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Sengoku: Revised Edition
by Brian P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/08/2016 12:33:48

I've owned this game for a very long time--at least a decade, I think--but until now I've never read it cover to cover. Part of that is just because of how incredibly dense the text is. Most people, even if they're familiar with Japan, aren't going to know all that much about the Sengoku period, which differs from the modern idea of Japanese history in a number of ways. Part of that is because, as with most purely historical games, it can be really hard to find an audience that wants to immerse themselves in another period where we mostly do know how people behaved and there can be a nagging feeling that you're playing "wrong" if you don't use the right forms of address for the daimyo's wife or if you fail to bow when meeting a superior on the road, or whatever, so I concentrated my reading on games that were more likely to see play. But having read though it all, I'm glad I did, even if I never run it as written. I can absolutely see why Sengoku gets so much praised lavished on it.


Setting
I don't know of any stronger way to put this--Sengoku's setting is Sengoku Japan, to the extent that you could probably use this book to study for a test at a college-level class on Japanese history. There are hundreds of pages of incredibly in-depth setting information on essentially everything you could ever possibly want to know about life during the Sengoku era. Lists of the provinces and major cities of the time. Descriptions of daily life, food, and clothing. Titles and forms of address. Religious rituals. Extremely detailed lists of armor and weapons. A Japanese calendar and list of month names for extra immersion. Tables of random names and name elements. Honestly, even if you hate the system, the book is worth buying for anyone who wants to run a game set in historical Japan, because while there are rules sprinkled in here and there, most of the fluff is just fluff and can be lifted wholesale for use with another system.


In service of that fluff and setting the proper mood, every page has a quote from a historical Japanese figure below it. A lot of them are from the Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, but there are a handful of other often-quoted figures as well. Something like:



...those who keep death always before their eyes are strong and healthy while young, and as they take care of their health and are moderate in drinking and avoid the paths of women, being abstemious and moderate in all things, they remain free from disease and live a long and healthy life.
—Daidoji Yuzan

does a lot more to help set the mood than a dry description of the samurai mindset would.


There's a lot of effort given to point out the differences between the popular conception of historical Japan and the reality, too. For example, ramen, sushi, tenpura, sukiyaki, melonpan, and nearly all of the other famous modern Japanese dishes didn't exist at that time, being invented during the Edo period or even later. Wooden floors were more common than tatami, which was used in audience chambers or important rooms, but not all throughout the house. Christianity, and Christian missionaries, were a weak but growing force in Japanese politics, and the tension between Christian and non-Christian daimyo was a real force.


The focus is mostly on historical Japan, but there is a bestiary with a lot of creatures from Japanese mythology for people who want to have a more fantastic game. There's also a section on magic, but in keeping with the historical feel it's all presented as prayers--"magic" is the result of the kami or the Buddhas acting on behalf of those who ask their aid, not like the typical fantasy view of a sorcerer.


There's a lifepath system for making characters, and I mention it here instead of in the System section below because it's entirely fluff. It has a lot of events to help develop each character's story, like having their entire family commit seppuku in disgrace or being disowned by their lord and forced to become a ronin.


Finally, there's an extensive bibliography with dozens of books and probably over a hundred films, and a full glossary of all the terms used in the book. It's easy to see exactly why the information here is so dense if that's the research that Anthony J. Bryant did to write it.


System
Sengoku uses the Fuzion system, which I knew almost nothing about other than the name. And that runs into the main problem with Sengoku--its organization is awful.


Concepts are constantly introduced before they're defined or explained. I was reading about bonuses and penalties to rolls before I knew what the character attributes were, or indeed how rolls were determined, since the basic mechanic of 3d6 + stat + skill vs. a target number or another character's roll isn't defined until over halfway through the book. The weapons and armor section is before the combat rules. In the fluff section, when it's talking about duels I learn that backing down from a duel costs "2K honor," and I start wondering if Honor is tracked in the thousands so that even small infractions cost points, and maybe bowing at a 50 degree angle instead of a 55 degree angle to the daimyo costs 15 honor. This obviously is not the case, but I had no way of knowing that until later.


There are three given power levels for games: Historical, Chanbara, and Anime. The only difference is the limit on character traits at character generation and how many points beginning characters have to make their characters, however, and some brief guidelines about what kind of traits or level of magic is appropriate for each tier.


Since Sengoku is mostly about ordinary people, a lot of character differentiation is based on skills. Oh sure, there are secret arts and Ki powers and magic, but those are relatively rare, even if ordinary people can spend Ki in much the same way that Luck or Fate points work in other games. Instead, there are an enormous amount of skills, including such luminaries as Go and Falconry and Cosmetics and Lacquering. I mean, I understand that aesthetic appreciation is incredibly important if you're a member of the Japanese Imperial Court aristocracy, but how often is a PC going to roll Silkworm Raising during the game? That's the kind of skill that you take because it's part of your background and then it never gets rolled, but there's no actual differentiation and everything is placed on a level playing field.


There's a huge list of advantages and disadvantages, which are modified by severity, frequency, and importance to the story. For example, Cowardice isn't really a problem for the commoners, but for a samurai it's crippling. This does involve a lot of calculation, including multiplication and division, and while it's all done before game, it seems like it would make character creation pretty complicated. Not to mention that the disadvantages are all of the "get points up front and it's up to the GM to bring them up during play" type, which is almost always worse than the kind that it's the player's job to bring up during play, just because there are more players than GMs, so if the players are incentivized to play up their own disadvantages it takes a load off the GM's back.


Combat, by default, is incredibly deadly. Weapons do an average of 2d6 to 4d6 damage, plus more for the wielder's strength, and the average person can take 15 damage before dying. Armor is absolutely necessary to survive more than one combat. On the one hand, this does model the various "two samurai face each other, both draw and strike, one dies" moments in Japanese media, but it means that PCs will have a rough time in combat without a lot of underhanded strategy, which is incredibly dishonorable for samurai, or a lot of luck.


The special powers list is relatively short and no real guidelines are given for making new ones. Okuden (secret arts) is the longest, and includes stuff like jumping long distances, throwing multiple shuriken with a single hand, parrying by grabbing a sword with the palms as it's descending, and so on. Ki arts has telekinesis, mystical armor, and making someone's senses less acute. Magic is mostly blessings and curses, though there are some overtly supernatural prayers like transforming into smoke for the mountain-dwelling shugenja hermits who are a bit more sorcerer-like. The neat thing about magic is that not every tradition can use every prayer. Shinto priest, who suffer religious pollution from contact with death or blood, can't cure wounds or diseases, for example, and Buddhists priests can't affect the natural world to nearly the degree that others can.


Sengoku as a game system has its problems, and maybe they wouldn't have stood out to me as much if I had been more familiar with Fuzion. The organizational issues would remain no matter what system was being used. The fluff is incredible, though, and it's more than enough reason to read it, especially if you have any interest in Japanese history or want to set a game in ancient Japan. And how many games would have



GMs should discourage players from wanton acts of seppuku.

written in them? Honestly, that kind of attention to important setting immersion should be rewarded, don't you think?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sengoku: Revised Edition
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A Hostile World
by Sylvia R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/09/2015 05:51:04

An excellent product! It's absolutely packed full of useful information, beautifully laid out and illustrated. It has rules for getting lost, conditions and hazards for every type of terrain, all kinds of weather conditions, a section on other hazards - heat, cold etc and even a list of survival equipment. Find out about forest fires, the hazards of the marshes, moving through hills, desserts and plains, avalanches in the mountains, and being swept away by water. If you're looking to perk up a journey or just for more things to throw at your PCs this will keep you going for a long time. And all for 99 cents (on sale)



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Hostile World
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San Angelo: City of Heroes 1.5 (M&M Superlink, Action!)
by James C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/10/2014 12:10:11

This is one of the best game aids I have ever purchased. Extremely user friendly.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
San Angelo: City of Heroes 1.5 (M&M Superlink, Action!)
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Gunslingers: Wild West Action!
by Chet C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/18/2013 00:08:25

This may be one of the best uses of the (late?) Action system that I've seen. It gives a very 3-dimensional feel to tactics and movement, and actions really do have consequences.


Action has taken some hits in the past for not emphasizing role play itself. The templates and the chapter on Individualizing Your Character takes care of much of that, but the player IS going to have to do their share of the work. It is all too easy to bring the hack attitude into the Wild West mythos. Here is where many of the tools for the gamesmaster come in. The system does reward the player for playing "in character," and does it pretty well. Shucks, ma'am, it's even fun to create characters in Gunslingers. Haven't had this much fun creating a character since Traveller!


Yep, there are some amusing spelling errors. I'm fairly sure that when Mark says "Each player should select a cultural decent from where his character’s forefathers originated," that he really meant "Each player should select a cultural descent from where" etc. (Even then, I'd have made him rewrite the line for clarity.) So yeah, it's not 100% perfect - nothing is.


But it's a good fit for a great western adventure. I think you'll enjoy it. It's worth at least twice this price, and you'll rarely get this much adventure for this price.


Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gunslingers: Wild West Action!
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Action! System Core Rules (Full Version)
by Gerhard B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/15/2012 14:14:29

I got these rules years and years ago it seems and they've always been a favorite with me. The mechanics are very simple and easy to use. There's also a quick-start rules set for jumping right in that uses only three attributes (I think) and seems very fast. I've always wanted to make a sci-fi game using these rules under the OGL. There are some supplement ebooks out there for this I think but I haven't really looked into it. The quality of this full version rule book is very good, it's got some nice b&w illustrations and is definitely worth the the small price. What I like about this system is the simple 3d6+attribute+skill against a set difficulty number. The attributes and skills range on a scale of 1 to 10. All in all I'm very satisfied with it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Action! System Core Rules (Full Version)
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Action! System Core Rules (Full Version)
by Chet C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/12/2012 16:56:43

It was a shame to see this system and this company go belly-up. Action! (Mustn't forget the exclamation point!) was to the Hero Games rules (nee Champions rules) as Champions was to Superhero: 2044. That is to say, a huge leap forward, and quicker to deal with.


Very adaptable, very useful, and - during its time - very well supported. Thank goodness that its supplements and adventures are still carried here as PDFs.


There's even a free PDF which includes almost every rule. But download the Full Version, throw a couple of bucks. The interactive links alone are worth it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Action! System Core Rules (Free Version)
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/20/2011 16:39:07

Good game for action/adventure RPGs.
It is designed to focus on "realism", so no super science or magic, but perfect for say a spy, detective, cop or any other type of action game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Action! System Core Rules (Free Version)
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Wild West Action! Pack [BUNDLE]
by Chip D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2010 13:43:56

This is just an amazing bundle for any western game. Even if you never use the Action! System the western source book is the best you will find on this site.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wild West Action! Pack [BUNDLE]
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Gunslingers: Wild West Action!
by Chip D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2010 13:41:45

I have purchased most of the western games (looking for material) on this site and this is the best of the bunch. It has well detailed lists. Over half of this book is well suited for any western game for just about any system.


An excellent value and resource.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gunslingers: Wild West Action!
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Action! System Core Rules (Full Version)
by Chip D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/16/2010 13:35:57

I have been a big fan of GRG enjoying both Sengoku and San Angelo immensely, so I may be a bit biased. The system is easy and quick to learn, especially those coming from the HERO/Fuzion end of the spectrum.


This is simply a solid system that I do not think get enough breathing room in the crowded realm of game systems. I have used this system for pre-WWII pulp and Western - both did very well. I would not want to use this system with high fantasy or superheroes as there are other systems better suited. For normal to heroic is where this system shines.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Action! System Core Rules (Full Version)
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San Angelo: City of Heroes 1.5 (M&M Superlink, Action!)
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/24/2009 13:44:03

This excellent work sets the standard for superhero city guides. Detailed, thorough, compelling and evocative, San Angelo is a city any costumed hero would be proud to call home. But probably the most exciting aspect of this product is how the electronic version uses layers and colors to bring different systems into sharp relief - you can easily differentiate Mutants and Masterminds stats from Action! stats, and so on. This product sets not only the gold standard in content but pushes the boundaries of what PDFs can do as well. A top-notch work well worth every penny, and then some.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
San Angelo: City of Heroes 1.5 (M&M Superlink, Action!)
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Action! System Core Rules (Free Version)
by Ronald W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/30/2009 08:57:27

The ACTION! system is easy to get used to. it is really nothing new or astounding but it gets the job done.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Action! System Core Rules (Free Version)
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The Village of Briarton (Action!, d20)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/05/2009 09:32:13

The basic concept of this book is to provide a generic but beautifully detailed village (or small town), which the DM can place in his campaign world - possibly as a base or as somewhere the characters will pass through. To this end, the history, economics, inhabitants and surrounding areas are all described, so that the entire village may be picked up and used with little need for preparation save deciding just where it is, and how it fits in to everything else that is going on.


Indeed, the introduction looks at various ways in which the village might feature. Perhaps it is the home of one or more young adventurer, starting out on his career. The group, as newcomers to the 'hero' business, might even have their first adventures here before moving on to bigger things. A village environ should provide an easy start, with challenges at the right level - how many big cities really have well-signposted novice-level dungeons to explore? Once characters have gained some experience, they might be ready to move on. Or, of course, this could be somewhere they find later... somewhere that on the surface looks like a good place for a rest, but where there is really plenty going on! Or it might be the nearest settlement to the traditional 'somewhere out in the wilds' dungeon complex, the logical place for the characters to rest and resupply.


Everything is a wonderful combination of great detail and total portability. Although there's a lord of the area, and some recent history as to how he was appointed, there's plenty of space to change it around to suit the history of the region (or to change the fellow in charge). Two deities are provided - and with considerable detail if you'd like to use them - but can be easily replaced by a 'good' and an 'evil' deity from your own pantheon. While about 50 inhabitants are given names, trades and other details; there are about 400 more whom are there for you to use as you see fit. Some of them might be your PCs, if you decide that this is where they come from!


Individual characters are given complete write-ups, including statistic blocks and sufficient characterisation and background to make them come alive; while little 'interaction seed' suggestions of ways of using them in anything from a brief interlude to a full-blown adventure are scattered throughout. Many adventurers regard any settlement as a place to stock up on supplies, so the number of shops and other businesses that are detailed and populated is very useful. The other major reason to visit a town - to visit an inn! - is also catered for, with a detailed establishment called the Greenbriar Inn. A nice touch is the pricelist, preventing that deathly silence when a character asks how much he will have to pay for the ale, food and accommodation he has ordered - there are even enough options available to allow for an impressive response if asked what's on the menu.


The 'good' deity, Erilys, is a particularly nice and 'homely' goddess; one well worth considering adding to your campaign's pantheon if there is no suitable figure already there. As well as Good, Healing and Protection, she controls a new domain called Hearth, which enables its practitioners to provide support and protection to a community.


Not all the people you'll meet there are permanent residents, some will be travellers also, and a selection of these are presented. The villiage, of course, does not exist in isolation; and so we are also introduced to the surrounding area - people like a wizard, the local ranger and a lady who runs a horse-farm just outside Briarton. People again who might be useful or interesting for the adventurers to talk to. There's also a ruined abbey, a tribe of orcs and the temple of the 'evil' deity - the new one offered here is Vextra, the Lord of Pestilence, but it would be relatively easy to substitute another evil god if preferred. A second new domain, that of Pestilence, is introduced so if you like your bad guys to be able to cause nasty diseases with a single touch, Vextra is worth considering. Naturally, the domain can be used without the god if you'd prefer to assign it to another member of your pantheon.


Presentation is by and large good, with an attractive page border that is neither obtrusive nor (if you have the PDF version) wasteful of printer resources. Artwork is patchy, varying from crude sketches that could probably be bettered by my 12-year old to some really nice ones; while the maps are of good quality if sometimes enlarged a little beyond the size that their resolution would allow, something that needs to be watched when using computer mapping programs. There is a comprehensive index, and PDF users reading onscreen have hyperlinked references to play with.


The book rounds off with Action!System statistics for all the characters and a series of full-page maps.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Village of Briarton (Action!, d20)
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Action! System Core Rules (Free Version)
by Edward J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2008 15:20:37

ACTION! offers a system that can support a variety of settings. It's a nice little system if you haven't settled on one to focus on, but it really doesn't offer much in the way that it resolves the usual mechanics for a game being played. Lots of potential if you have the time to invest.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Action! System Core Rules (Free Version)
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Sengoku: Revised Edition
by Mike H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2008 19:46:39

I ended up downloading more than $150 worth of RPG's and supporting material for my new addiction, Samaria skirmish. I would have been happy to get just a decent skirmish system. What I got was a great deal more!


Whoever wrote Sengoku must have done a 20 year study of Japanese culture. The historical and especially cultural information in this tome is beyond anything I could have imagined. The incredible depth and flavor is amazing. I could have stopped with this one. This, plus the Shinobi books are the King of Samurai RPG's. The character generation is the least painful and most complete, as you end up with a character with motivation and history.


We've standardized (at AoCM Wargame Club) on this one for the skirmish and RPG system. The Filmography gives me hundreds of new titles to search for (I already have dozens of classic Samurai movies).


Now, lets be fair. Printing this work out was a major challenge, particularly since Amazon has the book in print for about $22. The download is still well worth it if you are going to actually run the system as you will probably want to give the player a page or two here and there just to understand the character.


This is the utimate historical RPG system for Samurai RPG'ing. This is the one to get.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sengoku: Revised Edition
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