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Book 0: Introduction to Traveller
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2015 08:05:44
This book is a cut-down version of the Traveller ruleset, which enables you to take a look at the system before taking the plunge or to introduce new players to the game - at least, in terms of game mechanics and character generation. It's the sort of thing that might be quite handy to have with you at the table as a quick reference.

There's a very brief overview of what Traveller is, but a single page, before it launches into Character Creation. Here the character creation checklist is given along with the basics of generating characterists, deciding on a homeworld (to determine background skills) and then choosing a career to have pursued before the character turns to adventure and the game begins. It's all quite straightforward and would be clear apart from typo and layout issues that bedevil the entire book, at least the PDF version. Fortunately these are more annoying than actually making it impossible to read most of the time. The prior careers available are Army and Navy only, but these are presented to the same level of detail as in the Core Rulebook, so characters generated with this book will have no issues integrating with a party created using the more extensive choice to be found therein.

The next section is Skills and Tasks. Here the task resolution process is outlined, complete with a few examples and a probability chart (useful for Referees wishing to set an appropriate level of difficulty, or players interested in their chances of success). Then there's a run-through of the skills available, with notes on how and when they will be useful.

Then comes a section on Combat, which provides details of how a brawl is administered using this ruleset. It's somewhat curtailed in comparison with the Core Rulebook's treatment of the subject, but there's enough here for even a novice player to understand what is going on and make an effective contribution to the proceedings.

Finally, there's a section of Equipment. Again this is a cut-down version of what is available in the Core Rulebook, but there's sufficient to see a character armed, protected and with basic gear. There's a blank character sheet at the back once you are ready to give it a go.

As a basic introduction to the game this is all right, but it would be best used in conjunction with conversations with an established player when a newcomer to role-playing is concerned. In print, it is quite expensive for what you get (you would probably be better off just going straight for the Core Rulebook), but the PDF is free and so could be downloaded and given to someone who is thinking of joining an existing game so that they have some idea, at least from a game mechanics standpoint, of what they are getting into. Note that I have not seen the 'dead tree' version, so do not know if the botched type layout is there, but despite the PDF having been updated since its first release, they are still there at the time of writing this review - hence 3 stars, the actual content is worth 4!

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book 0: Introduction to Traveller
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Traveller Main Rulebook
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2015 09:05:45
Traveller has been around for a long time, with the three original 'little black books' appearing in 1977, and this incarnation of the ruleset recreates the excitement of the first, with the same simple and elegant ruleset underpinning everything, streamlined to meet contemporary gaming tastes.

It opens with introductory material including a bare-bones introduction to the concept of role-playing games, thoughts on suitable campaign types and a discussion of technology levels, which vary across known space. We then move directly into Character Creation, which as old hands will know, can be an absorbing pastime of itself never mind essential preparation for participating in an actual game. Starting by rolling characteristics, you then choose a homeworld and the career(s) your character has pursued before embarking on an adventuring career, the main purpose being to gain skills. It also builds a backstory for the character, who is generally quite a mature individual compared to other games. The backstory is based, like a lot of the career progression, on die rolls... and yes, it is possible to perish before you even start play! There's quite a wide range of careers available, over and above the predominantly military ones from the original game - as well as Navy, Marines, Army, Scouts and Merchants there are diverse careers like Entertainer, Rogue, Scholar, Agent (law enforcement), Drifter, Nobility and Citizen from which to choose. A neat addition is the 'skill package', a list of skills appropriate to the campaign type you want to play from which the characters take turn choosing skills that they lack, thus ensuring that the party can at least handle basic tasks that will arise. Add the mustering out benefits and you are ready to go. For those who do not like the basic system, there are variants such as point-buy characteristics and even skills, and details on generating alien characters. So far, a human has been assumed. This talks in general terms to begin with, but also introduces the standard Traveller races quite briefly, noting that each could fill a book by itself. (Over the course of time, these books have been brought out, you'll find them in the Third Imperium line.)

The next section is Skills and Tasks which opens with a explanation of 'Task Checks', the way in which actions are resolved. Most are either skill or characteristic based, with a standard 2d6 roll being modified according to the skills or other factors being brought to bear (brute strength, for example) and situational modifiers. For standard tasks, you need to get an 8 in total to succeed, but difficulty modifiers may be applied at the Referee's discretion to make it harder or more easy. There are plenty of examples, and these continue through the ensuing discussion of all the skills available and how they can be used to effect during the course of a game. This is followed by an extensive section on Combat, again well illustrated with examples and with a wide range of possible actions being presented.

Combat is not the only danger characters face, of course, and the next section - Encounters and Dangers - look at all manner of things other than brawls that could threaten life or limb or spoil your whole day - animals and environmental dangers (natural and unnatural), as well as how you heal, creating NPCs and more. The animals bit provides enough detail to let you invent strange critters to be encountered on the planets that you visit. Within the NPC section there are notes on giving them memorable personalities and a collection of ready-made Patrons to give the party something to do. This section rounds out with a wealth of random encounters and events that may be something going on in the background or else may turn into a complete adventure if not campaign.

