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The Resurrectionists (Vampire: The Requiem)
Publisher: White Wolf
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 00:51:23
'The Resurrectionists' offers a neat mystery that is well-situated in the Vampire mythos - the authors have clearly thought about how to make this vampire-specific.
The scenes are suitably robust to handle a number of player reactions and the core morality of the vampiric condition is brought into play a number of times - which will lead to choices that appear easy on the surface, but have much deeper ramifications. The plot builds at a good pace and introduces a range of interesting encounters and NPCs. There is certainly scope to build on the events and create a mini-chronicle from the players choices in this SAS.
On the whole, I have a high opinion of the SAS product line, even more so when one considers that whilst this is written for the nWoD, Old World of Darkness fans (like me) can still find value in them.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Resurrectionists (Vampire: The Requiem)
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A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Quickstart PDF
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 00:41:55
Green Ronin now gives you the opportunity to explore The Seven Kingdoms. For anyone not familiar with the books, they follow the political and social intrigue of a handful of noble houses in a time of great conflict and when an ancient evil is stirring in the north. HBO has the rights to turn this into a TV series, which launches in a few weeks. Each novel in the series will be a Season and Martin is heavily involved in production (which is why he’s obviously not working on his next book – much to the dismay of fans). The major themes of loyalty, honour, trust and family are easily recognisable to any fantasy fan. Whilst the system has a robust combat system (and bloody, costly battles can be easily integrated as part of a campaign) the focus is very much on the social aspects of the story. Thankfully, the designers have stayed true to the core concepts of the novel and given players and GMs the tools to tell lavish tales of intrigue and betrayal. It offers an interesting system of linked abilities, called Techniques, that allow a character to customise how their character interacts socially with the rest of the world.

‘Journey to King’s Landing’ is a well-written, engaging module that really does deliver on the promise to showcase what the game is all about and can easily be played over a few sessions. There are six characters to choose from and all of them really display one of the unique aspects of the world. The authors clearly spent a lot of time reading the novels and faithfully rendering them into an RPG.

From: http://www.miragearcana.com/news-a-blog/40-game-night-blog-1-
2-free-your-mind

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Quickstart PDF
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Shadowrun: Quick-Start Rules: Fourth Edition
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 00:40:53
If you haven’t played Shadowrun before, you are seriously missing out on a good game. ‘Where man meets magic and machine’ is the tagline and it is a gritty, dark-edged game of cyberpunk and street magic in a world ruled by corporations. Taking a page from William Gibson’s vision of a dystopic future, where technology has failed to give humankind a better life, (meta)humanity instead wallows in it’s own decline – and likes it. Rather than the shiny, hopeful theme of the science fiction genre, cyberpunk punches your dreams in the teeth and watches and they fall bleeding to the pavement.

In 2074, governments have little to no authority, as the megacorporations have taken over the world. In fighting their clandestine wars against each other, they need deniable expendable assets – you. As a Shadowrunner, you live off the grid; nameless in the Sprawl with only your Ares Predator and your rep to protect you.

‘Foodfight’ offers (unsurprisingly for Catalyst Games) high production values and attention to detail. The writing is concise, and offers an decent explanation for a world that would otherwise require a lot of reading to understand. The rules are explained well, with marginalia and examples of the mechanics in action. Like the Battletech product 'A Time of War Quickstart', the character sheets are succinct, the artwork evocative and everything logically loaid out for the novice player. The back of the book offers a quick-reference chart for most of the common rolls you’ll make. The module is short, but to the point and you’ll never look at fast food the same way again.

While you’re at it, pick up the GM Screen for free too!

From: http://www.miragearcana.com/news-a-blog/40-game-night-blog-1-

2-free-your-mind

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Quick-Start Rules: Fourth Edition
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BattleTech: A Time of War Quick-Start Rules
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 00:38:14
This game has always fascinated me, and I’ve never played it. However, with the quick-start rules for the latest edition, this is going to change. Battletech: A Time of War advances the timeline to the year 3077 in what is arguably one of the most detailed intellectual properties in the science fiction genre. A cursory search will yield the decades of sourcebooks which came before it and the shelf of novels that you can immerse yourself in (and steal ideas from).

