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Tacky, Tawdry and Tasteless: the Reality Show RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/01/2013 10:19:59
This can be approached on so many levels... from a tongue-in-cheek poke at reality tv to a serious role-playing game in which a reality tv show happens to be the backdrop against which stories are told and plotlines played out. What's here is a simple - perhaps even simplistic - set of rules for making it all happen.

Those looking for a serious game set in the context of reality tv might prefer to use elements from another role-playing game to provide the rule mechanics, at least those of character generation and conflict resolution. The system for determining the popularity of your fictional reality tv show, however, is excellent - hang on to it whatever you decide to use for core mechanics.

Many people like to be snooty about reality tv... and then you find that if there's one on an area of interest, you end up watching it anyway - my particular vice is MasterChef, if you must know. But there's a lot of fun to be had for the gamer in the concept whether you are going to play THIS game for laughs or take it a little more seriously.

From the role-playing point of view, there is actually quite a lot of mileage to be had from reality tv as a concept - or at least, as something which might happen during a rather more serious game. For example, I used a 'So You Think You Could Be A Spy' reality tv show in a Spycraft game, with real spies (or at least, characters who were spies) asked to compete in a series of challenges which ended up being a front for a certain foreign power actually trying to recruit spies from amongst the natives of the characters' own country! (Just to make it even stranger, the outline was written on the train home from the auditions for a reality tv show called SpyMaster which I'd entered on a whim!)

Jolly good fun for a one-off joke game, but food for more serious thought as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tacky, Tawdry and Tasteless: the Reality Show RPG
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Macabre Tales rulebook
by Darrin K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2013 17:27:36
My original intention with this game was to buy two copies of the hardcover full color edition.. One for myself, and one for a friend who was a massive Lovecraft fan. However those plans changed with the death of that friend. So I only ended up buying a copy for myself. Along with two sets of dominos.

This game is unique in its examination and presentation. It is not the usual role playing game. It is a storytelling game. Defined in a way that puts all other storytelling games to shame. As it actually focuses on the structure for properly telling a story.

It doesn't call what you are doing an adventure or a campaign. It simply calls what you and the player are creating a Tale. And really that's what you are doing with it. The player and Narrator working together to create a Tale.

Don't let the small size of this book deceive you. It's absolutely packed with everything you need to start spinning tales of your own.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macabre Tales rulebook
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Christmas Comes But Once a Year
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/30/2012 08:55:19
Christmas Comes But Once A Year is a mini-supplement for the Capes, Cowls and Villains Fowl RPG, detailing Holly Daye, a supervillain who wants to take Christmas into her own hands. Driven by her superpower - a radar ability that can tell her who is naughty and who is nice - Holly has been known to steal presents and replace them with coal, destroy Christmas displays, and has a distinct hatred for anyone trying to impersonate the One True Santa!

This mini-supplement is mostly character lore, so it would be very easy to convert Holly to any superhero RPG that you prefer.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Christmas Comes But Once a Year
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Christmas Comes But Once a Year
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/14/2012 07:40:48
Hmm. It's worrying when I find myself in sympathy with a supervillain! Yet, as Chrismas approaches, finding one who is convinced that Christmas is over-commercialised does have some resonance...

This is a brief present, being a freebie, that provides a neat, seasonal, supervillain should you be planning a 'Christmas Special' adventure. She's a young lady with an unfortunate name and the knack for telling if someone is lying or has been bad (or for that matter tells the truth and is good), which made her quite unpopular growing up... but, if you recall European traditions of Saint Nick, from whence the Santa Claus legend arose, he too could discern how well a youngster had behaved over the past year, and presented a present or coal as appropriate.

Her activities, which any bunch of good-hearted superheroes should wish to prevent, include eliminating the hordes of false Santas that infest shopping malls and replacing naughty children's presents with boxes full of coal. There are a few more suggestions as well, particularly if you wish for a darker game. Worthy of a one-off, particularly if you intend a Christmas Special.

Present, not coal.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Not Even Freedom is Free
by Quinn M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/10/2012 14:14:52
This was FREE, so it is easy to be less critical when it only costs time and perhaps some paper and ink. This is a short 10 pages scenario, with half of those dealing with the bird-themed group known as the "Freedom Fowl".

As borderline silly as this group is (even by comic standards) there is a serious edge to this adventure. The questions of government, liberty, and so forth are brought to the front by a group that is anything but clearly bad or good. The player/characters political views might very well shape how they react to the Freedom Fowl. It makes for anything but the "usual" supers adventure. Which is not bad thing at all.

