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Rock Bottom [BUNDLE]
Rock Bottom [BUNDLE]
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Traveller Spinward Marches - Excellent Maps for Explorers and Merchants
Publisher: 13Mann Verlag
by Michael W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/28/2014 03:14:09
(Note: The full review has been posted on my blog: http://www.stargazersworld.com/2014/11/28/review-traveller-s-
pinward-marches-excellent-maps-for-explorers-and-merchants/)-


I don’t think I need to tell you about the importance of maps in roleplaying games. Even the most crudest of maps can still be a very helpful tool in any campaign. A great map might even help to immerse the players more deepy into the game.

An excellent example of such a map is the Traveller Spinward Marches map by the German oublisher 13 Mann Verlag. In its print edition it’s 96 cm x 68 cm, printed on both sides, and even laminated. I am not sure if you can use boardmarkers to write on it, but it should at least be protected from greasy hands or spilled drinks. As a physical handout the map is just awesome. It’s made to look like a product available in the actual Traveller universe. One side shows the scout map of the Spinward Marches, with every system detailed. You don’t need to look up stats in a book, everything you need is right there on the map.

The other side features the trade map for the same area, and features all of the information needed for crew of merchants trying to make a buck in this region of space. Especially the trade map can look a bit intimidating at first, but should come in handy during the game – especially if your campaign focuses on trade.

Some people may ask themselves whether a physical map still makes sense in today’s world. I have to admit, I still like having physical handouts at the table. And the map is definitely a great eye-catcher.

If you prefer a digital version of the map, you can get it as well – which actually contains one PDF for each of the two maps. The digital edition is a bit of a mixed bag to be honest. It looks great, is only 7 MB in file size and looks pretty good even on a tablet PC, but it’s just not as useful as the printed map – at least in my opinion. Your mileage may of course vary.

The print edition of the map sets you back €24.95 (about 31$) which is a pretty fair price, if you ask me. It’s available directly from 13 Mann or through local retailers. The PDF version is also available from DriveThruRPG and sets you back $15.55. If you are a fan of any edition of the Traveller RPG and if you’re playing in the Spinward Marches, you definitely should check this product out.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Spinward Marches - Excellent Maps for Explorers and Merchants
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BareBones Fantasy Role Playing Game
Publisher: DwD Studios
by Michael W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/01/2012 01:06:41
I think I first read about Barebones Fantasy by DwD Studios a couple of weeks ago when I stumbled upon a post showcasing its cover on Google+. I have to admit that the cover did its job tremendously – it immediately made me interested in the game. So I started following the news about this game and finally picked it up from DriveThruRPG on the day of release.

So what is Barebones Fantasy RPG anyway? As the name implies it is a rules-light fantasy roleplaying game, but it’s not as barebones as you might expect. The 84-paged core rulebook contains all the rules you need to run the game, an extensive bestiary, and even a setting.

The interior of the rulebook is all black and white but is very well laid out. Because of the small size it probably looks great on tablets, too. But I haven’t checked that yet.

What sets Barebones Fantasy apart from a lot of other rules-light fantasy games are mainly two things: first it uses a percentile dice mechanic and secondly it uses the iconic fantasy classes as skills. So instead of having a Cleric class, there’s a cleric skill that allows you to perform priestly deeds. I like that a lot. What I also like is that BBF doesn’t use any complicated formulae to calculate skill chances and other values derived from the attributes. For a percentile system there’s surprisingly not a lot of number crunching involved.

Character creation is pretty fast. You roll up the four attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Logic and Willpower), select a race (Elves, dwarves, halflings, and humans are available), and select your skills. After that you calculate the skill scores and come up with one beneficial and one hindering descriptor (think of something like “skilled hunter” or “has a limp”). Last but not least you determine your moral code. You basically have to decide how Kind, Focused, Selfless, Honorable and Brave your character is. This moral code is meant as a guideline for the player on how to play his character.

Another thing I like about this game is how magic works. The number of spells characters can cast is quite limited but each of the spells is very flexible. The Aid spell for example allows the caster to buff one of another character’s attributes. Which attribute that is can be chosen each time the spell is cast. The spells also improve with the caster’s level in the Spellcaster skill.

For a game that calls itself barebones it is surprisingly complete. You are looking for rules to create your own magic items? There in there. You like extensive equipment lists? You won’t be disappointed. In your opinion no RPG is complete without a bestiary? If so, you will be glad to hear that BBF’s bestiary contains not only a bestiary but also guidelines for monster creation! There is even a section that contains an adventure idea generator which allows you to roll up a basic adventure in mere minutes. There’s even a random dungeon generator included. The book also contains some details on the Keranak Kingdoms, BBF’s setting. The setting descriptions are in very broad strokes, but should be enough for any veteran GM to get the ball running.

The game is currently only available digitally, but what you get in that 25 MB ZIP file would make a great boxed set. Aside from the core rulebook PDF, it contains a 16-paged adventure called “Maidens of Moordoth” (which I haven’t read yet), a player reference sheet, the character sheet, two maps of the setting (one with and one without hexes), and last but not least you get printer friendly versions of all of the PDFs.

The whole package costs mere $9.99 which is a great price for so much stuff included. What’s even better is that the rules are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike license. Which means you are allowed to create your own derivative works like adventures etc. The official DwD Studios site even has a page that let’s you download the interior background graphics, so that you can create your own documents with the official look and feel. Barebones Fantasy actually makes me excited about running a fantasy game again!

This review first appeared on my blog Stargazer's World: http://www.stargazersworld.com/2012/10/30/first-look-barebon-
es-fantasy-role-playing-game/

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BareBones Fantasy Role Playing Game
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Once Upon A Time In The Far West
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Michael W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/12/2012 12:21:12
That's definitely one of the best soundtracks ever made for a pen & paper RPG!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Once Upon A Time In The Far West
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The One Ring™: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild 2011 Edition
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Michael W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/01/2012 07:16:06
J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic “The Lord of the Rings” is undoubtedly one of the most influential novels of the 20th century. It was one of the major inspirations for a lot of the fantasy novels, comics, movies and games that followed, including 1974’s Dungeons & Dragons.

