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Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies interactive campaign map
by Tristan K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/06/2014 09:04:02

A truly excellent addition to the Eternal Lies campaign, which does not deserve the downvotes it has received. It clearly stated the existence and nature of the password protection on the product page.



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Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies interactive campaign map
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13th Age Core Book
by Phil F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2014 03:54:21

Your appreciation of 13th Age is very likely to be driven by your RPG history - straight up the game recommends itself to experienced GMs (although as you would expect the players don't need to be), and you can see why. The rules are explained with the underlying assumption that the reader has already played some variant of d20 so core concepts such as hit rolls, DC checks etc. are not explained. This actually makes for a more relaxing read as you don't find yourself skipping the paragraphs to pick out the interesting bits.


The under pinning of the game is to provide a combat-oriented, high-magic game in the mould of 'old school' FRPG but with a covering of story driven mechanics. If you are a d20 purist who wants to see whether story driven games are worth the effort then this would be a good introduction. For me the real market for this game is for groups who like story driven games who want a nostalgic blast through some dungeons without having to grind through books of rules and tediously drawn out fights.


Overall this comes across as a game to be played purely for heroic, OTT fun. There will be opportunities for pathos and 'serious' story telling but there will be more strangeness, cinematic heroics and unlikely coincidences. If that sounds like a betrayal of your preferred game (d20 or story based) then this won't work for you. If it sounds like the change of pace you've been looking for then, like me, you will love this game



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Night's Black Agents
by Flames R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/08/2014 20:33:51

Protagonists cut off from the real world. Men and women forced into violence to survive. Agents of powers that skulk in shadow. Are they spies or vampires? Both types of characters share a startling amount of similarities. The two genres seem tailor made for each other. Ken Hite brings them together in his newest RPG, Night’s Black Agents. But be aware, it’s not vampire spies. It’s spies vs. vampires.While playing vampires in RPGs has been extremely popular over the past 20 years or so, this one is about putting stakes in hearts and walking away while the bloodsucker burns in the sun.


The PDF is full color and laid out in a very modern style. The game includes several sidebar callouts explaining why certain rules work certain ways as well as giving examples of what happened during playtesting. The tone is intelligent yet conversational. The game is not afraid to cite influences in the text. The books ends with a discussion of sources that range from the literary to the cinematic to other games that inspired the design beyond the GUMSHOE rules. Popping in some of the DVDs recommended is a great way for players to be inspired for their characters.


The game casts the PCs as Jason Bourne style spies who stumble upon a vampire conspiracy. The PCs are expected to punch their way up the latter to the dread undead lords who rule and bring them down. It uses the investigative GUMSHOE rules set but mixes in much more options for action scenes. It also offers several rules tweaks to get the espionage feel the group wants. The spy genre is a broad definition but the game offers rules for groups that want a James Bond, Jack Bauer or Jason Bourne feel.


The game also offers a wide toolbox on how to build the campaign’s vampires. Vampires are also a very broad category. Part of the investigative element of GUMSHOE works well in figuring out which bits of folklore are true and which bits are false. Vampire games require a set of rules for the bad guys to work under and the campaign does a great job examining the pros and cons of powers and limits. The game also offers help in building up a vampire conspiracy that goes from street level thugs, through multinational corporations all the way up to the vampire lord’s crypt. There are example conspiracies in the book that act as excellent jump offs or quick adversaries in addition to fully playable bad guys on their own.


By comparison, the spy side of things comes off less useful. It’s a daunting thing to wade into the mass of agencies, private contractors and shady individuals and pare it down to something that fits in the core book. Most of the information can be had in a few minutes on Wikipedia. The book’s default setting of the european intelligence underground makes things exotic. It also means the GM should look to do a bit of legwork if they want plots grounded in the real world. Some games won’t care about the difference between the Russian Mafia and the Italian Mafia, but those that do will want to prep with some outside sources. This side of the book is merely good, not great.


The art also is an area of relative weakness. Pelgrane has a history of putting out gorgeous books and Night’s Black Agents has a fantastic layout and several art pieces that fit the mood perfectly. But the art is inconsistent, especially when it comes to depictions of the monsters the agents find themselves battling. Pelgrane’s no slouch in the monster department. There are several pieces in the Trail of Cthulhu line that are perfect, brooding and unsettling. The monster pieces here are too often brightly lit when they should be swallowed by shadow. The art featuring agents and their methods fares much better.
Every version of the GUMSHOE rules improves on the last and Night’s Black Agents is no exception. The thriller rules turn one of the weaknesses of the system into a strength. Short combats and quick, brutal outcomes are a staple of spy thrillers. But now the agents have many more options ranging from spends that allow them to go whenever they want to stunts that refresh pools if the player takes the time to talk up how awesome a gadget is. The skill list is flavorful and adds bonuses for each general skill hitting a certain level instead of a select few. GUMSHOE is proving to be a surprisingly robust platform for different versions of the game. Each version is similar enough for people to grasp the basics but the genre modifications work splendidly. There’s even a section that talks about using other games for modifications, like running spies vs. Cthulhu or adapting the powers from Mutant City Blues for actual super spies.


Bottom Line: Night’s Black Agents could easily be played as a straight up spy game. The vampires are delicious, blood red frosting on the cake.



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Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies
by Stefan T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/14/2014 12:47:56

Very good campaign for Trail of Cthulhu. I'm having a great time playing it!



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Ken Writes About Stuff: Vol. 1
by Daniel D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/24/2014 05:01:34

I had previously written to say that DTRPG has a long delay when it comes to publishing articles from KWAS, but that turns out not to be true: It just has a delay until you're allowed to purchase it. As a subscriber, I get it "early." It's just that I don't seem to have access to a good notification mechanism that tells me when a new issue has arrived (and what its name is, meaning I have to know the title in advance and search for it in my considerable library. Fortunately, DTRPG has excellent search mechanisms).


