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The Lash of Malloc
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/03/2017 12:52:45

Somewhere, in a suitable desert in your campaign world, there's an oasis that isn't actually quite as welcoming that it seems. The Player Information on the back cover talks about the odd missing item, mysterious tracks in the sand, and strange noises, ending with a missing child whose parents are wealthy enough to finance a search mission...

Then the DM's Background lifts the lid on what is going on, and believe me, there's quite a lot going on in that desert inn beside the oasis! Malloc, the owner of The Desert Beetle, provides a good service provide you have plenty of gold but there's a whole lot more going on, most of it quite unpleasant (and not all Malloc's doing either although he does his best to get involved, and get a cut of the profits!).

There's an evocative description of the oasis and plenty of detail about The Desert Beetle itself including notes on the inhabitants and room descriptions. There's a small map of the building - a fairly typical caravanserai - and what lies underneath; but this is not player-friendly, you will need to prepare something if your players like to be shown plans of where their characters are. We also get to meet a new lifeform, the desert goblin. Bit like a Jawa from Star Wars, to be honest: I can see plenty of potential in them.

You will have to get the party there on your own, there are no suggestions for why they might be wandering around a desert. Even if you go with the concept of a doting daddy looking for a missing daughter, you will need to provide details for yourself.

However, it's a neat little adventure even if you will have to do some preparatory work (some other patrons for the inn might come in useful too). Oh, and Malloc's lash? That's the new magic item and, no, it's not a whip!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Lash of Malloc
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The Illusionist's Daughter
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/02/2017 11:01:06

The Players Introduction tells the tale of an illusionist who has an exceptionally beautiful daughter (presumably without the help of his spells!). Although they live in a remote village, her fame has spread far and wide and there's no shortage of eager young men heading off to try and win her hand. Only one of them has gone missing, a young nobleman by the name of Cedric. His family is concerned, and ask the party to find out what happened to him.

The DM Background lifts the lid, outlining a tragedy that has left the illusionist unhinged and his erstwhile bodyguard terrorising the surrounding area. Although the initial introduction for the party talks about them being sent in search of the missing Cedric, several other options are provided if that doesn't fit in well with your campaign. There's even a neat idea for using NPC bards to spread a song about this beautiful maiden which the party may hear for weeks before you actually run this adventure.

Getting to the village is apparently an adventure in itself, but that's an adventure you will have to write as what is provided here starts when the party arrives in the village. There is a rather small village map with accompanying descriptions of notable locations and inhabitants, but the main meat of the adventure is the illusionist's home, a three-storey edifice rather optimistically called a tower. Again there's a plan of that - note both maps are not player-friendly - with room descriptions for when the party begins to prowl around. Wandering around the village will provide ample opportunities for interaction with the inhabitants and the gathering of information.

Once in the tower, there are numerous unsettling incidents to highlight the fact that the wizard is deranged - even if he does manage to make reasonable dinner conversation. The weather turns nasty, and the party is invited to stay the night... a good chance to explore. And that's what they will need to do: there is no real way to discover what is going on except by poking about and finding the evidence for themselves. Likely things will end in tears, and a brawl - although the objective of the fight is not clear.

Overall it is a nice little puzzle adventure to toss your party's way, particularly if they enjoy figuring out what is going on.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Illusionist's Daughter
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The Waking Dead
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/19/2017 10:04:02

This contains all you need to have a go at All Flesh Must Be Eaten apart from a few polyhedral dice and some ready-meals for your zombies... er, I mean players. It starts of by explain what is one of the main selling points of this game line: it has no setting! That sounds a bit odd, but what it means is that if you want to play a game about zombies, you can set it anywhere - past, present, future, fantasy, whatever - using these simple rules and maybe one of the array of setting books that are available. The adventure here is set in contemporary America, and it's suggested that for best effect the GM (or Zombie Master as he is known in this game) does not let on that the group is about to play a game about zombies, just hand out the Archetypes provided!

Next comes an outline of the rules - a version of the Eden Studios Unisystem - beginning with the concept of Archetypes, the way in which player-characters are described in the game. There are brief notes on what the character sheet means, then a collection of six - a doctor, an FBI agent, a gang banger, a good ol' boy, a marine and a soccer mom - are provided. A motley lot, perhaps, but the idea is that they are thrown together by circumstance and have to work together to survive. They are followed by some more rules stuff: task resolution, luck, getting scared, and of course combat.

Then comes the adventure itself, 'The Waking Dead'. It starts with our motley crew waking up in hospital after a mysterious disaster of which they seem to be the only survivors... and things go downhill from there. It's well constructed to both provide a thorough introduction to the workings of the game and be quite exciting in its own right! Neatly, it starts off pretty linear and becomes more freeform as it goes on, allowing the Zombie Master to take it in any direction - and use it, if desired, as a campaign starter rather than merely an introduction to the game.

