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Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/18/2016 00:56:31

I was extremely disappointed in the binding and quality of this book. It feels like it might fall apart at any second, and I just opened it. I bought the Premium Heavyweight and the paper is pretty low quality, and I've bought new textbooks at the same price with better paper. The paper honestly feels like I printed it out of my printer on standard 8x11 paper, and threw it in a cheap hardback cover with terrible binding. :(



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Edition
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Exalted 3rd Edition
by James M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2016 02:56:49

This review is written from the perspective of someone who read, but never played, Exalted 2nd edition, and I'm currently STing a game with five players.

The Good

  • I may be biased in this as it's what sucked me in in 2E, but the setting is fantastic. There are underlying themes here that just don't get explored in other games, alongside some really off-the-wall awesome places to give players and STs ideas for plots and characters.
  • These settings and places are presented in such a way that it's very easy to develop story hooks. There is so much I want to do with this setting, just from a simple read-through.
  • It's a system-heavy game, but each system feels like it kind of works, crafting excepted (I'll get to that). The combat in particular takes a while to grok, but once you understand that it's simulating cinematic combat, a lot of my misgivings fall away.
  • There are some charms in there that are obvious lead-ins to building character concepts. Again, some things in this book make my imagination really pop.
  • The fiction is, by and large, decent. The longer pieces in particular give a great picture of the world, even if the exact writing could be tightened a little in places.
  • The book is very open about its "if it's not there, make it yourself" philosophy. It's a good message and is broadcast repeatedly.
  • The colour rules are one of the best meta-rules I've ever seen in any game, and need to be hammered into the heads of every roleplayer, regardless of what system they play.
  • I love that we have a trans character front and... to the right a bit on the cover. It underlies something else that runs throughout the book, that a whole range of cultures, ethnicities, gender identities and sexual preferences can be developed and explored in the game.

The Bad

  • Quite a few of the details of the well-crafted systems get lost in the text. I found myself wondering about how certain things meshed together or interacted, only to find an explanation buried in an off-hand comment in another section. This is fine if you can take the time to read through it and make crib notes, but it makes it difficult to use the rulebook as a troubleshooting reference. The actual systems are really clearly laid out, but exceptions and elaborations to those take quite a bit of digging to get to.
  • All of the different systems, while nice on their own, feel like a lot to run together. This isn't too much of a problem in actual play, but as a "do I want to run this game" consideration, it feels quite daunting.
  • The charms. There are a few subsections to this:
    • There are so many of them, and the language that they use to describe their effects takes a lot of unpacking. As I said, if I wasn't doing the review, I wouldn't have bothered reading through them all.
    • The language makes it hard to get an impression of what each one actually does. I note the term 'dice tricks' bounced around a lot to describe minor effects. In my read-through, I often couldn't get as far as identifying what those actually did, and thereby how the interactions work. This possibly comes with play experience, but when building a character in a white-space environment, it's hard work to figure out.
    • The descriptions of what they look like are quite monotonous. A large amount of them could be summed by "Solar does their thing, which glows in a particular way". This makes having a flavour/crunch split, which could solve some of the other problems, a really bad idea to make them engaging reading.
  • The overall layout is frustrating. This is a combination of minor things like sidebars being in the wrong place to things like character creation coming before the traits description, and evocations only happening right at the end. This means that, as a straight read, new players aren't going to understand what they're building or how it all works together. It's also meant that, as a new ST, I have had difficulty signposting my players to relevant parts to consider during character creation, although that is also possibly due to my own lack of understanding.
  • The level of detail about various points in both the setting and the rules are just at the point where I was given enough information for my mind to run with the possibilities and then fall over some stones strewn in the way. It felt like it was complex enough to need further explanation, but the thing is already nearly 700 pages long. There is a particular dearth of examples to illustrate points. I know a lot of this will be answered in coming publications, but several of them felt like they needed an explanation NOW. Which will be great when the line is complete however many years down the road, but frustrating for now.
  • The lack of examples particularly hurts for social abilities. I still have only a vague idea where Presence ends and Socialise begins, and my understanding of how Bureaucracy happens is only slightly better.
  • I dislike how much Bureaucracy seems like a useless appendix. It doesn't connect with any system apart from its own charms.

