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Captain's Log #38
Captain's Log #38
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Hell on Earth Reloaded: Companion
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/23/2015 06:50:29
SIX POINT SUMMARY:

1) The book is full of things you might want, but don't NEED, making it fill the role of a companion pretty well.

2) If you have struggled with how to handle witches in Deadlands Reloaded (a topic that Deadlands Classic covered but Reloaded has glossed over), witches here can cover that need.

3) Rules for vehicle customization should appease any gearheads in your group, as well as the vehicular combat rules.

4) The random adventure generator is pretty neat, and I'm pretty sure it's unique to this book, not a reskinned generator from another, which has tended to happen a lot.

5) Harrowed have always been kind of a "favored son" in Deadlands, and giving everyone the ability to Count Coup kinda diminished that a bit...but all the extra perks from being a cyborg make that come roaring back (though it is counterbalanced by cyborgs having a extra Directives to follow).

6) There's a lot of recycled art, but that doesn't bother me given how old the original Hell on Earth books are, so the art isn't technically within the same game line, and the using the art to evoke the original line is a nice touch at points.

I would say this is well worth getting for a Hell on Earth Reloaded fan, and might be worth getting in general for ripping stuff out (like Witches or the vehicle bits), if you have the cash to spare and the need to fulfill...but it answers the call of its primary purpose - a companion to Hell on Earth Reloaded - admirably.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2015/01/tommys-take-o-
n-deadlands-hell-on-earth.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hell on Earth Reloaded: Companion
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Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics
Publisher: Blackfall Press, LLC
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2015 06:59:00
Six Points: 1) I love that the author didn't think "gritty" meant "you can't push your limits", instead applying a potentially brutal cost to it.

2) Very little wasted space in the book, making me feel like I got my money's worth and providing evocative art.

3) Random adventure generators are always a win. The Investigation templates in the GM section are also a great addition.

4) The organization is probably the weakest aspect of the book. The index helps, but I still did a lot of flipping around. Really, the core mechanics should have been segregated better.

5) Specialties are kind of a big deal, opening up character functionality above and beyond what Powers can do.

6) The powers section was a bit disappointing, even given the intended scope of the game...something as incredibly common as retractable claws should have been easier to find, in my opinion.

If you are tired of trying to push heroic superhero systems into street level action, this is going to pretty well do it...just be aware that you might break something trying to scale it back up.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2015/01/tommys-take-o-
n-cold-steel-wardens.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cold Steel Wardens: Roleplaying in the Iron Age of Comics
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Sertorius
Publisher: Bedrock Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/02/2015 07:02:47
WHAT WORKS: Bedrock Games had a very distinct feel they were aiming for with this game and made sure to achieve it. It would be easy to dismiss it as "another fantasy heartbreaker", but Sertorius definitely has its own distinctive vibe, with some great touches like the Grims and how magic items are handled. Of course, I love any game that gives me oodles of random tables as well. There's even a subgame for managing your followers, which could lead to developments like a deranged cult acting in your name, How many fantasy RPGs lead to you having to sort out two warring factions operating in your name?

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: It perhaps borders on too many subsystems and minigames, from corruption to politics to managing your followers...and if game balance is an issue for your group, then someone is definitely going to be annoyed when they find out their Mundane Warrior is probably getting smoked by any kind of Sertori. While I understand the decision, I always prefer more art for a bestiary, though this one did still cover a lot of ground,

