RPGNow.com
Browse
 Publisher Info











Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Dungeon Delve (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2013 22:41:53

Dungeon Delve is a collection of thirty one-shot adventures, from 1st through 30th level. Each delve features three linked encounters, and is designed for five player characters. The delves are aimed towards beginning DMs, and the book includes tips for customizing and running the game. Dungeon Delve was originally released in 2009 as a now out-of-print hardback. Dungeon Delve has been extensively reviewed on the internet, so my review will be of the PDF itself.

Like many other book-to-PDF products, the PDF contains the same color art and page layout of the original hardcover. But, unlike the hardcover, the DM only needs to print out the pages of the delve he's running for the game session. No need to lug around yet another hardback! Dungeon Delve did not come with a map, so there's no map to awkwardly print out on multiple sheets on the inkjet. Huzzah for the PDF!

If you're a "battlemap and tokens" gaming group, you're set. However, if you must use monster miniatures and published tiles, good luck. The tiles used in the delves are from the various long out-of-print tile sets, not the boxed Master Sets. Given how much I've sunk into miniatures and tiles, I'm not too happy that I will still have to convert the encounters.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Delve (4e)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition
Publisher: 9th Level Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2012 14:09:23

I remember picking up a copy of the first (?) edition of KAMB many many years ago. I was a paper book with an orange cover, silly illustrations of furry kobolds, and politically incorrect when that term meant funny.

Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition is the beer and pretzels game of kobold-sized mayhem. Life is "brutal, short, and silly" and this RPG reflects it. The mechanics are on the conventional side, with a "stats and skill" system. If you attempt to do something, you describe how you're using a skill, and roll 2d6 (or whatever number of dice depending on the difficulty) and attempt to roll under. If you fail a skill, you're that much closer to dying with a checkmark on the Kobold Horrible Death Record, which brings us to the humor of the game, namely those Random Charts (tm): The Kobold Horrible Death Chart. The Kobold Gear charts (and sub-charts). The Random Magick Spell Chart. The Random Chart of Randomness. The Baby Horrible Death Chart. And the Outside Horrible Death Chart (for when you're outside).

The game also encourages kobold roleplaying. Yes, you must bark like a kobold in order to gain the bonus for the "+Bark Like a Kobold" edge. Skills and charts include cooking and babies. Additional rules requires, if anyone mentions King Torg, rule of the kobolds, each player must shout, "ALL HAIL KING TORG" or have a checkmark on his Kobold Horrible Death Record. (Every time you add or remove a check, roll 2d6 and add the number of checks you have. If your total is 13 or higher, roll on the Kobold Horrible Death Chart.) KAMB also includes a small village and scenario about, what else, a raid to get some tasty babies!

If your group needs a break from the serious stuff, or you're looking to run a game convention one-shot, KAMB is a perfect fit. The rules are easy to learn, everyone wants to roll on the charts, and you get to make Kobold Soliloquies when your kobold dies. King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG) would be pleased!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Stealing Cthulhu
Publisher: Graham Walmsley
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/17/2012 23:02:54

As much as the Call of Cthluhlu roleplaying game revolutionized roleplaying (all we had back then was D&D and various clones), it wasn't exactly Lovecraft. The single brooding (and sometimes passive) protagonist was replaced by a squad of skilled active investigators. Stealing Cthulhu brings us back to Mythos roots (tendrils?) by first deconstructing HP Lovecraft's Mythos stories, then applying them to a conventional RPG. It's an excellent analysis of HP Lovecraft's writing style, although it does take out some of the mystique of the author's writings! The author also enlists RPG personalities Kenneth Hite, Gareth Hanrahan, and Jason Morningstar to contribute their opinions to his work. And the author includes his short rules-light Mythos RPG at the end of the book. While the publication is aimed towards Keepers designing their own scenarios, the book is also a must-have for anyone wishing to write Mythos stories, or analyzing them for, say, a research paper.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stealing Cthulhu
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Dice Boxes
Publisher: Rogue Games, Inc
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/24/2012 13:51:32

As dice boxes, these are... okay. You print them, cut them out, then assemble them.

The artwork is on the cartoony side, particularly the zombie. The coffin art looks like a party favor (in a good way). It's too bad the artist didn't include a photo on the cover page so you could see for yourself.

