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W20 The Poison Tree
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2015 23:34:49
As the product blurb states, this is part of the W20 Kickstarter and it is great to see new products still arriving so long after the initial rulebook release. I read a lot of gaming fiction, and White Wolf has novels that sit across the quality spectrum. This novel is certainly one of the better ones that I have read and it shows that the author not only has a good grasp of the core concepts and game material, but a great love for the setting.

The main story is about a besieged Sept ruled by a Shadow Lord Elder. Even though the Sept is part of a greater area, the Elder has autocratically locked down the city, whilst playing political games with both the Garou Nation and the human world. His former Glory is enough to cement his position, but the city is falling steadily to the Wyrm. His daughter Ingrid is the main character and the daily war against the Fomori (and worse) falls to her.

The setting is well-imagined and I'd love to see Onyx Path follow the same 'enhanced fiction' route as Catalyst - that is, a novel that presents the story and then includes game statistics in the back for major characters, places, and items. The overall feeling of the city is one of creeping, inevitable doom - perfectly evoked for Werewolf. The sense of impending Apocalypse is portrayed through a confluence of events that overlap and interact meaningfully and add to the story. Intertwined are the character relationships, influenced by Rank and Tribe (there is plenty of prejudice against the Ronin and Metis that is not overdone) and the reader is treated to a view of the Garou Nation that is fractured by petty rivalries, personal grudges, and past hatred. There are a lot of small details included from the use of Rites, the portrayal of the Umbra, and even Spirit Weapons that I appreciated as they all worked to make the world more consistent with the game whilst at the same time written in a way that didn't feel like a retelling of a gaming session. When reading some game novels, I can almost hear the dice fall on the table behind the descriptions, but this is not the case here.

It is a setting that I'd like to see explored in further novels and possibly a short sourcebook, and I'd recommend this for any fan of Werewolf. Mike Lee's work has already been included in 'When will you rage? II', and if Onyx Path is to produce more novels, then he should be part of the regular mix of authors.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
W20 The Poison Tree
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Through the Breach RPG - Fated Almanac
Publisher: Wyrd Miniatures
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/20/2015 04:56:58
‘Malifaux’ is a game setting that has intrigued me for a while and so I leapt at the chance to review the RPG. The miniatures line has been running for a few years and has a very distinct look in both the sculpts and the artwork (much of which has been transferred across to the RPG book). The ‘Fated Almanac’ is the players’ book for ‘Into the Breach’ and contains everything you need to build a character (referred to as a ‘Fated’).
The setting is simply fantastic and it is clear that a lot of development has occurred to ensure a consistently themed and intriguing world. In short-form, the city of Malifaux was discovered on the other side of a breach (the same mentioned in the title of the book) as well as the mysterious substance known as ‘Soulstone’. Earth’s economies adjusted quickly to the new trade item and the city soon fell under the sway of rival factions, and fed by a broad array of folks wanting to find their fortune on this new frontier (or folks wanting to flee from whatever wrongdoing they had committed on the Earth-side of the Breach). The city of Malifaux has a strange feel – a slightly Western, steampunk, Victorian feel that mashes the genres in a pleasing fashion. Whilst some elements are reminiscent of Deadlands and even Mordheim (both feature similar motifs and supernatural stones – both Ghost Rock and Wyrdstone), Malifaux manages to evoke a separate tone.

The game system is card-based and whilst there are ‘official’ decks for the game, you do not need one to play. There are a couple of quick modifications that allow you to use a standard deck of cards. This in particular lowers the barrier to play given that everyone at the table will need a deck. Skills and Talents are used in conjunction with revealed cards (called a ‘Flip’) to beat a Target Number. Some abilities will allow you to Flip additional cards, and each player also has a hand (called a ‘Twist Deck’) that allows for card substitution if the card you Flip is too low. However, there is an element of resource management as the Twist Deck is finite.
Overall, anyone familiar with Target Number-based systems, and the notion of mechanics to influence the outcome of a score will find the system easy to pick up.

You’ll also find an array of spells, equipment, and special items to either round out or enhance your character. As with the other aspects of the game, character creation is handled by the cards. You lay a ‘Tarot spread’ of cards and then consult the character tables for the results. This will give you your stats (which can be assigned) and other aspects of your character. A nice touch is the prophecy lines that accompany each result. You can take all of these and construct them into a stanza which actually has an impact on the game. The GM (referred to as the ‘Fate Master’) uses these prophecies to provide plot hooks and there are in-game benefits when they come up in an adventure. After trying the character creation rules a few times, I easily understood the system, and there is certainly enough flexibility built into the process so that no two characters will emerge the same.

