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Dark Sun Campaign Setting (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2014 11:25:54
The Introduction jumps right in, explaining what is unique about the Dark Sun setting. Athas is a dying world, where mere survival is a constant battle... and where any sensible person would concentrate on creating a stable sustainable environment, 'heroes' of course prefer to seek glory. The differences between Athas and more conventional fantasy settings is encapsulated in the Eight Characteristics of Athas - it's a desert planet, most people living there are pretty unpleasant selfish types, metal is scarce, arcane magic caused a lot of the current problems and still does damage if you try to use it, long-lived sorcerer-kings rule city-states as the main centres of power, deities seem to have lost interest in the place, the monsters are deadly, and even 'familiar' races are not quite what one would expect. Handy thumb-nail sketch, which makes me wonder if I actually want to visit... well, I do like deserts! There's a note about the original Dark Sun - published in 1991 by TSR using the AD&D 2e ruleset, and saying that while the timeline has been moved on a little from that portrayed in the original books, this version is a complete rewrite and so what you remember from them may not be the case in this D&D 4e setting.

On to Chapter 1: The World of Athas for the full low-down on what to expect. This setting is so different for other ones that you need to study it carefully to be able to play a native... unless your DM has some innovative idea for bringing characters from another setting in to this world, so that it as strange to your character as it is to you. However you got there - native or immigrant - you're going to be a hero, and so the first part of the chapter discusses what manner of heroes are to be found here and how to carve out your own legend. Quite a few ideas are given both here and further on in the book as to how to both embed your character in Athasian society and empower him for greatness. One notable feature of the place is that psionic abilities are an inherent part of the setting, an integral part of what makes Athas what it is, so if you are not comfortable with using psionics in your game, this may not be the setting for you. While a lack of deities and clerical classes is also an integral part of the setting, a few suggestions are given for those who want to be one of the few god-botherers in the entire world - but you will have to resign yourself to the fact that you may never meet another person who believes in gods at all, let alone your own deity!

Next comes a look at the possibilities for adventure on Athas: as you can imagine there are plenty! Whether tomb-raiding or engaging in courtly intrigue, building a trade empire or earn fame and fortune as a pit-fighter appeals, it's likely that a peculiarly Athasian spin can be put on it; this is certainly a setting ripe with opportunity. While a lot of Athasians are motivated by what's in it for them - and even heroes may have an eye on political advancement, their bank balance or on who is the local bard singing about this week - some rise above personal gain and act out of altruism, even if they prefer to try to do things right - ethical merchants, perhaps - rather than go around righting wrongs. The discussion then moves on to Athasian civilisation and the social order as it stands, and then to the history of the world - what little is known by most people anyway, those sorcerer-kings are not too keen on ordinary people learning to read let alone know how (and by whom) the world has been brought to its present state!

Chapter 2: The Races of Athas both runs through the new world-specific races and gives an Athasian spin to existing playable races. The two new races are the mul and the thri-keeen. Mul are incredibly tough humanoids, a result of mixing human and dwarf. Unsurprisingly, they make excellent fighters... although rather too many folk on Athas think that they make excellent slaves. Thri-kreen are insectoid in nature, experts at hunting and survival, often becoming rangers, druids or monks (perhaps the extra pair of limbs gives an advantage when practising the martial arts?). Character backgrounds - based on race, region or something else - are available to help customise each character, each gives an appropriate minor advantage. Then on to the existing races. Dragonborn, despite popular opinion, are not all slavers and sorcerers, although many practise at least one of these trades. Dwarves are still stoic and single-minded, but tend to earn their living as craftsmen, builders or farmers... and rarely manage much in the way of a beard! Eladrin are rare, haughty folk who are very good at psionics but they have abandoned arcane magic completely. Elves are nomadic traders - often rogues - and travelling entertainers. Goliaths or half-giants tend to be barbarians or fighters. Half-elves tend to be rejected by elves and distrusted by humans, making for a lonely life. Halflings are closely linked to nature, seeing themselves not as individuals but merely part of a whole... and are fierce and savage, regarding just about anybody or anything as a potential resource (or lunch). Humans are as ubiquitous as ever. Tieflings are nomadic raiders, or sell their swords to whomsover needs them. Other races may or may not be available at the DM's discretion, but it is possible to play the sole representative on Athas of just about anything with a plausible story of how you got to be there - planar travel is often a good start, or mutation (possibly assisted along by magical experimentation) or perhaps a member of a race that once lived here but died out, leaving a few in stasis... The chapter ends with some racial paragon paths to aim for.

