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Crescent City
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/03/2014 08:17:53

Crescent City, built on the ruins of what we know as Chicago, is the default 'home town' of the Brave New World game setting, and this book sets out to inform characters about the place in which they live through the by-now familiar format of an extensive series of in-character web pages.


If you want to base your game in Crescent City, or at least have the characters visit there, this is a useful resource... even if the authors of the webpages have the exact breezy, chatty tone as the writers of all the other webpages in other books in the series. Must be a style taught in the leading web writing schools across the Brave New World, I guess! Never mind, let's see what they have to say.


It's a lot more than a street map or a gazetteer. In fact there are only a few wide-area maps tucked away in the back of the book, unless you count a plan of New Alcatraz. There's history, starting with the battle that destroyed Chicago (and what brought that about, a quite tragic tale of revenge) and how the city that's there now grew out of the very ashes, built by a single corporation and governed by an appointed mayor (as you might expect given the permanent state of martial rule that exists in America). There's plenty about the deltas who live there now - legally and otherwise - from the Delta Prime HQ to a hotbed of Defiance supporters and even the gaol of New Alcatraz in the middle of the lake that has been specially built to hold criminal deltas.


Next comes an area by area description of the city, with a wealth of background to make it come to life... and, if you're the Guide, to spawn plot ideas just about whatever manner of game you intend to run. Lots of people who might interact with the party, hire them or oppose them, places to visit and so on. Some maps would have been nice, but if you need them and have the time, the descriptions are enough to come up with at least a rough sketch of the lay of the land.


Then comes the player material, with a selection of new power packages. These are all linked in some way to living in Crescent City (although most if not all could be used elsewhere). Each comes with an archetype to use as-is or provide inspiration for your own character taking that power package.


The Guide section, after remarking that the Guide is welcome, indeed encouraged, to stamp their own mark on Crescent City, then as usual lifts the lid on what has gone before and tells it like it is. There are quite a few Crescent City based adversaries to throw at the characters too.


This is followed by 'The Teleterrorists' which is an adventure set in Crescent City ready for you to run. It's designed as an introduction to the City as well, so would suit a party arriving from elsewhere or as the start of a new game. As a result, there's plenty going on and it gives the characters a good chance to get embedded into the place quickly... with the climax occurring at a game of deltaball (American Football for the superpowered).


Finally, the Author's Afterword contains snippets of personal information and explains that since the move to AEG he's not writing every word himself but getting contributions, particularly in the shape of well-defined profiles and stat blocks for NPCs (which he doesn't like writing much!).


Overall a very useful tome if you intend your game to visit or be set in Crescent City, as well as the first actual scenario to play.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crescent City
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Legacy of Disaster
by Dennis L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/01/2014 15:56:20

A Free RPG Day product from a couple of years ago, its a shame that AEG hasn't considered writing more of these. The adventure is a great, quick introduction not just to the system for L5R (which is faithfully represented) but also to the world and the setting. Understandably (word counts?) the adventure doesn't explain certain finer points of detail (why suicide would be better than imprisonment; why the PCs have to endure insults and baseless allegations), so anyone running the adventure should be prepared to answer those questions if they come up, especially since there are no Courtier pre-generated characters. Otherwise, a good adventure when you're looking for something to do other than you're regular.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy of Disaster
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Bargainers
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2014 09:17:54

This book sets out to explain a different path, for characters who want power but without becoming a standard delta. They are the bargainers, magic-users of the Brave New World if you like, doing their thing by making pacts, bargains, with spirits. Generally not very nice ones. The process starts pretty much like becoming a delta, surviving a near-death harrowing experience, only the character does not become a delta. They start hearing voices instead...


The first part of the book delivers in-character information in the form of a series of web pages, these ones written by a Mister Twist for beginning Bargainers explaining to them just what their new-found powers might be. Dealing with demons, basically. There's all manner of background material, the long history of how the demons came to be and how they interact with mere mortals, deltas though they might be. It creates a mythology all of its own, which may not sit too well with players who have religious beliefs - just sit back and remember that this is a game, or decide that you won't play a Bargainer or even have them in your game if you feel this is all too offensive to your faith. This cosmology posits a Heaven and a Hell, each with inhabitants, and it is the Demons from Hell that Bargainers associate with.


The first true bargainer, it's said, was Houdini. There's a fair bit of background on him, and then we get down to the nitty-gritty of how to make a deal with a demon and the basic ground rules that you should adhere to for your own safety and sanity. There's also plenty on bargainer society and support, the folks a new bargainer will associate with and learn from. The main means of communication for these quite solitary types is a mailing list and an annual convention.


Bargainers have enemies too, not just the government and Delta Prime, but the Covenant (representing Christian belief) and even devil-worshippers. They can cause quite a nuisance of themselves, even before they manage to make contact with a real demon... and then there's the Heavenly Host, the angels themselves. And other magic-users like shamans and practicioners of voodoo.


