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The One Ring - Ruins of the North
by Katherine B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/27/2015 12:16:58

Ruins of the North is perfect for me, since I don't have a lot of extra time to write/design my own adventures. Even if you do, I think the ideas contained in the book would still be a fruitful source of inspiration! C7 is known for its excellent quality, and this is no exception. The art is gorgeous, and the adventures really help you take your adventures to the next level--both in experience level and in the desperate fight against the Shadow in Middle Earth. I am always impressed with how well C7 captures the feel of Middle Earth (something many other reviewers have noted before me), and this set of adventures is no exception. Gorgeous, I can't wait to play them!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Ruins of the North
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The One Ring™ Roleplaying Game
by Scott M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2015 06:28:14

As a long-time avid fan of Tolkien's works, I was inexorably drawn to checking out this latest attempt at a Middle-earth RPG. When I ordered the hardcover rulebook through Cubicle7, my order included a free PDF copy through DriveThruRPG. The PDF is scanned beautifully for DriveThruRPG, though it is not indexed with internal hyperlinks. First let me say that it is good to have a new Middle-earth game back on the market and actively supported by a publisher. The original Middle-earth RPG from the 1980s is quite dated mechanically and was filled with as much D&D-inspired imagining as it was with material from Tokien's writing. Decipher's "Lord of the Rings" RPG didn't last long, was too riddled with errors, and drew too much inspiration from the movies. "The One Ring" accurately bills itself as deeply based on the writings of JRR Tolkien.


I wasn't able to find much specific information about the "The One Ring" core rules before I bought it, and after reading the rules I'm torn on whether I would buy it again. There is a lot to recommend the game, but also reasons against it. Chiefly, I do not feel that the core rules contain a sufficient range of fully articulated setting options, opponents, travel encounters, or character choices--it feels like you almost have to buy multiple expansion products (or be willing and able to design and write expanded elements yourself) for the game to be satisfyingly playable. To help others parse this decision in the future, I'll share what I've learned in terms of Pro and Con.


PRO:



  • On the whole, the rules are well-written and clear. Most descriptions and easy to follow, and there are numerous (often extended) examples provided. The rules text is usually very concise without undue flourish.

  • The core rules contain a considerable amount of setting detail for central Middle-earth (roughly from the Misty Mountains to Rhovanion, with The Shire added in for good measure), including a rather detailed chronology of events in the Third Age. Key locations (Erebor, Dale, Lake-town, Thranduil's Halls, Rhosgobel) are usefully fleshed out.

  • The book contains two useful and attractive game-play maps of central Middle-earth.

  • The game offers a completely original and unique mechanic that is easy to roll but still offers quite variable outcomes--from very low results (potentially even as low as zero), automatic success (8.25% chance), middling results (in the neighborhood of 14), and extended successes (by getting natural 6's on a number of dice based on your skill points). While Cubicle7 also sells custom dice for this mechanic that look nice, there is no meaningful reason why players can't just use a normal d12 and handful of regular d6's.

  • The mechanics are truly suited to the spirit of Middle-earth. Characters revolve around their skills and personal traits, including qualities like Wisdom and Valor. Players will put a lot of attention into choosing descriptive traits like Burglary and Herb-lore, Determined and Merry. Action is meant to be heavily narrative and fast like in Tolkien's novels, not densely tactical like in D20 game systems. In battle, like in the novels, characters typically emerge just a little winded (loss of "endurance" points) or grievously hurt ("wounded"). Every clash bears the risk of one or more characters being wounded, and occasionally killed outright, so characters have reason for diplomacy or stealth without excessive fear to stand and fight when appropriate. There are no dungeon-crawls in Middle-earth.

  • There is a strong emphasis on storytelling--the game really requires players to help narrative actions and character development. Bonds of character growth are important, as "fellowship points" are a key feature. There is a "fellowship phase" at the end of every adventure and campaign season in which time passes and characters develop appropriately as part of Middle-earth.


CON:



  • This revised edition, from what I've read, consists of material that had previously been separated across two books (one for players, one for the Loremaster). While combining them into a single book avoids the problem of having to repeat a lot of setting information or being unsure of what details are in which book, this unified book still feels like two separate texts mashed together. The reader constantly is coming across rules that require looking ahead (or looking back) to related elements in order to understand the whole of the mechanic. Features are described briefly up-front in one place, but then the mechanics for how they operate often are detailed in ore or even two other places.

  • The core rules' setting is highly limited. When the game claims to be set in Wilderland after "The Hobbit" this is quite literally true. The game only contains descriptive elements for central Middle-earth--just the cultures and locales of that northern region. Your only options to play are Erebor Dwarves, Bard's Lake-men, Beorn's Men of Carrock, Woodmen of Mirkwood, Thranduil's Wood-elves, and Shire Hobbits. The included maps do not even include other regions or locales, not even fringes like the Brown Lands, Rhovanion, or Dorwinion. If you want to play a Northman of the River Running, or Man of Framsburg, a wandering Grey-elf, a Dwarf from the Iron Hills or other eastern mansions, or a Breeland hobbit, there are no rules support. If your heroes want to journey outside Wilderland to Rivendell or Rohan or Lorien (as almost any epic campaign along the Anduin likely will lead) then you need to buy expansion supplements

  • For a game as deeply set in Tolkien's Middle-earth, there are hardly any connections to its wider history. Almost everything in the game is exclusively grounded in the Third Age. There are virtually no references even to the Second Age, let alone the Elder Days. Again this is mostly a consequence of the limited setting--the core rules of "The One Ring" are very heavily based in "The Hobbit" and less in "The Lord of the Rings" (and I found nothing connecting to "The Silmarillion"). The rules explicitly are meant to support stories that take place only from 2945 to 3017 in the Third Age.

