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V&V 3.0 Mighty Protectors
Publisher: Monkey House Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/27/2017 14:15:38

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/11/review-mighty-protectors.html

"We believe in heroes because, ultimately, we believe in ourselves." - Jack "King" Kirby

I am spending some quality time with Jeff Dee and Jack Herman's Supers RPG Mighty Protectors, aka Villains & Vigilantes 3.0.

Mighty Protectors (MP) is the update to the venerable supers RPG Villains & Vigilantes (V&V). In fact it is billed as the version 3.0 of the game.

V&V was the first supers game I ever encountered. Jeff Dee got his start on D&D doing some of the classic module art and book art for the 1st edition game. So the game has some obvious D&D roots. V&V was unique at the time (and still somewhat in MP) in that in the game you play yourself. You work out with the other players what your strength, endurance, intelligence and the rest are and then you roll randomly on a table of super powers. It's a very interesting and fun concept that we completely ignored. Back in the day we liked playing a "multi-verse" so our V&V characters were our D&D characters in a supers universe. The stats were the mostly the same and both games had levels. Plus it gave us excuses to have strengths of 50 or more (human max is 18). I remember it being a very good time.

As typical of many old school games there are lots of random rolls, charts and a fair amount of math involved. I went back recently to make a character and was thrilled to see that Monkey House Games had an Excel character sheet pack. The math isn't hard really, but Excel is still faster.

Even though we got a V&V 2.1 a couple of years back, V&V was itself in a state of limbo with a long, ugly legal battle between creators Dee and Herman vs. former publisher Fantasy Games Unlimited. Last year everything got sorted out and Mighty Protectors was Kickstarted.

If you have played V&V in the past then there is a lot here that is familiar, but also a lot that is new, updated or revised. Levels are gone, replaced with Power Levels that work like Power Levels in Mutants & Masterminds. This is actually a big leap forward in my mind and gives you more flexibility. While you should start out with a "Standard" game (150 total CPs) you could do a "Low" powered game (100 total CPs) or even a "Normal" or "No Powers" game of 50 CPs. Or take it the other direction with "High" at 200 CPs. There are mechanics in game, such as ability and power caps that make it so each character in each Power Level is roughly the same power. Sure you can mix "Low" with "High" or even higher. Also gone are the six attributes cribbed right from D&D. Now you have four Basic Characteristics (BC) that you can randomly determine, point buy or assign. These are Strength, Endurance, Agility, Intelligence, and Cool. If you are translating these from V&V then the numbers have slight differences. But more on that later.

Instead of talking about MP isn't in relation to V&V, I'd rather talk about what it is in relation to itself.

The book is 164 pages, softcover, with black & white art and color covers all from Jeff Dee himself. I am reviewing both the softcover book and the PDF. It is a nice mix of some classic V&V art, newer V&V art and even newer still MP art. If you are a fan of V&V then it feels like V&V from the very start.

The book is set up to look like "legal code" rather than chapters. So there is section "1.1 What is a Superhero" and section "2.1.16.1 Character Concept". That makes it sound like it is very dry, but it isn't. It reads more like a continuous document.

Section 1.0 starts us off with an introduction to the Mighty Protectors game and a brief overview of what is a Superhero. I thin this bit is important because it sets the stage for what this game is about. This is comicbook superhero emulation. Not necessarily movies or TV Supers, but comic books in particular. This goes back to the origin of V&V when Jeff Dee and Jack Herman were sitting around trying to decide who would win in a fight. This late 70s/early 80s comic vibe is played out till today in this game. My takeaway? This is a game that predates the "Bronze Age" or even "Modern Age" of comics. It was built with Pre-Bronze, late Silver Age tools. Can it do Modern Age? Yes, easy. Can it do TV? Of course! I think back to the time when V&V was new and imagine what would it have been like to have these comicbook-based TV shows we have now. But the game will work the best when the heroes are good, the villains are evil and superhero teams get along and fight for a common cause. There can be (and are) shades of gray here. Heck even the original Bowhunter (from V&V and MP) a good guy had a villainess as a love interest. We round out Section 1 with materials you (aka Dice) and support online.

Section 2.0 Character is huge. In fact, it covers the next 100 pages. Here we cover Character Generation (2.1) which also covers randomly determining stats, point buys and the V&V classic, Playing as Yourself. I am not going to lie to you. There are charts and there is math to do here. The math is not complicated, but it is part and parcel of the game. For me this is part of the old-school charm of this game and I would not want it any other way. If this is an issue for you there is the Excel Character Sheet pack. It does all the heavy lifting, but you do need Excel. Note: I got it and uploaded it to my Google Drive and it works just as fine with Google Sheets.

Section 2 is really the heart and soul of this game. However you go about your character creation you are given (or implied to have on Random generation) a number of Character Points (CP). I also have called these "Creation Points" since they are mostly used in Character Creation. You can get them, later on, to improve abilities, powers and gain new ones. But for now, we have a budget of points (described later 2.1.16.2 Ability CPs) to spend or use randomly.

Now here you can go the Point buy route and buy BCs (2.1.7) and Powers (2.1.15). OR you can go completely random. If random then you roll six abilities, two for offense and two for defense and Miscellaneous Abilities and keeping four. Also taking two random weaknesses. There are a number of derived stats (Hits, Power, Base Damage) and ones that deal with origin (Gender, Age, Weight) and background (where are you from, your legal status, superhero license). In general, this is easier than V&V.

The Abilities are covered under Section 2.2 Abilities. In truth, this could have been its own chapter/section. Abilities cover what your hero can do. The abilities are described in terms of effects. So there is a Power Blast ability, this can be any sort of blast that say in not covered elsewhere. There is an Ice Blast, a Laser blast, a Fire blast, a Sonic blast...and so on. The granularity of the system allows you to fine tune these abilities to a large degree. While the default is 10 CPs per power you can break it down into increments of 5 CP or even 2.5 CP. Each Ability is scaled with the others so a sonic blast at 10 CP should be the same a Power Blast at 10 CP. Working with your Game Master and other players you can really fine tune a hero any number of ways. This also means that any given concept of a character can also be created multiple ways. You can spend (and I have spent) hours creating all sorts of characters.

One thing the rules mentions is that if you are new to V&V/MP you might want to read over Sections 3.0 to 5.0 to get a feel for the rules and task resolution. It's pretty good advice really.

Section 3.0 covers Saving & Task Rolls. This is everything that is not combat related. Every BC, except Strength, has a save roll. These are noted as some number X-, meaning you need to roll X or less on a d20. While I am not a fan of roll under mechanics (just my own prejudice) it works here. Background (3.0.2.1) is a broad category of skills. So no one really cares how well Superman can drive a car or even if he knows what is going on in the Stock Market, save how it relates to his background as a Reporter or even growing up on a farm. Clark will know the major crime families in Metropolis and maybe what is a good growing climate for a particular grain. So we do not have the granularity of skills that we would in say Mutants & Masterminds or even Silver Age Sentinels. Other interesting rules are include Opposition tasks and Inventing (3.1.3), or using your Inventing Points (IPs) to customize powers on the fly. Something that is not really a new ability but the different use of an existing ability. It's pretty clever and again fits with the comic book origins. Think about how many times Superman used his heat vision for something other than setting things on fire. Rearranging the ink on a page comes to mind.

Section 4.0 is Combat. This section is obviously quite important. I HIGHLY suggest using minis here. The rules imply this and recommend it, I am saying it is a must. Here HeroClix or HeroForge is your new best friend. Of course Legos, D&D minis or even pawns are fine too. This is particularly helpful when dealing Knockback rolls in case you or a target are blown back by an attack.

