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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Lucky's Curse
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2018 05:10:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This short module for the vs. Stranger Stuff-game clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page character sheets, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 6 pages of content. The pages are laid out in digest style (6’’ by 9’’/A5), allowing you to theoretically print up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper, if you’re conscious about your use of paper/ink/toner.

Now, this review is focused on taking a look at how well this module works within the context of season 2 of the vs. Stranger Stuff-game. The adventure has originally been released for the first season of the RPG, and as such should be retroactively be declared “easy mode.”

Anyway, what may not be immediately apparent for you would be that this is basically a holiday module of sorts – this is a module centered around St. Patrick’s Day, and as such, players that show up in all green get either Good Stuff Lucky or an extra use of the ability. Once per encounter, this lets you redraw cards. Okay, and here we have an excellent illustration of how the game matured; I don’t have the original first season of the game, but one glance of the rules for the Good Stuff should make progress evident: The rules-text in the adventure is a bit confusing – per encounter/per session are two very different things and it is not clear how the extra use interacts here. The ability also does not state how many cards may be redrawn.

Contrast this to vs. Stranger Stuff’s Season 2 rule-book, and we get a precise and concise definition of this ability. The difference is significant.

What I’m trying to say is this: If in doubt, use the rules from the second season.

All right, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! We join the PCs as they are in Lucky’s, a family-friendly restaurant with a small pub attached to it, owned by Brian MacNally. As the PCs are waiting to get seated, a small man dressed in green runs into the place, to the shout of “Leprechaun!”, which should get their attention. Anyways, the fellow proceeds to serve food and beverages and is, indeed, just a short man. The usual available pub games are represented as Muscles or Brain challenges, with the highest draw winning the round – a solid, if minimalist representation within the confines of the system.

As the PCs are enjoying themselves, they will notice the strangers – dressed in long, ragged coats down to their knees, with fur draped around their shoulders and leather boots. These guys may well start shouting and there is a chance for a minor altercation here. This is also a good place to (re-)introduce characters from other adventures; as a stand-alone, making one of the kid’s parents stand in for Brian may be another tweak to get the PCs involved.

If they’re smart, they’ll notice that the strangers are looking for something. Of course, things escalate, and the strangers drop their guise, as mist flows around them, eyes glow and Brian gets knocked out – the strangers are actually ghost pirates, looking for Brian’s heirloom, one of the coins of St. Patrick, which is responsible for the MacNally family’s good luck…but also what these fellows want. Their telekinesis is pretty potent and we get alternate stats for vs. Ghosts – in that system, they are division III, just so you know. Minor complaint: There’s an aesthetic formatting hiccup in the stats here.

…and that’s about it. The adventure does mention potential consequences for the strangers absconding with the coin or for the PCs defeating them…but ultimately, this is a WEIRD one. The module basically acts as a creature feature; there is no investigation going on and weirdness happens in plain sight of everyone, which may not gel well with all games. If you hearken closer to Stranger Things’ aesthetics, this may well be a bit overkill regarding exposure. The combat in a jam-packed tavern also is…abstract. Why don’t the NPCs help? How does this play out? Panic? The adventure does not manage to convey even the slightest bit of the chaos of a tavern brawl, let alone a supernatural brawl. The lack of a map for Lucky’s also makes the proceedings somewhat abstract, and not in a good way.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are okay; while I did not note truly serious issues, I did notice a few aesthetic issues. Layout adheres to a nice 1-column full-color standard. The full-color artwork is okay. The pdf does not sport any bookmarks, but doesn’t necessarily need them at this length.

Ben Dowell’s “Lucky’s Curse” is intended as a brief adventure for a rules-lite game, but even within this paradigm, it feels oddly minimalist, and not in a good way; the pdf can potentially provide full-blown exposure of the supernatural for a game, which is not what everyone will want to go for. It also is less of a module and more of an initial encounter: Basically, this module’s entirety is spent on what would be the first encounter in most modules. Instead, the first encounter is the last and ultimately, there’s nothing relevant going apart from that. Brevity is no excuse here either, as the author has shown in his other works that he is perfectly capable of telling a rewarding, short story in less words. This is not horrendous, mind you, but it fell seriously short of what I hoped to see within these pages, both on a narrative and structural level. My final verdict will clock in at 2 stars due to the fair price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Lucky's Curse
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DNH1 - The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil Complete Set
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/07/2018 15:28:09

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

This is a collection of four products - 5E and PF versions of the main adventure, an extra 5E sidequest, and an extra book of maps and illustrations. The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil is a fairly flexible adventure, although it's important to note that this is NOT an introductory first-level adventure. Rather, it's largely meant to be played after characters have a few adventures under their belts (such as a few modules or starting adventure series).

The adventure itself consists of a series of encounters, most notably one involving an outrageously complicated door. This is one of the better door-based challenges I've seen, since a simple Disable Device check isn't even remotely good enough to overcome it.

While I like the adventure itself, there are a few hiccups I noticed. These are mostly design elements. For example, Page 19 of the 5E version gives us a couple of dense statblocks for foes. These are crushed a little too close together - a bit of spacing between the stats would make the whole section much easier to refer to with a quick glance. Similarly, on Page 37 of the PF version, we have a weapon described as a "Mace +2". That's not the correct formatting for Pathfinder, which uses an Enhancement Bonus -> Special Ability -> Special Metal -> Weapon Type format. (So you would have a +2 Unholy Mace, rather than an Unholy Mace +2. This helps to prevent confusion in statblocks.)

Overall, this is a solid adventure, probably good for at least 2-3 sessions depending on how long your group plays. As the first part in a longer series, it's likely best when purchased with the others , and I do like that you get a reasonable amount of content for the price. Given the occasional formatting hiccups, I feel like this product is, overall, about a 4.5/5. For the purpose of this platform - and given that they're relatively minor problems - I'm rounding up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DNH1 - The Lost Temple of Forgotten Evil Complete Set
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vs. Dragons
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:51:34

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game based on the VsM-engine clocks in at 66 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page character sheet, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 59 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Okay, so this system can be used as a gateway to roleplaying games; the rules-lite chassis of the VsM-Engine is well-positioned to act as a “first” RPG-system, also courtesy of the presentation: We first get a brief explanation of how RPGs work, a very short list of what you need to play (cards, this book, that’s it) and a brief list of Appendix N-like inspirations in both literature and movies. The artworks herein are classic b/w-pieces that capture a sense of old-school aesthetics rather well – it should be noted that the layout here is pretty impressive: How the artworks are integrated into the three-column landscape, tablet-friendly presentation is pretty neat.

