RPGNow.com
Close
New Account
 
  
 
 
You will lose your chance to get the free product of the week.
One-click unsubscribe later if you don't enjoy the newsletter.
Close
Log In
 
 Forgot password?
 

     or     Log In with your Facebook Account
Browse









Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Ultimate Options: Story Feats
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2014 10:55:21
Story feats first hit our gaming tables with Paizo's "Ultimate Campaign" supplement. They're feats which reflect a goal that the character has, and incorporate a trigger event, the normal sort of benefit that any feat confers, the goal the character is trying to achieve and a further reward that comes when that goal is achieved. The trigger event can either come from the character's background or from something that happens during the campaign itself. They provide an excellent way of linking a character more closely with the ongoing story that you are all trying to tell as the campaign plays out.

This work contains a selection of new story feats from which you can choose. The trigger events for all of them are based on background for obvious reasons - no book author can predict events in your game! Naturally, it is easy enough to take events from your game and match them to an appropriate story feat as their trigger event. It's something that GM and player will do in collaboration when the player's character next qualifies for a feat. Likewise, the completion conditions can be quite vague even if they sound specific, the GM will have to create appropriate opportunities for the character to achieve them.

Many of the new feats have considerable potential to actually drive a plot forwards, or even create a whole new one of their own. Enterprising GMs may find inspiration here and then seek to persuade a suitable character to take on the relevant story feat.

One particularly interesting one is Embodiment (Vice) - it's based around the classic seven deadly sins, one of which you must choose as the vice of which you wish to become the very embodiment. A common trigger is to be a devotee of a faith that espouses the vice in question. The completion target will naturally vary depending on the one chosen, and tends to be somewhat broader than with other story feats. There's also a neat little quirk: any action the character takes that moves him further from his goal causes the loss of the feat's benefit until he performs some act of contrition. This may be a GM-determined action, use of the atonement spell or other appropriate deed.

Well worth a look, especially for those running or playing complex story-driven campaigns.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Options: Story Feats
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Plight of the Tuatha, Vol.2: Vasily's Woe
Publisher: Mór Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2014 10:56:09
The introduction and background set the scene - and the mood. For this is intended as a 'dark' chapter in the adventure path and ought to be presented in quite a creepy way, with footsteps heard in empty rooms and candles which blow out when there is no draft.

Working for an elven wizard, the party is sent to find components and information required for his work, sent to an isolated and insular area under the thumb of a less than savory cult. They do not care for visitors, or wizards, or people who worship strange gods... and it's foggy and the locals are coming down with a strange disease. All the elements are in place for a claustrophobic and scary time.

This adventure works best if you are following the Plight of the Tuatha adventure path and have already played part 1, Feast Hall of Ash. If you do not wish to do this, provision is made for the hiring wizard to explain more background to ensure that the party know the importance of the quest on which they are being sent - if they have played it, they already know him. However, as matters are so entwined in the background of the world in which the whole adventure path is set - a mature world in which the author has been running his own games for years - it's recommended that you go and run Feast Hall of Ash first, then play this adventure. It can be run as a plain creepy quest on its own, and will make a good adventure on that level, but you'll be missing out on the depth of background that's here.

The adventure itself begins with the journey to the target area, arriving at a nearby harbour before travelling overland. Things have been pretty quiet up until now since they left their wizard employer (although a few events are provided should you wish to have at least something happen on the way) but this is soon to change! Whatever does go on, you are provided with a variety of options - including all necessary game mechanics - which the party may use to resolve the situation, and there are usually helpful NPCs to make suggestions should the characters not think of the right things to do.

Whatever the party decides to do - even within the constraints of a mission that's basically "Go there and fetch this" - there's plenty to keep them occupied, opportunities for both interactions and combat being provided. Each person or creature met comes with complete stat block and plenty of notes to aid you in running them to effect, whether in negotiation or combat. Background notes expand on this, giving motivations and overall depth, often linking back to the overall background of the rich tapestry of the setting. Whilst it's all there at your fingertips, reading it through thoroughly in advance of play will repay the effort as you will understand the why of their behaviour and attitudes as well as the what.

Throughout, ominous little orange boxes entitled 'Up the Ante' provide details of how you can make the adventure harder. It may be that your players are particularly competent, or that you are running the adventure for more than the four characters it is written for... or you may just be feeling a bit mean!

There is plenty to investigate and find out - characters who meet everything with a drawn sword and offensive spell will be at a disadvantage. By exploring the village and finding out what is going on, the characters will be able to help them as well as recover the item they have been sent to find. The village is mapped out and just about anywhere the party chooses to go there are people to talk to and things to find out. If you run the adventure from the PDF on a computer, the map locations are hyperlinked to the apposite notes (and backlinked so you can flip straight to the map again), a very nice touch.

And, well, we have been talking about 'spooky' right? What better climax than a spooky manor house to investigate... and yes, there is one. Cue up your creepy music and lower the lights. There is plenty of scope to scare the players, never mind their characters, here. However, this is not actually the climax, there is more...

