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Asatania (ASX-1): The New Mine Masters (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2017 07:13:39

This is an optional 'side adventure' that may be run between Face Down in a Muddy Road and Smoke on the Horizon, the party getting the choice in-game to continue straight on to Bray's Bay or to follow up on a map they might have found. If you don't want to run this adventure, just don't let them find the map! However, this is a lot more than just an opportunity to poke around a mine and beat up a few Kan Demon, so it's worth considering its inclusion.

The Kan Demon raiders have gone, according to the map, to Argot Hill after demolishing the settlement at Siver's Mill. Here there is an iron mine and the basic objective of this adventure is to chase them out of it. Naturally, there's a bit more going on... explained here for the DM, with background detail about clan politics and different factions within the Kan Demon. There's also advice on how to let it be the party's decision whether or not to go to Argot Hill - the campaign is designed to present the party with tough decisions, this is just the first one.

The trip to Argot Hill is unpleasant - a muddy track with plenty of insects to plague the party - and once there a map of the settlement and descriptions of key locations are provided. Once the party has dealt with matters there, they can move on to the minehead - again a plan is provided - and venture underground (also mapped out). Everything is well-described in a fairly realistic description of a typical mediaeval mining operation. Clearing that is relatively simple, but with a neat twist in the tale. The locals are likely to be pleased at the party's intervention, and this adventure goes some way to cement them as the 'good guys' in the invasion.

Although simple, everything is put together neatly and it makes a nice addition to the ongoing plot, even if not being strictly necessary for its advancement. It introduces some minor goodies - there's more than iron ore down there, shall we say - that won't make much of a difference to the overall game, but which are rather nice from the story point of view.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (ASX-1): The New Mine Masters (5E)
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Dawn of the Serpent
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/21/2017 10:06:16

This adventure provides a neat interlude sometime the party is travelling through wild-enough terrain that a night in the open will be involved, as it opens with them spotting what looks like a welcoming camp fire ahead one chilly evening...

Of course, they won't get the rest, warmth and companionship they might have been expecting. The DM's Background points out the main hazards of travelling: inclement weather, roving bandits and occasional monsters - and this adventure includes all three. The adventure is set in the Gloamwood Forest, which has of late gained a bit of a reputation for being dangerous, although the road that goes through the forest is quite well-travelled and relatively safe. This forest can be placed anywhere in your campaign world where a largish forest with a road through it is appropriate. It's best run in winter, but if you prefer to run it in another season, that's fine.

Various rumours may be heard before the party actually reaches this stage in their journey (particularly if you like foreshadowing), and then it's straight on with the action. Investigating the camp fire leads eventually to a lair that needs cleaning out. It's all quite straightforward in a way, but there are traps and monsters to defeat on the way to solving the adventure... and some neat ideas for what might happen afterwards.

As a way to enliven a journey, this makes for an interesting challenge - especially if you have carefully prepared your party to expect a covivial night around a campfire on a cold night. The various elements of the story combine well together to make an entertaining interlude with potential consequences that might haunt the party for some time to come.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dawn of the Serpent
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Gottheit
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/20/2017 07:43:04

Travelling through a dark and misty night, the party is looking forward to finding a place to stop for the night... but when the town of Gottheit comes into view, the settlement appears deserted and derelict. Or is it?

Designed to accompany Alderac Entertainment Group's Undead sourcebook, the adventure seeks to answer the question, what happened to the people of Gottheit? The DM's Background explains why a peaceful (if somewhat over-religious) community has turned into the dismal wreck the party arrives at, and prepares you to run the adventure. It has an interesting structure, in that although it appears to the players that it's a location-based adventure as they wander the town, it is actually event-based, with a series of events that occure in a set sequence with it not mattering just where the party is when each event occurs!

A town plan and location descriptions are provided, then the encounters are presented in the sequence in which they should take place, leading the party inevitably to the climax in the temple in the centre of town. It's recommended that, despite the party being free to wander as they please, they should not visit the temple until the end but no clear advice on how to manage that is provided.

