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Adventurers!
Publisher: GRAmel
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/15/2014 23:45:24
This is my first real experience with a micro RPG. I've always enjoyed lighter rulesets where player creativity and DM flexibility are what allowed a game to really shine and take on the characteristics of those playing. This game seems to be completely in tune with that aesthetic. Oh, and it's really good too. I'm utterly baffled at how focused it is. It really does cover 90% of what I want in an RPG. I love the combat resolution mechanic (think a streamline version of Dungeon World) as well as the simplicity of heroic points and team assistance. He's taken cumbersome and baffling skill rules from D20 games and made them sensible in just a few lines. Skill challenges, something that was boring and mechanically tedious in 4E are here, streamlined and improved to the point of being usable in just 6 lines. A fully functional gameplay reward system is implemented in 3 lines. I'm sitting there writing this review and looking at my multiple shelves chock full of RPG hardbacks and wondering, "Do I even need these anymore?".

My only two issues/questions are these.
1. Monsters don't seem to conform to the same calculations as far as Attack, Defense and Endurance math. Not sure if that's intentional but I think it must be.
2. The example given for how to calculate your attack stat based on your core stats and weapons seems off, or I'm not understanding it. It lists a character with 3 agility wielding a dagger having an attack of 2. But I don't understand where that came from as it states that when using a dagger, your attack stack is that same as your agility stat. Maybe just a typo or I misunderstand something.

I will probably use this ruleset for game nights where some of the group are missing. But I could honestly see myself playing an entire campaign using this ruleset. I can't wait for the micro settings and adventures. You can bet I'll be buying them immediately. At less than $2, this product is a steal. An absolute steal.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurers!
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks Micheal for your review. The answers to your questions are: 1)Monsters don\'t have to conform to player character\'s rules. 2)It is an error. Dagger should have 3. Point 1 is clarified and point 2 is corrected in a new version of the file we\'ll update soon (you\'ll get a notification from the store of the change). My bests Umberto
Ambition & Avarice: 1st Edition
Publisher: Chubby Funster
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/02/2014 00:17:03
The other reviews do a great job of listing the awesomeness of this ruleset so I'll just list what I love about it personally.
1. Feels totally compatible with my old school D&D rules. I thin you could run this with almost no conversion, other than ascending AC.
2. I love the way the rules tie to the gaming philosophy. It's just the right combination of old school values (The game is more fun when real chances of failure exist with significant costs of failure) and new school, play it how you want.
3. The way classes give you skills and races give you saves is elegant and something I've thought about for years. Nice to see it in print.
4. The DM advice is clean and concise and WILL have you running a better game. It's mostly stuff we all know but it's presented in a way that will make it VERY easy to think about and make positive improvements to your game prep.
5. The entire game is in a small book. You need nothing else.
6. All your old monster books will work with it.

Now the bad. Or at least the stuff I didn't think would make my game work better.
1. There seems to be no basic fighter class. Was kind of put off by that. But, just use a fighter from some other old retro and you'll be fine.
2. Each class gets a way to add henchmen. Very cool. But you get an extra henchmen (or the ability to get one) EVERY SINGLE LEVEL! I can't imagine the game wouldn't get cumbersome by level 10 with 5 players all managing up to 10 henchmen. Seems that is what the game would be at that point. Maybe that would be awesome? Maybe it would be painfully tedious?
Overall I love this ruleset!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ambition & Avarice: 1st Edition
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Dungeon World
Publisher: Sage Kobold Productions
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/16/2013 23:13:22
This game is almost exactly what I was looking for. And I didn't even know it. It's a ruleset that was designed to play the way I had been hacking other versions of D&D to play for decades. I've said in the past, Castles & Crusades is the best version of D&D ever written. Well, this game is probably the best non-D&D iteration I've seen. Unlike C&C that looks feels and smells like classic AD&D, but with all the pointy bits filed smooth, this game plays just like you remember D&D playing when you were 10 years old, because, well you had no idea what the heck you were doing. Other reviewers have done a great job of explaining just how the rules work, how they're unique and why they're fun. So go read those reviews. Then buy this book. (or, avoid the mistake I made, and buy the hardback first, because at the time of this review, it comes with the PDF for free and I think you're going to want a hardcopy if you're like me).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon World
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Interludes: A Brief Expedition to Bluffside for C&C
Publisher: Samurai Sheepdog
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/23/2013 20:54:53
For those who are not familiar, Bluffside is a mini setting originally designed and written for OGL D20 systems. Here is the marketing blurb from 2002:

