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New Paths 8: the Trickster (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/14/2016 09:54:04

In this, the eighth of the New Paths series, we meet the Trickster, a crafty scoundrel who always seems to come out on top using a mix of stealth and other dubious skills, arcane study and innate casting ability. Outwitting and outthinking their enemies is their specialty, but a sneaky well-targeted spell or a dagger in the back will do as opportunity offers itself.


There's a magnificent full-page illustration, then the text launches into all the game mechanical information required for this new base class. The Trickster's spell casting abilities are particularly interesting: although he has to choose and learn his spells in advance, he can cast any spell he's learned as many times as he likes until he's used up his daily capacity to cast spells of that level. Sneak attacks, the ability to cast spells with a range of touch sneakily, and more are in his repertoire, and he can choose to be an acrobat and can even pilfer other people's spells... and cast them!


The character sounds great fun to play, with an innate curiousity and mischievous nature which would be particularly suited to urban adventuring and games in which interaction as well as combat feature large. There's no exemplar character, though, if you want to play one you'll have to settle down and create the character from scratch.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New Paths 8: the Trickster (Pathfinder RPG)
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Night's Watch
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/12/2016 08:50:24

Whilst all the noble houses are engrossed in the Game of Thrones - and those beholden to them get caught up in it, like it or not, especially when scheming turns to open skirmishing - there is one group that remains aloof, dedicated to a higher purpose. That purpose is the defence of Westeros from those that dwell in the far north, and that group is the Night's Watch. Clad in their distinctive black, they live an almost monastic existence - only men are accepted, and they are not permitted to marry - leaving home and family to serve until death on the Wall. This book contains all you need to know to create characters who are members of the Watch, run a Night's Watch campaign or otherwise have them feature in whatever is going on in your game.


The Introduction gives an overview of the Night's Watch and its role in Westeros society, and talks about how a Night's Watch campaign might appeal - especially to those who fancy exploration and combat (including combat against supernatural powers) over intrigue and scheming. There is a timeline showing the history of the Night's Watch and the Wall they are sworn to defend - it's been standing for over 8,000 years.


Then Chapter 1: The Night's Watch looks at every aspect of the organisation. It starts by looking at why anyone might take the black (as enlisting in the Night's Watch is commonly termed) - some by choice and some perforce... it is often offered to convicted criminals as an alternative to execution. One of the few truly egalitarian organisations in Westeros, it's somewhere that you prosper by your own merits alone without reference to your birth or status. Some younger sons who feel they'll never get a chance at heading up their house take this route, but so do some smallfolk who reckon they have the capability to be knights but lack the social standing. It can also provide better prospects for a bastard son than remaining at home ever could in the fiercely dynastic society of Westeros.


Once arrived all potential recruits undergo a common training. No matter where they come from or what their background might be, they learn to use a longsword and a heavy shield. Only those who were annointed knights before taking the black are excused - and they are expected to teach their martial skills to others. Only once a recruit has passed this basic training does he swear his oath - by the deities of their choice, there is a sept and a godswood available - and become a sworn brother of the Night's Watch. Then they are assigned to one of the various branches of service. Rangers go out into the wilderness north of the Wall, exploring and patrolling. Stewards practise crafts, hunt, farm and undertake administrative duties. Builders look after the fabric of the Wall itself, and of the castles built along its length.


Next we read ideas for running a Night's Watch campaign, beginning with some plot seeds to enliven the journey north and the training period should you decide to begin with the party having just decided (or been forced) to take the black. This is followed by a considerable amount of detail about the three branches, peppered with sample characters, and a look at society amongst the Watch and the ways in which they perceive status - seniority, length of service and accomplishment. The few actual offices - Lord Commander and the Firsts of each branch - are elected for life. There's quite a bit about desertion as well, more common than you might imagine given that it carries a death sentence. Notes explain how to incorporate this aspect into a more conventional game as a deserter or the Sworn Brothers chasing him interact with the party's house. The rest of the chapter covers creating specifically Night's Watch characters from scratch, as well as some archetypes to start you off, serve as exemplars or to use if you're in a hurry. Use these in conjuction with the regular rules to create characters best suited to take the black. There are also notes about creating castles along the Wall, perhaps to serve as your party's base of operations.


Moving on to Chapter 2: The Wall and the Gift, we read about the Wall in more detail - its history, what it's like and even how to get over it, not to mention defending it and the castles dotted along its length. Chief of these is Castle Black, the Night's Watch headquarters. Plenty of detail here to make it come to life in your game. Most of the others are abandoned, but there are short notes about each which may be expanded if you decide to reactivate them. Then we learn about the Gift, land immediately south of the Wall granted to the Night's Watch to enable them to be self-supporting. This chapter also contains information about day to day life and several mini-adventures based on ranging, as the patrols of the rangers are known, and other aspects of Night's Watch life.


Chapter 3: Beyond the Wall looks at those who live north of the Wall and the terrain in which they live. Read about the Free Folk and their society, the giants who ally with them, and the King-beyond-the-Wall who leads them, as well as other clans found in the frozen wastes. The geography is explained (as much as it is known...), and all the resources needed to create Wildling characters of your own are provided. You can also create entire tribes. Notes on combat beyond the Wall and the environmental hazards are followed by a selection of scenario ideas covering life amongst the Free Folk.


