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Psionic Bestiary
Publisher: Dreamscarred Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2014 08:49:36
If you are running a campaign in which psionics feature, it only stands to reason that you'll want some psionic monsters to throw at the characters... and even if none of the characters are psionic, it can prove an interesting challenge to give them psionic opposition (cue evil GM chuckle).

Laid out in standard monster format, but repleate with additional information to help you adapt each one to your precise needs, this is a useful collection of critters that share the common characteristic of being psionic or at least able to wield psionic-like abilities. There are even some undead psionic entities - a mind-wrenching idea, as like all undead they are immune to mind-influencing effects even when capable of exerting them themselves!

And it's got the brain mole! Not sure quite why, but I delight in them! My players had better watch out :)

The various constructs and automata are fascinating as well. Many of the creatures are outsiders, leaving it open to you to introduce them as alien visitors to a non-psionic campaign world if that's what you run. Alternatively, you might decide that only certain creatures in your world are psionic - dragons might be a good choice, and there's plenty of material here to support such a concept.

It's a fascinating selection which should enhance any campaign in which psionics occur, however common or rare you decide that they are.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Psionic Bestiary
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Arcknight Maps: The Fireside Tavern
Publisher: Arcknight
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/18/2014 07:37:18
Given the fondness of adventuring parties to visit them, a good selection of tavern maps is an essential part of any DM's tookit, and this is a particularly versatile one.

This mapset is modular, with the individual sections showing a pure bar area, a tavern (taproom and accommodation), a block of rooms and stables. These can be arranged to create an establishment of size and shape to meet your needs. To make it even more useful, there are additional sections of streets to arrange around an urban tavern, or to use on their own. Suggested arrangements include an alley behind the inn (into which unruly characters might be tossed!) and a maze of narrow streets for an exhilarating foot chase... which might end in a tap room, chases do work up a thirst after all!

The actual maps are very clear, almost photorealistic with excellent detail. The accommodation block includes three individual privies, and there's an outhouse near the stable block as well. Streets are cobbled, most floors are planked wood. The tap room and accommodation areas are supplied with appropriate furniture - beds, chairs, benches, tables and so on - but the 'streets' portions include some empty buildings, mostly single-room, which you can use as you wish.

Everything comes in a range of options. You have a choice of squares, hexes or no grid at all. Then you can choose large JPEGs, suitable for a virtual table top and which can also be edited in a graphics package should you have need, or printable PDFs where you will then have to assemble the sections, never mind the whole layout.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arcknight Maps: The Fireside Tavern
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Amethyst - Hearts of Chaos - 4E
Publisher: Dias Ex Machina Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/17/2014 09:44:51
Opening with a concise overview of what the Amethyst setting is all about - a contemporary world overrun by a fantasy one, with the resulting conflict between magic and technology - this adventure is itself designed to introduce players to Amethyst's concepts.

To help players come to grips with the setting, their characters should all come from the 'technology' end of things. Pre-generated ones are supplied, or you can create your own with that constraint - that, and they are also members of an international mercenary company tasked with finding a former senior member of the unit who has gone rogue and vanished into the deep wilderness, where fantasy and magic hold sway. Worse, he has a lot of knowledge about the group and poses a severe security risk.

There is a lot of information for the DM to absorb to run the adventure effectively, but it is all laid out clearly. If he is already familiar with the Amethyst setting, all to the good, but there is sufficient here to get by even if this is his first encounter with it. Of particular note is the incompatibility between magic and technology - if there's magic around, your tech doesn't work so well and eventually breaks down, and so the DM has to administer the effects of being out in the wild fantasy lands on everything the characters are using. This is explained in great detail so provided the notes are studied in advance you should have little difficulty.

The adventure begins with the party several days into their mission, although things have been peaceful so far. Needless to say they will not remain so quiet for long. Everything is laid out clearly and is easy to run, with all the details - and even hints to pass on particularly if your players are new to the setting - provided just where you want them. The only drawback - and this is throughout the work - is an overly-heavy background which, although quite beautiful, sometimes makes it difficult to read every word. When appropriate maps are provided (there are a whole bunch of separate images provided with the download, as well as full-page ones included in the PDF).

