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Paragons
by Peter F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/19/2016 22:49:50

Paragons is a strange beast. I absolutely adore this book, but I can't recommend it without a few initial caveats. First and foremost is that Paragons is not exactly a setting. It's a toolbox, albeit one with all the elements of a setting: a high concept (a real-ish world with mysterious superpowers, where the "Breakout" of paranormal ability is relatively recent), a whole boatload of organizations and NPCs to interact with, lots of adventure seeds, and the Imageria -- a spirit world/collective unconscious/paranormal enigma in which all of myth, legend, and story can be found in some form or another. Second is that the design of the book leans heavily towards being a source for GMs. All the information on the NPCs, including any secrets they might have, are listed right there in the character section, rather than separated into their own chapter as used to be commonplace. Finally, Paragons is almost ten years old as of this review -- the setting and concepts translate surprisingly well, but a few things stand out as anachronistic (remember when the TV series Heroes was the hot new thing, just before Iron Man changed the superhero landscape forever?), and it uses Second Edition M&M, so playing Paragons in 3e will take a little work.


All that said...remember when I mentioned loving Paragons? This book just oozes personality, somehow implying an enormous setting with a rich history without setting any of it in stone. For a GM who wants a semi-realistic modern setting with super-powers, a world of dark strangeness revealed, or a gonzo everything-is-connected framework to provide connections in a more four-color setting, Paragons can't be beat. Its organizations have enough detail to hint at complex, ongoing agendas while leaving plenty of room for GM development or reimagining. Every NPC is an interesting potential plot hook. The Imageria gives Paragons a unique flavor that keeps it from being generic, while having more than enough flexibility to serve a wide variety of different campaign purposes. Many of the forces in play are connected, giving Paragons a lived-in feel, while still managing to allow for the insertion or removal of characters or factions without disrupting the meta-setting's elegance. It's simply a master class in world kit design. Frankly, I would call it perfect were it not for the aforementioned lack of separation between player and GM sections.


There's a trend in superhero gaming that leans toward getting back to the bright colors and "anything goes" nature of old-school comics. It's a welcome move towards optimism and pure fun, and Freedom City staked out territory in that realm many years ago. Even so, there's still plenty of room for a more critical eye on what superhuman powers would do to, and with, real people. Further, not only is there nothing stopping groups from running a near-straight superhero campaign in Paragons, the idea gets plenty of support with the official UN super-team Vanguard and a few sample NPC heroes (though the Paragons plug-in found in Worlds of Freedom would probably help). Just don't expect the super-villains to fly around wearing spandex; that's largely a hero gig. Where Paragons shines is in the chance to do other things with superpowers, either instead of or in addition to old-fashioned rescuing. There are mysteries to solve, conspiracies to foil, tough questions to face, vast reaches of space and Imageria to explore, and the big question to which Paragons gives no definitive answer (while covering the most likely possibilities): just how is all this impossibility possible?


I cannot recommend Paragons enough to GMs looking for something unique in a modern setting. Yes, it takes a lot of buy-in, and much of the work is front-loaded, but the results will almost certainly be worth it. Paragons is a book and world that needs a lot more love.


As a final aside, much of the buy-in and early work can be minimized by borrowing from a few of the other "secret modern world with powers" books on your shelf. Mage (either), Shadowforce Archer, Feng Shui, Conspiracy X, just about anything with Lovecraft...all can be raided for parts, with groups and/or characters fitted into Paragons with a minimum of fuss.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Paragons
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Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
by Robert L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2016 12:09:42

This review appeared originally at www.forgotmydice.com


In a world where D&D exists, one of the questions I often find myself asking when I read fantasy RPG systems is this: Why am I playing this when I could be playing D&D? It’s a simple question, and not every game system has a satisfactory answer. Fantasy Age, however, is one system that not only do I like a lot, it also has two answers to that eternal question. Firstly, there are three classes in the game, and none of them are a cleric. It is a system that from the ground up has no plans for the divine world and the player character world ever touching. You can make that happen obviously, but again it’s not baked in. Secondly, Fantasy Age reminds me a lot of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia. It is a complete RPG system in one book, which is helpful when you want something a little lighter.


