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Deep Magic: Ring Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2017 07:25:05

Most of us know "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them" even if we cannot recite the entire verse... but have you ever stopped to contemplate magic rings within your game? In this work, it's suggested that magic ring manufacture is a dwarf thing. Now dwarves as a whole don't tend to be into magic much, their creative outlet is in making and shaping physical items but in forging rings and embuing them with power they reach a fusion of physical and magic creativity like none other.

Geometrically, the ring is an unusual shape for a dwarf: they tend to prefer angles and straight lines over curves, never mind a smooth circle with no beginning or end. Yet they make fine ones, often inscribed with runes and encrusted with jewels, perfect for the storing and wielding of magical power. Opening with quite a bit of fascinating background linking dwarves with this specific magic item, we then move on to a couple of feats related to ring magic as a whole before meeting the new arcane tradition of the Ring Warden. Rare outside of dwarven strongholds, they are recognisable by their staves bound with multiple rings.

The Ring Warden's magic is based on transmutation, blending dwarven craftsmanship with the magic that they use to empower the rings that they make. There's a sidebar linking Ring Wardens to the Midgard campaign setting, but if you're not using that, it's quite straightforward to find suitable locations and background for them in your own campaign world.

There are a selection of spells mostly aimed at enchanting rings and other ring-related effects (some of the links being fairly tenuous, like Reverberate where the only connection is that the material component is a metal ring with which you strike the ground to cause it to shake and your opponents to lose their balance!), and a slew of magic items most of which are, of course, rings. There is a rather wonderful molten fire forge, which anyone who wants to make magic armour, weapons or indeed rings would really want to get their hands on, a full-blown artefact - a sentient ring left by one of the founding Ring Wardens - and a new monster, the ring servant. This is a construct of metal plates around a core of glowing energy.

If you've ever wondered where those magic rings come from, here's your answer. The Ring Warden is probably best as an NPC, it seems a bit limited to play, but the entire concept provides background and depth to the whole idea of magic rings in your game... and maybe more. What if a rival group started making rings? A different race, even? Would the rings be identifiable as to source? Might trade wars break out? It would be quite easy to build a whole campaign around this...



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Ring Magic for 5th Edition
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Star Trek Adventures: Core Rulebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2017 14:52:46

Visually, the entire book is laid out as if you were viewing an LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System) screen in the ST-NG era... quite beautiful and distinctive to look at but I always find white text on a dark backround a bit tiring on the eyes for any length of time. It's worth persevering though, the content has been put together by people who clearly love the Star Trek universe and want to bring it to life in the shared alternate reality that is your game.

After a beautiful star chart Chapter 1: Introduction welcomes you to the Star Trek universe and explains what the game involves. It explains that the default setting is 2371 (or perhaps we should say Stardates 48000-48999), but that it's quite possible to run games in other eras, be your favourite captain Kirk or Archer: all you need do is adjust technology and surroundings to suit. Advice is to be found in the Gamemaster material and in promised future supplements. There's mention of the dice and other materials that you will need, and an example of play that should get the idea across for anyone new to roleplaying.

Chapter 2: The United Federation of Planets serves as a detailed introduction to the universe, with particular attention paid to its history. The default is that the Dominion has just been discovered in the Gamma Quadrant, the Maquis are getting frisky in the Cardassian Demilitarised Zone and it's thought likely that the Borg will come back for a second attempt at assmiliating, well, everybody, but of course you can call a pause in the timeline whenever you want to adventure. We read of the major power blocs, complete with atmospheric 'intelligence reports' and other snippets such as diary entries, history lessons from Starfleet Academy professors and more which make it all come to life - and everything's written in a style that makes it suitable for in-character use. It's a neat way to tell the history of the universe.

Next, Chapter 3: Your Continuing Mission provides extensive details about Starfleet itself - organisation, the Prime Directive, the Academy, the sort of duties members undertake and what away teams do. Sidebars include a neat rationale about why uniform colours changed from command wearing gold and operations red in the time of Captain Kirk to the other way around in later years... it was actually due to the implied stigma of a 'red shirt' being most likely to die on an away misson or other dangerous circumstance! The explanation of the different sorts of duties and missions is fascinating and should help inform character creation and indeed adventure design.

Chapter 4: Operations follows. This explains the rules and game mechanics which govern play. As well as d20s and d6s, the system involves a special 'Challenge Die' which bears a special symbol (a sort of 'Starfleet arrow' based on the original series badge). There's an explanation of how to use an ordinary d6 instead - or you can buy Challenge Dice from the publisher Modiphius. We learn about the different things that can occur during play and about a system of Traits - short phrases or single words that describe a thing, a place or a person - which serve to convey what is and is not possible. Traits can be advantages or complications. A Task is a roll to determine the success (or otherwise) of an attempt to do something, and the character brings their innate Attributes and learned Disciplines to bear on the task, with their scores being used to determine the target number for the task (it might have made more sense if characters had been covered first rather than in the next chapter, but it's quite straightforward really). The GM then sets the Difficulty of the task, which tells you how many successes you need to roll to do whatever you are trying to do. A success occurs when you roll equal to or less than the target number. Then you get the dice out - at least 2d20 but you can roll more by use of various additional rules. It may sound a bit complex written out but it's slick in play once you have tried it a couple of times. The chapter goes on to explain various details like having appropriate equipment and other factors that can help or hinder you, how to deal with opposed tasks and so on. If you do exceptionally well in the die roll, you gain Momentum, a mechanic that gives you advantages at the time and/or later on, depending on how you choose to use the points. The GM has a complementary system called Threats. Things called Values and Directives may also come into play. Described properly in the next chapter, Values are statements about a person's attitude and drives, Directives apply to the mission - and hence to the entire party engaged in it.