Appendices cover notable NPCs and additional rules and mechanics including that of Emergence. This is an effect somewhere between a feat and an item that you can acquire as a result of your actions, actions that reveal the nature of your soul. Instances where you can gain one are highlighted in the adventure text, and here the rules covering them are explained. Some of them are beneficial, others are not. Each also has conditions under which they are lost - so if you do gain an unpleasant Emergence there is a chance that you can get rid of it (although this may be at a cost). This is a neat addition to the rules, provided it is used sparingly. Lore, items of note and a bestiary of new creatures encountered during the adventure are also included along with full details of the religions practised in this isolated area and some pre-generated characters (developed from the ones presented in the first part) should you need them.

An excellent creepy and claustrophobic adventure in its own right, this fits well with its predecessor and promises much for future episodes.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Plight of the Tuatha, Vol.2: Vasily's Woe
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Drip by Bloody Drip
Publisher: Gun Metal Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/07/2014 10:23:53
This is a taut, exciting and detailed adventure in the cyberpunk genre, running under the Savage Worlds ruleset. It involves the characters infiltrating a disused military facility - only to find that automated security systems are still very much active and that other parties, with far more malevolent motives, are also sneaking around in there.

In providing a background and overview of the adventure, suggestions are made as to how to get the party not just to take the job but to have an emotional attachment to events. This is easier if you wish to run this adventure as part of a campaign, but it will work just as well as a stand-alone game if that suits your needs.

The adventure opens with the party being contacted and hired for a mission of mercy - to access some medical research on an isolated computer in this abandoned military base. Sounds easy, these things always do... before you get onsite and find out that half the place is submerged and the defences are still online! The opening scene is run as a job interview, using the Savage Worlds Social Conflict rules to good effect, yet in such a way that it is role-playing rather than die rolling that gets the party hired. The real benefits are in the additional support that will be offered should they do well mechanically as well as with the interview itself.

Once hired, the base will need to be reconnoitered and then entered. There's plenty of material to enable you to deal with any eventuality as the party proceeds with its investigations and infiltration. NPCs are provided with full stat blocks and other details in an appendix, whilst support for running each incident and encounter is provided where it is needed within the text. The one glaring absence is any plan of the facility to be infiltrated, and it is recommended that you invent or find a suitable one before running this adventure.

Overall the adventure is exciting with plenty more going on than meets the eye at the initial briefing. Given some suitable pre-generated characters, it could be used as a one-off/convention game too, whilst it has great potential for its intended use as part of a campaign.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Drip by Bloody Drip
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

'Secrets of the Reich - Bunker LP-45'
Publisher: The Forge Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2014 10:05:52
Whether you are running a game set during World War Two or one somewhat later investigating the remains of the Third Reich, this provides an atmospheric briefing pack and setting for an investigation/adventure... although you will have to decide what the Nazis were really up to! Indeed, it need not be WW2 and the Nazis, as the only identifiable stamp on the handouts says 'United States of America' although to anyone with an eye for documents they are clearly intended to date to the 1940s.

There's plenty of scope for people running Weird War or Achtung! Chtulhu games to incorporate this, but there is potential for any game to make use of this if running a 20th century or contemporary game... whilst there are hints of Things That Should Not Be it doesn't necessarily mean that they are real.

The material comes in two parts. There is a Player section with handouts that might form a briefing pack for operatives being tasked with a mission to investigate the bunker and the old castle under whose ruins it is to be found - local area map, photos, plans and space for briefing notes to be added (if you type them in using the Comments feature on your PDF, Courier Standard or Times New Roman fonts are the best fit).

The Game Master section provides more copious maps and plans with added detail, like the dungeons under the castle ruins and (vitally important) the locations of minefields around the castle, plus where checkpoints and machine gun nests are if you are running a game set when the bunker is in use.

Just looking through this is enough to set ideas rolling...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
'Secrets of the Reich - Bunker LP-45'
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

#30 Mercenary Companies (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2014 09:11:21
Whether the party wants to enlist, is going to fight beside (or against) them or just meets them off-duty in a tavern one evening, mercenary bands are a feature of the quasi-mediaeval scene in which most fantasy games are set. Few nations had much of a standing army and so when they wished to war, mercenaries would be hired to fill out those patriots who rallied to the flag. When not in employment, many were little better than bandits, using their military skills to 'acquire' what they needed to survive.

Here is a selection of mercenary bands for the characters to encounter. Each comes with a detailed description covering their nature, particular style of operation and even their uniforms! You can also find out about resoures, leadership and organisation, and the necessary statistics for those wanting to use them in battles.

They're all quite flavoursome, from a band whose commander is a bard as likely to sing of past adventures as to lead them to new ones to a bunch called Dragons Breath whose trademark combat style involves lots of alchemists fire. Some specialise in a particular type of operation, some are to be found manning ships and others will do whatever's required... provided that they are well paid. Apart from gold, their motivations vary, with some companies boasting a long and proud history, others are newcomers to the mercenary game or have a distinctly unsavoury reputation.

Whenever you have need of mercenaries - or even fancy a good tavern brawl - glance in here for a ready-made mercenary company to fit your requirements. Rumours of who has been seen where, a stray uniformed member found away from his fellows... there are a myriad of ways to incorporate these into your adventures, whether to advance the plot or as local colour.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Mercenary Companies (PFRPG)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Shadowrun: Bullets & Bandages
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2014 10:06:17
Sometimes (always?) a shadowrun doesn't go quite as smoothly as you might like. Sometimes, you'll get hurt. What then?

