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Wasteland Treasures 1
Publisher: Outland Arts
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/26/2014 08:58:07
A major part of any post-apocalyptic game is seeing what you can scavenge in your travels, and then working out how to utilise what you've found or at least trade it for something else that you want. This means that the GM has to be ever alert to leaving stuff around for you to find... and here's a collection of random tables to help the GM do just that!

The author describes compiling them by reading catalogues and visiting websites for military/survivalist suppliers, looking around campsites and even in his own garage - and indeed as you look around you right now, there's probably quite a lot of stuff that might interest a scavenger. Even if my desk is mostly piled with RPG books and computer equipment, the odd item within eyeshot might be of use (at least until I tidy the multi-tool away!).

Anyway, to get you started there are three tables here. Roll randomly, or read through them and select the things you want the party to have. The first one is quite general 'loot found in ruins' - and there's a motly collection of items that might be found in any ruined urban site. Each is given a variable value - if you do try to sell it you will probably have to dicker - and often some suggested uses. Oh, and no doubt in reference to my desk, it includes a fantasy RPG complete with dice AND a multi-tool!

The second table is slightly more focussed, as it presents items found in old warzones. As anyone who's visited a real battleground or military training area will know, there's a lot there that it is wisest not to meddle with... but copious details and options are provided to cope with those who do meddle, like your average player-character. Several options provide scope for a whole encounter or even side-adventure.

The final table covers items found on wasteland savages. Many of the things they carry are downright odd, and there's quite a lot of potential for fun with these items... and some are quite unpleasant!

A useful collection, giving a good balance between things that are useful, some quite bizarre stuff... and a fair few that are both!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wasteland Treasures 1
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Urban Dressing: Borderland Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2014 12:05:28
Borderland towns have great potential for adventure in themselves, as well as being a useful jumping-off point for adventure in lands beyond... somewhere to gather rumours and supplies if nothing else.

So, how to make it more interesting than a stop at the supermarket? Try this book for a start.

In the style common to many Raging Swan Press books, this work consists of several tables covering different aspects that might apply to, in this case, a borderland town. Reading through them is recommended, you will find ideas spawning as you do so; but if you are in a hurry rolling dice and using whatever you come up with generally works well too.

The first table is Sights and Sounds, and is good for setting the scene and making the place come alive in your player's minds as you describe it. There's a full hundred sights and sounds... and the odd smell... any of which could lead to a whole side-adventure of their own if you (and the party) choose to follow it up.

Next up is a fine list of Businesses. For many parties, coming into town is for the purpose of conducting business: now it can be a lot more than selling loot and purchasing supplies, new weapons and armour and so on. This is followed by a collection of Folk of Interest. They might be who the party has come to see, they might have a job for them... or they might merely be sitting at the next table in the inn and strike up a casual conversation.

Finally, if you want to make things really interesting for the party, grab a d20 and roll on Hooks, Complications and Opportunities. This is a mixed bag of events that will involve them, like it or not, in the ongoing life of the town. Poisoned wells, invasions of rats or enemies, offers of money and strange events... about the only thing missing is an earthquake!

The party will never forget their next visit to town!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Borderland Town
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The Pirate GM's Right Fist
Publisher: Black Shark Enterprises
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2014 11:15:36
Most of us at some time want to run an adventure at sea, piratical or otherwise... even if it just involves the party taking passage on a ship when they need to get someplace else that's more easily (or only) accessible by sea. Here's a collection of tables and ideas to make that voyage come to life.

It starts off with some innocuous 'events which might occur at sea' - so grab a set of percentage dice or choose whichever event suits your needs. The effects will vary depending on whether the party are passengers or crew, legitimate mariners or flying the Jolly Rodger... but all provide for some excitement, especially if the characters get involved in whatever is going on.

Next up is 'let's explore the island' - again, it doesn't matter why the ship has paused there, this table gives a range of different islands, a quick snapshot of plausible places at which to drop anchor. If the characters have access to a map of the area they are sailing through, you may have to be selective in your choice, but if they are in uncharted waters, go wild. Many could provide whole adventures if you wish, or it could be a brief call to break up a voyage, get supplies or repair storm damage. If you want to spice up the shore leave the next table - 'events which might occur upon land' - provide a range of events from rumours about treasure to invasions, earthquakes and even an active volcano!

