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Red Cross Nepal Charity Bundle [BUNDLE]
Publisher: Point of Insanity Game Studio
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2015 11:11:57
Thank you, Point of Insanity Game Studios, for putting together this bundle and making it both easy and pleasurable to donate to a worthy cause - the Red Cross is already out there helping the people of Nepal!

(Note: purchased with my own money, not a Featured Reviewer freebie!)

Product reviews to follow shortly...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Red Cross Nepal Charity Bundle [BUNDLE]
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Dark Heresy: Church of the Damned
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2015 08:21:02
This adventure is the second part of The Apostasy Gambit trilogy, which pits Acolytes against a conspiracy buried deep within the Imperial Church. If you have already played the first part, The Black Sepulcher, the Acolytes should have discovered that the next stage in uncovering this conspiracy is to investigate a very senior churchman, but if you haven't and do not intend to other ways of presenting them with the information that they need are provided. The adventure will take them to some fascinating (and, of course, dangerous) places, and involves both investigation and combat aplenty. They'll need to poke around a cathedral (another cathedral if you've already played The Black Sepulcher!), an underground complex and a spaceship out in the black before everything comes to a climax in a tomb...

The adventure breaks down into three phases. The first seems straightforwards enough, checking up on that senior clergyman by visiting his cathedral, ostensibly to look at relics. This bit is quite free-form, with the Acolytes able to explore the place as they see fit and hopefully gaining the information that they need.

Things then get a bit more hairy, as their investigations lead them to an underhive swarming with rival gangs. Bloodshed will be inevitable as they seek the person they need to speak with, although again this part of the adventure is free-form, letting the Acolytes handle the situation as they see fit as they roam the subterranean setting.

Once they have gleaned the final piece of information that they need, the final part of the adventure involves a space voyage to visit the tomb of a saint... and that's when all hell really breaks loose. The adventure is quite dangerous, so notes are provided on how to work replacement characters into the story at various points.

Throughout, evocative and atmospheric descriptions are provided for the places to be visited and the people to be encountered there, with many individuals receiving detailed write-ups so that you can play them convincingly as they interact with the Acolytes. The vivid richness of it all makes locations and inhabitants really come alive. There are also trouble-shooting notes to help you keep things on track - there's a lot for the Acolytes to find out including several crucial clues along the way that they need to discover to reach the next stage of the adventure, so hints as to how to deal with them missing them are useful! Likewise, events in the underhive culminate in a massive pitched battle and there is good guidance on how to control this and deal with all possible outcomes.

Overall, this is another exciting adventure that should grab your players' imaginations, thrusting their characters deep into the intrigues and violence that hover around the Imperial Church and the work of the Inquisition.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Church of the Damned
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Dark Heresy: The Black Sepulcher
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2015 08:44:33
This adventure is the first part of The Apostasy Gambit trilogy, but it works quite well as a stand-alone adventure, although you might want to tweak the final revelations to suit whatever you will be doing next, as they lead into the next part, The Church of the Damned. As you can imagine from the names, it centres about evil lurking at the heart of religious institutions which the Acolytes will have to uncover and thwart if peace and order are to be maintained.

There's a good backstory to help the GM understand what is going on, suffice to say that like so many things, it all began with well-meaning but misguided individuals who wanted to save, rather than destroy, the Calixis Sector. The adventure itself breaks down into four major sections.

The first part sees the Acolytes involved in regular Inquisition activity, sent to raid the estate of a noble who has gone to the bad and amassed a whole load of dangerous texts and artefacts... one of which should lead them to realise that they need to visit a place called the Haematite Cathedral, where an even greater evil lurks and must be eradicated. It starts almost in media res, with little time for more than a quick visit to the armoury to gear up before the party finds itself leaping out of a Valkyrie transport with grav-chutes, crashing through a glass roof as the raid begins. Notes for scaling combat encounters are provided to accomodate various levels of characters, and other advice is provided as appropriate to help you keep things on track.

The rest of the adventure, which is fairly free-form in nature, covers the exploration of the Haematite Cathedral and investigation of what's actually happening there. It's set up so that the Acolytes can choose their own approach and route through the place, with plenty of activity, events and discoveries awaiting them whichever way they turn. Eventually, climactic events will ensue leading them to discover terrible dark secrets... secrets that leave death and destruction in their wake.

The adventure mixes investigation and combat well, with plenty of activity to keep the Acolytes on their toes. As well as the central theme of secrets to be discovered, it also deals with moral corruption, ill-advised alliances and sheer desperation. The discoveries to be made are spectacular and awe-inspiring if well-handled, and the resources provided should enable you to describe them appropriately.

