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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!]
Macabre Tales rulebook
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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!]
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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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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2 Playset (FREE demo version)
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/07/2010 13:30:56
Quick. Easy. and Free. Exactly how I like demos. This is a great introduction to the great Cartoon Action Hour Season 2 game. You can play this demo as soon as you get it and know almost everything you need to know about the game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2 Playset (FREE demo version)
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Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/28/2010 15:46:34
o a while back I picked up a game I had been wanting for a while; Cartoon Action Hour. I had heard a lot about it, how it was perfect for umlauting cartoons like G.I. Joe and Transformers and even He-Man and Thundaar. Well I'll be honest, I didn't watch many of those cartoons as a kid. I know of them, yes, and I watched episodes here and there, but my preferences were running much more to fantasy and slowly into horror and cartoons were not a good source for that then. But I wanted to get this game to see what the big deal was and to see if it could in fact do all these different kinds of stories. So I bought it.

Well. It lived up to the hype.

Cartoon Action Hour: Season Two (CAH:S2) is an updated version of the earlier Cartoon Action Hour. You don't need the first game obviously to play this one, but it does come with conversion notes. Both were written by Cynthia Celeste Miller of Spectrum Games, a name that often comes up when people talk about Genre Emulation and Indie Games. Her other efforts were "Slasher Flick" and "Wild West Cinema", both games I also know of, but don't (yet) own, and like CAH, both come highly recommended. In addition to doing the writing for this game she also did all the layout, and she is also a drummer in a metal band, Slaygound. That is pretty cool if you ask me.

CAH is divided into "Channels" and not Chapters or Sections. Clever huh. Channel 1 (which we didn't have in the 80's but that is ok) is the obligatory "What is role-playing" and a definition of the cartons we will emulating; the Retro-Toon. The book goes one to explain why the Retro-Toon, and not say toons of the 90's and more. For example this game really focuses on the black and white morality of the toons of the age. G.I. Joe was good and Cobra was bad. End of discussion. While you certainly could play a bit more loose with the morality of the game (the He-Man episode "The Witch and the Warrior" comes to mind as one where evil may not be so evil. BTW also written by Paul Dinni. Mr. Dini and I will be in "witch-aholics anonymous" together one day. ) I would say don't. That is missing the allure and appeal of this game. Miller takes a bit of time and page space to break down why and how these toons worked the way they did and I think that it would be an injustice to run the game differently. Not to say your game can't be "dark", but this is not World of Darkness nor is it even Buffy.

Channel 1 ends with the best overview of 80's cartoons I have ever read. Frankly I'd love to see more of this, but this is fine as it is. Nearly worth the price of the PDF alone. Well….sorta, it is good, but we still have the whole book to read.

Channel 2 is about creating the series. This is an important step away from the normal Player make Character, GM makes World process of many games. In CAH:S2 everyone has to work together (see that!), so the GM makes the world first, with of course input from the players. Then when the world is defined the players can start on their characters. What does making a world, or a Series, in CAH:S2 mean? Well typically it means what sort of show are you going to do? Will this be soldiers fighting a multi-national terrorist organization? Robots from another planet? A hulking barbarian in world where magic and technology collide? All these are possible and there is even a "Character Sheet" for the series. I liked this sheet and I can see using it to plan out say a Buffy RPG or Supernatural season; it is flexible enough to use in any game. I love it when I get something like that. Once that is done and the tag line is created ("A Real American Hero!" or "More than Meets the Eye!") then it is time to create our stars.

Channel 3 is Character Creation. Character creation is a point buy system based on a number of "Proof of Purchase Points", with the amount allocated set by the GM when she makes the series. Guidelines are given. There are no set traits a character has. Players need to come up with a concept and then they build that into a list of traits ranked 1 to 5 (or so). So a "gigantic transforming robot" might have the following traits: "Robot 1, Transform 3, Plasma Gun 3" and then something that makes him unique "Leader of the Transbots, AF 4". This unique feature or features is called an "Action Feature" and it comes into play later. Think of G. I. Joe, Snake Eyes was the Ninja with a Sword so his Action Feature might be "Sword master, AF 5" since he never talked that is a negative trait "Never Speaks, X2". Miller does provide a list, but is very much against providing one. The purpose of the character creation is to find out what the character can do.

Channel 4 is Rules of Play and it is pretty simple, but good stuff. I want get into all of it since that has been covered elsewhere, but I like the "Setbacks" and the return from "Commercial Breaks"; again something I could see using in Buffy or one of the Anime RPGs I have reviewed. The dice mechanic is based on a d12, so nice to see it get some love. Roll a d12 add the appropriate trait and that is it. Sometimes there is a target number, sometimes there is a contested roll. The mechanic is not difficult. In fact I think the best way now to do "Animated Unisystem" is swap out the d10 for a d12. You can add "Oomph" to a roll like Drama Points, or you can have an issue with one of your "Sub plots". For the Snake Eyes example there is the issue with his former master and his arch rival.

The interesting thing about this is, it is on the same level as BESM 3.0 or even OVA. Use one to get ideas for the other, or combine them all for an Anime fueled 80's style retro-toon of mammoth quality.

Channel 5 is for Game Masters. It has all cool new rules and ideas for this game. How to run commercial breaks, sub plots, allies, hazards and threats.

Appendix 1 (dropping the style for a bit. Was UHF 1 too obscure?) We are given three complete series to run as our own with stars, enemies and even faux 80's television histories. "Warriors of the Cosmos" fills the Thundaar/He-Man void, "Strike Force Freedom" is the obvious nod to G.I. Joe and "Transbots" is about, well, Transforming Robots. With all the bases covered here (more or less) GMs should have not problem creating their own series.

What Else? Well there are conversions for Cartoon Action Hour 1. The bickering between the evil Kargorr and heroic Bravesteel is entertaining; very much in the vein of Space Ghost Coast to Coast I felt.

All in all this is a crazy fun game. Easy to learn and play. Some thought has to be put into the series and then the characters to get the full feel, but there are plenty of characters and series in the book. Plus this is a game that screams for splats. Do a series bible up, list some potential traits, add some ready to run characters with histories, put it all in a PDF and there you go. I am surprised with the flexibility of a game like this the Miller has not included some sort of Open License for it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2
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