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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.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mindjammer: The Mindjammer Companion
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The Dark Elf City of Hosuth
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/03/2017 08:26:18

Rather than an adventure, this is a campaign setting with plenty of adventure potential. Long ago a primitive race of lizardfolk dwelled in a settlement they called Hssith, in a swampy area that suited them. Then there was a massive earthquake that caused a mountain to tumble and water rush in, destroying a dark elf city in the process. Managing to salvage their library, the dark elves swore to restore their city to its former glory, but in the meantime they took over Hssith, enslaving the lizardfolk and renaming the place Hosuth. The dark elves are open to visiting humanoids, especially if they want to trade.

This setting is suited to combat-heavy adventures or ones that feature lots of political intrigue, so whatever your group prefers you can make use of its varied terrain - swamps, mountains, rivers, lakes and wilderness surround the city - and all that's going on within city limits. The city is made up of two distinct parts: the beautifully-manicured vegetation covered dark elf section and the wilder, more primitive areas where the lizardfolk dwell.

This work seeks to describe the city, its occupants and locations. It's up to you how the party gets there and why, but once there the very descriptions may suggest ideas for plots even before you reach the Adventure Hooks section. This lists a wide-ranging selection of ideas which you'll need to develop into full-blown adventures, they are but a paragraph apiece. A few prominent NPCs are also provide, and of course there is a map giving an overview of the entire city.

This has loads of potential, but it requires plenty of DM preparation before anything more than a 'just passing through' session can be run. Nice ideas and excellent evocation of atmosphere make it worth considering, though.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Dark Elf City of Hosuth
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No Mercy
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2017 09:20:05

The city of Rahbaud is peaceful and prosperous, sounds lovely until you realise its wealth is founded on the slave trade! However the slaves have had enough, and a revolt has broken out... As this adventure was produced in support of Alderac's Evil sourcebook, the party gets hired to quash the rebellion! Working in the service of Prince Sukhir Blackhammer, the Iron Fist of Law, they are tasked with stamping out the revolt and bringing the ringleaders to justice.

The DM Background gives a few more details on the opulent settlement and the origins of the revolt, which started amongst gladiators. Worse, a neighbouring kingdom promptly declared war in the guise of 'freeing the slaves' (although wiser heads claim it's because the nation is broke and the people are starving...). The Prince will lead Rahbaud's army against this invasion, while the party (with the help of the town guard) quell the revolt.

The adventure starts with the Prince summoning the party. It's up to you how he heard of them, and indeed where Rahbaud is within your campaign world (you can, of course, change its name!). He sends them off forthwith, with some 60 guardsmen, to begin their task. The centre of town is a full-blown riot - it's suggested that you run sample encounters rather than attempt to play the whole thing out - and the docks are on fire, threatening warehouses stuffed with trade goods from the known world... and several slave galleys whose crews are about to burn!

There's a lot to take in at once and decisions need to be made right away. A series of general locations are provided along with an overview map of town so you get an idea of where everything is. The leaders of the revolt are covered in some detail, and they have based themselves in the gladatorial arena... but the party will also have to track down a safe house where a prominent sympathiser is to be found, and a good final brawl is to be had.

The outcome notes assume the party's success in their mission, and makes the note that anyone who went wild will not prosper - ruthless murderers are of no use to the Prince. Those who bring the ringleaders of the revolt to what passes for justice will, however, be rewarded. Even though this is billed as an adventure for evil characters, it could as easily be presented as extremely lawful. Set aside modern ideas about the awfulness of slavery and treat it as maintaining the status quo, upholding law and order. You could twist this round if the party want to throw their lot in with the slaves instead, but it's not designed that way... although I see potential with devious parties who might pretend to serve the Prince yet aid the slaves instead, although things would go really badly for them if they were caught out!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
No Mercy
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DC1 Tampete - GDW 2201
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/30/2017 10:04:24

Celebrating the 25th anniversary of Dark Conspiracy, this book opens with some remarks from an assortment of contributors to and super-fans of the game... and a rather sad note from Lester Smith, who started it all off with the initial core rulebook and much more besides. He laments how the 'work for hire' method of paying authors prevalent in the RPG industry can leave game designers and developers feeling that they somewhat lose contact with works they have laboured over with love and passion once they've been published. Then it's on to the book itself, which is a massive sourcebook for the conurbation formed by Tampa and St. Petersburg in Florida, jammed with flavour, ideas and new stuff to enhance your game.

