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Purple Mountain VI: The Well of Stars
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2014 10:51:45
This is a 6th-level underground adventure which can be placed just about anywhere that you have a suitable mountain... or, of course, it can be played as a level in Purple Duck Games's epic megadungeon crawl Purple Mountain. Information is provided to enable you to do either with ease, beginning with the background of the plot the adventure is designed to thwart and ending with notes on how it fits together with other chambers in different levels of the megadungeon if you are using that. If you are using it stand-alone, several good hooks are provided to help you get the party interested.

The adventure itself is challenging, not only because it is virtually all underwater! It opens dramatically, with a brawl in full progress and a princess to rescue, and the excitement does not let up as it continues through the wonders of a labyrinth to its climactic conclusion. There are wonders to see, treasures to find... and plenty of interesting encounters including a wealth of monsters to fight. There's a lot going on down here and it all conveys an air of carrying on regardless of whether or not the party are down here - always a sign of a good adventure.

It is well-resourced with clear maps for the GM and all the information needed to run the adventure effectively - from read-aloud text to monster statistics and tactics and even helpful hints about how to deal with likely character actions (which could also be used to cue in players who maybe have not considered certain uses of the skills and powers should you think it appropriate when they are struggling). An appendix gives you all the game mechanical information that you need to run an adventure underwater in the cold and dark. Others cover NPCs, new items and so on, giving complete details of several innovative monsters that you may well wish to use elsewhere as well as here.

When all is done and the 'end of level' Bad Guy defeated, there are notes to help you bring things to a conclusion, however you have chosen to run this adventure... and there are ramifications a-plenty to deal with! Completing this adventure successful should give the party something to boast about... and the players a fascinating and unusual game to remember.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Purple Mountain VI: The Well of Stars
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100 Starship Weapons
Publisher: Ennead Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2014 09:42:49
If you are serious about weapon design, you may prefer to use Ennead Games's Starship Kit 4: Weapon Generator (also available here) but if you just want to be able to talk convincingly about a ship's armament then this product will do fine and be far faster...

Based on the same tables as in the generator, all you need to do is roll a percentage and there you have a weapon described in the sort of detail your average spacehound would use if asked. Or, of course, you can just pick something that sounds right for your purposes.

Do you want to mess with a ship armed with a Mark VI Pulsing Anti-proton Bomb?

Naturally, if matters turn nasty, you will have to determine just what a Mark VI Pulsing Anti-proton Bomb does under the ruleset you are using for your game, but providing you are comfortable with your chosen game mechanics that should not be too hard.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
100 Starship Weapons
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A Stitched in Time
Publisher: Silver Gryphon Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2014 11:37:54
With this adventure, Æther goes full bore into the supernatural. The opening pages postulate a secretive part of the FBI called Bureau 8, so secret that its agents operate in isolation away from the FBI and for whom the TV show The X-Files was a wonderful smoke-screen. Although the adventure can be completed with characters who are operating in normal 'ghost hunter' mode, the intended party is a group of Bureau 8 agents. To facilitate this part-generated characters are provided, with a core Federal Agent template which can then be customised by players to create the character that they want to play but one who has the correct skills and background for this adventure.

The adventure itself begins with the party being sent to speak with a mortician who has an... interesting... body on the slab, and is concerned with the ensuing investigation that will lead them through the underbelly of wellstone City. The investigation is reasonably straightforward although some quite critical clues are hard to notice - you may find it necessary to point things out if die rolls go against characters who are looking in the right places, or even make things more obvious to those who miss the places to look.

There are a few brief ideas for follow-up adventures, but this is basically a one-shot. You may, of course, like the Bureau 8 concept and wish to make a campaign of your own based around it.

Quite a few new rules related to the supernatural are introduced here, things that are not in the core rules. These are explained clearly and will be useful if you like having supernatural elements in your game. In a few places there are errors that a thorough proofreading would have caught but they are minor and the meaning can be discerned without much effort.

Overall it is a neat adventure with a good concept that could lead to plenty further adventures if the supernatural-heavy idea, if not Bureau 8 itself, appeals.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Stitched in Time
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Wisdom from the Wastelands Issue #34: Plant Mutants I
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2014 07:56:56
Plants often get neglected in role-playing games - all the wonder is reserved for animal 'monsters' and whatever variants of saphonts your ruleset allows. If you cannot be it or fight it, it appears, why bother with it at all? This seems a shame, particularly in a game focussed on the concept of mutation of organisms, so it's good to see the balance redressed.