On then to Chapter 5: Reporting for Duty. This covers a whole lot more than character creation, although that's the main gist of it, using as examples characters from the TV show - hopefully most readers will be familiar with them! Each character has six Attributes (Control, Daring, Fitness, Insight, Presence, and Reason), innate abilities that define them, and then get training in six Disciplines. While a character will specialise in one or more (and so have more points in it), Starfleet expects its officers to know at least something about everything. The Disciplines are Command, Conn, Engineering, Security, Science, and Medicine. Then it gets fun with a Lifepath Creation system that builds the character and his backstory at the same time, showing how, when and where he acquired his knowledge and skills. It does help if you have some idea of where you want to end up before you start, though! There's loads of detail to help you make all the choices required, starting with race and going through environment (the one you grew up in), upbringing, attending Starfleet Academy and subsequent career in Starfleet. All this results in a rounded character who has lived a full life even before play begins. The main focus is on Starfleet officers, but there are notes on created an enlisted character if that's what you prefer. There is also a novel alternate method of creating a character during play, where you part-create a few simple details and add the rest as the game proceeds. Different, but I think I prefer the Lifepath method.

Then Chapter 6: The Final Frontier talks about the universe itself, covering planets, alien encounters, stellar phenomena and scientific discoveries and developments. This is an overview, talking about characteristics and dangers, rather than detailing specific planets or aliens that can be encountered. It includes a delightful article entitled 'Zen and the Art of Warp Core Maintenance' which discusses how the science of Star Trek is either real or has been at least considered to be theoretically possible, and also shows how in-character research can be conducted.

This fascinating chapter is followed by Chapter 7: Conflict. This deals with a lot more than brawling (although combat is in there), covering any occasion in which two parties have different ideas about, well, anything and how the matter may be resolved. It provides a nuanced way to navigate through social conflict using a mix of role-play and die rolls. Naturally, there is extensive coverage of how to deal with situations in which combat breaks out, concentrating on melee (individual against individual). This is followed by Chapter 8: Technology and Equipment, which talks about what is available and how to use it. Should you wish to venture outside the mid-24the century default, this is the area in which the greatest changes will occur. It also covers details like how much people can carry as well as how to develop new items of equipment as and when they are required.

Star Trek is all about travelling the stars, exploration accompanies nearly all missions even if they have another goal, and so Chapter 9: A Home in the Stars looks at where the party might find themselves - primarily starships of course, but starbases and colonies are also examined. There's plenty of detail on starship operation and day-to-day life to help create a believable background. A note on planet-based games helps show how you can make life on a colony just as much an adventure as one based on a starship or starbase. This chapter also includes rules for starship combat and presents an array of Starfleet ships as well as some alien vessels. Combat between ships, as well as the more obvious concepts of manoeuvering and shooting at each other, also includes the management of power aboard ship, an added dimension... and of course there are the perils of warp core breaches and even abandoning ship.

We then move on to material of most use to the GM, beginning with Chapter 10: Gamemastering. Herein is a wealth of advice about running the game, staying on top of the rules and ensuring that the players' characters develop and grow over time. Some is general advice, useful whatever you're planning to run, but much of course is aimed specifically at Star Trek Adventures. There are ideas for adventure, guidance in managing character creation and notes on how to make the rules work to best effect. There's an interesting discussion on how Star Trek Adventures has a slightly different approach from many games, in this universe cooperation rather than conquest is the aim and while fights do break out, Starfleet prefers to obtain its objectives by more peaceful means. Belonging to a large - and hierarchical - organisation is also covered: the characters cannot become pawns following orders... but then, no-one would accuse Kirk or Picard of being a pawn! There's lots on the mix of creativity and mechanics that go into creating scenes, encounters, sub-plots and everything else that's going on, on pacing, and on creating missions, NPCs and the locations in which the action will take place (including a system for designing planets). A thoroughly useful chapter!

Then Chapter 11: Aliens and Adversaries takes you through the various opposing entities - the Klingon Empire, Romulan Star Empire, Borg Collective, Ferengi Alliance, Cadassian Union and the Dominion - as well as alien artefacts and all manner of beasties. There are example NPCs for each group (and for the United Federation of Planets), and there are nots on how to handle a player desperate to play a Klingon or a Ferengi... as well as details of what happens to those unlucky enough to be assimilated by the Borg!

Finally, Chapter 12: The Rescue at Xerxes IV provides a ready-made adventure to get you started. It's actually the first adventure from the massive 'living playtest' that was part of the game development process, and would make a good campaign starter or a one-off to introduce players to the game. It all starts with the characters in a runabout travelling to their new assignments...

Overall, this is a magnificent beginning to what has the potential to be a fine re-telling of the Star Trek story in game form. Your mission is, of course, to boldly go where no-one has gone before, and these rules will aid you in not only getting there but coming back to tell the tale!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: Core Rulebook
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Deep Magic: Dragon Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2017 09:17:26

There are many diverse theories, we are told, as to where 'magic' actually comes from. No doubt scholars will argue furiously for their preferred source, but the truth is, it has multiple sources, those listed here (ley lines, other dimensions, bloodlines...) and probably quite a few more. One fairly undisputed source of magic, however, is the dragon. An ancient and wise race, innately magical and capable of studying to develop their knowledge, dragons themselves are excellent at magic, and also pass it on, through bloodlines, to those descended from dragons as well. Because of their lineage, dragons were amongst the first to master magic, so they have been practising and refining their skills longer than most.

This leads on to a discussion of the particular forms of magic practised by so-called Dragon Magi. They walk a line of balance between wizards who pull power out of the air to mould as they wish and sorcerers who draw on internal chaotic power to drive their magics, a mix of order and chaoes. This new arcane tradition, mechanically speaking, uses spell slots not just for actual spells but for powering magical abilities, an interesting approach which has great potential for developing your own personal style in magic-use.

Dragon magi can call upon various aspects of the dragon - head, heart, tail, and so on - which have a visible manifestation and in-game effects. Calling them costs a spell slot, but once you get to grips with the potency of the abilities granted, it is worth it. Several feats are also presented, many of which are available to anyone not just dragon magi. Perhaps you might care to be a Dragonrider, a feat that grants the ability to climb onto an opponent much larger than yourself and 'ride' it in combat - despite the beautiful illustration of a sword-wielding elf seated comfortably on a barded dragon (who looks quite happy about his mount), the text suggests that this feat is for use against a hostile beastie that has no intention of permitting itself to be ridden!

