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Agents of Oblivion
by David P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2014 23:41:43
Disclaimer: This is from the point of view of someone GMing for the first time. I've played in several Savage Worlds campaigns, and recently decided to try my hand at GMing. I investigated a bunch of different settings material, and Agents of Oblivion (AoO from now on) sounded really promising. Here are my impressions after four sessions (spoiler alert: they aren't positive).

I believe AoO fails in two crucial ways: It violates the Fast! Furious! Fun! ethos of Savage Worlds, and Horror and Espionage don't really mix that well after all. These two elements overlap, as I will attempt to explain.

Firstly, AoO introduces a whole new set of Gear, Spytech/Special Training, and SUDS (Single Use Devices). Gear is cool new equipment, and Spytech/Special Training/SUDs are basically Edges in the form of physical objects. These items are "purchase" using a new currency called Resource Points. There is also the concept of Data Chips, which are a form of upgrade (can give agents skill upgrades or Edges). All of this stuff can be changed out at the beginning of each mission. Sounds cool, right? It sure seems that way, until everyone is sitting at the table, I outline the mission parameters... and the players spend 45 minutes deciding what Gear/Spytech/etc they want to purchase. Not exactly Fast and Furious. I plan to work around this by sending out a mission briefing to all my players a few days beforehand, but I wish I didn't have to.

My second point is that Horror and Espionage don't really mix, despite the "perfect cocktail..." tagline of this book. To my mind, Horror is about facing things you aren't physically, mentally and/or emotionally equipped to handle. AoO, as you can see from the previous paragraph, is all about the equipping the players. A Novice agent, with their starting free skill points in Fighting/Shooting/Notice/Tradecraft, Agency Branch bonuses and Resource Point equipment purchases, looks more like a typical Seasoned character.

On top of that, AoO uses the "no power points" rule variant for powers. This eliminates most of the Power Edges (since they affect power points), and makes powers and power-focused characters kind of, well, over-powered. One of my players spent most of one session casting Fear over and over and over. I spend most of that session un-shaking my mooks, while they were easily picked off one by one by the other players. Sure, I can create enemies with high Spirit or immunity to Fear or an inexplicable desire to stay more than a large burst template's distance away from one another, but that means I'm spending more of my effort working around something that was already taken care of very nicely in the base ruleset.

This brings us to a phrase you'll come across many times, "The Director has final approval ..." Basically, the authors of this setting let the GM pick and choose what elements to allow or not. I've chosen not to allow anything too science-fictiony, such as data brain chips, anti-gravity devices, and the like. Honestly, though, if you tried to remove enough to make this a real horror setting you'd be removing pretty much all the cool Espionage stuff, rendering the entire first half of this book useless.

The second half of the book is for the GM (the Director, in AoO parlance). This section is both better and worse than the player section. The first 10 pages or so is a mish-mash of contradictory "secret history of the world" conspiracy nonsense. Then there's a couple pages where they talk about creating suspense and horror by limiting resouces (again, forcing the GM to work against everything given to the players in the first half of the book). There's a few more pages devoted to vague talk about the level of aliens, conspiracy, occult, horror and technology elements in your campaign. There's not much concrete, useful information there. Then another 20 pages of synopsis of various secret societies around the globe, many of which are drawn from the real world.

Finally, we get to what is arguably the only really valuable part of this book, the Mission Generator. This is 33 pages of tables you can roll against to come up with missions, plots, goals, enemies, allies, and wonderful new creatures of all sorts. I've used this to generate two missions so far, which my players enjoyed quite a bit. It gives you all the pieces, then it's up to you to connect the dots and figure out how it's all going to fit together. For example: The first mission I rolled up said the enemy organization was the diabloist group Astrum Arentum. The Main Enemy was a Mystic Ally, which meant I had to roll on the Ally table and add some Powers. I rolled a Priest. The Plot Type was Sacrifice, the Goal was Anarchy, the Target was a Corrupted Ally (Private Detective, this time), and the Ally was a Scientist, and the Complication was a Creature (a giant Dinosauroid). Put this all together, and I came up with a mission to rescue a Private Detective, who had been hired by the Scientist to investigate mysterious goings-on in the building next to his lab. The detective had become brainwashed by the group, and was unknowingly going to be sacrificed to help summon a demon to weak havoc in the city. Due to the player's interruption of the ceremony, and its close proximity to the Scientist's lab, the Evil Priest ended up summoning a T-Rex instead of a demon, and the whole thing turned into a three-way brawl in a warehouse between the Agents, the cultists, and an enraged T-Rex. Good times.