The Introduction begins with some fiction, a conversation in a seedy and violent bar that I don't think I'll be visiting anytime soon, and then moves on to discuss the development and history of Tampete. It seems a dark place, with all the ills that befall any city in Dark Conspiracy - high unemployment, weak government, lack of investment in infrastructure, rampant corporations and crime - but with an unpleasnt edge. Crimes that include cannibalism and clowns running amok, new and potent drugs, and civil disobedience that's more like terrorism. There's worse, creatures living in lagoons and waterways or underground that are said to abduct people. Rumours of portals to other worlds, and patches of Demonground. Visit at your peril... for they are a quarrelsome lot, and altercations turn violent real fast.

There is a timeline, in accord with the rest of Dark Conspiracy diverging from the real world in the early 1980s and running through to 2034, deemed the present day. There's a map to show you what's where, and then we get down to detail: health and disease, the survivalist communities, the weather (which plays quite an important role here)... and crime. Lots about crime and about the sometimes bizarre laws enacted by the city fathers that probably don't help much.

Next comes a visit to various regions within the sprawl. Detailed maps, locations to visit, history and much, much more. Scattered throughtout are notes on what really happened and what is going on now, so this isn't a player-friendly gazetteer of the conurbation although it will aid you in making a visit a rich experience. There are also 'quick and dirty plot seeds' dotted around, just in case reading the material hasn't already spawed several ideas.

This extensive section is followed by a collection of Factions and Personalities - many of whom have already been introduced during the grand tour of Tampete. This section provides loads of people (loosly speaking) to interact with, do business with... or get into contention with, as may be appropriate. Gangs rub shoulders with strange religious cults, and this section ends with 'A Hundred and One Personalities' - a list of short notes/stat blocks for individuals you can pop in wherever you like. Many could spawn an adventure or two of their own... and many would make good contacts, especially if the party will be staying in Tampete for long.

After a selection of full-page colour paintings of various Tampete scenes comes a section of Dark Adversaries, an array of beasties you can use as necessary to impede and imperil the party. Plenty of weirdness that will have them gawping when they really ought to be running...

Next come several new Protodimensions. Visit if you dare. Or if circumstances mean that you don't really have the option. Finally, there are several Appendices, which are where you'll find new rules, new career options, new DarkTek and several tables to roll on for anything from encounters to what's in a market, drug effects and even more plot seeds. There's also a complete writing system called Underglyphs to scatter around.

If you want a detailed, vibrant, exciting, sometimes threatening and almost always dangerous city to let the party run rampage through, this is a fantastic resource with which to introduce them to the delights of Tampete. It's full of stuff that will give you ideas for adventures or even whole campaigns... once sucked in, the party may never leave! They may not even want to...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Tampete - GDW 2201
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Fall From Grace
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2017 12:02:13

In this adventure, aimed squarely at characters who are as villainous as they come, a war-torn kingdom is led to peace by a mysterious paladin proclaiming himself as a long prophesied 'God-King'. Needless to say, not everyone is happy about this and a large price is placed on his head. Will the party take the contract?

The DM's Background provides a few more details, as well as a rival bunch of villains also after the money; and also suggests that if your party is of a good persuasion it's fairly easy to switch things around and have the self-styled God-King as the villain of the peace. Or - this is my thought - perhaps the party is hired to protect the God-King, who may be good or evil as you please, and face the choice of defending him or turning on him as they see fit. The possibilities are endless.

The opening scene lays it all out for the party, with a covert gathering of the discontented explaining what has happened over the past week - for the God-King's ascension to power is very recent - and ending with them hearing a very large price put up for the God-King's removal from power by whatever means can be found. It seems that although he is 'good' he's also quite totalitarian and many feel the weight of his boot on their necks. Put it this way, you even need a permit to leave the city and face gaol if caught sneaking out...

From here a bunch of options are explored: the one difficulty with running a game with an evil party is that they come up with plans to which you then have to react, rather than the more conventional way of you thinking up a plot and the party reacting to it. Still, most things they might come up with are covered and this gives you a starting point to shape your response. All-out attack or assassination might be the first thoughts, but what about blackmail, planting false evidence or even seeking to corrupt the fellow? Whatever they decide upon, it's likely they will end up visiting the temple in which the God-King dwells. A detailed description of the temple including map, room descriptions, occupants and their likely reactions follows. Finally the true nature of the God-King is revealed, along with a new magic item.

