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Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2017 08:07:04

With lush illustrations to tantalise, this work provides an overview of the setting as well as rules information, pre-generated characters and a complete adventure to play. The Introduction sweeps you up from the outset with quick summaries of what players and the gamemaster in a role-playing game do and an outline of what characters will do: now, crewing spacecraft, exploring and carrying out missions are to be expected in any spacefaring game, unravelling secrets and plotting and scheming even... but there's mention of a space station called Coriolis and the intriguing thought that religious belief and worship are still part and parcel of most people's lives. Clearly this is a distinctive setting to explore, one where technology and myth are wound together in a manner befitting a game billed as 'the Arabian Nights in space'.

We're soon diving into history and learning about the Third Horizon, a group of thirty-six star systems linked by portals which have been colonised in two waves. Interestingly, the first arrivals (the Firstcome) set out after the second wave (the Zenithians): the original Zenith was a generation ship sent out to establish colonies, but when they arrived they found that in the meantime the folks back home had discovered an ancient portal system and got there first! The two groups still bicker, but not to the extent that others did - the people of the First Horizon tried to take over the settlements of the Second and Third Horizons but were eventually defeated in a massive war that has left its mark all over known space.

The central system in the Third Horizon is called Kua, where there's a jungle planet of the same name orbited by the Coriolis space station. Founded by the Zenithians, Coriolis is intended as a place where all the factions of the Third Horizon can meet and trade, establishing peaceful relations with each other. That's the idea, but it's not quite as peaceful as was initially intended. Strange Emissaries, from a nearby gas giant, have everyone a bit baffled as to their intentions, not helped by one of them declaring he is one of the Icons, the deities widely worshipped here. This situation is replete with opportunities for adventure... and here we are in the middle of it!

We now move on to the rules part, with Chapter 2: Skills explaining how attributes (strength, agility, wits and empathy) work together with skills (of which there are two sorts, basic ones anyone can do and advanced ones that must be learned) to enable characters to accomplish whatever it is that they want to do. Task resolution is performed by adding up the points in the appropriate attribute and skill for the thing you're attempting and rolling that number of d6s - a single six means you've just managed it, three of them means you've done well, a critical success. The skill descriptions explain what all that means in terms of using that skill. If you don't get any sixes at all, you've failed and the GM needs to come up with some consequence of failure. When everything looks really bleak, you can always pray to the Icons. This pious act allows the re-rolling of all dice that didn't come up with a six. However, praying has its own dangers - every time you do, the GM gets a 'darkness point' from the religion's devil figure, the Darkness Between the Stars, these can be used against the party in a variety of ways.

After copious details on the various skills available, we come to Chapter 3: Combat. It's dangerous, think carefully - if you have the opportunity - before participating in a brawl. It's a turn-based system, with initiative established at the beginning of a fight by each participant rolling a d6, highest goes first... you can choose to lower your initiative by waiting to see what others do, but you are then stuck with a lower initiative for the whole combat. Various actions may be underaken in your turn, and a whole range of options are discussed. Associated matters like injury and healing are included and there's a delightful critical injury table for those who like to get more graphical than mere points of damage. Naturally there are other ways to die as well as combat - fire, drowning, starvation and vacuum also feature here. A note about vehicles rounds out the chapter.

The rest of the book is devoted to the adventure - Dark Flowers - and the pre-generated characters provided for you to play it. It tells the tale of a long lost space station, a search for a fabled plant, and a scientist obsessed with completing her mission - even unto death. The backstory explains what's been going on, covering an hundred years or so, for the GM then the party is brought into the picture. They are tasked with getting into the space station and exploring it, and will be faced with a difficult decision to make. The adventure is well-resourced with everything you need to make it come to life provided in the text. It's an excellent adventure with a long slow creepy build up...

This quickstart certainly achieves the aim of picquing interest in the full game. The game mechanics are straightforward and easy to understand, and the setting is rich with promise. Put aside any thoughts of this just being Babylon 5 retooled with a bit of help from Firefly and Aliens, this is a vibrant and exciting setting in its own right, a place in which epic tales can be told.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
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Vehicle Handbook
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2017 07:43:16

Spacecraft are all very well, but once you reach your destination, how do you get around? Having the appropriate land, sea and air vehicles can go a long way to making other planets feel real, alien, exotic... or whatever impression you are trying to get across. Vehicles can also be a source of adventure: perhaps it is hard to get hold of one when you need it, or maybe offworlders have to use a specific form of transport. Indeed, they can end up being the adventure: many years ago, a spectacular Traveller adventure was spawned at a Games Fair convention in the UK when a bunch of players decided that they weren't staying around for the riot that had broken out and stole a groundcar... unfortunately none of them knew how to drive it, and their exploits on the way back to the starport became the stuff of legend!

The Introduction lays out the purpose of the book clearly. The design system is simple and straightforward, but fits in with everything else so far published. The emphasis is on what the vehicle can do, how fast it goes and what it can carry. That's what you need to know as far as game mechanics are concerned... most of the rest is window-dressing.

Chapter 1: New Rules provides some additional rules that you will need to make it all work. There are notes about resupply and maintenance, sensors, detection of vehicles and even things like can the vehicle tow something else (or indeed, be towed)... and of course the pleasures and perils of the used vehicle market! They also may be specifically designed for a purpose: combat, say, or off-road operation.

We then move on to Chapter 2: Vehicle Design. It's a seven-stage process, very streamlined, and once you are used to it you can crank out new vehicles in a matter of minutes. Actual construction times and costs are likely to be a little more, though there are advantages to mass-production. Most parties will be looking to buy (or rent) rather than make their own vehicles from scratch, however. Starting with chassis type and tech level (stage 1), you then decide the number of 'spaces' the vehicle has (stage 2, which determines the basic parameters for the vehicle), add weapons and armour if required (stage 3), customise it if you want to (stage 4), work out how many crew are needed and passengers can be carried (stage 5), allocate cargo space (stage 6), and finalise your design (stage 7)... and you're done! This is a toolkit rather than hard and fast rules, and the Referee is always at liberty to deviate if desired. An example (a fairly ordinary-looking ground vehicle, a rugged van basically) is worked through in detail to demonstrate the process, and the next four chapters go into more detail about chassis types, armour, weapons, and customisation.

Grouped by basic chassis type - light ground vehicle through gravitics-powered and unpowered ones, then boats, submersible and aircraft - there are loads of options to help you come up with exactly what you need. You can even have ornithopters and walkers if you want. Armour is generally a case of strategically-placed plating, then on to weapons, as many and as varied as you can imagine. Weapons can be mounted in various manners, and a wide range of generic ones are provided... and then comes customisation. Your imagination is pretty much the limit, although there are suggestions galore and an in-character advertisement for a vehicle design consultancy!