It's a fine creepy adventure that maintains suspense well, although I think the recommened character level (9th-11th) is a bit too high... slightly lower level characters should find it appropriately scary and a bit more of a challenge.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gottheit
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Asatania (AS-4): The Rebel Prince (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/19/2017 08:28:50

This final adventure of the Crashing Chaos finds the party already reeling: they've been ambushed, seen their homeland thrown into chaos, and been forced to abandon Tere altogether... assuming they fled Bray's Bay in the ship so thoughtfully provided! Now, if they can but rally some forces, they get a chance to strike back as the Kan Demon have stretched themselves rather thin and are, truth be told, getting a bit cocky about how easy it's been so far for them.

The Introduction lays it out. The last episode ended with them at sea, heading for the Windsome Chain, off-shore islands where they'll meet various people who can help with a counter-attack. Indeed, if you want to add in the side-adventure The Prisoner of Spur Rock, they'll need to bust one of their potential allies out of gaol first! There's some background on the islands and their history, as well as on the people to be found there... and on the 'wild magic' storms that periodically hit the islands and the superstitious ways of the islanders.

Then the action begins, the party is aboard the Calm Seas sailing towards the islands (with a detour if you decided to run the side-adventure The Ghost of Jarvis Island). A neat minor event is that anyone who is on deck at night may notice subtle changes in the constellations overhead... and then its time to arrive at their destination. There are loads of people to meet and the climax of the adventure is to join with them to liberate a township on the islands from the Kan Demon. This involves a magnificent urban guerilla action that hopefully will provoke an uprising to send the Kan Demon packing. It's beautifully-handled, with a whole series of events and encounters to build the pressure on the party who are, of course, spearheading the action, sneaking through the occupied settlement. Detailed notes on locations and people place everything you need at your fingertips.

The end of the adventure caters for all possible outcomes, although it's hoped that the party succeeds... even if the 'Rebel Prince' tries to take more than his fair share of the glory. He does have some neat rewards in mind for the party, however... and if you see fit, a final task in the shape of the side-adventure Rock Point Keep. The main plotline is due to continue in the next campaign arc, Darkness Surges, but in the meantime, the party can sit back and enjoy all the festivities of a coronation.

This adventure is put together extremely well, especially what in my infantry sergeant days I would call 'Fighting in a Built Up Area' - as fine a representation of urban military action on the tabletop as I have seen. It's always quite hard to ensure that your party stays in the spotlight when armies clash, here it's done magnificently.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (AS-4): The Rebel Prince (5E)
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Asatania (AS-3): Muscle, Sinew, and Wood (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2017 07:42:53

The last adventure (Smoke on the Horizon) ended with the party viewing Bray's Bay from a hilltop, and finding that it is being beseiged. Now they have to do something about it! The Preface talks about the growing realisation of just how bad the state of affairs is, something that is not going to improve. It also touches on other events that will transpire and how this influences the campaign as a whole, putting everything into context for the DM. The party will learn more about the Kan Demons and their capabilities.

The Introduction explains how the Kan Demons have invested the settlement in quite some detail, most of which the party ought to be able to figure out with careful observation. A detailed map is provided to aid you in describing the situation. It is rather assmued that they'll try to enter Bray's Bay even though it is under siege, this can be done with a modicum of stealth although there are some delightful notes should it come to combat - 'remind your players that combat is loud' being a prime example. In a startling note (remember, even though player-characters can be spell-casters, magic use is virtually unknown here) the Kan Demons are conducting a massive magic ritual involving rune stones which they've brought with them prior to mounting an assault on the town's defences. Should your party decide to go for help rather than join in the brawling, that's been catered for as well... which provision neatly lands them back in town anyway!

Once they have sneaked or fought their way in through the pallisades (and several options are provided for doing this), the people they encounter there are well-detailed, and this makes the growing realisation that the settlement will not survive all the harder... although the party will be urged to take ship to spread a warning of the Kan Demon incursion - far more than last year's raids already. Whilst there are other options, various NPCs have convincing arguments against taking them. As they go, this is a suitable point to run the side adventure The Ghost of Jarvis Island.

