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Ashen Stars: Dead Rock Seven
by Kane L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/30/2012 13:03:55
The first adventure in this anthology, the Pleasure Bringers, is one of the wackiest, weirdest crime stories I have ever run at my table. This is a very good thing. It is a very nice set of stories, each independent, but can be easily woven into something more cohesive. I am still a little new to Gumshoe, but it provides plenty of fodder to have a few memorable sessions.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ashen Stars: Dead Rock Seven
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Night's Black Agents
by Alexander O. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/23/2012 19:43:34
There is much to love about this RPG. First, it extends the already interesting Gumshoe game system used for such games as Ashen Stars, Trail of Cthulhu, Esoterrorists and Mutant City Blues. I've been itching to try out the investigation mechanics for Gumshoe, and this recent incarnation and extension of the ruleset affords me such additional rules the combat and cinematic chase rules to support the espionage/thriller genre.

Next, it also provides rule options to help emulate and support various subgenres of the spy thriller. There are rules for the interestingly-named subgenres: Burn ("psychological damage and the cost of heroism"), Dust ("gritty, lo-fi espionage"), Mirror ("hidden agendas and shifting alliances"), and Stakes ("higher purposes than mere survival or 'getting the job done'"). In addition to the Drives and Sources of Stability that we've seen in other flavors of Gumshoe, the Trust / Betrayal mechanics are particularly interesting and volatile in a espionage game (reminds me of Cold City / Hot War)!

Gunplay and cinematic chase rules look good from the emulation space, though I'd be remiss if I didn't say that proper playtesting should be done on my part before I can say if it's to my taste.

As for the vampire aspect -- great latitude is given to the GM and the players is choosing the type of vampires they're fighting (which is good to keep the surprises coming in a thriller), and the organization creation rules married with the classic genre pattern of starting at the bottom of the conspiracy pyramid and moving up through the ranks until dealing with the Big Bad (to borrow some Buffy terminology here) has really ratcheted up my desire to play this game as soon as possible! That's made easier by the sample vampires and their various minions also included in the book.

Well done, Pelgrane Press -- I look forward to future releases in this line!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Black Agents
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Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Dead White World
by Chris F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/16/2012 13:13:41
*This review contains mild spoilers*

As with many modules, there is both good and bad to be found here, although in this particular case, the good is neither so good, nor the bad so bad to tip the scales significantly toward one extreme or another. Instead, what we have is an interesting and promising, if also flawed scenario.

The campaign provides good framework and backstory for a post-apocalyptic Cthulhu mythos game, there is potential for outstanding individual scenes, and with assistance from the module, a commited keeper can likely create an atmosphere of dread and wonder within the context of the tale. The writer (and indeed the module is quite well written as well as asthetically well-designed) provides ample opportunity for interesting imagery to be evoked. Still, depending on one's group of players, I have at least some doubts about how effective a botanical apocalypse will be in terms of evoking horror. The deadly flowers are an odd choice of plague, and as my gaming group has made a habit of mocking the much-maligned film "The Happening" (also centered around plants gone bad), I'm at least a bit concerned that the flowers may produce some eye rolls rather than chills. At least that's me. To be fair, your results may vary.

Setting aside this concern, the first and third acts are well structured, and provide several interesting moments (a first glimpse of a monster which-should-not-be rising from the ocean, an exploration of a town become a flowery tomb, the discovery of a ancient and mathematically impossible game of mythos chess) and the ending is especially potent in this reviewer's opinion. My main problem, and that which keeps this review at three rather than 4 stars, is the second act. This act (invloving the Great Race and an odd side story involving psychic time travel) momentarily causes the wheels of a strong story to nearly fall off. I begrudgingly admit that this portion is appropriate for a tale of the Great Race, but feel their inclusion would have been better left by the wayside. The section (which depends upon PC collusion with the GM) feels gimmicky and forced. It doesn't particuarly add much to the story other than provided the players a directive at its conclusion which moves their progress forward. I'm sure a crafty keeper can keep things moving towards the final events without running this portion as written. I find it a striking change in game tone, and an odd and eccentric chapter at odds with the rest of the scenario.

