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True20 Adept's Handbook
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2016 16:47:28

Adepts come in many shapes and sizes. Sorcerers, pact-bound warlocks, goddess touched witches, divine clerics, psychics, and even more. This book helps you figure them out and given them form. Various paths are given and all the expected ones are here; necromancers, occult scholar, wizard, voodoo priest and yes there are even witches. In addition to detailing various types of adepts and the genres they appear in, there are plenty of new adept/supernatural powers, skills, and feats. There is even a section on items.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
True20 Adept's Handbook
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True20 Fantasy Paths
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2016 16:36:01

Using only the True20 classes of Expert, Adept and Warrior you can create all the standard, or at least the d20 3.x standard, fantasy classes. Yes, Wizards in the D&D sense are not the same as True20 adepts, but you can get them there if you have this book. Each class is defined and then progressions from level 1 to 20 are given. Of course, you can stray from the various paths to do your own thing, that a strength of True20, not a weakness. Also, an added feature of these fully stated out level progressions is that if you need an NPC, say a 3rd level bard or a 15th level cleric, then you have those stats ready to go. It doubles as a rogues gallery.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
True20 Fantasy Paths
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True20 Bestiary
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2016 16:28:08

If I have said it once, I have said it 100 times. There is no such thing as too many monster books. This is the book you want to fill your games with all sorts of nasty beasties. The monsters are largely OGL derived and that is 100% fine by me! As with the d20 rules, True20 monsters are built like characters, so a creature that has certain powers has to be an appropriate level to have them. It means that monster building on the fly is a bit trickier till you get the hang of it. But this book provides hundreds of monsters, so that is not an issue really. The creatures have a fantasy origin, no surprise, given True20's fantasy antecedents. The creatures here though are constrained to fantasy settings though. Dinosaurs and Dragons can attack in downtown Manhattan and vampires work well in every setting just to give a couple of examples. Again, a must buy for any True20 fan.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
True20 Bestiary
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True20 Companion
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/22/2016 16:19:48

This book follows the form, if not format, of the Blue Rose Companion. In this case the book covers different campaign models. This includes Fantasy, Horror, Modern, and Sci-Fi. Each section includes various character paths, skill uses, feats, and powers. Outside of the True20 mechanics, there is good advice for running the various genres and sub-genres presented. In particular, I enjoyed the Fantasy and Horror sections. The big surprise to me though was the Modern section. While I did enjoy the Modern d20 rules, I felt it really lacked something. Turns out it wasn't laking, it was over done. Thr True20 Modern is stripped down to just what you need and it is perfect. I lament not running more Modern True20 games with these rules to be honest. Of course, you can mix and match. I pretty much add Horror to everything so Horror-Fantasy, Modern-Horror and Sci-Fi-Horror are all things I do and they are all here. What makes the PDF better than the print book is the ability to print just the sections you want. True20 is not 100% modular, like say GURPS, but it is pretty close. If you have True20 and want more out of it, then this is the book you need.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
True20 Companion
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Blue Rose - The Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy (True20)
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/19/2016 08:12:22

Review: Blue Rose (True20 Edition) Poster here as well: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2016/12/review-blue-rose-true20-edition.html

Blue Rose was published in 2005 by Green Ronin. The book is 224 pages perfect bound soft cover. Color covers and black and white interior art. Cover art is by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and the book was largely written by Steve Kenson, Jeremy Crawford, Dawn Elliot, and John Snead

I am reviewing my softcover book I bought at Gen Con 2007 and the PDF. Full Disclosure in Reviewing: I bought these on my own and Green Ronin has no idea I am reviewing a 10+ year old product.

I printed out my PDF in 2008 so I could write on my book. I am inserting those notes and observations here. Most of those were written during my “Black Rose” campaign where I mixed elements of Gothic Horror in with my Blue Rose.

What is Blue Rose? Blue describes itself as a “Romantic Fantasy Role-Playing Game”. It starts off by telling us what Romantic Fantasy is, at least in this context. So. Romantic Fantasy. The premise is simple enough really. Instead of the works of Howard, Tolkien, Burroughs and (to some degree) Lovecraft we are going to base this game on the works of Mercedes Lackey, Tamora Pierce, and Diane Duane among others all listed on page 13. This is the Appendix N of Blue Rose. Also. I seriously don’t understand some other arguments brought about Blue Rose and Aldis in light of these books. I have the feeling that many of the critics of this game just don’t understand, or have read, this genre. Calling this SJW gaming shows a profound lack of insight to the source material. Aldis is Valdemar with the serial numbers filed off.