Finally Chapter 4: Lords of the Long Night addresses the Others, supernatural beings thought by some to be mere legend but who - as winter approaches - are beginning to appear again. There are more scenario ideas, but a word of warning: unlike virtually everthing else in this game, this section draws more on the authors' imaginations than the setting provided by George R.R. Martins! Purists may wish to leave this aside, others may find it a logical and worthwhile expansion - up to you to decide.


Overall, this book brings the Night's Watch to life and provides loads of scope for adventure. My only complaint is that venturing this close to the Wall is too darn cold!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Watch
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A Song of Ice and Fire Chronicle Starter
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2016 09:04:32

Central both to the books of George R.R. Martin and the TV show, and hence to the game as well, are the noble houses and the never-ending dance of the Game of Thrones. Although there's a lot of support in the core rulebook for the process of creating your own houses to provide an original focus for your game, it can be quite a daunting prospect. This book is in effect a worked example of the house creation process, and can fill many roles. Perhaps you like one of these houses well enough to take it on as your own. Perhaps the Narrator will use all or some of them as the other houses with which yours interacts. There is also an expansion of the Riverlands region, where it is assumed that these houses are to be found - although only one actually holds allegiance to the Tullys who rule over them. Maybe at this time of relative peace they don't mind too much! Finally, there's a plotline to kickstart a new chronicle and enable your new house to make a start at making their mark on Westeros.


The houses and their allegiances are: Barnell (which looks to the Starks), Bartheld (Baratheon), Dulver (Lannister), Kytley (Frey), Marsten (Arryn) and Tullison (Tully). In many ways it is the houses, rather than individuals, who are the players in the Game of Thrones, and these house provide ample scope. They are, however, all quite nice... nicer than many (most?) of those found in the books, although there is a note with each one about how to run them in a darker manner if so wished. For each house there is a history, their arms and words, a stat block and information on their holdings, style and much, much more. There are detailed notes on persons of note in each house (including full character stat blocks) with plenty of background to enable you to bring them to life. Mostly they hang together well - even if Bartheld appears to think it's called Hart House half the time, Hart House being the name of their principle residence but it comes over rather confusing! - and the characters are interesting and well-developed. Plenty of scope here...


The middle section of the book is devoted to the Riverlands, presenting corners of the region suitable for annexation by a house of the group's own devising if they don't want to play any of the ones provided. There's also the delightful Market Town, determined to live free of noble influence, serving as neutral territory and home to many a scheme and plot. There are also various traditions, events and locations suitable for incorporation into whatever is going on in your game. Each listing is replete with interesting characters and other snippets poised to breathe life into proceedings, as well as many ideas for plots.


Finally there is the Iron Plot. This is an adventure that begins in the party's own house, but takes the characters far afield about the business of the house's liege lord. It can serve as an introduction to a whole series of adventures, a jumping-off point for your whole chronicle. It also provides opportunities to introduce some of the major players in Westeros, the ones well-known from the books or TV screen, into your game, rubbing shoulders - crossing swords or wits even - with members of the party. Part of the adventure involves investigating another house, and two options are provided for the target house - both ones listed in this book. but of course the party may be part of one of them. It all ends, of course, with a good brawl... but one which leaves as many questions as it answers, great scope for further adventure.


This is indeed a shining example of what you can do with this ruleset - a resource you can mine or just an exemplar for your own creations, but well worthy of being picked up by any Narrator.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Song of Ice and Fire Chronicle Starter
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The Ettin's Riddle (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/05/2016 07:20:33

This early scenario was originally released as a free download as part of the 'Original Adventures' series from Wizards of the Coast. Aimed at characters of around 2nd-level, it casts the party as unwitting agents of the deity Heironeous, whose scheme to punish a rather over-zealous (not to mention cruel) cleric has somewhat backfired.


With plenty of background material to ensure that the DM knows what is going on, the party is presented with a situation in the village of Newkeep - an ettin has destroyed the only bridge across a nearby river, and the villagers would like some help in dealing with it. A few hooks are provided in case the party doesn't accept the challenge at once, and then they can get on with attempting to track the ettin, lie in wait for its next visit (it has taken a fancy to the village cattle so comes nearly every night) or attempt to solve a cryptic riddle that's appeared on the wall. One they actually come face-to-face with the ettin, there's an interesting moral dilemma for them to solve...


It makes for a nice gentle adventure with scope for more than 'bash monster, take the loot', with a good feel of Newkeep as a place existing outside of the needs of a party of adventurers for somewhere to adventure in. There's a complete annotated map of Newkeep with the main locations and people described, and resources to help you run the party's initial arrival and subsequent investigations. Oldkeep, where the ettin has made its lair, is also mapped and described... and the ettin is not the only opposition that the party will face.


A nice adventure with a lot more to it than originally meets the eye, giving scope to develop the characters' personalities and style, a good one for a fairly new party.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Ettin's Riddle (3.0)
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Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space - Arrowdown
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/03/2016 10:30:27

Intended as an introductory scenario - and released as a free download - this is a fast-paced adventure that can be run in a single session designed to give 'screen time' to as many different character concepts as possible, yet give a true flavour of what the universe inhabited by the Doctor is really like. Incidentally, if you have the original Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space box set (the one with the Tenth Doctor played by David Tennant on the cover), this is one of the adventures that came with it, also released in one of the scenarios in the Tenth Doctor Adventure Book.


