Little Wars
DriveThruComics
DriveThruFiction
Powered by DriveThruRPG


Home » Pelgrane Press » Reviews
Browse Categories













Back
Other comments left for this publisher:
You must be logged in to rate this
Night's Black Agents: Solo Ops
by Patrick M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2020 06:34:37

This is a perfectr 1on1 RPG product. The mechanics work great for individual player + GM, the pre-gen PC is great and the three "adventures" are top notch. I love the NBA regular game, but this product is even better.

Mechanics and story are tightly connected, so it is a little harder to prep a story on your own, but the 3 stories included will keep you and a friend busy for some gaming nights.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Black Agents: Solo Ops
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Trail of Cthulhu
by Edward K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/10/2020 22:51:17

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Trail of Cthulhu

Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea every day!

Product- Trail of Cthulhu System- Gumshoe Producer- Pelgrane Press Price- $24.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/55567/Trail-of-Cthulhu?affiliate_id=658618 TL; DR- Do you think Call of Cthulhu has too much Crunch? 88%

Basics- Should the story stop when the players just suck at rolling? Trail of Cthulhu believes that story trumps mechanics as story should drive the game. Let’s look at the pieces.

Overview-Trail of Cthulhu is a skill system like Call of Cthulhu, but unlike Call of Cthulhu you have two types of skills: investigative and general. General covers any contested rolls and investigative covers learning the horrors of the mystery. Let’s break that down.

Investigative Skills- You enter a room, ask to search the library for secret books, and you find all secret books. If you have ranks in the appropriate skills, you find all the books. That’s it. If you couldn't find the books, the story might stop. Trail of Cthulhu focuses more on you learning the mystery and less on you flubbing rolls to learn the mystery. You build these skills with points like ranks, but those points are spent to learn more, not just enough. Characters with even one rank would find all the books, then can spend points to learn more, like find the right places in the hidden books to skip something horrible or learn more secrets beyond the base mystery.

General Skills- Punch a guy, out run a monster, and hide from the cultists are all opposed rolls where the story isn’t the issue, so they become general skills. This system uses ONE d6. That’s it. You want to to a thing? Roll a d6 and aim for a 4. Before you roll, you can spend points from the pool to add to the roll. Some skills give you more damage or more hit points or sanity, but for the most part opposed rolls happen with skills or trying to do a thing that isn’t dependent on the story happening at all.

Honestly, that's it. There is sanity and HP, but for the most part the two types of rolls define the system. Let’s see my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch-I like crunch (heck I build point based Shadowrun characters for fun!), but for the most part, this is a quick, light system. My more roll-happy friends freak out when we play as they NEED to roll to search, but the option to make story happen as the goal is a good one. If you just want a game that happens fast without a ton of hassle because you didn’t spec into the right build at level 4 to cast the one spell to put the deepone to sleep, but you will want a horror game then this is the crunch for you. 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff- This game is put out by the premier Lovecraft people in the industry. They know their stuff. It feels right, but it also feels like Indiana Jones as they build Pulp and straight Lovecraft versions of the rules into it. If you want to punch the ghoul, then this can be your game, or if you want to go mad at the sight of a corpse, then this can also be your game. The book builds out a full world in a quick way to help new GMs get running right away. 5/5

Execution- PDF? YEP! Hyperlinked? YES! I have the two big things I want, but why am I not happy? Well… RPG books can be built one of two ways: mechanics first or theme first. This goes character build first. I don’t know what ANY of the math means until WAY far into this book. When I googled it it made perfect sense, and then 20 pages later I saw the explanation. That is not good. I like the world that is built with the book, but it's a pain to read; a three column design isn’t great. This book is modern, but some of the design decisions are just a bit off. 3.75/5

Summary- Slick and simple. This game is a fun one regardless of the book design. I like the game this makes. The solid focus on story first is nice. I would like a bit more crunch, but simple is fun sometimes. The story and theme of the book are top notch. The execution isn't. If you want a game that starts quick and plays quick but still has great Lovecraftian horror, then Trail of Cthulhu is worth checking out. 88%



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition Sampler
by William B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/15/2020 01:09:44

I really enoyed Esoterrorists 2nd Edition, and I wish it would have caught on. Similar to another game I ran for a while, Conspiracy X 2.0, it really fills that awesom niche of X-Files type stories, and ventures further into horror elements. The reason I'm not running it today has nothing to do with the book itself. The reason I wasn't able to run the game is that I couldn't ever find anyone to play, and there wasn't any integration with Fantasy Grounds or Roll20. I advertised all over the place; roll20, Reddit, Facebook, but it just seemed to be a completely dead community. Several years ago when I read this, I think where someone might have succeeded in running it would be with an existing gaming group willing to try something new, but that resource was not at my disposal. Today, I think anyone looking for this type of gaming would probably auto-select the current version of Delta Green.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition Sampler
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Trail of Cthulhu
by Nathan L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/02/2020 23:30:23

This is The Cthulhu game, in my opinion. GUMSHOE and Cthulhu go so well together.

