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Sufficiently Advanced
Publisher: Valent Games
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/24/2010 23:26:32
Sufficiently Advanced is semi-hard sci-fi done very well. I call it "semi-hard" because the degree of "speculative" in the science might make some people think it a little less "hard" than it should be. However, the setting is well done, with enough detail and scope to give you plenty to work with and enough room left behind to give you plenty of room. The setting is a transitory one, at several points telling you that the current state of the universe isn't going to remain forever, and isn't intended to. However, there is no actual "metaplot", in that there's no one way the setting is supposed to go.

The system is made up of a neat balance of immersionist and narrativist gaming. Despite not liking most narrativist games (more of a simulationist/immersionist myself), the narrativist element is extremely well done, with characters bringing their own tropes with them where they go. The system is very flexible, and allows you to play as functional characters anything from a poor old unaugmented human to the most advanced posthuman conceivable within the confines of modern science.

The game also gets considerable support online at http://suffadv.wikidot.com/. You'll find some of my contributions, as well as those of many others, there, including ways of bending the system and setting to better reflect your way of gaming or your envisioned future. Both system and setting are very flexible within limits.

To me, the only downside of the game is the general focus on playing Patent Officers. Intellectual property is the only property of any significant value in the setting (since you can replicate any substance you want), and the Patent Office is extremely important for policing the international economy, making it rather like a World International Property Organization with police enforcement powers. Awesome as this is, there are times I want something else. However, the game is not so dependant on this concept that you cannot break from it. The game's open to other concepts, it just isn't as supportive of them.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sufficiently Advanced
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Dragon Warriors Bestiary
Publisher: Magnum Opus Press
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2009 01:41:50
This book is downright marvelous. It is more than a simple "bestiary". This text contains a summary of folklore and ideas about creatures both known and unknown. It includes information on natural beasts, mannish creatures (from Elves to a race of belligerent, semi-intelligent bird folk), demons, undead, fey creatures, etc.

Each entry has enough description to make the creature distinct, with its own behavior and reasons for existing. The entries are not overly long, and information unlikely to ever come up (mating habits for most creatures, exact quantities of food intake, etc.) is simply overlooked.

On the other hand, each creature has something interesting about it (with the possible exception of the natural beasts, but let's face it, there isn't a great deal about dogs we didn't already know). From bugbear growth to oni breath weapons, every creature has something bizarre or unusual, often something that can catch characters (and players) unawares. In some cases, where the minutia is actually important, it's detailed (like taming hippogriffs, which is dangerous but highly useful).

Liked: Just about everything. This is the optimal bestiary, with encounter charts and everything, and the entries are perfectly-sized and well-written.

Disliked: I'd like for there to be more stuff in this, but it's a good stack for the price.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dragon Warriors Bestiary
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Dragon Warriors RPG
Publisher: Magnum Opus Press
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/20/2009 21:44:38
This is an excellent game. Although I'm not 100% satisfied with the content, I find it a nice step away from the "MMOs for the tabletop" that fantasy RPGs have been transforming into. The rules are easily-followed, despite not being a unified mechanic, and the classes are versatile while still being well-defined.

Pros: Long-played game with massive fan support (the webpage has links to a lot of the fan support out there). Detailed Medieval setting, with a strong patina of magic and supernatural, but also not a 1-for-1 correlation to real world places or events. Grim setting, but not absurdly so (as in many other RPGs). Rules play easily, smoothly, and well.

Cons: System may be a turn-off for some modern gamers. Setting may be a turn-off for people used to more sparkly fantasy settings. More importantly, although very detailed the game's detail is a bit lopsided - this isn't too serious, but there are a few somewhat annoying thin spots in the details of the setting. The fan support covers many of these, but it's still a bit obnoxious.