Next comes a vast Equipment section which will let your character get his hands on virtually anything he might need for the forthcoming adventures. Not just weapons and armour (although there's plenty of those), there's all manner of stuff from drones to survival gear, medical equipment to communications and entertainment systems... you name it, it's probably there... apart from that necessity, a spaceship. This is dealt with comprehensively in the next section, Starship Design - again something that can be as much fun as creating characters. Examples are given, which can be used straight away if you do not wish to go through the whole process. Once you have a ship the following section, Starship Operations, explain the rules and concepts underlying its use, including operating costs and various dangers... and this is followed in turn by the Space Combat section.

The final sections deal with Psionics (powers of the mind, which you may or may not choose to allow in your game), Trade (with lots of tables to enable you to automate the process considerably yet model it fairly well) and finally World Creation. This provides an elegant system for devising planets in an awesome variety for the party to visit in their travels.

Well conceived and updated from the originals, this work recaptures all the excitement and sheer potential for adventure presented by those Little Black Books. A neat addition is little snippets of information scattered throughout in grey text boxes - anything from the tradition of Jump dimming to an adventure seed you could develop into a complete adventure - which are well worth ready. A worthy successor to the original Traveller which maintains its flavour, its essence, well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Main Rulebook
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Dark Heresy Second Edition: Enemies Within
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/27/2015 12:05:48
So, Acolyte, where do you look for heretics? Do you find them clearly on view, participating in foul rituals as part of organised cults that anyone may join? Or do you sometimes look closer to home...? Many cults start off benign and drift - often without intent, unwittingly even - astray. There's no knowing where you will find heresy and mutants, especially within the ancient worlds of the Askellon Sector.

This book delves deep into this often hidden menace with particular reference to the Askellon Sector in three chapters. The first looks at the history of the Ordo Hereticus, the second provides new options and rules information and the final chapter explores the worlds of the Askellon Sector and the cults lurking thereon.

Chapter 1: Hereticus details the origins, history and operations of the Inquisitors of the Ordo Hereticus, also known as Witch-Hunters, whose purpose is to protect mankind from the threat of betrayal from within. They seek out corruption and burn it, often fairly indiscriminately. They are zealous to a fault and do not like being thwarted. Even those who welcome them frequently regret it. Their origins are shrouded in mystery and they go to great pains to keep it that way, prefering to work in secrecy and without accounting for their actions to anyone. They would prefer to burn hundreds of innocents to get a heretic or two, than let even one get away. They also treat their Acolytes as disposable assets, so take care before you take service with such an Inquisitor.

There is plenty more here too: organisations of witch hunters and some of the cults that they pursue. There are details of the many and varied philosophies that they hold, which must lead to some interesting debates when several are gathered together.

Next, Chapter 2: Fury and Fire looks at new options and additions to the rules, beginning with a selection of new home worlds that you can select. These are of general interest even if you want to steer clear of the Ordo Hereticus. Perhaps an agri-world, a feudal one or a frontier world appeals. Next are the Orders Militant of the Adepta Sororitas — a background of warrior women in service to the Ecclesiarchy. More risky, you might choose a background as a mutant, that is, one born a mutant rather than having acquired mutations later on in life. New roles such as the fanatic and the penitent are also discussed. There is also an array of new (and vicious) weapons as well as new armours in which to encase yourself. A select of profane artefacts is followed by specialised talents described as the Art of Hatred, for the Ordo Hereticus is fuelled by hatred of their heretical prey rather than any compassion for those whom they would protect from them. Finally there is an account of the process known as an Inquest, the specialist form of investigation used by the Ordo Hereticus to uncover heretics, reflecting their somewhat casual relationship to truth and justice and quantifying it in game mechanical terms.

The final chapter is Roots of Heresy, and this is a detailed look at the worlds of Askellon with special reference to the heresies to be found thereon. Game Masters will find it very useful, as it spawns plenty of plot ideas, moreover there's also a section on how to create heresies of your own as well as how best to present the tell-tale signs to knowing Acolyte eyes.

There's plenty of information to draw on here, painting Askellon as a far darker place that the Calixis Sector featured in Dark Heresy 1e. Perhaps that's due to the sector's age, for with age it seems comes decay and corruption. Of course, my mischievous mind promptly wonders what happens when someone within the Ordo Hereticus itself slips over the edge, turns bad and embraces heretical ideas and practices? Or are their excesses a sign that this has already happened? Whether your Acolytes choose to serve the Ordo Hereticus or encounter them as they go about their business, this book will help you bring it all to life. Pass the torch...

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy Second Edition: Enemies Within
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Referee's Aid 1: Among the Trojans
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2015 13:03:26
This is a quite different adventure setting for Traveller, utilising the entirity of a solar system (which one doesn't really matter, just pick a suitable system in your universe) rather than seeing it as virtually empty space through which you travel merely to get to the 100D distance to turn on your Jump drive. The Introduction explains this, along with notes on what the party will need to get around there - any small vessel, which doesn't need to be Jump-capable, or even friends who have one and will give them a ride. The idea is that there's a fair bit of 'local' in-system traffic and characters will be able to hitch or pay for transportation if they do not have a suitable ship of their own.

