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In Cold Blood
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2017 09:17:31

Turmoil in a city, where the 'lower classes' are convinced that some dread terror stalks the streets and the ruling elite will have none of it. This is an open-ended adventure, with the DM's Background providing information as to what is really going on, the encounters designed to enable the party to find out... and then it's up to them what they decide to do about the situation.

It doesn't matter why the party is in town, or if this is their regular base or a first visit. They meet a rather crazy fellow ranting in the street about disappearances, and are then contacted by a priest from the Church of Salvation, which has a temple in the poor part of town, who asks if they'd investigate the disappearances. It appears that past disappearances were linked to a 'lizard cult' and some people say the current crop are similar... that is, those who have noticed anything at all. Merchants brush it all off, more concerningly they do not seem to trouble the town guard either. However some indications point to a seedy tavern, the Green Stag. This hostelry serves a distinctive red ale called Dragon's Blood and also has a rather strange cook...

Plans of both the Green Stag and the Church of Salvation's premises are provided, and there are various options available to the party, depending what they actually discover or deduce. Ultimately there's a power struggle going on, but do the party wish to take sides, elimiate both... or do they even realise that there is more than one antagonist involved? There are plenty of ideas as to the different directions in which this could play out, and whatever choice the party makes, they could be dealing with the ramifications for a long time... a neat twist.

The early parts of the adventure involve a lot of investigation, and may prove frustrating if you do not ensure that there is plenty to be discovered wherever it is the party decide to ask their questions. In some ways it's more of an adventure outline than a complete adventure, but it has the potential to be both challenging and interesting, especially if the party begin interacting with both factions involved.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In Cold Blood
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The Harbinger
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/21/2017 07:57:18

Silver dragons are the embodiment of all that is good and honourable... so why is one tearing up the countryside, terrorising villages and heading straight for the peaceful and prosperous settlement of Brookvale? It doesn't look like it has come for the museum, the library or the temple, either.

The DM's Background explains all, including the identity of the silver dragon and why it's behaving in the way that it is... and why it's going to be quite tricky to deal with the dragon without causing further problems for the town.

It's suggested that for best effect, the party should already know Brookvale - as residents or frequent visitors - so that they'll be invested in a cultural centre with a fine library, a museum full of historic artefacts and a big temple, all cared for by a kindly wizard and the local high priest. The adventure proper starts when they are there and residents of an outlying village, which is under attack by a dragon, flee into town and ask for their help. They suggest that a visit to the wizard, one Calendrus, could be helpful...

Hopefully, the party will be able to defeat the dragon and will discover what is going on. Then they'll need to deal with it, which involves a visit to the swampy lair of a different dragon. Local residents and swamp insects cause problems as they try to get there, not to mention the dreadful smell emanating from the lair itself. Swamp gases and some original uses of gelatinous cubes and oozes make the lair a perilous environment, and that's before you meet the dragon who lives there.

This adventure is built on a neat concept and sustains it well throughout, although the main villain's motivation is a bit unclear - just being 'evil' I suppose. Designed to support AEG's book on Dragons, it certainly brings said creatures right into the centre of the game that bears their name.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Harbinger
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The Caravan City of Azul
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2017 07:44:42

Trade is the lifeblood of nations and peoples, and this book presents a temporary trading settlement that springs up and opens for business with just two core rules: stay out of trouble and don't close your purse strings too tightly. Sounds ideal for weary adventurers wanting to offload loot and stock up on supplies...

The DM's background tells you more. The Azulites are often derided as gypsies or vagabonds, but see themselves as a 'travelling village'. The reasons why are laid out for you. Following this is a description of the standard layout used by the travelling village and details of some of the main inhabitants and the goods and services that they offer. These include an illusionist who puts on spectacular entertainments with the help of three acrobat brothers and the local bard, the bard himself, and an elf who is an exceptional cook - she'd probably have a couple of Michelin stars if such were awarded on your world!

Whilst this isn't an adventure per se, more of a setting, several adventure hooks are provided if you want more than just having your party encounter the travelling village and wandering about it for a pleasant evening, trading and being entertained. You could run several through a very busy evening at the encampment, or a different one each time the party goes there - assuming that both party and village are travelling in the same area for a while - or even build one into a larger plotline as you see fit. Alternatively, you might want to latch on to the quarreling kingdoms that caused the village to start travelling in the first place and build a whole campaign - or at least several adventures - around that.

