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Fighting Fire - Ernie Gygax Benefit Adventure
Publisher: Creative Mountain Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2014 10:59:42
System neutral adventures are always handy, provided you are comfortable statting up any NPCs and monsters to your chosen game mechanics... and this one is designed to be easy to slot into your campaign world as well.

So, it starts with a township that tired of warfare, and so established a methodology of setting disbutes via tabletop wargaming rather than the more lethal full-scale variety of combat. This inititative was led by local wizards, but recently one suffered a malicious and devastating arson attack... can the party help bring the arsonist to book?

The adventure works at several levels. To start with, it's a neat little action adventure that, if completed successfully, will give the characters a feeling of accomplishment, of having done something to help the community. At another level, if you have been involved in the background to the role-playing hobby, there are all manner of cunning references and nods to people and other things that have influenced it - yet this self-reference is not overdone, and if you have never heard of them it won't detract from your enjoyment of the adventure as an adventure in the slightest.

There's lots of colourful detail about the township, called Gamington, and the surrounding area, including an enticing array of businesses. Local legends abound and as an added bonus there's an epic poem that tells the tale of the adventure as it might play out... although hopefully your party won't meet quite so many gruesome fates! Another nice touch is convenient blank boxes to scribble in your own notes, stats and other game mechanics when you are preparing to run the adventure.

The work is richly illustrated, and has some useful maps. There are also a collection of NPCs (who could be used as the basis for pre-generated characters), all you'll need to do is add stats approriate to your chosen game system.

It should prove a fun adventure, and buying it contributes to a good cause as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fighting Fire - Ernie Gygax Benefit Adventure
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City of Cherafir D5: Clothier
Publisher: Columbia Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2014 07:54:24
You'd never think there was so much to write about a garment shop, but this is filled with little snippets that make this small but prosperous establishment fair spring to life!

This is a very speciast place, an ecclesiastical robe-maker's shop - a broad minded one, they cater to several faiths - providing the very best in vestments and other apparel to the well-heeled religious. Fine embroidery, gold thread, silks in delicate and rare shades, it's all here. Perhaps there's the odd hidden secret as well.

Crammed into a scant two pages are a wealth of background detail, a full plan and description of the premises and several adventure ideas involving the shop and its inhabitants.

It is this level of detail that makes a place really come to life, a sheer delight to have even if your characters walk straight by without a second glance... and if they don't, why you have every last detail at your fingertips, whether that high-level cleric in the party wants some ceremonial garb or if they want to get involved in any of the adventures described, or one of your own.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
City of Cherafir D5: Clothier
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Of Towns and Heroes
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/18/2014 07:28:44
Are you running out of ideas for how to make the townships the party visits in the course of their adventures interesting?

This may provide the answer, being an hundred little ideas for events and side-adventures that can happen within whatever settlement the characters are in at the time. Each situation is applicable to any fantasy game, not just BareBones Fantasy - the upside of this is you can make use of this supplement whatever game you run, the downside is that you will have to develop any necessary NPC/monster stats or other game mechanics required (indeed, you will even if you are playing BareBones Fantasy....).

Some of the adventures suggested will occupy mere moments, others have the potential to develop into full-blown adventures in their own right, if not into whole campaigns... or at least, events whose ramifications haunt the party for years to come, at least whenever they visit that particular settlement again.

Interspersed with the adventure ideas are some charming 'hand-drawn' sketches of town layouts. You could make use of these for the various settlements visited, if you like.

Overall, if urban adventuring is not the main thrust of your game, this could prove very useful in ensuring that visits to towns are never boring. On the other hand, if you want to develop city-based adventuring more, this should kick-start your ideas and help you develop this aspect of your plotting.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Of Towns and Heroes
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100 Places Of Fantasy Geography
Publisher: Fishwife Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2014 08:28:33
It's always a bit tricky to find names for everything when you are mapping out a new corner of your campaign world. In real life, place names grow and develop from all manner of things - visible features, names of local landowners, corruptions of older languages - yet when you are mapping you have to just pull them out of a hat.

So here's a helper - a list of an hundred names for places. You may like them, you may even be amused by working out why the name you have rolled (or picked) is appropriate for the place you have assigned it to...

