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Sword Noir
Publisher: Sword's Edge Publishing
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2011 01:07:56
WHAT WORKS: A very professional, yet low-key, presentation, especially for the price. The art and layout aren't fancy, but they both fit the feel of the product. The system is a nice little mish-mash of various systems, but thought has actually gone into how to make the pieces fit, rather than just jamming them together. I like the Critical Failure and Success bits, as well as the corrupting influence of magic.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I wasn't a huge fan of the city or adventure, just personal preference I guess...although I did like the cops being "incorruptible" for a change. I would probably have preferred a more generalized approach to building fantasy noir adventures instead. The author has explained the reasoning behind the lack of nonhumans on the company website, but I still would have preferred a treatment of them. There were a couple of spots where the writing could have been tighter, and frankly, calling NPCs "NCs" (Narrative characters) just bugged the crap out of me.

CONCLUSION: Minor quibbles aside, I really liked what I read. The Qualities/Aspects stuff is well defined, I dig the take on magic, there is no abstract "stress" in place of damage, and there are some cool bits like gaining advancements off of critical failures. Still, a great game packed into a small package. With a "monster" hack, it might even be a prime candidate for a worthwhile Ravenloft replacement. Highly recommended if you wanna get dirty with your next fantasy game.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/06/tommys-take-o-
n-sword-noir.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Sword Noir
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Macho: Last Action Heroes
Publisher: Channel M Publishing
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/30/2011 22:10:20
WHAT WORKS: While it isn't politically correct, it doesn't push the envelope remotely as much as the games I have been reviewing recently, meaning it's probably safer for a broader audience. It is tailor made for a slightly tongue in cheek version of an all-star action movie set-up ala The Expendables, allowing for a pretty decent range of character types and adversaries.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The book was riddled with typos, in headings and buried in the text. For those worried about game balance, Muscle seemed a tad overly strong, since it is used to get your Tough Points, Speed and affect your damage, while Attitude is pretty much used in roleplay situations. A broader list of Para-Macho-Abilities would have been great, as I could see characters stepping over each other pretty quickly, especially in a larger group. Oh, and ranking The Von Erich Family above Chuck Norris in the Macho Hall of Fame?!?! Are you nuts? I also question The A-Team and MacGyver as being sources of "Grade A" senseless violence, as A-Team was notorious for its "bloodless carnage" and MacGyver was designed specifically as a counter to "violent cop shows".

CONCLUSION: A little editing could have gone a long ways here on the presentation, which also suffered from lackluster art. That being said, there could easily be much fun had with any group willing to embrace the tropes and kick some ass for a night or two of beer and pretzels gaming. I am terribly interested in the superhero RPG advertised in the back of the book, however.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-macho-last-action-heroes.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Macho: Last Action Heroes
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Transylvania
Publisher: Monolith Graphics
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/30/2011 12:48:48
I'm never quite sure how to approach reviewing something like a soundtrack like this, but it is an impressive piece of work. I would gladly use it as "mood music" for any gothic horror type game, or for Halloween-ish music in general. For me, the moment I knew they had a hit on their hands was when I fired it up for an amateur musician friend of mine who was enthralled and asking me where it came from. I went through a sampling of tracks and he was very impressed. Great work here.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Transylvania
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The Big House
Publisher: Scaldcrow Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/27/2011 08:05:08
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The Big House is a generic supplement by Scaldcrow Games that you can use as a superpowered prison for any supers RPG. It is 48 pages and stat-free, although it does have a system of icons to help you gauge how a given NPC should compare to your PCs experience-wise, as well as the level of threat they should pose. Similarly, important skills for each NPC are given on a 1-10 scale that you can use to judge where it would fall in your system of choice. A full map of the prison is included, with staff, security measures and so on, plus a handful of adventure seeds and a big worksheet of the cellblocks so you can track who is locked up where.

WHAT WORKS: I love the system for generically statting up NPCs and such, with a clearly defined scale that you can use to compare to your system of choice. If you're not a map-guy, and I'm not, ready made maps are even better.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: There are a lot of "see page. XXX" placeholders in the version I reviewed, and if you're fairly new to your system of choice, this is going to of limited usefulness to you, as the appropriate scaling may not be readily apparent.