Overall, this is a great book. It’s worth mentioning that you don’t need anything from the miniatures line to play the game, but you might like to purchase some of the minis for the table nonetheless. The game line has a distinct look and simply having the models on the table might be evocative. The book mentions quite a few of the named models and how they fit into the world, but there is no sense that these NPCs would overshadow the PCs – they are simply mentioned as a matter of course and then left alone.

For anyone who likes the genres I listed above, I’d say this is a must-have. You could learn the game very quickly, but it does strike me as one that would support a number of very different play experiences for a long-term campaign. I will also check out the ‘Fate Masters’ Almanac’ and review it soon, but obviously if you are to run this game you’ll need both books.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Through the Breach RPG - Fated Almanac
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Shadowrun: Gun H(e)aven 3 Weapon Cards (SR4A Stats)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2015 05:55:07
These are a fantastic addition to any Shadowrun game as both a ready-reference for the GM and the players. Given the amount of gear and additional rules that are offered in Shadowrun (a constant in every edition) this is the sort of resource that makes life a little easier. I had been using some hand-written pieces of card to represent weapons looted and purchased during a 'run, but these are far better. The images on the cards are a great asset in a game where your choice of weapon is a statement of style and there is a good variety to the cards.
It would be great to see an annual set of cards released that includes weapons from the publication schedule as an expanding set (or perhaps title specific sets as a bonus with each PDF release) but this is a solid product that will get a lot of use at my table. The price point is excellent and includes 33 guns of varying types. I was surprised to see the Ares Predator was not included - which is the weapon synonymous with the Sixth World - but this is minor consideration.
When added to the Spell Cards these have the potential to make running the game a lot smoother.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Gun H(e)aven 3 Weapon Cards (SR4A Stats)
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Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/30/2014 04:57:17
By now you probably already know that 'Sail Away Sweet Sister' is the sequel to 'Another Rainy Night'. If you didn't, go back and pick up the first in the series. Whilst some will say that this novella could stand alone, readers will have a much more coherent experience if the companion volume if read first.

Now - on to the actual story. It is a well-written piece of fiction that pays attention to little details, good characterisation, vampires-as-monsters, and Shadowrun continuity. The author is obviously a fan of the setting and this shines through in their style. All of the characters are given solid personalities, drawbacks, and (in some cases) slightly disturbing vices as coping mechanisms for the Sixth World. It would be really easy to mine the concepts in the novella to flesh out NPCs for your next game. The story ties into the hints from 'Storm Front' (a brilliant source book from 4e) that those afflicted by HMHVV are experiencing far worse symptoms than usual. The novella offers no deep revelations, but does show some practical effects of this situation.

It is always refreshing to read a novel about vampires that treats these creatures as monsters. The Monster part of the psyche is written well, and the struggle to retain humanity echoes World of Darkness themes and was really appreciated. Lastly, the author paid attention to the smaller details, reminding long-term fans what the Sixth World is like. One great example was how Thomas' magical ability was perceived by those around him. Most reacted with suspicion or were deeply unsettled by anything magical - which is exactly how it should be.

