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Fighting Fire - Ernie Gygax Benefit Adventure
Publisher: Creative Mountain Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2014 06:17:17
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/25/tabletop-review-fightin-
g-fire-ernie-gygax-benefit-adventure/

Ernest Gary Gygax Junior did not have a good 2013. At the beginning of the year his home and many of his worldly possessions burned down. Since then, his brother Luke has set up the Ernie Gygax Fire Relief Trust Fund so that gamers around the world can help him out. After all he and his family have done for the industry, it’s not a surprise that companies are donating profits or making outright contributions to the fund. Case in point: Creative Mountain Games. CMG is donating a third of all profits from Fighting Fire to the fire relief fund, which is pretty nice. So by purchasing this, you get a nice adventure, keep a small indie publisher going and help Ernie Gygax get back on his feet. Wins all around!

Fighting Fire is a system neutral adventure. This means there are no stats or mechanics. You are just given the story, a list of major characters and antagonists, and from there, the DM has to flesh things out. On one hand, this means you can use Fighting Fire with any fantasy based system, from Dungeon Crawl Classics to Castles & Crusades. Since it is a Gygax tribute, you’re probably better off thematically with one of the earlier versions of Dungeons & Dragons. Regardless of which system you choose, the fact remains you can play Fighting Fire without being locked in to a specific set of mechanics or rules. On the other hand, system neutral adventures require a lot of work from the DM. You’ll have to look up stats for monsters (or design them outright), craft maps of locations and more. If you purchase published adventures because you lack the patience, skill or time to make your own, you probably won’t get much out of Fighting Fire.

Fighting Fire has a somewhat comedic look. It does try to make light of the events that hit Ernie Gygax by turning them into the basis of a fantasy adventure. I’m sure some people may not be comfortable with, say, Ernesto Magnifico, a mighty wizard, who had his tower of solitude burned to the ground, along with many a mystical artifact. That might strike a little too close to home. For others, it is a wink and a nod to real life and an attempt to find something good at the heart of a tragedy. Whichever side you yourself fall on, the fact remains, the intent of Fighting Fire is a good one.

Fighting Fire takes place in the town of Gamington, a neutral town where many a heroic battle is fought. Sides with an itch or need to conflict come to Gamington, not to do battle with swords or spells, but with dice, miniatures and rulebooks. Yes, the treaties of Gamington have allowed surrounding countries to settle their disputes through tabletop war games rather than conventional methods that typically cost a lot of money and cause a lot of death. Until now, the use of tabletop gaming to settle disputes has served the countries surrounding Gamington, but with an outright attack on Ernesto’s tower, fingers are pointing and faith in the tabletop way of settling disputes is badly shaken. After all, if someone attacks the great Ernesto with fire, who is to say a full on assault of a country is not next?

This is, of course, where the PCs come into play. Due to the length of the adventure and the challenges it contains, they should be medium to high level characters. The PCs will have to make their way through a lot of encounters to find the culprit. There are a few false endings too, because right as you THINK you are at the climactic battle with the big bad, you learn there is actually someone else pulling the strings. As such, the adventure can go on for several sessions. It could even make up an entire campaign depending on how well the characters come to like Gamington and get to know its residents. There is a LOT of detail to Fighting Fire, with information on multiple local businesses, the most important residents, and detailed descriptions of the surrounding areas. I’m surprised at how much content was crammed into these thirty-four pages.

Of course, it all comes down to whether or not Fighting Fire is an adventure worth investing in. The truth of the matter is that, as the DM, you will make or break this piece. As a system neutral affair, your DM really has to be meticulous and willing to do a lot more work than you normally would see in a published adventure. This is especially true with Fighting Fire because of the sheer amount of content provided in it. It is as long, if not longer than most adventures with stat blocks and system mechanics written in, so while you’re getting a mini campaign of sorts, the DM will probably spend more time tailoring this than actually running it for his or her friends. Another good example is that there are four maps crammed onto a single page in the back of the adventure. Most DMs will want to probably redraw the maps onto a single page so that they can have more detail and room for notes. In the hands of a less experienced DM, this adventure will probably flop, simply because Fighting Fire is more of an overview or collection of story/encounter seeds rather than the hand holding process a lot of system based adventures are. Even if you don’t ever play Fighting Fire, it is a fun read, and it’s supporting a worthy cause, so you may want to consider purchasing it just for that reason.

Overall, Fighting Fire isn’t for everyone, and certainly not for people who are relatively new to gaming, as it will be a hard adventure to make work and there won’t be the emotional/historical ties to the product. Older gamers however, especially those well versed in Tactical Studies Rules era gaming, will more than likely get a kick out of Fighting Fire.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fighting Fire - Ernie Gygax Benefit Adventure
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #81: The One Who Watches From Below
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/21/2014 06:27:30
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/21/tabletop-review-dungeon-
-crawl-classics-81-the-one-who-watches-from-below/

So, a little back story on this one before we begin. Back on Free RPG Day 2012, Goodman Games gave us an excellent set of two adventures if you were lucky enough to snatch one up. In the back was a partially done map and a contest. You could finish up the map, write an adventure and send your piece in to Goodman Games. The winner would get a cool thousand dollars and eventually see their adventure in print. Well, The One Who Watches From below was the winner. Generally contest adventures aren’t top tier releases because they are tied to a theme or something else that limits full-on creativity, but I’m happy to say that The One Who Watches From Below is an incredible adventure that is well worth investing in.

Frist up, let’s talk about that amazing cover art by Doug Kovacs. Man is it as gorgeous as sit is super creepy. That is one ominous piece and the art alone makes you want to purchase the adventure just to find out what it is about. Then the next page of the piece is a full piece of art. It’s a well drawn spooky dungeon, but your eyes will almost instantly go to the middle of the page where you will see a pair of eyes looking back at you. The eyes are surrounded by a set of dotted lines and instructions telling you to cut them out for use with the adventure. Curiouser and curiouser! This one two punch of a great art and cryptic instructions should be enough to convince any gamer to give this adventure a try. You look at the cover and this first page and any OSR gamer worth their salt just wants to know what ELSE waits them in this adventure. I will say that due to the cutting out aspect of these eyes, the PDF may be the better way to go. That way you can print out multiple copies of the eyes and not ruin your original purchase.

The One Who Watches From Below is designed for six to eight Level 1 characters. It’s a very Lovecraftian entry with names of otherworldly beings like Shigazilnizthrub (along with a cameo from old Wizard Whateleley) and other monsters that will drive a man insane as assuredly as it will rend their flesh. This is definitely a very challenging adventure for the neophyte characters and some PCs will definitely meet a gruesome end in this one. The adventure is also a very long one for a DCC affair. There are three full page maps in the back of the book, each one is a work of art. The text suggests that you can streamline this adventure to one four hour session, but more than likely it will play out over several meetings with your gaming troupe. That’s a great value for the price point when you think about it. The first map also contains Handout A, which is another reason to go PDF over dead tree for this adventure, as you can cut it out without ruining the gorgeous maps. I always say that DCC has the best maps in the industry and The One Who Watches From Below only adds to that sentiment. They’re almost worth the cover price of this adventure alone just so show how stylish a map can be while still retaining its function.

The PCs have made their way, for whatever reason (greed, curiosity, a need for fame, outright stupidity) to the Cave of Secrets. Beneath the cave lies the temple of a god long forgotten by the world, but still both active and malicious. Within the cave awaits a lot of treasure, some horrific monsters and a very strange curse that will stymie both players and their characters alike. The Judge is advised to be exceptionally strict with the rules of the curse, and I concur. It will be frustrating at first, but the curse (which without spoilers, involves those eyes I mentioned you needed to cut out earlier) can be a lot of fun to play out. It really tests a player’s role-playing ability and ensures that The One Who Watches From Below will be a highly memorable affair for all who play it. I can’t say too much more without some huge spoilers, but rest assured, as strange as the requests the DM will make of the PCs are, it is well worth it in the end. This also highlights how outside the box Dungeon Crawl Classics is compared to most other fantasy games, as you’d never see an adventure this weird in Pathfinder or for modern D&D.

You’ll have four levels of locations to traverse. The first is the Cave of Secrets itself. The second is simply known as The Temple. The third is called The Brood Pit and the final is simply the Under-Temple. Now you won’t find a lot of combat in the first two levels, but what battles there are can be quite intense. Death by angry books is a distinct possibility, for example. The further into the adventure you get, the more powerful (and frequently occuring) the monsters are, with the final battle being SNK End Boss bad, to put things in video game terms. It’s far more powerful than the players and expect a pretty high death toll, even for a DCC adventure. While fans of other games might be a bit put off by this climactic encounter, longtime DCC gamers are pretty used to characters dying in horrific ways and this will just be part of the fun for them. Still, because of how overpowered the end battle is, The One Who Watches From Below probably isn’t the best choice for someone’s first ever DCC adventure. A little too much culture shock, you know. For people like myself who play through a lot of published DCC adventures (both first and third party), I really loved the final fateful showdown and I think the same will go for other diehard fans of the system. The Primordial Titan with haunt your nightmares. That’s all I can really say because I want you to experience the sheer horror for yourself.

Overall, Goodman Games has released another fantastic must-buy adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics. Between this and Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, the first party DCC releases have been extremely impressive. It’s going to be hard to keep up this level of quality but by all means I’m excited to see Goodman Games try. Usually adventure contest winners can be pretty terrible like Chaosium’s recent Horror Stories From the Red Room. The One Who Watches From Below however is one of the better adventures I’ve reviewed this year and hopefully we’ll see more DCC pieces penned by Mr. Jobe Bittman in the future. Congratulations not just to Job for winning, but for DCC fans everywhere for getting the chance to add this adventure to their collection!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #81: The One Who Watches From Below
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Adventure Quarterly #5 (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2014 08:11:59
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/19/tabletop-review-adventu-
re-quarterly-issue-5-pathfinder/

Although the days of high quality monthly tabletop RPG magazine have long since passed, we do seem to be having a nice resurgence of quarterly magazines with top notch content…even if the magazines aren’t actually coming out every three months. We’ve got The Unspeakable Oath and Gygax Magazine for example, but TUO hasn’t come out since August and Gygax #4 is a few weeks late. Hell, it’s been almost a year since The Savage Insider had its last issue.