Okay, if you’re familiar with other VsM-games, you probably won’t be surprised by the basic set-up: The game knows two attributes, namely Brains and Muscles. There are 3 basic configurations for attributes: Smart heroes have 5 brains and 3 muscles, strong heroes have 3 brains and 5 muscles and well-balanced heroes have 4 brains and muscles. This value determines the amount of cards you draw when the hero faces a challenge.

Unlike e.g. Vs. Stranger Things, this game also knows a total of 3 different classes: Fighters get to choose either ranged or melee weapons: When making an attack with the chosen weapon type, they draw an additional card. Magic-users get to cast magic – more on that later. Thieves get to draw an additional card when using Brains or Muscles to pick locks, pockets, moving silently, hiding, performing sleight of hand, contortions, tumbling, etc. Now, after deciding on the class, the player gets to pick a Good and a Bad Gimmick: These can include the raising of an attribute by one point, having connections to powerful NPCs, a danger sense, etc. on the good side, while on the bad side, we have addictions, allergies, being klutzy, etc. – so yeah, within the framework of the game, you could end up with an attribute ratio of 2 to 6, should you choose. A character has 10 Toughness – these are basically the hit points of the character. Good and Bad Gimmicks can modify this value to 8 and 12, respectively.

As far as starting equipment goes, you start play with an adventurer’s kit, but otherwise, the game isn’t really about gear, so if micro-managing the like annoys you, that’s a plus; on the other hand, if you enjoy the simulationalist aspects, then this will be less fun for you. In order to get an item beyond the standard, you consult the GM and may draw a card: If the card exceeds the EV (Equipment Value), you get it. You may only procure up to Brains items per session – basically, this is a minor crazy-prepared trope: You realize you had purchased the item. Getting matching items not usually sold in sets is covered as well. Failure to meet the EV means that you can’t secure the item in this game session…better improvise! The money system allows for another way to deal with this: When drawing for equipment, you can send the difference between the value of the drawn card and EV to purchase the item. The hero is assumed to be perfectly capable of using items, which means that there is no proficiency-system or the like to worry about.

Living amenities are codified. Clothing and armor is similarly codified: Armor reduces damage incurred: Light armor by 1, medium by 2 and heavy armor by 4. After a session, regardless of whether it was hit, etc., the armor needs to be repaired – which may or may not require the aid of a blacksmith. I am not 100% happy with the mechanics here: It is RAW possible to not be hit and still requires that the PC has the armor repaired. Similarly, armor breaking mid-dungeon-exploration for now reason is weird. Here, less would probably have been more: The GM already pretty much controls the variables here, so why not grant full control of when it requires repairs? Armor btw. reduces your movement.

Shields take hits in your stead: For each hit, make a simple draw (that is drawing one card): Hearts deflects the blow completely; Diamonds and clubs reduce damage by 1 for a small shield, 2 for a large shield. On a spade draw, the damage is reduced, but the shield is damaged…if it was a melee attack. Ranged attacks only damage the shield if the spade card was a face card. Damaged shields break on the next successful strike against it, or upon making the next attack with it. In short: Shields are pretty damn good. That is, as a whole, a plus – I really dislike how sucky shields are in most fantasy RPGs.

Weaponry is classified in 4 categories: Basic attacks inflict 1 damage, simple weapons 2, improved weapons 3 and advanced weapons 4 damage. A brief table classifies weapon types and is mostly concerned about the group, like “staffs”; Weapons may be 2-handed, have a chance to break, be concealable or have a reach, which may, however, also hamper their use in cramped conditions. Ranged weaponry is similarly codified. Ranged weapons with penetration reduce an armor’s damage reduction. Weapons like bastard swords that can be handled in one or two hands are covered as well. That out the way, a brief table that lists other equipment can also be found and then, we just have to determine the traits – basically, the fluff of the hero, the non-mechanical aspects.

An extensive appendix lets you btw. determine components by chance, should you so choose: The appendix lets you determine place of birth and childhood environment. The latter btw. assumes a couple of less nice environments – after all, well-adjusted folks usually don’t become heroes, right? Thus, we get really detailed 1-page tables for the respective environments: Runaway, bastard and orphan are covered…oh, and there is the “worse” table…which, you know…is worse. After these, we get to determine an adolescence event, a family history, the background of the caretaker, the misfortune that has beset the caretaker, the status of siblings and how they relate to you. You also get to determine a curse you may be suffering from, draw twice on the friends and enemies table and your relationship status can similarly be determined by the luck of the draw. In short: All details you probably require to create a unique hero. This section is helpful, and, of course, you can ignore components of it…or everything.

All in all, character creation is quick, simple and painless.

Conflict resolution is similarly simple: You draw your Brains or Muscles value of cards and compare it to the TV (Target Value) of the task at hand; as long as one card can beat the TV. Opposed challenges are just that: Compare draws, higher wins. Teamwork is potent – the character with the highest attribute draws, plus one card per assisting character. Simple. Characters can always draw at least one card, unless a task is deemed impossible by the GM or unless the reduction is due to Pain.

As in other VsM-games, suits have general associations: The red suites are generally positive, the black suites generally negative. Hearts are better than diamonds, spades are worse than clubs.

Okay, so how does combat work? Initiative is based on player seating, starting left to the GM. Combats are measured in turns, whose length are determined by the GM on a fluid basis. Movement is either handled via abstract categories OR allow you to track the movement: 1 square per Muscles-value movement. Brains may also be used to e.g. determine the correct spot to walk to, etc. – basically, this is pretty. In order to hit a target, the PC has to exceed the target’s DV – Defense Value. That works pretty much like a TV. Ranged attacks are compared to the RV – Range Value. A target uses the higher of the two values chosen from DV and RV.

As long as a character has 6+ toughness, he is fine; at toughness 5, the character is in minor pain, which translates to -1 to both attributes. 2 is the threshold for moderate pain, equal to -2 to both attributes. 0 toughness means extreme pain, i.e. -3 to the two attributes. Dropping below 0 toughness knocks the character out; -2 equals death. The threshold values for monsters are quick and easy to determine. Resting an hour regains 1 toughness; full 8 hours of sleep net you 10 toughness. Resting for 10 minutes reduces the current pain level by one step. Quick aid has a TV of 10, and drawing a spade means you used up all healing supplies. There is also an optional rule for fantasy logic and instantaneous healing, should you prefer the like.

