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Tower in the Ice (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2016 11:52:04

This is a site-based adventure in which the party investigates a tower which protrudes from a frozen lake in some cold and remote corner of your campaign world. There's a short background to let you know who's actually living there now, an adventure synopsis and some hooks to get the party to go visit the tower in the first place.


The adventure itself begins at the tower, so you will have to manage the party's journey to get there - remembering that it's VERY cold round there, with the associated environmental risks - and any investigations or preparations they wish to make in advance of their trip. There are notes on handling extreme cold, and also to accommodate parties who might want to approach the tower underwater, rather than walking out over the ice to the entrance that is visible.


A clear plan of the tower is provided, along with detailed descriptions of rooms and their inhabitants. These not only provide stat blocks and tactical notes but also gives likely reactions to whatever the party might do. Suggested reactions are intelligent and give a good feel of creatures going about their business and responding when the party turns up rather than existing in stasis until they appear - nice aid to creating an alternate reality.


The adventure ends when the tower is cleared out... it's unlikely that anything other than force of arms will do. There are brief notes on possible follow-up adventures, but basically it is merely the suggestion that some other antagonist might take up residence and need to be cleared out. It's a good delve adventure with the added edge of being bitterly cold and wet.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tower in the Ice (3.5)
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To Quell the Rising Storm (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2016 13:03:25

In an area recently devastated by war, it seems that trouble is stirring again. There's quite a lengthly backstory for the DM that explains just who is intended to cause trouble this time and why, then the adventure synopsis describes how the party arrives in a settlement troubled by gnoll attacks and, should they investigate further, end in a site-based delve through subterranean tunnels to deal with the antagonist and his cohorts.


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved in the first place by getting them to a small town called Evenfall. Several events take place here which lead to a gnoll-hunt which eventually takes them to the antagonist's lair. There's no map, and little information, for Evenfall but the actual events are covered in sufficient detail to enable you to run them effectively. Likewise although the initial pursuit of the gnolls ought to result in a skirmish all you are supplied with are notes on the group of gnolls and their likely tactics. The lair is supposedly in a wilderness area, but that too will have to be made up, although the actual tunnels are both mapped and described well.


The assumption is that all those within the tunnels will fight rather than enter into negotiations. Although the backstory explains why the antagonist is doing what he is doing, it is unlikely to come out during the course of the adventure, which is a shame as it adds some depth to what otherwise is a definite 'Bad Guy'... especially as if he manages to make good his escape he will carry on, not to mention the possibility of taking revenge against interloping heroes, so the information could be of use. Perhaps it can be worked into initial enquiries in Evenfell or in materials found in the lair.


Overall it is a reasonable combat-heavy delve adventure, but with the potential to be something more with a bit of added thought from the DM.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
To Quell the Rising Storm (3.5)
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Shrine of the Feathered Serpent (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/04/2016 07:48:20

The backstory tells of a remote village that was saved from a devastating plague some 200 years ago by a kindly couatl, but which of late has been experiencing some difficulties - or at least, some people think so. The humans who live there seem blissfully unaware, but various fey has had problems in the surrounding woods. What is actually going on is explained at some length for the DM, of course.


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved. What's needed to start the adventure is for them to visit Pearlglen, the village in question (so named for the freshwater pearls found in the area). It's a site-based adventure which starts in the village but takes the party to where the individuals behind what is going on are to be found. There's a map of their lair, but none of the village or the surrounding area, so if you feel the need of one, you'll have to find or devise something suitable. Despire the lack of map, the village is well-described with several locations to visit as the party attempt to find out the nature of the trouble. There's a bit of interaction to be had here, which should culminate in the party visiting a nearby ruined temple.


There is an encounter on the way, which is likely to end in a fight, but although it's described there is no diagram to help you set it up. The temple (once the party gets there) does have a plan as well as a full description. Most of those found there intend to fight rather than negotiate, but there are detailed tactical notes to help you run the combats.


