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The One Ring Revised Edition Clarifications and Amendments
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2016 08:12:26

If you have the original 2-volumes-in-a-slipcase version of the core rules - The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild - you may be wondering about whether or not you want to buy the one volume The One Ring Roleplaying Game that came out in the summer of 2014. If you are not a mad completist, this PDF contains all the actual rules changes that have been made so you can have a look at make up your own mind.


Starting with the Adventurer's Book, there are detailed, fully page referenced lists of the changes made, all clearly highlighted in red text. The Loremaster's Book gets a similar treatment.


Of course, if you are only now coming to this great game, you'll want to purchase The One Ring Roleplaying Game, but if you have spent your hard-earned cash on the original game you may not want to splash out on the new version. With this you don't need to, although you might want to spend some time annotating or pasting things in to your books - easier of course if you have them in hard copy, but it's possible even in PDF... that's what I've done as I don't have The One Ring Roleplaying Game yet!


What is particularly good is that Cubicle 7 Entertainments have seen fit to put this out, rather than expecting everyone to rush out and buy the new version. It's the sort of thing that builds up brand loyalty and indeed makes one more inclined to keep buying their product!



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The One Ring Revised Edition Clarifications and Amendments
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The One Ring - Horse-lords of Rohan
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2016 09:36:34

Rolling grass plains far to the south of Wilderland are home to the horse-clans, the Rohirrim (or Eorlingas in their own tongue). They call their lands the Riddermark and here they ride and reign, a culture rich and strange. It was always one of the areas I found most exciting in The Lord of the Rings, so it's good at last to be able to visit, even if only in my game.


The first two sections describe the Riddermark itself and the lands surrounding it, covering history and geography from the contested West-march and the Gap of Rohan in the west to the Great River in the east; from the Wold in the north to the White Mountains in the south. As well as the lay of the land, there are details of local wildlife, the people who live there and notable individuals and locations that might feature in your adventures. Ideas for Fellowship Phase activities, not to mention hazards and other encounters, are scattered throughout to aid you as the companions travel here.


The third section covers the Forest of Fangorn. Now if you thought Mirkwood was strange you really need to visit here... and maybe meet an Ent, one of the legendary shepherds of the trees. Moving on, the forth section deals with the Folk of the Fells, lumped together by the Rohirrim (who do not get on with them at all) as the Dunlendings, although there are many different tribes and societies.


Next the fifth section speaks of Isengard, the Tower of Orthanc, home to Saruman the White. There's plenty more plot resources here for those who wish to have dealings with Saruman, even Fellowship Phase activities. This is followed by a collection of Monsters of Rohan including dangerous animals and more sentient foes such as the Uruk-Hai.


Finally, the last two sections take a look at horsemanship within the game (including, of course, combat) and at new Heroic Cultures for those players who'd like characters who come from here, rather than who will visit. There are also two splendid maps (endpapers in the hard copy, a separate PDF if you are downloading), which let you see where everything is as you read through the book.


This work does an excellent job at setting the scene for the Riddermark and surrounding lands, and a companion book of adventures is said to be in the works. It is assumed to be 2960 here, although it's relatively simple to move the timeline to whatever suits your needs using the information provided. It explains how visitors from other lands are received by the Rohirrim, and there some ideas provided for how a company from the Wilderlands might travel this far from home... and there is a note about hobbits. They've not been seen here for so long that most Rohirrim think them the stuff of legend. If there is a hobbit in your company they could be in for an interesting time!



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The One Ring - Horse-lords of Rohan
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The One Ring - Ruins of the North
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/10/2016 08:49:30

This is a collection of six ready-to-run adventures which you can use whenever your company is in eastern Eriador. They can be stand-alone or linked into a loose series as best suits your needs, and are assumed to take place sometime after 2954 - but not wedded to that date, if your requirements are different. If you have the supplement Rivendell, there's lots of useful material there to help you flesh out locations and the general environment.


The first adventure takes the party from the foothills of Gundabad across the Misty Mountains to the former capital city of Angmar and finally to Rivendell itself. The following five adventures are all based out of Rivendell and are set in the various lands surrounding the Vale of Imladris. They gradually get harder, the first five can be undertaken relatively easily, but the final one presents a greater challenge - although none are appropriate for complete novices, play a few other adventures first. Several suggestions are provided for how you can incorporate these adventures into an ongoing campaign or build a campaign around them, even though there is no definite 'plot arc' (or Big Bad to defeat) save the growing of the Shadows, the gathering of evil, in preparation for the War of the Ring that is to come.


In the first adventure, Nightmares of Angmar, some children have been kidnapped by goblins and it falls to the company to track them down and get them back. It's an autumnal quest, suitable for the last adventure of a year. However, you might want to make up your own reason for them being in the Black Hills (where it all begins) in the first place, most of the reasons provided are rather weak. On the other hand there's an impressive array of options to help you weave this adventure into whatever else is going on. Throughout the adventure, support is provided to help you run each encounter and event... although there is little lee-way for handling anyone who doesn't do the expected thing! There is an interesting mechanic of 'Key Points' - places where the characters' actions or words have a positive or negative effect on a certain pivotal NPC. These will determine how that individual acts in the future, but ought not to be revealed to the players, it's just something that the Loremaster should track.


