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Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2016 10:28:22

Billed as a 1st-level adventure and suitable for starting off your campaign, this is almost a mini-campaign in its own right with the added advantage of providing a place suitable for the party to use as a base if they fancy doing so. There's a lot packed into these pages!


We start with evidence of the mature and ordered design process that typifies Raging Swan Press product in the shape of a set of notes detailing how to understand the anatomy of an encounter. This shows the various components, and then goes through them explaining how to read the details presented and use them to effect. If you like writing your own materials, it's worth studying these to help you structure them effectively, especially if you want other people to be able to run them. Don't be baffled by a stat block or flounder when the party wants to identify what they've found ever again!


We then move on to the background to the adventure. Whilst this is summarised here for the GM, much of it can be discovered by the players either by research and rumour-hunting before their characters set off or through the adventure itself. The keep - whose proper name is Ironwolf Keep, but few people call it that - is situated on a hilltop in the middle of a dense forest, a bit off the beaten track, and whilst the Keep and its immediate surroundings are well detailed, it is designed so that you can drop it into any appropriate location in your own campaign world.


Next comes the introduction to the adventure. There are several ideas that you can use to get it off to a flying start, pick whichever you think will appeal to your party. Once you have them hooked, there are two ways to find out more: a character may roll on Knowledge (local) or Knowledge (history) if he has them to recall some information, or anyone can ask around and pick up some rumours about the place... not all of which are true, but what do you expect of gossip picked up in taverns? Armed with whatever they manage to find out, the party then needs to reach the Keep so there's a section about woodland travel and the dangers that they might encounter... including a bear and wolves, as well as other creatures that may be less friendly. There's plenty of those little details that make the whole thing come to life as well.


This attention to detail continues throughout the rest of the adventure, which falls into four parts: The Watchtower, the Donjon, the Realm of the Blood Moon and the Undercrypt - all parts of Ironwolf Keep itself. In nature this adventure is pretty much of a sandbox with the party free to explore as they please... yet in a neat embellishment there is a 'timeline' of what is going on in and around the Keep, things that will happen irrespective of what the party is doing, but which gives that air of reality - this is a living setting which will carry on regardless of what the characters do or even if they are still there. It's a really nice touch, and something worth considering for your own adventures (or even for adding in to published ones, if that's what you prefer). Yes, the party are the heroes of THIS story, but there are other stories going on around them.


Each area of the Keep is described in detail making it very easy to picture in the mind's eye - and so describe it to the players. Further aid is given in a series of handouts including illustrations you can use as 'This is what you see' as the party explores. Throughout, there are various options as to what they can do, with the ramifications explained clearly. These touches would make it easy for a novice GM to run, yet serve to enhance the ease of play even if you are no stranger to that side of the screen. There are opportunities aplenty for combat, but also times when stopping to talk could prove to the party's advantage.


If the party is so minded, once cleared the Keep could make a good base for them, and you could build future adventures around them settling in and then using it as a base from which to explore their surroundings and seek excitement and profit... or they may prefer to loot what they can and move on. If the entire place is explored and cleared, the party should be 3rd-level by the time they are done. And there are plenty of little snippets scattered here and there to spawn ideas for further adventures.


Overall, if you are looking to start a campaign from scratch in a temperate frontier-type setting, this would be ideal. There are even nine pre-generated characters for your players to choose from if they'd rather jump straight into the action than roll up their own, each fulled armed and equipped and ready for play. This is truly a campaign start in a single package.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands
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Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands (Free Version)
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/30/2016 13:04:42

This is intended as a 'teaser' for the full Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands adventure, but contains quite a lot in its own right. There's certainly enough there to let you decide if this adventure is for you and your group of players... reading through it certainly makes me want for more!


As is common to Raging Swan Press product, there's a very logical and ordered approach, starting with an extensive analysis of how encounters are designed and presented as well as their customary page on how to read a stat block correctly. This advice dispensed, on to the adventure background - and this is the background to the WHOLE adventure, not this cut-down version. It tells the history of Ironwolf Keep, known these days as the Shadowed Keep and why it now stands ruined. Although of itself very detailed, its surroundings and location are left vague so that you can put it somewhere convenient within your own campaign world. You just need a handy hilltop surrounded by dense woodlands to put it on.