The next section, Background Data, is a mix of some basic stuff about the Third Imperium (genuine background this, it does not impinge on what's going on here but is more of a vague backdrop) and a wealth of information about what is likely going on across a reasonably well-developed system from settlements on planets other than the mainworld, moons or indeed in space stations to more transient folk engaged in exploration, mining or salvage operations. There are also notes on what's to be found there: gas giants, asteroids, moons, and smaller rocky but airless planets.

Then there's a developed example, the Kendelsei Outsystem. Kendelsei itself is a gas giant around which a fair bit of spacefaring civilisation has built up separate from the main world and those who generally jump in to visit it. It's got quite a few moons, as gas giants tend to, as well as other planetoids clustered in its Trojan points. A neat thing is that everything here as astronomically sound as well as working in a game context.

The next section is Space Travel in the Outsystem which talks about the different sorts of vessels likely to be found there. This is followed by Adventuring in the Outsystem, a short section that crams quite a few ideas into a few short paragraphs.

Many people take the trouble to generate an entire system rather than just the main world, but then concentrate all their efforts and plots on that main world (with perhaps a refuelling stop at the gas giant). Now here are some ideas and resources to help you bring the rest of the system to life. As it is likely that people are not going to stay only on the main world, it adds added realism to your alternate reality - and there is plenty of scope for adventures in the outsystem as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Referee's Aid 1: Among the Trojans
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Dark Heresy Second Edition: Forgotten Gods
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2015 08:49:51
This massive adventure follows on from Dark Pursuits (in the core rulebook) and Desolation of the Dead (in the Game Master's Kit), but can equally well be run without having played either of them if preferred. It's all about smuggled xenos relics, and takes the Acolytes to Hive Desoleum and a shrine world called Thaur, with some interesting interludes on the ship that takes them there.

After some introductory fiction that highlights the perils of smuggling artefacts there's an overview of the adventure, which falls into three main sections. The first, in and around Hive Desoleum, is primarily investigative although there are ample opportunities for those who enjoy brawling to indulge their need for action if they so wish. Throughout the adventure, there are loads of hints and tips on how to keep the action flowing, play the NPCs involved and cope with whatever the Acolytes do in such a manner that they shouldn't ever realise how close they've come to derailing the plot!

The adventure opens with a pile of blood-stained corpses (and probably continues that way). Along the way, there are opportunities for interaction and plenty of wonderful throw-away comments that can lead to complete side-adventures or be stored up for use later on as suits. Whenever the Acolytes need to decide what to do, likely options and their results are detailed clearly: just pick the right one to reflect what your players have decided on and run it from there. You will need to read and study the adventure in advance to get the most out of it, it is full of little snippets that make it all come alive as you weave them into your game.

From the Hive itself, their investigations should lead the Acolytes out across the desolate wastes and eventually to the starport. No mere journey, there's plenty happening along the way and much is plot-connected, not random events chucked in to make the trip more 'interesting'. The adventure continues with a voyage on a massive and crowded pilgrim ship, and climaxes on the shrine world itself, where the Acoloytes, we hope, will thwart a heresy with the potential to do significant and wide-reaching harm.

Good use is made of technology in the PDF version, hyperlinking passing references to an NPC or something else to more copious details elsewhere as appropriate. The entire appearance is coherent and quite stylish, reflecting the setting well - even if the font has a slighly uneven quality that's a little unsettling.

It is a massive adventure, providing plenty of background and flavour as well as a compelling plotline, albeit a corpse-heavy one (and that's before your Acolytes start adding to the body-count!). The GM is well supported with options and advice, even down to how to bring in replacements should the party be unlucky enough to lose a member or two. Played through, this should be memorable to both Acolytes and their players alike. Some gods really ought to be forgotten!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy Second Edition: Forgotten Gods
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Dark Heresy Second Edition: Game Master's Kit
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2015 07:47:46
The Game Master's Kit consists of two components: a GM screen and a 32-page booklet which contains an adventure. A screen's a screen, right? This one has loads of useful combat charts on the GM's side and a sort of aerial view of a cityscape (Hive World, perhaps?) on the other side - not wildly exciting considering the scope of the setting, but reasonably fitting and not too distracting.

The adventure is called Desolation of the Dead, and follows on nicely from the one in the back of the core rulebook. It's set on Hive Desoleum and deals with corruption - and worse - amongst the Carrion Guilds (read: undertakers) in the depths of the most impoverished parts of the Hive. As you might expect, it begins with investigation - undercover is suggested but that's up to the Acolytes, however the denizens of these desolate deprived slums are none too keen on talking to anyone representing authority - and continues with a perilous journey to the prime suspect's lair with the likelihood of combat to thwart his evil schemes once they get there. There's plenty of opportunity for interaction and role-playing, with a lot of descriptive material to help the GM make it all come to life - reading it I can almost imagine the smells, fortunately there's no way to recreate those! There's some advice on how to keep the investigation flowing, but you will have to find your own way to ensure that enough clues are discovered to keep the Acolytes on track. Suggestions for follow-up adventures are included.

