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Kidnapping in Al-Halisa (BRP)
by David B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/25/2013 09:27:41
This a dolled up version of one of the scenarios from Stupor Mundi and not a BRP version of a standalone product as description implies.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Kidnapping in Al-Halisa (BRP)
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Publisher Reply:
"This adventure was originally published for the Mongoose Edition of RuneQuest. If you own the original edition, you will probably not need this version." The description clearly states that it is a re-hash of a previously published product, and goes as far as warning the customer that he might find it useless if he owns the previous edition. We feel we have done our best to make things clear to any potential purchasers here.
BRP Mecha
by Brian R H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/25/2013 13:19:41
Alephtar Games makes yet another strong showing under the banner of the Basic Roleplaying (BRP) system!BRP Mecha extends the Basic Roleplaying (BRP) rules published in 2008 by Chaosium, so you'll need that book to fully use BRP Mecha.

Until now, BRP supplement have been largely focused on fantasy (with notable exceptions in Chaosium's "monograph" line). Alephtar Games themselves have been responsible for much of the quality third-party material for BRP with notables such as _Rome, Life and Death of the Republic_, _Crusaders of the Amber Coast_, _Merrie England_, _Celestial Empire_, and _Dragon Lines_. Missing from the BRP line has been a strong set of scifi rules.

Now, BRP Mecha is firmly grounded in the anime mecha genre (i.e., guys piloting big robots to fight evil) and is not billed as generic scifi. Still, it offers several innovations to the BRP rules that would be useful to anyone venturing into scifi territory with BRP, particularly the new vehicle and air- and space-combat rules (it even has write-ups for WWII-era vehicles such as the M4 Sherman and the A6M Zero, modern vehicles like the F-15 Eagle, and, of course, spaceships).

Those looking for detailed Mecha construction sub-systems should look elsewhere. The cool thing about BRP Mecha is just that: it's _BRP_. The book leverages the strengths of the BRP system and works within it -- it doesn't try to reinvent it. For example, rather than create a point-based Mecha build sub-system, the book instead provides guidance on translating the plethora of "real-world" Mecha write-ups (say, from a model kit) into BRP stats. In other words, it continues the BRP tradition of seeking verisimilitude (if one can say that about giant robots) versus "game balance."

The book further extends BRP by introducing some innovations on the Fate point mechanic from the BGB which help simulate the heroic aspects of the Mecha source material. Fate points mitigate the famously deadly nature of BRP combat. As BRP Mecha points out, "Mecha pilots should be treated as always 'favoured by destiny,' and never allowed to die or fail in an anti-climactic way" (68). Accordingly, Fate points can be earned by players initiatiing subplots in which they explore the pursuit (or failure to achieve) their character Motivations. Subplots activate Motivations outside of combat. Spending Fate points in combat deactivates Motivations.

The book includes two sample campaigns, each in one of the two Mecha sub-genres the book deals with explicitly: Real Robot and Super Robot. The Real Robot campaign called EXODUS deals with a fleet of human survivors on the run from an inscrutable alien menace while the Super Robot campaign is of the Mecha vs. Kaiju variety.

BRP Mecha packs a lot useful material -- both rules and scenario inspiration -- into 120 or so pages. I can't recommend it enough, to BRP newcomers and grognards alike.

I was never a big Mecha fan (at least beyond Voltron and Gundam as a kid), but the quality of this book as both an extension of BRP AND as a excellent genre supplement has me invesitgating further.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BRP Mecha
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Rome, Life and Death of the Republic
by Ron M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2013 09:41:51
I have had a few PDFs in my archives that were given to me to review but due to unforeseen life complications, I was not able to. I felt I owed those products a review and sicne I have started The Gamer’s Codex, I have gone back in my archives and found a number of those products. Basic Roleplaying: Rome, Life and Death of the Republic is one of them.

Rome is the longest enduring civilization in western European history and its influences, good and bad, are still felt today. Recent television shows like Rome and Spartacus have brought the brutality, sensuality and intrigue to life for us. It is no wonder that there is an attraction to role-play in that setting. I am by no means a Roman historian but this book seems to have backing of several learned individuals on the subject, so I trusted it to be historically accurate where it needed to be.

Chaosium was one of the first companies to develop a generic role playing game systems, and it is still sustained today through Call of Cthulhu and various other titles it supports. A percentile skill-based system, Basic Role Play system (BRP) was used as the basis for most of the games published by Chaosium. Its simplicity and popularity are very attractive and I can see why the author used it.

