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Eurotour: Danger & Death on a Euro-Rock Tour
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/16/2018 07:44:14

One of the almost throwaway suggestions for a campaign in the Cyberpunk 2020 is brought to life in this book. The idea is that the party form part of the entourage of a rock band on tour. They might be techies and stage hands, media people handling publicity, security, or even band members. Here, an American musician called Jack Entropy is embarking on a tour of Europe, and within this framework there are six full adventures provided - plus, of course, whatever you can dream up to embellish proceedings further. It's suitable for beginning characters - if they are more experienced, you might want to beef up the opposition. It's recommended that you also read Eurosource so as to be able to set the scene to best effect.

The suggestion for starting the campaign is that the party are also Americans who for some reason find themselves stranded in Liverpool, England, and in need of work. A few ideas are given about how this might happen; you'll need to tailor them to your own party. Depending on their roles, party members will be able to hire on for various jobs on Entropy's tour - a chance to earn money, gain some new and interesting entries on their resumes, and get the necessary paperwork to operate in Europe legally. Highlight the differences between Europe and America. It's a lot more civilised, and your average Night City 'punk will stand out like a sore thumb in many places. This should quite often cause them problems all on its own, even before they start doing something untoward or, perish the thought, illegal.

The adventures provided are varied, involving rescuing Entropy from a spot of bother with British gangs and a kidnapping attempt, protecting a graffiti artist providing some publicity for the tour in an unorthodox manner, dealing with a bomb plot and getting mixed up in a revolution. There's also an overarcing theme which leaves you to decide who is the villain out of six possible candidates, by providing six options whenever the party might pick up a clue that Something Is Going On.

There's loads of detail to bring everything to life: exotic locations, detailed biographies of members of the tour and other key players, heck, even the bit-part players get an evocative sentence or two to provide a thumbnail sketch you can use to good effect. Oh, and snippets from the press.

This campaign sourcebook manages to be something quite different from the usual and yet completely cyberpunk. Certainly worth a try if you're after something novel.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eurotour: Danger & Death on a Euro-Rock Tour
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Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2018 08:28:10

No preamble, this just jumps straight in to Life on the Edge with Section 1: Soul & the New Machine - encapsulating the in-your-face attitude that's at the core of the cyberpunk genre. Sidebars fill in details and quotes from celebrities of the cyberpunk world like musician Johnny Silverhand provide flavour as the text explains the core pragmatic survivalist with a touch of idealism approach that the true 'Punk takes to life. An overview of future history, written as if in the year 2020 looking back to the late 1980s shows how the world came to be in the state that it is - and is quite entertaining when read in the real 2018... yes we do have the 'Net, but other aspects - such as incorporating cybertechnologies into our own bodies - haven't happened yet.

It's all style over substance, projecting attitude, living on the edge. Before we know it, we're reading about the 'roles' (Cyberpunk's version of character class) and their special abilities. There are nine roles - Rockerboys, Solos, Netrunners, Corporates, Techies, Cops, Fixers, Medias and Nomads - and each have something to bring to the party, something unique to that role. Each one gets a couple of pages explaining where they fit and what they can do... and these are vivid enough that you can easily envisage a campaign built around any of them.

Next comes Section 2: Getting Cyberpunk. This covers character creation. It's basically a point-buy system, with the numbers of points you have either assigned by the GM based on the style of game they have in mind or randomly by rolling 9d10 and adding them together. There are nine Statistics to spend them on (Intelligence, Reflexes, Cool, Technical Ability, Luck, Attractiveness, Movement Allowance, Empathy and Body). Many things like strength, endurance and so on that normally form core game statistics are calculated from these nine in this system. Then you choose skills, with a vast range of different ones mainly associated with your chosen role (but you can cross-train), and at this point a mechanic for 'Fast and Dirty Expendables' is introduced for those not wishing to spend ages pouring over the options. It's quick enough to be recommended for making NPCs as well.

This is followed by possibly the most interesting part of character creation, Section 3: Tales from the Street. This is where you put some substance into the character with a mechanic called Lifepath that builds some background... it's a flowpath that covers national/ethnic origins, family, friends, enemies, personal habits and key events from your past... all of which may have an influence on your present. You can roll dice, or pick what you fancy from the options, as you please. If I don't have a vivid idea of who the character is, I start out with the dice, then change things as the character begins to come to life. Starting with some notes on personal style (clothes, hairdo and accessories), you find out nationality and language, a fair bit of detail about your family, and about what motivates you before you reach the Lifepath proper. Basically for each year over the age of 16, there's a chance that something happened that year. This is where it is fun to let the dice loose... and the GM will likely have a field day with the trail you have left through time. It's something that can be fun to play with in an idle moment, even if you don't have a game coming up!