With a new magic item and a new spell to be found here, it makes Azul a delightful place to visit, be it for an evening's rest and entertainment, to stock up on supplies and sell loot, or even a chance encounter on the road. As for where to put it in your campaign world: well, as they wander it could be just about anywhere... they may have strayed far from those two squabbling kingdoms by now.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Caravan City of Azul
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Delta Green: Handler's Guide
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2017 13:00:18

So, you've stepped up and offered to run the Delta Green RPG for your group. Here's a massive sourcebook to help you make the world of the game come to horrifying life for the characters... It includes a history of the alternate Earth in which the game is set, loads about the Mythos, rules for new threats, a good understanding of Delta Green as an organisation, and much more; and ideas for adventures are scattered freely throughout as well as there being a complete scenario ready for you to run.

The Introduction begins by recommending that you go and read the Delta Green RPG Agent's Handbook first. Then it reminds you that first and foremost, Delta Green is a horror game dealing with people finding out just how insignificant human beings are in the universal scheme of things, with the end of humanity itself - and probably going clean off their heads if they aren't killed in the process. It's about conspiracies to keep the horror hidden - some concocted by the horrors themselves to keep us human beings in the dark, some dreamed up by well-meaning folk who want to protect humanity from knowledge that can quite literally drive them insane. It's about humanity's constant struggle to understand things beyond all knowing, to defeat threats that are far too strong and will ultimately destroy them... it's about the struggle, not about the end. We then find out that Delta Green's been running since 1942, born out of the need to deal with Nazi experiments in the occult during World War 2, but by the present day there are TWO Delta Greens, one an unsanctioned conspiracy and one a very deep and dark government operation: both, of course, think they are the real thing - and the one the player-characters work for probably think it's the only one. This section then talks about what Delta Green agents do - and what the Handler does in running the game. Never mind the horrors that they face, Delta Green itself should remain a mystery, with the party only ever being told what they need to know, if that.

Next, The Past delves deep into the (alternate) history of the world and of Delta Green itself, going back to the 1920s - tying in neatly with Lovecraft's writings about a township called Innsmouth in Massachusetts. The amount of background is tremendous and fascinating - but the vast majority is for your eyes only. Your players won't find it out, not even during the course of the game... unless perhaps you choose to run a campaign set during this history rather than in the present day. This history is massive and detailed, often several entries per month for each year from 1928 until May 2017... not to mention sidebars and notes on all manner of stuff.

Then comes The Unnatural, where hidden knowledge unguessed at by even the most experienced Delta Green agent is revealed. Part of this is due to the deleterious effect such knowledge has on the human mind: Delta Green compartmentalises the information that it does keep, and much is destroyed. There's no library of rituals and spells to consult, for example. Here, though, we read of tomes of occult lore, unnatural - perhaps alien - creatures, and more mindbending stuff. Fundamentally, much can never be understood. It's just too weird for the human mind to cope with. There are plenty of unnatural threats here to throw at the party, ideas for plots spawn as you read through their background notes and histories. There's a collection of sample tomes, most of which should be read with caution if they are read at all, and deep discussion of rituals and 'hypergeometry' for those wishing to risk bending reality as well as their own minds. And if the array of unnatural entities paraded for your use is not enough, there are detailed instructions for designing your own.

The next chapter is entitled The Schism. Here is the secret history of Delta Green, and an explanation of why there are two groups who both call themselves Delta Green. The advice as to what to say to your players is simple. Tell them nothing. Of course, you may decide that it's nothing like what is described here. It's your game, after all. There are details of how agents are recruited - this has either already happened to the party or you may decide to play it out with each of them in turn. There are also notes on how typical (if there is such a thing) Delta Green missions run, equipment available, and much more including several senior Delta Green members who might turn up at some point during your game. Both groups claiming to be Delta Green are covered in parallel. Take your pick. This section ends with notes on what Delta Green (either sort) actually knows about matters unnatural. Let's just say it is a very short section.

Now we come to The Opera. Derived from the Delta Green slang for an operation - 'A Night at the Opera' - it explains what goes into an operation: how to design it, how to run it... and even how to expand it into a whole campaign. Plenty of advice here as you put your plans and plots into motion. Learn how to construct the events and clues that will populate them... and to embue the whole with an air of horror, engendering fear and the awful knowledge that they're not in control into the party.

Finally, there's an adventure to help you put everything into practice. Operation FULMINATE: The Sentinels of Twilight tells a tale of disappearances from national parks, and why not everything that's lost ought to be found. Yet it has been...

Equipping you with a wealth of information and ideas to run a Delta Green RPG game, this is an invaluable resource to read and study again and again. Your game will be immeasurably better for it.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Delta Green: Handler's Guide
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Delta Green: Music From a Darkened Room
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2017 12:20:01

This adventure begins with the party being asked to investigate the mysterious death of a veteran Delta Green agent (and FBI agent) in a suburban house that has a bad reputation in the neighbourhood - their task is to determine if the house itself poses a threat. The local coroner has pronounced him a suicide, and other Delta Green agents in the FBI worked to maintain this as the official story, but the organisation has doubts and wishes to know the truth... but not for it to get out. The locals feel the same way, so this is an investigation that must be carried out discreetly.