Chapter 3 is titled Character Themes, and its purpose is to introduce a new option for building characters. Your 'theme' is a calling or vocation, a concept that might be met by a variety of routes, different classes or skillsets, something that defines you. It goes beyond race and class, ehancing those basic definitions to explain what drives you as an individual, distinct from everyone else who happens to be of the same race and class. Ten themes are provided for Athasian characters, as well as notes on how the idea works and on the mechanical side, giving additional powers that each theme may use as well as theme-based paragon paths to aspire towards. Athasian minstrels, the first theme presented, are often bards... but they can be rogues or fighters, even warlords or battleminds. They entertain, true, but may also spy or kill, or teach skills other than the lute in their travels. Thus it continues with the other themes. Dune traders can be of virtually any class, whatever it takes to travel the world in a merchant caravan, trading with all comers on behalf of your master or for yourself. Elemental priests venerate the elements and draw on primal power, and this path is common amongst those who seek the ability to heal. You can probably guess what a gladiator does for a living, but any race or class, slave or free, may for some reason enter the arena and fight in front of a crowd. Noble adepts may be of any race or class although of noble birth, but they have chosen to spend their time in the study of psionics. Primal guardians take it upon themselves to defend what remains of nature against further depredation and defilement. Templars are the long arm of the law in the city-states, enforcing the will of the sorcerer-kings, many receiving training in the arcane arts. Members of the Veiled Alliance likewise study matters arcane, but are dedicated to the 'preserving' form rather than the 'defiling' types of magic that caused the present state of Athas. Wasteland nomads seek the freedom of desert life while the final theme, the wilder, hones psionic powers whose origins elude him. Interesting ideas for how to integrate a character cleanly into this particular setting, although I'd have relished some guidance on how to create themes of my own.

Next, Chapter 4: Character Options explores the whole concept of making characters truly Athasian, rather than just any old D&D 4e character that just happens to be adventuring here. It starts off by looking at what makes arcane magic so distinctive, the idea that using it can 'defile' or damage the world by sucking out lifeforce from the caster's surroundings, but that an alternate methodolgy called 'preserving' enables an arcane spellcaster to operate without doing damage, although it takes more effort. Despite defiling having obvious effects, like plants crumbling to ash around your feet, most people regard ALL arcane magic as evil, so arcane spellcasters need to be very careful about letting on what they do for a living, especially as it is actually illegal in most places! Next comes an optional rule for Wild Talents which are minor psionic abilities available to virtually all natives of Athas, the place is so infused with psionic powers that even those who don't actually train in psionic arts have the chance of being able to do the odd trick or two - if the DM allows, all starting native characters may select or roll for a single wild talent. This is followed by a few new builds for existing character classes that are particularly suitable, such as the wild battlemind who uses raw untrained psionic power. Shamans can be animists, while fighters rather unsurprisingly can specialise in arena combat and a warlock may make a pact direct with one of the sorcerer-kings. Each build of course comes with an array of new character powers.

We then take a look at some epic destinies that characters seeking the highest levels of play can aim towards. Many place characters in roles which could lead to a legendary transformation of Athas, healing it of the damage that has been done in the past. The usual collection of new feats also appears. Many of the combat-related ones deal with weapons only found on Athas or with the specialist skills associated with arena fighting. There is also a section on rituals, many of which do not work as expected - or at all - on Athas. The DM is advised to exert control of ritual choices, but some new ones developed here are available for ritual-using characters to select. As can be imagined, in the harsh environment of Athas, good equipment can be crucial to survival so the final part of this chapter looks at useful gear, riding animals and magic items. It also explores the effect of the lack of metal on the weapons and armour available - metal ones are generally ancient heirlooms and beyond the means of all but the most successful adventurers. In the main, however, the use of alternate materials is a matter of flavour rather than a requirement to change the rules relating to use, although optional rules to reflect the increased likelihood of non-metals breaking in use are provided. Still, even if you do find a full set of plate armour, wearing it in the desert sun is not advised! There are some unusual new weapons described and illustrated.

