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Esoteric Skull
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/13/2012 13:47:00
This moody and atmospheric piece of art would make an excellent addition to any horror-based product or handout. The quality of the image is excellent and would reproduce well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Esoteric Skull
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The City of Vor-Laran
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/04/2012 19:57:56
Vor-Laran is an interesting city, systemless and open to be adapted for any fantasy world, it does have its own character. If you have need for a city, or ideas for a city, this inexpensive product is a good resource.

Vor-Laran is an 18-page PDF systemless city resource for any fantasy RPG written by Bryan F Irving and published by Gethsemane Games.

After the introduction page Vor-Laran has a standard two column layout and is clearly readable. There is a full color map of the town at the beginning with a single piece of black and white art. There are a couple of typos in the book but nothing major.

Vor-Laran begins with a short introduction to the original setting used for the city and what some of the terminology used in the description means in that context (along with telling you to change what you need if that suits your campaign better).

It is a major city on the southern edge of a great empire, wealthy through trade and ancient status. Twenty-seven points of interest, including palace, markets, theater and college, in the city. Many of the locations come with an associated NPC. Additional information on the sewer and water system is provided (both of which are subjects that are often overlooked).

Six adventure ideas, each at least two paragraphs long, conclude the product.

It is an interesting setting, the empire is portrayed as fairly modern and progressive -at least in comparison to what proceeded it- while still having its dark sides and problems. But it can easily serve as a basis or inspiration for a city (or cities) in a campaign.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The City of Vor-Laran
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Horseman
by Keith (. T. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/05/2011 07:13:55
This is a nice piece of stock art for your collection. The horseman wears muted shades of green and purple, carries a wooden staff or walking stick, and is a little over-accessorized in the jewelry department. Although the pose is a little odd, this would make a good character or creature portrait for your fantasy, mutant, or scifi game.

Some recommended changes include reworking the hands/wrists/forearms and removing some of the jewelry.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Horseman
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Horseman
by Chris H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/18/2011 23:39:11
This is a single piece of color art (in .jpeg and .tiff file formats) of a single humanoid horseman figure. The detail work is good, and the color palette is muted but sensible. While I'm not sure of the general usefulness of this piece of art, it is a well done piece. For a single piece of art, it might be slightly over-priced at $3.25, but that is more because of it's fairly specific usability. This art can add value to a project, and is definitely a piece of art that I would use if I had need of a horseman for a project.

I will keep an eye out for further pieces of art from this artist and publisher, however.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Disease
by Sadik K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2011 08:02:45
For a free product this is rather good, actually I'll go a bit further and say very good.

The 8 pages are bursting with horrible illnesses from the deadly to the inconvenient and it suggests quite a lot of research went into putting it together. More than one might expect for a free product. Then again I noticed the reference to the fact that the product is actually taken form the horror RPG “Haunts and Horrors” which I have yet to acquire (I'm told by those that have that H+H shows a lot of research went into it, so that probably explains this products depth, given it's short page count).

One or two typos have snuck in under the radar (I think – English is not my first language), but I don't find that a big problem.

Although it could be used with just about any game, some legwork will be needed by the GM to make it fit anything other than the Gethsemane Games Engine used in their RPGs. However, if you do play other GG games this is a good little addition. Personally I'll be using it in my “Spelldancer” sagas to good effect. Although Spelldancer has it's own disease section, and the rules governing disease, treatment and recovery (or failure to recover!) are the same, the actual diseases don't double up with the ones in the Spelldancer rules with one exception (Gangrene, although it is given a different name in the Spelldancer rules).

The product lacks much art, but for a free product that isn't much of a surprise – besides I print most my PDFs out and with ink costs here being so steep (oil is cheaper by volume) this is a good thing for me.

If you want to add the element of illness to your games, I recommend this product at least as a starting point.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Disease
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Games of Chance
by Sadik K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2011 07:47:08
To my mind Games of Chance is not one of the better products by GG, but then again it is free and it isn't all that bad either.