The content of KWAS is top-notch, as one would expect from a RPG luminary like Kenneth Hite. I will note that it leans heavily towards Gumshoe products, which I enjoy, but might not be useful for all readers. However, this is not exclusively so, and often you can ignore the mechanical information and just enjoy the rich, Hiteian fluff.



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Ken Writes About Stuff: Vol. 1
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13th Age Core Book
by Jonas M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/22/2014 03:27:26

13th age is culmination of D20-system era D&D or the next logical step on the games evolution, at least to me. Different branch of evolutionary tree might be more fitting way to describe it. Rules are not as cluttered as D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder but this does not give you feeling your options would have been limited in any meaningful way. Default setting that comes with book is pure D&D-kitch in style of Forgotten Realms or Golarion, I kind of like it. Thing I like the most in the game is how the rulebook is written, it explains in straightforward and honest manner with lots of examples it's rules. It is written for people who are sitting around the kitchen table and having fun.



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13th Age Core Book
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Night's Black Agents
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2014 02:50:42

http://www.teilzeithelden.de/2014/02/14/re-
zension-nights-black-agents/


Im Sep­tem­ber 2013 über­raschte mich Pel­grane Press damit, dass sie Night’s Black Agents (NBA) in das damals aktu­elle Bundle of Hol­ding pack­ten. Die ande­ren Gums­hoe–Titel Ashen Stars (2011), Fear Its­elf (2007) und Mutant City Blues (2009) hat­ten ja bereits ein wenig Staub ange­setzt, aber NBA (2012) ist wesent­lich neuer und gerade wurde mit Dou­ble Tap ein Erwei­te­rungs­band herausgebracht.


Nach einer Online-Hangout-Runde Eso­ter­ro­rists als Spie­ler, war bei mir die Lust auf Gums­hoe wie­der geweckt und ich habe mir NBA mal genauer angesehen.


Die Spiel­welt


NBA sie­delt seine Aben­teuer im moder­nen Europa an, das häu­fig als Kulisse rasan­ter Spionage-Thriller taugt. Der Twist der Spiel­welt ist dabei, dass Vam­pire exis­tie­ren. Als Ver­schwö­rung wir­ken sie im Hin­ter­grund, und agie­ren z.B. durch das orga­ni­sierte Ver­bre­chen oder auch die Geheimdienste.


Um das Spiel inter­es­sant zu hal­ten, wird nicht genau vor­ge­ge­ben, was Vam­pire sind oder wel­che Fähig­kei­ten und Schwä­chen sie haben. Das müs­sen die Spie­ler in ihrer Kam­pa­gne selbst her­aus­fin­den. Es gibt einen umfang­rei­chen Bau­satz für Ursprünge des Vam­pi­ris­mus sowie ein varia­bles Sys­tem ver­schie­de­ner beson­de­rer Fähig­kei­ten. Vam­pire kön­nen magisch, außer­ir­disch oder auch Mutan­ten sein, mehr der Folk­lore Ost­eu­ro­pas oder den Geschich­ten aus Hor­ror­ro­ma­nen ent­spre­chen. Genauso wenig ist zum Beginn einer Kam­pa­gne klar, ob Vam­pi­ris­mus über­tra­gen wer­den kann.


Da die Spie­ler vor­ma­lige Geheim­dienst­ler sind, braucht es auch etwas Hin­ter­grund. Hite gibt einen Über­blick über die wich­tigs­ten Poli­zei– und Geheim­dienst­or­ga­ni­sa­tion sowie Fak­ten über Ver­bre­cher­syn­di­kate. Es wird dar­ge­legt, wie man selbst eine Stadt zum Spie­len vor­be­rei­tet und ihr Leben ein­haucht. Zusam­men mit einer Samm­lung vor­be­rei­te­ter Geg­ner hat man einen Bau­satz, aus dem man ver­schie­dene Kam­pa­gnen schus­tern kann.


Die Regeln


Hier sei auch auf meine Rezen­sion zu Trail of Cthulhu ver­wie­sen, denn die Regel­ba­sis von Gums­hoe besteht auch in NBA fort. Auf Ermitt­ler­fä­hig­kei­ten wer­den keine Pro­ben abge­legt. Pro­ben auf andere Skills wer­den mit dem W6 abge­legt und man darf Pool­punkte aus­ge­ben, um sich diese zu erleichtern.


NBA erwei­tert diese Mecha­nik gezielt in zwei Berei­chen, die für das Genre bedeut­sam sind: Kämpfe und Verfolgungsjagden.


Bei Kämp­fen bleibt die Basis­me­cha­nik erhal­ten: Es wird run­den­weise agiert, es wer­den Angriffs­würfe gemacht, Scha­den ermit­telt. Zu die­sem Pro­ze­dere kommt aber noch etwas hinzu:


Man kann gezielt durch das Aus­ge­ben wei­te­rer Pool­punkte und das Ver­wen­den von Spe­zi­al­fä­hig­kei­ten (Cher­ries genannt, s.u.) bestimmte Manö­ver wie z.B. Extra-Attacken frei­schal­ten. Cha­rak­tere mit hohen Pool­wer­ten im zwei­stel­li­gen Bereich kön­nen so im Kampf deut­lich mehr Feu­er­werk ver­an­stal­ten als andere, ins­be­son­dere auch als Cha­rak­tere in ande­ren Gums­hoe–Titeln. Einige Spe­zi­al­fä­hig­kei­ten erlau­ben die Wie­der­auf­fri­schung von Pools.