The book also covers rules for attacking objects and structures, fire, and general hazards. There are no hard rules for determining falling damage, but e.g. water as a hazard is covered. A GM can also rely on a variety of monsters, readily statted for you: We get undead apparitions, boggles (frog folk), cockatrices, a general stat for cosmic horrors, stats for crossroads demons, warmonger demons or demon lords. Weird eyelings, the eponymous dragons, faeries, giants, goblins – basically, we get a selection of the classics of fantasy.

Now, magic. How does magic work? Well, there are basically holy symbols (talismans of true faith), spellbooks, grimoires – you get the idea for these basic items. Unbreakable shields/armor, penetrating weapons – we have a couple of basic magic modifications regarding items. Magic wands and staves can hold magic and act as basically magical batteries, but can potentially explode if overcharged.

Okay, so how does spellcasting work? The character must spend a turn and channel the power of the location; the GM draws a card, which represents the value available to the hero; the hero only knows this value if the GM draws a heart-suite card. 2- 8 mean “little power was gathered”, while 9+ means that a decent amount could be gathered – and this is usually what the PC knows. Once the pool is depleted, the character can attempt to draw power again, but this halves the values. Magic of a location replenishes after 24 hours. When a hero attempts to cast a spell, he must expend spell points, even if the target value is not met. If the hero doesn’t have enough power, it automatically fails. This system makes magic feel pretty chaotic and unreliable. Magic is categorized in 4 types: Folk Magic is assigned to Hearts, Divine Magic to Diamonds, Witchcraft to Clubs and Black magic to Spade. Healing via e.g. black magic is possible, but may take a less savory form – you get the idea. Sample TVs are provided for the GM, with e.g. wish-granting requiring King, resurrections and gateways assigned to Jack, etc. A smattering of sample spells are included for the GM’s convenience, including some ideas for e.g. damage spells etc. Unsurprisingly, Brains determines the number of cards drawn for spellcasting.

The next chapter provides basic advice for GMs – the structuring of adventures, possible rewards (and how to gain both Bad and Good Gimmicks. We also get a couple of brief summaries of a couple of settlements (each about 2 – 3 short sentences long) and 6 sample adventure locations that might act as hooks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on both a formal and rules-language level – I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a really nice 3-column standard (11’’ by 8.5’’) and is pretty impressive: The use of b/w-artworks and public domain art to generate a concise, old-school aesthetics is pretty neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, but only with bookmarks for the chapter-headers. Two bookmarks seem to be superfluous and point towards somewhat weird places, but this is an aesthetic complaint.

Rick Hershey, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, has created an interesting modification of the VsM-engine, one that is based on extensive modifications of the rather impressive Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. The modifications are smooth and interesting and switching games is pretty simple; if you know how to run Vs. Stranger Stuff, you’ll know how to run this. The game is interesting and play smoothly; it is easy to grasp and, potentially, run. That being said, I kinda found myself wishing there was more in the class and magic section: While detailed enough to not qualify as fully freeform, I personally prefer particularly the magic component to be more concisely defined. That being said, since even the most potent magics can theoretically be accomplished from the get-go, this may not necessarily be feasible. Still, the magic items and classes introduced here represent perhaps the one lost chance of the system. You see, while the games based on the VsM-engine allow for quick and smooth one-shot scenarios or shorter campaigns, the weakness of the system pertains to longer campaigns; there is simply not that much going on regarding character progression and advancement. Both magic and classes could have easily added, perhaps as optional components, means of advancing the characters in a concise manner; they can act as such as presented here, but ultimately, we could have gone one step further here, truly evolving the game.

In short: This is a well-made fantasy game based on cards; it is particularly suitable for those looking for an easy way to introduce players to RPGs or for quick, rules-lite gaming. It is not as detailed as Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 in its supplemental material, but still, the system does that aspect rather well. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons
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vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:49:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first adventure for Vs. Dragons clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 advertisement, 2/3 of a page SRD, leaving us with 9 1/3 pages of content. It should be noted that, much like the main-book for the system, the layout is a 3-column-standard in kinda-landscape, with 8.5’’ by 11’’ as the size; this means that there is quite a lot of text per page.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! About a month ago, strange things began to happen in the quiet village of Hazelmoure, beginning with a three-beaked chicken and escalating to iridescent clouds, etc. The strange happening have the townsfolk concerned, seeking shelter in the temple by day, the tavern by night. The tavern is operated by the elf Eldwind (full stats provided) and may act as a start of the adventure – though just finding weird occurrences will do the trick as well: A full page of strange occurrences, governed by simple draw, can be used to establish a sense of weird magic. Drawing a Spade is suggested as a means of scene progression, though personally, I’d suggest only employing this after a threshold of a certain number of such occurrences. The effects include spontaneous out-of-season blizzards, reverse gravity, or the whole town being reduced to 1 toughness AND extreme pain – ouch! (Minor complaint: “is reduce” should probably read “is reduced.” – unfortunately not the only such glitch; we e.g. have missing “as” and similar minor hiccups accumulate throughout the pdf.)

Now, the village is obviously the focus of a strange font of magic and the pdf provides rules for this, allowing for a fluctuating amount of magic. The rules here are nice, though I was a bit puzzled by the chance of taking points of pain when tapping into the font – RAW, pain is not tracked in points in Vs. Dragons, but in steps. Just as the PCs are investigating the strange phenomena, a “hero” comes into town: Dracom pretty much immediately ends the weird phenomena, stealing the PC’s thunder, big time. He is, unsurprisingly, hailed as the savior of Hazelmoure, immediately instated into power, outlawing magic and non-authorized weapons. Yes, the PCs will not be happy, but hey, they may be hired as village guards.

Dracom then proceeds to call for taxes and the PCs will have their hands full, as a random creature table suddenly sports an influx of strange and dangerous new creatures the PCs will have to handle. Things will become personal at the very latest when Dracom sends villagers to collect the vanquished monsters and, worse for most players, the loot! The PCs, at one point, will have to confront Dracom – who is actually a magic eater dragon in disguise – and the PCs should take care, for collateral damage is very real, considering the power of the dragon. The pdf provides suggestions for Good of Bad outcomes of the adventure.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are not bad, but sport a couple of unnecessary glitches, some of which influence the rules-integrity of the chaotic magic rules in minor ways. As mentioned before, the 3-column layout is elegant and the pdf sports thematically-fitting b/w-public domain-artworks. The pdf comes with bookmarks.