The party awakens without equipment or indeed clothes apart from hospital gowns (the sort that leave your rear end hanging out!), so they will have to scavenge as they explore. There's an added twist that they are having strange dreams which may lead them to safety, but there are decisions to be made here, which sets this above many introductory adventures with a real feeling of accomplishing something, of getting somewhere.

If you are new to All Flesh Must Be Eaten this makes an excellent introduction. Likewise, if you want to kick off a contemporary zombie game in great style, this will serve very well - just add in whatever you need to steer the action in the right direction!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Waking Dead
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Deep Magic: Elven High Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/14/2017 07:20:05

This work opens by defining elven high magic as an ancient and rare art capable of approaching the powers of the deities themselves, shaping cities, even worlds to their will. It's said that a practitioner can accomplish literally anything, given long enough. Of course it's very hard to master, taking literally centuries of dedicated work, so it is not just the innate arrogance of elven-king that means only elves ever get to study it, it's sheer practicality: short-lived races cannot manage to learn enough to be worthwhile.

Presented as a new school of magic, there are level-based abilities that include being able to bind ritual magic to a location and make it permanent, copy ritual magic into your spellbook irrespective of source and more. Rituals feature large in this style of spellcasting.

There are some seventeen new spells, most of which can be boosted in potency if a ritual focus is used. Perhaps you have wondered why elven bread is so nourishing. There's a spell that lifts the lid on its secrets. Or if someone has really annoyed you, perhaps you'd like to curse not just him but his descendents as well. There's a neat spell called Celebration, an area effect in which everyone who enters the area joins in the party. There's a lot to play with here.

This provides an interesting insight into elf magic, and perhaps even the elven approach to life. Maybe there is a small enclave of elves, deep in a forest somewhere in your campaign world, that is the last bastion of elven high magic. What might cause your party to visit? Or perhaps some calamity has caused them to venture forth into the world... It's a neat way to encapsulate different attitudes and approaches to magic, to make being an elf about more than the pointy ears.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Elven High Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2017 07:56:37

People have always been afraid of the dark, of shadows. Shadow magic, at least in your game world, may be one of the reasons why. Perhaps it's a sinister NPC, or even a player-character with dark edges to his spells...

Various ways of tapping into this darkness are provided. The first (and fairly obvious one) is a sorcerous bloodline. Maybe you prefer the idea of a warlock whose pact is with a being from the Plane of Shadows, or maybe it's a rogue who has taken his kind's natural affinity with shadows just a little too far. Each is provided with appropriate class abilities to embue them with a touch of shadow.

Next, there's a spell list. Some little gems here, like Dark Dementing - "A dark shadow creeps across the target's mind and leaves a small bit of shadow essence behind, triggering a profound fear of the dark" - how's that for something really nasty to do to your enemies? You can also summon creatures or effects from shadowy realms, hurl shadows around and extinguish lights.

A neat selection of shadow-based abilities to add a little shiver of darkness. Probably better for NPCs unless you are running an evil campaign, though. If your party isn't scared of the dark now, they will be soon enough...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Shadow Magic for 5th Edition
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Deep Magic: Ring Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/10/2017 07:25:05

Most of us know "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them" even if we cannot recite the entire verse... but have you ever stopped to contemplate magic rings within your game? In this work, it's suggested that magic ring manufacture is a dwarf thing. Now dwarves as a whole don't tend to be into magic much, their creative outlet is in making and shaping physical items but in forging rings and embuing them with power they reach a fusion of physical and magic creativity like none other.

Geometrically, the ring is an unusual shape for a dwarf: they tend to prefer angles and straight lines over curves, never mind a smooth circle with no beginning or end. Yet they make fine ones, often inscribed with runes and encrusted with jewels, perfect for the storing and wielding of magical power. Opening with quite a bit of fascinating background linking dwarves with this specific magic item, we then move on to a couple of feats related to ring magic as a whole before meeting the new arcane tradition of the Ring Warden. Rare outside of dwarven strongholds, they are recognisable by their staves bound with multiple rings.

The Ring Warden's magic is based on transmutation, blending dwarven craftsmanship with the magic that they use to empower the rings that they make. There's a sidebar linking Ring Wardens to the Midgard campaign setting, but if you're not using that, it's quite straightforward to find suitable locations and background for them in your own campaign world.