Overall this is a good action-packed adventure, bringing elements of warfare in without completely swamping character autonomy... although the party is somewhat railroaded into first entering the besieged town and then fleeing it. Resources are provided to help you make it feel like these are their own decisions, with many good and valid arguments put into the mouths of the NPCs. Additionally, an appendix details some of the more common things that players might do and how to cope with them without breaking the plot. Still, it's exciting and lays the groundwork for what is to come.

[I really wanted to give 4.5 stars, but the system doesn't allow that!]



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (AS-3): Muscle, Sinew, and Wood (5E)
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Asatania (AS-2): Smoke on the Horizon (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/16/2017 08:15:53

This is the second 'core' adventure in the Crashing Chaos campaign, and can either follow directly after Face Down in a Muddy Road or be run following the side-adventure The New Mine Masters if your party decides to investigate a map they might have discovered. The Preface explains where it fits in the scheme of things, and how - as low-level characters - the party will be concentrating on survival amidst the turmoil, but even now should be beginning to realise that there's a bit more than a few raids going on. Throught this adventure (and following ones) they will meet many NPCs, and the sort of impression they make will colour how they are viewed later on in the campaign.

The gist of the adventure is that the party will discover just how much damage the Kan Demon raiders have done as they continue their journey to Bray's Bay. It's assumed that they still will go there, due to a combination of the reasons they had for going there in the first place and the encouragement of various NPCs. The action takes place on the road from a hamlet called Siver's Mill that is not far from Bray's Bay and includes a visit to a manor house that belongs to the governor of the area and another farmhouse that is under attack. Plenty to keep the party occupied.

This is a fairly short adventure and probably will occupy but a single session, unless the party gets into a lot of brawls. It's a bit of an anti-climax after the last core adventure, appearing just to be to get the party from one place to another... but even though the party may not realise it, some of the encounters are of considerable significance and will prove worthwhile in hindsight. There are a few notes to aid you in dealing with wayward parties who refuse to travel on the road and a couple of handouts, along with monster notes and NPC statistics.

This is definitely a 'mid-campaign' adventure and would be no use on its own. It ends on a hilltop looking down on Bray's Bay... all ready for the next adventure. One wonders just why this and the next one (Muscle, Sinew and Wood) were not combined - even the next side adventure is supposed to occur later, if you choose to use it. Yes, it moves the plot along. Yes, it introduces at least one important person who'll feature later... but there's a question as to why it has to be presented as a separate adventure.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (AS-2): Smoke on the Horizon (5E)
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Asatania (AS-1): Face Down in a Muddy Road (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/15/2017 08:10:31

The Preface lays out the slightly awe-inspiring point that this adventure sets the scene for the entirety of Asatania campaigning. In it the characters are introduced to the world and to the major threats that it faces... and they'll soon find themselves making tough choices, the sort that have no 'right' or 'wrong' decision, just ones that will have an effect, often a profound one, not only for the characters themselves but for the world which they inhabit.

There's also some fascinating background about the inspiration for the whole campaign concept: an insular nation that feels protected by the seas around it, to the length of prohibiting exploration beyond its shores, and how it copes when others come a-visiting in a disruptive manner. Fascinating stuff, to see how that single idea has spawned an entire world setting and series of adventures. Moreover, the author recognises 'success' by player response, citing deep in-character discussions about courses of action as a marker of a campaign that has really caught the group's imagination. (It's good when that happens, I still recall fondly a Cyberpunk game in which the characters debated, for over 15 minutes, the pros and cons of the use of torture as a valid business tactic... perhaps you don't want to meet some of my players!)

With a few notes on helpful resources (like the Asantania Crashing Chaos Campaign Guide, recommended but not required), on keeping the challenges appropriate to your group if it varies from the five first-level characters intended, and even on using a ruleset other than Dungeons & Dragons 5e, we reach the Introduction. This covers some of the interesting features of this world like the apparent lack of magic. Yes, you can play a spell-caster, but such a character will feel themselves to be unique because anyone else who uses magic keeps very quiet about it... and you will have probably found out the hard way that it's best to be discreet about what you can do! This moves on to a plot overview covering events in this adventure and a discussion on helping your players come up with appropriate backstories for their characters, as the action starts with them travelling by public cart (or Traveller Wagon, as they are known) to the settlement of Bray's Bay. By the end of this adventure, they ought to be second level and will be faced with their first choice... one option available means that you'll need to run one of the side adventures for them (The New Mine Masters).