Next, things get a bit exotic with Chapter 7: Biotech. This may or may not be commonplace in your universe, or it may be very localised. The chapter assumes that it is rare but possible, and assumes it needs at least a TL10 world to create biotech vehicles, but that the biotech vehicles themselves operate two tech levels lower. If biotech is commonplace, you can ignore these restrictions. Again, maintenance and repair may be problematic if biotech is unusual, but straightforward if such vehicles are readily available. Some exotic versions of chassis types and weapons are provided, but feel free to go wild!

This is followed by Chapter 8: Drones. These can be remotely piloted or autonomous, and there's an interesting sidebar about whether you should use robot rules rather than these drone ones to create them. The conclusion (apart from leaving it open to the Referee to decide) is that a drone is specifically an unmanned vehicle, a robot can do most anything. Perhaps drones are a subset of robots? (Maybe I should ask the computing ethics class I'm teaching after lunch!)

If your head is swimming with all the choices, never fear... the final section is Jayne's Guide to Vehicles of Charted Space, a vast array of pre-generated vehicles of all sorts that you can use straight off... or customise a bit, first. Each one comes with a description, cost, appropriate statistics and an illustration. Conveniently, each occupies a single page so PDF users may print off just the pages they need. There does seem to be rather a lot of military vehicles, fine if you are equipping some mercenaries but of less use if you've just landed and want to go sightseeing!

Overall, a robust system which meshes well with the rest of this ruleset... but in some ways a little uninspired. Consider the science fiction books you've read or films you have seen. Describe the vehicles in them... sometimes troubling to codify everything bogs you down. OK, so you need to know how fast it goes and what it can carry, how much damage its weapon does... as for the rest, let your imagination run riot. This system will let you slot in whatsoever numbers and game mecahnics you need.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vehicle Handbook
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7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/22/2017 09:10:14

Billed as a collection of Heroes and Villains, this manages to be more - it gives added shape to the world of Théah, filling it with giant personalities and exploring new corners of potential within the setting, and backing them up with appropriate game mechanics.

Chapter 1: Introduction sets out its stall, talking about the role of Heroes and Villains within the game. The sample ones given here have been catagorised beyond just whether they are good or bad into five types each, based on their style, the way that they go about things. For style and panache are all-important in 7th Sea, a deliberately-cinematic game where how you do something is almost as important as what you are doing! Heroes and Villains, however, are distinguished by the choices they make, so what they choose to do is also of great importance. Faced with the same background, the same situation, you can rely on the Hero to do the right, the good, thing whilst the Villain will invariably take the wrong or evil path... but both do it in style.

One thing to bear in mind, though, is that even the blackest of Villains has the potential to turn his life around, and so the concept of redemption is introduced and each of the Villains presented here are given - when possible - a path out of the dark place they are in presently... and there's a new advantage, Saviour, for those Heroes who seek to find that path and guide Villains down it. GMs are encouraged to use the Villains in their own plots; the Heroes can serve as exemplars to aid players in creating their own characters, and might show up as allies... or even be played if one appeals or time is too short to create your own.

Chapter 2: Heroes contains detailed notes on some forty Heroes, but begins with a discussion on how to play a Hero as well as one on how to run a game for Heroes. Useful advice for those on both sides of the GM's screen. The player advice, in particular, should give players a few things to think about and are applicable whatever you happen to be playing. The Heroes themselves are grouped as being Indomitable, Deft, Tacticians, Steadfast or Tricksters... but they are all good guys, who can be relied on to do the right thing when it comes to a pinch. Each Hero comes with a portrait and character sheet, on a single page so that PDF users can print it out if needed for a game, along with a second page that covers backstory, goals, and role-playing advice. They make for a fascinating read, showing the wide range of characters that can be played, and the vast potential that this setting has.

Chapter 3: Villains follows a similar pattern, although the preliminary essays are aimed mainly at the GM. The Villain sees the world in terms of how it can best serve his needs and, comments about possible redemption aside, there are no shades of grey here. Villains are bad, and that's that. The discussion looks at ways of weaving Villains into your stories, and incorporating what they want to do in such a way that there is a direct impact on the Heroes' lives. This gives them all the more reason to want to go after the Villains, after all. There are also comments about duels, with a lengthy example of how one such might play out. Then on to the Villains themselves, who are grouped as Beasts, Chameleons, Masterminds, Juggernauts and outright Deranged. Each category comes with some notes on how to use that particular type of Villain in your game. Each Villain has two pages dedicated to him, including a portrait, character sheet, and notes that not only give a backstory but look at the sort of schemes he might be hatching and how to weave them into a plot. An excellent resource that spawns ideas for adventures even as you read through them.

Finally, an Appendix contains new game mechanics and short-form Hero and Villain character sheets. There's also a comprehensive Index.

Of most use to GMs, this book is a handy resource especially if you are a bit short of time or seeking that killer idea (or at least, Villain) for your next adventure. If you run 7th Sea 2e, this book has a place on your shelf.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Heroes & Villains
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/21/2017 13:36:22

The opening fiction sets the scene for the sort of epic swashbuckling action this game inspires... indeed the cover layout, looking like a film poster, suggests the cinematic exploits the party can perform. Wit, swordplay, acrobatics, poise and sheer adventurous fun is what this game is all about!

Chapter 1: Welcome to 7th Sea sets the scene. Swashbuckling, sorcery, piracy, adventure, diplomacy, intrigue, romance, revenge, archæology and exploration all have their place in this almost-17th-century-Europe where new ideas challenge accepted dogma, lost secrets are coming to light, and dramatic swordplay carries the day and often wins fair lady too (unless she's the one waving a sword around...). There's a brief explanation of what role-playing is all about, and how the party are designed to be Heroes with a capital H - they may be rogues or rascals, they may dice with the law, but they are not evil people. We'll leave that to the Villains, thank you very much. There's a very brief overview, a summary, of major powers in Théah, the world in which this game is set, then it is on to more solid material.

Chapter 2: Théah is a glittering sweep of the world, introducing the various nations, an essay for each seeking to encapsulate the national 'spirit' - even if the concept of a nation is quite a new-fangled thing, Théah's only had them for the last hundred years or so. Culture and clothing, currency and customs, art and music and religious belief are all covered. We also learn how each nation is governed and defended, and how they get on with the other countries. It's an overview, whole books can be written about each one, but it serves well to give an idea of what each nation is about. If you are familiar with the first edition of 7th Sea, much will be familiar... but read it through anyway, this is fresh and well-written (and beautifully illustrated), and there are of course changes, some subtle others more blatant, to make this a wholly-new game in a similar setting. There's also a wholly-new nation, the Sarmatian Commonwealth, which sounds a fascinating place to visit. Here you can also read about the Church in all her various forms, pirates and privateers, secret societies and even monsters...