This adventure leaves a lot unsaid, but it provides an excellent framework on which you can hang your own plots. Provided you are willing to put in the work, there is great potential here for some epic adventuring.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fall From Grace
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Folnar's Dagger
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2017 11:15:51

If you're the sort of person who'd like to have a demon at your beck and call, you're probably of the evil persuasion (at least as far as alignments are concerned). Designed for evil characters, this adventure sends them in quest of a dagger that is said to be able to summon and control the demon R'Godae, a quest that sends them into a powerful wizard's former home that is now used as a training centre for good-aligned wizards and warriors, even paladins. So as a bonus these evil characters get to beat up on some of the brightest and best upcoming good guys!

The DM's Background expands a bit on the powerful wizard, whose name was Folnar, explaining how he came about the dagger and its powers. It also details how Folnar's apprentices set up a unique training centre in his fortified mansion after his death where wizards, clerics, paladins and other good-aligned warriors study tactics combining might and magic in the fight against evil. It's up to you how the party gather the information about the dagger, what it can do and where it is currently located. This adventure pits the party against the mansion and its occupants.

You are provided with plenty of information about leading personalities at the rather remote mansion (no wonder it is fortified), physical structure, daily routine and defences. There's a plan with detailed room notes, but it is suggested that either miniatures or a dry-erase board are used to keep track of everyone once the party begins its penetration. Crafty parties who try some advance reconnaisance are catered for with notes on what they can discover or observe, whilst likely actions on the part of the inhabitants once they realise they are under attack are also included.

Finally there are notes about the dagger, the ritual and possible outcomes - here, you will have to decide if all the legends are for real or if something else happens... or nothing at all. Many options provide scope for a myriad of follow-up adventures if not a whole campaign.

There's a fair bit of fighting, and often what might be deemed skirmishing - not a pitched battle but reasonable numbers of opponents to handle - so the suggestion of some means of visual representation could be helpful in keeping track of what's going on. This book can be seen as a core idea, from which you could built an entire campaign from first hearing rumours about a dagger with which a demon can be summoned right through to the ramifications and subsequent adventures of the party who attempts the summoning. Of course, that would mean quite a lot of work but for a group determined to play an evil campaign, this could make a good - if that's the right word - framework.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Folnar's Dagger
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DC1 Nightsider
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2017 09:42:06

A holiday resort is a place you go to relax, sit around the pool, eat and drink, stuff like that, right? Not if you're playing Dark Conspiracy it's not...

This three-part adventure tells the tale of the inhabitants of another dimension trying to sneak into our own, with the intention of getting up to no good once here - and they've chosen a prime vacation spot as their infiltration point. The Introduction explains what is going on and provides a synopsis of the entire plot. To start with, of course, you need to find a way to get the party into the right place, the holiday resort of Bar Harbour - which is a real place in Maine as it happens, so you can use real maps and other materials to support your game. Several ideas are provided: you can pick the one best suited to your group or come up with your own... after all, you know them better than the authors do! The three briefings provided are for parties with eco-terrorist leanings, members of the military, and people who just happen to be there - either they've heard some of the rumours provided or they might just have decided it was time for a vacation!

The first part of the action takes the party to a nearby island. Getting there (unless you take the military option) is a bit of an adventure in itself as the authorities are barring access. Once there, the party can explore and try and figure out what has been going on... and will probably find themselves fighting for their lives before too long! This adventure requires good combat skills as well as brains to complete. There are lots of atmospheric descriptions here, whatever's happened is decidedly nasty.

The second part of the adventure seems quite unconnected, and indeed could take place after some intervening adventures. All the more surprise when elements from the first part are revealed! Again scenes of mounting horror have to be investigated and dealt with. During this part, the party should discover (or be given) a particular device that will become important during the third part, which takes them to the alternate dimension... well, they do say the best form of defence is offence. This all begins with an intriguing note from an academic who needs some more, shall we say, action-oriented folk to follow up on his reseach. What better idea than go stop the invasion at source?