The next adventure, Harder than Stone, is designed for spring, perhaps after the Fellowship Phase following Nightmares of Angmar. It's undertaken at the behest of Elrond of Rivendell which will lead the company a merry dance along the mighty river Hoarwell. A caravan of dwarves has been attacked... and the characters will have to travel deep into the Trollshaws to find out who's behind it all. Yes, these adventures are full of lots of travelling... but as that's central to all the Tolkein stories, that's not very surprising!


This is followed by Concerning Archers, a spring or summer adventure that begins in Rivendell when Bilbo Baggins gets into an argument with a scholar over hobbit participation in a battle - and asks the company to travel to the ruins of Fornost, the city of the Kings, to check things out. Bilbo reckons that a company of hobbit archers were involved in the fall of Fornost, but the elf to whom he is speaking has been dismissive of such a possibility... and they've made a wager about it. Bilbo needs evidence to win! (Why Bilbo, who's described as being in his prime, won't go himself isn't even discussed, you might want to think of something should your players bring it up.)


The fourth adventure is The Company of the Wain and is interesting in that it's quite episodic - you could interleave events from it with other adventures to good effect as it revolves around a group of travelling traders. Perhaps the company just keeps encountering them as they go about other business. Travelling traders are an unusual sight up here, and there's something a bit odd about this lot...


Next comes What Lies Beneath, which comes with a warning that travelling is even more extensive in this adventure than in most, so it's best started early in a year. Hiraval, a Ranger of the North, wants some assistance to reclaim his family's ancient mansion - not just because he thinks it could improve the safety of the region, but also because he is being haunted by an ancestor who is driving him nuts about the place!


Finally, Shadows Over Tyrn Gorthad has Gandalf asking the company to deal with a veritable plague of barrow-wights who are passing far beyond the Barrow-downs and growing bolder all the time. It will take several Adventuring Phases, indeed several years, to play out in full and the danger is immense. They will need to research and study lore about the barrow-wights before thay are in a position to deal with them, and even researching them carries its dangers.


Overall, a fine collection of adventures that are very true to the whole feel of the setting. There's a tendency to assume that the characters will follow the set path through each adventure, and little support if they do not, but provided they do the right things the Loremaster is well supported to run their adventures. Complete these, and there will be songs written about the company, stuff of legends!



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The One Ring - Ruins of the North
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The One Ring - The Heart of the Wild
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2016 08:09:37

This sourcebook expands on material in the Loremaster's Guide, providing a wealth of detail about the lands of the River and the Forest - the Vales of Anduin along the banks of the Great River and the trackless forest of Mirkwood to the east. Its main purpose is to serve as a gazetteer, whether you are running a campaign based on The Darkening of Mirkwood or one of your own devising in this part of Middle Earth. If you are using The Darkning of Mirkwood this work will greatly enhance your game and is highly recommended on those grounds alone. Timewise, material herein is set at 2946, but the Loremaster should take into account the passage of time between then and whatever the date is when the company arrives at any given location. Oh, and this is primarily a book for Loremasters. Players have no business reading about places their characters have not visited yet!


The first chapter traces the course of the River Anduin all the way from the Misty Mountains to the southern edge of the wild, using the same regions as depicted on the Loremaster's Map in the core rules. For each region, we read about its general geography, interesting flora and fauna to be found there, notes on the inhabitants (if any) then lists of notable individuals and locations that may be encountered there. Sometimes there are ideas for things to do in either the Adventuring or the Fellowship Phase.


The history of this area is one of migration, and that mainly of Men rather than any other race. Much of it is uninhabited, but those who have passed through have left their traces. Even where there are not overt suggestions, just reading through these details spawns plenty of ideas for adventure!


Next, following the same pattern of contents, there's a look at the forest of Mirkwood itself, running from the thickets of Northern Mirkwood to the very gates of Dol Guldur. Mirkwood is indeed an enormous forest - its northern border faces the steep slopes of the Grey Mountains and its southern edge is near the Brown Lands, a distance of more than four hundred miles, whilst it is about two hundred miles wide. The elves were the first to live here, but their time is now long past although some still remain. A few men have wandered here, but generally only on the fringes, while darker souls such as orcs are found within. It's dark in there, and airless... hunting and foraging are a chancy business and not everything you find is fit to eat or drink even once you've got it. And it is very easy to get lost! Tread warily if you must go there at all.


Finally, there's an extensive Bestiary. This covers a lot of critters that you probably don't want to meet, complete with all the information the Loremaster needs to run them when you do... and illustrations, which unfortunately are not arranged in such a way as to facilitate showing them to your players. An appendix provides a detailed overview map to supplement the individual regional ones scattered throughout the text.


Overall, the wealth of detail here really makes the place come to life, and should help you provide the same service to your players as their characters travels take them through these parts. And if anyone wants to come from here, there are a few appropriate Heroic Cultures from which to choose. Highly recommended, especially if you are running The Darkening of Mirkwood campaign arc.



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The One Ring - The Heart of the Wild
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The One Ring - Rivendell
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2016 09:18:30

This work widens the horizons of The One Ring RPG, opening up eastern Eriador and Rivendell for exploration. It's assmumed that the company will have already embarked upon, if not concluded, The Darkening of Mirkwood campaign, so the material here is set around 2951 or later - but if you prefer to start earlier it's possible. Elf-touched lands don't change as fast and what is said of 2951 holds good for earlier times for the most part.