As stated, the adventure begins with the characters on the road. There's some concise 'read aloud' text to bring them up to speed without you having to hold forth for hours - there's a Player's Guide available (free if you choose the PDF option) for those who want to delve deeper. This is also an opportunity for the characters to get to know each other - sitting in a cart for hours on end gets pretty boring, as well as hard on the rear end! NPCs are extremely detailed and really come to life - there are a few sharing the journey with the characters - so there is ample scope for role-play. And then, the fun starts...

Throughout, there are useful snippets of information that you can weave into the story as appropriate. The NPCs are also categorised as being there for flavour or ones intended to be recurring participants in the campaign, and they are all extremely well-rounded with quirks and personalities - even the 'throw-away' ones. In the Campaign Guide it was suggested that you could either award XP in the conventional manner, or level up the party at appropriate points, and both methods are supported, with neat tables showing what XP is available as appropriate for those going down that route. Likewise you are well supported with suitable skill checks being noted when appropriate, along with the results of success, which makes it easy to both use the right ones and remember to call for them at the correct moment! There's an overview map and detailed maps for each encounter along with descriptions of what and who you'll find in each location (and what they are likely to do when the party turns up). Appendices cover the Kan Demons in considerable detail and provide NPC stat blocks, as well as copies of the encounter maps (and the overall map) to give to your players.

This is a splendid introduction to what promises to be an exciting campaign. As DM, you should feel well-supported to cope with whatever your players do as the amount of information provided will equip you to be able to react appropriately. The in media res start coupled with the way background material is provided should get you off to a flying start... in short, this is an excellent example of a 'campaign starter' adventure!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania (AS-1): Face Down in a Muddy Road (5E)
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Princes, Thieves & Goblins
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2017 06:57:45

The Player's Background paints a picture of a small but prosperous kingdom that was happy up until the previous year, when a succession of goblin raids caused havoc... but worse was to come. The King summons the party to a meeting at his country retreat, and requests their help - his baby son has been kidnapped! Evidence points to the goblins and the King will throw his resources behind the party...

All this has been dealt with, through a mix of narrative and role-play (although you can role-play the lot if you prefer) before we even get to the DM's Information. This explains some quite epic confusion on the part of the goblins and lays out what is going on and why quite clearly. Assuming the party agree to accept the task, they soon are on their way. The journey to the goblins' lair is glossed over, you may prefer to make it more interesting.

The lair itself is clearly mapped and detailed, with room descriptions along with notes on who might be around, all necessary game mechanical information and their likely intentions. From here on in, it's a fairly straightforward delve, with traps and monsters to deal with. Although it's supposed to be the goblins' lair, it's a bit difficult to envision them actually living there given the set-up. At the end of the dungeon, there is an opportunity to negotiate a solution should the party choose to take this option. The adventure rounds off with a new type of goblin and a magical item which plays quite a major role - more as an object than because of its powers, interestingly.

In a way, this adventure promises more than it delivers. The set-up is intriguing, but the dungeon itself quite pedestrian. The way in which a negotiated outcome is possible is excellent, but resolving it is left very much to the DM's discretion... and there is nothing concerning any consequences or follow-up adventures. With some work, this could prove a good adventure, as is it's a bit unsatisfying.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Princes, Thieves & Goblins
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The Ice Caves of Azinth
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/13/2017 11:31:49

Just what any group of up-and-coming adventurers trying to make a name for themselves would like: a summons to a consultation about a 'matter of some urgency', from a local monarch, no less. Amid rumours of impending war between Azinth (the summoning monarch's kingdom) and an aggressive bunch to the south, the party travels to this small but prosperous kingdom which is backed by a massive mountain range to the north. That's where the problem is: for the past five years solid it has been snowing on those mountains and all the passes are frozen solid, cutting Azinth off from its allies to the north. Now a stranger has arranged a meeting in a deserted inn, claiming to know how to deal with the situation, and the king wishes the party to attend to the matter...

So runs the Player Introduction, and the DM Background opens with a note that the DM should change names as necessary to put events in an appropriate corner of the campaign world. There's a lot more detail about what's going on in and around Azinth (or whatever you rename the place), and explains the real nature of the problem the party is tasked to solve.

