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The Secret of the Windswept Wall (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2016 11:53:19

Oh dear! This adventure involves a crew of workmen building a wizard his tower who have been trapped by a cave-in... as International Rescue doesn't cover your campaign world, perhaps the party might like to help?


The adventure uses two maps originally published in 2001 as part of the Map-a-Week feature on the Wizards of the Coast website, but don't fret if you cannot find them, they are reproduced here. A sea-side village called Poisson is quite a-buzz - home of the workmen, they were excited by the wizard Sionaas choosing to settle in nearby mountains and now they are concerned about the fate of those he hired to build his tower. Several hooks are provided to get the party involved, most of which are designed to put them in the right place to hear the plea for help. There's some information to be gathered if the party choose to ask around (or have a handy bard who can access his knowledge), and a fair bit of background about the area in general - perhaps they have already been exploring the area when the messenger arrives.


Further background is provided for the DM about Sionaas and what he's up to... something that leads to his rather odd request, when the party arrives, that they use no magic in attempting a rescue! So this adventure will involve a lot of digging!


There's an intriguing mystery to investigate and some new critters (stats provided) to defeat, but most interesting is the wizard himself, who IF he chooses to trust the party (he really does like his secrets) may have some interesting tasks for them in the future... but that, of course, will be up to you to design. Providing a whole area to explore and a potential patron, this provides a lot for a DM hoping to build up a campaign in a fairly remote area, a good framework on which to build your own ideas!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Secret of the Windswept Wall (3.0)
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Fang, Beak, and Claw (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2016 08:10:19

Fancy dealing with a spot of eco-terrorism deep in the woods? This adventure seed (it's not really a full-blown adventure) provides a few hooks to get the party involved in investigating just why a group of loggers is having such a difficult time. Some background notes for the DM explain what is going on, and then it's time to head for the forest.


Although designed with Faerûn in mind, there isn't really anything to tie it to the Forgotten Realms, so you can set it in any suitable little-exploited woodlands in your own campaign world if you prefer.


There's some basic details of what had happened so far - you will probably want to embellish this a bit - and then the party is expected to track the perpetrators (hint: make sure there's someone around who can track!) to their base of operations. Then you get notes on those involved, including stat blocks and details of how they are likely to react when the party comes a-visiting.


The nice thing is that there is actually an option to talk to the perpetrators rather than fight them - although if your party prefers to let their swords do the talking that will work fine as well. It could prove an interesting way for them to establish their credentials in the area as people who will sort out problems... always a good way for adventurers to get work.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fang, Beak, and Claw (3.0)
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The Ministry of Winds (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2016 07:43:54

This is an urban adventure concerning a strange building in the middle of town. Which town is up to you, although it does tie in quite well with Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil and if you have that you could use Hommlet. It will work well anywhere, though, as it is quite self-contained.


The background for the DM explains what is going on within this odd building and several hooks are provided to help you to persuade the party that paying it a visit would be a good idea. A few snippets of rumours and lore can be gathered by parties prepared to ask around a bit, or if they have a bard who might have heard something...


Of course the first trick is to get in. That done, there is plenty to see within both above and below ground... for what appears to be a simple if mysterious obelisk has an extensive basement to explore. Based on a map originally presented as part of the Map-a-Week series on the Wizards of the Coast website (but reproduced here), the various chambers are well-described although it's likely that every encounter will provoke a fight.


It provides an interesting interlude, but that's about it. If you decide to set it in a town the party is familiar with, a spot of foreshadowing might be appropriate - mention the obelisk in passing as they go about their business. Of course, if they are new in town again they might notice it even before they have occasion to visit.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Ministry of Winds (3.0)
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The Tower of Deception (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/06/2016 08:08:09

History has long told tales of 'wreckers' who lure ships off course by placing false navigation beacons, and this adventure deals with something a bit similar. Inspired by a Todd Gamble map (presented as part of a 'Map-a-Week' project on the Wizards of the Coast website in the first few years of this century), it presents a tower to explore and strange evils to defeat.