The real joy of this adventure is the profound moral dilemma it poses the characters, based on the very essence of the setting's tension: fantasy or technology? This ought to get the players thinking about what makes this setting unique, as well as what their place in it is, and what it might become. Yet this is not the only challenge to ideas and motivations, there is an underlying struggle between different forces out here where fantasy holds sway as well. Fear not, however, this is not an adventure of quiet contemplation or even heated debate, there's plenty of combat to keep everyone occupied.

Not just a good introduction to Amethyst, but an exciting and thought-provoking adventure in its own right.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Amethyst - Hearts of Chaos - 4E
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CAH:S3 -- Iron Wolves
Publisher: Spectrum Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/16/2014 08:27:28
Based on a real, if short-lived, TV cartoon series of 1988 this product provides all the detail you need to run a series of adventures in space with transforming cybernetic cops chasing intergalactic robbers! What isn't there to love?

It starts by setting the scene for the campaign. In the year 2989 the human race has spread out to the stars. Unfortunately it's not all noble explorers and upright pioneers, some crooks are out there in the black as well. Most notably, an aggressive alien race of bee-people led by Queen Pin have caused a lot of bother... and when banged up in gaol, she escaped - along with assorted villains of various species. They've formed a loose alliance and gone on to wreak criminal mayhem on the galaxy! The characters will become part of the task force whose job is to see them all behind bars again.

Next there's a note about the cartoon conventions... including the interesting point that nobody seems to need an air supply or space suit when floating around in the vacuum of space! Notes on the galaxy follow, and then it is on to the main heroes of the series - Major 'Iron' Will Powers, the commander of the Iron Wolves, and Monkey Wrench, their chief mechanic. These will probably become NPCs, giving the characters orders and fixing their ships.

There are a selection of villains who will feature as opposition, and notes on primary locations that will become regular features. Three outline episodes are provided to give you a feel for the campaign and to get you started.

Then we move on to character generation, with notes on what sort of characters will be suitable for the campaign and what qualities and abilities they will need to have, including new rules for cybernetics. If you are impatient or want ideas there are sample characters provided.

It is very much an outline and will need some planning and preparation before you are ready to run, but all the ingredients are there for an entertaining campaign in true cartoon style!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
CAH:S3 -- Iron Wolves
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Ultimate Options: Story Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2014 10:55:21
Story feats first hit our gaming tables with Paizo's "Ultimate Campaign" supplement. They're feats which reflect a goal that the character has, and incorporate a trigger event, the normal sort of benefit that any feat confers, the goal the character is trying to achieve and a further reward that comes when that goal is achieved. The trigger event can either come from the character's background or from something that happens during the campaign itself. They provide an excellent way of linking a character more closely with the ongoing story that you are all trying to tell as the campaign plays out.

This work contains a selection of new story feats from which you can choose. The trigger events for all of them are based on background for obvious reasons - no book author can predict events in your game! Naturally, it is easy enough to take events from your game and match them to an appropriate story feat as their trigger event. It's something that GM and player will do in collaboration when the player's character next qualifies for a feat. Likewise, the completion conditions can be quite vague even if they sound specific, the GM will have to create appropriate opportunities for the character to achieve them.

Many of the new feats have considerable potential to actually drive a plot forwards, or even create a whole new one of their own. Enterprising GMs may find inspiration here and then seek to persuade a suitable character to take on the relevant story feat.

One particularly interesting one is Embodiment (Vice) - it's based around the classic seven deadly sins, one of which you must choose as the vice of which you wish to become the very embodiment. A common trigger is to be a devotee of a faith that espouses the vice in question. The completion target will naturally vary depending on the one chosen, and tends to be somewhat broader than with other story feats. There's also a neat little quirk: any action the character takes that moves him further from his goal causes the loss of the feat's benefit until he performs some act of contrition. This may be a GM-determined action, use of the atonement spell or other appropriate deed.

