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DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2016
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/20/2018 07:46:09

Remarking on how Goodman Games has been an enthusiastic supporter of Free RPG Day since its inception in 2007, they're now proud to present two adventures. Moreover, they've gone overboard on covers with five different designs which were distributed randomly to retailers. Those who download the PDF get to see them all!

For Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG there is a Level 1 adventure called The Madhouse Meet, set in the forthcoming Lankhmar campaign setting (yes, the Fritz Leiber one). As a 'meet' adventure, it's designed to start off a campaign in Nehwon by throwing a disparate bunch of player characters together as they attempt to escape the clutches of a bizarre sorcerer from lands far beyond Lankhmar. It's designed for four characters but will work with fewer. After some background explanation for the GM, the adventure begins with our luckless heroes banged up in a cell. Hopefully they'll make a break for freedom... A lot of use is made of Luck, and there's a note to the effect that guile rather than brute strength is often more effective in Nehwon! While a short adventure, it is well written with atmospheric descriptions and plenty of ideas scattered around that could lead to further adventures. It's a good taster for both the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG and the Lankhmar setting.

The other adventure, for the Mutant Crawl Classics RPG, is a 'character funnel' adventure for some 15-20 level 0 characters, with each player running multiple characters. It's called The Museum at the End of Time, and involves a bunch of younglings sent out on a 'Rite of Passage' to survive in the wilderness, retrieve a functioning artefact of the Ancients and, if possible, trigger whatever mutations lurk within their genetic code. This bunch has chosen the high-risk high-stakes option of venturing into the trackless Glow Desert in their quest. After a couple of days and whatever random encounters you throw at them, they arrive a a structure which they can explore and loot. It is not, of course, devoid of defences! There are some wonderous and inventive artefacts to be found, many of which will lead incautious or curious characters into no end of trouble. There's some excellent advice for the GM about presenting artefacts to primitive people who haven't a clue what they are, which will benefit anyone trying to describe items to a party ill-equipped to comprehend them, never mind this adventure.

Both are cracking little adventures in their own right, as well as good introductions to their respective systems. There are no rules given here, provided you know the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG mechanics you will be able to cope. Pre-generated characters for both adventures are available on the Goodman Games website. Enjoy your foray into these settings!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DCC RPG Free RPG Day 2016
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DCC Lankhmar: Masks of Lankhmar
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/19/2018 13:17:13

This 1st-level adventure set in the city of Lankhmar is intended as a 'meet' adventure at the beginning of the campaign, an opportunity for the party to form up and forge some common bonds as well as to complete the adventure. It's designed for a small group but will require both a wizard and a thief.

There's a succinct background for the GM, and then an explanation of how the adventure begins - it's suggested that it begins in media res, and runs fast and fun to at least one of three possible climaxes, depending on what the characters get up to as the adventure progresses. Put succinctly, what will become the party encounter one another as each character independently decides that it would be a good idea to burgle the home of a renowned collector of valuable items and caravan master on the night he's throwing a big party to celebrate the acquisition of his latest piece. At this masked ball, all the player-characters find themselves in the cellar antichamber to the collector's treasure vault... but before they can puzzle out why anyone else is there when they snuck in alone, some security guards arrive and a fight breaks out.

The fight isn't designed to be too challenging, so once the guards are defeated, the player-characters can make introductions as they catch their breath and decide what to do next. Hopefully they'll realise that they might do better co-operating than working on their own. The challenge of actually getting into the vault ought to do the trick... but that is only still the beginning of the adventure. What they find will lead them on to further discoveries and riches - but they still need to exfiltrate and, well, shall we say that they may not be the only people who thought it was a good night for a heist.

Once they are outside with their loot, a spot of research will be necessary, as what they discover points to a greater treasure, a set of magical gold masks. Hopefully this research will again be collaborative, further cementing the group together. There's an optional encounter with a potential patron, and then it's time to mount a further raid on a former temple in town to get the goodies. With atmospheric descriptions and many encounters, there is ample opportunity for plenty of high jinks before the objective is attained - an inkling of this is revealed by some detailed rules for running foot-chases across the rooftops.

The final section covers ending the adventure. Given the clear and present danger the masks pose to the entire city, some or all of them might have been damaged by now, lowering their value... that is, if they didn't get loose to cause problems all over town. Oh, and the Thieves' Guild probably want a word. Winding up the adventure is no easy matter, there are lots of loose ends to sort out and most of them have the potential to lead to further adventures.

This adventure presents the fast, violent fun that ought to fill the pages of any adventure in Lankhmar, and should set up the new-fledged party as a force to be reckoned with as the campaign proceeds.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DCC Lankhmar: Masks of Lankhmar
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DCC Lankhmar: Patrons of Lankhmar
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/18/2018 09:21:35

This book serves two purposes. It introduces some of the major movers and shakers of Nehwon and, by presenting them as 'patrons' within the Dungeon Crawl Classic RPG, sets them up ready to play their part in your game whether or not your party's going to Lankhmar any time soon.

There's seven of them all told, and they all appear in the tales of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser by Frank Lieber - so if you don't know them, get reading for even more background about each one. For convenience, there's a list of stories in which each one features, so once you have picked one you know what to read. They are Death, Issek of the Jug, Mog the Spider God, Ningauble of the Seven Eyes, the Rat God, the Sea King, and Sheelba of the Eyeless Face. However, Ningauble has already been written up as a patron in Through Ningauble's Cave, and the material is not replicated here. So in effect there are six patrons in this book.

Each one's entry begins with a brief outline of who they are, and what pledging to them entails. Then there is a table showing what might happen as a result of an Invoke Patron check. Not all outcomes are pleasant... or is it that some are more unpleasant than others? Patron Taints are also imaginative - if Death is your patron, for example, you may find yourself suddenly somewhere else with a compulsion to kill a given person... they are due to die, and Death has sent you to collect the soul as he's otherwise engaged! Then there's a third table for Spellburn. These again have been crafted with loving care.