Firstly, a section called What's Going On gives the GM the lowdown on what is really happening, then we're off with a Prologue that assumes the characters have met the Doctor and already seen him in action. It also assumes that Amy Pond is there. If your group are not the Doctor's companions (or potential ones) you'll need to devise something of your own although a few guidelines are given for a UNIT party or even people who as yet have not begun to travel in time and space. Then there are lots of notes about the town of Arrowdown itself, complete with a photo of the Eleventh Doctor capering around on a rocky beach called Macross in South Wales - slightly disconcerting as I can think of at least two or three other seaside towns in South Wales that would fit Arrowdown much better - Porthcawl or Penarth, for example. But I digress...


As the party explores the town they will (hopefully) begin to notice that everything's just a little bit off. Incongruities abound. Their investigations will lead them to discover what's going on and suggest a possible solution. Several possible solutions are given, making it easy for you to run with whatever the party comes up with... or make suggestions, should they prove baffled by the whole situation. This makes for a dynamic, fluid feel to the adventure... and one that's great fun to run (I cannot answer as to what's it's like to play!).



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space - Arrowdown
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Doctor Who:Adventures in Time and Space - The Ravens of Despair
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/02/2016 07:54:53

This isn't an adventure. Instead, it introduces an ancient group called the Ravens of Despair who follow, or are drawn to, sorrow, despair and defeat wherever it takes place in the universe. Understanding their origins, nature and capabilities, you can then incorporate them into your own adventures - and to get you started, there are some ideas, some plot seeds, to build upon or draw inspiration from.


The creatures known as the Ravens of Despair were made by an even more ancient bunch called the Alturons, creatures of pure thought who needed to have some physical alter-egos or avatars to interact with the real world. Specifically, they made the Ravens because they found the universe to be a troubled place. Their intention was to make creatures that could absorb sorrow and despair... unfortunately, they botched it and although the Ravens can feed on such feelings, they intensify them for whoever was feeling them in the first place.


We read about their nature and how they function, what they look like and plenty more. There's a character sheet for them and notes on how they can be detected and perhaps even dealt with... maybe. You can also find out which races particularly dislike them, and which ones they tend to avoid (Daleks, for example, as they prefer to destroy rather than causing distress to their opponents!).


Finally there are three adventure outlines and notes for a two-part story arc than involves the Ravens. They are quite ingenious and include a mysterious retreat patronised by celebrities who want to shake off the blues or additions, a far future successor of New York where the annual Founders Day celebration is now a somber Day of Mourning, and a prison ship drifting in space full of panicking prisoners... and finally a rogue Alturon shows up, causing chaos for the Incas and others. Plenty to get to grips with here.


It's an interesting concept with a strange race that could serve as recurring opponents, or just the basis of a single adventure.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who:Adventures in Time and Space - The Ravens of Despair
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Doctor Who:Adventures in Time and Space - Medicine Man
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/01/2016 07:27:01

Set in the Old West, this adventure is fast-paced and ought to play out in one or at most two sessions. The introduction lays out all the background detail of what actually is going on (just in case the cover picture hasn't given it all away!), enabling the GM to run this as a sandbox investigation: here's a town, here are some problems, go find out what's happening and fix it! The adventure seems ideal for any Doctor and companions - or other exploring time travellers - party (apart from the photos there's no reason to set it in the Eleventh Doctor era!), but would work less well with games involving UNIT or Torchwood.


The adventure opens with the TARDIS arriving in the small township of Prosperity in the early evening, and provides plenty of descriptive material should the party wish to wander around exploring and meeting people. A good range of options are provided, with the relevant outcomes, you might need to suggest one or two to your players if they are not sure of what to do. They do provide plenty of avenues to discover firstly that there's something odd going on and then to find out what that might be and do something about it, and the nice thing is that the order in which things are done does not matter.


Another neat touch is that there are various groups all with their own plans and purposes, who are in the main getting on with them regardless - this is not a static scene awaiting the arrival of player-characters, but a dynamic situation with which they can intereact.


This should provide your group with an exciting adventure, and captures the essence of a Doctor Who adventure well!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who:Adventures in Time and Space - Medicine Man
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Doctor Who:Adventures in Time and Space - Cat's Eye
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/28/2016 08:26:20

This adventure, which is set loosely in the era of the Eleventh Doctor (at least, that's which Doctor is depicted on the cover), involves a visit to an abandoned and derelict hotel in 1980s Earth. It's suitable for just about any form of game, and suggestions are made for various groups - classic Doctor and companions, UNIT, or Torchwood - as to how they might get involved, with the delightful addition that if there's an Earth human of appropriate age in the group (extremely likely) a vulnerable youngster that they know and care about might have somehow ended up amongst the squatters who live there now.


The Introduction gives a brief overview of what is actually going on here. Next there's a description of the setting, quite atmospheric with quite a lot of the sort of detail that will help you set the scene for your players. Although abandoned there are some inhabitants, chiefly a bunch of feral cats - there are plenty of suggestions as to how to use their presence to effect - and a band of squatters who have moved in.


