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13 True Ways
by Brian B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/16/2018 13:07:52

13th Age is possibly the best RPG System I can remember since the First Edition of West End's Star Wars. The System itself is an amalgam of the best parts of OSR/3E/4E and each of the "main" Rulebooks (including this one) has indispensable guidance for advancing Creatures and making them your own. It's a clean, logical, AND immersive/evocative set of Rules that I believe you can do anything with. The writing and art are "Grade A" meaning you can tell right away that this is a product from some of the very best talents in the industry.

13 True Ways is critical as it has the "Good" Dragons, Lycanthropes, Mind Flayers (I mean "Flensers"), and Devils you don't want to miss.

Even though it's not advertised as a "Universal" Toolkit I honestly believe I could run ANY type of campaign with the 13th Age System. It's that good.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13 True Ways
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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
by Mathew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/28/2018 01:27:55

An in-depth depiction of the seedy and dishonest world of bookselling that is as accurate as it is entertaining. Beware the marginalia.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
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Trail of Cthulhu
by Mathew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/27/2018 00:51:31

Maps the narrative drive (via Investigative Abilities) and pulp theatrics (via General Abilities) of the inheritors of Lovecraft with verve and precision, and communicates the existential atmosphere of He Who Lies Dreaming via supporting materials of great variety and thematic depth. A very fine game indeed.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu
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13th Age Core Book
by Dario T. N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2018 02:07:09

A great game for introduce more story and less rules in D&D-like games. I wrote here a longer review



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Core Book
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Cthulhu Confidential
by Todd C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/01/2018 17:44:52

Just bought this and started playing with a friend of mine that tends to like noir, 1 on 1 and problem solving. We started playing the first scenario where he is playing the hardboiled PI.

The story and background is amazing and we are having lots of fun thus far. We aren't using the system he prefers GURPS but that's of little consequence. We are also playing it as a modern day scenario not necessarily in LA, but that is fine also.

I'm excited to see how this folds out. I'm assuming this will lead to more 1 on 1 scenarios as we play thru more of these scenarios and then eventually get into the "Trail of Cthulhu" with another player or two. The material is great!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Confidential
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Albion's Ransom: Worm of Sixty Winters
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/16/2018 07:47:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The massive second part of the Albion’s Ransom-saga clocks in at 80 pages, 76 if you only count content and take away editorial, etc. The review is based primarily on the softcover print version of the adventure.

This review was requested by my patreons.

Now, first things first: This module does not require that the group has completed part I of Albion’s Ransom, “Little Girl Lost”; if the PCs were rather successful in the previous adventure, the Esoterrorists enact a contingency plan to make sure that the events herein take place. Considering the way in which the first adventure “cheated” to put the players in a serious disadvantage, that feels like a bit of a cop-out to me and may be something that rubs you the wrong way, big time. A triumph in adventure #1 ranks as one of the hardest things to achieve in an investigation scenario I have ever seen; the very least I expected was to see this adventure acknowledge the skill it took to achieve a victory by presenting a branching path of sorts or some kind of serious benefit. Alas, while success in the previous module does make things a bit easier, it’s not by much and the overall impact on how this module plays out, is pretty subdued. More on that in the SPOILER-section below.

It should be noted that, depending on the tastes of you and your group, this adventure may work actually better as a stand-alone, for the themes evoked in this adventure are radically different from “Little Girl Lost.”

If you’ve enjoyed the previous adventure for its subdued themes, is mystery-angle and slow burner tension build-up, etc., then you’ll be surprised to hear that this adventure is a rather action-heavy scenario that diverges pretty significantly from the themes and mood established in part I. In a way, this is closer to fantasy in a modern world than actual horror.

Now, there is one more note: GUMSHOE, as we all know, does investigation really well and is slightly less amazing regarding combat. However, this book was released a long time ago and the system has since come a long way. If you run this today, I’d probably suggest revising it for the rules established in Night’s Black Agents and Double Tap – and indeed, the adventure may actually work better in such a context than in the more down-to-earth Esoterrorists context.