We start with Imladris, the almost-hidden valley where Elrond himself lives... and where the company might find a welcome if they can but find their way there. It serves as a refuge for the High Elves of Eregion. The house of Rivendell is described in detail along with notable characters who might be found there. It's a pleasant place to stay, and several specific Fellowship Phase activities are provided for companies who stop here for a while. It's a good place to research lore, whilst more creative characters might want to write a song. This introduces rules to cover the writing and singing of songs, and the benefits of singing whilst adventuring.


Next comes A History of Eriador. This provides a lot of background about the whole region and leads on to The Regions of Eastern Eriador, a chapter which gives even more detail of the geography, wildlife and inhabitants. This includes both notable individuals and locations to be found in each region. Visit the Trollshaws, the Coldfells, the Ettenmoors and other spots if you dare. Small maps of each region are supplied. Plenty of suggestions for hazards peculiar to these places are provided, there are also ideas for Adventuring and Fellowship Phase activities.


This is followed by a chapter on New Monsters, some of which have been mentioned earlier as resident in one or more region. There's a discussion on designing powerful monsters, with a range of enhancements that will strike terror into any character's heart, as well as stat-blocks and notes on a range of monsters to be found in these areas. There are some wonderfully atmospheric illustrations too, although it will be rather difficult to show them to the players as 'This is what you see...' without revealing stat blocks and other identifying information.


In perhaps more pleasant vein, next is a chapter on Magical Treasures, wonderous items that were made in times past and have been lost through the ages... but which are just waiting to be found by some enterprising company and put to good use. Rules for finding them are included, along with ones for determining what you have got, and how to track what each individual companion has in possession. They should not be commonplace. Then there are 'precious objects' that have value but are not of such significance. Armed with these notes and rules, the Loremaster can devise, place and use all manner of fabulous things in the course of the campaign. Several example Magical Treasure Indices are provided: they can serve as examples or even be put straight to use... especially as amongst them is one aimed at The Darkening of Mirkwood and another at adventures set in Eriador itself.


The next chapter is The Eye of Mordor. As evil reawakens the characters run the risk of catching its notice by their actions. Here a mechanic to quantify this process is presented. It's an interesting concept if rather mechanical, and does require some book keeping.


Finally, there are some Heroic Cultures should anyone wish to play a High Elf of Rivendell or one of the Dúnedain (Rangers of the North). These may come over a bit high-powered compared to the others previously introduced in the core rulebook - neither classes as a 'first-time adventurer'. Now, perhaps you have an experienced company and either a new player or one who wishes to take on a new character might have one of these - of particular use if the company has just arrived in Rivendell and are in need of a local guide. Whatever your needs, here you will find all the details you require to create and play such characters.


This is an interesting expansion to the game, and one to be welcomed. Have fun exploring a bit further afield!



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The One Ring - Rivendell
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Delta Green: Need to Know
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/05/2016 12:36:53

After a slightly disorganised start (you have to wade through the product blurb, a page of densely-written copyright notices and the Open Gaming Licence before you actually get to the contents!) we start off with Welcome to Delta Green, which explains what the game is all about - fear. Fear and having the courage to stand up against horrors no matter what. Then there's a brief explanation of what role-playing is and how to play, including the terminology: the Game Master is called the Handler and players take the role of Agents (of Delta Green), and adventures are known as Operations. To play, you'll need dice (or a die roller app), with percentage dice playing a major role. There's a whole page on 'How to be a Player' which covers the basics like describing actions, speaking as your character and not holding things up... and of course working with the other members of the party. There's another page for the Handler (with some ominous blood-splatter on it) and an example of play. A scary one...


The next section is titled What is an Agent? This goes through the character sheet explaining what everything is and how it is used in the game. This leads into a section describing how to create an agent. The assumption is that characters are Americans employed by one of the 'Alphabet' agencies, but it's quite easy to see how to extrapolate to other nationalities or professional affiliations. The basic professions available (which suggest the skills that you have) are Federal Agent, Anthropologist/Historian, Computer Scientist/Engineer, Physician (i.e. medical doctor), Scientist or Special Operator (i.e. someone with military training). The way everything is put together helps you build a rounded individual with friends and some personal history, and a reason why he's in Delta Green and doing what he's doing. There are six pre-generated characters which can serve as examples, get customised or just used for play... there are outline notes and full character sheets for each.


Then comes a section called Game System. This explains the game mechanics in a straightforward (if slightly patronising) style. It covers general task resolution and combat, then goes on to discuss damage, death and sanity. Like Call of Cthulhu (which these rules resemble), hanging onto your sanity is well-nigh impossible in this game. This leads on to rules for insanity... and, fortunately, some notes on ways to preserve your character's sanity. The bit about going to see a therapist is quite amusing: do you lie about what you've experienced or sound really delusional by telling him... and risk him going a bit mad as well? A lot of this is a cut-down version of what's in the Core Rulebook, it says, but even this is pretty comprehensive.


Finally we have the operation (adventure) Last Things Last. In this, the party is despatched to check the home of a recently-deceased retired Delta Green agent to make sure no incriminating evidence is to be found (remember that Delta Green regards keeping the existance of supernatural horrors completely secret as important as actual defeating them). It's a fairly simple mission that serves just to demonstrate a little of the system and give the group an inkling of what to expect...


