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Worldbuilding Theory
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/29/2018 16:23:24

Interesting advice book for roleplaying games masters and, to a lesser extent, players and writers. It discusses on of the three pillars of a game world (the other two being characters and adventures) and it does this through a consider amount of repetition of the framework of how it is discussed, useful and self-reinforcing but a little tedious at times. It places the various parts of world building in context of genre of fantasy (dark, high and so on) and setting (contemporary, medieval and such). Useful advice to keep in mind, nothing groundbreaking but solid, useful advice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Worldbuilding Theory
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Story Design: Seduction Stories
by Mike C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2018 21:09:23

I'm really finding value in all of the Story Design guides. They're the difference between starting a campaign plan with an outline and good questions, or just a blank piece of paper. I've read three so far and each is absolutely worth the time and money: 10 or so pages, $2 or less dollars. For each of three acts, this identifies the start, the main character and motivation options, and what happens in the act and what state ends the act. This rhythm has really boosted the wow factor of even short gaming sessions.

Seduction was an eye-opener for me. It could be love, but it's anything the PC wants but shouldn't have. Making that a tangible element in a game could really up the roleplaying around the table, making a much more emotional connection than I've generally had. I haven't tried this one yet, but I'm excited to try it. The writing in this book is as excellent and concise as the others in the set.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design: Seduction Stories
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Story Design: Rescue Stories
by Mike C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/05/2018 21:01:54

This is a concise guide (10 or 12 pages) to a 3-act rescue story: Challenges for each act, the types of characters, a guide to the antagonist. While reading it I kept brainstorming twists and events that would make the 2nd act drive the players to their knees in despair, and from there see a chance---just a sliver---that can help them achieve the rescue. This guide won't waste your time or your money.

Starting to plan an adventure from this is the difference between starting with an outline of good questions or starting with a blank page.

I was a little disappointed to see a handful of editing mistakes, and in something of this quality they stand out more than they might in other books. But the tiny errors aren't enough to take off even a half-star in my rating.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design: Rescue Stories
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Story Design: Search Stories
by Mike C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2018 18:08:50

Wow. You can tell a writer wrote this. It's concise, it's insightful, it's exactly the knowledge I needed to make my next campaign hit the marks. Pick one of these Story Designs to match the next campaign you plan to write, and perhaps the next one you plan to run, and you'll know just what to emphasize to make it hit home for your players.

It lays out the prep work, and then the key points to hit in each act of a three-act story (which can be as many sessions as you'd like). This was about 10 pages of actual content.

This will mostly be useful to someone who is writing a campaign or adventure, but it can also be useful if you're a GM about to run a pre-generated quest. By reviewing the material with the key points of the three-acts in mind, you'll know what to emphasize and have a better idea of how to play your scenes. Maybe you'll find something missing in the pregen that you can fill in to make it really leap off the page, blade flashing.

Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design: Search Stories
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Starlight Manifesto
by Neil L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/29/2018 15:04:00

If you've never played a RPG, then this isn't for you. If you have, this might be useful for inspriration, but you'll have to do a lot of work to make a game happen. THere are some really nice ideas in here, particularly the game's approach to your skills and skills rolls. The usual "DM of -2 if standing on one leg" tables you find in other RPGs are not here. The focus of the game is on the characters and their interactions with their world. You'll find some ideas for cultures to play. The whole tone is very much in line with Star Trek's Federation's ethics. Whether playing morally good characters is your cup of tea, or whether you'd prefer to play characters more like The Klingons, is up to you and your group. (note, this is not a Star Trek game).

The game does not have any artwork. This makes it cheaper and it takes less space, the author says. I've bought some RPG games where I thought the quality of the artwork was so bad, it ought to have been left out as it made the product worse. However, good artwork can inspire both the players and referees (called The Guide in Starlight Manifesto). The artwork in Traveller helped give their universe a look and feel that was very distinctive. Showing someone a picture of a TIE Fighter or Traveller's TYpe S Scout Courier will inspire them, we are visual creatures.

Artwork can break up pages of text and make it look more inviting to read. I've bought several games because I liked the artwork and wanted to be inspired. I'll happily pay more to help support a decent artist if their artwork contributes a look and feel to a game. Preview Coriolis, Excellium, Polaris or Numenera for good examples of games you'd buy for their artwork. This game feels like they just didn't want to pay an artist.

