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Parsely: Blackboard Jungle
Publisher: Memento Mori Theatricks
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/29/2012 22:49:08
In a general sense, Parsely games are pretty awesome party games. Blackboard Jungle is a great quick example of how they run. It's a little short, but it's also only 99c, while the print copy is included with Action Castle II, I think. It's a solid addition to the series, and a great demo of how quick the game can run. Thumbs up!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Parsely: Blackboard Jungle
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Dresden Files RPG Casefile: Neutral Grounds
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2012 09:59:08
Neutral Grounds is a fun adventure with detailed characters who have built-in relationships and fun antagonists. It's a great con game, I've run it twice with a lot of success. As a free product, this is an unbelievable value. The quality of the adventure and the artwork is top-notch, and they're giving it away. It's also an excellent instruction in adventure design, on how to make a one-shot work really well. You should be downloading this right now.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dresden Files RPG Casefile: Neutral Grounds
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Champions Universe
Publisher: Hero Games
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/10/2012 09:54:08
Champions Universe is an unbelievably complete setting book. With the 6th edition of Champions Universe, Steve and Darren continue to create an incredibly detailed world with a multitude of plot hooks, ready-to-go villains, and a long list of possibilities for a superhero campaign in any era. It's particularly suitable for relatively modern era games, but has enough to go on for older-style campaigns. Thumbs way up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Champions Universe
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Image Portfolio Platinum Edition 11: Storn Cook
Publisher: LPJ Design
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/23/2011 10:21:39
The Image Portfolio series is a very solid resource for high quality "stock" art that individuals are licensed to use in their own (self/small press-published) products for free. Not a bad deal for $10. The main trouble I find with this is that the print resolution available is going to limit a lot of the detail in Storn Cooks' beautiful artwork. The 300 dpi print size is approximately 2" x 2.5", which should be a reasonably sized spot illstration for a 5.5" x 8.5" page layout (as one might expect self/small-press publishers to use), but definitely still on the small side. I'm also surprised that the document is password protected and cannot be imported directly into layout applications, which seems antithetical to the intended usability. I would have expected that the included license language reasonably covers the legal rights granted and retained by the seller. All in all, I'm satisfied with the quality of the artwork and the license agreements of this package, but not the hindrances to its intended use.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Image Portfolio Platinum Edition 11: Storn Cook
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Bulldogs!
Publisher: Galileo Games
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2011 09:55:18
For those of you who may have missed it originally, Brennan Taylor of Galileo Games pushed out Bulldogs! earlier this year through Kickstarter. Bulldogs! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the name) is self-described as “Sci-Fi that Kicks Ass,” and I’m happy to report that boy howdy does it pay off.

The book is a gorgeous hardcover that clocks in at about 120 pages that are crammed full of great information and beautiful illustrations by Jaime Posadas and Kurt Komoda, and I want to give a big hand to the editing crew Amanda Valentine and Ryan Macklin who very much succeeded at making sure that every piece of text contributes to the “Sci-Fi that Kicks Ass” tagline.

Let me start the review of the actual content with an anecdote. I used to run Star Wars, as it was one of the few RPGs I could get my wife to play (sucker!), and after experiencing how troublesome Jedi are to run in the context of a full party, I opted to run mine as an all-scoundrels game (Scoundrels being the DnD Rogue-like character class). Sure, some folks still had some Force-powers in play, but having a crew that was largely free from the otherwise overriding Jedi vs. Sith / Rebellion vs. Empire constraints was very freeing and we were able to rock some awesome stories of my players being largely on the run, cashing in when they could, and in all ways running a story of “Sci-Fi that Kicks Ass.” In terms of the game mechanics though, it took a metric ton of extra Star Wars sourcebooks and system hacking to push the d20 revised rules set to customize relatively basic things like races, equipment, ships, et al.

I wish to hell that I’d had Bulldogs! for that game. This one single book contains information on how to work the Fate-based system to create entirely customized races / equipment / ships / skills / stunts without any overhead. It seriously blows my mind at how sleek this writing is, compared to how many books I used to have to look through to puzzle out how to morph one of the NPC races into a PC race or how to cost a +1 damage upgrade to someone’s blaster pistol.

The only tricky thing I ran into during my read-through of the book is that Bulldogs! uses a single stress track, which I hadn’t expected; but then I also have relatively limited experience running Fate system games - and looking into it, all of the individual games seem to have evolved their own specifically tailored versions of how Stress is applied.