There's an impressive Appendix of hand-outs and maps, although some are a bit jumbled and the page borders remain - these rather spoil the illusion and you may want to cut the various documents and maps out (if you are using print-outs from the PDF - just what you do with a print version is left up to you, most people don't like ripping pages out of a book).

Overall it is an exciting adventure from start to finish, one that should give the Acolytes a real sense of discovery, of making progress as they investigate... and a good lead-in to the next events you have in store for them.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: The Black Sepulcher
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Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/28/2015 09:00:54
If your objective is the prevention of heresy, it's worth while being sure about the truths you seek to protect. This work looks at the core faith of the Imperium: belief in the immortal God-Emperor. This is led by the Adeptus Ministorum, or Ecclesiarchy - the priests who minister to the faithful and spread the word across the galaxy. Whether you intend for the characters to interact with the faithful and their religious leaders or want to run a game in which they take on such positions themselves, there's a wealth of information here to get you started.

The first chapter, A Million Worlds, One Emperor, sets the scene. Starting with the basics, it discusses the Imperial Creed, looking at how it developed and how the faith operates today in the 41st century with particular attention to how it is organised in the Calixis Sector. In essence, it's quite reminiscent of the role played in mediaeval Europe by the Catholic church, not just providing a belief system but serving as a controlling force establishing order.

Next, Chapter 2: Paths of the Righteous provides the game mechanical information you'll need to run characters who are part of the Ecclesiarchy - everything from new homeworlds and backgrounds to new ranks to reflect the specialist careers available. There's more too, the different slants that various people take on the common faith and how they have formed factions and cults that each put their own spin on commonly-held beliefs.

Then Chapter 3: Brides of the Emperor presents the Adepta Sororitas, or Sisters of Battle. Some may have felt a lack of good opportunities for female characters so far in this game, here is a chance for them to come into their own. Here you can read about what they do, and find all the rules necessary to create a Sister character.

In Chapter 4: Faith and Fury there are rules and game mechanics aplenty to moderate how faith works within the game. For some people, you see, faith is so strong that it manifests itself in physical effects - in game terms, these individuals have the Pure Faith Talent and can access specific faith powers. There's overlap with material in other supplements, particularly The Inquisitor's Handbook, and if you are already using those you'll have to decide if you want to mix and match them with these rules, which have been designed as a stand-alone system. If you want both, don't worry, they willl work together.

Next, Chapter 5: Reliquary provides loads of weapons, armour and gear for Ecclesiarcy members... after all, they do say that when you go to preach, take a big cudgel! It's not just weapons, though there are some quite nasty ones, this section also has devotional books, religious trinkets and much more. Or perhaps a character wants his armour decorated with religious symbols? Then there are strange servitors and somewhat more normal retainers, and services that you may wish to purchase - such as a baptism or a blessing for a weapon or person. The chapter ends with a discussion of relics and their uses.

Finally, Chapter 6: Ecclesiarcy Campaigns has a wealth of information and ideas about how to weave Ecclesiarcy themes through your campaign, as well as several senior Ecclesiarcy figures in the Calixis Sector to use as allies or enemies to your party. Learn how to make faith an integral part of your game and devise encounters and adventures with a religious theme. Despite the game's name, there's more to it than chasing down heretics and beating off aliens!

A thought-provoking book that really brings home how pervasive faith is throughout the Imperium, it makes for good reading to understand the setting further, even if you do not choose to use the rules herein, preferring to stick to 'straight' Acolytes and Inquisitors.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs
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Dark Heresy: Ascension
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/27/2015 08:54:43
Describing itself as a book about power, it is really a book about ambition - and how to empower your characters to reach even more dizzying heights than even they might have dreamed about. For this book contains the tools you need to play full Inquisitors and sets the scene in which they operate: unbridled power and freedom to act, full of politics and intrigue... and the consequences that such responsibility brings. It's a mix of solid game mechanics and insights into how to play (and game master) characters at such exalted levels.

It starts off by presenting the necessary mechanics to take characters beyond the eighth rank in their chosen career and introduces a new system of Influence to model how characters at this level wield their authority. From here it moves through various other aspects covering the transition from Acolyte to Throne Agent and beyond - skills, new career paths, psychic powers and even a visit to the armoury. These chapters give you all the information you need to make this transition happen.

The second part of the book looks more at the 'what' of the transition to power, this ascension, than the 'why' that has already been covered. Key here is a chapter on 'Serving the Inquisition' that explores the very nature of the body in which characters are aspiring to take a leading role, and the ways in which such senior individuals can exert an influence.

