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World War Cthulhu: The SOE Handbook
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/11/2017 08:27:32

As role-players, it's rather nice to know what our characters are capable of doing... then we can plan actions with understanding of their skills and knowledge, and make our characters as realistic as possible. Sometimes we only have our imaginations to draw upon, as there are no real-world equivalents, but if we are playing WW2 undercover operatives, there's a wealth of historical information to delve into... even if we won't find mention of the Mythos there! This book is based on the training and skills developed for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and it the sort of thing we can assume any character working for N will have received training in to a greater or lesser extent, depending on their background.

This is, of course, a game supplement, so the various things it says that your character can learn to do are accompanied by appropriate additions to the Call of Cthulhu ruleset. Notes are also provided specifically for Section N operatives, showing how 'classic' SOE skills transfer into the special situation of combatting the Mythos as well as Nazis. There's also a couple of useful appendices, one showing where SOE and Network N facilities are to be found and how agents were trained, and one on incorporating at least some of the training into your game itself - perhaps developing individual skills prior to a specific mission, or making the training itself part of your plot.

Most of the book is written as a facsimile SOE Handbook and could be regarded as an in-game resource. If your character has access to SOE training, he's read it or something like it - and as a Section N operative, he'll be privy to N's little comments on it as well. It's made up of sections based on various activities: combat, espionage, and irregular warfare; and the whole thing makes for a fascinating read.

The Combat section begins with a reminder that SOE agents ought not to get involved in combat unless absolutely necessary - leave that to soldiers. However there will be occasions when it becomes necessary to fight to complete mission objectives, to remove threats, to stay alive... or if the opportunity arises to do great harm to the enemy. It looks at firearms, with an eye to deliberate acts of assassination as well as the more familiar firefight. There's even a bit about heavy weapons, with the assumption that the agents have captured them from the enemy rather than brought them along themselves (hence needing to know how to use German weapons rather than the British equivalents). Due to the nature of clandestine operations, however, hand-to-hand combat (possibly with improvised weapons or your bare hands) is also likely and there's an extensive section devoted to that, with matters such as dealing with sentries and disarming foes being covered. Note that these are REAL fighting techniques, be very careful if you're tempted to try them out on your friends.

Possibly the most interesting section is the one on Espionage. This is what is often called tradecraft, the tricks used by spies to gather and communicate information to their parent organisation. Falling into several areas, the first is human intelligence, that gathered by you or from other people, including things like evaluating the reliability and honesty of your sources and avoiding being noticed. Many informants won't know why you are gathering information, if they even realise that you're gathering it at all. The section also looks at disguises and cover identities - tasks that can involve the building of an entire 'legend', a well-backstopped identity that will withstand investigation. There are notes on how to pass a routine interrogation at a checkpoint or the like, as well as the tougher questioning you'd expect if trying to access a secure facility or if you get caught up in a security sweep. Some rules are provided for this. Then on to building networks, deception and counter-intelligence.

The third main section covers Communications. Radio, of course, was the mainstay but as anyone might chance on the frequency you're using, codewords are a good idea or you can delve into the esoteric world of ciphers. There are other ways of communicating, many of which fall under the tradecraft banner - leaving signs for others to observe, dead drops. Then there's propaganda - communicating with the enemy to mislead or lower morale or otherwise influence them. Or the media - generally newspapers - can be used to pass information on without anyone suspecting that it has been done. The delivery of orders is also covered, including the formal structure of content.

Finally there's Irregular Warfare. Building on the more personal aspects of combat discussed earlier, this is aimed at the sort of things you can do to weaken, confuse or demoralise the enemy. Sun Tzu said "Kill one to terrorise ten thousand", but here it may be a case of creating a situation that will cause the enemy to commit more and more forces into a specific area to the detriment of their efforts elsewhere. Sabotage, rebellion, ambushes, assassinations, direct attacks and subversion can all be tools in your arsenal. There are useful notes on moving around covertly, and there's a fair bit about using explosives. House-to-house fighting, ambushes and attacking railways to best effect are also covered along with sabotage and arson. Again, these are genuine real-world tactics, but ones which can be used to good effect in your game (I've been drawing on my military training for years to fuel my role-playing...). There's a bit more on surveillance and subversion, which extends material covered in the Espionage section nicely.

There's an extensive Weapons and Equipment section, and this gets interesting fast as specialised kit for the well-dressed spy abounds - easily-concealed firearms, disguised explosives, incendiaries... there's even an exploding rat! Should you need to venture underwater, necessary equipment is covered - and if you're on the water, why, there are even seasickness pills to be had. There are other useful items as well, but care must be taken to never have stuff that screams "Agent" on you in case the enemy searches you as you go about your business...

Probably essential if you want to run World War Cthulhu seriously, there's a lot of useful information here for anyone planning a World War 2 or just thereafter setting for a game whether or not the Mythos features. If you're not using the Call of Cthulhu ruleset, it should be easy enough to convert the game mechanics to whatever system you are playing. Overall, a fascinating read, and well-grounded in historical fact.



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World War Cthulhu: Europe Ablaze
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/08/2017 09:33:10

Set in the darkest days of World War 2, when it seemed that Britain stood alone against the Nazi hordes, this book provides six fully-developed adventures, missions the party might be sent to complete, all somewhere in mainland Europe. Each combines real war action with additional menace posed by the Mythos and human agents thereof, and all pose real threats to the physical and mental well-being of the party. A couple of them are even based on real events, others are more Mythos based but the war still poses a very tangible threat. The adventures will take the party to northern France, Italy, Norway, Belgium, Greece and Spain (the last being ostensibly neutral, but it's still a dangerous place for British service personnel!). Refer to World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour for more extensive details of 'Section N' for which the party is assumed to work.