But, speaking of party favors, these boxes could be used at your Halloween party to hold candy or other treats. No need for an emergency trip to Diddam's or Michael's -- just print and assemble. You could even print them out as an activity for your kids for Halloween!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dice Boxes
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Dungeon Crawl Classics #72: Beyond the Black Gate
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/17/2012 00:54:03

Harley Stroh's been writing some epic adventures, and DCC #72: Beyond the Black Gate is no exception. The players aren't just rescuing a god, it's The Horned King, based on the Master of the Hunt. And who entreats them? No less than Baba Iaga, though her hut is not in the adventure.

Yet players familiar with these figures know that they're not exactly on the side of good. And, indeed, Baba Iaga "summons" the characters by sinking their ship and forcing them to find shelter in her caves. Depending on the gamemaster's players, the gamemaster will either have a straightforward rescue, or several testy characters who may prefer to plan a way to betray their less-than-hospitable patrons. (Unfortunately, the adventure provides no troubleshooting in case they do.)

Baba Iaga's captured some of the sunken sailors, so a bit of no-or-little choice railroading later, the player characters are sent to the frozen Thrice Tenth Kingdom. There, the ice giants have captured the Horned King, who now sits in the throne of his citadel, glazily enthralled by the dancing ice giantess.

The citadel has been taken over by ice giants, and the encounters there are reminiscent of the well-known TSR "Against the Giants" adventure. Indeed, you can add further to this adventure by melding the adventure of the Black Gate with the details of Against the Giants.

The adventure is designed for six to ten 5th-level characters, but can be played by a smaller party of higher levels. Many of the encounters, from drowning at sea, to a snow avalanche, to falling off an icy bridge, are almost-instant deaths. However, player characters will have opportunities during the adventure to rescue other characters so players can play new ones. Also, the gamemaster can allow the NPC madman to be instead played by a player, or even add one of Baba Iaga's witches or a rescued sailor to the party.

The adventure adds The Horned King as a patron, for "heathen witches, barbarian shamans, and warriors that exalt the wild savage within". That should definitely appeal to some players! The Patron Taints are also pretty lively, from being overtaken by the call of the hunt, to demanding to be bested in combat by anyone in the party who claims authority. And, of course, since The Horned King is based on the mythological Wild Huntsman, the game master has plenty of resources on the internet to further develop this patron. (The adventure has no less than twenty rumors, primarily for the adventure, but also useful to flesh out The Horned King.) Unfortunately, only one unique spell, Slaying Strike, of three is included in the adventure -- write to Goodman Games to post the two others!

Despite the linearity of this adventure, this epic-swilling tale measures up to the memorable previous adventures by Goodman Games. Unpredictable or scheming players may force their way off the path of the plot, but adept game masters should find this quite entertaining.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #72: Beyond the Black Gate
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2012 04:08:45

Which Ancient One did Tulzscha serve? Did Bast oppose Nyarlathotep? Which Ancient One is associated with Kingsport?

As a longtime player of the Arkham Horror boardgame, I try to thematically associate an Ancient, its Herald, any Guardians opposing it, and the city the Ancient One had activity is in. Unfortunately, the Arkham Horror game has no background on these entities, and it's up to the players to research "Who's Who" in the mythos.

But this is a large task. Not only does the Arkham Horror boardgame series utilize entities, locations, creatures, and items from the original Lovecraft stories, but it also draws from other authors who contributed to the mythos as well. And, not only would there be quite a bit to read to understand these elements of the mythos, many of these stories aren't really worth reading.

The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia, then, is an invaluable resource for us theme junkies who really do care which Ancient One goes with which Herald in which expansion set location. And, of course, any Keeper who needs to look up a diety, person, creature, or item of the Mythos will find it useful as well. As someone who's tried to use the internet for this information, I've found internet sites and the Wiki woefully inadequate.

The information is organized by mythos entity or item and is in ePub format, under 1 MB. In addition to encyclopedia entries, the Encyclopedia has a short background of Lovecraft and the mythos itself. Very useful and very entertaining.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Dungeon Crawl Classics #70: Jewels of the Carnifex
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/29/2012 23:28:12

Jewels of the Carnifex is a level 3 adventure for 6-10 characters or fewer 4th to 5th level characters. Judges who have been following the Dungeon Crawl Classic adventures should know that the mysterious monsters and other obstacles can easily be modified upwards to make sessions more challenging. Spoilers ahead.