  • Character creation is putatively open and flexible but at the same time strangely circumscribed and restricted. The rules encourage player imagination and creativity to play almost any kind of Middle-earth character they could want, but the mechanics force them into choosing from among a handful of cultures. If you deviate, there are no choices of 'generic' cultural blessings to choose from--you either have to adapt the blessings of the given cultures or make up your own substitutions. Most frustrating, your start skills are determined by your culture (so that, for example, Dale-men have 3 points in Persuade and 2 points in Battle and all hobbits have 3 points in Courtesy and 2 points in Song, regardless of your character concept). The rules state the players should be free to make adjustments and substitutions--but no guidelines are provided at all. Now the mathematics of character creation are easy enough to deconstruct (i.e., you get 29 experience points worth of common skills with one being favored and 10 experience points of weapon skills with one being either favored or part of a cultural grouping), but why should the player have to figure this out instead of the designers providing it?

  • The rules provide a small number of Middle-earth opponents: quite a few different kinds of goblins and orcs and trolls, two kinds of giant spiders, and three kinds of wolves. But this is barely enough just to replay famous encounters in "The Hobbit" and little else. Off the top of my head I can think of numerous other opponents appropriate to the North of Middle-earth that aren't included: wild men like bandits or Easterlings; undead like skeletal warriors and mewlips (Sauron was called the "Necromancer" for a reason), cold drakes both winged and wingless as well as lesser fire-drakes (shy of the size of Smaug or Scatha), and stone giants (Gandalf said he knew a "more or less decent" one).

  • The game revolves very heavily around travel, which is quite appropriate to the Middle-earth setting, but the rules do not sufficiently detail enough travel encounters. When the fellowship moves overland, characters take up various roles like look-out or scout or guide. Everybody makes travel skill checks. On particularly bad rolls, a travel event happens keyed to a particular character in the fellowship. A table is provided to determine what kind of trait check and consequence is involved (e.g., a corruption check to gain Shadow points, a fatigue check to avoid being temporarily Weary, etc.). But then the game provides a mere handful of loose narrative examples of what these events actually could be (for example, "Lost Directions" is for a Weariness check keyed to the Guide). There are a possible 40 narrative combinations (4 roles + all characters times 8 different types of hazards, not including a random combat encounter), but only 8 loose examples provided. Loremaster and players are left to dream up what a Weariness check keyed to the Look-out represents. To my mind, this is just plain laziness on the part of the writers not to provide one example for all 40 combinations--with this basis then Loresmasters and players can use their imaginations to create variations.

  • Not much gear is provided in the rules: a handful of swords, spears, and bows; two helmets choices; three kinds of shields; five types of armor; and absolutely no miscellaneous gear. Daggers and unarmed combat are synonymous. The mechanics for the provided weapons look workable to me--there is a good reason to consider using any of them (for example, some weapons have a higher chance of inflicting a potentially lethal blow but in turn are either heavier or don't hit as hard against endurance). But whole obvious categories of weapons are missing--no throwing javelins/darts for horsemen, no mace, no war hammer (all things mentioned in Tolkien's works). There is a good incentive to carry shields, but armor is highly debatable. To some extent, this is appropriate to Tolkien's setting (after all, in the Fellowship of the Ring only Gimli and Frodo wore dwarf-armor). But then why would the Riders of Rohan or knights of Gondor wear armor? In the game mechanics, armor only comes into play when making a check against potentially lethal piercing blows. It provides no protection whatsoever against regular winding blows. Yet wearing armor greatly increases fatigue, meaning that an armored character is very quickly going to become Weary and suffer a substantial penalty to all skill checks. In fact, in the rules as written it is possible only for Dwarves to bear a knight's full harness (mail hauberk, helm, great shield) without being instantly Weary--no Man could. And this encumbrance is regardless of physical strength or training, as there is no way in the rules to use strength to reduce endurance or to get training in armor use to mitigate fatigue.


Though I am no art critic and usually don't concern myself with this aspect of game books, I do have to admit that even to my eyes the art in "The One Ring" is of widely varying and often dubious quality. Some of the artwork featuring Middle-earth vistas and scenery is quite lovely and looks skillful, many of the drawings of people look amateurish at best (particularly when compared to the industry standard of art set by the new fifth edition of 'Dungeons & Dragons').


In conclusion, be sure that what "The One Ring" offers is what you want to play. If you and your players are eager to have adventures more akin to "The Hobbit" and set chiefly or exclusively in Wilderland and to have only loose rules guidance supporting your narrative travels, you likely will be pleased. But if you want to travel Middle-earth more widely, be prepared to purchase more expansion supplements to the game.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring™ Roleplaying Game
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The One Ring - Ruins of the North
by David R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/24/2015 10:02:53

"The One Ring" just keeps getting better and better.


In some ways "Ruins of the North" has TOR looking a little bit more like traditional RPGs: more dungeons, more treasure. But always with the elements that make TOR unique: the journeys, the social interactions, and most importantly that sense of being a very small person caught up in big events. And every adventure has twists and turns that will surprise even veteran gamers.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Ruins of the North
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The One Ring - Ruins of the North
by Ian A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/23/2015 17:47:32

Ruins of the North (RotN) is another fine product from Cubicle 7's One Ring series. It has a set of six well detailed adventures for, well, probably experienced players. Each of the six adventures is organised into a series of chapters for a group to work through. This of course helps to offer a good point for a GM (Loremaster) to end a session of gaming.
The series is very thought out for the group to progress through this part of Middle Earth. There are several different authors who have worked on different adventures - but the collection has a strong sense of coherence while also offering slightly different styles and scenarios to adventure through. This helps me because it means that it will be just varied enough to keep the players from falling into a routine (None of the "oh yeah, we do a meeting, get the basic plot, spot the clues and then run into increasing opposition until we stuff the Boss at the end of the level"). Instead the players will have to use a variety of approaches to make progress from scenario to scenario: you aren't going to get a stale deja-vu feeling - they won't succeed by trying & repeating what you did before.