I’ve grown to really appreciate the way the Fate system helps drive games in terms of the play style, and how much depth it adds to the game for the relatively small amount of actual work you have to put into it. And I think that this is part of what makes Bulldogs! great. Fate’s Aspects versus d20’s neutrality-of-character are something that I find inspiring.

I’m going to be running Bulldogs! for a home campaign in the near future (when I can get people over here), and I’m really looking forward to it. Thanks a ton to Brendan, Brian, and everyone else involved in putting this great game out!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bulldogs!
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Episode 8: The Art of Seduction
Publisher: Idle Red Hands
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/24/2011 10:53:59
Solid episode from Idle Red Hands with interesting content presented more off-the-cuff than planned, but I think they have a good honest discussion of seduction and sex in RPGs without getting misogynist or terribly awkward. It would have been interesting to have a woman's perspective at the table, but instead they spun the discussion to specifically reflect an all-male cast/gaming table. Solid work, I'll check out other episodes.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Episode 8: The Art of Seduction
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Art's Polyhedral Dice D6 Font with Pips
Publisher: Skullduggery Press
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/22/2011 11:22:15
This font is a great sample of the fancier fonts that are offered in Art's Polyhedral Dice font lineup. The fact that it includes personal AND professional publishing rights is the icing on the cake. Note that you'll have to fool around with the type size when using it in tandem with text. While the dice match the line-height of the letters of all the fonts I tried, they aren't particularly readable at normal print sizes (8-14 pt). You can't beat the good quality of this font and the fact that this one in particular is provided for free (even the others are very reasonably priced). Thumbs way up!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Art's Polyhedral Dice D6 Font with Pips
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The Flux
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2011 15:00:18
I once wrote an adventure around Michael Moorcock's idea of the Eternal Champion. Heroes that existed through time, space, and dimensions. I planned it all in d20, keeping to a very specific storyline. The Flux makes that concept possible to translate across RPG system in addition to everything else. It's a spectacular method for turning short-form games into long-term epics. Hats off to you Mr. Wick. I can't wait to see what else you have in store.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Flux
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Fiasco: Quest for the Golden Panda
Publisher: Bully Pulpit Games
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2011 14:52:53
Fiasco is one of the best games out there right now. And the fact that it has been continuously updated with playsets such as this one are the proverbial thick luscious cream cheese icing on the red velvet cake. Or in this case, Mooncake. The original launch for the Quest for the Golden Panda kicked off a firestorm of creativity in the podcast-o-sphere around the Jennisodes podcast as the Eponymous Jenn held a contest to promote the playset, Fiasco, and the upcoming Fiasco Players Guide (hint: sneak preview content is included here!). Quest for the Golden Panda is the first playset that is set in Asia, and the first that I'm aware of that introduces distinct new variant rules options. I have had a wonderful time playing this playset, and I could easily see playing it again and again. It captures a certain set of wuxia film elements, primarily those that are particularly fantastical and a little more goofy. This isn't the grittiest playset, but it certainly doesn't need to be either. One last note - "Six String Samurai" is the out-of-place movie in the Movie Night list. It's one of my favorites, but has nothing to do with this genre.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fiasco: Quest for the Golden Panda
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2011 Fantasy Female Calendar & Print Set
Publisher: Stainless Steel Dragon
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/15/2011 20:06:49
If you're still looking for a 2011 calendar full of photos of fantasy women, you can't much go wrong here. The photos are tasteful and sexy, and designed for a home printer. One note, some of the digitally enhanced backgrounds have an odd repeating line. It probably won't make a difference for most printers, but maybe we can hope for an update from the publisher.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
2011 Fantasy Female Calendar & Print Set
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Publisher Reply:
Thank you for the feedback. Only 3 pictures in this Calendar actually use a digitally enhanced background. The rest were just shot at exotic locations. The three digitally enhanced backgrounds are each unique. They all printed out flawlessly on the two test printers we tried. Bubble Jet and Laser. I am unable to locate the flaw mentioned by this reviewer in the prints or in the jpegs. If the reveiwer can contact me with more specific information, I might be able to find it and correct it. Greendragon@dunjon.com (SSD supports its products, and will do updates as required to insure are customers get a quality product.) At this point I am thinking the reoccuring flaw may be in the user's printer or perhaps the file was somehow slightly corrupted during or after upload/download. (Especially looking at the way the flash preview sometimes presents this Calendar.) We will upload a new one this afternoon and hopefully that will fix the problem.
The Kerberos Club (Savage Worlds Edition)
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/27/2010 21:58:53
In a word, wow. Benjamin Baugh has outdone himself. The Kerberos Club is perhaps one of the most real and alive settings that I've ever encountered. I've always found it a little tricky to get comfortable with external settings, but the Kerberos Club takes on all manner of strange members. There are plenty of odd folks who inhabit the club and all of Her Majesty's territory.

While I think the setting is phenomenal, I'm not certain that Savage Worlds really has the full flexibility to capture the wild variability of the various inhabitants. I haven't read the Wild Talents version, but I have suspicions that Wild Talents might be better and I'm pre-sold on the forthcoming Hero System version.

If you're solid Savage, by all means pick up this book; the content is stellar. But if you're flexible in choice of system, the other options might be a marginally better choice.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Kerberos Club (Savage Worlds Edition)
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HERO System Bestiary
Publisher: Hero Games
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/17/2010 12:50:35
The summary of the Hero System Bestiary (6th Ed.) for the TLDR crowd: This book is the epitome of it's form, and you should own it. The longer version goes something like this:

I love monsters. Not just in a gaming sense, but in a wholistic fascination and obsessive way. I keep books on monsters, make studies of the "other" and watch plenty of B-movies. So when I say that the Hero System Bestiary is a magnificent example of what might be done with the book form, you know where I'm coming from.

First, this book opens with basically all of the tips and tricks I've devised over time as a GM, to use the bestiary to it's best effect. How all of the creatures can be generalized to fit any scenario you can envision, and then how to implement them into your game to utilize them all for the best effect. And this doesn't even begin to get into the actual monsters!

This book breaks down nearly 500 pages of monsters by genre, type, and literary source. An impressive amount of research goes into this more-than-complete book that focuses on giving the GM the tools to populate his world appropriately. It includes precisely what you need to know about the animals/monsters without drowning you in excessive detail.

This book focuses on GM usability, and is probably the best I've ever seen. There are some minor misses in the bookmarks of the electronic edition; but if you go directly by the table of contents you'll be fine. I've also mentioned this to the folks at Hero Games, and they are looking into it and will probably release an update.

Five Stars.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
HERO System Bestiary
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Serpent Scales #3: Return to Monster Island (Savage Worlds Edition)
Publisher: Atomic Overmind Press
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2010 11:33:25
Fair Disclosure: I love, Love, LOVE giant monsters. And Return to Monster Island is itself a love note to Kaiju movies, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Harryhausen's movies, and more. Add this to the fascinating Day after Ragnarok setting and you've got a product that scratches nearly all my itches.

Now, before I get into it... maybe it's me -- I'm definitely more accustomed to full-book setpieces that are either complete adventures, complete settings, or complete environments that tend to run upwards of $20. This book isn't trying to do that, and in some ways it confuses me. Now, I admit that I run a little bit grognard, so take my confusion with a grain of salt.

In many ways, Return to Monster Island (and for that matter, all of the Serpent Scales product line) is the tabletop equivalent of video game downloadable content that adds on to DAR: affordable bits and pieces that game masters can use to enhance their game. Most other similar products I've seen are geared towards players, i.e. the Wimps Guide to Complete Badassery*; The Tome Arcanos of Mighty Power*, and other such books that I roll my eyes at when a player produces their new idea for character powers or gear.

The only apparent downside to Return to Monster Island is that it ends up feeling a little bit disconnected. In much the same way a book full of character options often feels like it has no specific relation to the game at hand, Return to Monster Island can feel a little bit messy (see my grognardism two paragraphs back). That said, it's not meant to be an adventure; it's not meant to be a complete setting. It's an add-on, and it fully succeeds at that.

If you're looking to bring a little bit of Kaiju to your Day After Ragnarok game, it's a very solid entry; but I still wanted a little bit more cohesion overall. Four Stars.

* These are meant to be made-up products to support a point. I'm fairly certain they don't actually exist.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Serpent Scales #3: Return to Monster Island (Savage Worlds Edition)
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Dresden Files RPG: Our World
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2010 22:10:06
Dresden Files RPG Review: Book Two - Our World.

Warning: If you haven't read all of the Dresden Files books, there may be spoilers involved here. You have been warned.

The Dresden Files RPG will have been released at Origins during which this episode drops. And while I haven't gotten my hands on my hardcover pre-order, I have finally finished reading through the nearly 300 pages of _Our World,_ the complementary (supplemental, not free...that one is spelled with an "i") setting book for the Dresden Universe.

This could have been a good book if it was just written as a standard gaming tome: bits of fiction, straightforward rules explanations, and a little bit of a who's who. However, Evil Hat have outdone themselves with this book and the meta-concept that drives the writing and book design.

If you haven't heard already, the conceit of DFRPG is that Billy the Werewolf wants to update the idea of introducing supernatural defense to the mundane public, a la Dracula vs. the Black Court. And DFRPG is presented to us, the readers, as a messy first draft, complete with margin notes from Harry, Bob, and Billy on everything from game design topics, to paranoid redactions, to teasing. All this makes for an immensely readable book that serves as a guide to the Dresden Universe as well as a bestiary and setting. Although some portions get a little bit encyclopedic, it's not really a detraction from the entertaining writing and fun color commentary left by the authorial characters.

_Our World_ begins straightforward enough, with a new piece of fiction by Jim Butcher, the "player" of Harry Dresden, PC. It gives a little bit of further background into Harry's time training new wardens, and the mistakes he has made in the past. For popcorn stories that are admittedly full of cliché, Butcher's characters manage to be remarkably deep and intriguing; and every short story does great things to add snippets of character background.

The actual game content of _Our World_ starts with a macro view of the world. Politics, factions, and finally conflicts -- and how every single one of them can destroy you. We then move into a general view of "What Goes Bump." This section is the "bestiary" complete with every type of ghoul, ghost, vampire, and faerie that show up within the pages of the first ten books AND instructions on how to derive your own custom baddies based on the "type," and while none of these rules are so strict that you can't roll your own half-werewolf-ghostly-faerie-lord, you'll quickly find yourself with a refresh cost that casts your new monster as a true *Monster*, driven _solely_ by the aspects you assigned. Next is the _Dramatis Personae Dresden_ with stat blocks (or instructions on how to derive their general outline. This was one of my favorite parts of the book, for its deep write-ups of characters you meet during the course of reading Butcher's series. It reminded me of what had happened over the course of the novels and got me back in touch with what it means to be part of the DresdenVerse.

Finally, Alex the werewolf digs up all the dirt he can find on "Weird Chicago," giving a gaming group a complete research package that can be used for their own city creation process. It draws on a great deal of real-life historical situations and both explicit odd behavior and the implied possibilities to explore a rich setting that is one of the more interesting game-city backdrops I have ever read.

As mentioned previously, _Our World_ is not required to play DFRPG. And since the production value of the pair of books puts the hardcovers out-of-reach for a lot of gamers, this book may get passed over by a lot of gamers trying to hang on to some of their cash. Evil Hat has actually recommended this route to gamers who come up a little short. I applaud their drive to make sure that their consumers can get what they need, and I have been consistently pleased to hear that despite the cost, the pre-orders for _Our World_ have still been plentiful.

I wish Evil Hat all the best, as this is an incredible product - certainly one of the best of the year; 5 Stars.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dresden Files RPG: Our World
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Troll in the Corner's Magical Emporium: Masks of Magic & More! [PFRPG]
Publisher: Troll in the Corner
by Tim R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/11/2010 17:16:26
Masks of Magic & More is a small collection of magic items designed for the PFRPG system, and 0.99 is a small price to pay for 10 new items. However, I have some issues with the details within. I think that most of the items are overpowered for their rated cost, particularly (as one other reviewer notes) the Mask of Powders. Hand this to a player and they will quickly bypass much of your hard obstacles in a spectacular Holi-like celebration of their newfound power. That said, there are gems in here. I love the Bag 'o Bones. It's a worthwhile addition to most any campaign.

The aspect of this supplement that simultaneously pleased and disappointed me the most is the intro flavor. The narrative welcoming the reader to the shop is completely enticing; and then it ends. I believe that this unfortunately weakens the potential for this supplement. Upon reading the introduction, I began to envision a complete magical shop with a wacky NPC proprietor who could guide me through the various artifacts he had to offer. Instead, the remaining pages were relatively banal descriptions and stat blocks for the magical items.

So, I applaud a solid effort, but at the end it left me wanting. 3 stars.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Troll in the Corner's Magical Emporium: Masks of Magic & More! [PFRPG]
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks Tim for reviewing this! You've brought up a great point about the style of our magical items collections. Next up will be a larger document with a consistently fun style right through the whole thing. -Ben
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