Unless you are completely new to role-playing you may feel that you are being talked down to a bit in some of the explanations, but apart from that this provides a good introduction to the game, bringing out the flavour well. The adventure is rather too basic and is aimed at complete novices, Handler as well as players, but can be used to whet the appetite for more... provided the agents don't completely lose their sanity over what they have to do! Support for a novice Handler is good, however, and there's the potential to make it quite atmospheric. There are a couple of good handouts... but the purely illustrative page that follows could have been used to provide more resources to lead to further adventures if the items there weren't piled on top of each other quite so much.


That said, this work does give a good feel for the game and ought to enable you and your group decide if it's for you (or not). I'll be looking out for more...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Delta Green: Need to Know
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The One Ring - The Darkening of Mirkwood
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/04/2016 11:51:37

In the original Loremaster's Book an epic campaign called The Darkening of Mirkwood was outline: here it is presented with a wealth of detail, year by year events to enable you to have a coherent time-line of events running irrespective if you want your campaign plot to interact with them or not - a fine way to ensure that your players feel that their characters exist within a living, breathing, real alternate reality!


The Introduction provides a lot of useful material, including notes on how news travels across Middle Earth (slowly...), and how this timeline has been established to set the scene for the events in The Lord of the Rings - remember, this game is set between events in The Hobbit and those of The Lord of the Rings. The focus here is on how the sweep of events affects those caught up in them, in particular the player-characters and those they care about, putting a human (or hobbit, dwarven, elven...) face on world-shaping events. Yet it may be that the histories are wrong. Maybe things didn't quite happen as it is said that they did. Perhaps some heroes stood up and by their actions changed things. Don't be afraid to alter the course of history as appropriate to the actions of your company of adventurers or indeed the needs of the stories you want to tell. The company are, after all, the heroes of your game, the stars at centre stage whatever else might be going on in the world.


There are rules for establishing and running a holding - something many character might wish to do... and this also provides them a place to defend when darkness comes a-knocking. For those living in the Wilderland, it's a real and present threat that is only going to get worse as time progresses. So encourage the characters to embed themselves in the community, build up networks of friends and relatives, trading partners and associates... all the more will they feel the threat as events unfold.


And then we move on to the tale of years, which is broken down into five phases beginning with the last good years. The timeline runs from the year 2947 for a full thirty years. For each year you get a selection of events, noteworthy things that happen in Mirkwood and the lands immediately surrounding it... or even further away, but which influence life there or at least will have been heard about by those living there. It's up to you whether or not you want to incorporate them into your plotline or use them as side-adventures, or merely leave them as topics to be discussed over a pot of ale.


Next there's a complete sample adventure. As the years progress, it is likely that these adventures will need to be customised, as things your company has done in the past may be already altering the timeline from that published here. There's also information that may influence the course of the year-end Fellowship Phase, although this gets harder to predict as time passes and adventurers' actions affect the timeline, for better or for worse.


The overall idea is that you and your company will build a solid history of your own, one that encompasses the feel of a real life being led, a life that has adventure in it to be sure, but one which is rooted in its surroundings and the ordinary lives led by most of the people who live there. As such this work is an admirable resource and should help you build a lasting campaign that will be fun to play and memorable for years after.



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The One Ring - The Darkening of Mirkwood
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The One Ring™: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild 2011 Edition
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2016 13:14:01

This product consist of two books and maps in a slip case (or a slew of PDFs if you purchase it that way). The books are The Adventurer's Book and The Loremaster's Book, and the maps come in Adventurer's and Loremaster's versions as well.


We'll begin with The Adventurer's Book, which opens with an Introduction that covers the usual explanation of what a role-playing game is before talking about the setting of Middle-Earth as depicted in The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings and assorted other material by J.R.R. Tolkien. Even the what is role-playing bit is interesting, as it takes the standpoint of common knowledge of video games and explaining that role-playing is a bit like that, but without the computer! We then find out that the game is set specifically in the time between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, a period of some seventy years, and starts off in the Wilderland - this being the lands extending from the Misty Mountains as far as the Running River. A lot of this area is covered by Mirkwood and there are plenty of monsters and other perils to contend with, ideal for adventuring. There's plenty of background here, worth reading however familiar you are with the novels as it extends on that material to bring the wider setting to life.


We then move on to a section called How to Play. In a way this extends the material that describes what role-playing is, as it covers the concept of player-characters as adventurers roaming the land. As you'll have guessed, in this game the Game Master (GM) is called a Loremaster, and his role is also explained. Now it gets interesting. To promote interaction, each adventure is made up of two parts: the Adventuring Phase (the main part) and the Fellowship Phase. The Adventuring Phase is like any adventure, the Loremaster sets the scene and the characters react, but in the Fellowship Phase the characters take the lead, describing what they do after the adventure. In many games, after an adventure you sort out experience points, level up and so on, this is just a means to make it an explicit part of the game rather than stopping play to 'book keep'. You may do this already, but it provides a measured structure for such activities.