Now let me pause here and it will not be the first time. If this was 2005 I would feel the need to keep moving, but this is 2016, and a lot has been said about Blue Rose and I am not deaf to that. So I will add bits like this where needed. This is the first. Since I am giving over to retrospect we can also dispense with the notion of not knowing was True20 is/was. True 20 and Blue Rose is a very, very stripped down version of the d20 rules. All the dice rolls have been reduced to a single d20. Attack? d20. Cast a spell or use magic? d20. Sneak into a dungeon to free slaves? d20s all around. There are no hit points, only a damage track so no rolling for damage. Other games now do this. Both back then and today. This makes things move a bit faster in combat and can make combat very, very deadly. Sure if you are high enough level you might be fine. Unless your combatant is also equally skilled or greater.

Chapter I: World of Aldea As a campaign world we get a history of the World of Aldea, from the Mythic Age (when the Gods were created) to the Old Kingdom (the “Golden Age” of the world), the Empire of Thrones (or the rise of the evil Sorcerer Kings) to the present age in The Rebirth of Aldis. The history of the world is given from the creation of the world by the four greater gods and then into the creation of the lesser gods, demons, and mortal races. This history is compelling and does make you feel there is much more that is not written down. We can come back to this in the supplement book “The World of Aldea”. I rather liked the Exarchs of Shadow. It helps solves the age old philosophical question of "From whence comes evil?" It gives a good explanation of how good gods such as these would have created evil beings.

This chapter also covers that background of the world, the half a dozen countries/cultures you can encounter. We have Aldis, the country of the main heroes and the “good” land of the game. This is one that characters are most likely from. Jarzon, a theocracy that shares some history with Aldis but is a vaguely evil, or least intolerant, land. Kern, home of the Lich King Jarek, is a remnant of the old time before the great shadow wars.

Yes. This is the chapter that introduces us to the now infamous Golden Hart. You know what else it is? The last time you ever hear about it. Unless one of the characters is going end up becoming the next Sovereign of Aldis the Golden Hart will have no affect on the characters whatsoever. I never once cared how the Lord Mayor of Greyhawk or Waterdeep was elected or even who that person was. It has never affected anything in the last 36+ of gaming for me and neither does this. It’s really no different than the Lady of the Lake. Claims that the Golden Hart "tramples" on Role-playing also shows that the person complaining never actually read the book, or played the game.

Information is given on Aldis. Aldis is not just the idyllic land that some have depicted it. It is “enlightened” but there are still internal strife, crime, the odd sorcerer or even a leftover gates from the time before the Sovereigns, and the ever present threats from inside and outside. A number of threats to Aldea are detailed. Various unscrupulous merchants, a very effective criminal organization known as “The Silence”, fallen nobles, bandits, defective shadow gates, and the remains of various shadow cults. In a handful of pages we get plenty of ideas for characters to do.

Chapter II: Creating Your Hero Character creation is mechanically a breeze. Since it is d20 derived nearly everyone knows what to do here. The big difference is that instead of scores 3 to 18 you have just the bonuses. So -5 to +5. Everyone starts at 0 and you are given 6 points to divide up. In more “Cinematic” games I have given out 10 points. I also prefer players create their characters together. With backstories that would either augment or complement each other in some way. In Romantic Fiction we often have a single protagonist that joins up with others and soon new bonds are formed. Here we start out with potentially a lot of protagonists. So the dynamic is already slightly different. Now when I say created together I mean in cooperation with each other; the characters might not know anything about each other and even come from different parts of the world, but the players have a vision for what they want and should work on it together.

Races include human, vata (somewhat like elves), sea folk, Rhydan (intelligent animals), night people (likewise somewhat like half-orcs) and the human Roamers.

Blue Rose/True 20 only has three classes; Adept, Expert and Warrior. There are no XP advancement tables; characters level up after a set number of adventures. To borrow from D&D4, you could level up after 10 encounters, but really it is up to the Narrator. An aside...the Game Master for Blue Rose is called a Narrator. Personally I would prefer to call them “Chroniclers”. Seems to fit the feel of what I want in my games.

This chapter also introduces “Callings”, “Conviction” and “Reputation”. Callings are the most interesting of all. Each heroic calling is associated with a Tarot card major arcana. These are related to the alignment system in Blue Rose (Light, Twilight and Shadow) and to the Natures of the characters which are associated to a tarot minor arcana. While it can be used purely as a roleplaying device (as I have done) to guide your character. The mechanical aspect in relationship to Conviction. Conviction is more or less like “Hero Points” or “Drama Points”. A similar mechanic can be found now in D&D 5 with the “Backgrounds” and “Inspiration” systems. They are not 100% the same, but one could be used in the place of the other or used to inform the other. Personally I think it is a damn shame we never got a set of Blue Rose Tarot cards.

Chapter III: Skills This covers the skills the characters can take. Again in something that was new in the d20 times, and became more common later on is how Blue Rose does skill ranking. Skill check = 1d20 + skill rank + ability score + miscellaneous modifiers. Skills are grouped into Favored Skills (based on class), Trained and untrained skills. Need new skills? There is a feat for that (next chapter).

Chapter IV: Feats Like d20, Blue Rose has feats. The feats are your means of customizing your character. Want to be a classic thief? Taken the Expert class and the right skills and feats. Want to be a Paladin or Ranger, take the Warrior class with various feats. Unlike D&D the feats do not have ability score minimums. They do have class requirements and some have other feats as requirements.

Chapter V: Arcana The magic of the Blue Rose world. Magic is both ubiquitous and mistrusted. Nearly everyone has some level of magic. Either they are an Adept or they have a wild talent or two (taken by a feat). At the same time magic, in particular the form known as Sorcery, is mistrusted due to the wars with the Sorcerer Kings. Arcana is divided up into a few categories: Animism Healing Meditative Psychic Shaping Visionary and finally Sorcery.

You can make a number of different sorts of Adepts using the different types of Arcana. In particular I had a lot of fun making various “Benders” like those seen in Avatar the Last Airbender and Avatar the Legend of Korra. You can easily make Air, Earth, Fire and Water Benders. You can even make a “Spirit Bender” which has a lot of potential. Of course I have made many witches. This is not Vancian magic. Once you have a magical gift you can use it all you like...until you can’t that is. There is a fatiguing effect here. Makes magic really feel different than D&D.

Chapter VI: Wealth and Equipment Since the accumulation of wealth and the killing of things is not as important here there is an abstract wealth system. Instead of gold you have a Wealth score. If you want to buy something less than that, then you can. If it is greater, well you will need to roll for that. The system is very similar to what was found in d20 Modern. As expected there are plenty of lists of goods and services. Aldis is a civilized place. Additionally there are arcane items that can be bought, not a lot mind you, but some.

Chapter VII: Playing the Game This includes the very typical combat and physical actions found in every game; especially one based on the d20 rules which has D&D in it’s ancestry. There is good section on social interactions. If run properly a good Blue Rose game will include people that can talk or socialize their way out of problems as much as fight their way out.

Chapter VIII: Narrating Blue Rose This is the GM’s section. Again, I much prefer the term “Chronicler” to “Narrator”. “Chronicler” also implies that the characters are doing something worthy of Chronicling. The chapter has the very pragmatic “Assigning Difficulties” which works well for any d20 derived game, which includes D&D editions 3, 4 and 5. It covers Blue Rose’s particular form of level advancement. There are guides for roleplaying situations like Romance and Intrigue. Again, while situated in the Blue Rose and True20 systems, they could be used for any game. What is particularly useful is the very old-school like table of 100 Adventure ideas. Need an idea? Roll a d100. Each one of these can be expanded into an adventure. This flies in the face of any notion that Blue Rose is a limited game. Equally useful is the section on “About Evil” which gives advice on how to handle evil NPCs. They suggest avoiding using “mustache twirling evil stereotypes” or “evil for evil’s sake” NPCs. Though I will point out that some of their source material does exactly that. They favor a more nuanced approach to evil, reminding the reader that no evil person thinks of themselves as the bad guy.

Chapter IX: Bestiary There are some familiar names here, but don’t automatically assume you know what these creatures are about. Griffons for example are given more emphasis and intelligence here than in their D&D counterparts. This is completely due to how they are treated in the Romantic Fiction novels, in particular the novels of Mercedes Lackey. Also, unlike the books, there are a lot more creatures here than what I recall reading. So there are plenty of creatures that can either guide, beguile or challenge the characters. There are about 70 or so creatures here. Adding more would be easy, really TOO easy to be honest. Most creatures need have a good reason to be in the game/world. For example there are no Manticores here. You could make a very good reason for them to be there as something like anti-griffon or even a magical race the bred true to fight griffons. Maybe they were created during the Shadow Wars or even before in the Empire of Thorns. They are rare now since most were killed.

Introductory Adventure: The Curse of Harmony What it says on the tin. An introductory adventure featuring some of the different aspects of this game.

Appendix: D20 System Conversion Of course you know I loved this. The ability to mix and match from d20? Hell yes. In fact I did just that for my own Blue Rose/Ravenloft mash-up. I found that it works best to convert to Blue Rose than trying to convert Blue Rose to some d20 system.

And True20 True20 came out after Blue Rose and offered some improvements on the base system. For example Toughness no longer increases with level. This is a good change. As my gaming in Blue Rose increased I found I used more and more True20. In particular anything with a horror, supernatural or magic bend to it. Plus the True20 system, as published,

Normally at this point I make a case as to why you should buy this book. I figure most of you have made up your minds about this game long ago. So instead I am going to say give this game a try. It is fun. It is different that most of the Murder-Hobo games out there. Even if you don’t like the game there is the setting. If you don’t like that then there are plenty of mechanics and ideas that can be used in any other game. If nothing else check out the Quick Start version of the game that Green Ronin still gives out for free.

There is a lot here that could easily be added to a D&D5 game. Indeed, some of the roleplaying ideas in D&D 5 share at least some history with Blue Rose and True20. Maybe a D&D5 version of Blue Rose is in order.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Rose - The Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy (True20)
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Blue Rose Companion (True20)
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/15/2016 21:46:36

The Blue Rose Companion contains plenty of new material to keep your Blue Rose game fresh. Now I will be candid here. There is a lot here that has the appearance of being material that was not quite ready for the core book. This is not uncommon really. I usually have enough material left over from books to make another book. Not all of that material will, or should, see the light of day. Most of the material here is good stuff.

Like the core the Blue Rose Companion was published in 2005 by Green Ronin. The book is 120 pages perfect bound soft cover. Color covers and black and white interior art. Cover art is by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. Authors are listed as: Designed by Chris Aylott, Elissa Carey, Joseph Carriker, Steve Kenson, Alejandro Melchor, Aaron Rosenberg, Rodney Thompson Additional Material by Jeremy Crawford. Fiction by Dawn Elliot. Edited by Jeremy Crawford and Developed by Steve Kenson

Chapter 1: Heroic Roles Nearly the first third of the book is given over to Heroic roles and Paths characters may take. With a base class assumed (Adept, Expert or Warrior) the character can then take a prescribed set of feats, arcana (in some cases) and skill focuses to come up with a "class". Such roles include, Animist, Arcanist, Contemplative,Healer, Psychic, Shaper, Seer, Bard,Infiltrator, Merchant, Noble, Scout, Spirit Dancer, Thief, Clan Warrior, Crusader, Knight, Ranger, Soldier, and Swashbuckler. Plenty more can also be derived from these examples. A few points. They are not in alphabetical order, but instead grouped by base class. The Shapers make for FANTASTIC "Benders" from "Avatar: The Last Air Bender" and "Avatar: The Legend of Korra". Making an Avatar takes a little more work. Also, I never made a witchcraft path for this. I know crazy, but being able to customize what I wanted allowed me a lot of freedom in character choice. I have some characters I call witches, but that is about it.

Chapter II: Heroic Abilities This covers various uses for skills and "tricks" something you can do with a skill, such as doing a one hand handstand. The base DCs are nice and yes, totally portable to other d20 based systems.

Chapter III: The Arcane Arts This covers another third of the book. This chapter covers all sorts of new Arcana as well as tools of the Art, Skill and War; or items usable by Adepts, Experts and Warriors. I was quite pleased to "Daemonbane"; I had a similar named blade in my D&D games. Rituals, summonings, and places of power are discussed here as well. This is the sort of thing that would have been great to have in the core book and more fully integrated into the rules from day one. Additionally there is a new rule associated with rituals, Élan or magical power. This one is fine here since the heroes are supposed to using this sort of power anyway, or at least not in theory. Still this is a good reason for me to keep printing out my PDFs. I can rearrange the pages as I like and insert this chapter in the Core.

Chapter IV: Bestiary The last part of the book contains new monsters. In particular I enjoyed seeing the Sahuagin, or Sea Fiends, in their True20 format. With Sea Folk, these guys are must have. Again, good to have this printed out to rearrange.

In general this is a good addition to the Blue Rose game, in fact there are few things here that I used all the time that I would have sworn where in the Core till I started doing these reviews again. Rereading this book today also reminded me how close Blue Rose was and is to my preferred style of gaming.

This book also set the stage for what future True20 books would look like and do.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blue Rose Companion (True20)
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CC1 Calidar, Beyond the Skies
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/29/2016 14:08:11

Bruce Heard, formerly of TSR and of Mystara and "Voyage of the Princess Ark" fame has been working on his new world Calidar for a little bit now. I reviewed the premier product, Calidar in Stranger Skies, a while back and I really loved it. I have used bits and pieces of this world in my own games now for a couple of years; building up to something a little bigger. The great thing about Calidar, and what Bruce is doing with it, is it can be added to any game world or campaign with only a little bit of fuss. OR you can go whole hog with it and have it as your game world.

The newest book out, Calidar, Beyond the Skies, really helps with either plan.

Ethics in Game Reviewing: I received a copy of hard bound book in exchange for a fair review. All links are affiliate sponsored links. Further disclosure: I was planning on reviewing this anyway, I just moved it up a little bit.

Calidar, Beyond the Skies is part campaign book, part cultural reference and part guide to gods. There is only minimal stats in this book. This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The obvious disadvantage is of course judging the power levels of the various gods. I am going to say right now that this REALLY is not a disadvantage. Gods are not Monsters. Even in Calidar where the Gods often interfere in the affairs of mortals, those mortals are not going to pick a fight with them. Relative powers are given and that really is enough. The advantage is a true advantage. Playing old school D&D? Great! Playing Pathfinder? Great! D&D5? Equally great! But I am getting WAY ahead of myself.

I am reviewing the hard cover version of the book. It is 248 full color pages on decent weight paper and full color covers. I put the production values at the same level of the best of WotC's D&D or Paizo's Pathfinder.

The book begins with discussing the common abilities given to all divine beings and a discussion on what they are and do. This follows a brief overview of the "planes". This is a section worthy of the best of the TSR-era Manual of the Planes and right next to the 3rd Ed Manual of Planes. I have to admit I love seeing the "energy" planes configured like a d10. Totally using that one.

Since this is system free there is section on how to convert your system to something the book uses. The easiest of course is a percentage system. Depending on your game's chosen system there is a conversion here.

All of that and we are now into the "meat" of the book. The map of the Great Caldera is given again with the countries and cultures highlighted. This is important and a page I found myself coming back to as I read each section. There is a great table on pages 14-15 that has every god, their cultures and their area of interest. I was happy to see some overlap and missing areas. Gods are not supposed to be neat and tidy things. Some interests are over-represented, some have none at all and some gods stretch across more than one culture. Ok at this point if you have ever read any "Gods" or "Pantheon" D&D book you can easily start making sense of things.

After this we cover the different pantheons and cultures. We cover 10 such groupings of gods along with chapters on Rewards, the World Soul of Calidar and various godly trappings.

This is a book that takes full advantage of color. Greater gods are in bold, evil gods are listed (title only not text) in red and benevolent gods are likewise in blue. So a greater evil god is in bold Red.

When each grouping of gods is introduced we get the names and interests (spheres) of all that pantheon. Common attributes for all the gods are given (what they have in common) and an overview of their Genesis story with a timeline. We then get into some really interesting material. A kind of flow chart is given on the relationships between the gods of the grouping. This is best seen in the Gods of Nordheim, which are "imported" from Norse myths by travelers long ago.

After this each god is listed with a stat block of interests, allies, cults, foes, centers of faith and holy days. Lots of details really.

There is so much in this book that I think it is going to take some more readings to digest it all. Each section also contains neat little bits like various temples, the gods' personal symbols, other bits to round out the faiths and make them feel like they real. In some, like for example the Gods of Meryath, weather (and in particular rain) are so important that the seasons are also discussed in relationship to the gods.

The last sections also detail various Elemental Lords, demons and mythological beasts and other near-divine beings.

There is a lot going on in this book. If you are a fan at all of gods, myths and using them in your games then is a great addition. Even if you don't play in the Calidar world this is a well thought out collection of myths. I found this just as enjoyable as reading D&D's "Gods, Demigods and Heroes" the first time. If you need some good, new-to-you-and-your-players gods then this is a must buy.

The art throughout is fantastic (that's Soltan of the Narwan on the cover) and really sets this book above others of it's kind.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CC1 Calidar, Beyond the Skies
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Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/17/2016 12:33:30

Ok, we all know I love monster books. Like all Castle Falkenstein books, new and old, this book is gorgeous. The art is fantastic. The book is a nice mix of travel guide, creature catalog, and journal. This is a fairly common feel to all CF books and it is served well here. The first 50 or so pages cover some new rules and some various stories. The central conceit of the book has notes from the very Doctor Doolittle. I have to admit this is really awesome. I wish I had thought of it, to be honest. The next 100 or so pages cover the Bestiary proper. This includes about three dozen monsters, as many normal creatures and a little more than 20 or so unique characters and intelligent animals. This includes Doctor Doolittle, Gregor Mendel, Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. The surprises include Mowgli, Riki-Tikki-Tavi and Fantomah. The mere fact that Fantomah is here really increases the value of this book in my mind. The writing is very fluid and is a pleasure to read. The CF stats are, well CF stats, you either like that game or you don't. The bonus here is that this also makes the book extremely flexible for use with any number of systems. In fact, this book is a very fine supplement to be used with any number of other game's monster books. The art, is for the most part, Public Domain, but that is something I REALLY like in my Victorian books and here it flows seamlessly in with the text.
I don't have the softcover book, but I am considering picking it up now. It is really that good looking and really that useful. Do you all remember the old "Enchanted World" books from Time-Life books? Well, this book reminds me of reading those. It is less like a game book and more of a coffee table book of monsters. This is a very, very fun book and I am so pleased to have it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: Curious Creatures
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Castle Falkenstein: The Tarot Variation
Publisher: Fat Goblin Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/17/2016 12:31:09

Now this is a fun little book. It's not long, only six pages, but it packs a punch. This guide allows gamemasters of Castle Falkenstein to use a standard tarot deck instead of playing cards for the game. There are additional rules to cover the Major Arcana. If you play CF then I would easily say this is a must have. If you play other games that have a playing card mechanic then is also a useful resource. I am considering using this with Victoriana. I think it would work fantastically.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Castle Falkenstein: The Tarot Variation
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Leagues of Gothic Horror: Guide to Apparitions
Publisher: Triple Ace Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:20:41

Softcover book. Full-color cover, black & white interior art. 64 pages. Set up in a similar fashion to all of TAG's "Guide to" books, this covers ghosts and the damned. Again, this is fairly setting specific but a lot of the material here is drawn from myths and legends from around the world, so first of there should be something in this book that everyone recognizes. Secondly there is plenty in this book that everyone can use. The first third of the book covers why ghosts happen and their nature. This is followed by the means of disposing of these pests and some of the powers that they have. The last third (more like half) covers new monsters and some very specific ghosts. Frankly it is worth the cover price for the ghost of Lady Macbeth alone. I once said in a game at Gen Con that are more ghosts in London than living people. This book helps prove my point rather nicely. Another really solid buy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leagues of Gothic Horror: Guide to Apparitions
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Leagues of Gothic Horror: Guide to Black Magic
Publisher: Triple Ace Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:14:08

Softcover book. Full-color cover, black & white interior art. 64 pages. Set up in a similar fashion to all of TAG's "Guide to" books, this covers Black Magic and "Wickedness". This book is fairly setting specific, so it has more game stats than some of the other guides. I still found it to be a fantastic read and can't wait to try some of this out in my next Ubquity game. The book covers a brief history of "black magic" practices around the world. Later (Chapter 2) we move into why someone might take up this sort of power. Fiendish lairs are also discussed since in the tried and true traditions of both Gothic and Pulp fiction every bad guy needs a lair. The next three chapters I found the most interesting, they are respectively, Power, Demons and Evil NPCs. So much great stuff here that I really could spend dozens of sessions working through all the ideas this has given me. In particular, I have a Ghosts of Albion adventure that would work so much better with some of the ideas here. I am going to have to re-run now under Ubiquity to see. For a small book it packs a lot of punch.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leagues of Gothic Horror: Guide to Black Magic
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Leagues of Adventure - Globetrotters' Guide to London
Publisher: Triple Ace Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/28/2016 11:02:38

Softcover book. Full-color cover, black & white interior art. 78 pages. A great sourcebook for the Leagues of Adventure game this covers the City (and County) of London in the 1890s. The bulk of the book is devoted to a "tour" around London pointing out places of interest. There are also sections on the police force, entertainment, and transportation. The book is largely fluff free (ie not much in the way of games stats) so it immediately has utility for a wide variety of games. Even the adventure hooks for London are game-stats free. Most of the game-related material comes in the form of detailing various NPCs and archetypes, but there is enough flavor test to still make them usable in other games too. This is a well-researched guide and extremely useful. If you are playing a London-based Leagues of Adventure, Leagues of Gothic Horror or Leagues of Cthulhu game then I say pick this up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leagues of Adventure - Globetrotters' Guide to London
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Leagues of Gothic Horror
Publisher: Triple Ace Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/27/2016 11:12:27

A while back I spent some quality time with the Ubiquity system reviewing a number of games including Leagues of Adventure one of my favorites. Today I want to have a look at Leagues of Gothic Horror, the gothic horror (naturally) supplement to Leagues of Adventure.

Leagues of Gothic Horror (LoGH) is not an independent game but rather a "thick" campaign supplement with a lot of rule additions. In it is designed to be used with Leagues of Adventure, but it could also be used with any Ubiquity game with a little work. Actually with a little more work it could be used with any Victorian era game. It is light on crunch really and full of flavor.

I am reviewing my hardcover and PDF from my Kickstarter backing. The book is 158 pages, color covers with black and white interiors. Again for my money black and white interiors are the way to go for both Victorian and Horror.

I am just going to come right out and say this. This book is damn near perfect.
This really has everything I enjoy in one volume. Gothic horror, the Victorian era, black magic, science, horror, it's all here.

