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Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/15/2015 08:44:03

Ostensibly a bestiary for Achtung! Cthulhu this is a little different because instead of, as in Call of Cthulhu, presenting the actual statistics of assorted Mythos deities - something no character is going to be able to withstand (they'll end up gibbering wrecks if not mashed to a pulp) - they've gone for an approach based on what they are likely to do and what might stave off the horror for at least a while.


Chapter 1: Dread Beginnings explains all this and more. If you've been reading/playing earlier Achtung! Cthulhu books, you might have noticed - particularly if you're a long-time Call of Cthulhu player - that most of the threats have been lesser, albeit nasty enough, manifestations of the Mythos not the real big guns. Now the gloves are off! A collection of real terrors is presented here, along with scenario ideas and a revised mass combat system designed with cinematic action in mind - and all dual-statted for Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds. Chapter 2: Death or Glory attends to the details of what is called the Simple Mass Combat System which will enable you to pit Mythos Terrors and their hordes of minions against hapless ranks of World War 2 soldiery, hopefully aided by some courageous Investigators who have done their research. Naturally rules for sanity loss are included, while the system itself is a simple turn based one where the Terror always acts last, performing one of the actions that it is capable of, as will be described in the next chapter. This chapter ends with an example of the combat system in practice. It really is quite straightforward, yet allows the characters to really have an effect.


The main part of the book is Chapter 3: The Faces of Terror. Here an array of some 24 Horrors (including Cthulhu himself) are presented in a standard format. This begins with a vivid description suitable for either reading alound when the Terror in question shows up or presenting (suitably edited and redacted) if the characters buckle down and do some research in advance. Next come some plot hooks suggesting ways in which you can engineer a face-to-face encounter with the Terror, followed by details of what will be effective against it (in most cases, causing it to retreat or otherwise come to the conclusion that easier pickings can be had elsewhere). Then comes the fun bits: the actions that the Terror can perform and how these are moderated in combat. If that Horror tends to hordes of minions, there's details of them as well.


If these are a shade too deadly for you, Chapter 4: Masters or Servants? offers some servitor races that can cause plenty of trouble but are not quite so overwhelming as the Horrors themselves. They do come with proper stat blocks, unlike the Horrors, and can be fought normally. Otherwise, each is presented in the same way as the Horrors.


Next, Chapter 5: Unconventional Weapons presents some 'weird science' contraptions that look almost as deadly to the wielder as they are to the target: try them out if you dare. Finally, Chapter 6: The Grimoire has a goodly collection of spells for those brave enough to learn and cast them.


The whole is presented in the standard 'bunch of papers out of a file' style complete with atmospheric pictures and marginal notes that makes it a feast for the eyes as well as the mind. The way of enabling you to bring the heavyweights of the Mythos right into the middle of combat without ensuring the total destruction of the entire party is really rather neat: all in all this is an excellent supplement for the game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War
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Firefly Interactive Crew and Ship Sheets
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2015 07:54:13

These are a very elegant yet simple tool to help you maintain your records. Using the form-filling technology available within PDFs (and using it well!), this download contains a blank character sheet and a blank ship record sheet that you can type on and print out.


It's a lot better than trying to read your handwriting mid-game, it makes it a doddle to update as your character advances or your ship is improved, and - provided you remembered to save a copy after filling it out - you can print them out again and again if someone spills a drink at the gaming table or you keep having to scribble on it to keep track of combat damage and make almost as much of a mess of the sheet as the brawl has done to your character!


The one thing you will still have to do by hand is draw your ship schematics. There's no facility to add a drawing or draw on the space provided on the ship sheet.


Naturally, they can also be used by the Game Master to keep NPC details and ship records in order... and if you have the sort of GM who asks for a copy of your character sheet for plotting purposes between games, why you can print out another one.


It's the sort of useful resource that all game publishers should think about providing - the technology is there so why not use it?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Interactive Crew and Ship Sheets
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Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/13/2015 08:41:27

This book opens by introducing the Firefly TV show, and does so well even if you have watched it before (likely you have if you are interested in a game based on that show... although the Leverage game from the same company actually started me watching that show, but I digress). This overview is linked neatly into what the game's about: you will form a crew similar to the Serenity one (if you are confused, Firefly is the name of the show, this game and the class of ship they went around in; Serenity is the name of the ship, the movie spin-off from the TV show and a previous RPG...), and have adventures similar to the ones in the show. Indeed, if you want you can play the characters from the show. The adventures will be new, though. It would be rather dull to play out ones you've already seen on TV! This opening section finishes with there's some background on the place you'll be adventuring in, the 'Verse, and basic notes on what you need to play.


The next chapter is an episode guide of all fourteen episodes of the show that were broadcast. Naturally it's a bit more than that, with notes on how things work in the game - e.g. what dice would be rolled by a given character to perform some stunt that he did in the show - ideas for adventures spinning off from what's already happened, stat blocks for people who feature and more. Weapons and items, for example, are both described and given their game statistics, should you want to use them yourself. It's all lavishly illustrated with screenshots - alas uncaptioned. Each episode ends with several full-blown adventure outlines you could use, and there's plenty and enough detail there that you could throw the episode itself at your characters and see if they can do any better than the originals!


This is followed by Find A Crew, a chapter that explains all you need to know to create your own character. It also has full work-ups in game terms of all the show's characters if you'd rather play them and a set of archetypes that provide a half-way house, most of the hard work has been done for you and all you need to do is personalise them for yourself. If you have Serenity Crew, you'll already have the show characters and archetypes, but here you also get to find out how to create a character from scratch, if that's your preference.


Next comes Find A Ship, which provides a similar service for working out the details of the ship that will be your characters' home, transportation and business. There's even a handy technobabble chart for those who want to sound like they know what's happening in Engineering! There's plenty of material here for you to design a ship from scratch as well as a range of ideas about all the other ships that are out there in the black... not to mention other modes of transportation that you'll find when you land as well.