This is an optional extra to the core rules that takes a closer look at the whole area of combat medicine, Shadowrun style. It will suit groups who are interested in bringing the after-effects of being injured into centre stage within their game, rather than leaving treatment and healing as downtime activities that are handled 'off screen' between gaming sessions.

Opening with a piece of fiction describing an injured 'runner seeking help, the work is filled with atmospheric in-character snippets including a run-down of the DocWagon organisation... and even a portion of DocWagon's introductory training module for armed medical response operators. This gives a good run-down of what they do, the personnel that make up their 'High Threat Response' teams and a genral overview of the entire operation. Armed with this information, the next encounter with one should be interesting for the party (and, of course, potentially life-saving if it is a party member who is in need of aid).

Next is an article on creating a 'combat medic' character for Shadowrun. Naturally a group interested enough to start using this supplement might feel the need of one for their team, there is even potential given the previous article for a whole campaign to be developed around a DocWagon team. In the past I ran a campaign which was based on a turf war between DocWagon and CrashCart, and have played a combat medic character attached to a team akin to an FBI Hostage Rescue Team under Shadowrun rules... both concepts worked well, and are worth considering if you want a slightly different slant on your game from regular shadowrunning.

The suggestions made give some good indications as to how to build a 'combat medic' character and the notes cover both Shadowrun Anniversary Edition and Fifth Edition, making this supplement useable with both rulesets. A medic can rely on technical training in emergeny medicine or on magical healing by a variety of routes, or an extremely potent healer could br built by combining both scientific and magical medical techniques and training. There are also notes on the specialist equipment such a character might need and even a range of Qualties that are not just for the potential medic but for any character in a game where ongoing health is intended to be a feature in play rather than a background thing dealt with in downtime between missions. There are even options for female characters to be pregnant or for anyone to have a chronic illness or be suffering the effects of advancing years.

Next come some advanced biotech rules to cover the actions of a skilled medic in diagnosing and treating whatever injuries or illnesses might present themselves. There are also rules to cover the delivery of medical care under fire. There is a lot of detailed information here but it all flows in a surprisingly clear manner once you get your head around it. Both GMs and players with medic characters ought to study this before the game begins, so that gameplay does not stall whilst rules are consulted.

Finally there are rules relating to medkits and a selection of new drugs... also toxins and pathogens, complete with their effects. There are also some new medical-related spells, adept powers and equipment.

If you want to make medicine - particularly emergency field medicine - to feature in your games, this will equip you with all you need to make it happen.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Bullets & Bandages
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Thirteen Pines: A Tale of Supernatural Horror
Publisher: Survive RPG
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2014 08:02:41
This is a systemless adventure, suitable for any modern or near-modern game system in which the supernatural is real (the author suggests Call of Cthulhu, D20 Modern or the World of Darkness as examples).

The core of the story involves an amazing archaeological discovery and a bunch of travellers caught in a snowstorm. The introduction/backstory explains what is really going on and the nature of the threat whcih the travellers will have to counter. Unless you decide to use this as an event within an ongoing campaign, it is suggested that the travellers should be a quite disparate lot, each one with his own reasons for being in the area of the Thirteen Pines township and just caught up together in ongoing events.

The opening scene is dramatic, with the characters - who may at this point not know one another, unless you are running an established party - driving through atrocious snowy conditions towards Thirteen Pines. An abandoned vehicle kicks off the action and the game is afoot...

Once the initial scene has played out, the rest of the scenario is quite freeform. There are locations to investigate and a few people to talk to as the characters try to piece together what is going on. An 'adventure flow' is suggested to help you keep matters on track, but it is not rigid allowing plenty of scope for a charater-led game.

Everything is scary, snowy and almost claustrophobic with the travellers and a few other people trapped in town. Phone lines and cell reception is out, but the power is on at least for the moment... but where are most of the townsfolk? Descriptions are atmospheric and you should have little difficulty in bringing the scene to life in the minds of your players. The scenario will be most effective if run at a brisk pace, and would probably be suitable for a convention or other single-session game.

The whole adventure is well-presented with apposite illustrations, a plan of the town; and only a few minor typos which jar but do not render the text unintelligible. Naturally as a generic scenario, you will have to apply appropriate statistics from your chosen ruleset, but otherwise it is good to go... an adventure you and your players will remember for years to come.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thirteen Pines: A Tale of Supernatural Horror
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Publisher Reply:
Thanks Megan for the review. I\'m a game master at heart so the worst thing about writing adventures is that you\'re not at the table when they\'re played so its great to get feedback. The freeform style of this adventure was a personal goal so I\'m happy you highlighted it. While it\'s still a great adventure my first publication 55 BELOW ZERO AND 6 FEET FROM HELL was more gamemaster than character driven. Also thanks for pointing out that I need to do a bit more editing - that just replaced freeform as personal goal #1. Thanks again and all the best. David
d-Infinity Volume #6: The Mythos
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2014 12:17:57
This makes for a fascinating read, with everything within this issue in some way connected to the Lovecraft-inspired Mythos. It doesn't matter what you play, unspeakable eldritch horrors with lots of tentacles can sneak in and scare your characters into insanity!