Eventually we emerge into game mechanics with a chapter Bargains and Bargainers, which takes all this in-character material and shows you how to make it work in game terms. There are six bargainer archetypes to use as is or as inspiration for your own character, and a wealth of other material as well. Bargainers gain access to some actual magic spells, you see, and these are laid out for you here.


The Guide's Handbook section follows, and as usual promises to reveal the truth of the matter. Along with that, it explains how to take the demon's part in a bargain and presents a host of appropriate adversaries.


Finally, the Author's Afterword explains how Brave New World is by no means a standard superhero game, and reveals a little about how his vision for it hangs together.


Are bargainers optional? They certainly do not need to play a large role, but if they are not there, somewhere in the background, your game will be the poorer for their absence.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bargainers
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Delta Prime
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/30/2014 09:38:48

The first three books for Brave New World have concentrated on those superpowered individuals or 'deltas' who have chosen a path of freedom if not rebellion, refusing to comply with fairly oppressive government regulations regarding superpowers. But what of the law-abiding? This work looks at the other side, those who register and serve in Delta Prime. Of course, if your game is based on Defiance, this will inform you about 'the enemy' instead and provide the Guide (GM) with a never-ending array of well-rounded opponents.


We start, as usual, on an in-character website - but this time it's the official government one, not the DeltaTimes. Oddly, the 'voice' of the writer sounds remarkably similar, although it's supposed to be that of a law-abiding delta called Charge. After giving some personal details, it's on to the history of Delta Prime - the federal law enforcement agency staffed by deltas and designed to deal with rogue ones. Their present mission, joining up and training and more follow, all in an engaging style that is readable as well as informative. Given that it's presented as a public website, this is material that can be accessed by any player, whither or not he intends his character to join Delta Prime.


This is followed by a collection of new power packages, this time aimed at members of Delta Prime. There are also new quirks - the different ranks in the organisation - and notes on Delta Prime equipment. Each new power package comes with a ready-made archetype to use directly or as inspiration for your own character.


Next is something a bit new, a chapter on Gadgets and Gadgeteers. This explores concepts introduced in the core rulebook in more depth, including the introduction of a system for gadget creation as well as a selection of ready-made ones that you might care to try out.


The Guide's Handbook section then, as usual, lifts the curtain and explains what is really happening, as opposed to what has been said in the in-character section at the front of the book. There's a collection of new adversaries and the Author's Afterword as well. In this last, Forbeck talks about moving from Pinnacle Games (the original publisher of the Brave New World line to the Alderac Entertainment Group.


This book offers more options, particularly that of being a law-abiding citizen... yet paints it in such an unattractive light that it's clear that even characters who originally start out that way will end up Defiant in the end! Still, it is good to gain an understanding of what's going on within Delta Prime, and there can always be some crossover with defections and moles if that suits your style.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Defiants
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/29/2014 09:23:11

As is becoming established pattern, this book begins with a substantial chunk of in-character pages from the DeltaTimes website. As that's pretty much the mouthpiece for the Defiance organisation, it is extremely relevant in this case!


This time, we're looking at a secure area reserved for those within the Defiance movement, or at least seriously interested in joining it. There's plenty here from history (told with a decidedly anti-establishment slant, of course) to opinion pieces from several leading members of the movement. If your game is, as the original intention seems to be, about deltas who have chosen to stand against the government, it's essential reading. For a start, it is by no means a coherent movement, Defiance is a loose aggregation of deltas linked only by the determination not to register their powers with the government as the law requires. Some are happy to leave it at that, others want to campaign against the way deltas are treated, and there are plenty of other points of view as well. If you'll be playing deltas in Defiance, you'll have to decide what you want to do, choosing one of these paths or carving out your own. If political games intrigue you, you could even base the game around the interplay between various factions within Defiance!


The bulk of the book consists of this in-character material (and fascinating reading it makes, too) but eventually we reach Chapter 1: New Power Packages. Here there are several new power packages, mostly related to different Defiance factions and useful if that's what you are going to play. Archetypes are provided for each one, as usual.


The final section is The Guide's Handbook, intended for the Guide's eyes only. Chapter 2: The Truth of the Matter lays out what's really going on behind the in-character stuff presented earlier as well as a lot more detail on the different Defiance factions. Some of them may be as much of a problem for the characters as the government forces are! Indeed, some are presented as adversaries. And there's an even more secret and hidden corner of the DeltaTimes website that reveals a few truths hidden even from most of Defiance. The section ends with the Author's Afterword, which includes errata for the first two books as well as the comment that following books will be even less rules and more about unravelling this Brave New World and helping you to find your character's place within it.