Much like the previous adventures, Jewels combines strong theme, mystery, logical consistency ("method to one's madness"), an occasional backdoor solution (secret door), fighting, and traps players have to defeat, not skill rolls. The plot of Jewels is the Lawful Azazel and his followers have destroyed the Cult of Carnifex has been destroyed and sealed away its patron deity. Azazel, however, has called for the primal light for aid. This light infuses him, and, ironically, has corrupted the undertemple far more than Carnifex could ever do. The PCs enter the undertemple to investigate, and either aid Azazel to finally destroy Carnifex, or free her from her prison.

DCC adventures implement well the "method to one's madness". Azazel and followers have settled into the undertemple (and are corrupting everything), so the enemies are either his followers, or corrupted overgrown versions of underground vermin. Likewise, many rooms reflect either the atrocities of Azazel, or the original temple of Carnifex.

Probably the only nitpick I have is that there's not much of a conflict in choosing Carnifex over Azazel. Azazel's a fanatic whose first impression towards to the PCs is to kill them. Carnifex is babe of a goddess who gives stat bonuses. No contest, really.

Otherwise, another fine job by Dungeon Crawl Classics!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #70: Jewels of the Carnifex
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

The Kaiin Player's Guide
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/15/2012 13:25:34

Introduction

Despite the "d20 glut", the number of city settings one can choose from can be counted on one hand. This is a pity, as the city offers NPC interaction, combatless skullduggery, and other entertaining roleplaying not available in your everyday dungeon or wilderness adventure.

Enter "The Kaiin Player's Guide". Technically for the Dying Earth RPG, based on the works of Jack Vance, the KPG features one of the most entertaining fantasy cities I've read in a long time. Written by Robin D. Laws, designer of Feng Shui, Hero Wars, Rune, and aforementioned Dying Earth, the book is 200-some pages long, on heavy glossy paper. It's quite suitable for D&D or any other fantasy roleplaying game.

For GMs of Conventional Fantasy RPGs

Let me briefly mention what the book doesn't have. The maps have a "bird's eye view" of each section of the city, but not detailed maps of streets or locations. Stats for NPCs are for Dying Earth's skills, which focus on personality, and thus are quite usable in any roleplaying game. You'll definitely want to plug in the culture, personalities, and locations of Kaiin to a city with detailed street-by-street maps.

The information is portrayed from the perspective of a well-connected PC. As a result, the GM need no longer be a bottleneck for information. He can let the player peruse the book, or a particular section. Not all GMs will want to do this, but now they have this option. GMs will need to create any "secret" character details and specifics (not like they haven't had to do this with other city guides...)

For Dying Earth Players

As said, this book is written from the perspective of a resident of Kaiin. Despite the words "Player's Guide", there is no "Gamemaster Guide". The player peruses the book, selects a rumor, and the GM improvises, using the GMC creation rules. A few pages provide additional advice for the GM and player.

A City of Personalities

Most city books I've read are organized by locations. Each chapter discusses one of the quarters by providing an overview, then particular locations, each with their NPC residents (don't these people ever leave the house?). KPG provides an overview, but then focuses on the PC's contacts for the city and personages in the quarter. Contacts are a personality outline of a particular class of people in the quarter, which the GM (or player!) fleshes out as an NPC contact. Personally, I think contacts are a much more playable NPCs than the usual "Important People" section of a city setting.

Locations, calendar events, and rumors follow, then Taglines and Tweaks. Taglines and Tweaks are Dying Earth mechanics. Taglines are quotes which, if used by a player during play ("Call me parsimonious, but I am reluctant to become nourishment for anyone."), grants character improvement points. Tweaks are special bonuses that a character can have under certain social circumstances for their PC. Both should be adaptable to any fantasy rpg. Kaiin is composed of neighborhoods: Canal Town, where the city river "emits its last pathetic gasp before it empties into the bay" (avoid the oysters); The Fringe, home of the most destitute denizens and opportunistic bandits (razed to the ground periodically with lively festivals involving hangings); The Marketplace (including no less than three pages of cart-pulling "Unusual Mounts and Beasts"); Odkin Prospect, where reside the aristocrats and merchants they invest in and despise; The Palace & Environs, including the useful "Palace Intrigue Quick Reference" chart; The Scholasticarium District, an institution less of learning than of "rivals in an never-ending struggle for privelege and prestige"; The Threek, a medieval equivalent of the suburbs ("Although eighty percent of the population lives here, we cover it quickly"); The Tracks, where Dhejtar, a sort of cross between a weasel and a panther, race (or just bring your child here to throw rocks at defaulters in the punishment racks); and The Undercity, who has believed "the sun has already died, and they are the last survivors" (enjoy the spicy cuisine).