Throughout the entire adventure, there are loads of options to enable you to react appropriately to whatever the party does... and plenty of possible outcomes depending on their actions and how successful they are. Oddly enough, as I sit reading this adventure for the purposes of review, I realise that I played it some 20-odd years ago! I enjoyed it as a player then, and now I've seen how it's all put together, I understand how it makes a truly cracking adventure. Lots going on, all manner of useful contacts, potential for follow-up adventures... what more could you want? Well, perhaps a holiday resort that IS safe and relaxing - but we're here for adventure!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Nightsider
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The Gauntlet
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/25/2017 11:38:06

Released in conjunction with the Evil sourcebook, this adventure sets the party as candidates for membership in the Minutemen, the local thieves' guild. They are handed a list of items they are to 'acquire' over a single night... and if they fail, they will be handed over to the town guards and imprisoned for whatever crimes they have committed (or for which they need someone to take the rap)! No pressure then...

If you've used Honour Among Thieves, another adventure in the Adventurer's Keep series, you will have met the Minutemen already, in their home town of Desburgh (or wherever you located it). Use the same bunch again, or maybe this is an affiliate operating in another town that's more convenient for your overall plot. Any class of character may apply for membership provided they are neutral or evil in alignment, and several possible reasons for them wishing to join the Minutemen are provided - although you may need to engineer the conditions that would bring those reasons in to play in prelimary adventures of your own. Alternatively, it can be run as a one-off for a group who want to have a go at being the bad guys for once. A neat system is provided to enable you to create a new 'Gauntlet' every time you run this module, or you can use the example that is detailed in full.

The adventure begins with the party meeting with a representative of the Minutemen in an empty warehouse in the early evening, where they are given the list of items (less one, they're told they will be informed about the last one later on). You may well wish to devise some earlier scenes to cover the party contacting the Minutemen and applying to join, of course. Locations are mapped and described clearly, with plenty of detail to let you deal with whatever the party decides to do.

Notes are provided as to how to deal with success and failure, either during the night or once they meet the Minutemen representative again with their spoils. There are some good ideas for follow-up adventures as well. Overall, it makes for an excellent adventure for a party that doesn't mind getting its hands dirty or is considering (or already leading) a life of crime. Or they might be working undercover... Whatever, it makes for an entertaining and hectic evening!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Gauntlet
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DC1 Ice Daemon
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/24/2017 07:37:38

An adventure about weather? Well, at least it starts that way with the party driving through Texas when a snowstorm hits... on a broiling midsummer day. There are notes on shifting these events out of Texas, and to provide for the party using a different form of transportation than a car.

The adventure proper begins with the party having to cope with freezing conditions when the storm hits, a scramble to find shelter. Hopefully they will be able to access a weather forecast which shows that the storm is localised and also displays an unusual feature... Again, if they do not, or cannot, access the weather channel, other options are provided to point them in the right direction. There's even someone to help out with cold weather gear if the party is too busy freezing to death to investigate!

There's a cave complex to explore, its denizens to defeat and a dastardly plot to thwart. All is explained for the Referee, with plans, stats, and plot details all laid out. The stakes? Well, do you want a new ice age?

Compact, elegant, neatly-presented... this adventure should take but a session or two to complete, yet it's replete with significance. There isn't really any follow-up, it is more something to drop on your party when they think they are merely travelling to get somewhere else you have sent or enticed them. An excellent short adventure with plenty of action.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Ice Daemon
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DC1 Proto-Dimensions Sourcebook, Volume 1
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/23/2017 08:45:26

This book basically comes in two parts: the first part deals with the mechanics of creating and running alternate dimensions in your game and the second part provides some twelve exemplar dimensions ready for use. The Introduction explains all this and more, and notes that this is one of the harder parts of the game for the Referee to get across, seeing as the players have no experience of such a thing... a little odd as we do not have experience of quite a lot of stuff that's already cropped up in Dark Conspiracy!

First up, The Meta-verse gets quite meta-physical about the whole concept, claiming that any Referee wanting to use other dimensions needs to understand this... as it happens, although I find it fascinating to read, I disagree: one of my most successful Dark Conspiracy games involved the characters travelling to an alternate dimension and trying to find their way back, all without any concept in my head or theirs about how it 'worked' - it just did! They got there because they were standing beside a nuclear bomb that went off (triggering a full five minutes of "We're all dead" before I could get their attention) which just happened to be sitting on an undefined 'dimension portal' that went "Ahhh, energy" and diverted the explosion to power itself. The place they landed in was one where magic worked, and after a fair few entertaining adventures) a powerful mage got them back home (and came along, to everyone's amusement). But here the dimension was a plot device, nobody needed to understand it. This theoretical discussion, however, provides a lot of underpinning background that enables a measure of logic, so those players who want to figure out how they work have something to discover. It also allows for an impressive array of different types of alternate dimension without losing consistency.