As Acolytes, characters serve best by following orders (however much latitude they may have in interpreting those orders and figuring out just how to accomplish the tasks they've been given). As Throne Agents they are far more independent, empowered to initiate their own missions and give rather than receive orders, working alongside (and perhaps becoming) Inquisitors rather than serving them. The whole dynamic changes. In essence, the power now available to a Throne Agent is boundless, once a situation is assessed it is up to the individuals concerned how they deal with it... and you can forget any ideas of the rule of law or due process, even though some Inquisitors like to dress up their operations with a veneer of legality. Technically, they answer only to the High Lords of Terra and the Emperor Himself, but there are many whose rank in other branches of the administration place them at a similar level, and it may be politic or expedient to treat them with respect.

Ensuing chapters focus on the Game Master, with one on how to GM at this level and the sorts of games you can run, a good collection of appropriate adversaries and finally a complete adventure, The Red Wake, to test ascended characters' mettle.

This book marks a significant advancement, both as a vehicle for characters to progress further than hitherto possible and in developing further the exposition of the setting and in particular the operation of the Inquisition. Game Masters are advised to study it well in advance of their players being ready to elevate their characters to this level, it will provide potent opportunities for them to become true movers and shakers of the 41st century.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Ascension
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From The Archives of S.P.O.O.K.Y: New Beginnings for Old Lives
Publisher: Modern Retro Gaming
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2015 10:45:21
It is 1816 in Italy, and players take on the role of children aged 10-12 recruited by the Supernatural Protectorate Order of Knighted Youth in an adventure written for Call of Cthulhu 7e (but playable with earlier versions if preferred).

The adventure opens with a prelude episode that sees a monstrous attack on a tavern, the children's parents slain and them recruited by their saviour, a knight of S.P.O.O.K.Y. They are then whisked off...

To the next few scenes some five years later, with the characters now well-advanced in their training in what seems to be S.P.O.O.K.Y.'s equivalent of Hogwarts. There are some neat incidents designed to help them develop into their specialties, which range from alchemist to doctor, engineer or huntsman and more.

Fast forward once again another five years, when they are attending a history lecture by Alexandre Dumas as they prepare for their 'graduation mission' as they progress in the Order from initiates to novices (odd, it's usually the other way around). This mission, a werewolf hunt with a twist or two, completes the adventure, ending with the characters ready-formed into a team and hopefully ready for more adventure.

It makes for a novel and interesting twist and one which might appeal to younger players. The writing is somewhat clunky in places with need of polish, but shows promise, with game mechanical details such as the various specialties available being well thought out. An encouraging beginning for a new writer, now looking forwards to the next offering.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
From The Archives of S.P.O.O.K.Y: New Beginnings for Old Lives
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you so much for your positive review, it means a whole heck of a lot to us, especially within our early stages of exposure :) Have a blessed day!
Dark Heresy: Salvation Demands Sacrifice
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2015 08:01:30
If you haven't already been overwhelmed by the wealth of material in The Radical's Handbook, here are three more Radical Career Ranks to consider... there's a lot crammed into a mere eight pages and, given that this is a freebie, it is as well-presented as material you're expected to pay for - impressive detail and care here.

First up is the Demagogue. Any religion worth its salt has some of these: people who can sway an audience with words alone, so it's useful to know how to make one within the context of Dark Heresy... even if they are often regarded as dangerous characters that must be controlled and monitored. There's a lot of potential for some fun role-playing with one of these, especially for a player who enjoys holding forth themselves.

Next is the Infil-Traitor, an unfortunate who's been captured and mindwashed into becoming a 'sleeper' assassin, triggered by a codeword or event to become a merciless killing machine. Now you might ask, where's the fun in playing that - although it's something useful for the GM to tuck away for an NPC - but the neat thing is, if you pick this you play someone whose programming is flawed and get the chance to break out of it and regain complete control of your own mind. It's not something to force on a player, and should only be attempted with mature groups who can handle this level of intensity and potential conflict... but could result in some powerful role-play if handled well.

Finally, there's the Saboteur. This is possibly a polite word for a terrorist and you again might question the place for one within Acolyte ranks. Sometimes, however, dark and terrible things have to be done in the name of light - and the ability to blow things up and cause confusion and fear often comes in handy.

Some interesting stuff here, worthy of consideration for your game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Salvation Demands Sacrifice
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Dark Heresy: The Radical's Handbook
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/23/2015 08:41:43
So, what's this? The Radical's Handbook is billed as being a sourcebook for both GMs and players, although the wise GM will make sure that he's read it first and has a chance to decide what, if any, parts the players will be allowed to read. (Ideally, that is: in the real world players can go to bookshops and may also be GMs themselves anyway!) Still, you will have to decide what is valid for your game. But I digress. Here is a wealth of character options - new origins, alternate career paths and all manner of goodies - to widen the choices available. The 'Radical' bit comes in because in fighting the evils that beset the Imperium, many Acolytes, however well-meaning, become corrupted by them or at least adopt the principle of 'fighting fire with fire' and stray somewhat from the straight and narrow path of pure devotion. There are plenty of options here for those who would model such heretical ideas in the development of their characters... and ideas, too, for the GM in laying snares for the unwary, devising NPCs and creating plots around such corruption. The road to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions, after all.