And then we're off, with a chilly journey up into the mountains - don't worry, it's only going to get colder - and plenty of action to keep the party on their toes. At least fighting ought to keep them warm! Eventually they meet their contact who explains what they need to do and leads them onward to where they need to be. Eventually they reach the 'ice caves' which are mapped out and described, and shall we say, darn chilly! And, of course, filled with those who wish intruders ill... and even as they obtain their objective, a massive brawl breaks out.

It's an excellent if chilly adventure with an exciting climax, in a setting that could prove fruitful for further adventures. Successful parties will be rewarded well, there's even a medal from a grateful king (plus cash for those of more mercenary inclinations) and other rewards to be had. There's a new monster and a new magic item as well, indeed the party even has a chance of keeping the magic item. A good adventure to add to your collection.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Ice Caves of Azinth
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Asatania Crashing Chaos Campaign Guide (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2017 08:50:08

Subtitled 'A Game Masters Guide to Asatania', this work sets out to provide all that you need to know to run the Crashing Chaos campaign: setting background, loads of NPCs and outlines of all eight adventures that go to make up the campaign.

It opens with an inspiring appeal to the potential GM, that their primary role is to make the setting come alive for the players, forging connections between player and character, and character and world. This work will aid tremendously, providing a clear sense of the world in which the adventures take place and of the sometimes subtle relationships between the NPCs the party will encounter. It's not just about a series of adventures, or even an ongoing story, it's about inhabiting a shared alternate reality that, for the duration of play, ought to feel real to those playing the game. This has always been what I've tried to create at my table, and it is quite delightful to find it spelled out so clearly.

There is an overview of the entire Asatania concept, a linked series of story arcs of which Crashing Chaos is but the first. This consists of four story adventures and four side-adventures (which are optional as far as progressing the main plot, but recommended for those after the full experience). Notes on timings and on different ways of awarding experience - the conventional points for killing and looting, or by milestones achieved - are included. Indeally, characters should be no more than 6th level by the completion of Crashing Chaos (or they will be a bit overpowered for the next bit).

We then start delving into the ancient history of the setting, with wars between elves and demons some two thousand years ago... wars which by now have faded to mere myth and legend in most people's minds. Wind forwards to the present and we find ourselves in the Farasene Imperium, the dominant nation on the continent of Tere. Last summer, they suffered a series of raids by strange humanoids from over the sea. Over the winter, when the raids ceased, the Imperium prepared to defend itself by forming an army. That army is mustering in a coastal town called Bray's Bay and the campaign opens with the characters travelling in that general direction for whatever reason they choose to come up with.

Next come the adventure outlines, followed by information to aid you in advising the players on character creation. Magic, for example, is unknown, yet that should deter anyone wanting to play a spell-caster. They may have the full powers of their chosen class, they just have never let on to those around them what they can do. Religion, on the other hand, has a strong influence on society despite the gods having a very hands-off approach, neither answering prayers nor speaking to the faithful. Notes on the races available (most of the core ones apart from dragonkin, tieflings, and half-orcs) are followed by a run-down of the places where each is found, to help in creating a backstory for each character that brings him to the point at which the first adventure begins.

We then settle down to a more detailed survey of the campaign setting, with a note that further campaign guides may be published as the party travels further afield. A delightful conceit is the way in which the constellations in the night sky reflect events in the story that will be told. There's information on all aspects of life from the calendar and major festivals to the sort of jobs people have, coinage, trade, education and even the Imperium's foreign policy. Then there is a vast array of vividly-portrayed NPCs. Each one comes with notes on how to play them, stat blocks and loads of background... and even the Emperor himself is there although it's unlikely that the characters will meet him (yet). There is also an indication of which adventures each NPC may turn up or otherwise be referenced in. Their appearance is described and many are illustrated. It makes for an excellent resource.

