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Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/07/2017 08:14:10

The Introduction attempts to lay out the epic scope of what is being attempted here (a four-page table of contents is a giveaway as to its size...), with a tale running from the past into the future involving two generations of Investigators... yet it is designed to be customised or adapted to suit each group's needs, modular enough that bits can be taken out for those for which this is too much, or added to if you want to incorporate it into an existing campaign or have other ideas that might fit in. Or both. These opening notes are a bit strange, though. Since when was there a role-playing campaign in which what happens is NOT influenced by the choices made by the characters? Rightly denounced as railroading, there's little point in role-playing if your character's actions have no effect on the alternate reality in which you are playing.

This slightly odd Introduction out of the way, we come to a section Players' Background and Investigators. This is written as if it was to be available to the players - yet as just about all of this 300-odd page book is for the Keeper's eyes only, not many players are going to be buying a copy! Here it goes on a bit more about the pivotal role of the characters, the Investigators and presents three options: use existing Trail of Cthulhu characters, create new ones specifically for this campaign or select from the ten pre-generated characters provided. It goes on to discuss how to create characters that are suited to the campaign, ones who are likely to respond positively to the opening 'hook' of the wealthy daughter of an occultist being willing to provide money and other resources to those willing to investigate a family mystery. There are very player-directed thoughts about playing existing characters (mostly how to role-play them to good effect in this campaign if they've been around the Mythos block before) and on creating original characters which will fit in from the start. Creative use of Drives and Sources of Stability (recommended for this campaign) are also discussed.

We then move on to the Keeper Introduction. Here we are back to the concept that this campaign is different from most, in that this book contains a collection of clues, scenes, characters, motives, secrets, and ideas that, taken together, form the shape of a story which you and the Investigators will tell together. It's a tale that covers over a decade and spans the world (and perhaps beyond) filled with vaunting ambition and petty desires, with the chance to save the world or lose your own soul (or both). What's here is an outline, a framework, a collection of ideas, and Keepers are encouraged to mix it up as they like and be responsive to whatever the player-characters get up to - however much it drags you away from the campaign outline. That's how I run my games anyway, but it is refreshing to have this laid out so clearly in a way which will support - rather than frighten - people who have been more inclined to stick to the script until now. If you fancy developing and improving your game mastering skills, particularly in being more freefrom and flexible, it's almost worth getting this book for that alone (and even if you don't normally play Trail of Cthulhu.

Next the campaign structure - three acts, beginning, middle and end - and summary of what might happen are discussed. If you have this in mind, you can then mess with it as becomes appropriate. Starting with the hook of a daughter curious about the secret her occultist father took to his grave, there are a myriad of locales to visit - across America and around the world - as the Investigators follow up clues beginning with the book the daughter gives them, and find themselves hunting down cultists and even avatars of a dread godling. The climax of all this, in a very suitable location which I'm not going to mention (some pesky player might be reading this review!), turns out not to be the end at all, and there's more to be done before the unwitting world is saved. At least for now. It all begins in an insane asylum, and may end up there too...

The resources provided are magnificent, loads of detail that you can make use of as you make each location and event come to life for your group. It's all fairly modular, and much can be taken in whatever order suits the party. They'll wind up in the same place in the end. There are notes to help you deal with a campaign slanted towards the Pulp mode, with details of a 'hybrid mode' that introduces more Purist elements for those groups who prefer that style.

If you enjoy epic world-spanning adventures, the chance to save the world or die trying, with opportunities to display courage or cowardice, unleash violence or cower in the corner, interact and brawl... then this is the campaign for you. It's a masterpiece of the combination of a taut storyline with great freedom for the party in how they go about dealing with it - many campaigns and games promise such, but here it is laid out clearly and well supported throughout. And that's before you get to the handouts!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies
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Trail of Cthulhu: Dulce et Decorum Est
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/04/2017 07:39:28

This is a collection of resources for those who'd like to run Trail of Cthulhu adventures set during the Great War, including two completely new scenarios as well as Sisters of Sorrow, the already-published one involving sailors in a German U-Boat who fall foul of Deep Ones. The introduction talks about many aspects of running a Great War-themed game, perhaps summed up in the title. 'Dulce et Decorum Est' is part of a Latin quote from the poet Horace, 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori' or 'It is sweet and honourable to die for your country'. That's the spirit with which many went to war...

... but of course, they didn't expect to encounter the Mythos! So, is it Pulp or Purist? Purist aims for a philosophical horror, while Pulp strives for action - so you might be forgiven for thinking that as it's a war setting, action is paramount and this will be a Pulp campaign. Yet even amidst the action, reflection and introspection on the sheer horror of war - remember they described World War 1 as a 'war to end all wars' - may give scope for some Purist elements to sidle in, especially if the stories you want to tell are not in the thick of military action.

Whilst this is by no means a historical treatise, when dealing with real history (even if you're going to twist it out of all recognition) it's worth getting the basics straight. So there is a good detailed timeline starting with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo that sparked things off and covering all parts of the world and the oceans right through to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in July 1919. Next comes some rules stuff, with new and amended skills and abilities of a military nature, the rules for a gas attack... and even how to deal with Investigators who survive the war and continue adventuring. Many people playing games set in the 1920s and 1930s will have had characters with a military background... here's a change to gain a vivid and personal one!

This is followed by notes on the war in the air, with WW1 being the first in which there was any significant use of aircraft. The detail here will enable you to run dog-fights in the skies and provides a hanger-full of different aircraft and their characteristics to ensure all combatants have the appropriate ones. Next comes a look at the war in the trenches, with copious detail on the hardships and hazards on this fairly distinctive (and unpleasant) way of waging war. There's also that new-fangled invention the tank to contend with. War at sea is also covered - including the true tale of a 'Ghost U-Boat' that might be repurposed for game needs.

The solid factual material is followed by some Mythos notes. Warfare always delight the likes of Mordiggian, the Charnel God, so there's an extensive introduction showing how he can fit in. Basically, he's in his element! With little concern for actually interacting with anyone (or even accepting worship), he just wants everyone dead. So perhaps he'll be trying to instigate even greater bloodshed. He may cause strange apparitions, and there may be those who try to call upon him to aid their cause, their side, by offering to rain death and destruction upon their opponents and thus feed his appetite for death. Various Mythos tomes are touched upon, as well as the effects - particularly on people's Stability - of Mordiggian taking a personal interest on the battlefield. Should anyone be unwise enough to try it, there's also a ritual to summon him... unlike many rituals, this one can be cast during combat (in fact, Mordiggian quite likes that!). There's an example cult, woven beautifully out of the real-world habit of handing out white feathers to men who did not appear to be 'doing their bit' and other people influnced by Mordiggian for you to use in your plots, too.

Next comes a discussion of settings for your campaign. There's a lot of scope once you have decided on a Great War game, and this discussion is designed to assist you in making the necessary choices. There are more options that throwing your Investigators into a battle, perhaps they are active on the home front, supporting the war effort. Or perhaps they are in Paris, a city in a strange frenetic state, starving, freezing yet exciting to behold. And of course, there is the battlefront: the trenches spread across France, or maybe somewhere like Palestine and the Middle East.