There are two ways to get the party involved. Either they are approached by local merchants concerned about a 'ghostly tower' that has lured ships to their doom on the rocks or - and this is the novel one - you can grab them out of thin air when they are teleporting (of their own accord or for some other reason)... for the 'light' on the tower is actually a magical device designed to trap people who are teleporting! If you use this option, it's advised not to use it the first time they try teleporting. It's also a good way to get them to some completely different part of the campaign world - distance is no object to this device.


Depending on which option you choose the party either arrives by boat (crewed by some nervous sailors who promptly depart) or somewhere inside the tower. To handle this, there's a comprehensive level by level description of the tower and what can be encountered or found there, leaving you free to describe it as appropriate as the party explores. For a deserted tower there's a surprising lot going on there, with traps and monsters and more to keep the party entertained. The really tricky thing is that the tower is so designed that once you're inside, it is very difficult to get out again - thus the real adventure is to escape!


The adventure is inventive and well-resourced. Some ideas for follow-up adventures are provided, chiefly drawing on individuals met inside the tower. I particularly like the way it can be used as a regular adventure or to trap unwary characters, and the potential for turning a campaign on its head by sending the party to an entirely different part of your world - or even to a new one! - is something worth pondering!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tower of Deception (3.0)
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Manifesting: A Tale (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/05/2016 07:39:02

This adventure was originally released about the same time as the Psionics Handbook, and so provides an opportunity for a character who wishes to develop psionic powers to play out how he came to have them.


The background for the DM tells of how one Lord Prisius has a rather unusual castle with interesting architecture... and that his young daughter is the architect! Only one night the young lady vanished, and her father is offering a reward to anyone who can explain what's happened to her or, even better, bring her back. Enter the party... The background also explains what is really going on, of course.


The adventure involves a lot of interaction and investigation, meeting the various inhabitants of the castle and figuring out what has actually taken place. Once you have got the party involved, they may wander at will around the castle and surrounding lands. A series of encounters are provided, but they may be run in any order depending on what the party chooses to do and where they decide to go. The DM is provided with a list of 'Secrets' and it's made clear who knows what, role-playing will be needed to find out what each person knows - and if you wish to roll for NPC attitudes, their knowledge is differentiated as to what they are prepared to reveal depending on whether they are indifferent, friendly or helpful (along with the DC checks to get them there). A good map of the castle is provided too.


There is quite a good possibility of a fight at the very end of the adventure once the characters have figured out what is going on, but the rest depends on wits and role-playing rather than combat skills. The adventure will probably work best in a world where there is some but not much psionics, and it would be possible for the party - if astute - to figure things out even if none of them are gifted in that direction. However it would provide an excellent opportunity for a player who wants to develop his character's abilities in psionics to take the first steps as his gift slowly burgeons... talk it over out of character with your players in advance and if someone is interested in developing psionics, this adventure can provide the opportunity for his journey to begin.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Manifesting: A Tale (3.0)
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One Last Riddle (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2016 08:18:27

This is a short and rather vague encounter-based adventure involving a dead sphinx... whose ghost persists in asking riddles! His motivation is that he wants his recent demise avenged, and he lures the party with promises about loot left in the last place that he slept.


The idea is that you have the ghostly sphinx accost the party as they are travelling - hence it's easy to slot in anywhere in whatever campaign world you are using. Even as a ghost, the sphinx is far too powerful for a party of the intended level, so this is a good adventure for groups who like to talk and think... or as a lesson to those who fight first and talk later if at all!


After meeting the ghostly sphinx, the party is directed to his lair - a bare cavern - and thence to those responsible for his demise, and those parties who want a fight can have one then, and again as they follow up to a nearby town (use one of your own, or there's the bare outline of one provided).