The Basics
Fantasy Age is the core rule book of the AGE system, which stands for Adventure Game Engine. It is the system that was first used for the excellent Dragon Age RPG. They have been talking about separating the system out for years, but sadly it was released just after D&D 5th edition, which meant it got over-shadowed by the big kid on the block. Luckily, Fantasy Age got a boost when Wil Wheaton used it for his own YouTube series Titansgrave. So soon after release, the game had a long adventure campaign that you could run. Plus, Titansgrave is set in a science-fantasy world, so you get the added bonus of playing a game with some robots and blasters thrown in, which was a nice change of pace if you have been playing traditional high fantasy D&D for a while.


Fantasy AGE by itself is a generic high fantasy game. The overview of it covers all the bases you will probably want. You got Elves, Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, Humans, and Orcs. The three classes are Mage, Warrior and Rogue. It has a short section on monsters and how to make more (sadly the book doesn’t come with enough monsters on its own, but fortunately the internet has more than made up for this). Plus there is a small intro adventure in the back. All of that in one hardback book for $29.95 MSRP… that’s a lot of value in-between those covers!


One of the biggest draws for me for the Fantasy Age system is that a lot of “fantasy” stories out there are difficult to translate to D&D. The main reason is that one of the core classes of D&D the cleric class, but very few popular fantasy stories feature clerics (at least, D&D clerics which have direct links to known gods which are also the source of magical power for these clerics). Fantasy Age is a very solid and simple game engine. So settings where the gods and religion are much more a matter of faith rather than gameplay, such as Dragon Age or Game of Thrones, you have a rules system that is much easier to for it to plug into.


The Rules
Characters are created using a similar system to 5th edition D&D, including picking a Race, a Class, and a Background. Also, much like D&D, early in level players pick a specialization that gives them extra powers and focuses them around a particular sub set of abilities. Unlike D&D, players eventually learn two of these specializations, so mixing and matching these can lead to some very interesting combinations.


Characters also get “talents” as they level up, which in D&D terms can be thought of as feats. What I like about this system is that talents have three levels of mastery: novice, journeyman, and master. It’s up to the individual player how their character will progress. They can focus on and master a few talents, or spread out the points and be novices in many, random talents. So even though there are only three initial classes to pick from, they can be customized to be different in a myriad of different ways.


The dice mechanic in Fantasy Age is different as well. Instead of rolling a single dice, you roll 3d6. Two of your dice should be the same color, and one of them should be a separate color to symbolize the Stunt Die. Whenever you roll, if you roll doubles on any of the 3 dice and the total roll equals a success, you generate Stunt Points equal to what you rolled on the Stunt Die. For combat rolls, this allows you to add riders onto your attacks. For skill checks, this allows you to add different dramatic effects so you complete a skill with particular panache. I’m also a fan of this system as it makes figuring out the difficulty level of tasks easy. Because you’re rolling 3 dice most of the time, the most common roll result is 10. So if you ever find yourself needing to roll a number higher than 10, especially 12+, you should probably spend some resources or use a class ability to get yourself a bonus, or just use a different tactic to solve the problem.


Finally, in D&D, the Strength or Dexterity stat gives you a straight bonus to your hit and damage rolls. In Fantasy Age, the stats are more nuanced, resulting in the stats Accuracy, Dexterity, Fighting, and Strength, among others. This means you can have the stats reflect the fluff of a character, such as a creature that is super strong but has a hard time hitting things, like a Ogre. But when one stat affects both those aspects, it means you can’t have a character with a low attack bonus but with a high strength stat. So this system allows the Game Master more creativity when creating monsters for the players to fight. For instance, you can make something very skilled at applying weapons to adventurers but also with weak strength (like say a Sprite) so the little sword hits don’t do much damage. Or you can make a big giant that will hit you like a truck but has a hard time connecting with the humans that only come up to its shins.


Final Thoughts
This is a really great book, and I have a fondness for any game system that manages to fit everything you need in one volume. The game system itself is much more rules-light and narrative than D&D, but still has enough crunch to make things interesting. It is definitely on my list of games I’d like to play or run, either by running Titansgrave, or by converting it to another setting. Anyone looking for a similar game system should give it a try.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
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Mutants & Masterminds Atlas of Earth-Prime: East Asia
by Tom R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/04/2016 12:35:17

I find the "Atlas of Earth Prime" series to be very useful. Lots of good information about various locales around the world. This one is especially good as it has lopts of interesting stuff about Japan, and it really fits in with how I was thinking about what is going on.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Atlas of Earth-Prime: East Asia
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A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide: A Game of Thrones Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/18/2016 07:43:00

This is a revised and 'cleaned up' revamp of the original Campaign Guide, with the information exactly the same as the original. They've changed stat blocks some, and added new art, but that's about it.