See the rest of my review on The Gamer's Codex here ...

www.thegamerscodex.com/index.php/basic-roleplaying-rome--
life-and-death-of-the-republic/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rome, Life and Death of the Republic
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BRP Mecha
by Nicholas B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/03/2013 12:54:21
A very good book, adding detailed design mechanics for giant mecha to the Basic Roleplaying system. It provides a sample campaign, scenario, lots of advice on character generation in a manga/anima world with giant robots, and sound build mechanics. I have encountered no noticeable errors/errata yet. The art is black and white with an anime style to it, nothing terribly special but its genre appropriate and not ugly, either (sorta looks like Mekton in style, actually).

Worth buying if you are like me and have been wanting more SF themed sourcebooks for BRP!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BRP Mecha
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The Spandex Legion 02
by david w. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2012 15:42:49
The MIGHT be a good product, its hard to say. Apparently, the publisher assumes that everyone already knows how to use a PDF of this type, as they give absolutely no instructions for its use what-so-ever. I was only able to modify the first figure... clicking on the others does absolutely nothing, that surely there is a way to choose a different one. Who knows? There's no instructions? There are four stand ups per page, and buttons next to each figure. Clicking the buttons doesn't do anything... and yes, I'm using adobe PDF reader. The art work is satisfactory, and at $4.95 i didn't expect anything really good... but with no instructions other than how to print it... its a waste of money. How hard would it have been to add ONE MORE page with instructions??

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Spandex Legion 02
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Publisher Reply:
Sorry for the late reply but we did not notice this review until lately. The instructions are on page 1 of the product. Is it possible that you have missed them because you thought page 1 was just the cover? As for the malfunctioning buttons, I have re-checked the product with the latest version of Adobe Acrobat (XI) which was released years later than the product and all buttons work as they should. Is it possible that you have tried the product with a version of Adobe that had some bugs in how it processed JavaScript? You might want to retry with the latest Adobe Reader, it should behave correctly.
Merrie England
by Idle R. H. P. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/11/2012 00:29:59
I’m going to be honest with you. If I had relied on the cover and the name, I would have passed this product over. That would have been a big mistake. I’m not saying that the cover art is badly done, but it makes me think of a renaissance fair more than the kind of medieval game I’d want to play in. What’s inside, however, is exactly what I want to play in.

I got this product because it’s made by Alephtar Games, the same company who made Rome: The Life and Death of the Republic, one of the better role-playing supplements to come out in the last few years. Both use the Basic Roleplaying system, and both provide a wealth of information for their respective periods of history.

Merrie England covers chivalry, the Crusades, religion and heresies, ransoming (with suggested prices), disease, myths and numerous other aspects of 12th and 13th century England and Europe. It gives you what you need to play a realistic medieval game and it gives you the ability to infuse magic and myth into a realist medieval game. I especially liked how it uses piety, pilgrimages and blessings to create the kind of divine-based characters you’d find in a more traditional medieval role-playing game (i.e., fantasy). It gives you the stats for three types of warhorses plus the stats for a palfrey (common riding horse). It details mythical creatures from England plus angels, demons and Islamic creatures. It details all the ways you can die, through disease to warfare, plus the afterlife. After reading through the book, I didn’t think, “Yeah, but what about X?” It seemed to cover just about everything.

It’s not just a history book with some fantasy elements sprinkled in, although I found it interesting to read just for that. This product offers a lot of ideas on how to use the information, like the helpful example on Astrology and the boxes outlining scenario hooks. There’s even a sample campaign at the end. I like it when games do this. Sample adventures can really help a gamemaster navigate a new setting or system.

For a black and white book without a large art budget, it says a lot about the content that it deserves to be given five stars. Sure, there are a few typos, but this is a well-researched, solid product. I will definitely be looking to get more historical RPG products from Alephtar Games to add to my collection.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Merrie England
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Merrie England
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/05/2012 08:39:34
This is the England that ought to have been, rather than the history of the one in which I sit writing this review. This is the mediaeval England of legend, with Robin Hood scampering around Sherwood Forest, a Good King Richard off fighting the Infidel whilst Bad King John does his best to steal a kingdom, never mind everyone's hard-earned gold... this is an England in which excitement and adventure are to be found, but where drains don't smell and nobody worries about the Black Death!

The Introduction outlines this setting, the mediaeval England of stories, rooted firmly in the history of the 12th and 13th centuries but with an eye to the rise of the ideals of chivalry, to the world of ballad and folk-song, the sort of mediaeval England that you'd like to visit. Designed to be used in conjunction with Chaosium's Basic Roleplaying (BRP) ruleset, there's a handy list of what rules from that work will be of particular use when running this setting. Whilst there's a whole section about running adventures and campaigns at the end of this product, it's noted that Scenario Hooks are scattered throughout, to spawn ideas and help Game Masters come up with their own material, or players to develop their characters more fully. Next comes the historical timeline of the period, covering major events and many famous personalities. Perhaps the characters will participate in historical events... or perhaps they'll rewrite history!

