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Secret Societies: Rilasciare (Book 2)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2017 09:08:08

The Introduction speaks of the Rilasciare, a secret society that is quite contradictory. Viewed by many as dangerous anarchists, opponents of law and order, they see themselves as a bastion for truth and fairness, stamping out wrong-doing and corruption wherever it raises its head. Enlightened ones speaking out against outdated ideas, or a bunch of hoodlums who trample tradition underfoot with nothing to replace it? You decide...

Chapter 1: The Midnight Crusade looks at the history and organisation of the Rilasciare. It's an apt title, the Rilasciare often work at night or at least within the shadows, convinced of their own correctness they do not trouble to persuade others or even justify their actions. Although the first section is headed The Public Face, the Rilasciare don't really have one. Most regard them as a loose almost disconnected group of criminals, thinkers and reformers (the term used being based on the speaker's opinion of them!) and do not see the underlying organisation and coordination. Their aims and methods are rooted in their history, which by and large is known only to the membership. It all began with some Old Empire senators who turned to the dark arts in their quest to get rid of the current Imperator (and along the way founded the sorcerous bloodlines that spread throughout Théah) - and three senate pages who overheard them making pacts with dark powers and decided that enough was enough. Despite learning their own dark arts of poisons and assassination, they weren't getting very far... until one of them overheard the First Prophet preaching on the streets of Numa and connived to get him martyred, reasoning that such a fate would elevate a mere street preacher and his ideas (which which she agreed) to levels that mere preaching on street corners would never attain.

History rolled on and the Rilasciare with it (their name meaning 'troublemaker' in Old Théan being quite apt). Some members debated philosophy, others sought out sorcerers and brought them to account... or at least, sent them summarily to meet their makers. As the sorcerers they fought against were nobles, they often found common cause with those opposing misrule and oppression. When they wiped out some Eisen sorcerers with the help of a rival noble that didn't carry a sorcerous bloodline, they found that he was an even worse ruler than those they'd aided him to replace, and their thinking began to change: perhaps sorcery wasn't the only evil in the world. Perhaps the real enemy was those in power, however they had obtained it. The advent of the Third Prophet confirmed them in this opinion, and those who had embraced the Vaticine Church began to fall away, becoming free-thinkers. Over time, more and more turned to ideas and debate, still secret as many of the ideas might be deemed trasonous by the powers-that-be, and the violence seemed to become a thing of the past... but it did not go away entirely.

Their basic beliefs can be stated simply. Nobody should be in want. Sorcery is evil. Power corrupts, so the trappings of power must be destroyed. They seek to achieve their ends through freedom of thought, enlightened thinking - but they have not abandoned violence as a tool to accomplish their goals. They believe that all people are created equal, and nobles are not better than anybody else. There's a look at the structure of the organisation and how they work to achieve their ends in the present day. They even run schools - even if it doesn't say Rilasciare over the door! Others pull Robin Hood acts, stealing to redistribute amongst the poor, or commit acts of violence. Others remain committed to the original goal of ridding the world of sorcery. We also learn of recruitment methods and protocols. Whilst those few outsiders who know about them regard them as violent out-of-control thugs, they actually detest mindless violence - theirs is focussed with surgical precision, used only when absolutely necessary. Or so they believe.

The chapter finishes with a listing of locations and resources. Next comes Chapter 2: Hero which introduces some of the leading members of the Rilasciare. This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama, which is full of additional rules and other new material. These include a new, and rather informal, Swordsman school, rules for joining the Rilasciere and creating your own group or cell and even rules for using explosives. And, should you be interested in such things, a certain Eisen style of sorcery the Rilasciare thought they wiped out. Did the bloodline survive? Dare you play one and have the entire Rilasciare on your tail?

Finally, Chapter 4: Freemen contains a wealth of material mainly aimed at the GM (although there is a Player section as well) designed to help you bring the Rilasciare to life in your game. The GM gets the lowdown on the NPCs presented in Chapter 2, secrets and stat blocks galore, as well as advice on running a 'bomb-throwing' campaign... not to mention what to do with just one or two Freethinkers within a more conventional party. There are other ideas as well to get your creative juices going, as well as more detailed adventure hooks and the description of a prison based in a mine and no doubt very handy should some Rilasciare prank go horribly wrong...

