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Fistful o' Zombies
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/10/2017 12:30:25

A Fistful O'Zombies is a sourcebook which presents a fusion of zombies with classic Wild West themes. Chapter 1: Go West opens with a standard but well-told tale of a bounty-hunter in Texas, a tale that turns south when he bites off rather more than he can chew... then comes an Introduction that explains that zombies are all very well when you have a Uzi or a flame-thrower, but when all you have is a six-shooter, well, that separates the men from the boys. Indeed, that's what the Wild West is all about (fictionally, at least, and like previous sourcebooks, we're sticking to the cinematic): personal achievement, standing up against the odds and either surviving or going down in a blaze of glory. 'The West' is defined not only by that but by geography - North America west of the Mississippi (with Mexico thrown in for good measure) and the 19th century as a time-period. This is the Wild West of the movies, not the Old West of history, however, it's worth bearing that in mind. Of course, even in the movies, there were different styles, from the 1920s white-hatted singing cowboys, through John Wayne-style gritty heroes to spaghetti westerns Clint Eastwood-style - and each of these is presented as a possible setting for your game, along with briefer notes on several themes from the 1980s onwards.

First, though, Chapter 2: The Good, the Bad, and the Dead presents an overview of Western history and the game mechanics necessary for creating appropriate characters, along with sample Archetypes. There are three eras of history to consider, firstly the Old West (1830-1865) where the land is unexplored never mind unsettled, with many strange creatures and only black powder muskets to hold them at bay. Then there's the Wild West (the main focus of this book, 1865-1900), with an explosion of settlers and the advent of more advanced weaponry; and finally the New West (1900-1930), where Indians are less of a problem but gangsters still rob banks and trains - even if they chase them with a Model T Ford rather than a horse! Towards the tail-end of this period, Prohibition kicks in with the inevitable booze-smuggling. There's an overview of history, with the Gold Rush, a war with Mexico and the American Civil War featuring large. Continuous skirmishing with American Indians, the advent of the railways and the growth of the cattle business also made their mark. The law and those who enforced it, the feuds between cowboys and sheep herders and more are also covered here. Then there are a whole bunch of rules to cover particularly Western characters and the skills they need - including using a lasso, riding a horse, fanning your revolver, engaging in showdowns (at high noon or any time of your choosing) and even getting hanged... and there's an array of appropriate weapons to choose from as well.

Chapter 3: Singing Cowboys draws its inspiration from early Hollywood depictions of the West, where implausibly good cowboys never cussed or even shot each other much, and burst into song at the drop of a (white) hat. These are the days of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans... and Champion, the Wonder Horse. In this setting, the player characters - indeed the players themselves - are encouraged to sing, and singing does grant additional effects a bit like a Dungeons & Dragons Bard's does. The party must also abide by the Law of the West, written by Gene Autry himself. There are a few other rules modifications and additions to help capture the flavour of this setting. We also learn the reason for the plague of zombies... and it's one that will bring the campaign to a juddering halt once the party figure it out, so this is a setting for a one-off game or very short campaign. Plots are based on the movies, and four are provided for you to use (and reuse). While the underlying comcept is a neat trick, it will annoy some players and bore others: consider your group with case before using this setting.

On to Chapter 4: True Grit. This setting is Westerns, John Wayne-style. Men are tough, standing no nonsense and hard to kill, they also drink hard and tend to look down on women as a 'weaker sex'... although they do get on with American Indians, at least those who are ex-Army scouts or similar. Set around 1880, there's a plausible reason for the presence of zombies and a campaign outline that starts with a normal Wild West game and introduces supernatural elements carefully, quite neat especially if you don't let on to your players that you are running All Flesh Must Be Eaten to begin with.

Next comes Chapter 5: Spaghetti with Meat, a setting that takes its inspiration from the so-called Spaghetti Westerns (think Clint Eastwood). Typical characters are hard-bitten drifters with a shady (although often unrevealed) past, the odd preacher or wise American Indian won't go amiss either. Decide for yourselves who is the good, who is the bad and who is the ugly. Set in about 1865, the reason there are zombies again is a plausible one; and this is coupled with a well-developed campaign outline to involve the party and enable them to deal with the problem - complete with notes on how to extend it beyond the specific instance of zombies that has just been dealt with.

Then, Chapter 6: Dances with Zombies is an intriguing setting in which the player characters are all American Indians, members of the Sioux tribe just after the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 (Custer's Last Stand). Starting with a detailed account of the events leading up to and during the battle, the setting then diverges from history with Sitting Bull conducting a dark ritual that raises the 7th Cavalry (Custer's outfit) from the dead... that wasn't quite what he was aiming for, of course, and once he realises that they are as much of a danger to the Red Man as they are to the White Man, the race is on to deal with this menace. There's plenty of background on Sioux life and customs to help you set the scene, and a detailed campaign outline to get you started.

