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Big Book of Little Spaces: Haunts
Publisher: Moebius Adventures
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2014 06:25:00
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/06/tabletop-review-the-big-
-book-of-little-spaces-haunts/

This nineteen page PDF is a collection of six previous Little Spaces releases that have come out intermittently over the last year or so. All six (Abandonded Places, Creepy Copses, Ghostly Effects, Gruesome Graves, Horrid Hallways and Scary Basements) shared the same horror theme, so Moebius Adventures decided to bundle the collection into one supplement. Each PDF in the Haunts series sell for a dollar each, so you’re saving two dollars by buying the collection, and you only have a single PDF to manage as well.

So what is The Big Book of Little Spaces: Haunts? Well it’s a collection of system neutral random charts. Now, these charts aren’t for random encounters or loot, but rather they are to help the Storyteller/GM/Whatever get their imagination churning, and thus provide better descriptions, moods and overall ambiance for his or her gamers. You essentially have three charts. The first one you roll a d8 for and it gives you a Sense. The second chart has you roll a d20 and you get a Descriptive Element. The third chart has you roll a d100 on the specific sense chart you rolled for with the d8, giving you a specific sense descriptor. After getting your three random bits, the DM using Little Spaces should be able to put the three pieces together to create a creepy piece of background text for their adventure. Does it work? Let’s try it together with a Scary Basment.

First I roll my d8. I roll a 5 which, according to the chart, is “Taste.” On the second chart I roll a d20. I get a 6, which correlates to “Kitch.” Finally, I roll a d100 on the Taste chart. I get a 21, which is “Burnt.” This means I have to put all three together into a narrative that will help my game. Of course, kitch are usually cheesy knick-knacks, so it’s hard to imagine when you would taste one, but let’s see what we can do.

You slowly descend into the burned out cellar. Like the rest of the amusement park, you appear to be the only human visitors in some time. As you wade through the spider-web that seem to saturate the room, you can’t help but notice the taste of smoke and charred wood tickling the back of your tongue, as if the disaster that befell Funland happened only recently. You know this to be a trick of the mind, and that the taste is probably just the amount of ashes and dust that proliferate the basement, but you can’t help but wonder what it is about this place that seems even creepier than the rest of the park. Perhaps it’s the scores of scorched midway prizes lining the far wall. Their melted eyes staring at you. Their scalded plastic and fur ensuring they will never have a home or a moment where a young child regards them with love or fondness.

So yeah, The Big Book of Little Spaces works, more or less. Of course, I’ve been playing RPGs since I was in first grade, and I’ve been writing for the Industry since I was in high school, so while that took me thirty to sixty second to write, it might not be that easy for other people. Veteran gamers are probably set in their ways and thus either don’t need help doing descriptions for their adventures or they don’t bother with descriptions since they run hack and slash affairs that are nothing but dice rolling, and thus while they NEED something like this, they also don’t realize said need. New GMs will probably get the most use out of this, as The Big Book of Little Spaces is more a creative writing tool than anything else. Even then, the possibility arises for a set of rolls you simply can’t work with.

While I can’t necessarily say that The Big Book of Little Spaces will ever find a large audience or be that helpful to many a GM, it is worth noting it might have missed its calling as a beer and pretzels style game where each player rolls on the charts and has to come up with a short scenario featuring their rolls with only a minute of prep time. If you can’t pull it off, you’re out. Keep going until only one player remains.

I like the idea of The Big Book of Little Spaces: Haunts, as it was fun to flip through and was well written, but I can’t say it’s something I’d ever make regular use out of. Nor can I think of people that really can use this other than neophyte gamers. It’s an interesting piece, and the potential for fun is there. It’s just trying to figure out who to recommend such a PDF to is the hard part.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Big Book of Little Spaces: Haunts
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for this great review! And yes, there is always the possibility for rolls you can\'t work with, though for me that always serves as more of a challenge than a road block. It\'s part of the fun of getting a collection of random items together and figuring out how they go together. :) Glad you liked the product overall. And the idea of a beer & pretzels game utilizing this approach might be worth exploring!
Adventurers Compendium
Publisher: Flying Buffalo
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2014 06:20:20
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/06/tabletop-review-tunnels-
-trolls-adventurers-compendium/


Although the deluxe version of Tunnels and Trolls is nearly a year late (for very understandable reasons), Flying Buffalo Games has done a great job of putting out the Kickstarter backer stretch goals like clockwork. So far, we have gotten remakes/reprints of Deluxe City of Terrors, Saving Fang From the Pits of Morgul, Deathtrap Equalizer Dungeons, The Complete Dungeon of the Bear and of course, the Quick Start Rules for DT&T that went out last Free RPG Day. So although the core product has been delayed due to illness and other issues, Kickstarter backers have definitely gotten their money’s worth and then some. Even better, none of these re-releases have been Kickstarter exclusives, so if you are a T&T fan, but you missed the Kickstarter, you can still pick these up… but you do have to pay.

The latest release from the Kickstarter is the Adventurers’ Compendium, which collects old adventures from the long defunct Sorcerer’s Apprentice Magazine. Now, I was born in 1977, and by the time I was learning to game, SA had been gone for a few years. I discovered Tunnels & Trolls later in life and loved the solo adventurers that were put out for the game, because it was a lot like the Lone Wolf or D&D solo books that I loved in elementary school. So for me, all of these adventures were brand new. Now, a few adventures come from other sources, like Pocket Adventurers, but the majority are rare and long out of print adventures that were originally published in magazine form. You’ll find ten solo adventures and three adventures for a party. Now the back cover only says nine solo adventures, but as you’ll see below, there are ten. Hey, you’re getting more content than you expected, right?

The layout for the Adventurers’ Compendium is a bit odd. You have the first nine solo adventures, all complete with “Choose Your Own Adventure” format up front. There is also an introduction to the tenth adventure, Circle of Ice. Then you have all the content for the first nine adventures. Then you have the beginning of the tenth solo adventure all by itself (which at first seems to be a second adventure by the same name, which is VERY confusing), and then you have the three GM/Party based adventures. This gives the book a strange feel when you just flip through it to peruse the contents. I think Adventurers’ Compendium would have flowed better with the GM adventures up front and the solos in the back, but then the primary appeal of the release is the solo adventures, so it makes sense to some degree that they are front and center.

I should also point out that the first nine solo adventurers are not separated out. Instead, you get the first page of each of the nine adventures in a row, and then all the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style of formatting has the contents of the adventures lumped into one big mass. I’m not sure why they did that for the first nine but not the tenth, as it adds to the strange formatting feel of the piece. You might completely miss the second Circle of Ice intro due to the layout if you aren’t careful. While the lumping all of the adventure content together in bulk form may sound strange in this review, it works really well when you actually play the adventures. Because each solo adventure is so short, it would be easy to see all the content and “cheat” your way to a successful completion. With everything mixed together it’s harder to do that, and come on, everyone who has ever played one of these types of adventures has done so at some point. So you may have to wrap your head around the fact each adventure isn’t segregated out, but once you get over it, you’ll find the adventures play better for it, even if reading the collection is harder with this layout.

So let’s take a quick look at each of the solo pieces.

•Kingwalker. This is an adventure for a 1st to 3rd level character where they complete a series of trials. Originally published in SA#1.


•Seven Ayes. This adventure is for a 1st to 3rd level non-magic using humanoid. The adventure can determine what your character is if you don’t have one already, and it is best to go that route. The choices are Dwarf, soft-hearted Orc or evil Human bandit. The adventure is pretty much a bar brawl. Originally published in SA#2.


•Golden Dust, Red Death. This adventure is for a 1st to 3rd level character. Most spells and missile weapons are not allowed, so a fighter might be the best choice for it. Here you are a skeezy drug smuggler. Originally published in SA #4.


•A Sworded Adventure. This adventure is only for a sword wielding warrior of 4th level of higher, so it’s a toughie. It can also lead to adventures NOT in this collection, so be warned. While I found Naked Doom on DriveThruRPG.com, I had no such luck finding Arena of Khazan. As such, this might be the hardest adventure to play through as originally intended, but the text does give a slight workaround. The adventure is basically about your character going shopping at a bazaar and the weirdness that befalls them. Originally published in SA#5.


•Stop Thief! This adventure is for non-magic using characters of 6th Level or less. Your character is hired to stop a group of thieves from their regular looting of the docks. Originally published in SA #7.


•Thief For Hire. This adventure is designed for rogues or warriors between Levels 1 and 4. Your character is offered 1,000 gold pieces to steal a scroll from the royal library. It sounds simple, but it definitely isn’t. Originally published in SA#12.



•The Legend of the _____(adj) _____(n). This is a comedy solo adventure where your friends help out beforehand by filling in the various blanks with the adventure Mad Lib style. Class and levels aren’t important. It’s simply meant to be a very silly adventure with a very silly trial at the center of it.


•First Command. This adventure is for a humanoid character between Levels 2 and 10. You are put in charge of your own ship (complete with a slave galley), and your mission is to sail south to pick up a tribute for your Empress. Originally published in SA#15.


•Hot Pursuit. This adventure has no class or race restrictions. You are hired by the captain of the city guard to ferret out spies from an organization known as The Rangers that have infiltrated the city.


•Circle of Ice. This adventure is for characters of any class between Levels 1 and 4. As mentioned earlier, you are given an intro page on Page 18, similar to the first nine solo adventures. Then you have all the choose your own text for the adventures except this one, and finally on page 58 (61 in the PDF), you get another, DIFFERENT intro to Circle of Ice, and then the text for playing it. It’s all very oddly done. It’s a fun adventure, just like the rest of them, though.


So that’s it for the solo adventures. Now we have the three GM based adventures designed for an entire party.

•SeaReaver’s Tomb. This adventure is for a party of middle to high level characters on a general tomb robbing expedition. The adventure relies more on wits and puzzle solving than straight forward hack and slash though. It’s a fun little dungeon that can kill characters in a lot of ways. Originally published in SA#3.


•The Tomb of Axton. This adventure is for seven characters, with each player controlling two or three of them. I don’t see why you couldn’t do the adventure with more players controlling less PCs though. This is another dungeon crawl where you rob a grave of a long dead guy for profit and glory. It’s a small dungeon, only fourteen rooms long, but each one takes a while to get through. In some ways it is very similar in style, theme and climax to SeaReaver’s Tomb. Originally published in Sorcerer’s Apprentice #9/10 (it’s what the text says).


•The Black Dragon Tavern. This adventure is for characters below Level 9. It’s not a normal adventure, being more a collection of encounters characters may or may not take part in, depending on their actions. There are NPCs to meet, games to partake in and things to eat. It’s not an adventure in the way most people think of them. Rather, it is a regular place for characters to meet and story seeds to be planted. Originally published in SA#11.

