different ways, so it’s best in the hands of a Keeper that is either prepared for everything, or knows how his players tend to react to things. 1 for 1.

Head Over Heels – this is a wonderful Screaming Skull oriented adventure. Players are hired by a Lord Blake to retrieve a skull of his ancestor that was obtained by an odd collector. As players progress they will discover there is something equally strange about the collector, the family that hired them and the object that binds them together. Another well done adventure. 2 for 2.

The Writhing Hill – There is a young insane Cthonian in the earth beneath an archeological dig. You can pretty much tell what happens just from that previous sentence. It’s a cute adventure, but very short and simple. Still, fun is what counts and this adventure certainly is that. 3 for 3.

The Horror Out of Time -This is the first adventure I didn’t care for simply because it was way too similar to the fun before it. There is an injured insane Flying Polyp in the earth beneath a farm. Predictability happens. I know Cubicle 7 is sometimes guilty of paint by numbers style generic adventures that feel like we’ve all played them numerous times before but to very similar adventures not only in the same book, but right next to each other is just sloppy. Sure one is on a farm and the other is at a dig site, but it’s the same core adventure. Disappointing. 3 for 4.

Daughters of the Seas – This is a fun adventure but once again it’s one that I know I’ve seen before, not only for Call of Cthulhu, but it’s almost the exact same adventure I wrote and ran for Dungeons and Dragons back in 2002. I’m ninety-nine percent sure it’s a coincidence though because the sheer amount of OGL stuff out there is impossible for any one man (or even a hundred) to wade through. Anyway, the adventure is about an ancient compact between a town of fishermen and a colony of Deep Ones. Over generations, the history of the compact was lost and by the time of the adventure, it is mostly pomp and circumstance where the villagers engage in quaint old superstitious beliefs. Too bad the Deep Ones haven’t forgotten. What makes the adventure more complicated is a witch’s coven that lurks within the town, one of whose members is a worshipper of Dagon and Hydra and thus knows the truth of the village’s ancient ways. Can the Investigators figure out how to keep this sleepy seaside hamlet from become a British Innsmouth? 4 for 5.

The Body Politic – This is just a weird adventure that doesn’t feel like it belongs in a Call of Cthulhu collection. It feels like it would be more at home in one of Cubicle 7′s other lines. Victoriana for example. It’s an adventure about a mad scientist who is trying to replicate Mi-Go science by engaging in some body snatching from local traveler/gypsy/romani tribes. The Investigators have been hired to clear one of the travelers of a crime and to expose the mad scientist and his mad machinations. This adventure just doesn’t work for me. It would be better set in the 1820s instead of the 1920s for one thing (a fact the adventure itself somewhat admits), and it’s just not very well written. Whatever Keeper runs this is really going to have to tighten things up, fill in large gaps of logic and plot and basically re-write the thing from scratch. Not for me. 4 for 6.

Wedded to the Deep – This is a second Deep One oriented adventure. I was hoping the writing and editing teams would have been able to be a bit more creative, especially as this adventure is just another one about a person being a Deep One hybrid and their subsequent loss of humanity. It’s basically the same adventure every Call of Cthulhu player has been put through at least once before, but with the added twist that the hybrid in question started to transform right before his wedding. Investigators are hired to figure out what happened to the poor groom but most CoC players will have the reveal figured out long before their characters do. At least the adventure complicates things a bit with a cult devoted to Mother Hydra that is trying to capture the poor hybrid for their own nefarious reasons. Still, this is another extremely generic adventure and that worries me a little about the future for the Cthulhu Britannica line. Granted after thirty-one years, it’s hard to come up with some truly original adventures for Call of Cthulhu, but as well written as this one is, it still feels like something I would have played or even come up with myself in middle school. The same will be true for many that read or experience it. 4 for 7.