"Civilization is still picking up the pieces from an asteroid strike hundreds of thousand of years ago. The epicenter? Bluffside. Only 200 years after being rediscovered, Bluffside is a boom town boasting the most precious metal in the known world adamantine. From the ancient ruins, to the vast Undercity, to the floating port of Sordadon, Bluffside: City on the Edge is a city that promises to become the home port for thousands of adventures."

Sounds pretty cool right? I'd certainly want to have an adventure or two there. And in the Castles & Crusades ruleset? Even moreso! Ok, so let's see if this adventure lives up to the promise of both Bluffside the setting and C&C the game.

The adventure starts you off in the small woodland village of Kirkwood. This village lies south of the city of Bluffside along the Coldwind road. This road is long and dangerous as the woods are crawling with nasties such as, Orcs Rakers (the Bluffside version of Goblins) and Rippers (the trained wolves they ride on). Unfortunately, the background on the Rakers and Rippers are not present. The module refers us to the setting book for Bluffside, which, to my knowledge has not yet been converted to C&C. Were you to own the D20 version, you'd probably be just fine. Regardless, it's a quibble because how different can Goblins and their wolves be from traditional fantasy versions?

So, you arrive at the Hamlet and in traditional D&D fashion, a kidnapping is brought to your attention. Investigation and Roleplay opportunities abound in this portion of the module. You're tasked with identifying, locating and apprehending the villains and unlocking the mystery of why it happened in the first place. There is a nice plot twist and several points of resolution that reward smart play, rather than a purely hack-n-slash approach. Although hack-n-slash is still viable. I really appreciate this in an adventure. You can push forward by the point of your sword but outcomes will be messier, as they should be. I like adventures with this kind of sensibility.

It wraps up nicely with a multilayered conclusion, a solid final battle and a story that wants to pull you forward, into Bluffside proper. I say Bluffside proper because despite what one might think from the title, the adventure is only loosely taking place in Bluffside. It's kind of on the outskirts of Bluffside as I understand it. More specifically, the wilds surrounding the city of Bluffside.

The downside of this, obviously, is that by playing the adventure, you still don't get a strong idea of what the Bluffside setting is all about. The upside though, is that it makes the adventure very portable. You could easily implant it in most any traditional D&D or fantasy setting. It would serve as a good bridge from your existing fantasy setting into the Bluffside setting.

The PDF is 42 pages long, including the usual OGL proclamations. It also includes 7 indexes covering things from NPCs (there are many!), new enemies, spells, player handouts, local poison and even a class. The story is well put together and the adventure provides ample background information for groups of players who like to talk to everyone in town. It also provides lots of rumors and something they call "hooks" for pretty much every NPC. I would describe them more as motivations though, than hooks. Perhaps one could use those motivations to create what is more traditionally thought of as hooks, those being bits of story that grab the players and require some action on their part to resolve. These hooks are really more to help you roleplay the NPCs. So, despite the odd application of the term, they are VERY helpful in running the adventure and getting a feel for the place and its inhabitants.

The artwork is somewhat sparse however there is a nice traditional piece showing a male warrior and female fighter/magic-user of some sort. The maps are probably the weakest part of the adventure. They are very rudimentary and blocky. The regional map is better but the others feel like they're out of an 8 bit video game, rather than a fantasy literary adventure. It's a quibble but it's worth noting for those who really enjoy cartography.

