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DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - Werewolf Sourcebook & other OSR games
Publisher: Bloat Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2018 11:28:29

36 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.

Same size, but a step up from the Vampire book to be honest. There feels like there is more material here and I will admit I was surprised to see the page count was really the same.

We get a little background on werewolves as a horror trope. Different means of causing lycanthropy are also covered. There is also a section of infecting humans and how it alters their stats, including Player Characters. Now I would say that being a werewolf runs counter to what a GM might normally want to do with a DP&D game, I can see it coming up. Good for drama really.

Now anyone that knows me well knows I am "the Witch guy" and before that I was "the Vampire guy". So I was totally expecting this to be my least favorite book, but no chance of that! This is a great book and even better than the Vampire book.

There plot hooks, NPCs, monsters AND a complete adventure. The book is packed. Well worth the money spent.

IF you can only afford one of these books, Vampire or Werewolf, then I would put my money on the werewolf one. Plus it has some fantastic Jacob Blackmon cover art, so what could be better?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - Werewolf Sourcebook & other OSR games
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Vampire Sourcebook - DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS & other OSR games
Publisher: Bloat Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2018 06:47:51

36 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.

With the Vampire Sourcebook, we move DP&D a little further away from "Stranger Things" and "X-Files" territory and more into the realms of "Fright Night", "Lost Boys", and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". The cover in fact is very reminicent of all the above.

We start off with an introduction to basic vampire pop-culture lore and quickly move to a list of vampire movies of the 1980s. It's a solid list, I knew all the titles so it feels complete, but I am sure there a couple Euro flicks missing. Not a big deal since that is not the focus of this book.

We get stats for a variety of vampires and plot hooks/backgrounds for all of them.
The book is designed for DP&D, but it really can be used with any OSR game.

For more 80s fun combine it with some New Wave Requiem from the World of Darkness game.

If you want to play a vampire then I suggest The Blood is the Life - Basic Vampires as a mostly compatible solution.

It is a thin book and I would have liked to see more varieties, in truth this probably the perfect size. Vampires are series-ending "Big Bads" not just your monster of the week. So characters are only likely to see one or maybe two their entire game life.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire Sourcebook - DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS & other OSR games
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DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - Player Options & GM Guide
Publisher: Bloat Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2018 21:49:08

124 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.

Now this book. I knew I needed this one the moment I read the table of contents. This book expands the game in a number of really awesome ways. Now all classes can go to 7th level and all the core classes get a boost. That is great, and we get 13 new classes. They are Equestrian Show Rider, Equestrian Rider, Monster Hunter, Party Animal, The Performer, Phantasmagon, ROTC Cadet, Soviet Spy, Spy in Training, Street Tough, Survivalist, Teen Ninja, and the Telepath. We also get five new Magic classes! Black Witch, Mechano-Mage, Nature Witch, Voodoo Practitioner, and White Witch. All with a bunch of new spells! So yes, I am quite excited about these. Worth the price on the cover alone for me.

Additionally, we get a bunch of new skills.

The last half of the book is everything 80s. I have seen a lot of 80s guides in games before, but this one is very comprehensive. These sections include 80's Crushes/ Idols, Your Songs of the 80's, Your Movies of the 80's, Random 80's Movie Quote Table, and Your TV of the 80's. And just listing these does not do this lists justice at all. I consider myself an 80s aficionado and there are things here I had forgotten or even never knew. I am little surprised there isn't a Dark Places & Demogorgons 80s mix list on Spotify.

Really glad I got this book and I consider it a must-have for fans of this games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - Player Options & GM Guide
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DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - JEFFERSONTOWN SETTING GUIDE Survive This!!
Publisher: Bloat Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2018 21:22:42

140 pages, color covers, black & white interiors.

This book covers the Jeffersontown setting introduced in the core rulebook. I have to admit, I was not going to buy this book. I was not really that interested in the J'town setting; I had my own setting, settings really, to try out and this one did not grab me.
That would have been a mistake. This book is really freaking awesome.

Reading through this book you begin to realize that all small towns are the same. I read through this and was mentally replacing J'Town details with my own old hometown Jacksonville (J'Ville, no really that is what we called it). There are a ton of great ideas here for any type of campaign.

So who should buy this?

Well if grew up in the 80s then you know this already. You lived it. But this book is a wonderful trip down memory lane. It's someone else's memory lane, but it looks like yours; it looks a lot like mine too.