First up is Sleeper Agents, set in mid-1941 in France. Something untoward is stirring, disturbed by the bombing of trains heading towards the coast for the Dunkirk evacuation the previous year. It's drawn the attention of some very dangerous people... and now it's caught the eye of N, the party's boss, who sends them to find out what's going on and to put a stop to it, under the cover of helping the Resistance establish a network of agents in the area. With detailed NPCs - both friends and foes - and the town of Rennes to investigate, the party should be kept busy for some time... especially once the assassinations start.

Next comes The Play is the Thing, set in Italy sometime before 1943. It all begins with the British suspecting that an Italian biological warfare experiment has gone wrong and sending the party to investigate. Beginning with a briefing in Malta, the party is inserted into the area... but from then on it's somewhat of a sandbox mission as they investigate the outbreak of a rather strange plague. While British Intelligence think it's an experiment gone awry, N reckons there may be cultist activity taking place: whatever the cause, the party is tasked with putting a stop to it. The adventure begins as they parachute in... and with a haunted wood and dismembered body parts they'll soon realise that something's very, very wrong here despite a festival in progress and even a movie being made.

The third adventure is We Will Remember Them. Based on actual historical events, this sees the party sent to Norway to demolish power stations but begins in media res with them waking up in the back of a crashed truck after the attack. Things only get worse... It's an unusual and exciting (and scary once the truth comes out) adventure, with earlier parts of the mission replayed in flashbacks - make sure that you do this, it's an integral part of the plot - and then things slowly become horribly clear. Probably better run as a one-off, as characters will be irrovocably changed and some players may not feel comfortable using them again.

Next up, Lift Not Thy Hands which sends the party to occupied Belgium in 1942 in a mission to retrieve an amulet and investigate the demise of the people who were transporting it, although ostensibly they are there to train the local Resistance. Eavading the Gestapo whilst conducting investigations into occult matters should provide plenty of excitement as the body count rises.

Then The Angel of the Abyss is set in Greece, also in 1942. Again loosely based on historical events, it involves friction between different groups of Greek partisans as they seek to disrupt German supply lines heading south towards Africa. There's plenty of background and a whole host of fascinating and detailed NPCs. The ostensible mission is to aid the Resistance, who have some bridges to demolish, with a side of investigating some unusual religious activity which might attract inconvenient attention from Italian troops. With military duties as well as investigations, the party will be kept busy... then bodies begin to pile up!

Stoways comes next, set in the Mediterranean Sea during the late October of 1943. The party is charged with searching out saboteurs on a hospital ship involved in the exchange of POWs, but there's a nasty bug going around as well. The party will have to deal with sick and injured Germans, British medical personnel and Spanish Red Cross observers. Events are fluid but based around a timeline that ends when the ship makes port... and any mistakes will lead to diplomatic turmoil.

This is an interesting and varied set of adventures that should provide for many sessions of intriguing play for you and your group. With the possible exception of We Will Remember Them they could be played in sequence with the same party - or at least those who survive with bodies and minds reasonably intact - and even that adventure is provided with an alternative that could allow continuation. For ready-made adventures these are excellent, just the right balance of detail and background whilst leaving plenty of scope to run events as you see fit.



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World War Cthulhu: Europe Ablaze
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World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/06/2017 12:42:58

The concept is presented in a flurry of facsimile documents that set the scene and create the right atmosphere even before we reach Part 1: Introduction, which explains what 'World War Cthulhu' is all about. Basically war presents opportunities for the followers of dark forces, and the major distruptions of the last century and in particular World War 2 gave rise to unprecedented scope for them to push forwards their plans with little risk of detection. The World War Cthulhu line is intended to explore other avenues as well, but with this the first book in the series the intention is to look at Europe in the early part of the Second World War. It's Allied-centric, with the party involved in defeating Nazis and Mythos creatures alike, although interestingly the Nazis are not represented as attempting to harness the Mythos in support of the Third Reich. Despite Nazi activities in the realms of the occult, they are still not quite that insane! The default setting is that they belong to Section N, an intelligence network - if nothing else, it's a good vehicle to send them off on missions!

The rest of the Introduction sets the mood of the game and details British Intelligence in considerable detail. It's likely that recruits to Section N (which comes at the end) may well be drawn from or at least familiar with the other organs of British Intelligence. If you have a burning desire to play an American, remember you'd be a volunteer in a British unit... the USA is yet to enter the war at this point!

Next is Part 2: Investigator's Resources. Character generation is based on the Call of Cthulhu ruleset, but it's advised that you use this rather the the core rulebook as these characters will be honed to withstand the rigors of wartime. If you do want to use an existing Call of Cthulhu character, there are some notes on how best to tweak it to suit, however. One difference is that the character's background is split into a pre-war occupation and the military service undertaken (in total war, even civilians get swept up in the war machine). As well as noting how the character became aware of the Mythos, recruitment by Section N is also covered - and the resultant training may yield some useful additional skills. As well as British characters, there's information about those from Australia, New Zealand and Canada (the Commonwealth having joined the UK in the war from the outset), escaped Europeans (especially from France and Poland) as well as a word on Americans. After all the detail you need and a worked example, there are some new occupations - politician, scientist and spy - and some new skills suited to this particular environment.