This scenario is ultimately worth a look as a demonstration of how an Apocalypse Machine campaign could go, but could use some tweaking. I will say that I look forward to further installments as the scanario does have potential that was almost, but not quite realized.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Dead White World
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Trail of Cthulhu: Sisters of Sorrow
by Nenad R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/05/2012 07:15:04
The layout is a bit confusing, and tends to jump around a lot. The adventure itself is interesting, although very specific to the setting, and would require a lot of work to be incorporated into a running campaign. It is much better suited to a one-shot.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Sisters of Sorrow
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Night's Black Agents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/03/2012 13:34:25
Ever since I first encountered the GUMSHOE system, I have been thinking that it would be perfect for the sort of spy games I like to run and play... and this book fulfills that desire! In it, Ken Hite has distilled the essence of the cinematic yet gritty spy thriller and woven it through the core GUMSHOE mechanic - and added the twist of vampires into the bargain!

The Introduction lays out the basic premise. This is not just any spy game. It has a very specific slant, taking the view that in the aftermath of the Cold War a lot of people who'd been earning their keep on the back of the efforts of East and West to monitor (and interfere with) each other now found themselves at a loose end, and had to put their somewhat dubious skills to profitable use in a freelance market - mercenary spies for hire, if you will. Frequent reference is made to movies and TV shows that present the appropriate feel, and if you enjoy them, it's likely that this game will work for you, at least at the 'spy' level. As has been done with other GUMSHOE games, there are various 'modes' in which you can run your game and each is denoted by a small symbol - these are used to denote optional rules appropriate to your chosen mode, and other snippets of information useful to that style of game. This allows you to fine-tune the mood of your game so that it becomes precisely what you are after.

The first section looks at creating and running characters: the rules you need to generate your agent then equip and play him in the swirling underworld of post-Cold War Europe. It is recommended that players work together to create a rounded team of agents who between them cover all the areas of expertise that they need: particularly important given the investigative nature of this game as well as to ensure that the technical abilities of various spy specialities are represented - the classic gunner-and-runner, the computer specialist, the driver, the bang-and-burner (a destructive role specialising in explosives, arson attacks, etc.) and so on. The assumption is made that everyone is a competent all-round agent: they have, after all, been operating at the highest level for a while before the game begins. This is not a game about raw recruits, or 'ordinary people' suddently thrust into the cloak and dagger world. There's a lot of detail both about skills and backgrounds, to aid you in creating realistic agents who will be fun to play and who are embedded thoroughly into the setting.

The next section is Rules. Here are the core mechanics that make the whole game work, beyond the actions of the characters themselves. The key GUMSHOE concept, that clues essential to the plotline WILL be found in play, is emphasised, but the way in which characters are designed is intended to facilitate this without it appearing forced. A core assumption is that, as competent and experienced operators, a lot of the time the characters will succeed at whatever they decide to do... the art is in deciding what to do and describing how they go about it in appropriate style. It is all flavourful in the extreme, and whilst there are game mechanics involved, these can be internalised so that play is not interrupted by die rolls that carry the possibility of derailing everything - there are still plenty of opportunities to get it wrong, for the characters to find everything falling around their ears: but a single botched die roll is unlikely to be the cause.

This is followed by Tools. Not just the 'tools of the trade' but how to acquire and use them to best effect, keeping in mind always the cinematic thriller style that the game aims to achieve. This also includes developing strategies and team-work - and tradecraft - as well as the physical items the well-equipped (or 'joke-shop') spy always seems to have to hand. There's even a rule mechanic for that - Preparedness - where a character is enabled to just happen to have the appropriate item when he needs it, although he does need to come up with a plausible reason. That is one of the joys of the system as a whole, any action can be enhanced by giving an outstanding in-character description of what you are doing - consider those little monologues on tradecraft scattered through the TV series Burn Notice for example. This section ends with some excellent advice for players on how to approach the game.