So there you go – fourteen long out of print adventures for only five bucks! That’s an excellent deal no matter how you look at it. Adventurers’ Compendium also includes a Sorcerer’s Apprentice cover guide, a random treasure generator, a few puzzles and more. Long time T&T fans who remember the SA magazine will no doubt love this collection. Younger gamers or those new to T&T will be impressed by the fact you are getting so many adventurers for such a low price, not to mention getting all these old, out of print pieces without spending time and a lot of money tracking them down on the secondary market. Adventurer’s Compendium is a must have for any T&T fan. It’s that good.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventurers Compendium
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Shadowrun: Missions: Critic's Choice (5A-02)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2014 06:20:41
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/05/tabletop-review-shadowr-
un-missions-5a-02-critics-choice/

Feetal’s Gizz! Has it really been seven full months between Chasin’ the Wind and the next installment of this season’s Shadowrun Missions? It sure has, but worry not, for it has been worth the wait! As you might recall, this season of Shadowrun Missions is taking place in Chicago. Chi-Town. The Windy-City. BUG CITY. That’s right, you’re smack dab in one of the creepiest locations in the Sixth World for the long haul chummers, so get strapped in and let your paranoia run wild because, when it doubt, it’s probably being possessed, manipulated or controlled by Insect Spirits.

Shadowrun Missions are by far my favorite line of adventures currently being published, and Critic’s Choice is a perfect example of way. The adventures are designed to be played in one or two sessions (generally a four hour block, which is perfect for tournaments at conventions). The format these adventures are laid out in are organized in such a fashion that even a neophyte GM can run one of these with little to no problem. Everything you need, from enemy stats to specific die rolls needed, are listed in each scene. Veterans GMs will also find ways to tweak the difficulty and possibly save the runners if they get in over their heads. I should also mention each Mission is (usually) in full colour, and with a price tag of only $5.95, you’re getting an incredible deal. Why Shadowrun fans don’t pick up each and every one of these whenever they are released is beyond me. You can play each one as a one shot, or you can string the set together as one drawn out campaign. Of course, with the gaps of time between adventures, you should probably wait until the season is complete before going that route.

There’s so much to love about Critic’s Choice. It introduces a fun cast of characters for your players to interact with – many of which will no doubt be showing up in later adventures this season. You have a rat shaman gang leader, an up and coming fixer, an ugly elven pit fighter, a kind hearted street doc who might actually be as benevolent as he seems, and a collection of lunatics who live, breathe and cosplay the vidtrid Neil the Orc Barbarian in overzealous fashion. It’ll be interesting to see which of these turns out to working for the Bugs (ALL OF THEM! ALL OF THEM I TELL YOU!).

The adventure is a pretty unique one as far as Shadowrun affairs go. First, you’re actually clearly wearing the white hat with this run. Your mission is to extract some documents from a long abandoned building so a doctor can claim it as his. Once it is, he can turn it into a new clinic which is closer to the containment zone and can thus help a lot of people in need, especially those living next to a Ghoul warren. There’s also a scene where you can optionally take down a gang who accosts and murders people to feed to ghouls. Yes, lots of ghoul references in this one. Of course, the mission isn’t a cakewalk. Once you get to the building in question, you’ll find it is currently being squatted in by a group of people who mean no harm and, aside from being obviously insane, are just trying to get by in one of the most horrible places on Earth. Is there a way the squatters and the doc can both get what they want/need from this situation? Definitely – as long as your team isn’t the type to shoot first and second. I absolutely loved that you can get through Critic’s Choice without a single shot being fired or blade having to be pulled. Although it’s not likely, this adventure can be 100% combat free. I’ve been playing Shadowrun since the first edition FASA days, and I honestly think this is the first adventure that allows for this. That’s pretty cool. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t planned combat scenes in Critic’s Choice – just that you can avoid them. Most of the combat is pretty straightforward though, and shouldn’t give the PCs much of a challenge. Don’t worry though, this is just the second adventure of the season after all. By the time the PCs are done, they and their players should feel good about themselves and the work they have done for Chicago. It’s rare you get a run that isn’t super murky ethics and morality-wise, but I’m sure down the road we’ll see that the clinic you helped will be implanted bug spirits or be a Technomancer abattoir or something. It’s the Sixth World after all.

Overall, I really loved Critic’s Choice. I thoroughly enjoyed that the setup and each of the eight scenes that comprised this adventure included a reference to a line or song title from the musical Chicago. I loved how unique this adventure was in terms of setup and follow through. I really felt this would make a wonderful first adventure for people to learn Shadowrun with, be they new to the system or gaming as a whole. The scenes are short, and each provides a good cut-off point if you can’t finish the piece in a single session. The dice roll needs are on the low end. Combat is short and sweet, and much of the adventure is talking rather than shooting. All of these things should really help a newcomer learn Shadowrun, Fifth Edition quite nicely. Shadowrun is a pretty mechanics heavy system in the first place, and some other adventures might overwhelm or intimidate a less experienced gamer. So out of everything available for 5e so far, Critic’s Choice is definitely the best option for getting your feet wet with the Sixth World. If you don’t have the core rulebook for 5e, that shouldn’t be a problem, as you can still learn the game via this, the free Quick Start Rules and many a person willing to teach you the ropes at your local brick and mortar store, via Skype or Google Hangouts.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Missions: Critic's Choice (5A-02)
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The Mummy - A Dungeon World Playbook
Publisher: Awful Good Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2014 06:19:29
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/05/tabletop-review-the-mum-
my-a-dungeon-world-playbook/

I’ve been a big fan of Dungeon World since it started. Heck, I was even one of the original kickstarter backers. It’s a great game that deserves more mainstream attention that it is getting. Third party publishers are taking note though, with many companies releasing playbooks (character creation profiles) to allow all sort of new and crazy PCs into the game. Case in point is Awful Good Games’ latest – The Mummy. I love mummies. They’re my favorite undead. Whether it’s old Anktepot from Ravenloft to modern mummies like those found in the award-winning Mummy: The Curse, I have owned and/or reviewed it. Unfortunately, aside from TSR and White Wolf/Onyx Path releases, most mummy-related tabletop pieces are mediocre at best. Especially Pathfinder ones. That’s why I’m so happy about the sheer quality of this Dungeon World playbook. Not only is it well done, but I can actually play a mummy PC for the first time outside of the World of Darkness games. I’ll definitely be using this playbook for my next Dungeon World character – let’s see why!

The Mummy consists of two PDFs: a seventeen page playbook and a two page character sheet. The character sheet is like any you’ll find for Dungeon World. The two pages cover all the possible options for a mummy character, and you simply check off which options pertain to your PC. It’s incredibly well done, and I love seeing all the options from Levels 1-5 directly in front of you while you are playing. I do think Dungeon World has the best character sheets in gaming today, and if you haven’t viewed one, you really should. Awful Good Games hasn’t reinvented the wheel at all here. They’ve just copied the same format and plugged in their Mummy options. No complaints here.

Then we have the playbook itself. If you’ve played Dungeon World, you have a good idea what to expect. The playbook starts off with a list of six new Mummy related tags and what they mean play-wise. It then gives you a couple pages of background for the mummies and the decision making process behind the character class, which was a treat to read. I was surprised they relied on the 1999 remake of The Mummy rather than using the classic Universal black and white films or even the Hammer horror movies, but hey, it’s their playbook, right?

From there, you get a list of sample names and eleven and a half pages of character building options. Of course, some of those pages only have a paragraph on them, leaving a lot of blank space, but it is what it is. You’ll find a lot of options for physical appearance (eyes, bandages, head topping and fleshy form), three starting backgrounds and a list of your four starting abilities. I loved Soul Food because this is the first fantasy RPG that really talks about how food and beverages were left with mummies to consume in the next life. This really makes the race fit in line with Egyptian folklore and makes them a more playable PC, since they have to eat, drink and sleep like other classes/races. There are also nice twists on conventional D&D mummy tropes, like the ability to curse victims, the aura of fear and the usual mummy rot effect. After that, you pick your alignment, gear and bonds, and your character is ready to go. You should be able to have a Level 1 Mummy PC ready for play in about 15 minutes.

Advanced Moves are where things get interesting. For Levels 2 through 5, you get to pick one ability from the list of twenty options. There is a further list of four non-canon options that didn’t make the final product. Cool to see that included as a bonus. Anyway, of the Advanced Moves, my personal favorites are Dust to Dust (cloud of sand form!), Eternal Retainers (mummy NPC sidekicks!), Sand Storm (vomit a cloud of sand or vermin!), Seeker of Secrets (lifeline to the GM who reveals hidden things to your character), Wrap it Up (using your bandages as constricting or grappling tendrils) and Organ Donor (steal organs from living beings for free health boosts!). All the Mummy options are pretty fantastic, though, and as I have said, I’ll definitely be making a character with this playbook.

After the Advanced Moves, you are given a list of new gear and magic items for a Mummy, and that’s that! It’s pretty to the point with this playbook, and I loved it. It’s by far my favorite third party Dungeon World playbook so far, and if you’re a fan of the system, this is $2.50 well spent!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Mummy - A Dungeon World Playbook
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Dead Light
Publisher: Chaosium
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2014 11:34:42
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/12/27/tabletop-review-call-of-
-cthulhu-dead-light/

On Monday, December the 23rd, Chaosium decided to surprise all of its Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition backers with a special gift – the release of Dead Light. Even better, this first stand alone adventure for CoC 7e was made free to all 3,668 backers. Of course if you didn’t back Seventh Edition via Kickstarter (and WHY NOT?), the adventure is available for purchase with the very reasonable price tag of $6.95. This way, everyone’s a winner!

Now as Dead Light is for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, you may be saying to yourself, “Wait a second! Seventh Edition isn’t out yet.” You’re right, but worry not my friends. In the back of the book is a conversion guide to let you use Dead Light with older versions of the game. If you really want to play this adventure with Seventh Edition rules, you can always use the Quick Start Rules Chaosium has provided. Man, between this, the QSR, the upcoming Horror on the Orient Express remake (I have proofs in hand and expect a preview of that content coming soon!) and Secrets of Tibet, CoC 7e might be setting a record for the most content produced before the actual core rule book is released.

Dead Light is an adventure for two to five players and it’s set in the 1920s right outside Arkham. The adventure is meant to be a one-shot or stand-alone experience and it’s unusual in that, unlike most published CoC adventures where the dice tend to have the last say regarding combat, death and the like, the Keeper has almost complete control over who dies, how they die and when in this scenario. This means in the hands of a bad Keeper, say one who views the game as Investigators Vs. Keepers, this can be a bit of a disaster. In the hands of most Keepers, who tend to view the game as a collective storytelling experience with their friends, Dead Light can be an extremely satisfying experience because the Keeper can (and probably should) show mercy at times. Instead of having the character die in an accidental fashion or due to a bad roll, the GM can save that death for a more interesting and/or dramatic moment. In some ways, the control the GM has over life and death in this adventure reminds me of “Wrong Turn” in Cthulhu Britannica, in that the Keeper can (and will) predetermine the death of characters, thus making Dead Light more like an interactive film (or “on rails” if you are up to date with your video game vernacular) than your normal tabletop experience. This doesn’t mean the adventure is out of the players’ hands. If a player comes up with a really good idea for getting out of a situation, the Keeper should definitely reward that with a stay of execution. After all, Dead Light is more about thinking and decision-making than dice rolling and the person running this adventure needs to keep that in mind even if they really feel Character X’s death would be absolutely perfect at that moment.

I should also point out that due to the nature of how this adventure is designed to be run, Dead Light is a great way to bring newcomers into Call of Cthulhu, especially 7e. This way players can learn the mechanics and flow of a Call of Cthulhu experience without dying right away. Nothing’s worse than bringing a person into their first tabletop experience ever and having them die thirty minutes into the game and then just have them sit around watching other people play. With Dead Light, you can really teach a newcomer the basics and mechanics of CoC and keep them alive just long enough to get addicted to the game. Who knows? Maybe they’ll even make it through the game unscathed, form an emotional bond with their Investigator and thus begins a beautiful friendship…until a shoggoth finally eats them or they are sent to live out the reminder of their days in a madhouse.