Even if you and your players do not fancy a squelch through the slime (it certainly doesn't present as a nice place to visit although it does sum up the underlying decay and foulness that pervades the Imperium well), the second part of the book may be of interest. It discusses the concept of the Nemesis, a recurring enemy who may be behind more than just the small-scale plots starting Acolytes deal with. There's often a sense of a lot more going on in the background, and this section discusses how to create the NPCs behind these vaster conspiracies, looking at who they might be, how they operate, and what their ultimate goals are... thoughts that could shape a series of adventures or even a whole campaign. Several samples are provided to use as is or as inspiration for your own creations.

The adventure is a bit linear, but exciting for all that provided the Acolytes can retain their lunches (perhaps writing the review whilst eating mine wasn't the best idea!) but the material about designing a nemesis and building a plot arc around him is excellent if you enjoy designing your own adventures.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy Second Edition: Game Master's Kit
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Dark Heresy Second Edition: Core Rulebook
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2015 12:51:23
Opening with a vivid and atmospheric piece of fiction that encapsulates the rich and ancient sweep of the Warhammer 40K setting, this is a revamp of the original Dark Heresy rules. The presentation, the artwork, mirrors this style well, combining to suck you in and want to know more...

When I say 'revamp' in some ways this is more of an augmentation. Many of the original rules pertaining to character generation and task resolution are little changed (if you own Dark Heresy 1e materials it will take little modification to use them with this ruleset), and new rules have been added to handle things like investigation, social interaction, and vehicle combat. However, it presumes nothing and opens with an overview of the universe in which this game is set, thus making it equally valuable to a newcomer to role-playing in the 41st century. An interesting feature is that this time, the default setting is a new sector, the Askellon Sector, rather than the Calixis Sector used in Dark Heresy 1e, so if you have been playing there you now have a whole new place to explore, with its own dark secrets to discover.

Introduction done and scene set, Chapter 1: Playing the Game explains the game mechanics, showing how characteristics and skills are brought together for task resolution. It's a good way of giving a feel for the game before players settle down to create their characters, giving them a solid grounding on which to base their choices. As Chapter 2: Character Creation comes next, they will be able to apply their knowledge straight away. Here you are led through the process step-by-step, with the options at each stage presented clearly. If reading the PDF version, hyperlinking has been implemented well to enable you to refer to apposite information quickly. As each option is explained, you also learn more about life and places in the 41st century, it's well worth reading the lot even if you have a clear idea of what sort of character you want to play before you start. The main choices are homeworld, background (what you did prior to becoming an Acolyte) and role (which is as much about how you see yourself, your approach to life, as it is a statement of what you do). All give various advantages and combine to create the character.

Whilst much of character creation is about making choices, there's an interesting twist in which a twist of destiny is added in by means of percentage dice. The result gives a 'prophecy' - couched in suitable terms - with an associated game mechanical effect, which may be beneficial or otherwise. Once you have a bunch of characters, it is time to establish them as a warband in service to an Inquisitor. You may choose to play out their initial assembly, or begin your game with the warband already established and comfortable with one another, having worked together for some time. It's likely that the GM has already designed the Inquisitor that they serve, but if not there is scope for collaboration here, and plenty of detail is provided about how to create (and run) an Inquisitor character. One day, those Acolytes who survive may aspire to such dizzy heights, after all.

Although the full character creation process is covered in Chapter 2, following chapters contain some essential details you will need when generating your character - the full skill list (Chapter 3: Skills), talents and traits (Chapter 4), equipment (Chapter 5: Armoury) and finally Chapter 6: Psychic Powers. They make interesting reading as well, with information on how to use them mechanically as well as in role-play, and continuing to build up the rich panoply that is the 41st century. Next comes that pivotal element of any game in Chapter 7: Combat. The nature of the setting is such that combat will be inevitable, so here the rules and options are explained. Mechanically-speaking combat is conducted in rounds with each participant having a turn to act, and certain actions which can be performed during that turn.

This is followed by Chapter 8: Narrative Tools. Here other aspects of the game, other things that will take place apart from brawls, are covered: social encounters, investigations, exploration, travel and more. It's a mix of description and rules material demonstrating what can be done and providing the necessary mechanics to moderate the outcome. There are some fascinating concepts here like influence and subtlety, how to use them and track them, a creative mix of role-play and mechanics to model all manner of interaction. Plenty of examples are provided to make everything clear. There's an extensive discussion of investigation and the investigative process, something likely to feature quite large in the adventures of a group of Acolytes who will be sent to find out what is going on and then deal with it a lot of the time. Fear, madness and other mental aberrations are also covered - much of what the Acolytes will have to deal with is by its very nature terrifying and mind-wrenchingly wrong. The operation of fate - which can become significant - and the sort of people that might be sent to reinforce a team of Acolytes as the need arises round out this chapter.

Next is Chapter 9: The Imperium and the Inquisition. This augments the information that has already been presented concerning the setting. There is a wealth of detail here depicting a rich, sweeping, ancient, decaying yet vigorous galaxy swarming with life, trapped in the grasp of the overarching Imperium. Those who have followed Warhammer 40K since its inception as a miniatures skirmish game will see much that is familiar, those who have arrived later will be fascinated by the depth and detail of the setting as told through the organisations and factions to be found there.

This is followed by greater scrutiny of the game's new home in Chapter 10: The Askellon Sector. History, worlds, and the people who dwell on them are laid out in dizzying detail, a ready-made backdrop for your adventures.