The rest of this chapter moves on from the game mechanics of character creation to a discussion of Intelligence Operating Procedures. Standard procedures can be a blessing and a curse: understanding them can stop you making a silly mistake but following them blindly can lead to disaster or detection. Study them well and use them wisely. For those intending to play military-oriented characters there is also an analysis of small unit tactics. Even the non-combatants ought to read through them - incoming fire rarely stops to ask if you are a trained soldier! Both these sections provide a solid overview of the matters under discussion and are particularly useful for players who have minimal experience in espionage or military combat.

Part 3: Keeper's Handbook covers all manner of things that the Game Master or Keeper should bear in mind when planning or running their game. Whilst there is a lot of good advice here, the main gist of it is to pile horror upon horror, playing to the 'purist' mode of Call of Cthulhu which aims to be as realistic and gritty as possible. The fight against the Nazi horde should be rooted in reality: draw on documentaries and history books rather than movie interpretations. While the agents of the Mythos might be taking advantage of all-out war to further their own ends, N - the party's director - is also taking every advantage of his position in British Intelligence to further his own war against the Mythos. N sure knows a lot about the Mythos, too. Here you can read a fair bit about his background and perhaps discover who he actually is... something the characters might never know, or may discover if (when?) they have to step up and take his place. Several suggestions are made, select the one you prefer or make up one of your own.

Moving on to a discussion of builing plots, things get complex with many strands - human, Mythos, the 'mundane' course of the war - to weave together to create each adventure. Standard intelligence missions are often subverted by N to his own ends, but the needs of the war and maintaining his cover means that the intended mission aims must be met as well as N's own. Then there are the plots being perpetrated by Mythos agents to defeat, as well as said agents to investigate. There's a lot going on, a lot to keep track of... and that's before you get to the strange places and alien horrors that also need to be investigated! There are some maxims for running adventures too. Make things personal - no nameless mooks amongst the opposition, for example. The Mythos and the war effort don't mix: this is not an alternate-history 'weird war' but the Mythos intruding into the real world. It's best to avoid big battles and too many encounters with historical figures, however - you don't want to introduce opportunities for history-changing events. There's a lot to think about as you plan.

Next comes a survey of theatres of war, with suggestions for missions that can be run in each one. Plenty of historical detail mixed with more outlandish stuff here, ready to spawn ideas in your mind for plots. Many mission suggestions have to components: an intelligence mission based on British war aims and a secondary mission at N's instigation. This is followed by The Dark Lamentable Catalogue, which documents Mythos cults and the Mythos beings whom they serve.

Of course, Mythos cultists are not the only opposition, and Behind Closed Doors presents some of the murky organisations, committees and people that the party will have to navigate and contend with back home in London. Attention then turns again to small group tactics, the focus now is on running encounters to best effect. Although it's best to stay away from pitched battles, there's enough here to enable you to run them well if the party's involvement is unavoidable. Should the adventure go underwater, there's information on SCUBA equipment and the underwater environment. Excitement can also be supplied with sections on parachuting and other military skills. Aerial, naval and vehicular combat is aslo covered. This is followed by the Equipment section, which pays attention to the difficulty of obtaining things due to rationing and black marketeering in different areas of Europe. There are plenty of weapons here too, even if their use against Mythos creatures is limited. They don't come with pricetags, they will either be issued or stolen...

Finally, The God in the Woods presents a complete campaign setting with scope for plenty adventure. It's the small town of Saint-Cerneuf-du-Bois in the Dordogne, which lies close to the border between the Nazi-occupied territory and Vichy France. There's a lot of information on locations in the town and the surrounding area, what is going on there, and a whole host of NPCs to encounter there. Everyone is well-developed, with a character and personality all their own. There is, however, Something in the woods - and a group dedicated to it. Once this introductory background material is presented, the sequence of events to drive your campaign is laid out, beginning with a briefing in London... and running over several weeks if not longer, with scope for side-missions and a myriad of events to throw in at opportune moments. It's a delightful slow unfolding of unspeakable horror lurking in the woods and blighting the whole neighbourhood.

A character sheet and a wonderful collection of strange snippets, events that are claimed to have actually happened but are weird enough to form the basis of future adventures finish up this book. What's really appealing is that it mixes real-world history with the Mythos, pulling no punches with either yet avoiding descent into a weird alternative history where the Mythos affected or was harnessed by the conflict going on around the party.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour
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Fane of the Undying Sleeper Collector's Edition
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2017 08:20:25

To be honest Coldwater doesn't sound the idea place to visit. Full of smugglers, shrouded by mist and muddy underfoot... but you may find adventure there.

Coldwater, the author explains, is situated in the Duchy of Ashlar but may be placed anywhere suitable in your own campaign world. The village itself and other locations for this adventure are detailed richly, but everything else is vague enough for you to use it in conjunction with other material within your game. We learn of a demon cult and the demon being worshipped, obscure enough that you can slip him in too (unless you prefer to substitute a better-known evil being of your own).

Background done, the adventure begins when the party arrives in Coldwater. Several hooks are provided to get them there, but whether they went there to find it or not, they will soon hear about or stumble across some slimy steps leading down into an area that's nearly always underwater. Yet in a couple of days time the tide is low...

This gives the party time to get oriented, pick up supplies, make inquiries and actually find the steps. To that end, Coldwater is described at length along with notable personalities and interesting locations to visit. There's a map, rumours to pick up and many delightful details to bring the place to life (and of course you can continue to use the village long after the steps have been explored, or even if the party decides not to go there). Basically, this section repeats the contents of Village Backdrop: Coldwater, also available from Raging Swan Press.