There are a selection of spells mostly aimed at enchanting rings and other ring-related effects (some of the links being fairly tenuous, like Reverberate where the only connection is that the material component is a metal ring with which you strike the ground to cause it to shake and your opponents to lose their balance!), and a slew of magic items most of which are, of course, rings. There is a rather wonderful molten fire forge, which anyone who wants to make magic armour, weapons or indeed rings would really want to get their hands on, a full-blown artefact - a sentient ring left by one of the founding Ring Wardens - and a new monster, the ring servant. This is a construct of metal plates around a core of glowing energy.

If you've ever wondered where those magic rings come from, here's your answer. The Ring Warden is probably best as an NPC, it seems a bit limited to play, but the entire concept provides background and depth to the whole idea of magic rings in your game... and maybe more. What if a rival group started making rings? A different race, even? Would the rings be identifiable as to source? Might trade wars break out? It would be quite easy to build a whole campaign around this...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Ring Magic for 5th Edition
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Star Trek Adventures: Core Rulebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/08/2017 14:52:46

Visually, the entire book is laid out as if you were viewing an LCARS (Library Computer Access and Retrieval System) screen in the ST-NG era... quite beautiful and distinctive to look at but I always find white text on a dark backround a bit tiring on the eyes for any length of time. It's worth persevering though, the content has been put together by people who clearly love the Star Trek universe and want to bring it to life in the shared alternate reality that is your game.

After a beautiful star chart Chapter 1: Introduction welcomes you to the Star Trek universe and explains what the game involves. It explains that the default setting is 2371 (or perhaps we should say Stardates 48000-48999), but that it's quite possible to run games in other eras, be your favourite captain Kirk or Archer: all you need do is adjust technology and surroundings to suit. Advice is to be found in the Gamemaster material and in promised future supplements. There's mention of the dice and other materials that you will need, and an example of play that should get the idea across for anyone new to roleplaying.

Chapter 2: The United Federation of Planets serves as a detailed introduction to the universe, with particular attention paid to its history. The default is that the Dominion has just been discovered in the Gamma Quadrant, the Maquis are getting frisky in the Cardassian Demilitarised Zone and it's thought likely that the Borg will come back for a second attempt at assmiliating, well, everybody, but of course you can call a pause in the timeline whenever you want to adventure. We read of the major power blocs, complete with atmospheric 'intelligence reports' and other snippets such as diary entries, history lessons from Starfleet Academy professors and more which make it all come to life - and everything's written in a style that makes it suitable for in-character use. It's a neat way to tell the history of the universe.

Next, Chapter 3: Your Continuing Mission provides extensive details about Starfleet itself - organisation, the Prime Directive, the Academy, the sort of duties members undertake and what away teams do. Sidebars include a neat rationale about why uniform colours changed from command wearing gold and operations red in the time of Captain Kirk to the other way around in later years... it was actually due to the implied stigma of a 'red shirt' being most likely to die on an away misson or other dangerous circumstance! The explanation of the different sorts of duties and missions is fascinating and should help inform character creation and indeed adventure design.

Chapter 4: Operations follows. This explains the rules and game mechanics which govern play. As well as d20s and d6s, the system involves a special 'Challenge Die' which bears a special symbol (a sort of 'Starfleet arrow' based on the original series badge). There's an explanation of how to use an ordinary d6 instead - or you can buy Challenge Dice from the publisher Modiphius. We learn about the different things that can occur during play and about a system of Traits - short phrases or single words that describe a thing, a place or a person - which serve to convey what is and is not possible. Traits can be advantages or complications. A Task is a roll to determine the success (or otherwise) of an attempt to do something, and the character brings their innate Attributes and learned Disciplines to bear on the task, with their scores being used to determine the target number for the task (it might have made more sense if characters had been covered first rather than in the next chapter, but it's quite straightforward really). The GM then sets the Difficulty of the task, which tells you how many successes you need to roll to do whatever you are trying to do. A success occurs when you roll equal to or less than the target number. Then you get the dice out - at least 2d20 but you can roll more by use of various additional rules. It may sound a bit complex written out but it's slick in play once you have tried it a couple of times. The chapter goes on to explain various details like having appropriate equipment and other factors that can help or hinder you, how to deal with opposed tasks and so on. If you do exceptionally well in the die roll, you gain Momentum, a mechanic that gives you advantages at the time and/or later on, depending on how you choose to use the points. The GM has a complementary system called Threats. Things called Values and Directives may also come into play. Described properly in the next chapter, Values are statements about a person's attitude and drives, Directives apply to the mission - and hence to the entire party engaged in it.