Drives, Stability & Sanity.... The power of Investigative Skills; this game is absolutely amazing. The section on the 1930s, Ken Hite is the master and this book is a must for anyone who is a fan of the era, investigation games, or cosmic horror.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition
by Nathan L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/26/2020 20:18:03

So far bad. The PDF causes my iPad Books app to freeze and crash.

Had the same issue with Fear Itself. So far; the Publisher hasn't been helpful.

PDFs with bigger file sizes and larger res, more colourful graphics run fine (City of Mist, KULT). Problem is bad authoring of the PDF.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Creator Reply:
Hi Nathan. I'm really sorry you're also having problems with The Esoterrorists 2nd Edition. I responded to your review on Fear Itself 2nd Edition asking you to contact us so we can assist you with this. I received your email yesterday, and we are currently looking in to the issue. Please see my response to your email for further details. Thanks, Becky.
Fear Itself 2nd Edition
by Nathan L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/24/2020 19:45:34

So far, bad.

The PDF doesn't even load on my iPad. Game itself may be great, but who knows when it won't load. PDFs for KULT and City of Mist load very quickly and are super responsive. Both are bigger in filesize than Fear Itself and have a lot more colourful graphics.

Once I can actually read it and run it; I'll rewrite the review.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Fear Itself 2nd Edition
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Creator Reply:
Hi Nathan. We're really sorry to hear you're experiencing problems opening the PDF of Fear Itself. Please contact us on support@pelgranepress.com so we can help resolve this. Thanks, Becky.
Invasive Procedures
by Chris D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/17/2020 18:39:30

I have said much already in my comment on the store page for this but yes, this is quite possibly the most "Squicky" and outright terrifying horror module I have ever run. Owning Book of Unremitting Horror is recommended if you seek to run this, but I would STRONGLY recommend making it a one or two shot and not trailing it into a campaign given what you are about to do to these characters.

Without going into too many spoilers, there is a lot of grotesque body horror in this module, and the entire thing is packed with detail top to bottom in all of the squicky, uncomfortable and horrifying things. If doctors scare you or your players, even if they don't, this will make them scared.

It does seem extremely brutal and while I am not incredibly familiar with The Essoterrorists or Trail of Cthulhu, it is a rather brutal scenario

My STRONGEST recommendation to anyone on this module, is to use it as an idea mine for other games, especially for anyone who likes Hellraiser, Silent Hill, or Jacob's Ladder. There are a TON of incredibly interesting and screwed up ideas in here you could tear out and use in just about anything.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Invasive Procedures
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Cthulhu Confidential: One For the Money
by CD F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/12/2020 19:28:33

The mix of WW2 era Washington DC history, the challenges of racism and the other worldy challenges of The Mythos make for a great scenario. Fighting Nazis, racism and supernatural horror what better challenges for a RPG?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Confidential: One For the Money
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos
by John B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2020 04:28:21

As you would expect from a Trail of Cthulhu product, Hideous Creatures is a top-notch piece of work. It stretches from the must-have monsters to obscurities, hinted at in Lovecraft's work in passing. It provides you with a variety of options to personalize your monsters, a wide array of lore you can choose from (taken from their imagination and various stories, sometimes contradictory as real legends can be), and an array of sources to see how others have used those creatures. My PDF has a few blank pages for no apparent reason, especially towards the end, but none of the creatures are actually missing. I especially enjoyed, to my surprise, the Star Vampire entry, which includes ideas for how to use them in Night's Dark Agents' games. This bestiary is pretty much everything I want from a monster book, especially for a Cthulhu game. Kudos! Four out of five stars and it would be five if I didn't have random blank pages.

There are 31 creatures plus a section on general guidelines on making new horrors or converting old ones to serve your purpose, Each creature itself comes with customization options and lots of ideas on variations, and 2-4 entire adventure ideas focused on that creature. About a third of them are things mentioned by Lovecraft but not really developed which I had never seen before in a Mythos tome.

Anyway, if you're into the mythos, Trail of Cthulhu products are always worth the money. I have all the old Hideous Creatures mini-books, but this is well worth the money.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hideous Creatures: A Bestiary of the Cthulhu Mythos
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Worldbreaker
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/31/2019 06:51:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This mega-adventure/anthology clocks in at 91 pages of content if you disregard editorial, ToC, etc., and one of the pages is devoted to a brief hack for Night’s Black Agents – and as an aside, my favorite GUMSHOE game so far is pretty much Esoterrorists with some Night’s Black Agents-rules spliced in.

This review is based on the perfect bound softcover version of the book, which sports the name on the spine, making it easy to find in your RPG-library.