Next, down to business with Chapter 3: Making a Hero. You've already read about the nations, here are one-page summaries explaining what Heroes that come from each are likely to be like. You don't have to stick to them, of course, but may find yourself a stranger even in your own land if you stray too far from the expected (unless you have an exceptionally good backstory, and even then that relies on people knowing it!). Then there's the nine-step process for creating your Hero. (It's billed as eight-step, but with a Step 0 that involves coming up with a concept before you start in on the game mechanics stuff!) To devise your concept there are twenty questions to answer which should help you understand who your Hero is and what makes him tick. You may not want to answer them all, you may not choose to share the answers with anyone else, you may even change them as you get to know him better: but it provides a starting point.

Once you have a handle on your Hero, you move on to getting some numbers onto that character sheet. We start with five Traits (Brawn, Finesse, Resolve, Wits and Panache), and use a point-buy system to discern strengths and weaknesses. Next, stir in the appropriate bonus for the nation that you call your own before deciding on your background - the stuff you did before you became an adventurer. These are your past, the things you were and did. They'll give you knowledge and skills, contribute to your backstory, but they are not likely what you are now, as the game begins. Note that Sorcery occurs more than once in some of the lists you can choose from under various backgrounds. It looks odd but it's there for a purpose: if you want to be a powerful sorceror you can choose it as many times as it appears. You then pick skills, again via point-buy. There are also advantages to be purchased, they help round out the character as well as providing, well, an advantage under certain defined circumstances. All straightforward so far... then comes arcana. Consider a Tarot deck, or at least the Théan equivalent, a Sorté deck. You choose (or may draw... John Wick Presents sell Sorté decks if you want one) a Virtue and a Hubris based on the twenty character cards in the deck.

Step 7: Stories is quite unusual and rather neat. This is where you work out, with the GM, the story you want to tell with your Hero. What aspect do you want to explore? What do you want him to accomplish? You can tell multiple stories, but only one at a time. For each, you need to decide on appropriate endings (there may be more than one), and decide on the first steps that you'll take to resolve the situation. From then on in, it becomes part of the ongoing plot. There are loads of ideas and sample stories here, but the best ones are probably those that you come up with for yourself. Finally, in Step 8: Details you put the finishing touches to your character. There's also an outline of a very abstract system for determining wealth (agonising over every last penny is inappropriate for a swashbuckler, after all), and a slightly flippant section on how character wounds are handled.

Character done, we move on to Chapter 4: Action and Drama to find out how everything works in the game. Task resolution uses the character's Traits and Skills to overcome a Risk - the action taken in response to a threat, or one which has a consequence for good or bad depending on the outcome. It all starts with a situation... and like all game mechanics, sounds more complex on paper than it is once you get the dice out and try it for yourself. There are plenty of examples to help you get your head around it. The complex bit is that you roll handfulls of d10s (based on the points you have in appropriate Traits and Skills for the task in hand) and then seek to get the most Raises, or 10s... but it's not just rolling a 10, if you roll a couple of 5s, you can add then to give yourself another Raise. Raises can be used to accomplish the task, ameliorate the consequences (e.g. if you'd get a wound you can cancel it out with a Raise) or take advantage of an opportunity that presents itself. There's a discussion of how rounds work, for when more than one character is involved in whatever the Risk is (a swordfight say), and all manner of additional bits and bobs... but no 'dodges' - viewed as a bit unheroic, if you want to avoid being hit take action to get out of the way and describe that rather than saying thay you are dodging! You can fail on purpose, too, getting a Hero Point and not rolling any dice at all.

All this has the potential to make what should be a thrilling action scene horrendously mechanical. Just remember that the key is in the descriptions you give of what your character is doing, and once the group is used to the game mechanics and you don't have to think about what you are rolling when it all becomes much more fluid. When engaged in a scene other than one that produces a flurry of action, you can use a Dramatic Sequence instead - similar mechanics, but played out over a longer period, such as character actions during a party, attempting to charm or impress people. Or you may prefer to role-play this, but it does give a chance to those who maybe find it hard to come up with good lines to still have their character be impressive and witty! The chapter ends with some Game Master rules for things like handling Brute Squads - those hordes of minions villains always seem to have around - and Villains themselves as well as monsters.

Next up is Chapter 5: Sorcery. Denounced by the Vaticine Church, feared or hated by many... yet beguiling to those who seek power other than that of the sword arm. Many Théans have some kind of magic in their bloodlines, and although it is lumped together as 'sorcery' each type has its own specific rules and methods of operation. Most of it is associated with particular nations, woven deep into their culture and psyche, and most is extremely powerful. Handle with care, or you'll find yourself a Villain before you know it. There is a wealth of material here, some familiar to players of 7th Sea 1e but there is a lot of new stuff: it's more elegant and organised, more diverse, balances a blessing and a curse: that awesome power comes at a price.

Swordfighting is the lifeblood of 7th Sea so it's no surprise that Chapter 6: Dueling is devoted to every aspect of sword play. This covers the Duelist's Guild, the trade body for sword-waving folk, and the myriad of Academies where they learn their art. There are many different styles of sword-fighting, and keen fighters can learn several, mixing and matching styles to fit the occasion. Each confers a specific advantage when it comes to combat.

Next up, the other staple of swashbuckling adventure with Chapter 7: Sailing. This chapter provides information on everything from the skills needed to man a ship to the organisation of a crew and the difference between a pirate and a privateer. To get into true sea-dog mood there are nautical superstitions, then details of different types of vessel and notes on the different seafaring nations. Ships have histories too, mostly for flavour but they can confer game mechanical advantages as well. Information on carrying cargo and engaging in sea battles, as well as the monsters of the deep round out this section.

Then comes Chapter 8: Secret Societies. Most other things tend to be centred around the various nations of Théah, but the secret societies spread their tentacles across the known lands, embracing individuals of all nationalities and backgrounds who agree with their cause. Joining one confers benefits and obligations upon a character, and should never be embarked upon lightly. Characters may join a society during character creation or in the course of play if the opportunity arises. It adds loads of flavour and many ready-made opportunities for adventure.