Finally, Chapter 7: Other Settings provides just that: several other settings complete with brief notes on what sort of adventures you might run there. Perhaps Bloody Muddy, set on a 1870s paddle steamer full of gamblers... or perhaps you'd rather be a bunch of US Cavalry in Here Comes the Cavalry. Adventurous types who don't mind the cold can go North to Alaska. Each has its own rationale for why there are zombies around. There are also conversion notes if you want to use the material herein with Deadlands (or the other way around) - an interesting touch bearing in mind that the creator of Deadlands also wrote this book!

Another great sourcebook, a fusion of two cinema staples, zombies and Westerns, that should appeal to fans of both. Explore new horizons and kill anything that doesn't have a pulse, pardner!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fistful o' Zombies
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Pulp Zombies
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2017 07:47:53

Pulp Zombies, like Enter the Zombie, looks at a movie-fusion approach, this time mixing classic zombie films with the pulp genre. It opens with a fairly massive piece of fiction, The Night Chicago Died, which unleashes the undead amidst mobsters on Chicago's streets. Chapter 1: Setting the Stage then chips in with an attempt to define what 'pulp' actually means, looking at the concept of larger-than-life adventures in the style of those of the 1920s to 1940s... while it's hard to pin it down in words, most people have a general idea of what pulp means. Precise chronology is not important, double-fisted action and excitement are.

Chapter 2: Pulpy Flesh continue in this vein, continuing to define, or at least give an impression of, what 'pulp' actually means - high stakes, thrilling locations and above all, action and high adventure. Heroes are, well, heroic and never hesitate, they just know what is right without agonising over ethical choices... and villians are just evil, not misunderstood. There's some background about the Pulp Era, based firmly in America, with everything from sample prices to favourite entertainments and daily life being discussed (and a reminder that although ethnic minorities and women had a rough deal in real life, there's no need to replicate that in your games). Franklin D. Roosevelt is in the White House, the radio is a common form of entertainment in the home, movies were booming and the railroad is already declining in the face of the automobile... and everyone's fascinated by aircraft. That done, attention is turned to the all-important business of creating Pulp Hero characters, with a new Character Type to facilitate this. There are also suggestions for building a party - in the movies, most heroes act alone, or at most have a few sidekicks, but this doesn't work so well in a role-playing game. Gadgets and supernatural powers are also covered and the chapter ends with a few Archetypes ready to be played or to be used as a source of inspiration.

Next, Chapter 3: Hollow Earth presents the first of three fully-developed settings. This is interesting in that there's a distinct campaign arc, beginning with the party involved in seeking out ancient artefacts... without a zombie in sight! They emerge later in a series of devastating earthquakes, and then the fight is on to get rid of them and set things straight, which involves a journey to the centre of the earth. There's a lot of background explaining not just what is going on but why, and plenty of NPCs from archaeologists to members of a mysterious society that keep popping up - but are they a hinderance or a help? Loads of resources here concerning artefacts and where to seek them out and much, much more... but although it's not mentioned, the thought occurs that this might best be run with the players unaware that you're running All Flesh Must Be Eaten: present it as a pulp adventure run using the Unisystem ruleset and let the emergence of zombies come as a complete surprise!

In Chapter 4: Zombies Inc. we get a completely different setting: here a criminal mastermind has worked out how to raise zombies and then organised them to create an unprecidented crimewave, with the heroes working to put an end to the undead crime spree across America (and indeed the world). There's an abundance of information of the (on the face of it) unlikely crime lord behind the zombies and several location-based scenario outlines to get you going, as well as notes for further adventures and on how to wrap things up in a satisfactory manner once the crime lord is brought down. Classic stuff in a Doc Savage vein.

Chapter 5: They Want Our Women takes a different tack yet again. Basically, the Martians have landed. It's very much Mars Attacks! in style, and should only be played tongue-in-cheek... with Martians being classified by head size (the larger the more important, of course) what do you expect? Strictly speaking, this isn't a 'zombie' setting, but the Martians are bizarre enough and more importantly pulp enough for that not to matter too much.

Finally, Chapter 6: Scattered Pulp provides a host of other setting outlines, in far less detail than the preceeding three, which you may explore at your leisure. All piulp in style, there's plenty to keep you happy whether Chinatown is crawling with undead, film noir detective stories and more.

The fusion of zombies and pulp is a marriage made in heaven, or at least in some deranged place that makes for excellent role-playing ideas. There's something for just about everyone here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pulp Zombies
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Enter the Zombie
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2017 12:53:36

This sourcebook for All Flesh Must Be Eaten takes the 'Hong Kong Action Theatre' approach to zombies. Diving straight in with Chapter 1: Corpses Rising, we begin with ominous fiction that sets the scene - a corpse used in a foul ritual to unleash a demon assassin to wreak vengeance. It's an excellent story, perhaps a shade long if you are itching to get to the meat of the book.

