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Ultimate Mass Battle Guide (Savage Worlds)
by Stephane G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/26/2014 10:35:31
It has good ideas that work with the Mass Combat system of the Savage Worlds core book. It add a bit more details to quantify the strength of irregular troops, especially common in a fantasy setting. And also takes into account the abilities of a Wild Card as well.

It does this without requiring a lot of tables and calculation. If you're running a quick mass combat session, you can skip the steps in this book, but if you have some prep time, then this book's contents are a welcome addition.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Mass Battle Guide (Savage Worlds)
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Perilous Journey #15: Mission Alpha
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/04/2014 11:54:03
The title of Perilous Journey #15 is a little misleading, this is the opening adventure in a new campaign set in the Hastilion Expanse, and expected to last for some 14 episodes... so don't get confused. The introduction attempts to reduce the confusion, explaining how the campaign is constructed to use the Savage Worlds ruleset, and Mystical Throne Entertainment's Mercenary Breed setting.

The basic premise of the campaign is telling the stories of an expansion into a new area of space, the Hastilion Expanse. Naturally, many corporations are eyeing up the opportunities, and there's the potential for many a fortune to be made. The characters will be hired - as mercenaries - to facilitate the plans of one such corporation, Drake Mining and Manufacturing... and the adventures begin.

Mission Alpha actually comprises three missions, which may be run in any order. They involve the party in various activities on behalf of Drake M&M - anything from diplomacy to more 'traditional' mercenary activities - as well as introducing them to some of the major players in the corporation and the murky world of corporation politics! This ensures plenty of activity that should keep the players entertained whether they prefer brawling or intrigue, or a bit of both.

Both the introductory sequence and the actual mission locations are well described with plenty of atmospheric detail that makes them come alive in the shared alternate reality that is your game. The neat thing is each of the missions would rate as a full adventure in most people's books - there really is a lot going on, and a vast amount to do. Although the adventures are quite open in structure, suiting the GM who likes to run with an outline of what's to take place, there is plenty and enough detail so that you are not left wondering how to respond to character actions.

As well as the actual missions, there are 'travelling encounters' that may be run when the party is in transit - interplanetary travel is quite slow and whilst it is OK for the characters to be bored, it is a good idea to keep the players entertained. There is also a Bestiary which covers any alien creatures mentioned in the adventure text, but which of course are available for use anywhere appropriate as well, and background notes on the Hastilion Expanse (it is suggested that you allow players to read these notes, most of this is general knowledge as far as the characters are concerned). For those interested in new character options, some are presented - you might want to make these available during character creation as there are three new xeno templates that would fit in quite well with this campaign. One is of a native species that will be encountered, you may prefer to hold that back against needing a replacement character when on their world, however. Notes are also provided about the corporate benefits available to loyal employees of Drake; and finally there's a bit of scene-setting fiction. Again, you may share this with the players, it doesn't give away any plot.

Whilst the material refers to the characters as 'mercenaries' I think they are more like 'corporate troubleshooters' in the nature of the work they are being asked to do. This has all the potential to develop into a truly epic campaign that will live on in a group's memory for years...

All I need now is some players!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Perilous Journey #15: Mission Alpha
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Perilous Journey #1: Portsmouth [Colonial Gothic]
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/12/2014 10:50:03
Here is the first part of what promises to be an epic adventure series in the New World of Colonial Gothic, only a bit later - 1745 to be precise. The backstory to the campaign posits that the characters have just left England in search of the opportunities and religious freedoms offered across the Atlantic in the Colonies... but that they are also interested in the esoteric secrets that they might discover out there. At least one character has to be interested in the occult, others may share that interest or be along for reasons of their own.

The intention is for the occult-seeking character at least to arrive in Boston from England with a view to travelling on to Portsmouth in New Hampshire. Other characters may have come over with him, or meet up in Boston which is a good place to pick up all manner of other people when attempting to form a group. War has broken out between the colonies and the French (aided by Native Americans) so characters of these nationalites must expect a rough time unless they have a convincing argument for being where they are.