There's a big focus in this adventure on atmosphere, so even as the notes move on to what takes place when the party arrives there is still more commentary on things to highlight (drumming rain, darkness, the smell from the feral cats) as you tell your players what their characters are experiencing. The whole thing is very free-form: a situation has been defined and you, as Game Master, know what's going on whilst the party are free to poke around and talk to anyone they wish. Ideas for how people (and cats!) will respond to them are provided, along with the way that they will react to likely character actions. A couple of squatters are ill, and their comrades are likely to ask for assistance - this is the main way that the party will be able to begin investigating what's really going on... although there are other less obvious routes if they do not seem inclined to play ministering angels. Eventually all is revealed, as well as the way to deal with it... and put it this way, the party will probably end up herding cats! This should prove quite amusing, and may be played for a few laughs or seriously depending on your group's style.


A plan of the hotel is provided, and there's a single, brief mention of how the adventure could continue. One thing that occurs is how portable the core underpinning concept is. If for some reason a 1980s abandoned hotel on Earth doesn't appeal, you could take the concept and run it on a spacestation, in the past, on a different planet without much difficulty, it's clear which elements will need to be retained, even though you'll have to come up with your own atmosphere... the resources and descriptions provided here are excellent for making the setting atmospheric.


It's a neat little adventure suitable for a single session of play. Interaction and investigation are at the fore, with little if any combat - there again, the Doctor does not often use violence - and overall this one is fun to play. Enjoy herding cats!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who:Adventures in Time and Space - Cat's Eye
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World of Darkness: Gothic Icons
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/27/2016 08:05:16

Originally released as an April Fool's Day piece (something Onyx Path Publishing seems really fond of) in 2015, these characters draw on classic 'Victorian Gothic' literature and are beautifully constructed based on characters from various well-known works. As with previous offerings of this type, the PDF is free but you have to pay, understandibly, if you'd prefer a book.


There are six characters in all, and they all fit into the bracket of Historical Angst™ which the author claims has been trademarked! (Not sure if this is the case or a joke but I'm playing safe...) Each comes with a description/backstory, role-playing notes, an illustration and a complete character sheet - so you could use them (probably best as NPCs) if you really want to. After all, who could resist an eighty-seven year old Russian aristocrat from the early nineteenth century? As a card-sharping ghost she lingers on and it's easy to think of some kind of mischief in which she could be embroiled. She comes from a Russian short story published in 1834.


The other characters are Captain Robert Walton (a failed poet who failed as an explorer too, from Frankenstein by Mary Shelley), Princess Hermonthis (from a French short story of 1840 about a mummified Egyptian princess who got a bit annoyed when one of her feet fell off), the Black Cat (from Edger Allen Poe's short story of the same name, a luckless feline whose owner blamed it for all his shortcomings), Baron Vordenburg (a vampire hunter who reads a lot but rarely actually comes out until the very last minute when others have done all the legwork, from Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu published in 1871) and Thomas Carnacki (star of Carnacki the Ghost-Finder, a collection of short stories by William Hope Hodgson that actually came out in 1913 but he oozes Victorian Gothic).


Thoroughly-researched and realised well in game turms this is at least entertaining and who knows, perhaps you might find a use for one or more somewhere in your chronicles!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
World of Darkness: Gothic Icons
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Traveller Core Rulebook
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2016 08:40:17

So here it is in all its glory, the latest incarnation of Traveller, harking back to the original 'little black books' of 1977 but brought bang up to date with a ruleset honed by over 30 years of play, discussion and revision. It's nice to see a nod to the original even in the cover - the spaceship that's getting a hammering has Beowulf painted on the side! (Veterans will remember the radio message that graced the original ruleset, a mayday sent out by the Free Trader Beowulf pleading for assistance...)


The Introduction sets it all out. A science fiction game of the far future, with which you can run just about anything you can think of... although there's the well-established setting of the Third Imperium to visit if you don't have time or inclination to create your own universe. Or perhaps you want to bring a favourite science fiction TV show or film to life on your tabletop (or even a book, although they don't mention that for some reason). There's the usual explanation of role-playing, the part players and referee (the traditional Traveller term for a game master) play... and the intriguing reminder that Traveller contains several 'mini-games' such as world creation, trade, and even character creation that allow much of the game to run on 'autopilot', leaving referee and indeed players free to concentrate on the adventure to hand. Naturally, if the result of a die-roll in one of these mini-games doesn't suit, the referee should feel free to change it! Some campaign ideas are provided - broad sweeps, these: do you want to be engaged in trade or military exploits, would you prefer to explore uncharted swathes of space or perhaps the classic Traveller campaign that can involve a bit of all of these takes your fancy? Seeds sewn, this section rounds out with a list of other Traveller books, conventional terminology in gaming and a summary of what Tech Level is all about, with a couple of sentences illustrating each one from TL0 to TL14 (we are at TL7/TL8 if you're curious).


We then begin with Chapter 1: Traveller Creation in which we learn how to generate characters. Holding true to the original (in both senses of the word) Traveller concept in which the process begins with an 18-year-old ready to start his career - no doubt full of ideas about what he will accomplish - and then follows him through it acquiring both skills and a backstory to end with the fully-developed character ready for play. The whole process is fascinating of itself and from the initial inception of this game, many people (myself included!) have amused themselves generating characters without any real intention of using them in an actual game. The interesting thing about this process is that characters come out very realistic - the plans of that eager 18-year-old may or may not have worked out quite like he intended, just as happens in real life.