The artwork is good, but I do have to mention the depection of the "Black Swan". Does she really need to have the Victoria Secret costume? Visible panties? I would be a little embarassed to show the wife or niece this while running the adventure and would fully expect to see some rolled eyes. I don't want to start a "chainmail bikini" debate here, and other groups may not see not issue here, but I know it would be one for mine.

All that said, this is a FREE adventure, thoughtful and challenging in the situation(s) presented to the heroes, and is worth the download.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Not Even Freedom is Free
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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
by Sean D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2012 03:14:08
A fun game that succeeds admirably at its goal; to provide rules for gaming settings that are based on the tropes of 80's action cartoons. Anyone who's a fan of He-Man, GI Joe, or Thundercats, to list just a few examples. Creating characters is relatively simple, but it does call for more player creativity than most systems. I also wish the game had more ambition, and covered the whole of Saturday morning cartoons. If a season 3 ever comes about, it would be awesome to have it cover how to do Jonny Quest, AND how to do the Venture Brothers.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
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Publisher Reply:
Hi, Sean. Thanks for the review. I just wanted to let you know that we are indeed releasing Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3 next summer, though the focus remains the same. That having been said, it's entirely possible that we'll release "other era" sourcebooks for it.
Slasher Flick: The Director's Cut
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/11/2012 12:45:22
I will admit it, I am a big fan of Spectrum Games. I think they are one of best at genre emulation, really getting down to the essence of what makes the experience and trying to encapsulate that into a game.
As examples I will point to the reviews I did of Cartoon Action Hour and Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul. Given that it is the month of Halloween and I am all about horror movies, I think a review of Slasher Flick is appropriate.

I am actually going to review the Director's Cut which came out a while back. I know, I am quite remiss at reviewing this. There is also a regular version, Slasher Flick, which I have, but have not looked at in a while.

What is Slasher Flick: Director's Cut? Well simply put, it is an RPG where you play characters (emphasis on the plural) in a slasher film. You need to survive, but are expected to die.

Chapter 1 is our Introduction. It covers what is role-playing, what is fear, and what is a slasher flick and why you should play this game.

Chapter 2 covers the basics of Slasher Films. If you have ever read onr of Spectrum Games books before you know what you are getting here. In this book we cover the Killer, who is not really an NPC, but a plot device. I refer to these types of characters as "fists of the game master", they are here to punish the behavior of the characters in the most horrific way possible. The more horrific the better. There is a listing of a bunch of slasher film cliches as well. In this game you don't subvert the cliche (which is by the way cliche itself now) but instead you embrace them. That noise you hear was just a cat, THEN the killer jumps out. That sort of thing.
We wrap up with one of my favorite parts of all the Spectrum Games books. Cynthia's Guide to...this time it is here thoughts on various Slasher Flicks. All sorts are listed here and what she thought about them. Frankly this gold if you love horror movies like I do. Between this, CAH and CCVF I would love to see Cynthia Celeste Miller's video collection!

Chapter 3 is the rules. There are a couple of really cool features here. First are characters. You get to play a Primary Character, aka the starts of the "Flick" (an adventure) and some Secondary Characters. These characters can either be played by a particular player OR (and this is nice) they can be shared. So I can have my Primary character and then play what Secondary character I need.
Secondary Characters are here to get killed. They are the victims of our Slasher. Primary Characters might get killed too. But if they do it won't be till near the end. So don't get too attached to characters!
The characters have 4 basic stats. from the book:

Brawn: The character’s physical strength, resilience, toughness and
stamina.
Finesse: The character’s agility, coordination, balance and reflexes.
Brains: The character’s intelligence, perception and knowledge.
Spirit: The character’s willpower, charisma, leadership and luck.

These define what you can do in most cases. They are all rated Poor, Normal or Good. Remember, you are playing teens and college age people here. Each of these are given a die type d10, d8 and d6 respectively. You roll two die per stat being tested (the director decides which two). You want pairs. so on two d6s (representing Good on a stat) you need (1,1)(2,2)(3,3)(4,4)(5,5) or (6,6) or 6 results out of a total of 36, or 1 in 6. Roll a (6,6) on a d6 is the same as doing it on a d8 or d10, but some scenes in the Flick might require something special and rolling a "Topper" will be better.

You also have various qualities (positive or negative) you can add to these, like “scrappy fighter” (Brawn) or "great with gadgets (Brains)". These can add (or subtract) die from your rolls. You still only need two matches to get a success.
Special situations such as "Freak Outs" and "Kill Scenes" are detailed. Note, not much really on combat or other skills. This because the characters are expected to run when confronted with the Killer/Slasher.

