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    Torchlight Issue #1
    Publisher: Tenkar's Tavern Gamen
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 07/13/2021 10:11:31

    I really enjoy zines. Give me some oddly put together content, maybe some fluff, some new artists and old industry standbys, slap a cover on it and sell it cheap. Zines today though are different affair. The quality is much higher, the prices are usually much cheaper or on par with what we paid back in the 80s.

    Case in point. The new Torchlight zine. Overtly desinged to support Swords & Wizardry Light and Swords & Wizardry Continual Light, it really can be used with any OSR game or the games they were based on.
    That's sort of the point of SWL/SWCL though, to provide the most basic of basics to play.

    This issue has new theif rules, more monsters for your SWL/SWCL games (though nothing "new" but that is fine, they are new to this game) and familiars for magic-users among other conent.

    At $3.00 this is a good price for 36 pages (minus covers, OGL and extra, it comes in at about 10 cents per page which is the rule of thumb I try to use.) If half of it is useful for you then that is a good zine.

    If you like SWL/SWCL or are a fan of zines then get this.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Torchlight Issue #1
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    Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental
    Publisher: Astrolago Press
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 07/07/2021 09:35:51

    Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/07/review-witchcraft-5e-crafting.html

    Are you a fan of Studio Ghibli movies? Well, I am and the authors of Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental are as well. And this book proudly and openly displays that love. But I am getting a little ahead of myself.

    I backed this project as a Kickstarter a while back and it came with the book, PDFs, and all sorts of great add-ons like wallpapers and spell and magic-item cards (PDFs).

    So I am going to be reviewing the hardcover book and the PDFs from the Kickstarter. I am uncertain if the PDFs from DriveThruRPG are 100% the same or not.

    You can purchase the hardcover from the publisher's website and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG or also from the publisher.

    Witch+Craft, a 5e Crafting Supplemental

    Witch+Craft is a full-color hardcover 214-page book. The theme of the book is decidedly high magic, and a style of high magic infuses all aspects of the lives of the people of this particular vision of the 5e fantasy universe. This book is exactly the opposite of "grimdark," wherein magic is everywhere and it is a tool to be used to make things better. I state this upfront because that is the pervasive philosophy of the book. It works, and it is a great one to have. But it will have to fit your style of gaming and campaigns. I knew this on the onset, and lets be honest, the cover gives this away, but if this is not your kind of game there is not a lot (there is some!) that this book can give you.

    That all being said this book is a fantastic resource for anyone that has ever said "can I use magic to make BLANK?" Where BLANK is anything and everything from clothes that clean themselves, to self-sorting spell components, to fire that heats but won't burn, to well...half a thousand things I have heard from my kids in their 5e games.

    While I may have started this review with who this book is not for, who it absolutely IS for is anyone that has ever played an Artificer in 5e or an Alchemist in Pathfinder 2e.

    What this book doesn't have, despite the name, is a Witch class. Ah well.


    We get the basics of this book. In bold letters right in the first line of the first paragraph we get :

    > This book is about making things.

    You have to appreciate this. Some RPG books are never quite as clear as to what they are about. This book is also about rounding out your character with Trade Classes. Though Trade Professions would likely be a better term. You can take these along with your Fighter, Wizard, or whatever levels. I will get into more details in a bit.

    Chapter 1: Domestic Magic

    Part 1 of this chapter covers the basics of crafting. The six-step process is listed and then detailed.

    1. Blueprint. You propose a project.
    2. Challenges. The GM imposes a Difficulty Level based on the specifications of the project. They will also list the base materials required to make the crafting attempt at all. (7 levels total)
    3. Preparation. You may prepare for the project in order to improve your chances of success.
    4. Craft Action. You begin the project, rolling to qualify your success.
    5. Fine-tuning. After the rolls are in, you may choose to expend bonuses to alleviate any potential flaws.
    6. Appraising. When all is said and done, the item is created, and its features and flaws known.

    The rules here a pretty simple and even elegant in their own ways. It does add to the 5e system as a new sub-system. So while old schoolers will not even blink an eye it does feel "added on." Now this is not a bad thing. It feels like the best system for detailed craftwork, as opposed to say "just roll a d20 and beat this DC."

    Part 2 deals with Trade Class basics. This is just a tracking system on how you get better with crafting. Class is kind of a misnomer here since it is not a D&D Class. Trade Profession might have been a better choice. These professions/classes can progress through Tiers (not levels) and have different kinds of media they work in; crystals, drafting, living arts, metals, textiles, and wood.

    Part 3 covers Techniques. Or how you can do things. This also covers tools. They are presented like feats but are attached to the Tiers. For example "Green Thumb" does more or less what you think it does. The prereq is "Living Arts or Wood." While presented like a feat, it does not have any "combat" advantages. Certainly lots of role-playing advantages.

    Part 4 is Picking Your Trade Class. Here are the actual classes/professions. They are based around the media above. So someone that works with crystals could be Glass Blower or a Mason or a Jeweler. The builds cover what other materials you can work with, what tools you have, and starting techniques. Each media get three example builds.

    Chapter 2: Cape Verdigris

    Cape Verdigris is a setting where all of this crafting and domestic magic can be seen in use. It lists places of interest, guilds, shops, and many major NPCs. It is designed to be added to pretty much any campaign world.

    Chapter 3: A House of Plenty

    This is a 40-page complete adventure of a different sort. The goal here is to restore an old manor house to it's former glory using the crafting skills they have learned in this book. So in TV shows, you are trading Sci-Fi or Shudder for HGTV. There is something interesting here and I really admire the authors' choices here.

    Chapter 4: Spells

    This chapter covers 12 new spells to use in conjunction with the rules.

    Chapter 5: Familiars

    Also what it says on the cover, this introduces 10 new familiars. Many are fey, others are animals. Greater familiars are also presented here. If you wanted a soot familiar like the ones in "My Neighbor Totoro" or "Spirited Away" then this chapter has you covered.

    Chapter 6: Items

    Not just magic items but a whole bunch of mundane and domestic magic items as well. The blanket of napping is an easy favorite.


    Here we get a collection of various stats.

    Appendix I. The NPCs from Chapters 2 and 3 get their writeups here. Why not with the chapters? Easy, in the chapters, you are supposed to be focused on who these people are how you interact with them, NOT what their combat stats are.

    Appendix II covers unusual trades like healers and wandmakers.

    Appendix III has various boons and flaws of the items crafted. These can be minor, major or magical/dangerous for boons and flaws respectively.

    Appendix IV is a list of crafting obstacles.

    Appendix V cover crafted treasures

    Appendix VI is Awakened Objects. So lots of monster stats here.

    Appendix VII covers the stats of various objects; HP and AC.

    There is a very attractive character sheet in back. The next few pages cover all the designers and artists that helped make this book possible. There is also a list of Kickstarter contributors. Sadly there are a few typos here with some names cut off, some listed more than once. Mine isn't even listed at all.

    There is also an index and the OGL statement.

    The book really fantastic and joy to look at. The art is great, the layout is wonderful and very easy on the eyes.

    The audience for this book is a little slim. There is nothing in this book really that would help in combat, defeating the next big bad (unless he challenges you to a bake-off) or any of the things that people typically associate with D&D. This is much more of a narrative presentation with a lot of role-playing potential.

    One of it's strengths though design-wise is that since the crafting system is not inherently tied to D&D5 is can be lifted out and added to other games with only minor tweaking. For example, Chapters 1 to 3 could be lifted out and added to something like Blue Rose AGE edition with a little work.