Kiel Howell, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, weaves an interesting, brief yarn here: The module can easily be expanded to the desired length: Due to all important aspects being pretty modular (occurrences/combats), this can work equally well in the context of a convention slot or for a longer game at the table. The strange occurrences in the village are nice, though the Ace-effect can be pretty lethal; similarly, the monsters are not easy – there is a definite chance of death here. The adventure is fun and delivers, considering its limited page-count. All in all, this is a pretty nice scenario. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Summer C.A.M.P.
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/02/2018 04:01:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for vs. Stranger Stuff clocks in at 16 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 12 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Now, it should be noted that this module was originally released for season 1 of Vs. Stranger Stuff; I will look at it within the context of season 2’s significantly expanded and refined rules, which means that you should consider this to be retroactively designated as an easy mode adventure. It should be noted that it’s very easy to integrate recurring characters from other Vs. Stranger Stuff modules within this adventure as NPCs – they accompany the PCs at their task and could, depending on how you wish to run this, meet unfortunate fates…or, for a more family-friendly interpretation, just add to the scare factor.

Anyway, this being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, local philanthropist Travis Hart has purchased a picturesque location and the PCs have scored a sweet deal: School’s out and they can earn some serious bucks for fixing up Camp Hope! Yeah, well, sure, that place saw a couple of grisly murders in the 60s, but that’s in the past, right? I mean, what could go wrong?

Well, for one, school bully Chad Helms is also working the site, potentially making the PC’s life miserable. Chad is picking on Jessica, one of the recurring class mate characters, and the PCs may well want to intervene. This would be a good place to note that we get stats for Travis, Chad and Jessica, with Chad getting the pretty potent headlock ability. It should be noted that this Good Gimmick has been SIGNIFICANTLY improved in vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 as far as rules-language is concerned; I strongly suggest using the rules of the new edition. (Something that btw. holds true for, well, pretty much any such rules-component; Season 2 is a vastly superior game.)

Anyways, before the PCs can knock out Chad, they’ll see strange lights in the distance, which the bully will use to skulk away. Now personally, I am not a big fan of this type of railroading; it should be up to the PCs or at least, offer a chance, to let him get a proper comeuppance. But that may be me.

Travis, in a nice play against the conventions, has seen the lights as well and suggests scouring the campgrounds, which is, coincidentally a good way to split the party and make some PCs share the company of Jessica and Chad. Nice: The mini-investigation yields results based on the suite of the card drawn: At the entrance, dime-sized scorch-marks and a destroyed entry gate loom; bright lights and a faint siren make the water treatment plant easy to spot and the bathhouses contain a family of raccoons. If the PCs investigate Chad, they’ll find a stash of nudey mags…which may well change dynamics here.

Smart PCs attempting to sneak around will be found by Travis, unerringly…and some might say, creepily. Over the next couple of days, the weird lights will reappear; electronics are found dismantled and tools go missing; if the players don’t put it all together, an Ace Mental (use Brains in Season 2) challenge can yield the solution, with every day decreasing the required target.

Beyond the obviously hilarious speculation your players may engage in, the module provides a variety of entertaining false leads: Ghosts from previous campers! Devil worshipers! Merpeople in the lake! Chad is a psychopath! Travis is the original serial killer! Te creepy counselor is an undead maniac! Rabid, mutant raccoons run the fields! All of these have in common that they are more detailed in the book…and that they’re wrong.

Ultimately, the PCs will find the truth…a dog-sized spider-shaped robot! Badly damaged, trying to rebuild itself. The thing is, surprisingly, non-hostile and seems to be hiding from another robot, which seeks to destroy it. It can barely communicate with broken voice module and charades, making it an interesting NPC to interact with. And yes, the module mentions the reactions of NPCs to being shown this secret camper. Suffice to say, the PCs will probably want to keep it hidden from Travis and Chad…and after a few days of hijinx (come on, we all have seen enough secret friend movies for inspiration…) of trying to keep the robot hidden, the hunter will appear – basically the evil version of the PC’s new robot friend. While this potent machine can’t kill humans, it can hurt them…and its directive is to destroy the friendly DSR (damaged spider robot) – something the PCs should definitely want to avoid!

If they best the brutal hunter, they may well wave their new DSR-friend good-bye, as it scampers off into the woods just before the inevitable military clean-up crew in hazmat suits arrives to make the debris vanish. The PCs are in no danger, but the presence of these folks is still concerning. In the end, the PCs may have a ton of money from the job…but whether DSR lives or is destroyed ultimately decides whether they’ll leave this module with a new Bad or Good Stuff –seeing your robot friend being killed by a robot can be traumatic, after all. If DSR lives, they’ll have an ally for life, though!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, I noticed no serious issues. Layout adheres to a 2-column full-color standard with nice artworks in color. The pdf has no maps of camp hope, which is a slight comfort detriment. The pdf also sports no bookmarks, which is another minor comfort detriment.

Ben Dowell, with additional content by Lucus Palosaari, delivers in this book – pretty big time, I might add. If you’re like me and always had a fascination with see SPOILER-section, if you recall all those classic movies, you’ll smile more often than not while running this. The ally the PCs can gain here is nice and the module is, as a whole, a warm-hearted and nice adventure with a bit of tension, a bit of investigation, detailed false leads…you get the idea. While the module could be a bit meatier regarding the false leads and investigation itself, while I would have loved to see a couple of fully fleshed out scenes pertaining the kids trying to cover for the new friend, this most assuredly is a worthwhile offering that can work for both adults and kids equally well. While use with season 2 requires a couple of minor modifications, this remains a very much worthwhile adventure to check out. Considering the low and fair price-point, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Summer C.A.M.P.
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Publisher's Choice - Joshua Gullion: Fantasy Hero
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 10:15:06

A free character to use in your games, the artwork provided is high qualiyt and very clean, ready to use with no modification.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Joshua Gullion: Fantasy Hero
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Publisher's Choice - Wyatt Ferris #Play4Wyatt
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:24:31

Excellent art with a tragic backstory, the files are high quality, high resolution, and very clean. These images are ready to be used as character art in any of your games, as is.