Section 4: Working looks at tasks and skills in great detail, starting with a look at how to check if you have succeeded in whatever you are trying to do, applicable die modifiers and so on. The basic mechanic involves adding the appropriate statistic to a single applicable skill and rolling 1d10 against a GM-set target, or against someone else's roll if it is an opposed task. Now you know how to use skills, we move on to look at what skills are available and how to acquire them. You get ten career skills associated with the role you have chosen, and forty points to spend on them. You also get 'pickup skills' to further customise the character. There's a detailed listing of skills and what you can do with them to help you choose (although I still worry about a game that has 'Resist Torture/Drugs' as a skill... it's not one I want to have to use!). For those who like to invent, there are notes on creating new roles and new skills, although there's plenty here. The approach to martial arts is quite interesting, allowing for a lot of variety without getting bogged down in excessive detail.

Now it's time to equip our new character, with Section 5: Getting Fitted for the Future which covers weapons, armour and 'gear' - most everything else. Apart from cyberware which comes later in its own section. Here we find talk of the typical lifestyle (rootless and disposable), find out how much the character earns, and check on encumberance (important when you carry most of what you own), before looking at weapons in great detail. Armour and everything else have much smaller sections.

Then, Section 6: Putting the Cyber into the Punk does just that. It starts off talking about style and image, but soon veers off into cyberpsychosis, a mental illness that can affect someone who replaces or augments so much of his body that he runs the risk of losing touch with his human side. Suitably advised of the risks, we then move on to the cyberwear itself. Some of it is fluff, some has practical application, sometimes even combat use... but there's page upon page of it, plenty of choice for everyone. Some characters start off with some, others choose to get 'cybered-up' later on when funds permit... or when injury requires replacement body parts. In true Cyberpunk style, there are 'fashionware' modifications like hair that changes colour or a watch implanted in your wrist rather than being worn on it, as well as replacement limbs, implanted weapons and neuralware that enhances thought processes, memory, and has other effects depending on just quite what you have installed. A common enhancement is the interface plug, vital for netrunners, but useful if you operate any kind of machinery - or a smart gun - that you want to control by mind rather than physically. The one drawback is that these are all expensive. Various ways for getting the cash are discussed, but all involve selling out in some manner, and may have other consequences.

Now things start hotting up with Section 7: Friday Night Firefight. This is the combat system for the game, and is covered in extensive detail. It opens with the statement that the game mechanics have been designed with an eye to realism rather than to Hollywood-style 'heroes never miss and never run out of bullets' concepts, and then gets down to details. Combat is conducted in rounds representing about three seconds, and each conscious combatant gets to do something each round. Just what you can do and how it is done is covered in almost-scary detail... but once you have the hang of it, it actually flows pretty well. If combat is your thing, it is an excellent and comprehensive system, capable of handling as much detail and realism that you want. If you are less interested, it can be abstracted... or you may find it too dangerous and avoid a brawl whenever possible! There are loads of hints and tips about how to fight to best effect which are well worth reading, even if you don't intend to engage in combat: you often do not get the option!

Possibly just as well, the next section is Section 8: Trauma Team. This covers everything you need to know about medicine and the healing arts... and death. Fortunately in this vision of the near-future, there's a fast-response paramedic corporation (called TraumaTeam) who guarantee to get to you within seven minutes wherever you are... provided you pay the subscription! Assuming medical help is available, the process of getting better from whatever trauma or disease has laid you low is covered. One point is that this is no fantasy game: even with modern/futuristic technology, it takes time to recover from illness or injury. It's not just emergency medicine either, this section covers the medical aspects of getting cyberwear too, as well as notes on 'bodysculpting' - which sounds a bit better than cosmetic surgery. There's also considerable detail on TraumaTeam's operations. They come combat-ready, with security personnel as well as paramedics, so a wounded subscriber can literally be picked up while the fight's still going on (you could even run a campaign based on a TraumaTeam's exploits, or one I did that involved several rival paramedic services engaged in a turf war...).

Next, Section 9: Drugs looks at everything from medical-grade pharmacuticals to combat enhancers and recreational compounds. Many are literally designed to be addictive, so perhaps they are best left alone. On the other hand, if you prefer to design your own, there are rules for that as well.