CONCLUSION: As dice pool systems go, The Network System generally keeps it manageable and simple, which is always appreciated. A lot of thought went into the design of this book to allow Sertorius to stand apart from other fantasy games, and Bedrock Games is continuing to push the game pretty hard on their blog. You may not be in the market for another fantasy game, but you could certainly do worse than pick up one that has its own distinctive voice of divinely touched demigods shaping the world, rather than just another dungeon raiding D&D clone. You can also check out the free adventure, Beneath the Banshee Tree, to get a better feel for the setting.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2015/01/tommys-take-o-
n-sertorius.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sertorius
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13th Age Core Book
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2014 02:53:49
WHAT WORKS: No cumbersome skill system, no Prestige Classes, no pre-planning your character from level 1. Monsters stat blocks are short, sweet, flavorful and easy to customize. The magic item system is one of my favorites I've ever read, and many of the Icons are very, very interesting. The broad strokes setting is very handy, providing ample detail to help you along, but giving you room to customize as desired. The rules are deliberately designed for free-wheeling, on the fly gameplay, with even combat modifiers left to the GM's discretion.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The art is generally very good, but the bestiary is largely full of symbols and silhouettes, which detract from the flavor.

CONCLUSION: I stopped running Dungeons & Dragons a long, long time ago, and some D&D fans would tell you I ran it wrong all along. I didn't want to run games about killing monsters and taking their stuff, I wanted to run games about fantasy heroes with great destinies who did amazing things and thwarted evil. I tried to emulate the D&D of fiction in my games and found it fell short (in AD&D2e) or found it to be too cumbersome (in 3/.5). 13th Age, from reading, sure seems like it's scratching the itch I wanted out of D&D but never found, and I feel strongly enough about it that I signed up for the Organized Play program (which has some fantastic adventure support). It definitely feels like the designers wrote the game I was trying to run 20 years ago, and I dearly look forward to bringing it to my table (virtual or otherwise) and seeing if it truly scratches that heroic fantasy itch.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/07/tommys-take-o-
n-13th-age.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Core Book
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Camp Myth: The RPG
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2014 01:01:53
WHAT WORKS: The whole concept is awesome, but I particularly love the merit badges. The adventures are very inspirational for guiding you in just what a Camp Myth game IS. Honestly, as "kid" RPGs go, this is one of the few that actually appeals to me to actually RUN. The selection of Mythic Races is great as well, and the bestiary is HUGE and simple to understand and expand upon.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I was maybe going to say "needs more Merit Badges" (maybe), but there's already a mini supplement out that adds new Mythic Races and Merit Badges.

CONCLUSION: I never see Camp Myth bandied about in discussions for kid-friendly RPGs, and I'm not sure why, as I'm fairly convinced it's one of the better kept secrets in RPGs, despite a successful Kickstarter (of course, I didn't even know the books existed before the RPG was announced). The concept is bursting with fun, and Third Eye Games knows how to deliver on good, playable games, making for a very nice combo. If you're looking for a game to break your kids (or students or youth group or maybe even the kids going to your camp) into gaming, take a chance on Camp Myth

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/07/tommys-take-o-
n-camp-myth.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Camp Myth: The RPG
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Fighting Fire - Ernie Gygax Benefit Adventure
Publisher: Creative Mountain Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2014 18:29:56
WHAT WORKS: The Fire Mage turns out to be an interesting adversary with some great plot hooks for an ongoing campaign. The epic poem is a nice touch. A number of the other encounters are standouts, such as the Ettin, the Fire Giants, and crossing the bridge in the dwarven mines. Many of the art pieces are very evocative.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: A few things might be tough to model if your favorite system doesn't have an existing analogue. I get what they were going for with Gamington, but it might be a tad too cheesy for an ongoing campaign, but your mileage may well vary in that regard.

CONCLUSION: A touching tribute for a trying situation, and a pretty good dungeon crawl to boot. The Gamington premise is cute, but an ill-fit for more serious campaigns, but that may also serve as an acceptable break for the rest of the campaign world. Of course, you can run it as a one shot, and those concerns are invalid, but there are a lot of cool little threads that can be picked up from this adventure and used in a larger campaign. Worth buying for the cause, worth playing for the adventure.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/06/tommys-take-o-
n-fighting-fire-ernie.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fighting Fire - Ernie Gygax Benefit Adventure
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EPOCH: War Stories
Publisher: Imaginary Empire
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/20/2014 12:05:51
WHAT WORKS: Five scenarios that shake up EPOCH even further from the standard, and even manages to avoid retreading the same ground, with Mass Destruction especially breaking from the military motif while still invoking war. While most of the conflicts selected were not surprising, placing a scenario in the Congo was a nice touch. The flexibility written into Home Front is also nice.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: World War II obviously couldn't be ignored, but a Vietnam or Korea scenario would have been welcome over a second WWII scenario (though the two are sufficiently different, at least). The editing, once more, could have used some help.