A brief Introduction is followed by a collection of flavour text pieces describing some of the dreadful things that can happen to Acolytes and others in the service of the Imperium. Perhaps this will inspire the GM, or maybe it's something the Acolytes will stumble across in some dusty archive... mysteries and discord where none should be, surely?

Next is Chapter 2: Falling From Grace. Here we find how Radicals are forged and twisted, the routes into such heresy and a whole collection of origins, background packages, alternate career ranks and elite advances for those who would follow such paths. For some it is a falling from grace, for others a gentle drift and some have always been this way, they've just proven adept at keeping their real opinions to themselves!

Chapter 3: Factions provides an array of different groups with a wealth of detail about what they believe and how they behave, whilst Chapter 4: The Shadow War is a primer on the tools and methodologies available to those who'd walk these shadowy paths and use the concepts of the enemy against them. Delve deep into the history of ideas, see how the factions evolved and decide which, if any, your character might choose. The process could provide for many an adventure in itself, so GMs may choose to limit access to this material until a given character has been seduced by a faction, then let them read more about what they have got themselves into...

Then Chapter 5: The Dark Arts provides information on sorcery and daemon weaponry - great powers indeed if you are prepared to risk your very soul by investigating and using them. All manner of dark technology here, discussed and provided with the necessary rule mechanics for those who dare to wield them. Again this is something that GMs may find useful, to use against the party or as lures to draw them astray. If that's not enough Chapter 6: The Lure of the Alien looks at the strange items and ideas that alien races bring, perhaps fledgling Radicals will find allies there even if it is just a little against the Imperial Creed to have dealings with them.

In the last part of the book, Chapter 7: The Radical Campaign looks at bringing Radical ideas into the game - perhaps the radicalisation process is one of the themes, or a bunch of Acolytes may find themselves serving a Radical Inquisitor - there's a whole host of ideas here that should set a GM's creative juices flowing. Finally, Chapter 8: Calixian Radicals presents some ready-made allies and adversaries, dangerous folk all who have crossed the line into heresy in some manner.

For the GM, Chapter 7 is essential reading if you have any thoughts about tempting your Acolytes into straying from the paths of righteousness. After all, in a game that is all about the evil that abounds in the setting, all characters should at least be at risk of being led astray - and some will want to stray without need of leading. An interesting read, plenty of food for thought as campaigns are devised - and providing the tools that you will need to put such machinations into action.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: The Radical's Handbook
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Dark Heresy: Dead Stars: Haarlock Legacy III
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/21/2015 09:12:41
This is the final part of the Haarlock's Legacy campaign, and works best if you've already played through the preceeding two instalments. It can be run without, but you may find yourself doing an awful lot of explaining to get the Acolytes up to speed.

This adventure is quite different from the earlier ones, sending the Acolytes on a journey across the icy world Mara, delving deep into a derelict mining station and even deeper into the darkness that is Rogue Trader Haarlock's legacy with, of course, competing factions also after whatever there is to discover by those courageous (or foolhardy) enough to follow in his footsteps, and the future of the entire Calixis Sector hangs in the balance... Epic stuff indeed, a fitting climax to the entire campaign.

Fortunately, there's plenty of support to help you paint the sweeping images that will make the various places visited come alive in your players' minds as they battle in space, trek through icy wastes and steamy swamps and more in their quest: from suggestions and hints to 'read aloud' text, there are many resources at your fingertips. Like its predeeding adventures, this one will benefit from thorough study and preparation before you begin to play. It is also worth weaving in other material from the rest of your campaign, former enemies perhaps and other references to events in their past, thus making it more personal to the Acolytes.

The Introduction also provides a handy run-down of what the characters ought to already know about what is going on as well as providing other clues and lore about the Legacy that you may wish to provide to them. There's also advice on how to bring new characters in: the adventure is quite deadly and you may not finish it with the same cast that you began with! And of course, finally and for your eyes only, there is the explanation of what is really going on...

Next comes a succinct GM Briefing that lays out how the adventure should proceed. It comes in three main stages, but you will need to provide a suitable 'bridge' from whatever it is the Acolytes are doing immediately before the adventure begins (hints are provided to get things off to a flying start, however). This section also discusses the various rival factions and other adversaries that they will have to contend with... and other dangers, such as extreme cold, that they will encounter. Finally there is a detailed description of the ice station on Mara that they will have to explore.

