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Thoughts on Fate: A Collection of Essays on the Fate RPG
Publisher: Amazing Rando Design
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/15/2016 01:55:39

A nice collection of ideas for tweaking Fate and pulling more story out of the basic Fate mechanics. I was particularly interested in the recap aspects, circumstantial PC aspects, and blooming onions -- no, I mean tiered opponents. These are all simple but effective ideas I will add to my own games. The junkyard boss fight example was both fun to read and inspiring for GMs. And finally, I really enjoyed how author Randy Oest used examples of aspects and in-game events that serve as valuable illustrations for those new to the system of what you can do with basic Fate "tech." Well worth the $2.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thoughts on Fate: A Collection of Essays on the Fate RPG
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Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade
Publisher: Vigilance Press
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2014 14:49:40

Tianxia: Blood, Silk and Jade is based on the Fate Core system, with a martial arts system layered on top. Since this system primarily uses aspects with free invocations, stunt-like techniques, an extra skill (Chi), and the optional Weapon and Armour ratings from Fate Core, it’s actually quite easy to handle for Fate veterans.

The book is simply gorgeous, thanks to the gorgeous illustrations by Denise Jones and an attractive, legible layout. It may appear like a slim book at first (181 pages not counting the appendices and index), but that’s because it doesn’t have to spend much time on system since it does not repeat the Fate system basic rules. Since Fate Core is available on a pay-what-you-like basis from Evil Hat Productions, gamers are not saddled with an excessive cost. Author Jack Norris packed a lot of goodness in these pages, 36 kung fu styles, numerous locations and characters to use, story seeds, a random adventure menu, and good insight into the genre.

The story seeds are open-ended, built exactly right to go with my philosophy of player-driven adventures: they offer a situation, some antagonists, and ideas for ways to embroil the heroes in the plot. Where they lead is up to your group, not a predetermined scenario.

The characters are well-designed, and thanks to the stunt-like techniques, are relatively easy to play. Let’s not kid ourselves, martial arts games always require a little extra effort for the GM to familiarize herself in advance with the characters so she’s ready to rumble in the big fights, but thanks to the Fate system this is not too onerous. This has been the most satisfying wuxia system in my gaming experience, flexible enough that re-matches between opponents don’t generate the same fight every time (unlike games like, say, Weapons of the Gods where you always have the same optimal combination against a given opponent), lighter than Hero or the old Feng Shui, yet more structured than Wushu so each character has a specific flavour.

In short, I absolutely love this book, and I’m really glad I was able to afford the hardback print version during the Kickstarter funding campaign. If you like wuxia games, this is the book for you, and I can’t wait for the planned supplements to come out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade
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Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2014 14:45:48

This is the game I had hoped the Serenity RPG would be, back in 2005. The thoroughly non-groundbreaking Cortex Classic system has been overhauled into the now quite interesting Cortex Plus system (also behind the Leverage RPG, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, and Smallville RPG.) The thick, meaty book contains a lot of information about the Verse, and useful game-mastering advice. A collection of customizable character templates provides lots of ideas and allows simplified character creation if you don’t want to play the original cast.

Characters have attributes, skills, distinctions, and assets, each assigned a die type from d4 to d12. The more important or beneficial the characteristic, the larger the die size. Whenever rolling to accomplish something, you roll at least two dice (one for attribute and one for skill), plus any number of bonus dice for favourable circumstances, distinctions and assets you can bring into play, keeping the total of the two highest in the roll Results of 1 on a die can be “bought” as complication by the GM by offering a Plot Point.. You can also earn Plot Points by taking risks or getting yourself in trouble in various ways; Plot Points can be used to do a variety of things such as keep more dice, add an asset, etc.

It’s all fairly intuitive in play, and allows for nice ups-and-downs as well as narrative power (every die added must be explained by the player’s narration). The downside is that all rolls are opposed, i.e., the GM needs to roll against every player roll. The system allows for five levels of NPCs, from most powerful and detailed to sketchiest and least threatening: Heavy, Medium, and Light Major NPCs, Minor NPCs, and Extras. But the necessity of rolling for every action made me want to stick to Minor NPCs and Extras, which have fewer mechanical bits to worry about.

In general, I prefer games that lighten my task as GM since I throw in a lot of improvisation, for example games that require no rolls on the GM’s part (like Hollow Earth Expedition, and Apocalypse World and its many hacks) or games that have streamlined stats (like PDQ, Fate, and many story games.) If I ran this for a series, I would probably use the mean roll values to create flat scores, like in Hollow Earth Expedition so I would not need to roll. For example, an attribute at d6 and a skill at d8 would result in a score of 8 (mean value of rolling d6+d8) against which the player’s roll result would be compared. So all in all, not a system that actively promotes letting go of the plot since you may have to scramble to find NPC stats and other info, but not one that opposes it either.