The product includes 3 games of chance, such as one might play in a tavern or gambling den. It includes a description of the games as well as how to use them in the Spelldancer RPG. Although the product mentions they can be converted to other RPGs, I think they are better situated within the Elizim setting, as each one tells you a little something about the culture that devised the game.

Whilst they are well thought out, I can't help thinking that for many RPGs, these “Games within games” are a little more time consuming and complex than is strictly necessary , but then I guess it depends upon your group and what they like.

Personally I would have liked to see them as an appendix to a larger product, perhaps in the Spelldancer RPG itself or in one of the promised Gazateers? Or even just on the GG website with some of the other free Spelldancer material that appears there.

With just 3 gambling games in the product I think there are other products on RPGnow that may be of more use to anyone wanting to fit some games of chance into their none GG games, but as a window into the Elizim background I find this quite interesting.

I'm quite torn as I sort of like it, and it is free, but can't see myself using it much and certainly not for games other than Spelldancer.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Games of Chance
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Secret of Serpent Tor
by Sadik K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2011 07:32:40
Secret of serpent tor is a dungeon based adventure for the Fantasy RPG “Spelldancer” by Gethsemane Games, but it could easily be converted to any % based RPG almost “On the fly”.

The adventure is based around a long forgotten cult of demon snake-people accidentally unleashed when the abandoned and ruined fort-shrine built to lock them away is plundered for stone by the local farmers.

There are two obvious hooks to bring players into the adventure – the first is the gold state that has been discovered – previously hidden (for reasons that are made clear in the GM background) under a layer of plaster – greed being a traditional RPG hook for most parties. The second relates to the farm hands who have vanished inside the caves. Intended to be set in the Empire, the motivation to help fellow imperial citizens is a strong one if the players are also playing imperial citizens – the mind set of the Empire being that they look after their own.

Regardless of how you get the PCs into the caves under serpent Tor they are in for a challenge. As is often the case with GG modules, part of the challenge comes from the environment itself, although this is less the case than with say “Sulphur pits", where the very air is toxic in places.

There are plenty of opportunities for characters to test their skills, just getting into the Tor complex itself resulted, when we played, in a complex game of cat and mouse with the patrolling Serpent-folk. Spelldancer combat being what it is (exciting and dangerous) “Getting the drop” on the enemy is hugely advantageous and as the PCs and the serpent-man patrol tried to sneak up and ambush one another it lead for a very tense and memorable opening sequence to the play session.

Once inside the caverns the tension was maintained as the serpent folk were now on their home ground and the PCs got the feeling of being stalked by a terrible foe. Don't get me wrong, this is an adventure that is not as sophisticated as “Trouble at the Troubadours rest” but as a dungeon adventure it is tonnes of fun!

Plenty of scope for expansion as well, with a “bottomless pit” that could easily lead to another level if you wished to add one, and a hook that could easily lead to many more adventures and problems long after the Serpent-men are a distant bad memory.

This leads me on to the next point and another recurring theme in GG modules – a reward that is a double edged sword. Whilst the golden statue that once sealed the cult in their subterranean prison is worth a nobles ransom, actually capitalising on it can lead to all sorts of problems. The weight alone makes it hard to move and it's value will attract every ner-do-well in the region. Set during the plains war when banditry is at it's height on the Imperial border region this is a very real problem. As the end notes point out as well, actually getting the statues value in cash will be a virtual impossibility and problems with the imperial authorities are also a real risk. When we played the adventure the party melted the damaged statue down into ingots in order to make it easier to dispose of. With all mineral rites belonging to the emperor, a party with a wagon full of unstamped gold ingots drew Imperial interest that resulted in a lot of explaining from the party and an entire sub plot sprang up around it.

Ideally the PCs should be of moderate skill level and experience, although as often happens with Spelldancer clever and thoughtful preparation can win the day. A modicum of sense and knowing when discretion is the better part of valour helps as well.