The plot of Dead Light resembles that of a survival horror movie or video game, where characters are picked off one at a time by a seemingly unstoppable monstrosity bent only on death and destruction. In this case, Dead Light features a lot more human on human violence (and murder) than you might be used to in a Call of Cthulhu adventure. Worry not, because the 1920s actually did have a higher murder rate than we have nowadays in 2013 (soon to be 2014), so petty robbery and nonsensical murder makes sense, even in a time when America seemed on top of the world. Once the horror is accidentally released, it will start picking off people in the surrounding area one by one until it is either defeated or you have a Total Party Kill. The good news for players is that there are a lot of NPCs that can (and should) be devoured before them, heightening the tension and terror. As well, the Investigators don’t necessarily need to beat the antagonist in this adventure – they can always choose to just try and survive. If they make it until dawn, they can also “win” that way…although trying to last that long will probably ratchet up the body count. There’s not a lot of combat to be had here, as trying to do physical battle with the creature is all but impossible and almost certainly lethal to the Investigators. There are ways to hurt it/contain it, but whether or not the characters discover these methods depends on where they choose to go and what they choose to do. As such, the adventure is pretty investigative for one where there is also a lot of death and that juxtaposition makes for a very unique experience.

As mentioned earlier, Dead Light is pretty light on rolling the bones. You’ll have some Luck and Sanity rolls obviously and Spot Hidden will be a big help with this adventure, but honestly, the most rolling that will occur will probably be with Dodge and Drive Auto, the latter mainly due to the horrific storm that just happens to be occurring the night of the adventure. This means characters will live or die based on the decisions they make, so don’t be afraid to burn your Luck or ask for Idea rolls if you play this.

Besides the unusual nature of how the adventure unfolds, this really is a standard style CoC adventure. You have a nameless horror that defies description, investigation is needed to discover how these events came to pass as well as how to end them, sanity will be dropping like rain and a good time will be had by all. The good news is that the adventure eschews all the standard tropes of Call of Cthulhu, so there won’t be any Mi-Go, Deep Ones or Serpent People. There are no cults to foil nor do you have to sit in a library for hours on end, hoping to find the one tome you need, containing a spell that will save the day. The only real tropes the adventure contains is exploring a spooky house and finding a diary that explains how these events came to be (and that also gives you some Cthulhu Mythos points). I’m really happy to see Chaosium giving gamers something outside the box with this one. Sure the adventure sometimes feels more Chill or Cryptworld than Call of Cthulhu at times, but it still keeps the mood and feel of the setting. If you absolutely have to have a Mythos creature rear its head in your adventures, you might be disappointed here, but I can safely say that the antagonist of Dead Light feels right at home with the eldritch horrors and nameless terrors Lovecraft and his contemporaries created in their day.

Dead Light probably isn’t an adventure for everyone –especially gamers who don’t like feeling as if they are “on rails” for an entire adventure, but a good Keeper can hide that aspect of this piece, and really make the adventure stand out as a memorable experience for all. I’ll admit I went into this going, “Survival Horror? Oh god.” and I came away really impressed with the layout, flow and plot of Dead Light. I’m especially glad I got this adventure for free and can easily recommend it for the $6.95 price tag it comes with if you didn’t back 7e via Kickstarter. Dead Light is a solid experience from beginning to end and my only caveat is that you really need a quality Keeper who can run this without turning it into a “players vs. Keeper” experience, because no one likes those. The vast majority of people that pick up Dead Light will have a lot of fun with it, and really, what more do you need from an adventure, right?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dead Light
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Valiant Universe RPG Quick Start Rules: Featuring Unity
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2014 08:03:17
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/05/02/tabletop-review-valiant-
-universe-rpg-quick-start-rules-featuring-unity/

Although a lot of gamers got their start with Dungeons & Dragons, my first tabletop RPG was actually a different TSR game – Marvel Super Heroes. The FASERIP system was a lot of fun, very easy to learn (even in single digits of age) and I loved the random character generation process. The game still remains one of my favorites to this day. Another classic Super Hero RPG was Mayfair’s DC Heroes Role Playing Game. It had one of the best super hero character building systems ever and the mechanics were solid. For over thirty years, these two games have been the measuring stick with what I judge other super hero games, be they Champions, Mutants and Masterminds, Heroes Unlimited, later terrible incarnations of Marvel games I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, TMNT and other Strangeness, Villains and Vigilantes and more.

Now however, we have Valiant Universe RPG. I’ll be honest as much as I was DC and Marvel fans as a kid, the 90s brought me Valiant comics and it quickly became my favorite universe. Shadowman by Bob Hall and Steve Englehart. Rai by Bob Layton and David Michelinie. Harbinger by Jim Shooter. X-O Manowar, Ninjak, Quantum and Woody, and more! Valiant picked up the best writers and artists from comics and gave us the best cohesive universe I’d ever seen. Alas, it died off almost as quickly as it was born, for which I personally blame Acclaim Entertainment (Yes, the video game company. It’s a long story) and for more than a decade the characters of Valiant lay dormant save for those owned by Gold Key Studios. You can’t keep a good thing down though and about two years ago, Valiant came back with a vengeance – rebooting everything, but sticking to what made it work in the first place – collecting the best storytellers and artists in comics and delivering a universe full of continuity and characterization. I have pullbox subscriptions for every comic they put out and if you look at my list of comics I picked up in April you’d see it consist of 9 Valiant, 7 DC, 4 Marvel and 1 IDW. So as you can tell, I’ve been a Valiant fan since the dawn of its first incarnation, as well as a long time role-player, so Valiant Universe RPG was something I’ve been waiting a long time for.

Unlike most games, which only put out a single set of Quick Start Rules to entice buyers to pick up the real thing, Catalyst Game Labs is actually doing a set of SIX, which each one covering a different facet of the Valiant universe. This first QSR release covers a very simplified version of the rules and Unity. May through July will see a whopping FIVE QSR releases on the Harbinger Wars event that ran last year, each covering a different faction in that fight: Bloodshot, Generation Zero, The Harbinger Foundation, The Renegades and H.A.R.D. Corps. That’s a pretty interesting way to build hype for a brand new game and it will be interesting to see if it works or not. Besides this set of six PDFs, there will also be a physical Quick Start Rules set available at your local brick and mortar stores on Free RPG Day 2014. If that’s not enough the Core Rulebook for Valiant Universe RPG will be available digitally on July 5th and physically in August (probably later in real life because that’s how our industry rolls). I’m really impressed by CGL and Valiant’s game plan for this new RPG and I can’t deny out of all the new systems scheduled for 2014, this has been the one I’ve been most excited for (Sorry Pirates & Dragons).

Of course just because a game has a license with a large fandom behind it doesn’t mean the game is going to be a good one. For every Ghosts of Albion or Bram Stoker’s Dracula, there is a Know Your Role or Street Fighter RPG that is pretty terrible. So where does Valiant Universe RPG fall? Well, it’s impossible to tell from a twenty-six page set of Quick Start Rules. These are a simplified bare bones version of the real thing after all. I will say that the game looks exceedingly promising. At first glance, the Cue System (the mechanics for Valiant Universe RPG) seems to be a mix of Savage Worlds (Yay!) and Cortex (Boo!).

It’s very interesting that unlike most games which have a designated DM/GM/Keeper/Storyteller/what have you, every player takes a turn at being the Lead Narrator. This is an unusual choice as most gaming groups have one or two people that are good or like to run the game while the others just want to play as characters. The upside to this is everyone gets a chance to run things and at no time will there ever be the threat of “GMs vs Players” which ruins so many games. It also means that the game is unique in that adventures are a group creation where everyone contributes to the storytelling instead of just being along for the ride. There are downsides though, like when a person who sucks at GM’ing is up for the Lead Narrator role. As well, it means that due to the “telephone” like nature of Lead Narration the adventure may turn out totally differently from how it was originally intended. This isn’t a bad thing on its own, but it does mean you won’t see people spend time crafting and honing their own homebrew adventures. I can’t even begin to imagine how published adventures will work with this style of GM’ing. This doesn’t put me off though. If anything, it has me all the more curious for the final version. As well, the text clearly states you can run Valiant Universe RPG with a single Lead Narrator like any other game, so if the new idea doesn’t pan out, go back to basics!

There are no rules for character creation in this set of Quick Start Rules, which is fine. I am curious if there will be any, or if it will be more like the Cortex Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game where you only play as established canon characters. In this set of QSRs, you get four playable PCs, which are the original members of Unity. You have Toyo Harada, Gilad Anni-Padda – the Eternal Warrior, Ninjak (YES!) and Livewire. It makes sense to start with a team based group as a solo character like Shadowman would be a poor choice for a QSR, while an awesome choice for a solo adventure. Choosing Unity also made some of the biggest names in Valiant playable right off the bat, so this was a great choice overall, even if my favorite current Valiant Comic (Archer & Armstrong) won’t have its characters show up in any of the planned QSR sets.

The adventure for this Unity set follows this first story arc of Unity almost to the letter. The team is gathered to takedown X-O Manowar, who has recently taken over Romania and given it back to the Visigoths. Russia is planning a nuclear strike as nothing else seems has even made Aric of Dacia flinch, but Harada knows that will be disastrous for the entire world. As such, he has gathered a powerful group of heroes to save the day. Of course, if you have read the comics, you know that things don’t run smoothly. I won’t spoil the adventure, but I will say it is a lot of fun and that it is one of the best conversions from comic to tabletop I’ve ever seen. Of course, this does not mean you’re on rails to follow the comic storyline exactly. There are some examples in the text of how wildly divergent the adventure can stray from the comics up. This was very well done, but I do admit I hope to see some original adventures for characters down the road. Just following a comic arc makes sense for a QSR set as it is something Valiant fans will already be familiar with and can follow without having to strain their creative muscles too much. It would be dull if every adventure was based on a previously written comic book though.

So let’s talk playing the game. Again, these are not the final rules for the game, but simplified QSR mechanics. Each character has five core stats: Might (Strength and Stamina), Intellect, Charisma, Action (Fighting ability) and Luck. Luck is a solid non mutable number for each character. For example, Ninjak has 9 while Harada has 3. The other four stats are assigned a die. A stat will either have a D4, D6, D8, D10 or D12 attached to it, with the higher die representing more potential power. When a character has to make a roll. The player rolls the die corresponding to that trait and a d12. The two results are added together. The Lead Narrator then makes an opposing roll with a d20. Whoever gets the high result wins. Yes, resolving dice rolls are that easy/simple. So for example, if Ninjak wants to kick through a locked door (he doesn’t have time to pick the lock), he would roll his Might die (d8) and a d12 and add the result together. Then the Lead Narrator would roll that d20. If the player wins the roll, the action goes exactly as planned. If the Lead Narrator wins…it does not. Now a LN winning the roll doesn’t mean failure – it simply means they get to decide what happens. So for example, if Ninjack gets a 12 and the Lead Narrator gets a 19, the LN could say Ninjak does indeed kick through the door, but that it leg goes right through it as the door was brittle and old and he has to spend his next turn pulling his leg out of the hole he just made. If a player decides to use a power for an action, they get to roll the die associated with that power, the stat die and the d12. They don’t get to add all three results together though. Instead, they drop the lowest die and add the two remaining results together before the LN makes the opposing role. So let’s look at that scenario again. This time it’s the Eternal Warrior trying to break down the door with a sword. He would get to roll his Might die (d10), his power die of Weapon Mastery (d12) and the regular d12 die. So that’s two d12s and a d10 and then he would drop the lowest of the three. The LN would then roll its d20 and see who wins. Looking at it though, GIliad has a better chance of getting through the door than Ninjak, doesn’t he?

