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Deadlands Noir: The Old Absinthe House Blues
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/13/2013 23:09:38
The Old Absinthe House Blues isn't a bad adventure. But after the Red Harvest adventure of the core book, I found OAHB to have less noir and be less intertwined with the New Orleans of Deadlands: Noir. Particularly with the investigation and bayou locals, it felt like something close to a Call of Cthulhu adventure, without the highly thematic mythos.

The adventure is also more linear than I'd like. The adventure breaks down into three acts: investigation in New Orleans, convincing the locals in the bayous, and a climactic fight against some thugs some high cornfields. But the investigation requires the players to follow a particular path, and the bayous has an encounter with an undefeatable creature. A game master may have to rewrite the adventure to add more flexibility.

On the plus side, the adventure is adaptable. Because it's not deeply connected to the Deadlands: Noir version of New Orleans, and the focus is roleplaying over mechanics, new players (and even game master) can get into the adventure without knowing much of Deadlands: Noir New Orleans, nor must they use the Savage Worlds game system. The adventure has also been designed to allow other adventures, such as personal scenarios, to be played between OAHB acts. Since the adventure starts in New Orleans, the gamemaster can easily introduce OAHB elements into the New Orleans-based Red Harvest adventure of the core book.

At around 30 pages, it can be printed on the laser printer without changing the toner. However, I would recommend playing out the core book adventure first, and seeing what other Deadlands: Noir adventures come out later.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Noir: The Old Absinthe House Blues
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Deadlands Noir
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/30/2013 23:52:19
Introduction

Alexander L. has written a fantastic review of Deadlands Noir, so, instead of assuming you're incapable of reading his review, I'll some additional comments to add to it.

*****

Do you need Deadlands: Reloaded?

No, but you should be familiar with the Deadlands setting. But, since Deadlands: Noir takes place in the Depression, certainly none of the characters will care about some history lesson from a century ago. They're too busy trying to find a dime for their next meal. The Deadlands weirdness works well as the underbelly of the city, so players unfamiliar with Deadlands can easily play player characters who are discovering things they shouldn't know.


Do you need Savage Worlds?

You should. About a third of the book includes Deadlands: Noir rules for Savage Worlds, stats for important NPCs in its New Orleans setting and a bestiary of Deadlands critters you don't want to tussle with.

The Savage Worlds RPG and miniatures skirmish game system support cinematic gaming very well. The Deluxe PDF edition is ten dollars and really can be used for more roleplaying games by itself. The earlier Explorer's Edition can be found hardcopy for ten dollars or less at the OLGS. You can also get the Savage Worlds: Test Drive edition free on DriveThruRPG or the Pinnacle games site. You're welcome.

Of course, with this being Noir, your players will be investigating and roleplaying more than hacking and looting. So, if your players are obstinate, adapting Deadlands: Noir to your system of choice isn't impossible.


Is this game only for Deadlands players?

No. This game could have been equally called Noir: Deadlands. Deadlands gives the game a unique flavor, but can be suited for your playing group's taste. Investigative Call of Cthulhu players will also enjoy this game, as Deadlands: Noir supports adventures where something spooky lies underneath the story.

In fact, most character types have changed, and some eliminated entirely. Blessed, sykers, and martial artists are rare so will be covered in the Deadlands Noir: Companion. Indian shamans exist, but not in the urban landscape of Deadlands Noir. Mad scientists evolved into patent scientists. Hucksters were hunted down, with those remaning becoming Grifters. Voodoo, however, has risin in New Orleands, allowing players to play shamanistic characters. And the Harrowed are still there. Savage Worlds supports designing characters based on skills, not classes, so players always have the option of playing their favorite noir character idea.


What if I don't want to run premade adventures or don't want to set Deadlands: Noir in New Orleands?

Okay, maybe this book won't work out too well for you. There *is* a two-page mystery generator you can use to create your own adventures. But about a fifth of the book is dedicated to a seven-adventure campaign, with the shorter mini-adventures usable between these adventures. New Orleands (and its corrupt factions) is the only city covered in this book. See the Deadlands: Noir Companinion for additional cities.

*****

Web Support

As of this writing, the Deadlands: Noir KickStarter is still shipping dead tree versions of its books, so it's not too surprising that the only support are some premade characters and a character sheet. The premade characters are definitely worth looking at. Deadlands: Noir mentions miniatures and printable and purchasable maps of the adventures in the PDF, but I couldn't find mention of them on the website.


PDF Format

One irritation I have with PDFs is that many of them make a PDF of the book, and that's that. IMO, Since PDFs have an unlimited page count, and material that couldn't be included in the dead tree version because of printing costs should be included. Also, PDFs allow printing of individual pages. The artwork includes mug shots of NPCs. So Pinnacle could have included NPC picture profile handouts for the GM to print and cut out for the players to see whom they were dealing with. Also, since Savage Worlds supports miniatures gaming and they have the full-body art of the beasties, I would have liked to see paper miniatures included with the PDF.

Conversely, a 145 page grey-color intensive coffee-table PDF is not something you want to print out. No printer-friendly version is included. Entries for NPCs and beasts have widows and orphans (ie. a one-page entry for a beast will start at the bottom of one page and go to the other side). Artwork that looks purdy in the electronic coffee table book consumes ink and toner when you have to print out the page it's one.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deadlands Noir
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Savage Worlds Deluxe
Publisher: Pinnacle Entertainment
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/29/2013 23:20:14
Savage Worlds is a generic cinematic simulationist RPG, with miniature skirmish rules. Savage Worlds Deluxe: Explorer’s is the newest edition, providing an update to the third printing of Savage Worlds Explorer’s Edition. Savage Worlds is published by Pinnacle Entertainment, with settings Evernight, 50 Fathoms, Necessary Evil, Rippers, Low Life, Deadlands: Reloaded, Tour of Darkness, Necropolis, and Weird War II. Just under fifty companies have been licensed to create product for the Savage World game system.

The Rules

Each character has attributes and skills, collectively called traits. Traits are represented by a type of die, such as d8. Whenever a character performs a Trait Test, they roll the appropriate Trait die, add modifiers, and try to reach a Target Number, typically a 4. If two characters are in a conflict, they each make an opposed Trait Test, with whoever rolled the higher number winning out. A character also has a Race, Derived Statistics, Edges and Hinderances (advantages and disadvantages), and Gear. Additional rules allow cooperative rolls for characters, and group rolls, for Extras.

Sounds typical, right? Well, Savage Worlds adds a number of cinematic rules to the standard "skill roll vs. target number" mechanic. Aces allow "exploding dice", where an additional die roll is added if a die's highest number has been rolled. For every 4 points above the Target Number the hero achieves a Raise for the roll, for additional effects, such as additional damage. Every hero roll includes a d6 Wild Die, whose results can be used in lieu of their regular die roll. Bennies are "plot points", allowing a Trait reroll, and taking the better of the two. And so on.

Initiative is a slightly gimmicky deck of playing cards, with each hero and his allies, or GM group of whatever being dealt a card. Highest rank goes first. Jokers, however provide a temporary bonus and allow the hero to go at any time during the round. A Hold allows a hero to wait on another character's action, and interrupt with a successful Agility contested roll. Player Characters can either Move their Pace of 6 inches, or Run an additional 1d6 inches, with a -2 Trait test penalty.

A Melee Attack is simply an opposed roll of Fighting Skill vs. Parry. Ranged Attacks are a Shooting Trait Test, with Target Numbers of 4 for short range, -2 modifier for Medium Range, and -4 modifier for Long Range. Additional rules allow multiple targets. Melee Damage is the character's Strength die and weapon's damage die. Ranged Damage is the weapon's damage die. Damage dice can also Ace (explode). Total damage is compared to the defender's Toughness, and can have raises.

You've probably seen that crunch before, but the next cinematic mechanic is damage. No abstract hit points here! Characters are either Shaken, Wounded, Incapaciated, or Dead. If the damage roll was successful, the target is Shaken, but each raise causes a Wound. If the character was just an Extra (such as a minion), he's out of the combat. Each wound means a -1 on Trait Tests, and three wounds means Incapacitated. Keep a benny around to soak damage: make a successful Vigor roll to shake off those wounds! Or spend a benny to automatically stop being Shaken. Additional rules cover situations such as Aiming, Area Affect Attacks, Breaking Things, Called Shots, Hazards, etc. Tests of Will is a great cinematic mechanic, in which heroes can Intimidate the bad guys, or Taunt the behemoth.

Dramatic Tasks have their own mechanic. A standard Dramatic Task requires five actions (rounds) and five successes. Dramatic Tasks are typically difficult (-2 Trait modifier), but other characters can cooperate. Just don't draw a Club for your action, or the GM will inflict a -2 Complication, with disasterous results!

Horror and mythos game masters will like the Fright Table. The Fear mechanic is a Spirit attribute trait check. A horrific scene can cause a character to be Shaken. Something from the mythos will have worse effects! Both can result on a roll on the Fright Table, ranging from a useful Adrenaline Surge, to a Charisma-penalizing streak of white hair, to a heart attack!

Additional rules include Interludes (breaks between adventures), Mass Battles (eg. Mars invades Earth), Social Conflict, and Vehicles.

An entire chapter is dedicated towards Powers (magic, psionics, super powers, weird science) using a power point system, and detailing specific powers. Another chapter is Game Mastering advice. The Bestiary chapter has both Abilities (similar to Edges and Hinderances) for creatures, and sample beasts. The book ends with several unconnected "One Page Adventures" designed for a single session of climactic play, plus some templates for area effects.


Buyer's Guide

I do recommend first downloading from DriveThruRPG the free Free RPG Day Test Drive rules, which come with a modern day horror adventure. The additional mechanics in the Deluxe book can be intimidating, and the Test Drive rules provide an excellent framework for new players and game masters. The pdf download of the Deluxe book does not come with a printer-friendly version, so if you don't plan to bring your iPad or laptop to the game table, also check your OLGS for the hardcopy Deluxe Explorer's Edition, for about $10. The Deluxe Edition has some updates, but the two editions are still compatible, and rules changes are on the Pinnacle website. Pinnacles Entertainment has the Test Drive, additional adventures, and other support for Savage Worlds.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Worlds Deluxe
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Heroes of the Sea - Savage Worlds
Publisher: Modiphius
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2013 17:45:52
Achtung!Cthulhu's Heroes of the Sea is the second adventure in the Nazi meets Mythos Zero Campaign. However, the events in the previous adventure, The Three Kings, do not directly lead to this adventure, and Heroes of the Sea can be played on its own. Besides the Overview, the adventure can be divided into three additional sections.

Random Encounters: I found this section the most disappointing because it gave the GM the least amount of prep to run an encounter. The encounters will be realistic, and I find these the hardest to roleplay. I highly recommend the GURPS WWII sourcebooks, particularly All the Kings Men, which describes Dunkirk, and Iron Cross, which details Germany's armies. GURPS WWII has some campaign advice for running cinematic vs. gritty WWII adventures.

Plot Episodes: The adventure itself is fantastically creative. "Heroes of the Sea takes place against the backdrop of Operation Dynamo, one of the biggest (if not the biggest) wartime troop evacuations in history. Following the German Blitzkrieg invasion of Belgium and France in May 1940, the combined forces of the British Expeditionary Force (the “BEF”) and the French First Army found themselves surrounded on three sides and in danger of being driven into the sea—a potential loss of almost half a million men." That's right -- Deep Ones. And U-boats. Oh, and a Nazi outpost in the *Dreamlands*, too. And an underwater archaeology site -- with Nazis. The adventure does a great job integrating these disparate elements together into an adventure.

Appendices: The contents end with appendices for Pregenerated Characters, New Rules, Vehicle stats, Dreamland Creature stats, and Handouts.

On the whole, I preferred this adventure over The Three Kings, although GMs may wish to do more WWII research so he can run the realistic encounters called for in this campaign.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Heroes of the Sea - Savage Worlds
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Three Kings - PDQ Core Rule Book
Publisher: Modiphius
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/17/2013 17:43:32
PDQ: Roughly half the book is based upon the PDQ system adapted for pulp Call of Cthulhu. Optional rules include Mythos Dice and Heroism. If you're not familiar with the PDQ system, it boils down to a simulationist task resolution system, where the GM sets a task difficulty, and the player rolls dice and modifies them to see if he succeeds. PDQ, however, adds some nice RPG color to this task. Rather than predefined skills, a player starts out with a set number of modifiers. He then selects his skills and traits. based on his character, subject to the GM. So, for example, a character can have Good [+2]: Personality: Fearless, encouragig the player to roleplay his character a certain way. The PDQ core system is available online for free.

Adventure: Three Kings: While it's obvious the writers did their research, I felt let down by the lack of specifics in this half of the book. The adventure felt more like a campaign of adventure seeds, than the highly descriptive Cthulhu adventures written by other companies.

Pregenerateds and NPCs: I should mention that the NPC Nazis, resistance fighters, and not-so-reliable souls in the adventure can be quite colorful. With the NPCs -- even ones on the same side -- factioned against each other, I hope Modipihus publishes a Fiasco-based version of this adventure. The adventure comes with four pregenerated characters.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Three Kings - PDQ Core Rule Book
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Welcome to Mortiston, USA! An All-American Zombie Apocalypse
Publisher: Scrying Eye Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2013 00:44:27
Don't let the big ol' zombie art fool you. "Welcome to Mortiston, USA" is a deluxe post-apocaplyptic campaign setting where the living are more of a threat than the dead. Or, as the setting says, "People complicate everything and desperate people with weapons only make it worse".

Mortiston starts with a bang -- three of them, in fact. A low-tech terrorist explosion starts a fire at the deserted Moriston All School. This is followed by the terrorist's low-yield nuke, destroying four blocks of the city, sending an EMP pulse through the entire town, disintegrating most of the city's firemen, deputies, reporters, and National Guardsmen, and setting off a firestorm that lasts five days. A military train, rerouted earlier in the day, is caught in the explosion and crashes into the telephone exchange building. All this before 12 o'clock.

Interestingly, the actual explanation for the zombies is left up to the GM, though the designer includes the origin he used in his version of the campaign. While Mortiston plots out the web of factions and personalities in the town, and includes a timeline of events, it's still flexible enough for the GM to add and modify. (A GM could even remove the zombies entirely!) The timelines are packed with adventure seeds of scenes for the GM to develop.

Primer: This section is an overview of the campaign. Besides what I've mentioned above, the Mortiston describes itself as a generic zombie apocalypse setting for multiple licensed RPGs: Outbreak: Undead, Savage Worlds, The Modern Path for Pathfinder, and OGL Modern. System-specific details are mostly NPC stats, and don't get in the way of the rest of the campaign. The primer also notes that the symptoms of radiation sickness are the same as those of the initial stage of the zombie virus -- it may be amusing to roleplay paranoid zombie-fearing players vs. unconvinced NPCs, or even run a version of this campaign with no zombies at all.

Timelines: The campaign provides a 24-hour timeline of the day of the disaster, a 111+ day timeline, and a summary of the the Stages of the Apocalypse. The 24-hour timeline is well-detailed, covering four pages of events. The 111+ day one is two pages, only highlighting major occurances every few days. The Stages provides an overview of the Mortison County as it declines. These timelines provide a framework for running the campaign over time, although the GM will still have to develop them.

Personalities: Mortiston provides nineteen colorful NPCs, with half a page for background, and another half for stats. Many of them are tied to the eight factions in the game, so will likely encounter PCs face-to-face in the game. Pretty obviously, more than nineteen people survived, so the GM will have to create additional NPCs for players to interact with. Unfortunately, the campaign does not have an index, making it tricky to find references to the Personalities versus NPCs mentioned only in the Places of Interest.

Places of Interest: Similar to Personalites, Places of Interest features about 30 locations in Mortiston. Besides a background and any people associated with the location, each entry has very useful descriptions of its "Relationship to other groups" (ie. factions), Resources (for scavenging), and a short timeline of the condition of the location. Special Locations in Mortiston are briefly mentioned in the GM notes.

Factions of Mortiston: After the detail and color of the Personalities and Places of Interest, I was somewhat disappointed in the Factions sections. At two pages, this section spends only a few paragraphs on each faction. However, a GM can rely upon standard tropes (eg. criminals vs. law) The information is nonetheless useful, detailing the number of people in each faction, their fighting ability, and relationships with the other factions. Most of the color of the factions are covered in Personalities and Places of Interest.

GM Notes: This section contains the already mentioned Stages of the Apocalypse and Special Locations in Mortiston. The section also provides a description of Utilities and Communications after a post-apocalyptic attack, a list of Neighborhoods in Mortiston, a Weather table, maps of effects caused by the terrorist attack, and other notes. While I found the Utilities and Communications section usefully detailed, I found the Locations and Neighborhoods to be scanty compared to the much more detailed Places of Interest.

What Will Michael Do: As an alternative to simply letting the town die out, the campaign ends with a climactic "ultimate monster", in the form of the militant Michael Sparks and charismatic Reverand Thompson. This section has a summary of how they will destroy and take over Moriston, although, again, the GM will have to work out the details.

Webpage support: For a free sample character and location, see DriveThruRPG's entry for the publisher, Scrying Eye Games. You will find there several other freebies for their other products. The designer's blog, 365ZED.com has additional Mortiston notes and material, including a free Fiasco Mortiston playset, sample characters, and more. Scrying Eye Games own website has little additional information about Mortiston and the designer's webpage's last entry was in December 2012.

Fiasco: On the designer's website, he includes a free standalone Fiasco playset based on Mortiston. Fiasco is a non-conventional storytelling game, in which a playset establishes the relationships and motivations of the players, as well as the location where the story takes place. The players then create the scenes and play out the story, improving details as the game session plays. Thus, the player-generated specifics of a Fiasco playset can compliment the broad overview of a campaign (and do much of the work for the GM!). The GM himself can modify the playset and interrupt play (eg. adding the plot-twisting Fiasco "Tilt") as necessary -- even stealing ideas generated in the Fiasco play session for the overall campaign. Fiasco sessions have a reputation for dark endings, well-suited for "Welcome to Mortiston, USA".

EEP!: EEP! 1 is the first "Extended Electronic Package" for "Welcome to Mortiston, USA", and is available as a separate $2.99 purchase from DriveThruRPG.net. I am not clear if other EEPs will be made, and when EEP! 1 was originally written.

PDF: The download comes in both a colored and black-and-white format. I particularly liked that the formats allowed printing of individual sections and NPC and location pages without widows and orphans. Most of the art is useful (eg. NPC and locations pictures), reducing the amount of ink and toner used for GMs wanting a hardcopy.

Overall, Mortiston is an excellent post-apocalyptic campaign setting. But like all campaign settings, the GM will have to work on the specifics, or use a system, like Fiasco, which will do this for him.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Welcome to Mortiston, USA! An All-American Zombie Apocalypse
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #75: The Sea Queen Escapes
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2013 03:36:53
I pretty much look forward to a new release of Dungeon Crawl Classics, at least those by Goodman or Stroh. The best ones injected a good dose of weirdness to your typical fantasy RPG, but with a coherence that gave a "method to one's madness". Most adventures I've read do either one, but few do it together like DCC.

Unfortunately, Curtis' The Sea Queen Escapes does the weirdness well, but lacks any structure or meaning behind it (cf. the cultist's tentacled lair in People of the Pit). That still puts this adventure on the level of some of the great AD&D adventures, like White Plume Mountain, or Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. The encounters, while linear, are immensely creative, and highly themed to the adventure (a water vault, followed by an earth prison). Additional useful rules are provided for water-based dungeoneering. The adventure has about twenty encounters, including the climax.

I would suggest DCC's Jewels of the Carnifex over this adventure, but if your players need some more experience, your group will enjoy this adventure.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #75: The Sea Queen Escapes
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Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation Event Book (Premium Edition)
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/07/2013 23:01:44
Introduction

The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Annihilation Premium Event Book is a full-featured Event spanning the various Annihiliation books. The Premium edition includes the Basic book's Operations Manual. The Event book also serves as a sourcebook for Marvel's cosmic empires and entities. The Hero Datafiles contain entries for Marvel's cosmic heroes and anti-heroes.


Operations Manual

The Operations Manual included in the Premium Event Book is the same as the Marvel Roleplaying Basic Game. It includes a Random Datafile Generator to create characters, but not the Example of Play download. (Note: OM18, The Doom Pool as Opposition, has an example of ship vs. ship combat, which may be useful as an example for starship vs. starship battles.)


Cosmic Scale

The Event book has a host of gamemaster preparation suggestions and optional rules to run a cosmic-scale event. I'm most impressed at how organically MHR adds cosmic comic book ideas to its narrative system. Starships are treated as characters, so easily fit into the game mechanics. Unlockables can be used, such as an unlocked ally Skrull infiltrating an Annihiliation Wave base, allowing the heroes in. To represent an impending threat, a die from the Doom Pool can step up as its act as the Timer complication. (And when it reaches d12, it doubles, returns to the Doom Pool, and can be spent as 2d12 to end the scene -- with the planet destroyed!) And the Doom Pool starts at four dice! Players receive cosmic assistance as well, with Cosmic Power Sets. Play a Shi'ar with the Nova Corps Centurian Power Set. Or recreate a cosmic Human Torch with the Herald of Galacticus Power Set.


Sourcebook

In addition to gamemaster preparation, the Event is presented as a Sourcebook and three Acts. The Sourcebook can be used outside of this Event, and summarizes the Kree Empire, Skrull Empire, Nova Corps, Shi'ar Empire, The Eternals, The Negative Zone (including Annihilus and The Annihilation Wave), Galactus, The Crunch (Kyln), and Other Cosmic Locations. Datafiles of important characters and archetypes are included, as well as milestones and unlockables for each faction. (The Hero Datafiles also include player characters who belong to these factions.) Additional cosmic Event Milestones are also included.

Acts and Actions

The Event is designed for four to six players, and contains about six month's worth of gaming. The Event consists of three Acts which follow the Annhiliation storyline. Each Act is broken down into Scenes: Buildup Scenes, Key Scenes, and Optional Scenes. Each Buildup Scene provides Hooks for different kinds of characters to encounter the Annihiliation Wave. Much like other Event books, the Event book provides key details for a Scene (eg. Watcher datafiles, and Scene seeds to further flesh out the Scene). Each Scene is only a few pages long, but the Event book provides plenty of gamemaster assistance to play a scene. (Besides, we've all read the comics, right?)


Hero Data Files

This section contains data files for the Fantastic Four (pre-Civil War) and a number of cosmic beings. While suitable for the various factions involved in this cosmic war, most cosmic beings in the Marvel Universe aren't terribly popular (eg. Firestorm, Beta Ray Bill), especially compared to their villainous counterparts. (Blastaar and Super Skrull are available, but who wouldn't want to play Annilihus? A pity that none of the acts are written with player characters as Annihilus or his minions!)


Conclustion

Want cosmic? Well, here it is. Even if you don't plan on soon running the Annhiliation Event, there's enough material here for some Fantastic Four stories, Kree and Skrull invasions, or an errant Galactus minion on Earth (again). New gamers may wish to start with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game book, since the Annhiliation Event requires them to understand both the narrative Marvel Heroic Roleplaying System, as well as a cosmic-scale Event. A gamemaster with a mix of new and experienced MHR players can ease in the new players in the Kyrn Prison Buildup Scene with a fight with some prison mooks (using the Example of Play) and some starship combat (based on the previously mentioned OM18: The Doom Pool as Opposition).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Annihilation Event Book (Premium Edition)
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Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/09/2013 18:39:53
I've enjoyed Cubicle 7's Cthulhu Britannica series, and their Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore is no exception. The book discusses how to incorporate Britain's folklore into Call of Cthulhu as, well as provides several written scenarios.

Folklore's "Using Folklore in Call of Cthulhu Games" is one of the best adventure design articles I've read. This article analyzes various permutations a folklore element and a mythos threat can relate to each other. For example, a piece of folklore can be mere rumors originating in a mythos threat. Or the folklore can actually exist, alongside the mythos, and act as a red herring -- or even vice-versa. Although written for folklore and the Cthulhu mythos, it can be used to meld any two ostensibly separate "mysterious genres" and not just in the 1920's. For example, you could use this article to help design a modern-day adventure involving the FBI or Illuminati (or both!) and the mythos.

"Using Folk Magic in Call of Cthulhu" is a shorter but still interesting analysis of how folklore-related "magic" can be use in roleplaying: as a derivative of mythos magic, as an entity unto itself, as medicine, or even as placebic belief. Some creative examples are included, and I wish this section had a "random idea generator" to help Keepers make up their own spells. Again, this section can be used for non-folklore magic, such as shamans and even modern-day psychics.

"A Folklore Bestiary" was enjoyable from the point of refreshing me on various folklore beings (eg. water horses) and has a useful but alas brief entry for magic-using humans (druids, witches, cultists...). Unfortunately, most of the entries are written from the viewpoint that the folklore entity exists, and include a short discussion of how it would work as an agent of the mythos. A dragon connected to the mythos is a bit much for my tastes. "Old Ones and Old Gods" is a too-brief discussion on plugging in mythos entities with British folkore.

"Folklore Mythos Threats" consists of nine well-written Cthulhu scenarios. The scenarios lack the conventional (and arguably unnecessary) handouts, maps, and pregenated PC's. The introduction even mentions that the Keeper has "enough materials ... to quickly build their own scenarios", but I think there's enough here for play. The adventures are NPC-heavy, so Keepers weaker in playing NPC roles may wish to enlist a roleplaying co-GM to enjoy developing the non-player characters.

If you've enjoyed the Cthulhu Britannica and Cthulhu Britannica: Scotland books, Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore will not disappoint!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Britannica: Folklore
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H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2013 18:52:23
This PDF download looks to be a PDF version of the original 2008 hardcopy, not the revised 2009 PDF download free on the Wizards site. However, the 2009 free download did not include the maps, available in this download. The maps are well-suited for your own adventures, and are well worth the download. Thanks to Wizards for making this adventure available!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules (4e)
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HS1 The Slaying Stone (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2013 18:30:53
HS1 is a first-level adventure, originally released in 2010. Its non-linear sandbox style was a nice change from the usual linear module, but required work by the DM to fill in the details. As this adventure has been extensively reviewed on the internet, I will review the PDF format itself.

The PDF consists of the 32-page adventure and a large two-page map. Like other book-to-PDF products, the adventure is in color, with color art. 1/4 page diagrams of areas for combat are included.

The PDF version of the two-sided map prints out as two sides of nine pages each (print in poster mode). Half of one side is a ruined level of a keep, with the other half a garrisoned bridge. The other side is the gate of city. While this gamer would prefer a poster map over a printout, you can conveniently make a second printout of the map for your own use. If you're up for it, you can cut and mount parts of the map onto cardstock and make your own tiles. The map does not cover all the areas used in the module. You will need a battle map or dungeon tiles.

Most of the monsters are of the common variety, albeit with specializations to spring on the players. Thus, the Monster Vault tokens should work with this adventure, and you should be pretty well covered if you already own the D&D Adventure Games, or are collecting the Dungeon Command games.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
HS1 The Slaying Stone (4e)
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Dungeon Delve (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2013 22:41:53
Dungeon Delve is a collection of thirty one-shot adventures, from 1st through 30th level. Each delve features three linked encounters, and is designed for five player characters. The delves are aimed towards beginning DMs, and the book includes tips for customizing and running the game. Dungeon Delve was originally released in 2009 as a now out-of-print hardback. Dungeon Delve has been extensively reviewed on the internet, so my review will be of the PDF itself.

Like many other book-to-PDF products, the PDF contains the same color art and page layout of the original hardcover. But, unlike the hardcover, the DM only needs to print out the pages of the delve he's running for the game session. No need to lug around yet another hardback! Dungeon Delve did not come with a map, so there's no map to awkwardly print out on multiple sheets on the inkjet. Huzzah for the PDF!

If you're a "battlemap and tokens" gaming group, you're set. However, if you must use monster miniatures and published tiles, good luck. The tiles used in the delves are from the various long out-of-print tile sets, not the boxed Master Sets. Given how much I've sunk into miniatures and tiles, I'm not too happy that I will still have to convert the encounters.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Delve (4e)
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Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition
Publisher: 9th Level Games
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2012 14:09:23
I remember picking up a copy of the first (?) edition of KAMB many many years ago. I was a paper book with an orange cover, silly illustrations of furry kobolds, and politically incorrect when that term meant funny.

Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition is *the* beer and pretzels game of kobold-sized mayhem. Life is "brutal, short, and silly" and this RPG reflects it. The mechanics are on the conventional side, with a "stats and skill" system. If you attempt to do something, you describe how you're using a skill, and roll 2d6 (or whatever number of dice depending on the difficulty) and attempt to roll under. If you fail a skill, you're that much closer to dying with a checkmark on the Kobold Horrible Death Record, which brings us to the humor of the game, namely those Random Charts (tm): The Kobold Horrible Death Chart. The Kobold Gear charts (and sub-charts). The Random Magick Spell Chart. The Random Chart of Randomness. The Baby Horrible Death Chart. And the Outside Horrible Death Chart (for when you're outside).

The game also encourages kobold roleplaying. Yes, you must bark like a kobold in order to gain the bonus for the "+Bark Like a Kobold" edge. Skills and charts include cooking and babies. Additional rules requires, if anyone mentions King Torg, rule of the kobolds, each player must shout, "ALL HAIL KING TORG" or have a checkmark on his Kobold Horrible Death Record. (Every time you add or remove a check, roll 2d6 and add the number of checks you have. If your total is 13 or higher, roll on the Kobold Horrible Death Chart.) KAMB also includes a small village and scenario about, what else, a raid to get some tasty babies!

If your group needs a break from the serious stuff, or you're looking to run a game convention one-shot, KAMB is a perfect fit. The rules are easy to learn, everyone wants to roll on the charts, and you get to make Kobold Soliloquies when your kobold dies. King Torg (ALL HAIL KING TORG) would be pleased!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kobolds Ate My Baby! Super Deluxx Edition
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Stealing Cthulhu
Publisher: Graham Walmsley
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/17/2012 23:02:54
As much as the Call of Cthluhlu roleplaying game revolutionized roleplaying (all we had back then was D&D and various clones), it wasn't exactly Lovecraft. The single brooding (and sometimes passive) protagonist was replaced by a squad of skilled active investigators. Stealing Cthulhu brings us back to Mythos roots (tendrils?) by first deconstructing HP Lovecraft's Mythos stories, then applying them to a conventional RPG. It's an excellent analysis of HP Lovecraft's writing style, although it does take out some of the mystique of the author's writings! The author also enlists RPG personalities Kenneth Hite, Gareth Hanrahan, and Jason Morningstar to contribute their opinions to his work. And the author includes his short rules-light Mythos RPG at the end of the book. While the publication is aimed towards Keepers designing their own scenarios, the book is also a must-have for anyone wishing to write Mythos stories, or analyzing them for, say, a research paper.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stealing Cthulhu
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Dice Boxes
Publisher: Rogue Games, Inc
by Cedric C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/24/2012 13:51:32
As dice boxes, these are... okay. You print them, cut them out, then assemble them.

The artwork is on the cartoony side, particularly the zombie. The coffin art looks like a party favor (in a good way). It's too bad the artist didn't include a photo on the cover page so you could see for yourself.

But, speaking of party favors, these boxes could be used at your Halloween party to hold candy or other treats. No need for an emergency trip to Diddam's or Michael's -- just print and assemble. You could even print them out as an activity for your kids for Halloween!

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Dice Boxes
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