The first chapter is all about Player Characters, ranging from the concepts and types of characters that might prove interesting to the minutae of actually creating them, based around the core BRP character generation process but with the appropriate spin for creating one suitable for this specific setting. There's an addition, you need to choose a Background - on offer are Norman, Saxon, Jewish, Welsh, Cornish, Scot, Irish, Marshman, Norse, Fairy, Moor, Saracen and Cleric; but you can develop your own in conjunction with the GM - and this can influence what skills and professions are more likely for your character. Wealth and social class are both important and intertwined. You can either track every last groat or abstract wealth depending on taste, but the aim is to provide a fairly realistic setting so people may prefer to maintain at least basic accounts for their characters. Next is a run-down on what your chosen Background will give you and on all the professions available, with a sidebar explain the role of the clergy (primarily Christian although Jewish and Muslim ones are covered) and the specific skills that a member of the clergy can acquire. Being part of the clergy is available via two routes, by choosing it as a Background, or deciding that a character from another Background has entered it as a profession. This allows for a lot of diversity, and reflects the importance that you want religion to play in your character's life and outlook. Given that this is a mediaeval rather than a fantasy setting, there are quite a few new professions introduced, and not all the BRP ones are available. Some interesting historical ones are included such as Knights Templar and moneychangers. Naturally, there are plenty supernatural optinons, the stance being that all the things - spells, demon summoning and the like - that your average mediaeval person believed do indeed work! And a particular delight, the wayte - a peculiar mix of minstrel and town guard which did exist in mediaeval England, hired by a community to both watch over and entertain them. Languages and skills are also covered in greater detail at this point... and they have the linkages straight, Welsh being close to Breton and even closer to Cornish, for example. The chapter ends with a note on female, Jewish and Muslim characters, explaining how they were restricted in many ways in the historical mediaeval world and how best to play them to good advantage, to have fun with them without losing all semblance of realism.

Next, a chapter on Religion and Magic. The main relgion in England at this time was Christianity, taking the form of Roman Catholicism. It wasn't just what you did on Sunday morning, it played a far greater role in day-to-day life - and indeed in the political landscape - and can be the source of many adventures and intrigues in your game. A Piety mechanism is introduced, which waxes and wanes according to a character's actions and can even allow the granting of miracles at times of need. It is even possible to become a saint (while still alive, it's not necessary to be dead in these times!). Relics and icons have great significance too, and mechanics for using them with Piety ratings are given. Divine magic, normally only available to ordained clergy (or equivalent for other faiths), functions by means of Blessings which are learned and cast, often with formal rituals. The number that can be known depends on the priest's individual Holiness (based on his actions and standing in the religion), the number that can be cast is based on Piety. Holiness can be increased by the taking of Vows - provided, that is, that the terms of the Vow are adhered to during the course of the game. This can lead to entertaining role-play, even dramatic tension. Pilgrimages were important in mediaeval days, and are here too, both as a means of increasing individual pilgrim's Piety and the wealth of those running pilgrimage sites! Magic, too, was widely believed in during the mediaeval period, and for game purposes is deemed to be real... even if frowned upon by established religions, especially Christianity. Along with the use of amulets and talismans, people may practise 'folk magic' as well as the regular sort of fantasy magic and sorcery - as described in the core BRP rulebook.

The next chapter, entitled Magical Science, looks at education and scholarship in the mediaeval world. It was an exciting time in learning, with the foundation of the first universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, as well as similar establishments on the Continent. Science as we know it didn't really exist, but a lot of fun can be had with its precursor, alchemy. This melds magic and early scientific thought together, and can be used for the likes of making potions to mimic magical effects or for healing... or for more mundane substances such as soaps and perfumes! Islamic alchemists were particularly advanced. Another discipline that flourished at the time was astrology, the art of predicting the future by observing the heavens. There is plenty of detail - and a mechanism whereby Fate points can be used to make predictions come true, if you fancy that - provided to enable astrology to play as major a role in your games as it did in mediaeval life. If you do not want to stare at the stars, other means of divination are available - from reading palms to geomancy or gazing into a fire and seeing what patterns are made by the flames. More dubious individuals might be interested in the practice of demonology. As well as studying demons, demonologists can learn spells to summon, control and dismiss demons... if they dare! Others may choose to study medicine, which was slowly shaking off superstition especially with the influx of knowledge from the Arab world... but there are many who regard casting an astrological chart as an essential part of diagnosis.

