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Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/21/2014 20:53:31
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=45394.

In this supplement for the Pathfinder RPG, there is a little village named Fulhurst Moors. Yes, staying true to its name, this village is located in the always creepy, and always very dangerous moors. Moors; you know those British versions of swamps only colder and more dreary. The inhabitants of this almost loathsome village spend most of their time cutting peat from bogs for fuel or for housing materials and tending their rugged and shaggy sheep on the moor. When the sun goes down they hide in their homes or gather inside the Bell and Whistles, the town’s one tavern. While trapped in their nocturnal prisons they exchange tales about the horrible fates that await those people idiotic enough to venture into the moors at night. But these tales are not limited to those that go out at night; there are tales of people who ventured too far away from the village during the day and were caught in storms or fog and never seen again.

Fulhurst Moors is full of people with dark and murky secrets, like the bogs that surround them. You have a priest who is slowly going insane with his inability to tend to his flock. The long time mayor and the constable are stymied by the spate of recent disappearances and the villagers need to drown themselves in the bottle to escape from their fragile existence. All of these fears are founded as there are ancient evils that haunt the misty depths just beyond the village and those evils have struck a bargain with someone inside the village. The threat that once loomed in the dark boundaries just outside of the village has just crossed the line.

Raging Swan Press has made a living of introducing time saving plug and play material to gamers. The Village Backdrops are solid products that with minor tweaking could be great for most RPG systems. The black cover with white writing, might draw tons of people towards the product, but it works and this form is well known to people who use Raging Swan Press products. The layout inside is typical two column that most companies have adopted. This is only a 6-page product; several of the pages lose space with art; some of it is worth the loss of crunch while others are not. The half page lost on page 6 should have been replaced with a regional map rather than the questionable illustration that it contained. The drawing wasn’t bad per-say, but it wasn’t good enough to take up half a page in a 6-page product.

Villages are living places and to try and capture the look and feel of one in such a small product is not easy. This village backdrop did a pretty good job of capturing the feel of Fulhurst Moor, the village and some of the major players inside of it. The village map on page 3 is a simple black and white overhead view of the village; it isn’t just a line and block map it is actually hand drawn and has a very realistic feel to it. I would have enjoyed seeing hand drawn numbers next to the important buildings, rather than the typed ones to maintain that authentic feel, but that is minor. MY review copy was electronic and I would love to have access to a downloadable version of the village map without numbers that I could pass onto my players. It would be easy to include an access code on the product that would allow a player to download things like this. I know that Raging Swan Press is a small company, but that doesn’t mean they need to think like one.

The first few pages of this product are the one-over-the-world of Fulhurst Moors. This section includes Demographics, Notable folk with very basic stats, Notable locations, an overview of the villagers, village lore and Whispers and Rumors. This one –over-the-world is full of good information and was sodden with good ideas for further adventures in Fulhurst. I would have enjoyed seeing a few more rumors, but the KISS method really does help the GM shave off preparation time.

Next comes a very detailed description of the Notable Locations in town including an expanded Stat block for Kelurn Tinddar, the local Wizard. There are only 8 notable locations, but their descriptions are ample enough to feel alive.

The final page of text deals with life in Fulhurst Moors – included on this page is an events chart. I would love for there to be more events, but for the size of the product, 6 wasn’t bad. This is the page that is plagued with a wasted half page; I would have liked to see a slightly expanded map of the surrounding Moors rather than the picture that was chosen to take up this valuable space. As a GM having knowledge just a bit outside of the village would be really helpful.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Village Backdrop: Fulhurst Moors
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Eclipse Phase
Publisher: Posthuman Studios LLC
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/02/2014 21:12:53
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=45290.

Eclipse Phase, the gaming system and universe developed by PostHuman Studios is, essentially, “Transhumanism, the roleplaying game.” For those who are not familiar, transhumanism is the ideology that humans will soon use technology to evolve and become something more than what we currently are. Eclipse Phase has this in spades. It presents a world where your body is replaceable, skills can be purchased as software and death is regularly little more than an inconvenience. The result is something very different than your usual roleplaying experience: you can be an octopus uplifted to human-level intelligence in a robot body as part of an art exhibit on Mars, or you can be a former human engaged in a heady philosophical debate with a digitized version of yourself and be losing.

There has been an incredible level of detail, work, and vision put into the game system; which can be both a great opportunity and a heavy burden on gameplay. The sheer volume of detail and options makes it very easy for players and GM alike to be swamped. In an early play through of the game with my gaming group, players routinely found that they were unaware as to all the options that they had, resulting in gameplay screeching to a halt as someone reached for the book. Paying attention to all the moving parts, however, is extremely rewarding. The depth can be one of the most amazing parts of the game. In my experience, deciding which aspects of the game to set aside for your play sessions is rewarding.

