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Arcana Journal #59
Arcana Journal #59
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Rogue Trader The Koronus Bestiary
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/06/2012 20:24:44
FINALLY! This is the book I've been waiting for. I love Rogue Trader, but don't have the time to generate my own Xenos nor do I want to hand-wave too much in order to preserve balance. This book provides me with all the nasties and big bads I need to punish, er, challenge my players. It's 146 pages of pure sadistic delight. It's organized pretty easily. There are beasts, sentient aliens, creatures of chaos, and your very own quick generator for dangerous plant, animal, and Xenos life. As with all the books, the art is off the hook and really shows the brutality and ferocity of these foes.

You probably haven't seen a lot of the beasts in the source books so far, so I'm digging the new options. It's always fun to throw some feral creatures at your players. I like the diversity. There are great narratives about various Traders running across these, giving you plenty of idea of how to ambush unsuspecting PCs. There are a pretty broad range of just animals to formerly sentient beings and a good selection of environments you might find the things.

With the aliens, I'm glad to finally see a lot more Eldar. I don't play the tabletop game, so I don't have stats at the ready and these are some of the most dangerous Xenos you can pull out of your pocket. All the Xenos have background on their race, motivations, etc. The Orks have a good number of options (you can make those as PCs though also). Then there are a handful of the less well known species. The Tau and some of the previously described races are left out here, but I'm fine with that.

The creatures from the Warp are sure to be the biggest challenge to your players. These things corrupt by just being near them and have huge ramifications on the characters' psyches. I'd probably use these sparingly unless you are unusually cruel. The base stats may not always seem all too crazy. I'd suggest you look at the traits, which more than make up for a 70 Weapon Skill. Again, great representations of the creatures and descriptions of just how evil they really are.

If you plan on running Rogue Trader, and I plan on running it a lot more now, this is a must have. Whenever you feel like it's time to add a hurdle, pull out something nasty and see how many limbs it can remove before the PCs can take it down. I'm so happy right now.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rogue Trader The Koronus Bestiary
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Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror
Publisher: FR Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2012 19:38:47
I love a good ghost story. In this case, they aren't all ghosts, but still this is a nice compilation of short stories. Some are more traditional horror stories while others are just a neat twist ending. Overall, it's a good read and should keep you entertained.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Repairer of Reputations
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2012 19:33:45
Do you want to live out your very own version of The Repairer of Reputations? Here's your chance! This scenario puts your characters at the center of an alternate universe from the original story.

In this case, The King in Yellow has indeed warped the world. Your characters unravel the conspiracy that is afoot and hope they aren't driven insane or worse in the meantime.

I really like this supplement from the perspective of a non-fanatic of Lovecraft. I haven't read all his stuff and am not intimately familiar with all the details of a given story. Are you like me? Good news! The entire Repairer of Reputations story is included. The rest of the details are fairly standard with an overview of the plot, detailed events, and in this case a Quick Character Creation section over pre-generated characters.

I like the idea of integrating an actual story into a scenario because it feels more "real" if that's a thing. It is awesome to see how Laws weaves the fiction into the scenario and allows you to have a go at combating the horrors that be. As always, I love ToC and highly recommend any new scenario that I can get my hands on.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Repairer of Reputations
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Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Engine Publishing
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2012 19:18:11
I'm a fan of these types of supplements that allow me to pull a character out of thin air when my mind is feeling less than creative. The book has advice, obviously, for creating interesting NPCs. Maybe more useful for me is the list after list after list of NPCs to grab at a moment's notice. There are NPCs for Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and Modern with additional indexes by trait, name, and author if you want a certain person's flair.

The categories are broken down into villains, neutrals, and allies. You get enough background, personality traits, and descriptions to really run with this. A very helpful supplement in my opinion.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Masks: 1,000 Memorable NPCs for Any Roleplaying Game
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Advanced Encounters: Terrain Toolbox (4e)
Publisher: Sneak Attack Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2012 21:31:10
The gist of this supplement for D&D 4E has some nice features for designing new terrain features for your campaign. Sure, the standard core books have guidelines, but there are some handy charts here to scale damage without having to think about it, etc. It leads you through some choices to determine if the terrain is activated, moves, changes, morphs, etc. and then offers suggestions on how you might implement these features. Of course, you could just take the easy way out an use one of the pregenerated examples (of which there are 20 pages worth, even organized by type in an index).

It's a nice supplement for using some cool terrain in your games, which always makes things a bit more interesting.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Advanced Encounters: Terrain Toolbox (4e)
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Rogue Trader: Hostile Acquisitions
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2012 21:17:08
This is the supplement I've been waiting for. Everyone who I've played Rogue Trader with has skirted Imperial rule at best and obviously flown in the face of it at worst. Now, they finally have the ability to take alternate career ranks in just the type of criminal they have always wanted to be. More than that, the book describes what exactly a Rogue Trader should be expected to get away with and what would get them all but killed in the more "civil" parts of the Imperium. There are a number of adversaries for the players to contend with focused on Imperial lawkeepers, Inquisitors, and the like. Take that to the next level and you get the Nemesis path. This let's the GM create a fully fleshed out nemesis for his RT crew. It's a nice addition with some RP elements to make them feel more real. Finally, you get a ton of exotic and ridiculously valuable loot that your players can pursue. They obviously require a bit of smuggling and probably some treason to really take full advantage of, but you can't make an omelet without overthrowing a few Imperial planets.