Finally, Chapter 9: Gamemaster which opens by talking about that magical moment when a player stops talking about his character and says 'me'... and continues with ideas about how to make that moment occur in the games that you run. There are standard tropes here, the golden rule of having fun (with its rider that if someone isn't having fun, find out why and sort it out), prior preparation and planning, and the GM wearing three hats (author, storyteller and referee). These are all explained and used to provide ideas about how to run games of 7th Sea to best effect (and often will work whatever game you are running, so make for a good read anyway). There are loads of ideas for themes and plots, a look at how to take that plot idea and turn it into a well-crafted adventure and much, much more. It also touches on improvisation, character death, enforcing rules and other thorny matters. There are even suggestions for how to be mean to the characters, making the players feel that there are real risks to be taken even in a game where it's quite hard to kill player-characters off. There are ideas for handling players too, rewarding the good ones and coping with uncooperative or otherwise disruptive ones. All in all, it provides an excellent textbook for being a good GM.

Overall, this is a masterful retooling of an already enjoyable game. All the good bits of the original are here, but it's been refined into an elegant coherent package. If you want to swash your buckle in a mix of Musketeers and Captain Jack Swallow style adventuring, this is the game with which to do so.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
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Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/18/2017 12:29:38

This is a collection of seven adventures for Conan, each designed to be played individually as suits, spanning the known world and providing opportunities to explore different aspects and themes. They are deliberately designed to be episodic - Howard's original Conan stories were, after all - and can be mixed up and messed about with if they don't suit your needs as presented here. The adventures are presented as seven chapters with an eighth one devoted to a collection of short adventures and plot seeds to inspire you further.

The first adventure is Devils Under Green Stars. The party has somehow got to Zukundu, a lost civilisation in the Southern Kingdoms beyond Stygia (several suggestions are provided for the exact location), where they find a high-walled city/palace covering an entire island. It looks pretty overgrown, but those venturing in will find that it's not completely abandoned! The idea is that they've found the place almost by accident, but local wildlife makes the thought of going in more palatable than being eaten where they are. Oh, and at least one of the tribes within has lots of gold. Surely that makes it all worthwhile? With warring tribes and hideous monsters, yes, this one has caught the spirit of Conan well.

On, then, to The Pact of Xiabalba, which begins with the party going about their own business at sea when a storm strikes... and ends with them fighting to escape a mysterious city that's about to be sucked back into a nightmare realm somewhere out of time and space as they know it. The city, you see, belongs to a race of Giant-Kings thought to have died out sometime in pre-history... only they are very much around, at least here. The city at first appears ruined, then a timeslip takes them into a siege...

Next up, The Caves of the Dero gives the party a treasure map and, well, you know adventurers. Given a treasure map they'll need to try and find the treasure... the quest leads them into a decidedly unstable mine. The loot may be stupendous, but is it really worth the potential cost to retrieve it?

The next adventure is The Ghost of Thunder River. This starts off in Velitrium, a border town in the Westermark in the Bossonian Marches, the buffer Aquilonia maintains between its border and Pictish territory. The Picts are proving troublesome under the leadership of a weird pale devil risen from ancient days (or so it is claimed). To introduce the backstory, the players can undertake a prelude in which they forsake their regular characters for a bunch of Picts whose hunting trip has ended up with them forming a war party who end up visiting a strange tomb... Once this segment has played out, they can resume their normal characters to start the adventure proper. The prelude can be omitted, but it does add an interesting twist and is rather more fun than just being told what happened in the past. The adventure itself begins with the party enlisting in the Velitrium militia - it's left up to you to decide how they came to be there - and helping to take the fight to the Picts... but there's something odd going on. Plienty of wilderness adventure in this one.

The Thousand Eyes of Aumag-Bel follows, beginning with the party enjoying a well-earned rest in a city when they get robbed of a specific item. Just how they came to have said item is left up to you - anything from an inheritance to loot picked up in a previous adventure will do. This leads to all sorts of fun and running battles through (and then under) the city.

This is followed by The Red Pit which starts with the party as slaves... and it's time to lead a revolt! Again, how they got to be there is left up to you, although a few ideas are provided. This one is a straight-up all-out brawl as the slaves - armed with bare fists and loincloths to start with - fight their way out of the Red Pit, an opencast mine in which they've been put to work.

The final full adventure is The Seethers in Darkness, which sees the party hired to escort a scholar on a quest for a lost ruin in the desert southwest of Zamboula. Needless to say, nobody's heard of the ruins and nothing is quite what it seems. Plenty of classic adventure here with ancient races, cities buried in the sand and other typical Conanesque themes.

Finally we have Chapter 8: Seeds of Glory. This provides a myriad of ideas about running adventures and campaigns, including suggestions for stringing the adventures presented in this book into a coherent plot starting off with The Red Pit - you don't start much lower than being a slave after all - and gathering wealth and power progressing through the other adventures. Or maybe they start off in reasonable comfort and things go badly wrong as their adventures progress... yet such a coherent story arc was not Howard's way of telling a story, even if it is more expected in a role-playing game. Many possibilities are discussed here, it will be up to you to decide how you want to use this material. The chapter ends with several paragraph-long seeds from which you can build further adventures. Who knows, maybe Conan himself will make an appearance, but remember: the player-characters are the heroes of THESE tales!

It's an excellent collection of adventures, and their episodic nature is handled well in the advice given in Chapter 8, with ample suggestions on how to use them whether or not you want them to be a bit more coherent in terms of a plotline. These are probably not adventures to just pick up and run, they will repay careful thought and planning to make your group's experience of the Hyborian World as epic and exciting as the original tales... but the spirit of Conan lives on in these pages!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Jeweled Thrones of the Earth
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Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2017 12:11:20

This massive and beautiful work brings the world of Conan the Barbarian back to our role-playing tables with all the impact that Conan himself has... richly illustrated and replete with detail to help you bring the Hyborian World to life. The foreword by lead developer Jason Durall tells us why: it's been written by people who really know and love the Conan stories and have been inspired by them in their role-playing for a long time before this project (or even previous Conan RPGs existed). Durall feels a kinship with Robert E. Howard, having grown up in a similar small town and escaped into fantasy, whilst I feel a kinship with Durall, having discovered Conan as a youngster and swept him into my role-playing, working this wonderful setting up for use with whatever ruleset was to hand at the time.

Interspersed with quotes from original Conan stories, the Introduction continues this theme of a desire to create a role-playing game that is true to the original stories, working hand-in-hand with them to build setting and game mechanics that will recreate the epic feel, the excitement of Conan himself striding forwards, sword in hand. We then move on to Chapter 1: Getting Started, which deals with the basics of what role-playing is all about and what you need to play.