The system works extremely well. It’s a d100 based system with some tweaks to it, like the capacity for players to critically succeed or critically fail. It also addresses one of the ongoing problems that I had experienced with Call of Cthulhu using the d100 system, namely how to determine who has succeeded in actions that are opposed. Eclipse Phase resolves this through a simple and easy to understand mechanic that keeps the speed of play going. There are also some interesting mechanics, in particular one called Moxie which allows players to either re-roll a dice, or switch the 10’s and 1’s digits on their d100, to assist players in ensuring that they have agency.

Ultimately, the system and the background materials present a wide swath of content and a flexible system that can serve whatever your gaming group wants; whether it is a space opera, exploring the universe in a Stargate-esque gatecrashing scenario, or even something relatively mundane like spying for hypercorporations in the future, Eclipse Phase has the mechanics and the tools for you to use. Where the game really shines, however, is wedding the mechanics and the mythos that is provided within the books. The Eclipse Phase canon blends Lovecraftian-esque mythos in the form of things that cannot be understood by mere humans with advanced, singularity level artificial intelligence. When memories can be hacked or altered, or weeks of your life can disappear with a computer glitch, Eclipse Phase shines. It also shines when it is handled in a mature manner, but it can definitely be used in any manner of different scenarios. Tackling major philosophical and existential horrors is where this game excels. To get a better idea of how this can be handled, I highly recommend picking up one of the free scenarios that have been posted online to see the cosmic horror that Eclipse Phase can realize.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Eclipse Phase
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Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/01/2014 20:37:46
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=45236.

Prepare Quicker, Prepare Better. This is the mantra for Raging Swan Press, and for a product like Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House, it rings true. Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House is exactly what you think it should be and a bit more. This 12 page product is actually an amalgamation of several other types of Raging Swan products. It is broken down into a description of the haunted house as an alternate dungeon, haunted house dressings, the denizens that inhabit haunted houses, some of the traps and hazards one might encounter in a haunted house and adventure hooks for haunted houses. That is a lot of crunch for $2.45 USD.

The cover is really basic, black with white writing, the font is crisp and easy to read and the Raging Swan emblem right above the Pathfinder emblem lets you know what system it was designed for. Even with the Pathfinder moniker, this product will work for most systems with very few adjustments. There are a few black and white illustrations in the corners of some of the pages with varying levels of effectiveness. This setup allows a GM to prepare quicker and prepare better. Anyone who runs games knows that quicker and better are a win/win for everyone involved in a game. Creighton Broadhurst is savvy. He knows how to frame a product like this and in the first part of this product does not shy away from addressing some of the difficulties that a haunted house setting presents for the Game Master. After the introduction, the haunted house as an alternate dungeon is broken down into Defining the Dungeon, Running the Dungeon and sacking the dungeon. Each of these sections contains at least five paragraphs that elaborate on those concepts. This provides a svelte outline that mentally gets the GM warmed up. After going through this section I had no less than 10 great ideas for the next haunted house I run.

The dressing section is the standard D100 listing that Raging Swan has done so well for so long. This section transcends the boundaries of just being a D100 random loot list by describing how and where some of these dressings might appear in said haunted house. Some of the D100 offerings were meh, some of them were really solid and a few freaked me out. I know the meh needs to be there, but I could always do with more entries that freaked me out. The great thing is that above using the dressing chart as random room filler, there are some seeds for some great adventure hooks.

The Denizens section contained exactly what I expected it to; there was a delightfully creepy picture on page 6 that really helped set the mood. As expected, the Denizens included the old standbys like shadows, ghosts, poltergeists and vampires. Rather than including the stats for these types of creature, a challenge rating and a small write up are included in the text. From a quicker preparation standpoint I would have loved some quick stat blocks, but there are really so many types of these nasties that I can see why they didn’t go there.

The traps and hazards section follows the Denizens section, but has the added bonus of including some new haunts. The new haunts are a short stat entry but they have enough info for a GM to quickly add them into their haunted house, creating more of a one stop shop feel. These new haunts include Anguish, Dancing Décor and Slamming Door. The names alone ooze with insidious ways to challenge players.

The last section covers Adventure Hooks but actually the book is full of them, these just happen to be spelled out in plain sight and have a slightly longer description. Most of these hooks are based on the history of the haunted location, which is normally why a location ends up haunted. The three hooks given here are interesting, but not ground breaking. Any one of them would be a great foundation to build your haunted house upon.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House
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Publisher Reply:
Thanks very much for the review. I\'m delighted you found Alternate Dungeons: Haunted House so handy!
Outbreak: Deep Space
Publisher: Hunters Books
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/19/2014 20:35:38
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=45134.

Most tabletop role-playing games can be classified in two different ways: a setting designed to fit with a set of mechanics or a set of mechanics designed to fit a setting. Yes there is some gray area between those two, but generally games fall into one of those two classifications. Outbreak: Deep Space is by far a game where the mechanics were designed around the setting.