The good thing is most of them sound reasonably plausible. The downside is that they are listed alphabetically, rather than by the type of place... so if you know you are looking for a name for a stream, you cannot check 'stream names' but have to search for the ones that are... or of course, take any name and decide that it is a stream name rather than the island or jungle name that it's given as.

The best use is that it's a good way to get your own creative juices flowing. Just read it and you'll start coming up with your own variations... get your map out and get busy!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
100 Places Of Fantasy Geography
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Yarr! The Rules Light Pirate RPG
Publisher: BD Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2014 12:45:39
'Rules Light' doesn't mean that they have neglected the rules, just that they are streamlined and unobtrusive, unlikely to get in the way of best-quality pirate role-playing action!

You get everything that you will need to unleash a band of pirates across the ocean quickly and simply. Characters are generated by describing them, the only numbers you need are level, armour class and hit points. The rest flows from the class and special abilities that you choose for your pirate. Accompanying notes encourage you to enable creativity (especially if you have youngsters trying their first hand at role-playing) by letting players have any ability that they can articulate, or be of a different class that they come up with, showing you how to assign skills etc. in a balanced way by mixing existing rules as appropriate.

Combat, indeed any task resolution, is handled simply as well with an eye to keeping the action (and the excitement) flowing... and yet there is scope for plenty of detail if that is how you like to play, special moves, different damage depending on weapons and much, much more.

There's pirate ship-to-ship combat as well as the up close and personal variety, which can be conducted in a fast, abstract manner or in as much detail as would satisfy any board wargamer's heart, depending on what you and your group prefer. There are also some beasts, and the scope for magic, undead, and other fantasy staples. Although these are presented as inherent, you could excise them quite easily if it's 'real' pirates you are after rather than the fantasy variety. Given the apparent Caribbean setting (this is assumed rather than mentioned outright), there's Voodoo as well. And legendary monsters like the Kraken to come and wrap its tentacles around the pirate ship.

There's a surprisingly sensible section on Pirate Talk, providing some proper nautical jargon and pirate terms as well as pointers to develop the correct silly accent if you want to go Arrr all the time. Details of special treasures, a detailed skill list and a selection of character sheets round this out.

Don't be deluded by 'rules light' or a preponderance of pirate talk, this is a solid, quite elegant, role-playing game based around that ever-popular thing, the pirate in the age of sail. If that appeals, do try this out. You'll have a blast.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Yarr! The Rules Light Pirate RPG
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Mindblast! - Classic Monsters Augmented (PFRPG-Psionics))
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2014 11:56:38
It's an interesting idea, that if you want to use psionics in your game, every creature might become psionically active. Or at least, have the chance to, just as some sentients will be but most will not.

So, if that takes your fancy, here are a whole bunch of well-known familiar monsters retooled to have psionic abilities as well as teeth and claws and whatever. The neat thing is, they are not just the monster you already know with psionics tacked on, read through the descriptive text and you will find that they have become quite different creatures, subtly twisted to become something else entirely. Use the original non-psionic version as well and really catch the party out!

There's a quick psionic primer, but if you are not familiar with the underlying concepts you may be a bit lost: Read 'Psionics Unleashed' by Dreamscarred Press to get the full picture.

A lot of the monsters are evil, and those who are not are generally neutral, like the Cat Psionic (thought all cats were a bit that way inclined anyway) or the Crystal Eater, a remote cousin of a Rust Monster which scoffs crystal rather than ruins metal. The Golden-Eyed Owlbear is more intelligent than the mundane version, unfortunately it may be smarter but it is no less vicious and bad-tempered. And as for the Red... it is a psionic hobgoblin, and a really nasty piece of work.

Each creature comes with a picture as well as full stat block and descriptive text. The picture of the Golden-Eyed Owlbear is particularly beautiful, with fur and feathers blending in a realistic manner.

An appendix contains psionic feats and powers for those wanting to explore some new ones. Plenty of scope for confusing, dominating or plain scaring your enemies there.