There's all manner of stuff about visitors to a dimension becoming 'assimilated' into its physical laws, and then we move on to Interstices: The Interdimensional Spaces. These gaps in the fabric of the meta-verse are quite scary, there's nothing there at all. Yet people can go there, although few do on purpose, and visitors risk insanity. Throughout, examples and apposite rules are provided... even for those who want to fight whilst in different dimensions. We find out about Interdimensional Travel and how it works - and how to administer it from a game mechanical standpoint. There are basically two ways to travel between dimensions: using the Dimension Walk skill or using an interdimensional device, and both are explained at length with all the rules you need to run them. Apparently to close a device you need a 'dampening metal' to seal it, which produces images of something wet to my mind... I usually dampen somthing by pouring water on it. Background and history of dimensional travel is also covered, so we find out when assorted Dark Minions first found out about it themselves.

Once your head has stopped reeling from all the theory, interesting though it is, there's a section on Using Protodimensions in a Campaign. There's a lot of good advice here about making them integral to your plotline, not merely a nice bit of windowdressing to say "Hey, here's something really weird". Things like ensuring your Bad Guys have good reason for being there or using them, things like determining locations where you can travel from, or deciding that with the proper skill or device you can go from wherever you happen to be. There's a brief note on designing them, then we're off on the survey of the sample ones. Many are really quite strange, not just a different place that isn't on Earth, but places where physical laws work differently and it's going to get very comfusing real quick! They're quite fun and may give you ideas for adventure.

As a book of two parts, the first bit - the nuts and bolts of how to make alternate dimensions work in your game - is excellent. The sample ones are all a bit weird, and it depends what you are looking for in your dimensions. In the game I referred to earlier, there wasn't much odd about where the party ended up. It was based on the world of Conan the Barbarian, low-tech swords and sandals and the odd powerful mage, one of whom they managed to befriend in order to get home... but until then it was an 'aternate world' where things like gravity and even their firearms and laptops worked (until they ran out of bullets and the batteries went flat). That worked for us, but if you want something really odd to send your party to, there are some strange ones here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Proto-Dimensions Sourcebook, Volume 1
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Kin and Kinsmen
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/22/2017 10:27:28

Across frozen wastes hidden away lies the Kingdom of the Seven-Day Sun, but it has worse problems than a chilly location. They found the king sitting on his throne murdered, and during the coronation of his successor, Crown Prince Hess, someone had a go at him too. Fingers of suspicion point in all directions, not least the Table of Lords (all of whom could stake a claim to the throne)... and all turn to the party, who were visiting for the winter festival and are now trapped here like everybody else, to find out what's going on.

The DM's Background reveals who the murderer is and why he committed it, the adventure itself is one of investigation and interaction as the party - distrusted by just about everyone because they are outsiders - hunt for the truth. The party gets embroiled in the matter because they happen to be standing in the crowd watching the coronation beside a fellow who pulls out a crossbow and takes a pot-shot at Hess. Hopefully they tackle him - if they don't the crowd will bring him down, dead!

By its very nature, the adventure is quite freeform. There's a background timetable that ticks along irrespective of what the party does, loads of people to talk to, and a very loose framework against which you can let the party loose to do what they please. A plan of the royal castle, complete with room descriptions, is provided, as well as 'thumbnail sketches' of the people that are under suspicion that the party is supposed to interview. With the odd assassin and one evil creature to contend with, opportunities for combat are there but not frequent yet, should the party figure out how to defeat the evil creature, they have the chance to save the kingdom from more than a regicide.

Study the adventure carefully before running it, the material is a bit confused in places and could have done with a read-through by someone who didn't know the plot! That said, it's a nice winter investigation with potential for the party to make their names as something a bit more classy that pure adventurers who raid monsters and steal their stuff.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kin and Kinsmen
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The Wreck of the Venerable Drake
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/21/2017 11:29:36

The Players Introduction sets the scene: while browsing in an adventurers' supplies emporium, the party discovers the proprietor in a distraught state. His supply ship has been lost at sea, and worse than the loss of the cargo apparently he had what he refers to as a 'family heirloom' aboard... and he's willing to pay well to have it retrieved. When the party starts to ask about it, it turns out that the ship has run aground on a reef rather than sunk, but the crew refuse to return to it despite it not being that far away. Smell a rat? Or is the lure of the reward too great?

