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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!



    Rating:
    [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

    UPDATED

    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.



    Rating:
    [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.



    Rating:
    [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.



    Rating:
    [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.



    Rating:
    [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.



    Rating:
    [4 of 5 Stars!]
    Hidden Hand of the Horla - T:1
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    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.

    Wow.

    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.



    Rating:
    [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.



    Rating:
    [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.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn
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    Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks
    Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/12/2021 10:17:37

    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: Knight Hawks

    Ah. Now this game. Star Frontiers was great, but this game felt like something different. Something "not D&D" to me.

    In fact I have often wondered if Knight Hawks had not been a separate game in development by Douglas Niles that they later brought into the Star Frontiers line. I also think that TSR was also suffering a little bit of what I call "Traveller Envy" since this can be used as an expansion, a standalone RPG, and as a board game!

    Like Alpha Dawn, this game is split into four sections. There is a "Basic" game, and "Advanced" or "Expansion" rules (and the bulk of the book), an adventure, "The Warriors of White Light", and all the counters and maps.

    As far as maps go, that hex map of empty space is still one of my favorites and fills me with anticipation of worlds to come.

    The PDF version splits all this into four files for ease of printing or reading. The Print on Demand book is gorgeous really. Yes...the art is still largely black and white and the maps and counters are pretty much useless save as references, but still. I flip through the book and I want to fire up the engines of my characters' stolen Corvette, the FTL Lightspeed Lucifer. Complete with the onboard computer they named Frodo.

    The Basic rules cover things like ship movement, acceleration, and turning, along with ship-to-ship combat. By itself, you have the rules for a good ship combat board game. It works fine as long as you don't mind keeping your frame of reference limited to two-dimensional space.

    The Expanded rules tie this all a little closer to the Alpha Dawn rules, but I still get the feeling that this may have started out as a different sort of game that was later brought into the fold of Star Frontiers.

    Ships are largely built and there is a character creation feel to this. Their 80's roots are showing, no not like that, but in that, the best engines you can get for a starship are atomic fission. Of course, no one just gets a starship, you have to buy it and that often means taking out a loan or doing a bunch of odd jobs to raise the credits. Often both. I don't think I ever actually bought a ship. The Lucifer was stolen.

    There is also quite a bit on the planets of the UPF, Frontier Space, and the worlds of the Sathar. It really had kind of a "Wild West" meets the "Age of Sail" feel to it.

    The last part of the POD book is the adventure "The Warriors of White Light" with its various scenarios.

    Minus two d10s everything is here for an unlimited number of adventures in Frontier Space. Rereading it now after so many years I can't help but dream up various new adventures. I also can't help to want to use the Sathar in some of my other Sci-fi games. They have such untapped potential.

    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.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks
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    S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1e)
    Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/10/2021 15:55:54

    Originall posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/search/label/Classic%20Adventures%20Revisited

    One of the first adventures I ever bought via mail-order was S3 The Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I had already latched onto the idea that the S series of adventures were going to be mine to run in our extended group of players that crossed many DMs and groups. I grabbed it without really knowing a lot about it. I knew there was crashed spaceship central to the adventure and I knew that it was a larger adventure. Since I was spending my limited paper route money on my new D&D addiction I had to make every dollar count. S3 had two booklets, at 32 pages each, and color inserts. There were two covers with maps. So even my young mind all of this was more valuable than a simple adventure that only had half that material. I got it in the mail one summer and took with me on a family trip to the fish fry my parents loved to go to every year. It was hot, and July and all I wanted to do was sit in our van and read my adventure. This was also the first time that I encountered what I would later call the "Gary Gygax" effect. This would be the "E.G.G." on the map of Level II. I remember not liking it at the time because if this was a real spaceship then why was that there.