Anyhow, this mega-adventure, structurally, has an introductory scene, and then allows the agents and GM to choose from 4 scenarios that may be run in any order; after these have been completed, the adventure has a furious final module. In many ways, this is thus akin to Night’s Black Agents’ excellent “The Zalozhniy Quartet”, with one crucial difference – there is less interwoven content. In said adventure, the sequence in which the respective modules are tackled would influence the overall plot and how they behave with regards to each other; this could seriously increase the replay value. Worldbreaker does not sport connections between the scenarios, which makes preparing the module easier, but also decreases the replay value of the entirety and makes the respective parts feel less connected and more disparate. Worldbreaker also sports only one possible finale, instead of multiple ones, but said finale is developed in a more nuanced manner and feels, as a consequence, less like a cut-scene/final fight.

Which of the two approaches you prefer remains ultimately up to you, but personally, I’d have loved to see the myriad connections and versatile endings; this would have bloated the page count by, according to my rough estimates, at least 20 pages, though, so not sure that’d have been feasible. There is one further aspect on a formal level that I was less than enthused by, and that would be the continuation of the annoying tendency of GUMSHOE modules not sporting proper maps. There is not a single map included, in spite of the fact that more than one scene would have really benefited from having at least some sort of map. Without an expert GM, this mega-adventure can feel somewhat indistinct regarding dimensions etc., and I strongly advise getting some building plans and maps from the public domain when running this. On the plus-side, the book features quite a bunch of handouts, though these are not collected in an appendix – you’ll have to copy/print them, and cut them out. An appendix would have been more comfortable there.

Okay, the formal aspects out of the way, this is an Esoterrorists module, and as such, it is a HORROR adventure. If you’re easily offended and consider horror to be problematic, if you want sanitized games…why play a horror module in the first place? This module includes gore, twisted stuff, death, psychological horror, etc. – you know, horrific stuff? Its setting is the Ocean Game version of the real world that acts as a backdrop for both Esoterrorists and Fear Itself, and the focus is on investigation. This also is not a module for Esoterrorist (or at least, investigation) novices – it can be tough, and the introductory scene has a component that works much better if it is properly contextualized by previous adventures. Worldbreaker works best as a campaign capstone, as it is a) deadly, and b) has potentially a huge impact on agents and OV. I assume familiarity with the terms of Esoterrorists in this review.

Okay, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the game starts in San Francisco, where something twisted has happened, and I don’t mean in the fun way. The OV meets up at the luggage carousel in Sand Francisco ( a notion kinda making this more real to me – when I first visited the US, it was San Francisco where I landed), and from there, the investigators are off to the Basement. What’s that, you ask? It’s a discreet sex club catering to an international crowd. As an aside: The club’s footage features one of the most compassionate and understanding ways in which BDSM is depicted in a piece of mainstream media – usually, it’s depicted in a rather twisted manner, when in real life, a relaxed and often playful atmosphere is cultivated. As a lifelong practitioner, that was nice to see. Oh, and the BDSM folks are not the bad guys for once. I know, right? Instead, they are, alas, the victims – victims of an example of a textbook American family. Wholesome, nice, kids and granny included. The Powells entered the club, brutally slaughtered everyone, and then committed ritualistic suicide. Investigating the scene also sees the handler, Mr. Verity in OV-terms, snap – the lady (also called Mr. Verity) attempts to kill herself – hopefully, the agents can intervene.

Anyhow, analysis of the footage and investigation into the family’s background, leads to some twisted realizations – slug-like ODEs, so-called Symps, seemed to have taken over the family, only to then infiltrate different persons attending the BDSM-club – and from there, the threads of the plot’s narrative spread out through the 4 main chapters/episodes. And yes, the family’s home and all the small investigative scenes yield further clues – in spite of the finale being more linear than “The Zalozhniy Quartet”, the massive investigation has a surprising amount of failsafes, second chances and similar tricks, by which the pacing may be maintained.

Each of the episodes has a somewhat different gameplay and focuses on a different type of horror: The first of the scenarios puts the investigators on the trail of an international lobbyist, hunting the guy via a series of escalating incidents from new Jersey to Leicester and Italy, with the theme and chapter-header being “Coulrophobia” – we have a murder-clown adventure, where twisted clown ODEs cause fatal traffic accidents – yes, plural, for they have built a kind of crèche wherein new ones spawn. With their own, strange rules to uncover, dangerous incidents and the requirement to understand their twisted, obsessive MO, this is a great, classic horror investigation, one that, like the others, benefits immensely from the agents doing their legwork properly – this is a deadly scenario, but one that is very much beatable by smart agents.

The second Symp has an agenda that is, in a way, less flashy, and which may be the toughest investigation of the scenarios within – the chapter is called “Geoslasher”, and the notion is pretty cool: The (for copyright reasons) renamed Google-company of the world’s streetview etc. Pictures hae been showing killings – and it’ll take some serious sleuthing to uncover everything. This one is also when experienced OV agents will realize that something bad is going on: Organ grinder…as a “oh yeah, and then there’s that ODE”-encounter. Just kinda happens right there. Things are becoming rather twisted. Oh, and obviously, discerning the game of the Symp, how the streetview/satellite imaging corresponds with the murders…that’s a pretty tough cookie. I love the slow burn here, with paranoia, estrangement and technology-anxiety being some of the leitmotifs featured within.