Next come some hooks to get the party interested - choose whichever seems best to you - and some rumours and information that they can pick up if they ask around before diving in to the adventure proper. The next part deals with the approach to the Keep, which is somewhat off the beaten path. This provides opportunity for some woodland travel, enlivened with the presence of a bear, some wolves and other potential dangers.


Once the Keep is reached, there's an overview description along with a nice sketch (which is repeated in the handouts section so you can show it to the players easily). Likewise there's a sketched plan with both marked and unmarked versions. Before launching into detailed descriptions of locations there is another nice touch: a timeline of what is going on in the Keep and vicinity. It's intended that this should run irrespective of what the party are doing, a neat reminder that life goes on no matter what they might do, even when they are not there at all!


There are notes on how to use the timeline as well as ideas for further adventures (most of which assume you have played the full adventure, not just explored the surface ruins presented in this version). Then come the detailed descriptions of the above-ground part of the ruined keep, a section entitled Donjon of Ruin. There's a fair bit to explore... indeed, this could make an adventure in its own right! It's quite amazing to have this much detail in something intended as a free taster for an even bigger adventure. Each location is covered in considerable detail, all laid out clearly making it easy to describe the location to the players and administer whatever events take place there.


As an adventure, this would prove an interesting interlude, as the introduction to an even bigger scenario... well, it certainly makes you hungry for the rest of it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands (Free Version)
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Dark Oak
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/29/2016 11:42:51

The backstory to this adventure sets the scene for the GM: a dastardly druid, a distraught treant and a bunch of inbred lizardfolk creating a fetid mix that attempted to bring woe on a village near the swamp in which they dwelt many years ago... and it looks as if they have resumed hostilities, given recent evidence of attacks. Once you've got that straight, there's a synopsis as to how the adventure might play out, and then we're off!


The actual locations used in the adventure are richly detailed, but their surroundings are not: thus it is easy to set it anywhere suitable in your own campaign world - just find some swampy woodlands and you are good to go. It's also self-contained enough to make a good one-off game, you ought to be able to run it in an evening's play.


Several hooks are provided, you can choose whatever seems best to get the party interested. What's even nicer is a selection of 'pre-hooks' - rumours that you can sprinkle into your campaign in advance of running this adventure that set the scene for when you do decide to unleash it. Getting the party to the lair is, however, otherwise left up to you - although some unpleasant splashing through a smelly swamp is recommended.


Once the party has arrived at the location the detail kicks in. It's not a nice place to live, dank and smelling of mud (and probably worse) and with a river actually flowing through it. There's a wealth of information about the lair and its residents, making it all come to rather unpleasant life and giving you everything you need to run the party's exploration and every encounter. At least twice, encounters are written two ways: one way should the party decide to fight and one way should they choose to try negotiations first. (Of course, if talks break down you can always go into fight mode.) Detailed stat blocks and tactical notes are provided, along with scaling notes if your party is more or less capable than the four 5th-level characters for which the adventure is intended.


Handouts/play aids provided include an unlabelled map of the lair (with or without a grid), details of magic items that may be found and copies of some of the artwork to use as 'this is what you see' when certain individuals are encountered. There are also six pre-generated characters, should you be running this as a one-off and are in a hurry to get going. Two new magic items and a couple of drugs/diseases are also included.


Fancy seeing your party splash through a fetid swamp? This is for you!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Oak
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2300AD: Atlas of the French Arm
Publisher: Mongoose
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/28/2016 13:28:06

In the French Arm, you'll find the oldest, richest colonies, many of big enough and strong enough to survive as nations in their own right. Here is a mammoth work, atlas and gazetteer and source of many an adventure idea, to fuel your party's explorations and adventures here.


Exploring the French Arm, the first chapter, gives an overview of the history and current state of affairs. It all paints a picture of a living dynamic area, with various tensions and problems arising, being resolved or then fading away again, layering to create the present-day situation. It also shows how the use of languages has followed, with both French and English being useful for the would-be spacefarer.


This follows on naturally into the next section, Conflict on the French Arm. To start with, things were peaceful with exploration rather than conflict occupying people's minds, but of late things have become more contentious. Many conflicts have their origin in squabbles back on Earth that have spilled over to space, with colonies perpetuating the differences begun on Earth and indeed sometimes acting as their proxies. There have also been minor skirmishes as different factions and groups have butted heads. Most recently, however, the source of conflict has come to the Arm with the ever-mounting threat posed by the Kaefers.


Next is a chapter on Organisations, those extra-governmental entities that have a profound effect along the French Arm, influencing policies and decision making across over a dozen systems and countless worlds. Many are commercial in nature, massive corporations that rival governments in scope and influence. Some are 'private security companies' - mercenaries for hire, in other words. There are also those organisations lumped together under the term 'foundations' being any non-governmental, non-commercial group. Several dedicate themselves to 'pure science' or so the PR goes, although they're not backwards in monetising their discoveries. And of course there are terrorists, outlaws and organised crime, pushing their 'cause' or merely lining their own pockets at everyone else's expense. In some way, most of these will impact on anyone visiting the French Arm - suppliers, employers, enemies or allies... or just names in a news bulletin.


Then comes a chapter entitled Libertines. These are the folk who occupy a niche on the spacelanes equivalent to where Romany or Gypsies or Travellers fit in on Earth. It's a fascinating web of relationships and concepts, wrapped up and living in space, roving the French Arm although they are actually more prevalent in the Chinese Arm. Families are at the core of their culture, with ships crewed and run by extended families, some of whom we meet here. In similar vein the next chapter deals with the Belters, those fiercely independent souls who mine asteroid belts for whatever valuable materials they can find.


Next we hear of Mysteries of the French Arm. The tall tales you hear in spacer bars. Strange ruins predating exploration. Unidentified alien objects, some being actual artefacts, others glimpses in the distance... and this leads neatly in to a chapter on Intelligent Life, there being at least three known non-human intelligent races to be found in the French Arm - the Pentapods, the Kaefers and the Arbors.


Scene now set we move on to the Atlas proper. In the fairly large volume of space there are but twelve inhabited colony worlds, with many systems lacking really habitable worlds although many sport outposts. There's a quite lengthy discourse on 'planetology', the science of describing star systems, showing what the various descriptors applied in the Atlas to follow mean. First up, however, are the Outposts - small settlements that are not fully-fledged colonies in their own right but which serve as way-stations on the route to someplace else or which have other purposes.


The listing of outposts is followed by a chapter on Colonies, which introduces the twelve colony worlds. They then get a chapter apiece, with all the information you need to understand what they'd be like to visit in the course of your adventures. For each, there is system data, notes on each planet and the settlements upon them, then the history, native wildlife and more about the mainworld that is the colony itself. Maps, weather charts, a wealth of detail to enable your party to visit or even settle there.


This raises the question: is this a book for all players or the referee alone? The answer is, probably a bit of both. Most of the information here could be researched by an interested character, some at least will be covered in a normal education or is the sort of thing you pick up if you pay attention to documentaries and travel shows. It's possibly best to restrict access a bit, but when direct enquiries are made be open about the information that answers that enquiry... but no more. Make players work for the information, but provide it when they do.


Finally there is a chapter called Exploratory Worlds. This provides details of just a few of the worlds that have charted but barely visited yet - ideal for a game in which exploration of new worlds is to be a feature. There's enough here to get you started and plenty of scope to develop them however you wish.


In short, this is a massive and excellent resource for anyone planning games set in the French Arm. It makes you want to take ship and visit forthwith...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
2300AD: Atlas of the French Arm
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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.



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[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.



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[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.



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[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.



Rating:
[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.



Rating:
[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!



Rating:
[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!



Rating:
[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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