Then we reach the final portion of the book, which is the domain of the Game Master, and the GM alone. Of course, this makes the assumption that only one of your number will assume that mantle, although it does make sense that whoever will run the adventure at the end is the only person to read it beforehand! First up, Chapter 11: The Game Master provides all manner of useful help and advice to support whoever is running the game, from determining what sort of adventures to play to how to prepare for and run them. There's quite a lot on creating and playing the Inquisitor to whom the Acolytes answer and on running different aspects of the game, especially encounters with particular reference to those which end up in conflict. There are ideas on creating adventures and campaigns, and how to weaver ready-made adventures and your own designs into a coherent whole, and a lot about how to make an investigation work on the table-top. All good stuff, and worthy of study.

After Chapter 12: NPCs and Adversaries, which provides instruction on how to create your own as well as ready-made ones, the final chapter comprises an adventure, Dark Pursuits. Designed to introduce the core themes and concepts of the game, it involves a complex web of intrigue around the trade of items proscribed by Imperial law (and probably common sense) which the Acolytes must unpick. Whilst investigation is at its core, there is plenty of scope for action and it is written so that there are several routes to success, leaving the Acolytes feeling that their choices and actions really make a difference.

In this work, Dark Heresy comes of age in a stylish and robust game that should provide years of collaborative entertainment.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy Second Edition: Core Rulebook
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Clement Sector Player's Guide
Publisher: Gypsy Knights Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2015 09:01:22
Designed to enhance your enjoyment of Gypsy Knights Games's Traveller setting, the Clement Sector, this book concentrates in the main on creating characters that will fit right in. As it is a fairly self-contained region of space, if you run it as written all your characters will have been born and raised there, so the selection of backgrounds provided ought to be useful.

Opening with a couple of pages of fiction to get you into the mood, the first part of the book consists of an extensive series of tables to use - in standard random Traveller manner - to create a past for your character. You can follow through the random process as directed, or if you prefer (and your Referee permits) choose the option that appeals the most. After you have rolled up your characteristics (UPP) according to the core rulebook, the tables here will let you determine which planet in the Clement Sector is your homeworld, and then you can find out the background skills you would have learned growing up there. Note that you are going to need a set of percentile dice as well as D6s. Once you know where you come from, the next step is to determine your native language - Clement Sector was fairly recently colonised from Earth, and people tend by and large to use the language they spoke 'back home'. There's a note on translation technology to ensure that everyone can (more or less) communicate with each other, though.

Next comes the beginnings of the 'lifepath' backstory, beginning with their youth modelled by two rolls to determine significant events in ages 4-8 then 9-12. Some of these are good, some less so. Events for the teenage years are resolved with another two rolls (or, of course, choices - but rolls are more fun and more in the spirit of Traveller character generation). As in real life, next you deal with time in college or university (should your character choose to attend and manages to gain admission). By the time you've finished all this and are ready for a career, you will have a vivid thumbnail sketch of your character's formative years... even if, rather ominously, the final table in this section is Prison Events!

The rest of the book is taken up with Clement Sector careers. There's a list of careers in other Gypsy Knights Games books, useful if you have a good collection or it might even inspire you to pick something up if you like the sound of some of the careers in it, and of course there are plenty more here. You can even be a celebrity or a professional sportsperson, never mind more likely careers such as being a merchant or in the military. Each career has the normal set of tables to help you build a solid backstory.

For those who like things a little less random, a series of Character Packages are provided. These give the skills accrued and other details, but not quite as detailed a personal history. Most are military careers but there are some civilian ones such as journalist, orbital construction worker... and you can still become a celebrity by this route. Finally there's a section on new skills and specialties.

Illustrated throughout with some atmospheric artwork (some of the poses are a bit awkward, but the scenery and spaceships are good), this provides a solid grounding for any character who is going to be played in the Clement Sector.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Clement Sector Player's Guide
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Dark Heresy: Edge of Darkness (Quickstart)
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2015 08:52:13
Designed as a proper introduction to the Warhammer 40K setting of the Dark Heresy game, this can either be used as the opening adventure in a campaign with characters created using the core rulebook or as an extensive taster using the quickstart rules provided herein. It's not the short scenario so many offer, this is a full adventure that ought to take several sessions to complete. Both this adventure and the original demo adventure Shattered Hope, which was released in advance of the pulication of the core rulebook, work well to get a campaign going before playing the adventure in the core rulebook, Illuminations, or launching into your own scenarios. Indeed, it's possible to play both if you want.

It opens with some flavour text that gives an idea of the scale and style of the universe that is about to become your virtual reality, a sweep of rich grandeur with a hint of decay in which individuals do not matter - yet the actions of the Acolytes (the party) can make a profound difference. It sweeps swiftly on into the adventure introduction for the GM, noting that the adventure text contains plenty of hints and advice for novice GMs so that it should be easy to run for those new to GMing as well as to this particular game... and this is no idle boast, everything is explained clearly with tips on how to run the game as well as details of what is supposed to be going on.