Alas most attempts to bring Tolkien’s saga to the tabletop were not that successful. Both ICE’s Middle Earth Roleplaying Game and the more recent game by Decipher didn’t really capture the mood of the books. So, when Cubicle 7 and Sophisticated Games announced that they were working on a new game using the Lord of the Ring license I was highly skeptical. The fact that they wanted to limit the scope of the first game to the Wilderlands didn’t actually help to get my hopes up either. Basically I actually expected the game to fail.

But boy, was I wrong! Before I go into detail of what the game’s about, let’s have a look at what you get when you buy The One Ring. Instead of one of the currently popular boxed set, you get a sturdy slip case containing two softcover rulebook (one for the GM, one for the players), two 22” x 17” maps and a set of customized The One Ring Dice. Yes, even the dice are included! Even though the rulebooks are softcover only, they are of pretty high quality and in full color. The maps feel pretty sturdy and look just brilliant. The production value of this game is exceptionally high and I am sure even die hard collectors will be more than pleased.


Let’s have a look at the books now. The 192-paged Adventurers Book contains all the rules needed by the players. Aside from an introduction into the scenario, it contains all rules needed to create characters and play the game. The 144-paged Loremaster’s Book contains an introduction into what the Loremaster’s job is, the game mechanics, Corruption rules, a bestiary, details on the campaign and a fully-fledged out introductory adventure. Both books contain an extensive index and are lavishly illustrated.

The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild is the first game in a trilogy and focuses on the Wilderlands, only a few years after the Battle of the Five Armies. But even then peace is a fragile thing and the Wilderlands are still in need of heroes to help to maintain peace and fight the growing darkness.

The players can choose from six cultures of the North: the Bardings, the Beornings, the Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, the Elves of Mirkwood, the Hobbits of the Shire and the Woodmen of Wilderland. People who want to play Elves from Lothlórien or Men from Gondor will have to wait for one of the next part of the series. In my opinion even Hobbits seem to be a bit out of place here, but having a Lord of the Rings game without them would be a bit odd.

You also get to choose from several callings that include the Scholar, Slayer, Treasure Hunter, Wanderer,and Warden. You might have noticed that there’s no Wizard calling, and that’s actually a good thing in my book. The world of Middle Earth is full of magic, but it’s not the kind of magic we are used to from games like D&D for example. Most magic comes from the world itself, or is bound to items like magic rings or weapons. In The One Ring magic appears in the form of Cultural Virtues, like the Dwarves rune cutting skills or the magic of the Elves, but it’s not even close to throwing fireballs around.

The rules system is pretty easy to learn, but still has a certain depth. Character creation is pretty fast and straightforward, but still allows for a certain level of customization. What I like about The One Ring a lot is that it should be very easy to teach the game to new players. You don’t need to read the whole book to do character creation and the core mechanic is easy to learn. Task resolution checks involve rolling the 12-sided Feat die plus a number of 6-sided Success dice equal to the rank of the skill used. The results are added together and are compared with a target number determined by the Loremaster. When the feat die comes up with a 12 or 1 (the Gandalf rune and the Eye of Sauron respectively on the custom dice that come with the game) special effects may be triggered.

What I like very much about the game is the way the Shadow affects the heroes. By experiencing distressing events, crossing areas tainted by manifestations of the Shadow, by committing despicable deeds or by taking possession of tainted items, heroes gain Shadow points. When the amount of Shadow exceeds a character’s Hope score, he or she becomes Miserable. A character in this condition may be prone to bouts of madness. And every time that happens heroes acquire Flaws. That mechanic perfectly simulates what has happened to several characters in the book. Just think of Boromir as he tried to take the ring from Frodo.

The other subsystems of the game are also very much in line with what you expect from a game that is set into the world of Middle Earth. Instead of just taking a generic fantasy game and adding some Tolkienesque trappings, the authors really tried to capture the mood of the books.

Another neat aspect of the game is that gameplay is divided into an Adventuring Phase and a Fellowship Phase. While the Adventurer’s Phase is driven by the Loremaster’s storytelling, the Fellowship Phase is fully player-driven. The player characters usually return to a place they have already visited to rest and recuperate. This phase is also used to develop characters, buying new equipment etc. In the default pacing of the game the heroes undertake one adventure per year, then they rest for a full season and return to adventuring in the following year. So a whole campaign may easily span many years, even decades.

I have to admit I haven’t run or played the game yet, but I very much would love to do so. The One Ring is actually the first roleplaying game based on “The Lord of the Rings” that I feel like I could run without Tolkien turning in his grave. The limited scope of the setting makes things much easier, the heroes are not fighting against unbeatable odds and the background information included in the book help you to get into the right mood for the game. The game even gives you some tips on how to handle the canon.

All in all I am very happy with how The One Ring turned out. From the rules to the artwork it just feels right. The presentation is top notch and everything I’ve read was pretty close to the source material. The One Ring is a game I definitely would recommend to my best friend – and that’s what I actually did!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring™: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild 2011 Edition
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Ruined Empires - Airship Pirates
Publisher: Cakebread & Walton
by Michael W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/27/2012 02:42:09
The full review can be read here: http://www.stargazersworld.com/2012/02/27/review-ruined-empi-
res/

Ruined Empires is an 43-paged adventure for Abney Park’s Airship Pirates (read my review here) written by the games’ authors Peter Cakebread and Ken Walton. And as in the rulebook Abney Park’s Robert Brown was responsible for the Cover Design and overall layout.

The adventure was designed for a party of three to six players and serves in my opinion as a perfect introduction into the post-apocalyptic world of the game. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of the adventure, but rest assured there’s something for almost everyone in the adventure. The story begins in Isla Aether, where they players are given the task by a powerful patron to find a treasure for him. But when they return victoriously things in Isla Aether have changed… and not for the better, when the players are concerned.