There's a What's Going On section that gives you the low-down on the house, its history and what is actually happening there: a sad story spanning over an hundred years. There are various avenues of enquiry that the party can follow, and masses of information to enable you to give appropriate responses as they investigate. The main strands that they can pursue include the house itself, official records, talking to the locals, and researching the history of the house... and of course they may choose to do all of these or more. It's well to be really familiar with the material before the game, and to keep in mind the consequences of what they do and - even more importantly - how they choose to go about it. They should find it quite easy to attract attention, and there are notes to aid you in ensuring that it's the wrong kind of attention!

It is an atmospheric and almost claustrophobic tale of small-town America. Visiting the house itself, which curious party members are almost certain to do, is a terrifying and potentially deadly experience. Play this up... it's enough to give the players nightmares if done right, never mind their characters. There are ways to clear things up, but most of the options are obscure and you may have to give even competent investigators a few hints. Suggestions are made as to how to do this, and not all the methods are successful, even if the very high price that must be paid. Overall it's an excellent creepy haunted house scenario that should haunt your group long after you have played it!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Delta Green: Music From a Darkened Room
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Delta Green: Extremophilia
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2017 09:29:15

This adventure begins with the party being summoned to a meeting at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Any party members who are not Federal Agents already are hired as FBI consultants. The ostensible task is to investigate the death of a local law enforcement officer who appears to have died from heavy metal poisoning, but it's all rather odd. That usually takes some time, but he became ill and died in a couple of days, and hadn't been in contact with any heavy metals anyway.

The Introduction explains in a very few words what the problem actually is, then launches into getting the party tasked and onto the scene. Apart from a loose timeline of what NPCs would do unless the party interferes with them, the rest of the book contains information you can draw upon depending on what the party decides to do. Despite this apparently free-form nature, there are some things the party will need to pick up on, although the necessary lines of inquiry ought to be pretty obvious once the investigation begins. Generally, there is more than one way to pick up a given clue, in case the relevant skill is not held by any party member or someone flubs a die roll.

There's a remarkable amount of detail, and much of the investigation will rely on interacting with a regular army of NPCs, all of whom seem to have an individual 'voice' - their reactions and personalities are well-described making them easy to role-play when encountered. This does mean that there's a lot to absorb before you run the session, but this preparation does make for a vivid and compelling scenario.

The threat is very real, but it is possible to contain it - at least for now - giving the potential for a more satisfying victory than is usually available when investigating the Mythos. There's a fairly short section about what might happen afterwards. Overall, this is a cracking little investigation with a bit of an X-Files flavour to it, which should make for a memorable game.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Delta Green: Extremophilia
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Mindjammer: The Core Worlds Sourcebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/10/2017 08:37:16

This book transports you to the very heart of the Commonality of Humankind. The Core Worlds are where humankind has its origins, settled in ancient times and containing some three hundred populated worlds. This is where the most extreme parts of the Commonality philosphy are accepted as givens: many people may find this rather uncomfortable. They are tradition-bound and conservative in outlook, very stratified and detest individuality. Religion, unlicensed sexual activity and news are also outlawed as being 'disruptive'. They've been like that for a long time, but Rediscovery is now opening up Frontier worlds again - a threat to some, a glorious opportunity to others.

Yet the Core Worlds are not homogeneous of themselves. Each is unique, and they can be grouped into five regious. The first is Old Earth itself, where humankind first began. Then there's Manhome, the entire solar system in which Old Earth is found. The settled solar systems within 100 light year (LY) of Old Earth form the Old Commonality. Further out are the Penumbral Worlds and finally the Satellite Domains. Chapter 2: The Structure of the Core provides maps and information to explain all this, with notes on cultural regions and explanations of how folks travel around. On a given planet, individual vehicles are rare but mass transit systems meet most needs. Many worlds do not permit spacecraft to land, those that do generally operate an 'air traffic control' system to keep flying spacecraft in known patterns. Interstellar travel is frequent and speedy, it's generally easy to find a ship going where you wish to go. There are also 'gates' - but you start at a spaceport and get into a ship which goes through the gate... and there's loads of detail - and even the odd plot hook - about getting around the Core Worlds. Be prepared to think in three dimensions, though!