Another good read, even if it is a bit frustrating how everything comes out piecemeal. It is good, however, to see such a coherent vision of a game world and to be able to explore it so thoroughly.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Defiants
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Ravaged Planet
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/28/2014 09:15:04

This, the Player's Guide for Brave New World, opens with in-character material from the 'DeltaTimes' underground website, setting the scene for the alternate now in which the characters live. It starts where the comic strip that opened the core rulebook left off: the capture of a delta called Patriot who'd been a leading light in Defiance, the dissident organisation opposed to the current state of affairs in America and especially the policies concerning deltas, as superpowered individuals are known in this game. This is followed by Patriot's autobiography which gives a good flavour of the recent history that leads up to the present day. It's a good tale, well told, and ought to give players enough of a feel to know which side - government, Defiance, the Mob, independent operator - they'd like their characters to be on. The clear implication, though, is that all right-thinking deltas will join Defiance.


Next, and still as pages from an in-character website, Crescent City is described. This is the base setting for the game, a city that arose on the ruins of what was Chicago. It covers the city layout, government, police and other things anyone living there needs to know about... notable buildings, public transportation, even a few locals. A city plan would have helped, though.


If you'd rather go further afield, the next section looks at the United States of America as a whole. This section (and we're still reading web pages!) is very city-oriented, but gives a run-down on the current state of affairs in the major cities that even non-Americans can probably name. It ends with an overview of the general state of the union and the sort of people you'll find there.


Next, we stray - still on that website, DeltaTimes - even further afield into A World of Hurt. Everything's been about America so far, here we can read about how the rest of the world is faring. It's a motley summary of various parts of the world in roughly alphabetical order and again biased towards cities in each country described. Deltas are urban animals it appears.


This flavour text, informative and enjoyable, fills over half the book - so it's a bit of a surprise to find Chapter 1: New Power Packages on page 109 of a 160-page book. A pleasant surprise, however, especially if you are finding yourself a bit limited by the selection of packages provided in the core rulebook. It also introduces the Covenant, a delta organisation run by the Roman Catholic Church, and the Schism - renegade Catholics and others, Christian and non-Christian alike - who have shied away from Church teaching regarding deltas and the world as it is today. This of course gives plenty more options for what sort of character you want to play and the adventures he might become embroiled in. There's plenty of detail if fighting the good fight takes your fancy and you want to involve Covenant characters in your game. They have some interesting powers exclusively available to them, based on 'faith' and with interesting names that mean more if you know a little about Christian heritage. If religion's not your thing, though, there are quite a few more general power packages available to any delta. This section ends with some archetypes for the new power packages, and a selection of dramatic artwork illustrating various events and concepts touched upon earlier.


Next, we come to the Guide's Handbook and Chapter 2: The Truth of the Matter. This lifts the curtain on all that has come before, presenting the 'truth' for the game master's eyes only. It is a bit dogmatic about what really happened, but whilst it is open to individual Guides to decide what's true and what's not in their game, it may make the following supplements less easy to incorporate. And there's enough comments about not being ready to reveal certain bits of information just yet to make you - if you like consistent game worlds - want to get hold of them.


Finally there's a Author's Afterword. This talks about the underlying concepts and inspirations for the game, and is again quite interesting especially if you are interested in how a game designer's mind works.


Overall, this is a good 'setting' book that will help everyone in a group get to grips with what the alternate reality that they'll be inhabiting is like.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ravaged Planet
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Brave New World
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/23/2014 08:23:20

The book opens with a comic strip showing a young girl, newly into 'delta' powers, fleeing pursuit and being rescued, a process that rapidly descends into a brawl in which she's by no means sure who is on her side - aptly setting the scene for a game which melds alternate history and comic book superheroics into a fascinating if grim reality in which America is no longer the 'Land of the Free'... at least, not if you have superpowers.


Still in character, this moves on to facsimile web pages of an underground site called DeltaTimes, a place for those superpowered individuals who do not wish to cooperate with a fascist state to hang out. Taking the premise that the readers are newly come into their superpowers and are trying to figure everything out, the articles here give a lowdown (accurate as far as the game goes, if anarchistic in approach) about what it means to be a 'delta' or superpowered individual in this setting. So an excellent and immersive introduction to an alternate history that begins with the first delta arising on the battlefields of the First World War, superheroes flourishing during the interwar years, World War 2 being quite different with superhero involvement from the get-go, McCarthy chasing deltas as avidly as he did Communists, and finally a new twist on the 1963 Kennedy assassination where JFK survived but his wife did not, leading to repressive laws requiring deltas to register and cooperate with government... and worse, as subsequently Kennedy declared martial rule and continued to govern as a dictator to the present day.


Chapter 1: What You Need to Know cracks the fourth wall with the usual information about what a role-playing game is and how you play one. It's written in a casual style that explains the basics without sounding patronising. It also covers the roles of playing and Guide (the Game Master ) and says that only d6s are used... but a whole bunch of them.


