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X-plorers RPG (FREE No Art Version)
Publisher: Brave Halfling Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2015 13:14:16
X-plorers is somewhere in the middle of Starships & Spacemen and White Star. Both thematically and in terms of rules. There is a more of an old school vibe of this one. So to continue my analogies to the point of breaking, X-plorers is more Buck Rogers, the old serials and 50s sci-fi movies.

The book itself is 41 pages. This includes cover, title page, ogl page and a trademark license. The trademark license is nice. You can make content that is "X-Plorers Compatible" as long as you abide by the license. Yes other games do this too.

Characters have class, hit points, and levels just like most OSR books. The characters in X-Plorers though only have 4 attributes; Agility, Intelligence, Physique and Presence. They are still ranked 3-18. There are also four classes; Scientist, Soldier, Scouts and Technicians. Personally I think some sort of Royalty or Ambassador class might have been a nice inclusion as well.
There are some multi-classing rules too which are nice to see.

Equipment is covered next. The basic unit of commerce is the credit (cr). It functions largely the same way the gold piece does. Gear and weapons are covered, but also vehicles and robots. Near the end we cover skills as well.

Chapter 3 covers running the game. This includes saves, combat and skill checks. All similar territory to other games.

Chapter 4 details Space. This covers ships, buying and outfitting with crew as well as combat. Each phase of combat is discussed, so the gunner, engineer, pilot and so on. This reminds me of some the of old school Naval ship battles. Ship repair is also covered.

This is followed by a referee's section. This covers creating a game and running one. There is a small section on Aliens and Planets.
NPCs, Allies and Monsters are featured in the next section. I would have liked more, but again, these are easy to take from any fantasy game.

Chapter X is an adventure/background piece on Roswell. There are even stats for the Greys, whic is really cool to be honest.
Chapter Y covers psionics and pyschic characters. This is also pretty cool.

We end with some sheets for characters and ships.

X-plorers is a light game and designed to emulate the games of the 70s. So in that respect it does the job well. Some people will want more, but there is still a lot here. Rule-wise it reminds me more of White Box Swords & Wizardry, in fact you could use S&W as the rules and the rest as add-on.

This is the same as the full featured version, only no art.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
X-plorers RPG (FREE No Art Version)
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X-plorers RPG
Publisher: Brave Halfling Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2015 13:05:57
X-plorers is somewhere in the middle of Starships & Spacemen and White Star. Both thematically and in terms of rules. There is a more of an old school vibe of this one. So to continue my analogies to the point of breaking, X-plorers is more Buck Rogers, the old serials and 50s sci-fi movies.

The book itself is 41 pages. This includes cover, title page, ogl page and a trademark license. The trademark license is nice. You can make content that is "X-Plorers Compatible" as long as you abide by the license. Yes other games do this too.

Characters have class, hit points, and levels just like most OSR books. The characters in X-Plorers though only have 4 attributes; Agility, Intelligence, Physique and Presence. They are still ranked 3-18. There are also four classes; Scientist, Soldier, Scouts and Technicians. Personally I think some sort of Royalty or Ambassador class might have been a nice inclusion as well.
There are some multi-classing rules too which are nice to see.

Equipment is covered next. The basic unit of commerce is the credit (cr). It functions largely the same way the gold piece does. Gear and weapons are covered, but also vehicles and robots. Near the end we cover skills as well.

Chapter 3 covers running the game. This includes saves, combat and skill checks. All similar territory to other games.

Chapter 4 details Space. This covers ships, buying and outfitting with crew as well as combat. Each phase of combat is discussed, so the gunner, engineer, pilot and so on. This reminds me of some the of old school Naval ship battles. Ship repair is also covered.

This is followed by a referee's section. This covers creating a game and running one. There is a small section on Aliens and Planets.
NPCs, Allies and Monsters are featured in the next section. I would have liked more, but again, these are easy to take from any fantasy game.

Chapter X is an adventure/background piece on Roswell. There are even stats for the Greys, whic is really cool to be honest.
Chapter Y covers psionics and pyschic characters. This is also pretty cool.

We end with some sheets for characters and ships.

X-plorers is a light game and designed to emulate the games of the 70s. So in that respect it does the job well. Some people will want more, but there is still a lot here. Rule-wise it reminds me more of White Box Swords & Wizardry, in fact you could use S&W as the rules and the rest as add-on.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
X-plorers RPG
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MA1e Human Character Sheet
Publisher: WardCo.
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2015 09:20:13
Nice old-school style sheet for Metamorphosis Alpha, 1st Edition. This one is for humans.
While many sheets are free, the game this goes to is relatively inexpensive so it all evens out in my mind.
This sheet is only for the people that really want it. There is a functional sheet in the game pdf, but this one looks much nicer.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MA1e Human Character Sheet
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MA1e Mutant Character Sheet
Publisher: WardCo.
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2015 09:19:51
Nice old-school style sheet for Metamorphosis Alpha, 1st Edition. This one is for mutants.
While many sheets are free, the game this goes to is relatively inexpensive so it all evens out in my mind.
This sheet is only for the people that really want it. There is a functional sheet in the game pdf, but this one looks much nicer.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MA1e Mutant Character Sheet
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Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
Publisher: WardCo.
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2015 09:15:46
MORBIUS: Back. To. The. Beginning! - Doctor Who: The Brain of Morbius.