Next, Chapter 3: The People of the Core introduces the startling diversity to be found here. It might have been challenging to think of your ship as a 'person', now get to grips with planetary sentiences, as well as a vast variety of sentient beings who may be autotrophes (green and capable of photosynthesis), adapted to an extreme environment or plain weird because... well, that's the way they are. The concepts of 'government' and 'administration' are inextricably combined, producing vast bureauocracies overseen by sentiences, with departments or Instrumentalities dealing with various functions. Despite all this, factions abound, each with their own ideas... yet society as a whole can be quite stifling and hidebound. Thousand-year-old algorithms dictate the aestetics of music, education concentrates on learning how to do things the correct way and studying the great masters of the past, with innovation and experimentation regarded negatively. Unlicensed reproduction is illegal, and once born most youngsters are raised institutionally - you need a special licence to raise a juvenile in the parental home. Life is communal in general, very structured, yet with great opportunities and resources made available to all. Deviance from societal norms is not acceptable - and visitors have to learn them fast as little allowance is made for them. Deviants can expect to be re-educated.

Then there are chapters on each of the five regions beginning with Old Earth itself. Here the majority live in arcologies, and this concept is explored in detail. Oh, and the moon has been terraformed into Green Moon. It's all quite different from what we are used to... Next is Manhome, the rest of the solar system, then on to the Old Commonality and beyond. Each is described in rich and evocative detail, it's easy to imagine every place that is written about. Plot ideas abound, so wherever the party ends up, there ought to be plenty going on around them - but reading the paragraph or two about each planet spawns plenty of your own as well.

Finally, Chapter 9: Gaming in the Core Worlds provides a wealth of information that will give you plenty to think about if you intend to run games set here. Several themes are suggested, each with a series of questions that your plot may be attempting to answer, ample scope for exploring and discovering, and perhaps - if outsiders - getting into trouble.

It's quite a breathless sweep across a vast cube of space that has Old Earth at its centre. It tells you a lot, yet if you want to actually use it in your game you will need to put in the work to create plot and antagonists and all the other resources required... yet here is a magnificent framework on which to build.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mindjammer: The Core Worlds Sourcebook
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Mindjammer: Children of Orion—the Venu Sourcebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/09/2017 08:38:55

Does the Commonality cloy a bit? Or do you want to get to know the 'opposition' so as better to defeat them? The Venu are the 'bad guys' of this setting, being a cruel and oppressive civilisation that are the diametric opposite of what the Commonality stands for and strives for. Of course, there are opportunities there too...

The Introduction explains how the Venu can be seen as what Earth's civilisation might have become had they chosen a different path. They left very early on, maybe eight thousand years ago or more and have been treading their own road ever since. The present Venu aren't that old, because they destroyed themselves fighting one another - this Venu civilisation is at most fifteen hundred years old, having built itself up on the ruins of more ancient ones. They are a rich and complex society, and this book attempts to present them - warts and all - with the aim of providing resources for adventuring in Venu space, creating meaningful Venu NPCs as adversaries (or allies?), and maybe even playing the odd Venu character.

Chapter 2: History and Prehistory goes into detail on the real history of the Venu. Most if not all of the present-day Venu don't know about it, as that apocalyptic war fifteen hundred years ago wiped out most of what went before, and the time since has been one of oppression, false news, and lies masquerading as the truth. It all began with the first ship using stasis technology to leave Earth. Heading for the Orion Nebula, their intended destination turned out to be unsuitable for habitation but fortunately they found a nearby world on which to settle. It wasn't ideal and after some struggles a major terraforming plan was put into action. They'd been there almost a thousand years before a message from Earth arrived... by then they'd almost forgotten where they came from and it was a decided shock to hear a planet on the other side of the galaxy claimed to be their origin. Even more, technology on Earth had advanced far more than theirs, and the information transmitted enabled the recipients to gain ascendancy over the rest of the planet, leading to a three thousand year long golden age. Then a second message came, reflecting further changes on Earth and again sending the Venu into a tailspin. Some accepted what they were told, others refuted it, nobody would agree to differ and it all ended in tears... and apocalyptic war!

From the shattered remnants left by that war arose the immortal God-Emperor Venu. Forty generations later, his followers the Pure hold true to his Tech Commandments, building their world as directed. And then the Commonality came, a real cat amongst the pigeons. The God-Emperor broke a long silence to issue more edicts, the New Pronoucements, and now leads his people in war against the Commonality seeking to defeat their 'lies' and embrace something called the Radiant Darkness, a relgion seemingly cooked up for the purpose, having consolidated his hold on surrounding worlds and colonies seeded before all the unpleasantness happened and contact lost.

Scene set, we then begin to find out about the Venu people themselves in the next chapter. They seem to be a surprisingly uniform bunch, tending to dark hair and skin, but more worryingly, in their behaviour too. Society is very conformist (at least in part out of fear) and hierarchical. Technology is prolific yet subject to myriad rules and restrictions, for example travel permits are required even to move about your own city let alone travel to another planet.