This free PDF offers a fairly in-depth explanation of the basic rules (they take up most of the document) and there are plenty of quick-reference tables for the novice to refer to throughout gameplay. It is clear that Catalyst thought very carefully about this product, and the high production values, catchy art and design layout are all of the quality I’ve come to expect. The character sheets are straightforward and punchy and come with some neat character art for each of the PC’s (of which there are four). The only problem is that scenario provided is only two pages long, but an enterprising GM could easily turn the premise into a few nights of fun. Also, given the amount of rules in here, you could play a few basic games and really get a feel for the game before investing the rulebook (which after reading the quick-start, I’ll be doing).

From: http://www.miragearcana.com/news-a-blog/40-game-night-blog-1-
2-free-your-mind

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: A Time of War Quick-Start Rules
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A Dungeon Dash: The Cult of Bane
Publisher: Kurt Sparkuhl Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 00:36:56
Whilst ostensibly designed with the D&D 4e party in mind, the concepts in each module are quite transferable, whether you’re playing D6 Fantasy, Rolemaster (or even Earthdawn) – it all depends on how much extra work the GM wants to put in. The Dungeon Dash series are lightweight at only seven pages apiece and you really shouldn’t expect too much depth from them (they are free, after all). They remind me of the Dungeon magazine ‘Side Trek’ column, where a short encounter would be detailed and it was up to the DM to decide how to fit it into their campaign and what modifications were necessary. Each Dungeon Dash offers a small dungeon, a series of fully statted-out encounters and some story notes. They can form the basis of some excellent sessions, and the product boasts that you’ll get about four to five hours of gameplay from each. I think this is an exaggeration, unless your DM has planned well and fleshed out the module.

However, the ideas are good, and if you are looking for some filler for your campaign, I’d look no further.

From: http://www.miragearcana.com/news-a-blog/40-game-night-blog-1-
2-free-your-mind

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
A Dungeon Dash: The Cult of Bane
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A Dungeon Dash: Wraithwood Cavern
Publisher: Kurt Sparkuhl Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 00:36:28
Whilst ostensibly designed with the D&D 4e party in mind, the concepts in each module are quite transferable, whether you’re playing D6 Fantasy, Rolemaster (or even Earthdawn) – it all depends on how much extra work the GM wants to put in. The Dungeon Dash series are lightweight at only seven pages apiece and you really shouldn’t expect too much depth from them (they are free, after all). They remind me of the Dungeon magazine ‘Side Trek’ column, where a short encounter would be detailed and it was up to the DM to decide how to fit it into their campaign and what modifications were necessary. Each Dungeon Dash offers a small dungeon, a series of fully statted-out encounters and some story notes. They can form the basis of some excellent sessions, and the product boasts that you’ll get about four to five hours of gameplay from each. I think this is an exaggeration, unless your DM has planned well and fleshed out the module.

However, the ideas are good, and if you are looking for some filler for your campaign, I’d look no further.

From: http://www.miragearcana.com/news-a-blog/40-game-night-blog-1-
2-free-your-mind

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
A Dungeon Dash: Wraithwood Cavern
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Misguided Ambitions - An Introduction to Earthdawn Third Edition
Publisher: FASA
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 00:34:46
Earthdawn is a great change of pace if you’ve played in the ‘traditional fantasy realm’ for a while. Barsaive is a place that has been in hiding for hundreds of years as the prophecy of the Horrors came to pass. As these titanic creatures of malice and despair broke into Barsaive, the people constructed huge Kaers, warded cities that would withstand the Horrors and their age of darkness. Now, many of the wards have crumbled, and visitors from other Kaers bring word that the world is changed. It’s time to venture forth and explore the world.

Earthdawn offers a very different play experience and host of new races and classes, from the flamboyant, swashbuckling T’Skrang Lizardfolk, to the dimunitive Windlings, the inscrutable Obsidimen and the powerful Troll Skyraiders. The world is comprehensively detailed and diverges from a lot of the fantasy tropes, whilst retaining enough of them to be recognisable.

‘Misguided Ambitions’ is a solid piece of writing that offers basic rules, a short adventure and five pre-generated characters ready to play. The idea is simple – read 38 pages, hand out the characters and prepare for a night’s entertainment. The module does well in showcasing some of the unique aspects of Earthdawn, and the characters are drawn from some of the new races and classes, giving players a chance to run a very different character.