Which of course brings me to Adventure Quarterly #5, the product we are reviewing today. It too has had almost a year since it’s last issue (technically nine months), which is a bit surprising because Rite Publishing is perhaps the best company in regards to Pathfinder licensed products in terms of getting things out on time. Pathways, RP’s monthly free magazine, is as close to clockwork as this industry gets. Plus it’s the closest thing we have to Dungeon magazine anymore, as it is nothing but adventures. So was it worth the wait? Well, yes and no.

First, let’s talk my big problem with the piece, and that’s pricing. As much as I have enjoyed previous issues of AQ, the thing is too overpriced, especially compared to other quarterly gaming magazines. The cost of just the PDF version of a single issue of AQ is the same cost as a physical AND digital two pack of The Unspeakable Oath, which may not be 100% adventures, but does tend to be a superior product, writing-wise. Same too with Gygax Magazine. It is also of the highest quality and it’s only five bucks for the digital version and only $8.95 for the physical. So why the higher price tag for AQ? Well, a few reasons. The first is that it is Pathfinder and Pathfinder products do tend to be a bit higher priced than other RPGs. The second is that AQ is in full colour where the others I have mentioned are mostly in black and white. Finally, at least in my experience in this industry, it’s more expensive to pay someone to write an adventure than it is to write an article about some facet of gaming. While all of these things help to explain part of why Adventure Quarterly is price so much higher than other quarterly tabletop mags, it doesn’t explain all of it. Honestly, the fact I could buy digital copies of both TUO and Gygax for the cost of just one issue of AQ is enough to make me lean towards not recommending the magazine on just a price basis. However if you only play Pathfinder, the fact that this is your only Dungeon equivalent means you are pretty much stuck with this and the high cost each issue comes with.

Of course, cost doesn’t matter much if something is of high quality. You should, theoretically, get what you pay for after all. So if the adventures in AQ #5 were amazing, that could have offset the price tag issues I have with the magazine. Let’s take a look at each one.

Our first adventure is The Ruins Perilous Level 3 – The Sensodrome. This is a continuation from previous AQ issues where the goal was to release one level of the dungeon per issue. This is a great idea on paper, but it doesn’t work quite well in reality. After all, the high cost of the magazine, tracking down back issues (you’re better off going through DriveThruRPG.com for those) and the long time between issues makes The Rune Perilous series not very conductive for actual play. If this was a monthly magazine it would be one thing, but it’s quite another to have to wait a minimum of three months per dungeon crawl level. The PCs are essentially stuck. No, this adventure would be better off collected as one piece and sold separately, or in a monthly magazine. Now this is not the fault of the adventure itself, but it doesn’t prevent most gamers from getting any use out of it.

Besides these issues, The Sensodrome is simply a generic dungeon crawl experience. It favors roll-playing over role-playing and is little more than a hack and slash affair. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s not necessarily an experience a lot of gamers want. Granted, Pathfinder or D&D gamers are more apt to enjoy this sort of thing than say, World of Darkness or Call of Cthulhu players, but it does still mean that the audience for a piece like this is limited by the nature of the adventure style and doubly or even triply so by the release date of each level.

Now all of these negatives aside, The Sensodrome is a finely crafted sixteen room dungeon crawl designed for 3rd Level characters. It could use a bit of an introduction which would allow DMs to run this as a one-shot one level piece instead of waiting to combine all the Ruins Perlious levels, but that is true about any dungeon released in stages. You will also need several other books to run the wandering monster table as monsters are pulled from all sorts of other locations like The Tome of Horrors Complete, The Book of Monster Templates and so on, but the core adventure has all the stats you need to play the adventure without any additional purchases, which is a big plus. There are some fun and challenging encounters for PCs on this level and it’s pretty free with the experience so characters should level up AT LEAST once in this piece. I enjoyed the layout, the monsters and the obvious creativity in this one. It’s just too bad there are some many other negatives weighing this down. That said, I am really looking forward to Rite Publishing putting together a collected Ruins Perilous piece (if it ever gets finished) as that will be a top notch dungeon when all is said and done.

Our second adventure in this collection is The Legacy of the Fishermage, which is for four to five 9th Level characters or a party of six 8th Level characters. This is a really fun and long (for a magazine based release) adventure. It’s also a bit silly. I’ll admit the “Salmon of Wisdom” that is highlighted in the adventure made me think of “The Fur-Bearing Trout” from Earthworm Jim. I should also point out that this is almost the polar opposite from The Sensodrome, which is nice as you get two well-designed pieces that together highlight how diverse Pathfinder adventures can be.

The adventures revolves around a sage’s repeated misadventures in trying to catch the Salmon of Wisdom and his bad luck with apprentices. This time the sage is long dead, but the salmon has two new hunters in the form of an Ogre and a disgruntled changeling. The PCs become involves after saving a dwarven priest and learning about the legend (there are several other hooks to get the characters into the adventure). There are a lot of riddles to solve, locations to visit, monsters to vanquish and of course, a magic fish with the wisdom of the universe to find. I also really liked the subtle bits of humour in this adventure. The climactic encounter with the Salmon of Wisdom is quite amusing, for example. The end prize is a nice bonus to which ever character(s) get it and this is really one of the better Pathfinder adventures I’ve seen published in 2014 so far. It might not be a seller by itself, but it is the crown jewel of this issue.

The third adventure in Adventure Quarterly, Issue 5 is Paradox and it’s for 18th Level characters. It’s very combat intensive and it is designed to be a Campaign Ending Event. I’m really not a fan of some random adventure being the way a campaign ends. Something like that should really be cooked up by the DM to tie up loose ends and provide closure. Instead this adventure hits on all sorts of things that tend to be red flags, warning a DM and player that there is a bad adventure ahoy. It has time travel (which tends to do far more harm than good to a game unless you are playing a game specifically about time travel), a magical McGuffin that threatens all of reality, a really work story hook that sort of railroads the players into the adventure even if they don’t find it interesting, and monsters that seem to be thrown in simply for the sake of combat than any real story cohesion. It’s a pretty weak adventure in all respects, but then, writing any adventure for characters of this level is a pretty daunting task and while I found this to be very lackluster and trite with robotic lions armed with chainguns and the like, I’m sure someone will get a kick out of this. Unfortunately I’m the one reviewing it and this adventure was supersaturated with all of my personal Pathfinder pet peeves. How is that for alliteration?

Our fourth and final adventure is actually a short encounter segment entitled, Sleep, Interrupted. This is a fun really short piece that can be inserted into any adventure, published or homebrew, and it happens when the PCs are settling down for a much needed sleep. It’s a spooky little piece involving ghost orcs who died in the cavern the PCs are resting in. Sleep, Interrupted is nothing fancy but it’s a good battle and potentially provides some fine treasure. The encounter is scalable between CR 6 and 9 and so there is some flexibility to be had. Nice job for a short piece.

So those are our four adventure pieces, but wait –there’s more! We have a two and a half page article by the lord and master of Rite Publishing himself, Steven Russell. Like the first piece in AQ#5 this article, entitled, “Wide-Open Sandboxing Part II,” is a continuation from the previous issue. However unlike The Runes Perilous, this article works as a stand-alone. It’s basically advice on how to come up with memorable NPCs quickly. Steven suggested cribbing from various trusted sources like lists of names, stat a block similar to what you are looking for instead of designing it out yourself, and taking personalities from existing characters and modifying them slightly instead of doing copious amounts of work like pages of background text for a character LARP style. The advice is sound, especially if you are an inexperienced DM or adventure designer as it really does speed the process up. Long-time DMs may turn up their nose at the advice because they want to do all the work themselves, even for a character who might not even show up in the adventure based on the choices the PCs make. You know what? That’s okay. Steven isn’t presenting this advice as a way you SHOULD do things, but as an option to make your life easier. The article is worth reading even if you have no intention of taking it to heart.

So all in all, Adventure Quarterly isn’t too bad. There is one adventure I’d give a thumb’s up to, one I’d give a thumb’s down to, a decent encounter, an adventure segment that is well designed but falters by being a quarterly installment piece and an interesting article. While the price point is far too exorbitant for what you get, especially compared to other quarterly gaming magazines, devout Pathfinder fans will find one truly solid adventure in the mix and that might be worth the price tag. Everyone else though might as well hold out for the next issue or a price drop, if they get it at all. Adventure Quarterly has a lot of potential and it’s nicely done, but in the end, you just aren’t getting your money’s worth – at least with this issue.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Quarterly #5 (PFRPG)
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The Dread Shard
Publisher: GRAmel
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2014 06:13:25
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/19/tabletop-review-beasts--
barbarians-the-dread-shard-savage-worlds/

Beast & Barbarians is a campaign setting for Savage Worlds, so know that you’ll need the core books (DriveThruRPG has a great bundle for those that are interested) in addition to the core Savage Worlds book. Of course this means that even though The Dread Shard is priced very reasonably at only $1.99, the actual price tag for playing it is going to be a lot higher – about fifty dollars when all is said and done without some sort of deal going. The adventure also makes use of the optional Tattered Banners supplement, which adds even more to the eventual overall cost of playing this two dollar adventure. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in B&B – just a warning that you need more than a single book to play this adventure.

The Dread Shard takes place during a great celebration in the city of Dalaxium. Governor Lucius has figured out how to harness the power of a meteorite known as the Dread Shard and has hosted this party as a precursor to the revelation he will be unveiling. Unfortunately, the Dread Shard is appropriately named as the party is actually a doublecross and the entire town is basically put to the torch by the evil Valk. There is a lot of death and betrayal in this one and at times it felt like Vince Russo from late 90s WCW was writing this with all the attempts at NPCs swerving each other. Although a bit trite in this regard, it does put the players in a very unusual situation. After all, there is now way they can defeat several hundred Valk warriors as they lay siege to Dalaxium, so PCs have to decide on their course of action, be it trying to escape the carnage or finding some way to shut down the onslaught. There isn’t a happy ending for this adventure and certainly not for the citizens of Dalaxium, so this adventure is probably best played by people who don’t treat RPGs as something to “win.”

