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Forbidden Lands Core Game
by Jeffrey S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2018 18:58:56

Forbidden Lands is perhaps the best iteration to date of the Year Zero rules system by Free League Publishing, paired with a setting that brings forth scenes and scenarios reminiscent of certain black metal or old school prog rock album covers' art. As a Kickstarter backer, I had been eagerly awaiting the game for some time, and after my first full session running the game yesterday, I'm glad to report that it does not disappoint.

The game is focused on exploration, with hex-crawl style play, punctuated by visits to villages and strongholds as well as dungeons and ruined castles. The exploration rules remind some players of a lighter version of The One Ring's travel rules, with different roles to be fulfilled in terms of one player character using survival skills to lead the way through the wilderness to avoid the party getting lost or running into hazards, and one player character keeping watch to avoid ambushes and make any random encounters along the way optional. There's some light resource management (you don't track individual units of rations or water but rather roll resource dice with each use to see if your supplies are running out) that may prompt other party members to forage, hunt or fish to avoid conditions like Hunger and Thirst. Party members might also fulfill important roles such as cooking the food others have caught or found (otherwise it won't last to become a resource), making camp (if a campsite isn't built in a good place or done well, you might wind up getting soggy or setting up your tent on an insect colony), and other chores. With each 10 kilometer hex you enter, you roll to see if you safely navigated the wilderness and if the lookout will spot any random encounters that the gamemaster might have rolled up, but there's plenty for everyone to do in this mode of play, although it's probably a good idea to make sure everyone is involved in decision making.

The map of Ravenland, the titular Forbidden Lands, is covered in icons where a hex will have a village, castle, or dungeon. It is up to the gamemaster to place the highly detailed adventure locations Free League and freelancers working on the game have come up with in those hexes. There are three locations in the Gamemaster's Guide, one each of a village, a dungeon and a castle. These can be used on their own, but they also play into the Raven's Purge campaign, which can be bought separately and has a great deal more locations. They say that the gamemaster can place these locations anywhere there's a corresponding icon on the map, and technically you can (technically, you can do anything you want at your game table) but every location has a legend and a history, and might have geographical features or suggestions for where it should be placed that in some cases - if carefully considered - lend the location to being placed in only one or two places on the map. Narrowing things further, the gamemaster's guide has a map showing where each Kin (fantasy race or subrace/clan) has settled. For example, if you're placing the laboratory and stronghold of a certain villain who called forth demons from a demonic portal, there's only one castle icon on the map adjacent to where history tells you there's a demonic portal. If you had a village that was a burial ground for officers killed in the Alder Wars that should be along a river, well, you've got several villages along rivers on the map, but there's a certain area between which Zygofer's forces would probably have met Alderland's in battle. Some locations are more flexible than others, if you want someone who understands the full history and context of the location to feel it makes any sense. This is possibly my one semi-criticism of the game, although the lack of labels on the map adds to the replayability of the campaign and makes it easy to reskin the game world as you please.

The feeling that only certain spots on the map felt appropriate for certain locations hardly mattered to me, though, because reading through the lore scattered throughout the gamemaster's guide and figuring out where best to place all of the locations in Raven's Purge and the Gamemaster's Guide was probably the most entertaining game prepration I've ever done. The history of the Forbidden Lands is full of secrets, betrayals, false narratives, unreliable narrators and legends that contain only a shadow of the truth. The native inhabitants of Ravenland were the elves and dwarves, with humans arriving later on as interlopers reluctantly given half of the land to keep the peace, negotiated via what's considered a protector god. Of course, humans being humans, they soon find themselves transgressing into the half of the land that is still reserved for elves, dwarves and other Kin due to religious persecution, overpopulation, a long period of poor growing seasons, in pursuit of the persecuted, and so forth. A series of migrations, wars and intrigues occurs over hundreds of years, up to the point where a demonic Blood Mist stretches across the land, devouring anyone who wanders from home and hearth at night. The Blood Mist rises each night for 300 years, until just several years before gameplay begins. This is why the lands are unknown to their inhabitants, and where all the constant exploration comes in. The player characters are among the first brave souls to go out to the wilderness and seek fortune, fame, knowledge, or even just a break in the monotony of not being able to leave the lands your family has lived on for 300 years, where your restless dead ancestors moan and mill about your family burial plot or the village graveyard, and you spend your life farming turnips.

