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2300AD: Ships of the French Arm
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/26/2016 10:02:04

The idea of this book is to enable you to populate the spacelanes and starports of the French Arm with an array of different ships which the party might interact with in some way during their adventures. Perhaps it is just a stray blip on a sensor screen or someone parked on a neighbouring pad, or they may get the chance to visit (voluntarily or otherwise) - hence deckplans are included - or maybe even serve aboard for a while. It's all part of the rich diversity of life that this game presents, making it appear 'real' - after all, not every ship you'd be likely to see is going to be the same, no more than every car you see on the road is identical to the rest! It is estimated that there are about 12,000 spacecraft in the French Arm, of which some 2,500 are actual starships capable of travelling between systems. Few, however, are in private hands, most belong to governments, companies or other organisations.


First, though, there is a chapter on Starship Operations. The design system used here is slightly different from that in the 2300AD core rules, in particular reaction drive systems and interface travel have been altered which has brought about changes to the time it takes a given craft to reach orbit from the planetary surfce, so new tables are presented so that you can calculate timings. There are also notes on ortillery fire, fuel costs and the way in which ship data is presented in the rest of the book, with an explanation of terms used.


The following chapters provide a range of example ships in considerable detail that really makes them seem real. First off are Interface Vessels and Small Craft, followed by Drop Pods, Lifeboats and Life Pods, Military Starships, Civilian Starships, Commercial Ships, Liners, Couriet Ships, Mining and Survey Ships, Robots, Missiles and Drones, Surface Probes and finally Unknown Vessels. Each vessel comes with background notes, exterior view sketch, full statistics and deckplans, so whatever your needs, it's likely that you will find something appropriate here.


The 'Unknown Vessels' section is a little different. Here, three distinct yet unidentified vessels are described in terms of sensor readings, observations and the tall tales told in spacer bars. Make of them what you may, or leave them as something mysterious that the party might spot in their travels...


Overall, this is a useful book to have to hand to make the spacelanes of the French Arm come to life in your game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD: Ships of the French Arm
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2300AD: Libreville - Corruption in the Core Worlds
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/25/2016 13:37:28

Libreville is an Earth city that will be familiar to anyone with thoughts of leaving the planet - it's the base of the Beanstalk and has several spaceports nearby, as well as being a major shipping centre and port for Earth water-based transportation. Just about every corporation and foundation has offices there as well, but whilst this massive city has areas of great wealth there are also some appalling slums. This book is both a sourcebook for Libreville and its surroundings and a full-blown adventure. There are also sample vehicles, spaceships, robots, non-players and random encounters relevant to Libreville which you can use whenever your plot takes the party there.


The first chapter, History, contains just that, the story of how Libreville came to occupy the prominance it has today. Africa survived the wars of the 21st century relatively unscathed, but without the steady stream of aid from the West many nations struggled until South Africa - now under the name Azania - and Mozambique began to flourish and France started taking an interest and brought many former colonies back into its sphere of influence. This included Gabon, in which Libraville is to be found, which is now a full department of Metropolitan France, represented in the French Chamber of Deputies and with all citizens being considered as French.


This is followed by a chapter on Geography, including maps, weather patterns and notes on wildlife (including game stats, should your party wish to mix it with a hippo or an elephant). There are also some details of police equipment and vehicles - now, are the Gendarmes Gabonaise more or less scary than a hippo? Maybe your party will find out!


We then move on to Life in the City. French public relations firms describe Libreville as a Xanadu on the Atlantic, but it's not quite as idyllic as this might suggest. It is a place of extremes, with the abject poverty of the 'Mudville' slums contrasting with enclaves run as gated compounds by corporations for their employees and the central business district where their offices and the residences of the truly wealthy are to be found. There's a map and description, along with some sample spaceplanes and aircraft to be found in the ports outside the city. There's even a sample bus from the city streets, a taxi and a dustcart - familiar sights to any resident or visitor. There's material about surveillance and advertising, common trends and fashions, all manner of little details that will help you bring the place to life. Ideas for encounters and even more detail of what's to be found downtown and in corporate enclaves add to this information, and Mudville life is covered as well.


An added dimension comes from the final two 'sourcebook' chapters: Politics and Power, and Personalities. Here we learn how Libreville is governed, administered and policed, as well as about the major corporate players. There are also foundations and other non-commercial enterprises and of course criminal gangs, organised crime and other less desirable groups. The Personalities chapter presents a host of notable individuals which the party will hear about on the news, even if they never get to meet them... but plenty of ideas are provided to embroil the party in their affairs.


Finally comes the adventure, Mud Sticks. Violence in Mudville is on the rise and the party is hired to investigate. The whole thing hangs together well although it's admittedly rather linear, chasing from clue to clue. You might want to mix things up a bit if you feel it railroads the characters excessively. There's a lot here, loads of people to talk to and the odd opportunity to brawl, although this is the sort of urban adventure where brawling tends to be frowned upon, although infiltration skills will come into play.