The Dread Shard goes into a lot of detail (well, as much as sixteen pages can anyway) about the festival, games one might take part in there and also some detailed notes on prominent NPCs the players can encounter or befriend. A fourth of the adventure consists of character stat blocks and another four are the sights and sounds of the festival. That’s half your page count right there! If you really want to make The Dread Shard feel impactful, have the players use Dalaxium for their home base for several adventures or even play an entire session or two just around the games and people as the festival. That way, when the carnage begins, the players (and their characters) will feel it all the more. It won’t be just some generic location where the players are for this session, but a place they care about and friends being put to the sword.

A note of caution is that The Dread Shard assumes you are extremely familiar with Beast & Barbarians, along with its particular vernacular and terminology. There is no attempt to explain anything about the setting or B&B specific jargon, so this adventure is not something you can pick up and just play if you only have the core Savage Worlds book. If you don’t have any of the B&B core books, you will be totally and utterly lost, which is a shame, as the adventure is quite nicely done otherwise.

Basically, if you are a big time fans of the Beasts & Barbarians setting for Savage Worlds, you’ll want to get this adventure. It’s extremely detailed for the brief page length, it’s quite cheap and it’s a pretty unique adventure to experience. For everyone else though, you’ll want to pass since you’ll need to invest heavily in the campaign setting and the core rulebooks from Pinnacle to make heads or tails of this piece. If you do pick this up, remember that the quality of the adventure is determined by how detailed you make the festival, as well as how tied to Dalaxium the PCs are. If you rush this thing or play The Dread Shard as just an adventure of the week, it will be a lackluster and forgettable experience. If you take the time to really make the city come to live, its fall will be all the more impactful and important to both the characters and the people playing them.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Dread Shard
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Forbidden Lore (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2014 08:48:52
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/17/tabletop-review-ravenlo-
ft-forbidden-lore-advanced-dungeons-dragons-second-edition/<-
br />
I’m really glad to see Forbidden Lore up on DNDclassics.com, as I wasn’t sure how they were going to pull this off. You see, the original Forbidden Lore boxed set from 1992 had items that wouldn’t necessarily work in a PDF format. You had an entire deck of Tarroka Cards (Ravenloft tarot cards) and a set of special dice for Romani inspired games. Obviously, these wouldn’t be included in their original form for a PDF version of the set. For those that want the original physical version, you can still pick it up on Ebay or Amazon for around forty bucks. However, for only ten dollars, DNDclassics is offering this electronic version, complete with print and play versions of the Tarroka cards, a shrunk down map, and the core five booklets that make up Forbidden Lore. Now, print and play is always buyer beware to me, because a lot of people think these products are a lot easier to pull off than they really are. If you’re new to the concept, know that you’re going to need a lot of ink, a printer that can handle card stock paper, to be very handy with scissors and have a lot of patience. Even then, your end product probably won’t be as good as the original set that came with Forbidden Lore back in 1992. If this sounds at all daunting to you, you might be better off getting one of the physical copies, as the cost for the print and play products in addition to this PDF purchase might set you back more than the price tag you will find from third party sellers.

So what is in Forbidden Lore? Well, it is primarily five 32-page booklets that further flesh out the Dark Domain. Let’s take a look at each book in alphabetical order.

Cryptic Allegiances: the Secret Societies of Ravenloft. This book covers six secret societies from across the Dark Domain, along with a two page introduction on what secret societies are. The Dark Delvers are a Lovecraft inspired group searching for something called the Hated Mother, which they believe is the source of creation. The Kargat are the secret police of the lich Azalin, which is made up of werewolves, vampires and other creatures of the night. In turn, they have a secret society of regular mortals called the Kargatane, who are essentially dupes seeking immortality without the price tag of undeath. The Ildi’thaan seek the Thirteen Texts of Thaan, which they believe will wrest control of Bluetspur from the hideous alien grasp of the Mind Flayers. The texts are also supposed to be able to unlock powerful psionic powers in anyone who reads them. The Ata-Bestaal are mortals who want to become animals, for they believe is it a simpler and purer way of life, free from the horrors Man inflicts upon itself. Unfortunately, these are not some happy druid fans, but people who think becoming a mongrelman from G’Henna or being inflicted with lycanthropy is a good thing. Suckers. Next up we have Adam’s Children, which is completely comprised of flesh golems seeking to become a race unto themselves, like dwarves or elves. Finally, we have the Keepers of the Black Feather, which number 150 strong. Their goal – to destroy Strahd Von Zarovich himself. This group is the only good aligned secret society in the collection, and it consists of mortals and wereravens.

Dark Recesses: Peering into the Depths of Madness. This is kind of a catch-all book. You have some errata and clarification for The Complete Psionics Handbook, which is an odd thing to find here. From there, you have a look at psionics in Ravenloft, along with some power changes that occur when a psionicist enters the Dark Domain. This is about half the book. Next up is a look at Madness Checks, which is a longer lasting (permanent) addition to the Fear and Horror checks. This is basically a D&D version of Call of Cthulhu‘s sanity rolls. You also get a look at sanitariums in Ravenloft and other ways madness can be cured. Finally, this book contains an appendix for Dark Sun characters and races from Athas. This is worth reading if you plan on bringing a Thri-Kreen or Half-Giant into Ravenloft. It also points out a Defiler is essentially doomed to constant Powers Checks and Templars lose their abilities entirely unless pledged to a domain lord. Eek. You’re also given a new domain pulled from Athas to help Dark Sun characters adapt to Ravenloft.

Nova Arcanum: The Necromancies of Strahd Von Zarovich. This book is a collection of new spells, magical items and the like for Ravenloft. Although it’s supposedly a tome by Strahd, there are Priesty/Clerical bits in here as well. The book also gives Ravenloft adaptations for spells from The Tome of Magic, along with its own twists on mage variants like Wild Mages, Elementalists, and so on.

Oaths of Evil: An Account of the Roads to Darkness. This book is an in-depth and detailed look at curses in Ravenloft along with a wide array of cursed objects. All of this was covered in the multiple versions of the core Ravenloft product, but this book is for the DMs that really want to focus on this concept.

The Waking Dream: Harbingers, Portents and Omens of the Vistani. This book simply talks about how to use the Tarokka deck, what each card means and so on. It also includes rules for the Dlkesha dice that are not included with the PDF version of this collection. You can print off the “stickers” though, although it takes a lot of work to make these work in a PDF format. At least you now have an unlimited supply, unlike with the boxed set, where there was no way to get extras. This book is really interesting, but only a fraction of players ever really used the Tarokka deck, as you really had to tailor an adventure around it rather than just let it come into play by happenstance.

So there you go – a quick overview of the five books in Forbidden Lore. To be honest, unless you are a Ravenloft completionist like myself, this isn’t a “must have” set by any means. Nova Arcanum is the only one DMs across the board will make use out of. Everything else is pretty niche and will only appeal to a slice of Ravenloft gamers, and even less will actually make use of them. The whole package is a pretty good deal for ten bucks though, and it’s one I can recommend to longtime fans of the campaign setting, if not to everyone. It’s great to see this once again available to all gamers, but I do wish there was a Print on Demand version for the Tarokka Deck for gamers that aren’t very good with the print and play option.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lore (2e)
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Scenic Dunnsmouth
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2014 07:32:32
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/14/tabletop-review-scenic--
dunnsmouth-lamentations-of-the-flame-princess/

Some published adventures are more fun for the DM than for the players. Now I don’t mean adventures where the DM actively tries to murder all the PCs and has fun running the game for everyone else. I mean the type of published adventures that turn planning the adventure into a game. Usually these type of adventures involve some sort of random generation so that the DM and players can reuse the same product and get a different experience each time. The first of these adventures that I can recall is the classic In Search of the Unknown by Mike Carr for Basic Dungeons & Dragons way back in 1979. There’s something special about that adventure if you’ve ever run it, although it’s fairly generic if you’ve ever just played it.

Which brings me to Scenic Dunnsmouth for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Like In Search of the Unknown, a good portion of the adventure is generated randomly although everything else about the two are completely different. In Search of the Unknown is your basic hack and slash dungeon crawl and all that randomizes are the monsters in different locations. Scenic Dunnsmouth is a mash-up of D&D and Call of Cthulhu in the same way the name is a mashup of two popular Lovecraftian locations: Innsmouth and Dunwich. The end result is a very weird and creepy location for the PCs to explore, which will harbor at least one, but possibly two or more other secrets to uncover. Dunnsmouth is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by the one-two punch of mountains and seemingly endless swamp. The residents are similar to the stereotypical backwoods inbred rednecks, but obviously not all is what it seems here.

You’ll find no maps or the like in Scenic Dunnsmouth. After all, the DM has to randomly generate the town, meaning he or she will have to make their own maps and layouts based on the way the generation occurs. To make the town you’ll need a deck of playing cards and fourteen dice. To be specific you’ll need 10 d6s, a d4, a d8 and two d12s, each of which has to be a different colour (the text suggest red and black, but they don’t have to be. You just need to be able to tell them apart). You’ll need a sheet of paper, with the size of the paper determining the boundaries of the location and then you let your dice fly Make sure to roll them all on the center of the sheet and let them fall where they may. The text says nothing about what to do if a die rolls off the paper and/or surface area. I would assume re-rolling, but I suppose you could count that die as non-existent for determining your Scenic Dunnsmouth if you choose. Each die represents a different important location in the town and the number than lands right side up determines a specific factor about it. After you roll the dice, you take your deck of playing cards and draw a card for each d6 (and possible d12) location. What you draw determines yet another factor for the location. As you can see this whole process is extremely random, providing a DM with an adventure it can reuse numerous times, while wielding extremely different results and layouts – even for gamers that have already played through the adventure before! That’s very cool. As I said earlier, the whole process of seeing what kind of town you’ve created is a lot of fun for the DM as you look up the results and see the town come to life before your eyes.

