DriveThruRPG.com
Close
Close
Browse
 Publisher Info









Back
Other comments left by this customer:
Survival of the Fittest
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/31/2015 16:25:34
The first adventure for SotDL and a great introduction to the RPG. Essentially, it is Blair Witch Project meets a D&D hexcrawl, as the PCs start lost in the woods after a bandit attack and must survive. The adventure is 3-4 pages long and showcases the intention that Level 0 adventures should be great one shots into which a random collection of PCs can be thrown into the grim world of adventure with little prep required on either the part of the GM or players.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Survival of the Fittest
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/30/2015 20:32:10
Shadow of the Demon Lord is Rob Schwalb's love letter to WFRP, which has then been streamlined, improved, and focussed through his recent experiences in developing WFRP2e and D&D5e. There is a level of unrestrained madness and glee in the RPG that has come across in his KS campaign and updates.

OVERVIEW
The book is 272 pages long, 16 pages longer than promised and seems very complete. This is a pleasant surprise as it seems all too often that "all in one book" fantasy RPGs often simply often drop chunks of content in an attempt to look like they fulfil their claims.

Before even looking at the content, there is a detailed 1 1/2 page contents page, a 4 page index, a monster by level chart, and a section on creating a customising monsters.

In terms of content, there is:

- 6 races - humans, dwarves, changelings, clockworks, goblins, and orcs
- 4 basic paths - magician, priest, rogue and warrior
- 16 expert paths - 4 grouped loosely into each of the scope of the 4 basic paths
- 64 master paths
- 30 schools of magic - each with 11 spells (and many non-combat related spells)
- 90 creatures
- setting - both an treatment of the wider setting and also a detailed region ready to run
- magic items - rather than lists of magic items, there is a series of tables to create a relatively unique items every time

Looking past the sheer weight of content that is fit into a svelte 272 pages, the book itself is gorgeous. The overall look is similar to WFRP2e, and as beautiful if not more so than that corebook. Art is consistently good (and often hilarious and/or disturbing). There is a grey parchment style background which makes the red headings pop out. There are layout and graphical elements from D&D5e. The Bestiary is reminiscent of D&D4e, with concise and easy to use stat blocks filled with a handful of flavourful choices. The character sheet looks amazingly open, yet comprehensive.

I really enjoyed how each basic and expert path had its own page devoted to it. That reminded me of WFRP2e more than D&D5e, and seemed to support the idea of player making character choices by way of discrete building blocks at the time the choice is presented, rather than the plan and build that D&D tends to favour.

And then there are the LOL moments, of which there are many (and many more no doubt on a full read through).
- You can die in character creation (its on the very first roll and its not a serious impediment).
- There are shrieking eels.
- Sample of play includes the line: "Screw this. I pull out my pistol and shoot the guts in the face."
- There a trinket table like in D&D 5e, which can produce a small but vicious dog and a reputation of being a badass.
- Witches get flying brooms.
- There is a "Hasten the Apocalypse" ability.
- There is a spell that makes the target shit themselves to death.
- Goblins have immature rude names like Pecker and Poop.
- So, so many random charts (all optional) but very well written.

INTRODUCTION
Following the contents page, there is a one half page introduction by Frank Mentzer and a page introduction by Rob Schwalb. Both exhibit a lot of enthusiasm for what's to come but also more usefully really help set the tone of where the RPG comes from and what to expect.

The Introduction itself is only 4 pages long. It starts with a one third page description of the predicament that the world is in. This a dark and grim fantasy world where the Demon Lord has and the End Times have come. Its great for setting the tone.

Following that there is a page of introducing basic RPG concepts. Useful for newbies. However, it does finish with three concise beats of what to expect:
- moral ambiguity
- the end is near
- danger everywhere

After the first four pages, there are clearly the game's agenda.

Following that is a one page sample of play. Its a fun read with the PCs exploring a tomb and encountering a animated guardian of dung and guts. It does a great job of encapsulating what is going to happen to your PCs, probably over and over until they are dead, mad, evil or heroes.

The Introduction is often a chapter to skip in many RPGs, so I was impressed that in SotDL it managed to really drive home what the game is all about in only four pages.

CHARACTER CREATION
This section predictably covers how to create a PC. The thing I note first though is that as starting PCs in SotDL don't have a path yet, just an ancestry and a profession, the chapter seems a lot less intimidating than it could be, whilst containing everything it needs for creating starting PCs.

There are 6 ancestries to choice from:
- Humans
- Changelings - capable of changing shape.
- Clockworks - souls bound to mechanical bodies. They vary a lot in shape and purpose.
- Dwarfs
- Goblins
- Orcs

Each ancestry has starting stats, which can be modified slightly from that baseline. It also lists languages, professions and ancestry benefits. Each ancestry gets a further benefit at level 4.