The combat, once you get the hang of it, moves rather quickly. Yes, there are a lot of options such as multiple attacks and two-handed attacks, sneaking and other things that can modify the rolls. It's my experience though that most players will emulate a superhero and have a couple of signature moves. These will then become second nature for both the player and the GM to roll. Again we are rolling low on d20 where a "1" is a potential critical hit and a "20" is a potential critical fumble. Another roll is required after that. Even items that require a lot of charts say improvised weapons, become faster with use and a GM's screen.

Section 5.0 Physics handles all the ways you can break things or things can break you. It's actually more than that, but that is a start. It ends with an example of play.

Section 6.0 Being a Superhero covers the roleplaying aspects of playing a costumed superhero. This is a little more "in-Universe" than the other sections. If you are using MP to play in another world you can modify this to fit your own needs, though the rules were written with these realities in mind.

Section 7.0 The Mighty Protectors Multiverse. Is very much In-Universe. Jeff Dee has commented elsewhere online that early versions of V&V were fairly universe agnostic. This setting described here has developed over the last nearly 40 years of gameplay. Indeed, reading this book and see names like Maxima and Bowhunter made me happy. I knew these characters back in the day and seeing them again is like seeing old friends again. What follows are 15 pages of groups, people, places and things in the MP Universe.

Section 8.0 Gamemaster Section covers Gamemastering advice and rules which includes creating your own adventures to creating your own world. If you don't want to convert your favorite comic book story (Hollywood has been doing it for years!) there are tables for random adventure creation. This section also covers Experience and Wealth Rewards. Finally, we get to section 8.6 Converting V&V 2.1 Characters. Good guidelines, but I have preferred to just rebuild them from the ground up

The game is a lot of fun, but it is not without it's own issues.
For starters there is no index in the book. Minor thing in the days of PDFs with full-text searching, but it's not there on my softcover while sitting on my couch trying to figure out the stats of Arrow's Oliver Queen.
The game also took me a bit to figure out properly before it clicked. Once it clicked everything else was easy. The game is wonderfully old-school, but that can also be a bug (not a feature) for anyone coming from Mutants & Masterminds or other games with full-color interiors.

All in all it is a really great game that has all the old school charm of V&V.

If you are a fan of the original Villains & Vigilantes then I would check this out. If you want a supremely flexible and easily modifiable game then I would also check this out. OR if you are like me and a fan of supers games it is worth a look.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V&V 3.0 Mighty Protectors
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Die For You
Publisher: Fantasy Heartbreaker
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/23/2017 15:50:18

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/10/love-will-be-cruel-carmilla-for-die-for.html

All week I am doing RPG conversions of the Web series Carmila. Today I am going to shift my focus slightly and look at a Role-Playing Game that was directly inspired by Carmilla.

Growing Up is Weird Die For You by Rose Bailey lists Carmilla as it's primary inspiration. Though given the name I can't imagine that HEX was also not an inspiration. Die For You is a slim book, only 13 pages. Character creation and rules are all, understandably really simple. Designed for 2 to 5 people, one game master and four players, I think it could be expanded. It also has that feel of a game that could also work with rotating GMs.

This game would classify as a "Story Game" I believe, it has that feel, but I really don't know much about its genesis.

To play you start by Picking a Setting. Since I am going to go with Carmilla as my example (and I think it sells the game best) I'll give examples from the start of Season 1. The setting can be random (roll a 1d6) or the group's choice. We are going for "College" here.

Next comes Creating a Character. Again this is an easier process than most games, but one that should involve everyone playing. First thing you need to come up with is your Concept. The examples given are good for us, with some tweaks; “Nosey Journalism Major” or “Disaffected Vampire.” You can decide if you are some sort of monster or a normal human. Now define your Want. This is something your characters wants. Let's go with "Find the Missing Girls from Silas University" as an example. When pursuing your wants you have a better chance of succeeding, but also you open yourself up more to creating complications. Looking for the missing girls gets the attention of the Evil Dean that wants to sacrifice them to an ancient demon. Having conflicting Wants in the group is also a good thing. Now determine your Traits. You have three: Feels, Weird and Real Life. Feels and Weird are ranked 2 to 4 and combined they must equal 6. Real Life is the same as your lowest score. Finally, you have Trust. Trust is another character you trust and this can change from scene to scene if needed.

While this is going on the GM comes up with the Big Bad. This is who they need to defeat to move the story to its end. Simpler is better. "Vampire", "Nephilim" or "Evil Dean". Then figure where the game begins and what happens. "At the big party, a girl disappears". "In the middle of class, you set fire to all the paper with your mind". And so on.

Roll the Bones Rolls come in two types, Challenges (your character is trying to do something or opposed by an NPC) and Conflicts (opposed by another PC). In Challenges, you roll against the Trait that the GM is most affected. Each die that is one lower than your trait is a Success. There are ways to get more dice. You can get help from another character, pursuing your Wants, making a sacrifice, or using your Trust.

A few minutes of set up, getting characters made and you are set to go!

Playing Carmilla The Setting: Silas University, Freshman dorms. Laura Hollis' room. Big Bad: The Dean (revealed later)

The Cast

Carmilla Concept: Disaffected Vampire Want: To not do the horrible things her mother makes her do anymore. (Later) I want Laura to be safe. Traits Feels: 2 Weird: 4 Real Life: 2 Trust: No one, Laura

Laura Hollis Concept: Nosey Journalism Student Want: To find the missing girls. (Later) I want Carmilla to be safe. Traits Feels: 4 Weird: 2 Real Life: 2 Trust: Dany, Carmilla

Danny Concept: Really tall English Lit TA Want: I want to go out with Laura. (Later) I want Laura to be safe. Traits Feels: 4 Weird: 2 Real Life: 2 Trust: Laura

LaFontaine Concept: Would-be mad scientist; brainy Want: To get into med school and figure out all the weirdness on campus. (Later) I want to party with the Demon of Light. Traits Feels: 2 Weird: 4 Real Life: 2 Trust: Perry

Perry Concept: Dorm mom, German major and neat freak. Want: I want everyone to be normal! Just be normal! Traits Feels: 4 Weird: 2 Real Life: 2 Trust: LaFontaine

There. Five characters as quickly as I could write them down. Take them and throw them into the weirdness. The game is a lot of fun and could be a really fun experiment to try with some exsisting characters.

The game is Pay What You Want, so if you want to try it, throw the author a buck or two and if you like then toss in a couple more.
You can see more about this game at http://www.fantasyheartbreaker.com.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Die For You
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G1-3 Against the Giants (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/29/2017 15:56:01

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/08/review-module-g123-against-giants.html

Getting to play AD&D at the height of its popularity was one of the best things about growing up in the 80s. Even living in a small town in Central Illinois there were multiple, independent D&D groups going on everywhere. It was not uncommon to hear talk of an adventure, or a rules debate or anything else. One of the adventures that everyone seemed to be playing was the Against the Giants series.

Talk of Ombi, King Snurre Ironbelly, and Eclavdra were not daily topics of conversation, but they were common enough that there was a shared set of experiences. It was something we all could relate too and talk about even when we knew those other groups were playing it all "wrong"! It is no surprise then that G1-3 have been ranked as some of the greatest *D&D adventures of all time and have been updated for every version of the D&D rules since it was published back in 1978 (and combined in 1981).