Chapter 4 Covers Creating Characters. Characters are built using stereotypes. This is a Slasher Flick after all. You are not playing Biff, the guy with a d6 in Brawn and a d10 in Brains, you are Biff, the Dumb Jock. Now lots of stereotypes are presented and a lot of Qualities. But you are free to make up your own. There are also some "Alterations" such as special abilities that can cost Genre Points. Like the girl with psychic powers (cost) or the Scream Queen which gives you points when you scream and the Slasher could hear it.

Chapter 5 is aimed at the Players. This includes advice on how to best play the game and acting like a character in a horror movie. Things like "Interact!", "Play Dumb!", "Accept Death!". There is also advice on how to play the secondary characters aka victims in the game.

Chapter 6 is for the Director. This details running the game; Preparing the Flick and making your Killer. There are sample Killers here and lots and lots of advice on how to cover a variety of scenes. In fact this chapter alone is great for it's utlity for other horror-themed games.

Chapter 7 is Quick Flicks, a bunch of Plot ideas to build a full Flick around.
Chapter 8 is The Vault, a full Flick to run.
In truth both chapters could be ported over to nearly any other horror game. Turn the killer into a Villain and it could be a plot for a Supers game.

The Appendix is nearly 55 pages of nothing but character Archetypes. Usually 2 per page. If you want to play right away you can take one of these out and use them. They work for Secondary Characters too.

All in all, this is a ridiculously fun game. It has the right amount of horror, camp and humor to be a perfect slasher flick emulation. While reading I kept thinking back to all the slasher flicks I have seen over the years and frankly I could not think of a one that I couldn't do with these rules.

Actually my thought also was that take the Slasher, make him more mundane and a Tertiary Character and you have a perfect Alfred Hitchcock or Agatha Christie like game.

My hat is off to Cynthia Celeste Miller and Spectrum Games once again.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Slasher Flick: The Director's Cut
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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
by Michael C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/03/2012 16:21:12
One thing I've noticed is that when a company decides to specialize in something, it tends to do that one thing very well. In the case of Spectrum Games, they've chosen to do genre emulation, and thus far, they've done that very well.

I'm happy to say that they haven't missed the mark on Capes, Cowls & Villains Fowl.

I've played a few games that are supposed to emulate the superhero comics genre, and they do an okay job of doing it, but in the process, you wind up with a set of complex and confusing rules that almost railroad gameplay. Add to it that the character creation rules are almost non-existent. Bear in mind, I like open-ended character creation, but there has to be at least a little crunch in my book.

CCVF satisfies both the need to have some crunch in my characters as well as having a simple set of rules emulate the comics. The game does both well.

For character creation, you simply list abilities and add modifiers, linking and levels to them. There's nothing preset about the abilities, you make up what you want and that's it, although modifiers do allow you to fine-tune those abilities more acutely. I like them in this regard.

Generally, open-ended abilities can cause a deer-in-the-headlights reaction as you try and put together all the possibilities, but the bright side is that the game includes a few pages of ideas to pour through and organizes them well enough that you can pull from different areas and make the character you want.

The modifier I like most in this game is Versatile. Many supers games try and have a “do anything” power that either is too powerful or it requires use of math in the middle of play that can slow it down. Here, it's just cut and dry: Each time you buy the modifier, you get one aspect of the power that's always available, and one aspect of it that's open, and you can buy it up to three times. The open aspect can be defined once per issue. Not bad, although I might house rule it for things like Annuals and 80-page Giants to be able to use it a little more often, but have you ever seen Green Lantern or Doctor Strange use really “out there” abilities more than a couple times in a regular issue? Not really.

Conflict is resolved through rolling the dice and taking setback tokens. Both parties roll, and the loser takes the token. Once four tokens are acquired, the character is out of play in one form or another. I think this, more than anything else in the game, is where CCFV shines in emulating its chosen genre. Hit points and damage tracks don't do well in supers games, and the definition of what they do is too narrow to capture all that can happen in a superhero comic.

Filling up on setback tokens can mean anything: capture, falling asleep, being knocked out, getting fed up and stomping off in frustration, being bound in place by a pile of tires, whatever the story and character demands. It CAN mean death, if that's the kind of game you're playing, and the rules do address killing combat. When I played with my group, we had a lot of fun with this rule, and it required a greater creativity, which added to the fun.