The rest of the book is devoted to detailing some sample missions/campaigns, along with a bunch of character templates (some generic, and some specific to the sample missions). The generic templates are useful, especially since they correspond to the entries on the Ally table in the Mission Generator.

So, there you have it. 33 useful pages out of 218, definitely not worth the price of entry. Maybe some of my complaints have more to do with my inexperience as a GM than any flaws in this book, but even my players have been complaining about the time-killing equipment picks and the unbalanced nature of the powers. The player I mentioned previously, who went on a Fear-casting rampage, actually volunteered to re-spec his character to be less broken. I'm currently trying to figure out how to salvage this purchase... I think I may end up reverting to pretty much vanilla Savage Worlds, but keep using the Mission Generator. That should make it a lot easier to create some suspense for my players.

I hope you find my thoughts helpful. I'm giving this thing 3/5, despite it sounding more like a 1 or 2, because it is at least well written and laid out. Basically, it's a not-so-great concept that was executed very well.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Agents of Oblivion
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tremulus: the cemetery (Ebon Eaves Expansion I)
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/27/2013 20:22:24
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: This expansion is a little different than the others, running $10 instead of $5. On top of that, it only includes three Playbooks:

The Bereaved - Someone in mourning, needing a shoulder to lean on. Definitely NOT one to play in a one-on-one game, as a few of their moves rely on other people being present...namely, gaining Trust with others and using their Lore moves.

The Grave Digger - You can pick Moves that make him a perfectly nice guy...or you can make him a scuzzy graverobber instead.

The Mortician - Somebody's gotta prepare the bodies. The Mortician comforts folks who have just suffered tragedy, which can come in handy in a horror game.

So if it's $10 and only has three playbooks, what's the deal? The deal is that it adds more info based off of the Town Lore questions at the beginning of the game, effectively blowing up the information combinations by adding a whole other set of mysteries to the town (all kinda cemetery based).

WHAT WORKS: A slew of new options for town generation. Three new playbooks, each of which are interesting and unique in their own way, yet still tied to the cemetery setting.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The minor complaint that the cemetery results are tied to the Town Lore, so those results will be bound together regardless (though there are soooo many possible results that this becomes a very minor quibble).

CONCLUSION: Well worth it if you're looking for more than just a one shot game, as a third plot thread should get you rolling nicely. If you're just in it for the playbooks, though, that price tag might be a tad steep.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
tremulus: the cemetery (Ebon Eaves Expansion I)
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tremulus: playbook set III: madmen
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/27/2013 18:15:09
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Have you noticed a trend developing here? These entries have been a steady walk off the deep end, and the Madmen make the last set look normal.

The Chosen - No, not quite Buffy, or even Ash. The Chosen can be downright bizarre, perhaps touched by darkness in such a way that they now see in the dark or even breathe underwater.

The Escapee - You've lost your mind once, but you know there's crazy stuff out there. You may be hunted by the very things that led to your imprisonment, but you are powered by a desperate will now.

The Inventor - The Scientist and The Handyman pumped up to 11. More Frankenstein than Einstein.

The Sorcerer - You have a handful of magical effects on standby, and are more adept than most at casting rituals.

The Veteran - You experienced the horrors of war, but occasionally you still find glimpses of the man you once were, and unleash him against the darkness.

WHAT WORKS: One of the more unique sets (and the sets are usually pretty impressive). I particularly like the portrayals of The Veteran and The Escapee.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Not a lot. I like the balance on The Inventor and Sorcerer more than I do The Dreamer and The Psychic, and the character options are among the most interesting.

CONCLUSION: If I were a player, I think I'd probably play The Veteran first and foremost above all of them, though The Escapee runs a close second. Probably my two favorite options among all the playbooks.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
tremulus: playbook set III: madmen
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tremulus: playbook set II: on the fringes
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/27/2013 18:11:14
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Same as above - $5 package of playbooks to expand your game, running the fine line of "acceptable society":

The Artist - Passion drives most of what the Artist does, and this can leave them vulnerable to shock, or make them off-putting to others.