It's obvious that a lot of care and attention has gone into creating very appropriate entries on all three tables for each Patron. They suit the personality and style of the individual as presented in the story and have good game balance of benefit and curse, these are going to work well as Patrons for those party members who (are desperate enough to) approach them.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
DCC Lankhmar: Patrons of Lankhmar
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DCC Lankhmar: Through Ningauble's Cave
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/17/2018 09:36:03

This is a rather strange supplement. It's not an adventure, yet it can feature in your games. It's a location and an individual, drawn from the world of Lankhmar, and in a way serves as an introduction to this wonderful place. If you want, for example, to move an existing campaign to Lankhmar you can have the party discover the entrance to the cave somewhere in the current campaign world...

The first part provides a description of both the cave and its owner, a wizard by the name of Ningauble of the Seven Eyes. If you know Lankhmar already you are probably familiar with him, if not suffice to say that he is a... well, it's a bit difficult to describe really. Somewhere within the caves squats something, something that appears man-like, cloaked, with all that you can see of his features being seven glowing eyes. He's one of the two most powerful sorcerers in Nehwon, opinions are varied as to whether he's the most powerful one. (He thinks he is, and it's probably best not to argue, certainly not if you are with him at the time!) Nobody knows just what he is, although rumours about. His passion is the gathering of information, rumours and facts are all grist to his mill.

Unlike most Nehwon wizards, Ningauble is not solitary by nature. He loves gossip, lore, stories and even the occasional fact far too much, and is always in search of new people to bring him such choice snippets... the party will soon fall under his sights if they have not done so already. Once someone has become one of his 'Gentles', as he calls his spies, he never lets go, although years may pass between assignments. One day another of his missives will turn up. Some seek him out, asking for his patronage in return for services, others he picks out as useful. They'll get the patronage, but he'll demand the services he wants, and is not above blackmail or threats when necessary.

Next, we find out about the cave itself. It's all a bit allegorical, but when you are actually there it is real, frightenly so at times. Somewhere in the middle is the Audience Cave, where Ningauble himself is to be found. There are other folk here as well. Other Gentles. Creatures which dwell here. Creatures which have just wandered in and not found the way out. These and more may be encountered (and, yes, there are random tables for when the party visits). The cave has many entrances, likely into several worlds and other places. One's Nehwon, of course, and one may be your campaign world... or indeed any other place you'd like to take your adventures.

There are plenty of examples - places you might emerge into and things that might happen in them, encounters and their consequences - to get you going. Indeed there's material here that could spawn a whole bunch of adventures, pick the ones you like and develop them into something that will keep the party coming back to the Caves for more.

Finally, Ningauble is written up as a full-blown Patron according to the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG rules, should you decide to use him that way for one or more members of your party.

Overall, there's a lot here to delve into. Some won't make much sense out of the context of Lankhmar, but if you do know it everything hangs together to bring the rich strangeness of it all to life at your table.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DCC Lankhmar: Through Ningauble's Cave
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Dungeon Crawl Classics #67: Sailors on the Starless Sea
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/16/2018 07:35:54

Designed for a party of 15 0th-level characters (with the anticipation that each player has three characters), this adventure sees this motely horde of novice adventurers attempting to stem a plague of abductions that has recently blighted a village. For best effect, as this is supposed to be a starting adventure, this village is home to most or not all party members, thus they have a vested interest in its wellbeing. Some of those abducted may be friends or family...

There's a brief outline of how the adventure is intended to play out and a fair bit of background for the GM explaining how the situation came to be, and who is responsible. The adventure itself begins with a ruined keep that looms over the village from a nearby hilltop. There are plenty of rumours, and the first task facing our heroes is to decide which are fact and which are fiction. Each player can roll a D10 against a table of rumours, but there are no hints as to their veracity - they will have to make their own minds up. Naturally, the rumours offer valuable clues, but the fake ones can also lure foolish characters to their doom!

The first thing the party will have to decide is how they will approach the keep. Each route, and there are several, has its own dangers, and has a detailed description along with the particular challenges appropriate to it... and then there's the wandering monster table, on which each area features as well! Depending on the route chosen, there is the possibility of a spot of tomb-robbing, but beware: items taken from there are cursed! Although sample curses are provided, the GM is encouraged to make up his own based on whatever he's got planned for the campaign to come.

Once inside, each area comes with a graphic and atmospheric description along with notes about who (or what) is there to fight and what loot is available. Much is not obvious and will have to be searched out... and of course there's still those wandering monsters who may choose to happen by at an inopertune moment. The 'keep' portion ends with the discovery of stairs leading downwards...

As you can imagine, there is more to explore below. There the source of the evil awaits. Lucky, organised and courageous parties might be able to deal with it, maybe even keep their minds intact. Some of the abducted villagers are here in chains, and may be rescued - if any player has lost all their characters, they made a ready source of replacements, else all they want to do is flee for their homes.

The whole adventure is well-resourced with clear maps, a couple of player handouts and excellent descriptions coupled with notes on what's to find and what's to kill in each place the party goes, along with plenty of opportunities signposted for GMs to add clues to further adventures of their own making. An excellent introductory adventure to start a new campaign in the spirit of this game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeon Crawl Classics #67: Sailors on the Starless Sea
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Coriolis: The Dying Ship
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/15/2018 10:47:37

This adventure is a classic tale of a ship that has gone silent and off course, with the party sent to discover what's amiss, sort it out and recover a valuable cargo hauler and its load. The text begins with a detailed explanation of what has gone wrong and how it all came about, masses of beautiful detail that's enlightening for the GM but does raise the question of how easy it will be to enable the party to discover it all for themselves.