Next, Chapter 2: Characters starts in on character creation (although those in a hurry can scurry to the back of the book where some pre-generated ones await those who don't want to work through the process to create their own). To make your own, there is a ten-step process. It's an interesting mix of random results and personal choice, and rather neatly it states that if you have a clear concept in mind, go right ahead and pick the options that work best for what you want to play. There's also a quick version of the process that is completely random, as well. If you want to follow the full sequence, you start by deciding on your character's homeland. This gives him a talent and a native language. Next, sort out your Attributes (which are Agility, Awareness, Brawn, Coordination, Intelligence, Personality, and Willpower). There's a rather complex system to decide which of these he's best at, you may need a scratch pad to work it all out, but it combines choice and chance rather well. Next decide on Caste or social class, which determines two more talents, a skill and a story. Most people are born to their caste but there are exceptions. Story is used to build background, with snippets of your past life being used to pose questions that help develop a sense of who he is and how he came to be that way. Plenty of examples are there to help you on your way. This is followed by archetypes, again you pick (or roll for) one and gain the associated skills, talents and equipment for your character. In effect, archetype tells you what your character does. Then it gets interesting as you need to determine his nature - or why he does what he does. Step 7 of the process determines what education he got, if any. This is followed by the intriguing 'war story' - war is everywhere and however sheltered, it is unlikely to have passed your character by completely. Step 9 involves various finishing touches and Step 10 leads you through the final calculations necessary.

There's a lot to take aboard in this chapter: take your time and you'll be rewarded with very realistic and personalised characters. When all of this is done, you can settle down to determine what he's actually like - and you'd better give him a name! (There's a selection of typical names by homeland for both males and females if you're stuck.) As mentioned above, there's a quick random method of character creation as well, also ideas for alternate methods if a particular focus or style of game is preferred. These need to be discussed with the GM and if used, should be used by the whole party to maintain balance. The next chapter - Chapter 3: Skills and Talents - provides all the background details and examples of use for the various choices you will be making, then Chapter 4: Rules lays out how you turn this character-sheet full of numbers into a representation of what your character can actually do, centred around the concept of task resolution.

In the Rules chapter, we find out about the dice required - d20s and d6s - along with the notation used to show how many of what dice you should roll when and a note about the special custom dice Modiphius are marketing for this game. This is more for visual effect than anything else, regular dice will do just fine. A skills test is only needed when the character is distracted or threatened, or when there are consequences for failure - the rest of the time, you can assume success. When you do need to resolve a task, attributes as well as specific skills come into play - as always, it sounds more complex on paper than it is once you start playing and get used to it! However there are additional complexities due to how hard the task is of itself and whatever else is going on: this is stuff the GM needs to understand to set a target number for a roll. There's plenty of explanation and examples to help, though. In addition, there is an interesting mechanic called Momentum - a kind of cumulative effect that if you do well at one roll, you gain extra points to add to it or a subsequent success - your character is on a bit of a roll, so to speak. This is balanced by the GM's Doom points, which are used to throw a spanner in the works.

The next chapter is Action Scenes, which dives straight in with the turn sequence used in combat. There's a neat little note that if the players spend too much time deciding what to do, the GM should start adding points to his Doom pool as a warning... the bad guys getting an advantage due to their indecision! There's material about ambushes, distance, terrain, movement and much more - this is not solely about brawling although of course combat is important, and rightly so. Any RPG needs to provide this sort of excitement, even more when in a milieu such as this! In combat, each character has a range of actions they can undertake, and also can make a reaction to what someone else does. Again, there appears to be a huge amount to grasp here, but it becomes much clearer once you have run through a few combats.

Chapter 6: Equipment follows, with some interesting notes on money and on obtaining items by theft or violence if you don't fancy paying for them. You can even abstract 'earning' (if that's the right word) money from petty thievery if your character wants to spend time roaming a market or similar crowded place pilfering and picking pockets. There's a vast array of items large and small to purchase, as well as lists of armour and weapons.

Next, Chapter 7 deals with Sorcery. Most of the time in the Conan stories, sorcery is evil - or at least, those who practise it are. The GM might decide not to allow player characters to learn or use sorcery at all, or may limit it severely. Here, however, you can learn how it works. Essential for GMs, and recommended for players who have managed to persuade their GM to let them wield magic. There is a whole range of different things that you can learn and do, different kinds of magic even; and of course loads of spells and magical items.

This is followed by Chapter 8: The Hyborian World, which is a gazetteer of the setting. It makes for a fascinating read, whether or not you are already familiar with the setting from the stories (or past attempts to game here). It starts off with history, then goes region by region, repleat with quotes and illustrations. There's a sort of 'shorthand' relating each nation to which ancient Earth culture it's loosely based on... Ignore it! Treat them as fascinating places in their own right and let the alternate reality form in your mind. Articles about customs, heritage, and much more contribute to our understanding... it all makes you want to go there.

The last part of the book is aimed at the GM, with chapters on Gamemastering and Encounters as well as a full adventure to get you started. In Vultures of Shem the party comes across the aftermath of a battle between Shem and Khoraja and have to deal with far more than they bargained for... unspeakable horror, no less. When the action is over, there is no shortage of ideas for follow-up adventures, making it easy to use this adventure as a spring-board for an entire campaign.

Finally, there is a chapter on Heroes of the Age (fully-developed characters to use as enemies or allies), based on contributions from backers of the Kickstarter campaign that brought this work to your hands. Of course, if you are in a real rush to get playing, you can choose your character from amongst them. There's twenty-odd of them, so something will probably appeal. An index and a blank character sheet rounds out the set. If you buy the PDF, you get a selection of different character sheets and a big single-sheet map as well.

This is definitely a magnificent presentation of Conan's Hyborian World, all ready to adventure in. By Crom, I'll fetch my sword and sandals and go exploring!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
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Robert E. Howards CONAN Roleplaying Game Quickstart
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2017 08:22:11

Opening with a brief history of Robert E. Howard's creation of Conan, interspersed with quotations from the books, this work boldly proclaims that this Conan game, unlike any of its predecessors, has been produced in collaboration with serious scholars of Howard's work and thus is closer to the original concept than any other.

Next, Chapter 2: The Hyborian Age introduces the setting, describing the nations that populate this rich setting and discussing their loose relationship with real-world history, before we move on to Chapter 3: Basic Rules. This explains enough of the game mechanics to enable you to understand the notations on the seven pre-generated characters provided, and - of course - to play the sample adventure presented here. There's a brief overview of attributes and skills, then it gets down to the detail of how they are actually used in play. This includes the concept of Complications (adverse events that happen when you roll a natural 20) and Momentum (a pool of advantage gained by achieving more successes than you need, which can be used to boost the effectiveness of what you are doing straight away or any action taken shortly thereafter... or even made available to your colleagues). The GM meanwhile accumulates Doom, to use against the party. Some examples are given to show how the system works. Cnapter 4: Action Scenes then explains how combat works. Rather confusingly (as the rest of the rules are easy to understand) a weird symbol that looks like an eagle suddenly appears, which refers to custom 'combat dice' that have been produced for this game... and are explained a few pages later. Fortunately ordinary six-sided dice will do the job just fine.