Then come the actual scenarios, beginning with Vaterland. This is set in 1914 New York (with America, of course, still neutral - they didn't enter the war until 1917 unless, of course, your game changes the course of history!) aboard the premier German vessel of the Hamburg-American Line. This vessel, the Vaterland, is currently stranded in New York harbour, as although they are officially neutral the Americans don't intend to let Germany have her back any time soon. The Investigators take the role of journalists investigating what is going on aboard... the least of which appears to be a death cult operating somewhere below decks. This was a real ship, and there's a lot of detail to help you create the right atmosphere, as well as plenty of material about those to be encountered there - some real and others fictional. Chief, perhaps, of the real people is William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper mogul. And of course Treasury Agents. Lots of them, all convinced that the crew of the Vaterland are up to no good. In that they are probably right, although they were thinking about spies and saboteurs... It all begins with a gala party, then things (as they do) take a turn for the worse, with a cult ritual and dimension warps that take people to some quite unexpected places. With a good mix of intrigue, interaction and out-and-out terror and plenty of opportunity for combat, this works on several levels depending how your group likes to play. Six pre-generated characters are provided, but it will work fine with appropriate ones of your own.

Next, Dead Horse Corner is set in the trenches of the Western Front, with the Investigators tasked to find out why a trench has been abandoned without trace by the people supposed to be there. It's written from an Allied point of view, but change a few names and it will work as well from the German side. There's a lot of sloshing through muddy trenches and foes (both Mythos and mundane) to fight. Again, pre-generated characters are provided, all members of the British Army of various ranks. If you choose to use your own characters, they too will have to be military personnel. Nobody else is out here. There's potential here to bring home the awfulness of trench warfare, and Purists can create a bleak atmosphere of despair.

Finally, there's Sisters of Sorrow, set on a German U-Boat. This is a creepy and claustrophobic adventure in which the Investigators take on the roles of members of the submarine's crew, and pre-generated characters are provided. It's likely this will be a one-off adventure, so it is probably best to use them. There is some excellent historical background on German underwater warfare and the U-boat service to help you set the scene (this can be shared with players), and enough explaination for the Keeper as to what is actually going on. It will help if the whole group has a good feel for life on an early submarine, so be sure to discuss everyday details with them before and during play.

The actual scenes for the adventure are well-paced and designed to bring out the claustrophic nature of life aboard an early submarine. If you're looking for background, hunt down a copy of the 1981 TV series Das Boot - although that was a WW2 submarine, it has the same sort of atmosphere you are aiming at. Whilst many events are inward-looking, concentrating on what is going on aboard, there are external events including enemy ships on the surface, an abandoned sunk U-boat and strange noises from outside the hull. Even whalesong sounds spooky if you are in a submarines...

Playtest notes suggest that this adventure can very easily end in a bloodbath which nobody survives, although some smart - or lucky - groups did defeat all challenges and emerge victorious. It seems that those groups where one of the Investigators is the Kapitan of the U-boat have a greater chance of survival; you may prefer this route if you'd rather not kill any more PCs than you have to!

If you fancy taking your Mythos adventures back to the Great War, this is an excellent resource. The adventures probably work best as one-offs rather than as a linked campaign as it's quite difficult to see how the same people could be involved in such disparate adventures. Any one of them (if the characters survive) could be the beginning of (or indeed a part of) a campaign of your own devising. Well worth your attention if you have a mind for wartime adventuring.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Dulce et Decorum Est
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Cthulhu Apocalypse: Slaves of the Mother
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/30/2017 14:08:30

Continuing the post-apocalyptic campaign, this work contains three linked adventures which are set three years after the end of the last part of Dead White World, in 1939. To start with, the group needs to decide what has been going on these past three years. The Investigators are assumed to have survived, unless any player wishes to start off a new character, and they need to have found some kind of refuge. This will need a supply of fresh water untainted by those white flowers and access to a food supply - canned food, probably. There may be other folks there, or the Investigators might be on their own. Alternatively, they may have been leading a nomadic life, one step ahead of whatever monsters are out there. Suggestions are made as to how various Skills might be used to help cover these missing years, and find out a bit about what is going on.

At the end of the last adventure in 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.

Then on to the first adventure, Bright Futures, which is set in Brighton on the south coast of England. For some reason, Brighton is free of the Creatures, so the Investigators seek refuge there. The question remains, why do the Creatures stay away? Discovering the answer will likely make the party want to leave, even if they are not forced out ny the gang that's controlling the town. If the party decide to put a stop to what is going on, Brighton will soon be overrun by the Creatures, but is the price of keeping them at bay too high?

The next adventure is The Nation Set Free, and concerns a military plot to develop a weapon, a bomb, that has the potential to defeat the Creatures. The price of success may, however, be too high... and everything about the research when the party travels to Cambridge is a bit odd. Rather a lot of assumptions about player-character actions are made in this adventure, but fortunately some advice is provided as to what to do if they refuse to cooperate. What with more Mythos creatures hanging around, the count-down beginning and growing indications that the bomb isn't going to do precisely what is intended lead to a rather fraught climax in which options seem few and none of them good.

The final adventure - assuming the party survives the last one - takes them to Brichester where they can uncover the horrible truth behind the entire apocalypse. Things have changed rapidly since the end of the previous adventure, nature appears to be reasserting herself with unparalleled vigour - this may also be affecting the Investigators themselves, too. Things only get stranger from then on in, with crazy librarians and even more Mythos beings swarming across the plot. Ultimately, can they find a reason to live rather than throw themselves into oblivion? Should they survive, England is lost, but there is remarkably a serviceable aircraft to take them away...

These adventures get stranger and stranger, to the point it's hard to distinguish what is normal and where madness lies. Careful preparation is needed to understand what is going on, while to keep the game on track you may need to railroad the party a bit. It is strange, disturbing... and meets the worst nightmare of what a Mythos-driven apocalypse might actually be like.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Apocalypse: Slaves of the Mother
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Trail of Cthulhu: Sisters of Sorrow
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/29/2017 11:23:29

Dark, dank and claustrophobic adventure set on a World War 1 German U-boat with the already precarious life made even worse by Deep Ones somewhat annoyed by the turmoil underwater warfare brings - all those torpedoes and depth charges disturb them, you see. And then they find an ally aboard...

The Investigators take on the roles of members of the submarine's crew, and pre-generated characters are provided. It's likely this will be a one-off adventure, so it is probably best to use them. There is some excellent historical background on German underwater warfare and the U-boat service to help you set the scene (this can be shared with players), and enough explaination for the Keeper as to what is actually going on. It will help if the whole group has a good feel for life on an early submarine, so be sure to discuss everyday details with them before and during play.

The actual scenes for the adventure are well-paced and designed to bring out the claustrophic nature of life aboard an early submarine. If you're looking for background, hunt down a copy of the 1981 TV series Das Boot - although that was a WW2 submarine, it has the same sort of atmosphere you are aiming at. Whilst many events are inward-looking, concentrating on what is going on aboard, there are external events including enemy ships on the surface, an abandoned sunk U-boat and strange noises from outside the hull. Even whalesong sounds spooky if you are in a submarines...