Chapter 4 looks at Major Religions, beginning with the Catholic Church, a powerful influence in mediaeval times with temporal as well as spiritual power. Many monastic orders were wealthy landowners, and individual Churchmen served in important state positions alongside their religious roles. The concept of taking sanctuary in a church had legal effect, and excommunication was a real threat when the majority of people were Catholics and would shun the excommunicated in day-to-day life, never mind not permitting them to enter the church and receive the sacraments. Saints play a leading part in religious life, and devotees can receive specific blessings. Those who wish a religious life can enter one of the many orders, and the sight of monks and nuns is commonplace. More robust individuals may prefer a 'military order' such as the Hospitallers or the Templars, whose members are both monk and knight. There's a lot of background information to help you make such organisations part of the fabric of your game, although it's sometimes a little jumbled and patchy: for example we're told Cistertians wear white habits to distinguish themselves from Benedictines... but nowhere does it mention that Benedictines wear black! Naturally, as well as orthodox worshippers, there are many groups who have off-beat, if not heretical, beliefs and these can be the source of robust debate if not outright violence... for where there is heresy, there the Inquisition shall surely follow! Again, plenty of detail if you wish to have the Inquisition feature in your game (including a rather unhealthy interest in torture... there again, I've had players who likewise were rather too interested in that particular subject!). The section on Christianity ends with a discussion of the magic condoned by the Church - a crucifix is a potent talisman, for example - and the other magics that might be found in otherwise Christian communities. Islam and Judaism are covered in similar detail... but it must be remembered that mediaeval Christians were far less tolerant of those who followed other faiths than we are today. Provided you and your players separate any real beliefs from in-game ones, you should not have problems, but discretion is advised, remembering that the past should never be viewed in the light of contemporary prejudice and opinion. Including the full sweep of mediaeval faith will enrich your game greatly, however.

Next, Chapter 5 looks at Nobles, Knights and the Crown. These were powerful individuals, backed with the full might of the feudal system, whose personal ambitions affected the whole country. The feudal system in full flower is complex, with a liege lord as obligated to his vassals as they are to him. Knights are a separate class of specialist armoured and mounted warriors, taking service with nobles. Both knights and nobles were supposed to be chivalrous, but not all of them were. Of particular note is the tourney, a way in which knights could demonstrate their prowess without the need to actually go to war - and a fine spectacle for everybody else! Considerable detail is given, much adventure can be had should you chose to stage one in the course of your game. With property and inheritance so important to nobles, marriage is a matter to be entered into with due consideration... and likely not for love. However, the concept of courtly love flourishes as a separate entity from the formalities of marriage, and again both can provide for many adventures. Should you wish for such heights of intrigue and politics, plenty of details about Crown and court are provided: perhaps your game is set at court, or your characters have dealings with those who are there, or even aspire to become leading nobles themselves.

Continuing the discussion of the backdrop to this setting, the next chapter is The Land and People. This sweeps through a range of subjects from the climate to day-to-day local administration. Castles dot the landscape, with a mix of villages and bustling small towns. Interestingly, many towns major then are not as important now, although most still exist - a point of interest if you or your players know contemporary England well. There's a section on 'pastimes' to enable the characters to find ways of entertaining themselves, albeit often in bloodthirsty manner watching animals fight or hunting them for food or sport. Football is nothing like the game of today, more of a brawl with several hundred players that ends once the first goal is scored. Music abounds however for those who like more gentle pursuits and there's a run-down of common instruments of the time. For working life, however, the Guilds played a major role and so extensive information is given on their organisation and operation. Whilst Guilds stage Mystery plays, groups of Morris Men and mummers are also found performing. Many ancient folk customs survive, lepers are found roaming or clustered in lazar houses... and naturally marriage features large in everyday life. A selection of folk tales and legends provides ample resource for weaving this all together into a heady (if somewhat rose-tinted) representation of mediaeval life. For those seeking matters more strange, information is provided about faeries and elves... before the narrative returns to detailed accounts of life in villages, towns, castles, and monasteries. All you need to make 'Merrie England' come to life in your game.

Chapter 7 is entitled Further Afield. There may be a lot to do in England, but the adventurous often found reason to travel abroad - perhaps for trade or a diplomatic mission, on a pilgrimmage or on Crusade. So this chapter serves as a gazetteer of the lands across Europe and over to the Holy Land, replete with adventure ideas for those who go there. You might want to hunt down Alephtar Games's Stupor Mundi, which covers this period from the standpoint of the Holy Roman Empire, if you want adventures in Europe to be a major part of your campaign.

This leads neatly on to the next chapter, The Crusades. Even if your characters don't want to take the cross themselves, the Crusades will feature large in the background, the backdrop of events that shape the entire setting. There's plenty of detail here, useful if the characters decide to get embroiled in intrigue or are travelling anywhere near where the Crusaders were. The Albigensian Crusade is picked out as being particularly suitable as the basis for a campaign, particularly if you enjoy moral dilemmas in your game. Lovers of intrigue may also relish the complex relationships between the different Crusader Orders, which can make a good career choice for the ambitious knight, especially one without a noble family to provide him with ready-made lands.