Outbreak: Deep Space is a military sci-fi survival horror game. It’s kind of a mouthful, but it’s quite important to understand each one of those aspects, although not necessarily in that order. For starters, the setting and system are science fiction; seemingly far into the future. This means you get all that cool sci-fi equipment: armor, weapons, and gadgets. Second, it’s military; this means the game revolves around a lot of action without the drama, intrigue, and politics like space opera. Third, it’s horror; there are no shortage of scaring things to deal with on a regular basis. Finally, it’s survival horror; the goal is to survive because the horrors you’re facing are so bad that you may not make it to the end.

Understanding those four concepts can be easy for the setting, but Outbreak: Deep Space goes one giant step further and incorporates all four of those aspects in the games’ mechanics. However, this isn’t done on a piece-by-piece basic; it’s done by mashing all four of those aspects together to create a cohesive set of mechanics to support those four aspects. Oh yeah, they back it all up with some great setting-related artwork to boot. Let’s look at some of the mechanics that support what I’m saying:

Gear in Outbreak: Deep Space is quite dynamic. Gear is primarily supported by equipment kits, because a character should be completely outfitted to do the job they need to do. These kits can be further customized through external modifications and tech point upgrades. This is a very important mechanic to support that military sci-fi feel. It’s reminiscent of what a soldier in any army would be given so that they can be of value to their unit and do the job they’re supposed to do.

The effects of horror are numerous. You don’t just have one measurement of how horror effects a character, you have several: morale, insanity, psychological trauma, psychosis, therapy, regression, mental trauma, and other little bits here and there. This doesn’t just support horror, this is truly survival horror as it reminds you that there are many ways horror can affect a character and how many different ways a human might respond to that.

The overall level of horror is measured by an outbreak level. Granted, this is part of the Outbreak series, but this is one of the underlying mechanics, or at least it seems to be, that really defines survival horror as opposed to investigative or action horror. As the story progresses, the atmosphere worsens and things begin to happen more often. Maybe encounters are more frequent; maybe encounters are more deadly; maybe things just start feeling wrong.

I would like to note that Outbreak: Deep Space is not a game for beginners. However, I’d also like to point out that most beginners don’t start with survival horror as they may not be able to handle character death. (“This is the first time I’ve ever played and my character already died?!”) So, don’t approach this RPG with the idea that you’re going to be handled with kid gloves and walked through it like an introductory game. It pretty much has the assumption that you’ve played RPGs before and are ready to truly embrace the world of military sci-fi survival horror in all of its aspects. If you’re prepared for that type of atmosphere, than this is a game that will fit like a glove!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Outbreak: Deep Space
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AMP: Year One
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/08/2014 20:28:15
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=45197.

AMP stands for people with Accelerated Mutant Potential. The year is 2015 and there is an emerging group of people exhibiting strange powers. These powers stem from experimentation that started in the 1930s. The strange powers that are being exhibited are akin to super powers and with all great things, someone wants to control them. As these individual powers are discovered across the world, several government agencies have stepped out of the shadows to regulate the use of these powers. Adding to all of this, each AMP has a chemical need to attack other AMPS who are in close proximity. They can overcome this, but the urge to fight one-another and the hunt by government agencies makes super powers feel not-so-super.

On the outside, AMP: Year One looks exactly as it should; the combination of colors and art style with a coming at you perspective amp up the energetic feeling that this game has. This game, from a mechanical standpoint, is designed to tell a story; the folks over at Third Eye Games are good at that and they have designed games in the past that attempt to and often transcend your typical hack and slash RPG. At its essence this is a super heroes game and the influences listed at the end of the game affirm that. I was happy that it wasn’t designed to be a silver or golden age heroes type game, but went more along with the Heroes Television series. The addition of the “programmed need for AMPs to clash” was another nugget of goodness that really adds a unique dimension to this game.

The first chapter predictably gives a history of Project Black, the super secret joint international government project that developed the serums that created the AMP bloodlines in the 1920s. There is a time lapse and the current information includes a series of events that occur when the decedents of Project Black start to manifest their powers. Because this is year one, many people are unaware of their own powers or the powers that AMPs are displaying. All the while the government is trying to cover up and hunt down the AMPs before things get out of control. I think this was a good choice as it allows the players to be on the ground floor and supplements to the game can easily be introduced as year two and so forth. Each year could introduce new major events as well as rules tweaks based on the activities presented in the game timeline.

