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Trail of Cthulhu: The Watchers in the Sky
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/20/2017 07:29:25

This is a Purist adventure, where there is no resolution or satisfaction, just the bleak reality of the Mythos to discover. In it, there are strange birds around... from those surrounding a mental patient to others who hang around watching, watching... and when dissected, they\'re not quite right. Purge all thoughts of Hitchcock\'s The Birds, this is far worse!

The horrible truth is revealed straight away for the Keeper and then there are notes on how the party actually gets involved. Those with connections to medicine or psychiatry may hear about the mental patient who is convinced that the birds he feeds are watching him. Scientifically-trained ones may get involved in research that appears to suggests that the results of experiments change when these weird birds are around. A biologist or vet might catch one and cut it up... all roads lead to a university library where there are further clues as to the location of where these birds roost, and a couple of deaths will likely precipitate the climax of the investigation... entering the caves from whence the birds come.

Interestingly, not all the answers are there to be found. It\'s done on purpose to unsettle and frustrate - and is indeed true to Lovecraft\'s own stories which always raise more questions about his monsters than ever get answered. Enjoy playing with the characters\' minds! Should they wish to investigate further in subsequent adventures, the Keeper is welcome to come up with his own answers.

Five Investigators tailor-made for this adventure are provided, and they are woven into the plot well. If you prefer to use other characters, you will have to do this work over, although you do have an excellent example of how to do it before you. Likewise, all the major NPCs are described complete with role-playing notes: things like suggested mannerisms and gestures to help you bring the character to life during play. The \'Directed Scenes\', where we catch a glimpse of each Investigator\'s Source of Stability, are also tailored both to the pre-generated characters and the adventure itself, so if you\'re not using them you have more work to do!

The scenes, and the clues to be found in them, are described atmospherically. Here there is a bit more room for you to introduce a party other than the one provided, once you have come up with good reasons for them being in these places... and as they progress through the clues, the odd birds will begin to watch them. At some point - unless you have a party who has diverse enough interests to have split up to visit different places - the Investigators need to meet up and agree to work together, which may need a bit of firkling with travel times and other things to get them into the same place and discovering that they are all interested in weird birds. That done, there\'s some fascinating library research - now going to the library is common in Cthulhu-related games, but this time it\'s genuinely interesting and meaningful - before heading off to the Lake District which is where it appears that the birds originate.

There are some wonderful opportunities to mess with your players\' heads which, if used with care, can get really spooky and make for a memorable adventure. After the adventure\'s climax, there are suggested epilogues - Directed Scenes which loop back to the opening scenes with the Sources of Stability in a remarkably creepy way.

If you like classic Cthulhu mythos adventures, you\'ll love this one. If you\'ve never tried the Purist style before, it might convince you to explore it more thoroughly. Just watch out for those birds...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Watchers in the Sky
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Trail of Cthulhu: The Dying of St Margaret's
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/19/2017 08:33:18

As written, this adventure follows the \'Pure\' track, sheer creeping horror with no easy answers (and nothing you can fight). If that doesn\'t appeal, do not move on, there are notes on how to run it as a \'Pulp; style adventure instead. The Introduction tells of a brooding clifftop school on a Scottish island, lurking horrors below and the disappearance of the last lot of Investigators to go there. Will your party fare any better?

The starting premise is that your Investigators are part of, or at least familiar with, the \"London occult set\" and will be familiar with a bunch of their peers who wanted to investigate the strange aftermath of a meteorite which landed in the vicinity of the school and eventually took jobs there as a means to this end... but who have not been heard from for several months. The Keeper is encouraged to talk to the players in some detail about their characters\' involvement: who was it that they knew amongst the disappeared fellows, what sort of job do they intend to take up, and how well (if at all) do they know the rest of this party? This information should be kept and referred to frequently to personalse the adventure to each character in the group. There are notes about generating characters for this adventure - it is, it seems, better suited to being a one-shot than part of an on-going campaign, although you may decide differently. This includes a discussion about Drives, and how each will interact with events in the adventure. Other dramatic tips are also discussed.

The adventure proper starts as the party arrives at St Margaret\'s, but it is suggested that flashbacks and directed scenes are used to backfill just why they are all on the ferry. Then it\'s on to the school with notes on the main members of staff (complete with suggestions for role-playing them that verge on acting - posture, voice, mannerisms - little things that help them come to life for your players). From then on in, school routine takes over and the party will have to slot into it as appropriate for the post they are filling. Note that posts are pretty dependent on your social standing (as determined by Credit Rating) although with cunning use of Disguise characters may attempt to seem what they are not.

There are, of course, loads of clues to be had. Each one comes with an array of ways to discover it, which brings the whole thing to life and enables you to weave them in seamlessly to conversations and explorations. There are locations to visit, each with their own array of clues, and eventually the party will be led to the source of the problem... and it is left to them how they cope with what they find. Perhaps they give up and die, maybe they escape at least physically (but probably go mad...