On then to Chapter 5: Reporting for Duty. This covers a whole lot more than character creation, although that's the main gist of it, using as examples characters from the TV show - hopefully most readers will be familiar with them! Each character has six Attributes (Control, Daring, Fitness, Insight, Presence, and Reason), innate abilities that define them, and then get training in six Disciplines. While a character will specialise in one or more (and so have more points in it), Starfleet expects its officers to know at least something about everything. The Disciplines are Command, Conn, Engineering, Security, Science, and Medicine. Then it gets fun with a Lifepath Creation system that builds the character and his backstory at the same time, showing how, when and where he acquired his knowledge and skills. It does help if you have some idea of where you want to end up before you start, though! There's loads of detail to help you make all the choices required, starting with race and going through environment (the one you grew up in), upbringing, attending Starfleet Academy and subsequent career in Starfleet. All this results in a rounded character who has lived a full life even before play begins. The main focus is on Starfleet officers, but there are notes on created an enlisted character if that's what you prefer. There is also a novel alternate method of creating a character during play, where you part-create a few simple details and add the rest as the game proceeds. Different, but I think I prefer the Lifepath method.

Then Chapter 6: The Final Frontier talks about the universe itself, covering planets, alien encounters, stellar phenomena and scientific discoveries and developments. This is an overview, talking about characteristics and dangers, rather than detailing specific planets or aliens that can be encountered. It includes a delightful article entitled 'Zen and the Art of Warp Core Maintenance' which discusses how the science of Star Trek is either real or has been at least considered to be theoretically possible, and also shows how in-character research can be conducted.

This fascinating chapter is followed by Chapter 7: Conflict. This deals with a lot more than brawling (although combat is in there), covering any occasion in which two parties have different ideas about, well, anything and how the matter may be resolved. It provides a nuanced way to navigate through social conflict using a mix of role-play and die rolls. Naturally, there is extensive coverage of how to deal with situations in which combat breaks out, concentrating on melee (individual against individual). This is followed by Chapter 8: Technology and Equipment, which talks about what is available and how to use it. Should you wish to venture outside the mid-24the century default, this is the area in which the greatest changes will occur. It also covers details like how much people can carry as well as how to develop new items of equipment as and when they are required.

Star Trek is all about travelling the stars, exploration accompanies nearly all missions even if they have another goal, and so Chapter 9: A Home in the Stars looks at where the party might find themselves - primarily starships of course, but starbases and colonies are also examined. There's plenty of detail on starship operation and day-to-day life to help create a believable background. A note on planet-based games helps show how you can make life on a colony just as much an adventure as one based on a starship or starbase. This chapter also includes rules for starship combat and presents an array of Starfleet ships as well as some alien vessels. Combat between ships, as well as the more obvious concepts of manoeuvering and shooting at each other, also includes the management of power aboard ship, an added dimension... and of course there are the perils of warp core breaches and even abandoning ship.

We then move on to material of most use to the GM, beginning with Chapter 10: Gamemastering. Herein is a wealth of advice about running the game, staying on top of the rules and ensuring that the players' characters develop and grow over time. Some is general advice, useful whatever you're planning to run, but much of course is aimed specifically at Star Trek Adventures. There are ideas for adventure, guidance in managing character creation and notes on how to make the rules work to best effect. There's an interesting discussion on how Star Trek Adventures has a slightly different approach from many games, in this universe cooperation rather than conquest is the aim and while fights do break out, Starfleet prefers to obtain its objectives by more peaceful means. Belonging to a large - and hierarchical - organisation is also covered: the characters cannot become pawns following orders... but then, no-one would accuse Kirk or Picard of being a pawn! There's lots on the mix of creativity and mechanics that go into creating scenes, encounters, sub-plots and everything else that's going on, on pacing, and on creating missions, NPCs and the locations in which the action will take place (including a system for designing planets). A thoroughly useful chapter!

Then Chapter 11: Aliens and Adversaries takes you through the various opposing entities - the Klingon Empire, Romulan Star Empire, Borg Collective, Ferengi Alliance, Cadassian Union and the Dominion - as well as alien artefacts and all manner of beasties. There are example NPCs for each group (and for the United Federation of Planets), and there are nots on how to handle a player desperate to play a Klingon or a Ferengi... as well as details of what happens to those unlucky enough to be assimilated by the Borg!

Finally, Chapter 12: The Rescue at Xerxes IV provides a ready-made adventure to get you started. It's actually the first adventure from the massive 'living playtest' that was part of the game development process, and would make a good campaign starter or a one-off to introduce players to the game. It all starts with the characters in a runabout travelling to their new assignments...

Overall, this is a magnificent beginning to what has the potential to be a fine re-telling of the Star Trek story in game form. Your mission is, of course, to boldly go where no-one has gone before, and these rules will aid you in not only getting there but coming back to tell the tale!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: Core Rulebook
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Deep Magic: Dragon Magic for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2017 09:17:26

There are many diverse theories, we are told, as to where 'magic' actually comes from. No doubt scholars will argue furiously for their preferred source, but the truth is, it has multiple sources, those listed here (ley lines, other dimensions, bloodlines...) and probably quite a few more. One fairly undisputed source of magic, however, is the dragon. An ancient and wise race, innately magical and capable of studying to develop their knowledge, dragons themselves are excellent at magic, and also pass it on, through bloodlines, to those descended from dragons as well. Because of their lineage, dragons were amongst the first to master magic, so they have been practising and refining their skills longer than most.