Then comes the Introduction, which explains how this book mixes up the themes of monster movie (especially, of course, the zombie ones) and 'chop-sockey' style martial arts movies. These remarks are followed by Chapter 2: Tao of the Dead, which provides the necessary game mechanics to mix in martial arts and more esotetic stuff like chi powers, with an eye to both the living and zombies having access to them. Most people probably pick up this book expecting to have their characters destroy zombies with dramatic kung-fu moves... but what if the zombies know them as well? Here we find resources for building martial artist characters from the ground up - for remember, Grasshopper, that these skills must be learned and practised - and also for practitioners of gun-fu. Thus we have two new Character Types, the Martial Artist and the Shooter, along with new skills than enable them to do their thing. There's a note that Martial Artists created with these rules are pretty powerful, so much so that they would out-fight most characters created in other Unisystem variants in a stand-up, knock-down confrontation. Fine, of course, if that's what you want, but you may prefer to confine them to your All Flesh Must Be Eaten game. There's a whole array of Chi Techniques, cinematic in the extreme, which both Martial Artists and Shooters can access. For those wishing to play a zombie Martial Artist, there are further notes on how to create zombie characters with sufficient brains (in their heads, I mean... not on the menu) to be capable of using these skills and techniques. The chapter ends with a fine selection of martial arts weapons.

Next comes Chapter 3: Hard Boiled Corpses. We're now into Zombie Master territory, because this chapter describes the alternate Hong Kong in which this game is set. Now ruled by mainland China (as in the real world), it displays distinctive features: an obsession with making money, a sleazy underbelly of strip clubs and massage parlours and gambling dens, and organised crime in the shape of the Triads. Under Communist rule, however, the police have more leeway to deal with trouble and... well, shall we say that one idea they came up with resulted in zombies. Not on purpose, I hasten to add. This makes for a compelling backstory, something the party might wish to investigate inbetween just trying to stay alive. The particular kind of zombies are discussed, along with the four distinct groups who are involved in the situation: the cops, the Triads, drug dealers and the zombies themselves (these ones are quite smart, you see). There are sample NPCs and plenty of notes about each group. A couple of outline scenarios are provided based on this concept, and it's easy to think of how to expand on them - or the situation in general - to create a whole campaign. The chapter ends with a few archetypes all ready to jump into the fray...

Next, Chapter 4: Flesh Eaters in Little China moves across the Pacific to San Francisco and presents a quite different setting that mixes sorcery and zombies into a heady underworld amongst Chinese immigrants. There's a lot going on in Chinatown and it's not all restaurants and laundries. Plenty of background explaining precisely what is happening and why. Secret societies, triads and martial arts brotherhoods abound, with examples of each being provided with plenty of detail to get them up and running in your game. And then there are sorcerers and mystics as well... and the outline of an adventure involving hordes of zombies and an underground lair presided over by a decidedly ancient sorcerer. There's an outline of how magic works here (but if you want a detailed magic system you are better off looking at Witchcraft, another Unisystem game), and another couple of scenario outlines, including one where the party start out as a bunch of tourists that find far more than they expected... Again, the chapter ends with some Archetypes.

Then Chapter 5: Once Upon a Corpse in China takes yet another angle on the whole Chinese action/zombie fusion. This takes us back roughly a thousand years to historic China, where squabbling kung fu schools have accidentally created zombies when brawling with each other. With rival schools, Imperial magistrates and the Shaolin Temple itself trying to sort the problem out, there's plenty of scope for cinematic martial arts action. Two scenarios are provided, one has the party working for the Imperial authorities and the other sets them as the ones who spawned the zombies in the first place...

Finally, Chapter 6: Undead Kombat starts with the premise that a soldeir's soul gets mystically entangled with those he has killed in battle, and ends with what happens when ancient Persian Magi start meddling. The Magi wanted to live forever, but their undead cohorts were both quarrelsome and hungry. The solution involves a massive contest between the zombies called the Tournament of Souls... only now they've decided to include human beings on the card. Set up a range of situations in a massive stadium on a remote island and let combat commence! A couple of scenario outlines are provided that take this setting beyond a simple 'arena' game.

Overall, this puts a delightful spin on the whole zombie concept, and should provide sufficient interest for even those players in your group who don't really fancy a zombie game. The martial arts rules are excellent and give you the tools to create cinematic action with or even without zombies added in. A refreshing look at zombies, a brilliant fusion of two exciting movie styles, well worth a look!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Enter the Zombie
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Zombie Master's Screen
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2017 09:30:30

The actual screen part of this product is fairly standard, a four-panel screen with a fairly gory and dramatic painting on the player side and a whole bunch of useful charts for the Zombie Master. This has an Outcome Table supporting levels of success (or failure) in task resolution, fear effects, explosive damage charts, how much protection body armour or other cover gives you, damge tables, a chart showing turn progression during combat and other useful stuff that it's far easier to have right in front of you than have to look up.