Overall Satisfaction: High, but not the highest.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dragon Warriors RPG
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Metamorphosis Alpha 4th Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/29/2008 00:37:39
This is a particularly sweet book. It is a particularly enjoyable return to the Starship Warden. Although the setting is revised from the original 1st edition, it is really easy to adapt in either direction. The rules revisions and expansions only add and take nothing away. Although I am more of a fan of the original 1st edition setting, the overall work builds on the strengths of the original.

The style of game might not be for everybody, however. Characters are quite flimsy in this setting - this is not new to Metamorphosis Alpha, however, so fans of the original should not be startled. Players who are over-attached to their character's needn't get this book, but if a fun death is as great as a fun life in a character for you, then welcome aboard (the wolfoids will love you).

New players should approach this game if they enjoy survival-type games (without the "horror" element), and are able to suspend disbelief (radiation produces not-quite-X-Man mutations, mutant badgers conquer plots of land, and a tree might well be the most cunning, vicious, and versatile villain in your campaign). If this is the case, then the game is nothing but fun from beginning to end.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Metamorphosis Alpha 4th Edition
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Publisher Reply:
Edmund, Thanks for the kind words. We are glad that you are enjoying the book, and hope to release more material that you will enjoy just as much over the next year or so. Craig J. Brain WardCo.
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/05/2008 03:21:43
This product is all that, though it lacks a bag of chips (even for the reasonable price, less than 50 pages does not earn a bag of chips). The original Metamorphosis Alpha setting has not been emulated in the newer editions per se (currently on its 4th edition, and a very worthy book that is to get, though unavailable in PDF), rather presenting an alternate Warden whose population are a lot closer to being original crew. Thus, for the data on the original setting, devoid of aliens and other colony ships, this is the thing.

The rules set is still workable, although even with errata it's bare bones. This was actually standard fare at the time, the idea being that you would do most of the creation of the ship yourself on the fly as you play/run the game, using the brief notes on each of the decks of the ship, all of its technologies, etc., and fleshing it out. Dragon magazine articles (available online at www.metamorphosisalpha.com, as opposed to www.metamorphosisalpha.net which is the official website) gave notes on androids, rules for robot PCs, and a whole host of other tasty elements.

This setting is, to me, superior to the new 4th ed one. Although the alien plotline in itself is fun, the change of making PCs who are technologically semi-literate and historically aware, even if addled or debased, doesn't convey the original feel of the game. Playing or running this original version of the game, and reading the text, is like reading an existentialist novel, only it lacks the pretention or heavy-handed morality play. That in itself is worth gold to anybody who likes to mix dramatic roleplay with dungeon crawling goodness, such as any long-time fan of D&D settings like Ravenloft or Dark Sun.

The game itself is better than good, and although the older mechanics have a number of dings and breaks, it's all good fare.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
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Publisher Reply:
Edmund, Thanks for the kind words. I'll make sure that Jim Ward sees this review. Warmest regards, Craig J. Brain WardCo.
Aberrant d20
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Edmund W.
Date Added: 12/27/2005 06:21:11
Let me make one thing clear first - as good a game as Aberrant storyteller is, the system is in fact far stronger in its retrofit to D20, bass-ackwards as this sounds. The D20 version is actually more dynamic, more internally-balancing, and is a lot more accessible than the storyteller version.

Exception: The Taint rules are clunky. Not horribly so, but clunky. Not difficult to fix, but needing fixing.

Settingwise, nothing is changed from storyteller. Literally, the huge setting section at the beginning of the book is pure reprint. I have always been a fan of the reversal of the X-Men motif, where the societal hell of being a demigod is being a media icon.

If you like Aberrant storyteller and like D20, this is the product for you. Also: the Nova powers rules are OGC, if you look at the declaration in front (at least in my version). The really dynamic powers system alone goes far towards being worth the cost to purchase.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Aberrant d20
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Masterwork Characters: Secrets of the Squirrel
Publisher: Clockwork Golem Workshop
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/19/2005 00:00:00
While this is a cute little supplement, it can also be re-tasked to serious purpose. Many of the traits are useful and valuable in other settings (though, perhaps you need to ditch the squrrel bit).