Chapter 4: The Venu Empire starts by looking at the political hierarchy with the God-Emperor at the top assisted by fifteen Lords Countenant who each head one of the government departments or commissariats. They deal with nearly every aspect of life - it's quite hard to do anything at all without their influence being felt. The majority of the population are the Pure, the obedient masses. There is great fear and hatred of so-called Abominations; mutants in other words. With loads of detail to bulk this out, there are also plot seeds scattered throughout. Chapter 5 continues this background information by looking at the Dark Radiance... but just what is this? It hovers somewhere between a religion and a personality cult, centred of course on the God-Emperor himself. It's of particular interest because it appears to confer certain powers on those it mutates. Those mutated by Dark Radiance are not ostracised like other mutants, rather they are regarded as favoured or blessed. Chapter 6 then explores Venu technology, something they are ambivalent about. The society is anti-intellectual, yet they realise that they need tech to survive and prosper. This results in most people having little understanding of the technology that they use, often with disasterous results. The chapter contains an extensive catalogue of equipment.

Moving on, Chapter 7: Starships and Space Travel reveals that Venu space technology is somewhat behind that of the Commonality. The classes and deployment of military vessels are discussed here, as well as civilian ships - there are even a few deckplans. Ships sorted, we go on in Chapter 8 to explore Venu Space, beginning with the homeworld, Venu Prime and including detailed instructions for designing your own worlds. There are plenty of examples of solar systems in Venu space to visit as well.

After what seems to be quite a massive information dump - fascinating stuff, it's taken me ages to read and I've enjoyed every word! - we move on to more game-mechanical stuff with Chapter 9: Creating Venu Characters. Whether or not you are willing to let your players be Venu depends on the game you want to run, but it's useful to be able to create detailed antagonists anyway. There are a range of different cultures, genotypes and careers to choose from. Then it's time to look at Chapter 9: Venu Adversaries, which provides an array of ready-made 'bad guys' to throw in the party's path. There's a bestiary here too.

Finally, Chapter 11: Venu Campaigns looks at the vast variety of things you can do in Venu space now that you know about it. Perhaps the party are Venu, and options range from Imperial intrigue to trying to discover what Dark Radiance actually is, or perhaps formenting a rebellion against a repressive society. On the other hand they might be Commonality - spying, perhaps, or out to wreak havoc amongst their enemy. There are plenty of ideas thrown out in a sentence or two... but like most everything else in this book, you will need to put in some work to actually use it in your game.

A fantastic overview of a major player in galactic space, which really gives a good feel for and understanding of what to the Commonality are bogey men. There's too much that isn't for player eyes to make it a useful book for the whole group - even if they are playing Venu - so be prepared to explain a lot! Definitely a useful addition exploring this whole new region of space and its inhabitants, an addition to the setting capable of being used in many differnt ways.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mindjammer: Children of Orion—the Venu Sourcebook
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Mindjammer: The Mindjammer Companion
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/06/2017 08:17:16

This book presents the Outremer Subsector, located on the extreme edge of Commonality Space. It's the setting of the adventure Dominion and much of the material here is in the Traveller version of the Mingjammer rules, but it's now been completely rewritten for those using the original Fate system rules.

Situated on the edge of Commonality Space, Outremer straddles several interstellar political regions and contains unaligned and unclaimed planetary systems as well. If you think you'd like to set your game here, in these pages you will find detailed planet and star system details for the Heritage Contestation, octant zeta of the subsector, including planetary maps, and more outline material on the rest of the subsector - so plenty of space to add the elements you fancy.

First off, some history of the region. Like much of the rim, planets here were colonised long ago in earlier diasporas, but contact was re-established some 130 years ago just before contact was made with the Venu. Indeed many battles in the war with the Venu occurred here, and the situation is still tense with violence flaring up occasionally.

Maps in the endpapers show all eight octants with political markings, and the various groupings planets can belong to are discussed next. Some are friendly towards the Commonality, others hostile or at best undecided; and of course there is an unclaimed region as well. Plenty of xenomorphs and even plant-based intelligences are to be found (and yes, the necessary information to play one of the latter as a character is included). Details of the natures of each group are provided, to aid in the development of individuals and the overall look and feel of each one.

The discussion then moves on to the economy of the area which, quite frankly, is a mess. It is chaotic with various factions trying to exert control be it for themselves or for the common good. Various economic systems are to be found and it can be fun when those accustomed to one suddenly find themselves in a completely different one. Then we meet other groups: the corporacies. Several are detailed, there's even the suggestion that the party might like to hire out to one or even set up one of their own. Technology and space travel round out this chapter.