Next comes Chapter 2: What It Takes to be a Hero. This deals with character creation, and takes you through the process in a logical manner, highlighting the need to know who your character is and what makes him tick as he is more than numbers on a page... but those numbers are important so it explains what they all are by reference to the character sheet. Characters are described in game mechanical terms by traits, skills, quirks and powers. Traits are the basic statistics of smarts, speed, spirit and strength. Human average in these is 2, but as you can imagine deltas often exceed that... the number assigned is the number of dice you roll when using that trait. Each trait has a number of skills - things you've actually learned or been trained in - associated with them. Quirks are the little things that bring a character to life, and powers are - as you might imagine - whatever superpowers your character has. OK, all that explained we then get down to the fine detail of how you actually make a character. Two options are presented: use an archetype or build one from scratch. If you are new to the game or in a rush, using an archetype gets you started with a minimum of fuss as all the number-crunching and selections have been done for you. Building one from scratch lets you have a delta that's really yours, even if it takes longer.


If you are building your own character, you start by distributing Trait Points as you please between the four traits. You have 12 to play with, enough to have an above-average 3 in each... or you may wish to boost one or more at the expense of the others. For every point assigned to a trait, you have 3 points to spend on skills associated with that trait. Quirks can be positive or negative: a positive one costs you points you might have spent on skills whilst a negative one gives you extra points... or you may prefer to balance out positive and negative quirks instead. There's a limit of 10 points-worth of negative quirks for playability reasons, but you can have as many positive ones as you are prepared to pay for! Next you pick superpowers which are organised in bundles called packages to give some coherence, rather than just selecting a random assortment of cool powers that do not really fit together. This all explained, there's a two-page quick reference guide to the process. A blank character sheet and a selection of archetypes are followed by several chapters that present skills, quirks, powers and tricks - signature knacks your character has - in great detail.


Next, Chapter 3: The Basic Mechanic, lays out in detail the core game mechanics. Task resolution is based around a single roll, the number of dice used being based on character capabilities, against a target number set by the Guide or an opponent as applicable. The target number gets higher the harder the task is deemed to be to accomplish. It's all quite straightforward, although it places a lot of responsibility on the Guide to set realistic yet achievable targets in order to present sufficient challenge yet keep the story rolling.


The next chapter goes into considerable detail about the skills available, including how to use them and likely target numbers for common uses of each skill. This is followed by a chapter on quirks and how to use them to present a well-rounded character - there's plenty of material here to empower good role-play, although contributions to game mechanics are also signposted clearly.


Then Chapter 6: The Big Throwdown takes a look at combat within the game. It's interesting that this comes before superpowers, but this section looks at the mechanics of brawling - initiatives, combat rounds, actions and so on - rather than every last thing that you might do during a fight, so if you pick a power package that has elements which are useful for brawling (or even designed for doing harm) you will be able to see how and when you will be able to use them within the context of the combat mechanics. Other ways to get hurt and healing are also covered here.


This is followed by Chapter 7: Tricks of the Trade, which explores a wide array of tricks - special things that you can do if you get a LOT of successes on your roll, well in excess of the target number you were aiming at. Here's the opportunity to be spectacular and cinematic. Characters start out knowing three tricks, and can acquire more later on in the game. Most tricks are related to a particular skill, so can only be used when you have that skill and are doing something which utilises it, but there are others which are more general in application as well as ones which, although associated with a particular skill, can be taken and used even if you have not been trained in that skill.


And now at last we get to the really important bit - Chapter 8: What Makes a Delta a Delta. Here superpowers are discussed, and you get to find out what power packages are available. Up til now, everything can be applied equally to a regular human being as to a superpowered one, which is good on two points. Firstly, it shows that deltas are no different from anyone else except as regards their powers, and secondly it ensures that all characters are well-rounded PEOPLE, not a set of powers with a mere glimmering of personality tacked on! It also makes it easy, if you wanted to, to play a regular human - perhaps one which might develop powers later in the game or who works with deltas helping to keep them safe from malign forces in government or elsewhere. There are notes on how to develop your own power packages and the promise that there will be more available in supplements, but the main thrust here is a detailed analysis of the options available.


We're almost ready to go, but Chapter 9: Things Every Hero Needs ensures that characters have all the equipment and other possessions that they need. Costs are based on real-world prices for everything that actually exists, which makes it easy if your character wants something not listed here.


The final part of the player section is Chapter 10: Liberty or Death. This is concerned with the setting and how it relates to characters who are deltas. Scene set, we move on to GM territory, taking the view that people will only ever play or GM this game. Obviously you can only do one at a time, but in many groups people take turns to run the next game so it is difficult to be hard and fast about GM knowledge. This section, however, covers how to organise and run your game rather than revealing any dark secrets, although the next two chapters do reveal things that characters would not know (at least, not when they start out...). The main secret's a biggie... but you'll have to find it out for yourself! There's also some bad guys and other NPCs to round things off.