First of all you roll your character's characteristics, six values that describe your initial physical and mental capabilities, and then a little background based on which sort of planet he grew up which gives a few skills to start with. Then you start building a career in 4-year blocks with each one giving skills, other benefits (money or items) and events. You might choose (or be obliged) to have him change careers once or twice, he might be injured, he might even end up serving time in prison... all this before you decide to begin adventuring. There are always trade-offs: a military career gives you combat skills but if you put yourself in harm's way, you might get harmed, and so on. It's recommended that you generate a party together, taking opportunities to find links as you build your characters' pasts rather than setting out as a handful of complete strangers who inexplicably throw their lot in together and head out to see the universe. It's all human-centric - if you want to play an alien you'll have to wait for the appropriate supplement!


Chapter 2: Skills and Tasks looks at how you use those skills you've just determined that your character has. It describes the task resolution system, which is still based on the classic 'roll 2 dice against a Referee-set difficulty' but the use of modifiers other than those based on the character's own capabilities has been replaced by the use of extra 'boon' or 'bane' dice. These come into play when conditions are beneficial or adverse to the attempt being made. A third die is rolled. If conditions are favourable, the player discards the lowest roll and uses the other two dice to resolve the task as normal. If things are against him, he discards the highest die roll before resolving the task. Neat, and a lot easier than having to determine just how beneficial or otherwise the circumstances might be! The idea is that task difficulties and applicable modifiers ought to be fairly standard for any given task, all you need to decide is if the circumstances under which you are trying to accomplish it warrant a boon or a bane die to be added to your roll.


Next, Chapter 3 explores Combat in great detail. This is also based on the task resolution system, with specific refinements and options appropriate to fighting rather than any other activtiy. Combat is still deadly, and relatively speedy. Characters use their skill in the weapon they are using, and wield them in initiative-order sequence in combat rounds. The system has been streamlined and integrated with personal combat, vehicle combat and starship combat all working the same way. Brawls are not the only dangers to be faced in the far-future, however, so Chapter 4: Encounters and Dangers provides loads of hazards and the game mechanics necessary to deal with them. Environmental dangers abound... but fortunately there is also a section on healing. Animals (which may or may not be hostile) are also covered here with a broad outline of a system to create animals and encounters with them. Several examples are given - and it can be great fun thinking up exotic critters for the worlds the party visits in its travels. Animals, of course, are not the only beings they will encounter, so there is also a section about NPCs which includes quick generation of them and the sort of encounters that may be had... there's even a rudimentary patron encounter system here for generating really fast adventure seeds on the fly.


Next, Chapter 5: Equipment provides a vast array of items that the prudent Traveller ought to think about taking along with him. It starts, however, with a discussion of money in the far future, standards of living, encumberance and such like details, before presenting 'The Core Collection' - an illustrated catalogue of everything from weapons and armour to augments (bodily modifications), medical equipment, and survival gear. It's good-looking and realistic - some parts read like advertisements! - as well as providing the game mechanical information that you need.


The next chapter covers Vehicles - both the types of vehicle that you can have (starting fairly generic but with a very customisable design system) and how to conduct combat and chases using them. Oh, and how to mend the damage caused afterwards too! This chapter is about ground, sea and air vehicles of all sorts, spacecraft get two separate chapters next, one covering operations (everything from running costs and fuel to travel times and repairs and shipboard security) and the other devoted to space combat. This is handled more boardgame style, particularly for ship-to-ship combat, and also looks at boarding actions.


Now we know what to do with them, Chapter 9: Common Spacecraft presents an array of vessels ready for use. Many of them will be familiar to long-time Traveller players, but the presentation is spectactular, with ship statistics appear in a neat panel that gives you all you need to know, whilst deckplans have gone isometric. This gives a nice impression of what it would actually be like to wander around the ship in question and matches up well with the external views. They won't work so well as old-style deckplans for people who like to run combat aboard like a miniatures skirmish though. This has been addressed in the PDF version by supply a separate file of 2D deckplans for at least some of the ships listed. There's a good range of standard craft here from traders and scouts to liners and yachts.


Tucked away next is Chapter 10: Psionics. Not everyone likes to use them, so they are kept separate from the rest of character creation - you'll need to incorporate material from here if you do want to use psionics in your game, although some of the life events give opportunities to discover if a character is psionic or to get training. In the Third Imperium, psionics are frowned upon, indeed mostly illegal... but your universe may be completely different. This chapter gives you all you need to bring them in if you so wish.


Next comes another specialist area: Trade. Many Traveller games include trading - even if it's merely a means to fund your party's travel - and here are all the rules necessary to make it work, with a delightful layered approach that enables you to abstract it to a few die rolls or make it a prominent feature in your game depending on what you prefer.


Finally, there's a chapter on universe and world creation and an overview of the Sindal Subsector, which will be the 'home' of this edition of Traveller. World creation in itself can be as absorbing as character generation, and you can get very detailed if that's your delight. The Sindal Subsector includes several well-developed worlds, so there's somewhere to visit straight away.


Overall, this is a worthy successor to the books that have gone before, beautifully presented and with rules honed by the 30-odd years the core game mechanic has been around, updated and refined to suit contemporary styles yet with the same simple charm of the original little black books it all begin with!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Traveller Core Rulebook
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World of Darkness Overly Specific Condition Cards
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/25/2016 06:58:59

Originally released as a spoof product to 'celebrate' April Fool's Day 2014, this collection of 14 Condition cards proved to be popular enough to leave available. It's free to download the PDF so easy to check out, and even if you decide that you want actual cards you only need to pay a couple of dollars for them.


