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Secret of Serpent Tor
Publisher: Gethsemane Games
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 12:49:55

Secret of Serpent Tor is another Demon hunting dungeon crawl from Gethsemane Games for their “Spelldancer” adventure, but again, you could convert it to any percentile based system with not much effort.  The dungeon isn’t huge, but it is big enough.  Getting into it isn’t that easy as the snake dudes are watching for intruders approaching.

The party could very easily end this adventure incredibly rich, as the gold statue that is one of the main “hooks” for the adventure (the other being rescuing fellow imperial citizens that have been taken by the snake demons) is worth a fortune!  At first i had my doubts about the wisdom of such a massively valuable treasure, then I read the troubleshooting and “expanding the adventure” notes and realised just how easy it is to make the statue more of a curse than a blessing.  It isn’t the first Spelldancer adventure where taking something valuable can get you into all sorts of trouble down the line (remember the horse in “Trouble at the troubadours rest?) and just holding onto the statue or managing to sell it could become the centre of quite a long and very fun campaign.  Also, at least the demons in this one aren't as gross as Sulphur pits.  Snakies are quite cute, the demon maggots of Sulphur pits were ikky!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Secret of Serpent Tor
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Sulphur pits of Nathezda
Publisher: Gethsemane Games
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 12:34:28

Sulphur pits of Nathazda is an adventure for the Spelldancer RPG but could be easily modified to work with any percentile based system.  This is not one for inexperienced characters, but with the Spelldancer system you can create experience characters right from the start.  The adventure includes  some sample characters you could either use as NPCs or PCs.

Like other Gethsemane Games adventures part of the dangers the party will face are from the environment itself not just from the creatures within.  In this case the creatures are demons and ewwww, some of them are gross!  Demon maggots anyone? The adventure also answers the question of what happened to one of the missing Demon Lords of the Malmori, and in our game we actually found ourselves making an alliance with it to defeat the demon we had come to kill!  As usual there are some interesting ideas for expanding the adventure.

At first glance it looks like a fairly short dungeon crawl, and it is ( about 2 nights play perhaps?) but then in Spelldancer you don’t want to be in a dungeon too long as a few good hits will put you in a bad way, and believe me, in this adventure characters are going to get hit sooner or later!

I loved the feel of this adventure and it was just long enough for us, any longer and we wouldn’t have been able to complete it without coming out, healing up and then going back in.  your players should be prepared for the very real possibility of having a character or two killed in this adventure, especially in the final showdown.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Sulphur pits of Nathezda
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Spelldancer; Revised
Publisher: Gethsemane Games
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/23/2011 12:19:44

Spelldancer is the fantasy RPG by Gethsemane games, set in their “Elizium” fantasy setting (although you don’t need to use the setting if you have another you would rather use).

Character generation is points based and the number of points you start with depends on your age.  Old characters get more starting experience than younger ones BUT they also have more disadvantage points.  Disadvantages are handled differently to other games.  Here you don’t buy disadvantages to gain more experience points. Instead you start with one quarter your age in disadvantage points you have to buy off or else you lose some of those experience points.

There are a lot of skills to chose from, but you don’t always need to roll to check a skill when you use it.  If the circumstances are ideal, you pass just by owning the skill.  You only roll  if you are under pressure or circumstances aren't ideal

Combat is skill based, and there are a lot of special manoeuvres you can use to get advantages to your chance to hit, or the damage you do.  The better you are with a weapon skill, the more damage you are probably going to do, which I like. Damage is handled by comparing your Killing Power to your enemies Resistance Factor.  Killing Power is made up of how much you passed your skill roll with your weapon by plus any Killing Power Adjustment you have from your Strength and that the weapon itself has.  It is possible to score a hit then do no damage if your final KP was too low - this represents the minor bumps and bruises.  The system also builds results like being knocked out, having your arm broken, being stunned or knocked over and even concussed into the basic combat and doesn't seem to slow play down much at all but adds a lot to the game play.

Magic is split into types, called “Arcaniums” and each arcanium has it’s own spells that relate to an idea, like Necromancy (death magic), Vivamancy (life magic), the 4 elemental magics, Dracology 9magic relating to dragons) and so on. there is also a “minor” arcanium which you must learn before you can take the specialist or “major” arcaniums.  

The races of the game are very interesting.  they are split into Wyrm kind (several types of dragon), Beast men (that have evolved from animals), Corporeal spirits (that are a sort of minor demon that takes on a permanent physical form, Umbra spirits (demos that have to be summoned to enter the world), Undead, giants and animals.  Humans are considered beast men and get on best with other beast men races.  The standard fantasy staples like elves and dwarves are Corporeal spirits which makes them feel more like the Elves and goblins of old European mythology than the standard RPG interpretation.  It also makes them feel a lot more alien.  Sprits have a hard time understanding death - because they can’t die - they just go “home” to the umbra.  This means even the “friendly” ones are likely to kill you if you are in their way, because they don’t realise what a big deal death is to other races.  Demons are very nicely done, they are quite flexible and the GM can use the demon creation rules to create just about anything!