The Criminal - Not generally a thug, the Criminal's Lore move allows them to formulate a Backup Plan, and other moves provide options like being sneaky or charming.

The Dreamer - No, this isn't just someone with their head in the clouds...The Dreamer can reach the actual Dreamlands! This can provide valuable insight at times.

The Drifter - A bonafide ramblin' man, who sometimes gets by on Luck as much as anything. Additionally, your Drifter may have witnessed a bit more in his day than most.

The Psychic - Full-blown having visions and communing with the spirit world.

WHAT WORKS: Some very oddball options for tremulus, stretching the boundaries further. We've used Drifter and Psychic both in play, so these are options proving popular over here.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The Psychic communing with spirits can get out of hand at times, and I would imagine from the reading that The Dreamer could get that way as well.

CONCLUSION: If you want more weirdness from your PCs in tremulus, this is a good step as especially The Dreamer and The Psychic are particularly oddball. Just watch out for them spending too much time using their Moves (which aren't even Lore moves, but which do have time constraints on them) as they can blow some of your mystery right off.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
tremulus: playbook set II: on the fringes
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tremulus: playbook set I: flexible thinkers
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/27/2013 18:10:51
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: This $5 PDF was free to Kickstarter backers above a certain level, and includes 5 new playbooks for your players to use:

The Adventurer - A man of action, whose Moves can give him options like constant Armor, bonus damage to attacks and acting using his Passion instead of his Reason (because he's a man of instinct and not book-smarts).

The Entertainer - An actor, musician, singer, dancer, what have you. The Entertainer may be wealthy and famous, or have a gift for manipulating other people. The one Entertainer we've seen in our games proved incredibly light on his feet, which was a huge boon for him.

The Handyman - A fixer. He may have a workshop that he builds things with, he can jury rig repairs and one Move humorously duplicates the idea of smacking something to make it work.

The Librarian - A thinker who can occasionally use their wits to their advantage in combat.

The Scientist - Generally far more reasonable than most, insulating them from mental distress...though one option makes The Scientist harder to relate to, but allows them to start with Lore points.

WHAT WORKS: A few nice, thematic options that stretch the field. Some of the Playbook tweaks make it even easier to get the end result you want, like a purely "rational" scientist versus one that's becoming a little more unhinged. The Handyman is another one that stands out.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: On one hand, The Entertainer seems to stand out more than the others (as being out of place here). On the other, it's the only one we've used thus far. If the aesthetics of tremulus didn't do it for you, then the hard to see, old-timey images in this set won't do you any favors, either.

CONCLUSION: The Adventurer, Librarian and Scientist all seem very suited for period Lovecraftian adventurer. $1 per playbook also seems to be a bit better than similar deals for similar games, though I haven't looked too closely. Good pick-up if you want some options just a step away from the standard playbooks.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
tremulus: playbook set I: flexible thinkers
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tremulus
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/27/2013 16:14:25
WHAT WORKS: A ton of great advice is present throughout the book. An improv happy group will have a field day with this, and there’s already a lot of great support coming from the Kickstarter stretch goals, including expansions to Ebon Eaves and a lot more Playbooks, as well as new Playsets. The system works well for horror, with its harsh and unforgiving damage systems, and the Playbooks being designed with all the PC Moves already on them makes the game much easier to pick up and go for newbies (speaking from experience here). Playset creation is similarly inspiring, using the players’ answers to help dictate the plot threads (and probably in ways they will never expect). One of the best “Player Facing” systems I’ve seen thus far.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Some of the terminology (Forwards, Holds, etc) can take a bit of getting used to. I always prefer a bigger monster selection. Some of the advice can be repetitive, and the organization feels like it could be cleaner.

CONCLUSION: We played one session of this with me not having a chance to fully read the book and all prep done at the game table and had a good time. My player for that solo session actively wants to play again (and he’s a hardcore Savage Worlds nut), but with more people so we can use the Trust mechanic in play. I also told him about some of the Playbooks coming to me as a Kickstarter backer and how many of them seem more his speed and he was pumped.

tremulus doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, though it does a really nice job of supporting investigative horror, providing a TON of structure to this as opposed to everyone standing around and swapping the story baton or something. It’s a pretty traditional horror/investigation RPG with some narrative quirks, and you can decide for yourself if that’s a good or bad thing. For us, it was a lot of fun…fun that we will surely revisit in the future.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2012/12/tommys-take-o-
n-tremulus_3.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
tremulus
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Old School Fantasy #1: A Keg for Dragon (Savage Worlds Edition)
by Todd C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/23/2013 23:14:55
Just started running this adventure tonight. I have ran a Hellfrost adventure before and those players did not like it. I ran the SW Test Drive with these players and they liked it but wanted to try fantasy since that is what they have played the most of (Pathfinder) before.