This leads on to a discussion of the particular forms of magic practised by so-called Dragon Magi. They walk a line of balance between wizards who pull power out of the air to mould as they wish and sorcerers who draw on internal chaotic power to drive their magics, a mix of order and chaoes. This new arcane tradition, mechanically speaking, uses spell slots not just for actual spells but for powering magical abilities, an interesting approach which has great potential for developing your own personal style in magic-use.

Dragon magi can call upon various aspects of the dragon - head, heart, tail, and so on - which have a visible manifestation and in-game effects. Calling them costs a spell slot, but once you get to grips with the potency of the abilities granted, it is worth it. Several feats are also presented, many of which are available to anyone not just dragon magi. Perhaps you might care to be a Dragonrider, a feat that grants the ability to climb onto an opponent much larger than yourself and 'ride' it in combat - despite the beautiful illustration of a sword-wielding elf seated comfortably on a barded dragon (who looks quite happy about his mount), the text suggests that this feat is for use against a hostile beastie that has no intention of permitting itself to be ridden!

A range of Dragon Magic spells are also presented, which any spell-user may acquire and cast in the usual manner... provided they can get access to the necessary information. There are many intriguing dweomers here, all linked in some manner with dragons - maybe you want to make a lot of noise with Dragon Roar (it's basically a sonic attack) or seek out precious metals and gems with Enhance Greed. Or maybe you'd like to make like a dragon yourself and use Dragon Breath to give you a one-off breath weapon.

Taking the theme of dragon magic and stretching it in several directions, this provides some interesting ideas to expand the scope of the magic available in your game. Magical theorists will enjoy the way these new powers are embedded into the alternate reality of the game, whilst more muscular magic-users will enjoy trying them out!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Magic: Dragon Magic for 5th Edition
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ARRGH! Thar Be Zombies!
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2017 08:40:48

Diving straight in with Chapter 1: Ahoy Matey, we are first regaled with some atmospheric fiction in which the 'pirate lingo' is mercifully kept where it belongs in direct speech followed by an Introduction that sets out the purpose of this book: to provide an age-of-sail setting for All Flesh Must Be Eaten focussed firmly in the Caribbean. As such, Voodoo features large (it is, after all, one of the better-known ways to create zombies) and overall there's a greater air of magic here than in other published settings. This chapter also contains plenty of general seafaring information, or at least the terminology to allow you to sound like a seasoned seadog as well as a timeline and some pointers to inspirational materials.

Then Chapter 2: Ye Pirates and Privateers deals with the fine detail of what is and isn't piracy including a history of piracy through the ages, as well as covering chatacter creation. There is also an interesting discussion about why people choose to be pirates in the first place. Although the main focus of this book is the Caribbean, there are some notes on Asian piracy as well. Another gem in this chapter is some detailed swordfighting rules aimed at duelling, but excellent for anyone wishing to swash their buckle a bit. It's followed by Chapter 3: Th' Tools o'the Trade which provides everything the well-dressed pirate needs: weapons, equipment, ships (a bit essential...) as well as notes on life at sea and ship-to-ship combat. There's also a mechanism for generating crews for your ships - there are far too many folk on a sailing ship for you to create them all individually. Then Chapter 4: Vodou provides all you need to enable Inspired characters to perform Vodou miracles. Note that the Abomination Codex for C.J. Carella's Witchcraft has a different way of presending Voodoo within the UniSystem game mechanics: you can choose which version you prefer.

We then move on to three main settings and one chapter of less-developed ones. Chapter 5: Voodoo Queen of the Shrouded Isles. This involves a dark tale of revenge that has resulted in a veritable plague of zombies carried worldwide by sailing ships. The party is likely on a ship roaming the waves looking for plunder and zombie-free sanctuary ashore in equal measures. There are a few adventure seeds, but that's what it boils down to... with perhaps the chance of finding out how to eliminate the zombies for good and all.

Chapter 6: The Black Fleet tells of the fate of a fleet of treasure ships that had amongst their loot an artefact they really ought to have left alone. Cursed, they vanished... but occasionally appear to haunt the high seas. With background and adventure ideas aplenty, this is possibly the closest to Pirates of the Caribbean if you want to bring that style into yourg game.