All kitted out, Chapter 5: Atlas of Athas provides a glipse of this arid, harsh yet fascinating place. It begins with a desert primer - there is a lot more to deserts than rolling sand dunes. A whole range of environments of varying degrees of hospitality are covered, all posing a challenge to survival for all but the best-prepared traveller. Next comes the City of Tyr. The place is in turmoil following the fall of its sorcerer-king, plenty of opportunity for adventure here! While there's a lot of detail given, DMs wanting to set campaigns in Tyr might wish to obtain City State of Tyr (TSR, 1993) to supplement it. This is followed by a section on another city, Balic. Despite being ruled by a sorcerer-king, this city practises democracy on a surprising scale... but within certain prescribed limits. Transgress at your peril! Next comes the city of Draj, ruled by a mad sorcerer-king who believes himself to be a deity and requires citizens to worship him. As he is given to demanding blood sacrifice, most people do not dispute his godhood openly. Moving on we reach the Estuary of the Forked Tongue, on the edges of the Sea of Silt. Other places follow thick and fast - more cities, semi-civilised lands and outright wild places - plenty of descriptive text to help you set the scene but a distressing paucity of maps.

Finally, Chapter 6: Running a Dark Sun Game is aimed primarily at the DM. Delightfully, much of the emphasis is on creating the correct atmosphere of the alternate reality of this particular setting - this is a setting in which the exquisitely balanced combat-oriented D&D 4e ruleset is blended and meshed with tools to facilitate role-playing to the full by evoking all the things that make Dark Sun a very special place to visit. To this end, the chapter looks at appropriate campaign themes, a detailed look at travel and survival issues, advice on arena and survival encounter design, and treasures and other rewards suited specifically to Athas. A major theme on Athas, and one particularly suited to the 'characters as heroes' ethos of D&D 4e, is that the world is ruled by evil - both the sorcerer-kings themselves and the all-pervading influence of slavery - and that epic legends can be built around those prepared to dedicate themselves towards eradicating such evils. Likewise, if you take a more ecological view, attempts to repair the damage done to the world by defilers can create memorable campaigns. One interesting idea for those groups who are not interested in the details of surviving in the desert - which can make a whole adventure in itself if you do enjoy that kind of challenge - is the concept of a purchasable 'survival day.' This is a mechanical shorthand to allow characters to acquire what they need for a given number of days without the need for bookkeeping their quantities of food, water, sunscreen and the like. Of course, if for some reason the characters run out of survival days they are going to have to work out how to stay alive...

While most of the encounter types from the ruleset apply, activities in the gladatorial arena feature large in Athas - particularly if any characters are gladiators by choice or perforce. Thus plenty of detail is provided to enable you to create and run memorable arena encounters, pitting characters against other fighters or wild beasts while bringing the whole atmosphere of the spectacle to life. There are also notes about fitting wilderness encounters to the specific environment and some typical Athasian skill challenges that can be used to good effect. Examples given include attempting to join the Veiled Alliance of preseving arcanists and trying to hide from ones enemies inside a city - while these are things better resolved by role-playing rather than skill checks alone, backing up interaction with mechanics makes for an exciting challenge. The chapter ends with an adventure, Sand Raiders, in which 1st-level characters are set the task of finding a missing wagon from a trading caravan that has arrived at its destination a wagon short. Three intense encounters are laid out to introduce characters to the way things work, although you may wish to add some desert travel and survival elements (plenty ideas in earlier parts of this chapter to help you set them up) to round the adventure out a bit.

Overall, this is an impressive introduction to the setting, managing to remain true to the original concepts of Dark Sun while meshing in the D&D 4e ruleset and empowering role-playing as well as combat in a distinctive alternate reality... but it does need more maps!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Sun Campaign Setting (4e)
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Judy of the Jungle: Murder Goes Native
Publisher: NUELOW Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2014 10:55:17
If you enjoy classic pulp tales set in the jungle where a white face is a rarity and most of the wildlife is hostile (except a few remarkably tame beasts) you are in for a treat, with several full stories reproduced, the comic strips in crisp greyscale, the text ones in less-well-scanned images (not OCRd).