Here there is a brief note on botany, which may be a bit confusing to non-botanists for whom the sporophyte is the 'plant' and the gametophyte merely its 'seeds' but which is worth persevering with if you want to understand what is going on biologically and create convincing mutations rooted in botanical fact - even if they are far more fantastical than anything you'll find in a stroll in the country.

This is followed by a collection of plant life described in detail which have interesting modifications and abilities whilst still clearly remaining plants - none of the animated vegetable monsters some game systems enjoy here, although most of these are quite dangerous to the unwary!

Then there is a list of new mutations appropriate to plant life, to equip you with the tools necessary to start designing your own mutant plants. The one thing that has been left out is edibility - although to be fair nearly all the original plants on which the mutations are based are not edible ones anyway.

A nice look at a neglected area of Mutant Futures, indeed of games in general.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wisdom from the Wastelands Issue #34: Plant Mutants I
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Modern Floorplans: An Average Modern High School
Publisher: Fabled Environments
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2014 11:30:17
If your game is going to school - be it anything from your 'police procedural' needing to interview some students to a game based around high school life - here are the floorplans you'll need to set the scene.

Everything's here: extensive indoor and outdoor sports facilities including changing/shower facilities, a music area with space for band and choir rehearsals and smaller practice rooms, normal classrooms, workshop facilities and even an auto shop, laboratories, computer suites... even the nurse's office and administration suite. There's a big library and a cafeteria, too. Upstairs there are more classrooms and specialist areas for art and media work. On a practical note, there are rest rooms, water fountains and loads of lockers spread around the building. Outside, as well as a baseball diamond and a football field, there is plenty of parking space.

About all that's missing is a swimming pool and a faculty lounge. There are a few workrooms in the administration block, perhaps that is where the teachers go when not teaching, and there is a designated area for faculty dining. The sports coaches have their own space, including lockers and changing facilities.

It's really a magnificent piece of work. It's so big that for the 'full-size' sheets you can print with hex or square grids, etc., they have had to be split into sections. If you are going to make serious use of this in your game, perhaps you are running a high school based game for example, it would be worth considering purchasing a ready-printed version from Fabled Environments, you can order online from their website.

It's making me contemplate running a high school themed game, just looking at it!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Floorplans: An Average Modern High School
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20 Encounters (The City Watch)
Publisher: DCS
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2014 10:56:25
A useful little collection of events involving the City Watch to use at intervals when the party is visiting any settlement large enough to have regular Watch patrols of some kind. Many of the encounters could be developed into complete mini-adventures, or have ramifications that repeat for as long as they stay in town (or even if they come back again).

The work begins with a straightforward 'Encounter Chart' which makes use of several D6 rolls to determine what the Watchmen the party meets are doing - anything from asking questions to demanding something. Each chart has a subchart, so if you roll that they are asking questions you roll again to determine what the questions are about. There is also a table to determine what happens if the characters cannot or will not provide what the Watch are after

If your initial roll is a 6, there are 20 more detailed encounters. These are the real fun elements and more likely to develop into side-adventures of their own.

Naturally, you can choose rather than roll dice, and make the encounter a planned event rather than a random one if that suits your needs better. Most parties are at least wary of the authorities so the potential for some fun is always there...

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
20 Encounters (The City Watch)
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Eric Lofgren Presents: Female Elf Fighter
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2014 10:14:47
A fine female elf fighter ready to do battle 'sword and board' style, dressed in sensible adventuring clothing and armour that actually offers protection - what's not to like?

In full colour, her armour has a greenish tinge and has a design inspired by leaves. Other than that, there is no real indication that she is an elf as her pointy ears are very sensibly protected by her helmet (aging LARPer who often played elves thinks this is a Good Idea...). Hence you could use her as a female human fighter if preferred.

Has anyone noticed how many of Lofgren's characters are left-handed? You could flip the image, but if you are going to publish it, make sure that the signature appears correctly!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Eric Lofgren Presents: Female Elf Fighter
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Eric Lofgren Presents: Female Human Fighter
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2014 10:01:14
An excellent pen-and-ink drawing that manages to convey both femininity and practicality, the fighter being caught in mid-draw, a dynamic pose as she reacts to a sudden attack.

And she manages to do so wearing sensible armour and clothing suitable for adventure...

It would make an excellent character illustration, or a picture to enliven a dungeon module.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eric Lofgren Presents: Female Human Fighter
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Rocket Age - Rocket Racers
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/07/2014 12:19:08
Fancy a race around the inner solar system, looping around Mars and Venus?