Finally, there is information on religion and deities, and on the raiders - known as Kan Demons (because they are believed to come from the mythical continent of Kan far over the sea). Overall, this is an excellent preparation for running this campaign and all GMs should have a copy and study it well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania Crashing Chaos Campaign Guide (5E)
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Asatania Player's Guide to the Crashing Chaos Campaign (5E)
Publisher: Fantastic Reality
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2017 08:06:28

The author's preface explains how a fascination with the conflict that arises when an established 'civilisation' finds more barbarious neighbours nipping around their walls and an interest in the more fluid chaos of multiple factions and goals led him to create the world of Asatania, choosing role-playing rather than straight fiction because of the multiple viewpoints lots of players bring to an unfolding story. He's designed a campaign constructed of several story arcs, and here we sit on the threshold of the first one, which is called Crashing Chaos and consists of eight adventures. This covers a series of events which are already in motion and that will ultimately change the world.

This work is intended to provide players with background information that their characters will know, and it launches off with an account of recent events on Tere, the continent on which the campaign is set. The established civilisation of the Farasene has experienced coastal raids up and down their eastern seaboard by folk they have dubbed Kan Demon, believing that they come from a mythical continent far across the sea called Kan. Raids died down during winter, and the Emperor put the time to good use raising a Home Guard Regiment to defend his shores. Now it's early spring and the regiment is mustering at Bray's Bay... a place towards which the characters are travelling as the first adventure opens.

Now it is time to create your characters. We are informed that magic use is somewhat of a myth on Tere, however you can play a spell-caster without any limitations save that you will have kept the fact that you can do magic a close secret! You also, spell-caster or not, need to come up with a reason for going to Bray's Bay, with some example reasons being given to get you going. Character background options are presented, based on the race that you have chosen (most standard ones are available)

We then move on to learn more about the geography of Tere and what it is like to live there, with information on topics as diverse as coinage, the calendar and public holidays, arts, commerce and daily life. The culture is remarkably stagnant, perhaps due to an empire that has been governing for over two thousand years. Most people work the land or ply a trade, with education limited to what you need to know to do your job... and exploration of the ocean and lands beyond being actively discouraged! Religion is more about community and stability than piety, with the gods fairly distant and not very interested in what their worshippers do, although unless you are well off, the priesthood is the best place to get a decent education!

Providing a good overview of the campaign setting and current situation, all you need do is read this and create some characters ready to play. The assumption is that you are part of the 'civilised world' however: the adventures do not offer the opportunity to be a raiding 'barbarian'... at least, not yet. Who knows what will come in the future. For the time being, at least, there is a peaceful somewhat stagnant land in dire need of heroes... will you answer that call?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Asatania Player's Guide to the Crashing Chaos Campaign (5E)
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World of Gor: Gorean Roleplaying World Encyclopaedia
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2017 10:19:55

This massive work is intended as a companion to the Tales of Gor Role-playing Game or, for those who don't role-play, as supporting material for the Gorean Chronicles series of books by John Norman. The Introduction explains the history and background to the books - and how this book's author was introduced to them in his teens and fell in love with them (just as I did when not very much older). The turbulent history of the series, with its themes clashing with prudishness when first launched and later falling foul of political correctness, is discussed sympathetically: it is what it is and if your prejudices lead you to dislike the fact that Gorean society accepts slavery as normal, and has sexual practises that could be deemed 'kinky' (bondage, dominance and submission in the main), there's ample warning to suggest you find a different fantasy world. Because that's what it is, fantasy. Nobody's suggesting it is real or even desirable, just that this is what Gor is like. To be fair, I have read essays that suggest John Norman wrote the books as a protest against rampant political correctness, but I don't know how true that is!

Next comes a summary of the thirty-four (at time of writing) books in the series, drawn from the cover 'blurbs' (so no spoilers for books you haven't read yet!). Then without further ado, the encyclopaedia entries begin...

In strict alphabetical order, the entries cover everything from prominent individuals to flora and fauna, popular beliefs and customs, and matters of everyday life. They are illustrated by relevant quotations from the books as well as splendid pen-and-ink drawings that capture the exotic feel of the world well. Even where slaves are involved, they remain tastefully done... and are particularly fascinating when they depict the exotic animals of Gor.