A range of Dragon Magic spells are also presented, which any spell-user may acquire and cast in the usual manner... provided they can get access to the necessary information. There are many intriguing dweomers here, all linked in some manner with dragons - maybe you want to make a lot of noise with Dragon Roar (it's basically a sonic attack) or seek out precious metals and gems with Enhance Greed. Or maybe you'd like to make like a dragon yourself and use Dragon Breath to give you a one-off breath weapon.

Taking the theme of dragon magic and stretching it in several directions, this provides some interesting ideas to expand the scope of the magic available in your game. Magical theorists will enjoy the way these new powers are embedded into the alternate reality of the game, whilst more muscular magic-users will enjoy trying them out!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Dragon Magic for 5th Edition
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ARRGH! Thar Be Zombies!
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2017 08:40:48

Diving straight in with Chapter 1: Ahoy Matey, we are first regaled with some atmospheric fiction in which the 'pirate lingo' is mercifully kept where it belongs in direct speech followed by an Introduction that sets out the purpose of this book: to provide an age-of-sail setting for All Flesh Must Be Eaten focussed firmly in the Caribbean. As such, Voodoo features large (it is, after all, one of the better-known ways to create zombies) and overall there's a greater air of magic here than in other published settings. This chapter also contains plenty of general seafaring information, or at least the terminology to allow you to sound like a seasoned seadog as well as a timeline and some pointers to inspirational materials.

Then Chapter 2: Ye Pirates and Privateers deals with the fine detail of what is and isn't piracy including a history of piracy through the ages, as well as covering chatacter creation. There is also an interesting discussion about why people choose to be pirates in the first place. Although the main focus of this book is the Caribbean, there are some notes on Asian piracy as well. Another gem in this chapter is some detailed swordfighting rules aimed at duelling, but excellent for anyone wishing to swash their buckle a bit. It's followed by Chapter 3: Th' Tools o'the Trade which provides everything the well-dressed pirate needs: weapons, equipment, ships (a bit essential...) as well as notes on life at sea and ship-to-ship combat. There's also a mechanism for generating crews for your ships - there are far too many folk on a sailing ship for you to create them all individually. Then Chapter 4: Vodou provides all you need to enable Inspired characters to perform Vodou miracles. Note that the Abomination Codex for C.J. Carella's Witchcraft has a different way of presending Voodoo within the UniSystem game mechanics: you can choose which version you prefer.

We then move on to three main settings and one chapter of less-developed ones. Chapter 5: Voodoo Queen of the Shrouded Isles. This involves a dark tale of revenge that has resulted in a veritable plague of zombies carried worldwide by sailing ships. The party is likely on a ship roaming the waves looking for plunder and zombie-free sanctuary ashore in equal measures. There are a few adventure seeds, but that's what it boils down to... with perhaps the chance of finding out how to eliminate the zombies for good and all.

Chapter 6: The Black Fleet tells of the fate of a fleet of treasure ships that had amongst their loot an artefact they really ought to have left alone. Cursed, they vanished... but occasionally appear to haunt the high seas. With background and adventure ideas aplenty, this is possibly the closest to Pirates of the Caribbean if you want to bring that style into yourg game.

In Chapter 7: Islands in a Dark Sea, Galileo - armed with some of Da Vinci's drawings - fled the Inquisition and discovered space travel, which he called the Dark Sea. Now the party has the chance to explore this exotic setting, that knows the limits only of your imagination. There are loads of ideas to get you started, and this is a magnificent opportunity to mix in all manner of materials from other sources...

Finally, Chapter 8: Pieces of Eight gives brief outlines of some possible Asian settings. Mixing in elements of Enter the Zombie would be appropriate here. There are Vietnamese and Chinese possibilities - or the party could be European seafarers exploring the exotic East. Here you'll find several story ideas, a timeline and some Asian weapons to supplement (or replace) the ones introduced earlier... and of course plenty of zombies. If that's not enough, an Aztec setting is also provided complete with its own backstory and ideas.

Pirates and zombies. What is there not to like in that mixture? For groups who like either, this is well worth exploring.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ARRGH! Thar Be Zombies!
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The Book of Archetypes 2
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2017 08:10:15

Diving straight in with but an almost-hidden note that the archetypes herein were created by fans of the game (and may not be completely compatible with the rules) - it's buried in the credits page - we have a collection of forty-three new archetypes. Most are contemporary folk who could easily get swept up in a zombie apocalypse, but there are a few from the Old West and other settings if that is what you are playing. They're useful if you need a character in a hurry (maybe the zombies got your last one and you don't want to spectate for the rest of the session) or maybe to give you ideas for characters if you are wondering what to play. They also make good detailed NPCs if needed. There are also a few new pieces of equipment and rules additions at the end.

Each archetype - neatly provided on a single page, especially useful for PDF users who can print just the page they want - contains a full-length sketch of the character, their game statistics and a delightful in-character monologue that tells you enough about them to be able to get a good feel for that character. If you intend to play one, just about all you need do is supply a name. Naturally, you can tweak them a bit if they are not precisely what you want.

The archetypes are quite diverse - administrative assistants, bomb squad, a hacker, a lunatic who's escaped from the nearest asylum... and many more. Some of the backstories they tell could suggest adventures or even a whole campaign if you are so minded.

The new equipment is based around items that some of the archetypes have with them, providing the extra information that you need to use them in game. Likewise there are new Chi abilities, qualities/drawbacks and so on to explain some of the entries... but of course they can all be used for characters of your own devising as well.

If you go through characters real fast or see the need for a large supporting cast of NPCs, this book is likely to come in very useful.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Archetypes 2
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Dungeons & Zombies
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 08:46:29

Opening with fiction detailing a typical fantasy dungeon delve encounter with zombies (and its aftermath), Chapter 1: Delving Down talks about how everybody - not just players of role-playing games - indulges in fantasy from time to time, but of course gamers do so more intensely than most. Here however, 'fantasy' is defined more precisely, it's the swords and sorcery sort, the kind where you go dungeon delving... only in this book there are, of course, plenty of zombies added to the mix.