There is a game going all the way back to the dawn of time, or at least the dawn of the roleplaying age, that has fascinated me. I knew of it's children games, Gamma World and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, but it has not be till recently that I have seen the father of sci-fi games.

Metamorphosis Alpha is considered to be the first popular Scifi game available. While many of us heard of and purchased Traveller first (and that could be another entire week for me) MA really is the first. Published a year before the Traveller books. Written by James "Drawmij" Ward, MA has deep ties with D&D. The game was playtested by Ward and Gygax and others at TSR. This lead to the aforementioned Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and Gamma World. The forward of the game was written by Gygax and Brian Blume.

The basic game outline is that characters, human, mutant and other all live on a fantastic colony ship, The Warden, that has broken down. The ship is basically a giant flying dungeon. In space.
The character creation rules, monsters and everything are like Original D&D through a distorted lens. To use an analogy from computer programing if D&D/AD&D is Pascal then Metamorphosis Alpha is Modula. Naturally this makes Gamma World Modula 2, AD&D2 Turbo Pascal, D&D3 Borland Pascal, D&D4 Oberon, D&D5 Delphi and so on...

It would be a fantastic game to play when you are in a great old-school mood and I do know people that have made great long campaigns with it. Think about it, the idea would later pop up in the series Red Dwarf.

The book itself is 40 pages which includes front and back cover, an updated errata sheet, pages of tables, character sheet and maps of the Warden.

The game itself is complete and a prime example of old-school minimalism. Modern readers might be tempted to ask "is this it", but to these eyes it is succinct and complete at the same time.

MA of course is perfectly playable on it's own. Has been for 40 years.
But it also works great as a setting or a as a "Mega dungeon" in space.

Mix MA with any of the games I have been reveiwing over the last few days and you have a mysterious, ancient colony ship. 80 km long, 40 km wide and 14 km tall and filled with humans, mutants and who knows what else. Think of the ship in "WALL-E" now fill it with mutants.

Honestly I am using it in my own old-school D&D game and it is part of my world's history. The uses and re-uses of this game are endless.

The mutant rules in the book are easily ported over to any game. So use them as mutants or aliens or even demons in your fantasy game.

At just under 6 bucks it is also a steal.
There are character sheets too for humans and mutants at a buck each. Normally I think sheets should be free, but I am only paying $5.99 for the pdf. If the sheets were free and the game was $7.99 I would not balk or fret at the price.

If you have any interest in old-school gaming, sci-fi gaming or even the roots of our hobby, then this is a fantastic game to add to your collection.
If you are playing any of the new "old-school" sci-fi games then I consider this a must buy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Metamorphosis Alpha 1st Edition
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Strange Stars
Publisher: Hydra Cooperative
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/13/2015 13:49:37
Every so often you come across a product that is so different than the rest it is hard to know what to do with it. +trey causey's Strange Stars is not exactly that. Strange Stars is a product so different it is hard to know what I can't do with it.

The book is a joy to look at. Yes it is only 32 pages with cover, but each page is so rich with art and color it must have cost a lot to make. Since art is important to how this book can be used it is a better investment than say page after page of text.
Let's start with that cover. There are homages to late 70s, early 80s sci-fi shows and movies. I can feel the influences of Star Wars and even Jason of Star Command here. Not to mention the obvious, but loving, nod to the classic Star Frontiers. Really, I should be able to buy that as an art print for my game room. I put that cover up there with some of the best RPG covers ever.

Strange Stars is not a game itself, but a setting book for other sci-fi games. Not just the OSR-flavored ones of my last few reviews, but any sci-fi game. As a mental exercise I kept asking "can I use this in Traveller? Star Frontiers? Alternity?" most times I was saying yes.

The book starts out with a historical overview of the setting. The "Ancient times" in this case is humanity leaving "Old Earth". So already this is a setting far flung into the future.

Various forms of life are introduced, or Sophonts. This can be your garden variety human or other life form that is mostly biological, self-aware robots, or AIs. Or, most likely some combination of the above.

