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Livin' on a Dream
Publisher: Seraphim Guard
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/17/2006 00:00:00
Livin' on a Dream could be considered the best of the HeartQuest line of products, aside from the rules themselves. It blends good writing with good artwork and uses it to present a setting and campaign that one wouldn't consider a typical one for an RPG: the quest of a group of young dancers to win a summertime dance competition and the various summertime activities that they get involved in. Essentially, it's a very normal slice-of-life campaign of following the characters' dreams, with no powers or supernatural elements to it, which fits right in with the shoujo anime and manga themes that are at the core of HeartQuest.

It starts off with an introduction to the campaign setting and tone, as well as the explaining how the book's set up. Of particular interest is the section discussing the setting (Fukuoka City and Sandy Side Beach), along with the differences between the real version of it and the version as presented in the book. It shows how much thought went into creating the setting.

This is followed up with a very extensive chapter on characters. A lot of creativity went into creating the various character backgrounds (accompanied by stats in most cases), both main and supporting characters. There's also a subsection on roleplaying in the setting and getting the tone right, with much discouragement of combat (despite the presence of gang members among NPCs) and discussion of relationships in Japanese youth culture.

After that, the book gets into the various locations in the campaign setting, as well as running the campaign and various scenarios to run for the players. Again, a lot of thought went into setting up the city in which the characters live, giving it more depth than one might expect. Getting into the campaign chapter, alongside the main scenarios, there's also a list of possible random ones to insert to change things around a little (of course, players have their own ways of doing that by themselves!). Finally, there's the Extras chapter with various maps and references, as well as music suggestions to get folks into the right tone (no pun intended...awww...who am I fooling?).

The writings is very good, especially when describing the characters and places they can be found in, and the artwork's wonderful for the most part (even the pieces that aren't as good are still of good quality). Editing's pretty good as well...not perfect, but pretty good. All in all, this could be considered a must-get for any HeartQuest fan.



LIKED: The writing and the artwork, both of which contribute towards creating a great setting to play in.

DISLIKED: Can't really think of anything not to like about it

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Livin' on a Dream
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Musical Mistresses
Publisher: Seraphim Guard
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/16/2006 00:00:00
As one of the source books available for Seraphim Guard's HeartQuest RPG, Musical Mistresses is a solid addition to the HeartQuest library. It provides a magical girl setting for the game that can be played either tongue-in-cheek or more seriously, depending on which set of villains is chosen as antagonists for a campaign. Even if you're not intending to use the setting in either tone, it does provide some good examples and pointers for setting up your own magical girl campaign.

The book opens up with a bit of game fiction introducing the three Musical Mistresses and one of the villains, showing off the more tongue-in-cheek style of play, followed by a proper introduction to the setting. The characters section gives some pointers for creating your own Musical Mistresses, as well as providing the backstories and stats of the three main ones as well as villains and other NPCs (a few NPCs don't get stats, but they're fairly minor ones for the most part).

Once you've gotten your characters set up or chosen, it throws three adventures of different tones of play at you. One with the Phantom Thief (the more light-hearted villain), one with the Po 'Kran (the somewhat more serious one), and one with a rival classmate (the obligatory school ?queen?). The adventures are playable in their own right, but also provide some good examples of how to set up Musical Mistresses adventures of your own.

Following up on this is the Extras chapter, which is more of an appendix. It provides opening and closing themes as well as references that are a hallmark of most of the HeartQuest line. These would be a glossary and a list of recommended series for those new to the magical girl genre of anime.

Overall, the writing, editing, and layout is quite good, and very printer-friendly. The writing in particular tends to lean towards a more casual, tongue-in-cheek tone that adds to the fun of reading through the book. However, the artwork is hit-or-miss, with a few pieces that are nicely done, and more than a few that could've stood some improvement at the very least. That being said, Musical Mistresses is a fine addition to one's HeartQuest library, or to one's anime RPG library in general.


LIKED: Very fun tone and good writing, as well as useful pointers and examples for other magical girl campaigns.

DISLIKED: Some of the artwork could've been much better.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Musical Mistresses
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Power Grrrl
Publisher: aethereal FORGE
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/15/2006 00:00:00
A worldbook for the POW rules system, Power Grrrl is very evocative of games like Teenagers From Outer Space, which are geared towards light-hearted, beer-and-pretzels gaming. In it, the players take roles of teenagers that have super powers until they're adults, and use them to fight evil (whether it comes from disgruntled teens or envious adults who no longer have powers). Oh, and Canada is an evil world power.

The setting is set up like an old 80's cartoon series, complete with an Internet FAQ and episode guide for reference, and it has a nice array of powers and abilities to use with the core POW rules, organized by attribute type. There are plenty of example characters (which naturally include Power Grrrl and her gang as well as her various enemies, including a few political parodies among them), so someone new to the system can see how various character types can be put together.

The writing's pretty good, though the artwork can be hit-or-miss. At any rate, it's worth getting along with the core POW rules (did I mention that the core rules are free?).


