RPGNow.com
Close
Close
Browse









Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Alleys of Zobeck (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/27/2015 11:49:34
This work is a collection of additional enhancements for those using Streets of Zobeck (or indeed the Zobeck Gazetteer) in their campaign. It opens with a short scenario 'Nothing to Declare' which should be run the first time that the party arrives in the Free City of Zobek, an adventure that sets the scene and flavour of the place ready for whatever you have planned for later. It's a neat introduction to a place which runs on favours and reeks of corruption, and provides a lead-in to whichever of the adventures from Streets of Zobeck you intend to run.

This escapade is followed by a selection of rules material, each keyed to one of the Streets of Zobeck adventures but of potential use in their own right whether or not you are going to run the adventure in question. Clerics may appreciate the Lust domain - whichever deity they worship does NOT require celibacy of devotees! There are creatures, templates, the odd encounter... plenty to spice up whatever adventure you are running in Zobeck or, for that matter, any equivalent city. Or perhaps you'd like to introduce Goldscale the kobold and his dire weasel mount...

There are other NPCs too, new feats (including some dirty fighting moves!) and traits, magic and mundane items that might come in handy, and more. There's a rather odd incantation called the Incantation of Memories Lost which quite frankly baffles me. It's not clear what the purpose is, the benefit of casting it. Better are some tables for generation the sort of odds and ends the party may find in the pockets of the next body they find in the gutter. If it's fine dining you are after, the Rampant Roach (a kobold-run resturant) is best avoided, but there's a description and floor-plan for those unwise enough to go in. Ulmar's Rare Books may be worth a visit, and there are adventure ideas both for these places and for some of those mentioned in other Zobeck books. Finally if the party finds the city confusing, they might want to engage the services of another kobold called Blackeye who has a carriage for hire, taxi-style. He makes a good ally - provided you are happy with the army of cousins he recommends and the never-ending chatter about Zobeck and its inhabitants.

Overall, a nice addition to the other two Zobeck books, but of less use if you are not using them.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Alleys of Zobeck (Pathfinder RPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Streets of Zobeck (PFRPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2015 10:23:55
If you like adventures grim and gritty, enjoy the odd heist, and are not too particular as to which side of the law your characters might be on, this collection of adventures set in the Free City of Zobeck may be just up your street. Set in the underbelly of the city, the characters will need to be cunning, tricky, ruthless and smart to survive... but if they do, who knows, they may end up rich!

This is more than a collection of adventures, however. It starts with some beautifully-detailed and colourful characters and fascinating locations for use both in these adventures and ones of your own. Each NPC comes with notes on their motivations and goals, their long-term activities, and on 'schemes and plots' - ideas for how they might be incorporated into or even spawn an adventure here and now. The location entries also have adventure ideas as well as floorplans and notes on the folk that you might find hanging around. Standout here is the Silk Scabbard, a fight club/brothel... the entry even has suggestions for the party taking over and running it. There's also a collection of feats, traits, spells and gear that might come in handy for adventurers in Zobeck or indeed those who enjoy city adventuring in general.

Then we get to the adventures themselves, a full seven of them, catering to characters of levels 1 to 10. Run them as a loose sequence, pick an appropriate one when the party comes to town, mix in your own adventures in Zobeck or the surrounding area, the choice is yours. The characters will be caught up in the dark underbelly of Zobeck from the outset, with memorable encounters with people who may prove a help or a hindrance in the future (assuming they survive the encounter, that is). It's a fascinating exercise in how to embed adventures in the very fabric of the setting, creating an harmonious whole that gives the impression of a city buzzing with life never mind what the party gets up to, yet enabling them to become movers and shakers in their own right if that's what they desire.

Each adventure stands on its own as an exciting series of events, taking the party around the city as they seek to complete a mission or find something out. The first is 'Everyone Lies' by Ben McFarland, which sets the characters to look for a local thief's missing girlfriend. Naturally all is not as it seems and a massive web of deceit underlies this seemingly simple task... oh, and they are not the only people looking for the young lady in question... and this is the adventure for 1st-3rd level characters!

Next is 'Rust' by Richard Pett. This 4th-5th level adventure sees the party asked to deal with a plague of demented animated metallic creatures that prowl by night. Who made them, where, and why? Finding the answers may give clues as to why competing merchants are taking an interest. This is followed by an adventure from Christina Stiles called 'The Fish and the Rose', billed as suitable for 5th-level characters. The title is the name of a painting, coveted by many but one thinks she knows where it is - and is willing to hire the party to acquire it on her behalf... an ideal adventure for those who dream of pulling off an epic heist. Then comes 'The First Lab', written by Mike Franke, which is for 7th-level adventurers and delves into the very origins of the gearforged as they are hired to retrieve a diary stolen from a senior professor at the Arcane Collegium.

Matthew Stinson is author of the next adventure called 'Rebuilding a Good Man' and appropriate for 9th-level characters. Someone has acquired (read: stolen) a gearforged body for rather dubious purposes, but perhaps if it was stolen back it could be put to better use... there's an exercise in morality as well as one for the swordarm here. Next, Mike Franke is back with 'Ripper' for a 10th-level party who rapidly get embroiled in the search for a serial killer whether they are interested or not. Finally, there's 'Flesh Fails' from Christina Stiles. Also for 10th-level characters, well it's billed as 9th-11th actually, it involves dark goings-on at the Arcane Collegium and murky dealings amongst the political elite of the city. Successful characters could even use this adventure, if concluded successfully, as a stepping-stone to political power for themselves.

If the Free City of Zobeck features in your game, this book is well worth a look... and if you don't, reading it will make you want to run a campaign set in and around Zobeck forthwith.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Streets of Zobeck (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Pirates of the Western Ocean (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2015 07:32:02
Pirates have always had a fascination for role-players, so it's pretty much inevitable that some were going to turn up... The Introduction, however, takes a historical tack, starting with Viking raiders and going on to consider Barbary pirates of the Mediterranean as well as the Caribbean ones most often thought of when considering pirates for a fantasy role-playing game. It also introduces the historical concept of the privateer, a pirate licensed by his own government to wage proxy war on the ships of opposing nations. This provides a wide canvas, a range of suggestions beyond the norm on which to introduce pirates into your game.