There is one exception to the above scenario and that is where luck comes in. If a player rolls his dice and one comes up with his luck number, it is an automatic success. So if any of Giliad’s three dice came up showing a 10, the LN doesn’t even need to roll – the action is a success. There can also be modifiers to die rolls just as in any game, chosen at the Lead Narrator’s discretion. Combat between two characters is a straight up Action Die vs Action Die with Modifiers. I should point out that ranged combat, at least in this QSR set has a pretty big advantage over melee. It’ll be interesting to see how much that holds up in the core rules once they are released, but for right now, distance is king.

There are a few other areas to cover. Health is similar to Shadowrun or World of Darkness games in that characters have a set amount and as it goes down, they receive penalties to die rolls. Each character also has an armor pool which is deleted before Health starts to go. Plot Points are similar to GM intrusions from Numenera mixed with the Doom Pool from the Marvel Cortex game. So on and so forth. It’ll be interesting to see how the rules change with each Quick Start release and what the final version eventually looks like.

So overall, Valiant Universe RPG is looking like it is off to a great start. It’s definitely looking like a game long time tabletop gamers and newcomers can sit down and have fun playing. The rules are very easy to learn and are pretty instinctual once you start. I have no idea where CGL is going to take this game and how supplements, published adventures and character creation will work, but I’m very eager to find out. Who knows – maybe we’ll see a line of Valiant Universe RPG miniatures down the road. I’d love a Vincent Van Goat. Anyway, this Quick Start Rules set is free, so if you’re remotely interested in Valiant or tabletop RPGs, you should download this right away. Again, this is the first of many free samples Catalyst Game Labs will be giving out online, so you’re going to want to pick up the whole set for a better look at how Valiant Universe RPG is shaping up. I’ll be taking a look at each of the releases as they are made available, so join me back here every few weeks to see what’s new!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Valiant Universe RPG Quick Start Rules: Featuring Unity
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Taking the Narrative by the Tail: GM Intrusions & Special Effects
Publisher: Monte Cook Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2014 08:12:59
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/30/tabletop-review-taking--
the-narrative-by-the-tail-gm-intrusions-special-effects-nume-
nera/

Taking the Narrative is the latest in a line of short supplements for Numenera by Monte Cook Games The PDF page count clocks in at seven but that includes both covers and each of the five pages with content have art and/or sidebars taking up a lot of room, so the content is brief and to the point. Of course, the piece is less than a buck hopefully you weren’t expecting some long tome revealing hundreds of pages of new information about the Ninth World.

Taking the Narrative is all about GM Intrusions and how to use them properly. For newcomers to Numenera, a GM intrusion is when the GM throws a monkey wrench or a roadblock into the player’s actions. It could be a door has a failsafe built in which prevents it from opening via electrical tampering. It could be an attack by some other life form. It could be that they drop their grappling hook halfway up a steep climb. A GM Intrusion can take pretty much any form. The catch is that an intrusion gives a Player (or players) XP for occurring and players can also trade in. So there is a nice trade-off for the DM acting as the fickle finger of fate. As well, a player can nullify the GM intrusion by refusing the XP and spending one of his own to craft a way (in-story) that the PCs sidestep this potential calamity. The end result is that everyone in the game, GM and players alike work together to craft the narrative instead of some games where the GM is God, what they say goes. Sometimes, those games can be ruined by a bad GM who delights in punishing his players or treats the game as something they have to win by beating (killing) the PCs. A bad GM can turn a game into something that feels like PCs are just along for the ride or worse, ruins the game that the players don’t want to play it or any other tabletop game at all. Thankfully Numenera is designed to prevent such a GM from dominating the Ninth World experience. GM Intrusions aren’t meant to prevent a PC from achieving their goals or “winning” the story. They’re meant to spice things up by throwing a new piece of drama or danger in. A Good GM intrusion is something like you are a day’s hike from your goal, but a terrible storm erupts cutting your progress in half. This allows PCs to duck into a nearby cave where there might be a subplot or subquest awaiting them. Maybe even an underground tunnel that brings them to the goal. Who knows? Of course they can always go the route they had planned, just at half the speed and possible taking damage from the storm. Either way the adventure continues as planned. There’s just a wrinkle in the roadmap so to speak. A bad GM intrusion would be, “While you are sleep a horde of hundreds of terrible thingies sneak up on you. Prepare for combat without any weapons or armor. Also, they have acid lasers.”

It makes sense why Monte Cook Games released a full supplement further explaining the concept of GM intrusions as it is a hard one for long time gamers used to letting dice act as the sole arbiter of fate. Some even have the mindset that when a GM sticks adds something not in the published adventure or rules that they are “cheating” or purposely trying to stick it to the PCs. That’s why it’s really important that all people playing Numenera read the GM Intrusion section in the core rulebook and understand how it works. It’s also why Taking the Narrative is a must by for any Numenera fan because it further fleshes out the concept, explains how it is an alternative to the way most tabletop RPGs are run (although not necessarily meant to be played) and most importantly, how a GM intrusion helps players and makes the game more interesting/fun in the long run. If you get the concept right off, you probably don’t need to by Taking the Narrative, but you should own it anyway for gamers in your group that have been burned by previous games and/or GMs and are expecting you to drop a tactical nuclear strike at any second if you show the slightest bit of disagreement or displeasure in how things are unfolding. It’s also helpful to give this to your GM if they think an “unexpected twist” or “didn’t see that coming moment” is more akin to Vince Russo style crash TV from late 90s WCW professional wrestling.

Besides a frank discussion of what a GM intrusion is and IS NOT, Taking the Narrative gives a whole host of examples of possible GM intrusions for various situations. Whether you’re a newcomer to GM’ing or you find it old hat, there are enough examples here to get your imagination rolling. Besides, you can always use one of the examples in your game. It’s what they are for, after all! You also get three brief paragraphs on minor and major Special Effects which occur when someone rolls a 19 or 20. There’s not much on the subject but between what is in the core rulebook and this little bit, you get a good sense of how the GM and player that scored the fortuitous role can work together to make a cool moment happen.

So while very short, Taking the Narrative by the Tail is a wonderful example of just what a supplement should be in this day and age of tabletop gaming. You get an in-depth clarification of what is something of a paradigm shift for some (but by no means all) gamers and a look at how to properly use it in your Numenera game. GM intrusions are one of the big features that makes Numenera stand out from a lot of other games with its built in checks and balances as well as the reminders that the GM and players work together rather than as adversaries. It’s a great concept that is further fleshed out in this supplement and it’s definitely something all Numenera fans should pick up. Hell, even if you’re NOT a Numenera fan, it’s something worth reading because it’s a nice look at how GMs should complement the narrative rather than dominate it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Taking the Narrative by the Tail: GM Intrusions & Special Effects
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Against the Cult of the Bat God
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2014 06:47:18
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/30/tabletop-review-against-
-the-cult-of-the-bat-god-pathfinder/

Against the Cult of the Bat God is an adventure for 5th Level Pathfinder characters, although the adventure does not say what the ideal party size should be. The adventure is designed for use with Raging Swan’s “Lonely Coast” campaign setting, but can easily be adapted to any Pathfinder game. In this adventure, players will be travelling to a creepy out of the way hamlet where the PCs will encounter a foul cult trying to restore their deity to full power. On the surface this sounds like a pretty generic affair, right? There are countless fantasy RPG adventures that have this same basic scenario. Most of them are terrible while a few like Lamentations of the Flame Princess‘s Scenic Dunnmouth completely rewrite the trope. Against the Cult of the Bat God lies somewhere in between. It’s a well written, if highly generic adventure that throws a few twists into the mix to help the adventure stand out from the large pack of like minded pieces.

One of the things I really like about adventures from Raging Swan Press is how organized they are. You are given multiple pages on how to read and use the adventure before it even begins, allowing even the most inexperienced or new DM to run the adventure. You are given information on how to read stat blocks, how to identify treasure (both magical and mundane) and a ton of information about the Lonely Coast. I was impressed by the sheer amount of detail provided here. Features, locations, mileage and travel times between city and so much more are provided before you even get into the meat of the adventure. The back of the adventure also contains a set of pregenerated characters for players to use if they have no desire or time to make their own. The Larry Elmore portraits for each one are really gorgeous, if not more than a little inspired by his earlier Dragonlance work. Now things are not perfect with Against the Cult of the Bat God. For example, on page 8 of the PDF, the population for Oakhurst is listed at 413 but on page 10, it is down to 121. There are other inconsistencies in the information ranging from alignment (Rasla Neblor for example is listed as Chaotic Neutral on page 10 but then as Chaotic Good on page 12.) on down. So while there is a lot of information to help you run Against the Cult of the Bat God, some of what is in the PDF is contradictory and makes the overall piece feel sloppy. A good editor could have caught much of this and usually RSP adventures ARE better than this. I’m not sure how so many errors got through in this one.

For whatever reason, the PCs have journeyed to the remote town of Oakhurst (there are several story hooks provided). Oakhurst is a backwater community full of rumours about dark magic, inbreeding and being a hotbed for all sorts of illegal activities. Most of the rumours turn out to be true. In addition to all this is the villainous cult of the Bat God who seek to help their god gain more power as well as fully manifest in this reality. Of course players have no idea about the cult of the Bat God when the adventure starts (unless the see the name of the adventure and let character and player knowledge bleed together). Players will have to discover the real horror plaguing Oakhurst once they have arrived on a unknowingly related matter.

Against the Cult of the Bat God is a sandbox style adventure. This means the PCs can openly explore Oakhurst and the surrounding area without feeling railroaded to a specific location by the DM. Now, some events will occur at specific locations at specific times, but these are to help the adventurers find the direction they need to go in order to complete the adventure. Of course there are also some events that occur if the players don’t reach specific goals in time, but this doesn’t necessarily mean “gave over” or that the PCs lose – just that there will be a much unhappier ending. The PCs have three full days in-game time to discover the machinations of the bat god cult and (hopefully) prevent them. There isn’t a great deal of combat in this adventure save towards the end. Most of the adventure is exploring and investigating, which is nice as too many Pathfinder adventures devolve into hack and slash dungeon crawls. Now that doesn’t mean Against the Cult of Bat God doesn’t have that – just that it is more balanced than most Pathfinder offerings, ensuring that every gamer will get to experience the part of tabletop RPGing they like best.