The conclusion assumes that the party is completely successful, so if anything goes against them you will have to work out what happens next. There are some notes regarding follow-up adventures which could prove interesting, however. It's a nice straightforward 'go fight the bad guys' adventure, but it may be hard for the party to discern the full details of the fairly elaborate plot that has been hatched by the antagonists... a bit of a shame, it's a neat piece of deviltry!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shrine of the Feathered Serpent (3.5)
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Cave of the Spiders (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/02/2016 13:16:51

This adventure involves cleaning out a fairly unusual bunch of bandits, and can be run if the party comes across them or even as the climax of a hostage-rescue plotline, seeing as the bandits in question are rather fond of kidnappings - provided, that is, you want to write one.


There's a very short adventure background that just details who the bandits actually are, and an equally brief adventure synopsis that is basically 'raid lair, kill bandits'. Then there are some hooks to get the party involved, and once suitable hooked it is up to you to get the party to the lair entrance. From there on, you are well supported with a map and good descriptions of what will be found within. The map is quite unusual, a sketch of a cross-section through the lair rather than a floorplan. It gives an excellent impression of the layout, but might pose problems for those happier with a grid-based floorplan, especially if they rely on miniatures for handling combat... and there's combat a-plenty, this is an adventure for groups who relish a good fight!


There's not much in the way of suggestions for follow-up adventures, but there are a couple of ideas that could prove interesting if you want to develop them. Fundamentally this is a lair clearance operation with unusual opponents that ought not to prove too intellectually challenging to your party but does provide them with ample opportunities to brawl - perhaps it can be used as an interlude to more thoughtful adventures, or just when you know the party is itching for a fight!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cave of the Spiders (3.5)
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Tarus's Banquet (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2016 13:05:08

The DM's background takes you back about 20 years, a tale of a noble family based in a rather remote location... with good reason, as you will see. Given that this adventure started out as a web enhancement to the Libris Mortis which is all about undead, the adventure is jam-packed with them! Worse, one has become aware of the party and is out to get them...


It all starts so innocently with a definitely alive nobleman inviting the party to a banquet at his manor, to be followed by a night hunt. When they get there the table is set for a fine al fresco feast which transpires to be of the highest quality. After-dinner drinks are served indoors, and then the hunt is on!


The house is well-described, for those who'd like to explore it, and the social activities are also covered well. The more malign events of the evening are rather more vague - of necessity, as they will depend on party actions. Enough, however, is included for you to be able to run the adventure provided you do enough preparation to have the antagonist's abilities at your fingertips. The consequences of the evening and follow-up adventure suggestions provide ample scope for messing with the party in a most enjoyable manner, too! A neat and fun adventure, fairly simple but with some interesting twists.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tarus's Banquet (3.5)
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Lest Darkness Rise (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2016 12:36:58

This adventure is a bit of a horror story (it came out in October, after all, and there's a tendency for horror themes to abound around then), and can be run either as a single site-based adventure when your party is in the right place or - if you are willing to create your own 'prequel' adventures - as the climax of a series of events involving some of the main characters in the plot of this adventure. Interesting thought...


It's set in a remote area, where Night Falls is the only settlement to be found. Ideally a harsh northern area with bad winters and summers that don't get very hot should be used, but if you struggle to get the party to go near such places anywhere that settlements are few and far between will do. Night Falls is noted for a large graveyard, the Tomb Steppe, and folks from miles around use it in preference to burying their dead in local farmland.


The adventure background lays it all out for the DM and there's a lot going on that even the residents of Night Falls do not realise, never mind the party. The hooks provided to get the party involved (obviously not used if you have been running prequels) are based on the party just happening to be in the right place for the adventure to happen. Once they are in Night Falls, things begin to happen at an ever increasing pace, sweeping them into what is going on. There's a reason behind all this, as the backstory revealed...


The settlement and its inhabitants are well-described, enabling you to make the adventure atmospheric and suitably creepy. There's a lot of interaction to begin with, then events lead the party inexorably towards the centre of the graveyard, the skull-shaped Great Mausoleum. This is mapped out and described in detail... but terror mounts as even after exploring it and laying what's there to rest, there are still matters to be dealt with in town!


A neat adventure with some unexpected twists, there are some ideas for follow-up adventures and a couple of new monsters and a nice magic weapon.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Lest Darkness Rise (3.5)
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Thicker Than Water (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/01/2016 10:30:07

There's a Chinese saying "Devils give you your relatives, thank all the gods that you can choose your friends" - will your party, in particular one member of it, feel that way after you have thrown this adventure at them?