Next comes the adventure itself, To Race the Thunder. This sets the party amidst a Pictish uprising on the banks of the Thunder River near Fort Tuscelan, with plenty of opportunities to brawl as they flee to safety. Both Picts and the local wildlife will be after them as they race to warn the Fort and other settlers... and to save their own skins! It's no walk in the park, with a tough pitched battle and encounter with a Pictish shaman as a finale.

The adventure provides a bit of excitement and some good exercise (not just for the sword arm!), and should give your group a feel of the sort of action they can expect when playing this game. It does capture the rougher, more combat-oriented aspects of Conan well and bodes well for the full game.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Robert E. Howards CONAN Roleplaying Game Quickstart
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The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2017 07:47:37

This short work is a fine moulding of a traditional yet quite modern view of witchcraft into the game mechanics of Swords & Wizardry, enabling the creation and play of a witch character within the game.

There is a lot of background material crammed in, for being a witch is a lot more than learning a handful of spells and finding yourself a familiar. It's a philosophy, a religion, a way of life - and this is mirrored here, along with the necessary rules information that you'll need to create a character. The Aiséiligh Tradition puts a contemporary spin on the class, reflecting how present-day real world witches seek to re-establish and maintain former beliefs in a world that's a mix of very hidebound faiths intolerant of other beliefs and many who do not acknowledge the existence of deities at all.

There are some neat new spells, again encapsulating modern traditions yet keeping hold of the concepts that normally spring to mind when you say 'witch'... especially when you are thinking in game terms. It's interesting to read and exciting to play, especially if you enjoy getting in touch with your feminine side but see no reason for that to mean that your character is weak or subservient: these are strong yet feminine women. A nice addition to this game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2017 08:20:18

Written completely in-character, this work is subtitled "The Investigator's Guide to Occult London" and is purportedly based on the research of the recently deceased Augustus Darcy. Perhaps, if you are using Bookhounds of London, this has turned up in your characters' bookshop. Or, in any campaign, it has come to the Investigators' attention in some manner, a useful resource if their investigations take them to London.

If you are the Keeper, a thorough study of this tome will reap great rewards in terms of local colour and the myriad ideas for plots that will spawn as you read through it. Do, however, share it with your players; let their characters consult it during the game or even let them read it at their leisure between games.

The main part is a discussion of places, an occult gazetteer. Divided into geographical areas (beginning with the Square Mile of the City of London itself), entries are then alphabetical, making it relatively easy to find the one that you want. For each location there are notes on relevant occult connections (note: occult, rather than Mythos), with frequent references to ghost sightings, inexplicable feelings or smells and the like. Much lies unexplained - and that's the fun part, any one might become the basis of one of your plots, or at least be part and parcel of it. You barely need to lay out the clues, they are here for the party to find for themselves! Period images mingle with snippets of lore at every turn.

There is also a section on various people, some historical like John Dee, others supposedly contemporary figures of the occult scene. Perhaps the Investigators will encounter them in their travels, or seek one out if their knowledge is appropriate to the matter in hand. Again, reading many of these entries suggest encounters and plots a-plenty.

As a casual read this is a fascinating work. Even if you are not a role-player, or prefer other genres of game, it makes for an entertaining read if you have an interest in occult lore or indeed if you know your way around London - if you are not near to there, you can pull up most of the locations on Google Maps! (Or if you have Bookhounds of London, the extensive 1930s London maps therein will come in handy in orienting yourself.) If you do play any Myths-related game, or one based in the 1930s or thereabouts, it becomes an invaluable in-character resource.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Book of the Smoke
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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 08:33:26

Most Investigators are accustomed to having, in the course of their investigations, to consult the odd musty tome in the library - but have they ever wondered how they got there? The core idea of Bookhounds of London is that the party consists of book-dealers who hunt down and sell said dusty old tomes, and get dragged into dealing with what some of them cover almost by accident...

The first section, Bookhounds, is all about creating appropriate characters from somewhere in the rarified yet disreputable book-dealing world. (OK, I know it's set later and is about the Devil rather than the Mythos, but the movie The Ninth Gate keepts floating around my mind at the moment.) There are some new occupations directly engaged with the rare book trade as well as suggestions about how to twist existing ones to suit. There's also a fascinating new Ability called The Knowledge, which - similar to a London black cab driver - confers an encycopaedic knowledge of what's to be found in London and the best route to get there.

Next, a look at Bookshops. The idea is that all Bookhounds (which is what Investigators are called in this campaign) are based in and around a store, run by one of them who has taken the Bookseller occupation. There are various rules for defining stock and other such matters (if you want to go into so much detail) but the real purpose of the bookshop is as a focal point for adventures and a home base for the Bookhounds themselves. Various types are discussed, from a book-barrow under Waterloo Bridge to fancy high-end stores and high-end auction houses.

Appropriately, the next section is The Purchase of Curious Tomes. While the book trade itself is important in this type of campaign, it's not central and some groups may wish to keep it more in the background than others. The rules here enable the simulation of a thriving book store's operations without bogging down in too much detail, and there's enough terminology to make you all sound the part. For those too young to remember 'old' British money, a complex system ditched in 1971 in favour of the decimal system in use today, there are notes on that, although it's suggested that you abstract rather than getting too bogged down in your pounds, shillings and pence. Estate sales, auctions... complete with dramatic rules for auctions when you want to play one out.

Next come Libraries. The sort we are interested in here don't lend, you have to go there - and be allowed in - if you wish to consult their books. Even when you have gained admittance, the sort of books that interest us here may be on restricted access. Several suitable libraries in London are described, with notes on how to get in and the books to be found there... and then of course we have the Books Themselves, beginning with physical details and then moving on to notes on the different kinds of occult works to be found. Sample genuine historical occult books are listed for some local colour, before moving on to Mythos Tomes with again a few examples.

We then leave the books aside, with a massive section on Thirties London. There's loads of flavour text to help you get a feel of it, with rumours and contacts galore. Different sections of London are outlined, and it makes for a fascinating read never mind a useful resource. The survey is followed by a section on The London Mythos which discusses cults and individuals, complete with plot hooks and other notes to get them mixed up in the stories that you have to tell. Many call upon monsters, so the next section is London's Monsters. Each comes with copious notes to make them easy to use when the need arises.