The actual content of Scenic Dunnsmouth ends up being mostly background text and rules for how to generate your town. There are some sample towns to look at too if you can’t quite get the hang of what you are supposed to do here. After the town is generated, you look up the results for each die such as locations, buildings, layout and townsfolk and it is then up to the DM to tie everything together into a cohesive package. All this means that while Scenic Dunnsmouth is fun for any DM, it takes a somewhat experience and organized one to run this thing efficiently. Taking notes on what you have created is a VERY good idea.

So after you’ve created your town, what is left? Well, you need to create a solid hook to get your players to travel to Dunnsmouth. The text gives you some ideas, but you might have a few ideas of your own which would get the PCs in your troupe to travel to such a remote and inaccessible location. Once there they might discover a strange mystical artifact that warps time and space. They might also find a loathsome cult and/or a town full of mutants. There is even a strong chance a PC or two might join the cult willingly based on what happens in your playthrough. For players, it’s a pretty standard but creepy adventure for low level characters. There’s some hack and slash potential, but it’s mostly Call of Cthulhu style detective work where the PCs discover what is so ominous about this location and what they can do, if anything, to stop it. The town and potential plot points are enough to keep your characters in Dunnsmouth for several play sessions, if not longer. Heck, getting to and from Dunnsmouth could be an adventure in and of themselves.

I really had a blast with Scenic Dunnsmouth. It’s a great idea and while it’s still definitely an adventure that is probably more fun or memorable of an experience for the DM than the players, everyone involved will still have a great time with this adventure – as long as they’re not looking for a straight up dungeon crawl. This is a great adventure to bring fans of games like World of Darkness or Call of Cthulhu over to LoTFP or various D&D retroclones, showing that fantasy games can be just as much about role-playing as they are roll-playing. Scenic Dunnsmouth is one of the best thought out and designed adventures I’ve seen this year. I was thoroughly impressed by the level of background detail given to every little thing in the town. The adventure things of everything, from a wide array of townsfolk to encounter to even what happens if you don’t use the deck of playing cards correctly. Personally I love some of the occurrences that happen when you leave the instructions and/or Jokers in as it’s hilariously bizarre –even for this adventure. I can’t recommend this adventure highly enough. Even if you don’t normally pick up Lamentations of the Flame Princess products, Scenic Dunnsmouth is well worth the cover price just to see how well made the adventure is from cover to cover.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scenic Dunnsmouth
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The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby
Publisher: YSDC
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/11/2014 06:26:25
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/11/tabletop-review-the-man-
y-deaths-of-edward-bigsby-trail-of-cthulhu/

For those not in the know, Yog-Sothoth.com is one of the best pages on the Internet for all things related to Call of Cthulhu gaming. This includes other systems, like Cthulhu Dark, Trail of Cthulhu, Cthuhutech and anything else Mythos related. What you might not know is that, slowly but surely, YSDC has been releasing gaming materials of their own. Almost a year ago, they released a systemless supplement known as The Archeologist’s Handbook. I reviewed it in June of last year and found it enjoyable, but a bit pricey for what you got. YSDC’s newest release is an actual licensed product this time around, and it’s for Pelgrane Press’ Trail of Cthulhu rather than Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu, which was an unexpected choice. I’m happy to say that the adventure is one of the better ToC products I’ve reviewed, and that you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. There are a few oddities about the release, but nothing that should detract from your enjoyment of the adventure.

Let’s talk about those (minor) oddities first. First, the piece devotes three pages to the Open Game License from Wizards of the Coast. I found this really odd, since Trail of Cthulhu uses the GUMSHOE system. There’s nothing in it resembling D&D 3.0/3.5. I went through my other Trail of Cthulhu first and third party releases, as well as issues of The Unspeakable Oath with ToC adventures, but none of them have the D&D OGL in them. So I’m not sure why YSDC did this, aside from covering all the bases JUST IN CASE. This strangeness is simply peculiar and worth noting, if only simply because like the adventure itself, it’s just plain weird. It’s also so that you don’t pick this up and think GUMSHOE is a d20 product or that you somehow confuse this with the d20 version of Call of Cthulhu.

The other oddity is that The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby does not contain any original art. They are all public domain pieces. Usually commissioned art accounts for a decent chunk of the price tag of an adventure. So without any original art, the $6.95 price tag attached to The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby is a bit high, especially compared to other Cthulhu based PDFs. Most Trail of Cthulhu adventures that are around the same price have original art and a much higher page count, so you could easily go elsewhere and get more for your buck/quid, but that money wouldn’t go towards keeping YSDC running in addition to giving you a fun set of gaming sessions with your friends. So yes, some people might be turned off by the inflated price and/or the lack of original art, but in the end, quality is king, and since The Many Deaths of Edward Bigbsy is one of the better ToC adventures out there, it’s worth picking up if you’re a fan of the system.

So let’s talk content. The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby tells you what you need to know just in the title. Poor Mr. Bigsby, a friend of an acquaintance, has come to the Investigators for help. Why, exactly, you don’t know, as he dies horribly in front of your eyes as he tries to tell you what exactly is going on. As players will discover while they try to unravel the mystery, this is only the first time they will see Mr. Bigbsy meet his demise. As the story unfolds, players will explore 1930s Soho (London, not New York) and run afoul of a Chinese triad, a Bohemian group, some potentially perplexed police, a slightly evil wizard and a few green doors that appear to be the root of the problem. If players are really unlucky or bad at solving adventures like this, they just might run into Yog-Sototh itself… which never ends well for anyone involved.

The adventure is a fun, open-ended piece of detective work. The scenes presented might not play out in the order they are provided in the adventure, but that’s based mostly on the direction the Investigators decide to go. The adventure is also unique in that things can get quite comical (in a cosmic horror sort of way) once duplicates of the late Mister Bigsby (and potentially other characters as well) start turning up. One could easily run this adventure as either a straight forward, grim, weird tale, or as a farcical comedy of errors, especially when duplicates encounter each other with unexpected results. I think this is the first Trail of Cthulhu adventure I’ve encountered where the potential for (purposeful) comedy is this high. Again, though, it’s all in how your Keeper runs the piece, so don’t go into this adventure expecting the equivalent of a Warner Bros cartoon. However, if you are a Keeper and your players seem sick of the usual grimdark Mythos pieces, running this with a decent amount of comedy could keep The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby fresh rather than stale.

I also liked that there are several different ways the adventure could end, depending on how thorough the Investigators were in the adventure. If they fly through things, they’ll find the core adventure really “easy” in terms of lack of chances to die or go insane, but the end scene being quite hard to deal with. Conversely, if players are extremely careful, checking every little detail about a scene and the like, the end scene is pretty straightforward and simple. It’s kind of a reward for player diligence. I should also point out that players will need access to the Elder Sign in order to really get through this adventure. If these are new characters, or the adventure is being used as a one-shot, the adventure will be EXTREMELY hard if they do not come across how to make this symbol in the adventure. The text gives a way for Investigators to come across one, but because of this issue, The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby might be best left with more experienced characters. Unless, of course, you’re up for an extremely uphill battle for the Investigators. Not having the Elder Sign doesn’t make the adventure impossible to get through, but it does make it pretty hard.

I have to say I really enjoyed The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby. The adventure was pretty unique, the core problem that players had to solve was an original and entertaining one, and as I’ve said, the adventure works equally well as a comedy piece as it does one of unexplainable horror beyond human comprehension stories. We tried it both ways and players had a blast with it – even those that aren’t a fan of the GUMSHOE system. The adventure offers a really entertaining cast of NPCs for the Investigators to interact with, and this is a great first start for YSDC and Innsmouth House Press with regards to releasing licensed adventures. I’m really excited to see what they put out next.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Many Deaths of Edward Bigsby
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Forgive Us
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/11/2014 06:21:59
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/11/tabletop-review-forgive-
-us-lamentations-of-the-flame-princess/

Forgive Us is a collection of three adventures for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. There is one fully fleshed out adventure with a map in Forgive Us, while the other two are more like story threads than true adventures, since the DM will have to flesh them out fully in order to make them playable. All three adventures are really well done, though, and are pretty memorable affairs. Even if you don’t normally play Lamentations of the Flame Princess, you still should consider picking this up, as the adventures are fully playable with many a Dungeons & Dragons retro clone, and your purchase even gives you a second PDF which gives conversion stats so that Dungeons & Dragons 3.0/3.5 and Pathfinder fans can take part in the experience. That’s a really nice touch that allows Forgive Us to reach a much wider audience. Who knows, it might even help convert some of those Paizo and WotC holdouts to peer deeper into the madness that is LotFP. I should also point out that all three adventures take place in England during the year 1625. Of course, it is a fictional England, since there will be magic users, cursed artifacts and the like, but if you don’t like using our reality as the basis of a role-playing game, you can always change the location to some generic fantasy world. It won’t have the same effect mind you, but it will shut up the person who absolutely has to play an elf in every game you run. It’s also worth mentioning that, while all three adventures take place in the same year and same general vicinity of the world, they are NOT connected. Each one is designed to stand-alone, but an enterprising DM could connect the three with a little bit of effort into a mini-campaign.

Our first adventure, Forgive Us, bears the same name as the collection, and it is the only adventure to be fully fleshed out. You get full stats, maps of locations and randomizing tables, and it takes up thirty-five of the fifty pages in this collection. The adventure is a definite tribute to The Thing (the John Carpenter movie) and players will no doubt figure that out around the climax of the adventure, when they encounter the horrible monstrosities waiting to convert or kill them. Forgive Us also works best with characters under 4th Level. This way, no one has access to Cure Disease. If characters have ready access to this spell, the adventure loses a lot of its tension and terror since the entire experience revolves around a disease transforming people into hideous thingies. Make sure your players can suffer from the potential affliction that awaits them – otherwise, this can easily turn into a run of the mill dungeon crawl, and Forgive Us is too cool of an adventure to be relegated to such a fate.