Next is Chapter 2, which goes into more detail about the Heritage Contestation octant. It bore the brunt of the fighting during the recent unpleasantness with the Venu and as a result has aquired the nickname 'The Anvil'. There is a detailed map, including an anomaly called the Hammer - space is unstable there, possibly due to the presence of a black hole. Notes - and maps - of individual worlds are provided, excellent if the party wishes to travel in this region. It's a wonderful gazetteer whether you are looking for just the right planet for the adventure you have in mind or if you want to go exploring.

This is all setting material - magnificent setting material. You may find that reading through it spawns some plot ideas, or you may want to run a game that involves exploring or trading... or even a diplomatic mission. However, whilst providing you with a well thought out setting, the adventures will have to come from you.



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Mindjammer: The Mindjammer Companion
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The Dark Elf City of Hosuth
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2017 08:26:18

Rather than an adventure, this is a campaign setting with plenty of adventure potential. Long ago a primitive race of lizardfolk dwelled in a settlement they called Hssith, in a swampy area that suited them. Then there was a massive earthquake that caused a mountain to tumble and water rush in, destroying a dark elf city in the process. Managing to salvage their library, the dark elves swore to restore their city to its former glory, but in the meantime they took over Hssith, enslaving the lizardfolk and renaming the place Hosuth. The dark elves are open to visiting humanoids, especially if they want to trade.

This setting is suited to combat-heavy adventures or ones that feature lots of political intrigue, so whatever your group prefers you can make use of its varied terrain - swamps, mountains, rivers, lakes and wilderness surround the city - and all that's going on within city limits. The city is made up of two distinct parts: the beautifully-manicured vegetation covered dark elf section and the wilder, more primitive areas where the lizardfolk dwell.

This work seeks to describe the city, its occupants and locations. It's up to you how the party gets there and why, but once there the very descriptions may suggest ideas for plots even before you reach the Adventure Hooks section. This lists a wide-ranging selection of ideas which you'll need to develop into full-blown adventures, they are but a paragraph apiece. A few prominent NPCs are also provide, and of course there is a map giving an overview of the entire city.

This has loads of potential, but it requires plenty of DM preparation before anything more than a 'just passing through' session can be run. Nice ideas and excellent evocation of atmosphere make it worth considering, though.



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The Dark Elf City of Hosuth
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No Mercy
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2017 09:20:05

The city of Rahbaud is peaceful and prosperous, sounds lovely until you realise its wealth is founded on the slave trade! However the slaves have had enough, and a revolt has broken out... As this adventure was produced in support of Alderac's Evil sourcebook, the party gets hired to quash the rebellion! Working in the service of Prince Sukhir Blackhammer, the Iron Fist of Law, they are tasked with stamping out the revolt and bringing the ringleaders to justice.

The DM Background gives a few more details on the opulent settlement and the origins of the revolt, which started amongst gladiators. Worse, a neighbouring kingdom promptly declared war in the guise of 'freeing the slaves' (although wiser heads claim it's because the nation is broke and the people are starving...). The Prince will lead Rahbaud's army against this invasion, while the party (with the help of the town guard) quell the revolt.

The adventure starts with the Prince summoning the party. It's up to you how he heard of them, and indeed where Rahbaud is within your campaign world (you can, of course, change its name!). He sends them off forthwith, with some 60 guardsmen, to begin their task. The centre of town is a full-blown riot - it's suggested that you run sample encounters rather than attempt to play the whole thing out - and the docks are on fire, threatening warehouses stuffed with trade goods from the known world... and several slave galleys whose crews are about to burn!

There's a lot to take in at once and decisions need to be made right away. A series of general locations are provided along with an overview map of town so you get an idea of where everything is. The leaders of the revolt are covered in some detail, and they have based themselves in the gladatorial arena... but the party will also have to track down a safe house where a prominent sympathiser is to be found, and a good final brawl is to be had.

The outcome notes assume the party's success in their mission, and makes the note that anyone who went wild will not prosper - ruthless murderers are of no use to the Prince. Those who bring the ringleaders of the revolt to what passes for justice will, however, be rewarded. Even though this is billed as an adventure for evil characters, it could as easily be presented as extremely lawful. Set aside modern ideas about the awfulness of slavery and treat it as maintaining the status quo, upholding law and order. You could twist this round if the party want to throw their lot in with the slaves instead, but it's not designed that way... although I see potential with devious parties who might pretend to serve the Prince yet aid the slaves instead, although things would go really badly for them if they were caught out!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
No Mercy
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DC1 Tampete - GDW 2201
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/30/2017 10:04:24

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Dark Conspiracy, this book opens with some remarks from an assortment of contributors to and super-fans of the game... and a rather sad note from Lester Smith, who started it all off with the initial core rulebook and much more besides. He laments how the 'work for hire' method of paying authors prevalent in the RPG industry can leave game designers and developers feeling that they somewhat lose contact with works they have laboured over with love and passion once they've been published. Then it's on to the book itself, which is a massive sourcebook for the conurbation formed by Tampa and St. Petersburg in Florida, jammed with flavour, ideas and new stuff to enhance your game.