Ship and crew sorted, all that remains is to Find A Job: and the chapter of the same name starts with the basics for novice role-players, explains how the game is played and how the rules work, and ends with more customisation, how to create your own options and how characters advance once they've been played a bit. This continues with the next chapter, Keep Flyin', which is aimed at whoever wants to be the Game Master (GM). This looks at the rules from the GM's point of view before delving into the running of adventures, how to keep the excitement high and the pressure on, and how to create and run the myriad NPCs needed - for Firefly is, above all, a game in which interactions with other people is central.


The penultimate chapter, Into the Black, looks further into that black art, game mastering, showing you how to use those gamemaster characters to best effect, create the atmosphere and the surroundings and bring it all to life. If it all sounds a bit hard at first, everything soon becomes plain - it's a good solid overview of the game master's art. These skills learned it is time to put them into practice with a complete ready-made scenario to run: What's Yours Is Mine. In this, the party's help is enlisted by someone wrongfully gaoled for murder who wants to get their company back from the individual who framed them... well, you would, wouldn't you.


There's an Appendix jam-packed with useful bits and bobs, including enough Chinese to sound authentic (but perhaps best not practiced on the local Chinese takeaway!), schematics for a Firefly-class ship, system maps and blank sheets for both characters and ships.


Overall, it's a fine introduction to the game - go enjoy yourself out in the black!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
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Firefly: Things Don't Go Smooth
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/12/2015 08:56:23

This is a resource for a Firefly RPG Game Master (GM), whose role is of course to ensure that thing's don't go smooth for the characters... er, that they may live in interesting times. After all, who wants a game where all plans execute as intended and the bad guys never show up? Keep that for real life...


The Introduction lays this all out, in the rather slangy approach that is standard for Firefly resources. Whilst the book is mainly intended for GMs, there is material that players can use, however - like new distinctions, signature assets and ships. You may prefer, however, to introduce these in a controlled manner rather than letting them loose in these pages, particularly if you intend on using the army of antagonists or the plot suggestions to be found here.


Antagonists are not necessarily villians. They're just people whose interests or inclinations run contrary to those of the characters and so can be relied upon to object to or counter whatever they are trying to do... or whose own schemes will impact in a negative way on them. Some are out-and-out bad guys, but even villains don't necessarily see themselves as evil: they may have a quite reasonable (to themselves, at least) rationale for whatever they are doing.


The bulk of this book, then, is a collection of antagonists who can be relied upon to ensure things don't go smoothly for your characters. They are divided into various categories, so you can pick ones appropriate to what you have in mind... and of course, reading through all the details presented sparks ideas for stories if you haven't a plan in mind already. Spies and crime bosses, rival crews and gangs, and assorted other potential opponents are to be found here.


The first lot - the spies and crime bosses - are all individuals although most command a fair few minions to do their bidding. There are notes on what makes a good - great, even - crime boss, which you can apply to individuals of your own design as well as appreciate in these ones. Each one comes with detailed background information and some atmospheric illustrations - not just them but things like appropriate advertisments or scenes - as well as full stat blocks. Notes include typical locations and details of their followers, but the main focus is on the individual in charge. If you are wondering about the spies... well, strip away the followers, tone down their activities a bit and any one of these people could make a career out of espionage, if that suits your plans better. The individual details are followed by some appropriate signature assets. Some might be appropriate for your characters... or they may, ahem, liberate them from a passing crime boss in the course of an adventure. The chapter rounds out with some plot seeds that would work well with these antagonists.


Then come the rival crews and gangs. After all, it is extremely unlikely that the characters are the only bunch of somewhat questionable types crusing around the 'Verse in a ship looking to make a score. There's bound to be other groups with the same idea in mind. Some may be intrinsicly similar to your crew, with enough differences to make them interesting and challenging - their cortex hacker maybe enjoys a good brawl whereas yours hides under a table when a fight breaks out, for example - others will be completely different with their own motivations. Ideas for how to present them in interesting ways are provided before descriptions of several groups are provided, with full stats for the leader and summaries of everyone else in the crew or gang, along with copious background notes replete with suggestions as to how to incorporate them into a good plot. Again, illustrations and notes bring them to life, adding atmosphere to the listings. The chapter ends with a neat system for coming up with a rival crew on the fly (which will work just as well if you are short a few ideas but know you want a rival crew...) and a selection of plot outlines to embroil them in.


The final collection of antagonists are quite strange - things that might be completely unexpected. There are some guidance notes on setting up the right circumstances to introduce them and what makes them tick, too, which empower you to weave them seamlessly into whatever's going on. And they are weird indeed - a rogue AI, perhaps, which has got religion or maybe someone who is a nice person who just happens to be (unbeknownst to themselves) a programmed assassin... or even someone - something? - that may be a ghost or is it merely an urban legend that the unscrupulous are capitalising on? More new signature assests and a whole bunch of stuff about the Reavers and how to bring them into your game with the right amount of terror and confusion that they should generate.


The next chapter presents a veritable fleet of enemy boats. A memorable enemy has to have a ship to match, after all. Several are described in detail all ready for the using (or the stealing if your crew is anything like mine...) and there's also a complete system for designing your own ships, based around devising new signature assets and new classes of vessel.


This is followed by a chapter called Scheming and Narratin' - this is jam-packed full of hints and tips on game-mastering and in particular how to give your antagonists every bit as much life, individuality and interest as your players lavish on their characters. There's all sorts of stuff here including combat, location and much, much more... material that could easily be retooled for any game and so is well worth reading whatever ruleset and genre you run games for. Spend a lot of time reading and rereading this chapter, it will reward you amply.