The Ugly This is not a book for people new to roleplaying. The rules expect a confidence with homebrewing and an awareness of gaming conventions that can only really come from experience with other roleplaying systems. The reference to Gary Gygax in particular is one of the most infuriating examples of this. Allied to that, this thing really needs a storyteller's guide section. You are dealing with characters of immense power, and given very little guidance on how to run meaningful plots and antagonists in that context. This is a huge problem. The "projects" section goes some way to remedying this, but it isn't really a projects section. It's a "how to run an Exalted game" section, and needed to be treated as such. The crafting system feels like needless number crunching. I have read RAW crafting, and Sanctaphrax's crafting system, and will without hesitation say I will always use the latter. There are just far too many pointless things to keep track of in RAW crafting. It feels like the system needs a very collaborative approach to character creation, in order to keep everything on track. While this isn't a problem in itself, the book doesn't spell this out, which could lead to serious problems at the table.

Despite all the bad and ugly this is still a game I desperately want to play, and run. The list of "bad" is quite extensive, but they aren't dealbreakers for me. I enjoyed most of the read, will carry on following the game because it is a fundamentally awesome idea with decent execution, but needs a lot of interpretation that will result in frustrated newcomers and very different games (at a rules level) at each table it is played at.

For my chapter-by-chapter read through, go here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Exalted 3rd Edition
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Beast Within Revised
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2016 16:47:44

If you want fiction on the world of the Kindred, this is the book for you! Each author showed a different aspect of that world from a Kindred point of view. They were interesting and some were truly thought provoking. I wanted more when it was done. Definitely a must buy!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Beast Within Revised
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Promethean the Created 2nd Edition
by Alex B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/30/2016 14:14:08

I really enjoyed Promthean the Created 2nd Edition, Like the other 2nd edition versions of Chronicles of Darknesss, it felt like an overall improvement. 2nd Edition feels cleaner, updated, and a worthy purchase for any Storyteller wanting to learn about Promethean. The new lineages are a nice addition and I overall have greatly enjoyed it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Promethean the Created 2nd Edition
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World of Darkness: God-Machine Rules Update
by Talen S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/23/2016 16:45:32

Great Stuff. I have had 8 of the books in the WoD series for quite a while. These additions helped a lot bring the life back to the system I have read over and over again.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
World of Darkness: God-Machine Rules Update
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W20 The Poison Tree
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/22/2016 00:18:01

Was actually excited to pick this up as the Shadow Lords are one of my 3 favorite tribes. When I read it though it felt as if the author never read the WtA corebook or even glanced at the SL tribe book. Felt like he was just throwing out terms here and there to make you feel it was a WtA book. The book was entertaining and some parts resonated with the WtA/WoD vibe. Other parts felt out of place. Overall not bad, not great. Mediocre.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
W20 The Poison Tree
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Tales of the Dark Eras
by Crystal M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/11/2016 10:10:24

First Reviewed on Crystal's Game Reviews

Tales of the Dark Eras is a collection of short stories that connect with the Chronicles of Darkness. The short stories tie into each of the genres that Chronicles of Darkness hosts. The collection is set in chronological order, starting before recorded history and ending with the current era. Each story plays heavily on the theme of the setting in which it is written.

If you enjoy the Chronicles of Darkness, you will enjoy reading these stories. Each story has its own sense of horror, though it does skew toward the ‘fight to live or die trying’ aspect. Several of the stories have a psychological horror twist, make for a thrilling to read. It is a quick read as well; I was able to finish it in several plane rides.

The weakest story of the whole anthology was the first one, “Hoarse”: (Chronicles of Darkness 450 B.C.E.). The story took place so early in human history, it was hard to connect with the characters. It felt disconnected and jarring, and had no hook in the story for me.

My favorite story was “No Signal”: (Chronicles of Darkness 2015-2016 C.E.). This was a psychological paranormal story that focused on the God Machine in Chronicles of Darkness. It was a wonderful take on how easily mortals get pulled into the workings of the paranormal without ever wanting to. The ending was a great twist, and not the twist I was expecting. This was a wonderful end to the anthology.

Another highlight of the book was Jess Hartley’s “Ravens and Roses”: (Changeling: the Lost 1600-1700 C.E.). It takes place in the elite social circles of Paris. This story was a personal favorite of mine because it held all the makings for high fantasy, with a Changeling: the Lost twist, making it into personal horror.

You should look into this anthology if you enjoy Chronicles of Darkness or fantasy/horror stories. History fans will enjoy the settings of the stories, as they all take place in different eras across the globe. Storytellers will find many ways to tie plots into various chronicles they may be running. The quick read and captivating short stories will keep you entranced and horrified at the same time.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tales of the Dark Eras
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World of Darkness: God-Machine Rules Update
by Lisa A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/09/2016 16:24:29

I like streamlined rules, so I like it.

I will ignore some of the new rules for Vices, my players can pick from a list that has nothing good sounding on it. That is, unless someone comes up with a well worked out idea, that doesn't make me feel I'm looking at a character with no flaws like a persona created for a job interview.