I will say I was very happy with the monster choices in this adventure. I have a soft spot for the main antagonist “race” ever since it appeared in the first Ravenloft Monstrous Compendium back in the golden era of AD&D 2e. It’s a logical choice for the adventure and the slight modifications to the Pathfinder version for this adventure are interesting ones. At the same time, I was very unhappy to see this adventure fall prey to the big problem plaguing most Pathfinder products, third and first party alike, which is the reference of way too many releases in order to make the adventure work as originally conceived. Now there’s nothing wrong with referencing two or three books beyond the core three books every Pathfinder player should have, but more than that and the adventure begins to not only thumb its nose at more casual players, but also makes a gamer feel like they need to spend a lot of cash on other Pathfinder releases to the point where it is the only game they can invest in. Unfortunately, Against the Cult of the Bat God references a whopping seventeen other Pathfinder releases, which is unacceptable. It’s a sign that the author is through and great at cross-referencing, but no adventure should require that math supplements and sourcebooks to run properly. In the adventure’s defense, Against the Cult of the Bat God does its best to make the adventure run as smoothly as possible without needed that actual enormity of dead trees, but that is still WAY too many releases for ANY adventure to reference.

Overall, Against the Cult of the Bat God is a decent, if forgettable, affair. It’s a well written adventure and extremely easy to use thanks to the layout and format provided by Raging Swan Press. The adventure is very generic in plot and follow through however, so some gamers may find this too close to dozens of other fantasy releases that they have encountered over the decades and thus not enjoy the experience. Still, the trope works and Against the Cult of the Bat God makes good use of it. For nine dollars though, there are a lot of better Pathfinder adventures out there and Against the Cult of the Bat God is a bit sloppy compared to other Raging Swan Press releases. Against the Cult of the Bat God might be worth picking up if it goes on sale, but for right now it’s a bit too generic and expensive compared to other options out there.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Against the Cult of the Bat God
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the comprehensive review. I\'m very grateful for you taking the time to do so and I\'ll definitely keep your comments in mind when designing upcoming modules. I just wanted to comment on one facet of the review. While you are absolutely correct that the OGL section for this adventure lists 17 products, you don\'t need all of them to run the adventure! Unfortunately the way the OGL works is that if I reference (for example) The Lonely Coast in a product I\'m legally obliged to list all the products the Lonely Coast references even if they have nothing to do with the adventure! In this example, The Lonely Coast references six products which have nothing to do with the module and which you absolutely do not need to have to run Against the Cult of the Bat God! Hopefully, with the exception of specific feat and spell descriptions from other books, the adventure text should contain almost everything you need to run it. I agree with you that adding new stuff in just for the sake of doing so is not a great design choice and we try to avoid that at Raging Swan Press. Thanks again for the review. I look forward to more of the same!
The 11th Hour [PFRPG adventure]
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2014 08:08:05
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/29/tabletop-review-the-11t-
h-hour-pathfinder/

Contrary to what you might think, The 11th Hour is not based off of the old Trilobyte sequel to The Seventh Guest. It’s actually got more in common with the old Bill Murray film Groundhog Day. I have to admit, from the name and cover, I WAS expecting a horror adventure, but what I ended up getting was a pleasant surprise.

The 11th Hour is an adventure for 1st Level characters. There is no mention of what size party the adventure is made for, but in truth, it doesn’t need one. The adventure can work just as well as a solo piece as it would for a party the size of a Dungeon Crawl Classics 0 Level game. How is that possible? Well, the adventure is pretty much combat free, and the players will be using their wits instead of flexing their muscles for the entirety of the affair. I say “pretty much,” because gamers being gamers, their characters could just go on a mad killing spree, murdering every NPC involved in the adventure as an attempt to “solve” things. Every so often you get a player or a full group with that thought process, so just a heads up that even though the adventure does its best to present a fun and challenging mystery for neophyte characters, someone may decide to go stab-happy.

Like many an adventure, The 11th Hour starts in a local inn/tavern. However, that’s as close to the usual tropes as the adventure gets. Once inside, the players will soon discover that they are stuck in a time loop, repeating the same hour over and over again. What’s more, the PCs are the only ones that seem to notice the loop is happening, while everyone else in the tavern are blissfully unaware, continuing to take the same actions they did before unless interrupted. It is up to the PCs to figure out why the loop is happening and how to stop it.

What’s more, The 11th Hour is designed to be played in real time, so that pace of the adventure flows with real world time. Adventures that are able to pull this off well are rare, but The 11th Hour does a great job. Perhaps not as well as Bride of the Black Manse, but that adventure is four hours long, while The 11th Hour has you repeating the same hour over and over until players figure it out. While the adventure is well written, the fact it is “only” an hour long means the DM needs to be very prepared to pull this off. The 11th Hour may be a great adventure to run for beginning and veteran players alike, but it really does need a highly experienced DM to keep track of everything, or the adventure will fall apart. All you need to do is miss one or two time cues and things can go bad.

The adventure is as hard or as easy as your players make it. They do have to pay attention to details, and this is a rare Pathfinder adventure, as role-playing takes precedence over roll-playing, but overthinking can make The 11th Hour harder than it should be. So far I’ve seen players go through it several times with the real world pacing throwing them off, and I’ve also seen a team get the adventure right on the first try thanks to having a Druid in the party. It all just depends on how used to non-combat adventures your gaming pals are and how quickly they adjust to playing an adventure in real time instead of a ten second battle taking an hour to play out.

All in all, The 11th Hour is a great adventure. It’s a nice change of pace from the hack and slash fare that most Pathfinder adventures (especially third party released) end up being. The PDF purchase price of five dollars might seem a bit much for only nineteen pages, but it is in full color, has some great art and also includes three maps for players and the DM to use. I really liked how outside the box The 11th Hour was. I wish more companies that produced content for Pathfinder would do adventures like this instead of the same old dungeon crawl hack and slash experience. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air to give new life to Pathfinder, you should seriously consider The 11th Hour. It’s not for everyone, but the uniqueness of the adventure makes it a great way to introduce people to the mechanics of Pathfinder before overwhelming them with how intense combat can be.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The 11th Hour [PFRPG adventure]
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RPG Background Loops MP3: 1890s Train Station Platform
Publisher: Plate Mail Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2014 06:30:49
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/29/tabletop-review-rpg-bac-
kground-loops-mp3-1890s-train-station-plateform/

I usually don’t review audio tracks for RPGs, but I’m making an exception for this one, mainly because it fits the one campaign that I DO use audio tracks for, and that’s Horror on the Orient Express. With the re-release for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition coming out in a few months, this seemed like the perfect chance to try out 1890s Train Station Plateform (Yes, that’s how platform is spelled in the official title. I’m assuming it is a pun on the company’s name rather than sloppy editing.) to see if it would be a good fit for my campaign.

At a dollar-fifty, 1890s Train Station Plateform is in line with most MP3 downloads these days, and a good bargain considering it is a full ten minutes long. The track is wonderfully done and features all sorts of background noises that do indeed sound like a train journey. You have the murmur of speakers all around you, footsteps of passerbys hurrying to their destination, and of course, all sorts of train noises. The blaring of a horn, the hiss of brakes and the chug-chug-chug of the locomotive and its assorted train cars as it moves along. I should point out that the title of the track, 1890s Train Station Platform isn’t necessarily fitting though. The track can definitely be used with a 1920s setting, or any setting, really, outside of modern times. It’s very well done.

It is odd that the track also contains sounds you would hear if you were ON a train rather than at a station, as you normally wouldn’t hear a quiet repetition of train noises at a station. So the track seems to want to be two pieces, a train station and a train journey, rather than just the station. Unfortunately, the train journey sounds are too short to work as that kind of track, and so, in the end, the track comes off as a bunch of very short train journeys rather than one atmospheric track of an actual train station/platform. Perhaps Plate Mail Games should have made two tracks, one for each, as it would have served interested parties better and made them some more money. Of course, you’ll only notice these issues if you listen to the track closely and on loop for an hour as I did to do this review. Most gamers who are just listening to it as background noise as they game will find this fantastic. I did go through all 100+ entries in Plate Mail Games’ catalog, but this was the only train piece I could find. Alas.

I’ll definitely use 1890s Train Station Plateform with my Horror on the Orient Express campaign. It’s also a great compliment to Train Ride Into Darkness, by Game Soapbox Productions, LLC, which is a thirty-three minute collection of nine MP3s. That set costs only $4.95 and so together, you have an excellent collection of train and Cthulhu-esque sounds for your Victorian and/or 1920s horror game of choice. If you decide to download this track and like what you hear, Plate Mail Games does have a lot of options for you. The choices range from Sci-Fi to Super Heroes, so variety is not a problem here. They also offer audio previews that you can listen to on DriveThruRPG.com, so if you’re looking for some tracks to add a little flavor to your game, you might find what you’re looking for with Plate Mail Games.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
RPG Background Loops MP3: 1890s Train Station Platform
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your review. The name was not a pun, it was sloppy editing on my part. You write Plate enough times that when you get to Plat you throw an e in out of habit. The mistake has been fixed.
Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2014 06:21:38
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/25/book-review-sail-away-s-
weet-sister-shadowrun/

Sail Away, Sweet Sister is the latest piece of “enhanced fiction” for Shadowrun. Enhanced Fiction simply means that at the end of the short story you get stats for the characters you just read about and maybe a few brief bits of mechanics. Sail Away, Sweet Sister is actually a direct sequel to a previous piece of enhanced fiction, Another Rainy Night, which was released a little over two years ago. That’s a long stretch between stories that are only two dozen pages in length, so I did find I had to re-read Another Rainy Night to remind myself of everything that happened in the previous tale. It’s worth noting that Sail Away, Sweet Sister can be read as a standalone, but it works FAR better if you read them both back to back. Otherwise you’ll miss some details and nuances that only carry over if you are familiar with both tales. The story is written in such a way that assumes you are familiar with Another Rainy Night which may cause a little bit of confusion in those that pick this up first. You’ll see reference to previous events and players that aren’t explained at all here, but were in Another Rainy Night, so just a head’s up there. Unfortunately, Another Rainy Night still has the $4.99 price tag attached to it. I was happy to see that CGL read my review of Another Rainy Night, because I said the sweet spot for a short piece of fiction like this would be $1.99. Lo and behold, that’s the price tag on Sail Away, Sweet Sister. Now if only they could go back and reduce the price on Another Rainy Night, everything would be awesome.

Sail Away, Sweet Sister also plays off another long untouched Shadowrun plot thread, this time from Storm Front, which closed out Shadowrun, Fourth Edition in April of 2013. In this case, we finally get to hear more about how vampires, ghouls and other “undead” are becoming more photosensitive while also suffering from stronger urges and hunger pains. Like Another Rainy Night, I’m glad to see someone over at CGL finally doing something with these dangling plot threads left over from 4e, but unless you’ve read both Another Rainy Night and Storm Front, you probably had no idea about the changes in the HMHVV community, both physically and socially. So for people to Shadowrun Fifth Edition, you’re probably going to feel out of the loop with this story, especially since it happens smack dab during Fourth Edition dates-wise. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it, just that you’re getting a story that is a few years (in-game and real life) behind the current meta-plot currently featured in Shadowrun.

When we last left Dr. Thomas McAllister and Knight Errant copy Lydia Bowen, they had finally put an end to the Mealtime Killer, a notorious serial killer who had killed roughly two dozen people before it was finally put down. In Sail Away, Sweet Sister, we learn that much like Doink the Clown, there is more than one MTK, perhaps many more. While the first MTK was someone obsessed with Thomas McAllister, the revelation of who the second is hits far closer to home with our main character as it is his sister. We also learn more about the Fear the Dark organization, which appears to be either a vampiric terrorist organization or a group of vampire traditionalists who want a return to the pre-Twilight version of vampires who are the natural predators of meta-humanity, which fears and loathes them. Hey, maybe it’s both! We don’t really get enough details on Fear the Dark, which heavily implies this will be continues in either another short story, supplement or sourcebook. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another two years to get the next part.