We start in Chapter 1: Lords of the Seas with copious details (including full stat blocks) of five notorious pirates encountered in the Western Ocean of the Midgard Campaign Setting. (If your game is set elsewhere, just tweak names and details to fit your needs.) This is followed by Chapter 2: Faces of the Western Ocean, which presents other NPCs who ply the sea lanes of the Western Ocean whom you can use as enemies or allies, chance encounters or just a passing rumour heard in a tavern. Ideas for how to incorporate them into your plots are included as well as standard details of stat block, background, combat information and portraits. One stand-out is Czakthorash, a green dragon who was the runt of his litter and devised a cunning plan: outclassed by his siblings in regular dragon methods of amassing a hoard, he's established himself as a 'cargo-cult' deity providing trinkets to primitive islanders in return for adulation... and plenty gems and gold as well!

Next up is Palau Kelaparan, Home of Mechuiti and the Behtu. This presents an entire island located in a remote corner of the Western Ocean (or someplace suitable in your campaign world), the residence of Mechuiti (who is a demon) and his cohorts as well as the natives: the pygmy Behtu, who have some unpleasant habits. Explore the place if you dare, defeat the inhabitants if you can... This section includes some ideas for ways of getting your party to go there in the first place. Then comes Umbrasca, another island with a long and dark history. Again the geography is outlined, with locations to explore, and notable inhabitants to meet, along with plot suggestions for how to incorporate it into your game.

If neither of these appeal, the next section presents several Lesser Ports of Call which a ship-borne party may care to visit during their travels... and if they are getting too complacent, call upon the inhabitants of the following section Pirate Bands to provide some opposition. These are provided in outline only, you'll have to put in some work before they are ready for a brawl on the high seas.

We then move on to a Bestiary of the Waves, containing cannibal pygmies and rum gremlins, and notes on rules pertaining to being adrift at sea deigned to enable you to generate an encounter with someone cast adrift at short notice. Next is a section on Ships and Cargo, which provides loads of detail such as ship templates to aid in devising the ships your party sails in or encounters... but despite the heading, nothing much about cargo.

This is followed by Mariner Magic and Culture. Here we find some new spells with a nautical flavour... and others, including some rather cunning temporal ones. There are also some magic items and mariner traits, for characters who spend plenty of time afloat.

Finally, there are some Secrets of the Western Ocean... dark secrets for the GM to know and craft plots around ready to ensnare unwary parties and give them the thrill of discovery as they unravel the mysteries. These are based around aboleths and sea titans, who both once held sway in the depths but whose influence has waned, although it has not faded away completely. At the end there's a map of the Western Ocean, a rather disappointing one as it doesn't show any of the places mentioned in the text!

There's plenty to spark the imagination if you want to bring pirates into your game - particularly if they will be attacking your party rather than the characters actually taking to a life of swashing their buckles pirate-style themselves. It could have done with more maps, the single one provided is virtually useless, but there are some good ideas here, although most will need further work before they are ready to be included in your game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pirates of the Western Ocean (Pathfinder RPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Zobeck Gazetteer (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2015 08:45:06
The Introduction opens with a key question: What is Zobeck? Seems a good place to start, and the text explains how Zobeck is one of the few places in Midgard not to have a feudal overlord since a revolt some 80 years ago kicked out the ruling family... not to mention that it's a trade hub and by all accounts a vibrant and exciting place to live in or visit. If you don't happen to use the Midgard campaign setting, a helpful sidebar explains, it will not take too much adaptation to locate Zobeck in your own game world instead. It's a town with a dark side, a teeming underbelly. It conducts trade primarily by river, and there's a deep, dark forest nearby. Inspiration includes middle Europe, a rich source widely ignored by fantasy game authors.

Chapter 1: A History explains the genesis and growth of this city-state and how its main inhabitants - humans, dwarves, gearforged and kobolds - developed the relationships that they have today. First there were the Fey, who were tricked into a pact that resulted in them becoming the Shadow Fey but gave them so much power that they don't seem to have resisted much. Then kobolds turned up to exploit the wealth they found underground. This annoyed the Shadow Fey who formed an alliance with a human lordling called Stross, who conquered the area and established his own rule... and thus the seeds were laid for what is found today. Interestingly, all the history recounted here is information that any interested character might find out, while it's probably common knowledge to the locals.

Next is Chapter 2: The Free City of Zobeck. This is a survey of the districts that make up the city and the people who live in them. Everyday life, customs, languages, trade... it's all here, vital information for would-be visitors. There are also ideas for adventure scattered throughout, which can be picked up and developed by interested GMs. This chapter ends with notes on the city's neighbours.

Then comes Chapter 3: The Kobold Ghetto which goes into extensive detail about this fascinating district of the city. It may be a tough place to live, but compared to what kobolds have endured in the past it at least provides some security if not much in the way of creature comforts. There's plenty of information and a detailed map to facilitate visits - although non-kobolds do stand out and often get picked upon. Indeed, the ghetto is so alien a place that visitors actually are dazed (as in the condition) for several rounds on entering! There's plenty to see for those willing to brave it, however, and numerous ideas for adventure are provided.

Moving on, Chapter 4: Districts & Locations surveys the most prominent ones, with a 2-page map depicting the entire city and a wealth of notes and details about what is to be found there. There are places to visit, shops to browse in and fascinating individuals to meet... and of course several good taverns to drink (and brawl) in. Scene set, the next chapter - Chapter 5: Gangs, Guilds and Guardians - gets down to explaining the elaborate guild organisations that (at least in their own eyes) control the city as well as the numerous gangs which also lay claim to do so, certainly where the underworld is concerned. You can also find out about the local courtesans, including their habit of getting rival lovers to duel over them. Whilst the city is no longer subject to noble rule, 'society' and courtiers still flourish and those who wish to mix at such rarified levels (or in some way profit from them) will find the details that they need.