Next comes the character creation and this is another area where Third Eye games tends to do a good job, AMP is no exception. Like many companies, we start to learn the rules as we create characters. I like this approach as it makes the first time I read the rules section of a book feel like a review rather than something completely new and foreign. I appreciated the warm up that is provided by requiring a character concept followed by loyalties and affiliation. These are good because it forces the player to have a really good idea of what type of character they are going to play before they choose their skills and peruse the over fifty powers available to them. I found that power choice was the most difficult phase of character creation for my players and me. There are so many great powers and a few of them don’t show up exactly where you might expect them to, so getting players to read through all of them was a time sink that required some pre-reading. In a few cases, I actually took the players concept and married it up with the powers in the game that supported it to save time. This had the added benefit of the players not knowing what powers their adversaries might have. If during the game one of my players felt like they witnessed a power that was better suited to their concept, I let them switch it, no big deal. Third Eye Games was kind enough to include a quick creation guide not only in the rule book but on the character sheet as well. This system includes special gifts and drawbacks which not only make a character feel original, it provides mechanics that help create conflict.

The next chapter was the “spell book” section of this book; only, replace spells with powers and wa-la, you have super heroes, or at least people with super powers, they are not all heroes. Each power has a sort of power tree, like the ones you might find in popular MMORPGs. The powers are broken down into nine different strains and each hero can have three powers, so no character is really a one trick pony. Heroes must have their primary power originate from their strain, but can pick powers from other strains as their secondary and tertiary powers; this adds to that oh so fresh feeling and gives players a chance to play around a bit. The characters can’t just use their powers whenever they want; they need juice or mana if you are stuck on the whole MMORPG thing. This is basically adrenaline, and on top of their base juice things that cause adrenal spikes give a character more juice.

Following the powers chapter is the rules chapter. This system takes some getting accustomed to; it isn’t that the system is so complicated, it just requires less dice and more skill combinations than most D20 gamers might be accustomed to. This chapter caused me the biggest growing pains (as all rules chapters tend to do). Once you use the system, it makes sense, but by this point in the book the amount of examples had fallen off dramatically and while numerically the addition of numbers on a one skill check made sense, they got in the way during game play. This isn’t Third Eye Games first rodeo, but I wish there had been a work around on this. Minus that and a few other calculations that seemed cumbersome, especially during tense combat, the system works for the spirit of the game.

The final chapter is for people running the game. It gives storytelling tips and talks about how the setting should feel. This chapter asks the important question of what would you do if you woke up with these powers? Third Eye Games once again showed that they are all about the gaming experience. Most of the advice falls back on the rule of cool and reminds the people running the game that games are made to have fun.

This is a super heroes game that for the most part feels right. There are a few things I’d tweak, but if you are looking for a game that allows to become the super powered person you always wanted to be, the person with the powers you read about in the comics, then this is the game for you. The overhead of dice and rule books is small and with a D20, pencil, and rulebook, you are ready to go. I had a great time playing this with my group and I think you will as well.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
AMP: Year One
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Camp Myth: The RPG
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/21/2014 20:23:44
The following review was posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=44700.

Camp Myth RPG, based on the Camp Myth book series, is another role-playing game from Third Eye Games designed for the next generation of gamers. While Mermaid Adventures appears designed for the fairly young, Camp Myth RPG seems more appropriate for teenagers and their parents to enjoy. Players take on the role of one of many mythical creature types as what I believe is a teenager, or possibly young adult, at the famed Camp Myth where they learn how all different types of ways of dealing with the mythical world they live in, which resides within the confines of Earth (kind of like Hogwarts does). What these characters learn turns into badges like one would collect at summer camp. However, the tasks needed to acquire these badges is mythical in nature, just like everything else in the book.

Camp Myth RPG is a bit of a surprise to me as I was expecting the mythical elements were present in the characters, but not necessarily in the entire environment they interact with. Not that it’s overdone, just that it wasn’t what I was expecting. Basically, everything within the setting revolves around this almost pocket dimension which resides on Earth where all these mythical creature kids get to spend their time learning to be mythical creature kids. Additionally, I was suprised at how much the game seemed to emphasize non-youth encounters and instead feels more like the true test of these kids going from youth to adulthood. In other words, it’s not just a bunch of kids playing in a kids world, it’s a bunch of youth who are preparing themselves for their future and learning everything (well, maybe not quite everything) they need to survive.

Camp Myth RPG is tied up in a nice blanket of mechanics known as the Pip System (same as Mermaid Adventures). It’s an easy to learn and understand mechanical resolution system where you have positive and negative dice and try to roll more successes on the positive ones than the negative ones. From the perspective of introducing, or moving, the next generation of gamers into more complex role-playing games, this is a good launching point. It’s simple and helps you understand what it is to play a RPG and how to get involved in the roles of the characters.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Camp Myth: The RPG
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#30 Mercenary Companies (PFRPG)
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/14/2014 20:36:03
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=44353.

