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From Gaza with Love
Publisher: Gun Metal Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2014 10:35:21
From Gaza with Love is a classic spy/thriller adventure translated into the cyberpunk setting of Interface 2.0. Wealthy Russians, deserts, kidnappings and a plethora of other folks interested in what the party is up to make for an exciting time for all... and enough twists and turns in the plot to keep conspiracy theorists happy.

The initial situation is simple: a Russian lady living in Gaza with her new lover has lost her children to kidnappers and quite understandably wants them back. A wealthy friend will pay the party's fees as leads take them to Israel and out into the desert. The children's father is the obvious suspect - but is he the real villain of the piece?

There's plenty of scope for investigation and for meeting some of the colourful locals as the party works out what is going on and begins to track the children's location. The trail can lead to such diverse locations as a traditional Bedouin camp and the high-tech city of Tel Aviv in Israel, with the concomitant customs and laws to negotiate - anger Bedouins or Israeli security forces at your peril! There are plenty of potentially influential people to impress or annoy should you be planning further adventures in the Middle East.

The adventure is reasonably well-resourced with appropriate floorplans and the layout of the Bedouin camp, but if you are unsure about the spatial relationships between Gaza, the Negev and Tel Aviv you will have to look up a map on your own. The various folk encountered are detailed well, with good references even for the 'cannon-fodder' so you can locate appropriate stats in the core rules and apply any necessary modifications easily.

Exciting classic thriller with the feel-good factor of rescuing some youngsters from a fate worse than death.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
From Gaza with Love
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Quickshots: Nightmares & Relics
Publisher: Peeper Corner Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2014 09:25:04
OK, so you have a big book of monsters - in this case Bestiary 4 for the Pathfinder RPG - but what are you going to do with them?

If you want more than just plonking a monster in front of the party for them to fight, but do not have time to figure out full-blown encounters, have a look in here. There are twenty monster-driven encounters here, some are just about a mini-adventure with a single monster antagonist, others are just something the party may come across when they are doing something else entirely. All draw on the particular focus of Bestiary 4, the creepy nightmarish things that develop from evil events or which crawl in from other planes.

For each monster, there's some descriptive text that may be what the characters come across or perhaps it provides some background. There are notes about what is going on and how you can involve the party; and there are several variants of the encounter so you can pick the one which suits the rest of your campaign best (or. of course, the version that takes your fancy!). Whilst you'll need a copy of Bestiary 4 for full effect, critter stat blocks are provided here, although the full details of the creature in question will be found in the pages of the Bestiary.

To make it even more useful, there is a set of separate 'character sheets' for every creature that you'll encounter in these pages as well as all the relevant Hero Lab data files if you use that system. There are three versions of the main document too, as well as the usual full version and a printer-friendly one, there is one with all the stats omitted just giving you a collection of encounters.

The encounters are inventive, many are capable of being developed into a short adventure in their own right or of being woven into an ongoing plotline should you have time and inclination. Otherwise, you can just have them pop up 'as is' whenever you feel things are getting dull!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Quickshots: Nightmares & Relics
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Shadowrun: Missions: Critic's Choice (5A-02)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2014 10:57:09
A delightful ramble through the Chicago Containment Zone where there's always something to do even without the plethora of Johnsons seemingly lining up to hire the 'runners. There are places to visit and contacts to make, as well as nuyen to be made... and even the chance to be Good Samaritans along the way.

Most times, the 'runners get a job then others approach trying to hire them to do it differently. Not this time - they get one job and are then approached to do another job that'll work in tandem with the first. Not bad, one run, 2 paychecks!

There are plenty of contacts, useful contacts, to be made during this adventure: it's well worth keeping track of them (as player or referee). Some interesting locations that you might want to use again too.

Everything is very clearly laid out, making it very easy to run this adventure. It's broken down into discrete scenes and each scene has information to give to the 'runners, background for you, all the game mechanics needed to resolve likely situations and sections called 'Pushing the Envelope' (extra challenges if required) and 'Debugging' (for use when the 'runners do the unexpected). A 'Legwork' section at the end gives you loads of things that the characters can find out, should they take the trouble to do some research or go rumour-hunting. There is also full details on everyone they'll meet during the adventure to supplement the summary information in the body of the adventure.