    Sci-Fi gaming was not new to me. I had picked up Traveller and I knew about Gamma World. I also had learned that Gamma World and S3 had a shared parentage in Metamorphasis Alpha, though I will admit I wasn't 100% clear on what that meant at the time. Without knowing much about the size of the Warden (MA) we always assumed this was the Warden. Given the shape of the ship that landed on Greyhawk and it's size this was more obviously some sort of smaller scout ship with a prison or brig. One thing everyone in my groups agreed on was this is how Mind Flayers came to Greyhawk.

    S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

    For this review, I am considering my printed copy from 1982 or so (not my original sadly, lost that one years ago) and the PDF from DriveThruRPG. This adventure was written by Gary Gygax himself and was the official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Tournament scenario at Origins II in 1976. The adventure was updated and published in 1980. Cover art and art book art by Erol Otus, interior art by Jeff Dee, David "Diesel" LaForce, Jim Roslof, David Sutherland III, Gregory Flemming, and Erol Otus.

    The adventure comes in two 32-page black and white booklets. The first covers the adventure and the second covers all the weird animals, plants, and gadgets found on the ship. There is also four pages in the center of book two with full-color art of the animals. I have one copy where they are glossy and another where they are matte. I have no detail on what the differences mean.

    Book 1 covers the adventure. The preface sets up what this adventure is about and gives some background on how this adventure came to be. The rest sets up the adventure, placed in the Grandy Duchy of Geoff in the World of Greyhawk. There is a bit of explaining the nature of this "dungeon," really a crashlanded ship, and how to read the maps.

    While one could call this a funhouse dungeon it is a bit different than the other Gygax funhouse, Tomb of Horrors. There are a lot of new and weird monsters here and some older ones (like the Mind Flayer) that are given a new life so to speak. What is most interesting to us, and to the players, were the new tech provided. The tech items were designed not really to be functional, but to confuse the players as much as possible. There really seemed to be a fear that D&D characters would run around with laser rifles. Of course the design makes no sense from a human perspective, so we tried to figure out how they might been created. One idea was that these make sense if you are a Mind Flayer.

    The adventure itself is a pure dungeon crawl into an unknown structure.

    Book 2 covers all the visual aids for this adventure.

    The adventure is a must-have really to say you have had the complete D&D experience. My oldest hated it though, saying he hates mixing sci-fi with his D&D. My youngest loved and wanted lasers for everyone.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1e)
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    The Witch (player class)
    Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/09/2021 20:16:38

    Originally Posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-hedgewitch.html

    The Witch by PCSpinner (was called the Hedgewitch)

    The Witch PDF is a PWYW with a suggestion of $1.00 for 10 pages.

    It looks like the math here is about ¢10 a page. That is a good ratio in my mind.

    It comes in standard format and printer-friendly format.

    The Witch is true to its name and presents a witch class. She gets spell levels up to level 5 only. The class has a nice variety of features and powers and all have a really nice witchy feel to them.

    The "sub-classes" or archetypes of the witch are "covens" which is exactly what I would do and would expect since "Traditions" were taken by the Wizards class. There is a nic variety here.

    The layout and art look really nice. I think some of it is public domain art and photos. At least they look a little familiar.

    There are no "new" spells, but it does use spells that were new at the time of publication.

    Quite a nice version of the class really.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    The Witch (player class)
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    Stars Without Number: Original Free Edition
    Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/08/2021 20:17:04

    Originally Published here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/05/review-stars-without-number.html

    Continuing my deep dive into the OSR-based SciFi games we naturally next come to Stars Without Number. This gem was released in 2011 and was written by Kevin Crawford and Sine Nomine Publishing. SWN is a big book, 254 pages filed with maps, sheets, a great index, but no OGL statement that I kind find. To me this book feels more like the work of hard sci-fi; like that Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein. Certainly it is epic in scope. There is more of a setting here than other OSR-flavored games, so if you like that, great, if not, well it seems easy enough to ignore.

    Chapter 1 covers Character creation. We have seen this all before, but perfect for people new to RPGs or scifi fans new to the Classic 6 Attributes and level/class systems. The classes are the three "archetypes" that you can find in True20 and other games, The Expert, The Psychic and The Warrior. Each has their own advancement table and Hit Die. SWN assumes a 20 level career in case you were curious. Each class also gets their own saving throw tables. There are background packages which can be added to classes to give your character more depth and determines some of their skills. There are also training packages to further define your character. Character creation is a breeze and no one seems to die while doing it.

