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Killshot Files #2: Bad Company
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/16/2013 09:38:01
There's a whole bundle of goodness here (Is 'goodness' the right word for something to do with assassination?) ranging from a discourse on the use of poison to developing specialisms and a complete scenario ready to run.

Delivered in the style of a regular training session (that is, were there an International Training School for the Assassin's Art), the article on poisons covers everything the well-educated killer needs to know about the art and science of ending the target's life through poison. Some can be so subtle that it appears that the target died of natural causes (so, how do you ensure you get paid for your work?) while others leave it perfectly clear what has happened and the trick is to make sure nobody discovers that it was you who administered it. Here you will learn how to select and deliver your noxious brew of choice with nobody being the wiser... and how to treat poisoning, it would be unfortunate to perish from your own poison after all!

For those who wish to develop their skills in this area, there is a new focus, the Toxician. Throughout, it is made clear how the rule mechanics apply to poison use. Note that this includes not just stuff that kills, but that which incapacitates the victim as well.

Next comes an in-depth look at the existing focuses (focii?) as given in An Assassin's Journal, the player's guide for this game. This also includes four new ones (not counting the Toxician above), but possibly more interesting are the thoughts on different variations of those core focii. This section was adapted from posts on the Broken Ruler blog and at times it shows, mentions of 'this week we look at' have been left in which makes reading it in one go as an article a bit odd. The points are good, though, and should enable players to develop their characters in all manner of interesting, not to mention deadly, directions.

This is followed by a new mark, a write-up of one Angela Berkowski. She's a college student, a good looker and a martial arts enthusiast... but comes onto our radar because her Dad is a homicide cop who has annoyed rather too many folks... and at least one is prepared to put the money on the table to see her out of this world to make her Dad suffer. Or maybe kidnap her to manipulate him... Dad's stats are given as well, he is likely to get involved in any attack on a daughter he dotes upon, after all.

Then comes Killer Elite: Specialties. This is for the assassin who is making his name in the trade: they know about you but what is it that makes you stand out from the rest? Again, jam-packed with mechanical advantages built around signature abilities developed as you hone your assassin's skills.

Finally, there's a complete Job to undertake, the titular Bad Company. This pits your crew of assassins against a hacker by the name of Thanatos who has apparently annoyed one big corporation too many with his information leaks to the public or competitors. Everything you'll need to run this Job is provided, with emphasis on putting the mechanics just where you'll need them as the Job progresses... and yet this is no railroad, you are equipped to deal with whatever the inventive assassins at your table propose. It's a tense and exciting job that requires plenty of subtetly to accomplish.

Cracking stuff here, whether for developing your Assassins or providing them a suitable Job to exercise their talents!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot Files #2: Bad Company
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Killshot Files #0: Retribution
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/31/2013 12:01:06
This tasty package provides a free introduction to Killshot. It's packed with information and background, an adventure, pre-generated characters and enough of the game mechanics to give the system a good test-drive. Written in a conversational, slightly breathless style, it is addressed to Directors (i.e. GMs) - so if you want to play, don't read this but give it to whoever you can persuade to run the game for you. Or bite the bullet, and run it for your friends. Your chance to play will come soon enough if you get enough people enthused about this game.

After some brief introductory remarks it launches into a swift, concise yet clear summary of how the rules work. The full rules, of course, contain a lot more (and examples of how each rule functions) but you will be able to get by with this, at least for an introductory game.

Next comes the pre-generated characters, five of them. Although they are pretty much playable straight off, some bits have been left blank to enable the players to customise them a little. Other bits are blank because they refer to rules that have not yet been discussed. The good thing is, most are covered in Killshot: An Assassin's Journal (the player rulebook) which is another free download, so once you get hooked you can grab a copy and add these bits in. There are also handy comments to guide players in the use and effects of various elements.

