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Villains and Vigilantes:Signs of the Zodiac
Publisher: Fantasy Games Unlimited
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/15/2012 01:39:32
Zodiac-themed supervillains and supervillain teams are a comic-book staple. In this adventure/supplement, Darren Tenor provides another take on this trope. “Signs of the Zodiac” includes Villains & Vigilantes stats for all twelve villains, two brief adventures which each pit the heroes against six of the Zodiac Syndicate, two adventure outlines, additional adventure seeds, a detailed and fully keyed map of Zodiac Syndicate headquarters, and information about the team’s structure and strategies. This Zodiac Syndicate would make decent recurring villains for any superhero team. Of course, twelve villains vs. four heroes would be awkward, but never fear: Tenor anticipates this problem, and divides the overall Zodiac Syndicate into smaller teams suitable for use against smaller hero teams. Tenor achieves this in a way that doesn’t seem artificial, too. A lot of what makes these villains interesting is the interplay between them and their interpersonal relationships with each other; however, it will take a fairly skilled GM (or players who don’t mind interruptions from Captain Exposition) to share this information with the players. In terms of their stats and powers, the villains are a bit less interesting than their plots, and than the team as a whole—and, in a way, the adventure outline “The Replacements” acknowledges this in-game. If you’re running a continuing V&V campaign, you’ve got a ready-made source of villains and plots here. If you’re running a different supers game in campaign mode, you might find this material worth converting; it’s kind of hard to say. If you’re looking for a one-shot adventure, this isn’t it. One complaint about the production values: a 56-page PDF needs bookmarks.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Villains and Vigilantes:Signs of the Zodiac
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D-Percent - Hispanic Names
Publisher: Black Falcon Games LLC
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/15/2012 01:32:12
In this product you’ll find a table of 100 male names, 100 female names, and 100 family names, giving you lots of variation whether you actually use random selection or just pick from the tables at will. The names cover a pretty good range, but the complete omission of accents ant tildes stands out as a significant problem. Male names like “José“ and “Luís” need their accents for proper pronunciation, and the same goes for the tildes in names like “Nuñez.” The lack of proper diacritical marks can lead to embarrassing mispronunciations, and thereby weakens the product’s utility significantly.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
D-Percent - Hispanic Names
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D-Percent - Chinese Names
Publisher: Black Falcon Games LLC
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/15/2012 01:22:21
This product delivers exactly what it promises: 100 Chinese family names, 100 Chinese male given names, and 100 Chinese female given names. The product description mentions that “the [Chinese] naming convention is family name followed by given name,” but it would have been helpful to repeat this information within the PDF itself. On the other hand, the page is very crowded as it is, and the tables are arranged with the family names on the left, so the very layout implies the proper sequencing of family names and given names. I found this product very helpful for naming Chinese PCs and NPCs in my supers game, without falling into repeatedly reusing names of Chinese people I’ve encountered in real life. By the way, this product uses the Pinyin system of transliteration, and users may want to insert hyphens into some of the two-element given names (for example, spelling Xiaofan and Xiaolan as Xiao-Fan and Xiao-Lan) for easier reading. As a college professor, I’ve known dozens of Chinese students, and the names collected in this table seem authentic. However, I don’t speak Chinese, so I can’t speak with authority on this point. There are a few “runs” where one could wish for less similar names in sequence.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
D-Percent - Chinese Names
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ICONS: Jailbreak!
Publisher: Ad Infinitum Adventures
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2012 01:39:25
Put your superheroes in the slammer, and pit them against a villain who’s part Arcade, part Riddler, and part Scarlet Witch—that’s what Eddy Webb helps you do in “Jailbreak.” The storyline is a winner and sure to be fun at your gaming table. Webb makes good use of temporary challenges, and gives good advice about running the riddle scenes. The major villain can be a load of laughs, and yet a serious threat at the same time; he’s a great candidate for a recurring villain. Aside from a few errors that slipped through—the most annoying being the inconsistent spelling of a major offstage personality’s name as “Bertram Lucky” (twice) and “Bertram Luck” (twice)—“Jailbreak” is one of the grammatically cleanest products that Adamant has published for ICONS. As always, Dan Houser’s art enriches the product. If you’re an ICONS GM, or you want to be, don’t hesitate to add “Jailbreak” to your collection.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ICONS: Jailbreak!