This section ends with a note on dice. The One Ring is designed with custom dice in mind but if you don't have access to them you can play with ordinary dice - you'll need d6s and d12s - just remembering that on a d12, the 11 is the Eye of Sauron and the 12 is the Gandalf rune, likewise on the d6, the 6 counts as the tengwar rune. Where these symbols appear in the text, you just use the appropriate number on your dice. Die rolls are quite uncommon, characters are assumed to be reasonably competent, but when they are required you roll a Feat die (a d12) and perhaps Success Dice (d6s) depending on how skilled the character is. Special effects come into play if you roll one of the symbols: basically the Gandalf rune confers automatic success whilst the Eye of Sauron counts as zero and can lead to really bad things happening! To suceed at something, the player needs to roll in excess of a Target Number based on the difficulty of the task being undertaken.


Next, Part 2: Characters explains the process of character creation. Your characters are assumed to be ordinary folk who have, for whatever reason, stepped out of their regular lives to become adventurers. The process begins by deciding which Heroic Culture you come from (and there's a promise that succeeding books will provide more options based on the lands that they describe). Then you define why he's gone adventuring and work out what skills and knowledge he has. The idea is to create a rounded character, rooted in his origins and heritage yet ready to face the unknown. There's a wealth of background material to help you accomplish this here. Once individual characters are ready, the group as a whole should create a Company, a party of adventurers, working out how and why they came together in the first place, and why they have chosen to travel together.


Then Part 3: Fundamental Characteristics puts numbers to the concepts you've been tossing around during the previous chapter. It's a quite masterful effort to separate 'fluff' and 'crunch', empowering players to think about who their characters are as people without needing to worry about game mechanics yet able to slot them in seamlessly to describe the character you have developed in game terms. It also explains how the system works in detail, how to use your skills and other abilities, so it is advisable to study this well. It's all quite straightforward and keeps the number-crunching to a minimum. Here we also read about the weapons and armour that's available, along with their in-game effects.


This is followed by Part 4: Character Development. Here the various ways in which characters - and the group as a whole - grow and develop over time. It's not just mundane things like skills and abilities that increase with your exploits over time - wisdom, valour, virture, rewards and more also feature here, many mixed in with the culture from which that character comes or reflecting how he is regarded by those in whose lands he has travelled. It all tends to the development of rich and varied characters embedded in the lands that surround them - a lot more than totting up your XP and gaining a 'level'! This section also looks at life and death, getting wounded or catching a disease, healing and recovery.


Next comes Part 5: Adventuring Mechanics. This gets down to the bare bones of task resolution, drawing on the material already covered and bringing it all together. It takes you through the process from deciding what you want to do, then determining the appropriate skills etc. to bring to bear, assigning a difficulty and, once the dice have rolled, working out what actually happened. It all sounds a bit laborious, but if you think about it, this is how any game works... it's just been spelled out in detail here. It becomes instinctive with practice so don't be off-put by the clunky feel. Given the nature of the game, one of exploration and travel, the role of maps is important. Even more civilised areas are not well-mapped and most folk do not travel far from home, so adventurers may well find that the only maps they have are those that they make themselves as they travel. Not only travel is covered here, but combat - pretty deadly and not to be engaged in lightly.


Finally, Part 6: Fellowship Phase looks at what you can do once the adventure is done. A party is assumed to undertake one adventure a year, and then to rest for a season or so, often returning home to gather once more when they are ready to venture forth once more. There are opportunities for characters to develop themselves, make stuff and carry out all manner of non-adventuring activities. They can also catch up with the news and events within the known world whilst they've been off adventuring. It makes for a civilised and balanced approach, a more realistic way of viewing the life of an adventurer than occurs in many role-playing games. As an Appendix, some pre-generated characters are provided, as examples or if you are eager to get going.


The Loremaster's Book begins with Part 1: The Role of the Loremaster, which defines what the person taking that part has let themselves in for. It then, in Part 2: Game Mechanics, goes into considerable detail about how to make the game work at the rules level, including such matters as running Loremaster characters, awarding advancement points and so on.


Part 3: The Shadow looks at adversaries, from the nebulous 'corruption' to actual physical monsters that beset the land. Then Part 4: The Campaign helps you devise and structure one, using the sweep of years across the setting as your guide, embedding your game solidly into Middle Earth, and in particular Mirkwood and the surrounding area. There's a wealth of detail here.


Finally in Part 5 there's an introductory adventure, The Marsh Bell. Treat it as an example or use it to kickstart your own campaign. You should have plenty of ideas by now as to the sort of things that you can do.


Overall, this game has captured the flavour of Tolkien's tales well, with a gentle and measured approach that is quite distinctive yet very appropriate. Epic tales can be told, but it is the complexity and richness of the setting and game working hand in hand that really appeals.



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The One Ring™: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild 2011 Edition
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Plight of the Tuatha, Vol. 3: Dark Sails and Dark Words
Publisher: Mór Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/29/2016 08:16:59

Much more than an adventure, this book also introduces the city of Chandegar and the influence of the Avitian Empire, so is of particular note if you like the setting of the world of Aeliode and use it for your own adventures as well as this adventure path.


Chandegar is an ancient city, but now finds itself a vassal of the Avitian Empire... and not everybody is happy about the way things are going. Worship of the local pagan patheon is forbidden, education and trade are coming under ever-increasing regulation and it looks like the whole way of life of local citizens is being changed, probably not for the better. So there are mutterings of rebellion under the surface, even if the Chandegar ruling family appears to be smiling and aquiescing to Imperial rule; and there's plenty else going on as well, as explained in the introduction.