Finally, there's the actual adventure, or Job in game parlance. Everything is laid out clearly, with copious notes and sidebars explaining just what is going on and precisely how the game mechanics can be used to move things forward. It's an elegant example of a 'teaching game' in that by the time you have played through it, both Director and players should have a sound basic understanding of how to play Killshot... as well as a good idea of whether or not this game is for them, so that they can decide if they want to get hold of the full ruleset.

Yet even though it is a reasonably simple Job and pains have been taken to spell everything out, it is actually a good adventure in its own right with enough going on to keep you interested in the outcome of events, not just in understanding the processes involved in playing the game.

This one of the best examples of a "Quick Start" game I have seen in a long time. It's a good introduction to the concept and flavour of the game combined with an excellent tutorial in how to play it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot Files #0: Retribution
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Killshot: The Director's Cut
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2013 12:15:54
After an introduction in which the author speaks of how a car wreck gave him the time and focus to create this wholly-new game system, channelling all the frustrations of recovery into writing, we find that the book is divided into two distinct parts: An Assassin's Journal, aimed at players, and Direction, aimed at GMs (or Directors as they are termed here). These are also available separately, with the player section available as a free download - a neat idea for those setting up a group as only the GM needs spend any money at the outset.

The player section begins with a mostly in-character essay, You're Hired. This talks about the gritty and unglamourous world of the contemporary hired killer, the 'professional' who takes lives for no other reason than someone wants the target dead bad enough to pay. Leave morality outside: this is business, pure and simple, and to be played to the full, the game needs to be approached in a similar cold manner of doing a task, accomplishing set objectives and getting away with it. A liberating concept, but one where it's very important to remind yourself that you are playing a game and must put it away at the end of the session! Back to the game, it is not just the client who has to be satisfied if the assassin is to be paid, he also has to avoid the long arm of the law. Each kill will open an investigation, after all, so attention must be paid to ensuring that nothing can be traced back to you, the killer.

Stepping out of character the discussion moves on to look at how the game actually works, from the role of the Director to actual game mechanics. Pay attention because this is a novel mechanic and like any such, is more complex on paper than it is once you start to play with it. In short when attempting something for which you need to roll (a Dice Option), you roll a handfull of dice of different numbers of sides selected according to the skills, training, equipment and other circumstances that you bring to the party; and you are aiming to beat either a similar roll made by an opponent or a Director-set target. There are also Automatic Options (no die roll needed) and Defensive Options (declared in advance against something happening, e.g. an opponent attacking you). Each time you succeed, you get a Bonus Option and continue to do so until a roll fails. In a Series (sequence of events) one side has the Edge (takes the initiative and starts doing its thing) to begin with, but there are Triggers (preset events) that can flip the advantage of the Edge to the other side. There's a bit more detail, but that's the bare bones. If you are by now getting confused, there is an example of play complete with illustrations of the Tracker, a visual system using poker chips or similar markers to, well, keep track of everything. Whilst this can be a bit mechanical and detract from the flow of play, it's a good idea at least until the mechanics become intuitive.

Next comes a far more detailed analysis of the Optional System (the name for the game mechanic), which contains everything that you need to know to play to full effect. It's worth getting your head around this even as a player, else play will get bogged down as you attempt to succeed at the task in hand... and due to the nature of the game, you really do want to do not just your best but an exceptionally good job every time! Throughout, each chunk of rules information is illustrated with an example, which makes it relatively easy to absorb... but there is a lot to absorb. It's the very nature of this game that technical mastery of the rules will be key to success, an intriguing mirror of the way in which mastery of his trade is the key to an assassin's success... Interestingly, unlike many rules-heavy systems, this one complements role-play rather than detracting from it.