Playtest notes suggest that this adventure can very easily end in a bloodbath which nobody survives, although some smart - or lucky - groups did defeat all challenges and emerge victorious. It seems that those groups where one of the Investigators is the Kapitan of the U-boat have a greater chance of survival; you may prefer this route if you'd rather not kill any more PCs than you have to!

If you want a tight, atmospheric evening where Mythos involvement blends naturally into events, look no further.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Sisters of Sorrow
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RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2017 09:20:04

OK, we all know that the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage... but what else was going on? In this adventure, the Investigators - all travelling aboard and in First Class, no less - meet a gentleman who has a mummy (the Egyptian sort) that he's going to donate to an American museum but is eager to show it off to anyone who is interested. There's a legend that anyone who looks at this particular mummy's face is doomed, but that's all a silly superstition, isn't it?

The background for the Keeper explains how the being doomed stuff is not quite as silly as it sounds (with a little bit of help from the Mythos, of course) and provides a spine for the adventure. This begins with a luncheon date with the mummy's owner and ends (naturally) with a certain iceberg... There's some interesting background on the trans-Atlantic trade of the time, and a quite detailed timeline of the Titanic's voyage. Rather neatly, all the encounters and events of the adventure are included in the timeline, making it clear what is going on around the Investigators as well as whatever they are focussed on at the time. There's a goodly sprinkling of NPCs who do not have anything to do with the plot, another nice touch to remind players that the world does not revolve around their characters... subplots such as shipboard romances or gambling games are also encouraged.

There are vivid descriptions of scenes, the Titanic was noted for her luxury and there is plenty to draw upon here as you set the scene for your players. Six pre-generated characters are provided, or you can use/generate your own, but they will need a high Credit Rating to be in first class. Additional rules material is provided for everything from playing cards to surviving in icy waters. The actual sinking is handled well, and perhaps at least some of the Investigators will survive... or will something else catch up with them? There are some general notes about handling subsequent events should you have survivors on your hands.

Overall, it's a good exciting adventure which could probably be played out in a longish evening. Fact and fiction are woven together well but as always when dealing with real events, be aware of your group's needs - I have a role-player friend who lost an ancestor on the Titantic and was very upset and annoyed about the movie, I'd not invite him to play this... but for those without such a connection it makes for an excellent game and knowing what will happen adds a certain edge.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
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Trail of Cthulhu: Flying Coffins
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/22/2017 13:58:11

This adventure takes us back to the First World War, to early 1918 with the Investigators as intrepid pilots in the British Royal Flying Corps. The German pilots seem unnaturally successful... and of course, Mythos creatures are behind it all. How will our brave aviators get on?

The background material explains which Mythos creature is to blame - they're to be found in the atmosphere around 20,000 and resent these pesky impertenent humans in the flying machines intruding into 'their' airspace. At least they don't care if the intruders are British or German, they are annoyed by all of them! Or at least, not until one of the Germans paints a 'good luck' sign on his aircraft - unfortunately one suggested by a sorceror relative who showed him how to draw a Yellow Sign. The spine of the adventure is laid out, and with the help of no less a worthy as Arthur Conan-Doyle (currently working as a war correspondent) and the urging of Military Intelligence, the Investigators find themselves engaged in aerial duels with a leading German ace...

There is a section on aerial combat, both game mechanics and an idea of tactics, with quite an elegant system to handle an aerial dogfight between two aircraft. There's an example to demonstrate the system in action, and details of the aircraft used by both sides in the conflict. Anti-aircraft fire, attacking ground targets and other aspects of earlu aviation warfare are also covered. There is plenty here to empower some exciting combat in the air during your game.

It all begins with a sortie to destroy a German observation balloon somewhere over the Western Front. During the ensuing dogfight, the Investigators notice a flying creature hauling a pilot bodily out of his aircraft and flying upwards with him, casually tearing his head off as it leaves! From then on the adventure intensifies as the Investigators try to find out what is going on and then after several aerial encounters comes the climax of the adventure, with Allied forces making a big push on the ground with aircraft of all nationalities swarming overhead.

Six pre-generated characters are provided, and there are some good photographs of appropriate aircraft. If for whatever reason you don't want to play members of the Royal Flying Corps a few changes to names and backgrounds - and to the aircraft they fly, of course - will enable you to play American, French or even German aviators instead.

This adventure provides an interesting glimpse into how the Mythos can disrupt conventional warfare (even if it's almost by accident), a neat bit of alternate history that provides for an exciting scenario. The rules for aerial combat work quite well, even if you don't want to add the Mythos into the mix and prefer a 'straight' WW1 aviation game or campaign.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Flying Coffins
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Trail of Cthulhu: Hell Fire
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/20/2017 08:24:00

This a historical adventure, set in the 1760s mostly in England with a side trip to the Colonies. It revolves around preserving the reputation of the Hell Fire Club, an organisation dedicated to rational philosophy (God does not exist... in a day and age when everyone believed or at least gave lip-service to religion) and fine literature (as in, pornography) - not perhaps the most respectable body, yet many otherwise upstanding members of society belong to it.

There is plenty of background for the Keeper including what is actually going on and the REAL threat to their comfortable Club life, notes on the times and relevant rules changes: some alterations to skills and rules for adjudicating a duel. These are normally conducted with a sword, and all gentlemen should know at least the basics of wielding one. Fortunately pre-generated characters are provided, and it's probably best to use them. Unless you are really into this period of history, it will probably be a one-off adventure.

The adventure begins when the Investigators meet in a coffee house (consider the origins of Lloyd's of London, it's either that or a similar establishment) with a fellow Club-member who wants help. A lady is trying to force him into marriage, most unsuitable - I mean, she's the sort of person who's been posing as a life model - but has some letters of his she is threatening to use to take him to court in a Breach of Promise case if he won't. He's arranged for her to visit tonight and wants the party to go and purloin the letters whilst she is out at his place. Needless to say, it's not the letters they find when they go round... and what are those American fellows doing?

Events develop thick and fast, with an emergency meeting of the Hell Fire Club, various events on the streets of London and assorted avenues of enquiry to follow up all amply provided for... and there is an inquisitive journalist poking around, and some ladies of negotiable affection to deal with as well. There probably will not be too much combat (unless the party fights a lot of duels) but there is plenty of interaction, and to put matters properly to rest will involve a trip to Bermuda to deal with those Colonials! A suitably dramatic climax provides an opportunity to save the day, indeed the entire New World.

This is an interesting adventure that - like all good alternative history - blends historical fact with plausible plotlines, weaving the whole into something that might have been... it makes for a cracking adventure with plenty going on!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Hell Fire
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Trail of Cthulhu: Many Fires
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/17/2017 08:55:00

This is an unabashed Pulp-style adventure set in northern Mexico, with plenty of adventure and action, evil cults and wielders of magic to keep everyone on their toes. Basically, the Investigators are asked to accompany an ageing General Pershing to Mexico to finish what the Mexico Punative Expedition of 1916 began, dealing with rebels... but of course there's a bit more to it than that.

