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Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/09/2016 14:32:23

The Big Bang series has for many years given us a solid historical overview of weapons development, distilling its information from many public sources. The US Army Future Combat System supplement is one of my favorites of the line, since it attempts to sort out what the future of the US Army (circa 2003 when it was written) would look like from procurement, demonstrations, prototypes and other materials. It also demonstrates the two areas where I feel the Big Bang line could improve the most, so it's what I selected from the line to write an in-depth review of.


Your typical Big Bang entry is a detailed history of the need for the weapon, the process by which the weapon was developed, a comparison to past and contemporary weapons, and then some stats in various systems so that people can pick out the weapons they want and the system they want to put it in.


To the extent that this approach is justified, Big Bang does a good job with it. My criticisms of this approach are more based on my concern that the Big List Of Guns we see in many modern RPGs is rarely justified in the mechanics either by realism, tactical or strategic game decisionmaking, or narrative. (Is someone really going to tell me which of two extremely similar cartridges are going to deliver 2d4 damage and which are going to deliver 2d6 damage in a way that is going to make me interested in choosing between them?) Whatever beef I have with the Big List Of Guns concept as implemented in RPGs, Big Bang didn't invent it and at the very least it attempts to situate the guns in the needs of a particular fighting force (the US Army) in a particular time frame (what the US Army thought it would be doing in the next 5-10 years.)


This particular supplement focuses on the US Army Future Combat Systems developments. I actually like it better as it is - a snapshot of what we thought in 2003 that Future Combat Systems development would look like. In 2003 we barely launched the Iraq War, and didn't know what the immediate needs of the Army would be in that time frame. The entries reflect this, with descriptions of interim projects ordered to fit into interstitial periods between when older weapons were to broken-down to use and when newer weapons could make it through development. I sort of hope the supplement isn't updated as time goes on and what the Army's working on changes. I want to see this as a historical document.


The content of the supplement is well-covered in other reviews: a list of guns, cartridges and other types of weapons, how they were intended to be developed, and how they function in several systems. I won't go too much farther into it than that. The supplement is extremely well laid out for printing (no background images; all images are already greyscaled, used sparingly, and tables are clean and clear). Bookmarks can get you straight to the weapon you want (though frankly for laymen remembering which weapon belongs to which name can be difficult.)


If there was one area that I would urge the creator of the Big Bang series in general to address, it would be in expanding the supplements beyond the "official" story of the weapons detailed. Often times the story of a weapon extends beyond what it was intended for, how good it was, and how much it cost. Soldiers have always manipulated and customized their weapons and their uses. Corruption and incompetence cause weapon development to go off the rails. Weapons develop reputations and those reputations may be the flashpoint for internal conflicts inside organizations and fighting forces. (Ask the Army about the A-10. Now ask the Air Force!) I would love to see Big Bang entries, especially those that are forward-looking talk about potential problems that the weapons described might run into, or potential advantages that were unplanned-for. In reality, the Future Combat Systems program was cancelled in 2009; a review of the program blamed the premature acceleration of a major internal milestone. That could be an interesting problem for those who are testing or stuck with weapons of various kinds - only getting part of a "system" that was meant to work together.


If the Big Bang series is aimed at games where we're playing soldiers (not, say, members of the House Armed Services Committee - wait, why has nobody written this game?!?!) then let's see some thinking about what might work or not work about a weapon in the field. Heck, in a supplement about weapons systems that aren't out yet, you can just extrapolate it yourself!


That's a lot of words explaining a critique that probably doesn't matter much in the grand scheme of things. All in all, the Big Bang supplements are well worth their inexpensive price, and are much more interesting than your typical "Big List Of Guns" supplements since they attempt to situate the weapons within a historical moment and organizational context, and are well-organized and easy to use. They cross many system lines and if you're looking for cool stuff for soldiering games (or for my upcoming game about being in the House Armed Services Committee; ORIGINAL IDEA DO NOT STEAL), you should definitely check them out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Vol. 3: US Army Future Combat Systems
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DRIFT: The Inferior Planets
by Michael H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/31/2012 16:24:30