In Forgive Us, the PCs will be tasked with one of several reasons to enter a full city block of Norwich that appears to have gone both silent and empty. As players root around the area, they will discover creepy mutants, a hideous disease and the failed machinations of a guild and the horror that it has caused. There’s not a lot of combat until the very end of this piece, with Forgive Us really relying on the DM’s ability to describe what the players see and creating an atmosphere of foreboding doom. The end result is an adventure that will feel more like a Call of Cthulhu piece, where characters are playing detectives more than monster slayers. Well, at least until the climax, when the adventure feels more like Alien. In the end, the PCs will have some tough calls to make, and the potential for a full TPK is high… although it might be by the player’s own hands rather than the monsters if the adventure goes “right.” All in all, a truly great experience from the core plotline to the wonderful art littering this piece.

The second adventure in this collection is In Heaven, Everything is Fine. The author states it’s a bit of a Silent Hill meets The Colour From Out of Space mash-up. I definitely see the later, but not the former. It’s hard to describe this adventure without massive spoilers, and it really is something best left experienced rather than read about. Suffice it to say, the adventure’s concept is an exceptional one, but as it is more a story thread or adventure seed, a good DM needs to really flesh this out before presenting it to players. In the hands of a good DM, it will be a very memorable adventure, but in the hands of a bad one, it will come off lame or just annoy players.

Characters of ANY level can experience In Heaven, Everything is Fine and still be challenged. There’s a spooky ghost, a tower that can be modified to whatever players (or player characters) want it to be, a bit of sleuthing to be had and a climax that revolves around a morale puzzle which could cause some temporary in-fighting with the party. Of course, most of all, the adventure really shakes up what the players consider to be reality. At best, you’ll have created a spooky little adventure that can go multiple sessions, but at worst, more sensitive players that treat RPGs as something “to win” may get pretty pissed off at the DM by the time everything is done.

Our final adventure in this collection is Death and Taxes. It’s meant to be a straight forward one session experience, and works great as a first adventure for a new party or even new players. A close friend of the PCs has died, his daughter has disappeared and a group of tax collectors are accusing the late man of theft. Players have to figure out how all these things tie together while also stopping the servants of the Conqueror Worm. It’s a short but fun piece, and if you have people who have new done a tabletop RPG but have shown interest, Death and Taxes might be a good choice to help them get their feet wet with.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Forgive Us collection. You get three very interesting adventures and some fun cartoony yet horrific artwork. This collection is definitely worth the current sticker price attached to it, and it serves as a great introduction to the mood and themes LotFP likes to present to its audience.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forgive Us
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Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Alexander L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/07/2014 08:48:51
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/03/07/tabletop-review-spellja-
mmer-adventures-in-space-advanced-dungeons-dragons-second-ed-
ition/

Wow. I can’t express how happy I am to have the Spelljammer: Adventures in Space boxed set once again available to the public. Sure it’s in PDF form instead of in a fun box, but you can’t lose the maps and ship handouts with a digital copy like twelve year old me did with the physical version. Spelljammer is just such a fun and fantastic idea and along with Planescape and Ravenloft, it remains one of my three big campaign settings for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and is a big part of why 2e is my favorite version of D&D.

Spelljammer somehow manages to change everything you know about D&D while still holding true to the mechanics and core ideas of the game. Through it, you can have a wonderful blend of sci-fi filtered through a high fantasy lens along with the ability to travel from say Oerth to Krynn and then on to Toril. It’s really a wonderful idea and in fact, one started by Gary Gygax himself with Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. After all this earlier OD&D adventure had characters entering a sci-fi location with strange aliens and technological marvels a plenty. What Spelljammer did was simply flesh out the sci-fi aspects of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons while still making them work with wizardry and iron age combat. Spelljammer is the setting where Beholders and Mind Flayers were given complete ecologies, histories and homeworld. It’s the setting where the tinker gnomes of Dragonlance were given a serious look. It’s where Lizardmen were first treated as a playable PC race. It’s the setting that gave us Giffs, Neogi, my beloved Rastipedes and of course GIANT SPACE HAMSTERS. I could go on for hours about everything that makes Spelljammer so entertaining, but suffice to say, the fact that you are getting the full boxed set for only $9.99 makes this not only a must buy, but perhaps the biggest bargain on DNDclassics.com

Spelljammer: Adventures in Space gives you two core books. You get The Concordance of Arcane Space and Lorebook of the Void. The original physical boxed set also came with eleven handouts and four maps. These are now included with The Concordance of Arcane Space‘s PDF. Everything looks as crisp, clear and colorful as with the original print copies and it’s easy to read all of these on either computers or e-readers like a Kindle Fire. Now, the maps and handouts are only the size of a regular page now that they are in PDF form, but that’s a minor kibble at best.

The book you should read first is The Concordance of Arcane Space as it gives you the introduction to Spelljammer. Here you get an overview of the setting and what to expect from it. This is where terms like Wildspace, Phlogiston Spheres and other Spelljammer specific jargon gets explained for the very first time. Even if you never play a Spelljammer campaign, the explanation for everything is just so fascinating, fun and imaginative, that you’ll enjoy reading it. I can’t believe how fresh this feels even twenty five years later. Rules for air quality, gravity, temperature and time are all things that you’ll find in The Concordance of Arcane Space – mechanics you’d never need or even think of for other campaign settings.

Although most of the playable new races are found in The Complete Spacefarer’s Handbook, you will find rules for Lizardmen PCs here. You’ll also find some very important rules for playing a Cleric in Spelljammer and how it can be quite hard to gain spells outside of you God’s sphere of influence. Conjuring and Summoning spells also take on different characteristics. Fire however may have the biggest impediment. This means a lot of common spells and especially healing magic take on a new twist, causing players to think different about what kind of a character to make and the tactics they will use.

Of course, what would Spelljammer be without rules for how to buy and/or build your own ship? That’s all in here too. Of course, building a ship is extremely expensive and you have to maintain a crew to boot. This means Spelljammer is an excellent way for long running characters to use that hard gained loot that is just sitting around somewhere. You’ll also find rules for ship on ship combat, saving throws for all sorts of potential hull materials, crew based morale checks and interplanetary travel.

The last thing we’ll look at in The Concordance of Arcane Space is “The Rock of Brawl,” which gives DMs and players alike their first playable Spelljammer location, complete with story seeds, a cast of memorable characters. There is a lot of great stuff here and the map still looks great. The map does have one minor problem with it though. In coverting it from an oversized map from the boxed set into a standard PDF page, the words “The Lesser Market” and “Dungeon” are warped and blurry. There’s also a red dotted line going through the entire map towards the top. A minor quibble, but one purists might grumble over.

Now let’s talk The Lorebook of the Void. This second book in the “boxed” set is also a lot of fun. The first chapter in the book gives DMs a lot of ideas and suggestions for running a campaign in space as well as one that flitters between worlds. You are also given a glossary of terms and a fun ideas on making alien versions of common D&D creatures. One great example is the Beholder bartender who has a Detect Lie eye instead of the Death Ray one. This lets it be an effective bartender and patrons don’t have to worry about being killed instantly. They do have to worry about disintegration or petrification if they don’t pay their tab however…

Chapter Two is all about Spelljammer vessels. You’re given a whole host of crafts along with their stats. These are common spacefaring vessels and should help DMs running a Spelljammer campaign immensely. The Gnomish Sidewheeler and Neogi Mindspider are amongst my favorites. Chapter Three is entitled “Spacefarers” and it talks about the culture of various D&D races in space. You get a really nice look at all the PC and NPC races common to the game, regardless of setting and how alien versions might be different from established worlds. Goblins, Ogres, Giants, Centaur, Dragons and even Undead have their own listings here. Of note are the entries for Mind Flayers and Beholder, as this is the book and setting that really defined both as a species instead of just creepy looking antagonists. Lycanthropes too have a long and highly detailed section in this chapter – for obvious reasons. The chapter then ends with Monstrous Compendium entries for a lot of creatures, all of which are tremendously entertaining and worth using. Chapter Four is “Known Spheres” and it talks about the core D&D worlds: Krynn, Toril and Oerth, along with important planets or moons within their sphere. That, my friends, is the entire book.

So yes, you’re getting all this plus maps and handouts for under ten bucks. It’s a terrific deal and one any D&D fan can make great use of. Even if you don’t play Second Edition AD&D, the ideas, mechanics and creatures presented here can be applied to any version of the game with a little effort and the end result will be well worth it. Out of everything on DNDclassics.com so far, this is by far my favorite offering (so far) and with a little luck, it will be yours too. Now, let’s see those Ravenloft and Planescape boxed sets on the site as well, am I right?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (2e)
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Dark Ages: Darkening Sky
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/26/2014 06:23:12
Originally published by: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/02/26/tabletop-review-dark-ag-
es-darkening-sky-classic-world-of-darkness/

It’s been nearly a month since Dark Ages: Darkening Sky was released, but I wanted to sit on the review in hopes of an errata being published as there were a lot of typographical, grammatical and editorial errors in the original PDF. Thankfully, on 2/24, the edited/revised PDF was released. The piece now flows a lot better.

Darkening Sky is actually an idea bandied about the White Wolf offices for more than a decade. It takes one central theme, that of an eclipse in 1230 Anno Domini. Each of the five adventures is stand-alone, meaning they are not connected to each other in any shape or form, and trying to turn the five into some sort of campaign is implausible and would probably drive any enterprising Storyteller mad as they all take place at roughly the same time in very different parts of Europe and the Middle East. Each adventure in Darkening Sky is tailored towards a specific Dark Ages game. You have Fae, Inquisitor, Mage Vampire andWerewolf. This is a pretty neat idea on paper, although in truth most Dark Ages players only play one or two of the five settings (at most), meaning a lot of the content is just wasted paper (at worst) or something interesting to read (at best), right?

