DriveThruRPG.com
Close
New Account
 
  
 
 
You will lose your chance to get the free product of the week.
One-click unsubscribe later if you don't enjoy the newsletter.
Close
Log In
 
 Forgot password?
 

     or     Log In with your Facebook Account
Browse
 Publisher Info
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsLog in or create an account and you can choose to get email notices whenever your favorite publishers or topics get new items!









Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Revere: Revolution in Silver
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment LLC
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 06:30:41
An enjoyable read with excellent art and a captivating premise - enough so that I look forward to follow-up stories. I own the hard back version as well and think it's a better value for the price than the PDF though.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Revere: Revolution in Silver
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Archaia Entertainment LLC
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 06:27:40
The Mouse Guard RPG is by Luke Crane & David Petersen, and is based upon the award-winning comic book and graphic novel series of the same name. It is produced by Archaia Studios Press. I have the hard cover version (along with the complementary pdf version you get when you purchase the HC through IPR), which sells for $34.95 and weighs in at a very hefty 320 pages. Luke Crane is a very well-known, award-wining RPG designer himself and is responsible for some very cool, and rather complex, RPGs including Burning Wheel and Burning Empires.

So how does the book measure up? Let me start with the book itself: It is easily the most beautiful RPG I have ever laid eyes on. I own a variety of very high quality RPG books, but MG blows them away. Really. It's on be heavy, glossy paper and filled from start to finish with lavish, full-color illustrations. The layout, the fonts, and the cover all scream "AWESOME!" Even the book jacket is great - the inside contains a complete map of the Mouse Territories! Oh and the book's dimensions are square which means it matches the comic and graphic novels' dimensions.

Okay, so the book is beautiful. How is the game? I hate sounding like a fanboi but, wow, is the game good. The book is very well-written and manages to explain how to play the game, in very simple terms so that a new RPer can understand and yet, as someone who owns dozens of RPGs, I never felt that things were being dumbed down - it was an easy and enjoyable read from start to finish. The book starts with a basic explanation of what roleplaying is and the basic mechanics of the game before jumping right into character creation and the resolution system. Next is an explanation of the structure of sessions, followed by a description of the Territories and their Denizens. The book then finishes up by detailing abilities, skills, traits, and how to create missions and your own characters.

So what makes this game special? Let's start with the basic mechanics. Mouse Guard (MG) is built on the same basic, well-tested mechanics as those used in Burning Wheel and Burning Empires, but is a much more refined and streamlined system. Some would call it a "lite" version of Burning Wheel (BW) but I would take exception to that term since it suggests that MG is somehow a cheaper or dumber version of BW which it is not. Instead MG trims away the unnecessary parts of BW and hones other mechanics to much more tightly capture the feel and style of the MG comics. Whereas BW is meant to be a workman's fantasy RPG which the group uses to "burn up" their setting, MG is instead designed to do one particular setting really well.

The basic mechanics of MG are based around dice pools (typically ranging in size from 3 to 6 dice) using D6's. A 4+ is considered a success on a die and all that's required is to roll your dice and count the number of successes. The system also differentiates between two levels of resolution: Tests and Conflicts. Tests are simple, single roll task resolution in which the number of successes is compared either to a target number based on the difficult of the task Ob (in MG terms, the obstacle's difficulty or "Ob" of the task), or to an opposing character's number of successes. The number of success beyond the Ob, or over your opponent's number, determines the margin of success. It's a very intuitive and elegant system that handles situations like untrained skills and teamwork in a very satisfying way.

Conflicts introduce another level of complexity and depth to the system in which the characters involved script their actions, consult a simple table to see how those actions interact, and then make an action test. It's a simplified version of the Fight! and Duel of Wits mechanics from Burning Wheel and I have to say, it's a big improvement for the average gamer. I really love the depth that BW offers (there are a large # of actions that interact in interesting ways) but it's very intimidating to new players. MG captures that same feel and concept in a much more streamlined way. What kinds of conflicts does the system handle? The short answer is anything. The more detailed answer is that it can handle situations like arguments, chases, fights, negotiations, journeys, speeches, or even all-out war, all with the same basic mechanic and just a few rolls. Perhaps the most innovative part of the whole system compared to Burning Wheel is the way team work factors in to a fight: Patrol members divide actions between the various team members in each turn, which means that conflicts involving 2 or more mice have a really cool team vibe to them where each member contributes to the action of each exchange. This approach also captures the style of the comic very well: One patrol member might act to distract an enemy while another strikes from a flank, with the two actions working together in a synergistic way that allows the small, physically limited mice to deal with a much larger foe. The only trick is that players need to learn to actively work as a team, something that may take a couple of conflicts to get the hang of.