Each ancestry also has 6 tables for random background items. These are optional, but they actually provide a lot of example detail in a concise form that is easier to digest than half a page of text. And some of the entries are pretty dramatic things which will inspire a lot of ideas for the player to consider.

There is a lot of flavour here. Changeling's don't just change shape but steal identities. Clockworks, like Droids in Star Wars, differ in shape depending on their purpose. They also become "objects" when incapacitated. Dwarves hate another race and hold grudges. Goblins are impaired by iron. Orcs are horribly scarred and scary.

Next come professions. Each PC starts with two generally. As SotDL doesn't have a skill system, Professions act more as descriptors. If your PC does something in your profession, then you may succeed automatically or gain a boon. What I like is that Professions are everyday jobs and are distinct from the adventuring nature of Paths. They provide colour without cluttering the PC sheet or forcing a player to divert character resources to have a more rounded PC.

Following Professions, you roll for Wealth and that determines your starting equipment. There is then a "Trinkets" style table of interesting things your PC starts with. You roll once. However, the table isn't limited to items. It includes all kinds of background things like reputation, debts, relationships and mysteries.

The section wraps up with half page sections on creating a personality, what you as a player need to do for the first adventure, coming up with a group concept, and summarising how characters will develop ad noting the big decision points to come at levels 1, 3 and 7.

PLAYING THE GAME
The next section is where you get to the rules of the game. I can see that the upcoming Victims of the Demon Lord, being a PDF you can print off for your players, will consist of this chapter and the Character Creation one.

At 22 pages it is the biggest chapter so far. But it literally covers everything outside of character options, spells, magic items and monsters. Overall, this chapter is reminiscent of D&D5e being both clear and concise.

It covers:
- rolling dice
- damage
- afflictions
- environment
- roleplaying
- combat

The first up is Rolling Dice. The base system is roll a d20 and add your bonus. Attributes grant a bonus or minus depending on whether they are above or below 10. So a STR of 13 grants a +3. Why even have the number as well? That is because the attribute score is the difficulty you need to hit if attacking the person. So your Agility of 13 is also your AC, for example.

Outside of combat rolls, the difficulty is set at 10. This makes the system very simple to use as the player will always know what to roll against. But what if something is harder? Well, this is where boons and banes come in. Outside of attributes, there is normally no set modifiers. Instead, you grant either banes or boons. These are represented by d6s and you aggregate them giving you a number of d6s that are all boons or all banes. For example, if you have 3 banes and 1 boon, you will roll 2d6 of banes. You don't add these boon/bane dice together. You simply take the highest. This means that you will only ever be adding two dice together, but getting more boons or banes increases the likely result.

I personally love this approach. It feels like the best of all worlds. Its a lot like FFG's SW game where the GM can more freely award modifiers without needing to be too precise and reference or remember tables of modifiers. However, the design didn't stop there and along with the take only the highest the set difficulty number, it should be an incredibly easy system to use.

Next is a detailed description of each attribute and its use. Each attribute (Strength, Agility, Intellect and Will) has a derived attribute. Your Health is your Str, you Defence your Agility etc.

Madness is a simple subsystem which sees a PC take insanity points up to your Will and then getting an insanity. These are all temporary, though seriously impairing. Once the madness is passed, you reduce your insanity score. There is no permanent or truly debilitating insanities like in WFRP and Call of Cthulhu. It just looks like plain and dark fun.

Corruption works in a similar way though it isn't tied to any attribute and is more permanent. If a PC becomes corrupt they get penalties to socialise with others, gain marks of corruption, and eventually your soul gets trapped in Hell if you are incapacitated.

Next up comes sections on movement, damage, healing, vision, social interaction etc. Nothing notable in here, except being nice and concise.

There is an simple D&D5e "inspiration" mechanic. Interestingly, rather than being able to give it to other players, you can spend it for better benefits it you help another player.

Last up is combat. It is reminiscent of WEFRP2e and D&D5e. The most notable thing is that there is no initiative. Instead, players always go before monsters (though PCs may not be able to act due to surprise) and there are two turns in each round - fast and slow. Fast turns allow PCs to more or take a single action. Slow turns allow PCs to more and take a single action. It may look strange to begin with but it actually seems to have a good effect. The tension of initiative is retained throughout combat as players need to decide whether to sacrifice speed for doing less things every turn. It also allows ranged or reach weapons to hit first, as they don't require movement, which is nice. And it does so much faster than rolling dice every round.

The rest of the combat chapter is as expected at something like 6 pages. There is a list of special manoeuvres and most work with making an attack roll against a select attribute (Disarm - Str/Agi and Distract - Int) and often taking 1 or 2 banes.