Last Words

Again, I'll emphasize that this is a book of personalities over locations. GMs looking for detailed maps of a city won't find them here, but should still consider KPG as a book of NPCs who will enliven any city. GMs who do not improvise city adventures will still need to create and prepare material. Still, the wealth of NPCs, especially the contacts, should enrich any city adventure, not just one for Dying Earth.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Kaiin Player's Guide
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Anima Beyond Fantasy: Core Rulebook
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2012 21:54:12

Introduction: I'll admit not having played Final Fantasy or other Japanese video roleplaying games. I'm still familiar with genre, and even visuals alone will tell you that these fantasy games are quite different than their western counterparts. And, while Japan has its tabletop RPGs, few have been translated to American markets. Indeed, Anima, which looks on the surface to be a tabletop rpg version of Japanese computer rpgs, was originally published by Edge Entertainment in Spain. That doesn't make it any less qualified to be a thorough and detailed treatment of the genre. However, its complex character generation rule may put gamers off.

Character Generation: Anima character generation is flavorful but highly detailed and complicated. If you're the type who approaches character generation as a spreadsheet budget, or someone who must create a super-exotic mondo-unique uber-butt-kicking character (or, much worse, have a player who wants to be one), expect to spend quite a bit of time going through several chapter's worth of character creation options. But if you limit first characters to the same basics the sample character uses (yes, Ki, Magic, and Psychic abilities are not basic!), you should be able to play soon enough. After their first game, players you can your players recreate their characters or introduce new ones. If you do a search on "anima roleplay character generation", you should be able to find jmbowman's Anima character generator.

Combat: Anima combat is straightforward, with optional complexity. Each turn you have an action, often an attack. In an attack, you and your opponent both do a "skill die roll" of an attack skill (eg. Attack Ability) versus a defense skill (eg. Dodge). You then cross-index the difference (negative numbers can cause counterattacks!) against armor. This results in a percentage which you multiply against your weapon's damage to determine how much damage you actually do. (This is easier done than said, since Anima provides a table and 100% damage is a multiple of ten.) Additional rules and modifiers are provided for ranged and optional hand-to-hand and ranged attacks.

Sourcebook: Much of the gamemaster's section is source material: Gaia's history, Countries and Cities, Organizations (factions), The Supernatural World, and Powers in the Shadow (conspiratorial organizations influencing Gaia), Hell (supernatural worlds and their races), Light and Darkness (deities and mechanics for their gifts), and Supernatural Presence (how much of the world's reality is centered around a character -- including the PCs).

Gamemaster: Other gamemaster sections include gamemaster advice and guidelines, Common Characters (common NPC stats), Creation of Beings (detailed mechanics for creating special creatures), Creature Compendium (example creatures), and a character sheet.

Art and Layout: Bring out your iPads. At 322 full-color pages, you're not going to print this out. It's too bad that Anima doesn't have a printer-friendly or text-only version.

Conclusion: This is not a casual roleplaying game. The system is complicated, and the source material extensive. However, if you're looking for a detailed tabletop treatment of a Japanese video game, Anima is a definite choice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Anima Beyond Fantasy: Core Rulebook
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2012 01:24:11

Semi-spoilers ahead!

Villagers have been disappearing—and some of them are your friends! A number of clues, various old superstitions, and a handful of vague omens point to the brooding citadel of the emerald enchanter. This silent monolith has sat undisturbed atop a windy ridge for centuries. Legends say that a green-skinned sorcerer dwells there, where he conducts strange experiments and builds enigmatic machinery. His emerald constructs patrol the grounds of his citadel, and he is seen only rarely when he ventures out on nefarious errands that end in horrid screams and strange lights coming from his citadel. Now you believe he is holding your friends captive. To rescue them—and potentially acquire some loot along the way—you set off to invade his inner sanctum. -- Player Beginning

Well, if that doesn't describe the adventure, I don't know what does. The Emerald Enchanter is a second-level adventure, by Joseph Goodman, creator of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Like his previous adventures, EE gives the judge the same quality of dungeon: bizarre encounters to challenge the party, "a method behind the madness" to give consistency, a few captives to replace fallen members, and a "backdoor" to reward risk-takers. The adventure is fourteen pages long, shorter than his People of the Pit, but long enough for party TPK. The art is wonderfully evocative, definitely useful for the judge to tell the players how much trouble they're in. It's a well-designed wizard lair, which the judge (or players!) can use as a template for his own ideas.