In Chapter 7: Islands in a Dark Sea, Galileo - armed with some of Da Vinci's drawings - fled the Inquisition and discovered space travel, which he called the Dark Sea. Now the party has the chance to explore this exotic setting, that knows the limits only of your imagination. There are loads of ideas to get you started, and this is a magnificent opportunity to mix in all manner of materials from other sources...

Finally, Chapter 8: Pieces of Eight gives brief outlines of some possible Asian settings. Mixing in elements of Enter the Zombie would be appropriate here. There are Vietnamese and Chinese possibilities - or the party could be European seafarers exploring the exotic East. Here you'll find several story ideas, a timeline and some Asian weapons to supplement (or replace) the ones introduced earlier... and of course plenty of zombies. If that's not enough, an Aztec setting is also provided complete with its own backstory and ideas.

Pirates and zombies. What is there not to like in that mixture? For groups who like either, this is well worth exploring.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ARRGH! Thar Be Zombies!
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The Book of Archetypes 2
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2017 08:10:15

Diving straight in with but an almost-hidden note that the archetypes herein were created by fans of the game (and may not be completely compatible with the rules) - it's buried in the credits page - we have a collection of forty-three new archetypes. Most are contemporary folk who could easily get swept up in a zombie apocalypse, but there are a few from the Old West and other settings if that is what you are playing. They're useful if you need a character in a hurry (maybe the zombies got your last one and you don't want to spectate for the rest of the session) or maybe to give you ideas for characters if you are wondering what to play. They also make good detailed NPCs if needed. There are also a few new pieces of equipment and rules additions at the end.

Each archetype - neatly provided on a single page, especially useful for PDF users who can print just the page they want - contains a full-length sketch of the character, their game statistics and a delightful in-character monologue that tells you enough about them to be able to get a good feel for that character. If you intend to play one, just about all you need do is supply a name. Naturally, you can tweak them a bit if they are not precisely what you want.

The archetypes are quite diverse - administrative assistants, bomb squad, a hacker, a lunatic who's escaped from the nearest asylum... and many more. Some of the backstories they tell could suggest adventures or even a whole campaign if you are so minded.

The new equipment is based around items that some of the archetypes have with them, providing the extra information that you need to use them in game. Likewise there are new Chi abilities, qualities/drawbacks and so on to explain some of the entries... but of course they can all be used for characters of your own devising as well.

If you go through characters real fast or see the need for a large supporting cast of NPCs, this book is likely to come in very useful.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Archetypes 2
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Dungeons & Zombies
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/29/2017 08:46:29

Opening with fiction detailing a typical fantasy dungeon delve encounter with zombies (and its aftermath), Chapter 1: Delving Down talks about how everybody - not just players of role-playing games - indulges in fantasy from time to time, but of course gamers do so more intensely than most. Here however, 'fantasy' is defined more precisely, it's the swords and sorcery sort, the kind where you go dungeon delving... only in this book there are, of course, plenty of zombies added to the mix.

These opening remarks are followed by Chapter 2: Swords, Sorcery and Shambling which explores character creation for heroic fantasy All Flesh Must Be Eaten games, as well as new rules and game mechanics necessary to make the game work in this genre. This is followed by no less than four settings taking you on a wild trip through 'classic' role-playing fantasy, literary fantasy J.R.R. Tolkien-style, the world of King Arthur, and an Asian-influenced one, as well as a complete dungeon delve ready to run. As you can imagine, apart from Chapter 2, this material is intended for the Zombie Master rather than the players.

In Chapter 2, we meet two new character types: the Adept and the Talented Hero. The Survivor and Inspired character types are also appropriate for this style of play. The Adept is the wizard or mage, leaving Inspired for clerics. As it's fantasy, you can also play a non-human, and there's a system of Profession Qualities to enable you to set up the classic 'character classes' if you want - or just build a character normally with the skills you want him to have. There are some new Skills appropriate to the genre, and the timely reminder that zombies can, like player-characters, be of any race available in your setting, not just humans. Some new combat rules are here too, dealing with the use of the mediaeval-style weapons and fighting styles common to fantasy. There is a basic magic system here as well, but those after more detail are referred to two other Unisystem games - Armageddon and WitchCraft - although there is quite a lot to be found here, including some excellent Necromancy spells that will let the practitioner raise and control zombies...

The chapter rounds out with some thoughts on creating fantasy settings and a few archetypes, then we move on to the provided settings, beginning with Chapter 3: Dead Gods and Demon Lands. This is a grim pulp fantasy setting where heroes go adventuring primarily because that's their way of having a good time. Think Conan the Barbarian here. Plenty of background to aid you in bringing it all to life... and three different kinds of zombies to harass honest adventurers as they go about their business. Several story ideas finish this chapter, along with a few more Archetypes.