    Chapter 2 covers Psionics. 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. Powers as expected have point cost values. 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 details all the equipment you will need including the Tech 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 stone all the way up to energy weapons are discussed. AC is descending by the way. What is really nice about this game is in addition to lasers, energy swords and computers it also includes Cyberware.

    Chapter 4 is the Game 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 it's 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 it's use in a variety of situations.

    Chapter 5 covers the history of space of the default campaign setting. Even if you don't use it there are some great ideas here.

    Chapter 6 is the Game Master Guide of the game. Deals with running the game and how and where to use skill checks.

    Chapter 7 is World Generation 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 flows right into Chapter 8, 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 9 discusses what sort of adventures you might be able to have. With Chapters 6 through 8 and all the details they give, running out of ideas is the least of your worries really.

    Chapter 10 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. Plenty of traits are detailed and how they might combine. There are three alien races detailed. Naturally this flows into Chapter 11, Xenobestiary. AKA the Monster Manual. Again we are given a lot of detail on how make alien beasts and then a listing of several samples. Chapter 12 gives us Robots and Mechs. We have various traits detailed and then plenty of samples. Chapter 13 deals with societies. This might have felt better coming after Chapter 8 really. Chapter 14 has designer notes. I nice little treat to be honest. Chapter 15 deals with the Hydra Sector, or the "Known World" of this game. Instead of countries we have planets. Chapter 16 ends the book with scores of random tables. Create just about anything with a few rolls of the dice. There is a nice Index (sadly lacking in many books) and plenty of maps and blank sheets for characters, starships, and adventures.

    Stars Without Number is big. It is a vast game with endless possibilities. If there is a sci-fi property out there chances are good that this game will be able to do it.

    My only complaint is a non-existent OGL declaration. Can you do a game like this without one? Maybe, but I would not want to. Plus it makes the game's utility a little less for me.

    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.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Stars Without Number: Original Free Edition
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    Mutant Future: Revised Edition
    Publisher: Goblinoid Games
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/07/2021 15:40:39

    Orginally Posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

    I reviewed 1st Edition Gamma World which got me thinking about Mutant Future. I was surprised to discover I had written a review for Mutant Future. Well, today seems like a good time to do that. This review will cover the PDF and the POD versions from DriveThruRPG.

    Mutant Future (2010)

    Not to start with, Mutant Future is not really a Retro-clone, near clone, or anything like that. The closest game it is like is Gamma World. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Gamma World has its roots in the dawn of the RPG age and D&D in particular. Filled with mutant animals, plants, and humans of all sorts.

    While Gamma World has its own near-D&D system it is not 100% compatible. Maybe 95%. Mutant Future doesn't have that issue. It is the exact same rules as its sister game Labyrinth Lord. Plus Mutant Future is not trying to emulate Gamma World exactly. Mutant Future then is a new game that feels like an old game that never really existed. Mutant Future does have some differences from Labyrinth Lord. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth much like Gamma World.

    Section 1: Introduction

    This covers the basics. What this game is and what to do with it. A brief overview of dice and common abbreviations is covered. This largely the same as what we see in many games and in Labyrinth Lord in particular. Mind this is not a drawback to this game. There is a strong implication here that anything made or written for Labyrinth Lord is also good for Mutant Future.

    Section 2: Characters

    Again, there is familiarity here, and that works to Mutant Future's advantage. The ability scores are the same as Labyrinth Lord/D&D and are generated the same way. The various species or types you can play are also here. Characters can be an Android (basic, synthetic, or replicant), mutant animals, mutant plant, mutant human, or the rare pure human, also like Gamma World. Abilities can go as high as 21 and there are a different set of saving throws, but the basic rules are the same as Labyrinth Lord. The types also list what HD each character has and how many mutations you have.