Play4Wyatt #WyattNPC

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Wyatt Ferris #Play4Wyatt
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Publisher's Choice - Basic Fantasy Figures (B&W Skeletons)
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:18:15

Two high quality, high resolution skeletons to use in your games. The images are great, clean and ready to use.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Basic Fantasy Figures (B&W Skeletons)
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Publisher's Choice - Original Game Master
by Bryan H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/24/2018 09:17:10

The image itself is high quality, with very eye catching contrast. Gary would be proud, and any reference to the D&D cartoon is awesome.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Original Game Master
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vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2018 13:51:42

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

This is a 13-page, black-and-white product. It is NOT a standalone release - as an adventure, you'll need the (quite affordable) vs. Dragons ruleset to go with it. Each section of the adventure is about two pages long (hey, it's vs. M - fast and easy is the goal here), featuring the weird things happening in the village of Hazelmoure. Each section consists of a few scenes (specific conversations/events for the players to interact with), culminating in the hopefully-epic last battle. Three different endings are given, based on how successful the heroes were.

This is a solid adventure for game night in its own right, as well as a good sample if you prefer to make your own adventures but aren't sure how to build them in this system. Either way, it's a worthy companion for vs. Dragons.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons Adventures: Magic’s Demand
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vs. Dragons
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/21/2018 13:43:39

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product for the purpose of this review.

By this point, Fat Goblin Games is getting pretty darn good with the vs. M Engine. As with the other 'vs. X' releases, you don't need anything else to actually play the game. Character creation is simple and only involves a few choices from a limited number of options, though this version has a bit more stuff in the way of equipment and valuables than some of the other choices.

After character creation, we get into the specifics of the system, including the core mechanic of drawing cards to overcome challenges, taking damage, and so on. This release also comes with quite a few monsters to throw at players - it's not a full-on bestiary, but there are enough foes for at least two or three games, mostly featuring iconic fantasy creatures like goblins, dragons, and an assortment of demons.

There are also a number of magical items, which are less about giving "bonuses" to numbers and more about providing options that weren't previously available.

All of this, of course, is just in service to the main point: putting on your shiny armor and going to give some mighty lizards what-for. vs. Dragons gives an example of good gaming structure on Page 49, which supports the quick-and-easy style of the system. Keep in mind that this is NOT a game intended for two years of solid adventure with the same system - it's a short, fun game to help pass the time at parties, when a group has time to spare, or as an intermission between other things.

Past this, quite a few sample locations are given, with enough detail to spark some creativity. It doesn't include a pre-made adventure (though you can get one of those from Fat Goblin Games, too) - but it doesn't really need it, either. This product is easy for Gamemasters of all skill levels to use.

I did notice a few places with awkward grammar and word choice, but nothing too significant for a product of this length. Overall, it's a solid release. It's not something every game group will like, but if you're in the mood for a fast and easy fantasy system, vs. Dragons is definitely worth considering.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Dragons
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Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guidebook
by Edward K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/09/2018 21:35:28

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guide Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday! Product- Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guide System-Starfinder Producer- Fat Goblin Games Price- $3.95 [here]( http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/223749/Alien-Evolution-Cosmic-Race-Guidebook?affiliate_id=658618) TL; DR-Jack Kirby does Starfinder! 96%

Basics-Tired of just the core races already? Need some more classic 70’s ancient aliens artwork? Then I’ve got a book for you! The Cosmic Race Guide has an impressive amount of new species to plop into any Starfinder game.

Mechanics or Crunch-Starfinder, when it launched, didn’t have a lot of races. None of what was there was bad, but it was a limited picking. This book opens up the floodgates. Nothing here is all that crazy. The races do follow a pretty predictable formula, but its not a bad formula as everything is balanced. I would have liked a few racial feats for each race. But, there are over 10 new races here, so It’s a great place to look for an impressive assortment of new races for any space game. 4.75/5

Theme or Fluff- Here is where the book shines. Every page of this book feels like Jack Kirby wrote it as the art is completely New Gods or crazy space Thor 3 on every page. Everything feels right. You get a full color art picture of each race and its homeworld. The art mixed with the flavor of the races just belongs. Starfinder is already a mix of magic, machine, and the future, so adding the proper amount of crazy Kirby makes me extremely happy. 5/5

Execution- I am really pleased with this book. First and foremost, it's a hyperlinked PDF. Next, the art is great. I would have liked more, but it's enough to break up any monotony. The layout isn’t cluttered. My one grip is the price. It’s a tad high, but if you want a ton of new races, this is the book you need. It’s a well put together book that's fun to thumb through till you find your favorite race and dig in. 4.5/5

Summary-I really like this product. I read this book the week after seeing Thor 3 in theaters, and it feels like an honest extension of the movie. You get Kirby, you get aliens, and you get your magic. Starfinder feels like the 70’s comic vibe will fit better than any serious game play as you have the elements of more space opera than space drama built right in, and this book takes that banner and runs hard with that idea. I wouldn’t consider this the most serious book. This isn’t Lord of the Rings, but it is an amazing romp in the galaxy showing you all the crazy kids at the cantina while giving you the rules to play each of them in turn. Get this book, crank your Flash Gordon soundtrack, and find your next favorite character to play in the galaxy. 96%



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alien Evolution: Cosmic Race Guidebook
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8-Bit Adventures - The Legend of Heroes
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/05/2018 03:55:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the 8-Bit Adventures-series clocks in at 42 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 38 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Okay, so, unless you haven’t noticed, this is basically a Legend of Zelda toolkit for Pathfinder, with Nintendo IP filed off. As such, I think I should comment on my own history with Zelda: I liked the games, but I wouldn’t consider myself to necessarily be a fan – I have played them all up until Twilight Princess, with Majora’s Mask, unsurprisingly, being my favorite. They are good games, but don’t scratch the story-itch I look for in games beyond excellent gameplay.

So, if you are a rabid Zelda-fan, well, then this will probably already be in your shopping cart at this point, right? Anyways, the pdf begins with customization options for the kingdom of Hyrule, erh, pardon, Highland, which btw. comes with a nice full-color map, which, however, sports no scale. Alas, no key-less version for handout purposes has been included either. But I digress. We first begin with basically a critter-by-critter reskinning/modification process. Grippers are upgraded to Large size and based on chokers, with the modifications suggested noted; Robed Wiz (CR 9) is based on a more limited clockwork mage. The rocktopus is based on the Tome of Horror’s mudman. The CR 4 bladed trap (comes with creation notes) represents a new creature, and the section also features the CR 8 burning skull, the CR 11 cactus worm, the CR 1 Treenut and, of course at CR 16 Cursed Warrior Droch-lann, the Gannon stand-in, who is realized as an orc cursed warrior magus 18. I noticed minor hiccups, but nothing serious – the section is usable as provided.