We get a lot of new characters with Sail Away, Sweet Sister. There is the enigmatic Minotaur, Jericho and the dwarven vampire Seamus, which really makes me think Patrick Goodman (author of the story) is a big wrestling fan as there seems to be a lot of subtle nods to it in his stories (hence the earlier Doink reference). I liked both characters, especially Seamus as he is a good reminder that not all Sixth World vampires are turning into second rate Vampire: The Masquerade wanna-bes. I also liked his fire elemental sidekick. I have a soft spot for friendly fire elementals as one of my own characters from back in the day had one. You’ll also meet Thomas’ ex-wife and of course, his sister Lenore. The cast is really well done in this book and even characters who only show up for a cup of coffee, like the two Lone Star agents, have very fleshed out personalities. There’s more character development in these twenty-four pages than you see in some gaming-licensed novels, which is impressive.

That’s not to say that the story is flawless. I felt it was a little too paint by numbers in that I’ve read several vampires stories with the same basic plot and resolution. The only difference here was that it involved a Shadowrun setting. I had déjà vu for much of the story, knowing exactly how it was going to go down long before I reached the actual pages confirming what I already suspected. The ending also really falls apart for me as it got really cheesy and flew in the face of the character development we’ve seen in not just this story but Another Rainy Night as well. It wasn’t hackneyed, but it was paint by numbers. I also really didn’t like that the story seems to be setting up Sixth World vampires for becoming VERY White Wolfish, complete with a Beast (or Monster as it is referred to here) that can control a vampire’s action when hurt or hungry. I’m really hoping this was a one-time case of schizophrenia (or some other mental derangement equivalent) brought on by being a vampire rather than have it turn out HMHVV is going to cause sufferers to have a more bestial second personality (or god forbid demon or extraplanar entity possession) as that’s not only stupid, but it takes away a lot of the uniqueness of Shadowrun “undead.” If I want angsty vampires fighting themselves over the eventual erosion of their humanity, I have V:TM or V:TR for that…not to mention that old Shadowrun/cyberware guide for V:TM that was published back in the mid 90s. So overall, I’d say I’m happy we got a continuation of Another Rainy Night but that Sail Away, Sweet Sister is nowhere as good or original a read. I’m hoping this was just ring rust after being away from the characters for so long and that the third installment in the series (if there is one) will be back up to the same level of quality we had in Another Rainy Night.

I should end this review by bringing up the “enhanced fiction” part. You get stat blocks for Thomas, Lydia, Lenore, Karla and Colonel Anne Ravenhurst. You’re also getting Fourth AND Fifth Edition stat blocks for each of the aforementioned characters. The 4e stats for Lydia and Thomas are ripped straight from Another Rainy Night, which is a good thing as it shows continuity. If the stats blocks were wildly different, I’d have to wonder what was up. I’m really glad to see stats for the two latest editions of Shadowrun as is helps ease edition wars and lets fans of each game use the characters without having to do any conversion. We also get two new SR5 positive Qualities, a few new weapons and a page of mechanics on drug called Renfield and how it affects those who take it. All in all, there is something for Shadowrun fans who like the fiction and/or the mechanics, so everyone who picks this up should find something to enjoy here.

So if you’re still with me, here’s what you need to know. Is Sail Away, Sweet Sister as good as Another Rainy Night? No. Should you still pick it up? Absolutely. While the story isn’t as good, it is still a fun read and even with the flaws I talked about earlier, you’ll end the tale wanting to know what happens next. That’s a good sign. It’s also a LOT cheaper than Another Rainy Night. The mechanics are well thought out and if that’s all you want from one of these releases, Sail Away, Sweet Sister is definitely the better choice, although Another Rainy Night DOES have some neat vampire hunting ammo. While not great literature by any means, Sail Away, Sweet Sister is entertaining and gives Sixth World fans the continuation of the story they have been waiting over two years for. The price point is perfect too, as even if you don’t like the story, it will only set you back two bucks. Again, let’s hope we don’t have to wait another two years for another installment of the continuing adventures of Thomas McAllister or a year for another slight update on the changes to HMHVV sufferers in the Sixth World.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #82: Bride of the Black Manse
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2014 06:41:34
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/24/tabletop-review-dungeon-
-crawl-classics-82-bride-of-the-black-manse/

As a big fan of Dungeon Crawl Classics, I love it when Goodman Games gives us an adventure that is actually two in one. Similar to the Free RPG Day 2012, The 13th Skull, and a few other adventures, you’re actually getting two adventures in this release for the price of one. How can you not love that? The first is Bride of the Black Manse, as you could surmise from the title. The second is Blood For the Serpent King. Black Manse takes up the majority of the booklet, with Blood For the Serpent King taking up the last eight. Both adventures come with fantastic art, maps by Doug Kovacs (The best in the industry) and are fully fleshed out so that gamers will really get their money’s worth. Of course with two DCC adventures, it just means more opportunities for PCs to die horribly. Let’s take a look at each adventure in this piece.

Bride of the Black Manse is designed for four to eight 3rd Level Characters, and the party should include one priest and one thief. Unlike most Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures which are heavy on well, dungeon crawling and light on nuanced in-depth story-telling, Bride of the Black Manse is sort of the mirror opposite. It is primarily story-telling and mystery solving, while being very light on the combat. Don’t worry hack and slash fans, there is combat, and even though it is sparse, expect to see at least one PC eviscerated. Hey, this is Dungeon Crawl Classics after all. You play this game expecting characters to have a short life span, Call of Cthulhu style. Speaking of Call of Cthulhu, Bride of the Black Manse at times feels more like an adventure for that setting due to the amount of talking, discovery and otherworldly horror involved. Now if you’re a DCC fan that wants more roll-playing than role-playing, Bride of the Black Manse is probably not for you For everyone else though, you’ve got a great adventure that should appeal to longtime fans of the system., while also appealing to those who have eschewed DCC for being too combat heavy.

It’s also worth noting that Bride of the Black Manse is designed to be played in a single four hour session. This makes the adventure a fun one shot as well as a great choice to run at a convention. However the time constraint does mean that players have no chance of running through the entire Manse. Huge portions will be left undiscovered. This is okay. It’s part of the adventure. Some GMs may want to ignore that the adventure was designed for a single four hour session and let players go hog wild, exploring every nook and cranny. Whether that actually adds or detracts from the overall experience will depending on the GM and their troupe’s playing style, so mileage may vary. My suggestion is to play the adventure as is first. We’ll see why below.

So what is Bride of the Black Manse about? Well, it’s a tale about the fall of House Liis and how one person offered their soul to the devil Mammon in exchange for unholy power and the chance to rule. Well, they got their wish and like any good weasely antagonist, they found a way to protect their soul from Mammon’s clutches even if they couldn’t outright void the contract. Still, if there is one thing an immortal being has, it is time and so Mammon has waited many years to claim his prize and on the anniversary of the original deal being struck and the last of the wards losing their power, the PCs enter the picture. It’s up to the GM as to WHY the players have gone to the Manse, but that’s not too hard. The key thing is getting them there. Once inside the Manse, players discover they are all either reincarnations of members of House Liis or that the ghosts of Liis family members each chooses a PC as their champion. This is a key part of the adventure, so if you are the GM, make sure you know which path you are going to choose and which House Liis member corresponds to which character. Not keeping close track of this subtle but highly important detail can destroy the adventure.

Once the characters are inside the Manse, they must unravel its mysteries, deal with the plethora of evil spirits that dwell within and so much more. Of chief importance is keeping track of the time. The adventure begins at 9pm as the players enter the Manse and discover what they are in for. From the tolling of the first bell, the adventure then begins to unfold IN REAL TIME, which is why I mentioned you should play the adventure as written. An hour into the adventure it will be 10pm and the bell well toll once more. When this happens, the Manse will change in certain ways. This is also true when the bell tolls 11 and 12. Midnight is of course when the devil himself comes for his due. This gives players one last hour to solve the mystery of the Black Manse. Running the adventure in real time, really gives Bride of the Black Manse a unique feel as players will be scrambling rather than slowly inching their way through a dungeon. Having to rush through the Manse means things will be overlooked or missed as PCs have to make some tough choices. Some players won’t like being forced to play in real time as they are used to spending minutes agonizing over actions that would take seconds. Others will love the feel of the adventure and be quickly able to adapt. Again, it’s all in who you have at your table.

Bride of the Black Manse is simply an incredible adventure from beginning to end. I loved the creepy atmosphere, the mystery to be solved and the overall feel of the adventure. There’s nothing quite like Bride of the Black Manse and it’s worth picking up for any fantasy RPG, be it Dungeons & Dragons or one of its many retro clones. It’s the best horror adventure of 2014 so if you like pieces reminiscent of Ravenloft, you should stop reading this review right now and download/order this. Of course we still have another adventure to go in this twofer, so let’s start looking at it now.

Blood for the Serpent King is a more traditional adventure, designed for six to eight 2nd Level characters. It is a quasi-sequel to both DCC #16 Curse of the Emerald CobraThe Known Realms. You don’t see a lot of sequel adventures for DCC, so that makes this one special in its own right. It is worth noting that knowledge and/or experience with the two aforementioned adventures are not necessary. It’s more an Easter Egg or sly nod than anything else.

Blood for the Serpent King is a pretty straightforward affair. A group of serpent-men are looking to make a sacrifice on a very (un)holy night which will revive the Emerald Cobra himself, Xiuhcoatl. At the same time, the PCs wander in. There is no real setup for the adventure save for “Hey, ancient crypt! Let’s check it out.” Some GMs will want to put more of a story behind the reason why the PCs are tomb robbing while some know greed and looting are the only motivations their PCs need. Once at the crypt, players will have a straight up dungeon crawl. There are seven locations, each with their own encounter designed to whittle down PC hit point totals, if not outright murder them dead. You have your final climatic encounter with Xiuhcoatl, and that’s it folks. As I’ve said this is a pretty paint by numbers adventure, ESPECIALLY compared to Bride of the Black Manse, but that doesn’t mean Blood for the Serpent King isn’t a fun short little one shot for DCC fans. It’s a more traditional hack and slash affair and it makes a fine juxtaposition to the many mysteries of Bride of the Black Manse. Would I purchase Blood for the Serpent King on its own? No, I wouldn’t. Is it a great extra to have bundled in with the feature presentation? Definitely!