The Rilasciare grew on me as I read this book. On the face of it they seem somewhat like a bunch of terrorists, and indeed they could be played that way if you are looking for a persistent enemy for more law-abiding heroes (an option that rather surprisingly is not considered). If your players have an anarchic streak, however, at least one might be open to recruitment or you may opt for a Rilasciare-based campaign. There's more to them than meets the eye!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Rilasciare (Book 2)
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0one's Black & White: Mad Scientist's Lab
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2017 10:32:24

If you have ever wanted to send the party to explore the classic 'mad scientist' laboratory, well here is one all ready for you. Outwardly it looks like a normal house but inside... the downstairs is pretty normal too but the upstairs has been gutted and filled with all manner of strange and quite creepy stuff. This is a very versatile establishment, it could be a necromancer's laboratory but it could equally serve if you are playing Call of Cthulhu as the workplace of a cultist even more insane than most, or fit in to just about any genre or ruleset if mad science is the order of the day.

Standing in its own grounds with a couple of outbuildings, one being a stables and the other containing a cart and a stack of coffins, the house has a grand entrance with semi-circular steps leading up to a foyer flanked by a small 'guardroom' which contains a bed and a closet/store room. The foyer opens out into a huge living/dining area that boasts a pipe organ (excellent for some creepy music...) and a grand staircase leading upstairs. A big kitchen, well-stocked larder, a room for servants that sleeps five, and the master bedroom with ensuite bathroom also occupy the ground floor. There is also a library stuffed with medical and other texts, that serves as the scientist's study. Finally, the first of the strange contraptions, a lift that is used to take coffins upstairs, is also there, although it can only be accessed from outside, not through the house.

Upstairs, imagination has gone wild in true Hammer House of Horror style. Two vast and mysterious machines, a dissection room, alchemist's paraphenalia, body storage (in large glass tubes filled with unknown liquids), shelves filled with jars containing body parts... and the focal point, a large table that can be raised up to the roof (which opens) upon which unspeakable experiments of the Frankenstein nature are performed. You will be able to go to town describing all this to your players, with a floorplan to back it all up!

As usual, the 'Rule the Dungeon' feature gives you some customisation tools - grid (hex, square or none), presence or absence of furniture and doors and so on. It's a nice detailed and quite imaginative scene. If your taste leads to the macabre, this is worthy of attention - it would be easy to build an entire adventure in which the exploration of this space is the climax.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Black & White: Mad Scientist's Lab
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Heavenring Village: The Jail
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/07/2017 10:19:46

For a small village, Heavenring boasts a remarkably substantial gaol, with five cells fitted out to accommodate a total of eleven convicts. The building also houses space for a tribunal to sit and a residence for the chief law enforcement officer, who for Heavenring is the county sheriff, a dwarf called Mardags.

Built in an L shape, Mardags' residence consists of two rooms: a living area with basic cooking facilities (an open fire with a cauldron), a dining table and some more comfortable seating and a large bedroom which incorporates an en-suite bathroom (far better facilites, as one would imagine, than the convicts receive!).

The space allocated for trials has a couple of rows of seats for spectators, tables for prosecuting and defending lawyers and for a clerk, and an imposing chair for the presiding judge. It does not appear that trial by jury is practised here. A caged-off corner leads back to the gaol wing, presumably the accused stands there during the hearing.

There are a couple of offices, probably for law enforcement officers' use, and a room for the turnkeys with a couple of beds. Then on to the cell block proper. Here a row of spartan cells have a barred door to a corridor on one side and a barred opening out onto a yard ominously labelled 'Hard Labour Area'. What convicts are required to do is unclear, probably breaking rocks into smaller rocks or similar mindless and exhausting tasks. The convicts' sanitary needs are met by a row of latrine huts and some 'washing pools' - no indoor bathrooms for them!

As usual 0one Games display considerable technical mastery of PDF functions, using layers to allow you to pick the grid you want (square, hex or none), and whether you want furniture or doors to appear. As you can print tiles separately, you can change the settings for each one - so if you do not want your prisoners to have even basic comforts, you can remove what little furniture there is in the cells! Do not turn the doors off for the cell block, though...

Knowing the average adventurer's attitude towards the law, you might have need of a town gaol, so this is a useful set of tiles to have tucked away, whether or not you are using Heavenring Village as a whole. After all you can put it anywhere, as needed.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: The Jail
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Heavenring Village: Emporium
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/06/2017 10:51:59

Whatever their players may feel about it in real life, adventurers always seem to enjoy going shopping! Heavenring seems to boast what is almost a mini-market with plenty of produce and household goods on sale, and the storekeeper's house is also included in this tile-set. If you are using Heavenring 'as is' the storekeeper is a halfling by the name of Vimbas, who is rumoured to be a wizard on the side.