There are no maps or plans, but the adventure doesn't really need them. There's plenty of descriptive material and if/when a brawl breaks out it is likely to be in close quarters and all you'll really need to know is how people are arrayed with respect to each other.

Overall, a fun adventure that gives the feel of poking around the CZ well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Missions: Critic's Choice (5A-02)
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Space Station
Publisher: DramaScape
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2014 09:59:52
You can get starship plans a-plenty for your SF game, but space stations are less common. So it's good to have a comprehensive and versatile one...

This one is pretty good as far as it goes. There are five levels in all and something called an 'outer platform' which is a little unclear as to what it is for, precisely. The bulk of the cubic is in two accommodation levels, one designated officer country with space for four of them along with kitchen, wardroom, conference space, a couple of offices and the mysterious Alpha Core. The other is much more cramped with space for 48 crewmen. They get a kitchen, mess hall and a large but shared bathroom space (officers have en suite facilities). The other three levels are a medbay, a bridge and the security facility, complete with a cell block.

As well as the usual overview there's a second one which shows what the individual spaces are - the main version, used in all the scale drawings, has drawings of the furniture and other fixtures and fittings rather than labels. The full-scale drawings come in single sheet (for virtual table top use) and in 3 forms of page-by-page - square grid, hex grid and plain. The single sheet versions are plain and ungridded, one sheet per level. These are all 'line art' blueprint style rather than photorealistic, of course, fitting in with other issues in this series. I find the drawings less crisp than I'd like, but they give a good impression of what's where.

However, what sort of space station is it? What do all those crewmen do? There are no work areas, no docking facilities, nowhere for visitors to go... it feels like you have only got part of the picture, that this might be the resident staff block of a larger space station rather than the whole thing.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Space Station
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Publisher Reply:
You know when you really need a way to sneak in and there is that coms array you have seen with an airlock next to it, well thats the outer platform.
Direlock Base Class
Publisher: Forest Guardian Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2014 11:40:15
Some people are just a bit creepy. There's that certain something about them that sends a shudder down your back, that 'someone walked on my grave' feeling.

Magnify that effect a couple of hundred times, and you have a direlock. Intimidating by their very presence, they add an aura of eldrich energy that fair crackles around them and have a habit of wielding disturbingly large and spiky swords. They disrupt magic that's cast in their presence or cause other effects by use of 'inimica' - supernatural spell-like abilities that are learned as the direlock rises in level.

Using a 'dire pool' - mechanically, points that can be expended to create various effects - the direlock powers a series of 'incunabula' and is even able to cast a limited number of spells. Arcane in the main, although if a divine patron is chosen, the direlock may access a divine spell or two as well. Another power is the 'dire mantle' which absorbs magical energy thrown at the direlock or his party.

The role of the direlock is complex but potent. A good fighter and feared by magic-users as the magic they rely on can be twisted, backfire or be negated by their powers, common folk often misunderstand their fearsome often dark appearance and think them allied with demons or worse... but they're not. (At least, not unless they so choose - this is a class which can be of any alignment.)

Some favoured class bonuses are provided - just about any race spawns the odd direlock (although I'm not sure I could take a halfling direlock seriously....); and there are several archetypes to try out as well.

This is an original idea for a potent base class, quite unlike the regular run of classes, and should prove fun to play... and perhaps even more fun as an NPC against a party that's never heard of one before!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Direlock Base Class
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #66.5: Doom of the Savage King
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/28/2014 11:43:28
Demonstrating the trademark player-character 'funnel' of Dungeon Crawl Classics, this adventure is for 6-12 first-level characters, not all of whom will make it out alive. Hopefully a few will survive to tell the tale...

Set in and around the village of Hirot, the party will first gather information and rumours concerning a dire beast, the legendary Hound of Hirot, and be persuaded to deal with this menace. There are clues to gather as to various artefacts that might help, then off to actually find them (the dungeon crawl bit) and finally to the Sunken Fens to face off against the Hound. Ought to be simple, right?

The village is well-described, it's easy to get the flavour of the place and the people who dwell there. The rumours flying around are many and varied, and it is made clear which ones are true and which false (well, to the GM anyway, the party will have to draw their own conclusions!). Interestingly, from the outset the party needs to make moral choices as to their actions, embedding them into the ongoing events rather than leaving them as spectators. NPCs and encounter locations are provided in abundance: it's hard to realise that all this is packed into a mere 16 pages (yet it doesn't seem cluttered, cramped or overcrowded either).