This is followed by a selection of tables to provide quick answers to questions like 'who be they?' (not much use in a fantasy game, it's tailored for the Caribbean...) or 'where is it hidden?' Ship types, destinations, pirate nicknames and directions (of the compass, of course) and more enable you to come up with answers for all those pesky questions speedily.

There's all manner of useful information too which will make even the most landlubber of GMs sound like a salty sea dog and aid him in calculating how much treasure a ship can carry and even how long it will take to unload your spoils. There's even a reading list if you want to put some real knowledge behind the hastily-acquired vocabulary - again, this concentrates on real-world historical Caribbean pirates, but ought to translate readily to your fantasy campaign setting without too much difficulty.

If you run pirate games, or even those with a nautical twist, this is worth a look.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Pirate GM's Right Fist
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Character Webs
Publisher: Thunderegg Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2014 10:03:23
Role-playing works best when you know who your character is. Really know him, know him so well that he could be a friend you've had for years... and one way to get off to a flying start is to have a detailed backstory to compliment the necessary game mechanical information that goes on your character sheet. Some games provide a means to create or generate a 'lifepath' that gives you the bare bones of his history prior to game start, some more enlightened GMs require their players to come up with some background, but here's a generic system to provide you with a wealth of detail to add to the basics of character class/profession (and species if applicable) and other basic details that you know from setting him up ready to play.

Mechanically it's quite simple. Get 4d6 of different colours and a d10, roll this handfull once per page, and note the results. Naturally, you may use the rolls as guidance and inspiration rather than taking the results 'as is', but the sheer randomicity can be a spur to your creativity as you take the results and build them into your background.

The areas covered include family structure (are you an only child, etc.), social background, educational background, work history (which may be rolled multiple times for older characters), and personal relationships- if he's married, and how many of the other PCs he already knows (and the nature of their relationships). You'll need to work with the other players to work out the precise details of how they know each other. These tables are followed by a worked example of the system in operation.

Next is a discussion of the concept of a 'character web'. It's a neat way to work out relationships and group dynamics with anyone - PC or NPC alike - with whom your character comes into contact.

Finally there's a neat option for GM use - although the wise GM will be observing and plotting throughout the process, of course! Here it is suggested that the GM make a secret roll for each character in the party. This determines whether that character knows a secret, and the nature of that secret - many of which suggest hidden twists to the relationships that they have with each other. Sit back and watch the paranoia build as you hand out notes to everyone (even if the note contains no secrets whatsoever)!

This is an elegant way to build group dynamics from the outset - a great improvement on the traditional bunch of complete strangers meeting in an inn and deciding to go off risking life and limb in pursuit of loot...er, adventure. The system will work equally well in games of genres other than fantasy too. Well worth a try...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Character Webs
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Publisher Reply:
Megan, thanks for the kind words! It\'s always great to read a review from a satisfied reader. Hope that you will check out our next release, Species and Societies, when it comes out.
Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
Publisher: Total Party Kill Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/19/2014 10:03:06
Do you want your critical hits not just to do damage to your foes but to do spectactular damage that will have people talking about your mighty blows for weeks, years even? Do you want every 'natural 20' roll to have a significant effect irrespective of what the confirm critical roll comes up as? Look no further...

Ageing gamers may recall the brilliantly cinematic critical hit tables from the Iron Crown Enterprises' game RoleMaster, and I'm sure I'm not the only person who reused them with other rulesets. Here, though, is a system written for use with the Pathfinder ruleset, mechanics honed to work directly with that system. Of course, fumbles are included as well, and the whole is an elegant way to make combat spectacular and exciting.

The core concepts are simple and easy to grasp. To start with, every 'natural 20' does maximum damage and counts as a 'critical hit' rather than merely a 'threat' - subsequent rolls are used to determine the severity of your attack, but the recipient of the blow gets a save against more debilitating effects such as losing limbs or life itself (although at the cost of taking extra hit points of damage).

Throughout, there are numerous examples to show you how everything works and plenty of optional extras that you can bolt on if you wish - or leave out without disrupting the core system. It's not long before you're into the effects tables. These may not have quite as cinematic descriptions as the old RoleMaster ones, but give a better idea of precisely what damage and other effects your luckless foe suffers... and there is enough detail for more bloodthirsty imaginations to run riot as you describe what's going on.