The shop itself consists of two rooms, one being used for sales and one for storage. The sales area has a vast display of everything from fruit and vegetables to frying pans, basic tools, clothing and even teddy bears, the store is full of barrels, cart wheels and cupboards. Anyone setting up house or looking for basic supplies ought to be able to find what they are after here.

The house is also quite substantial. It has a large porch for those warm summer evenings, a living area and kitchen, two bedrooms each with their own facilities and an office for the storekeeper to do his bookkeeping (or study spells if the rumours are to be believed). One bedroom is a double, clearly the master bedroom, and the other a single - probably for the storekeeper's child.

The usual features of the 0one Games 'Rule the Dungeon' are present, letting you customise the plans to some extent - changing the grid (square, hex or none), displaying furniture and doors and the like. Everything is clearly drawn, although you can waste too much time trying to identify items in the shop (remind yourself it isn't supposed to be an exact representation). It's a nice addition to the collection, but the real use of plans at this scale is to have a fight and who fights at the market? So, perhaps of limited use...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: Emporium
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Heavenring Village: The Smith
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2017 10:28:27

A smith is a welcome addition to any settlement, and judging from the wares on display, this smith is also an asset to the adventuring community. There are two buildings in this product: the smithy itself and a separate small residence for the smith (unlike most of the village he doesn't have his living quarters in his place of business). In Heavenring Village the smith is a half-orc by the name of Ruck, who apparently has bad manners that mask a helpful and honest nature... but of course you can use this forge anywhere, with a smith of your choosing.

The forge building has three rooms: the forge itself, a storage area and a shop where visitors can browse an array of armour and weapons laid out on a long bench. The storage area is also spacious and contains assorted raw materials. The forge itself looks well-equipped with a big furnace, two anvils and racks of tools.

The smith's residence is quite substantial too, with an open porch with a table and chairs for sitting out, perhaps on a warm evening after the day's work is done. Inside, there is a big sitting/dining room, a kitchen, a master bedroom with a double bed (the presence of a vanity suggests that the smith has a partner... or, of course, is a lady) and a second bedroom with three beds for children or guests. Each bedroom has an ensuite bathroom. Of course, this makes for a nice home for anyone, not necessarily the smith!

0one Games display their customary mastery of PDF technology using layers to allow some measure of control over what you see - square grid, hex grid or no grid at all, or the presence/absence of furniture and doors, or even how heavy a 'fill' there is on the walls. A usful addition to your floorplan collection although... who wants to start a brawl in a forge? The smith might get annoyed and he has loads of stuff with which to spoil your whole day!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: The Smith
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Heavenring Village: Lord's Manor
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/04/2017 08:50:49

Whether your party has business with the lord of the manor or perhaps one of them has aspirations to become a lord of the manor, this quite substantial residence may come in handy. In Heavenring, if you are using the entire village, the current lord is indeed a retired adventurer. His house is well-defended (and not just by his old suits of armour standing around!) yet open and welcoming to visitors.

The entrance is imposing, with a driveway through wooded parkland ending in a semi-circular flight of steps up to the front door. Two statues of armoured figures flank the doorway, and there is a guardpost to either side with arrow slits providing opportunity to fire at unwanted visitors. Inside, there's a hallway to either side and straight ahead the entrance to the main hall.

The manor is centred around a large hall that is described as combining dining room and parlour. There are a couple of conversation groups around a pair of fireplaces, a large round table, an organ at one side and a massive formal dining table at the end of the hall. This stands on a small dais and is flanked by the aforementioned suits of armour. Another table nearby with some stools around it appears to serve as the lord's office.

Opening off the main hall, there's a large kitchen on one side with a storeroom off it, and the lord's private quarters - a spacious bedroom and private bath - on the other side. It would appear that the lord has a wife, as there are TWO bathtubs and matching washbasins... and two privies! Guest provision is far less impressive, although there are several bunk rooms (labelled as barracks or servants' quarters) there are only two further privies tucked away in side rooms at the rear of the building. Each has a washbasin, but no more tubs.