Finally there are two complete adventures ready to run - Merciless and Thieves in Heaven. The first involves a heist in a museum and the second a collective of shipyard dogs who have fallen on hard times and are coming down with a mysterious illness to boot. Of course, there's plenty more to each of them and they should prove interesting entertainment for you and your group.


If you are serious about GMing Firefly, this book should be snuggled up next to your copy of the core rulebook.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly: Things Don't Go Smooth
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Firefly Echoes of War: Freedom Flyer
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2015 08:35:03

Like the rest of the Echoes of War adventures, the beginning of this book is devoted to explaining the Cortext Plus system in sufficient detail to enable you to play the adventure without reference to any other rules. You'll need characters - Serenity Crew provides both the leading characters from the TV show but a dozen 'archetypes' ready-made, or if you do have the core rulebook that has all the information you need to create characters from scratch. The odd comment and quote appear to assume you are playing Serenity's crew, but it doesn't really matter provided that the characters you're using have a similar range of skills and a ship. The rules notes are clear and easy to follow, and explain the role of the Game Master (GM) well enough that a first-time GM ought to be able to run the adventure without too much difficulty. Novice GMs are further supported by side-bar comments throughout the adventure that give hints and tips on running it to best effect: indeed, even experienced GMs could benefit from them. This is the only part of the book that players should read, the rest is GM territory.


The adventure proper is organised with an introduction - The Way of Things - which presents an overview and a clutch of NPCs, a Prelude and four Acts, with some closing notes (Roll Credits) which include ideas for follow-up adventures. The NPCs come in two sorts, the main ones get a full-page write-up and a complete character sheet whilst lesser ones come with more condensed information. Throughout the emphasis is on giving the GM what they need to role-play each and every NPC as an individual.


The plotline involves a reformed thief whose past includes stealing ships from one side in the recent unpleasantness and selling parts to t'other side which means there are bounty hunters as well as the authorities on her tail - the 'reformation' is only in her mind, she wants to start a new life without any of that tedious stuff like answering for past offences. Oh, and her Mama's not too well and there are hospital bills to pay. She claims she has the money and a ship, but needs help to access them... it gets complicated but to cut a long story short, can the crew help? For a fee, of course. On the other hand, the bounty might look like a better proposition.


A really neat part of the briefing for the GM is a collection of subplots aimed at characters who are playing the archetypes from the Serenity Crew book. There's something to hook each more more closely into the adventure, so there will be a lot more going on than just aiding the former thief (or collecting the bounty on her head). Of course if the characters being played are from the TV show, there are a set of sub-plots tailored to them as well. Read them thoroughly and incorporate them to have a mulit-level adventure that all your players will feel really involves them. Even without this, there's a lot going on and plenty to keep them occupied with interactions and the possibility of a brawl at virtually every opportunity.


It's a good adventure and one which captures the spirit of the original TV show well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Echoes of War: Freedom Flyer
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Firefly Echoes of War: Friends in Low Places
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2015 08:42:55

Like all adventures in the Echoes of War series, this one opens with a comprehensive run-down of the basic rules for playing and Game Mastering the Firefly RPG. These are introduced simply, novices ought to be able to get the idea whilst experienced gamers new to this particular system can pick up its salient features. This adventure is designed to be played with characters from the Serenity Crew supplement (who may be either the main characters from the TV show or ones based on the archetypes provided), but will work just as well with characters generated using the core rulebook. This part of the book (only) can be read by both players and GMs.


Next is a section called 'The Way of Things' which explains what the adventure's all about and provides major and minor NPCs. It is full of hints about role-playing the various NPCs, particularly important in this adventure as it is one involving a lot of interaction. There's detail on how to embroil the party, with the suggestion that it might be easiest with the original Serenity crew as the player-characters and a run-down of how the archetypes mentioned above can be woven into the story if that's what your players have chosen. A wealth of detail on the main locations that might feature in the adventure is provided here as well, the nature of it being such that most of the action will happen where it happens rather than being tied to a specific location.


So, on to the adventure proper which comes in a Prelude and four Acts. It all starts in a bar, where an old friend and drinking buddy tells the crew that his wife has gone missing... and then things degenerate into a bar-room brawl which for once actually makes sense as part of the story rather than just being an excuse to flex muscles and smash things up. And that's just the Prelude!


Naturally, things go downhill from then on. The crew will have to defend themselves as well as try and find out what's happened to their friend's wife - who, it turns out, is not the only person to have gone missing. Twists and turns follow thick and fast, and the crew will have to decide who to trust... and how far. Intrigue and interaction mixes with threats and outright violence gives a good balance to the adventure: whatever each player-character's strengths are they will get a chance to shine. And it all ends up with a three-way showdown that should have everybody on the edges of their seats, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.


After the dust dies down, there are some suggestions for further adventures, as well as a couple of maps that ought to come in handy when running the adventure.


If quite intricate plots, villains to foil, choices to make and a few good brawls make a good game for you, this is one to take a look at.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Echoes of War: Friends in Low Places
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Firefly Echoes of War: Shooting Fish
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/07/2015 08:47:40

This is the second adventure in the Echoes of War campaign, which serves to introduce you and your players both to the Firefly RPG and its setting. As such, the first section explains how the game is played - in terms simple enough for people new to role-playing, never mind this game - with the assumption that you either have characters from Serenity Crew or created using the full core rulebook. This includes advice for Game Masters, so even if it is your first time running a game you have some guidance about what you should do to get everything to work well for all involved. If you are an experienced GM but new to Firefly there's plenty of detail showing you how to both apply this ruleset's game mechanics and how to run a session in a way that catches the essential flavour of the game. Most of this first section can be shared with players if they need to learn how to play this game.