The Giants series began as three individual adventures. They were run as part of the AD&D Tournament at Origins '78. When later released they became the first ever published adventures for the then new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) game. Each adventure dealt with raids from a different race of giants; Hill, Frost and Fire respectively. They were aided by other giants and giant type creatures including ogres, stone giants and even a couple of white dragons in G2. But what really grabbed the attention of many players, and certainly this player, was the big reveal that the masterminds behind these giant raids were none other than the Drow; evil, dark elves that lived underground. This elevated the adventure from mere dungeon crawl and searching in giant's bags to a conspiracy. The giant-Drow alliance became Evil with a capital E.

The giants themselves were new-ish monsters then. Giants had appeared in the Original D&D rules, but all six races were "detailed" in a paragraph. In the (then new) Monster Manual for AD&D 1st Edition giants were given significantly more space and more details. It would be difficult to say which really came first, but we do know that Gygax worked on and published the Monster Manual before the Giants series came out. Notes from one certainly could have influenced the other. What of the adventures themselves? I had the chance to play this as a player way back in the early 80s. So my memories of it are quite fond. So fond in fact that I also ran this adventure with my sons as the players and using the newest edition of the D&D rules. My experiences playing under 1st Edition AD&D compare very favorably to my experiences running it under 5th Edition D&D nearly 40 years later.

The 32-page combined adventure splits into three easy parts that represent the three original modules.

G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief Here the characters and the players are introduced to the World of Greyhawk, or at least this small section of it. They learn that giants of various types have been raiding the local villages and the character have been pressed into doing something about it. Now the original modules put a threat into the characters to investigate, I find that by appealing to their higher moral codes and motives (and the ability to keep all the treasure) works so much better.

Soon the Steading of Hill Giant Chief Nostra is discovered and even a party of 9th+ level adventurers will soon discover that bigger often does mean better. Giants, even Hill Giants, are not dumb monsters. They are not bigger orcs or ogres with more hit points. This is their home and they will defend it. I am quite impressed anytime I think about how this was run as a tournament. It took me many sessions to get through all three and when I reran for my kids at Gen Con I had wanted to do each one a different night. Didn't happen that way. This adventure requires the players to plan, to hit hard and then run away. Many times they would send in the assassin to take out a giant and then follow it up with a barrage of magic from a distance. Combat can honestly be a slog here. But the action is often very fast paced. There is a lot going on.

This adventure shares a lot in common with its sibling B1 Keep on the Borderlands. While designed for two different versions of the D&D game, there are similarities that should not be ignored. In fact, I would like to think that they are there on purpose. Each represents a "beginner" view of dungeon crawling, but the Giants adventures, if you pardon the pun, get more advanced. This adventure gives only our first clues to the larger conspiracy, namely that the Hill Giants are taking direction from Giants, quite literally further up. Completing this adventure only leads the characters to the Frost Giants.

G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl Going further up the mountains we get the first hints of how the AD&D game is different than the D&D one. We now have rules for cold and the wind and most importantly getting lost in the snow. Like the Hill Giants before, some sections are left to the Dungeon Master to detail. This is partly due to the desire for a sandbox style play and largely due to the tournament origins of these adventures.

Again in this adventure planning is required. The characters cannot just rush in blindly and hope to overwhelm these creatures. In fact, assuming they are mere "monsters" is a good way to get killed fast. The Dungeon Master is encouraged to play these giants as the personages they are. Sure, Guard #4 in area 19 might not have a name, but he does have a purpose. Even the white dragon has a purpose. I could not help but think that the white dragon cloak worn by Snurre had not been one of the Frost Giant Jarl's dragons. In fact I hope it was. Their haltered of each other is overridden by the fear they feel at the hands of the drow. How powerful are these dark elves?

In this adventure, it should become obvious that much more is going on than raids and attacks of opportunity. There is a force uniting these giant clans and directing to grim purpose.

G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King Here the conspiracy is laid bare and the character will discover what and who is directing the Giants. But first they must survive a live and active volcano. The walls, for example, are hot to the touch. How hot? Try 2d6 hp damage per touch hot. The giants here are smart and coordinated by a strong King. They will lay traps and ambushes for the party. They will try to stop them at every turn. This adventure is not only significantly deadlier than the other two, it is also about 50% longer. Not only do the players have coordinated giant attacks to deal with, burning walls and King Snurre himself but also hiding out on level 3 are the drow. For many players back in the day this was their first introduction to the dark elves. I liken it to the big reveal that Romulans were related to the Vulcans in the original series of Star Trek's The Balance of Terror. It is something in our post-Drizzt world that we have lost. Here the Drow are discovered to be pulling the strings, but we don't yet know why. We do that they are lead by a High Priestess, an unearthly beautiful drow by the name of Eclavdra. She is no monster, but an NPC worthy of her own motives, desires and schemes. In the last time I ran this adventure my kids figured out right away that they needed to take out the King in order to not die right away. So they hunted Snurre down. With him out of the way the other fire giants lost their direction and were much easier to defeat. The red dragon and the drow though were still a problem. They managed to kill all but two; Eclavdra and her enchanter. The characters were last seen chasing the drow down to the Depths of the Earth to complete the next series of adventures.

While the books are small, the adventures take a while to run. The combats can be long and the characters really should take the time to explore every inch of the three giant strongholds. There is more treasure here than any group of characters need but also there are plenty of prisoners to free and some have information on what is going on.

There had been D&D adventures before this, but this was the first epic.

Legacy There are good reasons why we are still talking about these adventures today nearly 40 years later.

Some of it, of course, is just good old-fashioned nostalgia. People loved these adventures then and now they want to share that love with new players today. That is exactly what I did and there is no shame in admitting it. But the reason why people loved them is also the reason why they stand the test of time. The adventures are just plain good. These adventures combined a lot of things that people loved; great locations and sandbox-like play. Iconic and classic monsters mixed with new ones. Not mention an engaging story with memorable NPCs. When gamers wax nostalgic over adventures like Tomb of Horrors, they think of things like the traps or character deaths. In the Giants series they also mention things, like the Hill Giant Chief's dining hall, but also they remember names, like I mentioned above; Ombi, Snurre, Eclavdra. When I played this back in the 80s Ombi nearly killed my whole party. I survived all these giants just to be killed by a Dwarf with some potions and magic item. Well that and a DM that knew how to make a character memorable. Imagine my shock and surprise when my kids plan and take out Ombi in two rounds!

This adventure also shaped much of what would become D&D's own mythology. Giants of any sort working together soon became shorthand for bad news. The drow, scantly described here, would go on to become one of the most infamous humanoids in all of the D&D worlds. Their underground city, only hinted at here, would be the template for nearly every Drow-realted product written in the late 80s and beyond to the present day. G123 is not just the seed, it is also the fertile earth of much of what would become recognizable as "D&D".

TSR and then later Wizards of the Coast would go back to the Giants again and again. In 1987 TSR combined the G series with its sequels the D and Q modules for GDQ Queen of Spiders, one of the first Supermodules. In 1999 they were reprinted and expanded again for the 2nd Edition of the AD&D game in Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff. In 2009 Wizards of the Coast released Revenge of the Giants for the 4th Edition D&D game. For the 5th Edition game Wizards of the Coast went back not once, but twice, to giant country with Storm King's Thunder (2016) and Tales from the Yawning Portal (2017). Storm King is more a spiritual successor to the original Giants series, but G123's DNA is all over it. Tales from the Yawning Portal is a direct reprint of the original Giants adventures but updated to the new D&D 5th Edition rules with new full-color maps and art. It has lost none of the punch of the original.

Not only have there been official Giant-related products from TSR and Wizards over the years, other publishers got into Giant business. Notably there is a "missing" set of giants from these adventures; the Cloud Giants. I went to track down a cloud giant based adventure to slot in and easily found 4-5 all based on Cloud Giants. Actually, most of them dealt with a Cloud Giant castle.