The three sections of the adventure proper follow, each provided with copious detail to enable you to make it come alive for your players. Throughout, there is plenty going on to keep them occupied beginning with an unprecedentedly generous gift of equipment and a cinematic space battle before they even reach Mara. Once there, of course, things do not slacken off and there are artefacts to discover and secrets into which they must delve to find the answers that they seek. This is one adventure that will live on in memory far after the last die is rolled.

It is not an easy adventure to run or to play, there is so much going on, so much information to keep hold of, but it is this complexity that lends it a richness and vividness that makes it into something special... and throughout there are hints and tips to aid you in making it all happen in a coherent manner. Strange devices, warped realities, nothing will ever seem quite the same.

Those Acolytes who survive, never mind triumph - and both are possible if hard - will feel that they have really accomplished something, even if it is something they might find hard to recount to future generations. They will have earned their way to higher office, gained a formidable reputation... and their players will have enjoyed a game to remember!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Dead Stars: Haarlock Legacy III
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Dark Heresy: Damned Cities: Haarlock Legacy II
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2015 08:23:42
This, the second part of the Haarlock's Legacy trilogy of adventures (although it can be played on its own if preferred), is a murder-mystery set in the city of Sinophia Magma on the planet Sinophia. A decaying corrupt city, the format is designed to allow the Acolytes to investigate when and where they like with other intrigues unfolding about their ears - these may or may not be connected with the task in hand. To this end, there's a detailed gazetteer of Sinophia Magna and loads of detail about local personalities and the intrigues they are involved in as well as all the necessary information to run the murder investigation, thus providing a rich setting with a lot going on... oh, and if they fail to solve the murders, it's likely the whole city will erupt into bitter civil war. And there's a trapped demon trying to get out as well. No pressure then.

The adventure itself is made up of three stages. The first introduces them to the city and the trail of gruesome murders they are tasked with investigating. In the second part, events swirl about them as they are caught up in growing conflict between the underworld and local law enforcement (the State Enforcers) - each seem as bad as the other - and in the final part matters come to a head and there are difficult choices to be made. Throughout, there are scheduled events and encounters which you can use as appropriate in response to the Acolytes' investigations and movements around the city.

There's plenty of advice for the GM, both in a specific section on running murder mysteries and throughout the entire module, as well as copious detail on the city itself and the people to be found there. If you enjoy hectic city-based adventures with a myriad of intersecting plot threads, this is worth considering for that alone. Clues are well signposted with suggestions on how to make them obvious to the Acolytes whilst letting them feel that they are rooting them out for themselves (always a challenge in an investigative adventure. This is definitely an adventure where prior preparation and thorough knowledge of the plot and setting will stand the GM in good stead - you can then let your players loose and react to whatever they decide to do seamlessly.

The gazetteer is a wonderful resource which will support future visits to Sinophia and spawns plenty more plot ideas as you read through it - it's something you may well want to come back to after this adventure has been completed. It's very atmospheric and provides plenty of tools to enable you to set the scene well for your players. To add to this, there is in-depth background material on the various factions and other factors at play within Sinophia Magna - even if there were no murders to investigate, there is plenty for the Acolytes to get involved in! There's a real feel of a living - albeit decrepit, corrupt and decaying - place here, it is no mere backdrop for the adventure's core plotline.

It all makes for a fascinating and memorable adventure that brings home the real nature of the Warhammer 40K setting, the air of grandeur and decay is all-pervasive; whilst the adventure itself is replete with twists and turns to keep the most avid dectective happy. Thoroughly enjoyable from both sides of the GM screen (at least, I think it would be fun to play... it certainly is a delight to run).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Damned Cities: Haarlock Legacy II
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Dark Heresy: Tattered Fates
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2015 09:26:12
Designed to be the opener of the Haarlock's Legacy campaign (although it could be run as a stand-alone adventure), this adventure comes in three parts which begins in survival horror, then sweeps the party through investigation and intrigue to the need to fight for their lives. Faint-hearted Acolytes need not apply!

The adventure can be used to start off a new group of Acolytes, but notes are provided for those who wish to use existing characters. It's based on a planet called Quaddis and is based around long-held secrets of the Haarlock rogue trader family and the lengths some people will go to get their hands on them. There's plenty of background on Quaddis which is an unspoilt pastoral world given over to noble estates, a complete pervesion of the orderly colonisation process handled adroitly by an early Haarlock. Even the so-called city that is its capital, Xicarph, is more a collection of palaces and town-houses than a real city. It is home to many pleasures and host to plenty of intrigue... and dark secrets lie beneath. Xicarph is also home to a great carnival, the Festival of Tattered Fates, that occurs at the time of a bizarre astronomical conjunction in the home system. The central point of this, which fortunately only happens once every few decades, is a period of darkness during which what rule of law there is here is completely suspended, anything goes.

The action begins in media res, the Acolytes being thrust abruptly into a situation where their only objective is to survive... some players may be none too happy, but the very shock of the opening is best presented as is to get the full flavour both of the opening scene and the rest of the adventure. The Game Master is advised to read the adventure thoroughly in preparation for running it: there's lots going on and plenty of scope for allowing characters free reign in their reactions, to which the GM will then have to respond. Even if they feel railroaded by the opening, the Acolytes have plenty of options to find their own responses to the situation, and there's plenty of detail provided to enable the GM to deal with whatever they come up with.

Needless to say, once the Acolytes have escaped their fate, that dread carnival is in full swing, and they'll have to navigate Xicarph through its chaos as they seek the answers they need. This again is quite free-format, with a whole bunch of events and NPCs that they can encounter but no set sequence or timelimits imposed. Hopefully they'll find out where they need to be when darkness falls before it actually does! Amidst this swirl of events, it may be difficult for the Acolytes to figure out what is actually going on, the GM will need to be well-prepared and ready to gently steer them into finding the answers should they begin to flounder.

The climax of the adventure is, of course, the falling of darkness as the astronomcal conjunction reaches its height. In a weirdly-warped estate that has at its heart the mysterious Steel Clock, they should find their answers... but need to be prepared to fight for them as of course they are not the only people on that quest.

By its nature, this adventure can be sprung on existing Acolytes whenever you please, or can be used to start a new campaign in dramatic fashion. However it is approached, those who survive will appreciate the sheer heights - or depths - to which nobles can attain, and have glimpses of some of the stranger things underlying the most established. A fine cinematic caper with scope for plenty drama and excitement and, if played as part of the Haarlock's Legacy trilogy, one which leads to a growing realisation that even greater horrors might be unleashed.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Tattered Fates
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The Sinking: Animation
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2015 06:23:59
Whilst this adventure starts in an inn, it's not the usual cliche of a bunch of adventurers being approached by a stranger with a job or a treasure map for them... well, not quite. For a start, it's the landlord and he needs help with a gremlin problem. Up for a spot of extermination?

The Great City, in which the adventure is set, has suffered a cataclysm, a giant sink hole has appeared. The adventures in The Sinking series are all in some way linked to this event, but can be played in any order or as stand-alone adventures, rather than as a true adventure path. This one is no different, with a plague of annoying events rapidly escalating into something quite dangerous. Gremlins are the least of the characters' worries.

The adventure is well-paced, with the initial contract to deal with gremlins developing into a mysterious event that leaves all manner of items, including street furniture, animated and causing trouble. Chaos erupts swiftly, and the party is on hand to deal with it - if they can but figure out what is going on. Interestingly, you are given two explanations: one to use if playing this as a one-off adventure and a variant if you are using as part of a linked sequence with other adventures in The Sinking series.

It's a neat short adventure, occupying but an evening in-character and likewise playable in a similar timescale. The chaos can prove entertaining as well as exciting, and ought to keep the characters on their toes. It is well supported with maps of the inn and surrounding area, and with good descriptions of encounters, and a couple of new things - a construct and a magical item - that may prove of use in your own adventures. This should provide for an amusing evening's play.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sinking: Animation
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Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/02/2015 09:04:09
This work is a lot more than a bestiary of assorted 'monsters' to throw at your Acolytes - although if that's what you are after you will find plenty combat-fodder for them. There's a lot about the nature of threat that they will face as they serve the Emperor, things that will widen your appreciation of the dark and grim nature of the setting and help you bring it to life in your shared alternate reality.

Divided into chapters based on monster type, there are in-character commentaries by Inquisitor Felroth Gelt of the Ordo Malleus - considered very knowledgable about the Calixus Sector but somewhat morally dubious: readers are advised caution - and each monster entry comes with suggestions and plot hooks to help the Game Master bring them into the plotline seamlessly. The final chapter takes this further, being a discourse on the use of adversaries, including scaling notes and additional rules that may be of use.

The first chapter, Mutation, begins with a discussion on what mutation actually is and how it is regarded by mainstream Imperium society - an outward form of inward corruption. Seems they've never heard of genetics! In places where they are not exterminated outright, most mutants face a life of dangerous drudgery as part of an underclass of serfs and indentured labourers. We then read about some notable mutant individuals as well as types of mutant that might be encountered, all with ideas of how they might turn up in your game to best effect.