Well, it's attracted quite a lot of attention, not all of the desired sort. Some rotter calling himself the Ghost Racer has threatened to disrupt the race unless he's paid a load of money. The party - who would be best off if at least someone can pilot - get hired by the Solar Cup Race Commission to pose as late entrants and keep an eye on things, protecting the real competitors and spectators from this Ghost Racer.

The characters will have some time to prepare, but the race is soon underway, around Venus and then to Mars, where there's a stop-over. All the time, they'll have to be on the alert to spot the Ghost Racer... if he's there.

Everything is well-laid out, with all the information the GM needs ready to hand and plenty of appropriate atmosphere to help you bring the alternate reality to life around your table. Characters can work on their rocketship, and there are copious notes about possible custom modifications. They can also pursue their investigations, and people with whom to talk are provided a-plenty. What's even better: the whole rocket racing community is brought into existence with other racers and even some of the notable events mentioned - so if your characters get a taste for the sport you will be able to weave it in to subsequent adventures.

Once the race begins, the actual mechanics of running it are explained clearly and coherently utilising the Chase rules from the core rulebook with appropriate modifications. This should help you meld die rolling into an exciting narrative as rocketships jockey for position. Various incidents to weave into the race are also provided.

Overall, a well-presented exciting little adventure. Gentlemen, start your engines!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rocket Age - Rocket Racers
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Wasteland Gangs: The Termites
Publisher: Fishwife Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/06/2014 06:09:54
This is a very nice collection of well-developed NPCs, organised as a low-powered but coherent urban/biker gang that might be encountered in a post-apocalyptic township somewhere. (I think my Deadlands: Hell on Earth character would fit in well with them if he ever stops roaming around with his current party...)

There is a whole range of different types here. Many of them could make interesting encounters - or useful contacts - on their own. As a gang, they really shine giving a real impression of a functioning group of people doing their best to survive whatever apocalypse has struck your world... and who will continue to do so irrespective of whether or not the party is around or not - something you always want to achieve in creating a believeable alternater reality.

The details for each member of the gang are copious - appearance, nature, capabilities, what they have with them and what they are likely to be doing. All you need to do is add in any apposite game mechanics, but unless a brawl breaks out or you need them to attempt a task for which the outcome is not certain, you'll barely need any as you really know all you need to know about them from the write-up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wasteland Gangs: The Termites
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[SSK] - Starship Kit - Volume 4 - Weapon Generator
Publisher: Ennead Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/06/2014 05:07:53
Many science-fiction game systems have their own spacehip design rules, but these tend to throw out very standardised vessels, so it is good to have a series of more generic works to aid in the creation of the wide diversity of vessels that are far more likely to be found out in the black. Use them in conjunction with your chosen ruleset to develop original and interesting starships.

This volume deals with offensive weapons. You need to be able to defend yourself out there after all!

It works by means of a series of tables, although if you prefer more control you can of course select the options you want rather than roll for them. These tables enable you to determine the 'class' of weapon (i.e. how powerful an example of the sort of weapon it is), its 'variation' (which provides wonderfully descriptive terms but also allows for a wide range of differences between otherwise similar weapons), its location, the sort of damage it does and the actual weapon type itself.

You will then need to do a bit of work to convert what you have got to your chosen ruleset, to cater for those details like how much damage that weapon actually does, in terms that work for the game mechanics you are using. That ought to be reasonably straightforward, compare your weapon description with existing ones in your rules and decide if it does more, less or the same damage...

A neat example of how to add more variety to starship weapon systems.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[SSK] - Starship Kit - Volume 4 - Weapon Generator
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Quick Worlds 26: Winston
Publisher: Gypsy Knights Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2014 11:48:00
Located in a quiet corner of Gypsy Knights Games's Clement Sector, Winston is a ice-bound world in an otherwise uninhabited system. Indeed it is only marginally habitable, with an atmosphere that requires a filter mask as well as being on the chilly side of cold.

Some 88% of the world is ocean, but an ocean completely covered by sheet ice. It thins a bit in places, but never enough to actually leave the ocean open to the air although these so-called 'blue spots' do allow for photosynthesis by aquatic life. Four major landmasses (and a few minor ones) poke through the ice, however, and this is where settlements are to be found... even though they too are inhospitable with glaciers, rocky landscapes and active volcanoes to contend with.

Rather surprisingly, over four million people have settled here in the 40 years since Winston was first colonised, initially following the promise of rich mining. Indeed the first settlements were sponsored by mining companies. Following the collapse of the mining companies, a weak democracy was overthrown by the last president declaring himself king. His son was less successful at ruling than he was, and a civil war ensued. The leader of the strongest armed group involved in the war has recently placed herself on the throne.