I absolutely loved this adventure set and it continues the trend Dungeon Crawl Classics has had this year of just putting out top notch outside the box pieces. With each adventure release in 2014 I wonder how Dungeon Crawl Classics is going to top itself…and then it does. Goodman Games is really on fire this year and like Intrigue at the Court of Chaos and The One Who Watches From Below, I can’t recommend Bride of the Black Manse enough. Even if you’ve never played DCC before, you should pick up all three adventures because they are so good you’ll want to pick up the core rulebook immediately afterwards and start converting your friends to the game. So far, 2014 has shaped up to be the year of Dungeon Crawl Classics and I’ve yet to see anything come close to touching it. Again, with three straight adventures that have blown me away, there has never been a better time to get into Dungeon Crawl Classics – so get started already!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #82: Bride of the Black Manse
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Call Of Catthulhu, Book I: THE NEKONOMIKON, the Book of Cats
Publisher: Catthulhu.com
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2014 06:25:23
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/21/tabletop-review-call-of-
-catthulhu-deluxe-book-1-the-nekonomicon/

Back in September of 2013, I reviewed an awesome rules-lite game entitled Call of Catthulhu.It was an adorable game about house cats being the last stand against the Great Old Ones. You played as a cat and you dealt with fun parodies of Lovecraftian lore. In the back of the book was the promise of a Kickstarter campaign for a deluxe version of the game. Well, the Kickstarter ran from October 30th, 2013 through December 2nd, 2013 and was highly successful, netting a little over $41K from 783 backers. The project ballooned to multiple books, a boxed set, miniatures and more. A few days ago, the first book for Call of Catthulhu Deluxe, The Nekonomicon, was released in PDF form (we’re still waiting for physical copies) with the promise of the next two books (Unaussprechlichen Katzen and Whirls of Catthulhu) to be released in May and June. So how does The Nekonomicon fare? Is it worth delving into the new version of Call of Catthulhu, or should you stick with the much cheaper basic edition of the game? Let’s take a look!

The Nekonomicon is essentially the Player’s Handbook for Call of Catthulhu Deluxe. Unlike the basic game, which has a little bit of everything to allow you to play, this first book focuses specifically on PC creation and the core rules. Playing Call of Catthulhu is quite easy. You just get a bunch of six sided dice and roll them when the rules and/or GM feels it is necessary. A 1 or 2 is a failure and a 3-6 is a success. An Easy challenge needs one success with two dice being rolled. A Normal challenge needs one success with a single die rolled. A Difficult challenge needs two successes on two dice. Pretty cut and dry, right? If you fail a roll, you can cash in a Treat (each player starts with one at the beginning of the game and can earn more through good roleplaying) to roll again. So don’t worry about volumes of rules and all sorts of mechanics. I just summed up the core rules for you in a few sentences. The game is really easy to learn and a lot of fun to play as long as you have a group that has a whimsical sense of humor.

Making a character is pretty easy too. You have five classes for your cat to choose from: Catcrobat, Pussyfoot, Scrapper, Tiger Dreamer and Twofootologist. Your choice of roles determines which tasks are easy ones for you. There are no stats or attributes. You pick your role and this is the only part of your character that really determines mechanics later on in the game. The rest of the character is all based on roleplaying. What type of cat are you? What color is your fur? Is your cat a feral, house cat or show cat? What breed is it? What colour are the cat’s eyes? What is its personality? This is all fairly standard stuff. As I’ve said, Call of Catthulhu is very rules light. It’s a game for role-playing and storytelling. The game also gives you thirty possible character backgrounds to help you flesh out your character if you choose. You look at your axis of roles and lifestyle and the cross reference gives you an option or two. This is completely optional, but a great way for newer or younger gamers to get the hang of a game where the dice see little use except in dramatic moments.

There’s a lot of adorableness in this game, from the custom cat dice you get for it down to the fact the GM is called the Cat Herder. However, this is a game with Lovecraftian tones, so injury and death of your kitty can occur. To prevent this, make sure you are a good die roller, have plenty of treats and always send out the right cat for the job (RCFTJ) to make successes more likely. After all, if you have a daring feat of dexterity that needs to be accomplished, you want to send the Catcrobat instead of the Scrapper or Tiger Dreamer. Dire Challenges preset the opportunity for injury or death, and there is always the Blaze of Glory option that means your cat will die (but also succeed) in an attempt.

It’s worth noting here that cats get three strikes and the cat is out. One sad cat face on a Dire Challenge is injury, two is disabled and three is dying. So be careful with your kitty. After all, no one wants to see his or her beloved puss hurt or worse. Now, the game does have a “Nine Lives” rule, where cats can pull off a chance to survive their would-be demise, but each brush with death requires a notably harder roll to survive. As you might imagine, the maximum times a cat can do this is eight, for a total of “nine lives” the cat has lived. This is a nice touch that lets people get some more rolling in while also holding true to cat folklore.

The Deluxe version of the game offers some new rules. There are two optional rules where Snake Eyes equals an embarrassing failure and double sixes gives the cat an extraordinary success. Of course, this means only easy or hard challenges can have something go really well or astoundingly bad. There are also new contested challenge rules (usually used for fights). There are also a few advanced combat rules for multiple cats in a fight, surprise attacks and grappling. Yes, cats do grapple. Our kitten wraps herself around our elderly cat as if she was Dean Malenko, so it was great to see holding actions as an option in the new rules. There are also Rules of Paw for better role-playing, such as characters only being able to use sounds (not words) when they are out of visual range from one another, or cats only being able to carry one thing at a time and leave scents on up to three objects before the oldest one disappears.

The Nekonomicon ends with a few DM notes, such as good times to ask for die rolls and a reminder of how stupid the hairless two footed ones are when it comes to understanding the eloquence of their kitty superiors. There’s also a note that cat PCs gain Experiences rather than Experience Points. Experiences are simply bits of knowledge and reminders of what a cat now knows about the true horrors that lie between the thin veneer we think of as reality.

Overall, Call of Catthulhu Deluxe is off to a great start with The Nekonomicon. As the other books start to come out you’ll get information on Mythos creatures, other animals (some of which can even be PCs) and other settings for Call of Catthulhu, like high fantasy and superhero gaming. If you don’t already have the basic version of Call of Catthulhu, you should definitely pick it up in tandem with The Nekonomicon, as it does have things that the first book are missing, like more background on the default setting and Kitty Lovecraftia. Of course, all of those things are coming in May’s Unaussprechlichen Katzen, so if you’d rather just get Call of Catthulhu Deluxe releases, you won’t have that long of a wait. Whatever way you choose to go, Call of Catthulhu is a fantastically fun (and funny) rules-lite RPG which gamers of all skill levels can enjoy. What little mechanics are in the game are solid and easy to understand, and the roleplaying opportunities in this one are limitless. I’m really looking forward to the subsequent releases and being able to use the miniatures of our pets I got in the Kickstarter (two cats and a rabbit) in a game once the boxed set has finally made its way to my home. Hopefully Malice, Shelly and Baby will fare better than many of the Investigators I have had in a Call of Cthulhu game!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Call Of Catthulhu, Book I: THE NEKONOMIKON, the Book of Cats
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Advanced Sorcery
Publisher: Chaosium
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/18/2014 08:07:36
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/18/tabletop-review-advance-
d-sorcery-basic-roleplayingmagic-world/

Advanced Sorcery is the first sourcebook for Magic World, which is a remake and update of previous Chaosium fantasy releases like Elric, Runequest and Melniboné. This means some parts of both Advanced Sorcery and Magic World are roughly thirty years old while others are seeing light for the first time. Why did Chaosium do this instead of just re-releasing the original games in a new edition? Well there are lots of reasons from the cost of licenses to a decision to just combine all the fantasy releases into a new overarching banner. If you really want the original games, you can pick up old Elric and Stormbringer releases on the secondary market or pick up Mongoose publishing new version of Runequest. For those that still want to stick with Chaosium’s new releases, you have Magic World.

Although Magic World came out in early 2013, Advanced Sorcery is the first (and only) new release for it. This isn’t a bad thing as Magic World contains everything you need to play the game in its single core rulebook and too many games put out a steady stream of unnecessary supplements that bog the core product down. Quality, not quantity is king with a system and the core rulebook for Magic World proved just that. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same thing for Advanced Sorcery. It just did nothing for me adding too many new optional rules variants that aren’t as good as those in the core release. It also doesn’t help that the first new release for Magic World is so laden with new and different rules that it feels like Advanced Sorcery is saying “Magic World isn’t very good. Use this instead!” I personally don’t feel that is true, but when your first sourcebook wants to reinvent the wheel, it gives off that sort of negative impression. It’s also worth noting that Advanced Sorcery feels like it belongs to a completely different system/setting rather than something that compliments Magic World. The spell systems, mechanics and terminology are so wildly different that the two books feel like they were competing ideas and Chaosium published them both instead of making a firm decision on which to go with. Again, I doubt that is the actual reasoning behind it but rather a good example of what happens when you try to put thirty years of rules and edition changes into a new unified product. D&D Next felt this way too in the early stages, which is fine for alpha and playtesting purposes, but definitely not for a final product. A truly great example of this is that in both books, certain monsters are repeated, but with completely different sets of stat blocks and descriptions. Why would they be that different from core rulebook to sourcebook? Again, the end result is that Advanced Sorcery feels like its own beast or a separate Basic Roleplaying supplement rather than a product for Magic World.

At the end of the day, I just didn’t care for Advanced Sorcery at all and feel a Magic World game is better off without it. That said, my opinion and tastes are those of one man and not the be all and end all of the industry. Advanced Sorcery certainly has some intriguing ideas and some gamers will no doubt really enjoy the contents betwixt its covers. As we look through each of the eight chapters in Advanced Sorcery, perhaps you will find something more to your liking that it was to mine.

The first chapter is “Advanced Sorcery.” I know it’s always weird/awkward when a chapter shares the same name as the book’s title, but hey, that’s not my call. This is simply a list of new spells to use with Magic World. All of them are pretty interesting and well done, although many like Phantom Illness, Create Monster and Domination are Shadow oriented. Shadow was a lot more powerful than Light or Balance in the core Magic World game and these spells only increase that. Still, this is what much of Advanced Sorcery should have been – just a lot of well-designed spells that don’t require any new mechanics to use. 1 for 1.

Next up is “Deep Magic.” This is a new system of magic than can be used as an alternative to the core Magic World rules. This version of magic involved eight spheres of influence (Earth, Flora, Fauna, Water, Spirit, Fire, Flesh and Air) and then eight Glyphs of Power (Inhibition, Diminution, Summoning, Creation, Direction, Enhancement, Dismissal and Transmutation). You then end up having a mix and match of the two categories in order to cast spells. The rulkes for Deep Magic and nebulous, cumbersome and completely unintuitive, especially compared to the original BRP and/or Magic World rules. It’s also hilarious to note that part of casting the spells involves creating a personalized wheel of Spheres and a wheel of Glyphs. Each player picks on Glyph and one Sphere that they specialize in, which makes them much easier to cast. Everything else is more expensive based on the position on the characters wheel. However, the actual pictures of the wheels don’t always show up in the PDF version. I’ve tried it on different devices (Kindle Fire, laptop, desktop, iOS devices) and the wheels seem to only show up half the time. This is only true of this one picture in the entire book. Everything else shows up fine, so I’m wondering if it is a layering issue with the PDF. This is terrible beyond description because you can’t make Deep Magic work without it! When you can get the wheels to show up, they’re pretty bad in design anyway. The opposite of Water is Air rather than Fire for example. WHAT? The opposite of Flesh (man) is Fauna (animal)? Shouldn’t those be more closely aligned. Air is almost the opposite of Fauna too, because animals sure don’t need air. Oh dear god, this is bad. No, Deep Magic is pretty terrible in all respect and you are better off pretending it doesn’t exist. A bad idea with even worse follow through. 1 for 2.