Think about it, what was one of the first stories you remember hearing as a child? Jack in the Beanstalk might have been one of the very first. The giant living in his castle in the clouds with a goose that lays golden eggs and a harp that sings on its own. Think of the stories from our shared consciousness. Giants living the mountains, David fighting Goliath, Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Giant's Causeway, the Frost Giants of Norse myth, the Titans of Greek myth, to Attack on Titan, and so many, many more. These are the tales we tell. Tales from antiquity to last week's Game of Thrones. It should then be no wonder why these adventures speak to us and call to us to join the battle.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
G1-3 Against the Giants (1e)
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Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2017 12:43:36

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

I picked this up based 100% on my reading of Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss. In fact I did not even own this book when I started this review. This book is great. Plenty of advice on how to play your character to get the most enjoyment out of it. A lot of this I already do and have done for years. In fact, I think playing in horror games made me a better player as well as a GM. I see a lot of that advice here too, but with a different focus.
I stand by my idea of the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle". Using all this advice will make you a better player and a better GM.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
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Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2017 12:32:29

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

Have you ever wanted to make your own adventures? Do you want to be like Venger and write them like a fucking boss? Well, this is the book for you then. Overtly the book is focused on people writing their own adventures for the first time, but the advice given is so solid that even old veterans like me kind find it useful. Some of the advice is common sense, but never underestimate the value of stating something plainly. There are no groundbreaking revelations here, no paradigm shifts and no occult insights. And that is perfectly fine by me. Adventure writing is not supposed to be Shakespeare, it's supposed to be Poe. The advice given though is rock solid, and it provides easily repeatable to create fun, entertaining adventures that don't feel like a railroad. Honestly I would package this up with his How To Game Master Like a Fucking Boss to give GMs a full toolbox of advice and tricks to help any adventure; whether they wrote it themselves or grab one off the shelf. Venger really should bundle this with the Character book and call it the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle". I have a Trek game coming up. I know what I want to do with it, but I am going to run my ideas through this book and give them a test. So far all the advice has panned out well and I believe that this will be a better adventure because ot it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
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Stairway of V'dreen
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2017 12:16:29

Originally Posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

This adventure for Crimson Dragon Slayer (or any OSR/Fantasy game really) starts In media res with the PCs needing to find shelter. Here they meet Doctor Ebzub and his almost completed experiment. What happens next is ... well ... ok the PCs end up in V'dreen. But is V'dreen is left to some questions. It feels like some in-between world where PCs encounter the remnants of gods that were, or could be. V'dreen is a dying world. Not in the Jack Vance sense but in the it is rotting right before your eyes. The PCs must either save it or euthinize it. There is a fair bit of meta to this adventure and a lot more that can be added by any group. This is the type of adventure that works best with a group that has been playing together a long time, but maybe the first time with these particular characters. The adventure can be played for bizare laughs or as deadly serious. Either way it will be a lot of fun.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stairway of V'dreen
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High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2017 10:00:23

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

I think most of Venger's adventures revolve around finding a dead body. That's how this Alpha Blue adventure begins. I am inordinately fond of Alpha Blue, so a new adventure is always welcome. The adventure revolves around the game of Q'uay Q'uar. It is a big deal in this area of space. There was a Doctor Who episode, "The Wedding of River Song" that features something like this with Chess. Now imagine that, only with purple and yellow pieces and none other than David "Space" Pumpkins as your host. Then you have an idea what is happening here. There is alot going here with a lot of characters. The PCs can compete in the Q'uay Q'uar challenge or they can be observers. There is a smuggling ring to stop (or join up with), a mercenary and a ton of other things to do here.
Included in the adventure is a PDF on how to play Q'uay Q'uar and an image file of a board.
I would be utterly disappointed to hear that Venger does not have his own Q'uay Q'uary game set up to play at home. I did something similar for Ghosts of Albion: Blight with a game of Fidchell. I did make a Fidchell board (well, really a Tafl board). Like all of Venger's products, this one is heavy on substance and style, and light on crunch. I could see this played under White Star, Starships & Spacemen, or even the new Star Trek game. I am going to use it in my Star Trek/Cthulhu-mythos mash-up for certain!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
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His Flesh Becomes My Key
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2017 09:22:06

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/adventures-with-venger-asnas-satanis.html

A cool horror/noir murder investigation. While overtly made for The Outer Presence RPG it is mostly crunch free. So it could be used with 1930s Call of Cthulhu, 1970s Chill or even in the 2010s with any game. Frankly I would like to try it with Witch: Fated Souls or even Majus. It is that flexible. Now putting this right out there, this one is less tongue in check sleaze and more gritty urban horror. I will not spoil the ending, but it is part of what makes this adventure interesting and good to use with nearly any horror game. Personally, I think it is great fun and would love to try it out under different systems with different groups just to get a different feel each time. Come to think of it, there is something in the adventure where I COULD run it multiple times, with the same players and characters under different systems. This adventure is Eldritch Pulp meets the ugly streets of New York or Chicago or San Francisco of modern day. It is has a nice "old school" vibe to it. It is H.P. Lovecraft meets Clive Barker. I hope to see more like this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
His Flesh Becomes My Key
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Fantasy AGE Bestiary
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2017 15:20:05

Originally posted at: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/review-fantasyage-and-fantasyage.html

I have said it hundreds of time, but you can never have too many monster books.

Fantasy AGE Bestiary is one of my favorites. This is not a rehashed monster manual. This 144-page book is stocked full of really cool, really interesting and often unique monsters. Sure some are familiar, but that is not the point, the point is that this book is full and it will be a long time before I run out of ideas for them all. The art is fantastic and that is a great thing in a monster book.

Each monster is listed with stats, picture, background information and plot hook ideas.
The book is so good in fact if makes me want Green Ronin to publish it with D&D 5e stats as well.

If you are a fan of Fantasy AGE or Blue Rose or DragonAge then this is a must have book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Bestiary
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Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/11/2017 15:05:07

Originially posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/07/review-fantasyage-and-fantasyage.html

Fantasy AGE is the "generic" Fantasy game based on the ruled that appear in both Blue Rose and DragonAge. While there are some repetitions, the tones of all three games are sufficiently different enough to make each book worthwhile.

Chapter 1 gives us the basics of Character creation. The Usual Suspects are here; Elf, Dwarf, Human, Halfling, and Orcs. You get your Backgrounds with some basic ideas. And our three AGE classes; Mage, Rogue, and Warrior. Too bad the classes are not Adept, Guardian, and Expert. Also included here is the experience for level advancement table.

Chapter 2 discusses the AGE system. I am not sure if the AGE system will ever "fall into the background" the same way d20 or Unisystem do for me, but it could get really, really close. The system itself is very easy to grasp. In AGE you really only need three six-sided dice. Two of which should be the same color. The off one is called the Drama Die. We will get to all those in a bit. The rolls of 3d6 + Ability +/- mods vs. Test Difficulty are simple enough. Test Difficulties start at 7 (Routine) and increase by 2 for each level. So 9 is Easy. The feel is the same as d20's Target Numbers or even Unisystem's Success Levels. Like most systems, an "opposed" test will be one set of rolls vs another set of rolls.

Chapter 3 details Focuses, Talents and Specializations. Every Ability has multiple focuses. The Fighting Ability has a focus on Axes and another, Polearms for example. You can gain a new focus for everytime you go up a level. Talents are something else. These are only granted under special circumstances. They might be restricted by class and many have prereqs. These include abilities like Animal Training, Dual Weapon Fighting, or Psychic. Specializations can almost be thought of as "Sub Classes", these include Assassin, Elementalist, and the like.