The system is similar to Mutant Year Zero, also by Free League. The dice system can be punishing, but in actual experience not as punishing as one might think when first reading it. Each character has attributes, skills, and equipment that lend dice to a pool of d6s. Only sixes are successes. You can 'push' a roll, representing your character pushing themselves body and/or mind to succeed at a task where they must, re-rolling all dice except for sixes and ones. However, any dice that came up as ones on your attribute dice also cause harm to that attribute. You strain your muscles, tire yourself out, become frustrated or mentally fatigued. But the desire to triumph over adversity also gives you the rare resource Willpower, and you gain one for each 1 rolled on an attribute die in a pushed roll. So you damage yourself, but also gain a certain sense of determination. "Yeah, I did that, I'm capable of pushing myself to the limit if need be." Unless your party builds a stronghold and stays the night there, this is the only way that you will get Willpower. Willpower is used for racial abilities, professional (class) talents, and for all magic. If anyone is playing a druid or a sorcerer, they're going to want to push rolls right away.

The system works well if the gamemaster moderates it and heeds the game's advice. Don't let that spellcaster do every silly thing they can to roll dice and push themselves. They should get a decent amount of willpower from regular gameplay. My partner played a druid, and wanted to push his first roll even though he had a basic success. I told him not to, there was no need. He still had willpower when it came time to use the Path of Healing to save another PC, pretty early on. Likewise, as a sidebar early in the game says, you don't need to roll for everything. Think of this like an old-school fantasy roleplaying game without skills, even though this system is based on skills. In other words, think OSR, think basic D&D. Don't do "perception" based checks to search rooms and find things... if the party needs to find something to move the plot along, they should. Otherwise, they should tell you specifically where they're looking (I look in the wardrobe, I look in the desk), and if something is there you tell them about it. Use the Scouting skill (the perception-like skill) as directed to keep watch, oppose stealth, or otherwise as outlined in the book. You should only roll where there are consequences for failure, and if someone rolls and fails, there should absolutely be consequences for failure. Unlike the way modern D&D is often played, if someone rolls to climb a wall and fails, they aren't just standing at the base of the wall going 'unnnhhhh, can't reach' and unable to begin. They probably got partway up the wall and fell at some point, perhaps painfully or making noise. All of the advice for running the game, while brief and to the point with little exposition on why it should be done, is worth heeding: the core principles of the game, advice sidebars like don't roll for everything, rolls have consequences, etc. This will make or break this game system (and honestly, it can only improve other systems you apply these principles to, as well.)

There are random tables for generating monsters, villages, castles, and dungeons that are actually surprisingly good. You'll have a few dozen monsters in the gamemaster's guide, but the thing to understand there is that (1) monsters are a big deal, they follow their own rules and if PCs don't approach things very carefully and with prepartion, they will probably die, so monsters should be used sparingly, (2) the conflict of the Forbidden Lands is such that you'll probably be facing humanoids built similarly to the player characters more often than monsters, (3) locations detailed in the campaign and various other places will have their own monsters, and (4) monsters are easy to come up with or convert for the system, even without the random generator, as it's not hard to see how everything works in this system. There's no hidden balance to break per se.

Legends and Adventurers, the handout included in the core set, also includes an alternative method to randomly generate a player character that I was shocked every single one of my players used, sticking with the characters as they rolled them randomly for the most part. It also includes tables for a gamemaster to randomly come up with a legend for a person, place or artifact. Most of these tables are d66 (roll 2d6s, one is the tens digit and the other is the singles digit), but surprisingly flexible and providing a good number of options.

The combat system is decent, but brutal, and you might see character death from time to time. If a fight is one humanoid person vs another humanoid person, there is an alternative advanced melee system that adds some more dynamism to combat, involving combat cards. A character in arm's length of another, with a full set of actions available to them, can force the character they're engaged with into advanced combat, if the gamemaster agrees. Both characters act at the same time, picking two cards to represent their actions. The attack reveals his first action, and resolves it, then the defender, then the attacker, then the defender. This can "lock down" a combatant, forcing them to defend themselves or spend their actions fleeing melee, or allow someone to 'tank' an enemy. However, the tables can be turned on the attacker if the defender throws caution to the wind and decides to fight back, because if one or the other side is hit, pain prevents them from attacking later in the same round of combat.

Overall, my first session running the Forbidden Lands took a group that mostly wanted to talk about Dungeons and Dragons 90% of the time, and engaged them in an old school, more narrative game of exploration, intrigue and gritty combat, and they were happy when it was done, ready to come back for more. I was probably more satisfied having run the session than I ever have been running games, which I've been doing for decades with a large collection of RPGs. The session went in directions I wasn't prepared for, but it was easy to read out whatever encounter or location the players had taken us to without disrupting the game. As the players have begun to explore and discover this new fantasy world, I got to experience their story, the unique order of events that sprung up from their explorations, what they decided to engage with, the consequences of their actions and rolls, and how they decided to deal with various NPCs and places. It gave me the kind of experience I feel every GM should get from running a game. In all RPGs, the gamemaster is another player at the table, but a lot of games can make the gamemaster's role feel like work. This game lets you feel like you're also a player at the table, in somewhat different ways than things like the Powered by the Apocalypse system or Modiphius' 2d20 system, but in a completely satisfying way.