Well worth a look, especially for those running or playing complex story-driven campaigns.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Options: Story Feats
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Plight of the Tuatha, Vol.2: Vasily's Woe
Publisher: Mór Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2014 10:56:09
The introduction and background set the scene - and the mood. For this is intended as a 'dark' chapter in the adventure path and ought to be presented in quite a creepy way, with footsteps heard in empty rooms and candles which blow out when there is no draft.

Working for an elven wizard, the party is sent to find components and information required for his work, sent to an isolated and insular area under the thumb of a less than savory cult. They do not care for visitors, or wizards, or people who worship strange gods... and it's foggy and the locals are coming down with a strange disease. All the elements are in place for a claustrophobic and scary time.

This adventure works best if you are following the Plight of the Tuatha adventure path and have already played part 1, Feast Hall of Ash. If you do not wish to do this, provision is made for the hiring wizard to explain more background to ensure that the party know the importance of the quest on which they are being sent - if they have played it, they already know him. However, as matters are so entwined in the background of the world in which the whole adventure path is set - a mature world in which the author has been running his own games for years - it's recommended that you go and run Feast Hall of Ash first, then play this adventure. It can be run as a plain creepy quest on its own, and will make a good adventure on that level, but you'll be missing out on the depth of background that's here.

The adventure itself begins with the journey to the target area, arriving at a nearby harbour before travelling overland. Things have been pretty quiet up until now since they left their wizard employer (although a few events are provided should you wish to have at least something happen on the way) but this is soon to change! Whatever does go on, you are provided with a variety of options - including all necessary game mechanics - which the party may use to resolve the situation, and there are usually helpful NPCs to make suggestions should the characters not think of the right things to do.

Whatever the party decides to do - even within the constraints of a mission that's basically "Go there and fetch this" - there's plenty to keep them occupied, opportunities for both interactions and combat being provided. Each person or creature met comes with complete stat block and plenty of notes to aid you in running them to effect, whether in negotiation or combat. Background notes expand on this, giving motivations and overall depth, often linking back to the overall background of the rich tapestry of the setting. Whilst it's all there at your fingertips, reading it through thoroughly in advance of play will repay the effort as you will understand the why of their behaviour and attitudes as well as the what.

Throughout, ominous little orange boxes entitled 'Up the Ante' provide details of how you can make the adventure harder. It may be that your players are particularly competent, or that you are running the adventure for more than the four characters it is written for... or you may just be feeling a bit mean!

There is plenty to investigate and find out - characters who meet everything with a drawn sword and offensive spell will be at a disadvantage. By exploring the village and finding out what is going on, the characters will be able to help them as well as recover the item they have been sent to find. The village is mapped out and just about anywhere the party chooses to go there are people to talk to and things to find out. If you run the adventure from the PDF on a computer, the map locations are hyperlinked to the apposite notes (and backlinked so you can flip straight to the map again), a very nice touch.

And, well, we have been talking about 'spooky' right? What better climax than a spooky manor house to investigate... and yes, there is one. Cue up your creepy music and lower the lights. There is plenty of scope to scare the players, never mind their characters, here. However, this is not actually the climax, there is more...

Appendices cover notable NPCs and additional rules and mechanics including that of Emergence. This is an effect somewhere between a feat and an item that you can acquire as a result of your actions, actions that reveal the nature of your soul. Instances where you can gain one are highlighted in the adventure text, and here the rules covering them are explained. Some of them are beneficial, others are not. Each also has conditions under which they are lost - so if you do gain an unpleasant Emergence there is a chance that you can get rid of it (although this may be at a cost). This is a neat addition to the rules, provided it is used sparingly. Lore, items of note and a bestiary of new creatures encountered during the adventure are also included along with full details of the religions practised in this isolated area and some pre-generated characters (developed from the ones presented in the first part) should you need them.

An excellent creepy and claustrophobic adventure in its own right, this fits well with its predecessor and promises much for future episodes.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Plight of the Tuatha, Vol.2: Vasily's Woe
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Drip by Bloody Drip
Publisher: Gun Metal Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2014 10:23:53
This is a taut, exciting and detailed adventure in the cyberpunk genre, running under the Savage Worlds ruleset. It involves the characters infiltrating a disused military facility - only to find that automated security systems are still very much active and that other parties, with far more malevolent motives, are also sneaking around in there.