This 23 page product contains 21 pages that provide succinct and really fleshed out descriptions of 30 different mercenary companies that both players and game masters can use in their Pathfinder campaign as well as other fantasy settings with few or no adjustments. Entries are formatted just like the entries one would expect to find in a Bestiary or Monster Manual and include the alignment of the company, the name or a brief description of the company’s’ headquarters, the name of the company’s leader, resources, structure and leadership (Order of battle), uniform and banner, an overview described using Difficulty Class (DC) to determine how much information a player can get on the company, a description of the company normally narrated by one of its members (usually one of the common soldiers rather than the commander) and a statblock that allows you to use the company not only in an encounter, but in the Pathfinder mass combat rules.

The folks over at Rite Publishing have been listening and this is one of the tightest, most cohesive products that I have seen from them. I’ve always loved their products, but in every one it seemed like there was some little thing that kept a really well done product from being the best that it should be. Those problems could be a tiny editing problem or even stock art that varied between amazing and dreadful, or even the mixing of very desperate types of art to ruin the flow of a product. #30 Mercenary Companies had none of those problems. If you look at the list of problems you will notice that I didn’t mention content as one of the problems, because Rite has always done a great job of bring its customers interesting and affordable content.

Liz Smith, the author, was on point with her vision for this product and the gang really supported her. All of the art in this product was public domain and it all worked really well for the entries near which it was placed. All of the art was in a similar style, and it was all in color, no color on one page, and then black and white on the next page followed by three more pages of color. The cover evokes thoughts of swords for hire and the interior art syncs well with the entries. The page borders are the normal Rite Publishing “lions head” style which blended well with the theme of this product.

As a GM this is such an elegant product; in a very small space and with minimum amount of time I can reference this book and generate 15 different ideas for encounters or even adventures and campaigns based on the companies presented. Smith was smart to include some companies that tend to operate in environments other than the typical European type forest with interspaced mountain ranges. I was a big fan of a few of the nautical companies especially. Who doesn’t love a group of aquatic elves that likes to cut holes in the hulls of ships and attack them from below? That right there is fodder for a series of amazing at sea encounters or even an undersea/above sea campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#30 Mercenary Companies (PFRPG)
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Big Hexyland Modular Fantasy World
Publisher: Blue Boxer Rebellion
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/05/2014 21:27:30
When I first saw this as a new release, I thought to myself, "That thing looks frickin' cool!" So I went ahead and spent the mere $5 the generous publisher was asking for and opened it immediately. After opening it, I realized, "Yeah, this thing IS frickin' cool!"

But why is it so cool? Well, for one thing, creating a full fantasy world map (or rather a continent/country) can be a lot of work and very taxing on the imagination. Especially if you don't have the time to flesh it out. Plus, you have to make it somewhat realistic or at least put interesting environmental features. These megahexes not only do all the work for you, you can ultimately mix and match them as you please (with a little fudging the borders, no big deal though) to create whatever fantasy world you want!

The only thing that would make this better is Big Hexyland Modular Fantasy World, Volume II with even more hexes to choose from.

This is definitely the perfect starting point for creating your own fantasy world; even if you only use it as a reference!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Big Hexyland Modular Fantasy World
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Dark Streets
Publisher: Cakebread & Walton
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/30/2014 20:54:59
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=42912.

Dark Streets is a setting guide for the Renaissance system, set in Georgian London with Cthulhu Mythos and investigative horror influences. I say influences because both of those items influence the setting, but don’t ultimately define it. In Dark Streets, characters take on the role of Bow Street Runners; hired hands determined to fight against the horrors plaguing the streets of London in its less-than-desirable areas. Some of these horrors are supernatural, some are Lovecraftian, and some are just thugs causing problems. It’s almost like taking the FBI and throwing it into 18th century London.

I like Renaissance and I like Clockwork & Chivalry. However, I REALLY like Dark Streets. This is, so far, my favorite implementation of the Renaissance system as it combines some of my favorite gaming elements: horror, intrigue, dark secrets, Lovecraft, and action. Although I know nothing about Georgian London, the overall theme can easily by ported to other locales where law and order suffer and horrors could easily hide in the shadows due to the ignorance of the people and the willingness of the worshipers.

The prominent concept that is quite unique to Dark Streets is playing the role of a Bow Street Runner. By using this role, the setting creates two important things: the characters have a very well-defined purpose and the streets rule. If a setting such as this were thrown into modern times, the police force and whatever special investigative force was created would quickly rid the streets of all these ruffians and whatever else is bothering the public. If the setting were placed earlier, the runners may not have the right tools to survive against so many antagonistic factions. By placing this setting prior to the Victorian era and after the English Civil War, the characters are given the tools they need to survive, but it’ll be a constant struggle as there are so many opposing them. Thus, the setting itself becomes an obstacle that the characters can overcome, but will always have to contend with. And this includes games where many aspects of the Mythos is removed (to balance combat, for instance). The gangs and cults could easily worship simple aspects of the occult, as opposed to the very overwhelming aspects of the Cthulhu Mythos, and the characters would still manage to have a difficult time surviving, but ultimately prevailing, against everything else within the setting.