If you like the One Ring this can give a dark fantasy change of pace. If you like OSR games, this feels like an old school gold box RPG cranked up to an HBO original series level of 'Woah, WTF?". If you like gritty combat... the combat monster among my group of players started out the first encounter cracking a man's skull and shattering another man's leg, then got nearly sliced in half by a broadsword. If you like intrigue and complicated plots and narrative games, there's something for you in here, too. If you like survival games, this is definitely something to get into. If you just need a change of pace from your group visiting another magically cosmopolitan, Disneyland version of a medieval fantasy metropolis, check this out. It does 'points of light setting' in a way that the game franchise that introduced us all to the phrase 'points of light setting' never did.

Highly recommended. Trust the game and its advice and you'll have a great experience. DriveThruRPG, please increase the scale for reviews so I can give this 10 out of 10 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands Core Game
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Forbidden Lands Core Game
by Matthew T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/07/2018 05:30:17

I would recommend it for two audiences. For many around my age, the team at Free League have created the game were wishing for back when we were twelve. All the possibilities that the games of the early eighties offered us, are here finally realized. Intuitive mechanics make combat gritty and heroic, magic thrilling and even resource management entertaining and fun. For people starting out in the hobby, this is an excellent value box, that gives you everything you need (apart from dice and a pencil) to build your very own world of adventure.

I was a Kickstarter backer and so have had early drafts, completed PDF's and now the physical product for a little while, so I may be predisposed to liking this game. And I am. But my expectations were high, and I have not been disappointed. Yes, obviously I would recommend this game. We played a one-off scenario, and my players wanted more. One of the starts running his own campaign on Monday.

Design Physical versions are sold a boxed game, a conceit that reflects its origins. In Sweden many games RPGs are still boxed, in the way that early Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest and Traveller were. The publishers, Free league (or Fria Ligan), set out to create a modern take on the classic games that some of us remember from the early eighties. So by boxing this game, they are not just conforming to the Swedish market, but also asking the rest of the world to remember the good old days. Which brings me to the illustrations. In creating their modern but retro game, Free League were inspired by the black and white drawings of Nils Gulliksson, who illustrated the first Swedish language RPG, a Runequest clone called Drakar och Demoner. Indeed most of the illustations are classics from the early days of Swedish gaming, complimented with newly commissioned pieces from the same artist. These have a certain beauty which younger gamers might find difficult to fully comprehend, especially when compared with the exquisite full-colour work of Martin Grip in Free League's other fantasy game, Symbaroum. There is certainly a degree of nostalgia in their appeal. What it means for PDF purchasers though is a small file size, speedy and responsive, and printing bits out own't drain your colour ink. The Swedish format also gives you a small page size, ideally suited to tablets.

Playing the game The heart of the system will be familiar with players of Mutant: Year Zero; Coriolis; and Tales from the Loop. Of the three, its closest to MY0. Which is entirely appropriate because it is a game of survival, in a fantasy world that has had its own apocalypse of sorts. Like that game, it is best played with enough dice of three different colours. There is a custom set available (more on that in another post) but MY0 veterans can play with those, and lets face it d6 are not something most gamers are short of. Most rolls are made by pooling a number of "base" d6 for your attribute, with a number for your skill and maybe one or two for your gear, and rolling. All you need to succeed is one six (which is marked with crossed swords on the custom dice) to succeed, but more successes improve the effect of your action - more damage in a fight, for example. If you fail, or if you want more successes, you can "push" the dice, rolling again. But the cost of this can be harsh - you can not re-roll any base dice or gear dice which came up one. And these, plus any more ones you roll on your base or gear dice, will do you, or your gear, damage.

This version of the dice pool might seem complicated at first, to those who have come from Coriolis or Tales from the Loop, but you soon get the hang of it, and it creates a wonderfully nuanced and narrative flow to the game.

Unlike MY0 or its sister games, Forbidden Lands also uses d8, d10, and d12, mostly for magical artefacts, but I particularly like the Pride mechanic, which enables a player to name one thing they are very good at. Once per game session, when a player has failed a vital role even after pushing their dice, if they can explain how their pride applies, they get to roll the d12. This has a greater than 50% chance of turning your failure into success, and not just one, but up to four success, which could mean a critical effect. The catch is, if you roll 1-5, your pride was obviously a false one. You strike it from your character sheet and must play a whole session before you can pick something to replace it.