CONCLUSION: Perfect for a GM that knows their system well but doesn't want to put the time in to detail every last aspect of a prison for their setting. I can't call it a must-buy because a) most existing settings already include a super prison and b) it certainly isn't the most helpful for beginning GMs, but it is still a very well-done product.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Big House
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Agents of S.W.I.N.G.
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/26/2011 00:46:28
WHAT WORKS: I think I actually "get" FATE now, in part because of the author's writing and examples, and in part because of my experience with ICONS, which really does work as an "introduction to FATE". The author does a great job, however, especially with providing examples and with laying out the functions of SWING...the part about Sections and what they do in and out of the field is just great work. I admit I'm not up on my Spy-Fi, so I know I missed some references in the SWINGers chapter, but the ones I did catch were pretty great. The art, when used, is pretty evocative of the tone and never overwhelms the book.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I'm still not sold on FATE as being something me or my normal players would be huge fans of, but that's a personal preference and not a knock on the writing. Really, my biggest complaint is that I think it could have been organized better...especially when you have things like a two page list of Stunts...and later a list of stunts with a quick description...and then a whole chapter devoted to explaining each of the stunts...and then a handout with all those stunts on it. I like quick reference, but that felt excessive. Ultimately, it is a minor complaint as the book never feels "padded" and is certainly not overpriced, in my view. That said, I would have liked a sample treatment on Supernatural and Extranormal adversaries, since a whole section of the Agency is devoted to them.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-agents-of-swing.html

CONCLUSION: I think it says a lot that FATE is considered "rules-lite", but the author got nearly 20 pages of handouts out of the system. Personally, I'm still not sold on FATE outside of the "beginner's version" found in ICONS, BUT this is a well written incarnation that remains focused on what it is trying to do (with the Spy-Fi genre). As mentioned above, I would have liked a few examples of using supernatural type opposition, since there is a whole Section of the Agency dedicated to it, especially for GMs who have little prior FATE experience to draw from.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Agents of S.W.I.N.G.
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Tough Justice
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2011 04:50:33
WHAT WORKS: First off, the book is VERY light on art. It is almost all text, which sounds crazy for what is really a rather simple system...except for when you realize that a BIG chunk of the book is a walk-through of playing the game from character creation, on through to post-execution. There really should not be much issue with someone reading the book and going "but what do I DO with it?" I like how, in some areas, the author erred on the side of legal fiction over legal fact, but I thought he also did a tremendous job with conveying The Bloody Code.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The "rolling for pregnancy" felt strangely out of place, although it may still be justified, seeing as though it is a very valid defense for female prisoners to escape death...I think the Abortion rules might have been just a step too far, though. Also, an electronict book that is 260 pages and does not have bookmarks is disappointing.

CONCLUSION: Okay, I went into this with the expectations of Chav, WizKids and Bloodsucker in my head, even though I was explicitly told that it was more serious...and I wound up completely amazed. Yeah, the book could have been shorter, if you cut out the extensive examples, which I would not recommend. The audience is going to be more limited, given the courtroom drama aspect over more traditional RPG fare but - and pardon my french - Ian Warner managed to turn a passion for history and a particularly insane period of English history into a viable RPG without making a wholly pretentious ass out of himself. Much like their humor games, there is still a very playable game in here, and one that I'll be going so far as to add to my bookshelf and not just my PDF library. Given the quality of the writing (and my love for courtroom drama), I will overlook the "What Doesn't Work" I noted above, and say that this is certainly the most pleasant surprise that I have encountered this year, hands down.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-tough-justice.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tough Justice
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Bloodsucker: The Angst - XPRESS EDITION
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/24/2011 04:29:12
WHAT WORKS: Well, I get the humor here more than I do in Chav, if only because I'm a bit more familiar with goth types than hip-hop thugs. Despite not being a Vampire fan, I can still make an almost one-for-one comparison to the Clans. The Shadow World games are completely compatible, avoiding the obnoxious issues that old World of Darkness players faced when trying to mix their games.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Well, there was that weird issues with the art piece covering text in the Antagonists chapter. However, and if I had reviewed Bloodsucker before Chav, this would be reversed: I get using the same Skills and such, that just makes sense in the context of having the games playable together. Even with some of the Powers and Merits being the same thing renamed...no sense reinventing the wheel if it already works. The problem is that there are even large sections of fluff that are just cut and pasted from one book to the other, with specific terms changed. Chavs in America and Bloodsuckers in America have the same basic description, for instance, and there's even at least one of the plot seeds from Campaign chapters that is a word for word lift (the Dead Boy in the arcade tournament that I mentioned in the Chav review).

CONCLUSION: On its own merits, Bloodsucker's a great skewering of the vampire groupie fandom, and the perception of vampires in general. I still prefer WizKid over the other two if I had to just pick one, if only because it models the whole Harry Potter thing so well (if you tone down the hard-R rating). Chav and Bloodsucker, unfortunately, cover a lot of the same ground, both mechanically and in the fluff, and I have a hard time recommending someone pick up one if they have the other. Shameless cash grabs are cool (like omitting Bloodsuckers and Chavs from each other's books, as well as WizKid to tempt you to buy them all)...but the copy and paste was a too far.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-bloodsucker-angst.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloodsucker: The Angst - XPRESS EDITION
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Wizkid: The Cheapening
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2011 03:43:45
The Good:

- Witty, humorous writing makes for an entertaining read.
- Funny while also providing a playable system.
- Can be geared for more serious games as well as parody games.

The Bad:

- Some art wound up being repeated in the book.
- Some parts border on being overly complex for a fun "not too serious game".
- The humor is very raunchy, somewhat limiting the target audience.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/04/tommys-take-o-
-
n-wizkid-cheapening.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizkid: The Cheapening
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Chav: The Knifing - XPRESS EDITION
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/23/2011 03:42:37
WHAT WORKS: Well, the writing is top notch, as usual. Underneath the gags, jokes and cheapshots, there is a perfectly playable game here. Although the art style was very similar to the WizKid art, it didn't bother me as much here, for some reason. Also, I am really glad I watched Harry Brown before I read this. I love the BS factor of the Voodoo.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I don't know why, may just be personal preference, but the game just doesn't work as well to me as WizKid does...although the fiction is a tad less on the porno-lite side. The game still, at points, seems to be a bit much for a comedy game, with the bloated amount of Health Boxes and so on.

CONCLUSION: While the game and writing are, in many ways, as good as or better than Wizkid, I do prefer Wizkid a bit more. However, if you ever wanted to play magic(k)-powered street thugs, this is a pretty spot-on game for that. I won't say the material is for a MATURE audience, exactly, but I will say it's for an ADULT audience, and unlike Wizkid, their shameless cash grab in this book only requires you to buy Bloodsucker to get everything you need since it pre-dated Wizkid. Great product, if slightly less inspiring than WizKid.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-chav-knifing.html

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Chav: The Knifing - XPRESS EDITION
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The Day Of Deeds
Publisher: Action Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2011 22:14:21
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Day of Deeds is an adventure module for Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Edition, released by Action Games. It is a very interesting concept, a whole lot of Bad Stuff happens all at once, and the PCs have to try to get to the bottom of it before the city falls completely into chaos. The set-up is right up my alley: For each of the 24 locations, you can randomly roll a victim, an antagonist and a Wildcard situation. The chaos isn't completely random, there is a connection to it all.

WHAT WORKS: Though stats for the antagonists are provided, anyone familiar with their favorite supers system can use Day of Deeds with something other than Mutants & Masterminds. Myself, I would probably feel comfortable enough using it with Marvel SAGA, Marvel FASERIP, BASH Ultimate Edition, Savage Worlds Supers or ICONS. Also, anyone that pays attention too my reviews knows that I love random roll charts.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The bookend segments are written pretty weakly. Basically, it's an excuse to get to random chaotic action. Really, even at the PDF price of $7.50, it's a tad overpriced for what amounts to a big random encounter generator.

CONCLUSION: I love the concept. However, neither the writing nor the production values fully justify the price tag. I can't comment on the stat blocks in the back as I'm not a Mutants & Masterminds guy, but I can say that if the concept appeals to you, most of the encounters are certainly easy enough to state up in your favorite supers system.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Day Of Deeds
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The Patriot Incident, a Terror Network Adventure
Publisher: Avalon Game Company
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2011 01:13:00
WHAT WORKS: The largest Terror Network module to date, it is also noteworthy for featuring a terrorist group that isn't Muslim jihadists. The fact is, dangerous ideological extremists do take more than one form, and Terror Network addresses that here.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I caught a few editing issues...some buried in text and a couple in headers (which makes them far more noticeable, unfortunately). My primary concern with the adventure is that the time limit almost seems too harsh, with all of the travel, the due process of getting warrants for various situations, etc., that it has me thinking the deck might be too stacked against the PCs, but it is hard to say for sure without actually running the module.

CONCLUSION: It can be easy for a company to fall into the trap of doing one thing over and over, even if they do that one thing well. Bedrock Games follows a familiar formula with their modules, but still manages to show the variety available in the counterterrorism genre. If anything, I would like to see a little tighter editing and a little more variety in the locations used (Boston showed up both here and in the mission included in the corebook, justified due to the game's creator being based there)...but The Patriot Incident is another great addition to the Terror Network line.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-patriot-incident.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Patriot Incident, a Terror Network Adventure
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Operation Hydra Den: A Terror Network Game Module by Bedrock Games
Publisher: Avalon Game Company
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2011 01:33:20
WHAT WORKS: As always, a painstaking amount of research has gone into the module, and again, success or failure is left up to the PCs (ranging from total success to partial successes to utter failure). One of the most common problems with modules (indeed, most written adventures, store bought or homemade) is that they tend to fall apart once the players make contact with them. Hydra Den does its best to avoid that by combining the "Government Agents" approach with the sandbox format and site descriptions that cover what happens when either town is approached first (by necessity, the Mine event should always happen in the middle, regardless).

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The editing didn't appear to be quite as tight on this one as it did Operation Hydra. One of the player's maps was mislabeled as a GM's map, and I caught the odd typo in the text.

CONCLUSION: I couldn't tell you why, exactly, but I didn't like this adventure quite as much as Operation Hydra. Not saying it's a bad product, far from it, I just think something in Hydra worked better. Maybe I'm more partial to the FBI than I am the CIA. Maybe it was the whole "on American soil" thing. I don't think it was the minor editing issues, but who knows? That said, I do think Bedrock Games nailed another great product with this, showing how you can release modules that are ostensibly connected, but can easily be ran separately. I also like the realistic "sense of scale" for this mission: You don't swoop in and wipe out a major terrorist cell in one mission, and that's not what they were trying to accomplish here. In the final analysis, I would say a half a step down from Operation Hydra, but still a great investment for anyone with interest in the modern espionage genre.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-operation-hydra-den.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Operation Hydra Den: A Terror Network Game Module by Bedrock Games
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Operation Hydra by Bedrock Games
Publisher: Avalon Game Company
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2011 03:39:35
What Works: I love the Bedrock Games approach to adventures, more often than not just setting up a scenario, usually with a timeline, and letting the PCs work it out for good or for ill. The way this module works, it ties into the sequel (Operation Hydra Den) in which Agents take the fight to Al Mahara on their home soil, regardless of success or failure on the PCs' part (although failure will likely make the players want to take the fight to Al Mahara even more). The module itself allows for the PCs to have plenty to do, from hacking to interrogating, to shoot-outs and chase scenes, and even a bone-chilling encounter with a pitbull (...maybe).

What Doesn't Work: For better or for worse, Bedrock Games is more Substance than Style (reminding me a lot of Precis Intermedia Games in that regard). None of their stuff looks bad, but I think it tends to get overlooked because they spend their time, energy and money on research and writing, and not on their art budget. Personally, I don't mind that, but it baffles me how every person out there who waxes nostalgic for games like Top Secret hasn't at least given Terror Network a once over.

Conclusion: Another stellar release by Bedrock Games. While it allows for the very real possibility of a downer ending, said ending (and the existence of its follow up module) is a textbook case in how the PCs can "lose", and the show can go on. Most importantly, the module is written with the flexibility in mind that success or failure - at any step - is up to the PCs, their choices, and their action. With any luck, Hydra Den will fulfill the promise of its predecessor.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-operation-hydra.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Operation Hydra by Bedrock Games
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Smallville High School Yearbook
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2011 21:50:24
WHAT WORKS: Pretty much an indispensible resource for running any high school era Smallville game, not just for one actually set at Smallville high. If there is a group or department that they failed to put in the book, they gave enough examples to work it out yourself. They tossed enough cute "yearbook" touches in to get their point across, but kept it from getting annoying.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Not much, really. Top notch production values, affordable price (the $15 PDF is half off of the $30 book, which is impressive for a full color, licensed sourcebook). There aren't a lot of complaints that are actually relevant to the book (if you gripe about the High School focus, for instance, that's kinda silly given what the book IS).

CONCLUSION: You probably have some idea as to whether or not Smallville is a game you'll like or not, and if you don't, then this book isn't going to convince you otherwise. It is a nicely done take on high school storytelling in general, so you could well get some use out of it even if you're running, say, a Mutants & Masterminds high school game or even a Buffy game still set in high school. Now, if you're into the Smallville RPG and only have an interest in the "adult years", I can't give this a glowing recommendation (due to content, not presentation), but they have a whole book designed for that coming soon. Great work, must-buy for Smallville High School Games.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-smallville-high-school.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Smallville High School Yearbook
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Pyramid of the Dragon
Publisher: Small Niche Games
by Thomas B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/13/2011 18:38:42
WHAT WORKS: As with Blood Moon Rising, the author does a great job of believably putting lower level characters in a situation where they would seem to be completely out of their depth, but fit them into the situation in a completely believable way. The PCs aren't expected to kill a dragon...just whip its followers and deal with the dragon when it comes back in a few levels. As usual, there's plenty of material here for you $5.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: If you're like me and not a Labyrinth Lord guy, this one isn't as easily adaptable as the author's previous two adventures to another system. Not saying it can't be done, mind you, there's just a wider variety of monsters and such that would need to be reworked.

CONCLUSION: Small Niche Games makes the kinds of adventures I would like to play (or run) if I still played (or ran) D&D. I don't know how that stacks up with the "old school" mentality of Labyrinth Lord, but I am continually pleased with both the concepts and executions of their adventures.

For my full review, please visit: http://mostunreadblogever.blogspot.com/2011/05/tommys-take-o-
n-pyramid-of-dragon.html

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pyramid of the Dragon
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