I love the Warhammer 40K books and this finally gave me the kick in the pants to get a campaign going AND convinced my gaming group to jump on board to be flagrant space pirates. The art is insane as usual, so there's no reason not to buy this book.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rogue Trader: Hostile Acquisitions
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Ashen Stars: Dead Rock Seven
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2012 20:34:18
The perfect companion to your Ashen Star Core Rulebook, Dead Rock Seven gives the eager GM four scenarios to run that range from sexy pleasure planets to desolate asteroid mines. In each case, your lasers will need to use ingenuity, skill, and luck to navigate these dangerous worlds. Everything you would expect from Pelgrane scenarios is here, investigation backbone, clues associated with a variety of skills, ample contingencies and ways to weave the story, and pregen characters to get you off and running quickly. If your group is anything like mine, they will want to make their own characters after your first run, which is a great thing.

These scenarios are not for the faint of heart. What do you expect when the first one is set on a sex planet with a mysterious disappearance of "Johns". Needless to say, my players were both shocked and awed. All the scenarios are that risque, so don't worry. But don't let your guard down, there are horrors beyond intergalactic STDs and they aren't nearly as forgiving.

Buy this now.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ashen Stars: Dead Rock Seven
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Ashen Stars
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/07/2012 20:10:45
This is another amazing success from Pelgrane Press. The GUMSHOE engine provides the basis for the game, but it's so different from the previous games like Fear Itself or Trail of Cthulhu. The game is set in a universe where a powerful alien race was set to destroy the known races of the galaxy, who banded together to defeat their near omnipotent foe. Unfortunately, no one remembers anything about the Mohilar War as it seems there is a permanent gap in everyone's memory concerning the war, how it ended, or what happened to the Mohilar. This core mystery is at the heart of the game and serves as ample fodder for GMs to come up with universe spanning campaigns of epic proportion.

Your characters assume the role of "lasers", galactic police for hire. Many worlds have been devastated by the years of war preceding the timeline of the game and the majority of the star systems are simply trying to rebuild. Lasers essentially patrol the known universe looking for work settling disputes, solving crime, and generally trying to keep the peace. Your players have a lot of freedom in how they deal with the precarious situations you put them in. They are judge, jury, and executioner. Of course, you will have to do some serious PR work if you nuke a town to get rid of a small bodysnatching plot by some recently discovered race of brain-eating slugs.

The system is fast and furious like all GUMSHOE games. Anyone can learn and most of the skills are self-explanatory. Unlike other Pelgrane games, there is a bit of a learning curve on equipment, which is borderline absurd and quite funny at the core. The game features a number of alien races you can play as well each with their own pros and cons. There is a rich backstory for how the races have gotten along throughout the centuries. Needless to say, I had just as good a time reading the lore as I did playing the game and I LOVE playing the game.

As for the tone of the game, it teeters between almost silly and disturbingly graphic. It lures your players into a false sense of wholesomeness before smashing their heads in with a space pipe. Nothing is what it seems and the truth is always stranger than fiction. I think this is one of the best games I've played in a long time and my players agree. We are definitely going to integrate this into our gaming routine. Let the world be warned!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ashen Stars
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One Dollar Dungeon: Warlock's Wicked Warrens Map Pack
Publisher: D20 Cartographer
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2011 21:05:36
Another success from One Dollar Dungeon. This one is a bit different with the focus on an underground lair of a warlock or nefarious character. Lots of character here with runes on the floor, a nice layout, and plenty of detail. This is perfect for a final showdown map with a villain. I've had cult battles and other type situations that this would be perfect for. You could always cover up some of the runes or say they are faded to make it just an interesting side quest with non-sentient creatures. I like the atmosphere, so I find it a good option for tons of situations. Check it out.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One Dollar Dungeon: Warlock's Wicked Warrens Map Pack
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One Dollar Dungeon: Paladin's Secluded Citadel Map Pack
Publisher: D20 Cartographer
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2011 21:00:51
I dig this map. It has a nice Persian feel with some diversity to the locale. There is an external courtyard, a receiving room and interior rooms, and underground cellars. The dual levels makes the map a bit more interesting and I really enjoy the aesthetics. This is a perfect map for a noble's mansion, a monastery in the wilds, or even a small PC stronghold. Plenty of options, Maptools files, etc., so get this. It's one dollar for cripe's sake.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One Dollar Dungeon: Paladin's Secluded Citadel Map Pack
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New Gods of Mankind New God's Handbook
Publisher: Dark Skull Studios
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2011 20:55:14
This is a fun RPG that can also double as a board game. There is a TON of mythology here, so it'll take some time to get through. It's a pretty quick read though. The book describes the world (bronze age with races other than humans), Celestial Gardens (where gods live), and other planes of existence that are important to the game. Players take the role of new gods who finally accumulated enough followers to ascend to the heavens. Using their Belief, gods can perform Miracles to help their tribes. The overall goal is to have your followers conquer, convert, or otherwise neutralize other tribes to succeed.