Overall a nice collection that is plausible within the context of psionics having developed within your campaign world, rather than having arrived from elsewhere. Well worth considering if you want to run a campaign that includes psionics as something that is around, generally available, embedded within the fabric of your alternate reality rather than an alien force imported in to it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mindblast! - Classic Monsters Augmented (PFRPG-Psionics))
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100 Welsh Names - Female
Publisher: Ennead Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2014 12:56:28
A nice collection of just a few Welsh girl's names for anyone wanting a Celtic feel to their game (or if a contemporary game takes you into Wales).

Try not to get your tongue knotted... Welsh is in fact a phonetic language, it is just that Welsh phonetics are like nothing else! A quick guide - a single F comes out like a V, a double FF is like F in English... and Y is a vowel. LL is like the 'CH' in loch...

And just to give you a bonus: MY name (Megan) is Welsh, and my daughter's middle name is Angharad, another Welsh name.

My parents always said that they chose Megan because they were living in London at the time and wanted a Welsh name the English could pronounce!!!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
100 Welsh Names - Female
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Midgard Tales Map & Art Folio (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2014 10:57:17
If you are running Midgard Tales and like showing your players what their characters see, grab a copy of this...

It's packed with maps, floorplans and illustrations apposite to each of the Midgard Tales adventures - each one occupying a full page (so no trying to hide other things when showing the players something) and unlabelled so that nothing is given away.

The plans are particularly useful as many of the complexes visited in the course of these adventures are of unusual shapes and prove quite tricky to describe in words. What is it that they say: a picture's worth a thousand words?

The illustrations, in a range of different styles, will also help you bring various scenes and characters to life as the game proceeds.

OK, you don't need this to run Midgard Tales, but using it to effect has the potential to enhance your adventures with some quality visuals.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midgard Tales Map & Art Folio (Pathfinder RPG)
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Special Supplement 4: Rescue Ops
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2014 07:11:18
Not everyone earns their keep in the spacelanes... and even those of you who do may have done something else before venturing into the black. This supplement looks at the 'emergency services' and at the sort of roles needed for disaster recovery and rescue operations - useful skills and talents, and who knows, maybe your crew will be the first on the scene at some accident or incident and need to step in to render aid.

First up, there are two complete careers that may be used during character generation: Healer and Rescuer. The Healer provides a broad overview of the core medical professions of doctor and nurse, although the only distinction between the two is one's EDU stat, if it's 12+ you are a doctor - no requirement to attend medical or nursing school! The various events and mishaps available for use as you roll up your character are drafted with a good eye to the sort of things that someone in the medical trades might encounter.

The Rescuer is a general purpose and practical career that models the life of a member of a 'Fire and Rescue' service of the far future. It includes a specialisation in space rescue that could be a useful precursor to a spacing/adventuring career - indeed, it's easy to imagine a whole campaign being developed around the exploits of a space rescue team! Those specialising in ground rescue are indeed firefighters, more hi-tech perhaps but similar to the brave men and women who perform that service today. Again the events and mishaps are thoughtful and well-matched to the career.

The careers are followed by a discussion of rescue operations in general, and should provide plenty of background and ideas - for the 'war stories' your character might tell about his past or adventure ideas to include in your game. The author is himself a retired firefighter so as you can imagine the commentry on fire fighting is accurate and realistic, yet as a Traveller writer he also makes appropriate remarks about how future technology might make rescue work different from what it is today. Space accidents, natural disasters, contagions - plenty of situations here where rescue workers (and healers) may well be needed.

And that's before we get to the section on rescue adventures and campaigns! For example, how about setting up an emergency management company? Operating in a manner akin to a mercenary company, this outfit could travel around offering advice and training - and of course, showing off their own skills in appropriate situations - to those worlds or settlements who are struggling to organise and provide for themselves. As noted above, either Healer or Rescuer careers could provide a useful precursor to a standard Traveller adventuring career, or with small modification, either career could be treated as part of a military service - the military generally have their own medics and some form of rescue service, just about all you need to do is change the rank names to suit your chosen branch of the armed forces.

Next comes the tools of the trade, including a form of Battle Dress modified for firefighting, assorted drones and more. This finishes with some emergency vehicles suited to various situations.