To really be able to write a good review, I did play this with a group, and it does live up to the promise of being able to play in the fast-paced action of a superhero comic book. Sometimes the math involved with higher results on the d12 slowed play slightly, but it's easily forgivable. I love how the game plays.

I think the biggest trouble came in understanding how to build characters, or where linking comes in during character creation. I think the creation rules could have been a little clearer here. There was a little bit of “human error” in my group, as they only tried buying powers rather than buying powers and other things that their heroes could have used. But when they bought all of their abilities, there was a lot of points left over and we couldn't figure out where to put them. This was cleared up later, fortunately.

All-in-all, CCFV takes the superhero genre and does it really well. It's got enough in the rules that we can make sense of the action, but loose enough that action is fast and smooth. Hero building is flexible without including too many rules. Of all the games that make the claim of superhero comics emulation, I'd place CCFV at the top of the list. Not only do I want to play it again, but my fussy group is also clamoring for more.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/09/2012 03:09:05
WHAT WORKS: Tons of examples. Simple system, with the Setback Tokens being among my favorite “non-Hit Point” damage systems I’ve seen (with the word Stress just stressing me out). CC&VF seems to have taken a lot of ideas from other games but implemented them well. Oh, and I loved the random twists. The system is very flexible without being completely hand-wavey.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Very few of the example characters terribly inspired me. Many of the optional rules (like the templates or building heroes in advance and working up to them) don’t do a thing for me…but they are optional. There are big chunks of the system that are open to player-GM negotiation, which can go bad in the wrong hands.

CONCLUSION: While many of the support pieces did little to inspire me, the core seems very flexible and very sound. With large parts of the system open to such interpretation, certain types of players can make for nightmarish sessions, just like certain kinds of GMs can, but that’s true of any system (and especially Supers systems, which require a certain amount of buy-in from all parties above and beyond most genres). Unlike some other recent entrants into the supers RPG realm, I feel confident that I have a good/decent grasp of the mechanics right away, but I suppose I would have actually preferred the “serial numbers filed off” approach to the sample characters, rather than the characters used, because generic versions of Thor, Flash, Batman, Silver Surfer, Captain America, Wolverine and Superman are more useful for me in pinning down the important bits of the system. Does CC&VF hit some magic area that no other supers game ever has? Not for me, not really. “Hawkeye fighting alongside Thor” has been built into more and more games over the years, with BASH and ICONS even handling it in largely the same way. Does that make CC&VF a bad game? Heck no. I intend to play around with the character creation to see how well it models certain characters of mine, but I’d be inclined to put it near the top of my Supers options right now, if not at the very top.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2012/09/tommys-take-o-
n-capes-cowls-villains-foul.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
by Eric T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/07/2012 20:21:27
This is, quite possibly, the game which finally gets my seal of approval as my favorite supers RPG of all time. I say "possibly" because I haven't actually played it yet, but giving it a read-through, it absolutely ticks all my boxes. It tries to emulate comic books, rather than simulate the real world. I have never understood people's predilection for simluating the real world with supers. It quickly becomes silly. After all, we're dealing with people who can fly, pick up a plane with their bare hands, or all manner of things which just don't stand the test of real-life physics. Yet, lest I stray too much from my topic, let's put that bugaboo back in its stuffy closet and move on.

This game does everything it claims it does, and does it all well. It has a simple, elegant system which does its job and gets out of the way, without getting bogged down in fiddly bits and confusing dice-pool mechanics. However, if you are not fond of abstraction, this game is most definitely not for you. This game is the anathema to a Champions fanatic. The rules are straightforward and clear, and have numerous examples sprinkled throughout. And as if this wasn't enough, they do something which I would encourage every game designer to do: They present an extremely lengthy example of play, covering all sorts of options and showing how all the rules fit together in a cohesive play session. In a nutshell, if you like games like Truth and Justice or the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game but find them just a bit more crunchy than you prefer, this game will probably find your sweet spot. I'm more inspired to play this than I've been inspired by a game in a very long time, and it was enough to get me to write my first review here, for what that's worth. I can't recommend this game highly enough.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/07/2012 07:38:48
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul (CCaVF) is the eagerly anticipated supers/comic book emulation game from Spectrum Games. The same folks that gave Cartoon Action Hour.

I want to start off by saying that this is an attractive book. At 164 pages of full of color it feels like a comic. Since that is what the author aims to emulate I would say it so far is a success.