Tales of confusion between modern medicine and traditional ways, and even of a film-maker determined on setting wild animals against each other and never mind any human beings around... stuff that all would make excellent 1920s jungle adventures (does anyone run Justice Inc any more?) or provide additional colour to a plotline that takes the party into the jungle for another reason.

There's also some notes based around a new ruleset that's in preparation, called 'd6xd6 Core'. This is being written by Lester Smith and is due out around December 2014 (this review being written in July 2014), and looks a slick rules-light fun-heavy system. Various characters from the Judy of the Jungle tales have been statted up under this game mechanic.

More, there is a 'Jungle Adventure Element Generator' to help you set up events whenever the party decides to venture into a jungle, most of which is applicable whenever and wherever your game is set (although fantasy gamers might struggle to make sense of Nazis turning up!). This generator lets you select or roll randomly for the main antagonist and the beginning, middle and end threats around which you can build your story.

Finally, things take a watery twist with some stories in similar vein featuring South Sea Girl, including the title story, Murder Goes Native. Plenty to enjoy here in unabashed pulp style.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Judy of the Jungle: Murder Goes Native
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AaWBlog Presents—Wonders of NaeraCull Brochure #1: Sunny Southern Shores
Publisher: AAW Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2014 11:05:24
Making good use of the creativity displayed on the AAW blog and collecting thematic material neatly together in one place, this is the first of a series talking about NaeraCull: the Hungering Jungle, part of the 'house' campaign world of Aventyr.

Extensively hyperlinked to the blog (and indeed the rest of their website), this first issue includes monsters, a magic item, a neat piece of gear, a haunt and some legends... all with a piratical theme. Worth a look if you make use of pirates and other such sea-dogs, wherever the seas they terrorise might happen to be!

The magical item - a seadog's eyepatch - is interesting and not overpowered, while the piece of equipment is quite innovative - called a triggersling, it hurls rocks when tripped and makes a neat mechanical trap. It may have been invented by pirates, but once word gets out all manner of folks will be wanting to use it.

This is a nice concept, if only that delving through blog posts can be tedious, especially as they get displaced by newer ones and you only half-remember an older one which you now want to use.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AaWBlog Presents—Wonders of NaeraCull Brochure #1: Sunny Southern Shores
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One Day Digs 1 and 2 Double Feature
Publisher: Outland Arts
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2014 11:00:17
Designed to introduce new players to The Mutant Epoch (perhaps at a convention or game store), the new One Day Digs line opens with a 'double feature' of TWO short adventures. Of course, you could use one to start off a campaign, or drop them in to an existing one, as you see fit.

The first adventure, Blood for Bellridge, sends the party to visit Bellrigde, home of one of their friends. Only its on fire when they get there! The local militia are all dead and the township's best technician has been kidnapped. Can the party trounce the bandits and get the techie back?

It's a simple set-up and straightforward to resolve, yet presents a coherent story with potential for further development should you choose to use it that way.

The second adventure is called Feast of Freaks. In this, the party takes on a mission to locate and return stolen goods (plus the boat they were on and the crew if they can manage it) that has gone missing from a riverboat that has failed to arrive on schedule. Again, it's a case of tracking the miscreants down and raiding their base, again it is nicely-put together and comes over as a 'proper' game not merely a demo.

Both are well-resourced with good maps of the respective bad guys' bases. There are notes for locating these adventures within The Mutant Epoch world or they can be run as is. Nice way to get people involved in the game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One Day Digs 1 and 2 Double Feature
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7Ronin Solo - Striker (M&M 3e)
Publisher: Xion Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2014 08:54:33
Presenting a detailed and complex background for an interesting and complex character, this product contains beautiful illustrations and a complete write-up of a young superhero attempting to escape his past.

For Striker's family is Yakuza, and he is not comfortable with it... to the extent of studying criminal justice and becoming a law enforcement officer. Following an almost mystical event he received his superpowers and began to tread paths a police officer cannot in his quest to destroy the Yakuza and in particular his own father.