So, to the adventure itself. The characters end up here as the final moves in the task they were set by Philiandrius in the previous episode, they were told to deliver their spoils from that adventure to one Chondus at the Gilded Peacock Inn. Even that isn't as simple as it sounds, and when they manage it they are then directed to seek out a wizard by the name of Iaret... and this will take them on a wild chase throught the town and beyond, far beyond (indeed, planar travel is involved!). In case that isn't enough, the proceedings open with several possible side-adventures to run even before they reach Chandegar, you can use any or all of them to good effect.


Throughout, you are provided with a wealth of resources to help you run each encounter or incident - stat blocks, notes on individuals, ideas for how that encounter could play out and various options based on what the party decides to do - and even more supporting material is provided on the Mór Games website (hyperlinked if you are reading the PDF online, else you'll have to type in the addresses provided to access the material). There's a good, detailed map of the city spread over two pages - I'd recommend you print out at least those two pages to get the best effect if you are using the PDF - although I think it's mainly for the GM. Fortunately only cryptic reference numbers are used, so whilst the players might realise that something may happen at that location, only you know what it is until they find out the hard way!


As in previous installments, ominous orange boxes labelled 'Up the Ante' provide ready reference on how to make things more difficult, should the party be doing well, be larger than the four for which the adventure is intended... or if you are feeling particularly malevolent! There are also yellow boxes labelled 'Advice' that provide hints and tips for the running of the adventure: take heed, they are useful suggestions. Background and historical notes are in green boxes, so everything gets a bit colourful - but it's also easy to find what you are looking for... although, as always, thorough preparating pays its rewards.


This adventure provides a heady mix of busy urban life, scholarly pursuits and high adventure... with heroics at sea and a fair lady needing rescuing to boot! There is something for everyone here, and a fine city setting for future adventure of your own as well. Proceedings end (however the party fared) with the lead-in to the next stage of the adventure with a prophetic dream... I cannot wait to find out what happens next!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Plight of the Tuatha, Vol. 3: Dark Sails and Dark Words
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New Paths 6: Expanded Gunslinger (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2016 12:37:54

Subtitled 'Grit and Gunsmoke' (worth mentioning because that's how the book self-refers, a bit confusing if you haven't noticed!) this work adds new traits, feats and archetypes aimed at enabling characters of any class to use firearms, assuming that they exist in your game. Not everyone feels that firearms fit in a fantasy game: if you don't, put this down and look at something else. However, if you are comfortable about including firearms in your game, this has some good additions to the material concerning black powder firearms that you might wish to incorporate.


We start with some Firearm Traits, which can be used to explain how come a character is familiar with firearms even if they are not normally associated with his class - perhaps he was a hunter as a young lad - or in some way was involved for better or worse with them. One's quite delightful, 'Gun Shy' which makes a character quite unhappy around firearms, with negative modifiers to shoot and the shakes after he's done so... but a massive luck bonus for resolving criticals should he ever manage them!


Next come some Firearm Feats. Some rely on the Grit class feature (or at least, you need to have it to take them) and others are firearms-related Combat feats. There are even some - the Thundering God series - that bring firearms and martial arts together, enabling you to build a gun-toting style.


Finally, and this is the main part of the book, we have an array of archetypes. These provide many routes for the aspiring gun-slinger and indeed for characters of other classes who wish to add in firearms. Some are downright strange, like the Black Hat who brings bad luck to his opponents. Or maybe you prefer the barbarian approach with the Black Powder Reaver, who doesn't really understand guns but boy, does he enjoy the noise and the havoc that they cause! Then we have the Coilgunner who uses an alchemical weapon called a coilgun, a strange thing that uses alchemy to generate magnetic fields to spit out iron bullets. OK so you need iron bullets rather than lead ones and alchemical fluids rather than gunpowder, but the end result is the same. Or perhaps the Futurist appeals, a witch who senses glimmerings of technical advances that haven't been made yet... and we could go on. The Gunfighter (a fighter who specialises in firearms) is quite obvious, then there's a Hellfire Preacher (a cleric archetype who prefers a firearm over his deity's favoured weapon), and finally the Noble Shootist, a confident fellow with leadership skills.


If you want to make use of firearm technology within your game, here are some novel ideas to help you do so.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 6: Expanded Gunslinger (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 5: Expanded Monk and Ninja (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/25/2016 10:23:42

Properly practised, the martial arts are a way of life, not just a way to knock seven bells out of the opposition! It's good to see a supplement that reflects this... for who after all can ignore the allure of the almost-legendary unarmed warrior that is the monk, or the sneaky, skilled assassin that is the ninja?


This book sets out to provide alternative and enhanced ways in which to play such characters. It starts off with some monk archetypes: the Beast-Soul Monk (who takes the concept of animal-styles to an extreme), the Clockwork Monk (which is what you get when a gearforged - a character race unique to the Midgard setting from Kobold Press - decides to take up martial arts), the Monk of the Compliant Style Rod (who specialises in use of the bo staff), the Monk of the Glorious Endeavour (who seeks enlightenment through the mastery of but a single weapon, he won't even touch anything else), the Monk of the Peerless Mountain (who specialises in kick attacks, think savate), the Paper Drake Monk (whose philosphy is rooted in origami...), and the Six Talismans Monk (dedicated to protecting others through the use of magic items as well as martial skills). Whatever sort of monk you want to be, you'll find something of interest here.