In providing a background and overview of the adventure, suggestions are made as to how to get the party not just to take the job but to have an emotional attachment to events. This is easier if you wish to run this adventure as part of a campaign, but it will work just as well as a stand-alone game if that suits your needs.

The adventure opens with the party being contacted and hired for a mission of mercy - to access some medical research on an isolated computer in this abandoned military base. Sounds easy, these things always do... before you get onsite and find out that half the place is submerged and the defences are still online! The opening scene is run as a job interview, using the Savage Worlds Social Conflict rules to good effect, yet in such a way that it is role-playing rather than die rolling that gets the party hired. The real benefits are in the additional support that will be offered should they do well mechanically as well as with the interview itself.

Once hired, the base will need to be reconnoitered and then entered. There's plenty of material to enable you to deal with any eventuality as the party proceeds with its investigations and infiltration. NPCs are provided with full stat blocks and other details in an appendix, whilst support for running each incident and encounter is provided where it is needed within the text. The one glaring absence is any plan of the facility to be infiltrated, and it is recommended that you invent or find a suitable one before running this adventure.

Overall the adventure is exciting with plenty more going on than meets the eye at the initial briefing. Given some suitable pre-generated characters, it could be used as a one-off/convention game too, whilst it has great potential for its intended use as part of a campaign.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Drip by Bloody Drip
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'Secrets of the Reich - Bunker LP-45'
Publisher: The Forge Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2014 10:05:52
Whether you are running a game set during World War Two or one somewhat later investigating the remains of the Third Reich, this provides an atmospheric briefing pack and setting for an investigation/adventure... although you will have to decide what the Nazis were really up to! Indeed, it need not be WW2 and the Nazis, as the only identifiable stamp on the handouts says 'United States of America' although to anyone with an eye for documents they are clearly intended to date to the 1940s.

There's plenty of scope for people running Weird War or Achtung! Chtulhu games to incorporate this, but there is potential for any game to make use of this if running a 20th century or contemporary game... whilst there are hints of Things That Should Not Be it doesn't necessarily mean that they are real.

The material comes in two parts. There is a Player section with handouts that might form a briefing pack for operatives being tasked with a mission to investigate the bunker and the old castle under whose ruins it is to be found - local area map, photos, plans and space for briefing notes to be added (if you type them in using the Comments feature on your PDF, Courier Standard or Times New Roman fonts are the best fit).

The Game Master section provides more copious maps and plans with added detail, like the dungeons under the castle ruins and (vitally important) the locations of minefields around the castle, plus where checkpoints and machine gun nests are if you are running a game set when the bunker is in use.

Just looking through this is enough to set ideas rolling...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
'Secrets of the Reich - Bunker LP-45'
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#30 Mercenary Companies (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2014 09:11:21
Whether the party wants to enlist, is going to fight beside (or against) them or just meets them off-duty in a tavern one evening, mercenary bands are a feature of the quasi-mediaeval scene in which most fantasy games are set. Few nations had much of a standing army and so when they wished to war, mercenaries would be hired to fill out those patriots who rallied to the flag. When not in employment, many were little better than bandits, using their military skills to 'acquire' what they needed to survive.

Here is a selection of mercenary bands for the characters to encounter. Each comes with a detailed description covering their nature, particular style of operation and even their uniforms! You can also find out about resoures, leadership and organisation, and the necessary statistics for those wanting to use them in battles.

They're all quite flavoursome, from a band whose commander is a bard as likely to sing of past adventures as to lead them to new ones to a bunch called Dragons Breath whose trademark combat style involves lots of alchemists fire. Some specialise in a particular type of operation, some are to be found manning ships and others will do whatever's required... provided that they are well paid. Apart from gold, their motivations vary, with some companies boasting a long and proud history, others are newcomers to the mercenary game or have a distinctly unsavoury reputation.

Whenever you have need of mercenaries - or even fancy a good tavern brawl - glance in here for a ready-made mercenary company to fit your requirements. Rumours of who has been seen where, a stray uniformed member found away from his fellows... there are a myriad of ways to incorporate these into your adventures, whether to advance the plot or as local colour.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Mercenary Companies (PFRPG)
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Shadowrun: Bullets & Bandages
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2014 10:06:17
Sometimes (always?) a shadowrun doesn't go quite as smoothly as you might like. Sometimes, you'll get hurt. What then?