This is where we leave material for everyone and move more into GM (here, Director) territory, starting with a chapter Vampires. However, so much is left to individual Director whim that curious players will not spoil things by reading on... While it is a given that the core enemy is a vampire conspiracy, the nature of the conspiracy and indeed of the 'vampires' themselves is open, although a whole raft of suggestions are presented here, from Bram Stoker-style ancient horrors to aliens, creatures from folklore (have you ever stopped to wonder just why nearly every culture has vampire legends?), black magic or even a disease; and as to what these vampires might actually be up to... well, that's for the Director to decide and the characters to find out. There is a lot here for the Director to ponder. Bear in mind that this is not a game you buy one afternoon and run that night: to make it work you will need to put in a fair deal of planning, even though once the core plot is determined it is a game that runs well in improvisational style, using ideas that come out of your collective storytelling to determine what happens next.

Here is introduced a core mechanic to keep tract of what is going on: the Conspyramid. This tracks the layers of your conspiracy - people, groups, and their specific aims, as well as how each is linked to the others - and provides a structure through which investigating agents can move as they discover what is going on, peeling back the layers as their investigation proceeds. Leaving the structure relatively open allows for future developments: ideas may strike long after the game has begun, but this process facilitates incorporating them - and even theories that the players come up with that are just to good to ignore - during play. It can also provide a loose 'road-map' for your campaign, if you imagine it proceeding from lower levels right up to the kingpin at the top. It's a brilliant concept, and worth considering for any conspiracy-based game, vampires and spies or not.

Next, Cities. Spies are urban animals, and Europe in particular provides a rich array of cities in which they can ply their art and have their being. This chapter provides a wealth of advice as to how to develop your spin on real-world cities to make them a part of your adventures and the shared world of the alternate reality of this game. Although the focus is on Europe, the concepts apply just as well to wherever you decide to set your game, perhaps your conspiracy is a global one and the characters likewise will have to span the world as they investigate and ultimately destroy it. This section also includes organisations, criminal and spy agency alike, which may feature as opposition or allies. Local law enforcement, after all, are unlikely to take kindly to runners-and-gunners who seek to excuse that heavily-armed chase through the crowded city centre by explaining that they were chasing a vampire...

Several 'quick-and-dirty' city descriptions, and one (Marseilles) detailed extensively, are followed by a section on Stories, explaining the general nature of what might well go on in the game - the various approaches that the characters can take in their investigations, and the strategies that the conspiracy will employ to thwart them. It won't be long, after all, before the conspiracy becomes aware of the agents and decides that it might be best to deal with them before they become too much of a problem! There is a wealth of advice here not just on the stories to tell, but how to go about ensuring that the shared story is told to best effect given the style and flavour you have chosen for your game.

Finally, an introductory adventure is presented in all its glory. (S)entries will sweep agents into the heart of affairs from the outset, whilst introducing itself as a simple task that any freelance 'mercenary spy' might expect to be hired to perform. Be warned, though, whilst quite detailed as to what is going on and what the characters should be able to discover, this - like the whole game - requires preparation, it cannot just be picked up, read once, and played. The work put in will repay the effort, however, the potential to start your campaign in high epic thriller style is there from the outset.

This product makes the most of the GUMSHOE mechanic, incorporating it well into spy thriller mode and giving you all the tools you need to set up conspiracies for agents to investigate and destroy. Although the idea of vampires being behind it all is presented as an integral part of the game, if you prefer a different form of conspiracy (fans of Jason Bourne, or those who are convinced that all manner of plots are hatched in Davos, may step forwards here) it will work perfectly without fangs and a thirst for blood. If you do like vampires, this game is a delightful twist on other games involving them, a whole new set of stories to tell.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Ashen Stars Music: All We Have Forgotten
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2012 11:30:25
http://www.teilzeithelden.de
---------

Neuerdings produzieren immer mehr Verlage auch direkt Musik für ihre Spiele. Auch Pelgrane Press gehört dazu und untermalt Ashen Stars, ein SciFi Setting mit passender Musik. Ashen Stars gehört zu den Systemen nach dem Gumshoe Regelwerk von niemand anderem als Robin D. Laws.

Erscheinungsbild Cover/Verpackung

Das mir vorliegende Rezensionsexemplar besteht aus 15 Tracks im *.mp3 Format in 320 kb/s Qualität. Knackser, Rauscher oder über- und untersteuerte Höhen wie auch Tiefen fielen mir nicht auf. In Summe bescheren die Stück eine angenehme Hörerfahrung, wenn auch nicht sonderlich lang anhaltend.