My only quibble with this adventure is why the heck would you let strangers wander about your house? Won't they scratch the silver and damage the furniture? The encounter where the party initially meets the enchanter lets them cleverly "short circuit" the adventure, but warns the enchanter of these invaders. Why doesn't he send his emerald guards in their direction? (Or, since this is a dungeon crawl, who cares?) You could eliminate this encounter entirely. Or you could give a good reason for his non-interference, such as the party inadvertently releasing an NPC who kills him off, but doesn't adhere to the idea that "the enemy of my enemy is a friend".

Overall, I enjoyed this adventure very much. It has nothing to do with, but leads fine to the Free RPG Day 2012 adventure, The Jeweler that Dealt in Stardust. I mean, who else are you going to use to fence all those emeralds into gold?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #69: The Emerald Enchanter
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

AL1: Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror [DCC]
Publisher: Purple Duck Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2012 03:25:52

Spoilers ahead

I read Bone Hoard after reading Goodman Game's People of the Pit and Free RPG Day 2012 adventures, and just can't say that I was as thrilled by this adventure. It's not a bad one. It's your typical "mage dies and adventurers investigate his long-lost dungeon". But, aside from a terrifically terrible "it'll suck out the bones from your body and taunt your friends with what's left" monster, there's not that much you haven't seen in, say, your typical D&D adventure. I think had the author had designed the scenario more heavily around the theme of "bone and flesh", it would have more impact. But, as it stands, I'm waiting for Goodman Game's next release.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
AL1: Bone Hoard of the Dancing Horror [DCC]
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/12/2012 00:43:53

Remember first level? You went into a dungeon, stabbed a few kobolds, went into another area, killed a few goblins, went somewhere else, slew some orcs, went to another place, attacked some skeletons, got their treasure, and finally did something (like slay hobgoblins) at second.

DCC isn't that.

"Now a decade has passed since the last sacrifice, and the rumbles of the pit-beast can once more be heard deep in the pit. This time, though, there is another factor. People have emerged from the pit, herding great slithering tentacles before them. These people of the pit wear gray robes and have no faces. The local peasants have chased the robed men away on numerous occasions, and now the humble folk around the ravine fear for their safety. It was enough to fear the beast of the pit, now must they fear the people of the pit as well? You have set out to explore the great ravine in search of mystery, adventure, riches, and fame—and perhaps to aid your neighbors along the way." -- from the Player Beginning

Spoilers ahead.

If the core book's "Portal Under the Stars" was a trap-encrusted killfest, "People of the Pit" is a refugee from Queen of the Demonweb Pits and Shrine of Kuo-Toa (and better organized, too). While Pit may not be campaign-sized large, your poor players certainly didn't take them on at first level!

And, like, Portal, Pit is sufficiently deadly. If your figher insists on running down the slick stairs, he could fall to the pit floor before meeting anyone. And when you do enter combat, those grey-robed cultists have the audacity to have these tentacled things burst out of them when they die. Oh, and if they're in an area where tentacles are nearby they can summon them to do their bidding (like grab characters and toss them screaming into the pit). And that's just the first encounter.

The adventure sticks to theme yet provides an assortment of enemies, magical traps, mundane ones, and a few Things to Run Away From. The adventure has method behind its madness. Smarter characters will proceed cautiously and use the shortcuts to their objective. Others will find themselves shocked, teleported, cursed, turned to stone, sliced open, and screaming a hentailike death. Thoughtfully, the adventure has plenty of 0-level captives who can replace fallen members, and more 0-level captives to replace the previous ones. And, yes, the trope-ic Indiana Jones finale has a beautiful babe about to be sacrificed to the pit.

If there's any criticism of the adventure, it's that it's not just for 1st level characters! DCC is about not knowing what you're up against, and the stats (and shortcuts) can certainly be adjusted for higher level parties. And you may want to make the Control Tentacle spell easier to access by the spellcasters, if only to roll on the corruption table!