We then move on to those slippery steps that are only accessible if the tide is very low - and then only for an hour or so, hence adventurers need to be quick about their explorations - indeed the GM is warned to keep track of time. The party may choose to go by sea or by land, both options are accommodated with their own encounters. The steps lead up to doors (also usually underwater) that are hard to open, but are watertight. Once inside, there's the place of worship of that demon cult to explore. It's not in use these days, but certain... influences remain.

In case the party takes too long about its explorations, details are provided for dealing with the rising tide from advice on how to describe it to all the mechanics necessary for moving, fighting and even drowning in water.

The Conclusions section lays out various options. There's scope for the party to get out dry-shod, or for you to add more to the fairly simple underground complex, or they may end up soaking wet; and a couple of ideas for how to continue the adventure once they have left. Six pre-generated characters are provided if you want to dive straight in to the adventure. It all makes for an atmospheric, if soggy, adventure, a good chance for a low-level party to stake their claim to fame!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fane of the Undying Sleeper Collector's Edition
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Creator Reply:
Thanks very much for the review and the kind words, Megan. Much appreciated!
Bitter Waters
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2017 07:35:48

The Players' Introduction, or back page text, tells of ancient swamp dwellers exacting revenge for those they feel have abandoned them. The DM's Background explains a bit more - how the relationship between swamp-dwellers and villagers arose, and why the swamp-dwellers had wanted the alliance in the first place (something they conveniently omitted to tell the villagers). It involved a dragon, of course. One that was crippled and resorted to other ways to exert its power over its surroundings.

The adventure starts in a nearby town, where the sole survivor of the village has sought aid. This has set the entire town on edge, noticeable as the party arrives. In due course, the party will be offered work, their mission to find out what is going on in the village and why they were attacked. It's up to you to get them there: some frontier terrain, trackless and marshy, with a couple of encounters thrown in, is recommended but not provided. The devastated village is well mapped and described, with an interesting twist - the invaders actually want to talk! Parties who rush in to do battle straight away will not do themselves any favours.

There's some excellent scenes where the true otherness of the intruders is revealed, and the party will have to engage with their customs to make the best impression before venturing into the swamp itself to confront the problem that brought matters to a head. There's some interesting follow-up material to suggest directions in which your plotline might go given the outcome of this adventure.

Overall, a neat low-level advanture to give a beginning party a chance to make its name, with good portrayal of other races as really being quite different, requiring cultural adaptation to deal with them - they are not just enemies there to be slaughtered: they have reasons for what they do.



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Bitter Waters
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Legacy of Madness
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2017 06:51:34

Unlike most of the Adventurers Keep modules, the text on the back cover (which serves as the players' introduction to the scenario) doesn't tell you much: it's more of a paen to the adventuring life than any details of the situation in which the party finds itself. The DM's Background does a little better, with a fairly convoluted tale about historic dragon mistakes with artefact creation that leads eventually to a present-day dragon attempting to discover said artefact... but the adventure proper begins with whatever settlement the party happens to be in being attacked by a dragon! That's enough to make anyone sit up and take notice.

They had better, seeing as the dragon has a task for them to complete... or else (the threat is to the settlement as well as to party members individually). Without going into too much detail, the task involves the retrieval of a book from a dragon's lair. A long-dead dragon, in fact. They have five days, and a trip through wild and trackless country to get there and back again. A couple of optional encounters are provided, but by and large it is up to you to get them there through a swamp to some higher ground.

Once the party reaches the cliffside lair, they will have to deal with plenty of traps and any opportunistic wildlife that lives there. Actually finding the book is quite hard (the text notes that you may want to make it a bit easier if the party struggles), but assuming they succeed and are heading back to their rendevous with the dragon that tasked them, they will be in for a bit of a surprise. Let's just say that more than one dragon is interested in the book...

With an exciting climax that could involve two dragons brawling with the party also involved in the fight, it's quite a neat adventure concept, and reasonably well-resourced although a good proof-read would have helped. If the party boasts a bard, he ought to get a song or two out of this one!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy of Madness
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In Cold Blood
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2017 09:17:31

Turmoil in a city, where the 'lower classes' are convinced that some dread terror stalks the streets and the ruling elite will have none of it. This is an open-ended adventure, with the DM's Background providing information as to what is really going on, the encounters designed to enable the party to find out... and then it's up to them what they decide to do about the situation.

It doesn't matter why the party is in town, or if this is their regular base or a first visit. They meet a rather crazy fellow ranting in the street about disappearances, and are then contacted by a priest from the Church of Salvation, which has a temple in the poor part of town, who asks if they'd investigate the disappearances. It appears that past disappearances were linked to a 'lizard cult' and some people say the current crop are similar... that is, those who have noticed anything at all. Merchants brush it all off, more concerningly they do not seem to trouble the town guard either. However some indications point to a seedy tavern, the Green Stag. This hostelry serves a distinctive red ale called Dragon's Blood and also has a rather strange cook...

Plans of both the Green Stag and the Church of Salvation's premises are provided, and there are various options available to the party, depending what they actually discover or deduce. Ultimately there's a power struggle going on, but do the party wish to take sides, elimiate both... or do they even realise that there is more than one antagonist involved? There are plenty of ideas as to the different directions in which this could play out, and whatever choice the party makes, they could be dealing with the ramifications for a long time... a neat twist.

The early parts of the adventure involve a lot of investigation, and may prove frustrating if you do not ensure that there is plenty to be discovered wherever it is the party decide to ask their questions. In some ways it's more of an adventure outline than a complete adventure, but it has the potential to be both challenging and interesting, especially if the party begin interacting with both factions involved.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
In Cold Blood
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The Harbinger
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/21/2017 07:57:18

Silver dragons are the embodiment of all that is good and honourable... so why is one tearing up the countryside, terrorising villages and heading straight for the peaceful and prosperous settlement of Brookvale? It doesn't look like it has come for the museum, the library or the temple, either.