Interestingly, this is an adventure which comes to the party, rather than being set in a given location to which you have to manoeuvre them. It involves a series of events driven by a single NPC, about whom plenty of background is provided. First of all, though, you have to decide how you want to run this. You can go for a 'high preparation' mode in which you build up lots of background involving your target character, who will be a descendant of Charad, who is also an ancestor of the NPC instigator. With this route, events should be spread out over a considerable length of time, with other adventures inbetween... the suggestion is that you start with the first event when the party is 3rd or 4th level, with the seventh climactic event only happening when they have reached 12th level. That takes a lot of pre-planning and campaign organisation, so two alteratives are also presented, one more compressed (especially useful if your party is already at or near 12th level when you first consider this adventure) and one that has the target character as an NPC who approaches the party for help.


The series of events are then presented, each with sufficient detail to run them with ease. Although they are linked, this will not be apparent to the party as a whole or the character singled out for attention, at least not at the time and possibly not even in retrospect. Even individually, the events are quite interesting and can occupy the party nicely as minor side-adventures, but over time they all build up. Throughout, there are references to what the party can discover should they realise that something is going on and decide to investigate a bit. The whole thing is quite open-ended, with various ways to reach the final climactic event and a range of outcomes depending on what the party does... running away is one option! Whatever they do, however it plays out, there may be consequences, and some ideas for further adventures are provided.


If you like deep, complex, long-running plots this is well worth a look, especially if you are aiming for a long-running campaign (or have already embarked upon one). There's plenty of action and excitement, and despite being focussed on just one party member, everyone will find themselves with plenty to do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thicker Than Water (3.0)
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V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2016 11:28:11

It's all about conspiracies, about ancient vampire pulling strings behind the scenes... even the Camarilla are wary of the Black Hand. Yet in revealing a conspiracy, it's a delicate balance between giving you the tools you need to feature it in your game and exposing so much that it isn't scary or exciting any more. The Black Hand has had a chequered existance, being first introduced in Vampire: The Masquerade 2e with Dirty Secrets of the Black Hand, then being wiped out by Vampire: The Masquerade Revised Edition - it's mentioned explicitly that they no longer exist - but had proven so enjoyable that it was decided to bring them back. Of course, if it's not to your taste, you can ignore them, but if the thought of a conspiracy running through the depths of the heart of vampire society excites you, presents an opportunity to build tension in your chronicle (or blow it apart entirely as what seems normal to your coterie is turned on its head) then this is worth a look...


The book begins with Chapter 1: Black as Hell, Dark as Night, which introduces the whole conspiracy, its rituals, practices and underlying ideology (not that it's that simple, there are various strands of thought and different factions), and provides the mechanics necessary for creating your own Black Hand characters, to play or as NPCs. The lineage of the Black Hand is truly ancient, predating all the other sects. Formed of disparate groups linked by common goals, the origins seem to lie in a 3,000 year old bunch of mages who came to the Middle East (but where from?) and attracted the attention of Egyptian immortals who took them deep into the underworld where they found an ancient city, sunless and brooding. Many alliances and betrayals followed as these originals worked with (and against) other groups during the ages between that initial discovery and tonight... for those who adore the sweep of vampire history, there are some treats in store here.


Then, Chapter 2: Bahari - Cult of the Dark Mother explores those who worship Lilith and the particular spin they put on things, including the unique way they practice thaumaturgy and necromancy. Lilit's faithful knew of that dark and brooding subterranean city, called Enoch, of old but were not great explorers. But they bided their time, formed alliances and eventually got there... yet soon had to turn their minds to the protection of their faith as other religions arose around them. Mysticism, beliefs, legends abound, delve deep to discover the Bahari take. Did Lilith spawn her own vampiric line? Some believe she did. The study of Litith is the study of pain, with creation and transformation mixed in, for how can these be accomplished without pain? Find out the appeal of this sect, what its adherants believe and do, and bring them into your chronicle to best effect.