As you can imagine, most are pretty silly. But read them... they actually work. Perhaps your character has fallen ill/been knocked out or something - or you cannot make it to the game - apply the 'Extended Hiatus' Condition, and if you're there you can play a temporary character but any Beats you earn go to your regular character instead. If you are absent, tag another character: on your return your character gets the same number of Beats as the other character earned during your absence. Neat, huh?


There's a lot of a 'I didn't know I needed that' feel about them, things you might never have considered but once you see it there all neatly laid out (and you have stopped laughing) you start to see how you might be able to make use of them in your game. Others are less useful but could be used to effect - take 'Broke a Mirror on Friday the 13th' for example. Use this on a character who really screws up one thing. Under this Condition, the Storyteller can introduce one really scary thing from a past World of Darkness book to terrorise your character. The drawback for the Storyteller is, she has to convert its rules to be compliant with the God-Machine Chronicle rules up-date. Have a brawl or otherwise chase it off, resolve the Condition and get on with your life (or unlife if applicable).


Or perhaps you'd like the persistent Condition 'Monster Shares Your Hobby' - whenever you go to an event or practise your hobby in public, that darn monster turns up doing the same thing there as well. At least you'll know where to find him... but you can only resolve it by one of you dropping that particular pastime. And when you are feeling swamped, take the 'Extensive Collection of Conditions' Condition - replacing four other Conditions with it. Then you get to change a Virtue or a Vice in a sort of mid-life crisis.


Not as silly as you might expect, these are things that will make you go 'Hmmm'



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World of Darkness Overly Specific Condition Cards
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World of Darkness: God-Machine Rules Update
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2016 08:27:30

This is the 'crunchy' appendix 'World of Darkness Rules Revisions' from The God-Machine Chronicle, released as a free download, and very useful it is too. Perhaps you are happy with your own chronicles and don't want to buy the full book, but even if you are using The God-Machine Chronicle most of it is 'Storyteller eyes only' whilst this material is useful to players - so send them to download this (as my Storyteller did a year ago) and they can have access to all the new rules mechanics without the temptation to read bits they ought not to see!


Since the New World of Darkness Core Rulebook was published in 2004, a huge number of books have come out to support the line, many of which have contained new rule mechanics to support whatever is presented in that book. Many of them, such as spirits (originally in Werewolf: The Forsaken), shards (Mirror), tiers (Hunter: The Vigil) and other mechanics have spread to other games in the line, becoming a general part of the New World of Darkness even though the core ruleset has remained the same. The material in this book is intended to draw all these strands together and present a new definition of the core rules, to be used throughout the line for future materials.


So, what's here? First of all, we look at Character Creation and Advancement. Start with the rules in the core rulebook, but apply these modifications and additions. New bits include Aspirations, where you set short- and long-term goals for your character and help develop his personality (and give the Storyteller hints as to opportunities you might like to have in future plots). There's an update to the Virtue and Vice rules, freeing you up from a set list and providing guidance on creating personalised ones instead. Their use has also been modified so that fulfilling a Virtue gives a full refresh to Willpower because your character feels so darn good about it, whilst fulfilling a Vice just restores a single point as he asserts his inner nature. There are examples to help (or use) of course. This section also introduces the concept of a Breaking Point and talks about experience.


Next comes a section on Merits, which replaces the Merits section of the core rules entirely. It includes most of the Merits from the core rulebook and those introduced in subsequent publications, and there's plenty of advice on how to use them in play.


This is followed by Conditions. These add an additional layer of consequence and reward to certain actions, but are based on circumstances rather than something you choose for yourself. They are temporary, being resolved by the effect that causes the Condition or the terms of the Condition itself (and when you resolve one you get a Beat towards your experience total). Some, however, are persistent - irrovocably linked to a character - and there's a subset called Tilts which are used in combat.


Then we meet Integrity. This replaces Morality as a guage of how a character's behaviour affects their psyche. There's a lengthy explanation of why Morality needed replacing due to the inconsistencies and oddities it produced. When you do something which hits a Breaking Point (as determined earlier), this may affect your Integrity.


Other things covered include Soul Loss (something to be avoided), Extended Actions (replacing the core rulebook mechanics for determining them) and Social Manoeuvering (also replacing the original rules for Social actions). This last is particularly comprehensive, but care needs to be taken that die-rolling doesn't replace role-playing. Used well, it will enhance it.


The next part of the book is given over to Combat and other ways of doing harm to characters (environmental dangers, illness, poisons, etc.). It makes combat even deadlier, something to be avoided where possible but very effective when you do engage in it. One interesting point is Intent: what does each participant actually want to get out of the fight, what are they fighting for? Defining your objective goes a long way to focussing the combat and provides a way of determining when an opponent will give up - some things just aren't worth dying for, even if someone thinks they are worth killing for. It makes combat more meaningful and integral to the plot rather than there just because, well, if there aren't a few brawls it's not a role-playing game.


Then come Ephemeral Beings: Ghosts, Spirits, and Angels. This provides a unified system of rules for all manner of ghosts (and can also be applied to God-Machine angels). Manifestations, possession and more are covered here, with effective use of Conditions to moderate what is going on when some spook comes a-calling. Neat. Finally, there's a comprehensive selection of Equipment of all kinds, find the right tool for the job here.