In other words, Dark Streets is a very compelling setting due to its very basic design elements of setting (Georgian London) and purpose (Bow Street Runners). There are a number of possible adventure ideas, with or without the inclusion of the Cthulhu Mythos. The era its set in is so fraught with danger, in an almost ridiculous way, that it’s hard to fathom that so many people survived it. There are gangs, political rivalries, religious rivalries, vice clubs, cults, corrupted law officials, radicals, and who knows what else. And just think, all of this is shoved into one city… Your adventures and campaigns could virtually go anywhere! I would love to take it to the Five Points area in New York.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Streets
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EPOCH: War Stories
Publisher: Imaginary Empire
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/27/2014 09:52:28
The following review was originally published at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=41662.

War Stories is a collection of EPOCH tales of horror placed during war times in the modern age including World War I, World War II, War on Iraq, and guerrilla warfare in the Congo. Much like the sci-fi collection in Frontier of Fear, War Stories breaks away from the basic cinematic feel of EPOCH while retaining that character-driven survival horror appeal. There are a total of five scenarios, with two placed in World War II, all written by different authors. That means you get a good variance between scenarios as each author brings out his own version of an EPOCH scenario. New cards are included in the PDF version (or available in POD) to coincide with each scenario. Additionally, each adventure follows the standard format found in every EPOCH scenario, lending to ease of reading and playing from the GM’s point of view.

Part of the horror backdrop in War Stories is the background itself: the horrors of war. Although many of us are immune to the cinematic aspects of war, few of us have experienced it to the point where we understand what that truly means (I for one have never experienced it). With that in mind, it’s difficult for many to picture a horror environment simply due to the war going on around the characters. Four out of the five scenarios add much more to the horror aspects of their respective scenarios (one doesn’t and I feel it suffers for that) creating the survival horror environment of EPOCH. When I think of EPOCH, I think of those four scenarios and really like the resulting storyline. There are many added aspects of “what’s around the corner” that can create that creepiness many desire within a horror RPG. Without those additional aspects of horror, as in more than just the war, I think many gamers would have a hard time feeling suspense due to the numbness from movies and television. Those four scenarios attempt to overcome that numbness, and do an excellent job doing it!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
EPOCH: War Stories
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Dead Teenager RPG
Publisher: Creepy Doll Studios
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/23/2014 20:21:53
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=41636.

Dead Teenager RPG is one of those beer and pretzels games that flirts with being something more. This game is based on the horror and slasher films that kept many people reading this review up late at night, because at least one of those films struck a cord, one of those films eviscerated you until it found that one thing that scares you most, and put it up on the screen for the entire world to see. Dead Teenager allows you to recreate those films at the gaming table.

DTRPG is a storytelling game, things like loot and saving the kingdom are really not part of this game, trying to survive the game and having fun however, are. This game involves the use of two decks of cards rather than dice. I prefer dice, but I see the logic in using something common like a few decks of cards. For gamers who are incarcerated, this is actually a big deal as many prison systems will not allow dice, but will allow playing cards. Might not sound like a big deal but for someone who is behind bars it is huge. The other advantage is that you can gather a group of non-gaming friends around a table at most any gathering, ask them to grab a couple of decks of cards, open the rule book, and get to playing pretty quickly.

The layout and art work in this book is top-shelf; the pages have a black background with a red blood splattered pattern on it. Most of the drawings and pictures are creepy, really creepy; each and every one fits with the theme of the book and they really add to the immersion into the horrible world that the gamers are stepping into. The title page headings are in a dripping blood font, and all of the charts are easy to read. The writing is on point while still remain casual and informative.

One thing I found interesting about this game was the self-regulating rating system the creators added into the mechanics. Well saying they are part of the mechanics is kind of flawed, but they were included and this is how they work: as a group you look over the “ratings” chart to determine what elements you do or do not want to have in your game, the ratings go from G to NC-17 just like the standard movie rating system. You don’t have to follow that chart to the letter, but it gives everyone a good idea of what the ratings mean and how much sex, drugs, and rock and roll each game will have. Any player can lower the rating towards G at any time during the game if they are uncomfortable with what is happening in the game, the only way a game may be upgraded say from R to NC-17 is by a unanimous consent from all of the players. I know some readers are saying that is a bunch of political correctness bull crap, well I would argue that games are designed to be fun and while RPGs do allow people to try things in games they wouldn’t ever in the real world, they should always be fun. This rating system lets everyone involved know what to expect and allows people to adjust the level so they can have fun. I don’t think it is a bad thing.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dead Teenager RPG
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/12/2014 17:17:53
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=41575.