In Chapter 3: The Dark Below, we read about infernalism and how some see it as a way to bring on the apocalypse while others regard it as a dark evil that needs stamping out forthwith. The true aims of the Black Hand, unlike other vampiric cults, are very obscure and known only to a few (and they probably don't agree completely as to what they are). In recruiting members, they seek out vampires who are curious about things they really ought not to be delving into... perhaps one or more of your coterie will attact their attention? More history, more philosophy, more ideas - plenty to read and mine for ideas here.


Next Chapter 4: Dirty Secrets talks about the wide range of characters involved in the Dark Hand apart from vampires themselves - mummies, werewolves and even more abominable entities... ghosts and even the mortal necromances of Enoch. Although the Dark Hand is very much a vampiric conspiracy, they are not above drawing anyone else they view as potentially useful into their ranks. There are notes on how to create many of the entities they might suck in, as well as information on how to use them as antagonists, allies or even as player characters.


Finally, Chapter 5: Watch the Hand provides an example chronicle, ready to use or as inspiration for one of your own devising. It's exciting and fast-paced, dragging the party straight into the heart of the conspiracy almost from the outset.


The addition of the Black Hand to your chronicles can add layers of depth and hidden meaning to your game. For some, it might be a bit too much, for others it will enrich the experience and give purpose to vampiric existance - as a part of the conspiracy or as an implacable opponent... or seeking to find out just what is going on before taking sides. You may even decide to keep it all bubbling away below the surface, barely perceived by the characters, until...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 The Black Hand: A Guide to the Tal’Mahe’Ra
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V20 Lore of the Clans
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2016 09:37:42

If you have been playing Vampire: The Masquerade for any time, you probably have a stack of clan 'splatbooks' giving you the low-down on the various clans of vampires (especially if you are an experimental role-player and don't stick to identical characters all the time). Here notes on all thirteen clans have been gathered together into a single sourcebook containing a wealth of vampire history, tradition and outright lies, all ready for you to delve into.


Each chapter addresses the nature and traditions of a single clan from the standpoint of a vampire who is a member of that clan. How truthful are they? Well, about as truthful as any vampire is, and most of them make politicians look vaguely honest. Starting with the history of the clan, the chapter also contains information about how the clan operates tonight, and provides a range of new powers, merits, flaws, and other rules information which can be used to customise a typical clan member as you please.


The approach is vaguely scholarly, and proves quite an entertaining read. Most could be gathered by a curious vampire of any clan who is prepared to research and talk to members of other clans - after all, any vampire has a lot of nights to fill and needs a good hobby! Of course, for older vampires it's not history, it is something through which they existed although memories may not be as sharp, or may be coloured by later events and opinions. Only the Storyteller knows for certain what is fact and what is fiction in his own campaign... and he may not be telling!


With appendices covering the Caitiff and the Antitribu and a selection of notable vampires, this work provides a fascinating insight to vampire society and is well worth reading, especially if you enjoy all the details that take this game to a high level of absorbing role-playing and storytelling.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Lore of the Clans
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Bad Light (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2016 13:11:52

With the title 'Bad Light' given to a scenario set on an ocean coastline near a trade route that's threatened by a reef, and a plot which centres around a light-tower built against a cliff it's quite easy to guess what might be going on... but there's a bit more to it, as the adventure background lays out for the DM. Moreover, there is more than one way for the party to solve the problem, which gives a nice feeling of freedom of action and allows for ingenious ideas and tactics,


Several hooks are provided to get the party involved, neatly giving a variety of options so that you can spring this on them pretty well whatever they think they are doing at the time. However, it's primarily a site-based adventure, with the action proper beginning once they arrive at the lighthouse, which rejoices in the name of the Pearl Tower having once been coated in mother-of-pearl scales (long gone now, pinched by raiders). A plan is provided, along with detailed descriptions of who and what is to be found there.