The DM's Background explains the real story behind the wreck and the true nature of the family heirloom. Interestingly, the adventure provides a good test of the party's honesty. Brief notes cover the trip to the wreck - you'll have to fill in any details or encounters you deem necessary - then the party will have the ship to explore. There's a good plan and notes on what's where aboard. Rather oddly, the ship hit the reef broadside on, staving in the side - anyone knowing much about sailing ships should realise that's somewhat unlikely.

Most of the critters the party encounter will attack without much thought, but it may be possible to enter into negotiation with the final encounter (who was behind the wreck in the first place) although as he's a bit of a religious fanatic they are unlikely to sway him from his purpose. The end of the adventure assumes the party come back to their patron, the owner of the ship, and deals with various options - although one fairly possible one isn't covered at all, you'll have to work out your own response to it. There's a neat new magic item and the new 'monster' is that final encounter.

This makes for a neat little adventure to spice up a shopping trip in a seaside town, but more could have been made of the moral dilemma.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Wreck of the Venerable Drake
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DC1 Empathic Sourcebook
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/20/2017 09:05:53

The Introduction lays out how this book is designed to expand the basic Empathy ability. There are different disciplines which may be learned: the neuropathic, the psionic, the sorcerous, and the mystical. Only the neuropathic discipline can be acquired without the need for study and training. It equates to the default Empathy ability in the core rules, and is regarded as the most dangerous form of empathy to use, even if it is easier to acquire. The other disciplines can be studied during character generation (by taking one or more term to do so) or once play has started if the character can find a teacher. The study of psionics and mysticism is incompatible, you have to choose one or the other.

The first chapter, however, deals with a system change, from the original D10-based system to a D20 one. It explains in detail how to create new characters, or convert existing ones and then goes on to explain how the new rules work in play. This isn't the 'D20' system of Dungeons & Dragons 3e, by the way, but a revision of the D10 system to use twenty-sided dice. It's something that was introduced in Twilight 2000 and the rest of the GDW games with a common ruleset.

Next up is Empathic Background. This talks about the degeneration of the world and the part, unnoticed by the vast majority of people, that Dark Minions have played in it. Although most people haven't noticed, some have and they form a loose 'empathic underground' to combat the threat. As your party finds out more, they will become aware of the empathic underground if not part of it - even those characters with all the empathy of a house brick. Many groups of empathic people have existed long before the Dark Minions arrived on the scene - there have long been those who study esoteric arts, alchemy and the like. The chapter continues with an analysis of the different groups that can be found, with suggestions as to how to involve them in play. There's also a random generation system in case you need a group in a hurry along with some sample groups, then the discussion moves on to the relationships of the empathic underground with ETs. Notes on playing ETs for the Referee and some ET careers follow.

The rest of the book consists of chapters on each empathic discipline: neuropathy, psionics, sorcery, and mysticism. Background, its place in the world, new skills and abilities, they're all here. They make for fascinating reading and open up whole vistas of new ideas and potentials for characters and plotlines alike. There are extensive details on training and how to acquire it, different abilities and levels of power... pretty much all you need to know. The Referee may want to allow interested players to read up on their chosen discipline or may prefer to reveal the material herein during play - particularly for those characters who seek training during the course of the game.

You should definitely get this book and incorporate it into your game if you want to tap into the full 'otherness' of empathic powers. Whether or not you let your players use them is another matter, these may be part of the weird and sometimes scary that more 'ordinary' characters slowly become aware of as they investigate strange goings-on... and, of course, they may have opportunities to learn these powers for themselves in due course.



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DC1 Empathic Sourcebook
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DC1 Among the Dead
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/19/2017 09:25:15

In the lawless times of the dark near-future predicted by this game, Dark Minions take advantage of governments preoccupied with cost-cutting and public disinterest to get up to all sorts of things, and this adventure leads the party into a whole can of worms as they start investigating the disappearance of a nurse on behalf of a distraught uncle. The evidence they unearth should lead them to a dastardly plot set to engulf Moscow... a long way from a missing young lady in New York.