NOVICE PATHS
Next up is the first of the Path chapters. This is where SotDL really starts to sing. In SotDL, each PC chooses 1 of 4 Basic Paths at level 1, 1 of 16 Expert Paths at level 3, and 1 of 64 Master Paths (or another of the 16 Expert Paths) at level 7.

The Paths are reminiscent of WFRP's careers but they are less like real life professions (which come under Professions) and are more adventuring roles like in D&D. This makes them easier to use IMO as you don't need to try and explain things in quite the same way as in WFRP or balance real life considerations with the fun of adventure.

However, it also improves on the D&D approach as rather than the plan and build approach in D&D, there is more of an immediate mix and match approach, which lets the player only turn their mind to what Path to take when the decision arises. This should also allow players to advance their PCs more organically based on what happens in the adventure. The focus is more on the now than the what's next.

There are 4 novice paths - Magicians, Priests, Rogues, and Warriors. These are the four iconic D&D classes. They provide benefits at levels 1, 2, 5, and 8, meaning that they will be the most influential Path of all forming the backbone of the PC mechanically.

Each level you get improvements, you get increases to attributes, health, languages, professions, magic and talents. Each novice path, like each expert path, gets a single page with a nice portrait and an additional random table to determine your training.

The chapter also has a small section on group concept and yet another table to help randomly determine the glue that keeps the PCs together. I really like how each path chapter has an additional consideration for the players that is relevant at that point of the PCs career.

First level magicians will start with four choices of traditions or spells, as well as a cantrip. If they choose traditions, they also get a level 0 spell in that tradition. They can cast 2 rank 0 and 1 rank 1 spells a day.

EXPERT PATHS
Next up is the Expert Paths. There are 16 and each gets a page devoted to it. They grant benefits at levels 3, 6 and 9. If you take a second expert path in place of a master path, you get the level 3 and 6 benefits at levels 7 and 10.

Rather than a training chart, you get a random story development chart, as the PCs are starting to come into their own.

Rather than a discussion on group concept, there is a discussion on character objectives, as the PCs are becoming more proactive.

The 16 expert paths. These are grouped into 4 groups which are loosely related to each of the 4 novice paths. They are:
- Faith: Cleric, Druid, Oracle, Paladin
- Power: Artificer, Sorcerer, Witch, Wizard
- Trickery: Assassin, Scout, Thief, Warlock
- War: Berserker, Fighter, Ranger, Spell Binder

Spells are simply gained by level depending on the benefits. So you will get access to more and better spells if you take a novice and expert path which uses magic, but you can easily just take one or the other for a mixed character.

MASTER PATHS
The last of the three Path chapters. Master paths are highly specialised paths compared to what has come before. They feel like prestige classes or epic destinies of D&D. Its the kind of thing you can add to the end of your PC's name such as "Edric the Death Dealer".

There are 64 master paths in the book, and they don't take a whole page like novice and expert paths. They are broadly split between paths of skill and those of magic. They grant benefits at levels 7 and 10. You can take a second expert path instead of a master path.

There is a single story development chart instead of one for each master path.

Rather than a discussion on character objectives, there is a discussion on the final quest, as the PCs are nearing the end of their stories.

EQUIPMENT
Next chapter is equipment. This is pretty standard and is just over 10 pages long. The WFRP2e and D&D5e influences are strong with weapons having quality tags to distinguish them beyond damage.

Armour increases Defence much like in D&D5e, with light armour adding to Agility and heavy armour replacing it altogether but requiring a decent Strength.

There is discussion on encumbrance, living costs, currency, and other subjects.

The chapter wraps up with costs for spells and a small list of potions.

MAGIC
Outside of Paths, this is the next big chapter clocking in at just under 40 pages. There are a few pages of introduction before it leaps into spells; lots and lots of spells.

The spells are broken into traditions of which there are thirty. In each tradition there are 11 spells. Two rank 0 spells, three rank 1 spells, two rank 2 spells, two rank 3 spells, one rank 4 spell, and one rank 5 spell.

In addition to usual concepts, there are some more unusual such as Technology that allows the PC to summon technological weapons, machines and fix them. There are a number of dark traditions that do some pretty aweful stuff and cost corruption to learn and even more to learn more spells for.

The spells themselves are short in description but are often detailed in mechanics and flavour. There are not just combat spells, but a wide range of spells almost as broad as D&D's selection.

PCs who cast spells get a number of castings for every spell they know determined by Power. For exampl, a Power 1 PC can cast every rank 0 spell they know twice and every rank 1 spell they know once. This approach also helps deal with the fact that PCs don't rise quite as linearly as they do in D&D. They get these castings back after a nights rest. PCs don't get as many slots as D&D, though a dedicated caster gets close. However, low level spells seem to remain more relevant as the range is smaller than in D&D. It is reminisicent of WFRP in that way.