Maps are plentiful as well: the village, the surrounding area and of course the integral dungeon crawl segment (couldn't be without that, what?). Everything you need to run the adventure - detailed locations, believeable NPCs and a few hideous monsters to bash - is provided. All in all, a good introduction to Dungeon Crawl Classics.

And this being a revision? I'm afraid I never saw the original version, so cannot comment on how it's been improved. Suffice to say, this rendition is excellent fun!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #66.5: Doom of the Savage King
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Ingenium Second Edition Quick Start
Publisher: Silver Gryphon Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/28/2014 10:46:01
At some 90-odd pages, this is more substantial than most Quick Starts, indeed it is more of a preview of the entire game.

It begins with character creation and takes you through the Three Words mechanic in detail, showing how the words you choose to describe the character's controlling trait (the thing he's known for: wise, strong, cunning, etc), his race and his profession to generate his Attributes (there are nine of them) and guide you through the other selections that you need to make. With this, unlike most Quick Starts, you not only know what's on the character sheet and what it means, you can actually create a character from scratch.

Once character creation is done, there is extensive explanation of how task resolution and combat work. This is followed by magic - including the interesting snippet that using magic bleaches your hair and eyes! (I think people might mistake me for a mage in this world if you look at my hair!) In designing spells, again a Three Words system is used - it's wonderful for those of us who like to design our own spells, but there are plenty of examples for those who want them ready-made or need examples to get them going.

There is a chapter of monsters and a whole adventure as well... by the time you have finished reading, never mind playing, you will have a clear idea of what Ingenium 2e has to offer and if its unique and elegant style will suit the games you want to play and the way in which you play them.

Overall, if epic fantasy is your gaming choice, this elegant yet powerful system provides a good mechanic to power your games.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ingenium Second Edition Quick Start
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Chapel Perilous
Publisher: Assassin Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2014 11:28:09
Fancy a heist adventure with subtle undertones of something that wouldn't be out of place in the TV show Leverage, all in a fantasy setting? In a few short sentences the scene is set: a mysterious and powerful artefact has fallen into the hands of a fellow who has been making money out of warfare and off the backs of the downtrodden citizens in the town he rules, and your party has been hired to, ahem, acquire it. It's thought he's about to sell it on, so there's just one chance - he's throwing a party for notables from far and wide at which it is believed he'll be selling the item, and his guard may be down enough for the party to sneak in.

The background gives names and circumstances, but they are easy to change to fit in with your campaign world and its history. Likewise, you know the party and who is likely to hire them, but a range of suggestions (which can, of course, be twisted to fit) are provided to get the ball rolling.

Once we get to the main location - this warlord's plush manor house - the descriptions are rich and vivid, bringing the place to life in your mind's eye. It's up to the party how they get in - wangle invitations, present a fake one or sneak in, perhaps - and many of the likely options are dealt with in a series of notes to help you react appropriately with all the information that you'll need as they make their preparations to attend this prestigious event. Security is tight, so the party will have to be imaginative with their approach... and then it's likely that they will have to behave like regular attendees for at least a while. There are plenty of resources in terms of rumours and NPCs to test their social skills.

Those who prefer more in the way of combat should not fret, they will get the chance... and yet the scenario offers options such that everything could be resolved by persuasion and negotiation in the rather unlikely event that your party is that way inclined. Without giving too much away, the climax of the event is a gripping hostage situation that creates more problems of its own.

There are a few flaws in layout and proofreading, but nothing that renders any part of the adventure unusable. Floorplans are simple but clear, there's a DM version and one for the players.

Overall, this is an exciting adventure with plenty of scope to turn it into a really memorable event in your party's lives, even that of their players - the sort of adventure that will be reminisced about for years to come.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chapel Perilous
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One Knight Games, Vol 1, Issue 6
Publisher: Avalon Game Company
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2014 10:52:25
If you enjoyed the first future-tech cycle-racing game (One Knight Games Vol.1 Issue 3) this is a continuation of the story with a new set of challenges on and off the track. However, there is sufficient background given for those who have not played the first game to get involved and enjoy this one too.