If you didn't grow up in the 80s then this book is a must-have. Really sets the tone and tenor of the game perfectly.

This makes this book a must buy, I am glad I picked it up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - JEFFERSONTOWN SETTING GUIDE Survive This!!
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DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - Survive This!! - Core Rule Book OSR RPG
Publisher: Bloat Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/25/2018 11:53:02

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2018/06/review-survive-this-dark-places.html

I'll start off my week-long look at Survive This! Dark Places & Demogorgons with the core rulebook. A little bit of background thought first. I love the 80s in the way a true child of the 80s only can. Everything about the decade still fascinates me, fills me nostalgia and is a creative well I keep going back to. In truth, I had better decades. The 90s were particularly good to me and the 2010s are also really nice, but the 80s hold my interest more, especially when it comes to gaming.

Dark Places & Demogorgons (DP&D) taps into all of this in such a deep and profound way that it pisses me off me to no end. Pisses me off, because I wish I had come up it myself!

A few things upfront. DP&D owes a great deal to Stranger Things (which in turns owes a lot to D&D), but as fantastic as that is, that is not enough to sustain a game. DP&D draws on deep 80s culture as well. And deep I do mean shallow! Nothing here about the Cold War, or USA for Africa, or the 84 Olympics, or the home computer revolution. This is about what was going on in YOUR small town USA and how it felt like it was the strangest place on the planet. All that "important stuff" is just background noise to what is really important; what are we doing Friday night and who's going to drive around cruising? That of course until your friends start to disappear.

Dark Places & Demogorgons (DP&D) is a 200 page 5"x9" book with color covers and black & white interiors. The art is a mix of new art, some art purchased from collections and (my personal favorite) some photos of the authors and friends from some 80's high school yearbooks. I am reviewing both the physical book and PDF. Both of which were purchased by me so no books were contributed for review.

The book is divided into an 80 page Player's Section which includes the Classes and Basic rules, and a 120 Page Game Master Section. The Players section introduces the concept of a Role-playing game and what you can do. We also get a little background on the town this all takes place in, Jeffersontown KY.

We go right into building a character. Now while the book tells us that this is a version of the same game played in 1974, there are more 21st Century rules here. The rules feel like a Swords & Wizardry variant with some Basic (Holmes in particular) thrown in. There are multiple types of saving throws (ala OD&D, Basic, an on up) and ascending AC (S&W, 3e). In short though if you have played any sort of OSR game in the last few years you will pick this up fast. If you have never played before, well you will still pick this up fast.

Unlike its progenitors, this game has Seven Abilities. The new one is Survival. At first, I was not a fan of it, but now I see how it works in the game it makes more sense to me. Much like how another seventh ability, "Luck", works in The Heroes' Journey. I mentioned there are new saving throws too, Courage, Critical, Death, Mental, and Poison. Courage works a lot like a Fear/San test and there is even a terror table.

Where DP&D takes off though are ways you use to describe your characters. We start off with Backgrounds. You can roll randomly here in true 80s style, or choose. Rolling seems better. These include things like "Parents are never home" or "Bratty Kid Sister" and they have in-game effects. Not having your parents home makes for your house to become the natural HQ of your monster surviving endeavors, but having to watch your "Strawberry Shortcake" obsessed little sister is going to slow you down.

After that, you can decide on what your Class is going to be. Classes work here like everywhere else really. They decide your skills, they let you know where you fit in the world and they provide a role-playing guide. The classes in this book are largely based on 80s High School stereotypes. There are five main classes with three subclasses each (similar to how 5e does it) You have The Brain (Kid Scientist, The Nerd, The Geek), The Athlete (The Jock, Extreme Athlete, The Karate Kid), The Outsider (Break Dancer, Goth, Metal Head), The Popular Kid (Preppy, The Princess, Teen Heart Throb), and The Rebel (Bully, The Hood, the Punk Rocker). That pretty much covers everyone in a small high school.

Each class gets 5 levels and new abilities and/or skills each level. So the Karate kid gets new moves and martial arts, the Princess can affect others and so on. Skills cover the things you can do. You can get some via your class or be improved by your class. Others you can pick. Combat is a skill and if you want to be better at it then you need to take the skill otherwise you are just a kid with a +0 to hit.