There is also an adventure, Coffee Break of the Living Dead. Opening with a piece of fiction that sets the scene - and the nature of this particular scenario's zombies - the adventure is set in the opening hours of a zombie outbreak with the party trapped in a high-rise office building. The background is yet another reason for having zombies over and above the range of suggestions in the core rulebook, but if you've already started a campaign using one of them it's reasonably easy to adapt this to fit in.

Although it will be quite difficult to pull off, especially if the players know they are playing All Flesh Must Be Eaten, the adventure begins with the characters trundling off to a normal day at work. They don't know each other, but all work in the same building which they shortly will discover is just outside the containment zone set up around a suspected terrorist incident at a research laboratory. After a typically boring start to the day at the office, everyone just coincidentally decides it's time for a coffee break and goes down to the lobby coffee shop... and that's when the lift breaks down. By the time they emerge, the place is crawling with zombies, and things go downhill from there.

The adventure is well-supported with floor plans and descriptions of the chaos in various parts of the building. Eventually, surviving party members may try to leave the building. That's when they meet the authorities outside, who are expecting zombies to come out and are armed and waiting...

The booklet also contains notes on using the Zombie Master's Screen to good effect, pre-generated characters to use with the adventure (these are honed to the adventure, but you could use other characters although some modification might be necessary), some new rules and a discussion of zombie and other survival horror as portrayed in film. Excellent for inspiration and for helping you create the right atmosphere in your games.

The adventure is a solid horror-survival scenario, which works well as an introduction to the game and the beginning (if you wish) of a whole campaign. The essay on horror is good, too, starting with the need to ascertain what scares your particular group... and throw it at them combined with the loss of control of your surroundings inherent in a zombie game. Loads of ideas and concepts to play with as you develop your own adventures.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Zombie Master's Screen
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Paranoia Forms Pack
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2017 08:08:43

Paranoia is a game of bureaucracy gone mad, so a selection of actual forms to throw at your players seems a good idea: bury them in administrivia!

The first form is genuinely useful. It's a character sheet. For once the THIS FORM IS MANDATORY in friendly red letters across the top is spot on. You don't get far without some sort of character sheet in any RPG, after all.

The next one is good for fostering intra-party conflict. It is an 'Accusation of treason/termination permit request' form. It's reasonably straightforward (although appears to assume it's written on three-part paper with directions as to what to do with yellow, pink and white copies) and should keep your Troubleshooters busy as they drop each other in a whole load of trouble.

Next is a 'XP Point Asynchronous Claim Requisition'. This runs to three pages, with an 'for official use only' section inserted between two bits the troubleshooter ought to be filling in which could raise awkward questions about why the troubleshooter is writing below the 'for official use only' line...

Then there is a Cerebral Coretech Issue Report, which may be filled out by the person experiencing the issues or someone else reporting on their behalf... and includes this gem of a direction "If the issue with your cerebral coretech has left you unable to fill in forms, please tick this box". Before you laugh too much, UK forms for applying for disabled allowances are nearly as bad (or at least, cannot cope with people whose disability makes it hard for them to write longhand!). There are three pages of this to plough through, enough to drive anyone not yet insane around the bend.

Next up, a Sector Travel Permit application. As someone who prefers to go into a ticket office, tell the clerk where I want to go and pay him rather than use a ticket machine, I don't want to struggle through this... it's a demented fusion of the morass that is the British railways ticketing system and a warped version of airport security. Again three whole pages of it...

And then rather bizarrely the whole lot are repeated four more times. This is a PDF. I can print multiple copies of a page. OK, if you have bought the 'dead tree' version as a pad of forms, multiple copies would be useful.

However, the forms are well in keeping with the spirit and ethos of Paranoia and excellent for exasperating your players. Give them a go!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Paranoia Forms Pack
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Paranoia Interactive Screen
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2017 07:28:35

Whilst serving the normal purpose of a GM screen (to hide notes, die rolls and anything else you want to hide from your players), this one continues the unique humour of Paranoia across both sides.

The player-facing side has supposed 'card slots' where players can put action cards when playing them. Maybe. If they can figure out where they should put them. Unfortunately there's a warning in large friendly letters stating that understanding the screen's function is beyond your security clearance...

The GM's side has various lists and charts some of which may be actually useful. Hints on calculating how many successes are needed for a task based on how hard it is, or XP points rewards for different accomplishments are handy, then there's quite a lot on what those XP points can be spent on, from improving security clearance level to getting new skills or a shiny new piece of kit.

Then there are some other charts that can be used to provide quick randomised results to questions like 'Where are we?' or 'What is this individual's motivation?'. Then there's a chart of Items of Questionable Provenance that are just crying out to be scattered through your scenarios - most could probably spawn a whole new adventure on their own. The table of Achievements is a bit baffling. It's not clear whether these are things you are told to do, hear about someone else doing or what... and many aren't things that would occur to a troubleshooter anyway. Why do 500 jumping jacks anyway? And it's not clear what reward you'd get if you did apart from a loud claxon going off to mark the accomplishment.

