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The Manor, Issue #3
Publisher: GM Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2013 10:46:37
The Manor #3 increases to 32 pages. Though it feels like there is more here than that.
The main article is the Mine of Rot and Disease, a great little old-school adventure. Stats are 1980s era D&D, but easily converted to anything.
The art is fair, but perfect really for the feel of this issue. The maps though are quite nice.

Another poetry slam. It is what makes The Manor unique and I hope it does not go away.

Pog Nog the Goblin is a great little NPC/resource and one I am going to use in my next adventure with my kids.

There are some, self-admitted, dumb jokes. Again, perfect for a zine.
Ending with a new god of Monster Hunting.

If you remember the zines of the 80s (and some of the best ones I remember from the late 80s even) then this a very nice stroll down familiar, yet new, territory. If you were not around then but enjoy oldschool games, then this is also a great find.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #3
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The Manor, Issue #2
Publisher: GM Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2013 10:36:09
The Manor #2 keeps right on going with another 24 pages of material. This one is setup to allow you to print it out and then fold it over and staple it for that "real zine feel", nice, but sometimes I prefer to read these things on my computer. (edited to add: There is a regular version as well!)

In this issue there is Hugo's House of Healing. An encounter/resource.
An inn which would be great to use anywhere and a random table of 20 things you find under the cot.

The inn and Hugo's house (that is Hugo on the cover) take up most of this issue.
One other minor quibble, and this is more me than the zine itself. There is no OGL license. Granted, it doesn't really NEED it (and I am not taking off for it's omission) but it would have made it play nicer with the likes of Basic Fantasy, OSRIC and Labyrinth Lord.

Still though. Top notch effort and results.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #2
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The Manor, Issue #1
Publisher: GM Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2013 10:25:04
The Manor #1 is the first of the quarterly (or so) issues of the fanzine from Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor. The zine takes on the feel of old-school zines from the late 70s and early 80s. Though one could argue that the art and layout are better today. The inaugural issue has a quick dungeon, a random table of various items found in a Troglodyte dung heap, a modern day encounter location (with some monsters), forest enocounters and an NPC and his wares.

The Manor captures the feel and the spirit of the old school zine quite well. The only thing that is missing really are ads for local gaming groups!
If you enjoy old-school style new games or the original games they are based on.

All in all you get 24 pages of material. Not a bad deal really.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue  #1
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation Event Book (Essentials Edition)
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/09/2013 09:06:58
Fun product. Too bad it is gone now. I will admit I am not familiar with the comic-arc Marvel did here though so I can't judge it on that.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation Event Book (Essentials Edition)
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Dhampir
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/18/2013 06:17:17
The Dhampir is another Labyrinth Lord compatible class from Barrel Rider Games. For less than the cost of a 20oz Mt. Dew you can get a complete class.

LL (and Basic before it) had an interesting artifact of the the original D&D game in that races were also classes. So you could be a 3rd level Elf for example. This book takes advantage of that and gives us a race class that works rather well.
The Dhampir is the mortal offspring of a human (usually female) and male (usually male). So think Marvel's Blade of Rayne from the Bloofrayne video games. There are a number of features to this class that give a unique spot in the party. Combine this with a few of BRGs other classes and you could have a kick-ass party of undead hunting experts.
6 pages -1 for cover and 1 for the OGL it has everything you need.

A couple of minor quibbles though.
The HD for this guy are d6. Vampires and Dhampirs have always been portrayed as robust. Honestly a d8 would be better.
The text also says that the Dhampir is not bound for evil, but the powers it gets at 7th and 9th level pretty much mean it is destined for evil. I suppose you could argue that to stay good a Dhampir needs to stop advancing and retire and grow sugar beets or something; such is the tragedy of the character. Doing he was born to do turns him in to the thing he hates the most.

In any case this is a fun class.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dhampir
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Fairy
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2013 12:24:55
Another fun class from Barrel Rider Games. The fairy is the counterpoint to the Lost Boy class.
It's a nice combination of thief, elf and magic-user.

Honestly this, plus Lost Boy, would make for a great introduction to LL/Basic for any young children.

$1.00, full class. Art + OGL statement. A steal really.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fairy
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Lost Boy
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2013 12:13:23
What a really interesting concept.