These opening remarks are followed by Chapter 2: Swords, Sorcery and Shambling which explores character creation for heroic fantasy All Flesh Must Be Eaten games, as well as new rules and game mechanics necessary to make the game work in this genre. This is followed by no less than four settings taking you on a wild trip through 'classic' role-playing fantasy, literary fantasy J.R.R. Tolkien-style, the world of King Arthur, and an Asian-influenced one, as well as a complete dungeon delve ready to run. As you can imagine, apart from Chapter 2, this material is intended for the Zombie Master rather than the players.

In Chapter 2, we meet two new character types: the Adept and the Talented Hero. The Survivor and Inspired character types are also appropriate for this style of play. The Adept is the wizard or mage, leaving Inspired for clerics. As it's fantasy, you can also play a non-human, and there's a system of Profession Qualities to enable you to set up the classic 'character classes' if you want - or just build a character normally with the skills you want him to have. There are some new Skills appropriate to the genre, and the timely reminder that zombies can, like player-characters, be of any race available in your setting, not just humans. Some new combat rules are here too, dealing with the use of the mediaeval-style weapons and fighting styles common to fantasy. There is a basic magic system here as well, but those after more detail are referred to two other Unisystem games - Armageddon and WitchCraft - although there is quite a lot to be found here, including some excellent Necromancy spells that will let the practitioner raise and control zombies...

The chapter rounds out with some thoughts on creating fantasy settings and a few archetypes, then we move on to the provided settings, beginning with Chapter 3: Dead Gods and Demon Lands. This is a grim pulp fantasy setting where heroes go adventuring primarily because that's their way of having a good time. Think Conan the Barbarian here. Plenty of background to aid you in bringing it all to life... and three different kinds of zombies to harass honest adventurers as they go about their business. Several story ideas finish this chapter, along with a few more Archetypes.

Next is Chapter 4: Dawn of a Dead Age. This is an epic fantasy setting, where the deeds of a small band has great effect within the vast sweep of the struggle between good and evil, determining the very fate of the land. This setting is all about an ancient and terrible power reawakened, how it threatens the land and how it is stopped... by the party, of course. A vast sweep of background underpins the rise of a Dread Lord and provides the means to defeat him once more, assuming the party can find said means, that is. His rise is what has caused the zombies, hopefully his defeat will eliminate them. Rather than story ideas, there's a campaign outline that lays out the epic tale you'll tell in this setting.

In Chapter 5: Death of the Round Table, zombies are introduced into the world of King Arthur. There's a discussion of what that world really is, from the historical possibility to the romantic fantasy it became - you pick what kind of setting you want. There's a code of chivalry to which every knight ought to subscribe, and a fair bit of background to help you set the scene. As for the way this setting's zombies are created... shall we say that the chalice from the palace has the pellet with the poison? The Round Table has been perverted under the leadership of Mordred, and the party must embark on a quest to put things right.

Then Chapter 6: The Eastern Dead puts an Asian spin on things. This could be with profit read alongside Enter the Zombie, and it brings the flavour of the far east to a mediaeval style fantasy world - with samurai and ninjas and warrior monks mixing it with each other and any zombie unwise enough to raise its head... even if the poor mindless thing is just hungry! A rich and exotic setting is laid out, with background and story ideas aplenty to enable you to make the most of it.

Finally, Chapter 7: The Tomb of Doom provides a ready-made dungeon to explore. There's a bit of background which explains, amongst other things, why zombies have started to appear and provides for the party to get involved very quickly in the action as the zombies raid the town the party is in (for whatever reason they or you come up with). It's not long before they are traced back to an ancient tomb, then it's time to grab your ten foot pole and delve...

If you like fantasy games but want to bring zombies into them, or you like zombies and fancy a fantasy setting for them, this could be the supplement for you. With well-developed ideas that bring the zombies into the very fabric of the settings and scope for epic adventures, it takes zombies firmly out of the classic movie settings they are normally encountered in and empowers a fantasy twist to your game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dungeons & Zombies
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The Little Town of Hamlin
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2017 08:02:54

Described as an 'appetiser' for All Flesh Must Be Eaten, this is a complete adventure which ought to take one or two sessions to run. As it has a mediaeval timeframe, characters should be generated using the 'Dead at 1000' setting in the core rulebook. It's suitable for a one-off game, or it may be part of a longer campaign in that setting.

The plot is basically a retelling of the traditional tale The Pied Piper of Hamlin, with zombies instead of the rats in the original. The backstory links back to the 'Dead at 1000' setting with the Piper himself having been an acolyte of the fellow responsible for the rise of the walking dead in that setting, now travelling the length of Europe causing his own zombie plagues and then being rewarded handsomely for getting rid of them! A neat little moneyspinner... until he reaches Hamlin. For first of all the town is broke (due to somewhat shady practices on the part of the mayor) and secondly... well, the party is in town.

The idea is that the party arrives a few days before trouble erupts, so they have an opportunity to explore. Why they are there is left up to them (and you), but prominent figures and locations in town are described to facilitate them getting to know the place. There is building consternation as news of advancing walking dead is heard, and the mayor leads the town in making preparations to defend itself. Then the dead come...

When all seems lost, the Piper turns up and offers to lead the walking dead away, for a fee. The deal done, he indeed does so. There's a big celebration, then the next morning at an awards ceremony the mayor is hosting, the Piper arrives in search of his fee - which the mayor cannot pay! The Piper takes his revenge and it is up to the party to set things straight.

It's a neat retooling of a traditional tale, well presented and with plenty of action. Plans of Hamlin and the Piper's hideout are provided, along with plenty of detail about his endgame. This leads to the possibility of further adventure, should you so wish. Appetiser indeed, certainly makes me hungry for more!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Little Town of Hamlin
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Atlas of the Walking Dead
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2017 08:25:08

If you ever thought a zombie was just that, a zombie, think again. This book taps into traditions of the undead from around the world, presenting a vast range of different zombies from rotting, shambling brain-eaters that are driven by instinct and can be put down with a shotgun blast to undead raised by arcane (or scientific) means which have a purpose to fulful and won't be stopped until they have done whatever they were sent to do if then...