As usual, 0one Games demonstrate their technical mastery of PDFs with their 'Rule the Dungeon' button that uses layers to enable you to have a choice of grid (square, hex or none) and whether or not you wish to see furniture, doors, and so on. If the need arises you can print individual areas, or the whole thing, of course changing the settings as you please each time.

If you ever have need of a single-floor manor house, this is a well-presented and solid option.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: Lord's Manor
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Heavenring Village: Cemetery
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/03/2017 12:34:55

Hopefully you won't have much need for this pleasant graveyard set in a garden. I'd hate to think of undead trampling around... this set of tiles provides details of three crypts and a grave with a statue on it, as well as the cemetery office and mortuary, and the guardian's residence. If you are using Heavenring Village, this is the only proper cemetary for miles around, so people bring their dead here.

The 'office block' contains a spacious office and a small mortuary where bodies awaiting burial may be stored. There's also a larger storage area for coffins and other materials, and a single chamber for the caretaker, which looks quite cosy... at least the neighbours tend to be quiet!

The graveyard itself is laid out neatly, with tombs in neat rows and plenty of space for more. The crypts seem quite substantial, as are the gates to the cemetery, which is walled. All in all, a nice place to lay your dearly departed to rest.

The usual technical effects are available including choice of grid (square, hex or none) and whether or not you want furniture (this empties the crypts of their tombs as well as removing the tombs from the graveyard...), but if you need a cemetery, well this is a nice one. I did run an adventure a couple of years ago that started with the party being invited to a funeral and receiving a bequest, so it is not always the loss of a party member that can bring your game here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: Cemetery
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Heavenring Village: Temple and School
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/02/2017 07:58:13

Lucky Heavenring Village (or wherever you choose to site this), they have a temple with resident priest who teaches school for the local youngsters as well. This mapset comprises two buildings: the actual temple and a combined priest's house and school. Both come with excellent detail that make it easy to find uses for them in your game.

The temple is a large airy building with plenty of space for worshippers in a conventional layout with rows of seats facing a raised altar area. Mostly circular, this is stated to be a dome with an overhead skylight to illuminate the worship area. There's a small vestry for the priest, whilst to one side in the worship area there is an organ and on the other side some shrines. The deity is left unspecified, so you can pick one from your campaign world who appreciates this style of worship.

The other building is nearly as large, with the biggest room given over to a conventionally-laid out classroom with rows of desks facing the teacher's table which is on a semi-circular dais. There is an entryway/waiting room and a bedroom for a servant or assistant as well in the school part of the building which is separate from the priest's quarters in the rest of it. The premises also boast a fenced garden which the pupils can use during recess.

The priest's residence looks comfortable, wrapped around the schoolhouse with several doors to the exterior. It consists of a foyer, library, shrine, dining room, bedroom and bathroom (complete with tub and water closet). The dining room boasts a conversation group round the fireplace and a desk as well as the dining table... but where the poor priest prepares and cooks his food is anyone's guess, there are no kitchen facilities!

The usual technical wizardry displayed by 0one Games makes the PDF easy to use and somewhat customisable - you can choose a square grid, hex grid or no grid at all, and display furniature and doors or not as you please - making this a useful addition to your collection if you need a place of worship or a schoolhouse.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: Temple and School
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Heavenring Village: Town Hall
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/01/2017 10:22:37

The Mayor (spelled 'major' throughout, a rare spelling mistake) of Heavenring village is a dwarf by the name of Musdus Marub and with typical dwarven efficiency the Town Hall includes his house. Should he be voted out, it's not clear if he'll pass his residence on to the new Mayor or not (there could even be an adventure in that...), it may be the offical residence rather than Musdus's own home. The front part of the building contains the official chambers, chiefly a large hall surrounded by offices, and the Mayor's house occupies the rear. The tile-set also includes the village well which stands in front of the Town Hall.

The main hall is a large room with a dais facing the door, on which there is a long table with chairs behind it facing out into the room. The rest of the hall is filled with rows of chairs facing the dais, with a carpeted aisle down the middle. It will make an excellent setting for anything from the bestowal of public rewards to a trial... both possible events in your campaign. There is also a flight of steps leading up to the entrance, making it quite an imposing place for a village! For times of trouble, there are two small guardposts, one to each side of the steps. Each has space for the guard to live as well as look out for trouble.

As well as the main hall there is a meeting room with a large round table, an office for the Mayor (with a door through to his residence), and a couple of rooms for records and archives. All of these chambers have direct access to the outside, you do not need to tramp through the main hall to reach them although they do also open into it.