The third episode made me recall “The Seventh Circle”, but works imho better: This one is plain ole’ survival horror done well – set in the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves of Belize, its theme is one of a reality TV show diving into ancient Mayan sites – and the dark that haunts these places. Against a backdrop of ancient legends and cults, this is all about navigating a labyrinthine place of darkness, of light and survival – it is the one scenario that is closest to the structure of many horror games and movies. It also sports a rather rudimentary ad nigh useless (and ugly) map of the labyrinthine caverns, and feels easily like the least exciting of the scenarios of the campaign. It plays better than it reads, but considering what the Popol Vuh and associated legends offer, it feels like it seriously undercuts the potential of its own premise; in many ways, it feels most like it could have benefited from a few extra pages.

The fourth and final regular episode is one that I’d indeed suggest to run as the last one – “Heart of Outer Darkness” once more takes us to Morovia (I have to visit this place at least once!) and begins like an international spy story, dealing primarily with weapons’ shipments – and the trail leads to Africa, first to Ebola-ridden Liberia and then to Nigeria – it turns out that the ODEs have come upon the grand plan to not only supply nuclear material stolen from Chernobyl to the dread Boko Haram, no, they also want to weaponized frickin’ Ebola. In the hands of arguably one of the nastiest extremist movements ever. The stakes are high here, and indeed, the finale of this one is easily one of the best in any GUMSHOE scenario – not only can the agents prevent a nuke being used, the trail leads them to the master of the Boko Haram, who turns out to be a mystery man, a nigh demigod ODE, mainly interested in playing the eponymous Ocean Game, a psycho-magical fugue in which contestants are driven insane. The twisted being not only escalated its involvement in the states of mankind, it also pronounces doom for all of the world and seeks to sow dissent and paranoia – and its set-up is masterful. Indeed, and that should be emphasized: This is an exceedingly well-structured horror-campaign that GETS horror. The book is never cheap or excessive or dumb with its concepts.

The finale obviously took a cue from the whole Fyre Festival debacle; seeded throughout the campaign, a cornucopia of clues can help the agents determine entry vectors to a take on said festival, on an island that shouldn’t be there. No map is provided. Boo. An island, where, coincidentally, a passenger flight vanished, and where esoterrorists from all over the world engage in a twisted, massive debauchery-style festival interspersed with human sacrifice of the passengers…to the largest ODE ever to attempt to enter the world, a being so vast, it might shatter the membrane! This scene perfectly encapsulates the notion of how the membrane is thinned – it is grotesque in a truly twisted manner, this strange juxtaposition of the mundane and celebratory, and the cataclysmic madness. The primary antagonist doesn’t put up a fight – but he doesn’t have to. The entity is here. And any attempt to combat it results in instant death for the agent. No check. Heck yes. Having the chutzpah to properly go all out? Yeah! The endgame, even for triumphant agents, thus is very grim – the standard proposed solutions have, at best, one agent as a lone survivor of the insanity here – but when the fate of the world hangs in the balance, can the OV agents do what needs to be done?

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, with quite a bunch of amazing b/w-artworks throughout. The cartography is a big weakness of the module; it’s rudimentary and not very appealing when present. The softcover sports glossy pages, and is well-crafted.

Robin D. Laws’ Esoterrorists is my favorite contemporary horror game, and frankly, I believe that it’s not as popular as it should be primarily because its modules have been somewhat problematic. Worldbreaker breaks that tendency, thankfully. This is HORROR. It’s not cheesy, it’s not redundant, it is genuinely clever, modern horror that works exceedingly well regarding pacing, variety of themes, and plot structure. This is, in short, the Esoterrorist module that the game always deserved, but never got. I adore this, I love it to bits, and while I have some niggles here and there, I can genuinely recommend this campaign to anyone with a soft spot for modern horror campaigns. I have barely touched upon the complexities of each chapter, and there is a lot to love and explore, so many clues to put together, so many variables, that I indeed consider it to be an excellent investigative horror scenario. With better cartography and a few more pages, this could have become my all-time favorite horror mega-adventure, but even as is, this warrants a unanimous recommendation. Even if you disliked all the other Esoterrorist-scenarios (heck, I hated a lot of them), check this one out. It’s genuinely awesome. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Worldbreaker
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Trail of Cthulhu: The Black Drop
by Stephen P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/18/2019 00:19:34

I would love to give this product five stars. It has all the elements you would want from a great Trail scenario. Unfortunately, it really needed a good editor. It is not just typos, although there are plenty. The poor editing results in a lack of clarity. Concepts and characters are referenced before they are introduced, and some basic information, that should be easily accessible is hard to glean from the text.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Black Drop
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Invasive Procedures
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/09/2019 06:54:49

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Fear Itself clocks in at 86 pages if you take away the editorial, ToC, etc., and the module was written for the first edition of the Fear Itself game. The adventure comes with rudimentary conversion notes for Trail of Cthulhu. It should be noted that my review is based on the softcover version of the supplement – I do not own the electronic iteration of the supplement. If you’re playing this module in conjunction with Fear Itself’s second edition, expect to do some conversion work, as this adventure obviously has medical themes, and 2nd edition provides some expansion there. If none of the PCs have such skills, this obviously is not an issue.

