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The Awesome System
Publisher: Sharkpunch Studios
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/09/2014 22:12:10
OVERVIEW

The Awesome System is an universal system by the new game publishing outfit Sharkpunch Studios. Sharkpunch Studios, based on the spellings of Defence and Armour and such in the text, are a UK outfit. This universal system is not generic however; it is designed to handle ‘80s style over-the-top B movie, Midnight Drive-in, Cult Classic, and Grindhouse action with a touch of gonzo craziness. Think of over the top action flicks like Riki Oh: The Story of Riki, Nemesis, They Live, Band of the Hand, The Hidden, I Come in Peace, Galaxy of Terror, Zombie Doom, Shaw Brothers Kung-Fu films, El Santo Flicks, Sho Kosogi Ninja flicks, even MegaForce (That’s right Flying Motorcycles with mini-missiles and spandex body suits would totally fit right in this game.) The thrust of the system became apparent to me when I saw the full-page art after the Table of Contents, a Mexican Wrestler landing a flying guillotine on a Hammer Horror style elegant vampire.. The thrust of the system is for the characters to wade through mooks and chew through scenery, as they rush-headlong toward climatic set-pieces of sheer awesome, and save the day along the way. Though the system has echoes of a heartbreaker by mention classes and levels and making snarky asides about other RPG’s character creation, it does have a unique voice . The rules imply a semi-antagonistic free-wheeling beer and pretzel play style, the system encourages players to make your character more awesome than the rest of the party. There is definitely a tongue-in-cheek, THIS IS AWESOME, aesthetic to the game.

THE PDF

The PDF is 138 pages, including front and back covers , with a Full-color cover, in mostly muted grays and blues, and a B&W interior. The front cover is of a Full-Borg-Conversion Elven Rockerboy wailing on a all-chrome guitar, which I consider to be an attractive piece-- if not the best cover art evar. It conveys the aesthetic of the game well. The art is split between sketchy/smudgy colored line art and some really nice clean line art pieces reminiscent of pieces in the old Cyberpunk 2020 game. I like it. I particularly like the full-page piece on page 38.

INTRODUCTION

The rules are written in an over-the-top hyped up writing style, reminiscent of Savage Worlds, but with more “DudeBro” breathlessness and Cracked style snark. The rules are actually well-written and well-edited, I noticed very few typos in my reading. I enjoyed the writing style, which is consistent throughout the rules, though it may grate on some. The rules are made up of thirteen chapters, from the Table of Awesome, Introduction! (Yes it has an exclamation point), Character Creation!, Props!, The Rules!, The Fight!, Maneuvers!, Metal Men!, Tempests!, Movie Magic!, Rocking Out!, Game Mastering!, Adventures!, and Bestiary!.

THE SYSTEM

The rules system is a d6 based dice pool system with a few twists. You roll a number of dice equal to stat plus skill levels (We are talking high-power Shadowrun levels of dice here,) and take highest. Individual 6s rolled on the dice explode, with individual dice adding up to singular higher totals. Finally, you add any Skill Bonuses you have to the highest individual die result. The second major type of roll is Stunts, in which, instead of taking highest, you add up all the dice in the roll.

Characters can only Stunt under special circumstances, such as during combat or when using a Hero Skill. The stunting system is tied to the combat initiative system such that if you end up with additional actions on a round, you take a single action that counts as a stunt, or double stunt, or triple stunt, or even quadruple stunt instead. Thus whatever action you take will produce a very high result. Multiplied Stunts apply their Stunt Multiplier to any Awesome Points spent, adding extra dice to your roll, for which you add up all the dice, equal to the Action Points times the Stunt Multiplier. What are Awesome Points you say? Awesome Points are the games “Hero Points” currency, allowing you alter the way the rules affect your character. For instance, you can do a Deathbed Monologue and ignore hit points lost from bleeding out, Grit Your Teeth and ignore pain penalties for one turn, use Handling allowing you to manipulate your action dice & gain Stunt multipliers, be Light as Feather and take half falling damage, or Speed Up and gain an extra speed die at the start of combat.

COMBAT SYSTEM

The combat is system is fairly standard blow-by-blow system. The initiative system is unique and ties into the ‘Stunt’ system, as mentioned earlier. Your Speed score gives you the number of D6 you roll to determine in which of the 6 rounds during a turn you can act. If more than one of your Speed Die comes up for the same round, your action that turn becomes a Stunt, Double Stunt, Triple Stunt, or Quadruple Stunt and so on, for rolling 2,3, or 4 speed dice with that number for a round. Weapons have a Handling rating that, with an expenditure of an action point, lets your character manipulate his actions during the turn up to the handling rating. Thus being able to go sooner in the turn, or combine actions in a round to get a Stunt action. You can either spend an action or an Awesome Point to use defenses, such as Dodge or block. The to-hit roll is simply your relevant weapon or attack skill versus the target’s defense stat. Damage is a number of dice based on weapon (and Brawn for melee) and the amount by which you beat the to-hit roll, and are added together to get the damage. Damage totals are large in this game, with average characters having double digit or larger hit point totals.

CHARACTER CREATION

The character creation is a points based system. Under the system, the GM sets initial allotment based on the ‘power level’ of the campaign, players can then bargain for more. Better fleshed out characters gain a few bonus points. “A well-thought out character is a strong character,” states the text. The text recommends characters be specialized and work together by filling ‘roles/niches’ in party. The rules include point advice and optimization advice in the character creation rules. The game uses five base stats, Brawn, Brains, Flow (DEX/AGILITY), Soul, and Speed, reminding of Savage Worlds a bit. Skills are rated by Levels/Bonus. Skill Levels are a more variable quantity adding an extra die to roll when performing an action, which affects stunt rules/range of results. A Skill Bonus is flat add, making the skill more reliable. Skills are associated with a Stat, with the skills being mostly focused on the Brains or Flow stats.

Character creation also includes options for Powers and Weaknesses (Powers = advantages/Perks in this case). Next are options for Weird Powers/Weaknesses, which are super powers and more esoteric/impossible abilities, Weaknesses are vulnerabilities and such. The Special Moves options are Combat Techniques, similar to HERO martial arts maneuvers, some D&D Feats. Characters are also defined by derived stats, of which there are many. First is Armour, which is done as damage resistance reducing damage you take. Then there is Awesome, Awesome determines how much your character can ignore the laws of physics in the name of totally rocking out. A Cash stat, which does what it sounds like. A Defence stat, did I mention these guys are British?, which gives you your target number for being hit. Then there are Hero Skills, which are skills you can spend Awesome Points on to stunt up. Another derived stat is your Hit Points, which are equal to (20+(Brawnx20)) making for large values, around 100 or so is a common amount of hit points. Next you have your Movement and Speed Dice Stats, which are used as part of initiative/action system. They determine on which rounds within the 6 part turn you have action ‘phases’. Last is Props, which is your character’s gear and equipment.

CHAPTER 6: MANEUVERS

This chapter includes rules for your character doing fancy attacks and awesome maneuvers. These maneuvers range from the common Called Shots and Disarm maneuvers to more radical fisticuffs such as Giant Slaying (running up a gigantic enemy to deliver your devastating attacks), Ricochets (Yes you can Richochet off of water, cause it’s god damn awesome that’s why), Rocket Jumping (Just like Doom), and the most detailed Shark Wrestling rules I have ever seen in the over 100 RPG’s I have read. Detailed vehicle action rules are also included in this chapter.

CHAPTER 7: METAL MEN

This chapter has rules on making automaton and robot characters. I will let the authors speak to the intent of the rules for metal men. “Our use of the KILLER ROBOT as a metaphor and as a channel for Storytelling may not be misconstrued. TO be clear, KILLER ROBOTS are not real. The extent TO WHICH THEY MAY BE SAID TO *KILL PUNY HUMANS* is revealed only in WHAT THEY CAN TEACH US of the HUMAN CONDITION and of THE FRAGILITY AND SPLENDOUR which we call YOUR *PATHETIC MEATBAG LIFE*”

CHAPTER 8: TEMPESTS

This chapter includes rules for an elemental kung-fu styled power users, called Tempests. The elements include Chi, Decay, Divine, Fire, Rock (killer tunes, not lame Earth magic – Brutal), Void, and Slime. These Tempest disciplines include a set of interesting powers such as Decay Tempests’, Some Kind of Skull magic, Rock Tempests’ Power of Sound, and Slime Tempests’ Tentacles ability. The chapter also includes Rules for making your own Tempest style.

CHAPTER 9: MOVIE MAGIC

This is a fun chapter, offering rules in the spirit of Feng SHui’s stunt rules. The chapter informs you that by buying this set of ‘Move Magic’ powers, your character can pull off the ridiculous stunts of the most over-the-top action movies. Once you buy the Lights power, you can be a Movie Magician, or Director for short. Being a Director gives you access to Powers such as Blockbuster, in which all inanimate objects take multiplied damage, allowing for massive collateral damage featured in summer blockbusters, or Challenge, which causes all other combatants to quit fighting while you mano-y-mano with the bad guys lieutenant or other tough underlings.

CHAPTER 10: ROCKING OUT

From the text, “In the Awesome System, Music more than just a hobby: It’s the rhythm to which life, love and awesomeness are conducted. Most people can go through life without even being aware of this eternal reverberation while other’s ride it.” That’s right, characters in the awesome system can wield the awesome power of rock, like KISS in that KISS Movie from the 70’s (Which I thought was pretty damn awesome as like an 8 year old), or DethKlok in Metalocalypse. This is accomplished by taking the Rock Star power. True to the Metalocalypse feel, you can summon the Powers of Ragnarock, which for the Metal Rock Star, includes the power to bring on Brutal Suffering Blacker than the Blackest Night. The result of using the Brutal Suffering Blacker than the Blackest Night power is that the Gods of Metal awaken from their eternal slumber and engulf the earth. Once awakened, they kill 5 out of every 6 people, and enslave the rest. It’s not all bad though, because the song totally owned. This chapter would be good to use to play Magical Girl Baby Metal Doom Metal Savior Super, or something.

The book rounds out with a chapter on Gamemastering, with running advice devoted to producing the insane movie style action that is the thrust of the game. Next is a chapter featuring two introductory adventures, Attack of the Death Sharks and The Skeleton King. Attack of the Death Sharks is the archetypal, classic Awesome System adventure, featuring the Shark King. It sounds … wait for it… Jawesome!