The DM's Background explains all, including the identity of the silver dragon and why it's behaving in the way that it is... and why it's going to be quite tricky to deal with the dragon without causing further problems for the town.

It's suggested that for best effect, the party should already know Brookvale - as residents or frequent visitors - so that they'll be invested in a cultural centre with a fine library, a museum full of historic artefacts and a big temple, all cared for by a kindly wizard and the local high priest. The adventure proper starts when they are there and residents of an outlying village, which is under attack by a dragon, flee into town and ask for their help. They suggest that a visit to the wizard, one Calendrus, could be helpful...

Hopefully, the party will be able to defeat the dragon and will discover what is going on. Then they'll need to deal with it, which involves a visit to the swampy lair of a different dragon. Local residents and swamp insects cause problems as they try to get there, not to mention the dreadful smell emanating from the lair itself. Swamp gases and some original uses of gelatinous cubes and oozes make the lair a perilous environment, and that's before you meet the dragon who lives there.

This adventure is built on a neat concept and sustains it well throughout, although the main villain's motivation is a bit unclear - just being 'evil' I suppose. Designed to support AEG's book on Dragons, it certainly brings said creatures right into the centre of the game that bears their name.



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The Harbinger
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The Caravan City of Azul
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/20/2017 07:44:42

Trade is the lifeblood of nations and peoples, and this book presents a temporary trading settlement that springs up and opens for business with just two core rules: stay out of trouble and don't close your purse strings too tightly. Sounds ideal for weary adventurers wanting to offload loot and stock up on supplies...

The DM's background tells you more. The Azulites are often derided as gypsies or vagabonds, but see themselves as a 'travelling village'. The reasons why are laid out for you. Following this is a description of the standard layout used by the travelling village and details of some of the main inhabitants and the goods and services that they offer. These include an illusionist who puts on spectacular entertainments with the help of three acrobat brothers and the local bard, the bard himself, and an elf who is an exceptional cook - she'd probably have a couple of Michelin stars if such were awarded on your world!

Whilst this isn't an adventure per se, more of a setting, several adventure hooks are provided if you want more than just having your party encounter the travelling village and wandering about it for a pleasant evening, trading and being entertained. You could run several through a very busy evening at the encampment, or a different one each time the party goes there - assuming that both party and village are travelling in the same area for a while - or even build one into a larger plotline as you see fit. Alternatively, you might want to latch on to the quarreling kingdoms that caused the village to start travelling in the first place and build a whole campaign - or at least several adventures - around that.

With a new magic item and a new spell to be found here, it makes Azul a delightful place to visit, be it for an evening's rest and entertainment, to stock up on supplies and sell loot, or even a chance encounter on the road. As for where to put it in your campaign world: well, as they wander it could be just about anywhere... they may have strayed far from those two squabbling kingdoms by now.



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The Caravan City of Azul
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Delta Green: Handler's Guide
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2017 13:00:18

So, you've stepped up and offered to run the Delta Green RPG for your group. Here's a massive sourcebook to help you make the world of the game come to horrifying life for the characters... It includes a history of the alternate Earth in which the game is set, loads about the Mythos, rules for new threats, a good understanding of Delta Green as an organisation, and much more; and ideas for adventures are scattered freely throughout as well as there being a complete scenario ready for you to run.

The Introduction begins by recommending that you go and read the Delta Green RPG Agent's Handbook first. Then it reminds you that first and foremost, Delta Green is a horror game dealing with people finding out just how insignificant human beings are in the universal scheme of things, with the end of humanity itself - and probably going clean off their heads if they aren't killed in the process. It's about conspiracies to keep the horror hidden - some concocted by the horrors themselves to keep us human beings in the dark, some dreamed up by well-meaning folk who want to protect humanity from knowledge that can quite literally drive them insane. It's about humanity's constant struggle to understand things beyond all knowing, to defeat threats that are far too strong and will ultimately destroy them... it's about the struggle, not about the end. We then find out that Delta Green's been running since 1942, born out of the need to deal with Nazi experiments in the occult during World War 2, but by the present day there are TWO Delta Greens, one an unsanctioned conspiracy and one a very deep and dark government operation: both, of course, think they are the real thing - and the one the player-characters work for probably think it's the only one. This section then talks about what Delta Green agents do - and what the Handler does in running the game. Never mind the horrors that they face, Delta Green itself should remain a mystery, with the party only ever being told what they need to know, if that.

Next, The Past delves deep into the (alternate) history of the world and of Delta Green itself, going back to the 1920s - tying in neatly with Lovecraft's writings about a township called Innsmouth in Massachusetts. The amount of background is tremendous and fascinating - but the vast majority is for your eyes only. Your players won't find it out, not even during the course of the game... unless perhaps you choose to run a campaign set during this history rather than in the present day. This history is massive and detailed, often several entries per month for each year from 1928 until May 2017... not to mention sidebars and notes on all manner of stuff.

Then comes The Unnatural, where hidden knowledge unguessed at by even the most experienced Delta Green agent is revealed. Part of this is due to the deleterious effect such knowledge has on the human mind: Delta Green compartmentalises the information that it does keep, and much is destroyed. There's no library of rituals and spells to consult, for example. Here, though, we read of tomes of occult lore, unnatural - perhaps alien - creatures, and more mindbending stuff. Fundamentally, much can never be understood. It's just too weird for the human mind to cope with. There are plenty of unnatural threats here to throw at the party, ideas for plots spawn as you read through their background notes and histories. There's a collection of sample tomes, most of which should be read with caution if they are read at all, and deep discussion of rituals and 'hypergeometry' for those wishing to risk bending reality as well as their own minds. And if the array of unnatural entities paraded for your use is not enough, there are detailed instructions for designing your own.