Then comes the strange magick of Megapolisomancy. This weird art uses the city itself to cause change to occur in accordance with will - it may be something you can study like other arcane arts or perhaps it is used insinctively by those steeped in a city's lore. The extensive material here will let you incorporate it into your game: whether you let the party use it or reserve it for NPCs is up to you.

Now to practical matters with a section on Running a Bookhounds Campaign. There are plenty of styles to conjure with here, read through and decide what will suit the group and the stories you have to tell best. Ideas about, enough to spawn several campaigns... and that's before we reach the NPCs. There are example bookstores, complete with owners, staff and their own bookhounds, as well as individuals of interest. Even if you don't want to run a Bookhounds campaign, these could come in useful if more regular Investigators want to interact with them during the course of their adventures. These NPCs come with a range of options, shaded to suit the style and needs of your campaign: customise them to your heart's content.

The discussion then moves on to Scenarios. Like any other for this game, they provide a series of encounters and clues that lead to an horrifying glimpse of the Mythos lurking just beyond the ken of normal folk, occult mysteries revealed. Structure and pacing are discussed, mechanical tools that if used during the design process ensure that the whole thing stays on track and delivers suitable horror-laced entertainment to your group. Use maps liberally to give a feeling of location and with liberal use of plot hooks, character-driven adventures, and contacts you will soon be up and running. As an example, there's a whole adventure, Whitechapel Black-Letter, to get you going. There may be a book at its core, but this scenario provides scope for plenty of action as well!

Appropriately for a book about books, there is an extensive bibliography in back, along with some floorplans. Perhaps the Mythos is loose in the Palace of Westminster (home of the British Parliament), or there are clues to be found in the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum or even London Zoological Gardens. The Tower of London, the Victoria and Albert Museum (the Vic and Al, as it's known to locals) or the British Museum itself might contain that for which you seek. There are plenty more maps as well, street maps of most of London (I can even find the street where I grew up!), plenty for your group to explore. Various forms and appendices round this work off.

Not only does this provide a very novel slant to adventuring, there's the tremendous resource of London laid out for you whatever you want to do there, and an inside look at the book trade that provides the tomes your Investigators (be they Bookhounds or not) find themselves pouring over. And there's a cracking adventure to boot!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
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Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Dead White World
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2017 08:28:50

This book contains the first three adventures of a twelve-part campaign, Cthulhu Apocalypse that presents an horrific end-time in which life on earth is almost wiped out to be replaced by Mythos creatures. Only the Investigators stand in the way of utter disaster...

Five pre-generated Investigators are provided (in somewhat narrative form, best to transfer them to regular character sheets before giving them out), or players may create their own. Some advice for certain aspects of the characters is given. Everyone starts on a train going to Dover, with many intending to go to a wedding there. Next, the supporting cast of NPCs is listed, with brief notes and ideas for how to role-play them effectively including mannerisms and style of speech. This preparatory section also includes some notes on game mechanics specific to this campaign. One neat trick is that along with a hook, each adventure begins with a question. It is suggested that this question is read out to the group, giving direction as to what they ought to be investigating.

The first adventure is Dead White World, which begins with a train journey, is punctuated by an earthquake, and ends up with a large proportion of the world's population dead or dying. The question, unsurprisingly, is What caused this apocalypse. Opening with the Investigators regaining consciouness and realising that the train they were travelling in has crashed, they are soon plunged into an eerie world where everyone that they find is already dead. And there are these strange white flowers everywhere...

Rather oddly, after leading the Investigators around Dover as they try to find out what is going on, the final clues are to be found on a ship. Yet the adventure ends with them back on land and finding a Royal Mail van... there's no hint about how to get them on shore (more earthquakes and the cliffs falling into the sea never mind what else is going on is, to my mind, an invitation to seek sea room not return to the land), yet that's where the next adventure begins.

The next adventure is Letters From Ghosts and revolves around letters from recently deceased friends and family of the Investigators that are found in the aforementioned Royal Mail van. How did they get there? That's the question. The entire clue chain comes over as rather forced and requires the Investigators to take a precise series of actions to end up where it is intended that they should go. On the plus side, there is a marvellous opportunity to mess with your Investigators' heads. Use it to full effect. It's all really a bit strange, even given the overall premise, but persevere: there are clues to be found and places to visit, even survivors to meet... ultimately Blackpool, the setting for the third adventure.

The final adventure in this book (remember there are more to come in the campaign) is Sandgrown. The earlier clues have led the Investigators to believe that they have to go to Blackpool to stop an invasion - the question being, how? Here, they find some more folk who have survived so far (or have they?) and eventually, after a few mind-blowing sights, discover the awful truth of the one way in which they can stop the invasion.

The whole thing is a slightly uneasy mix of very little direction yet expecting the Investigators to go to specific places and take an interest in particular things. The underlying concept is excellent if a bit final. The world as you knew it has most definitely ended, there's no changing that. Resources are good, and there are some really inventive ideas here. With the right group, you could have an epic and memorable campaign on your hands.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Dead White World
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Trail of Cthulhu: Not So Quiet
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2017 08:00:24

This is a one-off scenario, with pre-generated characters provided, set in a military hospital located just behind the lines in Belgium during the First World War. It's written as a purist adventure, but if you prefer to go a bit more pulp some ideas are provided to enable you to run it in that style.

There's some background that explains what is going on at the hospital, then it's on with the action, with the opening scene being in an ambulance convoy heading towards the hospital. Those characters who are injured and who will become patients at the hospital should determine with the Keeper what wounds they have and how they acquired them, this can be dealt with in a flashback scene (which may be held in reserve by the Keeper to be run at a dramatically-appropriate moment). For those who have been posted to the hospital, likely as medical staff, there's a slightly calmer introductory scene... but everyone ends up in the same ambulance convoy, although they do not know each other at this point. Then it comes under fire...

Assuming they survive the attack, everyone arrives at the hospital. It's pretty chaotic. Injured characters will have to be assessed and assigned to wards, those who have come to work here need to report in and be assigned their duties. There's also a rather excitable chaplain to deal with. From then on in it is a case of trying to figure out what is going on, with a host of NPCs to get to grips with, and various events and encounters as they figure out what is happening and how it can be halted.