I'm pleasantly please with the People from the Pit. Just makes you wonder what will happen at second level.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #68: People of the Pit
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2012
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2012 02:06:11

A key element of player experience in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game is a sense of wonderment. Your job as judge is to convey “the sense of the unknown” that was so easy to achieve when we were children who did not know all the rules. -- DCC RPG Core rules

If, by "a sense of wonderment", you mean "OH SHI*", yes, DCC adventures have a sense of wonderment. If D&D adventures are a series of stat blocks and treasure tables, DCC adventures are a case of "Though this be madness, yet there is method in't". Assuming, of course, your players will last long enough to find that method. Spoilers ahead.

The first adventure, "The Undulating Corruption", is a 5th-level quest for a corrupted wizard and his party. DCC has a wonderful mechanic that the more a wizard casts spells, the more likely he'll suffer a corruption. In this adventure, your players have found out about a shrine that can cure corruption. Except that it isn't really a shrine. And it escaped.

The second adventure, "The Jeweler that Dealt in Stardust", is a 3rd-level heist of a fence who seems to have disappeared a month ago. Seems, of course, is the operative word. More accurately, it seems that Boss Ogo stumbled upon a particularly enchanted jewel, and has made contact with a Lolth or Lovecraftian mythos-inspired spider god, whose spiders have leaked into our own plane. It doesn't help that Ogo himself has a well-trapped location, or mundane opponents, such as the surviving gang members, still watch over his shop.

At about six pages each, both adventures are short, but that doesn't mean they're easy. They should be adaptable to other game systems. The second adventure will also be useful to understand what a thieves guild would look like. Also included is a $1000 design contest, with an October 2012 deadline.

My only hesitation in recommending these adventures is that, as of this writing, DCC seems to be releasing adventures starting at 0th level and is up to 1st, if you ignore the short 5th level adventure in the core book. Those who wish to create their own sense of, ahem, wonderment, adventures already have the adventures in the DCC core rules as models. The others who rely up on prewritten adventures may wish to wait until Goodman Games releases a 3rd level adventure to have something to compare these adventures against.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2012
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
Publisher: Engine Publishing
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/09/2012 03:27:35

I think I could sum up this review from the Foreward:

"Phil, on the other hand, has taken his expertise as a project manager and his genetic predisposition to nigh-obsessive preparedness and applied these qualities to an entirely systemic and effective treatise on the matter. He’s broken down the whole of the concept, applied a step-by-step presentation of all of the factors you need to consider, and presented it all in a clear, concise, easily grasped way.

The best part of this book is that Phil doesn’t just lay out a list of steps that every GM must follow to the letter. Honestly, that would be fairly useless as well as pretentious. A wiser man, Phil, in that he instead guides you in evaluating your needs as a GM, based on your style of play. From there, he helps you figure out the steps that make the most sense for you."

Phil Vecchione is a regular contributor to Gnome Stew, a site of articles for gamemasters. He's also one of the authors of Masks: 1000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game, and Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters. These products have previews available on the Engine Publishing Website.

Us gamemasters know that proper preparation is key to a good game session, but that's about it. Never Unprepared: Complete Guide to Prep breaks down prep into five phases: Brainstorming, Selection, Conceptualization, Documentation, and Review. Brainstorming is the spawning of ideas. Selection is the selection of ideas to use in an upcoming game. Conceptualization is the expansion of each idea, giving it log, a description, and a fit into the overall game. Documentation, aka. the part of the prep process most associate with prep, is writing down the concept that is meaningful to you, the gamemaster. Review, often the most overlooked phase, breaks down into proofreading, directing (reviewing and rehearsing), and playtesting (taking the perspective of the players before the game session).

But, on top of these steps, the book attempts to get you, the gamemaster, to accomplish these phases. What tools do you use for prep -- and even which phase of prep? How do you optimize your creative cycle and personal schedule? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a GM? The book also includes a concrete guide to templates (eg. NPCs and scenes). The Prep-Lite and Prep in a Real World chapters help you compensate when you cannot properly prepare for a game. These sections go beyond the "how to" guidelines of most gamemaster tip articles.

The book comes in both PDF and text format. The PDF is 134 pages long, with art interspersed throughout. Like too many other RPG materials, the art isn't really relevant to the text and could just as easily have been left out. The text is in the UTF-8 character set.

The book isn't for the lazy GM. If anything, it's a project management guide for gamemasters -- and it's still your project. The book has no shortcuts like an "instant NPC generator" or such. It also doesn't address prewritten adventures and their own problems. Nor does it give advice on gut improvisation during a game session. (It does give advice for last-minute preparation.)