The next chapter is entitled The Schism. Here is the secret history of Delta Green, and an explanation of why there are two groups who both call themselves Delta Green. The advice as to what to say to your players is simple. Tell them nothing. Of course, you may decide that it's nothing like what is described here. It's your game, after all. There are details of how agents are recruited - this has either already happened to the party or you may decide to play it out with each of them in turn. There are also notes on how typical (if there is such a thing) Delta Green missions run, equipment available, and much more including several senior Delta Green members who might turn up at some point during your game. Both groups claiming to be Delta Green are covered in parallel. Take your pick. This section ends with notes on what Delta Green (either sort) actually knows about matters unnatural. Let's just say it is a very short section.

Now we come to The Opera. Derived from the Delta Green slang for an operation - 'A Night at the Opera' - it explains what goes into an operation: how to design it, how to run it... and even how to expand it into a whole campaign. Plenty of advice here as you put your plans and plots into motion. Learn how to construct the events and clues that will populate them... and to embue the whole with an air of horror, engendering fear and the awful knowledge that they're not in control into the party.

Finally, there's an adventure to help you put everything into practice. Operation FULMINATE: The Sentinels of Twilight tells a tale of disappearances from national parks, and why not everything that's lost ought to be found. Yet it has been...

Equipping you with a wealth of information and ideas to run a Delta Green RPG game, this is an invaluable resource to read and study again and again. Your game will be immeasurably better for it.



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Delta Green: Handler's Guide
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Delta Green: Music From a Darkened Room
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2017 12:20:01

This adventure begins with the party being asked to investigate the mysterious death of a veteran Delta Green agent (and FBI agent) in a suburban house that has a bad reputation in the neighbourhood - their task is to determine if the house itself poses a threat. The local coroner has pronounced him a suicide, and other Delta Green agents in the FBI worked to maintain this as the official story, but the organisation has doubts and wishes to know the truth... but not for it to get out. The locals feel the same way, so this is an investigation that must be carried out discreetly.

There's a What's Going On section that gives you the low-down on the house, its history and what is actually happening there: a sad story spanning over an hundred years. There are various avenues of enquiry that the party can follow, and masses of information to enable you to give appropriate responses as they investigate. The main strands that they can pursue include the house itself, official records, talking to the locals, and researching the history of the house... and of course they may choose to do all of these or more. It's well to be really familiar with the material before the game, and to keep in mind the consequences of what they do and - even more importantly - how they choose to go about it. They should find it quite easy to attract attention, and there are notes to aid you in ensuring that it's the wrong kind of attention!

It is an atmospheric and almost claustrophobic tale of small-town America. Visiting the house itself, which curious party members are almost certain to do, is a terrifying and potentially deadly experience. Play this up... it's enough to give the players nightmares if done right, never mind their characters. There are ways to clear things up, but most of the options are obscure and you may have to give even competent investigators a few hints. Suggestions are made as to how to do this, and not all the methods are successful, even if the very high price that must be paid. Overall it's an excellent creepy haunted house scenario that should haunt your group long after you have played it!



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Delta Green: Music From a Darkened Room
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Delta Green: Extremophilia
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/13/2017 09:29:15

This adventure begins with the party being summoned to a meeting at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. Any party members who are not Federal Agents already are hired as FBI consultants. The ostensible task is to investigate the death of a local law enforcement officer who appears to have died from heavy metal poisoning, but it's all rather odd. That usually takes some time, but he became ill and died in a couple of days, and hadn't been in contact with any heavy metals anyway.

The Introduction explains in a very few words what the problem actually is, then launches into getting the party tasked and onto the scene. Apart from a loose timeline of what NPCs would do unless the party interferes with them, the rest of the book contains information you can draw upon depending on what the party decides to do. Despite this apparently free-form nature, there are some things the party will need to pick up on, although the necessary lines of inquiry ought to be pretty obvious once the investigation begins. Generally, there is more than one way to pick up a given clue, in case the relevant skill is not held by any party member or someone flubs a die roll.

There's a remarkable amount of detail, and much of the investigation will rely on interacting with a regular army of NPCs, all of whom seem to have an individual 'voice' - their reactions and personalities are well-described making them easy to role-play when encountered. This does mean that there's a lot to absorb before you run the session, but this preparation does make for a vivid and compelling scenario.

The threat is very real, but it is possible to contain it - at least for now - giving the potential for a more satisfying victory than is usually available when investigating the Mythos. There's a fairly short section about what might happen afterwards. Overall, this is a cracking little investigation with a bit of an X-Files flavour to it, which should make for a memorable game.



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Delta Green: Extremophilia
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Mindjammer: The Core Worlds Sourcebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/10/2017 08:37:16

This book transports you to the very heart of the Commonality of Humankind. The Core Worlds are where humankind has its origins, settled in ancient times and containing some three hundred populated worlds. This is where the most extreme parts of the Commonality philosphy are accepted as givens: many people may find this rather uncomfortable. They are tradition-bound and conservative in outlook, very stratified and detest individuality. Religion, unlicensed sexual activity and news are also outlawed as being 'disruptive'. They've been like that for a long time, but Rediscovery is now opening up Frontier worlds again - a threat to some, a glorious opportunity to others.