The module comes with 5 pregens, which work well in conjunction with the module, but unlike many GUMSHOE-scenarios, the adventure works actually very well when used within the frame of an ongoing campaign – it works rather well with characters other than the pregens. A slight bummer: We do not receive any cartography – personally, I suggest getting some hospital floor plans and/or merging the Silent Hill-series’ hospital plans for the purpose of the like.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into any SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! This module take’s place with the PCs recuperating from a serious injury of some sorts in the old and somewhat remote “Our Lady’s Hospital” – should the characters be agents of e.g. OV, the presence of Dr. Clifford Drake, a world-renowned surgeon, makes for a great reason for them to be in this particular hospital.

How to handle flashbacks of being injured and the like is properly explained, and indeed, the module does an EXCELLENT job regarding its premise – as badly wounded as they are, getting out of bed costs the PCs one Health Point; similarly, stressful activity imposes the same tax. A full rest replenishes 4 Health, while an interrupted night only provides 2 Health Points. The hospital staff, fully detailed, is kind – though the module wastes no time: A patient breaks into the PC’s room – obviously mad, babbling and attacking the PCs, babbling about in German, for example, missing testicles. While the madman is retrained, the staff thereafter is properly apologetic. All seems as well as the initial shock may make it.

The module takes its time, building up a sense of anxiety, with the next day providing consultation, and the means to notice that the German lecturer from the previous night, Gavin Langley, seems to have met a nasty fate…provided the PCs are smart. If they botch this, then no problem – the module cranks up the tension in the next night.

You see, at night, the hospital turns into a Silent Hill-ish hellscape, with none other than the Practice in charge. What’s that? Think of them as Anti-Hippocrates doctors, morticians and nurses, transcendent beyond the confines of mortal life, turned into Outer Dark entities. PCs are overpowered, and dragged towards a painfully, horrible operation – this turns one character into someone with both sets of reproductive organs, internally, and there is a scar on the forehead…while another is missing an eye. Indeed, the Practice has turned on PC into The Eye. The scar on the forehead hides a not-yet-healed third eye that allows the user to see auras…but that will only slowly become apparent.

The hospital’s conveniently cut off from the rest of the world, with the somewhat grotesque porter as a strange foil for particularly clever PCs. Still, the daylight hospital is an example of almost painful normalcy as the PCs, probably increasingly panicked, proceed with their investigation. A second nightly operation will remove finger-bones from one character, replacing them with plastic, while creating a second, grotesquery, the Hand. This PC will be capable of using a limited (and painful) telekinesis. The visit of the Hospital’s overseer provides no respite – but at night and day, the PCs have hopefully at this point put the clues together.

You see, Dr. Drake has had a troubled career: Brilliant, but troubled, his career flatlined, hardcore, due to his erratic mood-swings. Dr. Drake is suffering from a split personality, with his more psychotic personality hell-bent on joining the Practice – the means to do so extracted with the help of the by-now dead German lecturer. The task of the Riddle of Flesh is complex: In one PC, there is a bezoar-like tumorous growth – this growth contains the key that provides the sole means for the PCs to escape the hellish version of the hospital at night. Drake will confront them, or they will find him – but here, we have another great thing: You see, while Drake was tainted and abused by the Practice, he’s the best chance of the PCs to retrieve the bezoar: The PCs will need to use the Eye to see the bezoar, the Hand to extract it. And yes, this can be very lethal to the poor sod with the bezoar. Drake is the PC’s best shot to perform the operation – while his regular persona is in command.

Escaping together is the best course here; for, to become a member of the Practice, Drake must die. If the PCs kill him, they actually transform him, and get a truly nightmarish and dangerous final confrontation with the ascended Drake – and of course, there’d be the issue of having earned the enmity of the Practice’s potent members…

The book does reprint the whole entry on the Practice from the Book of Unremitting Horror, just fyi.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column b/w-standard, with a couple of really awesome b/w-pieces included. The book has no maps, which is a comfort-downside, as far as I’m concerned. I can’t comment on electronic features, but the softcover book is nice.

Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan provides a genuinely awesome and truly creepy horror-adventure here. From body horror to a sense of reality breaking down, “Invasive Procedures” hits all the right spots. The NPC-cadre is nuanced, the investigation streamlined, yet challenging, and the resource-management game of Health adds further tension to the adventure. In short: This hits all the right spots.

This is creative, genuinely frightening and an all-out successful adventure that made me wish the author had written more Fear Itself and Esoterrorists material. My final verdict will be 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Invasive Procedures
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

The Seventh Circle
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/03/2019 05:19:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Fear Itself clocks in at 78 pages of content if you take away the covers, editorial, etc., so let’s take a look!