But in his elevation to power, perhaps lie the seeds of his own destruction... arrogance, hubris, perhaps, could lead him astray. Or not...

For like all offerings in the 7Ronin series, Striker is finding himself called to a gathering in central Japan where the assorted characters will have a chance to band together - for better or for worse...

Beautifully presented in great detail, as a stand-alone this has the potential to be an epic character (player or NPC), even if you are not collecting the entire series or intending to use them together.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7Ronin Solo - Striker (M&M 3e)
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Mining Colony
Publisher: DramaScape
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2014 11:07:54
Nice simple yet elegant plans for a mining colony on a planet, moon or large asteroid - somewhere without an atmosphere, or at best with one that's unbreathable. The base exists on two levels (more if you decide to add in bits of DramaScape's Space Station blueprints) with a small surface presence and more extensive tunnels underground.

What's nice is the amount of background information provided. Naturally, you can discard any of it that does not suit your requirements but there's a lot of useful stuff about the importance of the atmospheric processing plant and the hydroponics facility and a neat sketch map - suitable for a player hand-out - giving an overview of the layout.

As for the full blueprints, they come as multipage versions with square or hex grid (or none) that you need to print out and assemble and as giant JPEGs for virtual tabletops, poster-scale printers or those who want to edit the plans in a graphics package before use. The single-sheet images come without any grid.

Whether you're planning a claustrophobic Aliens-style game, a passing visit to a mining colony, an artefact hunt or any other plot that includes mining or excavating activities, this could prove very useful.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mining Colony
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The Genius Guide to Gruesome Giants
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2014 09:45:44
Set aside any concept of friendly giants, for here is a selection of templates, feats and alternative class options to make your giants foul and grim foes, as well as big ones.

The idea is to make them more fearful and threatening, and something more unusual than merely overly large humanoids that hit really, really hard. Each template confers a 'shock value' which represents a disturbing quality your run-of-the-mill giant does not possess.

The first couple of pages outline the concepts involved, including necessary rule mechanics, and then we move on to the templates themselves. The first is the collector - a weird and quite unpleasant template in which the giant adorns himself with the body parts of former foes. It even fights with body parts, clawed arms being popular weapons. Another is the contorted, a creature that bends at odd places rather than having the joints you'd expect of a regular humanoid. Both are quite disturbing in appearance.

Formoreans are also deformed whilst forgotten giants actually have missing body parts revealing inner workings that ought to be covered by flesh. As for the maneaters... well, let's not dwell on their preferred diet. Masochists also have unwholesome habits while one with the reaping template gathers the souls of those slain in its presence. Undying and unstoppable round out the collection of templates.

For each template there are full details - both descriptinve and atmospheric and the necessary game mechanics - to enable you to apply them to any giant of your choice. Of course, they don't have to be giants. but the combination of large size and the template is very effective in the eyes of the average-sized adventurer that will be encountering them!

A selection of giant feats is also included, often taking advantage of their large size in some way. Others hark back to ancient legends, like the ability to smell blood (Fee Fo Fi Fum...) or to step on smaller creatures and crush them almost without noticing.

Finally there are some alternate class features you can add into the mix. Giants will never be quite the same again...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Gruesome Giants
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Battlemap : Octagon Shrine
Publisher: Christian Hollnbuchner
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2014 08:37:17
This battlemap presents a beautiful and peaceful shrine with an Oriental feel to it. The sort of place you might go to meditate or celebrate, it somehow doesn't feel right to use it for a brawl...

And yet. it's quite easy to think of reasons why a fight might break out. Despite its calm and peaceful appearance, the shrine may be dedicated to an evil god. Or you may be called upon to defend it against the powers of darkness... or you may just be an adventurer in search of loot.

Set in a forest clearing, the shrine is mounted on two platforms set at angles to one another, which gives an interesting set of terrain for multi-level action.