Even though the adventure is a railroading the story a bit, it still leaves a lot of opportunities for veteran GMs to do things their way. I haven’t had the chance to run the adventure myself, but I am sure it should be enjoyable for both players and GM alike.

Ruined Empires is a solid Airship Pirates and if you are planning to run a campaign, it definitely is a perfect way to introduce your players to the world.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ruined Empires - Airship Pirates
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Carcosa
Publisher: Lamentations of the Flame Princess
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/16/2011 04:44:43
I don’t remember when I first heard about Carcosa. I think someone mentioned it on Twitter or I discovered a link to some preview somewhere. But I was immediately intrigued. Carcosa is a weird science-fantasy horror setting by Geoffrey McKinney and published by Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

There seems to be some controversy around this product. I have to admit I haven’t bothered to look deeper into this, but I believe one reason is that Carcosa is not what you would consider family friendly. Like LotFP it doesn’t hide the fact that it is for adults only. Among Carcosa’s inspirations the author lists the works of H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E.Howard, Lin Carter and Michael Moorcock. And a setting inspired by the writings of these people can’t be all bad. And trust me, it isn’t.

While the cover is nothing special, the interior artwork of the 143-paged book is pretty awesome. Even though it’s black & white artwork only, the style used fits the setting perfectly.


The layout, fonts and artwork really make you want to leave through the book all day. Some drawings are so detailed you can spend quite a few minutes discovering new stuff. But let’s now have a look at the content itself.

Carcosa is a planet about 150 light years away from Earth and home to thirteen races of men. There’s no common fantasy magic, but characters may have psionic powers and Sorcerers may use rituals to summon entities right out of H.P. Lovecraft’s nightmares.

The setting was designed for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess or some other D&D retro clone in mind, but you could easily use it for other games or just as an inspiration for your own campaign. The setting is not as detailed as for example the Forgotten Realms or some other classic D&D settings, but there’s enough material to run a game set in the world without being bogged down by the minutiae.

What I realized pretty quickly is that Carcosa was not designed as something you can play out of the box. A lot of descriptions are kept rather vague to make it easier for the GM to mold the setting to his or her wishes. But since it’s meant for fans of old-school gaming this should be no big issue.

But the building blocks you’re provided with are just awesome: Space Alien Technology, Artifacts of the Great Race (yes, the one from Lovecraft’s stories), Psionics, Sorcerous Rituals, really cool and unique monsters and more. The book also contains a hex map of a portion of the planet with descriptions of every single hex on that map. That’s an instant sandbox right there.

In my opinion Carcosa is a very interesting product, well worth it’s price. If you are into old-school gaming in general and weird science-fantasy settings in particular, you’ll definitely enjoy using Carcosa even if it’s just for cannibalizing ideas.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Carcosa
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Abney Park's Airship Pirates
Publisher: Cakebread & Walton
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/22/2011 16:41:07
You can read my full review here: http://www.stargazersworld.com/2011/09/21/review-abney-parks-
-airship-pirates/

Abney Park’s Airship Pirates is not your regular Steampunk game. The setting is original and full of fun ideas. And even if you don’t want to use the post-apocalyptic world of 2150 you will still get your money’s worth out of that game. Especially the time travel rules set the game apart from the majority of its competition. The Heresy Engine – especially in the streamlined version – used in Airship Pirates is easy to learn and the compatibility with Victoriana 2nd Edition and Dark Harvest opens up a lot of additional possibilities. You can easily use material from those games in Airship Pirates or vice versa.
If you are even remotely interested in the genre and if you want to pick up just one steampunk game, make sure it’s Abney Park’s Airship Pirates.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Abney Park's Airship Pirates
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Legends of Anglerre
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/07/2011 05:40:58
Please note that this review first appeared on my blog "Stargazer's World" (http://www.stargazersworld.com/2011/09/07/review-legends-of-
-anglerre/).

It’s hardly a secret that I have a soft spot for the FATE system. I think over the last months I have acquired and read almost every FATE game I could get my hands on. Recently I decided to use Cubicle 7’s Starblazer Adventures to run a Mass Effect campaign. We haven’t actually played yet (the game is still in scheduling hell), but character creation was a blast.

When I was trying to convert Mass Effect Biotic abilities to FATE, another of Cubicle 7’s FATE games was a great help to me: Legends of Anglerre. Legends of Anglerre is – like its “sibling” Starblazer Adventures – based on the 1980’s British Starblazer comic series. Both Cubicle 7 FATE games use a version of FATE which is pretty close to the one used by Spirits of the Century. The one major difference is that both SBA and LoA use the d6-d6 dice mechanic instead of Fudge dice. This leads to more extreme roll results, but is otherwise not that different.

Legends of Anglerre, which was written by Sarah Newton and Chris Birch, is to fantasy game what Starblazer Adventures was to space opera: a toolbox that allows you to run games set into almost every campaign world within the genre. If you are a fan of the FATE system, 388-paged tome might actually be the last fantasy RPG you ever have to buy!

I don’t think I need to explain the basics of the FATE system in this review. Most of my readers should be familiar with the system and if not, you can check out the official FATE RPG site, which gives you a great overview of how FATE works.


The book starts with an introduction that gives the reader an overview about roleplaying games. the Starblazer comics, FATE and what you need to play the game. If you already own SBA the introduction also gives you some tips on how to use stuff from the one game in the other. The differences between both games are small and LoA is fully compatible to SBA.

The “How Do I Play This?” chapter is a great introduction to FATE. On seven pages you get almost everything you need to run a FATE game – from Aspects to how to run conflicts. These few pages make a perfect introduction to new FATE players.

Let me give you a word of advice before I continue with the review. FATE rulebooks tend to be huge. Don’t make the mistake of believing you have to read the whole book from cover to cover in order to run a game. Start with the “How Do I Play This?” chapter and then read up on what you need to create characters. Use the rest of the book as a reference and don’t try to understand everything at once.