A LAND IN SHADOW
This chapter is the setting. It clocks in at 25 pages, with 10 page overview of a continent, a further 10 pages covering a region called the Northern Reaches, and the final 5 pages providing a flavourful but straightforward cosmology.

I won't go into much details about the setting as it bears further reading. What I have read seems solid, supporting the system well. It's a place rife with adventures, with enough space to play many sessions in, but not too wide too be sparsely detailed from a ground view.

I will note that though the setting has obviously been created with the rules in mind, the rules don't really tie themselves too specifically with the setting elements. You could use SotDL to run the Empire, Iron Kingdoms or Eberron with very little effort, and just ignore this setting chapter.

RUNNNG THE GAME
I normally flick through GM chapters, especially in more traditional RPGs. However, I liked what I saw here and I found myself stopping to read several sessions. There is a good mixture of advice, specific guidelines, and tools for the GM.

After the more usual GM advice, the chapter moves on to creating campaigns and adventures. There are a bunch of scenario structures detailed and then it breaks down what the campaign should look like at level 0, level 1-2, level 3-6, and level 7-10. This section takes the character focussed questions from previous chapters and uses them to help the GM guide the adventures.

There are then some nice D&D4e/5e style encounter creation rules, providing some clear guidelines as to what is likely to be challenging to PCs at different levels. This is accompanied by a revisit of combat from the GM's perspective.

The chapter finishes on some high points. The first is the Shadow of the Demon Lord. There is an overview of using the Demon Lord in the setting and the pending apocalypse it brings. There is also twenty session overlays (along with a random chart) that you can use like signs of the apocalypse. Mutations are there, wild magic surges, the dead rising etc. There is less advice on using these events than I would like, but I can see this tools appearing in other supplements to model other forms of apocalypses.

The last part of the chapter is on rewards. This includes level increases and treasure. Level advancement is simply a matter of finishing an "adventure". As such, you can do this as quickly as over 11 sessions or as long as you want. There is even a training option before levels or before the Paths are taken.

Instead of a list of magic items there are 6 or so tables. The first gives 20 different forms, and then you roll on a combination of the other 5 to determine what it can do. The result is a little less predictable than D&D and effectively produces many different magic items than a list using ten times the page count could manage. The section finishes on one-off relics and a handful of examples.

BESTIARY
The final chapter is another hidden gem. The bestiary has around 90 monsters in it. It includes NPCs, animals, and a large selection of monsters.

The stat blocks are reminiscient of something between 4e and 5e with concise ready to use information all in one place, with a number of options that provide the GM with portray each monster in combat.

Though they are many standard fantasy critters in there, they seem scarier than their D&D versions. Dragons and demons are truly terrifying, even for level 10 PCs.

The chater finishes on a section of creating your own monsters. This includes templates using the four basic Paths. Want your ogre to be a seasoned warrior? Add a level or two of the warrior template. Your dragon knows magic? Add a level of mage template.

CONCLUSION
SotDL is everything it says in the tin and more. It takes some of the best RPG concepts out there and polishes them even further. It may not be truly innovative, but the combination of ideas produces an excellent overall result that fans of games like WFRP and D&D will find a lot to like about.

The most impressive thing about the game, other than the design, is the sheer amount of content in a 272 page rulebook. I feel I get as much as D&D packs in 3 books the same size. When you factor this in to this being the product of one writer, it's an amazing feat.

As icing in the cake, the book is gorgeous, macabre, yet fun in presentation and art consistently throughout.

With a lot of support lined up from the KS alone, from campaigns, setting supplements, postapocalyptic alternative settings, and a companion that adds another 20% more or so monsters, paths and magic, it will interesting to see Rob expand from this excellent foundation.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Far Away Land Adventures: Pawns and Knights
Publisher: Simian Circle Games
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/01/2015 13:58:46
Unlike the previous adventure offerings, Pawns and Knights provides a mini-campaign starter for the FAL GM. There is a map and details of Londol, as well as an initial hook by way of working for a dubious pawnbroker called Mus Sak. If you need a first stepping stone into the world of FAL, but unsure what that might be, P&K is well worth the look.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Far Away Land Adventures: Pawns and Knights
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

HELLAS: Worlds of Sun and Stone 2nd Edition
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/06/2014 17:10:36
Hellas is a wonderful mash up of Greek mythic fantasy and space opera. This is not a far future version of mythic Greece. It is instead a translation of Greek mythic fantasy into a technological advanced interstellar setting.

The book is a weighty tome and complete. There is a detailed setting chapter, extensive bestiary and equipment chapters, full treatment of the Gods and interesting ideas regarding space travel, "hyperspace" etc. PCs are created using a life path system similar to that in Pendragon, which results in storied and powerful heroes right out of the box, pursuing their destiny whilst striving to avoid their fate.