Like all the products in this series the feel is right: the respect is right and the writing is right. Even on its own its a good read and food for the imagination.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kuro
by Szabolcs G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/22/2015 08:28:31

Absolutely outstanding product!


I really enjoyed reading it, but the biggest test will be our first play.
I look forward to it, and hardly can wait, but the team assemble too slowly to my taste.


I feel it in my guts, that this game will be just awesome. Period.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kuro
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Cthulhu Britannica London Boxed Set
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/20/2015 06:18:18

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.c-
om/2015/02/20/tabletop-review-cthulhu-britannica-london-boxe-
d-set/


From the same publisher that’s been putting out the Doctor Who Adventures in Space and Time RPG that I thought was fantastic, comes another entry in the ever expending Call of Cthulhu settings options. This one tackles 1920s London, and like Achtung! Cthulhu before it is so in depth and well done that you could use it just to run a 1920’s RPG set in London even without the Cthulhu mythos attached. Like Achtung! Cthulhu I’m also really anamored with this set which has some really nice collections of maps and handouts on top of the adventures and two sourcebooks. I’m reviewing the PDF versions here, but just going by the PDF copies, the actual physical set has to be even more amazing. Before I get into gushing too much about this, I will say the $90 price tag might put a few people off. Even if you couldn’t get it for almost half that, which you can, I’d say the physical version would be well worth it. The PDF price tag at full price would be pushing it, but if you wanted to run in this setting, this would not only be recommended, I’d have to say it’d be essential. The books look fantastic and are packed with great material and almost no filler at all and even when there is it’s generally artwork that fits with the books completely. These are solid and well put together sourcebooks for the Cthulhu games and anyone who plays there should pick these up.


02Aside from the three books you get in the set, there are also a few side goodies that can be useful for any campaign. The first up is a set of maps that are actually from the period the game is set in. The first three aren’t print resolution but look decent enough on a computer screen. My only complaint with these maps are that they’re pretty much only good for flavor. To be able to read them on the PDF you have to zoom in up to 400% and that’s when the text starts to break down. The first map is a layout of the London Underground or what’s referred to as the Tube today. The second map is a layout of country bus routes. The third map also looks like it could be for the London Underground but is zoomed in a bit more than the first. The last map for London is a bit more plain looking, but the detail is a bit more impressive especially close up. The last map’s full print size would be 22 by 17 inches and the details remain when you get in close on it even on your computer or tablet screen. All in all I like the inclusion of vintage maps, but I would have liked the first three at a bit bigger resolution with the PDFs to be able to be used a bit more than just fluff or props at the table. That last map is fantastic though.


With the maps, six pages of handouts are also included, all tying into the adventure included with the set which means not having to print them out of the book instead. If you had the physical copy I’m sure this would be more important. It’s less so with the PDF version. They all vary in design and color, so if you want to cut these out and pass them around with your gaming group you’ll need a color printer to get the full effect. They look well-worn when they need to and for the most part definitely feel like 1920’s London. There’s a little too much in a few that looks far too clean lined to be from the time, but they’re for flavor more than anything else as well as conveying some information to your players. That they do beautifully.


01The first of the three books in the set is a set of adventures that runs for ninety-six pages appropriately titled Adventures in Mythos London. There are three adventures inside each of varying length plus the stats you’ll need to finish them along with their handouts. Out of the ninety-six pages that make up the book, eighty-six are direct content and seventy-nine of those are just the adventures minus some of the stats for Sixth Edition Call of Cthulhu. The first adventure takes up the most amount of pages in the book between the NPCs and handouts, but is also the most linear and probably the shortest. Terror on the Thames is meant as an introductory adventure to introduce new players or just to bring a group together so it is pretty straightforward. Set on a riverboat that’s been converted over to run the Thames, things get a little tricky and it goes from there. The second adventure, Those Poor Souls Who Dwell in Light, gets a bit more involved and gets players active in an investigation into a murder and something dark going on tied to that murder. At only twenty-two pages, this one takes up a little over half the pages of the first adventure but there’s far fewer handouts and your investigator’s will be thinking a bit more with this one. This one doesn’t really seem tied to the first adventure in the book at all, but the third adventure, the Non-Euclidean Gate, can and does tie into the second adventure depending on how the player’s got through the second one. The last adventure is dealing with some of the same forces as the second adventure and has the investigator’s looking into some pages stolen from the Mortlake School for Girls and they’re being hired to retrieve them. Things are never simple and there’s a lot of investigating in this one which may not sit too well with player’s who like to engage with their guns or fists. There’s a good variety to the adventures, not just in the events surrounding them, but the way you have to go about trying to solve the problems at hand and make it through them. While I’m more ho-hum about the first adventure as it uses a few game master mechanics I hate doing to player characters but also given that it’s a completely linear adventure I understand why. I really like the other two quite a bit. Either way it’s a good source of NPCs to use on your own and a few fleshed out settings within London if you’re so inclined to make your own adventures to start with.


The second book in the set, An Investigator’s Guide to London, is mainly for the player’s but there are a few pop-out boxes here and there that a game master might want to check out. Sitting at one hundred and eighty-four pages, this is a very well thought out and thorough book that will really help get your player’s into what life was like in 1920’s London. It reminds me a lot of how the Investigator’s Guide to Achtung! Cthulhu would have worked really well as just a World War II RPG. You could honestly do the same with An Investigator’s Guide to London and run a whole RPG session just set in 1920’s London without even touching the Mythos. I’ll give you that might bore some players, but I know just the right group of people that would get an insane kick out of it at the same time. Know your audience. The book is well written, is pretty engaging for a sourcebook, and has some great design work to it that makes it feel like something you’d pull off the shelf in that time along with some great artwork and sample advertisements and maps that really help sell the mood. This is a great looking book and I’m actually sad that I only have this set in PDF form because the printed versions would be amazing to own even if I never get a chance to play it.