Character creation then is largely rolling up Abilities, picking a Background, a Class, some skills, determining your saving throws and finding out how much cash you have in your pocket. Then you are set! I recommend a Session 0 for character creation and concept. Sure it is not in the rules and certainly not old school, but it better than everyone showing up for the game playing all playing "The Bully" or "The Nerd".

Lastly, you come up with your age, Alignment and various combat-related stats (AC, attack bonus). DP&D is not a combat focused game. You are kids and the monsters are, well, monsters. You might score a hit or two, but that is it. Otherwise, run!

XP and Leveling are a little "easier" then and there are other ways to gain levels. We end this section with some sample characters, examples of play and a quick breakdown of the 1980s vs. Today.

The Game Master Section is next and this is where the fun is! Here the advice of not making this a combat heavy game is repeated. This is a game of mystery, investigation, and deduction. From the book:

This game draws inspiration from movies like The Goonies, ET and The Lost Boys and T.V. shows like Stranger Things, Eerie Indiana and Scooby Doo. Talk about hitting me where I live!

The rules might say 1974 on the tin, but they are much easier than that. Nearly every rule is simplified and straightforward in a way we never would have tried in the 80s. Among the "new" rules are Difficulty Classes (circa 3e) and Advantage/Disadvantage rules (circa 5e). It makes for a very fast-paced game and the rules will fall into the background.

We get some weapons and explosives, but not a lot.

There is a nice section on magic and the occult which include some really nice Psychic classes. In case you want to dial your game up to 11 (see what I did there!).

The fun part of the book are the Adventure Seeds. Some are familiar to anyone that watched movies or TV in the 80s. But others...well I can only conclude that these must be local legends and myths from the author's own home. Which reminds me how much all these little towns are really the same, just the details differ.

Replace the Pope Lick Monster with the Mobil Monster and they could have been talking about my old hometown of Jacksonville, IL. We even had giant cats, giant birds and bigfoot. But if you know what is good for you stay away from Magical Mystery Lane (if you could find it) or the glowing "things" out by Lake Jacksonville.

The book also has a bunch of monsters in Swords & Wizardry format (more or less). You could add more, but be careful. Just because I have the stats for a Manticore in a S&W book that would work with this there had better be a good reason to include it.

There are stats for animals and various types of NPCs. There is even a table of random monster generation. Delving into more game specific tables there is a table (1d100) of basic adventure hooks.

We also get a small guide to the setting, Jeffersontown, or J'Town (I grew up in J'ville. AND we used to call it a "Sinkhole of Evil" YEARS before anyone ever said the words "hell mouth"). The guide is great, not just for use in the game but for the sheer nostalgia. It read like someone had taken a fictionalized version of my old hometown. I think that it is also flexible enough that an lot of people reading it will feel the same way.

We end with a nice solid appendix (the PDF is not hyper-linked here) and their own "Appendix N" of movies, television, and music. Music was too important in the 80s for there not to be a list like this.

We end with a copy of the character sheet.

Wow. Where to begin.

Ok first of this game is very nearly perfect and I hate it so much. That's not true. I hate that I didn't come up with it and publish it sooner. But in truth, I am not sure if I would have done the same quality job as Eric Bloat and Josh Palmer. Plus the inclusion of their yearbook pictures and own background made this book for me. I LOVED reading J'Town because I could see and feel my own J'Ville in it. I would not have been able to do that if I had written it myself, so much kudos to them.

This is a work of art and I love it. Everything feels right about this game, to be honest. I even have a potential "Series" in mind for it.

Can't wait to do more with it! I would love to get some of my old gamer friends from the 80s and have them play versions of themeselves in a "Stranger Jacksonville" or more to the point the Jacksonville we all WISHED it was.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - Survive This!! - Core Rule Book OSR RPG
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Tomorrow Dies Today
Publisher: Mad Moon Rackets
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/28/2018 10:44:42

Back when I first got married and before we would do those old "How to Host a Murder" games with our friends. We would have everyone over a meal and a murder. It was fun. This new game reminds me a little of that.

Tomorrow Dies Today

Tomorrow Dies Today is a 10+ player one-shot LARP (Live Action Role Play) by Sean Mooney designed to be played in two to fours hours. So perfect for a dinner party with some friends who all want to be super-villains. For your $20.00 you get a 135-page book with 11 character profiles.

Don't worry, this is not 135 pages of rules to memorize.