The system uses a single d20 and, though of medium complexity, is fast and easy to use in play. There is also consideration given to supporting the GM to make their job easier.

If you love Greek myths but want a fresh take on them or also love space opera as well, then this RPG for you.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
HELLAS: Worlds of Sun and Stone 2nd Edition
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ATLANTIS: Theragraphica
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/03/2014 19:21:42
Theragraphica is the monster book for Atlantis: The Second Age. It is not only a book of monsters though. It is a book of myths, legends, and horror stories from around the world; of things that will make you afraid of the dark (and the light to be honest) and that will test your sanity.

As the final book in the Atlantean trilogy, Theragraphica shows just how much Khepera has done to forge its own RPG to achieve an “all you will ever need” sword and sorcery RPG. Theragraphica contains so much detail and inspiration that it feels like it likely never be exhausted, much like Geographica in respect to the setting. It also provides a comprehensive toolkit for the GM in creating threats and monster for his or her PCs to face.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ATLANTIS: Theragraphica
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Far Away Land Adventures: Whoa! Here Come the Dead
Publisher: Simian Circle Games
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/02/2014 20:41:49
These mini adventures are great. You get a map and a few pieces of art of the same quality as the main books. The adventure itself consists of a location and story ideas and stats, which lends itself to sandbox style play.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Far Away Land Adventures: Whoa! Here Come the Dead
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ATLANTIS: The Second Age World Map
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/01/2014 20:40:46
This free product contains a large beautifully painted world map, as well as a PDF containing a gazetteer of the world and 8 further detailed maps. The map is gorgeous and evokes the feeling of the setting by its very appearance.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ATLANTIS: The Second Age World Map
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ATLANTIS: The Second Age Premium World Map
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/01/2014 17:34:01
This contains all the PDFs in "ATLANTIS: The Second Age World Map" as well as 14 layered PDF maps, each showing a continent in the Atlantis world in more detail.

The maps are all as beautiful as the world map and done by the same cartographer/artist. The layers include: key and frame, continent names, nation names, city names, city icons, sea names, borders, roads, grid, outline and even the map itself. This presents you with a huge variety so you can tailor the maps to exactly what you want, from a detailed map for game reference to an in-game handout.

There are a few technical issues with the maps. I found that they wouldn't open with Adobe Acrobat X. They work fine on Foxit Reader. Also, the Eria map is missing. Hopefully, Khepera add this soon.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ATLANTIS: The Second Age Premium World Map
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ATLANTIS: Atman Sounds of the Soul
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/01/2014 16:56:36
Atman Sounds of the Soul is a soundtrack for Atlantis with a playtime of just over 30 minutes. The quality is higher than expected for music created specifically for a tabletop RPG, and a number of the songs stand up against even big movie scores. The style is appropriate for Atlantis drawing on instruments that invoke the antediluvian age. I currently have this in a playlist with soundtracks from 13th Warrior, Spartacus, Rome, 13 Assassins, Conan the Barbarian and Austin Wintory's Journey, and it fits well. All in all, I applaud Khepera for attempting to provide Atlantis support beyond the usual fare.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ATLANTIS: Atman Sounds of the Soul
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ATLANTIS: Action Deck
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/05/2014 21:24:16
Another optional yet deluxe play aid, the Action Deck allows for a new layer of mechanical play to add more variety in play and also provide inspiration for genre appropriate actions and plot developments. The cards are less cluttered than their Hellas equivalents making them more manageable.

Though usable in any Atlantis game, these cards will really spice up demo and con play.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ATLANTIS: Action Deck
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ATLANTIS: Hero's Guide
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/05/2014 21:19:10
This is a completely optional yet deluxe play aid. It gives all the information a player needs for PC creation except for life paths, which should be done as a group exercise in any case.

There is also some additional mechanics such as Talents, Professions and Magic Items. It's also a great NPC 'on the fly' resource for a GM.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ATLANTIS: Hero's Guide
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ATLANTIS: the Second Age
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/11/2014 18:08:39
Atlantis: The Second Age is the be all and end of all of Sword and Sorcery RPGs.

It has a great balance between setting and rules, both being flavoursome and detailed, whilst not being overbearing or cumbersome. The presentation is absolutely superb portraying the vibe of the RPG with clarity and focus.

PCs created with the system through the life path system feel a part of the setting with their own stories filled with hooks for the GM to write compelling stories for with ease. The magic and religion is flexible yet intriguing; powerful yet dangerous.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ATLANTIS: the Second Age
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

ATLANTIS: Geographica
Publisher: Khepera Publishing
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/11/2014 18:01:49
This is an amazing supplement to the Atlantis: The Second Age rulebook. It feels like a full colour double sized World of Greyhawk for AD&D or Scavenger Sons for Exalted. It is filled with inspiration and plot hooks whilst preserving open spaces to be filled during play.