Portsmouth has been selected as the destination because of its size (big enough for the characters to pass relatively unnoticed but too small for the Inquisition to be active there) and the general level of opportunities available there. The first part of the adventure involves getting there and having a look around. A wealth of NPCs are provided to aid the party in embedding themselves into Portsmouth society and arranging residences and employment (which hopefully will last for the entire campaign and give them the resources needed to engage in the occult-hunting activities that are central to the plot). A nice touch is a 'vignette' to use to introduce each NPC as appropriate to the party.

As well as the initial adventure, which provides for some occult investigation once the party is settled in Portsmouth, this book also contains information about variant Character Options appropriate to the campaign's concept which are worth looking over before creating characters for this campaign. There is also an article on Historical Portsmouth, very useful in setting the scene. This includes a period map of the area.

Then there are some 'Occult Missions' which serve as side adventures should the characters be interested, and a collection of Adversaries, both animal and spirit in nature. Finally, there's some fiction, nice scene-setting but not linked to the adventure, so perfectly player-safe. That's the only real issue, this book lurches somewhat between bits that players can read and bits that are for the GM's eyes only. Just as well it is a PDF, the GM can distribute the pages he deems safe to share and hang on to the rest.

Overall this is a promising start and if your interests tend to alternate history and the occult, its well worth a look.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Perilous Journey #1: Portsmouth [Colonial Gothic]
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Ultimate Roman Legions Guide (Savage Worlds)
by Mr P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2013 18:38:49
I really like the Ultimate Roman Legions Guide (URLG). It is a concise and informative book for gaming in the Principate area of the Roman Empire. It includes a brief military history of the period, notable personages, discussions of weapons and armor, units, ranks, tactics, sample characters, a short adventure and more. I would gladly give the URLG a 5 rating except for two issues.

Page 11 briefly discusses the units that make up a Roman legion. The discussion of the maniple states that each maniple contained hastati, principes and triarii. This is actually not true. A maniple consisted of only one type of troop. The organization expressed in the text is actually describes a full mid-Republic legion in miniature.

The second issue is the discussion of Legion tactics on page 15. The text gives a concise and correct explanation of manipular tactics. However, manipular tactics had given way to cohortal tactics by the time of the Principate, the era covered by the book. Manipular tactics faded away through the mid to late 2nd century B.C. The maniple as the main tactical unit was replaced by the cohort. This was complete by the time of the Marian reforms at the end of the 2nd century B.C.

So, as much as I like this book and think it would be very helpful to Savage Worlds players, I can't give it a five star rating because of two errors mentioned above.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Roman Legions Guide (Savage Worlds)
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Mythos (Savage Worlds)
by Scott W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/21/2013 09:32:30
MYTHOS - A WORLD OF EPIC DEEDS

In full disclosure the amazing folks over at Mystical Throne Entertainment gave me access to the PDF at no cost.

“Sing, O muse, of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans.”
Bottom Line Up Front: If you want epic adventures pitting Demigods against each other, their Progenitors, or Furies-spawned creatures this is the setting for you. Hercules? Xena? Check, Game, Set, and Match.

Layout and Art

The design and actual layout of the book is very well conceived and implemented; a fully detailed index is present. The pages themselves are watermarked by images of actual Ionic or Doric columns and accented with traditional Greek borders along the top and bottom. Each major section of the book begins with several stanzas from a Greek Epic, each of which serves to set the tone of the following chapters. The artwork is a bit of a mixed bag for me, as the color art did not evoke Greek Epic at all, yet the stock art, pulled from literary sources and/or research tomes, fit perfectly well. Also, a hyperlinked index would have been HUGE, but it is not a deal breaker by any means. The use of a pseudo-hellenic font for chapter titles is a fun bonus.

The Setting Itself

After a brief (13 page) introduction to a truncated (by necessity) and slightly divergent (in a good, Sliders way) timeline and overview of Hellas mythology, we get to creating a character. This is pretty standard...or so it seems at first. The concepts/Archetypes are all nicely Greco-fied, but it is when the choice of race comes into play that the setting truly begins to shine. Players may choose either human or Demigod. Demigods are given, of course, many wonderful benefits from their progenitor, though there are some very serious drawbacks as well. Every Demigod has a d10 in one attribute from their patron and have access to a host of new edges which require, at a minimum, Demigod status. Some even require a benny, or Fate Point, to be sacrificed in order to take effect. Demigods are beloved by their Patron and are loyal until the end, however not all is milk and honey upon Hellas for these bright stars; they are also immediately loathed by another god in the pantheon. They will go out of their way to make this displeasure know, though always in the background so as not to anger the other gods. Each Demigod also begins play with two Major Hindrances and four Minor Hindrances (yes, you read that correctly). But wait, there’s more! These are chosen by the GM, whose sole duty is to strike the character in their, well, Achilles’ Heel. And this makes for an outstanding hero, full of potential, cursed from on high, and as laden with foibles as any woman. Or man.