My one criticism, and it is a fairly smallone, is that compared to "Trouble at..." this is a far less sophisticated module it itself (although the aftermath can lead t all sorts of more complex fun). As a dungeon crawl though, it is nice!

All told a very fun dungeon crawl with far reaching consequences that can effect your PCs for quite some time to come. This isn't a “Fire and forget” adventure if yo use a party of characters you wish to use again.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Secret of Serpent Tor
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Secret of Serpent Tor
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2011 12:49:55
Secret of Serpent Tor is another Demon hunting dungeon crawl from Gethsemane
Games for their “Spelldancer” adventure, but again, you could convert it to any
percentile based system with not much effort.  The dungeon isn’t huge, but it is
big enough.  Getting into it isn’t that easy as the snake dudes are watching for
intruders approaching.

The party could very easily end this adventure incredibly rich, as the gold
statue that is one of the main “hooks” for the adventure (the other being
rescuing fellow imperial citizens that have been taken by the snake demons) is
worth a fortune!  At first i had my doubts about the wisdom of such a massively
valuable treasure, then I read the troubleshooting and “expanding the adventure”
notes and realised just how easy it is to make the statue more of a curse than a
blessing.  It isn’t the first Spelldancer adventure where taking something
valuable can get you into all sorts of trouble down the line (remember the horse
in “Trouble at the troubadours rest?) and just holding onto the statue or
managing to sell it could become the centre of quite a long and very fun
campaign.  Also, at least the demons in this one aren't as gross as Sulphur
pits.  Snakies are quite cute, the demon maggots of Sulphur pits were ikky!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sulphur pits of Nathezda
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2011 12:34:28
Sulphur pits of Nathazda is an adventure for the Spelldancer RPG but could be
easily modified to work with any percentile based system.  This is not one for
inexperienced characters, but with the Spelldancer system you can create
experience characters right from the start.  The adventure includes  some sample
characters you could either use as NPCs or PCs.

Like other Gethsemane Games adventures part of the dangers the party will face
are from the environment itself not just from the creatures within.  In this
case the creatures are demons and ewwww, some of them are gross!  Demon maggots
anyone? The adventure also answers the question of what happened to one of the
missing Demon Lords of the Malmori, and in our game we actually found ourselves
making an alliance with it to defeat the demon we had come to kill!  As usual
there are some interesting ideas for expanding the adventure.

At first glance it looks like a fairly short dungeon crawl, and it is ( about 2
nights play perhaps?) but then in Spelldancer you don’t want to be in a dungeon
too long as a few good hits will put you in a bad way, and believe me, in this
adventure characters are going to get hit sooner or later!

I loved the feel of this adventure and it was just long enough for us, any
longer and we wouldn’t have been able to complete it without coming out, healing
up and then going back in.  your players should be prepared for the very real
possibility of having a character or two killed in this adventure, especially in
the final showdown.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sulphur pits of Nathezda
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Spelldancer; Revised
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2011 12:19:44
Spelldancer is the fantasy RPG by Gethsemane games, set in their “Elizium”
fantasy setting (although you don’t need to use the setting if you have another
you would rather use).

Character generation is points based and the number of points you start with
depends on your age.  Old characters get more starting experience than younger
ones BUT they also have more disadvantage points.  Disadvantages are handled
differently to other games.  Here you don’t buy disadvantages to gain more
experience points. Instead you start with one quarter your age in disadvantage
points you have to buy off or else you lose some of those experience points.