Between having a vague long term plot idea as GM, the PCs created by my players via the life paths and the relevant sections in Gegraphica, creating sessions of adventures is an absolutely breeze.

This book also contains the Atlantis chapter from the rulebook, so the setting presentation is complete and can be used with another rules system if preferred.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ATLANTIS: Geographica
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Mechanical Dream: Dream Book
Publisher: SteamLogic
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/21/2013 14:13:04
PART 1 of RPG.net review, originally posted on RPG.net here: http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/reviews/rev_6172.html

INTRODUCTION

Mechanical Dream is the most unusual and innovative fantasy RPG setting I have ever seen. The design goal of Mechanical Dream appears to be to create a truly fantastical world. Unlike many fantasy settings it re-examines the fundamentals of the world such as psychics and the nature of reality as well as social interaction and needs.

Mechanical Dream achieves its goal. The world presented is incredibly imaginative. Every section of the book drip with otherworldliness. Steam Logic does a great job in presenting the world in great detail by using not only text but also pictures and layout. They have thought about every aspect before adding it. Places, flora, fauna, equipment, races and jobs in Mechanical Dream are each smoothly incorporated into the setting.

The result strangely enough is a setting that feels more like an alternate reality than something so bizarre that it can’t be understood. The issues were understandable as many plague our lives in the real world. It is not a medieval Europe or Oriental setting with magic slapped on but something altogether different yet disturbingly familiar.

SteamLogic describe it as a Dark Industrial Fantasy RPG. However a three-word description cannot give a game of this depth and breadth justice. If I were to pick one thing that seems closest in feel it would be the Playstation game Abe’s Oddworld. For more I recommend you check out the SteamLogic site at www.steamlogic.com where there are about 60 pages of the book available for download.

MD supports a number of extremely varied playing styles including Cyberpunk style shadowrunning, epic high adventure, political/industrial intrigue, horror, wilderness adventuring and exploring, and thoughtful philosophical, psychological or sociological games.

SETTING

The world of Mechanical Dream is an alien fantasy world. The world is split between two “ecosystems” called Naakinis and Kainas.

Naakinis’ scale is gigantic and presented with the awe, majesty and danger of our own Jurassic era. The trees are miles high, the seas are massive underground oceans and the inhabitants are huge creatures. Spiritually, the Naakinis is thought to be a living entity very much like our own Gaia.

Over time another ecosystem called Kainas developed overlapping Naakinis. Kainas is what we would consider to be a normal sized world (it compares to the PCs as our world does to us). The game focuses on the inhabitants of Kainas.

The inhabitants of Kainas try and live in harmony with Naakinis. However, the over powering presence of Naakinis can not be denied. The inhabitants of Kainas suffer from the fear and alienation of living in a world that they are native to. The inhabitants of Kainas deal with this fear and alienation by trying to ignore Naakinis. Over many centuries this became a drive to conquer Naakinis and build a truly Kainas world.

This drive is epitomised by a political movement, called the Core. Though the Core gives recognition to Naakinis, it promotes social stability, regularity, industry and indoctrination to put Naakinis out of minds eye. The Core builds massive cities on the massive Naakinis trees, builds safe transport and enormous walls.

The other important aspects of the setting include the Dream, Orpee and Echoes.

The sun in MD travels back and forth across the sky like a pendulum. It is day for 20 hours and night for 10 hours. At night the world takes on a different character where Dream comes alive. In the cities of the Core this can mean unimaginable horrors come to life. Nothing is as it seems. Like Naakinis it terrorises the Kainas inhabitants and forces them to create more security, bigger cities and taller walls.

Orpee is a fruit that contains e-flow that is the life force or drug of every inhabitant of Kainas. It must be eaten every five days or else a painful death ensues. This fruit is the focus of everyone’s ambitions. Most people work to gain just enough Orpee to live.

Echoes are people with a special destiny. The PCs are normally Echoes and ten different types of Echoes are presented in the book. Echoes are people who are destined to be different. For what purpose no one really knows. They are capable of amazing feats. These start off being very subtle but as the Echo grows so does their power. Many see the Echoes as the champions of Naakinis born of Kainas, destined to restore balance between the two ecosystems.

STYLE

MD is visually an impressive book. All aspects of the style of the book work together to convey a consistent feel of the setting.

Presentation – It’s a 368 page sturdy hardback. The book is unusually split in half. There is a Dream Side with the setting and a Mechanical Side with the rules. The two sides are back to back so both have their own beautiful cover that reflects the Side of the book they relate to. This makes it easy to work out which Side of the book you are on as the other half will be upside down. There is also 30 page colour section that covers the 10 Kainas races.

Layout – The layout of the book is impressive and helps immerse the reader into the setting. The book uses side bar art and layout to convey both the atmosphere of the game and the atmosphere of the section you are in. For example the Core News is written to look like a newspaper and many computer graphic pictures are used.