Mit 26m 21s ist das Album sehr kurz ausgefallen, beinhaltet aber nicht nur Stücke höherer Länge, sondern auch sogenannte Stings, Stücke von 8 bis 10 Sekunden Länge, die als Ende einer Szene benutzt werden können.

Zum Cover könnte man noch einige Worte verlieren. Hier wird das Cover des Grundregelwerkes wieder benutzt und es zeigt eine Szene, wie sie in einem Raumschmugglerhafen oder vielleicht auch einer zerstörten Stadt geschehen könnte. Vertreter mehrerer Rassen stehen mit vorgehaltenen Waffen wachestehend vor einem konspirativen Gespräch nahe einer Landeplattform. Besonders gefällt mir die vordere Riesenheuschrecke mit dem Lasergewehr. Alles in allem macht das Artwork einen sehr guten Eindruck, wurde aber, wie geschrieben, wieder verwendet. Das Cover wird als *.jpg mitgeliefert, ein Booklet gibt es nicht.

Als schaffende Künstler treten hier auf: James Semple, Marie-Anne Fischer und Yaiza Varona.

Tracks

Ashen Stars Sting 1 – der erste Sting, mit knapp 9 Sekunden, von denen nur die ersten 2 interessant sind, bringt einen dumpfen Streicherschlag am Anfang und ein dunkles Nachbrummen. Schön, um eine erschreckende Sekunden einzuleiten oder schlagartig von purer Schönheit zu dreckiger Finsternis zu wechseln.

Ashen Stars Sting 2 – Mit 10 Sekunden nur knapp länger, birgt das Stück einen von Bläsern getragenen Aufbruch ins Ungewisse, aber nicht ohne Hoffnung oder Abenteuergeist.

Ashen Stars Sting 3 – Der Track taugt mit seinen ultraknappen 4 Sekunden gut für einen Einstieg in eine Horror- oder Actionszene.

Ashen Stars Sting 4 – Dies ist das letzte der kurzen Stücke. Durch seine tiefen Klänge würde es meiner Hörart nach eingesetzt, hervorragend das Auftauchen eines monströsen Großkampfschiffes oder auch einer schrecklichen Kreatur untermalen. Angst ist hier sicher ein dominierendes Thema

Ashen Stars Theme Clip – Interstellare Abenteuer, aufregende Welten, unerwartete Gefahren – das trägt dieser Song mit sich. Leider aber durch 22 Sekunden zu nicht mehr als dem Starten des eigenen Schiffes aus dem Raumhangar tauglich.

All we have forgotten – Ein großes Manko fast alle Stücke dieses Soundtracks ist, dass selbst die Stücke in „Volllänge“ oftmals nicht länger als knapp 2 Minuten dauern. So auch hier. Und das, wobei der Titel durchaus gut ist. Es wirkt nach „Chance vergeben“. Streicher und Bläser zaubern ein wunderbares Bild von einer großen Zukunft mit einer schieren Unendlichkeit von Möglichkeiten, sich seinen eigenen Weg zu suchen und die eigenen Träume zu realisieren. Der Titel deutet wohl auch vergessene Werte, vielleicht auch Zivilisationen hin, diese höre ich aber nicht.

Ashen Stars Theme – Wieder ein Titel der Sorte „Hinreissend immersive Melodien, aber viel zu kurz“. Der Titelscore des Spieles verbindet fremdartige Hintergrundgeräusche mit elektronischen Beats und Streichern. Tolle Melodieführung, aber wieso nicht länger als ein Trailertrack? Atmosphärisch bewege ich mich gefühlt in einem Raumschiff, welches pfeilschnell durch das Universum rast und auf einen Planeten zurast, der fette Beute verspricht. Die Crew ist gut gelaunt, macht sich aber rein routinemäßig an die Gefechtsstationen.

Class K Entitity – Ich weiß nicht, was eine Klasse K Wesenheit ist, aber wenn es so ist, wie der Track mit seinen schiefen, dissonanten und unharmonischen Klängen mir weismachen will, ist es etwas, was ich nicht verstehe, was ich zum ersten Mal sehe und was mir, weil ich es eben nicht verstehe, eine Heidenangst macht. Mit etwas über 4 Minuten ist dieses Stück auch endlich in der normalen Länge.