Similarly, damage in the setting is handled by assigning Conditions to a guardmouse: Healthy, Hungry & Thirsty, Angry, Tired, Injured, or Sick. Each of these conditions comes with a very tangible game effect and multiple conditions stack so over the course of a mission a mouse may take quite a beating. Conditions create a very simple, descriptive system for modeling damage and stress that characters can use to easily gauge and roleplay their character's physical and mental status. I really like the system and find it very easy to work with. Of course it's not highly lethal but the game isn't really about representing grievous, bleeding, head wounds but that's fine with me since it fits the genre and style of the comic well. Death is still possible; it's just that the system doesn't model seven levels of wounding.

I really love the mechanics because they are simple but very flexible. They also create play sessions that match the pacing, feel, and style of the comic book which inspired the game. That's pretty cool. In addition, the way characters are defined also help to create very clear, evocative characters whose past, present, and future (in terms of goals) are laid out during character creation. Part of this process includes defining three core pieces of every character:

1. Beliefs - a personal code, ethical stance, or guiding principle
2. Instincts - gut reaction, ingrained training, or automatic behaviors of the character
3. Traits - the personality quirks and special qualities of the character

These three pieces of information, coupled with the rest of the character generation (in which a character's important relationships, past training, and skills are defined) really help to create unique and very flavorful characters. The character generation system, which is formally detailed in the last chapter of the book, is very intuitive, so much so that even brand new roleplayers I've introduced to the game have been able to create very interesting, evocative personalities. The character generation process is laid in a very clear, step-by-step manner which is incredibly easy to follow and actually fun to complete since the game explicitly states that character generation should be a group process. This approach guarantees the group forms a coherent and balanced patrol, and also helps flesh out the intra-group relationships right from the start. In one of my games, the three players created the group's dynamics during character creation and were able to jump right into their characters from minute one of actual play.

Like other of Luke Crane's games (e.g., Burning Empires), game sessions have a specific structure to them during which certain things need to happen. Each session typically covers one Mission in which the patrol (the group) are assigned a specific task to accomplish. For example, a mission might be Find out what happened to the merchant that went missing on the road to Sprucetuck. The mission is short and to the point, even if the twists and turns of the events that actually take place don't turn out to be. Once the mission is assigned, each player chooses a unique, personal Goal. This helps to define a specific accomplishment or deed the character needs to complete. As a GM, these goals are pure gold since they tell you exactly what the player wants to experience in the session. Thus, if someone writes Prove myself as a tracker to the Patrol Leader a GM knows the session should include a situation where that guardmouse's tracking skill is called upon. A crafy GM will even take these and use them as inspiration for the session. For example, I might decide that the merchant that disappeared, wandered off the path and thus the patrol will need to use their tracking skills to find him. The Mission chapter contains a ton of valuable advice for the GM on how to construct a mission, what kinds of obstacles are appropriate, and how the seasons impact the mission.

Once the mission has been assigned, the GM's Turn begins. Essentially, this is structured much like any other traditional RPG where the GM defines scenes and obstacles to challenge the patrol. Challenges typically come in the form of weather, nature (as in the wilderness), animals, or other mice. Here is where the meat of the roleplaying and active conflicts take place. Once the GM's Turn is over, the Players' Turn begins. Here is where the game becomes a bit more "indie" in that players now get the opportunity to contribute to the narrative development of the story by defining specific events, scenes, or checks they want to see to wrap up the story. Typically the Players' Turn will involve the recovery from stress, re-equiping themselves, building relationships with NPCs, etc.

The end of the session then involves a ritualized procedure in which rewards are given out for characters who met their Goal, as well as involved their Beliefs and/or Insticts in the session's play. This reward procedure actively involves the whole table, players and the GM, in determining who deserves rewards and who doesn't. This is one of my favorite parts of the Burning Wheel approach since it involves the whole group in determining who deserves recognition - as a GM, often events or play that I thought was pretty run-of-the-mill turn out to be really powerful or significant in the eyes of the other players and thus involving them in making these decisions is only natural.