For those of a mechantile bent, Chapter 8: Trading and Adventuring supplies other routes to excitement and success. After a survey of the money in use at the time, there's a look at what was the very beginnings of the international banking system. Merchant leagues and trading ships are also important. This section continues with all the financial details you might want, from the appropriate wages for many trades to the cost of just about everything characters might require and details of travel: routes, timings, costs, etc. Things may not go smoothly, so you can find out how much your weapons will cost as well as how much harm they will do, and details of the equipment and tactics of various types of combatant. Ther e is also material about injuries and diseases, and about what law and order there is, at least, where the rule of law rather than noble whim and brute force hold sway.

If things do not go well, refer to Chapter 9: The Afterlife. As most everybody was religious, it's also important to know what was believed even if you are not intending to brawl... and you may not get a choice, even if disease does not get you first. Christianity has the most detailed accounts, but Judaism and Islam also have clear ideas about what fate awaits the devout - and not so devout - after death. There are some notes on how to use these to effect in your game... it may even be possible to visit before you're dead!

Chapter 10: Creatures begins with 'normal' creatures, especially that most useful animal, the horse - no less than three different types of warhorse as well as ordinary riding ones. A selection of Powers, not available in core Basic Roleplaying, are presented as an introduction to an array of legendary and faerie beasts, which might be able to, for example, become invisible or breathe flame. Most of these are quite malevolent, especially the faerie ones. There are also undead, water creatures, and the beasties commonly found in wilderness areas; as well as creatures from Jewish and Islamic folklore.

If that doesn't provide enough opposition, move on to Chapter 11: Angels and Demons. Centred on traditional Catholic beliefs, there is a vast hierarchy of different types of angels before you even get round to looking at the demons. Jewish belief is different, yet just as complex. Islam also believes in angels, but regards their organisational structure as unimportant. It's up to the Game Master which, if any, interpretation of the Otherworld is correct... or perhaps they all exist. There is an equally impressive array of demons who may turn up to tempt the faithful to sin (handled mechanically as a contest against Piety) as well as in response to the attempts of demonologists to summon them. There are literally pages and pages of them, reflecting their importance to the mediaeval mind. Islam also offers plenty, categorised by their powers rather than the elaborate hierarchy of the Christian ones.

Hopefully more pleasant to meet (at least in some cases) are the subjects of Chapter 12: Character Gallery. Here, notable individuals from history are discussed, and provided with relevant game stats should you include them as NPCs for your characters to meet and interact with. There is also a useful collection of 'sample characters' to provide quick generic NPCs, or as the basis for developing more rounded individual ones.

Next comes an extensive and wide-ranging discussion on Campaigns. There is a wide range of options, depending on the stories that the group wishes to tell together. There are opportunities to get embroiled in warfare or banditry, go on Crusade or engage in civil war, pitting baron against baron. Or characters may work for a county's Sheriff, or the Church, or be travelling entertainers or merchants... the possibilities are endless. There's a fairly detailed discussion on life and laws in the forest (for all those heading off Robin Hood style for the Greenwood!), and a well-developed location - the hamlet of Whitlingthorpe - complete with notable inhabitants and a story-arc involving the life and times of the village, all ready for you to weave into your adventures. There are even several complete scenarios to get you off to a flying start.

This work fair makes me want to grab my dice and round up a few friends: it's a period that I like anyway, and this book puts a straightforward system to underpin it all ensuring a workable and enjoyable game. Those who enjoy mediaeval history will be able to slot in what they know, as will those who enjoy fiction set in this period. Overall an excellent setting, I can hardly wait to finish the review before scampering off to write some adventures for it!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Celestial Empire
by Rudolf S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/22/2011 14:45:57
The Celestial Empire is the best supplement about China I have seen so far, with lots and lots of
useful informations and ideas. It covers everything one needs for a campaign in China, and it is well written and well organized. Highly recommended for everyone who is interested in China, es-
pecially if the focus is on a well researched historical campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Celestial Empire
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Warlocks & Wolfriders 0200: Non-human Adversaries
by Paul K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/19/2011 12:54:31
Excellent figures and the $2.99 price tag is not a problem. Products from this artist are highly recommended.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warlocks & Wolfriders 0200: Non-human Adversaries
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Warlocks & Wolfriders 0100: Human Adventurers
by Paul K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/19/2011 12:53:03
The figures are excellent. When the price is $0.00 there isn't a reason for anyone not to request this minis set.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warlocks & Wolfriders 0100: Human Adventurers
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Rome, Life and Death of the Republic
by Lowell F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/24/2010 12:57:23
What is it?
A Roman sourcebook covering the period from the founding to the end of the Republic.

To begin: if you're thinking about running a campaign set in ancient Rome, you should buy this book.