The Keeper’s Guide is the Game Master’s handbook to the Acthung! Cthulhu setting, along with being a source for the seedier background material for plots and themes within the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign. It contains mechanics for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds. While the original Acthung! Cthulhu campaign modules are designed for Realms of Cthulhu from Reality Blurs, the Keeper’s Guide no longer appears to require that setting guide. This book presents two new pieces to the Acthung! Cthulhu core setting: the Axis and the occult/mythos. It also augments the already present Allies information by giving the Keeper a collection of filler they can add to their adventures and campaigns to fill the gaps within the story and background. This includes things like Allied NPCs, a full look at intelligence agencies, and some behind-the-scenes things that the players and player characters may not realize. This means the Keeper can present a complete backdrop of both sides of the war without getting bogged down in fiddly bits like creating Allied NPCs for the PCs to interact with.

Probably the most important pieces of the Keeper’s Guide is the Axis forces and the occult/mythos. As much information that was presented for the Americans and British in the Investigator’s Guide is presented for the Germans in this book. This is a pretty in-depth presentation of what it’s like to create small and large forces to create obstacles for the PCs to get around. The occult and mythos side of things (including the various secret societies and intelligence agencies) are presented as protagonists for the PCs to encounter. Once again, World War II is being presented in a very complete manner to simulate that backdrop, keeping the setting cohesive with the era it’s presented in. Amongst all this content is a huge collection of adversaries covering soldiers, intelligence personnel, cultists, and mythos beings. There’s a good chance that a Keeper would never need to create their own adversaries and can simply stick to those presented in this book.

There is one section within the Keeper’s Guide that I question its placement of: vehicles. Not just German vehicles, but also American and British ones. These are military vehicles, ones the characters could feasibly come into contact with, steal, or maybe requisition. I can understand how they’re presented in this book as a part of the backdrop, but they’re really detailed and presented in a way that says “Hey, the characters can use these.” This even includes mechanics for aerial combat. Again, this is something the players should have access to, but I can see why it’s presented in this book.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Keeper's Guide
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Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/28/2014 20:37:09
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=41426.

The Investigator’s Guide is the player’s handbook to the Acthung! Cthulhu setting, along with being a source for background material for characters within the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign. It contains mechanics for both Call of Cthulhu and Savage Worlds. While the original Acthung! Cthulhu campaign modules are designed for Realms of Cthulhu from Reality Blurs, the Investigator’s Guide no longer appears to require that setting guide. The book is really two parts: a look at life leading up to and during World War II and the types of common professions available to investigators within the setting.

Before going further, I would like to note that I did not back the Acthung! Cthulhu Kickstarter campaign. I considered it heavily, but in the end there were other things I wanted to back instead. Although I like the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign modules, I was unsure about how the two setting guides would turn out.

A large part of the Investigator’s Guide is dedicated to making the backdrop of the Acthung! Cthulhu campaign come to life. I say backdrop because the campaign is ultimately a Cthulhu Mythos investigation of the Axis delve into the occult during World War II (WWII being the backdrop). This book focuses heavily on life during World War II. This allows for a great amount of background material that can be leveraged during character creation, including defining what life is like back at home while the investigators are out chasing the Nazis and their cohorts. Timelines are provided to note the major events during and around the time in terms of the war and “what’s going on back home.”

The WWII backdrop also plays heavily into the character background information provided. If the characters are military personnel, there is a plethora of information regarding the different forces and divisions involved in the war, including intelligence. Support roles are touched on, but not significantly.

Fleshing out all this backdrop and background information from a mechanics standpoint is a large chunk of the book. Call of Cthulhu mechanics take up more than the Savage Worlds mechanics as a load of new skills are provided to represent the different skill sets each character background would feasibly have. Military occupations during WWII are provided in mechanical terms including elite and special forces. These backgrounds are considerably streamlined for the Savage Worlds mechanics and presented as quick-use archetypes. This is accompanied by new Hindrances and Edges. The book is capped off with a look at WWII equipment and a Quick Play Guide that sums character creation.

The Investigator’s Guide is a solid player’s book for games set in World War II. It’s quite obvious that the character focus is on those in the military as opposed to something more pulp-like. This is a good way of setting Acthung! Cthulhu apart from other settings during this era as it provides value in the hands of the players (they’re not getting a rehash of pulp heroes fighting Nazis). One thing I like the most about the book is that it presents the players with World War II and doesn’t really lead-on that much to what’s going on in the shadowy world of the Cthulhu Mythos.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu: Investigator's Guide
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Shadow World: Emer III
Publisher: Guild Companion Publications
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/08/2014 11:45:40
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=41136.