The types of missions, as well as the obstacles experienced during them, are shaped by the Season, and the rule book spends a considerable # of pages (31 total) explaining how the seasons shape the lives and duties of the guardmice, as well as the mouse territories in general. Aside from providing interesting facts and details about the setting, the chapter also helps provide guidance to the GM about what types of missions and weather-related obstacles are appropriate for the chose season.

The Seasons chapter is followed by chapters that provide an overview of the mouse Territories, including the major settlements, along with the inhabitants found in the territories. Only two sentient races exist in the game: Mice and Weasels (and related species like ferrets and martens). Weasels are much more physically impressive and powerful than mice, although the way the game defines characters means that a patrol stands a decent chance of defeating one if they work together. Wild animals represent most of the "monsters" within the game and these range from bears to snakes. Perhaps the most interesting bit about mice fighting larger animals is that the game explicitly defines what a patrol can and cannot actually kill - mice, being small and frail, can take on animals that are a little bigger than themselves (e.g., a snake or weasel) but there's no way a mouse can seriously threaten a badger or a wolf, at least in normal combat. Instead mice must resort to science or large scale, militar action to take on a big foe. This to me is a nice touch because it creates a situation where PCs can't simply take anything on head-to-head but instead must find alternative methods, creating tons of situations for interesting roleplaying and conflict situations.

The book is rounded out by extensive descriptions of the skills and traits available to characters, as well as a set of sample missions which illustrate different types of missions. Each of these missions is accompanied by 4 pregenerated characters so that players can jump right into the action. In fact the first sample mission is a recreation of the events that take place during the Fall 1152 in which three guardmice set out to find a missing grain peddler. I've run a couple of the sample missions and would recommend anyone new to the game do the same since they provide a good overview of how to structure a mission and how the characters' abilities interact with the mission's obstacles. The last chapter, as mentioned earlier, is a detailed explanation of character generation and is perhaps the best written chapter in the entire book.

Whew, this review has already gotten seriously long and I haven't even really analyzed all the ins and outs of the system. I think I'll go into those sometime in the future, but the analysis can be summed up this way: The mechanics of the game, once you get the hang of them, lend themselves to roleplaying, creating situations where the dice help determine how your character acts and how your character acts helps determine the results of the dice (e.g., by giving you bonus dice). Thus, the two go hand-in-hand and those are the kinds of RPGs that I love.

Mouse Guard would make a cool game for gaming with kids (in fact I have plans next year to run a couple of "introduction to RPGs" at my son's elementary school using it), but it's not a game that's designed explicitly for children. I've played the game with a half dozen adults and all loved the system and setting - while it sounds kind of goofy to play anthropomorphic mice, all it takes is a look at the illustrations and most people lose those fears. If you're a fan of the Mouse Guard comics, or liked the Redwall books, the Mouse Guard RPG is a for you. However, I would go out on a limb and say that most people will like this game if the theme and subject is of any interest to them. While the PDF version is nice and serviceable enough, if you do decide to bite the bullet and buy the game, I really think it's worth spending the extra money for the hard cover version since it's a beautiful book that the PDF doesn't really provide justice to.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

12TM: Bloodlines--Savaged edition
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 06:24:18
Bloodlines is a fun and interesting, modern day ghost story which is among my favorite adventures from 12-to-Midnight. While it's explicitly written for Savage World (and decently so) I think the story and adventure is interesting and generic enough that it could be easily converted to other investigative-type games like GUMSHOE's Fear Itself or the Dresden Files RPG, making it worth considering by anyone interested in some inspiration for their modern investigative game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
12TM: Bloodlines--Savaged edition
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Trail of Cthulhu: Many Fires
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 06:19:18
A fun colorful romp through history: Many Fires is a pulp-flavored scenario for Trail of Cthulhu set in northern Mexico and utilizing historical figures like Pershing to provide some context and verisimilitude to the story. This is a very interesting adventure which is well-written and nicely laid out. It also includes some great looking handouts as well as pregenerated characters which makes it a snap to run on short notice or at cons.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Many Fires
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Trail of Cthulhu: Stunning Eldritch Tales
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 06:14:24
Another excellent supplement to the Trail of Cthulhu RPG. Stunning Eldritch Tales offers a selection of interesting scenarios for those that love playing pulp-flavored investigations in which PCs battle horrors with shotguns, tommy guns, and dynamite. The scenarios are varied, colorful, and well-written with each being self-contained allowing a keeper to pick & choose what they want to run or slip one of these in to an existing campaign. The PDF is fairly priced given the amount of time and creativity that went in to these adventures.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Stunning Eldritch Tales
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Trail of Cthulhu: The Dying of St Margaret's
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2011 06:09:46
The Dying of St. Margaret's is an adventure written by Graham Walmsley that falls into what Pelgrane calls its Purist scenarios for the Trail of Cthulhu RPG. What that means is that it's designed to evoke the feel and style of H.P. Lovecraft's stories rather than the more pulpy style in which investigators fight Lovecraftian horrors with tommy-guns and dynamite. Instead, the best investigators can hope for is to escape with a shred of their sanity intact. As such it's right up my alley.