Overall, it's a fascinating premise repleat with potential, setting and mechanics rolled up into a tidy package that is well suited to those who would like a superhero game with a difference, a core purpose beyond beating up on any passing supervillain.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Brave New World
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The Book of Water
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2014 05:54:12

Das vierte Buch der Elemente-Bände dreht sich um das Element Wasser und versucht, auf 202 Seiten Rokugan unter diesem Aspekt zu durchleuchten. Dabei steht der Mantis-Clan im Vordergrund. Konkret ist das Buch damit ein Sammelsurium von diversen Aspekten, die nicht so recht zusammenpassen wollen. Da wäre der Kampf mit Stangen- und Kettenwaffen, Kriegsführung zur See, Piraten, Handel und der Fluss des Geldes (schon in Emerald Empire behandelt), Springfluten, Sake-Brauerei, Wahrsagerei und besondere Mönchs-Orden. Sofern eine Kampagne nicht auf hoher See stattfindet, dürfte das meiste davon für Spielrunden uninteressant sein. Die Kreaturen und die Artefakte des Elements (Nemuranai) sind größtenteils langweilig.


Der zweite Teil des Buches dreht sich um Wasser-Magie und hält neue Schulen und Zauber bereit. Viele davon wirken aber aufgesetzt und erzwungen. Einziger Lichtblick des Book of Water ist der vorgestellte Schauplatz, das abgelegene Archipel der Eternal Danger Islands (27 Seiten). Dieser war einst eine Hauptstadt der Naga und ergänzt damit die Geschichte des Schlangen-Volkes aus Enemies of the Empire. Dass die Insel lange von Strudeln geschützt war und plötzlich mit einer Landbrücke ans Festland angeschlossen und besiedelt wird, wirkt aber reichlich fantastisch. Die zahlreichen Orte und NSC (darunter sogar ein Naga-Monster), sowie vorgeschlagene Abenteuer um Erkundung und Rätsel der Inselgruppe sind alle brauchbar.


Fazit: Nur etwas für Sammler und Seefahrt-Fans. Die Inhalte in The Book of Water wirken noch zusammengewürfelter, als es in den anderen Elemente-Bänden der Fall war. Das einzige Nützliche ist hier die Beschreibung der Seefahrt und der Schauplatz der Eternal Danger Islands. Spielrunden, die aber nichts mit Schiffen und Inseln am Hut haben, sollten einen Bogen um diese Erweiterung machen.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Water
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The Book of Fire
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2014 05:53:53

Das dritte Buch der Elemente-Bände steht unter dem Thema des Feuers. Auf 200 Seiten werden unterschiedliche Aspekte behandelt, die irgendwie mit dem Element in Verbindung stehen. Wie alle Elemente-Bände ist auch The Book of Fire grob in ein Kapitel zum Krieg, zum Hof, zur Welt der einfachen Bauern, zu den Shugenja und zu den Mönchen unterteilt.


Da Feuer das Element des Kampfes ist, steht klar Kenjutsu (Schwertkunst) im Vordergrund der Erweiterung. Auf 25 Seiten wird die Geschichte der Kampfkunst in Rokugan erzählt und ein Einblick in Lehre und Tagesabläufe in einem Dojo gegeben. Eine kurze Beschreibung vom Leben im Krieg ergänzt das Thema gut. Hier wird sogar das (japanisch-historische) Trophäen-Nehmen von abgetrennten Köpfen der Feinde thematisiert. Auch einige der vorgestellten neuen Mönchs-Orden (etwa Tengoku's Fist) sind sehr kriegerisch und suchen Erleuchtung im Kampf.


Der zweite Teil des Buches dreht sich um Feuer-Magie, hauptsächlich des Phoenix-Clans. Dabei werden Regeln für Duelle unter Shugenja (Taryu-Jiai) nachgetragen und eine Übersicht über die Feuer-Kami gegeben. Da Feuer auch für Intelligenz steht, geht der Erweiterungsband hier auf diverse Bibliotheken Rokugans ein – darunter auch die mysteriöse Kuni-Library des Krabben-Clans mit Geheimnissen über die Shadowlands und den Taint. Die beschriebenen Feuer-Artefakte (Nemuranai) umfassen die legendären Schwerter Rokugans von den Bloodswords über die Celestial Swords bis zu den Five Swords of Legends.


Wie in den anderen Elemente-Bänden wird ein Schauplatz mitgeliefert (40 Seiten). Im Book of Fire ist es das Hundred Stances Dojo, ein Trainingshaus, ungebunden an konkrete Zeiten und Orte. Hier wird ausgewählten Schülern aller Clans höhere Kampfkunst gelehrt, doch die haben nichts Besseres zu tun, als abseits des Trainings um die Vorherrschaft zu streiten. Fehlten im Book of Earth noch Beispiel-NSC für den Schauplatz, gibt es hier genügend Kampfschüler, um ein Abenteuer zu füllen.


Fazit: Durchaus brauchbar für mehr Kampfkunst in der Kampagne. The Book of Fire funktioniert besser als das eher schwächere Book of Air. Das liegt einerseits am Fokus auf Kriegsführung und Kampfkunst, samt dem brauchbaren Hundred Stances Dojo. Andererseits sind die Listen der magischen Schwerter und viele neue Schulen und Feuer-Zauber wirklich nützlich, ganz zu schweigen von den Taryu-Jiai-Duellregeln für Shugenja. Von den Büchern der Elemente-Reihe ist The Book of Fire damit das Beste, aber immer noch sehr speziell und nicht so brauchbar, wie andere Erweiterungsbände.