The adventure itself comes in three parts, beginning with the Acolytes being instructed to investigate a murder... and whilst violent death is not unusual, bodies that show quite so much surgical tampering and illegal organ grafting are! The trick is to discover who is engaging in such heretical science without falling victim to them, of course. The Acolytes will have to delve into the dead man's life and past, and if successful their investigations will lead them to a confrontation with the rogue surgeon...

The main NPCs are introduced with neat pen-portraits that make it easy to play them, and the adventure itself is laid out clearly. Atmospheric descriptions abound, and - this being intended as an introduction to game mechanics as well as setting - opportunities to use the rules are signposted with notes on what needs to be done at each point. The investigation will lead them into an industrial 'hive' and the descriptions here paint a vivid picture of what the place is like, while the game notes allow the Acolytes to do pretty much whatever they please to further their investigation whilst giving the GM all the information he needs to accommodate their actions and provide them with the clues that they need. Again, once they find the villain's lair, it will be up to them how they deal with the situation. And, should they survive, there are notes on how best to further develop the adventure.

Appendices cover some quick-start rules for those who do not have the core rulebook, complete stats for all NPCs involved and a player handout. The rules are well explained, and this part could make a useful handout for new players who do not own the full rules. Six pre-generated characters are supposed to be available for download separately from the Fantasy Flight Games website - but if they were when this first came out in 2008 they aren't there now!

Overall, this gives an excellent impression of Dark Heresy and the adventure is a good one, mixing a lot of investigation with the opportunity for at least one good fight at the end. If pure combat is your thing you may find this a bit dull, but those who enjoy a mix of interaction and violence should be satisfied.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Edge of Darkness (Quickstart)
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Dark Heresy: The Lathe Worlds
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2015 08:40:01
Knowledge is a funny thing, especially in the 41st century. Much has been lost completely, other bits are deemed too dangerous to know... and a lot is kept firmly in the grip of the Adeptus Mechanicus, who regard technology in a sacred light as they worship the God-Emperor as the Omnissiah, the Perfect Sum of All Knowledge. Not for nothing are they called the Cult of the Machine God. Within the Calixis Sector, they are concentrated on the Lathe Worlds, and this book serves to convey a wealth of information about both the Adeptus Mechanicus and the three worlds on which they congregate.

Chapter 1: The Cult Mechanicus starts off by presenting their origins and history, with special emphasis on their role within the Calixis Sector. Going back to the earliest times it seems that Mars, in the Earth system, saw their very beginning and that it was here they established their first forges - for they control all production facilities for virtually all technology especially that of a warlike nature, and claim ownership of every discovery, be it new research or the finding of long-lost technological items from the distant past. It is said that they were established on Mars even before the God-Emperor came to prominence on Earth and were amongst the first to recognise his importance, if not divinity. Their hierarchy and organisation are covered before a discussion of their quest for knowledge and and their holdings in the Calixis Sector. Ritual is integral to everything that they do, and quite a good overview is given of that - as it underpins virtually all use of technology this is well worth understanding. Like any organisation, there are factions and sects amongst them, and some heresy as well.

Next, Chapter 2: Servants of the Omnissiah provides all the game mechanics necessary to creat characters (and, of course, NPCs) who are members of the Adeptus Mechanicus - a goodly array of new options, backgrounds, career ranks and more. This will enable you to model adherents of the different factions and bring much more depth to Adeptus Mechanicus characters wherever they are encountered in your game.

Then Chapter 3: Dominions of the Lathes looks at the Lathes system, reviewing the planets, artificial stations and indeed the vast array of holdings that the Adeptus Mechanicus has here. There's a lot of information in this section, and it will enable this area of space to come to life whenever the party happens to visit. There are even more sects and factions specific to the Lathes system for those who enjoy intrigue, and the whole chapter is liberally supplied with adventure seeds... not to mention it spawns quite a few just as you read through the information herein!

Finally Chapter 4: The Light of Reason is an adventure that will send Acolytes to investigate psychic disturbances in the Lathe System... who is dabbling in what dangerous areas and can they be stopped in time? They will have to pick their way through faction politics, explore the darker corners of the Lathes system, and perhaps may come to understand why the Adeptus Mechanicus thinks the way it does. There's plenty of support for the GM, from environmental hazards to atmospheric descriptions, and whilst linear in concept the adventure is constructed in such a way that the party will feel like they can find their own way through it to the ultimate climax.

With technology and the religious approach to it being so embedded in the Imperium, this is a useful book to have for general background: if you want the Adeptus Mechanicus to feature large in your adventures, you'll need it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: The Lathe Worlds
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Dark Heresy: Book of Judgement
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2015 08:17:10
Interesting, this. So far in Dark Heresy the focus has been on maintaining religious purity rather than law and order, albeit the two get a bit blurred in an undemocratic empire where the head of state claims godhood. Here, however, is a glimpse of real law enforcement, and how it is conducted within the Imperium (or at least, in the Calixis Sector) by the Arbitrators of the Adeptus Arbites. If investigations and mysteries feature large in your games, this is a resource worth reading.