The adventure comes in the form of a 28-page PDF, with an attractive color cover and a black-and-white interior with just a tasteful pieces of art. As such it's fairly reasonable in terms of ink/toner if you're going to print things out. The layout is neat and easy to follow, although the three-column format makes it less suitable for use on a tablet since the text tends to be quite small.

The Investigation
Enough with the physical details, what about the adventure?
The investigation, which is set in ToC's default 1930 time-frame, takes place on a remote Scottish island and is centered around a decaying private girls academy. The standard set-up is that the investigators are all friends or acquaintances of a group of staff from the school that have recently gone missing. Strangers at the beginning of the adventure, each of the investigators meet on the boat ride over to the island where they've each taken a temporary staff position – ranging from divinity master to under-Gardner – in order to gain access to the school grounds and hopefully discover what happened to their friend.

While this set-up may be a bit harder to fit in to an ongoing campaign, it's perfectly suited for a one-shot, purist adventure and towards this end the adventure includes five pregenerated characters that are perfectly matched to the set-up. It also works extremely well because the ultimate outcome of the adventure is supposed to emulate that of an H.P. Lovecraft story in which the investigators come face-to-face with the realization of their own insignificance in the universe and often end up physically or mentally damaged. In other words, played as intended PCs are not supposed to exit this scenario unscathed.

This, in my opinion, is the most polarizing feature of the scenario because groups that want the bleak outcome typical to many of the original Lovecraft stories are going to really love the feel of this adventure. In contrast, those that prefer to shoot deep ones or ultimately “win” against the Mythos are going to find the adventure really unsatisfying. All is not lost though because Walmsley does include suggestions, including creature stats, in an appendix that lets you convert the adventure to a “pulp” style one.

The investigation itself is fairly straight-forward and while not built on rails (PCs can go where they want and no events are really “time locked”), it does have a fairly predictable flow that helps a GM keep the suspense building throughout the session. The core clues of the investigation follow logically from one another. That said, like IndiePete, a flowchart showing how the core clues (and some of the axillary clues) relate to one other would have been helpful.

The scenario is also very manageable in terms of locations and NPCs, thanks to the fact that it's set in a small, isolated location (essentially the PCs only can wander the school grounds, the nearby village, or the area in between). Thus, the number of NPCs is fairly limited and easy to keep track of although making some notes to reference (rather than flipping back and forth in the PDF) is advisable. In addition, the scenario itself includes a great bunch of roleplaying tips including suggestions for body language that really help bring the NPCs to life. Kudos for that feature: I wish all of the ToC scenarios followed the same format.

Aside from the actual content of the scenario's investigation, Walmsley also has included some specific tips and scene suggestions utilizing flashbacks and specific events that directly connect to the investigators' Drives, pushing them forward at certain points and undermining their confidence at others to turn up the psychological elements of the scenario. This is perhaps my favorite part - although it's also the one that takes the most mastery to fully utilize – because done well it really helps create a sense of history initially and then pushes the investigators to the brink as their mental fortitude starts to unravel in the face of a truly cosmic force.

