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Kin and Kinsmen
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/22/2017 10:27:28

Across frozen wastes hidden away lies the Kingdom of the Seven-Day Sun, but it has worse problems than a chilly location. They found the king sitting on his throne murdered, and during the coronation of his successor, Crown Prince Hess, someone had a go at him too. Fingers of suspicion point in all directions, not least the Table of Lords (all of whom could stake a claim to the throne)... and all turn to the party, who were visiting for the winter festival and are now trapped here like everybody else, to find out what's going on.

The DM's Background reveals who the murderer is and why he committed it, the adventure itself is one of investigation and interaction as the party - distrusted by just about everyone because they are outsiders - hunt for the truth. The party gets embroiled in the matter because they happen to be standing in the crowd watching the coronation beside a fellow who pulls out a crossbow and takes a pot-shot at Hess. Hopefully they tackle him - if they don't the crowd will bring him down, dead!

By its very nature, the adventure is quite freeform. There's a background timetable that ticks along irrespective of what the party does, loads of people to talk to, and a very loose framework against which you can let the party loose to do what they please. A plan of the royal castle, complete with room descriptions, is provided, as well as 'thumbnail sketches' of the people that are under suspicion that the party is supposed to interview. With the odd assassin and one evil creature to contend with, opportunities for combat are there but not frequent yet, should the party figure out how to defeat the evil creature, they have the chance to save the kingdom from more than a regicide.

Study the adventure carefully before running it, the material is a bit confused in places and could have done with a read-through by someone who didn't know the plot! That said, it's a nice winter investigation with potential for the party to make their names as something a bit more classy that pure adventurers who raid monsters and steal their stuff.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Kin and Kinsmen
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The Wreck of the Venerable Drake
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/21/2017 11:29:36

The Players Introduction sets the scene: while browsing in an adventurers' supplies emporium, the party discovers the proprietor in a distraught state. His supply ship has been lost at sea, and worse than the loss of the cargo apparently he had what he refers to as a 'family heirloom' aboard... and he's willing to pay well to have it retrieved. When the party starts to ask about it, it turns out that the ship has run aground on a reef rather than sunk, but the crew refuse to return to it despite it not being that far away. Smell a rat? Or is the lure of the reward too great?

The DM's Background explains the real story behind the wreck and the true nature of the family heirloom. Interestingly, the adventure provides a good test of the party's honesty. Brief notes cover the trip to the wreck - you'll have to fill in any details or encounters you deem necessary - then the party will have the ship to explore. There's a good plan and notes on what's where aboard. Rather oddly, the ship hit the reef broadside on, staving in the side - anyone knowing much about sailing ships should realise that's somewhat unlikely.

Most of the critters the party encounter will attack without much thought, but it may be possible to enter into negotiation with the final encounter (who was behind the wreck in the first place) although as he's a bit of a religious fanatic they are unlikely to sway him from his purpose. The end of the adventure assumes the party come back to their patron, the owner of the ship, and deals with various options - although one fairly possible one isn't covered at all, you'll have to work out your own response to it. There's a neat new magic item and the new 'monster' is that final encounter.

This makes for a neat little adventure to spice up a shopping trip in a seaside town, but more could have been made of the moral dilemma.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Wreck of the Venerable Drake
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DC1 Empathic Sourcebook
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/20/2017 09:05:53

The Introduction lays out how this book is designed to expand the basic Empathy ability. There are different disciplines which may be learned: the neuropathic, the psionic, the sorcerous, and the mystical. Only the neuropathic discipline can be acquired without the need for study and training. It equates to the default Empathy ability in the core rules, and is regarded as the most dangerous form of empathy to use, even if it is easier to acquire. The other disciplines can be studied during character generation (by taking one or more term to do so) or once play has started if the character can find a teacher. The study of psionics and mysticism is incompatible, you have to choose one or the other.

