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The Age of Shadow: Role-playing Game
Publisher: Crooked Staff Publishing
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 23:01:46
(originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

The Age of Shadow, a fantasy RPG drawing upon the OpenQuest rules, which drew upon the Mongoose RuneQuest, has it's roots deeply in the previous versions of RuneQuest. Got that? Good.

So, it's OpenQuest with a few twists, like less modifiers but higher mods when you do have one. Oh, and its free, which is always nice when looking for new options for a current game engine.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Age of Shadow: Role-playing Game
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All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon
Publisher: Gaming Paper
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:58:53
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

I generally don't review much of the stuff released for Pathfinder. The system is fine, just too rules heavy for my current taste. It doesn't stop me from grabbing adventures and sourcebooks for the system, as most of the stuff, even the licensed stuff, is top notch and easily convertible for my needs.

Tonight I'm looking at All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon. Now, everyone has their own opinions on who's a star adventure writer and who isn't, but I recognized 3 of the 4 names right off the bat, and 2 (if not all 3) are certainly starters on any adventure writers team I might assemble.

Now, the adventures within all use geomorphs that can be found in Gamin Paper's Mega Dungeon 1 release, but it's not required for play, as the dungeons are all mapped out in each adventure (and labeled if you did want to use the sheets with it).

Lets get to the meat of the matter: How do the 4 adventures stack up?

The first one we get is The Temple of the Half-Born by Monte Cook. Certainly the headliner. He's pulling this from his Ptolus setting and redesigning it. I have no idea how close in remains true to the original, and I'm not dragging the monster out to check. It's for 7th and 8th level characters. Monte seems very comfortable with the Pathfinder system (as well he should) and there are DC checks throughout the text. Undead heavy, but what do you expect for a dungeon under a temple? Four Tankards out of Five

Arena of Souls is the next in line. It's written by Brian Cortijo and is for characters of levels 3 and 4. The author's name doesn't ring a bell for me. Here's where it lost me: "PCs begin the adventure waking up alone in an unfamiliar setting, stripped of all of their possessions". Sorry, tapped out and moved on to the next adventure, as this screams "railroad" to me. No rating, as I stopped reading at the above point.

Alright, Ed Greenwood is the next author. He gives us Lost Coins and Flying Bones for 4th and 5th level characters. I happen to like Ed's work. He gives a rumor list and nice background material. Ed also gives very detailed encounter descriptions. It gave me an old school feel, but then any adventure that includes a Gibbering Mouther tends to do so for me. I'll give Ed Four Tankards out of Five.

Last but certainly not least, we get Keep Away From the Borderlands! by Steven Schend for beginning characters. Now, I'm going to quote Steven's opening paragraph, just to give you a feel for what follows:

As much as I’d love to make this a full homage to the early days of roleplaying, I won’t bother you with a “Welcome to the land of imaginations!” and all that. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve played in or run a roleplaying game before using one set of rules or another. You probably don’t need hand-holding to walk you through a dungeon or tell you how to prepare or use this material1. What you do need is a good old-fashioned starter adventure to get a new campaign rolling—and I hope this module !ts the bill for you.

How's that for getting you in the Old School mood? There is an implied, sandboxie setting that could be fit easily into nearly any larger setting. There's a rumor list, there's a Generic Dungeon Details list (I'm yoking this) and even a Generic Corpse Detail list. Some of the NPCs even have pre, current and post adventure status's written up for them and well as some post adventure hooks. It's an excellent starter adventure for new or experienced DMs. Five out of Five tankards. Heck, I'd even give Steve a "buyback" if he patronized the Tavern ;)

Overall, a very strong product. Even if you just used the 3 adventures I read, the cost to you would be 2.50 a piece.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
All Stars Take on the Mega Dungeon
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Seal the Rift! (OGL 3.5 Fantasy Grounds II Adventure Module + PDF)
Publisher: White Haired Man
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:48:05
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

Alright, I guess I need to give full disclosure on this review - I play test part of this. Heck, this is the adventure I played in via Fantasy Grounds 2 that let me to seriously consider running a game with the Savage Worlds rules. To me, that says a lot about the adventure itself, as it sold me on a set of rules I truly had very lithe knowledge of (and no actual play experience). So, I may be a bit biased. Sue me ;)

First things first. Seal the Rift! comes in two flavors - Savage Worlds and 3.5e. Each flavor comes in 2 different packages - a PDF with the Fantasy Grounds files, or without. I'm very glad to see White Haired Man releasing their products in a PDF only format in addition to their FG2 combo - it gives them a larger base to sell their products.

Okie, on the the review. As I played in (and currently have) a PDF copy of the SW version, that's the one I'm going with.