CONCLUSION: I like Frontier of Fear more, as I'm not big on the military in my games, but I would be willing to run the last two scenarios without twisting my arm. Some fine work in showing the versatility of the game, and hopefully Imaginary Empire has more tricks up their sleeve with this game.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/06/tommys-take-o-
n-epoch-war-stories.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
EPOCH: War Stories
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EPOCH: Frontier of Fear
Publisher: Imaginary Empire
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/17/2014 06:45:59
WHAT WORKS: There are some scary scenes, for sure...and the book does a great job of demonstrating the scope of the game beyond that of the core. Two or more of these could easily be linked together, sometimes with the same characters and sometimes just thematically, as the sci-fi elements gradually build from one scenario to the next. The forethought in some of the scenarios (like customizing Space Station Icarus) really seems like it would boost the buy-in.

WHAT WORKS: The editing could have been tighter in some places, unless I REALLY need to brush up on my British English vs American English spellings (which I may, but Artefact and Vengence don't look correct to me, and one scenario lists the year twice...ten years apart).

CONCLUSION: I really like Quintessence and Hard Time, but any of the scenarios are worthy of playing through. I'm still intending to get this game to my table soon, especially since we played Fiasco, which has a similar (but certainly not identical) set-up and feel and that went over great. May even use Quintessence or Hard Time when I do. Excellent job establishing that there are scary things in space.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/06/tommys-take-o-
n-epoch-frontier-of-fear.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
EPOCH: Frontier of Fear
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30 Things Can Happen
Publisher: Creative Mountain Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/13/2014 06:54:37
WHAT WORKS: It's a book of random tables...and it gives me an excuse to use my d30. Hard to top that. Especially since the tables are set up to use d10s or d20s as well, maximizing utility.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: $6 might sound like a tad much for 30 pages of random tables. Obviously, if you don't like random results, look elsewhere.

CONCLUSION: Creative Mountain Games knew this was going to get high marks from me, because I mention random tables *all the time*. Strong recommendation if you're into that sort of thing. Stay away if you don't.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/06/tommys-take-o-
n-30-things-can-happen.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
30 Things Can Happen
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Hael Core Rules
Publisher: StoryWeaver
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2014 21:46:36
WHAT WORKS: A few very original twists on the standard fantasy world. "The Bad Guys Won" has been done before, but rarely with the twist of "and then they became kinda good". I really liked the art, as it had an evocative style, kinda comic-booky, but not in a "kids" way.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The overpowering of the Edges and the construction of the races will limit the utility of this for anyone who might want to pluck from this for another Savage Worlds game. Some of the Call-En powers sure seem like they could be overpowered in comparison to the other Arcane Backgrounds. The editing and proofreading could have been a lot tighter as well, given outright contradictions at points in the book.