Death Struggle – Wenn ich diesen Track höre, muss ich an etwas mit Chitin und vielen Beinen denken, was sich entweder auf die Gruppe drohend hinzu bewegt oder das Erwachen einer Kolonie von Kreaturen. Auf jeden Fall ein schöner Track, um die Action einzuleiten. Leider nur extrem kurz mal wieder.

Fragments of the Past – Hier habe ich wirklich das Gefühl, uralte Technologien oder lang verborgene Kulturen zu finden. Die bedrohlichen Klänge, die leicht von den Soundtracks der Alien Filme beeinflusst ist, erzeugt eine leicht unheimliche Atmosphäre. Mit knapp über einer Minute auch wieder viel zu kurz.

Into the Bleed – Während sich in den vorherigen Tracks langsam eine unheimliche Stimmung aufgebaut hat, wird diese hier in diesem Stück deutlich ausgelebt. Es ist jedoch keine blanke Angst, die regiert, mehr das Ungewisse vor dem Unbekannten. Gefällt mir gut, ist nicht zu aufdringlich und von guter Länge.

Tartarus – Finstere wummernde Klänge mit Klavierspielerein in Moll leiten das Lied ein. Ich habe wirklich das Gefühl, auf einem trockenen, dunklen und sturmumtosten Planeten zu stehen. Nur wenige Plateaus erheben sich aus der kargen Fläche und immer wieder zucken Blitze aus den Wolken. Eine wirklich unwirkliche Welt. Bedrohlich, finster und bedrückend. Geeignet für viele Systeme in meinen Augen. Daumen hoch!

Tethers and Snails – Der Track baut direkt auf der Stimmung von Tartarus auf. Die Crew hat den Weg hinaus auf den Planeten gewagt, die Umgebung ist zu tiefst lebensfeindlich. Jeder falsche Schritt kann tödlich enden. Sicher auch gut für ein Dungeon geeignet. Noch ein Highlight des Soundtracks.

The Prologue – Der Auftakt, so der Titel des Stücks übersetzt, zeigt auf, worum es geht. Um einen Aufbruch in eine gefährliche Welt, in der vieles den Verstand übersteigt. Allerdings ist es eine Welt, die auch Wunder birgt, wenn man nur wagt, die Gefahren zu meistern. Gut gelungen, aber wieder etwas kürzer. Darunter leider die Stimmung und zur endlosen Wiederholung taugt das Stück in meinen Augen nicht.

Threon Shadows – Action- bzw Gefechtsmusik fehlt bislang in den gehörten Stücken und dieser Titel füllt die Lücke aus. Percussions, marschlastig und schrille Geigen, gefolgt von bekannt scheinenden militärischen Melodiebögen sprechen eine deutliche Sprache. Wenn auch nicht hektisch und schnell, ist dieser Titel derjenige im Ensemble, der gut zu nicht schneller Action passt, vielleicht zum Gefecht zweier Großkampfschiffe, vielleicht auch zum Katz und Maus spielen von zwei verfeindeten Fraktionen.

Emotionalität

Alle Tracks gehen mehr oder minder in eine Richtung, der düsteren und zugleich verwunderlichen Zukunft zwischen den Sternen. Die Künstler machen in Sachen Struktur, Aufbau und Melodieführung eine gute Arbeit, das will ich nicht bestreiten. Damit sich aber wirklich tiefe Gefühlswelten aufbauen bei der Spielrunde, die von dieser Musik begleitet wird, sind die Stücke einfach zu kurz. Leider hat man versäumt, sie so zu gestalten, dass sie zumindest einige Zeit endlos wiederholt werden können. Ich werde vor allem die längeren Stücke in meinen SciFi Runden einsetzen, da sie gut eine finstere Unantastbarkeit untermalen.