This is an optional extra to the core rules that takes a closer look at the whole area of combat medicine, Shadowrun style. It will suit groups who are interested in bringing the after-effects of being injured into centre stage within their game, rather than leaving treatment and healing as downtime activities that are handled 'off screen' between gaming sessions.

Opening with a piece of fiction describing an injured 'runner seeking help, the work is filled with atmospheric in-character snippets including a run-down of the DocWagon organisation... and even a portion of DocWagon's introductory training module for armed medical response operators. This gives a good run-down of what they do, the personnel that make up their 'High Threat Response' teams and a genral overview of the entire operation. Armed with this information, the next encounter with one should be interesting for the party (and, of course, potentially life-saving if it is a party member who is in need of aid).

Next is an article on creating a 'combat medic' character for Shadowrun. Naturally a group interested enough to start using this supplement might feel the need of one for their team, there is even potential given the previous article for a whole campaign to be developed around a DocWagon team. In the past I ran a campaign which was based on a turf war between DocWagon and CrashCart, and have played a combat medic character attached to a team akin to an FBI Hostage Rescue Team under Shadowrun rules... both concepts worked well, and are worth considering if you want a slightly different slant on your game from regular shadowrunning.

The suggestions made give some good indications as to how to build a 'combat medic' character and the notes cover both Shadowrun Anniversary Edition and Fifth Edition, making this supplement useable with both rulesets. A medic can rely on technical training in emergeny medicine or on magical healing by a variety of routes, or an extremely potent healer could br built by combining both scientific and magical medical techniques and training. There are also notes on the specialist equipment such a character might need and even a range of Qualties that are not just for the potential medic but for any character in a game where ongoing health is intended to be a feature in play rather than a background thing dealt with in downtime between missions. There are even options for female characters to be pregnant or for anyone to have a chronic illness or be suffering the effects of advancing years.

Next come some advanced biotech rules to cover the actions of a skilled medic in diagnosing and treating whatever injuries or illnesses might present themselves. There are also rules to cover the delivery of medical care under fire. There is a lot of detailed information here but it all flows in a surprisingly clear manner once you get your head around it. Both GMs and players with medic characters ought to study this before the game begins, so that gameplay does not stall whilst rules are consulted.

Finally there are rules relating to medkits and a selection of new drugs... also toxins and pathogens, complete with their effects. There are also some new medical-related spells, adept powers and equipment.

If you want to make medicine - particularly emergency field medicine - to feature in your games, this will equip you with all you need to make it happen.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Bullets & Bandages
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Thirteen Pines: A Tale of Supernatural Horror
Publisher: Survive RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 08:02:41
This is a systemless adventure, suitable for any modern or near-modern game system in which the supernatural is real (the author suggests Call of Cthulhu, D20 Modern or the World of Darkness as examples).

The core of the story involves an amazing archaeological discovery and a bunch of travellers caught in a snowstorm. The introduction/backstory explains what is really going on and the nature of the threat whcih the travellers will have to counter. Unless you decide to use this as an event within an ongoing campaign, it is suggested that the travellers should be a quite disparate lot, each one with his own reasons for being in the area of the Thirteen Pines township and just caught up together in ongoing events.

The opening scene is dramatic, with the characters - who may at this point not know one another, unless you are running an established party - driving through atrocious snowy conditions towards Thirteen Pines. An abandoned vehicle kicks off the action and the game is afoot...

Once the initial scene has played out, the rest of the scenario is quite freeform. There are locations to investigate and a few people to talk to as the characters try to piece together what is going on. An 'adventure flow' is suggested to help you keep matters on track, but it is not rigid allowing plenty of scope for a charater-led game.

Everything is scary, snowy and almost claustrophobic with the travellers and a few other people trapped in town. Phone lines and cell reception is out, but the power is on at least for the moment... but where are most of the townsfolk? Descriptions are atmospheric and you should have little difficulty in bringing the scene to life in the minds of your players. The scenario will be most effective if run at a brisk pace, and would probably be suitable for a convention or other single-session game.