Well, not so fast. A big idea behind Darkening Sky is that although each adventure is geared for a specific facet of the Dark Ages World of Darkness line, that each one could be retooled for use with one of the other setting. So in theory, a Storyteller could take the Fae story and with a bit of adjusting, turn it into an adventure for Inquisitor or transform the Mage story into a piece for Vampire. Each adventure gives some rough ideas on how to do the changeover, but they are far too brief (only a paragraph) and are geared towards people that not only already own all five settings, but are extremely familiar with them. Even if you are pretty well versed in all five Dark Ages titles, you are really going to have you work cut out to convert these adventures from one setting to another. It’s a LOT of work – I can’t stress that enough. As such, the vast majority of Storytellers won’t be able to use the piece the way it was originally intended, which is a shame as it was one of the big selling points of Darkening Sky – at least to me.

I should also point out that none of the five adventures are fully fleshed out affairs that cover how the adventure should go from beginning to end. If you’re used to adventures written in the D&D, Dungeon Crawl Classics or the Shadowrun Missions style, you may be disappointed as Darkening Sky doesn’t even pretend to hold your hand. Again, this means Darkening Sky is not for the novice Storyteller. That said, the adventures contained in Darkening Sky are done similar to Shadowrun collections ala Hazard Pay in that you are given loose guidelines for how each adventure is supposed to flow, but you also have a lot of leeway to fill in the blanks and make the piece your own. Some gamers will view this as leaving the purchaser to do the bulk of the work, while others will appreciate the creativity and freedom this style of adventure writing provides. Just don’t go in expecting the usual structure you find in other recent Classic World of Darkness adventures like Skinner or Dust to Dust. For those wanting a lot of stats and mechanics, each adventure does through you a slight bone. Some characters are fully detailed with stats, while others are not. You also get in depth descriptions of locations and even some new powers. You get a whole bunch of gifts for Stargazer and Uktena Garou for the Dark Ages, for example. Vampire fans will be happy to see more combo Discipline powers too. Still, it is a bit disappointing to see how light these adventures are on the things most people purchase adventures for. You really are getting mostly a framework for which to craft your own adventures around.

Each of the five adventures varies wildly in both plot and quality. Werewolf gets a fairly generic “defend the Caern against Black Spiral Dancers” plot mixed in with a Mongol invasion. The Fae adventure dealing with Changlings turned into humans by way of Christian baptism and how they will be used both politically and as a blunt weapon by one faction against another. Inquisitor gets the best adventure in the set and it’s actually three short adventures in one. Each leg of the adventure takes the PCs to a different part of Italy where monsters have been revealed for what they are. Werewolves, vampires, and the like can no longer hide their true nature and they are as disturbed by this revelation as the humans they live amongst! Vampire gets a bunch of tropes like scheming Lasombra and crazy Baali thrown together for their piece in this collection. Finally, Mage has a really interesting story where the PCs are hired by Frederick II, who wishes to have a conversation with God. This is the most fully fleshed out adventure and it could easily become an entire Chronicle in the hands of a good Storyteller. Being the World of Darkness, horrible things happen along the way and the end result is not what anyone expected…or wanted.

I really liked the adventures for Mage and Inquisitor and they are the primary reasons to pick up Darkening Sky. Werewolf and Vampire are trope heavy and pretty generic, but they are decent written and my biggest complaint is simply that the writers played it safe instead of trying something original or inventive. Fae‘s adventure is just extremely boring and dull. So two good adventures, two mediocre adventures and one thumb’s down. That’s a pretty decent mix. I don’t know if most Dark Ages fans will get their money’s worth out of Darkening Sky simply because they will only play one or two of these adventures at most and only the Mage and Inquisitor ones are really worth picking this collection up for. In the end, Darkening Sky was a really lofty idea that fell short of all the goals it set for itself. I can see why this languished for so long in development purgatory. Like a lot of video games hit with years of delays and setbacks, this probably was best left dormant like a Methuselah in torpor. What’s here is decent, but by no means great, or even good. I just really couldn’t get into this collection, and found it mostly disappointing or dull. The best bits about the collection are the art (although the cover is a bit strange) and the opening short fiction. Perhaps the fact the original developer and writer admits in the foreword that he has all but forgotten the original ideas and content this piece was meant to have back in 2003 was a good sign that Darkening Sky was indeed a bad omen…but for itself.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Ages: Darkening Sky
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Player's Secrets of Tuarhievel (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2014 06:42:17
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/02/24/tabletop-review-birthri-
ght-players-secrets-of-tuarhieveln-advanced-dungeons-dragons-
-second-edition/

f there’s one thing you can say about Second Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with absolutely certainty, it is that this was the golden age for campaign settings. Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, Planescape and more came from this period, after all. The piece we are reviewing today, Player’s Secrets of Tuarhievel, is from Birthright, an underappreciated gem of a setting in its day whose print versions can be quite costly these days. Please note that, in order to actually use this book, you’ll need a copy of the Birthright Campaign Setting. Otherwise, there will be a lot of references to specific events and characters that will make no sense, as the book assumes you have not only read the books for the campaign setting, but are intimately acquainted with them.

Birthright is very different from regular AD&D 2E in that there is no alignment and that player characters are divinely infused rulers of regions where the focus is more on political intrigue than dungeon crawling hack and slash. It’s a very different experience from the usual AD&D 2e game, with concepts such as regency, provinces, holdings, War Magic (and the associated War Cards) and domain turns being routine vernacular for the setting mechanics. Again, if none of this sounds familiar to you, you really need to hold off on purchasing this or any other Birthright supplements until you have picked up the core campaign setting.

Player’s Secrets of Tuarhieveln covers a specific region of the continent of Cerilia. Tuarhieveln is the sole region still belonging to and controlled by the elves. These elves are not necessarily shining nobility, however. They have enslaved Kobolds and goblins for thousands of years, and have a long history of both xenophobia and racism. Now, in the modern times of the campaign setting, the great nation of Tuarhieveln is perhaps ready to tear itself apart, for a “lowly” human sits upon the Thorn Throne, a living symbol of regency within Tuarhieveln, and it decides who will rule. Obviously, a nation of elves who view their race as superior to all others doesn’t take too kindly to a human being chosen as their ruler, or that the Thorn Throne accepted her. However, the twist is that this human, a ranger named Savane, was the chosen lover of the elven prince Fhileraene, the previous ruler of the realm. Before being forced to be a prisoner of The Gorgon (The Big Bad of the campaign setting), he passed his divine powers to Savane so that they took could be passed to the female child she will soon give birth to. I should point out that, if you are unfamiliar with Birthright, you will have no idea who The Gorgon is or what is so special about him, as the book makes no attempts to explain him. As well, the book’s talk of “passing blood” and the like will come off as a weird way of skirting around things like sex and pregnancy. This is not actually the case, but it’s very easy to read this into the text if you don’t know the particular phrases specific to Birthright

The contents of Player’s Secrets of Tuarhieveln are geared towards helping you understand the political turmoil within the domain so that your character, who would be an elven noble ruling one of the many provinces of the domain, can take actions supporting his or her side. Do you side with the human regent, the missing prince and the Thorn Throne, or do you see to ensure an elf, perhaps even yourself, becomes ruler of Tuarhieveln? Again, alignment doesn’t really come into play with Birthright, so pick the side that sounds the most fun for you. By the time you are done reading Player’s Secrets of Tuarhieveln, you will be familiar with the history of the domain, previous rulers, some of the most important moments from the domain’s past and a list of movers and shakers within Tuarhieveln. Most important is the look at how elves play the political game compared to humans, and how vastly different the two view/broach the topic. It’s also worth noting that the politics section also discusses how erroneously both humans and elves view each other’s games of intrigue. You’ll also find maps, story seeds and interesting bits about why there are no clerics, nor any form of organized religion, with Tuarhieveln. It’s notable how truly unique Tuarhieveln comes across, even in a game as unusual as Birthright.

What’s here is great for Birthright fans, but again, the book is pretty useless without the campaign setting. Much of the intent and purpose is lost to readers unless they have the knowledge of how different Birthright is from your normal AD&D 2e game. Some gamers might balk at the $4.99 price tag, considering the original physical copy was only $7.99, but honestly, Birthright pieces are quite expensive, so $4.99 for this supplement is actually a VERY good deal. At the time of writing this, there are NO copies on Ebay, and other entries in the Player’s Secrets line go for about ten to twenty-five dollars. Again though, you NEED to make the $9.99 investment in the campaign setting if you’re even remotely interested in picking this up. Still, you’ll then get digital copies of this book and the core campaign for about the same cost as a physical supplement for Birthright. That’s a pretty awesome deal. If Birthright sounds interesting, but this particular domain isn’t of interest to you, there are many other ones to choose from. Currently, Wizards of the Coast has put three other “Player’s Secret” books on DrivethruRPG.com and DNDclassics.com. Feel free to choose from Ariya, Halskapa, or Medoere if Tuarhieveln isn’t your thing. I do wish the book was a little more newcomer friendly to people who aren’t well versed in all things Birthright, but longtime fans of the campaign setting will enjoy getting a hold of this one.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Secrets of Tuarhievel (2e)
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Horrors From Beyond
Publisher: Project Zero Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2014 08:28:46
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/02/20/tabletop-review-horrors-
-from-beyond-call-of-cthulhu/

Call of Cthulhu isn’t a game you usually have miniatures for, but the concept seems to be getting a bit of a surge as of late. Reaper Miniatures has released a few for its Bones line, RAFM just had a very successful Kickstarter based around Call of Cthulhu miniatures and now Project Zero Games has put out a collection of print and play paper miniatures entitled Horrors From Beyond. While not an officially licensed Call of Cthulhu product, there are some obvious pieces of Lovecraftia in this set such as a Shoggoth, a Dark Young and a monolith with an Elder Sign on it.

For $3.99 you get the following pieces: A Dark Young, a Shoggoth, two creepy monsters I can’t place, a living green glob, a tree, a living green ectoplasm thingy, a stone pillar and an interdimensional gateway. Everything aside for the gateway is a single piece you just print and cut out. The gateway though takes a bit of assembly. This collection comes with some very easy to follow instructions for cutting out the pieces and also how to put each figure on a base. A full page of the PDF is devoted to instructions on assembling the gateway. The art on each miniature is fantastic and I especially love both the Shoggoth and Dark Young designs. All miniatures are on scale with regular miniatures, so you can use these from pre-painted D&D or Pathfinder figures on down to the aforementioned RAFM metal figures. In fact, I actually like the look of this paper Dark Young better than the “real” metal version. It’s also a lot cheaper. So you get a nice set of fantastic looking figures, for about the cost of a single resin or metal figure. That’s a pretty good deal –especially when you consider how nice these things look.