Character generation of itself is not detailed separately, it is woven seamlessly into the rules exposition. This gives you an intimate understanding of how each choice that goes into designing your character contributes to his ability to succeed... but does make it quite a slow process. To summarise, each character has abilities of Body, Sense and Mind. Then he has a Focus - Bomber, Burglar, Driver, Enforcer, Grifter, Hunter, Sniper, or Tech - the focus of his particular skillset and training. Then there options and reactions. These are not skills, they are broader concepts. Think of them as tradecraft, a term from the world of espionage which describes the range of tactics a trained spy brings to bear on the operation in progress. Options are the active things you do, reactions are the things you do in response to circumstances. Again, reading them through makes far more sense than a bare explanation of what they are. These are followed by the skills themselves. Finally there are traits (best considered once you have a few jobs under your belt and are beginning to understand how you operate) and gear: specialist kit, the right tools whatever the job.

That's the player section done. It's divided from the Director bit by a Tracker card and character sheet to print out.

Direction is all about how to make the game come to life. Not just to work mechanically, but to be enjoyable and challenging and exciting... It begins by attempting to define just what Killshot is - and is not. At core it is a very tactical game, player-characters will succeed best if they plan very carefully and then follow that plan (whilst of course retaining sufficient flexibility and the ability to think on their feet to cope with everything the Director throws at them!). But it can also be story-telling, role-playing... or a pure die-rolling contest where characters maximise their chances of success in a cold mechanical way. Or both. The aim of a player is clear, the aim of the Director is more nebulous, depending on the sort of game you want to run and to play... and, of course, depending on what YOUR players want out of it, but you know what they like better than any book author does. Here are the tools to help you provide a game all of you will enjoy.

These tools are provided in four main sections. First is about understanding the mechanics even better than players need to. Then there is the art and craft of creating the jobs, the assassinations that will be the focus of the game. Next comes everything else story-related that many characters won't even be aware of, but which enhance the game. Finally, there are three full-blown jobs to get you going.

The first part, Understanding Killshot, really lifts the lid on the hows and whys of the game mechanics that have already been introduced in the players' section. This understanding will help you internalise the mechanics, enable you to sit back and let them flow naturally as the game plays out. It's necessary in a game of this complexity, but making the effort will enhance play no end - without it, this ruleset could easily degenerate into a die-rolling festival with little role-playing go along. Whereas there are systems out there for which the same thing could be said, it is rare to see it addressed head-on along with the necessary tools and information to get past the issue and get back to it being a role-playing game with a task resolution system framework underlying everything. Just as the mechanics were introduced to players in an organic manner, so is this discourse presented in terms of what is going on at the gaming table, showing you how it all hangs together. Study it well. It's impressively well-done!

Next comes Building and Running Jobs. This looks at the underpinning structure of a job, to empower you to understand a pre-written one or create your own from scratch. It can be a mechanical process, the Director's job is to make it all come together as a coherent script that moreover doesn't appear to be scripted! Here your storytelling abilities come in to play, yet without a sound underlying structure it would be all too easy for the whole thing to go awry. All the nuts and bolts are here, though.

This is followed by Beyond the Job, which looks at the wider ramifications, the rest of the game. Anything from tracking what law enforcement agencies are doing about this spate of murders to the contacts the characters make, the scars they are left with or the tales that are told about them.

Finally, there are three whole jobs to try this all out on. You ought to be itching to round up some players by now, it is that compelling a concept with a ruleset honed to make it work. It's one of the best balances between mechanic and story concept I have seen for a long time.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot: The Director's Cut
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Killshot: The Director's Cut
by Nenad R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/11/2012 09:00:27
One of the thing I like about this game is its modern day setting, with no superpowers, psychic abilities, or supernatural critters.

The characters are all assassins, and play consists in trying to eliminate marks, normally for pay. The setting is not very detailed, but it seems to be in a modern large city, and the players are encouraged to set it near to where they live.

The system involves different types of dice, which are all rolled together, and added (there are dice for skills, equipment, focuse, etc...) Every roll is opposed by another , and the highest roll wins.

The system seems like it could get a bit confusing, especially as the amounts of dice grow.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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