Its a tough combat system, your strength attribute is your "hit points", and only the most exceptional character will ever have as many as six. Given even a glancing blow from a heavy axe can deal three, your players will find combat short, gritty, exciting, and something to be avoided. A quarter day's rest will restore all your attributes, but if you are broken in combat, you also take a critical hit, for the possibility of permanent damage, a slow death or, if you are lucky, a quick one. My advice to players is hit first, hit hard, wear armour, and take up archery.

Character generation is speedy and fun, especially if you use the random system found in the Legends and Adventurers booklet. If you do though, note that unfortunately a number of talents are named in that booklet that don't appear in the Players Handbook. In Horseback Archer becomes Horseback Fighter, and we had to replace Scrounger with Quartermaster. I guess the talents named were in an earlier draft. If random generation isn't your thing, then there is a simple point-buy alternative. One feature I particularly like is that you can start out, young, adult, or old (unless you are an elf - elves are ageless). As you get older you loose attribute points but gain skills and talents. Talents I should say, are specialisms and abilities that turn your relatively broad skill set into a very individual character.

I am generally not a fan of magic systems based on lists of pre-defined spells, but that said recognize the difficulties of creating more freeform RPG magic systems, especially in regards to spotlight  balance in games where not everyone is a magic user. This is spell list based but flexible in the casting. Players should learn quickly though that magic is risky - a couple of unlucky rolls can see you cast into a terrible hell with no hope of return - as a PC at least. The risk can be mitigated with preparation though, taking time to write your spells down and gather ingredients.

Which brings me onto a key philosophy in the game. This system makes resource management easy and fun to play. By breaking activities down in quarter days, by using simple mechanics like resource dice for ammunition, food and water, and a carrying capacity defined by lines in your gear list the system neatly abstracts and gamifies the more simulationist tendencies of (what we used to call) wilderness campaigns. We've played a couple of adventures so far and my players have enjoyed the scavenging for roots to supplement their food supplies. The resource management has not got in the way or story, indeed its has informed  the narrative.

There is one resource that you can only get through failure. When you push your dice and take damage (or wear for your gear) on ones, you also earn willpower points. Willpower powers magic spells and a good number of talents. There has been some debate about this mechanic. Some people are unhappy that only physical strain earns you the power to do spells (players start with no willpower and can only store up to ten points), or they can't see a connection between taking damage and gaining resolve. It may not lend itself to immersion, but I like the way it builds the narrative beats - your triumphs are all the sweeter after failure, after all.

The World Part of me wishes the setting was a humanocentric one, like Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones or The First Law books, but this is a retro game, and so of course there are not just humans, but Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Orcs, Goblins and (less obviously retro, except perhaps to Traveller players) Wolfkin. Swedish genre author Erik Granstrom manages to give us all the nostalgic fantasy tropes our heart desires but put a subtle spin of novelty on them which makes this world strange and beautiful. Part of the strangeness is due to this world being described mostly in myth and legend, with some of the stories contradicting each other and very little (but just enough) explaining the "true" ecology. The elves in this game have a marvelous yet non-game-break-y immortality that makes them seem truly alien. Halflings and goblins have a link that is both novel and yet a reflection of the Frodo/Gollum relationship, and Dwarves build the world as much as mine it. Humans in this world are the invaders, and orcs the (by no means hapless) victims. There is just enough cliche to recognise and plenty of novelty to explore and excite the imagination.

One of the best assets of the GM's Guide (and the Legends and Adventurers booklet) is the help it offers in world building. There are three sample "adventure sites", none of which offer an "on the rails" story, but NPCs, motivations, and opportunities that allow your party to truely create their own adventure. On top of these sites however there are random generation tables that enable any GM, even the greenest, to confidently prepare an adventure in advance. A quick thinking GM could even create an adventure on the fly, while it is being played.

As I was ready the GM's guide indeed, I was thinking this  might well be a perfect gift for a young and aspiring potential GM. It could be an ideal first RPG even. All you really need (apart from dice) for a world of adventure is contained in just one box. Who is it not for? Well, I know somebody who hates dice pool systems, and prefers a d20. It's not for him I guess. But even if you are wary of dice pools, let me reassure you that this one is simple, fast and fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands Core Game
by John L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2018 10:14:16

Our gaming group has really been enjoying this game, it is a distinct change of pace over more "heroic" feeling fantasy games. If you like gritty fantasy where any combat encounter can easily result in death, where being Cold or Hungry can seriously hamper you, or where an injury can impact you for days or even weeks, then Forbidden Lands may be exactly what you are looking for. We have been playing for several sessions now and for the first time in years I'm watching my players approach everything with caution and well-thought out plans, especially after a single generic archer with no specific talents managed to take two of them out in consecutive rounds!