While it's funny the first time you read it, the humour will pale a bit, and it's likely that most people will want to lay their cards on the table rather than try to perch them on the screen. Get it if you like having a GM screen that matches your game, or if you're a completist.

The price is a bit high especially for a PDF - cardstock, well even that would probably be about $5-6 unless there's an adventure included.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Paranoia Interactive Screen
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Guide to Alpha Complex
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/30/2017 08:14:05

Addressed to the newly-decanted first clone, the first section provides basic orientation by the Computer itself to life as an Infrared clearance member of the Alpha Complex community. That's where a new individual begins, although your group may decide to start out as Troubleshooters (minimum security clearance is Red) so this discourse would then be in your past. It's all written in a wonderfully cheerful and slightly breathless style that combines a political manifesto's honesty with an over-enthusiastic corporate onboarding document, peppered with (deliberate) errors that look like a database has crashed somewhere...

This continues through sections on gaining Red clearance, what Troubleshooters do, the enemies of Apha Complex, care and operation of your Cerebral Coretech and your very own copy of the Alphapedia - the database of useful information available online (via the cloud and accessible via Cerebral Coretech)... this all an in-character resource. Everything here may be accessed by characters and acted upon. Certainly once they reach Red clearance and become Troubleshooters, anyway.

This gives a good overview of what life is like in Alpha Complex, the background to your adventures as Troubleshooters. It's a neat way to convey the 'common knowledge' that all citizens have about their environment and society, but which their players, naturally, do not have unless the GM lectures them for hours. Better than that it also brings over the general tone and style of the game, and the 'mindset' of the Computer, thus helping all involved to get into the correct mood to play the game to best effect. (That mood should be mildly irritated, a bit uncomfortable, and trusting nothing... keep your laser handy!). It is rather expensive to give each player a copy, which would be ideal gamewise, but having a copy to share around will enhance your enjoyment of the game as it sets the scene so well.

All good Troubleshooters should remember to stay alert, trust nobody and keep their lasers handy. And the Computer is your friend...

[Note: This is a 5-star book, but it's over-priced hence it loses a star.]



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Guide to Alpha Complex
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Paranoia Red Clearance Edition
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2017 12:15:18

Starting with the Player's Handbook we're confronted with the friendly invitation "Start with this book to become a proud throubleshooter of Alpha Complex". There's the air of one of those faintly embarrasing and over-eager corporate employee handbooks. The information is aimed at novice role-players and begins with an example of play... which ends up with everyone in soup. Why is anybody's guess. Perhaps we'll find out later. Next, the character sheet is explained, along with everything that goes on it. Each character's stats are Violence, Brains, Mechanics and Chuzpah; and these are used in combination with their Skills - they're listed with the appropriate Stat - when you try to do anything.

That explained, we get down to the character creation process itself, with a neat system of group creation that pre-loads the party with tensions and links between individual characters. Everyone gets to choose their own name, appearance and gender (with a note that gender is basically immaterial, the Computer doesn't care... but heterosexual relationships are treasonous as they mock the Computer's genius at cloning, but the Computer has no programming to understand homosexual relationships so they are neither banned nor condoned!). Then you start picking skills, in a manner such that when you choose a positive rating in one, another player gets a negative rating in the same skill. It sounds weird, and probably is to anyone new to Paranoia, but has a strange logic that fits this addmittedly unusual game well. Stats are generated by adding up the skill points under each one - but then your neighbour at the table gets to allocate the numbers generated across the Stats. It makes more sense (and more party conflict!) when you do it than it does to write about it! There are various other bits - treason points, XP points, Moxie and so on - then we look at Secret Societies and Mutant Powers, both of which are treasonous before we even start! The GM allocates these, no options here.

The core game mechanic used whenever you want to accomplish something involves rolling a number of dice equivalent to the appropriate Stat and Skill - this is your NODE (Number Of DicE). And a Computer Dice (no, this isn't a grammatical mistake, that's what it is called), which is always rolled even if the Stat and Skill combined is not a positive number. A 5 or 6 rolled is a success and the number of successes are added to give your result (with any appropriate modifiers added in). Like all game mechanics, once you've tried it a few times it becomes far less cumbersome than it sounds when written out. Puschasers of the hard-copy version of this set get a special Computer Dice, the rest of us have to improvise - perhaps a different-coloured D6 from the others you are rolling with one number designated as the 'Computer'. When you roll that, interesting things happen. The Computer is your friend, after all.

Next is a description of Moxie, which you want to hang on to because when you run out of Moxie points you freak out. This takes the entire gameplay to new levels of silliness, with some of the suggestions here being quite amusing. Then we get on to combat. This is moderated by Action Cards, which are doled out by the GM in a manner not explained here (but which may be expained in the Gamesmaster's Handbook when I get to that in a bit). You get one action per turn, and may play one Action Card during your action, then follow the directions on the card. Preprinted cards are provided (PDF users have to print them out, of course). Being Paranoia there is also a zany way to determine combat order, called the Dynamic Yet Narrative Action Melee Order system or DYNAMO. Just to add to the fun, combat is played real-time. It all sounds horrendously complex - and it is! - but it transforms combat into something quite unique... pretty much like the rest of this game, actually. It then calms down a bit to tell you how to actually resolve combat.