Everything is very atmospheric, you can almost feel the African sun and smell the jungle (and urban) smells. Groups which like urban intrigues will find this an interesting place in which to become involved, and anyone leaving (or arriving) on Earth is likely to at least pass through. Make this sprawling city a vivid feature of your game, you now have the tools to make it so.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD: Libreville - Corruption in the Core Worlds
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2300AD: Hard Suits, Combat Walkers and Battlesuits
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 10:26:56

Opening with a short fiction piece from a battle scene, the Introduction gives definitions: a battlesuit is clam-shell-style unpowered armour (perhaps with an assistive exoskeleton), a hardsuit is a humanoid suit of powered combat armour with enhanced capabilities, and a combat walker ia a lightweight non-humanoid walking vehicle. OK, now we've got that straight, on to the meat of the book. As to be expected, this is no mere catalogue of what's available, it is packed with design information to allow you to create your own 'mechs'.


With admirable consistency with the rest of the Traveller ruleset, walker and suit design follows a straightforward process beginning with choosing a chassis type and the Tech Level at which you are building, then adding in armour, modifications, weapons and utility packs. You'll end up knowing how much your creation costs and even how much space it takes up should you need to ship it as cargo.


At every step there is a range of options - different chassis types, modifications that can be made, and equipment that can be added... although even in the future, the problem of waste collection has not be solved and it is highly advisable to go before suiting up for a mission! Naturally, there's an extensive list of weapons that can be attached to your system.


If you need a suit in a hurry (or feel daunted by the process to create a custom one) there is a selection of 'standard' models from which you can choose. As you become more confident, or see the need, you can adapt your suit or walker or create a new one to meet your requirements.


Perhaps a bit of a niche market, but if you will be engaging in lots of combat on the ground, this is an elegant addition to the game that is well worth a look.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD: Hard Suits, Combat Walkers and Battlesuits
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2300AD: Black as Pitch
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/23/2016 09:53:20

This adventure is the third and final part of the Grendelssaga, which began with Rescue Run and continued with Salvage Rights. It really only works if you have run the preceding two adventures in the trilogy, as too much of the plot relies on the party having been involved in earlier events. Against a background of renewed exploration on Grendel which the party are not invited to participate in, they instead are invited to RebCo to dicuss a job offer... a rather interesting one which will land them back on Grendel anyway!


As one might expect, their path will not be a smooth one - and plenty detail is supplied to enable the Referee to manage events. Once they get there, the excitement is not over and there are considerable opportunities for interaction with both humans and Pentapods as well as some major exploration... and plenty of action and combat too, so this should prove entertaining for virtually all groups. For those interested in alien races, this adventure provides a prime opportunity to learn hitherto unguessed-at things about Pentapods.


As ever, there is masses of additional material - equipment, weapons, vehicles, locations, alien species and more - which is not just useful here but may play a role in your own adventures. There is also an appendix giving more information about Pentapods as well as others covering various factions (human and Pentapod) which again provide fertile ground for further adventure.


Taken as a whole, the Grendelsaga makes for an excellent adventure, and it is far better to run all three components together. Again, better proofreading would have improved this book, but the sheer wealth of information rounding out this particular corner of known space makes this book and the whole series fascinating and invaluable.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD: Black as Pitch
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2300AD: Rescue Run
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/22/2016 07:54:08

In the Queen Alice star system, most people live on Beowulf... but this adventure, the first in a series of three, takes the party to the next planet out, Grendel. This is a largely unexplored planet, regarded as uninhabitable, but it is home to a university research station studying the violent weather and emergent life forms on Grendel. As well as the adventure, this work serves as a sourcebook for Grendel and the research station itself.


The adventure itself concerns the evacuation of the research station - normally scheduled for the cold season only the contractors who normally ship the staff home have gone out of business, and the local authorities are more concerned with an alert concering potential Kaefer raiders than in picking up a handful of academics. If the party has a suitable vessel, they are hired to do the job in that, if they do not they will get given a court order to take a ship belonging to the former contractor (whose employees are still waiting on back pay and are likely to object).


There are background notes on the staff at the research station and on the trip to get them... including some potential problems that might arise on the way. Once there, the party are welcomed - the station has already suffered storm damage and the staff are eager to leave... although there is another storm coming and they will have to stay overnight and leave in the morning.


The descriptions are highly-detailed and there's a wealth of information here (although at least one 'see page XX' that hasn't been picked up in proofreading!) on the station and on the planet Grendel, as well as an assortment of survival gear that may be of use.


It's a taut little adventure with plenty of opportunity for interaction, but short on opportunities for combat. In some ways, it is a scene-setter for things to come, and possibly should have been included with the next adventure (Salvage Rights) rather than as a stand-alone, but it could make an interesting side-adventure if you are using it on its own. There are some suggestions for follow-up adventures as well, and if you do intend to run Salvage Rights this is a well-nigh essential percursor.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD: Rescue Run
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2300AD: French Arm Adventures
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/21/2016 10:04:36

This book contains three adventures and ancillary material about the worlds on which they are set. The adventures are based on ones originally released by Game Designer's Workshop for their 2300AD game - Beanstalk, Kafer Dawn and Energy Curve - which have been retooled for the Mongoose Traveller ruleset. It is recommended that the introductory adventure Tricolore's Shadow be played first, but as I don't have a copy I cannot comment on that.


There's a nice map of the French Arm, then it's on to the first adventure, Beanstalk. There is a lot of supporting material explaining the nature of the Beanstalk itself and the planet of Beta Canum where it is to be found - plenty of history and background that makes the place come to life and suggests further ideas for adventure even after this one is done. Beta Canum has four continents - the French Continent, the British Continent, the German Continent, and the Southern Continent, and there is also an alien embassy, the Pentapod Enclave. All of these are described in considerable detail.