The Company of Wolves – This is another Black Dog related adventure. I can’t believe that in a book with a subject as expansive as folklore, we have two adventures devoted to Black Dogs and two to Deep Ones. Run the gamut with your source material Cubicle 7! This adventure however is significantly different from the first one in the collection and it’s a pretty weird out there experience for your players to boot. It involved a guardian wolf spirit or two, a vengeful witch, a drunken hunter and a lot of murders. It’s the most intricate of the adventures in the collection and although it’s not very Lovecraftian so to speak, it’s still one that will engage your players. 5 for 8.

The Black Spring Gate – This, along with the previous adventure, are the only ones in the collection that are actually centered on folklore instead of being straight Mythos affairs. Even then you have an antagonist looking to corrupt a Fairy Gate so that it brings forth Mythos creatures instead of the fae. Of course, this is Call of Cthulhu, so you have to expect adventures to have some tie to the Mythos. For those who want a purely folkloric affair, the mythos content here is very light and can easily be retooled to a generic sorcerer. It’s a very weird but memorable affair. 6 for 9.

So all in all, Folklore isn’t perfect, but it’s an exceptionally solid read from beginning to end and even the adventures I gave a thumbs down to aren’t BAD; they’re just generic or trite while still being playable and fun in the hands of a good Keeper or inexperienced players that haven’t been through the usual rigmarole. With a price tag of only fifteen dollars ($25 for the print version), Folklore is an exceptional deal and one every Call of Cthulhu fan should consider investing in. It’s not the best Call of Cthulhu offering this year, but it IS a nice way to end the amazing year this thirty-one year old product line has had.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore
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Laundry Files: Agent's Handbook
by Dominik D. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/26/2012 11:02:21
Originally posted on: http://www.rollenspiel-almanach.de/rezension-laundry-files-a-
gents-handbook/

Kennst du die Romane der Laundry Serie? Ich bin ein großer Fan dieser Romanreihe von Charles Stross. Das hier rezensierte Buch baut ganz stark auf diese Romane auf. Außerdem ist es ein Ergänzungsband zu dem eigentlichen Rollenspiel, genannt “The Laundry RPG”.

Das Setting der Romane einzufangen und verlustfrei wiederzugeben ist der Maßstab, an dem ich dieses Buch messen werde. Um ein Gefühl für die Romane zu bekommen kann man drei kostenlose Kurzgeschichten im Internet lesen, The Concrete Jungle, Down on the Farm, und Overtime. Es ist also eine cthulhuide Umgebung, in der Jetztzeit, mit viel nerdigem Humor, einer riesigen Dosis Witze über die Besonderheiten von großen Organisationen und Behörden im Besonderen, gewürzt mit einer Prise James Bond. Ein Beispiel, das jeder wird nachvollziehen können, ist die von MS Powerpoint ausgehende Schlafmagie…

Das Grundregelwerk basiert auf dem Basic Roleplaying System, dass aus Call of Cthulhu wohlbekannt ist – naheliegend, weil auch der Horror aus CoC eine wichtige Rolle im Setting spielt. Ob es das beste System für den besonderen Humor ist, mag dahingestellt bleiben, immerhin ist es einfach und schon gut bekannt. Mehr dazu zu schreiben, würde den Rahmen hier sprengen, immerhin geht es um das Agent’s Handbook.

Das Handbook selbst fängt sehr trocken und langweilig an, steigert sich aber zum Ende hin – hier ist also Durchhaltewillen gefragt. Zunächst werden dem Leser zwei Kapitel zum Thema Spionage zugemutet, in denen lehrbuchartig die praktische Durchführung von Verfolgungen und Überwachungen beschrieben werden – und zwar, wie man sowas als Geheimdienstler denn so richtig macht, mit dem Abhören und dem Verfolgen… das tägliche Brot eines Agenten eben. Oft ist dann kurz noch ein kleiner Abschnitt angeflanscht, der sich mit den magischen Möglichkeiten des Settings befasst. In diesen Kapiteln wirkt das Buch eher lieblos erstellt, die behandelten Themen hat man anderswo schon mal interessanter geschrieben erlebt und Neues findet man auch nicht.