Verwendbarkeit

Die mehrfach bemängelte Kürze mancher Tracks wirkt sich leider direkt auf die Verwendbarkeit aus. Sicher kann ich einer Szene das i-Tüpfelchen geben, wenn ich einen der Stings benutze, aber alle anderen Tracks mit Laufzeiten von um die eine Minute sind vergebene Liebesmüh in meinen Augen. Die langen Tracks mit ihrer bedrückenden und bedrohlichen Grundstimmung jedoch gefallen äußerst gut und werden sicher Anwendung finden. Zurückkommend auf die kürzeren Stücke – ich meine, was soll ich damit beim Tischrollenspiel? Auf dem Computer hätten sie in einem Spiel eine vollständige Lebensberechtigung, aber so?

Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis
Stimmt das Verhältnis zwischen dem, was man bezahlt und dem, was man dafür bekommt? Nein, ganz eindeutig nicht. Von 15 Tracks sind gerade 5 mit einer Spieldauer von über drei Minuten gesegnet, ich erhalte nicht mal Artwork oder ein Digital Booklet. Sehe ich Soundtracks anderer und sehr großer Komponisten, die ich teils für unter 10 EUR als *.mp3 bekomme, liegt hier eindeutig was falsch.

Fazit
Was soll ich noch schreiben, was ich nicht bereits geschrieben habe? Letztendlich haben wir hier einen durchaus guten Soundtrack mit jedoch einigen viel zu kurzen Stücken, einem zu hohen Preis und mangelnder zusätzlicher Informationsbestückung. Gut hörbar und partiell einsetzbar: Auf jeden Fall. Besser als große Hollywood-Scores: Nein, keinesfalls

Bonus/Downloadcontent
Es existiert kein weiterer uns bekannter Downloadcontent.

Unsere Bewertung
Erscheinungsbild 3.5v5 Schickes Cover, aber wieder benutzt. Kein Booklet.
Emotionalität 4v5 Die Tracks sind besser als ihre Benotung, aber viele sind zu kurz, so dass sich keine immersive Emotionalität aufbauen kann
Verwendbarkeit 3v5 Wiederum hindert die Kürze der Stücke ihre Verwendbarkeit. Die wenigen Stücke mit einer Spiellänge von über drei Minuten gefallen sehr gut und werden bei mir Aufnahme finden.
Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis 2v5 Der Preis ist bei einer Gesamtlänge von etwas über 20 Minuten eine Unverschämtheit.
Gesamt 3v5

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ashen Stars Music: All We Have Forgotten
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Ashen Stars: Tartarus
by Nenad R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/23/2012 05:50:44
A well-written module, with a couple of twists, and some ideas on how to use it. Useful for those times where you have not been able to prepare anything. It is easy to slot it into most Ashen Stars Campaigns, and it fits well with the feel of the game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ashen Stars: Tartarus
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Rending Box
by Oliver K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/22/2012 05:49:20
I have to say, I really love this adventure module. It's a very nice read. The Mythos entities and the story befit each other, there's plenty to spark players' imagination, well-described. It just left me with the impression that the author had a good grasp on Lovecraftian storytelling. I certainly would like to introduce some players to this one, kudos!

In a departure from standard rules, all clues require a spend. This has one advantage - some investigators have similar skills, and no one can hog the spotlight forever given this little scenario rule. "Driving yourself crazy" is also a departure from the standard rules, and I'm not sure how that would play out - it could add to the fun or kill the entire atmosphere of the whole game. Best go with what you think suits your players, it's optional after all.

A little oddity is the selection of investigators coming with it. As this is no conversion product, but made for Trail of Cthulhu, it kind of surprised me that the investigators did not seem to match the rules. There's 3 female investigators vs. 2 male ones, which typically requires creating more investigators. The distribution of skill points seemed a bit arbitrary - the nun had the best credit rating, and almost none had their required minimum rating. Also, the naive, amiable nun was streetwise... Similarly, the alienist had no psychoanalysis skill, and also no first aid skill either (but Medicine at 4). Equipment was left out, too.

I liked the conception of the investigators, though. The descriptions were top notch, I would love to play the "synaesthetic composer" in a roleplaying game. The idea is definitely a keeper and well thought out.

So, best build your own investigators for this one (it doesn't take long, anyway), you won't regret it. Or go with the ones included, their "faults" will hardly impact gameplay, I'd guess.