Our third chapter is “The Summoner’s Art” and it revolves around summoning magic. Again, this is an alternative form of summoning magic that can take the place of the version in the core Magic World rulebook. Again, why introduce an entirely new way of doing something when your system is (technically) only a year old and this is your first supplement. This is just a bad business and system decision in every respect. This chapter is a little too rules heavy when it comes to summoning, and most gamers will instantly prefer the core rulebook version. “The Summoner’s Art” is pretty much for people who prefer roll-playing to role-playing and want far more mechanics than they actually need. It’s not all that bad though as the section does give you a lot of information on crafting demons as antagonists or NPCs and you are given a ton of powers to help flesh one out. The section also talks about elementals in addition to demons. While better than “Deep Magic,” “The Summoner’s Art,” just feels thrown in for the sake of padding the book out. The demon and elemental bits are nice, but the new alternative magic rules are just unnecessary. Still, two out of three aren’t bad so I’ll give this a point in the yay column. 2 for 3.

“Necromancy” is the fourth chapter in the book and this is another section littered with so many issues, I can’t believe it made it to print. This is the section where we see all monsters with stat blocks and descriptions that don’t match up with the core Magic World book. You would think there would be some sort of continuity between the two books, especially as they are the only two Magic World releases right now, but no. I’m not even sure why they reprinted so many of the same monsters. Those are pages that could have gone to new and/or different content. Anyway, the section of Necromancy is pretty bad. Of course, nothing really lives up to The Complete Book of Necromancers for Second Edition AD&D, which everyone should read even if they don’t play that version of D&D because it is THAT GOOD. This version of Necromancy is just terrible designed. The chapter starts off talking about how all necromancers are evil or power hungry and how each spell cast from this category ties you to the Shadow alignment. Then it gives you happy Light oriented spells like Spirit Shield and Exorcism. This just feels terribly done from beginning to end and is up there with “Deep Magic” as sections that really needed to make it through a more stringent vetting and/or editing process. 2 for 4.

Chapter Five is “Rune Magic.” This is another optional form of magic. Like “Deep Magic” and “The Summoner’s Art,” the rules for this Balance oriented magic are poorly devised. The rules are very vague and sparse, which means gamers are going to interpret them very differently and thus this will cause both confusion and consternation amongst Magic World players. Thankfully though Rune Magic is primary both defensive and touch based which should give people a common ground to work with. It’s not like a runecaster will be whipping runes at a demon or troll in any campaign. Still, this section really needed a lot of work before it saw print, which is sadly true of a lot of Advanced Sorcery. Some great ideas, but the end result just isn’t very playable. 2 for 5.

“Arete” is Chapter Six, and although you might start thinking of Mage: The Ascension with this one, the Arete in this game has nothing in common with the stat/play mechanic from White Wolf’s magic oriented game. This section focuses on what happened when a Magic World character gets more than 100% in a skill. Each skill gets a different ability. Brawl with a 101% or better gets an extra 1d3 to damage while a Swim with over 100% lets you move twice as fast. The rules and benefits are a little more complicated than this, but it’s a great idea well worth implementing. Of course it’s rare a character will ever reach this level with a skill, but it’s great to see someone thought this out. It’s definitely the highlight of the book and well worth spreading to other games that use the BRP system. 3 for 6

Our penultimate chapter in Advanced Sorcery is “Herbalism.” It’s a short chapter (five pages) that gives us ten plants that can be used to make potions and require no magical skill whatsoever to produce. It’s nicely done and can let even non-magical characters like warriors and rogues act as a healer for the party. 4 for 7.

The final chapter in the book is “Fey Magic for the Southern Realms.” Once again, we get a new type of alternate magic that can be used instead of or in tandem with the core Magic World rules set. Again, the rules for this new type of magic just aren’t as intuitive as the core rules and by introducing five new optional forms of magic, a less experienced or younger game is going to end up confused and/or overwhelmed here. God forbid some Keeper actually tries to implement all of these rules in a single game or you get a group of players that each wants a different bit in the game. This is just a pretty big train wreck across the board. Anyway, Fey Magic is the easiest to implement of the five as it’s essentially the same rules for Sorcery in the core rulebook, but characters spend POW instead of Magic Points. Why? Who knows! It’s completely arbitrary! There’s no reason why these spells need their own slightly different rules. Just put them under Sorcery spells with their specific caveats. I just can’t fathom the thought process behind much of this book and how multiple people thought it was a good idea to present all of this in the manner it saw print. 4 for 8.

If you’ve made it this far you can see that Advanced Sorcery needed a LOT of work before it was released to the general public for purchase. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and we have what we have. This will no doubt be a disappointment to Magic World fans who have waited a year for some kind of follow up release to the system/setting. At least the book isn’t a total loss as there are some part of Advanced Sorcery well worth reading and adding to your Magic World campaign. This is not a book I can personally recommend though, especially with its current price tags. I’d let it drop below ten dollars for the PDF version before considering picking this up and I can’t imagine ever being able to recommend the physical copy as only half the book is worth looking at, especially since it’s nearly twice as much to get. Some gamers might find the book for useful than me, and more power to them, but right now, the kindest thing about Advanced Sorcery that I can say is that there are some decent pieces to be had amidst the really terrible unfinished bits.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Sorcery
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Magic World
Publisher: Chaosium
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/18/2014 07:48:27
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/04/18/tabletop-review-magic-w-
orld-basic-roleplaying/

Magic World is over a year old, but we’re just reviewing it now as it got a soft re-release on DriveThruRPG.com, which provided me with a review copy. I’m not sure why we didn’t get a review copy when it was originally released in early 2013, but I’m sure we got the review copy now since they also sent us a review copy of the first sourcebook for Magic World, Advanced Sorcery at the same time. You can’t review the sourcebook without knowing the core rules, am I right? Well, better late than never as Magic World is a fine alternative to other fantasy RPGs like Pathfinder, Dungeons & Dragons and what have you. In fact, the core of Magic World is actually older than a lot of current fantasy RPGs. Magic World has essentially taken the rules and themes from many of the fantasy RPGs it no longer publishes like Elric, Stormbringer, RuneQuest and their respective supplements and merged them into a single cohesive package, not unlike Constructicons forming Devestator. The end result is a game that is somewhat new, somewhat familiar, and completely free of the costly licenses Chaosium would need in order to reprint the originals. Don’t think that Magic World is a complete reprint though, as new pieces have been added and some rules and/or wording have been reworked.

It’s important to note right off that bat that Magic World is its own stand-alone game. Unlike a lot of other Basic Roleplaying titles which require the system’s core rulebook in order to be used, Magic World has all the rules you need to play it tucked into its 276 pages. So there is no need to purchase anything but this one core rulebook in order to play the game. If you do already own Basic Roleplaying or other games that use nearly the same system (Like Call of Cthulhu), you will find that magic is done and wielded VERY differently. Keep that in mind lest you suffer a bit of culture shock.

For the most part, character creation is similar to that of BRP of CoC. Skills are different. You won’t have Mechanical Engineering or Physics as options. You will however, have potions, physic (healing), trap and scribe. Skills are also rearranged from alphabetical order into five major categories: Physical, Communication, Knowledge, Manipulation and Perception. Sanity and Know stats are replaced by Effort, Charisma, Stamina and Agility (all attribute x5 pieces). Occupations are also changes, to better fit a high fantasy setting rather than 1920s real world occupations or the like. You’ll also find something called “Allegiance.” Throughout your characters life they will gain (and/or lose) Allegiance points to Balance, Light and Shadow. Think of this as the alignment system for Magic World. Evil acts net you Shadow Points, Good acts net you light and thinking of nature and other life forms can net you Balance. Have an overwhelming amount of Allegiance points in one category rather than the others and you’ll get some in-game bonuses. This bonus increases if you ever hit 100. Shadow bonuses are a lot more powerful similar to Dark Force over Light Force points in the old d6 Star Wars game, which shows evil is an easier path to take.

The game system is very similar to BRP as well. You basically role percentile dice (d100) to see if you succeed or fail. There are critical and special successes if you roll especially well and fumble rolls if you roll poorly. The resistance chart is the same as it has always been. You earn experience in skills and attributes rather than in levels, which is how BRP games have always worked. So on and so forth. What’s different? Well, Magic primarily. You can’t cast magic unless you have a POW of 16 or higher. Compared that to other games where your POW score only means your potential and/or skill with magic. Look at Call of Cthulhu for example. You could have a POW of 13 there and be a damn good spellcaster. In Magic World, you don’t even have the ability to cast the simplest spell in the game. Again, this will take some time to get used to unless you’re an Elric vet. You’ll also find Magic Points regenerate fully in a 24 hour period. This means magic is a lot more powerful than in many other BRP settings. Compare that to Hit Points which regenerate at a speed of 1d3 a week. Magic is definitely king in Magic World. I should end this section on magic by saying anyone with a POW of 16 of greater starts the game with three spells. Those who take the occupation of Sorcerer during character creation get INT/2 spells. Priest, Shamans and Cultists get 1d6+3 spells.

As you can imagine, since Magic World is a more combat oriented game than other versions of BRP, there is a massive section on combat. This is the deepest and most detailed version of combat I’ve ever seen for a BRP game. Inside the combat section you’ll discover all sorts of grisly wounds that can befall both your character and its opponents, rules for ranged and mounted combat, how armor works, what a siege engine can do and so much more. This is probably the chapter you’ll want to spend the most time with, even if you are a longtime Basic Roleplaying fan, just due to all the options and changes that combat sees in Magic World.

Besides huge sections on both combat and magic, there is an entire chapter devoted just to seafaring. I was not expecting this to be honest as this is a topic usually reserved for supplements, if it even gets covered at all. Not so with Magic World. Here you get twenty full pages on ship stats, sample boats, how to make your own seafaring craft and lots of mechanics. Swimming in armor is here and well worth taking a look at. Most fantasy games seem to ignore how hard it actually would be to swim while wearing full plate.

What else will you find in Magic World? There’s a pretty thorough Bestiary ranging from real world animals to monstrous opponents. There’s a chapter for DMs on how to run a Magic World game, which also gives some magical artifacts and clockwork creature options. There’s also a long section on “The Southern Lands,” which is the default location for a Magic World game to take place on. It’s an interesting, if someone generic location with warring fantasy races, intrigue amongst Houses and lots of information on the Fey. The Southern Lands chapter also included story and campaign seeds that a GM can use to create their own adventures. Of course, if you’re looking for full-fledged published adventures, we’re more than a year into the existence of Magic World and none exist yet. In fact there is only the Advanced Sorcery supplement which just came out. This is because Chaosium is pretty wrapped up with Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition and the Horror on the Orient Express remake. It is what it is. Magic World early purchasers may be a bit disappointed to see the game getting the short end of the stick, but take heart! One supplement is just the start and if you are really wanting more content for the game, just pick up some Runequest, Legend or Elric releases. They are mostly compatible and will serve you well. The key is just taking the time to track some down.

Overall, Magic World is a really well done release. It’s great to have some sort of Elric/Stormbringer remake available to the general public. The Basic Roleplay rules and system are exceptionally easy to learn and remain one of the best overall systems ever devised for tabletop gaming. Magic World is a great alternative to other high fantasy games and I know I’d play this over Pathfinder in a heartbeat. If you’re looking for a new fantasy style game to enjoy, definitely consider Magic World. It’s a year old, but many people are getting to hear about it for the first time with its release on DriveThruRPG.com. Better to pick up a high quality game late, rather than never, yes?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Magic World
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