My main gripes with the adventure are mostly all along the same lines. There are lots of references to things that it is assumed the player knows about the setting, in particular about the monster ecology and stats. But most of that information is not present. There are actually very few stats for encounters. There is generally a small paragraph about tactics and one can find stats for important NPCs and enemies in the appendix, but you're given very little information on what the unnamed enemies can do mechanically. To be fair, if you are willing to pull straight from C&C monster books, you'll be just fine. But plan to do that when you run this one. In particular, there was one area: BASEMENT 9: GUARD POST. The description reads "The goblins in this room are playing at cards and aren’t paying much attention to you." But it never mentions how many goblins there are, if they are armed or what. Perhaps the author assumes you'll sneak by? Anyway, there are a few oddities like this throughout. Nothing earth shattering, but it could use a little polish.

Over all, I think it's a simple and solid entry level adventure. It's not breaking new ground for the genre but few low level adventures do. I think a group with new players or a new DM would be well served by running this adventure. It's the perfect level of complexity (low) for a group that is still sorting out a ruleset, in this case, Castles & Crusades. If you've got years of experience under your belt and C&C is old hat to you, this adventure might not scratch the itch, but if you're looking for a reason to take a group into Bluffside, this would start such a campaign nicely. For $5 at RPGNow, it's hard not to recommend it for such gamers.

If you are interested in Bluffside, I'd also bring your attention to Bluffside: Right Under Our Noses, another Bluffside related adventure for Castles & Crusades, currently free on RPGNow. Between to the two of them, you'd surely have what you need to get a Bluffside campaign started off right.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Interludes: A Brief Expedition to Bluffside for C&C
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Adventurer Conqueror King System
Publisher: Autarch
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/03/2012 13:50:22
Adventurer Conqueror King System or ACKS as it's becoming known is one of those pleasant surprises you always hope for when you download a PDF, (in particular a new ruleset) from RPGNow. The key to this system is present in it's title. The design is such that you begin your characters life as a budding Adventurer, seeking fame, fortune and the like. As you gain those, you graduate on to what might be called a conqueror as you begin to tame and settle borderlands or even conquer existing domains. This leads to a growth phase where much of the game revolves (or rather, CAN revolve) around building a mighty kingdom.

But what does all this mean? Well, to put it simply, Alex Macris and crew have done a wonderful job of adapting Labyrinth Lord to a game where dungeon craws slowly get replaced with something of a SimCity/Civilization ruleset. And, to my pleasant surprise, it seems to work really well.

The game has support for 14 levels and honestly I'd say that's all you need. It has about a dozen classes, include the 4 core classes and some interesting non-core. Most align nicely with what you'd expect but a couple are interesting takes on iconic fantasy archetypes. For example, the Blade Dancer, a female human cleric type class has a lot of interesting potential. Yes, I did say that correctly. Race, (in this case, human) and even gender can be tied to class. This means a bit of class bloat potential (elven cleric/dwarven cleric/human cleric/being 3 classes etc) but it also means that they can have a singularly simple and elegant proficiency system that allows each class to customize their character. The foundation of this is having 2 proficiency pools. You get a class pool of proficiencies (skills and feats) and a general pool. There is a lot of overlap between the two. So lets say you want to play a fighter who also likes to perform. Rather than being forced to play a Bard, you can take the Perform proficiency because it exists in both the Bard class proficiency pool as well as the General Proficiency pool. You get to choose several proficiencies, some from each pool at various points in your career. This allows you to double down on your class by taking class proficiencies, even from the General pool or to be a jack of all trades by taking as many non-class proficiencies as your heart desires.