I'm also just a little hesitant to recommend this to neophyte GMs. Sure, if you have ideas all brimming in your head, you will want this guide to help organize your thoughts and notes. However, the book may be a little intimidating with how much work you can do towards gamemastering. Don't think of it as what you must do.

One audience I think this book is absolutely for is the aspiring writer. I'm sure there are plenty of how to's for new writers, but you should be able to use the principles in this book for that novel you've always wanted to write. Many of the guidelines, especially time management, tools, and "thinking about it throughout the day" will be particularly useful for you to get your project off the ground. NaNoWriMo is coming up soon enough, and if all you do is prep, you'll do a better job than those who just pound the keyboard.

Overall, Never Unprepared: Complete Guide to Prep is for any dedicated gamemaster who designs his own adventure. Very well written, and very recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

GM Mastery: NPC Essentials
Publisher: RoleplayingTips.com
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/09/2012 00:03:35

"What is my motivation?"

What may be a cliche in acting is a cornerstone in roleplaying an NPC. Generating the stats is the easy part -- How did he become the way he is? Why does he interact with the PCs? What gets him out of bed each morning???

The first book in RPGObject's GMMastery series is "NPC Essentials", by Johnn Four, of Dragon magazine and the Roleplaying Tips Weekly website (www.roleplayingtips.com). NPC Essentials is a 83-page PDF document, with about 50 pages of design text, 10 pages of mini-adventure, and 20 pages of charts and worksheets, for $8.95. Essentially, it's a planning manual for GMs to design their NPCs. Story writers may find it useful as will players creating backgrounds for the PCs. Except for stat blocks of the mini-adventure, the document may be used for any roleplaying system. Even new GMs (and lazy ones) can just focus one or two ideas at a time and improve their techniques.

Besides the introduction, the text itself is divided into four chapters:

  • NPC Design
  • NPC Role Playing
  • Campaign Management
  • NPC Archetypes
  • Mini-Adventure
  • Charts, Tables, And Sheets NPC Design

This chapter recognizes that GMs only have so much time to plan and design characters. It begins by dividing up various NPC elements into the Four Planning Groups: Core NPC, Core Roleplaying, Detailed Roleplaying, and Combat. You'll use one or more of them depending on the NPC's Story Role. Each NPC Story Role (from Villains and Rivals to Remote NPCs and even Items!) has a description, list of Planning Groups to use in its design, Estimated Planning Time, and Design Methods. Through an organized series of instructions, questions, and examples, this chapter guides the GM in creating a character. Personally, I found the amount of preparation work quite dauting (take a deep cleansing breath), although a GM could step back and quite easily only prepare one or two NPCs.

NPC Role Playing

This chapter opens with a philosophy of scenes with NPCs: Portray the scene as if "The PCs have entered the NPC's life, not vice-versa". The chapter then suggestions on how to make the NPC most effective in advancing the storyline. The rest is devoted towards techniques for GMs to use during roleplaying: Acting, Voice, Parley strategies, NPC-to-NPC discussion, Escape routes for NPCs, and Roleplaying during combat. Again, quite a bit of advice is given, and a GM can just focus on one or two techniques in his next session.

Campaign Management

While NPC Design focuses on the individual NPC, NPCs do not stand alone in a campaign, and a GM certainly has to keep track of more than one NPC! This chapter ties the NPC to the campaign and suggests how to keep track of a cast of non-player characters:

  • Organizing NPCs: Good organization prevents missing information and mistakes in play. This section includes suggestions for physically storing NPC information (from binders to business cards), and what NPC information to update between sessions.

  • Introducing NPCs: The most lasting impression on a party is the introduction. This section gives examples of how to best introduce an NPC, through foreshadowing techniques, what makes the NPC unique, and surprises to spring on the characters.

  • When PC and NPC power levels differ: Tired of pitting your 20th level wizard against invisible magic-proof ninjas? Want to throw more than goblins and kobolds at low-level characters? This section provides roleplaying tactics for challenging PCs with lower-level NPCs, and vice-versa (including tips for GMs with players who assume they can fight everyone they encounter!).

  • Tying NPCs to your campaign: This section explains how to reflect your world -- not to mention plot hooks and critical story information -- through NPCs. Is the NPC a trendsetter, or a trendfollower? (Did you, as a GM, even think of distinguishing your NPC this way?) I found the suggestions on how to avoid the "critical NPC the PCs must meet but fail to" trap to be particularly useful.