The whole adventure is well-presented with apposite illustrations, a plan of the town; and only a few minor typos which jar but do not render the text unintelligible. Naturally as a generic scenario, you will have to apply appropriate statistics from your chosen ruleset, but otherwise it is good to go... an adventure you and your players will remember for years to come.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thirteen Pines: A Tale of Supernatural Horror
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks Megan for the review. I\'m a game master at heart so the worst thing about writing adventures is that you\'re not at the table when they\'re played so its great to get feedback. The freeform style of this adventure was a personal goal so I\'m happy you highlighted it. While it\'s still a great adventure my first publication 55 BELOW ZERO AND 6 FEET FROM HELL was more gamemaster than character driven. Also thanks for pointing out that I need to do a bit more editing - that just replaced freeform as personal goal #1. Thanks again and all the best. David
d-Infinity Volume #6: The Mythos
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2014 12:17:57
This makes for a fascinating read, with everything within this issue in some way connected to the Lovecraft-inspired Mythos. It doesn't matter what you play, unspeakable eldritch horrors with lots of tentacles can sneak in and scare your characters into insanity!

There's fiction, of course (well, that's where the Mythos started), a stirring tale of a Frankish ship pursued by Saxon sea-wolves when... other... things start to happen. Like the best tales, just what is going on is never explained, making it a rich source to mine for your own ideas for how to introduce a little Mythos madness to the next sea chase that takes place in your game.

For those who cannot be parted from their mobiles even when role-playing help is at hand in the shape of an article on various apps available to support and enhance your gaming experience. It's quite general, but gives an indication of what you ought to be looking for - or, if you have the capability, writing - in gaming apps.

Next some goodies for the LARPers amongst us. First there's an article on making some "Innsmouth gold" inspired by the Lovecraft tale 'The Shadow over Innsmouth'... strange shaped nuggets that look more grown than crafted. Then there's a complete script for a Cthulhu Live game. This consists of a evening party at the home of a wealthy eccentric with a love of archaeology and the occult who delights in showing off his latest acquistions... but this year's display might be a little much to handle! Quite devious and likely to be great fun. It is written for 10-15 characters, which are provided in full detail.

If you use the Swords of Kos setting, there are some character biographies, mostly of individuals who have appeared in published resources or fiction, but fleshed out to a level in which they can be used as major NPCs. If your game of choice is Labyrinth Lord (or any of the other 'old school' systems, they're similar enough that it is a trivial matter to fine tune resources from one to another) there are some classic Mythos spells that you might wish to unleash... well, they start with Awaken Idol and round off with Summon Demonic Mason. This last gets you a weird and mind-twisting structure built overnight with scant regard for the niceities of planning permission, zoning or building codes!

Mutant Future enthusiasts are provided with a range of loosely Mythos-related artefacts that they might find in their travels. Mythos or not, they hint at ancient cultures and should prove fascinating to investigate. You might like to drop something of the sort into any space-faring game, even if you do not play Mutant Future. Throw some of these around and the characters will really begin to wonder where they've ended up. This is followed by a complete article detailing a 'living building' which has a structure similar to a nautilus shell, growing in much the same way.

If Pathfinder's your game, the next article talks about introducing the Mythos into it by providing details and stat blocks for various monsters along with skills, feats, spells and magic items that all have a Mythos flavour. You may like them as occasional odd things that will make the party wonder what is going on, or as part of a full-blown Mythos incursion into your campaign world.

Board- and war-gamers are not neglected either, with scenarios for the Hundred Years War period catering for anything from a small skirmish to a full-blown battle, and a complete Cthulhu Mythos board game, Dagon Rising. It's a chaotic survival game played on a board made up of a series of hexagons, infinitely mutable. The hexagons are provided for a print-and-play game.

Provided you like the Mythos, there's something for just about everyone here.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
d-Infinity Volume #6: The Mythos
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Eclipse Phase: Zone Stalkers
Publisher: Posthuman Studios LLC
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 11:44:48
If you are of a mind to put the party in danger, how about suggesting a stroll across one of the deadliest regions of Mars, the TITAN Quarantine Zone?