Visually, the book is very attractive, and the paper and binding are of high quality. NPCs that were not in the original television show are portrayed using photographs that are given a visual treatment similar to the show stills, providing continuity. I appreciate that a serious effort was made to add a lot of female and non-white characters this way, and especially Asian-looking characters, something that was always underplayed on television. The writing is good, though it periodically tries too hard to sound like Malcolm Reynolds. For example:

Equipment in the FIREFLY RPG is only important if’n it affects the outcome of an action you want to take. It’s easy enough to fall in love with the ’Verse, but spendin’ all your time describin’ a fancy six-shooter don’t amount to a hill of beans unless its pearl handle and monogrammed initials matter to your story.

I get rapidly tired of this but once I get past the mannerisms, the writing and advice are solid, as Adelai Niska would say.

One of the cleverest features of the book is also a source of a bit of trouble for the GM. A sizeable section of the book walks through every one of the 14 Firefly episodes and treats them as if they were games run using the system, showing how the rules would have been used to produce this particular result. Each episode is followed up with a collection of ideas for future episodes that would tie back into the story, thus rooting an on-going campaign in the Verse background. It’s an excellent way to introduce a fan to role-playing, and provides tons of useful examples of rule use. Unfortunately, it means that many of the examples, NPCs, plot ideas, and rules adjudications are scattered through that section and hard to find in the middle of an adventure, especially without an index.

At $50, the book is not exactly cheap but it’s reasonably priced for the overall quality. MWP offers the PDF free for those who purchased the print version through their Preferred Retailer Program. The PDF is of high quality and fully bookmarked, something not all publishers have grasped is a necessity. However, it will not allow to re-print pages to a new PDF, such as if you want to upload the character sheets to a place like FedEx Kinko’s.

Overall, it’s a very good book, well written and well laid out, but a tad tricky to find things in during play. Highly recommended for fans of the show.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
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Motobushido: The Motorcycle-Samurai RPG
Publisher: Alliterated Games
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/02/2014 14:42:53

A lot of the characters’ and setting’s history is created by the players. You don’t use dice but two decks of playing cards, one for the Sensei and one for the players. Most actions can be merely narrated; you only use the cards when it’s time to take risks (“Gambit”) or fight (“Duels.”) At first, the system is disorienting for those of us used to dice; it looks like no other role-playing game I can think of.

Of all the RPGs I’ve played that used standard playing cards to resolve actions, this has the most enjoyable, tactical and interesting system. It blows the ones in Hillfolk/DramaSystem or Prime Time Adventures out of the water, for example. It’s not just a matter of having more cards, or higher cards; a lot of strategy can go into deciding when to escalate or concede, in order to save an advantage for later.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Motobushido: The Motorcycle-Samurai RPG
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LWTJ - Pantheon: Celtic
Publisher: Silver Branch Games
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/14/2007 00:00:00

This supplement offers 25 deities and programmes for the PDQ/Truth & Justice-based edition of Legends Walk!, as well as new powers and several sample imbued characters. The Celtic pantheon is particularly helpful if you intend to set a game in some of the key events and places of the Legends Walk! default setting, Legendary Earth.

Like other LW-T&J supplements, this e-book can also serve as a sourcebook for a pure fantasy PDQ-based game, such as "Questers of the Middle Realms."<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Good overviews, informative and to the point. Good choice of gods, heroes and monsters.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
LWTJ - Pantheon: Celtic
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QMR - Ten Magical Thingies, vol. 1
Publisher: Silver Branch Games
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/14/2007 00:00:00

This very short supplement presents ten fanciful magical items that are best used in a tongue-in-cheek campaign (the default mode for Questers of the Middle Realms). In you like reading Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series or Pierce Anthony's Xanth, then these magical thingies will delight you.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Funny, clever and creative items.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Not suitable for most "serious" campaigns. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
QMR - Ten Magical Thingies, vol. 1
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QMR - Book of Bewildering Beasts
Publisher: Silver Branch Games
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/14/2007 00:00:00

A useful compendium of previously released mini-supplements, the Book of Bewildering Beasts offers not only "classic" monsters like ghosts, manticores and vampires, but also new and imaginative creatures (e.g., tremor worm, aphid golem!) as well as guidelines and a toolbox to design your own creatures. <br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Provides new takes on classic monsters, refreshing the cliches. The descriptions and qualities attached to each creature provide excellent tips for role-playing them into something more than speed bumps for the player characters.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
QMR - Book of Bewildering Beasts
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QMR - Character Assistant
Publisher: Silver Branch Games
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/14/2007 00:00:00

This short little play aid makes character creation for "Questers of the Middle Realms" even easier. It's particularly helpful for players and even GMs who are used to more traditional RPGs and have little or no experience with open-ended character creation. It can be used for random generation, but is even more useful as a series of examples to jog players' imaginations.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Short, sweet, to the point; adds structure for those who need it while remaining light-handed.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
QMR - Character Assistant
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Questers of the Middle Realms
Publisher: Silver Branch Games
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/14/2007 00:00:00

This is a light-hearted take on "classic" fantasy adventure role-playing, though it can indeed be used for more serious fantasy. For those gamers who are used to very structured games and are at first disoriented by the basic PDQ system, QotMR offers a gently structures approach to ease into the Do It Yourself aesthetic.

The Setting section packs a surprising amount of information and helpful ideas in a short space. The various places, gods, organisations, creatures and people are sufficiently individual and detailed that they are easy to tell apart and remember, but not so much that they will discourage the players from reading background information.

The GM's advice section is also helpful ahnd to the point, and the book ends with the traditional "sample adventure", a mini-dungeon. <br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Short and sweet, easy to read, well laid out, packs a lot of flavour and useful information in very little space. Excellent game to introduce new players to RPGs, including children.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Some of the stock art is a little weak.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Questers of the Middle Realms
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The Zorcerer of Zo
Publisher: Atomic Sock Monkey Press
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/06/2007 00:00:00

Excellent book, I can't recommend it enough. Can be played with all audiences young and old. Simple system that does the job and gets out of the way when not needed, but supports creative and adventurous play. Excellent support in the text on how to create and run a campaign from scratch. One of those games that truly fosters creativity and good, fun stories.

This is also the nicest-looking book published by ASMP so far, very nice presentation.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Great rules, easy to learn in a few minutes and fostering creative play; lovely presentation, excellent GM advice.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Zorcerer of Zo
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Firefly Games: Faery's Tale
Publisher: Ronin Arts
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/06/2007 00:00:00

Lovely game, perfect for playing with your younger children, say four to eight years old -- or with old hands at RPGs who want a gentler game for a change. The setting material shares the feeling of wonder and magic. Nice, simple system with options for diceless or LARP play make it flexible. <br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: High quality of writing and presentation, nice simple system.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Games: Faery's Tale
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Conflict, and A Person's Place In It
Publisher: Better Mousetrap Games
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/06/2007 00:00:00

Very interesting summary of the roots, mechanisms and effects of conflict. Gives a more serious, in-depth discussion than your average RPG level. This document is particularly useful for games with a serious take on killing (e.g., Godlike, Unknown Armies, etc.)<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Conflict, and A Person's Place In It
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Cold, Hard World: The Real World Sourcebook
Publisher: Atomic Sock Monkey Press
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/06/2007 00:00:00

Very much worth it if, like me, you'd rather run "Dead Inside" more in or very near the mortal world than in the Spirit World. Add to that a toolbox of GM resources and story ideas and the book suddenly becomes not only indispensable for "Dead Inside" but also useful with other PDQ games such as "Truth & Justice" and with other modern horror or suspense games.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cold, Hard World: The Real World Sourcebook
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Dead Inside: the Roleplaying Game of Loss & Redemption
Publisher: Atomic Sock Monkey Press
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/06/2007 00:00:00

This is the system I want to use to run games based on the TV show "Lost" or the Warren Ellis comic book "Fell", slightly altering the settings' premises to use that of "Dead Inside": the characters have somehow lost their souls and are trying to recover them (or grow new ones.)

The premise of the game makes a strong contrast with many modern horror RPGs, giving the PCs a reason to hope and work. The system is easily learned, taught, used, and can handle surprises thrown by your players.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Slick, simple mechanics; lovely premise that is dark and on the fringes of horror without the PCs themselves having to be the horror (though they can be), and with a glimmer of hope to guide them. Strong incentive to do more than "murder, pillage, burn." (Also, one of the ads was for good music.)<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The art and layout are only average; too many ads in the back.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dead Inside: the Roleplaying Game of Loss & Redemption
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octaNe: premium uNleaded
Publisher: Memento Mori Theatricks
by Sophie L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/17/2006 00:00:00

Very fun, but very challenging; you need a group where everyone is able to make stuff up on the fly (and not too self-conscious.) Very little structure, so you have to provide that yourself.<br><br> <b>LIKED</b>: Light, fast, fun, easy to learn and to play. Exciting action!<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Requires a high-energy group; if someone is having an off night, they might as well not show up.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br>



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
octaNe: premium uNleaded
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