You can play a "Lost Boy". The Peter Pan ones, not the Kiefer Sutherland ones.
The class is, like all of BRGs, classes, simple and easy to read and use.

My only gripe with this is a minor one. The Lost Boy can "Grow up" which is fine, but he gets to convert over to a new class. I say when a Lost Boy grows up he should retain some abilities from his past (but not all) but restart at 1st level.

Otherwise this is a fun class.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lost Boy
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Shootist
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2013 07:29:49
I am one of those guys that despite all real world logic I DON'T have guns in my FRPGS. That being said I do know there is a history (both in game and out of the game) to include them.

If you are playing a "Basic Era" game and want to include guns then this is the class for you. Like all BRG classes you get about 5-6 pages of a class (with cover and OGL) for a buck. Not a bad deal at all really. You also get expanded rules for firearms in this one.
The class itself is solid and has everything you need to play.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shootist
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Tanuki
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2013 07:02:43
The Tanuki is new to me. I have heard of similar creatures from other myths, but this is the first time I have seen So credit to BRG for giving me something new.

I have been following Barrel Rider Games' books for a while now and they have all improved with over the course of their publication, this one being no exception.

Presented here is a class/race that is similar in many respects to the halfling; that is if halflings could shape shift into raccoon-dog like creatures. Everything you need to play is here, XP per level, to hits, saves, and special abilities. Drop this little guy into your games and watch the fun.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tanuki
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Ninja
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2013 06:52:25
You can't buy a lot for just a buck these days. But Barrel Rider Games is in the business of giving you a class for a buck.
Not a bad deal really. I used to spend $3 for a Dragon magazine back in the day, often to get a new class.

This time BRG is giving us a Ninja class. Part thief, part assassin and part ranger this class has everything you would expect to see in a ninja class (almost, and I'll get to that). I have been following BRG classes for some time now and each of these pdfs gets a little bit better. So I am pleased to say that the class book here is complete. Saving throws, attacks, xp per level, and all the special abilities of ninja are here and ready for you to drop it into Labyrinth Lord...well like a ninja.

I only noticed one small, tiny thing. Typically with a ninja class we get a number of new weapons. This doesn't have those. I did not down-grade the pdf because of this because it is outside of the scope of the call books and that material is easily found elsewhere.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ninja
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Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
Publisher: ZERObarrier
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2013 16:24:09
Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts (MT&DP) is an Old-school reference for all things Magic-user.
The book is designed with what I call "Basic Era" in mind, so the rules from right around 1979-1981 where "elf" is a class, not just a race. Overtly it is designed for Labyrinth Lord. That being said it is still compatible in spirit to 99% of all the OSR and books from that time.

The book itself is 6"x9", black and white interior and 161 pages. So for a "Class" book there is a lot here. There are 5 Chapters covering Classes, Spells, Magic Items, Monsters and a section on using this book with the "Advanced Era" books (and their clones), along with an Introduction and OGL page.

The introduction covers the basics. What this books, what it is for and it's very, very open OGL declaration.

Chapter 1 is the heart of this book really. It details 13 Magic using classes. The two two core classes, Cleric and Magic-User (Wizard) and 11 new classes.

From the product page:
Cleric (warrior-priests)
Wizard (classic magic-users with 10 levels of spells)
Elven Swordmage (elves from the core rules – arcane warriors)
Elven Warder (wilderness elves, guardians of their kin)
Enchanter (artists, con-men, and masters of… duh… enchantments)
Fleshcrafter (twisted magic-users that work with flesh)
Healer (compassionate and tough hearth-healers)
Inquisitor (ecclesiastic investigators and master intimidators)
Merchant Prince (elite merchants with spellcasting support)
Necromancer (you know exactly what these guys do)
Pact-Bound (magic-users who sell their souls for power)
Theurge (divine casters who learn from liturgical texts)
Unseen (thieves with an innate knack for magic)

Clerics are as you know them, but Magic-Users are now Wizards (since everyone here is a magic user) and they get 10 levels of spells. The "Elven" classes replace the "Elf" class in the book. The others are as they are described, but there is more (much more) to them than re-skinned Magic-Users (not that there is anything wrong with wrong that). The classes are re-cast with many new spells, some powers (but nothing out of whack with Basic Era) and often different hit-dice and altered saving throws.
Nearly a third of the book is made up in these new classes.