The adventure module itself, the artwork, the basic concept, the ideas, the writing certainly will reward your spending, and for currently 6.95US$ (or less in a bundle) it's well worth buying.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Rending Box
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RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/15/2012 14:32:39
The Millionaire's Special is based on an excellent premise, connecting a cursed mummy, Lovecraftian horror, and a tragedy that people still find interesting a century later. It's a short adventure, suitable for a single evening of play, and while it can be played as a pulpy "battle the bad guy" kind of adventure, it's really all about horror on multiple levels: that of the ancient evil brought on board, the implications of its existence, and the fact that the PCs might be in some way responsible for the doomed ship. What more could you want for $2.50.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
by Michael H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/15/2012 14:26:18
A terrific edition to a ToC: Bookhounds campaign, The Book of Smoke is both an interesting source supplement and an in-game artifact. As such it has a ton of potential. About the only down side is that to get the most out of it, you really need players to read the book and we GMs all know how difficult it can get players to read even short summaries. However, for the right group, this book is pure gold.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
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Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Dead White World
by Heiko A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/01/2012 07:21:35
It's a nicely written series of interesting events happening to a group of characters after an apocalypse. Sadly it assumes that players are willing to follow the narrative without diverting from it. Still, I think they had as much fun failing to do so as I had in deciding for how long they'd be able to survive without the help they'd receive following the story.
A big plus is that this includes a printer-friendly version of the pdf, something the original Cthulhu Apocalypse book fails to do.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Dead White World
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The Kaiin Player's Guide
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/15/2012 13:25:34
Introduction

Despite the "d20 glut", the number of city settings one can choose from can be counted on one hand. This is a pity, as the city offers NPC interaction, combatless skullduggery, and other entertaining roleplaying not available in your everyday dungeon or wilderness adventure.

Enter "The Kaiin Player's Guide". Technically for the Dying Earth RPG, based on the works of Jack Vance, the KPG features one of the most entertaining fantasy cities I've read in a long time. Written by Robin D. Laws, designer of Feng Shui, Hero Wars, Rune, and aforementioned Dying Earth, the book is 200-some pages long, on heavy glossy paper. It's quite suitable for D&D or any other fantasy roleplaying game.

For GMs of Conventional Fantasy RPGs

Let me briefly mention what the book doesn't have. The maps have a "bird's eye view" of each section of the city, but not detailed maps of streets or locations. Stats for NPCs are for Dying Earth's skills, which focus on personality, and thus are quite usable in any roleplaying game. You'll definitely want to plug in the culture, personalities, and locations of Kaiin to a city with detailed street-by-street maps.

The information is portrayed from the perspective of a well-connected PC. As a result, the GM need no longer be a bottleneck for information. He can let the player peruse the book, or a particular section. Not all GMs will want to do this, but now they have this option. GMs will need to create any "secret" character details and specifics (not like they haven't had to do this with other city guides...)

For Dying Earth Players

As said, this book is written from the perspective of a resident of Kaiin. Despite the words "Player's Guide", there is no "Gamemaster Guide". The player peruses the book, selects a rumor, and the GM improvises, using the GMC creation rules. A few pages provide additional advice for the GM and player.

A City of Personalities

Most city books I've read are organized by locations. Each chapter discusses one of the quarters by providing an overview, then particular locations, each with their NPC residents (don't these people ever leave the house?). KPG provides an overview, but then focuses on the PC's contacts for the city and personages in the quarter. Contacts are a personality outline of a particular class of people in the quarter, which the GM (or player!) fleshes out as an NPC contact. Personally, I think contacts are a much more playable NPCs than the usual "Important People" section of a city setting.