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[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Fire
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The Book of Earth
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2014 05:53:34

Der zweite Elemente-Band dreht sich ganz um die Erde und den Krabben-Clan. Dabei stehen auf 218 Seiten so unterschiedliche Themen im Fokus wie Schwere Waffen, Rüstungsschmieden, Sumo und Belagerungen. Leider ist keines der Themen dabei wirklich interessant oder umfassend behandelt. Bemerkenswert ist immerhin ein kurzer Abschnitt (2 Seiten) über Quartiermeister- und Schmiede-Familien und wie diese die Samurai-Kaste am Laufen halten. Texte über Handwerk, etwa asiatische Farm-Methoden, Tischlerei, Juwelenschleiferei und Gebäudebau vermitteln zwar gute Einblicke in diese Bereiche des rokuganischen Lebens, dürften aber für die meisten Spielrunden kaum von Belang sein.


Der zweite Teil des Buches dreht sich um Erd-Magie. Die neuen Zauber hier sind kaum mehr als Ergänzungen der Auswahl des Grundregelwerkes und drehen sich um Schutz gegen alle möglichen Gefahren. Wie in allen Elemente-Bänden werden besondere Artefakte (Nemuranai) des Elements aufgelistet und neue Schulen eingeführt – wobei die neuen Mechaniken übersichtlich in einem Anhang gegliedert sind. Der mitgelieferte Schauplatz The Lair ist zwar an die Geschichte des untergegangenen Eber-Clans gebunden und kann deshalb nicht in jeder Kampagne verwendet werden, ist dafür aber recht interessant. Das isolierte Plateau in den Twilight-Mountains wird von Resten der Heichi-Familie bewohnt und ist ein solider Ort für Abenteuer, samt verlassener Minen und alter Klöster. NSC fehlen leider ganz. Dafür bietet The Nine Days of Blood eine spannende Mini-Kampagne um den Angriff einer Banditen-Armee.


Fazit: Nur etwas für Sammler. Wie die anderen Elemente-Bände ist The Book of Earth nur bedingt zu empfehlen. Wer nach Festungen und Belagerungen sucht, ist mit Strongholds of the Empire deutlich besser bedient. Für Spielleiter, die mehr Hintergrundinformationen über Handwerk in Rokugan brauchen, ist The Book of Earth aber eine nützliche Ergänzung zum ansonsten recht vollständigen Emerald Empire. Das vorgestellte The Lair ist ein interessanter Ort für ein oder mehrere Abenteuer.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Earth
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The Book of Air
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2014 05:53:16

Dieser Erweiterungsband ist der erste der fünf Elemente-Bände (Luft, Feuer, Erde, Wasser, Leere). Die Bände geben einen Überblick über alle Aspekte von Rokugan, die mit dem jeweiligen Element in Verbindung stehen und können einzeln ohne die jeweils anderen vier benutzt werden. The Book of Air behandelt dabei auf 202 Seiten zwei Haupt-Themen: Duelle und Bogenschießen. Dabei stellt es Skorpion-Clan und Kranich-Clan in den Vordergrund.


Die rokuganische Duell-Tradition (Iaiutsu), sowie das Bogenschießen werden ausführlich vorgestellt. Recht speziell, aber informativ sind die geschichtlichen Abrisse (etwa Famous Duels), sowie die Philosophie hinter den Disziplinen. Dazu gibt es eine Vielzahl neuer Schulen und Pfade, die besondere Vorteile bei Duellen oder beim Bogenschießen mitbringen. Etwas willkürlich wirken die vorgestellten Courts of Air, aus ganz Rokugan zusammengesuchte Höfe mit besonderem Bezug zur Luft.


Der zweite Teil des Buches widmet sich der Luft-Magie in Form von Shugenja-Zaubern und Kiho der Mönche. Viele der neuen Spielmechaniken sind interessante Ergänzungen (Illusionen oder Kommunikations-Magie), aber kein Muss. Interessant für Spielrunden dürfte der mitgelieferte Schauplatz Kyuden Kurogane-Hana sein. Diese Festung wurde über dem Schrein von Emma-O erbaut, dem Kami des Todes. Nach einer ausreichenden Beschreibung samt NSC werden mehrere Abenteuer-Ideen gegeben: von ermordeten Kanich-Diplomaten bis zu Gerüchten um uneheliche Kinder. Die sind zwar für viele Kampagnen brauchbar, dabei aber recht generisch. Auch fehlt eine Karte der Festung.