The Introduction begins with some fiction, a conversation in a seedy and violent bar that I don't think I'll be visiting anytime soon, and then moves on to discuss the development and history of Tampete. It seems a dark place, with all the ills that befall any city in Dark Conspiracy - high unemployment, weak government, lack of investment in infrastructure, rampant corporations and crime - but with an unpleasnt edge. Crimes that include cannibalism and clowns running amok, new and potent drugs, and civil disobedience that's more like terrorism. There's worse, creatures living in lagoons and waterways or underground that are said to abduct people. Rumours of portals to other worlds, and patches of Demonground. Visit at your peril... for they are a quarrelsome lot, and altercations turn violent real fast.

There is a timeline, in accord with the rest of Dark Conspiracy diverging from the real world in the early 1980s and running through to 2034, deemed the present day. There's a map to show you what's where, and then we get down to detail: health and disease, the survivalist communities, the weather (which plays quite an important role here)... and crime. Lots about crime and about the sometimes bizarre laws enacted by the city fathers that probably don't help much.

Next comes a visit to various regions within the sprawl. Detailed maps, locations to visit, history and much, much more. Scattered throughtout are notes on what really happened and what is going on now, so this isn't a player-friendly gazetteer of the conurbation although it will aid you in making a visit a rich experience. There are also 'quick and dirty plot seeds' dotted around, just in case reading the material hasn't already spawed several ideas.

This extensive section is followed by a collection of Factions and Personalities - many of whom have already been introduced during the grand tour of Tampete. This section provides loads of people (loosly speaking) to interact with, do business with... or get into contention with, as may be appropriate. Gangs rub shoulders with strange religious cults, and this section ends with 'A Hundred and One Personalities' - a list of short notes/stat blocks for individuals you can pop in wherever you like. Many could spawn an adventure or two of their own... and many would make good contacts, especially if the party will be staying in Tampete for long.

After a selection of full-page colour paintings of various Tampete scenes comes a section of Dark Adversaries, an array of beasties you can use as necessary to impede and imperil the party. Plenty of weirdness that will have them gawping when they really ought to be running...

Next come several new Protodimensions. Visit if you dare. Or if circumstances mean that you don't really have the option. Finally, there are several Appendices, which are where you'll find new rules, new career options, new DarkTek and several tables to roll on for anything from encounters to what's in a market, drug effects and even more plot seeds. There's also a complete writing system called Underglyphs to scatter around.

If you want a detailed, vibrant, exciting, sometimes threatening and almost always dangerous city to let the party run rampage through, this is a fantastic resource with which to introduce them to the delights of Tampete. It's full of stuff that will give you ideas for adventures or even whole campaigns... once sucked in, the party may never leave! They may not even want to...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Tampete - GDW 2201
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Fall From Grace
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2017 12:02:13

In this adventure, aimed squarely at characters who are as villainous as they come, a war-torn kingdom is led to peace by a mysterious paladin proclaiming himself as a long prophesied 'God-King'. Needless to say, not everyone is happy about this and a large price is placed on his head. Will the party take the contract?

The DM's Background provides a few more details, as well as a rival bunch of villains also after the money; and also suggests that if your party is of a good persuasion it's fairly easy to switch things around and have the self-styled God-King as the villain of the peace. Or - this is my thought - perhaps the party is hired to protect the God-King, who may be good or evil as you please, and face the choice of defending him or turning on him as they see fit. The possibilities are endless.

The opening scene lays it all out for the party, with a covert gathering of the discontented explaining what has happened over the past week - for the God-King's ascension to power is very recent - and ending with them hearing a very large price put up for the God-King's removal from power by whatever means can be found. It seems that although he is 'good' he's also quite totalitarian and many feel the weight of his boot on their necks. Put it this way, you even need a permit to leave the city and face gaol if caught sneaking out...

From here a bunch of options are explored: the one difficulty with running a game with an evil party is that they come up with plans to which you then have to react, rather than the more conventional way of you thinking up a plot and the party reacting to it. Still, most things they might come up with are covered and this gives you a starting point to shape your response. All-out attack or assassination might be the first thoughts, but what about blackmail, planting false evidence or even seeking to corrupt the fellow? Whatever they decide upon, it's likely they will end up visiting the temple in which the God-King dwells. A detailed description of the temple including map, room descriptions, occupants and their likely reactions follows. Finally the true nature of the God-King is revealed, along with a new magic item.