Although it is supposed to end there, a few suggestions for follow-up adventures are given. These will probably involve a new set of Investigators, or may even cross over into another Gumshoe game line... Esoterrorists or Fear Itself are suitable here. Five pre-generated Investigators, woven firmly into the plot are provided, along with the original ones who they have followed here (you can make up more if you like, especially if your players would rather create their own characters). There are a couple of handouts, and that\'s it.

It makes for a compelling adventure, but unless you are good at providing details on the fly some preparatory work is advisable. There is no plan of the school nor map of the island. The ending comes over as rather flat and may leave a lot of people feeling dissatisfied despite it being true to the spirit of a Lovecraft story. Hence you might want to make at least a little bit of use of the Pulp notes or modify the ending in a way of your own choosing. Atmosphere, though, is excellent!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trail of Cthulhu: The Dying of St Margaret's
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Church of the Prophets
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 08:59:11

It is the nature of human beings to seek after the meaning of life and for many that means a belief in higher beings, deities if you will. The people of Théah are no different, and this work discusses their beliefs and explores how they can be used to effect in your game. To start with, people found solace and guidance from many gods until a man came declaring himself to be the Prophet of Theus, whom he said was the one true god and creator of everything. This caught people\'s attention and a whole religion grew up around his teachings, one which grew, flourished and fragmented over the centuries. Four main branches of this church are reviewed herein: Vaticine, Objectionism, Ussuran Orthodoxy and a newcomer, the Church of Avalon.

Chapter 1: The Word begins with a history of the Vaticine Church. It all began with the First Prophet, a fairly mysterious fellow, who travelled around with Nine Witnesses explaining about Theus and how he wanted people to study his creation and avoid sorcery. Three hundred years after the First Prophet was murdered, a Second Prophet appeared to address a church that had waxed fat in temporal power, rivalling many nations in wealth and influence. He came from the Crescent Empire with his own Nine Witnesses in tow and told them that the church had become corrupted. He laid out precise rites and rituals that should be followed, and urged people to avoid all seven deadly sins... but perhaps it was when he said people ought to avoid alcohol that they began to question what he said. The common people loved Theus but doubted that he wanted them to give up all earthly pleasures. Worse, the Second Prophet urged believers to separate themselves from the world by going back to the Crescent Empire with him. Forty thousand followed him... to their deaths.

As it was the Crescent Empire that had killed them, a Crusade was launched against them. There also was a lot of dissent amongst the various sects that believed in Theus, which were called together by the Imperator Corantine who demanded that they all agree on a common framework of belief and gave them a year to sort one out. They made it, just, and the Vaticine Church was born. It flourished and grew, establishing a hierarchy across the face of the globe, even as nation-states rose and fell. About seven hundred years later, someone claiming to be the Third Prophet appeared in Castille. He claimed that the church had again lost its way and needed to eschew sorcery and part ways with the Crescent Empire. Now there were a lot of people from the Crescent Empire in Castille and this soon led to the Second Crusade as war erupted. When it was over, the King of Castille built Vaticine City in honour of the Third Prophet... and said Prophet began an Inquisition to seek out heresy within the church. A minor squabble over which diocese a monastery belonged ended up in yet another war, with the Prophet saying the church should now be based in Vaticine City and the Hierophant still holding firm to his seat in Numa in Vodacce. Castille won out. The church flourished again... until the Objectionists arose, in Eisen, led by one Lieber who declared that you didn\'t need priests to worship Theus. There was fighting over that, too.

It\'s a magnificent sweep of history, ending with the state of the Vaticine Church in the present day, its organisation and a wealth of other details including vestments and ceremonies... and then we start in on a history of Objectionism which covers their development and beliefs including several sub-sects with differing opinions. If that\'s not enough, we next read of the rise of the Church of Avalon, a breakaway movement driven by politics (or at least the need of an Avalonian king to find someone on whom he could sire a child) rather than a difference in belief, and also about Ussuran Orthodoxy (although that\'s quite well covered in the Ussura sourcebook).

Next, Chapter 2: The Faithful contains an array of senior churchmen to use as NPCs, with background notes and sketches to help them come to life. This is followed by Chapter 3: The Sacraments which covers game mechanics and other details needed to make the church an integral part of your game. Perhaps you want to play a Priest or a Missionary? There are full details, along with new advantages and backgrounds, new Swordsman schools for the more, ah, vigorous proponents of the faith and some new equipment.

Last but not least, Chapter 4: The Light has a Player Section that looks at playing priests and also members of military religious orders and a GM Section that, amongst other things, explains who Theus really is! Or does it... Like many things in this game, it is ultimately up to the GM to decide, but there\'s a lot of helpful material here. There are also notes on running relgious-based campaigns, pagan religions and the low-down on all those NPCs we met earlier. Finally there are a selection of maps including Vaticine City, the Great Cathedral of the Prophets and a few generic religious structures.