First of all: This was penned for the first incarnation of the game, which means that you may need do some slight conversion work when adjusting this to the second iteration of the game. Secondly, it should be noted that the “Trail of Cthulhu”-header denoting an alternate system is not simply cosmetic or an indicator of a single page of information; the module does present quite a bit of advice on how to use it in conjunction with that game, should you prefer that cosmology to the criminally-underrated Ocean Game-setting.

My review is based on the print version, a softcover with glossy, nice pages. I do not own the electronic version of the book.

The book comes with 6 different pregens, and essentially can be summed up as two different scenarios: The imho more rewarding one is clearly intended for a regular playing experience – it hinges on the PCs being smart and doing their legwork from the get-go, and makes the whole scenario significantly most investigative in focus. The second way of playing this, is to basically throw the PCs pretty quickly into the main location of the module – in such a context, the whole story may end up being somewhat obtuse in its details, but the module can then be easily resolved within the frame of e.g. a convention. It should be noted that this adventure does a much better job at this convention-game-angle than many comparable modules released for Esoterrorists or Fear Itself.

Okay, and this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

So, this is the story of a man named Patrick Raleigh, and how he met the lawyer Valerie Irvine and thus was introduced into the per se not malignant Hermetic Order of the Seventh Circle. While, of course, not necessarily benevolent in the context of the world of Ocean Game, these occultists nonetheless are not per se esoterrorists – and when Raleigh found out about the island Eilean Mòr (situated in the Flannan Isles) and how mysterious disappearances happened there, he began investigating.

Wary of Valerie Irvine, he indeed confirmed that the remote island does seem to have something going on – and decided that he’d need to place a ward there to harness the power. This is where the famed architect Nathan Glaas entered the frame, who himself was in the midst of a nasty divorce with his soon-to-be ex-wife Audrey. Nathan was tasked to create a house based on the principles of sacred geometry, Indeed, much to my joy, the book comes with rather extensive cartography, an explanation of sacred geometry patterns, and provides player-friendly versions of the maps as well – this is, particularly for GUMSHOE-titles that often skimp on the cartography, a huge plus!

Anyhow, Nathan Glaas complied to the demands of Raleigh for secrecy – also to keep the profits from the construction off the books, after all, he was involved in a messy divorce. Soon after the building’s completion, Raleigh and the now properly in the order initiated Nathan traveled to the island, unearthing an ancient cave that showed signs of human sacrifice – and something truly dire – basically a tear in the membrane. Sealed for now, but yeah – the occultists pushed the circular altar to the side, and inadvertently opened let the genie out of the bottle – something emerged from the Outer Dark! Retreating into the house, the surviving members realized that they had a containment breach of the worst kind, but thankfully, the sacred geometry of the house left them with one final, desperate gambit – a ritual that would see the occultists all die but Raleigh, and see Nathan entombed in the center of the house, as a kind of supernatural ghost-guardsman.

Thus, Raleigh vanished, taking the alias of Adam de Brate (funny) – but he did not account for Valerie Irvine’s ambition or Audrey Glaas’ persistence. With her husband vanishing, divorce was stalled, and so the two women forged an alliance that saw Irvine masterminding the entry vector of the PCs. The pregens are members of the television-crew of a Ghost Adventures-like reality TV – perfect dupes to unleash the entity – and for Irvine, to harness the power.

Thus, the module has two vectors – if the PCs do their legwork, they will happen upon Raleigh and enter the island forewarned, while otherwise, just throwing the PCs inside can make the rather labyrinthine background a bit puzzling. My personal suggestion? Play this with OV-agents that research Raleigh, find him and before he explains what he knows about the horrid things that came to pass, cut to black. THEN use the pregens, play the second route of the scenario, and once things inevitable go down the drain, have the OV-agents show up. This way, you can play both scenario-progressions at once!

The island and its dilapidated lighthouse manage to evoke a sense of forlorn potency, and as the PCs experience the haunting of the ghost-turned Nathan Glaas, they will sooner or later find the prehistoric ritual chamber and their puzzling array of corpses – the PCs even get the chance to rappel down into basically the Outer Dark (hint: BAD IDEA!), and Valerie Irvine as a mundane villain and wildcard, makes for a nice tool for the GM to use if the PC’s finale is going too smoothly.

You see, once Nathan’s been taken care off (from the PC’s perspective, he is, after all, responsible for the haunting!) and laid to rest, the true horror emerges. Or rather, doesn’t. Why? Well, of all critters. Of all ideas. Of all the cool entities that the world of Ocean game offers….of all of them, the module opts for living darkness. Yep, ladies and gentlemen, whip out all of your Lost and Alan Wake jokes right now, the big monster is about as lame as can be. And yep, it can, big surprise, be driven back by light. You’ll likely need the appearance of Valerie to sabotage the PCs, and in the convention version, this can come rather far out of left field. This monster is the central failure of the module – it is not even remotely scary. It’s boring, cliché, and I strongly suggest that you replace it with something more interesting.