Then comes perhaps the defining bit, Section 10: Netrunner. A lot of people are scared of this... and it can be quite hard in the middle of a session to cater for the party net-head without leaving the rest of the group sitting around getting bored. Some GMs even refuse to have netrunner characters, but it does add something special to the game if you manage to handle it. There's a lot about the 'geography' and functioning of the Net - and it's interesting reading looking back from present-day familiarity with the World Wide Web and the ease of net-browsing without plugging in bare-brained! Equipment and programs are covered here, along with the nasty things that can happen to the incautious or unlucky who pokes into some corner of the Net where they ought not to be. If you do want to do some serious netrunning, all the game mechanics you'll need are here - including how to build systems to be attacked, and how to create your own programs; but remember, there's a lot that the party netrunner can do whilst remaining (mostly) in the real world, even during a brawl or an intrusion.

Now it's time to look in more detail at the world you'll inhabit, with Section 11: All Things Dark and Cyberpunk. There's a future history timeline from 1990 to 2020. The European Union has become a monolithic trading bloc, space exploration - at least orbital - is flourishing, and corporations are taking the place of nation-states, even to the extent of having wars with each other. Plenty of commentary to put meat on the timeline's bones, to show you how everything developed to the current state. Law and order is discussed, and it's a harsh system of retribution... so best not to be caught! Any semblance of arms control, even in the USA, has gone completely out of the window, and self defence is an acceptable excuse. However, self-driving cars have not been developed although here it's possible to control your vehicle by thought by jacking in to it, although that's quite rare and expensive. People still write letters, or they can send faxes instead - e-mail appears not to have been developed. Newspapers flourish and there are some 186 TV channels. It's all a fascinating look at what the future might have been... but it created a fun world when written, and works well as an alternate path when played today.

Section 12: Running Cyberpunk tries to answer the question of "How do I run this game?" Plenty of ideas about how to set the scene of the gritty urban underbelly in which it always seems to be raining... There are staggering contrasts between the haves and the have-nots, and it's never clear who can be trusted and who is double-crossing you. Play it hard and fast. A bibliography is provided to help GMs immerse themselves in the atmosphere and style of the cyberpunk genre. There are suggestions for how to coax the normally antisocial and individualistic 'punks into teams, so that your group can work together.

Next, Section 13: Never Fade Away is ostensibly fiction to get you in the moon... but it is resourced enough with maps, stats for the main characters and other details that you could convert it into a scenario. This is followed by Section 14: Megacorps 2020, which provides background material on the nature of these vast organisations and how they impact with the day-to-day life of the average 'punk on the street. There are plenty of adventure ideas here, there's money to be made on the fringes as corporations often hire deniable assets to do their dirty work. There are outline sketches of several of the largest and best-known corporations, covering a brief history and listing their assets. I always giggle at one - Microtech - because I worked for a company of the same name when this book first came out. It was a tiny software house rather than a monster builder of hardware, though!

Finally an introduction to the default setting in Section 15: Night City provides you with a ready-made urban environment to run your game. There's a lot of detail here (and a whole supplement dedicated to it if you want...), with locations, personalities, suggested encounters and a collection of 'screamsheets' (print-on-demand newspapers) that provide a wealth of adventure ideas, some of which have been expanded for you. Of course, you might prefer to use your own home town - just use the material here to give it a cyberpunk spin.

This game has given me hours of innocent amusement over the years, from both sides of the GM's screen, as well as having written several convention scenarios. It has worn well, and is still playable today, especially for lovers of gritty underbellies of the future, with an excellent if extremely detailed combat system that pulls no punches. Still well worth the getting if you like this genre!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The Second Edition, Version 2.01
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Delta Green: Handler's Screen
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/05/2018 08:41:52

Never mind the game, it's nice to have someplace to squirrel away your notes and roll dice where players cannot see them... and if it has something useful to contribute that's even better!

This one has four panels. The side for the Handler has various useful tables, presented in a somewhat jumbled way reminiscent of a hastily-assembled pin-board - it's worth becoming familiar with where everything is before you need to refer to it in the heat of play.

The tables include a range of ones for using skills, including some useful advice - "Don't roll dice if things are calm and under control, do roll dice if it's a crisis and things are out of control" - as well as loads of ideas for modifiers to use depending on the situation and how hard the thing being accomplished happens to be. There are also combat actions and combat modifiers, a whole selection of other ways to do damage to the party, and finally one panel on SAN and the lack thereof... all the game mechanics you're going to need neatly tabulated.

The player side is a collage of rather blurry artwork, the best bit of which is an image of someone practising on the shooting range. Either a distraction as you try to figure out what the rest is, or something you'll get tired of looking at really quickly.