Really a couple of the great features of this book are not chapter by chapter but concept by concept.
Free of system Causey's mind rushes down dark un-explored pathways, strange lands and truly alien worlds. BUT, and this is very important, this not so far removed from our experiences to be really out there. There are roots here. Roots with names like "Star Crash" and "Buck Rodgers" (the TV series on NBC, not the serials) and "Logan's Run". Jenny Agutter's "Jessica 6" practically jumps off of page 12.
Speaking of which, the characters here BEG to be stated up for your favorite system. Siana Elizond, the previously mentioned Jessica 6 clone, is more interesting in a picture and paragraph than some characters with pages and pages of back story. Plus I can't help but think that Elphaba Mandrake was made as a personal challenge to me!

So yes. The page count is small, but it is chock full of great ideas, eye catching art and more than enough to get you going on a campaign set out among the stars.

You can find Trey at http://sorcerersskull.blogspot.com/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
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Machinations of the Space Princess
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2015 12:17:14
Written by James "Grimm" Desborough and art by Satine Phoenix this game has a really cool, sexy vibe.
Firmly planted in the PG-13 area, this game does more with a nudge and wink than some games try to do with out right R material.
The game is described as a game of "Kick Ass Heroes". It is. It is also a game of rogues, smugglers, free wheeling pilots, more-than human psionics and accountants. Seriously, you can hire them. But more on that later.

This game is built on Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but it takes more than a few liberties with it. Bottom line here; you can add this to any of the OSR Sci-Fi games I have been reviewing.
The book itself is 244 pages which includes cover, OGL, title pages and acknowledgments. There are a few pages of "What is Roleplaying" and examples of play. Anyone reading this review though can likely skip these sections.

There is a section on the default setting, the Urlanth Matriarchy, and it's fall. Also each page has a note with some tidbit of information. Don't ignore these, there is a lot colorful commentary here.
The section on Kick-Ass heroes is a good one and even though it feels like something we have read before it is worth reading again (or for the first time). MotSP is fully character focused. The empire, the aliens, the tech, that's all just backdrop to playing a Kick Ass character and having a good time. This is refreshing for an old school game and honestly for me it nudges MotSP ahead in my book.
The mechanics of building a hero are also here. This is old hat for most of us.
Note: Ability score bonuses are more in-line with D&D 3.x than old-school D&D. But you could use whatever you like really.
MotMP has Seven attributes. Comeliness is back.
There are actually a few compelling reasons to include Comeliness and MotMP is a good game to use it.
Races are covered with the default humans and various archetypes of other races (Amoeboid, Aquatic...). Races are also divided up by Species (an actual species), Cultural (many species or one species that make up a culture) say like a planet of criminals or Exotic (something about them is very different), for example everyone is dead or a cyborg. There are a lot of of these races given and they can be combined in different ways.
Classes cover many of the basics; Experts, Killers, Psions, and Scholars. Each class has their own sub-specialties, HD, Attack Bonus and Skill Points. Psions get Psi Points and Power Points. In what seems reversed to me Psi-Points are your reserve of power to use your psionic powers and Power Points allow you to buy your Psychic Powers. I am planning to spend some time with the Psion since it is the closest thing I have seen to a witch-like character.

Skills define what a character can do. The skill system is a d6 roll under the skill points you have for a particular skill. There are some common skills that everyone can use, the Psi skills (Psions), Combat skills, Scholastic skills, and General skills (ones that anyone can learn but don't start out with).

After skills we discuss gear, which includes arms and armor. Some basic ship stats are also given. Ships can also have a number of qualities. My favorite so far is "Killer Paint Job" which makes your ship "look totally rad". Seriously it like this is the only game that remembers that fun is important! Ok, not really, but fun is in the forethought here.

Of course you are are going to get all that loot from doing what ever your kick-ass characters do, but can you afford that "killer paint job"? Better hire that previously mentioned accountant. Retainers are discussed next. How many hit die they have (space is a dangerous place) and how much they need to be paid. So do you want 10 accountants or 1 elite assassin?

There is a chapter on cybernetics and enhancements. It isn't as fully transhuman as say Stars Without Number, but it gets the job done.

Bodly Going is the chapter on space and planet exploration. It can also be called 1,001 Ways to Die in Space. I give Grim a lot of credit here. I know the guy outside of the gaming world and he is what I call a science-cheer-leader. He does not hit us over the head with hard core science in this, but he is paying enough lip service to the real thing to make this chapter fun to read. I know he could have dialed this up more, but since his goal is fun this is perfect.

Rocket's Red Glare gives us more details of spaceships. This includes a lot on combat. What I do like here is that ships are treated like characters. It is something a lot of games do so there is a real pragmatic approach to it all.

The rest of this section covers things characters can do and psionics.

A little after the half-way point we get into the Game Master's section.
If the players make kick-ass characters then the game master is instructed to be a bad-ass Game Master. Additionally advice is how to keep the game fun.
So everything from planetary romance, swords and planets stories, sexy (or sleazy) fun, traps, killing things and taking their stuff and more are discussed.

The book ends with an index and character and ship sheets.