After this session, the definitely wanted to continue on. We used pregens and ran this adventure with little prep and REALLY enjoyed it. It really felt like some of best non-dungeon crawl D&D adventures I have run in the past. Enough background to give it validity but still plenty of goblins to bash around.

For $5 this is a STEAL!!!

I look forward to running #2.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Old School Fantasy #1: A Keg for Dragon (Savage Worlds Edition)
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Mythos Tales #2: Unstill Waters
by Todd C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2013 10:27:48
Pretty good so far. My players started doing Pinebox adventures "Skinwalker" and loved it for its investigation and full backstory. Same thing here. Tons of details in this adventure that are typically left out of combat heavy horror.

Tonight the heroes save the day or see the beginning of the second flood!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythos Tales #2: Unstill Waters
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Shaintar: Legends Arise (Players Beta Guide)
by Glen T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/09/2012 21:47:39
For those downloading this, keep in mind that it's a beta. This is a large, meaty document, but it lacks any final polishing. For example, there are no illustrations, page art, or pretty formatting. It's just text, although arranged nicely.

This is also just a player's guide. With this and the Savage Worlds rules, you have all you need to create characters for the setting, but there are no monsters and only limited information on places and cultures.

However, when it comes to presenting a well-crafted setting for Savage Worlds, this clearly goes very much in the right direction. The setting is definitely very directly (and fondly) inspired by the Dungeons and Dragons game, with its elves, dwarves, clerics, wizards, paladins, and such other standard tropes. All of these things are present in the setting, and each is given its own twist to make it fit into a larger, more cohesive whole. There are also elements added to satisfy some other common desires in a setting, such as a feline-humanoid race, and a reptilian-humanoid race, both of which have been popular with players.

It has all these elements, and yet doesn't have any of the feel of a generic fantasy setting. There is a definite world with a unique and interesting history and range of cultures, with options to satisfy nearly any fantasy fan.

Is it for everyone? Probably not. It tends toward the epic, heroic, high fantasy. If you like your game gritty, with ambiguous gray morality, or if you like low-magic settings, you will find better settings. But if you're looking for a nice, well-executed take on the classic fantasy gaming realm, this is it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shaintar: Legends Arise (Players Beta Guide)
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Iron Dynasty: Way of the Ronin
by Jimmy P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/03/2012 01:45:36
I was recently discussing with my playing group about inspiration - be it stories for GMs or character inspiration for Players. We came to the conclusion that modern characters - being so close to us, are the easiest to create. Medieval Fantasy characters and stories were, for us, as easy to create. When it came to other genres, like westerns or mythic China/Japan campaigns, stories and characters did not come with the same ease.

Then I read Iron Dynasty.

This book, if read from the start, will give you tons of ideas for both characters and stories. The history will make those come to life easily. The equipment section, new selection of Edges and optional rules (using the usual skills for different tasks, like Stealth for blending) all make this book a must-own for any Savage Worlds enthusiast.

It might be the best Savage Worlds book I own.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Iron Dynasty: Way of the Ronin
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The RunePunk Library [BUNDLE]
by Curt K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2012 04:18:34
Have played a couple of games, using the first adventure of the plot point setting. I had to go to the web site for some errata, and found it easily. A very interesting setting that isn't quite steampunk, fantasy or standard SF, but an interesting amalgam of all three. The art work in the main books is ok, and does illustrate ideas very well.

If you are looking for a fun Steampunk variant, this is probably it. The players guide is the first section of the overall rule book and could be printed separately from it, so nor real added value there, except you can share the file with your players without worry that they might "accidentally" slip into the GM section. The printer friendly versions are nice to have. The paper figure are nice tri-folds and have quite a variety, and plenty of copies of things that might be encountered in mass.

I have not dug into the Odd jobs or Darksummer nights, but on casual perusal, they seem to be more of the same.