There are a lot of skills to chose from, but you don’t always need to roll to
check a skill when you use it.  If the circumstances are ideal, you pass just by
owning the skill.  You only roll  if you are under pressure or circumstances
aren't ideal

Combat is skill based, and there are a lot of special manoeuvres you can use to
get advantages to your chance to hit, or the damage you do.  The better you are
with a weapon skill, the more damage you are probably going to do, which I like.
Damage is handled by comparing your Killing Power to your enemies Resistance
Factor.  Killing Power is made up of how much you passed your skill roll with
your weapon by plus any Killing Power Adjustment you have from your Strength and
that the weapon itself has.  It is possible to score a hit then do no damage if
your final KP was too low - this represents the minor bumps and bruises.  The
system also builds results like being knocked out, having your arm broken, being
stunned or knocked over and even concussed into the basic combat and doesn't
seem to slow play down much at all but adds a lot to the game play.

Magic is split into types, called “Arcaniums” and each arcanium has it’s own
spells that relate to an idea, like Necromancy (death magic), Vivamancy (life
magic), the 4 elemental magics, Dracology 9magic relating to dragons) and so on.
there is also a “minor” arcanium which you must learn before you can take the
specialist or “major” arcaniums.  

The races of the game are very interesting.  they are split into Wyrm kind
(several types of dragon), Beast men (that have evolved from animals), Corporeal
spirits (that are a sort of minor demon that takes on a permanent physical form,
Umbra spirits (demos that have to be summoned to enter the world), Undead,
giants and animals.  Humans are considered beast men and get on best with other
beast men races.  The standard fantasy staples like elves and dwarves are
Corporeal spirits which makes them feel more like the Elves and goblins of old
European mythology than the standard RPG interpretation.  It also makes them
feel a lot more alien.  Sprits have a hard time understanding death - because
they can’t die - they just go “home” to the umbra.  This means even the
“friendly” ones are likely to kill you if you are in their way, because they
don’t realise what a big deal death is to other races.  Demons are very nicely
done, they are quite flexible and the GM can use the demon creation rules to
create just about anything!

Magic items are also very fixable, and are built on a points system that lets
you make customisable items.  Oh and the rules for mages creating familiars are
nice and flexable too.  If I’m reading this right (and I think I am 0 there is
no real limit to how many familiars a mage can have.  Be careful though, the
bigger and more powerful an animal you select for your familiar the fewer points
you will have to give it special powers.  In our game we had a mage with 2
familiars, one was a cat the other a snake, and they had very different powers
and abilities.

I like this game a lot, and it is great for customizing and making it into what
you want.  the setting material is really cool to, although I would have loved
to have more of it.  The town of Tolar is a great place to get started, right
between the civilized empire and the wild, unclaimed lands to the south.  the
town “feels” alive and is bursting with ideas.  The culture of the Empire is
just different enough to feel like it wasn’t lifted from the authors favourite
period of history without finding it hard to get into.

Skills are percentile based, combat is deadly, magic even more so, a lot of the
monsters are quite powerful 9but not impossibly so).  So if you like realistic
combat and percentile based systems this is for you, if you don’t, it isn’t.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spelldancer; Revised
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Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/10/2011 19:56:13
Okay let me just say right from the start, I am now a Gethsemane Games sqeeing
fan girl.  This game is now my favourite RPG of all time, even over their
fantasy game Spelldancer.  A lot of work has gone into researching the mythology
of the creatures and the magical traditions in the game.

Character generation is very similar to Spelldancer (pretty much the same but
with more skills available).  The older your character is when you start the
more experience points they start with – you use these to buy or improve skills,
spells or psychic powers.  Be careful though, ‘cos the older you are the more
disadvantage points you have and you have to buy them off by either taking
disadvantages or sacrificing experience. Psychic powers are new – they didn’t
appear in Spelldancer but are a must for a Horror Game.  The magic system is all
new too.  Gone are the Arcaniums and the flashy magic of the Fantasy game.  This
magic system “feels” more like a horror games magic system should.
Practitioners of magic much select a tradition that dictates what spells they
can and can’t learn.  Each tradition has spells they specialise in – which are
the easiest to learn and cast, “neutral” spells which the practitioners of the
tradition can use but it cost more to learn them and you will not be as
efficient, and excluded spells, which practitioners of that tradition can never
learn.  Spells aren’t the only things that mark out the traditions either.
There are other things that make them all feel different from each other.  The
3 fold law of the new way wiccans or the way Zoroastrian magi lose willpower for
performing “Druj” (evil) actions with their magic.