So, as a 'setting guide' to the well established continent of Westeros (and beyond), this book provides a wealth of detail about the setting, a magnificent gazetteer, history lesson and more to devlve into: it makes good reading if you like the books and want to know more about the world in which they are set, never mind run a game there!


The Introduction sets out its stall, opening with the oft-heard words 'Winter is coming'. It's a foreboding, a growing sense that the state of affairs is precarious and teetering on the edge of total war, not just the petty bickerings of the various lordlings of the Seven Kingdoms but something far worse. Like the core rulebook, the assumption is made that the present day is just before the starting point of the books. Robert Baratheon sits on the Iron Throne, Westeros is basically at peace, and the exiled remnants of the Targaryen family are somewhere across the sea bemoaning their fate. It's before the War of the Five Kings but after Greyjoy's Rebellion. Specifically, the game focuses on the last year before the start of A Game of Thrones. This provides an interesting tension: will things play out as they do in the books or will what your group does literally change the path of history in Westeros. Maybe the book's events provide the backdrop against which your own adventures will be played out, sometimes sweeping the party up and other times occuring in the background whilst your game focusses on other things.


On to Chapter 1: A History of Westeros. A vast and sweeping history this is, and here we read of the knowledge commonly held by maesters, septons, and other chroniclers of history, the sort of thing a well-educated local with an interest in the past would know. A lot of that history is filled with warfare and bloodshed. We read of the earliest days before the First Men, of an age of heroes, of the building of the Wall and the foundation of the Night's Watch. The first houses are formed, and strands laid down that have an effect through the ages to the present. The effects of the peculiar climate are seen, with the Long Night condemning a whole generation to life in winter's grip, ending in the War for the Dawn. On to the coming of the Andals with their new gods, the Seven, and their new ways, adding six new kingdoms to the Kingdom of the North. Eventually about three centuries before the present, the Targaryens came to Westeros from their island stronghold complete with dragons. Under their rule, the positions of the noble houses were consolidated into the pattern known today. It makes for a fascinating read.


Next is Chapter 2: Westeros Culture. This explores what it is like to live on Westeros, and opens with the startling statement that there are few laws and little justice! It rests instead on the whims of local lordlings to keep the peace in their domains. Most agree that murderers, rapists and thieves need to be dealt with, but there is nothing like a code of law to refer to when deciding what to do with them and the severity of any punishment, indeed the finding of guilt, can depend as much on who the perpetrator was as on what they did. Other topics include hospitality, marriage, inheritance and lordship... not to mention how such a dynastic society copes with bastards! Pastimes such as hunting and feasting are covered, then we move on to the important topic of social status and rank. We also read about commerce, clothing, arms and armour and food and drink. Unsurprisingly for a place with such a long and rich history, songs and stories feature large as entertainment. Religion and knighthood are also covered, along with the work of the maesters. This section ends with a big map, covering two pages, which sets the scene nicely for the remainder of the book which contains an analysis of Westeros, region by region.


Beginning with King's Landing, each chapter follows a common pattern detailing the history and geography of the region in question. Then come notes on important locations and notable organisations and individuals to be found there. Many people come complete with a stat block: your party might encounter them, after all. Each chapter ends with brief notes (and the coats of arms) of the minor noble houses affiliated with whoever's in charge. Perhaps your group will form one of these houses, or use them as a model when creating their own.


Following King's Landing, complete with the ruling house of Baratheon, chapters cover Dragonstone, The North, the Iron Islands, the Riverlands, the Mountains of the Moon and the Vale of Arryn, the Westerlands, the Reach, the Stormlands and finally Dorne. But there's more! Chapter 13: Beyond Westeros looks at the eastern lands - the Free Cities, the Dothraki Sea and more, all again handled in the same manner as parts of Westeros; the finally Chapter 14: Exploring Westeros is mostly addressed to the Narrator (GM) and talks about creating the right look and feel, the atmosphere of Westeros, for the group as they adventure there. Many themes are suggested here, intrigue and scheming of course, but betrayal, cruelty and vengence also loom large. So do sex, tarnished victories and the need for children to grow up real fast. With all these things, care should be taken to find a balance between a gritty and realistic world and a repellant gore-fest. It also addresses the issue I mentioned earlier: with the game's timeline starting just before the events of the books, how do you accommodate the events portrayed therein? Various ideas are presented here, leading on to a discussion on stories and chronicles in general. Plenty of ideas to get you thinking round off the book.