A useful addition to the game, with interesting concepts that ought to come in useful.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Special Supplement 4: Rescue Ops
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Operation: Burning Presidents
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/10/2014 10:23:46
This is a classic adventure for federal agents operating within the continental US: a missing agent, a drug facilitiy and a bunch of militia who have uses other than fertilising their land for ammonium nitrate. Yet it is filled with twists, little nuggets and extra options that take it out of a one-liner in your plot notebook to be a full-blown scenario in its own right.

There are nice clear maps of important locations, with GM and player versions; stat blocks for everyone they will encounter, and assorted suggestions and different options to enable you to cope with whatever the party decides to do.

It is straightforward enough to play in a single session with minimal GM preparation required - just reading it through would suffice - and yet ends up with, should the characters be successful, with that warm feeling that results from having saved the world, again.

Neat, complete, just the thing to keep to hand for when you need a game and don't have time to prepare it, or use as a side-adventure within a more plot-driven campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Operation: Burning Presidents
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Heroic Maps - Geomorphs: Village Stores
Publisher: Heroic Maps
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/10/2014 07:22:49
A beautiful and versatile mapset that should prove useful whenever the party wishes to interact with the inhabitants of the typical small village.

First are four 'overview' sheets - full page ones, no less - that give an idea of the overall scope of the stores presented, followed by larger sheets that can be combined to create a layout suitable for miniatures use. Full scale single sheet versions, for those who have access to facilities to print them entire or who are using virtual tabletop software, are also provided.

The stores are an apothecary, a blacksmith, a tavern and a general store - this last comes with a small cottage, complete with a garden, across the road.

The apothecary is a large single room building with workshelves around the walls, a bookcase and a table/counter where customers can be served. It would suit any store purveying small delicate items - magic items, potions, even jewellry - if preferred to someone dispensing healing herbs and remedies.

The blacksmith's shop includes an open forge complete with anvil as well as a room with a counter where weapons and other implements can be sold and further back rooms that could be used as storage or living space for the blacksmith.

The tavern is quite small, but well laid out. The main tap room has a bar and a fireplace, part of a double chimney that also serves a more cosy back room - suitable for those quiet chats. Behind the bar is a store room complete with barrels and even a kitchen area with its own fireplace and food preparation area.

Finally, the general store can be used pretty much as you like, with a large room complete with counter and steps down to a half-cellar storage area. The items on display suggest it's a food shop, but it could be repurposed quite easily.

The art is delightfully clear and crisp, and uniform in style with other mapsets from this publisher, making it easy to link several sets together seamlessly, which is also aided by the geomorphic design.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heroic Maps - Geomorphs: Village Stores
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Public Enemy: Lord Foulwind
Publisher: Bloodstone Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2014 10:22:41
Making for a fun and original opponent for your superheroes, Lord Foulwind is a troll trapped here after finding a means to open a portal from, well, whatever fantasy world he came from. Capable of magic use as well as having normal troll capabilities like regeneration, he's smart enough to make a formidable foe.

There's plenty of background to help you bring him to (smelly) life, as well as several plot hooks to bring him into the action; and of course a full stat block to take care of the mechanics.

Lots of little touches make Lord Foulwind a bit more than just a classic fantasy monster dumped into a superpowered world, he has his place and his plans... and it's up to your party to deal with him before he makes even more of a problem of himself than he has already! A nice interpretation.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Public Enemy: Lord Foulwind
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100 Noble Titles
Publisher: Lee's Lists
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2014 12:07:23
Nothing like a fancy title to gain respect... and it's a cheap way for the local authorities to reward characters that have done them a service!

It's quite a mixed bag of titles, and you will have to decide for themselves any hierarchy... does a Morza rank above a Sawai? I don't know, but if they are both used in your campaign world you will need to know who is the superior even if it is only for trivial reasons like arranging the seating plan for dinner.

If you are curious, a Morza is a princely title in Tartar lands whilst Sawai is a title of Indian origins meaning someone worth one and one-quarter of an ordinary man in Sanskrit... most holders were rulers and so it is possible that a Sawai ranks above a Morza, but only just. But that's the real world - in your alternate reality, your word is law.