Chapter 4 gives us basic equipment. Pretty self-explanatory.

Chapter 5 covers Magic and the magical arts. While anyone can have arcane ability, only Mages can master them. There are 12 Arcana here with various magical powers.

Chapter 6 details Stunts. These are the life, and soul of the AGE system really. If you get doubles on any roll of the dice you may perform a Stunt on that roll. So if the roll was a combat situation then you can perform a Combat Stunt. The roll you get on your Drama Die (the off color one) is a number of Stunt Points you get. You have to use them right away. So if you get a 4 you have 4 SP and can buy any of the stunts listed for 4 or under. These are things like "Knock Prone" or "Lethal Blow". As characters go up in level they gain access to more stunts and can buy others for less SP. There are also non-combat Exploration and Role-playing Stunts as well. There are even Arcane Stunts that can be used in either.

Chapter 7 is the GM's Section. This covers running adventures and adjudicating the rules. There is a good section on adventure planning that is good for most games.

Chapter 8 is about Mastering the Rules and dealing with ability tests and combat.

Chapter 9 covers Adversaries and Monsters. All the regulars are here.

Chapter 10 is all about rewards. Which includes, but is not limited to, treasure.

Chapter 11 gives us our hook to Freeport, GR long-running setting and Chapter 12 is an adventure.

Fantasy AGE is a solid fantasy game that keeps from being a Heartbreaker and carves out new territory of it's own.

I don't say the following lightly.
Fantasy AGE could give Castles & Crusades a run for my 2nd Favorite set of Fantasy Rules. (D&D and it's variants are #1). Yes. It is that much fun.

It is better than Pathfinder, 13th Age and pretty much everything else.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
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Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2017 06:11:08

Note: This review originally spanned three parts: [http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/06/review-blue-rose-2nd-edition-part-1.html ](http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/06/review-blue-rose-2nd-edition-part-1.html ) http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/06/review-blue-rose-2nd-edition-part-2.html http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2017/06/review-blue-rose-2nd-edition-part-3.html

Blue Rose

Blue is the newest AGE (more on that) game title from Green Ronin. It is an update to their older True20 version of Blue Rose. This game expands the World of Aldea and the timeline a bit as well as give us some more option for play. I am reviewing both the hardcover edition and pdf of this game. Both of which were purchased by me and not sent to me for the purposes of review. I will post my thoughts both on the reading and playing of this game.

The Blue Rose book is a 384 page, full color, hardback book. The hardcover is sturdy as hell and might just be one of the most gorgeous books I have seen in a very, very long time. The color jumps out at you. Blue Rose is not a grim-dark world and this book is not either. The PDF is huge and fully bookmarked and hyperlinked. I love PDFs, and for ease, I am using mine for review now, but there is no comparing it to the physical book. The hardcover retails for $59.95 and the pdf for $24.95.

Basics Blue Rose 2nd edition uses the same AGE or Adventure Game Engine, game engine found in DragonAge and Fantasy Age. All three games share "System wide" compatibility, but maybe not "thematic" compatibility. Though if you desire more monsters in your Blue Rose or Dragon Age games then the Fantasy Age Bestiary is the absolute perfect choice.

I will detail more about the AGE system in a bit.

The book is divided into three large sections: The Player's Section covers the first four chapters of basic rules, character creation, and magic. The World of Aldea covers the history of the world, the Kingdom of Aldis, and the surrounding lands. This takes up the next four chapters. The Narrator's Section covers the last five chapters. This covers how to run a game, what makes "Romantic Fantasy" different, as well as rewards and adversaries. There is also a sample adventure in back to tide you over till you pick up a copy of The Six of Swords.

Now off the bat, an easy criticism would be, why not separate these out into three less expensive books. Charge $24.95 each and make more money in the long run? Sure that would work and that is what Green Ronin did with their True20 versions. Personally, I like having everything in one tome. Though I do see a need for a slimmer, maybe soft cover, version of just the player's section for players to buy. But Green Ronin has been doing this a long time if their economics support this then I am not going to be an armchair accountant.

Introduction The first five pages start with an introduction to RPGs. Most times I skip this, but this time I stuck with it since one of the expressed purposes of this game is to bring in new players. The "What is Roleplaying" section covers what is expected. This is followed by a section on "What is Romantic Fantasy?" For this bit, and for this review, I went back and read (or re-read) every book I could in the Romantic Fantasy cannon. This includes all the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey (minus the last series) and nearly every book on John Snead's own "Must Read" list. I'll talk about those relationships in detail as they come up, but suffice to say (for now) that Blue Rose does do a good job of Romantic Fantasy.

The next paragraphs deal with how you go about creating a character in a game world. Not mechanics (yet) but an extension of your senses into this world. This section I noticed also features in other Green Ronin AGE books. It asks the questions "What do you do?" and "Who are you?" The focus of this game then is character dynamics. It is not "The party of adventurers set out to destroy the dragon." it is "Brynn, Heylg, Bethan and their friends sought out the threat to their beloved kingdom and stopped it before more lives were lost." There is nothing wrong with either situation, it is just one is better suited to Blue Rose. Becuase of this there is more focus on group dynamic. Maybe Bethan, normally a strong independent warrior who fights for just causes, is also deathly afraid of fire from an incident in her childhood. Now fighting this dragon is not just a straightforward matter of defeating a beast; it is now a metaphor for overcoming fear even when you are normally strong and brave. It could be that Brynn's best contribution to this battle is not her magic to attack the dragon or her healing, but her ability to empathize with Bethan and bring out the warrior she is from the scared girl she was. If this dynamic is not that interesting to you, that's fine, the Blue Rose/AGE game will still let you kill the dragon, but something essential is missed.

The next section deals with the AGE system itself.

The system is actually quite a simple one. 3d6 + Ability +/- mods vs. Test Difficulty. What makes this system special though are the Stunts. Whenever you score "doubles" on a roll (on two of the dice, more later) you generate stunt points. Stunt points can be used for any number of special features. These are not limited to combat. You can score Stunt Points in any situation where you roll dice. So yes you can even generate Stunt Points (SP) while engaging in social interactions. I have long let Bards in my D&D/d20 games score "critical hits" with puns, but in Blue Rose you can now do the same (mechanically speaking) with all sorts of social interactions like flirting! Finally, we end with a bit on the campaign world, but I will detail that, as does the book, later on.

Part I: The Player's Section This section introduces us to both the Blue Rose game and the AGE system.

Chapter 1 discusses the AGE system and goes right into Combat and Stunts. I thought this was an odd choice in a game focused on characters. At first that is. After reading through it a few times now I see it makes good sense. I am not sure if the AGE system will ever "fall into the background" the same way d20 or Unisystem do for me, but it could get really, really close. The system itself is very easy to grasp. In AGE you really only need three six-sided dice. Two of which should be the same color. The off one is called the Drama Die. We will get to all those in a bit. The rolls of 3d6 + Ability +/- mods vs. Test Difficulty are simple enough. Test Difficulties start at 7 (Routine) and increase by 2 for each level. So 9 is Easy. The feel is the same as d20's Target Numbers or even Unisystem's Success Levels. The spread is closer to that of the d20 world so converting between the True20 Blue Rose and the AGE Blue Rose should theoretically be an easy one (in reality there is more to it, but not much more). Like most systems an "opposed" test will be one set of rolls vs another set of rolls.