Rome: The Life and Death of the Republic is a 220-page sourcebook for Basic Role-Playing. The layout's clean and the book mostly uses classic illustrations rather than too much original art. Based on these books, I'm going to put some of their other books Stupor Mundi, Merrie England, and Dragon Lines on my wishlist.

Pick Your Rome
It's interesting to consider how Rome has appeared in various media-- there's definitely a “sexier” part of that history. Most cinematic adaptations cover the period just at end of the Republic era or after- from Julius Caesar on. Spartacus would be an exception. Certainly on television that's the case as well: I, Claudius; Rome; AD, and so on. Historical fiction tends to follow suit-- all of the Roman historical mysteries take place after the Republic has become a memory: Roberts, Rowe, Saylor, Wishaert, Downie. So its worthwhile risk for someone do produce a sourcebook which covers not that period, but an earlier one.

Like Cthulhu Invictus, Life and Death of the Republic, concerns itself with a portion of Rome's history. However, where Cthulhu Invictus cut a reasonably-sized slice for itself, Life and Death simply splits the meal in half. It still takes on a huge swath of history, something it admits to right up front. But it also provides a comprehensive overview. We get from the founding of Rome as a monarchy up through the Civil War and the collapse of the Republic. This Rome isn't a timeless abstract-- the book discusses the evolution and changes of cultural details. Green Ronin's Eternal Rome and Steve Jackson's GURPS Imperial Rome took on all of Roman history and, with the exception of the historical timeline, treated everything as static across that entire time period, Life and Death provides some details and options about how things looked in different phases of Rome's development. It breaks those explicitly down into The Monarchy, Early Republic, Middle Republic and Late Republic. It's worth noting that last period does get more attention (in terms of quotations and citation) but that makes sense.

Life and Death makes another unusual decision in focusing attention on what we classically think of as “Rome.” That is we stay in the heartland. Little attention is given to other countries within the Empire. Rome itself stands as a model for other cities in the Empire. That's a striking approach for material like this. On the one hand it means that the authors have room to deal with the core topics of their focus: Roman life, society and history. On the other hand, it does mean that GMs desiring a campaign that moves outside the confines of the Italian Peninsula will have to do some work. Some of the other Roman rpg resources might be useful, but GMs will be forgiven for feeling a little spoiled after having been given the depth of material here.

The Divisions
The book breaks down into fourteen chapters of varying length. While there are some sidebars and notes, we don't really get to any extensive mechanics and campaigns material until about page 120. In that first set of chapters we get coverage of Roman Society (20p.), Roman Culture (20p.), the city of Rome (25p.), The Games (12p.), The Army (18p.), and Philosophy and Religion (15p). Throughout the author provides extensive and interesting quotations from primary sources. Most chapters provide some ideas for player and adventures seeds in boxed text. All of these sections are well written and interesting. The section of the games is especially interesting-- showing how they grew out of other rituals and evolved from funerary rites. The discussion of other kinds of games and how those might be used in play is good. I also liked seeing the details on the changes in weapons, armor and service over time in the section on the army. Author Pete Nash also stops to discuss philosophies of the empire, an important factor. I could go on-- suffice as to say that the material is rich and covers a great deal of ground.

I should stop off an mention the tone and approach of this material; some may find it a little off-putting. Life and Death aims at achieving a kind of accuracy-- providing material so GMs can run a more realistic game. The focus isn't on verisimilitude, but simulation. The material talks about the kinds of attitudes, approaches, and mores which we in the modern world might find objectionable (especially on the issues of familial authority, women and slaves). It suggests that players will have to adjust to that. I think that's easier said than done. The book takes an authoritative approach-- providing facts and details, but with less on the topic of how that might get shown in play. Mind you the writing is strong enough to support that rigid approach. And there are some scenario suggestions for a few entry points.

Basic Role-Playing is a fairly simple system, so that material doesn't get in the way too much. Even once we get to the chapter on characters-- there's still more descriptive text than BRP rules. The section which follows on Roman Magic takes an interesting and open approach-- showing how the Romans spoke about magic and then how those ideas could be used in one of several approaches. GMs can pick from games which have no magic, psychological magic, or true magic. The guidelines given will take some work to put into practice, but the author gives the GM some excellent tools. Fifteen pages on creatures and monsters do provide stats but also some notes on use.

The material on campaigns will be generally useful to anyone thinking about a Roman campaign. It suggests several frames and talks about the kinds of details necessary to them. There's some discussion of alternate campaigns but these are more tidbit than meal. The lists of ten scenario ideas for different topics (Charioteering, Animals, Disasters) is excellent and I would have loved a few more pages of those. We also get some NPCs statted out and notable persons described. Interestingly the book waits until one of the last chapter to actually break out the historical timeline and walk through the 700 years. That's a good choice and one that reinforces earlier material and keeps it from being overwhelming. That's done as a table with events described in four areas (War, Politics & Law, Religion, the City). The book wraps up with a series of useful appendices as well as excellent maps.