CONCLUSION: I like the setting quite a bit, as there's a lot of potential there. However, I think the book could seriously do with a revision bringing it more in line with the Savage Worlds rules in regards to Race creation and the strength of the Edges. I'm not a super big stickler for "game balance", but you are asking for trouble when you obviously set up one option as being mechanically superior to others, and folding the required Edges and Hindrances into racial packages would then allow more flexibility at character creation (and keep one from being an obviously better deal than the others). The Call-En feel a LOT like AD&D2e Psionics to me, which I was actually a huge fan of, and the addition of the aliens and the tech reminds me of Tale of the Comet, which I was also a huge fan of. As I said above, the setting has some great potential, with the powderkeg between the Daeorcs and Yaena, the hostility of the "uncivilized races" and the conflict between The Strangers and Nuclarine...I do suspect that bits like the overpowered Edges won't be a huge issue as they are contained to the setting, but I would still love to see it line up better with Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/06/tommys-take-o-
n-hael-core-rules.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hael Core Rules
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Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2014 21:50:48
WHAT WORKS: A very creative martial arts system layered onto Fate, providing some good mechanical depth. Lots of optional rules that you can take or leave as you see fit. Great examples. Very pretty production values. Enough setting to get you going without overly detailing it.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: If one isn't into the setting, then I don't think the rules are enough to sell one on it. I always prefer a random adventure generator.

CONCLUSION: One other thing I didn't mention is the Lifepath Generator, which I have already as a Kickstarter backer. I love Lifepaths, and that's another nice piece to the game, one I would probably use in most games. It is still distinctly Fate while feeling notably different from other Fate games, such as Dresden Files or Agents of SWING, and that's a good thing. I don't remotely regret backing this Kickstarter, thanks to both the turnaround time of the product and the quality of it, and can't wait to see what's coming in the line (well, I know Mass Combat Rules are coming, and that's awesome). In the aftermath of the extremely successful Fate Core Kickstarter, folks have been concerned that there's becoming a D20-like glut of cheap cash-in products, but I really don't believe that's the case here. A lot of care and effort went into the book and it shows. If you like martial arts films and you aren't already deeply locked into Wu Xing or Feng Shui, try Tianxia...it's like Fate kicked you in the mouth.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/06/tommys-take-o-
n-tianxia-blood-silk-jade.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade
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Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 21:29:41
WHAT WORKS: The book is chock full of examples, within the episode guide and outside of it, making the system easier to understand than, perhaps, any other incarnation of Cortex Plus. They squeezed a LOT of customization options out of the Firefly universe, broadening the scope nicely. The Episode Guide is the best I have ever seen in a licensed RPG, worth reading even if you know the series by heart. The most "traditional" feel a Cortex Plus game has had yet, which should help make it more accessible.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: No real treatment of Reavers, I guess? If the print version doesn't have an index, that's going to be rough in a book this size. I could have went in for a Random Episode Generator.

CONCLUSION: The clearest, most concise version of Cortex Plus yet, with no real complaints on my part. The episode guide is an epic thing of beauty, and I could see someone using this as a "gateway" to Cortex Plus and walking folks "back" to other Cortex Plus games once they grasp the basics off of this. I'll admit, I like Firefly, but the idea of a Firefly campaign doesn't fire me up, until I see *just how much* they were able to cram into this book. They even managed to squeeze in playing an Alliance Operative! I'm not really sure how much material they have to expand the gaming universe with, but given how tight and complete Smallville and Leverage were (*sniff*, poor Marvel Heroic, *sniff*), I don't know if that's a bad thing to create a "basically all in one" Firefly RPG. I give it a pretty high recommendation for gaming in the 'Verse, for sure.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/06/tommys-take-o-
n-firefly-roleplaying-game.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
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Dungeon World
Publisher: Sage Kobold Productions
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2014 07:02:14
WHAT WORKS: Holy smokes...talk about taking the World Engine and running with it. These guys clearly have a fondness for D&D tropes, because you don't write a 400 page book about emulating D&D tropes in a different game system without having some kind of fondness for it. Again, speaking from experience, the World Engine does work pretty well, so long as you're not afraid to improvise. The bestiary is impressive and covers a LOT of ground (not surprising, given the context of the game). Lots and lots of explanations.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: They may have updated it since then, but the PDF I've got had some clickable bookmarks and page numbers that went back to the first page instead of where they were supposed to go. This is still going to be an exhausting game if you can't improvise well (or your group just doesn't want to play along).

