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Dark Heresy: The Black Sepulcher
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/18/2011 18:42:54
This is the reason why I think that Fantasy Flight Games is the current powerhouse in the industry. I am seriously amazed every time that I open one of their books. The artwork and layout are always top-notch and serves to enhance the game, which is incredibly important when dealing with xenos beasts and technology - a good, detailed picture is a GMs best friend.
The writing continues be be as strong as ever; consistently proving that they are as invested in this game world as any wargamer - but bringing to the table fresh new elements that make this more than simply narrative wargaming.

'The Black Sepulchre' is an all-round excellent module. It kicks into high gear with one of my favourite 40K vehicles in a first scene starring role and it captures the immediate excitement and action very well. The module is well-paced, moving from high-intensity action and combat, to occult investigation, to horror and possible insanity all in the same storyline.
There are very helpful 'Troubleshooting' sections which provide advice for scaling, keeping characters on track, and even ways to weave this story into a much larger arc.

The 'big reveal' will be breath-taking for your players, especially if they figure it out by themselves (and this is supported in the game text) and sets the stage at the epic level you'd expect from 40K.

Whilst designed for all levels of 'Dark Heresy', you could easily run this with either 'Rogue Trader' or 'Deathwatch' with a little work.

I cannot wait for the next two installments as the bar has been set so high with this product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: The Black Sepulcher
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Deathwatch: Game Master's Kit
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2011 07:40:44
The GM Kit provides an excellent introductory adventure for Deathwatch. It gives some additional information on the Watch Fortress Erioch and some key NPCs to flesh out your own depictions of this location. There is scant more detail on the Omega Vault, but it takes centre stage in the first scene - for me, I'm hungry for as much information on this device as I can get. It offers almost unlimited levels of creepiness for the 40K universe.

The module is great and pits you against a reasonable foe, with enough techno-supernatural blend to the mystery to mark it as keenly 40K. Te objectives are challenging, yet achievable, and the battles are frequent enough to allow the action to punctuate the drama nicely.

The last section on Mission Construction is very helpful, providing a wealth of advice about how all of the elements can be drawn together to create something greater than the sum of it's parts. There is a small among of discussion about theme, and my one complaint is that this was far too short. Ere needed to be a more fulsome segment on themes, given that the 40K universe has no immediate parallels with any other genre. Perhaps it has already Ben flagged for expansion in another supplement.

There are some neat tidbits of information scattered through the book too, such as stats for Landspeeders and Thunderhawks, as well as armament stats for both vehicles and some new Xenos equipment.

Just keep in mind that despite the extra info, this is a module, so the use is limited to th couple of times you're likely to use it. Given the recent reduction in price, I'd recommend it's purchase.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deathwatch: Game Master's Kit
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Mage Chronicler's Guide
Publisher: White Wolf
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2011 07:08:36
The 'Chroniclers Guide' is indicative of the toolbox approach that White Wolf seem to be taking with a lot of their recent products. Your mileage is going to vary significantly with this title, but the four star rating represents the breadth of uses for the material. Different groups should find at least one section that aligns with their preferred play style, but I'd advise against skimming the book. There is a lot of detail here, and some of the sections can be incredibly dense.
There are a range of alternate styles for Mage Chronicles but they aren't going to be to everyone's tastes. However, it is easy to cherry pick ideas and plot devices from all chapters. The writing is uniformly good, although the artwork is the usual mishmash of quality.

The section of styles offered did fire my imagination. The Noir section was very cool, especially as I've been on a Dresden kick for a while, but you'll be able to play almost anything from here. Second section deals with some of the variant magical systems, which gives players a chance to really develop a personal style, and build a strong paradigm (for those of you who like Ascension). I'll be using the Weird Science section in my next game. Lastly, there are some insights into the developers own chronicles and their highpoints. These designers notes are really interesting as you see how the games designers reshape the product line to suit their needs. Again, a huge number of ideas just waiting to be stolen - er, reworked and attributed.

Products like this are difficult to review, because what works for me and my group may not work for yours. This is worth the price, even if you are running Old World of Darkness. On a final note, the Epilogue bears some careful reading as it provides some ambiguous discussion on the future of the White Wolf product line. Read it and speculate at your own peril - I won't say any more.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mage Chronicler's Guide
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Smallville Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2011 06:46:08
It is incredibly rare to see what can honestly be described as unique. Really a lot of RPGs on the market are simply twists on a common theme and the rules sets aren't revolutionary. Enter 'Smallville'.
Smallville's genius lies in a number of elements that I have not seen replicated in other systems. Firstly, there is the collaborative nature of character creation. I've always argued that this step of getting a group together should be done -as a group- and 'Smallville' makes it mandatory. The reason for this is the second point of brilliance - the whole game is hinged on relationships, and it makes perfect sense. In the DC Universe, relationships make the stories more engaging, and importantly they make superheroes more human. The way in which all of these heroes relate to the people around them builds drama, creates plot and drives character development. 'Smallville' give you the tools to make the way a character relates to their own group, and the wider world actually matter.