Starlight Manifesto doesn't have any lists of guns, statistics for vehicles or spaceships, no detailed descriptions of the worlds, nothing about alien animals and plants or any space maps to show the setting. I got really sick of reading "What the (named species) looks like is entirely up to you.....It's more fun to make up something original, so your game isn't the same as someone else's". I personally don't care if my game is the same as someone 4000 miles away, because I'll never know!

I felt that the person writing it had copied and pasted the same text in a lot of places rather than do any creative work. The whole thing has so much repetition in it, you just skim past whole paragraphs. On the other hand, you do get a detailed description of arm-of-service shoulder board colours, complete with medieval heraldic names that add absolutely nothing of value to the game. If the rest was done to this standard, it would have been better, but as it is, it looks odd having a detailed description of something that doesn't matter. I also got sick of reading "Because Starlight Manifesto is space opera..." time and time again.

Personally, I like tables of options as they give you a basis to build your world (or your grav tank or spaceship) . I like star maps, because I don't have to think about what the next world looks like when the players decide to do something I hadn't planned for. A good game designer inspires you to use the game as a basis for your own universe. My version of Traveller is nothing like the original designers intended. Unless you really do like world building, this game doesn't help. If you do like world building, this game doesn't help, as you'll need another game to help you develop worlds to explore.

The text I bought has several typos. There's a huge amount of unecessary repetition that tells you to make it up yourself. Why they ddin't just put that text in once and told you it applies to everything is beyond me. It looks like padding to reach a word count. There's even a recommended play list of music to listen to at the back, but no introductory adventure to get you started.

The author should have got someone to proof read the text and critique the writing style before publishing. Some advice on text layout would also help. This looks like it was typeset in Office 95. On the other hand, it was cheap so good value.

I really can't recommend this as anything more than a cheap source of ideas to use in another game.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Starlight Manifesto
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Story Design [BUNDLE]
by Maria M. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/30/2018 18:47:27

I LOVE the story design bundle...I found it so helpful! It breaks down the different types of stories in a clear manner which really opened my eyes and insipred me. A few typos here and there but nothing that made it a problem, so I wouldn't let that deter you from buying it. I really appreciate the hard work that must have gone into putting this together. Thank you Dancing Lights Press for making this available, I feel I learned a lot!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design [BUNDLE]
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Story Structure [Black Box Edition)
by Dario T. N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/03/2018 02:44:52

This is a useful book, much more the less you know about literary story structure. Although spelling and grammar problems are annoying, they still let you read the book. However, there are some particularities I think should have been addressed differently. Just in case, I published a more in-deph review here.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Story Structure [Black Box Edition)
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Building Characters [Black Box Edition]
by Dario T. N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/03/2018 12:16:40

Although the misspelled words are annoying, the advices and almost hand-guiding instructions on character design are useful. Other works' advices usually feel too vague when trying to put them in practice, and that is where these ones will come handy. I wrote a longer review here.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Building Characters [Black Box Edition]
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Fighter Theory
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/23/2018 22:16:06

Before beginning, I should share that that I have quite a bit of familiarity with this author's past work (especially when it comes to revitalizing and redefining what it means to be "a fighter"). I have always considered this author to be something of an authority when it comes to exploring this concept and wanted to see what they would produce in a system-agnostic format.

This PDF is an extended essay on a common fantasy archetype that appears (in some form) in a wide array of compaign settings and rpgs: that of the common (or not so common) man-at-arms. After providing a (surprisingly flexible) definition of what it means to be "a fighter", the author explores two dozen common narrative threads that fighters occupy in both stories and campaign worlds, whether as protagonist, antagonist (or evil Player Character), or as NPCs. This material can be useful for players and DMs alike (especially when players need reminding that mechanically similar entities can be role-played in highly divergent ways) and the author pays attention to the way that fighters fit into the process of building campaigns. While much of the PDF may seem to assume the existence of a "typical" fantasy setting, The author spends time exploring how a "fighter" might fit into campaigns and rpgs with various genres, tones, and types of campaigns.