War in ande­ren Gums­hoe–Titeln Kampf eher eine Würf­le­rei ohne viele Optio­nen, so hat man in NBA mehr Mög­lich­kei­ten, die durch die Spe­zi­al­fä­hig­kei­ten befeu­ert wer­den. Fin­ten, kri­ti­sche Tref­fer, gezielte Schüsse, Auto­feuer und Flä­chen­be­schuss erwei­tern das Arse­nal. Man kann auch gezielt einen schwa­chen Geg­ner an sich rei­ßen und als Deckung auf engem Raum benut­zen (Mook Shield). Ver­schie­dene Spe­zi­al­fä­hig­kei­ten wie Kampf­sport, Scharf­schütze oder Zusatz­trai­ning an einer Waffe fri­schen z.B. die Pool­punkte auf, erhö­hen die Reich­weite oder den Schaden.


Diese Thril­ler Com­bat Rules sind als Paket optio­nal, aber Weg­las­sen ist mei­ner Mei­nung nach keine ernst­zu­neh­mende Option. Es ist mög­lich, einen hoch­ge­züch­te­ten Spe­zi­al­agen­ten drei Atta­cken am Anfang der ers­ten Kampf­runde aus­füh­ren zu las­sen. Dies bil­det das bei­nahe Über­mensch­li­che des Agen­ten­gen­res gut ab. Den Spie­lern wird noch viel mehr Ent­schei­dungs­raum gebo­ten, wie viel von ihrer Befä­hi­gung sie wann im Spiel ein­brin­gen wol­len. NBA dürfte daher wohl bei Wei­tem die span­nends­ten Kämpfe aller Gums­hoe–Rol­len­spiele haben.


Eine große Schwä­che des Gums­hoe–Rol­len­spiels bleibt aber auch erhal­ten: Eigent­lich sol­len die Pools garan­tie­ren, dass kein Spie­ler das Spot­light an sich reißt. Aber in der Pra­xis kann es sein, dass die Aktio­nen trotz aus­ge­ge­be­ner Pool­punkte nicht zün­den. Ein Cha­rak­ter ohne Pool­punkte kann je nach Schwie­rig­keits­grad der Begeg­nung even­tu­ell schon gar nicht mehr tref­fen, selbst wenn er noch unver­letzt ist. Er hat dann sein „Story-Pulver“ schon ver­schos­sen, ohne dass es eine Erklä­rung dafür gibt, die sich naht­los in die Spiel­welt fügt. Warum hat der geübte Pis­to­len­schütze plötz­lich keine Chance mehr, das­selbe Ziel zu tref­fen? Frü­her oder spä­ter ras­selt man mit Gums­hoe in einen sol­chen Logik­bruch hinein.


Nix wie hinterher


Ein ande­res Ele­ment, das in Action­fil­men eine beson­dere Rolle spielt, ist die Ver­fol­gungs­jagd – zu Fuß, per Auto, viel­leicht sogar mit einem Schnell­boot. Auch hier wur­den die Stan­dard­re­geln für Ver­fol­gung auf­ge­bohrt. Nor­ma­ler­weise wird bei Gums­hoe solange gegen­ein­an­der gewür­felt, bis einer sei­nen Wurf ver­sem­melt, was bedeu­tet: die erste Sache, die schief­geht, ent­schei­det die wilde Jagd.


Bei NBA hin­ge­gen ver­rin­gert oder erhöht das nur einen nume­ri­schen Abstand, Lead genannt. Wird die­ser zu hoch, kann sich der Ver­folgte abset­zen. Sinkt er tief genug, kann der Ver­fol­ger auf­schlie­ßen. Hier­bei wird berück­sich­tigt, wie hoch Erfolge oder Miss­er­folge waren, und wie weit das Ergeb­nis auseinanderliegt.


Auch hier kom­men die Cher­ries wie­der ins Spiel, und kön­nen z.B. hel­fen, die der Ver­fol­gung zugrunde lie­gende Fähig­keit wie­der­auf­zu­fri­schen. Oder einen schnel­len Schuss durch den Ver­fol­ger zu erlau­ben. Aber am bes­ten gefällt mir, dass man auch inves­ti­ga­tive Fähig­kei­ten ein­brin­gen kann:


Agent A ver­folgt einen Ghoul zu Fuß durch die Kata­kom­ben von Paris. Agent B ist mit ihm per Funk ver­bun­den und gibt einen Punkt Archi­tek­tur aus. Er benutzt sein beson­de­res Wis­sen über den Pari­ser Unter­grund, um den Agent A zu ermög­li­chen, dem Ghoul den Weg abzuschneiden.
Agent C wird in einem Auto von einer Gruppe Gangs­ter ver­folgt. Agent D hatte sich bereits zuvor in den Poli­zei­funk ein­ge­hackt und gibt jetzt einen Punkt Poli­zei­jar­gon aus, um Strei­fen­wa­gen auf den Ver­fol­ger zu hetzen.


Ich finde, dadurch wird der nar­ra­tive Aspekt wun­der­bar in die Mecha­ni­ken des Sys­tems ein­ge­bun­den. Cha­rak­tere kön­nen auf ver­schie­denste Weise in das Gesche­hen ein­grei­fen, wie halt auch im Film. Funk­ver­bin­dung wird vom Sys­tem vor­aus­ge­setzt und ermög­licht das Koor­di­nie­ren von Akti­vi­tä­ten an ver­schie­de­nen Orten sowie die erwähn­ten Ein­griffe. Mich erin­nern die Mög­lich­kei­ten am ehes­ten an Filme wie Snea­kers, Ocean’s 13 oder Ronin, weil das Team der Star ist.