There's fiction, of course (well, that's where the Mythos started), a stirring tale of a Frankish ship pursued by Saxon sea-wolves when... other... things start to happen. Like the best tales, just what is going on is never explained, making it a rich source to mine for your own ideas for how to introduce a little Mythos madness to the next sea chase that takes place in your game.

For those who cannot be parted from their mobiles even when role-playing help is at hand in the shape of an article on various apps available to support and enhance your gaming experience. It's quite general, but gives an indication of what you ought to be looking for - or, if you have the capability, writing - in gaming apps.

Next some goodies for the LARPers amongst us. First there's an article on making some "Innsmouth gold" inspired by the Lovecraft tale 'The Shadow over Innsmouth'... strange shaped nuggets that look more grown than crafted. Then there's a complete script for a Cthulhu Live game. This consists of a evening party at the home of a wealthy eccentric with a love of archaeology and the occult who delights in showing off his latest acquistions... but this year's display might be a little much to handle! Quite devious and likely to be great fun. It is written for 10-15 characters, which are provided in full detail.

If you use the Swords of Kos setting, there are some character biographies, mostly of individuals who have appeared in published resources or fiction, but fleshed out to a level in which they can be used as major NPCs. If your game of choice is Labyrinth Lord (or any of the other 'old school' systems, they're similar enough that it is a trivial matter to fine tune resources from one to another) there are some classic Mythos spells that you might wish to unleash... well, they start with Awaken Idol and round off with Summon Demonic Mason. This last gets you a weird and mind-twisting structure built overnight with scant regard for the niceities of planning permission, zoning or building codes!

Mutant Future enthusiasts are provided with a range of loosely Mythos-related artefacts that they might find in their travels. Mythos or not, they hint at ancient cultures and should prove fascinating to investigate. You might like to drop something of the sort into any space-faring game, even if you do not play Mutant Future. Throw some of these around and the characters will really begin to wonder where they've ended up. This is followed by a complete article detailing a 'living building' which has a structure similar to a nautilus shell, growing in much the same way.

If Pathfinder's your game, the next article talks about introducing the Mythos into it by providing details and stat blocks for various monsters along with skills, feats, spells and magic items that all have a Mythos flavour. You may like them as occasional odd things that will make the party wonder what is going on, or as part of a full-blown Mythos incursion into your campaign world.

Board- and war-gamers are not neglected either, with scenarios for the Hundred Years War period catering for anything from a small skirmish to a full-blown battle, and a complete Cthulhu Mythos board game, Dagon Rising. It's a chaotic survival game played on a board made up of a series of hexagons, infinitely mutable. The hexagons are provided for a print-and-play game.

Provided you like the Mythos, there's something for just about everyone here.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
d-Infinity Volume #6: The Mythos
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Eclipse Phase: Zone Stalkers
Publisher: Posthuman Studios LLC
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2014 11:44:48
If you are of a mind to put the party in danger, how about suggesting a stroll across one of the deadliest regions of Mars, the TITAN Quarantine Zone?

Beginning with an explanation of what the Zone is and how it came to be, there are details of the terrain and major features as well as of the measures taken to ensure that the curious stay well out of it. This is intermingled with suggestions as to how these measures might be counteracted, although it will be up to you how you choose to pass on any ideas to your players if they are struggling to come up with their own - this is a book decidedly for the GM!

The hazards of the TQZ are extreme, even without the Patrol ready to pounce on intruders. Extensive jamming of all communication links render not just keeping in touch (or yelling for help) but navigation difficult. The terrain is rugged in the extreme, and prone to dust storms. All sorts of malevolent critters live there and even the artefacts that are the usual reason for anyone wanting to go there are dangerous if improperly handled (in many cases, if handled at all). A random encounter table and full notes on what you might encounter are provided to liven things up a bit.

Various locations are described, as are some of the TITAN artefacts that remain to be found - including quite an array of different drugs and addictive substances. Finally, there's a collection of plot hooks to get the party's interest in an expedition whetted enough for you to get to use all of this on them.

If you like adventures in which the environment is as much an enemy as the monsters, this is one to consider.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse Phase: Zone Stalkers
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Underworld Races: Ahool
Publisher: AAW Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2014 12:15:30
In a few pages great sweeps of cosmology and background myth are presented, the current understanding of what is going on in the underworld of the Aventyr campaign setting, rewriting concepts of plate tectonics and establishing how the various subterranean races came to be in four massive events driven by the very gods themselves. There are many different races, and a summary chart is presented showing their ages, heights and weights... but the real focus is on the Ahool.

The Ahool are the primeval beastmen of the endless caves of the underworld. Here we learn of their history, background and society, along with physical descriptions and the details necessary to create Ahool characters to play or as NPCs. There are racial archetypes (aquatic and terrestial forms) and new equipment and feats for them. Naturally they have their own magical items and spells available to them.

In appearance they are a bit like humanoid bats, although they do not fly nearly as well. They do have a vicious bite, however, and live on blood... giving rise to some obvious if erroneous comparisons. A racial class and a prestige class are provided, ahool can also take a regular character class if preferred.