Taken from: http://www.miragearcana.com/news-a-blog/40-game-night-blog-1-
2-free-your-mind

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Misguided Ambitions - An Introduction to Earthdawn Third Edition
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Nitro Dice - Street Racing
Publisher: Minion Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2011 04:06:26
Why haven't you purchased this card game already? Nitro Dice is a brilliantly delivered game, that promises a ton of fun. The concept is very simple - race your D10s around the track, avoid obstacles and strategically place obstacles in your opponents way. The rules are a grand total of six pages, clear, concise and easy to learn.
I'm going to have a copy on hand to use when our gaming group is waiting for everyone to arrive. It is a perfect, scalable game to fill in some time (whether that time is just before a game or a whole evening of beer and pretzels) and most importantly, have some fun.

Rent a copy of 'Fast and the Furious', grab a beverage of choice, and then play some Nitro Dice - I'll be very keen to see what Minion Games offers us next.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Nitro Dice - Street Racing
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Edge of Night
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2011 22:30:43
'Edge of Night' follows on from the events in the module 'Eye for an Eye' presented in the back of the Warhammer Fantasy GM Guide. It is a robust, highly detailed module that could be played over a number of nights.

The basic plot revolves around the rumours of Chaos taint and political upheaval in the town of Ubersreik in the lead-up to a Masquerade Ball. There are plenty of class and race hooks to believably entice characters into the adventure (certainly a lot easier if they have played through the events of 'Eye for and Eye'). these hooks can also be used easily to create a number of minor subplots that can entertain players and really flesh out the module.
Ubersreik is well-presented, with plenty of detail on the locals, services, commerce and superstitions and there is a comprehensive historical section for GMs wishing to ring ancillary facts into the game. It all works to create a realistic town that has its own internal consistency.

The plot progresses logically and there are enough elements here to ensure that players don't become bored. There are some classic villainous races presented as foes; and the main ones (no, I'm not telling what they are) is presented with just enough mystique that convincing the townsfolk of the truth will be just as difficult a task.

The Masquerade Ball at the centre of the story shows that intrigue can be presented on a number of levels and there is plenty of direction for the GM in this section.

Finally, the GM tools in the back are designed to help keep the small army of NPCs manageable and acts well as a quick guide for the stats needed in the module.

Again, it benefits from the consistently good artwork, engaging writing style and sensible layout that I have come to expect from Fantasy Flight.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Edge of Night
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Deadly Ice (Pathfinder)
Publisher: 0one Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2011 21:03:38
As modules go 'Deadly Ice' is very standard fare. It doesn't deviate too far from the 'go to the tavern and take on a quest' mantra, and the usual fantasy stereotypes are presented. That said, I feel that a beginning party (it is designed for character levels 4-5) would probably find it an interesting evening. There are equal parts puzzle-solving, investigation and combat, so there is a chance for most character types to have a moment in the spotlight. The nature of the plot means that any DM should be able to pick up the main themes and run the module with very little prep time.
Given the title, locale and emphasis on the environment, I expected the terrain to be a major feature and challenge; and I felt this was under-developed. An enterprising DM could easily take this and make the environment a true challenge for the party.

The new creatures presented were interesting and I can see myself slipping a couple of these (especially the Whitemonks and the Ice Lords) into my regular campaign.

The production values remind me of the original D&D module produced in the early 80's - the artwork is average at best, the maps detailed and the text arranged in a very readable manner (with obligatory stat blocks throughout making these ready-reference materials in combat).

Overall, it is a good entry-level module and in the hands of an imaginative, prepared DM it could become quite an experience - if they are willing to do the work to make it so.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deadly Ice (Pathfinder)
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Shadowrun: MilSpecTech
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2011 18:49:33
Hoi, chummer! Weighing in at only 39 pages, this is chock full of ordinance, vehicles and endless ways to deplete your bank accounts of hard-earned nuyen.

Presented as a catalogue from Ares, this is very nicely illustrated, with a layout reminiscent of the SR2 ‘Riggers Black Book’. It is easily referenced, well-designed and has plenty to commend it. Whilst a tie-in for ‘Shadowrun: War!’, the tech here can be inserted into any game where you want to seriously up the ante; or let the runners enjoy some non-standard rides.