They can also use her to beat the adventure – for sealing the rift once more, you guessed it, requires a sacrifice – either one of the players, or some NPC – and the latter aren’t exactly available aplenty on the remote isle.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the two-column b/w-standard with really neat b/w-artworks provided. The cartography and handouts are similarly b/w and truly appreciated in their player-friendly focus. The softcover is neat, and I can’t comment on the electronic version.

Matthew Sanderson’s “The Seventh Circle” is a per se great and versatile adventure; the investigative angle works slightly better than the one where you drop the PCs directly on the island, but the option to employ both in conjunction with one another as I suggested above adds some further replay-value and options. While the background story can feel a bit overcomplicated for the convention-game-style progression, it can be really helpful when the players are veterans, making the truth at least somewhat challenging to unearth. Indeed, I’d consider this a 5-star adventure, were it not for one thing: As awesome as the story, the atmosphere, the build-up, is, the payoff is hard to stomach – it is one of the worst disappointments I’ve seen in a horror module in quite a while, and it kinda sinks the module as written for me. Sure, a replacement is easy enough to pulls off, and sure, the Trail of Cthulhu option is actually better this time around, but ultimately, this drags the module down from a definite recommendation to a module that is certainly good, but not as good as it could have easily been. My final verdict will thus clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Seventh Circle
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2019 08:38:13

A masterpiece. The research that went into this product, the art, the writing…. I have been playing and GM-ing tabletop RPG’s for over 25 years now and I have never seen anything as impressive as this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Fear Itself 2nd Edition
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 05:54:02

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second edition of the Fear Itself horror game clocks in at 178 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 2 pages of ToC, leaving us with 173 pages of content. These include a two-page index and a 1-page character sheet.

After a brief introduction, we are introduced to the basics of the game, which is the first huge difference in comparison to the 1st edition. You see, where the first edition was intended for one-shots and as a kind of hack for Esoterrorists or similar GUMSHOE-based games, this edition is actually a full-blown stand-alone game. While this playstyle is still fully supported, the game now differentiates between angles from the get-go: The book notes that one-shot, mini-series and full-blown campaign are all possible, and also lists which sections in the book you should check out. Nice. The game is set in the same dark version of our world as Esoterrorists, meaning that the Outer Dark and its entities represent the primary antagonists. Books that feature this myth are tagged as “Ocean Game”, after the process by which one of the most formidable type of creature likes playing with mortals in a strange game, driving them insane.

Unlike Esoterrorists, this game does not assume that you have a benevolent organization or proper background to have at least sometimes a fighting chance against the Outer Dark – instead, Fear Itself focuses on more action-laden horror and a feeling of powerlessness; it’s less about uncovering full-blown wrongness of the universe, and more about survival, though themes can easily be mixed and matched. In one of my earlier reviews, I proposed kicking off a GUMSHOE-campaign with Fear Itself, and then, after the PCs have been recruited by the OV, using the Esoterrorist or Night’s Black Agents-rules (or a combination thereof!) for the next chapter of the campaign.

Fear Itself does not cast you in the role of heroes – the PCs are everyday people, and as such, there is a difference in focus and power-level that is reflected by the rules, but before we get into the details, let it be known that I do actually own the softcover of the game, as well as the pdf-version. I primarily based my review on the print copy.

Fear Itself deliberately restricts the use of combat/investigative experts and occult experts, which are considered to be out of the question unless this works in conjunction with your premise. Psychics are also restricted in a way – rules for them are provided, but they are risky. Unlike Esoterrorists, there is no OV guideline against these guys, so yeah – that’s a rather different angle. The Fear Itself game assumes the characters to be ordinary folks, and this angle is reflected in character creation: The number of players dictates the suggested number of build points per character, and there are capped abilities that are not available at character creation, unless you’re the group’s expert in the given field. Being an “expert” in a field means that you usually pay for your expert rank by some sort of drawback, which brings us to a crucial narrative angle that enriches the game and that can be rather fun: Risk factors. These represent, for example, a stern conviction in the scientific, a drug addiction, curiosity – all those behaviors that make characters die in horror movies. There are hard and soft risk factors, and resisting them requires a stability test, punishing the character for not giving in, while rewarding “risky” play and providing an incentive to creating tension.

But before we get to stability, let’s talk about abilities: Beyond a limit on aforementioned capped abilities, there are two survival abilities: Fleeing and Hiding. If your Fleeing is equal or higher than Athletics, you get 2 Fleeing for every build point spent, and the same holds true for Infiltration and Hiding. Infiltration and Athletics are universally better than Hiding and Fleeing, hence the discount – and this obviously enhances the emphasis on fleeing/hiding vs. direct combat. Concise lists of the abilities are provided – they are generally grouped in the categories Academic, Interpersonal, Technical, and General.

Stability, briefly noted before, is pretty self-explanatory – it’s the mental stamina and ability to resist sources of stress and mental breakdown. As such, the book guides you through the process of determining the cornerstones of your sources of stability. From neighbors to certain tasks to pets, these sources of stability are what keep you standing, and their development obviously provides means to attack the character; they are a catalyst for roleplaying, for saving them, for getting your character involved. The requirement, hardcoded into the game, ultimately, means that both GM and player have reasons to engage with the NPCs, be proactive in roleplaying.

Indeed, one of the things I very much enjoyed seeing, would be the salient advice provided for players, helping the game immensely. From embracing the flashbacks to roleplaying the mundane, to how to deal with being stuck in investigations, this section is really useful, particularly when dealing with players that are relatively new to GUMSHOE-based games.

A big difference to the previous iteration would be that we actually have the system explained in a concise manner: As you probably know about now, you can Spend points in your abilities to gain additional information – this game of resource management is crucial to how GUMSHOE works, and we have the process explained – and all abilities are noted with sample clues and benefits from the use of the abilities explained. This may sound obvious, it really helps GMing the game, and it makes it easier for players to know which abilities to choose. The ability-list has also been expanded, with new abilities getting a helpful “New”-tag, making conversion of older supplements easier. These new abilities also enhance the game in that they represent options that enhance the ability to play longer campaigns. Health now is just such an ability, changing that aspect.

Mechanically, the game has a simple resolution mechanic: If you have a point in ability, you can roll a six-sided die. The target difficulty numbers range from 2 to 8 (usually), and for each spend, you add +1 to the roll. The players do NOT know the target difficulty of the roll, just fyi. Other characters can piggyback on rolls – paying 1 point from the relevant ability, they can piggyback…but being unable to pay increases the difficulty by 2, which can be rather brutal. Contests follow an analogue mechanic, making that aspect simple to resolve as well. The narrative repercussions and how to handle the like are included.

When you exceed an opponent’s Hit Threshold, you may deal damage, rolling a die and applying modifier. Not having points in combat-relevant abilities locks you into the action you announce at the start of a round, decreases your damage, makes you go last and firearms have a chance of going wrong, big time. So yeah – if you have no combat training, you better be careful.., At 0 Health, you are Hurt; Starting at -6 Health, you are seriously wounded, and at -12 Health, you’re dead. Stability has similar thresholds, with effects like starting to close off, etc., despair, etc. Rules of thumb for different genres of horror are provided for your convenience, and indeed, particularly newer GMs and groups will definitely appreciate the vast array of pieces of advice contained within these pages.

Speaking of which: The GM gets a LOT of helpful advice herein, walking you through the process of designing a mystery, of how to use clues, determine core scenes, personalizing horror, when to use floating clues. A similar amount of guidance is provided not only for the process of designing a mystery, but also for the actual running of the mystery. Alternative rules like escape pools further enhance this section. Low and high-powered psychics, and some minor suggestions on running an all-psychic game may also be found within the pages of this massive book.

A couple of sample creatures that will mostly be familiar to Ocean Game veterans may be found, and the book contains stats for classics like slashers, werewolves, zombies, etc. Then, the book’s structure begins to change – as noted before, the game now has a broader perspective, and as such, features chapters for one-shots, mini-series and campaigns. For the one-shot, we get a sample adventure to accompany the general advice provided – it is a nice one, though the twist may be something the PCs see coming. The mini-series and campaign chapters have outlines provided instead of fully-fleshed out adventures – the latter two imho are more interesting, particularly the mini-series’ hook, but since that is very much a matter of taste, it won’t influence the final verdict.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a neat two-column b/w-standard, and the book features quite a bunch of nice b/w-artwork that ranges from inspired to solid. The softcover version has glossy paper, and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Personally, I think that going hardcover for the book would have been nice.

The second edition of Robin D Laws and Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Fear Itself-game is superior to the first in every way; no longer simply a hack to slap onto a GUMSHOE game, capable of being used as a stand-alone supplement, Fear Itself is a versatile investigative horror game that is deadly, interesting and has an amazing world; I am a huge fan of the whole Ocean game mythology, and frankly, I don’t understand why these games don’t get more love from the gaming public, particularly when compared to the Cthulhu-mythos. There is but one aspect of this book where it falls flat of the first edition: In the sample adventure/outline. Fear Itself’s first edition had a BRILLIANT sample adventure, and while the options herein are well-wrought, they don’t manage to attain that same level of pure horror. That being said, this book now presents all the tools you need to actually craft horror mysteries for your group – which you’ll have to do. As per the writing of this review, there only are two modules released for the game’s first edition. I will cover both of them, but yeah – much like the criminally underrated Esoterrorists, this is one of the Pelgrane Press games that’d deserve more love. If you’re looking for a change of pace from the tentacles, give this a shot – chances are, you’ll very much enjoy it! My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fear Itself 2nd Edition
Click to show product description

Add to Little Wars Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 314 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
0 items
 Hottest Titles
Powered by DriveThruRPG