Netz­wer­ken und Tarnidentitäten


Zwei Fähig­kei­ten neh­men eine Son­der­stel­lung ein: Cover und Net­work. Es wird ange­nom­men, dass sich die Agen­ten Tar­niden­ti­tä­ten ange­eig­net haben, um ihrer Tätig­keit nach­zu­ge­hen. Gibt man aus einem Cover–Pool Punkte aus, kann man diese einer Iden­ti­tät zuwei­sen. Diese wer­den bei allen Wür­fen ein­ge­setzt, bei denen diese Iden­ti­tät ins Spiel kommt. Ist der Pool einer Iden­ti­tät leer, so ist diese auf­ge­flo­gen und nutzlos.


Genauso erschafft man Kon­takte aus dem eige­nen Netz­werk. Man gibt Punkte aus und inves­tiert diese in einen Infor­man­ten oder jemand, dem noch an einer alten Wir­kungs­stätte kennt. Auch hier kann der Pool ein­ge­setzt wer­den, um indi­vi­du­elle Würfe zu erleich­tern, z.B. wenn man Infos von einem Kol­le­gen vom MI5 braucht. Oder wenn einem ein Mafioso noch einen Gefal­len schul­det. Sind die Punkte in einem sol­chen Pool auf­ge­braucht, kann man den Kon­takt nicht mehr aktivieren.


Um das Spiel nicht zu kom­pli­ziert zu gestal­ten, bedient sich der Autor bei Lever­age und arbei­tet mit Rück­blen­den. Rück­blen­den ermög­li­chen es, Fak­ten durch Aus­ge­ben von Punk­ten in die Story hin­ein zu erzäh­len. Man muss nicht vor­her ange­ben, wel­che Kum­pels man beim KGB hat. Man zieht die­ses Kar­ni­ckel inmit­ten des Story-Verlaufs aus dem Ärmel und gibt dann die Punkte aus. Das ermög­licht es auch, mit­ten in der Hand­lung so zu tun, als hätte man umfang­reich geplant und fast alles bedacht, ohne vor­her lang­wie­rige Pla­nun­gen aus­spie­len zu müssen.


Im Bezug aufs Kam­pa­gnen­spiel gilt, dass Cover und Net­work sich nicht wie­der auf­fri­schen. Gibt man Punkte dort aus, kann man sie nur durch den Ein­satz von Erfah­rungs­punk­ten zurückgewinnen.


Cha­rak­ter­er­schaf­fung


Es ist einem auch bei NBA unbe­nom­men, die Kauf­punkte aus­zu­ge­ben, wie man will. Man kann aber auch Hin­ter­gründe wäh­len. Ein Hin­ter­grund ist ein Paket von inves­ti­ga­ti­ven und all­ge­mei­nen Skills. Diese Pakete sind aber nicht bil­li­ger. Sie beschleu­ni­gen nur den Pro­zess. Wäh­rend diese Cha­rakt­er­hin­ter­gründe nicht bin­dend sind, ver­mit­teln sie ganz gut Arche­ty­pen aus sol­chen Thril­ler­ge­schich­ten wie Geld­ku­riere, Flucht­wa­gen­fah­rer oder Hacker.


Erreicht man in einer all­ge­mei­nen Fer­tig­keit einen Wert von 8 oder höher, wer­den Bonu­s­ef­fekte frei­ge­schal­tet, Cher­ries genannt. Hat man 8 Punkte in Digi­tal Intru­sion, erhält man einen Gra­tis­punkt in Kryp­to­gra­phie. 8 Punkte in Ath­le­tik ermög­li­chen z.B. die Spe­zi­al­fä­hig­keit Park­our, die bei Ver­fol­gungs­jag­den zu Fuß sehr nütz­lich sein kann. Durch die Cher­ries wird auch aus­ge­drückt, worin sich beson­ders inten­si­ves Trai­ning von nor­ma­lem Kön­nen unter­schei­det. Cher­ries unter­stüt­zen die film­rei­fen Aktio­nen, die wir von den Prot­ago­nis­ten von Action-Thrillern erwar­ten. Man wählt auch einen MOS, eine Fähig­keit, die ein­ma­lig garan­tiert gelin­gen wird.


Jede Figur hat auch einen Drive, also eine ihr Han­deln bestim­mende Moti­va­tion, und drei Dinge, die dem Cha­rak­ter etwas bedeu­ten: Sym­bol, Solace und Safety. Sym­bol ist etwas Abs­trak­tes, ein Gegen­stand, irgend­et­was, das der Figur viel bedeu­tet, ob es nun Aus­druck von Reli­gion, des per­sön­li­chen Wer­de­gangs oder der eige­nen Werte ist. Solace ist eine Per­son, der man bedin­gungs­los ver­traut. Safety ist der per­sön­li­che Zufluchts­ort. Wer­den einem diese Dinge genom­men, oder sind sie bedroht, kann das unan­ge­nehme Aus­wir­kun­gen auf die innere Sta­bi­li­tät im Spiel haben.


Spiel­bar­keit aus Spielleitersicht


Auf den SL kommt zuerst die Ent­schei­dung zu, ob er eine der vor­ge­schla­ge­nen Vari­an­ten für seine Kam­pa­gne her­nimmt: Burn, Dust, Mir­ror oder Sta­kes. Burn führt zu schnel­le­rem psy­cho­lo­gi­schem Ver­fall, auch Töten ist hier keine Sache, die man mal so im Vor­bei­ge­hen macht. Dust kürzt fast alle neuen Thriller-Elemente aus dem Spiel, die Agen­ten wer­den auf eine Art Nor­mal­maß her­un­ter­ge­stutzt und müs­sen vor­sich­ti­ger agie­ren. Mir­ror bedeu­tet, dass Kon­takte unzu­ver­läs­sig sind und Ver­rat fast erwart­bar ist. Sta­kes legt Wert auf eine Moti­va­tion und ein höhe­res Ziel der Cha­rak­tere. Vom post­mo­der­nen „Jeder für sich selbst“ bis zum „Für mein Vater­land, egal was es kos­tet“ ist hier alles dabei, und ver­schie­dene Modi ver­lan­gen ver­schie­dene Spielweisen.