This part of The God-Machine Chronicles was written as Onyx Path Publishing was struggling to get permission to produce a second edition of the New World of Darkness Core Rulebook at the time. It's an excellent revision based on years of development and play, and well worth considering - and necessary if you want to use the Second Editions of the various game lines, as these rules are assumed to be in force. And it's free!



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World of Darkness: God-Machine Rules Update
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World of Darkness: The God-Machine Chronicle
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2016 09:08:15

Opening with some very strange e-mail correspondence (concerning the sort of crazy offers that most of us just delete without thought), The God-Machine Chronicle presents some of Onyx Path Publishing's radical ideas for the New World of Darkness. One thing they'd recognised was that many gamers wanted a little more guidance and support in cronicle creation, so there's the framework for a quite mind-blowing one... but there's more. They also had ideas for how the rules could be revised, updated and improved, and that's here as well. Originally, they had proposed a Second Edition to the core rulebook, but that had been rejected by the then owners of White Wolf, so they chose this way to present their game mechanics ideas. (The material has now been drawn together in their Chronicles of Darkness book, released after White Wolf changed hands, but that's another story... and another review!).


The Introduction lays out the chronicle framework, one that is almost too big to grasp. The concept is the stuff conspiracy theories are made of, a vast God-Machine most people are not even aware of, one that cannot be communicated with nor appeased or influenced, one that treats individual people as tools to be used or tossed aside, viewing them in the light of their usefulness... or potential to gum up the works. Supernatural beings are more likely to be aware of it, but are no more able to understand it than anyone else. It's a cosmic power and people have as much change of understanding it as a mouse running around some vast clockwork mechanism... one misstep and they risk being crushed by machinery that plain isn't interested that they are there. The overall feeling you are aiming at is of very small fish in an enormous fish tank. Things that the party do, or encounter, may in some way be connected with the God-Machine... and if they do, best beware! It's all about strange events, almost X-Files in flavour, things that it might be safer to ignore, pass by on the other side - but where's the fun in that? There are loads of ideas here to get your creative juices flowing.


Chapter 1: Building the God-Machine Chronicle provides the Storyteller with advice on how to go about setting up a chronicle based on these concepts. It starts off by talking about 'tiers' - the scope, the stage on which your story will be set. It may be local, regional, global or cosmic in scale, and this will dictate the places in which it happens and the magnitude of the consequences that result from events. Then there are sections on the length of adventures (or even the whole chronicle), how many characters will be best and even the 'rating' - think film classification - that your chronicle should have. It may be a game about personal horror, but it is the characters that should experience it, rather than their players. Talk with your group, consider who they are and how much detail is appropriate when, for example, describing a corpse. The discussion then moves on to look at the sort of stories you can tell and - critically - how you introduce them to your players. It's likely that realisation that the God-Machine is involved (indeed, that there is a God-Machine at all) will be slow in coming. There's advice on character creation (including building extensive backgrounds) and setting, then introduces the concept of Chronicle Tracks. Based on a common theme, a Track presents a series of adventures and the examples given make use of a sequence of 'Tales' which are provided in the next chapter, strung together over what could be years of play as the underlying truth unfolds. Example locations and NPCs to populate them round off the chapter.


In Chapter 2: Tales of the God-Machine, we find some 20 scenarios involving the God-Machine in some way or another. They can be run as one-offs, strung together using the Tracks suggestions in the previous chapter, or used in some other way that you have devised. Each one is introduced as if it is where you began your game (the Tracks provide transitions from one to another to aid in stringing them together, or you may prefer a more episodic game). Every one is the skeleton of good long-running adventure in its own right, or could be run more succinctly if that suits your needs. There is enough here for an inventive Storyteller to pick up and more or less run with it, whilst those not so happy running games on the fly might want to put in some preparation first. They are fascinating, compelling, fair make you want to rush out and gather up some players...


Next, Chapter 3: The Cogs in the Machine presents a collection of detailed NPCs for the Storyteller to use. Each is provided with a comprehensive backstory as well as a full stat block. Some are linked to the previous chapter's tales, others have suggestions as to where they might be best used... all, of course, may be slotted in wherever you feel they fit best. This chapter also presents some 'angels' - the spiritual servants of the God-Machine - again linked to specific tales but also crying out to be used in stories of your own imagining.


Finally, there's an appendiz entitled World of Darkness Rules Revisions. These are updates to the rules that can be used independent of The God-Machine Chronicle, and which are assumed in all future volumes published by Onyx Path. Note that if you are not interested in the storyline material in this book, there is a free God-Machine Rules Update download that contains all the new rules material, so that you do not need to buy this book unless you want all of it. Considerate. Starting with character creation, there are rules to devise aspirations, changes to vices and virtues, the concept of integrity and breaking points - the one thing that really makes your character freak and question what he's doing, and more. There are new merits that you can take, sample cults and gangs to join (or avoid), and the real biggie - Conditions. These are about consequences and rewards, and are based on what actually takes place in the game, remaining operational until resolution criteria are met. There are associated Tilts, shorter-lasting equivalents that take effect during combat as well. Discussions of extended actions and social manoeuvering follow, and revisions/extensions to the combat system. There are other hazards and sources of harm to contend with as well. And spirits. Don't forget them. This section ends with new equipment and artefacts... many of which spawn whole story ideas as you read about them. It's not a whole new game - you still need the core rulebook - but it certainly streamlines and hones the original game mechanics to a whole new level.


The concepts here are quite dizzying, overwhelming. The potential to create epic memorable tales with your group is clear. There are years of fun to be had. If you like the New World of Darkness, this is well worth a look.



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World of Darkness: The God-Machine Chronicle
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Doctor Who - The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2016 07:54:43

Charting the adventures and background to the Tenth Doctor (played by David Tennant), this book provides loads of resources and ideas for anyone wanting to run their game in this era of the show's history. It also includes material on Torchwood which - as it did on TV - could prove an interesting 'spin off' if you do not want to run a Doctor-based campaign.


Chapter 1: The Children of Time discusses a very mercurial and almost manic Doctor, filled with a sense of justice and pride and, still, remorse for the Time War although he's getting over that a bit. There's a character sheet for him, and also copious details and character sheets for his companions and some important allies - Rose Tyler (a carry-over from the last regeneration), Mickey Smith (Rose's boyfriend and rather neglected), Martha Jones (a doctor of the medical variety and very determined with it), Captain Jack Harkness, Donna Noble (who brought some of the actor's other abrasive comic characteristics to this role), Sarah Jane Smith (a true blast from the past, who was a companion to the Third and Fourth Doctors before being reunited with this regeneration), Wilfrid Mott (Donna's grandfather), Astrid Peth (a companion who might have been but never was), Sally Sparrow ... and many more. This Doctor certainly had a lot of friends, even if many only participated in one or two adventures with him. There's also a wealth of detail about the Ood, a gentle and peaceful alien race, and of course a TARDIS update.


Next, Chapter 2: Playing in the Doctor's Era gets down to actually running your game in the Tenth Doctor's time. Key to this is breakneck, almost frantic, speed. There's also change - the Doctor has an indelible effect on everyone who associates with him, however briefly. There's advice on creating and running story arcs and much, much more. Alien and gadget traits round off the chapter.


Then, Chapter 3: Torchwood explores this fascinating organisation, dedicated to protecting the British Empire from alien influences since 1879. It's a ready-made setting for alternative adventures, and there are plenty of ideas here (who knows, maybe there will be a complete Torchwood supplement one day!). You can find out how to create a Torchwood operative, read the organisation's history and contemplate a handful of adventure ideas. There are also two character sheets, for two of the individuals from the spin-off Torchwood TV series (Gwen Cooper and Ianto Jones) although neither are discussed in the text and even their Torchwood base (the one in Cardiff) only gets a passing mention.


Chapter 4: The Doctor's Enemies gives details of Cybermen, Daleks, the Master and... oddly enough... the Time Lords themselves, who end up in opposition to the Doctor. Plenty of detail, background material and character sheets enable you to run any of them with confidence.


The final chapter contains all 44 of the Tenth Doctor's adventures. Each comes with a synopsis of the adventure, notes on running it (including ideas for taking that plotline and running it in a different Doctor's era), follow up adventures and material about any monsters, NPCs or gadgets that have not already been discussed earlier in the book. All fertile ground for the imagination, however you choose to use it!



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Doctor Who - The Ninth Doctor Sourcebook
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/18/2016 10:55:35

The Ninth Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston) was particularly exciting to old hands and new, as this was the beginning of the 'reboot' of the show in 2005. This new regeneration was a ruthless, edgy fellow, forged by his experiences in the Great Time War and believing himself to be the last Time Lord in existence. Emotionally-scarred, he mellowed over time due mostly to his interactions with his companion Rose, a London shop assistant. Eventually he realised that, whatever he might have had to do, he was a good guy, a force for good in the universe once more.


Chapter 1: The Ninth Doctor and Companions looks at both the Doctor and those who travelled with him, starting of course with a very psychological analysis of the Doctor himself, complete with character sheet. He started alone, but soon met up with Rose Tyler, and her effect on him is charted here. There's also Adam Mitchell, who last but for one adventure, and Captain Jack Harkness - not a companion, more of a kindred spirit. Rose's boyfriend, Mikey Smith, and her mother Jackie also feature here. Each gets a description, backstory and character sheet. Finally there are some notes on the current TARDIS, markedly different in appearance - at least inside - than previous ones, even if it is still a battered police call box on the outside.


Next, Chapter 2: Playing in the Ninth Doctor's Era provides a lot of information to support running adventures in this time, if not with these characters as well. Earth has gone the better part of 15 years without seeing much of the Doctor - things were quite different for him and Earth was unaccustomed to him as well! The universe as a whole, meanwhile, is still reeling from the Great Time War whose ripples affect memory and what actually happened, which make various discrepancies arise. Have fun with those! A lot of the discussion assumes that you will be using the adventures discussed later in your own game, but even if you are not, there's plenty of use here.


The remainder of the book presents the adventures the Ninth Doctor had, thirteen of them (including a couple of double episodes). This set of adventures is the first of the Doctor's adventures to have a distinct series arc, called Bad Wolf, over and above recurring individuals, situations or even villains. In each case, there's an adventure synopsis, notes on running the adventure as is, details of notable enemies and allies (and tech), and ideas for adventures spawned by whatever was going on. Plenty to get your teeth into here, however you intend to use this material. Wider concepts are discussed as well, so it is well worth reading through the lot at least once, whatever your intended use. Definitely worth adding to your bookshelf!



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