Beginning with an explanation of what the Zone is and how it came to be, there are details of the terrain and major features as well as of the measures taken to ensure that the curious stay well out of it. This is intermingled with suggestions as to how these measures might be counteracted, although it will be up to you how you choose to pass on any ideas to your players if they are struggling to come up with their own - this is a book decidedly for the GM!

The hazards of the TQZ are extreme, even without the Patrol ready to pounce on intruders. Extensive jamming of all communication links render not just keeping in touch (or yelling for help) but navigation difficult. The terrain is rugged in the extreme, and prone to dust storms. All sorts of malevolent critters live there and even the artefacts that are the usual reason for anyone wanting to go there are dangerous if improperly handled (in many cases, if handled at all). A random encounter table and full notes on what you might encounter are provided to liven things up a bit.

Various locations are described, as are some of the TITAN artefacts that remain to be found - including quite an array of different drugs and addictive substances. Finally, there's a collection of plot hooks to get the party's interest in an expedition whetted enough for you to get to use all of this on them.

If you like adventures in which the environment is as much an enemy as the monsters, this is one to consider.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse Phase: Zone Stalkers
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Underworld Races: Ahool
Publisher: AAW Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2014 12:15:30
In a few pages great sweeps of cosmology and background myth are presented, the current understanding of what is going on in the underworld of the Aventyr campaign setting, rewriting concepts of plate tectonics and establishing how the various subterranean races came to be in four massive events driven by the very gods themselves. There are many different races, and a summary chart is presented showing their ages, heights and weights... but the real focus is on the Ahool.

The Ahool are the primeval beastmen of the endless caves of the underworld. Here we learn of their history, background and society, along with physical descriptions and the details necessary to create Ahool characters to play or as NPCs. There are racial archetypes (aquatic and terrestial forms) and new equipment and feats for them. Naturally they have their own magical items and spells available to them.

In appearance they are a bit like humanoid bats, although they do not fly nearly as well. They do have a vicious bite, however, and live on blood... giving rise to some obvious if erroneous comparisons. A racial class and a prestige class are provided, ahool can also take a regular character class if preferred.

The explanation of how the underworld races came to be is fascinating, and the ahool themselves a novel race to introduce into subterranean realms.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Ahool
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Deities and Demigods (3e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/27/2014 13:31:34
The Third Edition Deities and Demigods is a bit different from earlier versions which tended towards being a 'monster manual' for gods. Here there is much more discussion about how to involve deities in the day-to-day life of the campaign world, even the lives of the characters in your party themselves, ways to make the gods of your world as much - if not more - a part of it that the various gods worshipped in the real world are a part of everyday life, even for those who don't happen to believe in them.

Relgion in a game is always a tricky proposition for that very reason. Players who believe in real-world deities can get a bit twitchy about imaginary ones, and yet do not want to see the gods they revere trivialised by making an in-game appearance. Hence the need for game developers to devise pantheons of their own for their campaign worlds.

The first chapter looks at how to use deities in your game. Monotheism is rare, and most game worlds presuppose a pantheon of deities with each god taking responsibility for certain aspects. Believers tend to hold all the gods of the pantheon in reverence, but may choose one in particular as their main focus of worship. Others will pick to whom they'll pray depending on what they are wanting to pray about, and would not claim to worship a particular god at all. Others dedicate themselves to but a single deity. Of course there's one big difference between your game world and the real one: basically the gods are real and everyone knows this (whether or not they hold them in any reverence or choose to worship any of them), whereas in the real world opinion is divided as to whether or not there are any 'gods' at all (and I write this as a practising Mormon, so please do not take offence!)

The chapter expounds on the differences between a 'tight' pantheon and a 'loose' one. In the tight pantheon, a single religion - with the hierarchy, temples, priesthood, etc., that involves - worships all the deities involved, whereas in a 'loose' one there are faiths focussed on each of the deities in the pantheon. You'll have to decide which style is most appropriate for the way your campaign world operates, how you want your gods to interact with the world and with each other. Other forms of religion including mystery cults, monotheism, animism and dualism are discussed, and by the end of the chapter you ought to have a reasonable overview of what you can do.

