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Open Game Table - The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1
Publisher: Nevermet Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2011 19:40:37
Short and sweet on this one. There are 160 pages of short articles featuring tips on running games, being a player, character options, and anything else dealing with RPG advice. The articles are well written and feature some useful advice. It's a hodge podge of topics, so you can surely find something useful in here. It's only $5. Why not take a chance?

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Open Game Table - The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1
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Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook
Publisher: Green Ronin
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2011 19:12:57
I’m going to try and keep this one short. I haven’t had a chance to run a game yet, but I have played it a few times. The updated version is great though I can’t say how much has changed. I had a pregen when I played and a GM explaining the rules. The best part is the rules are pretty straightforward if you have ever played a d20-based game. You create characters using a point buy system to purchase attributes, skills, advantage, and powers. Calculate some defense scores and other standard RPG stats and you are pretty much ready to go. The book provides A TON of character archetypes to use and modify, lots of powers, advantages, regular and super powered equipment, and of course superpowers. The mechanics will be very familiar to experienced gamers and very easy to teach to new players (again just roll them up a pregen or give them one of the example characters in the manual). There are typical sections on creating adventures and series (i.e. campaigns) and other GMing advice.

Yeah, it’s your standard core rulebook, but I have to say it’s one of the best for superhero games. It seems fairly balanced and overall the book is laid out very nicely. Also, it’s GORGEOUS. The art is amazing and features tons of the standard superhero archetypes throughout from grimacing, gritty types to bouncy Barbies who can punch through a brick wall. I dig this book for sure.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook
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Two Dozen Discoveries: Plants (PFRPG)
Publisher: LPJ Design
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2011 19:12:29
I play 4E at this point, but the Pathfinder supplements can give some useful info to incorporate into your game. I’m using this particular one for determine uncommon and valuable herbs that the PCs are collecting for a shop they have established. Yes, it’s mostly flavor text, but they do have the option of finding these in the forest or other appropriate location and receive a benefit similar to the one described (with a few tweaks to make it fit for 4E). I like the small supplements that add a few cool specific items or types of artifacts that give the feel of a real world rather than just saying, “Yeah you find some useful exotic plants that have various benefits to people.”

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Two Dozen Discoveries: Plants (PFRPG)
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The Esoterrorists
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/24/2011 19:11:27
First thing’s first, I love the GUMSHOE system and this game is no exception. If you’ve played Fear Itself or listened to a few of the actual play games out there, you’ll get the gist of Esoterrorists. However, instead of being hapless civilians terrorized by horrible beings from beyond, you are a member of an elite organization, the Ordo Veritas, terrorized by horrible beings from beyond. You are better trained, generally in the know about things that go bump in the night, and much more willing to run headlong into danger to stop evil doers from unleashing demons, Great Old Ones, and other despicable creatures on the world at large. You and your teammates must stop them at all costs.

The book is pretty standard for a core rulebook (no need to purchase anything else to play, although I’d suggest the Book of Unremitting Horrors to give you more options and some really disturbing artwork). You learn more about what it means to be in the Ordo Veritas, what your motivation is, and how to make your character. Buy abilities with points depending on your group size (including investigative abilities). Unlike other games, GUMSHOE games are about SOLVING mysteries, not rolling well enough to find them. If you have a point in a skill, you get the clue in a given area. If you spend a few points here and there, you may get some more useful information. General abilities are the ones you use to do things like run away, shoot, fight, drive, etc. There are many more skills in specialty areas in Esoterrorists compared to Fear Itself. You’ve had a lot more training than that kid who watched too many zombie movies and works at the local video store.

The GUMSHOE rules are presented and are extremely easy to learn. You can seriously teach this game in 15 minutes and get your players up to speed by the end of a session. You only need one d6 for the whole game really, making checks and damage calculation simple. It’s all about the story and the mystery. There will be plenty of chances to engage your fight or flight response though. Don’t you worry.

The following chapters explain how to construct investigations for your players, what the typical structure is, how to create core clues, and tips for running the game. More details follow on the Ordo Veritas (the good guys) and the Esoterrorists (the bad guys who summon terrible beasties to wreak havoc on the world). Finally, there is an introductory adventure for you to get your feet wet.

I love the system (if you can play one GUMSHOE game, you can literally play them all). I love the premise. I love the way it’s put together (it’s written concisely, clearly, and has great production values). The only thing I wish is that Pelgrane Press would publish more adventures. That’s ok, you can pretty much adapt any of the Trail of Cthulhu scenarios to this game or even Fear Itself. Or just write your own horror game, turn down the lights, and give your friends nightmares.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Esoterrorists
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Wild Talents 2nd Edition
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2011 21:23:29
Wild Talents is the epitome of "easy to learn, difficult to master". Based on the One Roll Engine, this game is all about creating superheroes (or Talents), their world, and of course their nemeses. It is fairly simple to create a character with the point system and guidance in the manual for how many points yield superheroes of a certain power level. A 250 point character is your average type of hero in most comics. A 1000 point character is basically a god. The manual presents several example heroes that you can customize. Also provided is a Miracle (i.e. superpower) Cafeteria that you can mix and match to create the hero of your choice.