03Breaking the book down a bit, the first section, London in the 1920s, explores the basics of what’s going on in the city at the time and the circumstances that have led to get London where it was at the time. They talk about current currency and where it ended up in the modern setting, different factors at play throughout London including what happened in the war to get them there along with plagues, and then of course making money. They follow this up with The Twenties: Year by Year which is exactly what it sounds like. They go over major events that happen throughout the Twenties up to and including the start of the Great Depression. Getting to London details exactly how one might go about getting to the city and from a variety of locations as well as what you can expect when you actually get there weather wise and where you might be able to stay once you’re in London. Getting Around London details the six different ways to make your way around, including the Underground and taxis, without simply using your two legs which would take a while.


The People of London is where they start to mix in actual game mechanics and descriptions in with the essential details you’d need to realistically play the game. Before they dive into that they break down the Class system for you, how nobility ranks into things, proper forms of addressing someone and degrees of familiarity to help navigate the social scenes, what roles women play in all of this and the fact they had just one a hard fought battle for some very basic rights, and then of course playing a minority in what was an advancing time. All of that before you even hit on what new and modified occupations your character can partake in. There are twenty-one occupations listed here of all sorts of vocations and skill sets. They do offer breakdowns of several of them to better differentiate them. The Religious Official breaks down starting stats for five different religions, the Soldier is broken down by rank and file, and the Spiritualist gets a nice extra section on Summoning and Communing with Spirit Guides. No matter what kind of character you were thinking of playing that’s really associated mainly with this setting, most of what you might find to make that character interesting at least as far as what they do for a living you can find here. The New and Modified Skills only really give options for three new skills including Boxing, Photography and Etiquette. Lastly covered under The People of London are the Notable People of 1920’s London that breaks down thirty three of the more famous London dwellers in the 1920s which includes their birth years along with when they died and a brief summary of who they were and why they’re notable which is good to have if you happen to have an Investigator who’d probably bump into some of the more famous people in their tours around London.


05So we have some of the history, people, occupations and the like covered, but what about equipment? Enter Shopping in London. They cover some of the exchange rates, the economy in London, then dive into some of the more well-known shops along with what you’d be expected to wear as far as a hat, whether you’re in the country, and if you’re a female character how fancy your dress should be, especially if you’re attending something that requires you to be fancy and you’re wearing a dress right off the rack which is a no-no. Auction Houses get a nice blurb and rules for running an Auction for the Investigator’s to attend. Last but not least are the open air markets before they go into the goods and services price guide which includes actual prices from the 1929 Harrod’s catalogue which I thought was a great touch. They cover just about anything in here item wise and also including hiring people to work for you. My favorite side-bar though covered the invention of the gas-powered hand-held chainsaw and when it was available for sale because you never know when you’ll have to drop into a pit of zombies even in 1920’s London.


If you’re new to the world, you may not realize that we didn’t always have television and cell phones, so the section on Technology, Communication, and News will open your mind to the new inventions of the corded home telephone, the radio and the BBC which didn’t have a twenty-four hour broadcast cycle, telegrams and the good old Post to deliver messages in writing by hand, messenger boys and then of course actual newspapers that relied on pulped paper to deliver the goings-on in the world. There are some neat write-ups here on how to use them effectively and what you could and couldn’t do with them in 1920’s London along with a way to use the classifieds to your own ends. Always good to have options. So along with technology, you have to know what’s available to keep your characters engaged without that smart phone, and that’s where Entertainment in London comes in. They cover the popular sports from the time, and yes football, soccer for those in the U.S., is one of the huge ones. Theatre and the new cinema are covered with a rather extensive list of theatres and a bit about how the cinema was choking the life out of the Music Hall which used to be the more popular venue for the poorer people of London. If those aren’t to your characters liking there’s always the Gentleman’s Club with a rather extensive list for those and summaries of what the clubs actually allowed in and what they tried to do. Still not finding something to your liking? Well how about the exorbitant nightlife with clubs catering to the rich because of their questionable legality with out of date laws still on the books from the War? Well then there’s the Pubs and the London Season where people would descend on London for different events in the 20s because it was the in thing to do during the times.


04I mentioned the questionable legality of nightclubs, and well that leads right into Law and Order which covers a range of topics in 1920s London. You get sections on the London Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard, the City of London Police, the ranks of the Police there, who was in charge, the corruption within the different departments, and then of course what they carry. From there we get a rough overview of the English Legal System including some of the criminals of the day and what punishments you might incur for not exactly being a law-abiding citizen as well as some of the more cozy locales you’ll be held in should you be convicted. This is the first 111 pages of the book. There isn’t much filler at all. I can see you using most of this. The next section though is going to be used a bit differently as you may not need swaths of it if you never go there.


The London Guide section of the book covers sixty-four pages and is the single largest section of An Investigator’s Guide to London. This is probably also the more important one in figuring out where you want to go, or if you’re from London, where you’ve lived. They’ve broken the city down into sections in this, Central, North West, East End, South West, South East, and then a section on Expanding London that goes into the growth of the city and differences in how it’s grown and how fast. Each of these goes further into different places within those areas and pulls up the big London map and drops numbered markers that correspond with what they’re talking about within that particular section which is helpful to both the players and the game master. They cover estates, museums, anything and everything you might need to deal with during a session. The book also goes into Royal Palaces, the University of London, Graveyards, an overview of the River Thames, and then a quick dip into the Sewers and Lost Rivers of London. An Afterword, some references and Recommended Reading and the Index follow. I do have to say I’m enamored with the book and what they’ve pulled off with this. Like the previous World War II addition, they’ve been excruciatingly thorough with this and the effort shows. But wait, there’s more. I haven’t even tackled A Keeper’s Guide to London yet.


A Keeper’s Guide to London is fifty-six pages shorter than An Investigator’s Guide to London, but don’t let that get you down, because much like the Investigator’s book, they haven’t wasted space and you’re getting a lot of information in that one hundred twenty-eight pages. So if the Investigator’s Guide is for your player’s, the Keeper’s Guide is all about the person running the show. There’s lots of great information in here. Where they went super accurate with the Investigator’s book, this one gets into what the Mythos side of London is getting up to during the 1920s. It follows the same aesthetic as the Investigator’s book, but the artwork is certainly more gruesome.


06The book is divided into sections again, although these are far more broad than the Investigator’s Guide. The Introduction is pretty straight-forward but has a great three page short story in it to help set the mood. I really recommend reading it. Great stuff. From there we go into the basics with a section on Bringing Mythos London to Life with some great titles that go from London’s Dreaming to London’s Screaming. They discuss some of the ways to bring the real threats to London in line with the Mythos threats as well as some great examples to broaden or even kick off a campaign or session with. The last chapter in this section covers what might happen in an area based on which of the Mythos big bads are involved.


A Keeper’s History of London is the other side of the coin from the brief history and chronology we got in the Investigator’s Guide. It’s far more in depth and deals with a lot more things leading up to the 1920s and of course the Mythos end of things. This detailed history starts back with the founding of Londinium with the Romans and heads all the way up through the 1920s. This is important because they’re always digging up something from the past in London. I just read an article about them discovering something as they were working on a new roadway now, so I imagine in 1920s London this would be just as prevalent as they’re building new roads, homes, sewers and so on. This gives you a massive amount of history to pull from and really opens up your options with what you might infuse your game with. There is a detailed chronology with the major Mythos events up until the 1920s that includes the major normal events as well as a better gauge of where things happened. From there they move into the Notable Historical Occult Figures in London which includes past and what was then present figures in London. In all you get sixteen of these to learn about and any number of them may have some kind of effect on your game should you choose to include their teachings or maybe there was some clue to some kind of artifact in their writings. The write-ups are mostly summaries but cover the important topics of what they were all about. From there we get the Mythos events from the 1920s to cap that off with.


07Unusual Locations is precisely what it sounds like. These are locations that were purposefully omitted from the Investigator’s Guide because they can be strange and unusual places and can have their own fair share of mysteries or secrets that should be left up to the Keeper. They cover the old homes of notable occultists, a railway designed just to move corpses, plague pits and even Tower Bridge. It’s a smaller but decent portion of histories for the locations along with an idea or two for using them in a campaign. The People of London section though is the biggest of the book weighing in at thirty-one pages. It starts off listing your standard occult organizations you’d have running around London, because it’s the Mythos, you need those. These wouldn’t all have to deal with the Mythos in general but could be a thorn in your Investigator’s side or be allies. There’s a section later just for the Mythos. They cover a lot of the clubs, even a section on what the Chinese traders in London may have set up to deal with. There are a few people noted within the organizations, but it mainly covers the organizations. From there, they move into potential allies or associates for an Investigator. You get nineteen different NPCs that you can use with full stats and write-up for each of them along with portraits to put a face to the name. It’s a really good range and I’m sure the stats will be welcome for anyone needing to add one of them on the fly. The last and probably most important part of the People of London is about two of the clubs you’d probably end up using more in your campaigns as they deal directly with what your player’s will be trying to do. They go into resources for each as well as how to use them and ideas for putting them as the focus of a campaign.


08Mythos Threats is the chapter that gets more into things that go bump in the London night and people as well as creatures your Investigator’s will want to be dealing with before they become a bigger problem than they already are. They outline nine specific groups or threats with a few people and monsters mixed in there with each. It’s the tenth one that gets the most attention as it can be used as both something as a benefit to and as an antagonist for the Investigators and that’s the Society of London for the Exploration and Development of the Esoteric Sciences. The Society gets a full ten pages dedicated to it, talking about its scientific and not so scientific pursuits, Fellows of note in the Society, their experiments, and then a few scenarios seeds you can use to get this rather interesting group involved in your campaign. I really love the SLEDES write-up. It’s a great evil group that you can have go either way on your players. They are trying to better mankind by any means after all. That can’t be all bad can it?


Mythos Spells and Tomes covers some of the new spells they’ve created for this setting. It’s not a big section detailing seven tomes which mainly means a brief history and the spells you’d find within, and then the five new spells specifically dealing with this setting. There are some great things to use here, but most of the meat of this volume is in the setting and people and not new monstrosities or magics to throw at your players. The last section, the Appendix, covers all the Call of Cthulhu Sixth Edition Stats for every living named person with a pulse that’s listed in the Keeper’s Guide. I really like this addition to the back of the book as you won’t have to flip pages to find them when they’re all just listed there at the back for ease of use. That’s a great design choice right there. That’s of course followed by the Index.


Overall, I am in love with this set. The PDFs are fantastic and are marked just where you need them to be for actual use by an Investigator or Keeper. They look amazing, the art is fantastic, and they’ve done an incredible job gathering everything you’d need to just crack these open and play along with your Call of Cthulhu main books. I’d love to have a set of these physically and I don’t even have a gaming group in my area that would regularly play the game. If you’re looking to try a really detailed and thought out setting or just a change of venue and time for your Call of Cthulhu game, then you really need to give this a look.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Britannica London Boxed Set
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Cthulhu Britannica London Boxed Set
by Jeffrey V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2015 18:52:08

This product is a result of a major Kickstarter effort launched back in November (and concluding on 12 December) of 2012. It's been a long time coming, but is well worth the wait thus far. There are three basic "books" in the package; a Keepers' Guide, an Investigators' Guide, and a package of handouts for the included scenarios. Kickstarter Backers should note that the adventures do NOT include the forthcoming "Curse of Nineveh" package promised as part of the Kickstarter and are instead a series of stand-alone scenarios for use in London and it's immediate environs.


Like all Cthulhu Britannica products, this one does a superb job of helping players get into the setting being provided, but this one goes a good step further than any of the previous ones have; perhaps fitting considering that we are discussing "the Smoke," the largest city in the world at the time. There is generally excellent discussion of the city overall, most of the major districts, and many of the nuances that make each district unique within Greater London. In addition there is a ton of background information on the 1920s in England and London particularly (train stations and their various connections are amazingly important...and thoroughly discussed) in the book along with lots of tid-bits of local color and history which will inspire even the most casual leader to hit the internet to find out more. Speaking as an American player, one of the more jarring things for me (as it would have no doubt been had I been alive in the 1920s and ventured into London) is the lack of Prohibition, but that alone may provide an extra incentive for your wealthier (dare I say it -- more dilletantish) characters to go to London in the first place! There are many detailed maps of various locales within London, including parks, zoos, museums and so on, along with quite a few period photographs that will help the players visualize both the location and the era. The attention to detail on this one has been simply fantastic, and while it still can't come close to covering everything there is to know about London, this is far and away the best effort yet. Comparing this to the old "London Guidebook" is like comparing Shakespeare to Gershwin -- both are great in their particular areas, but in the big scheme of things, there is just no comparison. I suspect when we are holding the finally completed package together with all the extra goodies we helped fund through the Kickstarter, we will have the last word in 1920s London at our fingertips. Cubicle 7 has done another fantastic job thus far, and I can hardly wait to get the hard copy in my hot little hands!


Overall the quality of the reproduction on this one is unsurpassed -- not surprising when you consider it was probably a copy (more or less) of the files to be sent to the printer, as opposed to a scan of an already extant product. Purchasers of this item will definitely not regret picking it up!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - The Eighth Doctor Sourcebook
by William E J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/06/2015 14:31:41

First of all, I am VERY fond of Doctor Who. I have all the DVDS. from the series. I also am very critical of books about The Doctor. I have all of the source books on the Doctor. This one is excellent even though there is little material to draw from. Keep up the good work! Are you going to do a source book on the War Doctor?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - The Eighth Doctor Sourcebook
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The One Ring™ Roleplaying Game
by Ian A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/08/2015 15:24:37

If you want a different rpg experience you have to try The One Ring game. It isn't about exterminating the rest of the multiverse: the opposition is too much for that. You have to measure your own success by your survival, then the survival of those around you. Finally, has your part of Tolkien's world been helped to survive? If so, then you have realised the aim of the game.
In this game true hero status is achieved by making and taking the right decisions and actions. Best advice: be true to yourself and keep on struggling against the odds.


One of the main differences in the system is the limited role of direct magic; another is the enhanced role of interacting with the general population. after all, who are you trying to help? if just yourself, then that's not very Tolkien-hero is it?


I like this system because so much control will stay with the players as they narrate the action. If you are the Loremaster (read:DM) in this, then you are much more of a referee than I remember of the D 'n' D guys who would spring another trap on my unwary half-elf..
The down side for some people is that you are stuck with being on the side of Light, so if you are secretly an Uruk berserker - it's best to think a bit before joining this party.


The additional supplements are all real bonus material. This Core book is great - but the other stuff will delight you and stretch your experiences. Good luck!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring™ Roleplaying Game
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The One Ring™ Roleplaying Game
by Doug T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/07/2015 10:31:05

This game is the best at capturing the true feel of Professor Tolkien's works. Its predecessors had their strengths, but this one does everything well, giving players (and the Loremaster/GM) an immersive experience in the wonderful world of Middle-earth.


While the first edition (the slipcover) was tough to navigate, this revised edition compiles everything into a single volume. The formatting and editing is greatly improved, as is the extensive index. For the PDF, this means searching for a particular term is much easier, as you now only have one book to look through. Another new feature (over the slipcover version) is the addition of more great art (all of which is very evocative of the books).


The mechanics are brilliant. Magic is subtle, but infused throughout, both in characters and items. There is a mechanism for the growing Shadow, but players have Hope to struggle against it. Beginning PCs are competent and strong, but not super heroes right out of the gate. Campaign play is rich, with many mechanics that beautifully feature the passing of years.


If you're a fan of The Hobbit and/or The Lord of the Rings, this is the game you've been waiting for!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Rivendell
by michael v. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/26/2014 13:30:26

Another excellent supplement. Great artwork and very well thought out enhancements for magical items and expanded treasure boards. As always the only complaint is that some of the source material seems a bit sparse. Rivendell is flushed out well but the other areas: the Trollshaws, cold cells and Ettenmoors, could have used a lot more material IMO. The Heart of the Wild set the bar pretty high and this one falls slightly short. I hope the upcoming Ruins of the North makes up for it. Still well worth it, all that being said.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Rivendell
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Victoriana - The Concert in Flames
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/29/2014 18:19:14

Ring Side Report-Concert of Europe


Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!


Product-The Concert in Flames
System- Victoriana
Producer- Cubicle Seven
Price- ~$20 here
TL; DR- Great adventure, but only for the GM. 87%


Basics-Can you stop Europe from burning? An ancient evil is being awoken by a small group trying to upset the tentative balance of Europe and bend a fiend to their will while the fate of the Concert of Europe rides in the balance. This book also provides GM with extremely detailed notes on the geopolitical standing of the Europe countries in 1856.


Mechanics or Crunch-This is NOT an option book, but that doesn't make it a bad book. This book adds some new mechanics like new races and a new country specific creature or enemy for each of the different regions discussed. It's good, but you should not expect some new options and creatures each page like a player's option book or monster manual. The countries do have great write ups describing the make-up of each country, so you can quickly create things like a group of upscale Russians if you need them at a moment's notice. The adventure has simple stat blocks for each enemy which will make running the adventure easy and quick. What's here is well done, but you cannot go into this one hoping for tons of new crunch. 4.5/5


Theme or Fluff- This is where the book truly excels. Just like the base book, this book could almost be an excellent historical reference if you strip out the steampunk and magic elements. Each country in 1850's Europe gets an in-depth write-up. The adventure itself has a ton of depth as well as a great story for your players to run amuck in. The story has elements of government intrigue, magic, religion, and some trans-country train adventure. It's great steampunk fun. 5/5
.
Execution- While the fluff and crunch are great; the execution has a few problems. There are some art to break up the text, but there are too many pages with just black text on grey background. This is a classic case of textbook problem. I do like some the way the book is divided. But, the font is a bit too small. And, there is just too much of it. This book also makes an inexcusable error for any fantasy book discussing geography. There is NO detailed map of Europe! Nor is there a map of the adventure train routs. While the countries are basically the same as real world 1856, a better map would have really helped with adventure design and the adventure in the book. I do like the pictures from the adventure as you get some nice hand drawn pictures of some of the major characters. All together, this isn't a badly executed book, but some flaws do hurt the overall presentation. 3.5/5


Summary- If you want to take your players across Victoriana Europe, then buying this book is a no brainer. GM's get all the information they need to make each European country feel distinct from one another with far more depth than there is in the base Victoriana book. If you want crunch options, then this book isn't for you. The adventure in this book is a fun romp across Europe as the players try to keep the Concert of Europe from falling apart. If that's the kind of adventure you and your players want to play, this is a great adventure. However, if you don't want to control the fate of the world and just want to play a game in London, then this is one to pass. There are some concerns I have with the execution, but those won't prevent you from enjoying this book if you want some excellent write ups describing Europe. If you want some cross European intrigue and a great adventure to start that controversy, go get this one. 87%



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Victoriana - The Concert in Flames
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Rocket Age - The Trail of the Scorpion
by David N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/20/2014 06:07:16

This campaign book is excellent, incredibly meaty and just plain fun. The overarching threat of the Red Scorpion feels incredible and really unites all the very different missions.


It also acts as a tour of the Solar System, taking you to some very exotic locales and introducing a huge variety of new creatures, people and technology. The ever-present story hooks are as interesting as ever of course and even include the possibility of exploring the truth behind CS Lewis' greatest work.


I really recommend this book even to those who aren't a fan of pre-made campaigns. Even if you only took parts from various adventures I think your money would be well spent.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rocket Age - The Trail of the Scorpion
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Victoriana 3rd Edition
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/18/2014 21:43:47

Ring Side Report-Victoriana 3rd Edition


Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!


Product- Victoriana 3rd Edition
System- Victoriana
Producer- Cubical Seven Entertainment
Price- ~$25 here http://rpg.drivethrustuff-
.com/product/116730/Victoriana-3rd-Edition?term=victoriana+3-
rd

TL; DR- You can't go wrong with Steampunk, Lovecraft, Penny-Dreadful Shadowrun! 93%


Basics-Ever want to mix steampunk with Victorian sensibilities and add a ton of Middle Earth to the equation? That is the mix for Victoriana-an RPG set in 1856 where magic is semi-common place, steam power is beginning to conquer the world, and "heroes" are called from all walks of life. This is a whole RPG in one book, so let's break this down into its important parts and numbers.


Mechanics or Crunch- At this games core, it's a simple d6 pool game. Let's see how that plays out on each level:


Base Mechanic- Victoriana is a d6 dice pool game. Each task you do will be a combination of an attribute and an associated skill. Shoot a gun? Dexterity and firearms. Ride a Wyvern? Presence and Animal Handling. A few small things make this game amazingly fun and different from other dice pool games. One is the numbers you want. You are looking for 1's and 6's. Even better, 6's explode and you roll them again counting 1's and 6's. AND THE 6's KEEP EXPLOIDING! I love the dynamic addition of exploding dice in any game!


Task Difficulty-Most tasks you perform require two successes with some task allowing partial successes. That is a quick and easy mechanic for deciding failure and success. The system builds on this simplicity by adding "black" dice. Want to mix dangerous chemicals on a bumpy train ride? Well you roll your normal Attribute and Skill, but you also roll 3 BLACK dice. These black dice work just like normal dice, but they take AWAY successes. AND, they explode like normal dice! AND, THE PLAYERS ROLL THEM! This puts some of the pressure on the player and it's just pure fun as a GM. If you have negative successes at the end of a roll, then you have a foul failure. These situations are where the GM gets to absolutely play with the player. Guns break. Mechanical arms are ruined. Spells summon crazy monsters. It's the whole nine yards of bad things for a player. Some tasks have opposed rolls like attacking and dodging, but black dice can still be added to both sides of a combat. If you're shooting in the dark, and my bad guy is dodging while on a slippery floor, both sides get to add black dice to their rolls. Whoever has more successes wins.