The explanation of how the underworld races came to be is fascinating, and the ahool themselves a novel race to introduce into subterranean realms.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Underworld Races: Ahool
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Deities and Demigods (3e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/27/2014 13:31:34
The Third Edition Deities and Demigods is a bit different from earlier versions which tended towards being a 'monster manual' for gods. Here there is much more discussion about how to involve deities in the day-to-day life of the campaign world, even the lives of the characters in your party themselves, ways to make the gods of your world as much - if not more - a part of it that the various gods worshipped in the real world are a part of everyday life, even for those who don't happen to believe in them.

Relgion in a game is always a tricky proposition for that very reason. Players who believe in real-world deities can get a bit twitchy about imaginary ones, and yet do not want to see the gods they revere trivialised by making an in-game appearance. Hence the need for game developers to devise pantheons of their own for their campaign worlds.

The first chapter looks at how to use deities in your game. Monotheism is rare, and most game worlds presuppose a pantheon of deities with each god taking responsibility for certain aspects. Believers tend to hold all the gods of the pantheon in reverence, but may choose one in particular as their main focus of worship. Others will pick to whom they'll pray depending on what they are wanting to pray about, and would not claim to worship a particular god at all. Others dedicate themselves to but a single deity. Of course there's one big difference between your game world and the real one: basically the gods are real and everyone knows this (whether or not they hold them in any reverence or choose to worship any of them), whereas in the real world opinion is divided as to whether or not there are any 'gods' at all (and I write this as a practising Mormon, so please do not take offence!)

The chapter expounds on the differences between a 'tight' pantheon and a 'loose' one. In the tight pantheon, a single religion - with the hierarchy, temples, priesthood, etc., that involves - worships all the deities involved, whereas in a 'loose' one there are faiths focussed on each of the deities in the pantheon. You'll have to decide which style is most appropriate for the way your campaign world operates, how you want your gods to interact with the world and with each other. Other forms of religion including mystery cults, monotheism, animism and dualism are discussed, and by the end of the chapter you ought to have a reasonable overview of what you can do.

Then on to the tricky question of the nature of divinity. Are your gods just super-powerful entities or is there something more about them? Are there limits to their powers or to their knowledge? Is divinity innate to certain beings or can it be earned or conferred upon someone deemed worthy of achieving it? In deciding the answers - and there are no right or wrong ones - to these questions you will start to form an idea of the underpinning nature of the universe in which your game will be played out. You'll find the odd side note about the core D&D pantheon - the one described in the core rulebooks - as you go, but the main thrust of this section is twofold - firstly to help you understand what gods are and secondly to put you in a position to design your own or modify the core ones to suit your vision for your campaign world. There's masses more here but one question stands out: How involved are the deities in what is going on in the world? That's one of the most important choices you'll have to make.

Next is Chapter 2: Deities Defined, which deals with the game mechanics that will make what you have determined is there in your world on a philosphical level actually work within the context of the game. This is of particular import if you have decided that deities take an active hands-on approach to worldly affairs, but even if they won't an understanding of how they function in game mechanical terms means that they become a consistent and integral part of the game, part of the fabric just as arcane magic and strange races are because they too are covered by the rules. This chapter is of most use if you have decided to create your own pantheon, but even if you are going with the core gods, or ones from a published setting, reading through will help you understand how they operate within the game itself.

Chapter 3: The D&D Pantheon is for those who have decided to use the core deities provided (but it does provide an exemplar pantheon for those who'd prefer to design their own from scratch). Using the mechanics discussed in the previous chapter, each member of the pantheon is given a 'stat block' that explains what they can do and how they do it... complete, even, with combat statistics should a brawl break out! For each, as this is a 'loose' pantheon, there are also brief notes on the dogma of their faith and about the clergy and temples organised for their worship. They can also use avatars in dealings with ordinary mortals if they do not choose to put in a personal appearance, so you also get the details necessary to run one should the occasion arise. There are some beautiful illustrations here, also representations of divine symbols and even the odd temple plan.

Should you want something different, Chapter 4: The Olympic Pantheon takes the classic Ancient Greek gods and puts a D&D twist on them. This is an example of a 'tight' pantheon served by a single religion, and if you know anything of the original, provides for some very hands-on deities! Whilst this is a fantasy re-tooling of the Greek gods, they are still quite recognisable yet here they are with all the game mechanics you need to make them an integral part of your game. Although this is a 'tight' pantheon, many of the gods have their own shrines and even clergy specifically devoted to them, yet a single overarching belief joins them all.

In like vein, Chapter 5 presents the Pharaonic Pantheon, the gods of the Ancient Egyptians. This is a very 'tight' pantheon with a unitary body of priests serving all the gods. Rituals and beliefs surrounding death and what comes after are very important to this faith. This is followed by Chapter 6: The Asgardian Pantheon, which provides the same service for the Norse gods.

Finally, Chapter 7: Other Religions looks at a whole bunch of different faiths such as sun worship, a dualist faith based on light and dark, and the mystery cult of Dennari, all designed according to the principles and rules discussed in the first two chapters.

There are two appendices. The first is concerned with domains and spells, and is helpful in deciding what to make available to divine spellcasters based on the deities they follow within your game, and includes some neat new spells. The second looks at divine ascension... should you choose to make this option available to characters who survive to 20th level and are perhaps beginning to reach power levels sufficient to challenge existing deities. It will take careful planning, especially if you do not intend it to be the final climax of the entire game - it is likely to end a campaign arc at the very least. There are, however, notes on running adventures after ascension has taken place.