This is followed by Chapter 6: Gods, Cults and Relics of Zobeck which sets the religious scene for the city. It's important to know about them even if the party is not particularly religious, as the local deities enjoy meddling and interfering in the lives of mortals. The notes are quite intormative, but those seeking more will find it in the Midgard Campaign Setting. As well as the deities, there are numerous cults and even a group of 'crab diviners' who believe that crabs whisper the truth to them...

Next, Chapter 7: Denizens of Zobeck provides full stat blocks and details of several notable NPCs dwelling in the city, all ready to be woven into your game. Finally, Chapter 8: Magic of Zobeck takes a look at magic as it is practised here. Dominated by the Arcane Collegium, there are some interesting paths of magic and they are explained here: the clockwork school and the Gear domain, along with star and shadow magic which both fall under the school of illumination magic and are held to be unique to the city. For those interested, there are quite a few new spells to study as well as a magic shop to visit and some magical items to keep an eye out for during your stay in the city.

There are a few annoying typos (although you can make out what was intended) and a few references to the Streets of Zobeck supplement: it's probably best to pick up a copy if you want to make best use of this book. Whilst much of the information, especially in the first couple of chapters, covers things that a character might discover through inquiry or research, later material is probably best kept for the GM's eyes only, even where characters born and bred in the city are concerned. Overall, though, it is well-presented and brings a fascinating city to vivid life - the party will remember their visit for a long time to come!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Zobeck Gazetteer (Pathfinder RPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/18/2015 06:56:43
What part do giants play in your game? If you'd like them to be distinctive personalities rather than 'ordinary' humanoids that just happen to be bigger than anyone else, this might be worth a look.

There's no introduction or preamble, it just dives straight in to the first section. The book is made up of sections about the different types of giant - thursir, hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, fire giants, and cloud and storm giants - but each section contains a wealth of information that can be used to make them come alive in your game, with details about their history, social organisation and even religious beliefs as well as their relationships with other races and the things they do that are likely to impact on their neighbours. There are hidden gems throughout - for example, thursir like (and excel at) metalwork and feasting, yet they loathe dwarves (who like and excel at metalwork and feasting) with a vengeance. It's not just jealousy either, there's a historical (legendary, really) reason behind the emnity. It's things like that which make them come to life as a people with their own ideas and motivations rather than a mark on a map and a stat block in your notes.

However, it's not all stories and legends, there are solid game mechanics here as well. Racial feats - treating each different giant type as a separate race (which, biologically speaking, they are) - distinctive items of equipment and even magic are provided, along with fully-developed sample NPCs and ideas for adventure using each giant race.

Of course, the different races come over rather stereotyped. Thursir work wonders in the forge, provided they haven't been overindulging themselves with food and drink. Hill giants are stupid and a bit thuggish. Stone giants, on the other hand, are quite gentle and peaceful... and delight in their children, something many giants find quite difficult. Frost giants like hunting intelligent prey and will travel great distances to find someone worth hunting. Everyone else is regarded as slave material (or lunch). And so on. Whilst this makes it easy to categorise them, if you want to make them into real societies rather than groups of monsters, remember that the generalisations refer to the race as a whole and individuals may buck the trend... and indeed, there are hints and suggestions as to how not all giants of a given race are exactly the same. To go back to the thursir, while they detest dwarves and stomp on them at any opportunity, some female thursir are so enamoured of the freedoms female dwarves enjoy that they seek out magic to shrink them to dwarf size to mingle with them in secret!

Giants by their very nature do not live within mainstream humanoid civilisation, but they do interact with it. Using this book, you will be able to make giant communities come to life, whether your plot calls for the party to visit or encounter them, or for giants for some reason (probably warlike) to come a-visiting. Make them into something far more than large-scale humanoids to fight, giants can be people too! However, this is very much a book for giants as monsters/NPCs, albeit well-developed ones, if youm want to actually play a giant you will need more than is here although it may provide useful background.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Larger than Life: Giants for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/17/2015 07:44:35
Drawing on their new Southlands Campaign Setting, Kobold Press has launched its Dungeons & Dragons 5e line with a collection of races and backgrounds appropriate for characters who come from the Southlands or similar environments in your own campaign world. In particular, it capitalises on the mechanical differences between player-characters and their antagonists within this system to distil out the essence of particular races, classes and backgrounds to provide fascinating and challenging options for characters that capitalise on the features of the main Southlands environment - burning deserts and deep jungles.

Mechanically sound yet replete with role-playing potential, you can consider playing a gnoll or aasimar or perhaps one of the lizardfolk, or maybe a tosculi (insect creature), werelion or minotaur appeals. Each comes with some descriptive text, illustrations and a selection of traits and abilities to make the character that bit different, a true member of the chosen race. There's an interesting note on the creative use of animal companions and familiars, too, taking them deep into role-playing and away from the somewhat mechanical approach of the core rules that concentrates on fighting ability to the exclusion of much that could bring them to life within the party as a whole.

The second part of the book considers backgrounds, the third element of a character along with race and class. Backgrounds enhance role-playing, giving mechanical advantages to your characters' pasts, and also serve to highlight the flavour of your campaign world. Perhaps you travelled the desert extensively, or maybe you are regarded as the offspring of a deity... or served one as a temple slave. Sweeping and dramatic, these and more are presented with a wealth of ideas to inform the way in which that character behaves and approaches life as well as providing material benefits such as skill and tool proficiences, languages and items of equipment gained during the past in question.