The Mayor's residence is nicely-appointed with a foyer, dining room, bedroom, bathroom (complete with tub!), kitchen and another room that's designated as for a servant, but could of course be used for the Mayor's children should he have any.

As to be expected, 0one Games display their usual mastery of PDF technology, making it very easy to use and even customise to some extent (choice of hex, square or no grid, and whether or not you want furniture and doors to show). Whether you are using Heavenring Village as a whole or just need a Town Hall (or indeed a guild hall, it could work as that too), this is a nice set of floorplans.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: Town Hall
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Heavenring Village: Black Gryphon Inn
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/31/2016 12:30:21

Given the natural affinity of adventuring parties for inns (and the tendency for brawls to break out necessitating a change of hostelry!), you can never have too many inn floorplans in your collection. This one is a straightforward village inn, designed as part of the Heavenring Village set), with ample stabling and several nice rooms for those who wish to stay the night as well as a large common room/bar, kitchens and even indoor toilets! Accommodation ranges from multiple occupancy, with stragicially-placed cupboards to give a modicum of privacy, to a spacious suite with its own bathroom. The owner's apartment also features. Detail is excellent, down to an array of bottles on the backbar and a keyboard instrument for budding bards in the corner of the bar which also boasts tables set up for dining and gambling.

The usual technological abilities of 0one Games shine through with their 'Rule the Dungeon' system that allows you to decide precisely what is printed on your floortiles - choice of hex grid, square grid or none at all, presence/absence of doors and furniture and so on.

In a nice design feature, all the residential rooms open to the outside - those in a hurry or wishing to avoid attention do not need to resort to climbing out of windows if they do not care to go through the common room. Indeed it looks a pleasant place to stay... and menu suggestions include giant black potatoes stuffed with cheese and onions, slices of salmon grilled with spices, and the renowned Heavenring caviar with toasted bread and fresh butter. The caviar is harvested from local salmon caught in the river that surrounds the village. Sounds like a nice place for a pub lunch!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: Black Gryphon Inn
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Bandits of Calhaven
Publisher: Gorgon Breath Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/28/2016 12:27:47

The book opens with some Setting Assumptions which paint broad brushstrokes of background - a mediaeval/fantasy world in which a great empire has declined and fallen leaving a 'Dark Age' behind, with warring races destroying a lengthy time of peace and prosperity. Set against this backdrop, the adventure is designed as a possible campaign-starter, taking a party from 1st to 3rd level, or something that can be woven into your own plots or used stand-alone if preferred. The Adventure Background follows. Taking place in the settlement of Blackhorse, close to the city of Calhaven which has fallen to bandits, it involves a search for the innkeeper's son who has vanished.

The first part of the adventure introduces Blackhorse, before the action moves to Calhaven and the discovery that bandits are the least of the city's woes. Whilst the structure of the adventure is sound, you'll have to do quite a bit of work to flesh it all out - for a start, maps of Blackhorse, Calhaven and the surrounding area would come in useful; and it is not clear how a beginning character is to find enough to do to be third level by the end... perhaps using Blackhorse as a base for running a few other adventures before the party even goes to Calhaven (or at least, before they start hunting for the missing boy) might give them the necessary experience to deal with the Big Bad Guy at the climax of the adventure.

There are quite a few illustrations and a single floorplan - the Imperial Centre, which houses more than one wonder. Monster and NPC stat blocks and information is all at the end, along with random encounter tables for various stages of the adventure. The text, however, makes it plain who is where and what they are doing when the party encounters them and, of course, how they'll respond to the party's likely actions.

Overall, it's a promising start from a new publisher, and has considerable potential for futher development. It just feels a little more like an adventure outline than a full-blown adventure, fine if you enjoy adding flesh to the bones either before you run the game or on the fly... but the bones are sound, which make for a good beginning.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bandits of Calhaven
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the review! We really appreciate the feedback. One point we'll respond to is XP. If you're running Bandits of Calhaven with 5th edition D&D, the adventure has enough XP to reach 3rd level as written. The party hits 2nd level at 300 XP and 3rd at 900 XP, which is only a handful of combat encounters. You'll definitely want additional quests if using another system, but 5e shouldn't give you much trouble on that front. (And even then, one of the playtest groups managed to complete the adventure at Level 2, so...)
Whispers of the Dark Daeva (5th Edition)
Publisher: Ondine Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/27/2016 09:21:59

This adventure is set in an amazing city called Parsantium. Although there's sufficient material within its pages for you to run it, for best effect go and grab a copy of Parsantium: City at the Crossroads - if you like intricate cities you won't regret it.