The curses are neat too but are lifted directly from Spelldancer.  The diseases
section is great, and with so many creatures that can infect you it is very
important.

The monsters are a mix of classic Horror beasties and some more obscure ones,
but everything is taken from real world folklore and mythology.  On the besties,
the “preturnatural abilities” gives them a range of supernatural powers that
humans can’t learn.

Ghosts are very well handled as well, with fettered and unfettered ghosts, be
careful not to destroy a ghosts fetter till you are sure that is the right way
to destroy the ghost, ‘cos they get a lot more dangerous if you accidentally
unfettered one – that just lifts it’s limitations!

I love how flexible the game is and the way you can set it in any historical
period – although most of the art and the examples are Victorian.

Again, the layout is noting special but this makes it far easier on the printer
ink, although I could have done without the full page picture of the vampire at
the end of the vampire section which will just use printer ink I didn’t need to
use.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
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Trouble at the Troubadours Rest
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/10/2011 19:27:14
I like this adventure, I like that it mixes horror and fantasy,  One thing I
would say right at the start though is that it might be for inexperienced
characters but I recon you need to be an experienced GM to run it.  Not
experienced at Spelldancer, just experienced at being a GM.

I don’t want to give much away but the second part of the adventure needs a GM
who can add lib a lot.  The bad guys are up to some thing but exactly how they
act and what they do depends a lot on what the PCS do.  I’ve played this game
twice now and it was different each time.  The first group got distracted by the
red herrings which was a lot of fun, and when they did figure out what was going
on it gave them a nasty fright.  The second lot got the plot right away but even
that was cool ‘cos they had to figure out what to do about it.

The bad guys are realy well thought out too.  They all have their motivations
and some of them are quite tragic.  One of my groups refused to hurt some of
them and let them get away with what they had done when they found out why and
the main bag guy was dead.

The adventure is very flexible as well – like most Gethsemane Games products.
You can get to a solution in a lot of ways.  You could just turn it into a
slugfest and fight it out, if that is what you like, but you can come up with
better ways to deal with most of the problems, all but one anyway.

That reminds me, I’ve not talked about the first part of the adventure.  Like
other GG adventures, some of the threats the party have to face are in the shape
of the environment.  A flood and a dangerous storm, a rickety bridge over a
river that is bursting it’s banks.  Getting to the inn is fun in itself never
mind what happens when you get there!

This isn’t a long adventure, maybe 1 or 2 sessions, but when we played it they
were session we will remember for a long time.

I liked the trouble shooting bit as well that gives you ideas of how to deal
with players that throw you something you hadn’t expected.  It’s not an
adventure that forces the Players to act one way it gives the tools to figure
out what to do if they come up with something you didn’t see coming.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the “Declavion Design” series.  Even though
you don’t have to play this as part of the series, now I’ve played it it makes
me want to.

The details on the Twin Kingdoms are nice as well.  It makes them feel real, and
the expanded info on the cult at the centre of the adventure makes you want to
use them more.  A  couple of new spells are also handy and I like the section on
expanding the adventure.  Some of the ides I’d not have thought of and they let
you run games that have nothing to do with the cult but still feel like they are
tyed in to the adventure at the Inn.  Who would have though a horse could get
you in so much trouble  for example.

The layout is nothing special, and their isn’t much art, but then I don’t care
about that, if I want art I buy it.  What little there is gives you the feel of
what is going on and I’d rather have the 26 pages of adventure and setting than
a bunch of pictures I’ll not use again.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trouble at the Troubadours Rest
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Spelldancer: The Wars of Magic: Revised
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/10/2011 19:17:44
I’m not real big on war games as a whole, I prefer RPGs, but then that’s kinda’
how I came across The Wars of Magic.  The war game is set 1000 years before the
age of the beast men in the “Elizium” setting that I first came across in the
Spelldancer RPG.  Now I love Spelldancer and the idea of a war game set during
it’s mage-wars was enough to get me to pick this game up and I’m glad I did.