    I would like to recommend this to Old-School gamers. I could something like this working well with a game like Old-school Essentials or The Hero's Journey. But even those games tend to be combat-heavy at times and really don't have much in the way of the need for various crafting. Not to say that some groups or players wouldn't, it's just not universal.

    This book is best for the younger D&D 5 player that got into D&D after a steady diet of Minecraft and the ones that loved crafting items in MMORPGs. It is also great for any DM that wants a better handle on making items of any sort.

    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental
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    The Incandescent Grottoes
    Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 07/06/2021 10:59:50

    Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/07/review-old-school-essentials-adventures.html

    There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE. I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online. I went back to them and you know what? They are really kind of great.

    For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG. The adventure is a 48-page, full-color book. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps. The physical books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

    The Incandescent Grottoes by Gavin Norman

    This is an introductory adventure designed for characters level 1-2, written by OSE creator Gavin Norman with art by Nate Treme.

    The adventure could be considered a dungeon crawl along the lines of Keep on the Borderlands, but like so much of OSE it taps into how the games were played rather than written. The dungeons of IG could be like the Caves of Chaos, but more accurately they are played like Caves of Chaos were played back then. What do I mean? Well, there is a demonic cult here, The Cult of the Faceless Lord. There are factions within the dungeon and how they interact. Plus goals for the various groups of monsters. There are tables of treasures and random occurrences to make exploring this dungeon something players can keep coming back to.

    The rooms and areas a very nicely detailed and the whimsical art really adds to the dream-like qualities of the adventure. There is even a dragon waiting for the characters at the end! Ok, it is not a very powerful one, but to 1st and 2nd level characters it is powerful enough. There are some new monsters (the aforementioned dragon) and lots of great encounters.

    While there is no overt meta-plot here, one could easily see this as some sort of introduction to a cult of Juiblex vying for control of the Mythic Underworld.

    A bit about the name. I can't help but notice that a 1st level adventure into the "Mythic Underground" can be read as "I(n) Can Descen(d)t." I am sure this is intentional.

    If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life. While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    The Incandescent Grottoes
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    Halls of the Blood King
    Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 07/06/2021 10:59:41

    Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/07/review-old-school-essentials-adventures.html

    There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE. I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online. I went back to them and you know what? They are really kind of great.

    For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG. The adventure is a 48-page, full-color book. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps. The physical books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

    Halls of the Blood King by Diogo Nogueira

    Diogo Nogueira has been racking up an impressive list of RPG publications and getting him to pen an adventure for OSE is quite a score. And the adventure is pretty much what I hoped it would be like.

    This time the artist is Justine Jones. If the art of Incandescent Grottoes is dream-like then the art here is nightmarish. I mean that in the most positive way.

    The adventure is set up in a manner similar to other OSE adventures. We get maps with major encounter areas, descriptions and relationships of the major factions/NPCs/Monsters.

    The adventure itself is a castle of a vampire lord for characters of 3rd to 5th level.

    Detail-wise this adventure lives somewhere between the sparse-ness Palace of the Vampire Queen and the detail rich Ravenloft. I don't want this to sound like there not a lot of detail here, there is, but there is no over arching epic here. This is great since it allows you to take this adventure and work it into your world much easier. For example with a tweak or two here and there I could make this "Halls of the Blood Queen" and add it rather nicely to my War of the Witch Queens campaign. This would work out well since I am using OSE for that. The only thing stopping me is I have so many Vampire Queens now! But still, it would be fun and very, very easy.

    The adventure is also rather good and looks like a lot of fun.

    If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life. While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Halls of the Blood King
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    Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition
    Publisher: Frog God Games
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 07/06/2021 09:19:44

    Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/06/review-bunnies-and-burrows-3rd-edition.html

    Bunnies & Burrows has always been one of those games that elicits a variety of responses from gamers and non-gamer alike. Most often it is "really? there is a game of that?" I will admit I was and am a fan of the original 1976 Edition. I never really got to play it, save for one time, but that was it. It was fun and I wrote a review for it.

    I did, however, spend a lot of time back in 2007 rewriting the Bunnies & Burrows article on Wikipedia. Not only was I and others able to get the article to Good Article status, but I also had a Furry Advocacy group offer to send me money because of it. I just asked them to donate the money to the Humane Society. I didn't want my edits called into question if I Was doing them for pay. I was doing it to further my own RPG knowledge.

    So when the Kickstarter for the new edition from Frog God Games came up, well yes, I had to back it. They delivered it and it looked great. And I promptly put it on my shelf never to be seen again. I was cleaning up some shelves to make room for more Traveller books when I found it. I figure I should give it a go again.

    If you have never checked out this game then I say do yourself a favor and remedy that. This is a great piece of the RPG past and should not go ignored.

    I am going to review Bunnies & Burrows 3rd Edition from Frog God Games. For this review, I am considering both the PDF and the Print version I received from Kickstarter. There is a Print on Demand version, I have not seen it.

    Bunnies & Burrows, 3rd Edition

    Bunnies & Burrows 3rd Ed comes to us from Frog God Games. Maybe more well known for the Swords & Wizardry line of books than rabbits, this game is still a solid contender for the Old School market. More so I say than some other games that people think of as "Old School."

    In this game, you play rabbits. Not anthropomorphic rabbits. Not mutant rabbits. But normal, everyday, common in your backyard rabbits. If this feels a bit "Watership Down" then you are right on track.

    Part I: Traits and Characteristics

    Characters have 8 base traits, Strength, Speed, Intelligence, Agility, Constitution, Mysticism (was Wisdom in 1st and 2nd Ed), Smell, and Charisma. Different Professions (Runners, Spies, Shamans...) all have a primary trait. Traits are rolled like D&D, 3d6, and the bonuses are similar.

    Every profession gets some special abilities. So for example the Fighter gets a double attack and a killing blow. It is assumed that your starting character is a rabbit or bunny.

    There are other choices too, Raccoon, Jackrabbit, chipmunk, skunk, porcupine, opossum, armadillo, and gray squirrel. With the examples given, other small furry wild animals could be chosen.

    Part II: Playing the Game

    This covers the rules of the game and more importantly, the sorts of things you can do in the game. Covered are important topics like Habitats, Grooming, Sleep, Foraging, Diseases, and dealing with other animals and at worse, Man-Things.

    There is a huge section on encounters and how basically everything out there is harmful to you. There are predators, humans, dangerous terrain, rival animals, and the ever-present search for food and water.

    There are many sample scenarios and even a few mini-games to play.

    Part III: For the Gamemaster

    The last part covers the last half of the book. It has a lot of information on setting up a game, how to roleplay, and stats of all sorts. A lot of rival and predatory creatures are also listed in what would the "monster" section of other games.

    There are a bunch of maps, scenarios, and encounters all throughout the book. There is no unified theme, nothing that ties them all together, other than "survive as a little thing in a world full of bigger, scarier things."

    There is certainly a lot of Role-playing potential in that.

    B&B makes you feel like it could all be happening in your backyard. That while we Man-Things sit on our decks and grill our burgers and drink out ices tea, there is a world not that far from us distance-wise, but one that is as different and far away as we can get. A world of survival just under our noses. The game is quite attractive in terms of color and art. It looks fantastic.

    There is a feel from this, I am going to call it the S&W effect, that I didn't feel when reading the original game. This is a polished game that is trying to feel old. As opposed to an old that was trying to feel polished. The original B&B looks cheap by today's standards but it was such an "out there" idea for the time that it felt more important than say the representation it got in RPG circles. This new B&B has a similar feel, but maybe lacks a little of the gravitas of the original.

    In any case, it is a fun game, and one every gamer would at least try. I don't think you can call yourself an old-school gamer unless you have played it at least once.