Gene­rell fällt an NBA posi­tiv auf, wie wenig es ver­sucht, nur eine bestimmte Geschichte zu erzäh­len. Viel­mehr ist es ein Bau­kas­ten, um ganz ver­schie­dene Ele­mente, Moti­va­tio­nen, Hin­ter­gründe und Sto­ries aus­zu­pro­bie­ren. Ob es nun um die Schwä­chen der Vam­pire oder die Motive der Spie­ler geht, alles lässt sich vari­ie­ren und damit lohnt es sich auch, mehr als eine NBA–Kam­pa­gne zu spie­len. Man merkt dem Buch auch die Recherche-Leistung sei­nes Autors an.


Das bedeu­tet auch, dass jede Kam­pa­gne etwas Vor­ar­beit erfor­dert. Wie funk­tio­niert Vam­pi­ris­mus? Was steckt dahin­ter? Hier wer­den die Hin­ter­gründe Superna­tu­ral, Dam­ned, Alien und Mutant ange­bo­ten. Wie weit reicht die Ver­schwö­rung im Hin­ter­grund? Wie lange besteht sie schon? Ste­hen über­na­tür­li­che Mit­tel zur Ver­fü­gung? Wer arbei­tet mit wem? Und natür­lich: Was ist das End­ziel der Vampire?


Die Über­sicht im Kam­pa­gnen­spiel behält man durch das Anfer­ti­gen einer Cons­py­ra­mid – ein Dia­gramm, an des­sen Spitze die Ober­vam­pire ste­hen und unten das Fuss­volk. Die Spie­ler wer­den sich im Laufe der Kam­pa­gne durch diese Pyra­mide hin­durch­ar­bei­ten und sie erleich­tert es dem SL, kurz­fris­tig Hin­weise zu gene­rie­ren und zu streuen, wenn die Spie­ler die Ermitt­lungs­rich­tung wechseln.


Durch die Hin­weise zum Gestal­ten eines Thril­lers lernt man, Action– und Ermitt­lungs­sze­nen sich abwech­seln zu las­sen, wodurch die Ermitt­lung auch nicht das Spiel domi­niert. Wen man nicht genug Infos hat, müs­sen die Agen­ten wie­der ins Feld. Dadurch hat es man in NBA viel leich­ter, eine Kam­pa­gne selbst zu gestal­ten, anstatt müh­sam ein Gesamt­kunst­werk wie bei Trail of Cthulhu stri­cken zu müs­sen. Es geht auch Spie­lern leich­ter von der Hand, die nicht so detek­ti­visch vor­ge­hen, wie das andere Gums­hoe–Spiele wol­len.


Spiel­bar­keit aus Spielersicht


Für den Spie­ler gestal­tet es sich NBA rela­tiv ein­fach. In den ver­schie­de­nen Szen­en­ty­pen kann der Umgang mit den zwei Arten von Skills ein­ge­übt wer­den. In einer Thril­ler Chase kann man gezielt zusätz­li­che Regeln ein­füh­ren. Die Thril­ler Com­bat Rules las­sen sich eine nach der ande­ren in den weni­ger wich­ti­gen Kämp­fen mit klei­nen Scher­gen ein­füh­ren, um es dann spä­ter im Kampf mit den Vam­pi­ren rich­tig kra­chen zu las­sen. Durch die anstei­gende Span­nungs­kurve lässt sich die­ses gra­du­elle Ein­füh­ren von Rege­l­ele­men­ten gut rechtfertigen.


Auch die Rück­blen­den ermög­li­chen den schnel­len Ein­stieg ins Spiel. Weil man nicht alle erlern­ten Spra­chen, Kon­takte und Tar­niden­ti­tä­ten zu Beginn fest­le­gen muss, kann man sei­nen Cha­rak­ter gezielt im Spiel wei­ter ausgestalten.


Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis


Man erhält ein rich­tig gutes Spiel, aber es ist nicht bil­lig. Mein per­sön­li­cher Erwar­tungs­wert liegt bei weni­ger als 10 USD pro 100 Sei­ten, und ab 20 USD für ein PDF über­lege ich mir in der Regel schon sehr genau, ob ich zuschlage.


Ver­gli­chen mit dem Bundle of Hol­ding, bei dem es das PDF als Bonus inklu­sive einem Aben­teu­er­band dazu gab, schnei­det das Preis­leis­tungs­ver­hält­nis sogar sehr schlecht ab. Als Ein­zel­kauf ist es für mei­nen Geschmack zu teuer, aber die Kom­bi­na­tion von PDF + Hard­co­ver beim Sphä­ren­meis­ter kann sich preis­lich wie­der sehen lassen.


Spiel­be­richt


Bei einem Oneshot mit vor­be­rei­te­ten Cha­rak­te­ren und einem selbst­ge­stal­te­ten Aben­teuer bewährte sich das Sys­tem gut. Die Spie­ler, alle bis auf einen ohne Gums­hoe–Erfah­rung, haben das Sys­tem schnell erfasst und konn­ten sich auf ihre Rol­len kon­zen­trie­ren. Anschei­nend kom­men Spie­ler auch ohne über­mä­ßig viel Spio­na­ge­thril­ler gese­hen zu haben ganz gut damit zurecht, wie man in NBA Infor­ma­tio­nen durch Hacken und Kon­takte beschafft. Rege­l­ele­mente wie Cover und Net­work las­sen sich durch die Mecha­nik ganz gut mit­ten im Spiel ein­füh­ren. Das Feed­back der Spie­ler war durch­weg positiv.