Well presented with evocative illustrations and a skilful mix of game mechanic and inspiring narrative, it's easy to imagine playing any of the options in this book - the difficulty is deciding which one to try out first!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Heroes for 5th Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Supplement 10: Merchants and Cruisers
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/10/2015 10:30:20
In the far future, it's reasonable to expect a vast array of ships to be plying the space lanes - just stand beside a busy road and see just how many different vehicles go by! - so this book provides a collection of different ships and ideas for variants to ensure that it's never boring out in the black or at a space port in your Traveller universe.

The Introduction explains how the ships have all been designed using the rules in the core rulebook and in Book 2: High Guard - so they'll be systemically compatible with anything you design or have taken from other books. The rest of the book is divided up into logical groups to make it easier to find what you want just when you need it.

The first section is Small Craft, being anything from fighters and shuttles to specialised ships for boarding actions or even planetary assault. These are followed by sections on Military Craft, Scout Vessels, and Civilian Ships; then more exotic vessels in sections devoted to Aslan, Darrian and Vargr ships. The military craft presented here are the smaller ones like patrol cruisers and support vessels, whilst the scout ones include those used on covert activities as well as more regular Scout missions. Civilian ships in clude not just merchants but passenger liners and even an interstellar casino!

For each ship, you get a short description of its appearance and uses, a full stat-block and a deck plan. These are nice, neat, clear plans - with the added bonus of each one has the legend explaining the symbols beside it. This coupled with most ships covering either one or two pages means that PDF users can print out the relevant pages for ships they want to use without having to refer to the rest of the book. There are occasional sketches of external appearance as well, nice for people who want to know what they can see when they look out of a porthole/use a view screen!

The 'alien' vessels do have a slightly different feel to them: Darrians like personal space, Aslan ships generally have a shrine and so on. The odd typo and some of the deck plans (especially for some reason in the Civilian Ships section) being less than clear about what's where notwithstanding, this is a very useful work for anyone who delights in the variety of ships to be encountered out in the black.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 10: Merchants and Cruisers
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Tales of the Old Margreve Web Compilation
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/09/2015 10:32:21
Gleanings from the company website, this contains a wealth of snippets to add in to adventures set in the Old Margreve forest and round about. To start with there are 20 beautifully-described NPCs, provided to help you bring the place to life. They aren't intended for combat-fodder, if you do want to involve them in a brawl you'll have to provide your own stat-block... but as part of life's rich tapestry, people living and working in the area who might interact with the party, they're excellent. Watch out for Shadow, a black dog belonging to Tsarin the Dirgist. This hound has an uncanny nose for when someone is about to die, and leads his master to the spot so that he can perform a funeral dirge and eulogy for the just-departed. Some say that Shadow's appearance heralds (or even causes) the death... or is it just that he has impeccable timing?

Next up, 25 'reskinned' creatures, that is, the specifically Margreve versions of monsters from the Pathfinder Bestiary and Bonus Bestiary. These just come with descriptions again, but there's an indication as to which monster from the Bestiary you should reference. It's a neat way to put a twist on the creatures you encounter without much effort, and helps make the locale more distinctive.

Along the same theme, there are 15 reskinned spells, which can be used in different ways as you please. It may be that locals use these distinctive variants of spells that the party is used to, or - and this could cause some surprises - it may be that the spells act this way when cast in the Margreve, be it a native or visiting magic-user that casts them! If you decide they are local variants, others may learn them in the usual way... but may find that once they've left the Margreve they don't work as they need local components. Following on from that, there's a Margreve Bloodline that lets sorcerers tap into the ancient powers of the old forest and even become a part of it. If the Margreve is part of your campaign world, a sorcerer may have it - he doesn't even need to be local as long as he's descended from someone who was.

There's also an incantation, a few fascinating local items, and a selection of traits available to anyone who grew up in the area. It's all added flavour, and well worth picking up if you're using the Margreve. The illustrations are rather good - and evocative - too.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales of the Old Margreve Web Compilation
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Southlands Bestiary
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/07/2015 08:10:17
Early explorers of distant and far-off lands often define them by the creatures to be found there, so here is a collection of diverse and fascinating beasts to populate the Southlands and terrorise incautious visitors. These creatures are at home, the party are the interlopers, having to deal with the rigors of the setting as well as the actual monsters themselves. A new land with new monsters provides a challenge to players as well as to their characters as both are venturing someplace new. It's also a way to get over the obstacle of a character knowing more about his surroundings (including the monsters) than his player does!

There's a wealth of opportunity for the GM as well. Treat the monsters not as mere cannon-fodder but as a living, breathing part of the world that they inhabit. The ultimate challenge for the characters may well be to engage in combat with the monsters, but what of learning about them first? Observations can be made, legends learned, and so on, enabling the characters to know something about these new creatures before having to fight them... or such observations can be made after the first stunning shock of a combat encounter as the characters regroup, figure out what attacked them and how they can detect and deal with it in the future.

Even if you don't want to use the Southlands in your game, or the plot does not call for the party to go there right now, the odd creature might have strayed elsewhere. You may have a suitable ecological niche for it where your game is currently set, or it may have strayed - perhaps as an exhibit in a menagerie - far from its natural habitat. There's always scope for new monsters....

The Introduction touches on these concepts and then we're off with an array of monsters presented in alphabetic order. Each comes with all the details we have come to expect: a description, complete stat block, notes on lifestyle, habitat and behaviour and a glorious full-colour illustration. Most entries fill a single page, else they fill two, so users of the PDF will be able to print out the pages that they need without extraneous material. There's almost an hundred of them to feast your eyes upon and build adventures around; and there's a table listing them by CR at the back to help you in setting up encounters appropriate to your characters.

Many of the monsters are uniquely suited to the Southlands, both ecologically and in terms of the overall style of the campaign setting. Perhaps a gentle stroll across the desert will be interrupted as two speckled, wickedly pointed legs erupt from the sand, plunging forward with murderous speed, followed by a spider the size of a rhino... the evocative description provided for the sand spider. Another beast, the subek, is a humanoid crocodile which retains many of the fighting techniques of the animal that is its inspiration such as the 'death roll' of a crocodile dragging its prey underwater to drown, adapting the technique to a land-based grappling manoeuvere.