This is a fantastic account of a wonderful setting, a great guide on how to translate the setting of a favoured novel or TV show into game terms, retaining the full flavour of the original yet providing ample support to help you make it your own. If you have the original edition, it's probably not worth the upgrade, but if you don't, make sure you get this edition. Winter is coming, to be sure, but what are YOU going to do about it?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide: A Game of Thrones Edition
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A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Tablet Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/16/2016 08:44:04

Opening with an Introduction that gives an overview of the adventure in which you are about to embark, the freedom and excitement of role-playing, taking control of your own character's destiny in a shared story, rather than watching or reading what others (writers, actors, directors...) have decided he should do; and explains the roles of Narrator (this game's term for the Game Master or GM) and players, then there's a brief overview of the contents of the book and we're off!


First up is an overview of the setting in Chapter 1: A Westeros Primer. If you are interested in this work you have probably read George R.R. Martins' novels or watched the TV show Game of Thrones already, but here's a fascinating account of the land and the people that dwell thereon from the pen of one Maester Jesiah - looking almost like an illuminated manuscript complete with the sigils of major houses. For this game is all about power struggles and intrigues - although there are plenty of opportunities for those who want to get more physical here as well - as the houses vie for power, position and perhaps the Iron Throne itself (which is said to be remarkably uncomfortable as a chair, whatever it might represent). The history is written from a standpoint of about the time the story in the novels begins... which may of course unfold quite differently in your hands.


The chapter continues with further notes. Knights are central to many of the stories told here, but they are by no means the only players in the Game of Thrones. Still, concepts of chivalry and the importance of rank and of bloodline run deep. There's an outline of how the land is governed and law works - mostly at the whim of whichever lordling is in control, by right of birth or of conquest, at that place. Details of technology, of religious beliefs, of the concept of knighthood as practised here, of maesters and more are also to be found in this chapter. Essential reading to give an overview of the setting.


Next, Chapter 2: Game Rules provides a look at the game mechanics underpinning A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. They are based around fists-full of d6s, with bonuses and modifiers as appropriate. Put simply, to attempt a task you decide which ability applies and use that to decide how many dice to roll - these are your Test Dice. If you qualify for a bonus, you get to add more dice to your roll, but then select the highest ones to the number of Test Dice you have. Modifiers are numerical additions or subtractions from the result achieved with the Test Dice. The aim is you test your abilities against a Narrator-set difficulty for the task you are trying to perform. That's the basics, and there are plenty of examples and special cases to show you how it all works. It's more straightforward than it looks at first glance, and soon becomes second nature.


We then dive straight in to characters, beginning with a series of archetypes for those who don't want to go through all the effort of creating one from scratch. These can of course be customised to suit your specific needs and desires. These come as Adults or Young Adults - youthful characters can be quite potent in the Game of Thrones, particularly if they are heirs to one of the houses. However, if you'd rather create your own character from the ground up, move on swiftly to Chapter 3: Character Creation and find out how it's done.


Now it gets interesting. The assumption is that the players get together and create members of a single noble house. Thus individual and group fortunes are tied together, success and failure affect everybody. So you start off by designing, as a group, your house and lands. Only then do you consider the role you wish to play in that house. In creating that character, first you decide his age (banded from youths under 9 to venerable people over the age of 80) and status (from 1-6). These can be chosen or rolled randomly as preferred, although it may be best if everyone uses the same method! Then you start fleshing out the character with things like the area of expertise you're after - Expert, Leader, Rogue, Schemer, or Warrior - backgrounds, goals, etc. Only then do you get to grips with determining abilities and other things that tie into the game mechanics directly. As everyone is affilitated to the same house, you'll need to ensure that all aspects you want are covered. High status comes at a price - rank is bought from the same pool of points as your other abilities! There is plenty of guidance - and lots of examples - to help you through the process.


The next couple of chapters - Chapter 4: Abilities and Specialities and Chapter 5: Destiny and Qualities - go into great depth about all the options available and how to use them to best effect once the game begins. Choose carefully, these are the building blocks upon which your character will stand or fall.