The adventure is well-resourced, with plenty of handouts and five pre-generated characters for groups who want to start straight away and have no characters of their own. Using your own characters is, however, a viable option. There are also some interesting comments about pacing the adventure, which can be done in a session or two if the group is time-strapped, or played out in a more leisurely manner for groups who like to explore every aspect of a given situation. Like any adventure, a thorough understanding and preparation on the part of the GM repays dividends. The situation is quite dangerous and should a player-character die, suggestions are made as to how best to replace them.

In classic style, the party is on Coriolis when they are approached and invited to a meeting at a cantina... and arrive to find another bunch impersonating them! Once this is sorted out - and several options are provided for you to use depending on how the party reacts - their contact will explain the delicate nature of the mission to be undertaken and enlist their help. He's in quite a rush to get their answer and be on the way... even going so far as to say he'll answer all the questions that they likely have once en route.

The trip to the oddly-behaving ship is relatively straightforward, although a few events are provided should you want to make a bit more of it. They may find out a bit more about the fellow who hired them as well. Once they arrive, the first trick is to get aboard. The hauler is already dangerously close to an asteroid swarm, which would probably destroy it if its course cannot be changed. The ship is dark, appears mostly powered-down, and the party's hails go unanswered. Once aboard, it is a creepy search to find the answers that they seek and regain control of the ship before it is all too late.

The exploration of the ship is handled in an elegant manner: it's completely up to the party what they do. The ship is described clearly, and certain things will occur in certain places... but only when the party reaches those places. Other events can be triggered as you feel appropriate. There's lots of atmospheric descriptions and ancillary notes making it all very easy to build up the air of suspense necessary... and of course that asteroid field is getting closer by the minute!

Overall it's an outstanding adventure, mixing traditional 'dead ship' tropes with some of the unique background and mythology of the Coriolis RPG (although if you are minded to get a bit mystical you could retool it for other spacefaring games). This has the potential to make a memorable story indeed.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: The Dying Ship
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Coriolis: Aram's Ravine
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2018 10:30:43

This supplement introduces Aram's Ravine, the only settlement on a planet called Jina which is by all accounts a bit of a hellhole that you only want to visit if you are after bauxite and other minerals... or adventure, with rival individuals constantly bickering and intriguing against one another.

Jina is barely habitable, with acid storms, temperature extremes, dried-up oceans and icy poles. You are recommended to check out the comments on this planet in the core rulebook to put this settlement into context. The colony is a hub for everyone exploiting the resources of the planet. It's perched on the edge of a ravine in a place with odd geology that has led to the formation of several 'towers' of rock between which softer rock has been eroded away - and the settlement itself is located on several of the towers, linked by rather precarious-looking bridges.

There is a plan of the settlement, atmospherically presented in a way that represents the rather misty atmosphere. This mist is acidic and slowly eats away at anything and everything (including people!) left out in it. Locations of interest include a palatial bath house or hammam, cantinas, a chapel of the Icons, Colonial Agency office, a small medical facility and a witch doctor's office. Outside the settlement there's a local population of fiercely tribal xenophobic 'kalites', acid-resistant humanites who are fairly primitive, although probably less so than most people give them credit for. There's some description of the surrounding area, which is where the mines can be found.

Then we get to meet some of the personalities in the settlement. The Colonial Agent. The (self-proclaimed) Mine Lord. The Salt Witch. These are the three rivals, and there are other subsiduary NPCs as well.

Then there are a series of events, beginning with a note that any new arrivals - like the party - will immediately be drawn into the scheming and plotting that's going on whether they like it or not. And that's before any set=piece events take place. Both of the ideas presented are ripe for development into full-blown adventures, and are open-ended enough that you can put your own spin on them.

Another fascinating location replete with opportunity for adventure!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: Aram's Ravine
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Coriolis: The Mahanji Oasis
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/13/2018 09:40:23

Labau is an arid and hot desert planet, but if something takes the party there, they will be glad of a lush oasis to visit... so here it is. A few reasons for why they might be there are provided, and reading through the notes on Labau in the core rulebook may suggest others. The oasis and the lakes nearby are clearly visible from orbit.

There's an overview of the oasis and a more detailed description of the village of Mahanji and some of the notable places: a cantina, the caravan seraglio, and premises belonging to petroleum companies. There's also an area called the Wall of Dreams where you can find, er, individuals of negotiable affection. OK, that's where the brothels are. Apparently caravanners, petroleum workers and workers from the starport are all regular patrons.

There's a map of the area supplemented by a sort of labelled skectch of the village itself which gets across what's where in a very atmospheric way. There are notes on every location noted on the map and sketch. and some might think - if you don't mind the high temperatures - that it might be a nice place to establish a base...

Of course, then we hear about the simmering tensions between various groups. The Firstcomer natives aren't too happy about those prospecting for petroleum. There are rumours about illicit experiments going on in the Factory (which does bionics research). Something odd is going on around some ancient ruins... and now people have started to disappear. Things are coming to a head, and of course do so when the party is there, irrespective of why they have actually come! There are detailed notes on the main personalities involved (including stat blocks if required) and a series of events that will blow the lid off things. You could pile all of these up at once or - especially if you expect the party to be frequent visitors to the oasis - spread them out a bit, for each is capable of being developed into a full-blown adventure in its own right. This provides for a lot of flexibility, and the range of events means that you can pick which ones to develop based on what you know of the party or even which of the rumours flying around catches their interest!

A fascinating little settlement to visit in its own right, and with all this going on the party may be in for a long stay. Well worth a look!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: The Mahanji Oasis
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Coriolis: Hamurabi
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/12/2018 08:11:48

This supplement presents a location which can provide a resting place, a source of adventure or indeed be a place in which adventures take place: a portal station in the Hamura system. It orbits the system's star and is more or less equidistant between the two portals in the system. Being the only station in system, people using either portal are likely to visit. It boasts just over an hundred permanent residents, and has all the facilities you might need: cantina, souk, chapel, a medlab, and residential modules, some of which are available for rent by transients. There's also a 'coffin hostel' for those who cannot afford proper rooms for their stay.