All that out of the way, the next section is called 'The Way of Things' and tells the GM exactly what is going on in this adventure and a likely course of events once the crew takes on the initial challenge. It also introduces two key NPCs, Shepherd Mordecai Rust and Roscoe Lake, complete with full character sheets as well as notes on how to play them. Other lesser - but no less important to the overall adventure - NPCs are also given in less detail, with notes on how to play them and embed them into the adventure as well.


So on to the adventure itself, with a Prelude in which the crew meets up with Shepherd Rust who asks for their help - an orphanage he supports is under threat of being closed down by Roscoe Lake, to whom they owe a fair bit of money. The good Shepherd has come up with an idea to save them by entering a speedboat race and winning the substatial prize on offer, but he needs some help - like people who can maintain and pilot a speedboat, for example! He's got one, but it is in a state of disrepair and needs a lot of work before it will float let alone give a good showing of itself in a race.


The adventure continues from there with a sequence of four acts that take the crew through getting ready for and participating in the race. Naturally, it's not quite as straightforwards as that. Suggestions and options are well-highlighted along with ideas about what would happen should the characters decide on a certain course of action. It all makes it a very dynamic adventure with a lot going on and plenty of scope for using a range of skills and role-playing... and of course some fighting as well. The way the text is written assumes that the players have chosen characters from the Serenity's crew, but there's nothing that cannot be tweaked if they have different characters. The adventure ends with some suggestions for further action.


It's a fast-paced interesting adventure with plenty going on, presented in a way that should make it easy to run with loads of options and suggestions at every turn so that it can appear tailored to the crew's actions - neat. Even so, make sure that you have read it thoroughtly beforehand, it is probably too much to try to run straight out of the box. As an introduction to both game system and concept, it's excellent.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Echoes of War: Shooting Fish
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Firefly Echoes of War: Serenity Crew
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/06/2015 08:52:47

This book, which came out well before the main Firefly RPG core rulebook, is designed to enable you to leap into action with the adventure series Echoes of War. For those who fancy playing the crew of the TV series, they are presented in detail, whilst those who'd rather play their own character in the setting have a selection of archetypes on which to base their own creations.


Then we move on to each of the main characters, the crew of the Serenity. Each has a good portrait (now I can figure out who is who... yes, I did watch the show but was more interested in the stories than the characters!) with plenty of background about how they came to be there and what makes them tick - all useful stuff if you want to role-play them effectively. This is followed by a full character sheet. The complete information fits onto two pages, so quite easy to print out back-to-back and have everything you need on one piece of paper. Printer-friendly versions are provided, basically on a white background rather than the coloured one in the main text. They mesh well with the characters on TV although they go no further - things that the characters didn't like to talk about there are not explained any further here.


For those who prefer designing original characters there are a dozen archetypes. These are almost-complete characters with scope for personalisation - you'll need a name and although there's a bit of background provided you may tweak it, change skills and such like to make it your own. It's a cut-down version of the full character generation system, and enough to produce a playable character. There are printer-friendly versions of these included as well, but they will end up rather messy by the time you have finished your customisation - pick up the free Interactive Crew and Ship Sheets download and use that for your character sheet instead, or you can use the rather more basic blank character sheet at the end of the book.


Finally, there's a section on that other essential you're going to need before you start playing: a ship. Just like characters, ships have various characteristics in numeric form that can be used to roll dice when the need arises, and this is explained here. The equivalent of attributes are engine, hull and systems; and ships then have signature assets. For the party's ship, you use the characters' skills as appropriate, GMs use a fourth attribute called crew to replace the characters on other ships. There's a blank sheet for writing up ships provided at the end too.


This is a good 'get-you-started' tool, and once you have your characters there are a range of compatible adventures around to try them out on. It's a bit more expensive than the average 'quick-start' package but a lot of care and attention have gone into it, although some people may find the rather casual text a bit off-putting. It's pretty much in character for the game itself, though. A good way to get started.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Echoes of War: Serenity Crew
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Guide to the Eastern Front
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2015 08:50:05

This supplement deals with World War 2 on the Eastern Front, that is, the conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union. As the introduction points out, it is less familiar in the west than events in Europe or other parts of the world, due in part to the long Cold War that followed the ending of overt hostilities with former allies becoming enemies eyeing one another balefully through the Iron Curtain.


Chapter 1: Welcome to the Eastern Front sets the scene with a brief introduction to the Achthung! Cthulhu setting, mention of the dual-statted nature of this work with game mechanics provided for both the Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds rulesets and a chronology of events running from 1831 (when the founder of the cult Theosophical Society, Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, was born) right through to May 1945, taking in revolution and developments in occultism right along with mainstream history. Plenty of neat little details about notable individuals too.


Next, Chapter 2: Tundra, Taigia and Steppe looks at the dark nature of the conflict, two totalitarian states clashing leaves little room for individual opinion and intolerance and brutality are the order of the day. This section concentrates on Russia, explaining the history and the nature of daily life during the war years. There are notes on major cities, rationing and many other things that affect the population - and anyone else roaming around, of course. What transpired as the Germans advanced is also covered, as well as the Baltic States, Poland and Yugoslavia.


Then Chapter 3: The Soviet War Machine looks at the forces arrayed against the Germans, including organisation and their unique mindset - part based on the Russian character and part imposed by the Communist regime. This is followed by Chapter 5: Heroes of the Soviet Union - nothing to do with the decoration of the same name, this tells you how to generate Russian characters under both rulesets covered, and includes new occupations including vor (Russian organised crime) and military ones such as the cavalry (the Russians continued to use the horse in battle until 1943!). If you are interested in getting your character a medal or two there's a very simplistic chart, it is worth finding out more and relating awards to exploits that you have in your backstory or perform during play!