This is a well-constructed religious system with loads of potential for making your game come to life. There\'s nothing like belief for getting some good role-playing going, especially with players who take the trouble to understand what their characters believe and who are willing to take it further than a note on the character sheet. OK, so in some places it is a bit derivative, but to just label the Vaticine Church the Catholics under another guise and so on does them a disservice. Embrace these as the faiths you\'ll find on Théah, rather than treat them as a pastiche of real-world religion, and make this aspect of life feature in your alternate reality.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Church of the Prophets
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Deep Magic: Chaos Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/17/2017 08:57:00

So, what is chaos magic? Some would say magic is inherently chaotic, others say such wildness is the purview of the sorcerer and other spell-casters are a bit more ordered. Yet some wizards (and some bards) tread a narrow path in which they manipulate raw energy, affect chance, and teter on the edge of madness. There are dangers, one being the chaos magic surge. When one of those occurs anything could happen - maybe the sun is suddenly eclipsed or the caster grows a long purple moustache! (Yes, there is a wonderful random table to roll on.)

For wizards there is a School of Chaos Magic to study, whilst bards can opt for the College of Entropy, home of natural gamblers, the sort of people who rely on luck as much as on knowledge and skill. Each provides various advantages as characters rise in level.

After the aforementioned Chaos Magic Surge table, which makes entertaining reading, there\'s a chaos magic spell list which is available to bards, sorcerers with the wild magic bloodline, and wizards. This provides wonderful opportunities to mess with your opponents\' (and quite often your allies\') heads.

This is one to have fun with. As a player, grapple with something unpredictable. As a DM, enjoy watching your players\' faces as someone\'s very being warps and oozes like a Salvadore Dali painting or a spellbook develops a mouth and starts answering back! And yet, it\'s not silly - it\'s just strange, a way to make magic mysterious and surprising again!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Chaos Magic for 5th Edition
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Nations of Théah: Avalon (Book 2)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/16/2017 08:51:47

Avalon, the 7th Sea analogue to Britain, is a place of myths and magic, a land where the Sidhe still dwell, a race older than human beings but dwindling now. It\'s made up of three kingdoms - Alvalon, the Highland Marches and Inismore - but all hold the glamour, the mystical nature of ancient Celtic lands. Avalon is a beautiful and terrifying place, legend woven through the fabric of reality.

Chapter 1: The Glamour Isles is the main part of the book, jam-packed with detail on the history (or is that legends?) upon which present-day Avalon is built, beginning with the Sidhe. The islands were united under a single monarch early on, the first king being presented by the Sidhe with an artefact - the Graal - which he was told would provide protection and blessings. Indeed it did until one king in 1028 who had three sons divided the kingdom between them instead of nominating one to succeed him. One son protested and was banished for his pains, the other two fought each other to a standstill with the first son returning from exile to reunite the realm just as the Montaigne turned up and invaded successfully due to the weakened nature of the Avalon forces. Things went downhill with restrictive laws, incessant civil war and a series of monarchs who saw their role as to line their own pockets rather than one of service to the kingdom, with a few shining moments that reminded the Avalonians of what they were and might become again.

Religion caused issues too, coming quite late to belief in the Vaticine Church, but eventually having a rift with them due to a childless king wishing to divorce wife after wife... sound familiar? While it\'s all a blatant pastiche of real world British history, it has all been twisted around and renamed and recast into something that stands as the Théan version and culminates in the current queen, Elaine, who stands in stead of Elizabeth I but is a unique individual in her own right... although Avalon flourishes under her. We read of lands and titles and Elaine\'s personal knights, the Order of the High King. This is a body of twelve, with some two hundred at their command maintaining law and order across the kingdom and below them an array of sheriffs, constables and mayors. Then there\'s a geographical run-down including throw-away ideas than spawn plot ideas if not whole campaigns as you read them. Pity the only map is one of Caerleon, the capital.

So far we have focussed on Avalon itself, but then Inismore and the Highland Marches take their turn - history, gazetteer, culture and more - before we are introduced to the Sidhe. These secretive ancient and mystical magical race are explored in quite some detail that covers much of what makes the whole place so otherworldly. We also get to meet some of the monsters of legend, which are disturbingly real.

Then, Chapter 2: Hero introduces an array of notables to use as NPCs each with a portrait and a description (stat blocks come later in the GM section of Chapter 4). This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama which contains game mechanics - a destiny spread for character creation, rules for the Sidhe (do they even obey rules?), as well as new advantages, new backgrounds, new equipment and skills and new ways to wave a sword around (i.e. new Swordsman schools). There are relevant mechanics for Elaine\'s Knights, including their oath in full, and if you want to follow the old religion, notes about the Druids. The chapter ends with some magical items.

Finally Chapter 4: Legend is aptly-named, it\'s all about creating your own legends with a Player Section aimed at would-be players of Avalonian characters giving them ideas as to how to play their characters to effect and even providing pointers and resources to those who\'d like to try playing a Sidhe. The GM Section provides stat blocks and background \'secrets\' for the NPCs of Chapter 2, along with ideas for bringing Glamour magic and the Sidhe to life in your game and a few monsters.