Designed for a single evening's play it has the scope to be intense and highlight how even worse war can become if the Mythos gets mixed in. However, the mix of characters provided may not be ideal - it's hard to see how they will gel into a team - and an endnote suggests possible solutions mostly based on creating your own characters. Intended as a one-off, there are no thoughts for a follow-up - although it might possibly be used as a 'prequel' to a regular game: this is where the Investigators met and first encountered Things That Should Not Be, then skip ten years or so and they meet again to commence their adventuring careers.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Not So Quiet
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The Terror of Tumbledown - Game Pack
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2017 12:38:54

This game pack contains all you need (apart from players and dice) to run the adventure The Terror of Tunbledown, comprising the adventure itself, detailed floorplans and a collection of counters to use with the miniatures-sized floorplans.

The adventure itself is set in a partially ruined and seemingly abandoned manor house in a bleak semi-wilderness location that has an evil reputation. It starts off with a detailed background that begins ten years ago when new owners moved into Tumbledown Manor... and ends with the place in flames due to the unspeakable practices of its now late (or so it is believed) owner. Now his widow is distraught at the disappearance of her daughter and the local villagers hire the party to investigate...

Interestingly, an alternate background is provided for those who prefer even more convoluted plots - if you want something more complex than the basic "clean out the manor and rescue the girl" of the core plot, this adds a neat twist (which I must say did actually occur to me when I read the background, maybe I'm naturally devious!). There are also plenty of rumours flying around, some of which might even be true!

The adventure consists of the exploration of the manor house, and dealing with whatsoever can be found there. Needless to say, plenty of opportunistic wildlife and monsters have moved in to the ruins. Delightfully, the notes for many encounters with the newcomers cover not just their tactics when the party arrives, but potential developments - often things that could lead to completely new adventures in the future. The exploration is freeform - the party can take whatever route they please through the ruins - but time and tide wait for no man, and some locations differ depending on how quickly they reach them, making for a setting that has a life of its own over and above interactions with the party.

The climax of the adventure is suitably dramatic and the party gets the opportunity not just to rescue the girl but to do so in suitably cinematic style. A fitting conclusion... and there are plenty of notes to help you with the aftermath, whether they succeed or fail, including suggestions for further adventures. There are also notes on new monsters introduced in this adventure.

OK, that's the adventure. The floorplans are presented in standard 0one Games style, with the 'Rule the Dungeon' customisation options, although when running this adventure you'll want to leave Furniture enabled, so as to have all the debris described in the room descriptions present.

The counters provided depict the main NPCs including a couple of the monsters and some zombies and skeletons as well, although not every critter the party is likely to meet is there. Fortunately there are plenty of blanks on which you can draw (or write the name of) anything else you want a counter for. They can be used on the map tiles with your party's miniatures (or then can use blank counters if they don't have miniatures) if you enjoy a graphic display of combat.

The adventure makes for a fun and cinematic delve (especially if you use the alternate plot!), and it is well-resourced so that you can pretty well play it straight out of the box (well, ZIPfile).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Terror of Tumbledown - Game Pack
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Dance in the Blood
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/31/2017 08:20:19

More terror stalks Britian in what is the author's third purist adventure. The introduction soon explains the dreadful truth that underlies the plot, one that involves the Investigators personally. Neatly, it doesn't matter if you are using the pre-generated characters provided or your players produce their own - the way it is set up enables you to accommodate either option. If players actually like their own characters, though, it is probably best to run this as a one-off. If they want to take the third path and create their own charaters specifically for this adventure, a few requirements are laid out. Indeed, Investigators who don't meet those requirements probably won't work very well in this adventure.

There's a neat twist to the Stability rules for Investigators going insane, that turns matters over to the players and makes it almost pleasurable to go round the bend. This will work best for those players who enjoy role-playing mental issues making it almost a competition to see who goes mad first, but other groups may find that they prefer the traditional approach of attempting to cling on to their sanity while the Keeper tries to chip it away (even if they do enjoy role-playing the almost inevitable madness). Take a look and choose what will work best for your game.

The main NPCs are listed, with brief notes and advice on role-playing them (particularly useful if you like to act out a bit - voices, gestures and the like - when speaking as that character). Then the adventure itself starts with the Investigators gathering in an hotel in the Lake District, not knowing each other and mostly a bit baffled about why they have even come there... then they see the photograph. That alone should rock them back on their heels, but it is only the beginning. Strange dreams, events, encounters... and no matter what their Stability score says, they will probably feel that they are going mad.

There are a few handouts - notes to be found and a crude sketchmap of the area - but that's about it. Note that with the pre-generated characters, you'll have to transfer them to a character sheet, they are presented in a narrative style which would make it fairly difficult to cut them out and distribute them amongst the players.

This is possibly the most purist adventure I have read. It ends with the Investigators facing a stark choice and an inevitable doom. It won't suit some folks, but if you are ready to embrace some mind-numbing horror that fair sends shivers up your spine... try this one cold, dark night.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Dance in the Blood
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Black Drop
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/30/2017 07:43:42

Cabable of working well in both purist or pulp modes (or a combination of both) this adventure is set in the remote Kerguelen archipelago (far south in the Indian ocean), which is just about to be abandoned. Oddly, just as the settlers depart, a German expedition arrives with mysterious purpose... and what lurks there, in the bleak rocks?

The background explains all for the Keeper and lays out the terrible choice facing the Investigators. You may decide to keep this as a one-off, or notes are provided if you prefer to weave it into an existing campaign (but bear in mind that this adventure may well be the party's last if you do). Pre-generated characters are provided and they are, of course, all embedded into the story. If you are using your own characters, assorted reasons for why they might be there are provided.

The adventure itself begins on the voyage to the Kerguelen Islands, and there's plenty of interaction to be had (and clues to be picked up) before the ship arrives there... and a bleak, cold and unwelcoming place it is, too. Everyone is dropped off, their ship has other matters to attend to and will be back to pick them up in a couple of weeks. There's a flurry of activity with the last few settlers packing up, the German expedition turns up having lost one of their number and again there are plenty of opportunities for interaction and to find yet more clues... and then things begin to go wrong. Murder and arson are the least of it...

The Investigators will be able to wander the main island pretty much as they please: there's plenty to be found... and a fair bit going on. And eventually they will find... well, the climax involves a dark and dreadful deity, cultists hell-bent on restoring his power and even greater fanatics trying to stop it. Anyone not ending up a sacrifice or in some other way dead will be very lucky indeed.

There's a wonderful sense of bleakness and approaching menace, a creepy cinematic atmosphere that thickens with every moment. NPC notes, handouts, a couple of photos of wildlife, and maps of the islands (and a ship plan) help you keep on top of everything and create a chilling adventure that will live long in the players' minds (there's a good chance that their characters won't survive to remember anything, though)... and all under the threat that if that deity isn't stopped things look bad for the entire world.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Black Drop
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