Scene set, we move on to sections entitled The Actors and The Drama. The Actors provides details of leading NPCs and The Drama consists of three separate but linked scenarios concerning the Beanstalk. These are followed by further materials: suggestions for follow-up adventures, technical data about beanstalk operation and other matters.


The adventures themselves involve the party working as troubleshooters for Rebco sampling air around the Beanstalk, getting involved in a dispute over foodstuffs produced by British and French companies and trying to survive when the Beanstalk gets sabotaged... Each can be run as a standalone adventure or they can be run in sequence.


Next comes Kafer Dawn (which for some reason suddenly becomes Kaefer Dawn...). In this, the party are mercenaries on the planet Aurore and get embroiled in the growing war with the Kafer (or Kaefer), an alien race that is not inclined to share space with any other colonists. There is background on Aurore, its capital Tanstaafl and the Kafer themselves, ideas for adventuring on Aurore and three scenarios to get you going. There's a lot to keep characters who enjoy the mercenary life busy.


The third adventure is Energy Curve. This is not as well introduced as the others, everything's a bit muddled and a thorough read-through is recommended to understand precisely what is going on as - unlike the others in this book - you cannot get an overview at a glance. It involves a downed exploration vessel and the fight for survival on an unknown planet that ensues. There is masses of opportunity for exploration and interaction in this one, a fascinating and challenging adventure that lasts the better part of a year (game time).


Finally, there are a couple of appendices, one on the Pentapods and one about technology. Overall, there is a wealth of resources here over and above the adventures themselves, although there is a rather jumbled air to the whole thing with disparate adventures suited to at least three different parties (if not groups of players - people who like exploring may find less fun exploring new worlds or troubleshooting in a fairly civilised environment where gunplay is frowned upon, and vice versa). But there's plenty of material here and well worth reading as you build your knowledge of the French Arm and mine it for opportunities to adventure.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD: French Arm Adventures
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2300AD: Tools for Frontier Living
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/19/2016 14:14:15

Much of Traveller 2300AD is about life on the frontier, and this book begins by attempting to bring some of that flavour across, with a piece of fiction about farm life and some explanations. For example, frontier living is a mix of primitive and advanced technology, and knowledge across the entirety of known space is fairly consistant. Hence the Technology Level of a frontier world is more a reflection of what they can make there, the manufacturing capabilities, than what they actually understand there. They can usually get hold of higher-tech items, provided they are willing to pay for them. Attitudes are different, too, the sort of people who make good colonists have a somewhat different approach to life that those who remain on core worlds. Sketches of sample colonial settlements illustrate this discussion on what the colonies are actually like, and it all makes fascinating reading.


Next comes a chapter on Colonies and Colony Design. The colonisation process is described in detail. Once a potential colony world is discovered, first in are survey teams, who begin with orbital surveys and then land, staying for five to ten years looking round a new planet then once it is deemed suitable the pathfinders arrive and spend another five years setting up basic infrastructure before the actual colonists turn up. There's masses of detail here, enough to inform the development of a campaign about establishing a colony, if that takes your fancy, and this includes apposite rules information.


This is followed by Outposts and Outpost Design, where 'outposts' are defined as small-scale facilities established in deep space, on asteroids, or inhospitable worlds. These are not intended to be self-sufficient of themselves, although they may be components of a large whole. The same concepts can be used in creating colony precursors, a nucleus about which a colony can develop and eventually become self-sufficient. Deep space or asteroid based outposts are often zero or low gravity, those on planets have gravity of course but may be on airless worlds (or those with an inhospitable atmosphere). Again there's plenty of detail - and illustrations of sample outposts - to enable you to incorporate them into your game.


Next comes a chapter on Frontier Agriculture. Virtually every colony tries to farm for at least their own use if not for export. Most of the time, crops of Earth origin need genetic modification to be able to thrive on other worlds. Animals may or may not need this, depending on whether you can grow crops that they can eat... but they likely will have to be protected from local wildlife. Sometimes, said wildlife can be tamed and farmed itself, should they be edible or otherwise useful. Greenhouses, hydroponics and aquaculture (fish farming) are also discussed.


Everyone needs somewhere to live, so the next chapter discusses Structures. This primarily covers imported structures, rather than those built using local materials, although these are covered as well, with the rules and costings you'll need. Many are modular in form, and often come pre-fitted according to their intended purpose. This is followed by a chapter on Power Systems.


Then a chapter on Animals opens with some fiction from an exo-veterinary surgeon, describing her life as a colonial veterinarian. Much of the material here covers exported Earth animals and their adaptations to colonial living, but we also hear about creatures native to the colony worlds. There's also costings and rules for animals here.


Next we take a look at Clothing and Protective Gear. Now we get to the sort of 'shopping list' I'd been expecting when I opened this book - in fact the discussions talked about above were a delightful surprise! Of course, listings of stuff your characters can purchase are always useful. In many groups, shopping ranks highly amongst preferred activities - generally only combat and carousing get more interest from them. There's everything from smart and budget street clothes to armour and specialised outfits in this chapter.


