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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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SW 1 - The Monastery of Inexorable Truth
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2014 10:26:07
It all sounds so simple and desirable: a book of knowledge that will answer any question put to it.

But place said tome in a remote monastery high amid frozen peaks and tell of how monks devoted to the truth destroyed each other and themselves over the book's utterances... even then, there will be adventurers brave (or foolhardy) enough to want to get their hands on it, or others prepared to pay well for someone else to go fetch it.

Best used in a campaign rather than as a one-off, this adventure details the monastery and what those who visit there will find. It is clearly mapped and described, with all the encounter information just where you are going to need it.

The book - the Codex of Inexorable Truth - is a fascinating artefact. It has driven many a reader to despair or to violence, and may have the same effect on the GM! Fortunately plenty of advice is provided on how to administer its effects once the party actually find it, should they survive. For many adventurers have tried and perished, their corpses providing mute evidence of their attempts as the monastery is explored.

It's a good 'crawl, a cracking adventure with good backstory that holds together well. Something you can drop into an existing campaign world with ease, yet make it seem like it always was lurking there, just waiting...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
SW 1 - The Monastery of Inexorable Truth
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FS4 - Xavier's Wand
Publisher: Adventures in Filbar
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/18/2014 13:53:43
Getting started in your chosen career can often be quite hard - and adventuring is no different! Designed for but a single character and a DM, this adventure supposes that the character has just started out as an adventurer and so far has gained nothing more than sore feet tramping the countryside in search of excitement.

Rather than a full adventure, this work consists of six encounters in and around a tiny village. Tailored for a single first-level character, there's a good mix of combat and interaction to be had. The character will quickly become the local 'hero' and a few tasks will come his way in and around the area, including a mill, a hilltop and even a swamp to explore. By the time the character has got through that little lot, he ought to know if the adventuring life is for him. That is, if he survives, although the challenges have been designed with an eye to a solitary first-level character it has to be remembered that such individuals are pretty fragile.

There's a player and DM map of the area, some delightful pictures of cottages, a floorplan for the mill and a large picture of a frog to round it off. About all that's missing is a map of the village itself, but it is supposed to be no more than a cluster of cottages with farms further out.

A good start to anyone's adventuring career. Come on, fame and fortune await!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FS4 - Xavier's Wand
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The Big Crime: Death Kisses Coldly
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/17/2014 10:16:53
This is an interesting approach to a police prodcedural story told in film noir style, and really captures the essence well. Read through, you can see that film playing out in your mind's eye... yet it is laid out in such a way that doesn't completely railroad the characters into following a script but gives them freedom to make their own choices within the constraints of the plot.

More, it comes in two versions: the Theatrical Release and the Director's Cut. The first is designed for two players and a GM (Director, natch), with pre-generated characters who are tied closely into the plot. It would make an excellent one-off game if there's just 3 of you available to play.

As for the Director's Cut, this version is designed for groups who would rather play their own characters. The core concept is to give the characters the same motivations, the same background, as the pre-generated ones so that the story will work just as well. They should be the stars of the movie, the ones the story is all about. The ones who, in classic film noir style, are caught up in events beyond their control.

If you have more than two players, there are some other roles which they could be assigned - using their own characters if appropriate or one of the listed NPCs if preferred.

It's an intense, brooding little scenario. Which ever way you decide to run it, make sure that the characters are intimately involved, not bystanders looking in on the drama. It may be tempting to step back, taking the events as recounted as being something player-character cops (or reporters or the like) have to investigate, but the game won't be quite the same, it would lose the flavour of the genre that comes over when the player-characters are so intimately involved themselves.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Big Crime: Death Kisses Coldly
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Role Playing Game Rating Sheet
Publisher: Critical Hit Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/17/2014 08:35:50
Do you know what sort of game you want?

It's not a matter of genre or game system, it's about the style of game. Increasingly, published games encourage groups intending to play that game to discuss what style of game they are after beforehand, and it's always good practice for a GM to make it clear what sort of game he intends to run - and indeed for players to make any particular opinions known in advance.