Characters in order, Chapter 6: Weapons and Gear provides the information that you need to kit him out. (Or her, unlike everyone else, the Russians allowed women to enlist in every aspect of the military.) There is also a new weapon quality: Unreliable, to reflect the often poor quality and dodgy supply chain with which Russian troops had to contend... it would be later on that Mikhail Kalasnikov came up with the simple and durable rifle bearing his name! Chapter 6: Across Land and Sky discusses transportation issues and presents a range of Russian vehicles, including tanks (LOTS of tanks!) and aircraft.


Next, Chapter 7: The Weird and Wonderful turns attention to matters occult, including an establishment by the name of the Brain Institute who, amongst other things, make use of Mi-Go technology in their experiments. There's a heady mix of other organisations, cults, individuals and expeditions to get your teeth into as well, ending with a gazetteer of occult activity - plenty to spawn ideas for adventure here. Chapter 8: Hidden and Forgotten Knowledge follows, mixing genuine Russian occultism with Mythos lore seamlessly.


These are followed by Chapter 9: Beasts and Behemoths - an array of monsters - and Chapter 10: Cogs in the Machine, which contains several notable historical figures and a regular army of NPCs for you to make use of, all dual-statted of course. Finally (just in case all that has gone before hasn't given you enough ideas) Chapter 11 provides some adventure seeds and Chapter 12 presents source material that can help you develop atmosphere as well as provide even more ideas.


An enlightening book that provides plenty of resources if you wish to take your campaign into the frozen lands of Mother Russia!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Guide to the Eastern Front
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Guide to North Africa
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/02/2015 11:35:50

In many ways, North Africa seems tailor-made for the concept of mixing World War 2 action with the Cthulhu Mythos... after all, it's got Egypt in it! But as this book reveals there is a lot more to be found than the secrets of ancient Egypt, although they do come in handy in the fight against the Things That Should Not Be.


After an introduction that tells of the wartime exploits of the lead author's father (somewhat similar to tales told by my dad!), Chapter 1: Welcome to North Africa sets the scene and provides a time-line from 1869 (the opening of the Suez Canal) right up to 1945, although as far as actual combat is concerned, things went quiet after the middle of 1943. There's still plenty of scope for espionage, archaeological investigations and more, however.


Chaptet 2: A Sea of Sand and Stone then talks about the desert and more, starting with a gazetteer of the countries along the Mediterranean coast from Egypt in the east, including notes on those all-important places, oases. Water is vital when travelling in these parts, of course. The notes provide brief yet vivid pen-sketches of many places most have heard of in passing, such as El Alamein or Tangiers. This is followed by a discussion on the war in East Africa, down the east coast of the continent and involving countries such as Sudan, Somaliland and Kenya; many of which were drawn into the conflict due to being colonies of various European powers. The chapter ends with a detailed look at Cairo, the capital of Egypt and seat of much intrigue although untouched by actual combat. It's a melting pot of a city and an excellent setting for many an adventure.


Next, Chapter 3: Secrets and Lies discusses the tremendous amount of espionage and other secret operations that were rife in the region during the war. Plenty of scope here for plots, be it the activities of the British Special Operations Executive (and you thought they spent their time parachuting into France, didn't you? Nope, they spread their net far and wide...) or even the antics of the world's press, sniffing out stories despite censorship and military needs for secrecy. The Americans and the Germans were not far behind with their own clandestine affairs.


Then Chapter 4: The Shifting Sands of War provides game mechanical resources for creating and playing area-appropriate Investigators, complete with both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds rules. Fancy being an archaeologist or even a Bedouin tribesman? Or perhaps the Kepi Blanc as a member of the French Foreign Legion is more your style? Details of how to set up characters in these and other suitable occupations are provided. Naturally the Long Range Desert Group and the newly-fledged SAS are there too; and there is scope to play Australians, South Africans and New Zelanders as well.


Characters generated, you will need some equipment and Chapter 5: Coffee Pots and Jerry Cans should meet your needs. The uniforms worn by various armies and specialist groups is covered with special note to footwear (a soldier's best friends are his feet and they need to be taken care of!)... whilst apparently every Italian soldier has his own personal expresso coffee pot. There is an array of weapons and some rather more esoteric items as well.


Next Chapter 6: Ships of the Desert covers the whole range of issues about travelling in the desert, it's not only about camels (although my favourite riding animal is included, of course). Here we read about getting to North Africa in the first place, and getting around by various vehicles on land and in the air, not to mention the perils of navigation when landmarks are few and far between. Once you have your means of transportation the next chapter (Chapter 7: Just Deserts) covers survival and the dangers that the environment poses to the unwary and unprepared.


Chapter 8: A Most Dangerous Game then explores the occult forces at play in the region and with ancient Egypt there's plenty to be had! The Germans have been investigating here since the mid-1930s under the auspices of the Ahnenerbe and more conventional archaeologists have found more than they bargained for as well. Here is told the origins of the Necronomicon, possibly the most infamous text in Mythos lore. Locations for investigations abound, if you can but hang on to your sanity long enough to explore them. There are mysterious societies and cults to join, infiltrate or combat, and plenty of mysterious and powerful people to provide opposition and others who may prove to be friends or allies. This chapter is definitely one for the GM or Keeper alone!


Chapter 9: Of Magic and Magicians goes further into the murky depths, detailing arcane treasures and strange magical knowledge that go only to fuel the region's reputation as an exotic, romantic and mysterious place. There are several tomes that belong in very secure libraries and a handful of new spells to cast... if you dare.


The next two chapters - Chapter 10: Beasts, Real and Imaginary and Chapter 11: Friend and Foe - provide a host of creatures and people to interact with and to fight against, including known personalities of the time as well as generic examples. Finally, there are adventure seeds and suggestions for sources of inspiration in the final two chapters to set you up for some memorable adventures, campaigning in North Africa.