All of these nods to other settings and genres, however, reveal the one notable flaw I can see with the PDF. While this PDF claims to be system-agnostic, it still carries the fingerprints of games like D&D and Pathfinder. Without the knowledge that "the fighter" class coexists with "the monk", "the ranger", and "the rogue", for example, a reader may wonder why the book does not spare much thought on martial artists, bounty hunters, or assassins being fighters. Likewise, games that stray too far from the traditional fantasy world (such as Paranoia or Call of Cthulhu) may get a little bit less from this work.

On the whole, however, I enjoyed this work. It may be a bit of a niche product (espeically for its price) but if the underdog story of a common everyman with a weapon facing impossible odds holds a special allure for you, this may be up your alley.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fighter Theory
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Revelations in Cold Iron
by Bradley N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/24/2017 14:40:01

This system strikes me as being very similar to Designer X's Violence system; it seems more manifesto than actual game. It's a 200 page meandering diatribe that reads like a thinly veiled ANTIFA recruitment pamphlet and I have no idea how serious it is.

Is it playable? Yeah, the actual mechanics are dead simple and could probably be explained on the back of a napkin. Effectively, you bet a dice showing how much you want to succeed and then roll d20 plus any bonuses you have to the action you are undertaking. Higher than 10 on the d20 is a success and equal or lower is a failure. How "big" you can win or lose depends on the die chosen for effort. Like most "Storytelling" games it feels utterly toothless mechanically, just one level above sitting around a table and telling a story, occasionally flipping a coin to see if something works. This style of game has never been my cup of tea - I've always believed that stories in role playing should evolve organically in response to a ruleset rather than a ruleset existing for the sole purpose of occasionally resolving conflicts in a story - but even among storytelling games this ruleset is pretty uninspired. Fiasco this is not.

However, the largest point of contention I have here is the actual "Story" behind this storytelling game. Like most storytelling games the majority of the book is taken up by the author telling you the kind of story they want you to tell. They give you examples of antagonists, of the setting, of the sort of things you should be doing, the standard setups. There's a big emphasis put on the difference between objective and Subjective reality, with the core concept being that you can use "magic" to manipulate subjective reality. The spell list is a list of logical fallacies. Its a somewhat interesting idea I suppose, framing the ability of logical fallacies to manipulate the way a person sees the world as magic. It goes on to say that a cult of plutocratic politicians are using this magic to create a subjective reality of their choosing. They stop short of saying "Fake News" but I think you can get the gist.

The problem is that the game seems to have a heavy political leaning and I'm not sure how much of it is intentionally done from a semi-satirical standing and how much is honest. Its Poe's Law. Because there are mentions here and there that hint at a deeper understanding, such as the fact that the Cold Iron's attempts to restore reality to its objective form inherently involve the creation of subjective realities focused around their own pet causes. Does the author understand that both sides are prone to use of this "Dark Magik" that is logical fallacy? Is all the raving about the privileged rich, the valiant struggles of the creative, and the mind washed sheep done with a degree of self awareness or not?

If it is satire, its not very interesting satire. It has that core interesting idea but I don't feel like it does anything fun with it. You get that "Oh,I get it" moment of what they're doing and that's really it. If its really as unaware as it seems sometimes, then I feel kind of like I bought some sort of misguided manifesto masquerading as a RPG game. And I don't want to finance this guy and his eventual car bomb.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Revelations in Cold Iron
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Creator Reply:
"Does the author understand that both sides are prone to use of this \"Dark Magik\" that is logical fallacy? " Yup. "And I don't want to finance this guy and his eventual car bomb." Good call. ;)
Building Characters [Black Box Edition]
by Esteban M. V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/04/2017 03:38:44

First of all, I see how this book can help some people. It's certainly not useless. However, this book, like Story Setting by the same publisher, has many typos, feels a bit laundrylisty, and tries to fill in more pages when things could be described in a more concise way (eg. the Low/Below Baseline/Baseline/Above Baseline/High descriptions is used way too much and takes way too much space, and in most cases it doesn't feel useful to me). My personal highlight is the Types and Roles chapter. It's very good and it's a good reference and inspiration source to write characters. The chapters Aptitudes, Experiences, and Resources feel like fillers and I think they could have been a couple of pages each, instead of ~10 pages each.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Building Characters [Black Box Edition]
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Story Structure [Black Box Edition)
by Esteban M. V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/04/2017 03:16:07

First of all, I think this book can be useful for a number of people, especially if they are starting absolutely from scratch and they have never tried to write short stories or story-driven RPG scenarios. That said. It really feels a bit like a laundry list, and that some of the advice doesn't come so much from experience but from reading other books. Also, there are many typos which make it irritating to read. Finally, The Three-Tiered Series part (most of the book) feels like riffing on the first part, The Three-Act Structure. In short: not bad, but I expected much more.