Forbidden Lands manages to incorporate a variety of features in the game that are often ignored in other games because they have overly complex rules, or they are simply not addressed. Things like the impact of being tired or hungry, encumbrance, or managing limited resources like ammo and torches, are all addressed in ways that are easy to track (and remember!) and have significant impact on the game. Contending with things like overland travel or maintaining your equipment is mechanically simple to incorporate but offers unique challenges and complications to drive the story forward.

On my first read through the rules I was expecting the game to be more difficult to grasp then it turned out. In fact, after just a brief explanation and an hour or two of play, we were having no troubles at all. The system is easy to use and intuitive. If you have any experience with the other Year Zero Engine games form Free League, it will be even easier. One of my favorite concepts in Forbidden Lands is the ability to "push" a roll. Pushing a roll increases the odds of success, or improves an already successful roll, but at the cost of degrading your attributes or equipment. However, pushing also has the potential to reward you with Willpower points that fuel some of your best abilities. As a GM I love a mechanic that tempts the players to take risks!

If you are looking for a solid fantasy game with a brutal feel, then look no further. Forbidden Lands delivers. And a little advice for players; if the GM says you are facing a Monster (monster is a specific term in this game), think twice before charging in!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon Core Book
by dom l. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2018 17:52:20

I just love this setting. The factions are not all one-dimensional and mystery of the portal builders is very intriguing. Also, the rules system is very smooth and deadly enough for the kind of game i like to play. My group has a few roleplaying beginners and after Uncharted Worlds were looking for something with more robust rules without being overwhelmed to continue our story. Boy am I glad I discovered Coriolis. Everyone at our table loves it and we will be playing it for a while. I especially like the space combat. The creators did an amazing job and put together a beautiful book. They have something to be proud of here. You will not be disappointed. Buy this book!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon Core Book
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Hidden Treasures of Davokar
by Rich H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/23/2018 16:58:03

Hidden Treasures of Davokar is a short, but incredibly useful and evocative supplement for Symbaroum. It's 2 pages, with the first page a map of Ambria and Davokar containing 20 new locations, and the second being a listing of those new locations with several rumors related to each one. The rumors are very evocative of the setting and immediately give me lots of ideas for how to incorporate them into my game, which to me is the hallmark of a good supplement. I really like that HToD adds several new locations, while still leaving plenty of open area in Davokar for you to fill in. The only downside is that there are a few typos, but they don't impair readability. Overall I'd highly recommend Hidden Treasures of Davokar to anyone running Symbaroum.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hidden Treasures of Davokar
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Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
by Marcus G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/22/2018 12:44:06

Pro: The setting, while not original, is a well thought out re-hash of deep space colonization complete with portals built by an absent civilization. The art, beautiful. The system, traditional, by the numbers, add a stat to a skill and roll for success or failure. No surprises.

Con: The system, traditional, by the numbers, add a stat to a skill and roll for success or failure. No surprises. I am sure the creators felt that the "Art of Failing" paragraph brought the system into the modern age, but the statement "If you roll no sixes, something goes wrong. You are now in the hands of the GM, and he decides what happens to you. The only thing he cannot say is “nothing happens”." is hardly revolutionary, or particularly helpful. Now, giving the GM useful tools and guidance for how to handle failure and make it something that builds the drama... that'd be great.

This is a traditional game that hits all of the expected points. There are numerous games out there that do the exact same thing. I gave it 3 stars because I like the setting and the art/layout is good.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
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Thistle Hold - Wrath of the Warden
by Steven F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/13/2018 11:44:31

This is an excellent start to the Throne of Thorns campaign line for Symbaroum as well as a solid information source for your own adventures in the realm on Ambria. The first section of the book, written for both players and GMs is a more in depth look at the town of Thistle Hold. Beyond the standard module fare of a map with some numbers and key to tell you what those numbers represent, this section of the book gives the reader details about the important people who run the town and what motivates them to stay in the town on the edge of Davokar forest. It also contains rumors and off-hand knowledge that the authors describe as being what just about any character would know about Thistle Hold after spending a few days to a couple of weeks within the walls. There are some things here for players to possibly investigate on their own if they are so inclined or for GMs to spin into their own stories, either to build an adventure or just to breathe some life into their players' stay.

The second section is similar to the first except that it is meant specifically for GMs. This section goes into detail on the real history of Thistle Hold and the truth behind many of the rumors mentioned in the first section. The history laid out here really adds to the setting as a whole and gives GMs a solid base from which to build their own adventures in and around the city by explaining the true motives and intentions driving the power players in Thistle Hold. It also makes it clear just how precarious the situation that the town is in, sitting a stone's throw from the edge of the forest and all of the dangers that hide within.