Everything is presented in the by-now familiar 'bunch of papers' style, with atmospheric pictures, scribbled notes and sidebars with snippets of information, all skilfully blending history, Mythos and more. Where's my camel?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Guide to North Africa
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Bree Orlock Designs: Cthulhu Rising from Rlyeh
Publisher: Stardust Publications
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/30/2014 11:04:31

Nice and creepy, just the sort of peering face to give you nightmares!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bree Orlock Designs: Cthulhu Rising from Rlyeh
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Guide to the Pacific Front
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/19/2014 08:25:26

This supplement equips you to take your Achtung! Cthulhu adventures across the world to the Pacific Theatre, where ferocious battles in the Pacific islands and Southern Asia and the perils of jungle warfare are mixed with the emergence of ancient evils. Chapter 1: Welcome to the Pacific sets the ball rolling by setting the scene with a time-line of events pertinent to the Far East from 1854 right through to the events of the Second World War. Mostly historical, it is enlivened by snippets of information - often presented in the form of 'notes' apparently pinned to the page - that add colour and suggest ideas as wekk as adding further material about people and events of the times. It ends in April 1945, with a note that if you run the forthcoming Achtung! Cthulhu: Assault on the Mountains of Madness campaign, events in Europe from 1944 on are likely to be world-changing enough to disrupt matters here in the Pacific.


Chapter 2: The Land of the Rising Sun gives an introduction to Japan, a mysterious land that until the 1830s had deliberately isolated itself from the rest of the world. Since the succession of a new emperor, rapid changes turned the nation from feudalism and mediaeval standards of living to a modern technological country ready to take its place on the world stage. This is coupled with an aggressive military stance directed against China and Russia... and the development of many secret societies whose tentacles reach out through every part of Japanese society. This sets the background against which Japan enters the Second World War by attacking Pearl Harbour in December 1941, dragging the United States into the conflict.


Next, Chapter 3: The Balance of Power looks at the state of affairs in the Pacific region during the run up to World War Two, as well as giving a brief overview of how events unfold as time progresses. It's to be noted that few people had much idea of the situation there unless they have some connection with the area, this applies to Investigator characters as much as anyone else. Apart from China, Thailand and Japan, much of the region is under colonial control from elsewhere - and even a fair bit of China's territory is under Japanese control.


This is followed by Chapter 4: In Captivity, which expands on earlier references to the cruelty of the Japanese to those they invade as well as to prisoners of war. Although game mechanics are provided, it is probably best that characters do not find themselves in captivity.


Next comes Chapter 5: New Beginnings. This provides rules for generating characters who come from the Pacific region as well as providing appropriate new career paths and other material, with mechanics for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds. There are also additional military careers and training packages relevant to this theatre of war. Characters sorted, Chapter 6: The Whole Kit and Caboodle provides all the weapons and equipment that they could dream of, with Japanese weaponry included as well.


Chapter 7: The Best Laid Plans discusses the challenges of conducting combat operations in the Pacific region. This includes notes on Japanese combat doctrine and methods as well as the perils of jungle warfare... and as if that wasn't enough, Chapter 8: Exotic Beasts and Vile Beings provides plenty of wildlife and more hostile adversaries with plenty of detail of Chtulhu Mythos presence in the area. Piling more on, Chapter 9: Artefacts, Spells and Tomes delivers information on notable items and books that might be encoungtered and a few new spells to cast.


Then Chapter 10: The Many Faces of War provides a raft of NPCs from famous people to generic soldiers and civilians that the characters might encounter in the course of their adventures. Chapter 11: Adventure Seeds provides several ideas for plots to be run in the Pacific region, although they are just brief outlines and will require work before they can be played through. Finally, Chapter 12: Suggested Resources provides reference to books, films and other materials that can set the scene, provide further information or just get you into the right mood for a Pacific campaign.


Overall, this is a comprehensive introduction to a lesser-known aspect of the Second World War with sufficient Mythos involvement to keep any investigator intrigued.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Guide to the Pacific Front
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Legacies: The Sublime
Publisher: White Wolf
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/19/2014 02:52:51

Opening with a poster for a gig and an evocative piece of fiction, a tale about a young musician-mage who in desperation is directed by her future self to seek guidance from a strange old man, thus leading in to the concept of legacies as introduced in the core rulebook but now to be discussed at length in a book dedicated to the subject.


The Introduction: Reaching for the Supernal explains how whilst mages know that there's a lot more to the world than 'ordinary' folk (or Sleepers) might realise, they each have to find their own routes to understanding and mastering it. Fundamentally, working magic comes down to the mage's will and his soul but there are many images and theories used to explain it and various powers, called attainments, that mages can learn in their quest to mould their souls and work their wills. Many develop themselves, Awakened and having chosen an order, by training in a legacy or perhaps even creating their own. The legacies are so named because that is what they are, the legacy of an earlier mage's efforts to craft their own soul and master their magical powers.


This book describes, in considerable detail, some thirteen of these legacies which are all linked by in some way referring to 'the sublime'. Some are organised and widely-recognised in mage society, others chaotic or followed by but a few determined souls. Mages following these teachings aspire to become in some way sublime themselves. Perhaps they dream of becoming gods, wish to ascend to a better world or improve the one they live in. Maybe they'd like to wield magic unheard of by any of their peers. It is amazing enough to have one's soul Awaken to the Supernal World, but those mages who choose to follow a legacy seek to become exceptional even by Awakened standards. It taps into the essence of this game, the core concept of opening one's eyes to the realms of possibilities inherent iin the use of magic in a modern world.


The bulk of the book is given over to detailed discussion of each of the thirteen legacies presented herein. Most are available to player-character mages but two follow the so-called Left Hand Path, strands of knowledge so abhorrent that mage society recoils from such teachings and those who practice them. These can serve as outright enemies, rather than the political rivals others present in the continual dance that is the intrigue upon which mage society thrives.