Next, Chapter 2: Forbidden Science explores the use - or is that misuse? - of tech-science leading to the blasphemous experiments of tech-heresy. Some of these monsters are the results of such experiments, others are the experimenters themselves. Hideous fusions of man and machine are poised ready to rampage across your table, the saddest thing is that often the original experiments were actually attempts to improve the lot of humankind rather than to threaten it. This section in particular demonstrates the deeply-embedded religious nature of the game, that your Acolytes stand not just for 'truth' or 'justice' or 'fairness' but as bastions against the encroachment of evil against the light that is the God-Emperor.

This is followed by Chapter 3: Death Worlds. These are planets that are too dangerous to support much in the way of human settlement yet for all the danger they pose they are often the source of valuable resources. Dangers can be anything from the very environment to vicious wildlife and malevolent plants; and several well-developed death worlds are presented here to use directly or as inspiration for creating your own.

Then comes Chapter 4: Vermin and Predators. There's plenty of those around! There's a short discussion about how to use them to effect in your game, then a good ten of them are presented in gory detail ready to use. Each, of course, comes complete with descriptive text, illustration, stat block, plot hooks and Gelt's notes all aimed at empowering you to bring them to life as vivid threats to your Acolytes.

Moving on we come to Chapter 5: Xenos. This section provides seven well-detailed alien races as well as notes about utilising aliens in general and plot hooks for involving all seven (preferably not at the same time!). Whilst the Imperium views Xenos races as a threat, the feeling is often mutual, especially amongst those that once lived in the area now designated the Calixis Sector but who were driven out. An immense amount of detail is packed in here, enabling you to use these races with confidence.

The last 'monster' chapter, Chapter 6: Forces of Chaos explores the role of chaos and its agents as an ever-present dire threat to the Imperium, indeed to life itself. There are notes about how this threat can be brought to bear as well as eleven fully-described agents of chaos to bring into the game. Adventure seeds and realistic commentaries and notes accompany stat blocks, illustrations and descriptions.

Finally, Chapter 7: Adversaries discusses the core nature of Dark Heresy and indeed Warhammer 40K itself: unending war. But this is more than mere combat, dark and bloody: it's a story of survival and of hope, the hope of preserving the Imperium, imperfect though it may be, against the darkness that could so easily engulf it. Moreover, in running this game you don't just want brawl after brawl, you want to create and share stories that you and your players will remember long after the dice have been put away. Not all the foes they will face are as monsterous as the ones in this book, of course: many will be men just like them but with differing opinions and allegiences. There's discussion of balance, ways in which to face a few Acolytes with what appear to be overwhelming odds yet giving them a fighting chance. The use of fear of the unknown to effect, the involvement of the alien and the horrific - there are plenty of ideas for you to consider as you plan adventure or campaign. How to make things cinematic, how to let individuals shine, how to handle character death should it happen, and more for you to chew on as you actually run those adventures is to be found here too. Of all that I have read so far in the Dark Heresy range, this is perhaps the best bit about writing plots and running games that I have found so far and it will repay careful study.

Everyone needs a ready stable of monsters when running a game, and the final chapter alone makes this an essential work for every Game Master's shelf (or hard drive).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Creatures Anathema
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The Sinking: Doom Golem Rising
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2015 10:09:41
Intended as the climax to the entire saga of The Sinking - a series of stand-alone yet linked adventures set in the Great City - this could also be run as a one-off adventure although it might be a bit confusing and would certainly involve a fair bit of explanation and even some handwaving to convince the characters that they are where you'll need them to be to begin the adventure. It would be much better if they are familiar with the Great City and have experienced at least some of the earlier adventures, that way they should have a handle on what is going on!

The adventure starts in media res with the characters stepping through a dimensional gate. From there, they have an underground complex to explore and some evil creatures to deal with, interestingly there is scope for interaction as well as combat... they can even be convinced to be helpful! The complex is described vividly and as they explore they should gain some understanding of what makes its denizens tick, and just how much danger previous visitors pose to surface dwellers particularly those living in the Great City.

As the adventure proceeds, the characters will be able to gather information and equipment necessary to defeat those who created the sinkhole in the first place before coming up through it to find them on the surface busy announcing that they are the heroes of the day... leading to a climactic fight between two 'doom golems' in the finest mecha style! The Great City won't forget this day in a hurry.

Throughout the adventure, there are references to earlier adventures in the series, which are explained well enough for those who have not played them although they'll work better if the characters have their earlier experiences to draw upon. There's plenty of scope for political double-dealing, or at least the exposure thereof, so players who prefer intrigue to brawling will also have plenty to do, whilst those who revel in combat will have a blast!