Want to take on Superman in his Fortress of Solitude? Fine, but he feels confident enough to have a home ground advantage, and the rules reflect this. Has Oliver Queen had an argument with Dinah? Will this play on his mind and knock off his aim in the next crucial combat? You bet. Will Clarke show mercy to Zod because he believes he can be redeemed? Definitely.

The one point I cannot over-emphasise is how good their social rules truly are. The character creation builds on the relationships with other team members (and a slightly larger cast too) and is extremely open-ended. The players imaginations fill in the 'white space' that the rules-set calls for, and the game mechanics give the players the opportunity to let their creativity really kick in. However, as this is intrinsically group-based, you will need to invest at least one evening of play into the character creation process. It cannot be rushed if you expect this game to pay dividends.

If your group likes team play they need to give this game a go. Make everyone read through the main rulebook, as it contains lots of good advice about playing as a team. It is one of the few books that I've seen that gives explicit advice on how to be a team player and how to give the spotlight to other people in your group. Furthermore, it gives advice on supporting the success of other players - something I've not seen before.

The last point that you need to consider is that the game supports multi-power-level play. It can accommodate Jimmy Olsen, Lois, Green Arrow and Superman in a single party - each person has skills and advantages which are unique and the relationships forged by all the characters give them all a reason to be and something positive to contribute.

Bottom line - this is an exciting game with plenty of creative opportunities. Even if you aren't a fan of the show, or of the DC Universe, pick this book up just based on how good the system is.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Smallville Roleplaying Game
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Paths of Storytelling: Vampire (Full-Featured PDF)
Publisher: White Wolf
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2011 04:47:08
Aside from the fact that this is an April Fool's Day product, there is a certain perversity to the product. An awful lot of work has gone into designing the book, and the 0.99c price tag is worth it just based on the strong novelty factor.
This is essentially a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' story for Vampire; the Masquerade, hence my use of the word 'perverse'. The very idea of shoehorning the Storyteller System into this type of format is the antithesis of what White Wolf stands for, in my opinion. Most basic rulebooks have a similar set-up to demonstrate the type of play experience that you can expect from the system (reminiscent of the old Red Box D&D intro), but this format wouldn't have worked as a serious proposition.

However, you have to read this as a novelty product, and as such it is quirky and enjoyable. And who knows - you might grab some plot points for your next game. Well worth investing less than a dollar and an afternoon of reading.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Paths of Storytelling: Vampire (Full-Featured PDF)
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Shadowrun: Horizon Adventure 1:A Fistful of Credsticks
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/03/2011 23:57:06
Fistful of Credsticks is a good intro to what will be a trilogy of modules in the wake of the Horizon Corporations ascent to AAA status. The modules does state that they can be played separately, or together and in any order - which will be interesting to test out.

The module is well laid out, as I've come to expect from Shadowrun modules. The plot is sophisticated enough to keep veterans interested and can be scaled up or down depending on the power level of the runners and the familiarity with the setting. The NPCs are well-detailed, and the scenes offer compartmentalised information so that the GM can easily find out the varying levels of information required. The story flows logically and is a nice mix of action, intrigue, investigation and social interaction.

The module interested me from the angle that it is providing an in-depth look at how an individual corporation works, and Horizon has enough nuances to set it apart from its competitors. The opportunity to get inside the head of a megacorp isn't to be missed.

Secondly is the way that the recent Shadowrun concepts have been developed. SR has had a history of taking the believable and then twisting it to provide an engaging plot hook. This time, it is social media that has come under the magnifying glass. Take one dose of Facebook, combine with a large dose of YouTube, strain through Augmented Reality and then bake with an online, personalised 'Life Guide' and you'll achieve 'a greater good' - or at least that's the recipe that Horizon is following.

I wouldn't recommend this as a first run as it does require some knowledge of the SR world, and especially about how the technology is all-pervasive. For more experienced groups however, I'd recommend this without hesitation.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Horizon Adventure 1:A Fistful of Credsticks
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Shadowrun: Attitude
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2011 05:33:34
If you're the type of player or GM who really likes to immerse themselves in a game world, then this is the type of product that you'll love.

With extremely limited mechanical information, 'Attitude' focuses on what make the Sixth World tick. The opening chapter runs you through a basic induction for Shadowrunners and has a nice twist that I'm thinking of using as a story idea in my current campaign.

You're then presented with chapters on Trideo, BTL, fashion and music. Each chapter covers the concepts from an in-game perspective, offering examples of current chart-toppers, and runs the gamut of tastes. Ever wanted to know what gothabilly is? Check out the music chapter. Want to know the plot of the latest Trideo shows? That's covered too. The chapter on BTLs is an eye opener and has lots of good ideas for future runs.

However, I found the sports chapter to be the most appealing, especially as Urban Brawl was covered in a little more detail.

There are plenty of nods to the two decades plus history of Shadowrun, with some of the NPCs from the early modules (Dark Angel and Maria Mecurial come to mind) making cameos in the book.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this book for the excellent content. My only two criticisms are the extreme disparities in the quality of the interior artwork; and as I mentioned in my review of 'War!' the writing direction of Catalyst and their obsession with including profanities in the book. I'll repeat my comments here: Shadowrun has a well established language and phrases that cover swearing that still make the books accessible to younger gamers. Ignoring this in favour of real world four-letter words serves no purpose whatsoever.

My personal tastes aside, I loved the book and will be supplementing my PDF with a print copy too.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Attitude
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Shadowrun: Parazoology
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2011 06:27:02
This book works very nicely when combined with 'Paranormal Animals of North America'. At the price, it is worth picking up and the diversity of animals is encouraging. Basically, most environments are covered, and the authors were constrained by only thirty animals.

There are some interesting and quirky animals in here, like the Cactus Cat, and also some incredibly vicious ones that will be a good challenge the next time your runners have gone bush.

My only criticism is that the animals overall lacked any sort of 'wow' factor. They are all conceptually good, and can be included in almost any campaign, but there wasn't anything that was a standout for me.

Still, I would recommend the purchase as the one aspect of the ain rulebook that is a little sparse is the area of paranormal animals. As they can offer some unique play experiences, these critters are worth reading up on.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Parazoology
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Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay: The Creatures Guide
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 01:29:29
Every fantasy setting has an obligatory Monster Manual, Creature Guide, Catalogue or similar, so it is no surprise that Warhammer Fantasy needs one. Given the decades of development that has seen the miniatures range expand for GW, there is certainly no end of creatures to select - but the authors have assembled a discerning list. All the major races are covered, and ancillary beasts are listed with their 'parent' races (ie you'll find Squigs under the entry for Greenskins).
The descriptions of the creatures are quite well-done, and engaging even for a veteran of the wargame. The value-add however, lies in the Story Seeds. For many (but alas, not all) of the monsters a selection of Story Seeds are provided, to kickstart your imagination or give examples of how and where they might be encountered. My only negative comment here is that there doesn't seem to be a pattern to which races/monsters have these seeds and which don't. There were a few omissions which I felt odd - but this is a matter of personal taste.
I'd highly recommend this to WHFRPG players, but also recommend it to anyone looking to spice up their fantasy game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warhammer Fantasy RolePlay: The Creatures Guide
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Valkyrie Anti-Debris Orbital Module
Publisher: Blue Max Studios
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 01:14:27
I have mentioned before how much I love the Blue Max Studios ship plans. The D6 stats for them are incredibly welcome, given that West End Games Star Wars RPG has been out of print for so long. New ships are always a welcome addition in my campaign, and they are able to inject new items to the Star Wars universe - but still remain in theme.

The ship plans come with a full set of deck plans that can be printed and are the right size for miniatures, should you need a room-to-room combat. There are additional notes regarding the history of the vehicle and also how it might fit into a campaign. the Valkyrie Anti-Debris Module does fulfill a very specific role and this alone would be enough to spawn story ideas (I shan't elaborate for those who haven't bought the product).

Well worth the asking price. The only suggestion that I might have is that perhaps Blue Max Studios would consider rolling all of these into a single sourcebook? The designs are so good that I keep purchasing them - but a sourcebook of ships would be more economical.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Valkyrie Anti-Debris Orbital Module
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Ships of the Galaxy: The Monarch Courier
Publisher: Blue Max Studios
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 01:12:10
I have mentioned before how much I love the Blue Max Studios ship plans. The D6 stats for them are incredibly welcome, given that West End Games Star Wars RPG has been out of print for so long. New ships are always a welcome addition in my campaign, and they are able to inject new items to the Star Wars universe - but still remain in theme.

The ship plans come with a full set of deck plans that can be printed and are the right size for miniatures, should you need a room-to-room combat. There are additional notes regarding the history of the vehicle and also how it might fit into a campaign.