Then comes the fascinating Chapter 6: Houses and Lands. We've already touched on the notion that the default is a group of characters associated with the same house. Here we learn how to create, as a group, that house. It's recommended that you do this before you create individual characters, so that you'll already have an idea of the place into which each of them will have to fit - but others may prefer to create characters first and build a house around them, so do not feel constrained, pick whatever seems right for you as a group. You start by deciding where in the Realms you're based (or you can roll for it). The first time I did this, it was a cold day and we unanimously decided to build in the deserts of Dorne on account that it was warm there! There are lots of ideas and notes to help as the process continues, choosing resourcesm, determining the history of your house, and so on. Of course, some groups may choose to play individual characters without this common bond, others may prefer to represent a noble house apiece and vie with each other rather than with NPC nobles for power and status. It's up to you - but this is a good manual for designing houses, and indeed quantifying the existing ones too. And if you want to be the Starks or the Lannisters, go right ahead! There's even advice on choosing a motto (or 'Words' as they're known in Westeros) and a coat of arms for your house. Whilst in the books houses go for sigils and colours, here there's a primer on standard European heraldry to help you create a good-looking and effective coat of arms. The final step is to describe the household - some people will be your characters, but most will be NPCs, but you will know who they are and what they are like.


After Chapter 7: Equipment gets you all the stuff you need, there are separate chapters on the three ways your characters will interact with the world and everyone in it: Intrigue, Combat and Warfare. Each is a mix of ideas and concepts and the game mechanics you need to make them happen. Although it comes over as if you can reduce everything to rolls of the dice, these are the guidelines, the element of chance in an uncertain world - it's what your characters say and do that is important, and a good Narrator will focus on role-play, interactions and planning far more than the fall of dice.


Speaking of the Narrator, Chapter 11: The Narrator provides a wealth of material to aid him in designing and running adventures and campaigns. Ideas are presented in the way major characters in the novels embodied them, be it Lord Eddard Stark facing dilemmas, his wife Catelyn living up to expectations, Petyr Baylish's treachery or Ser Barristan Selmy showing the influence of history on the present... and there's more, of course. There's also detailed advice about making the rules work for your story.


Overall, it's a fine representation of the novels and TV show in game terms, with plenty to think about as you embark on the Game of Thrones! See if your house will become a power behind the Iron Throne or even see a member of it sitting there, or perhaps you will be safer but more obscure... but remember, Winter is coming!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Tablet Edition
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A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: A Game of Thrones Edition
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/16/2016 08:42:22

This revised version of the A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying came about due to the increased popularity of George R.R. Martins' work brought about by the TV adaptation Game of Thrones. The core ruleset is unchanged, although errata have been applied. A short introductory adventure - the one from the Quick Start - and a longer one, Peril at King's Landing (also available as a separate book), are also included to get you off to a flying start. The artwork is even better than before, and overall presentation improved as well. The Introduction explains all this, as well as having the usual 'What is a role-playing game?' information.


Chapter 1: A Westeros Primer is concerned with the setting. It opens with notes from Maester Jesiah (looking almost as if he'd written them himself, illuminated manuscript style), which give an overview of the history, current affairs and geography of Westeros. Fascinating reading, followed by a set of notes on life in Westeros - the legal situation (mostly down to the whim of the local lordling although many take their responsibilities seriously), the current state of technology, religion, ending with knighthood and the role of the maester.


Next, Chapter 2: Game Rules covers the basics of how to play the game. The core game mechanic is based around fists-full of d6s, with bonuses and modifiers as appropriate. Put simply, to attempt a task you decide which ability applies and use that to decide how many dice to roll - these are your Test Dice. If you qualify for a bonus, you get to add more dice to your roll, but then select the highest ones to the number of Test Dice you have. Modifiers are numerical additions or subtractions from the result achieved with the Test Dice. The aim is you test your abilities against a Narrator-set difficulty for the task you are trying to perform. That's the basics, and there are plenty of examples and special cases to show you how it all works. It's more straightforward than it looks at first glance, and soon becomes second nature. This chapter ends with some character archetypes - use these as exemplars or even for your own character, or just as guidelines as you move on to Chapter 3: Character Creation.


The whole business of character creation is intended to be a communal effort, as the default mode of playing the game is for the characters to be all members of (or associated with) a single noble house. So in creating the character, you are also laying a lot of the groundwork towards designing a house (although that is covered in more detail in Chapter 6: Houses and Lands). Whilst Chapter 3 takes you through the process, Chapter 4: Abilities and Specialities and Chapter 5: Destiny and Qualities provide the fine detail of the choices that you need to make, and also explain how you use everything you pick to effect with the game mechanics. Well worth a good read through before you start off making your characters, a thorough understanding will aid you in creating potent characters which complement one another. Once you have done, Chapter 7: Equipment ensures your characters have everything that they need.