Now speaking of cost, remember that the $3.99 price tag merely gives you the rights to print these figures off. Actually making the figures will cost you a bit more, as you’ll have to have a high quality printer, card stock paper, enough color ink to print these off and a good pair of scissors to cut out the figures once printed. If you don’t have all these items already, this little set of print and play figures will end up costing you more than most metal or resin figures. Paper figures are a cheaper buy only in the long run, so if this is your first set, expect to see that simple $3.99 investment skyrocket before you are done. As well, make sure you are really good with scissors before you start on paper miniatures, because one bad cut and you have to reprint everything. This is especially true with the Horrors From Beyond set we are talking about today due to all the wacky angles and strange shapes that come with Lovecraft creatures. Finally, you’ll also see Adobe Acrobat 6 or higher to view and print this product. As always, print and play sets are for a very specific type of gamer rather than for the general public, but if you’re a fan of paper minis, this is one of the best sets I’ve seen in some time.

I absolutely love the design of these figures and if you’re a big Call of Cthulhu fan and/or miniatures type of gamer, Horrors From Beyond , this set is easily worth the $3.99 price tag – but only if you know what you need to actual make a set of print and play miniatures useable. I’m pretty happy with it, especially the scenery pieces and the art for each figure is top notch. I really hope Project Zero continues this line of Call of Cthulhu themed print and play miniatures as it appears the market for CoC figures is growing faster than it ever has.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Horrors From Beyond
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Castles & Crusades Players Guide to the Haunted Highlands
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/18/2014 08:08:39
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/02/18/tabletop-review-castles-
-crusades-players-guide-to-the-haunted-highlands/

This book, along with the Castle Keeper’s Guide to the Haunted Highlands were both funded through a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Although originally planned to be a 76 book, the stretch goals ballooned the content out another forty pages. I’m generally pretty enthused about Castles & Crusades releases, especially products like the Codex Celtarum or The Book of Familars, but I’ve never really been a big fan of “Haunted Highlands” themed products. Case in point, The Free City of Eskadia was one of the driest and dullest RPG books I’ve ever read and it had a lot of errors in the PDF version that I hope didn’t make it through to the physical one. The bad news is that the book isn’t as good as a lot of recent Castles & Crusades products, but then the system has really been on a roll lately, so it’s no surprise that the quality had to dip had some point. The good news is that the Player’s Guide to the Haunted Highlands is a lot better than The Free City of Eskadia and it contains nearly everything you need to play a game of Castles & Crusades – all for a few bucks less than the normal Player’s Handbook. That’s a pretty nice deal when you think about it.

Unfortunately what is missing from the Player’s Guide that is in the Player’s Handbook are the core character classes. This is odd because the book gives all the other rules for character creation including a lengthy explanation of the rules, generating attributes, how to play out combat, race descriptions and more. In fact a good portion of the book of superfluous if you already own the Player’s Handbook and because the character creation rules are only partially in the Player’s Guide to the Haunted Highland, you still need the Handbook to make a character. This just seems like a really strange decision layout, editing and content wise. In fact if you added up all the pages that rehash what is already in the Player’s Handbook, you get those forty or so extra pages that were unlocked by stretch goals. It’s a shame those pages weren’t devoted to the campaign setting instead as that would have made the book more useful and less repetitive. Did we really need to go over what classes are best to dual class with or how the SEIGE Engine system works? If you buy The Player’s Guide to the Haunted Highlands,, you probably already no these things and also already own the core rulebooks. Wasted pages and wasted trees all around here.

The actual content on the Haunted Highlands itself is both weak and sparse. Only the first two chapters, roughly thirty-five pages are actually about the campaign setting itself. Even then only about fifteen pages (8-23) actually talk about the Highlands themselves. That’s less than half the first two chapters and a tenth of the entire book itself! The rest are devoted to twelve pages of gods and fiends, a table of contents, the OGL page, a page of Kickstarter backers, legal mumbo jumbo and a lot of introduction padding. This was a real disappointment to see locations only got a single paragraph of description. There is so little detail and content about the actual Haunted Highlands themselves, I don’t see why we needed two books on the campaign setting. The Player’s Guide is just exceptionally weak if you’re looking for flavor and an in-depth discussion on the region, its people and important locations within it. As mentioned earlier the book devoted a full chapter to rehashes character creation and combat rules for the Player’s Handbook, which is space that both could have and SHOULD HAVE been used to really flesh the actual campaign setting out more. Again, this was such a disappointment and I’m left thinking how much better (and cheaper) for the player things could have been if this was stripped of the actual relevant material and put together with the Castle Keeper’s Guide to the Haunted Highlands and just made into a single book.

Now that isn’t to say that The Player’s Guide to the Haunted Highlands is a complete letdown. There are some worthwhile bits of information and ideas within this book. While the chapter on Races is pretty uninspired and cookie-cutter, it was nice to see stats for playing a goblin, hobgoblin, full blooded orc, Underdark rip-off races and more. Hey, at some point someone is going to want to play one of those. It’s nice to have C&C stats for playing one, including racial advantages and attribute modifiers. I also really like the complete remaking of the Assassin class. While both the original and the Haunted Highlands version of the Assassin have their benefits, I think people will find this new version which is not based on the old AD&D 1e one to really bring something new to the character class and it is perhaps the highlight of the book. Another new class is the Conjurer which is a bit too Final Fantasy Red Mage for my liking. They cast both Cleric and Mage spells and use Charisma in the same way a 3e Sorcerer does. It’s a bit cheesy, but some people will enjoy the option.

Besides full character classes, the book also offers class kits ala the old AD&D Second Edition “Complete Handbooks.” You have a Necromancer template, a Witch template, two monk variants, more than half a dozen Paladin kits and so on. While these are all neat ideas, they really don’t flesh out the Haunted Highlands as a location. There are some very interesting ideas here, but instead of laid out like 2e kits, these should have been done in the style of Advantages, which were introduced in The Book of Familiars. We’re getting way too many different optional ways of customizing a character without any actual uniformity and that’s going to bog down Castles & Crusades far more than it helps it.

The rest of the Player’s Guide is all about magic. You get almost thirty pages of magic based content, ranging from new rules for sacrificial magic to well over 100 new spells for your Castles & Crusades campaign. Granted some of these spells were published long ago, but those books are out of print and have been for some time, so these spells are more than likely new to you unless you are a veteran C&C player with a large collection of books. The spells areorganized not in alphabetical order or by spellcasting level, nor even spell class. Instead they are grouped by the mage who invented the spells or by the god who grants access to them. This is a very odd way of doing things and it makes looking up a spell harder than it should be, but at least there’s a ton of new content here – even if none of it is truly specific to a Haunted Highlands campaign.

So overall, I’m disappointed with both the quality and the content of the Player’s Guide to the Haunted Highlands. There’s very little content that actual pertains to the locations and/or campaign setting. Character creation variants and spells are nice, but I just can’t see why this was divided into two books, or why the spells and character classes weren’t just put into a supplement with all the repeat content from the Player’s Handbook excised out. While the book has a nice price point of only thirteen dollars and some fun ideas, it seems to be one of those books that serves no real purpose nor fills any specific need C&C gamers were clamoring for. My advice is to stay away from this one. If you’re curious about the Haunted Highlands campaign setting, just get the Castle Keeper’s Guide to the Haunted Highlands if anything. So far, between this and The Free City of Eskadia, the Haunted Highlands has been one of the lowlights for C&C rather than one of the highlights - at least for me.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Players Guide to the Haunted Highlands
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Love and Sex in the Ninth World
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/13/2014 06:45:58
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/02/13/tabletop-review-numener-
a-love-and-sex-in-the-ninth-world/

Sex and Love and Roleplaying Games always seems to be an interesting concept on paper but one that tends to be pretty awkward in practice. As a pre-pubescent boy, there was no time for romance in my Marvel Super Heroes or Dungeons & Dragons game as there were evil villains to thwart. It wasn’t until I read the comic antics of Phil and Dixie in Dragon Magazine that it even occurred to me that a character might have romance or sexual liaisons. As a teenager, I saw the usual misogyny that was typical for the industry. You know what I’m talking about. Male gamers playing a female character as a horny slutty nymphomaniac or male players sexually harassing a female character in a way they would never talk to the actual female PLAYER. I saw relationships strained when a girl’s character ended up with a character played by someone other than her boyfriend. Then there are games like Vampire: The Masquerade that revel in sexuality and have copious amounts of content devoted to it. Yet even has someone who has written, edited and played that game, there is something inherently sophomoric and surreal that occurs when someone talks about “spending a blood point to have an erection” or times when you can’t help but laugh when two people are trying to act out a serious moment (but failing miserably) of seduction, sex or romance in front of their fellow players. Basically, love and sex are two concepts that are rarely pulled off well, either by the mechanics writer or by the players.

So it’s interesting to me that one of the early supplements for Numenera would be about love and sex. The last time two times I read anything devoted to these two concepts in a strictly gaming manner were the lackluster Strange, Dead Love for Vampire: The Requiem and the unintentionally hilariously awful Book of Erotic Fantasy for d20 games. I’m happy to say that Love and Sex in the Ninth World manages to have a mature discussion on romance without it degenerating into something Beavis and Butthead would “Uh huh huh huh” over or by turning the concept into nothing but mechanics and rules. You won’t find specific stats for a Level 5 Mega Syphilis or told that you must roll a d20 every day to see if you develop anal warts. You also won’t find pictures of an eight breasted female life form, if that is what you are looking for. That made me exceedingly happy because anytime you bog down concepts like lust or love with mechanics, it loses a lot. As embarrassing or awkward as it may be to role-play out provocative acts, it’s a huge disservice to make it a straight forward roll-based action.