Then on to the tricky question of the nature of divinity. Are your gods just super-powerful entities or is there something more about them? Are there limits to their powers or to their knowledge? Is divinity innate to certain beings or can it be earned or conferred upon someone deemed worthy of achieving it? In deciding the answers - and there are no right or wrong ones - to these questions you will start to form an idea of the underpinning nature of the universe in which your game will be played out. You'll find the odd side note about the core D&D pantheon - the one described in the core rulebooks - as you go, but the main thrust of this section is twofold - firstly to help you understand what gods are and secondly to put you in a position to design your own or modify the core ones to suit your vision for your campaign world. There's masses more here but one question stands out: How involved are the deities in what is going on in the world? That's one of the most important choices you'll have to make.

Next is Chapter 2: Deities Defined, which deals with the game mechanics that will make what you have determined is there in your world on a philosphical level actually work within the context of the game. This is of particular import if you have decided that deities take an active hands-on approach to worldly affairs, but even if they won't an understanding of how they function in game mechanical terms means that they become a consistent and integral part of the game, part of the fabric just as arcane magic and strange races are because they too are covered by the rules. This chapter is of most use if you have decided to create your own pantheon, but even if you are going with the core gods, or ones from a published setting, reading through will help you understand how they operate within the game itself.

Chapter 3: The D&D Pantheon is for those who have decided to use the core deities provided (but it does provide an exemplar pantheon for those who'd prefer to design their own from scratch). Using the mechanics discussed in the previous chapter, each member of the pantheon is given a 'stat block' that explains what they can do and how they do it... complete, even, with combat statistics should a brawl break out! For each, as this is a 'loose' pantheon, there are also brief notes on the dogma of their faith and about the clergy and temples organised for their worship. They can also use avatars in dealings with ordinary mortals if they do not choose to put in a personal appearance, so you also get the details necessary to run one should the occasion arise. There are some beautiful illustrations here, also representations of divine symbols and even the odd temple plan.

Should you want something different, Chapter 4: The Olympic Pantheon takes the classic Ancient Greek gods and puts a D&D twist on them. This is an example of a 'tight' pantheon served by a single religion, and if you know anything of the original, provides for some very hands-on deities! Whilst this is a fantasy re-tooling of the Greek gods, they are still quite recognisable yet here they are with all the game mechanics you need to make them an integral part of your game. Although this is a 'tight' pantheon, many of the gods have their own shrines and even clergy specifically devoted to them, yet a single overarching belief joins them all.

In like vein, Chapter 5 presents the Pharaonic Pantheon, the gods of the Ancient Egyptians. This is a very 'tight' pantheon with a unitary body of priests serving all the gods. Rituals and beliefs surrounding death and what comes after are very important to this faith. This is followed by Chapter 6: The Asgardian Pantheon, which provides the same service for the Norse gods.

Finally, Chapter 7: Other Religions looks at a whole bunch of different faiths such as sun worship, a dualist faith based on light and dark, and the mystery cult of Dennari, all designed according to the principles and rules discussed in the first two chapters.

There are two appendices. The first is concerned with domains and spells, and is helpful in deciding what to make available to divine spellcasters based on the deities they follow within your game, and includes some neat new spells. The second looks at divine ascension... should you choose to make this option available to characters who survive to 20th level and are perhaps beginning to reach power levels sufficient to challenge existing deities. It will take careful planning, especially if you do not intend it to be the final climax of the entire game - it is likely to end a campaign arc at the very least. There are, however, notes on running adventures after ascension has taken place.

One option that's not really discussed - but which I've found works quite well - is to have different pantheons operating in different parts of your campaign world. Travellers can have fun learning about the beliefs of the place they are visiting (or at least, you as DM can have fun watching them!) and it can provoke some interesting discussions, particularly if your clerical characters enjoy debating their faith!

If you want to make religion a central part of any game, and of course especially if you are running D&D 3.X, this is well worth reading.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deities and Demigods (3e)
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