The chapter on Medical Technology opens with quite an impassioned tirade from a medical doctor who resents those who think the technology is taking over and doing most of the work. The trained medical mind still has its place. However there's plenty of equipment listed here to supplement such trained minds. There is also a list of drugs, not all of them medical... some are 'recreational' or have other uses besides healing.


The gear theme continues with a chapter of Exploratory Equipment, everything from backpacks and tents to mapping equipment and even snowshoes. This is followed by Tools and Industrial Equipment - everything from the multitool in your pocket to fabricators and explosives. Then on to Computers, Communicators and Personal Electronics. This in particular shows the difference between 2300AD colonies and their earlier counterparts. Even the most primitive appearing colony has access to cutting edge computing power. Similar in nature are the Sensors and Scopes which follow. This group of chapters rounds off with Miscellaneous Equipment and Consumer Goods - autokitchens, makeup kits and even a composting toilet.


Next, out into space beginning with Space Equipment. This is the stuff you really don't want to fail! It includes rescue equipment, beacons and satellites here, before moving on to Spacesuit Design. If you have a mind to, you can get down and dirty with custom designing every detail of the suit on which your life will depend. In similar vein, the following chapter deals with Aquatic Equipment, with dive gear, boats and other items useful if you intend taking to the water.


There's a chapter on Police and Security Equipment, plenty of useful stuff here whichever side of the law you may happen to be on. Then comes the Weapons chapter, unsurprisingly one of the longer chapters in the whole book. There's plenty here to keep your gun-bunnies happy.


The final section of the book is mostly transportation, although the chapter on Robots and Drones provides robots (and drones, of course) for many purposes. Following this fascinating read, there are chapters on Walkers, Vehicles and Starships and Spacecraft.


With the material herein, your Travellers should not want for anything that they might need as they roam the worlds or settle down to build a colony.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD: Tools for Frontier Living
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2300AD Core Rulebook Revised
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/16/2016 11:34:42

The original Traveller 2300 (from Game Designer's Workshop) had little to do with Traveller proper, being set far earlier and having a different ruleset. In this revisualisation by Mongoose Publishing, the ruleset is brought in line with the rest of their Traveller product, but the original setting and flavour is kept intact... and some cunning additional rules are added to enable it all to work well.


The Introduction explains the setting clearly. The date is 2300AD, as in but 300 years into the future, human beings have left Earth and colonised some 20-odd habitable plants in other solar systems... and the single SF element is the faster-than-light 'Stutterwarp' drive that got them there. Earth nation-states still exist, so colonies regard themselves as being French or Australian or... rather than 'of Earth', although some large corporations and other groups wield as much clout as nation-states. Five alien races have been encountered, with varying levels of hostility. Although now core Traveller rules are being used, this is NOT Traveller per se, it is more realistic, probably a bit more gritty - and yet it's still a game of adventure and exploration.


The first chapter, Background, covers the history that got us to 2300AD. It's not quite the same as the original 2300AD game, but it is pretty close. Starting at the year 2000, it appears things went from bad to worse, with 2000-2089 being regarded as Twilight, a time little understood, not least because of widescale destruction of records during (perhaps because of) a nuclear war the origins of which have been lost. This caused considerable damage to much of Europe, Russia, North America, China and India, though France somehow managed to remain relatively unscathed. The war was followed by further devastation from several pandemics, possibly caused by bio-weapons. Eventually France started taking an interest in space travel and slowly some semblance of civilisation returned... leading to renewed scientific endeavour and a new age of exploration. Of course this wasn't completely peaceful and reading about the various squabbles shows how the current state of affairs developed.


Next, Core Worlds introduces the sort of life to be lived on the core worlds of Earth and Tirane (in the Alpha Centuri system), but which can also be found the more advanced urban areas of long-settled colony worlds. Life can be luxurious, at least if you're a knowledge worker, but far too many are unemployed and scrabbling for anything that they can get. There's a surveillance culture that many from outside find oppressive and restrictive, the payback being security and convenience. There's a lot of cultural homogeneity - one of the reasons many people decide they want to move on out to the stars. This overview leads into a more detailed look at Earth, the rest of this solar system, and Tirane.


Then comes a chapter Frontier Worlds, which provides similar information on what life is like out in the colonies, and details what they are like. One interesting feature is Planetary Adaptation Syndrome: human beings are designed for Earth and even the most Earth-like world just isn't the same. You have to adapt to live there and it may not be easy, even with DNA theraphy and drugs to assist. This is a good place for a discussion of disease, as people do not have natural defences against the bugs on a new planet either. There's a good overview of all the current colonies, so read through and decide where you want to visit first... or maybe even settle. Plaetary Adaptation Syndrome means that most people do not flit from world to world all the time, a key difference from mainstream Traveller.


The final part of the setting information is a chapter on Foundations, Corporations and Terrorists. Not everything revolves around nation-states, so here we meet some of the other major players, with plenty of detail and examples. Characters might end up working for one such entity, or opposed to it... they are certainly likely to interact in some way if only by purchasing a corporation's products or hearing about the latest terrorist outrage on the news.


Then we get into rules territory, with a chapter detailing Character Generation. It is similar to the system presented in the core Traveller rulebook (which you need to possess to play this particular game line) but with differences based on this setting, so read through carefully as you decide on what your character will be. Again, wonderfully-detailed characters result, complete with the outline of a backstory to explain how they reached their current state as you start play - it's quite a distraction, you want to sit creating characters instead of getting on with reading the rest of the book!


This is followed by Alien Races. Most of this is quite general and could be regarded as what a well-educated human being might know about them. The implication is, however, that aliens will be NPCs, so the Referee may choose to restrict access to this material. No rules for creating alien characters are provided.


Next comes Cybernetics and DNA Modifications. Herein you will find all the rules you need to allow characters to take advantage of these augmentations. Beware, most places in the Core Worlds don't like people who have had their DNA changed! Material here provides for a fairly 'low-cyber' style of game. If you want more, try Mongoose Traveller Supplement 8: Cybernetics - the advantage of sharing a common ruleset! The really interesting bit is the discussion of DNA modification, a new introduction to the ruleset.


Then we move on to the Science and Technology chapter, which covers the current state of play in the biological sciences, computers and information security, mechanical telepathy (this sounds... interesting) and transportation. Robots and drones and materials science are alos mentioned. Then we get a bit more practical with chapters of Equipment, Weapons and Armour, Robots and Drones, a spot of Cortex Hacking, and Vehicles.


Next we move on to Starship Design - the concepts and rules - followed by Starships, Spacecraft and Space Stations (loads of examples), Space Travel and Space Combat and finally Starship Encounters. Loads of information, all honed to this setting yet fitting in to the underlying ruleset. We then turn to NPCs and Animals, with plenty of samples of both.


Finally, there's the 2300AD Referee's Guide. This provides additional guidelines and a wealth of ideas about the sort of campaigns that you can run - exploration, trade, combat (ground or space), or maybe you fancy a party of troubleshooters or an anti-terrorist spin on things. There's also an extensive list of sources you might use for inspiration: fiction, films, TV shows and more. There's a calendar for the year 2300AD, and the Near Star List used to set up space for this game. Interestingly, it's the original 1988 one used in Traveller 2300 - it maintains the flavour of the setting better than contemporary knowledge of what's out there!


Overall this is a masterful blending of a very original setting with an established ruleset and - with the good range of supplements available - makes for some interesting gaming.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD Core Rulebook Revised
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The One Ring Revised Edition Clarifications and Amendments
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2016 08:12:26

If you have the original 2-volumes-in-a-slipcase version of the core rules - The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild - you may be wondering about whether or not you want to buy the one volume The One Ring Roleplaying Game that came out in the summer of 2014. If you are not a mad completist, this PDF contains all the actual rules changes that have been made so you can have a look at make up your own mind.


Starting with the Adventurer's Book, there are detailed, fully page referenced lists of the changes made, all clearly highlighted in red text. The Loremaster's Book gets a similar treatment.


Of course, if you are only now coming to this great game, you'll want to purchase The One Ring Roleplaying Game, but if you have spent your hard-earned cash on the original game you may not want to splash out on the new version. With this you don't need to, although you might want to spend some time annotating or pasting things in to your books - easier of course if you have them in hard copy, but it's possible even in PDF... that's what I've done as I don't have The One Ring Roleplaying Game yet!


What is particularly good is that Cubicle 7 Entertainments have seen fit to put this out, rather than expecting everyone to rush out and buy the new version. It's the sort of thing that builds up brand loyalty and indeed makes one more inclined to keep buying their product!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring Revised Edition Clarifications and Amendments
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The One Ring - Horse-lords of Rohan
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2016 09:36:34

Rolling grass plains far to the south of Wilderland are home to the horse-clans, the Rohirrim (or Eorlingas in their own tongue). They call their lands the Riddermark and here they ride and reign, a culture rich and strange. It was always one of the areas I found most exciting in The Lord of the Rings, so it's good at last to be able to visit, even if only in my game.


The first two sections describe the Riddermark itself and the lands surrounding it, covering history and geography from the contested West-march and the Gap of Rohan in the west to the Great River in the east; from the Wold in the north to the White Mountains in the south. As well as the lay of the land, there are details of local wildlife, the people who live there and notable individuals and locations that might feature in your adventures. Ideas for Fellowship Phase activities, not to mention hazards and other encounters, are scattered throughout to aid you as the companions travel here.


The third section covers the Forest of Fangorn. Now if you thought Mirkwood was strange you really need to visit here... and maybe meet an Ent, one of the legendary shepherds of the trees. Moving on, the forth section deals with the Folk of the Fells, lumped together by the Rohirrim (who do not get on with them at all) as the Dunlendings, although there are many different tribes and societies.


Next the fifth section speaks of Isengard, the Tower of Orthanc, home to Saruman the White. There's plenty more plot resources here for those who wish to have dealings with Saruman, even Fellowship Phase activities. This is followed by a collection of Monsters of Rohan including dangerous animals and more sentient foes such as the Uruk-Hai.


Finally, the last two sections take a look at horsemanship within the game (including, of course, combat) and at new Heroic Cultures for those players who'd like characters who come from here, rather than who will visit. There are also two splendid maps (endpapers in the hard copy, a separate PDF if you are downloading), which let you see where everything is as you read through the book.


