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Calendar Man, Protocol Game Series 9
by Timothy H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/30/2018 14:05:27

Calendar Man

I hosted this game at our local convention. Everyone at the table were first time players, but big fans of murder mysteries. The game mechanics were simple for them to understand, and we used index cards to help remind us of key clues, events and supporting characters in the story.

As players we set the era and location of the “Calendar Man” murders, then drew roles and relationships. By the time we had finished that our characters were connected to one another, and heavily invested in catching the killer. The story commenced with each player directing a scene, the clues were scattered, and then as we attempted to close in suddenly killers style changed radically. We found him finally dying in a hospital bed from a terminal illness, but in his last days he had mentored a new killer, and passed the cultish style murders on. We caught this new killer and ended the cycle of murders… until…

He was not convicted. Had we failed at the 11th hour? No. Our lead officer disgusted by the court proceedings, followed the Calendar man after his release, and executed him for his crimes.

It was such a collaborative process that characters were willing to fail on a personal level if it meant closing in on the killer.

The game does not even suggest that there might be two killers, but is flexible enough to let you develop your own imaginative story.

I hope you can appreciate that the second killer was a “Awe Ha” moment at the table. It made such sense, it was unanimously adapted.

No one dictated what this story could, or could not be. Everyone had fun.

Finally, the story style of Protocol games is such that you can wrap up loose ends to the story as it wraps up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Calendar Man, Protocol Game Series 9
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Sea of Man, Protocol Game Series 49
by Timothy H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/30/2018 13:29:54

Sea of Man

I have owned this for a while, but just had the opportunity to play finally at our local convention and wanted to follow-up with a review.

Sea of Man, comes off as a Moby Dick style of story set in the same era as the novel. Our group expected to go off on a whale hunt, the key characters in the story (Players) were The Navigator, The Lookout, and the Harpooner. We were all set. The game next develops relationships between the players where we learned that the Lookout and Harpooner were new to the crew, and that the Navigator had vouched for his land lubber nephew (The Lookout) to join the crew. Everyone’s financial futures and reputations were at stake, as we set out to sea. Now there is no guarantee of a whale hunt it occurs randomly in this game… and I really like that mechanic. It forces you to consider other aspects of life at sea, while you hope for a successful hunt. We however drew a hunt immediately. The build-up was dramatic, the harpooner in the forefront selected the largest beast, threw and hit, but the beast was too big, and in it’s prime, too healthy to yield. It sank into the deep sea… We were left to hunt on.

Now in a game like this I didn’t expect the hunt to be in the first round, let alone the first draw of the very first round, no one expected it.

Our characters however remained at sea, and as the days wore on the mood aboard ship changed.

What began as Moby Dick quickly became a run up to Mutiny on the Bounty.

Characters who were not violent began to talk about murder. Who would strike the first blow? Who would have to be taken out first…

The Navigator turned out to be a coward, the Lookout boy lost his innocence, the Harpooner was pressured into becoming a murderer.

What a great story not because good things happened to good people, and not because bad things happened to bad people.

It was a great story because it had those memorable moments (scenes) for my character and the other players that make for a great story.

Did the whales return you wonder, yes, yes, they did. They bore silent witness to man’s inhumanity to man.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sea of Man, Protocol Game Series 49
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The Carcass, GMZero RPG 4
by Jacob W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/26/2017 10:15:26

Something new and interesting in a



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Carcass, GMZero RPG 4
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The Last 12 Hours, GMZero RPG 8
by Alan B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/04/2017 09:35:04

The Last 12 Hours is the GMZero game I use to teach others the concepts of GMZero. It's got a wonderfully easy to understand as a genre and concept (everyone has seen a Cohen brothers film, or something close), the art captures the mood right, and the revolving nature of the supporting characters lets experienced players get into their scene based play, while the two more "static" characters allow new players to really learn and experience what makes this sort of GMless narrative game fun.

If I had to make a complaint (and I do because this is a honest review), it's that the game doesn't try hard enough to distinguish itself thematically from the "big dog" in the room: Fiasco. It has a bit of a throw-away line around "This isn't innocents making bad choices, but bad people getting what they deserve", but I feel a full called out page or section about that would go a long way to helping prospective buyers and players understand they're not purchasing Fiasco-lite, but instead a fully new game with a totally different focus.

It's a minor complaint in the grand scheme of it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Last 12 Hours, GMZero RPG 8
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Toolcards: Fantasy Towns/Villages Maps
by Shawn C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/28/2017 23:21:13

Once again Jim Pinto's graphic design is on point with this excellent, system-independant resource for generating unique villages for any encounters. I debated between this one and some other similar products but ultimately chose this one because I'm familiar with Jim's work in the past and I knew that visually it would end up the superior option. I was not disappointed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Toolcards: Fantasy Towns/Villages Maps
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Toolcards: Fantasy
by Alan B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/19/2017 10:38:15

Toolcards: Fantasy is a great accessory to a GM who has to prep or create on the fly (so all GMs). Packed to the tip with useful information, great prompts and some clever ideas, I find this deck to be pretty handy to have next to me when I'm running any fantasy game. It's pretty good bang for the buck too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Toolcards: Fantasy
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Praxis: The Black Monk
by Matt T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2017 12:33:04

Here's the thing. Pinto is insane. I'm not talking about the fun type of insane either, I mean like walking through a strobe-lit hall of mirrors, backwards, with "They're coming to take me away" playing in the background and blood running up the walls and into randomly-sized disembodied eyeballs type of insane.

It's probably why he writes such interesting games.

I backed the kickstarter for the first set of Praxis games, which included this one. The Praxis rules are based around a group of players constructing a scene together, using a deck of standard playing cards to determine objectives, relationships, and story milestones; and a pool of six-sided dice to determine outcomes.

Players construct the game world around them as they play. Think about a standalone novel or movie - when the first scene starts, you know nothing other than what you can see and hear at that moment, and any background unravels as the plot progresses. As that background hasn't been seen in-game at this point, it's open to players moulding and interpreting it.

This is a game of dramatic concepts, not a dungeon crawler. Sure, combat may occur, but it isn't by any means the focus. You're not going to find tactical combat rules for miniatures here. Instead, you're going to find ways for the players to tell a story, and move it ahead through their plot decisions.

The main book contains a number of character concepts, and once you're familiar with the system you could probably put more of your own together. Special abilities are aimed more at the story than innate powers - for example, a character may have an ability that allows you to steal drama points from another player, or otherwise affect the flow of the story.

If like me, your idea of an RPG is more "directed improv" than "tactical miniatures game", I suggest giving this a try. If not, I still suggest giving it a try anyway, you could end up discovering something new :)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Praxis: The Black Monk
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King for a Day
by Dave C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/19/2017 09:44:27

I've never bothered to 'formally' review anything I've read in RPGs in the 30+ years that I've been gaming. "King For A Day" seeks to change that apparently - because this setting deserves to be talked about more than it is.

I am, personally, a devotee of the OSR and a number of indie press games - this transcends my little niche and has the potential to work for any referee/gamemaster who doesn't mind getting the dirt of worldbuilding under their nails.

All the reviews address the expansiveness of this setting - a regional sandbox, full of early medieval social malaise, hidden agendas, fractured hopes and dreams washing away in contaminated streams - and an evil that defies it's own definition, despite the illusion creating its own deceptive shadows over a slowly crumbling society.

"King For A Day" (KfaD) is the proverbial onion, layers peeling away until you're at the rotten core. Everything seems so consistent within the implied setting, an Anglo-Saxon backwater mining, farming, and logging community. I can't help but feel, despite the late heathen era trappings of the 9th-10th centuries, that this is later than that. Maybe it's the organizational aspects of society, but they seem a bit more modern - especially in the backwash soil of the surroundings. It lends to the air of timelessness which gives this connection, for me, to that dreamlike, yet nefarious, folkloric menace (Folk Horror?). 



As other reviewers have said, this could easily be adapted across time periods - I'm considering a fantasy Renaissance/Baroque/Early Modern retelling myself. The nature of most of the social issues, from ineffectual undermined leadership to brain washing, have a certain ability to speak through many different ages. It would have been easy to make the populace monotheistic and pious - but, the more I dwell on it, it just drives the universal point home by not relying on that trope of ‘heathen roots’ vs. ‘zealots of "One True God’ dichotomy (the friction is still there though, but it seems to gain some level of unfamiliar shaky foundation which benefits the storylines).

It amazes me that more authors haven't tried their hands at writing a system neutral sandbox - some of the OSR releases have done this for retroclones, but KfaD shirks any attempt at being that narrow. The fact that it is not only devoid of rules preference, but bucks RPG genre expectations, is unique. A historically rooted horror fantasy setting with political-social-religious overtones? Very damned ambitious, and remarkable in its ability to not fall flat on its face doing it.

The most lamentable part of KfaD is in its editing and layout - there are numerous typos, all minor, and a nagging feeling that the book could be better organized for the table - more so in print form (the bookmarks in the PDF are extensive and useful). The art is very light for such an ambitious project and I'd love to see a hex map of the region for crawling (personally, I have a .PNG hexgrid I'm dropping on it). Most of the art is good, when it is present - I would love to see this expanded (Kickstarter? Indiegogo?) through thematically inspired renderings of personalities and landscapes. There are a number of 'cut and paste' text portions, especially concerning NPCs, repeated throughout the book that could be trimmed.

I think that for those who intend to use this it is wise to devote a large binder or multiple binders to the material (or use a computer based campaign organizer). I recently found a handful of mini binders that will be perfect for NPC sheets or area map/descriptions. Random tables of encounters for the towns wouldn't hurt, but I can certainly understand the difficulty as individuals will run this module very differently from each other, as it is meant.

Some of the comparisons I came to when reading this were early LotFP publications - and, more specifically, "People of Pembrooktonshire" and "Three Brides...". I had considered those particular publications by Raggi to be a possible basis for a campaign, but KfaD doesn't push the weird as hard into the open - allowing that 'slow burn' to consume everything, quietly and thoroughly. I could see easily uniting NPCs from both, effectively adding more layers of distraction to either side - whilst downplaying the marginally sub-dermal Pembrooktonshire ‘everything is not right’ insanity. After reading KfaD, my current campaign preparations started to wane as I became totally engrossed with this little out of the way hellmouth.

This isn’t for everyone. There is a lot of upfront campaign creation work to be done - which I think is the best way to digest this much material. You have to follow all the strings and tie together the parts to suit player and system. This is a dark fantasy horror setting with a twist of Lovecraft - suspense and friendly nihilism. I think ambitious OSR game referees will find this especially useful - especially with games like “Lamentations of the Flame Princess" or “Astonishing Sorcerers and Sword Men of Hyperboria". Bordered with the Dolmenwood setting from “Wormskin”, this would be a tasteful ‘Wyrd Folk Horror’ “Labyrinth Lord” as well. 2e edition fans of the “HR” series could tear this up with Vikings and Charlemagne era rules. Cthulhu Dark Ages is a natural fit, but something of a giveaway to the mystery behind the suspense.

Despite its flaws and workload, I think “King For A Day” presents a noble offering towards universal fantasy settings - a product description too often unexplored.

This setting doesn’t jump scare, it undermines your minuscule reality with unfathomable creeping doom.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
King for a Day
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Alphabet Soup, GM Advice Document, 100 Orc Habits
by Natalya F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/11/2017 13:58:50

Easily one of the best products I have purchased this year to date. In prepping to play a non-standard orcish character in a forthcoming game, and after research various orc traits that decades of RPG history has put together, I found myself yearning for something different and off the beaten path. POST WORLD GAMES DELIVERED.

Almost every single one of these "traits" (or behaviors) is food for imagination; you don't even have to roll - read through them and within 3 traits you'll be thinking of what they could do for your orcs (or character, in my instance), and by the time you get to the end, you'll be wanting to create an all orc-troupe.

Great ideas, nicely laid out (so many d100 lists are thrown together in word), and easily - EASILY - woth $.99 cents. I mean, come on ... it's robbery at this point to not buy it.

Great purchase.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alphabet Soup, GM Advice Document, 100 Orc Habits
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Solomon Guild: A Gallery of Rogues Part I
by Alan B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/04/2017 10:49:00

Probably the best NPC supplement I've read.

The pros:

  • Just loads of compelling details. All the NPCs are fully formed, well realized, and consistantly written and handled.
  • Tons of plot hooks. Just, oh so many plot hooks.
  • Interesting organization and detail. Part historical accuracy, part dramatic license, the structural organization of Solomon Guild, it's members, and their operations is detailed enough to be compelling, while vague enough to be easily used anywhere.
  • the writing is easy to read, and keeps you moving through the book.
  • layout is spacious, minimalist, and great.
  • Solid art throughout (see below)

The cons:

  • A few of the art pieces didn't do it for me. It's likely just a matter of personal preference and style over "bad" art, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it.

All in all, a book I'm already in the process of heartily recommending to friends and fellow GMs.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Solomon Guild: A Gallery of Rogues Part I
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Death of Ulfstater, GMZero RPG 5
by Alan B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/03/2017 17:12:26

I love this game. I freaking love this game. It plays well, and the crescendo of drama around the table is often a surprsie to players unfamiliar with this style of game. It's well researched, evocative and accurate, while still being interesting and not "dry" (as someone complained about when I pitched it poorly). The art ranges from great to better than servicable, and the layout and graphic design are spot on.

Probably the best GMless game I've ever played. I'd recommend this to anyone in a heartbeat.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Death of Ulfstater, GMZero RPG 5
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The Scarecrow, Protocol Game Series 34
by Wendelyn R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/29/2017 22:22:11

Another great addition to the Protocol RPG line. This is a perfect Autumn/Halloween game or anytime you want to get creeped out. The children's roles presented were especially evocative of the sense of uncertainty and fear of rejection of being a child/teen.

I appreciate the structure provided in the Protocol RPG line that fuels ideas with out being restrictive. I have run Protocol at conventions and with many players who have never tried a story game before and the system helps players form their ideas. The Drama Points are also very important to creating excitement and continued engagement of the players as the turns continue, because even if your character isn't in a scene you can still add in an idea or complication.

As a final note, I played Scarecrow with several friends calling in from across the country on Roll20.net which is perfect for Protocol. We could use the standard (virtual) card deck, voice and video broadcast, and as long as one person has the scenario handy we were good to go. I highly reccommend this method for getting in a game as Protocol only takes 2-3 hours to play with basically no facilitator prep. Perfect game for busy people seeking a role play focused experience.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Scarecrow, Protocol Game Series 34
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Lady Winter, Protocol Game Series 48
by Wendelyn R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/29/2017 22:00:27

After playing/running about a dozen Protocol games Lady Winter is my stand out favorite. Each of the players just "gets it" and the depth of role play has been intense. I've been shocked by the ideas and creativity of other players both times I've played Lady Winter. The ideas seeded during setup and enhanced by the scene and location tables have exceeded expectations. This one feels profoundly personal, which is exactly what story games and role playing are all about.

Masterful work, I look forward to playing again and again.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lady Winter, Protocol Game Series 48
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Orc Hospital (Card Game)
by Timothy H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/18/2017 22:17:04

This seems like an appropriate time to write a review of this game. Why? Because the "Pop" channel is running a "ER" marathon later this month, and the only thing better than that would be running a "Orc Hospital" Marathon at my house.

The cards ordered via drivethru are good, playing quality cards, and solid art. I recommend the box too, but suit yourself.

This game plays well as you improve tongue in cheek stories about the Orc Hospital it's staff and patients. The professed object of the game is to acquire enough points to win the coveted "Golden Goblin award" but for us that quickly became lost in the satisfaction of telling a good story. That probably defines why I gave this five stars, in that telling a good story trumps card play, and I love a good parody.

This card game is great for kids, who can grasp simple boyfriend, girlfriend, and dating relationships. The rounds play fast, through the deck once and done.

Some things we did that added value to the game, was we brainstormed a quick list of orc names for potential cast members. So that we wouldn't slow down story later trying to make up names for everyone on the fly. Also we kept a log of episode highlights, just a one sentence tally of what episodes had gone before, made return visits into the story, favorite cast members (IE Ambulance drivers) quite satisfying.

A great party game, ice breaker for your non-RPG crowd.

TNH



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Orc Hospital (Card Game)
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Forget Me Not: Florida, GMZero RPG 6
by Timothy H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/18/2017 21:56:35

I am surprised no one else has left a review, I leave it to others to contradict me.

I played FMN-Florida Edition recently at the RadCon Sci-F & Fantasy Convention in Pasco WA, and loved it. Yeah, five stars, loved it, here is why. If any of these aspects appeal to you, you can gauge how many stars you might give it.

1) It is adult oriented... let’s say PG13, in a market that generally believes "game" = 8 to adult. 2) It is funny and dark at the same time. Very "Twin Peaks" wacky, in a small Florida town. 3) It is a story telling game with enough structure to balance play without choking an individual’s creativity. 4) By playing multiple characters, you have no avatar in the game to anchor your ego to... anything can happen, tables turn quickly. 5) There is nice art for every character in the game, with prompts for quotes. 6) Easy to learn mechanics, fast set up, defined end after an established number of scenes. 7) We had so much fun and laughed so much that other people wandered over to see what was up. 8) Replay ability, with a matrix of characters and relationships that changes every game.

At one point a person walked up to us, and goes "Oh this is like Fiasco." I said "Oh, does Fiasco let you play any of the characters in the story?"
He goes "No." So I said "I guess it's not like Fiasco."

9) It's not Fiasco.

TNH



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forget Me Not: Florida, GMZero RPG 6
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