    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition
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    The Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide
    Publisher: Green Ronin Publishing
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 06/23/2021 09:10:46

    Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/06/review-blue-rose-adventurers-guide.html

    I have been on record as being a big fan of Green Ronin's Blue Rose setting, both in its True20 and AGE versions. There is just something about it that I find very, very compelling and think it makes for a fantastic game and game world.

    I am also on record as being a huge fan of D&D 5th Edition. While it wont replace my beloved Basic D&D it will sit on my shelves and game table very happily right next to it.

    So what happens when Green Ronin decides to take their Blue Rose world and used the D&D 5th edition rule system? Well, you get the best of both worlds! Let's look into this RPG chocolate and peanut butter creation and see what we have. My only fear is that some of the things that made Blue Rose so special might get lost here. Let's find out.

    You do not need the Blue Rose core rules to play this, but you do need the D&D 5th Edition rules.

    The Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide (5e)

    For this review I am considering the PDF and POD versions I purchased from DriveThruRPG. Note: As of the date of this writing the POD is no longer available. I suspect this has to do with the change in printing costs for "Premium Color" prints. There was a successful Kickstarter (that I missed) to fund a traditional print run. It looks like there will offset printing ready for your FLGS by the end of 2021. I guess I better hold on to my now collector's item!

    The book is 176 pages with full-color art throughout. Once again the cover art is by the incredible Stephanie Pui-Mun Law who has given us the look and feel I associate with Blue Rose. All of the art, as far as I can tell, has been used before in the AGE version of Blue Rose. I do not see this as a problem. The art is so tied to Blue Rose for me that I would have a difficult time seeing anything else. So this is a positive in my mind.

    It is hard to believe that it was four years ago that I reviewed the "new" Blue Rose AGE edition. So a lot of what I said there will apply here.


    This section from developer Steve Kenson introduces us to Green Ronin and Blue Rose. It is a nice reminder that Green Ronin's DNA is deeply sequenced with D&D. Many of the founders and developers at GR can trace their careers back AD&D 2nd Ed, D&D 3.x, and D&D 5. These are not "johnny come latelys" these are people with a strong and credible background in game design and D&D in particular. This also covers some naming conventions. "Sorcery" from the True20 and AGE versions has been renamed "The Occult" here, so as not to confuse with the sorcerer class. Similar distinctions are made later on with Priests and Clerics when dealing with the various theocracies.

    Chapters 1 through 7

    These chapters all deal with the history, people, and geography of the World of Aldea. They are,in order, The World of Aldea, The Kingdom of Aldis, The Theocracy of Jarzon, The Khanate of Rezea, The Thaumocracy of Kern, The Matriarch of Lar'tya, and On the Borders.

    While these sections are nearly identical to similar sections in the Blue Rose core rules AGE edition, they are not a copy and paste. I covered those in my Blue Rose review. The differences here are now largely one of rules setting. Details have been edited to better fit the D&D 5e rules.

    This also works well as an overview for anyone wanting to play in Aldea regardless of which rules (True20, AGE, D&D5) they want to use.

    Chapter 8: Aldean Ancestries

    We are moving away from the old concept of race in D&D and I could not be happier. This chapter gives us a good example of how this can be done moving forward. There is a natural familiarity here for anyone coming to this version of BR from the True20 one. The ancestries of the world of Aldea are here and how they can be played in D&D 5. If you are thinking ahead then YES, you can now use Rhydan and Sea-folk in your regular D&D game.

    What was "race" is not split off into Ancestries (your "genetics" as it were) and Culture (where you were raised). This is particularly useful in the cosmopolitan world that is Aldea and in particular Aldis. Sure you might a Night Person, but you were raised in a villa on the Northside of Garnet. Your best friend is a Sea-folk and you spent more time on the waterways than whatever stereotypical things people think Night Folk do. Sure you might be naturally strong and fierce-looking, but the only battles you have ever been in are the Poetry competitions in Garnet. Which by the way are pretty damn fierce in their own right. In my Blue Rose games, Garnet has annual poetry competitions that have all vibe and energy of an epic Rap-battle. The top prize is a lot of money, but more importantly, bragging rights.

    I would like to say this should be back-ported into D&D, but I am pretty sure we will see this in future versions anyway. This is an improvement. Character customization at a new level.

    Chapter 9: Aldean Classes

    Ah. Here is what I waiting on. Blue Rose AGE and True20 versions only has three classes. An while this works remarkably well, D&D has a bit more. So in the proud tradition of so many D&D 5 books, this book offers new takes on all the standard classes. I want to focus here on just a couple I really like.

    The Monk gains the Blue Rose Spirit Dancers in the Way of the Spirit Dance and makes it better than the sum of it's parts. I have never been a big fan of monks, I have only played one in my 40+ years of gaming. The Blue Rose spirit dancers were a great concept, but again, not something I would play. This new Way of the Spirit Dancer Monk is better than either and yes I would play one. Imagine an acrobat with ballet training and grace and mix that in with aikido and karate. Yes, that is basically Gymkata (Gods of Light help me) but so much better really.

    Paladins get the Oath of the Rose and really just become the Knights I was always playing in BR anyway, but nice to see them on paper.

    Warlocks. You knew I was coming here. We get two Patrons here (from the Primordial Gods), the Autumn King and the Winter Queen. A Winter Queen warlock is indistinguishable from how I like to play witches as to be the exact same thing. But honestly, I expected nothing less from Steve Kenson and line developer Joseph Carriker.

    Wizards get a little psychic in School of the Psyche. I would run wizards with a pretty tight hand in Blue Rose 5e. Not because of the lack of magic, just the opposite, there is a ton of magic in this world.

    These all are designed well for the World of Aldea, but I'd be crazy not to play a Queen of Winter Warlock.

    We also get some Feats to help round out some of the powers that characters can get in Blue Rose-AGE. Not a lot, but 5e is not as feat-heavy as 3 was.

    Chapter 10: Aldean Backgrounds

    Aldea is a new world so there are some modified and new backgrounds for it. The best is the Reawakened. Or the reincarnation background. You know I am going to use that!

    Chapter 11: Aldean Arcana

    This covers the magic in Aldea including the Occult (what was called Sorcery). Some spells from the Player's Handbook/SRD are marked as "Occult" spells.

    I would have loved to see some new spells here, but I would need to go through both the Blue Rose book and the PHB to see if there is anything missing.

    We get some new magic items including Ancestral and Rhydan ones as well as Occult Artifacts (great for any game).

    Chapter 12: Aldean Creatures

    This covers the monsters and creatures we find in Aldea not in the Monster Manual/SRD. There are some important alterations to some creatures such as Griffons, Centaurs, the Fey, and undead, to correspond to the world better. We also get Clockwork creatures, "upgraded" Fey Lords, and slightly different Fiends. Rhydan also get updated 5e style stats.

    Shadow of Tanglewood

    This is an included adventure for four to six 1st level Blue Rose heroes.

    There is an Index and the OGL statement.

    While I was worried that some of the charms of Blue Rose AGE would be lost here there is more than enough to make up for it. I mean there are no stunts or any of the other nice features of the AGE rules. There is no conversion matrix for bringing over characters from one game to the other. But this book plays to the strengths of D&D 5e and still manages to give us an Aldea that feels special.

    What might have been lost from the AGE (or even True20) version is more than made up for with D&D5. It's not exactly the same, but it is every bit as fun.

    Who Should Buy This Book?