Next is Chapter 4: Dawn of a Dead Age. This is an epic fantasy setting, where the deeds of a small band has great effect within the vast sweep of the struggle between good and evil, determining the very fate of the land. This setting is all about an ancient and terrible power reawakened, how it threatens the land and how it is stopped... by the party, of course. A vast sweep of background underpins the rise of a Dread Lord and provides the means to defeat him once more, assuming the party can find said means, that is. His rise is what has caused the zombies, hopefully his defeat will eliminate them. Rather than story ideas, there's a campaign outline that lays out the epic tale you'll tell in this setting.

In Chapter 5: Death of the Round Table, zombies are introduced into the world of King Arthur. There's a discussion of what that world really is, from the historical possibility to the romantic fantasy it became - you pick what kind of setting you want. There's a code of chivalry to which every knight ought to subscribe, and a fair bit of background to help you set the scene. As for the way this setting's zombies are created... shall we say that the chalice from the palace has the pellet with the poison? The Round Table has been perverted under the leadership of Mordred, and the party must embark on a quest to put things right.

Then Chapter 6: The Eastern Dead puts an Asian spin on things. This could be with profit read alongside Enter the Zombie, and it brings the flavour of the far east to a mediaeval style fantasy world - with samurai and ninjas and warrior monks mixing it with each other and any zombie unwise enough to raise its head... even if the poor mindless thing is just hungry! A rich and exotic setting is laid out, with background and story ideas aplenty to enable you to make the most of it.

Finally, Chapter 7: The Tomb of Doom provides a ready-made dungeon to explore. There's a bit of background which explains, amongst other things, why zombies have started to appear and provides for the party to get involved very quickly in the action as the zombies raid the town the party is in (for whatever reason they or you come up with). It's not long before they are traced back to an ancient tomb, then it's time to grab your ten foot pole and delve...

If you like fantasy games but want to bring zombies into them, or you like zombies and fancy a fantasy setting for them, this could be the supplement for you. With well-developed ideas that bring the zombies into the very fabric of the settings and scope for epic adventures, it takes zombies firmly out of the classic movie settings they are normally encountered in and empowers a fantasy twist to your game.



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The Little Town of Hamlin
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2017 08:02:54

Described as an 'appetiser' for All Flesh Must Be Eaten, this is a complete adventure which ought to take one or two sessions to run. As it has a mediaeval timeframe, characters should be generated using the 'Dead at 1000' setting in the core rulebook. It's suitable for a one-off game, or it may be part of a longer campaign in that setting.

The plot is basically a retelling of the traditional tale The Pied Piper of Hamlin, with zombies instead of the rats in the original. The backstory links back to the 'Dead at 1000' setting with the Piper himself having been an acolyte of the fellow responsible for the rise of the walking dead in that setting, now travelling the length of Europe causing his own zombie plagues and then being rewarded handsomely for getting rid of them! A neat little moneyspinner... until he reaches Hamlin. For first of all the town is broke (due to somewhat shady practices on the part of the mayor) and secondly... well, the party is in town.

The idea is that the party arrives a few days before trouble erupts, so they have an opportunity to explore. Why they are there is left up to them (and you), but prominent figures and locations in town are described to facilitate them getting to know the place. There is building consternation as news of advancing walking dead is heard, and the mayor leads the town in making preparations to defend itself. Then the dead come...

When all seems lost, the Piper turns up and offers to lead the walking dead away, for a fee. The deal done, he indeed does so. There's a big celebration, then the next morning at an awards ceremony the mayor is hosting, the Piper arrives in search of his fee - which the mayor cannot pay! The Piper takes his revenge and it is up to the party to set things straight.

It's a neat retooling of a traditional tale, well presented and with plenty of action. Plans of Hamlin and the Piper's hideout are provided, along with plenty of detail about his endgame. This leads to the possibility of further adventure, should you so wish. Appetiser indeed, certainly makes me hungry for more!



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Atlas of the Walking Dead
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/26/2017 08:25:08

If you ever thought a zombie was just that, a zombie, think again. This book taps into traditions of the undead from around the world, presenting a vast range of different zombies from rotting, shambling brain-eaters that are driven by instinct and can be put down with a shotgun blast to undead raised by arcane (or scientific) means which have a purpose to fulful and won't be stopped until they have done whatever they were sent to do if then...

Obviously, this is a resource for the Zombie Master. It taps in to legends of the walking dead from a multiplicity of cultures, some familiar and others obscure. They are presented with appropriate game statistics, along with ideas for adventures involving them and other new material such as new Aspects culled from the new zombies here and made available to those who like to craft their own undead. Maybe your party has gone travelling, and encounters exotic zombies on their home turf. Or maybe the zombies have come along with living immigrants and can be found in your own neighbourhood along with ethnic restaurants and other more enticing parts of multi-cultural living.

There are a full eighteen different varieties of the walking dead presented here, and each has its own variations. Each comes with atmospheric fiction, game statistics and story ideas. Exotic animated Aztec mummies rub shoulders with Scandanavian draugr... and of course the female of the species is more deadly than the male, certainly when you meet an undead femme fatale. Traditional Egyptian mummies and vampires are also included. And you don't want to meet a gaki, a Japanese 'hungry ghost'...

A lot of the suggested plots involve archaelogical expeditions digging up more than they bargained for, or remains being disturbed during developments and road construction. A few make A Night at the Museum look tame. They all suggest adventures that should keep the party occupied for a few sessions, some could easily develop into a complete campaign. Some fit in with one or more of the settings presented in other books in the game line, others are less-specific or suggest a whole new setting of their own. There's even scope to spin some of them together - perhaps the party specialises in investigating unusual events in museums or at archaeological digs and gets called in to several of the plots from all over the world. That could make a good episodic campaign. Or maybe like the characters in the TV shows Supernatural and The X-Files, they go around investigating mysterious happenings in general.

This supplement provides a wealth of ideas for any Zombie Master, and could prove fertile ground (providing you are up to doing any necessary conversions) to GMs of other systems who want to introduce a range of unusual and well-developed walking dead to their game.



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The Last Defender
Publisher: Alderac Entertainment Group
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2017 11:08:44

It's spring time, and the local rangers have announced that the mountain passes are clear enough for travel once more... so the party heads off there for whatever reason (a couple are given in the DM Background if you or they do not have a good reason of their own). In the heights of the mountains, there's a chasm crossed by a bridge guarded by a tower at either end. There's quite a lot of backstory for the DM about what's gone on there in the past, and this is where the adventure proper begins - you probably will wish to play out the party deciding (or being hired) to travel through the mountains, getting any equipment that they need and getting high up in the mountains, but you're on your own for that.

There's a good (but not player-friendly) map of the bridge over the chasm, again any maps you require to get there will have to come from elsewhere. On the plus side, there's plenty to explore when you get there - and assorted bandits, monsters and others to object to the party's presence, not to mention the remains of a caravan that tried to pass this way a month or so ago. The bridge's past may be revealed through interaction with the numerous ghosts to be found here, but the main gist of the adventure is to clear out the towers and grab what can be salvaged from the caravan. A few ideas are included for further adventures, and a new monster and new magic item (a decidedly anti-social battleaxe) finish off this book.

There's potential here, but some work to be done before it becomes a fully-fledged adventure.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
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The Book of Archetypes
Publisher: Eden Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/16/2017 08:07:16

Thoughout the core rulebook and all sourcebooks, loads of so-called Archetypes - almost completely developed characters - have been presented, often tailored to fit a given setting or situation. The intention is that they should be used as examples or as a basis for a player-character, especially when the group is eager to start playing or someone turns up late or when a character dies and needs to be replaced mid-game. Here are some thirty-odd new Archetypes (many fan-generated) to pick through and possibly select as required. Add a name, personalise them to taste, and head off to find some zombies to flee from...

There is a cautionary note that numbers may not be quite 'by the book' and that the characters may not be cross-compatible with other Unisystem games, this being an artefact of fan-sourcing the Archetypes. But that's a small price to pay - and if you're obsessive about getting things absolutely correct, by all means play about with the numbers - for such an entertaining group of characters.

Conveniently occuplying a single page each (easy to print out and use as your character sheet), there are full game stats, a sketch and a delightful few paragraphs giving an impression of that character in his own words. They are all quite entertaining - and very diverse: archeaologists, corporate executives, firefighters... even some poor soul who was peacefully game-mastering an RPG for his friends when zombies started coming in the window! There are strippers, a terrorist, a garbage man - men and women from all walks of life, all reduced to the common level of having to survive.

If you don't want to play them they make magnificently well-developed NPCs for your party to encounter - perhaps on the road, or they could wander up to the party's safe enclave and ask to come in. Their reactions could be entertaining... especially when a Zombie Rights Activist comes by and tries to remind them that zombies are people too! Many of the stories these Archetypes tell can be a source of inspiration for an event, if not a whole adventure, in your campaign, too.

A motley assortment of new weapons, armour and other gear are also included, mostly drawn from what the Archetypes have with them. The same applies to the new Skills, Qualities and Drawbacks that are provided here.

Ultimately, there's nothing here that you need, but a lot could come in handy, provided your All Flesh Must Be Eaten campaign is set in the present day. Use as inspiration, and as fresh zombie-fodder when you need new warm bodies in a hurry...



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