One option that's not really discussed - but which I've found works quite well - is to have different pantheons operating in different parts of your campaign world. Travellers can have fun learning about the beliefs of the place they are visiting (or at least, you as DM can have fun watching them!) and it can provoke some interesting discussions, particularly if your clerical characters enjoy debating their faith!

If you want to make religion a central part of any game, and of course especially if you are running D&D 3.X, this is well worth reading.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deities and Demigods (3e)
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Mindjammer - The Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2014 10:56:45
This book is as massive as the universe it describes, a rich sweep of imagination that carries you off into speculation about what might be, a future history that makes you itch to become a part of it – and, of course, because it’s a role-playing game, you can be!

Chapter 1, the Introduction, paints the broad strokes, describing what the whole book contains and providing a brief glimpse of the scope of the universe that underpins the game. However, if for some reason you don’t want to play in the default setting of the Commonality, you can use the ruleset in whatever science-fiction setting you please.

Then Chapter 2 dives in with the basics, explaining what the game is all about and what you need to play. Using the character sheet as a guide, the explanation moves on to the way in which a character is modelled using the ruleset, starting with aspects – short descriptive phrases that encapsulate the essence of the character – and then the skills and stunts that describe what he can do. Next comes an overview of task resolution and how dice work under this particular variant of the core FATE ruleset, including the all-important Fate Points and how to use them.

Primed with the basics, we move on to Chapter 3: Creating Characters. This begins with the importance of the whole gaming group deciding precisely what sort of game they want to play – no use rushing off to generate characters who will not fit in, after all. The discussion here is based around different types of games you could play in the Commonality of Humankind, but it is adaptable to some other setting if that’s your choice. One important concept is that of ‘issues’ – as in, what will be the key issues that the characters will care about… things they want to protect, or accomplish or which could cause problems or threats that they will have to overcome. These may change as the game proceeds, some being dealt with and new ones arising, but having a general idea of what matters to the party or individual characters is a good idea (and one worth pinching, ah, being inspired to include, whatever game you are planning to play).

The suggestion is made that the best results are achieved from creating the entire party as a group, in an interactive process, rather than people creating their own characters individually or the GM turning up with some pre-made ones. Using a narrative process, character creation can be seen as the first session of the game itself rather than a precursor to play. It all starts with your character concept, the overall idea behind the character that you want to play. This will likely include his genotype, culture and occupation, but it’s a whole lot more. You also need to decide on a ‘trouble’ which is something that persistently causes complications for him. It might be a personal issue or it may be external, people or organisations that are forever causing him problems. These are rounded out a bit as you develop the character’s backstory with the novel addition of a more detailed scene from his recent life, which ideally includes at least some of the other characters in the party.

Only now do you get down to the game mechanical part of character creation, deciding on skills and such like. The next few chapters cover everything in much more detail, laying out the options and explaining how they shape your character and define what he is capable of doing. As you’d imagine, there is a vast range of choices to reflect the diversity found in such a huge universe. Reading through the Cultures, Genotypes and Occupations chapter, for example, provides a good overview of what’s out there as well as telling you what you can play. Everything roils together, each choice that you make about your character has ramifications for him and the universe around him. It makes for an elegantly integrated character creation system that is far removed from the conventional routes of picking from set lists things that are ‘best fit’ to your concept, or starting with the mechanics and only then deciding what your character is actually like and what makes him tick that so many games force upon you.

Due to the pervasive Mindscape, skills are handled differently from most games. Most characters will have Mindscape access and so gaining knowledge and even techniques becomes far easier. The skills that a character has thus become ones of knowing how to use all that information, much broader areas of capability than those found in the skill lists of other games. To enhance them, characters may also have ‘stunts’ which reflect special training or natural abilities that use skills in different ways. Stunts notwithstanding, all skills are used in four main ways: to overcome some kind of obstacle, to create an advantage, to attack or to defend. It’s an interesting and novel way of looking at skills, and extremely flexible when it comes to determining what the character is actually capable of doing… and you can know or do just about anything provided you can come up with a narrative justification for it.

There’s a wealth of enhancements and equipment available. As money is no longer used in the Commonality, access to any item is generally based on desire, but again there are certain things that you’ll need to come up with a narrative justification for having. This may well come from your chosen occupation or other such factors. One thing to note is that virtually every item has ‘intelligence’ – and may have its own skills and stunts as well.

All equipped and ready, we then come to Chapter 9: Playing the Game. This explains, in great detail with plenty of examples, the core rules of the game and how actions are resolved, including the use of ‘Fate Dice.’ Familiar to those who have played another game using the FATE ruleset, everything is explained from scratch here as this is a standalone work containing the full rules pertaining to this particular game. Everything is covered here including the vital areas of combat and movement, as well as other examples of task resolution.

Next is Chapter 10: Gamemastering Mindjammer. As has been demonstrated by the way characters are created, this is a collaborative game and players can have input at a deeper level that is often the case: think of the game master as a chairman rather than a god. Sections look at preparing a game and running it, including vital bits like knowing when to get the dice out and how to make failure as much – if not more – a part of the story than success. It’s all about the story, the shared tale you are all there to enjoy.