Bookmarks - if you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that publishers that omit bookmarks from their PDFs tend to hear me bitching about it. Not this time. Nicely done guys! We have bookmarks!

Artwork - I want a print of the cover art. Really. I'm serious. Hook a lad up. Oh, the rest of the art is pretty decent too, but this is the highlight to me.

The Adventure - The PDF itself is very well laid out and easy to follow. Did I mention it has hyper links in addition to the bookmarks? Now I need to bitch about publishers that don't hyperlink ;)

It includes a regional map and a map of the Town of Kith'takharos. Both are pleasing to look at without being overly detailed, so if you like maps that spell out everything you may need to flesh things out yourself. For my needs they are fine as is.

The adventure itself is designed for a party of Heroic Level Savage Worlds characters. It should present a decent challenge (I should know - I was the only PC to die in my play test session). I'm going to hazard a guess that it should take 2 to 3 sessions to complete, as we completed about a third or so in our play test (with lots of hand holding for the Savage Worlds Rookie - you guys were great...heh).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Seal the Rift! (OGL 3.5 Fantasy Grounds II Adventure Module + PDF)
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Knockspell #6
Publisher: Mythmere Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:45:53
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

Full disclosure - I do have a short article in this issue. That being said, Knockspell #6 still a damn good issue ;)

I love the cover. Yes, it's a bit modern comic bookish, but it pulls it off. It would look fine on the wall of a man cave.

The layout of this issue is top notch. I really shouldn't have to say it looks extremely professional, but it does, and it is. Even more importantly for those that will be reading this in PDF, it has bookmarks. Nice work by Matt and his team.

First up we have the next installment of Allen Grohe's From Kuroth's Quill. This time he offers us a new class for OSRIC - the Shadow Master. It's a nice addition to the spell caster stable, and adds some new spells into the mix. Part 1 of 2, the follow up will include the higher level spells, new poisons and some new monsters.

We follow this up with the Random Orc Generator by Robert Lionheart. Orcs are boring, but a staple of low level campaigns - Robert gives us some random charts to make them exciting again. If nothing else, there are some very good adventure seeds here.

Gabor Lux must be one of the most prolific and skilled "Old School" adventure writers out there. This time he gives us Isles on an Emerald Sea IV. I don't think I've ever come across a "normal" adventure from Gabor. Short but sweet.

Random Perks and Flaws by Stefan Poag. For me, I think the flaws outweigh the perks on this table, but the right perk can be a real advantage. Roll if you dare!

Mr. Finch himself gives us Fire and Other Eldritch Energies. It's kind of a game science article (initially) dealing with the energy types found in D&D, ranging from the aforementioned fire to necromantic nastiness and then some. Add some delivery system and effects random tables and you'll be able to keep you players guessing the pain they are going to be for campaigns to come. It's a good method to help find some unique powers for your unique badies.

Where were we in the review? Oh, yeah, The Body in the Street. It's a piece of fiction by Al Krombach. I was never one for short pieces of fiction, but then I started reading Solomon Kane and found I enjoy the medium. I haven't read this piece yet, but it's on my list to read.

Ouch, My Brain Hurts! is a psionics article for S&W by Robert Lionheart. I think Robert's first line sums my thoughts up pretty well: "Are psionics an unholy heresy or a valuable aspect of old School fantasy roleplaying?" I'm on the fence on it myself, having experimented with it in AD&D 1E and I never found it very satisfying. Robert's system requires PCs to sacrifice XP earned to acquire psychic powers. It's a decent trade off for the additional power the PCs may attain. Being that the powers are limited in the amount of uses per day, they may or not be worth the XP cost, but it may be a viable option depending on the type of campaign you plan on running. It's a long article, and would have been a viable PDF in it's own right.

John M. Stater (best known for NOD magazine, and the man I borrowed some OGL content for my Bard class design) presents us with Catacombs of Ophir. It's a nice little dungeon under the city-state of Ophir (itself detailed in part in NOD 2). I don't recall a level range for it, but I'm going to guess 2-4. Looks good, and it marks the second adventure for this issue of Knockspell.

Next up is A Duet if Bards. The first part of this section is by Doyle Taverner. Here he presents us with an adaptation of the original Bard class presented in The Best of the Dragon, Volume 1. He cleans up the fuddilly bits, such as using thief abilities with heavier armor (aint happening) and spell casting in armor (also aint happening). For me, the highlight is the page on magical instruments for bards. Leaves me wishing I had included some, but I think Doyle gives a nice assortment to choose from.