The first chapter, however, deals with a system change, from the original D10-based system to a D20 one. It explains in detail how to create new characters, or convert existing ones and then goes on to explain how the new rules work in play. This isn't the 'D20' system of Dungeons & Dragons 3e, by the way, but a revision of the D10 system to use twenty-sided dice. It's something that was introduced in Twilight 2000 and the rest of the GDW games with a common ruleset.

Next up is Empathic Background. This talks about the degeneration of the world and the part, unnoticed by the vast majority of people, that Dark Minions have played in it. Although most people haven't noticed, some have and they form a loose 'empathic underground' to combat the threat. As your party finds out more, they will become aware of the empathic underground if not part of it - even those characters with all the empathy of a house brick. Many groups of empathic people have existed long before the Dark Minions arrived on the scene - there have long been those who study esoteric arts, alchemy and the like. The chapter continues with an analysis of the different groups that can be found, with suggestions as to how to involve them in play. There's also a random generation system in case you need a group in a hurry along with some sample groups, then the discussion moves on to the relationships of the empathic underground with ETs. Notes on playing ETs for the Referee and some ET careers follow.

The rest of the book consists of chapters on each empathic discipline: neuropathy, psionics, sorcery, and mysticism. Background, its place in the world, new skills and abilities, they're all here. They make for fascinating reading and open up whole vistas of new ideas and potentials for characters and plotlines alike. There are extensive details on training and how to acquire it, different abilities and levels of power... pretty much all you need to know. The Referee may want to allow interested players to read up on their chosen discipline or may prefer to reveal the material herein during play - particularly for those characters who seek training during the course of the game.

You should definitely get this book and incorporate it into your game if you want to tap into the full 'otherness' of empathic powers. Whether or not you let your players use them is another matter, these may be part of the weird and sometimes scary that more 'ordinary' characters slowly become aware of as they investigate strange goings-on... and, of course, they may have opportunities to learn these powers for themselves in due course.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Empathic Sourcebook
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DC1 Among the Dead
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/19/2017 09:25:15

In the lawless times of the dark near-future predicted by this game, Dark Minions take advantage of governments preoccupied with cost-cutting and public disinterest to get up to all sorts of things, and this adventure leads the party into a whole can of worms as they start investigating the disappearance of a nurse on behalf of a distraught uncle. The evidence they unearth should lead them to a dastardly plot set to engulf Moscow... a long way from a missing young lady in New York.

The Referee's Synopsis lays this all out and explains that each sequence leads into the next, with clues for later events scattered through earlier ones... yet, if the party strays off course, it should be relatively straightforward to point them back again with a few well-placed additional pieces of information. It all begins with a worried ex-pat Russian, Lobov, who has a tale to tell about his niece...

He has some letters that she sent to him which have some rather disturbing comments about the hospital in which she was working. He'd already hired a private detective, but he hadn't got very far, so he's turned to the party for help. The letters are reproduced and can be used as handouts... good luck with her handwriting, it's dreadful! Lobov will fund the party's travel to New York and some limited accommodation and expenses once there. Most people they meet either don't know anything or are actively unhelpful, the logical conclusion is to investigate the hospital she worked in itself. There's plenty of background to enable this investigation to be as thorough as the party wants.

One thing leads to another and the party ends up in Russia, whether they intended it or not... and on dodgy ground as they don't have the correct paperwork. More well-resourced opportunities follow, along with informal contacts with like-minded investigators in Russia. There's plenty to do, although you may need to point the party in the right direction upon occasion - they are in an unfamiliar and foreign land, after all. Once the immediate threat has been dealt with, they'll then have to deal with the Committee that runs Moscow, which leads to a further job before they can think about coming home.

Background information on both Moscow and New York is provided, which will be of use in setting the scene not just during this adventure but any time your campaign involves either city. Throughout the adventure, there are ample opportunities to use (abuse?) empathic characters with feelings and full-blown dreams that you can describe to them in appropriate places. Specifically Russian monsters and equipment are also to be found at the end of the book as well.

It makes for an intriging adventure, although players who thirst for action may find parts of the investigation slow and tedious... it's supposed to be, and opportunities to get more physical are there in the course of time, possibly even more enjoyable for frustrated players who feel the investigation is going nowhere fast. A good adventure for the more thoughtful, who enjoy atmosphere and role-playing interactions - even dealing with officialdom - at least as much as they enjoy a brawl!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Among the Dead
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DC1 Dark Races, Volume 1
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2017 08:27:00

The Introduction begins with a philosophical discourse on the role of language within horror stories, and how the like of movies has codified and labelled different monsters so that 'everyone knows' what creatures like werewolves or vampires are, what they look like, what they do... and what they are vulnerable to. But if you asked someone from middle Europe in the 12th century about a werewolf, they might have a quite different impression to convey, often less codified and certain than the average viewer of horror movies might be. In Dark Conspiracy, the intention is to bring back that uncertainty and mystery, to provide monsters that are scary because you don't know what they are or what they can do.

What follows is a collection of monsters from many different authors. Some are based on familiar legends, others on more obscure ones from cultures around the world or the author's own imagination. Moreover, they are not set in stone. You are free to tweak them as you please to suit your game. Whatever you think will scare the party... and maybe even their players!

For each we get a sketch, a stat block and various sections of notes. First up, The Mythology explains what stories are told, what legends there are, about this particular creature (that is, if it's one that 'exists' in Earth mythology). The rest (strictly for the Referee's eyes alone) is The Reality. This includes notes on the appearance, origins and biological habits (reproduction, feeding and so on) of the creature under discussion as well as their empathic abilities and, well, anything else the author wishes to share.

Most of these monsters are nasty, some disgusting and nearly all of them would like to eat you. Others mess with your dreams, attempt to possess you or in other ways bring harm to anyone it encounters. Interestingly the reason why they do these things is not touched upon... it's just what they do. A bird does not need a reason to fly, nor a fish one to swim. It's not really clear how sentient this beasties are, although many possess high levels of cunning. Most, even if they could, are not willing to negotiate or have a conversation, they just want to get on with whatever it is that they do.

They are all creatures and minions, rather than major league extraterrestials (ETs) themselves but many of them work for ETs or are used by them in the furtherance of their plans, when they are not just being themselves. They make for scary and horrific opposition, and it's easy just reading through the entries to come up with ideas for whole adventures or even campaigns built around discovering a given monster - probably though obvserving the results of its malign behaviour - and dealing with it. Somewhat more than a mere bestiary for the game, it's a useful addition to the Referee's bookshelf.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Dark Races, Volume 1
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DC1 Hellsgate
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/16/2017 08:08:53

Opening with a 'supermarket tabloid' with a couple of weird headlines - two-headed mutant animals and alien invasions no less - the introduction soon explains (in somewhat less sensationalist terms) the background to what is actually going on and what needs to be investigated. Basically, a newly-launched communications satellite has gone wonky, and strange things have begun to happen in Mexico.

The Referee's Introduction goes into a bit more detail, as well as giving warning of a couple of devious plot twists that you will be springing on the party during the course of the adventure. There's some historical background linking in two separate groups of Dark Ones whose conflicting objectives merely add to the fun. The adventure synopsis describes how the whole thing kicks off with a mysterious stranger arriving on the doorstep in the middle of the night... followed by a more official approach from NASA seeking the party's help in their investigations. Accepting the offer at least makes getting to Mexico easy. Then it's just a matter of closing the odd dimensional gate and evading the notice of dire and ancient evil...

The first encounter - the mysterious stranger one - is supposed to involve just one party member, and various suggestions are made as to how to pull that off. Choose a player who is good at describing what his character has experienced, or let the rest of the players witness the encounter, as it definitely brings the weirder elements of this game out in force. During this encounter, an extraterrestial asks for help, or so it seems. Before the party has much time to reflect on this a NASA astronaut comes round to hire them to investigate just why that wonky satellite is beaming high-powered transmissions to Mexico, or at least, to find out what's going on in Mexico as a result. Some investigations follow, but soon the chance for action will present itself.

Starting in a run-down village, the party will be led - or taken - to Chichen Itza, a famous archaeological site that's now been taken over by dark minions, almost buried in darktek, and with assorted cultists who have (they think) resurrected ancient Mayan rituals hanging around. The map provided with the PDF really needs to be printed out and stuck together to make sense - I think it must have been provided as a poster in the original print version, but there's a lot to explore in the main pyramid in Chichen Itza, including a maze that draws on Mayan legends well. Eventually, the party ought to find a dimensional gate and will need to shut it down before worse befalls...

... and then they discover that's only the start of their problems!

This is a well-constructed and devious adventure that requires thinking as well as fighting to succeed. Like any investigation-heavy adventure, the party will need to pick up on certain things, but the way it is constructed makes it quite easy to lead them in the right direction without making it feel too much like railroading. It should prove a memorable episode in your group's adventures, one that is quite out of this world...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Hellsgate
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The Lost King
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/15/2017 10:22:01

It's a bit awkward for a kingdom when their king goes missing. The Players Introduction tells us that King Ivol Lareth II was misplaced when his castle was under attack by barbarian hordes... whisked away into safekeeping by the court wizard, one Keland the Magnificent, who unfortunately then died without telling anyone where he'd hidden the king. Now his realms languish under his talentless son, and the citizens really, really want King Lareth back. Can the party help?

The DM's Background provides the low-down on what Keland did with Lareth, and where he is now. There is more on just why Lareth's son Mellan isn't up to ruling, and so affairs are being managed by one Kaylin, a very smart elf who is Lareth's seneschal. Kaylin doesn't want to use the Royal Guard to search, as she thinks the barbarians will be back soon, so she's seeking to hire in. There's also a note that this adventure doesn't come with a map. The kingdom's a pretty basic city-state with some mountains to the north - you can sketch something if you feel the need, or find a suitable location in your campaign world.

If the party has a reputation already in this region, Kaylin will send to them for help. Otherwise she advertises, and it's up to the party to respond... well, they are supposed to be adventurers, after all. Once they present themselves at the castle, it's clear that everyone's desperate for King Lareth to be found. The only suggestion Kaylin has is that they start by seaching Keland's quarters for clues. They've been sealed since he died about a week ago. Few venture into a wizard's room uninvited, even once he's dead, so it's not been disturbed...

Everything depends on the party finding a single clue, so you may have to 'help' them a bit to find it. Once they do, indications are that Lareth is somewhere to the north, in the mountains some three day's travel away. Some encounters are provided for along the route - even a passing dragon - but eventually they ought to reach their destination, although this is going to require some actual mountain climbing. The party will also have to contend with other denizens of the mountain... and rescue the missing monarch, once they have identified him. Oh, and then they have to get off the mountain safely again!

With a final twist in the tale, this is a cracking little adventure with an interesting quest and a lot of fun to be had along the way. It also bodes fair to increase the reputation of successful parties, and a bard or two ought to be able to get a good song out of it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Lost King
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The Temple of Eternal Flame
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/14/2017 12:55:24

If ever a party was railroaded into an adventure, it would be this one. The Player Introduction tells a tale of abduction, ending with the party in a rat-infested dank cell with a voice saying they have a job for them to do...

The DM's Background explains about the Temple of the Eternal Flame and what the party will have to do. It's intended that the party members are kidnapped individually, so you could use this as a campaign-starter - provided that they actually survive a fairly tough dungeon delve. It may be more suitable for a one-off adventure, so if the worst happens at least nobody has lost a favourite character!

The temple itself is a pyramid, and the first trick is to figure out how to get in. Thereafter, the place is replete with traps and puzzles, as well as hostile denizens. None of them seem inclined to do anything but leap into combat as soon as they are encountered... well, one offers the party a single chance to leave, but only after at least one party member has been killed.

The whole background is a bit hazy, referring to an old and bitter feud between the fellow who abducted the party and someone based in the temple - the DM is encouraged to work out the details of the feud if they want to know more. There is a high element of railroading, with the fellow that abducted the party being regarded as 'too powerful to be dealt with' and left without details of level and capabilities. If surviving characters want to wreak their revenge later when they have become more powerful, again it will be up to you to determine his capabilities.

That said, the temple is well-described and everything therein works (once you know where it is). It's a bit overpowered for the level of character suggested, but that seems to be kind of the point. The party's supposed to feel pretty powerless, pawns in someone else's quarrel. Not many adventurers are going to like that, and they may want to do something about it, which could make for some interesting follow-up adventures.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Temple of Eternal Flame
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DC1 Heart of Darkness
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/13/2017 08:24:05

This is a massive adventure that centres on a fabulous giant black opal called the Heart of Darkness... which has just been stolen from a museum. Several contending factions are trying to get their hands on it - some for good motives, some who want to further the ambitions of the dark ones, and maybe some who just plain think it's valuable - and the party ends up in the middle of it all, chasing clues around the entire world.

The introduction begins by recounting the stone's history, or at least the rumours and legends that can be gleaned about it. Then the Referee's Introduction provides more detail, not for player eyes of course. It explains the adventure's structure which is non-linear, with five locations that can be visited in any order and the groups or individuals who will interact with the party. There's an extensive section called Research Results which can be shared with the party as their investigation proceeds, and one of Referee Resources with extensive background, ideas for further adventures and repercussions, and more. Then we get to hear the REAL story of the Heart of Darkness...

Various suggestions are made as to how you can get the party involved: pick the one you know will intrigue them the most or invent one of your own. Once they're off, with or without the support of a major corporation that for some reason is interested in the location of the Heart of Darkness, each of the five main locations is discussed in detail, with major NPCs to talk to, places to visit and so on. Sometimes conversations will result, other places a brawl may break out or something else less civilised...

Eventually, as everything comes together, there's an epic conclusion, very cinematic, with a massive fight involving all interested parties (and some good hints for the Referee to help him run a fight scene with 90+ NPCs in it without making the party feel like spectators). Some excellent ideas for continuing adventures are provided at the end.

This is the sweeping epic adventure that defines the Dark Conspiracy game. It's something a party can get their teeth into, and which their players will reminisce about for years to come.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Heart of Darkness
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DC1 Darktek
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/12/2017 08:19:22

The idea behind this book is that, whilst some reasonable speculation had been made in the core rules about the technology of the first few decades of the 21st century, there was a need for some truly weird and off-the-wall stuff to reflect the alien otherness brought into the world by the various dark forces that the party is trying to defeat. They shouldn't look like they tooled up in local stores. Even though not all the predictions about normal human technology were completely accurate, we can at least look at the world around us (or go online) to come up with what the party has access to... but we still need a spin for the aliens' and dark minions' gear. Some of this stuff has been 'acquired' by government agencies or corporations, whether to combat the Dark Ones or further their own ends.

A section titled The Nature of Darktek sets out to explain how the Dark Ones view the universe differently from human beings and that their technology is grounded in their philosophy. Their view is empathic rather than analytic, and organic rather than seeing a definite and distict difference between that which is alive and that which is not. Most of their stuff isn't available for sale anywhere, to acquire it the party will have to find, steal or capture it. And there is a cost to using it, due to its rather unpleasant nature. It can corrupt the user quite easily, something the Referee has to be on the alert for... to use, of course, against the party! Many such items draw their power from the user, who is then afflicted with the desire to consume massive amounts of fresh raw meat to restore themselves. They can also make the user more visible to the Dark Ones or even more vulnerable to psychic attack... and some graft themselves to the user and require surgery to be removed! So use with caution, if at all.

We then move on to the listings, which are grouped by function: biologic devices, electronic devices, weapons, vehicles, robots, miscellaneous items, and consumer goods. Therein, items are presented alphabetically and tagged as to who produced or dreamed them up in the first place. The biologic devices are suitably creepy, but the electronic ones fall far short of developments that have actually taken place over the intervening years since this book was written (of course, you could always say that the Dark Ones happen to be less advanced in this area...). The quality of the other entries is similarly mixed, with excellent alien items and more variable human-produced ones.

Everything is illustrated in line art and has a description explaining what it is and what it does. A bonus is several full-page colour illustrations showing items in use complete with explanatory notes as to what is going on in the scene depicted.

Whilst you could use these items for 'window dressing' to highlight the difference between the real world and the Dark Conspiracy one, they can also be used as plot devices or indeed the inspiration for an entire adventure. Something strange is found, then the party tries to figure out what it is and what it does. Or something has been seen at a distance that triggers an investigation... Some excellent flavour material, well worth a look!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 Darktek
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DC1 New Orleans
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2017 08:21:42

This is a massive adventure set in New Orleans. Like everywhere, the city is in a bad way, but there's worse... a terrible source of evil deep in the heart of the swamp outside New Orleans which is transforming the environment to its own tastes, and taking over people to serve as its minions. Just to make matters worse, those combatting this evil are doing so for their own purposes, purposes that don't include the well-being of the citizens of New Orleans. Enter the party, summoned by a strange missive from a contact who has disappeared by the time they arrive in New Orleans.

After a brief explanation of what's really going on and the actual letter the contact sent, we begin with details of how to get the party to New Orleans in the first place from wherever they are. This then moves on to a quite comprehensive overview of the city itself, which will be useful whenever you want to run a game set there, irrespective of whether or not you run this adventure.

We then get down to business with details of the contact's neighbourhood, his house (in enough detail to facilitate the party searching it) and the information that can be gleaned from the neighbours. As the investigation proceeds, useful locations and people are presented so that the party may interact with them. While the resources are excellent, there is an assumption that the party will conduct their investigation in a certain manner and reach the given conclusions as to where to go next... and apparently all roads lead to a horrifying trip through the sewers.

Unfortunately that smelly romp doesn't yield much in the way of information - although there are a few useful snippets - and the party will have to continue their search elsewhere. Several likely places are presented in detail, and again there are loads of people to meet and information to gather. Eventually they ought to end up at a sprawling mansion from which the 'evil' emanates...

There's a brief note on ending the adventure, which assumes that the party was completely successful, and some thoughts about further adventures. Plenty of scope for those! There's also a large section of Referee Resources to help you run the adventure to best effect.

Overall it's a good adventure with lots going on, a good mix of investigation and more physical action - with scope to vary the balance depending on the group's preferences. The investigative path as outlined rather predicates the party's actions, but provided you have studied the material thoroughly you should be able to accommodate them going off on their own and ensure that they get to see and hear what they need to in order to complete the adventure. It also provides a good grounding in New Orleans which you may choose to use over and over again in other adventures. This should provide good entertainment over several game sessions.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1 New Orleans
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Honor Among Thieves
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/08/2017 12:56:37

The Players Introduction sets the scene. Some three nights ago, the 12-year-old daughter of the local lordling vanished when a caravan was attacked, leaving a pile of corpses and blood, but not her body. The lordling has offered riches, magic items, you name it, for anyone who can get her back. Hopefully the party accepts the challenge but even if they don't, as they wander the city steets suddenly a child runs towards them yelling for help and annoucing that she is the Lady Alexandra, Princess of Dresburg...

The background for the DM doesn't elaborate much although it provides a little more detail on what anyone investigating the remains of the caravan might have found. The city of Dresburg (change the name as suits to fit your campaign world) can be the party's home town or a place that they've just arrived in: all that is needed is an inn, a fortified palace and a sewer system... the rest is left to you.

Given the introduction, you might be thinking that this is an easy job, and so it appears to begin with. The folks chasing her are seen off and the party is soon occupying rooms in the best inn the city boasts with a fat purse apiece to buy fine clothes for a gala in their honour where medals are to be bestowed upon them... but of course, nothing's that simple! The party soon finds itself in trouble with the very authorities that were lionising them mere moments ago, and sloshing through the sewers rather than attending a gala in their honour. Such is the life of an adventurer.

A nasty new monster is introduced and the magic item is the medal - more than a shiny bauble on a piece of ribbon, as the party will discover if they manage to save the day and get awarded it after all... about the only flaw in the entire adventure is that the text promises that it has two magical functions, then only details one!

This is a cracking little adventure that should prove appealing to parties who enjoy interaction and intrique as well as a good (if smelly) delve with traps and monsters to overcome.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Honor Among Thieves
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Star Trek Adventures FREE character sheets
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2017 11:13:12

This free download provides a selection of record sheets to keep not just your characters but also your starships in order. Most are designed around the Next Generation era style, but some suit The Original Series (TOS) era.

Looking at the TOS era ones first, there is a single PDF with two pages. The first is a 'Starfleet Personnel File' (otherwise known as a character sheet) and the second page is a 'Starfleet Registry Entry' which enables you to record details of your starship. Naturally there's space to log damage as well as capablities and equipment on both.

It's interesting to see how the layout and design is changed to give a distintively Next Generation feel to the equivalent documents, despite them providing space to note exactly the same information. Of great benefit to those of us with poor handwriting, both the Next Generation Starfleet Personnel File and Starship Registry Entry are available in form-fillable versions as well as plain ones. Just make sure to save a new copy before you fill out and save your character or ship, then you'll always have a blank 'master' for your next one!

A neat and stylish way to keep track of your characters and ships... and it's free.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures FREE character sheets
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DC1 Dark Conspiracy, 1st edition rulebook
Publisher: Game Designers' Workshop (GDW)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 08:37:21

This work is made up of two sections: one for Players that covers the setting, character generation and the rules of the game; and one for Referees that delves more deeply into what's really going on in the setting, provides advice on creating adventures and campaigns, introduces some monsters and strage devices to enliven your game. Needless to say this requires great restraint on the part of players to stay out of Referee territory and probably drives those who intend to both play and referee quite demented. Such is the fun of single core rulebooks.

The Players section starts by looking at the setting. It's a very near future Earth where just about everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Runaway population growth, a global economic collapse, giant corporations wielding more power than democratically-elected governments... but before you look out the window to ask what's different from reality, there's an ancient unspeakable evil stalking the Earth as well, underpinning everything else that's gone wrong. The player-characters are amongst the few that realise that this evil exists and are trying to combat it. After a brief explanation of what a role-playing game is, we move on to character creation.

Characters are described, as usual, by a combination of innate abilities and learned skills. The process can seem a bit complex, as skills are built up through charting the character's life story to date. The advantage of this is that you have a ready-made background to draw upon when playing your character - and to help you through the process a detailed Character Generation Worksheet is provided. Actually, creating characters can become quite entertaining in its own right, as well as a necessary precursor to play - and there are some examples and even fully-generated characters to either use or be inspired by as you create your own character. Most skills come from the career(s) your character pursues in 4-year terms from age 18 to whenever you start playing him (this can be determined by die roll or you can choose). Each career has certain core and optional skills and there is also scope to add other skills as hobbies. Characters in the armed forces can advance in rank, and transfer to the reserves after a period of full-time service. It all makes for realistic, rounded characters... my current character is a US Army officer who likes birdwatching, and a longstanding one in my past was an Olympic judo champion (not that it did him much good when it came to combat!) and another was a professor of psychology.

A system for building a network of contacts is provided along with detailed information on possible careers, and then it's on to the rules for task resolution and, of course, combat. The game mechanic uses d10s and d6s, and skills are rated 0-10, so to succeed in using one you basically roll under or equal to the level of skill that you have. Difficulty levels and the use of Empathy (this game's psychic powers) muddy the issue somewhat, but it's fairly straightforward to get the hang of things and there are ample examples to help. There's also a section on the world as is currently known, the stuff that the player-characters would know about the state of the world that they live in.

Combat, of course, takes a lot of space to explain and covers many different areas from unarmed brawling through the use of melee weapons and firearms, and going right on up to vehicular combat. Damage, disease, other types of injury and healing are also covered. It looks daunting at first, but soon becomes clear with some study and practice. There's even a section on space travel which is mostly based around the Space Shuttle, which was in operation when this book was written. Robots also get their section, somewhat limited in the light of what's around today.

That's it for Players, we now move on to the Referee section. This is packed with good advice for running games in general and Dark Conspiracy in particular. Tbere is a lot more detailed background material explaining what the current state of affairs actually is and how it came to be that way. Perhaps the players will come to understand some of this in time but it's certainly not general knowledge - indeed few if any human beings are privy to all of it. There's plenty of rich flavour to help you convey what the Earth is like wherever it is that the characters have gone. Advice on running campaigns and adventures is filled with atmosphere and how to generate feelings of paranoia as well as more general advice on suiting the plots to the characters (and their players) so that everyone feels involved in the shared story. Notes on sample encounters, grouped depending on where the party is, provide some instant material to throw into an ongoing adventure, and there is advice on generating and playing NPCs, along with some sample ones. A selection of 'beasties' is the stuff of nightmare, most seem to have more eyes and/or tentacles than is natural. Unspeakable alien races follow, then a whole section on DarkTek, inventions by (or at least inspired by) the alien invaders. These tend to mix technology and biological elements in an unnerving manner.

Finally, there is a fully-developed adventure and several adventure ideas to get you off to a flying start. The adventure is called Ravening Wolves and begins when one or more characters has a very disturbing dream... action and investigation follow as the party tracks down why. The story ideas are all based on the sort of stories you might find in supermarket tabloids (or the Fortean Times) and any could lead to some exciting investigation-based adventures. After all, in a game like this, you have to find the enemy before you can defeat them...

Throughout, illustrations are distinctive: somewhere between cartoons and woodcut, suiting the subject matter admirably. There is a large number of useful charts and summaries at the end, plenty of reference material about equipment and more, which should come in handy for ready-reference. This is where you find the equipment details for everything the characters might wish to carry, although you may want to supplement this with real-world catalogues of weapons, camping gear, electronics and so on especially if you want to run your game in our near future rather than the one envisaged some twenty-odd years ago when this book was written.

Overall, this stands the test of time well. It's still a great game, if you want to explore imaginary conspiracies lurking just beneath a world not too different from the one in which you live, reasonably realistic without being over-detailed or ultra-gritty... and great fun to play!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DC1  Dark Conspiracy, 1st edition rulebook
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Star Trek Adventures Quickstart
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2017 12:22:32

After a couple of pages advertising assorted Star Trek miniatures, the full rules and other accessories, we get to Chapter 1: Quickstart Rules. This consists of an introduction, basic operations and combat. The introduction provides brief basic details of what the game is about and what you need to play it, then there's a run-through of how a character is described in terms of attributes, skills and so on, and how these are used in play. There's a lot packed in, and as well as providing the detail you need to run the Quickstart could make a good introduction for new players joining an existing game. Finally, there's sufficient information for running a brawl. The concentration is on person-on-person combat, but there's a nice sketch of a Galaxy-class starship showing where all the weapons are located.

Chapter 2: Away Mission 'Signals' contains a short adventure. Apparently a small vessel, a runabout, has gone missing whilst investigating a mysterious signal emanating from the Carina Nebula, and the party's starship has been tasked to investigate. Finding a planet, the characters are beamed down to the surface as an away party, and that's when the fun begins... settlers and Romulans provide opposition, and there's the source of that signal to sort out as well. The notes are full of advice for the first-time GM, explaining how to use the rules to best effect throughout.

Finally, six pregenerated characters are provided: first officer, science officer, medic, engineer, a bridge officer, and the security chief. Amongst this we have a Vulcan, an Andorian and a Trill. Quite a bit of variety for the players to try out.

This presents a good introduction to an excellent interpretation of Star Trek as a role-playing game, with an adventure that captures the spirit of the show well. The illustrations and style of the whole thing suggests The New Era, but it would adapt reasonably to a different era if you insist. It certainly leaves you wanting to play some more of this game!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures Quickstart
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