The giant white apes reflect legends about super-intelligent gorillas found in the depths of Congo rain forests, twisted to suit the Southlands setting yet evoking the same awe and curiousity. The monsters range from pure animal to sentient, from desert dwellers to jungle inhabitants - whatever your needs there is likely something that will suit. Beautifully presented and well-considered, if you are using the Southlands Campaign Setting or have another area occupying the ecological niche of Africa in your world, these creatures will help to bring it to life.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Southlands Bestiary
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Special Supplement 3: Vehicle Upgrade Manual
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/04/2015 07:42:53
What with Supplement 5-6: The Vehicle Design Handbook and Special Supplement 1: Biotech Vehicles you might have thought that vehicle design was a done deal... but no, here's some more! This book presents three new types of chassis (the ekranoplan, the rocket plane and the ornithopter) and a wealth of new rules for things like vehicle maintenance and design flaws, not to mention lots of other stuff.

We start off with a section of New Chassis Types. There's a brief description of what an ekranoplan actually is - something like an aircraft but relying on ground effect (I think I need to do more research before I understand this!) - and then a whole bunch of variations and features on the theme for you to choose from. Rocket planes (which are capable of lifting off from a standing start rather than belting down a runway) and ornithopters (which flap like birds) are given similar treatment.

Next is a section on Universal Modifications. These may be applied to any vehicle type when you want that feature or effect, and there's quite a lot of them. Perhaps you want to instal a complete command centre in your vehicle (the sort of facilities you need to coordinate rescues or police/military activity), maybe you want a winch or drone racks... or perhaps you want the entire vehicle to be capable of being air-dropped from something even larger. Just reading through the options gives plenty of ideas. Maybe you need to sweep mines or withstand pressure... or just want a touch of luxury.

Not everything works perfectly, of course, so the next section is Quirks and Flaws. Quirks are flavour - like a nasty smell you cannot trace - while flaws can have an in-game effect resulting from poor design or manufacture of the vehicle. If you forsee a lot of hanger time for your creation (or want to avoid it!) head on over to the next section, Maintenance. This provides rules for keeping vehicles in tip-top condition... and what might happen if you don't!

If you want it big, then the section on Designing Ultra-Heavy Vehicles is for you. The Vehicle Handbook was aimed at smaller vehicles, ones on a more personal scale, rather than really enormous ones... yet sometimes that may be what you need. The suggestion here is to build in sections, using the appropriate rules for making heavy vehicles of the appropriate type, and stick them together. This is followed by a section on Weapons, providing even more options for offenseive armament.

The next section covers Vehicles as Robots and Drones. As I write, driverless cars are just about a technical possibility (they're still working on ethical and legal aspects), so in the far future it is likely that virtually any vehicle can be fitted with a robot brain and made autonomous, or operated by a remote controller as a drone. There's even a possibility of a cyborg vehicle, using a sentient brain as controller - something like Anne McCaffrey's brainships - or an artificial intelligence like Keith Laumer's bolos.

Finally, there's a selection of ready-designed vehicles which demonstrate these rules in action, or which can be used in your game straight off. These just scratch at the surface of course, but they give an indication of what is possible. If you enjoy designing vehicles, you'll want to add this book to your resources... and even if you are not a serious gearhead, it provides lots of ideas about vehicle types and capabilities even if you don't want to go through the complete design process.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Special Supplement 3: Vehicle Upgrade Manual
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Special Supplement 1: Biotech Vehicles
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/03/2015 07:28:14
This short PDF supplement packs a lot in, providing the wherewithall to create 'biotech' vehicles using the standard vehicle design system presented in earlier supplements (originally Supplement 5: Civilian Vehicles and Supplement 6: Military Vehicles, later revised and published as Supplement 5-6: The Vehicle Handbook). As this system concentrated on the end result of your design, rather than the means of accomplishing it, creating compatible living vehicles is not too difficult.

Science-fiction is full of biotech constructs, living creatures which fulfil roles normally occupied by inanimate objects. If you play the 2300AD setting, the Pentapod race uses living starships and vehicles already, or you may want to recreate something you have read about or seen on screen. Used in conjunction with The Vehicle Handbook, you can now do so.

As the vehicle design system is effects-based, most of the work is done using it, and this book highlights the differences due to your design being a biotech one rather than a standard 'rustbucket'. To start with, they are pricey - double the cost of conventional vehicles. You can make most every type of vehicle but its to be noted that they need a 'structure type' as well as the chassis type in the standard design system. Here, you need to decide if the creature is a vertebrate or an invertebrate (i.e. does it have an internal skeleton?). Invertebrate-based vehicles are a little cheaper but they are a bit more vulnerable to damage - a bit odd, ask a cockroach, one of the most durable creatures around and an invertebrate!

Other differences include metabolic type (endothermic or exothermic) and environmental limitations, as well as range and fuel... your biotech vehicle needs to be fed whether or not it's going anywhere! Depending on what they eat, their performance varies - and if your vehicle is a carnivore you will probably have to hunt for it, whilst a photosynthetic vehicle has unlimited range in daylight although it is comparatively slow-moving and may grind to a halt if driven too far at night!

Most biotech vehicles are fairly stupid but some have limited, animal intelligence and can follow simple directions rather than be guided by someone. The supplement also covers defensive capabilities, sensors and even the ability to self-repair when damaged. As for weapons, you can mount normal ones whilst some biotech vehicles have quite novel ones of their own.