Then attention turns to the ninja, with some new master tricks to expand on the class abilities, and of course new archetypes: the Elemental Ninja (who utilises knowledge of the elements alongside acrobatics and martial skills) and the Mist Stalker (who is exceptionally stealthy, using shadows and mists - natural or otherwise - to advantage).


Next there is a selection of new feats which could suit anyone wanting to use the martial arts, built around several new martial arts styles. Each style gives you progressive access to a list of feats to enable you to develop your skill in a particular direction. If that's not enough there are also some new exotic weapons with which to get to grips... fancy attacking with a horse tail whisk, an iron flute or a farmer's hoe?


In summary, then, this supplement provides a lot more options for monks and ninjas, a chance to develop a distinctive style and achieve renown as a legend in your own lifetime.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 5: Expanded Monk and Ninja (Pathfinder RPG)
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New Paths 4: Expanded Battle Scion (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2016 12:06:16

This variant base class describes what might be thought of as an 'arcane paladin' - someone who has combat and spell-casting skills but who wields arcane rather than divine power. One particular neat ability they have is to loose a 'force blast' - a bolt of pure arcane power - at their foes. Acting a bit like a magic missile, the strength of the blast increases as the Battle Scion rises in level, although the number of times a day he can fire one remains constant.


Full details are provided to enable you to create and play a Battle Scion character. There is also a couple of archetypes - the Force Blaster (who specialises in using his force blast to effect) and the Bonded Scion (who bases his abilities on his link with a bonded weapon) - and some new feats and new magic items with which to equip your Battle Scion. Of particular interest are three items said to have belonged to a legendary Battle Scion, one Gax (who is the hero of the bit of flavour fiction at the beginning of this work) - his armour, shield and sword are there awaiting a new hero.


Finally there's a Prepared Spell Tracking Sheet to help you keep your spells in order, another neat idea. (I used to use index cards, one per spell, which I'd lay out on my table when I chose spells, but that was a long time ago...)


This is a rather nice base class which provides a good role for someone who wants to mix powerful fighting skills with appropriate battle magic, but who doesn't want to be lawful good or committed to the service of a specific deity. Well worth a look...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 4: Expanded Battle Scion (Pathfinder RPG)
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Harndex: A HarnWorld Reference and Glossary
Publisher: Columbia Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/23/2016 07:45:03

Now in its third edition, for the first time Hârndex is available as a stand-alone work. It still fulfills the same purpose, being an alphabetical general reference sourcebook for anyone using the Hârn setting for their game.


Entries fall into several broad categories: geographical, economic, guild, religion, culture and politics. Many are taken from the first (1983) and second (1990) editions of the book (which was relased as one component of the core setting material along with HârnWorld), but it also contains material from the 'Hârnic Dictionary' that was part of the 1994 work HârnPlayer, and more. This is explained in the introduction, along with a note on pronuciation, which it claims is phonetic apart from the letter Y which is treated as a vowel. Being a Welsh-speaker, I expect Y to be a vowel so I guess I have been getting the names correct anyway!


Then it's straight off into the As, with Aaldem Keep coming first. For places, the information includes what kingdom or other region it's in, how many people live there, who is in charge and to whom they owe allegiance, as well as some notes giving flavour to the place. Other entries have similar details as appropriate to their subject, all aimed at presenting Hârn as a living world with which your characters and your plots can interact.


The text is scattered with diagrams, maps, badges and other illustractive material as well, and there is plenty of cross-referencing. Where appropriate, map references (quite general, but it's not too hard to locate places) are also given. For those who like mediaeval manuscripts, there's an added delight in the illuminated letter that heads each section A, B, C... and so on.


Like any such directory, this is a book to dip into, to refer to, rather than one to sit down and read end-to-end. Nevertheless it makes for fascinating reading, and is a good way to have an overview of the entirity of Hârn all in one place for ready reference. Whilst it is billed as a gamemaster resource, a well-educated Hârn native would probably know most or not all of what is here, so you may choose to give your players access.


It's an excellent resource, well worth keeping to hand as you explore and adventure in Hârn!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Harndex: A HarnWorld Reference and Glossary
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HarnWorld Master Module, 3rd Edition
Publisher: Columbia Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2016 08:37:16

This is the latest incarnation of possibly the most detailed and comprehensive fantasy setting ever: Hârn. It's a place I've been prowling - or at least my characters have but it's so realistic it's easy to forget that you haven't visited there yourself! - for many a year, even though in one memorable game my bard was kicked out of the city of Thay and told never to return! The Introduction explains the history of this setting from its first appearance in 1983 to the present, and lays out how it is organised. This book is itself an introduction, an overview. In some ways the real meat, the detail that makes the setting so glorious, is to be found in Hârndex and in the component articles of the Encyclopaedia Hârnica - these articles are available as looseleaf punched pages (or PDFs) enabling you to collect just the ones you need. (You'll probably end up wanting all of them, Hârn is addictive!)