Fazit: Nur etwas für Sammler und Iaiutsu-Fans. The Book of Air ist, wie die anderen Elemente-Bände, eine eigenwillige Zusammenstellung verschiedener Aspekte Rokugans unter dem vagen Thema eines Elements. Das ist zwar gut gemeint, wirkt aber weite Strecken wie ein unzusammenhängendes Sammelsurium neuer Mechaniken mit etwas Hintergrundtext. Für viele Spielrunden ist The Book of Air damit überflüssig. Nur Spieler, die besondere Luft-Zauber oder -Schulen erlernen wollen oder mehr Hintergründe zu Duellen oder Bogenschießen suchen, sollten einen Blick riskieren.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Air
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Second City Boxed Set
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2014 05:52:58

Das teuerste Produkt der Legends of the Five Rings-Reihe kommt als Box daher und beschreibt auf über 300 Seiten die früheren Ivory Kingdoms, südwestlich von Rokugan. Diese wurden durch die Blutgöttin Kali-Ma entvölkert und darauf zur ersten Kolonie des Kaiserreiches. Anders als Naishou Province ist diese Erweiterung damit eng an den Meta-Plot gebunden.


Die zentrale Stadt der Ivory Kingdoms wird in zwei einzelnen Büchern beschrieben. „The City“ gibt einen Überblick über die Geographie und interessante Orte und ist mit 100 Seiten wohl die am detailliertesten ausgearbeitete Stadt des ganzen Legend of the Five Rings-Rollenspiels. Bemerkenswert sind die feinen Unterschiede der Kolonie zur Kultur in Rokugan, sowie das Kapitel über die Invida (die unterworfenen, ursprünglichen Bewohner des Landes). The People beschreibt die Gesellschaft der Stadt rund um den herrschenden Ivory Court und Gouverneur Otomo Suikihime. Die mit Werten und Beschreibungen vorgestellten 82 NSC stammen aus allen Clans, vor allem aber Mantis-Clan und Spinnen-Clan. Viele dieser Charaktere sind eng an die Kolonie gebunden, andere lassen sich auch in anderen Orten einsetzen.


Das Herzstück des Second City Boxed Set ist The Campaign, eine ausgearbeitete Kampagne in der vorgestellten Region. Dabei liegt der Fokus klar auf dem Spinnen-Clan und den Intrigen und Geheimnissen der Ivory Kingdoms. Mit den Gegnern der Destroyer (von Kali-Ma versklavte, vierarmige Wesen in eisernen Rüstungen) dürften aber auch erfahrene Spielercharaktere im Kampf gefordert werden. Abgerundet wird das detaillierte Material von einer Übersichtskarte und zwei Büchern mit gut geschriebenen Erzähltexten: Das Pillow Book ist eine subjektive Tour durch die Stadt aus der Sicht des gerade eintreffenden Einhorn-Clan-Samurai Ide Arahime. Das Journal of Yogo Tanaka beschreibt aus Sicht eines Skorpion-Clan-Samurais die laufenden Ereignisse und führt in die Kampagne ein. Beide Bücher können als Handouts für Spieler dienen.


Doch das ist noch nicht alles: Käufer der echten Nicht-PDF-Version erhalten in der Box einen Satz Würfel, Stance- und Technique-Karten zur Übersichtlichkeit im Kampf sowie einen Block mit Charakterbögen und sechs farbigen Premium-Charakterbögen in eigenen Hüllen. Das Highlight ist jedoch zweifelsohne der Spielleiterschirm, der deutlich stabiler und damit brauchbarer ist als der aus Game Master's Screen and Adventure.


Fazit: Kampagne und Schauplatz für erfahrene Charaktere. Das Second City Boxed Set behandelt eine Region außerhalb von Rokugan und dürfte damit nur die Spielrunden interessieren, die auch vorhaben, der fernen Kolonie einen Besuch abzustatten. Ist die Naishou-Province ein Einsteigerprodukt, so ist das Second City Boxed Set vor allem für Spielrunden geeignet, die Rokugan schon in- und auswendig kennen und nach Abwechslung suchen. Vereinzelte Druckfehler stören die ansonsten edle Qualität des Produktes, doch das machen die vielen Dreingaben und Extras wieder wett.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Second City Boxed Set
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Naishou Province - 2013 GENCON RPG
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/03/2014 05:52:37

Diese Erweiterung stellt auf 96 Seiten eine eigene Provinz in Rokugan vor: Naishou. An Spielmechanik wird hier zwar nur wenig Neues geboten (eine Basic School für Löwen-Clan-Samurai), dafür ist der Schauplatz detailliert und liebevoll ausgearbeitet.


Naishou liegt am Rand von Rokugan, ist geographisch isoliert und war lange Zeit politisch neutral. Naishou Province enthält eine detaillierte Karte, eine eigene Geschichte und die ausgearbeitete Provinz-Hauptstadt: Toshi no Naishou. Dabei ist Naishou quasi Rokugan in der Nussschale. Spieler finden hier auf engstem Raum fast alle Aspekte des Settings repräsentiert. Wichtige NSCs sind ausgearbeitet und zu besonderen Orten – darunter auch Klöster und Ronin-Siedlungen – werden Beschreibungen und Gerüchte geliefert. Besonders mysteriös sind dabei die alten Ruinen in den Sümpfen, die auf eine Besiedelung hindeuten, die älter als das Kaiserreich sein könnte.