There is so much here to be honest that I doubt I'd ever run out of things to do with this game. It may be more tongue-in-cheek than other sci-fi games. There are plenty of "Serious" sci-fi games that play great and are fun, but I doubt I will find one with a bigger sense of fun than this one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Machinations of the Space Princess
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Stars Without Number: Core Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2015 21:33:24
This gem was released in 2011 and was written by Kevin Crawford and Sine Nomine Publishing. SWN is a big book, 254 pages filed with maps, sheets, a great index, but no OGL statement that I kind find.
To me this book feels more like the work of hard sci-fi; like that Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein. Certainly it is epic in scope. There is more of a setting here than other OSR-flavored games, so if you like that, great, if not, well it seems easy enough to ignore.

Chapter 1 covers Character creation. We have seen this all before, but perfect for people new to RPGs or scifi fans new to the Classic 6 Attributes and level/class systems.
The classes are the three "archetypes" that you can find in True20 and other games, The Expert, The Psychic and The Warrior. Each has their own advancement table and Hit Die. SWN assumes a 20 level career in case you were curious. Each class also gets their own saving throw tables.
There are background packages which can be added to classes to give your character more depth and determines some of their skills. There are also training packages to further define your character.
Character creation is a breeze and no one seems to die while doing it.

Chapter 2 covers Psionics. There are quite a lot of psionic powers detailed here. So first thing, if psionics are something you must have in your sci-fi game then please check this game out first. Powers as expected have point cost values. Psionic points always give the powers a different feel for me than magic, so this is another plus really. These powers are not merely reskinned spells, they have been redone to fit within the mythos of the game better.

Chapter 3 details all the equipment you will need including the Tech Level of the equipment. D&D would be tech level 1 (or so) while we are at TL 3. The game is set at TL 5 with some artifacts at TL 6. Time Lords are hanging out at 7 or 8 I would say. D20 Future and Traveller also use a similar mechanic, so if you want to see how they can also work, checking out those games is advisable.
The standard batch of weapons and armor from sticks and stone all the way up to energy weapons are discussed. AC is descending by the way. What is really nice about this game is in addition to lasers, energy swords and computers it also includes Cyberware.

Chapter 4 is the Game Systems chapter. It includes the expected combat, but also a new twist on the skill checks with Target Numbers. Useful if you are using the skills as described here, but it's real utility comes in how flexible it can be. I would have to try it out more, but it's close enough to other skill + die roll + mods vs TN that I can see it's use in a variety of situations.

Chapter 5 covers the history of space of the default campaign setting. Even if you don't use it there are some great ideas here.

Chapter 6 is the Game Master Guide of the game. Deals with running the game and how and where to use skill checks.

Chapter 7 is World Generation which is just FULL of material for any game. While this game has a lot going for it, this is the real gem in my mind. This flows right into Chapter 8, Factions. Factions are important groups. Say a group of allied pirates or smugglers, a government or a band of plucky rebels. Several key factors when creating a faction are given and there is a huge list of sample factions.
Chapter 9 discusses what sort of adventures you might be able to have. With Chapters 6 through 8 and all the details they give, running out of ideas is the least of your worries really.

Chapter 10 covers the creation of alien species. First the hows and whys of aliens are discussed; what to use, where and why to use them. Some of this is situated in the campaign setting, but there is some good advice here even if you plan on using your own background/campaign or not even have aliens. Plenty of traits are detailed and how they might combine. There are three alien races detailed.
Naturally this flows into Chapter 11, Xenobestiary. AKA the Monster Manual. Again we are given a lot of detail on how make alien beasts and then a listing of several samples.
Chapter 12 gives us Robots and Mechs. We have various traits detailed and then plenty of samples.
Chapter 13 deals with societies. This might have felt better coming after Chapter 8 really.
Chapter 14 has designer notes. I nice little treat to be honest.
Chapter 15 deals with the Hydra Sector, or the "Known World" of this game. Instead of countries we have planets.
Chapter 16 ends the book with scores of random tables. Create just about anything with a few rolls of the dice.
There is a nice Index (sadly lacking in many books) and plenty of maps and blank sheets for characters, starships, and adventures.

Stars Without Number is big. It is a vast game with endless possibilities. If there is a sci-fi property out there chances are good that this game will be able to do it.

My only complaint is a non-existent OGL declaration. Can you do a game like this with out one? Maybe, but I would not want too. Plus it makes the game's utility a little less for me.

The game is beautiful and there is so much going on with it that it would take me a number of games with it just to get the right feeling for it. The overall feel I get with this game is that it is the perfect child of Basic D&D and Traveller. So much of what made both of those games so great is here.