Overall
This is a book for history buffs-- those who like a serious approach. But it is also incredibly rich for anyone wanting to carry off the spirit of Rome in a campaign. It doesn't do some things like a sense of the Empire or an approach to the supernatural which other books (like Cthulhu Invictus) do. But it is the most comprehensive, well-done and rich historical sourcebooks I've ever read. I can only how we might see more from this publisher, perhaps covering Rome under the Emperors or a book providing a look at the other parts of the Empire in this period.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rome, Life and Death of the Republic
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Nameless Streets
by Lowell F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/24/2010 12:55:33
What is it?
A "Supernatural Noir" campaign sourcebook and setting for HeroQuest 2e.

Imagine the Crossovers...
Nameless Streets identifies itself as Paranormal Noir, a genre occupied by at least a couple of other rpgs. The newly released Dresden Files RPG is the most obvious of those, but we should also consider The Edge of Midnight which covered some of the same ground but with an alt universe open-magic approach. I may be wrong, but I don't think White Wolf ever did a Noir sourcebook for either old or new World of Darkness. Generally Nameless Streets presents a campaign frame which takes its cues from the rash of recent fantastic lit with detective protagonists (Anita Blake, Rachel Morgan, Harry Dresden, Allie Beckstrom, Harper Blaine, Joanne Baldwin, Kara Gillian, Jane Yellowrock, Kate Connor...holy cr*p there are a lot of these series...like the Harlequin Romances for a new generation...)

Take a Gander
I should note I'm working from a purchased PDF-- the graphic design is pretty good, although I was a little put off at first by the text design. The green page background takes getting used to. I would have liked a print version with the pdf as well. I do love the cover though-- one of the best I've seen recently.

System-Light or Light System?
HeroQuest 2e provides a feather-light generic system. The abstract nature of character creation, infinite possibilities for abilities, and avoidance of individual systems for gear and equipment means that any campaign sourcebook for this game will have to focus on the setting over the mechanics. At most the materiel will present some options, a frame or frames for handling magic and maybe a few minor variation sub-systems.

In this case, NS presents a few options. Flaws as abilities are given some depth with some new uses and as a means of generating Hero Points in play. It also suggests a fix for one of my concerns with HQ, dividing session-expendable Hero Points from character advancement. Most of the rules presents here are more suggestions and ideas rather than any significant alterations to the HQ engine.

Setting the Scene
Nameless Streets suggests a Portland, Oregon setting which seems a good choice. Most urban fantastic series tend to grab on to a particular city and make it theirs. At least in my mind, Portland's removed enough to provide some mystery. Probably the most significant presentation of the paranormal background for the setting comes in the section discussing Agencies-- what this setting calls communities. The rules suggest the PCs putting together and agency and then provides a set of examples of existing ones in Portland, complete with interesting NPCs. I like the way the book handles this-- a collaborative process for the start of a campaign. I've mentioned before my fondness for these kinds of approaches, and I can see borrowing some ideas from Reign to flesh this out.

HeroQuest suggests the creation of “Genre packs” to set up the basics for different settings. Nameless Streets provides one specific to Paranormal Noir. It includes a Baker's Dozen of archetypes, an extensive discussion on investigation in the real world vs. this one, and some example keyword sets for Private Investigators. The book makes a strange shift character creation to GM-centered material before switching back to how magic works.

Show Us the Magic
In HeroQuest magic operates the same as any other ability-- though how the GM structures that can vary from campaign to campaign. Some magical powers draw from a character's being a particular kind of supernatural creature (vampire, etc). But for more classic magic Nameless Streets opts to have a magical style as an “umbrella” keyword, with different abilities beneath that umbrella. NS first presents a fairly general structure to magic-- a difference between Low Magic, as a practical and sympathetic art, and High Magic, ritualized and exploratory. That's well-laid out, but pretty conventional if you're familiar with modern urban fantasy. NS then presents five magical styles-- which again are interesting and different from one another, but at the same time nothing new in this area. More color or specific community affiliations with these styles would have made them connect with the setting presented here. If you're building a Supernatural Portland setting, more than a generic paranormal game, then the system mechanics and details ought to be tied into the particulars.

One of the nice bits of freedom that HeroQuest gives is the ability to run a supernatural creature without a lot of excess rules baggage. Nameless Streets provides a typical set of such creatures-- with a focus on what playing those might feel like in the setting. This section covers everything from Angels to Animated Corpses to Djinn to Oni. There's a clear sense that the authors have followed all of the modern urban fantasy series and made them workable here.