The backstory remains the same, a Kid racer who is taking a seat once held by his (or her... there's a kind of assumption that it's a boy but no particular reason for this) father and who has to fend off both corporate interests and other more experienced racers to succeed. One player takes on the role of the Kid - if you played the first game, you'll already have him set up and ready to go. A second player has the role of his race partner, an older and more experienced racer; and there are additional racers provided should you have more than two players.

The scenario involves a lot of corporate dealing and two complete races, with plenty of scope for the racers to get involved... and a bit of skulduggery for good measure.

The package comes with full rules for racing, track designs for the two races and tiles to build them on your tabletop complete with a colourful array of racer tokens. Excellent for an evening's entertainment - focussed on the actual races, but with enough role-playing to take it beyond a board-game racing simulation to something in which you can really get involved.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One Knight Games, Vol 1, Issue 6
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Mythic Mastery - Missing Mythic Magic Volume V
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/26/2014 10:22:14
This latest installment in the series of Missing Mythic Magic covers spells from Continual Flame to Cure Light Wounds. Each is given detailed notes in which the mythic version is explained, often with additional augmentations that you can add by expending mythic power (and occasionally adding extra material components as well).

What is nice about these is that it's not just a case of bigger and does more (although that is the case for most of them) - you get additional features and options to make casting that spell a truly mythic experience.

Take for example Control Winds. It's bigger, because you add your mythic tier as well as your caster level to decide how much of a change to the existing wind strength you can make, and the winds move with you rather than staying put. However you can also use the wind to fly through the area of effect - that's new. If you want to expend extra power and augment it, you can even cause a tornado to occur within the area under your control, spend more power and you can generate a massive windstorm affecting some ten square miles!

This is a series any serious mythic spellcaster ought to be collecting and poring over in his tower!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Mastery - Missing Mythic Magic Volume V
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The Cartomancer: A Deckbuilding Diviner
Publisher: Interjection Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2014 09:52:08
The Cartomancer is an entertaining concept: he seeks to tweak Fate itself into doing what he wants. The mechanism by which this is accomplished is a deck of cards - you can use anything from Tarot cards or a regular deck to the print & play cards provided in this product. These are used to used to determine potential futures or 'portents' which act in a manner akin to a divine spell. However, the cartomancer is able to sway the outcome - for example, if he is telling someone's fortune he can decide if that individual will have good or bad luck, although what is actually going to happen is randomised rather than determined.

Naturally, whilst many of the cartomancer's abilities are wrapped up in the language of fortune-telling and divination many of them have game mechanical effects based on the alteration of die-rolls - which may be the cartomancer's own or those of someone upon whom he wishes to have an effect.

Complete with a table covering 1st to 20th level, an array of class abilities and everything else you need for a base class, loads of feats and other materials - including a custom card deck to print out if desired - everything you need to design and play a cartomancer is here. It's a good class for the mathematically-inclined, as a good understanding of probabilities will be helpful in determining just which portent will be most effective in a given situation. It also has a delight - given the way the mechanics are laid out - of being quite GM-friendly. The GM isn't required to come up with forecasts of what might happen for the character to interpret, as so often is the case with divination magic: the cartomancer is busy affecting, little by little, the outcomes of the ongoing situation.

Perhaps a little strange, but it could well be fun to play, especially if you enjoy messing with people's heads!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Cartomancer: A Deckbuilding Diviner
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Rite Map Pack: City by the Sea
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/23/2014 12:14:30
If you love designing cities for your campaign world but are handicapped by the inability to draw city plans this is something to pounce upon.

It's quite a big sprawling city - at least by the cod-mediaeval standards appropriate for a fantasy game - set on a coastal plain. It's a little unusual in that there is no natural harbour nor is it at a river mouth, but if those are in short supply in the area the nice flat land it sits upon is probably what attracted those who founded the city to build here.

It is all set up to make customisation easy too. The PDF includes an unmarked single sheet version and a series of pages that you'll have to stick together to make a poster-size map. With good use of 'form fillable' technology, there is also a labelled map where you can enter in your own city name and the names of selected numbered locations ready to show the important places to your players once their characters start to find their way around (or purchase a map).