You get a multi-page PDF with a square grid and a ZIP file which only contains one giant JPEG image of the scene without a grid, for use with virtual tabletop systems or if you have access to poster-printing facilities. You can, of course, edit or label the JPEG version before use.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemap : Octagon Shrine
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Mundane No More: Texts and Tomes
Publisher: Christina Stiles Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2014 11:25:35
Books are the treasured wealth of all nations, the fit inheritors of our generations and actions... so why are they neglected in fantasy gaming (which is itself inspired by books)? This work sets out to redress this omission, by making ordinary books interesting and useful in gaming terms as well as for themselves.

It starts off by classifying 'mundane' books (those which are not magical in nature) into categories: simple, learned, scholarly or enlightened. Each category can provide a 'research bonus' to relevant skill checks, depending on what the book is about, the size of the bonus or number of skills to which it applies depending on the catergory it's in. This covers anyt hing from a city guide to a bardic epic or a treatise on the mechanics of locks... or indeed any subject you care to consider, and means that any book a character picks up is potentially useful.

Rules are presented to cover the actual studying process: how long it takes and some of the things you can use it for - even gaining new skills/levels, feats and so on; as well as merely finding something out (although that can be useful too if you seek answers to the right questions).

An interesting subset is the Dungeon Guide. As well as generally useful information for any adventurer, some purport to provide information and directions about a specific dungeon. There are rules here for creating guides to dungeons you know, as well as for determining the accuracy (or otherwise) of those you find or are sold...

There's also a section on Crafting Recipes. Not, alas, on tasty eats for the discerning adventurer, this - it's about collections of information on how to make a range of items magical and mundane. You can also find out about writing your own mundane tomes once you have something to share with the world - timescales, costs and so on.

Finally, there's a selection of texts to get you started - leave them lying around where the party can find them and see if they have the wit to start making good use of them!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mundane No More: Texts and Tomes
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A23: Twin Crossings
Publisher: AAW Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/03/2014 12:28:03
An isolated township eagerly awaiting the annual supply/trading ship which doesn't arrive owing to an unfortunate encounter with a sea monster, two trading houses eager to capitalise on the high prices to be commanded by what items do make it over a difficult mountain pass and a chance for the party to make some money as well as a name for themselves by pioneering the mountain crossing... what more could you ask for in an adventure that embeds the characters in the everyday lives and excitement of the setting?

The action starts with the party arriving in the isolated township and getting swept up into the forthcoming celebrations. There's plenty of detail provided to get them embroiled quickly so that they, along with the townspeople, will really feel the loss of the expected ship when the news arrives. Along with a sidebar concerning likely effects of over-celebrating the festivities.

A neat idea is several 'adventure flowcharts' - this is a very freeflowing adventure and it will help you keep track of not only what the party is up to but what others involved are doing as well. There's a lot going on and it all adds to the flavour, but it does have the potential to get quite confusing. The party can get confused, but it is best if the GM does not! Speed is of the essence here, and there are some neat mechanics to help you assess how well the party - and their rivals - are doing. Lots of details are provided to help you run an adventure where the journey itself is the adventure, rather than something to get you to the adventure. Hang on to them, they'll make running future journeys easier yet more exciting as well.

During the mountain crossing there are all manner of hazards: natural ones, the local wildlife and deliberate attempts to slow down the party or prevent them making the crossing altogether. Then they'll have to round up a caravan of goods and make the return trip... whoever said the life of the adventurer was an easy one?

A good thing about this adventure is that it brings the world of commerce to vivid and exciting life in a way rare for fantasy games. Even if the party is not bitten by the trading bug, they will get a real feel for what is going on in the world of trade whilst they're off killing monsters and looting their stuff - something that increases the reality of this alternate reality that you and the players share. Recommended.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A23: Twin Crossings
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Legend/Deus Vult: Rouen
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2014 11:15:03
Skilfully mixing real-world history with the background of the Deus Vult campaign setting, this is the story of Rouen: trading centre and capital of Normandy, visited from Scandinavian lands as well as from Europe... and with strongholds of the Order as well. Based there or just visiting, there's plenty of atmospheric detail to allow the city to come to life for your players.

History, citizens, their amusements, the appearance of the city and the locations within it - they're all here, painted vividly and atmospherically. Naturally the cathedral is described in detail, complete with sufficient material to allow you to describe services even if you are not familiar with the mediaeval Mass. At every turn are notes which can be used to provide incidental events that heighten the role-play and give the feeling of really being there.

