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Werewolf: The Apocalypse (Revised Edition)
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2016 02:31:08

This is the version of Werewolf on which I cut my teeth, and on which I based a Colorado game that occured after I witnessed a terrible forest fire.

Werewolf the Apocalypse is, in brief, a great game of existential dread and perceived physical power raging against a force of corruption that is beyond any sinew or physical act. It somehow encompasses the daily struggle that we have with the darkness within us while also being about a group of super powered eco-terrotists that kill monsters and sabotage corpotate bullies.

Basically, it's a marshmallow sandwich of delicious storytelling and empowerment. If you like werewolves, the environment, or feeling good about being a literal underdog of sorts, you owe it to yourself to get this or some other iteration of the game. The general plot of this book is better than that of the Werewolf: the Forsaken version, but the new rule set will suit this story just as well (or better).

5 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Werewolf: The Apocalypse (Revised Edition)
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Scroll of Heroes
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2016 01:59:47

This book is of limited scope and use, depending on your assumptions of the 2nd edition ruleset. As it is, mortals and even god-blooded are not anywhere near relevant enough for any game but one with lower level beings (Dragon Kings, Dragon Blooded) or similar. This might be a good minion book, perhaps.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Scroll of Heroes
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Thousand Correct Actions
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2016 01:51:15

I really feel like they could have just pointed you at a copy of Sun Tsu's the Art of War. This is good, but it could have been included or paired with another product and been less of a production. I honestly don't think that the team at this time was up to task to make a book that is on par with "The Book of Nod" or other books in this series of "in universe fiction" that were so steller in the past.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Thousand Correct Actions
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New World of Darkness Rulebook (1st Edition)
by Ismael A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2016 01:49:37

It is very difficult to be as into World of Darkness as I am and NOT write a review for this book. Though it has been updated many times since its release many years ago, I feel like it was at least a breath of logic into the then cluttered ruleset that encompassed the so-called old world of darkness.

This rulset was, in my opinion, a very good step in the right direction, having been made from experience and good sense, created as a succinct version of a set of rules that had been applied in various ways to other rule books in the past.

And while it has been updated, and while some pine for the old rules that preceeded it, there remains a certain shine to this book that glimmers with both nostalgia and an amazing design ethic that is simple and elegant.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
New World of Darkness Rulebook (1st Edition)
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Erciyes Fragments
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/21/2016 14:56:54

Good content but very much let down by a poor-quality scan: pages are quite difficult to read because of this, and a few miss out a little text on the left margin. As I think another reviewer implored, please re-scan this book.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Erciyes Fragments
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Truth Until Paradox Revised
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2016 20:52:49

I very much enjoyed the short stories in this book. Each story, written by different authors, tells the tale of a mage in 1990's era San Fransisco in the Old World of Darkness. The stories include representatives of the Celestial Chorus, the Akashic Brotherhood, the Dreamspeakers, the Hollow Ones, the Men In Black, the Nephandi, and the Progenitors. It covers issues with paradox, struggles with spiritual truths, suffering Quiet, contemplating the consequences of magick gone wrong, and conflicts between mages of different factions. Some of the stories were dark and painful, others were hopeful or uplifting, and some just barely seemed to break even on that score, but they were all fun to read.

Note: If you have read the book Penny Dreadful, you will find that she also appears in this book, and her short story, here, occurs shortly before the events in that book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Truth Until Paradox Revised
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Project Twilight
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2016 18:39:32

This book is an excellent resource for constructing para-intelligence organisations, shadowy government groups who investigate and supress stories of the supernatural. Three groups are given detail - NSA, FBI and CIA - with enough details on other organisations to get the imagination whirring. The character creation section is strong, and reading the book one gets the idea that running a Project Twilight chronicle as an introduction to the mechanics of the Storyteller system, without bogging the player down in all the detail they'd have to learn for one of the main three lines, would work both as a one-shot and an ongoing chronicle with nods to Kolchak the Nightstalker and the X-Files. It has the "three pregen characters" that were so obligatory back in these early WW titles, and although this wasn't advertised broadly, an adventure in the back that can be easily re-worked for whatever country or para-intelligence group the ST wants to run. In fact, although it's not offered as such, the adventure is flexible enough to function as the case that gets the players recruited into the para-intelligence community. The mosaic patterns in the graphics are barely noticable for a scanned-image book.