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ICONS: The Skeletron Key
Publisher: Ad Infinitum Adventures
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2012 00:13:20
In “The Skeletron Key,” Steve Kenson takes a fairly classic plotline of advanced technology run amok and turns it into a fun adventure for ICONS. The adventure is fairly straightforward, and shouldn’t be difficult for even a beginning GM to run, although it lacks some of the more direct (and useful) GM advice given in some of Adamant’s later ICONS adventures. In particular, inexperienced GMs would benefit from reading the advice given about GMing investigations on p. 9 of “Whiteout” by John Post and/or p. 12 of “The Mastermind Affair” by Morgan Davie before running “The Skeletron Key.” Since “The Skeletron Key” was the first published adventure for ICONS, Dan Houser’s artwork here was instrumental in reinforcing his fan-pleasing “ICONS style.” If you’re only interested in the villain Skeletron and not in his “origin story” adventure, you can find his stats in the Villainomicon instead. Admittedly, $5.00 seems a little steep for a PDF with only 12 pages of content, but perhaps not when compared with the price of a movie ticket or even a cup of gourmet coffee. Pesky punctuation errors aside, “The Skeletron Key” is a worthwhile addition to any ICONS library.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ICONS: The Skeletron Key
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Ruined Gate (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/31/2012 23:33:24
Since I don’t play Pathfinder and don’t know anything about the “ransomed” adventure to which this product is linked, I approached the “Ruined Gate” solely with an interest in the miniatures-scale battlemap. On that score, Jonathan Roberts does not disappoint. The map depicts a long U-shaped cavern corridor that bends around a small three-room gatehouse. It’s a nice standalone map, and the area descriptions are useful and suggestive even if you’re not running the larger linked adventure. Presumably, it just gets better if you link it with the other related maps (like the “Ruined Guardhouse”).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ruined Gate (PFRPG)
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The One Ring: Words of the Wise
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2012 23:54:59
This short (11 pp.) adventure does a very fine job of introducing/illustrating the world, tone, and mechanics of The One Ring RPG. It has a reasonably fun storyline. Also, it will help GMs and players get to know the system, and will introduce the characters to important NPCs (the Elvenking of Mirkwood and Radagast the Brown)—a good start to a campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring: Words of the Wise
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The One Ring - Tales from Wilderland
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2012 23:54:41
The seven adventures in this collection could stand individually for enjoyable sessions of The One Ring, but serve more excellently as a series. The storylines will provide plenty of enjoyment for the players and challenges for the characters; the presentation makes the GM’s job easy, and parts of it are almost like a training course in how to GM The One Ring.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Tales from Wilderland
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Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
Publisher: Engine Publishing
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2012 23:54:22
As my group’s primary DM, I can testify to the effort that game prep takes. In Never Unprepared, Phil Vecchione helps you to analyze your own strengths and weaknesses, and to use your new self-awareness to improve your prep experiences. No matter how experienced a GM you are or what type or genre of RPG you’re running, you’ll prepare better if you think consciously about your prep process. This book (which, by the way, is thoroughly bookmarked and appropriately hyperlinked in the PDF version) enables you to do just that.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
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Infinity Lounge
Publisher: Monkey House Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2012 23:54:07
Your players will feel like they’ve stepped into an episode of the Twilight Zone when you introduce them to the Infinity Lounge. With plenty of possibilities for gladiator-style combat and potential for investigation and role-playing, the adventure also presents opportunities for frustration, as characters may find themselves simply sitting and waiting for their captors to act. The adventure has a few comic elements, but also some grisly ones. Except for the figure flats, artwork is minimal, but it’s all well done, and in full color. The production values are. generally fine; the storyline is okay, but not compelling.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Infinity Lounge
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Critter Cache 6: Lovecraftian Bestiary
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2012 23:53:37
Putting stats to Lovecraftian creatures is tricky. In Lovecraft’s own stories, monsters rarely featured as opponents, but rather as harbingers of the vast truths that revealed to Lovecraftian protagonists their own cosmic insignificance. In Dungeons & Dragons, however, monsters exist to be killed. The test of a Lovecraftian bestiary, then, is whether the creatures succeed at being terrifying without being utterly unbeatable. Aeryn Rudel has certainly made these creatures into stiff competition for D&D heroes, and he’s captured their flavor quite well. The artwork is very evocative, too. But where are the byakhee, the dark young, Nyarlathotep, and the rest? This volume’s greatest weakness is that it never had a sequel. (Parts of this book are, however, reprinted in Level Up #2.) Its other primary weakness is simply the publication date; it predates Monster Manual 3, so you may find it prudent to adjust the hit points and damage expressions to bring them in line with current standards—being sure to also inflate the heavy hitters accordingly.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Critter Cache 6: Lovecraftian Bestiary
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Critter Cache 3: Animals & Beasts
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2012 23:53:15
D&D heroes routinely face down monstrous foes, but mundane beasts can give them significant and interesting challenges as well. In this vein, Critter Cache 3 offers eleven basic types of beasts, each with several variations, giving you a total of twenty-seven distinct creatures. The lore and stat blocks do a good job, as far as I can tell (I’m no zoologist), of translating these real-world creatures and their fantasy kin into D&D 4e stats. However, since publication of this bestiary predated Monster Manual 3, you may find it prudent to adjust the hit points and damage expressions to bring them in line with current standards.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Critter Cache 3: Animals & Beasts
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E-Z DUNGEONS: Expansion Set 6
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 14:22:10
This set offers three or four 3D trap models (a mechanical hammer, a sliding buzzsaw, and that sort of thing), plus a selection of 2D trap tiles (pits, mostly). The models are pretty easy to build and will add spice to the next horrific tomb you DM.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
E-Z DUNGEONS: Expansion Set 6
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E-Z TERRAIN: Overland Adventures
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 14:18:36
This set has a lot going on. The 3D elements boil down to a few tents, a couple of logs, and a big tree. The tree’s design allows you to suspend miniatures within the branches, which is great for staging ambushes, forest battles, and the like. The logs and even the tree aren’t very complicated to build, and the tents are easy. All of these pieces look great. Quite a few 2D tiles are provided as well, outfitted with many options via layers. If you’re looking for 3D elements, you’ll want this set, but I don’t think you’ll find it to do the job alone. The 2D tiles offer a rich array of landscapes, and you’ll find they go much farther than the 3D elements.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
E-Z TERRAIN: Overland Adventures
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DRAGON TILES: Caverns
Publisher: Fat Dragon Games
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2012 14:04:52
This set consists mostly of fairly basic 2D cavern tiles, plus some 3D elements. The mine cart track tiles and the 3D mine carts that go with them are terrific, and I’ve used them to good effect in my games. The other cavern elements are pretty “flat,” and you’ll get more out of other sets from Fat Dragon and other vendors.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DRAGON TILES: Caverns
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