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Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/23/2010 14:58:07
[Crossposted to the DM Sketchpad: http://grandwiki.wikidot.com/dm-sketchpad]
Wu Xing - The Ninja Crusade is a new roleplaying game from Eloy Lasanta and Third Eye Games. Within the Empire, the ninja clans have been betrayed, their homes destroyed and their initiates hunted. For ages past the ninja have served and saved the empire countless times. Now the emperor, mislead through treachery, is determined to destroy all the ninja that infest his empire. The ninja are not taking their extermination lying down though…clan rivalries have been suppressed, and a tenuous coalition has been formed.

Before the Ninja Crusade there were ten ninja clans from bamboo herbalists (the healers) to grasping shadows (shadow assassins) to will of iron (honourable swordsmiths). Each clan worked independently often with deep-seated rivalry or even war with the other clans. That has changed, now individual members of different clans may be called together to work together as a unit to accomplish one mission or another for the Lotus Coalition.

The first part of the book provides an overview of the setting for the Ninja Crusade campaign. It discusses the role of the ninja in society and explains their role in the history of the empire. It talks about the previous ninja wars and the state of the ninja clans during the ninja crusade. The lotus coalition, an organization holding the clans together is discussed as well and how it functions in this time. The setting itself, the ten provinces of the Izou empire and the five surrounding kingdoms are detailed, mapped and explored in terms of their history, class, religion and geography.

The second part of the book begins to focus in on more information for players eager to get playing. The major ninja clans of the Izou empire are all detailed here with each clan getting three pages of information including narrative, history, lifestyle, agendas, character creation information and their feelings toward the other clans. I think my top three clans from this section are some of the least traditional: the Blazing Dancers, the Pack of the Black Moon and the Virtuous Body Gardeners.

The Blazing Dancers were originally a group of acrobatic performers from another land who were forced to flee to the Izou Empire after they embarrassed their own nobility. They are entertainers, warriors and strategists whose chi manipulation is focused on fire, movement and illusionary effects. The Pack of the Moon are more isolationist, having forged a deep bound with the environment their survivalists has a unique rapport with the beasts of the lands. Finally the Virtuous Body Gardeners are tattooed warriors who have broken off from another clan. They are up and comers who are not afraid to get their hands dirty or rock the boat.

Character creation is driven by choice over random die rolls. The process has six steps. Here is a sample character that I have created for this review.

Ember – Wronged Acrobat
Passion Vengeance; Elemental Soul Fire
Yin 0; Yang 3
Elemental Soul Bonuses +1 to parry for each successful attack they make
Fire Imbalance Loquacious; Fire Depletion Overheated
Clan Blazing Dancers
Pow 6; Agl 8; Vig 5; Int 3; Ins 3, Chm 5
Wushu Bright Star (Level 1, Yang), Flame Arrows (Level 2, Yang), Tiger Leap (Level 1, Yang)
Skills Acrobatics 6 (Balance), Athletics 5 (Climbing), Discipline 4, Legerdemain 5 (Juggling), Monkey Style 5 (Rolling Attack), Perception 3, Performance 5 (Dancing), Stealth 3, Survival 1
Gifts Ambidexterity, Attractive 3, Cat-Like Balance 2, Double-Jointed
Health 28; Stamina 6; Initiative 18
Movement 14 ft./280 yrds/21 ft. jump; Actions Per Round 3
Combat Modifiers +1 damage, +5 dodge, +4 grapple, +7 parry, +3 roll, +5 strike, +9 throw

By the time you go through the 30 pages of history, clan specifics and character creation including a huge, huge pile of wushu powers you have blow through 70% of the book. Combat section of this book spans another thirty of so pages and introduces a host of martial arts weapons, codifies the combat actions into a standardized set. All of the martial styles (learned as skills) provide access to a number of combat bonus (at different rates) and a handful of unique combat actions. Together these two sections let you perform a wide variety of martial arts techniques along with the unique combat tracking sheet to allow a dynamic exchange of attacks and reactions.

The close of the book ends with a section of antagonists and a section on storytelling (GM advice). My one disappointment in this release is that there is no quickstart adventure or first mission to help get a new Wu Xing campaign off to a good start.

Overall, Wu Xing looks to be a very strong release. The book is rich with information, unique art and the mechanics of wushu and combat match well with the wuxia style that clearly inspired it. It is clear that a lot of love went into creating this release and it meets the high standard that I've come to expect from Third Eye Games' work.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade
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API Demon Codex: Lochs
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/21/2010 08:43:51
API Demon Codex: Lochs is a supplement for Third Eye Games’ supernatural secret agent game Apocalypse Prevention Inc. (API). It retails for $9.99 and clocks in at about 85 virtual pages from Rpgnow.

This large book is divided into four chapters and two adventures. The first chapter details the rise can fall of the creatures known to API as Lochs. This chapter details the history of this race and of their home dimension of Domainya. It describes their many bloody conquests, including their eventual defeat, sterilization and exile. This material expands on the details provided in main
API book. It also provides a broad overview of the Lochs’ home dimension as well as API’s involvement in the reclamation of that dimension from the Lochs, Scryers and Linx.

The second chapter details the Lochs arrival on Earth from Domainya. They integration into our world and into the Apocalypse Prevention Inc. It discusses attempts to remove the effects of the contagion by API scientist as well as exposure to the demons known as carriers. It discusses the uncomfortable topic of crossbreeding humans with loch and the unfortunates deaths that always result from such unions. The undersea bases of API are discussed as well as the role of those stations and their crew in the preservation in human existence. The Lochs uneasy relationships with other undersea races with the Ondines being of particular important because the Lochs hope to conquer these natural residents to ensure their own survival until the contagion and be defeated.

The third chapter is probably my favourite chapter because it is focused on organizations related to the Loch and APIs interactions with these organizations. By far this chapter seems to be a “and here are some things you can do with the Lochs as allies and opponents” sort of chapter. It details aquatic alchemists – their distasteful practices and strange magic, Deep Green – a large corporation guilty of polluting the world’s oceans and now focused on ridding the world or the loch menace, lost tribes of loch that were isolated and split from the main group of refugees, the hooks – large lochs with a knack from solving mysteries and uncovering conspiracies, the Hope Foundation that works in relative secrecy to try to find more effective methods of human/loch interbreeding programs, the Red Steps – a subversive group of lochs that are working on killing and making humanity into sausage and jerky, and finally the colony of Superior City – a disputed Ondine/Loch location that is the home of the god Poseidon’s trident. This section of the book is filled with adventure hooks and campaign ideas to keep GMs busy for a long time. I think that Deep Green, the Hope Foundation and Red Steps are my favourites.

The four major chapter is the crunchy bit of this supplement. It contains roleplaying advice for players wishing to play loch characters as well as new passions, gifts, drawbacks and equipment for loch and other API employees with a focus on aquatic adventures. There is a host of aquatic alchemy items should an API character possess the necessary gift to craft them and the stomach to complete the rituals necessary. Closing out the chapter are a number of aquatic themed antagonists for both the earth dimension and for Domainya. Each of the major races (except lochs) is detailed with origin, appearance, lifestyle, gifts, drawbacks and specific Npc as well. It would have been nice to have sample NPCs for the organizations as well such as Deep Green, Red Steps and the Hope foundation.

The book closes with two sample adventures. The first is Deep Run the Tunnels and involves the API agents traveling to the home dimension of the lochs known as domainya in search of a missing agent and potentially a naturally pregnant loch. The second called Jaws Snapping in the Dark has the API agents tracking down and dispatching a number of poorly cloned feral lochs. Both adventures should provide agents with a night or two of investigation and adventure.

The Demon Codex: Loch is a excellent book for expanding the player character race options in your home games as well as providing GMs with a wealth of ideas for bringing lochs more prominently into your campaign.

(Cross-posted on the DM Sketchpad July 19th)

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
API Demon Codex: Lochs
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API Worldwide: Europe
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/14/2010 12:40:32
(Crossposted at the Grand OGL Wiki)

API Worldwide: Europe by Third Eye Games is a 90-page campaign supplement for the Apocalypse Prevention Inc. system. It retails for $9.99 at Rpgnow and is probably available at other vendors as well. While the cover indicates that this is a European sourcebook, there is not enough space to cover all the European countries in detail and instead provides good detail on the London home base of API and an overview of European sites that fall within their jurisdiction.

The book covers England in detail as well as provides background on many of the larger European countries as well as they current mystical or political entanglements as well as important locations. Two items from this section that I particularly liked were the mystical location known as the Hall of Dreams located in Budapest and the Bridez of Dracula, a folk rock group of Taylari who are touring Romania. There are a lot of adventure hooks scattered throughout this first section of the book.

This book expands the API’s involvement with other groups. It provides details on the history and formation of API, their interaction and acceptance of demon agents, and provides statistics on four major players in the API organization including it leader Jonathon Nisbett. In addition to the API they provide details on other organizations that either support the API like the magic-based Rosicrucians, hinder the API like the Inner Cabinet (selfish in all ways) or the Knights of Solomon (with an opposing view of what salvation means). There are also a couple of couple of organizations that could conceivably fill either role depending on the circumstance and I think I like those ones the best as they will provide greater ambiguity in what the heroes should or should not be doing that is so necessary for increasing the tension in the game.

For those looking for crunchy bits there are new pieces of equipment, oath magic, magic items and a handful of classical monsters as well as the new primary races of Chirons (centaurs), Fauns, Hidden Folk (possessing elves), and Morgaines (soul-eating outsiders which can perceive the intricacies of fate). The product ends with a module for agents to undertake from the London office. Now I should be very clear that I like that Third Eye Games included an adventure. In a world where fewer and few rpg modules are being created it is nice to see a small adventure included with this sourcebook. The thing that strikes me as strange about the included module is that it is not very Euro-centric. It doesn’t include any of the new power groups or any of the new primary races and the majority of it takes place in an alternate adventure. It seems to me that you’d want the adventure to include many elements from the sourcebook. That said there is nothing innately wrong about the module and it could serve wells as a 2nd or 3rd API Europe adventure. I think as a 1st mission it may have too dire of straights for new players.

There a couple of editing gaffs here or there like the common (page XXX). But they are few and far between. Overall, API Worldwide: Europe looks to be a very solid book for GMs looking to set their adventures in Europe or work out of the London branch.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
API Worldwide: Europe
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Remarkable Races Pathway to Adventure: The Boggle
Publisher: Alluria Publishing
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/21/2009 23:48:40
+ September 22nd, 2009 (by Mark) [From the DM Sketchpad]
The following is a review of **Remarkable Races: The Boggle** (Pathway to Adventure Edition) by Alluria Publishing. This 13 page PDF (10 pages of useable content) retails for $2.50 at Rpgnow right now and details the magically transformed boggle race (formerly goblins).

All of the Remarkable Races line were developed for 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons and now appear to be being converted over to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. The product provides you with background on the origin of the boggles, their description, their ecology, interaction with other races and religion as one would expect from any race supplement. Unlike other books, it also details how the boggles get along with other members of Alluria’s remarkable races line. At their heart the boggles are civilized tinker goblins with short exciting lives that end in madness. The class abilities do not look overpowering and they look like an easy race to slide into a campaign.

There are seven feats which are available to boggles. For the most part these seem okay. I’m concerned with the implications of the Arcane Craft feat which allows a boggle attempt to craft magic items without the prerequisite item creation feats. If I’m reading this write this feat allows you to bypass eight craft feats for a minor complication. There is a PRC in here called “The Demolisher” that seems atypical to the ecology that was established earlier in the book. It explains the reason why this evil, midnight bomber, what bombs at midnight is included but I would have preferred a boggle artificer or boggle technomage instead.

The product closes with a couple pages of mundane equipment like boggle wrenches, turbopters, and mechanical arms. There are also base monster stats for a boggle wizard and a mechnomancer (a boggle/construct hybrid). I expect boggles to appear soon in my campaigns and I’d like to include some boggle NPCs or boggle gear here on the DM Sketchpad but there does not appear to be an OGC declaration so I don’t know if I can call them boggles or what for certain Alluria considers open content.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Remarkable Races Pathway to Adventure: The Boggle
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the great review! We have since updated our OGL text to include OGC declaration (and other missing elements). A small oversight on our part...thanks for catching it!
Modern Mayhem
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/08/2009 18:24:12
Everything was orchestrated by a maestro, you and your friends are manacled and sitting on the transport bus looking forward to 30 year of hard labour that to some creative police work (not that you were angels to begin with). When an unexpected accident frees you, will you clear your name or will you become the type of person the courts believe you to be. This is the central question of Modern Mayhem20, the first full-adventure path for the Modern20 system. This 47 page PDF product was written by Charles Rice and published by RpgObjects.

I was caught off guard a little by this adventure path because of preconceived notions I have about adventures, experience and levelling with other OGL games. There are basically 5 or 6 main objectives in this adventure path and for completing each major objective your characters will become more powerful. The format is also a bit different that what I expected, each adventure has an objective with complications and opponents but its written more as a framework for the GM to breathe life into then a scripted story. I think out of the six adventures only three occur in a required order and not all of the six are necessary to develop the story with your players. I think this gives the book a very sandbox-like appeal similar to some objective or non-linear videogames; the encounters allow the players to define their character, establish their humanity and establish themselves within the criminal world. For all the freedom this represents, the author has provided lots of ideas and plenty of opponent stats to cover most situations.

About ¾ the book is dedicated to adventure options and the last ¼ provides additional mechanics for the "core" Modern20 system by RpgObjects. There are new rules for influence contact, information contacts and contacts who would prefer not to be contacts. There are additional occupations, feats, npc and equipment appropriate for a criminal campaign. To make this product a quick pick up and go type adventure, pregens are also included. The two most interesting additions to the Modern20 ruleset are the Humanity Meter and Heat (Pursuit) Meter. The Humanity meter is a devise used to track the behaviour of the group, based on the player character's actions. Unlike alignment it doesn't restrict player action but instead shapes the format of the ending (uplighting, mercenary, depressing) almost like a karmic adjustment. I think this mechanic (which is OGC) is exportable to many other games and genres. The Heat meter is an abstract chase/pursuit mechanism to track how close the player characters are to getting caught by the police.

Overall, Modern Mayhem20 provides well-developed and supported adventure for gamers looking for a Rocknrolla or GTA type experience. It is further supported by a sample modern map pack from the fine guys at 12 to Midnight and Fabled Environments providing the "All Saint's Church", "Argent National Bank", "The Marguerite Apartment Homes" and "Joe's Diner".

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Mayhem
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Fantasci20: Creature Creator
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/24/2008 21:34:49
An Original Grand OGL Wiki Review!
http://grandwiki.wikidot.com

“Fantasci20” is a fantasy campaign model with science fiction elements added much like the Final Fantasy video game series. This campaign model is designed for use with the Modern20 system. There are three releases in this line of products: Characters, Creature Creator and Gazetteer. All three products are written by Charles Rice.

Smaller than Fantasci20: Characters, the Fantasci20: Creature Creator is 16 pages of crunch focused on building non-human opponents for your Fantasci heroes to fight. The nicest thing about monster creation in the Fantasci20 system is that it uses the same rules as your characters.

There are a couple exceptions to the monster creation such as monsters are not restricted from feats based on their class. They also have additional monster feats. These monster feats all you to adapt to particular environments, carry disease, resist elemental damage, gain natural weapons, gain natural armour, have monster type traits(elemental, ooze, spirits, undead), or alter their size.

There are several sample creatures groups presented like animals, elementals, oozes, spirits and undead. Some of the creatures are represented are multiple power levels. Some of the beasties included are fire bats, horses, winter wolves, air elementals, fire oozes, spirit bear, soldier skeleton and infected zombie.

I really like Fantasci20: Creature Creator. It is a solid foundation for creating monsters for the Fantasci20 or the Modern20 system. My only complaint with the book is that I want more, more monster feats and more monsters a veritable Modern Menace20 book. Something to allow me to add an urban arcana spin to Modern20 or a populate a dark heart of space setting with oodles of alien menaces and undead horrors. But in the meantime, below is the my Fantasci20 Otyugh.
Fantasci Monsters: Otyugh

Typical Base Ability Scores: Str 14, Dex 10, Con 18, Int 6, Wis 12, Cha 6

Otyugh, Large (Tank 6): HD 6d12+36; HP 75; Init -1; Spd 20 ft.; Defense 13, flatfooted 13 (-1 Dex, +4 Class, -1 Size); BAB +4; Atk +9 (1d8+6, blunt slam); SQ DR 2/ballistics & blunt, Resilience; AL None; SV Fort +11, Ref +2, Will +3, Rec +5; Rep NA; Str 22, Dex 8, Con 22, Int 6, Wis 12, Cha 6

Skills (perks): Perception 9 (+10), Unarmed 9 (+13)

Feats: Disease (4x; DC 16; 1d2 Con), Improved Grab, Natural Resistance (DR 2/blunt), Natural Weapons (blunt),
Size Increase (2x, Large)

Character Disadvantages: None

Description: Otyugh are creatures of filth and rot. They live on the excess and waste of other races. In the world of Aurianis, the otyugh are an invasive species. They arrived on Aurianis when the Horde's airships crashed. Perception is always a class skill from Otyugh.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasci20: Creature Creator
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Fantasci20: Character Guide
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/23/2008 21:28:44
Original Posted at http://grandoglwiki.wikidot.com

“Fantasci20” is a fantasy campaign model with science fiction elements added much like the Final Fantasy video game series. This campaign model is designed for use with the Modern20 system. There are three releases in this line of products: Characters, Creature Creator and Gazetteer. All three products are written by Charles Rice.

Fantasci20: Characters is the longest supplement weighing it at 32 page plus licensing and covers. There is no table of content in this supplement, but it is well bookmarked. The entirety of this supplement is dedicated to providing players with the options needed to make characters for the Fantasci20 setting. Topics covered include new races, occupations, skills, feats and equipment.

The world of Aurianis is the home to all Fantasci20 stories. It a whole touched by both magic and science and this has led to the development of many intelligent races beyond humans. There are three non-human races detailed in this book and four human subraces. The first non-human race presented is the Baubles, who are small, capricious elemental characters with magical affinity. The second is the Ferals, a race of jungle cat humanoids who live in harmony with nature. The third non-human race is the Horde, they are the default villains of the setting and alien conquerors. The human races include the desert dwelling Merkosa, the giant-blooded Nyr, the minature Proud Folk (part says they are Tiny, part says Diminuitive so I’m not sure how small they are) and the winged Sky Folk.

There are thirteen new occupations for the Fantasci setting. They are additions to the occupations avaiable in the core Modern20 book (though I expect that when I set-up character creation rules for my players I may want to limit some from the Modern20 book that don't feel right like paramedic or reporter). The occupations added in this book are artificier, bard, black magician, bladecaster, bonder, gunslasher, gunner, mage gunner, monster trainer, necromancer, swordsman, theif and white magician. The white magician is more of what I would consider divine magic while the black magician is more arcane.

The next chapter called Skills and Feats adds two skills and a host of general and magic based feats to the game. Art is a skill that first appeared in the core book but in this tome it has a perk that allows you to generate a bardic music like effect. Magic is the other skill which provides you with arcane lore, monster lore or further access to magical feats. The general feats available allow you to train creatures, mix with the undead, craft magic items, recruit humanoid monsters or enhance magical powers. There are twelve feats associated with Bardsongs of the Star class type such as soothing song. There are eleven feats associated with Necromancy and the Star class such as disrupt undead. The black magic section has fourteen feats that involve elemental forces such as the brainiac's elemental strike. The red magic section has thirteen spells for empaths that weaken or strengthen opponents. The spirit binding magic section has six shaman oriented feats such as spirit transformation for empath characters. Even though there is a section on red magic, there is no red magician occupation in the previous section.

The last section of the book clocks in at about six pages and deals with equipment. Here the setting adds costs for alcohol, airships, gunblades, alien weapons and magical equipment. The magical equipment takes up the most of this section and provides you magical armour to protect you from elemental damage, potions of healing, staffs of poison, and consecrated weapons. Among many, many others. There are no "wondrous items" that are typical to the genre in this section.

Overall I'm sort of mixed on this supplement in the Fantasci20 series. There are some logistical errors in this product (Bauble size, lack of Red Magicians) that is not typical in RpgObjects releases. I get the impression that Fantasci is a setting with roots in the Final Fantasy RPG series where magic and gunfire coexist, but something about Fantasci's character book just doesn't hook me the way the FFRPG did.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasci20: Character Guide
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Modern Dispatch (#126): Vigilance Force20
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/09/2008 17:31:44
Modern Dispatch #126 is the 5th in a series of alternate history superhero supplements for the Supers20 system set during World War II. The first supplement is the free Modern Dispatch #122 – Small Arms of WWII (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=56906), while the 2nd is Modern Dispatch #123 – The Eugenics Brigade (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=57067). The 3rd is Modern Dispatch #124 – The Crown Guard (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=57164). The fourth supplement is Modern Dispatch #125 – Pearl Harbour December (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=57274)

This release is called “Vigilance Force” and is 9 pages (7 content, 2 license) long and introduces the major characters of America’s superteam called Vigilance Force. The background of this release details the emergence of metahumans in America and their role in the 1st World War. Provides a context for Germany’s creation of the Eugenics Brigade and provides an anchor for including the superspy agency known as USHER in this alternate history. The bulk of this product provides you with statistics, backgrounds and quotes from the major characters associated with Vigilance Force.

The characters presented include Captain Miracle (super genius, gadgeteer), Deuce (vigilante/trainer), Freight Train (speedster/football player), Hornet (like the Wasp [but less slappable]), Marauder (damage sponge), Minuteman (time travelling battlesuit), Old Glory (like a human torch) and Talon (animal friend [eagle and wolves])

The product also contains one adventure hook and the power Control Time. The average power level of Vigilance Force is 7 and the average character level is 10. There are also Modern Dispatches with England’s Crown Guard, Germany’s Eugenics Brigade and Japan’s Pearl Harbour December.

I think this is the strongest of the four and pulls together threads from the other three.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Dispatch (#126): Vigilance Force<sup>20</sup>
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Supers 20
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/09/2008 17:28:58
Supers20! is a 50+ page super-heroic supplement for the Modern20 system by Rpgobjects. The product is divided into four chapters – three related to character generation and one related to GMing a Supers20! Game. The product opens with a bit of a design discussion for people who are coming to Supers20! from the Vigilance super-hero roleplaying game.

Chapter 1 of this tome is only a single page in length and provides you with four new character occupations for heroes or villains. The occupations presented are Super Team (like the Initiative), Mastermind (like Kingpin or the Rose), Vigilante (like the New Warriors) or Super-Agent (like Black Widow or Checkmate). Each of the occupations provides professional skills, improved feats and some have occupation specific feats like the Super Team’s “World’s Greatest” ability. There is also an “alter ego” disadvantage for character that have extended transformations to get into character.

The second chapter is the longest at about 25 pages. This is chapter that makes these character’s superheroes instead of just heroic. To model superheroics in the Modern^20 system, a power control skill, General Super Feats and Power Feats have been added. The Power Control skill allows you to push your power to accomplish feats of heroics beyond their normal limits as well as gives you access to power stunts (making fire cages, causing earthquake tremors – that sort of thing). The General Super Feats modify existing Power Feats like adjusting the duration or range, linking powers together or performing comic book attacks like fastball specials. The most important feat in this section is the Power Level feat which is use to control the relative strength of all your powers. Your powers in Supers20! do not scale with character level but instead scale with the number of times your purchase the “Power Level” feat. This allows for characters of different character levels to be more similar on a superpower basis. The Power Feats are a host of 70+ superpowers that your hero could take by selecting the appropriate feat. Powers range from Ability Drain to Wealth. The powers are remarkably consistent internally, so there isn’t really on “attack power” that is a must have or a “defense power” that is a must have. One feature that I really like about the Power Feats section is the inclusion of power limitations that can be placed on powers such as limited uses which grants a power level bonus to a power in exchange for only being able to activate it a limited number of times per day. With the inclusion of power limitations, characters can differentiate their superpower’s Power Level so not all powers operate on the same level.

Chapter 3 is a small equipment chapter that adds energy guns, energy rifles, energy reflective armorsuits, vacuum suits, and a small assortment of super vehicles. The chapter is only two pages but most of the equipment you need is in the Modern20 book.

The last chapter is focused on the gamemaster and adjustments to the rules. It opens with a discussion of comicbook genres to base your campaign from (Gritty, Street-Level, Four Color, Cosmic). Each of the genre contains a description of the play style as well as suggested starting levels and power level range. The product doesn’t address the concept of advancement overtly, within the superhero comics, character advancement is often more “character” based than “power” based. Technically, with the Supers20! System characters could sprout a new power anytime they have a new feat – this could damage the “feel” of a superhero game. It might be necessary for a Gamemaster in a Supers20! gain to limit power acquisition after character creation or slow character advancement to be more “authentic” to the source material. In terms of combat additions, this supplement adds rules for knockback and environmental damage. I didn’t care for the mechanics for Knockback because there are two may variations in it and it would be one of those rules that I would probably have to keep looking up during the game. There are tables for character advancement beyond level 20 as well. There are four campaign models as well, one gritty, two street-level, and one cosmic. The Gritty model is called the Countdown Killer and features a serial killer that kidnaps and mutilates women every nine days. The first four-color model is a campaign set at a “Hero High” type setting. The other four-color model is a Supers20! reimaging of the USHER campaign model for the superheroic world – I reviewed USHER here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_reviews_info.php?&reviews_id=1-
1091&products_id=3306&it=1
and here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_reviews_info.php?&reviews_id=1-
1093&products_id=20065&it=1
The cosmic campaign model is focused on an alien/supervillain invasion of earth.

The final item in this book is a set of generic NPCs from all classes at 1st, 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th level. I don’t think of these as NPCs though, I think of them as templates that I can use to make quick villains or heroes. Each of the NPCs is missing some information for you as the GM to customize. For instance, 12th level Empath (Psychic) has 3 unspent perks, 15 unspent skill points and 2 feats left to customize the psychic character.

Overall the book is packed with all the crunch necessary to move your character from being simply heroic to the superhero of comics. The inclusion of four campaign models in the box help you to kick off your campaign quickly. Editing, layout, balance and bookmarking are all strong as seen in most RpgObjects releases.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Supers 20
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Modern Dispatch (#125): Pearl Harbor December20
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/17/2008 22:11:08
Modern Dispatch #125 is the 4th in a series of alternate history superhero supplements for the Supers20 system set during World War II. The first supplement is the free Modern Dispatch #122 – Small Arms of WWII (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=56906), while the 2nd is Modern Dispatch #123 – The Eugenics Brigade (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=57067). The 3rd is Modern Dispatch #124 – The Crown Guard (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=57164)

This release is called “Pearl Harbour December” is 7 pages (5 content, 2 license) long and introduces the major characters Shinjuwan Juunigastu [Pearl Harbour December] who engages American forces in the Pacific Harbour. This release is crunchier than the other releases providing the rules for the martial supremacy, and two martial arts feats in addition to the character stats. The history section is only two paragraphs long, hopefully the American supplement will make up for it. The bulk of the product provides you with statistics, backgrounds, and quotes for each member of the Pearl Harbour December.

The characters presented include Banmin (savage human minions), Desumasuku (battlesuit warrior), Ikkitousen (bo staff wielder), Kaibustsu (red hulk), Katanamochi (magical katana – could probably cut through a tank), Kogoejini (cold powers) and Kojiki (psionics advisor to Japan). This product is noticeably shorter than the others in this series with fewer opponents and extremely limited timeline.

The product also contains one adventure hook. The average power level of the Pearl Harbour December is 6 and the average character level is 10. There is also a Modern Dispatch for England’s team “The Crown Guard” and Germany’s “Eugenics Brigade”. There will one for America’s “Vigilance Force” as well.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Dispatch (#125): Pearl Harbor December<sup>20</sup>
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Modern Dispatch (#124): The Crown Guard20
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/17/2008 21:48:09
Modern Dispatch #124 is the 3rd in a series of alternate history superhero supplements for the Supers20 system set during World War II. The first supplement is the free Modern Dispatch #122 – Small Arms of WWII (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=56906), while the 2nd is Modern Dispatch #123 – The Eugenics Brigade (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=57067).r />
This release is called “The Crown Guard” is 8 pages (6 content, 2 license) long and introduces the major characters in Her Majesty’s Heroes team. This release provides you with an introduction to the first super-team to embarrass Hilter’s Eugenics Brigade. The bulk of the protect provides you with stastistics, backgrounds, and quotes for each member of the Crown Guard.

The characters presented include Big Ben (giant growth), Esprit (French ghost woman), Excalibur (knight in shining armour), Grizzly (bearlike Canadian – though I think Canada could have its own team), Illusttrious (infiltrator), Ironclad (sentiment robot), Repulse (energy projector, magnetism), Swordfish (Oceanic warrior) and Zbrojmistrz (the armourer). I like the coalition of countries represented on the Crown Guard.

The product also contains an additional superpower known as martial supremacy and another adventure hook. The average power level of the Crown Guard is 6 and the average character level is 10. There is also a modern Dispatch for German’s team “The Eugenics Brigade” and Japan’s “Pearl Harbour December”. There will one for America’s “Vigilance Force” as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Dispatch (#124): The Crown Guard<sup>20</sup>
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Modern Dispatch (#123): The Eugenics Brigade20
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/17/2008 21:17:33
Modern Dispatch #123 is the 2nd of a series of alternate history superhero supplements for the Supers20 system set during World War II. The first supplement is the free Modern Dispatch #121 – Small Arms of WWII (available here: http://www.rpgnow.com/product_info.php?products_id=56906&fil-
ters=0_0_0&manufacturers_id=33)
This release is called the “Eugenics Brigade” is 8 pages (6 content, 2 license) long and introduces the major characters and villains in Hilter’s Eugenics Brigade. This release provides you with an introduction the Nazi’s supersoldiers and their place in the theatre of war. It provides a brief timeline from Hilter’s rise to the fall of the Third Reich. The bulk of the product provides you with statistics, backgrounds and quotes for each member of the Eugenics Brigade – Hilter’s teleporting superassassin force.

The character’s presented include Charismatisch (a psychic who likes to crush tanks with her mind), Doktor Eugenik (mad scientist behind the project), Donnerschlag (weather manipulator), Feuerfest (power armor wearer designed to defeat “Old Glory” – an American superhero I expect will be released in MD #126), Krieghund (werewolf-like powers), Schlagring (electrified brawler), Streitaxt (magic axe that controls the earth), Traumfrau (probability manipulation and pheromones), Uberkreiger (rejuvenated supersoldier) and Gotterdammerung (teleporter). Additionally animalistic beserkers and flying solder troops are also included.

The product also contains one adventure hook. The average power level of the Eugenics Brigade is 6 and the average character level is 10. There is also a Modern Dispatch for England’s team “The Crown Guard” and Japan’s “Pearl Harbour December”. There will one for America’s “Vigilance Force” as well. There is no description of the appearance of any of the Eugenics Brigade.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Dispatch (#123): The Eugenics Brigade<sup>20</sup>
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Modern20
Publisher: RPG Objects
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/21/2008 23:16:45
Originally reviewed for the Digital Front Podcast.

"Modern^20" is a 108 page, modern d20-based role-playing game by RPGObjects. It is a full-color, extensively bookmarked and sells for an affordable $10. It was designed to be a faster-playing, smoother and more action-packed, modern roleplaying experience than the d20 Modern rule set. There are six chapters and two appendixes in this product.

The first chapter of "Modern^20" power is devoted to character creation and takes up close to the first fifth of the book. Character generation is an eight step process that involves determining your six ability scores (strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom and charisma); there are seven methods suggested to generate ability scores. After your abilities have been determined the player needs to select a background for the character like adventurer, blue collar, doctor, law enforcement, religion, rural, student or others. Backgrounds provide you with two to four skills at a basic level and a starting wealth score. After picking a background, you need to choose your character’s current occupation which could be actor, bodyguard, con-man, hunter, military officer, musician, paramedic, politician, private eye, reporter, technician, thug or others. Each profession has three professional skills, if you put skill points into professional skills your wealth increases, and four feat suggestions that are enhanced by your profession choice. Professions may also offer access to a unique perk. Each character has at least two perks that can be used to boost reputation, boost wealth or alter what your character can do with his skills. Professions can change over the life of the character. After choosing your current profession, you choose your initial character class (options include powerhouse, speedfreak, tank, brainiac, empath, and star). Each class is modeled on the of the six ability scores and has a core ability (similar to True20 or Spycraft) that is only available if this is the first class you take. The class you take determines which skills you have, your attack, save, defense, and reputation progression and controls what feats you are allowed to take. Like True20, Modern^20 separates feats into general and class specific categories. The classes have only one class ability, they gain the rest of their uniqueness by virtue of the choices you make for feats (4 at 1st level and 1 at each additional level). Once you have chosen your class, you will need to determine the feats, skills and perks that your character possesses. Perks are special uses of a skill, sort of like the idea of a power stunt in super-hero rpgs. From there you figure your secondary characteristics such as reputation, wealth and action points. Finally you get a chance to buy equipment to gear your character up for play. There are optional rules for character defects or drawbacks if you wish to take the shine off your character.

The next section of the book is focused on the skills that your characters could take. The skill list is compact with only twenty-three individual skills. Some of the skills presented are renamed skills from the d20 Modern rule set such as Academic (replacing knowledge), some skills are combinations of d20 Modern skills such as Acrobatics (which covers Balance, Escape Artist and Tumble if a perk is used), and others are completely new like Firearms, Legal, Unarmed, Vehicles or Weapons. The unarmed skill is a real departure from SRD form as it adjusts the damage of a character's unarmed strike deals and reduces the penalty suffered for trying to strike multiple times in a round. There is a magic skill for spellcaster type characters, but no magic spells anywhere in this tome – if you want to use FX items like magic or monsters you will need to use an amalgam of the Modern^20 and modern SRD rules. Other supplements for modern^20 may address this gap like a recent modern dispatch called Hunter^20 that adds psionic rules.

Where Modern^20 adds new depth to the skill system is in the introduction of perks. At first I was skeptical of perks because you are limited to only two initially, but can earn more through class choice or feat selection. What the perks do is specialize your skills allowing you to access more complicated tasks. For example, in the Leadership skill you can take perks to inspire courage, maintain group cohesion, or inspire ferocity. In other d20 system this may have been accomplished with a feat or class ability but since it is a function of Leadership skill, I think the migration to a perk system is the best way to handle these effects. The other major innovation to the skill system is that Modern^20 removes opposed skill checks and moves to a completely targeted system. If you want to sneak past an opponent, you make a stealth check against your opponent's Perception+10 score.

Feats are covered in detail next. They provide conditional benefits to skills, combat actions or other statistics. Feats almost always have a mechanical benefit associated with them. The feats in this section are divided into a general category that can be accessed by all classes, and also powerhouse, speedfreak, tank, brainiac, empath and star feats that are only accessible for members of that class. If you have played d20 Modern and True20, many of the feats will be familiar to you while other feats come out of other RPGobjects products if memory serves me right.

Equipment is next and covers all modern ranged weapons, melee weapons, armor and general equipment. Purchasing items is simple in Modern^20, if your wealth score is equal to the item or more than the item you can purchase it. If the item is worth more that your wealth, your wealth score will be permanently reduced. In Modern^20, the weapon system has been reworked. All ranged weapons require a minimum strength to operate while melee weapon have strength and possibly dexterity requirements. If you don't meet these prerequisites you suffer a -4 penalty to all attack rolls, are unable to do strength damage or other penalties. The weapons lack a critical threat score because critical hits have been replaced with hit locations for all attacks. There is a full page of handguns and longarm weapons, archaic ranged weapons, explosives, melee weapons, armor and general equipment. The number of weapons you are proficient with is determined by you firearms or weapons skill. Armor has a strength minimum as well and provides damage reduction to attacks instead of a Defense bonus. The weapons and armor sections have descriptions to help you familiarize yourself with the material, the general equipment does not. So if your character is handcuffed, there is no information on how to escape them, which looks like an oversight. There are also equipment lists for lifestyle items, services and vehicles.

The combat system for Modern^20 is similar to many d20 games with a handful of noticeable differences. First is that a character's defense is only defined by dexterity, class bonus and feat effects; this should result in a lower overall defense value than the d20 Modern game and make the game potentially deadlier. When you make an attack roll in combat you also roll a second unmodified d20 to identify the hit location, instead of having a mechanic for critical hits. There is an optional rule for making combat more lethal, as well as a host of new combat conditions like bruised, bleeding, coma or limb breaks. The way that damage is dealt by blunt weapons is different than traditional d20 games, in Modern^20, a blunt weapon deals non-lethal damage unless the attack roll beat its opponent defense by 5 or more points. Non-lethal injuries heal as the game time moves forward, but lethal injuries do not heal without a successful Recovery check once a day. There are no rules for vehicle combat or chases.

The Adventuring chapter is the catch-all basin for material that is not combat related. It includes character movement, environment lighting and hazards, exposure, suffocation, falling, poison, disease, acid, electricity and other stuff to throw in your hero's way. The rules for advancing characters is that characters will advance a level when a major campaign objective is reached – which is probably why there is no "experience table for character level" anywhere in the product.

The end of the product has an appendix that walks you through an example of character creation and another appendix with each of the classes detailed at six different level variants (1/4/8/12/16/20). They are identified as sample NPCs but really are just bags of numbers identified only as class and level compared to role, identity or personality, which I found a little disappointing. The powerhouse has a criminal/mobster concept, the speedfreak has a law-enforcement/hunter concept, the tank has a military/bodyguard concept, the brainiac has an adventurer/spy concept, the empath has a military/martial arts instructor concept and the star has a celebrity/actor concept.

The Modern^20 system is entirely open game content with the exception of the trademark which allows other publishers to build support of this rule set but not claim any compatibility. I'm hoping that RPGObject releases some Horror 20 supplements in the future, as that is my preferred modern game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Modern20
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Cartophile No. 2
Publisher: SkeletonKey Games
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2008 11:08:05
Cartophile No.2 is eight page tile set from Ed Bourelle. This set has six tiles, four of which are link able to other dungeon tiles sets produced by SkeletonKey Games. The “Cartophile” series is different from SkeletonKey Games’s other tile sets like the E-Adventure in that they focus on a single encounter area and are not completely modular.

This Cartophile set is of a dungeon area that bridges into a volcanic cavern. There are rocky outcroppings over the swirling magma. The area would serve well as a sacrificial chamber to some great fire being; there are pillars with which to chain prisoners about the swirling magma. There is no hint to the sort of beast that lies within this lake of magma. The magma chamber actually seems lower than the adjoining rooms as there is a bit of a magma waterfall in the south-west tile. With the whirlpool effect present in the magma pool, the pool is probably quite deep. Deep enough for a 12-headed pyrohydra, a noble salamander priest of Cthugha, or ancient red dragon.

Only 4 of the six tiles are used in this encounter; the additional tiles allow you to remove the swirling magma whirlpool. The tiles are beautifully rendered, with great attention to detail such as including currents in the water and loose stones scattered on the stone floor tiles. My only detail complaint is that it would have been nice to get a tile with some blood splatter on it from previous sacrifices. My home game is currently a PBEM game, so we do not use tiles or miniatures but I still use these tiles to help me plan my games and describe my world. I look forward to future Cartophile releases to provide me with yet more great encounter areas.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cartophile No. 2
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Elder Evils (3.5)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Mark G. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2008 10:30:25
I bought this for Chapter 10 - Zargon and thus will focus my review there.

For the purpose of this review I will be looking at Chapter 10 of Elder Evils entitled “Zargon”. You might ask yourself why I’m only looking at this section of the book and the reason is that, unlike the other “elder evils”, Zargon is an existing piece of Dungeons and Dragons mythology. He first appeared in B4 – The Lost City and was mentioned in Dungeon Magazine #142.

I really like Mystara and I hoped that this product might give me a nice 3.5 version of the material I loved in B4 - The Lost City. I had been unimpressed with WoTC recent offerings as they seem to be casting off more and more of what is known about the Dungeons and Dragons history and mythology. It seems Elder Evils, like 4e, to appears continues this trend.

In 1982, The Lost City was released. A summary of the background is provided below:

The Cynidicea empire was a rich and fertile kingdom that survived in the heart of a desert wasteland. It was ruled by King Alexander until his death. The people constructed a huge pyramid to honour him. Cynidicea began to fall when workers stumbled into the lair of a strange monster called Zargon. It was humanoid, with twelve tentacle arms, the head of a giant lizard and a black horn in the middle of its head. Zargon killed the worker and began hunting citizens in the streets at night. The government began sending criminals into the pyramid to feed it. In time a cult began to worship Zargon and the city turned away from their gods. In decline, they grew soft and experimented with rare wine and bizarre drugs. The city was destroyed by barbarians. The priests of Zargon lead the people into the pyramid to live underground with their “god”.

In 2006, Dungeon #142 “Masque of Dreams” revisted this myth. A summary of the background is provided below:

The Cynidicea empire was a rich and fertile kingdom that survived in the heart of a desert wasteland. It was ruled by King Alexander until his death. The people constructed a huge pyramid to honour him. Cynidicea began to fall when workers stumbled into the lair of a strange monster called Zargon. When the monster could not be stopped they decided to placate it. They turned away from their gods. They grew soft and experimented with rare wine and bizarre drugs. They retreated from the surface and their city was destroyed by barbarians.

As you can see, there are minor differences but overall the original myth holds true. That was until Chapter 10 of Elder Evils. A summary of the background myth is provided below:

The Cynidicea empire was a rich and fertile kingdom that survived in the heart of a desert wasteland. It fell into complacency and decadence which allowed a bloodthirsty cult to rise. The cult preyed upon its own citizens as well as those of the neighbouring, barbarian tribes. This leads the barbarians to attack the city and try to slay the beast-god. The barbarian leader was blessed by the gods but failed to kill Zargon. The gods came themselves, several were killed and others were driven off. Cynidiceans who survived the invasion fled below the city, fearing that their world would end. Asmodeus intervened, since he was not a god he was immune to Zargon’s worst powers, he imprisoned the elder evil in solid stone and buried Zargon’s followers.

Apparently, Zargon ruled the Nine Hells of Baator and was the father of the ancient baatorians before Asmodeus and his allies seized the Nine Hells for themselves. Zargon’s body was destroyed and his horn cast to the Material Plane where his body would reform.

From the looks of that background, the caretakers of the Dungeons and Dragons mythology managed to get one or two pieces right and created a total mess of a backstory for Zargon. He goes from being a savage beast worshiped by primitive people to a god-killing, former ruler of the Nine Hells that was laid low by an archdevil after killing several gods?

Why is it that Paizo can respectfully address the mythology of the game, while WoTC sends everything through the wood-chipper.

Other changes:

None of the Cynidicea factions are mentioned except the Priests of Zargon. There is no mention of the Cynidicea’s ablinoism, they drug abuse or tendancy to wear animal masks (though Paizo managed this). The ten tier pyramid with huge underground city has been swapped for a five tier ziggurat of which only a single tier is detailed (tier 5 of the Lost City pyramid – except the timeline still references the “Lost City” and what lies beneath it, which was the pyramid structure in the first. It looks like the city now has its own independent underground area but that is not detailed here). This level of the ziggurat has been reworked so there is much less in it than in the original module.

You will not find any of the following on this level:

1) Mosaics that describe the history of the Cynidicea Empire.

2) Secret door leading to the underground city.

3) Drunk owlbears

4) A sunken pool of acid

5) No Cynidiceans gambling or partying (as they have all been killed by NPC villains)

6) No dopplegangers

7) No ghosts hoping to destroy the cult

8) No wererats or werefoxes

Mostly just the map is and the room names are reused. With a total three, count them, three encounters.

Although Zargon is a god-killing machine now, he joins into alliance with Juiblex. Zargon, besides being a god-killer, has many slime-based powers now. Nothing in Zargon’s statblock would give you the impression that he would be capable of killing any god, their priest definitely. but he is certainly not a god slayer as written.

Nod to the Past:

At the end of this revisioning of Zargon the text notes, “The way to destroy this elder evil is to drop the horn in the smoking crater called the Eye of Zargon. This volcanic crater lies far below the earth in the cave housing the lost city of Cynidicea, on the far shores of Lake Moldvay.” The original module was written by Tom Moldvay, who passed in March of 2007.

I guess this chapter works as a reinvention of Zargon and I will admit that the Campaign timeline for including Zargon2.0 is interesting and could work well, even if a little nonsensical by including Juiblex alliances and having the Ziggurat and the Lost City use the same maps (or maybe not, it’s not really clear).

But this is not Zargon from B4, nor does it contain any of the original richness that Tom Moldvay included in the original module. It’s too bad there is no way to sell you PDFs or return them for store credit. WoTC fails to respect the mythology of Dungeons and Dragons, yet again, even though Paizo had no problem doing so a year before.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Elder Evils (3.5)
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