You ought to get several sessions of high-octane adventure out of this one, especially enjoyable if you have played at least some of the preceding adventures and can follow the strands that have led to this point. It's a cracker!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Sinking: Doom Golem Rising
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Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/30/2015 08:48:52
If you are an Inquisitor, life gets pretty boring without a few heresies, cults and other such issues to investigate. This book goes a way towards alleviating the boredom, providing the Game Master with plenty of foul cults that hide, often in plain sight, throughout the Imperium emperilling the lives and very souls of honest citizens. There's a wealth of information (some of it even true) about what these cults do and believe.

The book is divided into several sections, each dealing with a different aspect of the problems your Acolytes may be sent to deal with. Heretics, mutants, psykers, xenos (aliens), and daemons can be found here, with all the legends and conspiracies that have grown up around them, liberally bestrewn with ideas about how to put them to use in your game. These first few chapters are followed by a chapter on the enemy within, looking at dissent, misunderstanding and strife in the very organisations designed to protect the Imperium. It's not all about weird beings and religious debate, of course, and there's a chapter jam-packed with crime lords and villains as well.

So, Chapter 1: Shadows of the Tyrant Star presents a collection of fragmented prophesies and legends about a rogue dark star that used to, or so it is said, float through the Calixis sector, dragging fear and terror and destruction in its wake. Much takes the form of reports and scrawled notes, suitable to present to your players - although you will have to mess around a bit to take them out of the distinctive page edgings if you are printing from the PDF, and if you own the 'dead tree' version, even a photocopy may not give as full a flavour as might be desired. It would be an enhancement to provide straight PDF versions for GMs to print out for use in play. Some suggestions are made as to how you might weave them into your plots or even base a whole campaign around this star.

Chapter 2: Hereticus then looks at the threats posed by heretics, mutants and psykers. Of course, in an Imperium ruled by an Emperor who is also a god, heresy can take the form of any kind of dissent - pursuing forbidden scientific research, say, political corruption or even being over-vocal in support of progress, it's not always a matter of having got your doctrine wrong or gone off worshipping other deities instead of dutifully following the state religion. Different kinds of cults are discussed, along with some of the rarer abilities some psykers manifest (mainly intended for antagonists but you may wish to allow more advanced Acolytes access to carefully-selected ones). A major heresy called the Temple Tendency is gone into in considerable detail ready for you to use as an underlying plot, background or even a major adversary, depending on your needs and wishes. And if that were not enough, there's another bunch called The Logicians. They seek progress through scientific method and rational analysis rather than religious faith. Again there's plenty of detail on them, as well as on the Pale Throng and the Night Cult, other mischief-makers with which to contend .

Then Chapter 3: Xenos explores the alien threat with, again, plenty of detail about what lurks in the blackest reaches of space and hungers to devour or corrupt the honest citizens it is the Acoloytes' duty to protect. More subtle than ravaging war-fleets, the threats are many and diverse, and there's plenty of scope for missions against them with the information provided here. This is followed by Chapter 4: Malleus, where chaos raises its ugly head to cast a malign influence where it may, the deadly interaction between humanity and the warp. Survival is impossible without it, yet the threat is immense and must be guarded against at all times. Sorcery, dark relics and more are to be found here, again with commentary about how they may be used to effect in your game.

Next, Chapter 5: The Enemy Within is all about dissent that could lead to open strife within the very power structures of the Imperium itself. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchers?) Perhaps your Acolytes will be that bastion that stands firm. There's an overview of the causes of conflict, dispute, and factionalism within the authorities and powers that govern the Imperium, an opening of a lid on self-interest, territorialism and other blights that even those involved may not recognise as being against the interests of the greater good within the Imperium they honestly think that they serve.

Chapter 6: The Hunted presents the Most Wanted list, a fine array of transgressors for eager Acolytes to track down and bring to book, along with notes on villain design and the use of the nemesis. Plenty of good advice here for Game Masters to absorb as they plot away.

Finally, there's a scenario ready to play, pitting Acolytes against the dark forces that have gathered to misappropriate the legacy of a Rogue Trader. Called The House of Dust and Ash, there is plenty to keep your Acolytes busy, all presented clearly. Recommended for more experienced Acolytes of the 4th or 5th career rank, it comes in four main parts with plenty of optional encounters and room for expansion as you see fit. There's plenty of advice and scope for stamping your own mark on proceedings... and I'm wishing I hadn't read it now, it would have been fun to play!

Overall, this is an excellent resource, full of information to help you craft adventures that fit the ambience, the feel, of this setting. The Acolytes may not thank you for reading this, but their players will!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods
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