While the various new game mechanics - from character creation to combat stuff - all add to the flavour that is Paranoia at its best, we then hear about a new concept: the Cerebral Coretech. This is a kind of direct link from the Computer into your character's brain. To model communications with the Computer at the game table, it's suggested you text on your phone... passing notes is so old school. And then we get onto XP Points or Better Living Through Gamification (which is, I believe, the first use of gamification in a role-playing game, she says putting her academic head on for a moment!). These are not what you normally think of as XPs, rather than being used to rise in level or develop your character as in most games, they can be spent to get goodies - equipment or other advantages - to give your character a boost. Or you can increase skills or even security clearance... there's a whole catalogue of stuff to choose from. This book ends with equipment information (fairly general, most is on Equipment Cards) and decidedly treasonous information on Secret Societies.

On to the Gamesmaster's Handbook. Slightly saner in tone, this provides what you need to know to run Paranoia games, starting with an explanation of what Alpha Complex actually is like. Then there's advice on GMing Paranoia, including basic advice for those new to GMing at all. There are some revolutionary ideas here, like the GM doesn't roll dice, leave that to the players. It's fine to make things up and decide what happens rather than leave it to chance. It's not abitrary, it is appropriate and in the spirit of Paranoia. But you can roll dice if you really want to. There are notes on setting difficulty levels for players to roll against, and a discussion of what the Computer really is. Explanations of security clearances, mutant powers and secret societies follow... oh, and there are even non-treasonous societies clones can join too. There are cards for Secret Societies which you issue to players, with strict instructions to keep them, well, secret. Even from the other players, but there is considerable more information here. And there's more... computer viruses (which may or may not exist), much more about equipment and how it fails, issuing XP points, the use of the Number 1 Troubleshooter Card, and the all-important Running Combat section. The book rounds up with a bucket-load of good advice about running Paranoia, notes on creating adventures, and some comments about humour in RPGs. And random tables for the Computer Dice and for Losing It (just in case you need some ideas...).

The final book is the Missions Book. This provides three linked adventures all ready to go. There's some basic advice for someone who's never even role-played before and has still been asked to GM, then on to the adventures themselves, each ought to be capable of being run in a single session each. If run in order, they provide a good introduction to the game, and to Alpha Complex. Pre-generated characters are supplied for those who want to dive straight into the action, there's also a bare-bones summary of the rules. Everything is presented very clearly and simply: you could literally pick this up not knowing anything about Paranoia or even role-playing and make a credible stab at running the first adventure provided you follow the instructions. In the first adventure, the characters are Infrared clearance, the lowest of the low, but they ought to graduate to Red clearance, and Troubleshooter status, by the end. The next two build on that, giving more insights and more grief to the party.

Paranoia is back, and with a vengeance! The true spirit, the flavour of the original game, is well-reflected in its new incarnation, with some innovative quirks and new game mechanics that serve only to inhance it. Paranoia's not for everyone, but it makes an excellent antidote to more serious games, and this new edition will not disappoint newcomers or those who have played every previous edition alike. The Computer is your friend...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Paranoia Red Clearance Edition
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The Red Isle
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2017 10:33:54

Throw this adventure in sometime that the party is taking a long sea voyage... it's easy to drop it into any campaign as it is based on a remote and rarely-visited island. The DM's Background explains the situation in which the party will find themselves and provides a neat way for them to hear at least a little of this information: the captain of the ship they are on likes telling tales of an evening!

It all begins with a shipwreck. The characters wake up on what appears to be a remote and deserted island. This survival situation turns into a delve as a long-lost pirate lair is discovered and (presumably) explored. The pirate captain was a bit paranoid, so it's quite well defended, not to mention other creatures that have moved in. There's a clear plan of the lair, presented as a side elevation (it makes more sense that way, but is nicely-done) and each location therein is described in detail, with what (and who) is to be found there and all you need to run the ensuing combat. And combat there will be, nothing there is going to be interested in a chat.

This is a tough adventure: the traps are complex and deadly and so are the inhabitants. Survivors will find a rich hoard... but they still have to figure out how to get someplace that they can enjoy their new-found wealth. Suggestions for further adventures are included, all-in-all this is a nice little side-adventure to catch your players with when they are thinking about the reason they originally undertook that fateful sea voyage.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Red Isle
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Asatania (ASX-4): Rock Point Keep (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/27/2017 11:20:26

This side-adventure serves to wind up the Crashing Chaos campaign, and serves to shed further light on the ancient squabbles between the Windsome Chain islands (where the party is at the moment) and the Farasene Imperium, something the characters are now embroiled in themselves. It also lets the party explore a new part of the islands. Although adding background, it can be left out if you don't wish to include it in your campaign - and even if you are not running the Crashing Chaos campaign it could make a stand-alone adventure with a few changes.

It all begins after a celebratory banquet marking the freeing of Harbourhume from the Kan Demon when Christianos Thixx, the new-crowned king of the islands, asks the party to secure Rock Point Keep, an outpost of his kingdom that has stood abandoned due to a treaty with the Imperium that forbade them from maintaining a standing army. There's a fair bit of background to absorb (mostly stuff that a historically-inclined character ought to be able to ferret out if so inclined), then the party is summoned by the king and given their instructions. They have a choice of travelling by land or by sea along the coast to a point near to the keep, both options are covered here. Those who go by land face a quite eventful 3-day journey, while it takes about a day by sea and this trip, too, is not devoid of interest.

Whichever way they come, eventually they reach the Keep itself. It consists of a small tower in a walled courtyard, a plan and room descriptions are provided. At a first glance, the place seems neglected but that doesn't mean that nobody's home... or that they are friendly. Expect several brawls to punctuate exploration. Oh, and it's haunted as well. This provides curious characters with an opportunity to discover more of the history of the place.

It's a neat adventure with a lot going on which all serves to make the place come alive. Successful characters who are in the King's service (rather than merely having hired out to undertake this task) will be granted land in the vicinity, which provides opportunity for further activity. The mix of physical and supernatural encounters is handled well making it all the more believable - the flesh-and-bones residents of the keep are scared of the ghostly ones! There are also some links to what has gone before. All in all, if you are playing the Crashing Chaos campaign with the intent of continuing on to the next story arc, you ought to run this cracking little adventure.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (ASX-4): Rock Point Keep (5E)
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Asatania (ASX-3): The Prisoner of Spur Rock (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2017 07:52:42

This 'side adventure' is an optional addition to the core adventure The Rebel Prince, you may choose to run it at a particular point - it's all about staging a prison break on behalf of said Prince of someone he reckons will be useful in the fight against the Kan Demon. If you don't want to run this, provision is made for him to turn up anyway (either he got out on his own or never got banged up in the first place, it's not really mentioned). Many parties won't baulk at breaking someone out of gaol anyway, but if yours worries about the ethics of it all, well, here's another of those tough choices this campaign is full of!

The individual in question is one Roger Blodgett, a seaman and explorer whose 'crime' was to sail out into the open ocean to find out what was over the horizon, something forbidden by the Farasene Imperium of Tere. The gaol of Spur Rock is located on a tiny spit of land twenty miles off the eastern coast of Tere and pretty far from anywhere. It contains a mix of political prisoners, criminals from important families, and a few souls unlucky enough to know something they shouldn't... and the guards are not much better, the absolute dregs of the Imperium army exiled here, probably at least as deserving of being behind bars as the inmates they guard. This adventure, perhaps with a few name changes, can also be run as a part of any campaign or as a stand-alone.

The adventure opens with the party being asked to undertake the prison break, and being provided with a little background including the useful information that there's a smugglers' cave underneath the prison building that is said to connect with the cellars. They'll be taken there by sea and will be collected once they signal that they want to be taken off again. The adventure is written with the assumption that the party will use it to gain access, but there's sufficient information about the place that you ought to be able to cope with other plans if the party proposes them. There's a plan and room descriptions - and the place is every bit as dire and dreary as you might imagine. One or two of the guards might be worth talking with, although there are no details on the prisoners (save Blodgett himself) except that they are in poor shape, you might want to add some detail here.

This is a neat prison break adventure that ought to occupy your party nicely for a session or two. It's one where stealth rather than brute force is probably the best course of action, although the guards are possibly a bit under-powered if the party takes the approach of all-out combat... perhaps that is to be expected of the dissolute dregs that they are supposed to be. With atmospheric writing, it's a good way to gain the favour of a prince.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (ASX-3): The Prisoner of Spur Rock (5E)
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Asatania (ASX-2): The Ghost of Jarvis Island (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2017 08:08:12

This, the second 'side adventure' of the Crashing Chaos campaign, slots in after events in Muscle, Sinew and Wood when the party leaves the doomed town of Bray's Bay aboard ship. Jarvis Island is midway between Bray's Bay and the Windsome Chain, which is the party's intended destination. Several ideas are provided for reasons why the party should investigate the island instead of continuing the journey - and there's even a note that this adventure could be lifted clean out of the Asatania campaign world and slotted into your own campaign instead!

The Introduction lays out what is going on, and then the adventure proper begins... with an attack at sea! If you are using one of the alternate hooks - and so have a party visiting Jarvis Island on purpose - you may wish to leave this out, but you may choose to have a fight at sea anyway if your group enjoys them. The information gained from this encounter pertains to the on-going campaign, so if you are running this adventure as part of something else you'll need to change it to suit. Then it's on to the island itself.