    This section also covers gear. It uses a coin system much like D&D and Labyrinth Lord as opposed to the barter system of Gamma World. Either works fine.

    Section 3: Mutations

    This covers all the mutations that all characters, NPCs, and creatures can have. In true old-school fashion, these are all random tables.

    Section 4: Adventuring Rules

    This covers the rules of the game and what characters are likely to do. Again these are replicated (but not cut and pasted) from Labyrinth Lord. Mutant Future sticks with feet and Basic movement as opposed to Gamma World's metric and more AD&D-like movement.

    Section 5: Encounters and Combat

    Combat and weapons of all sorts are covered. Also covered are damage from stun, paralysis, diseases, radiation, poisons, and more. This is one of the bigger departures from the Labyrinth Lord core, the saving throws are keyed for Mutant Future damage types. There is also a mental attack matrix here much like Gamma World.

    Section 6: Monsters

    This section covers all the sorts of creatures you can encounter. It is fairly expansive and since the format is the same as Labyrinth Lord creatures can be used in one or the other or both. 40+ pages of monsters is a good amount. There are also plenty of detailed encounter tables.

    Section 7: Technological Artifacts

    This would be the "Treasure" section in a fantasy game, but this is highly appropriate since the world of Mutant Future is supposed to be littered with the technology of past ages. This includes non-playable robot types, vehicles and things as mundane as protein bars.

    Section 8: Mutant Lord Lore

    This covers how to run a Mutant Future game. Not just how to run their own but how to build your world. Unlike Gamma World which has a sort of baked-in setting, Mutant Future is more open. The Mutant Lord (and I think an opportunity was missed in not calling them Mutant Masters) gets to decide how the world is the way it is. Advice is given on how to run adventures and a sample setting is provided.

    Section 9: Mutants & Mazes

    While it might not really be needed, this section discusses using Mutant Future and Labyrinth Lord together. The rules are remarkably similar, like 99%, so there are only minor pieces to consider. Though this section does expand mutations to the standard D&D tropes of race/class.

    All in all this a fine game. It is not exactly like Gamma World, more was it trying to be. It does however give that Gamma World feel in an OSR ruleset.

    Print on Demand

    The PoD version of this book is a sturdy hardcover that compares well to my Labyrinth Lord books.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Mutant Future: Revised Edition
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    Gamma World (1e)
    Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
    by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
    Date Added: 05/07/2021 14:14:49

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

    There is an important piece of my 40+ years of D&D anniversary that I have neglected and I thought I must rectify that as soon as I can.

    1981 was a banner year for D&D. I FINALLY got my real copy of the game, the Moldvay D&D Basic Set which I have talked about ad nauseam here for years. Within that "Gateway to Adventure" catalog there was another game that I knew a little about and would also soon be part of my ever-growing desire for a good sci-fi game. That game was TSR's own Gamma World.

    Over the next few years, I'd spend time with this game and other editions of it, but it was this first edition that really grabbed me like no other.

    I am going to review Gamma World here and talk a little about what I did with it and what I will do in the future. For this, I am considering my original Gamma World book (the box and dice are long gone), the Print on Demand version, and PDFs from DriveThruRPG.

    Gamma World (1978, 1981)

    Living thru the Nuclear Scare was an interesting time. I vividly recall having conversations with kids my own age about how they saw no future because the Russians were growing to blow us all up any day. Regan was president and I was convinced he was going to do something stupid to get us all nuked. Instead, he just destroyed the middle-class. But the threat was there all the time. The news, the movies, even all the music videos, to quote Frank Zappa, used all the same cheesy atom bomb explosions. Yup we were going to all die and the world become a nuclear wasteland where people drove around Mad-Max style in supercars and fought for the remaining resources.

    I suppose then given that environment a game like Gamma World was inevitable. Gamma World was our world, but very different. It is always interesting to read an older game describe how the world of their future and our present would turn out. Gamma World paints a nice picture of the early 21st century as a time when we stopped polluting the Earth and taking resources from it. Science Fiction indeed. With that, let's delve into this book.