The rest of PC creation discuses which skills are and are not present and how some might work differently, plus a short discussion on literacy. All of the weapons, armor, and miscellaneous gear/needs are addressed appropriate to the setting. Overall, there are so many options and flavor to character creation, you will be hard=pressed to find any fault here.

Bennies, called Fate Points, function a tad differently in Mythos, but those differences, such as spending more than one Fate Point at a time to elicit greater results, are remarkable. Their use also aids in gathering a cult-ish following. When they are utilized during a Divine Edge roll, the effect may actually bind others to them, weaving their Fate together. These folks, called Predestined Ones, take on very specific roles when in proximity to the Demigod. These are classic Masks from mythology and can be great fun at the table as a hero may also not live up to the expectations of the Predestined One…

There are 13 gods to seek out as patrons, and each is very unique. Each possess an overview of their ethos, as well as sins, virtues, and how the cults differ concerning open or at the mystery level. The gods, specifically a patron, must always be appeased in order to curry favor, and Mythos provides a few means of doing so. A hero make create Votives, from a clay idol to a temple, gaining favor (or disfavor if poorly done), which earns them rewards such as more Fate Points, or worse. Remember that Kraken and the Sea-side city? Sacrifice is always a great answer as a means of appropriation, and this takes the form of items, words, and deeds as pertinent to the patron.

The setting is not devoid of magic, not in the least. We are talking Greek Epics, where Zeus crushes cities and doles out magic toys for his beloved. A hero might beseech her patron for one of the infamous divine items, such as Athena’s Helm...but know that there is a Persuasion roll and some items carry hefty penalties.

A hero might also join a Mystery Cult and gain supernatural powers. The Mystery Cults are very well detailed and give a sense of purpose to each adherent. Each carries its own rites (and sometimes sub-rites) and allows for, essentially, the casting of spells. But these are not vanilla, plain vanilla spells. These are epic spells, such as a hero multiplying the number of arms and weapons. And the loss of energy from casting spells has an actual effect on the hero during play. One does not simply extend all of his energy and continue to fight unabated.

The setting book also has a geographic resource, detailing the lands and royal houses of Hellas. These details help set the mood for a discussion on playing an Epic game using Epic Deeds and how all of Fate is tied together in the Heavenly Contest. The last portion of this section concludes with a bestiary, which is an amazing assortment and who’s-who of the Hellas world. Medusa to Pirates to Hydra. They are all well presented and definitely evoke the feeling, no the need to defeat them and bask in the glory of Areas!

The last section of the book contains information on using a deck of cards as an Oracle to put together scenarios. It is very interestingly done, with both the suit and color of a card being vital to the set up. There is a short adventure for Novice PCs included and 12 Epic Tales divided by Rank; these are essentially one-sheets, but there are some very good ideas here for getting ‘Olympus’ right.

Overall, this is a very clever setting with some interesting sub-rules for bennies, gods, and how it all ties together. Even if you do not want to play in a Greek-inspired setting, much of the book will be an major gain to any fantasy campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mythos (Savage Worlds)
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Killshot Files #2: Bad Company
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/16/2013 09:38:01
There's a whole bundle of goodness here (Is 'goodness' the right word for something to do with assassination?) ranging from a discourse on the use of poison to developing specialisms and a complete scenario ready to run.

Delivered in the style of a regular training session (that is, were there an International Training School for the Assassin's Art), the article on poisons covers everything the well-educated killer needs to know about the art and science of ending the target's life through poison. Some can be so subtle that it appears that the target died of natural causes (so, how do you ensure you get paid for your work?) while others leave it perfectly clear what has happened and the trick is to make sure nobody discovers that it was you who administered it. Here you will learn how to select and deliver your noxious brew of choice with nobody being the wiser... and how to treat poisoning, it would be unfortunate to perish from your own poison after all!