Supposedly uninhabited, there used to be a tin mine here which is now played out. There's a map of the island as well as copious background notes including details of the mine, the settlement that served it and a lighthouse. Although the place is deserted, there are a few signs that someone's been there... and then an odd ghostly figure appears! This leads to the meat of the adventure, as the party tried to find out what is going on and deal with it. The truth of the matter may or may not be discovered, but should the party get it wrong the consequences could be quite bad!

This is a cracking little adventure in its own right, and it adds an interesting twist to the Crashing Chaos campaign, with the potential for adding a long-running NPC that will continue to bedevil the party (and indeed anyone else) for a long time... it's suggested that an escape is engineered if the party figure out what is happening and look likely to take steps to avoid it, just to keep this intriguing side-plot going! Deliciously devious.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (ASX-2): The Ghost of Jarvis Island (5E)
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Asatania (ASX-1): The New Mine Masters (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 07:13:39

This is an optional 'side adventure' that may be run between Face Down in a Muddy Road and Smoke on the Horizon, the party getting the choice in-game to continue straight on to Bray's Bay or to follow up on a map they might have found. If you don't want to run this adventure, just don't let them find the map! However, this is a lot more than just an opportunity to poke around a mine and beat up a few Kan Demon, so it's worth considering its inclusion.

The Kan Demon raiders have gone, according to the map, to Argot Hill after demolishing the settlement at Siver's Mill. Here there is an iron mine and the basic objective of this adventure is to chase them out of it. Naturally, there's a bit more going on... explained here for the DM, with background detail about clan politics and different factions within the Kan Demon. There's also advice on how to let it be the party's decision whether or not to go to Argot Hill - the campaign is designed to present the party with tough decisions, this is just the first one.

The trip to Argot Hill is unpleasant - a muddy track with plenty of insects to plague the party - and once there a map of the settlement and descriptions of key locations are provided. Once the party has dealt with matters there, they can move on to the minehead - again a plan is provided - and venture underground (also mapped out). Everything is well-described in a fairly realistic description of a typical mediaeval mining operation. Clearing that is relatively simple, but with a neat twist in the tale. The locals are likely to be pleased at the party's intervention, and this adventure goes some way to cement them as the 'good guys' in the invasion.

Although simple, everything is put together neatly and it makes a nice addition to the ongoing plot, even if not being strictly necessary for its advancement. It introduces some minor goodies - there's more than iron ore down there, shall we say - that won't make much of a difference to the overall game, but which are rather nice from the story point of view.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (ASX-1): The New Mine Masters (5E)
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Dawn of the Serpent
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2017 10:06:16

This adventure provides a neat interlude sometime the party is travelling through wild-enough terrain that a night in the open will be involved, as it opens with them spotting what looks like a welcoming camp fire ahead one chilly evening...

Of course, they won't get the rest, warmth and companionship they might have been expecting. The DM's Background points out the main hazards of travelling: inclement weather, roving bandits and occasional monsters - and this adventure includes all three. The adventure is set in the Gloamwood Forest, which has of late gained a bit of a reputation for being dangerous, although the road that goes through the forest is quite well-travelled and relatively safe. This forest can be placed anywhere in your campaign world where a largish forest with a road through it is appropriate. It's best run in winter, but if you prefer to run it in another season, that's fine.

Various rumours may be heard before the party actually reaches this stage in their journey (particularly if you like foreshadowing), and then it's straight on with the action. Investigating the camp fire leads eventually to a lair that needs cleaning out. It's all quite straightforward in a way, but there are traps and monsters to defeat on the way to solving the adventure... and some neat ideas for what might happen afterwards.

As a way to enliven a journey, this makes for an interesting challenge - especially if you have carefully prepared your party to expect a covivial night around a campfire on a cold night. The various elements of the story combine well together to make an entertaining interlude with potential consequences that might haunt the party for some time to come.



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Dawn of the Serpent
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Gottheit
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2017 07:43:04

Travelling through a dark and misty night, the party is looking forward to finding a place to stop for the night... but when the town of Gottheit comes into view, the settlement appears deserted and derelict. Or is it?

Designed to accompany Alderac Entertainment Group's Undead sourcebook, the adventure seeks to answer the question, what happened to the people of Gottheit? The DM's Background explains why a peaceful (if somewhat over-religious) community has turned into the dismal wreck the party arrives at, and prepares you to run the adventure. It has an interesting structure, in that although it appears to the players that it's a location-based adventure as they wander the town, it is actually event-based, with a series of events that occure in a set sequence with it not mattering just where the party is when each event occurs!

A town plan and location descriptions are provided, then the encounters are presented in the sequence in which they should take place, leading the party inevitably to the climax in the temple in the centre of town. It's recommended that, despite the party being free to wander as they please, they should not visit the temple until the end but no clear advice on how to manage that is provided.

It's a fine creepy adventure that maintains suspense well, although I think the recommened character level (9th-11th) is a bit too high... slightly lower level characters should find it appropriately scary and a bit more of a challenge.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gottheit
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