Die Herrschaft über Naishou ist seit kurzem in der Hand der Kaiserlichen Familien, doch das gedenken die Großen Clans zu ändern. Für Konfliktpotential und Plotideen ist also gesorgt, von politischen Intrigen bis zu kampflastigen Abenteuern. Spielrunden können leicht eine ganze Kampagne in Naishou verbringen. Das Kapitel A Plague of Crimes enthält ein ausgearbeitetes Startabenteuer um eine Verbrechenswelle und ermordete Samurai. Sogar an vorgefertigte Charaktere für einen schnellen Spieleinstieg und One-Shots wurde gedacht – vorbildlich!


Fazit: Perfekter Schauplatz für Einsteiger. Naishou Province ist eine ganze Region zum Losspielen und damit der perfekte Einstieg für L5R-Neulinge. Aber auch erfahrene Spieler dürften mit der liebevoll ausgestalteten Provinz und den NSC ihre Freude haben. Anders als Second City ist Naishou Province nicht an bestimmte Örtlichkeiten oder Ereignisse des Metaplots gebunden und kann damit problemlos in jede Kampagne eingebaut werden.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Naishou Province - 2013 GENCON RPG
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FarScape Roleplaying Game
by Scott B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2014 02:34:17

I purchased this as a resource, and because I liked the series so much. I have not yet read the entire book through, and am finding it difficult to do so for a 3 main reasons.


First, I find the odd, slanted, two-column layout to be hard to follow. I'm sure someone thought it added character, but it just does not flow naturally.


Second, the chapter titles are done in a wretched font that I have to work at to decipher. Again, I can acknowledge the attempt to add character to the text, but being unreadable does not serve that purpose well.


Third, the font used for the body text is also a little hard to read across the various backgrounds, etc. This may also be exacerbated by the scanning used to create the PDF. (The fact that this is a scan was not mentioned in the description, but I noted it in the review after-the-fact)



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
FarScape Roleplaying Game
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Secrets of the Empire
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/19/2014 03:05:16

http://www.teilzeithelden.de/2014/09/19/neu-in-rokuga-
n-diese-legend-of-the-five-rings-erweiterungen-lohnen-sich-t-
eil-1/


In Rokugan gibt es nicht nur die neun Großen Clans. Die Geschichte des Landes wurde auch von den kleineren Familien (Minor Clans) beeinflusst. Secrets of the Empire stellt diese auf 258 Seiten vor. Darunter sind Fan-Lieblinge wie der tapfere Hasen-Clan, aber auch neue, wie der finstere Fledermaus-Clan, der die Geister der Toten beschwört. Sie werden ausführlich mit Geschichte, Philosophie, wichtigen Festungen und Bräuchen beschrieben. Beispiel-NSCs mit Werten fehlen leider, dafür gibt es neue Schulen und Ahnen für die Heritage-Table-Mechanik aus The Great Clans. Auch die Kaiserlichen Familien (Seppun, Otomo, Toturi) werden behandelt und die neue Kaiserfamilie (Iweko) wird vorgestellt.


Im zweiten Teil des Buches erhalten Ronin eine Geschichte in Rokugan, eigene Ahnen und neue Optionen (Advanced Schools, eine Ronin Basic School). Ronin wurden aber schon in Enemies of the Empire behandelt, weswegen sich hier vieles doppelt liest. Danach sind die Mönche der Brotherhood of Shinsei dran. Sie werden mit 14 kleineren Mönchsorden vorgestellt und erhalten neue Pfade. Dazu gibt es eine Übersicht über die Geisterreiche von Gaki-Do (dem Reich der hungrigen Toten) bis zu Tengoku (den hohen Himmeln der Kami), samt besonderer Regeln für Besucher. Ausgearbeitete Beispiele für Bewohner fehlen aber leider.


Highlight dieses bunt zusammengestellten Erweiterungsbandes ist der Index aller Schulen mit Seitenverweisen. Das gibt mehr Übersicht beim Charakterbauen, da neue Schulen in den anderen Büchern teilweise zwischen Erklärtexten untergehen.


Fazit: Sehr speziell, aber brauchbar. In Secrets of the Empire verstecken sich viele nützliche Teile, besonders die Beschreibungen der kleineren Clans und Kaiserlichen Familien. Wie aber Geisterreiche und Mönche zum Rest passen, ist wohl das Geheimnis der Autoren. Wer mit Mönchen oder kleineren Clans spielen möchte, sollte sich den Band zulegen. Für Ronin oder Geisterreiche reicht auch das insgesamt deutlich nützlichere Enemies of the Empire.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Secrets of the Empire
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