Aside: Since the rolls here are 3d6 as opposed to 1d20 (d20/D&D) or even 1d10 (Unisystem) you are going to get far more average rolls and fewer extremes. This result is as subtle as it is ubiquitous. This means that most rolls (67.6%) are going to fall in that 8-13 range. 18's will only happen 1 time in 216, as opposed to a 20 happening 1 time in 20. This means that most actions will feel "normal". It's later when we add the Stunt Points and Conviction that the real acts of Derring-do happen. This puts the "criticals" more in the hands of the players and less to chance. They happen less often, but more where the player wants or needs them. This is something I have done in my own Unisystem games for years. Instead of a 1d10 I use a 2d6-1 system known as "The Chicago Way" among Unisystem players. The effects are quite nice. The 3d6 gives AGE Blue Rose a solid edge over True20 Blue Rose.

In addition to these tests there are modifiers, which typically include a Specialization in a skill or other training. There are are also Conviction points. These are gained throughout your adventuring career and can be used to influence certain actions. Conviction is used a bit like a Drama Point or a Hero Point.

On every turn the character can take a Major and a Minor action. Each round is only 15 seconds long (4 per minute) so each action is short. There is a list of what major actions are (Attack, Defend, Heal) and minor (move, aim, activate). In truth, the lists are pretty simple and easy to grasp. There are also variable actions that will change depending on the situation.

Next up are Stunts, the life, and soul of the AGE system really. If you get doubles on any roll of the dice you may perform a Stunt on that roll. So if the roll was a combat situation then you can perform a Combat Stunt. The roll you get on your Drama Die (the off color one) is a number of Stunt Points you get. You have to use them right away. So if you get a 4 you have 4 SP and can buy any of the stunts listed for 4 or under. These are things like "Knock Prone" or "Lethal Blow". As characters go up in level they gain access to more stunts and can buy others for less SP. There are also non-combat Exploration and Role-playing Stunts as well. There are even Arcane Stunts that can be used in either.

Chapter 2 covers Character Creation. This covers all the steps from concept to filling out your sheet. Blue Rose is a very character-focused game, so character creation should be something done all together for the first session. I even suggest talking about what sort of group you want to have. There is no reason why it can't be "You all meet in an Inn", but it should go deeper than that really. How do these characters interact with each other, what are their goals, their drives? In some ways the best Blue Rose group of heroes is something like what we get in the Dragonlance tales. A group full of characters internal desires and drives but a community, if not a family, of others helping them.

Blue Rose has 9 Abilities. They have familiar sounding names and are even rolled up the same way. In fact in Blue Rose, your abilities are rolled on a 3d6 IN ORDER. Yes, it is more Old School than many Old School games out today. The spread of ability modifiers is also similar. Every ability has more than one focus. These Focuses allow the character to be better at one particular area. Systematically Abilities and Foci serve like abilities and skills. Next, choose your race. We get humans from various lands (with different bonuses), Nigth People (half-orcs/orcs), Rhydan (intelligent animals), Sea-folk, and Vata (elves). You also get a background, which is largely what country you come from, Up next is Class. Like other AGE games and True20 there are only 3. Adept, Expert, and Warrior. As you level up you can gain different abilities from your class. These are typically increases in abilities (which ones depend on class). Classes are presented from 1st to 20th level. You then need to figure out (or randomly roll) your Calling, Destiny, and Fate. Finally it would not be Blue Rose if there was not a bit on Relationships. Everyone in the cast is tied to another by one degree or another. These relations have role-playing and in-game mechanical features.

If you are looking for XP per level you will not find it in Blue Rose. This game uses the same philosophy as it's older True20 sibling; you increase in level after a few adventures. It leaves it in the hands of the Narrator as to when to level up. If you really want an XP chart for Experience to next level then there is one in Fantasy Age.

Chapter 3 details Focuses, Talents and Specializations. Every Ability has multiple focuses. The Fighting Ability has a focus on Axes and another Polearms for example. You can gain a new focus for everytime you go up a level. Talents are something else. These are only granted under special circumstances. They might be restricted by class and many have prereqs. These include abilities like Animal Training, Dual Weapon Fighting, or Psychic. Specializations can almost be though of as "Sub Classes", these include Assassin, Bard and the like.

Chapter 4 covers Arcana, the magical arts. While anyone in the world of Blue Rose can have arcane ability, only Adepts can master them. Arcana are divided into six Disciplines; Animism, Healing, Meditative, Psychic, Shaping (for making Avatar like Benders!) and Visionary. There is also Sorcery, the dark side of magic which leads to corruption. Each ability is given with the Talent (Discipline) it falls under, sometimes it is more than one, time is takes (Major or Minor), Target Number and Test needed. What sort resistance covers this ability and fatigue TN? Some abilities have sub-abilities too. Many of Shaping abilities are like this.

The last part of the chapter covers Sorcery. This is great for all sorts of adventure ideas. Hell, 90% of my ideas deal with some form of sorcery and it's threat to Aldea.

Part II: The World of Aldea

Now when it comes to game-changing events I can make due with changes in power or in the way certain rules have been handled. It is the events in the next few chapters that will have me scrambling for the pencils to re-do my campaign! Well, Green Ronin never asked me what I was doing in my game and I never reached out to them to make sure they were not invalidating several sessions worth of my games ( +Chris Pramas, we will just have to talk in future! ;) ).

Chapter 5, What Has Gone Before, is still roughly the same as what we saw in the True20 version. If anything things are clearer now. The art, of course, is better and some things, like the rise of the Darkfiends, are clearer. As before we get a history of the World of Aldea, from the Mythic Age (when the Gods were created) to the Old Kingdom (the “Golden Age” of the world), the Empire of Thrones (or the rise of the evil Sorcerer Kings) to the present age in The Rebirth of Aldis. The history of the world is given from the creation of the world by the four greater gods and then into the creation of the lesser gods, demons, and mortal races.

I think it is the goal of every RPG writer, either professional or just sitting at home, to create a mythology for their world. These myths feel more like The Silmarillion than it does say the Bible or Greek Myth. Though there is a fair appreciation for Greek Myths and Pagan beliefs in this. In makes for an interesting world to say the least. It has been asked more than once in my groups what gods do they believe in in the other parts of Aldea. Are they same with different names (likely) or they different ones altogether (a tantalizing idea)? We see bits of how this could work in Chapter 7 where the different lands worship different aspects of these same gods.

The biggest changes do not come till much later in the chapter. At some point between the True20 timeline and the AGE timeline. Queen Jaellin decided that she was "officially done with Jarek's shit" and invaded Kern via the hidden ShadowGate under the palace. The present day of the True20 version was 310 (Aldin calendar) to the new current day of the AGE version of 320. A lot has happened in ten years.

I read this and was like "whoa" what happened here? Personally, I'd love to have some scenarios where the PCs/Cast are part of that battle and raid.I think that would be a blast.

Also this was the last time anyone has seen the Golden Hart. The mystery here, of course, is whether or not it used up all it's magic in this last battle. We come to the "present day" in the game with political factions in an uproar, relations within and without in question and a Queen that has made some choices that many of her own court and people do not agree with. Basically, it is like Valdemar at the end of the Winds of Fury. Expanded from the True20 book this new chapter also talks more about the Great Rebellion that started Aldis in the first place. I mean wouldn't that also be a great time to play? The years leading up to Queen Seltha's reign. Heck, the art of the Undead armies is enough to make me want to give it a try.

Chapter 6, Kingdom of the Blue Rose then picks up with Aldis proper and discusses what is going on. We get background on the various races living in Aldis; human, sea-folk, vata, night people, and Rhydan. Why do all these people get along? Well... they try to. The Rhydan wanted a land that all were equal and free and queen Seltha ran with that. We get a section on the Royal Court of Aldis. I REALLY wish I was good at running Court Intrigue. This would be the game for that. A carefully balanced dual of wit, manners and subtle backstabbing. This game makes me want to be better at it. There is just too much potential here and frankly it is not my strong suit.