The Character Creation chapter gives a step-by-step explanation of how to create characters in LoA. Like in most other FATE games you have to go through 3 to 5 phases dependent on the campaign’s power level to create the background story and Aspects for your character. Phase 1 describes the character’s early days, their apprenticeship for example. Phase 2 is the character’s Legend, his or her first major adventure. Beginning with Phase 3 the character is the Guest Star in another character’s Legend. That way the characters in a party already start with a common background. Alternatively players may chose the “On-The-Fly” method which allows them to add Aspects and Skills during actual play.

After having picked the character’s Aspects during the 3 to 5 phases, the players buy skills and pick the appropriate number of stunts. After that you can write down one piece of relevant equipment per Aspect and Stunt. Last but not least the player has to calculate Stress and Fate points and write them down on the character sheet.

In my experience coming up with the Aspects and a backstory takes the longest in any FATE game. But I also believe that character generation gets significantly faster the more experienced players and the GM are.

But even if creating Aspects takes a while, it almost assures that the players have put some thought into who their characters are. LoA actually helps players with coming up with Aspects by providing tables to generate random character lifepaths. This is a nice touch.

The next chapter explains how player races in LoA work. LoA actually uses a very elegant solution. In order to be a member of a certain race you just need at least one racial Aspect. That can be something like “Noble Elf of the Deep Woods” or “Greedy Dwarven Blacksmith of the Hammer Clan”. Each race description lists several example racial aspects and special Stunts only a member of the race may pick. Aside from the standard fantasy races, LoA also lists Centaurs, Dragons (!!!) and Fauns. Last but not least the book gives tips on how to create your own custom races.

In fantasy characters often conform to certain archetypes like warrior, thieves, clerics or magic users. While the character creation system in Chapter three allows you to create characters any way you want, some people prefer their characters to be closer to one of the common fantasy archetypes. Chapter four “Occupations and Character Types” provide exactly these!

The chapter provides players with sets of several sample builds from the Agile Swashbuckler to Holy Warrior or even a Vampire. Each build contains an example Aspect, a set of key skills and several stunts. I am pretty sure that players coming from games like D&D might actually appreciate the concept of character builds to help them create characters. The occupations might also come in handy when you don’t have that much time to create characters.

The sixth chapter is all about equipment. As you probably know the FATE system doesn’t put a lot emphasis on mundane equipment. The same is true with Legends of Anglerre. There are basically five types of armor (three mundane and two magical) and five types of shields. Weapons are a bit more detailed, but not much. Some weapons have Aspects of their own that can be tagged like any other Aspect in the game. In addition to that players are encouraged to pick “tasty weapon aspects” for the weapons their characters have been using for a while. Examples may be a special fighting style you’ve picked up or a special move the character can perform. The possibilities are endless.

Chapter Seven is focused on Aspects. The chapter starts by proving tips on how to come up with Aspects for your characters and later explains thoroughly how to invoke, tag and compel them. What I especially liked about this chapter are the examples. If you have trouble understanding how Aspects are actually supposed to work, the examples given here should make things much easier for you.

Chapter Eight is called “Skills and Stunts” and it’s one of the highlights of the book. In FATE stunts are usually directly tied to Skills, so it makes a lot of sense to list the available stunts directly under the respective skill’s descriptions. Or so you would think. Not so in most other FATE games where Skills and Stunts are in different chapters. In Legends of Anglerre you get the description of the skill, a short list of trappings (these are basically like stunts, but everyone who has the skill can perform them), followed by the Stunts.

This chapter definitely shows that Cubicle 7 has listened to their fans, because the not-so-great organization of SBA was one of the few complaints. LoA can really shine in that department! Don’t get me wrong, I love Starblazer Adventures but sometimes I wish it was a bit better organized. But I digress…

The chapter concludes with some guidelines on how to create your own stunts and skills.

Chapter Nine is all about Powers. Powers are basically special stunts that need an appropriate Aspect as prerequisite. Powers can be everything from innate magical abilities, superhuman talents or spells. In the case of spell magic additional Power Skills like Alchemy, Divination or Telekinesis are used. Basically all the powers you know from other fantasy games like D&D for example are listed here, so it should pose no problem using LoA for games set in almost any fantasy campaign world. And if there are certain powers missing, the chapter provides you with guidelines to create your own. These guidelines were actually invaluable when I tried to come up with Biotic abilities for my SBA Mass Effect game.

No fantasy game would be complete without artifacts and magic items and chapter ten is all about those. Rules-wise special items work like Aspects or Stunts and the book gives you numerous example improvements the GM can add to mundane items to give them additional “oomph”.

But the game doesn’t stop there. It also provides rules for easily creating traps, magical items, magical allies like Familiars and artifacts. More complex magical constructs follow the rules for characters for example.

That’s one of the strengths of the FATE system: if needed everything from an item to a kingdom or even the campaign itself can be described with Aspects, Skills and Stunts like a character, without adding an additional layer of complexity to the game.

The chapter also lists numerous example magic special items like Potions, Talismans, Spell Books, Traps and Miscellaneous Magical Items. While the list could definitely be longer it contains enough examples to give you inspirations for items of your own design.

Chapter Eleven focuses on the use of Fate points. While some of these rules have already been mentioned in the Aspects chapter, the chapter doesn’t feel redundant. Fate points are pretty much at the core of the FATE rules and their usage can’t be explained often enough.

From other games that use similar meta game currencies I know that players tend to hold those back until the last minute. That’s something you really shouldn’t do in Fate. This chapter helps players to understand what you can do with your Fate points and why you shouldn’t save them for too long.

“How to Do Things” is the title of chapter twelve. This chapter provides you with all the rules needed to do things in LoA: how to use shifts, how to take action, how contests and conflicts work. Like in other FATE games conflicts in LoA can be either physical like Melee combat or social like a heated discussion. The side that lost the conflict usually gets stress that can be avoided by taking consequences. And again Legends of Anglerre manages to shine here. One of the problems with FATE is that inexperienced players and GM have trouble with deciding what kind of consequence is appropriate. Is a broken leg a Major consequence or a Severe one? LoA provides a list of sample consequences that should solve this issue once and for all!

The chapter also contains rules for minions and an extensive example of play. The next section of this chapter is about how to do things with powers. On six pages the book provides an overview on what you can do with powers, how the DM can determine difficulties, how to resist powers and so on.

The last section of chapter twelve focuses on all the remaining issues a GM is commonly facing, like setting difficulties for general skill checks, handling time in your game, and how environmental hazards like dragon’s breath work in Legends of Anglerre!

Chapter thirteen is all about “Creatures Great and Small”. In it you’ll not only find all the rules needed to create and run creatures, but there are also special creature stunts, as well as rules for swarm creatures and “sum of parts creatures”. The latter type you might know from various video games where you have to destroy a creature bit by bit.

What really amazed me while reading LoA how much stuff they managed to cram into the book without it feeling totally overwhelming. SBA for example is approximately the same size but feels huge compared to LoA. Perhaps it’s the fact that LoA is much better organized than SBA and the fantasy genre itself is much narrower than space opera.

Chapter fourteen focuses on “Gods, Guilds and Empires”. Basically it shows how your can use the FATE rules to describe organizations (like guilds or whole empires) using pretty much the same concepts you use for characters. Organizations have Aspects, Skills and even special stunts like Strongholds, Conspiracy or Libraries. This allows you to resolve conflicts between organizations easily. Mass combat using armies of fleets is actually handled much in the same way combat between characters is. This allows for empire-building campaigns where the player characters become powerful enough to influence the fates of whole baronies, guilds, religions and even kingdoms.

Chapter fifteen called “Sailing Ships and War Machines” explains how to use and create constructs in your game. Again the rules are not so much different from the ones used for characters or organizations. In construct conflicts the zones used have of course a bigger scale than in character combat and the chapter provides a couple of examples. I especially like the effective use of zone diagrams in that chapter. You immediately get a good idea of what the encounter scales are.

Chapter sixteen called “Fog of War” provides rules for unit-level combat. In this kind of combat the players take on the roles of Generals who control several units like infantry, cavalry, artillery, or even ships.

Even though you might get the impression that each of these chapters adds another level of complexity to the rules that’s not the fact. The basic rules are always the same. You just get new stunts, skills and aspects for every scale of play. Usually when I ran fantasy games I avoided large scale battles and empire-building campaign because I didn’t want to turn the roleplaying game into a strategy one. Or I just used hand-waving and GM bias instead of focusing on the rules. But after reading Legends of Anglerre I am actually pretty sure that you can run a campaign with all those aspects (no pun intended) in it without having to fear that it breaks immersion – provided you use the FATE system.

Chapter seventeen is called “Templates” and provides the GM with examples for organizations, constructs and units. The list is far from exhaustive but should give you a great overview of what is possible with LoA.

“Epic and Mythic Gaming” is the focus of the eighteenth chapter. If the standard game is not enough for you, this chapter gives you guidelines on how to run an epic game, where the characters are the shakers and movers of the campaign world. Epic occupations like Warlord, Divine Champion, etc. shall help you to create truly larger-than-life characters.

Instead of an epic game you can also choose the mythic play. In mythic play atmosphere is more important than rules. While epic games are about larger-than-life conflicts, mythic games are usually more subtle. Player characters interact with cosmic forces and fulfill quests for deities and demigods. Again the book provides players with a short list of mythic occupations to help them during character creations. Examples of Mythic Occupations are Dancer of the God Court or Promethean Hero.

Chapter nineteen is all about “Collaborative Campaign Creation”. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea – some GM’s prefer to have full control over their campaign world – this is something I definitely have to try out when I finally have the opportunity to run Legends of Anglerre. This chapter gives directions on how to create a whole campaign setting from scratch, while every player has the opportunity to add elements that are important to him or her.

Chapter twenty describes the concept of “Plot Stress”. You can make things more interesting by adding stress tracks to the campaign, the group or the character plot. By their actions the characters can inflict plot stress that then causes certain consequences that have been defined by the GM.

This reminds me a bit of the concept of Group Tension from Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition. I have to admit that while I understand the idea behind that concept, I am actually not too fond of it. Probably because it needs the GM to plan ahead a lot more than I usually do.

Chapter twenty-one explains how treasure works in Legends of Anglerre. Usually wealth is handled in an abstract way using the Resources Skill, so players are not forced to write down every bronze coin they find in the street. But if you need to know how many coins you’re actually lugging around there’s a handy “Coin Value Rough Equivalent Table”. The chapter gives some guidelines on how to use Treasure Aspects and how much resources players in certain campaigns should have access to.

Chapter twenty-two provides you with all the rules to create a cosmology for your campaign. You can either pick and choose or just use the handy tables to randomly generate how your world works. While the chapter on other planes of existence, planar travel and cosmology is quite short, it’s definitely nice to have. Especially if you want to run games inspired by Planescape.

Chapter twenty-three called “Twisted Tips” is one of my favorite chapters in Legends of Anglerre. It provides the gamemaster with a lot of helpful advice on how to create a campaign and run the game. The chapter starts by giving an overview about the various fantasy subgenres and how they can be played using LoA.

Over the course of the chapter you not only get an overview of basically every game style, campaign theme, fantasy society and fantasy location you can think of, but also gives tips on how you prepare and run a game, how to establish characters and provides the GM with a rough plot framework that helps you to run games almost on the fly.

The section on controlling perspective is also very interesting. Even veteran gamemasters may learn a thing or two about how to frame scenes, “camera” work and how to get information to the players. Even if you think you already know every trick in the book I wholeheartedly recommend giving that chapter of Legends of Anglerre a closer look.

Chapter twenty-four presents a complete ready-to-run swords-and-sorcery campaign setting – the world of Anglerre itself. The kingdom of Anglerre is a kingdom under siege – surrounded by enemies and threatened by magic.

Anglerre is a low-magic setting where magic rare and harder to master than in other settings. People are cautious about sorcery and using magic can be quite perilous.

The chapter contains a detailed gazetteer of the lands and should provide enough material for the GM to run games set into these lands.

Chapter twenty-five presents a second campaign setting, “The Hither Kingdoms”. This setting is high fantasy and contains all the tropes you normally expect from such campaign settings: dwarves, elves, magic, monsters. If you are used to classic D&D settings, I am sure you’ll feel right at home there. The chapter contains a gazetteer of the lands, an overview of how magic works in this world, the gods and the cosmology, as well as a list of the key figures in the world.

Chapter twenty-six is the game’s Bestiary which contains numerous creatures and NPCs you can use in your campaign. Alas most of the creatures come only with short description. Some of the monster descriptions are illustrated with artwork from the comics.

The book concludes with a rules summary, the stunts list, the Legends of Anglerre record sheets (for characters, organizations and constructs), as well as an index.

So, what are my final thoughts on Legends of Anglerre? I have to admit I like it a lot. Legends of Anglerre looks definitely better than it’s close sibling Starblazer adventures and feels much better organized. It contains everything you need to run any kind of fantasy game using FATE and even provides GMs with not one but even two complete campaign worlds. If you just want to run a classic game where the focus is on the characters themselves you can disregard a lot of the rules, but if you want to run mass combats or feature conflicts between whole kingdoms in your games you can do so with relative ease. If you like FATE and the fantasy genre chances are that you’ll love Legends of Anglerre. I know I do.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legends of Anglerre
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The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition)
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/26/2011 05:27:36
Arc Dream Publishing’s The Kerberos Club has been released three times over the last few years. It’s first version used the ORE system, the second version used Savage Worlds and last but not least the most recent release uses Evil Hat’s highly popular FATE system. What all games have in common is an alternate history/steampunk/victorian superheroes setting. The “Strangeness” has touched the Victorian Era, even Queen Victoria has been changed by it. The Kerberos Club, which the players are members of, is a Gentleman’s Club open to all races, creeds, classes, and *gasp* even to both sexes. Its members have been touched by the Strangeness as well, but use their abilities to defend the Empire against all enemies foreign and domestic.

The 374-paged book not only contains the Kerberos Club setting, but also all the rules actually needed to play the game. What I like a lot about this game is that it allows you to play in three eras. During the early Victorian century, things are already touched by the Strange, but still pretty close to what you can read in history books. In the middle era things start to get more fantastic. While early era games are still almost historical with a hint of the supernatural, middle era games resemble a street-level superhero setting. In the late era you get a full-blown Victorian superhero setting with everything from airships to dinosaur cavalry. So the GM can basically pick between three power levels for his campaign.

Explaining all the details of the FATE system would probably be beyond the scope of this post. I guess most of you are probably at least fleetingly familiar with at least one of the FATE games. What sets Kerberos Club’s version of FATE apart are the following:

a) Skills in the game are measured on two axes. There’s the skill rank like in all other FATE games and the Power Tier. All skills start out in the Mundane Tier but they can later be increased to the Extraordinary, Superhuman, Ascendant and Godlike Tiers. When characters of two different Tiers compete with each other, the player who uses a Skill in a higher Tier replaces one of his Fudge dice with a six-sided die for each Tier of difference. That’s in my opinion a pretty easy and elegant way to simulate super powered abilities in a FATE game.

b) Instead of dozens of Stunts, Kerberos Club uses six “Gifts” that basically serve the same purpose. They can be bought during character creation and character advancement and allow to bend the rules a bit. The Gifts are Companion, Equipment, Impact, Signature Aspect, Skilled and Theme. Veterans of the FATE system will quickly notice that the Gifts are actually a neat way for the player to design his own stunts instead of picking them from a huge list. For example the Equipment Gift grants the character an important or special piece of equipment that has one or more improvements like adding a +1 bonus to a certain skill or it allows the wielder to use one skill in place of another in certain circumstances.

c) Collateral consequences are additional consequences player characters can use to avoid any kind of Stress. But unlike personal consequences they don’t need to be directly connected to what caused the Stress in the first place and they affect the player character’s environment, the Kerberos Club, maybe even the whole Empire itself. Collateral consequences are another narrative device the players can use to affect the world around them.

I have to admit I haven’t delved too deep into Kerberos Club, yet, but it looks like it could be for the Victorian Superhero genre what Starblazer Adventures was for Space Opera. Even if you don’t intend to use the Kerberos Club background you get enough material that you can use in any game set into the era. It also introduces a few new and very intriguing elements to the FATE system.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Kerberos Club (FATE Edition)
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Interface Zero 1.0
Publisher: Gun Metal Games
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2011 06:23:58
Savage Worlds is among my favorite roleplaying game systems and I was quite happy when I heard that Gun Metal Games was going to release their excellent Interface Zero setting for it. Interface Zero is a modern cyberpunk setting which takes the technological advances of the last decades into account. The problem of most available cyberpunk setting is that they are based on an early 1980s understanding of computer technology. When William Gibson wrote Neuromancer he probably couldn’t imagine the wireless computing we have today. But I digress.

The 301-paged book not only contains a highly detailed cyberpunk world set into the year 2088 but also adds several subsystems to the Savage World rules. So even if you’re not going to use the implied setting, you still can make use of the cyberpunk rules for example. Alas these new rules add an additional layer of complexity to the Savage Worlds rules which may not be to everyone’s liking.

The book itself has a full-color cover but the interior is black-and-white only. The layout is clean and the artwork is quite nice and has a consistent style.

In Interface Zero the characters can not only be plain old humans but also androids, genetically improved humans called Humans 2.0, hybrids (which share some traits with animals), or simulacra (which are basically biological constructs unaware of being vat-grown). The addition of these various player “species” adds a bit of transhumanism to the mix, which fits the modern interpretation of the cyberpunk genre nicely.

Aside from a couple new skills and skill uses, Interface Zero adds quite a few new Edges and Hindrances like Gun-Fu Disciple or Advanced Programming. And no cyberpunk game would be complete without an extensive list of gear for your characters to purchase. In the extensive equipment catalog in Chapter Four you can find everything from a simple boot knife to power armor and experimental energy weapons.

Interface Zero doesn’t contain a plot point campaign but Chapter Seven of the book contains enough short adventures to keep a group of adventurer’s busy for months if not longer. The last and eight chapter of the book consists of an extensive bestiary. The book’s appendix contains not only a very detailed 6-paged index but also a plethora of sheets including a very stylish character sheet.

If you are a fan of the cyberpunk genre and Savage Worlds you definitely should check Interface Zero out. Even if you don’t want to use the included setting, the new rules and the extensive equipment lists may be worth it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Interface Zero 1.0
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Anima Beyond Fantasy: Core Rulebook
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2011 16:59:06
Anima Beyond Fantasy is a very good-looking roleplaying game that is heavily influenced by Japanese Anime and JRPGs. If you are into games like the Final Fantasy series, you will definitely like Anima's setting. The rules of the game remind me a lot of Rolemaster. It almost looks like a direct clone in certain aspects. While I am normally into more rules-light games, I found Anima's system strangely compelling.
The campaign setting included in the book is a mixture between fantasy and historic elements. As noted before the artwork is top-notch and I could see people picking this title up for the artwork alone.
The only drawback is the steep price. While the hardcover edition is well worth its price because of the high printing quality and size of the book, I find $30 are a bit too much for a PDF. But aside from that, I wholeheartedly recommend Anima Beyond Fantasy.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Anima Beyond Fantasy: Core Rulebook
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Adventure Companion
Publisher: Crafty Games
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/09/2010 23:39:42
Please note that this review first appeared at my blog Stargazer's World (http://www.stargazersworld.com).

When you have read my blog for quite a while you probably noticed that I have a soft spot for Crafty Games‘ Fantasy Craft. But Fantasy Craft is a more complex game than the other games I usually recommend. I have to admit that Fantasy Craft’s rules complexity is sometimes just a bit outside of my usual comfort zone.

But that said I am also convinced that it’s the best game that evolved from the d20 system. The Fantasy Craft core rules open a lot of options for interesting campaigns that don’t follow the classic high fantasy model. And a lot of the concepts in Fantasy Craft is meant to make the GMs job much easier than in D&D for example.

With their latest supplement, the Adventure Companion, the good folks at Fantasy Craft show how versatile their rules system can be used. The 145-paged book which has been released a couple of days ago in PDF format, contains not just one but three unique fantasy campaigns, and a plethora of new options for your Fantasy Craft game, like new expert and master classes.

With the first campaign in the book, Cloak & Dagger, Fantasy Craft comes full circle. You probably know that the Master Craft system first appeared in Crafty Games’ spy game, Spy Craft. Now Cloak & Dagger is a fantasy campaign where the player characters are secret agents for various warring houses in an empire inspired by the classical era, basically it’s Spy Craft in ancient Rome.

If you ever wanted to play in a game freely based on ancient Rome, Cloak & Dagger will be for you. It’s also very refreshing that the book’s author, Alex Flagg, opted to make C&D a human-centric setting. I sometimes get pretty tired of standard fantasy with elves and dwarves, and the lack of non-human player races makes it easier for GMs to use the material in the book for a historical campaign set into classical Rome.
The second included setting, Epoch, reminds me more of sword & sorcery settings but with a twist. The most intriguing fact is that the setting is partly inspired by Aztec mythology instead of European one. The premise of the world of Epoch is that the free tribes of the Children of the Dawn fight the invasion of the Keepers of the Gate, who are in league with the ghula. The Keepers of the Gate bring with them civilization and magic which both taint the savage lands. The champions of the last free people stand up to fight the demonic ghula and their followers. Epoch is another great example for a non-standard fantasy setting.

The third setting included in Adventure Companion is called Sunchaser which Alex once described as Lord of the Rings on the Mississippi river. And that’s actually a pretty good description. Humans are the newcomers in the Thousand-Rivers Valley, a place thrive with adventure and home to almost all the races described in the Fantasy Craft rulebook. Among the three campaigns in the book it’s the most “classical”. If you’re looking for a high fantasy setting for Fantasy Craft with elves, dwarves, drakes, magic, feudal lords and ancient ruins to explore, then Sunchaser is definitely worth a look.
Each of the three settings contains several pages of background information, new talents, feats and other setting-specific rules, new monsters and an extensive rogue’s gallery. There are even tips for what kind of adventures you could run in these settings. It’s actually astounding to see how many content they managed to squeeze into a 145-paged book. While the three settings are not as detailed as if they released a book for each, they give GMs enough information to make the campaign world their own. I actually prefer this approach to overly-detailed settings like the Forgotten Realms, where every small hamlet had it’s own sourcebook at some point.

The last section of the book contains options for the three campaigns or basically every Fantasy Craft campaign. There are over 150 Specialities, feats, 12 new classes (including Base, Master and Expert Classes), as well as new tricks and Paths. I have to admit the number of new stuff in the last part of the book can be a bit overwhelming but if you’re a veteran Fantasy Craft player or GM you should feel quite at home.

All in all I think Crafty Games’ Adventure Companion is a great product for a reasonable price. The PDF version sets you back $14.99. The printed version will be available for only ten bucks more later this month. Even if you’re not playing Fantasy Craft right now you could probably make good use of the three campaign settings. The rules options in the back of the book can probably be used in your home brew Fantasy Craft games as well, even if you’re not that interested in the campaigns.
Please note that this review is based on a read through of the PDF version of Adventure Companion which has been provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Companion
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Legends of Steel - Savage Worlds Edition
Publisher: Evil DM Productions
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2010 07:37:05
There are campaign settings for Savage World for almost every genre. One genre I’ve been missing for some time was Swords & Sorcery. But luckily Jeff Mejia aka EvilDM released Legends of Steel in a Savage Worlds edition some time ago. I recently had the chance to check it out as he now sells his works on DriveThruRPG now.

The 70-paged PDF is truely a great introduction into the Swords & Sorcery genre. Starting with the Introduction the author gives several examples what Sword & Sorcery is all about and clear up a couple of misconceptions. There are much more character concepts than barbarian and not every S&S game should be reminiscent of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories.
Mejia differentiates between the “Grim And Gritty”, “Pulp and Paperback” and “Comic book and Cartoon” styles and provides some details and examples for each style. The included campaign setting “The World of Erisa” was modeled after the “Comic book and cartoon” style.

The cover artwork of Legends of Steel is reminiscent of a S&S comic cover and shows a party of adventurers fighting some kind of lizardmen. The interior artwork is black and white only and of varying quality. But overall the artwork is of pretty good quality. If you buy the digital edition of the book you not only get the regular version, but also a printer-friendly one (which doesn’t contain any artwork) and a high quality version of the map of Erisa.

The character creation section of the book provides tips on how to create interesting characters fitting for the genre and explains what sets Legends of Steel apart from other fantasy Savage World games. For example is the game geared toward human characters and player characters should start as Veterans and not Novices as in vanilla Savage Worlds. This actually sets the tone of the whole campaign. Player characters in the S&S genre tend to be larger-than-life heroes and non-human usually don’t play a large role.

Legends of Steel introduces a couple new and enhanced edges like Birthright, Fearless, Sexy Armor (I am not kidding) and Shape-shifter. Sexy Armor is actually a great idea on behalf of the author. One of the tropes of S&S are horribly underarmored heroes and heroines, but for some reason their loin cloth or chainmail bikini protects its wearer as good as plate. This is simulated in the game by this new edge.

The book also gives a lot of useful advice for players and GMs on how to set the tone of the campaign. There’s even a section on taverns – just think of the tavern scenes in the Conan: The Barbarian movie. All in all I like that the author really managed to convey the feel of the genre.

The second and larger part of the book focuses on Erisa, the campaign world of Legends of Steel. Each place of interest is described in detail. In most cases strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to the city or province is given. Basically the whole chapter is crammed full of adventure hooks that the GM just needs to pick and choose for his campaign. This definitely compensates for the lack of a plot point campaign. The setting definitely reminds me of the Hyborean Age presented in the Conan stories, but this isn’t a bad thing. It’s crammed full of interesting ideas and there’s the right place for almost any adventure conceivable.

The book concludes with an introductory adventure and a couple of pregenarated characters.

If you are into the Swords & Sorcery genre, you will definitely enjoy Legends of Steel. The Savage Worlds ruleset definitely is a good fit and the book contains a lot of great tips for players and GMs. Did I tell you that the whole book in its digital form is just $12? So you really get a lot of great content for the buck. There’s only a minor drawback: instead of most Savage World campaign settings, it doesn’t come with a plot point campaign. But that shouldn’t prevent you from checking it out!

This review was written based on a read through of the PDF version of Legend of Steel which has been provided as a review copy by the author. Thanks, Jeff!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legends of Steel - Savage Worlds Edition
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Hounds of G.O.D.
Publisher: Adam J Weber
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2010 04:48:36
Hounds of G.O.D. by Adam J. Weber Games is a 40-paged roleplaying game which is crammed full of awesomeness. Hounds of G.O.D. is set into a dystopian future. A minority of the population benefits from all the technological and medical advances while the vast majority has to survive the harsh live of the vast urban sprawls.

The Hounds are genetically modified agents of the U.E.C., the United Earth Corporation. Each Hound has two sets of DNA, a regular human one and a wolf one, which allows them to change between three forms: their human form, a hybrid form and a wolf form. So, basically they are werewolves created by modern genetic research. The G.O.D.s are the Hounds handlers also known as Genome Operative Directors. They hand the missions out to the Hounds and make sure they don’t go rogue.

Hounds uses an original rules system called XxX (Ten By Ten). In this system you roll pools of ten-sided dice to determine if tasks are successful or not. The number of dice rolled is determined by the relevant attribute and the difficulty is set by the appropriate skill level. A dice that comes up with a number less than the skill level is a success. Modifiers to the difficulty are expressed by adding or subtracting dice.

Character creation is semi-random, since you randomly determine the attribute values by rolling ten-sided dice but skills are purchased by points. The game assumes everyone is playing a Hound. But with some modification of the character creation rules playing other characters should be possible as well. The PDF contains all the rules necessary to run a Hounds of G.O.D. campaign. There are even a couple of NPCs included.

What makes Hound of G.O.D. so awesome? For one, you get to play Werewolves with guns who are tasked with hunting down criminals, tracking down rogue Hounds or finding missing persons. The rules and the setting intentionally leave a lot of things open, so that the GM can mold the world to his liking without the fear of breaking something. But the setting is also inspiring enough to give you dozens of cool ideas.

Hounds of G.O.D. definitely sounds like a fun game, that’s perfectly suited to one-shots or short campaigns, especially if you like dark dystopian SF and werewolves. In my opinion it’s definitely worth its price!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hounds of G.O.D.
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BattleTech: Vintage Rulebook Bundle
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Michael W. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2010 12:17:54
Battletech was actually my "entrance drug" into gaming. And I think I still have a tattered copy of the Battletech Compendium from 1990 lying around somewhere. Leafing through the books included in that great bundle bring back a lot of memories. From a nostalgic standpoint the bundle is definitely worth it. These five books perfectly illustrate how the game changed and expanded over the years. If you are new to Battletech I would recommend getting Total Warfare though.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Vintage Rulebook Bundle
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