Damage can be bludgeoning, slashing or piercing (depending on the weapon) and the severity of the effects can be light, moderate or severe depending on how well your follow-up rolls went once you'd scored your critical hit, so there is plenty of variety as in each catagory you roll a percentage to get one of fifty options.

Next, there's a collection of Critical Feats. Most of these give a bonus either to your critical severity check or to your save against critical damage, but can be used to build up an idea of how you go about combat - dealing Exacting Strikes perhaps, or having Acrobatic Reflexes... you get the picture. Use them to effect as you describe combat, for what could be a dry treatise on damage dealing provides tremendous scope for making combat come to life as those involved describe their actions and results in epic cinematic style.

These are followed by some fully-developed archetypes. Note that these work best if you are using this rules modification, they won't be as effective or may not work at all in a game played with straight Pathfinder combat rules. There are archetypes for just about every kind of fighter you can imagine, even rogues get a look-in, while some of the monk ones in particular sound rather fun.

Finally come the Fumble rules. Only fair, if your critical hits can have spectacular effects, when things go wrong that can be spectacular as well. If you roll a natural 1 when attacking, there's a chance something terrible will happen... but generally you get a save to mitigate the effects. Most enable the player to come up with an amusing description of the mishap, only adding to the fun. There are separate tables for fumbles in melee, ranged combat and when you are using natural weapons.

And we're not done yet, as appendices deal with niceties like called shots, healing, armour and magic as they all impact on dealing out critical effects (or guarding against them). There are some new spells, just in case the wizards among you are feeling left out a bit, and finally there is a piece of fiction which demonstrates how effective good descriptions of the injuries sustained in combat can be, and a final iconic NPC.

Spice up your combat with crunchy rules that facilitate role-playing by providing ways to give cinematic descriptions of what is going on rather than merely delivering large numbers of points of damage.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Laying Waste: The Guide to Critical Combat
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Random Encounters: Wilderness II
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/18/2014 09:05:45
If you are planning a desert-based plotline this could be useful to mine for ideas or indeed lift one or more encounters complete for your adventures... or you may even find that reading them inspire further adventures.

Each of the eight encounters presented here, written by a different author (or in one case, a pair of authors), is quite detailed, which allows the GM to expand it readily if the party takes an interest in what they've encountered. Of course, the party might decide to ignore what you present them with... but that, of course, is no guarantee that it will ignore them!

It's difficult to give many details without giving the substance of each encounter away but consider the plight of a gargoyle madly in love with an animated statue or various plantlife that only flourishes when there's a flash flood in the desert and you'll get some idea of the sheer inventiveness within these pages.

Most of the encounters will involve combat, although there are opportunities to interact with what you've encountered in at least some of them. For each, there is plenty of detail to facilitate running the encounter including notes on tactics, game mechanical hints and advice on scaling the encounter if you really fancy one that has a wildly inappropriate CR for the party.

Definitely something to keep to hand if there are desert regions in your campaign world...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Random Encounters: Wilderness II
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Crypts & Creatures Core Rule Book
Publisher: Pick Up & Go Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/17/2014 08:56:41
If you find the complexity of some RPGs overwhelming but still want solid crunchy rules to govern your alternate reality, this is worth a look. It's basically a cut-down and simplified version of the D20 ruleset pioneered by Dungeons & Dragons 3e.

The real appeal of this, however, is that it's designed to be easy to explain - as in, once you have absorbed the rules herein, you ought to be able to explain them clearly to someone else. They're not particularly easy to read, or at least, not any easier than any D20 ruleset is; and it certainly will help if you understand the core concepts of role-playing in general and the D20 ruleset in particular - yet once you have read through these rules you will find that the underlying simplicity becomes clear and it will be easy to sit and explain these rules to a group of novice players.

Everything you'll need to set up the characters comes in the first 11 pages. Characters have three ability scores, rather than the six veteran D20 players are used to, and skills are drastically reduced. The core character classes are all there, albeit in simplified form. There's still a goodly list of equipment, weapons and armour, though.

Next comes the GM section which is basically a speedy run-through in three pages flat of various perils the characters might face, putting numbers to their effects. Poisons, illness, traps, things like that. Oh, and how to work out treasures and other rewards.