The last section is the adventure entitled The Wrath of the Warden. I won't put too much detailed information here so as not to spoil anything for potential players who are looking into reviews. This adventure assumes that the player characters already have some experience under their belts and have made something of a name for themselves either in Thistle Hold or Ambria in a broader sense. The three-part introduction adventure series comprised of "The Promised Land" (in the back of the core rules), "The Mark of the Beast", and "The Tomb of Dying Dreams" set PCs up pretty well for starting this adventure both in terms of experience and in terms of reputation.

The opening of the adventure is written to provide a couple of difference entry points to the story, based on the feel that the GM wants and how the players play. In most cases the players are contacted by a mysterious "soon-to-be friend" who thinks that they can be of help in solving a problem that Thistle Hold doesn't even really know it has. The situation goes downhill from there with surprises, underground expeditions, and at least one trip to the forest of Davokar to sort out what is really going on and how the situation can be resolved. My players thoroughly enjoyed it, in any case.

It is worth noting that Jarnringen doesn't write their adventures in the module format that a GM might be used to. Rather than laying out a specific path through the story and giving the GM paragraphs of read aloud text, these adventures (and all Symbaroum adventures really) are presented in phases similar to how this entire book is set up. All of the important NPCs (as well as the factions to which they belong) are described ahead of the action of the module along with their backgrounds and motivations. These descriptions also include their goals for the current scenario and in the overarching campaign if their roles extend beyond Wrath of the Warden. Following that, there is an overview of the entire adventure along with suggested hooks for the GM to use in getting things rolling. Now, all of that might still sound pretty standard for any well-written module. Where Symbaroum's adventures differentiate themselves is in the meat of the scenario.

As I said above, the events of the module are not laid out in a "the players do A then B then C" format. Instead the adventure is broken into acts which contain scenes. Each scene describes, fairly loosely, what is going to happen provided that the players do NOTHING. The expectation is that the GM understands the NPCs, their goals, and the adventure as a whole well enough that the players can approach the scenario in whatever way they choose and not throw things off when they inevitably apply their will to the world and the situation at hand. This means that scenes mostly contain environmental details and relevant bits of knowledge that some NPCs might have in that moment. Each scene also suggests challenges and skill tests that can be used to gain information or change a situation if the players choose a certain course of action. Stats are provided for potential opponents in a scene but rarely is a fight guaranteed. Ultimately, it is left to the GM and the players (through their actions) to determine which scenes happen, the order in which they happen, the effects of the events of that scene.

As a GM who primarily runs games as an off-the-cuff operation this layout really appeals to me personally. The scenes presented here are more likely to offer bullet points and information about what a person, place, or object looks like rather than a specific block of text to read. I find it offers a much more succinct and streamlined way for the authors to give me the information that I need to run the story the way it works for my players rather than the way that the author envisioned. That's basically what this offers, a well thought out adventure that is only as railroaded as the GM wants it to be.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thistle Hold - Wrath of the Warden
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MUTANT: Year Zero Gamesmaster Screen - PDF
by Ola H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/25/2018 09:59:59

This product is only a 1-page pdf, meaning all 4 pages are stacked in one picture. This drastically reduces its value as a handout or reference sheet, although it works well enough for only online use.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
MUTANT: Year Zero Gamesmaster Screen - PDF
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Coriolis: Aram's Ravine
by Marc C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2018 13:54:27

« a complete scenario location for the award-winning Coriolis »

The use of the words «scenario location» was confusing to me. While their are descriptions of several locations, important NPCs and possible interactions between them and PCs, you will not find any detailed plans of buildings or an actual scenario/mission for the players. There are only two short paragraphs of possible adventures hooks at the end of the PDF. The GM has to do all the hard work. I didn't find what I was looking for but what is included is well written and engaging.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: Aram's Ravine
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Coriolis: The Dying Ship
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/15/2018 10:47:37

This adventure is a classic tale of a ship that has gone silent and off course, with the party sent to discover what's amiss, sort it out and recover a valuable cargo hauler and its load. The text begins with a detailed explanation of what has gone wrong and how it all came about, masses of beautiful detail that's enlightening for the GM but does raise the question of how easy it will be to enable the party to discover it all for themselves.

The adventure is well-resourced, with plenty of handouts and five pre-generated characters for groups who want to start straight away and have no characters of their own. Using your own characters is, however, a viable option. There are also some interesting comments about pacing the adventure, which can be done in a session or two if the group is time-strapped, or played out in a more leisurely manner for groups who like to explore every aspect of a given situation. Like any adventure, a thorough understanding and preparation on the part of the GM repays dividends. The situation is quite dangerous and should a player-character die, suggestions are made as to how best to replace them.