The pricing of the equipment varies dramatically, from the 16,000 nuyen GMC MPUV, a neat little customisable military SUV, through to the 7.8million nuyen VTOL and air-craft. The array of vehicle weaponry is enticing with everything from missiles to railguns covered.
There is more than enough here to keep GMs satisfied if they want to populate a hotspot, or for Street Samurai and Riggers to aspire to own.

I’d highly recommend the purchase of this PDF, and the cost of printing in full colour (seriously, consider an option with glossy pages for the catalogue effect) is well worth it.
If this is the direction that Catalyst will be taking to provide niche support for the game, then I’m applauding their efforts. I’ll definitely be checking out their other offering ‘This Old Drone’ given the quality of this publication.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: MilSpecTech
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Shadowrun: War!
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2011 00:00:21
Shadowrun: War! is an incredibly dense sourcebook – there is a lot of information in this title, and it will take a while to digest. The largest segment of the book deals with the escalation of the ‘Atzlan Situation’ as it progresses from global hotspot to open warzone. In true Shadowrun-sourcebook style, there are exhaustive notes on the history of the location, the movers and shakers (individuals, corporations and other groups) and the running commentary from the forum-style posts of the NPCs. This last feature has always been a favourite of mine in Shadowrun publications, as it provides everything from alternative perspectives, idle banter and street-level info that isn’t part of the public record.
It moves into sections on the other Global Hotspots, areas when the level of tension and militarisation is a cause for concern. In these areas, war is imminent and it discusses a range of ways that shadowrunners can influence events and what sorts of roles they should expect to play in these areas.
The final chapters describe life in the military, for those groups interested in running a slightly different game (in the same vein as the ‘Shadows of the Underworld’ sourcebook from SR2) and there is more than enough info and game mechanics to get a group playing. In true Shadowrun fashion, the rest of the book is given over to new gear, mostly military grade – everything from combat drone, to military naval vessels to new cyberware and more mundane weaponry. There is enough new swag here to keep even the most hardened shadowrunner very, very happy. Again, reference to the material is made easy by the simple tables in the back.

My major gripe with this book lies in the writing, and is a matter of personal taste. I have noticed that whilst the second- and third-edition books relied on the shadowrunners slang to substitute for swearing (which gave the game its own flavour and was neat), the more recent writers are instead placing a proliferation of real-world four-letter words into the publication. I am seriously wondering, when SR has gone to lengths to establish their own turns of phrase, why the writers felt they needed to do this. It is isn’t necessary, it’s not edgy, and it actually detracts from the game. The sheer volume of profanity is also slightly off-putting.

This aside, I’d be tempted to buy the book just for the new gear it presents.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: War!
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Game Master's Guide
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/20/2011 22:15:22
The more that I see of Warhammer Fantasy RPG, the more I think that this is a game line worth watching (most intently). The ‘Game Masters Guide’ has reinforced this belief.

The book opens with a considered section on the role of the Gamesmaster, that whilst common for this sort of book, is well-considered and has lots of common-sense advice. Starting with ‘you’re a partner, not an adversary’, it moves to running your first adventure and even practical tips about reusing the unused portions of your modules in later games (‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ the Guide says), and some criteria for making off-the-cuff rules calls (and living with the consequences). Whilst seasoned Gamesmasters would be tempted to skip over this chapter, I would warn against it – there are some true gems in here.

The next Chapter deals with pacing the adventure and planning ahead when building a story, as continues to build on the solid foundation of the opening chapter. From there we explore the gamut of situational and environmental rules (Social Encounters, Travel, Fatigue, Disease and Corruption) that anyone who has ever owned a DMG (in any of its’ incarnations) would expect from such a tome, with hints on how to spawn a campaign-style game and logically link stories. All through these sections are small examples of ‘how it all works’, practical applications for the theory presented. The book then gives an in-depth look at Faith and Wizardry, with some very thought-provoking sections on the Theories of Magic, that should be able to give any GM (or player) plenty of fodder for discussion.
It then closes with the adventure ‘Eye for an Eye’, a three-act story designed as a ‘first quest’. In this, it succeeds admirably. There is a logic to the plot, with a mixture of occult, investigation and combat that allows players to comfortably explore their characters (and the rules system). It is structured with the beginning GM in mind, with plenty of ‘read aloud’ boxes and lots of dot points to summarise the key issues. Any GM taking the books advice in Chapter 1 (especially about being prepared) should have no problems at all.