Anyone who ever thought that a Kingdom that was accepting of all peoples lacks intrigue has never really read or played this game. Aldis is not just the idyllic land that some have depicted it. It is “enlightened” but there are still internal strife, crime, the odd sorcerer or even a leftover gates from the time before the Sovereigns, and the ever-present threats from inside and outside. A number of threats to Aldis and Aldea are detailed. Various unscrupulous merchants, a very effective criminal organization known as “The Silence”, fallen nobles, bandits, defective shadow gates, and the remains of various shadow cults. In a handful of pages we get plenty of ideas for characters to do. Plus we now have a Queen that may or may not be trusted by all her people. And the Golden Hart? Gone. Hasn't been seen since the raid on Kern. Something new is happening here. There is a section on gender, sexuality, and marriage. Much less that you have been lead to believe mind you. Frankly, it could do with a bit more in my mind. This is Romantic Fantasy after all.

Religion gets expanded a bit as well. I like the new art for the Gods of Light, but I had to number them on my print out to keep track of them. I still rather like the Exarchs of Shadow. It helps solves the age old philosophical question of "From whence comes evil?" It gives a good explanation of how good gods such as these would have created evil beings. Plus in this version, they are more detailed with each exarch equated to a deadly sin. I might not be able to do court intrigue, but I can do horror like nobody's business. The real expansion though comes in the form of the City of Aldis. Note if you are used to the map in the True20 World of Aldea book (page 18), this one (page 161) is rotated 90 degrees clockwise. It also looks like the city has grown some more in the last 10 years. Other areas of Aldis are detailed as well. These include the Pavin Weald (Magical Forest) and refugees from Kern that have not quite integrated into Adlean society known as The Trebutane. If you want your spot to create Aldea-as-Valdemar and need a place for Holderkin Talia to be from, this is it.

Chapter 7, Lands Beyond deals with the lands and countries surrounding Aldis. This includes the Theocracy of Jarzon, the Khanate of Rezea (the Kaled'a'in/Tayledras from the Valedmar books, or the Kingdom of Damar from The Blue Sword), the Roamers (also Kaled'a'in Shin'a'in), the Shadow Barrens (just a bad place), The Forest Kingdom of Wyss (a new place, not in the True20 version), the Pirate Isles (more information here, can Freeport Blue Rose be far behind?), Kern (the really, really bad place. Mordor to Aldis' Gondor) and the Matriarchy of Lar'tya (basically Themyscira.)

Each section of the nation/land deals with the history of the lands, their rulers, religion, and people. Larger cities are discussed but never in the detail we got with Aldis. Some important NPCs have sidebars and their history, but no stats, are given. The lands also all have rough equivalents to the organizations found in Aldis. For example, the counterpart to the Rose Knights in Jarzon are the Knights of Purity and in Kern are the Knights of the Skull.

Of the lands, Jarzon and Kern are the most interesting. Jarzon is an interesting place where it could have been just like Aldis save for the intolerance of the Theocracy. I suppose then it is no surprise then that it lies south of Aldis. I could see a Jarzonni based game dealing with various heretics. Heck a fun game would be to play part of the Jarzonni Inquisition to discover a new threat to the whole world!

Kern is Ravenloft. Or maybe it is Thay. or Iuz. Or "The North" for the "Blue Sword" fans. I KNOW I can't be the only one to have thought in reading this new version of the game that when Jaelin killed the Lich King that the "Shadowed Seven" would be an even bigger threat.

Think of Thay without SzassTam or Apokolips without Darkseid. There is a lot of adventure ideas here. Play these evil regents off on each other. Or imagine their machinations if they ever decided to team up. I'd love a game where characters need to face off against these foes. That might be too "D&D" or even too "Buffy" but it would still be a lot of fun.

So advancing the timeline and story by 10 years is cool but it completely WRECKED my older Blue Rose game I was calling Black Rose. Eh. No worries. I can come up with some new ideas and maybe even resurrect some of the Black Rose ideas. Plus it will give me a good chance to pull out one of my old NPCs, Zenaida a Rezean Witch.

If you had the old True20 World of Aldea book then a lot in this section will feel familiar. There is a lot more material in the current AGE book and of course moved up 10 years.

Part III: Narrator's Section

Chapter 8, The Narrator's Art is the GM’s section. Again, I much prefer the term “Chronicler” to “Narrator”. “Chronicler” also implies that the characters are doing something worthy of Chronicling. The chapter covers some very pragmatic issues of Adjudicating the Rules and Running the Game to the creative Creating Adventures and Planning the Series. The space in between this is the "Art". What is particularly useful is the very old-school like table of 100 Adventure ideas. Need an idea? Roll a d100. Each one of these can be expanded into an adventure. This flies in the face of any notion that Blue Rose is a limited game. There are guides for roleplaying situations like Romance and Intrigue. Again, while situated in the Blue Rose and AGE systems, they could be used for any game. There is a section on how to run Intrigue (great for me!) and how to do it when the Characters have the potential to read minds or have access to other Psychic Arcana. There is also a bit on the physical location where you play. Given as a means to manage all the information coming at you the Narrator, and also as a means of setting the mood. Blue Rose is a "well lit" game as opposed to horror games which need a dark tone. The book also has some forms here and in the back for Narrators to print out and use to track all the goings on. So bonus point to the PDF for this one.

There is advice on knowing who your group is too. I think this is more important for a game like Blue Rose that is very Character focused. Using these group dynamics in the real world can also inform the group dynamics in the World of Aldea. The chapter as a whole has some pretty good GM advice. Some we have seen before and others we have seen, but applied new to this game.

Chapter 9 details the Blue Rose Series. If chapter 8 is general GM advice, then this chapter is very Blue Rose specific. This chapter starts out with a note about consulting the players. I think this is good advice in general, but certainly more so for the Character focused Blue Rose. That is not to say you can't have an Adversarial GM (it is one of the options discussed in fact in the last chapter) but if that is what you are doing make sure that is what people want. If so, great! We get into various Series Styles next. While the game is Romantic Fantasy, there is a lot of room in that broad term. Discussed are Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy, Horror, Low Fantasy, Swashbuckling Adventure, and High Romance. All of which work well within the Blue Rose frame.

Taking this advice we get some Series Frameworks of potential campaigns/series. The default, and the one that most people associate with Blue Rose, is called "For Aldis and the Queen!". This is what you would have if a young Mercedes Lackey was your Narrator. It does pretty much what it says on the tin. "On the Road" is more of the style of the later Romantic Fantasy authors. It is also closer to the type of adventures you find in a D&D game. Put them on a boat and suddenly it is "7th Sea". "Coming of Age" are your Harry Potter or Narina stories. OR as the book points out, even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. "Game of Thorns" (bad, bad Green Ronin!) are your darker court intrigue tales. The nobles that don't trust the queen or her new husband. I could make something of that easy. There are more. The Quiet Knights, the Wedding Planners. But reading through these all should give you your ideas. A special shout out though to "Blue Rose on the Red Planet". That's not what it is called, but the art and the description support that. I'd play that in a heartbeat.

Chapter 10 is the actual Running the Game. The first bit we get to is Mastering Ability Tests. If you have any familiarity at all with d20, True20 or a host of other "Target Number" style games then you know what to expect here. Basic tests and Opposed tests are covered again. Considerations are given for Minor and Major NPCs, handling different sorts of combat situations, Roleplaying vs. The Rules, and Hazards. One thing that is quite interesting is advice on how to deal with divinations and how to work them into games. This time the authors DO mention the Shaowscapes Tarot by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law as the perfect resource for your Blue Rose games. I have a set and it is great.