Is Stars Without Number perfect? No, not really. But it is really damn close and even from a short distance I could not tell it apart from a perfect game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Core Edition
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Starships & Spacemen 2e
Publisher: Goblinoid Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2015 11:07:36
So what is Starships & Spacemen (S&S)? It is a "military style" missions-based, old-school game in the milieu of Star Trek. First off it is important to point out that while this is the "2e" version of Starships & Spacemen it is more compatible with Goblinoid Games other products like Labyrinth Lord, Realms of Crawling Chaos and Mutant Future. In fact I would go out on a limb and say Mutant Future is a must have since it has rules that can used to create mutants aka aliens. Realms of Crawling Chaos is Cthulhu and those creatures are aliens after all. Labyrinth Lord of course provides more monster/alien creatures.

The author, Dan Proctor admits his love for Star Trek in the forward of the book, and the cover is certainly evocative of the Original Series.

Also, given that it is compatible with Labyrinth Lord it is also compatible with 100s of other products also compatible with LL. It is also compatible with 1000s of other OSR/Old School products too.

The book itself is 95 pages of content, some ads for other Goblinoid Games products, two full color covers (front and back), character sheet, ship record and hex map. There is no OGL page that I could see.

The system is class and level based. There are various races your character can belong to. Three basic classes all in the "Confederation" military-like branch; Military/Command, Sciences and Support/Tech. Or if you prefer, Gold Shirt, Blue Shirt, and Red Shirt. There is Officer level advancement to level 12 and Enlisted advancement to level 9. So if you are running a game of a starship "boldly going where no one has gone before" then you are set. While I am enjoying class/level systems much more now than ever before I do have some issues with this, but I will talk about that later.

The introduction covers the basics of the system; very much the same as Labyrinth Lord.
Section 2 covers the characters and character creation. Here we have our classes and basic races.
Each class has some basic skills that improve with leveling and each race has ability modifiers. The races are as expected pastiches of the expected races. This is fine since it works so well here. There are a couple of others too, including some reptoids and a frog like race.
Equipment covers the expected range too. Though there are two entries that caught my eye. The robot dog for you K9 or Daggit fans. Also there is a telepathic dog. This caught my eye because back in college I ran a brief "Trek" game where the medical officer had a telepathic dog on board.

Section 3 covers Psi powers. These are not class based, but a random d6 power. The powers are detailed like spells and there are couple of special powers for stronger characters. Like other sci-fi games built on the d20 core adding new powers can be easy, but care should be given as to not make the game too much about powers.

Section 4 covers Planetary Adventures. Or what your away team is doing. This covers a lot of "adventuring" style topics including mapping, various weapon damages, and other hazards.

Section 5 is the meatiest of the book. This covers Galactic Adventures. I think my favorite bit here are all the space hazards. Space Mirrors, Gravity Wells. Enough for a full season of starship disaster scenarios. Atmospheric combat, diseases and even time travel is covered. So of the top of my head nearly any episode of the classic series can be reproduced with this chapter. How is plays out of course is up to the players.

Section 6 covers Starships and discusses their basic use, creation and stats. Combat systems are covered, energy weapons, solid projectiles and shields. Transporter Teleporter systems are discussed including the ever popular mishap (yes there is a table). Computer systems are covered (yes they can run more than one program!) Ship to ship combat gets a pretty decent section since it covers new ground.

Section 7, Alien Encounters is the biggest. This covers not just sentient aliens, but "monster" types as well. Again move creatures from other games back and forth here with no effort. The best section is the random "forehead" alien system. Roll some dice and you have a new alien race. You can even randomly determine a background and environment.
The flows right into Section 8, Alien Artifacts. Lost tech of ancient civilizations.

Section 9 is advice for the "Star Master" or Game Master. Some brief background on the setting is given. There is just enough information here to start a campaign and then get going. Really this is all you need. The game is one about exploration and discovery. So it follows that much of the galaxy should be unknown. This game is so flexible that you can do just about anything with it.

Frankly, the game really is awesome and has all the joy of Labyrinth Lord, only with spaceships and lasers.

Critiques
Ok so this game is perfect for a Trek-like game where everyone is serving aboard a starship. The class/level system works for this. But I do have two issues I want to bring up. One is outside the scope of the game, the other is inside it.
First off. If I want to play a game of "Orion" Pirates or Smugglers I have to bend my Officers level advancement a bit. Indeed, some of the classes would not quite work with a group of characters where everyone has to do a little bit of everything. Yesterday my friend Greg Littlejohn (gm for my oldest in his other game) talked about a Smuggler class. That might work well here too.

Secod point is the level titles them selves. While it make perfect sense to have a bunch of Ensigns (1st level) running around doing things, it makes less sense when everyone on 10th+ level and all Admirals. For this I would use the level titles as suggested ranks only. Or maybe make the PCs part of a special task force that allows them to work outside the normal ranking system.