You also get a copy of the quickstart module Need to Know, which can be obtained for free as a PDF download, so this seems quite highly priced for the downloadable version. Best go for the hard copy version so you don't have to print the thing out and get a paperback copy of Need to Know into the bargain.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Delta Green: Handler's Screen
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Delta Green: Kali Ghati
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/02/2018 09:54:23

The situation is simple. A Delta Green operative has gone missing from a US military base in Afghanistan. The party, also Delta Green operatives, are sent to find out what happened - and retrieve the missing person if possible. It's assumed that the party are already in Afghanistan - as soldiers, intelligence agents, civilian contractors or the like - and some pregenerated characters are provided if required. In a delightful twist, they're told that whatever they really are, they will pose as CIA agents who are posing as Army intelligence specialists and civilian advisors... and of course, they are not supposed to let on that they are CIA, never mind Delta Green!

The background information for the Handler (GM) explains what the missing man was doing, and why he was in this particular base in the first place. There's also comprehensive information about the base itself and the few people still there - it was in the process of being handed over to the Afghani Army as the Americans reduce their presence in country. Gathering information about the agent's disappearance will require a lot of interaction, and all that's needed to role-play this to effect is provided. Everything seems to be centred on a mysterious village called Kali Ghati, which nobody seems prepared to admit exists, let alone want to go there.

This should be enough to get the party wanting to go there. Naturally, it's not exactly safe driving through Taliban-infested country, never mind the sort of issues Delta Green is there to combat... and there's a neat firefight to get through before they actually reach the place (not to mention that they might be on foot by then, with a harsh environment to contend with along with all their other ills). Eventually they'll get there, and find a weird bunch of villagers to interact with - again, you're given what you need to make them come alive in the game.

The climax of the adventure takes place in a cliff-top temple, which the party will have to climb up to and explore... and survive, if they can. Overall, it's a neat little adventure suitable for use as a one-off or campaign starter (for either of which you might use the pre-generated characters) or, if you have a reasonably military-oriented group, something you can weave into an existing campaign. Alien horrors, unfamiliar cultures, sheer desperation that could so easily turn into despair... it's all here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Delta Green: Kali Ghati
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #40: Devil in the Mists
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/01/2018 10:13:21

The pollution in Fair Haven is getting really bad... there's this blue mist that is killing some of the inhabitants and sending many of the rest insane. It seems to be coming from the sewers, so of course any adventurer worth the name will be straight down there to find out what's going on.

The DM notes begin with an overview of the adventure, there's an encounter list, scaling information, and some notes on how best to get the party involved. This adventure can be run as a sequel to DCC7: The Secret of Smuggler's Cove, but if you don't want to do that there are a couple of other ideas to propel them in the right direction. There's also plenty background material to make sure that you're clear about what's actually going on and how it came about... underpinning it all is a devilish plot to turn the world into another plane of Hell!

The adventure proper begins with an investigation into the noisome sewers of Fair Haven. They're cramped, smelly, and there are always traces if not pockets of the deadly blue mist. Also, there are wandering monsters to contend with. There is also a magnificent puzzle/trap that appears to be the key to dealing with the mist. This includes a riddle that appears almost out of thin air, for which a handout is supplied. It's noted that a particularly harsh DM might show it only to the player of the character who sees it, and snatch it away after the 30 seconds for which it appears (I had a DM play a similar trick on me once... the poor dear didn't know I have a near-photographic memory and just wrote out the message that had faded before my character's eyes!). There's a lot more to find, to fight, and to puzzle out down here. And the smell never gets any better!

As the riddles of the sewers are solved and the inhabitants put to the sword, eventually the party should open a portal to... well, somewhere else. They get sucked in, it's unavoidable. It's a dimensional prison, caging something that really, really ought not to be allowed out; and it's full of cryptic traps and puzzles. They are partly to keep the inmates in and partly to stop anyone breaking in to rescue them, and there's a third, darker, purpose (which could lead to further adventures...). A mix of aggression and cunning is needed here. Nothing is what it seems, but all is extremely dangerous. Indeed, it's likely that not all the party will survive. There is layer upon layer, you think you've reached the end and yet another level opens before you...

The end is suitably dramatic, with the party returned to a sunny Fair Haven with an enigmatic voice ringing in their ears. There are some ideas for follow-up adventures too. If you want a wild ride of deadly danger with the well-being of the very world at stake, look no further!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #40: Devil in the Mists
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #39: DM Screen and Adventure
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2018 09:42:56

This is a first-level adventure, but as usual the challenges facing the party are not trivial. A bunch of bandits calling themselves the Broken Knives has been purloining treasures from local temples and have made their base in a ruined castle. A party cleric may serve one of the burgled temples, or the party may just see notices advertising for adventurers to raid the bandits in the local town (Grozny if you're using the default world of Aereth).

The information for the DM includes an encounter list, scaling information, location notes and extensive background mainly centred on Castle Churo, explaining why it is in such a battered state and what effects result from that... it used to belong to a magician called Churo, whose experiments with high-powered magic were ultimately his downfall. This was some thirty years ago. Meanwhile, in town there are five religions competing for power and worshippers, and these recently started suffering losses of valuable relics from their temples...

