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Macchiato Monsters ZERO
by Philip R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/17/2018 22:39:32

This is one more hack that pulls what they think is good from the white and black hacks and then adds a few things of it's own. There are a few things I see here that I don't see in other hacks. Macchiato Monsters ZERO does not have classes per say (I like that), and encourages you to tune characters by selecting desired abilities. Being able to add one attribute point per level seems high to other reviewer and my players, but the characters that do so are giving up extra attacks, hit points, spells and traits. Since you have to pick your level up benefits, you aren't really getting anything for free.

I tried using the combat training, but rather than the die type setting the weapon type that can be used, it degressed into just the damage done by that character. So a character with combat training d6 uses a mace at d6 and if their combat training goes to d8, that same mace is d8 and so on. This cuts down on the constant arms race shopping.

Of all the hacks, I like the magic system here, but the rules for setting spell's hit point cost seems a little hand waivey. I tell my players that a base spell is something like 1. instant 2. touch 3. d6 damage. This amounts to a d6 flaming touch. If they want more duration, range, or damage, they have to add more hit points. This concept is hard for my OD&D fans, because they still have it in their heads about regaining only 1hp per day. The characters can improve a spell on level up and can then increase duration, range or damage and keep it at the same hit point cost. I really like that a spell can be described as a "fire spell" and be used to create flaming hand, fire ball, column of fire, flame beam or whatever is needed and just adjust the cost.

I'm torn on the armor damage reduction. I like that it's variable and it's easy for me to visualize why it doesn't reduce the same damage all the time. I think the degredation rule is pretty harsh, and would definately encourage players to end the battle as soon as possible. If I used as it, i'd probably just degrate on a 1, maybe 1-2 for easy mode then 1-3 for hard mode.

It was worth the price for the parts that I use in my own hack, but I don't use these rules as written. I see it as an outline with some good ideas.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters ZERO
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Chthonic Codex
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/02/2018 12:50:01

Chthonic Codex is a great resource to either add to any campaign, or to build your own campaign around it. I'm using the Chthonic Codex implied and explicit setting for my campaign for about three years now, and it works well.

But this is not your typical lexicon style world book. The books themselves are artefacts of the game world and may reflect the convictions of unreliable narrators. But you get a bunch of unique monsters, a number of spell schools, various atypical magic items (for example the Hungry Idols: easy to make, relatively powerful, but also terrifying in their demands), and a number of generators for your own maps of environs and catacombs ...

The implied setting is inspired by greek/roman and medieval european ideas of how the world works. I strongly recommend it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chthonic Codex
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Macchiato Monsters ZERO
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2018 03:45:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This OSR-game clocks in at 34 pages, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD; two pages are devoted to the introduction and the game comes with a bunch of additional pdfs – I’ll get to those later. This review is based on V.1.1. of the system/book; V.1.0. is still included in the download as well. The pages are presented in a 1-column standard, suitable to be printed out in 6’’ by 9’’, though the bonus-pdfs, e.g. the die-drop-tables, should probably be considered to be standard size/A4 instead.

This review was sponsored and requested by one of my patreons.

Okay, so, the pdf freely acknowledges being basically a blend of the Whitehack and The Black Hack and clearly designates from which sources inspiration was taken; I do not assume familiarity with the two in the review. The system is a living beta and as such, feedback is appreciated by the author, with means of contacting provided.

Okay, so the basic mechanics are as follows: When you attempt something risky or dangerous, you roll 1d20 and attempt to roll under the respective ability score. 1s (critical successes) or 20s (critical fumbles) double the effects and may yield additional consequences. The system also employs disadvantage and advantage from 5e as mechanics, using the best or worst results, respectively. Dice-notation knows the concept of Risk-dice, or “dR” – a dR12 would, for example be a 1d12 risk die. This mechanic should be familiar to users of The Black Hack, but the implementation is pretty severe here: Basically, dRs decrease in die-size on a 1 – 3; if I rolled a 2 on a 1dR10, for example, further uses of the die would have the size decreased to 1dR8. 1s are worse than 2s, 2s worse than 3s for the purpose of interpreting the result. If a 1dR4 is reduced further, then you’ll notice in the specific rule how things become unpleasant.

Character generation is quick and painless – roll 3d6 in order for the traditional 6 ability scores, with the option to swamp two. You get to choose two of the following (the same option may be chosen twice; 0-level characters don’t get o choose): +1d4 to a stat that’s less than 10, an additional trait, an additional hit die. Alternatively, magic training yields you two spells. Combat training increases your hit die by one step (maximum d10) and specialist training nets you a 1/day ability. What’s a trait? Well, it is a form of customization drawn in aesthetics from the Whitehack, but more on that later.

Hit die is recorded: A d6. The maximum armor or damage die you can have is equal to the hit die type. Referees retain control on how damage dice interact with foes hit – whether the require more of them to be assigned or whether results are added together, etc.

The aforementioned trait-system basically define what the character is, does, belongs to and comes from; this nets you advantage or disadvantage on relevant non-combat situations. Characters with specialist training get a unique trick that mortals usually can’t attempt, which is also the only safe way to get advantage in combat; advantage may be traded by characters with specialist training for double damage. Starting languages are determined by checking all 3 mental ability scores – on a success, you get +1 language.

Each level, the character gets 2 of the following: +1 stat to a maximum of 18; You may gain one hit die, then reroll hit points; if you fail to exceed your prior hit points, you can spend 1 point of Constitution to reroll. You also may choose to learn a new spell, gain a mêlée or missile attack or a new ability (1/day) or increase an ability’s daily uses by +1/day. Levels 4, 7 and 10 also yield you another trait or training. Level gain is determined by the referee and players succeeding at goals.

Spellcasting is not easy on the characters: While there is a free-form aspect going on, it does have limitations: To cast a spell, you pay a hit points cost and roll a d20 under the mental attribute that best fits your concept of the spellcasting tradition the character adheres to. On a critical success, you don’t lose hot points. The cost may not exceed your current hit points and attempting to cast a spell with a cost greater than the level of the character in hit points imposes disadvantage on the check. Specialists can avoid disadvantage here with their abilities, but at the cost of disadvantage on other checks pertaining other aspects of magic. This basic system allows you to relatively easily take spells from other games and assign costs depending on hit points, allowing the referee pretty free control and guidance, if full-blown freeform is something you don’t relish.

Magic is also unstable, as represented by the chaos risk die. If you fail the spell check, but want something to happen, you roll it and check the results on a table. It should be noted that we have a dR here, usually one starting at 1dR12. This surge can similarly be modified rather easily, with the environments determining its size. Foci and components act as magic batteries (used instead of hit points) and similarly use risk dice to determine when they burn out.

The system provides a very much appreciated table for referees to determine suitable point-costs for spells, with decreased casting time, greater effects and imprecise wording etc. all adding to the costs. 3 sample spells also further elucidate on what is suitable and what isn’t. The rules for magical items are similarly painless, but bring me to another aspect of the game, one that may not necessarily be to everyone’s liking: While I can see precious few GMs complaining about the easy to develop and expand spellcasting engine (seriously, kudos for the guidance!), the system also uses the risk die mechanics to track mundane items and e.g. coin. The huge plus-point for groups that are annoyed by tracking the minutiae of equipment etc., is obviously that you don’t need to track the amount of an item you carry around. The system is simple here: You get to carry either up to Str or Con items; characters carrying Str+Con are encumbered (disadvantage) and halve traveling speed. Money is tracked in bags of coin, with lower-grade bags allowing for the upgrade to higher level bags – 1dR12 silver could be upgraded to 1dR4 gold, for example. You need the right coin to buy items, mind you. Anyway, this system is elegant and quick for games looking for that, but personally, it breaks my suspension of disbelief and annoys me. (No, that will not influence the final verdict.)

Why? Well, you basically have an indeterminate amount of money and this extends to supplies, torches, etc. This may be statistically elegant and make sure that PCs need to alternate strategies, but it also takes away the reward for properly preparing for an adventure; unlucky PCs may run out of e.g. ropes when traversing the Dungeon of Chasms, etc. Whether you like that or not depends, obviously, on your personal aesthetics, but as a person, I consider this to be intensely frustrating. That being said, the equipment section does offer a pretty wide array of sample guidelines there. For chaotic magic, the dR-mechanic makes sense; for mundane items? Less so. Basically, characters are constantly uncertain regarding how long supplies will last. You probably will either love or hate this; I place myself firmly in the latter category, but it’s a matter of aesthetics and what you’re looking for in a game.

Combat is unbureaucratic: You basically get one die-roll; no grid. How far can you move? Referee’s call. Strength governs mêlée, Dexterity ranged combat, etc. A central component of combat would be a tactical risk: You roll and on a success, you gain advantage on the next turn of whatever you attempted to set up; on a failure, you instead suffer from disadvantage and potentially other consequences. The section also mentions quick and dirty mass combat rules, just fyi – and yes, they are based on assigning risk dice to units.

Armor has a risk die as well: When first hit in a fight, you roll it: That’s how much damage the armor will soak in the fight. Shields help versus e.g. javelins and may be sacrificed to avoid e.g. dragon’s fire. At 0 hit points, you’re unconscious and bleeding; a successful Constitution checks makes that 1 hit point instead – but you also sustain a grievous wound, which mean you lose a level and thus two level-dependent advances. Whether and how to recover these is once more up to the referee. Yes, this means that combat is very, very deadly and can basically drop a single character several levels. The requirement to reduce benefits gained from levels is surprisingly clumsy as far as I’m concerned – you basically have to track the respective level-gain abilities and while the player has control over what’s lost (doesn’t have to be last level’s gains), this mechanic means that the PCs will probably not increase significantly in power. It also means that single PCs can be crippled far below the combat capabilities of their allies, which can potentially be somewhat frustrating, particularly for characters that enjoy diving into the fray.

Monster-creation guidelines are simple and assume a default d8 hit die, with fragile or tough monsters increasing that; the use of the risk die for dungeon-encounters, for example, is really nice and volatile, with 2s and 3s denoting monsters in the vicinity and 1s immediate encounters; risk dice below 1d4 denote dungeon events like alarm bells, etc. The effects of reactions and morale employ similarly the risk die mechanic; monsters in a frenzy may inflict, for example, double damage.

Overland movement assumes 10-kilometre hexes, with 4 hexes per day of travelling. Bad weather, forced marches etc. may modify that – and once more, the encounter mechanic is elegant. Anyways, PCs can btw. regain hit points via food, which makes sense to me. Followers and hirelings are also covered, just fyi.

Beyond these aspects, referees will certainly appreciate a smattering of 50 sample creatures (deliberately kept generic and easy to modify) as well as the handy conversion of fixed gold values to the coin risk die mechanic – makes running prewritten adventures easier. Variant rules for stamina and sanity are included as well, and the primary file closes with two handy worksheets.

We also get extra-files with the system: These include character sheets in English and French; the sandbox worksheet; another pdf contains 3 pregens that also explain how they were made in detail, acting as a nice way to illustrate the game’s character creation progress. The deal also comes with a 1-page city crawl rules-page, which sports crime and community risk die tables. The most massive of the different supplemental pdfs, however, would be the die-drop tables: Each of them covers 2 tables, with one presented for townspeople, one for plots, one for factions, one for adventure locales and one fo creatures. While the frame-work for the treasure/item-table is provided, this aspect is WIP and has not yet been filled.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of former glitches or verbiage in the rules-language that felt weird. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard. The pdf sports interesting b/w-artworks, with a uniform style that makes them look like silhouettes, often with coffee. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks for your convenience. The supplemental pdfs are similarly bookmarked, though the die-drop table-pdf has them labeled a bit oddly.

Eric Nieudan’s Macchiato Monsters Zero is an elegant system that has a lot going for it; if you’re looking for a variant of low-complexity gameplay à la Black Hack, it certainly fits the bill. The use of the risk die as a central mechanic means that it provides a volatile and potentially rather fun experience. The simple and easy to grasp rules can be explained in less than 5 minutes, which is a huge plus for such games. The game does not sport the same customization detail of Whitehack and the trait system, while acting as a stand-in of sorts, could probably use a couple of examples to illustrate some ideas there. While I am not a fan of the use of the risk die for mundane equipment, this remains a matter of taste. As a whole, MM: Zero is pretty volatile and lethal – I am not sure I’d use the game for longer campaigns or adventures, considering how relatively easily you can lose levels and benefits incurred – adventurer careers are likely to be relatively short and brief, which makes the game suitable and efficient for one-shots, convention games and brief campaigns, but as a whole, less rewarding for long-term campaigns. That being said, the low price point and overall concise and solid presentation make this worth checking out if the mechanics intrigue you. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters ZERO
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Macchiato Monsters ZERO
by Nicolas F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/12/2018 03:23:47

Having recently read the Black Hack and Whitehack, I have to acknowledge that Macchiato Monsters takes the best of both rules and turns them into a unified, streamlined OSR system that strikes a sweet spot between giving players freedom and constraining choices for the sake of balance. The classless system and the risk dice particularly stand out.

At the time of this review, only the Zero edition is available, and a number of problems remain. As harsh as the previous review by Todor P is, it is correct: the game is still rather poorly organized and laid out. It lacks internal consistency: I can really enjoy it and get the gist of it, but only because I've read the hacks on which it is based beforehand. It's a collection of cool rules, but it lacks solid guidelines and an internal structure. The language is decent but a few poor translations or formulations remain (the author is not a native English speaker).

A lot is left up to the GM, rules-wise. I'd appreciate more examples to shed light on the shadiest corners of the rules. For instance:

  • A more detailed combat section. There are no rules for helping, no rules for specific tactics, no rules for ganging up against an enemy. The paragraph on manoeuvers is minimalist and quite unclear. The "one d20 roll per turn" rule seems strange and it's unclear how it interacts with multiple attacks. The "complex turn" rule is excellent and I'll probably use it as a default option (roll several d20 and assign them to the actions you want to perform). In my mind there should be cases where you both deal and take damage, not always an "all or nothing" rule.
  • I'm a bit concerned with the difficulty for PCs with high ability scores. Since you can increase an ability score by 1 at each level, I could see some lucky PCs quickly reaching the max score of 18. It only gives them a 10% risk of failing the corresponding checks, 19% if they roll with disadvantage. It will never get harder for them, even in combat against more powerful opponents.
  • Improve the internal structure and layout. The rules are good but not always clearly explained. Examples are good, there could be even more of those!
  • A few random tables for magic items, spell names or specialist abilities would be much appreciated as well.

The last two points are apparently being addressed in additional files, with sample characters and random tables for NPCs, etc. I hope they turn out well. So far, it's still a beta version.

This will probably become my go-to game, with a few houserules maybe. But it's not objectively "great". If the points I mentioned are addressed in the final version, I'll gladly give it 5 stars. If not, it's not a polished standalone game and I can only recommend it to people who have already read the older hacks it build on.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters ZERO
by Todor P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/03/2018 05:22:19

An incomplete jumble of poorly laid out, poorly thouhgt out and poorly structured houserules for the Black Hack, that turn an elegant system into a halfway muddle that is neither narrativist nor traditional. There are far better, far cheaper TBH supplements out there that are actually worth a read.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
We are sorry you did not like Macchiato Monsters. The game is definitely incomplete, and we are quite open about it. The final release should come out before Spring Equinox 2018 (we are going to have a Macchiato Camp!). All purchases will get updated when the final release is ready. If you have more detailed feedback, please be in touch! We would love to hear more about your opinion and make it better.
Kefitzah Haderech - Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals
by Daniel H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/19/2017 17:15:11

If you're planning on running a campaign with planar and portal shenanigans, this is essential. The generator has flavorful and inspiring options that really get the creative juices flowing for DMs and GMs out there.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kefitzah Haderech - Incunabulum of the Uncanny Gates and Portals
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Adventure Fantasy Game
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/30/2017 07:19:41

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 102 pages of raw content once you take away ToC, editorial, etc. (101 if you don’t count the index). My review is based on the softcover print edition, fourth printing, 10th revision to be more precise. The book, as usual for OSR-games, is in 6’’ by 9’’/A5-format.

This review was requested by my patreons.

Okay, so Adventure Fantasy Game (AFG) can be considered to be an OSR-game, but it is one that strongly deviates from the roots of the game. The tag-line is “New School Mechanics – Old School Adventure Gaming” – sounds interesting right? Well, the first and most obvious deviation from e.g. Labyrinth Lord, S &W or LotFP would be that this system only employs d6s – it is based on the 5MORE-design of David Bowman. Its goal is to teach roleplaying quick and one of the best components of this book is the organization: Whenever you find yourself looking for rules, the book tells you where to find them. This begins in the introduction and is used to great effect throughout the book – this is easy to use.

So, 5MORE is simple: Roll 5+ on a d6 and you have a success. You gain +1 for easy tasks, -1 for hard ones; +1 for good ideas, -1 for bad ones, +1 for high relevant stat, -1 for low relevant stat, +1 for good equipment, -1 for bad equipment. 1 is an absolute failure, 2 – 4 are regular failures. That’s the core of the system.

Characters are defined by 3 Stats: Physique (PHY), Craft (CRA) and Spirit (SPI). You roll 3d6 for each, but bad rolls are less important in AFG than in comparable OSR-games. These stats know three grades: All values of 8 or less are low (-1 to 5MORE rolls), all above 13 are high (+1 to 5MORE rolls).

Low Physique means you have to two-hand all melee weapons; high adds +1 Additional Hit to melee damage.

Low Craft makes reading and writing difficult, high Craft nets +1 spell known.

Low Spirit means that you’re likely to be hit by random effects (unlucky), while high Spirit nets you +1 Mana and a 1/session die reroll.

Hits represent how much punishment the character can take. They are determined by the Way (i.e. class level) taken.

Level is measured from 1 to 12 and is used to categorize PCs and threats.

Tiers are the character’s status in the setting; Up to level 3, characters are tier 1; level 4 – 6 = tier 2, level 7 – 9 = tier 3 and level 10+ characters are tier 4.

AFG knows three ways: The Way of Magic would be the caster class; 1d6 Hits per level. 1st level spellcasters know 3 spells: Unveil Arcana (AFG’s detect magic) and a spell of level 0 and 1. They start with 1 Mana and for each level gained, the caster gains an additional Mana and learns a new spell of one spell level higher – at 2nd level, you learn e.g. a second level spell. Spells may be researched, but more on that later. Mana replenishes after 6 hours good sleep, but each spell may only be cast ONCE per 24 hours. Spells are written down in Grimoires – while this evokes the traditional wizard’s spellbook, it make well take other forms. The caster engine also features two important items: Talismans allow a caster to cast the spell associated with the talisman an additional time per day, while Mana Vessels are basically Mana batteries. Casters can’t cast in armor and are not trained in armor and shields. Spells that require concentration only allow a caster to move 10 feet per round and any tasks beyond the painfully mundane requires a Stubbornness save to avoid breaking concentration. Non-instantaneous/non-permanent spells can be prolonged by expending additional Mana.

The Way of Steel nets 1d6 + 2 Hits per level in the way of steel. Hits are tied to fighting skill (more on that later) and way of steel characters may later develop or learn secret weapon techniques. These fellows are obviously trained in armor, shields, etc.

The Way of Arts would be the specialist/thief (called practitioner here), who gains 1d6 Hits per level and is trained in light armor, but not shields. As skill specialists, they can distribute 5 EXPERT letters per level. They also may actually earn a modest living without murder-hobo-ing. Characters can freely multiclass, which allows for e.g. armored casters, though there are limitations in play to avoid abuse.

At first level, casters and practitioners roll 2d6 and pick the best result; fighters roll 2d6, pick the best result, and then add +2 o determine the Hits at 1st level. (Yes, you may end up having just 1 Hit.) Hits are regained at a rate of 1 Hit per day, though spells and medical assistance may hasten that. Temporary damage is recovered as a rate of 1 Hit per hour of non-strenuous activity.

Upon gaining a level, you roll one die for ALL levels attained (fighter add +2 per fighter level) and compare the result with your previous maximum – you keep the higher version. The German old-school RPG Midgard employs a similar mechanic and it works remarkably well to even out the playing field, while keeping the power-curve relatively flat.

If your Hits go to 0, you keep tracking negative Hits. You roll 1d6, add your negative Hits and consult a table – on 14 you’re dead, otherwise broken bones, scars etc. can happen. If you’re staggered, you can’t act, defend at -1 and roll an extra d6 on that table when dipping below 0 Hits.

AFG assumes a silver standard: 1 silver thaler (abbreviated as “t”) is worth 12 silver pennies, is worth 48 copper farthings. Gold coins are uncommon and may be worth 4d6 t. starting equipment is provided in a simple manner. There you go, character creation and basic rules in 5 minutes. (Probably 10 for roleplaying newcomers.)

Now, how are tasks resolved? Well, 5MORE, as per the rules depicted above. However, there is an additional component that also reminded me of Midgard: When you succeed at any given 5MORE task, you roll a d6. On a 5 – 6, you roll an Experience Roll. If that roll comes up as 5 or 6 as well, then you add an EXPERT letter next to the task. First time an “E”, third time a “P” – until you spell out the word EXPERT. This means that the character gains +1 to all 5MORE rolls with that task. After you’ve become an EXPERT in six Tasks, you can claim the title MASTER for one of your EXPERT skills. You erase the EXPERT letters and instead write down MASTER – in this one skill, you get an additional +1 to 5MORE rolls. The book provides a variety of sample tasks, but encourages groups to come up with their own array of tasks – this allows you to emphasize or de-emphasize breadth of skills as desired.

If a task would require more than 6 to succeed, it requires a 6, plus an additional 6 for each point above 6 – so a task with a difficulty of 8 would require three consecutive 6s to succeed.

Saving throws are rolled as 5MORE-tests, but they are modified by the character’s Tier – 2. First level characters thus save on 6+. AFG uses 5 saves: Alertness, Awareness, Toughness, Stubbornness and Morale. Saves are Tasks and can accumulate EXPERT letters and you may become a MASTER in one of them.

AFG has two different combat-engines. Base damage in both is 1d6, +1d6 for each point of FC; wielding a two-handed weapon with high PHY adds +1d6. Armor comes in 4 categories and decreases your speed.

The first of the systems is called 5MAIL. Akin in structure to THAC0, this means that you need 5+ to hit chainmail, less against targets with less armor, more than versus better armored targets. Simple.

Skill at arms is measured by Fighting Capability (FC). 1st level characters have FC 0, and a character’s FC is equal to the character’s Tier minus 1. Additional Hits (the +2 Hits gained by fighters) also increase FC, as per a table. Every 4 additional Hits increase FC as though the character level is +1 higher. Melee, Block and Missile are Tasks like any other. A 5MAIL combat round takes 6 seconds grouped in 4 phases. It should be noted that each character can only act in ONE phase. Melee phase lets you attack, charge (move twice melee speed, attack at +1, but that bonus also applies to the target of the charged foe), shield block (negates a successful attack on 5MORE. Then comes the Missile Phase: Cover and Range decrease 5MAIL rolls. In the Manoeuvre Phase, the character can move up to twice their melee speed. Magic Phase is last – here, spells are cast. Spellcasting must be announced at the start of the round, one round in advance for spells that take longer, etc. If the spellcaster takes damage before finishing the cast, the spell and Mana is lost.

In 5MAIL, armor reduces the chance of being hit.

The second system is FIGHTMORE; it sports the same phases and basic structure, but melee is a contest of FC, with a potential for both contestants hitting their target. This makes the combat, obviously, not more complex – just more swingy. Charge in the system is also more volatile, adding a bonus damage die to damage dealt and received. In FIGHTMORE, armor reduces damage incurred by 1- 3, depending on how heavy the armor is. Personally, I think FIGHTMORE is a bit ironically named – if anything, players will want to fight less, considering that the results are more unreliable and not necessarily more complex or rewarding. Just my 2 cents, btw.

There are a couple of optional rules for shield smashes, morale or hacking through mooks. More rewarding would imho be the alternate rules for different weapons: Flails e.g. can’t be blocked by shields, spears inflict damage first, etc. – this aspect is probably the best component of FIGHTMORE.

The book also provides means to tweak the combat engines.

As a roleplaying game book, AFG provides values for hirelings, travel, equipment, etc. It should be noted that searching for hidden things is done EXCLUSIVELY by the players – no task is assigned to it, so if you don’t think of checking that chest for a secret compartment…well, though luck. That’s one aspect I really like.

Now, as faith is concerned, AFG uses the term Venerable as a catch-all for godlings, spirits, deities, demons, etc. Venerables are appeased by Worship, by Henosis (emulating them) and Charisma is the term employed for being favored by the venerable. Some sample cults, from Cthulhu to Dove (Queen of the Underdogs) and Saint Eleuther (savior of the lost) are provided and feature some nice, quirky and interesting angles.

As you may have gleaned by this aspect, we have now wholly entered the more complex aspects of AFG, with spell research and design rules being per se not bad, but rather complex – on the plus side, the system does emphasize the serious benefits of having assistants/apprentices – I strongly recommend spellcasters to invest in them when researching. Spells have a range, casting time and duration as well as a spell-level, which may reach from 0 to 12. 9 example spellcasting traditions are provided, most of which sport 1 spell per level, though e.g. Goetia only extends to level 6, while dendromancy only comes with a level 0 and level 1 spell. That being said, conversion from OSR games (and current games), should be pretty easy. AFG does emphasize magic as less of a damage dealer and more as a wondrous tool, which, in general, is something I applaud.

Now I did mention combat secret techniques – while also complex, something you design yourself, etc., these are much more basic than spells. They prevent you from gaining MASTER in a Task, but increase your Hits. Yeah, I was also rather underwhelmed. Neoclassical Geek revival has, system-immanently, a significantly more interesting melee system.

Experience is btw. gained by securing (and escaping with) treasure troves and by achieving character (and party) accomplishments. The book also features tier-based rules for holdings, a monster-generator and a brief magic item generator.

The final section of the book is devoted to a 14 page hexcrawl-y adventure sketch; the map is pretty small on the page and no player-friendly version is included, but its premise is interesting: What if Switzerland had volcanoes, a temple of Cthulhu and some messed up critters. The adventure, while featuring a cool premise, is ultimately just a sketch you need to expand and develop – as provided, it is a skeletal structure of a nice region to adventure in, but you can’t use this well for go-play style gameplay.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious accumulations of issues on a formal or rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, with artworks being a combination of a few original b/w-pieces and thematically-fitting public domain sources. The softcover is…well, a solid softcover. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the pdf version.

Paolo Greco’s AFG is a weird little system and I frankly am not 100% sure for whom it was made; on the one hand, you have a really simple, fun, rules-lite foundation with 5MORE and its 5MAIL combat. On the other hand, FC calculation is, to me, a bit more obtuse than it should be – when I pick up a rules-lite game, I expect such a central aspect to be…simpler? At the same time, the system tries to account for more complexity for veterans, with spell research, FIGHTMORE etc. endeavoring to capture new-school options. In that latter aspect, the game, at least in my opinion, fails. Apart from the nice peculiarities of weapon groups, FIGHTMORE essentially makes me want to fight less – very swingy results can be very frustrating in the long run, and honestly, from shield-bashing to charging, the “tactical” options feel like they were jammed into a rules-corset that is simply not designed to account for vast complexity. That is not to say that it doesn’t work; that’s just to say that I fail to see the appeal.

When I want brutal complexity, I play PFRPG. When I want to play OSR with new-school combat that sports serious tactical depth, I wholeheartedly recommend Neoclassical Geek Revival. So yeah, the “New School mechanics”-component here…not that well done.

That being said, AFG does have serious value, as far as I’m concerned – at least for a very specific target demographic. When used as a rules-lite RPg for beginners, it’s easily taught, plays fast and is, ultimately, fun. And if you absolutely want to play a campaign with a d6-only system, it has the tools to make that happen without becoming bland. While I maintain that the more advanced rules feel a bit tacked on to the simple chassis, they do help to keep player interest in the long run. If you’re e.g. a fan of Kort’thalis Publishing’s offerings, but fear that their default VSd6-engine (which, I maintain, works best for one-shots and brief mini-campaigns) will prove boring for your players in the long run, then AFG will be exactly what the doctor ordered! Slightly more complexity, but not that much.

Now, as a person, this system ultimately did not resonate with me; I appreciate the components of flavor here and there and some aspects of spell research (if not the entire system), but, as a whole, this didn’t really do anything for me. As a reviewer, though, I can see the appeal this system can have for some groups out there and it is NOT a bad system! The organization etc. is simple, efficient and I can see people having fun with it. Still, the nagging feeling remains that this would have benefited from being two systems – one simple and one complex. The “complex” components herein tend to be underwhelming, also due to the space available. Focusing on one type of gameplay would probably have been the more prudent decision. In the end, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars. Usually, I’d rate up due to in dubio pro reo, but considering the very specific demographics, I feel that this is closer to 3 stars than 4, also since fans of really rules-lite games will probably consider a couple of the more complex components…well…too needlessly complex.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Fantasy Game
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Into the Odd
by Kevin C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/28/2017 17:21:40

This is the most inspiring RPG product I have ever purchased. I do not know how such terse, concise writing can infer and contain so much. If you want a taste of the style and content, visit Chris McDowell's blog at soogagames dot blogspot dot com (or google "Into the Odd Blog"). If you enjoy The Black Hack you will also probably enjoy Into the Odd.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Odd
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Chthonic Codex
by Cenate P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/30/2017 11:10:46

It's a campaign setting! It's a bestiary! It's a whole new way to handle magic in your campaign setting! It's a low-calorie dessert topping! It's Chthonic Codex!

The DIY/manapunk aesthetic of Lamentations of the Flame Princess meets Potter-style wizard school shenanigans. The closest RPG supplement I can think of to the Codex is GURPS: Illuminati University, another book about students at a ridiculous university where hoary old traditions hold sway but limitless power and ineffable weirdness wait in the wings.

You get a couple of things suitable for plugging into any OSR-type campaign:

  1. About thirty new monsters, ranging from animated blobs of magical tar to origami golems to animated lecterns made from and powered by the corpses of dead apprentice wizards.
  2. Multiple new schools of wizardry, including the old standbys of "necromancer" and "fire wizard" but also some more interesting options like astrologers and artificers. Includes spells, research rules, etc.
  3. Pages upon pages of random charts to generate locations, quests, magic items, and the like.

If you're like me, and wanted to build a campaign world from scratch by bolting together a bunch of Weird OSR content that appealed to you, this is a must-get. The magic system is fantastic, the creatures are clever, and the general aesthetic of the thing is entertaining.

About the only real issue here is that the layout is kind of weird - bestiary up front, magic schools in the middle, everything else kind of shotgunned here and there.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chthonic Codex
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Macchiato Monsters ZERO
by Troy H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/28/2017 11:32:21

This tight little OSR-indie game combines the spiciest bits of The Black Hack and The White Hack, and then throws in some flavoring of its own to create a delicious stew of low-prep, quick-to-learn, quick-to-run, caffeinated fantasy gaming.

The two bits I like best about MM is the risk die and the way characters are built.

The risk die comes to MM by way of TBH's usage die, but the scope of the risk die is expanded quite a bit in MM. At base, risk dice are used for things in the fiction that are expendable, brittle, dangerous to use, etc. You assign a die, anything from a d12 to a d4, to an object. When the object is used/tested in play, the risk die is rolled. On a result of 1-3, the die is replaced with the next smallest die in the d12 to d4 run.

The second thing I like best about Macchiato Monsters is the way characters are built. No classes or races, per se! Building a character is like buffet shopping from a list of possible stat upgrades, traits, and abilities. This leads to character concepts you will see nowhere else in fantasy gaming. I mean, "weird" for a D&D game is a gnome illusionist or a dwarven thief, right? Weird for MM might be a living construct that has modular parts and electrical spellcasting. Of course you can still play the old staples too, but the system really supports your creativity in this regard.

All in all this is great stuff. I know it's an evolving work, which is a good thing. Eric Nieudan is still in love with it and is adding things like creative map generators and other tools to it on a fairly regular basis.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters ZERO
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Marvels & Malisons
by Tore N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/22/2017 08:11:58

A collection of fun and creative magic, using the brilliant level-less magic rules in Wonder & Wickedness. Some of the magic schools are idiosyncratic, but is never silly.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvels & Malisons
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Macchiato Monsters ZERO
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2017 23:13:19

Macchiato Monsters is a fun, lightweight system that captures the feel of classic D&D in just 34 pages -- and that includes the cover, OGL, worksheets, and 50 monsters! The classless system allows you to build a character that fits your concept, providing they live long enough, of course. Combat tends to be fast, and at low-levels it can be qutie deadly. If you're looking for an OSR game that welcomes players using their creativity rather than what's written on their character sheet, Macchiato Monsters is worth checking out.

While it's not the first game to use a risk die (roll a die of a certain size, if you roll a 1-3, the die size steps down the next time you use it), I believe it features the most extensive use of this type of die in any game I've come across. Personally, I like this mechanic as it provides for careful resource management without having to individually track every coin, crossbow bolt, and ration.

The spell system reminds me of Vance's Polysyllabic Verbalizations from 13th Age or the ritual system from that game. Players have a lot of leeway in what effects their spells will have. There's a risk to failing to successfully cast a spell, however. It's not quite as gonzo as Dungoen Crawl Classics' consequences, but it adds an element of risk/reward when casting spells.

I'm amazed by how much content is packed into this book. It offers these little rules that are only a paragraph or two in length and cover a broad spectrum of scenarios that come up in a typical fantasy game. Morale, mass combat, random encounters, NPC reactions, chases, wilderness travel, retreating from combat, determining the weather, hirelings, sanity, stamina, and other subsystems are all provided in a consice manner. Often, the rule can be written with few words thanks to the nearly universal use of the risk die.

Even when I run other systems, I like to use Macchiao Monsters as a quick reference for how to handle situations. For example, I wanted to provide a unique magic item to a player recently, and assigned the item a risk die, rather than a set number of charges. Watching him weigh wether or not each use is worthwhile adds an interesting strategic twist that wouldn't be there if charges were simply be deducted from a total.

In a sense, this book is like a minuscule Rule Cyclopedia. It covers a broad range of situations in a small package.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters ZERO
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Macchiato Monsters ZERO
by Ali B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2017 19:00:39

(Disclaimer: I had the chance to do some playtests for the game and my name appears in the special thanks section.)

As many others tabletop gamers, I have a long history of love and hate with D&D. When OSR became a thing, I got really excited at the prospect of unearthing old modules and play the way our ancestors did.

But despite all the different rulesets available, I found myself still looking for the perfect fit for my tastes and GMing style.

Then came Eric Nieudan and his new game Macchiato Monsters. See, Eric is a smart guy and talented Game Designer: with his game, he managed to hand pick some of the best mechanics that came out of the DIY D&D scene these last few years, added some of his own, and blended them in a way that makes sense.

  • The game is expressive, thanks to its classless and Trait-based character creation system and freeform magic.

  • It's easy to manage, thanks to the "Risk Die" mechanic. Basically, the author took the "Usage Die" from The Black Hack, and applied it to almost every variable values of the game: Consummables, Armor Ratings, Money,...

  • It's fast paced, thanks to the player-facing, roll-under resolution system.

  • The game is easy to GM, thanks to the Advantage mechanic (à la The Black Hack/D&D5), and the Risk Die to handle states changes (weather, chaos, morale, troups, sanity...)

  • And the game supports Lazy/No-Prep or Sandbox GMing style thanks to all the tools provided. Random tables, drop tables, procedural hex-map generator, encounters, factions, plots, treasures... The game comes with batteries included : everything needed to play on-the-go, or to populate the map between sessions is there.

Of course nothing is perfect in this world, and the game comes with a few flaws : risk dice can be somtimes hard to track when you are using too many of them in your game. Also this ZERO version, despite being fully playable, is still a preview : some parts are still rough or missing, and some tables deserve a few more words to explain how to use them IMHO.

But fear not: there's already more than enough content for you to play with for months. And the author provides regular updates everytime he finishes a new part.

For the price of a cup of coffee (at least in Paris!), you definitely should treat yourself and purchase this game!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters ZERO
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2017 03:28:26

(Re-posted from https://oliof.blogspot.de/2017/06/quick-review-macchiato-monsters-zero.html)

Macchiato Monsters ZERO is a hack of hacks (Black Hack and White Hack, neither of which I know myself). It has some nice mechanics that a both tight and loose, comfortable in a word. The game is complete, has some nice mechanics (I like the death-spirally/doom-clocky risk dice, and the roll all the dice fast equipment generation method). I guess some people will take umbrage with the single-die-roll-combat resolution (players roll and do damage on success/take damage on failure), but I guess that is more about how that feels ... Dungeon World players might feel right at home.

The recently added Extra Shots has a number of referee facing tools that uses the resource die mechanic to have semi-dynamic encounter / event tables: The worse the circumstances, the lower the die size, the worse the result. It's nice that in the current work-in-progress the extra shots each fit one page.

There are also some in-progress die drop tables which are another bunch of tools for quick off-the-cuff prep in the macchiato-fantasy, which is described as "borderlands style" (i.e. exploration of dangerous mostly unknown area, plus safe havens/points of light to return back to).

The map generator deserves extra mention because it is not purely random but somewhat procedural. This promises somewhat more natural looking maps.

Macchiato Monsters is probably the system I will use for short-notice games (at conventions or similar). I am also seriously considering mashing it up with Wonder&Wickedness for a Principalities of Glantri vs. The Grand Schools of the Hypogea spinoff of my current campaign; i.e. Make Total Destroy with Nuclear Powered Lich Mages discovering Hypogean Mana Tar ...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mageblade! Zero
by Tore N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/08/2017 13:57:01

A brilliant and light-weight fantasy rpg. While it owes something to THE fantasy rpg, it has flavor and interesting rules-choices, and does not feel like 'yet another OSR game'. Mageblade is pleasantly terse, and works well as a rules-reference, without being dry or bland. For me Mageblade strikes a balance between hardcore let-the-dice-fall-as-they-may old school gaming, and giving meaningfull and fun choices during character generation.

The game is built so that it complements Lost Pages' two brilliant magic sourcebooks (Wonder & Wickedness and Marvels & Malisons) but does not requre them. As I own these two (and recommend them as well) I see that as a plus.

(And I'd put that Joson Sholtis cover on my wall if I could).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mageblade! Zero
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