Now the difficult to master part comes into play with the Extras and Flaws. Extras add a bit of something more to your power (more damage, range, something else beneficial) while Flaws restrict your power. Stacking these up allow you to create a hero who can lift a train engine with his mind, but only when wearing his underwear outside his pants (ok, that was a joke, but you could do that). It gets VERY complicated when trying to build powers from scratch or getting more bang for your buck. Adding flaws reduces the cost of your power, so stacking them gets crazy.

The game runs really fast and combat is very simple with all rolls being resolved at once. You can resolve your combat quickly and there usually isn't a need to resort to battle grids (not that there's anything wrong with that). Once your players get used to the wiggle dice, hard dice, and regular dice, your sessions will just fly by. Multiple actions? Just remove a die from your pool. Call a shot? Same thing. That's why the One Roll Engine rocks.

Now I'm going to gloss over a HUGE portion of the book. The remaining half of the book discusses the creation of worlds populated by superheroes with LOTS of mechanical help. Basically, think about the type of world you want to make and then go through the steps listed in the manual to home in on just how much heroes affect politics, how many shades of grey are there in your world's moral code, and many more. Then it talks about a standard campaign setting with a history from the 1940s to today. Then appendices give tips on running various flavors of games, how to be a better GM, etc.

Overall, this is a great book. It may take a bit of time to really learn the system well, but you can get started in an hour or so if you just want to jump in and play. The sheer amount of material presented in this book is impressive. Fun to run and fun to read. This book is well worth the money.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wild Talents 2nd Edition
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Zombacalypse - Savage Worlds
Publisher: Silver Gryphon Games
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2011 21:21:37
I'll get the fact that Savage Worlds is a fun, fast, and furious game right out of the way. This is a good book for running a zombie apocalypse game. I was shocked by the fact that the first half of the book was mostly fluff. It's not a bad thing, but I would consider myself a bit of a zombie aficionado and not in need of much coaching on the finer points of zombie origins, behavior, and ramifications. The real meat here is the scenario descriptions and zombie stats. The book lists a whole chapter worth of zombie games you can run in a variety of campaigns and a variety of time periods. Then there are a ton of zombies and stats to terrorize your player. I ran a game of this for my podcast and it was really fun. Even over Skype, the game ran smoothly, people liked it, and I didn't need a ton of prep time. If you do or don't know Savage Worlds and like zombies, this is a great book. Pick a scenario, an origin story, and a few zombies and run a game. It's $5 and another $10 if you don't have the core rulebook. That's a good deal.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Zombacalypse - Savage Worlds
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Deadlands Reloaded: Marshal's Handbook
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2011 21:03:33
This is obviously the complement book to the core Player’s Guide. Chock full of information and tips, this book is great if you want to run a game of Deadlands. The first chapter details a more malevolent world than most people realize. There are things that go bump in the night and worse in the world of Deadlands. New rules are incorporated for Fear, Failures (Mad Scientists, Veterans, and Hucksters), and bad things that hunt the Harrowed. Then there is a good 50 pages of descriptions of weird locations, interesting waypoints, and just about anything you need to get your group going somewhere cool . . . and dangerous. Finally, there is a chapter on enemies and encounters for those of you without a lot of time to create tons of new enemies specific for the setting or for when your players go way off the rails and want to fight someone/something you didn’t expect.

Overall, this is just as high caliber as the core rulebook. Again, I can’t stop reading the thing even if I’m not planning on running a game anytime soon. If you don’t get inspired when you read this, you must be a robot.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Reloaded: Marshal's Handbook
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Deadlands Reloaded: Player's Guide
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2011 21:02:54
Mount up and let’s ride. It’s Deadlands: Reloaded Player’s Guide and it tells you and your GM just how to start a hoot and hollerin’ good time in a Wild West that’s just a bit different that the one you know. The Civil War never ended, a mysterious new fuel called “ghost rock” became the basis for numerous technologies beyond belief, and of course magic exists (sort of). The introductory chapter focuses on getting players up to speed on the world, its inhabitants, and how they interact. It’s written well. It’s well organized. It’s a fun read. The chapter also contains some charts and tables on currency, criminal sentences, and other such details.

The second chapter lays out how to make your hero. If you’ve ever played Savage Worlds, then you already know this. As a matter of fact, it’s so simple that the instructions are a page long. One page and you can be mostly ready to go. That’s if you don’t include the several pages of Edges and Hindrances, but that’s just the cherry on top.

The next section is the standard gear and goods along with costs and descriptions. Fun stuff all around here. Who doesn’t like loot? Especially when it comes in the form of six shooters and ten gallon hats.