Personally, I'm waiting for somebody to really, seriously look at the totem animals of older religions. You'd find your owls and your wolves, but you'd also find rats, squirrels, raccoons, and geckos. They were, indeed, far more common than most. Having been born in the year of the (explitives deleted) goat, I'd love for somebody to take a more serious look at the animal kingdom in its entirety.

Be that as it may, even slightly tongue-in-cheek it is a useful source. The "nut storm" spell, with a bit of re-writing, could make a good double-purpose spell. Mire your foes in nuts, fruits, and leaves, slay them, AND have your next meal. Just wipe the blood off.


LIKED: It was fun, and had a number of minor gems. Although the Masterwork Characters set is not known for great editing or layout, it works well, and Secrets of the Squirrel works exactly as advertized.

DISLIKED: Really, it was all okay. However, the product was written to be funny-but-playable, and I would have much preferred "simply playable".

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Masterwork Characters: Secrets of the Squirrel
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NARRATIVE COMBAT: Story Driven Action For D20
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/19/2005 00:00:00
This system is not as complicated as it first appears. The reason why it appears conplicated is that the rules are vast in their order of abstraction. Enemies are defined by how many damage dice are required to slay them (they don't distinguish die types in this system), and how much damage they do to you per round. The entire system is so vastly abstract that combat looses much of the immediacy of description. Indeed, many aspects of the system, such as the fact that flat damage bonuses are ignored as are many incidental benefits, such as movement and reach, are deemed irrelevant except maybe in certain situations.

I also question the "template" system for actions. They claim to encompass the bredth of combat actions. I find it a bit whip-stitch and a bit limiting, and far, far too abstract.


LIKED: ...honestly, the system has certain merit, but it is outweighed by the flaws inherent. The schneezy graphics were actually kinda cool. Honestly, this started from good potential, but it took that potential in the wrong direction and too far there.

DISLIKED: Abstraction, limiting, and oversimplifying. While I was looking for a more broken-down combat system, this took it far beyond anything I wanted.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Disappointed


Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
NARRATIVE COMBAT: Story Driven Action For D20
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After Sunset -- Werewolves
Publisher: Clockwork Golem Workshop
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/12/2005 00:00:00
This is a great, if short, supplement. It doesn't exactly depower werewolves, rather it gives them access to powers as they gain levels. It is entirely intended for Modern, but the werewolf class can easily be re-designed for Fantasy (or Future) without much tinkering at all.


LIKED: Works as advertized.

DISLIKED: A bit thin and specialized. How about other werebeasts? What if I want to play a wereboar, wereeagle, werefox, or wereshark (each of which I have played in various games)? Using them with this supplement may require a good deal of tinkering, YMMV.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
After Sunset -- Werewolves
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How Archaic Things Work
Publisher: Emerald Press
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/21/2005 00:00:00
This is a really great series of thumbnail texts about how certain grassroots technologies work. While the wheel is included on the list, others are items that you should but don't hear about. It puts the lie to a lot of people who think mideval or pre-mideval technology was "primitive".


LIKED: Good thumbnail sketches of each technology.

DISLIKED: This isn't truly a complaint, more a comment. If you know anything about ancient technologies already (as I do), you almost don't need this book at all. While the smelting forge was something I knew very little about, many of the things they included were well known to me already. Really, you shouldn't get this product if you look at the list of things they cover and continuously go, "Oh, yeah, I know what that is."

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
How Archaic Things Work
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Publisher Reply:
There is an index in the demo version of the product, but we'll work on making a complete list and provide a revision for everyone.
Terminal Identity: Uplink 1.0
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/21/2005 00:00:00
This is essentially a review of four products, so I'm forced to overview. This is a series of supplements for D20 that are designed to convert D20 Future into a good cyberpunk setting. It includes a number of useful and often-overlooked style-guide point, lots of neat options, and a number of new takes that even I hadn't thought of.