The rules of the game are covered in the first 20 pages. What follows next are the 15 or so pages for the Narrator of the game (doesn't have to be the host of the party). Then each character gets 8 pages of descriptions and details. These details also include various props and mannerisms.

Print out the characters and review the rules with the group and go!

The basic plot is General Goodman has built a doomsday weapon and he has brought all his most loyal henchmen (the players) to witness his greatest glory! Except. One of you is a traitor! You now spend the rest of your evening figuring out who that person is, or hiding it if it is you.

The rules exist somewhere between the free-form, if slightly scripted, play of How to Host a Murder and the "points and dice" play of an RPG. Characters do have a character sheet/book and they do have points. The Betrayer can be a different character each time you play, so that gives it more flexibility than others I have read and played like this.

While the setting can be "Mid 2000s" frankly I think it would be a crime not to set it in the 1960s.

For me, I'd invite my friends over for dinner, give them their characters ahead of time and let them do some free-form role-play, improv about their characters over for dinner and then get right into it.

I can also see this working well at a Con.

So for 20 bucks you get a game for 10 people for 2 to 4 (or more) hours. That really is a steal.

The art is great and the writing is very clear.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tomorrow Dies Today
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Creator Reply:
Thank you, Tim! I hope you and your wife get to try TDT out soon!
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 7th Printing (Alternate Cover)
Publisher: Troll Lord Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2018 13:19:04

It is often said that Castles & Crusades is the Rosetta Stone of Old School Gaming. It certainly is that, but there is a lot more going on here than just that. Castles & Crusades is very much a stripped down version of the basic 3.x SRD. As such there are lot of concepts that are modern including a one-roll mechanic for all sorts of situations. Though if that were all then there would be nothing separating this from say True20 or other "lite" d20 iterations. Castles & Crusades plays like good old fashioned D&D. The aesthetic here is 1st Ed. AD&D, with the simplicity of Basic era D&D. The concept is noble and one we see in many of the retro-clones. But where the clones attempt to use the OGL to make an older version of the rules, Castles & Crusades makes it's own rules and instead goes for the feel or nature of the game. So while you will see Thieve's abilities represented by percentage rolls in Basic Fantasy or OSRIC and as a skill in 3.x in C&C it will be a Dexterity check. Simple, elegant and easy. The Ability check, whether your abilities are Prime or Secondary, are a key element of C&C.

The Players Handbook is the first book you need for Castles & Crusades. At 140+ pages it is all about getting your character up and going. The abilities here are the same six you have always used and they are even generated by rolling 3d6 and assigning. If you have a different method that you liked back in the day OR if you have adopted some point by system from a new version I see no reason why it would not work here. I am a fan of 4d6, drop the lowest myself. The ability score modifications are a bit different than new OGL games, but are in fact much closer to older games. Bottom line is just pay attention to how many pluses that 18 gives you if you are used to playing newer games.

Next you will choose a class based on your abilities. Each class has a prime ability; one that is most associated with it. So fighters have strength, clerics wisdom, wizards intelligence and so on. Speaking of classes, all the "classics" are here and some new ones. So you have Assassins, Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, Druids, Fighters, Illusionists, Knights, Monks, Paladins, Rangers, Rogues and Wizards. There are some minor tweaks that make them different from other versions of the same class in another game, but nothing that made me scream "That's not right!" in fact in most cases I was more inclined to agree with what they did. For example I like the Barbarian for the first time ever. Each class has some special abilities and skills. In C&C it is assumed that if a character wants to do something that instead of a skill roll an ability check is made. There is Target Number, 12 for Primes (something you are good at) or an 18 for Secondary. You add your mods, any class or race based modifications and there you go. Simple. Skills are no longer of a list of things you can or can't do, but now potential to do or at least try anything. This is something we did back in the old days, but the newer twist here is that this is just the same as any d20 based roll. Be it skills or attack. So Rangers and Barbarians are good at tracking, wizards at arcane lore and so on. makes things pretty easy. So improvement over 3.x games, no tracking skill points. I have to add, that there is such a cool old-school vibe here that it is just like reading a book from the early 80s. Only with far better layout and art. As another aside, the art is fantastic. I love my old school games and wizards in pointy hats and all, but the wizard in C&C looks AWESOME. I would not mess with that guy, I don't care if he looks like a farmer or not.