Finally, there's a sample biotech vehicle, an airship, to play with. If the idea appeals, however, you'll soon be rooting through novels and films for inspiration - I'm thinking of John Varley's Titan right now, which presented one of Saturn's moons as a construct filled with strange creatures, often filling the roles we'd use machines to fill... It is an interesting concept, and one which will allow you to create some truly alien vehicles, the sort of thing that reminds players that their characters are in an alternate reality.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Special Supplement 1: Biotech Vehicles
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Supplement 14: Space Stations
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/31/2015 08:09:42
As soon as a civilisation ventures forth from its original planet, it's going to start building space stations - even we here on Earth have, despite not having developed interplanetary travel yet! In the starfaring community of the far future envisioned by Traveller, it's likely that most inhabited systems will have space stations as well as settlements planetside. Indeed, they may be the main habitations in some systems, for example when the main world is resource-rich but not suitable for major long-term colonisation. They are also good places on which to have adventures!

The first chapter, Space Station Design, dives straight in to present a system for creating space stations with the customary wealth of tables and options to enable you to custom-design the space station that you want. Most are built in the orbit that they will occupy once completed, with components being delivered and bolted together in space. There's a checklist to work through, beginning with the essential decision of whether you wish to have artificial gravity or to spin your station to generate gravity within it. Then you need to decide on a configuration and size, and it goes on from there. An important consideration is the orbit in which it will be situated, which will depend on the use to which it will be put - and also determine what facilities need to be provided. It may also be necessary (or at least prudent) to arm the station.

Once these basics have been determined the next chapter, Station Equipment, comes into play. This looks at the various uses to which the station may be put and the equipment that will have to be installed. Perhaps mining operations are conducted from the station, or - especially if the station is located in an asteroid belt - ore is brought there to be refined. There are likely to be facilities such as shops and entertainment for visitors and residents, docking facilities for visiting ships and maybe even a dockyard for ship repair or construction. Communications and sensor gear will be required and so on.

Now that the station has been constructed and equipped, turn to the Combat and Operations chapter to find out how to run (and defend) your brand-new station. This provides the details you need if there's a combat involving the station itself - generally defensive actions as they are fairly easy to hit but unlikely to mount attacks. In terms of more peaceful operations, space stations work pretty much like starports and you may wish to refer to Supplement 13: Starport Encounters as well as the material here. Due to size limitations, ships wishing to dock may be limited as to how long they can stay or may even have to hang around waiting for a berth to become available.

The next chapter, Space Station Generation, provides tables to aid in determining what stations are present in a given system and what they are doing there. Amred with that information you can then loop back to the first chapter and design those for which you need that level of detail - after all, if your party is not interested in asteroid mining, just knowing that there is a refinery station in the asteroid belt is sufficient, but if their business (or your plot) takes them there, you will need a lot more information about it. This chapter also provides plenty of inspiration about what sort of space stations there may be in a system - from naval bases to commercial operations, Imperial consultates, scout bases, pirate havens and much, much more. I once played in a campaign where an entire sub-sector was embroiled in a war and the party - rather than working for one side or the other as the Referee had intended - set up a 'neutral zone' entertainment facility space station where members of either faction were welcome as long as they left their dispute outside!

Next up, for the budding traders, there's a chapter Maintaining Trade, which actually goes well beyond actual trading to look at the economics of running a space station. It's quite fascinating, and easy to imagine a campaign based around keeping a station operational - cutting deals, dealing with problems and so on. This is followed by a chapter called Docks and Yards which goes into detail about the operation and economics of docking and shipyard facilities. If you run a construction yard, there are two options: build ships to contract or build speculatively and hope someone will purchase them. There's plenty of detail here to facilitate either kind of shipbuilding.

This is followed by Agave, a chapter detailing a complete system in which planets are at best harsh and mostly incapable of supporting life, so most inhabitants live on space stations instead. There's a history and description of the system, notes on military and other significant groups, places of interest to visit - and several Patron Encounters that could lead to a series of adventures here. This chapter ends with notes on several other possibilities if you want a station-rich system... these are just ideas and you'll have to flesh them out for yourself.

Finally, Space Stations is a chapter of ready-made stations that you can drop into your game wherever the need arises. There are descriptions, plans, illustrations and full statistics for an antique station, a research station, a manufacturing station, a trading station, a mining station, a construction station, a fleet station, a defence station, an interdiction station, and an X-boat hub station. The plans are somewhat uninformative and sketchy and the illustrations also leave something to be desired - with each station getting two or three virtually identical ones supposedly showing it from different angles.

The usefulness of this will depend on what's important in your game. In many games, even if you visit a space station there is no need for this level of detail, the Referee can just describe the areas as needed. If you want to base your game on a station though, this material will come in very handy! And, like every system in Traveller, there's the potential for using the design system on its own as a form of 'gearheading'.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 14: Space Stations
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Supplement 12: Dynasty
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2015 08:44:06
This supplement offers up a whole new way of playing Traveller, as well as ways in which to enrich your Traveller universe with a deeper complex history than ever before. To start with, the Introduction provides an overview of the scope of the book and presents a wider definition of a 'dynasty' than the typical concept of a succession of rulers from a single family - here it can refer to any group which gains and retains power from generation to generation, it could be a corporation or an association of like-minded individuals.

The first chapter is Creating the Core Dynasty. This can be done by one of three methods: rolling lots of dice, a point-buy system or by building it around your own group of powerful player-characters. Each dynasty will have rankings in certain characteristics which define what it is and how it behaves, ranging from how cleverly it behaves through how greedy it is and including things like is it militaristic and how popular it is, as well as how much attention it pays to its own history and traditions. If you are going to roll them randomly, each one has a value generated on 2d6. Point-buy makes high values extremely costly. Although it's suggested that the point-buy version is suited to Referees who want to keep a tight control on things, there's no real indication as to how, and a flat 100 points is given as how much you have to play with without any pointers as to how to vary that depending on the outcomes you wish to achieve.

Once you have those basic characteristics, you then need to sort out how that dynasty came to be, choosing things like a power base (the starting point - a noble family may choose an estate as their origin, a corporation may have a headquarters and so on...) and an archtype which determines something about the nature of the dynasty - a religious faith operates somewhat differently from a conglomerate or a military syndicate... or of course you can be traditional and establish a ruling family. You also need to decide (or roll) on how the dynasty is run - a single leader, or some kind of management team, with various options for both. Each choice confers certain bonuses and restraints on the fledgling dynasty. The chapter ends with brief notes on how to adapt the process for when your party of player-characters decides to establish its own dynasty.