Pre-generated characters, with backstories that weave them into the plot, are provided and their use is recommended unless you want to run this as part of a larger campaign with existing Investigators. If you are doing that, some hooks to help you get them involved with the trip are provided. There's plenty of background on Mexico and the people involved available for Investigators to discover through the usual channels before they go - and a big section of Secret Background for the Keeper's eyes only: the lowdown on what is really going on... and what Pershing is really up to.

The adventure itself starts with the party leaving Cuidad Chihuahua for the Valle de Bustillos where all the action takes place. Plenty of material is provided about places to visit and people to interact with, this should help bring the adventure to life and fuel the action. There's all sorts of folk here from natives and even a bunch of Mennonites to rebels and members of a fire-worshipping cult. Following the clues should eventually lead the party to witness the climax of the adventure: a scene straight out of Indiana Jones with cultists enacting a ritual to summon their deity... will they manage to stop them?

Following this is a magnificent array of resources and information for the Keeper, with plenty more NPCs, weird drugs to sample and more. Finally, there are character sheets for the pre-generated Investigators. Each has their own background showing their involvement not just with the adventure at hand, not even just with Pershing, but with each other as well. This needs to be handled carefully as it has the potential to set them against one another - not all groups of players like that, but you know your players better than the authors! Amend as necessary. There are also some beautiful handouts (even if the list thereof refers to 'Page XX' several times - look it's about the only proofing error here apart from confusion between 'discrete' and 'discreet' in one of the character sheets!): maps, documents, newspaper clippings and the like.

It's a well-presented alternate history adventure with plenty of pulp action, neatly weaving Mythos fiction through known historical fact to provide something that proves extremely entertaining to run.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Many Fires
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Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Apocalypse Machine
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2017 09:18:47

This work contains 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). Apocalypse World 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.

To start with, however, you will need 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.

This is a thumbnail sketch, and there's even a diagram provided... but there are also whole sections on Causes, Disasters and the Casualties of the event to help you set it all up. Depending on your chosen Cause, humanity may or may not have any hope of surviving, see any prospect for a long-term future. Whatever the mechanism you decide on, the world ended on 2 November 1936 (if it was something that happened relatively slowly, like a disease spreading, it started earlier but things came to a head then). This means that if you want a nuclear holocaust, you will have to mess with history a little as research into atomic weapons did not begin until 1939. Some notes on how to go about this are provided.

Interestingly, though, you are encouraged to go beyond the suggestions, to redraw the diagram. To set the tone of your game, you are invited to visualise four dials. Their settings will influence what your game is like. The Humanity dial looks at how survivors relate to one another. Do they work together or is everyone they encounter a threat or a resource? The Time dial tells you how long ago the apocalyptic event happened. At zero, it's... happening right now and your Investigators have a grandstand view. If it's high, the Old Days are things of memory, or even forgotten. All people know is the harsh reality of now. The Weird dial is a measure of how strange things have become (apart from the collapse of civilisation itself, that is). Are there mutants or people with psychic powers wandering around? What sort of monsters are loose upon the world? The final dial is the Adrenaline dial. This measures the balance between madcap pulp-style adventures and grim struggles for survival. Will the Investigators watch the world they knew decay around them... or will their adventures give them the opportunity to do something about it? Either can work, or something inbetween, it all depends on the style of post-apocalyptic adventure you want.

Next is a survey of Occupations. Some are existing ones - what on earth is a Socialite to do now? - and others are new to the situation. All give ideas about how an Investigator with that Occupation can use his skills to best effect. Remember that it will depend on how long ago the apocalypse happened: if it's happening now Investigators can have modern Occupations that they will have to adapt to the new situation, but if it was many years ago when the Investigators were children or not born at all, they may never have had the chance to follow certain careers.

A section on Drives follows. What makes each Investigator want to actually investigate the horror around him, rather than hunkering down and concentrating on survival? Some of the regular Drives in Trail of Cthulhu won't really work at all in this setting, but others really come into their own. There are some new ones too, like Preservation of Knowledge and Witness (who wants to record what is going on, even if he isn't sure there's a posterity to record it for). Then comes a list of Investigative and General Abilities, honed to the apocalyptic setting. There's one change from the core rules: having an Ability does not mean that you automatically have access to whatever tools or equipment you need. Finding them can be part of the adventure, after all. There are examples of how to use each Ability, and suggestions for the Keeper as well.

Next comes Sanity and Stability, beginning with a look at Sources of Stability and how they work in this setting. With most human beings dead, this may mean - especially if the apocalypse has only just happened - that your Sources of Stability have died too. Perhaps it is their memory that keeps you going. Or maybe you don't know what happened to them and the search and hope is your motivation, what you cling to. Of course, this - and Pillars of Sanity - provide targets for the Keeper. There's plenty here to help you make use of them in the game. Mental illness and defence mechanisms round out this section.

The Equipment section comes next. Some things, hitherto rare, are easy to find - or to take at will (consider a jewellry shop - now you can pilfer it to your heart's content, with no store owner to complain, no police to arrest you!). Others will have to be scavenged for, you cannot go down to the shops to get them. And you might have competition for resources. There are rules for scavenging and for making equipment here, as well. Another way of getting hold of the things you need is barter. Find someone who has that thing, and bargain with him as to what he wants for it. Perhaps something else that you have (or can acquire for him), or maybe you can do him a service. A defining characteristic of the post-apocalyptic setting is that normal activities become much harder... but don't get too bogged down, unless the focus of your campaign is on actual survival.

The next section is The Afflicted. Of those who survived the apocalypse, some are... not the same any more. They may look different or have new and strange mental powers. Needless to say, 'normal' humans treat them with suspiction if not outright hostility - and many Afflicted hide their differences as a result. The cause of these changes will depend on why you had an apocalypse in the first place... and it may be that nobody knows just why (the Keeper should, but he might not be saying). Moreover, Afflictions can be acquired - and there's an interesting way to weave these into your Investigator, by giving him Affliction Points rather than Improvement Points: they are used in the same way to improve his capabilities, only now those increased capabilities have a strange origin, an unnatural expertise that cannot be explained in a normal manner. There are other weirdnesses as well, and of course all are pretty disturbing particularly when encountered for the first time. There's a discussion of psychic abilities and what can (and cannot) be done with them. For those who choose to use Affliction Points to improve Skills, there's an interesting discussion of how the way you use that Skill will change. All quite disturbing to behold, no wonder Stability checks may be called for!

This is followed by a section of Mythos Entities, remembering that with the apocalypse (whatever its original cause) they're now able to walk the face of the earth more freely than before. Here are notes on many of them, what they are after and what the might do now that they've been unloosed! Finally in the 'open to all' part of the book (although it's possible that the Keeper may restrict quite a lot to keep the underlying mechanics secret) is a very useful section of Tips for Players, which all prospective players really ought to read. Here it reminds them that each adventure has a core question, which the Keeper should lay out. Don't stop until it has been answered! There are thoughts on using Drives to best effect, investigating horror no matter what, not getting sidetracked (particularly by mundane matters like day-to-day survival... yes, it needs doing but that's not what the game is about), and building relationships. Read it and be mindful of it during play.

Moving on, Building Mysteries is designed to aid Keepers in devising and running a strong campaign in the apocalyptic setting. Starting with the basics, it walks through deriving a fundamental question for the Investigators to answer, building an adventure spine and weaving in people and events to make it all interesting. It makes for interesting and inspiring reading, and could prove useful for anyone planning post-apocalyptic adventures, even if outside of this particular game system (indeed this whole book would make good background reading!)