First up, Chapter 1: Calixian Law discusses the work of the Arbitrators in the Calixian Sector, including some of the notable individuals involved. Their role is to uphold and maintain Imperial Law - the galaxy-spanning Dictates Imperialis - which seems to serve the Imperium much more than it does its citizens. Meanwhile, local Enforcers attend to more mundane matters such as murders and theft according to the laws laid out by each individual planet. There's a lot here from recruitment and organisation to methods, quite enough to let you bring them alive whenever the party encounters them. The other side of the coin is here as well, the Calixian Underworld.

Then, Chapter 2: Bound to Law is full of character options on both sides of the law: Arbitrators and Scum. Useful for building NPCs as needed, it may also offer interesting side careers for existing characters or bring something unusual into the party.

Next, Chapter 3: Arbites Armoury is the 'gear chapter', with all the kit an Arbitrator might want as he goes about his business. Here you will find melee and ranged weapons, armour, utility items, cyber-mastiffs and servitors, along with drugs and cybernetics. The cyber-mastiffs and other creations are an invaluable aid to the dedicated enforcer of the law.

This is followed by Chapter 4: Investigation. Mainly intended for the GM, it explains how to create investigative adventures and run them to effect. It goes through the process in detail, from introducing the investigation into the game, the elements of an investigation, weaving events into the story, finding clues, bringing in complications, and the all-important wrapping it up at the end. It mixes ideas and concepts seamlessly with game mechanics, and provides a solid base upon which to construct your own adventures of this nature.

Chapter 5: Calixian Most Wanted then introduces a rogues gallery of notorious criminals and some of the crimes that they have committed. It also presents a dark settlement, Hive Subrique, currently languishing under martial rule - which is doing nothing to deter the criminal underbelly of the place, however!

Finally, Chapter 6: Jurisdiction is a complete ready-to-play adventure that will take a ready wit to unravel. When a smuggler and general rogue is allied with a Bishop, things tend to get messy...

This book puts a lot of context into the game, and is is worth reading as background to the rich panolply of the 41st century Imperium even if you are less enamoured of investigation-based adventures. If you do like them, waste no time in adding it to your shelves... and the adventure is fun and convoluted and may even convert those who normally avoid investigations into individuals with a keen nose for a mystery.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Book of Judgement
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Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2015 08:42:31
To most citizens in the 41st century, daemons are to be feared - outsiders constantly attempting to force their way into their very minds summoned from the Warp by cultists and heretics. What of those who stand guard against them: the Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus and Space Marines of the Grey Knights? This book seeks to tell you everything that you might want to know about them, including rules for playing them, and other ways of involving them in your game.

This being Dark Heresy, the main focus is of course on the Ordo Malleus, the Inquisitor-led body whose job it is to hunt down sorcerers and the daemons they would summon. In Chapter 1: The Ordo Malleus we can read a wealth of information about the history of the Ordo, about its holdings in Calixis sector, and even meet some of the notables amongst the leadership. Much of its history is shrouded, the nature of the threats they face being held so terrible that records are routinely destroyed. Being a pretty big organisation, it has various sub-groups which you can also read about. The threat may be universally acknowledged, how to deal with it has attracted many opinions, all held fervently by their adherents. Of course, there are frequent notes as to how to play certain individuals or where different facets of the Ordo may fit into your game - but just reading through this material spawns plenty of ideas.

Next, Chapter 2: Hunter Careers turns to more game mechanical material with new options for Acolytes including the Banisher career, individuals capable of battling daemons face to face. There are also new background packages and alternate career ranks, optional routes of progression which bring both benefits and disadvantages to an Acolyte wishing to pursue them. There are some fascinating options here.

To aid them we find the resources of Chapter 3: Malleus Armoury - a collection of ancient and powerful weapons and much more to support the fight against evil. This extensive catalogue includes ranged and melee weapons, armour, force fields, gear, tools, drugs and ammunition, as well as a select array of 'anointed weapons' - holy relics that have legendary status. However, there's detailed information on how to make them too.

Chapter 4: Daemonic Incursions looks at the minions of the Chaos Powers. It's a primer for the GM on how to harness them to good effect within a campaign, providing loads of advice and examples. There are plenty of adventure seeds here too - this is a chapter best left for the GM's eyes, or at least one that players need to keep separate from their in-character knowledge.

Finally, Chapter 5: The Grey Knights provides background information and the rules you'll need if you want to play one of the Emperor's chosen warriors, the Grey Knights Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes. These are the guys you call in if the Ordo Malleus do not manage to contain a daemon threat, providing the overwhelming force necessary to prevent the destruction of an entire world - or more. Now, when the original concept of a role-playing game for Warhammer 40K was first proposed, a lot of people thought immediately of the iconic Space Marines and Dark Heresy must have been a bit of a surprise with its focus on Acolytes combatting heresy rather than Marines thumping anything that moved. Here at last are the secrets of those ultimate warriors, the Grey Knights, complete with information to create Grey Knight characters or NPCs. They are rare, but potent and deadly. It takes a special situation indeed for any Inquisitor to think of sending for one.