Setting specific rules follow with information on Grit (Willpower equivalent), Fate (multiple types of Fate chips in this game unlike other Savage Worlds settings), gunfighting, and everyone’s favorite . . . quick draw dueling.

For those of you who don’t know exactly what character you want to build from the get-go, there is also a section on specific factions with descriptions of typical characters, flavor text on what makes them special, and specific Edges for that character type. For those of you who want to be even more special, you can play a Harrowed hero. A man or woman who has already died once and it didn’t keep them down. Great stuff.

Notice that I did not say that the book tells you HOW to play the game. No, no it doesn’t. You REQUIRE a Savage Worlds Core Rulebook (I picked up the 3rd Edition: Explorer’s Handbook for $10 on the very same site you are reading this review). Let me say this. Savage Worlds is fast, furious, and fun. If you have any interest in the Old West or just a fan of Savage Worlds, then this is a must have. I am continuously compelled to break this out to run a game or just read it for fun.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Reloaded: Player's Guide
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Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
Publisher: Engine Publishing
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2010 21:55:01
This one is going to be pretty short. This book is exactly what it says it is . . . 501 plot hooks. The helpful part of the book is that it is organized and indexed in several ways. Chapters focus on Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy. Within the chapters, the hooks are organized by the general theme you are trying to convey. The book is then indexed so that you can pretty much pull anything out by any combination of the tags in a matrix. There is a broad set of themes, tons of cool hooks, and some introductory advice on building adventures.

This is a good book for GMs wanting to put some fun hooks into their games.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters
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Shadows of Midnight: West Milford, 4th Edition
Publisher: Alternate Realities Publications
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2010 21:46:06
This is a great book. It is filled with stories of mystery and the macabre. The best part is that I have heard many of the stories in the book. Not only does Jorgensen go into detail about strange happenings, but also provides locations and tips on visiting for the brave adventurers willing to check them out. Obviously, those places that are off limits are pointed out explicitly, so you don't have to worry about the authorities and men in black.

Another great aspect of the book is that the author also debunks several of the stories including Demon Alley, where the townspeople mysteriously vanished leaving dinner on the table and the rest of their worldly possessions. From cults and demon dogs to UFOs and just plain creepy folks, this book is guaranteed to put a chill down your spine.

Now it's on an RPG website, so what's in it for us gamers? Well, it doesn't take much work to get tons of hooks for a horror or mystery game. For the uninspired, it even lays out a mini-campaign with pick and choose menus of locations and events that you string together. Combine that with a modern d20 conversion section with monster stats, NPCs, PC classes, and a number of other resources.

If you like horror games, Weird New Jersey, or just reading interesting folk lore, check this out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Midnight: West Milford, 4th Edition
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The Crone's Army
Publisher: Sonic Legends
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2010 20:58:14
Very Dark Knight track starting with the ominous horns and strings. It then builds to nice dramatic heights with pounding drums and blasting horns. This fades to an Arabic sounding horn with ethereal female voices. Finally, it gets loud again to finish out the track. This is great background for just about any battle that is epic in scale especially if there is a big bad army at your heroes' heels.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Crone's Army
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Kingdom Builder Generator Pack II
Publisher: Chaotic Shiny Productions
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2010 20:43:55
I like this tool for when I need some additional help fleshing out an area on the fly. It can generate the name of a kingdom (or area or whatever) along with the ruler, names of well known places, recent events, plot hooks, prominent people, and a host of other information. It has some other interesting options like generating lists of multiple armies, conspirators, laws, etc. Granted things like local fashions aren't a hot topic in most campaigns, it can add some flair if you like. Synced up to a map generator and with a few other options, this could be a very cool little program. Until then, $4 is a small price to pay for instant lands!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kingdom Builder Generator Pack II
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Trouble in the Empire
Publisher: Sonic Legends
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2010 21:18:57
I like this track. It really gives the sense that something brewing. Heavy percussion backed up by low horns and strings are appropriate and let your players know it's urgent. This is a great background for any scene where your players are working against a foe, particularly if it's an indirect opposition. It could even be good for the buildup to a large fight with the enemy as the players realize it's going to be one heck of a fight.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trouble in the Empire
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Emperia
Publisher: Sonic Legends
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2010 21:13:58
To me, this track sounds like something you could play in a movie where you sweep in over a landscape to see a group of warriors chasing their foes. Mostly quick drum beats, more realistic horns, and the fast plucking stringed instruments bring you into excitement. I think this would be great with an action packed scene or battle. This one will make your players really feel like they are teaching the enemies who's boss.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Emperia
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Emperial Citizens
Publisher: Sonic Legends
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2010 21:10:23
Overall this is a decent track. It starts with some Asian sounding drum beats and then transitions in some MIDI horns and trumpets. I'm not a huge fan of those instrument choices as they tend to sound more artificial than others. I think it fits best with a campaign in India or similar culture. At the end, it gets a bit more harrowing with aggressive drum strikes. Just not sure why it takes that turn.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Emperial Citizens
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