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World War Cthulhu: Cold War - Section 46 Operations Manual
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/14/2017 09:44:55

This work provides information for those playing Cold War spies caught up in the even darker web of those who seek to defeat the Mythos as well as the Red Menace. As well as providing masses of information and ideas to aid in planning and running espionage operations, there are notes about appropriate game mechanics to apply and observations as to how 'real world' spy tradecraft is (or more often is not) effective against the Mythos and its agents.

Straight into Chapter 1: Communication and Deception. Beginning with a discourse that announces that 'espionage' means 'discovering secrets' and hence doing so is the core of what a spy does, it goes on to explain that a lot of the information the typical spy gathers is not particularly secret at all! Much can be gathered by observation, although most countries do not welcome spies wandering around even if they only seem to be reading the newspapers and watching what is going on around them in plain view. It looks at how to mount a convincing deception - like persuading someone that your presence is quite innocent, even when it's not - and how to prepare for questioning by having your fake background well imagined and at the tip of your tongue. Then we move on to disguises and cover identities, the building of a 'legend'. This is followed by the more chillings aspects of what might happen if the story doesn't hold enough water to prevent the agent being arrested and questioned further about their identity and activities, and provides hints and tips on how to come out smelling like roses. With some notes on the props that may be used to support a cover story, the narrative moves on to communications: once you have the information you seek, it needs to be passed on. The interception of transmissions is also covered - it can be a good way to find things out, or an easy way for the opposition to find you! Signals, codes and ciphers are covered as well as old-school tradecraft like dead drops, and this chapter ends with propaganda and lies.

Next, Chapter 2: Networks and Assets explores how to set up and run a network in hostile territory, and how to recruit and utilise assets - who may not even know what you are after or what you intend to do with it. This chapter also looks at planning operations and issuing orders for them.

This leads on to Chapter 3: Field Operations. Both urban and rural environments have their challenges and these are explored. Insertions, movement, breaking and entering, all manner of aspects of live in the field are covered here.

This is followed by Chapter 4: Surveillance and Intelligence Gathering, which goes into more detail about various aspects of tradecraft touched upon earlier. Stakeouts, tailing people, conducting all manner of surveillance in person or electronically... plenty useful skills here.

Next, Chapter 5 looks at Personal Violence. Successful spies rarely if ever need to indulge in this - unless handed an assassination task, of course. However, when it becomes necessary to fight at all, the operative must be prepared to do whatever it takes to win. This chapter also covers the use of explosives and incendiary devices. Assassination techniques and those for silent kills are also addressed, along with poisons and other drugs... and the all-important topic of cleaning up bodies and evidence once you're done. Like everything else (barring the Mythos-based comments) this is genuine real world stuff, so don't try it out on your friends. It does make for excellent role-playing if you can describe in realistic detail precisely what your character is doing to accomplish his mission, however.

Then comes Chapter 6: Covert Operations. This is when espionage goes large, and you end up involved in an armed uprising. Maybe the seeds have already been sown, and there is a leader in place for you to assist; sometimes you'll need to sow the seeds yourself and either take the lead or find someone suitable to do so. There's also things like sabotage and disruption here as well as full-blown guerilla warfare. There's a change of focus with a look at close protection duties, should you have a VIP to protect, as well as urban combat and small group actions.

Finally, Chapter 7 looks at Special Weapons and provides some pre-generated characters for those who are ready to leap straight into the fray. The weapons section starts with regular small arms but works right up to nuclear warfare.

Overall, this is an excellent primer for the would-be spy, useful whatever modern spy game you want to play even if it's not the Cold War version of World War Cthulhu. Well worth a look if espionage is your thing.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
World War Cthulhu: Cold War - Section 46 Operations Manual
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World War Cthulhu London
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/12/2017 11:38:28

This work is a massive resource for anyone running World War Cthulhu, which draws on earlier works, especially Cthulhu Britannica: London, World War Cthulh: The Darkest Hour and The SOE Handbook, although you don't need any of these products to use this book in your game. (They might help, though!) The idea behind the book is that the characters are Londoners who are caught up both in the reality of war and the horror of the Mythos. They might be civilians or involved in the emergency services, Home Guard or Civil Defence Volunteers, or part of Network N. Whoever they are, they have to cope with the dangers of the Blitz as well as concerns about those they know who are fighting, threats of invasion... and the Mythos which, while not involved in the war, is happy to take advantage of the fear and chaos it causes.

The Introduction goes on to present a brief history of London during the war, outlining the various phases, and to talk about Network N and in particular those members of the organisation active in London, known as Auxiliries. The next chapter tells you how to create such a Network N Auxiliary. A neat idea is presented, that you could start a campaign with a bunch of Auxiliaries then, as time (and the war) progresses they could advance to full-blown agents and be sent on missions as detailed in The Darkest Hour and the Europe Ablaze book of adventures. There's plenty of ideas here with new professions, new skills and a range of organisations to join that are specifically tailored to London.

The next chapter is Wartime London, which describes everyday life in London during the Blitz. This provides plenty of background against which you can set and run your plots. Everything from air raids to crime is touched upon, there's plenty of atmospheric material to make your wartime London come to life. There's also a selection of notable individuals, many from the entertainment world although Winston Churchill is also included. There are also some interesting places to visit, complete with plot hooks to send the party there or provide some interesting action whilst there. Everyday shopping and the procurement of equipment is covered, with attention paid to rationing and increased costs due to scarcity.

We then move on to a chapter on Mythos Horrors. London has always had more than its fair share of strange cults and beasties, and the war only makes it worse. Ghouls abound, and there's a weird bunch called the Rat Catchers whose life-mission is to capture them. You can meet leading members of the Rat Catchers as well as those of less-wholesome cults. Monsters too, like a long-forgotten imprisoned shoggoth released by falling bombs... Here too are artefacts and tomes, not least the British Museum Restricted Collection. Strange places to explore, odd people to meet: this Chapter will help add a Mythos spin to your London.

Then comes Battles on the Home Front, a chapter jam-packed with advice on creating adventures and even whole campaigns set in wartime London. If that's not enough for you, three complete scenarios are provided to get you started: Midnight Sunrise (mid-1940), Captive Audience (February 1941), and The Meat Trade (a scant month later). These are no outlines, but complete and ready to run with all the resources, NPCs etc, you will need. Each has a solid Conclusions section with ideas for incorporating the consequences of the party's actions into further adventures.

There's plenty here to get a London-based campaign up and running, or to provide a solid percursor to a full-blown Network N campaign that sends the party all over Europe fighting Nazis and the Mythos alike.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
World War Cthulhu London
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World War Cthulhu: The SOE Handbook
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/11/2017 08:27:32

As role-players, it's rather nice to know what our characters are capable of doing... then we can plan actions with understanding of their skills and knowledge, and make our characters as realistic as possible. Sometimes we only have our imaginations to draw upon, as there are no real-world equivalents, but if we are playing WW2 undercover operatives, there's a wealth of historical information to delve into... even if we won't find mention of the Mythos there! This book is based on the training and skills developed for the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and it the sort of thing we can assume any character working for N will have received training in to a greater or lesser extent, depending on their background.

This is, of course, a game supplement, so the various things it says that your character can learn to do are accompanied by appropriate additions to the Call of Cthulhu ruleset. Notes are also provided specifically for Section N operatives, showing how 'classic' SOE skills transfer into the special situation of combatting the Mythos as well as Nazis. There's also a couple of useful appendices, one showing where SOE and Network N facilities are to be found and how agents were trained, and one on incorporating at least some of the training into your game itself - perhaps developing individual skills prior to a specific mission, or making the training itself part of your plot.

Most of the book is written as a facsimile SOE Handbook and could be regarded as an in-game resource. If your character has access to SOE training, he's read it or something like it - and as a Section N operative, he'll be privy to N's little comments on it as well. It's made up of sections based on various activities: combat, espionage, and irregular warfare; and the whole thing makes for a fascinating read.

The Combat section begins with a reminder that SOE agents ought not to get involved in combat unless absolutely necessary - leave that to soldiers. However there will be occasions when it becomes necessary to fight to complete mission objectives, to remove threats, to stay alive... or if the opportunity arises to do great harm to the enemy. It looks at firearms, with an eye to deliberate acts of assassination as well as the more familiar firefight. There's even a bit about heavy weapons, with the assumption that the agents have captured them from the enemy rather than brought them along themselves (hence needing to know how to use German weapons rather than the British equivalents). Due to the nature of clandestine operations, however, hand-to-hand combat (possibly with improvised weapons or your bare hands) is also likely and there's an extensive section devoted to that, with matters such as dealing with sentries and disarming foes being covered. Note that these are REAL fighting techniques, be very careful if you're tempted to try them out on your friends.

Possibly the most interesting section is the one on Espionage. This is what is often called tradecraft, the tricks used by spies to gather and communicate information to their parent organisation. Falling into several areas, the first is human intelligence, that gathered by you or from other people, including things like evaluating the reliability and honesty of your sources and avoiding being noticed. Many informants won't know why you are gathering information, if they even realise that you're gathering it at all. The section also looks at disguises and cover identities - tasks that can involve the building of an entire 'legend', a well-backstopped identity that will withstand investigation. There are notes on how to pass a routine interrogation at a checkpoint or the like, as well as the tougher questioning you'd expect if trying to access a secure facility or if you get caught up in a security sweep. Some rules are provided for this. Then on to building networks, deception and counter-intelligence.

The third main section covers Communications. Radio, of course, was the mainstay but as anyone might chance on the frequency you're using, codewords are a good idea or you can delve into the esoteric world of ciphers. There are other ways of communicating, many of which fall under the tradecraft banner - leaving signs for others to observe, dead drops. Then there's propaganda - communicating with the enemy to mislead or lower morale or otherwise influence them. Or the media - generally newspapers - can be used to pass information on without anyone suspecting that it has been done. The delivery of orders is also covered, including the formal structure of content.

Finally there's Irregular Warfare. Building on the more personal aspects of combat discussed earlier, this is aimed at the sort of things you can do to weaken, confuse or demoralise the enemy. Sun Tzu said "Kill one to terrorise ten thousand", but here it may be a case of creating a situation that will cause the enemy to commit more and more forces into a specific area to the detriment of their efforts elsewhere. Sabotage, rebellion, ambushes, assassinations, direct attacks and subversion can all be tools in your arsenal. There are useful notes on moving around covertly, and there's a fair bit about using explosives. House-to-house fighting, ambushes and attacking railways to best effect are also covered along with sabotage and arson. Again, these are genuine real-world tactics, but ones which can be used to good effect in your game (I've been drawing on my military training for years to fuel my role-playing...). There's a bit more on surveillance and subversion, which extends material covered in the Espionage section nicely.

There's an extensive Weapons and Equipment section, and this gets interesting fast as specialised kit for the well-dressed spy abounds - easily-concealed firearms, disguised explosives, incendiaries... there's even an exploding rat! Should you need to venture underwater, necessary equipment is covered - and if you're on the water, why, there are even seasickness pills to be had. There are other useful items as well, but care must be taken to never have stuff that screams "Agent" on you in case the enemy searches you as you go about your business...

Probably essential if you want to run World War Cthulhu seriously, there's a lot of useful information here for anyone planning a World War 2 or just thereafter setting for a game whether or not the Mythos features. If you're not using the Call of Cthulhu ruleset, it should be easy enough to convert the game mechanics to whatever system you are playing. Overall, a fascinating read, and well-grounded in historical fact.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
World War Cthulhu: The SOE Handbook
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The Laundry - As Above, So Below
by David G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2017 15:33:43

This covers warfare on two very different planes, the kick-in-the-door-and-shoot-the-tentacled-horror-from-beyond-space heroics of Special Forces, and the agenda-to-agenda conflict in committee rooms that decides what the Laundry - and other parties - want to get out of the mission.

The Special Forces section allows you to create characters who are SAS or SBS (or any other part of UKSF - the UK's Special Forces directorate), who can turn up when the amateurs from the Laundry mess things up and put out a call for OCCULU support. There's a fairly strong suggestion that it makes sense for players to have two sets of characters, their mainstream Laundry characters and the knuckle-dragging doorkickers. The whole section is well written, well informed, and occasionally laugh out loud funny (Some of the humour is likely to pass you by if you aren't British, and possibly of a certain age. For instance, SAS slang for magic is 'animal', and that's never explained. But Brits like me will be sniggering over the reference to 'Animal Magic', a kid's TV show baack in the 70s. There's not a huge amount of this, but it is there.). And it doesn't just stop at character creation, it looks at how occult operations might be different from conventional operations - such as using radar-altimeter equipped 40mm BATSTOP rounds to set up a mid-air no-go area for flying horrors, or why in a conventional operation you would want to be in a ditch during a firefight, but when taking on a horde of shambling zombies you would want to be behind it. This is really well thought out.

Next up is an SF scenario, On Borrowed Time - an alien installation just appeared next to the UK Jungle Warfare training base in Brunei, and the last message from the Laundry team sent to investigate was that they were under attack, so the players get to airdrop in to find out what happened to them, and kill it. It's not bad, but there's a strange mix of quite simple shoot-it-now and we-need-to-think-really-carefully-about-this.

And then we're back to the green baize tables of Westminster committee rooms. The basic Laundry Files includes a really well thought out mechanic which gives you a budget for missions, which can be augmented by the use of your Status (a character stat) within the Laundry. So while it is possible to exceed your budget and call in OCCULUS support (or whatever) for every mission, the downside is that you will then find your supervisor complaining loudly when the bill for said OCCULUS support (or whatever) comes out of their budget. Which can mean not getting sent on that Computational Demonology training course your character really wants to go on. It's really neatly self-balancing, you can abuse your budget, but there will be consequences. And it really fits the bureaucratic ethos of the Laundry.

As Above, So Below extends this mechanic. You now can call on more than just your own Status stat, you can draw on your department's Status, plus that of your mentor, if you have one. And the section runs through a whole range of mentor types, from Deeply Scary Sorcerors, to MPs and Ministers (dangerous), the opposition (MI5 and MI6 that is - very dangerous), to journalists (flee, you fools!). And if your Status grows high enough, then you too may be promoted to management and expected to sit on the committees that decide Laundry policy for the next expedition to the Plateau of the Sleeper, or, more likely, the precise wording to the latest amendments to standing procedures for paperclip audits.

Putting players on high level commitees for operational policy is the main focus, and the suggestion is that they should again have a parallel set of characters, each with their own agendas, whether departmental or otherwise. Which is fine, not sure I'd want to roll it out a lot, but worth playing with from time to time. What I'm not sure about is whether I like the mechanic used, which uses a set of playing cards, which are given values for agendas and issues, with the idea being to trump other people's agendas and issues, possibly in combination with other players. It sounds workable, and I may just be having an irrational reaction to the playing cards, but cards aren't used anywhere else in the game. I think I'd be tempted to rewrite it to something closer to Status if I wanted to play it repeatedly.

And the last part of the supplement are two more scenarios, the first with the players themselves on a low-level committee, and the second using the dual level committee play mechanics. In Hot Potato, the characters end up one one of those committees everyone tries to avoid, in this case setting up the government bunkers for CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, but something's gone wrong with a Compulsory Purchase Order (USAians think eminent domain) and suddenly the press are all over it, when they shouldn't even know the Laundry exists. There's a leak in the committee, and the players are on a mole hunt. But this mole may be burrowed much deeper than they imagine. In Fire Drill, a Laundry agent sent on a mission to Kazakhstan disappeared several months ago, but has now been caught on the dashboard camera of an embassy car. The committee has to decide whether to focus on recovering him, carrying on his investigation (cases of spontaneous human combustion, possibly linked to a Russian rocket company) or whatever, a decision which the agent characters then get to implement it. There's a lot of flexibility built into this, possibly too much, the threat can be anything from the odd spontaneous human combustion, to world threatening. I think it might have been better to take a little of the flexibility of the threat out in order to concentrate attention on the flexibility of the mission planning - which is what the scenario is supposed to be showcasing. Which is not to say it's a bad scenario, just that it may be trying to do too much at once.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Laundry - As Above, So Below
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The Laundry - God Game Black
by David G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/08/2017 15:09:42

The Sleeper on the Plateau, part of the Laundry Files series mythos, is an alien god sleeping in an ancient temple on a pyramid on a plateau on a planet far, far from here, whose awakening will herald CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, when the stars come right and the Old Ones awake. GOD GAME BLACK is the codename for Laundry operations to stop the awakening. The supplement covers a range of Laundry related stuff, primarily bringing the game up to speed with developments in the novel series through The Apocalypse Codex, in which an American megachurch tried to to wake the Sleeper.

We start off with External Assets, the non-Laundry contractors such as Persephone Hazard, aka BASHFUL INCENDIARY, whose existence is revealed to series hero Bob during Apocalypse Codex. Assets tend to be experts in their particular area, so character generation provides for them to be more powerful than a raw Laundry recruit. On the other hand they can't pick up a phone and call for OCCULUS, their whole point is that they're deniable (or that's the cover story, anyway). Next up are rules for traditional magic. Magic in the Laundry Files is a computational process, and Laundry agents get to run it on their iPhones, isolating them from the Eaters in the Dark. But if you aren't a Laundry agent and need to provide your own hardware, then you can run it on raw brains, which is precisely what the Eaters like.

And then we get to CODICIL BLACK SKULL, a whole section on the history of the Sleeper, and humanity's contact with the plateau (which mostly consists of people dying horribly, or not-dying horribly). One oddity here is that 666 Squadron, who perform regular reconnaissance of the plateau using gate spells and the White Elephants (aka nuclear armed Concordes) is referred to as Squadron 666, which is neither British, nor American, usage, there's one or two other typographical oddities, but nothing critical. There's also a very minor problem with 666 Squadron's history, but you have to be extremely well read on the RAF to spot it.

Which brings us to the Black Chamber. They’re not so much our sister agency as our psycho ex-girlfriend turned bunny-boiler. The Apocalypse Codex. Remember what US foreign policy was like in the heart of Cold War - We don't care if you're channeling Hitler at seances and dropping democracy activists out of helicopters, any anti-communist is a true friend of America's - now apply that to contact with the Cthulhu Mythos. The Black Chamber's primary field agents are either human drones, remotely piloted via the black mark, or non-humans, who don't have any rights in US law, and so can be extorted into service - cf Ramona Random in The Jennifer Morgue. Think In order to save humanity, it became necessary to destroy our humanity. The chapter gives the complete structure of the Black Chamber, and rules for character generation if you should want to play a Black Chamber campaign, potentially including care and feeding of the demon the Black Chamber bound into you in order to ensure your loyalty. If you use the Black Chamber as an American version of the Laundry, then it’s best to embrace the Strangelovecraftian weirdness. ... While the Laundry hunts down possessed sheep in a rainy field in Essex, the Black Chamber’s off fighting DEEP SEVEN in the Colorado Mountains, or blowing up large chunks of the Middle East. Go weird, loud, and paranoid.

Pre-history is next up, or rather pre-Laundry History, so the history of the Invisible College, from the 13th Century through to WWII and its metamorphosis into the Laundry. As this covers the main 1920s era of Call of Cthulhu, there are brief rules for creating agents of the Invisible College in that era, plus a rogue's gallery of the movers and shakers in the creation of the Laundry, such as Major General JFC Fuller, who here gets the option of running the Laundry or being interned as a Nazi sympathizer, and Claude Dansey of MI6 - Spiteful and often cruel, he has a special dislike for intellectuals and academics, which makes his position in the Invisible College rather awkward, along with Ian Fleming, Denis Wheatley, and Aleister Crowley.

The Phoney War covers how to handle the period where the laws of nature start to change as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN draws closer and ideas for how to cover that in campaigns - it looks pretty much compatible with The Annihilation Score and The Nightmare Stacks, even if written before them.

And the supplement ends with two really good scenarios. Think of the Children is set in an academy (a privately-run, government-funded school - hugely controversial, perfect choice) controlled by the Golden Promise Ministry, the Christian(-ish, sort of not really) megachurch trying to raise the Sleeper in The Apocalypse Codex and can run either immediately prior to the events of the book or just after. Appropriately for a quiverfull ministry, the academy is another string to Golden Promise's bow, a different way of coming at waking the Sleeper by using psychically aware kids. Then one of the kids tries to make contact with the Laundry by taking a character's family hostage. Only there's multiple layers to this plot, and stopping it is going to present the players with a real moral dilemma. The final scenario is The Moral High Ground and runs in parallel with Apocalypse Codex. A handful of Golden Promise agents try to kidnap an exiled Tibetan expert on the mythology of the plateau and its intersection with Tibet, and when the main mega-massacre plot is stopped by Bob and Persephone, launch an attempt to reach a ruined monastery on the plateau and wake the Sleeper from there. Stopping them means paradropping a mixed Laundry/SAS team onto the plateau. And the record of teams surviving the plateau is not good.

It's a bit mixed thematically, but everything here is pretty good, and some of it really should be core to a Laundry Campaign. That last scenario ties in really well with the special forces stuff from As Above, So Below.



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The Laundry - God Game Black
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World War Cthulhu: Europe Ablaze
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/08/2017 09:33:10

Set in the darkest days of World War 2, when it seemed that Britain stood alone against the Nazi hordes, this book provides six fully-developed adventures, missions the party might be sent to complete, all somewhere in mainland Europe. Each combines real war action with additional menace posed by the Mythos and human agents thereof, and all pose real threats to the physical and mental well-being of the party. A couple of them are even based on real events, others are more Mythos based but the war still poses a very tangible threat. The adventures will take the party to northern France, Italy, Norway, Belgium, Greece and Spain (the last being ostensibly neutral, but it's still a dangerous place for British service personnel!). Refer to World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour for more extensive details of 'Section N' for which the party is assumed to work.

First up is Sleeper Agents, set in mid-1941 in France. Something untoward is stirring, disturbed by the bombing of trains heading towards the coast for the Dunkirk evacuation the previous year. It's drawn the attention of some very dangerous people... and now it's caught the eye of N, the party's boss, who sends them to find out what's going on and to put a stop to it, under the cover of helping the Resistance establish a network of agents in the area. With detailed NPCs - both friends and foes - and the town of Rennes to investigate, the party should be kept busy for some time... especially once the assassinations start.

Next comes The Play is the Thing, set in Italy sometime before 1943. It all begins with the British suspecting that an Italian biological warfare experiment has gone wrong and sending the party to investigate. Beginning with a briefing in Malta, the party is inserted into the area... but from then on it's somewhat of a sandbox mission as they investigate the outbreak of a rather strange plague. While British Intelligence think it's an experiment gone awry, N reckons there may be cultist activity taking place: whatever the cause, the party is tasked with putting a stop to it. The adventure begins as they parachute in... and with a haunted wood and dismembered body parts they'll soon realise that something's very, very wrong here despite a festival in progress and even a movie being made.

The third adventure is We Will Remember Them. Based on actual historical events, this sees the party sent to Norway to demolish power stations but begins in media res with them waking up in the back of a crashed truck after the attack. Things only get worse... It's an unusual and exciting (and scary once the truth comes out) adventure, with earlier parts of the mission replayed in flashbacks - make sure that you do this, it's an integral part of the plot - and then things slowly become horribly clear. Probably better run as a one-off, as characters will be irrovocably changed and some players may not feel comfortable using them again.

Next up, Lift Not Thy Hands which sends the party to occupied Belgium in 1942 in a mission to retrieve an amulet and investigate the demise of the people who were transporting it, although ostensibly they are there to train the local Resistance. Eavading the Gestapo whilst conducting investigations into occult matters should provide plenty of excitement as the body count rises.

Then The Angel of the Abyss is set in Greece, also in 1942. Again loosely based on historical events, it involves friction between different groups of Greek partisans as they seek to disrupt German supply lines heading south towards Africa. There's plenty of background and a whole host of fascinating and detailed NPCs. The ostensible mission is to aid the Resistance, who have some bridges to demolish, with a side of investigating some unusual religious activity which might attract inconvenient attention from Italian troops. With military duties as well as investigations, the party will be kept busy... then bodies begin to pile up!

Stoways comes next, set in the Mediterranean Sea during the late October of 1943. The party is charged with searching out saboteurs on a hospital ship involved in the exchange of POWs, but there's a nasty bug going around as well. The party will have to deal with sick and injured Germans, British medical personnel and Spanish Red Cross observers. Events are fluid but based around a timeline that ends when the ship makes port... and any mistakes will lead to diplomatic turmoil.

This is an interesting and varied set of adventures that should provide for many sessions of intriguing play for you and your group. With the possible exception of We Will Remember Them they could be played in sequence with the same party - or at least those who survive with bodies and minds reasonably intact - and even that adventure is provided with an alternative that could allow continuation. For ready-made adventures these are excellent, just the right balance of detail and background whilst leaving plenty of scope to run events as you see fit.



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World War Cthulhu: Europe Ablaze
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World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/06/2017 12:42:58

The concept is presented in a flurry of facsimile documents that set the scene and create the right atmosphere even before we reach Part 1: Introduction, which explains what 'World War Cthulhu' is all about. Basically war presents opportunities for the followers of dark forces, and the major distruptions of the last century and in particular World War 2 gave rise to unprecedented scope for them to push forwards their plans with little risk of detection. The World War Cthulhu line is intended to explore other avenues as well, but with this the first book in the series the intention is to look at Europe in the early part of the Second World War. It's Allied-centric, with the party involved in defeating Nazis and Mythos creatures alike, although interestingly the Nazis are not represented as attempting to harness the Mythos in support of the Third Reich. Despite Nazi activities in the realms of the occult, they are still not quite that insane! The default setting is that they belong to Section N, an intelligence network - if nothing else, it's a good vehicle to send them off on missions!

The rest of the Introduction sets the mood of the game and details British Intelligence in considerable detail. It's likely that recruits to Section N (which comes at the end) may well be drawn from or at least familiar with the other organs of British Intelligence. If you have a burning desire to play an American, remember you'd be a volunteer in a British unit... the USA is yet to enter the war at this point!

Next is Part 2: Investigator's Resources. Character generation is based on the Call of Cthulhu ruleset, but it's advised that you use this rather the the core rulebook as these characters will be honed to withstand the rigors of wartime. If you do want to use an existing Call of Cthulhu character, there are some notes on how best to tweak it to suit, however. One difference is that the character's background is split into a pre-war occupation and the military service undertaken (in total war, even civilians get swept up in the war machine). As well as noting how the character became aware of the Mythos, recruitment by Section N is also covered - and the resultant training may yield some useful additional skills. As well as British characters, there's information about those from Australia, New Zealand and Canada (the Commonwealth having joined the UK in the war from the outset), escaped Europeans (especially from France and Poland) as well as a word on Americans. After all the detail you need and a worked example, there are some new occupations - politician, scientist and spy - and some new skills suited to this particular environment.

The rest of this chapter moves on from the game mechanics of character creation to a discussion of Intelligence Operating Procedures. Standard procedures can be a blessing and a curse: understanding them can stop you making a silly mistake but following them blindly can lead to disaster or detection. Study them well and use them wisely. For those intending to play military-oriented characters there is also an analysis of small unit tactics. Even the non-combatants ought to read through them - incoming fire rarely stops to ask if you are a trained soldier! Both these sections provide a solid overview of the matters under discussion and are particularly useful for players who have minimal experience in espionage or military combat.

Part 3: Keeper's Handbook covers all manner of things that the Game Master or Keeper should bear in mind when planning or running their game. Whilst there is a lot of good advice here, the main gist of it is to pile horror upon horror, playing to the 'purist' mode of Call of Cthulhu which aims to be as realistic and gritty as possible. The fight against the Nazi horde should be rooted in reality: draw on documentaries and history books rather than movie interpretations. While the agents of the Mythos might be taking advantage of all-out war to further their own ends, N - the party's director - is also taking every advantage of his position in British Intelligence to further his own war against the Mythos. N sure knows a lot about the Mythos, too. Here you can read a fair bit about his background and perhaps discover who he actually is... something the characters might never know, or may discover if (when?) they have to step up and take his place. Several suggestions are made, select the one you prefer or make up one of your own.

Moving on to a discussion of builing plots, things get complex with many strands - human, Mythos, the 'mundane' course of the war - to weave together to create each adventure. Standard intelligence missions are often subverted by N to his own ends, but the needs of the war and maintaining his cover means that the intended mission aims must be met as well as N's own. Then there are the plots being perpetrated by Mythos agents to defeat, as well as said agents to investigate. There's a lot going on, a lot to keep track of... and that's before you get to the strange places and alien horrors that also need to be investigated! There are some maxims for running adventures too. Make things personal - no nameless mooks amongst the opposition, for example. The Mythos and the war effort don't mix: this is not an alternate-history 'weird war' but the Mythos intruding into the real world. It's best to avoid big battles and too many encounters with historical figures, however - you don't want to introduce opportunities for history-changing events. There's a lot to think about as you plan.

Next comes a survey of theatres of war, with suggestions for missions that can be run in each one. Plenty of historical detail mixed with more outlandish stuff here, ready to spawn ideas in your mind for plots. Many mission suggestions have to components: an intelligence mission based on British war aims and a secondary mission at N's instigation. This is followed by The Dark Lamentable Catalogue, which documents Mythos cults and the Mythos beings whom they serve.

Of course, Mythos cultists are not the only opposition, and Behind Closed Doors presents some of the murky organisations, committees and people that the party will have to navigate and contend with back home in London. Attention then turns again to small group tactics, the focus now is on running encounters to best effect. Although it's best to stay away from pitched battles, there's enough here to enable you to run them well if the party's involvement is unavoidable. Should the adventure go underwater, there's information on SCUBA equipment and the underwater environment. Excitement can also be supplied with sections on parachuting and other military skills. Aerial, naval and vehicular combat is aslo covered. This is followed by the Equipment section, which pays attention to the difficulty of obtaining things due to rationing and black marketeering in different areas of Europe. There are plenty of weapons here too, even if their use against Mythos creatures is limited. They don't come with pricetags, they will either be issued or stolen...

Finally, The God in the Woods presents a complete campaign setting with scope for plenty adventure. It's the small town of Saint-Cerneuf-du-Bois in the Dordogne, which lies close to the border between the Nazi-occupied territory and Vichy France. There's a lot of information on locations in the town and the surrounding area, what is going on there, and a whole host of NPCs to encounter there. Everyone is well-developed, with a character and personality all their own. There is, however, Something in the woods - and a group dedicated to it. Once this introductory background material is presented, the sequence of events to drive your campaign is laid out, beginning with a briefing in London... and running over several weeks if not longer, with scope for side-missions and a myriad of events to throw in at opportune moments. It's a delightful slow unfolding of unspeakable horror lurking in the woods and blighting the whole neighbourhood.

A character sheet and a wonderful collection of strange snippets, events that are claimed to have actually happened but are weird enough to form the basis of future adventures finish up this book. What's really appealing is that it mixes real-world history with the Mythos, pulling no punches with either yet avoiding descent into a weird alternative history where the Mythos affected or was harnessed by the conflict going on around the party.



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World War Cthulhu: The Darkest Hour
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Lone Wolf Adventure Game - Magnamund Menagerie
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/17/2017 15:48:10

The Magnamund Menagerie is well illustrated throughout except the maps at the end which are a little disappointing (especially as the others are well defined.) The information within is useful if a tiny bit on the short side. A useful addition for those who run the game but, with a little bit more work, could have been outstanding.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Lone Wolf Adventure Game - Magnamund Menagerie
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The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/02/2017 04:06:00

I bought this product because, unfortunately, the group I'm gaming with wants to use the travel rules contained within. Otherwise, it is not worth the money. While in general, The One Ring is a great game, and most of the products for it have been pretty good, Journeys and Maps is brutally and unforgivably flawed. Yes, I knew the maps were crippleware when I bought it. I didn't expect them to be so poor resolution that they look like crap at "100%" zoom level on a 1080p monitor, but they do.

It's too bad that Cubicle 7 is addicted to the idea that they should try to force their fans (who'd rather not carry around huge piles of dead trees when a lap-top with a set of files is so much more convenient) to have a choice between crappy low-res maps, dead trees, and getting the maps from other sources, but that IS what the game company has left us with. I don't like it, and I don't appreciate it-- and I do NOT FIND CUBICLE 7'S EXCUSES FOR THIS DECISION ACCEPTABLE. It's greed and disrespect to their audience. Nothing more, nothing less.

And for that-- it's too bad I can't give this product a "0 stars" rating-- it doesn't even deserve the 1 star I had to give it because that's the lowest the rating system goes.



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[1 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Journeys and Maps
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Adventures in Middle-earth Loremaster's Guide
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/01/2017 06:45:00

http://www.teilteithelden.de

Jede Heldengruppe braucht einen Spielleiter, der sie durch das Ungewisse dirigiert. Davon sind Reisen nach Mittelerde natürlich nicht ausgenommen, denn auch dort lauern Feinde in den Schatten und warten Schätze in den Grüften – und nur der Loremaster kennt den Weg

Analog zu anderen d20-Regelwerken erscheint Adventures in Middle-Earth, die d20-Version von Der Eine Ring, in zwei grundlegenden Büchern. So gibt es das Spielerhandbuch, das ich euch letzten Monat vorgestellt habe, und auch das Spielleiterhandbuch, hier passend zum ursprünglichen Regelwerk Loremaster's Guide Das Spielerhandbuch hat es geschafft, Lust auf mehr zu machen. Die Frage ist nun, ob auch das Spielleiterhandbuch dieses Gefühl hervorrufen kann.

Mehr Hintergrund...

So wie das Spielerhandbuch ist auch das Spielleiterhandbuch anhand der Aufmachung und bestimmter Regelelemente deutlich als Variante von Der Eine Ring zu erkennen. Wer das ursprüngliche Regelwerk besitzt, findet zwischen den Buchdeckeln eine d20-Version des bekannten Systems wieder – nicht mehr, aber eben auch nicht weniger, schließlich ist eine solche Adaption nicht ganz einfach und erfordert viel Arbeit. Vor allem nicht native Regelelemente aus Der Eine Ring sind dabei eine Herausforderung.

So zum Beispiel die gelungen übertragene Aufteilung in Abenteuer- und Gefährtenphase. In der erstgenannten sind die Helden unterwegs, erkunden Ruinen, retten in Not geratene Menschen, töten Orks – was man eben so an Abenteuern erlebt. In der zweiten Phase können sie an einem geschützten Rückzugsort ihre Fähigkeiten verbessern, alte Schriften studieren oder sich einfach von den ganzen Strapazen erholen.

Damit der Spielleiter diese Reisen und Orte möglichst stimmungsvoll gestalten kann, widmen sich die ersten Seiten dieses Buches dem erzählerischen Hintergrund. Zeitlich zwischen Der Hobbit und Der Herr der Ringe und räumlich im Nordosten Mittelerdes verortet, erfährt der Leser viel über das weitere Schicksal von Figuren wie Bard, Thranduil und Dain, sowie über Orte wie Thal und den Einsamen Berg. Als Spielleiter kann er diese Informationen nutzen, um seinen Spielern einen lebendigen, immersiven Rückzugsort zu schaffen, an dem sie sich zwischen ihren Abenteuern immer wieder gerne aufhalten. Als Beispiele werden Beorns Hütte und Bruchtal genannt, aber auch Esgaroth, die große Seestadt, wird detailliert beschrieben.

...mehr Tipps und Regeln...

Der Loremaster's Guide bietet aber nicht nur mehr Hintergrund, sondern liefert Inspirationen auf verschiedene Weise: Er beinhaltet viele verschiedene Vorschläge für NSC, mehr Spielwerte für Gegner, und auch mehr Ideen, um die Abenteuer und Reisen etwas aufzulockern und interessanter zu gestalten. Außerdem, erwartbarer Standard für ein solches Spielleiterhandbuch, beinhaltet das Buch auch ganz allgemeine Hilfen, um zum Beispiel Kämpfe und Szenarien spannender zu gestalten.

Sehr ausführlich wird dabei auch die Spielmechanik beschrieben, die hinter einem Vortrag vor Publikum steht. Das klingt vielleicht banal und wenig abenteuerlich, aber wie bei vielen anderen Regelsystemen werden manche Situationen, die eigentlich trivial wirken, mit zusätzlichen Regeln zu kleinen Abenteuern für sich. So eben auch die öffentlichen Auftritte, mit denen die Spielercharaktere um Unterstützung oder einfach nur mehr Geld bitten können. Bei Adventures in Middle-Earth steckt dahinter ein eigenes Regelfeld, welches durch den Loremaster's Guide dankenswerterweise bereichert wird: mit mehr Beispielen und Tipps, damit der Spielleiter den rollenspielerischen Anteil ausbauen kann.

...und etwas mehr Magie!

Ein Abschnitt, der all jene erfreuen dürfte, die auch gerne einmal ein Schwert ihr eigen nennen wollten, das bei der Anwesenheit von Orks blau leuchtet, widmet sich magischen Gegenständen. Damit wird auch der Bogen zum allgemeinen Themenblock Magie geschlagen. Wer die W20-Regeln kennt, der weiß, dass darin in der Regel allerlei magische Klassen enthalten sind. Doch wie ist das in Mittelerde, wo es laut Gandalf nur eine Handvoll Zauberer gibt? Gut, ein paar Elfen und Waldläufer können auch irgendwie irgendwelche magisch wirkenden Dinge tun, aber kann man das in Regeln ausdrücken? Der Loremaster's Guide versucht es immerhin und gibt dem Spielleiter einige Orientierungshilfen an die Hand, mit denen er Mittelerde je nach Vorlieben etwas magischer gestalten kann. Abgerundet wird dieses leider sehr kurze Kapitel mit einer Liste von Zaubern, von denen sich die Autoren vorstellen können, sie nach Mittelerde zu übertragen.

Wer also möchte und keine Mitspieler dadurch stört, darf sich gerne einen typischen W20-Magier erstellen. Wer eine eingeschränkte Magieanwendung bevorzugt, der steckt etwas Fantasie und Arbeit in dieses Thema, bis es zu Tolkiens Büchern passt.

Erscheinungsbild

Soweit ich das überblicken kann, wurden genau wie im Spielerhandbuch die Illustrationen komplett aus Der Eine Ring übernommen. Das ist aber gar nicht mal schlecht, denn die Zeichnungen an sich sind sehr gut und fangen schön die Atmosphäre von Mittelerde ein. Gleiches gilt sogar für die Schriftart, die von der Optik her an andere Veröffentlichungen erinnert, die mit dem Tolkien-Kosmos zu tun haben. Insgesamt gibt es wenig zu meckern, lediglich an einzelnen Illustrationen könnte man kleinere Dinge bemängeln. Totalausfälle gibt es aber so gut wie gar nicht.

Fazit

Hier bekommt man, was auf dem Buchdeckel steht. Der Loremaster's Guide ist als Spielleiterhandbuch eine passende Ergänzung zum Spielerhandbuch von Adventures in Middle-Earth, allerdings keine völlig unverzichtbare Anschaffung. Der Player's Guide enthält eigentlich alles, was man zum Spielen des Systems benötigt. Der Loremaster's Guide hingegen enthält ziemlich viele Ergänzungen, die in erster Linie für Spieler und Spielleiter interessant sind, die ein spezielles Thema vertiefen oder auf eine detailliertere Spielweltbeschreibung zurückgreifen wollen. Völlig sinnlos ist er also nicht, aber eben auch kein Muss, wenn man Adventures in Middle-Earth spielen möchte.

Wer bereits Der Eine Ring hat, der braucht diese Version sowieso nicht, auch nicht den Player's Guide – es sei denn, er ist extrem unzufrieden mit dem Regelsystem und möchte es mal als d20-Variante ausprobieren. D20-Jünger, die noch nicht mit Der Eine Ring in Kontakt gekommen sind, sollten Adventures in Middle-Earth ohnehin eine Chance geben, wenn sie mal einen Ausflug in Tolkiens Welt unternehmen wollen. Zum Reinschnuppern reicht aber definitiv der Player's Guide, der Loremaster's Guide ist eher Bonusmaterial auf hohem Niveau für Interessierte, die öfter einen Ausflug nach Mittelerde machen und das System vollends ausreizen wollen.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures in Middle-earth Loremaster's Guide
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Adventures in Middle-earth Character Sheets
by Nicholas D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/12/2017 14:41:36

The Good: What can I say? It's all in the title!

The Bad: Can't say I have any issues with them!

Conclusion: They're great, highly reccommend them for your Adventures in Middle-Earth game!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventures in Middle-earth Character Sheets
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The One Ring - Bree
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/04/2017 08:13:35

The settlement of Bree always conjures up a cosy, welcoming feel... yet there's a feeling of being on the edge of adventure. This supplement matches that feeling well, with plenty of detail on Bree itself and in particular The Prancing Pony Inn, as well as three adventures and a wealth of ideas for things to do in Bree, be you adventuring or in the Fellowship Phase.

The Introduction puts this all in context, pointing out that Bree is to the west of Rivendell, a good stopping-off point for travellers, and with a history of meetings and encounters. Those who fancy playing a hobbit or a man of Bree will find all the details they need to create their character, while Loremasters (for whom this supplement is really intended) will find plenty to bring a new area to life in their game. Suggestions are provided for how to use the adventures: the default is that they should be used with a new party setting out from the area and, run in the order presented, take three or more years to complete in conjuction with Fellowship Phases, but at least the first two adventures may be run as stand-alones or the party may consist of more seasoned characters who have arrived in Bree. Plenty of options there to weave this material into your campaign.

We start off, however, with A History of the Bree-land. Opinions are divided it seems, some say Bree's ancient, settled by descendants of the first men to ever tread these lands, others say different. The Bree-folk themselves aren't too bothered, scholarly pursuits are uncommon amongst them although a hobbit historian has put together an extensive history for those who care to search out a copy and read it. He traces evidence of the existence of Bree back to the reign of the last king of Arnor, in the year 843 of the Third Age. Hobbits arrived somewhat later, around 1300 or so.

Next up is the geography of the area. Bree is a bastion of civilisation, a little island in the middle of the empty wilderness of the North - and the majority of the inhabitants are content to stay there. The East Road and the North Road cross nearby bringing plenty of travellers through (and allowing any locals with itchy feet a way out). There are some irregular patrols by the Rangers of the North, and characters spending a Fellowship Phase in Bree can help out if they're of a mind, and if the Rangers like them. There are plenty of other ideas for activities based in and around Bree too. Plenty of places and people are described, facilitating exploration of the area (particularly for non-local characters). The Prancing Pony gets a whole section to itself, complete with floor plans. This is followed by material covering the empty lands around Bree, and a section about adventuring in Bree.

Then, Men of Bree covers the people who live there, including background about them and all the information you need to create your own characters - hobbits as well as men.

The three adventures follow. Old Bones and Skin sends the party on the trail of a monster first encountered in tales told in The Prancing Pony, but grim and real enough... and so naturally enough begins in the inn itself. Of course, there's much more to it, enough to challenge the bravest adventurer and with real risk attached. Then Strange Men, Strange Roads is set set on the Road west of the Forsaken Inn, involving travelling to both the Chetwood and to Bree, and it all starts in the Forsaken Inn when the party is due to meet a Ranger who doesn't show up. Plenty of action and a spot of courtroom drama await. Finally, Holed Up in Staddle involves travelling the roads and entering Bree itself in the pursuit of some evil men.

This is a coherent and evocative supplement, ideally suited to the gentle yet epic feel of The One Ring, and comes recommended highly as another worthy expansion to the known world. There's lots to do in Bree...



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Bree
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Adventures in Middle-earth Player's Guide
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/30/2017 03:16:56

http://www.teilzeithelden.de/2017/08/30/ersteindruck-adventures-in-middle-earth-players-guide-auf-nach-mittelerde-cubicle-7/

Jeder Fantasy-Fan kennt Mittelerde aus J. R. R. Tolkiens Der Herr der Ringe, und viele davon würden dort gerne selber einmal ein Abenteuer erleben. Viele kreative Köpfe haben sich bereits am komplexen Stoff verhoben. Heute testen wir, wie es Adventures in Middle-Earth gelingt.

Vor etwas über fünf Jahren brachte die britische Rollenspielschmiede Cubicle 7 eines der bislang ambitioniertesten Regelsysteme auf den Markt, mit dem Abenteuer in Mittelerde am Spieltisch möglich sein sollten. The One Ring Roleplaying Game wurde zum Kritikerliebling und räumte viele Preise ab. Vor über drei Jahren hat Dirk Walbrühl das System bereits auf diesen Seiten besprochen und dabei auch einen kurzen Überblick über die Geschichte bisheriger Rollenspielsysteme zu Der Herr der Ringe verfasst, den ich mir deswegen an dieser Stelle spare. Die deutsche Version besorgte schließlich der Uhrwerk Verlag, der im Februar diesen Jahres jedoch mitteilte, die Produktreihe aufgrund mangelnder Umsätze einzustellen.

Im englischsprachigen Raum erfreut sich das System jedoch immer noch großer Beliebtheit, weswegen es sich der Publisher erlauben kann, mit dem vorhandenen Setting in eine weitere Richtung zu expandieren. Das Ergebnis ist Adventures in Middle-Earth, eine Umsetzung von The One Ring nach d20-Regeln. Manch einer mag nun skeptisch die Augenbrauen heben und das für eine unnötige Vereinfachung der Regeln und das schamlose Anbiedern an den Mainstream halten. Aber vielleicht ist es auch nur ein sinnvoller Schritt, um potenzielle neue Spieler zu erreichen. Letztlich zählt, was am Ende dabei rauskommt, und das wollen wir uns nun näher ansehen.

Die Spielwelt

Mittelerde ist wahrscheinlich eine der bekanntesten Fantasy-Welten. Fast jeder, der sich auch nur ein bisschen mit diesem Genre beschäftigt, kann sie Tolkiens Der Herr der Ringe zuordnen. Geht es jedoch in die Tiefe, können nur wenige den Überblick über die komplexe Historie Mittelerdes behalten. Ebenso verhält es sich mit der Geographie, den verschiedenen Regionen, den Völkern Mittelerdes und ihrer Kultur. In diesem Punkt sind Experten rar gesät, denn viele Details finden sich nicht in den beiden weithin bekannten prosaischen Werken Der Herr der Ringe und Der Hobbit. Wer tief in Mythos und Welt eintauchen möchte, der muss sich noch durch einige Ergänzungen wie Das Silmarillion wühlen, das vom Namen her zwar ebenfalls fast jedem bekannt sein dürfte, das aber vergleichbar weniger Leute gelesen haben.

Dementsprechend wirkt ein Rollenspiel mit Schwerpunkt auf Mittelerde mitunter regelrecht frisch und unverbraucht, scheint dabei aber dennoch vertraut. Weise Elben in tiefen Wäldern, fleißige Zwerge unter den Bergen und gutmütige Hobbits in den Auen sind jedem ein Begriff, was aber abseits der epischen Reisen einiger wohlbekannter Gefährten in ihrem Leben passiert, ist so gut wie unbekannt.

Das Regelwerk legt den Fokus auf die Zeit zwischen Der Hobbit und Der Herr der Ringe und auf die Region nordöstlich des Nebelgebirges. Die gerade erst wiedererrichteten Königreiche in Thal und unter dem Einsamen Berg, die Seestadt Esgaroth, das Reich der Elben vom Düsterwald und die Ufer des nördlichen Anduin werden als lebhafte Landstriche dargestellt, in denen die Bewohner nach Jahrzehnten der Lethargie mit Tatkraft an einer besseren Zukunft arbeiten. Wer die späteren Ereignisse aus Der Herr der Ringe kennt, der weiß natürlich, dass es nicht mehr als eine letzte wertvolle Ruhepause vor dem Ringkrieg ist, ein letzter tiefer Atemzug, bevor der alte Feind die Länder der freien Völker erneut verheeren wird.

Auch die anderen Regionen Mittelerdes werden beschrieben, aber nicht ganz so ausführlich. Da es möglich ist, auch Charaktere aus Gondor, Rohan oder ganz anderen Landstrichen zu spielen, ist dies natürlich unverzichtbar.

Insgesamt wird Mittelerde stimmig beschrieben, und es gibt an jeder Ecke Anknüpfungspunkte und Ideenspender für neue Abenteuer. Seien es nun alte Ruinen, die von neugierigen Forschern erkundet werden können und so manchen verborgenen Schatz beinhalten mögen, oder von einem finsteren Schrecken geplagte abgelegene Dörfer, die um Hilfe bitten – in Mittelerde gibt es mehr als genug klassische Abenteueraufhänger, die durch das weltbekannte Setting an Farbe gewinnen.

Die Regeln

Genau wie Mittelerde weithin bekannt ist, kennen die meisten Rollenspieler wahrscheinlich auch die d20-Regeln, die inzwischen seit über fünfzehn Jahren unter der Open Gaming License frei nutzbar sind. Deswegen will ich mich den Kernregeln an dieser Stelle nur kurz widmen: Jeder Charakter hat die Attribute Stärke, Geschicklichkeit, Konstitution, Intelligenz, Weisheit und Charisma, von denen sich weitere Werte wie Initiative, Rettungswürfe und so weiter ableiten. Hinzu kommen Fertigkeiten wie Schwimmen, Klettern, Diplomatie und Schleichen, in denen man ebenfalls einen bestimmten numerischen Wert hat.

Daneben gibt es noch Talente, die dem Charakter bestimmte Boni oder Fähigkeiten geben. Bei Adventures in Middle-Earth werden diese Talente für jede Klasse festgelegt, ebenso die Erfahrungsstufe, auf der diese aktiviert werden. Hinzu kommen noch die „Virtues“, also Tugenden. Nur wenige davon sind frei wählbar, die meisten sind an die jeweilige Kultur gebunden, die man bei der Charaktererschaffung gewählt hat.

So weit, so unkompliziert. Was aus The One Ring übernommen wurde, ist die Aufteilung der Abenteuer in eine Reise- und eine Gefährten-Phase. Vorgesehen ist, dass die Abenteurergruppe einmal im Jahr zu einer gemeinsamen Queste aufbricht. Dabei kann es sich um eine Forschungsreise zu alten Ruinen oder eine Erkundungsmission in feindliches Gebiet handeln. Neben dem eigentlichen Abenteuer spielen die Ereignisse auf der Reise eine wichtige Rolle, da sie große Auswirkungen auf die weitere Entwicklung der Charaktere nehmen können. Diese Ereignisse werden über Zufallstabellen ausgewürfelt und von der Gefahrenstufe der Reise modifiziert. Diese reicht von 1 (Auenland) bis 5 (Mordor) und beeinflusst die Wahrscheinlichkeit, mit der die Reisegruppe unter guten Vorzeichen aufbricht oder bereits am ersten Reisetag von einem Unglücksfall aus der Bahn gestoßen wird. Auch die Anzahl der Zufallsbegegnungen und deren Art werden von der Gefahrenstufe beeinflusst, also ob der Jäger der Gruppe eine besonders wertvolle und nahrhafte Beute macht, die Gruppe auf einen Ort trifft, der leider die Heimat eines uralten Schreckens ist oder unvorbereitet den Weg mit einer Gruppe Orks oder Banditen kreuzt.

Nachdem der eigentliche Zweck der Reise erfüllt ist, kommt es zur Rückreise, auf der es ebenfalls wieder zu kleinen Unannehmlichkeiten oder ausgewachsenen Problem kommen kann.

Welchen Sinn dies am Ende eines Abenteuers macht? Nun, der Clou bei Adventures in Middle-Earth ist unter anderem, dass die Abenteuer nie wirklich enden. Nach der Reisephase kommt die Gefährtenphase. In dieser Phase können die Charaktere sich eine Zuflucht suchen, sich in ihr entspannen, neue Verbündete gewinnen, in alten Schriften forschen oder einfach im nächsten Gasthaus von ihren Abenteuern berichten.

Sie können sich auch von belastenden Schattenpunkten befreien, die sie im Laufe ihrer Reise vielleicht angesammelt haben. Diese Punkte stellen dar, wie sehr der Schatten des Alten Feindes auf der Seele der Charaktere lastet. Jedes Mal, wenn sie sich durch einen Landstrich bewegen, der an den Schatten gefallen ist, laufen sie Gefahr, dass er sich im Verborgenen auf ihre Herzen legt. Doch auch Lügen, Drohungen oder Machtmissbrauch können zu Schattenpunkten führen. Ebenso kann ein auf der letzten Reise zufällig gefundener Schatz zu großer Gier führen. Hat ein Charakter zu viele Schattenpunkte angesammelt, drückt sich dies in Wahnsinn, oder auch einfach nur Neid, Arroganz oder Hinterhältigkeit aus. Ein netter Regelmechanismus, der rollenspielerische Anreize schafft, um tragische Helden darzustellen, die mit dem Schatten in sich selbst kämpfen müssen.

Charaktererschaffung

Die Charaktererschaffung weicht nicht sonderlich von den grundlegenden d20-Regeln ab. Jeder Spieler wählt eine Kultur – zur Auswahl stehen Bardinger, Beorninger, Dúnedain, Zwerge vom Einsamen Berg, Elben aus dem Düsterwald, Hobbits, Menschen aus Bree, Menschen aus Seestadt, Menschen aus Minas Tirith, Reiter von Rohan und Bewohner der Wilderland – und eine Klasse aus. Bei den Klassen handelt es sich um Scholaren, „Slayer“, Schatzsucher, Wanderer, Bewahrer und Krieger, die je zwei Unterklassen haben, je nachdem, wo der Schwerpunkt gelegt wird. Ein Scholar  muss sich zum Beispiel auf Stufe drei entscheiden, ob er sich auf die Heilkunst oder das Studium alter Schriften und Runen spezialisieren will.

Jeder Charakter wählt zudem einen Hintergrund aus, der ihn ins Abenteuerleben geführt hat. Sei es nun als loyaler Diener á la Samweis Gamdschie, der seinem Herrn ins Abenteuer folgt, oder als Vertriebener, der seine Heimat an den Schatten verloren hat. Dadurch kann jeder Spieler seinem Charakter noch etwas mehr Tiefe verleihen.

Alles in allem sollte die Charaktererschaffung schnell vorangehen, bietet aber aufgrund der vielen  Kombinationsmöglichkeiten viele Möglichkeiten, die jeden Spieler zufriedenstellen dürften.

Erscheinungsbild

Die Illustrationen wurden, soweit ich das überblicken kann – fast sämtlich aus den Büchern zu Der Eine Ring übernommen. Daran ist aber nicht viel auszusetzen, denn die Qualität ist natürlich weiterhin sehr hoch. Stimmige und wunderschöne Zeichnungen der beschriebenen Städte und Landschaften prägen den Band. Gerade die Darstellungen von Menschen, Elben, Zwergen und Hobbits rutschen aber manchmal in die Zweckmäßigkeit ab. Bei den Zwergen mache ich mir manchmal sogar ernsthafte Sorgen um deren Gelenke, wenn ich sehe mit welch dürren Beinchen sie ihre tonnenhaften Oberkörper durch die Gegend schleppen müssen. Aber das sind nur Kleinigkeiten.

Auch vom Layout her macht der Band einen aufgeräumten und übersichtlichen Eindruck. Der Platz wird großzügig genutzt, um die Regeln und den Hintergrund darzustellen, entsprechende Querverweise auf übersichtliche und kompakte Boxen sind immer vorhanden.

Fazit

Wie eingangs erwähnt wirkt Adventures in Middle-Earth trotz des altbekannten Settings fast schon frisch und unverbraucht. Das liegt sicher auch an der etwas ungewöhnlichen aber originellen Aufteilung in Reisephase und Gefährtenphase. Durch diesen Kniff schaffen die Autoren eine regeltechnische Grundlage, um zum einen den Aspekt der reisenden Gefährten als auch den erholsamen und lehrreichen Aufenthalt an behaglichen Zufluchtsorten abzubilden.

Dank dieser umfassenden Ergänzungen, wie auch den verderbenden Schattenpunkten, ist es ihnen gelungen, den bisweilen etwas platten d20-Helden etwas mehr Tiefgang zu verleihen, der sich auch in den Regeln und nicht nur durch gutes Rollenspiel ausdrückt. 

Hier sollten auf jeden Fall d20-Kenner zugreifen, die Der Eine Ring interessant finden, aber nicht einen Haufen neuer Regeln lernen wollen. Ohnehin kann ich diesen Band jedem Mittelerde-Fan empfehlen, der auch am Spieltisch endlich einmal einen stilvollen Ausflug in Tolkiens Welt der Elben und Hobbits machen möchte. Wer hingegen schon mit Der Eine Ring vollends zufrieden ist, kann diesen Band ruhigen Gewissens auslassen.

Zuviel sollte der Käufer aber nicht erwarten. Hier gibt es wirklich nur die grundlegenden Regeln und alles, was der Spieler zur Charaktererschaffung braucht. Mehr zum Hintergrund gibt es in den einzelnen Regionalbeschreibungen, mehr zu den Regeln im Loremaster's Guide, den wir im nächsten Monat besprechen werden. Da es ansonsten nicht viel zu meckern gibt und das Player's Guide ein durch und durch rundes Produkt ist, gibt es von meiner Seite aus die Bestnote. Wer d20 generell nicht gut findet, zieht einen bis zwei Punkte ab und schaut sich Der Eine Ring an.



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Adventures in Middle-earth Player's Guide
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Adventures in Middle-earth Loremaster's Guide
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/09/2017 08:18:43

This book covers a lot of interesting topics and has lots of base enemies. I would highly recommend for anyone who is going to be running a AiM-E game! Cubicle 7 continues to produce A+ work



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Adventures in Middle-earth - Rhovanion Region Guide
by Giorgos K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/05/2017 06:13:28

Great pierce of work! A really useful companion for every loremaster!



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