The next part of A Duet of Bards is Tenkar's Bard. It's short and sweet. I like it, but then, I should ;)

Locks and Traps as a "Mini-Game" by Jim Pacek follows. Not what I expected. Holy Crap but I really like the system he uses. Color me surprised, and I generally detest "mini-games in a game", but this isn't so much mini-game as a task resolution system. It gets my "Kick Ass!" Award. First time I've ever given one out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Knockspell #6
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Hex Crawl Chronicles 3 Beyond Black Water - Swords and Wizardry Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:42:27
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

Hex Crawls can lead to a wonderful campaign, if the GM is up to the task. They are never as simple as running a prewritten adventure, but in the right hands it can lead to many sessions of gaming. This is why I find people either loved the old Judges Guild products or they hated them - they were ingredients to create your own masterpiece, with no two campaigns ever looking the same. Some folks want more of a a detailed list of situations.

I find myself these days really appreciating the "Hex Crawl" type of products. They are pretty much direct opposites of what WotC puts out for their settings. Lean, mean and lots of green (outdoors) is what I like these days.

Beyond the Black Water fits the bill of what I look for in a Hex Crawl type products - lots of adventure seeds with hexes that aren't so large as to defeat the purpose of a hex crawl. 6 miles wide is just about perfect in my opinion. It makes for a nice, localized campaign setting

The PDF is bookmarked (as well it should be) and we get a handful of new creatures at the end, but I do have one complaint. The map takes up about half a page. If they had changed it's orientation to sideways, it would have been a full page and much easier to use, never mind the increased usability. As this is a PDF product I'm looking at, they could always tack on a full page map to an update of the file. Just an idea.

Otherwise, it's a nice setting. Dangerous as all hell, but still nice ;)

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hex Crawl Chronicles 3 Beyond Black Water - Swords and Wizardry Edition
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ST1 Temple of the Horned Goddess
Publisher: Knightvision Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:40:25
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

Sometimes you want to eat gourmet. Sometimes you want fast food. Temple of the Horned Goddess is decent fast food at an excellent price.

What does one get for their 2 bucks? 24 pages (plus front and back covers) of adventure for a Labyrinth Lord party around 4th or 5th level. You get a town map, a surrounding area map and 2 small dungeon locations. You also get some pre-rolled PCs, making this a decent choice for a Game Day or Con game, or just use them to add to your stable of NPCs. Oh, and 2 new monsters for your Monster Catalogue, or whatever the youngsters are calling it these days. Not a bad deal for an evening's entertainment.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ST1 Temple of the Horned Goddess
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Dusk of the Dead
Publisher: Kenzer & Company
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:37:50
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

The latest adventure for Hackmaster is Dusk of the Dead, for characters of levels 5-7.

Dusk of the Dead is made to work as a followup to Frandor's Keep, so it can easily be dropped into the setting presented there or used on it's own. Still, it works best with Frandor's Keep.

DotD doesn't have bookmarks, which probably aren't too useful in a short piece like this, but it does have hyperlinks. Some, admittedly, are links back to the Kenzerco website, but most of them are aids to navigate the adventure. I love me some hyperlinks, and I think they are well done for the most part. Heck, even the maps have hyperlinks back to the room descriptions.

The maps are excellent BTW. Nice use of B&W line drawings.

As for the adventure itself, it looks like a fun adventure for a Halloween themed nite of gaming. Still, I suspect it might be a tough for a party on the low end of the 5-7 level range.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dusk of the Dead
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Dark Times in Brighton
Publisher: DwD Studios
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:34:27
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

Dark Times in Brighton is an adventure / local setting / possible sandbox for 1st and 2nd level characters using the Labyrinth Lord rules (but easily used with most of not all of the various retro clones). The publisher, DWD Studios, was apparently started by two of the guys involved with the StarFrontiersman magazine. If you've ever red the mag, you know they do good stuff. Dark Times in Brighton is no different.

Bookmarked PDF? Check

Author's notes to give insights to the read inter spread though out the adventure? Check

Professional looking layout and artwork? Yep

Interesting adventure and surrounding lands? Present

Top quality maps? Score!

This really is a complete package to start a new campaign, either dropped in your own campaign world or building out from the area described within. I fully expect (or at least hope) that DWD Studios plans to continue building around this particular neck in the woods. It would make for a nice campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Times in Brighton
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Designers & Dragons
Publisher: Mongoose
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:32:18
The writer's voice is very comfortable to read, the book is well laid out and the topics and insights (that from my POV) are interesting as hell. I'm sure all of this knowledge is available in thousands of bits and pieces strewn about the internet, but it would take me years to track down most of this. Author Shannon Appelcline has done it for me, and wrapped it up nicely on top of all that.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Designers & Dragons
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Spellcraft & Swordplay Core Rulebook
Publisher: Elf Lair Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:29:38
(review originally posted at TenkarsTavern.com)

Ever have one of those situations, where something seems very familiar yet strange at the same time? Spellcraft & Swordplay is one of those situations for me.

It starts up like one of your usual OSR games, usual stats, 3-18, familiar classes... and then it takes me for a side trip when I realize everything is resolved using D6s. It's almost like melding Tunnels & Trolls with Original Dungeons & Dragons. Well, not quite, but you get the idea.

The main change (there are others, but to me this is the biggest switch) is that, for the most part, an increase in combat ability comes from an increase in the number of attacks, not in an increase in chance to hit. The number you need to hit is dependent upon the weapon wielded and the armor worn, level has little to do with it. A strength bonus to hit is a mighty bonus in this game.

All in all it's a well written, well presented game. I found some small editing gaffs (at one point in the rules, it refers to 2 "elite paths", but the third path, Ranger, is in the book) but nothing major.

Looking for a D&D / OSR like game that can be played with the dice in your Risk or Monopoly box and little else? Spellcraft & Swordplay is what you are looking for.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spellcraft & Swordplay Core Rulebook
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Maidens of Moordoth
Publisher: DwD Studios
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:25:22
(review originally posted at tenkarstavern.com)

1-Sheet. An adventure that can be printed on one sheet of paper, often using both sides.

Maidens of Moordoth is a 1-Sheet Adventure for beginning Labyrinth Lord characters, but suitable for use with any of the Old School rulesets (did you really need me to tell you that?). It actually uses 3 sides of a sheet of paper, but the third side is for the OGL - you can omit that when you print at home.

It has 13 labeled locations on the crypt map and it includes some undead. Do you really need more for Halloween? How about it's only 50 cents? Yep, halfway between a buck and free. ;)

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Maidens of Moordoth
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d6 Magazine Issue 1
Publisher: Wicked North Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:23:54
(review originally posted at tenkarstavern.com)

d6 Magazine is a free magazine devoted to the Open d6 gaming system. The system that finds it origins in the original Star Wars RPG is now an open system, much like D&D 3.5e. Free magazine for a free RPG. Amazing how things work.

Inside you get a very insightful interview with one the core writers for the old WEG company, I love my gaming history articles, and this is a good one.

The article on the Wild Die is a good one, especially as I don't remember using a wild die in the few sessions I ran of Star Wars - must have been first edition.

Oh, can't forget the sample campaign for a d6 sci-fi campaign.

The price is right and it's well written and presented.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
d6 Magazine Issue 1
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IM01 Winter's Herald
Publisher: Knightvision Games
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:22:17
(review originally posted at tenkarstavern.com)

Knightvision Game is pretty much known for it's inexpensive adventures for the Labyrinth Lord RPG and Winter's Herald certainly is inexpensive at $1.99. The question then becomes: "Is it good?" The answer isn't so easy to find.

My main problem with the adventure is that it is set in an extremely cold climate. So, it might work well with LotFP's Weird New World setting, but then the adventure includes magic and monsters that Weird New World won't comfortably support.

The hooks to get the party up north would generally have to be planted a session or two earlier, as it will probably be a trek from their normal stomping grounds.

For me, it is worth it for stealing some of the encounters for my own use, 7 new creatures for your OSR style game, rules for dealing with the extreme cold and a handful of new magic items. YMMV.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
IM01 Winter's Herald
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Trouble at Karam's Claim
Publisher: DwD Studios
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:20:45
(review originally posted at tenkarstavern.com)

DwD Studios has put out another 1-Sheet Adventure. Hmmm, maybe this should have been labeled a "Micro" review instead due to the size of the product ;)

Like Maidens of Moordoth, Trouble at Karam's Claim is made to be printed one 2 sides of one sheet of paper, thus it being called a 1-Sheet Adventure. It also costs a mere 50 cents (although if you aren't using store credit, they will add a 35 cent surcharge to all orders under a buck - so buy them both for a buck and save ;)

It's a low level LL adventure with 2 maps. Heck, the product preview at it's RPGNow page shows you exactly what to expect. Damn good deal at half a buck.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trouble at Karam's Claim
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Cascade Failure
Publisher: Chubby Funster
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 22:17:53
(review originally posted at tenkarstavern.com)

I love it when Greg - I mean the Chubby Funster Guy, puts out a new game, or releases an update to a new one. They are always well put together and full of amazingly evocative art. The RPG systems he designs are no slouches either.

Cascade Failure is his first RPG system to be distributed via RPGNow. It's a post apocalyptic sic fi setting build upon the OGL. If you are familiar with any of the OSR games out there, the basic similarities should ground you pretty well.

It's a 95 page PDF optimized for tablet and on screen reading. It is extensively bookmarked. There isn't an included adventure and the setting could use some fleshing out. Hmm, maybe the Funster can put out a setting book for this... hint hint ;)

You really can't go wrong by grabbing yourself a copy. It's free, yet better produced then most of the gaming products that put major dents in your wallet.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cascade Failure
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