The god creation rules are pretty flexible with players picking their primary trait that they influence like Summer or Wind. They choose a secondary trait, personality, description, heavenly kingdom, etc. Miracles are easier to perform (require less belief) if it is congruent with your primary trait.

The actual play is basically rounds of events occurring to the gods' tribes. The gods then react with Miracles or by influencing the world, other gods counter those actions if desired, and the tribes try to expand their influence. Because of the mechanics, the GM can actually play a god as well. Events can be randomly rolled on charts and the world need not be directed by one person. I like the idea of this game being a nice compromise for the routine GM who wants to play without requiring someone to run the game in their place. Good stuff.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
New Gods of Mankind New God's Handbook
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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/31/2011 20:40:04
This book is far beyond the usual one-shot adventure for Trail of Cthulhu. The book provides an entire campaign setting set in London during the standard 20's/30's Lovecraftian time period. The cool part is that you aren't necessarily an investigator of creepy paranormal activities. You are a collector of rare books, which often happen to discuss rituals, truths, and mysteries that are better left buried in the annuls of time. As you try to buy and sell these books, you are invariably pulled into terrifying situations that will test your sanity.

The book includes character suggestions and motivations, extremely detailed maps of London at the time, rules for upgrading and managing your shop, and of course story hooks for adventures. This is an amazing resource that you can read almost like a novel even if you aren't planning on running the game. If you are interested, this is for a more advanced player as the history is pretty deep. However, use what you want and roll with it if you are a novice. This is a great setting that can be used to really play into the everyman pulled into extraordinary scenarios in a Cthulhu setting. Love it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
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Townscapes: River Crossing Map
Publisher: D20 Cartographer
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2011 16:35:54
I have reviewed the One Dollar Dungeon products and find them to be spectacular. I was a little disappointed with this particular product. It has the virtual tabletop file included like the other products. The reason I went lower on this one is that I had hoped for a bit more diversity in the included panels. What you get is the river with bridge that you can see, the river without a bridge, and a few panels of land with rocks. It is useful for building relatively non-descript maps. However, I think the $1 price point would be more appropriate for this map and the One Dollar Dungeons $1.50. Just my opinion. I love the D20 Cartographer products and look forward to additional products.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Townscapes: River Crossing Map
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks for the feedback, NB Neil! Your comments are heard--I have marked the price of this particular map down to $1.00 as recommended!
War of the Dead: The Paper Dead
Publisher: Daring Entertainment
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2011 16:21:54
Wow. That's the only thing I could think to myself after I looked through this set of paper counters for War of the Dead or any zombie game you might run. These are so awesome. The counters include everything from survivors from all walks of life to zombie babies to vehicles to cover.

The art is good. It is a little cartoon-y, but not in a bad way. The sheer variety of survivors and zombies is impressive. They even include military type folks as allies or if you get really lucky and find some cool gear. The zombie are equally as diverse. The vehicles include burned out shells of cars, functioning looking vehicles, and large vehicles with spots for several player character counters. This is good for tactical situations and figuring out who gets pulled out of the side of the van and eaten. As a nice bonus, there are damage counters and cover that you can take up positions behind. I don't always use counters for Savage Worlds-based games, but this may persuade me to do it more. It's really cool. If you play zombie games and ever think you might need counters for tactical combat, buy these. They are really nice.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
War of the Dead: The Paper Dead
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Eclipse Phase
Publisher: Posthuman Studios LLC
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/22/2011 15:07:33
I'm going to do this book a SERIOUS injustice with a relatively short review. Considering the price tag of $15 (at least when this was written), it's a steal. The book is huge. It's detailed. It's well written.

The basis of the game is that people are basically just minds now or souls or whatever you want to think of them as. They are called Egos in the game. You can then inhabit Morphs that are bodies made in a tremendous number of shapes, sizes, and capabilities. So the game obviously deals with some very dense subject matter and has an encyclopedic overview of the terms, what the world is like, and how people get along in the universe. Most of the game centers around political conspiracies, horror elements, and investigation and exploration.

In one game, you may inhabit a sexy assassin body and the next a non-humanoid mech. You can be a space fighter if you want. To some degree then, character creation is what your mental capabilities amount to. Things like strength are determined more by what Morph you are in. That is cool because you can just switch out (if you have the cash) to whatever you need to get your job done.

There are a lot of mechanics, so I would recommend just taking it slow and trying to use the base rules to teach yourself and your group the game. The PDF is judiciously bookmarked with hotlinks embedded in the text that will take you to references directly. That is a HUGE help when navigating the book. No "check pg. 209" to slow you down there.

The game and game world are complex, so be ready to read through a couple of times. The production value is amazing though, so it's fun to work through. But be warned, this is about a rules heavy as you can get without it being a joke. It's not a bad thing, it's just not for everyone.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse Phase
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