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[2 of 5 Stars!]
Story Structure [Black Box Edition)
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Starlight Manifesto Season 1 Campaign Book
by Alex G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/21/2017 03:53:22

The first sourcebook for Starlight Manifesto, this book imagines a TV show, Starlight Manifesto. and offers an entire first season of 13 episodes, taking inspiration from a certain venerable US show with a cult following.

Reading this, I sensed that I was binge watching a show on Netflix which I could only describe as "What if Star Trek had been created by Berin Kinsman, Verity Lambert and J Michael Straczynski?" The adventures dance around some familiar landmarks of old Trek territory - one could see elements of one episode and think "I know where this one's going," only to be blindsided when the story suddenly veers off into something else. Imagine binge watching Trek on Netflix and getting as far as "Mudd's Women," with elements of "The Perfect Mate," and while you're at the front door getting the pizza delivery someone switches the episode to "Balance of Terror," and you'll get the general idea of what happens in this sourcebook (Note: actual gameplay differs from advertised footage).

The 13 adventures are designed as interlinked, although with a bit of tweaking they could be made more episodic, and episodes could be devised by the guide and inserted between these episodes, but it can be played with just these thirteen. The interconnectedness of these episodes, however, gives "Starlight Manifesto Season One" a modern feel, closer to Star Trek: Discovery than to the original series.

The titles of the episodes are inspired by Milton ("As Morning Shows The Day"), Shakespeare ("Naked Villainy," "What We May Be") and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ("The Schemer Falls"). Each title hints at what the episode will be about. The episodes bring in new and recurring good guys and bad guys, feature new equipment, aliens, hazards and strangeness. There is a sense of introductions - just as Star Trek had to introduce the regulars and the signature aliens such as the Romulans and the Klingons for the first time, and just as it had to introduce Vulcan mind melds, the neck pinch, the Vulcan salute and "Live long and prosper" over several episodes, so too does this sourcebook feature episodes introducing some of the signatures of Starlight Manifesto for the first time such as the Zyrosh, the Brocour, the Fringe Worlds, the Tel'Keth and so on.

In the original Star Trek, all the best episodes were in the first and second seasons, with one or two gems emerging from the mire that was season 3, and ignoring "The Omega Glory," "The Empath" and that one with the space hippies. Please let's not have an episode in a future season where the player characters are required to play a bicycle wheel as a musical instrument.

I'm hoping that future series will appear, exploring other episodes from this much-loved series from a universe where Gene Roddenberry had landed a role writing Mission: Impossible and Bruce Geller ended up as showrunner for a Star Trek where Martin Landau played Spock, and Harlan Ellison wrote "The Naked Time."

And now I feel like I just binge watched an entire Netflix season of the show. Bring on Season 2.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starlight Manifesto Season 1 Campaign Book
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Roleplaying Emotion
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/20/2017 12:57:14

'Roleplaying Emotion helps you to understand the character’s emotions within the context of the story goal, their personal goals, and their motivations. When this are going well, the character will express things like affection, contentment, happiness, hope, and respect. When things go poorly, they’ll express anger, disgust, fear, sadness, and shame.'

Having read the above blurb I expected a mechanic that took in game events and helped determine the character's emotional responce however there are no rules for this at all. It's a little tough to unravel and it took a while to realised all it is is a series of extra tracked stats that define the characters emotional state but no rules for what modifies the stat values.

The descriptions of emotions, their consequences, and how characters enact them are ok and the choice of stats seem to be broad enough to work.



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
Roleplaying Emotion
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Story Design 2 [BUNDLE]
by Jeff J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/08/2017 10:58:03

Warning, to enjoy this product you have to be willing to put up with spelling and grammar mistakes.

(Example: in Story Design- Decline and Fall; "The" instead of "They" near the top of page 10.)

That said, I am enjoying reading these PDFs. Every one that I read sparks ideas for possible stories. It makes for an interesting look at what is required for each type of story.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Story Design 2 [BUNDLE]
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