For those who wish to develop their skills in this area, there is a new focus, the Toxician. Throughout, it is made clear how the rule mechanics apply to poison use. Note that this includes not just stuff that kills, but that which incapacitates the victim as well.

Next comes an in-depth look at the existing focuses (focii?) as given in An Assassin's Journal, the player's guide for this game. This also includes four new ones (not counting the Toxician above), but possibly more interesting are the thoughts on different variations of those core focii. This section was adapted from posts on the Broken Ruler blog and at times it shows, mentions of 'this week we look at' have been left in which makes reading it in one go as an article a bit odd. The points are good, though, and should enable players to develop their characters in all manner of interesting, not to mention deadly, directions.

This is followed by a new mark, a write-up of one Angela Berkowski. She's a college student, a good looker and a martial arts enthusiast... but comes onto our radar because her Dad is a homicide cop who has annoyed rather too many folks... and at least one is prepared to put the money on the table to see her out of this world to make her Dad suffer. Or maybe kidnap her to manipulate him... Dad's stats are given as well, he is likely to get involved in any attack on a daughter he dotes upon, after all.

Then comes Killer Elite: Specialties. This is for the assassin who is making his name in the trade: they know about you but what is it that makes you stand out from the rest? Again, jam-packed with mechanical advantages built around signature abilities developed as you hone your assassin's skills.

Finally, there's a complete Job to undertake, the titular Bad Company. This pits your crew of assassins against a hacker by the name of Thanatos who has apparently annoyed one big corporation too many with his information leaks to the public or competitors. Everything you'll need to run this Job is provided, with emphasis on putting the mechanics just where you'll need them as the Job progresses... and yet this is no railroad, you are equipped to deal with whatever the inventive assassins at your table propose. It's a tense and exciting job that requires plenty of subtetly to accomplish.

Cracking stuff here, whether for developing your Assassins or providing them a suitable Job to exercise their talents!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot Files #2: Bad Company
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Savage Insider Issue #8: Technology at the Table
by francesco b. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2013 15:14:16
Always a few things per issue that are quality reads. Not as polished as some game magazines out there, but with just as much inspiring tidbits as the best of them. And inspiration is the main reason to read these things!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Insider Issue #8: Technology at the Table
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Savage Insider Issue #9: Tales of the Weird
by francesco b. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2013 15:13:59
Always a few things per issue that are quality reads. Not as polished as some game magazines out there, but with just as much inspiring tidbits as the best of them. And inspiration is the main reason to read these things!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Insider Issue #9: Tales of the Weird
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Mercenary Breed (Expanded Edition)
by francesco b. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2013 15:05:27
The plot creation system was very unique and useful. The system helped expand my thinking on story creation. The background materials are average, but the system is well worth a read to inspire.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mercenary Breed (Expanded Edition)
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Judgment Day (Expanded Edition)
by francesco b. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2013 15:00:27
Interesting mini-setting, but most of the information was just a re-interpreting of ground other materials have already gone over. Not a waste of money, but not completely necessary to any horror/monster hunter campaign.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Judgment Day (Expanded Edition)
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Savage Insider Issue #9: Tales of the Weird
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/12/2013 09:00:03
Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/07/12/tabletop-review-savage--
insider-9-tales-of-the-weird-savage-worlds/

I’m not really a big Savage Worlds gamer. I enjoy Deadlands Noir and the Savage Worlds Horror Companion, but generally I stick to other systems. I’m a big fan of gaming magazines as I love to read about the industry, so when the latest issue of Savage Insiderpromised to be an all “weird horror” issues, I had to pick it up. After reading the seventy page issue, I found things both good and bad about the publication. Of course that’s true about any gaming magazine since it’s a hodgepodge of articles. Basically, I found it to be better than other gaming magazines like Pathways and Kobold Quarterly, but not as enjoyable as Gygax Magazine or The Unspeakable Oath. The positive is that Savage Insider seems to be one of the better gaming magazines right now that actually publishes on a regular schedule, but that’s just my first impressions from this single issue. I’ll have to pick up a few more issues to see if that holds true.