  • Creating dynamic NPCs: NPCs and even regions die and change. This section, which uses an event chart in the back of the book, tells you how to change NPCs without it becoming too much work. The event chart might be fun for PCs to use, as well.

  • Character cast creation in six steps: This section is a step-by-step guide in creating, prioritizing, and developing your NPCs. Nice to see that one step is devoted towards budgeting your time!

NPC Archetypes

NPC Design covered standard NPC story roles, NPC Archetypes cover the standard NPC professions (mostly city) in an adventure: Craftsmen, Upper Nobility, Soldier, Beggars, and so on. Besides plot hooks, each archetype is given a short background discussion to help flesh him out. For example, a craftsman might be an employee or an owner. Assigning him a role in the business results in a completely different personality, and thus a different roleplaying interaction with the party. Few artists and entertainers can make a living at their craft. What will the surprise of finding out the entertainer's full-time job affect the players? With this chapter alone, the GM can turn some routine stereotypes into opportunities for enjoyable roleplaying.

Mini-Adventure

The next chapter is a 10-page investigation / social-driven mini-adventure. For characters of 3rd-5th level, this adventure is meant to tie in what the GM has learned from the previous chapters. Personally, I wished this chapter discussed more of how the techniques of the book created the adventure, rather than the final adventure itself. (The adventure does contain a chart of what certain people in the village know about important NPCs; use this as an example in your own adventures). The adventure centers around some village council shenanegans, a definite change of pace from the generic helpless towns seen in most publications. It's one thing if the PCs save the helpless town from the bad guys. It may be an interesting other situation if the town is a little more political than helpless...!

Charts, Tables, And Sheets

This section contains 20 pages of charts and record sheets to help the GM efficiently plan his NPCs; brainstorm names, background, appearances, traits, quirks, and secrets; create events for NPCs (see Campaign Management); and record this information. (There are 100 Secrets, 100 Events, 200 Quirks, 300 Traits, and even more entries for Names!) PCs will definitely find these charts and worksheets useful in thinking up a background for their own characters. You'll probably want to print out the record sheets and fill some out as you read the book. Unfortunately, these sheets cannot be used electronically (ie. you can't type the information in for electronic storage).

PDF or hardcopy?

Personally, I wish this book were hardcopy, with web support of record sheet downloads. But it's still written as a book rather than, say, a series of reference sheets. After trying to read it onscreen, I gave up and printed out all 80 pages. The only pages that really benefit from the electronic format are the record sheets (since you can print any number of them crisply from your printer instead of copying them at Kinko's). Otherwise, the layout is done very well, with minimal, but effective use of color (art, maps, and chapter headings). The PDF document uses bookmarks and you can use copy and paste. The book does not have an index.

Other comments

To some extent, the document assumes you're designing your own overall adventure and you will do this work before play. It would have been nice to add suggestions how to analyze NPCs in published adventures so you're not caught flat-footed (to steal a term) when the players throw a roleplaying wrench which the adventure didn't prepare for. The advice doesn't directly address (lazy) GMs who prefer to develop their characters between sessions as they play the game ("the characters write themselves" sorta thing). What with most short adventures (such as those in Dungeon magazine) being of the "save the helpless villagers" variety, I personally would like to have seen suggestions on developing NPCs to tie together for similar but unrelated adventures (eg. the head honcho villain who's responsible for these different groups of bad guys threatening different helpless towns).

Roleplayingtips.com

If nine dollars for some of the most thorough NPC planning advice I've seen in twenty-some years is too much, at least subscribe to Johnn Four's Roleplayingtips.com free weekly newsletter. Started two years ago, this newsletter is over 145 issues strong, with contributions by Johnn and numerous readers. Perhaps the only drawback is that archived articles are only sorted by date or title, as opposed to subject.

Conclusion

A good number of GMs create their own adventures, which means a good number of them should own this book. Even if your games are still nothing but dungeons and hackfests, you can certainly add some color to the helpless town elder, not to mention the evil boss villian (before the players chop him up). GMs who start with published adventures will still find this book useful for fleshing out NPCs. This book will also assist PCs who desire character backgrounds (all too often at the behest of their GM).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
GM Mastery: NPC Essentials
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 31 to 45 (of 74 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG