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The One Ring - Horse-lords of Rohan
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/30/2016 04:04:19

http://www.teilzeithelden.de-
/2016/04/30/rezension-the-one-ring-horse-lords-of-rohan/
-


The One Ring wurde ursprünglich hin und wieder dafür kritisiert, dass es einen sehr kleinen regionalen Fokus hatte. Mit Wilderland (auch Rhovanion genannt) war ein Landstrich abgedeckt, der nur im Hobbit eine größere Rolle gespielt hatte, was ja gut zur damals neu erschienenen Film-Trilogie passte. Im Herrn der Ringe kommt die Region dagegen nur indirekt durch dort beheimatete Gefährten wie Legolas und Gimli vor.


Für Fans der Ringe-Trilogie schon relevanter war das Quellenbuch Rivendell, das Eriador miteinbezog. Mit Rivendell, den Trollshaws und Weathertop wurden hier Orte ausgearbeitet, an denen Tolkiens Hauptwerk seinen Lauf nehmen wird. Mit Horse-lords of Rohan erschien nun nach The Heart of the Wild und Rivendell der dritte Quellenband, der eine Großregion detailliert.


Inhalt


Horse-lords of Rohan ist dabei vom Titel her leicht irreführend. Man könnte es fast eher das Quellenbuch zu Die zwei Türme nennen, handelt es doch auch noch Sarumans Heimstatt Isengard und den Fangorn-Wald ab. Auch die wilden Männer aus den Dunlands und die nördlichsten Ausläufer Gondors werden beschrieben.


Genauso interessant ist aber, was ausgelassen wurde: Die Karte endet im Norden so, dass Lórien nicht mehr enthalten ist. Im neu erschienenen The One Ring – Journeys and Maps beinhaltet die Karte „Rohan & Gondor“ dieses sehr wohl. Lórien ist aber auch auf der Karte des Hauptbuchs zu finden, aber genauso wie bei Moria und Bree bleiben uns die Autoren eine detaillierte Beschreibung schuldig. Man darf abwarten, ob es ein Buch geben wird, dass diese Lücken füllen wird.


Rohan


Den Fans der Filme sollte der erste große Teil des Buchs wie eine Schau wichtiger Stationen erscheinen. Es gibt aber einen Kniff: Rohan wird zur Zeit Théodens Vater Thengel beschrieben. Der heldenhafte König späterer Jahre ist hier gerade mal ein blutjunger Hüpfer. Das Land erholt sich gerade von der Misswirtschaft des unfähigen Herrschers Fengel.


Horse-lords gibt sich hierbei Mühe, alle Landstriche gut herauszuarbeiten. Man bekommt einen Eindruck sowohl von Land als auch Leuten. Rohan erscheint hier auch als viel dichtbesiedelter, als es die Weiten Neuseelands auf der Leinwand waren. Gerade die Hauptregionen der Riddermark, die Eastfold und die Westfold, werden gut herausgearbeitet. Weite Ebenen, auf denen sich nur Hirten und Reiter verlieren, gibt es hingegen im Norden Rohans, in Eastemnet und Westemnet. Westlich der White Mountains liegt die rebellische Westmarch, jenseits der Gap of Rohan, die die Misty Mountains von den White Mountains trennt. Nördlich der Ebenen liegt dann das Wold, eine Hügelregion. All diese Lande sind Rohan, die regionalen Unterschiede wurden gut herausgearbeitet.


Was findet ein SL hier für seine Gruppe? Für ausgearbeitete Abenteuer in Rohan wird man auf Oaths of the Riddermark warten müssen. Aber Orte aus dem Ring wie Helm's Deep, Dunharrow oder Edoras sind liebevoll gestaltet worden, um Abenteuer auch vor dem Ring-Krieg zu ermöglichen. Z.b. wandeln in mondlosen Nächten die Untoten des Dimholt Road über die Strassen nahegelegener Siedlungen. Der eigentliche Schwerpunkt ist aber ein anderer: Soziale Interaktion.


Hatte man es in anderen Bänden fast nur mit Wildnis zu tun, wimmelt es in Rohan von Händlern, Bauern, Hirten, Handwerken. Für den SL aber relevanter: Die Adligen schmieden Ränke, sind verfeindet, tragen Fehden aus. Das Volk der Westmarch ist sowohl mit den Rohirrim als auch den Dunlendings verwandt und ihre Anführer sehen sich als die rechtmäßigen Herrscher von Edoras und die Eorlingas als Besatzer. Der Adel der Westfold plagt sich mit einem mürrischen und paranoiden Marschall der Mark. Auch der König in Edoras ist vorsichtig, wenn es darum geht, wem er sein Vertrauen ausspricht. In diesem Umfeld werden sich die Helden bewegen und sollten sich tunlichst bewusst sein, wer in welchem Landesteil mit wem kann.


Als Kritikpunkt bleibt, dass die Karte zwar wichtige Punkte in Rohan wie Aldburg, Edoras, Helm's Deep, Dunharrow benennt, aber kaum einen Eindruck vermittelt, wie besiedelt das Land wirklich ist. Orte, die hier markiert sind, sind um einiges größer als in Wilderland (Dale und Laketown mal ausgenommen), aber selbst auf derselben Karte ist die Varianz enorm. Tunum in den Dunland Fells ist ein befestigtes Dorf, Aldburg und Edoras sind Städte. Es bleibt dem SL überlassen, für die vielen Dörfer Rohans Namen zu finden. Punkte auf der Karte stechen in ihrer jeweiligen Umgebung heraus, sind aber kaum vergleichbar noch sinnvoll durch verschiedene Symbole unterschieden. Das ist doch schade, sind die Karten an sich doch eine Augenweide!


