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The Rifter #57
The Rifter #57
$11.95 $5.99









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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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Macabre Tales rulebook
by Michael C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/07/2011 20:34:40
Macabre Tales

Since I'm a fan of H.P. Lovecraft's works I was excited to get my review copy of Macabre Tales. I've been waiting for it release for some time now. I was not disappointed.

The download includes two files: one normal one, which includes illustrations as well as the page backgrounds, and then a print-friendly version which preserves the layout but removes the background and pictures. Both versions include the cover.

The book looks like an old magazine, similar to the kinds that Lovecraft wrote for. In fact, the title page features a publication date of October, 1931 and the table of contents features some clever advertisements along the side. So the immersion starts even where most games would be boring.

Next, we're treated to a short story by HP Lovecraft himself. It's a good mood setter.

Chapter One covers Lovecraft himself and his stories and what went into them to make them the classics that they are, listing the tropes involved and explaining each.

Character creation is fairly quick. I was able to build a satisfying character in a few minutes with a little thought. It's simple: pick a package of adjectives to distribute among three stats and then distribute a pool of points among aspects, which are skills and abilities. Think of a few things that are special about your character (numerous examples are given), calculate your two derived values and you have a character. Fast and simple.

Mechanic: I thought this was interesting, since I've never seen anything like it. Instead of dice or cards, like other games, Macabre Tales uses dominoes. Depending on how high your stat is, the domino that's laid down is either read with the lower side, the higher side or both added together. You add an aspect score if it applies and try and beat a difficulty number, which is not revealed to the player (scared yet?).

There also rules covering blanks and double blanks andd doubles. Also, NPC's are presented as a series of difficulty numbers instead of adjectives, which speeds up play.

The game is meant for one-on-one play with a GM (Narrator) and a player, and plays best this way, seeing as how Lovecraft's stories has one protagonist. However, if you'd like to play it as a group, there are rules to expand play.

An addition that really liked was a chapter for players. Most games come complete with a chapter for the GM, to help him along with his duties, but you never really see a player's section. This chapter has a lot of great advice for players, especially in terms of helping the Narrator tell a good story.

On the other side, though, the Narrator's section gives great advice for running a horror story, from content to story structure. There's a lot of good information here, and story even affects the mechanics.

The only shortcomings are minor things, aesthetics, really. The PDF's, both of them, don't include hotlinks in the table of contents, requiring scrolling or typing to get where you need to go.

Secondly, While I appreciate the ink-saving efforts in the printer-friendly version of taking out the illustrations, it's obvious that they were merely covered up, and they do load, which slows down the scrolling some, and then they're blocked out with white once they're loaded.

Lastly, I wish that the game had included rules for alternatives to dominoes, in case the players didn't have any and wanted to play right away. A trip to the store solves the problem, of course, but some options still would have been nice.

All in all, I think Macabre Tales does an excellent job of capturing the feel of Lovecraft's stories, from the games presentation to its play style (I do like the domino mechanic). In fact, I'd go as far to say it does it even better than current and long-time releases that are also set in the Cthulhu universe. This is definitely a storytelling game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
by andrew b. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/31/2011 18:37:47
This was my first downloaded rpg. I was so proud of myself, looking it up online as well as on Wikipedia to see what I was getting myself into. I didnt end up liking it after I got into it, though. It is a wonderful idea, creating an entire world free and clear with the barest of guidelines, but in practicality, some of us like our charts and lists and such. The original CAH actually had all of that before they dumped it all for a more 'freestyling' approach.

If one can aquire the orignal CAH rules, even if they are just a guideline onto which to fall back onto when involving some aspect of the game you hadnt touched on before, I think is a good idea. I finally aquired a copy and concider such a necessary part of the flexible use of this sytem. Some of its more interesting books, such as the Fantasy Genre Companion, a wonderful book, is based on the original CAH rules. In fact, if I could speak with Cynthia and suggest one thing, it would be that they should included a file with the original game, even if it were just a printer friendly manual with no illustrations, would be wonderfully useful for many who might want to try this game.