There's advice on how to run riddle-asking with suggestions about what checks could be made if nobody's good at riddles, and also about how to handle dealing with NPCs, in particular the use of checks to adjust attitude until the NPC is willing to talk or otherwise be helpful - useful to novice DMs (remember, this was originally release about six months after the rules...). There are no maps and minimal location descriptions (if you like such things you'll have to come up with your own), but there are stat blocks for those the party will encounter - even the sphinx although they aren't supposed to fight him. Some will, or you may want to use him again later.


It's a little thin, a step above a mere adventure seed, but with potential to make quite an interesting adventure if you work at it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
One Last Riddle (3.0)
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The Ghosts of Aniel (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/03/2016 09:30:38

It all started out with the best of intentions, I'm sure, but now the population of the elf village of Aniel is deserted and haunted... and it's up to the party to find out what's going on and how (if?) it can be sorted out. The background for the DM explains just what went awry and who was behind it, and there are a few basic hooks to get the party involved.


If you have the party travelling to Aniel through the forest (called Celadon, but any suitable forest in your own campaign world will suffice), remember that it's wild and dangerous, and to that end there's a table of random encounters that you can use; while there are four main encounters to run once they reach Aniel. That's it - the party will have to use their wits and what they can glean from their interactions with the ghostly inhabitants of Aniel to figure out what needs to be done to restore a state of normality. If the party has a way to make contact with the ghosts, they can explain the situation (as given in the background) so one of the main challenges is establishing meaningful contact.


There's little in the way of resources. You'll have to come up with your own plan of the village and one for the local wizard's house and anywhere else the party decides to explore. The main antagonist's details are provided (including full stat block and notes on how he will act), but that's about it.


The situation and backstory are interesting and have considerable potential, but this one feels more like an adventure seed than a full-blown scenario. You will need to put some preparatory work in to run it at its full potential. When it was a free download on the Wizards of the Coast website, that was fine, but you may wonder if even 99 cents ought to get you more - as it does with many of the other adventures in this series!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Ghosts of Aniel (3.0)
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The Alchemist's Eyrie (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/02/2016 10:25:01

This is a brief adventure that ought to last but a single session. It's basically a delve, even if it involves a tower rather than an underground complex. The DM is provided with plenty of background as well as a synopsis and several potent hooks to get the party involved - if you are using this as part of a campaign, read it well before you intend to use it as there are several suggestions for foreshadowing, thus making it seem integral to your plot rather than a side-trip. However it will serve just fine as a side-trip or a one-off if that's what you need.


Although the background does give some indication of the tower's location, the adventure proper starts with the party approaching it. This should make it relatively easy to find an appropriate place in your campaign world to situate it. As well as the current residents and assorted traps left by the original alchemist, one difficulty many characters may find is that the tower was built with dwarves in mind and there's not much headroom - unless of course you are a dwarf or a member of another short race.


It's a neat compact adventure with enough variety, what with the traps and the nature of the opposition, to lift it above a pure dungeon brawl and provide an entertaining session for you and your group.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Alchemist's Eyrie (3.0)
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The Vessel of Stars (3.0)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/01/2016 10:16:55

It's an escort job. Take this young queen where she needs to go, that's it. OK, so it's a rather strange place she's going and the opposition are even wierder, but surely it's not too difficult... or is it?


The background for the DM lays out what is happening concisely but clearly, with the observation that although the party won't start the adventure knowing all this, they might do by the end if they pay attention to what's going on around them. There is also a comprehensive synopsis which covers what ought to happen where - because this adventure manages to combine a flight scenario with a site-based one. Basically the party (plus young queen) get chased to her destination, which they can then explore.


Several adventure hooks are provided to get the party involved. Rather neatly, you can use more than one to really get them ensnared! It all starts in a reasonably-sized coastal township called Horvath (or you can substitute an equivalent settlement in your own campaign world if you prefer). Once you've got the party interested, they can ask around for useful information before they set out. It seems the place has been plagued by strange creatures (and lights) in some nearby hills for about ten years now. This is, of course, where the party has to go...


Several maps are supplied. There's one of the general area (which can help you find a suitable location on your own campaign world if you don't just want to run it straight), and several maps of locations encountered during the adventure. Horvath gets some description but no actual map, but there's sufficient in the description to give an idea of its layout and you shouldn't need more than that.


Although what needs to be done is pretty straightforward, there's quite a loose feel about it with plenty of scope to run the trip as you choose, yet plenty of resources - encounters, wandering monsters, etc. - supplied to support you. The end should prove exciting - provided that the little queen is still alive, that is - and there are notes on how to continue, whether she manages to escape or not.


There's quite a lot packed into a few pages here, and it ought to give your group a good session or two adventuring... and includes a neat potential moral dilemma for those parties who like to think about the consequences of what they are doing.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Vessel of Stars (3.0)
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Delta Green: Agent's Handbook
Publisher: Arc Dream Publishing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/30/2016 12:58:50

Opening with an Overview, this is the players' book for the Delta Green RPG. The Overview is interesting, stating that it is a warning... that Delta Green is not about adventure and bug hunts and guns, but about fear. A fear that the things the characters deal with can end not just their lives but the very Earth itself. Once it's calmed down a bit, there's a more reasoned explanation of what Delta Green is and does: a covert operation hidden within the depths of the establishment, with a mission to investigate, contain, and conceal unnatural events. It's a strange organisation with no headquarters or bases, with most agents knowing only a few others and generally working a 'day job' when they are not off on a mission for Delta Green. Agents are recruited carefully and slowly, they need to be certain that they have the right people. There's a run-through of the common features of all the missions undertaken: suspense, horror, violence, moral dilemmas, secrets, mind-bending knowledge, and the personal and professional consequences of being a Delta Green agent. This opening chapter ends with an outline of how the game is played, primarily aimed at those not familiar with role-playing games.


Next, Agents contains all the information you need to create your character. The system is based on Chaosium's Basic Role Playing one with characters described by their Statistics (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Power and Charisma) which can be rolled or determined through a point-buy system. There are some Derived Attributes to work out, then you select a Profession and Skills before adding personal details including the character's bonds to important people (vital for hanging on to your sanity) as well as things like name, appearance, current job and so on. There's masses of detail to help you through the process. If you don't care for the Professions offered here (which provide your main Skills), there are notes on how to invent your own.


Then The Game is a chapter which explains, in great detail, how to play the game, and use the abilities and skills that your character has to effect. The core system is percentage based, with the aim being to roll under the percentage you have in an applicable Statistic or Skill. It's advised that you only get the dice out if the task you wish to undertake is a difficult one, if the situation is unpredictable or when there are consequences to failure... dire ones, that is. There are lots of examples to show you how the system works, but it's pretty intuitive. One nice angle is the Luck Roll - a straight unmodified roll giving you a 50% chance of things going your way: use this when wondering if the car you just stole has a first-aid kit aboard as you need one, or if the neighbours are in when you are busy kicking a door down to break in... There's things like opposed tests and pursuits here as well.


Combat, however, gets a chapter to itself. This takes you through brawling in great detail, with all the options available - some of them optional - and how to make the most of the skills, equipment and situation that you have. There's a lot to absorb here, but it's worth reading so that when you do have to fight, you do so to best effect. It can get pretty lethal though - just like the real world - so pick your fights carefully. There's also things like protection, healing and other useful combat-related material here too, as well as other ways to harm or be harmed - poisons, environmental dangers, fire, falls and so on.


Next comes Sanity. In a game about horror and fear, it's quite easy to lose your marbles... so here are the rules for hanging on to your sanity, or losing it big style. All sorts of things can put a Delta Green Agent's sanity at risk, both the things that they see and experience, and the things they find that they have to do. There's a splendid selection of disorders that deranged minds might turn to, and a scant few notes on therapy that may, just may, aid in recovery.


The next chapter is Home. The brief respite of normal everyday life that anchors agents, reminds them of why they do what they do, reminds them of normal life. In this game, short scenes are used - normally between missions - to enable agents to touch base, but also to see how what they have done and seen affects that which they hold most dear. This is also when they can attend theraphy sessions, gain additional skills through training and study... or even face prosecution if the authorities have noticed what they've been up to! It's a neat way of incorporating an air of real life into the game, making things like boosting your skills a part of the game rather than book-keeping.


This is followed by Equipment and Vehicles. This deals with the gear that the agent needs (or would like to have). The expense is handled in an arbitrary manner without tracking every dollar spent. You only have to argue the case for access to high value or hard to obtain items, most of the time it's deemed that agents have access to the things that they need. It depends on the mission, the cover story and the item you want... and a lot is left to the Handler's discretion! There can be consequences for asking for something that the powers-that-be deem inappropriate to what they think you are doing, and there can be an after-action review in which awkward questions can be asked. Or you can try the black market... It's only then that we get down to the actual lists and applicable game mechanics for actual items. Again, it's a neat system which adds realism to the process without bogging it down in masses of accounting and record-keeping.


Next is an extensive chapter of Federal Agencies. All the alphabet soup agencies you've heard of and quite a few that, unless you are obsessive about US government agencies, you probably didn't know existed. It also includes the military, as well as law enforcement, intelligence, diplomats and public safety. The main idea here is that they are potential employers of record for our agents. Each agency is described with notes on whether or not their staff have powers of arrest, do they carry weapons as a matter of course, what funds are available to them and do they have access to more exotic items of equipment. Appropriate professions are listed for each one, and there are notes on how best to play a member of that agency. It's all quite fascinating, and gives a wide range of interesting backgrounds - I once played a Centers for Disease Control doctor, another time I was a CIA consultant and historian scampering around Afghanistan...


Finally, there's a series of appendices covering tradecraft (all those useful tricks of espionage or undercover work), a comprehensive glossary and some recommended reading. And a character sheet.


It's an excellent introduction to the game with loads of useful background to help you create and play an effective Delta Green agent. Good luck... you'll need it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Delta Green: Agent's Handbook
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Murder in Baldur's Gate (5e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/29/2016 08:08:07

This is a quite fascinating adventure, as it is far more of a sandbox than many although there's plenty going on to keep the characters busy - indeed they are likely to get swamped and prioritise what needs to be dealt with right now, and what can be done later if at all. You can run it with any Dungeons and Dragons ruleset from 3e to 5e, but it is designed with the aim of introducing - in character - the changes that transferring to D&D 5e would entail, being released prior to the launch of that ruleset.


You get a 32-page adventure guide, a 64-page setting book and a DM screen. The PDF version also includes additional material that was made available as free downloads to purchasers of the 'dead tree' version.


The Campaign Guide consists of a comprehensive gazetteer to the city of Baldur's Gate. Although the settlement has been mentioned in Forgotten Realms material for ages, here is the real low-down on the place, a good chance to really get to know it. With plentiful maps and illustrations and details on everything from municipal leaders to the best inns to frequent, its usefulness will last far beyond this adventure to anytime the party is in town. There are places to go, things to see and lots to do... and reading through it spawns plenty of ideas for adventure, particularly if your taste turns to urban plotliness (as mine does). Most of it is system-neutral so no matter which version of D&D you want to play, it will be a useful book to have to hand.


Turning attention to the adventure itself, Murder in Baldur's Gate, this teeming and prosperous city we have just read about is on the brink of breakdown. Part of this is due to inequality - the city is extremely stratified with the rich separated from the middle classes and them from those in real poverty - who are still expected to pay taxes although they don't get any of the services that the taxes are levied to fund! This is exacerbated by a spate of murders that herald attempts by the deity of assassins, Bhaal himself, to be resurrected with three villains competing to become his Chosen... and they do not care what happens to the city in the process. The delightful sting in the tail is that if the party chooses to solve the problem by removing those three rivals permanently, one of them will find Bhaal tapping on their shoulder instead!