Of course, as well as the regular merchants, clerics, nobles and everyday working folk, there are others. An occultist hidden away here, the Order's Preceptory there... and a thriving Jewish community, not to mention a trapped demon. The practice of Medicine - as a science divorced from clerical healing that is - is in its infancy, but there is at least one noted Doctor in town, with some fascinating notes on early medicine and the advice given to doctors in how to conduct themselves.

If you have not already had quite a few ideas, there's a whole chapter of encounters to use when the party is in Rouen. Some will provide but passing diversion, others are good for a side-adventure if not a whole scenario in their own right should you so wish. Several important citizens are provided in full detail, including stat blocks - allies, patrons, enemies, chance encounters: again, whatever suits the needs of your plot or party actions. There is also a Bestiary section with an array of new creatures to introduce into the mix.

Finally, there are a couple of adventures in and around Rouen that you may wish to run. Both provide plenty of interest and excitement, with investigation as well as combat required to resolve them.

The one thing that's lacking is a map of the city, although there's a sketch map of the surrounding area in one of the adventures. That lack and the odd typo a good proof-read ought to have caught are the only flaws in a fine city to add to the alternate history that is Deus Vult.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend/Deus Vult: Rouen
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The Genius Guide to Feats of Spellcasting II
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2014 10:17:23
This is a somewhat quirky selection of feats that allows you to put your own twist on a spellcaster. Most do not appreciably add to their overall power, just make him that little bit different from every other spell-chucker in town.

My favourite is Named Spells, which is previewed in the opening flavour fiction. It enables a mage to exert power over spells he himself invented (provided he's used his name in their title) even when they are cast by somebody else. If you run a mage who enjoys designing new spells this is definitely one to consider.

Others that are quite fun are Retributive Strike, which deals damage to all foes nearby when you are knocked unconscious (and even more if you are killed), and Ring Lord which lets you store your spirit in a ring you have forged if you are unlucky enough to die whilst wearing it. Your spirit can then be raised later, and even before that if someone else is wearing it you can sense what is going on around and even cast the odd spell.

Or perhaps you are so enamoured of being able to detect magic at will that you'll take Rune Sight... but be warned, you'll have to pluck an eye out to gain the effects. Perhaps you'd like a little more versatility in spell choice? Then go for Spellmaster that lets you prepare an 'arcane array' from which you can cast any of a number of spells rather than having to learn and cast each one separately. Of course, you can only cast a single spell from the array - but you could prepare several.

These and the rest are all quite fun, and well worth a look if you like to do unusual things with your spellcasting characters.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Feats of Spellcasting II
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21 More Organizations
Publisher: Gypsy Knights Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2014 09:08:18
It's all part of bringing the Far Future to life... your Traveller universe needs to be teeming with people, ships and, yes, organisations with whom the party can interact. Such interactions can include joining the organisation, working for it on a casual basis, engaging in commerce with it, working against it or in association with it - or merely meeting a few members of it in a bar for a beer or a brawl.

Designing them all takes time and effort, so here are 21 more organisations to stir into the mix. Whilst many are quite closely linked with planets within the Clement Sector where Gypsy Knights Games material is centred, much could be transplanted to another suitable location... or of course, they may come from Clement but for some reason are being encounted somewhere else.

First up is Alpha Delta Force, an all-female paramilitary group which operates in a jungle area on the planet Tel'Kalares. They mount patrols, conduct research on what they find - both indigenous flora and fauna and any alien artefacts they come across - and have an enforcement arm which prevents unauthorised activity in 'their' jungles. There's full details on serving in it as a career, whether you need to generate Alpha Delta personnel as NPCs or incorporate it into a character background.

Then there's the Crawford Foundation, a massive charitable trust which aids research in science and medicine, supports universities and donates to political parties on the planet Boone and throughout Clement Sector, particularly on those colonies who trace their antecedents and heritage back to the US. Or maybe the Hard Chargers Spaceship Club, a bunch who spend their days travelling from one system to another and are not above the odd spot of criminal activity, seem more likely associates for your party.