Chapter 2 covers all the spells. Spells are listed alphabetically with class and level for each spell noted (like newer 3.x Era products). There are a lot of spells here too. Many have been seen in other products, but some are new. In any case they are a welcome addition.
This section makes up slight more than a third of the book.

The last three chapters take up the last third or so of the book.
Chapter 3 covers Magic items. There are 28 new magic items with these spellcasters in mind.
Chapter 4 covers some magical creatures. These are monsters listed in many of the new spells for summoning. There are not a lot, but needed.
Chapter 5 is the Advanced Edition conversion materials. It covers HD changes, racial limits and multi-class options.

So what are my thoughts. Well you get a lot of material in 160+ pages to be honest. At 10 bucks it is a good price. For me it is worth it for the classes. Sure we have seen variations of these over the years, but it is here all in one place and they all work well together. The spells are good. At first I balked at 10th level spells, but really they are for the most part other people's 9th level spells, so they work for me.

The magic items are nice, but for me the value is in the classes and the spells.

Who should buy this? If you play old-school games and enjoy playing different sorts of Magic-Users then this is a must have book. If you are looking to expand your class offerings or even add a few new spells then this is also a good choice. Personally I think it is a great book and I am glad I picked it up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
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Crypts and Things
Publisher: D101 Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2013 12:55:10
Crypts & Things is one of those games that has been sitting in my "to be read" pile forever. It is an Old School game built off of Swords & Wizardry. Some of the material is familiar to anyone that has played S&W or any of the various D&D/Retro-clone games. Where C&T differs is in scope (what the characters can eventually do vs what the creatures can already do) and tone. C&T is very much "Conan vs. The Horrors". It tries to go after the same ethos as say Dungeon Crawl Classics or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I think though it succeeds where those two games fail with me because it still assumes that the characters, rough cut as they are, are still something of a hero.

The game begins with the same basic info on Abilities found in all old-school games. We get to classes. Here there are some changes. The Barbarian is a core class for example. The Magic-User and Cleric are now rolled into a Magician, which is not a bad change really. They are stronger than their OSR counterparts (d6 HD vs the more common d4). The Magician also can channel White, Grey or black magic; so effectively 3 classes. The other classes are Fighter and Thief. If you don't like Clerics (as a seperate class), well this is your game.

Hit points are also handled differently in C&T. It is less health and more a measure of health, will, and determination to live. Honestly it is the same as a house rule I used to use back in the day.

There is a completely old-school Random Life Events table (which, like most everything in this book, can be used with other games).There are a few pages on equipment, on styles of play and about 20 pages of spells.
Additionally there is a minimalist Sanity mechanic that I thinks works rather well. I am a huge critic of sanity mechanics in RPGs and I feel that most never get it right, especially in a heroics-based rpg. While there is a lot of room for interpretation in these rules, the gist of the rules are good. I can certainly say I don't hate this mechanic.

The rest of the book (about 3/5 ths) is devoted to the game master or Crypt Keeper. This includes a little bit about the assumed game world, a pastiche of Howard, Lovecraft, Smith, Moorcock and other Appendix N luminaries. Normally I scoff at this, but here it works rather well. More to point it can also be ignored or added as needed since it doesn't take up a lot of space.
Next we have Treasure. Like many games of this sort there is not a lot of magic items. Indeed there are only 20 total; designed to be rare and special.
After that is the monster listings. This is what really sets this game above and beyond it's peers. There are plenty of monsters here both new and old. There is also a monster creation section.
We end the main book with a sample adventure.
13 Appendices follow that would work for any game and finally a great looking character sheet.

What is Crypts & Things good for?
It is a great addition to any S&W game for starters. Get it for the monsters alone, or the revised Magician or Barbarian. There is something here new for you.
It is a great addition to any OSR game for a grittier, "us against the darkness" sort of game.
In terms of horror, it is the subtle creeping horror. It is somewhere between Ravenloft (minus the camp and cliches) and Call of Cthulhu. Though unlike those games which has the implication of "looking for trouble" in C&T trouble comes for you.

Honestly almost everything you need to know about C&T is on that cover. A magician and barbarian fighting snake-like lizard men.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crypts and Things
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B1 Journey to Hell
Publisher: Sacrosanct Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/19/2013 16:19:55
I bought this on a whim but I am so glad I did.