Posthuman adds two additional types of human augmentations besides the simple biocybernetic. While I'm not sure of the degree of nanotech development they're presenting, it is overall a great source. What I like about it is that it isn't just "cybernetics with funny coatings". The Posthuman class is sort of an iffy pick. Most of the special benefits you can get out of it I would prefer to have has gadget add-ons to augmentations.

Netspace contains the only hacking/computer world rules that truly emulate the William Gibsonian cyberpunk. 'Nuff said. Warning: If you don't LIKE that style, you won't like this product. I don't think that's a bad thing, but it does go DEEP into style.

Black Market is an excellent source for bringing style back into the cyberpunk, with neat items that emulate the slick feel of cyberpunk tech and a few interesting little side-notes about things like corporate brand logos and their importance to the game world.

Tactical Implant does for cyberpunk practically everything you'd hope. It presents cyborgs as the versitile street warriors they should be, and not plotting robots with meaty little brains in their soggy little skulls. It also details some truly sweet rules on memetic engineering (look it up), and on morale as an ablative damage score.


LIKED: Very slick. Very cyberpunk. It fits the genre like a tailored glove to a hand.

DISLIKED: Editing and layout aren't to my tastes. The art was, at worst, only okay (but sometimes really cool).

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Terminal Identity: Uplink 1.0
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Dryden: Hero or Horror
Publisher: Ancient Awakenings Publications
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/12/2005 00:00:00
It's a lot more tasteful than the disclaimer would seem to indicate. Mind, that isn't a complaint. It is an interesting product, one with a great deal more potential than is fully explored. Again, that isn't entirely a complaint. The Dryden can be used in any number of different ways, and a few minor tinkers can add exponential possibilities, as can developing a few alternative interpretations to the Dryden's existence.

LIKED: Rather than presenting an idea, it presents a concepts and has several ideas about the concept.
It is, in point of fact, a product I wouldn't be too put off by my nephew reading (though given the sidebar graphic I wouldn't let him read the printer un-friendly version).

DISLIKED: A little lethargic on the content that would be useful to all readers.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dryden: Hero or Horror
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BlackHammer Tech - Shape-Memory Polymers
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/12/2005 00:00:00
This is more of a toy than a major product, but as toys go it's really nifty. I disagree with many of the tech level assumptions made, but that's an argument I have with the D20 Future system more than anything else. Buy this product if you have some extra cash to spare and are fairly interested.

LIKED: It was fun, and a nice idea probe.

DISLIKED: It was a toy. Toys are fun, and all, but they don't pay the bills.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
BlackHammer Tech - Shape-Memory Polymers
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Lions Den Press: The Iconic Bestiary -- Classics of Fantasy
Publisher: Lion's Den Press
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/12/2005 00:00:00
This e-book is well worth the cost of minting. The "new takes on some old takes" kitch biz aside, this is a damn good rethink on a lot of old trieds-and-trues. Some are virtually identical (or, in the case of the demonic-things-with-random-physical-features, identically dissimilar) to their originals, and others have enough new stuff to reinvigorate old obsessions (as with me and the snake-people-of-varying-proportions-of-snake-and-human).
-

LIKED: To quote the line, it was "old skool". It created new monsters (and honestly new, at that, such as with the Greymalkin) while creating the same level of evocative feel that many of the old AD&D "style monsters" evoked.

DISLIKED: I'm not quite happy with all of the directions they took, but none of those things is irreperable.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lions Den Press: The Iconic Bestiary -- Classics of Fantasy
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All Fall Down by Philip Reed
Publisher: Ronin Arts
by Edmund W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/12/2005 00:00:00
A quirky and creepy game, no doubt. Doubly so for the way in which the subject matter is presented. It was, however, a bit lethargic content-wise.

LIKED: Cold chills reading it.

DISLIKED: Not enough cold chills due to not a lot of content.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
All Fall Down by Philip Reed
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