There is no reason why you have to set the game during the wars of the magi or
even on Elizium come to that.  I love how flexible this game is, and that is a
theme that runs through a lot of Gethsemane Games stuff – flexability.  You can
play this game in any scale you like, with any miniatures you like and in any
setting you like.

Serious war gamers will be happy as well, the game is designed to take account
of formations, tactics and discipline (which is separated from morale).  In the
games we have played we found that a force that is inferior on paper can defeat
a superior force by taking advantage of formations, cohesion and tactics to get
the best out of what the troops have.  A small force of human spearmen in a
shield wall left a very big pile of dead demons on the ground and held until the
enemies mage ran out of points to summon more, at which point the balance swang
in our favour.

Units get a number of points to spend improving one of their statistics when
created, and the points depend on their level of training and expertise.  An
elite force can be more than a match for an almost identical equipped and sized
unit of regulars, but again, make sure to use those formations and tactics to
your advantage to get the very best out of them.

I love the “Battle Honours” system as well, that is basically a form of
experience points system for units.  When you get enough of them you can buy an
extra point to enhance your units statistics.  If you have a lot of them, and
display them on a flag, you might even cause less experienced enemies to retreat
just by attacking them.

Not sure about the Bravado system, or the rules for capturing your enemies
colours.  They seem a bit much detail for a novice like me, but I bet
experienced war game players will love them.

On to the rules for Characters (which is actually given fairly early in the
rules, just after creating your units).  Love these too!  Character models can
be anything from just above average members of their species to godlike heros
(most godlike heroes will be wizards as well and you don’t have to make a
character that is either a wizard or a warrior, they can be both – Elric here I
come!).  Heros can make a difference in the game, but they are not so tough that
a unit of regulars can’t bring them down if they try and their moral holds.
Weight of numbers will tell in the end.  We tried a “Magnificent 7” style battle
and it was a blast.  5 of the 7 heros died but they eventually won the day –
just.

Layout isn’t too fancy, but then I didn’t buy the book to look good.  I can’t
quite get my head around the Vivimancer magic, especially the healing spells
when used on rank and file troops, but that may just be me.

As a novice I think I’d like to see more examples and maybee a sample battle.

I don’t know yet how it handles big battles, we have only done little ones of
about 50 guys a side but my friend who has played more wargames than me recons
it should handle much bigger battles quite well.

My main criticism is that I’m not sure how the d10 based rules and the stats tyy
in with the RPG and I’d like to use it to play some battles in my RPG campaign
if I can figure out how to convert the RPG characters to this war game.  Oh and
this war game seems to have rules for monsters that aren’t in the spelldancer
RPG, but I hear that Gethsemane Games are going to release a monsters book for
Spelldancer this year..  Or maybe some of the monster races in the war game were
wiped out in the wars of magic?  

Not much art either, but then that helps when printing the PDF out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spelldancer: The Wars of Magic: Revised
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Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/04/2011 13:25:37
I love horror games. I love reading new ones, trying new ones and each time I try to do or learn something new. So it was is with great interest that I got the new “Haunts and Horrors” RPG (H+H RPG).

H+H RPG is a 126 page book. The art is predominantly public domain with some other pieces that are newer, but all are black and white. I bring this up for two reasons, first off the art is sparse which gives the book a “less than polished look” but the art is also thematically appropriate for the tone of the game. While I like newer art in a game, I think this works well for this game. The layout looks like a simple affair with clip-art borders.

H+H RPG is a fairly typical RPG, it starts out with “What is an RPG?” to Character Creation. I like the starting age effects starting XP section. It is an interesting take on how to deal with starting at different ages.