Perhaps you want to know about the various castes of Gor, mix of professional/trade associations and inherited positions, or maybe you'd like to know what cards make up the Gorean Tarot or how to play kaissa. Musical instruments, weapons, diseases, clothing... all these and more are described. There are even details of kaissa should you fancy trying to play. Finally, an appendix outlines the Gorean calendar. It is very much a reference book, as one might expect from the title, rather than a thematic discussion of all things Gorean; but should you want to know, for example, what a Horned Gim looks like (a small, purplish owl-like bird, as it happens), you can look it up very easily (although the PDF version could be enhanced by the use of bookmarks and hyperlinks).

This is an excellent resource for all those who wish to understand the world of Gor in all its splendor. Whether you play the RPG or just enjoy the books, this is a useful adjunct to your game or reading.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
World of Gor: Gorean Roleplaying World Encyclopaedia
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Trail of Cthulhu: Cthulhu Apocalypse
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2017 07:48:32

The Introduction reminds us how in most horror situations, the horror can be ended: leave the haunted house and leave the ghosts behind, the police can catch the serial killer, and so on. The Cthulhu Mythos always promises apocalyptic horror from which there is no escape - and this book gives you the means to present it to your players.

The first part is The Apocalypse Machine, presenting advice and additional rules for running Trail of Cthulhu in a post-apocalyptic setting (as if either the Mythos or an apocalypse weren't enough to cope with on their own). This pitches the Investigators as some of the few human beings to have survived whatever disaster occurred, trying to cope with the situation... and finding that the Mythos has survived as well! Or may even have instigated the apocalypse... Information here ranges from designing your own apocalypse to new Occupations, Skills and Drives appropriate to a post-apocalyptic world (and notes on how existing ones will work in the new setting). It assumes a Pulp style of play, although it may not be quite what you are used to. It also splits the setting into two periods: Aftershock, when the apocalyptic event has just happened, and Wasteland, set some time later when things have settled down a bit, or at least folk have realised that this is their new reality.

One of the most interesting parts of this section is the material to decide what happened to bring about the apocalypse, to destroy the world as you know it. Certain criteria are set. Humanity is well-nigh gone, some 99.99% of human beings have died in the event although the Investigators have survived (or their ancestors did if you have taken your Wasteland plot a generation or two into the future). The effects must be global, there's no scampering off to take refuge in an unaffected part of the world (well, maybe the Antarctic bases have survived...). Oh, and Mythos entities are taking the opportunity to arise, even if it wasn't them behind the apocalypse in the first place. So, the cause of the apocalypse may be human-driven, it may be the Mythos or it could be a vast natural disaster - the next dinosaur-killer asteroid, perhaps. Or a disease, or earthquakes or... get the picture? Life on earth is quite fragile when you start thinking of ways to wipe it out.

Once you are equipped with these resources, there is a whole campaign's worth of adventures to play. Quite a lot of the material has been published before as The Dead White World and Slaves of the Mother, but even if you already have these, this book is worth a look because there's a lot more new material here! New adventures have been added, firstly two to the Dead White World phase - an uncontaminated lake to investigate, and an unaffected woodland around an ancient barrow - both drawing on the underlying concept of contamination spreading across Britain (and indeed the rest of the world) and the search for refuge that the Investigators undertake in order to survive. Although they've been put after the original adventures in Dead White World they work better if they are interwoven with the others, after The Dead White World and before the climactic Sandgrown.

The remainder have been added at the end of Slaves of the Mother, which takes place three years later. At the end of the last adventure in the original Dead White World the party had to make a decision. They are now living with the result: England is now either overrun with strange white flowers or crawling with Deep Ones. Throughout, notes are provided to cater with both options, with them being referred to generically as 'Creatures'. The scene is set in the Introduction with explanations of the likely state of play depending on what the party is having to contend with, this will help you set the scene as the game begins. Thereafter, when the effects are different depending on what is there, this is clearly indicated.

The first three adventures - Bright Futures, The Nation Set Free and Slaves of the Mother - remain the same, but there are an additional seven complete adventures. These follow after Slaves of the Mother, in which the characters are faced with awful truths and have to decide whether or not to carry on or kill themselves out of sheer despair, as those who survive escape Britain in an aircraft and make it to America (the actual trip is left to you to manage, whether as an adventure in its own right or hand-waved to get them there).