Event piles upon event in dizzying complexity. The party won't see or be involved in everything, but it's likely that they will hear about the ones they don't witness - although how credible the reports are is open to question. The DM should study the material thoroughly in advance, after all it won't do for them to get swamped, that's the party's fate. Everything is laid out quite clearly, though, and there's a lot of flexibility to allow the DM to respond to the party's actions yet keep everything on track.


This adventure provides plenty of scope for interaction and intrigue, but violence is never far away so those looking for combat will not be disappointed. It's exciting and engrossing and gives low-level characters an unprecidented opportunity to be involved in momentous events. It all ends in buckets of blood, riots and possibly a big explosion: memorable in the extreme. For me it works well, I love urban intrigue and investigation - but it may be more of a struggle for those players who prefer a good dungeon crawl and conduct interactions at sword-point without the distraction of conversation!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Murder in Baldur's Gate (5e)
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Qin: The Warring States free demo kit
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/25/2016 09:59:17

Originally released in advance of the actual game itself, this is a good opportunity to take a peek at this system before taking the plunge and purchasing a copy.


It starts with a brief introduction to the game and some atmospheric fiction before launching into The History of the Empire and The Warring States, which set the scene in an admirably concise style. There's a page on Magic in Qin, with the reminder that in the mystical China of this game, people regard magic as quite normal and not supernatural... it's just someone who knows how the universe works manipulating it.


Then it's on to game mechanics with an outline of how characters are described in game mechanical terms and an overiew of the rules. Finally, two completely developed characters are presented, complete with character sheets, and it is suggested that you try out the rules by having them brawl with one another.


That's it, quite short and sweet. The background material does give a whistle-stop tour of the setting, and could be used to explain to prospective players the world in which their characters would exist... but there's a lot more to this game than fighting so it's a shame that there is no short scenario to play through as an introduction: just saying 'Here's 2 characters, let them fight' doesn't really give a fair impression of what this mystical game is all about!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Warring States free demo kit
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Qin: The Tournament of Scarlet and White
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2016 04:04:51

The Tournament of Scarlet and White is a short scenario that can be run as a one-off or in a convention slot, or as a diversion during a regular campaign. It covers events in a township where, years ago, the provincial governor was overthrown and replaced by the leader of a band of mercenaries. As he's done a good job since, the powers that be have left him alone. Every year the new governor, one Qi Xiang, holds a tournament that is open to all comers, and this year the party has decided to give it a go...


An Introduction sets the scene, covering recent history and outlining Qi Xiang's further ambitions, for of course a minor governorship will not satisfy him for ever. It also introduces some leading members of his mercenary band, deliberately unstatted as this adventure is for low level characters and they are supposed to be far too powerful for them to even consider challenging... my group is not that wise, so I made sure that I had a rough idea of their capabilities before running this! Their nicknames are based on pieces from a xiangqi (a Chinese equivalent of chess) board, for Qi Xiang is said to treat everyone as if they were chess pieces, to be moved about to his advantage.


Next we hear about the tournament itself, with some background on tournaments in general in mystical China. There are quite a lot of different competitions, so it's likely that any party member who wishes to compete will find a suitable one whilst there is plenty for the rest of the party to watch and do even if they don't care to participate in the tournament itself. That's neat, it gives everyone an opportunity to shine. Various options are provided, depending on how 'authentic' you want events to be, with any necessary additional rule mechanics provided. You'll probably want to plan out what will be happening in advance, but you have the tools you need to do so here.


And then we get to the plot itself. You may think that the tournament will provide entertainment enough (indeed it could), but there's a lot more at stake this year and opportunity for the party to get embroiled in events... particularly if they enjoy intrigue, although there's plenty of combat and other adventure as well. There's a detailed outline of events as they'd play out if the characters don't interfere, which you can modify as and when they do get involved - a nice way of letting their actions have real effect whilst creating the impression that life goes on around them regardless.


There are notes on different ways of running the scenario, particularly if you are not constrained by time and can really indulge in the considerable atmosphere - something I'd recommend. There is a lot going on in and around the tournament and various ways to involve the party. Options for expanding the scenario, including prequel events, are included, of particular use if you wish to incorporate it into a campaign. Six pre-generated characters are provided. They make a nice group, so if you are starting out your campaign they are worth considering if your players prefer to use them rather than create their own; and of course if you are running a one-off or convention game, you don't want to spend any of your limited time in character creation!


Overall this is an enchanting adventure, full of atmosphere and with considerable depth, something that will enhance any campaign or provide an excellent diversion - perhaps even get your group hooked on Qin: The Warring States and demanding more. The only flaw is considerable reference to a subsequent adventure (The Song of Bamboo Tears) which at the time of writing, some four years after this was published, still has not appeared!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Tournament of Scarlet and White
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Qin: The Art of War
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/23/2016 12:01:57

There's a lot of warfare going on in this game, it isn't called Qin: The Warring States for nothing! As the seven states squabble there is plenty of opportunity - perhaps the party wish to become mercenaries or they may see their attempts at diplomacy (or spying) fail, they may become involved in a border skirmish or a siege... whether it's a small scuffle or all-out war, this is a good time and place to display your martial prowess. This supplement gives you all the tools you need, from comprehensive descriptions of the forces maintained by each state to rules for fighting out any scale of brawl right up to epic battles, and several scenarios and ready-to-play characters to thrust your party headlong into the action. Or you may wish to play out battles to form a backdrop to the characters' exploits...


First up is The Armies of the Zhongguo. Drawing on the work of the real-world Chinese strategist Sun Tzu, here called Sun Zi, there is a discussion of how - and why - war is waged in the Zhongguo. War may be the last resort in dispute resolution, but for many it seems to be the first resort... so there is an impressive list of past battles to study and learn from, as well as plenty of 'modern' tactical thought. Fiction is interspersed with information about recruitment and training, the structure of the armed forces and even warlike artefacts that have power within the game. There are scenario seeds, new items of equipment (and new skills to use them), details of mercenary groups and weapons, tactics for the battlefield and even notes on military intelligence gathering and battlefield communication. There is a wealth of information to help you wage war, mystical China style.


Next is The Armies of the Warring States, which takes a detailed look at military provision in each of the seven states. Naturally, some are more warlike than others, but all need to be prepared to defend themselves at least. There's a wealth of detail here that can be used as background if one of your characters has seen service, or if the party interacts with the military somewhere; or if you are so inclined, to provide information for more wargame style combat. Individual commanders and other notables are presented with complete stat blocks, so they can take their place amongst your NPCs as required. Each state has its own style, quite distinctive in composition of their forces and in the way they are deployed, which makes for interesting reading. And if you wish to stray beyond the borders, there are notes - less detailed but of use nonetheless - about the armed forces of nearby lands.


Then Battles in the Warring States presents a mass combat system for when you want to stage a really big war. It is simple and flexible, designed to weave around your role-play rather than serve as a full-blown skirmish wargame, with the aim of allowing you to determine the outcome of any battle that may take place. The party may see a combat, participate in it or perhaps even rise to become Generals and lead it, and this system provides a non-arbitrary way of resolving it. It begins with each commander issuing orders and making dispositions for his troops and then making a Battle Test which determines which side has the advantage. Then it operates with a series of turns in which orders are given and acted upon, and allows for the intervention of Heroes (i.e. the party, should they be actively involved). It is reasonably straightforward and logical and works best when a player controls each army - or if the party controls one army and the GM the other. Handled well, it provides an exciting backdrop to character actions.


Finally, Running Military Battles provides advice on how to incorporate warfare into your game with lots of suggestions as to how to get the party involved, and how to run campaigns (in the military rather than the role-playing sense) to effect. This ends with two complete scenarios - A Conspiracy in the Desert and The Battle of the Reeds and Willows - which use the mass combat system and place the party in command of a small force. They are both exciting and add a new dimension to the steady fare of adventure.


For many, this adds the exciting new dimension of larger-scale warfare to the game, yet handles it in such a way that it supports and enhances character-based role-play rather than swamping it. For others, who prefer battles to stay in the background, the mass combat system will be overkill: but even they might find the other information herein of use.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Qin: The Art of War
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Doctor Who - The Silurian Age
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/22/2016 12:24:37

The Introduction sets the scene: this book is a resource for adventures where the Doctor goes back in time rather than forwards, in particular when he goes way, way back to times when dinosaurs ruled the Earth. It also, slightly incongruosly, has a complete set of rules for spaceships including combat and chases, and an impressive array of ones you might encouter in your travels. Top that off with material on the Silurians themselves and an adventure, and there's plenty to get your teeth into.


The first chapter, History Repeating Itself, looks at what happens when your time travels take you back before human beings even existed. It talks about finding out precisely when you are, about how to survive and live off the land if for some reason you end up stuck there without your TARDIS. There's a sweep through different epochs of time with notes on how to distinguish them with a knowing glance at the fauna and flora, as well as details of possible adventures. Here having the various Doctor Sourcebooks comes in handy, as events are cross-referenced to where they were mentioned under the appropriate Doctor's adventures along with other ideas for you to develop for yourself if you fancy them. Information on extinction events and low-tech companions provide added material... and that's before you get to a whole bunch of story hooks and plot seeds! This section also includes ideas for when dinosaurs travel forwards in time and invade the present day. There's also a bestiary of dinosaurs, complete with stat blocks, so when dinosaurs do turn up, you'll know how they work. Illustrations include a very life-like triceratops, although the other dinosaur images are rather disappointing.


The next chapter is The Silurians and here we get the lowdown on this fascinating species. Strictly speaking they are not aliens. They lived on Earth - and sought refuge in hibernation when they thought it was going to be destroyed - long before humans were around. People going far enough back in time might meet them, and the hibernating ones wake up every so often too. There's loads of information about them here, starting off with the fact that there's no such thing as 'a Silurian' - there are two related species, quite distinct one from another... and each with several sub-species. There's information on their government and politics, how they lived in their hey-day and what happens when hibernating ones awaken. Notes cover the Doctor's previous encounters with Silurians, and there's a sample Silurian city should you fancy awakening some of them yourself. There are also sample Silurians and details of Silurian space arks and other technology. The chapter ends with some plot hooks and story seeds and notable Silurian individuals who've turned up before... and if one if the group fancies playing a Silurian, the information you'll need is here too.


Then comes a chapter titled Spaceships, which presents rules for spacehips and their operation, and for combat and chases involving them. There's also a veritable spotter's guide to just some of the myriad hordes of ships owned and operated by various spacefaring species. There are plenty of adventure seeds to get you going as well.


Finally, Asteroid Day is an adventure that involves loads of time travel, backwards and forwards, with Silurians attempting to survive a massive asteroid impact any way they can, UNIT worrying about some time travellers who have gone missing, and the Doctor and his companions stuck in the middle trying to sort it all out as problems pile upon problems. High stakes, high jinks, and all jolly good fun!


Overall, a fascinating if disjointed book - it's as if several ideas collided and got stuffed between the same set of covers. Yet it's all good material and provides serveal ways to enhance your game in interesting and novel directions. After all, spaceships and dinosaurs?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Doctor Who - The Silurian Age
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