Yet the Core Worlds are not homogeneous of themselves. Each is unique, and they can be grouped into five regious. The first is Old Earth itself, where humankind first began. Then there's Manhome, the entire solar system in which Old Earth is found. The settled solar systems within 100 light year (LY) of Old Earth form the Old Commonality. Further out are the Penumbral Worlds and finally the Satellite Domains. Chapter 2: The Structure of the Core provides maps and information to explain all this, with notes on cultural regions and explanations of how folks travel around. On a given planet, individual vehicles are rare but mass transit systems meet most needs. Many worlds do not permit spacecraft to land, those that do generally operate an 'air traffic control' system to keep flying spacecraft in known patterns. Interstellar travel is frequent and speedy, it's generally easy to find a ship going where you wish to go. There are also 'gates' - but you start at a spaceport and get into a ship which goes through the gate... and there's loads of detail - and even the odd plot hook - about getting around the Core Worlds. Be prepared to think in three dimensions, though!

Next, Chapter 3: The People of the Core introduces the startling diversity to be found here. It might have been challenging to think of your ship as a 'person', now get to grips with planetary sentiences, as well as a vast variety of sentient beings who may be autotrophes (green and capable of photosynthesis), adapted to an extreme environment or plain weird because... well, that's the way they are. The concepts of 'government' and 'administration' are inextricably combined, producing vast bureauocracies overseen by sentiences, with departments or Instrumentalities dealing with various functions. Despite all this, factions abound, each with their own ideas... yet society as a whole can be quite stifling and hidebound. Thousand-year-old algorithms dictate the aestetics of music, education concentrates on learning how to do things the correct way and studying the great masters of the past, with innovation and experimentation regarded negatively. Unlicensed reproduction is illegal, and once born most youngsters are raised institutionally - you need a special licence to raise a juvenile in the parental home. Life is communal in general, very structured, yet with great opportunities and resources made available to all. Deviance from societal norms is not acceptable - and visitors have to learn them fast as little allowance is made for them. Deviants can expect to be re-educated.

Then there are chapters on each of the five regions beginning with Old Earth itself. Here the majority live in arcologies, and this concept is explored in detail. Oh, and the moon has been terraformed into Green Moon. It's all quite different from what we are used to... Next is Manhome, the rest of the solar system, then on to the Old Commonality and beyond. Each is described in rich and evocative detail, it's easy to imagine every place that is written about. Plot ideas abound, so wherever the party ends up, there ought to be plenty going on around them - but reading the paragraph or two about each planet spawns plenty of your own as well.

Finally, Chapter 9: Gaming in the Core Worlds provides a wealth of information that will give you plenty to think about if you intend to run games set here. Several themes are suggested, each with a series of questions that your plot may be attempting to answer, ample scope for exploring and discovering, and perhaps - if outsiders - getting into trouble.

It's quite a breathless sweep across a vast cube of space that has Old Earth at its centre. It tells you a lot, yet if you want to actually use it in your game you will need to put in the work to create plot and antagonists and all the other resources required... yet here is a magnificent framework on which to build.



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Mindjammer: The Core Worlds Sourcebook
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Mindjammer: Children of Orion—the Venu Sourcebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/09/2017 08:38:55

Does the Commonality cloy a bit? Or do you want to get to know the 'opposition' so as better to defeat them? The Venu are the 'bad guys' of this setting, being a cruel and oppressive civilisation that are the diametric opposite of what the Commonality stands for and strives for. Of course, there are opportunities there too...

The Introduction explains how the Venu can be seen as what Earth's civilisation might have become had they chosen a different path. They left very early on, maybe eight thousand years ago or more and have been treading their own road ever since. The present Venu aren't that old, because they destroyed themselves fighting one another - this Venu civilisation is at most fifteen hundred years old, having built itself up on the ruins of more ancient ones. They are a rich and complex society, and this book attempts to present them - warts and all - with the aim of providing resources for adventuring in Venu space, creating meaningful Venu NPCs as adversaries (or allies?), and maybe even playing the odd Venu character.

Chapter 2: History and Prehistory goes into detail on the real history of the Venu. Most if not all of the present-day Venu don't know about it, as that apocalyptic war fifteen hundred years ago wiped out most of what went before, and the time since has been one of oppression, false news, and lies masquerading as the truth. It all began with the first ship using stasis technology to leave Earth. Heading for the Orion Nebula, their intended destination turned out to be unsuitable for habitation but fortunately they found a nearby world on which to settle. It wasn't ideal and after some struggles a major terraforming plan was put into action. They'd been there almost a thousand years before a message from Earth arrived... by then they'd almost forgotten where they came from and it was a decided shock to hear a planet on the other side of the galaxy claimed to be their origin. Even more, technology on Earth had advanced far more than theirs, and the information transmitted enabled the recipients to gain ascendancy over the rest of the planet, leading to a three thousand year long golden age. Then a second message came, reflecting further changes on Earth and again sending the Venu into a tailspin. Some accepted what they were told, others refuted it, nobody would agree to differ and it all ended in tears... and apocalyptic war!

From the shattered remnants left by that war arose the immortal God-Emperor Venu. Forty generations later, his followers the Pure hold true to his Tech Commandments, building their world as directed. And then the Commonality came, a real cat amongst the pigeons. The God-Emperor broke a long silence to issue more edicts, the New Pronoucements, and now leads his people in war against the Commonality seeking to defeat their 'lies' and embrace something called the Radiant Darkness, a relgion seemingly cooked up for the purpose, having consolidated his hold on surrounding worlds and colonies seeded before all the unpleasantness happened and contact lost.