Combat-You could have an RPG without combat, but why!? Each round players can choose to do one action (move, attack, cast a spell, etc) at no penalty. However, a player can do up to his/her dexterity in actions per round. Each action the player performs divides the dice pool for that action. Run and shoot? Divide your pool by two. Run, shoot, and mix a bomb? Divide your pool by 3 for EACH action. Your black dice are NOT changed as your divide your pools! You can do anything you want, but the more you do, the worse you can fail! Damage also is dependent on d6's. Each weapon has a damage value. If you score more successes than your target, you get to roll a number of d6's equal to the damage value for your weapon counting the 1's and 6's as before WITH EXPLODING DICE! After you count your successes, you add your initial number of successes to your count and the opponent subtracts his/her armor and takes the difference as damage.


Character Generation-Character generation in this system is divided into two broad categories: completely homemade or guided. If you make your own character from the soles of your feet up, have fun! If you want a little more guided approach, then you can build your character by selecting your background, breeding (social standing and race), build package (where you fit in the breeding and background), spend attribute and skill points, and earn and assign extra build points via drawbacks and other abilities. It's pretty simple, but flexible allowing all kinds of different characters to populate the world. As a word of caution, this system has the kind of flexible that a few example characters could help to keep players from killing themselves during character generation.


Magic and Machines-It wouldn't be magic and steampunk without magic and machines. Magic is divided into a few different categories. Basically, each mage has training in one of these areas of magic and makes still tests as previously discussed. It's simple and quick. The different types of magic all feel different as hermetic wizards throw around all kinds of elemental magic, while people of faith have much more religion based magic like healing and exorcism. All magic uses another metric called quintessence. Quintessence is spent to cast spells and is recovered over time and rest. Also, if you don't have quintessence, you can just take damage. I LOVE cast till you pass out systems! This is only the tip of the iceberg, but magic does feel like magic and not just another skill roll. Machines on the other hand are built once and then never have to be paid for again. They may require fuel like steam or gas to run, but the different machines fell like they have different functions. Most of these functions have different actions than magic, but part of the theme is how magic is beginning overtaken by the age of steam. Some of these devices even require magic to be built! Whatever steampunk idea you have in your head, based on the marvels here, you can build your favorite toy!
Order and Chaos- Victoriana's spiritual fight isn't between good and evil. Don't get me wrong, good and evil are here, but the major fight is between the forces of entropy and order. The RPG spends some time outlying that order isn't necessarily good as a crazed priest of order can easily be as evil as a demonologist of chaos. Players can decide to side with one or the other, and when they do an action that advances their side, they can get dice depending how advanced they are on the cogs of their faction. Order provides a straight bonus to an action, while chaos provides many more dice than order, but you have to roll these dice to see if you succeed. It's a fun addition to the game, but one that your players and you will have to choose to get deep into.
Summary-I love what is here. It's simple in a good way, quick, and flexible. It's got a fun feel with action and puts some of the dirty, hard choices in the players hands themselves with black dice. I love when I make the players be the bad guys for a change! 5/5


Theme or Fluff-Victoriana is an "almost Earth" setting. Even with elves, magic, and steam powered robots, people are not all that different. So, this book assumes that history will pretty much follow the same path to 1856. And, you know what? It works really well! I liked the world this book built. Also, if you remove all the "wizard/steam robot did it" references in the setting back story, the first half of the book is a well done summary of European history till 1856. Honestly, a world with different races (really different races not just Spanish compared to English, but Ogre compared to hog-faced beastmen soon to be German Chancellor) explains the wars in Europe better than the petty motivations that have occurred through all of our real history. The story of this world drew me in, and I sat and read the intro fiction as well as the world guide. It's a well done world with lots of depth to help you understand the world and live in it as you game. 5/5


A note on history, truth, and the "isms"- Victoriana is set in a time when it was amazingly awesome to be a white, European, rich male. For every difference from that standard, things got steadily worse. This RPG introduces the realities of that life, but doesn't dwell on them. It leaves how much of that you want to throw into your game up to you. That's important since some players might not be too comfortable roleplaying in a time when a husband could not technically rape his wife. And, if you wanted to, things could get worse from there. Sexism, racism, and specisim are alive and well here, but the book walks that line well and wholly lets the GM and players decide how much of the more horrible parts of history and alternative history they want to explore. I feel it's important to note that there are some possible adult themes, but they are handled well. If you just want some pulp steampunk with orcs and magic, then you can easily get that from the system too.


Execution-I liked this book, but the problems I have with this book are not getting enough book. What's here in this book is great, but could use a bit of help to distinguish information from background text. The book is black and white. That's not a bad thing, but some of the information isn't as highlighted as well as it should be. My next major complaint is the lack of examples. Combat and character generation could both really benefit from an example of creating a character and how to systematically tear another character to bits via combat. I liked the layout in general. The pictures did a great job explaining the world and people and keeping me engaged. Even with this complaint, my comments are positive. 4/5


Summary-If you want some steampunk, some magic, and some Victorian history; you can't go wrong with this system. Character generation is easy, actions have the players doing more thinking then just roll one die, and combat is quick. This RPG runs like a good watch-it looks like lots of too complicated moving parts, but when you really get down to it, you see its got a simple, elegant design. Magic and machines are there, but the subsystems that make them run are not overly complicated. A new player could easily play with either of those systems with no trouble. My only complaint is I feel more examples of combat, encounter generation, and characters in general would have really helped players get into the system easier. It's not a game breaker, but it's something to note. Overall, I love this system. If you're looking for your steampunk Shadowrun fix, you cannot go wrong with this one! 93%


Full disclosure: I was provided a reviewer copy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Victoriana 3rd Edition
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Rocket Age - The Lost City of the Ancients
by Ian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/14/2014 14:25:33

Very good starter adventure, lots of options, plenty of play options.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Rocket Age - The Lost City of the Ancients
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