Erschei­nungs­bild


Nights black agents coverDie glän­zen­den Sei­ten im Hard­co­ver tref­fen mei­nen Geschmack nicht, genauso scheint die Bin­dung etwas ungleich­mäs­sig. Das sehr helle Sei­ten­de­sign wirkt hoch­mo­dern und passt auch zum Thema Spionage-Thriller. Für Vampir-Horror wirkt es hin­ge­gen etwas klinisch.


Gums­hoe–Pro­dukte lei­den gene­rell an einer über­trie­be­nen Menge Text pro Seite. Das fällt beson­ders bei Sei­ten ohne Illus­tra­tion oder Side­bar auf. Dort wir­ken der drei­spal­tige Text und die geringe Schrift­größe beson­ders problematisch.


Die Illus­tra­tio­nen sind manch­mal sehr gut und manch­mal eher etwas dürf­tig. Es kann vor allem sein, dass nur alle paar Sei­ten eine kommt. Side­bars und Tabel­len sind hin­ge­gen sehr über­sicht­lich gestaltet.


Bonus/Downloadcontent


Es gibt Eini­ges an Down­loads, ins­be­son­dere die ver­schie­de­nen Bögen für das Spiel, eine Kurz­demo und Mate­rial zu dem Aben­teu­er­band The Zalozh­niy Quar­tet.


Fazit


Mein Ein­druck ist, dass NBA ganz her­vor­ra­gend funk­tio­niert. Man kann es gewis­ser­ma­ßen als ein Gums­hoe 2.0 betrach­ten, das dem Sys­tem weder zu viel noch zu wenig hin­zu­fügt. Zwar wird Gums­hoe nie wirk­lich ein Sys­tem tak­ti­scher Tiefe wer­den, aber im Rah­men der Story sind inter­es­sante Kon­flikte möglich.


NBA scheint auch viel ein­stei­ger­freund­li­cher durch seine Erzähl­struk­tur. Die Ermitt­lun­gen blie­ben kurz und kna­ckig, um in die nächste Action-Szene über­zu­lei­ten. Eine sol­che Erzähl­struk­tur würde sich auch für Eso­ter­ro­rists eig­nen. Über­haupt zieht NBA Gums­hoe aus der rei­nen Ermitt­lungs­ecke und kann dadurch als Inspi­ra­tion für alle Gums­hoe–Spiele die­nen. Das Glei­che gilt für die Thril­ler Com­bat Rules und die Thril­ler Chase Rules. Was Hite hier dem Kanon der Gums­hoe–Ideen hin­zu­fügt, das zündet.


Obwohl NBA das Sys­tem wei­ter­führt, blei­ben die alten Pro­bleme beste­hen: Was tun, wenn die Pools erschöpft sind? Dann kann sinn­vol­les Han­deln sogar unmög­lich sein. Ins­be­son­dere dann, wenn man Ath­le­tik erschöpft hat: Dann kann man je nach Gegner­zahl nicht mal mehr abhauen, denn das erfor­dert auch einen Wurf oder sogar einen Wett­be­werb mit ver­glei­chen­den Wür­fen! Das Pro­blem der unmög­li­chen Schwie­rig­kei­ten von 7 oder höher auf dem W6 kann bei ein paar unglück­li­chen Wür­fen sehr schnell drän­gend wer­den und in einen Total Party Kill füh­ren. Das hat mit Spot­light–Ver­tei­lung nichts mehr zu tun, son­dern ist unter Umstän­den in der Spiel­welt nicht sin­nig zu erklären.


Zusam­men mit ein paar Schwä­chen bei der Prä­sen­ta­tion ergibt sich als Wer­tung eine sehr posi­tiv gemeinte 4 von 5.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Black Agents
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RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
by Sven A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2014 12:12:36

Pretty nice and just long enough for an evening's play. It is not very cthulhu-ish but more like a traditional horror mystery.


The story and motivation for the PC:s are a bit weak but a crafty GM will mend this. It's good to have read or watched something about the Titanic before playing this, as it will be easier to find the right atmosphere.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
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13th Age Core Book
by Idle R. H. P. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/28/2014 20:35:44

This was a very pleasant surprise. We were expecting a slightly tweaked D&D 4e and found a exciting, free-form role-playing system that could become your go-to fantasy game. This combines D&D 3.5, 4e and those narrative RPGs that the kids are all talking about. The choice to frequently pull back the design veil when presenting the rules was refreshing and makes the game very accessible. While it lacks the jaw-dropping art of some other games, you’ll probably be too busy having fun to notice. Included in the book are the rules, a default setting and monsters.


Check out our full, indepth review on the Idle Red Hands Podcast at: http://www.idlere-
dhands.com/?p=2404



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Core Book
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13th Age Bestiary Preview
by Derek M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2014 12:40:16

I'm a fan of the system used by the game and loved the extra content!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Bestiary Preview
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Night's Black Agents: Double Tap
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/29/2013 13:19:07

Described as "the Night's Black Agents Expansion Book" this contains a wealth of additional material for Agents and Directors alike: new skills, new approaches and (of course) new kit. It is jam-packed with ideas and is well worth a read by anyone who enjoys contemporary espionage games. Whilst most of the material is going to be of interest to anyone, irrespective of which side of the Director's screen that they sit, the contents have been divided into an Agent's Companion and a Director's Companion.