Magic items are also very fixable, and are built on a points system that lets you make customisable items.  Oh and the rules for mages creating familiars are nice and flexable too.  If I’m reading this right (and I think I am 0 there is no real limit to how many familiars a mage can have.  Be careful though, the bigger and more powerful an animal you select for your familiar the fewer points you will have to give it special powers.  In our game we had a mage with 2 familiars, one was a cat the other a snake, and they had very different powers and abilities.

I like this game a lot, and it is great for customizing and making it into what you want.  the setting material is really cool to, although I would have loved to have more of it.  The town of Tolar is a great place to get started, right between the civilized empire and the wild, unclaimed lands to the south.  the town “feels” alive and is bursting with ideas.  The culture of the Empire is just different enough to feel like it wasn’t lifted from the authors favourite period of history without finding it hard to get into.

Skills are percentile based, combat is deadly, magic even more so, a lot of the monsters are quite powerful 9but not impossibly so).  So if you like realistic combat and percentile based systems this is for you, if you don’t, it isn’t.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spelldancer; Revised
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Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
Publisher: Gethsemane Games
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2011 19:56:13

Okay let me just say right from the start, I am now a Gethsemane Games sqeeing fan girl.  This game is now my favourite RPG of all time, even over their fantasy game Spelldancer.  A lot of work has gone into researching the mythology of the creatures and the magical traditions in the game.

Character generation is very similar to Spelldancer (pretty much the same but with more skills available).  The older your character is when you start the more experience points they start with – you use these to buy or improve skills, spells or psychic powers.  Be careful though, ‘cos the older you are the more disadvantage points you have and you have to buy them off by either taking disadvantages or sacrificing experience. Psychic powers are new – they didn’t appear in Spelldancer but are a must for a Horror Game.  The magic system is all new too.  Gone are the Arcaniums and the flashy magic of the Fantasy game.  This magic system “feels” more like a horror games magic system should. Practitioners of magic much select a tradition that dictates what spells they can and can’t learn.  Each tradition has spells they specialise in – which are the easiest to learn and cast, “neutral” spells which the practitioners of the tradition can use but it cost more to learn them and you will not be as efficient, and excluded spells, which practitioners of that tradition can never learn.  Spells aren’t the only things that mark out the traditions either. There are other things that make them all feel different from each other.  The 3 fold law of the new way wiccans or the way Zoroastrian magi lose willpower for performing “Druj” (evil) actions with their magic.

The curses are neat too but are lifted directly from Spelldancer.  The diseases section is great, and with so many creatures that can infect you it is very important.

The monsters are a mix of classic Horror beasties and some more obscure ones, but everything is taken from real world folklore and mythology.  On the besties, the “preturnatural abilities” gives them a range of supernatural powers that humans can’t learn.

Ghosts are very well handled as well, with fettered and unfettered ghosts, be careful not to destroy a ghosts fetter till you are sure that is the right way to destroy the ghost, ‘cos they get a lot more dangerous if you accidentally unfettered one – that just lifts it’s limitations!

I love how flexible the game is and the way you can set it in any historical period – although most of the art and the examples are Victorian.

Again, the layout is noting special but this makes it far easier on the printer ink, although I could have done without the full page picture of the vampire at the end of the vampire section which will just use printer ink I didn’t need to use.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Haunts and Horrors 2nd Edition
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Trouble at the Troubadours Rest
Publisher: Gethsemane Games
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2011 19:27:14

I like this adventure, I like that it mixes horror and fantasy,  One thing I would say right at the start though is that it might be for inexperienced characters but I recon you need to be an experienced GM to run it.  Not experienced at Spelldancer, just experienced at being a GM.

I don’t want to give much away but the second part of the adventure needs a GM who can add lib a lot.  The bad guys are up to some thing but exactly how they act and what they do depends a lot on what the PCS do.  I’ve played this game twice now and it was different each time.  The first group got distracted by the red herrings which was a lot of fun, and when they did figure out what was going on it gave them a nasty fright.  The second lot got the plot right away but even that was cool ‘cos they had to figure out what to do about it.

The bad guys are realy well thought out too.  They all have their motivations and some of them are quite tragic.  One of my groups refused to hurt some of them and let them get away with what they had done when they found out why and the main bag guy was dead.

The adventure is very flexible as well – like most Gethsemane Games products. You can get to a solution in a lot of ways.  You could just turn it into a slugfest and fight it out, if that is what you like, but you can come up with better ways to deal with most of the problems, all but one anyway.