The ZIP file that also comes with your download contains large JPEG files which can be worked on in your favourite graphics package, used in a virtual table top or even printed if you have access to poster printing facilities.

All you need to do is decide who dwells there and what adventures will take place when the party visits town!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rite Map Pack: City by the Sea
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Kontamination
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/22/2014 10:29:19
Achtung! Cthulhu in all its glory, but with a twist: this time the characters are Germans! Naturally, given that it is designed as a one-off, although notes are provided on how to reskin the adventure to work within an existing campaign and with regular Allied forces rather than Germans.

Set in December 1944 against the backdrop of the Ardennes counter-offensive, the party will be sent on a top-secret mission to further German ends... but all is, naturally, not what it seems and they will have some hard choices to make in the face of literally mind-blowing threats.

Everything is presented well, atmospherically even, with plenty of information for the GM/Keeper (for this is dual-statted for the Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu rulesets); but will repay careful study and preparation to be delivered to best effect. To succeed the party needs good investigative and interpersonal skills, but it's wartime and they'll need to be able to fight as well... and, being in the German army, they have to at least APPEAR to be obeying orders even if they find it increasingly hard to do as they discover the awful truth about the underlying mission their tasks are supporting.

Operating behind enemy lines, coping with weird Mythos-fuelled perversions of medical science, never being quite sure who's on your side... the tension (and the stakes) are high, but this has the potential to be one of those epic adventures that your gaming group will reminisce about for years.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Kontamination
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Palaces & Ponies Basic
Publisher: SoJ Designs
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/22/2014 06:36:03
This is a simple fantasy game with one important difference - all the player-characters are ponies!

Character generation is simple with three attributes (brains, brawn and bravado), the choice of being a regular pony or a unicorn or a pegasus. and the standard fantasy classes being available. Basic equipment is available, although it's glossed over how a pony is actually able to use most of the stuff. Take armour for example - you can have armour and/or a shield... armour for horses is known, of course, but how on earth does one use a shield?

Combat and other task resolution is simple and straightforward, with d10 rolls modified by difficulty level for task resolution, roll under the appropriate attribute to succeed and d10+brawn opposed rolls for combat. Magic-using ponies have a selection of spells to cast, each of which has a designated effect. And that's it!

A solo adventure and a regular one for a party are included, and there is also a character sheet in the download.

As a simple game to introduce youngsters to role-playing it works well mechanically, and ponies will appeal to many... yet there is nothing bar calling your character a pony to reflect their equine nature.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Palaces & Ponies Basic
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #82: Bride of the Black Manse
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2014 09:03:03
A gripping ghostly adventure, with player-characters coerced into taking on the roles of long-dead members of a demented noble family, the maddest of whom destroyed the rest in a foul demonic pact... which falls due, of course, this very evening. Something to set hearts a-stirring and to create legends that will be told and re-told for many a year - should anyone survive long enough to write them!

Designed to be run in one intense session of four hours or so, this adventure sends the party into the depths below a ruined manor house, the former seat of the Mad Prince. Hauntings and mysterious bells goad them on their way as they seek to unravel what is going on.

Several good hooks are provided to get the party there in the first place, which will enable you to embed the proceedings into an ongoing campaign. As soon as they arrive, however, things turn peculiar... and it gets weirder from then on. Timekeeping is quite important, to enable the adventure to proceed at a fast, oppressive pace - don't let it lag even if you have a more leisurely GMing style, but push on as indicated. This improves the atmosphere as events happen at almost bewildering pace, with set events and area-based encounters all provided complete with all necessary details to run them. Things change according to the point reached in the adventure in a most disturbing way. Oh, and of course there's a storm mounting outside the manor, reflecting the turmoil within.

Catacombs lie below the manor house itself, providing a wealth of places to explore and investigate. There are various hints and clues as to what is going on, and various ways to deal with it... some the party, or at least most of them, might even survive.

As a bonus, there's a second adventure in here as well - "Blood for the Serpent King" by Edgar D. Johnson. It's for 2nd-level characters, and sends them off to explore a jungle crypt in an adventure in which full-blown pulp action meets dungeon crawl. Plenty of action and excitement, strange artefacts and vast treasures to be gained here.

So, two classic adventures, well-plotted and clearly presented, to keep your players entertained. Enjoy!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #82: Bride of the Black Manse
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