The next three chapters cover Intrigue, Combat and Warfare: the main occupations of the average noble house on Westeros. Each could be reduced to a series of die rolls, but of course - especially in the case of intrigue - there is plenty more scope than that, each of these activities has scope for ample role-playing with the dice merely adding the element of chance ito an uncertain world. It is the combination of players and Narrator that will bring the game to life with role-play, interactions and planning taking precedence over the fall of the dice.


Speaking of the Narrator, Chapter 11 is devoted to a masterclass in how to run the game with a wealth of material to aid you in designing and running adventures and campaigns. Ideas are presented in the way major characters in the novels embodied them, be it Lord Eddard Stark facing dilemmas, his wife Catelyn living up to expectations, Petyr Baylish's treachery or Ser Barristan Selmy showing the influence of history on the present... and there's more, of course. There's also detailed advice about making the rules work for your story, on managing play during sessions and so on.


The rest of the book contains the two adventures, being a Journey to King's Landing and Peril in King's Landing once you get there. They serve as a good introduction to Westeros and the game of thrones in general, and are good fun as the characters get involved in a tournament and all the intrigue going on around it. These will get your campaign off to a flying start, with plenty of scope for further development.


Set just before the time of the books (and TV show), make your own mark on Westeros. Perhaps it will be one of your characters that will sit on the Iron Throne - although be warned, it's said to be very uncomfortable!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: A Game of Thrones Edition
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Night's Watch
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/12/2016 08:50:24

Whilst all the noble houses are engrossed in the Game of Thrones - and those beholden to them get caught up in it, like it or not, especially when scheming turns to open skirmishing - there is one group that remains aloof, dedicated to a higher purpose. That purpose is the defence of Westeros from those that dwell in the far north, and that group is the Night's Watch. Clad in their distinctive black, they live an almost monastic existence - only men are accepted, and they are not permitted to marry - leaving home and family to serve until death on the Wall. This book contains all you need to know to create characters who are members of the Watch, run a Night's Watch campaign or otherwise have them feature in whatever is going on in your game.


The Introduction gives an overview of the Night's Watch and its role in Westeros society, and talks about how a Night's Watch campaign might appeal - especially to those who fancy exploration and combat (including combat against supernatural powers) over intrigue and scheming. There is a timeline showing the history of the Night's Watch and the Wall they are sworn to defend - it's been standing for over 8,000 years.


Then Chapter 1: The Night's Watch looks at every aspect of the organisation. It starts by looking at why anyone might take the black (as enlisting in the Night's Watch is commonly termed) - some by choice and some perforce... it is often offered to convicted criminals as an alternative to execution. One of the few truly egalitarian organisations in Westeros, it's somewhere that you prosper by your own merits alone without reference to your birth or status. Some younger sons who feel they'll never get a chance at heading up their house take this route, but so do some smallfolk who reckon they have the capability to be knights but lack the social standing. It can also provide better prospects for a bastard son than remaining at home ever could in the fiercely dynastic society of Westeros.


Once arrived all potential recruits undergo a common training. No matter where they come from or what their background might be, they learn to use a longsword and a heavy shield. Only those who were annointed knights before taking the black are excused - and they are expected to teach their martial skills to others. Only once a recruit has passed this basic training does he swear his oath - by the deities of their choice, there is a sept and a godswood available - and become a sworn brother of the Night's Watch. Then they are assigned to one of the various branches of service. Rangers go out into the wilderness north of the Wall, exploring and patrolling. Stewards practise crafts, hunt, farm and undertake administrative duties. Builders look after the fabric of the Wall itself, and of the castles built along its length.


Next we read ideas for running a Night's Watch campaign, beginning with some plot seeds to enliven the journey north and the training period should you decide to begin with the party having just decided (or been forced) to take the black. This is followed by a considerable amount of detail about the three branches, peppered with sample characters, and a look at society amongst the Watch and the ways in which they perceive status - seniority, length of service and accomplishment. The few actual offices - Lord Commander and the Firsts of each branch - are elected for life. There's quite a bit about desertion as well, more common than you might imagine given that it carries a death sentence. Notes explain how to incorporate this aspect into a more conventional game as a deserter or the Sworn Brothers chasing him interact with the party's house. The rest of the chapter covers creating specifically Night's Watch characters from scratch, as well as some archetypes to start you off, serve as exemplars or to use if you're in a hurry. Use these in conjuction with the regular rules to create characters best suited to take the black. There are also notes about creating castles along the Wall, perhaps to serve as your party's base of operations.