Obviously, this is a resource for the Zombie Master. It taps in to legends of the walking dead from a multiplicity of cultures, some familiar and others obscure. They are presented with appropriate game statistics, along with ideas for adventures involving them and other new material such as new Aspects culled from the new zombies here and made available to those who like to craft their own undead. Maybe your party has gone travelling, and encounters exotic zombies on their home turf. Or maybe the zombies have come along with living immigrants and can be found in your own neighbourhood along with ethnic restaurants and other more enticing parts of multi-cultural living.

There are a full eighteen different varieties of the walking dead presented here, and each has its own variations. Each comes with atmospheric fiction, game statistics and story ideas. Exotic animated Aztec mummies rub shoulders with Scandanavian draugr... and of course the female of the species is more deadly than the male, certainly when you meet an undead femme fatale. Traditional Egyptian mummies and vampires are also included. And you don't want to meet a gaki, a Japanese 'hungry ghost'...

A lot of the suggested plots involve archaelogical expeditions digging up more than they bargained for, or remains being disturbed during developments and road construction. A few make A Night at the Museum look tame. They all suggest adventures that should keep the party occupied for a few sessions, some could easily develop into a complete campaign. Some fit in with one or more of the settings presented in other books in the game line, others are less-specific or suggest a whole new setting of their own. There's even scope to spin some of them together - perhaps the party specialises in investigating unusual events in museums or at archaeological digs and gets called in to several of the plots from all over the world. That could make a good episodic campaign. Or maybe like the characters in the TV shows Supernatural and The X-Files, they go around investigating mysterious happenings in general.

This supplement provides a wealth of ideas for any Zombie Master, and could prove fertile ground (providing you are up to doing any necessary conversions) to GMs of other systems who want to introduce a range of unusual and well-developed walking dead to their game.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Atlas of the Walking Dead
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The Last Defender
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2017 11:08:44

It's spring time, and the local rangers have announced that the mountain passes are clear enough for travel once more... so the party heads off there for whatever reason (a couple are given in the DM Background if you or they do not have a good reason of their own). In the heights of the mountains, there's a chasm crossed by a bridge guarded by a tower at either end. There's quite a lot of backstory for the DM about what's gone on there in the past, and this is where the adventure proper begins - you probably will wish to play out the party deciding (or being hired) to travel through the mountains, getting any equipment that they need and getting high up in the mountains, but you're on your own for that.

There's a good (but not player-friendly) map of the bridge over the chasm, again any maps you require to get there will have to come from elsewhere. On the plus side, there's plenty to explore when you get there - and assorted bandits, monsters and others to object to the party's presence, not to mention the remains of a caravan that tried to pass this way a month or so ago. The bridge's past may be revealed through interaction with the numerous ghosts to be found here, but the main gist of the adventure is to clear out the towers and grab what can be salvaged from the caravan. A few ideas are included for further adventures, and a new monster and new magic item (a decidedly anti-social battleaxe) finish off this book.

There's potential here, but some work to be done before it becomes a fully-fledged adventure.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Last Defender
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The Book of Archetypes
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/16/2017 08:07:16

Thoughout the core rulebook and all sourcebooks, loads of so-called Archetypes - almost completely developed characters - have been presented, often tailored to fit a given setting or situation. The intention is that they should be used as examples or as a basis for a player-character, especially when the group is eager to start playing or someone turns up late or when a character dies and needs to be replaced mid-game. Here are some thirty-odd new Archetypes (many fan-generated) to pick through and possibly select as required. Add a name, personalise them to taste, and head off to find some zombies to flee from...

There is a cautionary note that numbers may not be quite 'by the book' and that the characters may not be cross-compatible with other Unisystem games, this being an artefact of fan-sourcing the Archetypes. But that's a small price to pay - and if you're obsessive about getting things absolutely correct, by all means play about with the numbers - for such an entertaining group of characters.

Conveniently occuplying a single page each (easy to print out and use as your character sheet), there are full game stats, a sketch and a delightful few paragraphs giving an impression of that character in his own words. They are all quite entertaining - and very diverse: archeaologists, corporate executives, firefighters... even some poor soul who was peacefully game-mastering an RPG for his friends when zombies started coming in the window! There are strippers, a terrorist, a garbage man - men and women from all walks of life, all reduced to the common level of having to survive.

If you don't want to play them they make magnificently well-developed NPCs for your party to encounter - perhaps on the road, or they could wander up to the party's safe enclave and ask to come in. Their reactions could be entertaining... especially when a Zombie Rights Activist comes by and tries to remind them that zombies are people too! Many of the stories these Archetypes tell can be a source of inspiration for an event, if not a whole adventure, in your campaign, too.

A motley assortment of new weapons, armour and other gear are also included, mostly drawn from what the Archetypes have with them. The same applies to the new Skills, Qualities and Drawbacks that are provided here.

Ultimately, there's nothing here that you need, but a lot could come in handy, provided your All Flesh Must Be Eaten campaign is set in the present day. Use as inspiration, and as fresh zombie-fodder when you need new warm bodies in a hurry...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Archetypes
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One of the Living
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/15/2017 10:46:51

You're alive, and wanting to stay that way. You believe your brain belongs between your ears, not in a zombie's mouth. This book, the Player's Handbook for All Flesh Must Be Eaten goes some way to aiding your survival. The opening fiction, though, takes a slightly different angle, with the protagonists reminising about their life before the zombie apocalypse, times when exam results and promotions at work (not to mention your love life) felt like life and death. Then Chapter 1: Introduction continues this theme by commenting that plenty of people's initial reaction to this game was 'Cool, we get to fight zombies!' but that they didn't see the potential for a long-running game, just a session of mayhem before they got back to more serious role-playing. To be fair, this game works well in that mode - but if you want, there's scope for more. As well as brains-craving undead, zombies can be a metaphor, a zombie story represents how any society stands or falls based on the decisions of its members... and that chaos is never very far away.

First, though, the rules bits, with Chapter 2: Prey No More providing plenty of new game mechanics - new skills, Qualities (and Drawbacks), and new Gifts for the Inspired and otherwise supernaturally-active folk. Maybe you'd like to document the zombie apocalypse: then the Camerawork skill is for you. If your eye is on long-term survival, Scavenging and Repair might be of more use. There are some Archetypes here as well, as inspiration or ready-made characters.

Next Chapter 3: Making It Up As You Go is a delight for the inner McGyver, providing both ideas and rules for improvising with whatever's to hand with detailed rules for jury-rigging, well, anything. It's followed by Chapter 4: More Implements of Destruction which contains a whole bunch of new weapons as well as ideas for ways in which to terminate those pesky zombies. Pass the nail gun, please. It's not just weapons, though, there is an abundance of useful items of all sorts here.

All material up to here is player-safe, but the following is really for Zombie Masters only (assuming only one person in your gaming group runs the game). Chapter 5: Envy the Dead takes an interesting turn into the psychological and other effects of living through a zombie apocalypse. It's of particular use for Zombie Masters who are looking for a longer campaign and provides loads of ideas for setting up themes, balancing a real world where everyone knows how stuff works with the startling appearance of zombies. What will fail about you as time passes, things you take for granted just won't be there any more. Not just technology but society itself will crumble...

Then, Chapter 6: Blowin' Up Dead Guys provides more than you want to know (especially if you write reviews in your lunch break!) about how rotting and decay affects zombies. There's also plenty about new zombie capabilities for Zombie Masters to build new versions of their favourite weapon: the zombie.

Next Chapter 7: Sunset Falls provides a ready-made enclave of survivors that the Zombie Master can use. Perhaps this is the party's base, or a refuge they come across in their travels. Maybe it is a rumour and the focus of their journey... surely once they get there they will be safe! It is an organised small-town community that has built up its own ways of coping with the zombie apocalypse, complete with well-detailed inhabitants all ready to interact with the party when they show up. It's followed by Chapter 8: The Future is So Dark, which is a collection of six more settings in which you can run your campaign - replete with ideas on what to do in those settings, of course.

Finally, a couple of Appendices. The first discusses the important topic of surviving a zombie outbreak, covering things like picking a good stronghold and getting organised. Players may read this, indeed you might think that they really ought to, as there's lots of sound practical advice! The shopping list of survival items also provides a good resource for the Zombie Master: if they are running out of X you can built a whole adventure about finding more. The second covers government information. If there was to be a zombie outbreak, what would a government say to its citizens, what advice and support would they provide?

There's a lot here for both players and Zombie Masters to consider: it's well worth the getting particularly if you're looking towards a full-blown campaign rather than a night or two of swatting zombies.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One of the Living
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Zombie Smackdown
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/13/2017 10:48:50

Zombies and wrestling seem an unlikely mix - most zombies want to eat your brains not fight as an entertainment - but somehow this works. Opening with fiction describing the entry of zombies into the pro wrestling circuit, allowing unprecidented levels of mayhem as it is just so darn hard to destroy a zombie and attracting vast TV audiences, Chapter 1: Let the Bodies Hit the Floor talks about the lasting appeal of wrestling as a spectacle and entertainment and the addition of bloodcurdling horror that throwing zombies into the ring accomplishes.

Chapter 2: Rules of the Ring provides the game mechanics you'll need to run wrestling matches including combat moves and some new archetypes. Given that a pro wrestler is an athlete, a new Character Type, the Professional Wrestler, is outlined, leaving the standard Norms, Survivors and Inspired to take the other roles in the wrestling world. This lets you build a wrestler from the bottom up, yet is still compatible with the rest of Unisystem (although remember that pro wrestlers are somewhat larger-than-life regarding their antics in the ring). Naturally this can be applied to a zombie as much as a human being - although if you've a mind to it, you have the makings of a good simulation of wrestling even without the zombies if you fancy that. For those who want to use weapons in the ring (not, of course, legal under the rules...) a selection are provided. Speaking of rules, the rules of the ring are laid out for you along with a description of a wrestling arena. There's plenty more to help you make the bouts as excitng as possible, building up the atmosphere and engaging in plenty of role-play even during a contest as well as when the contestants are out of the ring.

Then on to the settings, beginning with Chapter 3: Babes and Barbed Wire. This is the American televised wrestling circuit with all the show-biz and larger-than-life contenders we know, but with the added twist of zombies. The campaign involves a touring show with an unscrupulous owner. This is followed by Chapter 4: Legendary Masked Men which moves south of the border to explore Mexican lucha libre wrestling. As luchadores are more athlete than body-builder, the fighting styles differ as does the whole style of the campaign: more ring-based with less role-play outside of combat. The last major setting comes in Chapter 5: Land of the Undead Rising Sun, where the zombies take up Japanese-style professional wrestling, a hardcore style that makes the ones explored previously look safe, tame even. These fellows are not martial artists, they are vicious brawlers. With demonic influence beind some, they only get worse. Each provides backstory and a reason for why there are zombies around at all, as well as a cammpaign outline. A further four mini-settings are presented in Chapter 6: And in this Very Ring.

As a wrestling game alone - particularly with the American pro-wrestling setting - this provides an excellent resource, and when you add in zombies (however made) it just adds to the fun. Particularly good for a mix of no-holds-barred brawling and role-playing, that American setting is the one to go for... if it's just the combat you want, the other two are fine as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Zombie Smackdown
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All Flesh Must be Eaten Revised
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/12/2017 08:35:57

The revised version of the core rulebook begins with an Introduction by Shane Lacy Hensley, in which he discusses the popularity of zombies in movies, books and role-playing games. This, like much of the content, is similar to the original core rulebook, but everything is honed by five years of development and feedback. Chapter 1: The Dead Rise continues in similar vein exploring what the whole zombie concept is about, including a fascinating history of zombie stories through the ages. It also looks at some of the innovative rationales that have been used in various films to explain why zombies are all over the place.