My Verdict
I've run the adventure twice, for two different groups, and had a great time in both cases. I love running it late at night, with the lights turned down and just a couple of candles (I've got electric ones to avoid burning down the house) lighting the table. Atmosphere is critical for really raising the suspense and horror of the scenario. I also like the scenario because it's incredibly flexible – it will work for one to five players equally well (though smaller numbers work best in my opinion) and works equally well for those new to RPGs or grizzled veterans, as long as they're on board with the Purist style. It's now one of my “go to” scenarios for cons. As such I would highly recommend checking it out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Dying of St Margaret's
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Fiasco: Gangster London
Publisher: Bully Pulpit Games
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2011 11:22:49
One of my very favorite playsets, Gangster London really captures the Guy Ritchie type of story - it contains a lot of story-rich, outrageous elements which really helps set up a great fiasco.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fiasco: Gangster London
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Fiasco: Dragon Slayers
Publisher: Bully Pulpit Games
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2011 11:21:11
I've run the Dragon Slayers playset multiple times for different groups and really enjoy it - it tends to generate very interesting, zany fantasy stories full of the typical D&D cliches and tropes. Overall, I think Dragon Slayers is a bit more of an "advanced" playset though (or maybe intermediate is a better term) because it's set up for the story to unfold after the dragon has been slain, built around the aftermath. As such it requires a bit more preplay discussion to get everyone on the same page and to make sense of some of the elements that can come up during the initial set-up. Overall though I think it's a great playset and is one of the ones I pack for cons.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fiasco: Dragon Slayers
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2011 11:17:13
Bookhounds of London expands upon a campaign frame originally presented in the Trail of Cthulhu rulebook, providing in-depth information, inspiration, and details to run a campaign centered around unscrupulous book collectors. As the name suggests it's set in London during the 1930s. Overall, this is my favorite of the campaign arcs because it's both unusual and morally-grey which makes for much more interesting story development. The PDF is very nice although this is a book that I think paying either for a hard cover copy or at least having the book printed through RPGNow's P.O.D. service is well worth the extra cost.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Trail of Cthulhu Player's Guide
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2011 11:13:01
The Trail of Cthulhu Player's Guide is a valuable resource for groups playing ToC regularly or Keepers planning on running the game at conventions: It provides all the critical system info (the most important IMO is the details on drives and investigative abilities) that players need to know at the table. It's also very handy during character creation since multiple copies of the rules means that a group can get through the activity much faster than if they have to share the rulebook.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu Player's Guide
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Modern Floorplans: Airship
Publisher: Fabled Environments
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2011 00:44:00
Terrific looking, black & white renderings of an airship. The quality of these "blue" prints is excellent with a well-written description and narrative accompanying them describing the general layout and operation of the airship. If you're looking to run any sort of pulp or steampunk game, these are well worth the low asking price.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Floorplans: Airship
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2011 00:35:23
A fabulous storywriting game that melds RPG elements with board game elements. The PDF is beautiful, although I think the hard cover book is well-worth the extra cost. You can read my full, in-depth review on wire.com's GeekDad blog: http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2011/10/an-in-depth-review-of-d-
o-pilgrims-of-the-flying-temple/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Deadlands Reloaded: Player's Guide
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2011 02:13:35
Deadlands is a classic genre mash-up for which the Savage Worlds rule system works really well. It's nice that Pinnacle has finally updated the rules to fit in to the SW core rules (rather than being an offshoot from them). This book contains all of the core setting information (but not the SW rules! You need to buy the rule book for that), including character generation options. With this and the Deadlands Reloaded Marshal's Handbook, a group has everything they need to jump right in to weird western horror inspired adventures.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Reloaded: Player's Guide
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Dresden Files RPG Casefile: Night Fears
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2011 02:07:01
Another great FREE product from Evil Hat that anyone looking to run a one-shot of the Dresden Files RPG, or just for some inspiration and guidance for their own campaign, will find indispensable.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dresden Files RPG Casefile: Night Fears
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The One Ring™: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild 2011 Edition
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2011 01:59:07
The One Ring is an attractive and well-written product that attempts to capture the feel of Tolkien's Middle Earth which is no small feat. I think it does an admirable job - not perfect but certainly excellent and definitely playable. In particular I really like the maps that are included, one for the players detailing the basic lay of the lands and the other for the GM which has a great deal more detail on it. Overall, I think the One Ring meets its original design objectives although for me the sheer weight of the canon and expectations surround Middle Earth do not make it a particularly compelling setting to play within in. For Tolkien fans though this clearly is worth checking out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring™: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild 2011 Edition
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 16 to 30 (of 67 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates