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The One Ring - Adventurer's Companion
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/03/2016 13:04:50

In the world of The One Ring, not everyone is cut out to be an adventurer. Many of those who do tread that path feel that it chose them rather than the other way around. This book brings a wealth of new ideas, new systems, and new cultures aimed primarily at players, but Loremasters will find plenty that is of use to them as well. The Introducion explains the five parts that make up this work.

Part 1: Characters is concerned with the process of and options available when creating a character, beginning with an overview of the process. Then there is a section that looks at the choices that can be made as a character is crafted to ensure a unique and memorable character, with ways to tap into the inspiration many get from characters in literature and other good ideas, also material on forming a group in ways that seem natural rather than forced. Most of this part of the book, however, is jam-packed with no less than thirteen Heroic Cultures from which your character might come. Revel in them, they make fascinating reading.

The next part contains New Rules. Want to be a Leader? There's a new calling to let you do just that. New combat rules and expanded masteries give new ways to use your skills to good effect both on and off the battlefield. There's also some neat ways of handling a party of mixed experience.

In the third part, Between Adventures, there is a focus on what you do when not adventuring. There's an excellent and clear explanation of how the Fellowship Phase works, and a comprehensive list of the things you can do, collated from all the material published so far. Handy to have it all in the same place. There's also a collection of potential patrons and some famous companies who have achieved renown in Wilderland - maybe characters will want to join them if not emulate their exploits. There's also discussion of the passage of years and the concept of multi-generational campaigns.

Then, part four - Curious Diversions - contains an odd assortment of things, from ranomised travelling gear to musical instruments and the things you might find in the average adventurer's pockets.

Finally, part five is For Reference. Here are things like the steps Loremasters and players go through when engaged in combat, giving ideas for turning a brawl into an exciting narrative not just a lot of die-rolling and table-consulting. Another section does the same for journeys, a pivotal part of this game. There's also a detailed account of how an encounter should play out. All this material is designed to enhance the role-playing and story-telling aspects of the game, to embed them into everything that occurs on the table-top.

This is not only a book worth reading, it's worth dipping into again and again. The rules here are in the main optional, but without exception they enhance an already good game, elegant and nuanced. If you play The One Ring, you should really get this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Adventurer's Companion
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Nations of Théah: Vodacce (Book 6)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2016 08:38:18

Vodacce can be summed up in terms of manipulation and deceit. It's a place where you need to watch your step, yet it's welcoming... if on its own terms. It's a land of wealthy merchants, fierce honour and convoluted plots, beautiful architecture, treachery, passion and pride. The Introduction explains this and introduces the rest of the book.

First up, Vodacce starts with the history of the country from ancient times right up to the present day... and I mean ancient, apparently scholars believe Vodacce to be the cradle of sentient human life on Théah. Seat of a world-spanning empire, this began to be disrupted by the arrival of the First Prophet on Vodacce's very streets, leading to the establishment of the Vaticine Church. From then on, Church history was closely entwined with the nation's - particularly as most of the ruling noble houses practised sorcery, something the Church condemned. However a thousand years later, the Third Prophet announced that the new home of the Church would now be in Castille, not Vodacce, which led to a bitter war between the two nations in which Castille was ultimately victorious. Undaunted, the nobles in Vodacce resumed their power struggles, the nation remained stauchly Vaticine in belief, and both art and science flourished. In the present day, it's still prosperous but divided with seven merchant princes all hoping to rule a united nation.

These princes are then detailed, along with all the intrigues and facets of the Great Game they delight in playing. Of significance is the number of bastards - with public acceptance of courtesans and mistresses, genealogy is a nightmare, yet everyone is very proud of their bloodline. There are also a couple of families not now in contention for rulership, but still hanging around on the edges. We also find out about notable places - and in the next chapter, Heroes, people - that the party may get to know if their travels take them to Vodacce. There are a couple of quite good maps of the nation's islands, but an overall map would have been helpful, particularly as the locations descriptions start by talking about there being eight provinces - OK, but where are they? That aside, there's loads of material to help the place come to life in your game, and that's before you get to the culture and religion notes at the end. Music and opera are popular but there's an odd thing... very few women learn to read, not even (especially?) noble ones.

In the Drama section we learn about new Sorté rules - the prevalent form of magic that warps destiny - as well as new backgrounds, skills, a single knack, advantages and equipment. And of course more swordsman schools. Note that duelling is accepted practice in Vodacce unlike most of the rest of Théah, so it's all the more important to be able to handle a sword. Given the artform to which intrigue has been raised here, I suppose it's inevitable to also have some new poisons...

Finally, Cunning provides details of the Great Game for players and GMs alike. There are also pieces on how Vodacceans view honour and the place of women. For a start, only women practice Sorté magic. Playing one is challenging at times, but can be extremely rewarding especially if you like behind-the-scenes intrigue and manipulation. For GMs there are dark secrets and stat blocks for the NPCs introduced in Hero, notes on Fate and a couple of new monsters.

Another book that gets you thinking of reasons to send your party to the nation described, because reading it makes you really want to go there as it comes to life on the pages.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nations of Théah: Vodacce (Book 6)
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Nations of Théah: Eisen (Book 4)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/01/2016 08:03:37

The Introduction paints the picture of lands reeling from a generation of wars, seemingly no family untouched, awash in mud and blood and destruction yet still proud. Desperation and hunger are side by side with those who do good and seek to serve others.

First, Eisen tells about the country itself. Ancient history tells of a race of intelligent reptiles, the Drachen, that founded a civilisation but then disappeared. There are still 'drachen' in the land, smaller (still impressively big, though) and not at all intelligent. Perhaps they are related to the ancients, nobody knows. Centuries passed and men came, fierce tribesmen to begin with, then sweeping empires, but always a land fragmented, with tribe immediate and important, more important than a distant empire. Then the marvelous metal known as dracheneisen was discovered... Faithful to the teachings of the church, Eisen sided with Castille when the Third Prophet arose there, but a bit over an hundred years ago, a freethinking monk called Matthias Lieber promulgated ideas that led to the Objectionists: people who believe in the faith but do not think the established church is doing the right things - concentrating on amassing political power rather than caring for people. This led eventually to a vicious civil war that has wrecked the nation, and caused the leading barons to split it into a confederacy of seven self-ruling kingdoms. Now people are attempting to rebuild the shattered nation.

Next, Hero introduces some of the movers and shakers of the land - people who could make useful contacts, powerful patrons... or the deadliest of enemies. Here you find descriptions, personalities, objectives... if you want stat blocks or to find out their secrets, these are in the GM section at the end of the book. This is followed by Drama, where new rules material is introduced, including backgrounds, equipment, skills and of course, swordsman schools. This includes clearly-diagrammed ways of using the distinctive zweihander sword. You'll also find rules for mass combat here, should you wish to stage a full-blown battle.

Finally, Courage comes in two parts. The first contains information in playing an Eisen character to effect, useful for players wishing their character to come from Eisen and to GMs needing to manage Eisen NPCs. Next, GMs are regaled with secrets including the fate of the Drachen and the nature of dracheneisen, as well as those of the various kingdoms and the NPCs introduced earlier. There's a map of one town and some building plans - a map of the entire country showing the various kingdoms would have been nice - and assorted monsters, too.

Overall, there's a lot packed into this and should your adventures go near Eisen it will prove an excellent resource. Indeed should your party want to head in that direction, there's plenty to spawn ideas for plots there!

There are enough differences between the kingdoms that they appear to be completely separate nations, yet they are all clearly part of Eisen as well. Each is described in considerable detail, complete with interesting places to visit, local customs and laws, organisation and so on. And then there's Freiburg. A sprawling city-state with a very laid-back ruler and minimal law, a refuge for many, a cosmopolitan free town (and one worthy of its own supplement!). There are notes on general culture and on dracheneisen, including the secrets of its forging (or at least, details of who has those secrets!). Sculpture, opera, and literature are the prevalent art forms. You can also read how Eisen does war, learn of the mercenary warbands, or look at Eisen science and religion. Nationally-observed customs are also included, along with legends and notes on the 'monsters' that plague more remote corners of the land.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nations of Théah: Eisen (Book 4)
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Hammerfast: A Dwarven Outpost Adventure Site (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/30/2016 13:05:12

Hammerfast is a strange place. Originally a necropolis or city of tombs for the dwarves, it is now a regular settlement with people living and working here just like anyplace else... except ghosts not only walk the streets, they are full citizens just like everyone else! This book provides detailed information on places and notable individuals (alive and dead) to enable you to run your own adventures here. It's full of ideas that spawn plotlines as you read through it, thus making it an ideal sandbox setting - wherever the party chooses to go, you can come up with something for them to do.

As well as the ghosts, there are traces of its former state as a necropolis in the shape of tombs. Of course, just as citizen ghosts are protected by local laws from assault, so are the tombs supposedly protected from the depredations of tomb raiders - but since when did that stop most parties? And the loot to be had, say the rumours and legends, are rich and magnificent in the extreme. For many parties, that is enough reason to visit Hammerfest. Others may arrive on more mundane business, yet may not elude the allure of such adventures.

Just about everything you might need is here, starting with the surrounding area, for which you get a map and information to support wilderness adventuring. Once the party arrives in town, resources are at your fingertips so that they can visit taverns, go shopping, fall foul of the law and do most anything adventurers tend to do in town. There's a map of the town to put in front of them as well as a floorplan of a two-storey inn, the Foundation Stone (complete with a chandelier should anyone be moved to swing from it in a fit of swashbucking!). You can also find out about the local guilds, a cult that threatens the place and much more.

It's suggested that you can use this setting in a number of ways from building a campaign arc to take characters from 1st to 10th level, mine the NPCs for adventure ideas (an easy task, the ideas jump off the pages as you flick through) or as a detailed background in which you can set your own urban and wilderness adventures, providing a richly-detailed place that they can explore between adventures.

If you have the original publication, the town map comes as a poster with the floor plans for the Foundation Stone inn on the other side. In the PDF they are spread over two pages each (you'll have to print them and stick them together if you want to spread them out on the tabletop) whilst in the print-on-demand version they are bound into the book, still spread over two pages, along with the surrounding area map. The print-on-demand version is mostly good as far as internal text is concerned, crisp and clear. Unfortunately the cover and the surrounding area map have been printed from too low-grade an image. One can survive a cover that's a bit pixelated, but the surrounding area map is of low quality and quite difficult to read the names of features. Fortunately you can track it down online in better quality versions if you need better resolution.

Overall, though, it's an excellent product whichever version you have: a fine example of a place in which adventures happen (rather than an adventure with a place built for it to happen in), yes you will need to create your own adventures but the ideas here should enable you to do so readily.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hammerfast: A Dwarven Outpost Adventure Site (4e)
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Nations of Théah: Castille (Book 5)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2016 09:39:09

Castille, an abundant country full of contradictions, home of the church yet with a thriving scientific community despite church opposition, friendly and welcoming people unless you happen to be a foreigner, full of celebrations and fun amidst cruelty and hardship. Here you find passion, loyalty and devotion to duty. Cherishing tradition, the people of Castille embrace life to the full... but now they are at war, and everything seems to be teetering on the brink of destruction. The Introduction sets the scene before launching you into four sections designed to present Castille as a living, breathing element of your game world.

First up is Castille. Here you can read about the nation's long and noble history, with culture and government, noble families and interesting places all covered. Its history is one of repeated conquest, just about every civilisation that lays claim to greatness has invaded at some point (and now Montaigne are trying to do the same...). We meet the eight great noble families and a whole slew of lesser ones - plenty to conjure with if you want your character to come of noble blood. The regions are explored with concise yet informative notes (a map might help, here...) and there's plenty of culture too, dance in particular. Liturature, painting and music also play a major role in the Castille cultural scene, while festivals and celebrations are part and parcel of everyday life. Less pleasant, perhaps, to outsiders is the local love for bullfighting... although the practice of injuring or killing the bull has been mostly eliminated from the sport. Daily life, clothing, etiquette and even food are also covered here.

There is also an extensive section on the Vaticine Church in this chapter. For some six hundred years, the Church has been based here and it looms large in virtually every aspect of life. There are tales of the Three Prophets (and mention of the Fourth, who is yet to come), church history and more. Intellectual and scientific events are also covered - partly because they annoy the church so much.

Then Hero presents a gallery of the great and good, the movers and shakers from many walks of life, starting with the Good King Sandoval himself - a 16-year old boy who had never expected to inherit his throne but is doing remarkably well. Nobles, churchmen, military and others are also well-represented with descriptions of who they are and what their aims in life might be. Plenty of people to meet, influence, toady... as the party chooses.

Next, Drama is the 'rules bit' with new backgrounds and skills, new swordsman schools, new advantages and more. There's also a new (and destructive) form of sorcery called El Fuego Adentro, if you want to try that out. There's also some neat new equipment (did you think a cloak was just for keeping warm?) and some rules for building, defending and attacking fortifications.

Finally, Brotherhood contains information on role-playing Castillians, be they a cherished character or a slew of NPCs encountered in the course of the party's adventures. Life, a Castillian's very existence, revolves around your family and passion. Approach everything, large or small, with intensity and gusto. Live large. There's also material for the GM alone. This includes all those dark little secrets the fellows in the Heroes chapter would rather you didn't know, full stat blocks for each of them, and a couple of new monsters - one of which is a bull, should anyone wish to try their hand at bullfighting. There is also a map of the city of Altamira and a couple of ships.

This work is full of flavour, packed with information to bring Castille to life in your game should the party decide to visit - or to give a character from there a good feel for his homeland. A map of Castille would have been an advantage, so you could see how the various places relate to each other, but that's about the only quibble. If the plot heads for Castille, have this work to hand.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nations of Théah: Castille (Book 5)
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Nations of Théah: Montaigne (Book 3)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/28/2016 08:59:01

Montaigne considers herself to be the centre of the world, so whether you want to run an adventure set there or play a character who hails from there this book will provide ample resources for understanding the land and its people. Flamboyant and arrogant swordsmen, court intrigue and intense emnity with their neighbours to the south, Castille, mark out Montaigne as a country like no other on Théah.

The Introduction explains a little of the nature of Montaigne. Think Alexander Dumas' The Musketeers - swagger and panache, as interested in just how stylishly you take a villain down as you are in defeating him at all. Generousity and wit... but only if you can afford it, with a massive impoverished underclass who exist (in Montaigne eyes at least) to support the idle rich. OK, not completely idle, but they wave swords around as a matter of form rather than because it is their job to fight. This is the home of literature and art on Théah, the final bastion of culture. This is how they see themselves at the centre of the world.

First comes Montaigne, a chapter that explores the history and current state, opening with a piece of fiction concerning the current Emperor, which is continued throughout the book, an installment per chapter. We learn that the Emperor hates the Vaticine Church and shelters sorcerers from the church's wrath, and as an absolute monarch, what he thinks becomes state policy. It's a land where family is important, especially if you are noble, and some sample noble bloodlines are provided for those characters seeking a Noble Advantage to further their career. They can also serve as patrons and allies (or indeed, enemies). You can also read about notable places including the fifteen provinces. Culture (on which Montaigne folk pride themselves), science, the church and much more are also covered including a fascinating section on daily life that will aid in bringing the place to life in your game.

Next, Hero looks at some of the nation's most important individuals, with plenty of detail should the party encounter them. It begins with the royal family (where eles?) and runs through other notables, movers and shakers - nobles, military leaders and others, including some the nobles might use but would never invite to dinner. Patrons, perhaps, or employers... but not good people to get on the wrong side of, that is certain!

Then comes Drama. This is the rules section with new mechanics and additional rules for making Montaigne Heroes. This includes the Destiny Spread, a novel way to determine a character's stengths and weaknesses via a Tarot reading. There are also new rules for Porté magic, the 'signature' magical style of Montaigne. There's a couple of backgrounds to consider and several new Swordsman Schools - one based on street brawling, one primarily interested in firearms and one which teaches students to take advantage of whatever weapons come to hand! Montaigne-specific advantages, organisations and even items of equipment are also found here, and the chapter also includes with a system for Courtly Intrigue. This can be fascinating or completely boring depending on the interests of your players, but it's definitely a feature of life at the Montaigne court. There's an extensive section on the famous and fabulous Puzzle Swords, and a section on mass battles.

The final chapter, Style, comes in two parts. The first, of general interest, discusses how to play a Montaigne character to the hilt, useful to those who want to play one and GMs eager to have some memorable NPCs. The second part is aimed at GMs and contains assorted secrets and snippets of information, as well as full stat blocks for the people met in the Heroes chapter. There are new monsters, too, and a chart to help you through the mechanics of Courtly Intrigue.

Overall, this paints a compelling picture of Montaigne, a country where it's good to be noble and pretty rough if you are anything else. Wonderful background for characters, and an equally good resource for GMs whose adventures will take the party there.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nations of Théah: Montaigne (Book 3)
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Adventures in Middle-earth Player's Guide
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2016 08:01:38

This mighty tome is beautifully presented and provides just about all you need to start adventuring in Tolkien's Middle Earth. Of particular note is the way in which the authors are not afraid to tweak exisiting game rules and even invent entire new mechanics to drive a setting that's true to its original concept yet playable by anyone who can play Dungeons & Dragons 5e. As the Foreword states, the guiding light has been to present a game that you can make your own... and if you want to add in stuff from other sources, that's fine too.

The first section is all about setting the scene. We're based in Wilderland in 2946 of the Third Age. Smaug is dead and people are reclaiming the lands he once terrorised. So here are details of the lands involved and their denizens. Then it's straight on to how to make it all work, with an Overview containing details of the changes the authors have made to the core ruleset in two areas: character creation and general game rules. Middle Earth isn't quite like any other fantasy setting (even if it inspired a lot of them!) and these rules are desisned to enable you to run a game and create shared stories that are true to the setting. It starts off with a profound difference, you choose your culture rather than your race. 'Culture' is a more precise definition - you are not just a human but a Man of Bree or a Man of the Lake, and so on for all the other races. There's a whole chapter on them later on. There are also new classes and backgrounds, and a whole new type of trait called a virtue - and each of these also gets a chapter to itself to explain all that you need to know.

The other rules changes relate to how the game itself works. Middle Earth stories are jam-packed with journeys, and the sort of quest that involves going somewhere (and braving danger along the way) as well as doing something when you get there are a mainstay of Middle Earth adventuring. Unlike the character creation rules, these supplement rather than replace the core D&D ones. This setting does not use conventional alignments, instead it relies on a corruption system to model characters' moral journey through life. In Middle Earth, strangers are often regarding warily, so there are also rules for obtaining an audience with the great and good of the land, should the party wish to do so. Finally, there is the introduction of the Fellowship Phase, an exciting innovation from The One Ring game on which this setting is based. Each of these topics too has its own chapter to provide all the necessary detail to enable you to incorporate it into your game.

That's about it, all beautifully-presented and with Loremaster (i.e. DM) and Player versions of the map and a selection of appropriate equipment to help your character look and feel like he belongs in Middle Earth. Overall, it's an elegant adaptation of both The One Ring and of course the original setting from Tolkien's stories to the latest incarnation of Dungeons & Dragons and well worth a look if you think that there's more to adventure than killing monsters and taking their stuff... although those who do want to fill their days with fighting (and even acquire some loot) will not be disappointed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures in Middle-earth Player's Guide
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7th Sea Adventures: The Arrow of Heaven
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/23/2016 08:30:03

Continuing and concluding a series of adventures that has 'epic swashbuckling' written all over them, The Arrow of Heaven lives up to the preceeding two adventures with more high excitment and high stakes. If for some reason you haven't played the preceeding adventures, not to worry - notes are provided to help you sweep your party straight into the action (although if this is the sort of adventure that they like, go and grab the first two adventures for them and run the whole series).

Like the preceeding two adventures, you are provided with a series of encounters that give freedom to navigate your way to the climax via whatever route works best for you and your players. Careful preparation and planning repays itself as you will be able to respond to whatever the party chooses to do yet keep them on track to accomplish their mission.

The adventure will take the party from where they left off the previous scenario and take them via war-torn Castille and assorted university campuses to the darker corners of Vodacce... and all under the time pressure of a 30-day window before the stars are right for what their adversaries are plotting. There's also plenty of opportunity to get involved with the Explorers' Society too - giving ample potential for further adventures if you want to use this to kick-start a campaign. There is a lot of atmospheric description and opportunities for action within the encounters making this a fine finale to the adventure series... and you (and the party) even get to find out what the Erebus Cross actually is!

There are hints for changing things to personalise the adventures, and to accommodate characters with lots of experience. A comprehensive list of NPCs with plenty of background detail as well as their stat blocks is provided, ample resources to help you bring them to life. Finally there's a section on the Explorers' Society, including some 'for the eyes of the GM only' stuff that even the Society doesn't know! Perhaps you can weave it into adventures so that your party make these fascinating discoveries... There are also some artefacts to play with and rules for designing your own artefacts. Other new rules include skills and templates, especially for budding explorers.

Overall, a fun adventure that has me itching to go and round up some players... what better recommendation can I give?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Adventures: The Arrow of Heaven
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7th Sea Adventures: Scoundrel's Folly
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/22/2016 07:50:36

This is the second adventure in The Erebus Cross series, but can be played stand-alone or without need for the first one if preferred. Like the first, it takes the party around Théah, this time visiting Eisen and taking a voyage on the high seas as they complete their quest to thwart a villainous plot. The Introduction conveys the overall idea - by the time you have played all three parts of The Erebus Cross the party will have pretty much toured Théah, met some interesting people (including some of the movers and shakers of the world), saved the world from a heap of trouble and got their hands on a valuable artefact. What's not to like?

It goes on to explain the adventure structure, which is a series of events only a few of which are critical to the plot and which offer multiple paths to the desired goal. Careful study is advised, then let the party loose to do what they want and throw appropriate encounters at them as opportunity arises. It's also designed to accommodate varying levels of experience - whilst this is intended for a starting group, more experienced characters can also find enough to prove a challenge.

The adventure starts in Ussura, where the last one left off. Then events move to Eisen and on to Avalon and then to a distant island which sports thick jungles and exotic beasts, used as a hunting ground by Montaigne nobles... who, unbeknownst to them, are under threat by this adventure's villain. If you haven't played The Lady's Favour, the first adventure, not to worry. A different way to get the party involved is provided, and the action starts in Eisen directly. The encounters provided are full of atmospheric descriptions and potentially cinematic excitement. A map of the island is provided, but not one showing where it actually is... so the voyage there and back must be a bit abstract, hopefully the sea monster encounters will keep the players distracted.

The adventure ends with detailed notes on major NPCs and sufficient notes and stat blocks for everyone else that will be encountered. There is also a continuation of the material about the Explorers' Society that began in the back of the first adventure. This introduces some of the Society's major personalities, whom the characters will probably have heard of if not met, and lists their main 'Chapter Houses' which could become useful locations in your further adventures. There is also a section explaining how Society members identify themselves to one another with various code phrases... always scope for misunderstandings here!

7th Sea is a game system designed to let you swash your buckles, and this adventure is a fine example with plenty of opportunities for epic exploits, cinematic chases and more. It's one to have fun with!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Adventures: Scoundrel's Folly
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7th Sea: Game Master's Screen
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/19/2016 10:10:23

The GM Screen is the regular sort of thing, a stirring naval battle on the player side and a wealth of useful charts on the GM's side - pretty much anything you might want to refer to during play. If you have the PDF version, print them out and stick them on card to make your own screen, if you have bought this in 'dead tree', it comes printed on cardstock anyway. There's not that much to say about a screen, really. It's a good place to organise your notes behind and if you are given to secret die rolls you can hide them from the players behind it.

However, you also get an adventure with it, The Erebus Cross Part 1: The Lady's Favour. (The other two parts of the adventure are sold separately, if you enjoy this you'll likely want to get hold of them and find out all the rest of the dark secrets. It makes for a good introductory adventure in that it takes the party all over Théah in their quest to save one Montegue du Montaigne, who is in need of rescuing! It's quite an open adventure, not a set series of events, but there's enough structure to enable you to keep everything on track. There are loads of events and encounters, but only a few are absolutely necessary to the adventure (although nearly all are linking to it in some way, there isn't much in the way of random encounters) and even they are pretty flexible about just when they happen. Ecounters are graded as to how hard they are, if your party is inexperienced you might want to avoid the most difficult ones (or put in the time to tone them down), but the idea is that there is something for everyone here, however experienced they might be. Read through the entire adventure thoroughly and decide what you want to use and when... and then find that the party might have other ideas (that's players for you!), but this structure means that it's reasonably easy to accommodate whatever they decide to do.

The basic plot is simple. Montegue du Montaigne is a General who has led an army from Montaigne to attack Ussura, at the Emperor of Montaigne's request. But his wife has her suspicions about what is going on... the background explains what is going on for you, and she will provide her own version to the party when entrusting them with a message to take to him on the battlefield. Plenty of detail is provided for you to set the scene and run whichever events you select (or all of them if you want...), as well as copious notes on the main NPCs involved. There's plenty of scope for cinematic adventure from the very start, with chases and swordfights aplenty as well as opportunities to make new friends on your travels.

Finally, there's also a section about the Explorer's Society, an organisation that features large in Théan life, and indeed in this adventure if you select appropriate events. This tells of the origins of the Society, its public face and the hidden agendas that not all the members know, never mind any outsiders! It looks at what they do and how they are organised - and provides excellent resources for those parties who enjoy exploring the world in which they live. They are pretty good for intrigue, too!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea: Game Master's Screen
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The One Ring - Erebor - The Lonely Mountain
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/15/2016 07:44:32

Opening up a whole new area for exploration, this book looks at the Lonely Mountain and the kingdoms of Erebor and Dale. Back in the time of Smaug, this region was abandoned and known as the Desolation of Smaug, but since the dragon's demise there has been a resurgeance and it's well worth a visit.

We start with The Kingdom Under the Mountain, a section which describes Erebor, its denizens and the wonders that might be found there. Stronghold of the House of Durin, it is more than just a city, or a mining complex, or a fortress... there are mighty wonders here, palaces and mineral riches untold. If the dwarves will let you in to take a look, that is! There is history and background galore from the earliest times right through to the present day. There are maps (supplemented by a map pack in the PDF download) for those who wish to explore the vast complex, and who can gain admittance in the first place. The process for getting in is explained, along with some of the notable locations to visit and individuals to meet if you do get in, and ideas for things to do whilst there.

Next is Treasure of the Dwarves, with a look at some of the wonderful artefacts made by Durin's folk, fabled items crafted with skills now lost to the world. Dwarves have this bad habit of hoarding knowledge instead of passing it on, and many a craftsman has died before managing to find an apprentice he deems worthy enough to teach what he knows. Still, they remain excellent craftsmen and ancient artefacts still turn up. Based on the rules for item creation in the Rivendell supplement, there is information on how to design dwarf items that are distinctive and fascinating, as well as details of many famous examples of their work. A dwarf character with a good craft skill can choose to spend a Year's End Fellowship Phase holed up in his smithy making something fantastic and all the rules you'll need to make that happen are here.

Then comes Dale, a description of the burgeoning city of men and of the surrounding areas. Set beside the River Running almost in the shadow of the Lonely Mountain, Dale's history from earliest times until the present is recounted. The new kingdom doesn't spread far beyond the city walls yet, but every week sees new farms established and it's growing fast. Plenty of opportunity if settling down is in your plans. There's loads of evocative description to help you bring this bustling city to life... and like any city, there's plenty of intrigue to get involved in if that takes the party's fancy. Notable locations and personages, and things to do in Dale round out this section before we proceed on to The Lands About The Mountain for those who'd like to go further afield, with wildlife, locations, inhabitants and plenty of ideas for adventure.

Next there's Concerning Dragons, with probably more than you really want to know about them. History to anatomy, their role as rare and unique creatures that might be sighted once in a whole campaign if even then... here we have the rules necessary to create your own dragons and bring them to memorable life... memorable, that is, to those party members who survive the encounter! Treasures for their hoards, items that can kill them, some sample dragons, and a wonderful selection of rumours about dragons end this section.

History next with The War of Dwarves and Orcs, including notes on how this long-running war can be woven into your campaign. Older dwarves (over 150 years) likely saw combat in this war, but just about everyone will have heard of it. Finally, those who fancy playing a dwarf will find two new heroic cultures to try: the Dwarves of the Iron Hills and the Dwarves of the Grey Mountains.

This work puts a contemporary twist on places long-known from the Tolkien books, providing fascinating places to visit and adventure in, replete with ideas for Loremasters and players alike. Of particular relevant to those who play dwarves, there's a lot of material to be enjoyed and used here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Erebor - The Lonely Mountain
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Doctor Who - All the Strange, Strange Creatures Volume I
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/14/2016 07:33:12

One of the greatest pleasures of Doctor Who are all the aliens we get to meet - sadly all too many of them are hostile, or at least want to conquer or even destroy the earth. This book consists of two parts: firstly a listing of aliens that have appeared in the show (and some which haven't...) and secondly rules to enable you to construct your own aliens.

So, first up, Aliens and Creatures. There's a full twenty-seven of them. Some are, of course, very familiar - Daleks and Cybermen, for instance. Others may have featured far less frequently or even not at all. In each entry, there's an attempt to see what that particular alien race is like, rather than just presenting stat blocks and outlining new abilities. So there's background information about where they come from and when the Doctor has met them, notes on their motives and agendas to give you some idea about why they might show up and what they might be after, and then it gets down to detail. When they turn up, what will the party see? How will they behave and react? (The aliens, that is.) There are ideas for how to use each alien, what sort of adventures they'd be most suitable for and even a collection of plot hooks and adventure ideas to get you going. Each entry is illustrated by stills from the show.

In the second part of the book, Creating Your Own Aliens lets you do just that, providing elegant systems to enable you to let your imagination run wild, whether designing player-character aliens, traditional alien-as-villain aliens, or, well, anything else you fancy. It's done through loads of questions, by answering them you build up a clear picture of what that alien's like, then you can put appropriate numbers, traits and other game mechanics in place. Rather confusingly, all the pictures haven't been captioned, and some are for aliens not mentioned in the previous section (I spotted a Slitheen at one point...), although you don't then get notes on how to build them for yourself.

One thing that would have been useful would be a cross-reference showing which Doctor each alien has encountered, which would link in nicely with the series of Doctor Sourcebooks Cubicle 7 Entertainments have produced. There does seem to be a bit of bias towards aliens who have shown up since the reboot of the TV show, but there are some from earlier as well as ones like the Daleks who keep reappearing. However, overall there is a lot of good material here, and it will enable you to present a universe full of diverse aliens for your party to outwit in the course of their adventures.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - All the Strange, Strange Creatures Volume I
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From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/12/2016 13:33:35

This, the third adventure in the What Lies Beyond Reason Adventure Path, seeks to scare the living daylights out of the party, if not their players as well. The introduction starts in on this theme as the author muses about how the adventure began as a stand-alone haunted house scenario... which never got run! The reasoning behind this leads to a discussion on how to do 'scary' at your gaming table. It can be hard - the communual nature of a gaming group mitigates against the isolation of something genuinely scary, the threat of loss is not as great when you can roll up a new character and carry on, and - well, what's new? Your players will have seen it all before, even if their characters have not... or will they? No cheap thrills here, but solidly thought-out building of threat...

The adventure consists of the exploration of a long-ruined building, once the manor of a respected family. The adventure background provides the low-down of the family history right up to the present day. Aimed at 5th-level characters, there are notes on adjusting it up or down a level depending on where your party actually is levelwise. It is a location-based sandbox, the party are free to wander around as they will within (and under) the ruined manor house and its grounds. Interestingly, although information gleaned here is useful in understanding what is going on as regards the adventure path as a whole, this adventure isn't strictly speaking necessary so don't worry if the party does not pick up on everything that might be found here. However, there is real danger here too, and the ramifications of that are discussed... after all, the purpose of this adventure is to give even the most jaded party a true jolt of fear!

The adventure opens with the party actually going to the house, something that ought to happen fairly quickly, a matter of days, after the previous adventure (Ignorance is Bliss). The opening scene depends on how quickly they go there, a neat reminder that the world goes on around them. With information and rumours to gather before they go, and plenty of detailed description to go with the maps and plans (replicated in player-friendly format in the accompanying map pack), you are provided with everything you need to cope with the party wandering around the place (although thorough study before you actually run the game will repay you with a deeper understanding of the significance of all that is to be found).

This is a thought-provoking adventure providing a wealth of background about one of the major antagonists of the adventure path. Some may find it dull but it will repay perseverence, even for those who are not enamoured of traditional 'horror' adventures, with opportunities for creative thought as well as giving opportunity for creative approaches to combat. It's a very mature adventure - as in grown up, not smutty(!) - that has the potential to become a memorable part of the party's history.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
From the Ashes - Adventure 3 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/11/2016 07:53:02

In the Introduction, the author muses on 'villany' as a concept and explains the differing natures and motivations of the three main antagonists in the What Lies Beyond Reason Adventure Path, of which this is the second adventure. The Adventure Background then introduces one of them - for the GM, the party will only get to know about this one and what she's really up to later on, although they will have met her unawares... There's also material about recent events and what is going on at the moment, to set the scene for this adventure. Good intentions go badly wrong, and that's when the party is finds someone in a catatonic state... they may choose to investigate or get hired to do so.

This is a 4th-level adventure, and the previous one in the Adventure Path should have ended with the party at 3rd-level. It's assumed you've run the odd side-adventure (the Campaign Guide has suggestions) but if for any reason you have not, there are notes for running this at 3rd-level - or if they've been really busy, further notes covering an adaptation to 5th-level. This adventure is a free-form investigation with plenty of clues scattered around, and multiple routes to solving the case - a neat way of letting the party loose.

Other notes cover alignment - with lots of the antagonists not being actually 'evil' per se, just really misguided, a party relying on alignment-based spells could be at a disadvantage. Ways around this are provided, but do try to keep the 'shades of grey' approach - after all, how many villains really think that they are evil? These ones don't, they all have good motivations for what they are up to, even if the rest of us might think that they have crossed a line. The final note talks about how aware the bad guys are of the party's investigations, providing a mechanism for them to become more and more alert and on edge, potentially influencing the final confrontation - a neat idea for this type of investigative adventure.

Throughout the adventure, there are events and clues a-plenty, with a few red herrings scattered amongst the clues that will lead the party to what is going on. It's well-resourced, with lots of little details to help you make it all come to life, and options for when the party goes in the opposite direction from the one intended or expected (and of course, parties tend to do that!), troubleshooting notes that give you clear ideas of what to do to keep the investigation on track without having to grab the party by the scruff of the neck. Investigation - as in moving around the city following clues and talking to people - is the main activity in this adventure, but those who prefer to get more physical will get opportunities to fight as well, particularly in the final scene... and there is an excellent chase scene as well!

There are a few new creatures and expansive notes on the main NPCs invovled, and good plans and notes of the building in which the climactic events take place. A map folder is included in the download providing large player-friendly maps of important locations. There are some 4th-level pregenerated characters too, in case for some reason you do not have your own party (or if you've been using the ones presented in earlier adventures and want them updated to an appropriate level).

It's a fun adventure to run and one which approaches an investigation-heavy scenario elegantly.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ignorance is Bliss - Adventure 2 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
Publisher: Pyromaniac Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/10/2016 08:10:17

After an Introduction in which the author muses about the relative merits of 'sandbox' (freedom for the party to choose what they do in pursuit of their own goals) and 'railroad' (the party must follow a set path to accomplish adventure-set goals) adventures and explains that both sorts - and things inbetween - will be found in the adventure path of which this is the first adventure, we move on to a lengthy Adventure Path Introduction. Scene set, then the adventure itself which is intended to be a low-key introduction to the city of Anduria, and is a bit of an unapologetic railroad scenario. It's assumed that the party have played the introductory adventure Difficult Circumstances, but notes are provided to ease in those who have not.

The adventure itself is a series of simple (yeah, right) tasks that the party need to accomplish to fulfil a job they've been given by a merchant to retrieve and deliver some items on his behalf. It will take them all over the city and introduce them to some interesting folks. Intended for 2nd-level characters, which the party should be if they have played through Difficult Circumstances, notes are provided as to how to scale up the adventure to 3rd-level if, for example, you've run a side-adventure or two of your own before putting this one in front of the party. There are also notes on technology and on themes - both things discussed at further length in the Campaign Guide - and on the sometimes tricky question of sex - the errands include a visit to, ahem, a brothel. If that doesn't suit you and your players, advice on how to change that errand to something more innocuous is provided. Pregenerated characters and a map pack are provided to support your game.

The adventure involves a lot of travelling around what is a rather large city - eight miles across, quite massive in fantasy/mediaeval terms - and a variety of modes of transport are available. It can be time-consuming, and as written the adventure has a timetable to adhere to (although you could abandon that if you don't care for keeping track!), although plenty of notes are provided to help you keep on top of how long everything is taking. And of course there may be encounters and other delays from stopping for a pint of beer to getting arrested...

All the way through, there's lots of detail to make the scene come alive and notes on troubleshooting whenever the party deviates from the intended track. The various twists and turns in said intended track flow naturally, although forced it appears spontaneous - a neat trick to pull off. Opportunities to fight, negotiate and investigate abound, whatever your party enjoys doing will be catered for and there's never a dull moment... and, delightfully, just about everything the party does will have repercussions for good or for ill later on.

This is quite a delight, what urban adventures ought to be, taking full advantage of the setting to tell your story.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Simple Job - Adventure 1 What Lies Beyond Reason - Pathfinder
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