Summary: If you want to start slowly with a serious world building ruleset where total domination is the ultimate goal, this is the place to do it. You'll get 5-8 levels of more or less comfortable Labyrinth Lord style gameplay (including VERY simply conversion of LL modules and content) and then move into the medieval equivalent of Civilization the RPG at your own pace, or not at all if the LL spin off seem appropriate. The really nice part is that the end game varies greatly based on class. If you are a fighter type, you'll want to start a domain and take over towns and cities and tax the goods traded within your borders. If you're a cleric type, you'll want to start a church and build a massive congregation which will grant you increasing power from your deity. If you're an Explorer (think: Ranger) you'll want to build a Wilderness Outpost and tame the borderlands to increase the size of a Kingdom. Elves build Fastnesses, Dwarves - Vaults, Thieves and Assassins - Hideouts and Guilds. The potential here is immense. I can only imagine the bedlam that might ensue as a Cleric starts trying to build a church in the same town where an Assassin is attempting to build his hideout. The opportunity for epic gamesmanship unlike we're used to in typical fantasy RPGs is staggering.

They're currently developing an Advanced Compendium (as of 5/4/12). It looks to include quite a few new classes and a couple of new races along with over 100 new templates, which is the ACKS way of delivering rapid character design and customization. Want your Fighter to be like Lancelot? There's probably a template for that. It will auto-assign the proficiencies so that you get the feel without having to read every single one and compare them. BUT if you're a munchkin who just loves doing that, the system supports you nicely as well.

My hat is off to Alex, Greg and Tavis.

Also of note: After ordering the PDF, I decided to grab a hardcopy as well. There is a discount on the hardcopy with a coupon code found in the PDF, making the PDF essentially FREE! That's a great deal right there. Lastly, the forums, while not overly abundant with traffic, are quite friendly and the principals frequent them almost daily so if you are one who likes to engage directly with the designers, this system is perfect for you.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurer Conqueror King System
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Lands of Darkness #4: The Swamp of Timbermoor
Publisher: Expeditious Retreat Press
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/19/2011 15:06:15
My initial reaction was one of disappointment as I thought this would be more of an adventure but then I realized that misunderstanding was totally my own fault.

For what it is, this is a pretty good product. It's simply a collection of unrelated encounters that take place in a single geographical setting, in this case a swamp.

The encounters are simply but worth looking at. They provide a couple of very basic hooks to give you a reason to go in the swamp. One of them is that a local person hires the group to go retrieve a statue of a frog. Would have liked something a bit more original, but that's ok.

The one thing that is good AND bad about this product is that one of the 10 or so encounters that is included offers a quest that involves going to another encounter location and bringing something back so it's potentially more than just a combat encounter. I really like this idea of tying the encounters together with some roleplay interaction and some combat I don't need it to be one big adventure but smaller related bundles of encounters would have been fantastic. If they had done this for every encounter (or at least half of them so that each encounter was linked to another), I would gladly give this 4 stars. As it is, I kind of grudgingly give it 4 stars because even though they missed some opportunities, I think that pretty much any DM could grab one of these encounters and run it stock with zero prep and I appreciate that.

I also like that the encounters are scaled for you so you know what to place for each of the levels in the range. The maps were incredibly basic, in some cases, just a couple of lines on a grid. Had they unified the encounters a bit more, punched up the maps a bit and offered more than a cursory throw away hook, this could have gotten 5 stars.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lands of Darkness #4: The Swamp of Timbermoor
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Castles & Crusades U1 Shadows of the Halfling Hall
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Michael B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/19/2011 13:29:20
Vital Statistics: Shadows of The Halfling Hall is an adventure written for the Castles & Crusades RPG by Mike Stewart for characters of Level 1-3 with a challenge level of 0-1. This last part means it’s right in line with what Level 1-3 characters should be able to do. Not too hard but not too easy. I downloaded it as part of a larger C&C module bundle. It is 24 pages long, includes 5 keyed maps (although based on my reading, one may be missing from the PDF that I think may have been present on the inside cover) and 3 very interesting new monster types. The adventure is well written in clear and concise narrative format (meaning you can read it from cover to cover and get the gist of the story). While simple, it’s still an enjoyable read. Modules written in this voice are always nice to prep for because you don’t have to jump around so much for it to make sense. There are a few typos, but not as many as most TLG products. There is also one possible mathematical error where a lockbox is said to have a lock set by a 3rd level rogue, which it decrees as CL18 when I think it should be CL3, meaning there is an additional 3 added to the Challenge Base of either 12 or 18 for a total of Challenge Class 15 or 21. Other than those, the adventure reads nice and smooth.