The next chapter, Background and Historic Events, enables you to detail how the fledgling dynasty rose to prominence. This covers the first 100 years or so of its existance (but is skipped in the case of player-characters creating their own dynasty, their adventures to this point substitute for 'historic events'). Depending on the sort of dynasty it is, there are tables to roll on to determine what happened, as well as a general table of events that can happen irrespective of the nature of the dynasty being created.

This is followed by Through the Generations, a chapter that talks about what happens to the dynasty's resources and assets as time passes, enabling you to create a rich history of its rise and fall over a considerable period of time. There are optional 'goals' for the dynasty to aim for, quite grandiose and hard to obtain but conferring significant advantage if you manage to achieve them... but penalties are incurred if you fail. There are also threats and obstacles that beset any dynasty to contend with, and decade events that happen like it or not... sometimes a dynasty will fade or even fail completely and vanish from all but the most obscure histories, others will be strengthened or will even grow and flourish on the galactic stage.

The next chapter, Pawns, Schemes and Gambits, continues this theme. This contains a variety of tests and mini-games that model a single dynasty's growth and development as it seeks to influence the galaxy around it. Unlike character actions which are quick, these can take months or years to resolve. It can get quite complex but repays careful study if you want to get the most out of it.

Up until now, we've been discussing a single dynasty pretty much in isolation, but the next chapter - called When Dynasties Clash - goes some way to redress this, with some more mini-games that deal with dynastic interactions. This chapter in particular provides scope for a whole new way of playing Traveller - each player creating and running their own dynasty rather than a single character. It could also provide a meta-game background against which a more traditional campaign involving a party of characters - perhaps in the employ of one of the dynasties involved - is played out. Again it is quite involved mechanically, but the potential is here for some quite epic interactions - hostile takeovers to all-out war and quite a few 'dirty tricks' along the way. Some actions can be resolved quite quickly, others will take months or years before the outcome is known.

Next is Heroes and Villains... for these are not faceless organisations but ones headed by individuals. Whose name rings through the ages as a typical leader of a dynasty, an outstanding paragon who exemplefies its core character or an out-and-out rogue who flew in the face of all its values? In essence this is a specialised variant on character creation, to enable you to generate these notable figures - and perhaps even play them as a critical moment in dynastic history is played out. Special dynastic life event tables are provided, and the character may also use the appropriate ones for the career(s) that he has chosen to pursue. Perhaps these characters could be scions of different dynasties thrown together by some quirk of fate or design... or they might hail from the same dynasty and be in competition to become its next leader. Plenty of potential here for novel campaigns and adventures!

The final chapter, Roleplaying Traveller: Dynasty, looks at a whole raft of ideas about how you can incorporate the material in this book into your game. It includes ideas for adventures, and a collection of ready-made dynasties which serve as good examples or which can pop up as rivals, allies or enemies to your own or player-generated dynasties.

This can be classed as a game-changer: it widens the whole scope of Traveller from the individual character to larger groups which can occupy centre stage or mutter along in the background as you choose. There is plenty of potential here to add an epic dimension to your game... and like most things Traveller, much of it can occupy spare time when you are not actually role-playing if you fancy creating dynasties and using the rules to model their growth, conflict and eventual decline (or triumph) by yourself!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 12: Dynasty
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2015 07:38:57
This book takes a look at a long-neglected aspect of Traveller which is, after all, a space exploration game: the creatures that you may encounter on other worlds. If you take the premise that life has developed on multiple planets (which given the sheer number of 'habitable' ones is pretty obvious), that life is not going to be identical wherever you go. Indeed, having exotic (to our eyes) lifeforms is part of the 'otherness' of visiting different planets during the course of your game - and if so inclined you can weave them into your plotline, anything from specimen-collecting or hunting trips to being attacked by some savage beast you didn't even know existed.

When not playing engineers or the ship's chef, I quite often play a 'xenobiologist' whose very reason for being out in the black is to study the flora and fauna on the worlds he visits. If your game is one about exploration or colonisation, you are going to need to know about the creatures on the planets you investigate. Even if your game involves trade, or war, or going for a holiday, it may become important. Robert Heinlein, in his book Tunnel in the Sky gives a wonderful example when a survival instructor says "Beware of the stobor". His students spend ages looking for a stobor before they realise that it's not an actual creature but the concept of an unknown animal that might well be dangerous that they are being warned about!

The introduction begins with a discussion of what an 'animal' is and how animals behave... they are not cute, furry, people! Animals react to circumstances, they are not sentient, and respond to scary situations with a flight or fight response rather than a reasoned one. As general points of animal psychology are discussed, ways in which to make use of them within your game are suggested in a neat and useful manner.

Next comes A Walk on the Wild Side, a chapter which provides a comprehensive animal creation system. Based on a series of tables in typical Traveller fashion, it is designed to enable you to create believeable alien animals with little effort, complete with all that you need to use them in play. Animals evolve to fill particular niches, so you need to decide early on in the process what sort of terrain your creature will be found in - this may, of course, be dictated by other aspects of the adventure you are planning. The creature will fall into one of several classifications (avian, reptile, insect, mammal, and so on), and will have appropriate modes of locomotion and behaviours to go along with it. Like many such systems, you can have hours of innocent fun just rolling up animals even if you have no specific use for them right now. Whilst this book is about animals, you do have the option of 'fungals' - now most people lump fungi in with plants rather than animals, but there is certainly biological evidence to view them as a third kingdom, and here they might be able to move around. You can use the same section if you want a few self-mobile plants... why not, this is alien biology we're talking about, after all!