The rule of General Mary Webster is quite strict and completely despotic, yet she is hailed as more fair than her predecessors. Visitors to the planet need to be aware that firearms are prohibited and visas are needed to travel outside of the downport areas. Most recreational drugs are also banned apart from alcohol. However, the locals do enjoy playing a game called rugby, and a bizarre event called a tomato hurl. Life otherwise is quite tough, and death is commonplace especially in the government-controlled mines.

Temperatures are low, below freezing even in daytime, so most people live in domed settlements which are maintained at a more amenable temperature. There are three main domed cities which are described in reasonable detail. There is also a section on adventure ideas for this planet... should anyone actually want to go there. Many are based around the harsh regime, involving characters either in supporting roles (perhaps mercenaries hired to train local troops) or mixed up in a rebellion. Other worlds are quite curious and might sponsor a spy mission to find out what's really going on in a difficult-to-access world, whilst merchants will find profit selling off-world products - legal or otherwise - to the natives. If nothing else, they might need to import tomatoes for the tomato hurl.

Never thought so much could happen on a rocky ball of ice? Think again, and visit Winston. Just take care: misbehaviour can lead to imprisonment or even being shot out of hand, and it is said that not everyone survives a gaol term here.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Quick Worlds 26: Winston
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Wondrous Items 1: Armor Made from Monster Hides
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2014 12:28:17
Most of us have spent an entire combat wondering if our weapons will ever penetrate a monster's natural armour... but how many of us have thought about using that armour for ourselves after that monster lies dead on the floor?

This product not only poses the suggestion, it also offers practical advice as to how to go about it and a wealth of ready-made samples. To collect the materials, use the Survival skill (which includes useful tricks like how to field dress game - this can be re-purposed to skinning a creature with the care needed to keep the hide intact) and then use the Craft skill to fashion the armour you want. There's even a note on how to work out what it's worth, if you decide to sell. Or want to know the value if you are counting collected hides as part of the party treasure and need to divide it up equally.

The example armours all give the DCs to harvest and make the armour (and you're shown how to work these out for other creatures), as well as any special properties your new armour might have as well as the regular protection element. These are generally based on the natural abilities of the monster that formerly owned the hide, and can be quite inventive.

The adventure potentials are immense. Not only will you eye up every monster in a different light, you may even decide to go hunting for just the right creature based on what you can make from it, or the party may be hired by a less-adventurous craftsmen in need of particular items to fill an order.

Neat idea, and plenty of potential for this to be more than merely 'more loot' for the party!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wondrous Items 1: Armor Made from Monster Hides
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0 hr: Gryphon Poster Images
Publisher: 0 hr: art & technology
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2014 11:57:34
You get two beautiful - and HUGE - jpeg images of two ships built on a common framework, the Gryphon-class.

The detail is amazing - down to the keyboards in people's staterooms and various almost-recognisable read-outs in the bridge and engineering! It all makes you want to hop in and speed off into the black...

One side depicts what must be a show vessel for the class, beautifully turned out and in pristine condition. The other is decidedly scruffier, but is very well-armed... now, I wonder which would suit the average party best?

Round the margins are a few exterior views to set the scene.

These are just delightful to look at, and for online players, or ones who have computer projection facilities where they game, can be of practical use as well. Or I suppose you could print them out - although I understand that the publisher has poster versions available for people who want a physical version.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0 hr: Gryphon Poster Images
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Modern Floorplans: An Average Modern Fast Food Restaurant
Publisher: Fabled Environments
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2014 11:23:22
Here's a very nice plan of a fast food restaurant... and if you don't think you'd ever need one, think again. I once wrote an adventure that centred around one, and even if the main action doesn't happen there, your characters do need to eat from time to time!

The layout is fairly conventional. Double doors to enter and a large seating area with tables and booths, some on a higher level, with a children's play area. The kitchen area is open to view behind the cashier's station where you place your order and pay. Behind the kitchen is the staff area with a couple of offices, a storeroom and the back door. (I think you normally need a staff break room and staff restrooms as well, but that may be a quirk of UK legislation...) There are customer restrooms and a drive-thru window as well.

There's a single-page overview and then a massive version that is battle-map scale which can either be printed out entire if you have access to that sort of print facility or paginated and stuck together if you are home printing. Before you print, you can choose between hex, squares or no grid at all and even eliminate the furniture if you so wish (perhaps it is an abandoned fast food restaurant!).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Floorplans: An Average Modern Fast Food Restaurant
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