LIKED: Good writing and a very fun atmosphere.

DISLIKED: Some of the artwork could've stood to be a little better, but that's a relatively minor quibble and doesn't really detract from the book.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Power Grrrl
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Arakos The Eighth Age
Publisher: Battlefield Press
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/15/2006 00:00:00
It's not often that one sees a setting written for Anime d20, especially given the discussions cropping up regarding Guardians of Order's status as a company as of the writing of this review. So, it was a pleasant surprise to see Arakos: the Eighth Age made available, even more so considering that it comes from the author and artist duo who brought us Livin' on a Dream for Heartquest. So how does Arakos stack up?

Overall, it's not bad. The writing's good, and so is the layout for the most part (though the font used for titles and headers could've been a little better). The character artwork's good as well, fitting the anime fantasy style well, even if it is dominated by female characters. Editing is also good for the most part, though a few errors have slipped through (?King NAME?, anyone?).

Mechanics-wise, we're given eight races, along with five classes (though one of them is Anime d20's Adventurer class, reprinted to keep it handy). The races include a few tribes of humans, along with a race descended from alien refugees long ago, another offshoot of that race, the almost-requisite cat-people race, and a race descended from giants. Aside from the Adventurer class, the other classes presented are variations of standard fantasy classes.

It also provides some guidelines as to which attributes, defects, skills, and feats to use and not to use in an Arakos campaign, along with providing new ones associated with the setting. Perhaps the most interesting of the new attributes would be the Ki Guardian, which not only provides a protector for the character who has it, but also gives a background hook for that character in that it requires that someone in that character's life engage in ritual self-sacrifice in order to become one.

There's also a comprehensive section of magic specific to Arakos, divided into four schools of magic for Spirited Sorceresses (one of the classes in the book), along with both light and dark divine spells for the Pure Priestesses (one of the other classes). With all the spell lists, this section easily takes up nearly a third of the book.

The last portion of the book is for the setting itself, and this is where it disappoints. Simply put, the information given on Arakos itself as a world is a bit bare-bones and could've used some fleshing out. Information is given only for a few important locations and only one important NPC (Naomi the Pure, and no stats are given on her, just her backstory). Furthermore, with all the player races available, it's surprising that there aren't any creatures unique to Arakos listed, just some templates to use to convert creatures over to the dark side. It also gives some information on a few artifacts, but no game stats, either.

All in all, this is a book that had a lot of potential, and is still good for what it gives the reader. However, it could've used some beefing-up in terms of the setting. This is even more disappointing given the work that the author has done with just one city in his previous work, Livin' on a Dream. Still, it's not a bad buy, and if you're willing to do some extra work to create more NPCs as well as various creatures for the setting, it's worth a look.


LIKED: Nice artwork, some new races, classes, and various attributes, feats, and skills for the setting.

DISLIKED: The world could've used more development, as well as more NPCs (along with stats on them) and more info on artifacts.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Arakos The Eighth Age
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Freedom City, Second Edition
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/17/2006 00:00:00
Even if you prefer to roll your own settings rather than use a published one, I recommend getting this one anyway. It's rich in detail, and it delivers a living, breathing, colorful world to play in. Even if you don't use it right out of the book, you can use it for plenty of inspiration for your own supers campaign world. Also, if you love comics, you'll love the homage nature of the various heroes and villains within the covers.


LIKED: What's not to like? Great design, great setting, great characters, and excellent writing.

DISLIKED: If I really had to pick something not to like, it might be just how overwhelming with the good stuff it can be, and can that really be a complaint?

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Freedom City, Second Edition
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Mutants & Masterminds, Second Edition
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/17/2006 00:00:00
This is one of the best RPG books I've gotten my hands on, supers or otherwise. It takes a very good point-based implementation of the d20 mechanic, wraps it in an excellent layout and design, and adds in a writing style that's easy to understand with lots of behind-the-scenes stuff and examples. The character archetypes are great for new players, as well as GMs looking to create NPCs on the fly, but there's plenty of room for characters made from scratch. The game mechanic doesn't get too bogged down in details, either. It's enjoyable for both the new players and RPG veterans alike


LIKED: A very clear, attractive layout, as well as easy-to-understand writing and accessability. It really inspires players and GMs to do stuff with it.

DISLIKED: As clear and accessable as the writing is, there are a few quibbles that made a few aspects harder to grasp, such as determining stats like Toughness and Save DCs, as well as how the latter of those two comes into play.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds, Second Edition
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Mirror Universe : : Volume 3
Publisher: Inspired Device
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/17/2006 00:00:00
Like the previous two volumes, we're given twelve more character designs and concepts, which are good for GMs and players alike looking for a jumpstart for their characters.


LIKED: The choice between color and b/w versions (the latter for your own coloring schemes), and a very efficient layout for the various counters.

DISLIKED: Not much, really. As I noted in previous volumes, there should be a better balance between female and male characters, and perhaps an option for using the b/w pages in graphics programs like Paintshop or Painter.


QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mirror Universe : : Volume 3
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Mirror Universe : : Volume 1
Publisher: Inspired Device
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/17/2006 00:00:00
This is a good collection of character designs (if you like Bruce Timm's style) as well as character concepts. Folks looking for stats or even archetypes won't find them here, but the concepts included are good launching points for both heroes and villains alike. The lack of stats/archetypes also lends itself towards using these for other superhero games.


LIKED: Nice, clean designwork in both color and b/w (for your own color schemes), along with some interesting concepts.

DISLIKED: It could use better balance in terms of male & female characters. A one-to-five ratio of females and males (respectively) doesn't give enough variety of the former. Perhaps future volumes could fix this imbalance?



QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mirror Universe : : Volume 1
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Mirror Universe : : Volume 2
Publisher: Inspired Device
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/14/2006 00:00:00
A really good tool for GMs and players alike. Get yourself stuck on a character design or concept? These'll help fill in the gap in style, with options for both good and bad guys/gals.


LIKED: I liked the option for either color artwork or line art versions, especially if you like a design, but have a concept that calls for a different color scheme.

DISLIKED: The concepts could stand a tad more fleshing out, and it'd be nice if the line art versions could be extracted for coloring using programs like Photoshop or Painter. I understand why they aren't, but it'd still be nice if they were.

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mirror Universe : : Volume 2
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OVA - Open Versatile Anime Role-Playing Game
Publisher: Wise Turtle Publishing
by Peter W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/03/2005 00:00:00
While it?s still new and relatively unknown at this time, OVA is a great rules-light generic RPG to have around, particularly if you?re looking to do an anime/manga-inspired one-shot game or campaign. While there are other generic systems aimed at anime and manga fans, OVA nicely fills the rules-light portion that has been left behind by Big Eyes Small Mouth over the years.

Generally speaking, the actual rules take up maybe a dozen pages out of the 130 in the PDF. Most of the actual content in the book deals with the abilities and weaknesses you can assign to characters instead, along with the artwork and example sidebars. Like other systems like Risus and Fudge/Fate, you don?t have any hardwired statistics into the system, like body, intelligence, and such. Instead, they?re part of the abilities/weaknesses system, and if such a statistic doesn?t figure into a character concept in either a positive or negative manner, then it can be easily ignored. There?s also an interesting mechanic that approximates things like luck die, and drama dice can be used by spending a character?s endurance. It also doesn?t get too caught up in details, such as ranges and the like. As such, it?s much more suitable for cinematic and light-hearted campaigns, but not nearly so for a gritty and/or realistic one. Due to its rules-light nature, it?s not going to appeal all that much to the numbers-crunching gamers out there, either.

It?s not perfect, mind you. If you?re looking to do a mecha campaign, it doesn?t get a whole lot of coverage other than listing a mecha as an ability that can be further modified. For something meatier in that department, you?d have to wait until the planned mecha supplement sees the light of day. There?s also a fantasy supplement planned as well, presumably to give a more detailed magic system than there is in the core book. The biggest drawback in the system would be the need for the GM to be extra vigilant when it comes to min-max?ers and munchkins, since the system is pretty vulnerable to both types of players. That?s the only real drawback I can think of, though.

In terms of the writing style, the author did a good job, particularly for a first-time effort. The writing is clean and easy to follow, with few errors. In addition, he provides plenty of examples of how to apply the rules as well as the abilities and weaknesses, and a wide variety of sample PCs and NPCs is provided to give players and GMs pointers and inspiration as to how to put their own PCs and NPCs together. The introduction and GM chapters tend to be aimed a bit more towards first-time players and GMs, but that?s no real fault in and of itself. The advice given in the latter is pretty solid (some may take issue with the nod given towards GM fudging, though).

Layout and artwork tend to be very good for the most part. The layout isn?t cluttered and the text style is easy to read. There are blank pages in the PDF intended to mark facing-page separations between chapters when its printed out, and that?s led to some confusion on the part of readers. It also had a nasty side effect when printing from Acrobat Reader 7, in that when printing out the even-sided pages (for a double-sided hardcopy version), the blank pages were skipped, causing the actual pages to be printed on the wrong pages. Perhaps a watermark logo or icon in the center of those blank pages could?ve avoided this problem and make printouts a lot easier.

Most of the artwork is very good. It uses the work of a variety of webartists that have been commissioned specifically for the book, illustrating its iconic characters in a variety of situations. To be sure, some pieces don?t measure up to the quality of other pieces, but as a whole, they?re colorful and tend to reflect the various styles of anime and manga.

For gamers looking for a quick, fun game that can be used in a wide range of cinematic settings, OVA comes with a high recommendation from me.


LIKED: Easy to pick up and play; very nicely written with examples, as well as nicely laid out and illustrated.

DISLIKED: Other than having to be on extra guard against min-max'ers and munchkins as well as the blank pages causing problems? Not much.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
OVA - Open Versatile Anime Role-Playing Game
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