    If you are a Blue Rose fan and a D&D fan then get this book. If you are a Blue Rose player/GM/fan and your group is playing D&D 5 then you should get this book. If you are a D&D 5 player, and you are curious about Blue Rose, Aldea, and the City of Aldis then most certainly get this book.

    One of the great strengths of this book is it ability to introduce the concepts of Blue Rose and its world to a bunch of new players. Honestly D&D 5 players should be grabbing this book.

    If I were Green Ronin, I'd put a Quick Start adventure using Blue Rose 5e with some very simple concepts from the game. Don't include character creation, but instead have a set of pre-made characters including a Night Person, a Rhy-Cat (or Rhy-Bear), a Sea Folk, and a Vata. Show off their strengths and then get a group of YouTubers to play it. I know my youngest's group would eat this up in a heartbeat. Slap a giant ad in the back for both versions of the game.

    Now I just need a set of Blue Rose 5e dice to go with my set of Blue Rose AGE d6s.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
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    The Runewild Campaign Setting
    Publisher: Sneak Attack Press
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 06/17/2021 12:50:47

    Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/06/review-runewild-campaign-setting.html

    Putting the Hex into hex crawls. A while back I mentioned the Runewild Campaign Setting Kickstarter. I was quite excited about it and happily backed it. I got my books and my PDFs, but it was in the middle of my Covid-19 fueled busy summer last year. The book has been sitting on my desk, mostly ignored since then.

    That is a damn shame.

    With all the fun I have been having with Van Richten Guide to Ravenloft lately I wanted to revisit this book and see what I can add to it from this book. The short answer? A lot. So much in fact that while there are some great ideas in this book for Ravenloft, there is a TON more for my War of the Witch Queens campaign for Basic-era (B/X, BECMI, OSE) D&D.

    So for this review, I am going to refer to both the Softcover print and the PDF.

    The Runewild Campaign Setting

    Published by Sneak Attack Press, written by William Fischer, art by Joyce Maureira, and Cartography by Toy Fayen. 306 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. Available in PDF, Hardcover, and Softcover versions. For 5th Edition, recommended levels are 1 to 10. Available on DriveThruRPG and at your FLGS.

    The PDF is fully bookmarked with hyperlinked Table of Contents.

    The Runewild Campaign Setting (Runewild) is overtly a "Dark Fantasy fairy tale" campaign sandbox guide and a hex crawl in one volume. That is it in a nutshell but does not really do it justice. Best to break it up a little more.

    From the introduction,

    This book includes:

    • A history of the Runewild and its surrounding settlements
    • 150 detailed encounter areas for player characters to explore
    • 8 new Backgrounds and a new Feat: Fey-Touched
    • 21 unique magic items (like witch embers and the staff of clarity and confusion)
    • 32 new monsters (including clockwork dwarves, fey lions, giant forest sloths, and the terrifyingly beautiful Golden Bodach)
    • Detailed descriptions of the histories, motivations, and weaknesses of the witches of the Runewild, including the Whitebone Sisters; Missus Switch, the swine hag; Korthsuva, the Witch of Hours; and the Hag Queen Griselda, Mother of Ogres
    • New optional rules for exploration and resting
    • Advice for running a sandbox campaign
    • Dozens of random tables designed to help GMs make a Runewild campaign their own

    That is quite a lot. Frankly, I was just happy getting the material on the Witches of the Runewild, the rest is gravy for me. I turn the page and suddenly my "gravy" turns into another dessert course when I am introduced to the "Witch Wars." Oh. This will be fun.

    The book is split into four sections, Running the Runewild, Magic of the Runewild, A Runewild Gazeteer, A Runewild Bestiary.

    Running the Runewild: This section covers what the Runewild is and a bit of its history. It also introduces the idea of a Sandbox Campaign. While many gamers of a certain age will already be familiar with the idea of a sandbox (and even where the term comes from) this might be new to the majority of younger D&D players. No inditement of their experience; everyone learns something new at different times. This is a good overview of this style of play for the newer generation of players.

    The advice given about Sandboxes vs. Adventure Path is solid and there is even something here that warms the cockles of my old-school heart. To quote page 10, "e of the greatest difficulties in running a sandbox-style campaign is balancing encounters. In short, there are no balanced encounters in the Runewild." Players and Characters need to get used to the idea of running away.

    While this might be a shift for some 5e players, it is not a hard or difficult one. In fact, it is presented in the light of the characters have the ultimate freedom to do what they want. It is wonderful really and to quote Darkseid from the Synder Cut of Justice League, "we will use the old ways."

    The Old Ways describes Runewild to a tee.

    Among the "old ways" are plenty of Random Encounter tables with brief descriptions of what is encountered. Adventure Hook tables, Scenery tables, Fey prank tables, general Runewild strangeness, random animals, random NPCs, and more. For new schoolers, this will make the area feel vibrant and alive. For new schoolers, this will feel strangely homelike. Note at this point, 30 pages in, there has been very, very little in the way of stats. An encounter with a Skeleton is listed for example, but where you look up your skeleton is up to you.

    We do get into Runewild Backgrounds which are 5e backgrounds. For 5e they are great really, lots of great information here, and none of them feel overpowering (they grant a skill and a tool proficiency and usually a language) for other games, you can use the native skill system (Trained would be the equivalent in 3e, free Proficiency in AD&D 1.5) or wing it. One of my favorites is a Polymorphed Animal. You used to be a normal animal and now thanks to strange magic you are human-ish. Really fun stuff.

    Magic of Runewild: This section covers some more game-specific information such as some new feats, curses, and new magic items (lots of these). But the star attraction of this section has to be the Goblin Market. There is so much here and frankly, they could have published this on its own and it would have been a great seller. There are random tables of trinkets, goblin charms, treasures, and of course a list of vendors and encounters.

    One thing that I felt was missing from this section? Spells. There are no new spells here.

    A Runewild Gazetteer. This starts out with the hex maps of the Runewild. Numbered just like all old-school hex maps too! The hex encounters are then detailed throughout the chapter with a corresponding Challenge Rating. An improvement from older Hex crawls to be sure. So yeah the party of first-level characters can enter a CR 0 hex with no problem and come out ok. They can also enter into a CR 10 hex with the same level of difficulty (that is, none at all) but they are not going to leave it as easily! That's a hex crawl. There are no signs saying "You Must Be Level 5 or higher to Enter" if the player goes there, then their characters will pay the price.

    Each hex of course has different levels of detail, but they are all given some quick bullet points to help the DM out. For example:

    2. The Last Tower (CR 4)

    A ghost haunts the tower Ten giant rats feast on bandit corpses in the tower’s basement The bandits carried stolen treasure

    Then more details follow. NPCs are noted ad are monsters. There are maps where needed (even a player's map in a few cases!) and yes more random tables. There are 150 such encounter areas and it covers a little over 200 pages. Some encounters are a paragraph or so, others are multiple pages.

    A Runewild Bestiary: Now you know I love this section. There are over 30 new monsters, monster variants, and (and this is my favorite) listings of The Witches of Runewild. This includes a bunch of various witches (mostly hags), new types of hags, and the two major and one minor covens. Again, if they had sold this separately I would have scooped it up the moment it hit DriveThru.

    There is no Witch Class. Part of me is disappointed, but another part is happy since I can now do what I want with them.

    The chapter and book ends with Monster Variants.

    The art in this book is quite great and helps give the proper mood for this dark fairy tale land.

    This is a wonderful book and resource and I am very pleased with it. My only regret with it is I wish I had picked up the Hardbound version instead!