Pictures – MD is full of pictures of good to excellent quality. Only two artists were used on the project and this helps keep the vision of the game consistent. The pictures are normally appropriate to the text that they accompany.

Writing Style – On the whole the writing style was good. SteamLogic is a small outfit from Canada and needed to translate all the English from French. The translation is generally good and rarely is any meaning lost or confusion caused. Those familiar with Agone will see some of the same little idiosyncrasies like misspelled words that sound the same (“thrown” and “throne”) and other odd turn of phrases. None of them are more than minor distractions.

MD’s biggest flaw is in its writing style, especially in the rules section where precision is important. I was able to understand all the rules presented but a few times I needed to go through the examples and the sample character sheet to work out what the text meant. Also, a few rules were hard to find as they appear out of sequence or in odd places. The rules are actually reasonably elegant but the feeling of this is lost at times in the imprecision of the writing.

This is somewhat countered by the fact that is reasonably well structured to support easy referencing, reasonably complete in that all the rules you need are there and that there is an upcoming errata to deal with any outstanding issues. I would recommend reading through the rules more that once to deal with this problem.

References – Unfortunately, there is no index in the book which always makes referencing difficult. However both sides of the book do have comprehensive contents pages. The book structure is well set out and made finding references easy.

DREAM SIDE

Introduction – This section provides a good introduction into the world of MD and is one of the best written sections in the book as it eases the reader into the bizarre nature of the setting. There is a lexicon in the sidebars that is written to be relevant to the text, making understanding concepts in the introduction easy.

Races – Each of the ten race receives a 3 page full colour treatment. These are written in first person much like a Tribe 8 book. This helps convey the race from a setting point of view getting across physicality, psychology and idiosyncrasies of each race. The down side with using first person is that sometimes it is difficult to get a complete picture if something falls beyond the narration. However the races all have an additional page in the Mechanical Side which together provides a very complete view of the races.

The races vary considerably to cloned warriors, sea dwelling amphibians, biomechanical workers, vegetal mystics, demon possessed predators and provide a lot of inspiration and fun as well as serious role-playing opportunities.

Echoes – Each of the ten Echoes receives a one page treatment. I would have liked to have seen more here especially as they do not get as much more explanation in the Mechanical section besides general discussion of Echoes and their individual Gifts and Powers. However, there is more than enough in the main book. The Echoes are similar to classes but are presented in a broad manner that allows a player to interpret the Echo as it relates to their PC. This does make the Echo descriptions a little confused at times but overall I think the lack of absolutes is good as it provides a wider variety of possibilities. Years of Chaos – This section covers the history of Kainas. The history is not only fascinating but also reasonably convincing. It reflects our own world more than Middle Earth or other fantasy realms.

Core News – This large section covers the Core in considerable detail including its structure, it’s political system, its goals, its geography it’s society and infrastructure. This is finished off with a list of numerous companies. This section may sound dull but it was fascinating to the last. It did well to present the wide range of possibilities whilst still providing detail. For example each of the cities received a few paragraphs and a picture. The companies ranged from a company of Echo agents (like those sports stars have) to new and improved ways to pack food (packing that actually improves the flavour of food the longer it remains packed).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mechanical Dream: Dream Book
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Mechanical Dream: Mechanical Book
Publisher: SteamLogic
by Luke W. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/21/2013 14:11:40
PART 2 of RPG.net review, originally posted on RPG.net here: http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/reviews/rev_6172.html

MECHANICAL BOOK

Walker’s Walk – Walker’s Walk is a story about a Gnath Walker. The story serves the purpose of presenting many elements of the setting in a dynamic way. This reinforcement of the Dream side setting material helps fill out the setting. The story is not particularly strong but the purpose is a guided tour of the setting. It helps the setting really come alive.

Rules – The rule system is relatively simple. It is similar to Silhouette in its mechanic i.e. roll x dice and take the highest but uses variable dice e.g. d4-d12s. Attribute governs the size of the dice and the range of possible results. Skill represents the number of dice and so the consistency of an action. Finally masteries can be obtained that will add to the result reducing the chance of botching and increasing the range of possibilities.

The rules are strong and even heavy at times, which may come as a surprise to those that would expect a rules lite system from a game focussed on setting. The lethality and realism of the rule set helps convey this fantasy setting as “Dark” and “Industrial”.

Unfortunately, as mentioned above the elegance of the rules is sometimes lost in out of sequence rules, imprecise writing and a very few errors. Nothing that is insurmountable but novice RPGers may have some difficulty with understanding the entire rules initially.

Combat – Combat is involved but not necessarily complex. At first glance it looks like it will havelogistical problems. Using multiple d8s and d12s could present a problem but in reality most people will be using no more than 4 dice at a time.