Now, there are lots of interesting things you can do with the animals you create, but this being a role-playing game combat is never far away, so the next chapter is When Animals Attack. It provides numerous tables to allow you to set up animal encounters based on terrain type. Of course, these encounters do not need to involve conflict if that's not what you want. Wherever you plot takes the game, there will be some options for random encounters - or you may choose to set them up in advance as part of your story. This section is also replete with little snippets of ideas and events that add more life to the proceedings - interactions, events and so on, all helping you to create the air of 'otherness' that reminds the players that their characters are not in their home town any more. This is, due to the multitude of options, the largest part of the book.

Finally, The Galactic Menagerie provides an array of ready-designed critters for you to let loose, or at least to serve as examples for your own designs. There are also some charts to allow you to modify creatures depending on the environment in which they are to be found - so you can have a tropic rain forest or open plains version of a given animal, similar enough that the relationship can be discerned but different enough to be distinct... and of course, fitting in with wherever it is that they live.

Overall, this provides a good and comprehensive if mechanistic way to come up with animals to be found on all those worlds that are out there for your Travellers to explore. A few examples of how to take a creature from fiction and slot it in to the system, so that you can generate the essential statistics to use it in your game, would have been a useful addition... and I do wonder what they all taste like and how you cook them!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Supplement 11: Animal Encounters
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Set Europe Ablaze
Publisher: J.B.K. Game Design
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2015 08:36:19
Role-playing any aspect of war is always a bit tricky, but good opportunities are provided by spies and saboteurs, who operate independently in small groups - just like the average party of characters - and generally get into enough danger and excitement to keep any player happy! Some may find World War 2 just a little bit recent, you may have parents or grandparents who were caught up in it, but if that's not an issue for you and your group the exploits of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) behind enemy lines in Europe ought to keep you busy.

The Introduction provides some background about the formation of the British SOE and the American OSS, and leads into the first chapter, The War Against Fascist Tyranny, which summarises the events leading up to the war between Nazi Germany and the Allies and then major events of the war in Europe and Africa with the aim of providing a backdrop against which your campaign can be played out. This account runs right through to the final German surrender in 1945, so you can pick your date knowing what happened before it... and what ought to happen next, provided the party's actions don't change anything major, that is. Always the problem when you mess with real history!

Next is The Nations of Europe, which explains the position of each nation - belligerent, conquered, or neutral - as they were in mid-1941, which is when the SOE began clandestine operations. (America did not join the war until the end of 1941, but was already laying groundwork and forming the OSS in anticipation of becoming involved.) There are notes on both offical government positions and those who sympathised with either the Allies or the Nazis, many of whom formed 'resistance' movements. Espionage was, of course, rife with 'neutral' countries such as Portugal being prime targets for both sides.

Then on to the meat of the matter with the chapter SOE and OSS: The Clandestine War. Interestingly both men and women were recruited and participated in missions behind enemy lines, thus leaving it open to players to choose male or female characters without restrictions. This chapter covers training and the dangers that they faced in the field - and how to avoid them. Details of the various organisations arrayed against them are also given - this part in particular lurches a rather ungainly path between what the average SOE/OSS operator would know and bits which are GM-only information.

Background established, we then move on to the all-important Creating a Special Ops Hero. The game uses a custom game mechanic, the One-10 System, in which a single d10 is required for play. Each character has Attributes (Intelligence, Perception, Charisma, Strength, Agility and Stamina) on a 1-5 scale, derived by an elegant mixture of point-buy and die-roll. There are various derived Attributes as well, which you can work out once you have the main ones sorted. Characters are assumed to start at age 21, by which time they will already have got some training and/or experience under their belts. If they want to be older, they will have more skill points to play with. There are no 'character classes' in this system, a character is defined by his skills, from which there is an extensive list to choose using a point-buy system. There's also an option to have a 'tradecraft' package of skills reflecting what is learned in SOE/OSS training. Character background becomes important too, letting you understand which countries the characters is familiar with and which languages he speaks. Modifications can be gained from a system of Qualities and Quirks that is well-designed. Throughout, there are little comments from the author about why he chose to set up the mechanics in particular ways, quite illuminating and evidence of the clear and coherent thought that went into the system. In deciding what your character is like, remember that a fit young male really ought to be in the military, wandering around behind enemy lines posing as a civilian may raise questions from the outset. As an aside, I knew an SOE agent who looked and acted as if he was really stupid - he actually was a very smart man - a wonderful cover for clandestine operations!

Now that you have a character, how is he played? The next chapter, Using Skills and Attributes, explains just that. To resolve any action, you roll 1d10 and add to it applicable Skill Ratings (the skill you are using plus the controlling Attribute and any other modifiers) against a Task Difficulty Level appropriate to what you are attempting - if you exceed it, you have succeeded. Sometimes it is appropriate to use the Attribute alone, if no skill is relevant (or you don't happen to have the right skill but are giving it a go anyway). There are plenty of examples and explanations to make it all clear; along with explanations of the various skills available. A separate chapter covers Combat, Injury and Healing, which often loom large in a game. Combat is played out in rounds, with each participant going in initiative order - initiative is an inherent quality of each character, rather than something you roll when a brawl breaks out. Damage depends on the weapon used, each has a base damage value, but you add however many points your attack total exceeded the Task Difficulty Level (a standard 7) to that, so a spectacularly skillful roll does more damage. Neat. Vehicle chases are also covered here.

This is followed by a chapter on Equipping Your Hero, which most concentrates on weapons and other items useful for conducting clandestine operations... including, of course, that used by Axis forces that might be acquired during the course of a mission. Next is a collection of NPCs in the Common Foes and Allies chapter, all ready for use, and six fully-detailed pre-generated characters for those who want to jump straight in to the last part of the book, an adventure entitled The Spanish General.

This work combines an elegant game mechanic with a coherent and well-presented setting for which you should be able to find inspiration from both history and popular fiction in books and on the screen.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Set Europe Ablaze
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 1839 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG