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All For Me Grog
Publisher: Mount Zion Press
by Tim S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/15/2015 07:52:37
All For Me Grog is an RPG of piratical adventures on the high seas by Ryan Shelton of Mount Zion Press, and it's become one of my recent favorite games -- not just because of the theme and genre, but because of the incredibly simple system that powers this game. (And the other things it can do -- more on that later...) AFMG is less-concerned with reality, taking its cue instead from the swashbuckling, high-adventure pirate movies you'd see in a Saturday matinee, i.e., Treasure Island, Captain Blood, and (sigh, OK) Pirates of the Caribbean. The rules (only 32 tightly-constructed pages) is sprinkled with quotes from various buccaneer tales as well as plenty of illustrations straight from Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates. Just a quick thumb-through is enough to get your timbers a'shiverin'.

Characters in All For Me Grog have three primary attributes: Bloode, Skull, and Grog (effectively representing your physical, mental, and spiritual aspects, respectively). You have 9 points to divvy up amongst the three. Your character also starts with 9 points of Salt, which is more than just "hit points," but rather an overall score of "well-being." You can lose Salt when injured, sure, but you can also lose Salt in a battle of wits, if you fail at a task, or any number of downfalls. (But you regain Salt fairly quickly depending on how it was lost.) Finally, each character starts with 15 more points to split amongst a handful of Vocations (a general description of what you know or skills you have) as well as 3 final points to apply to any Embellishments (items you possess or secrets you know). So your new seadog (my ship's doctor, for example) could look something like this:

Sawbones McGuirk
Attributes
Bloode: 3
Skull: 4
Grog: 2
Salt: 9

Vocations
Doctor: 5
Swordsman: 3
Negotiator: 3
Lockpick: 2
Marksman: 2

Embellishments
Doctor's Bag: 2
Superstitions: 1

As for the game's resolution system, it's very simple. Anytime there's a risk or challenge involved -- whether swordfighting, lockpicking, moving stealthily past the city guards, etc. -- you need to roll as many dice as you have for the appropriate attribute plus any appropriate vocation. For example, for ol' Sawbones above, if he was trying to open a locked cell door, he'd roll 4 dice (Skull) plus 2 dice (Lockpick) for total of 6 dice. If he was trying to stop someone from bleeding to death from a gunshot wound during a pitched sea battle, he'd roll 2 dice (Grog, due to the pressure of the situation) plus 5 (Doctor) plus ANOTHER 2 for his ever-present doctor's bag, for a total of 9 dice. (You can never roll more dice than your current Salt level though, so the more you fail, the fewer dice you may have in your pool.)

What are you rolling against? Well, this is where it gets simple: you only need three "successes" to pass a task, and you're only concerned with dice that come up EVEN (in other words, a 50-50 shot on each die). So, if three dice comes up with even numbers, you succeed. The more dice in your pool, the better your odds. You can use six-siders, four-siders, anything with same number of odd/even sides. Personally, I like to use toy pirate coins (or "doubloons") for a heads=success; tails=failure randomizer.

There's much more to the AFMG system, but since the rules are fairly brief, I don't want to spoil the entire system in this review. There are rules for using Panache (like bennie points allowing you to reroll or change a scene for a more positive outcome) as well as contested risks, assists, healing, mass assaults, and ship-to-ship combat. (It's a pirate game, of COURSE there'll be broadside cannonfire!) Several tables in the back help you name and outfit your newly minted ne'er-do-well, plus some pre-created pirate NPCs, samples of treasure to be dug up, and names for your home ship.

And if you don't want to play pirates? The system is easily re-skinable! Wanna play a pulp '20s adventurer game? Rename the attributes something like Guts, Brains, and Moxie. Superheroes would use Power, Intelligence, and Reputation. Add some appropriate Vocations and Embellishments, and you're off and rolling. The flexibility is very appealing to me.

AFMG is a rules-light, but incredibly evocative RPG of pirate adventure. Plus the resolution system is incredibly simple and encourages players to roleplay a situation so that they can add more dice to that ever-important dice pool.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
All For Me Grog
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The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook
Publisher: Covetous Poet Publishing
by Tim S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/15/2015 07:48:49
I love writing adventures but I'll admit that sometimes it sucks waiting for inspiration to strike. (And when it does, there's never a piece of paper around to jot down that inspirational nugget of a concept.) That's why I'm THRILLED with The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook. This amazing guide basically inspires you with adventure concepts you may not have otherwise considered as well as walks you through designing and writing an entire three-act scenario, each broken into multiple scenes to challenge your PCs. There have been other "GM workbooks" released before, but this particular product has really struck a chord with me, and I'm getting a ton of use out of it in the short time I've had it. (The book can also be used as a "solo GM" supplement, much like the Mythic GM Emulator, but for purposes of this review, I'm just going to focus on the Adventure Creator side of the book.)

The Guidebook uses that old standby -- the series of random tables -- to generate inspirational "prompts" to guide you as you create. Using the sheets provided, you roll on a series of "Story Charts", fill in the blanks, then use your imagination to connect the dots and see where the plot leads you. The sheer number of results that could come up are astounding, as most of the tables use a d1000. (There aren't actually 1000 entries, but there are literally hundreds and hundreds of plot twists, places, things, and actions that could arise.) Frank Lee, the book's author and creator, has provided tables for fantasy adventure creation, sci fi adventure creation, and horror adventure creation. According to the Kickstarter page that launched this book, a superhero set of tables is in the works.

Frank encourages the adventure designer to work in a three-act format, guiding you through this process. After initially fleshing out the overarching theme and behind-the-scenes machinations of your Big Bad, as well as the series of events that bring the PCs into the scenario, you begin to work on the three acts of your adventure. In Act 1, the PCs begin poking around, meeting NPCs and generally determining the course of the adventure. In Act 2, challenges begin to surface and the PCs begin to assemble the pieces of the puzzle. In Act 3, the PCs reach the goal of the adventure and solve the mystery, fight the good fight, or otherwise reach the end of the game. (I'm super-simplifying the system for purposes of the review, but it really does work well.) If you don't want to create an adventure in three acts, the Guidebook explains how to create a One or Two Act adventure (for convention games or one-nighters), a Modular Act adventure (one part of a bigger multi-scenario picture, i.e., an adventure path), and a TV adventure (four scenes, one after the next, leading the PCs down the path, and everything's wrapped up nice and neat at the end -- or as I call it, "the railroad".).

At my blog The Savage AfterWorld, I used The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook to create a Cryptworld adventure from scratch, posting the rolls and worksheets, and letting readers follow along and watch as a scenario took shape into a fully formed adventure : http://savageafterworld.blogspot.com/search/label/Let%27s%20-
Make%20A%20Module

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Covetous Poet's Adventure Creator and Solo GM Guidebook
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Toypocalypse
Publisher: Top Rope Games
by Tim S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/15/2015 07:42:44
It's been 10 years since "The Great Dawning." For reasons unexplained, all of humanity has vanished, leaving behind a slowly decaying civilization. Also as-of-yet unexplained: the toys of the world -- mere children's playthings -- have become sentient and are now the masters of the planet. But playtime is over in this post-apocalyptic nightmare as the larger, stronger toys now rule with an oppressive iron fist. They force others to work in the stuffing mines, or to scavenge for batteries and needles and thread for power and upkeep. Those toys who escape subjugation must find his place in this lonely abandoned world -- the world of Toypocalypse.

Toypocalypse by Top Rope Games was written by Trevor Christensen as part of the 2011 24 Hour RPG contest. The game is super-tight, coming in at just 16 pages. But within those pages is a fascinating setting and an interesting dice mechanic. Let's take each in turn...

The Setting: As explained above, humanity is gone and sentient toys are now picking up the pieces of the world. The stronger powerful toys have stepped in as despicable tyrants whose word is law. The weaker playthings are enslaved and/or exploited. Those who escape are left to wander the wastelands, subjected to feral animal attacks or marauding bandits. It's an interesting juxtaposism of childhood joy and soul-crushing tyranny -- Toy Story meets Lord of the Flies meets The Road Warrior. (Visually, I see a world much like the movie 9.)

Players can choose any toy they want to play. Want to play a stuffed teddy bear? How about a battery-operated robot? Or a little green army man? Or a muscled action figure? Or even a Magic 8-Ball? Any toy can be fleshed out as a playable PC in this game, and the rules encourage this. The characters must also choose the toy's starting Condition (new-in-box, threadbare, corroded, etc.); Facets (broken, loved, discarded, assembly required, etc.); Movement (walks, rolls, hops, etc.); and Cognizance (sight, hearing, temperature sense). The player will also need to determine how the toy "fits" into this new world by deciding upon their social role (leader, schemer, mentor, zealot, etc.) as well as their public and private goals. Finally, there is a pool of pneuma (soul strength) and morale (conscious strength). When either of these is depleted, the toy is forever broken -- either physically or emotionally/mentally.

The Mechanics: Each toy has four attributes: Will (toughness/determination); Cognition (perception/aptitude); Versatility (dexterity/cunning); and Intensity (heart/soul). Rather than scores, each attribute is assigned a dice type. And each dice type represents how good a PC is in that attribute. Normal attributes are assigned 1d12 with no bonuses (so they can generate a random scale of 1-12 on a "Normal" roll); followed by Good (1d10 + 2 = a scale of 3-12); Great (1d8 + 4 = a scale of 5-12); and Superior (1d6 + 6 = a scale of 7-12). As you can see, the better your attribute, the higher your typical roll will be with that attribute. During play, an action attempt will be assigned a Target Number of 7 (average); 9 (Difficult); or 11 (Very Difficult). The player rolls the appropriate dice and must hit/exceed the target number to succeed.

Example: Mighty Man the action figure is trying to lift a car battery off of his pinned comrade. His Intensity is Superior, so he gets to roll a d6, adding 6 to the roll. The ref assigns a target number of 11 to succeed, so Mighty Man will roll between a 7 and 12 for the attempt -- a roughly 33% chance at succeeding in lifting the battery. (Better than My Little Unicorn who has a Normal Intensity who just gets to roll 1d12 for the attempt, so he'll roll a 1 to 12 -- only a 16% chance of success.) There are also rules for contested rolls and bonuses/penalties, but this is the gist of the roll mechanic.

And recall the toy's Facets, Condition, Movement, and Cognizance from earlier? A player can "invoke" these once during a play session. If they can roleplay how this comes into play, the ref can give them a +2 to a roll.

Example: Mighty Man is also "Cracked". The player explains that, as he tries to lift the battery, he curses the cracked hinge in his shoulder joint -- a permanent reminder of the rough playtimes he used to enjoy with his previous owner prior to The Great Dawning. The ref gives the player a +2 for the roleplaying and has him mark that facet as being "invoked" for this session. The player now will roll a 9 to 12 -- a 50-50 shot.

Toypocalypse has a separately available campaign setting supplement titled Toypocalypse Falls that was born of a successful Kickstarter campaign. The supplement describes a town where the hydroelectric dam still provides electrical power -- an abundance of riches! Rival factions vie for control over the resource, with Centaur Alpha trying to retain his position as de facto leader. The wise and secluded Librarians make plans in the shadows, while The Cult of Lilly Ann worship at the feet of the last surviving human. Add in several plot hooks and a full adventure (Tomb of the Purple Crayon), and you have enough inspiration for many evenings of Rise Of The Toys adventure!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Toypocalypse
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Quick Covers- Vol.5: Future Tech
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Tim S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/10/2012 14:31:54
Loved the look of this so much, I purchased it for use as the cover to my own RPG supplement. Fantastic work!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Quick Covers- Vol.5: Future Tech
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