Rather unusually for this series, the adventure itself begins with the party being brought before the town's religious council, which has representatives of all five religions - three of which have been robbed. The thefts were carried out by subterranean tunnels into their storerooms and although the tunnels collapsed behind the thieves, they appear to lead back to Castle Churo. After they are briefed on the missing items, they might want to gather rumours before heading on up there. And that's where the real fun starts...

Room descriptions paint the picture well, and there's a lot going on wherever the party should venture. This is all backed up with details of monsters/NPCs, their stats and likely reactions to party intrusions, and notes of what's available to loot if the party is victorious. A few handouts are included to help players understand what their characters can see. There are some innovative traps and effects for the party to navigate... and this is before they venture into the catacombs beneath the castle ruins. The adventure is wound up neatly with several alternative outcomes, with the possibility of further action if the fellow behind the thefts evades them, or goes undetected.

It's a coherent adventure, with every encounter having a good reason to be where it is. A neat way for a new adventuring party to start building their reputations.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #39: DM Screen and Adventure
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #38: Escape from the Forest of Lanterns
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/25/2018 07:59:32

Be careful what you read! You often find magic tomes that have an effect on those that read them, but here's a truly evil effect... being dumped into a bizarre adventure based on children's fairy stories. A bit trite even if you like them, pure torture if you don't.

The DM is provided with a synopsis of the adventure, a list of encounters, scaling information, and some plot hooks to get the party trapped... er, I mean, involved in the adventure. As the adventure involves a visit to a demiplane, you can run it from anywhere although there is a suggestion for a start-point if you are using the default world of Aereth. This demiplane consists of a massive dark forest and there's plenty of information to help you set the scene. It's not just the strange location, weird things happen to the party too - but there's full coverage on how to handle that as well. Turning them into children, perhaps... but SIX years of age sounds a bit young.

The adventure proper begins when the party examines what turns out to be an animated book of children's stories. It proves to be very chatty and friendly, and eventually asks if it may tell a story to the whole party when they are together - perhaps of an evening seated around a campfire or otherwise taking their ease. And so it tells the tale of The Warty Witch and the Forest of Lanterns, about two young children who got lost in said forest and defeated the Witch to escape. The book then suggests that it might be fun to see it all firsthand...

Needless to say, the Forest of Lanterns to which the party are transported (whether or not they think it might be 'fun') is darker and nastier than the storybook version. There are plenty of wandering monsters and set-piece encounters to keep the party 'entertained' and even those who will talk rather than fight are unfriendly.Indeed there's a nasty undercurrent through the entire adventure, with assorted creatures attempting to toy with the party, messing them about for their own amusement. Somewhere in the middle is the Witch's cottage (made out of gingerbread of course), which has two floors, a tower and a dungeon underneath.

The adventure should end with the defeat of the Witch and the discovery of a way to get home, but there are other options... even the dire one of continuing in similar vein with a series of such adventures - a couple are outlined and suggestions of other modules you could adapt are provided. Be sure your group actually like this sort of thing. It's well put together but the whole concept is one that they may find repellant. It's not for me... although I may be inspired by the magical book to create one that can transport a party to places I'd actually enjoy visiting!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #38: Escape from the Forest of Lanterns
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #37: The Slithering Overlord
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/23/2018 08:18:59

This is a classic delve, sending the party deep underground to rescue hostages and loot treasure from marauding troglodytes, complete with a 'boss' encounter with the Slithering Overlord himself! (Or herself, it's a bit hard to tell...). The default version is that the party is hired by the Order of the Invincible Sun to go down there to kill monsters and loot their stuff, but alternative reasons are provided or you may come up with a good one of your own.

The DM's Notes include a synopsis of the adventure, an encounter list, scaling information, a note on where this adventure is set if you are using the Dungeon Crawl Classics default world of Aereth, the promised other hooks to get the party involved and an extensive background for the adventure. It appears that there's a lot going on in this particular underground domain, with the Slithering Overlord himself having been driven out of his original home and having taken refuge here, and rival species contesting space with his own followers. Oddly, the Order of the Invincible Sun is described as a paramilitary religious order, which rather begs the question as to why they don't take care of business for themselves rather than hiring a bunch of adventurers to do it for them.