SUMMARY

Ok, so bottom line, I think the Awesome system is far from a Universal Heartbreaker; it is not the least bit generic but focuses on producing crazy b-grade movie action. It features a solid core system and workable rules; Rules that are presented in a consistently entertaining writing style, with an unusual focus, kind of like a Universal Feng Shui with more ‘80s action movie gonzo loving. If your looking for a fun one-off or filler game for a break from your regular game, grab this and some beer and pretzels, preferably in combination with a B-movie night. I recommend Riki Oh: The Story of Riki, and The Awesome System.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Awesome System
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Outremer
Publisher: Better Mousetrap Games
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/02/2013 09:26:12
OVERVIEW

Outremer: A Dream of What Could Have Been is a Alternate History game of the Crusades, set in the Levant. Outremer, comes from the French and means Overseas, as the Holy Lands of the Crusades were called. The subject of Historical/Alternate History RPGs is an interesting one, as traditionally there have been relatively few historical RPGs. Most authors instead opting for alternate earths with faux versions of historical societies, or outright fantasy worlds. Which is a shame, as historical adventure makes for very fertile ground for RPGs.

This has been true for most fiction as well, your author was relatively unfamiliar with the Crusades themselves, in part due to the limited amount of source material. As part of my reading, I read through the historical adventures of Robert E. Howard, of Conan fame. First the omnibus by Bison Books Lord of Samarcand and other adventure tales of the Old Orient There is also his collection Sword Woman and other Historical Adventures . Howard himself talks about this limited love for Historical Adventure compared to Fantasy, Weird, and Science Fiction Tales, in a letter to a friend, written after he had completed the Sowers of Thunder.

"And Babar the Tiger who establishes the Mogul rule in India — and the imperial phase in the life of Babair the Panther the subject of my last story — and the conquest of Constantinople by the Fifth Crusade — and the subjugation of the Turks by the Arabs in the days of Abu Bekr — and the gradual supplanting of the Arab masters by their Turkish slaves which culminated by the conquest of Asia Minor and Palestine by the Seljuks — And the rise of Saladin — and the final destruction of Christian Outremer by Kalawun — and the First Crusade — Godfrey of Boullion, Baldwin of Boulogne, Bohermund — Sigurd the Josala-farer — Barbarossa — Couer de Lion. Ye Gods, I could write a century and still have only tapped the reservoir of dramatic possibilities. I wish to hell I had a dozen markets for historical fiction — I’d never write anything else."

Another Author I read is Howard Lamb, his Swords from the West and other Swords from Series have great Historical adventure. Even Hollywood has only done a few Crusader movies. The most recent being Ridley Scott’s the Kingdom of Heaven (which has gorgeous shots, but is kind of dull, thought its version of Baldwin makes for great inspiration. I also watched Arn: The Knight Templar, based on the popular Swedish book series by Jan Gaillou. And of course, there are innumerable books on the subject. I read through Thomas Madden’s A Concise History of the Crusades. For further reading Check the Crusades titles by Thomas Asbridge and Armin Malouf. But I digress

Outremer: A Dream of what could have been, part of Flying Mice Games ‘Blood Games’ line, in which the option of Magic is included, is a Historical Adventure RPG set during the Crusades, in a alternate history where the Crusader states were able to survive into the 16th century. Although it could use some more introductory text and supplementary material., Outremer provides a set serviceable rules, a novel campaign setup, and an option for troupe play, that come together to deliver solid historical adventure RPG in a field with a dearth of titles. Check it out, God Wills it!


THE PDF

293 Page PDF, Color Illustrations, as well as some black and white line art. historical looking pieces done as paint filtered, brings across mood/feel ok. Good for most part. It is laid out as a single column with a sidebar in a serif font. It consists mostly of black white text and tables, with a few art pieces here and there. Serviceable and is relatively printer friendly due to its simple design aesthetic, . It is easy to read and has plenty of whitespace. However, some of the text has been cut and pasted from another game in the “Blood Games” line, On Her Majesty’s Arcance Service (OHMAS), or Starpool, which you will see reference to where it should be Outremer. So –1 point there.

INTRODUCTION:

The introductionIs fairly dense, and focuses on the history of the crusades. The text could have used more Historical asides here and there, such as the one included on Hulagu of the Mongols. (An appropriate one would have been a note on the assasination of Saladin as historically the old Man of the Mountains and the Assassins of Ismali attempts on Saladin’s life). Later in the chapter a Timeline of the Crusade era, as well as the alternate Outremer timeline is given. Which would have been better first. A brief overview of the Crusades themselves probably would have helped make this game more accessible. A couple of Maps are included which help.

Probably the most interesting/contentious element of the game, that despite it being a alternate history that closely follows history in the real world, that the game includes magic in the setting. However, the designer makes a good point, the power of faith and a belif in magic played a real role in the historical crusades, consider the siege of Antioch, the Crusaders were trapped by the Turks, starving, and by all rights ready for defeat. Then a monk by the name of Peter Bartholomew dreamed that the Spear of Loginus, the relic used to wound Christ on the Cross, was buried in the city. After much digging in St Peters, the Crusader leaders produced a rusty spearhead. Believing it the Holy Lance, the Crusaders managed to sally forth and defeat the Turks.

Or consider the capturing of Jerusalem during the first crusade. Starving and with their numbers greatly decreased, the Crusaders won Jerusalem after the Barefoot Procession. The barefoot procession occurred after a Priest by the name of Peter Desiderius claimed to have a divine vision in which the ghost of Adhemar instructed them to fast for three days and then march in a barefoot procession around the city walls, after which the city would fall in nine days. Amazingly enough, the crusaders marched barefoot, while the Fatimid forces jeered them. And, they were able to successfully besiege the city and the Crusaders captured Jerusalem. So there is precedent for miraculous happenstance. Of course, it easy enough to ignore the magic bits, or declare them charlatanry, or outrageous luck at your table.

THE SYSTEM & COMBAT SYSTEM

Outremer uses the “Starpool” house system from Flying Mice’s Starcluster game. This can be deduced by the fact that the text is cut and pasted without changing the chapter name. Task Resolution has the character rolling xD20 as a dice pool against a target number equal to the controlling attribute for the skill. (Attributes have a max of 15 usually). Characters roll a base D20 plus one D20 versus, an individual target number, for each point of skill. 0+ skill leaves you with one die against a Target Number equal to the controlling attribute. For every 5 ranks in a skill, a character has a level of Mastery which lets him reroll his skill attempt if the attempt fails.

Combat is a standard actions in initiative order individual attack and defense actions type system. The system is moderately lethal, and a competent and functional traditional combat system. Healing is fairly quick in the system, and there is possibility of magical healing. In addition rules for diseases and other typical hazards are included.

CREATING YOUR ASSOCIATION

Unfortunately, the game falls down a bit in its presentation in that there is no explanation of the overall design of the game. Such as the fact that each of the characters is assumed to belong to an Association. (It is tucked away in the GM section, and the discussion of troupe style play, for which this game is a great fit, is in the appendices. Also, Can I get a search and replace on that, it has OHMAS in several places where it should be Outremer.)

Now that we have figured that out, each player character is assumed to be part of the same association or organization. These organizations can be one of a variety of associations. Mercenary companies, holy orders, Courtier Retinue, Government Agency, Secret society, religious cult, Witch Hunters, scholars, or part of a trading company. You determine the capital available to the Organization, and use these ‘points’ to purchase a home base and attendant amenities. A Mountain Stronghold would cost your Assassin organization 256. The options range from a literal hole in the ground (caves) to a full on palace. You then spend the remaining points on a number of “areas of interest”, with a logistics and maintenance overhead. These amenities/areas of interest include guards and security, espionage assets, warships, transport, medical assets, armory, Arcane library, Training, Cartography, Mercenaries, Artificers. This system will let the players build their own Monastery Fortress “Krak Des Chevalier”, or the mountain stronghold the Ismali Assassins and the Old Man of the mountain. Each amenity gives the characters access to various bits of equipment, retainers, etc, and serve as great plot hooks.

CHARACTER CREATION

Outremer’s character creation is done using a life-path system. Which I find helps immerse the characters more in the setting as they see their character evolve from the environment into which they are born. One of the biggest considerations for characters, if magic “is real” is if character follows a magical path. Which is a total commitment, they are limited to one Path of Power. Which offer great benefits and advantages. These paths include The Esotericist, The Magus, Minstrels, Crusader/Ghazi (holy/warrior paladin), The Kabbalist, The Sorcerer, Mechanists, Oracles, and Dervishes. Then there are the “quasi-path” hedge mystic types including fortune tellers, snake charmers. etc. There also options for non-humans, Half-angels, Immortals (there can be only one, or should be in a party), and Half-djinn. But we are interest in historical gaming, so you can agree to ban all this stuff at your table.

Eschewing these options, we go back to our life-path character creation. You first decide on a characters attributes (max of 15), distributing 44 points or a making a random roll for Strength(STR), Coordination(COOR), Agility (AGY), Endurance(END), and Charisma(CHA). In addition points are distributed or randomly for characters Intelligence (INT), Magical Potential (MAG), and Family Lifestyle stats. Family Lifestyle here is a bit like Social from Traveller. Players then have a life stages, mother’s milk (you get a few points to spend on skill your character would have learned growing up, at age 10), then Apprenticeship (Artisan, Farmer, Scholar, etc.) and Journeyman stages. The character must meet attribute requirements and lifestyle requirements . The is a waiver roll to let the character enter it anyway, each apprenticeship, journeymanship, and profession has similar rules and skills and attributes available to those in it, similar to Careers in Warhammer.

So overall a solid system though it can be a bit lengthy. This flexibility and depth of detail in the character creation system is taken advantage of in the GM section by pointing out how a character can be ‘scaled’ to a particular “age” or stop on his lifepath, and then have adventures occur there. So it offers flexibility in play as well. Overall a good system, reminiscent of Warhammers careers.

RELIGION

A chapter with a brief outline of the major tenets and religious observances of the major faiths, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are given, as well as rules for Tests of Faith, Tests of Will, possession and Relics Artifacts. The section on Islam is both respectful, and includes details on the many sects within the religion.

THE NATIONS OF OUTREMER

This chapter outlines the major nations of Outremer (there are many, as it was a very balkanized area inhabiated by many people.) An overview of the many peoples and how they are referred to as well as the major languages of the setting are included. Included in each description are overview of the states relations with the other city-states and holdings, as well as common traits of the people. It is a good chapter for all of the players to read, and perhaps print out, as its exotic names and overview of each nation are inspiring. Consider the Order State of Ascalon, with major holdings by The Knights Templar, Knights Hospitalier, Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, Knights of St. Lazarus, and the Teutonic Knights

APPENDICES:

The appendices are full of good supplementary material including Historical/Culturally appropriate names for Frankish, Arabic, Armenian, Jewish, Byzantine, Bohemian, Kurdish and Turkish peoples. A short chapter on Cuisine discussing the major foods that would be available as well as the common types of dishes, and the diets practiced by the various faiths. Good Info for bringing across the exotic atmosphere, no monkey brains though. There is an appendix Muslim Titles, so you know a Turkish Atabeg from a Egyptian Caliph, from a Mongol Khan. Again, brings across the exotic atmosphere.

APPENDICE A: Options

This chapter is full of good stuff for adding optional rules. The most interesting being the rules for Troupe play. Which along with the Generational play style outlined in the all too brief Game master chapter is a great fit for this game.

SUMMARY

Overall Outremer is an unpolished Gem. It is chock full of Crusader era goodness and cool ideas. It could stand more detail for historical play and supplementary material to get people into the Crusader states and the Outremer setting.. My biggest complain is that that it is underdeveloped and underwritten at the moment. The game could use more explanatory text, and editing of its imported sections. Some of the sections feel more like notes than a full text. But if you and your group are up to diving in and using the bare bones presented, you have a solid set of rules and inventive alternate history to explore a terribly underrepresented and exciting setting for historical adventure. Check it out. God Wills it!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Outremer
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Silvervine Games Core Rulebook and Cyrus Worldbook
Publisher: Silvervine Games
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/20/2013 11:20:44
Silvervine Games Core Rulebook & Cyrus Worldbook is a Universal/Multi-genre rules system and bundled fantasy steampunk world setting rules book published by the eponymous Silvervine games. The Silvervine system provides players with a simple core mechanic and unlimited, semi free-form character creation coupled with a fortune in the middle resolution system. The focus of the resolution system is to put the power in the players hands to explain the look and feel of their actions in the fiction, along with an emphasis on shared narration, allowing players to ‘pass the GM Hat’, and narrate the results of actions in the game, and the reactions of NPCs and elements within the fiction. Coupled with this expressive, free-wheeling system is a whimsical, slightly gonzo fantasy steampunk setting that mixes all sorts of furry character types and talking animals, Humans, elves, dwarves, ogres, automauta and others together in a JRPG, manga aesthetic world.

THE PDF

The Silvervine Games Core Rulebook and Cyrus Worldbook, or Cyrus Rules for short, comes as a 322 page PDF. It features Anime/Manga style artwork of varying qualities. There a lot of Furry creature races presented in the artwork, as they exist in the Cyrus campaign setting. The artwork is in full color, with some black and white sketches, and is of good quality for most part. Like some of the better stuff you might see on Deviant Art. Though there are some very amateurish scribbles here and there. The pages are laid out as a two column black & white text with a fancy border design and faded background design. It is a bit busy, but easy enough to read.

The rules themselves are written in conversational style filled with an infectious lets play energy by the authors.. (I want to play a game with these guys!) Running comic Geeba’s in Paradise adds some humor and breaks up otherwise dry sections of the rules. Overall it is a well done document.

THE SYSTEM

The Silvervine System uses a Dice pool of D10s. To resolve a roll, you combine the 2 most relevant attributes to get your dice pool. THe base target # is 8, to count as a success. The attributes are Strength, Reflexes, Perception, Knowledge, Spirit, Toughness, Presence. A rating of 2 or 3 is average for most attributes.. SKills range in levels of 1-5, with 3 being high professional skill. Skills reduce the base target number needed for a success. So a skill of 1, would give you a base target # of 7 on your dice. This core mechanic is used through the rules.

THEMATICS, CINEMATICS, and SHARED NARRATIVE.

One of the more interesting game concepts and one that distinguishes the Cyrus Rules from other universal system is the central concepts of CInematics, Thematics and Shared Narrative. Thematics refers to the fact the base mechanics are effects based, a characters abilities are only defined in game terms. The specific look is defined by the character, this fits the freewheeling anime feel of game, where small, ostensibly weak characters can be super tough, etc. The Cinematics concept establishes the ‘'Fortune In The Middle’ function of the rules. The numbers just give the bare mechanical results, the ballpark. The player gets to explain the narration of results and how it looks within the fiction of the game world. Finally, the concept of Shared Narrative emphasises that each player have the chance to effect more of the fiction, including narrating the resolution of actions, the actions of NPCs where appropriate, etc. The idea is that the GM hat can be passed to allow each player to make contributions that lead to the most fun and memorable game results, by being able to narrate results in the fiction beyond just their character, as agreed on by the other players. Cool method.

These ideas and the free-wheeling energetic feel of the game is also brought across by SilverVines ‘10 commandments‘ which are included in the base game system chapter.

1.) At your table, its your game. (Rule 0)

2.) Thematics and Cinematics are there to advance the game so use them.

3.) Take Shared Narrative as far as you want to go.

4.) Players bring your special skills and powers into play.

5.) If it makes sense, let it happen!

6.) If it makes the game more fun, let it happen

7.) If you want to make a situation challenging, make it challenging

8.) Combat should be as balanced as you want it to be

9.) Rule 0

10.) Roleplaying is about fun for the whole group.

CHARACTER CREATION

Character creation in the Cyrus Rules is similar to Tri-Stat/BESM’s freeform abilities. You pay xp cost for various semi-freeform abilities, beyond your attributes and skills. Characters are put into broad experience tiers based on thei point values, Novice, Journeyman, Adventurer, Hero, Epic, Legendary. Similar to Savage WOrlds rookie, veteran, hero. Which puts a cap on max skill level and Hit points.

The character creation process includes 8 steps.

1.) Determine Birth sign/ Archai blessing (5 element), which ties into Cyrus world background.

2.) Choose Archetype, broad outline of character of the form descriptor descriptor title, Warrior-Poet raised by Ogres, frex. as a guide to character creation

3. Choose Race, there are many many races in Cyrus background, Human Animalia (anthropomorphic animals/furries), Animos – talking animals, Elves (Dragon, Green, Oaken, Sun), Dwarves, Feychildren, Ogres, Mechanist Automata, also Orcs and Goblins. the game has a Very JRPG feel with a touch of whimsy.

4.) Choose Free Focus Profession/Field of Study. Your characters basic broad skills/abilities.

5.) Spend initial experience points. Here you can buy skills, weapon skills and weapons, Focuses, Magic and Spells, extra Attributes levels, and Extra Hit points. This feels very much like character creation in Tri-stat, beyond all the attributes.

6.) Determine Combat Ratings, Initiative Mod, Manna, Tech Points, Defensive Ratings

7.) Starting Languages

8.) Equipment.

It is a fairly standard character creation system, with BESM and Savage Worlds being closest in feel of how it works. One point, I Don’t particularly care for the faux tribal line design of character sheet, YMMV

COMBAT & HAZARDS

Combat is a straightforward implementation of the core mechanic, functional and workmanlike.. Actions and initiative are a traditional action system implementation. You roll 1d10 plus bonuses for initiatives. On your initiative you may take on full action, or half actions, etc.

Attack rolls are made against a R# (Resistance # – the number of successes needed) based on targets attributes. Hitting with an attack requires, meeting an opponents defensive Rating, by rolling that # of success or more. A hits deals one level of the weaps dmg rating plus characters relevant weapon skill, with each extra success adding another multiple of that damage.

Armor is handled as a soak roll, with each success of TGH+armor dice absorbing the absorption rating of the armor for each success, up to the armor’s absorption cap. Similar to the damage roll. Overall it is a competent system with moderate detail, along the lines of Savage Worlds or similar system. Though a fair amount of rolling.

There is another chapter with rules for the typical hazards, falling damage, explosions, poisons etc. Which are simple implementations of the core mechanics. Again, at first glance they appear to serviceable competent rules.

MAGIC IN CYRUS

The magic system is handled as an effects based setup, with access to various powered spells dependent on a casting ability. So you're character would buy Magic Casting Ability Level 1 for 35xp, and be able to purchase and cast 1st level spells. Much like Magery in GURPS. There are seven magic paths in the Cyrus campaign setting. Animancy, Arcanist, Archai Ritualist, Clavian Cultivation, Mancer, Maingthian Corruption, and finally Summoning.

With Animancy the character learns magic from spirits, celestials, or elementals). Arcanists are master magic users and theorists, who can purchase and cast spells above their level with chance of feedback. Archai Ritulaization is used by divine casters who learn magic through dedication to Taeos and the Archai. Clavian Cultivation lets the character cultivates his own spirit to access the power of magic. For a Mancer, the character is born with elemental power in their blood, gaining bonuses to cast spells of that element. Those who practice Maingthian Corruption, have the character learn magic through sacrificial dedication ot the Bone God, or a fell celestial. The character gains extra Manna for his sacrifices. Summoning practitioners can use and create summon tokens, objects with contain avatars of various spirits, celestials or creatures, think Final Fantasy summons.

CYRUS GAZETTE

Done as a Gazette/travel guide style. Interesting Steampunk style setting with lots of furry races. I Don't normally like furry, but the style and feel of them in this world I find appealing. The sheer number adds to interest, along with the nature of the world.

The Travel guide is done in epistolary form as a letter between two brothers, interspersed with faux documents from the game worlds, as well as articles from the travel guide. I found it to be a rather interesting world, with some major metaphysical setting elements, such as the floating islands, and the endless sea surrounding the continents of the game setting. With its Steampunk elements, vast array of races, and touch of gonzo whimsy, it’s a pretty interesting and fun looking setting.

SUMMARY

Overall, I like the Silvervine Games Core Rule Book and Cyrus Worldbook (Long title is long). The designers mention playing the game at several cons, and that let’s play energy shows throughout the writing of the book. The competent base mechanics combined with the ‘Fortune In The Middle’ resolution system and shared narrative thrust of play provides a stand-out design in the crowded field of universal systems. The free-form character creation combined with the JRPG fantasy steampunk sensibilities of the Cyrus setting makes for a pretty fun game to play. I’d play!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Silvervine Games Core Rulebook and Cyrus Worldbook
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Broken Rooms
Publisher: Greymalkin Designs
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/04/2012 23:30:56
Broken Rooms is a Multi-genre Universal RPG by Greymalkin Designs . From the introduction chapter, “you could call Broken Rooms a modern-day post-apocalyptic science fiction conspiracy horror roleplaying game of parallel worlds. “ Taken further, Broken Rooms is a thematically meaty game of characters thrust into the struggles of the 12 dying variants of Earth prime. Starting with the character’s First Fall, characters tumble-down a rabbit-hole and learn the meaning of “You can never go home again.” Built upon a competent set of core rules and guided by excellent campaign advice, and set against a imaginative cosmology, called the Nearside, Broken Rooms provides a compelling, darker twist on the concept of parallel world adventures.

Lets explore the details.

THE PDF

I received the PDF version of Broken Rooms, it is now available in B&W hardback format as well. Broken Rooms comes as 465 page PDF, laid out in a spacious 2 column format. The document contains some detailed backgrounds, while the artwork is mostly photoshopped stock photos, done as B&W line art. It is decent and adds to the mood. The rules also contain 5 pieces of short fiction that bring across feel of world(s), which provide decent writing with atmospheric detail.

THE SYSTEM

The core system in Broken Rooms is called ‘The Momentum’ system, which refers to the concept of Momentum as supernatural potential that characters can build up. It is a D12 based dice pool system. Stats are give number of dice to roll, 4-6 for most characters, while skills give the target # to count as a success. For instance, Familiar with a skill gives a target rating of 9+, while Professional Skill gives a target # of 7+. Players can generate momentum on their rolls if any pair of the dice add up to 13. So a player might roll 4d@9+ to resolve an action. The Counting of momentum and the optional momentum rolls adds some handling time to resolution, but as it gives greater player oomph, player’s shouldn’t mind. Especially if the advice to only roll when important is used. It is a competent system feeling a bit like a Storytelling/WoD variant.

CHARACTER CREATION

Character creation is fairly traditional, with the exception of there being only 3 core stats, body, mind, soul, rated primary, secondary, tertiary. Skills are broad. Characters choose 3 skills which they are familiar with 9+, based on their background/profession, The rest are bought with skills points. The character also gains his Nearsider abilities in which the details of how his travel through the nearside has affected him, and what abilities he has unlocked. There are 13 Meridians, which are particular powers that Nearsiders can exhibit, on account of the Hind Brain Anomaly that lets them walk between worlds, as well alter reality around them. In addition characters have qualities, advantages/disadvantages based on their personalities and proclivities. Each character also has 3 important milestones defined, the major persona loss he suffered that activated his Nearsider abilities, First Fall, the occasions when he first traveled between worlds, and his recruitment into the greater struggles of the Nearsiders. Characters are finished up with Damage tracks/thresholds, and money and equipment. Equipment is handled fairly abstractly, possibly providing a bonus to skill use, or allowing it all.

MERIDIANS

As I mentioned there are 13 Meridians, key Nearsider powers that let them alter reality around them in limited ways, beyond their supernatural luck and the ability to travel between worlds. Each character has a Prime Meridian, which is a major facet of their personality, and operates a bit like a character class. The Meridians are Blocking, Breaking, Chancing, Changing, Closing, Finding, Juicing, Keeping, Mending, Moving, Opening, Reading, and Writing. All of them are coveted by the various organizations at work across the Nearside, especially those Meridians related to travel, combat, healing and communication. Character can gain access to two additional meridians, which will be limited in power compared to their prime meridian.

DISTANCE AND TRAVEL

One of the major themes of Broken Rooms is how traveling the nearside affects a character, expressed as “travel broadens the mind”, and “you can’t go home again”. This is represented by the concept of Distance, a palpable ‘background radiation’ accumulated by a character travelling through parallel realities and using their powers. This causes emotional distance, as they slowly lose touch with the flat, limited perspectives of ‘Negs’, normal beings who don’t have the Hind Brain Anomaly. Think of Doctor Manhattan in the Watchmen. Reality also begins to break down slightly around them via the effect of Frame Dragging, causing anomalies related to their Prime Meridians. There are a lot of neat ideas associated with this, including what happens when you meet alternate versions of yourself.

Travel between worlds occurs at fixed points, on fixed schedules, at ‘soft spots’ between the worlds, areas of great emotion and history. These Broken Room, for which the game is named after, are mostly rooms, but can be a spot in a parking lot, a back alley, etc. The discovery and control of these broken rooms drives most of the conspiracy and warfare between the Nearsides major power groups. The are all kinds of neat little details to this that will inspire your groups imagination and lead to awesome scenes around Broken Rooms.

COMBAT AND DAMAGE

Broken Rooms has a fairly standard blow by blow combat system. Feels a bit like nWoD/Storytelling System. You have 3 damage thresholds, with dice penalties to actions associated with each threshold. One Interesting option is that when a character has filled all damage thresholds, he can avoid death through the use of a bargaining mechanic. Opting to take a flaw instead of dying. Interestingly, characters can suffer body, mind and soul damage, so major emotional & spiritual power, as well as supernatural abilities, can affect characters as well.

STORYTELLING

Broken Rooms has some excellent campaign advice, especially in regards to exploring the unique themes of Broken Rooms’ cosmology. The 12 variations of earth are all dying, and thematically relate to the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief model. All the other worlds save Earth1 are facing, in the midst of, or after an Apocalypse. Problems and dooms that the characters can literally walk away from, or from which they can use their powers to help or save people This gives players a very strong built-in theme which can drive their campaigns-- a solid framework to stage their own stories, and tell the darker, sadder tales that make up the meta-narrative of the Nearside.

ALLIES & ADVERSARIES

The major groups and organizations at work in the Nearside are described in this chapter. The two main groups are Regency and Monarch, Regency the nominal good-guys, and Monarch the ruthless group with obscure motives. Both operate in semi-secret on the various worlds, securing Broken Rooms, recruiting nearsiders and advancing their agendas. There is plenty of room for shades of "Fringe” type skullduggery and plans within plans. There is an even a ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Doctor rivals in charge of Nearsider programs, ala Walter/Walternate from Fringe. There are many other smaller organizations, many based on the variant worlds, striving to save themselves and their world. Plenty of interesting groups for characters to interact with, and plenty of room for groups to add their own.

THE NEARSIDE

Finally, we get to the description of the nearside, the 13 worlds across which the players will play out their story. Each of the worlds, besides Earth1 has suffered some sort of catastrophe or apocalypse or is facing one. All of them are pretty interesting. Also, it is easy for the players to swap out a world they don’t like for one of their own choosing. That is actually part of the greater cosmology of the game, the multi-verse is moving towards a great convergence, during which the 13 variations will be destroyed and born anew and continue the cycle. There are people in the cosmology, called Exiles, who claim to have survived the last Convergence.

This chapter is done as various found documents and agent reports, so makes for engaging reading, despite being all an info dump. My favorites worlds are Earth2: Vanished, in which 97% of the population, those who didn’t have the Hind Brain Anomaly, disappeared, much like the Left Behind idea of the biblical Rapture. Earth9: Dead Water, in which a nano-tech system for cleaning plastics and trash in the open sea exceeded its design and resulted in the creation of technological nanite-infected zombies and other creatures which the system is trying to clean away human life. Earth12: Unvisible is really intriguing, it was invaded by invisible monsters from a deleterious reality, which adult humans can’t see, and the strange radiation from which causes them to become incapacitated and die. Children and the HBA+ can resist it. So the last remaining underground fortresses are protected by armies of children.

SUMMARY

I really like Broken Rooms, the game manual is hefty, but it is dripping with thematic material and ‘that’s cool’ imaginative ideas. The rules provide a well-realized background for the players to tell a wide variety of stories as the struggle across the dying worlds of the Nearside. It provides a broad sandbox with broad stroke themes for players to tell stories driven by those characters cursed, or blessed to be able to walk the nearside, and decide whether they care to save or help the many many people whom they feel less and less connected too. I’d say it is the best realized multi-genre game on the market right now.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Broken Rooms
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When Worlds Collide - Role Playing Game
Publisher: When Worlds Collide
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/24/2012 17:37:05
This is an abridged version of my full review, which can be read on my blog at http://wildmusings.wildmusegames.com/when-worlds-collide-rpg-
-review/

When World’s Collide is universal multi-genre RPG produced by its UK based namesake company, consisting primarily of it’s author, John Fountain, and editor, Alistair Dandy (Yes, this game has an editor, and it shows). I was graciously provided with a review copy of the PDF, at my request. The game describes itself as “

When worlds collide reality is no longer trustworthy. Within this book you will find all the rules needed to create characters and run games within the infinite multiverse. The game provides a comprehensive platform to run any adventure in any genre, be it sci-fi, fantasy, horror, super-hero or cyber-punk. Characters can shift between universes to experience other realities. Games-Masters can choose to throw characters across the multiverse; one week they are in the old west, the next gothic horror or a future of biotechnological marvels, and the following week? Who knows?”

My summary? When Worlds Collide (WWC) provides a competent exhaustive universal ruleset, well-written, well-edited, and pleasingly presented, that does a poor job of communicating the high-concept underlying it’s multi-verse. The high-concept which drives the world-hopping and immersive exploration of the limitless environments that can be created with the rules. The ‘default’ GM as mystery keeper play assumption, along with its focus on ‘participationist’ play by the group, stifles the ability of the the text to sell its harrowing junket across the boundaries of an inimical, many-splendored multi-verse through-line. An indifferent multi-verse where frequent flyers gain access to a list of detailed flavorful powers operating via in-depth multiversal laws at the cost of body-horror side-effects, from the embarrassing to the Cronenbergian.

Lets Break it Down.

THE PDF

The game is presented as 527 page PDF. Laid out in a spacious two-column format with a variety of artwork included to break up the text. Tables are presented as stylized boxes, along with various call-out boxes for rules examples, asides, etc. Interestingly, it consists of mainly stock-photos, most from royalty-free stock photo sites on the next, which gives it a more ‘realistic’ look. A nice change of pace from the more commonly used stock art collections you find in many PDF products.

THE SYSTEM

The rules core used in WWC are the Tri- Hexahedral Engine (THE) System. It is a competent core mechanic that the rest of the rules build on. Roll 3d6, add modifiers (based on stats & skills) against a Difficulty Level (DL). Stats are presented as 0-based /- scores ranging from –3 to 5 for most characters. Characters may have expertise and specializations that will add a couple more points to this, as well as some special abilities. The average DL is 10, and the mods are small, so pretty easy to use. It features an interesting ‘critical success’ mechanic based on the number of sixes rolled, 2 sixes rolled equals a level 2 crit success, and 3 is a level 3 crit success. This is independent from the marge of success/failure.

It Is functional and utilizes tried and true design patterns for the most part. In addition, the rules include lots of explanatory material, overviews, examples, and summaries that make it really easy to learn. It is equal the mass of the rules. Many other games would do well to match its friendliness.

It features a skill based character creation system, based on broad skill groups. The skills are fairly detailed, and are similar to GURPS. There is a detailed special abilities system offering GURPS like perks and talents, as well as full on powers.

The power system is very detailed and incorporates the cosmology and meta-physics of the games multi-verse. It falls into 2 main types, Pisonics and magic, defining what stats they are based on broad operations. The powers are setup as detailed lists, that are bought with a specific range, uses, and corruption/difficulty. It is very similar to GURPS magic and psionics in the feel of how it is constructed and operates. A functional power system.

Combat is a blow-by-blow action system pitting the character's Roll plus combat skill versus opponents. The damage system has both stunning and killing damage. With killing weapons doing large amount of Life point damage, and a small amount of stun. While stunning weapons are the opposite. It is a bit muddy in implementation due to the various ways stun accumulates against a character.

Weapons are detailed in a generic fashion, damage being based on broad groupings of weapon size/deadliness. Light, Medium, Heavy. etc.
Armor reduces an damage. An comprehensive listing of weapon and armor are provided.

A set of rules for hazards round out the system, implemented as variations on the core mechanic. All seem functional and standard implementations. There are a few important mechanics that define the the thrust of the system though.

STRESS

one of the major themes of the game is the accumulation of stress as characters encounter the impossible, the disturbing and horrible among their adventures. This is one of the more interesting elements of the game and its cosmology. It reminds me a lot of Kults light/darkside points as well as Chthulhu’s SAN loss system, with Unkown Armies meters. In that as characters gain more stress and deal with more events they can develop psychological problems, or even develop mutations and deformities in the case of rift travel.

RIFTS

The Rifts chapter presents all the details of traveling between worlds, which is mysterious and can cause all manner of complications for a character. The game provides a rich cosmology and meta-physics for describing rifts, and the mechanics of traversing them. It is one of the major selling points of the system. It provides all kinds of goodness for facilitating world-hopping and exploring worlds. The author was influenced by Michio Kaku’s books Parellel Worlds and Hyperspace. (The author includes a hefty bibliography, much thought and research went into the creation of this game.)

GMING and CAMPAIGN SETUP

I felt the rules fell down in this section, as not enough attention was focused on running a WWC game, as opposed to general game mastering advice. I felt the default playstyle, of a “mystery-keeping’ GM, leading players through exploration, limits the reach of the game. A world-hopping universal rules set as this can work very well as a more collaborative setup with troupe style play. As a more collaborative play structure allows all the players to be keyed into the cool bits of the setting, in this case the meta-narrative and cosmology behind WWC. Rather than limiting themselves to the pin-hole of a single GM serving it up in a high-effort game setup.

SUMMARY

Overall, I like When Worlds Collide, it is a competently designed system, very well written, and well-edited. It delivers the goods for running a multi-genre universal game. The cosmology and meta-narrative behinds the Rifts and cross-world travel is quite compelling, and opens all kinds of dark and desperate and bizarre storylines. However, the game does a poor job conveying that to the prospective reader.

It has to be pieced together by reading through the Rifts rules section, the powers, and finally GM section. In addition, the assumed ‘GM as Mystery Keeper” play style can seem off-putting as it puts a lot of onus on the GM, and can keep the players from ‘getting to the good stuff’. A revision of the rules that brings these “Why play this game instead of X” elements to the forefront and makes this easily graspable by the players, along with more ways to explore the game space, would improve the appeal of this game. As it stands, it can be overlooked as ‘another’ universal rules system.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
When Worlds Collide - Role Playing Game
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World of Arator Core Rule Book Version 1.0
Publisher: Midnight Rise Publications
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2012 15:05:18
I am into system design, and am working on my game design, so I like to check out lots of different games. Being that World of Arator was 'on sale' for $1.99 I'd thought I'd give a read through. I was unpleasantly surprised.

This is evident from the start. The document seems to be done as a single run of text, 235 apges of it.. No chapters, very little white-space, little in the way of headings and organization. No summaries evident, no bookmarks, no index. Ok, so that's -1 off the top.

With a name like a World of Arator I was expecting a Fantasy Heartbreaker, a FRP based on someones house-rules and game-world after having played D&D and some other games. Well, it is a Fantasy Heartbreaker after a fashion, but one designed in reaction to playing WoW or some other CRPG. Seriously, this game has the most calculation intensive, way to much of a pain to ever run by hand, mechanics I have ever seen.

I'm not kidding, from the intro...

"...A calculator is also essential to add and subtract the various bonuses, damage done, and percentages that are present in the game."

This games base mechanics are designed for computer moderation, not tabletop play by hand. Seriously, nearly every success and damage roll requires decimal multiplication to come up with percentages. Hit points measure in the hundreds. Levels range from 1-50+.

Tru story... from the stats section "A stat's percentage of success is added to a level success rates as well as specialty bonus success rates, but the stat number is divided in half. For example, a thief needs to make a climbing roll. His agility is 65, he is 40th level and has the climbing feat. Which gives him a success percentage of 48%. = ((65*0.5)*1.4*1.05))"

So by the commutative principle, this is way way to much fiddly math for a tabletop resolution system. Seriously, don't get me wrong, my own system uses low two-digit addition, I'm not scared of counting up 12d6 attacks in Hero, but this is just ridiculous. The accepted wisdom is that in terms of resolution mechanics, comparison/result counting is easier than addition/subtraction, which is easier than multiplication, which is easier than division, and let's not even consider anything more complicated.

So if that isn't enough math, character's have health points in the hundreds, health that regenerates every x seconds (remember how I mentioned CRPG mechanics?). Then there are physical energy points, spiritual energy points, mana points, all which regenerate in the seconds, etc. Damage ratings and armor ratings are listed in the 100s as well. i.e, you'd need a computer to keep track of all this crap. Oh, and equipment has durability ratings

After it has numbed you by its descriptions of the base stats and assaulted with you examples of it's way to complicated resolution math, it drops into the character class descriptions. There are twenty, arranged into groups such as Battle Classes (Fighter's, Warriors, Berserkers, Nature, Knights), Stealth (Thieves, Scouts, Assassins, Bounty Hunters. Bards) Nature (Druid, Shamans, Rangers, Elementalists, Ferals) Holy (Paladins, Crusaders, Clerics, Priests, Monks), Magic (Sorcerers, Warlocks, Necromancers, Illustionsts, [Your a] Wizards [Harry], , and Special.

Special classes are 'fallen' versions of good aligned classes such as Paladin, Knight, Druid, Ragner. Yep, it has all 9 D&D alignments, yeah for Heartbreakers. Classes are defined by the weapons they can use, special abilities they can have, armor allowed, stat bonuses, healp points, specialties, etc. Most telling is that the classes have a class role defined, including Damage Dealer (DPS) - yep it really says DPS. Tank, Support (Buffs Plox or HJEALS!), etc.

The class descriptions make up the bulk of the book. There is never any mention made of the World of Arator or what it's like (You've been bamboozled, hoodwinked, run amuck!). Presumably that is in the other books in the line.

So what have we gotten for our TWO DOLLARS? A very poorly laid out, poorly organized mess of computer RPG mechanics masquerading as a tabletop RPG. Mechanics so calculation intensive and cumbersome that NO ONE but the most math loving would bother to use them at the tabletop without a ton of computer aids, and then they could just go play a MMO with their friends instead.

So, how to make this a better product? First, dump the overly calculation intensive rules and the ridiculous amount of book-keeping required.

Perhaps converting it to a PathFinder/D&D/OGL book would work. The classes could be made into an interesting variation on the core rules. Totally revise the layout and organization of the book. Throw in some actual setting details, anything besides a big book of CRPG rules.

As it is it is only of marginal value for stuff to rip off for making your own class variants for D20 based games, and there are many better products to spend your $2 on, where you literally, don't have to do all the work.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
World of Arator Core Rule Book Version 1.0
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Moebius Adventures Core Rules
Publisher: Moebius Adventures
by Rob M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/30/2012 05:17:10
Wow, I am pretty disappointed in this product. I'm a fan of Generic/Universal RPG's but this one is not universal enough, more on that later.

So, intro chapter describes main feature of system is the semi-random character generation, noting the use of random results in character creation. The system features a lifepath type character creation with random roll options, much like Interlok and similar systems. Though their Background Professions are closer to WFRP's careers.

The author's also make a point about not using random rolls for damage in combat, relying on hit quality for damage determination. Which is kind of a heartbreaker thing to point out.

Though the back cover blurb implies multi-genre support. The core rulebook is bare bones character creation & combat, with expansions to provide toolkitting and how-tos. The core rules provide a no-magic medieval setting and information.

Ok, so on to character creation, very detailed 15 step character creation. First you determine your parentage, which sets your social class primarily. You then roll 3d6 to get the base points you spend betwen the 3 primary aspects, Body, Mind soul, and then multiplies those by four to set your attributes, 4 per aspect, 12 total. They range from 1-10, with 4-5 average. Then you have some additional randomized details, beauty, wealth luck, etc.

Then you determine some stat based effects, damage bonus, etc. You have a chance for life events. Then you roll on a senses table where you can end up with 'RIPPING" (which is really good, lolwut.) sight/hearing etc, or be deaf/blind, .

You then calculate your combat actions (step 7) (perception+agility+conviction)/4 (lots of divide by 4's from average in this system. You also determine feet per action, by divind speed score by 2. (Lots of little calculations.)

Step 8, you pick gender height, weight and handness, with a chance to be amidextrous. Your character starts at age 14, (you progress through your childhood period and profession year by year to accumulate skills, etc.)

You then have some more stat determinations, including your hitpoints, The system uses a 10 hit location deal with hps/per area based on total of stamina x4, you also have armor by location (more on the armor system later). YOu also determine your reality check, which is like sanity or something. After those detours (Seriously, all these characteristic derivations can wait till later, the meat is the lifepath & skill choicing),

You go back to picking your skills, with a total number of years (and effectively skill points) based your Int and Conviction. Then you choose a name, determine wealth, and buy stuff.

So, the character creation could definitely be arranged better, with more emphasis on attributes and choosing your backgrounds/skills. Then worry about figuring up derived characteristics. Seems a bit scattered and confusing huh? Next is the background chapter, with requirements, apprenticeship time, and available skills, you get 1 per year. This is a lot like BRP/Legend's character design. These are set in the sample game world/campaign. Some of the careers require minimum terms, some require payment of dues/guild fees. No dying during character creation though (go Traveller).

Book features 11 backgrounds, Noble, Knight, Merchant, Scholar/Pirest, Craftsman, Healer, Woodsman/Hunstman, Fighter, Minstrel, Thief and Peasant. You then have about 50 or so skills, suitable to a mediveal background. (A bit of info/guidlines on making your own backgrounds/skill lists would make the base book more useful, with the presented info as an example, it's supposed to be multi-genre.) Each scale has an bonus based on its governing attributes, plus your levels in the skills. (here's where our problem starts, not much info is given on how good your skill levels are, they tend to range between 2-5 for starting characters, with only a point or two bonus from stats.)

OK, after character creation we finally get to General and GM rules. How do you do stuff in the game? There was no handy summary in the intro, so you have to ferret out the info. Now, here comes a MAJOR problem witht he game. Ok so we got, characteristic checks, perception checks. Skill checks. Ok, Characteristic checks are roll your stat or under, on a d12... Ok, that's kind of unusual, they didn't mention D12 being important in intro. Percpetion is less than or equal to Score + sense mod on D12. Hmm, average characteristic is around 5 or so, hmm, not great chance of success. OK, so skills are roll less than or under your skill rating on a d20... WAIT WHAT?

That's right, Skill checks use a different die for some reason, Considering skills are only around 3-5 or so, that's WHIFFTASTIC, 25% or less chance of success. And a different die type for no good reason. Seriously, that is like 80s RPG design. Why are you not using a unified reasolution mechanic?!?!? So major minus there.

Ok, we have a section on XP, you can advance your skills and stats. (Your gonna need to!) BUt your limited to one at a time, and there's not information on how much xp GM shoudl award, but it seems expensive. Oh wait, its later on in the chapter, isntead of with the spending xp rules.

Then there is some optional rules, with contacts, and more family details, an optional alingment system from D&D. Or there is a morality and virtue spectrum system, seems pretty unnecessary. Then there are some alternative character generation techniques and some other miscellaneous rules damaging objects, etc., but only after the alternative character generation stuff.

Ok, we come to combat. So some rules for suprise, some rules for initiative and number of combat actions. Ok, then we get to Offensive and Defensive actions. Ok, to hit in combat, you roll D12 and add your character's agility bonus and weapon skill and other modifiers. So ok, natural 1 is auto miss, but not fumble. WAIT WHAT, combat is add mods and roll high, so that's what, THREE different resolution methods? Ok, a bunch more rules and modifiers. Damage is by success margin up to the weaps max damage, so like that cuts down on rolling like in other games. Umm, ok.

Oh yeah, Armor has an Absorption rate, and a Damage Capacity. It's ablative so you have to keep track of damage to your character, and your armor. That's a pain.

Ok, then we got the medicine and healing rules. So some healing rules, Some scarring rules, and what's this stun/system shock. Hmm, that seems pretty important as an effect of damage, that should be in the combat chapter or before the healing rules, Oh, some bleeding rules, and losing a limb, and character unconsciousness and character death rules. Hmm, why aren't these rules at the beginning of the chapter, instead of a bunch of healing rules first. Ok, that was painful.

Then we got a sample adventure, and some monster stats, and some sample characters. Then a glossary and index, and adverts for upcoming expansions.

Ok, so lets review, We have a nominally Multi-genre system that doesn't include much discussion of using it in multiple genres, it has a default fantasy setting (with no magic system) included and that's it. I am dissapoint.

Next, the rules could use better organization, and the really big one, why the hell aren't the action resolution rules unified! Seriously, D12 roll under for attribute checks, D20 roll under for Skills (Whiff whiff whiff!), and D12+skill and mods roll high for Hit/defense rolls. THis isn't the 80s, use a unified resolution mechanic for gods sake, and explain the basics in the intro so, so we can learn to play your game faster. How about going all D12+adds roll high (or better yet ditch the odd D12 for 2d6 or something.)

The Ablative armor is kind of a pain but workable. Speaking of organization, how about putting all the damage effects together and summarizing them again, seriously.

So want to make me, and your potential customers happy? Unify your resolution mechanic, better organize your rules, include some Scifi and modern setting stuff (we can wait for a separate magic book), but throw us a bone. Include more information on making your own backgrounds, and designing your own game world, that's what Multi-genre systems are all about.

Until you come out with a nice revised, unified, expanded version, your getting a D-, see me after class.

Rob

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Moebius Adventures Core Rules
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Blackdyrge's Templates: Elder Fiend
Publisher: Blackdirge Publishing
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2007 00:00:00
This 7 page PDF (10 with front & back cover & OGC declaration) details the Elder Fiend Template. The PDF is laid out in the ?Campaign Construction System? format, designed for GMs to easily gather their game mastering materials into a campaign specific binder. The PDF includes an in-character introduction from the bestiary entry of the eponymous Blackdyrge. Included next is the Elder Fiend template write-up and write-ups of two monsters that have had the Elder Fiend template applied to them, an advanced Dretch, and an advanced Horned Devil.

The short in-character bestiary entry by Blackdyrge is entertaining and well-written and does not fall into the dreaded game fiction fluff category. No painful exposition here.

The Elder Fiend template, an acquired template that can be added to evil outsiders with 6 HD or more, is fairly powerful, providing a CR adjustment of +4, and a level adjustment of +8. The elder fiend template leaves the creature?s size and type unchanged, basically leaving it in the same form, but providing with additional and more potent abilities. They gain a bonus to their AC, doubled speed, a bonus to attacks, they inflict damage as if they are one size class larger.

In addition to the normal special attacks of the base outsider, they gain a numbe of additional special attacks. They gain the ability to Command Fiends (evil outsiders) as an evil cleric with a level equal to their hit dice. They can continuously detect thoughts as the spell with a caster level equal to their HD, being able to turn it on or off as a free action. They also gain the Fiendish Smite (su) special attack. They can use this attack to smite foes of good alignment. On a successful melee attack, they deal extra damage equal to its Hit Dice (to a max of +35) and the target of the smite must make successful Will save or suffer effects as the insanity spell, as panicked, or -4 due to pain. The effect caused depends on the alignment of the Elder Fiend.

They also gain damage reduction abilities, regeneration, resistance to energy, spell resistance, a bonus of +6 to all of their abilities save Int and Wis, for which they gain a +4 bonus. Finally, they gain the Fiendish Aura ability, which causes effects of confusion, dominate person, or crushing despair like the spell, to any non-outsider within it, each round, if they do not succeed at a will save.

Finally there are write-ups of two advanced template monsters, a Dretch, and the Elder Fiend Vexicus. Both are solid, The Dretch is CR8, a buffer version of your average Dretch, while Vexicus is god-like, with a CR of 35.

The PDF is laid out in a two spacious columns with an easy read to font. Section headers are in bold, with italics and bullets used as in the Monster Manual style write-ups. The PDF has a large grayscale header, it is a barwith a grungy paper look with page numbers titles and types, in the Campaign Construction System format mentioned earlier. There are two pieces of interior art, a full page of a scantily clad female sorceress making an offering to a giant horned devil, presumably the Vexicus character, and a ? page illustration of a Dretch. Both of the art pieces are well drawn, with the Vexicus piece having an old school Frank Frazzeta feel. The cover features a framed version of the Vexicus illustration set in a circular decorative frame over a red marble background. The title is done in a decorative font with a distressed texture over a black shape, with the subtitle done in white over a bar design abutting the illustration.

Overall, this is an excellent product; the template provides a powerful and unexpected variation to outsiders, allowing for the GM to surprise the characters toting their demonology tomes. If you regularly use the outsider creature type or have lots of dealings with the outer planes, I recommend this to switch up the types of creatures the characters encounter. It can also serve as a good means to make a memorable outsider NPC creature as villain, rival or ally to the PCs.



LIKED: old school Vexicus illustration

DISLIKED: Limited general usefulness

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blackdyrge's Templates: Elder Fiend
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the nice review. I agree with you one the Frazetta-like nature of the Vexicus piece. It's the first thing I noticed when Hunter (the artist) turned it in. He's done all the Blackdyrge's Templates and the art has been simply superb in each one.
Master at Arms: Halberdier
Publisher: Blackdirge Publishing
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2007 00:00:00
This 4 page PDF (7 with front & back cover & OGC declaration) details the Halberdier Prestige Class. The PDF includes a brief historical overview of the Halberd, including an interesting note that it was a single blow from a halberd that slew Charles the Bold, last Duke of Burgundy, at the Battle of Nancy. Also included is the write-up of an NPC, Sir Rinard Whitehart, a class overview, and a brief designer note in which he points out that he focused on defensive feats for the Halberdier PrC instead of the more traditional formation combat feats, so it would be more desirable to PCs.

The Halberdier is a five level Prestige Class. The entry requirements for the class include a Base Attack Bonus of +5, the weapon focus (halberd) and power attack feats, and five ranks in the Profession (soldier) skill. Being that all the Halberdier?s requirements are combat based the fighter class is the quickest way to qualify for the class. Rangers and Barbarians are the only other classes likely to pursue the Halberdier PrC. The Halberdier is a combat centered class with a d10 hit-die. The majority of Halberdier?s are Human, with various half-races comprising the rest, almost unheard of in the class are other demi-human classes.

Class members gain a number of special Feats enhancing their use of the Halberd. At first level the gain the Expert Defender and Footman?s Revenge Feats. Expert Defender allows a character to gain a +2 shield bonus to AC when fighting defensively, or using total defense, he can also provide another character with this defensive bonus by using the Aid Another action. Footman?s Revenge allows the Halberdier, on a successful attack, to immediately make a trip attack against a mounted opponent which, if successful, pulls the rider from his seat, leaving him prone. He also has 2 trip related Feats, Improved Trip at 2nd level, and Thorny Trip at 5th, which allows him to make an additional attack with the hooked spike on the reverse of the halberd. He also has the Pointed Reach feat available at 3rd level, which allows him to use the halberd as a reach weapon and threaten a 10-foot area. He also gains bonus feats at 2nd and 4th level, chosen from the Fighter?s feat list. The NPC write-up is Sir Rinard Whitehart (Commoner 1/Warrior 3/Fighter 3/Halberdier 5), who is a peasant conscript Halberdier made a knight after slaying a renegade Duke, much like the peasant who slew the Duke of Burgundy.

The PDF is laid out in a two columns with dense text in a smallish font with only bold text used to indicate section heads. The PDF has a small line-art header with two swords flanking the product title. The interior art is limited to one well-drawn 1/2 page illustration of the Sir Rinard Whitehart character, and a few clip-art decorations. The cover is a colorful affair with a green marbled background and featuring the character illustration set against a gold (with lots of gradient goodness) frame with bars for flourishes. The Title text is in gold with some slick gold gradients and a stroke applied to it, with the sub-title in silver/gray gradient goodness. It looks good.

Overall, this is a great product, providing a good write-up of the halberd and a good treatment of a Halberd wielding PrC that isn?t saddled with largely useless mass combat/formation fighting feats. I recommend it to anyone who is looking to pull some upstart nobles from they?re high horse and, with one mighty blow, end a war and become a hero.



LIKED: Duke of Burgundy historical note

DISLIKED: Text size/density

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Master at Arms: Halberdier
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Master at Arms: Cudgel Thug
Publisher: Blackdirge Publishing
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2007 00:00:00
This 5 page PDF (8 with front & back cover & OGC declaration) details the Cudgel Thug Prestige Class. It also includes an NPC write-up of one Crawsmasher, Half-Orc Cudgel Thug, as well as a number of new feats and two new weapons, the Rungu and Shillelagh, both club variants. This PDF is interesting, as in addition to the historical overview of the club and class overview, the introduction also includes a brief set of designer notes. The designer here describes his vision for the class, as a strong-arm thug and enforcer that operates on a BTOTHATS (Bash Them Over The Head And Take Their Stuff) model, with the club as a weapon of choice. He makes both the club and the class interesting by adding interesting club based combat feats.

The Cudgel Thug is a five level Prestige Class. The entry requirements for the class include a Base Attack Bonus of +5, and weapon focus (club), as well as a Sneak Attack ability of +1d6. Thus fighter/rogue combos can qualify for the class most easily. The Cudgel Thug is a combat oriented class with a d8 hit-die. It is limited to Non-good alignments as it MO is incompatible with a Good alignment.

Class members gain a number of special Feats enhancing their use of the club. At first level the gain the Coldcock, Merciful Impact, and Subdual Master feats. Coldcock allows a character to, after studying his opponent 3 rounds, cause an opponent to make a Fortitude save against a DC of 10 plus the cudgel thugs level and strength modifier, if he successfully deals damage with his sneak attack. Subdual Master and Merciful Impact allows the character to make non-lethal attacks at no penalty to hit (it is usually -4) and allows him to add his Int or Wis modifier to any non-lethal damaged caused by a successful non-lethal attack, respectively. Additional Feats include Improvised Weapon and Incapacitating Critical which allow the character to use any appropriate item as a club and to require a Fortitude save by any opponent whom he has scored a critical hit against, or the opponent falls unconscious for 1d6+5 rounds, respectively. Also included is a 2 page right up of Crawsmasher, a CR 11 Male Half-Orc Rogue 4/Fighter 3/Cudgel Thug 5.

The PDF is laid out in a two columns with dense text in a smallish font with only bold text used to indicate section heads. The PDF has a small line-art header with two swords flanking the product title. The interior art is limited to one well-drawn ? page illustration of the Crawsmasher character, and a few clip-art decorations. The cover is a colorful affair, with the character illustration set against a gold (with lots of gradient goodness) frame with bars for flourishes. The Title text is in gold with some slick gold gradients and a stroke applied to it, with the sub-title in silver gradient goodness. It looks good.

Overall, this is a solid product, providing an interesting focus on a generally shunned weapon, as well as an under-represented Rogue archetype. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in some more brutal thievery in their game, why pick their pockets when you can knock them the hell out and rifle through their pockets at your leisure instead.



LIKED: Crawsmasher Character

DISLIKED: Text size/density

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Master at Arms: Cudgel Thug
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Clash of History: Witch Trials
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2007 00:00:00
This 10 page PDF (12 with front cover & OGC declaration) provides a new core class for D20 fantasy games, the Witch (She?s a witch, a witch, burn her, burn her!). As you might expect (No one expects the Spanish Inquistion!) an Inquisitor Privilege Class is also included A discussion of ?witchcraft? and witch hunts in Medieval Europe and into the present is provided, though no mention of the reported witchcraft deaths that have happened recently in Africa is made.

The Witch class is treated as an arcane spellcaster who learns her powers by consorting with supernatural entities. The Witch will also be granted powers by the supernatural entity she serves, depending on whether she is a ?good? witch, a White Witch, or a ?bad? witch, a Black Witch. (Being from the East or the West is unimportant, though all witches should beware falling houses.)

The Witch class is not at all combat focused; only receiving a D4 hit die. The primary ability of the witch is Intelligence, gaining 4xInt modifier skill points per level. The Witch has a fair BAB, with a good will save (2/3rds), and poor Reflex and Fortitude saves. The witch casts spells similarly to a Sorcerer, without requiring preparation as a Wizard or Cleric. The witch has access to a limited number of spells, only common spells from the sorcerer/wizard spell list, or unusual spells she has learned. Depending on her witches? path, Black or White, witches have additional abilities granted to her starting at 5th level, and ever 5th level thereafter. If on the White path, she gains access to healing abilities while on the Black path, she gains familiar shape, and a variety of curse abilities.

The Inquisitor PrC is a 10 level PrC, most quickly qualified for by as a Paladin, or Cleric. The requirements to enter the class are a BAB of +5, the Knowledge (religion), and Sense Motive skills each at 5 ranks, and the ability to cast 1st level divine spells. The Inquisitor?s class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are: Concentration (Con), Diplomacy (Cha), Gather Information (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana, history, local, religion) (Int), Listen (Wis), Search (Int) and Sense Motive (Wis). Inquisitors gain 4+ Int. modifier skill points per level. Their abilities include the ability to detect lies, as well as smiting heretics, forced confessions and forced repentance.

The remaining section provides a discussion of European witch trials and a detailed timeline, as well as a few brief campaign concepts for incorporating witches, and witch hunts into your campaign.

The PDF is laid out in a two spacious columns with an ornate distressed script-like red-brown colored font in a large point size for section headings, and an easy to read serif body font. The art is sparse, with just one piece of internal clip-art. The cover features a medieval print against a grungey texture background. The tables are very readable, making good use of the header font for column titles, and light-red shading for odd-numbered rows. It is a plain, but easy to read document, with no excess ornamentation to waste your ink.

Overall, this is a solid product, fitting a rather cultural/religion specific concept into a general fantasy setting. The Witch class offers up some very traditional abilities for the Witch class, allowing them to seem sinister. The Inquistor PrC is a good treatment of the concept, adding real godly power to enforce his mandate. The witch hunt concept makes for an intense and compelling campaign premise. I recommend this product to any GM or players interested in adding witch hunts and religious persecution, with or without Monty Python references, into a game.





LIKED: Evil Eye ability, Malleus Maleficarum: quote. ??in which the reader is informed that any woman who does not cry during her trial should be automatically condemned as a witch.?

DISLIKED: White/Black witch concept is a bit contrived for my taste.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Disappointed

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Clash of History: Witch Trials
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Antique Maps XXXII - Mississippi River Basin of the 1700s
Publisher: Split Eye Productions
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2007 00:00:00
Part of the Antique Maps series by Split Eyed Productions, Mississippi River Basin of the 1700s is a large scale map of the region during the 18th century. It is presented as both a single large 4.5MB jpg, 5756px by 5659px of glorious map porn. A sliced version of the image, in nine pieces is also provided, providing for easier printing of the piece.

Now, like all good map porn, it is of most interest to game masters. It is a sepia-toned piece showing roads, rivers, hills mountains and and city, river, and region names in the original French. It identifies the territories of the Apaches and Osages, Pays Des Apache, Pays De Osages. (It was after-all, French territory until the Louisiana purchase, and held by the First nations before that.) The French place names, done in a flourished script, provide an interesting view of the territory, it would be of use to GM?s playing a historical campaign, or of course, for retelling your vampires troubled past to a newspaper reporter.

You won?t be able to run a battle on it, but it can certainly add a lot of atmosphere and inspiration for running a game. It would make a gorgeous prop as well, and you can easily print out the sliced version.

Overall, it is a gorgeous bit of map pr0n seeped in French colonial influence, unknown wilderness laying just a few steps away. So I recommend it to an Players interested in a showy bit of map porn, or GMs looking of inspiration in the 18th century French Territory.



LIKED: Map tears in piece, authentic history

DISLIKED: A translation of map inscription would have been nice.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Antique Maps XXXII - Mississippi River Basin of the 1700s
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Clash of Arms: Cavalry
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2007 00:00:00
This 10 page PDF (12 with front cover & OGC declaration) provides a new core class for D20 fantasy games, the Cavalryman. It also includes a discussion of the historical development of Calvary, as well as providing a list of cavalry specific equipment.

The Cavalryman is divided into 3 main types based on how they fight. These types are light cavalry, heavy cavalry, and horse archers. Light cavalry rely on their maneuverability to outflank other unit. Heavy Cavalry rely on heavy armor, powerful horses and powerful charges with lances to act as shock troops. Finally, horse archers are mounted archers adding increased maneuverability to the range given to them by the use of the bow.

The Cavalryman is a combat oriented class, and has a D10 Hit Die. The Primary ability for the Cavalryman class depends on the type of cavalry, light cavalry and horse archers have Dexterity as their primary ability, while heavy cavalry feature Strength as their primary ability. The class features Superior BAB, Good Fortitude saves, and poor Reflex and Willpower saves.

Cavalryman can choose their mounted combat specialty Feat gained at 2nd level, and every 2 levels afterward, from one of three feat trees, Light Cavalry, Heavy Cavalry, and Horse Archer. The feats within each tree must be selected in order, however. Key feats in the Light Cavalry tree include the Lightning Attack ability, providing a bonus to attack flat-footed opponents, and Lightning Rider, providing a bonus to armor class, initiative, and Reflex saves, but only while in light armor. The key feats on the Heavy Calvary tree include the Spirited, Power, and Terrifying charge abilities, and the mounted tank feats. The Horse Archer tree features the Mounted Archer and the Spur (adding to his horse move) feats as key feats.

The remaining section provides a discussion of essential cavalry equipment, and their historical development. Each period was limited by the mounted specialties available, the mounted equipment, and the mounts available For instance, ancient cavalry were limited to Horse Archer and Light Calvary (chariots only) mounted specialties, War Ponies ad the only mounts, and the Bridle and Saddlecloth as the only mounted equipment available. Rules are provided for the effect of the different qualities and levels of equipment on riding and combat.

Finally, a short section on mounts and a set of mount traits, such as Lame, or Pure Bred, are provided, allowing for some individualization and color to mounts.


The PDF is laid out in a two spacious columns with an ornate distressed script-like red-brown colored font in a large point size for section headings, and an easy to read serif body font. The art is sparse, with just one piece of clip-art. The tables are very readable, making good use of the header font for column titles, and light-red shading for odd-numbered rows. It is a plain, but easy to read document, with no excess ornamentation to waste your ink.

Overall, this is an excellent product, providing a solid mounted fighter class, with a nice introduction to the historical development of the cavalryman and how the evolution of mounted equipment affected his fighting abilities. The set of traits for mounts provides a nice mechanism for personalizing the player?s mounts. The Talent trees all seem well-balanced and put more emphasis on the use of mounts, or taking a mount out from under your opponent. I recommend this product to any GM or players intent on riding down their foes and taking them on the run.



LIKED: Terrifying charge (Could you imagine holding ranks against a charge of a 250lb man on 2000lb horse?)

DISLIKED: No stats for chariots.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Clash of Arms: Cavalry
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17 Archer Feats
Publisher: The Le Games
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2007 00:00:00
This 8 page PDF (10 with cover and multi-page OGC declaration) provides 18 Archer feats, providing additional specialization and abilities for bow/crossbow using characters without having to commit to a prestige class.

The feats include Aim for the Clouds (oddly named caster distraction bowshot), As You Know Your Enemy?(Bonus to attack after studying enemy for 1 round), Bane of My Enemy (take damage to self to imbue weapon with Bane ability against favored enemy), Blood of the Ancients (take damage to self to imbue weapon with +1 magic, Elven only), Born to the Bow (+1 attack with one type of bow, bowyer is class skill, only at 1st level), Careful Aim (Take penalty to initiative for bonus to hit), Craft Magic Arrows (reduced cost to craft magic arrows), Distraction Shot (expend attack to gain bonus to hit and damage with following attack), Grace Under Fire (Take ? dex penalty to attack to gain damage), Instill Arrow (sacrifice spell to imbue arrow with magic enhancement), Know Your Weapon?(expend attack to gain bonuses against one opponent), Master Bowyer (bonus to craft: Bowyer, flat +3, twice your DEX mod would be better), Power Shot (like Power attack), Ring the Bell (cause an opponent to act as shaken on successful hit), Skill of the Master (Favored enemy enhancement), Stunning Shot (Epic feat that causes target to be stunned), Trick Shot (reduce cover penalty against concealed target) , Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes (make ranged attack without provoking AoO).

The Feats seem pretty well balanced, some having some rather steep requirements, thus only characters of significant level will be able to attain them, which makes them likely to be on par with any prestige class or similar high level ability. For instance, the requirements for Distraction Shot, giving you a bonus of +3 to hit and +5 to damage on following shot if you successfully hit with the distracting shot, are Dex 15+, Point Blank Shot, Far Shot, Base Attack Bonus 6+.

The PDF itself is laid out in a two column format with a solid black header and footer bar with the product title and the company name, page number, and author name in bright green, respectively. (Both the print and screen versions have these, so much for saving ink. The print version is merely set in portrait mode versus screen landscape mode.) The Feat section titles are done in a red font, the body font is easy enough to read serif font. There are a few small pieces of art throughout the text, a couple clip art pieces of bows & arrows, a few line art pieces of archers. The art is of decent quality but not outstanding or noteworthy.

Overall this is a solid product, with some useful and worthwhile archer specific feats for players who want to play an Archer character without being tied to a Prestige Class or such. So, if you are looking to make your fighter or ranger an ?Archer?, then give this a look.





LIKED: Distracting Shot, Ring the Bell

DISLIKED: No Ink savings on the print version!

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied

[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
17 Archer Feats
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for your review! Please note that the Portrait-printable version is not meant to "save ink" per say. Rather, it is designed to look nice for the customer to print out, punch out, and easily place in a 3-ring binder. For a "low ink" version, we have also included the Rich-Text-Format version, which has no images, so you can print it very easily and save ink (not to mention cut/copy/paste only what you want)! This is available in nearly all our products, including 17 Archer Feats, making things very convenient for the customer! --The Le
Dept. 7 Adv. Class Update: Scion of Masada
Publisher: Skortched Urf' Studios
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2007 00:00:00
This 7 page PDF (10 with front cover, credits & OGC declaration) presents the Scion of Masada Advanced Class for the D20 Modern rules. It is presented as part of the Department 7 line by Skorched Urf Studios, a Supers espionage type setting. It is a 10 level advanced class featuring an Israeli ?holy warrior? type, of the Jewish faith. The class is named after the heroic last stand by the Jewish soldiers at the fort of Masada, who stood off a superior force of Romans, much like the Spartans held off the Persians at Thermopylae (a story you?ve probably heard 300 times).

After opening with a bit of color text, the class features are described. The Scion of Masada class is focused on stealth and knife fighting techniques, with a few supporting mystical abilities, based on his faith. The easiest way to qualify is as a Dedicated Hero, though Strong Heroes can work also, if Iron Will is chosen as a feat. As you might guess, the character must also be of the Jewish faith, a practicing Orthodox Jew, in this case, and observe the strictures and laws described in the Torah. The class is combat focused and features a d8 hit die. Scions gain a number of action points equal to six, plus ? their level, rounded down. Scions of Masada have Superior BAB (equal to their level), poor Fort saves (1/3 their level), fair Ref saves (1/2 their level), and good Will saves (2/3 their level).

Notable class skills for the Scion include Balance (DEX), Climb (STR Concentration (CON), Demolitions (INT), Disable Device (DEX), Disguise (CHA), Drive (DEX), Gather Information (CHA), Hide (DEX), & Move Silently (DEX), Jump (STR) Knowledge (Arcane Lore, Current Events, History, Tactics, & Theology & Philosophy) (INT), Spot (WIS), Tumble (DEX). This skill selection shows the stealth and supernatural focus of the class. Members of the class gain 6+(1/2 lvl,(d)) skill points per level. Bonus feats are gained at 3rd, 6th and 9th level.

The class?s signature feats are a succession of SU abilities based around the use of their ?ghost knives?. At first level they gain Ancestral Blades, a set of custom built mystical imbued blades further reinforced by composites and high-tech plastics. These blades are made to easily concealable on the Scion?s person thanks to special crafted ?skin sheathes?, artificial sheathes designed to exactly mimic his skin tone and texture, which allowing for unprecedented concealability and stealth. The knives also improve in effectiveness as the Scion increases in level, doing more damage, gaining an increased critical chance, and additional special qualities. His supernatural abilities are tied his faith and the observation of its tenets. The Scion will lose access to his abilities if he ignores core tenets of Orthodox Jewish law, such as eating non-kosher foods, or using his abilities during the Shabbat (Sabbath, sundown Friday to Sundown Saturday) and during other holidays. Additional abilities gained include Ghostcutting (4th), allowing him to attack ethereal and incorporeal undead creatures. He can also see ethereal and incorporeal creatures while touching the blades. By spending an Action Point, he can make his blades ?ghost touch? weapons, allowing them ignore natural armor and equipment bonuses to AC. The Martyr?s Fire (5th) ability allows the Scion to use the blades to cast light; he can use the blades as a focus to turn Elementals and Evil Outsiders. Finally, he can expend an action point to increase the damage done by the blades, with the damage doubled against evil outsiders. The Warrior of Masada (10th) ability allows the Scion to invoke the Spirit of a Warrior of Masada, gaining him enhanced combat abilities, either increased damage, or increased defense and healing, he can also expend action points to increase these effects. During this ?combat trance? he has no need to breathe and becomes immune to a number of effects. He also gains the Kabbalist (7th) spell like ability, making him a Talmudic Magi, allowing him access to a small number of spells.

Also included are a number of new espionage, combat & stealth related feats. Including Action Bank (gaining an additional action point each time the feat is taken), Aligned Zealot (gaining bonuses when attacking enemies of your faith), Krav Maga (MASSAD?s martial arts gaining bonuses to damage when you surpass your opponents defense), Spec Ops Stealth (allowing you ignore encumbrance penalties to stealth when carrying field gear.)

The PDF is laid out in a two spacious columns with a simple serif font used for heading and body text. The PDF features 3 pieces of interior art, all clean well done line art pieces, showing the Scion of Masada character in a couple of poses, which the nearby text wraps around, as well as a illustration of the Ancestral Knife. The cover features a the Scion activating the ghost cutting ability of the knife, against an Israeli flag, this set against a grey ?grunge? texture background with the product title in a futuristic font. The character is well drawn, with a Peter ?Aeon Flux? Chung like style. Overall the layout is pleasing and does not detract from the product, nor does it have any overdone decorative elements to suck up all your ink. You will want to skip printing the cover however.

This is a solid product though the character?s knife based abilities don?t seem particularly related to the stand at Masada. The delineation of the strictures of the Orthodox Jewish religion as drawn from the Torah/Talmudic Law is a bit lacking, and would require a bit of study by a GM to adjudicate. The class seems fairly powerful, but is limited by his allegiances and religious restrictions. It is an interesting class and adds some interesting concepts to the milieu of the Dept. 7 Setting; enterprising GMs could certainly find interesting ways to involve the player?s characters. Brutal counter-terrorist fighting amidst supernatural machinations in the tumultuous Middle East makes for interesting adventures after-all. So if the GM or players find the character concept interesting, I definitely recommend it.



LIKED: Cover art.

DISLIKED: Contradictory ability write-ups (Talmudic Magi or Kabbalist?), dubious knife abilities.

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dept. 7 Adv. Class Update: Scion of Masada
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