For each legacy there is extensive discussion of the underlying philosophy: what kind of mage is attracted to it and will thrive in its ranks. There's the history and of course the attainments, the legacy-specific powers that practitioners gain. There are also details of what the typical adherent might look like and behave, and how they are regarded by and interact with the rest of mage society. Rites and rituals of the legacy and even story hooks and ideas based upon them are included. A neat item is a fully-developed sample character complete with backstory, quotes and stat block - a ready-made NPC should you require a member of that legacy.


The really fun thing about all these legacies, however, is the underlying philosophy, the theories by which each explains their magic. Studying these, and embracing the thought-patterns of your chosen legacy, will help you begin to think like your character.


After introducing such a wide variety of legacies - including a couple of really dark and destructive ones that are best followed by NPCs - there is an Appendix: Shaping the Soul that explains how to design your own legacy. As some of the legacies presented here are of recent origin, there are bound to be potential new ones springing up so if you fancy a go at writing your own philosophy of magic, here is your chance. Game mechanics are made clear, but the spark of imagination will be your own. As a player, this is a chance for your character to make their own original contribution to mage society. As a Storyteller, you can craft legacies to tell your own stories in your own way, devising allies and antagonists around a premise of your own devising.


As with the extant legacies, the whole process is embued with the underlying philosophy of magic. This drives the development of the new legacy, the relevant game mechanics follow later as a matter of course. Characters who carve their own paths in this manner may be consciously absorbed in the process or it may be a natural progression from the development of their interests as they progress as mages... for this is but the first step in actually creating a legacy, only time will tell if other mages will choose to follow. Creating a legacy should be a slow process, one of spiritual growth and change, not something done on a whim merely to create a more powerful character.


If you really want to get into a mage's mind, studying this work gives some insight, even if you do not choose to have your character join one of these legacies or have a go at creating one of his own. If you are the Storyteller there is plenty here to help you create a rich tapestry of mage society as a backdrop for your stories whilst the legacies may suggest some actual plots as well.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legacies: The Sublime
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/17/2014 08:35:13

Aimed at players - whether of Call of Cthulhu or Savage Worlds - this book contains a wealth of material to help them understand the alternate history of a World War 2 with added Cthulhu Mythos elements, and hence to play their characters more convincingly.


Chapter 1: Welcome to the Secret War sets out the basic premise, beginning with a timeline of events running from November 1918 to April 1945. Despite comments about Mythos involvement, this is straight history... the weird bits get mixed in later! After all, to begin with the characters probably know nothing about it.


Next, Chapter 2: Keep the Home Fires Burning looks at life on the 'home front' - as opposed to the battlefield - telling how the war affected those not actively involved in combat just as much as it did those in uniform. There's a lot here from working life to fashion and food, even popular music of the day. Again this is historically accurate without the merest taint of Mythos, just as is intended for the game: ordinary folk got through the war without hearing about such things (much as it was only after the war that many Nazi atrocities were revealed). Chapter 3: Home Sweet Home continues this theme with a timeline of events in civilian life. A few suggestions about the style of adventures you might have on the home front are included, but this book is really for players rather than game masters (although they too ought to read it, it does not duplicate the contents of the Keeper's Guide to the Secret War). It all goes towards putting your adventures into context, however.


With the Home Front adequately covered, what of those who took up arms? Chapter 4: In the Service of One's Country gives an overview of the armed forces, intelligence and auxillary services mainly from an Allied point of view, although the German military machine is also covered. (Indeed, the whole book assumes characters will be drawn from Allied countries.)


Now that the scene has been comprehensively set, Chapter 5: Your Country Needs You! delves into the game mechanics involved in creating a WW2 Investigator character. There's an overview of the different nationalities from which he might come and a review of civilian and military occupations. Skills, pay scales, everything that you need to know about various occupations are included... and there's even a section on how to introduce a modicum of Mythos knowledge even before play begins by creating a bit of backstory to explain it - and perhaps explain why it's YOU and not someone else who gets embroiled in the sort of missions that are the basis of gameplay in this setting. For those intending military characters there is a review of the process of character generation under Call of Cthulhu rules, which in the original cater well for having a military background but are less good if you want your character to be in service when play begins. There's even a (somewhat inaccurate) note on the decorations he might have received. It also covers the civilian who has just enlisted (or who will do so during the course of the game). Unless you have a much-loved character which the game master agrees, it's recommended that you use these rules in conjunction with your chosen ruleset to generate your Achtung! Cthulhu character, as they've been written with the era and setting in mind.


Getting down to nuts and bolts, Chapter 6: Getting Your Hands Dirty introduces and explains new skills appropriate to this game, with Call of Cthulhu mechanics. Fear not, Chapter 7: The Savage Practice of War covers similar material under the Savage Worlds ruleset, if that is your game of choice. Chapter 8: Tools of the Trade mainly concentrates on weapons, with a wealth of detail about the different ones popular with various nations and units, complete with statistics for both rulesets.


To wind up, Chapter 9: Quick Play Guide summarises everything you need to know to create and play your character under either ruleset, and Chapter 10: Suggested Resources covers books, films and more that will enable you to understand the period better and get into the right mood.


Overall, this is an excellent introduction to playing in the Achtung! Cthulhu setting and ought to be read by players and referees alike.



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Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator's Guide
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2014 08:22:07

This tome is intended as the essential reference work for mixing the Cthulhu Mythos with World War Two - primarily aimed at the GM/Keeper but providing a lot of detailed background for anyone wishing to explore adventuring in a 'weird war' style.