Then magic gets a similar cut-down treatment. Most spells - and there's a wealth of them nevertheless! - are reduced to a couple of lines summarising their effect when cast, and that's it. So 'Read Magic' for example allows you to 'Read scrolls and spellbooks' - that's it. This is followed by a basic monster list.

Finally, there's some basic materials to let you create random adventures with a set of charts to roll on for location, protagonist, antagonist, objective of the adventure, fluff elements and a reward for completion. There's a basic outline map of a continent and tables for you to detail the names and natures of the countries you want to have there. Oh, and there's a good clear character sheet template.

You want a basic, quick game, this is for you. If, as an experienced gamer, you want to introduce novices to the hobby, it should work well provided you are a reasonable explainer (I'd feel quite confident, but I am a teacher...). Neat with touches of elegance.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crypts & Creatures Core Rule Book
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Dark Sun Campaign Setting (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2014 11:25:54
The Introduction jumps right in, explaining what is unique about the Dark Sun setting. Athas is a dying world, where mere survival is a constant battle... and where any sensible person would concentrate on creating a stable sustainable environment, 'heroes' of course prefer to seek glory. The differences between Athas and more conventional fantasy settings is encapsulated in the Eight Characteristics of Athas - it's a desert planet, most people living there are pretty unpleasant selfish types, metal is scarce, arcane magic caused a lot of the current problems and still does damage if you try to use it, long-lived sorcerer-kings rule city-states as the main centres of power, deities seem to have lost interest in the place, the monsters are deadly, and even 'familiar' races are not quite what one would expect. Handy thumb-nail sketch, which makes me wonder if I actually want to visit... well, I do like deserts! There's a note about the original Dark Sun - published in 1991 by TSR using the AD&D 2e ruleset, and saying that while the timeline has been moved on a little from that portrayed in the original books, this version is a complete rewrite and so what you remember from them may not be the case in this D&D 4e setting.

On to Chapter 1: The World of Athas for the full low-down on what to expect. This setting is so different for other ones that you need to study it carefully to be able to play a native... unless your DM has some innovative idea for bringing characters from another setting in to this world, so that it as strange to your character as it is to you. However you got there - native or immigrant - you're going to be a hero, and so the first part of the chapter discusses what manner of heroes are to be found here and how to carve out your own legend. Quite a few ideas are given both here and further on in the book as to how to both embed your character in Athasian society and empower him for greatness. One notable feature of the place is that psionic abilities are an inherent part of the setting, an integral part of what makes Athas what it is, so if you are not comfortable with using psionics in your game, this may not be the setting for you. While a lack of deities and clerical classes is also an integral part of the setting, a few suggestions are given for those who want to be one of the few god-botherers in the entire world - but you will have to resign yourself to the fact that you may never meet another person who believes in gods at all, let alone your own deity!

Next comes a look at the possibilities for adventure on Athas: as you can imagine there are plenty! Whether tomb-raiding or engaging in courtly intrigue, building a trade empire or earn fame and fortune as a pit-fighter appeals, it's likely that a peculiarly Athasian spin can be put on it; this is certainly a setting ripe with opportunity. While a lot of Athasians are motivated by what's in it for them - and even heroes may have an eye on political advancement, their bank balance or on who is the local bard singing about this week - some rise above personal gain and act out of altruism, even if they prefer to try to do things right - ethical merchants, perhaps - rather than go around righting wrongs. The discussion then moves on to Athasian civilisation and the social order as it stands, and then to the history of the world - what little is known by most people anyway, those sorcerer-kings are not too keen on ordinary people learning to read let alone know how (and by whom) the world has been brought to its present state!

Chapter 2: The Races of Athas both runs through the new world-specific races and gives an Athasian spin to existing playable races. The two new races are the mul and the thri-keeen. Mul are incredibly tough humanoids, a result of mixing human and dwarf. Unsurprisingly, they make excellent fighters... although rather too many folk on Athas think that they make excellent slaves. Thri-kreen are insectoid in nature, experts at hunting and survival, often becoming rangers, druids or monks (perhaps the extra pair of limbs gives an advantage when practising the martial arts?). Character backgrounds - based on race, region or something else - are available to help customise each character, each gives an appropriate minor advantage. Then on to the existing races. Dragonborn, despite popular opinion, are not all slavers and sorcerers, although many practise at least one of these trades. Dwarves are still stoic and single-minded, but tend to earn their living as craftsmen, builders or farmers... and rarely manage much in the way of a beard! Eladrin are rare, haughty folk who are very good at psionics but they have abandoned arcane magic completely. Elves are nomadic traders - often rogues - and travelling entertainers. Goliaths or half-giants tend to be barbarians or fighters. Half-elves tend to be rejected by elves and distrusted by humans, making for a lonely life. Halflings are closely linked to nature, seeing themselves not as individuals but merely part of a whole... and are fierce and savage, regarding just about anybody or anything as a potential resource (or lunch). Humans are as ubiquitous as ever. Tieflings are nomadic raiders, or sell their swords to whomsover needs them. Other races may or may not be available at the DM's discretion, but it is possible to play the sole representative on Athas of just about anything with a plausible story of how you got to be there - planar travel is often a good start, or mutation (possibly assisted along by magical experimentation) or perhaps a member of a race that once lived here but died out, leaving a few in stasis... The chapter ends with some racial paragon paths to aim for.

Chapter 3 is titled Character Themes, and its purpose is to introduce a new option for building characters. Your 'theme' is a calling or vocation, a concept that might be met by a variety of routes, different classes or skillsets, something that defines you. It goes beyond race and class, ehancing those basic definitions to explain what drives you as an individual, distinct from everyone else who happens to be of the same race and class. Ten themes are provided for Athasian characters, as well as notes on how the idea works and on the mechanical side, giving additional powers that each theme may use as well as theme-based paragon paths to aspire towards. Athasian minstrels, the first theme presented, are often bards... but they can be rogues or fighters, even warlords or battleminds. They entertain, true, but may also spy or kill, or teach skills other than the lute in their travels. Thus it continues with the other themes. Dune traders can be of virtually any class, whatever it takes to travel the world in a merchant caravan, trading with all comers on behalf of your master or for yourself. Elemental priests venerate the elements and draw on primal power, and this path is common amongst those who seek the ability to heal. You can probably guess what a gladiator does for a living, but any race or class, slave or free, may for some reason enter the arena and fight in front of a crowd. Noble adepts may be of any race or class although of noble birth, but they have chosen to spend their time in the study of psionics. Primal guardians take it upon themselves to defend what remains of nature against further depredation and defilement. Templars are the long arm of the law in the city-states, enforcing the will of the sorcerer-kings, many receiving training in the arcane arts. Members of the Veiled Alliance likewise study matters arcane, but are dedicated to the 'preserving' form rather than the 'defiling' types of magic that caused the present state of Athas. Wasteland nomads seek the freedom of desert life while the final theme, the wilder, hones psionic powers whose origins elude him. Interesting ideas for how to integrate a character cleanly into this particular setting, although I'd have relished some guidance on how to create themes of my own.

Next, Chapter 4: Character Options explores the whole concept of making characters truly Athasian, rather than just any old D&D 4e character that just happens to be adventuring here. It starts off by looking at what makes arcane magic so distinctive, the idea that using it can 'defile' or damage the world by sucking out lifeforce from the caster's surroundings, but that an alternate methodolgy called 'preserving' enables an arcane spellcaster to operate without doing damage, although it takes more effort. Despite defiling having obvious effects, like plants crumbling to ash around your feet, most people regard ALL arcane magic as evil, so arcane spellcasters need to be very careful about letting on what they do for a living, especially as it is actually illegal in most places! Next comes an optional rule for Wild Talents which are minor psionic abilities available to virtually all natives of Athas, the place is so infused with psionic powers that even those who don't actually train in psionic arts have the chance of being able to do the odd trick or two - if the DM allows, all starting native characters may select or roll for a single wild talent. This is followed by a few new builds for existing character classes that are particularly suitable, such as the wild battlemind who uses raw untrained psionic power. Shamans can be animists, while fighters rather unsurprisingly can specialise in arena combat and a warlock may make a pact direct with one of the sorcerer-kings. Each build of course comes with an array of new character powers.