There's also a secondary location that needs to be visited, covered in less detail so you may want to spend some time on designing the surroundings. Once matters have been dealt with - and that will require fighting, the antagonists are not the sort to be talked out of their activities - there's a brief mention of some follow-up activities. Overall it's a neat little adventure that can be dropped in somewhere suitable as part of the exploits of a typical band of adventurers.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bad Light (3.5)
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V20 Rites of the Blood
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2016 12:39:21

Just as their unlife derive from it, so does vampire sorcery have its basis in blood. Quite messily at times, as the opening piece of fiction describes (all in the best possible taste, I'm glad to say, your imagination is left to fill in the less pleasant bits!). Many vampires wonder just how blood does what it does for them, the more curious ask what else it can do. Out of this inquiry comes more exotic knowledge. Raw power shaped and controlled by ritual... magic. This book, then, looks at what effect blood rituals (and indeed blood sorcery as a whole) has on vampire society, as well as the price an individual vampire pays to develop his arts.


Ultimately, it's all about power. Raw power. Some clans codify their knowledge and pass it on, master to apprentice, sire to childe... but others reach deep into themselves to tap into powers they might have learned to control but do not really understand. The theme here is the cost of power, the mood is the strange and often scary wierdness of it all. Even vampires themselves see it as unnatural, which coming from unnatural beings is strange indeed! Ancient secrets and recent discoveries, quite apart from the disciplines practiced by all vampires, blood magic involves individuals wielding almost limitless power that can as easily overwhelm as it can serve. Treat with caution...


Chapter 1: The Ivory Tower starts a survey of blood magic as practised by various vampire groups by looking at the Tremere and thaumaturgy. The very history of the clan is bound up in their practice of thaumaturgy and it makes interesting reading to see how they used it to claw their way from untrusted outsiders to valued members of the vampire community (even if viewed somewhat warily)... and then the Camarilla was formed, and they established their position. There's more on their current status and the way in which they work, then follow detailed descriptions of commonly used rituals, including the rule mechanics for using them.


Then Chapter 2: The Sword of Caine continues in similar vein, explaining how blood magic is used by vampires of the Sabbat. Various kinds of magic are practiced and these are explained at length. The recurrent theme is that whatever magic is studied depends on the clan affiliation of the vampire studying it: although there are a few exceptions when particularly curious individuals somehow manage to learn a different style. The Sabbat also practice a variant form of magic called the ritae, which involve not just blood but faith as well. Detail is immense, reflecting the way in which spell-casters pore over their books and scrolls, amassing vast amounts of knowledge, a constanct feature of this entire book.


And so it continues with chapters exploring the blood magic practices of other groups - Chapter 3: The Movement looks at what Anarchs do including wierd and wonderful 'Hacktivist Thaumaturgy' that mixes computer technology, blood and magic and Chapter 4: The Independents explores the exploits of Assemites, Setites, Giovanni (who are in to necromancy big style). Then Chapter 5: The Unusal covers the Inconnu, the Tal'Mahe'Ra and even looks at the magical creation of creatures such as gargoyles. Not that that is supposed to happen any more, the Tremere had to give up their gargoyle habit when they joined the Camarilla but... well, the appropriate rituals are laid out here. Chapter 6: The Damned looks at demons, with a note explaining that these demons are not the ones of Demon: The Fallen, but rather demons as vampire view them. This chapter is steeped in the history of vampiric dealings with demons and inclues a section on the Sabbat Inquisition. Don't mess with them...


Finally, Chapter 7: Secrets of the Blood attempts, as far as is possible, a systematic analysis of blood magic from its fundamental principles. Whilst this mainly concentrates on the game mechanics necessary, there is enough background for a studious player to make his vampire character sound like he knows what he is talking about!


If magic is to play a leading role in your chronicle, or your character wants to study it, this work will provide ample resources. It is perhaps a bit of a niche interest, but reading through these chapters gives an insight into quite a lot more than just ritual spellcasting vampire-style... it provides added depth to the activities of sects and clans and so gives further insight to the shadowed world of vampires.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Rites of the Blood
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V20 Anarchs Unbound
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2016 08:44:17

Some vampires have no time for the traditions that have built up night by night amongst their kind. Some do not want to wait to gain seniority and status within vampire society but want to grab it now, even if to others it seems that they haven't earned it yet. These are the Anarchs, who can be summed up as being more like the kine on which they feed than like the kindred to which they belong. They are the agents of change, who see vampire society as stagnant and lost in its past and seek to incorporate new ideas and new tools as they drag it into the present day. No wonder older vampires hate them!