I think that is a good place to start. What is CCaVF? Well yes it is a supers game, but it is more a comic book emulation game. Meaning it tries to emulate the play-ability of reading a comic book. This sets it apart from the likes of other purely "Supers" games that might be trying to emulate how a super hero could exist in some sort of reality. Instead the assumption here is comic book reality. This would include things like editorial control or even breaking the 4th wall. Both of which are discussed later.

Chapter 0 is our Introduction which helps lay the ground work for what we will be reading. We are told that physics and logic often take a back seat to drama and excitement. So far I feeling that this will be closer to Marvel Heroic Roleplaying than say Villains and Vigilantes (both of which are great games for different styles of play). We are told that this game is about telling exciting stories with your friends. So far this sounds good. We are told next that this game uses the d12. I love that. The d12 is the oft forgotten die stuck between the mighty d20 and the diva that is the d10.
We also learn that CCaVF is a resource-based game. Now my experiences with resource based supers games has been mixed. So lets see what we have here.

Traits are match against other Traits with various Linked traits. Traits can be Primary or Secondary and after they are Used they become less effective. So someone like Superman would have a Primary Trait of Super-Strength with Secondary Traits of Flight and Heat Vision. Following the example in the book the Traits are bolded. Characters are likely to have 5 to 12 traits. Characters can also have Complications and Factoids. Sounds great! Let's get into the design!

Chapter 1 is Character Design. I like the term "Hero Design" myself, but that is cool. Your "Editor" (GM) will determine how many starting points your character will have. Much like the Power Points of M&M or other games. Except you are not buying the trait itself, you are buying what the trait represents. So a Signature Triat vs. a Secondary one or an Auto Defend. There is a handy chart with all the trait types and levels/ratings so you can add up your points quickly.
CCaVF encourages thinking about your character as a whole. So when making your Batman-clone you would not list all his martial arts but would just list Advanced Combat Training or something like that. Superman would have Super-Sonic Flight while the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel would have Hyper-Flight. So where are these traits listed? They are not. Yup. YOU define what the traits mean. So for example I define an Anamchara trait to go with my Willow & Tara characters. This is a Shared Trait, so the points are split up, but I define what it means and what it does. But don't worry the author gives you some ideas to work with.

The neatest thing though has to be the Editorial Control. These are like supercharged hero points or drama points. Editorial Control can be purchased with points, but is more expensive for more powerful characters. The Editor also gets a pool of EC points as well to use for the villains. There are also examples of various ways to regain EC points. Finally you fill out the character with factoids.
The chapter ends with an example of character creation. This is followed by a quick generation card to get you plying right away. Finally a listing of Heroes and Villains.

Chapter 2 is the Rules chapter.Typically rolls are a d12 some trait. Other times you might need to roll 2 d12s and keep the highest or even 3. The basic idea here is that the action needs to be like that in a comic book. So a bit of time is spent on combat. Now heroes and villains in CCaVF don't have hit points, but they do have Setbacks. Most of the chapter is dedicated to this this idea and some example difficulties are explored. All and all pretty easy.

Chapter 3 is all about Villains. Villains get special treatment in CCaVF. They are created with the same rules that give us heroes, but there is more to them than that. Given the treatment given them here, I think this should be must reading for any superhero RPG player/GM. Heroes are often defined by their villains or rogues gallery. This game did not forget that.

Chapter 4 deals with Options. Things you can do to tweak characters or games. One really nice thing is about how deal with super hero team-ups and what to do when some characters are more powerful than others. There is even a bit on killing (and why it should be avoided) and live action (LARP) supers.

Chapter 5 is a fairly comprehensive example of play. If you normally ignore these please read this one. Many of my questions were answered here. It is a good walk through of how to play the game.

Chapter 6 talks about Issues, or adventures for your new set of heroes and villains. Again there is a lot of good information here for Editors/GMs of any sort of supers game. In particular there is the all important Introductory Issue which brings the team the together. I could not help but think of the team of misfits in the new Justice League Dark while reading this. Fantasy RPG fans should also take note of this chapter since it helps get past that old "you all met in an inn before an adventure".

We end with an Afterword where the author discusses why he made this game. The Appendix has a great glossary, index and cheat sheets for the game.

All in all I am quite pleased with this game. I agree with the author in that I love Supers games, but it is hard to find that perfect game for your group. There have been some great choices that have come out in the last few years, but none are 100% perfect. CCaVF may not 100% perfect either, but it is really damn nice and has a lot of great things going for it.

