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Bastards of Foreven Fleet Book 2: Starships
Publisher: DSL Ironworks
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2014 07:58:09
Any Traveller universe, be it the original one (OTU) or an alternate one (ATU) like the Foreven Sector, needs loads and loads of starships. Space travel is mature enough to have lots of vessels out in the black and it beggars belief that they are all built to the same design, so I relish the addition of yet more starships to ply the spacelanes.

This collection includes a variety of craft designed for various purposes and allowing for considerable variation. Each comes with copious flavour text, designed for use in the Foreven Sector ATU but capable of use in any Traveller universe with minimal modification. There are delightful sketches redolant of the original Traveller books, deck plans and various exterior views as well as full specifications.

First up is a luxury yacht or VIP transport, which has a distinct VIP suite as well as space for both crew and the VIP's entourage. You could create a whole campaign around a travelling diplomat or noble and his retinue, have the party running a VIP vessel for hire or run a one-off adventure involving an attack or rescue mission. And that's only the first one!

Next is a specialist mining/survey rig. It's designed for use in an asteroid belt, to search out mineral resources and evaluate them. Designed for long-term deployment, it is roomy and comfortable for the crew of pilot, engineer, geologist and a couple of mining specialists - and even boasts a laboratory for the geologist. It's not big enough to conduct full-scale mining operations on its own, but could be used in conjunction with a shuttle craft such as the Skipjack (described later) and some long-haul cargo containers, also covered in this work. Again, if not running a mining/exploration campaign, you could encounter these craft during a visit to an asteroid belt.

The next craft is an ingenious answer to the question of what to do with old X-boats... mate them to a Vagrant class service hull, of course. This annular structure provides extra space and manoeuvering drives, while the X-boat provides Jump capability. An interesting and versatile concept.

Then there's the aforementioned Skipjack class system shuttle. Intended to be used in-system, it needs a crew of three and has plenty of cargo space. It can skim fuel for its manoeuvre drives and is a good 'workhorse' craft to have buzzing around a busy system. Variants exist that can be used as landing craft, and the large cargo spaces can be reconfigured for carrying personnel. Apparently one has been tricked out as a spacefaring brothel...

If you need additional cargo capacity, a Longhaul class cargo container can be attached to your Skipjack - a relatively simple task, so you can travel around picking them up and dropping them off as needed. Again these can be configured in a range of ways including colony transports, cold sleep personnel, or even as a basic system defence platform with weapons and crew quarters.

Next is a high-performance courier ship, the Kankur class frontier courier. This is another versatile vessel and suitable for the classic Traveller party (yes, it has a smuggler's hold!). There is a military version, an advanced scout craft (with stealth capabilities) and even a luxury transport version - each of these is described complete with deckplans showing how interior layout is changed.

If the luxury version of the Kankur does not meet your needs, try the Astoria class executive transport, which has enough space to carry a large crew to tend to your passengers' every need as well as to fly the ship. They even feature a battery of escape pods should their admittedly powerful defences prove inadequate or other difficulties arise. Apparently they are also good for corporate strike teams, if such operate in your neck of the woods.

Finally, there's the Saliant class patrol frigate, a powerful military heavy escort which can carry a marine unit and is capable of Jump-3 - and packs a heavy punch in its own right. It can land and also has a g-carrier with garage bay. A nice vessel for military/mercenary use.

So, a good range of well-designed and versatile craft, ready for use around your universe.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bastards of Foreven Fleet Book 2: Starships
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Species & Societies
Publisher: Thunderegg Productions
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2014 12:28:27
This work is all about creating new races of intelligent (more or less) creatures for your game. The cover is virtually obscured by 'Compatible with' logos ranging from fantasy to science fiction systems, but never fear if your chosen ruleset isn't there, it is generic enough to be used whatever game system you prefer although those are the ones explicitly supported.

There are two ways to use the book. Either grab a handful of dice and start rolling, see what you come up with, or use the sections as guidelines to drive your thoughts, ensuring that you consider all the aspects that will be useful in creating a species that you'll be able to bring to life in your chosen setting. Or, of course, a combination of both: maybe starting by rolling dice then change the things that don't suit the concept you're forming, or only roll when you don't have a clear idea about a particular aspect. However, bear in mind that it can be fun working out how an oddball species survives and thrives - the randomly-designed ones can be the most interesting! (Bipedal naked mammals, who'd have thunk THEM up?)