Another organisation is Harbringer Productions, a holovid production company. Got any budding actors amongst your party? Or is someone starstruck over a character in their favourite show? Plenty of plot potential here. Knowing most Traveller groups, they might meet with the Cascadia Fugitive Marshals Service who are part of Cascadia's law enforcement apparatus but operate with the casual enthusiasm and disregard for planetry sovereignty of bounty hunters. Those on the right side of the law might enjoy working for them, of course. With this in mind, full career tables are provided for them as well.

If you feel in need of protection as you travel, you might wish to engage the services of the Reliable Starship Escort Service. Or you may run foul of the Smithson Crime Family, who are based on Cascadia and no doubt know the Cascadia Fugitive Marshals Service quite well! Perhaps you will meet operatives of Ministry 7, but as this is a clandestine intelligence agency you may well not be aware that you have...

And then there's the Society of Friendship, who operate a service somewhere between traditional geishas and call girls. The wealthy may hire a 'friendship artisan' as an escort to a function or a companion, or for various services of a personal nature. If your need is for weapons rather than companionship, maybe you will seek out Cutov Arms. Or you may be intrigued by the work of Intelligence Now!, a group which works to promote uplift of animals to sentience. And there's the Xenogastronomy League, the brainchild of a starshop cook fascinated by discovering how to cook the flora and fauna of every new planet he visited (sounds like several of my characters...). Then there's a group of religious craftsmen called the Children of the Father or a rather less pleasant bunch, the Council of Altrant Supremacists.... and several more groups who all add to the rich tapestry of life.

Revel in these, add them to your setting and mine their activities for adventure ideas. An excellent collection, just reading through them spawns ideas.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
21 More Organizations
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Mythic Mastery - Mythic Mummies
Publisher: Necromancers of the Northwest
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2014 12:22:05
Diving straight in, we first meet the Dry Mummy. This is a mummified - or desiccated - animated corpse, rather than the bandage-trailing one familiar from countless movies, but they're no less friendly. For a start, they can desiccate YOU if they get too close! Apparently most are created by accident rather than by intent, from someone who has died in the right conditions to dry out their mortal remains in this manner. Interestingly, it is said that most arise from people who die of thirst in deserts rather than those killed by violence... and one really doesn't want to speculate what a necromancer might do if he wants to make one!

Next up is his mythic cousin, the Mythic Dry Mummy. Needless to say, they are even nastier than the regular sort, with the particularly nasty ability of being able to turn anyone they kill into a Dry Mummy.

Then there comes the Pitch Mummy and a Mythic Pitch Mummy. These ones do come in bandages, but dripping and oozing a foul black substance, thought to be a by-product of the mummification process as practiced by certain cults who use a special magical black tar rather than ordinary pitch as a preservative. The Mythic ones again have the ability to create Pitch Mummies, but this time by touch alone, they don't have to kill their victim.

Four really scary mummy variants to locate in desert tombs and other suitable places.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythic Mastery - Mythic Mummies
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Meltdown and the AlphEx Corporation (Savage Worlds)
Publisher: Sneak Attack Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2014 10:55:19
A neat little package which is more than a supervillain or three but less than a full-blown adventure - and full of ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

It starts by describing the history and present state of the AlphEx Coporation from its humble beginnings as a small coal mining company to the current sprawling conglomerate headed by CEO Sebastian Gallows. Secretly, Gallows thinks it is time that corporations took over running the world from governments and if this should happen he's determined that AlphEx will be in the forefront of the new world order. He's been looking into the superpower phenomenon as a possible route to power...

Cue Meltdown, a former security officer who was involved in a radiation accident and survived with the ability to store radioactivity like a battery. Gallows is forcing the poor soul to commit crimes, mostly to further the prospects of AlphEx - industrial espionage and the like. Full stats and background are provided for both Meltdown and Gallows, as well as a few other rather 'special' employees of AlphEx - an engineer and a medical researcher - and for good measure, some rather dandy gadgets as well.

There's plenty of potential here. Maybe the party meet Meltdown out marauding. If they find out how unwilling he is they might delve deeper and eventually mount a raid on AlphEx premises. Or you may have other ideas... delve into this neat little package and see what you come up with.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Meltdown and the AlphEx Corporation (Savage Worlds)
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