It starts with an overview of Hârn itself, a large island, a wild and dangerous land, where pockets of civilization are surrounded by large tracts of wilderness. Those pockets of civilisation are mostly feudal kingdoms, but apart from the squabbling that is inevitable when you have lots of lordlings each with an armed retinue, there are religious quarrels, barbarian hordes, unexplored expanses and much more to keep your characters occupied. Oh, and there are elves, dwarves, orcs and even stranger races to be found there as well. Maps abound - both in the book itself and the large one that accompanies it - and serve to make the place become 'real'. It's hard to remember that it isn't lurking somewhere nearby, just waiting for you to visit.


Overview done, there's a section on Culture, wich consists of sub-sections summarising each of the kingdoms and other groupings to be found on Hârn. Each provides a brief history, notes on government, economy and more, along with the coat of arms (heraldry is big on Hârn - and yes, there's a supplement on it if you want to learn more) and a list of the separate articles that particularly contribute to knowledge of that area. These are followed by sub-sections covering tribes and other races.


Next is a section on Government (although this has been touched on briefly already). Here is a good explanation of what a feudal system actually is, and how such a society is structured. It's to be remembered that in a true feudal system, the lord has just as many obligations as the vassal who owes him service - the rights and obligations operate in both directions. Good lords realise this and take their duty of care and obligations seriously... but some do not, and it can be quite hard to rid yourself of such a tyrant! There are details of what rights and responsibilities are in the monarch's purview, and what constitutes the royal court: offices and responsibilities. Then the discussion passes on to shires and eventually down to manors, the smallest division of land, showing how everything (and everybody) interlink.


Not everyone is settled on the land, however, so the next section looks at Cities. There are eight on Hârn, although most are pretty small. Only about 10% of the population lives in a city, and the largest has about twelve thousand citizens. Again the governance and structure is discussed, with the various offices and customs, how law and order is maintained and so on.


The next section deals with Guilds, with a colourful page showing all the guild badges, and notes on how the guilds operate. If you have a good grasp of mediaeval European history, all of this is familiar territory - and if you don't it makes a good primer, clearly explained. Guilds control virtually all trades (it was a difference of opinion with a guild that got my character kicked out of Thay!) and they wield significant power within urban locales. This section is followed by one on Economics, which includes the coins to be found on Hârn and extensive price lists for just about everything you might want to purchase... and then looks at typical incomes: can you afford what you want to buy? And then there are taxes. And tolls. And guild dues if applicable. There's no escaping those.


The discussion moves on to Trade and then to Religion. Here it gets interesting. The GM needs to decide if the gods are real or not. As far as folk living on Hârn it makes no different, they think they are real anyway. Only the GM knows if anyone's listening to their prayers or if they are deluded. Whatever you decide, there's plenty of detail on the various deities worshipped in Hârn. This section provides organisations and cults to join, as well as doctrines to discuss, and the (real or perceived) differences between the gods which are played out on the mortal realm.


The next section is History. The first inhabitants of Hârn were the Earthmasters, but very little is known about them. Since their day, lost to legend, several waves of people have arrived, with humans but the last, arriving some 2,000 years ago. Since then history consists of wars and power struggles, that have shaped the landscape as it is known today. Empires rose and fell, kingdoms were established... the usual sweep of history, but all told in a vivid manner, you can imagine younglings hearing all this from their tutors.


Now, while Hârn as a setting is independent of ruleset (although you might want to try HârnMaster that was written for it) you might want to tweak characters to suit the setting, so there's a selection of tables to determine where and when characters were born (and even into what race...). This rules-ish section continues with information on things like travel times around Hârn and how the weather works.


If you want an incredibly detailed and realistic setting for your adventures, start here! You'll soon be hooked, and wanting to delve more deeply into the experience that is Hârn.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
HarnWorld Master Module, 3rd Edition
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New Paths: Expanded Shaman (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/20/2016 11:38:02

This work introduces the shaman as a alternative base class. Shamans hold that everything has a spirit and they form connections with these spirits, gaining strength and knowledge from them. In game terms, the shaman is a mystic who might be seen as a variant druid given his closeness to the world around him, but who has spontaneous casting abilities rather than having to prepare spells ahead of time. They are skilled healers and have shapeshifting abilities as well.


There are all the resources you need to create and play a shaman character. The spell-casting ability draws on the divine, based on the druid lists, but a shaman can cast any spell he knows based on a daily level-based allotment of spells. However, they begin play not knowing many spells, and learn new ones slowly as they rise in level. Every so often they are able to exchange a spell for another of the same level but they don't go around collecting new ones as some spell-users are able to do.


Each shaman has a spirit guide who takes the form of an animal and acts as a companion animal. A list of animals is provided, some being a bit more practical than others... I mean, how do you travel around with a carp as a companion? Do you keep him in a bowl? Some of the larger animals might be awkward or unwelcome in an urban setting, although it's likely that the shaman himself won't want to stay there for long.


To get you started, there are three archetypes - the elemental shaman (who connects with the elemental forces of nature in preference to animal and plant spirits), the primal shifter (who concentrates on shape-changing abilities), and the witch doctor (who communicates with the spirits of the dead in order to guide and inform the living). Some new spells and feats are also presented, and there are 'character sheets' to accommodate favoured wild shapes (for shape-shifters) and the spirit guide.


It's an interesting new class and quite distinct from the druid, even given the affinity with nature. Plenty of potential for some fascinating characters, particularly when wilderness adventures and a lot of travelling form part of your game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths: Expanded Shaman (Pathfinder RPG)
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