If you’ve ever read any of the first edition AD&D modules or even the early basic D&D modules, you’ll be immediately familiar with how the adventure is laid out. It starts with a basic plot outline and then goes into nice detail on the NPCs. Their motivations and concerns are given as well as how they may react to certain actions by the PCs. It is all written with the assumption that NPCs encountered will be involved in significant roleplay scenes. There are actually quite a few NPCs. Lots of people for the group to talk to and ask questions. The storyline is a bit of a mystery that needs solving (see below for a spoiler free explanation) and so I would expect much of this adventure to be investigation. If your group isn’t into investigation, this module will still work nicely but you’ll lose a fair bit of the content that it includes, which for the price, is still a good value.

The keyed maps I mentioned are not strictly the graph paper style of old but would work fine drawn on a grid or not. They are not designed for minis but rather as a point of reference for description via both exploration or combat. They are simple enough that hand drawing them in a larger format will be quite easily accomplished. One of the beauties of C&C combat is that it doesn’t require minis or a battle mat, but will work fine with both if that’s what you choose.

Spoiler Free Story summary:

In Shadows of The Halfling Hall, the party finds themselves in the halfling canton of New Briar. One of the more prominent residents of the town, Willic Brambletoe, recently threw a party to celebrate the completion of his new home (a hobbit hole of course). However, after the party, no one was seen again. Now, it is up to the group of adventurers to find out what happened to the revelers. This will involve investigation with townspeople, family members, and even friends (and enemies) of the missing halflings. There’s a lot to learn in this little town and every inhabitant has some small piece of the story. Quite pleasingly, the author does a great job of naming the halflings according to Tolkeinian norms. Some names include Merin Fireheel, Josephus Longbottom, Gwynnd Knucklefoot, and most interestingly, Kyann Scarytoe. (Note to DM: If you don’t do something interesting with Kyann Scarytoe, you’re simply not doing this module justice)

Eventually, the party will work their way to the newly finished home of Willic Brambletoe. What they find there and what they’ve learned in their investigation will lead to some pretty interesting adventures as they start to put all the pieces together.

Start of slight spoiler….

As they investigate the scene of the “event” they’ll learn lots of interesting things about people in the village as well as how the new home was constructed. It will end in a relatively short dungeon crawl as they get to the bottom of things (pun intended). The final showdown is pretty interesting and should have low level players on the edge of their seats. Death is a risk in this adventure as it is in most old-school games.

End of slight spoiler…

Ultimately, I’d qualify this short adventure as a success on multiple levels. I think it does a good job of introducing new gamers to how the C&C ruleset treats the world, including the interactions between the residents of the world and the PCs. Secondly, I think it does a good job of offering an interesting story that is of an appropriate scale for new players and dungeon masters. One thing that I like about more classic systems and adventures is the scale. Everything feels more personal. Perhaps you’re not saving the world, or an entire nation, but instead you’re saving a village, or a friend, or someones loved one. The scale is smaller and more palpable. Shadows of The Halfling Hall does a great job of capturing this spirit. If you have a group ready to play C&C, this would be as good a place to start as any. With a small amount of work, it could also be a very good Halloween adventure. By adding a bit more strangeness and suspicion to the NPCs and a little more spider webs and fog toward the end of the adventure, it could really work great as a Halloween special.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades U1 Shadows of the Halfling Hall
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