In order to talk more about that, I need to go into heavy SPOILER-territory, though. From here on out, only GMs should continue reading. Potential players should skip ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great!

So, I already touched upon the structural issues regarding the transition from book #1 to #2. Since we’re in the spoiler-section now, let me spell it out clearly: Catriona’s fate is utterly meaningless. While the pdf begins with a detailed post-mortem and veil-out section for adventure #1, that should have been in the previous book. Similarly, the utterly grating idea of a compromised Mr. Verity, one of the big things that dragged down the previous adventure and made it unfair, is resolved as an aside – the character in question gets stats and all, but ultimately, he does not contribute anything of significance to the plot of this adventure.

You see, whether or not Catriona was saved, Isa Kenaz’ plan works. They had a contingency. Now, personally, I applaud that – smart villains are a good thing and the cabal would be pretty stupid if it didn’t have such a failsafe for their villainous masterstroke. However, I object to how meaningless the module makes…anything that was achieved in module #1. If she ends up as a brainwashed priestess, we get stats, sure. But her impact on the overall story? Pretty much non-existent. If the PCs managed to rock module #1, they won’t have to face an ambush-scene in the so-called Boggart Hole. That’s pretty much it.

Now, the remainder of the adventure represents a RADICAL departure from the first adventure. Wherein “Little Girl Lost” was very psychological and reminded me in parts of Twin Peaks or The Killing, this one goes a completely different route. One attack one could have made on “Little Girl Lost”, beyond the structural issues I complained about, would be that it’s not really a horror-adventure. It’s a meticulously-crafted, very difficult, but rewarding investigation with some mystery and conspiracy elements added. Well, if you liked that, if you enjoyed that aspect, there is a pretty good chance you’ll hate this adventure, or that you’ll at least get some minor form of thematic whiplash. It almost feels like the author tried to do the exact opposite of what he did in “Little Girl Lost”, falling off the bandwagon on the other side.

That elaborate, smart Hell Haven safehouse system, the one that only really diligent investigators could even find out about or crack? Well, it’s handed to the PCs on a silver platter and the module spends the majority of its page-count dealing with the PCs trying to hunt down the leadership of Isa Kenaz, all while the Fimbulvetr is unleashed. Yes, this cheapens the achievement of cracking it in module #1. No, there are no benefits for doing so.

Which brings me to another aspect in which the module diverges greatly from the previous adventure in both structure and theme: As the mythical winter of Norse apocalypse is unleashed, Isa Kenaz is devoting time and resources to sacrificing for Níðhöggr (called Nithogg in the book, but as you know, I’m particular about that type of thing…) and Bergelmir, gaining the support of two types of supernatural goons: Ur-Mensch (German for: Prehistoric human) Svartalfr and Trolls. Yes, you’ll be duking it out with basically degenerate, magically-mutated creatures from myth. See what I meant with “modern fantasy”? In fact, close to the end of the adventure, optional scenes deal with Bergelmir and Níðhöggr manifestations. I’m not even kidding you.

The adventure takes on a distinct, post-apocalyptic notion the further it progresses: As temperatures plummet and society starts to fall apart, there are some genuinely freaky and spooky scenes to be found herein, but they are contrasted against taking all limitations off. PCs get uncommon vehicles and can drive them, the strict weapon laws of the UK fall away – where module #1 was devoted in a truly impressive manner to generate a sense of realism, this module kicks that all out. And it’s, to a degree, doing so intentionally – the contrast is intended to heighten the desperation and scope of what’s at stake. Unfortunately, the veil-out on a success and sheer scope of otherworldly incursions will be exceedingly hard to justify. This adventure, in short, doesn’t really allow the PCs to be good agents of the OV, instead focusing on damage control.

If module #1 was a smart, horrific, psychological thriller, then this is a popcorn-cinema action flick.