Chapter 1 covers new Archetypes for the LoA game. These include some of my favorites of gothic and Victorian lore such as the mystic, the mentalist and an old favorite, the alienist. There is even a subsection on how to play Ghost characters! If I didn't love this book so much I might feel threatened that it was encroaching on Ghosts of Albion's territory! There are also new talents, skills, and flaws for your character. These are of course designed with LoA in mind so no idea how they might overlap with say, Hollow Earth (HEX) or other Ubiquity games. There are also new Leagues. These are usable in any game. In particular, I was thinking of Victorious the whole time. Chapter 2 details horror and sanity mechanics. Again this is expected. The sanity system is mostly relegated to phobias. This is fine for me since this game deals more with heroic actions of daring-do. This chapter also deals with more magic including black magic, pagan magic, ceremonial magic and ritual magic. There is a great sidebar here on various Solar and Lunar eclipses during the late Victorian era. Really handy to have. The large section of magical texts, their translations and uses is also really great. Not just to use, but to read. Many are based on real-world books too. Along with that are new magics and magical/occult artifacts. Chapter 3 is another great addition with new monsters. All the usual suspects are here; vampires, golems, werewolves, demons, even evil witches and a couple of different types of necromancers. We get a section on major villains too, Dracula, Count Orlock, Brain in a Jar, Lord Ruthven, Varney the Vampire, even Rasputin. Pretty much any Gothic-age or Victorian-age bad guy is here. Like the leagues presented in Chapter 1 there are some new sinister cults. Chapter 4 takes us on tour to the Dark Places of the world. Great addition to LoA. Reminds me a bit of the old AD&D Gazetteer to Gothic Earth. Specific locales are given and more generic ones for use anywhere in the world. Chapter 5 covers advice for the gamemaster and Chapter 6 has ideas for running games using this book. There is a great "Gothic History" timeline and list of "Who's Who" in the real world. The last page has a nice list of references of Gothic literature, audio, movies and television. I'll admit I had fun trying to guess the references from the material in the book. I did pretty well if I say so myself.

I have already gushed over this book, doing so more will only make me look foolish, but I can't help it. It is that much fun. I call it a "must have" if you are playing Leagues of Adventure.

If you are playing other Victorian era games and want to add more Gothicness (as opposed to "Gothiness") then please consider this book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Leagues of Gothic Horror
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WITCH: Fated Souls
Publisher: Angry Hamster Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/26/2016 15:32:08

Review: WITCH Fated Souls

I supported the WITCH: Fated Souls Kickstarter back when it was coming out and have been meaning to do a review for ages. Given that Halloween is nigh and the PDF is on sale at DriveThruRPG this might be a great time.

+Elizabeth Chaipraditkul is a new name to the RPG biz, but one that is getting out there. In addition to being the lead hamster at +Angry Hamster Publishing she is also working with +Stacy Dellorfano on a new adventure for the upcoming Swords & Wizardry Complete 3rd Printing Kickstarter. WITCH: Fated Souls though is her masterwork.

WFS is a modern supernatural game. It has elements of horror and universe destroying, or defining, magics. Now lets be 100% fair here. We all have several of these sorts of games. I have more than I can count right now and I have written or worked on a few myself. So any game in this field has some really steep competition. For myself I am likely to compare this game to CJ Carrella's WitchCraft and to Mage: the Ascension. I am also likely to compare this to Ron Edwards' Sorcerer.

Liz has an impressive RPG Playing career and you can see influences of D&D, Vampire, and Mage in her game. So WFS can be judged as a setting and for her game mechanics.

As mentioned WFS is a Modern Supernatural game with elements of horror. Not, "you fail a SAN check" sort of horror but more along the lines of "what are you willing to do, willing to give up, for power". The characters of WFS are witches, also known as the Fated. These characters have sold their soul to a "demon" for power. In some cases, this is a fire and brimstone devil or it's a nebulous concept, the Horned Beast, the Reynard, or it is something they don't even understand themselves.

For my review I am looking over my hardcover book and PDF from my Kickstarter package. This included a GM screen and a deck of "Devil Deck Cards". I also got a lot of images, character sheet package PDF and some desktop wallpapers. The book is 208 pages, standard format with full-color covers and interiors, though the color palette is predominantly blacks, blues, and violets.

WITCH is divided up into nine chapters and an introduction.

INTRODUCTION Here we get some setting fiction and the typical "what are RPGs" section. There is also a Chapter overview here.

CHAPTER 1: Character Creation WFS is a character focused game. One might even say it is a story-telling game, but it has more crunch than most storytelling games. Regardless of what you might, or might not, call it, characters are the most important element. What will your character do for power? What will they sacrifice and how much of their humanity is left when they are done? In this respect, it has a lot in common with Vampire and Sorcerer. You are expected to have a concept in mind when you begin your character creation. To this end the various "Fate" or types of Witch you can become are presented. These include the Hecks, Druids, Djinn, Yokai, Sósyé, Liches, and Seers. You can read about all of these and get details on who they are and what they do on AngryHamster's webiste, http://www.angryhamsterpublishing.com/witch/. Also detailed here are the types of demons associated with each Fate. When creating a character the player needs to think about who this character is and what they are going to be doing in this world. So there are prompts like "Before my Fating..." and "I was Fated because..." and "My relationship with my demon is..." Here, and throughout the book there are examples and story elements to help guide you. There is also a step by step instruction guide. Character creation, mechanically speaking, is a case of point-buy. If you have played WoD, GURPS, Unisystem or other games then this will feel familiar. Like WoD and WitchCraft we also get a couple pages, with character art, dedicated to each Fate. The art in this game is really great.

CHAPTER 2: Vital Statistics This deals with the stats of your character; attributes (nearly fixed qualities like Charisma, Dexterity, and Intelligence), skills (who good are you at driving, etiquette, social empathy), pursuits (things you own or are), and talents (akin to magical skills or qualities). This is set up similar to many games so navigating what this is and how to use it are not difficult. There is a LOT of room for customization so the number of potential characters is really great. So there is no reason for every Sósyé or Djinn to be the same as the others.

CHAPTER 3: Magic Now this is a fun chapter. An overview of the game mechanics of magic is given including the important "botch" roll. Magic here has a bit of different feel than otehr games. The closest for me is WitchCraft, but with plenty of Mage added in. Magic spells are grouped by Fate. So the Djinn have different magic than the Hecks and so on. All the fated also have access to Rituals, these are "longer" spells that take time and sometimes multiple casters. Others are simple spells that are more rote. In a similar cancept we are also given potions. This is a true gem of these rules since it represents one of the best potion creation, use and mixing rules outside of the 1st Ed Dungeon Masters Guide. It also has some of the most attractive art too.

The magic alteration section is great.

CHAPTER 4: Higher Spell Levels This chapter is a treat since "higher level spells" are treated as something qualitatively different than the lower, more common magic. The only thing I can compare this to is as if there was a new D&D book that covered 10th level spells. This spells, known as Deireadh spells, can significanly alter the world and the character including, but not limited too, casting off their own demon. Even if I never get a chance to use this chapter in a WFS game, it has given me plenty of ideas.

CHAPTER 5: Mechanics The mechanics of WFS is pretty simple. 2d10 add the necessary mods and roll higher than a 13 (or 11 in some cases). This makes many of the rule mechanics easy to abstract. Sure if you roll higher (with mods) than a 25 then you get an Outstanding Success and a natural 20 is still good. Botching is getting two "1"s. So again, the feel here is very much like WitchCraft. Picking up these rules are a simple matter. The rules have some special cases of course. Combat versus non-combat and using Talents. But nothing here will cause any experienced gamer any concerns. There are plenty of weapons here too. Don't go into this looking for differences between various types of guns, the rules are simplified to "light revolver" and "heavy revolver". But that is really all the game details you need.

CHAPTER 6: Expanded Mechanics This chpater covers some specifics like wishes (we have Djinn afterall), Familiars, Artefacts, and using the Devil's Deck. The Devil's Deck was part of the Kickstarter and it looks fantastic. I think you can order one from AngryHamster, but a "Witches" Tarot deck would work out well too.

CHAPTER 7: Setting This covers the setting and the history of the WFS world. This is what helps set this apart from other games of it's genre. I say "world" but I also mean areas and places from beyond this world.

CHAPTER 8: Animals, Entities, and Foes Pretty much what is says on the tin. Though there is a section up front on the various demons you can serve and what they are all about. A lot of creatures are present here (and many more an be added). There is also a good section of NPCs.

CHAPTER 9: GM Guide Covers running the game and how to set the tone for this game.

I have been picking at this book for months and maybe it because it is close to Halloween I now get what I want to do with it. This is a great game and with the right group, it will be a ton of fun. I'd love to try it at a con sometime, but this is a game of many sessions and developing plots and layers of story. This is a game of investment.

I will be spending some more time with it. Will it replace WitchCraft in my life? No. But it will make a for a nice addition.

I really, really like this game and want it do well. The potential here is great.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
WITCH: Fated Souls
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Monsters Macabre (Cryptworld)
Publisher: Goblinoid Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/20/2016 11:37:10

64 pages, black & white interior, color cover. This is a monster book. For use with Cryptworld, but also compatible with Majus, Rotworld and yes even Timemaster and 1st ed Chill. There are so many good and new monsters here that it is worth it just for this alone. Really, there are such great things as the Mongolian Death Worm, the Batsquatch and plenty of old favorites. The book is more than just monsters. There are plenty of great ideas on how to play and use these monsters in your game. These sections are great for nearly any modern horror or urban fantasy game. I rank it right up there with "Chill Things" in terms of utility for my games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monsters Macabre (Cryptworld)
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