This work does an excellent job at setting the scene for the Riddermark and surrounding lands, and a companion book of adventures is said to be in the works. It is assumed to be 2960 here, although it's relatively simple to move the timeline to whatever suits your needs using the information provided. It explains how visitors from other lands are received by the Rohirrim, and there some ideas provided for how a company from the Wilderlands might travel this far from home... and there is a note about hobbits. They've not been seen here for so long that most Rohirrim think them the stuff of legend. If there is a hobbit in your company they could be in for an interesting time!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Horse-lords of Rohan
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The One Ring - Ruins of the North
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/10/2016 08:49:30

This is a collection of six ready-to-run adventures which you can use whenever your company is in eastern Eriador. They can be stand-alone or linked into a loose series as best suits your needs, and are assumed to take place sometime after 2954 - but not wedded to that date, if your requirements are different. If you have the supplement Rivendell, there's lots of useful material there to help you flesh out locations and the general environment.


The first adventure takes the party from the foothills of Gundabad across the Misty Mountains to the former capital city of Angmar and finally to Rivendell itself. The following five adventures are all based out of Rivendell and are set in the various lands surrounding the Vale of Imladris. They gradually get harder, the first five can be undertaken relatively easily, but the final one presents a greater challenge - although none are appropriate for complete novices, play a few other adventures first. Several suggestions are provided for how you can incorporate these adventures into an ongoing campaign or build a campaign around them, even though there is no definite 'plot arc' (or Big Bad to defeat) save the growing of the Shadows, the gathering of evil, in preparation for the War of the Ring that is to come.


In the first adventure, Nightmares of Angmar, some children have been kidnapped by goblins and it falls to the company to track them down and get them back. It's an autumnal quest, suitable for the last adventure of a year. However, you might want to make up your own reason for them being in the Black Hills (where it all begins) in the first place, most of the reasons provided are rather weak. On the other hand there's an impressive array of options to help you weave this adventure into whatever else is going on. Throughout the adventure, support is provided to help you run each encounter and event... although there is little lee-way for handling anyone who doesn't do the expected thing! There is an interesting mechanic of 'Key Points' - places where the characters' actions or words have a positive or negative effect on a certain pivotal NPC. These will determine how that individual acts in the future, but ought not to be revealed to the players, it's just something that the Loremaster should track.


The next adventure, Harder than Stone, is designed for spring, perhaps after the Fellowship Phase following Nightmares of Angmar. It's undertaken at the behest of Elrond of Rivendell which will lead the company a merry dance along the mighty river Hoarwell. A caravan of dwarves has been attacked... and the characters will have to travel deep into the Trollshaws to find out who's behind it all. Yes, these adventures are full of lots of travelling... but as that's central to all the Tolkein stories, that's not very surprising!


This is followed by Concerning Archers, a spring or summer adventure that begins in Rivendell when Bilbo Baggins gets into an argument with a scholar over hobbit participation in a battle - and asks the company to travel to the ruins of Fornost, the city of the Kings, to check things out. Bilbo reckons that a company of hobbit archers were involved in the fall of Fornost, but the elf to whom he is speaking has been dismissive of such a possibility... and they've made a wager about it. Bilbo needs evidence to win! (Why Bilbo, who's described as being in his prime, won't go himself isn't even discussed, you might want to think of something should your players bring it up.)


The fourth adventure is The Company of the Wain and is interesting in that it's quite episodic - you could interleave events from it with other adventures to good effect as it revolves around a group of travelling traders. Perhaps the company just keeps encountering them as they go about other business. Travelling traders are an unusual sight up here, and there's something a bit odd about this lot...


Next comes What Lies Beneath, which comes with a warning that travelling is even more extensive in this adventure than in most, so it's best started early in a year. Hiraval, a Ranger of the North, wants some assistance to reclaim his family's ancient mansion - not just because he thinks it could improve the safety of the region, but also because he is being haunted by an ancestor who is driving him nuts about the place!


Finally, Shadows Over Tyrn Gorthad has Gandalf asking the company to deal with a veritable plague of barrow-wights who are passing far beyond the Barrow-downs and growing bolder all the time. It will take several Adventuring Phases, indeed several years, to play out in full and the danger is immense. They will need to research and study lore about the barrow-wights before thay are in a position to deal with them, and even researching them carries its dangers.


Overall, a fine collection of adventures that are very true to the whole feel of the setting. There's a tendency to assume that the characters will follow the set path through each adventure, and little support if they do not, but provided they do the right things the Loremaster is well supported to run their adventures. Complete these, and there will be songs written about the company, stuff of legends!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Ruins of the North
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The One Ring - The Heart of the Wild
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/08/2016 08:09:37

This sourcebook expands on material in the Loremaster's Guide, providing a wealth of detail about the lands of the River and the Forest - the Vales of Anduin along the banks of the Great River and the trackless forest of Mirkwood to the east. Its main purpose is to serve as a gazetteer, whether you are running a campaign based on The Darkening of Mirkwood or one of your own devising in this part of Middle Earth. If you are using The Darkning of Mirkwood this work will greatly enhance your game and is highly recommended on those grounds alone. Timewise, material herein is set at 2946, but the Loremaster should take into account the passage of time between then and whatever the date is when the company arrives at any given location. Oh, and this is primarily a book for Loremasters. Players have no business reading about places their characters have not visited yet!


The first chapter traces the course of the River Anduin all the way from the Misty Mountains to the southern edge of the wild, using the same regions as depicted on the Loremaster's Map in the core rules. For each region, we read about its general geography, interesting flora and fauna to be found there, notes on the inhabitants (if any) then lists of notable individuals and locations that may be encountered there. Sometimes there are ideas for things to do in either the Adventuring or the Fellowship Phase.


The history of this area is one of migration, and that mainly of Men rather than any other race. Much of it is uninhabited, but those who have passed through have left their traces. Even where there are not overt suggestions, just reading through these details spawns plenty of ideas for adventure!


Next, following the same pattern of contents, there's a look at the forest of Mirkwood itself, running from the thickets of Northern Mirkwood to the very gates of Dol Guldur. Mirkwood is indeed an enormous forest - its northern border faces the steep slopes of the Grey Mountains and its southern edge is near the Brown Lands, a distance of more than four hundred miles, whilst it is about two hundred miles wide. The elves were the first to live here, but their time is now long past although some still remain. A few men have wandered here, but generally only on the fringes, while darker souls such as orcs are found within. It's dark in there, and airless... hunting and foraging are a chancy business and not everything you find is fit to eat or drink even once you've got it. And it is very easy to get lost! Tread warily if you must go there at all.


Finally, there's an extensive Bestiary. This covers a lot of critters that you probably don't want to meet, complete with all the information the Loremaster needs to run them when you do... and illustrations, which unfortunately are not arranged in such a way as to facilitate showing them to your players. An appendix provides a detailed overview map to supplement the individual regional ones scattered throughout the text.


Overall, the wealth of detail here really makes the place come to life, and should help you provide the same service to your players as their characters travels take them through these parts. And if anyone wants to come from here, there are a few appropriate Heroic Cultures from which to choose. Highly recommended, especially if you are running The Darkening of Mirkwood campaign arc.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - The Heart of the Wild
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The One Ring - Rivendell
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/07/2016 09:18:30

This work widens the horizons of The One Ring RPG, opening up eastern Eriador and Rivendell for exploration. It's assmumed that the company will have already embarked upon, if not concluded, The Darkening of Mirkwood campaign, so the material here is set around 2951 or later - but if you prefer to start earlier it's possible. Elf-touched lands don't change as fast and what is said of 2951 holds good for earlier times for the most part.


We start with Imladris, the almost-hidden valley where Elrond himself lives... and where the company might find a welcome if they can but find their way there. It serves as a refuge for the High Elves of Eregion. The house of Rivendell is described in detail along with notable characters who might be found there. It's a pleasant place to stay, and several specific Fellowship Phase activities are provided for companies who stop here for a while. It's a good place to research lore, whilst more creative characters might want to write a song. This introduces rules to cover the writing and singing of songs, and the benefits of singing whilst adventuring.


Next comes A History of Eriador. This provides a lot of background about the whole region and leads on to The Regions of Eastern Eriador, a chapter which gives even more detail of the geography, wildlife and inhabitants. This includes both notable individuals and locations to be found in each region. Visit the Trollshaws, the Coldfells, the Ettenmoors and other spots if you dare. Small maps of each region are supplied. Plenty of suggestions for hazards peculiar to these places are provided, there are also ideas for Adventuring and Fellowship Phase activities.


This is followed by a chapter on New Monsters, some of which have been mentioned earlier as resident in one or more region. There's a discussion on designing powerful monsters, with a range of enhancements that will strike terror into any character's heart, as well as stat-blocks and notes on a range of monsters to be found in these areas. There are some wonderfully atmospheric illustrations too, although it will be rather difficult to show them to the players as 'This is what you see...' without revealing stat blocks and other identifying information.


In perhaps more pleasant vein, next is a chapter on Magical Treasures, wonderous items that were made in times past and have been lost through the ages... but which are just waiting to be found by some enterprising company and put to good use. Rules for finding them are included, along with ones for determining what you have got, and how to track what each individual companion has in possession. They should not be commonplace. Then there are 'precious objects' that have value but are not of such significance. Armed with these notes and rules, the Loremaster can devise, place and use all manner of fabulous things in the course of the campaign. Several example Magical Treasure Indices are provided: they can serve as examples or even be put straight to use... especially as amongst them is one aimed at The Darkening of Mirkwood and another at adventures set in Eriador itself.


The next chapter is The Eye of Mordor. As evil reawakens the characters run the risk of catching its notice by their actions. Here a mechanic to quantify this process is presented. It's an interesting concept if rather mechanical, and does require some book keeping.


Finally, there are some Heroic Cultures should anyone wish to play a High Elf of Rivendell or one of the Dúnedain (Rangers of the North). These may come over a bit high-powered compared to the others previously introduced in the core rulebook - neither classes as a 'first-time adventurer'. Now, perhaps you have an experienced company and either a new player or one who wishes to take on a new character might have one of these - of particular use if the company has just arrived in Rivendell and are in need of a local guide. Whatever your needs, here you will find all the details you require to create and play such characters.


This is an interesting expansion to the game, and one to be welcomed. Have fun exploring a bit further afield!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - Rivendell
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Delta Green: Need to Know
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/05/2016 12:36:53

After a slightly disorganised start (you have to wade through the product blurb, a page of densely-written copyright notices and the Open Gaming Licence before you actually get to the contents!) we start off with Welcome to Delta Green, which explains what the game is all about - fear. Fear and having the courage to stand up against horrors no matter what. Then there's a brief explanation of what role-playing is and how to play, including the terminology: the Game Master is called the Handler and players take the role of Agents (of Delta Green), and adventures are known as Operations. To play, you'll need dice (or a die roller app), with percentage dice playing a major role. There's a whole page on 'How to be a Player' which covers the basics like describing actions, speaking as your character and not holding things up... and of course working with the other members of the party. There's another page for the Handler (with some ominous blood-splatter on it) and an example of play. A scary one...


The next section is titled What is an Agent? This goes through the character sheet explaining what everything is and how it is used in the game. This leads into a section describing how to create an agent. The assumption is that characters are Americans employed by one of the 'Alphabet' agencies, but it's quite easy to see how to extrapolate to other nationalities or professional affiliations. The basic professions available (which suggest the skills that you have) are Federal Agent, Anthropologist/Historian, Computer Scientist/Engineer, Physician (i.e. medical doctor), Scientist or Special Operator (i.e. someone with military training). The way everything is put together helps you build a rounded individual with friends and some personal history, and a reason why he's in Delta Green and doing what he's doing. There are six pre-generated characters which can serve as examples, get customised or just used for play... there are outline notes and full character sheets for each.


Then comes a section called Game System. This explains the game mechanics in a straightforward (if slightly patronising) style. It covers general task resolution and combat, then goes on to discuss damage, death and sanity. Like Call of Cthulhu (which these rules resemble), hanging onto your sanity is well-nigh impossible in this game. This leads on to rules for insanity... and, fortunately, some notes on ways to preserve your character's sanity. The bit about going to see a therapist is quite amusing: do you lie about what you've experienced or sound really delusional by telling him... and risk him going a bit mad as well? A lot of this is a cut-down version of what's in the Core Rulebook, it says, but even this is pretty comprehensive.


Finally we have the operation (adventure) Last Things Last. In this, the party is despatched to check the home of a recently-deceased retired Delta Green agent to make sure no incriminating evidence is to be found (remember that Delta Green regards keeping the existance of supernatural horrors completely secret as important as actual defeating them). It's a fairly simple mission that serves just to demonstrate a little of the system and give the group an inkling of what to expect...


Unless you are completely new to role-playing you may feel that you are being talked down to a bit in some of the explanations, but apart from that this provides a good introduction to the game, bringing out the flavour well. The adventure is rather too basic and is aimed at complete novices, Handler as well as players, but can be used to whet the appetite for more... provided the agents don't completely lose their sanity over what they have to do! Support for a novice Handler is good, however, and there's the potential to make it quite atmospheric. There are a couple of good handouts... but the purely illustrative page that follows could have been used to provide more resources to lead to further adventures if the items there weren't piled on top of each other quite so much.


That said, this work does give a good feel for the game and ought to enable you and your group decide if it's for you (or not). I'll be looking out for more...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Delta Green: Need to Know
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The One Ring - The Darkening of Mirkwood
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/04/2016 11:51:37

In the original Loremaster's Book an epic campaign called The Darkening of Mirkwood was outline: here it is presented with a wealth of detail, year by year events to enable you to have a coherent time-line of events running irrespective if you want your campaign plot to interact with them or not - a fine way to ensure that your players feel that their characters exist within a living, breathing, real alternate reality!


The Introduction provides a lot of useful material, including notes on how news travels across Middle Earth (slowly...), and how this timeline has been established to set the scene for the events in The Lord of the Rings - remember, this game is set between events in The Hobbit and those of The Lord of the Rings. The focus here is on how the sweep of events affects those caught up in them, in particular the player-characters and those they care about, putting a human (or hobbit, dwarven, elven...) face on world-shaping events. Yet it may be that the histories are wrong. Maybe things didn't quite happen as it is said that they did. Perhaps some heroes stood up and by their actions changed things. Don't be afraid to alter the course of history as appropriate to the actions of your company of adventurers or indeed the needs of the stories you want to tell. The company are, after all, the heroes of your game, the stars at centre stage whatever else might be going on in the world.


There are rules for establishing and running a holding - something many character might wish to do... and this also provides them a place to defend when darkness comes a-knocking. For those living in the Wilderland, it's a real and present threat that is only going to get worse as time progresses. So encourage the characters to embed themselves in the community, build up networks of friends and relatives, trading partners and associates... all the more will they feel the threat as events unfold.


And then we move on to the tale of years, which is broken down into five phases beginning with the last good years. The timeline runs from the year 2947 for a full thirty years. For each year you get a selection of events, noteworthy things that happen in Mirkwood and the lands immediately surrounding it... or even further away, but which influence life there or at least will have been heard about by those living there. It's up to you whether or not you want to incorporate them into your plotline or use them as side-adventures, or merely leave them as topics to be discussed over a pot of ale.


Next there's a complete sample adventure. As the years progress, it is likely that these adventures will need to be customised, as things your company has done in the past may be already altering the timeline from that published here. There's also information that may influence the course of the year-end Fellowship Phase, although this gets harder to predict as time passes and adventurers' actions affect the timeline, for better or for worse.


The overall idea is that you and your company will build a solid history of your own, one that encompasses the feel of a real life being led, a life that has adventure in it to be sure, but one which is rooted in its surroundings and the ordinary lives led by most of the people who live there. As such this work is an admirable resource and should help you build a lasting campaign that will be fun to play and memorable for years after.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring - The Darkening of Mirkwood
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