I had originally rated this product low in 2008. I had purchased and downloaded it, expecting a useable game system and instead only had a few pages. Later I took my negative review down after the author sent an upset reply to me, stating the description explained it as a work in progress. Deciding to give him the benefit of a doubt, I retracted my original review.
I am now posting my negative review again, as it has been four years and the product does not seem to be any further along than the last time I checked. There is a table of contents that lists many sections, but maybe 5%-10% if not less have actual content. The content is limited to setting and fictional story, and nothing that I would consider useful as far as contributing to a playable game at this time. The current content also contains blank pages as well as 'placeholder' pages for things that have their own, separate file. My feeling at this point is that the author has no intent of ever completing this content and has effectively taken my money and run.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
DRIFT: The Inferior Planets
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Publisher Reply:
Considering the description has never changed, you probably should have read it properly before making your purchase. Right at the end, it addressed your expectations: "Early releases of the product series will be generic, with support for various game systems coming at a later date. This first release provides the introduction, as well as the Atlas entries for the inferior planets (the planets that orbit closer to the Sun thanEarth, namely Mercury and Venus). Also included are a Table of Contents and Glossary that will expand with future releases. " So it seems your negative review is based on expectations you would not have if you could actually comprehend what you were reading. Second, sales affect future releases. While most buyers have thought highly of Drift, sales are not high enough to make it a high priority product line.
Modern Kyuujinjouhoushi: The Gunfight Disciple
by Andrew M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2011 18:38:23

Gun Disciple incorporates "realistic" abilities for a character that may have Strong-Soldier, or possibly Fast-Gunslinger predominant in their build, or even Tough-Bodyguard, for the culture it depicts is very much one of protective action. The key to understanding it - and finding it of any use - is the Colt 1911M1A1. If you love the gun, you'll love this prestige class. If you don't have any expertise with the gun, you will have to argue with your GM as to what qualifies as a "clone" of it because the author does not offer a list. A broad-minded GM might agree that your Desert Eagle is acceptable, in which case yippee, because you are on your way to becoming a living weapon of death-dealing. What the author does make clear is that modern autoloaders made with composite materials are out, out, out. So if you built your character based on the Glock since it's masterwork, fuggeddaboudit.


This prestige class offers what to me is a unique perspective. The class is the product of a single expert's translation of his own skill set into d20 Modern. Inevitably a single perspective may be loved or hated, endorsed or rebutted. If purchasers accept that this comes from such a perspective they will be the better for it and proceed to actually fitting it to their character or campaign.


Another reviewer has mentioned the high skill/feat requirements. However this class is so lethal I thoroughly endorse the requirements (with the caveat covered below). They do mean that you need to prepare well in advance - the Gun Disciple is not something you can just switch to.


This is a unique prestige class that adds directly to the d20 Modern opus. It explains where the authority for the class design comes from; it explains the class in the usual way; and lays out the talent progression. I also liked the background the publishers add to make it more than just a greyscale PDF. The only reason I'm marking it down from five stars is the uniquely restrictive weapon requirement and the grey area around what might qualify as equivalent to a Colt M1911A1.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Kyuujinjouhoushi: The Gunfight Disciple
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Modern Kyuujinjouhoushi: The Kowloon Gun God
by Andrew M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2011 18:19:25

Kowloon Gun God incorporates "cinematic" abilities for the type of agile character that uses modern automatics such as Glocks, SIGs or H&Ks. Lots of rounds to use, lots of acrobatic abilities. The KGG offers a prestige path beyond Gunslinger, or quite possibly a complete alternative to the Gunslinger if planned well in advance.


This is a very nice prestige class that adds directly to the d20 Modern opus. It does exactly what it sets out to do: it explains where the inspiration for the class comes from, so that GMs can easily decide whether it fits the campaign culture; it explains the class in the usual way; and lays out a feast of talents. I also liked the background the publishers add to make it more than just a greyscale PDF. If I have one criticism, and it's a small one, I don't love the placing of Bonus Feats, which are tucked away toward the bottom of the class description after all of the Talents. I believe Feats should be placed directly after the Skills section.


I would love to run my character through KGG: in fact I would like to acquire two complete talent trees, they are so mouth-watering! I highly recommend this to players of agile, daring characters that are familiar with modern Autoloaders.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Modern Kyuujinjouhoushi: The Kowloon Gun God
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Big Bang Guide to Firearms Special Edition Revised
by Chet C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/16/2011 23:37:54

Big Bang is the best, bar none, set of rules for simulation of real combat firearms. Useful for adding flavor to almost any rules (I love it for Fudge!) you can have your gun rules as crunchy or as fudgey as you like. The firefight is hot and heavy? Go with the quick way and you'll still have a shoot-out more realistic than almost anywhere in RPG land.


All Big Bang guides are highly recommended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Guide to Firearms Special Edition Revised
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Shadows of Midnight: West Milford, 4th Edition
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/16/2010 21:46:06

This is a great book. It is filled with stories of mystery and the macabre. The best part is that I have heard many of the stories in the book. Not only does Jorgensen go into detail about strange happenings, but also provides locations and tips on visiting for the brave adventurers willing to check them out. Obviously, those places that are off limits are pointed out explicitly, so you don't have to worry about the authorities and men in black.


Another great aspect of the book is that the author also debunks several of the stories including Demon Alley, where the townspeople mysteriously vanished leaving dinner on the table and the rest of their worldly possessions. From cults and demon dogs to UFOs and just plain creepy folks, this book is guaranteed to put a chill down your spine.


Now it's on an RPG website, so what's in it for us gamers? Well, it doesn't take much work to get tons of hooks for a horror or mystery game. For the uninspired, it even lays out a mini-campaign with pick and choose menus of locations and events that you string together. Combine that with a modern d20 conversion section with monster stats, NPCs, PC classes, and a number of other resources.


If you like horror games, Weird New Jersey, or just reading interesting folk lore, check this out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Midnight: West Milford, 4th Edition
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Shadows of Midnight: Mary's Tower
by Tim L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/18/2010 06:48:12

Shadows of Midnight has published three adventure locations, and I recommend them because of their links to The Unexplained (Carnivore Games, http://carnivoregames.c-
om/wp/
).


"Mary's Tower" (36 pages) is totally systemless and focues on a location and its surroundings, provinding the same detailed descriptions of paranormal and non-paranormal research done along with photographs.


The text is farily easy to read (except for the introduction which is a little blurry) and the printing is quick for most of the documents (some slight delay for the heavier colors).


I recommend them.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Midnight: Mary's Tower
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Shadows of Midnight: Jackson House
by Tim L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/18/2010 06:45:24

Shadows of Midnight has published three adventure locations, and I recommend them because of their links to The Unexplained (Carnivore Games, http://carnivoregames.c-
om/wp/
).


"Jackson House" (33 pages) is totally systemless and focuses on just one location, now burned to the ground. Again, the book is filled with creepy color photos (taken before it was razed), a detailed description of the premise (including the author's own observations "when I photographed this...") and a variety of uses for non-paranormal use ("police investiation", "stolen property", "the bet", "the inheritance".)


I recommend them.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Midnight: Jackson House
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Shadows of Midnight: West Milford
by Tim L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/18/2010 06:41:35

Shadows of Midnight has published three adventure locations, and I recommend them because of their links to The Unexplained (Carnivore Games, http://carnivoregames.c-
om/wp/
).


"West Milford", although containing a few stat blocks for d20, is 97 pages of Unexplained weirdness: paranormal sites, UFOs, cryptozological sightings. It contains the creepiest photos taken by the author (a resident of the state of NJ) who did extensive research into the sites.


Not only is each site explained, but you get driving directions! The author also provides non-paranormal explanations of all sites, includes a mini-campaign that connects them in a bloody modern-day Cult war (Slasher-film style), character templates (for d20 but easily portable) and advice for using the entries for a variety of other uses (police investigation, UFO). Also includes are modern-day horrors ("new elementals"), the Radon monster and the Lead monster (spontaneously oozing out of the radiation-infected local or the lead-poisoned homes).


Note that the primary focus for the mini-campaign focues on the incredibly disturbing Cult slayings that focus one of the claims of the area (Demon Alley -- only one of the backgrounds, but a slaughter-house mess) but do include the ghost-hauntings as well.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Midnight: West Milford
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Shadows of Midnight: Jackson House
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/28/2009 12:38:56

Beautifully presented with many atmospheric photographs, this book details a real house, widely believed to be haunted, in New Jersey, USA... or at least formerly there, since the original survey by the author the house was badly damaged in a fire and eventually had to be demolished. For the purposes of your game, consider it still to be standing...


The Introduction gives a bit of history about how the book came to be written, stemming from earlier work including a previous description of this house which apparently lacked any maps - commented on by many gamers and rectified here, of which more anon. And here is the book's main flaw, an insistence on quirky typefaces that make it quite hard to read. The Introduction uses a very blurred 'typewriter' font while the rest - only slightly clearer - is one of those 'handwriting' fonts.


To start with, there's a detailed description of how to get to the site in Jackson, NJ. (OK, I admit to being a sad map geek, but I actually found it with Google Maps!) This is followed by brief accounts of the two main tales behind the house - that a paedophile killed several children there, and that a man murdered his wife... and then suggests that should BOTH stories be true, there might be cause for an awful lot of haunting!


Next, the house itself is described, as being derelict and boarded up. The description is quite creepy, as is the flock of crows that hangs around in the trees edging the yard, as well as a noose and a pulley and chain hanging from the branches. Moving inside, the atmospheric and spooky descriptions continue - all material you could lift verbatim to describe the place as the characters explore. One item that has survived the house's abandonment is a player piano which, despite the lack of mechanism or paper roll, is said to still play itself upon occasion.


The descriptions continue in this vein as the tour moves through the rest of the house, complete with many photographs. The account is given from the standpoint of paranormal investigation, with snippets about equipment used and phenomena observed, again useful if your adventures involve that kind of activity. This part concludes with reports of the witness observations that might be gathered in the locality, including mention of several visitors to the house being attacked by someone wielding an axe as they left!


Next are some ideas for how you might use the house within the context of your adventures. One really evil idea is to have one of your characters inherit the house, or of course if your characters are ghost-hunters or the like they may have heard of its reputation and decide to visit of their own accord. There are other suggestions too, a little muddled at times but all possibilities... and the really neat thing is that each one has been taken further than a mere suggestion into a basic plot outline, about half-a-dozen in all.


And finally, the maps and room keys. The author says she struggled, having to match memory with photograph without the house for reference, as no sketches of the floorplan had been made while it was still standing. The outcome, although a bit of a sketch map rather than a formal plan, seems to work pretty well.


Overall, this is a fine example of taking a real-world place - particularly one with a colourful history - and creating a useful game resource. Next time I need a haunted house... (Oh, and although published for D20 Modern it's quite systemless and could be used with whatever ruleset you please!).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadows of Midnight: Jackson House
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Big Bang: The Mostly Illustrated RPG Guide to Firearms Vol 1
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/24/2009 12:56:53

Everyone needs a giant book of guns at some time or another. Either you are going to run a Tom Clancy technothriller, you have a character who is a "gun character" (my wife calls hers "gun bunnies", okay dear) or you want to really make everyone gasp and giggle when the characters open a duffel bag and you start reeling off calibers and model numbers. Enter the Big Bang series! Lovingly detailed and researched, these entries hearken back to supplements such as the Compendium of Modern Firearms in the early 90s and even Top Secret in the 80s.


If you want guns, you can't go wrong with the Big Bang series.


The PDF is of high quality and prints quickly. However, it doesn't have any added electronic features.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang: The Mostly Illustrated RPG Guide to Firearms Vol 1
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DRIFT: The Inferior Planets
by Daryl D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/27/2008 15:43:27

An amazing idea, pretty well executed; liked the idea of PCs flying around in old-school hardware doing what they do. Also, the locations are (reasonably) accurate (w/ the noted, purposeful exception of the Vulcanoids) and pretty playable. Disadvantages are as follows: you'd better have a good idea of the nature of the actually useful older craft in the space program, for realism's sake; a Mercury was not a useful spacecraft for anything but test flights by any means.
Also, they kind of wimped out on us, giving us the least-traffic region in the Solar system to deal with; what with Mercury a mine/prison and Venus a terraforming location; Mars or Ceres would have been a LOT more interesting and useful for an independent bunch of PCs.


Last, the downloads were sectioned rather oddly (TOC, Text Glossary, and Text) for useful reference. why?



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DRIFT: The Inferior Planets
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Big Bang Vol. 6: German Small Arms of WW2
by Charles C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2008 01:45:58

happy and glad that such a book was created.. just wish there was more to the series for WW II arms...


now this here has wepons that are a lot of times forgotten or no one really knew about such as the luftfuast or the panzer fuast 150-250. they have a bunch of differnt types and modles of the same gun because the germans liked to waste time makeing veriants. and it has a nice size list of small and large arms. now it goes not have all the fire arms but then again a book with every german WW II fire arm would be a novle.


it is a must have and i say get it, even if you do not agree with the damage dice or some of the IRL to RPG stats it gives you a great idea. i hope they make more WW II fire arm books.


Likes: lots of wepons for differnt type of systems, and lots of history for it.


disslikes: they seemd to ignore my faves G43 or K43, the STG, and my fave the paratrooper FG 42


main thought: make a 2nd book with the other stuff, but a pretty good buy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Vol. 6: German Small Arms of WW2
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Big Bang Vol. 4: European Military Rifles, 1870-1900
by Charles C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/12/2008 01:29:21

Super great... i just wish books like this were easyer to find, hard to get books on old guns like these for RPG's I just wish they ha more guns. they seem to pick and choose and ignored some good ones like not a single german gun... i know the 98 is in a million rpgs now but there are other mousers such as the 1891 mouser which used a differnt system and bullet. and no 1881 naggant, well i am not saying thats a dissapointment but this book is saposed to be early military arms but it seems to be only italy swiss us and uk when really thats just a very select few. now i am happy with the product but i was shocked at the lack of other wepons that could or should have made it in this book cause come on, unless you going to make a 2nd book cant say early military firearms and skip ones you dont wanna do unless you call the book "Some Early Militry Firearms"


for the most part the book is 100% worth getting just remember that if there is smething that is lacking makeing you want them to make a nother book.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Vol. 4: European Military Rifles, 1870-1900
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Big Bang Ricochet 016: The Cardoen Alacr?n
by Abraham E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2008 16:27:46

This is an interesting if brief look at a virtually unknown vehicle -- one of a handful of half-tracks designed and produced after WWII. The photos are the best part, as they offer modelers a chance to actually build the vehicle, while a sufficiently wide range of RPG data is included to keep everyone happy. In all a very good buy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Big Bang Ricochet 016: The Cardoen Alacr?n
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