Now to the bad. The worst thing I can say is that the book contains many OCR errors, enough that even a cursory glance by an editor would have found them and corrected them, and some of them are quite jarring. The second worst thing I can say is that the adventure in the back throws child abuse, sexualised and domestic violence around liberally as part of the storyline, with the usual sensitivity that the WW crew exhibited in their younger, more sheltered days. As a result, the ST is forced to ask players about their personal boundariers and "off-limits" topics before even opening the book, but if you're playing World of Darkness you should be doing that already anyway.

Overall, this book is well worth having, and although it was released as part of Werewolf's catalogue, it works easily with any of the other gamelines as well as being strong enough to stand on it's own. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants their mortals to have a bit more clout.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Project Twilight
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Wraith the Oblivion (2nd Edition)
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/08/2016 09:16:43

Great product but a terrible scan. Not only is the text blurry, but it is very often very light -- and bad combination! Especially given that much of the flavor text is in italic or faux-handwriting, it is especially difficult to read. I am very disappointed with this. As a comparison, I would say this scan is noticeably worse than the scans of other oWoD (or CWoD if you prefer) books.

For example:

If you look at that image, you can see the text somewhat more readable on the left side of the paragraph. See how the ink fades out to the right of the paragraph. Much of the text in this book looks as it does here on the right, though in some places it is even blurrier.

Note that the image in question was screenshotted off of a 15" Macbook Pro with Retina, with the Preview window maximized. For contrast, this is a paragraph taken from the PDF of the Vampire the Masquerade 20th Anniversary edition PDF:

If you have any kind of visual issues at all, or if you had hoped to read this on a smallish screen, I would strongly recommend against. Caveat Emptor.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Wraith the Oblivion (2nd Edition)
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Book of Nod
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2016 15:57:25

Ostensibly a book for flavour and background fluff, the Book of Nod starts out strong, with a biblical tone and cadence to it, even including footnotes from the scholars that "researched" it; but ultimately suffers from a hideous mish-mash of artwork, as well as a lack of direction in some parts. The "words of Antediluvians" section seem especially ill-fitting and could have easily been replaced with a "proverbs" style section, like that which the superior Dark Ages book "The Erciyes Fragments" had. "Erciyes Fragments" also benefited from having a single illustrator, which felt more appropriate for a psuedo-religious text.

This is actually the third copy I've ever owned, the first two being the hard and softcover versions of the original White Wolf prints. I was disappointed that the leatherette cover which made the original Book of Nod so distinctive was left off this copy, as well as the formerly brilliant silver lettering on the cover and spine. The fact that the cover is a photograph of the original leatherette, combined with the more drab logo on the front, cheapens the look of it somewhat when compared to previous editions. It feels like a cheap knock-off of the older Books of Nod. There's not even a little red ribbon to keep your place like a prayer book anymore.

And yet, efforts have been made to make this version an improvement on what has come before. There are pages where the background image has been lightened a little in order to show detail or make the text easier to read, and this is a massive step up on the original.

I don't regret buying a copy, but I'm not as happy as I was holding an original print back in '97.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Book of Nod
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Book of Nod
by Brian P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/26/2016 22:17:57

One of the reasons I prefer Vampire: the Masquerade to Vampire: The Requiem is the mythology. Millenarianism is pretty passé now, and I bet for a lot of people the word would make them think of another damn thinkpiece about how Millenials are ruining everything their parents built--though come to think of it, that's actually pretty apropos for Cainite history--but it was in the air in the 90s, whether religious or secular. The Book of Nod, with its tales of ancient past drawing directly from Biblical myth and its warnings of Gehenna, drew on that zeitgeist in exactly the way necessary to reach directly into my brain and poke the parts that wanted his RPGs to be infused with profound meaning, before I had even heard the words "trenchcoats and katanas."

This is the first totally fluff book I ever bought for any RPG, and the only totally fluff book I've actually gotten some use out of. The longest-running Vampire character I played was a Noddist who quoted extensively from the Chronicle of Secrets, and I've had Noddist characters in a couple of the games I've run. I even worked in a few of the signs of Gehenna into the longer game I ran while I was at university, not because it had any greater meaning for the game's plot, but just to provide the illusion of a wider world.

At its worst, the Jyhad and the manipulations of the Methuselahs made Vampire players feel like nothing they did mattered, and that they had entered into a power structure where they would always be at the bottom of the totem pole and it was completely impossible to ever advance. But at its best, it provided a sense of mystery to Vampire games. Beyond the nightly politics and the struggle for survival, there was a worry that something else was out there. That the blood gods slept beneath the earth, and one day they would rise and cast down the cities of men. The survivors would gather in the last city, called Gehenna, and the children of Caine would reign over an empire of blood.