This adventure leaves a lot unsaid, but it provides an excellent framework on which you can hang your own plots. Provided you are willing to put in the work, there is great potential here for some epic adventuring.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fall From Grace
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Folnar's Dagger
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2017 11:15:51

If you're the sort of person who'd like to have a demon at your beck and call, you're probably of the evil persuasion (at least as far as alignments are concerned). Designed for evil characters, this adventure sends them in quest of a dagger that is said to be able to summon and control the demon R'Godae, a quest that sends them into a powerful wizard's former home that is now used as a training centre for good-aligned wizards and warriors, even paladins. So as a bonus these evil characters get to beat up on some of the brightest and best upcoming good guys!

The DM's Background expands a bit on the powerful wizard, whose name was Folnar, explaining how he came about the dagger and its powers. It also details how Folnar's apprentices set up a unique training centre in his fortified mansion after his death where wizards, clerics, paladins and other good-aligned warriors study tactics combining might and magic in the fight against evil. It's up to you how the party gather the information about the dagger, what it can do and where it is currently located. This adventure pits the party against the mansion and its occupants.

You are provided with plenty of information about leading personalities at the rather remote mansion (no wonder it is fortified), physical structure, daily routine and defences. There's a plan with detailed room notes, but it is suggested that either miniatures or a dry-erase board are used to keep track of everyone once the party begins its penetration. Crafty parties who try some advance reconnaisance are catered for with notes on what they can discover or observe, whilst likely actions on the part of the inhabitants once they realise they are under attack are also included.

Finally there are notes about the dagger, the ritual and possible outcomes - here, you will have to decide if all the legends are for real or if something else happens... or nothing at all. Many options provide scope for a myriad of follow-up adventures if not a whole campaign.

There's a fair bit of fighting, and often what might be deemed skirmishing - not a pitched battle but reasonable numbers of opponents to handle - so the suggestion of some means of visual representation could be helpful in keeping track of what's going on. This book can be seen as a core idea, from which you could built an entire campaign from first hearing rumours about a dagger with which a demon can be summoned right through to the ramifications and subsequent adventures of the party who attempts the summoning. Of course, that would mean quite a lot of work but for a group determined to play an evil campaign, this could make a good - if that's the right word - framework.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Folnar's Dagger
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DC1 Nightsider
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2017 09:42:06

A holiday resort is a place you go to relax, sit around the pool, eat and drink, stuff like that, right? Not if you're playing Dark Conspiracy it's not...

This three-part adventure tells the tale of the inhabitants of another dimension trying to sneak into our own, with the intention of getting up to no good once here - and they've chosen a prime vacation spot as their infiltration point. The Introduction explains what is going on and provides a synopsis of the entire plot. To start with, of course, you need to find a way to get the party into the right place, the holiday resort of Bar Harbour - which is a real place in Maine as it happens, so you can use real maps and other materials to support your game. Several ideas are provided: you can pick the one best suited to your group or come up with your own... after all, you know them better than the authors do! The three briefings provided are for parties with eco-terrorist leanings, members of the military, and people who just happen to be there - either they've heard some of the rumours provided or they might just have decided it was time for a vacation!

The first part of the action takes the party to a nearby island. Getting there (unless you take the military option) is a bit of an adventure in itself as the authorities are barring access. Once there, the party can explore and try and figure out what has been going on... and will probably find themselves fighting for their lives before too long! This adventure requires good combat skills as well as brains to complete. There are lots of atmospheric descriptions here, whatever's happened is decidedly nasty.

The second part of the adventure seems quite unconnected, and indeed could take place after some intervening adventures. All the more surprise when elements from the first part are revealed! Again scenes of mounting horror have to be investigated and dealt with. During this part, the party should discover (or be given) a particular device that will become important during the third part, which takes them to the alternate dimension... well, they do say the best form of defence is offence. This all begins with an intriguing note from an academic who needs some more, shall we say, action-oriented folk to follow up on his reseach. What better idea than go stop the invasion at source?

Throughout the entire adventure, there are loads of options to enable you to react appropriately to whatever the party does... and plenty of possible outcomes depending on their actions and how successful they are. Oddly enough, as I sit reading this adventure for the purposes of review, I realise that I played it some 20-odd years ago! I enjoyed it as a player then, and now I've seen how it's all put together, I understand how it makes a truly cracking adventure. Lots going on, all manner of useful contacts, potential for follow-up adventures... what more could you want? Well, perhaps a holiday resort that IS safe and relaxing - but we're here for adventure!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Nightsider
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