Whilst living up to the subtitle \'The Glamour Isles\' some may find it too derivative, drawing excessively on real-world British history and just changing a few names. I think it does an excellent job of blending reality and imagination to create a part of Théah that fits right into this alternate reality yet feels familiar.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nations of Théah: Avalon (Book 2)
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Campaign Events: Urban Riot
Publisher: Raging Swan Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2017 12:04:23

If you have felt daunted at the idea of running a riot in your game because there\'s just so much going on and you don\'t think you can come up with it all, well, here\'s a handy resource that provides a selection of incidential features to make that riot come to life! Who knows, maybe the party didn\'t even start it...

First up, a look at the environment around the riots, with a table of Riot Dressing. If you\'ve ever seen a riot, it\'s those little touches of detritus that catch the eye - anything from \'A pot of stew bubbles over red-­‐hot coals, its contents burned and congealed into an inedible mess\' to gruesome stuff like \'Severed ears litter the walkway, all of them pointed and non-human\' - getting on for an hundred of them. Roll percentage dice or pick out a few that set the scene. Most will do nicely if you\'ve decided to have the party find the aftermath of a riot rather than actually get caught up in one, too.

Next up, a table of Minor Events. These are small scenes the party might witness - it\'s up to them if they want to get involved. With an hundred of them to play with it\'s likely you will find something appropriate. If they do catch the party\'s attention, then you can develop them as you see fit. You might even end up with a completely new adventure on the back of it...

This is followed by a table of Rioters: thumbnail sketches of twenty-five NPCs. Some have a reason to be incensed enough to participate in or even start a riot, others are just innocent bystanders caught up in events (just like the party, right?). Interact with them, ignore them... rob them, it\'s up to the party what they do.

Finally, there\'s a collection of some twenty Hooks, Complications and Opportunities to throw into the mix. Again, any of these can lead the adventure in a new direction, provided the party pay attention rather than ignore them. This in particular is best used during preparation rather than mid-game, because you may want to be ready for whatever the party does...

If you have ever thought that it might be fun to have a riot in the middle of your game, perhaps disrupting whatever the party actually intended to do in town, this resource will give you plenty of ideas and, well, help your imagination run riot!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Campaign Events: Urban Riot
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Secret Societies: Sophia's Daughters (Book 6)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2017 10:10:51

Sophia\'s Daughters are the oldest of the Théan secret societies by a long way, back to the time the first Sidhe arrived. They seem to know much, and manipulate people and events to twist fate to their own ends, even whilst claiming to know what the future will bring.

Chapter 1: Birth opens with a brief note on the public face of the society... brief because there pretty much isn\'t one! Those who are members don\'t talk, and noone else will know what you are talking about. Pretty impressive for an organisation that has been around as long as this one has. This means that only players of characters who are Sophia\'s Daughters and GMs will find information that is of use within the game, which does rather limit the audience for this book.

So, the history of the society as known to them is covered from legendary times right up to the present day. It explains how a Sidhe first mated with a human being, and how one of their offspring was the original Sophia. (There was also a boy child who was raised as a Sidhe, his descendants turn up too...). Sophia was an oracle and seer, able to read the future, and had many children also. She died as the First Prophet began his ministry and their fates are linked. Whilst there is still an oracle, the final Fourth Prophet will not appear, it is said. Transmitted by bloodline, the distinctive powers normally manifest in females, the Daughters. Their history, then, is one of amazing women... although of course not every powerful or wise woman in Théah is a Daughter. They work for peace and unity, and to better the lot of women in the world, and the remainder of the chapter traces their influence throughout history - an influence that is by and large unrecognised by those outside the Society. It also covers the current position and how people become members (mostly through birth, but there are some who have discovered their goals and agree with them enough to join. The organisation is a loose web with the Oracle at the centre and a Handmaiden overseeing activities in each nation... and a fascinating band of adjuncts in the Jenny\'s Guild (the Théan organisation for, ah, ladies of negotiatble affection), which has been infiltrated by the Daughters: not every Jenny is one by any means, but guild leaders quite often are. We also learn of the Sidhe and their ongoing influence, and of a dire plague and its even worse ramifications that echo down the centuries.

Then Chapter 2: Blood presents leading members of the Daughters, beginning with the Handmaidens. There are many fascinating tales accompanying this bevvy of interesting women, and plenty of scope to weave them into your plots. It\'s not all a feminist fantasy, though, there are male supporters of Sophia\'s Daughters listed here as well. This is followed by Chapter 3: Barrier, which presents new game mechanics and rules apposite to Sophia\'s Daughters including advantages, backgrounds, equipment and both a new Swordsman school and a new type of sorcery, Scrying! It starts off, however, with explaining how to join the Daughters which can be done at character creation or - once a player has discussed an interest with the GM - as the focus of an adventure during your campaign.

Finally, Chapter 4: Beyond contains information for players planning a character who is a Daughter and GMs who want to run plotlines built around them. This consists of a series of short essays about things like Predestination and Visionaries (always a bit tricky to handle in a role-playing game). There is also a section purely for GMs which presents some interesting ideas to weave into your plots when there\'s a Daughter around, and explains what is behind all the machinations in which the Daughters engage. Lastly there are stat blocks and hidden secrets about all the NPCs in Chapter 2 and a few sample characters.