After a brief Introduction by Chris Birch, instigator of the concept, it's on to Chapter 1: From the Shadows. With a brief piece of atmospheric fiction, it launches into an explanation of what this game is designed to present: an alternate history of WW2 in which the Nazis are attempting, through their known interest in the occult, to recruit the forces of the Mythos to aid their quest for world domination. Whilst most of the material is generic, specific game mechanics are provided for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds, with tags to indicate them in the text as well as game-specific chapters to deal with topics like combat, strategy and Sanity loss. It then jumps into a timeline from 1907 through to April 1945, weaving fact with fiction. It's illustrated with period photographs and snippets of information on various individuals and events - all laid out to give the impression of a dossier - and is designed so that you can set your action whenever you choose. Of course, later events may be somewhat different depending on the outcome of your group's adventures.


Next, Chapter 2: Inside the Reich deals with the notion that this is an historical horror game and hence delivers some (mostly) historical detail. This type of game works best when you have a good grasp of the real-world history on which your alternate history is based and covers developments in Germany from 1920 on. It looks at the potentials for playing German characters and issues the stark reminder that the Nazis were nasty enough without help from the Mythos. Not everyone will be comfortable playing a German character - although again it must be remembered that not all Germans were as evil as Hitler... war is not football, you do not get to choose which side you support. Notes here make a good job of picking their way through propaganda to give a clear picture of what the average German, especially the average German soldier, was really like. It is an interesting argument which boils down to the concept that the Nazis were not evil due to Mythos influences even in this game, they were evil enough to seek out and attempt to weaponise the Mythos.


Chapter 3: Might Makes Right? moves on from general discussion of German history to talk about the military. Everything is covered from organisation to uniforms to everyday life in the ranks, giving a good impression of the German war machine of the time. There's quite extensive discussion of prisoner-of-war camps which may come in useful should Allied player-characters fall into enemy hands! This chapter ends with a wide selection of sample stat blocks for both German and Allied military personnel. Many real-world units are included, complete with historical notes.


Chapter 4: The Other Secret War then looks at the Great Game, the role of intelligence agencies, spies, signal interception and the like that went on behind the scenes. Here the history and operations of the real-world British, French, American and German intelligence services are covered in quite some detail. The 'Secret War' that is the main thrust of Achtung! Cthulhu is handled in the following chapter, Chapter 5: Secret and Occult Societies. This details many such societies in different countries around the world, mixing known occultists with invented ones quite seamlessly. Organisations and individuals (all with dual stat blocks) provide a ready source of contacts and ideas for adventures, as do the more detailed accounts of some of the ongoing operations, particularly those conducted by the Germans.


Next comes Chapter 6: Planes, Trains and Things That Go Bang. It is much more than an equipment list, with notes on travel by air, sea and land - including border crossings other than the conventional stroll up and present your passport - as well as details of military vehicles and vessels (in enough detail to keep the average wargamer happy) and equipment. The equipment covered here is German, British and Allied equipment is covered in the Investigator's Guide. More esoteric devices invented by German occultists are also included here. Every item is, of course, provided with both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds statistics.


Chapter 7: Into The Fray opens with the immortal words "In case you hadn't noticed, there's a war on" and proceeds to discuss the perils of attempting to run a conventional role-playing style adventure in a combat zone as well as translating common battlefield events into convenient role-playing terms so that if your characters get involved, for example, in an aerial dogfight, you now have the rules to make it all happen within the context of the game. Chapter 8: Rules of Savage Engagement provide additional Savage Worlds game mechanics for use in military combat situations. This being a Mythos game, there is also a table for Sanity loss for those who find themselves caught up in the horrors of war.


This is followed by Chapter 9: Artefacts and Tomes which looks at some of the potent items and books that are around, particularly in Germany, to threaten or entertain the inquisitive seeker of occult knowledge. Several are based on real items held to be of almost-mystical significance by the real-world Nazis, now neatly embuded with power for game purposes - the Blutfahne and the SS Totenkopfring for example. There's a good library of dark and dangerous tomes too, some will be familiar to Call of Cthulhu veterans, but here they are provided with Savage Worlds stats (get the CoC ones from the core rulebook). Now you have all that occult knowledge, Chapter 10: Deadly Illusions and Cursed Knowledge shows you how to use it - in particular, how to cast spells and use artefacts to their full potential, as well as how to use the Knowledge (Mythos) skill to good effect as you try to puzzle things out, preferably before going insane or getting eaten. Budding spellcasters will find a goodly grimoire of spells here. Most are standard ones, so presented only with Savage Worlds mechanics, but there are some new ones with the mechanics for both game systems provided. If that's not enough, Chapter 11: Horrors and Monstrosities provides a vast array of monsters and worse with which to bedevil investigators. There's also a good overview of the Cthulhu Mythos for those new to it.


Next is Chapter 12: Allies and Nemeses, which introduces a wide range of notable individuals the characters might have an opportunity to meet and interact with during the course of the game. Many are real-world historical figures, others feature in Achtung! Cthulhu adventures or feature in this alternate history. Yet others are examples of ordinary people whom they might encounter. There is also a collection of choice generic locations that might come in handy. And now you have people and places, all you need is Chapter 13: Adventure Seeds to start coming up for ways to use them. Some nice ideas here, but you'll have to flesh them out to make full scenarios of them.


Chapter 14: Quick Play Guide is a useful ready-reference for Call of Cthulhu Keepers as to where they can find all the rules they'll need (Savage Worlds referees have all the Cthulhu-related rules they need in this book, of course, and the Savage Worlds rulebook for everything else). Finally, Chapter 15: Suggested Resources provides inspirational references to books and films - even a list of museums you might want to visit.


Presented in a style that suggests a sheaf of government paperwork, adorned with annotations and clipped-in phots and sketches, this book is a masterful exposition of how to weave an alternate history around the Second World War, and should put even the newest Keeper/Referee in a position to run an Achtung! Cthulhu game well.



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