We then take a look at some epic destinies that characters seeking the highest levels of play can aim towards. Many place characters in roles which could lead to a legendary transformation of Athas, healing it of the damage that has been done in the past. The usual collection of new feats also appears. Many of the combat-related ones deal with weapons only found on Athas or with the specialist skills associated with arena fighting. There is also a section on rituals, many of which do not work as expected - or at all - on Athas. The DM is advised to exert control of ritual choices, but some new ones developed here are available for ritual-using characters to select. As can be imagined, in the harsh environment of Athas, good equipment can be crucial to survival so the final part of this chapter looks at useful gear, riding animals and magic items. It also explores the effect of the lack of metal on the weapons and armour available - metal ones are generally ancient heirlooms and beyond the means of all but the most successful adventurers. In the main, however, the use of alternate materials is a matter of flavour rather than a requirement to change the rules relating to use, although optional rules to reflect the increased likelihood of non-metals breaking in use are provided. Still, even if you do find a full set of plate armour, wearing it in the desert sun is not advised! There are some unusual new weapons described and illustrated.

All kitted out, Chapter 5: Atlas of Athas provides a glipse of this arid, harsh yet fascinating place. It begins with a desert primer - there is a lot more to deserts than rolling sand dunes. A whole range of environments of varying degrees of hospitality are covered, all posing a challenge to survival for all but the best-prepared traveller. Next comes the City of Tyr. The place is in turmoil following the fall of its sorcerer-king, plenty of opportunity for adventure here! While there's a lot of detail given, DMs wanting to set campaigns in Tyr might wish to obtain City State of Tyr (TSR, 1993) to supplement it. This is followed by a section on another city, Balic. Despite being ruled by a sorcerer-king, this city practises democracy on a surprising scale... but within certain prescribed limits. Transgress at your peril! Next comes the city of Draj, ruled by a mad sorcerer-king who believes himself to be a deity and requires citizens to worship him. As he is given to demanding blood sacrifice, most people do not dispute his godhood openly. Moving on we reach the Estuary of the Forked Tongue, on the edges of the Sea of Silt. Other places follow thick and fast - more cities, semi-civilised lands and outright wild places - plenty of descriptive text to help you set the scene but a distressing paucity of maps.

Finally, Chapter 6: Running a Dark Sun Game is aimed primarily at the DM. Delightfully, much of the emphasis is on creating the correct atmosphere of the alternate reality of this particular setting - this is a setting in which the exquisitely balanced combat-oriented D&D 4e ruleset is blended and meshed with tools to facilitate role-playing to the full by evoking all the things that make Dark Sun a very special place to visit. To this end, the chapter looks at appropriate campaign themes, a detailed look at travel and survival issues, advice on arena and survival encounter design, and treasures and other rewards suited specifically to Athas. A major theme on Athas, and one particularly suited to the 'characters as heroes' ethos of D&D 4e, is that the world is ruled by evil - both the sorcerer-kings themselves and the all-pervading influence of slavery - and that epic legends can be built around those prepared to dedicate themselves towards eradicating such evils. Likewise, if you take a more ecological view, attempts to repair the damage done to the world by defilers can create memorable campaigns. One interesting idea for those groups who are not interested in the details of surviving in the desert - which can make a whole adventure in itself if you do enjoy that kind of challenge - is the concept of a purchasable 'survival day.' This is a mechanical shorthand to allow characters to acquire what they need for a given number of days without the need for bookkeeping their quantities of food, water, sunscreen and the like. Of course, if for some reason the characters run out of survival days they are going to have to work out how to stay alive...

While most of the encounter types from the ruleset apply, activities in the gladatorial arena feature large in Athas - particularly if any characters are gladiators by choice or perforce. Thus plenty of detail is provided to enable you to create and run memorable arena encounters, pitting characters against other fighters or wild beasts while bringing the whole atmosphere of the spectacle to life. There are also notes about fitting wilderness encounters to the specific environment and some typical Athasian skill challenges that can be used to good effect. Examples given include attempting to join the Veiled Alliance of preseving arcanists and trying to hide from ones enemies inside a city - while these are things better resolved by role-playing rather than skill checks alone, backing up interaction with mechanics makes for an exciting challenge. The chapter ends with an adventure, Sand Raiders, in which 1st-level characters are set the task of finding a missing wagon from a trading caravan that has arrived at its destination a wagon short. Three intense encounters are laid out to introduce characters to the way things work, although you may wish to add some desert travel and survival elements (plenty ideas in earlier parts of this chapter to help you set them up) to round the adventure out a bit.