See, I can't even talk about it without my writing style changing.

Though I totally bought into the Caine mythology when I was younger, the best part about the The Book of Nod is that it's all conjecture. The intro explains that Aristotle de Laurent assembled the translation from fragments all around the world, including some that he only saw for moments or in part, and has translated them into English himself. He believes the Caine and Abel source for vampires, but his adopted childe Beckett interprets the myth as a tale of conflict between a tribe of herders, the "Tribe of Abel," and a tribe of agriculturalists, the "Tribe of Caine." And this is perfectly reasonable. There's no one the PCs are likely to talk to who remembers Caine or the First or Second Cities.

Even in the course of the mythology there is plenty of place for GM interpretation. Who was Lillith? Who was the Crone? Is the Second Generation really destroyed? Did any members of the Third Generation get written out of the histories? Revelations of the Dark Mother and The Erciyes Fragments take some of these concepts and run with them, adding extra ambiguity to the real source of the Curse of Cain.

Some of the poetry is kind of silly, as can be expected when game designers write a book that's supposed to be a mythic chronicle. There are moments I really like, though. Most of those are in the Chronicle of Secrets, the third section about the coming of Gehenna, which have a wonderfully apocalyptic tone:

And you will know these last times by the Time of Thin Blood, which will mark vampires that cannot Beget, you will know them by the Clanless, who will come to rule you will know them by the Wild Ones, who will hunt us even in the strongest city you will know them by the awakening of some of the eldest, the Crone will awaken and consume all you will know these times, for a black hand will rise up and choke all those who oppose it and those who eat heart's blood will flourish and the Kindred will crowd each to his own, and vitae will be as rare as diamonds

But there are bits scattered throughout that are great. Like the proverb "Let not the priest, poet, or peasant see you feed. Not one of them will leave it be."

I loved it enough that I bought the collector's edition of Vampire: the Masquerade: Redemption at least partially because it came with a hardcover copy of the Book of Nod with a ribbon bookmark and silver page edging. The game was not nearly as good as I was hoping it would be, but I still have that book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Time of Thin Blood
by Brian P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/26/2016 22:15:40

A storytelling game of spirit nukes and blood god wrestling smackdowns.

I'm going to talk about the Week of Nightmares first, because that's the part of Time of Thin Blood that everyone remembers. The Ravnos Antediluvian awakens from its slumber, lured by the spilled blood of Methuselahs who were themselves awakened from the deaths of lesser vampires, and goes on a rampage. Three 鬼人 bodhisattvas travel to India to fight it, the psychic backlash from a being with Auspex 10 and Chimerstry 10 causes dreams and nightmares to become reality all over the world, and eventually the Technocracy declares Code Ragnarok and nukes the battle site from orbit. As it dies, the Antediluvian pushes all its rage and hunger into his descendants, causing all Ravnos in the world to go into cannibalistic frenzies, and when it fades three days later less than ten percent of them are still alive.

It's pretty silly. Sure, we all know, deep in our heart of hearts, that shadow tentacles throwing cars and power metal playing over montages of sunglasses-wearing vampires killing each other is why we like Vampire: the Masquerade, but there is an unspoken line beyond which things just become too ridiculous and the Week of Nightmares crosses it. At least, the version of it in this book does, because the reader gets the full scope of the events and without the mystery it comes across as, well, blood god wrestling smackdowns. I'm not sure it's even possible to say "spirit nuke" in a serious conversation.

I do have positive feelings toward the Week of Nightmares, though, because I ran a game in university where one of the PCs was a Ravnos, so I used it there. Her powers went out of control, she had weird dreams of a tiger, a dragon, and a crane fighting a demon, and eventually she went into frenzy, all against the background of the Sabbat invasion of Philadelphia. The players didn't know that there was anything sinister going on, other than the one offhand reference I made to seeing a typhoon in Bangladesh on the evening news, and you can bet I never used the phrase "spirit nukes." These kind of world-changing events can provide great material for STs to use on the ground while keeping the mystery intact. They can also be pointless and stupid. Sure, the Ravnos as a clan are shockingly offensive if you think about them for even a moment--Roma vampires who literally need to steal (or kill, or do drugs, or whatever) and have that hoary folklore-derived powerset of D&D illusions--but I bet Ravnos players weren't happy with the STs who killed off their characters after this book came out.

Now on to the actual topic. Time of Thin Blood is about the highest generations of vampires where the Curse of Caine runs weak. Around half of 14th-Generation vampires don't have strong enough blood to Embrace, but half do, and then the 15th Generation is the final limit. Except, not entirely, because the curse is so weak that not all biological processes are stopped by becoming a vampire, and some 15th-Generation vampires can even have children.

That theme of stasis is what the book keeps coming back to. Vampirism holds its victims unchanging through the ages, both physically and, in some ways, mentally and spiritually. But this doesn't happen to the youngest Cainites. Not only can they sometimes have children, they can create new Disciplines with casual ease, something even the most powerful Methuselahs find nearly impossible. Their very existence is shaking up the Jyhad as some of them have the power of prophecy. Centuries-long schemes can be unraveled by a seer showing up and blurting out something that they don't realize should be kept secret.

All of this provides a great take on a usual vampire game. It's a good entry point for people who don't know the setting, because most thin-blooded don't get any kind of education into vampire politics and only know what an ordinary person knows plus, "Now I need to drink blood and can't go out during the day." It's the classic outsider introduction technique and it can work really well as a way to bring people into the setting, as long as the ST doesn't go overboard on shoving the lack of power the thin-blooded possess in their faces.

Next to the Week of Nightmares, the beginning of the book is the most memorable part. It's done up as an in-world scientific report by one Dr. Netchurch investigating the powers and weaknesses of the thin-blooded, and ends up documenting several thin-bloods who made their own Disciplines, anomalous instances of beard or nail growth following extreme blood expenditure such as after healing wounds or physical exertion, visions of import to his own history, the possibility of dhampir births, and finally empirically proves the existence of the blood point--or "Vitae Efficiency Unit," as the good doctor dubs it. This was the most interesting to reread, because I remembered the Week of Nightmares but I didn't remember this report, and Dr. Netchurch the Only Sane Malkavian is one of my favorite canon characters.

And I guess that's the only major problem with Time of Thin Blood. It's a really good book about how to play characters with one foot in vampire society and one foot outside, sometimes with one foot in their mortal lives, and how to deal with the changes that the existence of vampires who can have children and see the secrets of their elders with casual ease brings to the Kindred. But whenever anyone talks about the book, blood god wrestling smackdowns is what gets brought up, and it's a shame to reduce it to that. There's a lot that's good here for even the most personal-horror-focused game



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Time of Thin Blood
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Cities of Darkness Volume 1 (WW2622)
by Charles S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/21/2016 17:23:44

I got this for the DC setting. I have been using it for a while. You kindred history and setting notes that paint DC into a suitable backdrop for a VtM game. You get a full court structure of NPCs with good details and diagrams that show intricate webs of relationships. You get some random scene ideas that you can literally roll for. These are pretty shallow, short events, that you can throw at players for fun if the game starts to get slow. There are a few presented ideas for a chronicle. And that’s it. There is not really a beginning to end plot presented for a story teller to run or anything like that. It’s really just a backdrop. If you want a pregenerated story/plot to run characters through, that is not what you have here.

I was simply looking for a backdrop for my game and this was perfect. The NPCs and court details could easily be dropped into any local. For my needs, this was a great setting for my VtM20A game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cities of Darkness Volume 1 (WW2622)
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The Beast that Haunts the Blood: Nosferatu
by Maxime L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/17/2016 09:00:48

This book is a work of art, a wonderful and disturbing look into the most "alien" of vampires.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Beast that Haunts the Blood: Nosferatu
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Scavenger Sons
by Brian P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/12/2016 21:10:32

Scavenger Sons is basically the foundation of Exalted, or at least it was until third edition came out. The beginning of the book explains that the countries and places covered inside aren't a random sample, but are biased in favor of "less-civilized" areas and places where the Realm doesn't cover. In other words, places that it's more likely that the Solar Exalted would be from. First edition spent some time filling these places in, and then second edition, by editorial directive, almost never spent any time on places that hadn't been covered already in the line. The first time Exalted got a large number of new locations covered after this book was in Masters of Jade, over a decade later.

As I read, I noticed how much it was obvious that the map of Creation had been expanded in the middle of working on the line. All those national relationships in the Exalted corebook that make no sense because of the distances involved were first on display here. Sijan getting food from Nexus even though it's hundreds of miles away. The Halta vs. Linowan war. The Coral Archipelago being described as near the western shore of the Realm where near means "two thousand miles of open ocean." Greyfalls being a Realm tributary even though it's a year round-trip. A trade war between Paragon and Gem, which are separated by over a thousand miles of trackless desert.

As problems go, that is a large one, but it's nearly the only one the book has. People on the internet tend to say that the draw of Exalted is its setting, and other than the final chapter, this book is entirely setting. There are six chapters of it, one each for the four cardinal directions, one for the Scavenger Lands, and one for the city of Nexus, which is clearly being set up as the kind of anarchic area where the rule of law runs thin and thus adventurers--or Exalted--can find a place without having to deal with the heavy hand of the authorities.

The best parts are the ways that the book tries to make Creation's cultures realistic, or realistic reflecting a world of active spirits, supernatural beings, and pervasive magic. Like Skullstone, the capital city of Onyx and part of a shadowland ruled by the Bodhisattva Anointed by Dark Water. You might think that would be an unattractive place to live, but immigration is high because the walking dead do most of the work, and in a iron-age society, having almost all manual labor done by animated corpses who do not feel fatigue or pain and is a huge draw. Meanwhile the city of Great Forks is a slave economy, with slaves outnumbering citizens 2-to-1, but slaves are often kept drugged with a leaf that causes memory loss and euphoria, so they chew it, work all day, and "wake up" at the end of the day. Or going slightly more further afield, the way that the city of Whitewall made a treaty with the nearby fair folk and dead so that they can't enter the city without invitation and can't attack anyone on the road. As such, the city has a huge population because of all the farmers, miners, and workers who can't live outside the walls, and the buildings inside are all stark and devoid of ornamentation, since everyone spends all their time indoors to avoid both the cold and any monsters who manage to get into the city. And the similar treaty in Halta, where the Haltans live in the trees, the fair folk live on the ground, and anyone who ends up on the ground is fair game to them.

Or how in Nexus, there are several tombs of the Solar Anathema. One of these burns white-hot, enough to carbonize flesh with a single touch, and as humans do, the people of Nexus have found a way to use this--they covered it in bricks and built an iron foundry around it to have an eternal, free source of heat. I like that depiction of the magical and the mundane side-by-side.

There's a lot in this book that I forgot over the years, like how Greyfalls is ruled by the Nuri, who fled Wyld barbarians and were an oppressed minority until the Realm showed up and put them in charge, as has been the tactic of colonial powers for time out of mind. Or the gambling house in the Coral Archipelago with First Age artifacts that allow the betting of intangible concepts, so rich, elderly merchants will bet vast sums of money against the youth of a beggar boy. Or the frozen fog in the north, blown in from the Wyld, that can freeze someone solid in moments.

I could really just keep listing bits I liked for a while, but in the interests of space I'll move on.

Even after all that, one of my favorite parts of the book is the end section on the fair folk. I can appreciate that Exalted: The Fair Folk is a well-written, mechanically-tight work, but I never liked "Rakshastan" or the idea of the faerie as creatures of dreams rather than creatures who needed dreams to live. In Scavenger Sons, the fair folk take on shape flavored by he element strong in the part of Creation where they entered from the Wyld, and so their powers are elemental- and mentally-based. There's a description of what would become shaping combat, but no emphasis or rules for it. Basically, I don't like what happened to fair folk when they became playable, and I really don't like the idea that fair folk are living stories who know they're in an RPG and are just trolling everyone else for the lulz because I think it does almost irreparable harm to the themes of the game. The faerie as beings of pure chaos who take on shape because they have to to survive the relentless erosion of Creation, rather than because it's part of some story they're telling themselves? I'm there for that.

Even now, Scavenger Sons is probably the best setting book for Exalted. It does in one book what it took second edition five books to do, with more of a feeling of mystery and a more interesting world. Even if you're playing 2e, use this for background



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scavenger Sons
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Chicago By Night - 2nd Edition
by Matthew J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/09/2016 19:23:35

As I already own the physical book, I purchased the Chicago By Night - 2nd Edition pdf for easy access on my tablet. Unforunately I was disapointed in the quality of the scan, and the somewhat 'canned response' that I reported the quality and poor bookmarking. I'm only reviewing this as I reecieved an automatically mailed link for the review. I feel that it would be unfair not to warn others to skip this scan and to pick up the original (as it is a fantastic book).



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Chicago By Night - 2nd Edition
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