This 180° turn regarding themes is also represented in the structure of the module: The main plot, as noted before, focuses on hunting down the leadership of Isa Kenaz and on foiling their plans to further escalate the Fimbulvetr. Whereas module #1 required METICULOUS time-management skills on part of the players to succeed, this adventure does the opposite, putting the progression more or less in the hands of the GM. This wouldn’t be an issue per se, but after “Little Girl Lost” has hammered in, in both structure and consequence, time and again, that EVERY.MINUTE.COUNTS., this adventure does the opposite, which can be frustrating. The module can span multiple weeks in theory, and players will be conditioned after adventure #1, particularly if they failed to save Catriona, to agonize over every single decision. This puts a serious damper on the action-flick-like mentality of the adventure, as the detailed planning is often simply not required or has no significant consequences.

On a GM-side, it is nice to see a ton of floating scenes that can be used when the PCs travel through the icebound UK, and some of these, as mentioned before, offer genuinely creepy visuals. These are, however, undermined by the end-of-the-world survivalesque aspects of the adventure; what would be really disturbing and horrific in a regular context feels like just the consequence of the fantasy-apocalypse that has intruded into the world. Structurally, these floating scenes amount to dressing in most cases, but serve as a means to emphasize and improve the transitions from the respective hunting down of the Isa Kenaz leader of the week.

Okay, that sounded more vitriolic than it should. You see, the progression from leader to leader is per se nice; I also found myself enjoying the fact that a halfway capable GM can render the hunting down of these fellows in a modular manner. While the cult leaders themselves remain comparatively pale, the section has huge merits, even though I personally would consider this, the main meat of the adventure, to work better as a scavenging grounds, mainly due to the law of diminishing returns. You see, each of the cults is categorized by the same avid prose, meticulous research and compassion for its members. Take the Moravian splinter sect Adorers of the Wound. What another writer would have depicted as a sect of crackpot Christian fundamentalists gets a valid and rather nice background: The sect, born of anxiety towards ones own sexuality, in particularly homosexuality, has resolved this anxiety by basically connotating the desire to engage in same-sex sexual acts as a desire to pierce Christ’s wounds or be pierced like he was. There is some ideological background here that makes sense, that renders it plausible that its members follow such a creed. The same goes for the Covenant of Morrigan, a hardcore feminist group of green activists or the biker gang Sons of Satan. These groups are not depicted as condemnable beings, but rather as victims to Esoterrorist machinations and infiltration, and their respective members indeed are portrayed as plausible beings. And yes, the amazing Desdemona Reinhart character makes a reappearance and in fact may be crucial to stopping the downfall of more than one of these cults. It should also be noted that they all have wildly different themes, morals and that resolving the respective situations requires different strategies, in spite of the structural similarities. In that way, this chapter can be considered to be a resounding success that highlights very well the strengths of the author’s prose.

At the same time, the cults all suffer from the same problem, namely the somewhat opaque nature of their respective bases – the only maps we get are overview maps of the country as well as one of the final location of the adventure; the respective bases thus remain opaque and require some fleshing out by the GM, making that aspect needlessly work intense. And yes, GUMSHOE is less reliant on maps than other games, but the infiltrations thus, ultimately, feel just as opaque as the finale of “Little Girl Lost.” That weakness notwithstanding, one can consider this section of the module to be a success and GMs should, even if they don’t run the module in its entirety, find a place for these cults in their game.

As a whole, the structure of the module does suffer from the thematic overlap here: While the floating scenes can, and should obviously, be used to establish the worsening of the climate and to present a change of pace, they ultimately contribute to the thematic whiplash between pretty conservative and well-crafted investigations and the world coming apart in the frigid cold of the Fimbulvetr.

And then, there would be the finale, which sounds pretty amazing on paper: After the Sons of Satan-chapter, the PCs will quickly see an escalation of potentially globally catastrophic levels, namely the fact that the Esoterrorists have a sleeper in the British military, atop the HMS Vengeance. That would a nuclear sub, capable of nuclear strikes. The PCs thus are faced with what feels like a James Bond scenario in the end: A race against the clock to get atop the sub and prevent a nuclear winter. The military base does not get a map, and, once more, remains opaque. The PCs stop the final agent and that’s it. The Fimbulvetr subsides, but frankly, at this point, a proper veil-out of all that can have happened should be nigh impossible…and is instead brushed away as “the cold did it.”