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    The Runewild Campaign Setting
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    X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
    Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 06/02/2021 13:27:44


    What can I possibly say about Castle Amber? This adventure had always been something of a Holy Grail quest for me. I was a huge fan of Tom Moldvay, I had heard this adventure took place in Glantri and it was full of horror elements. As time went on and I still never found a copy I began to hear more; that it was a crazy dungeon full of crazier NPCs. That it is was more of a thinking module and not a hack and slash one and finally, it was heavily influenced by Clark Ashton Smith, whom I always felt was superior to Lovecraft in many respects.

    I did finally get a copy from my FLGS, paid a lot for it, and I also got a copy from DriveThruRPG. The module lives up to the hype. It is not a particularly easy module to run and you better spend a lot of time with it. But for me at that time (the mid-90s when I finally got a copy) it became a great addition to my growing Ravenloft collection. It was not officially part of Ravenloft mind you, but so much of it feels the same that it would have been a crime not to bring them together.

    Later I ran it for my family under D&D 5e rules and it quickly became one of their most favorite adventures ever. I started a trend in my family's games; they love anything done by Tom Moldvay.

    Castle Amber is an adventure for characters level 3 to 6 for the D&D Expert Set. It was written by Tom Moldvay, who gave us D&D Basic set half of the B/X D&D line. This adventure shows that. While the Expert set was more focused on wilderness adventures, this is a romp through a "haunted house." For many gamers of a certain age this became the template for all sorts of Haunted House dungeons that are still being published today.

    Physically the original adventure was a 28 page book with color covers by Erol Otus with the maps of the titular castle in old-school blue on the inside covers. The art inside is black and white and done primarily by Jim Holloway. The art has a duel effect here. Otus was the prime B/X cover artist, so the feel here is 100% his weird fantasy vibe of B/X. Jim Holloway was also at this time the primary artist for the Horror game Chill. Come for the weirdness, stay for the horror.

    The adventure is overtly an homage to the tales of Clark Ashton Smith. The area where it all takes place, Averoigne, is used right out of the works of CAS. The Amber family would fit right-in in one of his tales and that is the Colossus of Ylourgne, or rather his D&D counterpart, on the cover. The adventure even includes a reading guide for those that want to read up on the tales of CAS, and I highly recommend doing so.

    CAS, and his contemporary H.P. Lovecraft, were no strangers to the D&D world by 1981. Indeed Molday's pulp sensibilities shine throughout in this adventure as much as they did with X1 The Isle of Dread and B4 The Lost City. All three adventures have also been updated by Goodman Games for 5e in their hardcover Original Adventures Reincarnated series, making Moldvay their most reprinted designer. Even more than Gygax himself who as of this writing only has 1, soon to be 2.

    There is a lot to love about this adventure too. There are monsters to kill yes, but this is not a kick in the doors and kill the monster sort of deal. There is a mood and atmosphere here. In fact this is the prototype for the horror adventures of later date, in particular Ravenloft (which I will discuss).

    On one hand, we have a haunted house filled with the not-quite-dead members of the Amber family. This can be a pulpy nightmare or even a Gothic tale. The room with the Tarot cards and their abilities gives us a sneak peak of some the things we will see in Ravenloft. On the other we have creatures from beyond that are quite Lovecraftian. The Neh-Thalggu, or the Brain Collector, is a creepy ass aberration that can give the Mi-Go a run for their money.

    There is travel to other worlds via some strange mists and 16 new monsters. Some of these monsters also appeared in The Isle of Dread, but here they feel a bit different. Plus what other B/X D&D book can you name that has "Demons" and "Pagans" in it.

    The background of this is rich enough that you want more of it. More on Averoigne and its connection to Glantri, more on the Amber family, and more on the world that this adventure implies. It is no surprise really that much of this adventure and what it all implies found welcome homes in the BECMI version of Glantri.

    For me though the best connection is the one to Ravenloft. I have to admit the last time I ran this adventure I made the tie-ins to Ravenloft more specific, but I did not have to do much. I have to admit I was rather gleeful inside at the scene where they have to run from the "Grey Mists" to get into the castle.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
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    Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (2e)
    Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/20/2021 13:53:10

    Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/05/review-spelljammer-ad-adventures-in.html

    Come back to me if you will to a time just right before the Internet. (Ok, technically the roots of the Internet were here in ARPANet and what I was using BitNet at the time. But you know what I mean.)

    The time is 1989 and the game on my table is AD&D 2nd Edition. Well, it is really Ravenloft, because, in college that was my setting of choice, AD&D just happens to be the system that ran underneath it all. So a couple of points already. I was playing AD&D 2nd Ed and really all I had the money for at the time was for one setting and that was Ravenloft. There were a lot of great settings in the AD&D 2 days; Forgotten Realms loomed large and impressive, and maybe a little intimidating. Greyhawk and Mystara only had some minor entries, much to my disappointment, Al-Qadim and Kara-Tur both looked like fun, and then we would also get Planescape. But there was one out that seemed so strange to me that I wanted to know more but yet could not bring myself to buy. Until now.

    DriveThruRPGs Print on Demand has been a fantastic opportunity for those of us who want to go back and look at some of these other systems and games of our youth. While I have relied mostly on the aftermarket to get myself up to speed on the Forgotten Realms (and enjoying it) I recently picked up the hardcover POD version of AD&D's Spelljammer. And I am so happy I did.

    Now don't get me wrong. I wanted to play SpellJammer back then. We ever started a new campaign where all the characters were in a navy, so they all had 3 free levels in fighter, and then they were level 1 (or 4 for the fighters) in whatever other classes they were going to be. Using the AD&D dual classing rules meant they could not act as fighters until later. But it boosted their HP. They were going to spend some time at sea, but eventually, they were going to turn their ship into a SpellJamming one. I named the ship "The Black Betty" after the Ram Jam song because every time I heard "Spelljammer" I thought "ram jam" and the Black Betty was a good name for a ship. Sadly we never got very far. I was at University and my DM at the time was at a different school and the other players were also at yet another school. Meeting only over the summer was not helpful for a long-term campaign.

    Fast forward to today.

    Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

    For this review, I am considering the Print on Demand hardcover and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG. There may be things true of these versions that are not true for the original boxed set and things that might be the other way around. I can't speak to the boxed set since I never owned it.

    Spelljammer is a whopping 278 pages. Jeff Grubb is our primary author with art by Jeff Easley, Jim Holloway, Dave "Diesel" LaForce, and Roy Parker. Easley is responsible for our cover, and indeed many of the covers from this time. The interior art is Jim Holloway who really set the tone and feel for what I consider the 2nd Ed "style" of that time. The interior is largely black and white with some color illustrations. Mostly the pictures of ships, what were covers in the separate boxed set books, and some maps. The scanned pages are not crisp, but they are easy to read.

    The book is divided into two large sections that correspond to the two 96-page books that came in the boxed set, Lorebook of the Void and Concordance of Arcane Space.

    Lorebook of the Void

    We are introduced to how Spelljammer, AD&D in Space, came about. We also now know that this was the first of new boxed set settings to come out for AD&D 2nd ed. More would follow and make 2nd Ed more famous for their settings rather than their rules. The goal for Spelljammer was overtly a simple one; AD&D in space, connect all the main AD&D worlds, and make them work together without changing what makes each one unique.

    This section covers the basics of Spelljamming and operating a spelljamming helm. We get a good overview of the types of spelljamming ships and that various races that can be found in Arcane Space. We learn that gnomes and halflings for the most part avoid Arcane Space since they are too closely tied to their planets (makes sense) but Krynn's Tinker Gnomes are not so tied to their world in the same fashion so they are very much at home in Arcane Space. We even get a bit on goblinoids.