Whilst the first chapter was a pleasure to read, the standout for me would be Chapter Six, dealing with ‘Enemies and Adversaries’. There is a lot to be mined from here from making memorable villains and even designing a personal ‘Nemesis’-level NPC for the party. Whilst only short, there are plenty of good ideas to latch onto in the section. The other personal favourite was the Campaign Log in the back of the book, a useful addition which can be used as a living document for any game, really.

The production values are quite high, the artwork used appropriately and of consistently good quality, with the writing clear and concise (in some places almost conversational in tone) which makes reading the book and easy task. This PDF copy has bookmarks within the text, which aids in navigation, and would be exceptionally handy at the gaming table. However, one suggestion that I would make is in how the Index has been overlooked. Whilst a very comprehensive index is given, would it not make sense to put bookmarked links in here as well? Likewise, there are top-level Chapter links, but not to the subsections of each chapter. These improvements would enhance what is already a good product and empower the ready-reference aspect of this title.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: Game Master's Guide
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Dresden Files RPG Casefile: Neutral Grounds
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2011 21:18:22
Wow. Whilst the author notes that this is a 'lightweight write-up' for an adventure, it does offer a great start for a campaign or simply a single night's play. What was refreshing was the acknowledgement by the author that this had been play-tested, and there were relevant and appropriate anecdotal notes from the three times this module had been run by the author. Those notes help to contextualise the scenes and offer some springboards for inspiration.

The plot is very straightforward, but has enough flexibility to become as simple or as complex as the GM wants, and the concepts can be used in any game at all which features magic. As a long-time fan of the Dresden Files novels (and television series) this has been the catalyst for my purchase of the full RPG rules.

What is extremely useful is the section at the beginning dealing with the plot set-up. It offers a series of questions which allow the PCs to co-create the back-story of the module and (if they're feeling lucky) anchor their characters to specific plot points. This represents a greater level of buy-in from the players and this template is something that all GMs should attempt to work into their own games at some point.

The writing is clear and concise, descriptions are succinct and understandable and the scenes are linked in a logical fashion. The sample characters in the back are well-written and engaging and I could see my group turning these into full characters. The NPCs are good (Damocles is a hoot - I could see him in a Dresden novel). The layout of the product is great, from the coffee-mug (and another stranger-shaped cup) stains, cellotaped inserts and other features give this a neat feel. The art is good, and a very suitable choice for this product.

As a free PDF, this is brilliant - I would have no qualms in paying cash for this, and I'll be running it as soon as I get a free weekend.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dresden Files RPG Casefile: Neutral Grounds
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Deadlands Reloaded: Player's Guide
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2011 18:46:48
What do you mean I can't give six stars? I'll use the same thoughts as I did for the original edition of this game, because after reading this version, I still really think this is a top-notch game. Note that you will need a copy of the 'Savage Worlds Rulebook' to make sense of this (I'd highly recommend the 'Explorer's Edition').

This is one of the most original games you are probably likely to ever play. A mix of Western, Steampunk and Horror, Deadlands manages to blend all of these seamlessly. The book is easily digested in a couple of sittings (I'd recommend taking some time over Hucksters and over the mechanical construction rules).

The designers have a great eye for detail and have themed the game appropriately (I'm yet to see such a successful implementation of the look and feel of a game as this replicated). The game uses poker chips as well as dice for an 'Old West' feel and even the magic system has been devised to make it feel like a unique experience.

The character archetype choices are varied, with a small amount of stereotyping, but reasonably so. The writing style of the book is full of Western movie flavor and statistics and rules are written with the same style.

Despite the differences in the rules, I'd recommend browsing through the back-catalogue of Pinnacle titles for the original Deadlands to supplement this book. they'll provide you with a host of back story, setting information and are simply good reading.

Every roleplayer should play at least one session of this game (although I can guarantee that one won't be enough).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Reloaded: Player's Guide
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