In diesem Teil des Buchs findet sich auch eine Historie Rohans und seiner Könige, sowie eine Beschreibung von Edoras und des Königshofs. Helm's Deep wird im Detail vorgestellt. Die unbesiedelten Regionen im Westen werden teilweise angesprochen – die Brown Lands im Osten praktisch gar nicht, dafür die Stationen am Großen Fluss Anduin, die nach Gondor führen. Sogar das letzte der großen Signalfeuer ist beschrieben, das in der Region zwischen Everholt und Halfirien liegt.


Fangorn


Gleich danach wendet sich das Buch dem krassen Gegenteil zu: dem Fangorn-Wald. Hier leben keine Menschen, nur die Ents, die hier meist als Onodrim bezeichnet werden. Keine Ruinen, keine ehemaligen Siedlungen, keine vergessenen Elfen-Haine – Fangorn ist purer Urwald, und manche seiner Bäume und Hüter gehen bis ins Erste Zeitalter zurück.


Ausgiebig wird hier über Kultur, Geschichte und Lebensart der Ents gesprochen, die den Wald prägen und ihre „Baumherden“ hüten. Es werden auch mehrere als NSC eingeführt, inklusive Treebeard. Da sie über Wissen verfügen, das ihnen der Wind zuträgt, und aufgrund ihres enormen Alters sind Ents hervorragende Informationsquellen für Gruppen, die sich wagen, sie zu suchen. Da sie den Fangorn-Wald nie verlassen, suchen einige Ents auch Wege, die Ereignisse in der Welt zu beeinflussen, indem sie ihre Pläne durch andere verwirklichen lassen. Die Gruppe kann also durchaus einen Ent zu ihrem Patron machen.


Fangorn selbst muss den Autoren einige Mühe bereitet haben, sind doch reine Wildnis-Regionen schwer auszugestalten. Umso gelungener ist das Ergebnis! Gerade der tiefe Wald aus der Vorzeit ist ein magischer, gefährlicher Ort, und mit den Huorns, belebten Bäumen, wird ein sehr interessanter Gegnertyp eingeführt. Auch mit den Ents Orks jagen zu gehen oder von ihrem Wissen zu lernen sind interessante Versatzstücke für Spieler, die in die Welt Mittelerdes eintauchen wollen.


Dunlands


Westlich der Gap of Rohan erstrecken sich die Dunlands, vor allem entlang der Ausläufer der Misty Mountains. Das hier siedelnde Volk nannte einst größere Landstriche sein eigen, wurde aber von den Menschen des Westens vertrieben und hat sich in die Hügel und Berge zurückgezogen.


Mir drängte sich vor allem ein Eindruck auf: Das sind Mittelerde-Schotten. Streitsüchtige Clans, die auf den Highlands leben? Check. Ablehnen einer zentralen Autorität? Check. Fehden, Streit und Überfälle auf die Nachbarn? Check. Ihren Nachbarn in Rohan gelten sie als Barbaren und man verachtet sich gegenseitig. Die Dunlendings kommen nach Rohan, um zu plündern, und die Eorlingas kommen in die Dunlands, um Dörfer niederzubrennen.


Die Dunlendings leben zum größten Teil als nomadische Clans, vor allem jene, die in den Highlands ihr karges Dasein fristen. Mit Tunum im Westen stellt ein befestigtes Dorf bereits die größte Siedlung dar. Der Teil, der Land und Leute beschreibt, ist denn auch ein Dutzend Seiten kurz. Als besondere Dreingabe gibt es aber am Ende des Buchs die Dunlendings als spielbare Kultur. Es bleibt aber die Frage, wo ein SC mit diesem Hintergrund wohl willkommen wäre. Ein Abenteuer in Rohan schließt sich dadurch fast aus.


Isengard


Den krönenden Abschluss bildet Isengard. Detailreich wird Sarumans Rückzugsort beschrieben. Man findet eine Detailkarte des Inneren des Turms Orthanc, aber auch eine Historie des Orts selbst bis zurück zu den Menschen des Westens, die Helm' Deep und Isengard als zwei Festen angelegt haben, um über die Gap of Rohan zu wachen.


Anstatt sich nur auf den Turm selbst zu konzentrieren wird auch der umschließende mächtige Ringwall beschrieben. Wer in Peter Jacksons Die Rückkehr des Königs genau aufpasst, kann den mächtigen Wall sehen, wenn die Ents hindurchstapfen, oder manchmal auch im Hintergrund oder bei einem Kameraschwenk (wenn der Damm bricht). In diesem Buch gewinnt der Wall selbst ein Eigenleben, ist er doch von Kammern durchzogen, in denen Bedienstete und Wachen wohnen, Vorräte und sogar Schätze aufbewahrt werden.


Für das, was unter dem Gelände liegt, gibt es keine Karte oder Abbildung. Aber Sarumans Treiben über die Jahre bis hin zum Ring-Krieg ist beschrieben, so dass der SL jederzeit weiß, wie er die Anlage zu beschreiben hat, was oberhalb und unterhalb vorgeht, und wie Saruman auf „Besuch“ reagiert. Auch der Weiße Zauberer selbst wird nochmal ausführlich vorgestellt, seine Ränke, seine Pläne, sein Treiben, sowie die Menschen, die ihm dienen. Die umliegenden Lande runden das Ganze ab.


All das kann nicht ganz davon ablenken, dass Isengard ästhetisch zwar top ist, als Befestigungsanlage hingegen nur bedingt Sinn macht. Die Hornburg (Aglarond) und Isengard (Angrenost) sind angeblich Bestandteil eines Plans: Sie sollen es ermöglichen, die Gap of Rohan zu überwachen und als Verteidigungsbollwerke dienen. Die beiden grundverschiedenen Entwürfe widersprechen aber der Idee, hier hätte dieselbe Gruppe Menschen mit denselben Mitteln, denselben Zielen und im selben historischen Zeitraum zwei Anlagen errichtet. Burgen und Verteidungsanlagen waren schon immer sehr pragmatische Bauwerke. In Isengard gibt es aber nichts zu verteidigen außer dem Garten und dem Turm. Es gibt keine anderen Bauwerke. Darum wurde die ganze Infrastruktur in den Wall verlegt, was aber wieder andere Fragen aufwirft. Solche Brüche darf man aber nicht den Autoren anlasten, die mit dem vorhandenen Quellenmaterial gearbeitet haben. Ich habe hier das Gefühl, sie haben ihr Bestes versucht. Auch die Zeichner waren verwirrt. Die Karte des Turms ist umständlich nummeriert und schlecht organisiert. Die Abbildungen der Anlage selbst sehen alle toll aus, scheinen sich und dem Text aber zu widersprechen.


Preis-/Leistungsverhältnis


Wie bei allen The One Ring Produkten ist der Preis für das PDF zu üppig geraten. Da Cubicle 7 aber das „Bits & Mortar“ Programm unterstützt, erhält man bei teilnehmenden Händlern das PDF zum Hardcover hinzu, und dann stimmt auch der Preis. Das Hardcover selbst steht noch aus, es steht aber kaum zu erwarten, dass es mit der hervorragenden Qualität der Reihe bricht.


Erscheinungsbild


Horse Lords of Rohan The One Ring Teaser RezensionThe One Ring sticht immer beim Erscheinungsbild hervor. Gut lesbare Schriften, schönes Layout, atemberaubende und doch authentische Illustrationen. Frauen mit tiefen Ausschnitten und andere typische Fantasy-Fauxpas sucht man hier vergebens. Gefühlt hat es hier weniger Illustrationen als in anderen Bänden, was anhand der Produktionszeit eher erstaunt.


Einen dicken Hund gibt es dann doch: Saruman hat mehrere Halbmenschen erschaffen, und unter seinen Schöpfungen befinden sich die Halborks und Goblin-Menschen. Letztere sehen Menschen ähnlich genug, so dass sie ihre Lande unbemerkt bereisen können. Die Abbildung, die man hierfür gewählt hat, erscheint mir aber ziemlich daneben. Da darf sich jeder seine eigene Meinung bilden, aber ein Beigeschmack verbleibt, vor allem wenn man die Abbildungen aller Menschenvölker der bisherigen Bücher vergleicht.


Bonus/Downloadcontent


Keiner.


Fazit


Horse-lords of Rohan ist ein starkes Buch mit ganz viel Inhalt. Wer The One Ring liebt und nicht immer nur in der Wildnis herumspuken will, muss hier zugreifen. Das Buch macht Lust auf mehr und ich persönliche freue mich auf das Erscheinen des Abenteuerbands Oaths of the Riddermark.


Die Verlagspolitik bleibt ein Problem, und auch dieses Buch erschien mit großer Verzögerung. Das Warten hat sich aber gelohnt, und mit den Rohirrim und Dunlendings wird der Reigen der spielbaren Kulturen beinahe vervollständigt. Für den Rest wird man auf den Adenturer's Companion warten müssen. Wann eine Regionalbeschreibung für Gondor kommt, steht in den Sternen.


Das ist aber Meckern auf hohem Niveau, weil mit Rohan, Fangorn, den Dunlands und Isengard viel, viel Spielmaterial den Weg zum SL findet. Es gibt ein paar Hinweise, wie man eine existierende Gruppe nach Rohan bringt. Für die ganz konkreten Details einer Reise nach Rohan gibt es aber keiner Beispielrouten oder Empfehlungen. Vielleicht wird da der Abenteuerband abhelfen, lief es doch genauso bei Ruins of the North und Rivendell.


Das Buch ist hübsch anzusehen und liest sich gut. Auch zu Recherchezwecken ist es gut gegliedert. Details bleiben aber dem SL überlassen, eine Siedlung erscheint nur dann im Buch und auf der begleitenden Karte, wenn sie in ihrer Region hervorsticht. Die vielen Dörfer Rohans bleiben außen vor. Das Gefühl, mehr über Tolkiens Mittelerde zu lernen, stellt sich vor allem dann ein, wenn Regionen wie Fangorn, die Westmarch oder die Dunlands beschrieben werden.


Im Gegensatz zu anderen Bänden bietet sich hier für den SL die Gelegenheit, besonders auf soziale Interaktionen ausgerichtete Abenteuer zu gestalten, ohne enorme Reisen einzuplanen oder sich auf eine Siedlung konzentrieren zu müssen. Das Buch ist voller NSC, die mit ihrem Geflecht an Beziehungen und Interessen genau das ermöglichen.


Als Wermutstropfen bleibt, dass inzwischen auch die Regelerweiterungen aus Rivendell mehrfach referenziert werden, wenn es um Schätze und Untote geht. Die Regeln für berittenen Kampf und Pferde als Reittiere sind natürlich in diesem Band. Damit steckt die Zahl der Querverweise, die zum Kauf weiterer Bände animieren sollen, und neuere Bände stehen nicht mehr allein. Ich finde diese Verquickung von Regelerweiterung und Regionalband verständlich, aber dennoch etwas unglücklich.


Trotzdem: Der verbleibende Eindruck ist fast durchwegs positiv, die Qualität des Bandes auch. Auch hier gilt: Guten Gewissens kaufen!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Horse-lords of Rohan
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The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
by Paul R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/29/2016 14:52:12

This book is a tremendous resource for any One Ring Loremaster who wants to flesh out his journeys! I love how well organized all the info is, and how creatively written each part is.
The book has great ideas / encounter seeds for hazards in general, arranged by terrain difficulty, and even some for specificly named locaitons. The journey by boat section was particularly timely, as I bought this book just as my group embarked on a boating adventure.
I love how there are whole sections on creating environmental features (waterfalls, thickets, caves, mines), meeting people and stopping at local farmhouses (poor, rich, roadside inn, etc.), and even a whole chapter devoted to creating ruins for your party to discover!
The maps look great, too! They are plenty detailed enough for using on my laptop / tablet screen while preparing or projecting on my TV during gameplay.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
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Doctor Who - The Time Traveller's Companion
by KEVIN T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/27/2016 07:26:27

The PDF was beautiful. Just like the hard cover book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - The Time Traveller's Companion
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The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
by Andrew L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/26/2016 09:53:28

I prefer not to review a product until I have a physical copy, but I do possess the pdf for Journeys & Maps and I like what I see so far. I have some minor quibbles with the maps, if only because of some minor omissions (in particular, I thought that the region of Khand should have been labeled on the maps of Mordor). I am still mildly disappointed that the Sea of Rhun remains beyond the borders of the maps of Wilderland and much of Forlindon and Harlindon are missing from the maps of Eriador. But I can still hope for those details in futher releases.


I am very pleased with the addtional journey rules and the notes on specific regions and new hazards. I know that a few errors have been pointed out that should be corrected before the physical product sees print. Also, especially appreciated are the chapters on boats and ships and on creating ruins. Even the notes on natural wonders, finding lodging and fellow travelers are welcome.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
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Qin: The Warring States free demo kit
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/25/2016 09:59:17

Originally released in advance of the actual game itself, this is a good opportunity to take a peek at this system before taking the plunge and purchasing a copy.


It starts with a brief introduction to the game and some atmospheric fiction before launching into The History of the Empire and The Warring States, which set the scene in an admirably concise style. There's a page on Magic in Qin, with the reminder that in the mystical China of this game, people regard magic as quite normal and not supernatural... it's just someone who knows how the universe works manipulating it.


Then it's on to game mechanics with an outline of how characters are described in game mechanical terms and an overiew of the rules. Finally, two completely developed characters are presented, complete with character sheets, and it is suggested that you try out the rules by having them brawl with one another.


That's it, quite short and sweet. The background material does give a whistle-stop tour of the setting, and could be used to explain to prospective players the world in which their characters would exist... but there's a lot more to this game than fighting so it's a shame that there is no short scenario to play through as an introduction: just saying 'Here's 2 characters, let them fight' doesn't really give a fair impression of what this mystical game is all about!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Warring States free demo kit
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Qin: The Tournament of Scarlet and White
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2016 04:04:51

The Tournament of Scarlet and White is a short scenario that can be run as a one-off or in a convention slot, or as a diversion during a regular campaign. It covers events in a township where, years ago, the provincial governor was overthrown and replaced by the leader of a band of mercenaries. As he's done a good job since, the powers that be have left him alone. Every year the new governor, one Qi Xiang, holds a tournament that is open to all comers, and this year the party has decided to give it a go...


An Introduction sets the scene, covering recent history and outlining Qi Xiang's further ambitions, for of course a minor governorship will not satisfy him for ever. It also introduces some leading members of his mercenary band, deliberately unstatted as this adventure is for low level characters and they are supposed to be far too powerful for them to even consider challenging... my group is not that wise, so I made sure that I had a rough idea of their capabilities before running this! Their nicknames are based on pieces from a xiangqi (a Chinese equivalent of chess) board, for Qi Xiang is said to treat everyone as if they were chess pieces, to be moved about to his advantage.


Next we hear about the tournament itself, with some background on tournaments in general in mystical China. There are quite a lot of different competitions, so it's likely that any party member who wishes to compete will find a suitable one whilst there is plenty for the rest of the party to watch and do even if they don't care to participate in the tournament itself. That's neat, it gives everyone an opportunity to shine. Various options are provided, depending on how 'authentic' you want events to be, with any necessary additional rule mechanics provided. You'll probably want to plan out what will be happening in advance, but you have the tools you need to do so here.


And then we get to the plot itself. You may think that the tournament will provide entertainment enough (indeed it could), but there's a lot more at stake this year and opportunity for the party to get embroiled in events... particularly if they enjoy intrigue, although there's plenty of combat and other adventure as well. There's a detailed outline of events as they'd play out if the characters don't interfere, which you can modify as and when they do get involved - a nice way of letting their actions have real effect whilst creating the impression that life goes on around them regardless.


There are notes on different ways of running the scenario, particularly if you are not constrained by time and can really indulge in the considerable atmosphere - something I'd recommend. There is a lot going on in and around the tournament and various ways to involve the party. Options for expanding the scenario, including prequel events, are included, of particular use if you wish to incorporate it into a campaign. Six pre-generated characters are provided. They make a nice group, so if you are starting out your campaign they are worth considering if your players prefer to use them rather than create their own; and of course if you are running a one-off or convention game, you don't want to spend any of your limited time in character creation!


Overall this is an enchanting adventure, full of atmosphere and with considerable depth, something that will enhance any campaign or provide an excellent diversion - perhaps even get your group hooked on Qin: The Warring States and demanding more. The only flaw is considerable reference to a subsequent adventure (The Song of Bamboo Tears) which at the time of writing, some four years after this was published, still has not appeared!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Tournament of Scarlet and White
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Qin: The Art of War
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/23/2016 12:01:57

There's a lot of warfare going on in this game, it isn't called Qin: The Warring States for nothing! As the seven states squabble there is plenty of opportunity - perhaps the party wish to become mercenaries or they may see their attempts at diplomacy (or spying) fail, they may become involved in a border skirmish or a siege... whether it's a small scuffle or all-out war, this is a good time and place to display your martial prowess. This supplement gives you all the tools you need, from comprehensive descriptions of the forces maintained by each state to rules for fighting out any scale of brawl right up to epic battles, and several scenarios and ready-to-play characters to thrust your party headlong into the action. Or you may wish to play out battles to form a backdrop to the characters' exploits...


First up is The Armies of the Zhongguo. Drawing on the work of the real-world Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, here called Sun Zi, there is a discussion of how - and why - war is waged in the Zhongguo. War may be the last resort in dispute resolution, but for many it seems to be the first resort... so there is an impressive list of past battles to study and learn from, as well as plenty of 'modern' tactical thought. Fiction is interspersed with information about recruitment and training, the structure of the armed forces and even warlike artefacts that have power within the game. There are scenario seeds, new items of equipment (and new skills to use them), details of mercenary groups and weapons, tactics for the battlefield and even notes on military intelligence gathering and battlefield communication. There is a wealth of information to help you wage war, mystical China style.


Next is The Armies of the Warring States, which takes a detailed look at military provision in each of the seven states. Naturally, some are more warlike than others, but all need to be prepared to defend themselves at least. There's a wealth of detail here that can be used as background if one of your characters has seen service, or if the party interacts with the military somewhere; or if you are so inclined, to provide information for more wargame style combat. Individual commanders and other notables are presented with complete stat blocks, so they can take their place amongst your NPCs as required. Each state has its own style, quite distinctive in composition of their forces and in the way they are deployed, which makes for interesting reading. And if you wish to stray beyond the borders, there are notes - less detailed but of use nonetheless - about the armed forces of nearby lands.


Then Battles in the Warring States presents a mass combat system for when you want to stage a really big war. It is simple and flexible, designed to weave around your role-play rather than serve as a full-blown skirmish wargame, with the aim of allowing you to determine the outcome of any battle that may take place. The party may see a combat, participate in it or perhaps even rise to become Generals and lead it, and this system provides a non-arbitrary way of resolving it. It begins with each commander issuing orders and making dispositions for his troops and then making a Battle Test which determines which side has the advantage. Then it operates with a series of turns in which orders are given and acted upon, and allows for the intervention of Heroes (i.e. the party, should they be actively involved). It is reasonably straightforward and logical and works best when a player controls each army - or if the party controls one army and the GM the other. Handled well, it provides an exciting backdrop to character actions.


Finally, Running Military Battles provides advice on how to incorporate warfare into your game with lots of suggestions as to how to get the party involved, and how to run campaigns (in the military rather than the role-playing sense) to effect. This ends with two complete scenarios - A Conspiracy in the Desert and The Battle of the Reeds and Willows - which use the mass combat system and place the party in command of a small force. They are both exciting and add a new dimension to the steady fare of adventure.


For many, this adds the exciting new dimension of larger-scale warfare to the game, yet handles it in such a way that it supports and enhances character-based role-play rather than swamping it. For others, who prefer battles to stay in the background, the mass combat system will be overkill: but even they might find the other information herein of use.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Art of War
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Doctor Who - The Silurian Age
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/22/2016 12:24:37

The Introduction sets the scene: this book is a resource for adventures where the Doctor goes back in time rather than forwards, in particular when he goes way, way back to times when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. It also, slightly incongruosly, has a complete set of rules for spaceships including combat and chases, and an impressive array of ones you might encouter in your travels. Top that off with material on the Silurians themselves and an adventure, and there's plenty to get your teeth into.


The first chapter, History Repeating Itself, looks at what happens when your time travels take you back before human beings even existed. It talks about finding out precisely when you are, about how to survive and live off the land if for some reason you end up stuck there without your TARDIS. There's a sweep through different epochs of time with notes on how to distinguish them with a knowing glance at the fauna and flora, as well as details of possible adventures. Here having the various Doctor Sourcebooks comes in handy, as events are cross-referenced to where they were mentioned under the appropriate Doctor's adventures along with other ideas for you to develop for yourself if you fancy them. Information on extinction events and low-tech companions provide added material... and that's before you get to a whole bunch of story hooks and plot seeds! This section also includes ideas for when dinosaurs travel forwards in time and invade the present day. There's also a bestiary of dinosaurs, complete with stat blocks, so when dinosaurs do turn up, you'll know how they work. Illustrations include a very life-like triceratops, although the other dinosaur images are rather disappointing.


The next chapter is The Silurians and here we get the lowdown on this fascinating species. Strictly speaking they are not aliens. They lived on Earth - and sought refuge in hibernation when they thought it was going to be destroyed - long before humans were around. People going far enough back in time might meet them, and the hibernating ones wake up every so often too. There's loads of information about them here, starting off with the fact that there's no such thing as 'a Silurian' - there are two related species, quite distinct one from another... and each with several sub-species. There's information on their government and politics, how they lived in their hey-day and what happens when hibernating ones awaken. Notes cover the Doctor's previous encounters with Silurians, and there's a sample Silurian city should you fancy awakening some of them yourself. There are also sample Silurians and details of Silurian space arks and other technology. The chapter ends with some plot hooks and story seeds and notable Silurian individuals who've turned up before... and if one if the group fancies playing a Silurian, the information you'll need is here too.


Then comes a chapter titled Spaceships, which presents rules for spacehips and their operation, and for combat and chases involving them. There's also a veritable spotter's guide to just some of the myriad hordes of ships owned and operated by various spacefaring species. There are plenty of adventure seeds to get you going as well.


Finally, Asteroid Day is an adventure that involves loads of time travel, backwards and forwards, with Silurians attempting to survive a massive asteroid impact any way they can, UNIT worrying about some time travellers who have gone missing, and the Doctor and his companions stuck in the middle trying to sort it all out as problems pile upon problems. High stakes, high jinks, and all jolly good fun!


Overall, a fascinating if disjointed book - it's as if several ideas collided and got stuffed between the same set of covers. Yet it's all good material and provides serveal ways to enhance your game in interesting and novel directions. After all, spaceships and dinosaurs?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - The Silurian Age
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Qin Bestiary
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/21/2016 08:42:58

Every game needs opposition for the characters to fight against, and Qin: The Warring States is no different. This book concentrates on the mystical side, being filled with supernatural creatures, tragic ghosts, terrifying demons, corpses hungry for human flesh, animals wiser than most men, and, of course, dragons... for if you are in the slightest bit familiar with Chinese myths and legends, you'll know that these are constant companions and challenges to any hero.


Every creature is provided in a standard format for ease of use. Firstly the scene is set with a paragraph or so of fiction, there are ideas for the GM on how to use that particular creature, myths and legends revolving about it and the necessary game mechanics and statistics to use it effectively. Throughout, new spells, martial techniques, weapons and powers are introduced - you can, of course, lift these out to use elsewhere in your game. If your game is to be fantastical in nature, head for the fabulous creatures, if you are after a spot of horror, well, Chinese ghosts can be pretty terrifying. Perhaps in the legends you are creating, the boundaries are blurred and nobody's quite sure which creatures are natural and which are not...


We start off with Fabulous Creatures and Terrifying Monsters, which is subdivided into ghosts, revenants, and the living dead, demons; monsters and marvels, and celestial and fabulous beings. Throughout, the way they are presented maintains the mystical and lyrical style of ancient China making it easy to bring it out in your game.


Next are the Yao, animals which have transcended their original animal nature and become almost human... and often wiser than the average human being at least in certain areas. Sometimes they are feared or mocked, other times they are revered. Whatever, they provide for unforgettable encounters and help promote that uniquely Chinese legendary feeling. There's a lot of detail about where they are to be found, what they are likely to be doing and how they fit in to society; and then the discussion gets down to specifics with different types of yao classed by original animal. Plenty of examples and stories to get you started.


If your fancy has been taken by any individual (as opposed to the 'monsters') mentioned in the text, a delight is a collection of full details for several of them, complete with stat block, which may be used as NPCs in your game.


Then there are three scenarios to run. One involves a series of killings in a township during a festival (involving vengeful spirits), another works best if the main NPC is the first yao the party has met, and the last provides a mystery for the party to solve. All are atmospheric and entertaining, providing you and your group with a glimpse into legendary China.


Finally - and we hope your party will not be needing them - there is a section on Funeral Rites, including the ritual for an important person's death and information about tombs. Perhaps the party will be tasked with overseeing the funeral of an important patron?


This is a lot more than a mere Bestiary. It's jam-packed with flavourful material... and does not neglect game mechanics either. Any GM should be adding this to his collection.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin Bestiary
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Qin Legends
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/19/2016 09:27:45

Opening with an almost lyrical description of a combat between three adventurers and a couple of ball-and-chain wielding giants, this book contains details of higher-level abilities in Taos, Martial Arts and Magic, as well as magical items and an adventure. This material will help characters rise to even more legendary heights, all in keeping with the style of the game.
Firstly, The Power of the Taos looks at taking a character's power beyond the four levels described in the core rulebook. Legendary indeed will be the things that a character can do. Next comes The High Levels of the Martial Arts which offers new combat techniques that will indeed have their practitioners talked about in epic accounts, perhaps compared to the gods themselves, with additional lower level ones as well as probing the heights of level five and six. Plenty here to enable each character to define and perfect their distinctive style and to give those minstrels and story-tellers something to write about!
This section also covers the costs (in experience) of taking any skill to Legendary or God-Like levels, not just combat ones. There is also a wealth of information about the combat styles honed over generations by the leading martial families - perhaps out of favour at court these days, but if fighting is your thing, potent indeed and redolent with cultural richness. To learn a particular technique, a character must already be skilled in the associated martial art. Many such techniques and styles are well-known and a connoisseur can recognise them from the distinctive stance and movements of the practitioner. Of course, to learn these, the character has to find a master and persuade him to teach... not as easy as looking up a local dojo and paying for training!
Each style is introduced with its history and the mechanics of actually using it in play. Then the different techniques incorporated in that style are described in detail, flavour and game mechanics wrapped together in an elegant and logical package. This approach makes it easy for players to describe what their characters are doing as well as to handle the mechanics of the combat. They are all dressed up with colourful names too, after all, practising the Style of the Mortal Kiss of the Metal Butterfly sounds a lot more legendary than saying you are pretty handy with a dagger!
Next, The Magic of the Gods provides the same service for magic as the preceding chapters have for Taos and Martial Arts, taking it to the next level. There are many higher-level (legendary and godlike) spells and techniques for the aspiring magic-wielder to study and master. Then Treasure of Men, Gifts of the Gods introduces a method for creating legendary items and presents a selection of example items to get you started. Whole adventures could be written around such items, and it’s easy to see how those who possess them can themselves gain legendary status. They do not just have a list of abilities or effects, each has its story that tells of its origins, describes its appearance, and makes it into a true artefact to be quested for or treasured. If that wasn’t enough, we also have Celestial Objects which are crafted, it is said, by the gods themselves and bestowed on mortals who have gained favour in their eyes.
Finally there is a scenario called The Treacherous Prince, which is intended to follow on from the scenario in the core rulebook and forms the opening of the “Tiàn Xia” campaign. Or of course you can use it in your own campaign as you see fit. It deals admirably with character growth, starting with the ostensibly simple task of escorting a bride to her new home… then finding themselves embroiled in growing tensions between townsfolk and barbarian tribes that lead to demands that very important heads should roll or all-out war might result! It presents plenty of atmosphere, the sense of being at the centre of affairs and, of course, opportunities to start forging your own legends.
The additional rules material is well-nigh invaluable and the scenario exciting – what more could you want?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin Legends
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Qin: The Warring States
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/18/2016 08:48:23

Opening with a short but atmospheric piece of fiction that tells of a young girl who survives a bandit raid on her village but flees straight into a dragon's lair, this is a game set in a semi-historical China, mysterious and exotic. If you enjoy shows like Monkey and The Water Margin you will feel right at home here (and if you fancy the game but don't know these shows, try to track them down!). There is a brief outline of the concept and an even briefer one of 'what is role-playing?', and that's the Introduction.