The Monarch Courier does fill a nice niche given its size and armaments, but also the fact that it is almost at the luxury end of starships for its size. As such, it would make a good ship for an enterprising smuggler (a more respectable one at least) or as a utility craft for a group of PCs.

Well worth the asking price.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ships of the Galaxy: The Monarch Courier
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No Quarter 33
Publisher: Privateer Press
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 01:05:42
Your reaction to 'No Quarter' is solely dependent on why you think it could be useful. If you are a miniatures player foremost, you'll find the standard array of new miniatures releases, new rules, scenarios and discussion on tactics and army composition to be informative and useful.

Whilst there is a decent amount of tacit information that you glean and extrapolate if you play the 'Iron Kingdoms' RPG, the role-playing line is under supported in the magazine. Whilst you can rely on one article per month, the quality of said article varies wildly. If you are purchasing this to fill the complete void of current product support for the RPG, then be very choosy about which issue you pick up.

If you play both sides of the coin, you'll find something useful every month.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
No Quarter 33
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The Rifter #44
Publisher: Palladium Books
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 01:04:21
Having a long fascination with Rifts, I thought it was finally time to check out 'The Rifter'. After examining three issues to date, I have to say that I like what I've read. The production values are the usual for Palladium (that is to say perfect layout and font for a product published in the 1980's) and the art varies from awesome to incredibly average.
However, the content is the focus. Bearing in mind that the Palladium system tries to cover all genres and styles of play, I expected variety and wasn't disappointed. The beauty here is that the material can be slightly tweaked for any setting - the articles for Fantasy can still be included in Rifts, for example.
Likewise, the real strength here is what it can add to any other game. I've seen material that I'll gladly port into my D&D, Shadowrun and Star Wars games, so this is a really good investment. The NPC write-ups are usually of a good quality with plenty of background information and motivations, so your choice of villains (or henchmen, or allies) for your next game can be as easy as picking up the right issue of 'The Rifter'.

The only caveat is to read the Table of Contents before purchasing. 'The Rifter' does do themed issues from time to time, and if they aren't your cup of tea then it's a wasted purchase.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Rifter #44
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The Rifter #43
Publisher: Palladium Books
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 01:03:38
Having a long fascination with Rifts, I thought it was finally time to check out 'The Rifter'. After examining three issues to date, I have to say that I like what I've read. The production values are the usual for Palladium (that is to say perfect layout and font for a product published in the 1980's) and the art varies from awesome to incredibly average.
However, the content is the focus. Bearing in mind that the Palladium system tries to cover all genres and styles of play, I expected variety and wasn't disappointed. The beauty here is that the material can be slightly tweaked for any setting - the articles for Fantasy can still be included in Rifts, for example.
Likewise, the real strength here is what it can add to any other game. I've seen material that I'll gladly port into my D&D, Shadowrun and Star Wars games, so this is a really good investment. The NPC write-ups are usually of a good quality with plenty of background information and motivations, so your choice of villains (or henchmen, or allies) for your next game can be as easy as picking up the right issue of 'The Rifter'.

The only caveat is to read the Table of Contents before purchasing. 'The Rifter' does do themed issues from time to time, and if they aren't your cup of tea then it's a wasted purchase. I entered this issue with some trepidation, but was pleasantly surprised that the content was not juvenile in nature. I found the characters to be quite useful and will be including them in a few campaigns I have running at the moment.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Rifter #43
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The Rifter #42
Publisher: Palladium Books
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 01:00:57
Having a long fascination with Rifts, I thought it was finally time to check out 'The Rifter'. After examining three issues to date, I have to say that I like what I've read. The production values are the usual for Palladium (that is to say perfect layout and font for a product published in the 1980's) and the art varies from awesome to incredibly average.
However, the content is the focus. Bearing in mind that the Palladium system tries to cover all genres and styles of play, I expected variety and wasn't disappointed. The beauty here is that the material can be slightly tweaked for any setting - the articles for Fantasy can still be included in Rifts, for example.
Likewise, the real strength here is what it can add to any other game. I've seen material that I'll gladly port into my D&D, Shadowrun and Star Wars games, so this is a really good investment. The NPC write-ups are usually of a good quality with plenty of background information and motivations, so your choice of villains (or henchmen, or allies) for your next game can be as easy as picking up the right issue of 'The Rifter'.

The only caveat is to read the Table of Contents before purchasing. 'The Rifter' does do themed issues from time to time, and if they aren't your cup of tea then it's a wasted purchase.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Rifter #42
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