The first section, Running the Adventure, explains the background to the adventure which involves an ancient evil reaching forth once more and provides a brief introduction to Parsantium and an adventure summary. There's a detailed run-down of the ancient evil in question, and some hooks to help get the party involved in the adventure. There's a major festival soon, and quite understandibly folks would like it to be free of ancient evils.

Then the adventure proper begins, for once not in a tavern... it just leads to one later on. Not straightaway, however, the action begins with someone running amok on the docks. As events unfold, the party discovers that this is but the latest incident in a series of bewildering brawls that have involved people not normally known for being violent. Neatly, if the party isn't moved to investigate on its own, they'll be asked to find out what is going on and put a stop to it. Along the way there's an exciting and cinematic chase across a floating village and plenty of interesting people to talk to before they get to that tavern, and there are also opportunities for research as well as for action.

The tavern itself is well-described and there's a neat way in which some characters might pick up on there being something wrong even before they start delving below through the tavern cellar to the terrors that lurk in the sewars beneath. Never mind any ancient evils, the smells and sights of the sewars are bad enough - enjoy the atmospheric descriptions as the party explores...

The finale is suitably climactic, and there are notes to help you deal with the party's success or failure as appropriate. Overall it makes a stirring adventure which gives the party a chance to make a name for themselves at least in this corner of town. It's full of neat tricks to build up atmosphere and add to the realism of the town as well as to provide a suitably creepy feel that grows along with the body count!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Whispers of the Dark Daeva (5th Edition)
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Secret Societies: The Knights of the Rose and Cross (Book 1)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/26/2016 12:02:51

The Knights of the Rose and Cross are one of several secret societies in Théah, societies that cross international borders and pursue their own agendas. The Introduction takes pains to comment that the information about the Knights given here are but one view of the society, and it is up to the GM to determine what is the actual truth in his game. This is what might be discovered by diligent investigation by individuals or the party, but it is unlikely that outsiders, or even regular members, will be able to find out all their secrets. To the casual observer, the Knights appear to be a mere gentlemen's social club, but of course there is much more for the discerning eye to discover...

Chapter 1: The Order makes a start, beginning with a section called The Public Face. The Knights do not hide away after all, and this section covers what most Théans know about them. This information should be available to any character who is interested enough to search it out. The society first came to light in 1613 with the publication of a pamphlet that explained the organisation as being a secret band of gentlemen dedicated to three Vows: to bring justice to the unjust, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to serve those who wore the sacred seal of the Order. The origins of this pamphlet, and the several that followed it, were unexplained, moreover it said that those who followed the Rose and Cross were invisible. passing unknown through society. The Vaticine Church was not impressed and went to great lengths in their unsuccessful attempts to track down whoever was behind it all. A few high-profile rescues of individuals from danger followed and then one day over one hundred highly-placed men put on badges bearing the rose and cross symbol... and by 1617 the Order was recognised by the Hierophant. Speculation continues, as they are still very secretive: you might know where one of their Chapter Houses is, but unless you are a member you may not enter. Like any such group, it's attracted those who want to publicise their secrets, and the work of one such investigator is presented here. Make of it what you please.

The next section is The Private Agenda, which comes with a warning that it ought not to be read by those whose characters are not members of the Order. It is far more ancient than the first public appearances of 1613, and here is a run-through of its origins and history. The Knights were both warriors and scholars. Students of history will note that the early history of the Knights of the Rose and Cross is similar to that of the real-world Knights Templars, woven through the history of Théah to make it appropriate to this setting, and of course continuing into more modern times, the Knights still being active in 1668. The actual nature and structure of the Order is discussed, along with details of life as a Knight. Ranks, secret codes, legends and more are covered, and this is followed by an entire section on the Order's resources. This includes a listing of chapter houses throughout Théah.

The next chapter is Hero, which contains details of many prominent Knights and other notables connected with the Order. Each comes with background details, stat block and role-playing notes, and there are sketches of most of them too. This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama, which provides apposite new rules material. There's a swordsman school available only to Knights, new advantages and even the game mechanics for establishing a chapter house. Other rules cover the extreme athleticism of the Knights, leaping roof to roof is commonplace - it would seem they enjoy parkour! Here are the rules for epic aerial, or at least rooftop, antics. The chapter finishes with notes on some unusual artefacts in the Order's possession.