In classic style, the party is on Coriolis when they are approached and invited to a meeting at a cantina... and arrive to find another bunch impersonating them! Once this is sorted out - and several options are provided for you to use depending on how the party reacts - their contact will explain the delicate nature of the mission to be undertaken and enlist their help. He's in quite a rush to get their answer and be on the way... even going so far as to say he'll answer all the questions that they likely have once en route.

The trip to the oddly-behaving ship is relatively straightforward, although a few events are provided should you want to make a bit more of it. They may find out a bit more about the fellow who hired them as well. Once they arrive, the first trick is to get aboard. The hauler is already dangerously close to an asteroid swarm, which would probably destroy it if its course cannot be changed. The ship is dark, appears mostly powered-down, and the party's hails go unanswered. Once aboard, it is a creepy search to find the answers that they seek and regain control of the ship before it is all too late.

The exploration of the ship is handled in an elegant manner: it's completely up to the party what they do. The ship is described clearly, and certain things will occur in certain places... but only when the party reaches those places. Other events can be triggered as you feel appropriate. There's lots of atmospheric descriptions and ancillary notes making it all very easy to build up the air of suspense necessary... and of course that asteroid field is getting closer by the minute!

Overall it's an outstanding adventure, mixing traditional 'dead ship' tropes with some of the unique background and mythology of the Coriolis RPG (although if you are minded to get a bit mystical you could retool it for other spacefaring games). This has the potential to make a memorable story indeed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: The Dying Ship
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Coriolis: Aram's Ravine
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/14/2018 10:30:43

This supplement introduces Aram's Ravine, the only settlement on a planet called Jina which is by all accounts a bit of a hellhole that you only want to visit if you are after bauxite and other minerals... or adventure, with rival individuals constantly bickering and intriguing against one another.

Jina is barely habitable, with acid storms, temperature extremes, dried-up oceans and icy poles. You are recommended to check out the comments on this planet in the core rulebook to put this settlement into context. The colony is a hub for everyone exploiting the resources of the planet. It's perched on the edge of a ravine in a place with odd geology that has led to the formation of several 'towers' of rock between which softer rock has been eroded away - and the settlement itself is located on several of the towers, linked by rather precarious-looking bridges.

There is a plan of the settlement, atmospherically presented in a way that represents the rather misty atmosphere. This mist is acidic and slowly eats away at anything and everything (including people!) left out in it. Locations of interest include a palatial bath house or hammam, cantinas, a chapel of the Icons, Colonial Agency office, a small medical facility and a witch doctor's office. Outside the settlement there's a local population of fiercely tribal xenophobic 'kalites', acid-resistant humanites who are fairly primitive, although probably less so than most people give them credit for. There's some description of the surrounding area, which is where the mines can be found.

Then we get to meet some of the personalities in the settlement. The Colonial Agent. The (self-proclaimed) Mine Lord. The Salt Witch. These are the three rivals, and there are other subsiduary NPCs as well.

Then there are a series of events, beginning with a note that any new arrivals - like the party - will immediately be drawn into the scheming and plotting that's going on whether they like it or not. And that's before any set=piece events take place. Both of the ideas presented are ripe for development into full-blown adventures, and are open-ended enough that you can put your own spin on them.

Another fascinating location replete with opportunity for adventure!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: Aram's Ravine
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Coriolis: The Mahanji Oasis
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/13/2018 09:40:23

Labau is an arid and hot desert planet, but if something takes the party there, they will be glad of a lush oasis to visit... so here it is. A few reasons for why they might be there are provided, and reading through the notes on Labau in the core rulebook may suggest others. The oasis and the lakes nearby are clearly visible from orbit.

There's an overview of the oasis and a more detailed description of the village of Mahanji and some of the notable places: a cantina, the caravan seraglio, and premises belonging to petroleum companies. There's also an area called the Wall of Dreams where you can find, er, individuals of negotiable affection. OK, that's where the brothels are. Apparently caravanners, petroleum workers and workers from the starport are all regular patrons.

There's a map of the area supplemented by a sort of labelled skectch of the village itself which gets across what's where in a very atmospheric way. There are notes on every location noted on the map and sketch. and some might think - if you don't mind the high temperatures - that it might be a nice place to establish a base...

Of course, then we hear about the simmering tensions between various groups. The Firstcomer natives aren't too happy about those prospecting for petroleum. There are rumours about illicit experiments going on in the Factory (which does bionics research). Something odd is going on around some ancient ruins... and now people have started to disappear. Things are coming to a head, and of course do so when the party is there, irrespective of why they have actually come! There are detailed notes on the main personalities involved (including stat blocks if required) and a series of events that will blow the lid off things. You could pile all of these up at once or - especially if you expect the party to be frequent visitors to the oasis - spread them out a bit, for each is capable of being developed into a full-blown adventure in its own right. This provides for a lot of flexibility, and the range of events means that you can pick which ones to develop based on what you know of the party or even which of the rumours flying around catches their interest!

A fascinating little settlement to visit in its own right, and with all this going on the party may be in for a long stay. Well worth a look!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: The Mahanji Oasis
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Coriolis: Hamurabi
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/12/2018 08:11:48

This supplement presents a location which can provide a resting place, a source of adventure or indeed be a place in which adventures take place: a portal station in the Hamura system. It orbits the system's star and is more or less equidistant between the two portals in the system. Being the only station in system, people using either portal are likely to visit. It boasts just over an hundred permanent residents, and has all the facilities you might need: cantina, souk, chapel, a medlab, and residential modules, some of which are available for rent by transients. There's also a 'coffin hostel' for those who cannot afford proper rooms for their stay.

The descriptions of the place bring plenty of local colour and atmosphere to help you bring it alive for the party. There's a general plan based on a labelled line drawing of a side elevation of the station and some illustrations as well. The station is directed by Akbar Rhavinn Bokor, who has offices and a fine residence. There's also a Colonial Office which deals with such matters as the registration of mining claims and ensuring that things intended for any colony end up at the right one... there's plenty of work hauling goods and information for those in need of a contract.

Next, the current situation is discussed. Various personalities come into play and there are several points of tension - such as ice miners from a nearby planet getting a bit rowdy on leave - that can serve as backdrop or even focus of adventures as desired. There are descriptions (and stat blocks, should you need them) for the major players in the various operations on the station and a few events that may occur as appropriate during the party's stay beginning with a 'welcoming committee' as soon as they dock. There's also a suggestion for a complete mini-adventure.

It all gives the impression of a bustling little haven of light out there in the black, a place that operates all the time whether or not the party are there. You'll need to provide extra detail to build events into full-blown encounters or to develop that mini-adventure but there's a sound framework on which to build. Definitely a place to visit, maybe the party will even make it a regular stopping-place in their travels.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: Hamurabi
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Coriols: Artifacts & Faction Tech
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/11/2018 11:28:33

Artefacts are the most valuable things that the party is likely to get its hands on, conferring great power or wealth in whoever's got them. There's some brief advice to the GM about where (and when) to make them available, and a note about the glyphs they are often covered with. A few are thought to be understood, but nobody's certain about what they mean, let alone being able to read them properly... perhaps there's a 'Rosetta Stone' out there to find?

Then comes a listing of artefacts ready for you to use. Each has a visual description (and often a picture) along with notes on what it can do, limitations or drawbacks... and what skills the party can use to figure it out. But that's not all. There are numerous sidebars that discuss various aspects of artefacts to further enhance your use of them in your game.

Unfortunately many artefacts do their stuff by manipulating energy streams that lie dangerously close to the Dark Between the Stars. For those that do, there's a note of how many Darkness Points are generated for the GM when it's used. If you are too bedazzled by the artefacts presented here to choose which of the over sixty presented here, there's a random selection table to roll on.

There are quite a few healing devices of various levels of power - most will be pretty scary for both the injured person and any bystanders when they are used, particularly if they haven't seen the particular artefact in action before. In fact, many of the artefacts have the potential to scare users...

The second part of the book covers Faction Technology. Unlike the mysterious artefacts, this is the cutting edge of contemporary development, often from hidden programmes of development that each faction desperately wants to hide from all its rivals. They're presented by faction with two or three signature items from each one. Often they reflect the faction's particular interests or strengths. Weapons and armour predominate, but there are ships and the intriguing proxy technology, an immersive alternate reality developed by Ahlam's Temple which they use sparingly for education or to allow experiences otherwise impossible - things like giving disabled individuals the use of the limbs or senses they cannot use in real life. Is this a blessing or a curse?

Providing a tantalising glimpse into both faction tech and the even stranger artefacts, these are items the average party should find only rarely, but when they do it's a reminder of how rich and strange the universe is. The one thing this work doesn't do is assign any values to anything listed here. Perhaps they are priceless. Or maybe it is up to the party to negotiate if they wish to part with the item in question. Maybe it's too dangerous to hawk them around... Whatever, they'll blow your mind. Sometimes literally.



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Coriols: Artifacts & Faction Tech
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Symbaroum - Report 22:01:08
by aaron b. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/23/2018 12:29:58

i liked all of the tantalizing tidbits included in this...i cant wait until more expansive decriptions of those areas becomes available



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Symbaroum - Report 22:01:08
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