Yet their rebellion often does no more than replace one tyrant with another, their demands that their ideas be heard fade into stoney silence if anyone else wishes to express a contrary concept. Are they actually any better than that which they seek to replace? This book seeks to enable you to portray them warts and all, with background and setting details for those who want to play Anarchs and Storytellers who want to make use of them in their chronicles.


Beginning with Chapter 1: The History of the Anarch Movement - a look at the history of the Anarchs, nowhere as 'new' as they'd like to think that they are. Elder vampire look back and wonder if they could have stopped this pesky cult long before it erupted, but it's embedded in strands that go so far back that it would have been well-nigh impossible. It all goes back to the fall of Carthage - which of course had vampiric involvement, it wasn't just a political struggle led by Roman senators trying to ensure that no other power would get big enough to threaten the might of Rome. Brujah there had tried to build a life in some measure of harmony with the kind, and Roman Ventrue were having none of it, laying the foundations for the elder-dominated traditional vampire society we know tonight. This was reinforced by the development of the Camarilla and the Masquerade in the 14th century as a response to Church-led attacks on vampires... but many young vampires saw it as a blatent attempt by their elders to enforce control over them and organise vampire society at their expense - and revolt ensued, with neonates no longer slavishly following orders. And when those orders left them at the mercy of the Inquisition whilst their elders escaped, who can blame them? And so it continues to this very night, weaving through real-world history in a compelling account that encompasses exploration of the Americans, Soviet Russia right up to contemporary nights. Plenty of ideas here as to where (and why) Anarchs might fit into whatever is going on in your game.


Next, Chapter 2: The City Upon a Hill looks at how they organise their domains and the sorts of structures and internal politics that they have. Presented as a fascinating, if a bit rambling, diatribe, there's a wealth of information here, including notes on particular hot-beds of Anarch activity and plenty more of use to anyone wishing to construct or inhabit an Anarch domain. In keeping with their modern nature, there is even a virtual domain lurking in the Deep Web.


Chapter 3: Spreading the Movement is the 'cookbook' of ideas, showing how they destablise and attempt to destroy other vampire organisations. Whichever side your coterie finds itself on, they should find things of use here from traditional dissent and violence to cunning manipulations of the World Wide Web. A heady mix of anecdote, fiction and discourse conveys the information.


Then, Chapter 4: Characters and Traits provides what you need to create Anarch characters. Of particular use if you want to play them, a Storyteller can of course produce detailed NPCs by the same method. New archtypes, backgrounds and traits suited to Anarchs are provided. Chapter 5: Anarch Disciplines then follows on with new Disciplines and powers which in some way draw upon Anarch ideology, although they are in the main not confined to Anarchs alone. Some are strange indeed, mixing coding with magic to operate across the Internet!


Finally, Chapter 6: The Storyteller's Toolbox is just what it says, aimed at Storytellers and providing ideas for those wishing to add an Anarch flavour to their game. It's quite different to adding other sects or clans, for Anarchs define themselves by what they stand for, not where they are in relation to anyone else. Their central tenet is equality of opportunity for all vampires, but they do not espouse any particular outcome, let the chips fall where they may provided everyone gets a fair chance.


The Appendix: Antagonists and Allies also mainly for the Storyteller, covering useful NPCs with historical documents in Appendix II: The Anarch Accords. Yep, even Anarchs keep some records.


This work gives a fascinating glimpse into the Anarchs and how their history has been interwoven with that of oher vampires through the nights from the earliest to the present... as background invaluable, if you want to play Anarchs or involve their machinations in your game, priceless.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Anarchs Unbound
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Dry Spell (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2016 12:37:09

In a nice low=level adventure, the party is asked to retrieve a magical item that has been stolen by bandits and which is believed to be behind a drought troubling a region that is already semi-desert. The background for the DM explains what is going on and a few hooks are provided to get the party involved, mostly - as is appropriate for the level - an offer of reward to find out what is going on and put things right. It's suggested that if nobody in the party can track, an NPC tracker be available to help them find the main site of the action.