Overall, a nice purchase, and if you are looking for a quite different setting, this might just be it!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The RunePunk Library [BUNDLE]
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Realms of Cthulhu
by Ray W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2012 00:57:44
Before reading this rule book I had no idea who H.P Lovecraft was or what was a Cthulhu, however as I was halfway through reading it, I was inspired to go out and learn about the mythos in general. Why do I mention this in a review about a rule book? It’s because this book captures the theme of Cthulhu perfectly. The book is well laid out and easy to follow. The art work really brings to life what the Cthulhu mythos is about.

This book does a great job of merging the world of Cthulhu with the Savage Worlds rule set, a rule set that is known for its fast pace and furious fun something that would not normally be associated with the world of Cthulhu. This book supplies a whole range of new archetypes for players to use when developing there investigators and a load of new edges and hindrances that are perfectly suited for a Cthulhu themed game.

The book also gives players and the GM a choice when playing the game on how gritty and dark they want their setting to be, it gives some good ideas on how best to achieve it within your own game, whether you want to ride the slipper slide into madness with no hope of escape or give each player the thought they have the chance to come away as the victor this book has it all. For any Call of Cthulhu players out there, Realms of Cthulhu has a really nice conversion chart at the back of the book on how to convert your character across and from what I have seen and heard it works very well.

Along with some very nice story hooks and a well thought out quest generator this is simply a beautiful book to read, and is a must for anyone who calls themselves a Cthulhu fan or wants to see what the whole fuss is about. Do yourself a favour and pick this one up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Realms of Cthulhu
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Iron Dynasty: Kesshi Tales #1
by Michael H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2012 02:56:03
For more discussion about Savage Worlds and other RPG's please visit my blog at http://solaceofsavagery.wordpress.com

Kesshi Tales # 1 was released a little less than a year ago. The adventure presented in the book, The Wise Men and the Woods, occurs in the region of Ikusa Kokoro. Each numbered Kesshi Tales release occurs in the region detailed in it’s corresponding Guide Book which creates an interesting symbiotic link between the products. Despite this link, it’s still possible to use the adventures without buying the Guide Books if you are so inclined.

The Kesshi Tales books are very well thought out products. They get it right in several key areas which is why I wanted to talk about them a bit. The first thing worth noting is the layout and choice to go with a digest sized format. Given that these are pdf only books, it was smart for Reality Blurs to use a single column layout that displays well on tablets. These books look great and, more importantly, are easy to read. There is no interior art except for a map of the region where the adventure takes place which is on the second page. The lack of interior art adds to the clean presentation and increases the utility factor of the text. Organization is very simple, with sections that are easy to navigate on the fly. These books actually live up to the promise of being able to play with minimal GM preparation. You could grab one of these an hour before play, read through it, and be more or less ready to go when the players arrive.

There are a number of reasons I am fond of the Kesshi Tales beyond the nuts and bolts stuff I already mentioned. The first is the way the adventures are structured. While the usual hooks and plot mechanics are certainly present, they manage to present a cohesive narrative without ever feeling like they are on rails. There are always multiple ways a tale could go and player influence is paramount. Player decisions have an important effect on both character development and events within the world. The open way that the tales are designed lends itself well to customization and it’s fairly easy to swap out elements to personalize stories in ways that makes them more relevant to your group.

Another strength of the books is what I’ll refer to as a “lead by example” design philosophy. Using the Kesshi Tales as templates for home grown adventures is very easy, owing to the simple clear way the books are presented. There are a plethora of great martial arts and samurai movies out there for inspiration, and pulling themes and hooks from them and plugging them into this format is a breeze. It would also be fairly simple to produce home made tales that maintain consistency with the visual aesthetics of the official releases.

These are great books. They are fun to read and provide a lot of material for inspiration. While I love them on my tablet, I sure would get a kick out of seeing them in print. I suspect that the demand isn’t high enough to warrant a print run but it would be awesome if it ever happened.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Iron Dynasty: Kesshi Tales #1
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RunePunk: Guidebook #4
by Ronnie G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/10/2012 15:51:00
The more I read about RunePunk the more I'm dying to run a campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RunePunk: Guidebook #4
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Old School Fantasy: Heroes (Savage Worlds Edition)
by Michael Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/09/2011 12:13:37
This is a great product for incorporating 'old school' type characters into a Savage Worlds Fantasy campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Old School Fantasy: Heroes (Savage Worlds Edition)
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