It's a little bit of fun, especially if you are bored with Barons and Princes...

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
100 Noble Titles
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Theater of the Mind Magazine - Issue #5
Publisher: Critical Hit Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2014 08:59:14
If you like to think about what happens around your gaming table, if you are interested in creating a vivid shared alternate reality, this magazine is worth a look...

This issue is centred on the concept of 'Parlay' - the discussions that can take place before or during a game, in it or out of it. Articles cover Player Agency: letting players determine details for themselves within certain boundaries determined by common sense. One example used is a bar room brawl - a player could determine that there are bottles behind the bar to be grabbed as improvised weapons without checking with the GM, but it wouldn't be reasonable to assume they could find a large mace or an assault rifle there.

There's a long article on the social contract that exists - even if you haven't realised it - within a gaming group, and in particular governing the relationship between the GM and all the other players. Round here, all of us play and all of us GM, and these lines are pretty blurred... but in the groups I play with online, particularly the ones I GM, the other players defer to their GM, treat him or her as someone apart, in a manner I find a bit surprising. This article explores the roles and responsibilities of all parties and is quite fascinating.

To balance this fairly GM-centric article there's another one called The Player's Role. This reverts to the idea in the first article, of players having agency, and develops it further in light of the social contract already discussed to look at ways of getting players more involved and making the game a truly SHARED storytelling experience, rather than one narrated by the GM with minimal player input. A follow-up article looks more closely at the overlap between player and GM roles in two areas: narrative and system. Again, plenty of food for thought here.

There are a few other bits and bobs: fiction, a couple of reviews, and even a short piece about involving youngsters in role-playing by the use of online games when you cannot find children of a similar age to your own who want to play face to face.

Thoughtful, philosophical yet directly applicable to your gaming experience - definitely worth a read.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Theater of the Mind Magazine - Issue #5
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VA1 Valley of the Five Fires
Publisher: New Big Dragon Games Unlimited
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2014 09:33:37
This is not an adventure - it's a whole setting, inspired by the historical Mongols and Cossacks, nomadic peoples of open grasslands. Within this setting, as a native or as a visitor, much adventure is to be found; but whilst there is a complete adventure and several other ideas here, the main part of the book talks of the peoples and places to be found here, their history and customs, and the lay of their lands.

There are five tribes (originally four but one divided) scattered across the grasslands, each with their own distinctive style although the nomadic nature of their lives imposes much commonality as well. They live in tents, and are circumscribed by many customs and rituals. There are only a couple of permanent settlements.

A new class, the Shaman, is presented: this has two sides, the Black Shaman and the White one. Black Shamans are warrior-priests who use martial prowess and discipline to combat evil (or their tribe's enemies), and serve as advisors to clan leadership. White Shamans are men of peace, working in harmony with nature and people. New spells and abilities are provided for Shamans as well.

There's also a section on typical armour and weapons of the steppes. These are the ones natives will be familiar with, and probably the only ones that outsiders can obtain whilst here.

Notable NPCs are listed, with copious background to facilitate playing them. There are pre-generated generic NPCs too, and a bestiary-full of the creatures of the steppes. This section rounds off with wandering monster tables.

Then we come to the actual adventure, The Quest for the Luuzhin Coins. These legendary coins have been lost for ages, and so the quest is suitable for both characters native to the steppes and visiting characters. If they need any encouragement, several hooks are provided to gain their interest in the quest. Of course, this does involve entering the Valley of the Five Fires, which is of course forbidden territory to both natives and outsiders! Once there, there is plenty to explore and do, and maybe those elusive coins to find.

If that's not enough, a wealth of additional adventures are provided mostly as outlines, seeds and places to visit, including caves and local religious structures called stupas to explore. One of each is detailed in full, as well as suggestions for other like adventures. A few tombs and lairs, and some general encounters end the adventure section (and the book).

Overall this is a very flavoursome and exciting place to visit, with a distinct feel of its own and plenty for the party to do. The whole air is very much 'sandbox' - there is no set path for the characters to follow, yet they will be challenged at every turn with interesting encounters and locations.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
VA1 Valley of the Five Fires
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