This provides an interesting and novel group but is of necessity of limited appeal due to the very secretive nature of Sophia\'s Daughters. Most Théans don\'t even know that they exist, that will include your party. Only if one of your players wants to play one, or you decide that their activities will embroil the party, is this book going to be of much use. That said, for those who love intrigue it poses a lot of fascinating opportunities ripe for creative use.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Sophia's Daughters (Book 6)
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Secret Societies: Los Vagos (Book 5)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/12/2017 08:59:09

Consider poor Castille. It\'s being invaded, things are falling apart. Who champions the people? You know, the ordinary ones who just want to live in peace, make a living, raise their families and so on. The ones who suffer in war and get no rewards from the winning or losing of any battles, but are left with homes and livelihoods destroyed, family and friends killed or injured or scattered to the four winds. And then there\'s the Inquisition, seeking out heresy wherever they think it might be, on the flimsiest of evidence, or none at all.

El Vago does, that\'s who. A masked and caped swashbuckler who\'s recruited a small band of like-minded folk who are called Los Vagos, the Vagabonds. Here\'s the low down on them, with plenty of information for you to incorporate them into your game. Perhaps your party wants to help them. Or, if they are in the service of Montaigne - or the Inquisitors - they want to capture El Vago and put a stop to this. It may be background, or central to your story. However you want to use it, here is what you need to know.

Chapter 1: La Historia talks about when El Vago arose and how Los Vagos came to be formed, against the background of all the dreadful things going on in Castille and the lack of protection provided by state and church for its citizens. The old King Sandoval had died, his heir Prince Javier seemed to be making a fair fist of ruling but then... he vanished. His 13-year-old brother, another Sandoval, found himself king and he is struggling to get out from under the thumb of the church. No wonder a protector is needed - and here we find out who it is, and how things developed from a single rather oddly-dressed fellow on a horse to an entire clandestine organisation. It is a new group, less than a decade old, and very informal. Still, there are notes on how it is organised and how to become a member, as well as what they do, who they are and how they are supported. The chapter ends with some sample groups and safehouses available to them.

Next, Chapter 2: El Héroe presents many important characters, members of Los Vagos and a few new villains as well. Then Chapter 3: Dramatizar provides game mechanics for becoming a member of Los Vagos and various new skills to pick up including yet another fighting style and even advanced riding skills. There are also new backgrounds and rules for important things like jumping from rooftop to rooftop. Apparently El Vago and his followers enjoy parkour!

Finally, Chapter 4: El Juego contains information on playing a member of Los Vagos and why you might want to do so and the effect it will have on the rest of the party. There\'s also material for the GM, with even more background and some wonderful ideas about how to run campaigns involving or even centred around Los Vagos. For those seeking the heart of swashbuckling epic adventure, this is a good route to go! Perhaps the party will engage in a classic guerrilla campaign, or act as spies. Or maybe there is only one party member who belongs to Los Vagos, but his exploits will inevitably affect the rest of the group. There are background notes on the NPCs introduced earlier, and a sample Los Vagos campaign if you want a hand to get started.

If you picked up 7th Sea because you wanted to swash your buckle, this gives you ample opportunity not only to do so but feel virtuous about it as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Los Vagos (Book 5)
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0one's Black & White: Tumbledown Manor
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/11/2017 13:06:08

Something quite unspeakable was going on here... this product provides detailed floorplans and room descriptions for an abandoned and decidedly spooky manor house all ready for intrepid adventurers to poke around in. All you need to do is decide where to put it in your campaign world, provide any backstory you want to include, work out if there\'s anyone or anything still there (alive or undead as you please) and round up a party to investigate...

The manor is a rambling building with a few outbuildings and extensive cellars. It once had more than one floor but the upper level has collapsed (either through decay or perhaps there was a fire, you decide). The state of the cellars has not been improved by an underground stream that now runs through them... but it has opened up further underground areas to explore.

The state of the place is made clear both through the brief descriptions and the debris depicted on the floorplans (that is, if you use the Rule the Dungeon facility to have the \'furniture\' displayed when you print them out). From even a cursory examination, it appears former inhabitants used the manor for dark rituals... and perhaps some perversion as well, one chamber appears to be set up for orgies and worse. There\'s some loot to be found, and curious characters may want to try and figure out what precisely was going on here. Others may want to destroy even the traces that remain. That will depend on the party and whatever plot you provide them with.

Overall, this remarkably detailed set of plans are almost an adventure even before you add a bit of plot and backstory, and maybe a monster or two. If you want a full adventure, get the Terror of Tumbledown Game Pack instead, which contains this floorplan and a complete adventure built around it. If you have an appropriate adventure in mind, get this and have a blast!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Black & White: Tumbledown Manor
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Secret Societies: Die Kreuzritter (Book 3)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/10/2017 08:28:16

The Kreuzritter serve the Vaticine Church, swearing a fourfold oath of loyalty, charity, secrecy and faith. Yet delve a little deeper and you\'ll find there is more to them than staunch defenders of the faith (or religious thugs, depending on your point of view). There are reasons for why they are as they are, and they have their own agenda... based on a single question: why did the First Prophet condemn sorcery?