Now don’t get me wrong. There are a few mentions of mechanics in this piece. For example, seducing a character is a Level X act based on what level the character is (plus or minus any other factors). However this brief mention in surrounding by a litany of telling you to roleplay the act. You are also given two example STDs that do have a slight bit of mechanics side to them, but the dice rolling is more akin to how you roll for a poison when it takes effect. The core of the experience, however bizarre, still revolves around the GM and player role-playing it out. There are also two pages of items (eight in all) that can be applied towards romantic situations. The Impulse Collar is like a mood ring, the Blood Boiler is the equivalent of both Viagra and the aforementioned V:TM blood point spending. There’s a cipher to help increase fertility (but not one to prevent it?) and the very odd Sexual Alteration Device which can act as anything from a girdle of gender swapping to transforming a characters sexual preference.

So while there are pieces of mechanics in Love and Sex in the Ninth World, there are very sparsely used, which is the wise decision. Still, the vast majority of gamers will still end up cracking wise about a Level 3 STD or rolling to get pregnant, and well they should. It’s an absurd concept that can’t translate perfectly from the real world to the tabletop no matter how hard one tries. The key is knowing your gaming group. If they make one or a few dry cracks about sex mechanics and leave it at that, they’re probably mature enough to handle these themes and concepts. If however, they constantly make jokes, or worse, seem uncomfortable with the idea of role-playing sexual activity or romantic liaisons, then the GM needs to backpedal their idea of including this type of content IMMEDIATELY. The game needs to be fun for everyone after all.

Content-wise you’ll see a lot of frank discussion on sexuality in the Ninth World. Sexual orientation and ideas of what constitutes gender are pretty out the window compared to our own 21st Century modern Earth. After all, in the Ninth World, you have alien life forms who may have genitalia more akin to a swarm of bees or copulate through headbutting. Male humans might have the ability to become impregnated or pregnancy itself might be replace by instantaneously generating a new life through SCIENCE. Like every other aspect of Numenera, the only limitation the game world has is the GM’s imagination. So if you want something akin to traditional gender roles or a matriarchal Amazonian society, you can have that. If instead, you want a society where there are forty-six different genders or where traditional sex has been replaced by events on the psychic or astral plane – GO FOR IT. It’s your game and this supplement encourages that type of thinking.

Primarily, the text continually points out common sense bits, like that sexual attraction is unique to each individual and how different cultures/regions/tribes/time periods find different things sexually appealing. There’s also a mention of what acts are potentially legal or illegal in Numenera, Rape of course is right out, which is a smart move. More controversial is the fact that things like prostitution, necrophilia, bestiality and pedophilia are potentially okay in Numenera, based on the cultural and people. Now that does not mean that Monte Cook Games supports NAMBLA. It simply means that due to being set a billion years in the future, things may be different. You might have a race that ages in reverse, so what looks like a nine year old girl might be a fully sexual adult. You might have a race that can only breed with the corpses of their kind. Who knows? However the fact this door is left open is a potentially dangerous one and if you are acting as GM, for Cthulhu’s sake KNOW YOUR PLAYERS, before doing anything that might turn out to be a sensitive trigger for them. If you have a player that was molested as a child, PLEASE think twice about running a society where adult on child sexual activity is acceptable. Again, common sense prevails here, but unfortunately common sense isn’t very common.

Perhaps most importantly is a three page guide for GMs on how and when to put sex into your game. The entire supplement sums up exactly what needs to be said in the first two sentences of this section. “Why do you need to have sex in your Numenera game? The most obvious answer is: you don’t.” That is spot on. If your adventure or campaign doesn’t need sex or romance to make it work, don’t force it on players. If however, a key part of the adventure you have designed does revolve in some time of emotional or physical entanglement, then by all means use it. So if your adventure doesn’t need a player to be kidnapped and used as a BDSM experiment by an alien race, don’t do it. If however, your adventure involves a NPC following in love with a PC after their dramatic rescue even though they already had a potential paramour who know swears revenge on the players for stealing their intended away – run with it. At no point does Love and Sex in the Ninth World endorse sexual content for every play session of Numenera. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Use love and sex as something special. Character development, motivation, a dramatic game changing moment, or as a plot thread when the randy Nano is caught with the wife of their employer. If you bog down a game with constant bits of sex, you’re going to come off as a creepy pervert to the other people in your gaming troupe. I really enjoy the fact that Love and Sex in the Ninth World not only takes the topics it broaches seriously, but also repeatedly mentions that they should be used sparingly and for moments of quality role-playing that help flesh out and further define PCs.

Sex and love can be really important aspects of a role-playing session. Perhaps a Glaive is on a mission to save her husband from a disease or an unscrupulous Jack has taken over a town via a pheromone spray that makes everyone asexual, thus ensuring the town will due out in a few decades lest they obey his or her every whim. Love and Sex in the Ninth World is an exceptionally well written piece that is a frank discussion on how these themes should be treated or used, not just in Numenera but gaming in general. It’s the best take on the topics I’ve ever seen because it doesn’t reduce everything to die rolls or mechanics and it’s also worded in such a way that it won’t become the butt of juvenile jokes. This supplement is basically, “Look, sex and love happens in role-playing games. Here’s how to do it right without potentially creeping someone out– if you chose to do it at all.” It’s a great piece, but definitely a very niche one. It’s not a must buy by any means due to the subject matter. You’re going to want to be comfortable with sexual discussions in general and also know your audience to make sure this supplement is suitable for your fellow gamers. Would I give this to a GM who is playing Numenera with single digit aged children? God, no. Would I give it to a bunch of middle aged virgins with Madonna/Whore complexes? God, no. Would I recommend Love and Sex in the Ninth World to be I know are mature capable people who can discuss or role-play sex/love without it degenerating into embarrassment or juvenilian jokes as a defense mechanism? Certainly. Unfortunately, those gamers probably don’t NEED to pick up this supplement. So while this supplement is very well written and the critic in me appreciates it for what it is, it’s hard to think of a large audience that will need or appreciate this. Like all RPG releases that are love and/or sex based, this is a highly niche product. Unlike most that have come before it however, Love and Sex in the Ninth World is well written and actually treats the subject matter like it should be.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Love and Sex in the Ninth World
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The Manual of Mutants & Monsters: Cthulhu
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2014 07:26:39
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/02/11/tabletop-review-the-man-
ual-of-mutants-and-monsters-cthulhu-mutants-masterminds/

The Manual of Mutants and Monsters: Cthulhu is the latest in the “manual” line of supplements for the roleplaying game Mutants & Masterminds. The supplement is created by Misfit Studios, while the core RPG is by Green Ronin Games. Obviously, to get any use out of this Cthulhu Mythos themed piece, you will need the core Mutants & Masterminds rulebook.

For only a buck fifty-five, you’re actually getting three PDFs. The first is a two page “Metahuman Threat Scale” piece that rates antagonists. The second is the core fourteen page PDF. The third is a thirteen page “print friendly” PDF, which is essentially the same as the core one, save it lacks the cover and everything is in black and white. Because the print friendly PDF is the same as the full colour one, assume all commentary is the same for both.

Although the core PDF is fourteen pages long, only seven and a half pages are actually devoted to content. The other seven pages are the cover, the title page, two pages of open game license stuff, a page and a half of ads and a full page of art showcasing Cthulhu in all its otherworldly glory. It’s quite comical too. So while only half the PDF is content, remember, that’s still seven pages for roughly a dollar and a half – all of which are quite good.

So what content DO you get with this piece? Well there are two pages of New Complications. As this is a Cthulhu themed piece, it’s all about mental disorders. Here you’ll find a whopping seventeen different versions, ranging from Anxiety Disorder to Schizophrenia. The mental disorders are not in alphabetical order, but they are all ones relevant to the Cthulhu Mythos or super hero gaming in general. After all, a lot of supervillians (and even some super heroes) are insane, so I’m surprised many of these haven’t been touched on by the core Mutants & Masterminds game.

Next up are two and a half pages on Deep Ones, although the art for these look more like classic fantasy lizardmen/draconian entities than fish folk. You get all the stats for a regular Deep One as well as two hybrid variants. It’s all pretty standard stuff, and it’s fun to see M&M stats for creatures generally only seen in Call of Cthulhu or its multiple variants. I do think the Deep Ones should have a higher Swimming rating, and also some points in Intelligence and Awareness. They aren’t mindless beasts after all, and many of them can cast magic – another aspect missing from their stat block.

Great Cthulhu himself gets three pages devoted to him. Again, his stats are a bit weak considering what Cthulhu is. He definitely needs his Awareness and Presence doubled. He’s a god who communicates across time and space via dreams, after all. His powers are exceptionally well done though, as is everything else about everyone’s favorite Great Old One. I’m really impressed by this stat pack. It looks as if someone cracked open the fifth or sixth edition of Call of Cthulhu and just tried to translate those stats into Mutants & Masterminds, which was a really smart way to do things. The background and description sections nicely mirror the CoC standard too. There are also three story seeds for M&M GMs to take and flesh out if they want to use Cthulhu and/or Deep Ones in their campaign. That was a pleasant surprise to see, and while they are fairly standard tropes for Cthulhu usage, they’re good ones.

Finally, I have to say I really liked the art in this piece. You have a full page comedy piece showcasing Cthulhu, a picture of the Great Old One in a town and the aforementioned lizard looking Deep Ones. All the art pieces are really nice and look like they could have actually been ripped from a comic book somewhere. Considering Mutants & Masterminds is a super hero based RPG, that makes the art all the more fitting and fun where it might otherwise be considered too bright or light-spirited to work. There’s also a picture of a guy in a straightjacket confined to a padded cell, which is a nice touch.

All in all, The Manual of Mutants and Monsters: Cthulhuis a fine piece of reference for combining superheroes with the Cthulhu Mythos. It’s definitely worth $1.55 if you really want to do a crossover style campaign. The GM should probably be knowledgeable about Lovecraft’s most famous creation though – otherwise the players will nitpick a scenario to pieces if it’s not in line with how the Great Old One should behave (such as making it the leader of an international smuggling ring or something).

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Manual of Mutants & Monsters: Cthulhu
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