One interesting thing about Savage Insider is that it’s part of a new trend in digital RPG products, which allows the gamer to “Pay What They Want.” So yes, you can get the magazine for free if you really want to. This doesn’t make you a cheapskate. Think of it as the first hit is free. I DO think that PWYW games do need a suggested price, but that’s just me as a reviewer and it becomes hard to recommend a piece on content quality per price tag. The previous Savage Insider magazines are free at DriveThruRPG.com, so consider picking them if you like what I have to say about the magazine here. I know I will be!

There are thirteen articles in this issue of Savage Insider. Two of them are short stories, neither of which I cared for because I’d rather be reading articles about gaming content. I can read short fiction anywhere, after all, but at least the stories weren’t terrible, right?

• From the Designer – This article is a discussion by the EIC about changes coming to the magazine and an overview of the “Weird Horror.” It’s a single page that does what it needs to. 1 for 1.


•In the News –This is several pages of recently releases and upcoming products for Savage Worlds. I was impressed by the sheer number of Savage Worlds products coming out and many of them look pretty interesting. My favorite were the pulp adventures by Adamant Entertainment, but there was a wide range of different themes and campaign settings showcased, all of which used Savage Worlds rules. Excellent job here. 2 for 2.



• The Enemy in the Shadows – A long rambling dull story about Nazis dealing with the mystical horror of invading the USSR during WWII. It’s something I’ve seen and read several dozen in my lifetime, and I’m just bored with this same exact story being retread right down to the Baba Yaga references. Snore. 2 for 3.


• The Mask Peddler – A fun article about different magical masks and the effects they can have on a PC that dons them. Excellent job and it got me thinking of all kinds of adventures that could be done with these. 3 for 4.


•The Asylum – a generic paint by numbers adventure that would work best with the Realms of Cthulhu setting for Savage Worlds. It’s an 1890s fantasy horror about an asylum and a crazy scientist corrupted by his quest for knowledge. It’s not a bad adventure, but it’s pretty paint by numbers and woefully generic at times. It would be great for younger gamers, but veterans of systems like Call of Cthulhu and Chill will probably be bored with this as it’s all things they’ve seen, done and killed before. 3 for 5.


•Thule Society – This is a nice nonfiction article about the actual Thule Soceity, its origins and how to use such organizations in your gaming sessions. This was wonderfully written. 4 for 6.


•Combat Deadliness – Two pages on making attacks more deadly in order to raise the fear factor in your players. It didn’t do anything for me and it felt more unbalanced and not properly vetted than anything else. 4 for 7.


• The Ministry of Decisions – another piece of fiction. It’s better than the first in the magazine and feels a little like it was ripped from The God Machine Chronicle Onyx Path Publishing recently releases. It’s not great, but at only three pages I was amused and entertained. It’s not something I’d seek out to read again, but it was good as filler between articles. 5 for 8.


•Dust to Dust – A neat little adventure set in the 1930s. My only problem is that is doesn’t FEEL like the 1930s. This is the era of the Dust Bowl after all, and Dust to Dust (Not to be confused by the Vampire: The Masquerade adventure of the same name) doesn’t feel the 1930s at all. There’s no real attempt to flesh out the time period or to make the adventure feel like it’s actually in the time period. Hell, it could be easily dropped into any very rural community at any time in the first half of the 20th century. The writer really should have done a better job in this regard. Aside from that, Dust to Dust is a well written creepy affair worth playing through. The adventure could have really used a bit of editing or tweaking, but it’s a free six page adventure in a technically free magazine, so brevity and depth are obviously going to be the first things cut with this space allotment. Overall, I’m very happy with Dust to Dust and will enjoy inflicting on my players at some point. 6 for 9.



•Semi-Divine – a discussion on the Demigod “rank” in Savage Mojo’s Suzerain campaign setting. I can’t say I’ve ever been interested in it, nor did this article make me change my mind, but it’s well written and should bring in some new players to the line, which means it served its purpose. This didn’t really fit the “weird horror” theme of the issue though… 7 for 10.


•Accursed – A preview of the upcoming campaign setting by publisher Melior Via. It seems pretty interesting, as players are all affected by various curses from witches. I don’t know if it is a setting I’d ever personally use, but the article did make it sound quite interesting. 8 for 11.