Chapter 11: The Mindscape delves deep into what is probably the defining characteristic of the setting: the all-pervasive lattice that is communications medium, data store and so much more. Understanding this is key to understanding the setting – and whilst you can use this ruleset to play in any far future setting, this is a unique and fascinating place and the one these rules were written for in the first place. It’s a bit like having instant access to the entire internet in your own head… only it’s much more than that. The internet is just baby steps compared to the Mindscape.

Next, Chapter 12: Constructs looks at entities like starships and space stations than can be used by the party. They can be sentient beings in their own right – you can even play one if you want – and if so have skills and stunts just like any other character in the game. If you think that being a space station might be a bit restricting do not worry, you can have an avatar to interact with flesh-and-bones characters, as well as of course using the Mindscape to communicate with them. Rules and other materials specifically for constructs are to be found here as well.

This is followed by Chapter 13: Starships and Space Travel. Your game might spend all its time in one place, or at least have all the action at destinations rather than in transit, but part of the essence of a star-faring game is that you do get to see a bit of the universe. This looks at how space travel works and the great variety of vessels that travel there. Next comes Chapter 14: Vehicles and Installations, which covers everything planetside.

The next few chapters look at the fabric of the universe that is the core setting for this game. Everything from organisations to planets, cultures to alien life. It makes for a fascinating read, and ideas spawn for the adventures that could be had in such a rich setting. Yet despite the wealth of information, there is considerable scope for your own imagination to insert things that will be interesting, to stamp your own spin on the setting.

Eventually Chapter 22: Scenarios and Campaigns and Chapter 23: Themes, Genre and Style provide a whole bunch of information to start you off planning your own adventures, adventures that will prove memorable for the whole group. There is masses of stuff here, well worth the reading in general terms of constructive advice for planning games never mind the more directed focus of preparing for this particular game.

The final chapter presents the Darradine Rim, a fully-developed area with plenty of solar systems to visit and adventures to be had in them. A collection of useful forms and ready-reference sheets round off the book.

When I read Mindjammer (the novel) I knew this was a universe I wanted to play in. Now with a game that elegantly reflects it into playable form, I can.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mindjammer - The Roleplaying Game
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Plight of the Tuatha, Vol. 1: Feast Hall of Ash
Publisher: Mór Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2014 09:53:35
The author's introduction sets the scene: this adventure is born of a mature fantasy campaign world which has detailed history and myths, a background that drives the actions and motivations of many of the NPCs and forms the setting in which events take place. Yet it is flexible enough that you can run it anywhere: put it someplace appropriate in your own campaign world if you prefer and use the bits of background that appeal, that fit in with whatever else is going on there or which can be developed as a part of it.

The adventure background sets the scene comprehensively. Initial strokes are broad, detailing the conflicts that have shaped the setting from the earliest times before the dawn of history, how elves retreated yet supported the developing human population which in its turn was invaded by an empire that has fallen prey to internal divisions... that common tale of selfish acts and greed that trample on ordinary people trying to carve out a home and living for themselves, even those in the remote village that is the setting for this adventure. Oh, and all the bloodshed has awakened the evil bloodthirsty deity that caused the elves to retreat in the first place. The one thing is, it is a little difficult to tell how to inform your players of the background as the general sweep of history and bits that directly affect the adventure are swirled together in what makes a stirring story for the GM but one that's not totally for your players' ears - yet, their characters will know of the broad sweep of history that has shaped the world in which they live.

After a brief adventure summary, the details dive straight in to the first of four chapters of action. The opening is in media res... all I'll say here is that the party has been captured and had better make good their escape before...

Throughout the action, there are boxes giving advice to the GM on how to handle issues that will (or might) arise in play, starting off with how to actually run an in media res opening like this, which can annoy players who feel that their hand is being forced. A neat trick, especially with a game so heavily based in its own history, is that notes abound awarding XP for finding out snippets of information about what's going on and why, as well as for the more normal reasons. As many of the snippets are useful in advancing the adventure, provision is made for NPCs to 'conveniently' mention them if the characters don't ask the right questions or fail to make the die rolls indicated - although of course they won't then get the XP rewards, just the details that they need to know.

The characters should be under some time pressure throughout the adventure, as they need to find a healer for someone severely injured and defend the village (which is presumed to be their home or at least somewhere with strong family connections for most of them) against raiders who will be along very soon. Oh, and there are plenty of Fae around causing trouble in their usual inscrutable way... as usual nobody knows what they are really up to but they are sure good at making pests of themselves! The otherworldly nature of the fey is brought across well in the parts of the adventure that involves interacting with them.

The final scene involves the climatic battle to save their village, and this should provide combat enough for anyone who has got restless during earlier parts of the adventure where negotiation and finding stuff out is as important as the strength of your sword arm. Be careful here, some of the game mechanics are not quite according to core Pathfinder rules: you may wish to amend some of the bonuses given to fit the standard ruleset. Despite their low level, the battle is set up so that they will be able to play a meaningful yet realistic role in saving the village.