Here's an attempt to rate some of the factors that help determine the style of game - from how much GM control there is to how immersive you want play to be, how 'realistic' you expect the action to be and so on. Each factor is given a sliding scale of 1 to 10 - and a silly name, which is only a distraction - and the idea is that the group can come to some concensus about the sort of game they are looking for, thus helping everyone to have some common preconceptions about what will happen when they sit down to play.

The one rating I have issue with is 'Rule Complexity' - that is based on the mechanics of the particular game system you decide to use, rather than on the style of game you want to play. Now that is something you'll have to choose, but in the light of the other areas being considered, you might better look at a scale based on abstraction - do you want to follow the letter of the rules, whatever they may be, all the time or are you comfortable with more abstraction?

It would be an interesting exercise, though, to pass this around your group to see what style would interest them. And it's free... try it out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Role Playing Game Rating Sheet
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your review and feedback. Regarding the rating of Rule Complexity, I agree that this is the one that is most out of place on this list, but I also feel that the mechanical complexity of a game is a very strong factor in determining whether or not someone will enjoy a particular game. Obviously if someone already has a game in mind that they want to play, then this one may not matter, but if a group is deciding on which game system they might want to try, it can help a lot. I\'ll think about taking out the silly names... but I really do like them. Alex Guillotte Critical Hit Publishing
Relic Files: Treasures of Camelot I
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/15/2014 09:32:56
If it is mythic treasures that you are after, few come with more legends attached than the Arthurian ones!

The first such treasure is Arthur's Scabbard. Whilst most popular attention is focussed on Excalibur, the sword he kept in it, the scabbard itself had magical properties, chiefly the provision of protection against bleeding to whoever is wearing it. If you earn your living fighting with swords, that's a significant advantage.

The version presented here has scaled effects that grow as the wearer gains levels. At low levels, the effects mainly refer to the sword within: bonding to it, altering size to suit, and repairing damage to the sword. Even at first level, though, the wearer gains +1 to his Heal skill. As the wearer gains levels, a more traditional healing effect kicks in, with open wounds closing and bleeding halted. At higher levels the scabbard gives a chance to avoid the effects of critical hits or sneak attacks, as well as improving Heal skills even further. Naturally, you have to be wearing the scabbard on your belt for the effects to be activated.

It's all very neatly put together. Even if 'King Arthur' does not exist in your campaign world, you no doubt have (or can invent) a suitable legendary figure to have once owned this artefact, along with associated tales that your party can research either as a prelude to searching for the scabbard or once they have found it. Remember that Arthur himself tended to disregard its importance, focussing more on his sword: the same may be true for whichever brave fighter picks it up in your world. Will he learn of its importance before it is too late?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Relic Files: Treasures of Camelot I
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The Favored of Skexxiz [PFRPG adventure location]
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2014 08:35:59
This is rather neat: a complete location, fully populated and replete with details and backstory, all ready for you to drop into a campaign and use as an adventure location. Although a few adventure ideas are given in case you don't have a ready reason for your party to go there, it isn't an adventure per se, it's a place in which adventure could happen and that adventure is up to you.

Basically it's a troglodyte lair, described in loving detail. The denizens all have their own lives, their own reasons for being here and their own plans and hopes for the future. This gives the feel of a location that's existing in your alternate reality irrespective of what the characters get up to, you get the feeling that the troglodytes will continue on their merry way even if the party never stops by at all. Yet if they do, it isn't a place that has sprung into existence just to provide them with a good brawl and something to loot, it's there already and they have just chosen to visit - something that serves to enhance the 'reality' of your campaign setting.

The whole place is well laid out and explained clearly, with 'read aloud' descriptions and all the information you need to manage events when the party arrives at each location. There's a good map - spread over two pages - and a new deity as well - and a deity who teaches that 'Anything stolen is rightfully yours if you are not seen taking it' has a certain appeal, possibly beyond troglodytes!

This is a nice resource to have, a traditional 'crawl ready to use whenever it fits in with the rest of your plots.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Favored of Skexxiz [PFRPG adventure location]
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