Next comes The History of Heaven and Earth. This is written in a gentle lyrical style, true in nature to the way such myths are told in ancient Chinese literature. These are the stories that children might grow up with, learning of the formation of the world and everything that is in it. Everyone should read this, it will help players get into the right frame of mind as well as providing background that would be familiar to their characters. Sweeping through dynasties, explaining religious belief and more, this sets the scene and the tone.


Mood set, next come a selection of pre-generated characters. Use them as exemplars or leap in and play them if you want to try the game out before getting to grips with character creation. A swordsman, a soldier, an exorcist, a taoist, a renegade, a spy, and a highwayman await your pleasure, each with a backstory, full stats and an illustration.


This is followed by Characters, which explains how to create your own from the ground up. Even if you want to use the pre-gens, read though this to get an idea of how they work from a game-mechanical standpoint. Starting with a concept - a brief pen-picture of what you have in mind - you distribute 14 points between the Aspects (Metal, Water, Fire, Wood and Earth), select a Gift and a Weakness and purchase Skills with a further 15 points. Then you have yet another 15 points to assign to Combat Techniques, Taos and Magic. Then you can make up his background, what got him to where he is. Bear in mind that your character is intended to be a hero from the outset, with luck he should become a veritable legend.


There are plenty of notes to explain what all these terms mean and guidelines to aid you in picking the right ones to suit the concept that you have in mind. It's all quite straightforward and easy to understand, but couched in the style of mystic China, making it easy to slip into character. Once he is ready for play the next chapter, The Rules, puts all this detail into context showing how to use your character's abilities to effect. However, there's a note recommended that in some ways the rules should be a last resort, to be turned to only when it is not clear what the outcome of an action might be. They make use of the Ying-Yang Die, which is actually two D10s of different colours rolled together, subtracting the lower result from the higher to get your result, which needs to exceed a 'success threshold' based on the difficulty of whatever you are trying to do. You add Aspects and Skills to your roll as well. That's pretty much it, but there is further explanation and examples to set you up for play.


Next come chapters on The Taos, Martial Arts and Magic. These give the game its unique flavour, particularly the Taos. The Taos are the decrees of Heaven that govern the operation of the universe, and particularly the world of men. Some exceptional people - like your characters of course - are able to bend the Taos to their will. It seems a bit complex and daunting at first glance, but persevere - it's well worth it! You may think of them as feats which verge on the supernatural - leaps that appear to defy gravity, for example. Martial Arts deal with all manner of combat. It is the norm for people to tend to specialise in a single weapon, but to strive to become exceptionally good with it.


We then move on to understand the world in which the game is set, with The Warring States describing recent history, governance, justice, geography and the like; then Life in the Warring States discussing what it is actually like to be there - family life, morality, social conventions, clothing, food and so on. We then learn of Jiang Hu: The World of Martial Arts, a semi-mystical world on the margins of society where people can get a second chance and where martial arts reiqn supreme. Other chapters look at The Hundred Schools of Thought (prevalent philosophies), Religions and Superstitions, and finally Living in the Warring States, which covers weapons and equipment, and other costs. This concludes the 'player' section of the book.


We then enter Game Master territory. It's always a bit puzzling when everything is packed into one volume - are players expected to buy a book and not read half of it? How many people only play a game and never GM it anyway? Every group I've been in, there was generally almost a fight over the GM's chair. Anyway, here we find The Bestiary - a fine collection of monsters from fact and fable with which to beset your party, The Powers Behind The Throne (which deals with Gods and dragons...), notes on handling experience and renown and on setting the scene for your players. Plenty of useful information and advice here. Finally there is an introductory scenario, Towards a World of Forests and Lakes, This serves as an introduction to your campaign, with the characters coming of age and beginning their adult careers... and of course nothing quite goes to plan, with ghosts from the past and portents of a troubled future threatening to disrupt their chosen lives almost before they have begun. Pains are taken throughout to show how the rules work to effect, thus providing an introduction to game play as well.


Altogether this is a fascinating embodiment of legendary China, a place that never was but could well have been... and remember, do not despise the serpent for having no horns, for who is to say that he will not grow into a dragon!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Warring States
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The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
by Gilles S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2016 14:44:49

This product give you map in use for The One Ring Journey Rule and it is usable even in the electronic form. However, if you are fond of high quality map, you have to purchase the product directly in hardcopy, and not in electronic form. That's say, it's a nice addition for the rule and for mapping Middle Earth.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
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The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
by Bill W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/14/2016 12:09:08

This product is not primarily about maps. Yes they are there and they expand the places that one can travel, but I believe what makes this such a great addition to the game is the material that can be used by the Lore Master to make the Journey phase of the game something enjoyable and memorable. Sometimes it can be challenging to embellish all the travel rolls with meaning and enjoyable details. There is so much useful material here and I cannot wait to begin encourporating it into my game. I would highly recommend it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/13/2016 23:41:57

"Hey, wouldn't it be cool if President Roosevelt sent a bunch of investigators to stop Hitler from summoning Cthulhu?" is a thing a gamer might think when they were fourteen. Then you learn a little about World War 2 and which side, if he had lived that long, Lovecraft would undoubtedly have sided with, and suddenly the bloom is off the rose. The concept of a mad Nazi sorcerer is frankly, stupid and a waste of everyone's time. They didn't need sorcery to be horrible. Sorcery is fictional and Nazi mass murders were real. What would they have done with sorcery that they didn't do with their own determination? Spread their evil further, win maybe? But that doesn't make them a different kind of evil; they don't become more horrific if you give them tentacle monster shock troops, they just become more successful at spreading the horror they launched. The more I learned about World War 2, the less I liked attempts to shoehorn the Cthulhu Mythos into it. Let's not even get to the Victorian anxieties that bubbled just beneath the surface of Mythos writings; suffice to say the Allied armies (racially diverse, eventually even racially integrated!) would not be the good guys in a Lovecraftian Mythos tale. Thus, for many years I put down the recurring idea of a WW2 Mythos game. I may have even been mean about it once or twice!