The Agent's Companion begins with a section on Abilities. Virtually every ability is examined, with different angles and enhancements on the material presented in the core rulebook. New ability foci are introduced, and there are a whole bunch of ideas as to how both old and new ones can be utilised within the game... not just mechanically (although that is covered well) but in conceptual terms that will inform role-play and descriptions of what the agents are attempting to do (and how!), serving to enhance the game no end. Even what sound on the face of them quite boring abilities, skills you might overlook in character creation in favour of more exciting and cinematic ones, are developed in ways that will give the agent using them a chance to shine and contribute to the success of the mission... and in a realistic way, there is plenty of what a spy would call 'tradecraft' here to enjoy and use in your game.


To add to the fun, each ability's write-up includes a 'tactical fact-finding benefit' which gives an example of how that ability could be used to great effect within the course of a game. There are also 'sample spend benefits' which give quick examples of how you use what you have discovered to mechanical advantage in your investigations and 'sample clues' detailing the sorts of things you might be able to find out. Study these well and hone your use of your chosen abilities. For General Abilities, which follow after the Investigative ones, there are 'sample clues' for when you use that ability to investigate and 'new cherries' to take in the abilities into which you have put the most points.


Although plenty of ideas pop up throughout the Abilities section, the next section looks specifically at Tricks of the Trade. This section focusses a bit more on mechanical aspects with new thriller manoeuvres, customisable achievements and the concept of 'adaptive tradecraft' which explores the extreme uses to which you can put off-the-shelf items, if only you can come up with the ideas! Tne 'manoeuvres' utilise the neat mechanic from the core rules of giving a game mechanical advantage to the player who can talk the talk, giving appropriate graphic descriptions of what his agent is up to. There are some splendid examples, and of course whilst the agent is improvising, the well-prepared player has a few choice phrases ready to trot out when the opportunity occurs. The achievements are a list of stunts which, when pulled, garner the player a bonus. The adaptive tradecraft is reminiscent of the TV series Burn Notice, those wonderful monologues where Westen details various tricks of the spy trade as he puts them into use. Each example trick comes complete with ideas of how to use them in-game and the benefits you might gain.


Next comes a collection of standard operating procedures... but this isn't what you think: these are metagaming concepts to help both players and Director keep the game moving rather than flagging. It's something both should read and make use of - indeed many of them will prove practical whatever game you are playing, never mind Night's Black Agents!


The focus then changes from concepts to kit with the Materiel section. Much of this will sound familiar at least from the movies if not from the technology reports you can find online, but even if you have heard of the stuff now you have the necessary rules to go with it. There's a delightful selection of things you can add to a vehicle... perhaps the only reason there's nothing novel for me here is that one of my gaming friends happens to be a special projects engineer at Bentley Motors (he once came in grousing that he'd not been allowed to test the grenade launcher he'd installed for one client who'd better remain nameless...)! And then, of course, there's a goodly selection of firearms for all the runner-and-gunner agents out there. Even if you are not a gun-bunny you will soon sound like one after working through this. There's even a table of the favourite weapons used by various militaries and other agencies (although the British Army has replaced the Browning Hi-Power with the Glock 17 Gen 4 pistol recently).


Next comes a section on Thriller Contests and Manhunts. This takes the basis of the chase rules from the core rulebook and retools them to suit other situations when it's not your running, flying or driving abilities that are being put to the test. There's digital intrusion, for those times when you just have to hack the planet, pitting hacker against the defending operators. This includes hints on making it sound exciting when nobody's running around visibly doing stuff - for when all's said and done, me hacking (or trying to keep a hacker at bay) doesn't look much different from me writing this review! Then there's regular infiltration, actually physically breaking into (or out of) a facility. You may feel that you can model this adequately with the regular rules, but turning it into a formal contest does have some advantages in terms of making things truely cinematic. There's a parallel set of rules for carrying out surveillance too, and finally there are rules for conducting a manhunt. This last may be a more long-drawn-out sequence, but it too can have you on the edge of your seat as it plays out.


Although he'll have found plenty of use already, we now come to the Director's Companion part of the book. It's all about making the Director's life easier, given that he has to present not just the plot but everything else in the world to a bunch of players that just have a character apiece to worry about. Things like 'cameo NPCs' who fit particular roles and can be trotted out when needed. There are sample ones here, and ideas for creating your own. Each one comes with a basic overview and further notes on how to use him as an asset or a clue, along with ideas on how to present him in play. Then there's a collection of 'establishing shots' to use in the way a movie director uses them: to paint a scene ready for the action to take place there. Each comes with an evocative description as well as a selection of likely extras and cameos who'll be there, clues that might be found there and other ideas to incorporate into the game.


A Monsters section provides a few more critters - and their abilities - to broaden the scope of the core vampire menace, with plenty of suggestions as to weave them in to whatever rationale you have chosen as the basis for your game. And then comes a section on Stories. At the heart of the game is the story we are telling with our players, but here are a few ideas for added elements. Perhaps the conspiracy, whatever it is, that they are trying to defeat does not present a unified face but is rent with internal dissension. What happens if instead of the whole group, you meet up with a single player and have his agent go solo for a while? And what changes will come if you leave the core setting of contemporary Europe and try the Victorian era (always good when vampires are involved!), World War 11 or the Cold War period? These are explored in some detail: try them or not as the mood takes you.


There's a real wealth of ideas here, and you will find yourself visiting again and again to mine this work for useful bits to enhance your agent's performance or add a new twist to your game. Everyone who plays Night's Black Agents really needs this on the shelf (or hard drive) next to the core rulebook.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Black Agents: Double Tap
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13th Age Bestiary Preview
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/27/2013 20:24:02

This preview has me excited for the release of the 13th Age Bestiary, next year. I'm of the opinion that you can never have too many monsters, and while it's not difficult to create new monsters in 13th Age, my time is precious, and it's nice when someone else does the heavy lifting for you!