Despite this there is enough here to make it all work.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starships & Spacemen 2e
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White Star: White Box Science Fiction Roleplaying [Swords & Wizardry]
Publisher: Barrel Rider Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2015 11:43:38
Unless you are living in an OSR-free zone you may have missed the big release this week of "White Star" from Barrel Rider Games and +James Spahn.

BRG had made a name for itself publishing classes for "Basic" era D&D/Labyrinth Lord which is how I discovered them. Recently James has made the switch with some very successful products for Swords & Wizardry. In particular he released the White Box Omnibus to much acclaim.

White Star is a similar quality effort, but represents a serious step up in terms of quality and content from his previous efforts. This is immediately obvious in terms of the quality of the cover art, but the interior really lives up (and beyond) that first impression.
White Star is Space Opera viewed through an old-school RPG lens. So think Star Wars. Not the series of movies really, but just the first 1977 movie.
Starting with the basics the book is 132 pages, two pages of cover art, two blank pages and one page of OGL. As usual BRG is very permissive with the content of the books. So this amounts to 128 pages of content (127 + OGL). Not a bad deal really.
The book is divided up as expected. Chapters on Attributes, Character Classes and Races (more on this in a bit), Equipment, Game Play, and Combat. These chapters are more or less similar to what you might find in S&W White Box. Not a copy, but a re-write to accommodate the style and tone of the book. The remaining chapters cover the important topics of SciFi; Starship Combat, Gifts and Meditations, Aliens and Creatures, and Advanced Equipment. There are also chapters on The White Star Campaign, Interstellar Civil War and Kelron Sector, and the Second Battle of Brinn.
As my friend, Greg Littlejohn says, "just enough meat on the bones, yet room on the plate to add some nice sides." That is 100% true.

Character Classes and Races
The classes of White Star are simple enough to cover a variety of character archetypes. The classes include Aristocrat (think Princess Leia or Paul Atreides), Mercenary (Boba Fett, nearly every movie in the 80s), Pilot (Han Solo), and Star Knight (Luke). There are also two race as classes, the Alien Brute (lots of examples), Alien Mystic (Yoda) and Robot. Each class is 10 levels and presented in the same format as S&W. So one could easily move classes back and forth between the two games with ease.

Sci-Fi Chapters
The chapters on Starship Combat and Alien Creatures are really the star here. Starship combat of course can be easily ported over to S&W as ship combat. But there are a lot of really cool nuggets here. It is also one of the chapters where the pure "Star Wars"ishness of the book fades a bit into some "Star Trek".
Alien Creatures covers a wide variety aliens. Nearly everything is here; Borg, Greys, Fluffy aliens, the lot. Since everything is S&W compatible you can move anything back and forth from S&W to White Star. This little feature opens up thousands of creatures to WS.

Gifts and Meditations covers the magical-like powers used by Star Knights and Mystics. Many of these are re-skinned spells. You could add more powers as spells, but only carefully. Some spells are not entirely appropriate for a sci-fi setting.

The last three chapters cover roughly a White Star campaign universe. The Kelron Sector is given some detail. Enough to get you going and enough to give you a good idea of what is going and where you can take it your own. If you watched any Sci-Fi in the 70s or 80s then you will recognize a lot of the pastiche here.

What can I say about White Star? It is one of the best Sci-Fi games I have picked up. The more and more I play, the more and more I like level and class based systems for space opera. It seems right to me somehow. I think it is because I discovered Star Wars and D&D right around the same time and to me they always go together.

IF I had one criticism it would be I would prefer Sword and Wizardry Complete rules or Labyrinth Lord. But that is weak-sauce on my part really. I could convert it if I wanted.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
White Star: White Box Science Fiction Roleplaying [Swords & Wizardry]
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Player's Option: Heroes of the Feywild (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/28/2015 09:44:52
So I picked up the Heroes of the Feywild a while back. I had been looking forward to this one for a while, especially when I saw that the Witch was going to be one of the character class options.
I then spent some time working on various witch characters and builds (and yes I did them all by hand). Here are my insights.

In General
Like Heroes of Shadow, Heroes of the Feywild assumes that these characters are either from or have strong ties to their "homeland" in this case the Feywild. IF you have any interest at all in the Feywild or any sort of land of the Faerie (such as Avalon, Alfheim or any number of others) then this is a good book. While not really compatible with older editions of D&D there is still plenty that can be used. The feats even are written that they could even be used with Pathfinder or D&D 3.x. I found plenty I can use for my current 3.x game that I run with the kids and Ghosts of Albion. I actually ended up liking this book more than the Heroes of Shadow book out earlier.

The Witch
The witch is a new "sub-class" of wizard that basically learned in the Feywild. On one level I didn't like this since the witch isn't really a type of wizard. But in reading it I can get past it since the witch is only a type of wizard "mechanically", she uses the same rules as a wizard and thus all the same powers, feats, magic items, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies the wizard can use. In this respect it makes her more like what I have done in the past where wizards and witches are both a type of "magic-user". It gives the witch a lot of power to choose from.