You can read more here, http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2012/08/capes-cowls-and-villa-
ins-foul.html
I will also have stated up characters.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secret of the Dead Man's Satchel
by Brendan F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/06/2012 05:07:06
It isn't the adventure that will convert all non-believers to Macabre Tales and it could do with expanded information for the Referee in a couple of key places. However, it isn't a bad adventure and in the hands of a horror veteran Ref', this could provide a good evening of entertainment on whatever system you enjoy.

- I have a more in-depth review at http://knightsoftheblackbanner.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/macabr-
e-tales-secret-of-dead-mans.html

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Secret of the Dead Man's Satchel
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The Secret of the Dead Man's Satchel
by Daniel R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/04/2012 15:27:48
Ok, I admit it: I wrote this scenario, but I gave it my best effort, and I'm pleased with how it turned out.

My goal with writing the adventure was to make something that was Lovecraftian but filled a niche that I hadn't quite seen filled in Lovecraftian horror games before (and I've been playing Call of Cthulhu since 4th Edition first hit stands). As it turned out, the domino driven mechanics as well as the One GM & One Character method really worked for the ideas I had in mind.

In short, I wanted a story that blended Lovecraft's weirder elements with some mundane (but no less dangerous) threats--a story that had both human and mythos horrors! I wanted to bombard a character with multiple mysteries and force them to untangle them. I wanted the adversaries to be both empathetic and nasty. I wanted a story that worked for one PC or (with little modification) for a handful. I hope I've succeeded.

The art is pretty great, too--pulpy and eerie at the same time. Writers get little say in the way their material is presented via illustrations. Stephen Shepherd, Scott Harshbarger, and Jiří Dvorský delivered some fine images.

Special thanks go out to Cynthia Celeste Miller for giving my crazy ideas a shot.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midnite Movie: The Gardener
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/05/2012 16:39:46
A great one-night scenario for the Slasher Flick RPG, designed to be a quick and easy for the Director to read and prepare. The layout is clear and well-organized, and provides several opportunities to customize the game to the tastes of the Director and players. (I particularly liked the option to allow players to act out the roles of the killer's first two kills, as a foreshadowing scene).

Includes maps and a detailed backstory for the Carter Mansion, the setting for this Midnite Movie.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Midnite Movie: The Gardener
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Macabre Tales rulebook
by William W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/29/2011 08:47:12
Macabre Tales is a Lovecraftian pulp horror role-playing game, geared for one-shot adventures for one player and a narrator. From the retro-pulp cover to the story-driven rules to the discussions of theme and mood in Lovecraft's stories, the whole game looks and feels like a loving tribute to a favorite author.

The game mechanic involves two sets of double-six dominoes with a few pieces removed. The player keeps these as a pool to draw from during the game, and draws three face up as a hand. When an action requires a check, the narrator assigns a challenge level, then tells the player which stat (and possibly which aspect) will be necessary to complete the task. The player then plays a domino that they hope will cover the challenge rating. The outcome is based on the level of their stat, which determines which end of the domino is read (low, high, or both), and the aspect is added for a result that should meet or beat the challenge rating. Doubles and blanks get special treatment, but I'd rather not spoil all of the details of the mechanics - it's simple and elegant, and I would love to see it become the engine for other RPGs in the future.

I should point out that there are alternate rules that allow for more than one player, but they require a LOT of dominoes - two sets for each player (If you're not particular about quality, you can find cheap dominoes at your local dollar store.)

In lieu of traditional take-turns-bashing combat rules, Macabre Tales uses Tension Scenes, in which the player gains and loses Momentum Points that determine how well (or poorly) things are going for them, with the Momentum Point goal getting higher as the story develops. The player is rewarded with Genre Points for appropriate actions, cleverness, and evocative narration, which can be used to help them in future checks. It's a solid story-driven rule system.

Included are a list of sample supporting characters, stats for most of the well-known Lovecraft creatures (Deep Ones, Mi-Go, Shoggoths, et al), a list of abilities to create your own horrors, and a sample adventure, "The Cursed House." Macabre Tales is not only an excellent Lovecraft RPG, it's a great resource for how to run any Lovecraftian horror game, with tips and analysis of the themes, mood, and settings of his stories.

I often wonder, when reading, running, or playing an RPG based on the works of an author, what that author would think about how gamers are treating their creation. Reading through Macabre Tales, I get the feeling that is the RPG that Lovecraft would give his Elder Sign of approval.

Now, if I can just find a few sets of Cthulhu Mythos themed dominoes, I'll be a very happy cultist.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macabre Tales rulebook
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