The descriptions of the place bring plenty of local colour and atmosphere to help you bring it alive for the party. There's a general plan based on a labelled line drawing of a side elevation of the station and some illustrations as well. The station is directed by Akbar Rhavinn Bokor, who has offices and a fine residence. There's also a Colonial Office which deals with such matters as the registration of mining claims and ensuring that things intended for any colony end up at the right one... there's plenty of work hauling goods and information for those in need of a contract.

Next, the current situation is discussed. Various personalities come into play and there are several points of tension - such as ice miners from a nearby planet getting a bit rowdy on leave - that can serve as backdrop or even focus of adventures as desired. There are descriptions (and stat blocks, should you need them) for the major players in the various operations on the station and a few events that may occur as appropriate during the party's stay beginning with a 'welcoming committee' as soon as they dock. There's also a suggestion for a complete mini-adventure.

It all gives the impression of a bustling little haven of light out there in the black, a place that operates all the time whether or not the party are there. You'll need to provide extra detail to build events into full-blown encounters or to develop that mini-adventure but there's a sound framework on which to build. Definitely a place to visit, maybe the party will even make it a regular stopping-place in their travels.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis: Hamurabi
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Coriols: Artifacts & Faction Tech
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2018 11:28:33

Artefacts are the most valuable things that the party is likely to get its hands on, conferring great power or wealth in whoever's got them. There's some brief advice to the GM about where (and when) to make them available, and a note about the glyphs they are often covered with. A few are thought to be understood, but nobody's certain about what they mean, let alone being able to read them properly... perhaps there's a 'Rosetta Stone' out there to find?

Then comes a listing of artefacts ready for you to use. Each has a visual description (and often a picture) along with notes on what it can do, limitations or drawbacks... and what skills the party can use to figure it out. But that's not all. There are numerous sidebars that discuss various aspects of artefacts to further enhance your use of them in your game.

Unfortunately many artefacts do their stuff by manipulating energy streams that lie dangerously close to the Dark Between the Stars. For those that do, there's a note of how many Darkness Points are generated for the GM when it's used. If you are too bedazzled by the artefacts presented here to choose which of the over sixty presented here, there's a random selection table to roll on.

There are quite a few healing devices of various levels of power - most will be pretty scary for both the injured person and any bystanders when they are used, particularly if they haven't seen the particular artefact in action before. In fact, many of the artefacts have the potential to scare users...

The second part of the book covers Faction Technology. Unlike the mysterious artefacts, this is the cutting edge of contemporary development, often from hidden programmes of development that each faction desperately wants to hide from all its rivals. They're presented by faction with two or three signature items from each one. Often they reflect the faction's particular interests or strengths. Weapons and armour predominate, but there are ships and the intriguing proxy technology, an immersive alternate reality developed by Ahlam's Temple which they use sparingly for education or to allow experiences otherwise impossible - things like giving disabled individuals the use of the limbs or senses they cannot use in real life. Is this a blessing or a curse?

Providing a tantalising glimpse into both faction tech and the even stranger artefacts, these are items the average party should find only rarely, but when they do it's a reminder of how rich and strange the universe is. The one thing this work doesn't do is assign any values to anything listed here. Perhaps they are priceless. Or maybe it is up to the party to negotiate if they wish to part with the item in question. Maybe it's too dangerous to hawk them around... Whatever, they'll blow your mind. Sometimes literally.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriols: Artifacts & Faction Tech
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Elite Dangerous RPG - Super Traders Sourcebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2018 09:08:54

A lot of interstellar travel is going to be about trade, and this book is filled with resources to help those groups who want at least part of their game to be about furthering that trade - presumably as small-scale independents, given that the game is centred around individual spacecraft. With spacecraft ownership proposed on the scale that we own cars, these are probably the van-men of space in the equivalent of a step-van or small truck. It's also something that can be modelled well for someone wanting a solo game.

First up, Advanced Trading. If you are a role-playing group, a lot of trade will be relegated to the Between Adventures phase. Let's face it, commerce - however necessary and valuable - isn't really the stuff of adventure. However the rules as laid out in the core rulebook make for quite a lot of work, especially for the GM. Unless your GM has unlimited prep time, you probably want him to be creating exciting adventures not writing out price lists. So a more flexible system for working out prices in a given system based on what they specialise in and a bit of die rolling for that random element is provided, with the intention that (provided you like it) it will repace the version in the core rules. Interestingly, this includes an element to model a place that is good for trade being over-exploited, ensuring that the characters move on and don't just run a single profitable route without exploring anywhere else. You can make things more complex, but that really defeats the purpose of using this system.

Next comes New Spaceships. Everyone is always ready for a few more... and the ones presented include large bulk carriers - think 'container ship' rather than 'truck' - for those who want to take cargo-hauling seriously. There requite multiple-person crews, but come with 'hangers' for personal vessels, so characters won't have to abandon their pride and joy if they take service on one of these big boys (the price tag is likely too much for most characters to contemplate owning one). There are also smaller one- or two-man ships optimised to carry cargo at, of course, the expense of speed, manoeuvrability or weaponry.

This section is followed by another on Fighter Escorts - as the big cargo haulers are not able to fight well, they need to have escorts to defend them. The concept here is the small specialist fighting craft, carried aboard a larger vessel and loosed when the need arises. They are smaller than the regular personal vessels previously discussed in this game, basically a flying weapons platform - some are even controlled remotely rather than having a pilot aboard. They have limited life support even if designed to be piloted, and no Frame Shift drives.

Next up is It Takes All Sorts, a selection of backgrounds suitable for people who want to specialise in trade. People have all sorts of reasons for becoming independent traders, these provide some of them - often involving a desire (or a need) to escape the past. Additional Karma Capabilities round out this section.

The Eternal Foe comes next. This section talks a little about pirates before provided a selection of adversaries at spaceship, vehicle and individual scales... mostly pirates but also some other traders to provide a bit of competition!

Finally, this is all linked in to the Random Gemeration System (RGS). There's an explanation of how to use it to create a solo game - this dupliates notes in the Military and Espionage supplements, as you may not have them - of course if you do you can have a very varied solo game indeed! It then moves on to creating encounters suitable for a trading game, as useful for the GM wanting to create appropriate challenges as to the solo gamer, including pirate attacks, police boarding actions and general spaceway encounters. There's a selection of trade missions - all of which could be developed into full-blown adventures, with plenty of supporting notes. In places the other sourcebooks are mentioned, but alternatives are given for those who don't possess them.

There's a lot of good stuff here, particularly if you are on your own or want to run a game in which trading and commerce provides the background to the adventures you want to run. A lot would be useful whatever science-fiction game you run, even if it's not Elite Dangerous, but if you do it captures the very essence of the video game well.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elite Dangerous RPG - Super Traders Sourcebook
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Elite Dangerous RPG - Espionage Supplement
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2018 09:03:17

The opening pages (backed by an atmospheric double-page illustration) paint a world that's post-post-truth. Everyone knows not to leave secrets on computers where hackers can break in... so if you want those secrets you have to break in physically to steal them. Espionage is part and parcel of doing business, with corporations even more likely to indulge in it than nation-states.

Slightly oddly, the first section is addressed to Engineers, and talks about upgrading spaceships by tinkering with the systems - in flagrant breach of the warrantry if not the law. Pilots are advised not to fiddle, a case of 'no user-servicable parts inside' which to those of us who like playing starship engineers is anathema! It is considered best to go to a professional if you want to supe up your spaceship, and the first trick is to make contact with a reputable and competent one. In terms of game mechanics, use your Repair skill in the Between Adventures phase if you want to do it yourself. It's probably best to visit your tame professional engineer then as well, who wants to spend role-playing time waiting for your spaceship to come out of the shop? Either way it's going to be expensive. There are tables to roll on for various components, giving a chance of improvement... or of causing a fault (and sometimes both!).

Next comes a selection of New Spaceships. It's noted that agents tend to like ships that are speedy and agile, but which don't stand out in a crowded starport, then presents several new ships (each with variations) that may be chosen during character creation, or indeed picked up later on in the game.

The next section is Perks of the Job. This contains useful equipment that the best-dressed espionage agent wouldn't leave home without. Some are quite innovative - poisonous lipsticks or bodyspray for example (just remember to take the antidote before applying or you'll poison yourself!). There are weapons, cybernetics and othe gizmos as well.

Then we have The Perfect Agent where new backgrounds appropriate to someone wishing to enter the shadowy worlds of espionage are provided. These range from a former downtrodden worker-drone who knows in great detail how a corporation operates to security guards, and an 'insurgent' who may be a prankster, an activist or an outright terrorist. New enhancements and Karma Capabilities appropriate to these roles are also there.

After a rather creepy piece of fiction which I hope won't give any players ideas we move on to The Bad Guys, which provides a whole bunch of ready-made opponents. These come in both Spaceship and Individual scales and range from soldier/mercenary and security personnel to criminals, and of course assassins.

The final part of the book focusses on the Random Generation System (RGS) and concentrates on running solo adventures when you are without a GM. Of course busy GMs can also use it during planning or even mid-game if they need ideas in a hurry. There are infiltration challenges - complete with outcomes based on success or failure - and step-by-step paths through various types of espionage mission. Then there is a system for generating Corporate Bases through a series of die rolls.

There's plenty of useful stuff if you want to run espionage games, but the whole thing has an air of being thrown together, random nuggets added because they might be useful, rather than a coherent exposition of the espionage aspects of the game. It even manages to make espionage sound dull and mechanical... the very thing most people take up this line of work to escape! Pick out all the bits you want to use and throw them into the mix, remembering that the real excitement of an espionage-style mission comes with role-playing it, not just rolling dice!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Elite Dangerous RPG - Espionage Supplement
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Elite Dangerous RPG core book
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/04/2018 11:08:37

The Preface and Introduction between them set the scene and evoke long-lost memories of early gaming in childhood (OK so I am a bit older than the author so there were no videogames to play with, and D&D didn't turn up until I was 18!). It all captures the magic of the alternate realities we inhabit as role-players, and gets you ready for this one, which you might have met before if you have played any of the Elite videogames. They were quasi-role-playing of themselves, but now with this game, that universe comes to life as a full-blown role-playing game. In a nutshell, your characters inhabit a universe where spaceship ownership is as common as car ownership is today, where there is vast inequality between rich and poor, weapons are easily available, life is cheap but opportunites for the brave and fortuate are endless...

There are basically three types of game that you can play. There are exploration games, espionage games (these include the police procedural ones like in the quickstart adventure The Worst Intentions that is bundled with the core rulebook), and military ones. Or in the true spirit of Elite itself, you can be 'Lone Wolf' individuals who nibble at the edges of civilisation to make your living. These are just ideas, of course, this is a rich canvas in which you may tell any story that you please.

We then dive straight in with Chapter 1: Character Creation. The process is summarised in a single page, but of course it's a bit more complex than that as you need to choose backgrounds and skills - even if you do get Trained Pilot background for free, 'cos zipping about in a spaceship is core to the game. You need to pick four backgrounds, which feed into the skills you bring to the game. These can be chosen or rolled for on a random table. A background generally gives you about four skills or their equivalent - some give eight and occupy two slots in your list of backgrounds. Each is described in a few sentences which build up to give an outline of your character's past.