The underground setting is made up of three distinct 'sub-dungeons' which the party can explore pretty much as they please. There are a lot of unmapped narrow corridors connecting them, they are uninhabited and it's up to you whether the party has to explore them or if you just tell them that after a few hours they reach... wherever it is you want them next. The monsters to be found here are all integrated into their locations, each has a clear reason to be precisely where they will be encountered - often with an ingenious backstory of their own, which the party may or may not find out. Its very existance makes them more believable, however. In flagrant disregard of stated Dungeon Crawl Classics policy, some of them are prepared to chat if the party doesn't attack them out of hand... this raises the adventure to new heights as the party can, if they wish, try to figure out what's going on rather than merely kill every creature they meet and steal their stuff. (Interestingly, this option is found in many of the adventures, but it's particularly noticeable here.) Needless to say, some encounters are out-and-out combat ones, with monsters that attack on sight!

The final area, where the Slithering Overlord lives, has some... unusual denizens, the flora and fauna alike should prove quite a surprise. The Overlord himself is presented as an utter 'Baddie', but you might want to treat him a little more sympathetically. Options for future adventure are provided based on whether or not the party defeats him, and provide scope for some interesting and unique plotlines if you so wish. As a 'dungeon delve' this is a particularly good one!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #37: The Slithering Overlord
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #36: Talons of the Horned King
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/22/2018 08:13:01

This arctic adventure sees the party helping a town that's beset by strange creatures who, it appears, have already made off with a local lordling. They'll have to travel through icy wastes and unravel a mystery around a druidic circle. What lurks beneath?

The DM is provided with a synopsis of the adventure, an encounter list, scaling information, a few ideas for getting the party involved, a note on treasure available, and a detailed background story. Provide your own warm socks! If you are using the default Dungeon Crawl Classics world of Aeryth, there's a note suggesting where to locate this adventure; if you are using your own campaign world find a reasonably isolated arctic area with a settlement nearby. It explains that the Talons of the Horned King is a mysterious and ancient structure mostly buried in the ice, with a 'crown' of metal spikes - the talons - on a vast depiction of a human face, or at least, that's what it looks like. Nobody knows who made it. A strange species of large hairy humanoids are said to live nearby but they are shy, gentle beasts rarely seen. Recently, after a shooting star was seen in the area, they have become more aggressive, attacking anyone they encounter with almost mindless ferocity... and then, for the DM's eyes only, the underlying truth is revealed.

The adventure proper begins with the party beginning their final approach to the Talons, facing a narrow twisty ravine they must traverse to get there. The wind and snow are fierce, and they'd better take precautions to stay warm (there are some notes on handling cold weather through game mechanics). Other perils await... and there's stuff to find that will help the party later on.

Then magic starts to behave oddly, and strange balls of blue energy can be seen floating around... and that's just the beginning of the strangeness that is to be found as the adventure progresses... and then the party finds its way underground and that's when things get downright weird!!!

Descriptions are detailed and evocative, backed up by a selection of player handouts to let the group 'see what you mean'. The whole adventure hangs very well, especially considering the more bizarre aspects, and there's a nice mix of brawling, problem-solving, trap-evasion and the odd conversation to keep the party entertained.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #36: Talons of the Horned King
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #35: Gazetteer of the Known Realms
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/19/2018 08:36:09

If you've been paying attention throughout the Dungeon Crawl Classics adventure modules so far, you might have noticed material providing background about where each one is set. It's generic enough that you can take an adventure and pick a suitable spot in your own campaign world, but coherent enough that you could have built one around them. Now you don't need to, because here's the World of Aereth to drop all existing (and future) Dungeon Crawl Classics into.

It starts off with a delightful 'foreword' detailing the discovery of this tome in the depths of a contemporary American library. How it got there we can only speculate: but it does add to the conceit that this world, this alternate reality, actually exists somewhere... And then we are off with a sweeping review of the Northlands, the Southlands and the Lostlands, complete with geographical features, celestial bodies, the seasons, and all manner of information. I know the foreword spoke of the battered and aged condition of the manuscript, but although atmospheric, the background makes the text rather hard to read. Persevere, though, the text is replete with snippets of information that makes the place come to life - places, festivals, events past and present, and more.

There is also a chapter on organisations, in particular those which spread beyond national boundaries, and one entitled Beyond the Known Realms that leads you into the wilder unexplored regions - excellent for those parties who wish to explore or even settle new places. There is a history of the Northlands that spans over three thousand years from antiquity to the present day. And this is just the Gazetteer. There's plenty more in the box!

There is an even more massive book for the DM. This contains an even more extensive history, a bestiary, notes on deities and other powers, NPCs galore, talk of 0-level characters, and a rather neat section taking the existing Dungeon Crawl Classics adventures and building them into more-or-less coherent campaign arcs. There's also an index of people, places, items and more that have appeared in all modules to date.