Scene set, we then begin to find out about the Venu people themselves in the next chapter. They seem to be a surprisingly uniform bunch, tending to dark hair and skin, but more worryingly, in their behaviour too. Society is very conformist (at least in part out of fear) and hierarchical. Technology is prolific yet subject to myriad rules and restrictions, for example travel permits are required even to move about your own city let alone travel to another planet.

Chapter 4: The Venu Empire starts by looking at the political hierarchy with the God-Emperor at the top assisted by fifteen Lords Countenant who each head one of the government departments or commissariats. They deal with nearly every aspect of life - it's quite hard to do anything at all without their influence being felt. The majority of the population are the Pure, the obedient masses. There is great fear and hatred of so-called Abominations; mutants in other words. With loads of detail to bulk this out, there are also plot seeds scattered throughout. Chapter 5 continues this background information by looking at the Dark Radiance... but just what is this? It hovers somewhere between a religion and a personality cult, centred of course on the God-Emperor himself. It's of particular interest because it appears to confer certain powers on those it mutates. Those mutated by Dark Radiance are not ostracised like other mutants, rather they are regarded as favoured or blessed. Chapter 6 then explores Venu technology, something they are ambivalent about. The society is anti-intellectual, yet they realise that they need tech to survive and prosper. This results in most people having little understanding of the technology that they use, often with disasterous results. The chapter contains an extensive catalogue of equipment.

Moving on, Chapter 7: Starships and Space Travel reveals that Venu space technology is somewhat behind that of the Commonality. The classes and deployment of military vessels are discussed here, as well as civilian ships - there are even a few deckplans. Ships sorted, we go on in Chapter 8 to explore Venu Space, beginning with the homeworld, Venu Prime and including detailed instructions for designing your own worlds. There are plenty of examples of solar systems in Venu space to visit as well.

After what seems to be quite a massive information dump - fascinating stuff, it's taken me ages to read and I've enjoyed every word! - we move on to more game-mechanical stuff with Chapter 9: Creating Venu Characters. Whether or not you are willing to let your players be Venu depends on the game you want to run, but it's useful to be able to create detailed antagonists anyway. There are a range of different cultures, genotypes and careers to choose from. Then it's time to look at Chapter 9: Venu Adversaries, which provides an array of ready-made 'bad guys' to throw in the party's path. There's a bestiary here too.

Finally, Chapter 11: Venu Campaigns looks at the vast variety of things you can do in Venu space now that you know about it. Perhaps the party are Venu, and options range from Imperial intrigue to trying to discover what Dark Radiance actually is, or perhaps formenting a rebellion against a repressive society. On the other hand they might be Commonality - spying, perhaps, or out to wreak havoc amongst their enemy. There are plenty of ideas thrown out in a sentence or two... but like most everything else in this book, you will need to put in some work to actually use it in your game.

A fantastic overview of a major player in galactic space, which really gives a good feel for and understanding of what to the Commonality are bogey men. There's too much that isn't for player eyes to make it a useful book for the whole group - even if they are playing Venu - so be prepared to explain a lot! Definitely a useful addition exploring this whole new region of space and its inhabitants, an addition to the setting capable of being used in many differnt ways.



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Mindjammer: Children of Orion—the Venu Sourcebook
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Mindjammer: The Mindjammer Companion
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/06/2017 08:17:16

This book presents the Outremer Subsector, located on the extreme edge of Commonality Space. It's the setting of the adventure Dominion and much of the material here is in the Traveller version of the Mingjammer rules, but it's now been completely rewritten for those using the original Fate system rules.

Situated on the edge of Commonality Space, Outremer straddles several interstellar political regions and contains unaligned and unclaimed planetary systems as well. If you think you'd like to set your game here, in these pages you will find detailed planet and star system details for the Heritage Contestation, octant zeta of the subsector, including planetary maps, and more outline material on the rest of the subsector - so plenty of space to add the elements you fancy.

First off, some history of the region. Like much of the rim, planets here were colonised long ago in earlier diasporas, but contact was re-established some 130 years ago just before contact was made with the Venu. Indeed many battles in the war with the Venu occurred here, and the situation is still tense with violence flaring up occasionally.

Maps in the endpapers show all eight octants with political markings, and the various groupings planets can belong to are discussed next. Some are friendly towards the Commonality, others hostile or at best undecided; and of course there is an unclaimed region as well. Plenty of xenomorphs and even plant-based intelligences are to be found (and yes, the necessary information to play one of the latter as a character is included). Details of the natures of each group are provided, to aid in the development of individuals and the overall look and feel of each one.

The discussion then moves on to the economy of the area which, quite frankly, is a mess. It is chaotic with various factions trying to exert control be it for themselves or for the common good. Various economic systems are to be found and it can be fun when those accustomed to one suddenly find themselves in a completely different one. Then we meet other groups: the corporacies. Several are detailed, there's even the suggestion that the party might like to hire out to one or even set up one of their own. Technology and space travel round out this chapter.

Next is Chapter 2, which goes into more detail about the Heritage Contestation octant. It bore the brunt of the fighting during the recent unpleasantness with the Venu and as a result has aquired the nickname 'The Anvil'. There is a detailed map, including an anomaly called the Hammer - space is unstable there, possibly due to the presence of a black hole. Notes - and maps - of individual worlds are provided, excellent if the party wishes to travel in this region. It's a wonderful gazetteer whether you are looking for just the right planet for the adventure you have in mind or if you want to go exploring.

This is all setting material - magnificent setting material. You may find that reading through it spawns some plot ideas, or you may want to run a game that involves exploring or trading... or even a diplomatic mission. However, whilst providing you with a well thought out setting, the adventures will have to come from you.



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