The witch has two builds or covens she can choose from, a Full Moon Coven and a Dark Moon Coven, or if you prefer a good witch and a bad witch. The covens have some powers associated with them, but the witch is still free to choose powers as she sees fit.
Only Paragon Path is given, the Legendary Witch, and it focuses on the two covens. It lacks any strong thematic element, but this is a complaint I have had of the Paragon Paths of the post Essentials line.
The Epic Destiny, the Witch Queen, though is quite good. I had done something similar as a Prestige Class for 3.5. This one is different but there are some interesting powers and effects.

I might try a multi-classed witch/warlock, but that might be splitting my roles a bit too much

Powers and Spells
What sets this witch apart from another Wizard or a Warlock are her spells and powers. The witch relies on her familiar to learn magic. Something I have seen more and more of late in FRPG versions of the witch. Her magic has a distinct feel to it different than that of the warlock, even if there seems to be some overlap. Witches do get a minor healing power from the Full Moon Coven, and her magics in general are more subtle. She does not for example have a fireball like spell, but she can change monsters into other animals and they take damage for it. Heavy on the charms and transformations. Lots of powers with the Psychic key-word. Some are similar in theme to the Warlock; Horde of Puckish Sprites is not too different, save in level, than Pixie War Band.

I would like to see more on the relationship of Witches and Warlocks. Especially given the Fey commonalities and interactions with Patrons. I think I'll have to write that myself now given that the 4e is a dead line.

Non-Witch Material
There are three new races to play that are well suited to a Feywild/Faerie World sort of game. The Hammadryad, the Satyr and the Pixie. All have something very interesting about them and I'll stat up some witches for each race as well. There are other class builds as well the Berserker (Barbarian), Protector (Druid) and Skald (Bard). All great for a psuedo-Celtic themed game of D&D. Just add Player's Handbook 2 to the mix to get the base Bard and Gnome and you are set. Honestly there is enough here to run a high-magic game and never leave the Feywild.

Overall I am very pleased with this book. It's not perfect, but it is very, very close.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Option: Heroes of the Feywild (4e)
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The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
Publisher: Maximum Mayhem Dungeons
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2015 10:26:55
Also posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/04/a-to-z-of-vampir-
es-vampire-queen.html

Hitting that nostalgia feeling hard is another adventure, The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen. This adventure, written by Mark Taormino might be an homage to the first Palace of the Vampire Queen adventure, but it is more likely an homage to those meat-grinder, total-party kill, fun-house dungeons of the late 70s early 80s. There is a basic plot here, enough to get you in the door and moving along, but really this adventure is about killing things and avoiding getting killed. Example, in one of your first encounters you have to run a gauntlet and get past a bunch of fire giants. Eight of them. And their hell hound pets. This is "room 1". It is downhill from there. It has demons and other vampires in the wander monster table. Liches, demons, succubi, greater devils, nearly 50 vampires in total, tons of other monsters and of course the Queen herself, Lady Neeblack.

This is not an adventure to challenge the resolve of hardy role-players. This is an adventure to survive and leave a trail of bodies behind you. It is old-school, but old-school through the eyes of 40-somethings looking back on their times as teens.
The adventure itself has a great lead in to get you interested, but that is just the carrot on a stick, most people buying and playing this module are going to want to jump right in. Another example (this is not a spoiler), you are captured by Lady Neeblack and told you have to run through her crypts for her amusement. The conceit is the characters will feel coerced into doing this, so they slide down a passage to the previously mentioned Fire Giants. In truth my players wanted to jump in like they were doing a dive at the pool.

Though to claim people will play this for nostalgia reasons is completely unfair. Mark did a great job of this. The rooms are detailed and what detail! There are interesting encounters and Lady Neeblack herself should really move up the ranks as one of the more memorable NPCs ever. In fact I am hoping that she comes back for a sequel sometime soon. Just like a good Hammer villain she should find ways to come back from the dead. Mark Taormino, this needs to happen.
The text of the book is big, easy to read and despite the "old school" claims still has boxed text to read (screw you Grognards! I still like boxed text even when I don't use it.) Each room is unique and feels like it belongs. Plus the "Hanging Coffins" themselves are the coolest idea in vampire graves since the Lost Boys.
The proof of any adventure is not in the reading, but in the playing. So I played it. It rocked.

Now the game is designed for OSRIC, but can played with 1st or 2nd Ed AD&D. I played it with 5th Edition D&D. I just replaced the monsters and made a character sheet for Lady Neeblack. I ran the same group of people that I had taken through the original Palace of the Vampire Queen and we all treated it as an unofficial sequel. I worked out well enough. We all had fun, but if this module reads as a deathtrap on paper it's a killer in the playing. So make of that what you like.
Personally I would love to run it again using AD&D1.