So when I saw World War Cthulhu: Darkest Hour, I was fairly decidedly disinterested, even though it was Cubicle 7 and I normally quite like Cubicle 7 games. Nevertheless I decided to give it a look and I'm very glad that I did. WWC has a very different attitude towards how to design a Call of Cthulhu scenario in World War 2 which transforms the war from a shorthand 5th grader's scribble of bad Nazis seeking forbidden knowledge to a setting that presents tremendous challenges to investigators seeking to achieve military and potentially occult goals at the same time.


In your typical Call of Cthulhu scenario, investigators receive a weird invitation or see a bizarre story in the newspaper that is in their professional field. They gather up because they know weird shit might be going down and start digging into it. Importantly, in Call of Cthulhu scenarios, you can lose. It is quite possible to miss clues, miss events on a timeline, misinterpret the clues and go to the wrong place, and you never solve the mystery, and then you see another horrible newspaper article and you FEEL AFRAID at the unknown horror that you almost spotted, and lose Sanity. This makes a typical Call of Cthulhu scenario a self-contained episode. However, in WWC, a different methodology is at work.


In WWC, you identify a location and determine what's going on with the war as an environment that the investigation takes place in. The sample campaign (more on this below) is a small town in Vichy France near a mysterious wood and a copper mine the Nazis really want to keep open. Then you create the occult threat and what might draw the investigators to the area. This approach guarantees you're not going to have your team of rowdy investigators winning the war singlehandedly, and also guarantees that they will have to thread some very difficult needles. In a (separately published) scenario, for example, there's a mysterious occult plague in a town controlled by Italian fascists. They believe (and spread the word) that they are being targeted by an Allied biological weapon of some kind. But it isn't; it's a MONSTER. You can definitely see how investigators who come into that situation will have to walk a tightrope between the danger of the Mythos and the danger imposed by the war. And when there's a plague monster around, maybe calling in an artillery strike is the worst thing to do. ("Are those spores or smoke?")


WWC asks not that you treat WW2 as a pulp setting, but instead asks that you treat it as real, with real stakes. And that, to me, is the innovation that makes it work where other WW2 Cthulhu scenarios have failed.


The sample campaign (which I'm going to be running soon!) is a great example. The characters are Special Operations Executive agents parachuting into the Vichy France countryside in April 1941 (seven months before the Americans even get into the action!) with the mission of putting together an intelligence network in the countryside, and finding out what happened to the investigator who disappeared before the Nazi invasion. He was looking into a cult, naturally, but the investigators can't just pop in to a Vichy village and start asking questions and avoiding attention because then they'll be pegged as spies immediately and killed by the Gestapo, and the cult will be about its evil business unimpeded.


And there are questions about how much to trust the Resistance that's helping you...or even if you trust them, how much to involve them? They have different goals and restrictions, and they may or may not know about or believe in the occult problems the investigators have to deal with. If a monster's going to eat a bunch of people, you have to balance whether you want a suave lady shooting a Sten while smoking a cigarette standing next to you, or whether it would be better if she didn't have her arm eaten and nerve broken so she would have both those things to fight the Hun.


All in all, World War Cthulhu is a tremendous effort, works really well, and the sample campaign gives a very solid example as to how to design a WWC scenario. This game completely rehabilitates the idea of the WW2 Mythos scenario and breathes new life into it with the relentless focus on the war as environment instead of the war as event.


If I had to suggest a way to improve this effort, I would mention there are several typographical errors (the names of characters in the sample campaign aren't always spelled the same way, etc.) and I would really hammer out several different campaign structures other than the SOE structure that's presented. All in all, however, this is an exceptionally solid work that accomplishes something many have attempted but rarely successfully. It's definitely worth your time.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour
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The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
by William H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/13/2016 19:07:49

The product is, primarily about the maps. The maps, however, are at 1/8th the usual-for-Cubicle7 linear resolution, making half the product of VERY limited utility. The pixelation was noticeable at 100% view in acrobat, unlike other products in the line. Worse, this was an intentional crippling by the company, so as "to prevent competition" with the hardcopy product... (according to Jon Hodgeson, of C7.) In short, the text isn't worth $14.95 even dead tree, and the maps are almost worthless at the included resolution. Being a PDF-Only purchaser, my advice to others like me: Don't. You can find better resolution unofficial maps done by fans already online. (Comparing the 200% view with other products in the line, I had to hit 1600% to get similar pixelation.)



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
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Publisher Reply:
From the product description: \"These PDF maps are intended for reference on your computer or e-reading device of choice. They are not intended for home printing - these maps are available in print as part of the Journeys and Map print edition.\" Here is the response to your complaint about the maps resolution from our forums: \"The resolution of the maps in the PDF edition of Journeys and Maps was a deliberate decision, and we flag it up on the Drivethru/RPGnow page. Which of course you may not have read if you got the PDFs free as part of a pre-order. Where maps appear as supporting material in other supplements - take for example Rivendell - we have endeavoured to make them as high resolution as we can. Supplying those at pretty much any size won\'t compete with sales of the physical supplement. Because the maps in Journeys and Maps form a majority component of the supplement, we have scaled the PDF versions for on-screen usage. And they work very well for that purpose. However they aren\'t suited to commercial third-party printing. We\'ll be completely transparent - we want you to buy the physical maps from us, rather than us providing material that copy shops can profit from. If there is a demonstrable problem using screen-resolution maps as part of the PDF product we\'ll certainly look into addressing it.\" If the maps included in this set don\'t meet suitable standards for on-screen use we will happily replace the files with larger versions.
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