Overall, this is an impressive introduction to the setting, managing to remain true to the original concepts of Dark Sun while meshing in the D&D 4e ruleset and empowering role-playing as well as combat in a distinctive alternate reality... but it does need more maps!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Sun Campaign Setting (4e)
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Judy of the Jungle: Murder Goes Native
Publisher: NUELOW Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2014 10:55:17
If you enjoy classic pulp tales set in the jungle where a white face is a rarity and most of the wildlife is hostile (except a few remarkably tame beasts) you are in for a treat, with several full stories reproduced, the comic strips in crisp greyscale, the text ones in less-well-scanned images (not OCRd).

Tales of confusion between modern medicine and traditional ways, and even of a film-maker determined on setting wild animals against each other and never mind any human beings around... stuff that all would make excellent 1920s jungle adventures (does anyone run Justice Inc any more?) or provide additional colour to a plotline that takes the party into the jungle for another reason.

There's also some notes based around a new ruleset that's in preparation, called 'd6xd6 Core'. This is being written by Lester Smith and is due out around December 2014 (this review being written in July 2014), and looks a slick rules-light fun-heavy system. Various characters from the Judy of the Jungle tales have been statted up under this game mechanic.

More, there is a 'Jungle Adventure Element Generator' to help you set up events whenever the party decides to venture into a jungle, most of which is applicable whenever and wherever your game is set (although fantasy gamers might struggle to make sense of Nazis turning up!). This generator lets you select or roll randomly for the main antagonist and the beginning, middle and end threats around which you can build your story.

Finally, things take a watery twist with some stories in similar vein featuring South Sea Girl, including the title story, Murder Goes Native. Plenty to enjoy here in unabashed pulp style.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Judy of the Jungle: Murder Goes Native
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AaWBlog Presents—Wonders of NaeraCull Brochure #1: Sunny Southern Shores
Publisher: AAW Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2014 11:05:24
Making good use of the creativity displayed on the AAW blog and collecting thematic material neatly together in one place, this is the first of a series talking about NaeraCull: the Hungering Jungle, part of the 'house' campaign world of Aventyr.

Extensively hyperlinked to the blog (and indeed the rest of their website), this first issue includes monsters, a magic item, a neat piece of gear, a haunt and some legends... all with a piratical theme. Worth a look if you make use of pirates and other such sea-dogs, wherever the seas they terrorise might happen to be!

The magical item - a seadog's eyepatch - is interesting and not overpowered, while the piece of equipment is quite innovative - called a triggersling, it hurls rocks when tripped and makes a neat mechanical trap. It may have been invented by pirates, but once word gets out all manner of folks will be wanting to use it.

This is a nice concept, if only that delving through blog posts can be tedious, especially as they get displaced by newer ones and you only half-remember an older one which you now want to use.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AaWBlog Presents—Wonders of NaeraCull Brochure #1: Sunny Southern Shores
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One Day Digs 1 and 2 Double Feature
Publisher: Outland Arts
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2014 11:00:17
Designed to introduce new players to The Mutant Epoch (perhaps at a convention or game store), the new One Day Digs line opens with a 'double feature' of TWO short adventures. Of course, you could use one to start off a campaign, or drop them in to an existing one, as you see fit.

The first adventure, Blood for Bellridge, sends the party to visit Bellrigde, home of one of their friends. Only its on fire when they get there! The local militia are all dead and the township's best technician has been kidnapped. Can the party trounce the bandits and get the techie back?

It's a simple set-up and straightforward to resolve, yet presents a coherent story with potential for further development should you choose to use it that way.

The second adventure is called Feast of Freaks. In this, the party takes on a mission to locate and return stolen goods (plus the boat they were on and the crew if they can manage it) that has gone missing from a riverboat that has failed to arrive on schedule. Again, it's a case of tracking the miscreants down and raiding their base, again it is nicely-put together and comes over as a 'proper' game not merely a demo.

Both are well-resourced with good maps of the respective bad guys' bases. There are notes for locating these adventures within The Mutant Epoch world or they can be run as is. Nice way to get people involved in the game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One Day Digs 1 and 2 Double Feature
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7Ronin Solo - Striker (M&M 3e)
Publisher: Xion Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2014 08:54:33
Presenting a detailed and complex background for an interesting and complex character, this product contains beautiful illustrations and a complete write-up of a young superhero attempting to escape his past.