CONCLUSION: This is D&D for folks who don't want to play D&D. If you like the D&D tropes but want something lighter and more free flowing, this is a really good choice. If there's something that isn't quite clicking with the game, some folks made a Dungeon World Beginner's Guide as well that'll help you out. Given my experiences with tremulus, I'm inclined to consider Dungeon World for my group's eventual visit to Ravenloft, though part of me really just wants to go into an open setting and see what happens. It covers a TON of ground...before turning around and giving enough advice and examples for you to tinker with it however you need to in order to fill out the game you want to play. Adding it to the short list of games I want to get to the table sooner, rather than later.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/01/tommys-take-o-
n-dungeon-world.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon World
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Shaintar: Legends Arise
Publisher: Evil Beagle Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2014 12:21:37
WHAT WORKS: Even if you have no desire to play Shaintar, if you're running a fantasy game in Savage Worlds, there's some heavy duty stuff to strip-mine here. At least a few Edges will make their way into my Savage Midnight game, and maybe even a couple of the Setting Rules. A lot of it feels very familiar, sure, but there's a lot of cool tweaks (like the Korindians having their own martial art), and the ready made excuses to put folks together (like Grayson's Gray Rangers). I would also be doing the book an injustice if I failed to point out that it's gorgeous, with an absolutely amazing cover by Tomasz Tworek. Did I mention there's not a laundry list of "More Powerful Than Your PCs" NPCs to have to explain your way around? Although, they may be coming in the next book for all I know. (See? Told you I'm not in the loop.)

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The Talisman Studios version had a really sweet random adventure generator that used cards that this one lacked. Not that I won't just swipe that from that book, of course...but YOU don't have access to it. In MY copy of the PDF, there were still a lot of "see page XXX" left, which may have been corrected by now (and which will hopefully be corrected by print for sure). The information for the setting itself gets painted in pretty broad strokes, which some folks are going to hate and some folks are going to love. Given that I'm just really getting started with one Savage Worlds fantasy game, I doubt I'll get to actually run Shaintar myself anytime soon.

CONCLUSION: For Pete's Sake, at least get the Player's Guide so you can rip liberally for your own Savage Worlds fantasy games. Then if it looks good enough, there's the full version of the book and the Kickstarter to consider. I love a lot of the tinkering Sean did with the Savage Worlds rules, and I seriously cannot wait to see what happens with Legends Unleashed and how it opens up magic to fit an "epic high fantasy" feel.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2013/07/tommys-take-o-
n-shaintar-legends-arise.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shaintar: Legends Arise
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Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay (PDF)
Publisher: Small Niche Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2014 22:07:56
WHAT WORKS: The bulk of the information is stat-free, so it is totally usable in just about any fantasy game, not just Labyrinth Lord, with virtually no problem. A great balance of detail and GM interpretation is presented as well. The fact that SNG not only allows, but encourages, other publishers to use the city is cool as well. And oh, dear God...I love random tables. Plus, it's Pay What You Want. Literally no reason not to check it out.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I am a big fan of the slightly Ravenloft-ish gothic horror vibe to the Small Niche Games adventures, and that vibe is almost completely absent from the Guidebook, which is a little disappointing.

CONCLUSION: As my eyes drift back more and more towards D&D and D&Desque games, The Chronicles of Amherth and the surrounding adventures all look very appealing to me, and The City of Dolmvay would be a pretty great jumping off point for that, as I have no issue going low magic. The random tables are great, and the history has a lot of callbacks to the earlier adventures in the series. It's pretty much recommended for any GM who is running a retroclone or any fantasy RPG on the lower end of the magic/power spectrum, especially since you can set the price (and for those who don't get how that works, you can "buy" it for nothing, then rebuy it for what you think is a fair price). Another great outing from Small Niche Games.

For my full review, please visit http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2014/05/tommys-take-o-
n-guidebook-to-city-of.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Guidebook to the City of Dolmvay (PDF)
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