    Gamma World original print vs new PoD

    Introduction

    There is a lot of interesting thing going on here. We know this is a (maybe even THE) Post-Apocalyptic game. This said apocalypse began in 2309 going to 2322. We get some world-building here with various wars leading up to the attack against a group known as The Apocalypse by what remained of the various governments and groups and The Apocalypse fought back. While it is not said to be a nuclear disaster, that is certainly how it feels. We know that due to this event that some life-forms were completely wiped out and others were mutated into new and strange forms. It is stated that many of the weapons were biological in nature too. So we have a heady stew of alchemical death raining from the skies. The year is now 2471 (450 years from now). There are humans and other things here and that is where our adventures begin. I can't help but draw parallels between this and the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series which came out at the same time. Gamma World predates the TV show, but not Buck Rogers. The TV series takes place in 2491, so 20 years after GW. With TSR's later dangerous flirtation with Buck Rogers, I wonder if any attempt was made to bring the two lines together? I certainly would have tried if I had been into GW as much as I was into D&D.

    How to Use This Book & Designing Gamma World

    An overview of what this book is about and how to use it. If you ever played an RPG then you know what is here. If you ever played AD&D then you might even have this section memorized. Gamma World uses the same dice as D&D.

    The designing part covers what you are likely to encounter in a typical Gamma World setting. It is a broad overview meant only to introduce the players. Details will come later.

    Creating Characters

    If you can create a D&D character then you can create a Gamma World character; they are largely the same and makes you wonder why there was no unified game system used at TSR. Well...I have my guesses. You have three "races" Pure Strain Humans, Humanoids, and Mutated Animals. Your attributes are Mental Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Charisma, Constitution, and Physical Strength. I am sure these are recognizable. Pure Strain Humans are just that, but Humanoids and Mutated Animals can have mutations. These are rolled randomly of course and some are beneficial others are defects. You can have a physical and/or a mental mutation. Mental ones can even include psionic abilities. Plants can also have mutations. This covers quite a bit of the book, but that is not really a surprise I suppose.

    Since the tables in the game are based on various ability scores they are more important in normal play than they are in (A)D&D. Levels and experience points use does not even come up until page 42.

    Play of the Game

    This covers the rules of the Gamma World game. We start out with what happened a lot in GW; moving from place to place and searching for things. Combat is the next section with weapons from clubs all the way to fusion rifles. We get some combat matrices that look like they were cribbed from D&D Basic. This is a good thing. There is even something here that I always an improvement, the Mental Attack Matrix. I mean this could have, should have, been ported back to AD&D and been better than the psionics system used there.

    Encounters

    Gamma World is a Gygaxian fun-house dungeon writ large. That doesn't mean everything you encounter will try to kill you, but that is a good assumption. The creatures are not as evocative as say the creatures from the Monster Manual but they are compatible with each other so if your really want an orc in Gamma World game it is easy.

    Also presented are various alliances. These are the groups, factions and tribes you can encounter. Only a few are presented here and the Game Master is encouraged to make more.

    Artifacts and Equipment

    Maybe more so than D&D there is a good reason for all these "treasures" to be laying around. But there is always the chance that something will fail. Gamma World takes the device flow charts from Expedition to Barrier Peaks (it's "cousin" adventure in AD&D) and dials it up to 11.

    This section also covers trade, the value of goods, and robots. I wonder how many Gamma World games changed the importance of robots after the Terminator movies came out?

    The last few pages cover an example of play and there are some charts (random encounters) and hex grids that can be removed for use. They look right at home next to my D&D charts of the same period.

    Print on Demand

    The Print on Demand version might be one of the best ones yet. Yes, the maps from the box set have to be printed out, but that is not a big deal. The new PoD is clear and easy to read.

    Nothing is lost in the translation. Plus the new pod uses the box art for the front and back covers so everything is here. All that is missing is dice.



    Rating:
    [5 of 5 Stars!]
    Gamma World (1e)
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