Races are up next and all the usual suspects are here. Races and Classes are built in such away that customization is REALLY easy. If I wanted to play a Goblin here I bet I could rather easy. Every race gets two Prime stats. Typically you want one of these to correspond with your class. Humans get three allowing for their flexibility. All other races also get modifiers to abilities and/or special traits. While the modularity of 3.x is obvious, the feel is still more 1st ed. We end character creation on completing the character with persona, gods and alignment. Up next are some lists of equipment and rules on encumbrance. The rules are some of the easiest encumbrance rules I have seen. So far so good? Well we have by this point gotten through roughly a third of the book. Not too bad for 50 pages.

Magic and Spells take up the remaining bulk (65 pages) of the book. Not a surprise given four spell casting classes. Spells are listed alphabetically and range from 0-level cantrips to 9th level spells for each of the four classes. That is a major break from their old-school roots when only wizards had access to 9th level spells. The spell format itself is also closer to that of 3.x, though no XP penalties that I could see. The nest 20 or so pages deal with the Castle Keep (GM) of the game. This includes all sorts of advice on how to handle conflict, award XP and even how to set up an adventuring party. Good advice all around to be honest and enough to keep most groups going for a long time. There is also an appendix on multi-classing as an optional rule. I have not tried it yet, but it looks solid. Not as elegant as what you see in 3.x, but better than what we had in 1st or 2nd ed.

The Players Handbook is all most players will ever need and even some Castle Keepers.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook 7th Printing (Alternate Cover)
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Player's Handbook Like A Fucking Boss
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/12/2018 10:22:31

You gotta love Venger Satanis and his Kortthalis Publishing.

He is out there doing his own thing. Doing to make the stuff he wanted to play with back in the day and if we want to come along, well great. While he takes himself far less seriously than other publishers, he takes his games and books very seriously. And it shows in his production values. Out now is Venger's latest in his "Like a Fucking Boss" series.

Venger is a man after my own heart, and PHB-LAFB takes many nods and cues from Basic-era D&D, or at least his reading of it which is just as good.

PHB-LAFB is not a rule book or an adventure, but a collection of various tips, tricks and odds and ends to help your game along. There are some very obvious nods to classic/Basic/OSR style play and there are nods to more modern/D&D5 style mechanics and design. The bottom line here (and a big one for me when reading this) is I can use it with just about any game I play.

In truest old-school fashion there are plenty of tables. "Stranger Things" gives us a table of various odds and ends, emphasis on the odd. "Honor and Fame" and "Dishonor and Infamy" are also very useful tables for rewards that reminds me of some the rules I have seen in AGE and Blue Rose; again a natural idea given Venger's own twist.

There is a lot of great character building ideas too. Tables, checklists, backgrounds. It's all here.

For $5.00 and 33 full-color pages, it is quite worth it.

I am not quite sure if it is up to the level of awesomeness that is How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss but it is also more focused on players and characters and is half the price too.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Player's Handbook Like A Fucking Boss
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The Season's Subclasses - Player Options for Winter Cheer (5e)
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/25/2017 10:18:16

Ok. This is a fun product. For a buck (or more) you get new class options for all the core D&D 5 classes.

Here are my favorites. Barbarian: Dancing Lights - The power of the Aurora Borealis is at your finger-tips. The is a seriously cool concept and one that should be ported over to other settings/games like Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

Bard: College of Caroling - with a bit of a tweak you can get a Mummers Dance out of this, and that would be a lot of fun.

Cleric: Domain of Cheer - Love this concept!

Druid: Circle of the Evergreen - I like this one too, not what I thought it would have been, but still really cool. Remove it from it's Christmas origins and now you have Eco-Protective Druids. Think Swamp-Thing with spells.

Monk: Way of the Sugar-plum Fairy is far more awesome than a PWYW product should have. A monk tradition. Based on the Fae? Ah..yeah! Sign me the heck up!

Paladin: Oath of Winter - "Winter is Coming". That's all you need to say. Gotta get a blank sheet and get my Ned Stark on.

Rogue: Chimney Lurk - major props for the name alone. This one is really cool too.

Sorcerer: Frozen Soul - If you get the desire to sing "Let it Go" while playing this character no one will laugh at you. They can't because you froze them in a block of ice! Maybe one of my most favorite ones here.

The Wizard, Warlock and Fighter options are also fun, but I liked these all the best.

It's Christmas, pay more than a buck for this.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Season's Subclasses - Player Options for Winter Cheer (5e)
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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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