In any case this is one of those adventures that will have your players talking for a long time.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
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CC1 Creature Compendium
Publisher: New Big Dragon Games Unlimited
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2015 16:43:29
"Remember those flashes of inspiration that electrified your brain when you first picked up that hardback volume of monsters all those years ago?" Richard LeBlanc begins this new monster book right where I need to, reminding me of the absolute JOY I had holding the 1st Ed. Monster Manual in my hands for the first time.

This book doesn't quite fill me with that joy (that is a TOUGH act to follow) but it does come close and for the price it is a damn fine book.

So what does this book have? Well it is 94 pages total and over 200 new monster for your Old-School game. Which system? All of them, or nearly enough. Each monster is "dual" stated for 0e/1e and BX. Simply read the stats that work the best for you and take what you need from the other. Sometimes there is no difference. For example an AC of 3 in AD&D is roughly an AC 3 in BX and the monsters will either list 3 or some other close number. Movement rates are easy to convert of course and alignments are different systems, but all in all it is still nice to have.

There are a lot of fun monsters here too. A mix that reminds me of the old Fiend Folio to be honest. Even the art, which is good, reminds me of the FF a lot. Every monster is illustrated, or if they are not I didn't see it. So a lot of art.

Of particular use are the two appendices.
Appendix A gives us Treasure Types by Edition. 0e, 1e, HB and BX. Subtle differences in each, but best to line up what you are doing.
Appendix B gives us the monster XP totals for various editions as well. 0e, S&W, BX/BEDMI, LL, 1e and OSRIC. Great to have.

If they wanted to capture the feel of reading the old MM then they were successful. If you love old school games and monsters then this really is a must buy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CC1 Creature Compendium
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Liberation of the Demon Slayer
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2015 13:22:51
Venger As’Nas Satanis has a reputation comparable to James Raggi. Liberation of the Demon Slayer does nothing to change this. Also this adventure is something I might like to run under Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. There is a mix of demons, devils and Lovecraftian beasts/gods that somehow feels right for that world. There is a lot of the author's advice for running and some of his house rules. Normally I might ignore these, but they seem central to his design philosophy that maybe, just for this adventure, they should be used.
If you, like me, love eldritch abominations and dark magic then this the adventure for you. The adventure itself "sounds" simple enough. Retrieve a demon killing sword from the caves to stop the demons attack your village. Easy peasy. Trouble is that the author grew up when dungeons-as-meat-grinders were a thing and everyone was afraid the big bad devil was going to get you. This adventure though is closer in tone and danger to the Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen than it is to most Lamentations of the Flame Princess products. With the right DM this could be a great and dangerous adventure where the party could live. Sure they could all easily die too. One can read this and imagine that all of the author's games are a bit like it.

Actually I have known the author for a number of years and yeah this is exactly the kind of things I expect in his games. I think the difference here with this adventure and some of his earlier material is there is a maturity here to accept the absurd. This adventure can be played straight or with a dash of dark humor. Think of it as a horror movie, even the scariest have a touch of humor to them; it sets you up for the bigger punch later down the road.

Curiously enough in my own games I do have an epic weapon for killing demons. In my current world state this sword is lost and a quest is needed to recover it. Maybe this is what I need. If so then the value of this adventure just increased ten-fold for me. I am going to have to spend some quality time with it and a pencil to see if it can be recrafted into something that fits my world a little better.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Liberation of the Demon Slayer
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The Snake's Heart - A Lost Age Adventure
Publisher: Moebius Adventures
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2015 13:13:37
This is my newest one. The overall feel of this one is like an action movie. Maybe more like a horror-action movie, but you get the idea. The adventure is hard core old school. It is compatible with S&W: White Box but like most of the OSR adventures it can be used with just about any rules. The file is a pretty simple affair; 19 pages, line art. So nothing too fancy, but the aesthetic is very, very old school. It looks like something your older brother's friend who was the first kid in the neighborhood to play D&D might have made; only a lot better.
The adventure itself starts with a simple set up and encounter (I like adventures that make the players DO something right away) and then that simple encounter leads to a confrontation with an evil cult. Shenanigans ensue. The adventure takes a few cues from more modern adventures and separates encounters. The effect this has is to keep the action flowing. If this were a movie it would be Raiders of the Lost Ark or, more aptly, The Temple of Doom. At just under $2.00 it is also perfect for an afternoon when you want to play something but don't have an adventure ready to go.
For myself I might make some minor changes here and there. Snake Goddesses are fun and all but what if I need a Wolf Goddess or a Centipede one? It make a great introduction for some characters that have already been through one adventure and are their way to the larger plot brewing. I say grab this one and use it this weekend.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Snake's Heart - A Lost Age Adventure
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Publisher Reply:
Awesome. Thanks for all the kind words!
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