For Striker's family is Yakuza, and he is not comfortable with it... to the extent of studying criminal justice and becoming a law enforcement officer. Following an almost mystical event he received his superpowers and began to tread paths a police officer cannot in his quest to destroy the Yakuza and in particular his own father.

But in his elevation to power, perhaps lie the seeds of his own destruction... arrogance, hubris, perhaps, could lead him astray. Or not...

For like all offerings in the 7Ronin series, Striker is finding himself called to a gathering in central Japan where the assorted characters will have a chance to band together - for better or for worse...

Beautifully presented in great detail, as a stand-alone this has the potential to be an epic character (player or NPC), even if you are not collecting the entire series or intending to use them together.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7Ronin Solo - Striker (M&M 3e)
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Mining Colony
Publisher: DramaScape
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2014 11:07:54
Nice simple yet elegant plans for a mining colony on a planet, moon or large asteroid - somewhere without an atmosphere, or at best with one that's unbreathable. The base exists on two levels (more if you decide to add in bits of DramaScape's Space Station blueprints) with a small surface presence and more extensive tunnels underground.

What's nice is the amount of background information provided. Naturally, you can discard any of it that does not suit your requirements but there's a lot of useful stuff about the importance of the atmospheric processing plant and the hydroponics facility and a neat sketch map - suitable for a player hand-out - giving an overview of the layout.

As for the full blueprints, they come as multipage versions with square or hex grid (or none) that you need to print out and assemble and as giant JPEGs for virtual tabletops, poster-scale printers or those who want to edit the plans in a graphics package before use. The single-sheet images come without any grid.

Whether you're planning a claustrophobic Aliens-style game, a passing visit to a mining colony, an artefact hunt or any other plot that includes mining or excavating activities, this could prove very useful.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mining Colony
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The Genius Guide to Gruesome Giants
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2014 09:45:44
Set aside any concept of friendly giants, for here is a selection of templates, feats and alternative class options to make your giants foul and grim foes, as well as big ones.

The idea is to make them more fearful and threatening, and something more unusual than merely overly large humanoids that hit really, really hard. Each template confers a 'shock value' which represents a disturbing quality your run-of-the-mill giant does not possess.

The first couple of pages outline the concepts involved, including necessary rule mechanics, and then we move on to the templates themselves. The first is the collector - a weird and quite unpleasant template in which the giant adorns himself with the body parts of former foes. It even fights with body parts, clawed arms being popular weapons. Another is the contorted, a creature that bends at odd places rather than having the joints you'd expect of a regular humanoid. Both are quite disturbing in appearance.

Formoreans are also deformed whilst forgotten giants actually have missing body parts revealing inner workings that ought to be covered by flesh. As for the maneaters... well, let's not dwell on their preferred diet. Masochists also have unwholesome habits while one with the reaping template gathers the souls of those slain in its presence. Undying and unstoppable round out the collection of templates.

For each template there are full details - both descriptinve and atmospheric and the necessary game mechanics - to enable you to apply them to any giant of your choice. Of course, they don't have to be giants. but the combination of large size and the template is very effective in the eyes of the average-sized adventurer that will be encountering them!

A selection of giant feats is also included, often taking advantage of their large size in some way. Others hark back to ancient legends, like the ability to smell blood (Fee Fo Fi Fum...) or to step on smaller creatures and crush them almost without noticing.

Finally there are some alternate class features you can add into the mix. Giants will never be quite the same again...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to Gruesome Giants
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Battlemap : Octagon Shrine
Publisher: Christian Hollnbuchner
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2014 08:37:17
This battlemap presents a beautiful and peaceful shrine with an Oriental feel to it. The sort of place you might go to meditate or celebrate, it somehow doesn't feel right to use it for a brawl...

And yet. it's quite easy to think of reasons why a fight might break out. Despite its calm and peaceful appearance, the shrine may be dedicated to an evil god. Or you may be called upon to defend it against the powers of darkness... or you may just be an adventurer in search of loot.

Set in a forest clearing, the shrine is mounted on two platforms set at angles to one another, which gives an interesting set of terrain for multi-level action.

You get a multi-page PDF with a square grid and a ZIP file which only contains one giant JPEG image of the scene without a grid, for use with virtual tabletop systems or if you have access to poster-printing facilities. You can, of course, edit or label the JPEG version before use.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemap : Octagon Shrine
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