There is much to like about this system. It is a very simplistic Heros type point based system which is genre specific to eighties style action cartoons. It has a lot of wonderful ideas and if one can work around the problems I mentioned above... such as someone who loves the idea of making up rules on the spot or doesnt mind that anything resembling a scaling system has been deleted... this is a wonderful little gem. Who wouldnt want to be a kid again and play out thier favorite Go-bots or Thundercats adventures? So pour yourself some sugary cereal and wear your favorite hero's underoos while playing this game and remember what it was like to be a kid... for an hour or so at least.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul -- Quickstart Preview
by Todd M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/31/2011 14:37:25
Intriguing and very promising. Spectrum is very personal and generally quick to respond.

That said, this is yet another example of a game that has been 'coming soon' for a loooooong time.

I hope it hasn't suffered the same fate as.... what was that supers sampler game using the Witchcraft (unisystem?) 'engine'?

I forget. Pretty much everyone else did too.

It really does look like it does what it says. Emulate comics, in a comparatively simple fashion. Looks to be a bit more complex version of another spectrum game, "Cartoon Action Hour." I'm still debating just tweaking that and being done with it. Really good, really flexible, and simple game.

Play the odds, support spectrum, invest in CAH instead.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul -- Quickstart Preview
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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
by Matthew W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/22/2011 17:08:19
Great rule set, well written, and really captures the vibe of the 80's retro-toon. The game system itself is easy to learn, but comprehensive enough to allow players and game masters to run in any game setting they can devise. Well worth the price.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
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Macabre Tales Sneak Peek
by John L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/07/2011 17:26:29
Considering that this is entirely promotional material infused with a few tantalizing facts, this Sneak Peek does a good job of conveying just what the series is about. It tells you about the history of H. P. Lovecraft's stories, and how they relate to the themes and emotional tones that their upcoming games will present.

Honestly, considering that it's perfectly free, there really isn't a reason to avoid getting it. "Buy" it, download it, read it, and decide if Macabre Tales will be your cup of tea. I know that I'm personally interested.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macabre Tales Sneak Peek
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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
by Dr T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/06/2011 18:06:25
It's one of the best niche RPG game. If you want to play "Transformers", "G.I. Joe", "Jem", "M.A.S.K.", "Thundarr" and other cartoons from 1980s. Download this RPG as soon as possible.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
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Wild West Cinema rulebook
by Darren M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2011 05:26:11
Having played Wild West Cinema list night for the 1st time we found this game a blast tp play. We run though the included adventure 'The Gatling Decision' . My Players taking the parts of 'The Percher man' , 'The Indian Outcast' and 'The Drifter'

I was the GM and found I had a lot less work to as the players make all the rolls. The players quickly got into the spirit of the game ham'ing up they particular archetype for all they were worth. A great time was had by all. High recommended easy to run system that does not suffer in game play for being so.

just add chow and ammo !

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wild West Cinema rulebook
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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul -- Quickstart Preview
by Michael K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/29/2011 17:28:21
The quickstart fails to explain the rules mechanics in clear and simple examples, the writing style is pretentious, the system itself is at best hazy and at worst, clunky and wonky.

Even after having read both the German (whose translation is quite bad for a professional product) and the English version the quickstart leaves open many questions about the game mechanics and how the game is supposed to be played.

Oh, and don't forget about the blatant racism embedded in the scenario, a scenario that does not make any sense whatsoever.

M&M, Hero Game and even Aberrant would be ashamed if they would've had such badly written quickstart rules.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul -- Quickstart Preview
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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul -- Quickstart Preview (German version)
by Michael K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/29/2011 17:20:01
The quickstart fails to explain the rules mechanics in clear and simple examples, the writing style is pretentious, the system itself is at best hazy and at worst, clunky and wonky.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul -- Quickstart Preview (German version)
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Capes, Cowls and Villains Foul -- Quickstart Preview (German version)
by Fred K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/28/2011 13:02:51
Dieser Quickstart wirft viele Fragen auf, die darum bitten, besser unbeantwortet zu bleiben.