Emer Atlas III is a Shadow World sourcebook for Rolemaster, detailing the southeastern areas of the Emer continent. It contains a very in-depth look at the regions history (including a very detailed timeline), geographical features, flora, fauna, cultures, climates, weather, NPCs, adventure hooks, and the kitchen sink. It’s presented in an extremely straight-forward, easy-to-read manner and flows quite nicely from beginning to end. The majority of the book is dedicated to pure source material that can be translated to any fantasy system desired and then supported by Rolemaster/Rolemaster Classic/Rolemaster Fantasy/every Rolemaster version currently supported. These mechanics are presented in a supportive manner, completely disconnected (physically, as in layout) from the source content, preventing them from getting in the way. Thus, you can casually read through all the source material and then come around it again at the end through the use of the mechanics.

Calling Emer Atlas III a sourcebook is simply not enough. It is THE sourcebook detailing the southeast of Emer. In other words, this isn’t your standard sourcebook; it sets quite an amazing benchmark. Let’s start at the beginning with the region’s history. Author Terry Kevin Amthor chose not to simply provide the readers with the basic historical look at the region. Instead, he got down to the absolute nitty-gritty, bringing you all the way back to the very first intelligent roots that arose in the region. He then takes you through this entire history leading up to present day (this spans 200,000 years). I will admit that I often became confused by the fantasy-lingo used during this timeline, but the more I read, the more I understood.

From here, the book moves into an extremely detailed look at the region’s climate, geography, flora, fauna, and inhabitants. Funny enough, I could have sworn this section was written by a climatologist and geographer, or a general scholar of those items. I was floored by the amount of information, but better yet, how plausible, believable, and realistic it seemed. I know those are basically the same thing, but that’s how I felt. Best of all, it was written in a way that can be easily referenced at a later time. This is mainly due to how they formatted the headers by including the climate zones in the headers of each applicable item (such as a particular poisonous plant).

After this highly-detailed information, the book moves on to what I would consider a more typical sourcebook format. It reviews the major areas within the southeast region, detailing the cultures, inhabitants, NPCs, and cities (with maps). There is a bit of a background story relating to the waxing and waning powers within the region and their source; a short chapter is given over to detailing this further and outside of the other content that its typically dropped into. Finally, Emer Atlas III takes everything you’ve already learned and gives it meaning by providing eight adventures and adventure hooks (the really short ones I would consider adventure hooks). What I would consider an appendix provides maps of the region and a chart of applicable fantasy weapons.

All in all, Emer Atlas III is an amazing book. If you are a Shadow World fan, this is a definite must have to expand your world in such a detailed manner. If you are just a Rolemaster fan, then you’ll be provided with a vast quantity of adventuring ideas, NPCs, weapons, and cultures to drop into your game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow World: Emer III
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Monster Templates: Headless Horseman
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/03/2014 08:45:00
The following review was originally posted at Roleplayers Chronicle and can be read in its entirety at http://roleplayerschronicle.com/?p=41080.

This is a nine page supplement that contains four pages of actual crunch. In typical Rite Publishing fashion those four pages are overflowing with good and, more importantly, useful information. This supplement opens with the the Headless Horseman Monster Template which adds a plus two Challenge Rating (CR) to any creature it is placed on. Monster Templates: Headless Horseman includes the Headless Horseman fully realized as a Challenge Rating eleven creature. The headless horseman write-up includes statistics for its horse Stygian, which when included with the Horseman along with several other factors actually bumps the Headless Horseman up to a much higher Challenge Rating. Following the stat blocks is a detailed description of the Headless Horseman as well as an extensive lore section. This Monster Template includes two new monstrous feats, Come Back Strong and Strike of Sharpness. The new spell Animate Headless Horseman rounds out the crunch.

While most people might think of the Headless Horseman as just a Halloween monster that only belongs in a Halloween-themed game, Rite has come along and proved them wrong. Sure the tale of the Headless Horseman is classically associated with Halloween and any respectable game played on Halloween should include an encounter with one, there is much more to this type of creature than tangling with an awkward academician. What Steven D. Russell and the folks at Rite Publishing have done with Monster Templates: Headless Horseman is take this well known seasonal tale and turn it into a challenging creature. A creature which has thematically appropriate powers that not only have the potential to own a party of Player Characters if they are not careful, but has the potential of creating an ongoing conflict with a powerful creature that requires “quests” to defeat.

The cover art is solid and seeing a Headless Horseman in broad, bright daylight was a refreshing change. At first I was going to comment that it should have been set at night time, but by achieving cranial rectal separation, I realized it was a smart and unique move. The ethereal pumpkin page borders were unique and wonderful. I would have liked to have seen Rite play with the whole concept of the pumpkin head a bit more and would have loved to seen some “other” suggestions, but I in no way felt cheated on that front. The formatting was up to Rite’s normal high standard, but I was distressed to see a grammatical mistake on the first page. Rite normally catches stuff like this. In their defense they are human and I’m sure they will have it fixed soon. There was the usual mix of original and stock art and as usual it met with mixed success. All of the art was relevant, but still felt disconnected.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster Templates: Headless Horseman
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