In nächsten Kapitel werden dann Feuerwaffen und Sprengstoffe vorgestellt, auch hier eher trockene Kost mit vielen Tabellen, aber immerhin etwas, was der Spieler für sich nutzen kann – im Gegensatz zu den Überwachungstechniken aus dem ersten Kapitel, die – wenn das Spielgefühl der Romane getroffen werden soll – kaum eine Rolle spielen dürften.

Besser wird es in Kapitel 4, dass den verheißungsvollen Namen “Black Budget, Red Tape”, also etwa “Schwarze Kassen, Dreifache Ausfertigungen” trägt. Hier geht es um den existenziellen Horror einer Behörde (das Kern-Thema der Romane, in dem sich Humor und Horror zu gleichen Teilen spiegeln) und ihre konkrete Durchführung im Spiel. Die Regeln bilden das nur mäßig gut ab, aber jeder Spielleiter, der sein Geld wert ist, kann sich aus diesem Text den grauseligsten Horror ableiten, unter dem die Spieler… äh, Spielercharaktere meine ich natürlich, fürchterlich leiden werden! Ein erster Höhepunkt des Buches sind die “Bürokratie-Zufallsbegegnungen”, die solche großartigen Einträge wie “Web filter verbal warning“ und “ISO9001 Non-Conformance Review” enthält.

Man bekommt in der Folge noch “Trainingskurse”, die für das Rollenspiel mechanisch eine Rolle spielen, aber auch als Abenteueraufhänger nützlich sind, und Charakter Templates, mit denen man sofort losspielen kann, angeboten – brauchbar, aber nicht wirklich nötig. Dann folgt noch ein Kapitel mit spielbaren Monsterklassen, gleich mit einem kurzen Abriss der damit verbundenen Probleme. Dieser Teil gefällt mir schon ganz gut. Dann kommen die für mich interessantesten beiden Kapitel, jeweils echte Höhepunkte. So ganz richtig sind sie in diesem Bücher, dass ja eigentlich die Spieler adressiert, nicht aufgehoben, denn sie richten sich an den SL. Es geht im Kapitel 8 um Spielergruppen, die nicht zur Laundry gehören, also z.B. solche, die zu einem anderen Geheimdienst gehören oder einem der dunklen Kulte anhängen. Noch besser wird es in Kapitel 9, in dem an der Zeit gedreht wird und Hinweise gegeben werden, wie man in den Zeiten “Zweiter Weltkrieg”, “Kalter Krieg” “Anfänge des Geek-Zeitalters (1970-1990)” und “Internet und Zeitalter des Kapitalismus (1990-2001)” spielen kann.

Das tollste an dem Buch sind aber die Formulare, die nun folgen. Man kann sie als SL seinen Spielern geben und sie dazu zwingen, ihre Reisekostenabrechnung zu machen und andere völlig sinnbefreite Formulare auszufüllen. Unter anderem sogar eines, dass im Anschluss vom Agenten selbst zu vernichten ist… Großartig.

Das Buch hat ein Inhaltsverzeichnis und einen brauchbar wirkenden Index, da gibts nichts zu meckern. Das Layout ist eher einfach und das Buch leider nur spärlich bebildert. Überhaupt hat mich das Artwork nicht überzeugt – verglichen mit dem erst kürzlich hier besprochenen “Der Eine Ring” ist Layout und Grafik nur Kindergartenniveau. Zur Produktionsqualität kann ich leider keine Aussage treffen, da mir nur ein PDF vorliegt.

Fazit: Da das Buch den Humor der Romane gut trifft und gegen Ende hin recht nützliche Sachen bietet – und wegen der Zufallsbegegnungstabelle für Bürokratie – gebe ich 3,5 von 5 Büroklammern.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Laundry Files: Agent's Handbook
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