That would, btw., be a new archetype herein who gets diminished spellcasting and may sacrifice a prepared spell as a swift action to create a shadowy armor. Instead of 5th level’s bonus feat, the archetype gains 60 ft. darkvision or increases an existing darkvision to 120 ft. – solid, if unremarkable.

Okay, so far regarding the bestiary-side of things. We move on to 8 new feats: Bomb shot lets you expend a bomb as part of jumping to add its damage to your Acrobatics-check – which results, obviously, in hugely inflated Acrobatics-results. I would not allow this anywhere near my game usually, but in the context of this supplement, it makes sense. Minor point of critique: While the feat is fully functional, its verbiage is a bit clumsy. Shaped Charge lets you, as a full-round action, expend a use of a bomb a ranged touch attack against a door, lock, wall, etc., ignoring hardness – the attack is always successful against unattended objects and the bomb’s splash damage is negated. There also would be the Luminous Metal feat, which lets you expend 30 gp to make metal objects you craft cast light as though they were candles – no, that is NOT a reference to the spell. Minor complaint: Why not note the range of the light produced? Looking it up is somewhat inconvenient. Improved Luminous Metal lets you upgrade that to 60 gp cost and torch-equivalent light. Would I spend feats on these usually? Heck no. In the context of this supplement? Why not. Shield Ally lets you block ranged attacks with your shield – when using a full attack, you can forego one attack, making an attack roll equal to the foregone attack. If you win the swingy comparison of attack rolls, you deflect the incoming projectile. Shielding allies is possible at -4 to atk, and you may not deflect boulders and must be aware of the attack. My loathing for atk-comparison mechanics is well known at this point; suffice to say, it is a decent representation of the Zelda-game-mechanics.

Reflect Shot builds on Shield Focus and Shield Ally and lets you reflect an incoming ranged attack as an AoO against any creature whose ranged attack you successfully block, provided it is within range. Okay, what constitutes range here? I assume the range of the incoming attack, analogue to the games and taking e.g. Shot on the Run etc. into account…but it would have been nice to see that stated. Reflect Ray does the same for rays, with the same minor range-snafu. Shield Rider is a concession to the game aesthetics and may well be a drawback – when riding with your shield, you lose the shield bonus to AC, but movement rate increases by 10 feet when riding downhill, but only when not wearing medium or heavy load…which is closer to a trait than a feat in power-level. The lack of choice for the character is also puzzling – RAW, the feat locks you into this behavior.

The pdf also sports three new spells: Retriever enchants a weapon to steal with its next attack (strangely using Sleight of Hand instead of the steal maneuver, which is a bit wonky); freezing ray is a variant of scorching ray which adds paralysis at 7th level…which is WEIRD, for the new ability is not based on caster level here, deviating from PFRPG design tenets. Magnetism is a pretty complex one with various appliances, and is based roughly on telekinesis, which is unfortunately reflected in the rules-integrity, e.g. specifying violent thrust spellcasting attributes for wizard and sorcerer, but not for the other classes eligible to use the spell. Not bad per se, mind you, but in such instances, you can see that a bit more polish would have been neat.

The pdf also sports new equipment: The diseased goblin poo stick simple weapon and the spring spear exotic weapon, which is a very potent weapon that is flexible in a way usually only magic items provide – it can be used with and without reach and may be thrown – in the context of Zelda, I’d give it a pass. We get 5 pieces of magical equipment: The leaf mask is a plant shape I spell in a can, usable 1/day. The miniscule cap works 3/day as reduce person. Soup stones provide nourishment, while saga stones reincarnate the possessor for a paltry 600 gp, being basically a kind of extra life. Trapfinder torches can be used once and net a bonus on Perception to spot traps and hidden doors, but at the same time, they do not denote how long they last. One could default to the acute senses comparison, but yeah…a bit rough. Aquatic armor (+1) nets swim speed; lava armor nets fire resistance 10 and allows the wearer to execute short-range free action touch attack fire blasts as retribution – it is also somewhat low on the price-scale for that. Dazzling weapons (+1) autodazzle light sensitive creatures or those made of shadow or shadow conjurations.

Now, that would be the rules-section – this pdf, however, also doubles as a campaign kit, providing angles to draw the PCs to Hyru…eh, Highland, as well as a fluff-only write-up of the cast of characters. We get a fully spelled-out prophecy of the legendary hero as well – which is pretty neat, for it taps into the suggestions that this could be run as a 1-on-1-scenario. While the suggestions are basic, their inclusion is very much appreciated. The role of the Triforce (here called Tetrahedron Quadriad) as a McGuffin is explained (and is used for an interesting if simple, optional puzzle that can be extremely helpful) and the first quest focuses on saving steeds – the structure of the encounters and their basics are noted in the tradition of Campaign Kits; from there, we move on to the shrines – Lake Highland, the Skull Dungeon and the Mountain of Fire, for the final showdown at Castle Highland. Suggested creatures are noted and APLs for each chapter suggested. More advanced rules, if any, are hyperlinked. We also get a few DCs and the skeleton of the sequence is all ready to be fleshed out by the GM.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, on a formal level, is really tight – no complaints there. On a rules-language level, the pdf sports a few rough patches here and there, but retains its functionality. Layout adheres to a happy and colorful 2-column full-color standard and the full-color artworks provided are loving bows to the franchise. Cartography of the land is nice, though I wished we got a key-less version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben Dowell’s bow before the Zelda franchise does what it sets out to do – it translates the somewhat wonky concepts of the Zelda games to PFRPG. It provides a toolkit for playing Zelda in PFRPG. Mission accomplished. Now, if you’re no rabid Zelda fan, then this will have significantly less appeal for you: There are a couple of rough patches in the rules-integrity, and while they don’t sink the pdf, they are enough to disqualify the material for my regular PFRPG games. They are also, system-immanently, as they’re translating very basic concepts, not world-shaking. I am also a bit puzzled by this pdf starting off with monsters, moving to player material, and then once more going for the GM-content in the campaign kit-section – starting off with a player section, then moving to the GM-section would have made much more sense.

On the other hand, this pdf’s demographics are the fans of Zelda – and if you count yourself among them, you will quite probably sport a broad, nostalgic smile while reading this. Similarly, this may well be a good way to bring younger kids into the roleplaying fold and teach the game o them: While the GM should have some experience under his/her belt, the whole scenario is pretty child-friendly and thus suited for even young kids, provided you guide them regarding mechanics.

How to rate this, then? Okay, to be honest, this did nothing for me – I am simply not the audience of this book. I am neither prone to nostalgia, nor a fan of Zelda per se. For me, the rough patches weigh heavy on this supplement and if you feel similarly, then you should probably skip this. I’d be a sucky reviewer if I’d rate the pdf according to these observations, though – I have to take into account that many of the things I consider jarring are directly based in trying to adhere to the franchise as faithfully as possible. While there are still a couple of instances where some rule-component is a bit wobbly, and while I wished e.g. the Gannon-archetype was more interesting, the book does a solid job at what it sets out to do. Not a superb one, but one that will probably warrant fans of Zelda getting this. You should be aware that videogame aesthetics trump those of Pathfinder here, and I strongly discourage using the content herein in regular games, but for what it is, it works – hence, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
8-Bit Adventures - The Legend of Heroes
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Rick Hershey: Art Rates 2017
by John R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/02/2018 11:50:18

I got in touch with Rick about a small logo I needed and some basic ideas of what I had in mind. Rick was very responsive and had some useful input. The rate was very reasonable, he communicated well throughout the process, and he delivered quickly. I highly recommend his services and his talent. -Ross



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rick Hershey: Art Rates 2017
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/06/2017 12:17:56

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This second and vastly expanded iteration of „Vs. Stranger Stuff” clocks in at 112 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 108 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This pdf was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreons.

Okay, so first things first – this is obviously inspired by the AMAZING series Stranger Things – while I can still argue about why the D&D-name analogues in the series don’t work too well and that the kids should know better, I adore it and have rarely had this much fun with it; the original iteration of this game was pretty much a quick and dirty adaptation of the VsM-engine, with the primary focus on some easy gaming inspired by the hit series, or pretty much another form of weird 80s-inspired adventuring.

Fast forward and we get this massive expansion of the system. Beyond a list of inspirations that can be helpful, you don’t need much to play – a playing card deck will do the trick (minus Jokers) and, should you want to, there is actually a custom deck you can get; it is by no means required to play though! Big kudos here for not going for the cash-grab option and locking the system to a custom card deck.

Anyways, the first crucial difference to e.g. Vs. Ghosts will be evident pretty much from the get-go: This system comes in 3 modes: In Easy Node, the Kids are basically superheroes and PCs don’t die – they are just knocked out, which allows you to tell kid-friendly stories sans frustrations. Normal Mode lets PCs only die if they do something really dumb and the Kids are above-average in power. Finally, there would be Hard Mode (preferable setting for experienced roleplayers, whether they’re kids or adults) – in this mode, PCs die when their Toughness falls below 0 and the attributes of the Kids are as bad as everyone else’s. Season One adventures are retroactively classified as Easy Mode scenarios, just fyi. (It should also be noted that the Easy Mode is available as a FREE pdf and at-cost PoD!)

Character generation is simple: The player character is the Kid, and is defined by two attributes: Brains and Muscles. You either have 3/5 (strong Kid), 5/3 (smart kid) or 4/4 (balanced Kid) in these. These values determine how many cards you draw when you face an obstacle. 7 is usually mortal peak, 13 is basically “god”-level. These are the normal mode rules – easy mode nets 6/4 or 5/5, while hard mode nets a 4/2 or 3/3-distribution.

Much like vs. Ghosts, these can be modified by good and bad gimmicks. Some of these represent attribute increases, while others are what you’d expect: A cool older sibling nets you a reliable older buddy; being popular or schooled or rich; these similarly are pretty self-explanatory, I assume. They also include increased Toughness (hit points/health of the system), etc. – but while you have a good gimmick, you also have to pick a bad one: Broken homes, poor depth perception, nosy siblings – they are pretty much as self-explanatory as the good ones. Every character starts play with 10 Toughness, basically your hit points, which may be modified by gimmicks.

Vs. Stranger Stuff usually doesn’t track equipment – the system has you draw a card and compare it to the equipment value of the desired equipment. Cool: There is an optional rule for groups seeking to track money etc. and there are plenty of sample values and items. Cool: There are optional rules for off-brand equipment, which has a chance of malfunctioning and causing even injury…but at the same time, it’s less costly.

The core mechanic of the game is incredibly simple: When you e.g. have a challenge to Muscles, it sports a TV – the target value. You draw the associated attribute number of cards and succeed when you draw at least one card of the TV value. Opposed checks have two characters draw their attribute cards; the one with the highest card wins. Teamwork is emphasized: The character with the highest attribute draws cards, plus one per assisting character! This means that players will want to help each other out.

Okay, so, reading cards: Red suits are generally good, black ones generally bad. The sequence of suits is Hearts > Diamonds > Clubs > Spades – so yeah, cue anguished looks and Motörhead when you draw the “ACE OF SPADES”! …Sorry, couldn’t help myself there. A simple draw is an easy decision facilitator for the game: Hearts = something very good happens, Diamonds something good…you get the idea.

Okay, so how does fighting work: Each character can act once during a Turn; Turns have a variable duration, not a fixed frame of time – so, in one combat, a Turn could be a minute, in another a couple of seconds. Attacks and actions are usually resolved when the character takes then, unless a delay is in order and determined by the GM. Initiative is simple: The player left to the GM goes first, then the next, etc. NPCs and monsters act last. In Hard Mode, an alternate system for drawing for initiative makes things more interesting and causes less potential for bickering about seating order at the table- I strongly suggest using it, even in Easy Mode. Surprise is handled by providing a free Turn.

Movement in combat is similarly abstract per default, with drawing based on brains or muscles as an alternative to the freeform; if you prefer a more crunchy solution, hard mode bases movement on muscles: move muscles units of measurement and act, or move twice that amount but don’t act. This, once again, is easy to grasp, but makes the game more tactical…and, at least to me, rewarding. Melee is based on Muscles, ranged combat on Brains – so, either way, you’re automatically competent at what you do. Melee requires you beat the opponent’s Muscle value to hit, ranged attacks require that you beat the RV – Ranged Value. Some monsters may have a Defense Value that overrides these; weak monsters that are hard to hit. Hard Mode does provide optional values for tougher damaging of foes, basically a confirmation; otherwise, it’s fairly easy to damage targets, but not necessarily to kill them – attacks only inflict 1 – 3 damage, typically. That being said, incurring damage matters: 5, 2 and 0 toughness are thresholds that impose penalties to the attributes due to pain; -2 is the threshold for being dead. Wimpy kids are more susceptible to pain, while certain NPCs can be less susceptible. Furthermore, you can make bad gimmicks based on injuries – broken limbs, concussions.

Now, per default, there is NO HEALING. When taking basically a long rest, you regain 1 toughness; short rests reduce pain levels. There are rules for first aid, pain killers and long-term treatment that allow for the regaining of functionality, though, as a whole, characters will want to avoid serious injury. From basically video game logic to unreliable healing and drugs that require draws, the customization options presented for the system are impressive here as well.

Notice something? Customization is the name of the game and this book has more for you. Need rules for damaging objects? Included. Rules for fire, fireworks and explosives? Right here. Rules for Fear Challenges (including negative repercussions for (failing to) sleep)… really cool. Now, the GM gets some serious array of tools here: Hazard-wise, we get rules for falling, light/darkness, rules for sneaking through the shadows, water as a hazard, drowning, hazardous weather, endurance required by long-term tasks, food, air and water – these are simple and fun; the leitmotif for the GM is “keep it simple, make it fun” – as such, the GM section provides advice on the creation of 4-act adventures, reward bonus draws, reward good gimmicks, earned bad gimmicks…and we actually get downtime rules between adventures: These include ways to add/remove gimmicks, bonus draws, equipment or attribute increases; playing games within the game (The PCs are Kids, after all), is also handled – and sidequests can be either used as a story-facilitator, etc. The pdf provides examples for specific games, from whack-a-mole to pinball, including easy examples. Tickets can be turned into rewards – though here, something went wrong in the table – there are strike-through boxes placeholders where card-icons should be, which is somewhat odd…but since the basic resolution mechanic is simple, you can deduce the symbol meant). Oh, and if you’re lucky, you can perhaps get ninja throwing stars, switchblades, basically a Commodore=64 with serial numbers filed off…( As an aside: If your German is passable and/or you enjoy good Synthwave – check out Welle:Erdball, one of my favorite bands…they actually make music with them.)

Really neat: Locations have a cost to hang out there and rules that provide restrictions; they also have a cool rating; the higher the rating, the less likely bad stuff will happen there. They usually have points of interest, NPCs – you get the idea. It’s a simple, easy to grasp system to codify how you think about locales. Beyond generic NPCs, GMs also get a premade NPC babysitter as a nice example on how the rules can be employed.

Oh, and there, obviously, is the eponymous Stranger Stuff: We get enthralling recorders, a sentient build-your-own robot toy, tomes, x-ray specs that work…and there are strange powers; from astral projection t being forgettable (which comes with a nasty scenario-suggestion earlier) to parasitic rejuvenation and the classic pyrokinesis, these powers run the gamut of the iconic classics. Once more we get a sample character – 13, who is, surprise, wanted by the MIB…

The monsters presented in the next section fall in 4 general categories – Aliens, cryptids, humans and supernatural threats – from maniacs to aliens and sentient ideas, the basic tools here are nice. Cooler yet: The year is 1984, so we get a list of highest grossing films, TV programs (with network), full moons notes, billboard year-end Top 10 songs and important events. The town of Crestview Hills comes with some sample NPCs and locations and serves a brief backdrop and default setting for the adventures for the system, with a small town named Slim River being close to it, though it is less detailed.

Okay, so the pdf also provides an adventure by Kiel Howell – “The Mask Behind the Make-up” – it is intended as a Normal Mode scenario and sports a bullet-point break-down: At one glance you can see “Adolescent Mischief”, “Crude Humor”, etc. – in short, at one glance, you can determine what could be problematic if you use this for kids or sensitive folks, allowing for instant awareness and an easier customization…on the other hand, if you’re into horror and/or have hardened players, these can just as well act as bullet points to make the respective aspects more extreme. I really like this and hope that further season 2 scenarios will employ it as well! The adventure is pretty well-made (though it doesn’t sport maps or the like) and enjoyable – and it ties in well with the other Vs. Stranger Stuff offerings, which I will cover in due time.

A random generator for adversaries, their motivation, etc. allows you to quickly come up with adventure frameworks. We also get a neat full-color character sheet, a full-color location sheet…and a b/w-map of a town, which you can use as a coloring prop…or, you know, color unlocked/pertinent locations.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, for the most part, are very good; on a rules-language level, I have no complaints; on a formal level, there are a couple of relics where card-suite symbols should be and use/us-level glitches can be found here and there. Not too many, but if you’re picky, it may come up. Layout adheres to an album-style and the pdf uses graphical elements from 80s’ gaming/videos/etc. in subtle ways – it’s not obtrusive, but it is a nice touch and shows the extra care that went into the gorgeous layout of this game. Artworks depict e.g. collectible playing-card paraphernalia, poster-facsimiles, “photos” with strange stuff inside…the overall aesthetics are really neat. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari, with additional content by Rick Hershey and Kiel Howell, has really stretched his design muscles with this modification of the VsM-engine. My main issue with vs. Ghosts, in comparison, is that it is very reliant on the ghost-hunting equipment. The acquisition of these isn’t linear, so planning longer games isn’t too easy. Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2 eliminates that component – it emphasizes different aspects of the game. The locations and their cool rating, and, more importantly, the versatility of the system, deserve a big round of applause: With this game, you can conceivably play a Scooby-doo-type of wholesome kid-mystery…or you can basically go Stephen King-grimdark smalltown-dystopia.

The more detailed and simulationalist hard mode rules add a SERIOUS amount of potential for longer games; while the VsM-engine isn’t perfect for epic tales and massive character progressions, the hard mode options allow for well-made and enjoyable “mini-series” – you know, half-year/year campaigns. The emphasis on roleplaying, the dead simple rules – what makes the system work well is still here; this is very much a rules-lite system, even with all optional hard mode options included. However, it is my firm conviction that this works infinitely better than vs. Ghosts to tell stories that are not just a few sequential adventures; in sort, it lets you tell “bigger” stories, with more nuances. The fact that it allows for kid—friendly entertainment and darker stories for adults (or for kids that are like yours truly was…I always had a penchant for the dark and macabre…) in equal measure is another HUGE plus for me. The modularity provided allows you to customize the game according to your preferences and it works well in all scenarios. What more can you ask for? This succeeds triumphantly at its intended vision and most assuredly represents the VsM-based game to get. While the pdf does have a few cosmetic rough edges, I thoroughly enjoyed this system and look forward to playing through scenarios for it. My final verdict will hence clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2
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