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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Disciples of the Dark Gods
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Dark Heresy: Inquisitor's Handbook
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2015 09:49:28
This rules expansion delves deep into what it means to be an Inquisitor, providing a wealth of information about the setting of Warhammer 40K and the Inquisitor's place within that setting as well as a host of options to consider in customising your character - everything from new origins and professions to details of different worlds, the religious philosophies he might be exposed to and the nature of life as an Acolyte. There's a lot here, a lot to take in!

Chapter 1: Advanced Character Creation is the home of many of these new options. Building on the core rulebook, there are new homeworlds, backgrounds and character origins from which to choose. Neatly, the Homeworld table from the core rules has been rewritten to incorporate the new ideas so you can just read through (or roll if you prefer a random origin) the one collection rather than having to juggle the information from two books at once! Various sub-options have been provided to allow for even greater variety. This all serves to enhance the rich tapestry of the setting, it's worth reading through the options you don't intend to play just to get an idea of what else is out there!

The chapter moves on to review some unique worlds of the Calixis Sector - useful if you will be visiting, essential if you (or the dice) decide that is where you come from. There are also optional background packages, tailored to suit characters of different career paths and designed to help you give depth and personality to your character - another neat idea. In choosing them other requirements quite often need to be met, ensuring that the background fits your character well.

Next, Chapter 2: Calixian Careers suggests a new career path and offers modifications to existing ones as well as an array of what are described as elite advance packages. First, though, in the male-dominated environment that is the Inquisition, comes the Adepta Sororitas or Daughters of the Emperor, which consists of various orders involved in all aspects of endevour from warfare to diplomacy, teachers to investigators. They're powerful and very straight-laced, unable to tolerate the slightest deviation from orthodoxy or taint of the forbidden. It's not so much a career path as a whole battery of them, driven by faith and providing a wealth of opportunity for those who'd like to play a female character. This is followed by a collection of alternative ways to follow existing career paths, allowing you to customise a character in depth. Interestingly, all the alternatives are rooted in conspiracies, organisations or cults to be found in the Calixis Sector, helping to embed the character deeply into the region in which they operate. You won't change career path, but your advancement through your chosen one will take twists and turns unavailable to others. Each option comes with copious background notes as well as new skills and abilities to apply to the character. Elite advance packages, on the other hand, allow the character to remain on the core career path but take a few non-standard options as they advance, often due to something they've done or experienced along the way.

Chapter 3: Feral and Feudal Worlds begins a look at a vast range of weapons and other equipment that can be found on specific planets within the Calixis Sector. Characters who come from a given world ought to be at least familiar with them and may choose to wield them, others may take a liking to them when they encounter them and go to great efforts to seek them out and learn how to use them to effect. The next two chapters, Chapter 4: Hive and Forge Worlds and Chapter 5: Frontier Worlds and the Void, continue this pattern. Hive worlds are manufacturing centres with high population densities, while forge worlds are also industrial but in the grip of the Adeptus Mechanicus with many things rich and strange (and deadly) to be found there in the shape of the techno-devices that they make. As Calixis Sector is on the edge of the Imperium, there are quite a few frontier worlds which are even more dangerous that one might imagine. And then there is the void. The black between all these worlds and the ships that ply the spacelanes. Naturally, special skills and equipment are needed to survive let alone prosper there. Acolytes often have to travel as part of their duties, sometimes a vessel will be provided but often they will have to find their own way, the details here will help both party and GM organise transportation when it is required.

This survey is followed by Chapter 6: War Zones. There are plenty of them in Calixis Sector (indeed, anywhere in an Imperium which thrives on and is sustained by warfare), and this chapter touches on the weapons and equipment needed to survive there. Properly the domain of the Imperial Guard, there will be occasions when Acolytes' duties take them close to the action. Those interested in military weapons will find plenty here.

Next, Chapter 7: The Holy Ordos takes a look at some of the specialised and rare items used by the Inquisition itself, some are actually unique or extremely specialised for a specific task. Whilst Acolytes are expected to deal with situations using whatever resources they have to hand, it can be useful to know what is available and where to get it if the need arises.

Chapter 8: Religion and Superstition is more philosophical in tone, talking about religious faith within the Imperium. Belief in the God-Emperor is a given - it's not faith, he's actually there, a tangible presence: and he does not tolerate those who do not worship him. However, not everyone is devout, not everyone wishes to listen to preachers, even if they'd say that they venerate the God-Emperor as they should... and here you can find out about the varied roles religion plays in citizens' lives. The priesthood, saints, relics and pilgrimages that may feature in an Acolyte's religious life are discussed here, as well as common heresies that he might encounter. It all helps to add depth and flavour to the setting.

Finally, Chapter 9: Life as an Acolyte gives an inkling of the day-to-day existence that is the character's lot. Threats to overcome, positions to jockey for, the ways to stand out and gain advancement... and how alter-egos and contacts work, both mechanically and in-character. Sometimes an Acolyte does not wish it to be known what he is, hence the need for alter-egos, legends and disguises. And if you are investigating something, contacts always come in useful - as they do if you need something specific to complete the task in hand. Notes on expanded skills and the ability to craft things round out the chapter, and then an Appendix contains collected weapons tables from throughout the book.

There's a lot here, but all serves to contribute to the rich variety of the setting. The sheer scope, the vast sweep, is what makes the Warhammer 40K setting what it is, and this work encapsulates that nicely, bringing information about places and equipment, organisations and ideas, to your hands, and should prove valuable to players and GMs alike.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Inquisitor's Handbook
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Dark Heresy: Purge the Unclean
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2015 10:25:06
This work contains three linked adventures which will take a party of Acolytes to some quite unsavoury corners of the underbelly of the Calixis Sector. They are all suitable for characters of Rank 5 or below, and follow on quite nicely from Illumination, the introductory adventure at the back of the core rulebook, thus helping you to get your campaign off to a flying start. However, they are open enough that it's a trivial matter to retool them to take place elsewhere if you do not happen to want to use the Calixis Sector. Again, although linked, you do not need to run all of them if you campaign takes a different direction, and each provides suggestions for further adventures and special notes for those who want to exploit the various factions or Ordos within the Inquisition.

There's a brief introduction explaining all this, then it's on to the first adventure, Rejoice for You Are True. This takes the Acolytes to Scintilla, the capital of the entire Calixis Sector, to investigate a burgeoning new cult called the Joyous Choir. They believe that the main purpose of the Emperor is to ensure that all citizens of the Imperium are happy and hence hold that they should be contented with their lot, whatever it might be, to gain his favour. It's proven popular amongst young nobles and middle-echelon individuals, who seek to become True (as the cult terms it) through attending workshops and individual sessions run by cult Counsellors. Unfortunately, a few members have gone missing, and it is this along with discovery of xenotech devices that has led to the Acolytes being sent to investigate.

The Acolytes will be able to use a variety of routes to investigate, including posing as ‘visiting cousins’ to the noble and thus getting the opportunity to infiltrate the upper echelons of the cult, as well as wandering the streets to find out whatever they can about it. This is definitely an adventure for players who enjoy interaction, investigation and intrigue. There is a lot of atmospheric description to help you set the scene and create a convincing alternate reality for the Acolytes to wander through, and vividly-described NPCs for them to meet. There’s even a pamphlet that the Joyous Choir hands out on the street for you to give them, while there are many unusual rules and customs to catch them out. Make sure you have read the adventure thoroughly beforehand so that you know what they are! There's a lot going on (and a lot for you to keep track of), but there is plenty of advice as to what the Acolytes might do and how to deal with it in their quest to find out what's really going on.

The second adventure is called Shades on Twilight. It's a classic action adventure where the Acolytes are sent to explore a mysterious space hulk that has just emerged heading straight for Scintilla - so they are under pressure to find out what's going on, retrieve anything useful and ensure that it does not hit the sector capital! Pressure indeed, a scant 15 hours are allowed for them to complete their work. There are all manner of threats and downright oddities for them to contend with as they explore. Again, the adventure is well-resourced to enable you to run it to good effect.

The final adventure, Baron Hopes, takes the Acolytes to Sepheris Secundus, a planet where downtrodden serfs live a life that is only slightly less hard than that of mutants. A Baron there attempted - heretical idea! - to better the lives of the mutants but was eventually dealt with, however now the mutants have formed a 'terrorist' group, the Broken Chains, which has been causing trouble - and it seems that even once killed they won't stay dead. Or at least, a recent photograph shows someone believed killed. The Acolytes are sent to find out what's going on in what appears to be another investigative adventure, but which will soon turn to full-blown horror as the investigation turns into an exercise of pure survival!

All three adventures can be summed up with terms like 'atmosphere' - as well as providing plenty of action they also give a real feel for what this alternate reality, the world of Warhammer 40K, is like, highlighting the curious mix of priviledge and constraint that is the Inquisitors' lot within it. They should contribute well to a memorable campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Purge the Unclean
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Dark Heresy: Game Master's Kit
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2015 08:47:23
This product has two components: a Game Master's screen and a book containing an adventure and some additional rules. Depending on whether you've gone 'dead tree' or electronic, you either get a cardstock screen and printed book or two separate PDFs to download.

The screen has some useful tables - the ones you are likely to need most often during combat - on one side and some quite dramatic art on the player-facing side. If you have gone for the electronic option, you'll have to print these out and stick them on card for the full effect, of course. Whilst pleasing to the eye, the art is dark and will use up a lot of ink - it may be best to have it done at a copy shop, or decide that you just want the tables for your own convenience. They are in greyscale, clear and easy to read.

The adventure is called Maggots in the Meat. It's set on Acerage, a backwater planet within the Imperium with a feudal ruling structure and hordes of quarrelsome lordlings perpetually squabbling over who is in charge of what, even more so since the High King died without troubling to name a successor! However, this is of no direct interest to the Imperium as long as tribute is paid and the world's surplus food output supplied...

The adventure itself begins with the party of Acolytes (it's suited to 1st or 2nd rank ones) being sent to investigate reports of 'unnatural' attacks on citizens of one lordling's domain, rumours of 'daemons' and 'monsters' fly around and it's their job to get to the bottom of them. Needless to say, the region in which they will have to conduct their investigations is being fought over at the moment.

There's a lot of atmospheric description of the areas they have to visit, along with people to interact with and rumours to pick up in the course of their investigations. Enough is provided to enable you to steer them in the right direction to the source of the problems, and there are plenty of opportunities to brawl along the way, never mind the likelihood of a spectacular combat with said source once they find it. It's a good open-ended adventure with options for you to take it in whatever direction you please, including suggestions for further adventures.

There's also an Appendix which contains details of a xenos (alien) race, rules for creating your own aliens - which can, of course be a sentient race or 'monsters', alien animals to fight, as you need, and a section on poisons and toxins. This includes a list of 'Infamous Toxins of the Calixis Sector' and their effects.

The adventure is good fun, with plenty going on yet open enough for you to run it in a fairly sandbox style to enable the characters to conduct their investigations however they please. The xenos generation system is excellent, and should come in useful whenever you need an alien monster (or race).

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Game Master's Kit
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Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2015 10:22:03
This massive tome launches the Warhammer 40K Roleplaying line, something long-awaited by those who'd watched the richness of the setting unfold around the original minitatures skirmish game. Unsurprisingly, it begins by explaining the underlying concepts of that setting, clearly enough that even those of us uninterested in miniatures can understand. Set in the 41st Century, it paints a bleak picture of galaxy-spanning warfare across decaying worlds where much of technology has been lost, presided over by an undead - or at least, not properly alive - emperor, who is as much deity as ruler.

Interestingly, characters are not the iconic 'Space Marines' of the skirmish game, but acolytes of the Inquisition, whose role is to search out threats to the Imperium of Man from within and without. The first part of the book explains how to create your character and shows how the game is played, with later chapters detailing the role of the Game Master, providing a lot more information on the setting, and even an introductory scenario to get things going.

The character creation process is laid out clearly in Chapter 1: Character Creation. It is a six-stage process beginning by determining your home world. You next work out your 'characteristics' or capabilities both physical and mental and then choose a career path to follow. Next you have points to spend on skills (or improving characteristics if preferred) as well as money for weapons, armour and other equipment. That's the main number-crunching part of the process. Then you need to flesh out the character a bit, deciding everything from what he looks like to how he behaves and thinks, maybe even his hobbies or favourite food! Each choice made has a bearing on what comes after, and in the main you have the option of making a choice or rolling random results, although you do have to roll characteristics. Plenty of detail on all the options is provided to help you make up your mind, and it's written in such a way that you are absorbing background on the setting as well - neat!

Chapter 2: Career Paths comes next, giving a wealth of detail about what the path you have chosen to follow has to offer, both now and in the future as your character gains experience. Each is unique, indeed each character on that path can choose a different route, and it is worth studying your chosen one thoroughly from the outset. The entire process of advancement is described here too, it's complex but elegant and quite easy to follow once you get the hang of it. Again, the background is woven in seamlessly so as you read you discover more about your niche within the setting.

The next few chapters continue in similar vein, with detailed examinations of skills, talents, equipment and psychic powers, if you are lucky (or unfortunate?) enough to have any. Throughout, it is explained how each one will work both mechanically and in character, enabling you to use them to good effect in play. The final part of the opening section is Chapter 7: Playing the Game which draws everything else together and gives you the lowdown on how to make everything work. Examples and advice abound, and although there's no substitute for trying it all out, preferably in the company of someone who already understands it, this chapter provides a good start.

Then comes Chapter 8: The Game Master, which seeks to provide aspiring Game Masters with what they need to know to run the game effectively. It is comprehensive, starting from the basics and hence being suitable for someone who has never GMed before, as well as providing system and setting specific information to empower you to run Dark Heresy well. There is a wealth of material here and it will repay careful study (along with the rest of the book, as the GM, of course, needs to have a thorough grounding in rules and setting alike).

The next three chapters provide more detail on the background and setting, looking at life in the Imperium, the Inquisition itself and one part of known space, the Calixis Sector. Unlike many combined rulebooks (i.e. those intended for both GM and player) which divide into a 'Player' section and a 'Game Master' section, these are of equal use to both players and GMs despite being located after the chapter dedicated to the art of game mastering, certainly the chapter on life in the Imperium. The GM may choose to reveal the inner workings of the Inquisition through role-play, if the characters begin as new recruits to its ranks, and likewise may wish to restrict knowledge of the Calixis Sector until the party actually goes there.

Chapter 12: Aliens, Heretics and Antagonists provides a bestiary and details of those whom the characters may encounter in their travels, with particular note - of course - to those who they might be investigating for heresy or who would provide opposition.

Finally, there is a full-blown adventure, Illumination, to get your campaign off to a good beginning. It's a tale of treachery and dark secrets to be uncovered, with action and danger aplenty, showcasing many of the perils that the average Inquisitor faces on a day-to-day basis. A bunch of newly-recruited Acolytes (guess who?) are sent to escort a senior Inquisitor as he heads up an investigation of a barbaric world... but they have to get there first.

As well as providing all the game mechanics necessary to play the game, this richly-presented tome provides an excellent introduction to a darkly fascinating setting. Whether you are a long-time player of the skirmish game wanting to know what else those characters do but brawl or a role-player looking for a vivid and rich setting with depth, this is worth checking out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Core Rulebook
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