Finally, Chapter 4: Knight contains material for Players and for Game Masters. The Player section peeks behind the scenes of the design process that went into the Order of the Rose and Cross, as well as a look at alchemical symbolism and chivalry as it is known in Théah. The GM section includes a brief scenario and other plot ideas, a complete chapter house, and a few secrets only briefly touched upon in the rest of the book. In essence, there's a complete quickstart campaign for those who want to run games in which the Order features large, indeed is central to the party.

There's a lot here to take in. It would be easy to dismiss it as derivative, but it is a lot more than that. Those who would adventure at sea have the Brotherhood of the Coast as a framework, the Order supplies similar structure for those who would swash their buckle on land. Knights don't need to search out adventures, they come to them almost automatically - and if there's any paucity of opportunity, a quick word with the Order's hierarchy will soon suggest something worth getting involved with. Indeed it can make a complete campaign with the party all members, perhaps working their way up through the ranks. Well worth including in your game as epic background, even if your players do not wish to become Knights, and if they do... it is the stuff of which 7th Sea adventures are made!



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Secret Societies: The Knights of the Rose and Cross (Book 1)
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High Guard: Aslan
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/24/2016 11:38:06

This resource supplies Aslan-specific information to supplement and enhance material in the core High Guard book. The Introduction comments that technologically Alsan ships are pretty much like those used by humans (unsurprising given similar size and physiological requirements), but there are of course differences based on culture. In keeping with Aslan traditions, pilots are usually male (and in nominal command) whilst astrogators and engineers are usually female. Control systems also display a gender divide: those used by males are simplistic and show only basic and important information, those for females are complex, often bewilderingly so. Ships are highly decorated, even military ones, and all carry a Shrine to Heroes when crew members can meditate and draw inner strength. A common way of passing the time in space is the telling of stories, a communal event attended by passengers and off-duty crew alike.

After this overview, the remainder of the book contains extensive details of a number of different Aslan vessels. Each comes with full statistics, some background notes, isometric plans and sketches of the exterior (colourful, of course, it is the Aslan way).

Giving some insights into Aslan life in the black, this book presents some fifteen novel vessels, each quite ideosyncratic and definitely Aslan in style to enhance your spaceways. Of particular use if you have Aslan in the party or are venturing into the Hierate, the Aslan get everywhere so one of these colourful vessels may show up wherever the party might happen to be. Hopefully they are in a friendly mood...



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High Guard: Aslan
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Campaign Events: Masquerade Ball
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/23/2016 10:49:55

The idea behind this work is that, whilst the thought of running an encounter (or even an entire scenario) at a masquerade ball might well appeal, especially in a campaign where things like courtly intrigue figure large, the amount of creative input necessary to set it all up might deter you from actually staging one in your game. So here are some resources to make that ball not only happen but come to life!

Jumping straight in, the first d100 table provides an array of mundane masks you can use as you describe the scene. The second table has a similar list, only these are magical masks that sctually do something - tendrils wiggle, maybe they emit smoke or perfume - or are otherwise exotic... I quite like the thought of an illusion that shows the wearer decapitated with the (masked, of course) head tucked under one arm! It's not all masks, the next two tables cover male and female costumes. If even mixing and matching this lot proves too taxing, try the next table which provides thumbnail 'Folks of Interest' for the party to encounter. Maybe Ogden Darrak (N male human expert 2, who is wearing draped, white robes and has his skin is painted white, to resemble the statues of a lost civilization. He answers every question with an appropriate quote from that era's literature) will enliven your evening. Or perhaps an off-duty assassin who is getting annoyed because everybody is avoiding him, or a member of a secret cult in the full regalia of that cult... not to mention the fellow dressed as a farmer who insists he's only here to deliver turnips...

The final table provides some twenty Hooks, Complications and Opportunities. No matter what you have planned as part of your plot, it's worth throwing in a few of these. Some involve the party directly (and may distract them from whatever they came to the party to do), others can be mere background - of course, the party can get involved if they want - any could lead to an entire new adventure or strand in your overall story.

Combine this with one of the fantasy food and drink products out there, and you have everything you need to stage a masquerade ball that your party (and their players) will be talking about for a good while to come. A very useful resource.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Events: Masquerade Ball
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