The system uses a combat pool to good effect to provide lots of flexibility and character in combat without much extra complexity. The combat pool represents combat experience over pure skill, by being the maximum number of dice that a person can use each turn. For example a great theoretical tactician would have a low combat pool but high tactics skill. In a relaxed situation they could use their full skill but in combat they would be struggling to concentrate. There are also recommendations on how to graphically deal with combat pool that were useful. It may need a few playtests, but the combat seems solid and fun.

The combat system is deadly and is about the level of Blue Planet v2 in many ways. Not only do guns kill but also the MD setting presents a variety of even nastier weapons to select from.

Mind – The Mind section deals withpsychology, insanity and fear. The Mind is a large component in MD from propaganda to psychosis. It also presents the idea of Mindscapes which presents a whole new range of role-playing possibilities not found in most other RPGs. Mind walkers are able to enter into people’s minds and actively interact with it, be looking through their Library of Memories or fighting the person’s paranoia represented as nasty critters. Fans of the movie The Cell will enjoy the potential role-playing opportunities presented by this section.

Eflow, Patterns and Reality – The Pattern and Reality section was probably the biggest unexpected gem in the book (besides the Mind section) and was very thought provoking. Together they raise questions as the nature of reality, weaving that in with setting aspects like the Dream and the Core’s philosophy. One is left thinking that reality is defined by those that perceive it and so is established through patterns and relationships. Someone who is better known that someone one else is in a sense more real as they exist in more people’s minds. The full extent of this is not fully explored in this book but there are tantalising promises that the possibilities will be explored with later supplements. Even with just this book though this section opens a whole range of new possibilities that combined with the Mind section really blew me away.

Character Creation – This chapter is the biggest in the book. It breaks down the character creation process into a number of sections. Choose race, attributes, job/skills, Echo vocation, edges and flaws and equipment. Each section has lots of flexibility. At the end of each section unused points become freebie points. The idea is to deal with maintain enormous variety of power level but achieve some form of balance, even if they can’t exactly be equated. For example some races are more powerful than others are.

I like the use of prescribed skill packages by job similar to Blue Planet v2. I also liked how there was the option to build your own skill groups . The jobs are numerous, varied and do a good job of conveying the bizarre setting like the tinkering Slum Assemblers or the hardy Airjacks. Each has their own picture, description and has about 6 grades to represent levels of expertise.

The equipment section, like the job section, is a fascinating read. It is peppered with pictures of bizarre and innovative equipment ideas. From sniper rifles made from wood to look like staves to tanks to weird and interesting drugs. The equipment list was full (including everyday items and accommodation).

Absolute Judge – This section covered how to present the Dream, geography, flora, fauna and creatures of the setting as well as providing the obligatory GM advice. Again this section was a fascinating read, extremely comprehensive and does well to immerse you into the setting. The Dream opens up enormous possibility to the game as the very fabric of reality becomes malleable. Each piece of flora, fauna or geography was new, exciting and unique. This section really shows the level of thought that has gone into the details of the setting as well as the setting as a whole. The GM advice that only occupied a few pages had some useful advice but on the whole did not present any new ideas.

Final Chapter – This section covered two areas. The first was a complete list of First Sphere Echo Gifts. Each Echo (of which there are ten) has 3 Gifts and each of these has 4 Powers. The Gifts are on the whole well done, though I haven’t had chance to see if there are balanced in play. In many ways this did seem like a White Wolf discipline list. However the basis for many powers were new and each had a small in character paragraph that helps the Powers be evocative. More importantly, Mechanical Dream is designed to work as a setting for the normal people first and Echoes can be used to whatever level the GM requires. I must note that the higher Sphere Gifts will only be available in later supplements. This is slightly annoying but the game works well without them as Echoes are necessary to the setting. The GM’s companion, which is out next, will contain all second Sphere Gifts and these two Spheres will cover 95% of all Echoes.

The second area is expanded and spotlighted rule elements for various races and Echoes. Rules on building personalised Judicator’s blade and Yaki armour, the laws and sentences that can be passed by a Judge and detailed creation rules for the hideous Aran dweller that resides in every Zin. These do feel as if they have been tagged on the end of the book but the ideas in them more than make up for this. It is good to see that these particular elements are given full treatment and not condensed.

CONCLUSION

MD is the most RPG impressive book I have seen. The setting and presentation alone are worth the very reasonable price for this book. My only advice is that the rules may need to be read through a more than once. Even though MD is not perfect (what RPG is?), MD excels and more than achieves what it sets out to do. I wouldn’t hesitate to it “Excellent” 5 for Style and 5 for Substance.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mechanical Dream: Mechanical Book
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 17 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  [Next >>] 
Back
You must be logged in to rate this
0 items
 Gift Certificates