Auf der ersten Seite wird der unbedarfte Leser durch simple Subjekt-Prädikat-Objekt Sätze indoktriniert, warum dieses Spiel besser als bisherige Superheldenrollenspiele sei.
Nach dem Sprung ins kalte Wasser - eine Startszene ohne Spielmechanismen und mit dem Anspruch, unter den Prinzipien freier Fantasie-Ausbeute, coole Action und Spaß erleben zu wollen - geraten Spieler und Redakteur (Spielleiter) in die Folgeszene, zu der dann auch Aspekte der Charaktererschaffung und der teilweise wirren Spielmechanismen verraten werden. Der aufmerksame Leser wird dabei feststellen, dass die Kritik an bisherigen Spielen mit reglementierten Kräften inkonsequenterweise nicht aufrechterhalten wird. "Merkmale" des Spielercharakters (Attribute, Fähigkeiten, Fertigkeiten, Superkräfte) werden in nicht näher erklärten oder wenigstens beschriebenen Rängen verstanden und in Form vergleichender Proben oder nach Quick-Resolution Tabellen ausgespielt ...
Die "Redaktionelle Kontrolle" stellt zum inhaltlichen Abschluss Methoden für Redakteur und begrenzt auch Spieler zur Verfügung, die Paradigmen des Spiels zu durchbrechen ...
Der Quickstart endet mit Mustercharakteren und Kreaturen, deren Darstellungen teilweise recht wirr wirken und in dem eher unbedarften Neuling im Spiel das blanke Entsetzen entstehen lassen ...
Im Verlauf des Quickstarts findet die Indoktrination mit naiven Fragen und autosuggestiven Antworten weiterhin statt.

Sorry: Mein (Rest-)Interesse wurde getilgt ... Die Vollversion lässt schlimmer erahnen ...

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Slasher Flick
by Andrew S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/06/2010 23:03:51
We play this as a one off in between the Barbarians of Lemuria campaign we are involved in. It is simple and fun...really catching the vibe. Great for novices too.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Slasher Flick
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Slasher Flick: The Director's Cut
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/12/2010 04:13:43
Pros: Slasher Flick brought to full color. with tons of new bonus features including 100 pregens and a full "film".

Cons: No bookmarks, less than impressive table of contents and index.

Check out my review at: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2010/09/tommys-take-o-
n-slasher-flick-directors.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Slasher Flick: The Director's Cut
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Slasher Flick: The Director's Cut
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/16/2010 12:33:42
Slasher Flick is a rules-light roleplaying game meant to emulate this horror film subgenre. The Director’s Cut is a nicely formatted version of the original rulebook, with some bonus material.

The rulebook is 170 pages and a pretty quick read, with good writing and organization. There’s occasional almost cartoonish art and lots of sidebars giving hints and rules advice. The pdf is not bookmarked, and there is a smattering of typos throughout.

The system is very streamlined and meant for fast play. Each character has four attributes (Brawn, Finesse, Brains, and Spirit) associated with a die size (d6, d8, d10). Task resolution requires rolling four of the appropriate dice; success requires matching numbers. Characters also have qualities that grant or take away situational extra dice, and the GM can also add/remove dice based on the task’s difficulty.

There are several innovative mechanics to emulate the slasher genre. First, players have both primary and secondary characters. The latter are less developed and die early and often. Second, players get “genre points” when their characters do something appropriate to the slasher flick genre – including death. These act like action points in other games.

Third, the killer is not treated as a normal character but more as an element of the story. He (or she) has no attributes. Each player’s goal is to accumulate 8 survival points during a “kill scene” by making appropriate checks – fall to zero and the character dies. A killer is very difficult to defeat, and the expectation that only one or two characters will survive is literally built into the game.

The rules are very brief, so there’s lots of additional material, including an enjoyable analysis of the tropes and plots of slasher flicks. There’s very useful advice for convincing players to go along with the genre and a long section for GMs on creating and running stories. There is a complete adventure (although I found it a confusing one). Finally, the Appendix presents a host of character templates – like “Brash Punk Rocker” and “Curious Archaeologist” – that are ready to use out of the box.

The creators of Slasher Flick set themselves a difficult task, to emulate a genre in which almost all the characters are meant to do stupid things and die. There are a lot of clever ideas in here for making it work. Nevertheless, the game forces you to stick pretty close to the tropes in a somewhat heavy-handed way, and there’s a bit of a sense of railroading there.

Overall, I think the unusual mechanics and structure would be fun for a one shot or two (especially a campy one), but – like the films themselves, at least to me – there’s little room for variation in the plots, so it wouldn’t sustain a long-term game. I did especially enjoy the advice and analysis of slasher flicks, so it is definitely a good read.

Note: I received a free review copy (in pdf form) of this title through DriveThruRPG.com.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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