This all makes for a fascinating read, and empowers you to unleash the powers of darkness into your campaign. This, children, is why you never ever tamper with heresy... lest a daemon come, with the Ordo Malleus and possibly even a Grey Knight hot on its heels!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: Daemon Hunter
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Dark Heresy: The Chaos Commandment
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2015 08:26:32
This is the third and last part of The Apostasy Gambit trilogy of adventures, pitting the Acolytes against a sector-wide plot to cause chaos with the aim of restoring religious purity through all-out holy war! It can, however, be run as a stand-alone scenario - you'll just have to explain some of the backstory so that they'll know just why Saint Drusus has apparently risen from the dead to muster an army with which he intends to sweep through the Calixis Sector, purifying it of sinners and heretics with fire and the sword, or indeed any weapon that comes to hand.

Unlike the preceeding episodes, which have combined investigation and combat, this adventure is primarily about combat, including psychic combat and battles of will as well as plenty of brawling. There still is scope for the less combat-orientated members of the party to play a role, but those who cannot take care of themselves will be at a disadvantage. Notes are provided on how to source new recruits should existing party members fall in battle or go completely insane.

The adventure is made up of four parts, beginning with the Acolytes leading a siege at the head of an element of the Canopus Heavy Foot Regiment, seeking to destroy armaments factories and root out senior cultists and Drusian followers. Assuming they survive that, there's a captive psyker to rescue and a daemonic assassin to evade before the climax in yet another Cathedral leads them to a visit to the Warp itself and a stand-off with a daemon...

Each stage is presented in detail, the scene set in vivid prose complete with detailed NPCs and everything you'll need to make it all come to exciting life during your game. There's also useful material for both you and your players: for example, in the first part there's a list of specific equipment for besieging to issue - including a book of tactics that can be used to pass on helpful advice to those unfamiliar with 41st century siege warfare - so that everyone can play a full part in events. By their very nature, some of the combat sections are fairly linear, but in other parts there are opportunities for the Acolytes to take the initiative and have more of a free rein - plenty of resources and options are provided to help you respond appropriately.

By the end of the adventure, the Acolytes will know that they've been in a fight! They also should (if all went well) have a real sense of achievement, that they have adverted a great danger to the Imperial Church and the entire Sector. They will have witnessed things nobody should see and ventured where no-one in his right mind would go, seen the Warp from the inside and hopefully survived to tell the tale. Again, a rich and heady sweep through dubious places provides stirring and memorable adventure, a worthy climax to an exciting trilogy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Heresy: The Chaos Commandment
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Mindjammer - Hearts & Minds Adventure
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2015 08:05:21
This book introduces a fascinating world to explore as well as a full-blown adventure. The world of Olkennedy was colonised a long time ago and has been out of touch for ages, the Commonality has just made contact with them and both sides are quite fascinated. Olkennedy is interesting in its own right, with a single massive crater being the only inhabitable place and several hominid species coexisting with more recognisable 'humans'... but of course, change is not always for the best and it may all blow up in everyone's face!

It's all about culture shock. The Commonality, of course, wants to 'reintegrate' Olkennedy, but there are various ideas of what that might mean or how it is to be accomplished. And then there's the various peoples of Olkennedy: what do they want? Things are likely to get worse before they get better, and a civil war is quite probable. The adventure is designed to accommodate characters of a wide range of types, and can be run as a one-shot or as a more extended sequence.

First, though, there is a detailed run-down of Olkennedy itself. Its remarkable geography is outlined in a very believable manner, along with the history of its colonisation (and before) and even some of the local wildlife such as land clams and sailfins (which are flying reptiles, not fish). Everything you need, in short, to run your own adventures here. Scenario hooks and other encounters are provided here, along with maps, city plans, and details of the various peoples you'll encounter.

Next, we get on to the adventure itself with a discussion of how, depending on who they are, you can get the party involved. They might be diplomats or military, operatives of one agency or another, traders, scientists or... let them come up with their own reasons for being there when things begin to go awry. There's a default plot thread and a sequence of events that will happen no matter what, and it is up to you and the party how they will interact with what is going on. It gives an excellent feeling of reality, with things happening for different reasons than just because there is a group of player-characters standing around! The impression is that, party or no party, these events will take place... it is just that the characters have the opportunity to influence the outcomes and may even - should they so wish - be able to bring peace and avoid civil war. Or they might find it to their advantage to forment it and take sides!

The adventure section is jam-packed with useful stuff: NPCs, locations and events. Each event can go in several directions, depending on what the characters decide to do. It's made up of four main episodes and an epilogue, and should provide the characters with a memorable visit to Olkennedy, whatever their reason was for going there in the first place... and it all begins with them being caught up in a riot!

Here are a wealth of resources that should provide your group with some memorable adventures, something to get a Mindjammer campaign off to a flying start or provide a solid sequence of events somewhere during an existing campaign. Every action will have consequences, and the party will have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to Olkennedy's history - will it be war, war or jaw, jaw - a civil war or a negotiated peace? Run this adventure and have a blast finding out!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mindjammer - Hearts & Minds Adventure
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Game for Nepal - Charity [BUNDLE]
Publisher: Kabuki Kaiser
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2015 11:14:13
Thank you, Kabuki Kaiser, for putting together such an interesting themed bundle and making it both easy and pleasurable to donate to such a good cause - the people of Nepal need all the help we can give them right now.

[Note: purchased with my own money, not a Featured Reviewer freebie!]

Product reviews will follow shortly...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Game for Nepal - Charity [BUNDLE]
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