I'm amazed that a title like this is available at this price point. It represents excellent value, and I look forward to reading the third instalment in this series (and maybe a compilation volume). Highly recommended for any Shadowrun fan.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sail Away, Sweet Sister (Enhanced Fiction)
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Shadowrun: Bullets & Bandages
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2014 00:54:52
‘Bullets & Bandages’ could be the title of most of my Shadowrun campaigns, but it is nice to have a book specifically dedicated to healing and healers for the Sixth World. Even with SR2 books like ‘Missions’ the role of DocWagon, their tactics, and composition have always been a little hazy which is a shame considering how much potential this organisation has to impact any campaign. Likewise, there is a lot material in this book for those with a medical bent, as well as for the GM, so it’s equally useful on both sides of the screen (and at this price, it’s affordable for every interested player/GM to have a copy).
The writing is solid, from the opening fiction to introductory corporate training piece from a DocWagon instructor, to the rules mechanics which make up the lion’s share of the book.
You’ll find new equipment, spells, Adept powers, toxins, medicines and drones – all useful kit for runners interested in staying alive long enough to collect their nuyen at the end of the run. The Qualities are extremely average, and even unnecessary (Did we need the Negative Quality ‘Pregnant’ with accompanying rules? Could we have left this story element to house-ruling? I’d argue that there are better ways to treat the issue) but there is nothing completely unusable about them.
Overall, the book represents good value for good content, and this is a welcome addition to my Shadowrun books. The value is also increased by the addition of dual-statted SR4 and SR5 rules references, so fans of both editions have a reason to pick it up.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Bullets & Bandages
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Of Predators and Prey: The Hunters Hunted II Anthology
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/22/2014 23:30:46
‘Of Predators & Prey’ succeeds as gaming fiction, and in that alone it is a fine resource for players and Storytellers alike. Gaming fiction should provide practical examples of how people live and interact within a game world, should be internally consistent, and should provide ideas for character and chronicle design. The authors of this anthology deliver on all points, as well as providing a suite of fresh, engaging stories around what could have been a very ‘tried and true’ product.

The stories all manage to offer something slightly different, but focus on the ‘everyman’ as either individuals or as groups. There are no super-powered action heroes, just regular folk who have glimpsed the reality of vampires and are simply trying to find an appropriate response. From folk who have turned their houses into fortresses that would make an AD&D DM envious, or a small organised force with some basic training and military hardware, or even a gang of children keen to save a school friend, there is an element of believability to each story. Of particular interest is the marriage of reality television and the hunt – and the possible reaction of vampires to televised interviews, but the story told of the vampire who’s ‘only trying to do the right thing’ is just as strong.
It is all too tempting to go through each story and provide a brief synopsis, but you should go into these cold and simply enjoy the experience. Every piece vies for the ‘favourite story’ position in my mind, and it is clear that the editor did a fine job of selecting this showcase of work.

In short, do yourself a favour and pick up this book in whatever format you can. Keep a notebook and pencil nearby and I’ll guarantee that you’ll not only have a great time reading the book as fiction, but allowing your imagination to run with the ideas from these characters and their stories.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Of Predators and Prey: The Hunters Hunted II Anthology
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Deep Magic (Pathfinder RPG)
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2014 22:10:40
'Deep Magic' is a truly spectacular book, reminiscent of the grand sweeping epics that were the HERO product line. In many ways, this is what a Tome of Magic should be - that is, a huge collection of options that add not only vast amounts of new spells to the game, but also tons of story ideas for future campaigns. 'Deep Magic' succeeds in abundance on both counts.

This review has taken a long time to write simply because writing this piece after the first reading would have been a grave injustice to writers. This is a book that requires a clear head, and plenty of time, and should not be tackled lightly. The depth of explanation, the possibilities arising form the spells and societies and even the broader concepts all need time to slosh about in one's head before use. In all seriousness, a DM could purchase any 3.5 core rulebook, pair it with this tome and and a manual of monsters and be very content for a long long time.

You'll find a huge range of new spell types and lists from 'Dooms of the AntiPaladins', 'Minotaur Magic', 'Ring Magic of the Reaver Dwarves', 'Ley Line Magic, and my personal favourites 'Clockwork Magic' and 'Ioun Stone Magic'. These are but a taster of the full breadth of information in the book. It is very clear that the writers were involved in deliberate re-imagining - taking core ideas and then weaving additional layers of interest into each idea. The writing displays consistent conceptual strength backed by an extremely readable style. Given that this is 378 pages of (essentially) new ideas and rules a constant danger would be to overwhelm the reader by taking a textbook publishing approach to this subject. I can assure you that nothing is further from the truth. The artwork is of a likewise high standard and works in near seamless unison with the text to provide evocative emphasis and story inspiration. I could well imagine printing out some of the images and using them as the basis for NPCs in my next campaign.

The level of usefulness of this book cannot be understated. I would imagine that any DM would get a strong return on investment, as there are simply to many good ideas to use in a single campaign (although you would be excused for trying to fit it all in). This volume receives one of my somewhat rare five star ratings as I simply cannot think of any way I would have improved on this offering.

A must have for all DMs.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic (Pathfinder RPG)
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KoDT: Bundle of Trouble vol. 6
Publisher: Kenzer & Company
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/22/2014 21:38:16
Bundle of Trouble Volume 6 continues the fine tradition set up by the previous strips. In this volume, the reader is treated to the progression of the 'Bag World' storyline resulting in B.A. facing a HackMaster Audit at the request of his players (in which Weird Pete interrogates his game notes), a return to the the previously defunct SpaceHack campaign, and a trick from Nitro Ferguson that has the Knight LARPing in a biker bar (with unsurprising results).
As always, it is frightening to see how many of the Knights mirror my normal gaming group, but that has always been a part of the appeal. Jolly Blackburn has a keen eye for the hobby and it is wonderfully translated into this comic.

If you are unfamiliar with KoDT (shame on you!) or a long-time fan, these volumes represent excellent value not only in terms of price point, but also the enjoyment of reading these stories in full in one sitting.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
KoDT: Bundle of Trouble vol. 6
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Dark Ages: Darkening Sky
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2014 05:01:53
'Darkening Sky' is the latest in the new line of classic WoD titles. It is good to see this 'lost title' finally in print.

The book covers the eclipse of 1230 AD from five different game lines, and each line has been set in a completely different geographic area. This decision was a pleasant surprise, as the developers have chosen to cast the net across the medieval world so that a wide range of plots can be explored. From an aesthetic standpoint, the book remains true to the designs of the original lines, the art is consistently of a high standard (as we have come to expect from White Wolf), and the editors have been meticulous. At this price point, the book represents excellent value.

The only segment of each chapter that I found of little use was the section on cross-over ideas for each story. Whilst I can understand that the authors aimed to make the book as useful as possible, each story stands well on it's own. Each story is well-situated in its' own line and their strength lies in 'keeping true' to their own line.

The chapters are as follows:

Set in Volga Bulgaria, 'The Evergreen Prison' (Werewolf) deals with an imprisoned spirit against the backdrop of an invading army. The chapter introduces the Stargazers and Uktena to Dark Ages Werewolf, including a range of Gifts and Rites. The Sept is well-realised, and there is plenty of storyteller advice about local cultures to use. Likewise, the plot will keep players on their toes as they need to explore and address very different story needs.

'Accidents and Deliveries' (Fae) moves the lens to the British Isles, with the story focused on ancient grudges and challenging the might of the Church. The story excels through personalising the NPCs. None of the characters charges are simply stats and stereotypes; and the storyteller is given ample tools to make the players actually care about the focus of the story. As with the preceding chapter, this is no simple linear plot, and the characters have a chance to seriously affect the outcome.

'Phantasmagoria' (Inquisitor) - set in Italy - is the high-water mark for this title (which is saying a lot considering the extremely high quality of the writing throughout). Whilst I have never played Inquisitor, this chapter really opened my eyes as to the possibilities for this simply as a single module. The story deals with a range of situations in which regular people have seen the supernatural and reported it to the Church. The characters are dispatched to mediate these difficult situations and the outcome is never a foregone conclusion.

'The Abyss Gazes Back' (Vampire) takes us now to Sevilla into a political story with the fate of a torpored Elder in the mix. It deals heavily with Lasombra mysticism, and draws in the Crimson Curia. As with any good Vampire story, the charm lies in the non-linear nature of story (despite the nature of the events set to unfold) and the depth of character given to the major NPCs.

Lastly, 'Divine Right' (Mage) is set in Jerusalem and is -at it's heart - a story of apotheosis. The religious backdrop of the city (something that has appealed to me since reading 'Jerusalem by Night') is brought to light, and in context the main NPCs' actions will be contentious and heretical. This story, more than any of the others has the potentially to go horribly, horribly wrong.

So, there you have it. Five quality stories in one book. If you're willing to run a series of short stories, it would be possible (and highly enjoyable) to work your way through the book - and the game lines - over the course of a few month. The title comes highly recommended and stands as a testament to the fact that these writers are still able to seamlessly evoke the feeling of the classic WoD, which is highly impressive and appreciated.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Ages: Darkening Sky
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Shadowrun: Coyotes
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/27/2014 19:05:27
Whilst designed more for the GM than the player, 'Coyotes' is a solid addition to the Shadowrun product line in an appropriate price bracket.
I came across the term during Season 4 of Shadowrun Missions, as Coyotes were integral to the border crossings in Denver. Generally, I winged any scene involving this profession, and always lamented the lack of additional story information. This book addresses my needs admirably, and will be folded into my next game with great enthusiasm.

So what do you get?

- Short fiction at the beginning that is decently written and shows a sample 'run from a Coyotes' point-of-view (as well as the inherent dangers)
- an overview of the role of the Coyote, what you can expect when dealing with them, how they calculate fees, and where the money goes, and why Coyotes can be downright distrustful of 'runners
- a section detailing the hierarchy of borders, how to cross them, what resistance you can expect and the stats for any likely security. This section is well-detailed, and should provide any GM with enough information to add a border crossing to their game.
- the book finishes off with some example Coyotes and a module. The characters are diverse in terms of (meta)humanity, preferred transports, and locations, and this creativity is well-expressed. The module is a one-shot that has the 'runners taking on the role of a Coyote for a night. The basic premise is sound, the pacing is good, and there is plenty of scope to personalise the module for individual groups.

In all, it's an extremely handy resource - especially if you're intending to take your Shadowrun game on the road and expose characters to some new locations. It's well worth the cover price.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Coyotes
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Undermountain: Halaster's Lost Apprentice (4e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/03/2014 00:32:12
‘Halaster’s Lost Apprentice’ is one of the D&D Encounters seasons that nominally ties into the forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. Nominally tied, because the dungeon and lore used in the Encounters are linked to Undermountain, which receives two products in the Fourth Edition line.
The season is structured as twelve interlocking encounters and it is advised that a party will complete each encounter in 90 minutes to two hours – so there is a substantial amount of material in this product. The party is ideally five first-level adventurers, and substantive advice and mechanics govern progression and treasure acquisition during the Encounters. This guidance was required for the organised play aspect of the game when it was originally issued, and some gaming tables may find it interesting and fun to play under similar strictures to replicate the experience.
The title excels however, when removed from the organised play structure. All of the Encounters are very straight-forward and could be easily run by a novice DM. As players progress sequentially through the season, they are introduced to the mechanics of Fourth Edition in a purposeful manner. This is not to suggest that this product is only for beginners; quite the opposite in fact. Experienced DMs will find a good skeleton for a short series of adventures, and can add their own flavour, tinker with the opponents, and also with the motivations of the NPCs. Whilst this would require additional investment of time in terms of planning, the results (especially if the DM could blend this with content from the AD&D boxed set ‘Ruins of Undermountain’) would be worthwhile.

The design of the title is clean, with statistics boxes clearly able to be read, and organised with quick reference at the table in mind. The maps are likewise presented in an unambiguous manner, but for full use of these the DM will require set of Dungeon Tiles. All of the artwork is of a high standard, and these elements combined make for an enjoyable and streamlined read.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Undermountain: Halaster's Lost Apprentice (4e)
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Shadowrun: The Assassin's Primer
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2013 00:00:00
'The Assassin's Primer' is a good document to have at the table for anyone wanting to take this Archetype. At only seventeen pages (including cover), you get
- an overview of the life of the assassin,
- and explanation of assassin stereotypes (from the Desperate, the Psycho, and the Idealist)
- 'Knowledge is Power' which describes the sorts of skills that are necessary and how to use them creatively
- a short section on gear and magic
- general advice and Qualities (and a Negative Quality).

All is told from the viewpoint of an assassin who realises that he has a very short time to live and wants to pass along his knowledge. Interestingly, this is the second SR product I've reviewed this week with a White Wolf connection (the other be 'The Vladivostok Gauntlet'). In this product, the handle of the assassin is Quietus (the signature Discipline of the vampire assassins in Vampire: the Masquerade). Interesting.

So, is it worth it?

The book reads like a long magazine article with some rules at the end, a format that should be fairly familiar to most gamers. It does offer some good advice and would be very handy reading for anyone considering running an assassin-type character in the Sixth World. I question the longevity of usefulness for the product; I can see players reading it once, building a character and then maybe referencing it once or twice again. The Creeds are a mixed bag, and mileage will really vary. However, you could wrap an entire character concept around them, so for that they are useful. The edges they provide are situational, but a clever player can engineer this to their advantage.

It was an enjoyable read, and I can see this document having a role at my table, but mostly during character creation.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Assassin's Primer
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Shadowrun: Missions: Chasin' the Wind (5A-01)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2013 23:47:05
Chicago is one name that has a particular resonance to Shadowrun, the infamous Bug City. When this season was announced, I was very excited to see what Catalyst would do with the place after it had been left relatively dormant for a couple of editions.
The introductory Mission for the season does feel very much like set-up. No, not a set-up, but rather building the foundation for the rest of the modules. There are really three separate jobs here. They are all very straightforward, with some suggestions for Pushing the Envelope, but I would imagine that the aim is to ease new players and GMs into SR (especially given the new edition). There are relatively few surprises for a solid module and it wouldn’t take too much to prep. On reflection, there are a number of possibilities from this module, and I’m hoping that the story threads are picked up in future modules and expanded.
The setting is briefly explained, with heavy stereotyping (the weather is windy and snowy, the meeting place is a Chicago pizza joint) in both the locations and the Johnsons. Again, there is the distinct feeling that this is meant for the new GM and player. The plot does require social, investigative and technical skills (with some Debugging advice if characters don’t have the requisite skills), and unless you Push the Envelope, combat is absent from this ‘run.

However, as an introductory module, it definitely succeeds in whetting one’s appetite for further adventures in the Windy City. The module can be easily completed in a couple of hours if run ‘as-is’.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Missions: Chasin' the Wind (5A-01)
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Shadowrun: Spell Cards, Series 1
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2013 22:13:49
I’m a big fan of cards at the gaming table. As ready-reference items, they are also very transferable and require little book-keeping. I make extensive use of the Paizo magic item decks at my D&D table, and have been casting about for a similar solution for SR5. So, for USD5.99, what do you get?

The file contains fifty-four single-sided cards, colour-coded to the spell type (Combat, Manipulation, Illusion, etc). Each card has the information for the Spell Type, Range, Damage, Duration, and Drain, with a handy page number reference to look up the spell. There is also a very short flavour-text type description of each spell.

The only improvement I would suggest is to make the cards double-sided and include more rules information on the flipside. Many spells have nuanced information such as increasing effect by number of successes and this would be useful. To be honest, I’d want these cards to be a replacement for the Magic section of the core rulebook – becoming quickplay reference. At the moment they aren’t quite up to the job.

I’ve tried printing them out in both colour and black-and-white and they have rendered well in both formats (although I like the colour better). I would advise anyone purchasing this product to invest in either some decent cardstock for printing, or become friends with someone who owns a laminator. Either way, you want to extend the life of the printed cards, and the heavier cardstock/laminated options make them feel like better than flimsy paper.

They are a nice product, and I would like to check out further decks for equipment, drones and even vehicles, common NPCs, and paracritters. I could imagine that by investing a range of decks, a GM could easily construct ad hoc encounters by laying out some cards behind the screen. If the NPC and paracritter cards came with Damage Tracks, you could laminate them and use a dry-erase marker to keep wounds. I like this direction, and I’ll be most interested to see where it goes.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Spell Cards, Series 1
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Shadowrun: The Vladivostok Gauntlet
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Adrian S. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2013 21:51:21
‘The Vladivostock Gauntlet’ is a welcome addition to the Shadowrun novella line, and follows in the footsteps of classics such as ‘Wolf and Raven’. The writing style is clear and evocative, and is an excellent example of how broad the term ‘success’ is when undertaking (even unwillingly) a run into the shadows. Set in the eponymous city, it follows Yuri as he finds out the cost of ‘doing the right thing’.
The novella feels like a 1980’s action movie with all of the necessary tropes; but has a distinctly Sixth World feel to it. The characters see some development, and the uneven technological levels is handled very nicely. In summary, it was an enjoyable read.

The only two downsides to the product are minor. Firstly, in a book that features werewolves (of a sort) having two minor characters named Garou and Gangrel seems like the author wants to port in as much White Wolf as possible and this was jarring as I read a lot of old World of Darkness source books and fiction. Secondly, there is a game mechanics chapter to the book detailing stats and the like, but you have to visit the Catalyst website to download it (it is admittedly free). One questions why the two items would be disaggregated beyond an attempt to drive traffic to the company site. I would have preferred to see this gaming material make it into the product.

These two detractions aside, I did really enjoy the novella. If another tale of Yuri and Soren was released, I’d certainly invest the time to read it.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Vladivostok Gauntlet
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