•Book Reviews – This is more a review of Savage Worlds products than, say, the type of books reviewed in the New York Times, but what do you expect – it’s a gaming mag! There are only three products reviews (approximately one per page of the article) and they’re okay for the length. They aren’t really in-depth (This review of the magazine is longer than any of the reviews for example) and in the age of the internet, reviews in a magazine feel more like product placement than anything else, but they are nicely done and hey, I’d hire the writers to help with some of the massive backlog of tabletop review products we have here at Diehard GameFAN. 9 for 12.


•Calendar of Events – I missed this from the old days of Dragon Magazine in the TSR era. Basically, this is a write up of all the gaming events going on from July to October. It’s great to see everything. They only problem is that the magazine came out on July 5th and something like CONVergence was already running for two days at that point, you see? I think it would be better done had it been August to November as running a list of events for the same month the magazine comes out can be a tricky thing to pull off correctly. Still, this is a wonderfully done article and I like seeing the word get out about events in this manner. 10 for 13.

So not bad, right? Ten out of thirteen articles got a thumb’s up from me which is basically a 77% quality rate. I’ll definitely be back to check out future issues of Savage Insider as well as perusing through the back issues of the magazine at some point. If you’re a fan of the system or just a fan of gaming magazines in general (I have a lot of friends who are), Savage Insider #9 is well worth picking up. I’m definitely glad I did.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Insider Issue #9: Tales of the Weird
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Killshot Files #0: Retribution
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/31/2013 12:01:06
This tasty package provides a free introduction to Killshot. It's packed with information and background, an adventure, pre-generated characters and enough of the game mechanics to give the system a good test-drive. Written in a conversational, slightly breathless style, it is addressed to Directors (i.e. GMs) - so if you want to play, don't read this but give it to whoever you can persuade to run the game for you. Or bite the bullet, and run it for your friends. Your chance to play will come soon enough if you get enough people enthused about this game.

After some brief introductory remarks it launches into a swift, concise yet clear summary of how the rules work. The full rules, of course, contain a lot more (and examples of how each rule functions) but you will be able to get by with this, at least for an introductory game.

Next comes the pre-generated characters, five of them. Although they are pretty much playable straight off, some bits have been left blank to enable the players to customise them a little. Other bits are blank because they refer to rules that have not yet been discussed. The good thing is, most are covered in Killshot: An Assassin's Journal (the player rulebook) which is another free download, so once you get hooked you can grab a copy and add these bits in. There are also handy comments to guide players in the use and effects of various elements.

Finally, there's the actual adventure, or Job in game parlance. Everything is laid out clearly, with copious notes and sidebars explaining just what is going on and precisely how the game mechanics can be used to move things forward. It's an elegant example of a 'teaching game' in that by the time you have played through it, both Director and players should have a sound basic understanding of how to play Killshot... as well as a good idea of whether or not this game is for them, so that they can decide if they want to get hold of the full ruleset.

Yet even though it is a reasonably simple Job and pains have been taken to spell everything out, it is actually a good adventure in its own right with enough going on to keep you interested in the outcome of events, not just in understanding the processes involved in playing the game.

This one of the best examples of a "Quick Start" game I have seen in a long time. It's a good introduction to the concept and flavour of the game combined with an excellent tutorial in how to play it.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot Files #0: Retribution
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Killshot: The Director's Cut
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2013 12:15:54
After an introduction in which the author speaks of how a car wreck gave him the time and focus to create this wholly-new game system, channelling all the frustrations of recovery into writing, we find that the book is divided into two distinct parts: An Assassin's Journal, aimed at players, and Direction, aimed at GMs (or Directors as they are termed here). These are also available separately, with the player section available as a free download - a neat idea for those setting up a group as only the GM needs spend any money at the outset.

The player section begins with a mostly in-character essay, You're Hired. This talks about the gritty and unglamourous world of the contemporary hired killer, the 'professional' who takes lives for no other reason than someone wants the target dead bad enough to pay. Leave morality outside: this is business, pure and simple, and to be played to the full, the game needs to be approached in a similar cold manner of doing a task, accomplishing set objectives and getting away with it. A liberating concept, but one where it's very important to remind yourself that you are playing a game and must put it away at the end of the session! Back to the game, it is not just the client who has to be satisfied if the assassin is to be paid, he also has to avoid the long arm of the law. Each kill will open an investigation, after all, so attention must be paid to ensuring that nothing can be traced back to you, the killer.

Stepping out of character the discussion moves on to look at how the game actually works, from the role of the Director to actual game mechanics. Pay attention because this is a novel mechanic and like any such, is more complex on paper than it is once you start to play with it. In short when attempting something for which you need to roll (a Dice Option), you roll a handfull of dice of different numbers of sides selected according to the skills, training, equipment and other circumstances that you bring to the party; and you are aiming to beat either a similar roll made by an opponent or a Director-set target. There are also Automatic Options (no die roll needed) and Defensive Options (declared in advance against something happening, e.g. an opponent attacking you). Each time you succeed, you get a Bonus Option and continue to do so until a roll fails. In a Series (sequence of events) one side has the Edge (takes the initiative and starts doing its thing) to begin with, but there are Triggers (preset events) that can flip the advantage of the Edge to the other side. There's a bit more detail, but that's the bare bones. If you are by now getting confused, there is an example of play complete with illustrations of the Tracker, a visual system using poker chips or similar markers to, well, keep track of everything. Whilst this can be a bit mechanical and detract from the flow of play, it's a good idea at least until the mechanics become intuitive.

Next comes a far more detailed analysis of the Optional System (the name for the game mechanic), which contains everything that you need to know to play to full effect. It's worth getting your head around this even as a player, else play will get bogged down as you attempt to succeed at the task in hand... and due to the nature of the game, you really do want to do not just your best but an exceptionally good job every time! Throughout, each chunk of rules information is illustrated with an example, which makes it relatively easy to absorb... but there is a lot to absorb. It's the very nature of this game that technical mastery of the rules will be key to success, an intriguing mirror of the way in which mastery of his trade is the key to an assassin's success... Interestingly, unlike many rules-heavy systems, this one complements role-play rather than detracting from it.

Character generation of itself is not detailed separately, it is woven seamlessly into the rules exposition. This gives you an intimate understanding of how each choice that goes into designing your character contributes to his ability to succeed... but does make it quite a slow process. To summarise, each character has abilities of Body, Sense and Mind. Then he has a Focus - Bomber, Burglar, Driver, Enforcer, Grifter, Hunter, Sniper, or Tech - the focus of his particular skillset and training. Then there options and reactions. These are not skills, they are broader concepts. Think of them as tradecraft, a term from the world of espionage which describes the range of tactics a trained spy brings to bear on the operation in progress. Options are the active things you do, reactions are the things you do in response to circumstances. Again, reading them through makes far more sense than a bare explanation of what they are. These are followed by the skills themselves. Finally there are traits (best considered once you have a few jobs under your belt and are beginning to understand how you operate) and gear: specialist kit, the right tools whatever the job.

That's the player section done. It's divided from the Director bit by a Tracker card and character sheet to print out.

Direction is all about how to make the game come to life. Not just to work mechanically, but to be enjoyable and challenging and exciting... It begins by attempting to define just what Killshot is - and is not. At core it is a very tactical game, player-characters will succeed best if they plan very carefully and then follow that plan (whilst of course retaining sufficient flexibility and the ability to think on their feet to cope with everything the Director throws at them!). But it can also be story-telling, role-playing... or a pure die-rolling contest where characters maximise their chances of success in a cold mechanical way. Or both. The aim of a player is clear, the aim of the Director is more nebulous, depending on the sort of game you want to run and to play... and, of course, depending on what YOUR players want out of it, but you know what they like better than any book author does. Here are the tools to help you provide a game all of you will enjoy.

These tools are provided in four main sections. First is about understanding the mechanics even better than players need to. Then there is the art and craft of creating the jobs, the assassinations that will be the focus of the game. Next comes everything else story-related that many characters won't even be aware of, but which enhance the game. Finally, there are three full-blown jobs to get you going.

The first part, Understanding Killshot, really lifts the lid on the hows and whys of the game mechanics that have already been introduced in the players' section. This understanding will help you internalise the mechanics, enable you to sit back and let them flow naturally as the game plays out. It's necessary in a game of this complexity, but making the effort will enhance play no end - without it, this ruleset could easily degenerate into a die-rolling festival with little role-playing go along. Whereas there are systems out there for which the same thing could be said, it is rare to see it addressed head-on along with the necessary tools and information to get past the issue and get back to it being a role-playing game with a task resolution system framework underlying everything. Just as the mechanics were introduced to players in an organic manner, so is this discourse presented in terms of what is going on at the gaming table, showing you how it all hangs together. Study it well. It's impressively well-done!

Next comes Building and Running Jobs. This looks at the underpinning structure of a job, to empower you to understand a pre-written one or create your own from scratch. It can be a mechanical process, the Director's job is to make it all come together as a coherent script that moreover doesn't appear to be scripted! Here your storytelling abilities come in to play, yet without a sound underlying structure it would be all too easy for the whole thing to go awry. All the nuts and bolts are here, though.

This is followed by Beyond the Job, which looks at the wider ramifications, the rest of the game. Anything from tracking what law enforcement agencies are doing about this spate of murders to the contacts the characters make, the scars they are left with or the tales that are told about them.

Finally, there are three whole jobs to try this all out on. You ought to be itching to round up some players by now, it is that compelling a concept with a ruleset honed to make it work. It's one of the best balances between mechanic and story concept I have seen for a long time.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot: The Director's Cut
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Ultimate Roman Legions Guide (Legend)
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/22/2013 06:39:31
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2013/05/22/tabletop-review-ultimat-
e-roman-legions-guide-legend/

This sourcebook is an historical compendium of information on the famous Roman armies during the height of their military power, roughly 30 BCE to about 290 CE. This version of the book is for Legend, a fantasy role=playing game from Mongoose Publishing based on RuneQuest. I am not familiar with Legend, but I thought I would take a look at this book anyway and see what it had to offer.

The Might of the Legions

While I have studied the Roman Empire in its later periods, I don’t know a lot about the age of military might and expansion that this volume covers. This is perhaps the period Rome is most famous for though, and the book seems to be pretty comprehensive and written from an authoritative and knowledgeable position. It starts off with a bit of flavor, a few pages of story to give the reader a feeling for the period and attitudes of the army. After some historical information, the book drops a list of gear consisting of weapons, armor, and siege weapons. Following that, details about the structure of the legion from ranks to unit organization are laid out with their Latin terms and meanings, along with a listing of known standing legions from the time.

Next up is an interesting and concise tactical guide detailing how the units would be arranged on the battlefield and their basic tactics. This sections has some nice diagrams letting the reader know how things were expected to progress, and what the physical arrangement might typically be when facing armies such as the Germanic tribes. A short section on life in the Roman legions gives the reader insight into what the typical soldier did and how they were seen in society. Along with these tidbits are sections on the structure of the transportation infrastructure, the menagerie of people that made up or followed the army around, political uses of the army, and then information on various emperors during the time period this book covers.



Playing Centurion

The last twenty or so pages of the book get to some stats, characters, and adventure seeds. This is the only portion of the book that is not purely historical information. You get a big list of character professions, some pre-generated characters, and some statted-out NPCs. After that, you have two adventures sketched out in a nice format, with names of pertinent people, the plot, etc. The first one involves investigating a senator for occult behavior,and the second one is a scouting mission where the players may have to make some tough moral choices when they contact barbarian tribes.

This is a well-presented volume and has a lot of concise information about the Roman armies during this period. The material is quite dry and has a textbook feel, but it does deliver the facts. There are full-page illustrations interspersed throughout, and there are some nice visual aids which are nice and colorful to appeal to people like me (I suppose). I think any game master looking to run a game or campaign in Roman times would find this quite useful and especially folks who may not be familiar with this historical period may enjoy the overview given of the troops, emperors, and major battles that occurred. This book does seem to focus on the conflicts with the Germanic tribes and seems to wholly ignore other forces that Rome’s legions faced such as the Sassanids, but this is not a definitive historical tome, it’s a game book. If you’re looking for a quick but thorough reference for your Roman history needs, this seems like a great book to pick up. It’s pretty cheap, and it can help you add authentic flavor to your game.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ultimate Roman Legions Guide (Legend)
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Savage Insider Deluxe Issue #1: Modularity
by Sean P. F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2013 19:25:52
SEAN'S PICK OF THE DAY: With so much setting-specific material re-released in stand-alone formats, the folks who do Savage Insider decided to take the rest of the material and compile it into a single, stand-alone Deluxe format. This makes a great jumping-on point for the series of products.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Insider Deluxe Issue #1: Modularity
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