Finally, The Decaying Earth lays out a timescale for the collapse of civilisation as we know it. It can help you determine the state of affairs right now in your game, and provide a roadmap for what's going to happen down the line. It's unlikely that the Investigators will make much difference as nature reclaims everything. There's also a chart to help you determine how difficult it is to find things as time goes on. It may be surprising to see how hard it will be to find books... there again, they are made of paper and if you are short on fuel to stay warm or to cook, they may get repurposed.

Overall, if you want to bring the world as we know it to an end in your game, this is a very good manual. Of most use, of course, if you play Trail of Cthulhu but there are enough useful ideas and concepts that I'd recommend it whatever ruleset you run your post-apocalyptic world under. It looks at a wide range of considerations without getting bogged down in trivial detail, and makes for a thought-provoking read.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Apocalypse: The Apocalypse Machine
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Repairer of Reputations
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/10/2017 07:39:26

This adventure has an intriguing basis: it takes a piece of speculative fiction written in 1895 but set in 1920 and dumps the characters straight into the middle of its plot in a fine alternate history. The story is called The Repairer of Reputations by Robert W. Chambers, inventor of The King in Yellow stories about a play so warped it drove all who read or see it insane, which was adopted by Lovecraft and his followers and woven into Mythos lore.

The first part of this book is Chambers' story itself, well worth a read if you have not encountered it before and, of course, pretty-well essential if you are going to run an adventure based upon it! It tells the tale of a hideous conspiracy, one which is stopped (barely) in the story but in the adventure things are changed around a bit and it is the Investigators (naturally) that stand between a mostly-peaceful, idyllic even, alternate America and the machinations of Things That Should Not Be, a plot that would place a minion of Hastur on a newly-created imperial throne.

Next we read of the alternate history, giving America a surface tranquility but at a cost our modern minds would view as being far too high to bear. A truncated character generation system is presented to provide semi-pregenerated but personalised characters for your players who will fit in to the alternate America as it is their home. They are further developed during play, giving an almost story game air in places as once the Investigators have had a chance to introduce themselves, one is selected by the Keeper to begin the scenario and he then has to call on others as their particular talents are needed, with scope to define that Investigator's persona as they are introduced into the action.

As the adventure begins, all this is laid out clearly for the Keeper, but you will have to ensure that your players know what is expected of them. It is very much an adventure of interaction and investigation, the plot unfolding before their eyes... but violence lurks closely underneath the urbane surface, and there is ample opportunty for a brawl as the adventure reaches a climax. Various conclusions are provided, from which you can choose the most appropriate outcome based on character actions.

This is an intriguing and well-presented adventure, by its very nature a one-off, with a subtle nightmarish air to it. Pick your players carefully, with the right people it will prove a memorable game indeed.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Repairer of Reputations
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Trail of Cthulhu: Out of Time
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2017 07:54:32

This is a compilation of four previously-published adventures - Not So Quiet, The Black Drop, The Big Hoodoo, and Castle Bravo... it's nice to have them all in one place, and at least one is no longer available as a stand-alone product. Each is set in a specific time, mostly outside the core 1930s setting used for Trail of Cthulhu - one from the First World War and two set in the 1950s - and all can be played Pulp or Purist, depending on your tastes. Due to this timeline, unless you've introduced time travel into your game it's unlikely that you will want to fit them into the same campaign and you may well want to make use of the pre-generated characters provided for each one.

Not So Quiet is a one-off scenario, with pre-generated characters provided, set in a military hospital located just behind the lines in Belgium during the First World War. It's written as a purist adventure, but if you prefer to go a bit more pulp some ideas are provided to enable you to run it in that style.

There's some background that explains what is going on at the hospital, then it's on with the action, with the opening scene being in an ambulance convoy heading towards the hospital. Those characters who are injured and who will become patients at the hospital should determine with the Keeper what wounds they have and how they acquired them, this can be dealt with in a flashback scene (which may be held in reserve by the Keeper to be run at a dramatically-appropriate moment). For those who have been posted to the hospital, likely as medical staff, there's a slightly calmer introductory scene... but everyone ends up in the same ambulance convoy, although they do not know each other at this point. Then it comes under fire...

Assuming they survive the attack, everyone arrives at the hospital. It's pretty chaotic. Injured characters will have to be assessed and assigned to wards, those who have come to work here need to report in and be assigned their duties. There's also a rather excitable chaplain to deal with. From then on in it is a case of trying to figure out what is going on, with a host of NPCs to get to grips with, and various events and encounters as they figure out what is happening and how it can be halted.

Designed for a single evening's play it has the scope to be intense and highlight how even worse war can become if the Mythos gets mixed in. However, the mix of characters provided may not be ideal - it's hard to see how they will gel into a team - and an endnote suggests possible solutions mostly based on creating your own characters. Intended as a one-off, there are no thoughts for a follow-up - although it might possibly be used as a 'prequel' to a regular game: this is where the Investigators met and first encountered Things That Should Not Be, then skip ten years or so and they meet again to commence their adventuring careers.

Next, The Black Drop. Cabable of working well in both purist or pulp modes (or a combination of both) this adventure is set in the remote Kerguelen archipelago (far south in the Indian ocean), which is just about to be abandoned. Oddly, just as the settlers depart, a German expedition arrives with mysterious purpose... and what lurks there, in the bleak rocks?

The background explains all for the Keeper and lays out the terrible choice facing the Investigators. You may decide to keep this as a one-off, or notes are provided if you prefer to weave it into an existing campaign (but bear in mind that this adventure may well be the party's last if you do). Pre-generated characters are provided and they are, of course, all embedded into the story. If you are using your own characters, assorted reasons for why they might be there are provided.

The adventure itself begins on the voyage to the Kerguelen Islands, and there's plenty of interaction to be had (and clues to be picked up) before the ship arrives there... and a bleak, cold and unwelcoming place it is, too. Everyone is dropped off, their ship has other matters to attend to and will be back to pick them up in a couple of weeks. There's a flurry of activity with the last few settlers packing up, the German expedition turns up having lost one of their number and again there are plenty of opportunities for interaction and to find yet more clues... and then things begin to go wrong. Murder and arson are the least of it...

The Investigators will be able to wander the main island pretty much as they please: there's plenty to be found... and a fair bit going on. And eventually they will find... well, the climax involves a dark and dreadful deity, cultists hell-bent on restoring his power and even greater fanatics trying to stop it. Anyone not ending up a sacrifice or in some other way dead will be very lucky indeed.

There's a wonderful sense of bleakness and approaching menace, a creepy cinematic atmosphere that thickens with every moment. NPC notes, handouts, a couple of photos of wildlife, and maps of the islands (and a ship plan) help you keep on top of everything and create a chilling adventure that will live long in the players' minds (there's a good chance that their characters won't survive to remember anything, though)... and all under the threat that if that deity isn't stopped things look bad for the entire world.

Based on the real-world demise of an early rocket experimenter in 1953, The Big Hoodoo messes with real events and people shamelessly, mixing a twist of Mythos madness into what is known about the demise of one Jack Parsons, who had been experimenting with rockets in his backyard and, according to the police, blown himself up through careless handling of rocket fuel. But the Investigators - his friends - suspect otherwise...

Pre-generated characters are provided for what is supposed to be a one-off adventure. Use them, they are embedded into the plot... even if the players may be a bit surprised at some of the names! Four are provided, but there are copious suggestions for additional ones if you have more players. It is intended to be played in the style of film noir, deep on background, with an array of faintly seedy characters following their own agendas. History has been messed with, however, and a few bits have been changed around. You may prefer to change them back. Here we have a Daedalus Vance Wimpole who runs a cult called Psychohistory. This is based on L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, but you may know Psychohstory as the science or art practised in Isaac Asimov's Foundation novels - in THIS alternate history, Asimove wrote the Academy series using a discipline called Scientology. If you or your group find that too confusing (I do!), then change them back.

It all begins at the wake for Jack Parsons, which the Investigators are attending due to links with science-fiction fandom, in which all - including the dear departed - have been active. From then on in, it's a descent into a swirling morass of magick ritual that bodes ill to summon up something that really ought not to walk this earth... or are some such somethings already here, possessing NPCs or even an Investigator? As usual, victory will be achieved by preventing the climactic ritual from being enacted.

There's a lot going on, and hordes of NPCs with their own concerns and requests, an investigative journalist nosing around... and of course a host of clues to pick up. You will need to read through the entire adventure carefully before running it, but everything is quite well laid out down to the best mannerisms for bringing individual NPCs to life. There are several useful handouts and sidebars brimming with information - there's a lot for you (and subsequently the Investigators) to take in.

Although presented as a one-off, this needs more time than the standard 4-hour convention slot, or even an evening's play - there is really too much to pack in although it might be possible if absolutely necessary. It would be far better spread over two or three sessions. It's a low-combat, high interaction adventure, a delightful alternate history involving many names you have probably heard about.

Lastly, Castle Bravo is set in 1954, rather more modern than most of Trail of Cthulhu, and it sets the Investigators as sailors and scientists off on a cruise to watch an atomic bomb test at Bikini Atoll. Needless to say, after the first test shot in the series, strange things begin to happen and it's up to the party to save themselves and their ship... if they can! As this is likely to be a one-off adventure, pre-generated characters are provided.

There's no real need for a hook, the Investigators are aboard the ship whether they like it or not. There's a backstory that explains just what is going on, and then the pre-generated characters are presented. There are six (a naval helicopter pilot, a meteorologist, a naval chaplain, a medically-qualified research scientist, the ship's master-at-arms, and a corpsman) although it's recommended that the adventure works best with four players. They are presented in narrative format, so it's probably worth transferring them to character sheets before the game. Then it's on to the adventure...

This begins very early in the morning (it's still dark) with the ship on station 38 miles from the test site, about five minutes before the test shot is scheduled to take place. The Investigators can get to know one another and key NPCs at this time. Neatly, each character has a personal chunk of 'background knowledge' which it is suggested that you hand out at this time. A map of the area and a basic blocky plan of the ship are provided to help everyone get orientated. There's also quite a lot of scene-setting detail so those unused to naval operations can get the feel of it, and know where and who the important individuals (like senior officers) are. Then the bomb goes off...

There are real-world issues to deal with as a matter of urgency, but that's not all what with spooky visions and several crew members behaving oddly. There's lots going on and as time progresses it gets weirder and weirder. Investigators who retain their health and their marbles will be kept busy. Saving the day - at least as far as the world in general is concerned - may require drastic measures... and there is a remarkabky eerie ending if they fail!

This adventure has atmosphere and mounting horror in spades and could make an excellent movie, it's pretty cinematic. In style, it's mostly 'purist' but with a bunch of military around might trend towards 'pulp' depending on character actions. It's definitely a stand-alone adventure, but one to be relished to the full.

They are all good adventures, and this is a useful collection to have if you enjoy one-off adventures exploring specific aspects of the Mythos. They are all exciting and character-driven, with the usual risks to life, limb and sanity any Investigator expects.



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Trail of Cthulhu: Out of Time
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Rending Box
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2017 07:48:22

This adventure comprises the final revelation in Graham Walmsley's series of Purist adventures. This may sound a little strange, each adventure has been presented as a one-off with the recommendation that you use the pre-generated characters provided with each one (given that they will probably be mad or dead by the end of the adventure anyway). However, as a group of players (rather than as their characters) your party may play all of them and so see the underlying strands that culminate in the revelations of this adventure.

It all concerns an antique box, which the Investigators are asked to take from London to a contact up in the Lake District, a professor who studies folklore. Put it this way, this box makes Pandora's Box look like a benign ornament. After explaining the background, what there is to be discovered and the 'spine' of the adventure, we meet the pre-generated characters. You'll have to transfer them on to character sheets before distributing them to your players, but they do come with ample background material that gives them ready-made reasons to get involved. Finally before the adventure itself, there are notes on the main NPCs including their background and notes on how to role-play them to effect.

Then it's on with the adventure, detail upon detail, clue upon clue, leading the party inexorably on to their fate. At some point, probably, they will open the box. Don't push them (most Investigators will not need to be persuaded to take a peek), although there are some hints to help whet their curiosity if they seem reluctant. That's when the fun really starts. Delightful suggestions are given on how to present just how weird the contents (and their effects) are: this is something you can have a lot of fun playing out. Everything builds to a climax, out in the woods... and however the party deals with it, the ultimate ending is the same. You ought to have players, never mind their characters, freaking out.

A fitting climax to the series, with good backlinks, and an excellent adventure in its own right. There are a couple of errors a good proof-read ought to have caught, otherwise presentation is excellent, with some interesting handouts linking in the previous adventures.



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Trail of Cthulhu: The Rending Box
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Coriolis Atlas Compendium
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/06/2017 10:17:46

Introducing some of the places the party might visit within the Third Horizon, the first part of this book is suitable for both players and GMs. The descriptions focus on the main planet of each system covered, and on one city on that planet. The GM's part contains an overview of the history of the Third Horizon, a good look at who actually built the Portals that enable interstellar travel and provides a system for creating systems and planets of your own.

We then dive directly into the first section. Six systems are described: Algol, Mira, Dabaran, Sandaal, Zalos, and Odacon. For each, there is plenty of flavour text describing what sort of things you are likely to find on a visit - although somewhat more hard-hitting than the average tourist brochure... even the Rough Guides don't tell you where the slave market is in a place where slavery is prohibited! On a more pleasant note there are festivals, interesting sights to see and places to visit, as well as notes on the current political scene and other opportunities. Continuing the themes presented in the core rulebook, this section presents rich and strange worlds that prove fascinating in their own right, even before you consider the plots that have brought you there.

Moving on to the GM's section, we begin with an overview of history with a particular focus on the Third Horizon's troubled relationship with the First and Second Horizons... something that has been mostly forgotten by the denizens of the Third Horizon. The First Horizon is Earth (Terra), the Second Horizon is the first round of colonies and ended up dominated by a bunch of Mystics. Both Horizons viewed the Third Horizon as a good source of natural resources, a view that inevitably leads to trouble when the people living there decide that they are being exploited! The odd spelling mistake (that a good proof-read ought to have caught) doesn't detract from the sweep of history that takes us through several thousand years of strife right up to the present day in a few short pages.

Next we hear about the Portal Builders, or Predecessors as they are sometimes known. Nobody's quite sure who or what they were, just that they departed a good time ago but left a lot of interesting stuff behind. We read of some of these wonders, and of the theories and opinions that have grown up around them. All is still left quite open and vague: a neat move in that should the GM decide that the party is going to discover something about the Portal Builders, he is free to invent it for himself.

A system for creating new worlds comes next. The Third Horizon is a big place, and most of the worlds and systems in it are unknown... so here's the chance to come up with your own locations, stamp your own mark on the universe. There are thirty-six known systems, but even those - if you've flipped through the relevant portions of the core rulebook - have not been described in any detail apart from a few, so there's plenty of scope. (The records might be incorrect as well...) Gas giants, asteroid belts and those rocky planets that you might be able to actually land and walk upon are all covered here, as well as advice as to how to weave the bare bones into a coherent story, describing your new place as somewhere the party might want to visit.

The final two sections consist of ideas for creating missions based on the group concept underpinning the party and notes on travel. The 'mission generator' doesn't produce adventures for you, but it does get your mental wheels turning in appropriate directions - useful if you are struggling to come up with an idea. As the tables are based around the group concept you're using, it's quite hard to get inappropriate reults. By the time you have worked through the process (rolling on various tables) ideas ought to be beginning to spawn - you may well have come up with one before you complete the process, so don't worry, just put the dice away and get writing! Finally, the Travel suggestion is packed with ideas to make travel more interesting (the party may disagree).

Overall, this has the feel of 'Stuff we would have put in the core rules but ran out of space for', which as the core rulebook is almost 400 pages long is quite understandable. It's all useful stuff and fits well with what has already been presented, well worth adding to your game.



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Coriolis Atlas Compendium
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Coriolis - The Third Horizon core book
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/04/2017 13:50:43

This massive tome, lushly illustrated, hurls you headfirst into a game billed as the Arabian Nights in space. Mixing myths with starships, exotic cultures and interstellar travel, storytelling and technology, it puts an exciting spin on science-fiction and provides a setting that just calls out to be explored!

First up, we learn that this is a new version of a previous game, co-produced by Free League Publishing and Modiphius, and using a modified version of the latter's Mutant: Year Zero game mechanics. Free League Publishing, interestingly, were fans of the original game who started off by writing supplements for it. Then it's on to the first part of the book: RULES. Chapter 1: Introduction lays out in broad sweeps what the game is about (this is identical to the overview in the Quickstart Set) and explains the setting as being the Third Horizon, commonly just 'the Horizon', which consists of 36 star systems joined through space and time by mystic portals. The Horizon of today is a melting pot of different cultures, peoples and factions.

Now we are excited about visiting the Horizon, Chapter 2: Characters provides us with the tools to create characters with which to go there. As characters are assumed to be part of a group (with a spaceship) it is recommended that the group of players get together to create their characters, beginning with choosing your group concept from Agents, Mercenaries, Free Traders, Pilgrims and Explorers. There's advice on the sort of roles that need filling in each concept, as well as variations around the core theme: Pilgrims, for example, may not be particularly religious, the concept would fit itinerent workers or even travelling entertainers just as well. You will also need a Patron and a Nemesis...

Next we get down to individual characters. You start off by coming up with a background and a homeworld as well as a personal concept. Based on upbringing - Plebian (ordinary planet-dwelling folk), Stationary (raised on a space station) or Priviliged (the elite and wealthy) - you get varying points to spend on attributes and skills. There are two types of skills - general ones that everyone has a chance at and advanced ones in which you need at least some training - and five skill levels from novice to master. Each skill is associated with an ability, as the task resolution system (explained later on in the book) requires the rolling of a number of d6 based on the sum of the appropriate skill and its associated ability... and hoping for lots of sixes! There are other things to work out here as well, including which Icon - the local deities - you were born under. Just about everyone believes, at least a little, in their power. There are also some beautiful pages illustrating each character concept and providing further options to enhance and personalise your character. The next two chapters cover Skills and Talents - tricks, cheats and abilities that give you an edge over others - in great detail and show you how they are used.

Characters done, we move on to how they use the rules, and what they have to help them. So there are chapters on Combat, Weapons & Equipment, and Spaceships & Star Travel. Well-resourced and with plenty of examples, the whole system is quite easy to pick up yet elegantly powerful in what it allows your character to actually do. Task resolution is performed by adding up the points in the appropriate attribute and skill for the thing you're attempting and rolling that number of d6s - a single six means you've just managed it, three of them means you've done well, a critical success. The skill descriptions explain what all that means in terms of using that skill. If you don't get any sixes at all, you've failed and the GM needs to come up with some consequence of failure. When everything looks really bleak, you can always pray to the Icons. This pious act allows the re-rolling of all dice that didn't come up with a six. However, praying has its own dangers - every time you do, the GM gets a 'darkness point' from the religion's devil figure, the Darkness Between the Stars, these can be used against the party in a variety of ways. Combat is dangerous, think carefully - if you have the opportunity - before participating in a brawl. It's a turn-based system, with initiative established at the beginning of a fight by each participant rolling a d6, highest goes first... you can choose to lower your initiative by waiting to see what others do, but you are then stuck with a lower initiative for the whole combat. Various actions may be underaken in your turn, and a whole range of options are discussed. Associated matters like injury and healing are included and there's a delightful critical injury table for those who like to get more graphical than mere points of damage. We also find out how to fight with star ships, and about the vast array of equipment and weapons that are available.

Next comes a section THE HORIZON, where a wealth of setting information is to be found. We start with Chapter 8: The Third Horizon, which is where the game is located. It is a cluster of thirty-six worlds connected by ancient portals and the use of more conventional space travel. Our study begins with the region's history and then looks at the current state of affairs and the various factions which vie for power and position. Early space explorers barely knew where they were going, but eventually one group discovered the first star portal and colonisation really took off with the First Horizon and then the Second Horizon being explored and settled. It seemed a golden age but as such things do, something went wrong... and the discovery of the Third Horizon seemed a blessing for those who wished to escape the stultifying monolithic cultures that had developed. These, the Firstcome, spread across the Third Horizon building a beautiful and tolerant culture, and bringing the worship of the Icons with them. Then the fighting began, what history has termed the Portal Wars... although there are many opinions as to why the Wars started or what they were intended to achieve. They culminated in a kind of victory for the Third Horizon, but at the price of not just the loss of an entire system but also of all portals back to the other Horizons. Now isolated, they must forge their own future.

Even within the Third Horizon, there was a bit of a dark age with little interstellar commerce or even contact. Then things were stirred up by the arrival of an ancient generation ship, colonists from the original homeworld of Al-Ardha (this is apparently the name for Earth, although on Earth it's a town in the far south of Saudi Arabia...) who had been travelling for, well, generations direct through the black, having left before the portals were even discovered. As the vessel was called the Zenith these newcomers adopted the name of Zenithians. They explored for a while wondering quite what to do, but eventually set up above the planet Kua, creating a spacestation called Coriolis as a meeting place for all the peoples of the Third Horizon. Slowly it's bringing the Third Horizon back to vibrant life.

Needless to say, there's plenty going on that threatens to destablise this fairly fragile peace. Strange Emissaries have emerged from a gas giant. People have begun developing strange new powers. One of the Emissaries has declared himself the living embodiment of an Icon, which has upset a lot of the faithful. And one planet has been attacked but nobody knows by whom, because vessels sent to investigate don't come back. So amist this maelstrom we move on to Chapter 9: Factions. Here is a wealth of detail about the main factions - perhaps your party will join one, or they may provide customers, patrons, allies or enemies as the campaign proceeds. Those who love intrigue will find it here, be it the public face of official diplomacy or more behind-the-scenes action. As if that were not enough, there are small-bit players as well, groups and organisations operating at a lower level than the factions themselves, never permanently allied to a faction... and a likely source of employment for the party. Small wars for mercenaries, trade contacts, interesting excavations for those of an archaeological bent, there's plenty here.

Next is Chapter 10: The People of the Horizon. Even the true humans are quite a diverse lot, and then there are the Humanites, despised modified humans who have been altered to perform certain tasks or survive various extremes. We read of daily life in diverse places, and how the Icons are all-pervading, with virtually everyone believing in them (or at least saying that they do) and many being devout. A discussion on culture in general is followed by notes on the Icons and what is believed about them. Oddly, belief in the Icons themselves predates the foundation of the Church of the Icons, which has codified beliefs and practices, laying out various commandments that must be obeyed... and outlawing some traditional customs. Not surprisingly, there are many schisms and factions within the faith. To add to the mix there are myths and superstitions galore, and of course the djinn.

The next three chapters introduce and describe the Coriolis station, explore the planet Kua around which it orbits and present a gazetteer of the Third Horizon. For Coriolis, there's a timeline and details of many locations aboard. Much of it sounds like a North African or Arabic souk, teeming with merchants and food stalls, where just about anything can be had for a price. Whole adventures could be run here without ever setting foot off the station. However, reading about the Kua system - or indeed the entire Third Horizon - may change your mind, there's loads to see and do there as well!

The final part of the book contains a chapter on Beasts and Djinn, which is somewhat more than a mere bestiary, and one on the Campaign. As can be imagined, this is GM territory, and players are advised to avoid these two chapters. Mysteries are explained (or suggested), and there is loads more background and flavour to aid the GM in writing adventures and running the game. The Campaign chapter is a mix of advice and game mechanics, notes on the science and art of running a game... and how to use the Dark Between the Stars to good effect as a terrifying evil force that balances the good the Icons do. There's also a mini-scenario, The Statuette of Zhar to get you started, and two 'scenario locations' that can be used in your own plots.

This is an exciting book that leaves you itching to go visit this rich and complex setting, which is reflected beautifully in the sheer visual impact of the tome. The simple elegance of the game mechanic ensures that it will not intrude but facilitate your storytelling. Overall, this promises the potential of a particularly fascinating game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon core book
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Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2017 08:07:04

With lush illustrations to tantalise, this work provides an overview of the setting as well as rules information, pre-generated characters and a complete adventure to play. The Introduction sweeps you up from the outset with quick summaries of what players and the gamemaster in a role-playing game do and an outline of what characters will do: now, crewing spacecraft, exploring and carrying out missions are to be expected in any spacefaring game, unravelling secrets and plotting and scheming even... but there's mention of a space station called Coriolis and the intriguing thought that religious belief and worship are still part and parcel of most people's lives. Clearly this is a distinctive setting to explore, one where technology and myth are wound together in a manner befitting a game billed as 'the Arabian Nights in space'.

We're soon diving into history and learning about the Third Horizon, a group of thirty-six star systems linked by portals which have been colonised in two waves. Interestingly, the first arrivals (the Firstcome) set out after the second wave (the Zenithians): the original Zenith was a generation ship sent out to establish colonies, but when they arrived they found that in the meantime the folks back home had discovered an ancient portal system and got there first! The two groups still bicker, but not to the extent that others did - the people of the First Horizon tried to take over the settlements of the Second and Third Horizons but were eventually defeated in a massive war that has left its mark all over known space.

The central system in the Third Horizon is called Kua, where there's a jungle planet of the same name orbited by the Coriolis space station. Founded by the Zenithians, Coriolis is intended as a place where all the factions of the Third Horizon can meet and trade, establishing peaceful relations with each other. That's the idea, but it's not quite as peaceful as was initially intended. Strange Emissaries, from a nearby gas giant, have everyone a bit baffled as to their intentions, not helped by one of them declaring he is one of the Icons, the deities widely worshipped here. This situation is replete with opportunities for adventure... and here we are in the middle of it!

We now move on to the rules part, with Chapter 2: Skills explaining how attributes (strength, agility, wits and empathy) work together with skills (of which there are two sorts, basic ones anyone can do and advanced ones that must be learned) to enable characters to accomplish whatever it is that they want to do. Task resolution is performed by adding up the points in the appropriate attribute and skill for the thing you're attempting and rolling that number of d6s - a single six means you've just managed it, three of them means you've done well, a critical success. The skill descriptions explain what all that means in terms of using that skill. If you don't get any sixes at all, you've failed and the GM needs to come up with some consequence of failure. When everything looks really bleak, you can always pray to the Icons. This pious act allows the re-rolling of all dice that didn't come up with a six. However, praying has its own dangers - every time you do, the GM gets a 'darkness point' from the religion's devil figure, the Darkness Between the Stars, these can be used against the party in a variety of ways.

After copious details on the various skills available, we come to Chapter 3: Combat. It's dangerous, think carefully - if you have the opportunity - before participating in a brawl. It's a turn-based system, with initiative established at the beginning of a fight by each participant rolling a d6, highest goes first... you can choose to lower your initiative by waiting to see what others do, but you are then stuck with a lower initiative for the whole combat. Various actions may be underaken in your turn, and a whole range of options are discussed. Associated matters like injury and healing are included and there's a delightful critical injury table for those who like to get more graphical than mere points of damage. Naturally there are other ways to die as well as combat - fire, drowning, starvation and vacuum also feature here. A note about vehicles rounds out the chapter.

The rest of the book is devoted to the adventure - Dark Flowers - and the pre-generated characters provided for you to play it. It tells the tale of a long lost space station, a search for a fabled plant, and a scientist obsessed with completing her mission - even unto death. The backstory explains what's been going on, covering an hundred years or so, for the GM then the party is brought into the picture. They are tasked with getting into the space station and exploring it, and will be faced with a difficult decision to make. The adventure is well-resourced with everything you need to make it come to life provided in the text. It's an excellent adventure with a long slow creepy build up...

This quickstart certainly achieves the aim of picquing interest in the full game. The game mechanics are straightforward and easy to understand, and the setting is rich with promise. Put aside any thoughts of this just being Babylon 5 retooled with a bit of help from Firefly and Aliens, this is a vibrant and exciting setting in its own right, a place in which epic tales can be told.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
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