One of the more interesting choices for a background is 'partner' - this gives you a whole other person who tags along with you, and has a character sheet of their own. It's suggested that the GM may role-play this individual, but another method - especially if several players in the group have partners - is to trade them amongst the group, playing each other's partners. One of the things coming out of the process already is a strong sense of 'You are the hero of your own story' and it's going to be interesting to see how this fits into the group or party oriented mindset of most RPGs, as characters are developed in isolation. There is a Karma point system which reiterate that 'You are the hero' view, with Karma Capabilities (you choose from a list and get Escape Death as a bonus one) and points which you can use to reroll a bad die roll... and all are consumed if you call upon Escape Death! They do regenerate, though...

Finally there are eight starships to pick from. They are all one- or two-person craft (if you have a partner you'll need a two-seater), or you can design your own with a 100.000 credit budget (which doesn't go that far...) if you prefer. But EVERY player-character has his or her own ship. You then need to give your character a name and decide what he looks like, and get some basic equipment. Then, adventure awaits...

Or at least it will once you've got through Chapter 2: Playing the Game. This begins by talking about the overall objective (to have fun and make a vast fortune whilst having exciting adventures) and the various GM-set goals you will need to achieve along the way. Several examples are given, all more or less open-ended as to what you're going to do about the situation. Then on to using those skills you just determined that your character has, a matter of deciding what skill you wish to use, getting a difficulty number to roll over and making your attempt by rolling a D10 and adding your skill bonus. If you use a skill, even if you are not successful, you put a tick beside it and at the end of the adventure you can raise it by 1 until you reach the level cap (40 for a starting character) - but only once per skill per adventure however many times you use it. There's a brief description of all the skills so that you can decide which one you want to use, and an explanation of how characters advance to higher levels - you don't want to go around labelled Harmless for ever, after all! This is done by amassing Rank Points, awarded by the GM for things like defeating a foe or succeeding with a skill that materially advances the adventure.

Chapter 3 is devoted to Combat, and it explains how combat works in space, between vehicles (planetside ones, that is), and in person. Combat in person is often conducted at a distance with firearms, but you can also brawl with fists or wave a sword around if you are feeling a bit mediaeval! When engaged in a fight, you may or may not choose to use a map - it depends if you like freeform fighting or a more 'miniatures skirmish' style. Both styles are accommodated here, it's really a matter of personal choice which your group will use. Combat proceeds through a turn-based system, with initiative determined by die roll. During your turn you can move up to ten metres and take an action, with numerous special cases according to circumstances. Note that artificial gravity has not been invented in this universe (although large ships and space stations can generate it through rotation) so characters will often find themselves in a micro-gravity environment. Most folk wear magboots, which keep your feet secure yet allow for movement: if you have them you can move normally in a low gravity environment - but if you're caught without yours movement can get a bit tricky! Wounds and healing are also covered here, before the discussion moves on to space combat. In this game, it's conducted at very close range - a few kilometers at most - and bears a lot of simularity to an aerial dogfight or naval ships in the age of sail exchanging broadsides with the added feature of fighting in three dimensions. A rough map does help here, whether or not you like them for personal combat. Again there is a whole range of actions you can perform both in preparation for combat and once the furball begins. It's also explained how you take (or deal out) damage and how it is repaired during combat. If things go too badly wrong, you might abandon ship by taking to the escape pods (if your ship has them). Finally vehicle combat is covered. It's similar to space combat except there are far more obstacles to crash into, and the ground limits the directions in which you can move.

Next, Chapter 4: The Galaxy is a guided tour of a spaceship, delivered as if you are taking delivery of a new one. This is followed by an overview of the galaxy itself, politically speaking. It's an amusingly ideosyncratic discourse, with an Empire and a Federation (both have advantages and disadvantages) and an Alliance of Independent Systems, as well as many independent worlds... quite a lot to take in but it all makes for a fascinating read. Under the guise of 'Good Citizenship in Space' it also explains what is acceptable behaviour out in the black.

Chapter 5: Personal Equipment follows, with details of all manner of items as well as the currency used. There are enough varieties of weapons to keep the most ardent gun-bunny content, with plenty of illustrations and descriptions as well as game mechanical information... and a selection of 'rare' items which could interest the collector or someone seeking a signature weapon. Armour - considered a bit crass to wear in public without very good reason - is also covered, as are cybernetic modifications, which again can have a negative effect on how people view the modified individual. Moving on to ordinary clothing we discover that in a very judgemental galaxy what you wear influences how others perceive you, via a Social Factor mechanic that quantifies the effect. There's all manner of other items of equipment here too, from communicators to cosmetics!

Next, Chapter 6: Spacecraft provides the lowdown on how cheap faster-than-light travel and the mass-production of ships has transformed the galaxy and the lives of inhabitants, with spaceship ownership akin to today's role of cars. All spacecraft come with weapons, as space piracy is rife. As already noted, it's a basic 'given' of the game that each player-character has his or her own ship, rather than the party sharing one as in most games. Here there are further details of the ships mentioned in the character generation section and of many more besides, and there are also rules for those who'd prefer to design their own ship from the keel up. A lot is based on the way the Elite: Dangerous videogame handles spacecraft, although some of the calculations have been simplified on the grounds that computers do sums a lot better than most role-players do! There is still an impressive amount to wade through if you do want to get into ship customisation, however. For the technically-minded, faster-than-light travel is empowered by a 'frame shift drive' although there's no real indication of what that does, just a few passing mentions of 'witchspace'. In normal space, thrusters are used. And yes, you can purchase a Docking Computer, which my husband, an Elite veteran, claims is essential as it takes all the bother out of docking with a rotating space station!

Chapter 7: Vehicles then does much the same for planetside vehicles as the preceeding chapter did for spacecraft. On normal inhabited and civilised planets, virtually all vehicles are autonomous and 'driving' consists of telling the vehicle where you want to go, however there are plenty places where the necessary infrastructure is not present and you still have to actually take control yourself. You do need, however, to make sure that your spacecraft has a large enough hanger to transport any vehicle you purchase... although no doubt it is possible to rent a vehicle for one-off use planetside. Some vehicles are designed for airless worlds, others operate in atmosphere while submarines and aircraft are also available.

That's it for the player section. We are now in to Gamemaster territory. It opens by explaining how daunting a first attempt at GMing can be... yet it's also rewarding and exciting as well. It discusses attitude and approach before getting down to mechanics like how to set difficulty numbers for task resolution... and how to handle the outcomes, good and bad, once the roll has been made. The discussion then moves on to the types of game you can run, with considerations as to how much preparation you can and want to do, how much you like freeform gaming compared to having a plot ready for the party to interact with and so on. Loads of ideas here. The first suggestion, for those who like very defined adventures, is a military or police campaign, then there's material about intrigue and espionage based ones. Then there's the major interstellar industry of exploring new worlds in search of places to exploit or colonise. There's frequent reference to the Random Generation System (RGS, detailed later!) which reduces the work of prior planning and preparation - it can even be used mid-game to create, for example, a new solar system even as the characters fly into it!

Yet the 'default' setting for a game based on Elite has to be the Lone Wolf one, with each character in his own ship - as laid out in the character creation rules - each working for himself, an independent operator. The constraints of a traditional role-playing group demand that they have to cooperate, but because they choose to do so rather than for employment reasons (be it military, police, exploration company or whatever). While these can be difficult to run, because the characters can go where they want and do what they want, there are certain frameworks that you can set, such as mission-based games. Perhaps they freelance for the aforementioned organisations, taking discrete jobs when the opportunity arises. Military, espionage and exploration missions can work well, as can 'cargo delivery' tasks. Or you can run a sandbox game: give them an area of space and a starting point and let them go where they like. It does take a fair bit of pre-planning, although the crafty will have a series of generic adventures that happen in whatever place the party has decided to go, or ones which are tagged to certain places but have no timescale, they'll occur when the party enters System X, be that the first place they go or the last. The RGS can help, but it's best if there is some kind of overarching plot. The Elite Dangerous galaxy has some 20,000 civilised star systems, but you don't need to design them all at once! Start with a dozen or so, and grow your galaxy over time. A lot of GMing will involve making things up on the spot, if only because the most unpredictable creature in known space is the player-character! Fortunately there's help available here about some perceived common occurences, many combat-related... but there are notes on all manner of things from hiring crew for a ship to making up new Backgrounds for people to use during character creation, and much, much more.

Then a concept of Between Adventures is introduced. This is a time for all the housekeeping, trading, ship- and character-improving tasks you don't want to role-play out but which do serve the progrssion of character and game as a whole. Perhaps the characters earn some money through independent activities in between the times they operate as a group. This can be abstracted - if you find too much detail sneaking in it may be worthy of some playing time, although some folks do like a reasonable level of detail even in their 'off-screen' time. The trick is to abstract the stuff you don't care to occupy role-playing time with, and use it to set up the things you do want to play out. It's quite a neat rationalisation.

But there's more. Chapter 9: Opponents provides advice about creating and using the opposition - individuals and organisations. At the most basic level, they come in three kinds: personal, vehicle and spaceship. These, of course, are the ones that the party have to fight - but the discussion soon moves on to creating encounters and provides pleny of examples at all three scales, grouped as military/mercenary, criminal, police/security and so on. Alien animals are also included for those venturing planetside; and finally there are drones for the technologically-inclined. Chapter 10: Rewards discusses how to reward characters appropriately for what they do, both in terms of cash and in terms of character advancement.

Finally, then, we reach the long-awaited Random Generation System. It's been mentioned enough in preceeding chapters, and now here it is in all its glory: an array of tables to help you generate systems, missions, just about anything you might need. It's equally useful for planning a game or in the middle of one when you need something in a hurry, and just reading the options available can often spawn ideas... and of course you can ignore the result of a roll when a better idea occurs, even if you started out setting something up randomly.

A raft of Appendices to aid in creative processes, then we are done. There's great potential here and it's playable irrespective of whether or not your group enjoys the Elite videogames. The concept of having each player-character running his own ship may be a bit of a challenge: do they travel as a pack, or when they get together do they dock their personal vessels and embark on something big enough for all of them? The entire game system is very open and adaptable, but the GM is going to have to do some groundwork - even if it's furious die-rolling against the RGS - before you are ready to go. Unless your group wants a police proceduaral in space game, the Quickstart that comes bundled with the core rulebook is more to introduce the system than to kick-start your campaign. Have fun, and keep your blaster handy!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elite Dangerous RPG core book
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Elite Dangerous RPG - The Worst Intentions
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2018 13:02:50

The Introduction sets the scene: as a citizen in a vast galactic civilisation of the 34th century, you start with the basics and claw your way up to - if you can get there - 'Elite' status. The galaxy is filled with perils: pirates, ruthless bounty hunters, heartless corporations and terrible creatures, lost cities and undiscovered planets. Cheap faster-than-light travel has opened up space to exploration and trade, humanity exploding across the stars, building new colonies, cities, nations and empires and discovering untold riches to exploit. But not all is well, there is terrible inequality and corruption and many who think the best way to make their living is to steal from somebody else.

In this PDF there is a brief adventure, intended to be played out in a single session, four pre-generated characters and enough of an explanation of the rules to let you play. Character generation, equipment (apart from specific stuff that turns up in the adventure) and the full rules will be found in the Core Rulebook. The intention is that you and your group can give the game a spin and see if it's to your taste before parting with your money.

The next section is How To Play which crams in a brief description of what role-playing in as well as explaining enough of the rules to let you play the adventure. The mechanics are based around the D10: task resolution involves rolling a D10 and adding the Skill Bonus of the appropriate skill, attempting to roll over a pre-determined difficulty number. In this game there are THREE combat systems: one for personal combat, one for vehicles and one for spacecraft. Rather than trying to explain them here, the relevant rules are provided in the body of the adventure as the need arises for them. Of course, this means that whoever is the GM is going to have to explain them, they cannot hand around copies of the rules section of the PDF for everyone to understand in advance! There's also something called Karma, used to power specific capabilities in a jam... each character starts with 12 points which normally are replenished, but for the purposes of this quickstart adventure, once they are gone they are gone.

Next we are introduced to the characters, who are law enforcement officers in the Asellus Primus system. Each has a Viper spaceship, a police interdiction and enforcement vessel, which carries a Surface Reconnaissance Vehicle (SRV) which is pretty much like a moon buggy and is used for scampering around planetside. Each comes with a character sheet and some background, as well as details of their Viper and SRV. (Personally I find it a bit odd that, if they are a team, they each have their own spaceship, but given that the Introduction tells us that spacecraft ownership is a bit like car ownership today it makes a little more sense.)

The scenario itself opens with some background on a narcotics gane with a novel history, then play begins with the party being called in to see their captain in the precinct house, er, orbital platform. From there they are sent to investigate an apparent derelict space freighter... and the fun begins. Neatly, there's plenty of room for interaction and investigation as well as ample opportunity to get into a brawl or two. There's also an interesting sidebar: in this game there is no artificial gravity (well, not unless it's spin-generated).

Descriptions are good, conveying a good sense of surroundings and situation, and a good attempt has been made to anticipate likely player questions and actions. There's a space battle against pirates to be fought, and it's here that the relevant game mechanics are gone through. More fun and games ensue when they reach the derelict - getting aboard for a start, and then hand-to-hand combat is likely too. Again the necessary mechanics are detailed here. Clues aboard lead the party to a nearby planet and, although it is probably contrived to give an opportunity to demonstrate the vehicle combat rules everything comes together to produce an exciting police prodedural in space.

The adventure is intriguing enough in its own right, and provides a good introduction to a lot of the rules of the game (including all three combat systems), so by the time you have finished it you ought to have a good idea of whether or not this game is for you. Personally I think the details of the combat systems would be better in the rules section than embedded in the adventure, if only because the rules section would then serve as a good ready-reference for players of both this adventure and the full game. Otherwise, a good adventure and an interesting setting make me look forwards to the full game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Elite Dangerous RPG - The Worst Intentions
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Slayer's Guide to Troglodytes
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/29/2018 13:20:26

How much do you know about troglodytes? Most people stop after "They live underground"... but if you read this you'll soon know a lot more about what the Introduction describes as 'a thoroughly foul reptilian race' (not a promising start) who dwell in the underdark, and occasionally in the rocky peaks and passes of remote mountains, and are remarkably good at conducting ambushes with javelins. Are they really that bad, or do they have some redeeming features?

We start with Troglodyte Physiology, although there's a lot more here than that. OK, so they are five-foot tall upright bipedal critters with scent glands that turn anyone's stomach, and rarely seen unless they are raiding. Unlike many bipedal creatures with tails, they don't use them as a counterbalance but drag them along the floor behind them, leaving a distinctive track that doesn't take a ranger to follow. Never mind the scent glands, they aren't too good at personal hygiene either. Dentition suggests that they are carnivore, possibly carrion-eaters, but nobody knows for sure. Detailed descriptions of their appearance, mating habits, chameleon-like skins, lifecycle and more follow. They are far weirder than you might have thought!

Next, Habitat is discussed. They invariably live underground, some deeper than others. They are good swimmers although by no means amphibious, and many of their lairs are partially submerged. They also need access to a good food supply - they have virtually insatiable appetities. Moving on from this, Troglodyte Society looks at their organisation, based around tribes of about thirty to an hundred in number, including hatchlings and juveniles. They are very territorial, despite their lairs being nothing to be proud of: dirty and messy are polite descriptions of their normal state. They are always hungry - a well-fed male goes into a mating frenzy that soon means that he's after something to eat again. The more tribe members get to eat, the larger and more intelligent they become - and the more likely to challenge their leaders. There's a distict hierarchy based on age, size and intelligence with only the most advanced (read 'well-nourished') tribes boasting crafters or clerics amongst their number. However smart they are, they all are vile and cruel, even the most stupid youngster has an appetite for torment and cruelty which they indulge whenever they get the chance. After all, even their own leaders regard them as expendable. Those of them bright enough to engage in worship follow an evil deity, the Lizard Toad, about whom the less said the better.

Methods of Warfare are explored next. They're very good at ambushes and skilled with javelins. As aggressive carnivores, it's often unclear whether they distinguish between a battle and a hunt. The vanquished are likely to be eaten either way. They are remarkably organised in battle, moving as one to the attack, although individually they fight almost in a frenzy. They are most ferocious of all when defending their lairs.

Next is a look at Role-playing with Troglodytes. It's all about bringing out the otherness of this race, an alien evilness that just doesn't relate to anything else your party will have ever encountered. It's quite difficult to interact with them in any manner that doesn't involve the point of a sword or a battery of offensive spells. Only the leaders are smart enough to even be able to hold a conversation, and they generally do not wish to do so - rank and file troglodytes are just too dense to have any meaningful communication at all. This section explains how to create troglodyte communities and involve them in the world above their heads, and it is followed by a selection of Scenario Hooks and Ideas to bring them into your game. There are also details on creating crafter troglodyes, but it is highly unlikely that they will ever be more than NPCs.

Finally, The Shrine of St Darius presents a fully-developed troglodyte lair - the troglodytes having accessed a monastery through caverns beneath it that link into the crypt... to the downfall of those religious living there. Although there's plenty of detail about who the troglodytes are and their activities, no plans are provided. It's suggested you site this in a remote mountain valley in your game world and, unless the party is sent there to find out what happened to the clerics living there until recently, use the various scenario hooks provided earlier to slowly bring it into prominence.

You will still feel that troglodytes are disgusting and evil after reading this, but you will know much more about how they come to be so vile, and will be in a position to use them as potent opposition especially to low-level parties.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Slayer's Guide to Troglodytes
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