Basically, once the party have done whatever research they like about the bandits (or the magic item, not that much is known about that, its owner was on the way to consult with a local sage when the bandits attacked) they need to travel deep into the desert to find the bandit lair. Here's an opportunity for a bit of sun, sand and suffering for the party. They'll need to make sure that they take adequate supplies and take precautions against the heat... and of course, some random encounters are provided to keep them entertained along the way. Once they arrive at their destination, there's a neat little delve with some varied and quite intelligent (or at least well-organised) defenders and a bandit chief who is quite cunning and thinks about what he is doing - although he is of the 'fight or flight' variety, unlikely to try negotiations with the party. A few thoughts for follow-up adventures are mentioned, but this is basically something to accomplish and then move on. A neat little adventure.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dry Spell (3.5)
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A Question of Ethics (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2016 11:27:32

Here's a bit of a delight: an adventure where there isn't a Bad Guy to defeat, rather there are two contending forces, neither of which is particularly good or particularly bad... and the party will have to decide which, if any, they are willing to help!


The background notes for the DM explain everything - it's a territorial dispute over an area that includes a wizard's tomb, with one lot wanting to turn the tomb into a base and t'other lot not being interested in the tomb at all, they're after a mineral nearby. But they won't talk, let alone share. A nearby town is holding a festival, which is assumed to be what gets the party into the area (although ther are other hooks if your lot aren't great festival-goers), and the module sets out to provide you with all the resources you need to let the party loose in the area and moderate whatever they decide to do... a neat way of handling a very 'open' plot.


These resources include notes on the town and the festival, which as well as the usual elements of a mediaeval fair includes an Arcane Challenge with a series of events for spell-slingers to test their prowess against each other. Naturally, a party wizard or sorcerer might like to try his hand... and others may be more interested in archery or fencing contests or even a cooking competition! Several NPC spellcasters are provided as opposition, along with notes on how they intend to address the challenges of the contest. If nobody from the party joins in, it can still make for an entertaining spectacle.


Just to add to the fun, there's another group of adventurers there, who are concerned by some encroaching stone giants and are trying to stir the town up to do something about them, and there is also a nasty disease spreading through the region. And, of course, there is the dispute that is at the heart of the plot. Everyone involved is detailed, along with what they are likely to do, how they will react to any interference, and what they are likely to be willing to negotiate about.


Finally, there's the wizard's tomb itself. This is mapped out (using a map from the Map-a-Week series on the Wizards of the Coast website, reproduced here although the original link still works at the time of writing) and is full of interesting things... and traps to guard them. Plenty of fun for those looking for a more traditional delve.


Ending with some notes on the consequences of some of the more likely party actions, this is a real gem of an adventure, with a lot packed into 11 pages!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Question of Ethics (3.0)
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Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Screen
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2016 09:00:19

PDF screens are always a bit odd: what do you do with them? Do you print them out and stick them on card? The 'GM-side' tables often provide a useful summary of the rules you might need to refer to during play, so you might want to print those out, but the 'player-side' - usually graphics-intense pictures - can prove a bit more problematic, it's a lot of printer ink for little enhancement to your game.


This screen is pretty much what one would expect. The three panels of player-side art is top notch, Onyx Path are good at that... there's a selection of decadant-looking, langorous vampires lounging around gazing out at you looking as if they are in two minds whether to bite you or seduce you... pretty much encapsulates Vampire: The Masquerade vampires, really. It is dark, it will use up your ink, but if you enjoy the art then you might well want to print this out and either actually make a physical screen or just decorate your gaming room with them.


As for the 'Storyteller-side', the tables are clear and well laid out if a little eclectic in choice. Health levels, combat summaries, generic difficulties, combat manoeuvre charts... yes, these you can and will use. Probably quite often, at least until they all become second nature. But generation traits, the changes due to which generation a vampire is, that's not something you often need mid-game. Or bearing? Somehow linked to the vampire's humanity or lack thereof, but it ought to be filed away with your description of that vampire rather than something you need to check on mid-game.


A print-on-demand version would have been a welcome addition for those who do like physical screens. As it is, at only a couple of dollars it's probably worth taking a look to see if you do want it.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition Screen
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