Mysterious Mysteries
Nameless Streets also follows some other recent rpgs in taking time to discuss the mystery genre and how those stories get played out in a game like this. The book provides some structural ideas-- including design advice. There's an interesting mechanic presented here which has the GM building a mystery in the same way that they might a character. I'm curious to try that out to see what results. Several sample cases and adventure seeds are presented to help the GM walk through that process. The book ends with about ten pages of discussion of Portland as a campaign site, though from a very high level. I would have liked to have seen more material here-- about the structure and kinds of supernatural things going on in Portland. As it is, the most campaign interesting stuff comes in the section on the various sample groups and agencies. There's a great deal of potential there-- but Nameless Streets feels caught between two approaches, on the one hand a game presenting a specific supernatural city with its own rules and structures. On the other hand, a generic frame for doing any kind of modern fantastic game.

Portability
Having been done in HQ means that there's a relatively thin layer of mechanics which a GM might have to remove to port this over to another system. There's some nice campaign structure ideas here-- but it is more about a frame for a modern fantastic game than anything else. If you're running that kind of campaign right now or plan to, it is definitely worth a read through as a resource.

Summary
Nameless Streets gave me some ideas. It provided a concrete example of how HeroQuest could be used for a modern game. I suspect if I were going to run a Persona or Shin Megami Tensai campaign, I'd look first to HeroQuest. It also provided some thematic inspiration for what I might do with a modern paranormal detective game. I'm a little disappointed that the book doesn't have more on the specific Portland setting. Given the competition for eyeballs in this genre, I can see the value of being generic. However the risk of building more particular material would have been worth it. That being said, I'm pleased I picked this up and would recommend it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nameless Streets
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Warlocks & Wolfriders 0200: Non-human Adversaries
by Bailey I. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/23/2010 05:35:28
Terrific! I really love Dario Corallo's stuff, just wish there were more of it. Check out the FREE file Warlocks & Wolfriders 0100 to get an idea of Dario's artistic sense. I think he's wonderful, but it's very stylized and might not be for everyone.

This package contains minis for orcs, kobalds, goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears, minotaurs, goatmen, lizardmen, snakemen, and imp-like creatures called "troublings." The troublings look a bit like goblins as depicted in Pathfinder, so they may be of interest to Pathfinder fans.

The PDF file can be edited in vector programs like Illustrator, which allows a nice ability to customize the figures. For example, I changed the color of the kobalds from blue to tan.

Overall, this is my favorite set of paper miniatures for sale. Hopefully future sets will follow to help flesh out monster types which are still missing.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warlocks & Wolfriders 0200: Non-human Adversaries
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The Spandex Legion 01
by Kevin M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/06/2009 13:48:42
I was a little hesitant to order this product at first, having ordered a few template products and walking away a little disappointed. However, I’m glad I went ahead and did so.

The publisher did indeed add more color options as they stated in a prior review. And when I did have questions, they responded back in a very timely fashion.

One of the really nice features of this product is that the artwork is vector based, so you can enlarge the images and cut/paste them onto a character sheet (with a nice, sharp, non-grainy image), as well as print a miniature that can be used on a tabletop. So it really serves a dual purpose, at least for me.

A nice variety of poses and the artwork is also very well done. It’s true that you can’t create any hero you can imagine, but overall there is still plenty of variety. Hopefully, the publishers will explore even more improvements and character options. If they do, this could be a 5-star product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Spandex Legion 01
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The Spandex Legion 01
by Chris R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/16/2009 16:02:12
Well, I was quite excited when I got this product, the idea is solid and the potential is there. However, I was a bit disappointed in the results. I wanted to make a character who was a Mexican Luchador. Unfortunately, most characters are limited to being black (signified by the menu choice "Afro") or very white. You can make Asian characters, but only martial artists-- and the martial artists cannot be tweaked to be anything but Asian. For my costume, I was limited to Blue or Red for the Boots, pants, cape, mask, etc. I could not make it green and gold. Masks are rather plain-- either standard domino masks in limited colors, or solid full-face masks. I could not make a decorative mask. He could only have a full cape, no half-capes were available, and the only belt was a rather skinny one, not the thick wrestler's championship belt that I wanted...

I was able to make something that looked decently close to the concept-- but I will have to print it in black & white and color it in by hand to get the color scheme I wanted (and to decorate the mask).

This product is okay, for letting you customize heroes, but not nearly as versatile as Hero Machine. It is too bad too, because I like the base artwork of this product better than that of Hero Machine. I think if a few more options (especially color choices) were added to this product it could be much better.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher Reply:
We added many more color options to this basic figure set. Customers who purchased it can now re-download it. Please note that while you can design a huge number of different heroes with it, you cannot obtain just any character concept from it. Future sets (Set #2 is now available, too) will provide a wider variety of templates from which you can build your hero of choice.
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