Appendices contain detailed notes (as well as stat blocks) for important NPCs, explain the rules of a 'Storytelling Game' that the party may be asked to play, and explain other details that will have arisen during the course of the adventure. There are also a description of the village and notes on important items that will have been encountered, and there is a bestiary of new creatures introduced here. For those in a hurry to get started, there are some pre-generated player characters, complete with backgrounds that embed them in the setting. A neat idea is that two major NPCs are provided with 'table tents' - a portait on one side to show the players, and key notes about them on the GM's side.

The whole is beautifully presented and fills one with excitement about the whole campaign world of which this is just a glimpse. It could, however, do with more maps, especially those suitable for showing to the characters. A minor quibble in what promises to be just the first in an exceptional series of adventures in a setting that is true fantasy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Plight of the Tuatha, Vol. 1: Feast Hall of Ash
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Bite Me! Playing Lycanthropes
Publisher: Misfit Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2014 11:09:14
This fascinating work is not just a game resource, it is a treatise on what lycanthrophy is all about giving the reader insights into what it means to be a shape-shifter as well as backround into the myths and legends that spawned the concept ready for game designers to latch onto.

After a foreword that looks at the sheer appeal of lycanthropy and a sidebar discussing the word itself, the first section explores the similarities and differences between those born lycanthropes and those who are afflicted with lycanthropy during the course of their adventures. This skilfully mixes game mechanics with more general discussion and proves an entertaining read.

This moves on to the topic of actually playing a lycanthrope, both the rationale and the mechanics of it. Things like how to handle a character who becomes afflicted during the course of a game - start by not panicking (too much) and make sure you talk the issue through with the GM outside of the actual game. A chat with your fellow players might be in order as well, particularly if you intend to play the afflicted character long term. The crux of the matter is that you'll be playing a character who turns into a monster... one you cannot control as a player and one the character himself cannot control either. It's quite a scary challenge when you look at it that way, but an intriguing one full of role-playing potential as well.

Next comes a section on actually playing a lycanthrope by choice. It's likely that the character will be a natural lycanthrope in that case. First of all you'll need to pick your beast, and there's plenty of advice here about how to choose one that fits in some way with the character class and race you are intending to play. Then come details about how to create that character in detail as well as how to play it to good effect.

OK, that's PLAYING a lycanthrope sorted - the next section looks at the view from the other side of the GM's screen. How do you cope if you'd never intended lycanthropy to play a part in your campaign? Don't panic, take a deep breath and read this. Again the discussion looks at afflicted lycanthropes and natural ones separately, discussing in each case how to use them to effect to enhance your campaign, rather than derail it. This advice is excellent (and timely, a character in one of my games has been afflicted and I still have to thrash out some of the details... and full moon is approaching!). All manner of issues are covered from handling the group in the first place to dealing with what the character gets up to when their bestial form takes over and eventually how to arrange for a cure. A really interesting part deals with the ramifications caused by having a werebeast loose in the locality, both during the curse and once it is lifted.

Natural lycanthropes are a bit different. Whereas the afflicted sort are cursed, and should be handled that way, natural ones are, well, no different from any other fantastic species that is found in your campaign. They may shapeshift, but it is under control and they know what they are doing whatever shape they are wearing. The things you'll need to think about are different, but just as wide ranging, things like how the race of natural werebeasts chosen fits in with the rest of society in your campaign world and how you will adjudicate the special abilites inherent in a lycanthrope - like their sense of smell. (I just caught out a character who over-relies on invisibility by setting a snake on her, its abilities to smell and sense vibration enabled it to locate her easily.... and then it botched its rolls!)

For those interested in matters such as game balance and design issues, there is some fascinating discussion about the history of lycanthropy in the D20 system as a whole as well as the decisions made in writing this book.

We then move into more game mechanical territory, with the natural lycanthrope race presented in full detail ready for use. This includes loads of racial traits and other options to allow fine-tuning of a natural lycanthrope character to your particular vision. Lycanthropy as a racial bloodline, racial rules for equipment and weapons and more here. Then come lycanthrope feats, magic items and even a few spells available to natural lycanthropes who take a spell-using class.

Finally, four fully-developed natural lycanthrope characters are presented as examples.

Overall, this is an excellent discussion of lycanthropy and how to use it - as player or GM - in your game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bite Me! Playing Lycanthropes
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Arcknight Maps: The Bandit Fortress
Publisher: Arcknight
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2014 07:52:53
If you have some bandits - or indeed anyone living in wild country - to accommodate, this extensive set of battlemaps should make them feel right at home.

The components, which can be assembled in a multitude of ways depending on what your needs might be, show sections of walls built of cut wooden poles with timber decking and wooden cabins. Several potential arrangements are shown, mostly variations on the sort of fort that it's easy to throw up in a wilderness setting (provided you have access to the wood). The components include more specialist areas like a great hall and a gateway as well as wall sections and corners. The ground is hard-packed dirt, with some stones and vegetation outside.

Within the buildings, there are sleeping quarters, plenty of barrels, benches, tables and chairs... and even a three-seater privy.

The set includes multipage PDFs (hex, grid or plain) and large JPEGs as well as a collection of suitably-scaled additional items for virtual table top users. All-in-all a versatile and useful map set.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Arcknight Maps: The Bandit Fortress
Click to show product description

Add to RPGNow.com Order

Displaying 91 to 105 (of 1709 reviews) Result Pages: [<< Prev]   1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates
Powered by DrivethruRPG