Moving on to Chapter 2: The Wall and the Gift, we read about the Wall in more detail - its history, what it's like and even how to get over it, not to mention defending it and the castles dotted along its length. Chief of these is Castle Black, the Night's Watch headquarters. Plenty of detail here to make it come to life in your game. Most of the others are abandoned, but there are short notes about each which may be expanded if you decide to reactivate them. Then we learn about the Gift, land immediately south of the Wall granted to the Night's Watch to enable them to be self-supporting. This chapter also contains information about day to day life and several mini-adventures based on ranging, as the patrols of the rangers are known, and other aspects of Night's Watch life.


Chapter 3: Beyond the Wall looks at those who live north of the Wall and the terrain in which they live. Read about the Free Folk and their society, the giants who ally with them, and the King-beyond-the-Wall who leads them, as well as other clans found in the frozen wastes. The geography is explained (as much as it is known...), and all the resources needed to create Wildling characters of your own are provided. You can also create entire tribes. Notes on combat beyond the Wall and the environmental hazards are followed by a selection of scenario ideas covering life amongst the Free Folk.


Finally Chapter 4: Lords of the Long Night addresses the Others, supernatural beings thought by some to be mere legend but who - as winter approaches - are beginning to appear again. There are more scenario ideas, but a word of warning: unlike virtually everthing else in this game, this section draws more on the authors' imaginations than the setting provided by George R.R. Martins! Purists may wish to leave this aside, others may find it a logical and worthwhile expansion - up to you to decide.


Overall, this book brings the Night's Watch to life and provides loads of scope for adventure. My only complaint is that venturing this close to the Wall is too darn cold!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Night's Watch
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A Song of Ice and Fire Chronicle Starter
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/11/2016 09:04:32

Central both to the books of George R.R. Martin and the TV show, and hence to the game as well, are the noble houses and the never-ending dance of the Game of Thrones. Although there's a lot of support in the core rulebook for the process of creating your own houses to provide an original focus for your game, it can be quite a daunting prospect. This book is in effect a worked example of the house creation process, and can fill many roles. Perhaps you like one of these houses well enough to take it on as your own. Perhaps the Narrator will use all or some of them as the other houses with which yours interacts. There is also an expansion of the Riverlands region, where it is assumed that these houses are to be found - although only one actually holds allegiance to the Tullys who rule over them. Maybe at this time of relative peace they don't mind too much! Finally, there's a plotline to kickstart a new chronicle and enable your new house to make a start at making their mark on Westeros.


The houses and their allegiances are: Barnell (which looks to the Starks), Bartheld (Baratheon), Dulver (Lannister), Kytley (Frey), Marsten (Arryn) and Tullison (Tully). In many ways it is the houses, rather than individuals, who are the players in the Game of Thrones, and these house provide ample scope. They are, however, all quite nice... nicer than many (most?) of those found in the books, although there is a note with each one about how to run them in a darker manner if so wished. For each house there is a history, their arms and words, a stat block and information on their holdings, style and much, much more. There are detailed notes on persons of note in each house (including full character stat blocks) with plenty of background to enable you to bring them to life. Mostly they hang together well - even if Bartheld appears to think it's called Hart House half the time, Hart House being the name of their principle residence but it comes over rather confusing! - and the characters are interesting and well-developed. Plenty of scope here...


The middle section of the book is devoted to the Riverlands, presenting corners of the region suitable for annexation by a house of the group's own devising if they don't want to play any of the ones provided. There's also the delightful Market Town, determined to live free of noble influence, serving as neutral territory and home to many a scheme and plot. There are also various traditions, events and locations suitable for incorporation into whatever is going on in your game. Each listing is replete with interesting characters and other snippets poised to breathe life into proceedings, as well as many ideas for plots.


Finally there is the Iron Plot. This is an adventure that begins in the party's own house, but takes the characters far afield about the business of the house's liege lord. It can serve as an introduction to a whole series of adventures, a jumping-off point for your whole chronicle. It also provides opportunities to introduce some of the major players in Westeros, the ones well-known from the books or TV screen, into your game, rubbing shoulders - crossing swords or wits even - with members of the party. Part of the adventure involves investigating another house, and two options are provided for the target house - both ones listed in this book. but of course the party may be part of one of them. It all ends, of course, with a good brawl... but one which leaves as many questions as it answers, great scope for further adventure.