First off you get a lot of adventure for your buck. 45 pages of adventures and maps (granted it is the same adventure twice, but still).
The artwork is great, coming primarily from sources like The Inferno. This is quite fitting given that the adventure itself is quite reminiscent of Dante's great tale.

It is dual stated for the OSRIC and Altus Adventum Role-Playing Games, always a plus in my book, but it can be played with any number of OSR systems or their fore-bearers.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B1 Journey to Hell
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Villains and Vigilantes
Publisher: Monkey House Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2013 07:29:45
V&V was written by Jack Herman and Jeff Dee. Jeff Dee got his start on D&D doing some of the classic module art and book art for the 1st edition game. So the game has some obvious D&D roots.
V&V was unique at the time (and still somewhat) in that in the game you play yourself. You work out with the other players what your strength, endurance, intelligence and the rest are and then you roll randomly on a table of super powers. It's a very interesting and fun concept that we completely ignored. Back in the day we liked playing a "multi-verse" so our V&V characters were our D&D characters in a supers universe. The stats were the mostly the same and both games had levels. Plus it gave us excuses to have strengths of 50 or more (human max is 18). I remember it being a very good time.

As typical of many old school games there are lots of random rolls, charts and a fair amount of math involved. I went back recently to make a character and was thrilled to see that Monkey House Games had an Excel character sheet. The math isn't hard really, but Excel is still faster. Though such things have been around for a long time even with the older edition.

Powers are list by type. So Power Blast is just a blast of some sort of power. It could be Superman's heat vision, Iron Man's repulsors, or even Zatanna's magical blast. What is interesting is the combat matrix of powers vs. defenses and how they interact. Again, the D&D DNA is here since it reminds me of the Psionic Powers Attacks vs Defenses in 1st Ed AD&D.

There is a V&V campaign world as well. It is loosely defined in the core books, but much greater detail is given in the supplements. It is also one of the few Supers games I can recall where the characters were working for the government at some level.

There are a couple of great sections on Being a Superhero and Gamemastering that work great with any supers RPG.

IF you like old school RPGs and want to get into a supers game that feels like those, then this is a great choice. The price is low and there are plenty of places on the web that support either version of the game with materials, character write-ups and community.

What sets this apart from the earlier 2nd edition is newer are and generally cleaned up text. Monkey House also has a number of support documents on their website for free.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Villains and Vigilantes
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Villains and Vigilantes
Publisher: Fantasy Games Unlimited
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2013 07:28:22
V&V was written by Jack Herman and Jeff Dee. Jeff Dee got his start on D&D doing some of the classic module art and book art for the 1st edition game. So the game has some obvious D&D roots.

V&V was unique at the time (and still somewhat) in that in the game you play yourself. You work out with the other players what your strength, endurance, intelligence and the rest are and then you roll randomly on a table of super powers. It's a very interesting and fun concept that we completely ignored. Back in the day we liked playing a "multi-verse" so our V&V characters were our D&D characters in a supers universe. The stats were the mostly the same and both games had levels. Plus it gave us excuses to have strengths of 50 or more (human max is 18). I remember it being a very good time.

As typical of many old school games there are lots of random rolls, charts and a fair amount of math involved. I went back recently to make a character and was thrilled to see that there are Excel character sheets. The math isn't hard really, but Excel is still faster. Though such things have been around for a long time even with the older edition.

Powers are list by type. So Power Blast is just a blast of some sort of power. It could be Superman's heat vision, Iron Man's repulsors, or even Zatanna's magical blast. What is interesting is the combat matrix of powers vs. defenses and how they interact. Again, the D&D DNA is here since it reminds me of the Psionic Powers Attacks vs Defenses in 1st Ed AD&D.

There is a V&V campaign world as well. It is loosely defined in the core books, but much greater detail is given in the supplements. It is also one of the few Supers games I can recall where the characters were working for the government at some level.

There are a couple of great sections on Being a Superhero and Gamemastering that work great with any supers RPG.

IF you like old school RPGs and want to get into a supers game that feels like those, then this is a great choice. The price is low (under 10 bucks at the time of this review) and there are plenty of places on the web that support either version of the game with materials, character write-ups and community. FGU has a large number of supplements here as well. More than enough to keep you playing for years.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Villains and Vigilantes
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