Points are given to buy attributes, skills and edges and disadvantages dependent on starting age.

Attributes are mentioned (Strength, Size, Willpower…) and then abbreviations are used (STR, SIZ, WIP) but nothing connecting the two. Granted a semi-experienced gamer could figure it out, but a novice will be scratching their head for a second or two. There are some generated secondary attributes as well, including something called “Killing Power Adjustment” which seems a bit off in a horror game; not that things don’t kill things, but often killing is not the focus, but I am fine with it. There is a section of previous experience which is interesting.

Lots of disadvantages (not sure why hay fever is worth more than partially deaf or partially blind, or why it was not just folded into Allergy). Though it does a much better job with the mental drawbacks than most games (eg it makes Multiple Personality Disorder different from Schizophrenia, a pet peeve of mine). Disadvantages are bought with points, any extra disadvantage points have to be bought off with experience points. I like that to be honest. It casts disadvantages in a different light. Instead of using disadvantages as a means to gain extra points, but rather as something that must be bought off. For a horror game it is a good model.

The skill system reminds of me a bit of Chill. Some will find this refreshingly “old school” others might find it “old” or “out moded”. I think given the atmosphere the game is trying go with I am going with “Classically oriented” and think it works fine for this game. There are a lot of skills too, which is also very old school in feel as opposed to more “cinematic” games that try to get more done with less skills.

There is a good section on Weapons which deals with a lot of standard weapons (guns, sticks, and archaic stuff).

The next section is on Psychic abilities and mention they can be bought by anyone with a high Perception, so a little different than saying buying a “psychic edge” and then buying the abilities.
The psychic abilities seem work fine and feel right here. Again, I am feeling a bit of Chill here, though the magic and psychic powers are not the same as Chill’s magic, it’s the overall vibe; more magic than Call of Cthulhu, less than C.J. Carella’s WitchCraft.

Next up is magic.
(Speaking of magic, on page 41 the formatting shifts down by an inch or so for the rest of the magic secction. Nothing is unreadable, but looks odd.)

Magic is divided up into traditions (like that) and talks about what a tradition is and how they have access to some spells, but not all (like that too). Each tradition also has various mechanical things that can happen to them via their magic, so each one does feel different than the other.

Spells are supposedly bought like Psychic abilities, but I have not found a guide anywhere in my reading.

Combat is next (odd that it is not with Weapons) along with misadventures, healing and diseases.

The chapters on creatures and their powers are next and it is full of the horror show mainstays and a few new ones. I like that there are multiple types of vampires for example.

A section on curses is also provided which would be useful for any game with curses.

All in all there are some interesting things in this game, though nothing terribly unique. I like some of the character creation options. The magic system has some neat points but not quite unique in and of itself really. My biggest issue with the game is that I expected more, and the layout is far below what I would have expected from an established game company. There are also a number distracting typos, while I normally would ignore these, but some made it difficult to understand the text.

The game itself looks like it would fun with the right mindset. There is a darker tone to it that puts it somewhere between Chill and Call of Cthulhu. Though it lacks a bit of focus; is it Victorian, is it Modern? And what do characters do in the game? The motivations of the characters are unclear too. What do they do, why are they doing it? I think this needs to be better defined.

I would have liked to see some character write-ups so we could see how characters look when done.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you Timothy for your forth-rite review. We have taken on board your comments and have updated the product to clarify the stat abbreviations and address the layout problem that was causing the drop effect you mentioned. This issue has now been resolved. The cost of buying spells is mentioned under the magic introduction, which was on pg 41 I believe of your original version but which is now on pg 44 as some material has been added to the book. In order to make it less likely that this can be missed we have also added mention of it to the character generation section along with some notes on character motivations and some ideas of what characters may be doing becoming involved with the horrors and why, as per your suggestion. We have intentionally create the game to allow players to set it in any time period they please although I must admit, my own Victorian period bias does show in the examples :)
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