Locations, calendar events, and rumors follow, then Taglines and Tweaks. Taglines and Tweaks are Dying Earth mechanics. Taglines are quotes which, if used by a player during play ("Call me parsimonious, but I am reluctant to become nourishment for anyone."), grants character improvement points. Tweaks are special bonuses that a character can have under certain social circumstances for their PC. Both should be adaptable to any fantasy rpg. Kaiin is composed of neighborhoods: Canal Town, where the city river "emits its last pathetic gasp before it empties into the bay" (avoid the oysters); The Fringe, home of the most destitute denizens and opportunistic bandits (razed to the ground periodically with lively festivals involving hangings); The Marketplace (including no less than three pages of cart-pulling "Unusual Mounts and Beasts"); Odkin Prospect, where reside the aristocrats and merchants they invest in and despise; The Palace & Environs, including the useful "Palace Intrigue Quick Reference" chart; The Scholasticarium District, an institution less of learning than of "rivals in an never-ending struggle for privelege and prestige"; The Threek, a medieval equivalent of the suburbs ("Although eighty percent of the population lives here, we cover it quickly"); The Tracks, where Dhejtar, a sort of cross between a weasel and a panther, race (or just bring your child here to throw rocks at defaulters in the punishment racks); and The Undercity, who has believed "the sun has already died, and they are the last survivors" (enjoy the spicy cuisine).

Last Words

Again, I'll emphasize that this is a book of personalities over locations. GMs looking for detailed maps of a city won't find them here, but should still consider KPG as a book of NPCs who will enliven any city. GMs who do not improvise city adventures will still need to create and prepare material. Still, the wealth of NPCs, especially the contacts, should enrich any city adventure, not just one for Dying Earth.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Kaiin Player's Guide
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Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Apocalypse Machine
by Alexie R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/03/2012 23:57:05
In a nutshell: Trail of Chthulhu... after the End.

Sadly i didn't like this book. My biggest issue is that when i bought it, i -- perhaps mistakenly -- expected a series of ToC scenarios set in post-apocalyptic setting. However, there are no pre-made scenarios in this book; not even campaign frames like those in main ToC rulebook. There is a half-decent section on creating your own customised apocalypse and a short and too-vague GM advice section.

My second complaint is that this book is short -- only 73 pages and fully half of those are taken by standard ToC rules tweaked to post-apocalyptic setting. I've seen it all before in my ToC core book and i don't need to see it again, thank you very much.

But enough on the negative.

Like all other products by Pelgrane Press the writing is top-notch, well organised and full of great ideas. In short summary: the sanity system is slightly tweaked; there is a section on how cities decay into ruins with time; also a very useful system for scavenging equipment; an obligatory chapter on mutants; and of course the Apocalypse Machine itself -- scenario generator that lets you customise your own extinction event.

As a side note, i think this book would be useful for GMs running "Armitage Files" also by Pelrane Press as the subject matter is similar.

Unfortunately all that is not enough to raise this product from mediocrity and i cannot in all honesty give it a higher rating, though i really wish i could.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Apocalypse Machine
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Publisher Reply:
I suggest you get Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Dead White World . This is the set of post-apocalyptic adventures you were looking for. The Machine is an optional companion volume for running post-apocalyptic adventures, so it appears you bought it under a misapprehension. I recommend you get a refund on this product and get Dead White World instead.
Mutant City Blues
by Anthony C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/10/2012 20:29:00
I'm a huge fan of super heroes in a less than spandex setting (Heroes, 4400, and others in that vein). That is where Mutant City Blues falls into supers role-playing. Players take on characters who have some serious edges over normals, but not to the godlike stature of the JLA or Avengers.

Wins for this game:

- excellent details (powers have to follow a "logical" progression through a charting system). This chart works great as an investigating tool within the game.
- excellent writing. I love the setting and what characterization is given to it. I would have liked a bit more padding to the setting, but I suppose it's best left up to the individual game masters.
- solid system. It takes getting used to, but this game engine works tremendously well for detective style gaming.

Needs work?

- The art is sporadic and not consistently great throughout the book.
- supplements. This game doesn't have the love that Trail of Cthulhu has so there is little in the way of support for the lazy GM.

Overall, I think this is a much stronger RPG for playing super heroes rather than Smallville or the 2012 Marvel Super Heroes. It offers a fresh world without 50 years of backstory to contend with.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutant City Blues
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Invasive Procedures
by Wolfgang H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/03/2012 03:30:12
This is one of the best horror one shots I have ever played. Don't expect to be able to use all of the ideas in the scenario when you play it with your group, there are just too many brilliant scenes ti fit into one evening. I decided to use this one as my introductory adventure into horror roleplaying and I am looking forward to play it again.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Invasive Procedures
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