That reminds me, I’ve not talked about the first part of the adventure.  Like other GG adventures, some of the threats the party have to face are in the shape of the environment.  A flood and a dangerous storm, a rickety bridge over a river that is bursting it’s banks.  Getting to the inn is fun in itself never mind what happens when you get there!

This isn’t a long adventure, maybe 1 or 2 sessions, but when we played it they were session we will remember for a long time.

I liked the trouble shooting bit as well that gives you ideas of how to deal with players that throw you something you hadn’t expected.  It’s not an adventure that forces the Players to act one way it gives the tools to figure out what to do if they come up with something you didn’t see coming.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the “Declavion Design” series.  Even though you don’t have to play this as part of the series, now I’ve played it it makes me want to.

The details on the Twin Kingdoms are nice as well.  It makes them feel real, and the expanded info on the cult at the centre of the adventure makes you want to use them more.  A  couple of new spells are also handy and I like the section on expanding the adventure.  Some of the ides I’d not have thought of and they let you run games that have nothing to do with the cult but still feel like they are tyed in to the adventure at the Inn.  Who would have though a horse could get you in so much trouble  for example.

The layout is nothing special, and their isn’t much art, but then I don’t care about that, if I want art I buy it.  What little there is gives you the feel of what is going on and I’d rather have the 26 pages of adventure and setting than a bunch of pictures I’ll not use again.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trouble at the Troubadours Rest
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Spelldancer: The Wars of Magic: Revised
Publisher: Gethsemane Games
by Tia M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2011 19:17:44

I’m not real big on war games as a whole, I prefer RPGs, but then that’s kinda’ how I came across The Wars of Magic.  The war game is set 1000 years before the age of the beast men in the “Elizium” setting that I first came across in the Spelldancer RPG.  Now I love Spelldancer and the idea of a war game set during it’s mage-wars was enough to get me to pick this game up and I’m glad I did.

There is no reason why you have to set the game during the wars of the magi or even on Elizium come to that.  I love how flexible this game is, and that is a theme that runs through a lot of Gethsemane Games stuff – flexability.  You can play this game in any scale you like, with any miniatures you like and in any setting you like.

Serious war gamers will be happy as well, the game is designed to take account of formations, tactics and discipline (which is separated from morale).  In the games we have played we found that a force that is inferior on paper can defeat a superior force by taking advantage of formations, cohesion and tactics to get the best out of what the troops have.  A small force of human spearmen in a shield wall left a very big pile of dead demons on the ground and held until the enemies mage ran out of points to summon more, at which point the balance swang in our favour.

Units get a number of points to spend improving one of their statistics when created, and the points depend on their level of training and expertise.  An elite force can be more than a match for an almost identical equipped and sized unit of regulars, but again, make sure to use those formations and tactics to your advantage to get the very best out of them.

I love the “Battle Honours” system as well, that is basically a form of experience points system for units.  When you get enough of them you can buy an extra point to enhance your units statistics.  If you have a lot of them, and display them on a flag, you might even cause less experienced enemies to retreat just by attacking them.

Not sure about the Bravado system, or the rules for capturing your enemies colours.  They seem a bit much detail for a novice like me, but I bet experienced war game players will love them.

On to the rules for Characters (which is actually given fairly early in the rules, just after creating your units).  Love these too!  Character models can be anything from just above average members of their species to godlike heros (most godlike heroes will be wizards as well and you don’t have to make a character that is either a wizard or a warrior, they can be both – Elric here I come!).  Heros can make a difference in the game, but they are not so tough that a unit of regulars can’t bring them down if they try and their moral holds. Weight of numbers will tell in the end.  We tried a “Magnificent 7” style battle and it was a blast.  5 of the 7 heros died but they eventually won the day – just.

Layout isn’t too fancy, but then I didn’t buy the book to look good.  I can’t quite get my head around the Vivimancer magic, especially the healing spells when used on rank and file troops, but that may just be me.

As a novice I think I’d like to see more examples and maybee a sample battle.

I don’t know yet how it handles big battles, we have only done little ones of about 50 guys a side but my friend who has played more wargames than me recons it should handle much bigger battles quite well.

My main criticism is that I’m not sure how the d10 based rules and the stats tyy in with the RPG and I’d like to use it to play some battles in my RPG campaign if I can figure out how to convert the RPG characters to this war game.  Oh and this war game seems to have rules for monsters that aren’t in the spelldancer RPG, but I hear that Gethsemane Games are going to release a monsters book for Spelldancer this year..  Or maybe some of the monster races in the war game were wiped out in the wars of magic?  

Not much art either, but then that helps when printing the PDF out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spelldancer: The Wars of Magic: Revised
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