The Referee's Synopsis lays this all out and explains that each sequence leads into the next, with clues for later events scattered through earlier ones... yet, if the party strays off course, it should be relatively straightforward to point them back again with a few well-placed additional pieces of information. It all begins with a worried ex-pat Russian, Lobov, who has a tale to tell about his niece...

He has some letters that she sent to him which have some rather disturbing comments about the hospital in which she was working. He'd already hired a private detective, but he hadn't got very far, so he's turned to the party for help. The letters are reproduced and can be used as handouts... good luck with her handwriting, it's dreadful! Lobov will fund the party's travel to New York and some limited accommodation and expenses once there. Most people they meet either don't know anything or are actively unhelpful, the logical conclusion is to investigate the hospital she worked in itself. There's plenty of background to enable this investigation to be as thorough as the party wants.

One thing leads to another and the party ends up in Russia, whether they intended it or not... and on dodgy ground as they don't have the correct paperwork. More well-resourced opportunities follow, along with informal contacts with like-minded investigators in Russia. There's plenty to do, although you may need to point the party in the right direction upon occasion - they are in an unfamiliar and foreign land, after all. Once the immediate threat has been dealt with, they'll then have to deal with the Committee that runs Moscow, which leads to a further job before they can think about coming home.

Background information on both Moscow and New York is provided, which will be of use in setting the scene not just during this adventure but any time your campaign involves either city. Throughout the adventure, there are ample opportunities to use (abuse?) empathic characters with feelings and full-blown dreams that you can describe to them in appropriate places. Specifically Russian monsters and equipment are also to be found at the end of the book as well.

It makes for an intriging adventure, although players who thirst for action may find parts of the investigation slow and tedious... it's supposed to be, and opportunities to get more physical are there in the course of time, possibly even more enjoyable for frustrated players who feel the investigation is going nowhere fast. A good adventure for the more thoughtful, who enjoy atmosphere and role-playing interactions - even dealing with officialdom - at least as much as they enjoy a brawl!



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DC1 Among the Dead
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DC1 Dark Races, Volume 1
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 08:27:00

The Introduction begins with a philosophical discourse on the role of language within horror stories, and how the like of movies has codified and labelled different monsters so that 'everyone knows' what creatures like werewolves or vampires are, what they look like, what they do... and what they are vulnerable to. But if you asked someone from middle Europe in the 12th century about a werewolf, they might have a quite different impression to convey, often less codified and certain than the average viewer of horror movies might be. In Dark Conspiracy, the intention is to bring back that uncertainty and mystery, to provide monsters that are scary because you don't know what they are or what they can do.

What follows is a collection of monsters from many different authors. Some are based on familiar legends, others on more obscure ones from cultures around the world or the author's own imagination. Moreover, they are not set in stone. You are free to tweak them as you please to suit your game. Whatever you think will scare the party... and maybe even their players!

For each we get a sketch, a stat block and various sections of notes. First up, The Mythology explains what stories are told, what legends there are, about this particular creature (that is, if it's one that 'exists' in Earth mythology). The rest (strictly for the Referee's eyes alone) is The Reality. This includes notes on the appearance, origins and biological habits (reproduction, feeding and so on) of the creature under discussion as well as their empathic abilities and, well, anything else the author wishes to share.

Most of these monsters are nasty, some disgusting and nearly all of them would like to eat you. Others mess with your dreams, attempt to possess you or in other ways bring harm to anyone it encounters. Interestingly the reason why they do these things is not touched upon... it's just what they do. A bird does not need a reason to fly, nor a fish one to swim. It's not really clear how sentient this beasties are, although many possess high levels of cunning. Most, even if they could, are not willing to negotiate or have a conversation, they just want to get on with whatever it is that they do.

They are all creatures and minions, rather than major league extraterrestials (ETs) themselves but many of them work for ETs or are used by them in the furtherance of their plans, when they are not just being themselves. They make for scary and horrific opposition, and it's easy just reading through the entries to come up with ideas for whole adventures or even campaigns built around discovering a given monster - probably though obvserving the results of its malign behaviour - and dealing with it. Somewhat more than a mere bestiary for the game, it's a useful addition to the Referee's bookshelf.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Dark Races, Volume 1
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