I am going to spend some more time on the Tarot, Callings, Fates, and Destinies.

Chapter 11 covers Rewards. The beauty of Blue Rose is that there are many ways to grant rewards to characters beyond just level advancement. Though that is not understated here. We start with Honorifics. Which I am TOTTALY going to steal for D&D 5. These are accolades and acknowledgments. Titles like "Lady Aerin, Dragonkiller" (if you have read that book you can smile with me), or "Champion of Justice" and others. These confer a small in-game bonus as well. The criminal types all have to make Willpower tests at -5 around our Champion of Justice for example. Given these examples, I can come up with a lot more. The next section mentions who can give out these honorifics in each country and under what circumstances.

Next follows Memberships and then Companions. After this are Special Items and Equipment. Often these are heirlooms, not necessarily magical. In fact, Arcane items are next and even then Arcane Weapons are listed last. Listed very last, and even very least, is wealth. So the things that motivate the average D&D character are the least motivating for the average Blue Rose character. In fact, Wealth only gets 3-4 paragraphs total.

Chapter 12 gives us Adversaries. We lead off with NPCs. Blue Rose characters are more likely to run into other people (Rhydan are "people"; just ask them). For monsters, "Beasts", there are some familiar names here but don’t automatically assume you know what these creatures are about. Griffons, for example, are given more emphasis and intelligence here than in their D&D counterparts. This is completely due to how they are treated in the Romantic Fiction novels, in particular, the novels of Mercedes Lackey. Also, unlike the novels, there are a lot more creatures here than what I recall reading. So there are plenty of creatures that can either guide, beguile or challenge the characters. There are about 70 or so creatures here. They are grouped by type, so all Rhydan, all Darkfiends, all Unliving, and so on.

Adding more would be easy, really TOO easy to be honest. Most creatures need have a good reason to be in the game/world. For example, there are no Manticores here. You could make a very good reason for them to be there as something like anti-griffon or even a magical race the bred true to fight griffons. Maybe they were created during the Shadow Wars or even before in the Empire of Thorns. They are rare now since most were killed. Now I do have a copy of the Fantasy Age Bestiary and there are a lot of great new monsters that can be added to Blue Rose. I just want to be careful on how I do it and where I do it. Same would be true for any monsters I'd add from DragonAge.

There are slight differences in the stats between creatures of the same name in the various books, but not enough to make you think they are different creatures.

The last chapter is an adventure, Shadows of Tanglewood.

There are pages with Stunt References, Actions and Quick Reference Cards. We also get a nice full-color character sheet. Points again to the PDF. You can get these as part of the Blue Rose Narrator's Kit.

The index is fully hyperlinked.

What can I honestly say at this point? This is a great game. Well designed with beautiful art and an absolute joy to play. The AGE system is the first system I have picked up in a long time that I really like.

This is the best game of 2017.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy
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I9 Day of Al'Akbar (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/10/2017 20:50:52

This is one of my favorite adventures from the 80s. Sadly this scan doesn't live up. The source document must have been in pretty terrible shape.

The cover looks awful and many of the pages are not straight. The giant full color map is also missing.

I would not purchase this until these issues are corrected. I still have a descent copy of this module, I would scan it if that would help.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
I9 Day of Al'Akbar (1e)
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Classic Modules Today: U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (5e)
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/28/2017 21:28:59

Love these conversions. For less than a cup of coffee I can get an easy to read conversion of some of my favorite classic modules to play in the game system that my kids love today.
You will need to have a copy of the original adventure and the 5th edition game, but this guides you through it all. If there is something new required (new monster, new magic item) then it is stated up here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Modules Today: U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (5e)
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Witches of Hagswallow Adventure OG01
Publisher: Sleeping Griffon Productions
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/22/2017 11:43:13

Witches of Hagswallow Adventure is an adventure for Battleaxes & Beasties. It is 47 pages, color covers, Black & White interior. Designed fro 3-6 characters of 2-3 level. It can be run directly after the included adventure in the corebook and gives more background on the setting of the Borderlands of Zarteth.
It is a great example on how even the simpleist monsters can be used to great effect. The "witches" are not witches of course, they are harpies. But for all practical purposes, the might as well be. After all these are 2nd level characters; most have just learned which end of the sword is the dangerous one! There are a lot of great maps, a bunch of new monsters and it expands the world a little bit more for the players. The adventure also comes with pre-generated characters. Everything comes in the PDF, but separate files are also included.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Witches of Hagswallow Adventure OG01
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Battleaxes & Beasties
Publisher: Sleeping Griffon Productions
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/22/2017 11:32:42

Battleaxes & Beasties is a core rule book from Sleeping Griffon Productions. It is based on Swords & Wizardry, but has some interesting quirks of it's own. The book is 175 pages, black & white interior with color covers. There are hardcover and softcover options, I am reviewing the PDF. We spend a couple of pages going over the basic "what is roleplaying" and "what are these funny dice". We have all seen this a 1000 times, but it does make it work well for a new player. Indeed the whole book is great for anyone that has never played before. Since this is based on S&W we have the same basic six Attributes and modifiers. It is not till we get to the classes that we some changes. Now B&B can act as a standalone game, there are enough classes here, but it can also act as a supplement to and other S&W-based game. I could not help but feel there was a certain level of, well, camaraderie between this game and The Hero's Journey. Both fall closer together on the "Heroic vs Muder Hobo" scale than say Dungeon Crawl Classics. The classes include a Beguiler (which is like a Bard, but instead of songs he masters lies), the Faithful (like the cleric), Hunter (something like a Ranger), Scout ( Ranger-y Rogues), Totemist (Druid-Shaman cross), Warrior and the Wizard. All the classes advance to 10th level, so this is solid White Box territory. After the human classes, we get race-specific classes. Now, these are a lot of fun really. There is the Dwarven Guardian, Dwarven Paladin, Elf Ranger, and the Halfling Outcast. Seriously fun stuff. We are 20 pages in and the book has paid for itself in my eyes. There is a section on careers, which other games might call backgrounds. Spells come next and are sorted by class and level. There are some new ones here too, not just a rehash of the same old spells. Additionally, magic is divided into Arcane, Miracles and Fey magics. An interesting touch if you ask me. It doesn't have a lot of game play effects, save on how Rangers learn spells, but it does provide a nice bit of flavor.
Next, we get to the default setting for this game, the Borderlands of Zarteth. It starts with a "Z" so you know it is going to be a dangerous or at least strange place! The setting is very D&D; that is neither good or bad, just what it is. I got the feel reading it that was Clark Ashton Smith plus Robert E. Howard, without the extra helping of doom and despair. It's not 4e Points of Light, nor is it Hero's Journey's "Let's go on an adventure" nor is it the Grimdark of DCC. It is in between.
The rest of the book is the Referee's Section. I say "rest" but it is really half the book. Everything you expect is here. The gem here is the Monster section. The monsters are divided up by type first then alphabetically. There are some nice new monsters here too, again making the book rather worthwhile.
To go with those monsters are some great magical treasures. There is also an included adventure, reference sheets and a nice character sheet. Battleaxes & Beasties does not break any new ground, but covers the same ground in interesting ways. Interesting enough to make it easily worth 10 bucks for the PDF. I am caught between 4 or 5 stars out of 5 here. I'll give it a 5 to adjust the review average.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Battleaxes & Beasties
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