    The next third covers the various monsters and creatures you will find in AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendium format. We are given new details on the Beholders (they take the place of Daleks in Arcane Space) and the Neogi. Mind Flayers also get new treatments.

    The last thrid covers the three main AD&D game worlds, Krynn (Dragonlance), Oerth (World of Greyhawk), and Toril (Forgotten Realms). The problems begin to show here since the cosmology of Krynn is tied very much to their gods. This is not the fault of Spelljammer or Dragonlance, but rather one of trying to fit the divine into a scientific worldview. I will admit I do like how the spheres are covered here. It reminds me a little of how the solar system of Urt is covered in the D&D Immortals Set. One could take that information and drop it rather cleanly into this book. It was not done of course because at this time Urt/Mystara was considered part of D&D and not AD&D. Even discussions online close to the time described AD&D as one universe, maybe even in the same galaxy, and D&D in a different universe altogether.

    Concordance of Arcane Space

    The second major section of the book covers the rules part of Arcane Space. The first chapter describes some basics of how Arcane Space and the Phlogiston work. Chapter 2 covers some changes to the AD&D rules. The first change, Lizard Men are now a playable race. There are changes to some spells and how clerics can talk to their gods. We also get some new spells. Chapter 3 covers the ships. How they are made, flown, and the capabilities (armor, weapons, storage) of examples. Combat is covered in Chapter 4. Ships are a lot like characters in they have an Armor Rating and Hull Points. Damage by large ship weapons can deal hull damage and/or hit point damage. Chapter 5 covers celestial mechanics, or how systems are made. While in real-life astrophysics we know that forces like gravity will produce round (or oblate) planets and stars, there is a wide variety of things found even nearby to us. Arcane Space should be just as diverse if not more so. Oerth (Greyhawk) is a Geocentric system, Toril and Krynn are heliocentric. There are other systems that can be and should be, even stranger. We learn that there is a flow to the Phlogiston and that some worlds might easy to travel to, but harder to travel away from.

    We also have several appendices. The first covers how magic spells and items work in space. Appendix 2 covers travel times with Earth and the Solar System as an example along with Krynn, Toril, and Oerth. Mystara/Urt can be substituted for Earth easy enough. Flow can affect travel times.

    The last section of the book are the color deck plans of various spelljamming ships. Maps and cut-out-and-fold ship minis. Best get the PDF along with the printed book so you can print these on your own. A large black-hex map would work great for movement in space.

    Reading it today I can overlook some of the flaws that would have bothered me in 1990.

    Print on Demand Book

    The Print on Demand book is hardcover, mostly black & white with some color art inside and color covers. It is a hefty volume on premium paper which makes it a little thicker than you expect a 278-page book to be. It is very high quality.

    Converting to 5e

    In the first chapter of the first section, some advice is given about converting older AD&D monsters to use with Spelljammer since in theory every monster could be found somewhere. The example given is the Grimlock from the Fiend Folio, a monster they describe as not likely to be updated to 2nd Edition.

    Well. We know now the Grimlock. And updated to 3rd and beyond. So there is no good reason to assume that Spelljammer will "Never" be updated. In fact with D&D 5's desire to embrace the past and every world of D&D in their products it is reasonable we will see some Spelljammer at some point. A spelljamming ship was already placed on a level in a 5th edition adventure.

    But converting to 5e based on the material in this book? Well really there are two main areas of focus; monsters and magic. Many of the monsters have newer 5e writeups now, so this is less a question of conversion and more of replacement. Magic, in particular spells, would need some more work but the guidelines are in place. Similar spells should change in similar manners. Combat can be swapped out for 5e combat, which not terribly different. So yes, if you are playing a 5e game then you can get a lot of use and play out of this book.

    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Spelljammer: Adventures in Space (2e)
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    Barrow Keep: Den of Spies
    Publisher: R. Rook Games
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/19/2021 15:33:57

    For starters, you get this product for OSE, 5e, Troika!, and Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells all in the same purchase! So kudos to the authors for that. The main book covers the keep and a host of important NPCs. The characters are all assumed to be young adults living within the Keep. This covers 72 pages. There are also some new monsters in abbreviated stats that can easily be used by any game.

    The GM's Scenario packs vary from ruleset to ruleset. 5e is 43 pages and OSE is 55 pages. As expected these GM packs give you scenario seeds, the relevant players/NPCs, and has you go from there. The flexibility of this a crazy high. I can see an enterprising GM make this their central focus for dozens of adventures if not an entire campaign. If you don't want to do that then make it a home base for the PCs and have the occasional "stay at home" adventure. Given how well it is multi-stated use it as a means of moving from one game system to the next. It is extremely well designed.

    Get it for one system, but enjoy it with the other three as well. This has made me want to look more into the Troika! RPG.

    FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this, Richard Ruane, is a co-worker and friend of mine, though I did not see that at the time I purchased this.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Barrow Keep: Den of Spies
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    The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia
    Publisher: Knight Owl Publishing
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/19/2021 15:14:20

    I thought this was an adventure, but it is actually a mini-setting of Meatlandia and the opposing factions. There are meat mages (you really have to buy this to see them) and various types of bards (three in total). So new classes, new magic (15 pages of meat mage spells), a city, new monsters, new magic items, and just some gonzo-level weirdness. I have to say that it is not for everyone, BUT there is an audience that will absolutely love this. Has a solid Dungeon Crawl Classic meets Lamentations of the Flame Princes meets 80s weird horror. If it were a movie Roger Corman would have been the director or producer and Tom Savini would have starred and consulted on the monster effects. The whole thing is 90 pages long so you are getting a lot. Not sure where I am going to use it, but it really begs to be used somewhere. Retooled just a tiny bit could turn it from gonzo to some serious horror. That is the direction I am likely to go.

    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia
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    Hidden Hand of the Horla - T:1
    Publisher: Appendix N Entertainment
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/19/2021 15:01:48

    A nice old-school-style adventure where you seek out the tower of the Hand Mage that has reappeared out of legend. It is from R.J. Thompson and is for characters levels 1 to 3. There are some great new monsters here, the Goatfolk are my favorite, and some new to BX/OSE spells that Advanced players will recognize. 27 pages with maps by Dyson Logos. It is a really fun adventure and captures the spirit of the modules of the early 80s very, very well. Buy it for the nostalgia, but run it because it is a great little adventure.

    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Hidden Hand of the Horla - T:1
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    Creator Reply:
    Thanks for the good review! Much appreciated!
    Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
    Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/14/2021 10:49:09

    Originally poster here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/05/review-stars-without-number-revised.html See link for pictures of Print on Demand version.

    A few years back I reviewed Kevin Crawford's Star Without Number. At the time I said: The game is beautiful and there is so much going on with it that it would take me a number of games with it just to get the right feeling for it. The overall feel I get with this game is that it is the perfect child of Basic D&D and Traveller. So much of what made both of those games so great is here.

    Is Stars Without Number perfect? No, not really. But it is really, really damn close and even from a short distance I could not tell it apart from a perfect game. Recently I went back over the game and still found it to be nearly perfect. But I had not played it all that much since then.

    So on a whim really I picked up the newest Stars Without Number: Revised Edition and I figured I would grab the Print on Demand as well. I just go it in the main this past week.


    That is really the only way to describe it. Any of the reservations I had about the previous edition evaporated with this edition.

    I am considering the PDF and the full-color Print on Demand version.

    Written by Kevin Crawford, art by Jeff Brown, Christof Grobelski, Norah Khor, Aaron Lee, Joyce Maureira, Nick Ong, Grzegorz Pedrycz, Tan Ho Sim. And what fantastic art it is too! All pages are full color and each one is evocative and eyecatching. 324 pages.