Of course, all is not well in America either. The place is overrun with whichever set of Creatures you decided were the problem, and the few people left alive are attempting to survive just as those left behind in Britain were. The adventures address various ways of surviving and even flourishing in the aftermath of the apocalypse, each presenting considerable risk to the Investigators and even offering them a chance to put things right (or at least substitute something else) or to remain trapped forever where they have been taken... either way, this last adventure ends the campaign.

The additional material makes this the book to go for if you fancy taking your Cthulhu apocalyptic... even if you have the three volumes that make up the major part of it. The scope is here for memorable adventuring, the sort of campaign that is talked about for years afterwards by those involved. It may not be for everyone, thinking about the world as you know it being destroyed can be quite tough, but for those who do this is excellent.



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Trail of Cthulhu: Cthulhu Apocalypse
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Servants of the Blood Moon
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2017 13:08:33

Fancy creating a new legend about heroes protecting an ancient elven forest? Things have gone terribly wrong in the forest of Myereth, where the ancient rowan trees are dying since an evil sorcerer slew a unicorn and the elven defenders of their sylvan realm. This is explained on the back cover of the pamphlet, that doubles as the Player Introduction. Inside, the DM Background explains a bit more about what has been going on in a forest that was legendary for being a safe haven of good and peace, somewhere evil cannot go and the trees weep healing tears... some think the whole place is a myth, but elves know better and some may even have been taken there as children. Now refugees are turning up with dreadful tales of death and destruction, even the immortal unicorn that protected the forest. These refugees need someone to restore their homeland...

Assuming the party respond to the call, they'll hear quite a few rumours on their way there. Some of them are even true. On the fringes of the forest, there is a large refugee camp full of displaced (and distraught) elves, led by a prince. He's glad of their help, claiming that he'd do something himself but feels he needs to stay with the refugees and take care of them. However he can explain a bit more of what has been going on - the forest and unicorn were placed there to imprison a demon which is now loose again and growing in strength. The party must then venture into the forest with little idea of how to deal with the demon.

Braving the forest, the party will come to the elven city of Myr where there are some buildings to explore, chiefly a library and a palace. Both are described and mapped, although there is no plan of the city as a whole. The sacred grove, where the rowan tress are and where the unicorn was slain, lies behind the palace, however. A couple of epic brawls later the party - if victorious - can triumph in their quest with a bit of divine aid.

If you want a quick high-level quest this is quite good, but if I was going to use it in a campaign I'd use this as an outline for a more comprehensive adventure. It all seems a bit prefunctory given the subject matter... but as an outline to build an adventure on, it's very good.



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Garadon Manor
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2017 09:55:25

Billed as a sequel to Out of Body, Out of Mind, this adventure returns to the realm of Tirna'cel with the party having been summoned to the headquarters of the Paladins of Garadon. Although it states that it's not necessary to have played Out of Body, Out of Mind it is advisable to have done so, as reference is made to that adventure - the party is assumed to have undertaken it - and although there's enough material to be able to give your players the necessary background, it works better if they have that knowledge for themselves - as the adventure begins with them being asked to explain what they did!

The DM Background explains what has been going on with these Paladins and sets the scene nicely for what is to follow. The party needs to make its way to the Manor, deep in swampland, and find it quite luxurious even if most of the Paladins are out. Several options are provided for coping with a party that hasn't played Out of Body, Out of Mind, at least one of which is quite tempting as a concept on its own! However it's handled, the interview doesn't go too well and a brawl breaks out. Survivors can then explore the Manor and try to find out what is going on there.

The Manor has two floors plus a basement and sub-basement. All are mapped and supplied with brief but clear descriptions - you may wish to elaborate but the bare bones of what you need are there. The sub-basement is underwater, and poses the most dangerous part of the adventure. A new monster and a magic weapon are to be found here, and both are fully-detailed.

This is an excellent example of a sequel adventure, and ought to prove entertaining for characters who have played the first adventure (or who haven't - it's handled well enough for you to be able to cope with that eventuality). It is quite challenging in places, but capable of successful completion, and provides a good air of continuity. Actions do have consequences, even in a series of one-off adventures!



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