The first table covers general species biology while the second one deals with humanoid species biology. The idea here is that the first table can generate anything from animals to sentient races, whilst the second is aimed at creating the sort of 'aliens' that you find in science fiction films, the ones that when all is said and done are human beings with makeup and prosthetic effects on.

Then if you are after a strange-looking race (or rolled for something 'deviant' on whichever of the first two tables you used) there are some weird things you can mix and match into the race you are building. This is followed by a set of notes about different sorts of organisms, which may help you expand on the brief description that you have derived so far for your new species. They are quite broad, and contain several inaccuracies - mostly deliberate ones which are covered in the notes, like lumping dinosaurs in with reptiles. A couple of minor quibbles include the statement that a sense of smell is not much use if you're aquatic - try telling a shark that!

The notes also cover habitat and structure (of the body, that is). Then the discussion moves on to the core of the matter: creating new PC races for your game. This is handled by offering 'kits' for several game systems (13th Age, Dungeon World, Fate Core, Legend, Pathfinder and Traveller) which you use to derive the system-specific information that you need for the race you have just invented. As demonstration, each kit is used on the same basic race, a Turtle-Man from Chelonian Press's Turtle Lords RPG (1983). These kits come with explanatory notes showing you how to make the conversion from the core information generated here into the game system of your choice.

And then there's another set of tables, these ones are to enable you to devise the sort of society in which your new species likes to live. Everything from government types to their values and attitudes, as well as strengths and weaknesses, nature, assets... as well as further tables on the civilisation's past and current situation. Not only does this give you a good overview of what a society is like, it also feeds into the 'Societal Conflict System' that is presented next. This isn't so much about actual warfare as about determining the underlying geopolitical situation. Look at the news. In some part of the world, people are actually fighting each other, in others the diplomatic situation is a bit tense and in some places there is more or less a state of peace... but there are always tensions, allies and nations which do not get along and the like. This is about generating this kind of background situation which may or may not actually impact on your plot, but is part and parcel of the setting in which your game is being played.

Naturally character actions may have an influence: they are the stars of the show! This may be direct - perhaps they are soldiers, spies or diplomats - or incidental... who knows, maybe they created an international (interstellar?) incident without even intending to... and the intention is that the GM should use this system in between game sessions to model what is going on in the rest of the world while the party is off doing its thing. It's a neat concept which should add interesting depth to your game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Species & Societies
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The Secrets of the Bravo (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2014 11:39:41
Have you ever wanted to swash your buckle, breeze through adventure with wild abandon, living for the moment? Perhaps the new base character class of the bravo is for you.

Presented in the main as if one such bravo had paused for a moment to recount to you the details of his chosen career, no doubt over an ale you have had to buy him, this work presents a coherent and exciting review of all the material you need to know if you want to create and play a bravo character. This includes a lot of the material that is normally covered in more prosaic terms, things like alignment and religion and which classes a bravo character gets on best with, which races do best in this class, and even what the perceived 'role' of a bravo might be. This last involves skill in melee combat and social interactions, with wit and flair - and sheer luck - to get out of tight corners.

Only then do we get down to game mechanics, with progression table, starting wealth, class skill list and - of course - the special abilities that make this class unique. The most interesting one is 'fighting technique' which enables the bravo to develop his own distinctive fighting style. He may have come up with it for himself, or perhaps he has travelled far and wide studying with masters of the sword (or whatever he's decided to specialise in) to blend together something that will become his trademark style. Other abilities are designed to reinforce and expand that style, it all hangs together rather well.

There are a couple of new feats and a whole raft of fighting styles, conjuring up images of a party-full of bravos vying with each other as they develop their personal styles!

Well worth a look if the swashbuckling style appeals.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secrets of the Bravo (PFRPG)
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The Genius Guide to the Talented Ranger
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/28/2014 10:44:30
What images are summoned up if someone says 'ranger' to you?

Most of us think of a good hunter who is a good fighter as well, at home in the wilderness without being a barbarian... and the more perceptive (or those who've played loads of them) will understand their affinity with nature that can reach magical levels. The introduction to this work discusses the nature and role of the ranger in considerable detail, showing how a ranger not only understands his environment but can become one with it; and this leads in to the system of edges and talents developed for rangers that are the core of this book.

The necessary lists and tables are provided to generate and progress a ranger character. Class skills are modified a little to allow the ranger to choose some that are best suited to the build in mind, and a whole framework of talents and edges is introduced.

The edges are based around the concept of a ranger being drawn towards a specific area of primal force which he will be increasingly able to access as he rises in level. They can be bound in with other things, such as the 'adaptation' edge which allows him to take on some of the characteristics of whichever creature he has chosen as his favoured enemy. A range of combat and other options are also available, it is easy with this system to build a unique ranger who operates with a distinctive style.

The talents are the knacks and knowledge that the ranger has picked up during his life. They may enhance his understanding of the powers that he draws upon or they can relate to what he has learned about surviving in the wild places to which his profession takes him. If all that isn't enough, high-level rangers also have access to advanced talents and even, at 20th level, very powerful grand talents.

There are a couple of appendices. The first details a number of specialised traps that rangers can learn to make and set - you often hear about their ability to set traps but it's good to have more about the actual mechanics of the traps they can make (without having to draw on my own fieldcraft... not every player had a country upbringing!) and the second is rather amusingly called 'Save Vs Wall of Text' and is more of an index or reference, sorting all the abilities covered in the book into thematic categories, making coherent selections easier.

Rangers will never be quite the same!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Genius Guide to the Talented Ranger
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Crypts & Creatures Dungeon Adventures Book One
Publisher: Pick Up & Go Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/25/2014 12:04:48
In need of a quick dungeon? Look no further, here are three fully-detailed ones for your party to die in, ahem, I mean, for them to explore.

The core concept is simple. Each one is provided with a floorplan showing where everything is and with details of traps, monsters and treasures to be found there. That's it. You need to provide the reason why the party is there and any plot about the dungeon itself.

The first is 'The Halls of Horror' which has a basic theme of undead and is intended for characters of 2nd-4th level. In the compact style we've come to expect from Pick Up and Go Games, there's a brief descripton of each room to use as read aloud text and a concise listing of appropriate stats for monsters/NPCs to be found therein. The map shows the door types - open, locked, secret, portcullis, archway and so on - and everything is clear and easy to run.

The second dungeon is 'The Sanctum of Shiva the Destroyer' and is designed for characters of 4th-6th level. It's quite a nice place with superior masonry walls and natural floors... well, nice until you meet the denizens, which include wandering monsters as well as those who stay put in their rooms waiting for the party to turn up.

Finally, there's 'The Crypt of Crimson Death' all ready to entertain parties of 9th-11th level. This is nearly all interlocking rooms rather than corridors (there's only a couple of those) and it's rather hot - 120F/48C - so characters are going to have to save to avoid heat exhaustion as well as all the critters and traps they have to contend with.

These are classic old school dungeons. Creatures apparently sit there waiting to snack on passing adventurers, but there's no clue as to what they eat if no one calls by. However, each dungeon hangs together well, there's a good variety of monsters to fight and an interesting array of loot to carry off once you have managed to slay them.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crypts & Creatures Dungeon Adventures Book One
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Exodus Post Apocalyptic RPG: Wasteland Adventure #23
Publisher: Glutton Creeper Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/23/2014 11:55:52
Back in the Old West, an organisation called the Pony Express carried mail through the badlands from community to community. Now in post-apocalyptic times a similar group called the Postal Riders offer the same service - and the party gets asked to help out in the delivery of some 'holy books' in the face of cultist predations.

It's a straightforward road trip adventure with a few running battles and chase scenes, yet it comes over fresh and new with the wealth of detail provided to bring the whole thing to life. For a start, the party has to navigate through wild terrain, even choose the best route. From then on there are ambushes and challenges galore, with each being laid out clearly with just about every option covered, making it easy to run.

There's a completely off-the-wall episode during the journey, harking back to old cartoons. If you are happy with a 'Looney Tunes' element to your game it works well, but needs to be included even if you prefer a more serious approach as it does turn out to provide useful information regarding the party's mission. Perhaps it's just that the post-apocalypic desert sun has turned a cartoon fan so mad that he's been recreating the stories he no longer recalls as cartoons.

The climax contains a real sting in the tail and is very open-ended - so much so that a full SIX conclusions are provided so that you can run the one most appropriate to the party's actions!

Designed as a 'shared campaign' adventure which could run in a convention slot, it also would fit in well with your own campaign provided you can engineer some reason for the party to be in Reno, where the action starts. Once they are there, let the fun begin!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Exodus Post Apocalyptic RPG: Wasteland Adventure #23
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Bitter Medicine
Publisher: Privateer Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2014 10:56:24
This is an exciting adventure, with some of the overtones of the Wild West as bandits mount raids on trains, with the added pressure of a deadly disease to contend with as well. It's set in northern Cygnar, quite definitely, but should you wish to run it elsewhere there are suggestions for adapting events to other locations within the Iron Kingdoms.

After an overview of what is going on and a summary of the adventure itself, you get to meet the major NPCs involved. Both adventure and characters are wound into the fabric of the Iron Kingdoms and its recent history, making everything spring into coherent life - they're here because of their own reasons, not just because the presence of the party and the requirements of the plot have called them into existence!

Next there is a collection of suggestions as to how you can get the characters involved. The adventure is one which does not require an organised party, so could be used as a campaign starter to get the characters together in the first place, but it works equally well if they have already formed a group. Events open on a train journey, and it is open to you to give the characters plot-related reasons for being there or they may just have the misfortune to have chosen THAT train when all they wanted was to travel from wherever they were to wherever they want to go. It may be a while before they reach their destination in that case!

And we're off! The action is swift and exciting from the outset, although there's time for some scene-setting and 'get to know you' conversation as well, with the other passengers being detailed even if the characters themselves are already acquainted with one another. But just as everyone is lulled into the sense of a dull train journey events begin to unfold...

Plenty of detail and options are offered for the action scenes so you should not be at a loss whatever the party decides to do. From the train, the characters will have to make an overland journey to locate their objective, with two well-defended locations to search and plenty of opportunities for combat. It's not all brawling, though, there are opportunities for other abilities to be brought into play, and of course there's that illness to contend with too, and a good chance that the characters themselves might become infected. There's a good Mexican stand-off and an epic chase scene in there as well, and a climatic showdown.

Action over, there are some suggestions as to how you might develop matters further if you so wish. Finally there are several appendices: on vehicles in the Iron Kingdoms, on chases, on the deadly disease that is central to the plot and lastly full profiles for the antagonists involved.

While quite linear, and in places with things that just happen regardless, it's an exciting adventure that is well worth including in your campaign or running as a one-off.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bitter Medicine
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Stock Art: Blackmon Cloaker
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2014 08:12:25
Just the thing if you want to SHOW your players what their characters are facing, rather than just tell them... and this ferocious cloaker should make even the players want to run, never mind their characters!

There's both a colour and a line art version of the same drawing, showing the cloaker rearing up to attack, all pretence of being a garment cast aside and teeth bared.

Wish I'd had this a couple of months ago when some of players had to deal with a nest of the beasties... it sums up the shock and horror that cloakers present really well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stock Art: Blackmon Cloaker
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Urban Dressing: Mining Town
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/21/2014 10:25:13
So, what makes the mining towns in your campaign world stand out?

Here you will find some ideas to make a mining town come to life within your shared alternate reality. Suitable for use when planning the township or adventures therein, or even during play when you need to breathe extra life in to it or the party ask about something you hadn't anticipated, it works by giving you a selection of tables. These can be rolled on or you may prefer (particularly if you're planning rather than needing something in a rush) to read through and select the options that appeal most or which fit best with whatever else you have in mind.

The first one is Sights and Sounds. A full one hundred of them, ranging from a pile of abandoned picks to a collapsing shack or a line of miners awaiting a handout from a soup kitchen. Some can be mentioned in passing, many could spark an encounter if not a whole adventure.

Next is a selection of around fifty businesses. Some are mining-specific but many are of more general use: everyone needs taverns and butchers and even blacksmiths! It gives the feel of a quite rough and ready shanty-town, with an area where miners can pitch camp, a mayor who does shady deals and a guard post which views the miners as troublemakers and treats them accordingly. This table will prove useful when the party asks for the local... well, whatever... as well as providing the backdrop of a busy mining town going about its business.

Next up is Folk of Interest. Plenty of 'instant NPCs' here who can be woven into your stories as anything from the person at the next table in the tavern to the source of a whole chunk of plot. Each is described vividly in a couple of sentences although stats are limited to race, class and level - if you need more you will have to work them out for yourself. If you so chose, you could populate your town with them, and weave their stories into your own, giving the impression of a living community that exists irrespective of the presence of the party within city limits.

Finally, there are 20 Hooks, Complications and Opportunities - if the materials already supplied have not given you enough inspiration for events and encounters look here for ones designed to deliberately draw the party in and involve them in whatever is going on - anything from a gas explosion to a murder, a job offer or a green cloud that's engulfing people. Plenty of excitement here, your mining town need not be a quiet break for rest and relaxation between adventures (unless, of course, that is what you want!).

A vibrant collection of resources tailored to suit the particular environment of a mining town. Keep it to hand for the next time your party visits one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Dressing: Mining Town
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The Theta Files: Abe-X
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/18/2014 10:23:35
This product presents an unusal, interesting and potentially tragic super-villain: a genetically-enhanced gorilla!

The backstory is presented sympathetically, telling how a young gorilla was captured in the wild and experimented on (in some shady facility, of course), but developed far faster than the scientists anticipated to eacape and live wild on the streets.

There's no indication of who captured and experimented on him or why (which could provide some interesting adventure material in its own right) nor precisely what he's up to now beyond living on the streets and stealing what he needs to live.

Presentation os good, with iIllustrations clear and good, and a full stat-block is provided, as well as the backstory (a line or two of which fall foul of the bottom edge of the page background, although you can just about make them out) so of himself, Abe-X is all ready to go - just what's needed for the discerning GM's stock of super-villains.

If you want more than a quick side-encounter, work out who was experimenting on him and why, or maybe who is influencing or manipulating him now he's on the loose.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Theta Files: Abe-X
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Amethyst: Destiny (Fate Edition)
Publisher: Dias Ex Machina Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/16/2014 12:38:45
A long piece of fiction preceeds the introduction of the core premise of this game: what if storybook concepts co-existed with the real world around us? Most of us, certainly in the community of role-players, have active fantasy imaginations, but what would it be like if those imaginings became real, not as a replacement for the real world outside the window but alongside it? In answering such questions, we have the game, the setting, that is Amethyst.

Amethyst is not new. It's been around for quite some time now, growing and being revised, being changed to fit different rulesets - D20, D&D 4e, Pathfinder and now Fate. For the first three, the ruleset itself provided the framework for the fantasy aspects, bringing their monsters and magics out into a 'real world' setting which is easy to provide: we live there.

The introduction continues with the background - in character - as to how the co-existence of fantasy and real worlds came about and the tensions, conflicts, that this causes. Magic is real, but quite rare. Monsters too are mercifully rare but devastating when they do show up. And deities? Nobody knows if they are real or not, but there are plenty that believe... just like in the real world.

Chapter 2: Fate of Amethyst touches on the setting's history before launching into an explanation of how it works with Fate and, for those new to it, how Fate Core itself works. For this is a stand-alone book, all the rules you need to play are here, although if you do have access to Fate Core it can be helpful. You will also need a Fate Deck or Fate Dice, and alternative methods of generating the required random results are discussed. The character sheet is explained, leading into an explanation of how to generate characters coupled with information on how to use the character mechanics within the game. There are some variations from standard Fate Core mechanics, mostly brought over or modified from previous incarnations of the game using various class/level mechanics: instead of Fate skills you have rather broader Vocations, for example.

The character creation process itself is detailed clearly and well, being described as 'part of the game' rather than a precursor to it. In devising a character, you'll need to understand his background, and so you are already beginning to tell his story. As such, it is best done as a group activity with the entire party and the GM working together. The next few chapters go into depth on the choices you have to make: species, vocations and so on. Delve deeply and pick wisely. Throughout, snippets of fiction - some from the original story, others singular bits relating to the topic at hand - serve to illustrate what is being covered. Illustrations too are rich and varied and give a feel for what is being discussed. Many fascinating snippets of information are buried here, it's worth reading throroughly. For every choice, however, there is also a summary box which tells you what a character making that choice will be capable of - if the summary appeals, consider that choice in detail.

That dealt with, what of the world in which your character will operate? This is covered in Chapter 5: The World. Although the concept is fantasy meets real world, the game is not actually set on 21st century Earth, but in an imaginary world with fantasy elements intertwined with technological development of what is a modern society. Remember that it did not develop that way, rather a significant event released the fantastical parts on a more normal society - many of whom resist the idea and reckon fantasy still belongs in a book! Player Characters, even the non-fantasic ones, generally are a bit more aware of what is going on from the outset. It is a rich and varied background, and again this chapter is worthy of serious study to get the feel of the world in which the game takes place. Depending on where a character comes from, he may have access to abilities and knowledge that others do not, so again choose carefully based on what kind of character you want to play. And if you don't care for any location in this rich backdrop, rules are provided for creating your own!

Chapter 6: Equipment looks at the kit and caboodle your character can accumulate. Most is abstracted, you are assumed to have all the ordinary things you need for day-to-day life, it's only the gear that will become important when adventuring that matters. You'll need to know the tech level of the things you want and how well it can resist magic. Different species (and vocations) have their own preferred weapons and equipment, although your character may choose to buck the trend a bit it will make things harder and the character stand out. Weapons vary from basic mediaeval ones to wildly-futuristic, and there's a similar range of armour too - right up to combat exoskeletons and power armour. Tools, drugs, vehicles and more are also covered.

Chapter 7: Magic delves into the underlying philosophy and mechanics of spell-casting as well as exploring the actual spells that can be cast and what they do. Although the rules are quite precise spells are not - it is more a case of dreaming up the effect that you want to have happen and then applying the rules appropriately. There are plenty of sample spells to get you going. Magic items and alchemy are also covered, and there are notes on converting spells from other game systems if there's one you particularly like.

Next, Chapter 8: Monsters details some of the quite outlandish - and dangerous - beasts with which the characters will have to contend. This also includes NPCs. There are sample monsters, notes on devising your own, hazardous environments and much, much more here.

Finally, Chapter 9: Campaign deals with what you'll actually be doing once the game begins. The contrast between the familiar and fantasy should be at the heart of everything that goes on, but just about any plotline can be followed or story told within that context: exploration, intrigue, conflict, investigation... whatever takes your fancy. Running the Fate system is also discussed here, as it has quite an influence on the way in which your stories will be told. This chapter is really for those who want to GM rather than only play, but makes interesting reading whichever role you are planning to fill. There's advice on constructing and locating adventures, and a short sample one to get you going.

Beautifully written, a rich backdrop cunningly crafted and visually spectacular as well (with one flaw, a very dark figure in the lower left of the standard background that often renders a few words of text illegible), if you are already a fan of the Amethyst concept you'll want to add it, if you want to see just what can be done with Fate Core given a strong idea this is of interest... and if you are in search of a unique and different game, you may well find it here.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Amethyst: Destiny (Fate Edition)
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Ships of Clement Sector 5: Traders and Scouts
Publisher: Gypsy Knights Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/15/2014 07:21:16
Containing a full seven different starship designs within the category of Traders and Scouts, this is a good place to look if you intend the party to be operating their own vessel.

The first is a smallish trading vessel, just the right size for an adventuring party! Described in the 'as-real' pseudohistorical tone used by Gypsy Knights in most of their material, it is presented complete with illustrations and deckplans as well as full statistics.

Next up is the Palomino-class runabout, an historic design that was never a great success in its original incarnation but which is now enjoying a considerable revival amongst those who want a small craft to transport up to four people (although it can be flown solo in a pinch).

Then there's a larger vessel, a real workhorse of the starways called a Billings-class Free Trader. It needs a crew of five (but has room for more), and can carry ten passengers (and a further ten in cold sleep) in some degree of comfort. The crew and passenger areas are separate, each with their own common area, and there is ample space for cargo as well.

A Goldrush-class belter ship, a very self-reliant craft, an Explorer-class Type LS Long Range Scout and a Ningaloo-class Survey and Exploration ship follow; each fully-detailed with text descriptions, deck plans and statistics and all well-suited to their stated roles. The last has space for scientists, lab space and a magnificent sensor suite.

Finally there's the Dromedary-class Tanker. Big and a bit lumbering, it's designed to deliver fuel supplies to ships and stations out in the black.

As well as all the details provided for each vessel, there are bits of atmospheric fiction and numerous illustrations to set the scene. I'm fond of having a wide variety of ships plying the spaceways in my universe and these will soon be making an appearance.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ships of Clement Sector 5: Traders and Scouts
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Player's Secrets of Binsada (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/13/2014 10:16:18
Of all the realms in the Birthright world of Cerilia, Binsada is one of the most fascinating - not least because it is ruled by a female line that goes back centuries. A player representing Binsada in a classic Birthright game will need to play a female character if they wish to be the ruler, although advisors and courtiers can be of either gender as the player chooses. Prospective queens will need courage, determination and a flair for the dramatic to win their realm over.

The work starts with the High Priest's Exhortation, addressed to that would-be queen (but fascinating and useful to anyone wishing to exert influence in Binsada, of course). He has a startling secret to reveal, and also makes it plain that he wants to see the spread of worship of his deity, Leira, even more than he'd like the realm to flourish and grow! Fortunately, he claims that Leira has told him that Binsada and her Queen are destined to rule Cerilia...

Next comes the history of Binsada, grown out of nomads who once ruled a long-lost mighty empire but whose descendants conquered these lands and have held them ever since. The geography of the realm is described next: in the main a flat grassy savannah ideally suited to nomads and their herds. A major feature of Binsada is that whichever way you travel out of the land, you run into monsters. Hydras, harpies, a sphinx... maybe it is safer to stay at home!

The provinces and people are then introduced. Binsada is remarkable in that it has no roads, and only two permanent settlements, one of which is the capital Ber Dairas. Twelve nomad clans range their own territories, camping during the spring and summer months in 'sun camps'.

As for government, in some ways it's an oligarchy, in some ways a theocracy and to many minds it's sheer anarchy! The queen rules as an 'elder of elders' but each clan mostly listens to its own elders; and everyone listens when the priests of Leira speak. Although most citizens belong to the clans, there are also subservient settlers who farm or fish and who are required to pay tribute to whichever clan rules the province in which they live. Each clan, as well as governing their province, has overall charge of some aspect of Binsada's affairs - one handling customs, some providing the army, and so on.

Law is simple and direct, although ancient retributions like from like have now been replaced by monetary penalties. All is judged by clan elders and the aggrived party may choose to accept or reject payment. If accepted, the perpetrator is no long held to be guilty of anything. An oral tradition governs such matters as what price should be paid for what transgression.

There's plenty of detail on the habits and customs of the citizens, especially the nomads. Everything you might want to know - clothing, diversions, festivals, the animals and birds to be found (and the uses to which they can be put). The capital is described, as is a typical sun camp, and other landmarks along with notable nomads are detailed. There is a detailed accounting of the ruler's holdings along with law, guilds, temples, magical sources, income and expenses so that if you choose to play the Queen or one of her close advisors, you know just what you have to deal with. Finally, there is a selection of rumours and plots ongoing within the realm and some strategic advice.

If you are particpating in a classic Birthright game, this provides you with all you need to represent Binsada's interests. And if you are not, this would prove a fascinating country to visit, repleate with masses of activity and intrigue with which to get involved!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Secrets of Binsada (2e)
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Wellstone City Adventure Deck
Publisher: Silver Gryphon Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/12/2014 09:01:42
Creating the sort of complex adventures that work best in the underbelly of places like Wellstone City isn't easy, and even the most creative of GMs sometimes needs a bit of a hand, a few ideas to spark creative juices... and this product is designed to aid the process. It doesn't generate complete adventures for you, it provides some randomised 'plot highlights' for you to weave into a story that is still YOUR story and yet quintessentially one set in Wellstone City too.

Here's how it works. Grab a deck of playing cards and give it a good shuffle. Your first round of draws determines the 'inciting incident' - the event that sparks off the whole adventure to follow. It takes five cards in all, building various aspects of that incident: history and borough, perpetrators, what happened, to whom, and finally the time and location.

Once this has all been established, further draws can be made to determine the reason for the inciting incident (which may of course turn out to be more significant than the incident itself), a secondary reason, various complications and, of course, what is the reward for completing the adventure successfully. You may find that as soon as the first few cards are drawn, a whole plotline springs into life - well, run with it. Or later draws may give you ideas that do not mesh with the initial results. So what? You are not bound to the results of the draw, this is merely a tool to aid in adventure planning.

As such a tool, this is a good one dealing well with the style of adventure that fits this setting. Options open out as you read through, never mind once you get the cards out. Yes, there is still some work to be done before the adventure is ready for play, but you'll have a solid framework on which to build. A neat addition to the GM's library, whether you play the original Æther game or run it under the Savage Worlds ruleset.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wellstone City Adventure Deck
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Jester David’s How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding
Publisher: 5 Minute Workday Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/10/2014 12:03:26
Do you want your very own campaign world?

Somewhere deep inside, most role-players do. It's part of the creative itch that we scratch by playing our games. It's part of the delight we take in alternate realities populated by imaginary people who become all to real to us, their creators. As players, we want to create a character who is 'real' within the shared alternate reality he inhabits with the rest of the party; and as GMs we want to creat a rich alternate reality in which all those characters exist. There are plenty good campaign settings out there, and not all of us has the time to create a whole new one from scratch, but that sneaking desire to create is there deep within us.

If you feel that way, this book is well worth a read. In it. the author has mused over a vast range of things that need to be considered if you are going to design your own campaign setting. It's not the gospel how-to, he's the first to admit that he doesn't know everything and indeed that he doesn't always heed his own advice... but it is designed to get you thinking about the right sort of things, considering stuff that will have to be addressed as your development progresses.

Progression is logical. It starts by helping you consider how you want to design: top-up, bottom-down, centre-out or collaboratively. There isn't a 'right' way of course. It depends on how your mind works, what you are trying to do, what the spark or underlying concept is that has made you decide to settle down and do some worldbuilding in the first place. And here is introduced a neat trick: once a particular concept or topic to consider has been discussed, there's an example in an ongoing world design that runs throughout the entire book.

OK, that decided the next thing to look at is what the author calls The Hook. You might like to think of it as a Unique Selling Point - the reason why it's THIS world rather than any other one. It might, if you think cinematically, be the trailer to your campaign - "In a world where..." Well, where what? That's your Hook, the thing you hang the entire setting upon. Here's another neat thing: as well as discussing each point in the abstract the author refers to well-known published worlds, indicating how they have met that particular challenge. Mostly game worlds, but others from fiction and movies pop up as well, to illustrate what is being said.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of designing proper, there are a few variables to consider. Is fantasy or realism more important? Is magic widely available or are there but a few beings capable of wielding its power? How much more powerful than ordinary people are player-characters? And is this from the outset or do they just have the potential to become world-striding potentates after many years of development? Questions like this need to be sorted out, and then you can begin... once you have answered one last pivotal question: what drives conflict? What is the polarising factor that causes tension and, at least at times, outright warfare?

Only once these fundamental issues have been addressed can we settle down to what most folks consider to be world-building: geography, races, classes, nations, cultures, wilderness areas, religion, cities, factions, history and economics. Each topic is considered in reasonable depth, providing a wealth of ideas to chew upon rather than any answers. That's the joy of this book, it sets the wheels turning to the extent that I'm wondering why I'm still writing this review instead of starting in on a new campaign world!

So, once you have worked through what at the outset seems a bewildering whirl of things to take into account, where will your game actually start? It's easy when worldbuilding to almost lose sight of the purpose (and let's face it, worldbuilding is a fun occupation in its own right), but ultimately you will unleash your brand-new campaign world on some player-characters (or is that the other way around?) It will need to be detailed, because the party will be spending time there, and it needs to have scope for adventure, because otherwise why would they want to be there in the first place. You'll need a goodly cast of NPCs for them to interact with too. This might become the party's home and base, or they might decide to move on, but to start with, treat it as if it were their home.

After discussing a few other ideas, the concept of a Player's Guide is introduced. Unless you bring adult player-characters smack-bang into a completely new location (probably by means of very powerful magic) you will always have the problem of CHARACTERS knowing more about their surroundings than their PLAYERS do. Creating some kind of guide, and getting the players to read it, is one way of getting around this issue... and so advice is presented about how to set about providing one that will be effective.

The work wraps up with some further reading and comprehensive listings of everything that's been mentioned in the text... about all that it doesn't do is hand you a blank notebook to get going on your next world! If you've wanted to try your hand at worldbuilding, this is a very accessible starting point; if you've been at it for ages it still has plenty to make you think.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Jester David’s How-To Guide to Fantasy Worldbuilding
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