    Chapter 1 covers Character creation. We have seen this all before, but perfect for people new to RPGs or sci-fi fans new to the Classic 6 Attributes and level/class systems. The feel here is solid old-school and SWN:RE wears its old-school and OSR cred proudly. BUT they are also a new game with new design sensibilities. For example, character creation is broken down into easy steps.

    You can determine your character's skills (and these can be from a number of sources). There are background packages that can be added to classes to give your character more depth and determine some of their skills. There are also training packages to further define your character.

    The classes are the three "archetypes" that you can find in other games, The Expert, The Psychic, and The Warrior. This edition also has The Adventurer which does a little bit of all the above.

    Character creation is a breeze and no one seems to die while doing it. There is even a quick character creation method on pages 26-27.

    Chapter 2 covers Psionics. Psionics are rather central to the background fiction of the SWN:RE universe, so they get special placement. There are quite a lot of psionic powers detailed here. So first thing, if psionics are something you must have in your sci-fi game then please check this game out first. Psionic points always give the powers a different feel for me than magic, so this is another plus really. These powers are not merely reskinned spells, they have been redone to fit within the mythos of the game better.

    Chapter 3 is the Systems chapter. It includes the expected combat, but also a new twist on the skill checks with Target Numbers. Useful if you are using the skills as described here, but its real utility comes in how flexible it can be. I would have to try it out more, but it's close enough to other skill + die roll + mods vs TN that I can see its use in a variety of situations. What I like about these skills is they are a 2d6 roll resolution system and not a d20. Sure makes it feel a little like Traveller. TRhis chapter also covers all sorts of actions, like combat (regular d20 vs AC here) and Saving Throws; Physical, Evasive, and Mental. Hacking also dealt with here since it is most similar to a skill check.

    This also covers Character advancement.

    Chapter 4 details all the equipment you will need including the Technology Level of the equipment. D&D would be tech level 1 (or so) while we are at TL 3. The game is set at TL 5 with some artifacts at TL 6. Time Lords are hanging out at 7 or 8 I would say. D20 Future and Traveller also use a similar mechanic, so if you want to see how they can also work, checking out those games is advisable.

    The standard batch of weapons and armor from sticks and stones all the way up to energy weapons are discussed. AC is now ascending. What is really nice about this game is in addition to lasers, energy swords, and computers it also includes Cyberware, Drones, Vehicles, and "pre-Silence" artifacts.

    Chapter 5 gives us Starships. Everything on size, type, and costs to ship-to-ship combat.

    Chapter 6 covers the History of Space of the default campaign setting. Even if you don't use it there are some great ideas here.

    Chapter 7 is Sector Creation which is just FULL of material for any game. While this game has a lot going for it, this is the real gem in my mind. This chapter is long, detailed and honestly, it makes me want to create worlds.

    Chapter 8 covers Adventure Creation. You have characters, you have created all these worlds. Let's get them together.

    Chapter 9 is the Xenobestiary. AKA the Monster Manual. Again we are given a lot of detail on how to make alien beasts and then a listing of several samples. Given the old-school nature of this game you could grab ANY old-school monster book for ideas. Yeah...doing Space Orcs could be boring, but Warhammer 40k has been doing them for so long and if you wanted to do them here, well the rules won't stop you. This chapter also covers the creation of alien species. First, the hows and whys of aliens are discussed; what to use, where, and why to use them. Some of this is situated in the campaign setting, but there is some good advice here even if you plan on using your own background/campaign or not even have aliens.

    Chapter 10, Factions. Factions are important groups. Say a group of allied pirates or smugglers, a government or a band of plucky rebels. Several key factors when creating a faction are given and there is a huge list of sample factions.

    Chapter 11 is Game Master Resources. It talks about character death and when to roll for skills. How to build a galaxy and conversions from First Edition Star Without Number.

    Chapter 12 covers newer material, namely Transhuman stories. Or what I call the Altered Carbon chapter. The ability to move on to new bodies.

    Chapter 13 has my undivided attention since it is Space Magic. That's right magic and wizards in space. Not psionics, but real arcane magic.

    Chapter 14 covers heroic characters. These are not your Traveller grunts or even characters from Star Frontiers, these are your Luke Skywalkers, your Buck Rogers, and more.

    Chapter 15 is True Artificial Intelligence.

    Chapter 16 covers Societies.

    Chapter 17 gives us Mechs.

    There is also a fantastic Index (sadly lacking in many books).

    SWN:RE ups the game in every possible way over SWN:1st Ed.

    Print on Demand

    I said this book was gorgeous and I meant it. The print-on-demand copy I got is sturdy and heavy. It is also the closest thing I have seen to offset printing in a POD product. You would have to look hard to tell difference.

    I described the previous version as "nearly perfect." Reading through this version I am only left to say that is one pretty much is perfect. It does everything a sci-fi game should. I mentally slot different sci-fi stories, tropes, and ideas in while reading through it and I could not find something that didn't have a fit somewhere.

    I have read a lot of sci-fi games this month, but this is one of the very best.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
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    Space Opera
    Publisher: Fantasy Games Unlimited
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/13/2021 14:01:59

    Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

    Space Opera has always been one of those games that I have wanted for years but never tried. Anytime I thought about the game it was usually out of print and the prices were a bit high. Then I'd forget about it again. Reading through all my old Dragons, especially in the 1980-1983 time frame, there was an ad for it every issue.

    Since this is SciFi month I figure I should go back to this one. Thankfully for me, it is now available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG.

    Space Opera (1982)

    Space Opera, 1st Edition, was released in 1980 which makes it one of the first competitions to the Classic Traveller RPG. The 2nd Edition version, which is what DriveThruRPG has, was released in 1982. I can't really speak to the differences. According to a post over at Wayne Books, there are not really many differences between the 1st Ed "Blue" box vs. the 2nd Ed. "Black" box save for the art.

    There also seems to be a slight difference between the two black box 2nd edition covers.

    Space Opera was written by Edward E. Simbalist, A. Mark Ratner, and Phil McGregor and published by Fantasy Games Unlimited.

    The PDF from DriveThruRPG is 200 pages split into to two volumes. There are two color pages of the box art and the rest is a very old-school style b/w text with some minimal art. While this sounds like a drawback the game is very much a sandbox-style game. So the "Art" that would be here is from whatever your favorite sci-fi property is. Space Opera tries to be all things to everyone and ... well we will see how well it does at this. The PDF is a scanned image, then OCR'ed. There is no bookmarking.

    Out of the box we learn that Space Opera is exactly that. A game to emulate your favorite Space Opera fiction. This is not the hard science of Traveller or the weird science of Gamma World/Metamophasis Alpha. This is Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers. I have heard it described as "not drama, but melodrama."

    The sections are numbered like many old-school war games. 1.0 is "Space Opera" 1.1 is "Required Materials & Equipment" and so on. There are four major sections of Vol. 1, the player's book, 1. Space Opera, the introduction, 2. Character classes, 3. PC Career Experience and 4. PC Knowledge and Skills. Vol. 2 is the "Star Master's" section. Yes they are indeed called Star Masters. Here we have sections 5 to 18. 5. General Equipment Lists, 6. Personal Weapons, 7. Heavy Weapons, 8. Ground Combat, 9. StarShips, 10. StarShip Combat, 11 StarShip Economics & Interstellar Comerce, 12. World Creation, 13. Cultural Contacts (aka Aliens), 14. Directory Design of Planets, 15. Habitable Planets, 16. NPC Races, 17. Beasts, and finally 18. Personal Living Expenses.