This is indeed a shining example of what you can do with this ruleset - a resource you can mine or just an exemplar for your own creations, but well worthy of being picked up by any Narrator.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Song of Ice and Fire Chronicle Starter
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Cosmic Handbook
by Colin W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/29/2016 13:03:53

Great expansion on cosmic games and the future state of the Freedom Universe.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cosmic Handbook
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Cosmic Handbook
by Paul M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2015 16:23:57

Fantastic source material and very creatively written! Funny, informative. I especially enjoyed the lead into the cosmic genre in the different ages of comics.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Rogues Gallery #2: Eclipse Syndicate
by William R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/05/2015 15:17:38

The Ellipse Syndicate is an interesting idea for a team of villains as in a way they are sympathetically written while still being self-centered and criminal at the same time. My only real complaint is has more to do with their creator (who was, I assume, made up for this product) who has no connection to the established Freedom City setting - I feel that there are characters who have already been presented that could have filled that role and really tied the Eclipse Syndicate more into the overall setting.


But otherwise I'm looking forward to introducing them in my own game soon!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Rogues Gallery #2: Eclipse Syndicate
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Mutants & Masterminds Rogues Gallery #11: Alchemistress
by William R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/05/2015 15:13:31

An interesting character overall, Alchemistress might perhaps have better developed connections to the overall Freedom City setting by perhaps being made part of an already established super villain group rather than being a solo villain.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Rogues Gallery #11: Alchemistress
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Mutants & Masterminds Rogues Gallery #4: Purple Haze and Scarlet Mist
by William R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/05/2015 15:12:02

As usual Green Ronin has made some very interesting NPCs to be used in the Freedom City setting. With ties to a character that has long been ignored for the most part and connections to an apparent revival of a previously mentioned other character that might be released at a later date (at least that's how I read the references), Purple Haze & Scarlet Mist can be a useful pair of characters that PCs can deal with several times and never be bored given their power sets and personalities.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Rogues Gallery #4: Purple Haze and Scarlet Mist
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Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
by Matthew D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2015 22:41:33

I'm writing this review about 2 hours after completing our first game using the Fantasy AGE system.
We played the starting adventure in the back of the book. The entire session lasted about 5 hours, including character creation and some heavy role-playing in the beginning to get used to the system.


Some general comments and thoughts:


-Character creation was pretty straight forward. There were four players and they took about 15-20 minutes make characters. All were experienced role-payers, but none had played Fantasy AGE prior to tonight.
-Any confusion or ambiguity in the rules was easily explained with the short glossary or a quick index check
-The pdf file was nice. Bookmark links worked. Index page links worked.


-Role-playing was smooth, with things like persuasion or empathy checks being completed easily
-Everybody loved the Stunt mechanic. It added much fun and variety to the game.


-Combat clipped along, never felt like it was lagging. Players commented after the game that they really noticed how fast and smoothly turns progressed and the rounds flew by
-We used Spellsheets for the casters that I found online that had all spells (with stats, cost, TN, etc.). None of the casters took much longer than other players. Everything was simple and straight-forward for magic-users.
-Before the game, I had printed several copies of the combat/spell stunt tables and major/minor action lists for the players reference. It made things much easier for everybody.


Overall, I feel this was a fun system for a quick pick-up game, a one-shot, or short campaign. It's perfect for introducing people to table-tops for the first time. I have reservations about how efficient or easy this will remain for a longer or deeper game. It seems like it could fall apart or burn out at higher levels, but I guess we'll have to keep playing and find out.
For now, we love it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
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Mutants & Masterminds Rogues Gallery #9: Pandemic
by Dominique S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/01/2015 19:43:16

Pandemic is another release in the Green Ronin Games line of Rouges Gallery character supplements. As with other releases in the series, this entry contains information on the character’s background and origin; his personality; and overview of his powers; his enemies; and a plot hook for GMs. There’s also a brief side bar with a warning for GMs on potential problems his power set could cause. Due to his rather unique powers, things could become quite ugly for PCs if they’re not careful when dealing with him.


Pandemic has got to be one of the more original characters appearing in the Emerald City campaign setting. He’s a former research scientist, searching for possible cures to various super diseases. Unfortunately for him, expose to alien DNA had some serious side effects, which resulted in him being transformed into a walking plague. He’s dangerous, very dangerous, as his abilities make him highly contagious. PCs would be well advised to take extreme care when dealing with him


I like this guy. He’s got a distinct look and feel to him, that’s rather unique. His powers, if used as written, will provide for some interesting game play, especially if one or more of the PCs, or someone close to them, becomes infected. I’m giving this one 5 out of 5.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Rogues Gallery #9: Pandemic
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