After literally nuking the fridge regarding themes, and figuratively in game, that feels like a bit of an insult. It also posits a huge logic bug within the module as a whole: While rising panic and global tension serve as a backdrop to potentially justify the race against the clock and the inaction of the sleeper in the sub, we have spent two whole modules highlighting how ostensibly smart Isa Kenaz is supposed to be. If they really were that smart, they’d have launched the nuclear component right after the triggering of the initial onset of the Fimbulvetr. The internal justification for this component not being employed sooner feels, at this point, flimsy at best.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, if not perfect, on both a formal and rules-level. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard and is nice. The b/w-artworks within similarly are pretty neat. Cartography is another matter – it is too sparse for its own good. If you really want this, I strongly suggest getting the print version. The pdf lacks bookmarks, which, at this length, is a grating comfort-detriment; if you only want a pdf, detract at least half a star from the final verdict.

I almost didn’t believe that the same author wrote these two adventures, were it not for the evocative and interesting cults as well as the depiction of organic, multi-faceted characters. Ian Sturrock’s prose is per se amazing and inspiring…but. This module may not fall into the traps of its predecessor, but one could have claimed that the first part of this saga failed as a horror module, due to being too psychological, too deeply-routed in the mystery. I didn’t, because, to me, that made it fresh and unique.

“Worm of Sixty Winters” misses the mark of being horrific on the other end of the spectrum, by burying relatable elements under the coat of the supernatural cold apocalypse. It’s too easy for players to stop caring about the details, and the structure of the module doesn’t help engender an adverse response: The lack of consequences from Part I can act as a huge demotivator, and the escalating state of Britain’s clime generally results in an atmosphere (haha) of cold indifference, where the agents do what needs to be done – i.e. kill ‘em all. In that way, the module almost feels like a precursor to Night’s Black Agents, but without the refinement and stakes of moving against a massive conspiracy. The horror and intricacies of Night’s Black Agents can be pictured as scalpels that are slowly twisted; in comparison, this adventure is a sledgehammer. It strikes once with blunt impact, but after the novelty of the escalation this represents has worn off, it’ll be rather hard to return to the covert, methodical playstyle championed by Esoterrorists.

In short: This nukes the fridge regarding the basic themes and tenets of the setting. An immediate response may be “Awesome!”, but in the long run, it hurts the game. And also, to a degree, the system. The opaque locations don’t help infiltrations and made me think that I’d rather be playing Shadowrun. The pretty much straight-forward fantasy-elements made me want to play a game that excels at portraying exciting combat. Instead on focusing, like the first adventure, on playing to GUMSHOE’s strengths, the module seems hell-bent on trying to depict a type of gameplay that can work in GUMSHOE, but which needs to be executed with the utmost care.

From the lack of true consequences regarding the first adventure to the sudden run-and-gun mentality to the unfitting finale, I, as a person, absolutely despised this module. In spite of liking some aspects of it, it is the first Esoterrorist book that I really wish I hadn’t bought. While “Little Girl Lost”’s unnecessary cheap shots at the players and narrative cheating regarding the big boss annoyed me, it absolutely excelled in the investigation angle. I was so stoked for this sequel, mainly because I wanted it to win; I wanted to see this develop the story further, develop the intricate web “Little Girl Lost” had spun. Instead, I got the equivalent of a Roland Emmerich movie with a thin coating of rudimentary investigation; almost as if this were a conciliatory note by the author for being too difficult, cerebral and challenging in the first book. If this was intended to be completely different from book #1, then it succeeded. The problem is, that it’s not different in a good way.

And this is where we come full circle. This is why I’d consider this to be functional, yes, but less so as part #2 of the series, and even less so in the context of Esoterrorists. Where “Little Girl Lost” is an adventure I’d love to run in pretty much any GUMSHOE-system, in spite of its flaws, this one falls short of capturing the high-octane espionage of NBA, the themes of Esoterrorists or the desperation of Fear Itself.

How to rate this? OH BOY. As a person, I absolutely despised this module. For me, this is one of those rare 1-star-“what were they thinking”-moments. However, as a reviewer, I am required by my own ethics to try to abstract my own biases from the verdict as much as possible.

In light of that, I can provide a limited recommendation for this adventure for the following things: The cults per se are interesting. If you want to scavenge them and run them on their own, then this may be worth checking out. If you don’t mind your Esoterrorists game mutating into basically fantasy against an apocalyptic backdrop, then this should not elicit the same visceral response from you. Similarly, if the relative lack of consequence, change of pace, etc. don’t mind you and if you always thought that Esoterrorists should be more action-packed, then this may well be a module you can enjoy.

I have rarely gritted my teeth to this extent, but I have to concede that I can see this working for some groups, and rather well at that. This leaves us with the structural issues and the opaque nature of locales as well as with the issues regarding the interplay between this module and its predecessor. Thus, while I as a person would not recommend this to anyone (get part #1, fix the cheating aspects, have fun), as a reviewer, I have to admit to this probably having an appeal for some folks. Hence, my final verdict clocks in at 2.5 stars for the module of Ian Sturrock and Matthew Sanderson, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Albion's Ransom: Worm of Sixty Winters
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13th Age Core Book
by Jim L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/08/2018 04:31:22

This review is a summarised version. For the full version, you may read it at Swords & Stationery.

13th Age is a game I've really enjoyed running, though I haven't had the chance to try it as a player. It does a great job at combining narrative and gamist elements without bogging down into bloat. Some of the concepts seem a bit heavy-handed at first, but when you get past the moderate learning curve, they become very easily internalised. I've read comments online that there aren't many viable character builds. Personally I haven't run into that problem yet, so we'll see. In any case, if you're looking for a game with excellent combat and a powerful narrative system, 13th Age is worth taking a look at.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
13th Age Core Book
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Albion's Ransom: Little Girl Lost
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/12/2018 08:38:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive first part of the two-part Albion’s Ransom adventure clocks in at 105 pages, 101 pages of content if you take away editorial, ToC, etc. This review is mostly based on the softcover print version; the pdf version does not sport bookmarks, which makes navigation annoying.

So, this adventure is set in the UK, and as such, it comes with a well-written and interesting appendix that notes the use of abilities in conjunction with the local regions and explains peculiarities of UK English, as well as giving a cursory overview of the different regions of England. A whole page of slang-terms and an explanation of pub culture can also be found here. From there, we move on to explain regional rivalries, how religion is treated, notes on travelers, crime, eco-activism…and, obviously, esoterrorism activity. Beyond that, we receive notes on Manchester, including gang activities, etc. – in short, we get a surprisingly detailed gazetteer here. The section btw. takes cultural differences between UK and US into account and explains them in a concise manner – so if you haven’t actually studied/visited the UK, chances are that you’ll get something out of this. Really nice!

It should also be noted that the adventure features a pretty extensive 2-page summary of drugs and their use in Esoterrorists, providing a wide array of effects that once more can be considered to be impressive in its details.

This attention to detail is btw. also a component that extends to the adventure-proper, but in order to talk about this aspect of the adventure, I will have to dive into SPOILER-territory. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? The 18-year old student at Manchester University Catriona Van Rijn has gone missing. Her father, Frank, is a truly valuable asset for the OV and thus, the PCs are sent in to find the girl – note for Americans: No big guns, this is the UK we’re talking about. The PCs are briefed twice and hopefully are aware that time is of the essence: While it is not explicitly spelled out, the PCs are very much on the clock and should meticulously plan where to go when, how to spend their time, etc.

That being said, investigating Catriona’s flat, her room-mates and associates is perhaps one of the best-written investigations I have ever read. Not only are the diverse students depicted as well-rounded characters; they manage to feel alive. You see, Catriona is not just really smart, she also goes through developments that are similar to those many folks go through when studying: She not only has obviously grown into a sexually active lady and is experimenting with what you’d expect, while also developing an idealistic, moral compass that is grounded in eco-activism. This tendency is supported further by a blossoming interest in the occult, something that should generate some serious red flags for the OV-agents. It is hard to describe just how good and detailed the characterizations here are – from flatmates to associates, the students feel alive and interesting…oh, and there’ll be perhaps one of the most skillfully executed red herrings ever in this investigation: When a flat explodes, the PCs may assume esoterrorist influence – but ultimately, what happened had nothing to do with the dark forces behind Catriona’s disappearance, and everything with an unhealthy drug-habit and experimentation with ether. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, OTOM…and more – beyond the students and their quirks, the PCs have to reconstruct the complex dynamics of Catriona’s life, which, among other things, is complicated by her having spent the night with her lecturer.

Let me make that abundantly clear: Once more, the characterization of the eco-goth-intellectual is hilarious. In the interest for Blake and the occult, this character felt, in a great way, like an evil caricature of myself. (Just for the record: Nope, never slept with one of my students, don’t plan on doing so.) In fact, the depiction of the British subcultures in academia and beyond is probably one of the most amazing I have ever seen: In spite of the themes of Esoterrorists, which may be considered to be inherently conservative by design, the depictions of all the NPCs makes them come alive in a manner I have never seen beyond the pages of this book. While esoterrists codes those interested in the occult as potentially evil, the characters herein do not feel like that at all – they are complex, multi-faceted and while some folks may seem despicable or misguided, you can’t help but feel that the depictions of these groups steams from a deep-seated sympathy.

But I digress. You know, the big, big issue for the PCs in this investigation is, first and foremost, the vast amount of details and information that can be unearthed. This module is ridiculously detailed in the information provided around all key persons and sports multiple ways to reach the conclusion. We have a truly amazing web of intrigue here – and one that thankfully does not rely on throwing OD-entities at the PCs all the time. Tension is slowly, steadily, ramped up as the timer ticks. This is not full-blown in your face horror, instead following the design-paradigm that less is more, as not only the complexity of the case, but also the detailed reactions and behavior patterns of the NPCs make it hard for the OV-agents to get to the core of things. As an aside: I think that a flow-chart summary would have been really helpful for the GM – as written, you’ll want to take copious notes to properly run this.

Ultimately, the trail leads to the 9 ladies, a Neolithic monument scheduled to be quarried, and the protest camp there. Unfortunately for the agents, the camp will be seeded with esoterrorists…and if they don’t take care, they may well end up drugged, potentially added to the planned mass sacrifice…for much is at stake. The esoteric underground cell Isa Kenaz is preparing to unleash the Fimbulwinter upon Britain, and this sacrifice, a perverted Ewemeolc rite (in a hilarious glitch, it’s noted to take place on February 31st – that should be January 31st/February 1st, unless I am sorely mistaken regarding my knowledge of pagan holidays), may well be the trigger that does it. Worse, there is a decent chance that Catriona’s been driven insane and/or converted to being an Esoterrorist…and, you know…every HOUR may actually count – time is incredibly critical and any group that manages to reach her while she’s not yet been brainwashed should pat themselves on the back. The OV-agents will need to infiltrate the camp and find the girl in a mine-shaft, which represents one weakness of the adventure.

You see, the finale works imho best when the OV-agents actually get drugged, but don’t succumb to the effects; attempting to stop the ceremony, rescuing Catriona, not being slain by psycho-Esoterrorists, all through the haze of drugs, makes for an absolutely glorious scene. That being said, we don’t get a map of the camp, which makes infiltration and the whole final scene feel rather opaque. The camp is hard to picture and, particularly considering the moving parts in play here, it would have made sense to provide a proper map – this is also the only truly potentially horrific scene herein; the adventure plays very much like a mystery module and builds tension in a smart and amazing manner.

As you may notice, there’s a lot to love here. However, here is the thing: If your OV-agents are really good, if they can piece together a couple of the more complex components, they may well stumble over the plot of Isa Kenaz, or at least parts of it. In an ironic twist, this is a bad thing – the timeframe the PCs have to secure Catriona is very, very tight and deviations like that may well cost them the time they need. So, ultimately, while the book does not explicitly state it, the PCs are supposed to “lose” this adventure in some form. While it is theoretically possible to utterly “win” the adventure, expose Isa Kenaz and save Catriona, it is extremely unlikely.

There is one aspect that literally made me throw the book through the room. It cheats in the most cheap of ways. Know how Isa Kenaz is one step ahead, how the OV-agents face a disturbingly well-prepared opposition? The book breaks a central tenet of Esoterrorist-gaming, one that can result in permanent damage to an ongoing game. Mister Verity is actually an esoterrorist. Urgh. A central tenet of the game, what sets it thematically apart from a vast number of other settings, is that the OV is good; that it is competent, and while it does lose agents to madness etc., the rigorous vetting, examinations, etc. should engender a sense of trust. By making the PC’s contact a traitor, the module breaks a central tenet of the setting that is even explicitly spelled out in the game’s book: The OV is competent and its agents are the good guys. It’s a basic premise of the game, and once it is subverted, there is literally no way to fix it. It’s also needlessly cheap and unfair: PCs are told, time and again, to trust the OV; by undermining this, the module manages to all but ensure the outcome projected for book #2.

In short, the adventure cheats. Unless PCs realize just how urgent their search is, unless they focus on doing the right things, fail to report things in; unless they don’t attempt to be meticulous (takes too much time); unless they focus on the right priorities, split up, etc., they will be faced with a big downer of an ending. Difficulty of the investigation is not my issue here – it’s this utterly unnecessary subversion of a central tenet of the game, a needless, unfair kick in the shins of even the most capable of agents, one that frankly almost wrecked this adventure for me. It is hard for me to properly enunciate the level of outrage this decision engendered, mainly because, apart from the somewhat opaque finale, this is one amazing, glorious investigation. This is, and let me make that abundantly clear, a challenging, inspired adventure, one that didn’t need this cheapshot. In another game, perhaps in Faer Itself or Trail of Cthulhu, the betrayal would be less important – but in Esoterrorists it undermines a pillar of what sets it apart.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good, though not as refined as in most Pelgrane Press offerings. I noticed a couple of typo-level glitches etc. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column b/w-standard and the adventure sports some neat b/w-artworks. The lack of cartography for many locales is a downside from a presentation perspective. The softcover book is solid, sports the title on the spine, etc. The pdf, as mentioned before, lacks bookmarks, which is a HUGE comfort detriment for an adventure of this size and complexity.

Ian Sturrock’s prose is absolutely glorious; the author manages to write a fantastic module and his characterizations of the NPCs herein is compassionate, kind and simply superb. The little details, from hidden means of identification in e-mail addresses etc. to the more overt aspects, are absolutely inspiring. The gazetteer helps you add a sense of authenticity to the proceedings and the investigation per se is absolutely wonderful. The module manages to evoke a great form of tension, does not rely on shock horror, and must be considered to be an inspired, intriguing offering.

That being said, the module has several serious weaknesses that drag it down from the high recommendation and lavish praise I’d otherwise heap on it. The finale is, as mentioned, somewhat opaque; but more insulting would be the absolutely horrendous cheap-shot regarding the primary antagonist. The fact that this can actually subvert a central tenet of Esoterrorist campaigns makes it problematic. Finally, on a structural level, the organization of the complex investigation could have been more comfortable for the GM. Due to the lack of flow-charts or easy summaries, you’ll probably need to make copious notes, annotations, etc. – this requires serious prep work.

That being said, if you can eliminate these glitches and work around them, you’ll have probably one of the most rewarding investigation scenarios out there. I can absolutely imagine this being classified as a masterpiece, and were it not for the shortcomings mentioned above, this would be a 5 stars + seal of approval book. However, all strikes against this adventure do accumulate and particularly the fact that the module, to a degree, cheats, is something that soured what I’d otherwise consider to be an inspiring adventure. As a reviewer, I need to review this for what it is, not for what you can modify it into. Thus, while I do consider this module to be very much worth picking up, while I consider it to be amazing in atmosphere, characters, etc., all worthy of the highest praise, I also have to take these seriously unpleasant aspects into account. Ultimately, they make it impossible for me to rate this higher than 3.5 stars. Whether to round up or down is a hard decision – my impulse, as a person, would be to round up, but when I tally up, neutrally, my gripes against the adventure, I ultimately can’t do that.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Albion's Ransom: Little Girl Lost
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Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/19/2018 10:46:02

Bookhounds of London is a Trail of Cthulhu supplement that puts the players in the role of a bookseller of strange and occult tomes. The generic hook is that the quest for forbidden knowledge can drive a lot of mythos stories. The supplement describes how the odd booksellers market works in London. Booksellers range from the odd pushcart to wealthy established shops.

I got a lot of inspiration on designing or modifying Call of Cthulhu scenarios from this book. The quest for forbidden knowledge and the characters surrounding that market is a wonderful idea.

I have my doubts about the usefulness of running a campaign where characters run an occult bookstore. It is a fine idea, but a book length setting for this is too much. You have to sell books to make money to keep your shop open in the 1930s, but some books are horrible and should be burned. Balancing the two would be challenging. The entire setting is very London-Centric which could be an excellent or poor idea depending on the GM.

There is a scenario included in the book that did not seem to be that fun for players. It revolved around several people trying to obtain a book and their movement towards a sale or auction. There was not a whole lot of action and even the scenario author described the frustration felt by playtesters.

In sum, as a book to generate inspiration for designing Cthulhu or occult scenarios I think it is excellent. To center a campaign where everyone is in the book industry - I have my doubts. The scenario itself seemed uninteresting and potentially frustrating for players.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: Bookhounds of London
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The Dracula Dossier: Director's Handbook
by Lucas F d. O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/22/2017 13:07:41

Have only started exploring it as I decided to first read Dracula Unredacted. From what I gather about the Director's Handbook, it will be excellent. Cannot wait to run this game with my group.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Dracula Dossier: Director's Handbook
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The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted
by Lucas F d. O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/22/2017 13:05:41

Still reading it. Never finished the original version, but this one has captivated me. It will be a strong resource when my group plays the Dracula Dossier Campaign. Cannot wait for my players to read it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Dracula Dossier: Dracula Unredacted
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Night's Black Agents
by Lucas F d. O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/22/2017 13:03:43

Amazing book. I am not much into the Gumshoe System (though I recognize its strengths), but the campaign framework is one of the best things I have ever found in 25 years as a GM.

Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Black Agents
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Dying of St Margaret's
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/19/2017 22:05:13

I made some modifications and ran this scenario as a mission for my Warhammer: 40,000 Dark Heresy group and it was a success. Overall this is a great short game scenario that captures an atmosphere of suspense and mystery. I think that the author did a good job of creating something where the tension slowly ratchets up as the players struggle to find the real evil plaguing the school. Feel free to check out my long-running Dark Heresy campaign here on Obsidian Portal: https://faith-and-betrayal.obsidianportal.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Dying of St Margaret's
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Hillfolk
by Giles R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2017 02:37:48

Hillfolk uses an innovative ruleset to place social interactions between characters at the heart of the game. It's aim is to make an RPG play more like one of the blockbuster TV series we get these days.

The story will be largely player led, with the GM almost on an equal footing as the players in terms of input.

The rules for physical confrontations are quite light, good if you want to focus on the drama played out by the characters. If not you could easly replace them with your favourite rule system for more crunch. I kept thinking this would be a perfect system for a Runequest campaign where all the players were members of the same tribe.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hillfolk
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#Feminism preview
by Randy L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/23/2017 22:53:44

This is a phenominal collection on a bunch of different dimensions! There is a diverse array of games that do a wonderful job of exploring myriad aspects of feminism; they range in tone from silly to serious but all are well crafted and effective at approaching the relevant issues. The visual design / layout is also top notch!

If you're thinking about getting into larp-writing, this is also a great way to quick view a bunch of excellent games and see a diversity of larp mechanics.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
#Feminism preview
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