As if this wasn't enough, there are two completely new adventures - Halls of the Minotaur and The Thief Lord's Vault - to start you off. All-in-all, if you've ever thought that Dungeon Crawl Classics are fine as one-off adventures, but need a context: well, now you have one.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #35: Gazetteer of the Known Realms
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #34: Cage of Delirium
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/18/2018 08:56:13

Apparently there's a burnt-out old mansion to the south of town, about which there are all sorts of rumours, fuelled no doubt by the fact that it used to be a mental hospital. Who in their right mind would go near a place like that? The party, that's who, given sufficient incentive.

The background material for the DM includes a detailed backstory explaining just what's going on there, a list of monsters, scaling information and more... and if you pick up the print version there's a CD with appropriate mood music keyed to different locations and events in the adventure. If you have bought the PDF version, you don't get this but are provided with a link to where you can pick up a copy. If you like background music to your games, this is a neat opportunity to have something specifically tailored to it - there are detailed instructions as to what should be played when.

If you haven't guessed yet, this is a horror story. The hooks provided to get the party involved bear that out, ranging from a dying member of staff scared that their spirit might be drawn back there to merchants and town officials concerned about a malign influence on the town. Like any good haunting, the way to deal with the spooks here is to find out how to grant them rest, so there's a fair bit of thought involved as well as combat. The backstory is quite extensive and, rather neatly, opportunities are provided for the DM to share it with the party by means of visions. It's a massive place to explore, and there's a lot to find (and fight) - given the large number of undead clerics and other pious characters are recommended for your party.... and how do you fancy being accosted by an animated straitjacket that just wants to give you a hug?"

Descriptions are evocative, and there's a wide variety of encounters to keep the party on their toes. Some of the ghosts are even prepared to talk rather than fight, and may have useful information to impart. The adventure ends when all the spirits are enabled to rest, and the remants of the mansion fall into even more ruin. A good spooky adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #34: Cage of Delirium
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #33: Belly of the Great Beast
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/12/2018 09:11:16

This is a very high level adventure (21-24 level!) which takes the party into space to stop a dastardly plan to steal the collective knowledge of the world from a passing Great Beast that floats through the universe just watching what's going on. It's got hitchhikers, though, and these are the ones causing the trouble.

It all begins when the party encounters the Cult of the Forgotten Word, who are the villains in question. They are seeking to steal a particular tome... and the party has the chance not only to save that book, but to put an end to their schemes altogether, if they dare! The DM's background explains a lot more of what is going on, as well as providing a monster list, scaling information and several excellent ways to get the party involved in the first place. These primarily involve getting them to a place called Withers somewhere in your campaign world, as the sight of the cultists floating down from space to terrorise the local academics should be enough to engage their interest!

There's a section explaining how space travel works for the purposes of this adventure - it's all pretty descriptive and hand-waved. The cultists use Cosmic Eggs - translucent globes that just travel between the Great Beast and a nearby planet, without much need to worry how they do it. Going to the Great Beast is easy, they just do it. Coming back provides plenty of opportunities to land the party other than where they intended... even up to sending them to the wrong planet entirely if you're that cruel!

The adventure begins when the party arrives in Withers and find the town's Westphalen School under attack. Enjoy the chaos as they explore, rescuing frightened academics and students... and even encountering one student who's a "Demonology hacker" and has summoned up a devil he cannot control in an attempt to defend his school!

And this is all before the party use a Cosmic Egg or other device to get themselves to the Great Beast. Therein even more epic excitement awaits. As you'd imagine, a dungeon carved out of the living flesh of a giant immortal spacefaring creature is not your ordinary delve; but there are monsters to fight and traps to evade a-plenty, and a lot else to do besides and strange beings to meet.

There's no clear resolution to the adventure. Perhaps the party will seek to release the Great Beast from the cult's control. They'll still need to find their way home, of course. Or they might decide to kick out the cultists and keep it for themselves... Whatever they decide, this is Adventure on an epic scale, perhaps a fitting climax to an entire campaign. Or it might be a one-off, as there are some pre-generated characters provided, if you want to try a really high-level game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #33: Belly of the Great Beast
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #32: The Golden Palace of Zahadran
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/11/2018 08:32:12

This is a high-level adventure involving the exploits of a party that is poking around a desert investigating the depredations of a blue dragon when the sand collapses under their feet depositing them into a long-buried palace. There's plenty to explore as they try to find their way back out.

It's all a dastardly plot, of course and all is explained for the DM in the introductory notes. Whether or not the party will ever find who took them for suckers is another matter... The DM is also provided with a list of monsters, scaling information, and some ideas on how to get the party involved in the adventure. Pick whichever seems most appropriate to the party you have, and run with it.