The first four chapters are useful for both players and Zombie Masters, but the last two are appropriate for the Zombie Master alone. Chapter 2: Survivors covers character creation using the Unisystem rules. Archetypes are provided if you don't want to grind through the entire process, but if you do it starts with Character Types (which lay out guidelines for the rest of what's needed), then you need to sort out Attributes, Qualities/Drawbacks, Skills, Metaphysics (if any magical or superpowers are available) and Possessions. There are three Character Types: Norm (like you or me), Survivors (extraordinary characters stronger and smarter than normal), and Inspired (complete with supernatural powers). Those seeking a scary game should opt for Norms, or you might prefer a mix of Norms and Survivors providing character balance isn't important to your group. If you really want to take the fight to the zombies, go for Survivors or a mix of Survivors and Inspired (who have the same number of build points, just distributed differently). Whichever you choose, you get various build points to use to create the characters themselves using a point-buy system. There are plenty of details and examples to help you through the process.

Chapter 3: Shambling 101 covers the rules you need to play the game (task resolution, combat, character advancement and so on). If you're already familiar with Eden's Unisystem you can skim through this, if you're new to it you will soon find it all falling into place... even those new to role-playing should not find it too much of a challenge although it helps if you have someone more knowledgeable to helo you get started. Then Chapter 4: Implements of Destruction provides the equipment and weapons characters need to survive.

In Zombie Master territory, Chapter 5: Anatomy of a Zombie discusses what zombies are like, providing a wealth of options to help you make your zombies distinctive. Depending on the nature of your zombies, they may have different vulnerabilities - perhaps a head shot doesn't do the trick, they have to be dismembered and burned before they'll stay down. Good for catching out those players who have seen loads of zombie movies and think they know it all. They way they 'feed' and how (if) they can infect others are also discussed. Finally Chapter 6: Worlds in Hell provides a full eleven settings in which to stage your very own zombie apocalypse. Each one includes an underlying rationale for zombies being there and plot ideas galore to get you started. Most are contemporary/near future, but there are also World War 2 and even a mediaeval setting to choose from as well. This is one of the great joys of this game: the only constant is that you have zombies - how they are created and what they are like is left to your discretion.

At the end of the book there are some excellent summary tables encapsulating all the information that you need to create and play characters (or zombies for that matter) as well as conversion notes for those who want to play using the D20 Modern ruleset instead of Unisystem.

You may have been wondering why a revised core rulebook was needed. There are no real changes to content but everything's been streamlined, honed, made more player-friendly without losing the appeal of the original. Be it a one-off game of gory mayhem or a campaign that you are planning, this will set you off on the right path. Good luck avoiding the zombies...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
All Flesh Must be Eaten Revised
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Fistful o' Zombies
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/10/2017 12:30:25

A Fistful O'Zombies is a sourcebook which presents a fusion of zombies with classic Wild West themes. Chapter 1: Go West opens with a standard but well-told tale of a bounty-hunter in Texas, a tale that turns south when he bites off rather more than he can chew... then comes an Introduction that explains that zombies are all very well when you have a Uzi or a flame-thrower, but when all you have is a six-shooter, well, that separates the men from the boys. Indeed, that's what the Wild West is all about (fictionally, at least, and like previous sourcebooks, we're sticking to the cinematic): personal achievement, standing up against the odds and either surviving or going down in a blaze of glory. 'The West' is defined not only by that but by geography - North America west of the Mississippi (with Mexico thrown in for good measure) and the 19th century as a time-period. This is the Wild West of the movies, not the Old West of history, however, it's worth bearing that in mind. Of course, even in the movies, there were different styles, from the 1920s white-hatted singing cowboys, through John Wayne-style gritty heroes to spaghetti westerns Clint Eastwood-style - and each of these is presented as a possible setting for your game, along with briefer notes on several themes from the 1980s onwards.

First, though, Chapter 2: The Good, the Bad, and the Dead presents an overview of Western history and the game mechanics necessary for creating appropriate characters, along with sample Archetypes. There are three eras of history to consider, firstly the Old West (1830-1865) where the land is unexplored never mind unsettled, with many strange creatures and only black powder muskets to hold them at bay. Then there's the Wild West (the main focus of this book, 1865-1900), with an explosion of settlers and the advent of more advanced weaponry; and finally the New West (1900-1930), where Indians are less of a problem but gangsters still rob banks and trains - even if they chase them with a Model T Ford rather than a horse! Towards the tail-end of this period, Prohibition kicks in with the inevitable booze-smuggling. There's an overview of history, with the Gold Rush, a war with Mexico and the American Civil War featuring large. Continuous skirmishing with American Indians, the advent of the railways and the growth of the cattle business also made their mark. The law and those who enforced it, the feuds between cowboys and sheep herders and more are also covered here. Then there are a whole bunch of rules to cover particularly Western characters and the skills they need - including using a lasso, riding a horse, fanning your revolver, engaging in showdowns (at high noon or any time of your choosing) and even getting hanged... and there's an array of appropriate weapons to choose from as well.

Chapter 3: Singing Cowboys draws its inspiration from early Hollywood depictions of the West, where implausibly good cowboys never cussed or even shot each other much, and burst into song at the drop of a (white) hat. These are the days of Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans... and Champion, the Wonder Horse. In this setting, the player characters - indeed the players themselves - are encouraged to sing, and singing does grant additional effects a bit like a Dungeons & Dragons Bard's does. The party must also abide by the Law of the West, written by Gene Autry himself. There are a few other rules modifications and additions to help capture the flavour of this setting. We also learn the reason for the plague of zombies... and it's one that will bring the campaign to a juddering halt once the party figure it out, so this is a setting for a one-off game or very short campaign. Plots are based on the movies, and four are provided for you to use (and reuse). While the underlying comcept is a neat trick, it will annoy some players and bore others: consider your group with case before using this setting.

On to Chapter 4: True Grit. This setting is Westerns, John Wayne-style. Men are tough, standing no nonsense and hard to kill, they also drink hard and tend to look down on women as a 'weaker sex'... although they do get on with American Indians, at least those who are ex-Army scouts or similar. Set around 1880, there's a plausible reason for the presence of zombies and a campaign outline that starts with a normal Wild West game and introduces supernatural elements carefully, quite neat especially if you don't let on to your players that you are running All Flesh Must Be Eaten to begin with.

Next comes Chapter 5: Spaghetti with Meat, a setting that takes its inspiration from the so-called Spaghetti Westerns (think Clint Eastwood). Typical characters are hard-bitten drifters with a shady (although often unrevealed) past, the odd preacher or wise American Indian won't go amiss either. Decide for yourselves who is the good, who is the bad and who is the ugly. Set in about 1865, the reason there are zombies again is a plausible one; and this is coupled with a well-developed campaign outline to involve the party and enable them to deal with the problem - complete with notes on how to extend it beyond the specific instance of zombies that has just been dealt with.

Then, Chapter 6: Dances with Zombies is an intriguing setting in which the player characters are all American Indians, members of the Sioux tribe just after the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 (Custer's Last Stand). Starting with a detailed account of the events leading up to and during the battle, the setting then diverges from history with Sitting Bull conducting a dark ritual that raises the 7th Cavalry (Custer's outfit) from the dead... that wasn't quite what he was aiming for, of course, and once he realises that they are as much of a danger to the Red Man as they are to the White Man, the race is on to deal with this menace. There's plenty of background on Sioux life and customs to help you set the scene, and a detailed campaign outline to get you started.

Finally, Chapter 7: Other Settings provides just that: several other settings complete with brief notes on what sort of adventures you might run there. Perhaps Bloody Muddy, set on a 1870s paddle steamer full of gamblers... or perhaps you'd rather be a bunch of US Cavalry in Here Comes the Cavalry. Adventurous types who don't mind the cold can go North to Alaska. Each has its own rationale for why there are zombies around. There are also conversion notes if you want to use the material herein with Deadlands (or the other way around) - an interesting touch bearing in mind that the creator of Deadlands also wrote this book!

Another great sourcebook, a fusion of two cinema staples, zombies and Westerns, that should appeal to fans of both. Explore new horizons and kill anything that doesn't have a pulse, pardner!



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Fistful o' Zombies
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Pulp Zombies
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/08/2017 07:47:53

Pulp Zombies, like Enter the Zombie, looks at a movie-fusion approach, this time mixing classic zombie films with the pulp genre. It opens with a fairly massive piece of fiction, The Night Chicago Died, which unleashes the undead amidst mobsters on Chicago's streets. Chapter 1: Setting the Stage then chips in with an attempt to define what 'pulp' actually means, looking at the concept of larger-than-life adventures in the style of those of the 1920s to 1940s... while it's hard to pin it down in words, most people have a general idea of what pulp means. Precise chronology is not important, double-fisted action and excitement are.

Chapter 2: Pulpy Flesh continue in this vein, continuing to define, or at least give an impression of, what 'pulp' actually means - high stakes, thrilling locations and above all, action and high adventure. Heroes are, well, heroic and never hesitate, they just know what is right without agonising over ethical choices... and villians are just evil, not misunderstood. There's some background about the Pulp Era, based firmly in America, with everything from sample prices to favourite entertainments and daily life being discussed (and a reminder that although ethnic minorities and women had a rough deal in real life, there's no need to replicate that in your games). Franklin D. Roosevelt is in the White House, the radio is a common form of entertainment in the home, movies were booming and the railroad is already declining in the face of the automobile... and everyone's fascinated by aircraft. That done, attention is turned to the all-important business of creating Pulp Hero characters, with a new Character Type to facilitate this. There are also suggestions for building a party - in the movies, most heroes act alone, or at most have a few sidekicks, but this doesn't work so well in a role-playing game. Gadgets and supernatural powers are also covered and the chapter ends with a few Archetypes ready to be played or to be used as a source of inspiration.

Next, Chapter 3: Hollow Earth presents the first of three fully-developed settings. This is interesting in that there's a distinct campaign arc, beginning with the party involved in seeking out ancient artefacts... without a zombie in sight! They emerge later in a series of devastating earthquakes, and then the fight is on to get rid of them and set things straight, which involves a journey to the centre of the earth. There's a lot of background explaining not just what is going on but why, and plenty of NPCs from archaeologists to members of a mysterious society that keep popping up - but are they a hinderance or a help? Loads of resources here concerning artefacts and where to seek them out and much, much more... but although it's not mentioned, the thought occurs that this might best be run with the players unaware that you're running All Flesh Must Be Eaten: present it as a pulp adventure run using the Unisystem ruleset and let the emergence of zombies come as a complete surprise!

In Chapter 4: Zombies Inc. we get a completely different setting: here a criminal mastermind has worked out how to raise zombies and then organised them to create an unprecidented crimewave, with the heroes working to put an end to the undead crime spree across America (and indeed the world). There's an abundance of information of the (on the face of it) unlikely crime lord behind the zombies and several location-based scenario outlines to get you going, as well as notes for further adventures and on how to wrap things up in a satisfactory manner once the crime lord is brought down. Classic stuff in a Doc Savage vein.

Chapter 5: They Want Our Women takes a different tack yet again. Basically, the Martians have landed. It's very much Mars Attacks! in style, and should only be played tongue-in-cheek... with Martians being classified by head size (the larger the more important, of course) what do you expect? Strictly speaking, this isn't a 'zombie' setting, but the Martians are bizarre enough and more importantly pulp enough for that not to matter too much.

Finally, Chapter 6: Scattered Pulp provides a host of other setting outlines, in far less detail than the preceeding three, which you may explore at your leisure. All piulp in style, there's plenty to keep you happy whether Chinatown is crawling with undead, film noir detective stories and more.

The fusion of zombies and pulp is a marriage made in heaven, or at least in some deranged place that makes for excellent role-playing ideas. There's something for just about everyone here.



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Pulp Zombies
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