Chapter 1: Loyalty tells of their origins, their aims and objectives, their organisational structure and more. It begins with public knowledge, the information any Théan might know about the Kreuzritter or Black Knights. They started off as a bunch of healers set up in the Crescent Empire city of Zafara by a crusader and his wife, later expanding to include some peacekeepers to police the town and gaining recognition from the Hierophant as the Knights of the Cross (Die Kreuzritter) and being granted their distinctive badge of a black cross. They waxed rich and that, of course, attracted envy and hostility and eventually a successful attempt to bring them down amid accusations of heresy - so far, very much like the real-world tale of the Knights Templar. But we then move on to the secret history, with a firm warning that this should only be read by GMs and those playing a member of the Black Crosses. Basically, they were not wiped out as everyone thought, with connivance by the then Hierophant (yes, the one who had excommunicated them), and have continued for some 200-odd years after their supposed downfall. Various mysteries are revealed here which explain both how and why they became a secret society that stands firm in the shadows, defending the church, the faith and all mankind. We also read about the current way they are organised and how they recruit and train new members, and there\'s extensive discussion of their philosophy and beliefs (excellent resource for role-playing for the more reflective player!).

Then Chapter 2: Charity contains biographical notes on many members of the order - and some of their enemies - who will prove useful NPCs as the party interacts with the order. This is followed by Chapter 3: Secrecy, which has all the apposite \'rules stuff\': a new Swordsman school suited to assassins, the special and unique sorceries the Black Crosses use (sparingly of course, as they hold sorcery to be evil!), various advantages of membership, and some extremely useful gadgets that members may borrow when undertaking a mission. This chapter ends with some rules for tracking, something Black Cross knights are extremely good at.

Finally, Chapter 4: Faith has sections for players and for GMs aimed at empowering effective use of the Black Knights in your game. It starts by discussing whether or not the Black Knights are evil. There are plenty of ideas about how to stay true to Kreuzritter ideals even when you are the only one in a party and may not, of course, even let on what you are. The GM section includes the dark secrets of all the NPCs introduced in Chapter 2, along with their stat blocks. There are also assorted secrets that you may or may not choose to reveal as the campaign proceeds, complete with ideas of how to use them in your game. There are also notes on running a campaign that focusses on the order, rather than having it as an adversary or just having a single member of the party belong to it.

This is an intriguing one. Starting out, as noted, as a pastiche of the history of the Knights Templar, it suddenly takes a sharp turn and builts a complete backstory and rationale that fits the setting of 7th Sea admirably well. A true secret society that most will never know anything about, you may question the book\'s use unless you have a player clamouring to join or want to run adventures involving them... give it a try and you could be in for some epic games!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Die Kreuzritter (Book 3)
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Secret Societies: Rilasciare (Book 2)
Publisher: John Wick Presents
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/09/2017 09:08:08

The Introduction speaks of the Rilasciare, a secret society that is quite contradictory. Viewed by many as dangerous anarchists, opponents of law and order, they see themselves as a bastion for truth and fairness, stamping out wrong-doing and corruption wherever it raises its head. Enlightened ones speaking out against outdated ideas, or a bunch of hoodlums who trample tradition underfoot with nothing to replace it? You decide...

Chapter 1: The Midnight Crusade looks at the history and organisation of the Rilasciare. It\'s an apt title, the Rilasciare often work at night or at least within the shadows, convinced of their own correctness they do not trouble to persuade others or even justify their actions. Although the first section is headed The Public Face, the Rilasciare don\'t really have one. Most regard them as a loose almost disconnected group of criminals, thinkers and reformers (the term used being based on the speaker\'s opinion of them!) and do not see the underlying organisation and coordination. Their aims and methods are rooted in their history, which by and large is known only to the membership. It all began with some Old Empire senators who turned to the dark arts in their quest to get rid of the current Imperator (and along the way founded the sorcerous bloodlines that spread throughout Théah) - and three senate pages who overheard them making pacts with dark powers and decided that enough was enough. Despite learning their own dark arts of poisons and assassination, they weren\'t getting very far... until one of them overheard the First Prophet preaching on the streets of Numa and connived to get him martyred, reasoning that such a fate would elevate a mere street preacher and his ideas (which which she agreed) to levels that mere preaching on street corners would never attain.

History rolled on and the Rilasciare with it (their name meaning \'troublemaker\' in Old Théan being quite apt). Some members debated philosophy, others sought out sorcerers and brought them to account... or at least, sent them summarily to meet their makers. As the sorcerers they fought against were nobles, they often found common cause with those opposing misrule and oppression. When they wiped out some Eisen sorcerers with the help of a rival noble that didn\'t carry a sorcerous bloodline, they found that he was an even worse ruler than those they\'d aided him to replace, and their thinking began to change: perhaps sorcery wasn\'t the only evil in the world. Perhaps the real enemy was those in power, however they had obtained it. The advent of the Third Prophet confirmed them in this opinion, and those who had embraced the Vaticine Church began to fall away, becoming free-thinkers. Over time, more and more turned to ideas and debate, still secret as many of the ideas might be deemed trasonous by the powers-that-be, and the violence seemed to become a thing of the past... but it did not go away entirely.

Their basic beliefs can be stated simply. Nobody should be in want. Sorcery is evil. Power corrupts, so the trappings of power must be destroyed. They seek to achieve their ends through freedom of thought, enlightened thinking - but they have not abandoned violence as a tool to accomplish their goals. They believe that all people are created equal, and nobles are not better than anybody else. There\'s a look at the structure of the organisation and how they work to achieve their ends in the present day. They even run schools - even if it doesn\'t say Rilasciare over the door! Others pull Robin Hood acts, stealing to redistribute amongst the poor, or commit acts of violence. Others remain committed to the original goal of ridding the world of sorcery. We also learn of recruitment methods and protocols. Whilst those few outsiders who know about them regard them as violent out-of-control thugs, they actually detest mindless violence - theirs is focussed with surgical precision, used only when absolutely necessary. Or so they believe.

The chapter finishes with a listing of locations and resources. Next comes Chapter 2: Hero which introduces some of the leading members of the Rilasciare. This is followed by Chapter 3: Drama, which is full of additional rules and other new material. These include a new, and rather informal, Swordsman school, rules for joining the Rilasciere and creating your own group or cell and even rules for using explosives. And, should you be interested in such things, a certain Eisen style of sorcery the Rilasciare thought they wiped out. Did the bloodline survive? Dare you play one and have the entire Rilasciare on your tail?

Finally, Chapter 4: Freemen contains a wealth of material mainly aimed at the GM (although there is a Player section as well) designed to help you bring the Rilasciare to life in your game. The GM gets the lowdown on the NPCs presented in Chapter 2, secrets and stat blocks galore, as well as advice on running a \'bomb-throwing\' campaign... not to mention what to do with just one or two Freethinkers within a more conventional party. There are other ideas as well to get your creative juices going, as well as more detailed adventure hooks and the description of a prison based in a mine and no doubt very handy should some Rilasciare prank go horribly wrong...

The Rilasciare grew on me as I read this book. On the face of it they seem somewhat like a bunch of terrorists, and indeed they could be played that way if you are looking for a persistent enemy for more law-abiding heroes (an option that rather surprisingly is not considered). If your players have an anarchic streak, however, at least one might be open to recruitment or you may opt for a Rilasciare-based campaign. There\'s more to them than meets the eye!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Secret Societies: Rilasciare (Book 2)
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0one's Black & White: Mad Scientist's Lab
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/08/2017 10:32:24

If you have ever wanted to send the party to explore the classic \'mad scientist\' laboratory, well here is one all ready for you. Outwardly it looks like a normal house but inside... the downstairs is pretty normal too but the upstairs has been gutted and filled with all manner of strange and quite creepy stuff. This is a very versatile establishment, it could be a necromancer\'s laboratory but it could equally serve if you are playing Call of Cthulhu as the workplace of a cultist even more insane than most, or fit in to just about any genre or ruleset if mad science is the order of the day.

Standing in its own grounds with a couple of outbuildings, one being a stables and the other containing a cart and a stack of coffins, the house has a grand entrance with semi-circular steps leading up to a foyer flanked by a small \'guardroom\' which contains a bed and a closet/store room. The foyer opens out into a huge living/dining area that boasts a pipe organ (excellent for some creepy music...) and a grand staircase leading upstairs. A big kitchen, well-stocked larder, a room for servants that sleeps five, and the master bedroom with ensuite bathroom also occupy the ground floor. There is also a library stuffed with medical and other texts, that serves as the scientist\'s study. Finally, the first of the strange contraptions, a lift that is used to take coffins upstairs, is also there, although it can only be accessed from outside, not through the house.

Upstairs, imagination has gone wild in true Hammer House of Horror style. Two vast and mysterious machines, a dissection room, alchemist\'s paraphenalia, body storage (in large glass tubes filled with unknown liquids), shelves filled with jars containing body parts... and the focal point, a large table that can be raised up to the roof (which opens) upon which unspeakable experiments of the Frankenstein nature are performed. You will be able to go to town describing all this to your players, with a floorplan to back it all up!

As usual, the \'Rule the Dungeon\' feature gives you some customisation tools - grid (hex, square or none), presence or absence of furniture and doors and so on. It\'s a nice detailed and quite imaginative scene. If your taste leads to the macabre, this is worthy of attention - it would be easy to build an entire adventure in which the exploration of this space is the climax.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
0one's Black & White: Mad Scientist's Lab
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Heavenring Village: The Jail
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/07/2017 10:19:46

For a small village, Heavenring boasts a remarkably substantial gaol, with five cells fitted out to accommodate a total of eleven convicts. The building also houses space for a tribunal to sit and a residence for the chief law enforcement officer, who for Heavenring is the county sheriff, a dwarf called Mardags.

Built in an L shape, Mardags\' residence consists of two rooms: a living area with basic cooking facilities (an open fire with a cauldron), a dining table and some more comfortable seating and a large bedroom which incorporates an en-suite bathroom (far better facilites, as one would imagine, than the convicts receive!).

The space allocated for trials has a couple of rows of seats for spectators, tables for prosecuting and defending lawyers and for a clerk, and an imposing chair for the presiding judge. It does not appear that trial by jury is practised here. A caged-off corner leads back to the gaol wing, presumably the accused stands there during the hearing.

There are a couple of offices, probably for law enforcement officers\' use, and a room for the turnkeys with a couple of beds. Then on to the cell block proper. Here a row of spartan cells have a barred door to a corridor on one side and a barred opening out onto a yard ominously labelled \'Hard Labour Area\'. What convicts are required to do is unclear, probably breaking rocks into smaller rocks or similar mindless and exhausting tasks. The convicts\' sanitary needs are met by a row of latrine huts and some \'washing pools\' - no indoor bathrooms for them!

As usual 0one Games display considerable technical mastery of PDF functions, using layers to allow you to pick the grid you want (square, hex or none), and whether you want furniture or doors to appear. As you can print tiles separately, you can change the settings for each one - so if you do not want your prisoners to have even basic comforts, you can remove what little furniture there is in the cells! Do not turn the doors off for the cell block, though...

Knowing the average adventurer\'s attitude towards the law, you might have need of a town gaol, so this is a useful set of tiles to have tucked away, whether or not you are using Heavenring Village as a whole. After all you can put it anywhere, as needed.



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Heavenring Village: The Jail
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Heavenring Village: Emporium
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/06/2017 10:51:59

Whatever their players may feel about it in real life, adventurers always seem to enjoy going shopping! Heavenring seems to boast what is almost a mini-market with plenty of produce and household goods on sale, and the storekeeper\'s house is also included in this tile-set. If you are using Heavenring \'as is\' the storekeeper is a halfling by the name of Vimbas, who is rumoured to be a wizard on the side.

The shop itself consists of two rooms, one being used for sales and one for storage. The sales area has a vast display of everything from fruit and vegetables to frying pans, basic tools, clothing and even teddy bears, the store is full of barrels, cart wheels and cupboards. Anyone setting up house or looking for basic supplies ought to be able to find what they are after here.

The house is also quite substantial. It has a large porch for those warm summer evenings, a living area and kitchen, two bedrooms each with their own facilities and an office for the storekeeper to do his bookkeeping (or study spells if the rumours are to be believed). One bedroom is a double, clearly the master bedroom, and the other a single - probably for the storekeeper\'s child.

The usual features of the 0one Games \'Rule the Dungeon\' are present, letting you customise the plans to some extent - changing the grid (square, hex or none), displaying furniture and doors and the like. Everything is clearly drawn, although you can waste too much time trying to identify items in the shop (remind yourself it isn\'t supposed to be an exact representation). It\'s a nice addition to the collection, but the real use of plans at this scale is to have a fight and who fights at the market? So, perhaps of limited use...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: Emporium
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Heavenring Village: The Smith
Publisher: 0one Games
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/05/2017 10:28:27

A smith is a welcome addition to any settlement, and judging from the wares on display, this smith is also an asset to the adventuring community. There are two buildings in this product: the smithy itself and a separate small residence for the smith (unlike most of the village he doesn\'t have his living quarters in his place of business). In Heavenring Village the smith is a half-orc by the name of Ruck, who apparently has bad manners that mask a helpful and honest nature... but of course you can use this forge anywhere, with a smith of your choosing.

The forge building has three rooms: the forge itself, a storage area and a shop where visitors can browse an array of armour and weapons laid out on a long bench. The storage area is also spacious and contains assorted raw materials. The forge itself looks well-equipped with a big furnace, two anvils and racks of tools.

The smith\'s residence is quite substantial too, with an open porch with a table and chairs for sitting out, perhaps on a warm evening after the day\'s work is done. Inside, there is a big sitting/dining room, a kitchen, a master bedroom with a double bed (the presence of a vanity suggests that the smith has a partner... or, of course, is a lady) and a second bedroom with three beds for children or guests. Each bedroom has an ensuite bathroom. Of course, this makes for a nice home for anyone, not necessarily the smith!

0one Games display their customary mastery of PDF technology using layers to allow some measure of control over what you see - square grid, hex grid or no grid at all, or the presence/absence of furniture and doors, or even how heavy a \'fill\' there is on the walls. A usful addition to your floorplan collection although... who wants to start a brawl in a forge? The smith might get annoyed and he has loads of stuff with which to spoil your whole day!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavenring Village: The Smith
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