If the whole book is similar to the monsters presented in the preview, then we'll be in for a treat! The monsters here aren't just stat blocks and a paragraph or two. Each entry presents several relatively simple stat blocks (13th Age tends to depend on the natural dice rolls to trigger the special attacks on monsters), presenting different roles and levels for the monsters. The lengthy description that follows has alternate histories, ecology, etc. which is great for sparking the imagination of the GM, and helping these monsters fit in nearly any campaign, without declaring that one version of the monster is the definitive "13th Age" variant. Then, the monsters are tied to the icons, to make them fit well with the campaign world and the icon relationships.


I recommend that you take a look at this preview. You may end up getting ideas for your fantasy campaign, even if you don't play 13th Age.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Bestiary Preview
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13th Age Bestiary Preview
by Michael C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/27/2013 15:00:19

This preview has me excited for the actual product.


I think that too many games have way too much in the way of stats for monsters. Basic d20 had lots there, and Pathfinder took it and made it more, but that's a lot of stuff to go through. The 13th Age Bestiary, on the other hand, goes in the opposite direction with the presentation of the monsters' stats and makes them easy to reference at a glance with their simplicity.


However, what it lacks for in multitudes of stats it makes up for in information. If you don't have ideas for using these critters after looking at this, you're not reading.


The bestiary doesn't stop at just a basic one-off set of stats, but easy-to-read stats are also made for variants of these creatures. You don't just have an orc, you have an orc battle screamer, a death-plague orc, and orcish archer, a pit-spawn orc, and others. D&D 4e tried to do it this way, but I think it was pulled off better here. This was done with all three monsters included in this preview.


The preview includes creative ways of using white dragons, orcs, and nagas. honestly, I haven't given nagas much thought until now, when I read the line "Naga aren’t unreasoning monsters. They generally have perfectly sound reasons for wanting intruders dead." Looking at the rest of these creatures, I wanted to actually write up a way to use them right now.


My only real complaint is that the 3 creatures were put into 3 different PDFs. I'd rather have just had one to download.


All in all, i really liked it, and more and more want to play 13th Age the more I see of it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Core Book
by Kyle W. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/18/2013 23:15:13

13th Age isn't super innovative. Let's get that out of the way ahead of time. In terms of mechanics, there's nothing that hasn't been seen before. The setting is good, but not really anything that we haven't seen. Where 13th Age succeeds, however, is in its balance of elements. 13th Age is the sort of thing that I love; it takes a game and tears it down to its basics, then reconstructs it. I'm not sure that the d20 system was the best place to apply that, but it's certainly an interesting take.


I'm not actually that negative about anything in 13th Age. It's quite possibly the most professional thing I've reviewed this year, with over three hundred pages of well-edited and beautiful content. Yes, I do perhaps put too much weight on the appearance of a game, but 13th Age is great. It has a ton of art, and none of it has any major glaring errors. It's repeated in some cases, but there's a sufficient quantity that it doesn't bother me, and most of the repetition is moving an image previously shown in part into a full frame, so it's even less egregious. 13th Age isn't the most beautiful or flashy, like L5R or Eclipse Phase, but it's got enough visuals that for a game that claims that it doesn't like going into "descriptions about what all the X look like", it does a pretty good job of communicating that because it has a drawing for almost anything.


The setting is pretty conventional. How it's handled mechanically a little less so, but it's still a pretty milquetoast inoffensive generic fantasy, with the occasional epic scene thrown in. It's cool to roleplay in, and definitely above average, but it's also nothing like Eclipse Phase that leaves one thinking for years to come on minutiae of the setting, and it's highly subject to tropes of the fantasy genre. There's not a whole lot that players won't understand; the Lich King is, of course, an undead tyrant. Still, it's worth a read, and there's some really good stuff for actually playing the game.


As far as the actual systems go, I'm a little more skeptical. I like some of the things they did to move the d20 system toward a more narrative feel; some people accuse it of going toward 4e's direction in terms of style, but I think that they're more referring to the fact that 13th Age makes everyone combat effective, rather than the actual combat-focus of the game. Moving away from skills and into backgrounds brings in an "indie game" feel (according to the authors) that is more narrative driven and, in my opinion, more interesting. However, 13th Age sticks with the d20 rules in the exact same ways that give it flaws; it escalates into a modifier fight, and while the game is intentionally designed to accept this it's still a little bit jarring that a system that progressed so well toward the narrative immediately gets driven back by a heavily limiting mechanical system.


Now, with the caveat being that I'm not a huge fan (critically, not in terms of play) of Pathfinder and 3.5, I can safely say that I prefer 13th Age. However, it's not anything that couldn't be houseruled into either of these systems, and while it's certainly got benefits it has just as many idiosyncrasies that will confuse new or transferring players. It lacks some notable features that one would expect; I'm not going to dock it for lacking a "monk" class as I've seen one reviewer do, because, quite frankly, I don't think that the setting really depends on something like that, but there are certainly places where it fell a little short, despite the fact that it's remarkably good in others.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Core Book
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Looking Glass: Mumbai
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/11/2013 01:49:37

Ken provides a brief and focussed taste of the complex and vast city of Mumbai. A supplement filled with potential for use in innumerable games, not just Gumshoe-powered ones. The text provides a concise run through the cities history, politics, crime, and urban mythology - and I found myself excited to find out more.


Personally, I like nothing more than choosing a random page on Wikipedia and following the links, trivia-surfing my way through interesting articles. Having finished reading Looking Glass: Mumbai I found myself skimming travel sites, digital maps, Flickr albums and a multitude of Wikipedia cross-references.


If you know nothing of Mumbai and you're open to considering a new city as setting for your contemporary or near future game, especially in Gumshoe settings, then I thoroughly recommend this bite-size guide as a springboard. The pages have plenty of hooks, seeds and interesting ways to engage your player characters.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Looking Glass: Mumbai
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