    If it looks like the game is heavy on weapons and combat then yes, it is. It is also so wonderful old school with bunches of different systems and sub systems.

    Instead of completely reviewing a 40+ year old game let through out some caveats and some points.

    First, while this game was certainly an attractive alternative to Traveller at the time, we have many more games out now that do this all better and with clearer rules.

    Second, if you are a fan of older games or a fan of Sci-Fi games then really is a must have for your collection. The PDF is nice and cheap compare to the $100+ to $300 range I see copies go for online. For $10.00 it is worth your while if you are curious about the game, the history of RPGs or Sci-Fi games.

    Now some points. Or how to get the most out of the 10 bucks I just asked you to spend.

    Section 1.2 covers units of measurement, all metric focused. Many games do not have these, this is useful for anyone working in three-dimensions or needs a good idea what a cubic meter is.

    Section 1.4 has good advice on dicing rolling in any game. Don't roll unless the outcome is in question or it serves the drama. There are lots of time to roll the dice, it doesn't need to be done all the time.

    Section 2.0 covers classes. They boil down to Fighting, Tech, Science, Medical and Specialist. We will see these in one form or another time and time again in nearly every other Sci-Fi RPG from Stars Without Number, The Expanse, to Starfinder and even Star Wars and Star Trek.

    Section 2.2 is a nice overview and random tables of Planet of Birth. They are all d20 rolls and should work with every other system out there. My back of the napkin math even tells me it would work great in such games like White Star.

    Section 2.3 character races has great guidelines for just about every sci-fi race out there. Humans, future humans, evolved apes, cats, dogs, bears, birds, lizards. All here. Again guidelines so cut and paste into what other Sci-Fi game you have going on. No giant insects though.

    Section 3.1 on covers some great guidelines on Mercenary service. I can't vouch that the economics will transfer from game to game though.

    Section 4 has so many skills. I prefer a simpler skill system these days, but this would help you define some specialized ones.

    Section 4.10 has a lot of Psionic skills as well. Might work with Stars Without Number. This is also how you get "The Force" without pissing off Lucasfilm/Disney.

    Section 5. So. Much. Equipment!

    Section 15. Great toolkit for habitable planets.

    Section 16. NPCs and sample Alien races.

    I said above it tries to be everything to everyone. It does this by taking every sci-fi trope there is and giving it a home here. Does it work? Well...it ends up being very long, very complicated and somewhat unattractive, but I can't tell if I am judging it by today's standards, my standards for game design or the standards of the time. This is a toolkit game with 1000s of options and you only need to choose the ones that work best for you.

    This is not the Granddaddy of Sci-Fi RPGs. That would be Traveller. This is however the Great Uncle. He still has some good ideas and since he has no kids of his own he can spoil the grandkids as much as he likes.

    I am sure that there are groups out there still today that would LOVE this game. Me I prefer something a little more streamlined. That all being said, I am glad I bought the PDF of this as opposed to spending $100s on eBay for it.

    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Space Opera
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    Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn
    Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/12/2021 10:17:43

    Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/05/review-star-frontiers-alpha-dawn-and.html

    Gamma World might have been TSR's first big entry into sci-fi gaming (Warriors of Mars and Metamorphasis Alpha non-withstanding), but it was not their biggest. While I don't have any hard numbers in front of me, I am going to have to say that Star Frontiers edges out the later Alternity in terms of popularity. It was certainly built at the height of TSR's fame with the first edition, simply Star Frontiers, published in 1982 with the new edition and trade-dress Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn and Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks. Certainly, in terms of fans, Star Frontiers has Alternity beat. But more on that soon.

    For this review, I am considering the PDFs and Print on Demand versions of both Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn and Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks. I am also going to go with my recollections of playing the game when it first came out.

    The Alpha Dawn book is designed by "TSR Staff Writers" but we know ow that a huge bulk of the work was done by David "Zeb" Cook and Lawrence Schick. Knight Hawks was designed primarily by Douglas Niles. The cover art in both cases was done by Larry Elmore with interior art by Elmore and Jim Holloway with contributions by Jeff Easley, Tim Truman, and even some Dave Trampier. Keith Parkinson would go on to do some other covers in line as well.

    While originally boxed sets (gotta love the early 1980s for that!) the PDFs break all the components down into separate files. Handy when you go to print the counters or the maps. The Print on Demand versions put all the files together into an attractive soft-cover book for each game. The maps are published in the back, but you will want to print them out for use.

    Both books are easy to read and really nice. They have been some of my favorite Print on Demand purchases ever.

    Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn

    Alpha Dawn is the original Star Frontiers game. The box game with two books, a Basic and Expanded game rules, some maps, counters, and two 10-sided dice. The rules indicate that one is "dark" and the other "light" to help when rolling percentages, but mine were red and blue. Go figure.

    The Basic Game is a 16-page book/pdf that gives you the very basics of character creation. There are four stat pairs, Strength/Stamina, Dexterity/Reaction Speed, Intelligence/Logic, and Personality/Leadership. These are scored on a 0 to 100 scale, but the PCs will fall between 30 and 70. Higher is better. These can be adjusted by species and each individual score can also be changed or shifted.

    The four species are humans, the insect-like Vrusk, the morphic Dralasites, and the ape-like Yazirian. Each species of course has its own specialties and quirks. I rather liked the Dralasites (whom I always pronounced as "Drasalites") because they seemed the oddest and they had a weird sense of humor.

    We are also introduced to the worm-like Sathar. These guys are the enemies of the UPF (United Planetary Federation) and are not player-characters.

    The basics of combat, movement, and some equipment are given. There is enough here to keep you going for bit honestly, but certainly, you will want to do more. We move on then to the Expanded rules.

    The Expanded Rules cover the same ground but now we get more details on our four species and the Sathar. Simple ability checks are covered, roll d% against an ability and match it or roll under.

    Characters also have a wide variety of skills that can be suited to any species, though some are better than others, Vrusk for example are a logical race and gain a bonus for that. Skills are attached to abilities so now you roll against an ability/skill to accomplish something. Skills are broken down into broad categories or careers; Military, Tech, and Bio/Social.

    Movement is covered and I am happy to say that even in 1982 SF had the good sense to go metric here.

    There are two combat sections, personal and vehicle. These are not starships, not yet anyway, and were a lot of hovercars and gyro-jet guns.

    There is a section on creatures and how to make creatures. I am afraid I took that section a little too close to heart and most of my SF games ended up being "D&D in Space" with the planets being used as large dungeons.

    The background material in the Frontier Society though is great stuff. I immediately got a good just of what was going on here and what this part of the galaxy was like. While Earth was never mentioned, you could almost imagine it was out there somewhere. Either as the center of UPF (Star Trek) or far away, waiting to be found (Battlestar Galactica).

    This book also includes the adventure SF-0: Crash on Volturnus.

    When it comes to sci-fi some of the rules have not aged as well. Computers still feel very limited, but the idea that as we approach the speed of light we can enter The Void has its appeal.

    The price for these books is perfect. Grab the PDF and POD combo. Get some d10s, load your gyrojet gun and get ready to make the jump to the Void. There are new planets to discover!

    Parts of Star Frontiers, in particular the species, would find new life in D20 Future, part of the D20 Modern line.

    Both games are fun, but suffer from and/or benefit from the design principles of the time. Newer players might find some of the game elements dated. Older players of the games will find them nostalgic. Personally reading through them now some 40 years after first reading them I get a lot more enjoyment from the rules. Back then I was really too D&D focused to really enjoy what I had in front of me. Today, well I can't wait to stat up a character or two and a starship.

    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn
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