But, hey, it's a nice option, for those who like it. Likewise, I will choose whether to use the updated experience costs depending on whether I want mastery to represent something great that takes effort you can imagine doing, or rare that takes superhuman effort.

Aspirations is ingenious, get the players to tell you what they want. Breaking points is a smart way to get some background on characters, skewed in a horror setting. Respec-ing merit points is great, for keeping one player from hurting another by blowing up their resources (or outing the identity of someone with social merits to an evil conspiracy, or similar). It also means that players are more willing to risk those resources, if the story calls for it. I mean, it takes time to spend those points, but it's pretty neat. Also new merits and guidlines on making more merits and I like all this stuff.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
World of Darkness: God-Machine Rules Update
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A Festival of Blades: A Cavaliers of Mars Jumpstart
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/02/2016 12:35:56

So this is a short little booklet introducing the game. It is in the form of an outline of the rules, 4 pre-generateed characters, and then a short scenario. I have not played the scenario so this is my impression of the booklet as an introduction.

The outline of the rules gives a very nice taste of the eventual game. I suspect they will change as they are finalised before the final print run. They are interesting and just cover enough to make me want to see the complete set. There are new ideas for what would be initiative and fighting skills in other games Plus a good mechanic for creating a flow that follows the theme of the game They are good enough to run the scenario but you will have to adjudicate where there are gaps!

The pregen characters are a nice selection. They give an insight on the mechanics of character creation and world backgound They are optimised for playing and perhaps they should have been re-arranged to make it a little more obvious where elements of the sheet come from and how they could be used.

The scenario at the end is as you would expect, essentially 3 scenes played after each other. There is sufficient detail to get you through, but you'll have to make stuff up on the fly if the characters diverge too much! It is definitely enough to give a good feeling of the world. With the city the scenario is set in called 'Vance' the influences are very clear, also noticable Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom, and I felt a bit Space 1889y too.

Overall being a steam-space-punk fan I found the product great and cannot wait for the final version.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Festival of Blades: A Cavaliers of Mars Jumpstart
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Promethean the Created 2nd Edition
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/31/2016 16:56:15

I love this book. I love this game. I was a playtester for this Second Edition version, in fact. All that said, I appreciate and acknowledge that everyone may not share these feelings. Promethean: the Created offers experiences that run the gamut from extremely personal journeys to over-the-top transhuman craziness, and while my goals tend towards the former, I understand that mileage varies. So, what about the book? I think that it tends towards catering more to that personal side, but it does not negate any other options. I’ll go into more detail below… The book is a true new edition of the game, with some heavy revisions, big additions, and refinements (not just the ten philosophies of the Created) that shift some of the game’s base assumptions. Much of it is based on focusing and enhancing the experience of the Pilgrimage, the journey towards the New Dawn of becoming truly mortal. You see this right away with the ten Refinements – divided into Basic and Complex, where the former are ‘intuitive’ to follow while the latter require some teacher – and the addition of Roles that are tied to Transmutations that are no longer the one-to-five dot buffet of First Edition, but now nested sets of effects that tie strongly to Roles and their Refinements, all of which are somewhat based on your character’s Elpis and Torment archetypes (think along the lines of Virtue and Vice), but they lead to one of three forms of milestones that add to your Pilgrimage score (kinda like Humanity), leading to Vitriol and the eventual New Dawn. Does all of that sound complex? Yeah, it kinda is until you play it. At that point, you see just how many OPTIONS this game offers! Getting to that point, though, may prove difficult for some of us. New players may feel that entering the game is a bit like a trial by fire, and even seasoned veterans of Promethean can find the additions and changes jarring. That’s when taken as a whole, but when broken down to the individual character, it’s far more manageable. There are seven Lineages (adding the Unfleshed and Extempore from First Edition supplements) and a whopping ten Refinements (double the First Edition’s), but each is distinctive and well presented. The chapter on the Promethean experience – what some would call ‘fluff’ – is a wonderful introduction to the perspective of the Created, and it segues well to the chapter on mechanics. Here you’ll find character creation, new Merits, and all fifteen of the Transmutations, as well as mechanics for Azoth and the Pilgrimage. Again, it is a lot, for sure. Again, too, it doesn’t need to scare you off. The chapter on antagonists isn’t as robust as maybe I’d like, feeling like it only skims over Pandorans and Qashmallim, and the view of the Alchemists focuses more on what they DO than why they’re to feared. What this chapter does, however, is offer more options, which is good. I’m not a big fan of the ‘location splats’ that have appeared in each of these Second Edition books, but this one has a reasonably good one. Where the book truly shines is the last chapter, on Storytelling, where we find a bunch of great advice on how the game works, what may not work, and ways to let it work without fighting the basic concepts of Promethean. I could have given this a four-star rating for the steep learning-curve or the added complexities, but I choose to see those as wonderful reminders of how nothing in the Promethean experience is easy, and anything worth having is worth working for. Uh, also just on account of how much I LOVE this game! Five stars, and worth every cent I paid.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Promethean the Created 2nd Edition
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Miracles of the Solar Exalted
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/30/2016 07:18:18

Adds a bunch of really useful charms to the Exalted 3ed roster. Especially one of the craft charms (which allows you to retroactively apply craft) is amazing, and just what the ability needed. Low price for the pdf and a vaste increase in the usefulness of charms, I highly recommend this for any circle of Solars traversing the plane of Creation.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Miracles of the Solar Exalted
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Storypath System Preview
by Chris G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/29/2016 08:05:31

I liked what I read in the Storypath System Preview and can't wait to learn more! It is a nice blend of old school Storyteller system with some of the more modern RPG innovations mixed in to tell a more dramatic story. I'm really looking forward to playing a game with it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Storypath System Preview
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Tales of the Dark Eras
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/26/2016 14:28:43

Pretty good work. Some of the tales were a bit difficult to follow if you didnt already know what the subject matter was supposed to be, but overall i would recommend this.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tales of the Dark Eras
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Werewolf: the Forsaken 2nd Edition
by Chris L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2016 21:10:02

I read Apocalypse and Forsaken 1E, but didn't play either. This game, though, deserved to come down off the shelf and stay off, dammit.

In Werewolf: the Forsaken 2nd Edition, you play the ultimate predator. You don't have a sacred mission as in Apocalypse--not really. You're just a killer with a sense of community. That sense of community is omnipresent in both the core book and the first supplement, The Pack, and it comes up organically when roleplaying, which is nice.

Although I didn't have a lot of Werewolf experience, some of my players have, and they've noted with no small amount of pleasure a few differences here. In particular, they've hailed the changes to the Oath of the Moon over previous werewolf codes of honor. The meaning of respect your prey and the low honor the high; the high respect the low can be interpreted in enough ways to effectively be tailored to every group. For example, our ithaeur (shaman, effectively) is a smart-assed Brit that threatens spirits with inconveniences or worse; some groups might call that disrespecting prey, but we think it's fun.

My personal favorite part of the setting is the sheer variety of spiritual resonances. You don't just deal with the spirits of animals, or of objects, or even of emotions. Spirits of cybersecurity usher bit-motes on luminal pilgrimages. Spirits of HIV crowd out and suffocate spirits of excitement at a South African cultural celebration. A spirit of the local college's biology department, bloated with funding, trades essence with spirits of scientific observation to taste their secrets. The spirits of a company's shares swarm over the corporate spirit itself, commanding it in a terrible cacophony. And these ideas are just from the first few sessions!

If you're new to Werewolf, buy this. According to my players, if you're 20-year Werewolf veterans, you should buy it too.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Werewolf: the Forsaken 2nd Edition
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Chronicles of Darkness
by Chris L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/25/2016 20:53:22

A much-needed update to the previous iteration of the World of Darkness. This review is targeted at people with some knowledge of nWoD 1E.

Highlights: -Much better experience system that rewards participation and roleplay, while also simplifying trait purchase costs. -Social Maneuvering system that, while not perfect, provides a mechanical framework to schmoozing. GMing this aspect for social characters always felt a little like pulling stuff out of your ass before, but no longer! -New combat mechanics make firearms much better, which makes sense, while simultaneously widening the gap between humans and the supernatural templates. -The chapter on "Horrors" provides a great framework for creating antagonists that don't fit into one of the other supernatural settings. This is completely underappreciated, IMO, because it's a perfectly streamlined system that could be integrated into any Chronicles game, human PCs or otherwise.

Biggest complaint: The Clue systems make for lazy roleplay and GMing. It's always better to let the players decide what's a relevant clue, and then to direct their investigation as they see fit. "You look in the cabinet and find X," is less compelling than describing the cabinets, letting the players decide to look in them (or in the other room that you didn't expect them to investigate!) and then describing what they found "through their own intuition." I dunno, there's probably a way to use the Clue system without ruining scenes, but I can't figure it out. And that makes it a bad, or at least poorly communicated, system.

Net opinion: The new experience system alone would make the new ruleset worth using. Adding in Social Maneuvering and the Horrors chapter are just delicious icing on the cake.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicles of Darkness
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