This adventure is billed as a classic variation on the 'exploration that leads to an unfolding history, which leads to rising action, which leads to the epic confrontation that saves or dooms the day' module... so no high stakes there. By the end the party ought to feel a true sense of accomplishment, or be plunged into despair and wondering where to hide as the case might be. There's a lot of background to set everything into context, and you'll have to decide what and how you want to share information with the party. Have fun, it literally goes back to the dawn of time (and is useful for mining for the ancient history of your campaign world if you haven't got much yet).

Depending on the way you get the party involved, there are different starting points for the adventure; but whichever you use eventually they are out in the desert getting that sinking feeling as the ground gives way beneath their feet and deposits them into the wonders below. As they prowl the halls there are plenty of opportunities to reveal bits of the backstory through artwork - complete with pictures to hand to your players to show them what their characters see - and other snippets. Sometimes the party will have to make appropriate checks to obtain the information, other bits are more clear to anyone who looks. There's plenty to look at as they explore, and some really unusual beings to fight, not to mention traps to avoid and puzzles to solve... and then there are the twisty little passages UNDER the palace.

The actual exploration is entertaining in itself, then add in trying to get back out while preventing ancient evils from coming with you and you have an adventure that verges on the epic.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #32: The Golden Palace of Zahadran
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Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Quickstart
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/08/2018 09:23:24

This manages to explain an awful lot in just a handful of sentences - even if your exposure to Judge Dredd is minimal you should be able to pick up on the general gist of the setting, as well as understand the rules you'll need to play - or GM - the adventure presented here. As expected, the rules here are a cut-down version of the final rules, but as I haven't seen those yet I cannot say how the play experience differs from the full ruleset. However it does state that special ablities called Exploits are not used here, although a few sample ones are given if you want to give them a go. It appears that to accomplish something you'll need to roll a handful of d6s, the number based on your skill and the relevant attribute. Combat is much the same, and is explained clearly.

Four pre-generated characters are provided, all Street Judges. A note explains that the core rulebook provides for playing civilians and perps as well as Judges, should you harbour such ambitions. The adventure is written so as to be played with any of these options, although if you are using the pre-gens you will have to default to the Judge option. Basically, a Judge was killed recently in the Empire State Building and the adventure deals with the aftermath: as Judges the aim is, of course, to bring justice to the perps responsible. The adventure is well constructed and exciting, although it will run best if you are thoroughly familiar with it before play starts.

The floorplans are a bit cramped. Apart from one or two principal NPCs, all the 'foe' stats are at the end rather than where they are ecountered in the module - it might have been worth adding some bookmarks to make them easier to find in the heat of the moment.

Overall, though, this gives a good impression of a game that has captured the spirit and flavour of Judge Dredd; and which should prove enjoyable to play. If a Quickstart leaves you looking forward to seeing the full game, it has done its job... and this one has!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Judge Dredd & The Worlds of 2000 AD Quickstart
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #31: The Transmuter's Last Touch
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2018 08:02:14

Even for a low-level party of 1st-2nd level characters, a bunch of kobolds shouldn't be much of a problem, right? This module sets out to warn adventurers not to underestimate their enemies... the hard way (of course!).

It's recommended that the party has met ordinary run-of-the-mill kobolds before, then when they find these catacombs in the base of a mountain they will assume that the resident kobold tribe is more of the same. A few suggestions are provided for getting them there, or they might merely be travelling and notice the entrance. Like all good adventurers, they wander in and... The introductory notes for the DM include scaling information, an adventure overview, a list of wandering monsters and loads of background, as well as a new game mechanic: augmetation. This is a temporary magical changes to a creature, caused by residual enchantments left by a previous very-powerful resident and triggered by moving into an affected area, lasting only whilst the creature is there. For this was once the home of a powerful wizard called Verdivis, who conducted all manner of magical experiments here. Needless to say, these augmentations can also affect party members - but unlike the kobolds, who are use to them, they'll have to figure out what the augmentation is and how to utilise it - probably under combat conditions!

It all makes for an interesting delve, with a backstory that holds together well - although, as always, the real challenge is to share the actual underlying story, rather than just its effects, with the party. Everything is described cearly with notes on the inhabitants of each area and their likely (violent) response to intruders. There are also some pictures to show the players what their characters see. Treasure is fairly small, but interesting, and there's some stuff looted during caravan raids conducted by the kobolds to be had as well. There is the potential for further adventures should the kobold chieftain escape - and if he sees things going against him, that's what he will try to do!

Overall it is a good, thoughtful low-level adventure that should challenge the party and keep them on their toes, one that is nicely embedded into the growing history of a campaign world if you make full use of the background information.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #31: The Transmuter's Last Touch
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